Intentional Living: Vitruvi

The world’s been pretty topsy-turvy. The trees outside the bedroom window have assumed their once-a-year summer blooms. Bright pinks and yellows littering our skyline, but I haven’t had the time to notice. I teeter-totter between slow-living and stress, which makes the time pass with such speed. I haven’t taken the time to stop and ask, but now I do.

“How are you?”

Are you coping like us? Is there suffering? What can I do?

During this time, I hope you are finding time to focus on wellness and mental health. I know I haven’t had as much as I would like, but I sure as heck try. It’s all we can do, anywho.

One of the things I’ve been attempting is simply breathe.  Essential oils by Vitruvihelp to set the mood I need to get through one more day. Or rather, one afternoon after an especially trying work day.

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I don’t have a fancy humidifier by any means. I have a plain white bulky thing that I purchased about a year and a half ago using a Nordstrom gift card which I received from my father-in-law. It was a gift for turning thirty. I think the humidifier is meant for babies. Either way, it works.

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I add a dash of Vitruvi essential oil blends to get me in the right mindset. I prefer the blends because it simplifies my life. Of course, if you’d prefer you can order the essential oils separately and mix your own potion.

I love turning on the humidifier and using the SLEEP blend right before bed. Think fresh linens and soft florals. It runs until I wake in the morning. It is also a good choice during a soak in the bath, or while reading in bed. Other great evening blends are NIGHTCAP and DUSK.

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In the wee hours, after I’ve had my morning coffee, I switch to the BOOST blend by Vitruvi. Notes of Juniper, Grapefruit, Bergamot and Lime really liven me up as I write a long list of things I want to get done. If you are struggling to face the day, perhaps switch out the task manager with a list of things you are grateful for.

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Point is, scents have the special ability to take us to places we are fond of. There’s a blend for all your needs.

Dreaming of vacation? Try RETREAT.

Wishing you were outdoors? Reach for GROVE or PACIFIC.

Hoping to get some deep cleaning done? Turn on CLEAN SWEEP for inspiration.

I know it isn’t much. But during times like these, anything that helps us breathe easier and experience life better is absolute gold.

This post is in partnership with Vitruvi. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

45 Quarantine Activities That Save Energy AND Earn Money

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

Just a few weeks ago, I shared a little bit about a side hustle gig that allows Californians to earn money while saving energy. OhmConnect is a third party that will partner with PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E to track your particular household’s electricity usage. During their one-hour events, you are prompted to reduce your energy spending at times when average energy usage runs high. They return the favor by paying you. Yes, REAL money. In an effort to not sound redundant, I will simply link the previous post here in case you missed it.

Our house has participated in a few of these events and I want to say that it actually works! And we’ve had a ton of fun trying to brainstorm a slew of alternative activities. It’s a chance of a lifetime to go off-the-grid without really going anywhere. The challenge lies in the fact that, still in California, there is a semi-shut-down. Movie theatres and shopping malls are still closed, the schools are out, and the restaurants are to-go or outdoor seating only. So… what do we do?

Here, I collected a list of quarantine-friendly activities that do not require electricity. Some may require a phone or laptop, but you can plan ahead for those. It doesn’t say zero electronics, only zero electricity. Charge away!

  1. Learn a language with Duolingo.
  2. Do a yoga routine with Adriene.
  3. Pick up a book and catch up on your reading.
  4. Budget with YNAB.
  5. Already have a budget? Learn to master it.
  6. Plan the dream vacation.
  7. Start earning credit card points so you can travel for FREE. I would begin with Southwest.
  8. Get ahead on goal-setting with Smitten On Paper.
  9. Open a high yield savings account to start earning money passively.
  10. Go on a run outdoors using the Nike Run App.
  11. Take the kids to the park or…
  12. Release the sprinklers in the front yard.
  13. Deep clean the home.
  14. Start that renovation project you keep talking about.
  15. Have a candle-lit dinner.
  16. Soak in a bath with relaxing bath salts.
  17. De-clutter the closet.
  18. De-clutter the pantry and fridge.
  19. Watch the sunset on the porch or balcony.
  20. Write poetry.
  21. Take the dog on a walk, or earn money walking dogs on Rover.
  22. Drive a scenic route.
  23. Call your parents.
  24. Write a letter (to actually mail). Perhaps a birthday card?
  25. Drink coffee without distraction.
  26. Take a nap (A favorite!)
  27. Get a massage (from your child or a spouse).
  28. Play a boardgame.
  29. Start a puzzle.
  30. Meditate with Headspace.
  31. Get food delivered via Dashpass or make money on Dashpass.
  32. Learn a new skill or hobby on Skillshare.
  33. Learn how to monetize a blog.
  34. Make a plan to go zero-waste.
  35. Organize your paperwork and bills. Make a pile for when you can turn on that paper-shredder.
  36. Take care of the plants.
  37. Paint or draw.
  38. Sit and do nothing (also a favorite!)
  39. Build legos.
  40. Give the pet a bath.
  41. Hand wash the car.
  42. Hand wash the clothes. And dishes while you’re at it.
  43. Cuddle with the cat.
  44. Have a bonfire (on the beach or backyard).
  45. Listen to a podcast.

Doesn’t all this sound great? And you get paid to do these things. If anything, I consider these OhmEvents forced mini-stay-cations. If you use my referral link here, you will automatically get $10 credit into your account, just for your good intention. Also, if you live elsewhere, don’t think that you can’t participate. Cutting down on electricity usage also cuts down the bill.

Curating Closets: Sunglasses for a Minimalist

This post is written in affiliation with Warby Parker, a revolutionary eye wear company that gives people an alternative for modern, quality specs. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and creative content are my own. 

Eye wear seems to be my thing in 2020. Perhaps it’s the new decade that’s brought a keen awareness towards the need to protect my health. Perhaps it’s the long list of current events. Either way, I’ve been terribly conscious of my waning physicality. I have never been overly zealous in protecting my youth, but suddenly, at the ripe old age of thirty-one, I have become obsessed with it.

Is this what they call a mid-life crisis?

I previously wrote about the need to protect our eyes from the blue light emanating from the screens attached to our hips, like oxygen tanks that we carry around in order to breathe. But let’s be real. I am not wearing my blue-light blockers all day, everyday. Yet we are still exposed to light rays twenty-four seven. Erm, at least, I hope you are still able to get some sun?

My entire life, I’ve found sunglasses to be a nuisance – something too expensive and too easily left behind (or sat on). I have owned very few, and the last pair that I purchased were discounted from when I still worked at a retail store ten years ago. Yes, you heard that right. My last pair of sunglasses was purchased ten years ago.

So I would say it was high time that I finally invested in a pair to protect my eyes. Most important to me was finding sunglasses that I would actually want to wear. Ones that were simple, light-weight, elegant, timeless, and well, minimal. Obviously.

I settled on Warby Parker when I learned of their mission to provide a pair of glasses to someone in need for each pair purchased. I was intrigued by their origin story, seeing as how the inspiration came after a founder lost his sun-specs after a backpacking trip (already relatable) and lamented on the insanely expensive prices of quality sunglasses. Reason being, of course, that the eye wear industry was dominated by a single company that keeps prices high. The rebellious Warby Parker was created as an alternative option for good eye wear at revolutionary prices. They set out to create a personal customer experience while providing exceptional prescription and non-prescription specs. They exude everything I love about a company, so how could I not love them?

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I came across my first Warby Parker store in Newport Beach about a year and a half ago. Back then, I wasn’t interested in buying sunnies. It just so happened to be a storefront within a store next to the Aesop that I frequent. I walked in and was charmed by the different styles and friendly staff. I ended up walking out and forgetting about it.

Earlier this year, we were walking the streets of San Francisco when I entered my second Warby Parker store. I vaguely remembered seeing them before and even picked up a few frames to try on. I found styles that I liked, but I still wasn’t interested in buying glasses. This was in February.

Then, in June, I turned thirty one. I got my first pair of blue-light blockers. I started blinking a lot. The sun hurt my eyes. I got extremely conscious about light – too much light, lack of light, weird lighting in general. I debated whether UV curing lights at the dental office were more harmful than computer screens that I stare at as I type posts like this. I started to think about sunglasses, and why I wasn’t wearing them.

The truth? I don’t have a pair that works for me. I don’t like the one I owned, it didn’t fit my style, and it didn’t work with my lifestyle. If there’s anything I learned about myself, it’s that I use most the things I love dear. As for everything else, I just don’t.

This was around the time I seriously considered buying Warby Parker.

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The thing I love about them is that they give people the option of trying on their eye wear prior to purchasing. Even during this difficult, quarantine life, they allow you to ship up to five frames to your door FOR FREE just so you can try them on. If you don’t like them, simply ship them back within ten days. I literally had five frames in my cart the weekend before we left for Colorado in July when…

We drove by a Warby Parker storefront in Boulder, Colorado. I knew right away that I wanted to walk in. The store was limiting only two parties at a time due to COVID so I waited in the car for five minutes until it was my turn. The staff was incredibly helpful in guiding me towards the right frame for my personality and lifestyle. One thing about me. I am incredibly picky. But when I know I like something, I KNOW. It took five minutes to find the pair I wanted and check out.

I have a narrow, heart-shaped face, but the frames that worked best for me were Wright, Percy, Robbie, and Fisher. The first two were too girly, posh and trendy for me. They were also a tad heavier. The choice came down to the last two. Due to my high cheekbones, the flat, squarish edge to the Robbie ended up accentuating my plump cheeks. I ended up going with Fisher, which is a mix between the Merrick and the ever-popular Raider. There were two color options – a gold frame with colored lenses, or black on black on black. Need I say more?

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These are the lightest pair of glasses I own. I put them away in the case they came with as soon as I’m done wearing them. Hopefully I never sit on them, even though Warby Parker has my back. Scratched lenses and bent frames can be taken to any storefront and they will try to the best of their ability to fix the glasses for you. Luckily, the metal frames on the Fisher are easier to fix than the plastic frames. And lenses with scratches can be replaced completely within a year of purchase.

I don’t wear prescription glasses (yet!) but if you do, no worries! When I went to the store, they had optometrists working who seemed very knowledgeable about eye wear. A few storefronts also offer eye exams, which I think is awesome! It’s your one stop shop.

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If you are on the fence about the price, then I would highly recommend doing a few things.

  1. Try on the glasses virtually here.
  2. Pick a few frames that look good on the app (up to five) and send them your way.
  3. Wear your five frames for ten days. Whichever ones don’t work, send back.

No harm, no foul. Personally, I fell head over heels with Warby. I don’t see any other way.

Travel: A Weekend in Boulder, CO

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

Colorado never crossed my mind as a place to visit until my brother and roomie brought it up. Mike and I ended up going by ourselves due to a change in plans and instead of staying in Denver, we thought that being in Boulder was more in line with what we wanted to do – which was to be outdoors in nature and hike. Little did I know that Boulder was actually a hipster town with a hippie history that is very much in line with the values of a ChooseFIer. We were surprised to see everyone donning hiking boots, active shorts and sports bras. Most cars that drove past either had a dog sitting in the rear seat or a bike on the rooftop. Every hiking trail had kids, families, young folk, old folk, rock climbers, trail runners, and more. It was like outdoors was what people lived for, and I loved it. In California, I see most people dressed up as if they were going to the movie set every day. In Boulder, there was an understated style, one that said, “I just spent all morning rock-climbing and here I am in my gear picking up organic yogurt and fruit at Whole Foods.” Of course, within minutes, I was making plans to move here, in true style. We only had a weekend to spend in Boulder but I fell in love with this city, and am seriously good with upping life and living here for a while. Of course, I have yet to experience living in snow….

In the meantime, here’s a quick city travel guide.

PS: We spent $0 in flights and hotels for this trip. We travel hack our way around the world, and for this trip we spent Southwest points which we earned by opening Southwest credit cards and Marriott points which we earned via the Marriott Bonvoy card. Sign up to start traveling the world for free, or check out my post on how to budget for travel.


♦◊◊◊
Not worth the time.

♦♦◊◊
Good, but ordinary.

♦♦♦◊
Great. Worth a visit.

♦♦♦♦
Exceptional. A must-do experience.

$
Frugal friendly

$$
Reasonable

$$$
Pricey


Stowaway Kitchen

♦♦♦♦
2528 Walnut St #104,
Denver, CO 80205
$$

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This place used an amazing ciabatta for their BLT sandwich. If that is my opening sentence, then I hope you know just how good it was. Mike also said that the Chicken Sando was much better than our local favorite in SoCal – which is saying something since we ordered from our local fried chicken joint every week during the start of COVID! The vibe was very hipster-modern, with large ferns and lively tendrils hanging past white-painted ledges, wooden tables spaced six feet apart on cement floors. It had both outdoor and indoor seating, and the service was fantastic! I do recommend.

Woods Quarry Loop

♦♦♦♦
LEVEL: EASY

This hike is a great introduction to Boulder. It starts off from a parking lot that meanders through a quick loop trail with signage introducing visitors to a few facts on the terrain found in this area. The path continues into a meadow clearing, with the rocky mountain-side as the backdrop. Butterflies flew around us as we hiked past flowers and green grass.

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Eventually, you will be led to the trailhead for Woods Quarry, which begins with a short incline that I would rate as “easy”. The top of the hike has a great view, but the best part is the collection of stone-stacked “chairs” that locals have created. Flat rocks warmed up by the summer sun serve as great rest points, wherein one can eat a sandwich while taking in the views.

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Stacking mini flat rocks.
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Stone “sofa”.

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The sky that day was very clear, although I must warn you to take note of any clouds rolling in. Lightning and thunder are common visitors in the afternoon, and many unsuspecting people get caught on top of a mountain exposed to storms.

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The Oak at Fourteenth

♦♦
1400 Pearl St.
Boulder, CO 80302
$$$

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The thing I want to say is that this is really pricey fare for (if I’m being honest?) mediocre food. Maybe it’s because we are Californians surrounded by a plethora of great food options. We ordered five items, and three were really good, but two of them I disliked. The three pictured here are our top choices. Unfortunately, the drink, was not as great to me. A little heavy on the alcohol, and they brought it over as a make-your-own-drink with the sparkling water on the side so that we could “dilute the alcohol to our liking”. Despite all this, they do have interesting menu items and when I looked across the table behind Mike’s head, I was very, VERY interested in the desert cake that our neighbors ordered – so much so that I actually regretted ordering fries! I was way too full to order dessert.

First and Second Flat Iron

♦♦♦
LEVEL: DIFFICULT

This hike was rated moderate, but I would actually classify parts of it as difficult. First, it starts at the Chataqua trailhead which has a steep incline. The road itself is paved but there is no relief from the sparkling sun. It beats down on you like a hammer, which makes the climb rough. We set out before 8am but still had to stop for water breaks multiple times. I would highly recommend starting out early.

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Once you switch from the Chataqua Trailhead to the First and Second Flat Irons Trail (an out-and-back trail, not to be confused with the loop), the ascent becomes rockier and rockier. You may not see it here, but this is actually the “path” to the top. Somewhere in that stone pile is a trail of flatter stones on which to step.

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This is the view from above. But if you think the scrambling is over, you would be wrong. I was not prepared to scramble up a rock face but that I did. In retrospect it wasn’t that bad, what with footholds in the giant boulders. I looked over my shoulder to watch other, more experienced climbers ascend via the flat faces of exposed rocks – definitely not something I would dare try. This photo shows the spot after the “bouldering” that we did.

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After this, there’s a series of switchbacks like a stairway to heaven leading you up to the very top part of the second flat iron. The lime stone around the rock is gorgeous. We leaned against them as we ate our snacks, with squirrels running around us trying to catch stray crumbs. By then, it was around 10am, and the sun was unbearably hot. We decided to head back after reaching the top, a one hour descent ahead of us. I do have to say that the return journey down Chataqua was very pleasant. Gorgeous views of the valleys below the entire trip down.

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Avery Brewing Co.

♦♦♦
4910 Nautilus Ct N.
Boulder, CO 80301
$$

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When you go to a brewery, you kind of know what to expect. Avery Brewing Co. did not disappoint. From their barbacoa nachos to their beer, I thoroughly enjoyed what they had to offer, especially after hiking up the flat irons. I must also say that their upside-down pineapple cake was the best thing I ate on this trip. The caramel-like sauce was made with their Quinntiki beer, which was fermented in rum barrels with pineapple, coconut, orange, and nutmeg. The waitress brought over the beer to sample, but the dessert was much better. The two beers that I ordered were the White Rascal and the Paws & Claws. The first was very refreshing and the second was the perfect hazy pale ale. Yum!

Sforno

♦♦♦♦
1308 Pearl St
Boulder, CO 80302
$$

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We were actually supposed to dine in at a hard-to-reserve farm-to-table restaurant the evening we went to Sforno, but our decision to cancel and get pasta at this little Italian spot was one that led to zero regrets. I recommend sitting inside the restaurant, which was renovated to look like a tiny nook in a tiny alley transported straight from Italy. I don’t know what was more endearing – the fake planters, the cobbled walls, or the string lights. The food was very good – pasta that you would imagine an Italian grandma would make, paired with a nice glass of wine. For dessert, we ordered the Creme Brulee. All that was missing was a violinist serenading our table. (Do they do that?)

West Mesa Loop Trail

♦♦♦♦
LEVEL: EASY

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This trail was perfect for a leisurely morning stroll! If I were to walk it again, I would recommend taking the path to the left to start. That way when you return downhill, you have wide-open views of the green grasses below. It begins with a mini bridge that crosses a babbling brook. If you took the path to the left, you will ascend in shade. On the return hike, the hill is exposed to the sun but that isn’t such a bad thing when you are traversing down-hill. I try not to let the rattlesnake that almost attacked me cloud my judgement. Just keep an eye out because it is the season, and I guess rattlesnakes are not very happy to see visitors tramping their terrain.

Dushanbe Teahouse

♦♦♦
1770 13th St
Boulder, CO 80302
$$

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They say that you must check out the Dushanbe Teahouse for it’s interesting interior but also, for it’s wide selection of teas. We don’t know much about tea but the waitress recommended we try one that smelled like butter popcorn – a white tea without any additions to it other than the tea leaves themselves. It was the most interesting drink I have ever had – a must! We also ordered food, and the pan-fried noodles with tofu was so good, but the samosas and the xiao buns were mediocre, which explains the triple-diamond rating. We ended with a gluten-free almond cake with figs and apricots, thereby a high note. I suddenly thought of moving to Britain to see what tea time was all about.

Basta

♦♦♦♦
3601 Arapahoe Ave
Boulder, CO 80303
$$

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Can I give this place five diamonds?! I mean, freshly milled dough is my jam. But this pizza was more than that. Perfectly thin but gummy, thick crust but soft. Charred in a brick fire oven (which they also had at Sforno by the way!), and topped with the most simplest basil, tomato sauce and mozzarella. It was heaven.

Boxcar Coffee Roasters

♦♦♦♦
1825 Pearl St B,
Boulder, CO 80302
$

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If I am being honest, the lack of coffee roaster options in Boulder would be the number one deterrent for moving there. I am so spoiled with California’s long line of roasteries competing to make the best pour-over. As a coffee fanatic (my husband has diagnosed me with a coffee addiction, which I think is extreme since I only drink one cup a day), I really value innovative third-wave roasters. It was something that I sorely missed in Boulder. The town’s only saving grace was Boxcar Coffee Roasters. We ordered two filter coffees to go and I must say, I was very pleased with their batch coffee! I think they would be the place to hit up if you are a fan of a good cup of Joe. We sipped on it on our car ride to Louisville heading towards Moxie…

Moxie

♦♦♦♦
641 Main St
Louisville, CO 80027
$$

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Of course, before we left, we had to search for a good bakery. We traveled to a little town in Louisville outside of Boulder just to pick up pastries on our last morning there. If you are a bread/dough/flour/grain lover, you may want to check them out. Great croissant, great vibe, great service. If we were staying longer, you know I would’ve ordered all the bread loaves.

 

How Californians Can Make Money Saving Electricity with OhmConnect

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

What if I told you that Californians can get paid to save electricity? I mean, we should all already be working hard to reduce our energy bills, but sometimes, during mid-summer night’s heat wave for example, the last thing you want to do is turn off the electricity. I get it.

Not to fret. This is not the blog of deprivation. This is the blog of wealth, in all aspects of the word. In order to get paid, all you have to do is participate in saving electricity one hour at a time during designated “OhmEvents” with OhmConnect. OhmEvents pre-determined time periods when energy usage is typically the highest.

How to participate? Easy. OhmConnect will send you a text (usually a day before) about an upcoming hour-long OhmEvent which you can choose to participate in. You can power down as many electrical appliances as you want, unplug your chargers, turn off your A/C, procrastinate a little longer on the laundry and the dishwasher (be real, you were already doing it), and take the kids or roomies out to the park to expel energy into the ecosystem in a completely different way. If you have a SmartPlug, you can turn off your electronics via an app even when you are away from home. You can also hook up your Nest or smart thermometer to Ohm and it can turn off your device during the hour, to help you save further. Depending on how much kWh you decrease your usage by, you will be awarded points which translates to cash.

How does OhmConnect have the ability to pay people money?

The government pays a stipend or perk to not have carbon-intensive power plants turned on. The way in which this is prevented is by not reaching a certain energy usage threshhold. Meaning, the more people participating in OhmEvents, the less energy is used, and the more likely that the government will pay the stipend, which then partially gets divvied up and dispersed to Ohm participants.

OhmConnect Promotes Slow Living

Aside from the benefit of having a positive environmental and financial impact, there is also the incentive to practice slow living. Participating in an OhmEvent means turning off the TV for an hour and perhaps picking up a book. If it’s hot indoors, it may mean taking the kids to the park or beach outdoors where you longingly feel for an oceanic  breeze. Maybe it’s your cue to commit to that weekly run you wrote in your list of resolutions months ago. Does the Ohm hour land in the evening time? Plan a candle-lit dinner to rekindle your relationship with a loved one. Or teach the kids how to make forts using blankets and read using flashlights.

The best thing about OhmConnect is that it improves your life three-fold – you are leveling up your bank account, your environmental impact, but also (most importantly), your relationships.

How to Earn Even More Money

Spread the word.

When you sign up using my referral link, you will automatically get $10 added to your account for your good intentions. Furthermore, you can help make a bigger difference by getting your friends and family to sign up using your own referral link. For the month of Plastic Free July, all referred friends that sign up for Ohm will result in $40 cash for you, $10 cash for them. They will not receive the $10 if they did not sign up using a referral link, which is why I provide mine here.

We have only been doing this one week, but to be honest with you, it’s very fun. I sent my referral link to my dad who already procrastinates dishes and laundry until after 9 p.m. in order to reduce the electricity bill, and he was stoked to save money and get paid doing it, too!

I think it’s kind of fun finding activities that revolve around zero-electricity usage. But hey, if you really want to, you can still use your laptop or iPhone unplugged.

After one week, I have earned $81 using OhmConnect! I love it, and I think many people would too.

Let me know how it goes 🙂

Frugality: Celebrating Quarantine Birthdays with Freebies

Remember in March when we circulated memes about those who had to celebrate their birthdays under social distancing and stay-at-home restrictions? Joke’s on us, we who thought we would escape from such circumstances. By now a third of the population has probably experienced celebrating quarantined.

Characteristics may include gatherings of less than ten, standing awkwardly six feet apart, something that gets in the way of the hugs and kisses more than masks do. Candles on a cake anti-climactically put out by a clapping of hands – as if a child saying “ta-da” after making a wish. Also, gifts running belated as shipping companies struggle to continue working in a safe environment despite an influx of online orders.

I myself had to celebrate a restricted birthday, although how happy was I when restaurants opened up for dine-in during that week? Back to normalcy we go – I was sure of it!

So when I asked my husband a month out what he wanted to do for his July birthday, I was quite surprised when he said he wanted to sign up for rewards programs and run around town picking up freebies.

I thought to myself, “Sounds lame.”

His birthday landed prior to a four day weekend which I happened to have off from work and I was imagining a trip somewhere (local, of course). Or at least a sort of beach activity or party. Perhaps a restaurant reservation with our closest friends?

Lo and behold, when it came to the week of his birthday, all of my would-be plans went straight out the window as California was called to partially shut down once again. Due to the rising numbers of COVID positive patients and upcoming holiday, all beaches were shut down, along with dine-in options at restaurants, movie theatres, and family entertainment options. Turns out, his request to get birthday freebies proved to be the only solidly COVID-proof idea.

I thought to myself, “My husband’s a genius.”

To be honest, it turned out pretty nice. It was a sunny Friday, and we started the morning with free bagels (to-go) and coffee, which we ate at home with my brother and roomie for a late morning breakfast. We all were recovering from hiking Mt. Baldy the day before, so it was one of those restful mornings wherein one rolls around in bed, drags feet across the floor, with nary an obligation to rush you towards the next to-do. You know those mornings that feel like you’re on vacation instead of just sitting at home? Speaking of vacation, I need one of those soon.

For lunch, we headed over to a shopping center that had Jersey Mike’s and The Habit. Jersey Mike’s was giving away whatever free sub you wanted plus a 22 oz. drink, which we took away lidless and straw-less to reduce plastic waste. It is, after all, Plastic-Free July.  The Habit was giving birthday celebrants a free burger. Both were wrapped in paper. In the shopping center, there was an outdoor seating area with tables perched ‘neath umbrellas. The tables were spaced out more than six feet apart, with no more than a pair of seats at each table. We plopped ourselves down on cool metal chairs and ate our wins with the first official signs of summer.

In the evening, we had a number of friends meet us at a local park to eat pizza as we sat in a circle on lawn chairs social distancing by household, with an imaginary bonfire in our midst. Excited Santa Anians were shooting fireworks a day early, as mosquitoes bit our legs in the setting sun. It was the first time since February that we’ve seen these faces and it was nice to hear familiar laughs dangling in the night sky. When dusk settled, we packed up our lawn chairs like a bunch of soccer moms and waved our cheerful goodbyes, grabbing left-over pizza boxes and stuffing them in reusable grocery bags.

What’s amazing about the freebies is that they can all be taken to-go and the majority of them last for the rest of the month.

On paper, all of this probably sounds lame. But I can tell you that it was actually extremely fun. I just might do the same next year for the month of June.

For COVID in particular, it was a fool-proof plan to celebrating. If you’ve got a birthday coming up in the next few months, why don’t you try it? Take out and delivery have stood the test of virus and according to a Harvard study, we need to all be prepared to social distance until the end of 2021.

In order to prep for the big day, you should check out a list of Birthday Freebies and sign up for their Rewards program. On your day of birth, each place will email you a coupon or offer with the requirements and the expiring dates.

Below are a few of Mike’s favorites:

  • Denny’s – Free Grand Slam on the birthday month
  • Chili’s – Free dessert for the birthday week
  • Red Robin – Free burger
  • Sprinkles – Free cupcake, redeemable until the month after your birthday
  • Auntie Annie’s – Free pretzel, redeemable until two months after your birthday
  • Wetzel’s Pretzel’s – Free pretzel for downloading the app, and another free pretzel on your birthday
  • Baja Fresh – Free Burrito (with purchase of beverage) , valid until the month after your birthday
  • The Habit – Free Charburger, valid for two weeks
  • Jersey Mike’s – Free Sub and 22 oz. drink
  • Baskin Robbins – Free ice cream scoop
  • Ben N Jerry – Free ice cream scoop
  • Buffalo Wild Wings – Free birthday wings valid until end of the month
  • BJs – Free Pizookie for signing up for rewards and also for your birthday
  • Breugger’s Bagels – Free bagel with cream cheese for signing up and also on your birthday
  • Einstein Bagels – Free bagel egg sandwich with purchase on your birthday
  • Nothing Bundt Cakes – Free Bundtlet valid for one week

It may not be much to celebrate, these free wins, but it sure is a silver lining. There are some things they still haven’t taken away.

How I Made $390.38 In June 2020 Blogging From Home

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

I started blogging right after graduating from dental school without ever thinking I’d earn money from it. At the time, I turned to this blog as a place to record my daily life. Ever since teenhood, I have kept some sort of journal or diary, which has evolved over time from paper to Xanga to Melodramatic, and now onto WordPress. For almost twenty years, I’ve processed information through writing, but never once did I think I would earn money from it.

It’s been three years since owning this site but I am happy to say that it is now getting a little bit of traction and has started to earn me a little income. If I wasn’t working as a dentist during the day, I could see how this could become a steady day job. Still, even with my day job, it had turned into a fun side-hustle for me. I decided to log my earnings for my own personal tracking but also to share publicly how much one can make blogging from home.

Now that remote work seems to be in the near future for many, I do think that blogging is a good option for people who wish to work from home. Likewise, it is an opportunity to be your own boss and have your own space. Since you are writing your own content, you have the flexibility to work whenever you want to, which I know can be a good or bad thing. Of course, you can always practice habits that will separate work from home. Lastly, this is a great hobby or job for creative people. You have autonomy over how to execute your ideas and thoughts, making this a very freeing experience for those who don’t quite fall neatly into a traditional work environment or big company hierarchy.

But first, how did I start to monetize the blog?

If you are new to blogging, you may not know that you can earn income from owning such a space. I certainly didn’t. But then I took this course called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing, and it changed my life.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate Marketing is working with brands that you love in order to spread the word about their products and in return receiving commissions for any referred patrons. Sometimes these are physical products from almost any company you can think of. Other times, they are intellectual products such as courses or services that help improve other people’s lives. The best part is that you don’t have to “sell out” to do affiliate marketing. You don’t have to scheme or cheat people. For me, it’s really just promoting companies that I believe in. For example, the companies I choose to partner with are those that promote sustainably sourced products using fair trade and ethical factory conditions. I like to promote small name businesses trying to create social or environmental impact. I try to keep it to an exclusive few even though I’ve been approved for over 2,000 different companies (so far).

There are a few nuances to affiliate marketing and I didn’t know much about it prior to the course. But the course helped me to learn A LOT and it’s just another case of “you don’t know what you don’t know.” You could learn it all yourself, but it’s hard to without a guide to get you through the basics.

I highly recommend this course if you wish to monetize your blog but don’t know where to start.

Extra Income Report

Now, onto the numbers. In June 2020, I made $390.38 in extra income.

Of that, this is the breakdown:

  • $380 is from sponsored posts. I count the monetary value of products that I receive and review as “income”. I do not accept products for review without first learning about the company and product. As a minimalist, I also only look for products that we currently need. I am honest in all my product reviews and list both pros and cons because I want to be as helpful to the consumer and the company, both.
  • $10.38 is from affiliate links. This means that people clicked on a link I wrote about and I earned commission for referring a consumer.

I know it seems like not much, but as something I do for fun, I think it’s a nice little additional income. Over time, I hope to continue posting more income reports. Maybe it will help others looking for a side-hustle get a feel for whether blogging could become an alternative for them.

As always, my goal with this blog is to promote intentional living. Writing is a way to create a lifestyle that is in tune with what you want to do. Sure, it may not be the perfect job, but if working from home and having flexibility help allow you to live your dream life (one that includes traveling the world or becoming a stay-at-home parent), then I hope this space brings you that value.

If you are interested in starting a blog, I use WordPress. Feel free to sign up using my affiliate link.

If you already have a blog, I want to refer you to the course that helped me monetize mine. It’s a really great starting point. It’s called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.

Monthly Goals: July 2020

This post is sponsored by KINTO, a Japanese company that focuses on bringing tableware, drinkware, and interior items that bring its owners a sense of joy. Each of their items are heavily considered for the ease of integration into one’s lifestyle, without sacrificing the beauty of everyday things. 

A few days late, but better than never. In May, I shared how daily habits can help get goals achieved and in June I wrote about how creating time blocks can facilitate getting goals done.

For July, I wanted to do something a bit different and separate goals from habits. Habits are tiny daily steps we take to create a particular lifestyle. Hopefully the habits feed into your future goals but let’s not get the two confused as being the same thing.

This month’s goal formula has monthly goals, weekly goals, and daily habits listed separately. I consider monthly goals to be TRUE GOALS – one time events that occur after reaching a certain thresh-hold. In contrast, daily habits are tiny wins that we wish to accomplish so as to create a particular lifestyle. They are not true goals in that there is no end point. You do them daily, so it’s not like you drank 8 cups of water today therefore you’re done with that goal. Habits should be things that never leave you. You still want to do that again tomorrow in order to maintain a certain lifestyle. Lastly, weekly goals are somewhere in between. They’re goals that you can cross off and forget about for a few days, until a new week begins. They create a repeating habit over time. Below, you will see the difference between the three.

Monthly Goals:

  • Increase Instagram followers to 800 people, which may not seem like a lot but for a non-socialite such as myself seems like such a huge feat! If you like this content, perhaps you might enjoy a follow😉
  • Get a podcast recording in the books. It’s been a while since I’ve shared my story or put myself out there. After a few years of going down this loan repayment path, maybe some people can glean valuable info from my mistakes and my successes? I will try to see if there’s a space who would be interested in hearing the story thus far.
  • Finish online continuing education courses for dentistry and plan future live CE’s. Since we are spending a lot of time quarantining, I might as well use this time to knock out 25 of my 50 required continuing education credits. As a frugalist, I always do 25 of them online for FREE, which is the maximum allowed remote courses one can take.
  • Upgrade bathroom. We recently re-painted our bathroom in June. I wanted to upgrade the rest of it to make it feel like a brand new space without breaking the bank. I will be brainstorming a frugal way to upgrade a bathroom and will be sharing the project as we continue along.
  • Pantry declutter project. Every month I try to check the pantry for soon-to-be-expired items that I then integrate into meal planning. I like a minimalist fridge and pantry, getting rid of ingredients before buying more. We have very little pantry space in our small home, so it’s kind of a necessity, but also, a fun challenge for me.
  • Digital declutter project. For so long, I keep telling myself this will be the time I will digitally declutter. I have tons of files, photos, emails, subscriptions … I’d love to tackle this today!
  • Break $500 with the blog. I just recently started making money from the blog in the hundreds and my goal is to continually increase my blogger income. This month, I hope to break $500 in extra cash. One way I do this is by getting affiliate sponsored posts or by making affiliate links.
  • Explore 2 new places. It’s always good to have goals that nourish the soul. I love to explore and experience new things so this month, I wanted to explore two new places that we have never been before.
  • Bake 1 new recipe. I typically try to learn a new baker’s recipe every month using a variety of cookbooks or bloggers as inspiration.

Weekly Goals:

  • Stay offline one day a week. This means no blogging or social media for one entire day. This will be the day I spend with Mike, friends and family.
  • Deep clean house including bathroom, kitchen and floors.
  • Run 3x/wk. We have been pretty good about running a few days a week and I am proud of my abilities now (running up to five miles) so I want to keep this up. Hopefully it naturally turns into a habit so that I won’t have to keep making it a goal.

Habits:

  • Stretch/yoga10 mins every morning
  • Wake at sunrise
  • Use Headspace every morning
  • Skin care routine every morning
  • Wear TBC eyewear when using screens
  • Make bed every morning
  • Read 20 pages every day
  • No social media after 7pm
  • Drink 8 glasses of water
  • Turn on humidifier every evening
  • Wear a nightguard every night
  • Sleep at a decent hour every night
  • Write at least 30 minutes a day
  • Get outdoors 30 mins per day

I love to check off goals when I complete them. As for habits, I love to track. My favorite printable habit tracker download is by Unbound, which you can buy here.

I hope your month goes swell! See y’all in August.