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Aug 30
icon1 Susan | icon2 Savings Tip (@Savings.com) | icon4 08 30th, 2010| icon3No Comments »

Pregnancy could probably be the single most costly thing during your life, but with a little tweaking here and there, it can be cost effective and at times completely free.  With two pregnancies under my belt, I have learned a thing or two about taking something you need and making it budget-friendly.

These are ten things that not only saved my budget, but made me a happy pregnant momma:

  1. Luxury Beauty Services: Skip the spa (upwards of $125). Put your significant other to work and have them give you a foot, shoulder, neck, or full body massage ($0).
  2. Prenatal Vitamins: Sometimes the prenatal vitamins that are prescribed by your doctor can be very expensive ($45 co-pay for a 30 day supply).  Go to Whole Foods or Vitamin Shoppe and get a prenatal that fits your needs (the staff at the stores are very knowledgeable).  I went with New Chapter Perfect Prenatal which was on sale for $66 for a 2 month supply.
  3. Parking: Forget about valet services at the mall because you’re still going to have to walk ($7-$14).  Almost any big mall will have an “Expectant Mother” parking spot, indicated by a bold pink line and a sign with a stork on it ($0).

Read the rest of my post at Savings.com

Aug 26
icon1 Susan | icon2 Experiences | icon4 08 26th, 2010| icon31 Comment »

Just yesterday as I was speaking to my friend about her settlement check for her car accident, I checked my email to find multiple emails (I’m talking 16 to be exact) from iTunes saying ” Your receipt #” with an order number following it.  At first, I thought it was spam mail, but then my gut told me to open one.  I opened the email to find out that a purchase was made in the amount of $149.99.  My stomach dropped to the floor and my body froze.

After going through a moment of shock and my friend still on the line, I opened all 15 emails that followed the first one.  As I opened each one to see the same $149.99 charge ($149.99 x 16, you do the math), I was speechless.  I told my friend of the situation and got off the phone immediately to make a call to iTunes.  Unfortunately, iTunes/Apple had closed shop for the day, at least the customer service end of it.

I had to think quickly and immediately and called Paypal, since the payment transaction, happened through them.  First, I had to go online and chat with an automated customer service chick about my situation (I probably have not sworn that much in my life).  Seriously, getting a phone number should not be that hard.  The whole process just infuriated me (Note: Paypal just put a phone number on the Contact Us page).

After getting the number and almost losing my sanity, I called Paypal to let them know what was going on.  I spoke with a guy named Al who was a representative for Paypal Credit Card.  Eventually, after both of us being confused for a good 4 minutes, he transferred me to the appropriate people.  Once I was on the line with them, I had to tell them the situation all over again and guess what?  They passed me onto the security department.  It just felt never-ending.

By the time I had reached the security department, my mouth was dry from speaking to everyone along the way, I just wished it was a bad dream.  They reassured me that this was an ongoing issue with iTunes and it was more common in recent months.  Apple?  Aren’t they a multi-qua-trillion dollar company?  Security Breach?  What?

So after they canceled the transactions and requested a refund, I went onto Google to do a search on “itunes hacking” and it came up with 16,500 results. Wow!  Everything from iTunes developer being kicked to the curb,  Facebook site dedicated to iTunes hacking, and real stories of victims like me.  It’s quite scary that a company like Apple can’t get rid of a problem like this.  Do something quick!

After losing sleep, calling Paypal again, calling my bank to stop payment, speaking with my credit card, I finally received an email from iTunes.  The email sounded like they were trying to cover their backs and made it seem like it was a non serious matter (this lit a huge fire under me).  I was pissed and wrote a really nice email back to them stating that they should refund my money because clearly my account was compromised.  Moreover, I have not used iTunes for a couple years and don’t even have the app on my computers to have access to my account.  The last purchase I made was a couple years ago for a music download that cost me 99 cents.  Common people!

I received a reply towards the end of the day saying, “A refund in the amount of $x,xxx.xx will be credited to the PayPal account used to pay for the order. Please note that this is a one-time exception to our sales policy.” Seriously, this was their fault and they made it seem like it was my fault.  Anyhow, it’s definitely a lesson learned, and I am canceling my account, plus changing all my passwords on everything.

So if you have an iTunes account, make sure you keep your eyes wide open because it can happen to the best of us.  I hope my experience can save people from having to experience the shock of feeling violated.  Unfortunately, we live in a society where we constantly need to watch our back (that includes powerful hackers) because it literally takes a second for our lives to be turned upside down.  Take all precautionary measures!

Aug 13
icon1 Susan | icon2 Product Review | icon4 08 13th, 2010| icon3No Comments »

Is your baby sick of the same puree that you have been making her at home?  Or better yet, are you sick of giving her the same old same old everyday?  Just as in life, after the same schedule, the same food, the same clothes, the same classes, you just want to change things up.

I am the first to say that making your own baby food at home is probably the best thing you could do after breastfeeding your child.  However, not every parent has the time to make fresh baby food, day after day, and sometimes it could become a tedious task when you have 100 other things to do on your daily list.

Well, we live in a day and age where companies are dedicated to solely making the best baby food known to man.  They put everything from DHA, Omega fatty acids, Vitamin E, veggies, multiple sources of protein, and even antioxidents.  Plus, they come organic, gluten-free, vegan, wheat-free, dairy-free, and nut-free.  You just name it and it probably exists.

My mom fed me Gerber on occasion (at least thats what she tells me) and since I eat mostly organic, I feed my children organic food whether I make it or buy it in a package.  One thing my children and I have on a daily basis are the HAPPYBABY Organic Puffs (we purchase it in cases).  Since I already trusted HAPPYBABY with the quality of their Organic Puffs, I wanted to try out their other line of products.

HappyBellies Organic Oatmeal Cereal: Tastes like oatmeal but it’s better because it has DHA and probiotic immunity support.  It’s vegan and does not have dairy or soy.  After trying it, it left me full for a couple of hours and my baby was completely satisfied (she actually did not spit it out). BPA free.

HappyPuffs Organic Green Puffs: This was a no brainer.  We already LOVE it!  If you want a cheerios alternative without high fructose corn syrup and half the sugar, this would be a winner. Plus, it has some veggies hidden in it (organic kale, organic spinach, and organic collard greens) and it does NOT taste like veggies, very sweet and yummy!  It does not contain dairy, corn, or soy.  Packaging is BPA free and recyclable.  

HappyMelts Organic Mixed Berry Melts:  I am allergic to dairy, so I could not taste test it but my preschooler did.  She loved it and ate the whole thing in one sitting.  My 1 year old did not like the texture, so she kept spitting it out.  It does not contain soy, gluten, or wheat.

HappyBites Mac + Cheese Bites: The mac + cheese comes in a fun little patty form, which definitely caught my attention and my my daughter’s.  Both my preschooler and 1 year old ate it like it was their last meal.  They both cleaned their plate which probably meant that it was yummy!  One thing to note is that it also comes with 1 serving of veggies (yay!).

After testing out the HAPPYBABY line, I can say that they are the forefront in packaged baby and children food products.  Whether your child needs a nutrient dense food option or they have celiac disease, HAPPYBABY has pretty much everything to meet the needs of your growing baby.

(Disclosure: Free coupons were given to test the products and does not affect my views or feedback of the products.  This review is based solely on my personal opinion and experience and results may vary person to person.)

Aug 10
icon1 Susan | icon2 Event | icon4 08 10th, 2010| icon3No Comments »

The old Santa Monica Place was very dull, very empty, and very boring.  When I saw the construction happening, I wasn’t excited about the traffic and I really didn’t care for a whole revamp of something that was almost nothing.  My memories of the old Santa Monica Place was a half vacant mall with nothing to do.  I only went there for two reasons: to cool off when it was overly hot and to eat when all the 100 other restaurants around the corner were packed and I was desperate.

Art Display at the New and Improved Santa Monica Place.

Well say goodbye to the old Santa Monica Place and say hi to the new and eco-improved Santa Monica Place.  I was able to preview the mall before it had even opened and it really took me by surprise.  The first thing I noticed when I walked into the mall was that it no longer had a ceiling.  They had changed it to an open mall (a brilliant idea) and it was just what the doctor had ordered.  As I looked up to see the sky, I was immediately hit with some ocean breeze.  To me, this defines Santa Monica.   Before, the mall was dark and gloomy, and felt like a mall you would find in smalltown USA.

 Alas to the old days and in with the times.  The mall’s selection of stores has a pretty impressive line-up that caters to all tastes, but I would have to say that most of the retailers are high-end.  Some of my favorites include the Disney Store (I have two princesses), CB2 (Oh how I love thee, my condo in Chicago was fully decorated by CB2 and very affordably), Bloomingdales (for my splurge days), Joe’s Jeans (every girl needs to own one), and Bird Pick Tea & Herb (one of my favorite tea spots).  Oh and the Dining Deck is not to be missed.  You can see the city and ocean.  It’s so captivating that if I ever need some mommy time, I intend to go to the dining deck and imagine that I’m lying out on the Mykonos Island.

If you are a mommy like me, then the your new hotspot will be the new Disney Store.  Shall I say a Princess Paradise!  Although there are toys and Disney products for boys, when you walk into this store, there is no denying that it was made for a princess.  A beautiful castle ornamented with a crystal chandelier, princesses dancing atop, and a magic mirror, I wished I could switch into my daughter like a scene from “Freaky Friday.”

The beautiful castle at the new Santa Monica Place Disney Store. Do you sell these too?

What’s also great about this new Disney Store is that they are going to have many events planned so that it does become that family hotspot.  I really look forward to taking my daughters to storytelling and the events that will be coming in the near future.  Another thing I was impressed was that the company was moving into being green by using energy efficient light bulbs and also using organic cotton in some of their t-shirts.  If you live on the Westside, this store is a definite must and it doesn’t cost a dime to participate in storytelling or their special events for the community.

All in all, I have to say that the Santa Monica Place took me by surprise and I really look forward to being a regular patron of this mall!

Aug 4
icon1 Susan | icon2 Experiences | icon4 08 4th, 2010| icon3No Comments »

When I was young (let say 10-14), I really never thought about dating, much less think about sex.  Call me a prude, conservative, abstinent, hormone deficient, whatever, I just never sat there thinking about boys at that age.  I was more about my dance, gymnastics, and musical activities.  If I did have some spare time, I would hang out with my best friend at the mall or the local swimming pool. 

Of course, I had little childhood crushes here and there, but nothing my parents would’ve been worried about.  It was as far as, “You know so and so likes you, do you like him?”  As young as I was, I always thought that having any relationship with a boy should be saved for when I was older, or when I was independent from my parents.

So the other day when my preschooler came back from school and said, “So and so said that they were going to kiss with their tongues because they were going to get married tomorrow,” I was in shock.  Wow!  Okay, first off, my daughter is 4 years old and so are her friends.  I listened to what she was saying and was surprised that 4 year olds these days were saying things that I never even knew when I was 4.  I distinctly remember when I was 4, I was scared that I would wet my pants during naptime because I didn’t use the bathroom.

After listening to my daughter, I tried to figure out what would be the “right” thing to say to her.  I didn’t want to say that kissing was a bad thing because it’s not (I’ve watched on Tyra where adults were scared of intimacy because their moms told them it was dirty when they were young).  But I also didn’t want to encourage it either (I’ve seen enough Lifetime to know that).  Suprisingly, I learned a couple months ago from her teacher that it was normal for children between the ages of 3-4 to start discovering their sexuality and begin to differentiate body parts.

My initial reaction was that I freaked, and then I was like okay, let’s roll with the times.  The truth of the matter is that kids are developing a lot faster these days (mind & body).  By no means do I think 4 year olds should be engaging in any non-childlike physical activities (that includes mouth to mouth kissing involving tongue), but I do feel that parents should be prepared to teach their kids about different things as they happen, regardless of age.

Fortunately this time around, I was able to explain to my daughter that kissing was a beautiful thing between two people who love each other, but should be saved for when she or her friends were much older.  She understood and said, “I’m only going to kiss you, daddy, and my sister.”  I am glad she is at the age where she is responsive and understands.  However, I am not looking forward to puberty and or talking about the birds and the bees, in the near future!