Wednesday, February 26, 2020

8 Quirky Facts about Leap Years



As you know 2020 is a Leap year. What are you going to do with your "extra" day this year? Below are some fun facts about this interesting day.

1. The rule: Leap Day happens every four years unless it doesn’t
The point of leap years is to help adjust our Gregorian calendar (aka, the 365-day calendar you can find on your desk or phone) to the solar calendar, and make sure we celebrate solar events like the spring and autumn equinoxes with some regularity every year. Even adding an extra day to February every four years doesn’t quite do the trick, which is why scientists sometimes call for a Leap Second like they did in 2015 on June 30th at 11:59:60 pm.
How do you remember if it’s a leap year? Simple: If the last two digits of the year are divisible by four (e.g. 2016, 2020, 2024…) then it’s a leap year. Century years are the exception to this rule. They must be divisible by 400 to be leap years—so, 2000 and 2400 are leap years, but 2100 will not be one. As a bonus, U.S. leap years almost always coincide with election years.

2. What’s crazier than February 29th? A woman proposing to a man, says history.
You’re not the only one who thinks leap years are silly. After Pope Gregory XIII instituted the Gregorian calendar in 1582, the idea of adding February 29th every four years seemed so ridiculous that a British play joked it was a day when women should trade their dresses for “breeches” and act like men. The play was meant as satire, but some early feminists must have been inspired; by the 1700s, women were using Leap Day to propose to the men in their lives. The tradition—now called Bachelor’s Day or Sadie Hawkins Day—peaked in the early 1900s and continues today in the UK, where some retailers even offer discount packages to women popping the question.

3. The Salem witchcraft trials are connected to Leap Day
If we’re looking at history a bit closer to home in the United States, then we should focus on Massachusetts. The Salem witchcraft trials weren’t a fun time in colonial America. There was a particularly negative connection with Leap Day. The first warrants for arrest went out on February 29th, 1692 for the Salem witchcraft trials

4. It’s rare to be born on Leap Day…but what about dying on Leap Day, too? 
According to the World Heritage Encyclopedia, in the 1800s, the British-born James Milne Wilson, who later became the eighth premier of Tasmania,  was born on a leap day and died on a leap day. Wilson died on February 29th, 1880, on his “17th” birthday, or aged 68 in regular years.

5. What do Tony Robbins and Gioachino Rossini have in common?
They are both extremely successful in their respective fields—but more to the point, they were both born on February 29th. The odds of being born on February 29th are 1 in 1,461, which makes it particularly rare for one leapling, as they are called, to meet another
Rarer still is the possibility that three children in the same family would be born on three consecutive Leap Days, but that’s exactly what happened with the Henriksen family of Norway. Heidi Henriksen was born on 2/29/1960, her brother Olav four years later on 2/29/64, and baby Leif-Martin four years after that on 2/29/68. According to many government agencies, the siblings would not legally be considered a year older until March 1st on non-leap years, but in 2020, we can officially say, “Happy Actual Birthday, leaplings!”

6. There is an official Leap Day cocktail
And it’s called…the Leap Day Cocktail! This colorful cousin of the martini was invented by pioneering bartender Harry Craddock at London’s Savoy Hotel in 1928. According to the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book, “It is said to have been responsible for more proposals than any other cocktail ever mixed” (see: Sadie Hawkins Day above). Whether or not you’re in the market for a freshly soused spouse, you can make your own Leap Day cocktail with Craddock’s original recipe:
1 dash lemon juice
2/3 gin
1/6 Grand Marnier
1/6 sweet vermouth
Shake, serve, garnish with a lemon peel, and enjoy the flood of bittersweet flavors. It’s like a marriage, in your mouth!

7. Not thirsty? Celebrate Leap Day with travel deals.
How does one celebrate a holiday that’s not really a holiday? By shopping, obviously. Many businesses observe the rarity of Leap Day by offering massive deals. Take a minute to check in with any restaurants, hotels, or cruise lines you’ve been curious about; chances are, they have a promotion running.

8. Is February 29th good luck or bad luck? Depends on who you ask!
According to an old Scottish aphorism, “leap year was ne’er a good sheep year.” The superstition that Leap Days are particularly lucky or unlucky has been debated through history and across cultures, and there’s still no clear winner. For one thing, it’s bad luck if you’re a prisoner on a one-year sentence that spans a Leap Day. Also, bad news if you work on a fixed annual salary; no extra pay for that extra day. On the other hand, Leap Day is great luck if you’re on a fixed monthly rent (one free day of living!).



Friday, February 21, 2020

How to Take a Home Office Tax Deduction When You Work From Home



Of all the tax breaks available, the home office tax deduction is among the murkiest and most misunderstood. And the passage of the 2018 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has made things even more complicated.

So if you work at home like I do as a Realtor on most days, what should you do? Allow us to explain exactly who can take the home office tax deduction these days. Here's what you need to know before filing this year.

Who can claim the home office tax deduction?
We've got some good news and bad news. The bad news? In years past, if you worked for a company (and received a W-2) but worked from home occasionally or full-time, you could claim a home office tax deduction. But not anymore.

"There is a major change to the home office deduction: It is no longer available for company employees," says Bill Abel, tax manager at Sensiba San Filippo in Boulder, CO. "This has many remote employees frustrated."

But there is a ray of hope for these W-2 telecommuters. You could see if your employer will allow you to change your work status from an employee to an independent contractor (also discuss this option with a tax adviser), which would allow you to continue taking this deduction. Consider the pros and cons of such a move beyond just the tax benefits, however.
Another small loophole also exists, if your employer is willing to play along: Just ask your employer to set up what's called an "accountable plan."

For example, instead of being paid $100,000, your employer could pay you $95,000 in wages plus a $5,000 home office expense reimbursement, making your salary the same—while saving you more on taxes.

As for the good news? If you're one of the 40 million or so people out there who are self-employed—from business owners to bloggers—you can still continue to take this deduction.

How to take a home office deduction if you're self-employed
If you're self-employed, you have every right to take a home office tax deduction, but that's not to say it's easy.

In a nutshell, you'll be writing off part of your home expenses on your tax return by separating out the costs associated with using your home for personal purposes (making pancakes) and business (answering work email).

To claim the deduction, an area of your home has to be designated as your principal place of business, and—the clincher—used exclusively for work. Everything in that designated space needs to be for work purposes only.

What makes an office an office?
To be clear, that room you work in which doubles as a guest room when mom visits won't pass muster, even if you spend 40 hours a week there, says Abby Eisenkraft, a financial expert and author of "101 Ways to Stay Off the IRS Radar." So if you really want to do things right, have mom sleep on the couch!

If, say, your desk is parked in a corner of your bedroom or part of an open floor plan, simply measure the space you use for your office, whether or not there are walls.

The key is that the area must be used only by you, just for work—not to peck out personal email. To make that delineation easier, you can even put up a physical barrier like a partition or shelves.
And according to the IRS, an office can also be a "separate free-standing structure, such as a studio, garage, or barn."

How to claim a home office tax deduction
The IRS offers two ways to calculate a home office tax deduction, one simple, the other a bit more involved, says Jeff Morris, accounting partner at Nathaniel Jacobson, serving Maryland and Washington, DC.

The simple method: Figure out the square footage of your home that you use for business purposes. Each square foot you use for work is worth $5, and you can claim up to 300 square feet, for a maximum annual claim of $1,500, says Morris.

The complicated method: Track all the costs of your home (think maintenance, insurance, repairs, utilities, etc.) and depreciation (normal wear and tear).

Next, separate and allocate those expenses based on the percentage of the home you use solely for business purposes. So if your office space breaks down to 10% of your home's total square footage, you can deduct 10% of your home costs—which could add up to a sizable chunk of change. The key to using this deduction is keeping careful records.

Isn't the home office tax deduction a red flag for an audit?
Nope. In fact, the IRS simplified their method of measuring out your office space to take the audit scare out of the home office tax deduction.

"This might surprise some people, given the fear of an audit that the home office deduction used to strike in the hearts of many taxpayers," says Morris.

The reality is that the deduction is becoming increasingly common, and it doesn't make a taxpayer any more susceptible to an audit than any other deduction a small-business owner may take.

Written by Margaret Heidenry, a writer living in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, and Boston Magazine. Full Article



Wednesday, February 12, 2020

2020 Lexington Rec Summer Jobs



The Lexington Recreation and Community Programs Department hires approximately 200 seasonal employees and a large number of volunteers each summer and we welcome your interest in our department. We have several job opening for summer 2020.

The following pages provide a brief description of positions available, qualifications required for each position, starting pay, and approximate dates. Please check your schedule in advance as each position requires a time commitment.

Applicants applying for the first time must submit the Recreation and Community Programs application which can be found here:https://www.lexingtonma.gov/recreation-community-programs/jobs-and-volunteering no later than March 1, 2020. 

All applications received by the deadline will be reviewed. Qualified applicants will be contacted for an interview and scheduled to meet with department staff in February or March. Late applications will be held, should positions still need to be filled. Dates and times advertised for positions are subject to change.

All staff (returning and new) must attend a mandatory pre-season staff orientation. Orientations are held in May and/or June based on the position and program/facility you may be assigned to.

781-698-4800
recdept@lexingt onm a.gov www.lexingt onm a.gov/recreation
THE TOWN OF LEXINGTON IS AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY/AFFIRMATIVE ACTION EMPLOYER





Search For Lexington Area Homes For Sale

Monday, February 10, 2020

The Time To Sell Your Lexington MA Home Is Now!

Lexington MA Home Sellers
When sellers consider the best time to sell their Lexington MA home, many conclude that spring is the best time to sell, because both sellers and buyers come out of hibernation mode after winter and the market picks up steam! However, as your Lexington MA real estate agent, I’m here to tell you that right now might be the best time to sell.

In 2019, February had the most monthly views per listing on realtor.com. Because inventory is low, it can take more time than usual for buyers to find a home. Therefore, they start earlier! This is especially true when mortgage rates are low, like now.

Since most sellers still think spring is the best time to sell, winter inventory is lower than usual. The best time to sell is when competition is low and buyers are eager, and that time is now!

When ready to begin on the home-selling process in the Lexington real estate market, give me a call, your Lexington real estate agent. I am here and ready to help!

Theresa D'Antuono

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

HGTV 2020 Dream Home

Introducing the HGTV 2020 Dream Home 



This coastal escape is located on Hilton Head Island, SC. This timeless style home and detached garage were given a distinctive look. “The exterior stands out from most of the houses here because it’s painted a really calming shade of blue, with navy-blue shutters, all white trim and a charcoal shingle roof. 




This home offers many special features and plenty of space for your entire family. Enjoy, bonus space upstairs, game room, screened porches, pool and outdoor living space. It is the perfect home to entertain. Click here to see all the picture, rules and information about this beautiful home.

Enter daily, once at HGTV.com and once at DIYNetwork.com, for your chance to win HGTV Dream Home 2020, a grand-prize package valued at over $2 million.




Sign up to receive daily reminders to enter HGTV Dream Home® 2020 twice online per day.




Wednesday, January 29, 2020

What Lexington Home Closing Costs Cover?


A Lexington home costs more than just the sale price. For example, closing costs—which make up about 2% to 5% of the home’s purchase price—are a major added expense. Michael Hyman, a research data specialist at the National Association of REALTORS®, shares the charges that make up closing costs in a post at the association's Economists’ Outlook blog so that home buyers can be prepared.

Lenders provide a Closing Disclosure at least three business days prior to closing on a mortgage. But buyers will need to budget for these added costs ahead of time to avoid sticker shock days before closing.

Origination fees. This is the fee charged by lenders for processing the application and underwriting it. The fee typically ranges from about 0.5% to 1% of the borrower’s mortgage. Sometimes, it’s higher for smaller loans because “the fixed costs are a higher percentage of a smaller balance,” Hyman notes.

Service charges. These include items such as the appraisal, credit report, flood determination and certificate, tax status, pest inspection, title search and insurance, and survey fees. Appraisals and surveys can cost anywhere between $300 to $500 each. Title services can add up to about $2,000, so buyers may want to shop around for that.

Transfer taxes and recording fees. Transfer taxes vary by state but can run up to 2.7% in parts of New York. “It does not matter if the buyer or seller pays, as long as the transfer tax is paid to the government, so transfer taxes can be negotiated between the buyer and seller,” Hyman writes.

Escrow items. Homeowners insurance, property taxes, and primary mortgage insurance (if applicable) also are added fees. Buyers moving into a homeowners association may need to pay monthly dues for the upkeep of the community.

Hyman offers the following example for how these costs can add up: A buyer is purchasing a $275,100 home with a 5% down payment. The loan amount is $261,345. Closing costs are estimated at 2.5% of the loan value—so $6,533. The buyer made a $2,000 earnest money deposit, so they would need to bring $4,533 in cash at the time of closing. “Altogether, this means that the potential homeowner will need to have access to approximately $18,300 in cash to pay for the down payment and closing cost net of the earnest money deposit,” Hyman says. Source



Wednesday, January 22, 2020

SOUP-ER BOWL Weekend




Wilson Farm
10 Pleasant Street, Lexington, MA 02421
JANUARY 25th-26th • 11:00AM-4:00PM

There is nothing better on a cold New England day, than a warm bowl of hearty soup.

We have invited our favorite soup vendors to showcase their soups, chili, bisques and chowder. Plus, you know our Kitchen and Bakery are whipping up some unique treats guaranteed to tantalize your taste buds. This event is free and open to the public. See you down on the farm.


For more activities at Wilson Farm, please visit: http://www.wilsonfarm.com/v2.0/events/events.html



Wednesday, January 15, 2020

2020 Small Yet Mighty Winter Farmers’ Market


2020 Small Yet Mighty Winter Farmers’ Market
Every Other Saturday
January – mid-April
January 4 & 18, February 1, 15, & 29, March 14, & 28, April 11
11 – 2 PM
The Waldorf School, 739 Massachusetts Ave


Delicious, local food from your favorite LFM farmers and vendors for your Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and everything in between.
2020 Winter Market Farmers and Vendors
Weekly Farmers and Vendors

C&C Lobster & Fish
fresh fish & lobster
Copicut Farms
poultry, pork, lamb, eggs
Del Sur Empanadas
ready to eat and frozen empanadas
Farmer Dave’s
apples, winter veggies including root crops and fresh greens, baked goods
HomeSpun Waldorf
hand crafted toys, books, gifts and art supplies
Neighbor’s Acre Farm
microgreens and Fat Moon Mushrooms
Purple Carrot Bread Co
artisan breads and pastries
Signal Rock Farm
(weekly through March 14)
lamb and wool products
The Roasted Granola
granola, honey  
Guest Vendors
Fork on a Road
(January 18, February 29, March 28, April 11)
vegetarian meal kits and seasonal chutneys
Pigeon Cove Ferments
(January 4, February 1 & 29, April 11)
lacto fermented sauerkrauts, kimchi, and kombucha
River Rock Farm
(February 1 and March 14)
dry-aged beef
Sweet Tahini
(February 15 and March 28)
tahini-based breads, spreads, and sweet treats
Valicenti Pasta Farm
(February 15)
frozen ravioli, sauces, and fresh pasta


Note: For the most up to date information on who will be attending each week, check Facebook the morning of each market day.


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Make Your Lexington MA Home More Photogenic

Lexington MA Home Seller Tips
Ready to sell your Lexington MA home in the New Year? As your Lexington real estate agent, I’m here to fill you in on how to make your home more photogenic for listing photos! After all, the majority of buyers now search for a home online, so the quality of listing photos is key.

1.  Declutter, clean and stage. These are the most important steps to making your home presentable.
2.  Allow natural light in. This is the best light for showing off the depth of a room.
3.  Boost curb appeal. Most buyers see the front of the home first. Make it count!
4.  Stage the home. Use a professional, or look up tips in my past blog posts. This helps make the home look neutral and appealing to more buyers.

Find more tips in this New York Times article. Contact me, your Lexington real estate agent, when ready to sell and/or buy in the Lexington MA real estate market this year!

Theresa D'Antuono

Diet Tips With Proven Results



Drinking water can boost metabolism by 24–30% over a period of 1–1.5 hours, helping you burn off a few more calories

2. Eating Eggs for Breakfast
Studies show that replacing a grain-based breakfast with eggs can help you eat fewer calories for the next 36 hours as well as lose more weight and body fat.

Studies show that the caffeine in coffee can boost metabolism by 3–11% and increase fat burning by up to 10–29
Just make sure not to add a bunch of sugar or other high-calorie ingredients to your coffee. That will completely negate any benefits.

Though green tea contains small amounts of caffeine, it is loaded with powerful antioxidants called catechins, which are believed to work synergistically with caffeine to enhance fat burning 
Although the evidence is mixed, many studies show that green tea (either as a beverage or a green tea extract supplement) can help you lose weight
Green tea is available at most pharmacies, health stores, and grocery stores, as well as online.

Intermittent fasting is a popular eating pattern in which people cycle between periods of fasting and eating.
Short-term studies suggest intermittent fasting is as effective for weight loss as continuous calorie restriction.
Additionally, it may reduce the loss of muscle mass typically associated with low-calorie diets. However, higher-quality studies are needed before any stronger claims can be made.

A fiber called glucomannan has been linked to weight loss in several studies.
This type of fiber absorbs water and sits in your gut for a while, making you feel more full and helping you eat fewer calories.
Studies show that people who supplement with glucomannan lose a bit more weight than those who don't.

Studies show that sugar (and high-fructose corn syrup) consumption is strongly associated with an increased risk of obesity, as well as conditions including type 2 diabetes and heart disease 

Studies show that refined carbs can spike blood sugar rapidly, leading to hunger, cravings and increased food intake a few hours later. Eating refined carbs is strongly linked to obesity

Numerous studies show that such a regimen can help you lose 2–3 times as much weight as a standard low-fat diet while also improving your health

Using smaller plates has been shown to help some people automatically eat fewer calories
However, the plate-size effect doesn’t appear to affect everyone. Those who are overweight seem to be more affected 

Some studies show that keeping a food diary or taking pictures of your meals can help you lose weight.
Anything that increases your awareness of what you are eating is likely to be beneficial.

Keeping healthy food nearby can help prevent you from eating something unhealthy if you become excessively hungry.
Snacks that are easily portable and simple to prepare include whole fruits and nuts.

Taking probiotic supplements containing bacteria of the Lactobacillus subfamily have been shown to reduce fat mass 

Chili peppers contain capsaicin, a spicy compound that can boost metabolism and reduce your appetite slightly.
However, people may develop tolerance to the effects of capsaicin over time, which may limit its long-term effectiveness.


Doing aerobic exercise (cardio) is an excellent way to burn calories and improve your physical and mental health.
It appears to be particularly effective for losing belly fat, the unhealthy fat that tends to build up around your organs and cause metabolic disease.

One of the worst side effects of dieting is that it tends to cause muscle loss and metabolic slowdown, often referred to as starvation mode.
The best way to prevent this is to do some sort of resistance exercise such as lifting weights. Studies show that weight lifting can help keep your metabolism high and prevent you from losing precious muscle mass.
Of course, it's important not just to lose fat — you also want to build muscle. Resistance exercise is critical for a toned body.

Fiber is often recommended for weight loss.
Although the evidence is mixed, some studies show that fiber (especially viscous fiber) can increase satiety and help you control your weight over the long term 

They contain few calories but a lot of fiber. Their high water content gives them low energy density, making them very filling.
Studies show that people who eat vegetables and fruits tend to weigh less.
These foods are also very nutritious, so eating them is important for your health.

Studies show that poor sleep is one of the strongest risk factors for obesity, as it’s linked to an 89% increased risk of obesity in children and 55% in adults.

A recent study found that 19.9% of people in North America and Europe fulfill the criteria for food addiction 
If you experience overpowering cravings and can't seem to curb your eating no matter how hard you try, you may suffer from addiction.
In this case, seek professional help. Trying to lose weight without first combating food addiction is next to impossible.

Protein is the single most important nutrient for losing weight.
Eating a high-protein diet has been shown to boost metabolism by 80–100 calories per day while shaving 441 calories per day off your diet.
One study also showed that eating 25% of your daily calories as protein reduced obsessive thoughts about food by 60% while cutting desire for late-night snacking in half.
Simply adding protein to your diet is one of the easiest and most effective ways to lose weight.

If you struggle to get enough protein in your diet, taking a supplement — such as protein powder — can help.
One study showed that replacing some of your calories with whey protein can cause weight loss of about 8 pounds over time while increasing muscle mass

Sugar is bad, but sugar in liquid form is even worse. Studies show that calories from liquid sugar may be the single most fattening aspect of the modern diet 
Keep in mind that this applies to fruit juice as well, which contains a similar amount of sugar as a soft drink like Coke.

If you want to be a leaner, healthier person, then one of the best things you can do for yourself is to eat whole, single-ingredient foods.
These foods are naturally filling, and it's very difficult to gain weight if the majority of your diet is based on them.

People who diet tend to gain more weight over time, and studies show that dieting is a consistent predictor of future weight gain.
Instead of going on a diet, aim to become a healthier, happier and fitter person. Focus on nourishing your body instead of depriving it.

Your brain may take a while to register that you've had enough to eat. Some studies show that chewing more slowly can help you eat fewer calories and increase the production of hormones linked to weight loss

Here's to a happy and healthy weight loss!