pen rainbow

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Tuesday's Cupboard—Talapia Pockets

The easiest way I know to cook fish_fresh & delicious!

talapia pockets

adapted from Best of Weight Watchers Magazine Vol. I

Individually frozen talapia filets_Kirkland Signature available at Costco

Serves 2  
(2 filets each)


  • four 4-oz. filets of talapia (thawed)
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • about 6 T. of Kikkoman Ponzu sauce
  • 2 T. freshly chopped ginger
  • 4 T. sesame oil
  • cracked black pepper
  • 1- 2 cups of hot cooked jasmine rice
add-ins:  a sprig of fresh dill, 2 slices of fresh lemon or lime (per pocket)

make it!

Preheat oven to 350°F

I wrap mine like burritos using Martha's double-duty parchment + foil paper
(parchment on the inside, foil on the outside)

1 fish pocket
  1. Tear off a 12" x 18" rectangle of non-stick foil or plain parchment paper or double-backed foil /parchment.  Fold it in half so you have a 12" x 9" rectangle.
  2. On one side near the center fold, place 1 filet of fish
  3. Top filet with 1/4 of the chopped onions + 1/4 of the chopped ginger + a splash of Ponzu (about 2 T.) + a drizzle of sesame oil (about 1 T.) 
  4. Top with a sprinkle of cracked black pepper
  5.  Wrap into a sealed packet  
  6.  Repeat with the other filets.  Place sealed pockets on a cookie sheet lined with foil.
  7. Pop into the oven & bake for 25-30 minutes.  Check for desired doneness.  Fish should be opaque & onion should be  stewed.
  8. Unwrap & serve over hot cooked jasmine rice.


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Saturday Finances—The Talk

I'm not an expert...I'm just paying attention

Talking to the Fam about Estate Planning

The communication gap between adult children & parents

Get everyone on the same page

Facing Reality Together

Talking about inheritance is a hot button for most families, and that is why most people avoid talking about it altogether.  

The reality is that ignoring inheritance issues makes life difficult for the surviving family members and places an unfair burden on those who are best suited to administer the estate.   

A well thought-out estate plan minimizes conflict and ensures that the final wishes of the deceased are carried out.  It also provides a foundation for legacy planning with respect to charitable contributions.  

So, how do you get started?  Read this article by Fidelity Viewpoints:

Fidelity study finds parents and adult children at odds on when to talk about finances.

Survey conducted Febr 26 - March 22, 2016

Key findings
  • 93% of parents surveyed believe that they will not need any financial support from their adult children after they retire.  77% of the adult children surveyed do not expect to provide even minimal financial support for their parents after retirement. 

Think about this.  3 out of every 4 adult children do not expect to provide financial support for their parents, even in advanced age.  Over 90% of the parents said that they do not want to be financially dependent on their adult children in retirement.  

According to 2016 Facts & Figures, 1 in 3 seniors now die with Alzheimer's or another type of dementia, so among those 90 percent who don't want to depend on their kids for financial support, 1 in 3 of them will need full-time care.  

As healthcare needs increase and the demand for specialized care goes up, there will be an increased need for caregivers, facilities, and services that can provide long-term support.  Right now, family caregivers spend $5,000 a year to care for someone with Alzheimer's.  Most families will have to face the cost of eldercare, at some point.    

  • Over 20% of the families surveyed have had no discussions at all about long-term care and eldercare.
  • 3 out of 10 families disagreed as to whether or not the children knew where to find important family documents, such as wills /trusts, power of attorney, and health care proxies.  
  • 4 in 10 families disagreed on the roles that adult children will play with regards to caregiving, executor of the estate, and financial management.
  • 72% of the parents surveyed expect one of their children to assume long-term caregiver responsibilities, if needed.  However, 40% of the adult children identified as filling this role did not know it.  Of those who did, 58% were women.
  • 92% of parents expect one of their children to assume the role of executor of estate.  When asked, more than one in four of the adult children expected to fill this role did not know it.  
  • 69% of the parents surveyed expect one of their children to help manage their investments and retirement finances.  36% of the adult kids identified in this role did not know it.
  • The mean age of parents in the study was 68.1 years old.  The mean age of adult children in the study was 39.1 years old.  

Families Need to Talk

Here's a nice little chart from the Fidelity article above that outlines the dialogue process.  

Allowing this discussion to take place ultimately provides a powerful sense of well being both for parents and for adult children.  If the discussion breaks down, then at least you tried!  :)  Think about what's best for everyone.      

from Fidelity Investments_Fidelity Viewpoints_7/20/16

• families • working • together • in 2016 •

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Good forYou, Good forThe Kitties

This is a fun app for your kitties by developer, Martine Carlsen

Catch & Paint Games for Cats
by Martine Carlsen

$1.99 on iTunes

iPad app

Tiggy's favorite_the brown mouse catch game

7 different buggies to choose from_spider, goldfish, butterfly, fly, fleas,
brown mouse & white mouse

What Makes this App Fun for Cats
  • realistic looking mice (the others are cartoons)
  • touch-activated sound fx (the mice squeak when touched with a paw)
  • continuous critter noises (digging, mousie chatter)
  • realistic movement


2 Games in One

The catch game gives cats 7 different varmints to chase.  

The paint game is a chase game, plus it drops a splat of virtual paint on the screen whenever a kitty paw touches the screen.  If you want your kitty to create a unique work of art, this is a great app!  

Good for Your Cats
Cats get bored just like humans do, and this is a wonderful and inexpensive toy for them.  They'll love it, and hoomins will love watching their BFFs (BestFurryFriends) have a great time! 

• loving • cats • 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tuesday's Cupboard—Chicken Tumeric

Summer Reruns!  An oldie, but a goodie.  One of our favorite suppers.

Chicken Tumeric 

serves 4 to 5 hungry people

Great as leftovers!

10"x 10" x 2" square casserole dish
Large ziploc plastic bag
Large nonstick skillet for browning chicken

  • 1 cup white flour
  • 2 tsp. Mrs. Dash garlic & herb seasoning

  • kosher salt & cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 c. olive or canola oil
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 lbs.)
  • 1 cup uncooked basmati rice
  • 1 tsp. tumeric
  • 1 large onion (halved, then sliced)
  • 2-1/2 cups boiling water

Make it!
  1. Combine flour & herb seasoning in the plastic bag.
  2. Coat the chicken breasts in the flour mixture.  
  3. Brown the chicken in olive oil or canola oil until med brown.  Add a little salt & pepper as the chicken browns.
  4. Spray the casserole dish with olive oil PAM
  5. Add 1 cup of uncooked basmati rice + 1 tsp. tumeric + sliced onions + a dash of kosher salt & cracked black pepper to the casserole.  
  6. Pour 2-1/2 cups of boiling water into the casserole & stir to combine rice, onions & seasonings.
  7. Place browned chicken on top of rice.
  8. Bake covered for 60 minutes on 350°F

Remove from oven & serve with a nice green salad.

Bon Appétit

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sunday—Tahoe August16

Pix from our weekend in beautiful Tahoe


20 aug 16

Sunset colored by california wildfires

View from the deck

blue canyon

21 aug 16

Thunderheads in the distance & rain over the summit coming home

Dramatic storm clouds over Blue Canyon

• keep • tahoe • blue •

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Saturday Finances—The Importance of Updating Your Estate Plan

Some really great tips from Kevin Ruth, Head of Wealth Planning and Personal Trust at Fidelity Investments

10 Common Pitfalls of an Outdated 
Estate Plan

Update your estate plan every three years
(or whenever major life circumstances change)

If you have a trust or a will, good job!  You got that far in creating an estate plan.  Most of us don't get around to it until a major life event forces us into it.  For me, it was becoming a successor trustee after my dad passed away in 2013.

After I closed my dad's trust a year later, I was compelled to put my own house in order.  I found a good estate attorney in town, and the following year, our family trust was finished.

It really is a great feeling to have it done!

The following article by Kevin Ruth from Fidelity Investments caught my eye because now that we have a trust, it is important to keep it up to date.

Dust off your estate plan: 10 common pitfalls to avoidby Kevin Ruth, Fidelity Viewpoints
3 August 2016

Kevin's article is excellent!  He includes some helpful links at the end.  Make a copy & discuss any concerns with your estate attorney.

• estate planning • is • a gift •


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Wednesday—Good forYou, Good forTheDeck

Our gazebo & fence repair is finished!  Before & after pix 

March 5, 2016

During an extended rainstorm, our neighbor's oak crashed through our fence & landed on our gazebo.
Luckily, the rafters held, and our patio set was spared.  A couple of branches knocked the rim of the table loose.
Stay tuned for pix of the restored table & chairs.

The trunk of the oak is on the other side of the fence in our neighbor's yard.
The entire oak came up, roots & all!

Beginning the clean-up...

Roof lattices beginning to collapse

August 19, 2016

Our contractor rebuilt the fence and replaced the main posts & the lattice/roof in the gazebo.
Steve & I built the handrail, then I treated the wood. 

The new handrail after Thomson's water seal & the deck after it was cleaned & stripped.
I like the look of this stripped down redwood, but it needed a good overall stain to protect it from the rain.

Thomson's Water Seal on the structure_Behr Padre Brown Semi-Transparent Stain on the deck.
I treated the new planks along the edges of the deck with clear Thomson's to create a light & dark contrast.

How the insurance worked

Even though the tree belonged to our neighbors, the damage was covered by our homeowner's, not theirs.  

Wind damage is considered an "act of God" by insurance companies, and unless a neighbor can prove negligence on the part of the tree's owner, each homeowner is responsible for the damage on his/her own property.  

If your tree comes down on your neighbor's property, it is your neighbor's responsibility to make the repairs.

We had a $1,000 deductible.  Kemper's original estimate was $12,061.63 (after the deductible) to replace the gazebo and the fence and to fix the table.

Our actual incurred expenses were $16,534.77 (after the deductible).  We reduced the replacement costs by building the handrail ourselves and by replacing the electrical lighting with Mason jars & outdoor votives.  Kemper revised their original estimate and covered all of our costs!

Helpful tip:  The insurance adjuster will ask for all of your original receipts and canceled checks.  Keep careful track of your expenses.  The adjuster will appreciate a clean, organized, accurate report of your final costs.

• a • happy • ending •

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Tuesday's Cupboard—Best Banana Bread Ever!

From Martha Stewart online

This really is the best banana bread I've ever made.

Best Banana Bread

My nanner bread with cream cheese frosting in the middle.
Photo by dontstealmypen

Find the recipe & a video on Martha's website:

Crispy crust, light in the middle, plus a layer of delicious cream cheese frosting.

Look for the cream cheese recipe under "Variations" at the end of the banana bread recipe.
I used 3 ripe bananas & had enough to make a regular loaf and 2 minis

love • good • food •

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Saturday Finances—2016 Sales Tax Findings

State & local sales taxes as of 1 January 2016

From the Tax Foundation Fiscal Facts, No. 504 (pdf)_March 2016_by economists, Scott Drenkard & Nicole Kaeding

2016 State & Local Sales Tax Rates

Source:  Tax Foundation Fiscal Facts, No. 504_March 2016

Interesting Findings


The Sales Tax Clearinghouse publishes quarterly sales tax data by zip code at the state, county & city levels.  These figures are then weighted by population according to the 2010 U.S. Census.  Some zip codes have no residents, so the findings in this study are based on populated areas known as Zip Code Tabulation Areas (ZCTA).

  • 45 states & the District of Columbia collect sales taxes
  • Local sales taxes are collected in 38 states
  • The highest average combined state & local sales taxes are collected in Tennessee (9.46%), Arkansas (9.30%), Louisiana (9.0%), Alabama (8.97%), and Washington (8.9%)
  • The lowest average combined state & local sales taxes are collected in Alaska (1.78%), Hawaii (4.35%), Wisconsin (5.41%), Wyoming (5.42%), and Maine (5.55%).  
  • Five states do not have statewide sales tax:  Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire & Oregon.  Alaska & Montana (Montana imposes resort taxes) charge local sales taxes.
  • California has the highest state-level sales tax rate at 7.5%.  Indiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, Rhode Island & Tennessee are tied for the second highest statewide tax rate at 7%.
  • No state increased their state-level sales tax at the beginning of 2016.  
  • The five states with the highest average local sales taxes are Louisiana (5.01%), Alabama (4.93%), Colorado (4.54%), New York (4.48%) & Oklahoma (4.28%).
  • County-wise, local sales tax in Clark County, Nevada, increased from 8.10% to 8.15% effective 1 January 2016.
  • Cook County, Illinois, (includes Chicago) raised its county-level sales tax by 1 percent, from 1.75% to 2.75% on 1 January 206.  
  • As a result of the increase in Cook County, the sales tax rate in the city of Chicago increased to 10.25%, giving Chicago the highest sales tax rate of any large city in the U.S. 

For more interesting findings in this report, click here 

Find more Tax Foundation publications here

• follow • the • money •


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Wednesday—Good For You, Good forThe Shower Pan

This works.  No kidding.  Easy-Off in the blue can (fume-free)

From a discussion on

The Super-Easy Way to Clean a Faux-Pebble, Textured, Fiberglass Shower Pan

It took 2 cans of Easy-Off in the blue can to clean our
grungy fiberglass shower pan

As clean as it ever got...
Over the years, I've bombed this shower pan with every possible mixture of chemicals known to mankind.  Homemade pastes, Magic Eraser, yadda yadda.

After 2 applications of Easy-Off in the blue can

1.  Spray 1 can of fume-free Easy-Off onto a dry fiberglass shower pan.

2.  The comments I read recommended leaving it on overnight, but I sprayed it on in the morning and left it for about 6 hours.

3.  Wipe it with a non-abrasive sponge & rinse.  Don't worry if all of the grunge doesn't come up the first time.  Let it dry, then try it again.

It might look like my drain cover is dulled.  It's not, that is the non-shiny brushed finish of the drain cover.

4.  Tip:  You won't be able to get every last bit of Easy-Off out of the can.  It will run out when you start seeing lots of foam.

5.  You don't need to scrub your arms off!  Give the chemicals time to work, then just wipe away the crud. 

Happy cleaning!

• love your home •



Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Tuesday's Cupboard—Summer Reruns! Pesto, Ricotta & Tomato Tortilla Pizza

A perfect dish for fresh summer toms

Inspired by Weight Watcher's Online

Yellow & green heirlooms

Pesto, Ricotta & Tomato Tortilla Pizza

  • 2 large whole wheat tortillas
  • 1 cup of part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 c. shredded Italian cheese 
  • 1/4 c. grated Parmesan
  • 2 heirloom tomatoes, sliced into wedges
  • 1 container of refrigerated reduced-fat pesto sauce
  • fresh cracked black pepper

green & yellow heirlooms from Costco

make it!
  1. Preheat oven to 450°F
  2. Arrange 2 tortillas on a Silpat covered baking sheet (or a large cookie sheet sprayed with olive oil cooking spray)
  3. Spread each with 2 heaping tablespoons of pesto.
  4. Top with small dollops of ricotta cheese (1/2 cup per pizza)
  5. Add 1/2 cup shredded cheese to each pizza
  6. Sprinkle on grated Parmesan
  7. Cover each pizza with sliced tomatoes arranged in an even layer
  8. Top with cracked black pepper
  9. Bake until the tortillas are crisp and the cheese is melted, about 7 to 10 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven & slide each pizza onto a durable cutting surface.  Using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, carefully slice into quarters.  Plate & serve.

red heirloom toms fresh out of the oven

bon appétit