Markel Family Christmas Getaway–Day Three

The third day of our Christmas getaway was also the real reason we were there…to attend the Santa Breakfast at Pheasant Run. We enjoyed the decorations, a great meal, and a nice, leisurely morning together. Before we left the ballroom, we took a family picture with the host of the event:

It’s always hard to say goodby, but at least this time, it’s only six more months until we go back, instead of a whole year!

Before we really hit the road, we had one more stop to make. Since our Chicago Christkindlmarket experience didn’t exactly go as planned, we stopped at their satellite location in Naperville at the Naper Settlement. I was shocked by how big the market was, and how similar to the one in Chicago. I guess I had assumed that it would be kind of…dinky…but it wasn’t at all, and we had a great time!

Since we were already so far south, we didn’t even have to get on the tollway, which was a nice surprise. Just a few hours south on 55, and we were back home. It was definitely a quick trip, but extremely memorable! I’m already looking forward to our next family trip!

Markel Family Christmas Getaway–Day Two

Day two of our Christmas Getaway was a BIG DAY. A day I’ve been planning and hoping for for years…the day where I would show the Fab Five Christmas in Chicago!

But first, a look at the view from our 11th floor room in the tower at Pheasant Run. We’ve never had a north facing view before, and while we missed being able to see the skyscrapers in Chicago that we’ve been accustomed to (with the way the weather was in Chicago last weekend, there’s no way we would have been able to see them anyway!), it was fun to see something different. It was also nice of Chicago to hang onto the snow until we had a chance to really see it, because it was pretty much gone by the end of the day!

We enjoyed a hearty breakfast at Pheasant Run’s Jambalaya restaurant, compliments of the resort. It was a great meal…I especially enjoyed my eggs Benedict, a rare treat for a person like me who doesn’t usually eat breakfast!

And then we headed out. Our first stop was the Museum of Science and Industry, using the reciprocity that comes with our St. Louis Science Center membership to get in for free! We were there to see only one thing…the “Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light” display, something I enjoyed as a child who grew up in the Chicago suburbs. It’s much bigger than I remember it being, and we were definitely not disappointed…I think it took us over an hour to see all of the trees and other displays!

After the museum, we stopped briefly to take a look a Lake Michigan, which was wild…way wilder than the children have ever seen it, and possibly more so than I ever have! We really enjoyed watching the waves crash against the shore! It was a grander display of wind and waves than we even saw the two times we’ve visited the ocean!

We then headed into the heart of downtown, a harrowing experience that involved a crowded parking garage with narrow spiral ramps that terrify me, and no spaces available until we hit the 10th floor. I can’t tell you how glad I was that Ryan was driving! Despite my terror, it was a good place to park, and fairly close to everything I hoped to see. It was only a short few blocks’ walk to Millennium Park, where we saw the city Christmas tree:

And the “Bean.” Since Ryan hasn’t had the opportunity to see it with us the last few years we’ve visited the city in May, I made sure to get a picture of him with the children in front of it:

Of course I had to show the children the Art Institute lions with their wreath manes:

The number one thing I wanted to share with the children was the Chicago Christkindlmarket. I have happy memories of going downtown with Ryan when we were in college and having lunch and shopping at the stalls, and I really wanted the Fab Five to have that experience, too. It was so rainy and windy when we were there, though, that we didn’t spend much time at the market. We had a snack (not a full meal), and didn’t get to do any browsing. I didn’t even get a picture of the children there, although I did get a few shots of the market:

We then went to Marshall Field’s of Blessed Memory, where I wanted the children to see the Christmas decorations, especially the tree in the Walnut Room. And that’s when the second disappointment of the day occurred, because I discovered that apparently, you can no longer go up to the eighth floor and view the Walnut Room and its tree from above. I was not happy about that, but we did still buy a tin of Frango mints, so it wasn’t a wasted trip. And by the time we had purchased our treat to take home, the rain had stopped, so we could admire the Christmas windows outside:

After we finally made it back to the car (the garage was right across from Macy’s, but I was over using my knee scooter, especially with all the standing water that had collected everywhere, so I wasn’t moving too fast), we drove over to the Adler Planetarium so the Fab Five could see the city at night. Due to the weather, they really only saw the lower third of the city, but at least they got an idea of what Chicago’s night skyline looks like:

We decided to take the long way back to the resort, so we got on North Avenue basically where it begins in the city, and drove…and drove…and drove some more. There was traffic and construction and too many potholes to count. But it was still kind of fun (other than the potholes), and we stopped for a favorite treat from our college days on the way…Italian ice from Johnnie’s. This was a first for the Fab Five, and they really enjoyed it.

When we got back to Pheasant Run, we headed back down to Bourbon Street to see the light show again…this time, we caught it in its entirety, and then saw it again!

When we got back to our room, we indulged in one of favorite hotel activities…watching the Food Network on cable TV. It was hard to believe our second night at the hotel was also our last, but we still had a day of fun to look forward to on Sunday!

Christmas School–Day Three

Froehliche Weihnachten!

Every year during Christmas school, I choose a few different countries, and we learn about some of their Christmas traditions. We also learn how to say “Merry Christmas” in that language, read a story from that country (if we can find one), and do a craft, (or make a recipe), related to that country. And every year, we have “Christmas in Germany” day. It’s one of my favorite Christmas traditions to delve into Germany for a day (or sometimes two!).

We started with a book that I have yet to make it through without choking up–Christmas in the Trenches. This is a fictionalized account of the 1914 Christmas Truce along the front lines of WWI. It’s a beautiful story, and knowing that it’s true makes it even more meaningful. The book came with a CD, so we also got to listen to “Silent Night” in both English and German.

As long as we were talking about wartime Christmases, we stepped back from Germany for a moment to learn about the story of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” I found the background for this carol in Christ in the Carols, which is a devotional book. I’ve never actually used it for that purpose, but I enjoy reading the history behind some of our beloved Christmas carols. Learing about how Longfellow came to write the words to “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” provided a good opportunity for us to talk about how sometimes things look very bleak (as was the case during Christmastime in the Civil War and WWI), but if you have faith, you can find hope in the midst of any situation.

We also talked about the legends surrounding the Christmas tree, including the one where Martin Luther is believed to be the inventor of the modern Tannenbaum. This led nicely into our craft–beaded Christmas tree ornaments. I found a kit at Michaels, and while it wasn’t on sale, it was reasonably priced, and the beads in the kit were so pretty, I had to pick it up. We had fun stringing the beads (even though there were some missing from the kit that we kind of needed), and they look very pretty reflecting the lights on the Christmas tree.

The Kingfisher Book of Classic Christmas Stories is a beautiful, hardcover treasury of stories, some legends from around the world, and others feel-good favorites. Today we read “The Elves and the Shoemaker”–a German Christmas legend. Turkey and Bunny have enjoyed every story we’ve read out of this book over the years, and I always look forward to picking it up–we’ll be reading from it several more times this year.

Our last activity in school today was watching a DVD about German Christmas markets. It’s kind of an odd choice–it’s from the TV show The Seasoned Traveler, which is geared toward senior citizens who enjoy traveling. Still, it gives a great overview of Christmas markets, both in Germany, and around Europe (and even my beloved Chicago Christkindlmarket!), and even though we’re not the show’s intended audience, it’s still enjoyable (and educational!) to watch.

Strassenfest

Ryan got called into work this afternoon, so I gathered my courage and took all four children out to Chesterfield for Strassenfest. I’ve been wanting to attend this festival pretty much ever since we moved down here, but we never managed to get it together enough to go.

We had a fun time. I will say, it pales in comparison to my favorite German-American celebration, the Christkindlmarket in Chicago, but Strassenfest *did* serve to remind me of how much I love all things German, and I guess that really is the point.

There were German bands, each featuring an accordion player. I love accordion music–that has got to be the German in me!

There were people in traditional German dress.

There was strudel to be enjoyed by four hungry children.

There were German dancers.

There was Gluhwein (sadly, I didn’t get a picture of that, but I did enjoy it!).

There were people dancing in the street.

There was also a Purina dog show, which had nothing to do with Germany, but was still entertaining.

I think the children got a bit of appreciation for German culture, which is what I was going for. I hope we *all* get to go back next year, and I really hope they have the big Strassenfest steins again. I didn’t have enough money to buy one this time, but now that I know they exist, I’ll be sure to get one the second time around!