Legoland Discovery Center

Possibly the most highly-anticipated event of our trip to Chicago was our visit to the Legoland Discovery Center outside of Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg!

I had read up on the experience before we went, but I still wasn’t totally sure what to expect. I had purchased our tickets ahead of time (which I highly recommend…the rate was significantly cheaper!), so we just had to get checked in, and then we were free to roam. The first stop was the Chicago Miniland, and I think it might have been my favorite part of the entire outing. There were tons of familiar Chicago landmarks, and they were still dressed up for the Christmas season, so we got to see the Christkindlmarkt set up in Daley Plaza! The lighting also changed from day to night, so we got to see the city lit up in different ways!

Next up was the Jungle Expedition. We loved all the Lego animals!

We peeked in on the Lego Master Builder Workshop twice, and one of those times, we saw a Master Builder hard at work!

There was also a Star Wars Miniland, which was very popular with the children:

The Kingdom Quest area included one of the two rides in the building:

The Friends area was quite small, but it was still fun to see the characters:

There was a cycle of four movies playing in the 4D cinema. We only saw one of them, and it was a lot of fun, but it hurt our eyes a bit.

There were cool “stamp stations” in every different area. If you buy an activity pack (either ahead of time when you purchase your tickets, or when you arrive), you receive a booklet on a lanyard with information, building instructions, and places to collect all the stamps, which was fun!

Turkey was really looking forward to the Racers Build & Test section. They had all kinds of vehicle parts, and a rather satisfying ramp to test out your creation. All of the children had a lot of fun with it, even though at point, it was getting really busy!

The second ride was right next to the racers, so we got to see how it worked before we took our turn.

There was also a playground with climbing equipment, slides, a water table, and more fun Lego builds. Part of this area was the Duplo section, which is clearly designed for the smallest visitors.

There were so many other cool details scattered throughout the experience, and we made sure to take our time and really look at them all:

When we were done, we walked through a Lego Store. It’s not a true Lego Store like you find in a mall (although there is one of those across the street inside Woodfield), and they don’t give you VIP points for your purchase (but if you show your card, they will give you a small discount right there), but the selection was good, and they even had a few unique items.

So there you have it…everything you always wanted to know about the Chicago Legoland Discovery Center. I would say it’s geared for children up to about age 12, so a few of mine weren’t the target audience, but we are such a Lego-crazy family, we all had a great time, and not one of us got bored while we were there (for almost three hours!). Now if only we could make it to a full Legoland theme park someday…

Markel Family Winter Weekend Getaway–Day Four

Our last day of our winter weekend getaway was pretty low-key. We slept in as long as possible, and watched a little more Food Network before we had to pack up and leave the Clarion Inn.

I stopped at the local Jewel-Osco one more time before we left town…I love visiting local grocery store chains when we travel!

And then we hit the road. We weren’t quite ready to say goodbye to Chicago, though, so we stopped at Portillo’s in Normal, IL, on the way home. There’s nothing like Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef!

And that was the end of our little vacation. This is the third time we’ve visited Chicago when the Fab Five were really old enough to enjoy it, and we’re already looking forward to our next trip!

Markel Family Winter Weekend Getaway–Day Three

Did I mention why we were in Chicagoland in the first place? Ryan was working at/playing in the Frosty Faustings fighting game tournament. We couldn’t get free spectator passes like we have in the past at Combo Breaker, so we didn’t get to see much of the event, but we did peek in on Saturday morning:

We had more plans for Saturday, starting with a visit to Wheaton College’s campus to see the Perry mastodon and the Billy Graham Center Museum, which included a walk through “heaven:”

We also enjoyed a lunch featuring some of Chicago’s best foods at Flip’s in Glen Ellyn:

It occurred to me last year that I had been remiss in not taking the Fab Five to the Popcorn Store in downtown Wheaton, so we visited what is probably Chicagoland’s narrowest store, and picked out about $10 worth of candy to share:

Then we went back to the hotel for a little more cable TV, and a nice picture of the Fab Five:

We went to church at St. John Wheaton for the third time, but this was the first time we were there in the evening:

After church, we enjoyed a German dinner at Schnitzel Platz:

Once we were back at the hotel, we stayed awake watching Worst Cooks in America for as long as we could since it was our last night in the hotel!

Markel Family Winter Weekend Getaway–Day Two

We were up pretty early again on day two of our winter weekend getaway because we had somewhere very important to be…the Legoland Discovery Center in Schaumburg! Turkey has always dreamed of visiting Legoland, and while this wasn’t the full amusement park, it was as close as he has been, and he (and the rest of us) was very excited to see it! Lego never disappoints us, and we had a great time!!!

After a stop at the very big and busy Woodfield Mall across the street, we headed east to the Chicago Botanic Garden, to take advantage of the reciprocity we have with our Missouri Botanical Garden membership. The weather was kind of amazing for Chicago in January, and we all enjoyed our visit to the very beautiful garden!

Since we were already pretty far east, and I can never see enough of Lake Michigan, we drove through Ferris Bueller’s neighborhood, and stopped at Glencoe Beach, where we enjoyed the playground, a nice walk down to the beach itself, and the unusually gorgeous weather!

That was a lot of driving around for one day (and included me getting on the 290, which I have spent the last 20+ years trying not to do!), so we headed back to what was a very nice room at our hotel (the Clarion Inn), where we turned the Food Network back on, and just chilled out for the rest of the evening!

Markel Family Winter Weekend Getaway–Day One

Time to recap another fun Markel Family weekend getaway…this time, the somewhat unusual winter edition!

Last Thursday, we left for our trip to Chicago at 4 a.m. Now, as far as I’m concerned, there is only one four o’clock every day. But we had places to be, and I also knew that if we got to our first stop on our trip, the Adler Planetarium, before 9:30 in the morning, we would pay the early bird parking rate. Despite traffic on 55, we made it just in time, and this trip will be forever know as “that time mom wanted to save nine dollars on parking!”

Once we parked in the planetarium lot, I needed to have a moment with Lake Michigan and the city skyline. A nice, cold moment…there’s nothing like a lake breeze in January! But it was also a beautiful moment:

We then spent the next several hours touring Adler. It really was my lucky day, because in addition to the reciprocity that our membership with the St. Louis Science Center gives us, it was Illinois resident day, which meant that every one of us received free admission to the museum!

After we saw all we could see in the planetarium, I needed a few more minutes to walk around and take in the sights:

We then traveled west to our hotel in Elmhurst, where we spent the rest of the afternoon/evening watching the Food Network on cable TV, which is one of our family’s vacation guilty pleasures!

The Top Five–Photos of 2017

Choosing my “Top Five” photos of the year is one of my favorite more recent traditions. Of course, if I’m honest, the “Top Five” always turns into six, because I can never totally limit myself!

The first of my favorite photos came early in the year, at the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Chinese Garden. Not only do I love the photo of the garden itself, I also love that is was covered in snow!

My next favorite photo is also from the Missouri Botanical Garden. The Climatron was lit up beautifully for the “Garden of Glass” exhibition, and I love the beautiful colors!

This picture from the Naper Settlement is beautiful to me both for the stunning green of the scenery, and for the women in period costume outside the log home:

Chickadee loves posing for pictures, and there was something special about her in her London shirt, holding an umbrella on a rainy day:

Back at the Missouri Botanical Garden for a lovely fall photo in the Japanese Garden during its 40th anniversary:

And a bonus picture of the Fab Five at St. Charles at Christmas Traditions…this is always one of my favorite spots for a family photo, and this year’s picture was especially amazing!

So there you have it…another year of my favorite photos. I can’t wait to see what kind of pictures I take next year!

A Markel Family Christmas

Our traditional Markel Family Christmas was a three-day affair this year!

Because Christmas Day fell on a Monday, our church schedules were a little complicated this time around. There wasn’t a large enough break at home on Christmas Eve for our traditional “pick out dinner,” so I decided we’d have it a day early. But before we got to that, our day Saturday started in a most pleasant fashion…the first snow of the season, and Christmas Crunch for breakfast!

And then the best dinner of the year. I love how it’s always a little bit the same as the previous year’s feast, and a little bit different! This year, in addition to the standard summer sausage and crackers, cheeses, buffalo Chex mix, and sausage squares, we also had Greek spirals from Trader Joe’s, meatballs, Rotel dip and jalapeƱo popper dip (both served with festive red and green tortilla chips), deviled eggs, pizza rolls, mozzarella sticks, Ranch dip with assorted veggies, and Dino Nuggets. As always, there was way too much food, which is how we like it, because we can enjoy the leftovers for several days!

As it turned out, we were fortunate that Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday, because if it hadn’t, we wouldn’t have been able to attend our regular church at all. Even though it was still technically Advent, I wore my new Pinup Girl Clothing ornament print skirt:

The children’s blue Christmas outfits fit right in with Advent 4 (and the snow falling outside!), though, and I was able to get our annual pictures at our church…including one where Bunny insisted on giving her youngest sister bunny ears!

After lunch and a little downtime at home, it was time to drive into St. Louis so Ryan and the four oldest children could sing in their respective choirs. I wore my standard Christmas Eve dress, but I added some Splendette bangles to give a more retro look:

Of course I had to get another picture of the Fab Five:

Bunny sang the first verse of “Once in Royal David’s City” solo, and she did an amazing job!

I always love hearing the children sing Stille Nacht:

Back home for even more pictures:

And Jesus’ birthday cake:

And everyone opened their one Christmas Eve gift…new Christmas jammies!

After stuffing the stockings, Ryan and I played Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries, as we always do…and I was once again a poor sport when I won, repeating last year’s victory lap around the kitchen table. For what it’s worth, I did apologize for my bad behavior.

A last look to make sure everything was ready before bed:

We were up extra early this morning, to make sure there was time to open the stockings before driving back into the city. For some reason, I rarely get pictures of the boys that early in the morning…it may have something to do with the fact that they’re always annoyed with me for waking them!

We also managed to find time for our traditional Christmas morning cherry coffee cake:

I had to wear my ornament print skirt again, because it’s so gorgeous, but at least I styled it a little bit differently this time!

I’m a sucker for pictures of the Fab Five!

Only the adult choir (of which Ryan, Turkey, and more recently, Bunny, are members) was scheduled to sing, but some of the children were also recruited to fill out the soprano section. “See in Yonder Manger Low” was my very favorite piece they sang!

After church, we even managed to find time to get a picture of the whole family!

After lunch, we opened presents. I am so thankful that everyone was thrilled with their gifts!

The aftermath was…something:

I spent what felt like an eternity in the kitchen preparing our very festive meal. The dinner table was a little low-key this year, but it still looked nice:

We had a very nice spread this year. The star of the meal was new for me…Beef Wellington. I think I did a pretty good job! We also had two kinds of potatoes (mashed and roast), two vegetables (carrots and Brussel sprouts), a shrimp ring, cherry Jell-O and dinner rolls…it was delicious!

And for dessert, an Oreo truffle Christmas tree!

This Christmas season has seemed especially hectic, and the last three days were no exception. But we had a lot of fun, and hopefully made some happy memories in the process, so all the work was worth it!