Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Zebra Story

Last week I was reading Two Kids and a Map and had to chuckle at the post The Behind of the Zebra. I can relate. Of all our trips to the zoo, or the Wilds or safari type adventures, I don’t think I’ve ever captured anything other than a rear end shot of a zebra.  EVER.

Until now.

Yesterday, I accompanied my family to the Harmony Park Safari in Huntsville, Alabama (I’ll share more about that trip later) and guess what I saw?

A zebra! But not only that, check out out the pictures I was able to snap.

Here is the zebra approaching

  Harmony Safari Park 011 

…getting closer…

and right beside the van! But wait…

How’s this for a close-up?

I guess the secret to getting a good picture of a zebra is to offer him food (provided by the safari, of course).

Who’d have guessed? 

Earn It, Learn It Winner

The winner of the Earn It, Learn It: Teach Your Child the Value of Money, Work and Time Well Spent giveaway is Marcee Rodgers!  


Thanks to everyone for entering the giveaway and for the author, Alisa Weinstein for offering a copy for one of my readers! 

Monday, May 30, 2011

An Out of this World Dining Experience- Planet Hollywood

When we were planning our trip to Florida for the Star Tours Meet-up, we knew we wanted to eat somewhere out of the ordinary.  The Rainforest Cafe was high on the list of possibilities but the kids and I had already eaten at the Nashville location. As a family we love movies and our kids are a bit older so my husband and I thought Planet Hollywood would be a good fit. Check it out, doesn’t it just scream Out-of-this- World? 


I hadn’t made advance reservations, but I did check Disney’s dining page the day before our trip to see how busy I thought it would be. All of the time slots that I’d be interested in were available so I figured if we just showed up they’d have room for us.  Turned out on the day we went,  we arrived at the perfect time, mid-afternoon and had no wait. We were ushered directly in the doors and to our seats. It wasn’t  crowded and the DJ didn’t start playing until 6pm.

Planet Hollywood is loud,  the continuous music videos that play on the screens around the restaurant and ongoing conversations add to the noise. Our waiter told us that once the DJ arrives, things really crank up. May sound like fun to your family, not so much to mine. We already only heard about half of what the waiter had to say anyway and I’m not a very good lip reader.

Planet Hollywood is way more than just a place to eat, and the Orlando location is the largest in the world.  At four stories tall, with three floors for seating, the restaurant doubles as a museum with over 750 pieces of  movie memorabilia.

We quickly ordered the appetizers we’d agreed upon, the VIP platter which features the Famous Chicken Crunch (apparently created by actress Demi Moore), Texas Tostados, Buffalo Wings, and Spinach Dip served with tortilla chips. We also couldn’t resist ordering a side of Potato Skins.

While we waited for our food to arrive we meandered throughout the restaurant ooohing and aaahing over the collectibles on display. From Flubber, to Edward Scissorhands, Herbie, Toy Story,  and Men in Black, everywhere we turned there was something to see which reminded us of movies we’d watched. It’s worth a stop in Planet Hollywood just to take a peek around.

Wayne's World memoribilia Planet Hollywood

Our appetizers were okay, not spectacular. My favorite aspect was the creamy Spinach Dip, though the rest of my family didn’t want to try it. Instead, they preferred the Potato Skins.

We thought we’d have better luck with the desserts so we gave two of them a try, the Banana Split and the Brownie Sundae, which were HUGE and easily divided among my family.  Our favorite? The Brownie Sundae, hands down.


Though we only ordered appetizers and desserts with water to drink our total bill came to just under $60 for the five of us. The portions were large, the service was good, and believe it or not, we weren’t at all hungry when we left.  

Planet Hollywood is known for appearances from “special guests” of the star studded variety and wouldn’t you know as we were leaving, an actor passed by us? I wish I could tell you who it was but his name escapes us and we can’t even remember what movie he’s been in. We know he’s bald, has dark eyes and always plays the bad guy. Hmmm…does that ring a bell for anyone? Anyone? It’s been driving me nuts!

Though there is plenty to see inside Planet Hollywood, don’t forget to look around outside too!


This was a fun stop for my family, one that we all enjoyed. I’d definitely recommended it for ages 12 and up. There’s so much to see and so many places to eat at Disney that I’d think one of the other choices, like the new T-REX Cafe, would be more appropriate for the younger set. But that’s just my opinion. 

Planet Hollywood Orlando 1506 E. Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista, FL (located at Downtown Disney® West Side Walt Disney Resort)  

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hotel Review of La Quinta Inn & Suites- Macon, Georgia

Exterior La Quinta picture

La Quinta Inn & Suites 3944 River Pl Dr Macon, GA 31210 478-475-0206

We’ve stayed at a lot of hotels over the years. For the past two, we’ve been partial to the La Quinta chain. Partly because we normally travel with our beloved pound puppy, partly because we don’t like to pay a lot of money for lodging when we travel, but mainly because La Quinta has one of the best rewards programs in the industry. If you aren’t familiar with their rewards program, allow me to assure you that the points we earn add up to free nights rather quickly.

Naturally when we’re seeking a hotel for the evening, 9.5 times out of 10, I’ll look for rooms at a La Quinta hotel and our recent trek through Macon, Georgia was no different. 

Walking into the lobby, I knew this hotel was different. The open lobby serves as a breakfast area in what is a huge atrium style room overlooking the beautiful outdoor pool. We also discovered a business center, fitness room and comfortable well decorated rooms.     

room picture

Even though we checked in at nearly 3 in the morning, I was still excited to see our welcome gift waiting for us- an Otis Spunkmeyer cookie and bottled water.

Another perk? This hotel has the friendliest hotel staff I’ve encountered! Gotta love great service!

Next time we travel through Macon, we’ll definitely reserve a room at this La Quinta. 

What do you look for when selecting a hotel?

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Homeschool Mother’s Journal~ Week 18


The Homeschool Mother's Journal

In my life this week…

Has been crazy and rushed.

In our homeschool this week…

We’ve been evaluating our past year. We’ve discussed what the kids liked, what they haven’t liked and things they’d like to do differently. Though we’ve pretty much been unschoolers while we’ve traveled and the kids have enjoyed having time to learn about their own interests, they would like a bit more structure from here on out. So we’ve been planning accordingly. 

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

After our incredibly busy schedule last week that took us to Disney World in Florida on Thursday, home to Alabama late Friday night, to Nashville early Saturday morning (where I promptly locked my keys in my vehicle) and back to Northern Alabama Saturday night for a concert, I thought we deserved a break.  

My favorite thing this week was…

Sleeping in Sunday morning. What a blessing it was that my oldest son drove himself to Sunday School and my husband took the other two and let me sleep in.   

What’s working/not working for us…

My kids want to meet more people and go on more field trips (imagine that)- but they’d also like to take some classes. I was shocked by some of the topics they want to pursue; psychology and sociology. Surprisingly, I’ve managed to find a couple classes that may work. My kids are ecstatic. 

A photo, video, link, or quote to share…


Vincent, our dog, didn’t travel with us last week. Though he was happy to visit his friend Clifford while we were away, he still missed us. He sat on my son’s lap and licked him the entire drive to our house.

I couldn’t resist taking a picture.

Until next week ~ Happy Homeschooling!

Don’t forget to stop by The Homeschool Chick to be encouraged by other journal entries or to add one of your own.

Many people are wrapping up their school year (even if next year is only a week or two away) what changes are you looking forward to making in your home?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Star Tours Meet-Up at Walt Disney World: Through the Eyes of My Son

I’m a total Star Wars nerd and I’m not afraid to say it. I read the books. I watch the movies. I play the games. I guess it’s for those reasons that my mom chose me to go to the Star Tours Meet-up at Walt Disney World with her last week. What true Star Wars freak wouldn’t be excited to go?

 DISNEY 013 

When we arrived at Blizzard Beach we were standing around, listening to the DJ try to build excitement about the event and admiring his amazing Hummer. After getting our wrist bands, we listened to the other Star Wars freaks talk about Star Wars and finally boarded the busses that would transport us to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We waited for 45 minutes, watching all the other guests play with their iphones and wishing I had one before the driver finally entered the bus and we pulled away.

As we approached our destination, excitement in the bus began to build.  With spotlights circling overhead we stepped out of the bus backstage and onto a red carpet walkway, making our way through a white canvas tunnel with mist rising around us blocking our view of what lie ahead.  Stepping through the tunnel we were greeted to an out of this world reception of Star Wars characters, paparazzi and Disney officials welcoming us to the meet-up in grand Disney fashion. We felt like stars.      

We met Star Wars characters, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, the Ewoks, Stormtroopers,  Jawas, Boba Fett, Jango Fett, Clone Troopers and Anakin.


We also met Mickey and Minnie who were dressed for the occasion.


  There was plenty to see on the way into the ride. C-3PO is the coolest.

We had a special guest, Greedo, on the ride with us. We rode the ride twice and it was amazing both times! Do you know that Star Tours has over 50 alternate endings? We traveled to the frozen world of Hoth on our first ride and to the underwater world of Naboo where we saw Jar Jar Binks another time.

We listened to some of the Imagineers discuss how they worked closely with Lucas Films to create an experience guests weren’t likely to forget.  


We also tried to eat ice cream from the Sundae bar but I was too excited to eat. 


My mom was selected to receive a special set of posters signed by the Disney artists- I’m not sure how many of those sets were passed out but I talked to one cast member who said it was rumored that Disney gave away 60 signed sets.

On the way out of the event I received a poster of my own. Pretty cool.

        DISNEY 033

Thanks to Disney for a night I’m not likely to forget anytime soon!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Brief Overview of Our Trip to the Happiest Place on Earth

Remember last week when I shared that my family was heading off on a Disney adventure with a Flat Traveler in tow? Well, I hope Stef from Educating Layton enjoyed our trip as much as we did! With the exception of one little snafu that still has my husband bent out of shape, we had a great time!

After getting a really late start which pretty much ensured we drive straight to Florida with no stops along the way, we finally arrived at Fort Wilderness around two, Thursday afternoon. We set up camp, freshened up and headed off to visit Downtown Disney. 

Our first stop was to Planet Hollywood. We even saw a famous person when we were leaving but none of us could remember his name.  We just knew we recognized him from some movie. Isn’t that funny?


After our meal that consisted of appetizers- because Planet Hollywood is expensive- (and this was a trip that we didn’t budget for)- we continued through Pleasure Island. The kids were excited to see the bikes in the Harley Davidson storefront. Pretty cool, huh?   

Harley store orlando

The Lego store was pretty cool, too! We loved the Lego sculptures that were outside and had no idea that a few of them had just been unveiled!

Lego serpent

Back at the campground, we had a fun sing-a-long with Chip and Dale. I sooo would have loved to have stayed at the campground the first time we visited Disney. The kids would have absolutely loved it! 


Just when everyone else was settling down and ready for bed, Nickolaus and I were preparing to head out for the Disney Star Tours Meet-up.


We made our way to Blizzard Beach where we met the entourage of Star Wars fans and waited to board the busses to transport us to Hollywood Studios. I did have a nifty little video of the entire event on my Flip Video. Imagine my disgust when I experienced a glitch when I was downloading it to my computer and lost every bit of footage… Sigh…

I can say that I expected a big deal from Disney and I was NOT disappointed. I’ll share more on the Star Tours Meet-up tomorrow.

While my son and I were having a ball, my husband and other two children were being terrorized by the drunk and unruly neighbors back at the campsite. Which is why, the minute we returned to our campsite,  instead of falling onto the air mattress and fast asleep, I found myself helping to disassemble our tent (at nearly 3 a.m.) to leave the Happiest Place on Earth where clearly some guests beside us had taken that slogan to extremes.  Certainly not a fun way to end the evening.

Have you been to Disneyland or Walt Disney World? What did you enjoy most?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Your Source for Staycation Ideas from Sea to Shining Sea


Yesterday I shared a list of staycation ideas for my old hometown, Mansfield, Ohio. As promised, here is the super-duper list of staycation ideas shared by over 80 bloggers scattered all over the country! Whether you are planning a staycation, or will be vacationing away from home, I’m sure you’ll find these resources for inexpensive family fun invaluable.   

New England

Connecticut - Parenting Miracles
Boston, Massachusetts - ‎ Maven of Savin'
Manchester, New Hampshire - Common Sense with Money
Western Maine - Bubblegum and Lollipops


Erie, Pennsylvania -  Growing Kids Ministry
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania - Somewhat Crunchy
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania - Family Balance Sheet
Buffalo/Niagara Falls, New York - Coupons, Deals and More
New Jersey - Oh! Diane


Cedar Rapids, Iowa - Indoor Garden Musings
Mansfield, Ohio - Live the Adventure
Cincinnati, Ohio - Savings Lifestyle~Cincinnati
Mount Vernon, Ohio - Living Better One Day at a Time
Dayton, Ohio -  Savings Lifestyle~Dayton
Grand Rapids, Michigan - Kitchen Stewardship
Metro Detroit, Michigan - "Cents"able Momma
Oakland County, Michigan - Bargain Shopper Mom
Warren, Michigan - Saving Dollars and Sense
Grand Forks, North Dakota - Frugal Front Porch
Indianapolis, Indiana - Bargain Briana
South Bend, Indiana -  Excuse The Mess
Kansas City, Kansas/Missouri - Kansas City Mamas
St. Louis, Missouri -  The Pickledpigsfeet
Branson, Missouri - Getting Freedom from Debt
Springfield, Missouri - I Think I Can
Rochester, Minnesota - Everyday Notions
York, Nebraska - Heavenly Homemakers
Omaha, Nebraska - Mom Endeavors
Madison, Wisconsin - Many Little Blessings
Oshkosh, Wisconsin - A Little Bit of This and That
Chicago, Illinois -  Chicagoland Homeschool Network
Champaign, Illinois - Chambanamoms
Black Hills, South Dakota - Little House on the Prairie Living

South Central

Checotah, Oklahoma - Blessed With One Income
Tulsa, Oklahoma - Lynn's Kitchen Adventures
Gadsden, Alabama - Aint Mimi
Dallas, Texas - Funky Faith Girl
Dallas, Texas - Grocery Shop For FREE
East Dallas, Texas - Surviving The Stores
Fort Worth, Texas - Smockity Frocks
Austin, Texas - Stetted
Houston, Texas - Moms Travel Tales
McKinney, Texas - Wisdom Begun
East Texas - The Full Pantry
Murfreesboro, Tennessee - Life in a Barn
Nashville, Tennessee - The Country Chic Cottage
Mobile, Alabama - A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned
Birmingham, Alabama - iGoBOGO
Brunswick & the Golden Isles, Georgia - Teri Lynne Underwood
Alpharetta, Georgia - Cuponeando
Atlanta, Georgia - See Jamie Blog
Augusta, Georgia - Hyperactive Lu                                                                                   Brunswick & the Golden Isles, Georgia, Teri Lynne Underwood                                           Athens, Georgia and Mississippi - Tractors and Tire Swings
Little Rock, Arkansas - It's Real Life

South Atlantic

Ft. Bragg, North Carolina - Military Wives Saving
Charlotte, North Carolina - The Carolina Clipper
Charleston, South Carolina - The Tween & Me
Greensboro, North Carolina - Mrs. Happy Homemaker
Jacksonville, Florida - Saving The Family Money
Orlando, Florida - Orlando's Best Deals
Virginia Beach, Virginia - The Singley Fam Blog
Richmond, Virginia - Daily Dwelling
Hampton Roads, Virginia - A Home Made by Kiki
Charlottesville, Virginia - How to Have it All
Blackwater Falls State Park/Davis, West Virginia -  Holy Spirit Led Homeschooling
Treasure Coast, Florida - The Cardamom's Pod
Saint Augustine, Florida - Jypsie Visions
Lake Norman, North Carolina - Stretching Pennies Saving Dollars
Washington, DC - The WiC Project
Baltimore, Maryland -  The Happy Housewife


Tucson, Arizona - Saving with Pam
Phoenix, Arizona – Mom Endeavors
Albuquerque, New Mexico - The Chou Life
Kalispell, Montana -  Our Family Adventures
Salt Lake City, Utah - Just the 2 of Us
Thermopolis, Wyoming - The McDonald Family
Denver, Colorado - Denver Bargains
Colorado Springs, Colorado - Colorado Springs Bargains


San Diego, California - Life As Mom
Yosemite National Park, California -Handbook of Nature Study
Seattle, Washington - Queen Bee Coupons & Savings
Whidbey Island, Washington - Manning the Homefront
Olympia, Washington The Coupon Savant
Portland, Oregon - Frugal Living NW
Willamette Valley, Oregon - An Oregon Cottage

Frugal Vacation Tips

Vacation or Stay-cation: Eating without Busting the Budget - Eat at Home

Now it’s your turn, what are your favorite staycation ideas in your neck of the woods?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Fun and Inexpensive Staycation Ideas for Mansfield, Ohio (including Richland County)


Today I’m excited to join Toni from the Happy Housewife, Carrie from Springs Bargains and a host of other bloggers to share Staycation ideas for nearly every state in the US. I’m sharing free and inexpensive ideas for Mansfield, Ohio- a place I called home for most of my life, places that my family loved and miss.

Conveniently located between Cleveland and Columbus in North Central Ohio lies Mansfield, seat of Richland County and a hub of family fun and hidden treasures.

Kingwood Center Mansion Photo courtesy of Shannon Beauford Photography. Used by permission.  

Kingwood Center Gardens 900 Park Avenue West,  Mansfield 419-522- 0211, Non-guided tours $1 for adults/free for students or members/small charge for parking.

My family has spent many days at Kingwood Center, picnicking on the grounds, touring the mansion, feeding the ducks at the pond or trying to catch a glimpse of the wandering peacocks.  

Mansfield Blockhouse South Park corner of Brinkerhoff and Park Ave., Mansfield. Admission price to be announced. 

Built in 1812, the blockhouse has served as a courthouse, jail and fortress against Indian attacks. The blockhouse will open for tours on June 1st with a newly constructed courthouse setting.  

Mansfield Memorial Museum 34 Park Avenue, Mansfield 419-524-9924, Free admission.   

The Mansfield Memorial Museum is often overlooked but once you step foot inside, you won’t be able to keep away! Housed in the historic Soldiers & Sailors Memorial building, this unique, eclectic, and historical museum is now home to ELECKTRO, the oldest robot in the world. ELEKTRO was created by Westinghouse, a company that was once prominent in Mansfield, specifically for the 1939 New York World’s Fair.  

Mansfield Fire Museum and Education Center 1265 West Fourth St., Mansfield 419-529-2573, Free admission.

I don’t know what it is with boys and fire trucks, but when my boys were younger, they LOVED this museum!  You’ll learn about the history of fire fighting and take a stroll through historic downtown Mansfield along cobbled streets for a special peek at bygone days.  

Richland Carrousel Park 75 N. Main St., Mansfield 419-522-4223, Rides begin at 75 cents but are offered at discounted prices when you purchase three or more. Parking is available for a nominal fee. 

Young and old alike will be unable to resist a ride on the old-fashioned carrousel ride. With over 50 figures, the Richland Carrousel was the first  hand-carved carrousel to be built and operated in the United States since the 1930’s.

Coney Island Diner 98 N. Main St., Mansfield 419-526-2669

Less than a block away from the Richland Carrousel Park, this old-time diner with black and white floor tiles, Formica tables and red vinyl seats is the perfect inexpensive place to stop in for a quick bite to eat. Their specialty? Coney's, of course!  

Biblewalk 500 Tingley Avenue, Mansfield 419-524-0139, Prices begin around $3.75 depending on the tour. Discounted rates are available for families and AAA members.

Biblewalk,  or the Living Bible Museum as it was once called, brings the bible to life through scenes depicting life size wax figures and mannequins that bring to life the the Old and New Testament before your eyes, specifically the Life of Christ and Miracles of the Old Testament. There are also two other tours available, including Christian Martyrs and the Heart of the Reformation. Biblewalk is also home to some amazing folk art, woodcarvings and a rare collection of old bibles.  

Holly’s Book Rack 1464 Lexington Ave., Mansfield 419-756-2667

This independent book store is the area’s only new and used bookstore that offers trade credit. I’ve been known to stop in on many occasions to trade an armload or two of books and unfortunately, haven’t been able to find a store like Holly’s since moving to Alabama. 

Gorman Nature Center 2295 Lexington Ave., Mansfield 419-884-3764 , Free admission.

With over three miles of hiking trails through a range of habitats, wildlife is abundant at Gorman Nature Center. The indoor displays offer visitors a look at some of the area’s wildlife, while the building itself offers you a look at green, environmental friendly features.   

Ohio Bird Sanctuary 3774 Orrweiler Rd., Mansfield 419-884-HAWK, Free admission.

The Ohio Bird Sanctuary is a refuge for injured birds. They offer educational programs, hiking trails, a live hawk and owl bird display,  and a song bird aviary that guests can walk through. For a very small price you can buy a cup of meal worms which will guarantee you get a lot of attention from the existing residents.  

The Warrior Pizza and Ice Cream 3393 Park Avenue West, Ontario 419- 529-8922

The Warrior may be known for their award winning GPS Pizza (green peppers and sausage) and Lasagna Pizza but you won’t want to pass up one of their amazingly yummy ice cream treats. Located on Park Avenue, minutes from Mansfield, you can’t miss this diner,  just look for the crowds and the blue building with the Corvette on the roof.

Apple Hill Orchard 1175 Lexington- Ontario Rd., Mansfield 419-884-1500, Free admission.

Not only can you pick your own fruit when it’s in season, Apple Hill Orchard also has a small petting zoo, a working bee hive that you can view and the best fresh apple doughnuts I’ve ever tasted! I can hardly resist stopping by when we’re in town just to grab a dozen!   

Springmill Drive-in Theater 1040 Springmill Rd., Mansfield 419-747-2156, Rates are yet to be announced for the 2011 season.

Drive-in theaters are quickly becoming a thing of the past and it’s harder and harder to find them operating these days. Why not make some family memories, load up on snacks and bug spray and head off to the next feature film that appeals to your family?

Malabar Farm State Park 4050 Bromfield Rd., Lucas 419-892-2784, Free admission to the farm. Small fee for home tours.

Malabar Farm was home to author and Pulitzer Prize winner, Louis Bromfield. Built in the beautiful rolling hills of the Pleasant Valley, Malabar Farm became the perfect backdrop for Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall’s wedding. Today you can tour the home (for a small fee), pet the animals in the barn, fish in the pond and stroll along the many trails, one of which that leads to a small cave that you can enter and explore. Malabar Farm is a nature lover’s dream. With a new state of the art Visitor’s Center and Songbird Aviary, and regular festivals and activities throughout the year, it seems that there is always something going on at Malabar Farm.     

Oak Hill Cottage 310 Springmill St., Mansfield 419-514-1765, Tours begin at $5 for adults and $1 for children.

After your visit to Malabar Farm, don’t miss the opportunity to visit Oak Hill Cottage where Louis Bromfield’s cousin lived. Not only is this home a wonderful example of gothic architecture, it was also written about in Bromfield’s book, Shane’s Castle.

The Historic Ohio State Reformatory 100 Reformatory Rd., Mansfield 419-522-2644, Prices are $8 for adults/$6 for students ages 7 and up/additional $5 for audio tour rental.

This historic structure is one of the top five castle like structures in the US and houses the world’s largest free standing cell block. It has also been home to four major motion pictures, which include Tango and Cash, Air Force One and the Shawshank Redemption which has led to a trail all it’s own, the Shawshank Trail. The trail begins at the reformatory, but takes you on a journey to 11 other sites in the area where the movie was filmed.     

Planktown Country Market 1921 Free Rd., Shiloh 419-896-3525

This Mennonite owned and operated country market is one amazing store! Loaded with bulk spices, flours, grains and cereals this market was once a regular stop for my family. They now offer over 75 deli meats and cheeses at some of the best prices in the area. With visitors from all over the country, this is one stop that you won’t want to miss!      

Splash Harbor 855 Comfort Plaza Dr., Bellville 419-886-4000, Day passes are often available.

This Comfort Inn Hotel not only offers lodging, but an indoor water park for guests. It’s hard to resist the looping water slide, hot tubs, floating raft and gushing geysers! Day passes are often available, making this an affordable and fun stop on your next Staycation.

Richland County B & O Bike Trail stretches just over 18 miles from Mansfield to Butler, Free admission. 

A favorite attraction among locals, this smooth, paved bike trail provides an opportunity for bikers, walkers and roller bladers a safe place to exercise in a beautiful scenic location.

Many of these attractions also offer letterboxes or geocaches that you can find for a bit of added fun.  

An easy day trip from Cleveland or Columbus, and a wonderful Staycation spot  for those planning an at-home vacation, as you can see, Mansfield is brimming with a number of attractions.  I hope you find this list of my own family’s favorite fun spots appealing to your family too. 

Are you looking for more fun, inexpensive Staycation ideas in Ohio? Then visit Rachel at  Living Better One Day at a Time for tips for Mt. Vernon, Becky for ideas on Cincinnati at Savings Lifestyle Cincinnati, Bridgett at Savings Lifestyle Dayton for the Dayton area and Diane at Savings Mania for ideas on a Cleveland Staycation.

So, what do you think? Will you be traveling this summer, or do you plan to take a look at attractions closer to home?  

Stop back tomorrow where I’ll be sharing links of other Staycation spots throughout the US. 

Earn It, Learn It: Teach Your Child the Value of Money, Work and Time Well Spent Review and Giveaway


Last week I shared that I’d be reviewing Earn It, Learn It: Teach Your Child the Value of Money, Work and Time Well Spent by Alisa T. Weinstein. Well… today is the day you’ve been waiting for! Not only will I share my thoughts, I’ll also be offering a copy of the book for one of my readers. So, if you have one or more children between the ages of 4 and 12, keep reading, this book may be for you!   

The author of Earn It, Learn It, does not believe that children should be handed money to buy whatever they fancy. Nor does she believe that children should receive an allowance for helping around the house, making the bed, or doing dishes. Instead she developed a fun and creative program that allows your child to earn a paycheck by actually holding down a job and completing a variety of assignments!     

Earn It, Learn It is an innovative book that teaches your child the value of a dollar while they have fun learning skills associated with 50 different careers. Some of the careers mentioned in the book include an archaeologist, banker, chef, costume designer, geneticist, journalist, zoologist and my favorite- travel agent.  

With over 950 activities, you’re sure to find something that will appeal to your child and since many of the activities are free or  use material that you are likely to find  around your home- they’ll appeal to you too!      

But what if you don’t give your child an allowance and have no desire to do so? I think this book will still appeal to you. Whether you are a homeschooling family or have a child in public school, this book is a great guide to a fun unit on various careers packed with hands-on fun! What better way to encourage your child to think about their future than by test driving a career or two?

Each career is set up with an introduction explaining to the reader what that job entails, followed by a series of activities or assignments that represent basic skills like math, science or art as well as public speaking, time management, social responsibility, creative thinking or research.

For example, your child will learn that an Interior Designer works closely with clients to create beautifully decorated rooms using floor plans, fabrics, form and function. A few of the ways your child could explore this career is by visiting a showroom, taking interest in the displays and writing a report about the experience. Maybe they could shadow an Interior Designer for a day, create furniture templates from poster board, plan their own space  and rearrange their room of choice to match the template. 

Your child could earn an allowance from completing those activities or at the very least, learn a few new skills and gain an appreciation for the real world workplace.

Ready to take a look at this book for yourself? Visit the Earn My Keep website and you can take a peek inside the book.  

Earn It, Learn It sells for $14.99 and can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other great booksellers. 

Now, how about that giveaway that I promised?

That’s an easy one. If you live in the US, Simply leave me a message saying that you’d like to be entered in the giveaway. That’s it.

Want to up your chances of being selected to receive a copy of Earn It, Learn It? Here are a few ways you can get a bonus entry:

1. Visit Earn My Keep and like them on Facebook and leave a comment letting me know that you did.

2. Follow Earn My Keep on Twitter and leave a comment lettting me know you are now following Earn My Keep.    

3. Tweet about this giveaway and leave the Tweet URL in a comment.

This giveaway will end next Monday, May 30th at midnight and I will alert the winner via email on Tuesday, May 31st. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Disney we will Go…

Our bags are packed, our travel jar is emptied (we’d saved over $125!), and we’re rearing to go! Out the door and on our way to Disney’s Hollywood Studios so my son and I can ride the new and improved Star Tours ride and meet-up.

Our Flat Traveler, Stef from Educating Layton will be joining us! I was fully prepared to dress them for the occasion but check them out! They’re all ready to go!


I’d planned to have some posts while I was away but to be honest, I’ve been a wee bit busy, finishing reviews, getting ready for the Disney Meet-up, finding a sitter for our dog Vincent (thank you, Charlotte). *sigh* I guess you could say now would be a perfect time for some guest posts!  Why didn’t I think of that sooner?

I will attempt to post a blog entry while on the road, but to be honest, I’m not all that confident. I will be tweeting about our experience though so if you’re really curious, hop on over to Twitter and follow me along- I’m @travelermom.

Don’t forget that I have an awesome giveaway lined up for next week.   Until then~ Happy Traveling!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mad Dog Math~ A Review


I remember learning the multiplication tables when I was in third grade- or rather that I was SUPPOSED to learn them. I didn’t really put forth much of an effort, but then that was just the type of child I was. If I didn’t see the point in learning something I just “didn’t apply myself”, at least that’s the phrase I heard my parent’s repeat over and over throughout my entire public school career.

Math was the subject that I seemed to really master, as far as not learning anything goes. I know, I know, I heard all the arguments about balancing my checkbook and managing my money, etc. but it just didn’t matter to me until I got my first job as a waitress at a small coffee shop in our local mall. It was that job that really taught me math. I had to add up guest checks, give correct change when the register went down (boy, was that painful!), and figure out those percentage off sales when I would shop from my favorite stores when my shift ended.

My daughter has followed in my footsteps. She also does not want to learn math.  She barely opens her math book and as a result, she’s behind in math. When I learned that TOS would be reviewing Mad Dog Math, I decided to jump in and use it as a remedial program to really solidify her math facts because after all, those basic facts are the foundation to higher math.     

I can’t say that my daughter was thrilled at the aspect of drilling her math facts with Ruff, the smiling dog, but then she is 14! But she did it, nearly every day for ten minutes.  I asked her to begin the drills at two minutes for addition and gradually decreased the time to 30 seconds before she moved on to subtraction, then multiplication and now she’s working on division and a combination of the others.

Younger children would appreciate the incentives or club awards that they earn as they progress through the drills, my daughter? Not so much.  This program is certainly geared towards younger children, but it did fit a need in our home. It’s cute, not corny so if you have an older child that needs to solidify their math facts, Mad Dog Math could be a good option, after all, my daughter is able to recite her math facts quicker and more accurately.

Mad Dog Math has a selection of products for both home schools and classroom settings. You could choose the binder series, utilizing pencil and paper for the drills or you could select the downloadable software allowing your child to complete the drills on the computer.

Mad Dog Math is available as a Mastery Binder or CD-Rom for $69.99 while the downloadable software (for Windows PC’s) begins at $19.99.

As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a limited trial version of the Mad Dog Math at Home downloadable software at no charge for the purpose of this review. If you’d like to learn more about the product, you may visit the Mad Dog Math website or visit the Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew website and see what other reviewers’ thought of this product.  

You can also get a free trial of the product here .

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site- Cartersville, Georgia

Etowah Mounds Historic Site Entrance Sign

Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site located near Cartersville, Georgia, is an easy drive from the Atlanta area and is a great place to stop and stretch your legs for those traveling along the I-75 corridor. 

Etowah Indian Mounds Visitor Center

Reminiscent of a National Park, visitors enter the park  through a Visitors Center, where you begin a self-guided tour. A short 15-20 minute video is shown that  offers an overview of the history of the mounds. From there you may view the artifacts on display in the small interpretive museum. The exhibits detail the every day life of the Indians that once lived on these grounds.

Artifacts in the Museum at Etowah

You’ll find the six mounds on site a short, easy walk from the Visitor’s Center. On the way to the mounds, you'll pass a wattle and daub house, a dugout canoe, borrow pits and what was known as the plaza.  It is believed that the occupants of the village used handmade stone tools to loosen and dig the soil before using baskets to carry the soil to build the earthen mounds.  

Wattle and Daub House

Only a fraction of this historic site has been excavated,  as  Etowah claims to be the most intact example of Mississipian Culture in the Southeastern U.S.

View from the Highest Indian Mound

In 1964, Etowah was named a National Historic Site and is a sacred site for the Creek and Cherokee, descendants of Etowah's earlier residents.

Climbing the mound

While visiting, you'll want to climb at least one of the three largest mounds before making your way to the Etowah River where you can relax on a fallen tree at the river's edge, rest on the wooden swing or enjoy a picnic lunch at one of the wooden picnic tables. 

Relaxing along the river

If you don't have time to tour the site, you can drive past and see the mounds from the road, but I'd certainly encourage you to stop and climb the 65-foot tall ceremonial mound which will give you an excellent view of the entire grounds.     

Plan to spend 1-2 hours learning about this culture.

For current hours, admission or for more information you can contact Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site at 770-387-3747. You’ll find the park at 813 Indian Mounds Rd. Cartersville, GA 30120.         

Monday, May 16, 2011

WonderMaps by Bright Ideas Press: A Geography Teachers’ Best Friend

bright ideas press

It’s not unusual for me to get excited over homeschool curriculum. It’s also not unusual for me to be more excited than my children to receive new resources. But this time was different. This time I absolutely could not wait to load the latest homeschool tool from Bright Ideas Press on my computer when it arrived in my inbox. This new product, WonderMaps,  is an incredible resource!

I spent two hours checking out the program and ‘playing with it’ before I finally decided to share the product with my children.

There simply isn’t enough room for me to tell you all the features that make this an incredible program but I’m going to try.


WonderMaps is a wonderful software program full of maps from every time period you can imagine. From biblical times to Chinese Dynasties, to Explorers and Modern Times, you’ll find hundreds of maps indexed alphabetically, chronologically and thematically in four main sections: the World, the United States of America, Historical Maps and Thematic Maps. There are also outline maps and answer keys of the maps used in all four volumes of Mystery of History and both volumes of All American History. 


The program also includes a teacher’s guide  in pdf form which includes tips for using the maps, games, activities and supplemental projects and two bonus workshops. The workshops, Loving Geography and Packing a Punch with Timelines & Maps are both in MP3 form so you can listen to them on your computer or download them to your favorite mobile device and listen on the go.   

If you think I’ve already mentioned some great features, hold on to your hat because I’ve not shared anything yet! The best thing about these maps is a layer feature that allows you to customize your maps to meet your needs.

Let’s say that my family is learning about the state of Alabama. I may decide that I want to print a map of Alabama with the State, Capital and City names so my kids can learn them. 


After they’ve had a sufficient amount of time to learn the location of the larger cities, I may decide that I want to test them. So I look at the layer key on the left and I un-check the features that I’d like to have removed. Now I have a map that doesn’t have those city names. I simply select File at the top of the page and print the number of maps I need.    


Maybe I decide that I want a blank outline map. That’s easy too. I simply un-check the remaining boxes from the label key until I have the map I desire. It’s that easy.

One feature that I would like to see added for the United States category would be the counties of each state, which would be particularly helpful when learning state history.  


Do I have your interest? Watch this short tutorial to see for yourself how easily you can create fully customizable maps enhancing nearly any area of study.

You can find out more about the incredible features that WonderMaps offer at the Bright Ideas Press website and learn about some of the other products that they offer for geography, history, science and music appreciation. 

Wondermaps software is available on a CD (select Mac or PC) with over 350 customizable maps, perfect for a wide variety of ages and learning styles for only $49.95. This is a product that’s sure to pay for itself time and time again.  

You can stop over at The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew to read what other crew members had to say about this product.  

Just so you know, I received WonderMaps from Bright Ideas Press as part of the TOS Crew for the sole purpose of reviewing the product and sharing my honest opinion with my readers. I have not been paid for my review. 

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