Monthly Archives: April 2014

ScholarShare California’s 529 College Savings Plan

The following post is sponsored by One2One Network and ScholarShare. All opinions are 100% my own.

My daughter is in elementary school & while saving for her college education is a priority, my husband & I just haven’t had the time to research our options. Many of my mom friends are in the same boat, we know we should do it but the process seems overwhelming. Where do we start? How much do we put away? What if my kid ends up not going to college? These are all questions that many people have.

Well folks, I found a college savings plan that is fairly simple to enroll in & can be opened with as little as $25! ScholarShare is California’s 529 college savings plan. Just as a 401(k) plan is to retirement savings, a 529 college savings plan is for college savings.

scholarshare logo_largePerhaps you’ve heard of ScholarShare 529, but did you know that:

  • Anyone can open an account as a gift for a child or loved one.
  • You can open an account while you are pregnant & simply change the beneficiary’s name after the baby is born.
  • Funds can be used at eligible schools nationwide at both private and public universities.
  • Withdrawals are federal & CA income tax-free when used for qualified higher education expenses.
  • Having a ScholarShare 529 does not affect scholarship or grant consideration.
  • If your child decides not to go to college, you can change the beneficiary’s name to another child in your family – niece, nephew, grandchild, etc.

When it comes to the question of “how much do we put away” – just realize that every little bit counts. The advice that I was given is to start small & save what you can. Try saving $20-$30 a month for a year, then bump it up to $50 a month, gradually increasing over the years until you’ve found that “sweet spot” that you are comfortable with. I mean really, I know people who pay for monthly gym memberships that cost more than this, so putting away $20-50 per month should be feasible.  🙂

If your child is like my daughter, there are always a handful of relatives who give cash during holidays & birthdays. Wouldn’t it be nice to have them make a contribution through ScholarShare’s eGifting option to an existing account instead? You can even print out a gift certificate so that the child has something to open along with their birthday card. Another alternative is you can take the accumulated holiday/birthday money that your child receives, deposit half in their ScholarShare 529 account & then let the child spend the other half on games, toys & reading books. That’s a win-win in my book!

The reality is that so many students finish college with a huge college debt to pay back. Even if you can only save a little bit through a ScholarShare 529 plan, that is still a great start in the right direction!

For more information, click over to the ScholarShare website. You can also follow them on Facebook & Twitter.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post from One2One Network and ScholarShare. All opinions remain my own.

Let’s Get Brewing with Teavana Oprah Chai!

Attention tea drinkers & Oprah fans! In just a couple of days, Teavana Oprah Chai will make its debut in Starbucks and Teavana stores across the U.S. and Canada.

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I’m a big tea drinker – green tea, English breakfast tea & especially Chai tea! I enjoy brewing a cup of tea when I am at home. However, when I am out & about, one of my favorite things to get at Starbucks is a non-fat chai latte. So when I got the invitation to the Teavana Oprah Chai Tea Tasting Event, you can bet that I moved heaven & earth to attend it. 🙂

After I arrived at the Starbucks store, I met with Jason who is a Teavana tealogist. He educated us on the techniques of brewing a proper cup of tea. First you take boiling water & then steep your tea for 2-3 minutes. When making hot tea, Teavana suggests using 1 tsp. & for making iced tea, they suggest 2 tsp. If a stronger flavor is desired (which is apparently how Oprah likes her tea), then you add more tea, not time.

Teavana tealogist

While at the tea tasting, I learned that Oprah was very hands on in the creative process. She flew to Seattle to meet with the Teavana team. She personally tasted & smelled every ingredient. After 3 hours, Oprah & the tealogists found the perfect blend of tea & spices to create the winning flavor profile.

What makes chai tea different from your basic black tea? It’s that combination of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom & cloves, blended with black tea & rooibos. Teavana Oprah Chai is sourced from 10 different countries, spanning over 4 continents.

OprahChaiLooseTea

I sampled both the chai loose leaf tea, as well as the handcrafted chai latte. Both were equally delicious! The loose leaf tea is spicy, yet sweet enough that I can sip it without any sugar in it. The chai latte is flavorful & sweet with a hint of spice.

For those unfamiliar with Teavana tea stores, the first store opened in 1997 & was acquired by Starbucks in 2012. If you have a Starbucks gift card or happen to be a gold card holder (like me), you’ll be happy to know that you can use the Starbucks card at any Teavana retail location & earn points through the Starbucks loyalty reward program.

The Teavana Oprah Chai Small Gift Box set will also be available on April 29th. Isn’t it pretty?! This set will contain a 2 oz. tea plus a double wall glass tumbler & stainless steel filter, retailing at $39.95.

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For every Teavana Oprah Chai product sold at Starbucks or Teavana, Starbucks will make a donation to the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation to benefit educational opportunities for youth.

So tell me: Do you prefer your tea hot or cold? Are you excited to try the Teavana Oprah Chai? If so, get ready to Steep Your Soul!

Disclosure: I was invited to a tasting event which helped facilitate this review. I did receive a complimentary Teavana Oprah Chai gift set. Though a post was not required, I wanted to share my experience. All opinions are my own.

Orangetheory Fitness Los Angeles Opening Soon!

**5/14/14 UPDATE: Orangetheory Fitness LA to soft open on May 23rd! Presale pricing will run until June 4th, with a grand opening on June 5th.**

LA & San Fernando Valley fitness friends, there is a new workout center opening soon! I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz on Orangetheory Fitness LA, which is getting ready to open in May. Currently they are hosting weekly fun runs, workouts on the Santa Monica stairs & other impromptu workouts near their soon-to-be opened Los Angeles/Brentwood location.

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To find out when their (mostly) outdoor workouts take place, follow Orangetheory Fitness LA on Facebook or Twitter. I’ve been meaning to go to one, but just haven’t made it out yet.

However what I will be attending in the near future is one of their classes. This is what Orangetheory Fitness is all about – using treadmills, water rowers, TRX &  other strength training tools to create a fun, challenging, fat-burning circuit workout. Participants use heart rate monitors to ensure they reach the optimal “Orange Zone” that helps to maximize fat burning and heart health benefits.

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Recently I chatted with franchise owner Paul Marcus about this unique approach to fitness workouts. Each 60 minute class is led by a certified, Orangetheory Fitness trained instructor & is designed to build muscle, tone your body, measure calorie burn & increase metabolism for up to 36 hours post workout! Paul explained to me that while folks may be tempted to feel like they have to compete against the person next to them on the treadmill, it’s really about working out within your limits & making sure that you hit your own “Orange Zone.” This is achievable by following your heart rate monitors & looking at the screens placed around the room.

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Sound cool?! I think so! Currently they are running a special, no obligation, presale pricing for members who join before May 1st. All members who join before this date will receive a two week FREE trial & also qualify as a founding member. If you are interested in receiving a complimentary trial & becoming a founding member, please call their studio at (310) 694-5656.

Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post. I simply wanted to share this information with all of my fitness friends & readers! Images courtesy of Orangetheory Fitness. All opinions are my own.

Visiting Quenelle in Burbank

Last month I visited my old stomping grounds (Burbank, CA) for a media event. I took my daughter with me to watch a family-friendly movie, which was educational & fun. We later visited one of my old haunts for lunch & then tried a new dessert place for sweet treats!

Here’s a little tidbit that most of my blog readers probably don’t know – I used to work for the Mouse House. What feels like 100 years ago (but is actually more like a decade ago), I used to work for Disney Consumer Products. This in no way influences what I write about Disney (on this blog or any others that I guest post on). I’ve always been a fan of Disney, but if you knew me back then, then you know that working there is another story… 😉

Anyhoo…my daughter & I ate at Mo’s for lunch. Mo’s!! I used to go here all the time with my coworkers since the food is good & it was within walking distance to our office tower (at the time DCP used to be in Burbank).

I had a banh mi sandwich with sweet potato fries & my daughter had grilled cheese with curly fries. It was yummy!

Banh Mi Mo's

Mo's Burbank

Then we drove a short distance to Quenelle. I had heard about this place on social media & was dying to try it. Since it was a warm day it made perfect sense to have ice cream. We all “scream” for ice cream, right?!

Some background on the owner/chef John Park – he used to work at some high-end gourmet restaurants in LA, like Water Grill & Providence. The shop is almost a year old.

We found the place relatively easy. It’s located on popular Magnolia Blvd. just down the street from Porto’s & Yummy Cupcakes. There’s free parking in front of the store & it wasn’t hard at all to find a spot. The inside of Quenelle is cute! There is a small kids-sized table inside to eat your treat as well as a bench to sit on outside.

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The flavors of the ice cream are very unique & delicious. As you can see from some of the words on the menu boards: yuzu, mochi, kalamansi – there is an Asian influence to the flavor profiles.

QuenelleFlavors Burbank

I opted for a scoop of chocolate & also strawberry shortcake, while my kiddo had the Thin Mint Ice Cream Bar. For $3.50 (which is the regular size) you get TWO scoops of ice cream! That’s a good deal in my book.

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Doesn’t it look delicious? It tasted really good too! If you are ever in the neighborhood, you’ll want to give Quenelle a try. NOTE: They only accept cash, so make sure to hit up the ATM machine before you go.

So what was that movie that I took my daughter to see? Disneynature’s Bears. Here’s a photo of singer Olivia Holt (her song “Carry On” is featured in the film). We ran into her in the parking lot! She was so sweet & was gracious enough to pose for a picture with my daughter. Want to know my thoughts on the movie? Check out my review on Surf & Sunshine by clicking here!

Chloe with Olivia Holt - Singer/Actress
Chloe with Olivia Holt – Singer/Actress

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. I happily paid for my meals & treats at both restaurants. As for the movie, that was a media event, as stated over on my guest post. All opinions are my own.

Pilates Plus Porter Ranch

For those that follow my blog, you know that I enjoy my TRX workouts. However, now that I am about 8 weeks out from summer, I’ve decided to kick my fitness routine up a notch & try out a different fitness class once a week for the next 4 weeks.

Last Wednesday I tried out Pilates Plus in Porter Ranch. Pilates Plus Porter Ranch has been open for about a year & a half. It’s close to my house & I had wanted to try it before but never felt comfortable until now. It took a “sweat date” with a fellow blogger friend to push me out of my comfort zone to try out the Megaformer at a Pilates studio in Pasadena. Having familiarity with the machine helped me decide to try out this place on my own.

PilatesPlusPorterRanch

I signed up for a complimentary group class through the Pilates Plus website. NOTE: The first class is free for new customers. I chose the Full Body Workout class that was taught by the owner Vanessa Aleksanyan. Although I took a class with Vanessa, she explained that she is very selective in hiring her trainers.

When I arrived at the studio that morning, I got there about 10 minutes early so that I could talk to Vanessa. She pointed out the various parts of the machine – arm straps, leg strap, the board with the blue & yellow springs.

Megaformer Machine

Vanessa uses 1 yellow for 1 or 2 lower body exercises; however, the majority of the time we used 1 blue or 3 to 4 yellows. This adds more tension to the machine & gives you a more challenging workout.

YellowBlueTensionSprings

The studio is nicely decorated, clean & well lit. They have a shelf area in the back of the room with little cubbies for your bag, jacket, water bottle, etc.

Cubbies

I really liked the inspirational sayings that Vanessa had place around the studio. During the exercise session, Vanessa has you face various walls of the studio. I found those sayings helpful when I started to get tired. It helped motivate me to keep going.

Sayings
I enjoyed Vanessa’s class. She played great music that really helped with the pacing of the class. She gave excellent cues before we started a new exercise. I really appreciated that because as a relative newbie, I needed those prompts to get me in the right position before we started the next round of exercises. We did a nice mix of lower body, ab work & arm exercises.

I really enjoyed this type of workout a lot, so much so that I decided to purchase a series! NOTE: You will get a 15% discount if you sign up for a series after taking a free class (must be purchased that same day). They have a variety to choose from: 1 month, 3 month, 6 month, etc. I opted for the 1 month session/4 classes.

Overall I think Pilates Plus will help me achieve my strength training goals. The day after my first class I felt sore, but it was a “good” sore – the type of feeling I get when I know that I had a good workout & targeted muscles that hadn’t been challenged in a while. While I still love TRX, I think this class will help me take strengthening & toning to the next level. I’m looking forward to my next session!

Disclosure: I signed up for a free Pilates Plus session through their online website. Though a post was not required, I wanted to share my experience. All opinions are my own.

Celebrating the 5th Anniversary of the Annenberg Community Beach House

Recently I was chatting with some friends about our favorite beach activities in SoCal. I had mentioned how my family really enjoyed Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica last summer. You can read about our fun day here!

If you have never been to the Annenberg Community Beach House before, then you are in luck! This coming weekend, on April 26 & 27, the City of Santa Monica will celebrate the 5th Anniversary of the Annenberg Community Beach House, a 5-acre public beach facility nestled along the Santa Monica coastline, with spectacular ocean views, a children’s playground, art gallery, historic pool & the original Marion Davies Guest House.

Annenberg Anniversary Weekend

Here’s a brief rundown of the many FREE family-friendly programs that they will have all weekend long: beach activities & games, fitness & ballroom-style dance classes, music & dance performances, along with tours of the historic Guest House & grounds – plus much, much more! You can get all of the details here at their website.

(Photo credit: Sarah Prikryl)
(Photo credit: Sarah Prikryl)

This week is my daughter’s Spring Break & I can’t think of a better way to end her weeklong break than by coming to the Beach House! In fact I have already registered for paddleboard lessons. I loved SUP while vacationing in Hawaii & it’s been my goal to try it in SoCal!

(Photo credit: Real Mom of SFV)
(Photo credit: Real Mom of SFV)

Did I mention that we LOVE the pool here at Annenberg! My daughter especially loves that it is heated. She could spend all day doing laps. I personally love the FREE WiFi so that I can keep up with social media while basking in the sun at one of the many lounge chairs.

(Photo credit: Real Mom of SFV)
(Photo credit: Real Mom of SFV)

For more information & to RSVP for the event, please check out their event page on Facebook.

A brief note about parking: Guests are encouraged to bike or walk to the Beach House, since parking is extremely limited. Free bike valet will be provided. An extremely limited number of parking spaces are available at the Beach House for $3/hour or $12/day on a first come, first served basis.

Hope to see you at the beach!

Disclosure: Photo images used with permission by Annenberg Community Beach House & Ashley E. Rodgers. All opinions are my own.

Attending the Peace Love Swap in Burbank

Last Thursday I attended the Peace Love Swap event in Burbank. For those who are not familiar with it, their mission at Peace Love Swap is to keep gently used baby, kid & maternity items out of landfills by providing communities with a place to meet, play  & swap their gently used items. Any clothing or items that are left will be donated to a local children’s charity.

I arrived at La La Land Indoor Playground in Burbank around 10:15am & dropped off my bag of clothes & children’s books.

La La Land Peace Love Swap

Each person received a raffle ticket & a name tag. If you were one of the first 25 people to purchase a ticket online to the event, then you received a goodie bag that contained wonderful products donated by companies such as Glam Natural, Waxelene, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Planet Inc. & many more!

Goodie Bag from Peace Love Swap
Goodie Bag from Peace Love Swap

There were several volunteers on-hand to help sort through the bags of items that people dropped off.

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Around 11am, they had a dance demonstration by Dancemama Fitness. This is a fun Mommy & Me dance fitness class based in North Hollywood. The moms & babies looked like they were having a blast!

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Dancemama Fitness of North Hollywood
Dancemama Fitness of North Hollywood

After the dance demo, they raffled off some cool prizes, like organic tees from Colette Kids & a free class from A Kitchen Story, where you could learn to create your own natural soaps & lotions. After the raffle it was time to swap!

Everyone lined up outside & was handed one paper bag to fill up with clothes. Everyone gets the same size bag so as to prevent people from bringing in larger bags & “overshopping.” If you brought in a large sized item, then you get first dips on one of the larger sized items.

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When you go inside, they have large rolling racks with the sizes labeled so that it’s easy to find what you are looking for.

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KidsSwap2

They had tons of infant/toddler clothing, which is great since a lot of moms were looking for those sizes. I was able to pick-up a few things for my daughter to use.

I have to give props to Noellyn Phillips, the organizer of the event. It can be chaotic during the Kids Clothing Swap & hosting one of these things is no easy task. She relies on some volunteers (who receive a goodie bag as well), but other than that, she does all of the work & she does it with a smile. I was amazed because honestly I would have been tired & a bit grumpy halfway through (the scene can be a bit like Christmas shopping on Black Friday), but she remained happy & upbeat the whole time.  🙂

Noellyn Phillips - Swap Organizer
Noellyn Phillips – Swap Organizer

If you would like to attend a kids swap, you’re in luck! They are having one this June in Pasadena. Click here for more info.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary ticket to this event, as well as a goodie bag. Though a post was not required, I wanted to share my experience. All opinions are my own.

KT Tape Clinic at Fleet Feet Sports

Fleet Feet Encino Logo

Last Friday I attended a KT Tape clinic at Fleet Feet Sports in Encino. If you follow my blog, then you probably already know that I am a big fan of KT Tape, having chronicled my usage of it here. However I wanted to meet with Dr. Kari Andrew, who was hosting the clinic, to make sure I was putting it on correctly & get additional tips. There’s only so much I can glean from skimming through the KT Tape website & watching the YouTube videos. Disclaimer: the tips & information that I blog about should in no way serve as professional advice. If you have a medical condition like plantar fasciitis or some sort of knee injury from running, then it is best to consult a physician before trying this at home. Ok, so now that we got that out of the way, back to the clinic!

Dr. Andrew passed out samples of KT tape strips to the half dozen people who were assembled in the back area of the retail store.

Dr. Kari Andrew
Dr. Kari Andrew

She explained that KT Tape is:

  • Heat activated: after it is applied to your skin, it takes 30-45 minutes to get activated
  • Lightweight
  • Latex free
  • Extremely breathable
  • Essentially waterproof: you can shower with it & it should last 1-3 days, depending on your skin type

There are some things you should do to prep the skin before applying the tape – clean the skin so that it is free from lotions and oils, as these things will hamper the effectiveness of the tape sticking to your skin. Some people take alcohol wipes & swab the area down, just to be sure that all of the oils are removed from the skin. I’ve heard folks in the running community talk about problems they have with getting KT Tape to stick. I’ve never had an issue with KT Tape, but they do sell a skin prep & adhesive spray (which I never knew about until I went to the clinic).

KT Tape Skin Prep + Adhesive Spray
KT Tape Skin Prep + Adhesive Spray

For guys who are applying it to their legs, you may want to shave the area so that the tape can stick effectively. Also if you forget to remove the hair, it will probably get pulled off when you peel off the tape! Yikes, can you say unexpected leg wax?!?

Once the skin is prepped, then Dr. Andrews explained to us how to apply the tape. It’s important to touch the tape as little as possible. The easiest way I found to get the backing off of the tape is by using the “tear technique.” Take one precut strip & make a tiny tear in the backing, about a half inch in. Then rip the backing off & apply the base flat, approximately 2” above or below the target tissue/muscle that requires treatment. Rub the base to activate the adhesive, but don’t stretch it yet!

Anchoring the Base
Anchoring the Base

You should never stretch or apply tension at the anchor points (the base or the end). The stretch goes in the middle of the strip, over the muscle or tissue that is in need of treatment. Dr. Andrews explained that you should never fully stretch it 100%, as that is too tight. The tape is designed for 55-60% stretch. It is better to not have enough tension than to have too much.

If you are applying the tape to your knee or foot (like in my situation), then make sure to bend it slightly when applying. This stops the tape from simply popping off when the joint is bent later on.

Applying KT Tape to Knee
Applying KT Tape to Knee

After several days the acrylic adhesive will have become quite strong, so be careful when removing the tape. Once I ripped it off quickly (thinking it would be like a band-aid) & my skin got irritated. Dr. Andrews advised to pull it off slowly & go in the direction of body hair. It’s best to apply tension between the skin & the tape, pushing the skin away from the tape rather than “pulling” the tape. Also, never ever pull the tape off in the shower! You might think it would be easier & that it would loosen it up, but it is actually worse since the skin is wet & the tape can actually rip the skin off. Ouch!

Lastly, she advised us to never use the tape on irritated skin or if you suffer from blood clots in your leg. As I had mentioned at the beginning of the post, if you have a medical condition or injury, seek professional medical help first before trying this at home.

KT Tape comes in a variety of colors. I personally like purple & pink, but that’s just me.  🙂

KT Tape Pro

You can purchase KT Tape at any sporting goods store like Fleet Feet Sports, but I’ve even seen it at Big 5, Sports Chalet & online at Costco.

While we are on the subject of Fleet Feet Sports, the Encino location is hosting a Diva Night on April 16th.

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They will have free wine tastings, bra fittings, massages, shopping deals, raffle prizes, runway modeling & entertainment by comedian Andy Dugan!!!

This year’s vendors include:
Moving Comfort
ADIDAS
Addaday Massage
The Elbow Room
GU
Nathan
CLIF
and much much more!!!

For more info & to RSVP to this event, click over to their Facebook Event page. I am planning on attending & hope to see you there!

Disclosure: I attended a free KT Tape clinic at Fleet Feet Sports in Encino. Though a post was not required, I wanted to share my experience. The information provided in this post is for informational & educational purposes only. Please consult your physician or a qualified health professional on any matters regarding your health & before trying this at home. All opinions are my own.

Need Childcare? Spring Into Action with UrbanSitter

The following post is sponsored by UrbanSitter. All opinions are 100% my own.

Have you ever had one of those moments where you needed a babysitter ASAP & all of your resources were tapped out? Last month I found myself in that position. As most of you know, I had the amazing opportunity to chat with the cast of the Single Moms Club. The interviews took place on a Friday morning. The day before the junket, at around 1pm, I received a robocall from my daughter’s school stating that school was canceled on Friday due to an emergency plumbing situation. Aaack!!

With less than 24 hours notice, I had to scramble to get a sitter for my daughter. My parents were busy, so I turned to my “go to” resource – UrbanSitter. Using the UrbanSitter app on my iPad, I searched through & contacted 3 sitters with my job request. One sitter answered back within the hour & arrangements were made. I was able to go to my interview, my daughter got to sleep in & when I returned home 4.5 hours later at noon, she was happily playing with the sitter.

urbansitter_appMy daughter, as well as countless other children in the LA area, will be off on Spring Break soon. If you are one of the many moms out there who are in need of childcare help during this time, you may want to consider UrbanSitter. The steps are simple: sign into the UrbanSitter website using your Facebook account, create a parent profile, then with a few clicks of the mouse you’ve got a list of babysitters to choose from.

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The great thing about UrbanSitter is that you can look for sitters based on recommendations from friends and parenting networks such as your local YMCA or mommy group. UrbanSitter also has search functions so that you can find a sitter based on their rate, experience, education level , response time & other variables.

Do you live in the LA/San Fernando Valley area? If so, you are in luck! In conjunction with Urbansitter, we are happy to offer readers of Real Mom of SFV $15 off your first booking* on UrbanSitter. Simply enter code “REALMOM15” on the My Account – Credits page.

Already an UrbanSitter member? Use code “REALMOM20” and get 20% off one UrbanSitter fee (does not apply to babysitting fees).

*Subject to UrbanSitter, Inc.’s Terms of Service. First-time customers receive $15 credit to be used toward Sitter Introduction fee or Premium membership purchase. Returning customers receive 20% discount on one transaction fee (Sitter Introduction fee or Premium membership fee). Offers not valid for babysitting fees. Recipient must become a registered user of UrbanSitter with valid credit card on file to redeem offer. Restrictions include sitter availability and service to requested location (not all areas served). UrbanSitter reserves the right to modify these terms. Must redeem by 12/31/2014.

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Feel free to spring into action & use these codes for Spring vacation or any other time of the year that you need a sitter or nanny!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for UrbanSitter. Images courtesy of UrbanSitter. All opinions remain my own.