The Top Five–Holidays

Since tomorrow is one of my favorite holidays, I thought I’d share a holiday-themed “Top Five” list!

  • Christmas–Shocking, right? If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you know that this is my very favorite of the holidays….an over-the-top birthday party for Jesus! From Advent through Epiphany, the celebration doesn’t stop. Extra time at church, fun family traditions, special music and movies, commemoration days to celebrate, decorations, gift-giving, cooking and baking galore…what’s not to love?
  • Easter–Easter is the highlight of the church year, and that’s why I love it so much…all the time spent at church, especially during Holy Week, and Easter Sunday itself. I know there was a time we didn’t get to go to two church services, plus enjoy breakfast at church on Easter, but I really can’t remember it, and I don’t want it any other way. Plus, there’s a special family dinner to cap it all off!
  • St. Patrick’s Day–I’m not even Irish, but I love this holiday. I love that its roots come from church tradition, I love decorating in green and shamrocks, I love our special family traditions that we enjoy on this day every year (including school traditions), and I love the special foods we eat on this holiday.
  • Thanksgiving–This is a holiday that’s a lot of work for one day, but we’ve still built so many special family traditions around it that I can’t help but love it. From our “Thankful Tree” and special school unit throughout November, to the seven pies I bake every Thanksgiving Eve, to the pie for breakfast the day after Thanksgiving, plus the Christmas Lego building, turkey soup making, and town tree-lighting that same day…it’s just a fantastically fun family day(s)!
  • Independence Day–And, finally, the holiday that inspired this post…the birthday of our country! I love the patriotic songs (the Fourth of July and Christmas always mean time for the Boston Pops Orchestra!), the red, white, & blue everywhere, the parades and fireworks, and, again, the special foods I make for our family’s celebration. Oh, and the watching of Holiday Inn (firecracker dance, anyone?), and Yankee Doodle Dandy every year on the fourth…it’s so much fun!

What are your family’s favorite holidays?

Tasty Tuesday–Smokin K’s BBQ & More

Apparently reviewing BBQ restaurants in the Metro East is my thing now…

We ate at Smokin K’s BBQ and more in Millstadt last week, because our church’s youth group was working there for a fundraiser. Like most places around here, the outside is fairly unassuming, although I did appreciate the smoker out front.

The inside is bright and colorful:


The decor is mostly all of the awards the Smokin K’s BBQ team, 4 Smokin’ Butts, have won, and there are a lot of them!. There are trophies, ribbons, and other various prizes everywhere! Very impressive!

On to the food. I ordered the pastrami reuben and fries, and it was amazing. Definitely the best pastrami I’ve ever had. I liked that the fries were beer battered, and I took the suggestion of one of the owners and sprinkled them with Smokin K’s special seasoning, which was also good. (I also had the 4 Smokin’ Butts Bloody Mary, and it was fantastic…best Bloody Mary I’ve ever had. Very unique presentation, and it was just the right amount of spicy!)


Ryan tried the slider trio, which included pulled pork, brisket, and pastrami, with a side of beans. He also loved the pastrami, and said the other meats were good, too, but was a little disappointed with the buns, which were somewhat flimsy. He also like the beans, even though they weren’t BBQ beans like he was expecting. That’s ok, though, because he really likes baked beans, and he thought Smokin K’s did a good job of making them!


We didn’t try any of the desserts, but it sure was fun to look at all of the options in the pie case!


Smokin K’s isn’t as conveniently located near us like Beast is, but you certainly won’t have to twist our arms to get us to go back there if we’re looking to go out to eat when we’re in Millstadt!

A Summer School Field Trip to Cahokia Mounds

Since we’re learning about the history of Illinois in summer school this year, and since we hadn’t visited in longer than I care to admit, we spent yesterday morning at Cahokia Mounds, the place in Illinois with basically the oldest known history.


It’s an amazing place to visit, because when you see it in person, you really get the magnitude of a 100-foot high, man-made, earthen mound. When you just look a pictures, you don’t really get the scale of it.


We walked around outside, visiting Monks Mound (the tallest of the over 100 mounds), Woodhenge (a prehistoric solar calendar), a “borrow pit,” and the reproduction stockade:

We also spent time in the interpretive center, where we watched a short movie about the history of the settlement, and then walked around the various exhibits, which are really well done.



Because we’re not on the East Coast, where all of the colonial and Revolutionary War memorials are, it can be easy to think that there’s nothing really old here. A quick trip to Cahokia Mounds, however, you will remind you that the opposite is true!

Lego Town Hall–Night One

It’s been eight months since last we worked on our Lego Modular Main Street, and six months since Ryan and I got the Town Hall for each other for Christmas, so I guess it’s about time for another project! The Town Hall is the largest modular building, and the first floor was a very detailed build.


As always, we began with the minifigs…five to start. They include a bride and groom, their photographer, and a pair of mischievous children who appear to be spying on them:


The details inside the first floor are amazing, from the podium, to the bust done in Lego, to the desk complete with lamp, computer, and even money!

The outside details, especially the crest and the columns, are also fantastic.

The back also has some nice details, including the mechanism to work the elevator:


So far, the building looks great!


I can’t wait to add the second floor, and really try out the elevator!

The Daylily Garden

I shared a few pictures of the Daylily Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden last week, and they’re blooming even more fully, now. They’re quite a sight to behold…but “my” flower still hasn’t blossomed yet…maybe next week!


What We’re Reading–All About Illinois

This year’s edition of summer school is focused on learning all about Illinois: the history, people, and regions of our fair state. I found a curriculum (the first six books on the list), as a starting point, and I’m also adding books about famous Illinoisans, as well as (mainly fiction) books set in our state. We’ll also spend a decent amount of time focusing on Chicago, as it is the biggest city in the state, and the city by which I grew up. How do you learn about your home state?

I also highly recommend the book There Are No Children Here for high school students. It’s a book I read almost two decades ago, and it had a profound impact on me.

I’ve got several fun field trips planned, as well. Stay tuned for details!