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!

Markel Family Winter Weekend Getaway–Day Four

We were worried we would wake up to more snow on the final day of our trip up north, but instead, we were greeted by the sun for the first time since our arrival! The views from the windows in our hotel room were excellent!

It was sunny, but quite cold and windy, so we loaded up the van as quickly as possible, and then headed into Chicago to visit the Field Museum. The retreating winter storm over Lake Michigan was still apparent from the museum’s windows:

One of the main reasons for our trip to the museum was visiting Chicago’s most famous resident, Sue, the T. rex. We were not disappointed!

Because I’m me, I had to brave the cold and wind to get a look at the city skyline before we left:

As we often do, we stopped for a late lunch at Portillo’s in Bloomington on the way home.

The rest of the drive was…interesting. We ran into some unexpected snow on the way home, and the last hour of our trip was slow-going and messy. But we got home at a decent time, and the clouds even cleared out for us to see the lunar eclipse later that night! It was a fun getaway, and we’re already planning our next trip to the Chicago area!

The Top Five–Photos of 2018

It’s time for a look back at my top five favorite photos from 2018! They can be organized into two categories…pictures from our trips to Chicago, and pictures from the Missouri Botanical Garden.

First, a picture of the Chicago skyline from outside the Adler Planetarium in January:

And a picture of Lake Michigan from Glencoe Beach:

We were back in Chicago in May, and I loved the poppies at the Chicago Botanic Garden:

We visited Chinese Culture Days at the Missouri Botanical Garden for the first time, and the dragon was a huge hit!

Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Garden is always one of favorite events:

My children will accuse me of “cheating,” but I’m adding two bonus photos anyway…not necessarily because they’re great pictures, but because they have such great memories attached to them. First, this picture from our trip to Florida of Bunny at Diagon Alley, which is pretty much the happiest I’ve ever seen her:

And the picture I took of Chickadee the day we went pumpkin picking, and she got “baby porcupines” stuck to her boots. Two months later, and the memory still makes me giggle!

I’m already looking forward to the pictures I will take in 2019…I can’t wait to see what special memories I capture!

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!

Markel Family Winter Weekend Getaway–Day Two

We were up pretty early again on day two of our winter weekend getaway because we had somewhere very important to be…the Legoland Discovery Center in Schaumburg! Turkey has always dreamed of visiting Legoland, and while this wasn’t the full amusement park, it was as close as he has been, and he (and the rest of us) was very excited to see it! Lego never disappoints us, and we had a great time!!!

After a stop at the very big and busy Woodfield Mall across the street, we headed east to the Chicago Botanic Garden, to take advantage of the reciprocity we have with our Missouri Botanical Garden membership. The weather was kind of amazing for Chicago in January, and we all enjoyed our visit to the very beautiful garden!

Since we were already pretty far east, and I can never see enough of Lake Michigan, we drove through Ferris Bueller’s neighborhood, and stopped at Glencoe Beach, where we enjoyed the playground, a nice walk down to the beach itself, and the unusually gorgeous weather!

That was a lot of driving around for one day (and included me getting on the 290, which I have spent the last 20+ years trying not to do!), so we headed back to what was a very nice room at our hotel (the Clarion Inn), where we turned the Food Network back on, and just chilled out for the rest of the evening!

Markel Family Winter Weekend Getaway–Day One

Time to recap another fun Markel Family weekend getaway…this time, the somewhat unusual winter edition!

Last Thursday, we left for our trip to Chicago at 4 a.m. Now, as far as I’m concerned, there is only one four o’clock every day. But we had places to be, and I also knew that if we got to our first stop on our trip, the Adler Planetarium, before 9:30 in the morning, we would pay the early bird parking rate. Despite traffic on 55, we made it just in time, and this trip will be forever know as “that time mom wanted to save nine dollars on parking!”

Once we parked in the planetarium lot, I needed to have a moment with Lake Michigan and the city skyline. A nice, cold moment…there’s nothing like a lake breeze in January! But it was also a beautiful moment:

We then spent the next several hours touring Adler. It really was my lucky day, because in addition to the reciprocity that our membership with the St. Louis Science Center gives us, it was Illinois resident day, which meant that every one of us received free admission to the museum!

After we saw all we could see in the planetarium, I needed a few more minutes to walk around and take in the sights:

We then traveled west to our hotel in Elmhurst, where we spent the rest of the afternoon/evening watching the Food Network on cable TV, which is one of our family’s vacation guilty pleasures!

Markel Family Weekend Getaway–Day Four

We were up bright and early once again for the final day of our weekend getaway, because we had things to do before we headed home!

First things first. I was still pretty upset about our lost day in downtown Chicago. Now, most of the stuff I had planned for Saturday we couldn’t do in the time we had on Monday, but there was one thing we could do…visit The Bean. Fortunately, Ryan was able to find a parking space nearby, so the children and I took a quick walk over to the shiny sculpture, and admired the architecture (and pigeons) along the way.

We then set out for our last big Chicago activity…visiting the Museum of Science and Industry. Between our membership at the St. Louis Science Center, which offers a great reciprocal agreement, and homeschool discounts, we were able to get into the museum for free, as well as get tickets for both the Lego exhibit, “Brick by Brick,” that is on display currently, and the popular U-boat tour, for an insane discount. The museum is much bigger than I remembered, so we couldn’t see anywhere close to everything, but we did see as much as possible in the approximately five hours we had there!

Before we left Chicago, there was one last thing I wanted to do…get a good look at Lake Michigan. Fortunately, as we were driving north on Lake Shore Drive to get to I-55, we found an exit for the Oakwood-41st Street beach. It was a quick off and on, so Ryan just circled the parking lot a few times while I had my lake moment.

That’s it for our big weekend getaway this year. Ryan got to spend an extra day in St. Charles compared to last year, but the rest of us were there for one day less. Hopefully next year, we’ll all get to go up on Wednesday, and have an extra day to explore Chicagoland…there’s lots more we want to see!

The Lakefront

Chicago’s lakefront is one of my favorite things about the city, especially when you get a glimpse of the Chicago skyline in the background. Even before I had seen the ocean last summer, I kind of had an idea what it would look like, thanks to Lake Michigan, which is really more of an inland sea than “just a lake!”

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I was especially glad that the children had seen the ocean last year, so that they could compare the two. The waves on the lake were a bit smaller, but they agreed that the general feeling was the same…especially after they saw all of the boats out on the water!