Hard-Boiled Eggs – Best Instructions (Yet)

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Items needed: eggs, pot with lid, water, stove

We like to eat hard-boiled eggs in our house.  However, we’ve gone through a number of different instructions on how to make them best.  Our issue has been that they are often not easy to peel.  Our current method is below, courtesy of Mama Joyce.

  1. Put eggs in pot.
  2. Add water until eggs are covered.
  3. Bring to full roiling boil on stove.
  4. Turn off heat, keep cover on pot.
  5. Let sit 30 minutes.
  6. Remove eggs from water, put in refrigerator.

We enjoy hard-boiled eggs because they’re filling, cheap, and can be eaten plain, in a salad, or a number of other ways.  We typically buy organic or local farm eggs for $4.99 a dozen, which is 41.5 cents per egg.  Two eggs with a big slice of homemade bread and some cheese or carrots is a great lunch you can easily take to work, the beach, or the park.

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Put eggs in pot, cover with water
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Bring water to boil
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Label container, compost when eggs are all gone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have a better method to cook eggs? I’d love to hear it.

Monthly Financial Summary – Spreadsheet Tool

For a number of years I’ve put together a monthly summary of my financial accounts, just to take a few minutes each month to see where things stand.  Are things going in the right direction? If not, what is the reason?  It is a big help to take a look at the big picture of where things stand financially.

After getting married my wife and I have continued to use a simple summary spreadsheet and sit down each month to take a look and discuss.  It’s a great way to make sure we’re on the same page and aware of where our money is going.  I wanted to share my spreadsheet in case it’s of use to others.  It’s basically just a simple list of all the accounts we have – credit cards, investments, bank accounts, student loans, mortgage, etc.  We add a column each month for the current balances and I added a couple of formulas to show the change for each account month-to-month and for the year in total.

It’s a simple tool, but simply having a good idea of all the accounts you have and how they change is something I find few people do.  If you’re married or sharing accounts with another person, it’s also a really good opportunity to discuss goals and issues that otherwise might go unspoken.  You can also use Mint for more detail on your transactions and for creating budgets or tracking trends.  It’s really good and really easy to use.  Mint is also a big help in putting together the monthly summary since it has your current account balance all together in one place.

If you’re interested in learning more about money and saving I highly recommend the Mr. Money Mustache website and reading the book Early Retirement Extreme.  They are great and somewhat unconventional resources for having a full life and full wallet.

Download file here (Excel): Monthly Financial Summary – Template

Share Your Support for Airbnb and Short-Term Rentals in San Diego

If you value the existence of short-term rentals in San Diego and platforms like HomeAway, VRBO, and Airbnb please share your thoughts to ensure they remain available here.  The San Diego City Council is currently considering new rules and regulations for this type of property use which includes a potential ban, strasd-logo-w375among other possibilities.  The Short-Term Rental Alliance of San Diego (STRASD) is a grass-roots group of San Diegans that has organized to give a voice to responsible hosts here and the benefits that short-term rentals provide to the city.

The City Council Smart Growth and Land Use Committee held a hearing on April 22nd attended by hundreds of San Diegans on this issue and will have another hearing on May 29th.  For many, it is not possible or difficult to attend in person and voice an opinion.  STRASD has created an online submission option you can use to add your thoughts and why you support short-term rentals here.  Whether you are a property owner, a visitor to San Diego, a local business, or anyone else that supports platforms like Airbnb your voice is important and needs to be heard!  STRASD will compile the submissions and present them to the City Council.  Please take two minutes (or more) and add your perspective.  It really makes a difference.

You can make your submission via the “Share Your Voice” link at the top right of the STRASD website, or via this direct link.  Thank you for speaking up.

The following is my submission, as an example.  Yours can be shorter or longer – the important thing is that you make a submission.  If you’re not familiar with this issue or would like to discuss I’d be happy to talk with you, just drop me an email or phone call.


I am an Airbnb host in North Park and love the platform and the opportunities our family has due to it. We bought our home two years ago, and the presence of a second legal and permitted unit on the property was the primary consideration outside of neighborhood for us. We exclusively use Airbnb when we travel and wanted the opportunity to be a host in San Diego. We are a one-income family and planned on the income from the second property to allow us to spend quality time with our young children. A ban on renting our property on a short-term basis would be a major issue for us and may cause us to sell our home and potentially leave the region as well.

It’s not all about the money though. For us and for many hosts there are many factors at play in being hosts on Airbnb. We are able to accommodate friends and family in town (no return on investment) due to the flexibility provided. We are able to help move San Diego away from solely being a car-focused place by encouraging bike use (provided), bus, etc. Many guests do not bring a car, they walk around the neighborhood and improve the conditions around parking and traffic for all. We can show off our great neighborhood of North Park and the many businesses located here. I give all of our guests great San Diego beer to help promote one of our most recognized industries. We’re also able to host parents of friends that otherwise would be miles away instead of a short walk.

During the time we’ve owned this property we’ve made many improvements to the cottage we rent out, hiring local electricians, plumbers, construction workers, and other service providers. We also pay a neighbor to clean the cottage at an hourly rate that is more than double the existing minimum wage. The positive economic impact for San Diego provided by platforms like Airbnb and VRBO is significant and on top of indirect effects like restaurant purchases and zoo tickets the dollars paid for the lodging itself benefit our local community by staying with owners that live and spend here, not hotels that take the money out of our city.

Please keep ordinary San Diegans like us that are good hosts and care about and are involved in our community in mind when contemplating any regulations or rules on short-term rentals. This is a great opportunity for many people in the city that should not be eliminated due to a very few problem locations. Thank you.

Stop Package Theft – Simple Steps You Can Take To Avoid Losses

With the rise of Amazon, Etsy, and other Internet businesses there has been a marked increase for many in the amount of package deliveries.  The convenience of home delivery and the vast array of products online, many at discount prices, has been a boon for customers around the world.  Unfortunately, these deliveries have also presented a new easy target for theft in many places.  That has been the case in my neighborhood, so I wanted to share some tools I use to reduce the risk of theft.

This man wants to steal your packaged trinkets. Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/saxonmoseley/288741595/
This man wants to steal your packaged trinkets. Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/saxonmoseley/288741595/

 

Sign up for package delivery alerts

  • FedEx – Create and account, “My Profile”, via the link at the top right for a multitude of options regarding your packages.  Use the “Delivery Manager” to set specific actions for when a package arrives so you don’t miss it.  My method is to receive a text message when the package is delivered – it usually arrives within a minute of the package delivery.  You can also do other things like set a Vacation Hold to avoid packages sitting on the porch while you’re gone.
  • UPS – Create an account via link at top “New User” for options similar to those available on FedEx, though I find the FedEx site more polished and with more options.  Use “Delivery Alerts” to set specific actions for package deliveries.  As with FedEx, I use text alerts when a package arrives.  If you prefer to know in advance, you can get email or text alerts the day of or day before a package arrives.
  • USPS – USPS does not currently have the same breadth of tools as UPS and FedEx, but you can still create an account with some useful tools.  Use the “Register / Sign In” link at the top right to start.  I primarily use USPS to hold mail delivery while we’re out of town.  Hopefully they’ll add package delivery options in the near future.
  • OnTrac In San Diego, OnTrac completes a fair amount of deliveries for Amazon though it seems recently that USPS is doing more of that work.  Their website options are very limited, and from conversations with company representatives they do not have similar tools to those for other delivery providers.

Know your neighbors

  • No one knows your habits and schedule like your neighbors.  Creepy, right?  Exchange your contact information with your neighbors and be a nice person and they’ll probably be happy to pick up a package that’s sitting on your porch if you’d like.  If you have the delivery notifications mentioned above set up, you can even call them when there’s a package at your place.  Your neighbor probably doesn’t have a formal registration system, but cookies are usually a good starting point.

Install a security camera

  • I installed a security camera above our front door to record anyone coming to our home or passing by.  It’s also visible from the street so hopefully acts as a deterrent to those considering approaching with ill intent.  I opted for the Dropcam Pro due to ease of installation, price point, and low monthly fee structure (which is optional).  It cost me $149 plus $10 per month for 7-day online recording, so I can review the tape and save clips if anything happens.  The price per month per camera decreases quite a bit if you add additional cameras.
Our front door camera and grumpy old man sign.
Our front door camera and grumpy old man sign.

 

Report thefts that do occur

  • If you do have a package taken, or other items stolen make sure to report it to the police.  Chances are that you won’t get your item back, but the theft will be entered in the official system and may result in increased patrols or better data for the police to address area issues.  If they don’t know, they can’t help.

Have you had packages stolen from your property?  Have other tips to avoid this problem?  Share them, I’d love to hear.  Cheers!

Common Ground on Airbnb in San Diego

The debate about short-term rentals, including sites like Airbnb, Flipkey, VRBO, and Craigslist continues in San Diego.  The San Diego City Council Smart Growth & Land Use Committee held a public hearing on April 22nd that was attended by hundreds and will be continued in a hearing to be held on May 29th.  To date, four council members have issued memos on the issue (click links for full memos):

San Diegans waiting to attend the April 22nd hearing
San Diegans waiting to attend the April 22nd hearing

While there are a broad number of issues that have been raised, there are also some very major points that nearly everyone agrees on.  These basic points should be the baseline for any proposed rules or regulations.  They include:

  • Everyone should pay the hotel taxes due
    • Anyone renting out a property or a part of a property is responsible for timely and full payment of the San Diego hotel taxes – for most, that is a transient occupancy tax of 10.5% and a tourism marketing district assessment of .55%. (For more details on the taxes click here.) These taxes are not being debated although the City Treasurer could do more to improve the payment system including acceptance of credit card payments, a payment profile system to save account information and history, and acceptance of zero due filings.  Additional staff for the Treasurer’s office to collect back taxes would likely pay for itself many times over in addressing current non-compliant properties.
  • Owner-occupied properties should be allowed to host guests
    • The horror stories of late-night parties, loud noise, and heaps of trash no doubt reflect reality in some instances.  These types of issues are far more likely to occur in a non-owner occupied property.  I have heard very few people that want to prevent a widower from renting a room in their house, or a young couple trying to pay bills renting a spare bedroom.  Home owners should not be curtailed in their ability to rent space on their own property.  There do not seem to be many San Diegans that would agree with the City Attorney prosecuting a retiree in Burlingame for renting rooms in her own home. (Other than perhaps her private investigator neighbors.)
  • Enforcement of existing nuisance laws and fines for bad actors
    • Late-night noise, property damage, trespassing, and other issues have existing laws on the books.  These should be enforced and property owners held responsible for the behavior taking place on their property.  Additionally, most parties support fines for bad actors on an escalating scale.

Hopefully the city council will take these common ground, and common sense, items as a starting point for any proposals put forward.  Other issues remain and will likely be contentious but with very strong support across the board for the above items there is no need to muddy the conversation with issues that are not being debated.

How to Buy a Bike – 8 Simple Steps

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This could be you. Pretty sweet. Credit: Jake Davis

How does one go about buying a bicycle?  What things matter?  Many people are interested in bicycling – to commute, for fun, to ride along with children, or to get in better shape.  If you don’t already have a bike or it’s been a couple of decades since you rode it can be intimidating.  What to look for, how much to spend, what kind of accessories are needed, etc?  Here’s a short list on how to approach buying your first bike, or the first bike you’ve had in awhile.

  1. Don’t overthink it.  You’re buying a bicycle, not a car that costs you tens of thousands of dollars.  Especially if you’re going to reduce your car usage, you’re going to save a ton of money, even if you buy a very fancy bicycle.  AAA estimates the average car costs about $9,000 per year.  Put another way, you could buy a $750 bicycle every month of the year and be even money with what you spend on a car in that time.
  2. Find a bike shop you like.  Whether you buy a new bike or a used one, you’re going to need someone that knows how to keep it in top shape.  Walk in to a bike shop near you and say hi to the people there.  Are they nice and fit your style? Awesome, you’re good to go.  Are they mean or you don’t really like the vibe? Walk out and go to a different shop, there are lots to pick from.
  3. Buy a bike.  Utilize the friendly bike shop you have identified and ask them what they’d recommend.  All you need is a general idea of what you’ll be doing – going to work, rolling down mountains, cruising along the boardwalk.  The good thing is that bikes have awesome utility so you’ll be able to do many of these things with whichever one you pick, but buying in the right general ‘category’ is a good idea.
  4. Can’t decide? Buy a hybrid.  Here’s my current bicycle – a Giant Escape hybrid.  Hybrids are basically a cross between a road bike and and a mountain bike – designed to handle a wide range of uses, with a little more comfort and durability than a road bike.  They’re all-around great.  I paid about $600 new for this bike.  My previous bicycle was a $200 used road bike I bought on Craigslist.  My wife commutes to work daily on a hybrid bicycle as well that cost around $450.

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    My bike, with rear rack and pannier bag.
  5. How much should you spend? It really doesn’t matter.  For a new bike, I think it’s worth spending $500-600 to get a solid ride from a good brand.  You can buy a new bike for half that and be fine, or buy a used bike and also be fine.  If you’re buying used look for a good brand so you know the bones are good.  With your trusted local bike shop you can rest assured that if your bike has mechanical problems or just needs a tune up they can help you out.
  6. Get some accessories.  A few things you want to add to your bike to greatly increase the utility.
    1. A super strong lock. Get something from Kryptonite and always lock up your bike.  Thieves suck and will try to take your bike.
    2. Good lights – for both front and back, get some powerful lights.  I recommend doubling up on the rear lights for good measure.
    3. A small pump and two spare tubes.  In case you have a flat, you need these.  When you ride with your friends they won’t have these and you’ll be the hero. Rock on.
    4. A rear rack with a pannier bag.  This will allow you to easily carry things on your bike. Awesome.
  7. Take care of your bike.  I don’t know much about fixing bikes, I’m guessing you don’t either.  Plan to get a tune-up at your bike shop twice a year.  They’re pros at this stuff and will make sure your brakes work, your chain is well oiled, and your tires aren’t worn through.  Put it on your calendar and just do it.  It will cost $25 – $65 per time and is well worth it.  Later on you can do it yourself, but start with the bike shop until you increase your skill set.
  8. Have fun and ride often!  You made a great decision to buy a bicycle.  You’re going to be healthier and happier.  You’re going to save a ton of money.  (Mr. Money Moustache has awesome articles about the cost of commuting / cars.)  You’re going to make your community healthier and safer for everyone.

Have other tips for those looking to buy a bike?  Drop some love in the comments.

Airbnb in San Diego – Good Riddance to a Great Thing?

Last Wednesday morning, April 22, the City of San Diego Smart Growth and Land Use Committee held a public comment hearing on the topic of short-term rentals in San Diego in advance of creating a proposal clarifying the status of this sort of property use and potentially creating additional rules and regulations.

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After the hearing room was full, many more waited in the lobby.

The meeting was attended by hundreds of San Diegans and testimony was heard in 30 minute chunks with those opposing restrictions on this property use alternating with those supporting restrictions.  Many, myself included, were unable to speak during the 4 hour meeting.  A continuance of the meeting will be held on May 29th for those that were unable to speak.

San Diego’s primary issue is it is a very desirable place to live and visit.  It’s a good problem to have.  Today there are more vacation rental properties than ever, the hotel industry just came off a record-breaking year, rents are high and rising, as are property prices.  There is more demand for every type of property than supply can keep up with.  Further impacting the supply is a strong sentiment across most of the city against increased density and/or building heights.

The city is approaching this issue in the wrong way.  A small number of San Diegans have had issues with short-term rentals – mostly complaints of noise, trash, or impacts on street parking.  For those not familiar with common San Diegan complaints, the lack of pavement on which to park private vehicles at public expense is nearly always the top of the list.  Joni Mitchell is probably crying.  More likely, she’s darkly laughing.

The complaints raised have existing rules and penalties that can be applied.  If enforcement of those rules is the issue then the solution is to improve enforcement by increased staffing and resources.  The solution should not be to curtail the property rights of every property owner in the City of San Diego.  Banning or restricting the ability of property owners to use their property is not the answer to problems with enforcement of public nuisance laws.  It would quite literally mean reducing the property rights of hundreds of thousands of San Diegans due to the complaints of a few hundred or perhaps a few thousand.  That is not a relevant or appropriate response.

Restrictions on use of platforms like Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, and others would also be a real disservice to homeowners throughout San Diego.  For the first time, technology is putting the opportunity to utilize what is typically the largest asset a family owns, their home, in the hands of every property owner.  Vacation rentals have existed for decades in San Diego but were mostly relegated to property management firms and wealthy individuals that could hire staff to manage the properties.  Today, this is possible to the average person whether they are renting their home once a year or every night of the month.  This is a great thing.  It also means many dollars coming into and staying in San Diego, benefiting our entire economy.  Unlike hotels, which are often owned by non-local companies, home-sharing brings dollars into our city and keeps them here – in the pockets of our friends and neighbors.  Win win.

Are there bad actors among the property owners and visitors in San Diego? Certainly.  There are also bad actors among homeowners and renters.  When there is an issue there are tools to remedy them.  Utilize the tools we have, don’t take away a great opportunity for all property owners in San Diego and a boon to our economy across the board.

Have a bike? You need a pannier bag, or two.

Have a bike? Probably. Maybe you use it, maybe you don’t.  You almost definitely know how to ride a bicycle – per a recent FiveThirtyEight article an estimated 94% of Americans know how to ride a bike.  Why such a high percentage? Because bicycles are cheap, efficient, elegant modes of transportation that are fun and socially engaging.

If you already bike, you really need a rear rack and a pannier bag or two.  What’s a pannier bag? It’s a fancy word for a bag that hooks onto your bike so you can hold stuff.  They are awesome and an instant, cheap upgrade that makes takes your bike up about five levels.  You have a European man purse to impress friends with at parties.  You can carry things like laptops.  You can pick up a six-pack of beer or a picnic without having to do the handlebar hang wobble ride.

For a long time I didn’t have a bag but bought the wife one for taking to work on her daily commute.  I was jealous so I got the same bag – a Linus “The Sac” canvas pannier bag.  The official site lists it at $69 but I think I paid $55.  Either way, it’s a nice bag that lasts well so I think a good value at either price.  It’s mostly waterproof except for probably in a heavy downpour – living in San Diego I wasn’t concerned on that count.

To show just some of the functionality even a basic bag like this provides I took some photos of my trip to the grocery store today.  Grocery shopping by bike is a somewhat frequent topic of conversation at bicycle meetings – non-riders can’t understand how one can carry groceries without an SUV.  Basically, you buy groceries slightly more often – probably a benefit if you mostly eat fresh produce and food instead of mega-size boxes of industrial junk.  You also use a functional bag to carry your groceries and buy some fancy chocolate as well with the money you saved on not using an expensive car for every minor trip in life.

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Step 1 – Buy delicious food

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Step 2 – Put groceries in bag. Do NOT squash avocados!

 

 

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Step 3 – Put bag on bike, ride home.

 

 

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Step 4 – Unpack, and cook something yummy. Note: beer not even shaken up.

 

That’s it.  Bonus: you already have a reusable bag wherever you’re riding so you can help to kill less fish, turtles, dolphins, humans, and generally make our planet a better place.  Since you’re riding a bike you’re also not giving small children in your neighborhood asthma so feel good about that one too.

Cheers and keep on riding on.