WKU Volleyball Camp

Last Monday, not just Bunny, but also Ladybug, attended Western Kentucky University’s volleyball camp. Bunny is an old pro, but this was Ladybug’s first experience, and they both had a great time!

A St. Louis Celebration

I, the Queen of the Wild Hair, decided that even though Ryan is currently in London for work, the Fab Five and I should go downtown today, for the rally celebrating the St. Louis Blues first Stanley Cup championship. So we got on the train. And even though our stop is pretty early in the line, we had to stand. And as the train got closer to the city, more and more Blues fans got on, until it reached maximum capacity, something I had never previously experienced. But everyone was in a good mood, and it was a fun ride!

We headed for Kiener Plaza, and then the Arch grounds, when we arrived, so we could hang out with several hundred thousand of our closest friends. We didn’t plan on seeing the parade, and we couldn’t stay for the whole rally, but we wanted to be there, and see at least part of it. And we definitely weren’t disappointed!

Some of my favorite moments included stumbling across a musician playing “Gloria,” hearing the Charles Glenn Group perform many different numbers (including Don’t Stop Believin’, with a St. Louis twist that I’m sure would annoy Detroit Redwings fans), and hearing a barge tow on the Mississippi River get the “Let’s Go Blues” chant going (as did pretty much every car stuck in gridlock downtown). And I’m almost certain that at this point, the city of St. Louis is out of beer, because if the Blues players didn’t drink it all, their fans did, but it was an affable crowd, and no one was belligerent or rude…everyone was in a festive mood, and having a great time! I definitely hope we get to do this again sometime, but I doubt anything will come close to matching the energy of that first championship!

40 Of My Favorite Things

In honor of my “Second 39th Birthday,” I thought I’d put together a list of 40 of my favorite things. I’ve been working on it for months–adding to it, taking things away, rearranging, trying to figure out what deserves to be here. It’s like an epic Top Five list! Some are serious, some are things I seriously love, and some are whimsical. If you don’t know me very well, or even if you do, it’s a great snapshot of the things I love the best!

  • Family–If this list wasn’t limited to a set number, I’d list each member of my family individually. But I have a big family, so my list would disappear pretty fast if I did! So I will just say that I love my entire family dearly, and they are definitely the best part of my life.
  • Easter Vigil–Without question, the Great Vigil of Easter is my favorite church service of the year, even more than Christmas Eve and Easter Sunday. The transition from darkness to light, the joyful moment the Lord’s resurrection is celebrated…it is, to me, as close to Heaven as I can get in this earthly life.
  • Albert–My black lab pound puppy, who is over three decades old himself, originally belonged to Ryan when he was a little boy. I’m not exaggerating when I say this one stuffed animal is my most precious material possession!
  • Animal Crossing–I’ve played this series of video games since the very first one (and every version since). They’re really the only video games I like to play and the only ones I’m really good at, probably because they’re fun and happy, and not stressful or even competitive, really. I can’t wait for Animal Crossing: New Horizons to come out next year!
  • Friends–I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve watched through the entire run of this show, but all these years later, it’s still one of my favorites, especially in November, when I always watch all of the Thanksgiving episodes.
  • Star Trek–I have my favorites within the Star Trek franchise (Deep Space Nine will always be number one, with Next Generation a close second), but I love it all…as long as it’s prior to the reboot. And to be honest, I’m still not sure about Nemesis. But I love the rest of it, even the Original Series, which may be completely hokey, but is fun to make fun of!
  • History–I have my favorite periods of time to study (medieval/Renaissance and mid-century are at the top of my list), but I love learning about the flow of history in general, and learning how past things influence people and events, and I especially love teaching it in school!
  • Lego–A toy that I played with as a child came back in a big way into my adult life when I had children of my own. And then came back in an even bigger way when I discovered that it’s ok to be an AFOL (adult fan of Lego)…I started building and displaying sets myself, and I love that it’s something that the whole family can share!
  • Chicago–The most beautiful city I have ever seen in person, Chicago will always be one of my favorites, and I’ve come to treasure our yearly (and occasionally more frequent) trips up north.
  • St. Louis–I originally didn’t really want to live in St. Louis permanently, but life has a funny way of making other plans, and now I can’t think of any place I’d rather be! This city, home of the 2019 Stanley Cup champions St. Louis Blues, has such an interesting history (which we learned about in great detail during the STL250 year) and culture, plus so many favorite spots that I can’t imagine not living near!
  • London–I may never have seen London in person (although I hope to fix that someday), but I love it, and when I do see it for myself, there’s a good chance it may take over Chicago’s space in my heart as the world’s most beautiful city!
  • Christmas–The day, the season, I love it all…I even finally visited the World’s Largest Christmas Store just last week! I love the preparation during the season of Advent, the twinkling lights on the tree, and selecting and wrapping gifts for loved ones, and planning special holiday meals, and listening to Christmas music, both sacred and secular, and everything else about that festive season, especially the celebrating of Jesus’ birth!
  • Capers–Yes, I will try a new recipe just because capers are an ingredient…but there’s a good chance I’ll at least triple the amount the recipe calls for! It’s become a family joke that I’m always on the lookout for capers (especially the giant ones Schnucks occasionally sells, or the even more giant ones in the salad bar at Texas de Brazil!).
  • My Wardrobe–Originally, I was going to say fashion, which I do appreciate. But what I love more than fashion in general is the wardrobe I’ve curated (yes, like art!), over the years, with pieces from all my vintage reproduction favorites: Pinup Girl Clothing, Splendette, and Erstwilder.
  • Giraffes–Everyone has a favorite animal, right? Giraffes are mine. They’re so tall and leggy, and you’d think they’d be totally awkward, but they have a grace and gentleness, and they’re so sweet!
  • Apollo 13–This has been my favorite movie for a long time, starring my favorite actor (Tom Hanks), and I watch it at least once every year, on New Year’s Eve.
  • Missouri Botanical Garden–It took us a long time to visit the Garden for the first time, but once we did, we were hooked, and we’ve had a membership ever since. It’s one of my favorite places to walk around, at any time of year, because it’s always beautiful!
  • Beast Craft BBQ–Originally, Seamus McDaniel’s, the home of the best burger in St. Louis was going to be on this list. Heck, not only did I create a family holiday for Seamus, I was even on the news once, to talk about how great they are! But then I looked back at my website, and at how many times I’ve reviewed different Beast specials over the 4+ years they’ve been in Belleville, and I realized that out of all of the local restaurants I’ve eaten at, they’re my very favorite!
  • Cooking/Baking…especially for family feasts and tea parties!–I love preparing special meals and treats for my family, and trying new things along the way.
  • Baseball–Obviously, the St. Louis Cardinals are my favorite. But I also just love the sport, so we’ve visited other major and minor league ballparks on our travels, seen Frontier League games, and even caught a few outings of vintage baseball!
  • Olympics–I have always said there’s no Olympic sport I won’t watch, whether it’s a winter or summer event. Sure, I have my favorites (gymnastics, figure skating, skeleton), but I just love the games, from the Opening to the Closing Ceremonies, and every last thing in between…I’ve literally watched it all, even more than one marathon in its entirety!
  • Books–I love books of all kinds…fiction, non-fiction, series, children’s books…and I really love how books have become the foundation of so many happy family memories (Harry Potter, anyone?)!
  • Royal Families–Originally, I was going to say “The Royal Family”…as in the British royals. But Ryan pointed out that my interest extends to all of the European royals (and even some royal families outside of The Continent)…I’m just fascinated by the workings of a royal family in general! (Although the Brits, and especially Queen Elizabeth II, will always be number one to me…)
  • “Six Tudor Queens” Series–It has been over a decade since I liked a book series so much that I anxiously looked forward to the next installment every year. Added bonus: I have also been introduced to more of Alison Weir’s books, including non-fiction titles, which is a major win!
  • Downton Abbey–Given that I love history and royal families, it should be no surprise that I love a period drama about the British nobility, and I’m anxiously awaiting the release of the movie later this year. We’ve even traveled to Nashville to see a special fashion of Downton Abbey exhibit, and if the big exhibit ever comes within driving distance of St. Louis, we’ll travel again!
  • Old Time Radio–I used to hide my love of Old Time Radio, because I thought it was something I should be embarrassed of. But I’ve learned to embrace it, and now I have no problem with anyone knowing I love listening to Jack Benny, Fibber McGee & Molly, Burns & Allen, and any number of other programs…and now the Fab Five love them, too!
  • Photography–I’ve always enjoyed taking pictures, but in the last few years, I’ve really loved learning how to take better pictures. I hope I’m always continually improving and finding new ways to capture special people, places, and moments in a photo.
  • White Christmas–Yes, it’s my favorite Christmas movie, but let’s be honest…I can be convinced to watch it any time of year! I love the setting, the clothes, the music, the dancing, and did I mention the setting? Plus, Bing Crosby!
  • Mister Rogers–Who doesn’t love Mister Rogers, right? Just turning on an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood has an immediately calming effect on me, and it makes me so happy that I’ve been able to share the show with my children!
  • Pheasant Run–This resort in the Chicagoland area was a place I often heard of growing up…but I never even saw it back then. Now, however, it’s become a very special place to our family, first as the home of Combo Breaker (which we’ve attended four times), and more recently, as a great Christmas getaway!
  • Rick Steves’ Europe–I frequently dream of going to Europe, and I hope that dream comes true someday. But until then, Rick Steves helps me feel like I’ve been there through his TV show.
  • Blogging–I’ve been blogging for over a decade now, and I love having the chance to share my views and experiences with whoever happens to be reading, as well as keep a record of all of the things we’ve been up to.
  • Bob Ross–Along with Mister Rogers and Rick Steves, Bob Ross is another PBS personality who has brought much joy to my life through his show. And his encouraging words even make me feel like I could actually paint a beautiful picture!
  • I Love Lucy–This show may have been the gateway to my love of all things retro, and it’s still my favorite black and white TV show. I’ve watched every episode more times than I can count, I never get sick of it, and it always, always makes me laugh!
  • Ticket to Ride–The Ticket to Ride series of board games is my favorite family of board games. Of course I have a favorite within the series (Nordic Countries, or as I like to call it, Ticket to Ride: Christmas Edition), but I love all the maps (and I can’t wait to play the new London map that’s scheduled for release this summer!), and it’s so much fun to “travel the world” while playing!
  • Food Network–I love watching the Food Network on cable TV when we travel, or on Hulu at home…I even love the Food Network magazine! I’ve gotten so many good ideas over the years, and now the children love watching with me, too!
  • Tiramisu–This is my very favorite dessert, and I love it in all its forms…traditional, cheesecake (my favorite thing to get at the Cheesecake Factory!), trifle, and the layer cake I make (often for my birthday). It’s so delicious!
  • Cabana Bay–The location of last year’s summer vacation didn’t make the original cut of this list, but Turkey pointed out that he had never seen me so happy as when we were there, and I willingly admit that it was literally like they looked inside my head when they designed it, so I had to bump the Rat Pack (who featured heavily on the resort’s speaker system) in favor of my favorite hotel ever!
  • Skee Ball–If an arcade has skee ball, it’s a winner in my book…but you may have a hard time getting me to leave!
  • Pineapples–My favorite fruit (I think I could sit down and eat an entire pineapple by myself!), and my favorite code word for trouble (from Chuck)!

Quote of the Day

This quote from “The One Where They All Turn 30” episode of Friends keeps running through my mind ahead of my birthday tomorrow!

“Happy birthday, Grandma. It’s better to be over the hill than buried under it.” Jennifer Aniston as Rachel Green (reading a birthday card from Monica and Chandler) on Friends

Michigan’s Little Bavaria

I really think Frankenmuth, MI, also known as Michigan’s “Little Bavaria,” is the most charming town I’ve ever visited. The German architecture, specialty shops, and Bavarian flags everywhere really make you feel like you’ve stepped into a storybook village!

We might not be able to visit Europe as part of this year’s summer school, but I think going to Frankenmuth and experiencing the culture (and food!) of the town was the next best thing!

Tasty Tuesday–Frankenmuth’s Bavarian Inn Restaurant

Are you ready for an epic Tasty Tuesday?

When we decided to go to Frankenmuth, we knew we’d have to try one of their famous fried chicken dinners. There are two places in town that offer such a meal, and they’re right across the street from each other! After checking out the full menus, we chose to dine at the Bavarian Inn:

It’s a beautiful (and extremely large!) building:

There are many dining rooms, each one as charming as the last:

They had both their own beer and root beer on the menu:

And they start you off with bread, both plain white bread and stollen. They also offered us fresh rhubarb jam to go with it!

We decided to try their ultimate family style Bavarian dinner (the perfect fit for our European-themed summer school this year!), which we had a coupon for, and which would allow us to sample many of their offerings, including the famous fried chicken.

We started with noodle soup and a variety of salads:

The fried chicken was just as good as promised:

We also tried the sauerbraten, bratwurst, kasseler rippchen (smoked pork loin), and schnitzel:

There were also plenty of side dishes, including buttered noodles (my favorite!), vegetables, dressing, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, and potato cheese puffs. It was seriously delicious, and we definitely did not leave hungry!

The meal included housemade ice cream for dessert, and I tried the cranberry, which was amazing…I can’t believe I’ve never had cranberry ice cream before!

We also split a piece of apple strudel:

This was a pretty expensive meal for our family, even with the coupon, but it was definitely worth it…and we even had enough leftovers for a second dinner once we got home!

Markel Family Michigan Getaway–Day Three

Monday morning of our Michigan trip began with another walk along Frankenmuth’s Main Street while we waited for some of the shops to open. It is such a beautiful place!

We stopped at the Frankenmuth Cheese Haus, where we picked up a few things to try at home. It’s an amazing store!

We also visited beautiful, historic St. Lorenz:

The main event of the day, however, was stopping at Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, A store I have wanted to shop at for years! And of course I had just the right outfit to wear:

There are many photo opportunities throughout the store, and I took advantage of several of them:

Some people say Disney is the happiest place on earth, but I think Bronner’s is. It’s always Christmas there!

We also visited their Silent Night Chapel, a reproduction of Oberndorf’s monument which stands on the site of the former St. Nicholas Church, where “Silent Night” was first sung.

All too soon, our time in Frankenmuth drew to a close, and we had to say “Auf Wiedersehen.”

Our fun for the day wasn’t over yet, though. We stopped for lunch at Big Boy!

And stopped to see beautiful Lake Michigan from its eastern shore:

And then, for the second time in less than a week, we got to eat at Portillo’s!

It was quite late by the time we reached home, but we got to cheer the St. Louis Blues to victory along the way, which helped the time pass. Look for more details about our visit to Frankenmuth in the coming days!