By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel
How you handle your money, keep track of it and spend or save it influences your lifestyle. People learn by example, and handling money is no exception. An article about family finances stated that children usually grow up handling their money in a fashion similar to that of their parents. Does the child overhear family issues about “not having enough money to pay the bills” or “how should we invest the money we have saved this year?” The child who observes parents’ strong money values and is taught to spend wisely, to comparison shop, avoid heavy credit card debt, and to save for a rainy day will most likely do the same later on as an adult.
When a parent is in the middle of preparing income taxes, it can be so frustrating that there is little time to think about sharing a “learning experience” with a student. Parents wrapped up in calculations and completing the filing process forget there is a vital mathematics lesson here for their children. A student in their junior or senior year of high school is ready to learn how to prepare income taxes. If the student held a part time job, this is an easy tax form to complete. When our student was a senior she received a W-2 form from her summer employer. Her taxes were not complex, so my husband taught her how to complete her own income tax form that year. 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 learning what filing taxes actually meant. It was not difficult for her and she was able to compute the appropriate final figure 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 a novice has no problems with this task. New software literally speaks to you and personally guides the user through every step, asking questions, prompting responses and providing tips along the way. This is certainly far easier than the old pencil and calculator method my husband first started with decades ago! By starting at an early age, the student will feel more comfortable tackling the process in the years to come.
January 24, 2018 | admin
By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel
Let the winter winds blow and the snow fall because it is a great time to stay inside and watch a good movie! A dear friend of mine, JoAnn, lives near Niagara Falls and surely has plenty of winter weather that keeps her and her husband inside. During one of our phone calls she told me that tonight was her “Pizza, Chocolate, Movie” night, and her two lady friends were coming over. She explained how it started and what it was.
The ladies take turns visiting each other’s home every other week during the winter. To make it easy on the host, the menu is kept simple. Dinner is pizza, and dessert is always something chocolate that one of the other ladies would bring. It could be a cake, brownies, éclairs or chocolate cream pie—anything luscious.
Their movie choice is decided beforehand, and either one of the ladies would bring a DVD or borrow one from their local library. The only decision to be made was what kind of movie were the ladies in the mood for that night. Would it be a drama, mystery, romance or an international film? As JoAnn described, by having the same easy dinner there was no guessing what was on the menu. The pizza was ordered in, so the host never had to cook. This was a lovely way for friends to spend time together and pass a winter’s evening! However, it doesn’t take cold weather to have friends over—this idea they devised is fun year-round.
Our neighbor subscribes to Netflix and often invites me over to watch some of the selections offered. We’ve discovered some of the most interesting foreign film choices that are so engrossing they can easily be called “binge worthy.” Perhaps most people are hesitant about reading subtitles, but after two or three episodes it becomes second nature. If you feel adventurous, give it a try if you have Netflix. Our recent favorites were Velvet and Kurt Seyit and Sura. Velvet is a romance about the son of a wealthy department store owner who falls in love with the orphaned niece of the store’s manager. It takes place in Barcelona in the 1950’s. Kurt Seyit and Sura takes place in pre-revolutionary Russia and is about a handsome Turkish officer in the Russian army who falls in love with a young, beautiful girl of Russian nobility. The costumes and lush scenery are fantastic and the story engrossing.
January 17, 2018 | admin
By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel
With January’s arrival, mailings containing the documents required for tax preparation will begin to appear. April 15th seems to sneak up on us, and being organized helps lessen the frustration of finding necessary information. If files are kept in order year-round, there is no need to panic. The hardest part about preparing your taxes is locating the papers that you have saved all year long. Putting your fingers on the forms and important records or cancelled checks you need can be a challenge, especially after a busy holiday season. To help with storing files and records visit an office supply store to see what they offer.
At the beginning of every year I purchase a large, durable accordion-style folder for holding the papers I file. Some folders have designated names for each slot, starting with Auto Insurance, Bank Records, Credit Cards, Dental Bills, Income, Medical, Utilities, etc. You can also buy the same file folder with alphabetical listings of “A to Z” and create your own titles on each letter pocket using a label maker. After each bill is paid, slip the stub in the appropriate folder making sure the check number and payment date are on the statement. A duplicate computer record can also be kept with account numbers and totals using a tax or home accounting program. An Excel file can tally your accounts with each new entry. At the end of the year, with this sheet you can easily assess how much you have donated to charity or paid out in medical bills in addition to any other totals needed to compute your income taxes. The IRS suggests you keep your income tax records and files for at least seven years in the event you are called in for an audit. A side note—just because you have not heard from the IRS the year after you filed your taxes, that doesn’t mean you won’t hear from them sometime down the road.
If we have no dispute regarding payment of our utility bills, we shred them after three years. When it is time to destroy old papers, whether it is a statement, medical record or other financial piece of information, think about the shredder you are using. A “cross cut” machine cuts paper on a diagonal, making it impossible to piece together any information. Don’t skimp on this piece of equipment if you are considering purchasing one. It is your life history and personal identity that are at stake. If you think income tax time is a nightmare, just imagine what identity theft would be like!
January 10, 2018 | admin
By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel
Holiday decorations are ready to come down and the presents will soon be put away. Now, what to do with the volumes of manuals and instructions that came with gifts of electronics and small appliances? Most of us only skim through the paperwork that comes with these items and focus on the information that is important only for its immediate use. Months later, more information may be needed to clean the item, to use any attachments, or to repair it. Use a loose-leaf binder with tabs marked appliances, electronics, furniture, clothing, etc. for storing these papers. Plastic divider sheets can hold warranty papers, purchase receipts, assembly instructions or where to order replacement parts.
Clothing and Linens
Some garments can be cleaned in a washing machine and others must be dry-cleaned. Wash any garment before a first wearing. Often, dyes and chemicals used during the manufacturing process might still be present in the garment. Those with sensitive skin like infants, toddlers, young children or adults with allergies might react to these chemicals.
When you remove a new bedspread or draperies from the package, keep the washing instructions before you discard the wrapping. Bedspreads, curtains, and draperies are washed less frequently and it is easy to forget the proper cleaning methods for them. Make sure you know whether your item should be dry-cleaned before you attempt to machine wash to prevent “bleeding” or shrinkage.
While many items have cleaning instruction tags on them, it is not always easy to read the fine print or to remember the instructions after the tags fade or shred. Sometimes it is better to dry-clean the item even if the manufacturer states that either washing or dry-cleaning is appropriate. Dry-cleaning seems to keep the colors more vivid and help maintain a newer look. Knowing the best care for each item is one way of making sure you get the most value for the money you spent.
When buying an electronic item for the home, read the directions carefully. Light fixtures and lamps often have warnings about the wattage of the bulbs to be used. Avoid exceeding the manufacturer’s instructions. Other items, like a powerful kitchen mixer we bought, come with a warning to “never leave it unattended when in use.” The reason for this warning is that, in this case, the mixer might shimmy off the countertop, despite its solid design and heavy weight. You can be sure I never left the kitchen when it was in use.
January 3, 2018 | admin
By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel
When our three children were on school holiday recess, it seemed like it was twice the time when I had to think of activities to keep them busy. We tried to plan things that were fun, accessible by car and educational at the same time. One of those places is the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk in Norwalk, CT. Its focus is on the Long Island Sound, and it presents sharks, seals, river otters, sea turtles, jellyfish and nearly 300 species from Long Island Sound and its watershed. Harbor seal training demonstrations occur three times daily and three staffed touch-tanks allow hands-on close encounters with intertidal animals, sharks and rays, and moon jellyfish. They also have an IMAX movie theatre.
Children will love the Shark-Diving Santa with his scuba gear strapped to his back and entering the Aquarium’s 110,000-gallon tank, home to 7-foot sharks. Then they can visit the Sea Turtle Nursery to watch the care of rescued, newly hatched turtles that didn’t make it out of their nests. Staff members care for the baby turtles until they can be safely released back into the ocean. Journey with Jellies is another awe inspiring exhibit as guests view the popular tall centerpiece display of moon jellies and non-native species of brown sea nettles, Australian spotted jellies and Japanese sea nettles and more. Harbor cruises and toy making workshops round off the list of wonderful events that take place all year long for families with children or adults on their own.
No visit to the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk would be complete without seeing an IMAX movie. It’s Connecticut’s largest IMAX theatre, with a screen that’s six stories high and eight stories wide. Typical IMAX movies are about 40 minutes long and are generally suitable for even the youngest viewers. December’s lineup of films are: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Amazon Adventure, Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Secret Ocean, Beavers, and the beloved classic The Polar Express starring Tom Hanks. Based on the Caldecott Award-winning book by Chris Van Allsburg, The Polar Express follows a young boy who doubts the existence of Santa Claus. On Christmas Eve, a magical locomotive arrives to take him and other doubting children on a magical Christmas Eve trip to the North Pole.
The Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk is located at 10 North Water Street, Norwalk, CT.
For dates, times, and ticket prices for events, call (203) 852-0700 or visit: www.MaritimeAquarium.org
December 20, 2017 | admin
By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel
There’s a fascinating, whimsical world awaiting guests just a car or train ride away at the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) in the Bronx! The Holiday Train Show has become “a must-see tradition where G-scale model trains hum alongside of more than 150 iconic replicas of New York landmarks.” The 26th annual show opened on November 22 and runs through January 15, 2018, which is perfect for visitors looking for places to go to celebrate the holidays or school recess.
Our family has made it an annual tradition to visit this amazing display of buildings all created from natural materials such as bark, twigs, seeds and pine cones, done by designer Paul Busse’s team at Applied Imagination. Starting with a huge replica of Macy’s 34th street at the fully decorated tented access, each building mesmerizes as viewers look closely at what materials are used in the duplication of such buildings as Grand Central Terminal, the Brooklyn Bridge, original Yankee stadium and the NYBG’s breathtaking crystal conservatory where the Train Show is held.
Included this year are new renditions of the Empire State Building, now with changing internal lighting schemes, the Chrysler Building, and the General Electric Building, in addition to a replica of St. Bartholomew’s Church. While walking through the exhibit and warm interior of the palm forest and exotic plants, visitors will see model trains zipping in and out of the displays on nearly a half-mile of track. While any time of day is lovely for a tour, after dusk is the most enchanting for viewing the twinkling lights and glow of this miniature world that beckons both adults and children to its charm.
In addition to the Train Show, the NYBG has scores of events that coincide with the holiday theme. Programs such as All Aboard with Thomas & Friends, Evergreen Express, Nutcracker presentations, holiday film screenings, Holiday A Cappella, bar car nights (an adult only event), poetry readings and more, run through January. Food is available at The Gingerbread Café for a snack or meal.
For tickets or information visit www.nybg.org
The NYBG is an iconic living museum, a major educational institution, and a renowned plant research and conservation organization. Founded in 1891 and now a national historic landmark, it is one of the greatest botanical gardens in the world and the largest in any city in the United States, distinguished by the beauty of its diverse landscape and extensive collections and gardens, as well as by the scope and excellence of its multidisciplinary exhibitions and programs.
December 13, 2017 | admin
By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel
We all have certain people on our gift list that are difficult to shop for each year. What do you give someone who has everything and says, “There is nothing I need”? The solution is simple. Go out together for an evening of fantastic entertainment and a delicious lunch or dinner meal at the Westchester Broadway Theatre (WBT) in Elmsford. It’s featuring the perfect production this season with The Christmas Voyager, based on the book by Robert Fitzsimmons and Kathy Wheeler. The show opened November 22 and it will run through December 23.
It’s billed as a delightful holiday musical and a true celebration of the season. All the splendor of Christmas is brought to life in a magical journey through yuletides past. Holiday songs we all know and love are wrapped up in a heartwarming celebration of spirit that will delight audiences of all ages.
“The star shone down upon the earth a dazzling silver beam while in a far-off galaxy the star was also seen. And so our voyager began his quest to reach that source of light. Two thousand years to find his way and end his astral flight.” Lost in a future time and desperate to return to his home galaxy, our Starman Noel journeys back through time searching for that magical December 24th evening when three brilliant stars came together and changed the course of history. Knowing that these same stars will set him on the right course toward home, Noel journeys around the world and touches down in a small town in America, the North Pole, Dickens’ England and many other places on his quest.
The show features dazzling effects and many favorite Christmas songs — We Need a Little Christmas, Holly Jolly Christmas, Silver Bells, It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, Deck the Halls, Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, Let There Be Peace on Earth, We Wish You a Merry Christmas, Silent Night, and more. Cast members include Zach Trimmer as Noel/the Starman, Katie Brunson, Jayson Elliott, Bonnie Fraser, Lily Lewis, Tony Triano, Allyson Tucker, and Daniel Scott Walton.
The WBT continually offers gorgeous, creative set design that easily transports the audience to the period of the storyline. Enjoy this production as part of your holiday celebrations with family, friends or as a fun place to gather with co-workers for your business’ annual holiday party.
Visit www.BroadwayTheatre.com or call (914) 592-2222. (Discounts for groups of 20 or more.)
December 6, 2017 | admin