Vocation Day

In honor of “Vocation Day” (known more popularly as “Labor Day”), I’d like to mention two people who, I think, have an incredible sense of vocation, even though that is probably one of the things they’re least recognized for: Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.

Her Majesty wasn’t supposed to be the Queen. Her father was the second son of the monarch, which means he should never have been King. But, his brother Edward, (who had a terrible sense of vocation), abdicated the throne, leaving his brother, King George VI (another man with an astounding understanding of one’s vocation), to clean up his mess, and become the ruler he wasn’t supposed to (and never wanted to), be.


Now, maybe he would have been King eventually, or at least his daughter become Queen, because there’s some debate over whether Edward ever would have had children. But, he did become King, and Elizabeth was his oldest child. She herself was never even considered the “heir apparent,” but rather “heir presumptive,” because, regardless of her place as oldest child, had a son been born to King George at any point before his death, because of the laws regarding primogeniture at the time, he would have ascended the throne. There was no son, however, and so Elizabeth dutifully took on a role that she never expected or wanted, and that had likely hastened her own dear father’s death.


Prince Philip is another fantastic example. It was fairly obvious at the time of their wedding that he was marrying the future monarch, so that wasn’t a surprise to him by any means. But they weren’t, of course, expecting King George to die so suddenly or so young, and Philip was expecting to have more time in his chosen career–the military. But that wasn’t meant to be, and so he dutifully took on a role that most men would struggle with–walking two steps behind his wife for the rest of their lives (over 60 years, to date). He gave up his career to solely support her in everything she does, and he’s done it well. It wasn’t the role he expected for the vast majority of his life, but he gladly set aside his personal ambitions to do the task which was given him, the task he knew would be his someday, but not so soon.


A lot of people don’t take monarchies seriously anymore; they think they’re antiquated and unnecessary in today’s world. But you can’t deny the sense of vocation a good, God-fearing monarch (and his or her family), has. Queen Elizabeth has always taken seriously her God-given role as Queen, and has lived her whole life to serve her people, as God expects her to do, even when it wasn’t what she personally wanted for her life.

That’s a proper understanding of one’s vocation.

A Birthday Tea

Yesterday, we had a birthday tea party. Whose birthday was the cause for the celebration? Why, the Queen’s, of course! Her official birthday, marked by Trooping the Colour, was on Saturday, and we decided to make a long weekend of it, and keep the party going for tea!


The them for the event was purple (the color of royalty), and crowns (obvious). I also threw in a little bit of green for an accent color, because it just looked so nice. For decorations on the table, we had purple Hershey’s kisses, candles, and purple carnations in a pretty English gin bottle that I’ve been saving for a few years to use as a vase. The tea of choice was Darjeeling, partly because it’s one of my favorite teas, and partly because it comes in a purple box!


In addition to the tea, we had chocolate chip scones, sugar cookies, open-faced grape jelly sandwiches, and grape jello, all in the shape of crowns.





We also had coronation chicken finger sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches and some nice reddish/purplish grapes.



It all made for a very fun birthday celebration!

Book Review–“Dressing the Queen”

I mentioned Dressing the Queen: The Jubilee Wardrobe by Angela Kelly a while back, and I’m finally getting around to reviewing it. In short, if you’re a fan of fashion, or Queen Elizabeth II, or history, you’ll love this book!

It’s filled with beautiful pictures of fabrics:


And jewelry:


And pictures that show the amazing detail that goes into every aspect of the Queen’s wardrobe:



There are also sketches created by Angela Kelly:


And some photos that can only be described as whimsical:


One of my favorite parts of the book is a picture of the Queen in what can only be described as a “casual” pose…as casual as you can be when you’re Queen, anyway!


Pictures aside, this book is full of information. You’ll learn what kind of fabrics are used, and during which season, and where the fabrics come from. Some of them are quite old! You’ll learn what the team of dressers actually does, and how they keep track of what the Queen has worn in the past.

There are also sections on hats and accessories, which are fascinating. And the care of the Queen’s wardrobe is also discussed, as is packing it up for a trip, big or small. No book about the Queen’s wardrobe would be complete with a section on her jewelry, and there is a nice representation of the different gemstones she favors in photographs. I was very interested to learn how the jewelry is presented to the Queen every day!

A big section of the book is naturally dedicated to the Diamond Jubilee wardrobe, as the subtitle suggests. Of course, the famous three outfits of the Jubilee weekend are shown, but so are less-known outfits, like the ones worn to the Royal Windsor Horse Show, the Sovereign’s Lunch, and the Royal Ascot. And the Queen’s “Bond Girl” dress from the Opening Ceremonies of the London Olympics is discussed in great detail!

Dressing the Queen is both beautiful and informative. It is practically unheard of for a member of the Queen’s staff to be given permission to write a book about his or her job, which makes this a very special, unique item, with a very unusual perspective. I highly recommend it!

My New Favorite Book

I have a new favorite book–Dressing the Queen by Angela Kelly. I think it may have even made its way to my top five list.


I hope to do a full review later, but for now, let me just say, if you love the Queen, or fashion, or both, you’ll want to pick it up. The pictures are amazing, and really show the amazing detail that goes into the Queen’s wardrobe, especially for those of us who have only seen her on TV or in print, but never in person!

Royal Reading

As you may have noticed, this has been a very British year for our family. Starting in the summer, I began searching for and reading as many books about the monarchy as I could find. I prefer reading “authorized biographies,” especially for contemporary figures, so I focused on finding as many of those as possible. Many of them are out of print, but I was able to track down pretty much everything I was looking for in our library system. I did have a few more “scandalous” books on my list, too, but nothing that was intentionally negative about the royals, and only books written by respectable authors–nothing sensational. Other than general information on the monarchy, I started at about the time of Queen Victoria, and moved to the present day from there.


Official Biographies:

Other Biographies:

General Information:

Crown Jewels:

And, a few bonus royal documentaries, just because I can!

I didn’t finish reading all of them…there just wasn’t time. But I do intend to go back and finish the rest, because it’s so interesting to read about the history of Europe’s most prominent royal family!

More 2012 in Review

This has been A Year. There’s really no other way to describe it. It was, by far, the best year of my life to date, and there’s a part of me that doubts that there will ever be another year quite as good. The events that occurred, and the timing of those events, was so outstanding that all I can do is sit back and thank God for the way He arranged this year of celebrations for my family!

January was by far the quietest month of the year. We celebrated our 100th day of school, and Ladybug joined in, as she unofficially started kindergarten during that month. We finished preparing our home for Chickadee’s arrival. I was sad to see the end of One Life to Live, although, if it had to end, it certainly went the right way. We also re-subscribed to cable TV, so I spent a lot of my pregnancy-induced sleepless nights catching up on What Not to Wear!

In February, things started to get busy. Ryan rejoined the American Kantorei for the Bach at the Sem series, and we all enjoyed attending his concerts. I got to see Chickadee holding onto her umbilical cord during an ultrasound…it should come as no surprise, then, that she loves holding onto my hair now! We also made sure she’d be well-equipped for her first Opening Day and Cardinals game. Turkey had two teeth pulled, and hardly even noticed it happening. Ladybug picked out new animal print glasses. We had a fun field trip, started a new Lenten tradition, and celebrated Leap Day. Above all, we spent all of February excited knowing that Chickadee would be arriving the next month!

Without a doubt, March was the craziest, most exciting month of the year. The highlight was, of course, the birth of our little Chickadee. A few other things happened, too, though. We finally got a Dunkin’ Donuts, which was very exciting for me. We had fun celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, and even got to help Moose make a Leprechaun trap for school. I spent a lot of time baking, even though I couldn’t indulge in eating many of my creations due to gestational diabetes. Turkey turned nine. The children got to meet their new sister, and we brought her home!

April was almost as busy as March. Turkey and Bunny were confirmed on Palm Sunday, the same day Chickadee was baptized into God’s family. That was one of the most amazing, emotional days of my life. We celebrated Easter a week later. We had our traditional Opening Day food fest at home, and less than a week later, took Chickadee to her first Cardinals game. Much to Bunny’s delight, an American Girl store opened in St. Louis. We found that last year’s bird’s nest was once again in use. We also had the interesting experience of oven shopping.

Things remained busy in May. Chickadee started smiling at us–so cute! Our new oven was delivered. I got a new pair of glasses for the first time in over five years, and I must have been inspired by Ladybug, because they, too, have an animal print. The next generation of baby birds hatchedLadybug turned five. Ryan and I got to go to the Cardinals game (along with Chickadee), where Tony LaRussa’s number was retired. The following day, Ryan and I (and Chickadee, again), went to the Science Center to see Star Trek: The Exhibition. Moose graduated from kindergarten. We not only went to Art on the Square, but actually bought something for the first time ever. We spent an afternoon at Grant’s Farm, one of our very favorite places to go. Ryan and Ladybug went to a Cardinals game, just the two of them, and got to meet Fredbird and get autographs from two players. We celebrated the birthday of the church on Pentecost  Turkey started his third season of parks and rec baseball, and loved every minute of it.

Life finally slowed down a bit in June (but only a bit!). We celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee from afar. As part of our celebration, we had our first tea party of the year. This was one of my favorite non-family related parts of the year, learning all about the Queen and her reign. Turkey and Bunny finished third grade. The summer really started to heat up, making everybody miserable.

July brought an end to the slower pace we enjoyed in June. I spent my first-ever day at the spa, and hope I can go back again sometime. We celebrated the Fourth of July in our typical fashion, but sans fireworks, thanks to a ban on them due to excessive heat and drought. Turkey had his last baseball game of the summer. Bunny turned eight, and we enjoyed tea party number two of the year to celebrate. Chickadee attended her first-ever VBS at our church, along with the rest of the family, of course. She also gave up being swaddled at bedtime, which was a little bittersweet. We enjoyed the beginning of the London Olympics, which included tea party number three, and special lessons in school.

At the beginning of August, we managed to tear ourselves away from the Olympics long enough to go to Build a Bear day at Busch Stadium, which also included a walk along the warning track. It was also a “turn back the clock” night…I loved the throwback uniforms and high socks! We had our own family Olympics, in which “Team Markel” won. We got rid of cable TV–again. I got ready for the start of our fifth year of homeschooling by rearranging the school room–again. Moose started first grade, Ladybug officially started kindergarten, and Turkey and Bunny began fourth grade. We went apple picking and got 12 pounds of apples. Chickadee was our little tagalong in school, and constantly kept the whole family amused with her antics.

At the beginning of September, I worked on creating a logo for our school, with help from the children. We were quite happy with the results. I discovered that one of my favorite books ever had finally been reprinted. Chickadee started crawling. We saw the Thunderbirds perform at the Scott Air Force Base air show. We took in another baseball game, and had a kind usher take the best picture of the seven of us to that date. Chickadee reluctantly started eating solid foods. We had fun making handprint angels on Michaelmas.

We spent the month of October learning about the Reformation and enjoying the beautiful fall colors. We had our annual trip to the pumpkin patch, where we picked over 40 pounds of pumpkins. Moose lost three top teeth…eating became a very interesting activity for him! Ryan and I enjoyed the “Kozmania” that overtook Cardinal Nation, especially since we had seen his very-first major league at-bat the year before. I finally found a hat to wear to church. We watched Felix Baumgartner’s incredible, insane skydive from practically outer-space, some of us with morbid curiosity.

In November, Chickadee figured out how to pull herself up to a standing position. Moose turned seven. I had my best-ever game in Bookworm, and promptly stopped playing so I could go out on top. We started Thanksgiving school, and a “Thankful Tree.” We had a nice Thanksgiving…it was especially fun to share Chickadee’s first Thanksgiving with her! We went to our town’s tree lighting, and then went back downtown on a nicer day to look at all of the gingerbread houses. I rearranged our schoolroom–yet again. I think it will stay this way for quite a while! We started our Christmas celebrations a little early by taking the children to their first Boar’s Head Festival, in preparation for our “Christmas in England” theme in school this year.

December brought our favorite time of the year…the Advent and Christmas seasons! Many of our favorite activities take place in December…Christmas on the Hill, Tuba Christmas, and going to St. Charles for the Christmas Traditions festival. In school, we continued making banners for the church year, and learned about Christmas throughout England’s history, which included reading some great books, such as A Christmas Carol. We had a Christmas tea party (number four for the year!), and an English Christmas dinner to accompany our lessons. It was great fun being so very British this whole year! We added readings for the Great “O” Antiphons to our Advent traditions. We spent a lot of time baking, decorating, and delivering cookies and other treats, and basically kept busy right up until Christmas. It was especially fun to get to celebrate a first Christmas again! We even had a white Christmas, although a few days late…but it was still during the season of Christmas, so it counts! I did a lot of work on my blog this month, too, adding pages for liturgical year things such as feasts, festivals, and commemorations, the Jesse Tree, the Great “O” Antiphons, and the Jesus Tree, that are important to our family.

I can’t wait to see what 2013 holds for our family…I know that there will be lots more holidays and celebrations to look forward to sharing together. I pray that God blesses all of your families as greatly as He has blessed mine!

Quote of the Day

This quote from Andrew Marr’s biography of Queen Elizabeth II is inspirational to me, both as an admirer of Her Majesty, and as a homeschooling mother:

It is not true, then, to say the Queen was badly educated. She was just differently educated. She was, and is, very fast at absorbing information and always had remarkable powers of concentration. From early on, she became shrewd at sizing up people, and good at recalling names and faces. Although going to a proper school might have helped her understand non-royal life, the lack of a formal education did not cripple her intellectually. The Real Elizabeth by Andrew Marr

Jubilee Moments

As Jubilee Week comes to a close, I have some thoughts on my favorite parts of the various events celebrating the reign of Queen Elizabeth II:

  • The Gloriana–I thought this “rowbarge” (the word barge seems to have a slightly different meaning in England) was absolutely beautiful, especially when you saw all of the rowers in their synchronized movements.
  • The Belfry Boat–I’d never heard of such a thing before, and maybe never will again, but it was amazing to see and hear this eight-bell boat as it made its way down the Thames.
  • Elderly Soldiers–There was something very moving about seeing the Queen greeting elderly soldiers, some of whom were unable to stand, and even more moving to see their emotional responses to meeting her.
  • Salutes–There were so many salutes over the course of the long weekend, and I just didn’t get tired of the ceremony involved when military members saw the Queen and/or her family.
  • Tower Bridge–I’ve never seen the Tower Bridge get the “full lift” before, as they call it. Apparently the Queen always does receive this honor, regardless of the size of the boat she’s on. It’s amazing to watch it go up, and to see how quickly it’s done!
  • Beacon Lighting–I really liked the symbolism of all of those beacons being lit around the world…it made me wish we had a beacon to light, too!
  • Playing of “Jupiter”–This is one of my favorite pieces of music, from The Planets by Holst. I thought it was very cool when it was played during the fireworks display following the beacon lighting…very inspirational!
  • Charles Saying “Mummy”--A touching personal moment in public, from a family that works so hard to keep its private moments private.
  • The BBC Special–Along those same lines, I loved watching the tribute by Prince Charles that BBC aired. Getting a glimpse into who the royal family really is was fascinating, and it was a touching tribute to Elizabeth, both as Queen and as mother.
  • God Save the Queen–We really don’t have anything like this in America, but hearing the whole crowd chanting this so enthusiastically was thrilling, even for someone who doesn’t really have an allegiance to the Queen.
  • The Te Deum–I’m a sucker for a Te Deum, especially a special occasion Te Deum. I loved hearing this sung as the Queen walked into the church.
  • The Flypast–I love a flight demonstration team, and I’ve been interested in the Red Arrows for several years. The best part was the red, white, and blue trailing behind them…it was almost American!
  • The “Hip-Hip-Hooray”–I guess I didn’t realize that people actually said this, but like the chants of “God Save the Queen,” it was pretty amazing to hear such a throng shouting this in unison.
  • The National Anthem–I never tired of hearing “God Save the Queen” sung over the four days of celebrations, even though it was sung constantly. I don’t think I’ll ever sing “God Bless Our Native Land” quite the same way again!
  • The Fashion–I’m not going to lie…I loved seeing all of the clothing, hats, (oh that I could wear hats!), and jewelry showcased in these events. The Queen always looks beautiful and ladylike, and the other dresses and uniforms were fun to watch and admire!

An Interesting Look at the Imperial State Crown

As long as I’m on a British Monarchy kick…

I love crowns and tiaras…what girl doesn’t? I often try to decide which of the British crowns I love the most, and I find that it’s impossible to pick one. The Imperial State Crown, worn for the yearly State Opening of Parliament is, however, a perennial favorite, partly because of the amazing gems it contains, and partly because it has a lovely shape. This video, narrated by Queen Elizabeth herself, despite its age, gives a great look at the crown, and tells some of its more interesting history.

I also love the music at the end of the video, (“Zadok the Priest”), which I first heard in the movie The Young Victoria, and later came to realize is actually a part of the coronation ceremony.