Saturday, January 30, 2010

The marriage penalty

Okay, I'm going to bring up the subject of money because, quite frankly, American tax laws suck. Somehow it feels like a very touchy thing to talk about on a blog but I'm so frustrated with our system and I really have to idea what to do about it.

We now have W2s in hand and have begun the process of figuring out how much money is Uncle Sams and how much is ours. Along the way it occured to us to wonder about the "marriage penalty" seeing as we are planning on getting married this year. So, just for idle curiosity, I did a "what if we were married" and we calculated the taxes. And, WOW. Assuming that our incomes don't change we could expect to be penalized a LOT of money for being married, and we're talking thousands of dollars. Part of that is a change in tax brackets and part of that is the losses of several deductions. It would turn our refunds into a gigantic neon sign saying "money owed". I could cry right now.

Of course, that leaves us with the question of "now what?" That "extra money" isn't really extra and not having it would wipe us out. I suppose technically nothing says we have to be married since we aren't planning on having more kids and we have our own insurance policies through work. But not get married? I don't want to give that up.

Our state recognizes domestic partnerships and they do apply to hetero couples as well so maybe that's worth looking into so we could continue to file single (they aren't recognized at a federal level and therefore not by the IRS either). Because, among other things, if we weren't married we would have no legal right to make medical decisions or even be in the emergency room if something happened to the other person. But, in a DP we would have those rights. I'm wondering what the legal ramifications are exactly? Can we enter a domestic partnership and have my last name changed? Is that legal? Or should we just have a not-legally-binding commitment ceremony and draw up papers with a lawyer to cover the medical decision choices and whatnot? This is supposed to be simple. Why can't it be simple?

Anyone have an idea? What would you do in that kind of situation?

Enough color to carry over

I've heard several times that Valentine's day was simply made up by the card companies. I'm guessing there's truth to that and if it is then you've got to hand it to their marketing guy as that was brilliant. Still, I'm pretty thankful for it. Christmas is well timed right as winter is really getting going to give us lots of pretty lights and and color to tide us over for a while but after a big bang of New Year's we really don't have much again until spring. I don't know about you but I get a little blue when every day is gray and dark. So Valentine's day is actually very well timed to bring a lovely bunch of color into our days right when we need it and enough to tide us over till spring. So, yes, maybe it's all about marketing but even so: Yay!

This photo made Explore on flickr this morning (#500 but still...) and I'm a little giddy about it. Yay again for color!
EDIT: It's up to #89. I've never done that before.

If case you were wondering, these are blown glass ball ornaments. The second picture was taken by laying down on the floor holding the camera in one hand and two glass balls in the other above me while trying to hold them as far away from the camera as I could.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Flickr Favs

These are my recent favorites from flickr and I must admit that I'm stumped. I generally see some kind of trend in other people's favorites; a subject, color, something. But this is such an eclectic mix. Coffee cups and color is the best I can come up with but more than half don't fit that. Anyway, if you have time then go check out some of these amazing photographers (BTW, #3 is much better than the thumbnail).

And does anyone know why #12 won't show up? Is that a user preference to disallow inclusion or a mistake on the part of BigHugeLabs?

1. [Darkfield] Strawberry splash, 2. Martini splash, 3. Night Reading, 4. 27/365 choc mousse!, 5. News (25/365), 6. 28:365 varm kakao, 7. Wallflower, 8. 100128_Sorry, 9. Day 28/365, 10. 01/24/2010 Juicy, 11. 365_027, 12. Perspective, 13. Birthday cake, 14. 27/365 How much espresso can you take?, 15. 365 [27], 16. 27/365 morning sky, 7am, 17. Neighborhood waterfall 27:365, 18. crayons, 19. Jan 27/2010 Candles, 20. 27/365: Key, 21. Sometimes sweetness is required, 22. 8/365, 23. cake for u, 24. 26/365 Papaya tree, 25. DSC_4976, 26. Rubber Ducky, You're The One.. 23/365, 27. Northern Sawwhet, 28. 021/365 ... The Zen Egg's fate, 29. 22/365 Moment of Clarity, 30. 23:365, 31. Fence Friday I, 32. Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures., 33. Attack mode, 34. 18/365, 35. "Web Curtain..", 36. 17 365 Don't go breaking my heart

Thursday, January 28, 2010

6 Years old

6 years ago today a baby was born around 4:30 in the afternoon. She was the third born of three, the baby. For the first couple years her brothers played with her all the time and did whatever she told them too. When she was one her big brother would even open the front door when she wanted out and so her parents bought a deadbolt that needed a key even from the indside.

She was full of mischief from the start and you could tell those eyes had a plan.

But she was very helpful. Want the dishwasher unloaded? No problem.

Then she discovered jewelry.

And coffee (well, actually hot cocoa but at Starbucks)

And suddenly this morning I am no longer looking at my baby. Hand her some construction paper and a roll of tape and she'll give you back a birdcage or a new board game. She's creative and a little crazy and a complete ham. She has a boyfriend and (so his mother tells me) they've gotten "married". Today is his birthday too. Taking this picture this morning I had to admit that my little girl is a baby no longer and while I'm so very proud of her I'm also just a little sad. I was hoping she could be my baby for a while longer yet.

Happy Birthday, Little Miss. I love you!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Are the words needed?

I really hate those days (or weeks) when I have no words. It seems like I'm incredibly busy with work, with kids, with life and yet there is absolutely nothing to talk about. Maybe that's why I like photography so much. Photographs can say something all by themselves so maybe sometimes we don't have to. Like this one. I know why he's making that face. I know that I caught it during the whole 5 seconds it was on his face and then it was gone. But, if I don't say why, maybe it's better? Because then anyone who sees it can use their imagination for the reasons his eyes have that expression. And possibly they'll relate to that idea more than the real one?

How about you? Have you ever made up in your mind what a photo was about only to find out that wasn't it? And if so, which did you like better? Do you always explain your photos or do you let some stand by themselves?

Sunday, January 17, 2010


We spent a few lovely hours at the park today before the new storms start rolling in.

There was a little hide and seek:

I see you!

Think she'll find daddy?

And then some hot chocolate to warm back up again.

What are you up to today? I hope you're enjoying your weekends!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Love Magnets

Over at Room to Inspire I saw a cute little picture frame that Scrabble tiles were placed on to make the crossed LOVE YOU. It was so cute but I didn't want to break up my scrabble set so I figured why not "make" my tiles?

I grabbed a scrap piece of 2x2 and cut some 1/4" thick pieces off with the compound miter saw. I cut a couple of extra pieces while I was at it just in case I flubbed a couple.

Then I took them inside and sanded the edges a little with some sand paper. (nevermind my very ugly coffee table. I REALLY need to go to KnockOffWood and make this table!)

Next just sketch out the letters on your blocks trying to keep them even with each other. You could also print out your letters on a piece of cardstock and cut them out with an exacto knife for a more precise stencil (next time I'll use a stencil myself but this time I was impatient to try it out).

I just used a little craft paint and small brushes and filled them in while watching some TV during my lunch hour.

The magnets I attached to the back were purchased at Michael's. I bought the kind meant to be used for business cards since they are really thin and wouldn't make the magnet stick out far from the fridge. Since they're so thin they can also be cut with scissors which means I only had to use one "business card" for all 7 magnets (I cut it into 8 pieces).

Now I think I want to try this with some MDF and bigger tiles (though not for magnets) to put above the mantel. I also think with a couple coats of poly the MDF will look more like scrabble tiles.

Any craft projects you're working on right now?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

It's not gone unnoticed

I am very thankful for the 365 project because I'm now looking at the world around me, in some ways, as if for the first time. Like this morning. Normally I would hurry to get out of the cold as quickly as I could move. I'd pull my coat tight and try to move faster without really seeing anything around me. And this morning I would have missed this. This beautiful leaf completely covered in frost all the way round. It was lovely but "usual me" wouldn't have bothered to notice it and probably would have crushed it under a boot as I hurried along. And I'm so very glad I stopped. I'm glad I got down on my knees, looking goofy, and took this picture. It really is lovely to see the world fresh.

Did you see something recently you would never have noticed? What has you looking at everything differently?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion. You must first set yourself on fire.

The photo-a-day project is turning out to be a lot of fun! Come see us (and join in?) over at flickr/BlogCamp365. Here's what I'm up to.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


I've been looking back through childhood pictures and came across these two next to one another. They are my grandfathers and I think the two very different pictures say something about just how different the two sides of my family are.

Louie Glenn, my mother's father, was a farmer (I've written about him before). He almost always wore blue and white striped "farmer" overalls and smelled like a combination of vegetables, fertilizer, and tractor oil. He played a lot of games with us children, he usually had pink snowballs in the bread box, and the candy he gave us most often was the neapolitans (I still love those!). After he passed away I inherited some of his furniture. I was in middle school and I put his banquet cabinet (from the dining room) in my room and didn't keep a thing in there. When I missed him I would crawl inside and shut the doors and breathe in the smell of vegetables, fertilizer and tractor oil. Every now and then I pass an aging gentleman with that smell and I instantly like him, even though we've never met.

Erskine B. was my father's father. He usually had on a suit when I saw him which is not very surprising since he used to be a lawyer. He had bowls in several places in his house filled up with not often used coins, like silver dollars and half dollars, and I used to spend hours with those bowls. He loved to duck hunt and I even remember waking up while spending Christmas there to find out that he had left at 4 that morning to go hunting but he said to tell us "Merry Christmas". Another Christmas I remember him catering dinner which I thought very funny because there were only 12 of us. Have you ever seen the movie Must Love Dogs? Her dad reminds me so much of my grandfather, right down to the poetry recitations.

Anyway, I'm not sure that I have a point exactly, but it just made me laugh to look at these pictures together. So very different and yet somehow they both had kids with close enough interests to meet while racing cars... Strange.

Stitching Hearts

Well, Valentine's will be here in about 5 weeks. Since my family is still considering a Valentine Christmas (or Valentmas?) then I am starting some ornaments to make a heart tree. I realize that it's just barely January but I don't want to wait until too close to make them since they can take a while and for a tree that size I'd need a lot.

So yesterday I started checking out possibilities and found this tutorial for making felt ornaments. The only thing I'm changing is that I'm not going to stuff mine as I much prefer the look of them when they're flat. The multiple layers are adding plenty of depth on their own already.

It would of course be impossible to try to do a project without one of the cats wanting to play, so Pixel is jumping in this morning to help by trying to eat the heart ornaments. Thank you, Pixel.

Felt hearts are a really good project for sitting in front of the TV or while waiting on dinner to finish. And I'm finding it pretty easy to stick a couple in my purse so this could be done while people watching, too (one of my favorite things).

Monday, January 4, 2010

Reed covered walls

Back in early November I came across this idea from RoomRemix for covering a wall in reeds and was instantly in love. Luckily Eric also found it cool so following the holidays we jumped in!

Okay, as Sarah the Thrifty Decor Chick says, I'm keeping it real here. My before picture includes a stack of crap on the floor and cat hair on the bed as well as the cat's bowls on the nightstand. Whatever.

Before was okay, if somewhat blah.

So the first thing we did is paint the walls. Yes, even if you're covering it with reeds you definately want to paint the wall because the color WILL show through. This is painted the Walmart interpretation of Sherwin Williams Java. I say interpretation because it doesn't exactly match the color card but I'm happy with it so I'll go with the flow.

We painted under close supervision.

We picked up the reed fencing at Home Depot for just under $24 a roll. Our wall is 8' by 15' so we needed a roll and a half. This will conveniently also leave us some left over if we need to eventually replace a part of it (say in case the cat uses it for a scratching post). Project cost is paint + $48, so not bad.

Here's what we bought. We had to ask a few people before they had any idea what I was talking about it so if you try this, know that they keep it in the garden department. They had about 10 rolls when I was there so I assume they carry this year round.

Put the nails in along the top and work your way down. I recommend small nails that aren't shiny as they'll be less noticeable. Also, since the reeds are wire twisted together it makes an ideal spot for the nails to slip into between wires and hold it well. You can see in this picture what I mean about the wall color showing through.

Outlets are simple enough. I cut them out with a pair of scissors without any trouble.

I recommend thinking out where your seams will be ahead of time. Starting from the left worked best for us since that naturally hit the center of our headboard and would make the seam easier to hide later. When putting the rolls against each other for the seam you have two choices. Just butt them up against each other or slightly interweave the ends. The seam on the left is just pushed up next to it but the seam on the right in interwoven. Personally I like the seam on the right better but luckily for you they are both pictured for your planning pleasure. :)

And here are a couple more shots of the finished project. Eventually I want to add a wall hanging over the bed which will help cover that seam and we're looking at adding a tall plant or tree between the bed and dresser which will cover the other seam quite a bit.

And, courtesy of Eric's mad picture editing skills (thank you!), here is what it might look like with a plant by the bed.

Choosing the focus in your image

I was having coffee with a friend today and I took these photos to demonstrate to her how to make something close up (the coffee cup) in focus without making it the center of the photo. Very simply put, you can put the camera in front of the cup and push the button down half way to "hold" the focus. Then while the button is still held halfway down slide the camera to the position you want for your picture and push the button the rest of the way down. This way your picture looks like the one above instead of the one below (where the camera would naturally focus on the center of the shot when you push the button all at once).

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Color punch

I'm going wordless today as I'm madly house painting. Wee!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Going to the birds

We went to check out the fowl today.

They are NOT afraid of you. Actually they are pretty demanding because they assume you have food.

This poor fellow looks like he needs direction through the masses.

And apparently someone was crazy enough to go out on the ice. Since there are areas of this not so big lake that are completely melted I'll stay on the nice firm ground, thanks.

But it sure was beautiful!

Friday, January 1, 2010


We brought in the new year downtown. It's the first time I've gone downtown for this in the 7 years I've lived here. And mostly what I can say about that is "wow". It's pretty cool to be among that many people as the last seconds of the decade are counted off.

Today I am also kicking off my very first 365. I've joined up with two groups for this here and here. Since I have a new camera I need to learn its ins and outs so that I may live up to the potential. Wish me luck! Unfortunately, I didn't take the shiny camera downtown knowing that it would be somewhat of a body press so I'm starting off the 365 with my Canon P&S.

They shot the fireworks from 3 different casinos this year (these are off the top of Harrah's). As we watched the display we had quite a few bats also flying overhead which were, I'm guessing, a little flabbergasted as to what was going on.

This is what downtown looked like, in every direction, about 10 minutes to midnight and it just kept getting more packed. Very cool.