Motivational Monday Leap Year: Undoing

This quote really resonated with me. I spent my entire life plotting, planning and calculating every move. And then I hit a point where I realized, yes, we get to those end goals by planning/setting the intentions, but it’s the journey that is the most memorable, unpredictable and truly magical. I think the new chapter, for me personally, is to un-do the bad habits: strict guidelines/timelines and expectations I have of myself. They say over planning kills magic, and I want the latter back. A balance between logic and creativity is the key to a happy life.

Stay Inspired.

The Journey

It’s Tax Season: What You Need To Know – Pawel J. Sipika, CPA

Pawel is my stubborn Polish brother from another mother. We have seen each other through many adventures, agreed, disagreed, laughed, drank lots of Belvedere Vodka, consumed copious amounts of food and developed a very genuine, unique friendship. In many ways we are like yin and yang. His intro says it all!!!

Since it’s tax season, and he is a CPA, I asked him to write a post about what people need to know when it comes to taxes – something that seems like common sense but often is not. Enjoy!

Taxes

When Brielle asked me to write a guest blog for her on the topic of taxes, my first reaction was: “absolutely not.” I mean I am not accepting new clients this year and the last thing I want to do is to spend what little time I have off during “tax season” to write about, of all things, taxes. However, this is Brielle Caruso asking me. If I compare myself to Ron Swanson, then she is definitely Leslie Knope. She is the super thoughtful and energetic person who always thinks about others and, what’s infinitely worse, she always wants to do “stuff.”  (If you are not familiar with Ron’s interactions with Leslie, here is a little highlight reel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrQ-aO2QAnE).

150116_2840996_Leslie_and_Ron

If I tried to break even with Brielle in terms of favors, then she could easily ask me to rewrite the whole tax code and I would still be indebted to her. Basically I have no choice but to get on with it.

The US tax code is vast and extremely complex. It would take weeks to narrow it down to the pertinent items and even that could prove futile because everyone’s tax situation is unique. With that in mind, I want to focus on some big picture practical items:

  1. Be guarded. By far the biggest issue currently confronting the IRS and taxpayers is privacy and identity protection. The IRS has dealt with multiple cyber attacks on its databases over the past few years. In addition there has been a multitude of email and phone phishing and extortion scams targeted at unsuspecting taxpayers. My advice is to guard your personal information closely. Keep in mind that the IRS will never contact you via phone or email to request information.
  2. Be organized. Dealing with taxes is tedious and time consuming. In my experience, the best approach to minimizing the painfulness of the process is staying organized. Get a folder and put all of your tax information in it as it comes in. If you retain all of your information electronically, then designate a location to store everything on your computer. Organize documents by year and be sure to have a reliable back-up system. Many tax preparers will provide you with a tax organizer containing information from the previous year. Scan through it to see if you have all of the current year information for all items reported on the previous year’s tax return. This will help you determine if you are missing something.
  3. Be consistent. Being a tax preparer, I obviously feel that using a specialist to prepare your tax returns is a smart move. However, there are many preparers who are just not qualified. It is extremely important to develop a long-term personal relationship with a skillful professional. It is unlikely that a tax preparer will save you money every single year but over time, a person who is intimately familiar with your financial situation will be able to offer planning tips and strategies that will generate significant tax savings. If you keep jumping from preparer to preparer year in and year out, odds are increased that you will not get the quality of service you deserve and lose money in the process.
  4. Be proactive. Many people only think of their taxes when it is time to file their tax return. Unfortunately, filing season occurs after the end of the year and there are very limited options for improving your tax situation then. Major financial events like job changes or real estate purchases occur throughout the year so it is usually a good idea to consult with your accountant before making any decisions that may impact your tax situation. The additional fee will be well worth avoiding any unpleasant surprises at filing time.
  5. Be cool. With increased complexity and third party filing requirements, it is becoming more and more common to receive tax related notices. Dealing with the IRS can be intimidating and unpleasant. I do not know of a single person who enjoys receiving correspondence from taxing authorities. For the most part though, there are fair processes and procedures in place for dealing with any notices or tax adjustments. It is extremely important to stay composed. Do not hit the panic button and do not contact the IRS immediately. Instead, reach out to your tax preparer and discuss the situation with them. They will usually ask you for a copy of the notice and provide you with a power of attorney form that will authorize them to deal with the IRS on your behalf. If you have a competent accountant, then there is nothing to be concerned about.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I hope that it will be beneficial to you in the future.

Pawel J. Sipika, CPA

 

 

 

Beyond Meat

Beyond Meat is truly the future of protein: http://beyondmeat.com/about

Here is their mission statement:

We believe there is a better way to feed the planet. Our mission is to create mass-market solutions that perfectly replace animal protein with plant protein. We are dedicated to improving human health, positively impacting climate change, conserving natural resources and respecting animal welfare. At Beyond Meat, we want to make the world a better place and we’re starting one delicious meal at a time.

As you all know by now, I love meat! However, I am always open to trying new things and discovering healthy alternatives to my current food repertoire.

The products are 100% plant protein – burgers, chicken, beef meatballs & crumbles. No, they do not taste exactly like meat, but they are close enough. And with protein compatible to actual meat consumption, I would say these are a fantastic alternative to some of our favorite highly caloric foods!

BeastBurgerLG beyondmeat BeyondMeatPoppersLG

The recipes are simple and outstanding: http://beyondmeat.com/recipes

051713_BeyondMeatChickenWrap

You can find Beyond Meat at Whole Foods and now Walmart! Vegetables never tasted so good.

Motivational Monday w/o Feb. 22nd: Margaritas!

Barrows

Nothing gives you motivation like a margarita.

Happy #NationalGingerDay & #NationalMargaritaDay! My personal favorites? The #INTENSEginger Margarita (combine it with your fav tequila, lime juice & triple sec) OR just use the new pre-made mix #Luchador (2oz Tequila, 1oz @Barrow’s Intense, 1oz Luchador Mix, Splash of Soda Water)

Oh Happy Monday!

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Welcome to Nicaragua, a country of volcanic landscapes, pristine beaches, colonial architecture and sensational history. There is this youthful, vibrant energy and enough main stream activities balanced out with off the beaten path experiences.

S Map

Keith and I visited San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua in 2015 on a recommendation from our friend, Terry: ‘It’s a hidden beach gem / lazy sleeping village town – you must go’.

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Well… we went and loved it so much, we wound up buying property. We were also thinking about early retirement – never too early to plan, right?

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This post is dedicated to the town of San Juan del Sur in Southwestern Nicaragua. It’s a regional hub known for its amazing surf culture and laid back attitude on the Pacific. The town itself with its clapboard Victorian houses and steady influx of toned and tanned folks, families, and ex pats is quite fun.

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Getting There

-Leaving from NY, the easiest way is to fly into either Fort Lauderdale / Miami and then taking a plane to Managua.

-Transport from Managua – use Adelante Express (http://www.adelanteexpress.com) or work with your hotel to provide a shuttle. Taxis are also available but drivers mainly speak Spanish. It takes about 2.5 hours from airport.

Things to Do/See
1- Beach (Surfing and Chilling out beaches)

surf 2surf
2- Christ of Mercy Statue (we nicknamed him Buddy Christ). Entrance at Pacific Marlin Development.

buddy christ
3- Whale Watching
4- Zen Yoga (by church)

zen yoga
5- Central Market (closed Sunday and @ 5pm) Avenida Central by church. Go to Dona Angelites to eat

san jaun market

6- Turtle Watching between July-December

7- Spanish Language Immersion Classes at APC Spanish School or Spanish Corner School

Two tour companies in town that are fantastic are: Casa Oro Hostel (http://casaeloro.com) and Da Flying Frog (http://www.daflyingfrog.com)

casa ora

Restaurants & Bars
1- *Chicken Ladies – Asados Juanita. Past 5pm
2- Big Wave Dave’s – expat Bar (Sunday live music): http://sanjuandelsur.org/big-wave-daves/

big wave daves
3- *El Timon – great seafood
4- Iguana Bar next to El Timon
5- Dancing @ Crazy Crab Disco
6- Lago Azul for karaoke
7- La Terraza Pizza near church
8- Howler Bar for popper shot and adult swing. The quesadillas are also fantastic.

howler bar
9- Grato Negro – fresh coconut water
10- Arribas Bar (near El Timon – late night 2am)

guns

Hotels:
1- *Hotel Victoriano (Somoza family retreat and Mark Twain stayed there)
2- Pelican Eyes (most romantic)

victoriano

3- Hotel Alcazar (in the middle of town and can get loud at night)

Notable Things
1- Sanchez Pilperia Cigars will rock your world
2- Macuas with orange or guava juice (national drink); Pina Coladas!

colada
3- Tona (national beer)
4- Cordorba currency / $10 entry fee / check about onward ticket
5- Foods: cerviche, totones con queso, gallo pinto (rice and beans), carne asada, pescado entero (whole fish with al ajillo – garlic – or entometado – tomatoes), nacatamal (corn tamale with chicken or pork). Everything is so fresh and delicious!

late night

6- Language: Spanish
7- Time is CST
8- Electricity is same as US
9- Communication is using your lip to point

10- High Season is Dec-Apr / Shoulder is Nov / Low Season is May-Oct

sunset

If you wind up visting and fall in love with San Juan del Sur the best lady in town to buy property from is Natalie Sullivan.

Natalie Sullivan Real Estate Advisor San Juan del Sur – Discover Real Estate (discovernica.com) / Phone: (505) 8803-2037 / Email: natalie.sullivan@discovernica.com

And once you buy and want to build, reach out to Jeffrey Cassel at Las Brisas del Pacifico: Brisasdelpacifico.net

The view from our land. I’ve always wanted to be by the water… 🙂

our land

We return in July 2016 and will definitely post from that trip.

 

 

Be Your Own Publicist – Advice from Meryl Weinsaft Cooper

I met Meryl almost a decade ago when we were both working on Belvedere Vodka. I immediately loved her style – efficient, honest, and a truly genuine person. She also worked around the clock giving a new meaning to superwoman. I have seen her grow personally and professionally over the years and admire the risks she’s taken. Meryl is a mover and a shaker, and the best part of it all is that she shares her wealth of knowledge to help people figure out their calling. I am thrilled she is part of my Friend’s of Brielle series! Enjoy.

meryl-weinsaft-cooper

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” – Lewis Carroll

I’m a sucker for goal setting – and the subsequent check-ins. Typically, I’ll make my resolutions on New Year’s Day. Use my March birthday as a quarterly examination and then summer solstice as my halfway marker. The fall (typically around the Jewish New Year) is my last quarter recalibration and ultimate sprint to the goal finish line for that year. I personally find it effective to do those regular check-ins as a way to make sure I’m keeping my eyes on the proverbial prize.

This year, though, I find myself more attuned on a regular basis to the changes and goals that I’ve set forth. First, there was a very good reason to look back and take stock. It was the five-year anniversary of my book, Be Your Own Best Publicist: How to Use PR Skills to Get Noticed, Hired and Rewarded at Work.

By way of background: I co-wrote it with my friend and fellow PR professional, Jessica Kleiman. It was a labor of love – and a huge learning experience. First lesson: Figure out what makes you qualified to do what you are doing. That’s the challenge our literary agent posed when we came to him with our first proposal. He helped us realize that the skills we had honed in our collective 30-plus years in public relations could easily translate to anyone trying to promote themselves in the workplace, whether right out of college or re-entering the work force after having kids, trying to start a company or move up in the one where you already work. Once we had the idea, we banged out a proposal in six weeks and about four months later, we had a book deal.  When Be Your Own Best Publicist was released in January 2011, it was met with a great response. We had hoped to help people at all ages and stages of their careers learn stand out in a good way at work.

Now, five years down the road, I continue to reap the benefits of the book – the tangible stuff like being selected as a contributor on Forbes.com to the more esoteric things like helping people – young and old – to accomplish their goals.

Speaking of goals – as my list continues to expand, I find it quite helpful do the aforementioned check-ins to keep myself on track. As we say in Be Your Own Best Publicist, have a plan and a backup plan.

But, if you find yourself adrift by mid-February, here are few things to do right now to get your goals back on track:

Look Back/Look Ahead: Even if your resolutions have gone out the window, there’s still time to make the most out of the New Year. (Chinese or otherwise!) I like to take some quiet time to write down what really worked over the past year and what didn’t work as well. From there, you can determine what to do better/differently/more of/less of throughout the rest of year that will make you more efficient and effective in your career and your life.

Be Thankful: Reflect on the moments — both small and big — that made you feel successful in 2015 and the people who supported you, connected you to someone else, and/or gave you positive feedback that helped you stay focused on your goals. Then, send those people a thank you note (handwritten is best but email is okay too). It may sound hokey, but they will appreciate it, and you’ll stay top of mind for them in the coming months.

Do What Makes You Happy: Most of us spend more time at work than anywhere else, so it’s important to be fulfilled in what you do. Think about what would make you happier in your career and what changes you might make to help you get there. It could be as minor as telling your staff that you need an hour of “quiet time” each day to focus on strategy and not be distracted by constant interruption or emails. Or, it could be as drastic as switching careers or starting your own company – that’s what I did years ago after doing PR in-house and at agencies for the bulk of my career. Now is the time to take a risk, make a change and figure out how to advance your career — and happiness — in 2016.

Be Your Own Best publicist website: www.beyourownbestpublicist.com
My personal Twitter: twitter.com/Grape

Motivational Monday w/o Feb 15th: Don’t Underestimate…

Know More

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a very empowering quote. I have a feeling it’s going to be kick-ass week!

2016 Lent Resolution

Lent is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting (OMG), repentance (I have a lot to do), moderation (is this even possible?) and spiritual discipline (holy hell, I will fail today).

 

Lent

 

All jokes aside, the purpose is to set time for reflection… and give up something for 40 days. Well this year is extra special. My 35th birthday falls on Easter Sunday so my lent resolution has to be good. I am giving up 10lbs off my body this Lenten season. Let’s pray for a miracle (and a muzzle!) WISH ME LUCK!

 

 

Motivational Monday w/o Feb. 8th: New Year, New Beginnings!

*Happy Chinese (and Korean) New Year*
Chinese New Year
In the Year of the Monkey anything can happen.
Plans will be unsettled; change is certain. Expect the unexpected. Be prepared to respond quickly. Be nimble, like a monkey, and don’t grasp on too tightly to any one position Be clever and creative.
For me, this will be about lowering my blood pressure, losing 10lbs, keeping up and enhancing this site and speaking Spanish! Good luck with your resolutions!
Stay inspired,
Brielle

Mardis Gras: Have a Purple Drink!

I’ve drank all around the world, but one of my favorites is the purple drink at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar.

Purple Drink

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar
941 Bourbon Street, New Orleans, LA 70116
http://www.lafittesblacksmithshop.com/Homepage.html

As the story goes, Jean Lafitte was a man that just did what he wanted – I love it!

Warming: the purple drink may taste like a grape slushie, but it is no kids drink. It’s the only drink that has knocked me on my you know what, and inspired the category for my blog: Party Past the Plane – which I did after having 2 of these… It truly was an epic night.

Happy Mardis Gras!