Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mealtime Magic: Freschetta Gluten-Free Pizza

No one in my family is GF, but we have several friends who are. So it's nice to have an option when they come over that's tasty and easy. Freschetta now makes gluten-free pizza in 4-cheese medley and pepperoni. It's certified by the Celiac Sprue Association and is $9.99 in your local grocer's freezer.

Consumer Critique: Reasons My Kid is Crying

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy through Read it Forward. All opinions are my own.

Kids cry for the stupidest, funniest reasons - sometimes because they get what you want. Reasons My Son is Crying captures the feelings all adults have when kids cry over nothing - irritation, humor, bemusement, and more. The blog was so popular it's now spawned a book, Reasons My Kid is Crying, with hilarious pictures and descriptions of what's going on.

I loved the book. There's not much to it, but it makes me feel better to know my kid isn't the only one who doesn't seem to know what she wants! It's a great gift for parents - or those about to be parents - to show empathy (or warning).

Thrifty Thinking: Tax Implications of Same-Sex Marriages

For same-sex couples, the decision to marry is not as simple as saying, “I do.”  Complex issues due to recent court and legislative actions, which affect couples in some states differently than those in other states, have created a complex web of legal and tax issues for same-sex couples.  WHETHER TO WED:  A Legal And Tax Guide For Gay And Lesbian Couples, by Scott Squillace, Esq., provides an in-depth look at the legal and tax consequences of marriage, and is an invaluable tool with practical suggestions for both married couples and those contemplating marriage.
The Supreme Court’s decision on June 26, 2013, striking down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), opened the floodgates for federal rights and benefits to flow to legally married same-sex couples across the country. 
Perhaps some of the biggest news to come out of the Supreme Court’s decision, and the federal regulations that followed, is that a couple from a state that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage can now travel to a recognition state, get married, and return home with many of the same federal benefits available to opposite-sex marriage partners.  But laws still differ from state to state and the federal government is still sorting out details so issues can arise for these couples.

The Pros of Getting Married
  • Income Tax:  By filing a joint tax return, married couples whose incomes are different may be eligible for a lower tax rate, known as the “marriage bonus.”  Refunds may now be available for already married same-sex couples who paid too much over the past three years.
  • Estate Tax:  States that have an estate tax and that recognize same-sex marriages allow an unlimited marital deduction for a surviving spouse.  The federal government now also recognizes the marital deduction – so no estate tax will be due for a surviving spouse.
  • Social Security:  Same-sex couples are eligible for Social Security spousal benefits at retirement, when disabled, or at one spouse’s death, as long as they reside in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage.
  • Private Pension/Retirement Benefits:  Following the Supreme Court decision, the Department of Labor stated that the term “spouse,” when pertaining to employee benefit plans, shall include same-sex spouses, even if the employee resides in a state that does not recognize the marriage.
The Cons of Getting Married
  • Income TaxMarried couples whose incomes are both high may be subject to higher income tax rates and fewer deductions since they will now be required to file as “married” – known as the “marriage penalty.”
  • Medicaid:  Since the assets and income of both spouses are considered for determining eligibility, being married can be a handicap if one spouse has income and assets that cause the couple to be above the eligibility limits.  This can affect eligibility for nursing home care.
  • Divorce:  If a married couple lives in a non-recognition state, even if lawfully married in a recognition state, divorce can be tricky, or even impossible.
    WHETHER TO WED helps readers understand some of the intricacies same-sex couples face such as moving from a state that recognizes their marriage to one that does not and provides practical advice on how to evaluate these issues.
    Scott Squillace has created an important resource for any same-sex couple contemplating marriage, as well as clergy, tax, legal, accounting, investment, financial planning, and other professionals.  The book will spark discussions among couples about the issues they need to consider when deciding whether to wed.
    #       #       #
    About the Author
    Scott Squillace, Esq., is the principal and founder of Squillace & Associates, P.C.  He has over 25 years of experience in the legal field and is admitted to practice law in Massachusetts, New York, and Washington D.C., and has been admitted to the Bar in Paris, France as an Avocat.  Squillace is focused on Life & Estate Planning matters for individuals and families.  He has developed an extensive practice focusing on the needs of same-sex couples and the LGBT community.  Squillace lives in Charlestown, MA, with his husband Shawn and two chocolate labs.

For more information visit www.WhetherToWed.com or www.Squillace-Law.com

Parenting Pointers: Responsible Pet Ownership

When it comes to introducing a new pet to the family, not everyone knows the proper steps to take. From choosing the right veterinarian to finding the right training class, knowing how to prepare for your new pet will ease stress and promote responsible pet ownership.

Heidi Ganahl, CEO and Founder of Camp Bow Wow, North America’s largest and fastest growing pet care franchise and INC 5000 company, has provided helpful tips on how to become a responsible pet owner.

  1. Sign your dog up for a training class - It is important to create a bond with you and your dog, as well as learn how to communicate with your dog. By teaching your dog commands, it will help you learn how to tell your dog what you want and don’t want them to do in your household.
  2.  Exercise your pup - Dogs that don’t receive enough exercise can resort to bad behaviors like chewing, digging and barking. Make sure your dog gets a brisk 30-minute walk a day to get their energy out.
  3. Purchase a microchip and ID tag - Make sure to get them microchipped and also have an ID tag with your contact information on them at all times. On average, 80-85% of dogs and 98% of cats that go missing will not return home, but proper ID tags and microchips help to increase the likelihood of a reunion with a lost pet.
  4. Research local veterinarians and schedule an appointment - Find a veterinarian and get your pup a check-up every six months. Preventative care will keep your dog healthier and will help keep medical costs down.
  5. Educate children on how to interact with your dog properly - If you have children, teach them the proper way to interact with your dog. Most dog bites occur with kids under 12 years old, so educating yourself, as well as your kids, on the proper way to be around their four-legged family member is a must.
  6. Give your pet lots of love and attention- Dogs love their humans and it is important for them to spend time with you. Leaving a dog alone in the back yard or for extended periods of time is not healthy for them. If you work long hours, hire a dog walker to get your dog out during the day for some exercise and companionship.

Shopping Savings: Dyson

Starting this Sunday the 20th and running till May 10th (right before Mother’s Day!), Dyson is offering a free handheld vacuum with the purchase of select Dyson vacuums on Dyson.com and most retailers where Dysons are sold.

The DC34 handheld vacuum is worth $199, and is free with the purchase of a DC65 Animal, DC65 Animal Complete or DC39 Animal – such an amazing deal, and perfect timing for spring cleaning!

Shopping Savings: Target Subscriptions

Target is revamping their online subscription service— adding a 5% discount on all Subscriptions orders and expanding the program beyond baby-care to include even more everyday essentials, such as cleaning supplies, health and beauty aids, pet treats and training pads.

Guests who take advantage of the revamped Subscriptions program will get free shipping— and they can get an additional 5% when they use the Target REDcard!


For more information on the expanded Target Subscriptions program, visit Target's online magazine, A Bullseye View: Subscribe and Save with Target’s Expanded Subscription Service.

Sweepstakes: STA Travel

STA Travel, the world’s largest travel company for students, recent grads and young adults under 30, has teamed with Levi’s for an opportunity for two lucky winners to score an exciting weekend getaway along with savvy wardrobe essentials from Levi’s. Now through April 25th, visitors to STA Travel’s website can enter to win this perfect weekend getaway -- a $500 Levi’s Gift Card and a $1,000 Travel Voucher from STA Travel. Winners will be selected through a random drawing by STA Travel and announced on April 30, 2014. Visit The Getaway List for official contest entry and information.

Sweepstakes: Clearbue Celebrates

Confirming pregnancy is one of the most exciting moments a woman shares with friends and loved ones.  Now, with social media, pregnancy announcements are more creative than ever before!  From Fergie and Josh Duhamel, to Gwen Stefani, expectant parents (from the biggest celebrities to your next door neighbors!) are giving the world a glimpse into their most special moments.

To recognize the creative ways that expectant parents are announcing their pregnancies online, Clearblue is launching its “Clearblue Celebrates Sweepstakes,” which is hosted on the Clearblue Facebook page.  From today until May 22, parents and parents-to-be have a chance to show off their most imaginative pregnancy announcements to be entered to win $5,000 as part of the #ClearblueSweepsEntry Sweepstakes!


- Enter for a chance to win $5,000 (brought to you by Clearblue)
- Entry on Facebook: Anyone can submit photos or videos of their pregnancy announcement to the Clearblue Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/clearblue/), as well as access the tab on mobile via www.ClearblueConfirmed.com to be entered into the Clearblue Celebrates Sweepstakes
- Entry on Twitter & Instagram: Anyone can also submit photos and videos on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #ClearblueSweepsEntry will populate to the Clearblue Facebook page
- Sweepstakes runs from (April 17 - May 22)

Freebies!

Dealnews has a great run-down of all the Earth Day Freebies available: Save the Planet, Treat Yourself: Earth Day Freebies 2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Consumer Critique: Suburban Haiku

Disclosure: I received complimentary products to facilitate this post. All opinions are my own.

I recently got to read a delightful little book, Suburban Haiku. I love haiku. I used to write it a lot. They're fun to write. It's easy to write a haiku - although not necessarily to write a good haiku. The syllable formula is pretty easy to follow, but to deliver the descriptive punch in such a tiny space is a challenge. Peyton Price has a knack for grabbing elements of suburban life and describing them concisely and poignantly. I had a chance to interview her to learn more.

1.       What was your inspiration for creating this book? When I first started tweeting Suburban Haiku, I had no idea how many other moms shared my feelings about life in the suburbs—we can’t quite believe we ended up here, and the whole thing seems a bit ridiculous, but somehow we love it all the same. My supportive, wonderful online community boosted me along until here we are with a book!
2.       What characteristics of suburbia make it fun to write haikus? The key characteristic is that we want the best life has to offer—the best schools, the best lawns, the best countertops, the best baby gear, the best diets, the best technology, the best fashion. And we pursue these things with a comical zeal. It’s especially funny when the result of all this competition is that we end up exactly the same:
Which one is your son?
That one, with the Bieber hair.
Wait. No. That’s not him.
That sameness makes small differences important. Haiku is perfect for observing small details.
3.       What do you like about writing haiku poetry? I love how immediate it is. When I’m trapped at a PTA meeting or swim meet, I can shoot off a haiku, vent my petty little frustration and move on. I also love how, because a haiku is so short, the reader fills in the details from her own life—I’m writing about my husband, but you’re picturing yours. It’s so relatable.

4.       What types of people will enjoy this book? I’ve been surprised by this now that the book is out in the world. I was expecting the moms to love it. But they’re telling me that their husbands and kids are sneaking off with the book and laughing themselves silly. One reader took the book to parent reader day at school and read selections to a third grade class. I’m thrilled—Suburban Haiku is for everyone!

If you have friends in suburbia, this would make a great, fun gift!