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 jalapeño 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!

Christmas Traditions 2017

Yesterday was that most magical day of the year when we went to St. Charles, MO, for the Christmas Traditions festival. I think this was one of our coldest visits to the event…some years, we’ve barely needed sweatshirts, but yesterday, we were wearing winter coats, hats and gloves! We braved the cold to see all of our favorite characters and collect their cards along the way…We ended up with 32 of 45 cards, which isn’t too bad! Every year, I hope that maybe this is the year we get them all, but I kind of doubt that will ever happen. Plus, there are Wednesday night bonus cards, so we really couldn’t ever collect all of them, since we can only make the journey to St. Charles once a year, and we would rather go during the day on the weekend.

We visited the Gingerbread Village, where, as always, I was impressed by the talent and creativity on display. I especially liked the gingerbread TARDIS!

Part of the fun is seeding the old buildings, horse-drawn carriages, and beautiful Christmas decorations:

By the time the parade rolled around, a few of us were too cold to watch, and had to head back to the car. Those that stayed enjoyed seeing ALL the characters, and taking part in the camaraderie of the crowd:

No matter how I feel about Santa, I always enjoy seeing the Santas of the world carrying in their country’s’ flags:

We didn’t take a lot of pictures with the characters, but we got the ones that mattered most, including a group shot with my favorite Santa (Frontier Santa, who I am pretty sure is exactly who Mr. Edwards met in Little House on the Prairie), and a photo with Bunny and Jack Frost, her Christmas Traditions hero:

And of course a family picture on the steps of the gazebo!

It always goes by too fast, but we’re already thinking about the fun we’ll have next year!

2017-18 School Year–Week Twelve+

Two weeks ago, I mentioned that we had a busy week ahead, and I wasn’t sure how much school we were going to get done. We did have school, but only for a few days, so I’m going to combine that with this week’s wrap-up.

In addition to a couple of days of regular school work last week, we did a few fun things, as well. We celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, and three of the children even got to participate in a mass children’s choir at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. It was very exciting to be part of that historic event!

We started on one of my favorite November traditions last week…we’re assembling our yearly “Thankful Tree!” As far as I can remember, the first year we did this was 2009, and that tree had handprints for leaves. We’ve also done some other variations on it over the years, including a Thankful Wreath, and maybe a Thankful Turkey, as well. Since at least 2011, though, we’ve used the current format. Laminating all those leaves was a pain at the time, but they sure have served us well!

We also went to the St. Louis Public Library Central Library to see the “We Are Shakespeare” exhibit. I almost ran out of time on that one, because it closed last weekend. It was a really cool exhibit, and I’m glad we made it!

We also took advantage of the nice weather on one of Moose’s days off last week to take a nature walk around Creve Coeur Lake. We saw snakes and birds, lots of cool leaves and fruits/nuts, and tons of other people out on bikes and boats enjoying the beautiful day.

This week was a little more standard. We got back to our regular religion lessons, after taking a break for the Reformation. Turkey and Bunny wrapped up another unit in their books, but not before they learned about the Tabernacle, and the positions of all the different tribes when the set up camp around it. Ladybug read a story that was not too familiar to her…the tale of Gideon. Chickadee learned about Elijah and the prophets of Baal.

Ladybug is working on long division in math. She does not enjoy it. She is good at it, though, which is important. Turkey and Bunny worked with regular polygons. They found out how to find the measures of the interior and exterior angles of various shapes. Chickadee is still working on counting larger numbers, and she’s getting pretty good at it!

We had a lot of fun in science this week. Turkey and Bunny have been learning about diffusion and osmosis, and they got to do a few cool experiments to see how they work. Their favorite experiment involved an egg. First, they soaked it in vinegar to remove the shell (which they’ve done in the past). Then they soaked it in syrup, to see which way the liquid moved (out of the egg into the syrup). After that, they soaked it in water, again to see which way the liquid moved (from the water into the egg). They took measurements along the way, and were very impressed with the differences they recorded! Ladybug watched every step of their experiment and was fascinated by it, even as she was learning about Old World apes in her science class.

History has also been interesting. Even though they’re using different texts, Turkey and Bunny’s and Ladybug’s lessons have overlapped again. They’ve all been learning about Babylon and Assyria. We’ve talked about rulers such as Tiglath-Pileser III and Shalmaneser V. We’ve also made some connections to Bible history, even though our religion lessons haven’t gotten there yet.

The girls had a fun little activity this week. We’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of the Lego Ideas “Women of NASA” set, and we finally received our copy. I decided since there are exactly three vignettes in the set that the girls should be the ones to build it. Turkey still enjoyed reading about the women depicted in the set (I love that Lego included that information in the instruction book) even though he didn’t get to help build it. It’s a great little set, and looks right at home next to our Saturn V rocket!

Next week, we’ll be starting on our annual Thanksgiving study…I can’t believe how quickly that holiday is approaching!