Cure Me by Shopping! aka AmazonSmile

This year Amazon rolled out a new program called AmazonSmile that will donate a portion of your purchase price to the charity of your choice!!! If a lot of people simply click to use this program, the donations can add up, costing you nothing extra!  I really want my family and friends to use this program, so here it is, very simple!  Open Amazon in another tab or window so you can set it up side by side with my screen shot instructions.

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If you are already an Amazon.com user, chances are your computer automatically logs into your account.  To sign up for AmazonSmile, simply go to smile.amazon.com 

You will see this window that tells you how Amazon gives 0.5% of your spendings toward the charity of your choice.  Find the space that asks you to type in your charity’s name

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**SHAMELESS PLEA*** Please consider supporting Foundation Fighting Blindness to help find a cure for my Retinitis Pigmentosa!!!

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Once you are done with the process, you will now see this in the corner: Screen Shot 2014-08-23 at 4.31.16 PMbbb

Thank you!!! Now every time you buy, a donation will be made on your behalf!  Lets help each other make the world a better place, even if it is only 0.5% at a time :)

Because I want free stuff and I actually care about water!

We live in a beautiful city in the United States.  I should be FINE drinking tap water, but two things keep me from doing it – it tastes kind of gross, and 2 days ago there was a local water advisory only a few miles away due to the possible presence of Coliform bacteria.  Gross! We have recently taken to buying Sparkletts dispensers at the grocery store (after trying Kroger, Arrowhead, etc. Sparkletts passed my picky taste test) that are easy to keep in and dispense from the refrigerator.  As a former member of the BYU recycling club (ahem, yes really), I should know better than to use 1-2 containers per week.  Even though we recycle them, here is a list I found on “Ban the Bottle” why just recycling is not enough:

  • Making bottles to meet America’s demand for bottled water uses more than 17 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel 1.3 million cars for a year1. And that’s not even including the oil used for transportation.
  • The energy we waste using bottled water would be enough to power 190,000 homes2.
  • Last year, the average American used 167 disposable water bottles, but only recycled 38.3
  • Americans used about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year. However, the U.S.’s recycling rate for plastic is only 23 percent, which means 38 billion water bottles – more than $1 billion worth of plastic – are wasted each year3.
  • The recommended eight glasses of water a day, at U.S. tap rates equals about $.49 per year; that same amount of bottled water is about $1,400.
  • Antimony, which is found in PET plastic bottles, in small doses can cause dizziness and depression; in larger doses it can cause nausea, vomiting and death.8

Do you guys use Brita or PUR?  I am trying to win the new PUR Ultimate 11 Cup Pitcher with “Maxion Technology” to see if that can kick the bad practice of buying plastic containers.

Here’s to hoping I can win the PUR and I’ll give you an update as to the taste and quality!!!

Birthdays and Bosses 2014

I often feel in the mood to blog as a way to reach out and update a few of my close friends all at the same time, but I always feel like each post has to be grand and significant.  This one might not be, but I feel I need to write tonight :)

But then, when is life ever dull, even if we think it is dull??

Two weeks ago I celebrated my 28th birthday on vacation in Charleston, South Carolina.  It was a lot of fun and we got to experience a lot of southern things like sweet tea, afternoon thunderstorms, alligator swamps on a plantation tour and more.  Even though I am approaching 30, a milestone which is the first that usually makes young people feel old, I will always feel young BECAUSE  yesterday we celebrated Dave’s 35th birthday.  Twenty Eight sounds really young next to that ;)  When I turn 50, I will feel young because Dave will have been in his 50’s for seven years by then.  Dave’s family babysat for us while we had a great night out.  We will be celebrating the kids’ birthdays in just a few weeks.  I need to start planning!

Possibly the biggest news is that my title will soon be changing.  I have been a “SAHM” for 3 years now but am now officially a “WAHM” – Work at Home Mom.  In my pre baby life, I worked as an Executive Assistant and gained a lot of personal satisfaction crossing off to-do lists and organizing my responsibilities.  In my years “off” I have fantasized about someday becoming a Virtual Assistant with 3 or 4 clients so that I can walk my kids to elementary school, go home and work from my computer on my hours, then picking them up and being there for them, like my step mom was there for me after school when I sat down for a snack and got to homework.  I always thought this fantasy was several years at best, if not just a permanent fantasy.  WELL … I do a few hours of work for my Father in Law here and there, and last week an old friend of Dave’s called to ask if he could hire me for 5-10 hours a week at a good hourly rate.  These two clients will be all that I can handle for now while my children are still at home full time, but after I accepted the offer, I realized how exciting it is that my someday fantasy is here, now!  I am now an Independent Contractor who provides support for self employed professionals who prefer to outsource their office management tasks. IT Support, Post and Electronic Mailings, Social Media development and management, Web and Video editing, PowerPoint and Document editing, etc.  It is work i REALLY enjoy!

So that is my big update, please comment or email me with your updates too!

 

Catch Up Light Speed 2012-2013

Wow what a year.

Last year Dave had quit his job and we ran our own business from home, Dave going out to make sales almost every afternoon through evening, and I processed the paperwork when he got home and before he left.  It eventually wasn’t working and it wasn’t our fav, so Dave started interviewing in the fall of 2012.  After a couple of months, the PERFECT job landed in his lap mid November. Perfect timing as our lease was up on our condo in December.  While Rancho Bernardo, where we had lived less than a year, is only about 20 minutes inland from the beach, it was too far for us.  Dave’s perfect job, and our perfect condo were found in Carmel Valley, only 2 miles from Del Mar, the beach we now frequent weekly. Hallelujah!

So we moved in November, then OOPS! In December I got pregnant.  The first words out of my mouth when I got the positive test in the beginning of January were “This thing better be broken!”  We’ll, it wasn’t, but my attitude quickly changed in about a week.  I became very excited to have my two kids so close together.  Fast forward through a very difficult pregnancy that included an ER visit and week long hospital stay for Meningitis (I had no idea how scary it could have been when the Dr gave me the diagnosis), and another ER visit during our New York Babymoon trip for pre term labor at 27 weeks.  The duration of the summer was spent on modified bed rest (yeah right, try that with an active 1.5 year old) but gave way to the most PERFECT birth experience to my 9lb 6oz baby girl in the early hours of Sept 9.  We casually went to the hospital, they gave me the epidural before I was really in pain, the Dr broke my water, and less than 2 hours later my baby girl was born after 3 pushes.  It was so easy, it was fun!   I have vivid memories of me saying to Dave “This feels so cool! This is awesome! I love this!” I never would have expected that.

I was terrified that Adam would hate her, be jealous of her, and throw things at her all the time, but he loves her and loves to give her kisses.  Unfortunately we’re at the stage of being excited about body parts so he accidentally pokes her in the eyes daily, but that’s much better than I was expecting.

Now Valerie is 6 weeks old, has been sleeping through the night for weeks (can we have two Hallelujahs in one post? Ok, HALLELUJAH!) And life is good.  We think we’ll most likely be done having kids since my pregnancies seem to take a toll on my health and I look forward to starting a part time career in a few years that might also help us afford a house someday in crazy San Diego.  Sometimes the crazy part of my mommy brain envisions us having a third, but that will probably only happen if we have another Oops.  I get so happy envisioning our little family of four throughout the years, I really couldn’t ask for more than my Adam and Val :)

Here’s to a wonderful holiday season full of giving and love!  I’ll keep you posted more soon

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Becoming the Mom I Said I Would Never Be -AND- 5 Month Birthday

Today Adam turned 5 months old. Funny how when a month used to pass by in life, it was kinda no big deal, but now, what a difference a month makes. I take photos of Adam on the first of every month for his month birthdays and looking back through them today, I am shocked at how much he has changed. I feel like he still looks just the same, just longer and heaver, but when did this baby …

become THIS baby?

He did today I guess, that is one of his 175 photos from today’s 5 month photo shoot. Yikes. I have every photo of my childhood in one photo album, this kid is going to have to have libraries. The fate of the first child I guess.

Another big transition that has occurred in the last 5 months is ME. Fact: No, I have not lost all of the baby weight, that’s not it. The transition is that …

I am becoming the mom I said I would never be

How so, you might ask?

1. I chopped my hair off last month.
After fighting with the long frizzy mess that never got done, I decided to finally do what I have been contemplating for a couple years – a shoulder length bob. I always told myself I would stay the sexy wife with my long voluminous hair, but whatever, not with an infant and no sleep and no time. Here’s my passport photo that we took last month – I’m not trying to be cool, they just tell you not to smile. So I practiced looking sexy without smiling … it’s really hard.

{passport photo removed when I saw that people were coming to my blog trying to steal a “female passport photo” – there is probably an international criminal with my photo now}

2. I find myself shopping for toys.
Remember my minimalist kick not too long ago? I’d like to think I still am a semi-minimalist and enjoy having an uncluttered home. Before baby, I told myself I would be a minimalist mom and not gather a lot of toys and “stuff” – but as I watch Adam have so much fun playing with his few toys from Grandmas, I admit, I have browsed Amazon.com a couple of times thinking about future toys I’d like Adam to have, like floating bath creatures or building blocks. Here’s to hoping I can maintain balance.

Oh and by the way, Adam’s favorite toys to play with today were an empty milk jug and a baby spoon.

3. Mommy blogging.
I used to say I hated mommy bloggers. But here I am, blogging about being a mommy. Oh well, I am what I am.

4. Last and definitely WORST.
I found myself admiring a minivan driving down the street. WHAT?!?!?! I have always sworn that I would NEVER drive a minivan. It was a very cool, black minvan though that I am sure had a TV inside and some really hip decals on the back.

Here’s to embracing who I am and embracing my new, adorable little family every day.

OH and if I left you hanging on a cliff at the end of my last post when I promised to write my story of Adam’s birth next, I wrote it out and let’s just say it was horrendously long and maybe too personal to post on the web. So long story short, it was amazing and a little scary and not what I planned, but so wonderful.

Here’s a couple more photos to hold you over until next time:

And this is what happens when he is sick of getting his photo taken. Still adorable:

Neighbor Gifts and Moving Update

We moved! Only about 20 minutes from where we lived previously, so not far, but it was quite stressful packing with a less-than-3-month-old.  We love our new place, especially since Adam gets his own room and we don’t have to tip toe around him on our way to bed hoping we don’t wake him.

One funny thing about our new place though, we have lived here for over 2 weeks and only officially met one of our neighbors this last weekend, and only because he was washing his car as we walked by.  So rather than wait for them to come welcome us and introduce themselves, which it doesn’t seem like they were going to do, I decided to extend the first hand.  I made neighbor holiday gifts!

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While at Costco the other day, I spotted a 4 pack of Martinelli’s for $6.99.  That’s a great deal, I have since seen them in advertisements for $2.50-$2.99 each as sale prices, but I got mine for about $1.75 each!

I used tags from one of the many paper related blogs I follow, you can download the free printable sheet by clicking here to go to Jones Design Company. I used photoshop to make a sheet of just this tag, since it is my favorite.  I wrote a note on the back apologizing in advance for any crying they may hear from our direction, and letting them know they can stop by if they ever need a cup of sugar.

The main dilemma happened when I tied my first bow and realized I don’t know how to tie perfect bows.  Pause for a moment to exclaim how much I love the internet!  A quick search on YouTube and I came up with this video tutorial for how to tie the perfect bow.  It worked! I am so excited that it took less than 5 minutes to watch, and my gifts will look better for the rest of my life.

And here are some pictures of the progress in our new place!

Daddy putting together the new crib

The beginnings of a coordinated nursery!
(see the video baby monitor up on the wall? that thing has been amazing!)

My beautiful baby
(don’t worry, he can’t kneel like that on his own)

Adam is now over 3 months old and started to be fussier, until I realized that he is just bored!  He is going to be an active kid, as soon as I sit him in the bumbo or help him practice standing, he is really happy. He thinks standing on me is the funniest thing and will laugh and laugh! We are trying to get it on video soon.

I have been meaning to post about Adam’s birth for months now, but this week I think it will happen so stay tuned, I have been pondering about it a lot this week as we prepare for the celebration of the birth of another important baby boy.  My heart is filled with gratitude and joy, which I will share in the next post this week.

Merry Christmas!

Time to Buy Gold

by David Hawkins

In 2008 I sent an email to some friends and family suggesting that they start investing in gold and silver.  At the time gold was at $700 and silver was at $10.  I felt so strongly about the metals that I was offering to fund their online account with free ounces if they just signed up and bought some on their own.  It was going to be a gift.  

Nobody took me up on the offer.  Some of the responses I got were “we can’t afford it yet” and “gold doesn’t earn interest” and “gold is expensive right now”.  In hindsight, that was a missed opportunity because gold is now above $1,700 and silver is at $40.  Over the same timeframe the stock market is roughly flat and the dollar is down.

Well that time has come again – to recommend gold and silver!  I can’t offer to fund your account with free ounces this time, though there is a company called BullionVault that gives you a free gram of gold when you sign up.  (I can’t recommend them though since I have not used their services.)

Well, you say.  I know that gold and silver have done well, returning 20-30% / year for a decade while the value of the dollar and stock market have plummeted, but why should I get into it now, and how?

Why to Buy Gold

I could write a book about the reasons to buy gold and I have certainly read many books on the subject, but it basically all boils down to one reason for me:  we are in the middle of a long term upward trend in precious metals (a “bull market” in industry lingo).  Nobody can doubt that now.  The fundamentals driving this bull market are government deficits, money printing and market uncertainty.  If you think that those trends will continue to get worse before they improve, then you should buy gold.

To me it all starts with the out of control government budget deficits, which causes the Central Bank to print money to buy the government debt (called Quantitative Easing), which leads to market instability.  The irony is that the politicians and central planners actually think that printing money helps an economy.   Since these trends are well in place and will get much worse before they get better, gold will continue to outperform just about every other type of asset.

How to Buy Gold

There are a couple of ways to buy gold.  Let me review each that I use and make a recommendation for what you could do based on your circumstances.   Here goes:

Visit your local Coin Shop

This is a good option if you want to actually hold the metals in your hand.   However, you will want to purchase at least $2,000 at a time as sales taxes may apply otherwise.   In San Diego I like Liberty Coin in downtown Del Mar.  They have very knowledgeable staff who won’t try to talk you into buying a numismatic coin.  Numismatics are old or rare coins that derive their value from the idea that they are collectables, not from the metals themselves.   I don’t recommend numismatics.  I recommend what is called bullion – purchasing a coin or bar of gold or silver for the value of the metal that makes it up.

Purchase a Stock or Fund

If you already have a brokerage account for trading stocks then this is an easy way to do it.  Many investors don’t like this option because there are so many entities between you and your gold.   They point out that technically you don’t own the gold, you own an entity that owns gold.

I own the following funds that hold gold and silver: Central Fund of Canada (CEF), GLD and SIVR. Also, I invest in GDX, which is a fund that owns precious metals mining companies.  Obviously, mining companies increase in value as the price of the metals goes up.  However at the same time they are known for being more volatile and having leverage.  So, if the metals increase by 10%, you can expect a mining company to possibly increase by twice that amount or more.  They don’t always do that at the same time though.  Gold and Silver are up over 30% in the past 8 months.  GDX hasn’t budged.

Storage Programs

Storage programs are the preferable method in my opinion.  The way these things work is you open an account much like you would an online bank account.  You fund the account and then purchase gold that they store in their vault.  The key to look for here is a company that will allocate and store the metals in your name.  You don’t want a pooled account where defining who actually owns the metal can be iffy.  Depending on how much money you have to invest, I like two companies:

GoldMoney is great if you have $5,000 or more to invest at a time, since the account has to be funded via wire transfer.   The cool thing about this company is that the vault is located in Switzerland so you can tell your friends you have a Swiss account.  It is also the cheapest option if you have that much to invest.  Be sure to file the FBAR with the government if your account balance ever exceeds $10,000.  Also, there is a somewhat lengthily verification process that involves a notary since you are opening a foreign account.  I am told that they might have streamlined this process recently.

The other option, SilverSaver is better for investing smaller amounts at a time and it is much easier to sign up since it is a US firm.  SilverSaver has found an easy and automated way for investors with limited funds to start accumulating precious metals on a monthly basis. It only takes about 10 minutes to open an account on their website and link it to your checking account.  Minimum investment is only $50 / month and they store your gold or silver in your name.  You can sell it back to them any time at market prices or even take delivery to your front doorstep.

SilverSaver has set up a system where you can automatically deduct a monthly amount from your checking account to have it saved in gold or silver.  That is a good idea for those of us who need help with the discipline to set aside savings every month.  You can also just make a one-time purchase if you want.

Transaction fees are pretty competitive with what you will find at a dealer or any other company (7.49% to 2.99% depending on how much you buy).  Storage fees are incredibly low at .6%.  You can’t even invest in a mutual fund for less of an annual fee than that.

Conclusion

There are no excuses anymore.  The writing is on the wall – when it comes to incompetence in Washington D.C. and the bull market in Gold and Silver.   We should all be buying gold to profit from this trend and to protect ourselves, should things get really out of hand.   Fortunately, with minimums at just $50 / month we can all afford to do so.  Please feel free to leave comments and let me know if you have any questions.