Sunday, June 8, 2008

What If Divorce Happens

A couple recently divorced. Their Divorce Decree stated that the husband would pay the balances on their three joint credit card accounts. Months later, after he neglected to pay off these accounts, all three creditors contacted the wife for payment. She referred them to the divorce decree, insisting that she was not responsible for the accounts. The creditors correctly stated that they were not parties to the decree and that the wife was still legally responsible for paying off the couple's joint accounts. She later found out that the late payments appeared on her credit report. You may want to look closely at issues involving credit if you've recently been through a divorce - or are contemplating one. Understanding the Different Kinds of credit accounts opened during a marriage may help show you the potential benefits and pitfalls of each. There are two types of credit accounts: individual and joint. You can permit authorized persons to use the account with either. When you apply for credit-whether a charge card or a mortgage loan - you'll be asked to select either an individual or a joint account. Individual Account The creditor considers your income, assets, and credit history. Whether you are married or single, you alone are responsible for paying off the debt. The account will appear on your credit report, and may appear on the credit report of any authorized user. If you live in a community property state (Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, or Wisconsin) the individual debts of one spouse may appear on the credit report of the other. Advantages/Disadvantages If you're not employed outside the home, work part-time, or have a low-paying job, it may be difficult to demonstrate a strong financial picture without your spouse's income. But if you open an account in your name and are responsible, no one can negatively affect your credit record. Joint Account The income, financial assets, and credit history of you and your spouse are considerations for a joint account. No matter who handles the household bills, you and your spouse are responsible for seeing that debts are paid. A creditor who reports the credit history of a joint account to credit bureaus must report it in both names (if the account was opened after June 1, 1977). Advantages/Disadvantages: An application combining the financial resources of two people may present a stronger case to a creditor who is Granting a Loan or credit card. But because two people applied together for the credit, each is responsible for the debt. This rule continues to rule your credit score, even if a divorce decree assigns separate debt obligations to each spouse. Former spouses who run up bills and don't pay them can hurt their ex-partner's credit histories on jointly held accounts. Account Users If you open an individual account, you may authorize another person to use it. If you name your spouse as the authorized user, it will be reported in both of your names if the account was opened after June 1, 1977). A creditor also may report the credit history in the name of any other authorized user. Advantages/Disadvantages: User accounts often are opened for convenience. They benefit people who might not qualify for credit on their own, such as students or homemakers. While these people may use the account, you yourself are contractually liable for paying the debt. If you are Thinking About Divorce, examine the status of your credit accounts, because if you maintain joint accounts during this time, it's important to make regular payments so your credit record won't suffer. Remember that if there's an Outstanding Balance on a joint account, you and your spouse are responsible for it. Therefore, if divorce, you may want to close joint accounts or accounts in which your former spouse was an authorized user. You could also ask the creditor to Convert These Accounts to individual accounts. By law, a creditor cannot close a joint account because of a change in marital status, but can do so at the request of either spouse. A creditor also is not required to change joint accounts to individual accounts and could require you to reapply for credit on an individual basis and then, based on your new application, extend or deny you credit. In the case of a mortgage or home equity loan, a lender is likely to Require Refinancingto remove a spouse from the obligation.


The pie is an ubiquitous symbol of both Italian cooking and Americana. Oven-baked, thin-crust or deep-dish, round or square, it is a common favorite throughout the United States, with a wide number of regional variations.

The most traditional pie is the pizza Napolitano, or Neapolitan pizza. Made of strong flour, the dough is often kneaded by hand and then rolled flat and thin without a rolling pin. The pizza is cooked in an extremely hot wood-fired stone oven for only sixty to ninety seconds, and is removed when it is soft and fragrant. Common varieties of Neapolitan pizza include marinara, made with tomato, olive oil, oregano, and garlic, and margherita, made with tomato, olive oil, fresh basil leaves, and mozzarella cheese.

New York was home to the first pizza parlor in the United States, opened in Little Italy in 1905 by Gennaro Lombardi. It is not surprising, then, that New York-style pizza dominates in the Northeastern part of the country. It is thin-crusted, and made with a thin layer of sauce and grated cheese. The dough is hand-tossed, making the pie large and thin. As a result, it is served cut into slices, traditionally eight, which are often eaten folded in half. It can be served with any number of toppings, including pepperoni, the most popular topping in the United States, or as a “white pizza”, which includes no tomato sauce and is made with a variety of cheeses, such as mozzarella and ricotta.

Chicago is also home to a major variety of pizza.The Chicago-style pizza is deep dish, meaning it is made in a pan with the crust formed up the sides, or even with two crusts and sauce between, a so-called “stuffed” pizza. The ingredients are “reversed” in a Chicago pizza, with cheese going in first, and then sauce on top. This particular form of pizza was invented in 1943 at Uno’s Pizzeria in the River North neighborhood of Chicago.

The Midwest also plays host to the St. Louis style pizza. This thin-crust delicacy is made using local provel cheese instead of mozzarella, and is very crispy. Heavily seasoned with oregano and other spices, with a slightly sweet sauce, it is difficult to fold because of the crust and is often cut into squares, instead of served in slices.

A Hawaiian pizza is an American invention that has nothing to do with Hawaii save that one of the main ingredients is pineapple. The pineapple is put atop the pizza, along with Canadian bacon, giving a rather sweet taste very different from pizzas closer to the Italian original. Hawaiian pizza is very common in the Western United States.

In fact, a number of esoteric pizzas are common on the West coast, and “gourmet” pizza is often referred to as “California-style” pizza. This is an example of fusion cuisine, and many of the pizzas go far beyond the common tomato sauce and cheese. Thai pizza, for example, can include bean sprouts and peanut sauce, while breakfast pizza, as the name implies, may be topped with bacon and scrambled eggs. As a “gourmet” food, California pizzas are often individual sized, serving two people at most, and are not cut in slices like other common types of pizza pie.

Pizza is as diverse as America itself, with almost infinite variations – all of them delicious.

Create A Romantic Evening At Home

You've decided to invite someone you're dating to your home for a romantic evening and you want everything to go well. Here are a few tips to help you achieve that result.

There are a number of factors you need to consider when planning your romantic evening:

1. Your Physical Surroundings

It's a good idea to make sure your house or apartment is clean and tidy. It may not be anyone's primary focus but it will make an impression on your guest, even if it's subliminal.

Spend a few hours doing the cleaning yourself, hire someone to do it for you, or, at the very least, shove all that clutter into your closets or under the bed. Wipe down surfaces to get rid of dust and stains.

Apart from the living and dining areas, there are two other rooms that need your attention:

a. The bathroom

Wipe down the sink/washbasin, tub and shower stall. Put a fresh cake of soap on the sink and hang fresh towels. At the very least your guest will use the bathroom to wash his or her hands so make sure it's a pleasant experience.

b. The bedroom

Get rid of any extraneous clutter like clothes strewn around the room or on the floor. Change the sheets, make the bed and wipe down any surfaces. If your guest ends up spending the night, you don't want him or her racing off for a tetanus shot in the morning.

To create a romantic atmosphere in your bedroom, have some scented candles on hand and an easy-to-reach sound system. You might also consider buying a quilt cover in a rich, romantic color and a set of sheets to match.

2. Your Choice Of Menu

While food can be an excellent means of seduction, it's a mistake to choose too complicated a menu unless you're an experienced cook and you don't get easily flustered.

Simple dishes like spaghetti or ratatouille make a tasty and satisfying meal without spiking your anxiety levels. The point is to enjoy the evening along with your guest, not treat the event like it's a university-entrance exam.

How To Avoid Psycho-Chef Syndrome

One trick is to prepare as much of the meal as possible beforehand so you're not rushing around like a pinball once your guest arrives.

Have all the ingredients chopped, diced and ready for cooking. Do this the night before or earlier that day, whatever works best for you.

Salad ingredients can be prepared earlier and stored in separate containers, then added to the salad bowl and dressed before serving.

You can even cheat by purchasing your meal from a favorite restaurant and having it delivered (or picking it up) before your guest arrives.

Definitely buy desert from your favorite bakery or supermarket, unless you're a wiz at whipping up a Pavlova or meringue. Another option is to prepare dessert the night before and reheat it if necessary when you're ready to serve it.

3. Your Cooking Area

Make sure your kitchen is clean before you begin cooking. Yes, you'll no doubt make a mess once you start but you don't want yesterday's dishes in the way. Your guest may offer to help so the kitchen needs to meet minimum health standards.

It's up to you whether you accept this help or not, but we recommend that you do, even if it's only a token effort like tossing the salad. Sharing cooking tasks can be a wonderfully romantic interaction as it creates a special kind of intimacy. Have you ever noticed how much more easily conversation flows when two people are doing a task, as opposed to sitting face to face?

4. Setting The Table

Set the table beforehand. Use a good tablecloth, your best silverware and a nice set of plates. Use your best glasses and an attractive salt and pepper set, milk jug and sugar bowl. Show your guest that you went to some trouble to make the meal a special occasion. This is not the time for melamine dishes or chipped or mismatched crockery. You're aiming for a touch of class.

Use candlesticks on the table for a romantic ambience, or place candles on other surfaces around the room.

Background music is a must but make sure it's romantic and subtle. Limit blaring rock and roll or rap to the period when you're preparing dinner, but please, no high-octane music while you're eating.

Set the sound at a low volume so it doesn't interfere with your conversation. And remember, if you don't play music during the meal you run the risk of filling any silences with the sound of people masticating.

5. Cleaning Up Later

Don't let your guest anywhere near the kitchen after the meal is over. Hopefully you'll have better things to do with your time together.

But all is not lost if they do insist on helping with the chores. Many a couple has fallen in love while doing the dishes, for two main reasons:

1. As mentioned earlier, there's the ease of conversation that takes place when you're doing a task rather than concentrating on talking.

2. Doing dishes together is like playing house. It can actually feel very romantic, especially when one or both people realize, "This is what I want with this person." You won't get the same effect if you use a dishwasher, so set aside at least a couple of pots, which will you allow to suggest, "I'll wash and you dry."

With a little forethought, anyone can create a romantic evening at home. The old cliché, "the way to a person's heart is through their stomach", has more than a little truth to it. Test it yourself with someone you care about. The least you'll get is a great home-cooked meal.