Roth IRA or Traditional IRA? Which one is right for you?

July 11, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Finance

At some point in your career your employer will ask whether you would like to make contributions to a retirement account. Initially, you think, “Sure. Where do I sign?” Yes, it can be that easy, but if you’re smart, you know there are choices.

 You will see choices on the enrollment forms like “Roth IRA” or “Traditional IRA” followed by pages of words that all sound like a sales pitch. It’s at this point where you start to daydream and decide to keep your savings under your mattress. But assuming you can fight through the boredom of learning about retirement accounts, which investment vehicle really is best?

I hate saying this, but the truth is: It depends. It depends upon YOUR situation, not the type of investment vehicle. No single investment vehicle is right for everyone. There is no “one size fits all.” You’ve heard this before, but the best advice really is: Make an appointment with a qualified financial planner! Accept it. You’re not a financial expert. Few of us are and you know that your retirement is priority number one. Stop procrastinating and find a financial planner to discuss your needs, resources and goals. I did. I survived. I felt smarter afterwards too. No, it didn’t cost a fortune. In the end, it saved me money. Lots of it. But assuming you refuse, allow me to share what I learned about IRAs.

The basic differences between a Roth IRA and a Traditional IRA have to do with income limits for contributions, withdrawals and taxes (ugh). While I cannot go into detail here, I will highlight some key differences.

 Contributions

A Roth IRA has income limits for contributions whereas a Traditional IRA has none (no limits). The limits for maximum contribution change with tax law changes. For both 2013 and 2014, the maximum contribution for Roth IRAs and Traditional IRAs was $5,500 per year ($6,500 if you are 50 years old or older) or 100% of employment compensation, whichever amount is less. Contributions for both types of IRAs have to be made by April 15 the year after the tax year for which you are contributing. For example: all 2014 contributions must be made by April 15, 2015.

 Withdrawals

Although withdrawals in general are highly discouraged, both Roth IRAs and Traditional IRAs allow penalty-free withdrawals for certain situations. Some examples are: qualified higher education expenses, first time home purchases and certain major medical expenses.  These certain situations may allow you to make a withdrawal before you are 59 ½ years old. Otherwise, those withdrawals are subject to a 10% penalty.

 Taxes (ugh!)

A Roth IRA has tax-free (growth on) earnings and tax-free withdrawals as long as the necessary requirements have been met. A Traditional IRA has tax-deferred (growth on) earnings and taxes are paid upon withdrawal. Do you think your personal tax rate will be higher or lower when you retire compared to where it is today? If higher, then you may consider the Roth IRA because your taxes on withdrawals would be at a higher rate – and all gains over time are tax-free. If lower, then you may consider the Traditional IRA because your taxes on withdrawals would be at a lower tax rate. Or you can open both types of accounts and hedge your bets!

 Withdrawals, contributions, and taxes are just some of the differences between the types of IRAs. We haven’t even discussed 401(k)’s. So again, it is ALWAYS best to meet with a qualified financial plannerto ensure you are making the correct decisions for YOUR goals and YOUR income level. Most CPAs can make a recommendation for a qualified financial planner. Make the call.

 

DogVacay’s Fit Camp!

July 9, 2014 by  
Filed under Events

DogVacay’s Fit Camp with Shed ‘n Shred will hold a free fitness class this coming Saturday, July 12  from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Discovery Green. The Shed ‘n Shred team will lead a 60-minute workout with a local pet trainer who will have resistance bands on hand to incorporate pups into the workout! The fit camp is guaranteed to be a fun morning for humans and dogs alike. Here are the details:

What:
DogVacay’s Fit Camp with Shed ‘n Shred


When: Saturday, July 12 from 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. 


Where:
Discovery Green (1500 McKinney St. Houston, TX 77010)


For more details visit: DogVacay’s blog 

A DOG’S LIFE

July 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

THE TV – “Boy, is it hot out there,” says the weatherman who is obviously just arrived from Montana. Hey, pilgrim, it’s summer in Texas. Of course it’s hot. If we weren’t really broiling we would be panicked with fear of global spinning. How hot is it? It’s so hot David Dewhurst is cuddling up to Dan Patrick just to get a cold shoulder. It’s so hot Texans are lined up to drink the Kool-Aid. It’s so hot the coolest people are bipolar. (Don’t you miss Jay Leno?) Yes, it is summer in Texas, the time when everybody who is anybody — read: energy CEOs — are in Aspen.

The rest of us peons must endure, although our own petty sweats don’t compare to those of the citizens of Seymour (Seymourites? Seymoreians?) 180 miles northwest of Dallas. On Aug. 12, 1936, the thermometer in Seymour hit 120 degrees. That 120 mark was reached again in Monahans, 45 miles southwest of Midland, on June 29, 1994. Actually, I didn’t know there was anything 45 miles southwest of Midland. Those readings still stand as records, although the inside of my car beats that figure after an hour on the parking lot of my exclusive boutique, Samuel’s Club. We recently survived the warmest year in Texas: 2011 with 86.6 degrees. Something about global cooling. How cold was it? Just to cool us off, the coldest winter in Texas was 1898-1899 with 42.5 degrees. Individually, on Feb. 12, 1899, in Tulia, it got down to minus 23 degrees. Seminole equaled that minus 23 on Feb. 8, 1933.

Let’s talk wind. Matagorda and Port Lavaca were hit by Hurricane Carla on Sept, 11, 1961, and saw winds of 145 mph. That’s nothing compared to what Aransas Pass experienced on Aug. 3, 1970, with peak gusts of 180 mph. Speaking of wind, since 1950, there have been six tornadoes in Texas recorded in the F5 category, that is, with winds between 261-318 mph. They hit Waco, Wichita Falls, Lubbock, Valley Mills (just outside Waco), Brownwood and Jarrell (Williamson County). This reminds me, summer is not all heat, drought and tornadoes. Often they are broken up by hurricanes.

Right now, however, we are suffering through the Dog Days of Summer. The season begins each year about July 3 and ends on Aug. 11. They were so named by ancient Egyptian and Greek TV weathermen to cover the 20 days before, to 20 days after, the conjunction of Sirius, the dog star, and the sun. But Texans know our actual dog days run from Easter to Halloween, and we are trying to stay cool during that time. If you just arrived here from Nome you may be wondering, “How do you all (preferably y’all) stand this summer heat?” We don’t. We have air conditioned homes, offices, cars, malls, football, basketball and baseball stadiums, polo fields and horse racing tracks. We have vacationing neighbors who didn’t lock the backyard gate to their swimming pool. As for outdoor labor, we have DREAM students who will mow our lawns under threat of deportation. Or follow the lead of fellow Houstonian Howard Hughes and watch “Ice Station Zebra” all day and night.

I was just kidding about the air conditioned houses, but if you did hold out for some cooler air in your Texas abode, here again is our annual list of tricks we native-borns have discovered. First, let’s debunk the myth that we should leave the air conditioner (hereafter known as the a/c) at the same temperature when we leave the house or apartment or cellblock in the morning because, the theory goes, it takes more electricity to chill down the hot house when we return in the afternoon. Wrong. Lower the temperature on that empty lean-to when you leave and save big bux. This is assuming that you have somewhere else to go during the day, like school, a job or simply casing other people’s houses. Hint: If a house has the a/c going during the day, the owner may be taking our advice or at home holding a shotgun waiting for burglars.

Most of us like our bedroom to be cooler when we sleep, so we turn down the temp at night when we hit the sack. But remember, half or more of your summer electric bill is the cost of running your a/c, and each degree below 78 will increase your energy cost by 3 to 6 percent. Recommendations: never sleep, or stuff your pillow with ice, turn your temperature up and turn your calendar to January. Works for me. This raises a question: which do you say? “It’s hot in here. Turn the a/c up.” Or: “It’s hot in here. Turn the a/c down.”

Ceiling fans (those are people who cheer for ceilings) can make you think the room is cooler. All fans really do is churn up the hot air, but your skin doesn’t know that. If your a/c is more than, say, 50 years old, it’s costing you a lot to run. Upgrade to a window unit which you can find at that vacationing neighbor’s house. Insulate your house. This can be done by putting it inside another house. Incidentally, another way to save big bux: When you leave a room, turn off the lights. Like the a/c recommendation when you’re away, it only takes a small amount more electricity to fire up the lights again. So unless you plan on returning to that room within 3 seconds, turn off the lights when you leave.

Some like it cold: In summer, newcomer, take a sweater to any restaurant. The cooks, waiters and bus people are in charge of the thermostat. They are hot and sweaty – note the drops on your bread plate – and like it freezing. Same for the theater — those pole dancers work up a sweat. Finally, a suggestion to beat the summer heat: move to Seymour. It will feel so cool when you return.

.

Ashby stays cool at ashby2@comcast.net

 

 

 

Houston’s Food Truck Park

July 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Entertainment, Foodie Events

food trucks

Lunch:  Everyday 11am – 2pm    Dinner: Wednesday – Sunday 5pm – 9pm   Saturdays: 11am – 10pm
Where: 1543 St. Emauneul St.  Houston TX 77003
Phone: (832) 434-7040
Facebook: www.facebook.com/HoustonFoodPark
Twitter: twitter.com/Houfoodpark
Specialties: Lunch, Dinner, Drinks
Services: Walk-Ins Welcome, Good For Groups, Good For Kids, Take Out, Outdoor Seating
Parking: Street, Parking Lot
Payment Options: Visa, American Express, Mastercard, Discover, Cash

Houston’s first food truck park is still going strong. The turnout was like nothing they could have imagined and people just keep coming back!  The park sits in the shadows of what was the Meridian Club building at Chartres and Leeland and sports well known and loved food trucks such as Bernie’s Burger Bus.  The food trucks gather in a group of about 8 each day for lunch and rotate out during the week.  Trust us when we say there is something for everyone here and some are just short of gourmet!

For more information about food trucks and their schedules (or to schedule your own food truck) go to: roaminghunger.com

Find Treasures at Discovery Green

flea(photo courtesy of Discovery Green)

Dates and Times: Third Saturday of every month Spring through Summer. The event is held in the day during Winter months.
Location: Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney St, Houston, TX 77010
Admission: Free!!!

Are you ready for some unique flea marketing,people-watching,  food-trucking fun? Every third Saturday of the month, browse, shop and explore the Discovery Green Flea Market by Night.

Discovery Green, in the southeast corner of the park is where it all takes place. It’s not simply a flea market (though it’s that too). It also features a spread of goods including new art, kitsch, vintage items, mid-century modern furniture, recycled and repurposed items and collectibles. Bring a date, the kids, and the dogs!

If you love Houston’s food trucks as much as we do, you can grab a bite from among some of Houston’s most popular food trucks.

If you missed the this month’s Discovery Green Flea Market by Night, there will be more. During cooler months, the Discovery Green Flea happens in the afternoon.

Back Porch Brews at Watson’s House of Ales

July 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Bars & Nightlife, Entertainment

watsons(image courtesy of Zagats)

Date: Every Saturday
Time: 2pm to 6pm
Location: Watson’s House of Ales, 14656 Grisby Rd, Houston, TX 77079
Phone: 281-920-2929

Now you can enjoy Texas craft beer, patio games,  , live music, and BBQ  at Watson’s House of Ales ” Back Porch Brews”. Each week on Saturday afternoon Watson’s House  of Ales in the Energy Corridor is holding a beer session from 2pm to 6pm and they’re inviting everyone to enjoy their newly renovated, dog-friendly patio with a weekly Saturday Happy Hour featuring $5 flights of four 5-ounze beers complete with Back Porch Brews pint glass.

 

Bridal Extravaganza Two weeks away!!!

July 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Events

Houston’s Most Established Bridal Show Returns

with More Extravagance Than Ever and new educational seminars

 

Saturday & Sunday, July 19-20, 2014

 

WHAT:                    The Bridal Extravaganza Show, Houston’s only two-day bridal event, returns to the George R. Brown Convention Center this year with hundreds of bridal vendors and prizes, including several major giveaways, 11 formal fashion shows, special guest Randy Fenoli, and new educational seminars.

Over 17,000 expected brides, grooms, friends and family members will peruse the aisles and meet face-to-face with bridal vendors in over 40 categories and 700 displays. No matter what style or budget wedding, attendees will find a wide range of available wedding service options.

New this year, the Bridal Extravaganza Show offers wedding planning seminars by top trusted wedding planning sources. Our esteemed speakers are: Kristin Adcock, Invitation Solutions, Alex Stergiou, Elegant Beginnings, Clara Hough, Over the Top Linen, Katy Hoch, Over the Top Linen, Anthony Dinh, Composure Studios, Mike Turner, MD Turner Photography, Deb Turner, MD Turner Photography, Jamie Purpera, Crystal Ballroom, Krista Borchard, Event Identity, LLC, Jessie Lopez, Edible Designs by Jessie, Chris Nguyen, Café Natalie, Lewis Grell, LG Entertainment, John Graves, Darryl & Co., Rebekah Cunningham, Dream Bouquet

General admission tickets and VIP passes can be purchased online at www.BridalExtravaganzaShow.com. General admission tickets may also be purchased for $15 cash at the door.

For more information, visit www.BridalExtravaganzaShow.com.

WHEN:                    Saturday, July 19, 2014

10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (doors open at 9:30 a.m. for VIP ticket holders)

WHERE:    George R. Brown Convention Center

1001 Avenida de las Americas

Houston, TX 77010

 

About Bridal Extravaganza Show

Since 1983, the Bridal Extravaganza Show has been bringing brides and bridal businesses together.  Founder and creator Linda Miller set the standard for bridal events in the US and beyond.  Today, the Bridal Extravaganza carries out her vision – introducing the best bridal vendors to Southeast Texas brides.   Catering exclusively to brides, grooms, and their families; the Bridal Extravaganza Show is a one-stop-shop bringing Houston’s top wedding vendors together in one location.  Brides have more options, more choices and can make decisions and get down to the business of wedding planning.

 

###

Weekend Getaway: Sand, Beach and No Cars in Long Beach, CA.

July 5, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Travel Blog

Story and photos by Dick Dace

Is there anything more perfect for a weekend getaway than a beautiful white sand beach, palm trees, movie-star beautiful people, and fabulous food? In Long Beach, within walking distance of the Westin Hotel, we had all that and more than a hundred restaurants and clubs. With so many restaurants to choose from along Long Beach’s famed Restaurant Row, Pine Avenue, we decided on a progressive dinner after a lovely day on the beach, which allowed us to sample and savor our way to a food coma.

 

First stop was George’s Greek Café, where owner George Loizides hugged all the women in our group like the long lost friends they were destined to be. George suggested that we start our meal with his son Demitri’s mezethes (appetizers), which included calamari, grilled lamb chops and tableside flambé cheese. Ever the gracious host, George provided us with a shot of Ouzo, “where Greek babies come from,” he added with a laugh. Believe it or not, we were still hungry for more.

 

We arrived next door at Alegria Cocina Latina just in time to catch their Flamenco show. There, chef Walter Cotta suggested we feast on cured meats, empanadas and coconut shrimp, which we did. To every one’s amusement, some poor fellow who was celebrating his birthday was politely dragged on stage to receive a Flamenco lesson from the vivacious dancers. It was a performance worthy of YouTube.

 

Stuffed, we walked along Pine Street to the new entertainment development, The Pike at Rainbow Harbor. People have been coming to The Pike since the 30’s, when an amusement park, much like Coney Island, once entertained families. Paying homage to that era, the bridge over Shoreline Drive has railings that mimic the ups and downs, twists and turns of the old roller coaster, complete with lights that blink like cars running the rails. We decided to save the thrill of the Ferris wheel, games of chance and all kinds of distractions for another evening.

 

The next day we boarded the free Passport Shuttle bus that took us to the RMS (Royal Mail Service) Queen Mary to take in the icon’s opulence as well as its rich history. It is said to contain the largest collection of Art Deco furniture and objects d’art in the world. Purchased for $3.45 million, just $50,000 more than it would have sold for scrap, the City of Long Beach then spent $100 million over the next thirty years to convert it into the first class hotel that it is today. They did not know at the time, they also purchased a touchstone for World War II veterans.

 

The RMS Queen Mary (which is twice the size of the Titanic) was launched in 1936. The first class fare was about $1,000 a person (about $15,500 in today’s money, based on the Consumer Price Index.) The first class cabins came with pink-tinted mirrors in hope that if you were seasick, your rose-cheeked reflection would make you feel better. When the war broke out in 1939, the “fastest cruise ship on the sea” was called into service as a troop carrier. (See photo 452.)

 

Between 1940 and 1946, The RMS Queen Mary transported more than 800,000 men, before becoming a hospital and then transporting war brides to their new homes. On one famous crossing, 16,683 men were on board the ship that was designed for just 3,000 passengers. The pools were drained and every space was filled with bunk beds. Not only did the men have to share their bunks in eight-hour shifts, they had to eat in six shifts as well. Today, many of these men, now in their late 80’s, return with their wives and grandchildren, all with wide-eyed wonder, as they share their memories with today’s guides and crew. After a most memorable meal in Sir Winston, we cruised across the harbor aboard a mini Queen Mary, when we caught the Aqua Bus water taxi.

 

The Aqua Bus took us directly to the Aquarium of the Pacific where we beheld breathtaking aquatic wonders. Our behind-the-scenes tour of the Aquarium included feeding the sharks. Did you know that some sharks lay eggs? (See photo 486.) Neither did we. In one display case, half of the eggshell has been removed, so visitors can watch how the embryo grows while still attached to the yoke. The certified divers among us were even given the opportunity to swim with sharks and 12,500 tropical fish in the main tank.  They were accompanied by a master diver who pointed out where certain fish lived so they could be captured on film. It seems everybody, fish and children alike, enjoy having their photo taken.

 

The true photo hams of the Aquarium are the otters. Three of them ate $50,000 dollars of restaurant quality seafood last year, a restaurant tab that makes them the most expensive residents at the Aquarium. Why so much food? They have to eat 25% of their bodyweight to maintain their body temperature each day. Compared to humans, we only eat 5% and sharks, just 2%. No wonder the otters are always ready for their close-up.

 

Other perfect backdrops for photos are along Long Beach’s many bike trails, which have earned Long Beach the title of “The Friendliest Bike City in America”. The City of Long Beach, with funding provided by The Los Angeles County Health Department, provides bikes for rent throughout the city. Swipe your credit card, and the bike is free if you keep it for less than thirty-minutes, and it only took us twenty minutes to get to Naples along the beach-side bike trail.

 

Naples is a beautiful beachside community, built on man-made islands with an array of man-made delights to choose from. We grabbed a couple of bottles of wine and some cupcakes from Frosted Cupcakes, and boarded one of Gondola Getaway’s authentic Venetian Gondola to cruise the canals and waterways of Naples Island. Most of the homes were decorated with a nautical theme, one complete with a pirate (who disappears each December when Santa comes to town.) (See photo 546.) We had two gondoliers, Mark Schooling who serenaded us, and Luke Serrano (See photos 540, 541 and 542.) who dazzled us with his charming repartee and brilliant smile. The wine, sugar rush and saltwater air made us famished.

 

The perfect place for our last meal was Michael’s on Naples, a two-year-old Tuscan culinary treasure. General manager and sommelier Masino Aronne and executive chef David Coleman served us Fiori di Zucca (ricotta- and herb-stuffed squash blossoms), Taleggive Funghi (forest mushroom, taleggio cheese and pesto sauce), and Lasagna Verde alla Bolognese (spinach pasta layered with meat sauce, mozzarella, parmesan and a cream over tomato guanciale sauce). Thanks to the bikes, we were able to pedal off some of the meal before turning in for the evening. (Well, a few of us went back to The Pike for late night thrills, while others dreamed that this amazing weekend would never end.)

 

Resources:

 

Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, LongBeachCVB.org

I’m Not An Astros Cynic Anymore

July 4, 2014 by  
Filed under Sports

It’s been hard for me to “get into” the Astros ever since Uncle Drayton sold the team to Jim Crane a couple of years ago. As with most Houston baseball fans, I had grown tired of the former owner and general manager Ed Wade’s seeming lack of interest in fielding a competitive team and strange desire for silly trades. But the thing that really didn’t settle well with me was the move from the NL to the AL. You see, in my eyes, the NL is just far superior (the pitchers must hit, etc.) to that other league. But, I digress…

As soon as the sale was final I was expecting big things from the new ownership. The club needed a new manager, new bench coaches, upgrades in the field, upgrades everywhere really. In situations like the Astros were in (sucking for years and not much of an attraction for big name free agents) it’s pretty common for the new GM to look to the farm system and the young talent for immediate help on the field.

I was expecting a “big name” for the new skipper. Maybe a Jim Leyland, a Bobby Cox, or maybe even a former player like Craig Biggio. They hired Bo Porter. Um… Who? They also hired Jeff Luhnow to be the new GM. Again… Who?

Well, it seems the joke might be on me. As of late, the youngsters the club have fielded are starting to play good ball. This is one of the numerous things Drayton never seemed to understand about baseball. LET THE YOUNGSTERS PLAY. Especially if you, as the owner, don’t want to shell out the cash for big name free agents.

George Springer, the Astros 1st round pick in 2011, is hitting .240 with 16 HR’s and 43 RBI’s after his April call up to the big club. Jon Singleton has shown that his bat has some pop. He strikes out too much but with good coaching, that can be corrected. A couple of days ago, 2nd baseman Kike Hernandez was called up too. He already has 3 hits in 5 at bats including his 1st MLB home run. This team may suck right now but they are young and they’re having fun doing it. And I must admit…it’s fun to watch them have fun. Isn’t baseball supposed to be fun?

Crane wants to build a winning ball club. At least that’s the way it seems right now.

The Surprising Health Benefits of Ginger

July 3, 2014 by  
Filed under Health & Wellness

If you’ve ever taken ginger ale for an upset tummy, you understand the health benefits of ginger. Going back more than 2,000 years in China, the herb has been used to treat nausea, upset stomach and help with digestion and diarrhea.

Ginger is used in Asian cooking and stir frys.  It may be yellow, white or red, depending on the variety, and is covered with a thin or thick brownish skin, depending on whether the plant was harvested mature or young.

Fresh Ginger RootWhat’s ginger good for?

As it turns out, plenty!

“Therapeutically, it’s also used for poor circulation and lower back pain. On an emotional level, it can act as a catalyst if you are procrastinating and lack the drive to take action,” says Laurie Steelsmith, a licensed naturopathic doctor and author of “Natural Choices for Women’s Health.”

Studies have shown it can also eliminate inflammation, ease muscle pain, help with painful menstruation and migraines, and may even slow or kill ovarian and colon cancer cells. Here are some other health benefits of ginger:

Arthritis: A placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study published in the journal Osteoarthritis Cartilage found patients with painful arthritis in the knee who were given ginger vs. a placebo experienced significantly less pain and loss of movement compared to those taking the placebo.

Nausea and motion sickness: Ginger is well known for its ability to ease nausea, and it’s helpful for motion and sea sickness. Women suffering from morning sickness were given beverages with ginger during the first trimester of pregnancy, and when compared with women given a placebo, ginger alleviated the nausea in a large majority of the cases.

Diabetes complications: Studies show ginger may reduce urine protein levels, decrease water intake and urine output, and reverse proteinuria, which is kidney damage caused by too much protein in the urine. Ginger may also protect nerves in diabetics and lower blood fat levels. “Ginger can help increase circulation, thin blood, and lower both blood pressure and cholesterol,” says author Steelsmith.

Cold and flu: Chinese medicine practitioners commonly prescribe ginger to treat symptoms of colds and flu. The root acts as an antihistamine and decongestant, two cold-easing effects that can help with symptoms.

A dose of ginger
Ginger is susceptible to heat and oxygen, so handle carefully when using this herb and store in a cool, dry place or the crisper bin of the refrigerator for two to three weeks.

To make a tea, shave the skin from a piece of fresh ginger, cut off a 2-inch chunk and slice it into 2 cups of water to simmer covered for 20 minutes. Remove the slices and pour into a mug and add honey and a squeeze of lemon. Eat the slices after drinking the tea. Drink up to three cups of tea per day, before meals.

Ginger capsules or powder are also available. Take at least 2,000 milligrams three times or more per day with or without food.

Do not take ginger with blood thinners without first consulting your health care provider. Ginger may also lower blood sugar and interact with blood pressure altering medications, so speak with your physician prior to using ginger if you take any medications.

 

Beer Prices Around the World

July 3, 2014 by  
Filed under Bars & Nightlife, Entertainment

price-of-beer-infographic
Courtesy of FinancesOnline.com

Friends and Foe

My gardening adventures have helped me develop new relationships.

After exhaustive amounts of research, I have decided to work with nature, not fight it. I’ve incorporated virtually every technique I can find, proven or wives’ tales, into my little plot. Pots of marigolds surround the garden, rumored to ward off rodents and opossums. I was told squirrels eat tomatoes because they are thirsty; I keep a bucket of water near tomato plants so they can have a drink instead. Birds eat bugs, so a bird is feeder and bird bath are near by. I’ve dug up worms and relocated them to the garden, planted flowers to attract the good bugs and keep a Daisy Red Ryder on hand, just in case.

The birds in my backyard fly my way when I fill the bird feeder. A couple of dove will walk right up to my feet as they peck seeds under the feeder, flying away only if my little Westie gets jealous and chases them off. Little green lizards, like the one in the Geico commercials (without accents), climb plants to greet me when I water. I’m not sure if they like me or the moisture, but they always come. There are all kinds of bugs hanging out.

White wing dove

White wing dove

Caterpillar

Caterpillar

Lizard

Lizard

Yet, with all my new friends, things are not harmonious. Something is eating the crops! I’ve experienced huge losses on tomatoes; lost some eggplant and have newly discovered chews on cantaloupe. I’ve been setting rat traps; no luck. I’ve watched for birds and squirrels on the plants and have no evidence of them visiting. But something is doing some damage.

Before going out of town a week or so back, I plucked all the tomatoes (nearly 50 fruits between the 2 vines) to avoid further loses. When I returned, dime sized tomatoes covered both bushes; these have been stripped. Something big enough to break off a large limb from my Celebrity vine was here last night. I’m thinking opossum or raccoon. Time to set out the box trap.

Hollowed out tomatoes

Hollowed out tomatoes

 

Cantaloupe with bite marks

Cantaloupe with bite marks

Then I have these little pests, who like playing in the garden more than life itself. Currently they want to pick every marigold for their mother; they are extremely attracted to peppers as they ripen. One made the mistake of taking a bite out of a yellow Cheyenne recently. I heard him howl from upstairs. Racing down, thinking a dog must have bit him, I find his mother trying to give him milk. His lips stayed red and swollen for hours. That was the spiciest meal he’s had since my mother thought blazing hot wings chicken nuggets.

Twins playing in the rain

Twins playing in the rain

 

10 Best Plants to Grow Indoors for Air Purification

July 1, 2014 by  
Filed under Health & Wellness

Plants offer many amazing benefits; grown indoors, they’ll easily allow you to experience better health, create lush living quarters, and be content in a healthier atmosphere. Studies have also proven that bringing lush greenery indoors can help reduce stress levels,  relieve tension, and even help one heal faster. Luckily there are several types of plants you can grow with ease!

Evergreen houseplant pothos isolated on white background

1. Aloe Plant
Not only is the aloe plant readily available to soothe sunburns, stings, or cuts, it can also detoxify the body and is great for purifying the air. Aloe can help clear the air of pollutants found in chemical cleaning products. An intriguing aspect, when the amount of harmful chemicals in the air become excessive, the plant’s leaves will display brown spots.
2. English Ivy
According to NASA, English Ivy is the number one houseplant to grow indoors due to its incredible air filtering abilities. It is the most effective plant when it comes to absorbing formaldehyde, and is even easy to grow. An adaptable plant, it can be hung and perched on the floor and prefers moderate temperatures and medium sunlight.

3. Rubber Tree
If your green thumb is less developed, the rubber tree may be for you. It easily grows in dim lighting and cooler climates. Plus, the low-maintenance plant is a powerful toxin eliminator and air purifier.
4. Snake Plant
A wonderful corner plant, the snake plant can thrive without much light or water. It’s also efficient at absorbing carbon dioxide and releases oxygen during the night (while most plants do during the day), therefore one in the bedroom may help you in experience better sleep.
5. Peace Lily
This beautiful flower is a wonderful low-maintenance plant to keep in the home. Peace lilies do well in shade and cooler temperatures, and they can reduce the levels of a number of toxins in the air.
6. Philodendron
The heart-shaped philodendron is a popular plant choice for indoor areas, as they’re easy to care for and can grow decorative vines. Similar to the English Ivy, they are particularly good at absorbing formaldehyde.
If properly cared for, they can last for many years and grow with your family. The philodendron prefers moderate water and some sunlight.
7. Bamboo Palm
An attractive and soothing plant, the bamboo palm also made NASA’s list of top-ten clean air plants with a purifying score of 8.4. The palm is also quite effective at clearing out benzene and trichloroethylene. Well watered and placed in shade or indirect sunlight, they’ll flourish and intensify the peace in your home.
8. Spider Plant
Spider plants are easy to grow and are a popular house plant for many. Not only are they decorative, but they’re also on NASA’s list of the best air-purifying plants. Effective at fighting off pollutants (including benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and xylene), they’re a beautiful addition to any home seeking cleaner air.
9. Golden Pothos
The pothos is a simple -yet beautiful – plant which also made NASA’s list. It grows best in cool temperatures and in low levels of sunlight. Able to clear formaldehyde from the air, it’s a beneficial plant to have in your living room or as a hanging plant, as the leaves will grow down in cascading vines.
10. Red-Edged Dracaena
This vibrant plant can grow to be ceiling height (15 foot dracaenas are common), making it a great plant for decorating and filling up space. It’s beneficial for removing toxins, such as xylene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde from the air. It flourishes in sunlight and will be a welcome addition in your home.

 

 

Texas Supreme Court Rules in Minority Shareholder Oppression Case

July 1, 2014 by  
Filed under Blogs, Finance

On June 20, 2014, the Texas Supreme Court issued a ruling in the Ritchie v. Rupe case. In this case, the minority shareholder claimed shareholder oppression and breach of fiduciary duty. The trial court determined there was shareholder oppression and breach of fiduciary duty and ordered the corporation to buy-out Rupe’s shares for $7.3 million. The appellate court upheld the trial court’s decision regarding the finding of shareholder oppression, did not address the breach of fiduciary duty and sent the case back to the trial court to find a value of shares’ fair value including discounts for minority control and marketability.

The fact that the Supreme Court rejected the Fair Value of the shares and ordered the trial court to calculate the Fair Market Value of the shares presents a problem to minority shareholders. If the standard of value for shareholder oppression cases is now Fair Market Value, the value of a minority shareholder’s shares could be substantially impacted by discounts for Lack of Marketability and Lack of Control. The Texas Supreme Court did not agree with the trial court or the appellate court in its ruling. The Supreme Court ruled that minority shareholder oppression is not a common-law cause of action in Texas. Because the appellate court did not address the breach of fiduciary duty, the Supreme Court also did not address the breach. The case was remanded to the appellate court to address the breach of fiduciary duty.

What can minority shareholders do to protect themselves? Before investing in a company, make sure that you have a shareholders’ agreement in place and that you understand what is contained in that agreement. What are you agreeing to and what protections do you have? Read all of the corporate documents of the company and understand what is contained in them and how it impacts you (i.e., Bylaws, Operating Agreements, etc.).   To read the full ruling and opinion, please see Texas Supreme Court Case: No. 11-0447, Ritchie v. Rupe 2014 Tex. LEXIS 500

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