The Home of Daddy's Day Dare! ~ I am just trying to stay above water

Archive for the month “January, 2012”

I’ve Been TAGGED!

Tagged, not like out sliding into second. Not like a tag behind my ear to watch my travel patterns. I was tagged a few days ago by an blogging buddy, Kristabel at Race Ready. I have been a runner practically all my life but Kristabel humbles me. I follow her for some motivation on my running. But she has accomplished things I can only aspire to do. Just coming off a memorable collegiate track career, this innocent looking young lady becomes a real beast when she laces up her sneakers.

She asked to answer 11 questions and then tell you 11 things about myself you may not know, and then tag some other friends to find out more about them. Out of respect for K.D. I wanted to try to make this fun.

So here goes; here are 11 things you may probably didn’t know about me.

1. I am married, been married for 15 years now. I have two great kids and a cat, that is also 15 years old. Now I am not a cat person. She brought that cat home one day right after we got married. She didn’t ask me first! As you can see, I lost that argument.
2. My wife is a genius. Literally. Bonafide. Mensa. Folks, never marry a genius, or someone that much smarter than yourself. You can never win an argument. How can you argue with a genius? (See #1)
3. My main passions, besides family, are creativity, traveling, running and weightlifting.

4. I will do practically anything for a laugh.

5. I found out too late in life that drinking beer can actually lead you to do embarrassing things.

6. I don’t have cartilage in my shoulders anymore. I have arthritis in my big toe, a broken toe, sore knees, had a MCL strain in my knee and plantar faciitis in my foot. Being healthy can kill you sometimes.
7. I drive fast. I lost my license in Myrtle Beach years ago for too many speeding violations. I practically paid for an exit in Frederick, MD to be resurfaced by all the tickets I paid during college and going home by that exit. Plus it would not be good for me to get pulled over in North Carolina anymore either.

My car when I moved to Myrtle Beach, SC

8. I grew up listening to hard rock but have since grown to like Irish Music,

some African music,

some jazz and swing,

Jimmy Buffett,

and even have some ties to a thrash metal band.

9. I have three degrees, writing isn’t one of them. I actually have a MBA with a 3.9 GPA. but with my memory they all seem like such a waste of money.

10. Doctors told us 7 years ago that it is impossible for us to have kids.

11. I feel like I am one of the luckiest and most blessed men alive.

Those are some things about me. Surprised? Now here are the 11 questions RaceReady asked me to answer to find out a little bit more:

1. Favorite nut butter?
I don’t know if I have a favorite nut butter. I always thought if they made a butter from cashews I would buy into that. I have eaten a Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwich for lunch most of the last 5 years but with my love for sweets it is more like a Jelly & Peanut Butter sandwich.
2. If housing cost the same anywhere, where would you live?
I would live on a hill on an island in the Caribbean, that overlooked the clear blue ocean. I have actually thought about this. The island is Curacao, in the Dutch West Indies, and is where I have my heart set on someday.

The view I want to enjoy in retirement

3. Are you a social butterfly, hermit crab, or something in between?
I am both and neither. I love to meet people but am as quiet as a clam in a big party setting. But I really do like meeting strangers and getting to know them. It comes from being a restaurant manager in a previous life.
4. Favorite holiday?
I want to say Thanksgiving but it has to be Christmas. Christmas has so much good-will to it, it is a special birthday, it lasts longer, and the feasts cover several days.
5. Do you prefer simple or complex recipes?
I’ll take either recipe as long as A) I can find all the ingredients (or can make due) and B) recipes are easy to read. I am absolutely horrible at reading directions and have to reread them several times. I used to make beer in my kitchen. Beer recipes can be as tricky as any recipe because you have to hit and maintain certain temperatures, create a living organism in the yeast at the right temperature as well as be completely sanitized the whole time. If you mess up at any point the whole batch is wasted.
6. What is harder for you: going long, fast, uphill, or resting?
If you are talking about biking…it’s the uphills that kill me. I luv going long and fast. I try to crank it out in the top gear and only use the large derailler to change gears. It doesn’t work so well trying to find the right gear on a hill. What’s worse for me than hills? A good stiff wind!
7. If you had to seriously take up a new sport, what would it be?
This is a tough one. I am going to put down swimming as I am a lousy swimmer. Swimmers are phenomenal athletes. No wait, weightlifting! I dunno..
8. Do you have a big family or small one?

I have one brother and sister so it is about normal I guess.
9. Favorite recipe?
Food recipe is my BBQ Chicken Nachos w/ cilantro. Ice cream is my Oreo Mint. Beer was the Oatmeal Maple Stout.
10. What website gobbles up your time?
Facebook did so I got rid of it. Now I would have to say this blog does.

11. Worst habit, or better yet what is your best habit?
My worst habit is being on the computer. It is such a time sucker. If I have a good habit it might be trying to read my girls a story before they go to bed. It’s a great one-on-one time and anything could happen; from sleeping to wrestling to tickle offs.

Now please tell me something I don’t know about YOU. Please think about this. Possibly use it for a post some time this week. I know lots of your followers would love to find out more secret stuff about you. I know I would! So consider yourself tagged!

My Questions:

1. What has been your favorite vacation spot so far?
2.Where would you love to visit before you die?
3. Jason Straham (The Transporter), Matt Damon, (Jason Bourne), or Clint Eastwood (any)? Other Fav. action star?
4. What is your favorite childhood memory?
5. Favorite sport you follow?
6. Favorite sport you participate in?
7. Worst vice?
8. What nickname did you have in school? Why?
9. A sneakers or a shoes person?
10. Your best creative outlet? Writing? Cooking? Photography? Web design? Other?
11. Everyone has a super power. My wife says I have a ‘Sonic Clap’. What is you Super Power?

Thanks for reading! Thanks Kristabel! Have a great week!


Remember those days in school? When the words ‘Field Trip’ sparked such excitement? Field Trips might have been one of my best classes! Today we have a field trip planned. I am taking the kids to the local aquarium downtown this morning (the official South Carolina Aquarium). I was excited!

Sand Dollars sparkling in the surf

Field Trips just weren’t about getting out of class to me. It was a time for discovery. I love finding things, noticing small animals, seeing why things are the way they are. It is one reason I enjoy going to the beach so much. The discovery of new things, shells, crabs, strange living creatures, mollusks living in shells and so on. You never know what you might find?

Today I was happy for my kids. The aquarium is not a huge place but it does have a lot of interactive things for the kids to draw them in. A new exhibit they offered was the saltwater marsh and feeding the rays, as we put a small shrimp in the end of the stick and watch the rays hover up to it and gulp it up.

We're not going to feed the gator

The aquarium has the always enjoyable otter tank with the little cutties swimming around. Lots of snakes and reptiles. Plenty of turtles that populate our area, both inland and in the sea. Exhibits on the tides and evolution of shells. Even an albino Alligator. Very curious! Let the day of discovery begin!

We entered the aquarium and my girls ran right by the Bald Eagle exhibit, right into the river otter display. Once there they found one or two large puddles to play in! Onward into the swamp and marsh displays, where they darted right by the solitary albino gator, finding much more enjoyment pressing the buttons that replicate all the sounds of the swamp (crickets, owls, etc.).

Next was the outdoors tidal display where my girls could feed the rays. This was so cool! Wait! Where are they? They ran back to the kids play tug boat. Dylan was steering it and blowing the horn. My two year old found a turtle she could climb on and slide off. Those rays will just have to go hungry I thought!

Finally, my kids ran through the outdoor tidal display, scattering the wrens and seagulls. Even the fish hid for their life from this kiddie romp!

These two fish feared they might be found

In the next room was our favorite, the two-story deep water fish display. This tank had the barracudas, sharks, puffers, groupers, colorful reef fish and more. Being an avid diver I couldn’t wait for the girls to see this in hope they’ll want to learn to dive with us as early as possible.

Those are her new red shoes on the carpet

I held my two year old up to the glass as the shark swam by but all the excitement behind her caught her attention. It seems toddlers would rather ‘discover’ the joy of climbing on a fake whale, and sliding off the tail, than the discovery of seeing a real mini sperm whale through the glass. The fish, bigger than she was in most instances, were just no match for the smooth plastic slide off a whales bum. I wondered if they knew these fish were even real?

"Hey! Get back here!"

I herded my kids once again and tried to make my way to the restroom. ~ you know how the sound of running water can affect you ~  Instead, they have the idea of running all the way back to the play tug boat and sea turtle. Help!

We finally make it through the doors, outside into the overcast day where their energy and enthusiasm had no end. Because outside…they could chase more seagulls!

Hold still !

Not even a photo op with Mr. Frog could hold their attention.

Not when there was the supersonic ray gun pointed up to the stars where they could shoot down enemy planes landing at our local airport. Discovery!

Their discovery ended when they found out the ‘ray gun’ needed 5 quarters to make it work.

"Skylar, maybe you could shoot this bird instead"

Is it nap time yet?

Tight-Wad Tuesdays: Aim for a Soft Landing

My wife is addicted to the extravagant Housewives franchise on reality TV. Last night there was a season ender with a wedding in Beverly Hills (Housewives of Beverly Hills). Love ‘em or hate ‘em, it was clear this housewife loved her daughter and put out an incredible event for her daughter’s wedding.

Beverly Hills wedding

It left me with the thought, wouldn’t we all like to do that for our kids that we love on their special day. I turned to my wife, breaking the encouraged silence, “I better start saving now for our girls”. Their big day may be only 20 years away. How else can I afford the rose petaled chandeliers, 100 of our closest friends, parking for said friends, the $9000 wedding cake and so on? My wife gave me a confirming nod.

Now that I have the job again, its fun to do all the fun financial planning. The first thing we talked about was where we are going on our next vacation, followed by a new deck for our backyard, funding the kids educational 529’s and our retirement DRIPs. It feels good to get back in the drivers seat!

If you are young and reading this you may think all that is a lot to pay for with a weekly paycheck. If you are older you know how it all somehow falls into place. Planning the short term stuff is fun and easy. It’s the long term commitments that are more challenging and may get brushed aside.

As a financial adviser I can tell you most people think their 401k’s will fuel their retirement. That’s the easy way for planning and wrong on so many levels. First there is the thing called Enron. Those employees lost their entire 401k savings from the wrecking of a company.

Bye-bye Enron!

Second, how long are you going to live in retirement? People are living longer every year. Plus, in today’s standard of living, people actually think they are going to retire early, adding more need for a hefty safety net..

Third, what are things going to cost when you are ready to retire? What did cars, or a loaf of bread, cost 20 years ago? What will it cost in 20 more years?

These are just a few signs that tell you 401k’s are not the sole answer to living a lifestyle you worked so hard to build over your first 60+ years. I don’t know about you, but I want my savings to last a long time, going down slow like a parachute instead of plummeting like the speeding impulse of the bungee jumper.

So wouldn’t you want to retire a millionaire? A million dollars won’t even be that much in 20 more years. We better get started!

I told you an easy, painless, carefree, so-simple-you-won’t-even-know-it way to build for a comfortable nest egg when you are through with work. I showed you the things to look for when investing in great companies, such as generous dividends and a good dividend yield. I also showed you some of the cream-of-the-crop, as far as dividend paying, reinvesting companies. So now I want to show you exactly how to do this.

First, your homework. I showed you a sorry graph on dividend paying companies last week; companies we all know and love. Otherwise great investments, right? But the last two were not so. Why?

We are planning for the future, right? We want to be sure whatever companies we invest in will not only be around but going strong in the future; a good 20 – 30 years from now… at least.
Phillip Morris (PM) is doing better than ever right now. Its stock price has hit record highs this year. Its dividend paid is far superior to most companies. What’s the problem?

You know how Phillip Morris makes the bulk of its money, right? Cigarettes. Each year the government is making it harder and harder to stay in business via levying taxes. Its industry is under constant attack from legal issues and people wanting millions of dollars in law suits because cigarette companies lie in their advertisements. And lifestyle changes! I am not so sure this company will be around in 20 years, or at least doing the level of sales as it enjoys today. I don’t think buying this company would be so smart for over the long haul. McDonalds and hamburgers yes. Cigarettes, no.

Eastman Kodak. Did everyone’s family have a Kodak camera at one point? Pictures printed on Kodak paper? Everybody had these! The graph I left tells the story of Eastman Kodak. They have fallen all the way down to a Penny Stock. Quite coincidently, Kodak filed for bankruptcy the day after I posted my blog last week. Why?

Their business was making and printing pictures…the old fashioned way. Kodak cameras and Kodak paper. Today everything is digital. The cameras are and the pictures sit in our computers; not so much on glossy paper. Kodak stuck to its guns and did not adapt, or tried way to late. They were a great investment years ago, paying a hefty dividend them self. But now they are filing for bankruptcy.

The lesson to learn is, when picking a company for the long-term, pick a staple that everyone will want and need in the future. Staples like healthcare, food, household items, hospitals and so on. Don’t pick todays hot company or latest trend. The world is changing at a rapid pace. And nobody wants cameras with rolls of film that need to be shipped away before you can see them anymore.


1) Pick some companies you know and love. This way, if the way the company’s business changes, or would no longer be in style, you will know when it happens. These companies are not hard to find. You buy them every day stores.

2) Research the company’s dividend. How much is it? Is it fair in relationship to the price of the stock ? (dividend yield) Don’t sweat this! You can find this number on any computer’s homepage under ‘Finance’, then ‘Price Quote‘ and then ‘Fundamentals’. Try this now with Coke (KO).  Dividend yield is on the first page under ‘Quote’. The actual dividend paid is on the next page, or ‘Fundamentals’ and it took you less than 60 seconds to find this out. And 2 minutes to write down the information you want.

3) Research your preferred companies Dividend Reinvestment Plan. You may find this under the company’s web site; under ‘Investors’. You may also find the info at a Transfer Agent’s web site, like Computerhare. Take an evening after work to compare the specifics and what you are looking for in a plan. This is the bulk of the investment of your time in DRIPs,  so take your time. The things you want are under last weeks blog (little to no fees, automatic bank drafts, possibility of making larger cash payments).

4) Buy your first shares! To buy your first shares you may have to go to a bank this one time and ask to speak to a professional adviser. They need to purchase your first shares for you. Sometime stocks want as much / little as a $500 investment; or only one share. Just ask first. Some transfer agents let you buy your first shares directly from them. (Lots easier! ~ bookmark this page) Your research in the various plans will tell you this.

5) Get the shares in YOUR name. If there is any tricky part, it is here. When you go to your professional you must ask / insist the shares be put under your name. All trading houses buy shares for you but they hold the title to them until you are ready to buy or sell again. Ask for the stock to be put in your name! The adviser will comply. Go with your spouse or a friend to the bank just to hold the adviser to it.

6) Set up your DRIP with the Transfer Agent. If you buy the shares under your name the company will send you these shares ( I think they look so cool). They will also send you literature about their Dividend Reinvestment Plan and how to set it up with their preferred agent.  Contact the agent to set up your Golden Parachute account! They will need a bank deposit ticket for the automatic bank drafts funding your retirement package.

That’s how it is done! There is nothing tricky are too hard that your education has not brought you to. There is no need to be an expert, a doctor, adviser, lawyer, or anything. These plans are set up for the common person. (Look at me! ~ I’m so common)

If you want some additional info on setting up a DRIP accurately here is a link and here. Take some minutes or read this info and be comfortable with the process. The entire process may take up to 2 months to complete. Nothing will sneak by you. Now, have a party! You just bought your first company! At your age! (Your family will be so proud)

Finally, daydream about where you want to spend your life when you are tired of working, the car you will drive, the vacations you take, the foods you eat. You just funded that comfortable landing in your retirement. Great job! Your soft landing has just been put on auto-pilot from here.

Home Sweet Home!

~ If you have any questions about anything I have gone over the last 3 Tuesdays, don’t be a Tight-Wad,please ask me and I will do my best to help:  Mccleafhome(at)comcast(dot)net

Its no accident…

As an extroverted and want-to-be creative dad, I love Saturday and Sunday morning breakfasts. Its then I have the time to make some breakfast for my family. Is it a big deal? I really enjoy it. It takes me back to the Saturday mornings when my dad used to make pancakes for us.  I don’t know if you can remember this far back. In the old days you used to make pancakes with some flour, eggs, vegetable, oil, milk and so on. Nowadays you just measure the mix, add the water and stir it together.

Today was pancakes with some blueberries whipped in. That’s the part I dig, making it up each day. I just look in the refrigerator and see what we have to mix with. I figure, if I am taking the time to make the breakfast, why not make it as special as you can for everyone? Its like a motto I used as a manager by famed basketball great Bill Russell, “ The game is scheduled, we are all here, we might as well play to win!”

My resume of pancake breakfasts include, Blueberry pancakes, strawberry pancakes, banana, blueberry- banana (which my neighbors got out of bed for)and so on. The secret ingredient to my pancakes however is the vanilla extract. Every batch starts with enough of a dose of vanilla extract to get you loopy. Well not that much. The vanilla acts like the canvas for the pancakes; the vehicle for the other ingredients to ride on board with. Plus, it fills the house with the good vanilla smell where you don’t ever have to call everyone to the table. It gets you that, “It smells good” compliment every time. Nothing wrong for fishing for complements on a bleary-eyed Saturday morning, is there?

When I was in high school, I had a friend’s mother that would take the entertaining one step further. She would make the syrup fancy. She would take regular syrup (already one of the top five condiments known to mankind) and warm it up. Next, she would add some real butter to it. (Sniff) Can you imagine what that mighta smelled like? Or she could make fruit flavored syrup by adding some extra fruit (see pancake recipes above) to the warming syrup, mash the fruit a bit and let the heat just bleed the flavors out of the fruit. So good! Can you imagine having a stack of steaming pancakes topped with warm maple syrup while you are looking at snow outside?

I enjoy doing all this for my clan and seeing there smiling faces. If the smiles are ample enough I might even clean the dishes too. ~ well hide most of them in the dishwasher. I enjoy the entertaining aspect and its one reason why my IDEAL career would be owning and operating a Bed & Breakfast. I enjoy the entertaining! I enjoy the creative cooking ( I was a Restaurant Manager in a past life). I enjoy meeting new people and getting to know them. ~ Be aware of that last passion, if you ever get an email from me! Combined with my fondness for writing, the emails can get quite ‘chatty’.

And if anyone in my B&B, whether here at home at my fantasy resort, had a preferred breakfast, I’d try to make it too. ..cause I want to try it! Have I told you how I love to eat yet?

Its Dylan’s nap time. Part of the whole ‘nap time’ process is getting her to go to the potty before she lays down, so she doesn’t have to wear her pull-ups while she naps. She usually enjoys doing it so she can prove what a big girl she is. Today however, she stayed sitting in the middle of the hallway. She was kneeling down over one of her dolls, just waiting there.

I urged, “Come on Dylan, its time for your nap!”

She looks up and hands me “Belle”, one of her new Disney Princesses. “Belle” was evidently propped atop one of our little tooth-brushing rinse cups. Dylan looks up, wipes the hair away from her face, smiles and says, “Belle had to go potty too!” It seems Belle was going to take a nap with Dylan…and Dylan didn’t want to get blamed for something, in case Belle had an accident.


DYLANism: Caption This

I am sorry if any of you got a 1 – 2 punch with the Christmas Video today. It was an accident and was supposed to be loaded to the VodPod widget on the right. Either VodPod or I messed the whole thing up. Hmmm?

So I apologize for loading your Inbox’s today. Some family and friends actually said they enjoyed the Christmas vid. But it is way to long to subject innocent blog readers to I think. If I had to subject some creative bloggers to watch a video it would have to be a good one and a lot shorter! But it made me think, which is my favorite kid video?

I can’t chose. They all have some cute and personal value to them. I thought my favorite must be the one that I have watched the most over time.

So if you can stomach somebody’s home movies here is one of my all-time fav’s. When I sent this out the first time to family and friends I just watched it over and over again. Maybe it was because I was a new father. Or maybe because I felt like such a lucky father. I dunno. But the video has been locked in my computer for a few years now.

I needed to post it to Youtube in order to post it here.  Dylan doesn’t say anything in this DYLANism however. So if you can watch this vid can some of you creative people help me come up with a title for it? I am curious what minds greater than mine might think of?

Have a fabulous weekend everyone!

Can you think of a good title for this video?

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