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!

The Naper Settlement

Last year, I took the children to one of my favorite suburban Chicago locations: Cantigny Park. This year, I took them to my other favorite…the Naper Settlement!

The Naper Settlement is a historic village in Naperville just a few blocks from the Naperville Riverwalk. It is focused on life in the 1800s. The tour begins in the Pre-Emption House, which is a replica of a Naperville building that Abraham Lincoln visited!

The first stop on the tour (which is basically a big circle), is the blacksmith’s shop, and I think it was everybody’s favorite!

We also visited the printer, who not only explained how newspaper printing worked in the 1800s, but also let the children get a hands-on taste of it:

There was no one in the stone carver’s shop, but we were able to go in and look around:

We stopped by the fire department:

And the post office, which may be the single building where we learned the most, including some trivia related to one of last year’s literature selections, Treasure Island!

We also visited a log house (not a log cabin, because this home had a wooden floor!), and tried our hand a grinding coffee beans:

And the “halfway house,” which received its name because it was halfway between the home of Helena Zentmyer Wackerlin in Naperville and the home of her grandparents in Aurora:

The schoolhouse was especially interesting:

The mansion is the one building with an organized tour…it was beautiful!

We didn’t get to go inside the church, because there were two weddings there that day, but the exterior is lovely:

There was so much else to see! I especially liked the 1846 church bell, which used to ring in the steeple of the Baptist church in Naperville.

There were also lots of hands-on activities. Bunny tried pretty much everything, from doing laundry to playing games. There was something for everybody, even a chance to dress up like a firefighter!

It’s a beautiful place to take a walk on a gorgeous day1

There were a few other things to see outside the settlement:

And plenty of places for photos:

The Naper Settlement was always one of my favorite places to visit in DuPage County, and I’m so glad I got to share it with the children!

Markel Family Weekend Getaway–Day Two

We were up early again on day two of our weekend getaway (although not as early as on day one), to get ready to go to downtown Chicago for our big day of exploring. We decided to depart from the West Chicago Metra station this year. I was impressed by how cute the station was as soon as we drove up.

And then our plans for the day came to a screeching halt. It turns out that there are no ticket agents on duty inside any Metra station on the weekend. We did discuss one other option for getting on the train, but we decided it just wouldn’t work out, and so we had to cancel our big plans for the day (an especially big disappointment for Bunny, who was really looking forward to going to the Art Institute), and come up with a “Plan B.”

While we were thinking, we took a walk around the outside of Pheasant Run (it was a beautiful day!), and hit the pool again, which is pretty much our default when we don’t have any firm plans.

We then decided that since the weather was so nice, we’d shift our plans for Sunday (visiting the historic Naper Settlement), up one day. We had a really great time, even if it wasn’t Chicago!

We also took a short walk on Naperville’s River Walk while we were down there, mostly so I could see the Dandelion Fountain:

Our big family dinner out for the trip was at Muldoon’s in downtown Wheaton. The food was delicious and the atmosphere just like I remembered from the old days when it was Cafe Wheaton.

After another evening walk around Pheasant Run (there’s seriously so much to explore!), and more swimming, we went back to Combo Breaker, and the children tried out the arcade machines that were set up in one of the resort ballrooms for attendees to play for free:

After that, we were ready to head back to our room, and enjoy a little more TV before bed. One of the nice things about not having cable at home is that it’s a real treat when we get to watch it on vacation! And while I was admiring the view from our 15th floor window, I discovered that we could even see the Sears Tower (about 40 miles east of us) in the distance! We didn’t make it downtown to see it, but at least were able to get a glimpse of it!

Stay tuned for Day Three!