Cool Mommy Product Reviews

Great hotel deals in NYC

March 13th, 2015

Last year, I remember sharing about a fantastic hotel deal in NYC. Here it is again –

Embassy Suite hotel NY Super Sale

It is even cheaper than last year’s Travelzoo promotion. Two

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The stress of volunteering.

March 13th, 2015

As a energetic and sociable mom, I find myself stretched very thin volunteering in my kids’ school. I co-chair the International Committee at the school’s PTO and recently spear-headed the first ever Asian food booth in the school’s Spring Fair. Man, it is so much work to raise $600 for the

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I had to canvass for volunteers to donate cash &/or food supplies, volunteers to cook and make dumplings. sushi and Indian Vegetarian curry & rice. Finally, I had to setup , help the booth & take down the decorations at the end of Spring Fair which was on Saturday, May 9. We sold out all 280 dumplings, 72 boxes of sushi and countless servings of curry & rice and ALL proceeds went to PTO because we got everything sponsored. It was amazing but is it really worth all the trouble. Should I just ask everyone to donate cash instead directly to PTO & get a tax write-off at the same time?

But then, where would the fun be? Spring Fair in USA always serve the same old fare – popcorn, cotton candy, hotdogs and hamburgers. Isn’t it time to be more “global” in nature as USA is known to be? The school that my kids attend have 23 different countries represented and hence many of us on the committee feel strongly that our Spring Fair should reflect that too. It was well worth the effort but man, it is a heck lot of work! (plus my cash donations)

I barely rested on Mother’s Day and yesterday was at school again sorting out “passports” for International Week taking place next week – May 18 to 22. Yes, I am the co-chair for this major school event. Today, I spent the whole morning with a few dedicated committee members decorating the school. Then, realized that we went slightly over my committee budget and have to humbly approach the PTO Exec board for additional funds… the last minute. Not fun.

And then, there is the Vacation Bible School at church which is taking place on Aug 10 to 14. A good friend of mine asked me to co-chair with her (she did it last year) and I know she is a very organized person so I said yes. (Yes – I am that sort of person who doesn’t say NO). That’s not it.

My 40th birthday is coming up in late May. After serious consideration, my husband and I decided to have a party to celebrate this wonderful milestone. I was initially reluctant to organize another thing but after googling for party ideas, the charity idea struck me. So, I asked guests not to bring gifts but their checkbooks instead to donate to alex lemonade stand. That gave me the motivation to organize a birthday party for myself.

This s a crazy and stressful month and will certainly be a month & a year to be remembered.

Two months ago, I decided that I need to cut down all these volunteering and hence will step down as Co-chair for our International Committee. However, I will still stay on to help with Chinese New Year Celebrations and International Week. Does that mean I will truly have more time for myself? I don’t think so. Something else will sure to “invade”.


Last Call on Free Shipping!

October 7th, 2014

Today’s the deadline for most merchants who offer free standard shipping. Order by midnight and you’ll still get these deals! Of course, in most cases you need a minimum order to qualify. Pay attention to the codes below, as some retailers don’t automatically assign free shipping unless you enter these codes. Like last year, I anticipate some additional offers for free upgrades on shipping even past this deadline. As there is no guarantee on who will be hosting those upgrades, it’s best to get going and make your purchases today.

Old Navy – Last chance free standard shipping! Get clearance items today at rock bottom prices while supplies last!

The Body Shop- Free standard shipping today only, use code WREATH to gain no cost shipping. PLUS get a free strawberry mini body

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Express- Take 40 percent off on their winter sale. AND you can save online (use code 4564) or in stores by printing this coupon. Save more the more you spend with 15 bucks off every 60 dollars you drop at this high trend, high fashion spot. Last day on FREE shipping for orders over $75 is today!

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Bargains ! Bargains! Bargains!

October 7th, 2014

Yes. The big shopping season is upon us! You don”t have to wait till Black Friday to get some of these amazing deals. I found one tonight & can”t wait to share it with you.

I was continue looking to buy a bench cushion & baskets to match the Samantha Bench I got from the outlet and stumble onto

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Alright, I have to stay focused & get back to my online shopping. Stay tuned for more bargains!


Celebrating Your Anniversary With Your Kids

October 7th, 2014

Last Saturday, we arrived in Orlando (via driving) for spring break. We arrived close to midnight and so we were really tired. Back home, we had already made a reservation at Wolfgang Puck at Disney. Hubby made the reservations and he actually noted the confirmation number in my iPhone.

On Sunday Morning, hubby could not find his underwear and so we actually headed out to the Premium Outlets and did some shopping. Hubby got a few new undies at “Calvin Klein” and he spent about $39 or so! (just for 6 of them).

Meanwhile, I blew $350 on a jfajfldsafjkajl;.

But last Sunday was our 12th anniversary. But because we were on vacation, we didn’t bother to get a baby sitter. So we told out kids about the anniversary dinner and we made the three of them promise a few things :

  • No arguing where to go for dinner (obviously)
  • Behave well at the restaurant
  • No fighting over frivolous things for the day
  • Eat well during dinner
  • Turns out that the kids were pretty well behaved that day. At 7:00pm sharp, we arrived at Wolfgang Puck. The hostess didn’t seat us until we actually gave our “reservation

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    Hubby had a four course “steak dinner”, but I couldn’t decide what to have. I initially wanted a

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    Playoff nerves

    October 7th, 2014

    What a game tonight! My 10 year old is in Cubs of the Keystone Baseball League, PA. This is only his second season (he skipped last year) and he is fortunate to be on good

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    They have wonderful teamwork & display good sportmanship.


    What to Ask About Warranties

    February 4th, 2010

     I thought I’ve seen everything about warranties possible. I read these things and know the stipulations usually. A good warranty can make the difference between me opting to buy an item or not. But recently I came across a new (at least to me) policy that I’d not previously seen. As I seem to get no response from the company, I’m opening this up for grabs on here. Please feel free to respond if you have any clarifications for me on this topic. I bought a Linksys Router about 8 months ago from a local Wal-Mart. As always, I declined the service agreement that every retailer seems intent on shoving down consumer throats.

    I’ve had a few issues with my Internet provider requiring a few tweaks of the router. When I wasn’t able to make these changes myself, I promptly contacted Linksys toll free number for assistance. Upon giving them my model number, it was determined that the particular model I had was out of warranty. I’d have to pay either $29 for a “one time” fix or $39 for six repairs or a six month period. What???

    Since my router only cost $50, paying over half of its value to “tweak” the settings seemed like I was being robbed at gunpoint of my cash.

    How could this be, since Linksys gave free product support for a full year after purchase? (And in fact, one of the reasons I purchased from the company)… I had registered the product promptly after purchasing. Linksys, according to what I was told, keeps no record of this date. A shocking fact, since registration is the key element of most warranties. According to the customer service representative I spoke with, if you purchased a product that was had been sitting on the shelf for over a year- you might be buying a brand new item with an expired warranty!

    Of course, there is no way a consumer would know this before purchasing. You’d need the model number and you’d have to call the company to discover the details on warranty coverage. Is it just me, or does this seem like a huge rip off? When I explained this to the customer service agent, he informed me that he knew I’d bought it at Wal-Mart, but had no date for the purchase. Did I have a receipt? Unfortunately, my receipt was at the accountants, in preparation for taxes- along with all my other business information. Even with a receipt, he contested, that the model was too old for the free tech support. We argued for perhaps ten minutes on this verbatim. I asked for a manager and was put on hold for 27 minutes and then my call to outer Nepal (or wherever it was routed to) was disconnected.

    When I called back, expecting to repeat the process, much to my shock a tech took the same model number and promptly aided me in fixing the router’s speed and efficiency. No questions asked about date of purchase. It was like the earlier conversation didn’t transpire.

    The questions keeping me up late at night about this are:

     1. If we register Linksys items online, doesn’t the company keep a record of this date? What’s the purpose of registering online if not for upholding the warranty terms?

    2. Does our warranty expire before we buy an older model product?

    3. Or was the first customer service agent wrong? (Or possibly trying to squeak $30-$40 out of me?)

     4. Which customer service rep acted correctly? The one who fixed my item free or the earlier one?

    5. Even if I’d had my receipt, would it have mattered according to their policy?

    If anyone can shed some honest light on this, I’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, if you are making a Linksys router purchase, hold on to your receipt and be prepared to contest the terms with techs offering costly support assistance.


    E.L.F. Valentines for Beautiful Cool Mommies!

    January 27th, 2010

    Eyes, Lips, and Face (E.L.F.) Cosmetics is truly one of my favorite finds of last year. In a house full of four makeup loving females, there is hardly a week that goes by without someone needing (or wanting) an eye shadow or mascara. Nearly half of their tremendous stock is priced happily at a buck.  That alone makes E.L.F. a worthwhile makeup diva’s dream. But where you really save is by waiting till E.L.F. offers specials or promotions. Some, like the one below, offer free products with a purchase. For only $10.00 in orders, you can snag a Valentine’s Day compact FREE. (Add code: REDMINI) to your shopping cart.

    Shipping, however, is pretty standard at $7.95 regardless of the order, so that is a factor to consider. But the overall savings when you can pick up eyeliners, shadow quads, lipsticks and mascara (many of which fall under the $1.00 category) is huge- even in spite of paying shipping costs. Make regular checks to Deal Takers, who post coupon codes for E.L.F. before you make a purchase though, as you might find even greater savings offered via comparing offers.

    Sign up for their (annoyingly) frequent newsletter and grab a coupon for $5.00 off any purchase. The one truly disappointing E.L.F. factor, however, is that coupon code stacking isn’t permitted. Coupons that give free shipping can’t be used in conjunction with offers like this Valentines Compact. Again, on an overall basis, E.L.F. is really savings and quality worthwhile. Shop E.L.F. and save on being a beautiful Cool Mommy.

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    Betty Crocker- $10 or Less Meals

    January 25th, 2010

    If you are still in recovery from holiday spending, or in a slump cooking, take time to investigate Betty Crocker’s site for meals $10 or less. In addition to some truly tasty meals al’ Betty Crocker, sign up for membership and gain newsletters, money saving coupons and special offers.

    This weekend, I tried one of these recipes- a breeze by the way, as it simmered all day in the crock pot. And my kids actually consumed it without complaining. Another site worth noting is Campbell’s Kitchen for easy breezy meals on the cheap. If you hop on Betty Crocker’s site the first of every month, you can print out the best selection of coupons. By the end of the month, the limit on many (including Yoplait, which always goes quick) is expended. So next week, be sure to pop over and grab the latest in coupons to make your $10 meals go even

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    New Year’s Resolutions Worth Keeping- The Quest for a Qualified Tax Preparer in 2010

    January 6th, 2010

    When people make resolutions post New Years, it’s very likely at least some of these goals will include financial decisions, like saving more or budgeting.

    However, one fiscal issue that shouldn’t be overlooked as we enter 2010 is tax issues. Changing tax credits and laws make this a challenge for the average American to keep up with.

    How to get a handle on this? The best advice I can give is to find a qualified accountant. This is where I’m going to offer some personal info.

    I’ve been stung by poor accounting both on my part and those of actual people I’ve paid to safeguard my resources and report fairly but with my best interest in mind. Stung enough that over the last four years and two accountants-I’m frustrated and fiscally poorer due to bad advice- and that is a trend that isn’t continuing this year. I’ve learned the hard way.

    1. One accountant failed for three years, (even though I mentioned several times), to claim my children in college. I didn’t know that you could claim these expensive prodigies until a friend noted she was. When I asked my accountant, he looked blankly at me for a moment and stated, “Uh, yes of course you can claim them. You mean we didn’t do so last year?” (Or the year before, or the year before- you get the picture).
    2. The same accountant also failed to inform me that trading a particular child to claim with my ex-husband would cost me. The child in question is the youngest. The tax credit I’d get for her meant over a thousand dollar difference in my return. Oops.
    3. And, uh…I wouldn’t want to say that even though I’d driven down to his office and signed my return, somehow the federal government never got it. Four months later it was discovered that “maybe” it wasn’t sent at all.
    4. I switched accountants. Only to be rewarded by a person who offered decent advice to a point. However, when I queried her on the American Opportunity 2009/2010 deductions regarding kids college expenses (like computers required by the schools I’d bought for them or textbooks) she said, “Oh, yeah. I think I’ve heard about that. I’ll check.” I handed her an article I’d printed out regarding this from the IRS website. Her response? “Wow. This might help you.” (Not if I hadn’t called it to her attention).
    5. Even though I gave her my tax info months and months (four to be exact) nothing was touched regarding a state credit that got mixed up and was supposed to be sorted so I’d get my refund. It wasn’t tax season, so she wasn’t working full time. My papers sat until I called incessantly demanding an answer, threatening a “going postal” maneuver.

    I don’t have time to deal with this. In my world, a busy one, with five dependant kids of varying stages of independence, a career writing and a passel of health issues that often plague me, along with the single parent “stuff”- I want someone I pay to sort it for me.

    I’m a fairly apt individual and resourceful, as well. I liken this to car upkeep and repairs. In the decade plus that I’ve been divorced, given that I’ve learned everything from driving a forklift (so I could teach OSHA training to factory workers) to expert witness work on safety issues, to changing deadbolts and installing a security system, I think I could learn also, to change my own oil.

     I reject this, however, because it’s easier and cheaper for me to have a qualified soul do so. It’s worth the $20.00 for a pro oil change.  It’s irrelevant in my world to learn this task. And I’m a control freak, so I carefully choose what I want others to do for me. (Think of me like Jack Nicholson in “As Good as It Gets”)

    Likewise, I delegate tax issues to the skilled and knowledgeable. I don’t really care how tax refunds or filings work as long as it does. And that it’s right. I wouldn’t want to research and inform my mechanic about the proper oil to use for winter or bug him that my car’s been sitting in his parking lot for five months.

     I also don’t want an accountant that I have to coddle, read articles on MSN to take into their office so new tax credits can be noted and deducted or threaten to punch. Most of all I want to be educated on how to be smarter in the coming year with my taxable income. It’s got to be easier than this. I am paying for this frustration after all. I don’t want to go to prison because I’ve not paid something important nor for beating up my accountant. Surely this shouldn’t be this stressful, right?

    In chatting with others I’ve found I’m not alone. One friend went home with her newly done tax return, downloaded a free program and found four more deductions her $175.00 “professional” return showed. Another friend had a refund error and spent five months tracking her accountant who was clinically golfing in off tax season.

    Mind you, there are some wonderful, fabulous accountants out there. When we owned a few companies, I was privileged to work side by side with several. The profession itself nor the people are bad- but like any partnership you need to find a harmonious relationship. And you need to find folks who are skilled and up to date.

    How to find Mr. Right (or Ms. Right) Accountant:

    1. Interview – Get to know them, instead of making an appointment, sauntering in and launching into filing with a brand new accountant. I suspect after my tax faux pas I didn’t interview the new accountant, I grilled him, ala inquisition style. I feel sorry for the guy, but he held up well. Like attorneys, many accountants will see you free (as this one did) for an initial visit.
    2. Ask Questions: When you talk with your new or current accountant, ask them to tell you about tax credits phasing out or new ones that may affect you. See if they are knowledgeable about current information. Pin them down to exact ones terminology and see if they can talk extensively. When the information begins to go over my head and the only sound is the clicking of my accountant’s calculator as he (from memory) compares various deductions, I suspect I’ve found someone who doesn’t have to look every tax morsel up.
    3. Accessible: One of my biggest frustrations in finding the perfect accountant was seeing how these guys can disappear immediately after tax season. What if you have a problem that doesn’t surface till months after you’ve filed? I made the mistake picking a gal who only worked (even during tax season), two days a week and who took long periods off after tax season. Another accountant I had was a CPA and a partner in his firm. Turns out he only worked during tax season and vacationed for entire months later. Ask what your accountant’s yearly schedule is like- not just the office hours. You don’t want to explain all your tax woes to someone new or wait till the person who did your filing is available.
    4. Get Advice: I love the good ol’ USA. I’m not opposed to paying taxes to our country. I am however, deeply opposed to watching my money flow back to the government because of poor decisions I’ve made. If I can budget myself and learn to use coupons to stretch a dollar, seems like I should have the ability to acquire some tax savvy too. I want a plan. And I want my accountant to let me in on this process. If saving money in other ways involves planning and knowledge, surely saving money all year to get a decent refund involves the same qualities. I’m paying the accountant for this. I’ll even pay extra if it’s excellent advice. But I want to be advised. Find an accountant who gives advice on how to be tax savvy all year.
    5. CPA’s Versus Accountants: A CPA has passed state-administered tests and frequent re-certifications. Fees are higher for CPA usually, than non-CPA’s. However, it’s been my experience that there are many non-CPA’s who excel in tax preparation. This is why you should spend time getting to know what they have to offer.
    6. Get Referrals:  Network and discover the accountant’s clients. If you know a few very satisfied folks it’s a very good sign you’ve discovered a qualified person. I’d throw one word of caution in here though- compare individuals in similar financial situations to you.  If you own a small business, seek other small business owner’s advice. Don’t pick your friend with a $300K income and a family fortune to ask if you are making $42K and struggling as a single parent. Some people have accountants on retainer and get a higher level of service than we, mere mortals, will receive.
    7. Ask for Long-Term Advice: If you are planning anything in the coming year(s) that is dramatic, divorce, getting married, starting or ending a business, incorporating, having a child, sending a kid to college, etc.- ask for tax savings suggestions before these areas present themselves later.

     My goal in 2010- make that my resolution- is to get a handle on too many of these tax issues that have slipped by me in years past. I find it incomprehensible that I’ve had to refile three years, still have a pending, open state refund that isn’t being worked on and that I’m beginning the year, uncertain if I’ve made the right decisions last year to assure a decent refund this year- all the while paying for tax assistance.  I’m resolving to correct that this year. Get to know a good accountant and work on understanding smart tax moves in 2010, to make your 2011 filing less stressful and fiscally sound.


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