Stay-at-Home-Summer Survival Kit

Let’s face it…summer 2020 has basically been cancelled. Our trip to Chicago, the first summer event for our family every year, was cancelled. Visiting family…cancelled. Volleyball camp, kantorei kamp, the Royal School of Church Music camp, Higher Things…all different events of varying lengths that various children were looking forward to…all cancelled. The Olympics, while postponed to next year, are cancelled for this summer, and along with them, our planned summer school for 2020. And while some places are beginning to open back up, it is with heavy restrictions, and we’re not going to be venturing forth any time soon I don’t think. So I had to come up with a summer alternative. Fortunately, I had the money I should have spent on our trip to Chicago to splurge on a few things to make the children’s summer a little brighter.

I think I covered all of the major fun activities here. A new Lego set for each child, to be distributed on a day when we are all just done. Some new books to read. A new TV show (Everybody Loves Raymond) to watch through. Some new old time radio (Jack Benny and Fibber McGee and Molly) to listen to. A children’s cookbook to accompany our revamped summer school. Some new games (that we’ve actually had for a while, but never gotten around to playing). Even some treats in the way of Frango mints.

It’s not the summer we were planning. It’s certainly not the summer we wanted. But we’re going to try to make the best of it, and have as much fun as we can!

Chickadee Thursday

We’ve settled into a fairly comfortable stay-at-home-summer-vacation routine…every morning, I sit in my chair in the school room and read, and Chickadee grabs her pillow and a blanket, and makes a little nest on the floor where she can read next to me!

The Top Five–Things I Miss

I’m sure we’re all missing things from our old “normal” lives…here’s a look at the top five things I’m missing, and for once, it’s exactly five items, and I didn’t even have to think to come up with them!

  • Church/Choir–This one was a no-brainer. I am thankful for our online church services, because we can still hear the Word, but it’s just not the same. I also really miss hearing my family sing in their various choirs at church, even though I am not musically gifted myself.
  • Extended Family/Friends–Another no-brainer is missing visiting family and close friends or having them visit us. Again, I’m thankful for other ways to communicate, like phone, text, or video chats, but it’s still not the same. We’ve already missed out on so many opportunities to gather that should have been on the calendar, and that’s just sad.
  • Chicago–I really missed our annual Memorial Day Weekend trip to Chicagoland. I missed it so much, I even created a virtual vacation. Not getting to see the skyline, and especially Lake Michigan, was really hard for me, and even though I enjoyed looking back through photos from previous trips, once again, it’s just not the same.
  • The Missouri Botanical Garden–I guess this is the number one St. Louis area location I’m missing. Normally, we go to the Garden at least once a month, and in the springtime, it can be more like once a week. Besides missing walking around the Garden and seeing all of the beautiful flowers in bloom, I’m also sad that I had to abandon my yearly photo project.
  • Wandering Around Target for No Reason at All–This is a silly one, but still a big deal to me. I really miss just impulsively stopping at Target and looking for absolutely nothing in particular. There have been some weeks (including one right before COVID-19 became a big deal), where I have literally stopped at Target five days of the week. Even if I don’t come out with anything, there’s something fun about shopping there, but I haven’t stepped in a Target for over two months!

What do you miss most from life pre-COVID-10?

Tasty Tuesday–Beast Craft BBQ at Home

We’re “back home” from our virtual vacation, and I don’t feel like cooking…so let’s take a look at Beast Craft BBQ’s family take home packs!

To be honest, more often than not, we would get Beast to go, even before COVID-19 shut everything down. I was still excited when they debuted their new family take home packs (they have offered up to three varieties, to feed two, four, or four to six), though, because it’s so much simpler than taking orders from seven people, and trying to sort it all out once we get it home!

So here’s the deal. A family take home pack for four comes with two pounds of the main course (pork, brisket, turkey, hot links, or smoked cauliflower), one pint of slaw, two sides (one quart each, and you can choose from pit beans, potato salad, bacon mac, cauliflower, and my favorite, sprouts with belly), a half pint of pickle slices, and eight tortillas. We have done this twice, and each time ordered two of the packs (turkey, bacon mac, and sprouts, plus an extra side of beans), to feed our family of seven.

Seriously, have you ever seen a more delicious looking plate of BBQ?!?

Now, even though this meal, as ordered, in theory feeds eight, we have managed to make it last for two dinners both times we ordered, and believe me, no one went hungry at any of the meals. The only thing we ran out of the first night each time was the tortillas, which makes perfect sense, and even though Beast has the most amazing tortillas, let’s face it, they’re not the star of the meal!

I really love that Beast has added this option for this weird time of carry-out/delivery only, and I wouldn’t complain if it stuck around once the dining room opens again, because it’s the perfect option for our family!

Markel Family Virtual Getaway–Day Six

Here we are, already at the end of our virtual vacation. After packing up the car, we had one more stop planned before we hit the road…a tour of Wrigley Field! (Pardon the blurry photo…it’s a picture of a not great picture I took in college!)

After visiting the Friendly Confines, we would have made our way to Rainbow Cone to enjoy the ice cream treat they’re famous for:

I love driving through the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago…there are so many cool vintage signs!

The final stop of our Memorial Day Weekend trip is always a meal at Portillo’s, where I get the Italian beef, dipped, of course!

And then home sweet home…no matter how much fun we’ve had, it’s always nice to pull into our driveway (and begin the process of doing all of our vacation laundry!).

Markel Family Virtual Getaway–Day Five

Last year on Memorial Day, we visited Cantigny Park, which is home to the First Division Museum. Seeing both reenactors and active military personnel, not to mention the laying of a wreath at the memorial, was a very moving experience, and I was hoping to do it again this year. We also enjoyed walking the grounds, touring the McCormick mansion, and climbing on the tanks. The one thing we missed out on last year, that I had really wanted to do, was hear Wayne Messmer sing with his big band…they were rained out. I’d like to think that this year, we would have finally been successful in hearing him perform!

If we had done everything I wanted to do at Cantigny, we would have spent most of the day there. Back at the hotel, we would have enjoyed one last evening swim with a much quieter atmosphere, because the crowds clear out quickly once Combo Breaker is finished.

One more day of our virtual vacation to go…and one last fun activity before we hit the road!

Markel Family Virtual Getaway–Day Four

The fourth day of our weekend getaway would have started with church at St. John Wheaton. It’s weird to think that this Sunday, not only are we not going to be there, but nobody is.

I had planned to stop at the Popcorn Store after church, so the children could each pick a selection of candy. I’m happy to hear that store is currently able to do curbside popcorn orders, but it’s not the same without looking at all the candy displays in the shop!

I always wear Pinup Girl Clothing to Combo Breaker on Sunday. I had a really good outfit planned this year, too…my purple plaid Long Jun skirt paired with an Animal Crossing t-shirt. I even had new Animal Crossing pins for my lanyard!

The finals on Sunday are always so exciting to watch, and other than some pool time, I think we would have dedicated most of the day to Combo Breaker. I really loved seeing Tekken 7 last year, and I was really looking forward to experiencing some “Good Ass Tekken” with a hype crowd again this year!

I had big plans for Memorial Day…stay tuned!

Markel Family Virtual Getaway–Day Three

I had another big day planned for the third day of our trip north. First things first…we always take a family picture on the Combo Breaker Floor. Actually, that’s always one of my favorite moments of the trip. I’m pretty bummed that we’re missing that picture this year, so here’s a look back at the family photos we took during our first four Combo Breakers!

After a morning visit to the event, we were going to head to Brookfield Zoo. This has become one of our favorite Chicagoland locations, (we can spend a good six hours just walking around), and it would have been our second springtime zoo trip (to go along with two winter visits). You never see the same thing twice, and we were really looking forward to discovering something new!

I think this would probably have been the night we went to dinner at Alfie’s Inn, too. This restaurant has become another favorite place on our journeys, and they make a mean patty melt!

After dinner, we would have headed back to the hotel for a swim, and an evening of Combo Breaker fun. Now, I know that there’s no way the floor would look like this on Saturday evening, so empty and organized, but I really this picture!

Eventually we would have headed back to our hotel room…I wonder what was supposed to be airing on the Food Network tonight?!?

Up next…the third and final day of Combo Breaker 2020!

Markel Family Virtual Getaway–Day Two

The second day of our trip north for Combo Breaker was going to be A Big Day…it was the day we were going to to hop on the Metra and go into Chicago for a day of fun!

I had a lot of things planned…first we were going to take a water taxi to Navy Pier and ride the Centennial Wheel. After riding The Wheel at St. Louis Union Station last October, we were very excited about the idea of seeing the Chicago skyline from a similar vantage point.

We also planned on visiting The Bean, something we’ve done every time we’ve attended Combo Breaker (even the one year that we missed having our downtown day), and I’m sure we would have fed some pigeons, too, because that’s something we always seem to do.

I had hoped to stop by the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, and maybe the American Girl flagship store (although I’m still not sure how I would have convinced the boys to go along with that!). And of course we would have stopped at the former Marshall Field’s to pick up a box of Frango Mints (thankfully, I was able to order some!), before heading back to the Ogilvie Transportation Center to catch a train back to Schaumburg!

We were planning on going to Kuma’s Corner for burgers one night, and I think after a day of walking around downtown Chicago, we would have really appreciated that meal and a chance to relax. The “Lair of the Minotaur” burger, with caramelized onion, pancetta, bourbon poached pear, and brie looked especially good to me, but I was also looking forward to seeing the special.

After dinner, it would have been time to check out all that Combo Breaker 2020 had to offer. We love walking around the event the first day, and just taking everything in, from the vendors’ area to the main stage to casuals, and everything else! You never know what you’re going to see!

We always stop by the Gaming Generations booth to buy whatever catches our eye. The children were really disappointed about missing out on that opportunity this year, so they were really excited when Gaming Gen opened an online store, and they were able to order the plushes they were hoping to find at the event!

After that, we probably would have just headed back to our hotel room to relax and watch the Food Network, because our Chicago day is always exhausting. Sometimes, if we have the energy, we do go for a swim to relax, though, so that was always a possibility!

Up next…a visit to Brookfield Zoo!