2015 Holiday Lights at the Brewery

Last night, we stopped at the Anheuser-Busch brewery to see their holiday lights display. I think they may have the largest wreath in St. Louis!


Much of the display was the same as last year, and it was beautiful!



There were some new things, too…I really loved this skyline display:


And this mid-century advertisement was amazing!


There were decorations inside, as well…I especially love that they decorated the Clydesdale stable!

And one last glimpse of the main entrance before we left:


I’m so glad the brewery started this new tradition a few years ago, because it’s become one of our family’s favorite Christmas events!

A Markel Family Thanksgiving

I’ve shared bits and pieces of our Thanksgiving traditions here and there, but if you ever wondering what the whole event looks like, from start to finish, here is your chance to find out.

In our house, Thanksgiving is a three-day event. It begins on Wednesday, or what I like to call “Pie Day.” I bake a different pie for each member of our family (although we all eat all of them), and so Wednesday is a day of baking pies. Lots and lots of pies. I also prep the stuffing and make the cranberries on this day, and do a little prep work for Friday’s dinner, as well…lots of vegetable chopping! We have a few fun family activities, like making hand-and-footprint turkeys and reading our favorite Thanksgiving books, too. And we have our favorite shows to watch…the children get to watch the Gilmore Girls “A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving” episode as well as the  Mad About You episode “Giblets for Murray” with us, and when they’re not around, Ryan and I watch all the Friends Thanksgiving episodes, plus the Chuck Thanksgiving/Black Friday shows. In some ways, I like this day better than the holiday itself!

Thanksgiving Day always begins bright and early with Ryan buying me breakfast from Jack in the Box or McDonald’s (to fuel me through all my work), the Macy’s Parade, complete with bingo cards for the children, and a bath for the turkey in the sink, because no matter how early I start thawing it, it’s always still partially frozen on Thanksgiving Day. We usually watch some of the dog show after the parade, and we have fun playing Animal Crossing, and helping Franklin not be part of the town dinner! A lot of this day involves waiting…waiting for the turkey to thaw, waiting until it’s time to put it in the oven, waiting for it to be done (often earlier than I’m expecting), waiting to smack Ryan’s hand when he steals some of the stuffing from the crock-pot, waiting until it’s time to work on the rest of the side dishes, which include a corn and wild rice casserole, green beans with almonds, brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes and (store-bought) gravy, and rolls. Somehow, it all gets made, and it’s all usually even warm when it hits the table!

After dinner, it is, of course, clean up time. Cleaning up the dishes, putting away the leftover food, and boiling down the turkey carcass for soup the next day. While I’m working on this, we always watch Holiday Inn…I’m so glad the living room is open to the kitchen so I can multi-task! After the clean-up is done, and the broth is put away, we enjoy our seven pies for dessert…although I don’t think anyone has ever tried all seven on Thanksgiving Day itself! Once all my work is done for the day, the children might get to have some bonus video game time, while Ryan and I either finish watching our TV shows or Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

Our three-day celebration concludes on Black Friday, a day where we avoid any and all stores if at all possible. Instead, we begin our morning at a decent hour, and enjoy leftover pie for breakfast. The rest of the morning is pretty low-key, but after lunch, the fun begins again, with the building of the yearly Lego Christmas set. This is one of my favorite newer traditions, and is a great family activity. At some point, I start the turkey soup for the night’s dinner, which isn’t too much work thanks to all of the prep work I will have already done. And right after dinner, we head out to our city’s town square (which is really a circle, but I digress), for the town tree-lighting, a community sing, and a trolley ride past the stores hosting the annual Gingerbread Walk. While we’re out, Ryan always buys two bread bowls at St. Louis Bread Co. for our soup leftovers lunch the following day, and then we head home for a quiet evening…or what’s left of it!

I’ve really come to love our Thanksgiving traditions, and even though it’s a lot of work, I can’t imagine doing it any other way!

Gingerbread Walk 2015

It was raining too hard last night for us to enjoy the Belleville Gingerbread Walk the day after Thanksgiving like we usually do. The weather cleared up today, though, so we headed back downtown to walk Main Street, and admire all of the creations.

There were familiar landmarks:

And favorite characters:

Not to mention an iconic spaceship!


I was amused by the gingerbread taco (which happened to be housed in the local sushi restaurant!):


I also enjoyed the nod to a coming Belleville attraction. I personally can’t wait for the Hofbräuhaus to open next year!


It’s always interesting to see the more unusual gingerbread creations:

As well as the more standard houses:

These three were my absolute favorites!

This is definitely one of our favorite Belleville activities every year!

A Wet Tree Lighting

Every year on the day after Thanksgiving, we head to Belleville’s town square after dinner for the annual tree lighting and community sing. This year, we weren’t sure if we were going to go, because it rained all day…Belleville even had to cancel the morning’s Christmas parade. We hear that the tree lighting was going to be held in a tent at the Christmas market, so we decided to go, even if we wouldn’t be able to watch the lights come on.

It turned out to be a really good decision! It was a nice small crowd, the singing was led by an accordion, and we got a look at the new tent, which is well-decorated.


After the sing, we went for our annual trolley ride, and saw the lights in all their soggy glory:


We even briefly walked around the market:


It wasn’t the night we were hoping for, but in the end, I think it was something better than we expected!


The Lego Winter Toy Shop

One of my favorite things about the day after Thanksgiving is sitting down to build our new Christmas Lego set. This year, Lego re-released a set we had previously missed out on…the toy shop. I was very glad to have a second chance to add this to our village!

Each member of the family had a job to do, although Chickadee’s was largely supervisory:

In addition to the shop itself (which has some great details, including a highly prized light brick), the set came with a village Christmas tree, another bench, and some fun minifigs (including a pair of carolers). We also got to build the two free-with-purchase sets from this year…a Christmas train and a gingerbread house:


Next year, we’ll have to relocate our village…there is officially no more room on this shelf!


This tradition is a fun way to kick off our family’s Christmas celebrations every year!

Chickadee Thursday

Like her brothers and sisters, Chickadee spent a lot of her day today sitting in front of the stove, peering through the glass, trying to figure out when the turkey would be done:

She also had fun playing with the Lego turkey that is part of our Thanksgiving centerpiece:

Thanksgiving is definitely one of Chickadee’s favorite days!

Thanksgiving 2015

After a lot of hard work yesterday and today, we were all happy to sit down for our traditional Markel Family Thanksgiving feast this afternoon!

I think I set a pretty nice table, don’t you?


Our spread was about the same as always, with the addition of a corn and wild rice casserole I haven’t made for a few years:


And our seven pies for dessert!


Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!