Friday, April 10, 2015

Taxing Time

Courtesy IRS.gov
Over the past few years several major cyber attacks have been announced by a number of well known companies such as Target, The Home Depot, and the arts and craft store Michaels.  I have shopped and used my debit/credit card at all of these stores on numerous occasions, and so I was not surprised when I received letters from each stating my banking information may have been compromised. Then JP Morgan Chase was breached, and of course I have a Chase Visa card, so I found another letter in my mailbox informing me that my personal information may have been stolen. Then we learned several health insurance providers including Anthem BlueCross BlueShield and Healthcare.gov had also been hacked. More letters arrived at my home with the news my personal information including the social security numbers for both my husband and myself may have been stolen. It seems there are daily newspaper articles or news segments on the nightly news dedicated to IRS Identity Theft.

Tax Day, Wednesday, April 15th is rapidly approaching so a few weeks past I gathered all my financial information and visited our accountant. He is a very reputable CPA whom has prepared our tax returns since we were first married many, many years ago. Then last week when he tried to electronically file our tax returns the filings were rejected by both the Federal and State governments. It made me physically sick when I received his phone call informing me that our IRS identity had indeed been stolen. The perpetrator stole both of our social security numbers and filed separate Federal and State tax returns in each of our names. I can't even begin to tell you how angry I am with this scene! My husband and I have worked our entire lives, sometimes two and three jobs at the same time to make ends meet and provide for our family. We have always lived up to our responsibilities and paid our bills in a timely manner. As a result we each individually have excellent credit ratings. So I didn't take it kindly when I learned we had been victims of tax related identity theft!

The IRS Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft offers a wealth of information on the steps to take if you have become a victim. We first met with our financial advisor and were given a list of steps to take to hopefully resolve our tax situation while also protecting our credit scores. We both had to first prepare affidavits stating who we were and that we had been victims of identity theft. If you prepare your taxes on your own you will need to stop by your local IRS office and enlist the aid of an agent to help you prepare the affidavit. You must attach to the affidavit a copy of a legal form of identity such as a valid driver's license or passport. We chose to use our licenses and were told it must be an enlarged copy. So we were off to the nearby FedEx store for copies of our individual licenses. And yes, it also cost us to obtain these enlarged documents. If you are a victim of tax identity theft you must file paper copies of your returns and the affidavits must also be attached to the returns.

Courtesy of IRS.gov

Next we were advised to bring copies of the affidavits to our local police department and file individual police reports. Check, we did that and were given our police report numbers. Make sure you get these numbers because you will need them for the next step.

Now it is time to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. You can go online and complete the paperwork at www.identitytheft.gov or call the FTC Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-438-4338 to report your details. I chose to call the hotline and after waiting for several  minutes I was finally connected to an agent and successfully completed reports for both my husband and myself. When making this report you will be asked for the name and phone number of the police department where your identity theft report was filed and you must also provide the FTC with the police report numbers.

Next you need to contact one of the three major credit reporting bureaus to place a "fraud alert" on your credit records. You only need to report your identity theft to one of the agencies as that bureau will contact the other agencies for you. The credit bureau agencies and contact information are as follows:

Equifax: www.Equifax.com  1-800-525-6285

Experian: www.Experian.com  1-888-397-3742

TransUnion: www.TransUnion.com  1-800-680-7289

The credit agency recommends you obtain a copy of your credit report and review it carefully specifically looking for any fraudulent accounts that may have been opened in your name. You can receive a free copy of your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com. If both your husband and your social security numbers have been stolen you will need to obtain the credit reports for each of you. After reviewing both reports I was starting to feel a bit of relief as everything appeared intact with no negative information nor any identifiable fraudulent accounts. Sadly my relief was short lived. A few days later I received a debit/credit card in the mail.. one I had not applied for nor requested. It was from T-Mobile, had an incomplete name, and an incorrect zip code on the envelope. Somehow by the grace of God, it was delivered to me. At first I thought it was a fake card with an invitation to apply. The more I looked at it I realized it was a real debit/credit card. I then called T-Mobile and after several phone prompts was able to connect to a live customer service representative to discuss what I believed was a fraudulent account in my name. Sure enough, it was an account opened without my permission by someone unknown to me. I was then connected with an Identity Theft Specialist who asked for additional information and promptly closed the account.

Now I wait with apprehension to see what happens next. I mailed the paper copies of my Federal and State tax returns today. Oh, and please let me know if you have been a victim too and what steps you took to correct the situation.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Father's Day Savings

Adorable Babies Gift Set
Father's Day is Sunday, June 21st and here is a little peek at our adorable shirts and gifts for Dad and Grandpa! That's right, just day "NO" to ties and "YES" to tees or any of our other unique Father's Day gifts! It just makes perfect sense to give something special to the very special men in your life! Also excited to share the news that starting NOW you can save an extra 10% at Zoey's Attic Personalized Gifts on all your Father's Day purchases! Just use coupon code NOTIES at checkout for your 10% savings on items in your shopping basket. Be sure to check out all our personalized shirts for Dad and Grandpa. Also choose a fun and personalized gift such as a custom bib apron for the Dad who loves to cook or barbeque or the funny "gut fish?" apron for the fisherman in the family!  The personalized coffee mugs for the "World's Best Grandpa" or daddy also make great Father's Day gifts. There are sweet and sentimental designs too such as the "family tree" or "love you to the moon" throw pillows. There is even a "family tree" tote bag for Grandpa or Papa, a family tree wall canvas, and a  matching "family tree" t-shirt!  And if you decide on the "love you to the moon" throw pillow you will just have to complement it with the matching moon coffee mug!  And, of course our adorable original design "I Make Adorable Babies" dad and baby gift set is our #1 best seller! Zoey's Attic also has many other Dad/Kiddo designs to choose from and these matching sets are always fan favorites! Just imagine the adorable photo ops with dad and his little pride and joy! You'll really have to check us out for the cutest Father's Day gifts ever! And don't forget to use your coupon code when checking out for 10% off the items in your shopping cart! Happy Shopping!


Father's Day Gifts from Zoey's Attic

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Harmless April Fools Pranks

April 1st is also known as April Fools Day. It's the day set side each year where people all across the world play practical jokes and pranks on unsuspecting April Fools. Silly and unexpected things just might occur! I don't know about you, but I love April Fools Day! It's coming this Wednesday and I've got some ideas for pranks to play on your little ones that will surely have them laughing! Just a reminder though that successful April Fools Day pranking means all jokes are meant to be fun! Never be mean or ill-spirited.  Also, a prank should never cause physical harm, hurt feelings, or property damage. Be sure to carefully think it through and if there is a chance someone could get hurt...change your plans! The Cardinal Rule is Do No Harm! The prank should always end with your intended victim laughing!

Now are you ready for some suggestions for April Fools Day jokes to play on your kiddos?

#1 Cover the sensor on the TV remote control with a piece of clear tape. Then watch as your child tries over and over again to turn on the TV.



#2 Sprinkle a little salt on your children's toothbrushes the night before and then have a good laugh when you watch them brush their teeth in the morning! Totally safe and harmless fun!



#3 Add a baggy full of dog bones to your little one's school lunch bag. This is one of my favorites and always gets a laugh from the other kids seated at the table.



#4 In keeping with the lunch theme, include a fake critter such as a plastic mouse or spider in your child's lunch bag. You can purchase a variety of plastic bugs or animals at your local Dollar General or Dollar Tree stores.



#5 MarthaStewart.com suggests adding food coloring to your carton of milk. Watch the surprise reaction when you pour the dyed milk on your little one's breakfast cereal or serve a glass with a snack after school! Too funny! 

Blue Milk April Fools Day Prank
Courtesy of MarthaStewart.com



#6  Put a large fake spider beneath the toilet seat. You will hear definitely hear a loud scream followed by laughter when your kiddo lifts the seat in the morning!



#7 Another favorite prank from KidsActivitiesBlog.com is to carefully (so you don't wake them) draw eyebrows, scars, beards, and mustaches on the kiddos' faces while they sleep. They will be shocked when the look in the mirror in the morning! From personal experience, do not use a permanent marking pen! Liquid eyeliner, eyebrow pencils, or other removable makeup will do the job for you!

April Fools Day Sleep Prank
Courtesy of KidsActivitiesBlog.com


#8 Leave a surprise creature (plastic of course!) in the mailbox and ask one of your kids to bring in the mail. Be sure to have your camera ready! 



#9  My all-time favorite prank is to set the clocks ahead an hour or two so everyone gets up early. When the kiddos realize the time is off take them to a surprise breakfast before school. Makes a great start to April Fools Day!



What pranks, if any, do you play on your family on April Fools Day? Let me know as I'd love to add some new gags to my bag of tricks!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Summer Cruise? Maybe!

It  might be Spring but I'm thinking about summer vacation! Not sure yet what, where, or when we will vacation but I do know we have taken some pretty awesome family vacations in the past. One of my favorites is cruising, and yes, with the kids! You would be surprised what a great deal a cruise vacation can be and oh such luxury for Mom and Dad!

If you haven't cruised before with children you might want to research the web for reputable cruise lines that offer programs for children. Disney Cruise Line, for example, offers fabulous onboard experiences such as the Frozen Deck Party and the Star Wars Day At Sea.  Disney Cruises aren't just for the kids! Adults can enjoy Broadway style live shows and top off the evening with a nightcap in one of the ship's nightclubs or lounges. And in the morning, before onshore sightseeing trips or an afternoon at the pool, Mom and Dad can work out at the ship's fitness center or have a relaxing massage at the spa. Disney's onboard clubs provide an array of fun activities for kids and teens of every age. Child care is also available at an additional charge on Disney ships for children 3 years of age and under. The It's A Small World Nursery is open from 9 a.m. until 11:00 p.m., and is the perfect solution if Mom and Dad want to enjoy an onshore excursion or private dinner and show.

Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

Royal Caribbean International is another kid-friendly cruise line. In fact, in 2013 readers of Travel + Leisure magazine recognized Royal Caribbean as one of the world's best vacation options for families. Some ships in their fleet offer family suites that can sleep up to six people. Age appropriate programs are also available for kids of all ages at no additional charge. On a Royal Caribbean sailing your little ones can visit with their favorite characters from Shrek, Madagascar, and Kung Fu Panda during character dining events, shows, and surprise appearances. Your older kids can participate in sporting contests such as miniature golf and table top tennis tournaments. They can also enjoy poolside games planned by the staff of the Adventure Ocean® Youth Program. In addition, select ships offer daytime and evening drop off care for children ages 6 months to 36 months at an additional cost.

Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

Norwegian Cruise Line offers several sailings where the 3rd and 4th guests (presumably your kiddos!) sail at either half off or even free! Now that's a deal! Children traveling aboard ships in the Norwegian Cruise Line enjoy a multitude of activities and programs that are optimized for the specific age groups including infants, kids, and teens. For an additional fee Group Sitting Services can be booked for children 3 -12 year of age every night from 10:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. and on port days while the ship is docked. A variety of Youth Programs are hosted by NCL and include such fun activities as arts and crafts, treasure hunts, and even Circus School with stilts and ball juggling! Teens can also enjoy the complimentary and fully supervised dance club in the teen center.

Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Cruise lines also offer a variety of dining options including everything from laid back casual to formal dinners with the ship's Captain. 

Dining in one of the many restaurants on a Disney Cruise Line ship is pure pleasure! Options include exclusive adult dining, main dining, casual dining, and quick service available 24 hours per day. Complimentary room service for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks is also included in the price of your cruise. My all-time favorite Disney movie is "Beauty and the Beast" so dining at Lumiere's aboard the Disney Magic ship is a must! There are a plethora of opportunities to meet your favorite Disney characters while sailing with the Disney Cruise Line. It's an absolute unforgettable experience and the photo ops are amazing!

There are so many dining options on Royal Caribbean ships that it's difficult to choose because you'll want to experience all of them! Just about any food delight you could ever desire is available ranging from finger foods to a five course gourmet meal. And since there are no required formal dining hours or seating assignments it makes meal time so convenient when accommodating eating schedules for both children and adults. RCL also offers several beverage packages at reduced cost for your favorite drinks including bottled water, fruit juices, Coke products, beer, wine and even cocktails!

Norwegian Cruise Line offers Freestyle Dining which, in my opinion, is perfect when sailing with the kiddos. There are no fixed meal times or pre-assigned seats so you can eat whenever it's best for your family and at any restaurant, grill or cafe on the ship! Breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffets and 24-hour room service round out the dining options provided by NCL.

Cruising with the kiddos!

Be sure to check out Cruises.com for current cruise deals and specials! They also have tons of information on several respected cruise lines, destinations, and top shore excursions. Whatever your summer plans.... Happy vacationing!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Easter Shipping Schedule

Easter Gifts
Hippity, hoppity Easter is on it's way! It's April 5th to be exact and you want to be sure to have your Easter outfit and gifts ready for the big day! The good news is there is still plenty of time to order and have delivery of your custom Easter shirts and sweet Easter gifts for everyone on your list. And even better, if you order by March 29th you will only need to add BASIC shipping for processing and delivery before Easter Sunday. This applies for U.S. shipping only as the international shipping deadline has already passed... so sorry! After March 29th our U.S. customers will need to upgrade the shipping method at checkout to USPS Priority Mail or USPS Express Mail to ensure the Easter bunny can deliver your shirts and gifts in time for Easter. Be sure to check back after March 29th for current deadlines for Priority and Express Mail shipping. And as always, thank you ever so much for shopping with Zoey's Attic!

Easter Shirts and Gifts from Zoey's Attic

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

It's Almost Spring!

The March Equinox marks the moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator, the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth' s equator that runs from south to north. This year it will occur on March 20th and marks the first day of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. The 2014/2015 winter wasn't nearly as awful in our Midwest location as the previous winter season, but I am still ever thankful it's almost over (even if we did have sleet today!). I'm so looking forward to packing away my many layers of winter shirts, sweaters, jackets, and coats. I love sorting through my Spring clothing and filling my drawers and closet with light colored and lightweight Spring apparel. I'm wanting some new tops too, and I'll bet you might also like to refresh your Spring wardrobe. The good news is Zoey's Attic can help! I'm particularly interested in the "Keep Calm And Drink A Margarita" custom women's t-shirt. It's a fun tee for Spring and perfect for Cinco de Mayo!

Custom Women's T-shirts
from Zoey's Attic

And if your hubby or boyfriend or even dad is a biker, Zoey has a funny "keep Calm and Ride On" motorcycle shirt for him. There's nothing better than a long bike ride on a beautiful Spring day!

Custom Men's T-shirts
from Zoey's Attic

And it's not too early to start exploring some options for Father's Day gifts for Dad and Grandpa. New and old dads alike love receiving Dad/Kiddo shirt sets and Zoey has so many awesome designs! The "I Make Awesome Kids" matching set in navy is a customer favorite. It can be purchased with shirts for one, two or however many kid shirts you may need.

Dad/Kid Matching Shirt Sets
from Zoey's Attic

Zoey's Attic Spring Shirts and Gifts Shop also has sweet big sister and big brother shirts and siblings sets that make perfect gifts for celebrating a new baby's arrival. And if you want to make a special announcement this Spring, why not let Zoey help? Can you imagine all the fun when big brother or big sister spills the beans wearing our popular and very sporty personalized swoosh design tee? 

Big Brother and Big Sister Tees
from Zoey's Attic

And what about those Spring birthday parties? Whether it's a farm animal party theme or a princess party, we've got you covered. Zoey can even create a custom design birthday shirt to match just about any party theme and colors you have chosen for the big day. 

Birthday Shirts
from Zoey's Attic

So take a look around our shop. I'm sure you'll find lots you like, and if you should have any questions please don't hesitate to contact us!

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Hunt Is Near!

I love hosting the Easter Egg Hunt! It's one of my favorite events of the year! I like to switch it up occasionally to add some variety to the annual egg roll. Some years it's the basic hunt with eggs hidden inside and outside. Other times it becomes a treasure hunt with maps. And sometimes the eggs have been personalized with the participant's name and you can only collect the eggs that were made especially for you.

First you need to prepare your eggs. I prefer the hard boil egg recipe from BettyCrocker.com and have used it successfully for many, many years. The cold water method with the eggs layered along the bottom of the saucepan is so easy!

Hard Boiled Eggs
Courtesy of BettyCrocker.com

After the eggs have cooled you then need to think about ways to decorate them. At least a dozen or so eggs (depending on how many kiddos and adults will be participating in the hunt) are dyed in basic colors from a simple dye kit found at the local Target, Family Dollar, or Kmart. Then have the kiddos use their imagination (with some guidance of course) and let them decorate the remaining eggs. The little ones love to cover the eggs with stickers, and glitter is also very popular! It sure makes a mess, but the eggs are so pretty! Parentmap.com has an excellent article featuring 20 ideas for dyeing and decorating Easter eggs.


In addition to the hard boiled eggs our hunt also has plastic eggs filled with a surprise.  Your local Dollar Store has many small toys to choose from including tiny Easter figurines, rings, and bouncy balls. Candy, coins, and even dollar bills can also be hidden in the eggs. Another idea is to include a piece of paper with a number on it that corresponds to a larger prize such as a book or stuffed bunny rabbit or Easter chick.

Fillable Plastic Easter Eggs
Courtesy of DollarTree.com

Now it's time to plan the hunt! Options include a basic hunt with every kid for himself or herself! Or, you can make a predetermined number of eggs and personalize with a name. The expert egg hunter can only take an egg with his or her name on it.  Color coding eggs is a super way to ensure all the kiddos get an equal number of eggs. Each child is given a color and this is the only color that can be added to their basket. If an egg is found in another color the hunter can choose to leave it hidden or give it to the kiddo collecting that color. If you have older children a nighttime hunt is a lot of fun. You can purchase glow-in-the-dark plastic Easter eggs online from a variety of stores including OrientalTrading.com. A plastic egg will also glow in the dark if a glow stick is snapped and placed inside the egg. Also be sure to have flashlights available for the egg hunters.

Glow In The Dark Plastic Eggs
Courtesy of OrientalTrading.com

One of my all-time favorite hunts is the reverse hunt. The kiddos hide the Easter eggs and then the adults find them! The little ones have so much fun cheering on mom and dad, grandma and grandpa, aunts and uncles (of course, this hunt is in addition to the children's egg hunt!).



Will you host an Easter Egg Hunt this year? If so, will it be a traditional hunt or will you do something different?