Saturday, February 28, 2009

Free Movies start again

The Savoy 16 (part of Goodrich Quality Theaters) has started their Free Spring Matinees again this weekend with Are We Done Yet? The listing is pretty good this season.

All shows are Sat and Sun at 10am and 11am. If it is a really popular movie, you might have to go early and get tickets (the year they showed Harry Potter, it was a mess). It really is free, although of course the concession stand is open for business. They also have an intermission ... sometimes we leave at this point if the little ones are done.


*Also note, Savoy 16 has shortened their commercial/preview times to closer to 10mins. So, you actually have to be on time to movies again!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Frugal Friday

Let's eat ... we all have to, right?

My tip for today is to really analyze and plan your grocery shopping. If you have no idea how much you spend on grocery shopping, consider getting a store credit card (I use a Meijer card). I love that I can simply look at the monthly statement to see how much we've spent at a glance. Otherwise, take a few minutes to look through your bank or credit card statements.

If you need to cut out some spending, here is what to do: buy as much as you can ON SALE. Look at the weekly ads (most stores have them online). Stock up on things you buy when they are on sale (even if you are not currently out of them). If you wait to buy things when you need them, you will pay whatever the price is at the time, when maybe two weeks ago it was half off! This is a great strategy for basic stock items like toilet paper, cereal, juice (a brand is always on sale), and meat (freeze!). The brands I prefer are often on sale once a month or so but you might consider being flexible on brand names. I also keep an eye on a couple other stores. For example, Walgreens has great prices on many things. This week milk is $1 cheaper than the regular grocery store and our laundry detergent is buy one get one free!

I kid you not: this method cut almost $200 out of our monthly grocery budget. It really isn't that much work ... maybe 30 minutes per shopping trip.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Where's the Beef?

I come from the Chicago suburbs and have been craving a good Italian beef lately. Since I don't eat on campus except in the summer, we headed to McAlister's Deli on Town Center (the road between Prospect and Neil shopping areas).

Last time I was there it was summer, and my daughter and I enjoyed their outdoor seating, huge iced teas, and generous sandwich portions (a good Reuben (although Courier's is unbeatable) and a delicious chicken wrap). We could have easily shared a sandwich. Today, my hub and 3yo decided to dine inside. We had the French Dip (to satisfy my beef craving) and the McAlister's Club. Overall, the food is very good and reasonably priced (most items ranging from $6-8, which includes one side item (e.g. mac/cheese, mashed potatoes/gravy, chips, potato salad, fruit, or applesauce)). The kids menu is priced at $3.49 (which includes a drink and possibly a side). We have not ordered off the kids menu yet but it has a nice variety. The regular menu includes a variety of soups, chili, salads, sandwiches, super stuffed baked potatoes, meatloaf, pot roast, and pizzas.

What I like about this place is that they provide good service. Although you order at the front counter, if you dine-in, they bring your food to the table and check in with you about refills, etc. But, as stated in the menu, they do not seek tips (although I am sure they are accepted). They also were very nice about showing us the cookies (huge, delicious buttery cookies @ $1 each) when we asked about sweets. The staff is engaging (they were very nice to our very loud 3yo) but not overbearing.

It can be very crowded at lunch and dinner time but it seems perfect at off times to just sit, eat, and chat. I would recommend it for a big lunch or nice dinner place with the kids.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Oscar Recap

After running around all over town Sunday, including a trip to the doctor upon the realization that our youngest had pink eye, I settled in early to watch some red carpet action before the 81st Oscars telecast. We had a lovely finger-food meal of stuffed potato bits, lettuce wraps, stuffed mushrooms, steak bites, and chicken nuggets. We even got the boys to bed before the show started! I was very excited.

It began. I really liked the opening number. I watched it again today and laughed again. I think I liked it because Hugh Jackman's recession-themed number is just like the shows we did as kids and my kids do now (a batmobile out of milk jugs?! brilliant). In many ways, I think it might inspire people to have fun and be theatrical. Unfortunately, the big "Musicals are Back" number was poorly orchestrated and fell down despite Baz Luhrman's creativity. And poor John Legend having to make his Wall-E ballad flow with the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack ...

The show moved on. When five previous winners came out to present Best Supporting Actress, I thought, oh no ... we will be here forever! But I ended up really liking the presentation for the actors. I think it gave each one of the them a moment of glory (especially when the presenter practiced their speech and it seemed sincere. Shirley MacLaine made Anne's night!). Nice change.

The montages: I actually liked the idea of showing some snippets from good movies of all genres from 2008, but I think they fell short. The were not terribly inclusive and the editing and filming was awkward.

Funny: Tina Fey, Steve Martin, Ben Stiller, James Franco.
Can stay home next year: Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Aniston, Zac Efron.

The winners: nothing really surprising. I did a fantastic job of predicting the winners (I missed on foreign language film). Who wasn't crying when Heath Ledger won? And good speeches ... Mr. Roboto!

*We also spent a lot of time looking up facts during the show. (How many times has Phillip Seymour Hoffman been nominated? When did that come out? What did she win for?) God bless Wikipedia!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Fitness Friday!

Getting little kids to exercise is easy. They naturally run around all the the house, at school, in the yard. But the older kids are a tougher group. Although my pre-teen does have gym class twice a week....only when she decided to join cross country was she really getting a good amount of exercise (30mins/day (we should all do that!)). If you have the time and money, park district or YMCA programs are great. If you don't, you have to get make it a priority to make sure you are all getting exercise in the day. It is as important as homework and eating dinner together.

Here are some ideas...
Get some exercise or dance DVDs from the library. Encourage your kid to do them or offer to do them with your child. (My daughter got a yoga dvd/book for Christmas). There some good kids hip hop dvds.

Walk! In my neighborhood, my daughter can go on a walk around the block (or two) on her own. If that is not the case, walk with your child.

Bike! My daughter loves to ride her bike.

Jump! Go and buy a jump rope...your child can jump inside or out. Put on some music and jump for a few songs.

Have friends over for a dance or karaoke party!

See if there are sports teams or intramurals at your child's school....they are typically free and take place after school at school (so no driving around!). If not, get a couple parents to request or organize something.

I make my kids go outside for 30mins when the weather permits....the oldest makes obstacle courses and coaches her siblings in soccer and basketball. They also perform stunt shows.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Business Report

I drove around to "Erin's" with my kids today. It is just shocking to see so many empty businesses in town....national and local establishments.

Is Checkered Moon closed? The store is closed and beginning to empty for sure.
Circuit City on Prospect is clearing out its stock.
Of course, this is the last day for Pages.
Many restaurants are standing empty.

However, Payless on Prospect is not out of business but closed for remodelling. I was shocked to hear that it was closed...I figure if a discount shoe store can't make it....but I checked. The manager there is really nice to us (you know when I bring in the fam during BOGO...he always measures everyone's feet and is patient as I search for my hider).

Anyone else have anything to report?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Weekend quickies...

*I was saddened to walk through the completely empty Children's Section of Pages for All Ages today. If I lingered too long, I was going to cry.

*To cheer myself up, I headed to Marble Slab for some ice cream...and I was nice enough to bring some home for the kids! We have to go out to Savoy more often.

*I wonder why, as I spent the day on the couch with my Valentine of a kleenx box...the only good tv was an Intervention marathon (on Valentine's Day? Come chick flicks?).

*Loved having a pizza lunch at my son's school on Friday.

*Red Velvet cupcakes are awesome...I should make them more than once a year!

*I am sore from drumming class...that is awesome too!

*I am generating a list of 'Kids Eat Free (or reduced)' deals in CU (or national chains). I see signs all the time but then the info is never on websites. Send them in!!!
El eat free on Sundays
Steak and eat free on weekends (2 meals with adult purchase of $9)
Fazoli's has a 99cent night on Tuesdays (I think)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Secret to Success

As a mom and an educator, let me tell you what I think is a vital skill for your child to learn before kindergarten. Its not reading, writing, sitting for periods of time....its all about SELF.

I find it so important to help kids develop strong self-confidence and trust in themselves and their environment (including parents, teachers, and peers). This ability to understand their worth, importance, and independence will allow them to explore and take risks to learn new things....and ask for help when they need it.

For example, if a child is willing to try to dress herself and ends up with her pants on backwards...they have learned how to use body coordination and planning to put her feet through the right holes, pull up the top, stand up, and get it to feel right. She has also learned that she can do it by herself. This will help her realize she can do a lot of other things on her own (like read a book or write a story). Think...if an adult comes up to her and says 'that's wrong', the child now looses that sense of accomplishment and will feel that she cannot be successful at doing things on her own and taking a risk is not worth it.

Why is risk-taking important? Because you have to take risks to learn new things. To decide that you want to read a have to take the risk that you can't do it right away or you might be wrong. You must also take a risk in order to ask questions or ask for help. If you have a strong sense of understand that you can try anything but it might not work out, at least the first time, and that is ok!

Another important element is a supportive and responsive environment. By providing lots of opportunities to try new things, be independent, and find support, a child will feel a sense of security in which to develop. I will use my favorite sippy cup example. Parents love sippy cups. Eventually, a child will need to use a regular open-topped cup. Parents always fear the spill...but if a child never has the opportunity to use a regular cup and experience the risk for that spill...they will never experience success. If they drink and spill...its ok...they will learn to try a new technique next time and that if they spill, they will have to help clean it up. Congratulate them in trying and kindly help them clean up.

Kids learn a lot in many ways and in lots of unexpected places. I wish parents would focus more on their children's self-development over 'academics'. Children will be taught to read and write in first grade, they will be taught to add and subtract, they will be taught the names of the 50 states. But, they will not be as nurtured in their development of themselves and THIS development is essential in being academically successful.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Frugal Friday

My tip today is for the government.

We all have been cutting the little things out....not going out to dinner as much, changing to a smaller cable package, no more we all know, those little expenses can add up.

So, I had to laugh when I see Congress talking about the upcoming stimulus package with large (probably expensive) posters behind them. I kid you not, one senator had a cardboard poster of Bill Murray from Groundhog's Day since he was making a comparison between the economy and the movie.

So, I purpose the government also cut out the small more posters in Congress, less dinners at the White House, fewer Christmas decorations on Capital Hill, no more presidential pets, public school for the girls (that won't happen). It won't cut trillions out...but a couple million would help, right?

The government is asking all of us Americans to do what we can to get through this hard they should too.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Rock Me Sexy Jesus

This is the song that has been in my head all week (and I think I heard at least one kids singing around the house...sorry to their teachers).

If Jesus were around today (in person) he would have to market himself...just as any celebrity--rough explanation from one of the characters in Hamlet 2 (not a great movie at all but this scene made it worth the hour I had already invested...and the part where Jesus bonds with Hamlet over their overbearing fathers).


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Pages Closes

It is official, Pages for All Ages bookstore in Savoy is closed for good. Read here.

We will miss you!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

School Days 2009-10

Believe it or not, this is the time to be thinking about next school year. If you need to select a school for your child (e.g. preschool, kindergarten, or transfer to a new school), this is the time to go on tours and meet with principals or directors. Some schools have Open Houses or scheduled information and tour times but most schools are happy to set up a time to meet with you at your convenience.

Take the time to ask questions and look around in order to pick the best program for your family.

Here's info on Champaign Schools or Urbana Schools

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Oscar Update

First of all I would like to thank all the people who have supported my through this challenging 12yo for babysitting, my hub who sees movies alone, and all those students and family members that have given me movie gift cards. My friends, co-workers, and family guiding me to making wise movie choices. I couldn't have done it without you.

Here is a quick overview of what I've seen so far.

Best Picture
Slumdog Millionaire
Go see this movie on the big screen! I don't even want to talk about it too much since the best part for me about this movie was that I knew absolutely nothing about it. Its a love, rags to riches, brotherly relationship, cultural awareness drama wrapped in a fabulous score and soundtrack.

I really didn't know anything about this one either, except the basic premise that Harvey Milk is the first openly gay person elected to public office in the 70's. Sean Penn is amazing in this film...amazing...his acting combined with a simply fascinating fabulous. The story itself is interesting and brings up a lot of issues that clearly still exist today. James Franco deserved a nomination, and this supporting ensemble is a great group of young (and older) actors. (combined with my recent viewing of The Cockettes, I feel educated in the SF gay movement)

Benjamin Button
Although I knew the basic premise of this film as well, I didn't know how it would end and that was half of the movie for me....what is going to happen. The make-up and special effects are breath-taking...really. And they have cast the most beautiful people. The story is sweet, the scenery is wonderful. Its just a great story that I am glad was told.

Best Animated Film
We saw this in 3D on Christmas Day (two things I will never do again). My kids loved this one...the boys in their superhero phase and my 12yo obsessed with Miley Cyrus. What I liked about this film were the action sequences...just like a Will Smith movie but animated. Bolt ends up being a really good hero and makes some good friends. The ending duet between Cyrus and John Travolta is really nice.

Kung Fu Panda
We finally snagged this from the library, despite being 100th on the waiting list. Great animation and voice characterization. The major theme is a timeless one for kids (you are the secret ingredient, make things what you want). I don't really feel like this film brought anything particularly new or interesting to the world of cinema.

Wall-E (see review here)
This should and probably will win this category.