Friends Day

“No one could ever know me
No one could ever see me
Seems you’re the only one who knows what it’s like to be me
Someone to face the day with, make it through all the rest with
Someone I’ll always laugh with
Even at my worst, I’m best with you, yeah!”

Happy Friends Day! Could I be any more excited?!?

It’s hard to believe that one of America’s most-recognized sitcoms (and one of my all-time favorite TV shows) is celebrating its 25th anniversary today…I’d certainly rather not dwell on just how long I’ve been watching! But, as always, I love an excuse for a celebration, and since we finally allowed our children to watch through the entire run of the show starting around Thanksgiving last year, I knew it was a holiday we could all enjoy.

I always try to acknowledge a special occasion with an outfit. While Pinup Girl Clothing did have a lobster-print skirt a while back that would have been absolutely perfect, I never did have the chance to add it to my wardrobe. I did wear a brooch that can kind of pass as Hugsy, Joey’s bedtime penguin pal, though!

The highlight of the day was a Friends marathon. We chose one episode (or a two-parter) from each season:

  • Season One–“The One Where Monica Gets a Roommate”
  • Season Two–“The One with the Prom Video”
  • Season Three–“The One with the Hypnosis Tape”
  • Season Four–“The One with Ross’ Wedding” (parts one and two)
  • Season Five–“The One in Vegas” (parts one and two)
  • Season Six–“The One that Could have Been” (parts one and two)
  • Season Seven–“The One with Monica and Chandler’s Wedding” (parts one and two)
  • Season Eight–“The One Where Chandler Takes a Bath”
  • Season Nine–“The One in Barbados” (parts one and two)
  • Season Ten–“The One with Phoebe’s Wedding”

Food is always an integral part of a Markel Family holiday. Of course we needed salty snacks, so I chose a staple from Chandler’s traditional Thanksgiving feast…a family-size bag of Funyuns. And for a fun beverage, we remembered the time Joey was bursting with Yoo-Hoo:

Dinner was easy…we ordered the Joey special: Two pizzas (from Pizza Hut, because we’re definitely not too good for The Hut)!

And I made Rachel’s Thanksgiving trifle, but hopefully mine didn’t taste like feet (the beef sautéed with peas and onions was actually Oreo crumbs mixed with coconut and green chocolate-coated candies)!

“It’s a trifle. It’s got all of these layers. First there’s a layer of ladyfingers, then a layer of jam, then custard, which I made from scratch, then raspberries, more ladyfingers, then beef sautéed with peas and onions, then a little more custard, and then bananas, and then I just put some whipped cream on top!”

The best special occasions involve Lego building, and Lego did not let us down, because they released a special Central Perk Ideas set earlier this month!

Happy Friends-iversary!

First Day of School 2019

The 2019-20 school year is officially underway!

We had our traditional first day of school, which was more fun than work. The Fab Five opened their schultüte:

And built a new Lego set to display in our schoolroom. This year, I bought the Hogwarts clocktower to go with the Great Hall that they built on the first day of school last year.

Most of the rest of the day was spent getting new books, organizing desks, and prepping for the new year…tomorrow the real work begins! I’ll leave you with our theme verse for the year, which is always appropriate, but even more so in a world that often seems crazy scary:

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:34

Ready for the First Day of School!

The summer went by way too quickly, and it’s already time for the first day of the 2019-2020 school year! Yesterday was spent doing a few last fun things before we get back to work…playing board games, baking cookies, building a Lego set, and having an Iron Man movies marathon:

Today, on the other hand, was “cleaning day.” We got the school ready (more or less) for another year of learning. Surprisingly, not too much has changed in the last year, just some minor rearranging, which is very unusual for us!

We had a “Farewell to Summer” dinner tonight…ribs, corn on the cob, baked beans, watermelon, and root beer floats for dessert. We also watched Detective Pikachu, which was a really cute movie, even for someone like me, who isn’t too familiar with Pokemon.

And the outfits are ready for tomorrow morning!

Everything else that needs to be ready for tomorrow is good to go…I put the schultüte together (but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see their contents), organized the bookshelves, and got all the new workbooks sorted out and put on desks. I’m looking forward to beginning our 12th year of homeschooling!

Summer School 2019

Just like that, another year’s summer school has come to an end. I think our Rick Steves’ Europe themed summer school might be my favorite that we’ve done so far, because even though I didn’t have to do as much work (until it was time to start cooking), and hands-on activities and field trips were a little elusive (although I did make a few things work!), we all learned so much, and had a lot of fun while doing it!

So what did a primarily video-based summer school look like? We watched (if I counted correctly) 72 episodes of Rick Steves’ Europe over the course of two months. While we couldn’t “visit” every place I would have liked, we did get a great overview of Europe with “trips” to Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, The Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Slovenia, Greece, Turkey, Israel, and Palestine, plus a few other places. We also watched all three regular travel skills specials and the cruising special. We even found time for all three other specials: Christmas, Easter, and Festivals! (We watched The Story of Fascism in Europe last spring, and since it was kind of intense, we didn’t watch it again this summer.) I bought my oldest students travel journals, and Chickadee a sketchbook, and they wrote and/or drew something for every episode we watched. Places they hope to visit someday, interesting facts, travel tips…anything that jumped out at them. I really hope they’ll keep these journals, so that if they ever do have the opportunity to go to Europe, they can look through them, and see what their younger selves thought would be cool to visit, and maybe add some locations to their itinerary.

I mentioned field trips and hands-on activities. Some of them were a bit of a stretch, but I did my best. For example, we visited Frankenmuth, MI, this summer, which is known as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria.” I figured this was as close we could get to visiting a European town, and it really did look like I imagine some German towns do. We also got to eat a lovely German meal while we were there:

Speaking of food, we also tried a new-to-us cuisine this summer when we went to a local Bosnian restaurant. We were all very impressed, both with the dishes and the “slow-food” way of eating there…I’m sure we’ll be going back!

And how could we make it through the day we learned about traveling in Greece without having gyros?

The St. Louis Art Museum is hosting a special exhibit of work by a European artist, Paul Gauguin, which was a nice way to experience a bit of European culture:

Now, on to “other activities.” We played a lot of games this summer: Ticket to Ride Europe, 10 Days in Europe, and Ticket to Ride: My First Journey (European Map). These all gave us a chance to talk about the various cities/countries on the maps, and recall things we had seen watching Rick Steves’ Europe, and talk about the places we’d like to visit. I also gave my students a few special assignments…Chickadee made a poster about her favorite European city, (Paris), Ladybug wrote a 1,500 word essay about hers, (Rome), and my oldest students read Travel as a Political Act, and I have to say, I think our discussions about that book might have been my favorite part of the whole summer. They certainly learned a lot about life in Europe and the importance of travel, and I think their worldview changed a bit because of it! For one hands-on activity everyone could enjoy, we built the only Lego Architecture European skyline set we didn’t already have: Paris. It was a fun little build, and a nice addition to our collection!

And finally…cooking at home! This is always one of my favorite parts of summer school, but I have to confess, I kind of put this off to the end of the summer, and was rushing to cook all the things I had planned. In the end, we tried French, Swiss, Norwegian, Spanish, Hungarian, British, Italian, German, and Middle Eastern cuisines at home (full details on what we tried next week). I think we all have some new favorites, and I definitely learned a few new cooking techniques along the way!

Obviously, traveling to Europe as a large family isn’t a realistic option, at least not for us. But I did my best to give my children a glimpse into European culture and history, and more than that, I really I hope I inspired in them a desire to travel when they’re older and have the opportunity. There are so many interesting places and great people throughout the world, and I am grateful for any chance to explore them, even if we had to do it vicariously for now!

Brick Safari

I already mentioned that we visited Brookfield Zoo in May. And while we really enjoy any trip to a zoo, this trip was scheduled for one specific reason: to see the Lego Brick Safari exhibit that they’re hosting through the end of September!

The exhibit includes over 40 life-size animals of all kinds. There were signs with information such as how many bricks it took to make the animal and how long it took to build, and some of the animals even included a bonus challenge!

We really enjoyed seeing the animals that were accompanied by their young!

I loved how the young tigers were depicted:

The pandas were adorably role-poly!

Don’t these guys look they’re straight out of The Lion King?

Other signs included scientific information about the animals, which was very helpful:

There were plenty of sea creatures:

And immense animals:

And animals of every other size, too!

This was a really cool exhibit (it very much reminded me of the Nature Connects display we saw at the Missouri Botanical Garden a few years ago), and I’m glad we happened to be in Chicago while it was on display!

Remembering Apollo 11, 50 Years Later

Who else is partying like it’s 1969?!? The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing has me in a festive, mid-century mood!

In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that our big Apollo 11 anniversary party was last Saturday, because I knew that the majority of our family wouldn’t be home today. So I started on my preparations extra early:

I found a lot of cool stuff, both around the house (it’s not like we’ve never studied space before!) and at the store. These Moon Landing Oreos were a huge hit!

I planned our party in several parts. I decided to really achieve the proper 1960s atmosphere, we should have a “cocktail hour.” I tried to come up with period appropriate appetizers, which wasn’t too hard. The menu included deviled eggs, cocktail meatballs in grape jelly, “California dip” (you know, the classic Lipton’s onion soup dip), shrimp cocktail, olives, cheese, and Chex mix (a relative of the especially appropriate nuts and bolts snack mix that I have only the vaguest memories of). For our “cocktail” I made Shirley Temples, complete with swizzle sticks!

We spent the day watching both documentaries and movies related to the Apollo program. We also built Lego’s new Lunar Lander, which was a really fun project, and looks great (if not to scale) with our Lego Saturn V rocket!

I tried to go with a 1960s dinner, as well, which was a little more challenging. After considering my options, I decided on Chicken Kiev for the main course. We also had mashed potatoes, cauliflower topped with Cheez Whiz and browned Ritz crackers (a holiday staple from my childhood!), and orange Jell-O (there had to be Jell-O, and since I was feeling nice, I didn’t even make a weird flavor with vegetables!). We also had the astronauts’ drink of champions (Tang) and Schlafly’s Lunar Lagers for the adults. The meal was a hit. Well, except for the cauliflower, which I’m pretty sure only I liked!

For dessert, we had cake (pineapple upside down, another mid-century classic) and (astronaut) ice cream.

If you know me, you know I even had the perfect outfit to wear, from my moon earrings to my space skirt, and even a cool brooch!

And a few treats for today, the actual anniversary, for those of us at home…Moon Pies (of course), and Moonsicle soda made by a local bottling company, Excel, to commemorate the anniversary of the moon landing:

I’m not sure I’ve had this much fun with a special theme since The Great American Eclipse…I wonder what event we’ll celebrate next?

Markel Family Combo Breaker Getaway–Day Four

Last Saturday, we were really hoping the rain would miss us, because we had lots of outdoor plans for the day…and for the most part, it did!

We started at Brookfield Zoo, a place we visited in January. We wanted to see what it was like in the springtime, and we wanted to see the Brick Safari LEGO exhibit (more details on that in the future)!

After a quick stop at the hotel, we headed to Giordano’s for a dinner of appetizers (calamari, a sampler platter, a wings flight, and fried cheese curds), plus a very delicious dessert (Nutella cannoli bites):

And then we made the short trip to Northwestern Medicine Field to see the Kane County Cougars, a Class A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, take on the Beloit Snappers:

We didn’t stay for the whole game…at 9 pm, after two-and-a-half hours of play, they were still in the sixth inning, and the Cougars were winning 8-1 (the final score was 10-1), so feeling confident in the Cougars imminent victory, we headed back to the hotel for a little more Combo Breaker fun:

Next up: The final day of Combo Breaker!

2018-19 School Year–Week Thirty-Six

That’s a wrap on the 2018-19 school year!

Most of the real work was actually done last week. Turkey and Bunny finished Algebra 2 and did a good job on the final exam. They completed their study of the medieval world by learning about the Crusades. They also finished their study of Old English and Medieval Poetry, Prose, and Drama. In chemistry, they got to play around with pH paper and other indicators in their last experiment of the year, which was a lot of fun!

Ladybug also finished up math and had her final exam for the year, and she was very happy with her grade. She wrapped up her writing curriculum (minus one paper that we’re saving for summer school, because the topic fit). She also completed her equine science course by learning a bit more about horse behavior. Her final history lesson was on the sinking of the Spanish Armada.

Chickadee finished her spelling curriculum for the year…she’s really come a long way! She also took her final math test, and did a great job! She read Summer, which seemed appropriate, and Snow (just for fun), plus Little Bear.

Yesterday, we attended the final Missouri History Museum Homeschool Day of the year…and this time, it was held at Soldiers Memorial Military Museum, a place we hadn’t previously toured. We really enjoyed having an opportunity to learn about St. Louisans who served in various wars, as well as St. Louis’ contributions to those conflicts. There were some fun and educational craft projects, as well. It was an excellent field trip for the end of the year, especially so close to Memorial Day!

We enjoyed what seemed like a rare nice day with a walk around downtown St. Louis while we were out:

Today we wrapped up the loose strings of a few subjects (we finally finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird, Ladybug had her final history review, and Chickadee finished her handwriting curriculum), and built our annual end-of-the-school-year Lego set. This time, I chose the San Francisco skyline Lego Architecture model, which is one of the few we hadn’t yet built.

I asked my students a few questions to end the school year…What was your favorite book? What was your favorite subject? Who was the historical figure you enjoyed learning about the most? What was your favorite field trip? What subject are you most looking forward to next year? Here are their responses:

  • TurkeyThe Planets: The Definitive Visual Guide to Our Solar System; Algebra 2; Robert the Fox; Chicago’s Field Museum; Pre-Calculus
  • BunnyThe Astronaut Wives Club; Literature; Rugila the Hun (Attila’s uncle); Chicago’s Field Museum; Literature
  • LadybugMisty of Chincoteague; Equine Science; Elizabeth I; Chicago’s Field Museum; Literature
  • ChickadeeSummer; reading; Mary I; Soldiers Memorial Military Museum; Astronomy

We’ll have some time off before we start this year’s summer school…we’re going to be (vicariously) traveling all around Europe with Rick Steves!

Twelve!

Today is Ladybug’s 12th birthday!

We got an early start to the day, so she could open her presents before breakfast. She received a lot of new Lego: Avengers sets, which she was very excited about. She had, however, figured out what our gift to her was before she opened it, which was disappointing to me.

She planned out every detail of her day, which involved watching a lot of Avengers movies (including Iron Man and The Avengers), plus the Lego Movie 2. I was a big fan of the dinner she chose, because it’s also my favorite…Reuben casserole. And she picked a very chocolaty cake for dessert, filled with both dark and white chocolate mousse, and topped with a whipped chocolate ganache. I couldn’t resist adding trick candles!

I think it was a very fun birthday…I hope she had as good a time as I did!

SIXTEEN!!!

Today is Turkey’s SIXTEENTH birthday…I can’t even believe it!

He wanted to get up early and open his presents before Moose went to school:

He got a car for his birthday…a Lego car. It’s a huge set, and he’s been working on it for a good portion of the day, and it still isn’t done. It has a lot of cool features!!!

In addition to the car and a Lego Movie 2 set from his siblings, he also received some Lego gift cards, so we went to the mall this morning, and he picked up a set he’s wanted for a long time. That one didn’t take so long to build:

He decided he wanted a trifle for his birthday, which included a homemade chocolate mocha custard…I think he enjoyed it!

I can’t believe we have a sixteen-year-old in the house. I know I say that about every new age, but 16 is getting awfully close to legal adult status, which makes me feel a tiny bit old!