I have been a real estate agent for over 15 years but I don’t sell homes!  

Over the years I have worked with may different buyers and sellers but it is not my job to sell a home….. I guide people through the process that will fulfill their personal dreams or needs, I assist people prepare for the largest financial decision of their lives, and I offer ongoing home information needed throughout the years they live in the home.

no homes

STARTING A FAMILY:  Working with a newly married couple looking for the perfect home in the right neighborhood close to a great school so they can start a family….It is not my job to sell this couple a home, my job is to help this couple with their dream to start a family.  Years after the sell when I visit the family in their home and watch how their kids have grown, I know that my job is much more important than the house, my job affects people’s lives and I couldn’t be more proud of that.

INVESTORS:  Working with many investors…..It is not my job to sell them a home, my job is to help them expand their business portfolio.  Finding a home for investors and assisting them with finding the perfect tenant.   In the recent years many of my clients have decided to invest their money in real estate and I provide them with the information needed to make the best financial decision they can.

RELOCATION:  I help people relocating to a new area get familiar with a neighborhood/city/state….. Moving to a new area is very stressful but I provide clients with the information needed to make the transition as smooth as possible.  When relocating to a new area every client will have different needs that are important to them and I help them through the process.  I am not selling them a home, I am helping them get familiar with a neighborhood, city or state.

FINANCIAL HARDSHIP:  I assist people going through a financial hardship…. When someone is going through financial struggle or on the brink of loosing their home it is a very difficult time.  I give my clients the information needed so they know how to navigate through the process.  I advise them of all the different options and help them determine what the best decision is for their situation.  I walk them through the process and I don’t sell their home, I help them get through a stressful financial struggle.

FIRST TIME HOME BUYERS:   I help first time home buyers fulfill the American dream of owning a home… When making the biggest financial decision of your life it is important to have someone you trust guiding you along the way.  I provide my first time home buyers with all the information they need so they know that they are making the right decision for them.  I help my first time buyers figure out what they are looking for, what they want and what they need, and walk them through the entire process.

DIVORCE:  I help couples going through a divorce communicate about important home decisions…. When helping divorcing couples I help both husband and wife make important decisions about the home they are selling as well as assist them both in finding new homes.  The process can be very emotional, stressful and frustrating and the communication I provide helps both the husband and wife get through the process.

CHANGING HOME NEEDS:  Many of my clients need to downsize after the children move out or move into a larger home when they have more children,  When my clients need to sell their current home and buy a new home, they are concerned about moving from one home to the next.  I work with multiple parties to ensure that the client has a seamless move from the old home to the new home.

ESCROW:  The escrow process can be confusing.  I provide information and guidance for my clients to assist them through the escrow process.  I help my clients navigate the paperwork with confidence assurance throughout the entire escrow process.

LOAN INFORMATION AND REFINANCE:  I provide lender information for both clients looking for new homes or wanting to re-finance their current loan…. giving my clients information is a huge part of my job.  When you are purchasing a home or refinancing your loan years after, I help my clients obtain the loan information needed.

AREA REFERRALS:  I offer referrals to contractors and service providers in the area….  Throughout the time people live in their home they sometime need the advise of a local contractor or service provider.  I offer my clients references that may have been used by other past clients by keeping a referral database.

Just like in most jobs, as a Realtor I wear many hats.  Working with people and helping them through the real estate process is my passion!   I don’t sell homes…..I assist buyers and sellers with their real estate dreams, financial questions, lender information, etc.

I look forward to assisting you with your real estate needs……..

  • Kari Cross
  • Intero Real Estate Services
  • 925-584-1640
  • kcross@interodb.com


In the past few years the housing market has had many changes and RealtyTimes recently predicted some of the top housing trends for the California Real Estate market for 2014:

  • Mortgage rates will go up
  • Home values and prices will increase
  • Fewer investors buying up properties and more buyers looking for primary residences
  • Seller’s market will continue but cool off
  • Home buyer’s need to start searching

real estate trend


Mortgage rates are predicted to rise, but not too far, up to 5% or 5.25% in 2014. The
Federal Reserve will begin tapering soon and the greater the reduction in Federal government purchases, especially of Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), the more rates are likely to grow.

It’s a great time to buy now because mortgage rates are still below the historical average so if you’re thinking of making a move, 2014 is the perfect time to jump into the market and start looking! With low rates and increasing home values, now’s the time to buy in order to make a smart investment for your future.

Speaking of mortgages, home buyers also need to be prepared for stricter qualifications on home loans. Come January 10th lenders will be required to prove borrowers’ ability to repay a loan according to new “qualified mortgage” standards. An important statistic to keep in mind is the maximum debt-to-income ratio of 43% that borrowers will need to qualify.  The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which regulates Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, has also announced plans to reduce the maximum loan limits for conventional conforming loans some time in 2014.

If you are considering buying a home in 2014, contact your local Realtor now to make sure you know how these changes will affect you. 


Predictions show that home values and prices will rise in 2014.  Moderate predictions are clocking in at a 6-8% increase for California markets whereas others foresee a 10-15% increase.

According to Bill Plattos, Execute Vice President of First Team Real Estate, “2013 has begun the upward progression of the real estate market in California. In the next 3 to 4 years prices and sales will continue to rise bringing us back up to a peak.”


Investors swoop in when home prices bottom out like they have in the past few years, seeking foreclosed homes and short sales to snatch up.  However, as our economy strengthens and home values come back up in 2014 there are fewer distressed homes on the market to interest investors.  The rise in home values in and upswing in the economy will also make it easier for current home owners who’ve built up equity to afford a down payment and enter the market in search of a bigger and better home to fit their needs.

Fewer investors also means less price competition and fewer bidding wars for buyers shopping for primary residences.  2014 will be the prime time to buy and sell for home owners who are ready to move on to a better neighborhood, larger home or location offering a more convenient commute.


The seller’s market will continue in 2014 for California and on a national level.  However, it will be much cooler than the one we’ve witnessed over the past two years. “The market will get closer to normal – or as normal as the market can be,” says Plattos. “It will continue to cool and inventory will come up to a moderate level, not too low or too high.”


With the seller’s market leveling in 2014, that means buyers need to be realistic about the home they can afford.   Home buyers, now is the time to start searching the best deals in real estate in order to get the most for your money.



Provided by:

  • Kari Cross
  • Intero Real Estate
  • 925-584-1640
  • kcross@interodb.com

SOLD FOR $7,750,000

A penthouse owned by Oprah Winfrey at 207 East 57th Street that sold for $7.75 million was the biggest sale of the week, according to city records in New York.

Current listing information shows the 36th floor spread has 3 bedrooms and 3.5 bathrooms, 2,530 square feet of glass-wrapped interior space, and an additional 750-ish square foot wrap-around terrace with beautiful city views. twelve-foot high ceiling, opens into an unforgivably slender, chute-like entrance hall that explodes in to a scalene triangle-shaped dining and living space where two long walls of floor-to-ceiling glass with birds-eye views that stretches from the George Washington Bridge, over Central Park, west towards New Jersey and south to the glittering towers of Midtown.

A swinging door in the dining area swings open to a light, bright, modern kitchen finished with flat-fronted cabinetry, charcoal-colored counter tops, and chunky center island.  Two guest/family bedrooms, one with private bathroom the other with access to a hall bath as per the floor plan below, occupy the northeast wing of the airy. A short corridor behind the kitchen and off the entrance hall has a stacked washer/dryer closet and connects to the relatively petite master suite occupies that the southeast wing and includes three walk-in closets (two with windows), a spa-style pooper with jetted tub, separate shower and cubby for the toilet and bee-day.

The Tower provides its residents white glove services that include 24-7 doorman and concierge services, a fully equipped fitness center, thematically designed children’s playrooms, residents only conference rooms, and a beautiful garden area.



Later this week you can own a piece of Facebook.  A document has just been published with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Form 8-A, which confirms that Facebook’s stock has been registered and approved for listing on the Nasdaq.

Facebook is offering 180 million shares of its Class A common stock and the selling stockholders are offering 157.42 million shares of Class A common stock.  Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg will personally sell 30.2 million shares for the IPO.  despite this, he will still control the majority of the company: 57.3 percent of voting shares after the IPO.  The company has set a $28 to $35 IPO price range, but many expect Facebook will raise it as the final date draws closer.

Facebook is expected to start trading this week under the “FB” ticker.  Many believe this Friday is the big day….shares will be priced on May 17, with trading beginning on May 18.  Whenever FB makes its way to the Nasdaq….will you be in line to own a share?

Here’s the relevant excerpt:

Facebook, Inc. (the “Registrant”) hereby incorporates by reference the description of its Class A common stock, par value $0.000006 per share, to be registered hereunder contained under the heading “Description of Capital Stock” in the Registrant’s Registration Statement on Form S-1 (File No. 333-179287), as originally filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “Commission”) on February 1, 2012, as subsequently amended (the “Registration Statement”), and in the prospectus included in the Registration Statement to be filed separately by the Registrant with the Commission pursuant to Rule 424(b) under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, which prospectus shall be deemed to be incorporated by reference herein.

The Registrant’s Class A common stock to be registered hereunder has been approved for listing on the NASDAQ Global Select Market of The NASDAQ Stock Market LLC under the symbol “FB.”

Whenever FB makes its way to the Nasdaq….will you be in line to own a share?


During peak months, my energy bill is so high!  I am looking for some easy ways to cut my energy costs and thought I would share some findings…….

TURN OFF YOUR COMPUTER AT NIGHT (Save up to $105 a year)

Why?   Turning your computer off at night could save you up to a third of its energy costs, depending on your use and power management settings. Save even more by plugging your computer, monitor, and printer into one power strip and turning the strip off when you go to bed.

Is it okay to frequently shut down my computer? The U.S. Department of Energy assures that switching a computer on and off multiple times does not negatively affect its life because advances in technology, typically computers are replacement before equipment failure occurs. In fact, giving your computer a rest can be good for it. Certain software updates require computers to shut down, and the fan is more likely to wear out on a machine that run constantly. Good to know: Some computers have settings that can automatically turn a computer on or off at certain times of day. You are most likely to find these options in the Control Panel folder on a computer running Windows® or in System Preferences on a Mac®. Check your owner’s manual for more specific information.
  • Shut your computer down during the day when you will not use it for the next two hours.
  • Unplug the computer or switch off its power strip after it powers down.
  • Turn off your monitor too for greater savings.


Why?    The edges of doors and windows are often not sealed well, allowing cold air to seep into your home or air conditioning to escape. Windows and doors can be responsible for up to 25% of heat loss in a typical home and 33% of summer heat gain. Weatherstripping your windows and doors will help reduce this leakage.

Step-by-step: Do it yourself:Using affordable supplies from a local home improvement retailer, you may be able to seal your windows and doors yourself. You can usually complete the work within a day, making this an easy weekend project.
  • Doors
    1. Reduce air leakage at the bottom of exterior doors. For a no-cost solution, use rolled-up towels. Or:
    2. Install sweeps at the bottom of exterior doors. Available at most hardware and home supply stores, sweeps are generally plastic or metal strips that you apply to the bottom of the door.
    3. Install low-cost compressible foam. This creates a tight seal around the door. Don’t forget to seal doors into unheated areas of your home, such as the garage.
  • Windows
    1. Seal windows. Rope caulk and compressible foam are very inexpensive. Or,
    2. Install weatherstripping. The cost for this is slightly higher, but still reasonable. Plus, this is a more permanent solution.

SEAL AIR LEAKS (Save up to $100 a year)

Why?    Air leaks can be a large source of air loss in your home. This raises your heating and cooling costs and can make your home less comfortable.

  1. Purchase caulk and/or polyurethane foam appropriate for the surfaces you plan to seal. Check the label for its best uses and whether it is appropriate for indoor or outdoor use. Some caulks are specially designed for small leaks along the edges of walls. Foams are more appropriate for larger gaps and holes.
  2. Find leaks. To find leaks, try to follow drafts of air to their source on the wall, floor, ceiling, and around ductwork. Watching how the smoke of a smoke pen or burning incense flows is one way to check for leaks and drafts.
  3. Check where different materials meet. Look where brick meets wood siding, between the foundation and walls, between the chimney and siding, where gas and electricity lines exit your house, and where there are any penetrations through the floor from unheated crawlspaces and basements.
  4. Seal any cracks you find. Use the right sealant for each leak.

USE DIMMERS (Save up to $35 a year)

Why?   A standard light switch gives you two lighting options – full brightness or none at all.  Dimmers give you more control over the level of light in a room, which opens up stylistic possibilities and saves electricity.  By using only as much light as you need, you can save up to 40% on your lighting bill while extending the life of your bulbs.standard masonry fireplace can add charm to a home, but is also an inefficient way to produce heat. You can make a few easy changes to your fireplace to improve its efficiency.

Even a small reduction makes a difference. The human eye can barely tell the difference between full and 90% brightness, but setting a dimmer at this level can still save you 10% on the room’s lighting costs.


Why?      Though you’re rarely awake to see them, outdoor lamps left on all night can consume more electricity than most of your other light fixtures. However, motion sensors can reduce their energy use by 80% without compromising security or style.

How it works: Motion sensors turn lights on when they detect movement in their vicinity. After a certain amount of time elapses, the lights switch off. You can adjust the time delay.
  • Lights with motion sensors can also contain photocells, which sense sunlight and switch on your lights only when it’s dark outside. ENERGY STAR® fixtures with photocells are available.
  • You can buy new lights that include motion sensors or retrofit your current lights with their own sensors. Either purchase should include installation instructions. The installation itself should take about 30 minutes.
  • If you are using compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) or light-emitting diodes (LEDs), be sure to look for a motion sensor that is compatible with these types of bulbs.

TURN OFF LIGHTS WHEN NOT NEEDED (Save up to $45 a year)

Why?    An average home’s lighting bill can account for 15% of electricity costs. Turning lights off when you’re not in the room is a simple way for you to make a dent in your utility bill.

How it works:
  • You save energy whenever you turn off a light, unless you plan to turn it on again immediately. Light bulbs use a little bit of extra energy to “start up” — for a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL), only a few seconds of operating power.
  • Turn off incandescent bulbs every time they are not needed.
  • Turning a CFL on and off many times per day can reduce its operating life. If you turn your CFLs on and off very often, you may need to replace them sooner. Generally, it is cost effective to turn off a CFL when you won’t need it for 15 minutes or more.
  • Make it a habit to turn lights off each time you leave a room.
  • Before you go to sleep, walk through your home and shut off any forgotten lights.
  • Encourage other family members to turn off their lights, as well. This is a great way for young children to do their part in saving energy.

USE AND SWITCH OFF POWER STRIPS (Save up to $85 a year)

Why?    Many computers, televisions, and other devices draw power even when they are turned off. Since plugs to these devices can be tough to remove from the outlet and reconnect, use a power strip. With a flip of the switch, you can easily cut off power to multiple devices at once, saving time, energy, and money.

What to look for:
  • Surge protection strips with their own circuit breakers or surge protectors. Protect connected devices in the event of a short-circuit or power surge.
  • Programmable strips with timers. Power down connected appliances according to a schedule you set.
  • Smart” strips that link electronics together. Shutting down one “master” device, such as a computer, automatically turns off peripheral devices, like speakers or printers, on the same strip.
  • Remote controls. Turn off hard-to-reach power strips with the push of a button as you leave the room.
  • More spacing between sockets. This ensures that the strip can fit multiple large power adaptors. This is an especially important feature if you are buying a power strip for a home office.
The energy that some electronics draw while they are off is called a “phantom load.” Products that waste electricity this way are often called “vampire devices.” Which of my electronics are likely to be vampire devices?

  • Televisions
  • Digital video recorders (DVRs)
  • Computers
  • Entertainment systems
  • Video game systems
  • Printers, scanners, and fax machines
  • DVD players
  • Coffee-makers
  • Microwaves
  • Cell phone and battery chargers
  • Any device with a remote control or LED indicator light


Why?    Setting your thermostat for energy savings can decrease your cooling and heating bills significantly.

  • Set your “home occupied” temperature. When you are awake and at home, the U.S. Department of Energy suggests setting your thermostat no higher than 68°F for heating and no lower than 78°F for cooling.
  • Set your “away from home” temperature. When you are away from home, set the thermostat to an energy-saving level. Setting the temperature at least 10°F higher in the summer and 10°F lower in the winter is a good rule of thumb.
  • Go the extra mile: To save even more energy, set your thermostat at least 10°F lower in the winter or 4°F higher in the summer when you’re asleep.


Why?   A standard masonry fireplace can add charm to a home, but is also an inefficient way to produce heat. You can make a few easy changes to your fireplace to improve its efficiency.

  • Seal the top. Install a removable chimney cap or a permanent one if you do not plan to use the fireplace.
  • Keep the damper closed. The damper should be closed tightly whenever you are not using the fireplace.
  • Seal the front. Install a glass door to control the draft when you have a fire.
  • Go the extra mile: A professionally installed fireplace insert is the best option. Fireplace inserts can be cost-effective depending on the age and nature of your fireplace.

OPEN YOUR SHADES ON WINTER DAYS (Save up to $5 a year)

Why?   Taking advantage of winter sunlight can help make a dent in your heating costs. Open blinds during the day to provide natural lighting and capture free heat.

  • When you let the sun in, remember to lower the thermostat by a few degrees. These two steps combined are what save money and energy.
  • South-facing windows have the most potential for heat gain. Keep the drapes up and windows clear in order to let in the most light.
  • The sun is most intense from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., so make sure windows are uncovered during these hours. Close window coverings at night to insulate windows.


Why?   Heating and cooling consume the most energy in the average home — up to 50% of total home energy use. Dirty air filters make your furnace, central air conditioner, or room air conditioner work harder to circulate air. By cleaning or replacing your filters monthly, you can improve energy efficiency and reduce costs.

WASH CLOTHES WITH COLD WATER (Save up to $20 a year)

Why?   Washing your clothes uses a sizable amount of energy, especially if you use warm or hot water. About 90% of the energy consumed for washing clothes is used to heat the water. Unless your clothes have oily stains, washing with cold or warm water will clean your clothes just as effectively.

SHAVE A MINUTE OFF SHOWER TIME (Save up to $60 a year)

Why?    The average American spends about 8 minutes taking a shower roughly once a day.  Reducing average shower time by 1 minute can result in a 13% decrease in shower water use, which reduces the money you spend on water heating. 

  1. Time yourself and others. See how long you and your fellow household members take to shower and compare your shower times to the national average. Use a water-proof timer in the shower or a kitchen timer out of the shower.
  2. Set a goal for showering a bit faster.
  3. Added benefits: In addition to saving money on energy, you’ll also save on water costs.


I am starting a dress exchange! Between homecoming, valentines, prom, graduation, etc, I am tired of buying expensive dresses for my daughter that are only worn once. With dances around the corner, I will again find myself at the mall again with my daughter wanting the most expensive dress in the entire state. Oh and of course the dress will be worn only for this one dance (which is in the dark) and never come out of the closet again. The sad thing is that I know all her friends also have 15 dresses in their closets that have only been worn once. Why are we not sharing these dresses?

I am asking everyone who has older children that will not be in need of another dress to donate their old ones so we can get a supply started. Then I am wanting to start an exchange between the girls that are looking for a new dress. If you bring four old dresses you can take home a new dress to keep. Or you can rent a dress for a small fee of only $25.00 to cover the cost of having the dress cleaned upon return. This will save room in your closet, add money to your wallet and still make your kids happy because they can have a new dress.

If you might be interested in donating or exchanging dresses for the upcoming events, please let me know. I am interested to hear your thoughts and help to make our girls and our wallets happy.  Maybe you would like to save some money-getting your daughters next prom dress, or you might be able to help another family save money…..

I know it is a little early to think about prom dresses but to make it work correctly so the girls are happy and you save money we need to start early to get donations so we will have a large selection of styles, colors, and sizes when the time comes.



JANUARY 22, 2012

With the increase of Internet mail along with the current recession, the post office has been taking a huge hit financially.  The post office lost $8 billion in fiscal 2010 and it is expected that 2011 will be even worse when the final figures are released next month.  Proposals to cut the losses have included reduction of mail delivery from six to five days a week and closing thousands of offices across the country.  This putting more people out of work and adding to the vicious cycle of money loss.

“The overall average price increase is small and is needed to help address  our current financial crisis,’’ Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said in a  statement. “We continue to take actions within our control to increase revenue  in other ways and to aggressively cut costs. To return to sound financial  footing we urgently need enactment of comprehensive, long-term legislation to provide the Postal Service with a more flexible business model.’’

A major financial problem for the post office has been the requirement,  imposed in 2006, that it pay $5.5 billion annually into a fund designed to cover  the medical benefits for retired employees in the future. No other agency has  such a requirement.  But while the post office is not part of the federal budget, the fund  receiving the payment is, so it counts as income to the government, making the  federal deficit appear $5.5 billion smaller.  Because eliminating the payment  would make the deficit seem bigger, there has been reluctance to drop it.

As of January 22, 2012 the rate increases will be as follows:

Because most stamps being issued are “Forever’’ stamps, they will remain good  for first-class postage. But buying new Forever stamps will cost more when the  prices go up.

—First class letter up to 1 ounce up 1 cent, to 45 cents.

—Each additional ounce add 20 cents.

—Postcards up 3 cents, to 32 cents.

—Letters to Canada and Mexico up 5 cents, to 85 cents.

—International letters up 7 cents, to $1.05.

New domestic retail pricing for Priority Mail Flat Rate products include:

—Small Box – $5.35

—Medium Box – $11.35

—Large Box – $15.45

—Large APO/FPO/DPO Box – $13.45

—Regular Envelope – $5.15

—Large-Size and Padded Envelope – $5.30


My teenage daughter recently received her driver’s license and a new truck.  She has been in need of gas money and has been looking for some extra cash, but finding a job has been hard.  With most adults out of work, it has been difficult to find a part-time job that works with her schedule.  She has began to think “Old School” child labor.

She has asked me to put the word out to family and friends that she will do babysitting or other odd jobs to make some extra cash.  I was thinking back to when we were kids and all the “Odd” jobs we used to have as kids.


Mow Lawns

Rake Leaves

Wash Cars

Shovel Snow

Pull Weeds

Photograph A Party

Walk Dogs


Sell Lemonade


The problem is that most people are now doing these chores themselves and looking to save money any way they can.  How do we teach our children the value of working hard and saving money when it is so difficult to find money……I guess that is the lesson, when you find it you better treasure it.


My kids will never know life without in-car DVD players, video games, and cell phones.  Over the years, technology has quickly evolved and continues to change the way we live our lives.  Todays cell phones are designed to make life easier by allowing us to have a complete computer at our finger tips.  Soon technology will make our lives easier at restaurants via the tablet.

No more going to a restaurant, waiting for a server to order food, having an empty drink, looking for a server to pay your bill, etc.

Imagine sitting at a restaurants without a paper menu.  Each table is equipped with an easy to use ipad that allows you to have everything you need at your fingertips.  Order your food and drinks whenever you are ready, even make special request such as “a salad with dressing on the side”.  When your drink gets low, click for a re-fill and a new drink will be brought right over.  If you would like desert, order what you want and it is on the way.  View and pay your bill whenever you are ready, enter your valet number and your car will be waiting for you, have your receipt emailed to you, etc.   No more struggling to figure out how to split the bill, the system allows you to have several individual bills at the same table.  Having the ipad at each table also allows patrons to use the internet access to work or play while they enjoy their meal.

You won’t have to worry about the waiter asking if you need anything just after you put a huge bite of food in your mouth, the MIA waiter that never refills your drinks, or having to ask someone walking by for your bill.

Unlike standard menus that say 14-ounce steak, customers can see pictures and detailed information including a large description and nutrition information.  Customers like the idea of ordering food that gets sent directly to the kitchen and will have a faster turnaround of food.

Most people see the ipads as a win-win creating happy customers and more profit for owners.  Using the ipads will allow restaurant owners to give customers the dining experience they want and will also have a faster turn around on the tables giving the ability to serve more customers each day.  Restaurant owners using this system hopes that diners will spend more with the ability to view a complete wine list, or build a milkshake from scratch.  Owners also anticipate that diners will come more often if the experience is fast and convenient.  However, some people do fear that the use of the ipad will reduce the need for the number of waiters the restaurant will need to employ.

Fast food chains are also looking forward to introduce electronic ordering kiosks in restaurants.  McDonald’s already uses the kiosks in 800 of its restaurants in Europe and a few other locations.

We already use touch computers to do our banking, pump gas, rent movies, and develop our pictures…

What is next?

Do you like all the advances in technology?


I might be having a social media melt down!  With all the different methods of staying connected with people on the internet it is so hard to keep up.  I have clients and friends that use different ways to stay in touch so I try to stay connected with them all.  If you are using any of these media portholes, feel free to follow me on:



Facebook is probably the largest social media site and a great way to share information to a large group of people.  Facebook was launched in February 2004 with over 600 million active users as of last year  That is about one person for every fourteen in the world.  WOW!  www.facebook.com

TWITTER @realtorcross

Twitter is a social networking and micro blogging service that enables its users to send and read text-based posts of up to 140 characters, informally known as “tweets”.  Twitter started in July 2006 and has over 200 million users.  www.twitter.com


Pinterest is a great site that lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes, save craft ideas for the kids, etc.  Best of all, you can browse pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.  If you have not been on it…..it is a must!!  www.pinterest.com


LinkedIn is a business-oriented social networking site.  The side began in May of 2003, it is mainly used for professional networking.  LinkedIn has more than 75 million registered users, spanning more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. …  www.linkedin.com


A blog is a web site that an individual or group of users record opinions, information, etc. on a regular basis.  My blog has a little bit of everything to keep you informed….  You can COUNT ON CROSS to keep you informed!


Google+ is another social networking platform created by Google to challenge Facebook’s success.  Google+ allows you to share certain things with your “friends” group and other things with the “work” group.  It allows you to choose what information is sent out to what group of people.  www.google.com/+   (sorry I couldn’t get a picture of my page because it has been down a couple of days)




I use my debit card for everything!  Using a debit or credit card is an easy way to spend money without being accountable for the things I am purchasing.  I am going to go retro and only use cash for purchases.  I want to challenge myself over the next few weeks to be more accountable for the money I am spending on a daily basis.  I will still use my debt/bank card for large purchases and to pay monthly bills, but for day-to-day items I will be able to track my spending and see what changes can be made in my habits.

I am also going to use this same process for my daughter who has just received her driver’s license and needs to learn how to save money for gas.  Cash leaves you with no chance to live beyond your means, when the money is gone it is gone.  This process will show her how to save for items she would like but can’t purchase right away.  Having to wait will also take care of impulse purchases and ensure she is really committed to the purchase.

MAKING A CHANGE:  I am going to start each monday morning and have a weekly cash budget for food, groceries, household supplies, entertainment, etc.  I will use paperclips to bundle the money in my wallet so I will be able to quickly see when the cash is getting low.  On the paperclip I am going to have a small piece of paper to track what I am spending.  This will also be a go place to track the money I am saving.  When I decide to take a drink from home instead of stopping at Starbucks that would be at least a $3.00 savings.

GROCERY SHOPPING:  At the grocery store I go through the aisles to find food I might want instead of buying only the food I need.  Having an unlimited” amount to spend, because I just swipe my card allows me to make unnecessary purchases.  If I have of chance of running out of money towards the end of the week I might think twice about purchasing some items.

DON’T BE WASTEFUL:  Many times when I go grocery shopping I might purchase a new bag of chips even though I have a half eaten bag at home.  I am always finding half used bottles of water causing me to have to purchase new ones more often.  Instead of buying new items, I want to make sure our family finishes what we have.  Clipping the chips closed will keep them fresh so my family will complete the bag and allow me to wait longer before I have to purchase a new bag  Leaving a marker next to the bottled water will let the kids decorate their bottles so we will know who they belong to so they can find and finish their drink. (note: the water bottles are from our weekends camping, when we are at home we do have a water jug and don’t use water bottles)

KEEP THE CHANGE:  Using cash will allow me to save money two ways.  I will only use bills to pay for the items I purchase.  At the end of each day I will put all of the coins I collected throughout the day into a savings jar.  Any money left over at the end of the week will also be put into a jar and saved for Christmas shopping.

SAVE ON PURCHASES:  In some cases, having cash can save you money.  Some retailers will give you a discount if you pay with cash.  Shopping around and finding a store that will negotiate with prices can save a great deal of money.  Don’t be afraid to ask everyone if they give a discount for cash and shop around to find the places that do.

LOOSE TRACK AND LOOSE MONEY:  When you use your debit card it is sometimes difficult to keep track of your spending.  Some transactions are removed from your bank account immediately while other items might not show up for days.  With the inconsistency of some purchases, if you are not careful you may over draw your account.  Don’t get stuck pay extortionate overdraft fees.


With the amount of electronics most people have in their homes, it is important to know about e-waste.  When I look around my home I see several televisions, DVD player, computers, printer, cell phones, gaming systems, clock radio, surge protectors, external hard drive, cordless phone, microwave, digital cameras, etc.  Most people know that electronic waste is bad for the environment, but what happens to our old computers, cell phones and televisions when they are recycled?

Unlike aluminum cans made of just one material, electronic devices are constructed with many different materials, so recycling e-waste is a more complex process.  The most important reason to recycle e-waste is to keep these devices from landfills, but the devices can also be used to save costs in manufacturing other materials.

In general, as much as 99 percent of all materials from electronics are reused in a different capacity or sold:

– Small amounts of copper and gold will be sold and then reused in alternative capacities.

– Some plastic, which is already the right grade for electronic devices will be re-used for such

– Materials can be used to manufacture other products such as lighters or wood composites.

– plastic housing is ground into smaller pieces and used as retaining blocks and pothole mix.

– Circuit boards and chips can be reused to repair or upgrade older electronics or recycled for scrap value.


Some electronics may contain up to 8 pounds of lead

Electronics also contain lower levels of mercury, arsenic, cadmium, beryllium and other toxic chemicals.

300 million computers and one billion cell phones are produced every year, with each having an average lifespan of three to five years.

E-waste accounts for approximately 4 percent of the total amount of trash, but it contributes about 40 percent of the lead content in landfills.

E-waste accounts for about 70 percent of the heavy metal pollution in landfills

Make sure when you are upgrading your electronic devices you look for a local e-waste center to recycle your old devices. 


With the way the Real Estate market is today, many of my clients that used to have large homes will save money buying a small home in the same neighborhood.  Also, many families are short selling their homes and finding themselves moving into a new rental home.  Whatever your situation is, it is important to make your home work for your families needs.

Buying a small home can have many advantages and benefits for your family and your pocketbook.

A small home has many advantages over larger homes.  They cost less to purchase and cost less to maintain, but making the transition to smaller square footage can be difficult unless you know how to make every inch count.

The first thing to remember is to be flexible.  Instead of defining every room with a single purpose, allow each are to adapt to your needs and be able to make changes as needed.  Just because your home has a master suite doesn’t mean you are bound to cram three kids into a second bedroom and keep the master for yourself and your spouse.  It could be hard to give up the large bedroom, but giving your children the extra space may mean they now have room for all their toys and they won’t have to have a play area in the living room.

Make things as multi-purpose as possible.  Downsize the amount of food you have in your kitchen pantry and repurpose that space into an intimate library or general utility closet.  A large walk-in closet can hold clothes and serve as your crafting corner.  A breakfast nook in the kitchen can double as an eating area and mini office.

Most homes today have multiple televisions, gaming systems and computer stations.  Scaling back to one TV/entertainment zone can inspire family togetherness and ignite more daily interaction  Another advantage to a smaller home is being able to easily keep an eye on kids, pets and guests.  Since everyone is in close proximity, it is easier to hear what’s going on throughout the house.

Always take advantage of outdoor space.  Even the tiniest patio or private deck can provide extra room for the family to spread out.  Install all-weather curtains or shades to create privacy and lay down a waterproof rug to give it a cozy feel.  A small cafe table is perfect for dining, doing homework, reading or relaxing.

Financially a small home will save you money each month.  A more modest living space equals less energy consumption which equals lower utility bills.

Learning to work with your individual space is a fun challenge.  The more you embrace the livability of your small home, the easier it becomes to see opportunities around every corner.


When your family is home, it is important to have peace of mind in knowing that your loved ones are as safe as they can be.   It is easy to be comfortable in our home and forget some simple things that can help keep your family safe.

1.  Make sure your exterior house numbers are easy to read from the street so emergency crews can find your home.

2. With everyone using cell phones for 99% of calls, it is important to make sure that children know calling 991 from a home phone will provide a faster response than calling from a cell phone.

3.  Check smoke alarms every month and replace batteries once a year.  I know this is really easy and everyone knows to do this, but it is also very easy to forget.

4.  Make sure you also have a Carbon Monoxide detector outside all sleeping areas.  Where I live, this is now a law but it is a good idea for everyone.  Carbon Monoxide is hard to detect until it is too late.

5.  Clean out the dryer vent regularly.  Many home fires are a result of dirty dryer vents.

6.  Make sure you block inappropriate content on the internet to protect your children.  This includes the computer, cable television, Xbox, Playstation, etc. Remind your kids not to talk to strangers online.

7.  Be discreet on your facebook, twitter, etc.  Don’t give out personal information such as your home address, when you will be out-of-town, etc.  This is important to remind your children when they are telling their friends what they are doing.  Teach your children to only post things that they have already done so people don’t always know were they are.

8.  Also remember to lock all doors and windows and to keep some lights on a timer to detour unwanted guests.


I used to see previews of up coming movies and try to decided….to see, or not to see?  Today, instead of asking if I am going to see the movie or not I ask myself if the movie is “theater worthy” or not?


A movie that is worth spending $69.00 to see it now

$42.00 for 4 regular tickets at $10.50ea + $27.00 for popcorn and drinks

* ($14.00ea for 3D movies)  ($15.50ea for Imax 3D movies)


Waiting a month to watch the movie at home for $4.50

$1.00 to rent the movie from redbox + $3.50 for microwave popcorn and sodas

Since our family does a lot of camping, most of the time we opt for the less expensive, wait a month approach.  It is a win, win to save money and have great movies to watch while camping.

I know that some movies are “not the same” unless you watch them on the big screen.  Watching movies like Avatar and Transformers on the big screen does allow you to experience and enjoy the movie differently than watching it at home.  Although today’s home televisions are amazing, the movie theater experience is like nothing at home, unless you are sitting next to the baby that won’t stop crying.

What movies are Theater Worthy to you? 


In today’s tough economic credit market, it’s harder than ever for someone starting out on the road to financial responsibility to establish strong credit.  Knowing how to increase your credit score as well as avoid debt as an adult.  A few key credit facts can go a long way toward helping teens and young adults establish a positive credit history that works in their favor when it’s time to start making big decisions. 

1.  YOU DON’T HAVE TO USE CREDIT CARDS TO START A CREDIT HISTORY:  Most people open a credit card account and vow not to only make a few small purchases to begin a credit history.  In most cases the charges on the card become more frequent and payments are less often and before you know it the card is maxed out.  It is advised to start a credit history with accounts other than credit cards to show your responsible financial behavior.  collaborating with a responsible adult to put another account in a teen’s name, such as a telephone, cable, garbage, or other bills can show a positive credit history.

2.  GO GREEN AND CARRY CASH:  It is really easy to swipe a card every time you make a purchase, but in most cases it is difficult to really know how much money is being spent each day.  When you carry cash, it is easy to see how much money is available until your next payday.  Seeing the cash can help you decide if the purchase is really important and ensure you have the funds available and avoid debt.   

3.  KEEP YOUR CHANGE:  When you are using cash, you have an opportunity to receive change that can be used as a savings.  Decide what works best for you whether it is having a change jar at home that you fill up every night, or it is removing all the dollar bills from your wallet each day and saving them.  Having an extra savings set aside is great for buying something extra or for unforseen expenses. 

4.  AVOID DEPARTMENT STORE CREDIT:  Never sign up for a department store credit card.  They catch you when you are reaching for your wallet, stressed about spending money and offer you a great deal.  They offer you a discount on your purchase just for opening an account.  They do this because they know they will make a lot more on fees and finance charges when you charge your purchase.  In most cases the department store finance charges are way higher than a regular Visa or MasterCard.

5.  GROW INTO A CREDIT CARD:  If you would like to get your child ready for a credit card, think baby steps.  Start with a pre-paid card that allows them to spend only the money that has been put on the card in advance.  Next open a checking account that allows them to use a debit card.  Make sure to remind them to only spend money that has been deposited in advance and avoid overdraft fees.  When they are ready for a credit card, start with a low limit low fee card to be used for small purchases and paid each month.

It is very smart to have the credit talk with your kids often.  More than 80% of graduating college seniors have credit card debt before they even have a job.  With the job market as tight as it is today, they may not have a way to repay their debts after graduation.  Make sure your children start early and have the knowledge they need to avoid credit pitfalls.


IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED….. destroy all evidence you ever tried

Many of my clients are frustrated and discouraged about the state of our economy and their personal situations.  My family laughs that I am always a “glass half full person” and try to always find the light at the end of the tunnel.  So I thought today I would share some evidence of successful people throughout history that hit bottom just before soaring to the top.  It is always important to learn from your mistakes and failures only to use it to your advantage.  Instead of saying NEVER TRY, NEVER FAIL….. think about the success you might find after you fail…..

HENRY FORD (FORD MOTOR COMPANY):  Fords early businesses failed and left him broke five times before he founded the successful Ford Motor Company.

SOICHIRO HONDA (HONDA):  Honda was turned down by Toyota Motor Corporation for a job after interviewing for a job as an engineer, leaving him jobless for quite some time. He started making scooters of his own at home, and spurred on by his neighbors, finally started his own business.

AKIO MORITA (SONY):  Sony’s first product was a rice cooker that unfortunately didn’t cook rice, just burnt it, selling less than 100 units. This first setback didn’t stop Morita and his partners as they pushed forward to create a multi-billion dollar company.

BILL GATES (MICROSOFT):  Gates dropping out of Harvard and starting a failed first business with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen called Traf-O-Data. While this early idea didn’t work, Gates’ later work did, creating the global empire that is Microsoft.

MICHAEL JORDAN:  Most people wouldn’t believe that a man often lauded as the best basketball player of all time was actually cut from his high school basketball team. Luckily, Jordan didn’t let this setback stop him from playing the game and he has stated, “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

BABE RUTH:  You probably know Babe Ruth because of his home run record (714 during his career), but along with all those home runs came a pretty hefty amount of strikeouts as well (1,330 in all). In fact, for decades he held the record for strikeouts. When asked about this he simply said, “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”

HARLAND DAVID SANDERS (COLENEL SANDERS):  Perhaps better known as Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame, Sanders had a hard time selling his chicken at first. In fact, his famous secret chicken recipe was rejected 1,009 times before a restaurant accepted it.

WALT DISNEY:  Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because, “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” After that, Disney started a number of businesses that didn’t last too long and ended with bankruptcy and failure. He kept plugging along, however, and eventually found a recipe for success that worked.

ALBERT EINSTEIN:  Most of us take Einstein’s name as synonymous with genius, but he didn’t always show such promise. Einstein did not speak until he was four and did not read until he was seven, causing his teachers and parents to think he was mentally handicapped, slow and anti-social. Eventually, he was expelled from school and was refused admittance to the Zurich Polytechnic School. It might have taken him a bit longer, but he caught on pretty well in the end, winning the Nobel Prize and changing the face of modern physics.

THOMAS EDISON:  In his early years, teachers told Edison he was “too stupid to learn anything.” Work was no better, as he was fired from his first two jobs for not being productive enough. Even as an inventor, Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. Of course, all those unsuccessful attempts finally resulted in a design that worked.

FRED ASTAIRE:  In his first screen test, the testing director of MGM noted that Astaire, “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.” Astaire went on to become an incredibly successful actor, singer and dancer and kept that note in his Beverly Hills home to remind him of where he came from.

SIDNEY POITIER:  After his first audition, Poitier was told by the casting director, “Why don’t you stop wasting people’s time and go out and become a dishwasher or something?” Poitier vowed to show him that he could make it, going on to win an Oscar and become one of the most well-regarded actors in the business.

THEODOR SEUSS GIESEL:  Today nearly every child has read The Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham, yet 27 different publishers rejected Dr. Seuss’s first book To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.

STEPHEN KING:  The first book by this author, the iconic thriller Carrie, received 30 rejections, finally causing King to give up and throw it in the trash. His wife fished it out and encouraged him to resubmit it, and the rest is history.

ELVIS PRESLEY:   But back in 1954, Elvis was still a nobody, and Jimmy Denny, manager of the Grand Ole Opry, fired Elvis Presley after just one performance telling him, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.”

THE BEATLES:  When the Beatles were just starting out, a recording company told them no. They were told “we don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out,” two things the rest of the world couldn’t have disagreed with more.


If you are looking for easy cooking ideas, single pot cleanup, and cutting your food and energy costs with low heat cooking, then IT IS TIME TO DUST OFF YOUR RETRO 1970’s SLOW COOKER and save yourself time and money.  As advertised…..this Rival Crock-Pot is “The Working Woman’s Dream!”  Although you probably can’t purchase one for $14.77 anymore, if used right it is well worth the expense.

Save Time:

Using a slow cooker is very easy to do….just layer your food and forget it.  It is not only hands free cooking, it is eyes free cooking.  You don’t have to stand around and monitor the food because there is no boiling over or burning.  You can spend more time with your family and friends and several hours later the food is done and  ready to eat.

Slow cookers allow you to make a meal for the entire family in one dish.  You will not be in the kitchen all night cleaning several pots and pans, one pot and your done.  Remove the slow cook insert, give it a good soak and it will clean right up.

Save Money:

When you use a slow cooker for 7 hours you will use over 50% less energy than using your stove for 1 hour.  This will translate to a lower energy bill and more money in your pocket.

When using a slow cooker, you can buy a cheaper cut of meat.  Because you will be cooking the meat over a low heat for a longer time, the meat tenderizes and will make great stews and soups.

Buy a larger cut of meat and make several meals in one.  (chicken breast for dinner, chicken noodle soup for lunch, chicken tacos the next day) or (pork roast dinner, pulled pork sandwiches for lunch, and soup the next day) etc.

I love getting up in the morning, and putting all of my ingredients into the slow cooker and heading out for my day.  When I return home in the evening, the house smells fabulous, and dinner is ready to put on the table.  Using a Crock Pot or Slow Cooker is a smart choice for many different reasons.


My families favorite recipe is: Roast

  • Place 1/2 (large can) cream of mushroom soup in bottom of slow cooker
  • Salt and pepper large roast and place in pan
  • Cut 1 onion into strips and spread over roast
  • Peal and cut carrots and place in slow cooker
  • Peel and chop potatoes into quarters
  • Add the remaining cream of mushroom soup and a little water
  • Cook all day and enjoy!


My son and I went to the County Fair this weekend and I found myself very concerned about the cows.  It started off very fun when we saw the biggest cow I had ever seen, I wasn’t even sure if it was a cow.  I asked the girl grooming him if it was a cow and she said it was a STEER (a castrated male cow).  It was so big because it had been raised since birth for meat and it was up for auction later at the fair.

We continued inside the fair and looked at the pigs, sheep, and goats.  We pet the animals and walked down until we got to more cows, but these cows looked completely different from the ones we had just seen.  They were soooo skinny I couldn’t believe it.  I think we were able to see every bone and I had to ask the girl “why are these cows so skinny?”  She told me that they were dairy cows and all of their vitamins go directly into the milk and that they were also going to be up for auction.

What a difference in the two cows, the way they are raised, and the food they eat.  I know that cows are used for dairy and meat, but I never know that they are cared for differently depending on what they will be used for.  I always thought that cows eat hay and grass and you get what you get, but it looks like a lot more is put into the art of breeding the perfect cow.

It takes around 3,000 cows to supply the 22,000 footballs, the NFL uses every season.

A boy cow is a BULL, and “altered” boy cow is a STEER.

A cow can’t vomit.

Cows give 60 lb. of milk a day.

There are more than 800,000 cows producing milk in California.

Cattle outnumber humans in 9 states: Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Wyoming.

It takes a cow 283 days to give birth once it is bred.

Beef is the number one source of zinc in the human diet in the United States.

No two cows have exactly the same pattern of spots.

The cow must be a mother before she will produce milk.

A cow that weighs 1000 pound can produce an average 10 tons of manure every year.

An average cow produces 30 lbs of urine and 65 lbs pounds of feces daily.

A newborn Holstein calf weighs about 100 pounds and can walk within one hour after birth!

Cows live to on average 6 to 7 years.

The oldest cow till date was Big Bertha, which died just 3 months shy of her 49th birthday.

A cow spends 13 hours a day lying down and up to 8 hours a day eating.

A cow gives in her lifetime enough milk to fill 200,000 glasses, and gives 18,000 lb. of milk every year.

It is possible to lead a cow upstairs but not downstairs, because a cows’ knees can’t bend properly to walk back down.



This last week my son had a dirt bike race in Washington and we traveled 12 hours to get to the event and camped for the week with friends.  (see more about the trip at www.hcrproducts.com on my son’s racing blog)

While camping we got into a conversation about my daughter’s new cell phone.  A friend of ours was giving me a hard time for making my daughter put an otter box cover on her iphone.  He told me that it was borderline abuse to have my teenage daughter have such a large phone.  Since my daughter and I just had a huge disagreement the day before over the use of the case, he was not helping me at all.  Having purchased my iphone three years ago and dropped it many times, I am convinced that the otter box is necessary for my daughter so she won’t break her phone.  Lets face it…..it’s not like I bought her a huge Motorola brick phone….it’s an iphone in a cute pink case.  Is that so bad?

He kept insisting that I had “ruined the iphone” by putting such a large case on it and that her friends will make fun of her when she goes back to school.  He thought I should just wrap the phone in bubble wrap to make sure it stays safe.  Of course my daughter was thrilled that he would maybe talk me out of making her use the phone case, but no such luck.  I am thinking when she can afford to replace it, then she can take care of it as she wishes.

I started thinking about all the different phones I have had over the years and how far our cell phone technology has come.  Remember Michael Douglas in the movie Wall Street using his Motorola DynaTAC.  Since 1983 many different phone styles have come out and new functions were continually being added…what will they think of next?

The original Motorola cell phone was a little to big to fit into a pocket and over the years the sizes have gotten smaller and smaller.  The technology and ability of the phones has also changed over the years.  The phones began to flip close and slide open.  You were able to not only call someone, but send them a message via text.  The screen went from black and white to full color and touch screens.  You could use your phone to take a picture or to surf the web.  You could listen to music while checking your email or talk on the phone while you watch a movie.  Instead of calling someone, now you can see them with the video phones.


200,ooo,ooo,ooo,ooo (two hundred trillion) text messages are received in America every day……that is more than an entire years worth of regular mail received in America.

The average teen sends 3339 text messages each month

42% of teens can text message blindfolded

Texting is the #2 use of cellphones….#1 is checking the time

In 2010 Americans spent $42.8 million on cell phones

In 2009 300 million mobile apps were downloaded…In 2010 5 billion mobile apps were downloaded.

There is more than 3.3 billion active mobile phones in the world.  (equal to half of the entire world population)

People throw away more than 125 million cell phones each year.

Two thirds of mobile phone users use the backlight of their phone as a flash light.



My son has my phone over loaded with apps that he keeps finding.  He is allowed to only get the free apps of course.  He recently found one that was fun for us both and kinda goes along with my blog.  The app basically gives random fun facts, which I love!


-Wow… forget about hoping my kids become a doctor…


-Can’t wait to try this one!




-Very good to know right?


-I love this one.  Because I do so much outside, I hate when the weather is wrong.  The other day the weather man said “Mostly sunny with some clouds and a chance of rain.”  What?  I think he covered everything….maybe just say “we have no idea!”


-Television shows have come a long way since then

To be continued…..


Despite all the doom-and-gloom reporting, not every homeowner in the U.S. has negative equity right now. And with interest rates still hovering near record lows, those with equity are likely asking themselves whether it’s a good time to refinance. Well, is it? Let’s take a look:

Average interest rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages fell to 4.51% a week ago (according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s latest survey), the lowest level since last fall.

The average outstanding home loan carries an interest rate of about 6% (Freddie Mac’s Chief Economist Frank Nothaft told The New York Times last week).

So if you took advantage of low rates last fall or in 2009, you probably won’t see much savings by refinancing now. But if you haven’t yet refinanced since 2008, you might want to check in and see what kind of savings refinancing might afford you.

Cashing out: What’s enough equity?

Refinancing used to almost always mean the owner was taking some cash out in the process. That’s because values had climbed pretty steadily (and steeply in many areas) for several years in a row – so most homeowners could afford to cash out to maybe send their kid to college, work on a new addition to the house or remodel. But today, the story is much different.

Even if you have equity, it may not have climbed enough for cashing out to make sense. In fact, the NYT reports that some owners are even putting cash in to up the equity on their homes.

So what’s enough equity by today’s standards? Times have changed and 20% is once again a magic number. Many lenders aren’t even going to allow you to cash out if it means dipping below that.

Refinance options for the equity starved….. OK, but what if  you have less than that? Can you still refinance to take advantage of low rates?

The good news is that there are some programs out there that may make this possible. If you have little or no equity, you can ask your lender about the Home Affordable Refinance Program. If you have an FHA loan, you can check out FHA Streamline Finance, which may make sense for you.

So even if your equity is pretty low, there are options. Point is, with rates this low, it’s a good time to sit down and discuss whether refinancing would improve your loan situation. We all know that rates are fleeting and what’s here today may be gone tomorrow.

As a Realtor we can help you find a lender that can help you make the best decision for you!


The kids are out of school and the weather is heating up, but I don’t want to spend a lot of money to keep them entertained.  Try to look for ways to keep them active the “old school” way and also a few new ideas.  Below is a few of the activities that can help you save some money this summer. 

Free Behind The Scenes Tours:  What’s it like to work at a TV station? How does the mail get from point A to point B? Let the kids take a behind the scenes tour to find out. You can tour many places simply by asking. Be creative when choosing locations to visit. If your kids are interested in animals, tour a veterinary hospital. If they like baseball, set up a tour at your local stadium.  Get a group of kids and parents together and make your own free field trip.  (think:  movie theatres, restaurants, bowling alley, police stations, etc)

Free Building Workshops:  Some home improvement stores offer free building workshops that help kids build everything from a bird house to a miniature school house. Kids get free aprons, goggles and the required tools and supplies to build their own project with the help of the store’s employees.  The most popular kids workshops are through Home Depot and Lowe’s. Home Depot’s kids workshop is usually the first Saturday of the month and the Lowe’s Build and Grow clinics are usually every Saturday.

Go To A Free Movies:  Check your local movie theatres…Many movie theaters offer summer movie programs that are free (or maybe cost $1.00). The movies are often on weekday mornings, and typically are movies that are a bit older, perhaps last year’s hits. However, there are usually movies offered some days for small children, and other days for older children. Popcorn and soda may even be discounted during these special showings.  Not all theaters participate, but it’s definitely worth looking into in your area!

Rent A Free Movie:  Redbox is offering a free movie code on the first Monday of the month throughout the summer.  Regular price is just $1!

Vacation Bible School:  Churches hold Vacation Bible School as an outreach of their ministries.  Members of the church as well as non-members are invited for a free week of fun.  Kids sing songs, learn Bible lessons, make friends, create crafts, perform in skits and learn how to treat others, among other valuable lessons.  Each church has its own age guidelines but 3 and up usually benefit the most from Vacation Bible School.  The older kids can volunteer to help and still be a part of the fun.

Library Events:  The library is an excellent venue for story time. But did you know there are even more activities for kids at the library that won’t get them shushed? Most libraries offer free summer reading programs. Kids sign up to read a certain amount of books over the summer. The library than awards prizes and holds a party for the eager readers at the end of the reading program.  Check your local library for all the events they offer over the summer.

Free Arts and Crafts at Museums:  Introduce art appreciation at a young age. Museums are reaching out to future artists through free kids’ programs that encourage them to create their own works of art.  Story time ties book illustrations into the art you find in the museum. Kids enjoy craft time, paint, use clay and a variety of other mediums to enrich their art experience.  Check your local museums for more information.

Free Bowling:  Check your local bowling alleys…. most locations offer up to two free games of bowling every day of the summer.

Enjoy The Outdoors:  Go for a bike ride together, draw with sidewalk chalk, play in the garden hose, plant flowers, go fishing and take advantage of the beautiful weather. Kids love playing outside, and it can be fun for the whole family. Just make sure to use sunscreen, and take along some bug spray

Camp Out In Your Backyard:  Do you have a tent? Why not put it up in your backyard and go backyard camping one evening? Try building a fire in a fire pit and roasting marshmallows or making s’mores or grill hotdogs. If you feel like you don’t have the place in your own yard to do these things, consider asking a friend who may have a better area if you can use their yard to camp out. They may even want to join you, making the experience all the more fun.

Camping Fun:  Free family activities at Bass Pro Shop– On Saturdays and Sunday through July 5th, from Noon – 6 pm you and your family can enjoy their laser shooting gallery, shooting range, s’mores cookout, crafts, and more completely FREE!

State or Craft Fair:  Most fares are usually free and provide hours of entertainment.  Check your local State Fair or for and Arts and Craft Fair.

Be a Tourist In Your Own Town:  Check out local free attraction in your area and learn about your community.

Free Local Community Events:  Check your local paper or community calendar…Most communities offer free concerts and community events.

Get Wet:  Play with a garden hose, run through sprinklers, or get a squirt gun to cool off.

Window Shopping:  Go to a mall for some window shopping and free air conditioning.

Free Museums and Parks:

  1. Get free general admission to participating museums, zoos, science centers, botanical gardens and more on the first full weekend of every month just by presenting your Bank of America card.
  2. Target is sponsoring free museum admission and more this summer throughout the US
  3. Many National Parks offer fee-free weekends this summer to more than 100 National Parks that usually charge entrance fees.

Sports:  If you love baseball, but can’t afford the major league prices?  Find a minor league game.

A Day At The Park:  Make a local park passport and each day attend a different park.  Grade all the different parks and find a new favorite place to play.

Beach or Lake Fun:  Call up some friends or take the family to a local beach or lake for a free day of fun.

Hiking or Biking:  Most areas have local trails or green belts to explore.

Plan a Pot Luck BBQ or Pool Party:  Set a theme….Invite friends….Let each person bring a different food and drink for everyone to enjoy.

This summer try to keep the family busy and save money at the same time.  Try to find creative ways to make the ordinary free activities fun.

BUY USED AND SAVE MONEY . . what will you find?

Over the years we have become a society that buys items, uses them for a while, and then gets ride of them or upgrades to the next big thing.  Today people are juggling purchasing wanted items with the need to cut back spending.

Some items are better used than new and you can save yourself some cash.  Most times we can buy better quality merchandise used than we could have afforded new.  Some items are not used often enough when purchased to affect the quality of the product.  You are not always able to find exactly what you are looking for when you buy used, but you may also find the unusual item that you will treasure.  Consider buying these items used and save yourself some hard-earned cash: 

FURNITURE:  Estate sales, garage sales, and second-hand stores are great places to pick up used furniture.  It may take you some time to find what you are looking for, but furniture is a huge expense and a place to save a lot of money.  I collect antiques and I purchased all of my “one of a kind, antique” bedroom furniture from second-hand stores.  The pieces don’t match, but they are all cherry wood and I love that they have a ton of detail, style, and character.  I could have never found anything like this new and the price didn’t break the bank.

DVD’s and VIDEO GAMES:  Many times when we buy a new DVD we watch once, maybe two or three times and then it sits in the cabinet with the other 100 DVD’s we have.  Now we use the $1.00 movie boxes to rent new movies, but sometimes we find one that we must have.  If you buy DVD’s used for your local video store, thrift store, or garage sale you can save 50-90%.  If you are worried about disc scratches, your local video store will give you a money back guarantee.  Most game stores will allow you to sell your old games to them allowing you to exchange games for little to no cost.

CLOTHES:  Most clothing items either go out of style, fall apart, or no longer fit, so why buy brand new?  Places like Plato’s closet and second-hand stores sell gently used, name brand clothes for a fraction of the price in the department stores.  It takes time to look through racks, but you never know what you might find.

TOOLS:  Good quality tools can last for many, many years.  Why buy something in the store for $50 when you can probably find it at a garage sale for less than $5.  Unless you use tools for your occupation, used tools are usually a reasonable and less expensive option.

BOOKS:  Buying books used from places like Amazon.com can save you over 75% even after you pay shipping.  Shopping at garage sales for books you may like is a cheap way to stock up without spending a ton of money. 

Cutting back and buying used can be done many different ways.  The above ideas are just the tip of the iceberg, so when you NEED something, try to find it used to help save your family some money. 

When you are shopping for great deals…..you never know what you might find…..




After a post I did a few weeks ago ARE YOU 70% OF AMERICA? detailing that 70% of America live paycheck to paycheck.  I was wondering how prepared people are for unexpected expenses.  A major expense that can really hurt a household is automotive repairs.  My husband is a mechanic and he is always approached by friends and neighbors looking for car advice.

When the “Check Engine” light comes on in your car, it can be very scary.  When that little light comes on it can be something simple or a repair that can cost you over thousands of dollars.  The questions is…..How do you know what the light means?  Just taking the car into the shop to find out what the light means can cost a pretty penny.

THINK FREE!  Before you take your car into your local dealer to find out what to do with the “Check Engine” light, consider all your options.  Your local parts store such as Autozone or Kragen often offer a free diagnostic check of your vehicle.  The systems from the local parts store may not have as significant equipment as your car dealer, but they can usually help determine what is wrong with the car.  This free option is definitely worth a try and a great way to start.    

Once you know what is wrong with your car, consider taking it to a smaller local mechanic instead of a large dealership.  Use the information provided by the free diagnostic center to contact local mechanics and ask how much they charge to repair the problem.  Let them know that you are calling around for estimates because some shops may do the work at a reduced rate just to get your business.

In some cases you may be able to save money buying the parts yourself.  Some shops may charge an hourly rate and mark up the parts as well to make a little extra money.  If a local shop will charge you by the hour and you can purchase your parts from the local auto store or on-line, and pay the shop for only the hourly rate to fix the car.  Make sure to get an estimate of how long the job takes in advance. 

When possible, save money and purchase used parts.  Don’t get me wrong, it is important to used new parts in most cases when repairing your car…..but sometimes you can cut corners.  If you need a new head light, door handle, bumper, or non-mechanic part consider a salvage yard or used part dealers. 

Some small jobs can be done at home.  Not everyone is handy with automotive repairs, and some vehicles have computers, hard to get to engines, or require special tools to fix most problems.  If you are a little handy and you know what is wrong with your car, sometimes you can look on-line and watch videos on youtube that will walk you through fixing your own car.  It is not recommended to have an unlicensed repair person fix safety elements of your vehicle such as brakes, steering, etc.  If you need to replace the spark plugs, look on-line to see if it is something you might be able to do yourself.

Don’t forget preventative maintenance!  To avoid often expensive trips to the mechanic, try to follow the scheduled maintenance plan that is suggested for your car as outlined in your owner’s manual.  preventative maintenance can save you money throughout the life of your car.

  • 1902 the first speeding ticket was issued.
  • 1916 55% of cars in the world were Model T Fords.
  • 1922 the first gas gauge appeared in cars
  • 1929 the first car radio was invented
  • 1938 Buick introduced the electric turn signal
  • 2002 SUV’s accounted for 30% of all cars sold



A rainbow occurs when sun is behind us and shines into the rain in front of us.  When the light reflects off the water it acts as a prism and the rainbow is created.  As you drive closer to the end of the rainbow, you also get further away from the pot of gold.  As you drive towards a rainbow, it keeps moving further away so finding the pot of gold at the end of it is not a reality.  It is important to make your own pot of gold by saving your monthly income any way you can…. avoid spending extra money at the grocery store.

Save money at the grocery store by passing the bakery section.  If you bake your own pastries, cakes, pies, cookies, etc., instead of purchasing them pre-made in the store, you will have better control of the ingredients you are putting in your body and have money left over in your wallet.  Baking a cake will make your house smell wonderful and is a lot cheaper than a store-bought pre-made cake.

This is also true for ready-made meals for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  It is very convenient to buy the pre-packaged, ready-made meals and deserts, but in most cases these items can come at a high cost.  In preparing these foods you will be able to adapt the ingredients to your diet and taste as well as save money.

It is a good idea to buy in bulk and make large quantities of your favorite meals.  You can then freeze these meals for low-cost pre-package convenience later. 

I try to take an average desert and make it fun for everyone.  My kids loved my rainbow cupcakes.  I took regular yellow cake mix and added food color to make rainbow layers.  (purple, green, blue,  yellow, orange, red)

Bake, cool, frost and enjoy!


Approximately 242 million tires are discarded annually in the United States. Some of these tires will be stock piled and illegally disposed of ending up in our landfills.  Tires can be recycled many different ways, makin fuel and saving our landfills, roads, children, etc.  I was surprised at the different ways tires are recycled at my local recycle station. 

They are first sent to a tire dismantler to remove the rims from the wheels.  Tires that can be rethreated and reused are.  The remaining scrap tires are sent to a facility for shredding.  A large magnet called a crum will pass over the tire scraps to remove any left over steel. 

Some of the remaining rubber is then ground again, colored and used to cover playgrounds and horse arenas.

Another common use for the recycled rubber is to combine it with asphalt to make roads.  Over the past years, California has used over 10 million waste tires in Rubberized Asphalt Concrete (RAC) paving projects.


Tires cannot just be thrown in the garbage, and your local dump will most likely charge for your tire trash.  When you purchase new tires, make sure you ask if they will dispose of your old tires for you.  This will save you money and ensure the tires will end up in the proper recycle facility.

DON’T TRASH OUR FUTURE – Even SpongeBob Recycles

Your never to young to recycle, and it’s important to educate our children and explain to them that the earth is their home and we have to do what we can to take care of it and respect it.  Use examples like: writing paper, paper plates, and paper bags are made from trees.  Let them know that when we recycle paper products, they can be reused and a tree is saved.


Start by explaining that there are three key ways to help the earth.   Teach your kids about the three R’s, Reduce-Reuse-Recycle:

  • reduce: this means cutting back on the amount of waste used in everyday life. For example, reduce waste by teaching kids to use canvas bags at the grocery store instead of plastic bags, don’t waste water, etc.
  • reuse: reuse an existing item in your household in order to minimize waste. For example, reuse gift bags to cut down on paper waste or decorate cans or jars with stickers or glitter to create a unique pencil holder.
  • recycle: recycling means when an object can be shredded, melted, or processed in order to create new raw materials; for instance, an aluminum can, paper and cardboard can be used to create new products


  • First teach the kids what items can be re-used at home for notes, crafts, etc and which items are trash.
  • Then show your kids how waste needs to be sorted to be properly recycled.  Have separate bins for plastic, plastic, glass, paper products, etc.  Most kids will love to be in charge of recycling at home.  Have them make signs for the garbage cans that designate what goes where.  Let them monitor everyone’s recycling habits.
  • Teach by example.  Make sure you practice what you preach and that you do all you can to set a good example for the kids.
  • After the cans, bottles, etc are collected, take your kids to the recycling center to exchange them for money.  Money is a great motivator and they will also be proud they are doing good for the environment.
  • Have your children grow a vegetable garden. Explain to them that by growing their own garden they are saving on the packaging used to buy those vegetables at the grocery stores
  • Organize a nature walk through the neighborhood or park and help your kids collect recyclable litter to help clean around your home.
  • Donating unused items instead of disposing of them is a great way to recycle and help others at the same time.

It is important to start simple and fun.

Previous recycle tips can be found here at Don\’t Trash Our Future (Part 1)

On a personal note…..since I spoke with my youngest child (now 8 years old) about recycling, he has changed the way the whole family recycles.  He is so excited to put a new can or water bottle in the bin that we all now look for them while we are out.  I don’t think we ever really realized how much garbage you could bring home to recycle.  And in today’s economy, the extra cash is an added plus.  🙂


Paying your bills is the easiest way to save money.  Every year people give away hundreds or thousands of dollars on late fees.  If you are juggling your money, or just forget bills are due, it is important to have a system to ensure on time payments.

Here are some tips to make the bill-paying process a little easier:

Reduce your intake:  Cancel services and subscriptions you no longer use or value and consolidate services whenever possible.  Cutting down on the amount of bills received will make it easier for you to manage what you do receive.

Take a few minutes:  Process your mail as soon as you get it.  When you bring in your mail take a few minutes to open each piece and put it in correct stacks.  Recycle the junk mail, shred credit card offers, stack magazines, and prepare bills to be paid.  Lable your bills:  Once you are aware of a bill, you can write the amount and the date the payment is due on the front of the envelope so it will be easy to see quickly.  Put everything in it’s place:  Have a distinctive place set aside for your bills.  Have a box, bin, envelope, etc for bills that are to be paid.  For extra organization, they can be filed in the order of the date they are due.

Stay on top of your dates:  At a minimum, go through your bills weekly to ensure you don’t forget about a bill.

Pay online:  Nearly every major utility and bank offers the ability to pay your bills via the web, or you can use your banks automatic bill payment process.  This is a great way to set up an automatic payment to be delivered before the date they are due.  Prepay your bills:  If you are really forgetful or going out of town, pay extra the month before.  It is ok to pay a month early to ensure things are taken care of and you avoid late fees.

File:  After bills have been paid be sure to put them in a paid file.  It is a good idea to file according to the type of bill, (insurance, utilities, credit cards, mortgage, etc.) or per month (Jan, Feb, Mar, etc.)  This will allow you to retrieve payment information if needed later and have everything in order for end of the year taxes.

You will also want to review your bills to ensure that they are correct and that last months payments were applied correctly.  Finding errors can be an added savings.  Always make sure you have funds in your account when making payments.  Using over-draft on your account will charge you additional fees that can add up quickly.  Some bills do not send out regular reminders, so it is important to keep a list of those bills.  Make sure you know when these bills are do and either set up an automatic payment through your bank, mark you calendar, or put it on an electronic calendar reminder.  Paying your bills on-time will save you monthly late fees and will help your credit as well. 


This is part 1 of an ongoing series providing information, tools, tips, facts, secrets, ideas, and more.  I will cover the different ways we can do more to recycle in our homes and offices, where our garbage goes, the recycling process, different ways we can all go green, how recycling helps, and much, much more. 


Recycling is the process of turning one products useful parts into a new product.  It is true that recycling reduces the need for landfills, but it does much more than that.  By recycling, you are conserving natural resources like trees, metal, minerals, oil, water, etc.  This also reduces the amount of pollution and greenhouse gases released into the environment and conserves energy. 

As you know I am a big fan of “fun facts.”  I have put together a few NOT so fun facts to get this series started:

  • The average American uses about the equivalent of one 100-foot-tall Douglas fir-tree in paper and wood products each year.
  • Approximately 1 billion trees worth of paper are thrown away every year in the U.S.
  • Recycling a four-foot stack of newspapers saves the equivalent of one 40-foot fir-tree.
  • If only 100,000 people stopped their junk mail, we could save up to 150,000 trees annually.
  • Making paper from recycled material uses 60% less energy than making virgin paper.
  • The average American throws out about 61 lbs of tin cans every month.
  • Americans throw away enough aluminum every month to rebuild our entire commercial air fleet.
  • Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a 100-watt bulb for 20 hours, a computer for 3 hours, or a TV for 2 hours.
  • An aluminum can recycled today will be back on the grocery shelf in about 60 days.
  • If we recycled all of our aluminum cans for one year, we could save enough energy to light Washington, D.C. for 3.7 years.
  • Every year we make enough plastic film to shrink-wrap Texas.
  • The average American uses approximately 1 billion shopping bags, creating 300,000 tons of landfill waste.
  • In a lifetime, the average American will throw away 600 times his/her adult weight in garbage. 
  • Motor oil never wears out; it just gets dirty. Oil can be recycled, re-refined and used again, reducing our reliance on imported oil.
  • Each year American throw away 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam cups, enough every year to circle the earth 436 times.
  • A full bath tub requires about 70 gallons of water, while taking a five-minute shower uses only 10-25 gallons of water.
  • A microwave oven uses about 50 percent less energy than a conventional oven.
  • An estimated 80 million Hershey’s Kisses are wrapped each day, using enough aluminum foil to cover over 50 acres of space.  Most of that foil goes into the trash.
  • A typical family consumes 182 gallons of soda, 29 gallons of juice, 104 gallons of milk, and 26 gallons of bottled water a year.  Most of these containers end up in landfills.

To be continued……

DON\’T TRASH OUR FUTURE – Even Sponge Bob Recycles


70% of americans in 2010 live paycheck to paycheck!

What side of the pie are you on?

WOW….that is a huge number!  There are many things you could do to stretch your paycheck a little further.  Most people are so set in their spending habits and think that they have already cut as much as they can.  Even if this is true, it is always a good idea to periodically evaluate your spending habits to see what changes can be made.  It is important to find a few things that might work for you to help limit the amount of monthly money you spend.  Sacrifice is never easy and many times people think “it’s only a couple of dollars, it won’t change the big picture.”  The idea is a few small changes could add up to big savings.

THINK OLD SCHOOL AT THE GROCERY STORE:  Many times we buy individual size snacks, pre-packaged salads, already grated cheese, or on the go meals because they are quick and easy.  You could save up to 75% by preparing your own food.  Buy regular or bulk size items and make your own snacks, grate your own cheese, cut your own lettuce, and bake your own pastries.  Buying food that is in season and discounted will also help (see my post from 02-02-11 FRUITS AND VEGETABLE HARVEST SCHEDULE.)  Start growing your own garden.

BE PATIENT:  It is a documented fact that prices come down considerably once new products have been on the market for a while.  Whether it is a new tech gadget, a car, the hottest toy or a new clothing trend, be patient.  Waiting allows time for other companies to release competitive products, the supply catches up with the demand, or for the surplus to go on sale.

WATCH WHAT YOU DRINK:  Drinking soda, coffee and energy drinks is not great for your body or your wallet.  Water is always the best choice.  With over 2/3 of the world covered in water, this is another way to stretch your paycheck.  It is really easy to purchase a bottle of water on the go, but $1-2 each day can add up.  Purchasing a re-usable bottle and taking your water from home is an easy way to save.  If you must have soda or energy drinks, buy in bulk and try not to purchase just one at the store.  If you can’t get through the day without coffee, try to make it at home.  Buying a pound of gourmet coffee and making it at home could cost you about 20 cents……how much did you pay for your coffee today?

DON’T BE LATE:  Paying late fees, overdraft fees, or bank fees can drain your bank account fast.  Paying a credit card late can cost you additional money each month, try to set up automatic payments for your bills to avoid late fees.  Keep an eye on your bank statement and avoid overspending.  Overdraft fees can add up really fast.  Avoid Non Bank ATM machines.  ATM convenience fees cost $2.00 and in most cases your bank will tack on an additional $2.50 charge making your $20 withdrawal cost up to $4.50.  These fees can add up and in most cases you can get cash back for free from places like the grocery stores, etc.  Plan in advance to avoid “convenience” machine traps.

WHAT’S IN A NAME:  With most items there is really no difference between high price name bands and the cheaper version besides packaging and price.  Look for the less expensive brand of the things you use like shampoo, soap, paper towels, food, clothes, etc.   Buying off brand items when they are on sale could save you a load of money.  If it looks, tastes, smells, or works the same give it a try.

ENTERTAIN YOUR WALLET:  Try to avoid entertainment pitfalls.  Wether you enjoy seeing a movie, reading books or listing to music, try to think cheaper.  Instead of taking the family to the local movie theatre with high price tickets and food, try to stay in.  Using on-demand, Netflicks, or redbox could cost you only a couple bucks for the same movie a month later.  Avoid buying new music Cd’s and try to download individual songs you like.  Instead of buying a new best-selling novel, visit your local library and check out books for free. 

Practical ways to spend your money, how to pay bills on time, and more still to come…..


This post has been written from my personal kitchen frustrations….I hate having my hands smell like onions, I don’t understand why my bananas ripen so quickly, or how to avoid having a pot of water boil over.  I was surprised with a few of these tips and hope they might help you in your kitchen.


  • Don’t store bananas in a bunch, a bag, or in a fruit bowl with other fruits.  Use a wooden banana stand to hang the fruit or separate your bananas and place each in a different location.  bananas release gases which cause fruits and other bananas to ripen quickly
  • Don’t store bananas next to other fruits
  • Do not put them in direct sunlight, the will ripen quicker
  • Putting bananas in the fridge as they will go black and lose their nutritional value
  • You can freeze a banana if it becomes overripe and use it for cooking later on
  • ripen most fruits and avocado’s by putting them in a brown paper bag with a ripe banana


  • If you need only half an onion, save the root half, it will last longer
  • Wrap the onion individually in a newspaper and store in a cool and dark place to keep them fresh longer
  • Garlic skin comes off easily if the garlic cloves are slightly warmed before peeling

To avoid crying:

  • Freeze your onion for twenty minutes before cutting
  • Cut the onions into two parts and place them in water for 15 minutes before chopping them
  • Peel and cut your onion under running tap water
  • have someone else cut it for you 🙂

Smelly Hands: 

  • Rub them on something stainless steel, such as a spoon.  the steel is supposed to absorb the odor
  • Put a tablespoon of salt in the palm of your hands and mix with cold water and rub on hands to absorb the odor
  • Before you chop peppers, rub a little vegetable oil into your hands and you won’t absorb the spicy chili oil


  • Choosing eggs…Fresh egg shells are rough and chalky, old eggs are smooth and shiny
  • Are they still fresh…To determine if an egg is fresh, immerse it in a pan of cool, salted water.  If it sinks, it is fresh, if it rises to the surface throw it away
  • Boiled or not….To determine if an egg is hard-boiled, spin it.  If it spins it is hard-boiled, if it wobbles it is raw
  • Cracked shells…To avoid the shells from cracking during boiling, add a pinch of salt to the water
  • Removing egg shells…If you boil your eggs in salty water and quickly rinse them in cold water, the shells will come off easier
  • Slicing eggs…Wet the knife just before cutting a hard-boiled egg .
  • Boiling time:  For the perfect boiled egg, cover eggs with cold water and a pinch of salt.  Bring the water to a full boil, remove the pan from the heat and cover.  Let the eggs sit for 8-9 minutes, drain the eggs and run under cold water.


  • When defrosting meat from the freezer, pur some vinegar over it.  This will not only tenderize the meat, it will also bring down the freezing temperature of the meat and cause it to thaw quicker
  • If the meat is in a sealed package…place it in a bowl and run it under warm tap water until thawed
  • To easily slice meat, partially freeze it before slicing
  • To avoid ground beef sticking to your hands, dip your hands in cold water before handling the meat and avoid over-handling
  • Poke a hole in the middle of the hamburger patties while shaping them. The burgers will cook faster and the holes will disappear when done.


  • Put an apple in with a bag of potatoes to keep them from budding
  • Let raw potatoes stand in cold water for at least half an hour before frying to improve the crispness of french-fried potatoes
  • To clean fruit stains off your fingers, rub them with a fresh peeled potato.  White vinegar can also do the trick
  • A peeled and sliced potato can be applied to a burn.  The juice of the potato should cover the burn to help relieve pain  


  • Gravy:  When making gravy if it starts to burn….Pour it into a clean pan and continue cooking it.  Add sugar a little at a time to remove the burned taste.  Taste gravy as you go to avoid over-sugaring it
  • Rice:  Place a piece of white bread on top of the rice for 5-10 minutes to draw out the burned flavor.  Scrape the burned pieces off the bottom of the pan and serve. 

More tips to come…..


With the economy the way it has been, now more than ever, make sure your money is not going down the drain.  We are all trying to “cut back” and the need to impress others is a thing of the past…..now you just look like a show-off.  We should try to manage our money so our money doesn’t manage us.  I thought you might like some ideas on how to live below your means:

BORROW AND SHARE:  Instead of going to the movies or renting a movie, instead borrow a DVD from a friend.  Have a snack from your own fridge and creat the movie experience right in your own home.  This is way cheaper than the gas and expense of going out. 

GIVE WITHOUT SPENDING:  It is important to give so that you may receive.  Try to make someone’s day by sending them a letter.  Help someone with a labor task they may have.   Call someone to just say Hi.  It’s the thought that counts and your personal touch that makes people feel special, not money.

AVOID THE MALL:  Many people choose to walk around the mall as “something to do.”   Going to the mall is not entertainment and you will end up spending money you never needed to.  If you are in need of clothes try to shop sales and go to stores that offer name-brands at a discount. 

NEED VS. WANT:  Make a list of what you need and only buy what you need!  Avoid things you might want but are not on your list. 

DON’T LOOK AT ADVERTISEMENTS:  Be careful of looking at advertisements….. Many times people are convinced they need items after looking at ad’s.  If you didn’t know you needed it before looking at an ad, you probably don’t really need it.  Of course if you know you need something ad’s are great to find the perfect sale.

NEVER PAY RETAIL:  Only buy items when they are on sale.  Always check the sale papers…. Buy from discount stores… Check the sale racks…  Take advantage of coupons… 

AVOID IMPULSE BUYING:  When you see something to buy, even if it is on sale… Try to go home and do some research on the price.  Double check that the sale price is the best price.  Take the time to think about if you truly need to purchase the item or if the immediate excitement has worn off.

BUY WITH CASH:  This is one that our grandparents have told us for years, but in todays economy of credit it is often hard to remember.  Try to put money aside for items you know you will be needing and pay cash for them when they come on sale.

SAVE MONEY WHEN YOU SAVE MONEY:  When you find a better deal on something, but the difference in price into a savings.  This includes money saved when switching phone companies, internet access, insurance, shoes, clothes, electronics, etc. 

STAY HEALTHY:  Staying healthy will help you save money in many different ways.   When you are healthy you save money on doctor bills and medicine.  When you become ill and are unable to go to work, it may take away from your salary. 

STAY HOME:  Most people feel like going out is the only way to have fun.  Instead of spending money just to “go out,” next time try to stay in with friends instead.  Save money by staying home and relaxing. 

TIME IS MONEY:  Try to manage your time well to avoid lost money.  Make a list of tasks and take care of the things that give a return on your time and can make you more productive. 

A penny saved is a penny earned.
– Benjamin Franklin



Unless I walk into the grocery store and the corn on the cob is falling off the display in the produce department, I am never sure when to buy my fruits and vegetables.  I think I only buy oranges and grapes when they are at their worst and watermelon when it is out of season.

Buying fruits and vegetables during the right season will save you money.  Groceries stores will have better deals on items when they are in the peak of the season and mark the price up during off-peak season.

Buying food at the right time will ensure that you are eating your food when it taste the best!  I have put together a rough guide of what foods to look for each month.  Check your local farmers market or your states agricultural department for what is available in your area.

JANUARY:  Fruits:  Apples – Grape Fruit – Oranges – Pears – Tangerines – Vegetables:  Brussels Sprouts – Cauliflower – Potatoes – Winter Squash

FEBRUARY:  Fruits:  Apples – Grape Fruit – Oranges – Pears – Strawberries – Tangerines – Vegetables:  Brussels Sprouts – Cauliflower – Potatoes – Winter Squash

MARCH:  Fruits:  Grape Fruit – Oranges – Strawberries – Vegetables:  Asparagus – Brussels Sprouts – Cauliflower – Celery – Potatoes

APRIL:  Fruits: Cherries – Grape Fruit – Oranges – Strawberries – Vegetables:  Asparagus – Cauliflower – Celery – Peas – Potatoes

MAY:  Fruits:  Apricots – Blueberries – Cantaloupe – Cherries – Grape Fruit – Nectarines – Oranges – Peaches – Plums – Prunes Raspberries – Strawberries – Vegetables:  Asparagus – Bell Peppers – Cauliflower – Celery – Cucumber – Eggplant – Peas – Potatoes – Summer Squash – Tomatoes

JUNE:  Fruits:  Apricots – Blackberries – Blueberries – Boysenberries – Cantaloupe – Cherries – Grape Fruit – Nectarines – Peaches – Pineapples – Plums – Prunes – Raspberries – Strawberries – Vegetables:  Asparagus – Bell Peppers – Cauliflower – Celery – Corn – Cucumber – Eggplant – Peas – Potatoes – Summer Squash – Tomatoes

JULY:  Fruits:  Apricots – Blackberries – Boysenberries – Cantaloupe – Cherries – Grape Fruit – Nectarines – Peaches – Pineapples – Plums – Prunes – Raspberries – Strawberries – Watermelon – Vegetables:  Bell Peppers – Celery – Corn – Cucumber – Eggplant – Peas – Summer Squash – Tomatoes

AUGUST:  Fruits:  Apples – Blackberries – Boysenberries – Cantaloupe – Grapes – Nectarines – Peaches – Pineapples – Plums – Prunes – Raspberries – Strawberries – Watermelon – Vegetables:  Bell Peppers – Celery – Corn – Cucumber – Eggplant – Peas – Summer Squash – Tomatoes

SEPTEMBER:  Fruits:  Apples – Blackberries – Dates – Figs – Grapes – Nectarines – Cantaloupe – Peaches – Pears – Pineapples – Plums – Pomegranate – Prunes – Strawberries – Watermelon – Vegetables:  Bell Peppers – Brussels Sprouts – Cauliflower – Celery – Corn – Cucumber – Eggplant – Peas – Potatoes – Summer Squash – Sweet Potatoes – Tomatoes

OCTOBER:  Fruits:  Apples – Dates – Figs – Grapes – Grape Fruit – Pears – Pomegranate – Strawberries –  Watermelon – Vegetables:  Bell Peppers – Brussels Sprouts – Cauliflower – Celery – Corn – Cucumber – Eggplant – Peas – Potatoes – Sweet Potatoes – Tomatoes – Winter Squash

NOVEMBER:  Fruits:  Apples – Dates – Figs – Grapes – Grape Fruit – Pears – Pomegranate – Strawberries –  Tangerines – Vegetables:  Bell Peppers – Brussels Sprouts – Cauliflower – Celery – Corn – Cucumber – Potatoes – Sweet Potatoes – Winter Squash

DECEMBER:  Fruits:  Apples – Dates – Figs – Grape Fruit – Oranges – Pears – Tangerines – Vegetables:  Bell Peppers – Brussels Sprouts – Cauliflower – Celery – Potatoes – Sweet Potatoes – Winter Squash

ALL YEAR:  Bananas – Beans – Broccoli – Carrots – Garlic – Lettuce – Mushrooms – Onions – Spinach


If you are like me…. you don’t often look in the back of your cabinets and pantries.  How long will those open items stay good for?  It is a guessing game that can be very dangerous.  You never want to eat something unless you are sure it is still good.  How do we know?   The other day I found a can in the back I forgot I had.  It was way past the expiration date and it was money thrown in the garbage.  Don’t waste your money on un-used food items or items that go bad.  Make sure when things are getting close to their expiration date you use them before they have to be thrown away.  I challenge you to use some of the items in the back of your pantry… this will save you money.  Below is a guideline of the life expectancy of various foods after they have been opened.  I was surprised by some of these dates……I guess I will be cleaning out my frig and pantry this week.  Items may vary, but this can help you keep your pantry up to date.

1 Week – 2 Weeks

  • Bread – Potato Chips
  • Refrigerate after opening:  Canned Frosting – Olives – Ground Coffee

1 Month

  • Pasta – Egg Noodles
  • Refrigerate after opening:  Gravey Mix – Salsa

3 Months – 4 Months

  • frosting mixes – Peanut Butter – Dry Cereal – Pudding Mix – Dried Mushrooms
  • Refrigerate after opening:  Mayonnaise – Pickles – Salad Dressing – Instant Coffee -Barbeque Sauce – Horseradish

6 Months – 8 Months

  • White Flour – Baking Powder – Baking Soda – Molasses – Brown Rice – Bread Crumbs – Oil – Ground Spices
  • Refrigerate after opening:  Whole Wheat Flour – Ketchup – Cocktail Sauce – Chili Sauce – Jam – Jelly – Marmalade – Maple Syrup – Relish

1 Year

  • Cocoa Mixes – Dry Pasta w/out eggs – Dry Herbs – Honey – White Rice – Vanilla – Whole Spices
  • Refrigerate after opening:  Cornmeal – Mustard – Worcestershire Sauce

18 Months – 2 Years

  • Cornstarch – Sugar Substitutes

3 Years

  • Vinegar


  • Brown Sugar – Granulated White Sugar – Salt

Make sure you go through your cabinets and check the Best If Used Before dates on your boxed and canned foods.  Try to used foods that are getting close to their expiration dates.


Do you feel like you are paying to much at the pump?  Gases prices have peaked to more than $4 on average nationwide.  According to californiagasprices.com, prices are rising and will soon be at a two-year high.  Make sure you are doing all you can to save at the pump….  Below are some tips that can help:

Comparison shop:  Before you leave your home look at sites such as GasBuddy.com or GasPriceWatch.com.  Internet sites allow you to enter your ZIP code to see what local stations are charging. If you’re on the road and don’t have a web-enabled phone,  steer clear of affluent areas, where customers are generally less price sensitive and station prices higher. Also avoid stations directly adjacent to major freeways, you’ll get a better deal a few blocks away.

Fill up at a warehouse club: Discount warehouse clubs such as Costco or Sam’s Club have gas stations across the country, and their prices are typically lower than independent operators. (Just factor in the cost of your annual membership when analyzing the savings.)

Choose regular: Buy the lowest (and cheapest) octane of gasoline. As long as the engine runs quietly — no knocking or pinging — regular unleaded should be fine. Just double-check your car’s owners manual for the manufacturer’s fuel recommendation.

Don’t top it off: You’ll likely pay for fuel that spills or dribbles back into the station’s tanks.

Take it easy: Accelerate smoothly, decelerate and brake gently. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, driving aggressively can lower gas mileage by up to 33 percent on the highway and 5 percent around town. Use cruise control on the highway, and don’t exceed the speed limit. The Energy Department suggests that each 5 miles per hour you drive over 60 mph is equivalent to paying an additional 20 cents per gallon for gas.

Avoid excessive idling:  In one test, drivers drove a 10-mile route, stopping 10 times for two minutes each, and then repeated the route without stopping. Driving straight through saved up to 19 percent on gasoline. If you expect to be idling for more than a minute, shut off the engine.

Pay cash or get cash-back:  Some stations offer a discount for paying in cash.  Consider using a credit card that offers cash back on fuel purchases, or a card that gives you reward points. 

Keep your ride in tune: Schedule regular engine tune-ups, make sure your tires are inflated to the recommended pressure, and clean out the trunk.   Several studies show that an extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could reduce your miles per gallon by up to 2 percent.


Do your shopping during peak sales times.  Below is a rough guide of when traditional items may go on sale throughout the year.  If you have been wanting to make a purchase and you are not sure when to do so…..this may help.



Post-holiday sales for cards, gift wrap and decorations * White sales for bedding and linens * Sports and weight-loss equipment * Computers * Winter clothes and accessories * Organizers, storage containers and shelving


Candy, chocolates * Jewelry * Flooring and carpet * Housewares * Furniture * Electronics


Spring clothes and accessories * Gardening equipment, mowers and supplies * Luggage and travel accessories * Frozen food


Spring clothes and accessories * End of season on coats and winter accessories * Men’s suits * Paint and wallpaper


Spring cleaning supplies * Linens and towels * Auto maintenance supplies and tires * Memorial Day sales on picnic foods


Pianos * Televisions, stereos and radios * Home improvement materials and hardware * Cheese and dairy


Fans and air conditioners * Summer sports gear and sportswear * Art and craft supplies * 4th of July picnic sales * Used cars


Linens and towels * BBQ and patio furniture * Back-to-school supplies and clothes * Bathing suits


Gardening supplies, perennials, trees and spring bulbs  *Housewares like carpets, lamps and dinnerware * Bicycles * Seasonal car maintenance * Canned foods


Cars * Fishing and hunting gear * Crystal, silver and glassware * Spring bulbs


Winter clothes and accessories * Quilts, comforters, and blankets * Space heaters * Turkey’s and Thanksgiving preparation


Toys * Gifts * Post-holiday sales * Party foods and baking goods

Although some items are on sale during certain seasons…..I can help you decide if it is the right time for you to purchase a home.