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Get Ready for Spring!

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The Front Porch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

After the brutal winter season we just had, there is a long list of tasks around the house that need to be taken care of now. In an attempt to avoid the rush at the repair shop, my husband starts surveying our garden equipment now to see what needs to be repaired, replaced or serviced. If you have a riding or hand mower, take a survey to see what needs to be done on it. A riding mower needs servicing similar to that for a car. The battery may need to be recharged or replaced, or the oil and muffler needs to be changed. If you used your mower extensively last season, you might want to take the blades to be sharpened at a mower center. Besides the lawn mower, there is an assortment of tools my husband uses. There is the weed trimmer, hedge cutter, chain saw, and other mechanical devices he has squirreled away in the basement. This is the time to make sure the cords and plugs of any electrical devices are in good condition and are not frayed and worn. Go to the repair or service shop now to order parts for your equipment, in case it takes weeks to order replacements. Families with small children should inspect swing or playground equipment. Check the bolts to make sure they are secure and replace rusted swing chains.  Inspect riding toys and other non-stationary playthings, to make sure they are safe to use.
Assessing
What my husband does before spring arrives is to walk around the house and yard, taking an assessment of what needs to be done. With pad in hand he makes notes when he sees siding or a roof shingle that needs to be replaced or repaired or a downspout that is rusted or loose. We also list house maintenance or decorative items we are thinking about buying. New windows, shutters, or doors are usually not in stock for every household’s measurements and may need to be ordered weeks ahead. Now is the time to get estimates if you are having someone do this type of work for you, or purchase yourself if you are doing it yourself. Waiting too long to hire someone might put you on the end of the work list.
Clean Up
With spring comes the task of cleaning out items we no longer need or want. If you haven’t fixed that old lawn chair or bicycle, then it is time to get rid of it. Properly recycle old paint cans, tires and batteries piled up in your garage. Spring is here and it is a glorious time to be outside! It is so invigorating the first month of its arrival and we want to do everything at once. However, taking time to go over what is needed will make this task more efficient and manageable in the long run. Happy Spring everyone!

April 1, 2015 |

Tag Sale Tips

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The Front Porch

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

It’s been many years since I’ve had a tag sale of my own, but little has changed in the way these events are done. However, now the signs are more professional looking and can be purchased to help advertise your date and location, plus placing a PennySaver ad also boosts your reach for potential customers. Other than that, the rest of the preparation is solely in the hands of the seller.
A friend of mine recently went to a local fundraising event where sellers could pay twenty dollars each and they had a table assigned to them to set up their items.  The organization had advertised the event weeks in advance, so it was given that this annual tag sale event would have a good turnout. No matter if it is an organized event such as this one or a single homeowner having a tag sale in his/her driveway, there are tips to help make the day go more smoothly.  Besides that, the next goal is to make some money and have someone else take away your unwanted or unused goods!
Items
What do you want to sell? Is it an eclectic group of items or are they from one category? Perhaps you have children’s items to sell or have just cleaned out grandma’s attic or your own basement. Your advertisement should state clearly what the shopper can expect and your description should be written in a way to entice them to drive to your house on a Saturday morning. Some people think a one-day sale is enough, while others prefer both days on the weekend. Depending on your time and energy, that decision is up to you. Some shoppers feel they will get the “best bargains” coming on Sunday since they know the seller wants to get rid of excess items. Other shoppers feel, “it is the leftovers that no one wanted,” why bother to go? Make sure all your items are clean, in good condition and priced to sell. Put price stickers on everything so the shopper can see the cost. Be prepared to come down a bit, if someone asks for a lower price. Have paper or plastic bags handy and newspaper to wrap breakables, as well as a change box and single bills and coins. Make sure to have someone to help you on that day, as it is impossible to watch and take care of things alone when the streams of shoppers arrive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 25, 2015 |

Income Tax Filing Lessons

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The Front Porch

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

Money. Whether it is coming in or going out, the topic interests everyone. How you handle your money, the way you keep track of it and the way you spend or save it influences your lifestyle. People learn by example, and handling money is no exception. Children usually grow up handling their money in a similar fashion as their parents. They watch parents earn a living, see how they use this income, and observe what is discussed about the subject of money. A child that is taught to spend wisely, comparison shop, avoid heavy credit-card debt and how to save “for a rainy day,” will most likely do the same when the time comes to make these decisions as an adult.
Income Tax Time
Parents may be so wrapped up in their calculations and the filing process that it is easy to forget there is a vital mathematics lesson for their children here. Most students in their junior or senior year of high school are ready to learn how to prepare their own income tax form if they held a part-time job. My husband taught our daughter how to do her own taxes over the summer before her senior year when her W-2 form arrived. These were also the days prior to the creation of computer tax programs. His instruction included the importance of neat and accurate writing when filling in all the information, how to find the figures she needed to insert in the boxes and how to read the form. Her form was the 1040 easy version and a perfect start for seeing what filing taxes actually meant. It was not difficult for her and she had the final figure correct for her refund. Naturally, Dad reviewed it to make sure everything was correct and nothing was left out. The feeling of accomplishment was something she talked about months later.
Now with the ease of computer software, it is even easier to give instruction to a novice. New software literally speaks to you and personally guides the user through every step, asking questions, prompting responses and giving tips along the way. This is certainly far easier than the old pencil and calculator method my husband first started out with years ago! By starting at an early age, the student will feel more comfortable tackling the process in the years to come. Even if a professional takes over the task when students are out in the business world, these young adults will have some knowledge about filing. It will be less confusing when the form is reviewed to see what was recorded on their behalf. This is something they would have had no idea about had they not known how to do the simple form years earlier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 18, 2015 |

Oscar Disappointment

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The Front Porch

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

Watching the Academy Awards began as a yearly tradition when I was in grade school. Introduced to me by my mother, we would watch this special broadcast to see the famous actors of the day, the gowns and jewelry the celebrities were wearing, and most important, who would win the sought-after gold-plated figurine, the “Oscar.” The voters that select the winners are members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) that is composed of almost 6,000 motion-picture professionals. Where did the name “Oscar” come from? The history is vague, but back in 1939 it was rumored an Academy librarian and future executive director, Margaret Herrick, joked that the statue resembled her Uncle Oscar, and a columnist heard this and wrote about it. The name stuck and started being used in 1939. Recently, I took a closer look at the head of the 13.5 inch statue, and to me it looks like the droid C-3PO robot from Star Wars.
Started in 1929, the winners were announced three months in advance of the gala party.  Over the years the awards revolved around the anticipation of who would win in the many categories voted on by the Academy. Lasting well over three hours, this evening that once honored the finest crafts of the film industry, has now deteriorated from its origins, in my humble opinion. As a fifty-year viewer, I can attest to the changes and deterioration of the entire event. Gone are the glory days of “stars” that were world-famous like Elizabeth Taylor, Cary Grant, James Stewart, Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier, Bette Davis and other “legendary” actors who made movies that are now classics in the film world. Back in the day, we would read all about the productions for months before their release. The romance between Taylor and Burton, the casts of thousands in the making of Ben Hur, the location dilemma of The African Queen and other tidbits all drew the movie-goer’s interest. Now, most of the nominated films have little or no advance coverage, nor have they been heard of by most of the general public before nomination.
The Academy ceremony and list of hosts have been lacking in style as well as “panache.” This year’s MC came on stage in his underwear to simulate a scene from one of the nominated films. Passed off as “humor,” I thought this continued the downward slide of “class” from a once elegant broadcast. As far as the nominated films, few, including the winner, could hold a candle to past winners such as My Fair Lady, The Godfather, Amadeus, Driving Miss Daisy or Titanic. Add to this collection of lackluster film offerings the mundane acceptance speeches by the winners, with many actors using the podium as an opportunity to espouse some kind of political viewpoint. Perhaps some of the millions of viewers watch the Oscars to be entertained, to see a part of the glamour of Hollywood. Perhaps, like me, they were disappointed.

 

March 11, 2015 |

Winter Escape

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The Front Porch

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

Had enough snow, wind and ice yet? This is what I am hearing from more than a dozen friends that are making their “escape” to warmer climate vacations now. There is just so much winter a person can tolerate! However, in the haste to get away, be sure to keep in mind some easy tips about hotel accommodations and accompanying costs/fees.
One of the things we remember from our numerous family vacations were the “hidden” charges we did not expect, and one of these costs was the telephone bill. In each room a price list should be next to the phone so the guest knows exactly what the cost is to use the phone. Even a local call can have an added fee tacked on to the call that you don’t expect. The hotel calls this a “line charge,” and even if you are calling a local restaurant or tourist attraction to make a reservation, the hotel can add this line charge. If you are in the states, it might be less expensive to use your cell phone to make these calls, especially if you have a plan that allows free calls throughout the states.
The other charges that will add up on your bill are items from the mini bar. Families traveling with young children should make it a point to stress to the children they are not allowed to eat anything from the small refrigerator in the room if they don’t want to pay these high prices. The best idea is to bring along room snacks with you for the family that you purchased at a supermarket or brought from home.
Watch out for items that may look like they are “complimentary” from the hotel. Years ago we went to a wedding in Arizona, and because of the high temperatures in there I thought the hotel was giving out the two bottles of water each day in our room. When we checked out five days later, we discovered we were billed three dollars each for ten bottles! The bottles were not in the small refrigerator, but on a silver tray on the bureau and had the hotel’s name on the label. We found out the hard way that these were not complimentary, but were charged to our room.
Watch for hidden hotel charges when you travel.

March 4, 2015 |

Ice Kingdom Survival!

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The Front Porch

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

Who has not encountered solid blocks of ice everywhere they look or walk this winter? I can’t remember another winter being so cold, icy and with wind-chill factors, as it has been this past month and a half. While it is not pleasant to go out in this weather, most of us have to go out to work or do important errands that just can’t wait until the weather warms up.
Last week we received a phone call from a friend of mine that lives way out on Long Island.  Living alone, she has the task of coping with these weather conditions and called to ask for some advice from my husband about her car that was just “a block of ice.” The car had been sitting in the snow and rain for three days.
Since the car did not have an electric lock, the key was the only way to enter. What we have done in the past, if the car was close enough for an extension cord to reach it, was to use a hair dryer to warm the lock. Put the dryer on high heat and hold close to the lock until the ice inside the lock melts. It is only necessary to concentrate on the driver’s side door lock for the time being. Of course, an easier method would be to spray “lock de-icer” on the keyhole, but my friend did not have any. Naturally, this would go on her shopping list when she stopped at the local hardware store. Note to self: next winter, buy ahead of time. Some brands are good for both “locks and windshields” and come in a larger size similar to a can of hairspray.
After the car is able to be entered, turn on the engine, with the heat on high, as well as the defroster blowers for the front and back windows. If the car has seat heaters, put these on, too, for additional interior warmth for defrosting. Do NOT turn on the windshield wipers if ice and snow is still on the windows. The wipers could break or the wiper motor could get burnt out if forced to move the wipers and the ice prevented movement. One more important reminder about ice on your windshield that you see when you go out first thing in the morning, DO NOT throw hot water on the windshield to speed up the defrosting process. It will crack the window!

 

February 25, 2015 |

Mister Rogers Got it Right

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The Front PorchBITS AND PIECES
By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel

“Good fences make good neighbors,” the saying goes, but to me that doesn’t sound quite right. What makes good neighbors is being a good neighbor. Think about the last time someone new moved into your area and how you welcomed that family. Or did you welcome them at all? (more…)

July 2, 2014 |
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