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At our busiest last month, Charlie and I had five houseguests living with us. We were happy to host them, but boy, what a chore! They ate constantly, and insisted on an incredibly limited diet — nothing but their one favorite food would do. They stayed to their rooms, but made a mess, dropping their stuff everywhere.

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A number of tax proposals being considered in Congress could significantly affect gifting and estate plans for those with larger estates. If your gross estate is over $3.5 million, you should meet with your estate planner to take advantage of gifting opportunities that are available under the current law. Under Vermont senator Bernie Sanders’ For the 99.5 Percent Act, the estate tax exemption would be reduced from $11.7 million for individuals and $23.4 million for couples to $3.5 million for individuals and $7 million for couples. Any estate that is valued at under the exemption amount will not pay any federal estate taxes, while those exceeding the exemption threshold would be subject to a progressively increasing tax rate that starts at 45 percent. The Act would also slash the lifetime gift tax exemption from $11.7 million to $1 million, although individuals would still be able to give away $15,000 a year without the gift counting toward the lifetime limit.

COLLEGEVILLE -- The Master Gardeners of Montgomery County are offering tours of their Demonstration & Learning Gardens on Saturday, September 18, 2021, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. The Gardens are located at 1015 Bridge St., Collegeville, PA 19426.

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Six years ago, Paul Rosefeldt came to the realization he had to make a greater level of commitment to his exercise regimen and diet. He was facing health issues and at his heaviest, weighed 250 pounds.

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Fall-leaf peeping is a favorite for those who hit the road this time of year. New England is known for its palette of nature’s vibrant autumn colors. For this and many other reasons it’s best when thinking of Cape Cod, to think beyond summer.

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When I stopped by a friend’s house last Sunday, I couldn’t help but notice the dusky-blue, olive-like fruits hanging from a shrub at the end of her driveway. Just beautiful — like little ornaments. And I was surprised, because I’m familiar with a lot of plants, but didn’t recognize this one. I snapped a quick photo with my cell phone. Once inside, and greetings completed, I held up the photo on my phone and got right to the question: “This shrub at the end of your driveway. What is it?”

The Phoenix Book Club, Phoenixville Public Library’s book discussion group for adults of all ages, will meet virtually on Monday, September 13, at 7:00 PM.  The group will discuss "The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi." One afternoon, in a town in southeastern Nigeria, a mother opens her front door to discover her son’s body, wrapped in colorful fabric, at her feet. What follows is the tumultuous, heart-wrenching story of one family’s struggle to understand a child whose spirit is both gentle and mysterious. Raised by a distant father and an understanding but overprotective mother, Vivek suffers disorienting blackouts, moments of disconnection between self and surroundings. As adolescence gives way to adulthood, Vivek finds solace in friendships with the warm, boisterous daughters of the Nigerwives, foreign-born women married to Nigerian men. But Vivek’s closest bond is with Osita, the worldly, high-spirited cousin whose teasing confidence masks a guarded private life. As their relationship deepens—and Osita struggles to understand Vivek’s escalating crisis—the mystery gives way to a heart-stopping act of violence in a moment of exhilarating freedom.  Named a Best Book of 2020 by The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, USA TODAY, Vanity Fair, Elle, Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, Shondaland, Teen Vogue, Vulture, Lit Hub, Bustle, Electric Literature, and BookPage. This event is free and open to the public and will be held online via Zoom.  If you are not already on the Book Club’s e-mail list, registration is required at https://ccls.libcal.com/calendar/Phoenixville/death-of-vivek-oji or by calling 610-933-3013 x132.  Email mpinto@ccls.org for more information.

Small talkers know something the rest of us don’t. It may only be a shred of something -- some useless information -- yet still, these everyday gabbers do spread a sense of bonhomie wherever they go, while us more serious talkers tend to save our chatting for unique inquiries that lead to worthwhile and impactful exchange.

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Small talkers know something the rest of us don’t. It may only be a shred of something — some useless information — yet still, these everyday gabbers do spread a sense of bonhomie wherever they go, while us more serious talkers tend to save our chatting for unique inquiries that lead to worthwhile and impactful exchange.

Phoenixville Public Library will host a free, virtual presentation, “Optimizing Your Social Security Benefits”, on Thursday, September 9, at 7:00 PM. John Crowley, MBA, of Stonehenge Advisor Group LLC will be the speaker.  This 90-minute course offers real-world strategies and methods designed for those age 60 and older who are preparing for retirement and want to know more about the Social Security retirement system.  Whether you’re single, married, divorced or widowed, there may be ways to optimize the amount of lifetime, after-tax benefits you and your family receive from Social Security.  Attendees will learn: when you are first eligible to collect benefits and how the age at which you apply will affect the monthly amount you receive; how current employment will impact your ability to collect benefits; how to coordinate Social Security benefits with pension and IRA assets on a tax-efficient basis; how savvy retirees have increased their annual benefits by as much as 110%; how cost-of-living adjustments impact benefits; how spousal, survivor and divorced spouse benefits work; how to amend your current benefits election if you make a mistake; and much more. This event is free and open to the public and will be held online via Zoom. Registration is required at https://ccls.libcal.com/calendar/Phoenixville/social-security or by calling 610-933-3013 x132.  Email mpinto@ccls.org for more information.

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After the torrential rain from Hurricane Ida finally stopped Wednesday night, I went outside with a flashlight to check the rain gauge. I knew it had rained a lot, but I was still stunned. The original estimates had been for 5-6 inches to fall in this area, but even without measuring I could tell that that the gauge held 8 inches, maybe more. Thursday morning, I was outside early to get the exact total: 8.34 inches.

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Guardianship is a legal action where the court deems an adult an incapacitated person and appoints someone, the guardian, to make decisions about the care and finances of the individual. A guardianship is initiated by a petition being filed with the orphans’ court division of the court of common pleas in the county that the alleged incapacitated person resides. For an individual to be deemed incapacitated by the court, the petitioner must provide medical evidence of the individual’s incapacity. To be found incapacitated, the court must determine that the individual’s ability to receive and evaluate information effectively, and to communicate decisions, is impaired to such a significant extent that he is partially or totally unable to manage his financial resources or to meet the essential requirements for his physical health and safety. Once the petition is filed, the alleged incapacitated person must be provided with written notice of the action and is informed of their right to counsel. A formal hearing is then held. The alleged incapacitated person has a right to be at the hearing and is typically required to be at the hearing unless a doctor has excused the individual’s presence because their welfare could be harmed by attending. During the hearing evidence must be presented to show that the individual is incapacitated, that the guardianship is necessary, and that there is not a less restrictive alternative to the guardianship. The court then issues a decision regarding whether the appointment of the guardian is necessary and if appropriate, will adjudicate the individual an incapacitated person. Thereafter, the guardian is empowered to make decisions regarding the incapacitated person’s care and financial management.

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Have you looked ahead at the long-range weather forecast? The first week of September is on track to be in the upper 70s, the first time in a long while that we’ve seen anything consistently out of the upper 80s and low 90s. Overnight lows will be in the 60s. Fall is definitely around the corner! And even though the mercury still says “summer,” gardeners know it’s time for fall planting.

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When I came across a recipe for sauerkraut as an ingredient in chocolate cake, I thought to myself, are they kidding? Yogurt in guacamole? Potato chips in cookies? Chocolate pudding with avocado as an ingredient?

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NORRISTOWN — Expressive Path and the Elmwood Park Zoo will present Art in the Park at Elmwood Park Zoo on Saturday, Sept. 11, from 2 to 6 p.m. The afternoon will feature live music from Former Strangers, Division of Power, Expressive Path House Band, Hindsight, Norristown Area High School Drumline, N-Town Step, as well as Expressive Path students.

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I want to share with you an email that I received in response to my column last week in which I reviewed a new book, by Sara Dykman, titled “Bicycling with Butterflies.” (2021, Timber Press)

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You’re headed on vacation and are in great need of a break from the demands of everyday life, but you also don’t want to blow your workout routine in the process — one that you’ve worked hard to maintain. What to do?

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In April 2017 Sara Dykman set off by bicycle on a trip of over 10,000 miles that would take her from Mexico to Canada and back again. This wasn’t the first long-distance ride Dykman had ever undertaken, but it would be different from any other she or anyone else had done. She would follow millions of monarch butterflies on their annual migration, from their wintering-over grounds high in the mountains of central Mexico, to their breeding territories to the north, and back again. By day, she would visit with monarch researchers, make dozens of presentations to schoolchildren, and search roadside ditches and fields for the milkweed plants that are the host plants for these butterflies. By night, camped in her tent, she logged daily notes that would eventually become “Bicycling with Butterflies” (Timber Press, 2021).

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Can’t believe your eyes? Believe it! A Museum of Illusions is opening in Philadelphia. And that’s not the only new thing planned in the area. Here’s the scoop on two new ice cream parlors, as well as brew pubs and restaurants.

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With the cost of skilling nursing care in Pennsylvania averaging almost $11,000 per month, most families are forced to rely on Medicaid to assist with the payment of care. To qualify for Medicaid in 2021, an applicant may have no more than $2,400 in countable assets in his or her name if his or her gross income is $2,382 or more per month. An applicant may have no more than $8,000 in countable assets if his or her income is less than $2,382 per month. However, if you are married and only one spouse requires care the spouse at home is typically allowed to keep half of the total available resources that the couple has in their names up to a maximum amount of $130,380 for 2021. This is often referred to as the Community Spouse Resource Allowance.

Since we both recently read the best revenge story of all time, "The Count of Monte Cristo," I feared Ray would plot his payback after he learned I hit his newish car in the driveway. Immediately, I ran to the seafood market and grabbed an Alaskan king crab leg, nearly $60 a pound. The thing totally disturbs me and makes me feel sad, but not him. And since I was about to reveal that while he was pedaling his two-wheeler in his short bike pants, I hit his fancy Volvo because, well, because I forgot to look behind me, I thought I better be ready with a coveted offering when I got on my knees and begged.

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CONSHOHOCKEN -- Colonial Neighborhood Council’s annual backpack giveaway begins Aug. 16, and organizers hope the supplies inside each bag will help kickstart the 2021-22 school year for local students whose families are having trouble making ends meet. The small aid agency is based in Conshohocken and primarily serves families in the Colonial School District with a food bank, thrift shop, Meals on Wheels program and emergency financial assistance when possible.

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Who would believe a bus trip from Brooklyn, New York, to Niagara Falls would land a woman smack in the middle of a deadly caper involving a giant jar of peanut butter? Not to mention being a potential accomplice to a wild over-the-falls suicide barrel ride. Wouldn’t a Maid-of-the-Mist boat ride fare better to quench the angst of a struggling alcoholic? This and more comes to the Playcrafters’ stage in the award-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire’s wacky off-Broadway comedy "Wonder of the World."

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I like to think that I’m pretty observant, especially when it comes to plants, and especially when I’m away from my home environment, looking at things with “new eyes.” For instance, I can tell you that in the woods around the little cottage in coastal Maine where we spend our annual week of summer vacation, there are spruce, pine, oak, birch, striped maple (a.k.a. moosewood), and balsam fir trees. Down at the shoreline of the bay, I’ve also noticed some alders. But what I couldn’t have told you, until just last week, is that there is an apple tree just above the high-tide line as well, tucked in among the other trees.

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My ever-increasing vintage cookbook pamphlet collection often gives me inspiration for my writing and makes me curious about the history of the featured brand. The manufacturers who published these booklets hoped to increase the usage of their food product or kitchen appliance by providing recipes. I’ll feature three of them today; Borden Eagle Brand Condensed Milk, Tang and the Waring Blender.

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This year is a big one for Jen Wood, co-owner of Final Results Fitness in Montgomery County with her husband, John. In addition to turning 50, she is a brand new grandmother and life has been throwing her a lot of the curveballs associated with getting older, including menopause, but she is taking them in stride.

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The weather had been sunny and warm when Eddie left Florida just the day before. But now it was dark and cold inside the truck. Eddie held on — the only thing he could do — not even knowing where he was going. By the time the truck reached its destination in southeastern Pennsylvania, the cold had nearly taken its toll. When they finally found him, Eddie’s body was nearly lifeless. Would he make it?

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Making the decision to admit a loved one into a nursing home can be a very stressful and confusing process. Not only must you handle the details involved in the physical move, but you must also navigate the paperwork and financial side of the admissions. Nursing home admissions agreements can be complicated and confusing. When presented with the nursing home admissions agreement, many do not realize the importance of carefully reviewing these agreements. It is important not to rush into a decision to sign the agreement, but rather to carefully read the agreement. If possible, you should have your attorney review the agreement before signing it.