The Markel Family Returns to Chicagoland–Day Four

On Sunday it was time for all of us (minus Ryan and Turkey) to head home so that Moose could march with his school’s band in the town Memorial Day parade on Monday. We said a sad goodbye to Combo Breaker:

And got a few last pictures:

We took one last walk around the beautiful hotel lobby:

And then hit the road. We were excited to watch the odometer kick over to 80,000 miles on the way. We were even more excited to stop at Portillo’s and eat lunch on their patio!

It was weird arriving home without two members of our family, but they returned Monday with gifts. I didn’t have the opportunity to stop at a Jewel-Osco while we were in Chicago, but Ryan found time to buy my favorite chocolate torte:

And he brought back staff medals for the entire family as thanks for the work we did over the weekend…I was rather overwhelmed at being recognized!

And so that wraps up what was a slightly shorter than usual but greatly appreciated trip up to Chicagoland for Combo Breaker. Hopefully it won’t be another three years before we make it back, but like I said, I won’t take it for granted again!

The Markel Family Returns to Chicagoland–Day Three

We were up early enough on Saturday to be on the Combo Breaker floor before pretty much anyone else (other than staff) showed up:

It was the perfect time for our traditional Combo Breaker family photo!

After that, we parted ways again to do our respective jobs. Ryan and Turkey were working the full day again, and the rest of headed off to fill more bags for the next several hours. We were working with someone which made it a lot of fun, and the time passed quickly! After we finally ran out of hand sanitizer and had to stop, we took a break for ice cream at Oberweis:

Back at the hotel, we took yet another walk…I don’t think the place has a bad side!

We spent the rest of our time that day at Combo Breaker…we knew it was our last night there, and we wanted to make it last. We got to see an auction tournament for the first time, which was loads of fun, and caught one final before we left. We also got to see parts of a wedding that was taking place at the hotel, which was also fun!

We took the long way back to our room (outside again) to enjoy the night view one more time.

Up next…all good things must come to an end!

The Markel Family Returns to Chicagoland–Day Two

The second day of our trip was the one I was most looking forward to, because after three long years, we were finally going to go back to Chicago! The weather forecast wasn’t promising, but in the end, although it was quite cool, the rain lifted, and that was good enough for us. We got to leave from a new-to-us Metra station (Palatine), so we saw a bunch of different suburbs on our way downtown.

The sights that greeted us were just like I remembered:

It was so good to be back!

Bunny took some time to feed some pigeons:

And one even photobombed her!

Mostly, we just walked around and took it all in. It was so much fun to see all of our favorite places (and some new ones), and we even stopped to listen to a street musician (who was very talented!) for a bit. The only thing we didn’t get to do that I would have liked was see Buckingham Fountain and Lake Michigan, but it was very windy, and that was in the opposite direction of the other stuff we had planned, so I settled on seeing a sliver of my lake from a distance.

We walked up the Magnificent Mile to Water Tower Place, something new for us. We stopped in to see the big American Girl store and the Lego Store (two of our favorite places):

We also spent some time in Jane Byrn Park by the historic Water Tower:

After that, we made our way to the Plaza of the Americas so we could visit the “Wings of Mexico” art installation, which is “a symbol of the immigrant journey and celebrates Chicago as a sanctuary city.” Moose didn’t care to have his picture taken, but us gals couldn’t resist!

No visit to Chicago would be complete without a stop at the former Marshall Field’s on State Street to buy a box of Frango Mints!

And then we made our way back to the train and said goodbye to my favorite city. The last time I said goodbye, I assumed I’d be back “soon.” Three years later, and without Turkey joining us because he was working Combo Breaker the whole day, I finally made it back. I really hated to leave, and I’ll never take it for granted again.

Back at the hotel, Combo Breaker had begun, so we spent some time on the floor, taking in all those sights, too.

We also enjoyed playing some of the arcade games they had set up, including Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Donkey Kong.

We couldn’t resist another walk outside, where the evening light was perfect. Also, we enjoyed watching muskrats swim in the hotel ponds…who knew?!?

We also found time for one more evening swim…it wasn’t quite the same as swimming under the stars at Pheasant Run’s outdoor pool, but it was still fun!

One last look before bed:

Up next…a full day of Combo Breaker!

The Markel Family Returns to Chicagoland–Day One

I haven’t had the opportunity to do too many “Markel Family Road Trip Wrap-Ups” over the last few years, but I’m back with a big one, because Combo Breaker returned to Chicagoland over Memorial Day weekend!

Ryan and Turkey left for the event last Wednesday, but Moose had one last final that day, so the rest of us hit the road on Thursday (major thanks to Ryan’s parents for letting us borrow their second car to make it all work!). The drive through Illinois was, as always, pretty boring, but we did get to stop at the fairly new Wally’s in Pontiac to get gas and stretch our legs, and that in itself was quite an experience…I had no idea a “jerky bar” was a thing!

Our destination was the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center, the new home of Combo Breaker. As much as I loved Pheasant Run, this was a real upgrade, and we really enjoyed just walking around the hotel (inside and out), and taking it all in:

Our room wasn’t ready when we arrived, so after stashing our stuff in the “boys’ room,” we went down to the event space to see how we could help. They were, I think, happy to see us, as they put us to work immediately, filling the registrants’ bags. It was fun being part of the work that goes on behind the scenes, and we got to see a lot of people as we worked, but I don’t think we were as happy to see anyone as Bunny was to finally get to meet her favorite fighting game commentator, Tasty Steve!

I took a break from bagging to check into our room, which was very nice…we especially liked the “wish” artwork on the wall!

The view wasn’t bad either!

After we finished our work for the day, we headed down to the pool, which was very nice (it was a saltwater pool, which I enjoyed), and we had the whole thing to ourselves!

We also took one last walk around the property…it’s a very beautiful place!

Up next…a day I waited three years for!

An Early Vacation Souvenir

I’m so excited about our family vacation this summer, I already bought a souvenir, and we don’t even leave until next month!

I knew I wanted to get a RockLove Jewelry Kyber Crystal necklace to commemorate our time at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, even without knowing for sure if they’re sold anywhere at Disney. When RockLove had their birthday sale last month, I decided to just go ahead and order it ahead of time, promising myself I wouldn’t wear it until our trip (although I am going to make an exception on Star Wars Day!). I chose Princess Leia’s Kyber Crystal, both because I think it’s the prettiest necklace in the collection, and because the words “optimism, stability, serenity” really resonated with me.

I’m really looking forward to wearing this unique piece, and I’m glad I already have something to remember our trip by!

Getting Ready

Our hotel reservations have been made, our tickets to Disney World have been purchased…we even put new tires on the van! Now all we have to do is wait out the last few months before our postponed-due-to-COVID-19 epic family vacation begins!

The Top Five–Things I’m Looking Forward to in 2022

I’m not going to lie…I’m a little reluctant to even try to put this list together, because the one and only other time I came up with a list of things I was looking forward to in the new year, it was 2020, and I think we all know how that turned out (one of the five was cancelled outright, and one was postponed a full year). I do have some things I’m really excited about this year, though, things that I’m praying will all happen as expected, so let’s take a look at what I’m most anticipating!

  • Family Vacation–We were supposed to take a big family vacation in 2021…it was kind of going to be a celebration of Turkey and Bunny graduating from high school, and we were going to visit Disney World and especially Galaxy’s Edge, among other things. We realized pretty quickly that we would need to postpone the trip, so now we’re planning on going this summer, and I’m really praying it all works out, because we’ve added some destinations, and I’m really excited about it!
  • Alison Weir’s New Book–For six years in a row, Alison Weir had a new fiction book published in May, each focusing on the life of one of the wives of Henry VIII. I was pretty sad when the last book came out in 2021, because I didn’t know what I’d look forward to reading at the beginning of our summer vacation, but then I found out that this year, she’s publishing a book about Elizabeth of York…I can’t wait to read it!
  • Beijing 2022–I have mixed feelings about even looking forward to this, partly because, like the Summer Olympics last year, I feel like it should probably be postponed/cancelled, and partly because I think a diplomatic boycott is a coward’s boycott, and we really shouldn’t be participating on principle. Despite my misgivings, though, I know I’m going to watch, and I really love the Olympics…
  • The Platinum Jubilee–I have been looking forward to Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee for 10 years, ever since, during the Diamond Jubilee, a quite-young Turkey asked me what the next celebration would be called, and I guessed “Platinum.” It seemed so far away then, and Her Majesty was already quite elderly at that time, but here we are, about six weeks away from the anniversary of her accession to the throne, and I’m looking forward to celebrating her extensive reign!
  • “2”sday–I can’t believe our good fortune that 2/22/22 falls on a Tuesday! This is exactly the kind of thing that amuses me, and I’m so excited about it, I think this year Bobunk will fall on that date! It’s the little things in life…

I can already see how up to three of these things could go south very quickly, but I’m going to hold out hope that there will be no major hiccups this year, because that’s all we have…hope and a nectarine.