Monday, December 20, 2010

The Top 3 Household Forms You Should Keep On Hand

The holidays are here, which means many of us will be doing one (or all) of the following:

  • Arranging for someone to feed and water our pets and plants;
  • Arranging for a new babysitter to watch the little ones while they're on Christmas vacation... or we are out on New Year's Eve;
  • Sending one of our children with friends, a youth group or other family members on a vacation away from their physician and away from us.
Sound familiar? If so, then these three forms (which are free to download) are a "must-have" for your household!

House/Pet Sitting Instructions A simple-to-use form that allows you to document all necessary instructions for your sitter, including emergency phone numbers, pet info and plant care

Medical Authorization for Minors In the event of an emergency, use this form to provide consent for emergency medical treatment when children are away from home. *Note: Some businesses/organizations may require you to have your form notarized - especially if your child will be traveling outside the country.
Emergency Information Sheet Keep all emergency information handy in one area, including parent's work numbers, nearest neighbor or relative, children's school, pet info and insurance info.

*Be sure to print out a blank "master" of each form to keep on hand for next time.

Happy Holidays

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Save Your Sanity - Holiday Online Shopping Is the Way to Go

I'll let you in on a secret: I rarely go to the mall after Thanksgiving. It's not that I don't love the decorations and Christmas festivities - it's just that I don't enjoy the parking hassles, frantic shoppers and overstimulated kids having meltdowns. I prefer to save (or savor) my sanity! Besides, I've found that overall, I can get just as many great deals shopping online as I can at the malls or big box stores. In recent years I've changed my shopping strategy to the following:
  • I have my holiday budget pretty much defined by September - that includes decorations, gifts, holiday entertaining and food.
  • Many of the stores have their seasonal items out starting in October, which means I'll head to the malls prior to November 15th to get an idea of what's new and what the current pricing of possible gift items is.
  • And then... I savor my sanity by shopping online. The 2010 Holiday Season is bursting with unique gift ideas, heavy discounts on Christmas favorites like toys, electronics and clothing, and best of all... FREE SHIPPING. Watch for last minute deals and deep discounts on favorite sites like, WalMart and AMAZON.
Here are just a few of the sanity-saving deals I've found online this week:

Holiday Toy Deals - save 70% and more at AMAZON  including Curious George for $5.99
( I may have snagged one or two...)

Puritan's Pride - Buy one get one free or Buy TWO get THREE free. Yes, they are best known for their vitamins, but they also have this deal on items like essential oils as well as bath and body products.

Walmart's Selection of more than 400 DVDs on sale for $5 plus free shipping
add a couple of DVDs, popcorn and movie candy to a large basket, tie with a bow and you've got a fabulous gift for under $20!

Williams-Sonoma - free shipping on more than 500 Holiday favorites. Includes their yummy peppermint bark cookies and the essential oils hand care set - two of my favorites under $25.

Pottery Barn - Check out these charming Green Patina Planters in three sizes, on sale $9.99-19.99

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Cooking SOS - Holiday Help is Here

Have a quick question about cooking a turkey or ham? Need ideas for what to do with the leftovers? When it comes to meals from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I say get all the resources you can! Here's a great list of websites, articles and toll free consumer help lines that can be especially valuable for the Holiday Season:

  • Butterball Turkey Talk-Line: (800) BUTTERBALL  or website
  • Foster Farms Help Line: (800) 255-7227 or website
  • Crisco Pie Hotline (877) 367-7438 or website
  • Fleischmann’s Yeast Baker’s Help Line: (800) 777-4959 or website
  • Nestle's Toll House Baking Information Line: (800) 637-8537 or website
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture Meat and Poultry Hotline: (888) 674-6854 or website

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Relocating and Move In Must Dos

I recently relocated to Tucson from Orange County... which gave me the opportunity to "practice what you preach" on a few different items that I've recently posted about, including:

My new apt. has a fabulous view and a cute little patio, but in the first 2-3 weeks I found out quickly that it came with a plumbing leak in the shower and unfortunately, critters! Ugh.  I'm listing each of the articles I've written regarding the topics discussed, just in case they may come in handy for you or someone you know.  I have to say I'm very glad that I have documentation for some of the unfortunate things that have come up. Moving is rarely fun, but the packing tips, and move-in "How to" have  made their way to the top of the "Must Do" list that I'll continue to share with clients and readers.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Habitat for Humanity ReStore - the OC's Best Kept Secret

Last week I spent a few hours working with Nicole, coordinator of social networking and volunteers for ReStoreOC and had a great time getting a quick tour of their Garden Grove location on Harbor Blvd . While I was aware that Habitat for Humanity had a store, I assumed it was mostly building supplies like paint and molding. Boy was I pleasantly surprised to find out that there is so much more being offered in their stores! I've mentioned ReStoreOC to several people in the past few days and have decided that it's got to be the OC's best kept secret for remodeling or home improvements, because everyone I spoke to was as clueless as I was.  So let me give you a few highlights of some of the treasures you can find:
  • frosted glass tulip shaped light fixtures, chandeliers and other lighting
  • ceramic "bubble gum" ball drawer pulls (bright colors and 5/$1.00! great for kids rooms)
  • Floor rugs, stone tile, bamboo flooring
  • sinks, counter tops, tubs, refrigerators
  • white wooden shutters, doors (interior and exterior)
  • painting supplies, caulk
  • furniture (couches, chairs, desks, tables...)
  • and lots more.
Even with the smallest of budgets for redecorating or remodeling, there are definitely deals to be had.  ReStoreOC accepts donations that are new or gently used from both local businesses and private donors. Keep them in mind if you have items you'd like to get rid of too.

You can keep up-to-date on the latest deals by following them on Twitter.
Habitat for Humanity has ReStores throughout the U.S. and Canada. Proceeds from store sales go to help Habitat for Humanity's local housing projects.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Can You Spare a Pencil? RAOK Special Request

This is a special blog post - one that I don't often do, but was moved by a request I found on today...for pencils.

Today I decided that in between writing assignments and working on a client project, I would find at least one way to perform a Random Act of Kindness (RAOK). So I hopped on Craigslist and began checking out the "wanted" section. The pencil request was the second one I clicked on, and as I read it, it struck me that I could do something to help.  You see, Ms. Harris is a 5th grade teacher in San Diego that is struggling to provide supplies for her students at Edison Elementary (where 75% of the students are low-income, on school breakfast/lunch programs and whose families are unable to send their kids to school with new backpacks and the assorted supplies that parents buy this time of year). But Ms. Harris has a friend/benefactor who is trying to help -- which brings us to the Craigslist ad in which he asked simply for pencils for his friend... to replace the ones she had been using for the last two years that were donated and say "Go Army" on them.

So here we are... me, and you, my readers, trying to figure out how to help. I've done some due diligence (the school is legit, there is also another 3rd grade teacher who has signed up through the Adopt-a-Classroom website, but NO ONE has adopted the class. I checked with two other charities that used to help with requests like this, but was told they have no funds at the moment. So I'm asking... Can you spare a pencil or two? There are 27 students who could use a little RAOK and a hand up from the community.  There are some other items that were requested - items that could so easily be purchased with a corporate sponsor, so if you know one... below is the list I got from Ms. Harris' friend via email- although I am quite sure there are many more items that she and her fellow teachers could use.

Edison Elementary School,  
ATTN: Ms. Harris
4077 35th Street
San Diego, CA 92104-2291
NEED #1 - #2 Pencils
NEED #2 - Body Organ Models
$45 with FREE SHIPPING!!!
NEED #3 - MARKERS - They needs this specific type for their projects.
Single sets can be seen here for $14.50, they would need 27 sets ...   

OR   Full set can be seen here for $128.19 with FREE SHIPPING...
NEED #4  Microscopes that HAVE LIGHTS and not mirrors to illuminate the slide. 
That's all that I know about that I am not already taking care of myself.   Thanks! God bless!
Don (Ms. Harris' friend)

Your support is most appreciated!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Document Storage - What to Do with Important Papers

Recently I worked with a client who was clearing out a storage unit that contained more than 20 years worth of medical records as well as important business and tax documents.  Whether you are dealing with your personal tax records and important papers, the estate of a loved one, or the documents accumulated when running a business of any size, having a document storage plan is a good idea.

Getting a handle on what to do with your important papers is no small feat - even for the well-organized. Cost of storage, document destruction, scanning to electronic files and document retrieval are all things to take into consideration as part of the storage plan. In many situations, it's important to know what the legal requirements are for retaining records too. For instance, if dealing with patient files, there are specific HIPAA regulations that are required for document destruction, storage and certification to maintain patient privacy.  Tax files for individuals, estates and small business all have requirements for the length of time you're required to keep your records.

Here are a few links you may find useful when you begin your document storage plan - whether you decide you need a commercial storage facility,  a security deposit box or a company to shred, recycle or scan your paper documents to e-files:
  • HIPPA Privacy and Security Rules - Learn more about which entities must comply with the Privacy and Security Rules, the requirements of the rules, and guidance available to help covered entities implement and maintain compliance with these requirements.
  • IRS Publication 552 Record Keeping for Individuals 
  • Pouch Records Managment
  • Pouch is one of the many companies that offers a variety of services to individuals as well as businesses large and small.  They've got a full line of available services for document storage and retrieval, and are located in Southern California (Fullerton).  Overall, I would recommend them as an effective (and affordable) document storage sollution.  I would however add a note of caution: Be sure to review ala carte service charges. They can add up quickly if you are unprepared!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Packing Made Easier with Colored Tape

Labeling boxes is always recommended, but adding an extra "visual clue" as to a box's content can save you even more time. Whether you are packing up the house for a cross-country move or organizing the garage, colored packing tape can be a big help for identifying boxes. Here's just a few of the ways to use colored tape to make your packing and organizing easier:

1.  If you have kid rooms to pack, use a different color tape for each child. Even the littlest family members will be able to spot their belongings easily.

2.  Use a bright red or yellow tape to box up your fragile items so that they are easily distinguishable to everyone that is handling them.

3.  Organize your holiday decorations at-a-glance in the garage or attic by packing them up in boxes sealed with a different color.

Colored packing or masking tape is available at a variety of places. I found a fair selection at the local Wal-Mart, but at (and other retailers) I was able to find at least eight different colors.  If you are using the tape to actually seal a box, be sure you purchase tape that will stay adhered to the cardboard surface, and is wide enough to provide a strong seal.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Price of Time - Learning to Delegate

How much is your time worth? Finding out is the first step in analyzing whether or not it is more beneficial for you to hire someone else to complete tasks... or do them yourself.

So let's start here:  Know the Value of Your Time Calculator
Take a few moments to input the basics, then calculate the results.  You may be surprised at the outcome.  Even more so, you may discover that you would benefit from delegating a variety of tasks -- everything from hiring an assistant to do your monthly bill paying, grocery shopping and errand running to hiring a handyman to get through that "Honey Do" List that seems to have more items being added than ones being scratched off as completed.

For many, delegating is a difficult process. As the saying goes, "It's just easier to do it myself" is something I've heard time and time again, especially by those "Type A" personalities.  While that may be true in some instances (especially in the beginning), enlisting the help of others can be a cost-effective, time-saving solution.  If you are lucky enough to retain help on a long-term or recurring basis (or find a "crackpot" assistant from the get-go), once you've established a rapport, the learning curve that was a deterrent to begin with can seemingly drift away.  You then are left with a little more time...and peace of mind.


Friday, May 28, 2010

It's Almost Summer--What Do We Do with the Kids?

Summer is just around the corner and for many families that means family vacations, summer camp and helping the older kids find summer jobs. Here are a variety of articles centered around those topics that may help you in your family's search for creative (and economical) ways to keep the kids busy this summer!

10 Fun and Free Things to Do in San Diego
San Diego is an excellent place for a family vacation, with its' miles of beautiful beaches, warm climate and easily accessible outdoor recreation venues. Not only is it home to world-famous attractions, it's also a great area to enjoy even on a limited budget.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Using Your Creative Talents to Make Money

One of the positive things about the current economic situation is that it has given many talented individuals the "kick in the pants" do actually do something with their creative talents... from jewelry making and crafts to photography and baking, home-based creative businesses have been on the rise.  Are you a budding photographer, baker or artisan that's looking to supplement your income?  Here's some of my favorite ways to use your creative talents to make money:

  1. Sell your wares on Etsy.  Etsy is one of the most popular spots online for selling handmade arts & crafts as well as vintage items. 
  2. Become a vendor at a craft show or festival.  You can search the database at to find upcoming venues across the U.S. and Canada.
  3. Post a listing on any of the free sites online., and (formerly are just of the few.  Don't forget to post pictures!
  4. Have an in-home party for family and friends. Use a service such as to manage invitations and responses. You may want to collaborate with other artisans or crafters so you can offer a wider variety of items (and have a larger database of contacts to invite).
  5. Teach a class at your local YMCA or community center.  If you are an expert or advanced user who enjoys teaching others, you may find your niche (as well as an ongoing source of income) from people in your community that are interested in learning everything from cake decorating, digital photography and jewelry design, to sewing, crocheting and woodcraft.  Be prepared with a class syllabus and an estimate of class costs, before pitching your class ideas to administration.
  6. Create a website and sell your products online. There are a variety of low-cost or free web hosting companies that offer everything from simple templates to shopping carts as well as integration with payment options such as Paypal.  Check out for free sites with easy drag-n-drop features.
  7. Are you a baker or candy maker? The Holiday Season can be especially lucrative for a home-based business, and friends or family members that are willing to take your items to work or school can be extremely helpful in the marketing department!  A former babysitter of mine made $2-3k every holiday season making and selling candy, with many of her daycare families offering to take baskets or boxes of her homemade goodies to work with them to sell on her behalf.  It was a win-win for everyone, as she usually gave a discount on babysitting services to those that had helped out.
  8. Talk to local shop owners about selling your items in their stores on consignment. Often boutiques or hair salons are willing to showcase accessories and jewelry, restaurants are willing to showcase paintings or framed prints, and so on.

Friday, April 23, 2010

How to Get Money for a Small Business

For many, one of the biggest deterrents to starting a business is finding the funds for startup. While some may chose to start a business based solely on private investment, there may be additional state and federal programs that can help.

One of the ways the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) provides short-term loans to small businesses is through their Micro-Loan Program. The SBA does not loan money, however, they guarantee it through intermediary lenders. Microloans can be used for inventory, supplies, furniture and fixtures, but not real estate purchases or to pay off existing debt. 

For businesses in California, you can find additional information at the California Business Portal; or to find grant info or other funding outside of California, check this List of economic development websites by State. Grants may also come from educational or research institutions, or from monies set aside specifically for women and minority owned businesses.

For those that are in the following sectors: Information Technology, Childcare or Renewable Energy, many states  has specific programs for entrepreneurs or small business owners that have a proven history in these areas.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Charmed: A Dog's Life in Huntington Beach

Meet Charm. She's one of two rescue dogs that belong to my roommate... which kind of makes me her "aunt".  Charm's favorite place (and one of mine too!) is Dog Beach -- just one of the many dog-friendly outdoor spots available here in Huntington Beach. Now that it's Spring, you'll find Charm and her sister Paloma, weekday mornings at Dog Beach catching Frisbees and enjoying the waves.  The roommate and I have made a pact to take the dogs every morning and do a bit of power walking on the beach.  Whether you work from home, or spend the majority of your day in an office --there's nothing better than starting off with sun, surf and sand. I guess you could say it's a "Charmed Life" for all of us.

If you live in the area, know also that there are several good dog walkers in the area that will take your pooch to play if your're not available. In fact, we saw two that parked their SUVs or vans near us and unloaded multiple dogs for a beach field trip.  Dogs and people alike need time to enjoy a little "down time", whether it be at the beach, a park, or anywhere outside where you can have the chance to watch a sunrise, stick your toes in the sand and just BE...

Check out my article What to Do with Your Dog in Huntington Beach to find out my other favorite spot for dogs.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Laundry 101: Tips & Tricks To Make Your Laundry Easier, Less Costly and More Eco-Friendly

Laundry...necessary evil or enjoyable task? I'd venture to say for most it falls somewhere in between. Having been doing laundry for more than two decades now, I'm feeling like somewhat of an expert when it comes to managing laundry chores. Here are a few tips that can help make the laundry tasks easier, less costly and more eco-friendly!

The Green Guide to Biodegradable and Non-Toxic Laundry Soaps
If you are looking for more natural, non-toxic ways to clean your laundry, this is a good place to start.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Getting a Handle on Life in 2010

I am not one for New Year's resolutions, but I am definitely in favor of taking stock of where you're at vs. where you want to be, and then creating a plan or list of goals for the things you'd like to change.  Maybe you're like me and bypass the whole January 1st ritual of posting a new list of resolutions on the fridge or dresser mirror. Maybe, you too will consider February (or whatever month you decide) to be the start of a "new" you... a more focused, disciplined, goal-oriented, inspired YOU. And then, maybe you'll also consider using those same tools to help your family and friends create their own lists of goals and aspirations.

Obviously, how we deal with the economic challenges is a big part of our goals, discipline and inspiration.  Stress over the loss of job or decrease in income, rising mortgages or costs or living, and the stress on our relationships that are intertwined with money matters, are on the rise.  This is a good time to take stock of your budget, your spending habits, your lifestyle (not to mention taking an honest look at how your home, lifestyle and relationships may have suffered in the last year or so.)

Once you've taken stock, now it's time to get down to business and create some attainable goals.  Here's a few articles and resources to help you get started:

How to Downsize Your Lifestyle - Less is more, especially now.

How to Get Cash for Your Unwanted Stuff  - whether you are in need of quick cash, or you've realized you definitely have way too much, there's definitely a few ideas to help you clear some stuff out.

Be sure to get your free copy of financial expert Alan Haft's book The 10 Most Common Mistakes People Make with Their Money...and How to Avoid Them -- it's available on his blog "The Haft Report" along with a lot of other smart and savvy money tips!

Check out's  Dare to Change Your Life articles and resources.

And remember, even hitting 60-70% of your goals and aspirations looks a whole lot better than 100% of  nothing!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

My Favorite Small Storage Tip: The Pencil Box

While the pencil box is a staple for school supplies, you might not realize how very versatile it can be for storing small objects. Whether you are organizing your suitcase or makeup drawer, consider purchasing a few plastic pencil boxes to store smaller items.  They're inexpensive (especially during Back-to-School sales), stackable, reusable and easy to store.  I stocked up on them a few months ago when they went on sale - 10 boxes cost me just over $3.00.

 Here's just a few ways I've used them to organize and store small items for travel, as well as around the house:

1.  To store decks of cards and dice. (The box pictured holds two decks of cards + dice.)
2.  To organize lipsticks and eyeliner pencils.
3.  To store ketchup, sugar or other condiment packets.
4.  To pack toothbrushes and toothpaste.
5.  To store hair pins and barrettes.
6.  To pack just enough Legos to keep your little one busy at a restaurant.
7.  To store small craft supplies.
8.  To store Barbie or other doll accessories.
9.  Make a mini first aid kit for your car.
10. To organize your junk drawer. Corral loose keys, batteries, birthday candles and more.

I bet you'll find at least five more ways to use them in your home, car or travels!