Christmas Traditions

Last year, we made a somewhat tentative return to St. Charles, MO, for Christmas Traditions; this year, we returned in full force!

We made sure that we were there for the Santa Parade. Actually, we were there way earlier than we needed to be, but at least we got a good parking spot!

I truly believe Main Street in St. Charles in one of the prettiest streets in the entire St. Louis metro, and never more so than at Christmas!

We did a pretty good job of finding characters…I think we ended up with 26 of 33 cards. The important thing, though, is that we found both Jack Frost and the Master of Revels, our two favorites! We were impressed by how many characters they have added representing different world cultures…it gave us an opportunity to learn something new!

Jack Frost even gave Bunny a “Blue Crew” pin, which made her day!

I had to stop and take a picture with the Mistletoe Misses, because I looked like I could join their lovely, mid-century group in the outfit I was wearing!

And, as always, I took a photo of the Fab Five by the gazebo. Not in quite the same location as usual, because one of the singing groups was performing in it, but close enough:

Sometimes, I can’t believe just how long this has been a part of our Christmas traditions…it’s definitely one of the things I look forward to the most in December!

Hoppy Bunny Day!

Today was a Very Special Day, because it’s Bunny’s 18th birthday! I can’t believe I have another adult “child!”

We waited until this afternoon for present opening:

I was so excited for her to open her present from us, because we bought her her very first dirndl!

As she has for the last few years, she requested Stromboli for her birthday dinner:

And this year’s bunny cake was decorated to look like the March Hare from Alice in Wonderland (the frosting was way more brown than it photographed).

We had a great time celebrating her today…I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store!

Back at Busch

Yesterday, for the first time in I’m not even sure how long (at least five years!), the whole family went to a Cardinals game at Busch Stadium! We took a walk around Ballpark Village when we arrived downtown:

It’s changed a lot in the last few years!

We stopped to say “hi” to Stan, of course:

And then got in line almost an hour before the gates opened:

The reason we got in line so early was to make sure we were there in time for the giveaway…Molina and Wainwright Mystery Championship Replica Rings. This is my favorite type of giveaway, and they’re really nice!

Our seats were excellent…we were in the last row, so we had a nice breeze, and we were in the shade for pretty much the entire game! Plus, we could see the Arch, which is always nice.

When we were walking around, we found this cool life-size bobblehead of Ladybug’s favorite player who isn’t named Albert Pujols:

And Bunny, Chickadee, and I went in search of Fredbird:

Ballpark food is the best!

It was the perfect day. We got to see everyone’s favorite battery (Wainwright and Molina) start their 316th game together, putting them in a tie for second place on the all-time battery list! And we got to see Tommy Edman get his first walk-off, which was a total thrill! We couldn’t have asked for a better ending!

It was so good to be back at my favorite place!

The only thing that could have made today better is if we had gotten to see Pujols bat, but we did see him in the dugout, so we’ll call that good enough, and the perfect day at Busch!

The Markel Family Returns to Chicagoland–Day Two

The second day of our trip was the one I was most looking forward to, because after three long years, we were finally going to go back to Chicago! The weather forecast wasn’t promising, but in the end, although it was quite cool, the rain lifted, and that was good enough for us. We got to leave from a new-to-us Metra station (Palatine), so we saw a bunch of different suburbs on our way downtown.

The sights that greeted us were just like I remembered:

It was so good to be back!

Bunny took some time to feed some pigeons:

And one even photobombed her!

Mostly, we just walked around and took it all in. It was so much fun to see all of our favorite places (and some new ones), and we even stopped to listen to a street musician (who was very talented!) for a bit. The only thing we didn’t get to do that I would have liked was see Buckingham Fountain and Lake Michigan, but it was very windy, and that was in the opposite direction of the other stuff we had planned, so I settled on seeing a sliver of my lake from a distance.

We walked up the Magnificent Mile to Water Tower Place, something new for us. We stopped in to see the big American Girl store and the Lego Store (two of our favorite places):

We also spent some time in Jane Byrn Park by the historic Water Tower:

After that, we made our way to the Plaza of the Americas so we could visit the “Wings of Mexico” art installation, which is “a symbol of the immigrant journey and celebrates Chicago as a sanctuary city.” Moose didn’t care to have his picture taken, but us gals couldn’t resist!

No visit to Chicago would be complete without a stop at the former Marshall Field’s on State Street to buy a box of Frango Mints!

And then we made our way back to the train and said goodbye to my favorite city. The last time I said goodbye, I assumed I’d be back “soon.” Three years later, and without Turkey joining us because he was working Combo Breaker the whole day, I finally made it back. I really hated to leave, and I’ll never take it for granted again.

Back at the hotel, Combo Breaker had begun, so we spent some time on the floor, taking in all those sights, too.

We also enjoyed playing some of the arcade games they had set up, including Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Donkey Kong.

We couldn’t resist another walk outside, where the evening light was perfect. Also, we enjoyed watching muskrats swim in the hotel ponds…who knew?!?

We also found time for one more evening swim…it wasn’t quite the same as swimming under the stars at Pheasant Run’s outdoor pool, but it was still fun!

One last look before bed:

Up next…a full day of Combo Breaker!

The Markel Family Returns to Chicagoland–Day One

I haven’t had the opportunity to do too many “Markel Family Road Trip Wrap-Ups” over the last few years, but I’m back with a big one, because Combo Breaker returned to Chicagoland over Memorial Day weekend!

Ryan and Turkey left for the event last Wednesday, but Moose had one last final that day, so the rest of us hit the road on Thursday (major thanks to Ryan’s parents for letting us borrow their second car to make it all work!). The drive through Illinois was, as always, pretty boring, but we did get to stop at the fairly new Wally’s in Pontiac to get gas and stretch our legs, and that in itself was quite an experience…I had no idea a “jerky bar” was a thing!

Our destination was the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center, the new home of Combo Breaker. As much as I loved Pheasant Run, this was a real upgrade, and we really enjoyed just walking around the hotel (inside and out), and taking it all in:

Our room wasn’t ready when we arrived, so after stashing our stuff in the “boys’ room,” we went down to the event space to see how we could help. They were, I think, happy to see us, as they put us to work immediately, filling the registrants’ bags. It was fun being part of the work that goes on behind the scenes, and we got to see a lot of people as we worked, but I don’t think we were as happy to see anyone as Bunny was to finally get to meet her favorite fighting game commentator, Tasty Steve!

I took a break from bagging to check into our room, which was very nice…we especially liked the “wish” artwork on the wall!

The view wasn’t bad either!

After we finished our work for the day, we headed down to the pool, which was very nice (it was a saltwater pool, which I enjoyed), and we had the whole thing to ourselves!

We also took one last walk around the property…it’s a very beautiful place!

Up next…a day I waited three years for!

A Look Back at the First Year of College

As of last week, Turkey and Bunny have finished their first year of college! I’m not directly involved in their education anymore, but as their former teacher, I of course have to take a look back at how they did academically. They both had straight As both semesters, which also means they both made the Dean’s List. They each had at least one professor they really liked, and with whom they were able to take a class both semesters, and I’m super grateful for that, because I think those kinds of connections are really important. They were also both asked to join the honor society Phi Theta Kappa, which is fantastic, because that can open doors to scholarships when they transfer to their chosen four-year colleges after graduation next spring.

All that to say, I’m really, really proud of them, and I also guess it’s safe to say that I didn’t totally screw up their education in the 13 years they were students in my little homeschool!

2021-22 School Year–The Final Field Trip

The 2021-22 School Year officially ended a week ago, but yesterday, we took our final trip of the year…we visited the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station, something I promised Chickadee we would do after she finished her science course about swimming creatures. Since Bunny is done with finals, she was able to come along, too, so we had a full girls’ day out!

There were lots of hands-on opportunities…we even got nibbled by “Doctor Fish” and high-fived by sting rays!

It wasn’t too crowded when we arrived, so we had lots of good views and were able to take our time:

We walked around outside for a bit after we were done:

And we even went inside the Union Station hotel to take a look at their beautiful lobby:

This was a fun field trip, and a great way to wrap-up our school year!

Off to College

The day I’ve been dreading waiting for is finally here…Turkey and Bunny started college!

I’m not going to lie…I’m relieved that they’re staying local and starting at the community college, and not just for financial reasons…I’m not ready to say good-bye yet!

This is a very exciting step for them, and a new experience for our whole family, and I can’t wait to hear all about it!

Road Trip Wrap-Up in the Time of COVID-19

Our travels this summer might not yet be back to what they were in pre-COVID times, but we did actually go somewhere this year! Since we weren’t quite as busy as we have been on previous vacations, I’m just going to take a look at the whole trip instead of going day-by-day.

On Monday, we left for a short trip to Bowling Green, KY. Any visit to Bowling Green includes a meal from Zaxby’s. Fortunately, we have always done carryout, so that wasn’t even any different from our usual dinner.

On Tuesday morning, we drove into Nashville to visit Cheekwood Estate and Gardens and see the Nature Pop! Lego exhibition by Sean Kenney. Both the sculptures and the estate were breathtaking!

We also drove down to the Cumberland riverfront to get a look at the Nashville skyline.

We were going to get lunch at Hattie B’s, one of the locations in Nashville known for hot chicken, but the line was unbelievably long, so we went to Chaney’s Dairy Barn and had ice cream for lunch instead!

Our day ended with a beautiful double rainbow!

On Wednesday, Bunny and I went with her grandparents to tour Western Kentucky University, where she is planning on attending after she finishes at community college:

And on Thursday, we visited the Aviation Heritage Park in Bowling Green, where we saw not only an authorized replica of Marine One, but also an aircraft flown by every astronaut who walked on the moon!

We also had an early birthday celebration for Bunny that night:

We were up early on Friday morning to head home, but we did stop for donuts at the Donut Bank on the way:

It was a little challenging coming up with fun things to do outside in the summer heat, (I wanted to go to a Bowling Green Hot Rods game, but between the temperatures and the fact that I’m still a little hesitant to be in a big crowd, even outdoors, made me table that for the time being), but we found something to do every day, and it was so nice to get away for a bit!

A Golden Bunny Day

Today is Bunny’s golden birthday!!! We started the day with presents:

I think she likes her new outfit!

We spent the day watching some of her favorite movies. We just got back from a short trip, so she was happy to stay at home and just relax. She picked her favorite dinner of Stromboli and Sunchips, just like she did last year:

She asked me to make a cake that looks like Wrecker’s stuffed friend, Lula, in The Bad Batch. I think it turned out ok, although it should be more red than pink.

Happy Birthday Bunny!