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Sunday, December 4, 2022

Bobby is 16 (Yikes!)

As if the years don't seem to pass fast enough, today is a very special 🎂 day in our family.
It's the 16th birthday of oldest grandchild, Bobby (Robert Thomas) who is named after his great grandfather. Unfortunately, we will not be in RI to celebrate this milestone event, but will video chat today. And, we'll see him and other family in a couple of weeks to celebrate Christmas and family birthdays together.
Bobby was a preemie and spent his first 2 weeks in a neo-natal unit until he reached a sufficient weight. His  release came in time for his parents and us to celebrate not only his birth, but his first Christmas too. 
It hardly seems that many years ago that we were notified of this now teenager's impending arrival and flew cross-country from our then VA home to CA, where his parents were then living. 
Of course we're prejudiced, but we are extremely proud of this young man as we have watched him grow up. He is kind, caring and helpful—and very much loved ❤️.
Looking through images to include in this post, there were (too) many favorites, especially ones like there of Bobby with his grandfather (Grenville) which are among my favorites.
This ↑ is the reason excuse for the lateness of this birthday post. It's connected with Bobby's birth. We spent a few weeks in CA and where we saw this film released during the holiday season that year. One of our favorite holiday films, it's appropriately called The Holiday.

Many of you may be familiar with the plot lines, others may not. Here's a synopsis and the trailer: unlucky-in-love women (Amanda and Iris) arrange a 2-week home exchange between the US and England to escape heartbreak during the holiday season. English Iris finds herself in an CA mansion, while Amanda is in a picture-perfect English cottage and village. They both find that a change of address can change their lives when they both fall in ♥️.
Yes, this romantic comedy has a predictable outcome and, of course, the lead actors (Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, Jack Black) are attractive and charming. But, it also has a long running time—2 hrs and 15 min. (Admittedly, we stayed up late and watched a second favorite 2003 holiday film, Love Actually.)
Grandson Bobby on his 16th birthday
Maybe, one day, grandson Bobby will enjoy it as much as his older grandparents. At the moment he's more into video games than rom-com films—but one day, he may watch this film with his own ♥️ interest (not, that we are rushing anything).

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Grand Thanksgiving Holiday

There was some snow and little traffic on our road trip
This year, we spent the Thanksgiving holiday in what's been described as one of America's remaining grand hotels. Fortunately for us, this one is located in Whitefield, NH, less than a 2-hour drive from our Nashua home.
Mountain View Grand in Whitefield, NH, front porch view and lobby
Nestled in view of NH's White Mountains area, the Mountain View Grand is among a handful of remaining grand hotels in the state. That's impressive considering that in the late 1800s, the U.S. had over 1,000 such large resorts. Many of these were similar to this wood-framed hotel with towers and extensive porches, which too often were completely destroyed by fire. 
Friends Randy and Judy, Patrick and Dorothy (Beatrice & Grenville)
This wasn't our first visit as we've visited several times before; however, it was our first visit during a holiday season. My previous post mentioned celebrating 🦃 with friends in years past. We did the same this year as our Nashua friends, Randy and Judy, also celebrated here. Entire family groups, did the same. The fact that Santa's Village, a North Pole-themed attraction is located a short drive away was a major draw on the Thanksgiving weekend.There's a lot of history associated with this hotel from its farmhouse start, expansion, closing, renovation and reopening. An earlier 2020 post provided the details and background of the Mountain View Grand, so that history won't be repeated here.)
Thanksgiving buffet at the Mountain View Grand (by the end of the night)
Thanksgiving dinner was served buffet-style in one of the hotel ballrooms. Later, in speaking with a manager, we learned that 425 guests had been served at several seatings starting at noon. Our preference is always for the last seating which left the day free to do things like the start of watching holiday films. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas is always Grenville's first choice. How about you—what's your first holiday film?
After dinner, we went to the hotel's game room for to play dominoes. When at home, the four of us play weekly at a local senior center. During the pandemic, it was our game of choice.
No, these animals were not on the dinner menu. In keeping true to its beginnings as a working farm, the resort includes a farm area with chicken, sheep, goats, llamas, donkeys and Scottish Highland cattle. Guests are invited to visit the farm which we did, once again, several times.This very cooperative goat not only posed for a selfie with me, but was very vocal in greeting and communicating with everyone who visited the barn area.One of the hotel's most popular outdoor activities is the ax throw (limited to adults only). While neither ourselves or our friends participated, it was interesting (and amusing) to watch other guests try their skills while everyone else stood at a safe distance. Grenville threw one on a previous visit and, after pulling a shoulder muscle then, was OK with not trying again.On a chilly afternoon, our foursome took a 20-minute tractor ride around the hotel grounds. Blankets were provided and we opted to sit on one as the wooden seats were quite cold too.Although, we didn't  use any of the provided services in the hotel's three-story tower Tower Spa, a visit there provided a great 360-degree view of nearby mountain peaks. Tradition was observed at the Mountain View Grand in that there were no Christmas decorations on view from our Wednesday afternoon arrival and throughout Thanksgiving Day.
Instead, the morning after Thanksgiving was quite a different story as the Mountain View Grand had been completely transformed and was decked out in 🎄holiday decorations. Those soldiers standing guard at the front door were joined by many interior ones of varying styles and colors.

Best of all, they were very obliging in posing with hotel guests. They never once moved from their location and will remain on guard in the hotel throughout the holiday season.
Several lit and decorated Christmas trees were in various rooms throughout the hotel, all had piles of wrapped gifts with old-fashioned ribbon bows.
Father Christmas was represented in various forms and, in keeping with the hotel's traditional decorations theme, not one was wearing a red suit like you-know-who.

No explanations are needed for these ↓ holiday decorations which were on display throughout the hotel. All provided a wonderful start to the Christmas holiday season during our stay.


This fireplace is in the lobby by the front door and is a popular gathering spot. Seating was at a premium throughout our stay, but luckily, we were able to get a spot late Friday afternoon.The fireplace decorations provided a great background for this holiday photo. (We've become skilled at taking our own selfies, and politely decline offers of help—How about you?)
There was snow on a state road park and some mountain tops
Thanks to all for your comments on the recent Friendsgiving 🦃 holiday post. Grenville and I hope that your holiday was special, no matter how, where or with whom it was celebrated. We were happy and thankful once again to have celebrated with friends. We also met many nice strangers new friends, even if temporary, throughout our stay.

Today is December 1, let the 🎄countdown begin and for myself, card writing starts. Despite increasing USPS mail costs, I still enjoy handwriting cards and, as in past years, will exchange mailed 📬 greeting with any fellow blogger who wants to do the same—send your name and mailing address to my blog email; I'll do the same in return.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Happy Friendsgiving

Tomorrow, here in the U.S., many folks will celebrate Thanksgiving with a lot of great food and surrounded by family and/or friends. 

There are those who do not have the closeness of family and friends because of distance, health or other reasons. That was the case when we lived in VA, away from family. So, we invited folks we knew, who were in a similar situation, to join us for dinner. We always had the best times. In recent years, such a gathering has been called Friendsgiving, combining "friend" and "Thanksgiving" to refer to a meal eaten with friends — on or around Thanksgiving. It's still a celebration. The only difference is the people you celebrate with, regardless of whether or not you're related. After all, it's being together that's the most important part of the holiday.

This 🦃 holiday, we're neither celebrating at home nor visiting family, but will celebrate with friends and others we haven't (yet) met here in NH. Yes, we're on the road again, staying in a hotel in the White Mountains here. We expect to visit with family members during the🎄holiday.

Enjoy your celebration and if you're planning to holiday shop, we hope that you find things not only on your list, but on sale too ! (Blog posts will be on a break for the holiday too.)
Our Best Wishes to All for a very Happy Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving celebrated with all those special folks in your lives and perhaps a few new ones too. 

Thanks to everyone who has read and commented (or not) on blog posts this year which is fast drawing to a close. To us, fellow bloggers are "friends" we haven't met and, even if we never meet in person, friendships also can be virtual, like everything now. 

Thankful for Everyone
Beatrice & Grenville

Friday, November 18, 2022

Friday Funnies

Here's some toilet humor that flushed a laugh out of us.
This image was sent by our friend, Thomas, who spotted it in the restroom at the Tumalo Feed Co. Steakhouse in Bend, OR.
The original building was erected in 1965 to evoke the spirit of the old wild west straight out of the 1880s. The building known as the Tumalo Emporium was an antique business. By 1967, the business evolved to become a well-known landmark restaurant known for its buffet dinners, lavish waitress attire of long gowns out of the 1800s, and a 1950s style soda fountain. 

FYI If you plan on dining here, the restaurant is closed on Monday and Tuesday and doesn't accept reservations.

Enjoy Your Weekend, Everyone
A quiet weekend before Thanksgiving next week

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

We Can Keep the 💵

Yes, we have a resolution to those two Social Security Administration (SSA) deposits that were recently and unexpectedly made to our account and posted about here.

The deposits were on the up-and-up and really from the SSA.

What puzzled us (and others too) was that there no explanation was forthcoming from either the bank or SSA, and when contacted, an agent suggested that we wait and see.

So, while we remained clueless, yet didn't suspect this was a scam or spam email from either the SSA or the financial institution. After all, money wasn't being taken away, but given—quite the opposite effect. 

Who doesn't like that?

Turns out the deposits were legitimate SSA refunds due to a mistake that relates back to an earlier issue with the IRS associated with our 2020 tax refund. As of this past summer (2022) we hadn't yet received those monies or any information on the delay. 

After a lot of much persistence and a visit to the local IRS office, we spoke to an agent who explained that our return had been flagged as possible fraud, which it was not, but there was a different issue. If we hadn't followed up, that return might still have been sitting who knows where and neither did we. 

End of that story was a good one. About 12-weeks after that IRS visit, we received the 2020 refund with interest and I posted about it here.

Back to those SSA deposits . . .
It was a ripple effect in play since according to an explanation from the SSA, it received updated information from the IRS about our income. Turns out that we were due refunds since paying a higher income-related monthly adjustment amount (IRMAA) than was required.

Two letters finally came and made it as clear as mud in explaining that the SSA matched computer records with the IRS and determined that our 2020 modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) was lower than the amount used to figure out the IRMAA amount and concluded—You were due a refund because you paid higher IRMAA than required.

Yes, that was a lot of words and acronyms.

Here's what it means (simply) . . .
Info from the IRS tax return that the SSA used to figure the amount we needed to pay for our Medicare benefits (yes, this figures in too) was incorrect. We actually overpaid or rather were charged more since it's a monthly deduction. Why? because the earlier 2019 tax return was used and not the 2020 return, which was unavailable, somewhere in IRS never-never land. 

The cart came before the horse . . .
That's because the explanatory letters received last weekend from the SSA stated that two deposits would be received by mid-November and gave the exact amounts. The mystery happened as deposits were made, two weeks before the letters came.

Mystery solved—not only did we (finally) get that overdue 2020 tax refund with interest, but also unexpected SSA refunds. That said, we'll happily take the 💰.

T
he expression putting the cart before the horse is figure of speech or idiom that suggests something is done contrary to the natural or normally effective sequence of events. It's based on the common knowledge that a horse usually pulls a cart; putting the cart before the horse is an analogy for doing things in the wrong order.

The Greeks called it histeron proteron. Hysteron proteron is a figure of speech in which what should be put last is actually put first. The phrase was first recorded in English in 1589 in George Puttenham's The arte of English Poesie.

And now we all know—the rest of this quite confusing story.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Look Out the Window

As regular visitors to this blog know, the views from our 5th floor apartment window can often be quite spectacular. This past weekend was no exception.
The weather was unseasonably warm in Nashua, NH, and daytime temps on Saturday were in the low 70s.These ↑ views ↓were seen late Sunday afternoon from our living room window.

Overnight rain, which lasted well into Sunday had ushered in a cool weather front. Skies had begun to clear by late afternoon and produced a colorful view of foliage and construction. 
The tall building in the background was part of the Nashua Manufacturing Company (a textile mill) and is now a storage facility. The shorter building was also part of the mill operation. The outdoor parking area is for Clocktower apartments, which is the former mill. (The apt building name is a result of two clock towers on the main buildings, both in working order.) The ramp in the middle of the above photo goes to an indoor garage parking (keyed entry, additional cost). The entire parking area was once a canal that provided water power for the mill.

As shown in the top photo, my usual vantage point is from our 5th floor living room to show a "river" view. The other photos were taken from another 5th floor window to show a "city" view.
Often, there's no need to travel far to find interesting images; I just look out a window.

By the way, we have a resolution to the mystery deposits posted about last week, details to follow later this week.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

We ♥️ Veterans

It's been said that everyone likes a parade, although contrary to that statement, there are some who do not. That's not us, Grenville and I enjoy parades and always watch them..

There was a parade in downtown Nashua, NH yesterday, November 11, in honor of Veterans Day. It kicked off at 11:11 a.m. remembering the time that World War I ended. 
It wasn't a long parade there with no decorated floats, balloons, performers or street vendors, instead there were several middle and high school bands, junior ROTC, police and firemen and city fire trucks at the end. The sidewalks, while not overflowing with spectators, had a decent showing of residents and families who came out to honor veterans on a thankfully rain-free day.

In previous years, parade posts have included more photos and text. This year's presentation was similar to other years, so only one collage. (Comments are off)

Friday, November 11, 2022

Friday Funnies

To say that we have time on our hands would be incorrect—it's on our apartment walls 🕥
All of these had to manually reset last weekend to fall back for Daylight Savings Time (DST)
Clocks in the top half of this photo are on the living room wall, which seemed appropriate as we live in Clocktower Apartments. Two more in other rooms.
The kitchen appliances also required a manual reset, microwave, coffee maker, stove, and the wall clock too. There was no problem with electronics like cell phones, iPads, and desktop PCs which automatically adjusted to the time change. 
In addition to the wall clocks, there's a couple of small mantel clocks which require manual resets. (We never really check the time on these two, but they were gifts and hold memories.)
Aside from resetting wall and appliance clocks, a couple of wrist watches were also reset. 

The only U.S. states that don't observe daylight saving time are Hawaii and Arizona, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, but the Navajo Nation, which cuts through part of Arizona, does, oddly enough.

Here's a heads up, as of now, daylight saving time (DST) 2023 will be March 12, 2023. Efforts to make it permanent always seem to stall. Maybe those folks have fewer clocks to reset?

Are you a fan and did you change many clocks in your household too last weekend ?

Today, November 11, marks the day World War I ended, at 11 am on the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918. Here, in the US, it is celebrated as Veterans Day which honors military veterans of the United States Armed Forces. It's also a state and federal holiday.

In Britain, Canada, Australia, and France, November 11 is observed as Remembrance Day. Britain also celebrates Remembrance Sunday (the second Sunday of November).

Enjoy Your Weekend, Everyone
Many people will observe a moment of silence today.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Watch for Bank Scams

Thanks to everyone who commented on my most recent post, Unexpected Money. It's clear from your comments that this has never happened to anyone else. A number of folks suspected a scam of some sort.

After all, it's very unusual to find unexpected 💵  from the Social Security Administration (SSA), and when it happens twice it is cause for concern. Naturally, it would be more concerning if money was being taken out of the account, instead, it was put in. 🤔

No, we don't have an answer to the mystery, yet.

But, as so many expressed concern that this could possibly be a bank scam, we too were suspicious and have checked online accounts at various times during the past week. The two deposits remain in an account used for automatic deposit of monthly social security funds and withdrawals related to healthcare expenses and Medicare Supplement plan costs.

Other folks commented on the possibility that a social security number (SSN) had been hijacked. We've checked those accounts online and there's no evidence or notification of suspicious activity. 

Admittedly, the SSA agent's comment of wait and see what happens when I called and reported the first suspicious deposit did seem a bit off. But, that office was duly notified.

In response to other comments, there hasn't been any emails asking us for 💰. We're overly cautious and do not open any email that looks suspicious. Thankfully, the email spam filter sends a number of these to trash (also some that have been legitimate emails)

The good news is that my regular monthly social security deposit went through OK. Grenville's monthly deposit is set for next week. So, we will check that it's on time and correct.

What a turnabout from when we were owed money from a tax return and it took 2 years to get the refund. We're going to wait a couple more weeks to see if any notifications are received from the SSA or the financial institution. If not, another set of phone calls will follow, hopefully without lengthy wait times, and maybe we'll get an explanation — or resolution.

When we learn more, there will be a complete follow-up post — and you will know too.

Coincidentally, last week, we received a timely and lengthy email from our credit card company to caution that bank scams are ongoing and to alert us to some red flags.

After our incident, it seemed appropriate to include some of that information in a post. (Spoiler alert, it was reduced for this post.) 

Many astute bloggers likely know a lot of these warning signs. Still, people are sometimes caught unaware. The most common types of scams target through fake emails, text messages, voice calls, and mail. No matter what method a scammer uses, you may be:
  • Contacted unexpectedly by phone, email, text, direct message or pop-up with a request for personal information or money. Never click a link or download an attachment from someone you don't know. Most banks and credit card companies will never text, email or call asking for personal or account information.
  • Pressured to act immediately with an alarming phone call, email or text that plays with your emotions. Scammers may pose as an employee from a familiar organization, such as Bank of America and say there's a problem that needs immediate attention. Do not act unless you have verified the person who has contacted you and the story or request is legitimate.
  • Asked to pay in an unusual way, like gift cards, bitcoin, prepaid debit cards or digital currency, to resolve fraud. 
  • Asked to provide personal or account information, such as an account verification code, bank account number or PIN. When in doubt, never give it out. 
  • Offered a free product or get rich quick opportunity that seems too good to be true. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Never cash a check for someone you don't know.
Know that if you authorize a transfer or send money to a scammer, there's usually little that can be done to get your money back. Once it's gone, it's really gone.

Scammers use different ways to entice folks to fall for schemes from seeming friendly and willing to help to using fear tactics. Some of the more popular scams include:

Imposter Scams—Scammers pose as businesses or people you know, like your bank, utility company, phone provider, a friend or relative. They may ask you to send funds to yourself or others using Mobile or Online Banking and spoof legitimate phone numbers to call or text you to make the request more convincing.

How to help protect yourself: Be cautious if being pressured to respond immediately — this is what scammers want you to do. Be wary of unfamiliar calls, computer messages, texts or emails requesting money or personal information. Verify you are sending to a trusted recipient by calling a trusted or verified phone number from a recent bill, receipt or by visiting an official website.

Online sales scams—If you're thinking about purchasing event tickets, adopting an animal or just browsing the web, be cautious if an online promotion sounds too good to be true. Scammers set up fake stores selling fake goods and after you've made a purchase, the store will disappear.

How to help protect yourself: Research the seller and products independently, and compare prices with other websites. Make sure there's a refund policy, information on privacy terms and conditions and ways to contact them. Use caution if asked to pay with untraceable means, like a wire, money transfer or gift card. If you do, you may not receive your purchase or get money returned. Verify the website by checking the URL address bar or domain name to ensure you are at the correct site. Look for secure URLs (https://).

Investment Scams—Be wary if you are contacted by investment managers or receive an unsolicited request (via social media, pop-up, text, email or phone call) that presents a great investment opportunity. Offers that promise guaranteed returns, the chance to get rich quick or double your money are often a scam.

How to help protect yourself: Think twice if you're asked to send money through digital currency or crypto currency or instant money transfers. Once you send money, it's gone. There's little that can be done to get it back. Always validate requests for money, research investment offers and use caution if asked to provide personal or financial information.

Technology Scams—If you get an unsolicited request to remotely access your computer or mobile device, it's probably a scam and your information can be at risk. Scammers pose as employees of familiar companies and ask you to provide remote access or download an app. They may call, use pop-up screens or email to convince you that your device has a virus.

How to help protect yourself: No matter what reason you're given, never grant device access or download any app at the request of unknown companies or persons. Always confirm the identity of anyone requesting access by calling a trusted and verified phone number; the one they provide could be part of the scam.

Compromise Scams—Scammers may try to target you through a fake business, social media or email account. A cyber criminal can use a hacked or fake account that looks legitimate.

How to help protect yourself: Never trust unknown persons. Verify everything never send sensitive information to anyone whose identity is uncomfirmed. Give all requests for funds another look. If an email looks strange, look up the sender. Email or call but don't use the number they provide.

If you've been a victim of a scam, contact your bank or credit card company ASAP. 

And, if you've been a victim of an online scam, here's another way to report criminal activity.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) is a division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that handles suspected internet-facilitated criminal activity. It gives victims a means of reporting incidents and to alert authorities of suspected criminal or civil violations online. 

The IC3 develops leads and notifies law enforcement agencies at the federal, state, local and international level. Information sent is analyzed and spread to law enforcement for investigative and intelligence purposes and public awareness.

Sadly, the bottom line is that there will always be scammers and spammers around trying to take from others forewarned is forearmed.

It's one reason we have a residential phone number, plus mobile phones. The home number isn't a physical connection but Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) from the Internet provider; it's given to other than family and friends. Oddly, Internet service would be more costly without it and, of course, if power goes out, this number is inoperable. 

Like many folks, we've received warranty, insurance and health care calls on the "home" phone. Call blocking is done for unrecognized numbers and ones with no message left. It works for us—on our last multi-day trip there was not a single spam/scam call.

How about you—do you have both?

Monday, November 7, 2022

Unexpected Money

Those of you who regularly read this blog may recall our experience with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service in which it took 2 years to receive a 2020 tax refund. That was due to an IRS snafu and in 2022, we received a refund plus accumulated interest.

(SNAFU is a popular example of military acronym slang that has become widely used to stand for the sarcastic expression: situation normal all f#$!!ed up.)
 
Now, we have another U.S. institution which has made a mistake—this time it's either the Social Security Administration (SSA) or the financial institution into which our funds are direct deposited twice monthly.

Most folks (OK everyone) like to get 💰but when it's unexpected, it becomes suspicious. And, we're not exactly sure where these $$$ came from as this deposit was earlier than expected.

Let me explain, further.

Here's, what was in an email received at the start of last week (numerical sequences have been changed)We recognized that the message came from the financial institution and wasn't a fake email.

Great news! We were able to post your deposit early.

You may have noticed that your scheduled deposit from SSA TREAS 000 XXSOC SEC to your checking account ending in XXXX posted earlier than usual. You can access your money now.

Normally, we get two emails this the financial institution twice monthly when our SSA monies are deposited. We read and delete the emails after verifying that the amount listed is correct, which it always has been . . .

That was until this email as the💲amount listed was less than the usual SSA 💵 monies by at least half. The timing was early as my usual monthly SSA funds are not received until mid-month. This email came at the start of the month🤔

What to do?
First call was to the financial institution. After a series of answering questions to ascertain my status as the valid account holder, I was told that SSA deposits the funds and to contact that entity.

Luckily, there is a local SSA office in Nashua, NH, so a second call was made.

Then came a wait — 45 minutes total. Yes, a long one, but the call was never dropped and, after many recordings that others were being served and to continue holding to keep my place, at last the voice of an SSA agent came on the line.

Eureka (sort of)!
Once again, there was a series of questions to determine my status as the valid SSA recipient. After, passing all the interrogatories, I could then explain the situation and ask the question: Whats going on here ?

Once again, came another hold (brief one this time) as the SSA agent said he would check with the Treasury Dept. (honest, that's exactly what he said).

What happened next ?
The agent said his check showed that the regular  SSA payment had not been released early and was still scheduled (as usual) for mid-month.

Why did the bank send that email?
The agent had no answer and recommended to wait until the normal scheduled payment date to see what happens.

OK and that that's what I planned to do, until the next day another email was received and stated:

Great news! We were able to post your deposit early.

You may have noticed that your scheduled deposit from SSA TREAS 000 XXSOC SEC to your checking account ending in XXXX posted earlier than usual. You can access your money now.

No
, it was not the same email as this one had a different $$$ amount listed, less than in the previous email. Stranger yet,
 when adding both amounts from the two emails—the combined total was more than my regular amount 🤔

Does any of this make any sense & What will we do?
Absolutely not and we suspect that somewhere, there's been another snafu.

Exactly what the SSA agent recommended—waiting to see what happens later this month (maybe next month too).

To be continued — when there's more to post . . .
Anything like this ever happened to anyone else—If so, was it resolved?