Posts tagged: gifts

Celebrating Mother’s Day in Chicago with Shari Schmidt

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By , April 26, 2010 9:22 am
Shari Schmidt

Shari enjoying some tall company

With Mother’s Day a couple of weeks away, Funsherpa is continuing its countdown through featuring local mothers in Chicago.  Aside from being the family champions and all around multi-taskers, these mothers are building the next generation of the city’s inhabitants and caretakers.  Today, we talk to Shari Schmidt, a mom raising twins who writes a blog called Two Times the Fun, and celebrates life in the city by taking her kids to the Green City Market and Notebaert Nature Museum.

F: What do you enjoy the most about Mommy blogging? What do your daughters think about your blog?
S: I blog to create a record of our girls’ adventures. I like being able to record what is happening on a moment’s notice. It allows for very real time observations and emotions. Some day I will take the blog and turn it into a book for the girls.

The girls don’t really understand blogging for the most part. Although, the other day one of them said, “Please don’t tell your computer friends.”

F: Can you describe your typical audience? What do they enjoy the most about your blog?
S: My typical audience member has children. They either understand what we are going through at a certain stage, or have already been there and offer great advice. We’re all just trying to do the best we can for our children, and it is great to be able to share ideas. They are not shy. If they think I’ve screwed up something, they let me know. Sometimes it’s just helpful to be able to let everyone know we’re all in this together.

F: I understand you have twin daughters. What is the coolest thing about having twins? How easy/challenging is it to raise twins?
S: The best thing about having twins is watching the twin bond in action. Many people doubt it exists, but having twins makes you a believer. The girls are so similar in many ways, yet really different. They find great strength being part of a pair. The most challenging thing about raising twins is dealing with everyone’s comments. So many people tell us what to do with the girls. “If I had twins, I’d…,” is a phrase I hear often. Some days I just think, “Call me when you have twins and we’ll talk.”

F: Do you find yourself raising your kids in a similar way to the way your parents raised you or are you doing things the polar opposite way?
S: I think parents always raise their children based upon the prevailing wisdom of the time. When we were children, parenting beliefs were very different from what they are now. Each generation goes with their own beliefs. For example, my grandmother was horrified that my parents allowed us to eat cold cereal. She was certain that we’d suffer if we didn’t eat bacon, eggs and toast every morning. If I fed our girls bacon, eggs and toast every morning, it would be considered very bad parenting by today’s standards. We mix the way our parents raised us with our beliefs about parenting. It’s quite a comfortable mix.

F: What do Mom bloggers talk about when they get together?
S: Our children and motherhood, of course. I spent an afternoon with some of the Chicago Moms Blog writers recently. It was so fun to be able to brainstorm with everyone. I found a couple of other twins moms that I’ll keep in touch with as our girls get older. Another mom blogger gave me a good resource to help me turn the blog into a book for the girls. It’s such a great, supportive network.

F: Any advice to new parents in Chicago to ensure their kids get to appreciate the city they live in?
S: I always tell people to start small. A big problem I see is that new parents expect too much from their children. Little ones have short attention spans. When we are in Chicago , we like to walk around and talk about what we see. Our girls like to see the different buildings, public artwork and different people. We spend time walking different neighborhoods, going to parks and visiting destinations like the Chicago Green City Market near the Notebaert Museum . It’s a big city, but it’s easy to break it down into manageable pieces.

F: Is there anything in Chicago that makes it particularly a kid/mommy friendly city? Is there anything you’d like to change about Chicago?
S: This city is very handicap accessible, which is important when you travel with a double-stroller. I never thought about this until we spent time walking with the double-stroller in front of us. Also, there are lots of bathrooms in buildings and stores. I think our girls have visited all of them.

There are so many free activities that you can stay really busy without spending a lot of money. We try to do as many as possible each year, especially the children-friendly activities. Anything at Millennium Park is great because it is a good central location for all our friends to get together. Everyone brings a picnic basket and some treats to share. We can spend a day there playing in the Crown Fountain, walking over to the lakefront to see the boats and listening to music.

I don’t know what I’d change to be honest. I tend to take advantage of what is available, rather than stress about what could be different. There is so much to enjoy, and we try to do just that.

F: What have some of your best experiences on Mother’s Day been? What would make your perfect Mother’s Day holiday?
S: Mother’s Day in our house is very low-key. I like to clear the calendar and see what the day brings. Sometimes we just go bike riding or roller skating and then grill out. If the weather is bad we might see a movie or visit a museum. We spend our days rushing to catch the school bus or trying to make it to dance lessons on time. The rule on Mother’s Day is we cannot do anything productive like running errands or doing laundry. It’s nice to have a day when we just wake up and see what happens.

Being Frugal in Chicago with Lisa Koivu

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By , March 15, 2010 11:42 am

Lisa celebrating a life of frugality

Lisa celebrating a life of frugality

With the tough economy still all over everyone’s mind, we’ve decided to feature Chicago’s very own frugal tip celebrity, Lisa Koivu. Lisa is the blogger behind Fantabulously Frugal, a blog dedicated to sharing how to live a life ‘On-Sale’!

F: What inspired you to start the Fantabulously Frugal blog? It must have been good timing with the recent recession when you decided to start it.
LK: I started Fantabulously Frugal when I was reaching the end of grad school and was in a bit of a panic about what I was going to do with all of my free time. I was still working full time but was worried about all of the hours I’d have free in the evenings. (I guess I’m a little crazy.) I spent a weekend just thinking about things that I might be good at, but had to rule most of them out. I mean, I love reading gossip magazines but with no access to anything Hollywood-related, couldn’t really parlay that into anything substantial. I also love eating cupcakes, but I abhor making them. It came to me literally in the middle of the night that one thing I’m quite good at is finding bargains on the internet. And thus Fantabulously Frugal was born.

F: How did you get so good at finding deals and steals?
LV: I think it goes back to have a very thrifty childhood. When I was growing up we didn’t buy anything unless we had a coupon or it was on sale. I remember standing in line at the grocery store with my dad once and complaining about how we never bought Lucky Charms and I told him it was stupid that we needed a coupon in order to buy something. I remember him asking me why I thought it was stupid to want to save money on something, and that has always stuck with me. Why would you want to pay full price for something when you can so easily get it for less? And now that I clip coupons I realize that there were probably many coupons for Lucky Charms and my parents were just ignoring them.

Their sense of frugality has always stuck with me and there are very few things for which I’ve ever paid full price. I’m a Mac gal and I even spent time trying to figure out how to get the best discount on my Mac before purchasing. I feel good when I don’t pay full price for something, and I enjoy helping others feel the same way.

F: Any particular post on FF that got the most attention ?
LK: One of my favorite posts to compile and one that people seem to find over and over again is a post I did on everything I was able to get for free on my birthday. I’d had that post in mind ever since the early days of Fantabulously Frugal and I spent those months trying to get myself onto every mailing list possible, and especially ones that asked for your birth date. I have to say – my haul was pretty good, though I have high hopes that my tally of freebies will be much higher this year! I received multiple free meals, cosmetics, and many other items – it was awesome!

F: What neighborhood do you live in? And what do you like about it?
LK: I live on the edge of Lincoln Square and on the edge of Old Irving and so I’ll cover them both. What I like about the Old Irving Part of town is that I’m just a half mile walk from the Target on Addison. I make a trip to Target every single weekend so this location has been great for that. I can combine walking with shopping! In terms of Lincoln Square, I love how walkable the neighborhood is and the large number of outstanding restaurants. We used to live in River North and so we were able to walk to all of downtown Chicago’s finest establishments. I’m not kidding, however, when I saw I prefer the atmosphere and the restaurants more in Lincoln Square. Bistro Campagne is a particular favorite of mine.

F: What are your favorite places to bargain hunt in Chicago?
LK: Target, Target, Target! Seriously, I cannot get enough of that place! One Chicago-based store that I write about on my site is AKIRA Chicago. The fashions are fun and also remarkably affordable. (And they always have a killer sale section!)
Another of my favorites is Craigslist. I know that sounds kind of silly but Craigslist has been a life saver since I moved to Chicago 6 years ago. I’ve found so much inexpensive furniture through the site and even sold some myself. You never know what you’ll find and I try to check the listings at least once per week.

F: Tell us what things that you’re not frugal with and love to splurge on
LK: For the most part, almost nothing is off limits to my frugality. This is kind of embarrassing, but two months ago my boyfriend and I bought a puppy. We picked the puppy we now have because he was on sale! However, there are really only two exceptions to my frugal ways. Like I already said, I’m a Mac gal. (The computer, not the make-up.) I was lucky when I bought my latest MacBook that I was able to figure out a way to buy it with a little bit of a discount. However, even if I hadn’t, I still would have bought the computer. Buying a much cheaper PC is just not an option. Also, I’m not frugal about restaurants. I will never choose to eat at a restaurant because it will cost less than another restaurant. Dining choices are based strictly on quality.

F: When not updating FF, what else keeps you busy in the city?
LK: I enjoy taking my new sale puppy, Bacon, out for walks in Chicago’s many parks. In the summer I enjoy hitting up different farmer’s markets around the city. I just discovered the new French Market in Ogilvie and plan on heading down there on a regular basis to do the bulk of my grocery shopping. That market is amazing and has everything from meats to cheeses to freshly baked breads to Belgian french fries! Delicious! If you haven’t guessed, my favorite thing to do in the city when it comes right down to it is eat. I’m constantly trying new restaurants and trying to find new markets!

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