There are thousands of moments that inner-city children remember about their Fresh Air Fund summers: walking barefoot through the grass, roasting s’mores over the campfire and catching fireflies at night. The Fresh Air Fund has been giving these priceless gifts to New York City children for 137 summers. Visit www.freshair.org for more information.
Chicago is a great place for families on a budget because there’s so many free activities to enjoy. Here are some of the best choices for a family, whether you have young children, teens, or just a partner.
Bake Sale for Charity
Image via Flickr by Tom Nguyen
Your family could choose any charity and then host a bake sale to raise funds for that group. Not only is the baking part fun, but the finished product is delicious! Even if you only raise $20 from family and friends, the idea is to empower your child to become involved in the community.
Take your kids with you to deliver the donation and let them experience the good feelings that go with charity. They will remember it for the rest of their lives.
Experience the Symphony at Ravina
For just $10 a child, you can see a live symphony at Ravina in the Summer. These concerts are held for all families to experience the moving beauty of live performances. If you want to make the day more memorable, you can opt to sit on the lawn and create your own picnic.
Pack a healthy meal and lay back as the music washes over you while you watch the stars sparkle. Remember to take a few pictures to show your extended family and to enjoy in the years to come.
Attend a Live Sporting Event
Image via Flickr by Andrew Malone
Live sporting events are the best when it comes to vigor and enthusiasm. Your kids will be out of their seats cheering and shouting with the other spectators if you get Chicago Bears Tickets. Pack cozy blankets, hearty snacks, and plenty of water so you don’t have to brave the crowds on the way to concessions, and your family will enjoy a memorable day at the park.
If you wanted to make your sports trip more elaborate, you could make a foam finger as a craft project beforehand. Your child will love painting it to match the team’s colors and showing it off at the big game.
Farmers Market Fun
Put your dog in a t-shirt and head down to the farmers market, where pets are welcome and kids are enchanted by homemade goods like toys, treats, and games. Consider letting each of your family members have ten dollars to buy a family member a funky gift. Not only does everyone get something, but everyone will also get to experience giving a gift.
Prepare for your free walk in the park by slathering on sunscreen and wearing comfortable shoes. If you do bring a pet, consider its watering needs and bring a small bowl. Also, if you plan to pick out fresh produce as a family, you will want to bring a large bag to carry it all home.
When you want to have fun without breaking the bank, any of these options are great. Your family will grow closer and you will have memories of fun events, family closeness, and cherished moments.
Life & Beauty Weekly: Life & Love
Finding the “Me” in Motherhood
By Elizabeth Hurchalla for Life & Beauty Weekly
Whether you’re a mom or not, at some point you’ve likely put yourself on the back burner while turning your attention to the needs of those around you. But moms know this feeling better than anyone: With kids, life isn’t only about you anymore. That can be an amazing thing, but if you’re losing yourself in the process of raising a family, it’s time to refocus.
“Women tend to slowly give up more and more of themselves to accommodate their family’s needs,” says Tiffany Howsam, a Los Angeles-based family therapist who specializes in postpartum depression and anxiety. “They think that’s what they’re supposed to do.” Over time, you get so used to focusing on your children that every decision — from what’s for dinner to your next vacation — becomes about pleasing others.
Fortunately, you can take care of your family without losing sight of who you are, says Howsam. Here’s how to find a balance:
1. Take a step back.
Look at your situation from the outside. Are you treating yourself with the same TLC that you devote to your family? If you feel resentful because of your never-ending to-do list, or if you’re always exhausted or can’t remember the last time you did something just for you, you might be spending too much energy on others and not enough on yourself, says Howsam.
2. Set limits.
To be a supermom, you don’t have to be Supermom. “Women want to do it all perfectly,” notes Howsam. But if you volunteer with the PTA, put in a full day’s work, shuttle your kids to karate lessons, coach soccer and whip up a gourmet three-course family dinner every day, there’s no time left for you. So cut yourself some slack! The next time you consider taking on an activity, think about what you have to give up to do it. If you feel uneasy or you get overwhelmed, just say no.
3. Schedule time to do what you love.
Maintaining a sense of self requires at least a few hours each week of actually doing something just for you, says Howsam. “Think about the things you enjoyed before you had kids,” she suggests. “Or explore something you’ve always wanted to try, whether it’s gardening, reading a new book, getting a pedicure, going to a dance class or having coffee with a friend.” Plan your activity ahead of time and write it (in ink!) in your day planner so you’re more likely to stick to it.
4. Treasure the little things.
Doing something for yourself doesn’t always have to be a grand gesture: Creating special moments for yourself each day works too. Try picking three things that feel restorative to you and do them daily, suggests Howsam. Maybe it’s drinking tea in your favorite mug, taking five minutes of quiet alone time each morning or listening to your favorite music in the car rather than Barney’s greatest hits. Even just a minute of “you time” is better than nothing.
5. Lose the guilt.
When you say no or do things for yourself, you’re not being selfish, maintains Howsam. “You’re watching out for your own mental health, which includes taking time to recharge,” she says. You’re also setting a good example for your children and partner by letting them know you’re important too. And by taking time for yourself, you become a more engaged caregiver, which leads to a happy, well-adjusted family.
is a freelance writer who has contributed to
InStyle and many other publications.
She has previously contributed to
Life & Beauty Weekly.
Life & Beauty Weekly: Life & Love
Find New Friends Fast
By Catherine Ryan for Life & Beauty Weekly
When you’re younger, friends are everything. As you get older and people change and family responsibilities and jobs require more time and attention, it’s not unusual to lose touch with friends. And if you move to a new city, distance makes it even harder.
“In midlife, women’s lives are particularly full,” explains Irene Levine, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry at New York University and author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend. “But having supportive friendships is important — it reduces stress, blood pressure and the risk of depression.” Besides, friends make life more fun.
So check out these strategies for how to seek and develop meaningful friendships. They require only a little extra effort and repay you with a priceless gift.
1. Work your current commitments.
Conventional advice may suggest you sign up for an art class or book club to meet new people. But you’re probably overscheduled as it is! So instead, become more engaged in the groups you already have. For example, instead of watching soccer games with 30 other parents, become a board member of the league. Or lead a subcommittee for the PTA.
“You’ll connect more regularly and intimately with the same people,” says Levine. And doing so allows friendships to develop naturally, even though you aren’t shouldering much more of a time commitment.
2. Elevate an acquaintance to a friend.
When you find someone you click with, take baby steps toward making her a bosom buddy. “Share your real self slowly and wait for her to reciprocate,” says Levine. Meet for coffee and start by talking about your background or your interests (e.g., cooking or scrapbooking). Peeling back layers may be uncomfortable for shy types, but you need to expose yourself to see if there’s good mutual chemistry, she says.
On the other hand, should you feel totally at ease, resist the temptation to spill your life story right away. If your new pal is overwhelmed, she might back off unnecessarily.
3. Integrate yourself into a group.
If you’re on the periphery of an established social circle, breaking in can be daunting. Solution: Develop a closer relationship with one person first. Once the friendship sprouts, your pal is likely to involve you more with the group.
One warning: Don’t get too clingy with your go-to gal. At gatherings, chat with others so you don’t alienate her. And be patient. It takes time, but eventually you’ll be chummy with more members and become part of the inner circle yourself.
4. Spend time outside mommy-dom.
Being a mother is probably the most important part of your life, but it’s not the only part. “Mommy friends are our mentors and consultants, but it’s nice to have girlfriends with whom you can talk about more than kids,” says Levine.
So when reaching out to another mom, suggest a movie or art exhibit — anything that doesn’t involve kids. And steer conversation away from little ones. Exploring other parts of your personality helps a relationship transform from a one-dimensional interaction to a full-fledged friendship. Plus, you’ll feel more like the well-rounded woman you are, beyond your role as mom.
5. Be open to friendship.
“It sounds sappy, but most friendships begin with a smile and openness,” says Levine. That means engaging in small talk where appropriate — your office elevator, the community pool, courtside at your kids’ games. “If you act friendly and show people you’re interested in them, you’ll get a few ‘nibbles,’” she adds.
But finding your friend may be a hit-and-miss process. For example, you chat up a neighbor and she invites you to a party that turns out to be a pressure-filled sales pitch for her jewelry business. Don’t give up! Stay cheerful and talk with the other guests. Who knows, your future BFF may be there feeling duped too.
6. Nurture new connections.
Once you’ve made a friend, make her a priority by scheduling time together. If it feels forced or you’re just too busy, get your haircut at the same time and grab coffee afterwards. Syncing must-do’s guarantees a little one-on-one without overburdening your schedule. Also remember that you needn’t always connect face-to-face. Try other ways to stay in touch, such as Facebook, texting and quick calls, says Levine.
If you ever feel guilty about missed family time, know that investing in friendships pays off — for everyone. “Friends help us relax and keep life in perspective,” says Levine. Those “selfish” moments recharge your soul so you can be a better mom, spouse, daughter and sister.
is a freelance writer and editor who writes on health, nutrition, beauty and green living for such magazines as
Self, Ode and
Parents. She is a frequent contributor to Life & Beauty Weekly.
You plan, prep and work hard to keep a schedule. But hey, snow days happen. With a full day of work to do at home, the weather turns and schools close. Now along with a mountain of work to be done you have your little ones to entertain. We have all been there. Here are a few things to help your kids burn off there energy, without burning out yours.
Building Forts. Let your kids bring in empty boxes, sofa cushions, blankets, pillows whatever they need for building an ultimate fort. Too tired to clean up, have a camp in and let them sleep the night away in there fortress.
Homemade Bird Feeders. Give them some string and a giant bowl of popcorn. They can string the popcorn themselves, when the weather improves send them outside to hang them in the trees.
Snowflake Art. Let your kids fold, cut out and decorate snowflakes. Tell them to go around and decorate the house for the season.
Put them to work. Make a list of chores; each chore can have a 1-5 star rating system. Let them choose the ones they would like to do. Who ever has the most stars at the end gets a prize. Its always good to have a few new toys around for prizes.
Sock Puppet Show. Save all those unmatched socks. Let them decorate socks with markers, glue and googly eyes. Then have them decorate an empty box to look like a stage. After dinner they can entertain the whole family with a sock puppet show.
Paint The Snow. Fill a couple of squirt guns with water and food coloring. Bundle them up and ship them outside to turn the snow in your yard into works of art. This is a lot of fun!!
Cook Together. Have your kids help you make lunch and dinner. No matter how complex a dish might be there is always a job for them. From stirring, flipping, measuring ingredients. They will love being your little helper.
Planning a Kid Friendly New Years Eve Party
Tell the babysitter to take the night off and make your New Years Eve party a family friendly place to be.
Here are a few things to insure that kids and fellow party goers have a great time at your shindig.
Get the kids involved. Prior to the event have your kids make the Invitations and Decorations; Noise Makers, Banners, Crowns/Hats, Etc. Also, have them help you decide on a theme; Dance, Pajama, Karaoke, Black n’ White, Costume, Etc.
Plan out great food and drinks. Bite size are the best; Mini Pigs in a Blanket, Pita and Hummus, Chips N’ Dip, Mini Sandwiches, Mini Meatballs, Fruit and Veggie Trays. Make sure to have extra snacks for back up or for take home plates for guests. A punch bowl is a great go to drink, but don’t forget Sparkling Cider for kids and those who are not partaking in alcoholic beverages.
Set the mood. If you are having live music or an awesome play list be sure to add hits from every era to please a larger crowd. Or change it up and rent a Karaoke Machine. A lot of people enjoy watching the count down and ball drop on television, so leave a TV on mute.
Game on. If there will be video games being played make sure that they are kid friendly and playable by most party goers. Board games are classic. Playing a game of charades or pictionary can get everyone involved.
Avoid a scene. Don’t invite family members or friends that tend to get out of control after a drink or two. If you don’t need a babysitter for the kids then you don’t need one for rowdy adults. Also, have phone numbers handy of taxi services or bus schedules to make sure everyone gets home safely.
Sherbet Punch Recipe
1 gallon bottle of Chilled Hawaiian Punch
1 (2 liter) Chilled Sprite or 7up
½ gallon Sherbet Ice Cream
In a punch bowl mix liquids, then add scoops any flavor of Sherbet Ice Cream on top. Serve and Enjoy!
If you are like most women I am guessing you are overworked, underpaid, stressed and ready to just bust at the seams some days. I know I sure have days like that. Some weeks, more than others! Between work, upkeep at home, juggling time with hubby, kid, animals, and then doing the shopping and bills there are days I just want to sit back and relax and take some me time. One thing I love doing for me, is playing some online games. I love my games on my phone but one of my favorites is bingo. My favorite site is www.galabingo.com. I enjoy unwinding and playing in the evenings to let my mind just de-stress. Many games to choose from like bingo, slots, vegas games and more. Fun to use and all around enjoyable. Check it out and take time for you to unwind.
Family is one of the most important things in life. And family can be one parent, both parents, grandparents, step parents, siblings, etc. Everyone’s family is different, but very special.
As our parents age the thing that crosses one’s mind often is how will they be taken care of when they are unable to take care of themselves. It would be great if us as kids could take care of our parents as they took care of us but sometimes our parents need things we are unable to supply for them. If you need personal care for your loved ones it is nice to know there are places that offer that. Care for people living with things like Dimentia which is a very hard thing for those with it and those around the person with it. Or maybe your loved ones need respite care, stroke rehabilitation, nursing care, or personal care. Whatever the case it is nice to know there is help for anyone who needs it.
The one Grandfather I have is now dealing with the onset of Dimentia. It is so hard to see him confused all the time. His wife is wonderful, patient and dealing very well but I know that soon he will need more care than what she can give and I am thankful there are places close by that can give him all he need.
Do you have a loved one needing care? It is a good idea to check things out even if you don’t have a loved one needing care right now. One never knows what lies ahead in life.