OK, it’s five days or so short of six months, but close enough!
In July, this was our view on the Isle of Palms in Charleston, SC.
And today, our driveway in Belleville, IL.
Sand and snow…but they’re both pretty in their own way!
I can’t believe we’ve come to the end of 2015 already!
January, mercifully, was a quiet month. I finally had the courage to do something wild with my hair that I’d wanted to do for years. We put our membership to the Missouri Botanical Garden to good use with the first of several visits to the Orchid Show, which was a lovely bright spot in the middle of winter.
In February, I enjoyed the first of many meals from Belleville’s new BBQ restaurant, Beast Craft BBQ…it didn’t take long for word to spread and everyone to learn what I had realized at first bite…it’s an awesome place to eat! We celebrated Mardi Gras. I wrote the first of about two dozen articles for the Sisters of Katie Luther, something I hope to keep doing in the new year. We went with our church on a field trip to the LC-MS International Center.
March is always a busy month, and this year, it came in like a lion. We celebrated an epic Pi Day, and three days later, celebrated one of our favorite holidays, St. Patrick’s Day. The day after that was Turkey’s 12th birthday, and a few days later, Chickadee turned three. Spring arrived at the Missouri Botanical Garden.
In April we celebrated Easter. We had a lovely walk through the Japanese Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden during cherry blossom time. We visited Forest Park and marveled at how beautiful the tulips were. We had our traditional Opening Day dinner, and a few days later went to our first game of the season at Busch Stadium. I met KSDK news anchor Nichole Berlie for lunch at my favorite restaurant, Seamus McDaniel’s.
As always seems to be the case, life got even busier in May. We had a fun Cinco de Mayo dinner, followed the next day with a tea party to celebrate the birth of Princess Charlotte of Cambridge. Ladybug turned eight. We went to Art on the Square. Ryan and I celebrated our 14th anniversary with a family trip to the zoo and lunch at Seamus McDaniel’s. I went with Moose on a school field trip to Willoughby Farm. We were blown away by the Lantern Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden.
We went to the St. Louis Zoo to visit its newest resident, Kali the polar bear, in June. We celebrated my birthday. The oldest four children attended a choir camp, which included a few field trips, like one to see an organ being built. While they were singing, Chickadee and I got to hang out and have fun. We didn’t go to many of Turkey’s baseball games, because almost half of them were rained out. We celebrated the beginning of Ryan’s 11-week sabbatical with a Grand Opening visit to St. Louis’s first Tim Horton’s. We went on the first of many summer school field trips.
July was the highlight of our year, without a doubt. We celebrated the Fourth of July, and the day after Bunny got home from a week at camp, we celebrated her 11th birthday. A few days later, we left on our first-ever family vacation! We started in Bowling Green, KY, where we visited the National Corvette Museum. We then drove to Atlanta, Georgia, where we took in a Braves game at Turner Field. After that, we headed to our main destination of Charleston, SC, where we got to visit historic locations like Fort Sumter, see amazing architecture, eat fantastic seafood, meet great people, and, most importantly, see the ocean! Back home, we went on the second of our summer school field trips when we visited the first location of the Illinois’ State Capital.
In August, we wrapped up summer school with even more field trips. We visited the oldest standing Capitol Building in Vandalia, the Old State Capitol Building in Springfield, and the Illinois State Capitol Building. We also toured the Illinois Museum, and saw some Lincoln sites, including the Lincoln Home National Historic Site and Lincoln’s Tomb. On our way back home, we visited a Route 66 attraction, the Cozy Dog Drive In. Moose started fourth grade, and a few days later, I became the teacher of a pre-schooler, a third grader, and two seventh graders!
Moose got to miss a day of school in September to go with us on a field trip to the Magic House. We had a tea party to celebrate Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s historic reign. A new exhibit opened at the Missouri History Museum, and we enjoyed walking through it. We attended the St. Louis Scottish Games at their new location in Chesterfield.
We went to Eckert’s in October to pick pumpkins and apples. We had to replace our washer and dryer. Bunny’s volleyball team came in second place! Lego announced an upcoming set for which I have waited years (and which I will be purchasing tomorrow, thanks to my children’s generosity at Christmas!). Ladybug and I went on a Clydesdale tour at Grant’s Farm. We helped the Gateway Arch celebrate its 50th birthday.
At the beginning of November, I dyed my hair another wild color, but this time for a purpose. We spent a beautiful fall morning in Forest Park. The children got hooked on Bob Ross. Seamus McDaniel’s celebrated its birthday, and the next day, Moose turned ten. We went to the Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Garden. We had our traditional Markel-family Thanksgiving. We visited the St. Charles Christmas Traditions festival and the Holiday Lights at the Brewery in the same day.
December was a whirlwind of activity. Moose got to really enjoy Tuba Christmas for the first time. We celebrated St. Lucia Day. All seven of us (and a friend) went to Star Wars opening night, and had an amazing time! My blog hit a milestone. We had a very merry Christmas, and enjoyed a delicious Christmas feast (even I agreed that the turkey wasn’t dry!). I finally picked my favorite photos from the year.
As always, I’m left wondering how next year can possibly top this one, but I am also excited to see what 2016 has in store for us. God’s blessings on your coming year!
I have been working hard on improving my skills as a photographer this year, mainly using our Canon EOS Rebel T2i DSLR, and I’m pretty pleased with the results. There were five photos taken with that camera that really stood out at me, starting with this view of the Japanese Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden covered in snow in March:
This water-lily, also photographed in the Japanese Garden, is the best picture I’ve ever taken:
I also love this picture of Bunny at Eckert’s pumpkin patch:
And the gorgeous fall color in Forest Park:
This picture of Chickadee at the Belleville Christkindlmarkt definitely captures her personality!
And because I can never leave a “Top Five” list at just five, here are my favorite photos taken on my iPhone 6, starting with a selfie I took on January 2, after I finally got the courage to dye my hair a wild color(s):
The tulips blooming in Forest Park in April were beautiful!
And my favorite picture from our vacation to Charleston:
Another shot in Forest Park, this time of the Apotheosis of St. Louis, complete with a halo:
And one more from the Missouri Botanical Garden, this time from the Garden Glow in November:
I’ve learned how to use different settings on our main camera, and I’ve learned when it’s better to use my iPhone to get the shot I want. My goal for the coming year is learn more about aperture and exposure, and hopefully next year, I’ll have even better photos to share!
On one of the hottest days of the summer, we spent an uncomfortably sweaty, yet fun, afternoon walking around historic Charleston. Even though Christmas was far from our minds, we stopped in the Charleston City Market to buy an ornament for our Christmas tree to commemorate our visit to the Holy City, and our first ever family vacation:
Now we’re approaching winter in the midwest, with nary a palm tree to be seen, but we have a beautiful memory of them, and our trip, sparkling on our Christmas tree!
Now that everyone is back in school, Labor Day has come and gone, all of our regular activities have started up again, and Ryan’s sabbatical is over, I guess summer has really ended. But what a summer it has been!
We kicked off our summer at the end of May by going to the Lantern Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Turkey played in his sixth season of parks and rec baseball…or tried to. We had so much rain in the first half of the summer (including a tropical depression that made it to the St. Louis area), that almost half of his games were cancelled, which was a huge disappointment.
We visited the St, Louis Zoo to see Kali, the zoo’s new polar bear. We were impressed not only with the bear, but with the new exhibit, Polar Bear Point.
The four oldest children attended a week-long choir camp at one of our sister congregations in the city of St. Louis. They had a great time learning about music, got to go on a few field trips, and decided that they want to join the Kantorei at Hope. Chickadee had a fun time that week having me all to herself!
Tim Horton’s finally opened a store in St. Louis, and we were there on opening day! (This was also the week that Ryan’s sabbatical began!)
This summer in school, we learned about Illinois state history. We went to Cahokia Mounds on the first of our summer school field trips. We’ve been there several times, but there is always something new to learn!
July was the busiest month of the summer. We started with our traditional, Markel family Fourth of July celebration, which is always lots of fun.
Bunny went to Camp Wartburg for a week of theatre camp. We missed her at home, but she had a great time!
The week after she got home, Bunny celebrated her 11th birthday. The celebration included a trip to the spray park and a bunny cake, of course!
A few days after that, we left on our first-ever Markel family summer vacation/road trip. We visited Bowling Green, KY, Atlanta, GA, and our main destination of Charleston, SC. Even though there were a few bumps along the way, it was more fun than I could have imagined, and we covered all the vacation bases–family, food, baseball, history, architecture, and the beach!
Back home, the girls and I went with Grandma to American Girl Night at Busch Stadium.
We also drove to Kaskaskia, IL, to see the location of the first Illinois state capital and the Liberty Bell of the West.
August saw a bit more road-tripping. First, a drive to Vandalia, IL, to tour the oldest existing Capitol Building in Illinois.
Moose went back to school…he’s in the fourth grade this year! Still not ready to say goodbye to summer, though…
Turkey, Bunny, and Ladybug also went back to school. Since Ryan was still on sabbatical, though, I still wasn’t convinced that summer was done.
We had a fun time taking Little Luther with us on all of our travels!
Ryan and I even found time to build not one, but two Lego modular buildings!
Moose got to miss a day of school for our field trip to The Magic House, where we learned what life is like in China, and did a lot of other fun things, too.
That same day (and the day after), we also drove down to Carbondale for a college women’s volleyball tournament.
And just last week, we celebrated the historic reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II with a tea party!
We traveled this summer…a lot. We visited not only spray parks, but pools and the beach, as well.
Most of all, though, we spent a ton of time together as a family, creating memories that I hope will last several lifetimes! It was a more amazing summer than I could have imagined, and I’ll never forget it!
By now you’ve probably realized that our family finally took our first real vacation this summer.
This all started in the late spring, when I was telling Ryan that I really needed to see the ocean. I had never seen it before, and it was really bothering me. So, he challenged me to pick a place, and we’d go.
I looked at several locations (including some on the Gulf of Mexico, until I was informed that didn’t really count as the ocean), and almost settled on Savannah, Georgia, before it occurred to me that I’d always wanted to go to Charleston, and…it’s on the ocean!
Why Charleston? In addition to the ocean, I wanted a place with a lot of history, which Charleston has in abundance, from the Revolutionary War period on, and a place with beautiful architecture, which, again, Charleston has no shortage of, from her churches, to Rainbow Row, to The Battery. Once I realized Charleston fit the bill, I began planning our trip, which was both fun and intimidating.
Honestly, I spent most of the summer figuring we wouldn’t actually go through with it. I thought we’d either come to our senses about spending the money, or our minivan would rebel, and need repairs costing time and thousands of dollars or something, so I didn’t really get excited about the trip until about a week before we left. It was only then that I allowed myself to indulge in my “We’re going to see the ocean!” dance! I was also a little apprehensive about leaving home, since I never do that, but I got over it.
The trip planning really came together, and the timing worked out for us to fit in a few non-Charleston stops along the way. Here’s a summary of our days on the road:
The trip wasn’t perfect. As a matter of fact, almost every bad thing I had imagined ending up happening, from a bed bug sighting in our hotel room the first night to car trouble along the way, not once, but twice. No one got sick in the car or eaten by a shark, though, so that was something! Anyway, in the end, I realized that it didn’t have to be perfect, because the troubles are part of the memories, and will eventually became a part of our family legends, along with all of the amazing parts of the trip, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
While we were in Charleston, we of course had to visit King Street. Like the Market, King St. has been a shopping destination for centuries! Anglophile that I am, I couldn’t help but smile at the intersection of King and Queen:
I especially loved seeing this shop with these flags on that corner!
An added bonus was seeing the intersection of King and George:
And King and Princess!
No King and Prince, though…what gives?
One of the places we hadn’t planned on stopping by when we were in Charleston, but ended up walking through and enjoying, was Washington Square.
Of course, there is a monument to the first president of our country:
There are also many other memorials. Charleston can be a weird place, because there are so many memorials to the Confederacy, which is hardly the proudest moment in American history, but I guess they do make up part of the city’s history, so we observed and learned from them, even if we didn’t agree with what they stood for.
It was just outside this park that we stopped at on of the many Italian Ice carts that you can find around Charleston, and enjoyed a cold treat. I highly recommend at least sampling some if you ever find yourself in that city (and they will happily give you a free sample, because that’s how they hook you!)…the mango was excellent!