Markel Family Summer Vacation–Day Four

The fourth day of our summer vacation was a much-needed day of rest and relaxation at our amazing hotel. Ryan rented us a poolside cabana for the day, and we enjoyed hanging out in the pool, going down the water slide, building sand castles, and playing ping-pong. A storm sent us to our room for a bit, but we had fun watching cable TV, and the children even got their first room service experience when we ordered a pizza!

After it got dark, we enjoyed one last walk around the property:

And then Ryan and I went down to the diner to share a sandwich:

Up next…the long drive home, with a few stops along the way!

Markel Family Summer Vacation–Day Three

Last Friday was a HUGE DAY for us. We started early in the morning, because the SpaceX Dragon was scheduled to launch from┬áCape Canaveral at 5:42 a.m. I wasn’t sure if we’d actually be able to see anything, since Orlando is over an hour away from the launch pad, but we thought it was worth a shot…and our early morning efforts were rewarded! We not only saw the rocket go up, we also saw the separation stage, and Turkey and I even thought we heard a rumble during lift-off!

That wasn’t even the biggest moment of the day for us, though, because Friday was Universal theme parks day for the Fab Five and me (Ryan spent the day in Daytona Beach at the CEO fighting game tournament, which the reason we went to Florida in the first place)!

Our main goal at Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure was seeing as much of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter as possible. Our trip to Legoland was a dream come true for Turkey, but walking in the footsteps of Harry Potter was beyond Bunny’s wildest dreams! So once we were in the gates of Universal Studios Florida, we made a beeline for Diagon Alley. We got to see the shops just like we were in the movie, and our first stop was at Ollivander’s to buy a few interactive wands. We also got to see things like the Knight Bus, Sirius’ motorbike, and Platform 9 3/4 (which is where we headed next, to board the Hogwarts Express!).

After getting off the train (we had tickets that less us travel between both parks), we found ourselves in Hogsmeade (located in Islands of Adventure), where there were more shops, places to use our interactive wands, two fun rides (including Chickadee’s second roller coaster), and an opportunity to meet some of the participants in the the Triwizard Tournament (who told us we looked like a “proper wizarding family”).

While we were at the Islands of Adventure property, we also visited Seuss Landing, which was a fun and very colorful part of the park:

We walked back over to Hogsmeade (in the rain, of course) to eat lunch at Three Broomsticks:

Once the lightning stopped, Turkey and Ladybug tormented me by riding the Incredible Hulk coaster at Marvel Super Hero Island:

We then took the Hogwarts Express back to Diagon Alley, where we stopped at the Leaky Cauldron for Butterbeers:

After Chickadee and I waited for The Bigs to ride Escape from Gringotts, we visited Springfield: Home of the Simpsons, and went on a fun virtual reality roller coaster:

And got donuts at Lard Lad…they were ENORMOUS!

After walking through Diagon Alley a bit more, we took the Hogwarts Express back to Hogsmeade, where I finally remembered to ask someone to take a picture of all six of us. I can’t even begin to describe how much fun it was to share the experience with the Fab Five and see their reactions to everything! As for me, I already liked Harry Potter, but Universal made me fall in love with it in a way I didn’t expect, and I’d like nothing more than to go back someday!

After 12 hours at the parks, we finally boarded the shuttle bus back to our hotel. We were all exhausted but extremely happy…it was a fantastic day!

Up next…a relaxing day at the hotel, which we all needed!

Markel Family Summer Vacation–Day Two

Last Thursday, we had one vacation event planned, and it was a big one, especially for Turkey…we went to Legoland! While everyone was looking forward to going, Turkey in particular has always dreamed of visiting Legoland, but he was starting to think that our trip to the Legoland Discovery Center in Chicago last January was as close as he was going to get.

We had such a fun time! We went on as many rides as possible, including Chickadee’s first roller coaster (she was not a fan!). We also really enjoyed the Miniland, which included landmarks from Florida, the U.S., and, of course, Star Wars!

One of the highlights of our visit was the water skiing show, which included life-size minifigs on water skis!

When the regularly scheduled afternoon thunderstorm popped up, we decided we had seen everyone we wanted to see, so we stopped at Publix (again), which was conveniently located across the street from Legoland, and then at the Wawa gas station, which Ryan was very excited about. Along the way, we even saw actual orange tress along the side of the road!

Back at the hotel, we went for another swim, and then took a walk around to see more of the retro sights.

Thursday was a busy day, but wait until you see all we did on Friday!

Kantorei Kamp Week

For the fourth summer in a row, “The Bigs” have participated in a Kantorei Kamp at Hope Lutheran Church in St. Louis. It’s a busy, fun week for everybody, because while they’re at camp, Chickadee and I go adventuring…sometimes, I think she has more fun than her siblings do!

On Monday, while the Kamp had a full day of music theory, handbell practice, and choral rehearsals, Chickadee and I went to the playground in Forest Park and to the Missouri History Museum, where we visited the History Clubhouse and the new “Muny Memories” exhibit:

On Tuesday, Chickadee and I went to the Missouri Botanical Garden in the morning, and then joined the Kantorei Kamp for some swimming at the YMCA:

Wednesday was a little bit cooler, so Chickadee and I walked around the St. Louis Zoo and the St. Louis Art Museum:

We only had a little bit of free time on Thursday morning, so Chickadee and I visited the St. Louis Public Library and read some books before joining the Kantorei Kamp for a backstage tour of Powell Hall, a picnic lunch, concretes at Ted Drewes, and a concert by a quartet from the Greenleaf Singers for Make Music St. Louis Day:

And today we went with the Kantorei Kamp to the LC-MS International Center to hear them sing for chapel. After that, Chickadee and I visited the St. Louis Science Center before picking up “The Bigs” from their last day of Kamp:

And a bonus handbell piece from church on Sunday, which I managed to record while they rehearsing before the service:

My First 39th Birthday

I’m really lucky, because my first 39th birthday (you know, like Jack Benny), actually started last month when we were in Chicago. My mom took us out to dinner at the Schnitzel Platz, where I had liver dumpling soup, Rahm Schnitzel, and hazelnut cake. And I got to hear “Happy Birthday” played on cowbells! It was a very fun night!

Today, the Fab Five and I took a tour of Mammoth Cave, and then hiked down to the Green River. It was really interesting and different, and we had a lot of fun…we even got to see deer and a turkey while we were out!

White Castle brought back my favorite strawberry lemonade smoothie just in time for my birthday, so I had to get one:

And then Ryan and I went to Gerard’s 1907 Tavern in Bowling Green, where we enjoyed a very nice meal:

We also had a nice walk around Fountain Square Park. I wore Pinup Girl Clothing, of course!

Back at Ryan’s parents’ house, we had a delicious strawberry birthday cake for dessert:

I really enjoyed my first 39th birthday…I wonder what my second 39th birthday will look like?

Wendella Lake and River Tour

The highlight of our day in downtown Chicago last month was the Wendella Lake and River Tour. I last took this boat ride when I was in the 5th grade, and I was excited to do it again as an adult, and share the experience with the Fab Five. We were not disappointed…we enjoyed the fantastic views of the city, both from the Chicago River and Lake Michigan, learned a bit about Chicago’s history and the architecture we saw, and enjoyed lovely lake breezes! We also had an amazing narrator along the way…he hit the perfect balance between facts about the city and personal stories to give context to those facts…I don’t think we’ll ever forget learning about the “Dime Piers!”

This was a fun trip, and gave us a chance to see the city in a completely new way. I highly recommend the tour if you’re ever in Chicago…just make sure you don’t forget the sunscreen!