Staycation around the country!

Maybe you’re sticking around Chicago, and maybe not. Here are some ideas from all over the country if you are looking for fun, frugal ideas wherever your family might find itself this summer.

Feel free to check out the links on pinterest if you are more visually stimulated:

Mid Atlantic

NW (or all), Connecticut :: Parenting Miracles

Boston (or all), Massachusetts :: Maven of Savin

Central, New Jersey :: Our Good LIfe

Adirondak Mountains and Central, New York :: For This Season

Buffalo/Niagara Falls, New York :: Ann’s Entitled Life

Syracuse, New York :: I am THAT lady

Erie, Pennsylvania :: Growing Kids Ministry

Greater Harrisburg, Pennsylvania :: Family Balance Sheet

Hershey, Pennsylvania :: Good Deal Mama

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania :: Beyond the Cover

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania :: The Coupon “High”

Poconos, Pennsylvania :: Bucktown Bargains

Scranton, Pennsylvania :: Bucktown Bargains


Des Moines, Iowa :: Make the best of everything

Aurora, Illinois :: A Savings WOW!

Central, Illinois :: The Homeschool Scientist

Chicago, Illinois :: Chicagoland Homeschool Network

Naperville, Illinois :: The Sensible Mom

Schaumburg, Illinois :: Ravings By Rae

Fort Wayne, Indiana :: Simplified Saving

Indianapolis, Indiana (Metro Area) :: In Good Cents

Muncie, Indiana (Central IN) :: the daisyhead

Northern Indiana :: So Dough Savvy

Kansas City Area :: Kansas City Mamas

Metro Detroit, Michigan :: Saving Dollars and Sense

Grand Rapids, Michigan :: Give Me Neither

Oakland County, Michigan :: Bargain Shopper Mom

Minneapolis, Minnesota :: Creative Couponing

Rural Minnesota (either Southern our Lake Country) ::

St. Cloud, Minnesota :: Frugal Finders

Kansas City, Missouri/Kansas :: Kosher on a Budget

Springfield, Missouri :: Getting Freedom

Cincinnati, Ohio :: Family Friendly Cincinnati

Columbus, Ohio :: Cleverly Simple

Dayton, Ohio :: Savings Lifestyle: Dayton

Mansfield, Ohio :: The Traveling Praters

NE Ohio :: Raising Lifelong Learners

Northeast Ohio (Canton, Akron, Cleveland) :: Sisters Shopping on a Shoestring

Black Hills, South Dakota :: Little House Living

South Dakota :: Moms Mustard Seeds

Oshkosh, Wisconsin :: Adventures of a Stay at Home Mom


Phoenix, Arizona :: Mom Endeavors

Scottsdale, Arizona :: Saving For Someday

Tucson, Arizona :: Desert Chica Ramblings

Colorado Springs, Colorado :: The Greenbacks Gal

Denver, Colorado :: Bargain Blessings

Helena, Montana :: The WiC Project

Omaha, Nebraska :: Mom Endeavors

Reno, Nevada – Lake Tahoe (Northern Nevada) :: Saving in Nevada


Fresno, California (Central Valley) :: NerdFamily Blog

Los Angeles, California ::

San Diego, California :: Good Cheap Eats

San Diego, California :: Life as MOM

Portland, Oregon :: Frugal Living NW

Seattle, Washington :: Thrifty NW Mom

South Atlantic

Arkansas :: Discovering Arkansas

Washington, DC :: Kidventurous

Clearwater Beach, Florida :: Bargain Briana

Jacksonville, Florida :: Saving The Family Money

Southwest Florida (Ft. Myers area) :: Chaos Is Bliss

St. Augustine, Florida :: Simply St. Augustine

Tallahassee, Florida :: SwagGrabber

Atlanta, Georgia (metro area) :: Hodgepodge

Atlanta, Georgia (metro area) :: The Couponing Couple

Annapolis, Maryland :: The Happy Housewife

Hagerstown, Maryland :: Cheryl Pitt

Asheville, North Carolina :: Paradise Praises

Charlotte, North Carolina :: from our front porch lookin’ in…

Raleigh/Southeastern, North Carolina :: Upside Down Homeschooling

Upstate South Carolina :: The Tween & Me

Charlottesville, Virginia :: How to Have it All

Richmond, Virginia :: Teachers of Good Things

Smithfield, Virginia :: Walking in High Cotton

Virginia Beach, Virginia :: The Coupon Challenge

South Central

Coastal Alabama :: Meet Penny

Huntsville, Alabama :: The Traveling Praters

Northern Kentucky :: Simply Sherryl

Chattanooga, Tennessee :: Living Chic on the Cheap

East Tennessee (Smoky Mountains, Knoxville) :: Finding Joy on the Journey

Nashville, Tennessee :: Montessori Tidbits

Arlington, Texas :: Grocery Shop For FREE

Austin, Texas (Hill Country) :: Ponder the Path

College Station, Texas :: How to Homeschool My Child

Dallas, Texas :: Surviving The Stores

East Dallas, Texas :: Funky Faith Girl

Fort Worth, Texas :: Coupons & Freebies Mom

Houston, Texas :: MomsToolbox

Houston, Texas :: MyLitter

Katy, Texas :: Moms Confession

McAllen, Texas (Rio Grande Valley) :: iLoveMy5Kids

San Antonio, Texas :: Melissa’s Bargains

Staycation 2013

Two years ago I posted my first Chicago staycation post and have really enjoyed revisiting this theme each May highlighting some of the limitless opportunities in the Chicago area for a family on a budget.

Since I could never attempt to represent all of the amazing outings available, each year I try to uncover something new.

If you have missed earlier posts:

– The first year I posted in fives (5 genres, 5 favorites, 5 free trips, etc.)

– The second year centered around activities geared to help you Get Active; Grow ‘n’ Learn; and Give Back.

While those posts easily gave you enough fuel for conversation around the family campfire and fun from June through August, I want to make sure you don’t overlook some of the attractions that you have to come to Chicago to enjoy. These places we “locals” too often miss (or forget to bring our kids to!) because we walk by them everyday and don’t realize the gems right under our noses. Some of these might exist elsewhere, but we have the good fortune of living just down the tracks from them, so don’t miss ’em!


You can take a tour of various food venues in Chicago, but you can also just pick a couple favorites to enjoy while you are there. Here are some don’t miss icons if you want to eat Chicago style.


Ed Debevic’s

Eli’s Cheesecake. Tour and taste delicious!

– For pizza, check out Giordano‘s, Pizzeria Uno, or Gino’s East

– Or, sample it all at the Taste of Chicago July 10-14 in Grant Park


Chicago’s Air and Water Show – Coming to the lakefront on August 17th and 18th. We love sneaking a peak the day before the official start. No crowds, and perfect viewing for an amazing show. You never know what you’ll get the day before, and most people prefer to go on a day off work. It’s definitely a show worth fighting the crowds for though.

Money Museum

Federal Reserve — a recent find of ours. We enjoyed a little field trip to this quiet Money Museum near the Board of Trade. Kids can take their picture in a two dollar bill, design their own, catch the counterfeits, and see a million bucks (in ones, twenties, and hundreds). And, don’t forget to grab your free bag of shredded money. As the tour guide said, it’s $364 dollars, some assembly required. Be sure all adults entering bring a state issued photo ID for entrance.

Millennium Park — In addition to the “bean” and water play, they have loads of free activities throughout the summer. The best way to get there is the Metra on the weekend. $7 round trip for each adult and a limited number of kids ride free with you. Cheaper than parking in the garage next door. Millennium is an easy one mile walk from the stations.

Fireworks — of course on the Fourth you will find them all over the place, but every Saturday and Wednesday they are free at Navy Pier as well.

Shops — While you might not manage to leave without spending any money, you just have to make it to the American Girl store and the Lego Store are just two of many unforgettable shopping experiences.


Chicago has some amazing places that will cost you a little more, but thanks to groupon, coupons, reading incentive programs, and various deal sites you can include these in an affordable family staycation as well

Brookfield Zoo — Lions and Tigers and Bears, and penguins, and okapi, and giraffes, and wombats. Brookfield has long been a favorite in our family. We even splurged on a family pass this year instead of sticking to the free days. We can easily enjoy a whole day watching the animals and laughing over their antics. The Hamil Family Play Zoo is great for both sunny and inclement weather, so the zoo fits our agenda no matter what. Of course, Lincoln Park Zoo is free, and also worthy of a visit, so take your pick with two great zoo choices.

Medieval Times — Another overpriced entertainment venue if you go in paying full price, so don’t! Summer time they have lots of deals for free dads, grads, half price for everyone, kids in free, etc. (not all at the same time) Sometimes my kids got passes from the library reading program and with the other discounts we got 5 people in for less than $60. Every summer is different, but keep your eyes open if you have not yet enjoyed this dinner theater that only has a few homes across the nation.

Six Flags Great America — yes, this is almost as bad as Disney in terms of affordability, but if your kids do the Read to Succeed program and you try to get in earlier in the season (before July 4th) you can usually strike a deal. As a child I used to camp out nearby with my family and make a weekend of it. That’s when twickets were only a couple bucks, but you can still find affordable ways to enjoy this legendary theme park.

– Tour some of our local attractions for behind the scenes perspectives at places like Wrigley, the Board of Trade, be a trainer for the day at the Shedd,  or other favorites

Further away:

Jelly Belly Factory – not in Chicago, but a fun trip and tour. If you haven’t done it before, enjoy it once.

Amish Country in Indiana – another relaxing day trip with a unique backdrop without driving to Ohio or Pennsylvania.

However you decide to spend your summer vacation find something local that you have not enjoyed as a family and set a date to build some memories together. As my oldest approaches college age I see more and more clearly the need to treasure these years that pass so quickly. Enjoy the times together running through the sprinkler in the backyard and roasting marshmallows, and check out local attractions that won’t break the bank or require days off work for travel. There is so much around us to enjoy.

What are your local family favorites?

Used Curriculum sale on South Side

Reserve your table today at one of the largest used home school
Curriculum Fairs on Chicago’s South Side!
Date: May 28, 2013
Time: 4:00-8:00 p.m.
Location: Grace Fellowship Church
(15150 Oak Park Avenue in Oak Forest)
You won’t want to miss the great deals and money making opportunities to sell curriculum you are no longer using (or never used!). There is limited space available, so reserve your table today. The cost of a table is $5 (donated to the church hosting this event).
E-mail Sandi Grutzius to reserve your table today at
Come Buy, Sell, or BOTH!

CineYouth FREE

The following was submitted to the site:

The Chicago International Film Festival’s youth/student film festival CineYouth is May 9-11, 2013! Held at Columbia College Chicago, this event is FREE and open to the public of all ages.

Opening Night (May 9 at 7PM) welcomes actor, writer and director John Francis Daley (Freaks and Geeks, Bones, Horrible Bosses) to share his experience in the entertainment industry and participate in a Q&A with audience members. There is a catered reception following the discussion.

On May 10 & 11 short films from filmmakers 21 years old and younger will be screened and students may participate in a 24-hour filmmaking challenge.

The Festival closes on May 11 at 6PM with the CineYouth Awards Ceremony.

Some more information that I found when digging around:

CineYouth Festival will be held at Columbia’s Film Row Cinema and all of the screenings, workshops and filmmaking panels are free and open to the public. RSVP to Seating will be on a first come, first served basis and is limited to theater capacity. To register for the workshops, email For more information about the CineYouth Festival and schedule of events, visit or call Cinema/Chicago offices at 312-683-0121 x117

And, here is a posting on the Chicago International Film Festival site about CineYouth.

Review and Giveaway Ring the Bell

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Ring the Bell:

Ring The Bell shares the story of a slick, big city sports agent Rob Decker who seems to have it all. But on his latest mission to sign a high school baseball superstar, Rob becomes stranded in a small town where the simplicity of life—and the faith of the people—stand in stark contrast to his own fast-paced, win-at-all-costs mindset. Torn between these two worlds, will Rob have the courage to let faith transform his life? This heartwarming story of redemption is sure to entertain and inspire the whole family.

Ring the Bell is available on DVD for only $19.99

I know I have shared many times how much we appreciate being able to pop in a move that the whole family can watch without needing to fast-forward, cover ears or eyes, or wonder if something will go over their head or not. It’s not worth trying to enjoy a movie that is sub-standard morally. Ring the Bell delivers significant life lessons without any gore or inappropriate scenes or language. Everyone can watch this together.

We may have had a little soft spot for some of the main characters in this movie as their home was a type of group home for foster kids. Since we worked as dorm parents in a residential school for boys for nine years, personal memories flooded in as we watched the boys they worked with. We could easily relate to the challenges and victories that come in that line of “work.”They also speak a bit about mission work, another passion of mine, and I appreciated the clear presentation of the Gospel message more than once in the film.

As much as we loved aspects of this movie and some genuinely funny scenes peppered in here and there to break up the seriousness of the plot, there were some places that seemed to drag a bit. Some of the conversation seemed to go a little too long, even if they did have great points to make. There was also a fair bit of music that took up film time with segments of the singers actually singing. I enjoy good music and especially a good concert, but watching a concert as part of a movie seemed to slow the drama down too much. The music is great — Casting Crowns among others — but, I would have enjoyed it more as meaningful background music rather than the focal point of the shot.

Aside from the slow sections, this film has a great lesson, and the powerful tradition of the ringing of the bell every time . . . well, I don’t want to ruin that for you. See for yourself why that bell ringing is so important. It made me consider what we could do to have a similar tradition in our circle or home.

Now for the fun part, one of you can win your own copy of this heartwarming story to enjoy with your own family.  Just leave a comment below, and you are entered to win. For additional entries share about this giveaway elsewhere (blog, facebook, twitter, etc.) and come comment again letting me know where you shared. I’ll draw a winner on Tuesday May 14 in the evening.

International Space Day

Tomorrow, May 4, is International Space Day.

Not long ago I did a review on Janet’s Planet Science program and found out about this unique “holiday” on her blog:

Check out the fun ideas and resources to celebrate the day in style!