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Everyday is a good day to recycle, but if you are in Pacific Palisades today head over to Pacific Palisades Presbyterian Church between 10-2pm and drop off any unwanted electronics FREE. The program is sponsored by California Recycles and Pacific Cares, who have a regular drop off station Monday through Friday in West Los Angeles, but some items require a disposal fee, so take advantage of this opportunity to do some Spring cleaning and start your Saturday off doing something good for the environment.

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Got $5? For that fiver, people are willing to design a logo for you, Photoshop you into a location picture of your choice, say your name and play a song on a radio station in NM, or go clubbing with you in Copenhagen. Listings range from the practical, like migrating a blog or designing a business card, to offers for fun, like teaching you how to perform fixed gear bike tricks. If you have a talent, skill, or want to make $5, you can make your offer public at Fiverr, and you could use what you make to pay for someone to sing a song for you, or save your fivers and get some apples.

Got $599? Apple Vacations is having a sale on 7 night all inclusive vacations in Mexico including airfare for that amount, which works out to $85.57 per night, for airfare, accommodations, all meals, drinks, entertainment and tips. Even the top rated 5 golden apple resorts are only $1600 or $228.57 per person per day from Los Angeles, which is less than most 5 star hotels here cost just for a room for a night. It actually would be cheaper to go to Cancun for a week than to stay in town on in a nice hotel, so what are you waiting for?

In today’s Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace era of “meeting” people, many friends are virtual; you know people from their pictures or posting online, but you’ve never actually seen them in person. As in most things, this kind of friendship has both advantages and drawbacks; we get to interact with different people we may not have “met” otherwise, but we also miss out on the personal nuances of spending time with someone in person.

Safety is a big concern when meeting anyone in person, and now there is an online way to find out if the person you are meeting is who they say they are, and if it is worth spending any time with that person. Date Check is a service that allows you to use your mobile phone to see if your date has a criminal record; all you need is their name and telephone number (which you should have). They have various variations on what you can check for, from “sleaze” (felonies, sex offenses), to $$$ (property), and living situation (other people at the residence, mom & dad or perhaps a wife). The app works with both Blackberry and iPhone (as well as other types of smart phones), so download it if you are meeting someone new, and USE it if you are meeting someone in person for the first time (even if they are already a virtual “friend”.

What if you don’t have anyone you want to meet in person even though you have 200 followers on Twitter, and 100 friends on Facebook? Sign up for By/Association which is about introducing you to quality interesting people (this is NOT a dating site, although you might make that kind of connection through this). They just introduce you to ONE person you might want to meet IN PERSON each month based on your interests. To join you must fill in an application and if you are approved, they will charge you monthly for membership ($99 per year right now). If you apply and are accepted in 2009, your fees will be waived for the first month.

Their definition of a network is one in which the connections last and are bound together by more than simply business or superficial liens; think of this as your personal matchmaker for friendships. Their manifesto says that a new definition of wealth “should be based on creativity, innovation, and social benefit”. Amen.

Sometimes you just need to indulge your senses with pleasure to remind yourself that life is meant to be fun. Chocolate Box Cafe is a place where your taste buds will delight in decadent and delicate flavors from their unique buttermilk line (less fat, more vitamins), to pralines, truffles, marzipan, and their classic ganache with exotic flavors. If you are in the area you can stop in a for an Italian gelato, and if you’re not, you can order online. Besides offering artisanal chocolates, they are also one of the only places I have ever seen who offer customized designs for special occasions, so you can give your favorite chocoholic a personalized gift (also a great idea for weddings & corporate events).

Few things signal fun as much as the popping of a Champagne cork, except perhaps the taste of fine bubbly! What better way to enjoy a “chore” than to have a glass of complimentary champagne while you are getting a mani-pedi? Go to Polish on Thursday between 4-9 pm and if you are over 21, you get your aromatherapy organic based work with a nice happy hour treat. If you want to be practical, and you need waxing (men are welcome here too), you could ease your pain with some liquid comfort after your session; think of the champagne as pain relief “medicine”. Prices are very reasonable for the products they use (dead sea salts, organic soaks) ranging from $40-$75 for a mani-pedi combo.

I love all the concierges at the four and five star hotels I have worked with for the past decade; they are capable of amazing feats of service and have connections to get tables or tickets that mere mortals would never be able to procure. All that being said, not everyone is lucky enough to have personal relationships with people like these and may want some services that only a well connected concierge can provide. Blue Fish may be your personal answer if you are looking for something extraordinary and don’t know how to get what you want. The how is usually not as important as who you know, and with Blue Fish they know who to call on your behalf to get you that supersonic military jet flight from Russia, white water rafting in Nepal, or that submersible dive in the Atlantic to see the Titanic. As they say on their website, please don’t call them to walk your dog or if you want something conventional. Their club members must be referred by another client, but you can take advantage of some of their services by getting a Bluefish Card; which allows you preferred access to events and seating.

What is your pleasure?

I recently drove 160 miles to San Diego, and after parking at my hotel, I was too exhausted to fight morning rush hour traffic, figure out directions, and try to find parking, so my friend Pel (who used to live in San Diego) told me to use the Trolley , she said, “Try it, you’ll like it.” She was right. For only $5, I rode all day, stopping directly at both Old Town and the Gaslamp district, not having to think twice about either how to get there or where to park. Parking alone at either tourist destination would have easily cost me more than my ticket, and the beauty of a trolley is that traffic stops for the trolley so it is usually faster than driving.

Everything was pretty self-explanatory from buying the tickets to understanding the transfers; I only got lost once, but other riders showed me where to transfer lines at the 12th street station. Service on non peak hours are every 15 minutes (7 minutes during rush hour) and the trolleys are clean, quiet, and cool. In all the years I have been going to San Diego (about 30 years…yikes!) I never tried the trolley and now I will probably never drive there again, especially after I found that the Orange line stop at the Gaslamp district is directly in front of Nobu! My favorite line is the Blue line which begins and ends at Old Town and the San Ysidro border; you can literally walk across the border, get on the trolley, and be back in Old Town in about 20 minutes!

Since I was down in San Diego, I wasn’t worried about any medical care I might need, but if I was traveling further down into Mexico, I would be concerned about wanting to come back to the US for urgent medical care, except for dental which is wonderful at Washington Dental, (see earlier post), so I would consider a medical jet service. Usually medical jet services cost between $10,000 to $75,000 to evacuate you to the hospital of your choice by jet, but if you travel abroad to exotic or rural locations, you can rest assured that you will be taken care of should a medical emergency arrive with Medjet. For an annual fee of only $175 domestically or $225 internationally, Medjet Assist is an insurance program that you can buy just for one trip or for a year depending on your travel plans and your needs.

Better transportation should be easy, comfortable, less expensive, and practical, both the San Diego Trolley and Medjet Assist fulfill all the criteria. Now to find a pair of shoes that fulfill all those same criteria…

>I recently drove 160 miles to San Diego, and after parking at my hotel, I was too exhausted to fight morning rush hour traffic, figure out directions, and try to find parking, so my friend Pel (who used to live in San Diego) told me to use the Trolley , she said, “Try it, you’ll like it.” She was right. For only $5, I rode all day, stopping directly at both Old Town and the Gaslamp district, not having to think twice about either how to get there or where to park. Parking alone at either tourist destination would have easily cost me more than my ticket, and the beauty of a trolley is that traffic stops for the trolley so it is usually faster than driving.

Everything was pretty self-explanatory from buying the tickets to understanding the transfers; I only got lost once, but other riders showed me where to transfer lines at the 12th street station. Service on non peak hours are every 15 minutes (7 minutes during rush hour) and the trolleys are clean, quiet, and cool. In all the years I have been going to San Diego (about 30 years…yikes!) I never tried the trolley and now I will probably never drive there again, especially after I found that the Orange line stop at the Gaslamp district is directly in front of Nobu! My favorite line is the Blue line which begins and ends at Old Town and the San Ysidro border; you can literally walk across the border, get on the trolley, and be back in Old Town in about 20 minutes!

Since I was down in San Diego, I wasn’t worried about any medical care I might need, but if I was traveling further down into Mexico, I would be concerned about wanting to come back to the US for urgent medical care, except for dental which is wonderful at Washington Dental, (see earlier post), so I would consider a medical jet service. Usually medical jet services cost between $10,000 to $75,000 to evacuate you to the hospital of your choice by jet, but if you travel abroad to exotic or rural locations, you can rest assured that you will be taken care of should a medical emergency arrive with Medjet. For an annual fee of only $175 domestically or $225 internationally, Medjet Assist is an insurance program that you can buy just for one trip or for a year depending on your travel plans and your needs.

Better transportation should be easy, comfortable, less expensive, and practical, both the San Diego Trolley and Medjet Assist fulfill all the criteria. Now to find a pair of shoes that fulfill all those same criteria…

I never took auto shop in school and know almost nothing about cars, so every time I hear a noise or see a dashboard light, I brace myself (and my wallet) for the inevitable trip to a mechanic. Like hairdressers, babysitters, and doctors, a good mechanic is a rare find. Trusting your transportation to a mechanic is less stressful than trusting your child with a babysitter, but in Los Angeles where cars are (almost) the only way to get around town, being carless is high on the list of stressful situations. Being a woman who knows nearly nothing about cars doesn’t help; I am a walking stereotype (like a naive sheep waiting to be fleeced).

I figured men with vintage cars would know the best mechanics, so I asked them where they took their cars for service; they referred me to Prestige Auto in Mar Vista. I needed a 30K service on my import; when I got my car back I thought they had replaced my old car with a new one because it ran so much better. I asked them what they did and they gave me a 15 point list of all the work they had done. The best part was at the bottom of the worksheet; the price was 30-50% less than what two dealers had quoted me for a major service (which did not include as many items as Prestige does for their clients).

One very nice bonus for women here is that this is a small family run business and the woman who answers the phone for service inquiries does her best to earn and keep your business; she explains the details without condescension, she works in as much of a discount as she can, and she lets you know the realistic time it will take to perform the service.

I no longer worry about my car now that I know a good mechanic, now it’s time to find a good babysitter for my friends’ kids so I can eat a grown up meal with them.

>I never took auto shop in school and know almost nothing about cars, so every time I hear a noise or see a dashboard light, I brace myself (and my wallet) for the inevitable trip to a mechanic. Like hairdressers, babysitters, and doctors, a good mechanic is a rare find. Trusting your transportation to a mechanic is less stressful than trusting your child with a babysitter, but in Los Angeles where cars are (almost) the only way to get around town, being carless is high on the list of stressful situations. Being a woman who knows nearly nothing about cars doesn’t help; I am a walking stereotype (like a naive sheep waiting to be fleeced).

I figured men with vintage cars would know the best mechanics, so I asked them where they took their cars for service; they referred me to Prestige Auto in Mar Vista. I needed a 30K service on my import; when I got my car back I thought they had replaced my old car with a new one because it ran so much better. I asked them what they did and they gave me a 15 point list of all the work they had done. The best part was at the bottom of the worksheet; the price was 30-50% less than what two dealers had quoted me for a major service (which did not include as many items as Prestige does for their clients).

One very nice bonus for women here is that this is a small family run business and the woman who answers the phone for service inquiries does her best to earn and keep your business; she explains the details without condescension, she works in as much of a discount as she can, and she lets you know the realistic time it will take to perform the service.

I no longer worry about my car now that I know a good mechanic, now it’s time to find a good babysitter for my friends’ kids so I can eat a grown up meal with them.

By now almost everyone is online and has at least one email account, but there are still some of us who don’t have our own website or domain name. Sometimes waiting is good; prices and services have never been lower or better than some of the packages offered today. With so much competition these days for hosting services, companies are making their money on your continued business, so even if you pay less per month, they still make money if you stay with them (and you will tend to stay where the monthly rates are low).

The best deal I have found is at 1 and 1 which offers a starter plan with domain name, 10 GB, an FTP account (you may want this later), 600 IMAP & POP3 supported email accounts with 2 GB of space, firewall protection, marketing discounts with the major online ad services, and spam filter for only $3.99 per month. Yes, that is less that $4 per month to have your own website (my first website cost me $50 per month and that was a discounted price!).

Ok, so now with email and a website, what if you want to start a business and accept credit cards? I researched credit card services and found many had a bait and switch sales team who would say anything to get you to sign up, even if the fine print of the contract had nothing to do with their actual fees. I am so glad I chose Advanced Merchant Services. Their rates may be a little higher, but 0.20% is a very small price to pay for sales representatives who return calls within a day. Their monthly minimum fees are also the lowest I found, at $23 versus the $50 at almost every other merchant card service. The most expensive rate is for telephone approvals and even that rate is a reasonable 3.79% versus over 4% at other institutions. If you are only going to be using your merchant account online with secure checkout or with physical card swipes the rate plummets to around 2%. Ask for Dan Robbins if you want your own merchant account and tell him Elaine referred you (Dan apologized once for taking more than 24 hours to respond to an email I sent him-all the more incredible since I live on the West Coast and the company is based on the East Coast).

Now that you have the tools, use them to build whatever business you love!

>By now almost everyone is online and has at least one email account, but there are still some of us who don’t have our own website or domain name. Sometimes waiting is good; prices and services have never been lower or better than some of the packages offered today. With so much competition these days for hosting services, companies are making their money on your continued business, so even if you pay less per month, they still make money if you stay with them (and you will tend to stay where the monthly rates are low).

The best deal I have found is at 1 and 1 which offers a starter plan with domain name, 10 GB, an FTP account (you may want this later), 600 IMAP & POP3 supported email accounts with 2 GB of space, firewall protection, marketing discounts with the major online ad services, and spam filter for only $3.99 per month. Yes, that is less that $4 per month to have your own website (my first website cost me $50 per month and that was a discounted price!).

Ok, so now with email and a website, what if you want to start a business and accept credit cards? I researched credit card services and found many had a bait and switch sales team who would say anything to get you to sign up, even if the fine print of the contract had nothing to do with their actual fees. I am so glad I chose Advanced Merchant Services. Their rates may be a little higher, but 0.20% is a very small price to pay for sales representatives who return calls within a day. Their monthly minimum fees are also the lowest I found, at $23 versus the $50 at almost every other merchant card service. The most expensive rate is for telephone approvals and even that rate is a reasonable 3.79% versus over 4% at other institutions. If you are only going to be using your merchant account online with secure checkout or with physical card swipes the rate plummets to around 2%. Ask for Dan Robbins if you want your own merchant account and tell him Elaine referred you (Dan apologized once for taking more than 24 hours to respond to an email I sent him-all the more incredible since I live on the West Coast and the company is based on the East Coast).

Now that you have the tools, use them to build whatever business you love!

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