Montreal 2022

Montreal – half Canada (hella nice) and half France (hella chic). Amazing old town buildings, a fantastically clean Metro, and lots of great little restaurants. (I didn’t get to try to many of said restaurants with 4 kids on the visit but it’s all good.)

Highlights:

  • Jean Talon Market – our Airbnb was really close to this market (and the Metro stop of same name). Very cool daily market with tons of produce, stands with processed foods like salami, pickles, etc.
  • Airbnb – we stayed in a second floor apartment in a three story building. It had an enormous patio, about 625 square feet, and 3 bedrooms. I love Airbnb when we travel as hotels are pretty darn difficult for a big family – although we miss having swimming pools, breakfast, etc.
  • Metro – so clean, so fast, and great pricing. A 3 day pass was about $21 and up to 4 children were free with an adult. I really like family / kid friendly policies like this. Most of the Metro stops did not have elevators and often had many steps which was a challenge for strollers and toddlers and I’m sure would make a challenge for handicapped people. The Metro does not go to the airport, but they have a frequent bus connection that worked well for us, about half the distance on the freeway was in a bus / taxi only lane which is a great idea for other places like San Diego to utilize.
  • Lachine Canal / bicycles – Bicycles are awesome and we got to rent for a day and ride about 20 miles on the Lachine Canal. Beautiful weather and water views of the canal on the way out, and the St Lawrence River on the way back. Massive amounts of park space along the way with playgrounds, trees and grass, sculptures, and more. Highly recommended. (We missed the Verdun public beach which would have been great and had tons of people enjoying the water.)
  • Summertime – we don’t get a lot of weather changes in San Diego but being in an area with lots of water, lots of trees, and long summer days was great. Long days were also amazing in Minnesota, for a farm visit after Montreal.

Iceland 2022

I had a chance to take a trip to Iceland this summer with my significant other (SE) and another couple (AC). I knew little about the country beforehand, and know not much more now other than an idea of the climate and topography.

Reykjavik – A lot of rainbows across Iceland. This is a pedestrian (aka people) only street in central Reykjavik. It was cool because of lots of people and place for people to do fun things.

We spent a few days in the capital city, Reykjavik, which houses approximately 2/3 of the country’s population – 220K out of 330K. Reykjavik central area was quite lively – lots of restaurants, shops, and such. Bakeries were top notch for sure. Coffee across the country was very good but as across Europe little in the way of drip coffee.

We took a clockwise trip around the island from Reykjavik to Akureyri then to Seydisfjordur, Hofn, and Vik. We visited in July and I was surprised how green the hills and plains were. A lot of hot springs / geothermal activity across the island which was very cool. From the Ring Road (Road 1) much of the view was flat / water to the coast and mountainous to the center area.

I was surprised at the low cost to get to Iceland – about $450 round trip from Minneapolis. It was comparable in cost for hotels, food, drink, etc. to Western Europe – about the same as a major U.S. metro or a bit higher than U.S. average.

We drove around the island (approx. 4 hours drive per day) and did a variety of hot springs and pools, short hikes, vista points, and dinner + beerskis at stops along the way. We had little in the way of rain and temperatures were around 60 degrees F high and 43 degrees F low. Everyone had their windows open / cracked the entire time across the island. Maybe due to geothermal heating? Not sure.

Various photos I enjoyed follow.

5 Peak Challenge – Kid’s Winter Break Edition (2021)

San Diego schools are closed for the end of 2021, so I’m taking our children to Mission Trails Regional Park to do the 5 Peak Challenge next week. Although the official challenge – including a printed certificate and official pin – ended 6/26/2020 the peaks, trails, and park remain open. The official website has some great stories of the various individuals and groups that did the 5 Peak Challenge.

To complete the 5 Peak Challenge with kids, I’m breaking it up into 3 separate sections, each with a different starting point. If you are looking to get out of the house next week and would like to join – with or without kids – please do! Following is the game plan and all are welcome to join.

Mission Trails Park Map

  • General Notes
    • Each day we’ll start hiking at 8:45 AM, arrive around 8:30 AM
    • Bring water, snacks, hiking shoes, etc.
    • Check out the approximate hike lengths, times, and elevation gains below
  • Monday, 12/20/2021 – North Fortuna and South Fortuna
    • Starting Point: Portobelo Entrance (West Side of MTRP, just south of 52)
    • Hike details: 5.5 miles, 1,204 feet of elevation gain
  • Tuesday, 12/21/2021 – Cowles Mountain and Pyles Peak
    • Starting point: Cowles Mountain Trailhead (7001 Golfcrest Drive)
    • Hike details: 5.7 miles, 1,736 feet of elevation gain
  • Wednesday, 12/22/2021 – Kwaay Paay
    • Starting point: Parking lot on Father Junipero Serra Trail near Old Mission Dam
    • Hike details: 3.0 miles, 892 feet of elevation gain

Hope to see you and if not, enjoy the Winter Break!

Creating an LLC – Quick Guide

Over the years I’ve been asked a number of times about how to set up and operate an LLC. This is typically in regard to “running a business” and coming from someone that is buying an investment property or in a similar situation. This post is a quick guide to getting an LLC set up (and as the disclaimer at bottom notes, not legal, business, or tax advice).

After completing a renovation, consider protecting your investment with an entity like an LLC.

First – why create an LLC? Primarily for liability protection. You do not need an LLC to conduct business. You can operate a business as a sole proprietor without any legal form or as a partnership (formal or informal) or any other entity structure. An LLC provides liability protection if a suit or claim impacts the assets that the LLC holds. In the case of real estate this would typically mean the LLC holds the title to the property, and any debts, and if the property had a loss or claim the LLC entity would help to protect the other assets of the LLC owner(s). The loss or claim could be a discrimination suit, property damage that exceeds insurance coverage, or a personal injury on the property. In addition to creating an LLC there are a variety of other tools you can use to reduce liability exposure, which I call the “The Protection Pyramid“.

If you do want to create an LLC the steps to do so are pretty straight-forward, but can be a bit intimidating if you aren’t already familiar with the registration and creation processes. An attorney can be a great help if you don’t want to do the paperwork yourself and will typically run in the range of $500 – $2,000 in my experience.

If you want to create an LLC yourself the basic steps are:

  1. State registration – An LLC is created at the state level, by filing the formation documents with the Secretary of State. You’ll need to complete an LLC Operating Agreement and/or Articles of Organization to create the LLC, which are then provided to the state. You can hire an attorney to create these documents, use an online provider like LegalZoom, or download a free template like this one. I would generally opt for the attorney option, at least for your first LLC to ensure it’s done properly. The state will then provide you with a state ID number and the LLC is officially created. There will typically be a small fee to register, and an annual form and filing fee for future years. (For an example, here is the Nevada website to register a new LLC.)
  2. Federal registration – After creating the LLC at the state level you will want to register with the IRS to get a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). You can do this online on the IRS website. This process is free.
  3. Bank account – For any business entity like an LLC make sure to keep business transactions separate from personal transactions. This goes for any income and any expenses. It will also make it easier to report the business activity at tax time. You can set up this account at any bank but should consider monthly fees, ATM access, and other banking offerings you may want. I also highly recommend a business credit card so you can conveniently make purchases in addition to the checking account. I personally like the Capital One Spark Business Card which offers 2% cash back on all purchases. Credit cards also offer better fraud protection than bank accounts, and reward programs like cash or travel miles.
  4. Financial software – This is not a required step, but one I highly recommend. Financial software organizes all the transactions for the business more easily and can create an income statement, balance sheet, or other reports. I use Quickbooks but you can also use NetSuite, Freshbooks, or a variety of other options. Whichever you pick, having online access and bank account syncing are critical tools to consider.

If you are the sole owner of the LLC you will include the business activity directly on your personal tax return each year and not likely have additional income tax filings required. If you have more than one owner you will likely need to file an annual income tax return on Form 1065 for Federal purposes and a state specific LLC return as well. The LLC does not pay income taxes, but will provide a Schedule K-1 to each LLC owner with their share of the business activity, which is incorporated into their individual tax return (Form 1040).

I hope this quick summary of the process to create an LLC is helpful to you. An LLC can be a great tool to give yourself additional liability protection at fairly low annual cost.

An LLC can help avoid the prick of claims on your assets. Ouch!

Note: The content of this post is for informational and discussion purposes and is not financial or tax advice. Consult with an advisor before relying on this or any information.

Hiking Cowles Mountain – Big Rock Trail (NE Trail)

I’ve hiked Cowles Mountain many times with my son since he was a baby, but until today had only used the Golfcrest Trailhead, the south-west and most popular starting point. Today we headed to Big Rock Trailhead, the north-east starting point.

The distance was about 2.1 miles from the trailhead to the peak and the ascent took us an hour with the return trip taking about 40 minutes. It certainly felt longer and more strenuous than the Golfcrest trail we’ve typically done. (Might be my post-Covid weaker body, or actually is a harder trail.) There was a great breeze going and this eastern trail had more shrub shade than the western side, to my surprise. Not a lot of shade, but some portions had a bit. We sat at the top and had a picnic lunch, which is a great way to take a nice break and enjoy a chat and views at the peak.

Guest content from my hiking partner, Ambrose:
“My favorite part was eating lunch. I want to do another hike sometime – one with a waterfall at the end.”

Cowles Mountain is one of 5 peaks in Mission Trails Regional Park that make up the “5 Peak Challenge“. The map below highlights the location of the peaks and it’s fun to do them all whether solo, with a friend, or with your family. I did the 5 Peak Challenge a few years ago solo and it was a great, challenging day.

COVID-19 Antibody Testing – Now Included with SD Blood Bank Donations

The San Diego Blood Bank recently started testing all blood donations for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) antibodies. I gave blood last month and received the antibody results about 7 days after my donation via the Blood Bank donor portal, a personal site that gives a donor history, blood type, and now COVID-19 antibody results.

Per the Blood Bank, the antibody test “detects if your immune system has developed antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Results of SARS-CoV-2 testing is intended for qualification of COVID-19 convalescent plasma and may NOT be used for diagnostic purposes.  As this is NOT a diagnostic test, it will not detect active COVID-19 infections or recent exposure.” More information on the antibody test can be found on the Blood Bank related FAQ page here.

If you are wondering if you may have already had COVID-19 donating blood may be a free, convenient way to find out while also providing a blood donation to help others in the community.

You can schedule an appointment to donate blood with the San Diego Blood Bank at:
https://www.mysdbb.org/donor/schedules/zip

Sunrise over Americas Cup Harbor on November 28, 2020. (Not a blood donation center, but was a pretty morning.)

Daily Affirmations + Start Page

A couple of years ago I created a custom webpage on my site to be the default start page for my browsers / computers. Recently, I updated the start page, which you can find here.


Growing up in a Catholic family it was typical in our house to have a laminated Saint card scotch taped to each bathroom mirror in the house. St. Francis of Assisi, St. Patrick, and many others featured over the years. These cards would have an image of the Saint on one side of the card and a prayer on the reverse side. Having something on your bathroom mirror is likely to be seen, and consequently read, frequently.

Inspired by, and in homage to, those Saint cards growing up I also used my new start page as a daily affirmation for our household. I’m sure it will change over time but especially in the odd times we are in it seemed important to have a repeated positive message in our days.

My first attempt at a daily affirmation is:

I am strong.

I am smart.

I act with integrity and honesty every day.

I am grateful and respectful.

I smile and am happy.

Although the above items aren’t always true, I’ve become a fan of the idea that simply stating something makes it more likely to become true. In many cases the statement has to come first, to make the actions required to realize a goal happen. Human psychology can be a curious beast, but one that is inextricably linked to what our days and lives look like. A daily affirmation is something I almost definitely would have scoffed at in the past, but seems like a good idea today. Perhaps it’s an idea that will be useful to you as well.

An example Saint Card

Toddler Shoes

One rule I have for our babies is that they can not be dressed in restrictive clothing – footie pajamas, onesies that are too small, and the like. It restricts their ability to grow and they need to be tall for the higher earnings potential and physical intimidation factor. Learning is great, but you can’t teach height.

My wife thinks this is dumb.

To prove my point I bought our 2 year old new shoes, 3 sizes too big. Lo and behold 6 months later the shoes fit.

Proven correct once again.

Easy Oven Cooked Bacon Recipe

I typically fry bacon in a skillet on the stove top but a friend shared the following recipe to easily make bacon in the oven. It’s simple, and great if you need to feed a big breakfast crowd. Also requires less attention while cooking which is nice.

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees like Juvenile
  • Arrange bacon on a metal baking sheet with edges (use aluminum foil under the bacon if you like less mess and more waste)
  • Cook for 7 minutes on first side, then turn all bacon over
  • 7 more minutes on second side – but keep a watch to avoid overcooking, may be done sooner
  • Put on the table and snarf with your family and friends

Uncooked bacon like whoa

SBA Loans / Grants – COVID

Wanted to pass along the below information in case helpful for your business.  ** Please note this information was pulled together quickly, primarily from the SBA website, and has not been vetted or reviewed for absolute accuracy.  I wanted to help raise awareness of helpful funding options for businesses in the current climate and encourage anyone considering these programs to do further research before relying on this article. **

I think the Forbes article at bottom does a good job of running down the options – primarily two at the Federal level.

  • Economic Injury Disaster Loans – includes potential $10k cash grant (can be forgiven)
      • From SBA site: advance of up to $10,000. The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program provides small businesses with working capital loans of up to $2 million that can provide vital economic support
        https://www.sba.gov/page/disaster-loan-applications
  • Paycheck Protection Program Loan Guarantee – bit more complicated to apply for (done through SBA approved bank).
      • From SBA site: SBA will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities. The loan will be fully forgiven if the funds are used for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities (due to likely high subscription, at least 75% of the forgiven amount must have been used for payroll). Loan payments will also be deferred for six months. No collateral or personal guarantees are required. Neither the government nor lenders will charge small businesses any fees.
        https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/paycheck-protection-program

Very good Forbes article with more details on these programs:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/brianthompson1/2020/03/29/getting-cash-for-your-small-business-through-the-cares-act/#31abb07e43a0

Happy to chat about the above and assist if needed. I’ve completed a couple of the EIDL (first link) applications and was quite quick / simple to complete. With so much uncertainty ahead, good to have potential sources of funds accessible just in case.

Cheers,

– John

These times may be trying, but there are lots of good things to look forward to. These are some of mine. 🙂