Nativity Scenes from Around the World–2017 Edition

The 12 Days of Christmas aren’t over yet!

In 2014, we visited the Cathedral of St. Peter in Belleville to see a display of nativity scenes from around the world. We had the chance to go there again last month, where they had a similar display, but with many different nativities than the last time we were there!

There is no doubt about where some of the nativity scenes came from:

My personal favorite was from Germany, although I guess the origin of this one wasn’t as obvious:

I love how unique and beautiful they all were…especially the ones made out of unusual materials, like shells!

The most talked about item was the “hipster nativity scene.” While I wouldn’t want it on display in my home, it certainly was food for thought. There were some things about it that really make me hope that this isn’t how history remembers us, though! Here are some of the things we noticed about it:

  • Solar panels on the stable roof
  • Drone on the stable roof
  • Joseph, sporting man-bun and barefoot, taking selfies
  • Mary, Starbucks cup, duck-face, and possible Uggs
  • Shepherd with an iPad and a sheep with a Christmas sweater
  • Wise men on Segways sporting a combination of fedoras, sunglasses, facial hair, scarves, suspenders, and skinny pants, carrying Amazon boxes
  • 100% organic cow with gluten-free feed

I love seeing how different cultures depict something that has become so common to me!

Christmas on Main Street

I love Belleville’s Main Street. Whether you’re dining out, looking in store windows, or attending one of the great events that take place on the town square (like Art on the Square), it’s just a charming place to be. But there is no better time to visit Main Street than Christmastime…there are beautiful decorations, fancy store windows, horse-drawn trolley rides, and the sounds of Christmas music coming from the Lincoln Theatre.

This year, a beautiful sand sculpture of a glockenspiel added to the holiday decor. I had meant to take a picture of it at night, because it was beautifully lit, but I never had the chance before it started crumbling. At least I got a good shot of it during the day!

The gingerbread houses in the stories windows up and down Main Street are always a family favorite…we love going from shop to shop in anticipation of what we’ll see next, and I am here to tell you that there are some very creative and talented people in Belleville!

A few always stand out as family favorites. Extra kudos to the child who called the tower that houses Big Ben by its proper name!

The Mayor’s Choice winner is always special, because it really captures something special about what makes Belleville unique:

For the last few years, a Christkindlmarkt has joined the other Christmas activities downtown, and I can’t think of anything more perfect, given Belleville’s German heritage! In addition to booths selling unique items, you can grab a bite to eat, warm up in the big tent, visit with reindeer on certain dates, and sometimes, even catch a musical performance!

I’m so happy we live in Belleville…there’s really no place I’d rather be!

Chickadee Thursday

Chickadee loves visiting Belleville’s Main Street at this time of year. There are gingerbread creations to admire, cut-outs to pose in (she’s lucky Ladybug was willing to play along and be the Beast to her Belle!), a giant Christmas countdown calendar, and her favorite, larger-than-life nutcrackers guarding the entrances to the Christkindlmarkt that let her pretend she’s Clara in the Nutcracker!

Tasty Tuesday–Beast Craft BBQ: Beer-Braised Pork Tacos

I think it’s obvious that I’m a fan of Beast Craft BBQ’s beer-braised pork…the carnitas are one of the best things I’ve eaten! They also put that delicious pork on tacos, and I had the chance to try them for the first time on Sunday (I have tried the pulled rib tacos in the past).

Not that I’m surprised, but these are SO GOOD. The flavor is reminiscent of the carnitas, and yet it’s its own thing. Three of the fabulous Beast tortillas (I seriously love these tortillas, whether they’re served plain or fried!), are filled with pork, cotija cheese, and a red cabbage slaw, and topped with both BBQ and fry sauce. They also added a few slices of lime on the side, and a little squeeze of juice adds a lot of flavor! The tacos are just the right amount of spicy, with the right amount of crunch, and the pork is just as good in tacos as it is as carnitas. I wonder if they can find anything else to do with it? If they do, you can be certain I’ll try it!

The Great American Eclipse

Today was the Great American Eclipse, which we have been planning to observe and celebrate for months! Belleville was just barely in the path of totality…and then only if you live south of Main Street. Fortunately, we do!

We started our day with some Sunny D:

And we had a special lunch…eggs sunny side up on “moon muffins” (the nooks and crannies in the English muffins make perfect moon craters, and I’m pretty proud of what I came up with there!), and Star Crunch as a treat. I really don’t get where the star part comes in, as they were round, but they were yummy. We also enjoyed some grape Sunkist, but since it was so dark, we called it “Moonkist!”

We spent a lot of time outside, observing various stages of the eclipse through the solar filters we got at the St. Louis Science Center (Moose got to do the same at his school, where they provided solar filters for all the students). We also had fun making pinhole images with a colander:

I tried taking a picture with a solar filter over the lens on my phone. It didn’t work out too well, but at least it’s something:

But these pictures, which I took about seven minutes apart, at 1:09 and 1:16 in the afternoon, really showcase the change we experienced. The streetlights came on, and we did indeed hear crickets. We even saw the full horizon 360-degree “sunrise!” It was a very moving experience…I found that I was overwhelmed, and quite emotional about it!

The eclipse was over quickly, but we kept the celebration going through dinner, where we had “werewolves” wrapped in crescent (moon) rolls, Sunchips, and a special black cherry soda created by local bottler Excel called Darkest Hour. And I had to drive all over town to find them, but we did get to have Moon Pies for dessert!

This was a special event, both in the fact that any one area doesn’t usually see total solar eclipses too often (unless you live in Carbondale, apparently), and that it’s also rare for such an event to stretch from shore to shore in America. I worked really hard to make a big deal out of it, and I hope it’s something the children will always remember!

Tasty Tuesday–Beast Craft BBQ: The Brisket Mac Attack!

About two weeks ago, Beast Craft BBQ debuted a new “sammich” on their menu, and it had been a long time since I tried one of their sammiches! So on the way home from the grocery store, we stopped and I got the “Brisket Mac Attack”–Texas chainsaw brisket, smoky bacon mac ‘n’ cheese, shredded cheese, and grilled onions on Texas toast. I also got a side order of the mac ‘n’ cheese, because I don’t think I’ve tried it since they landed on their current recipe.

This sammich is not for the faint of heart…the sauce packs some major heat. But it was the perfect combination, because the mac ‘n’ cheese and shredded cheese helped cool it down some, the onions added a nice flavor, and the bread was toasted perfectly…well, the top piece, anyway. The bottom piece had completely disappeared under the meat and sauce, but I assume it was just as good!

Beast has had some other new menu items recently, as well, including pork taquitos which are AMAZING, and grilled peaches topped with blackberry butter and mint, the perfect summer side dish!

I will warn you, if you want to carry out food, especially on a Sunday in our experience, you need to be prepared to wait. Ryan was in the restaurant for almost half an hour waiting for my sammich and his turkey to be prepared, even though it wasn’t overwhelmingly busy, and he was a little frustrated by the time he made it back to the car. Calling ahead definitely alleviates some of that, but I think that on the weekends, you just need to expect that you’re going to have to wait it out.

Art on the Square 2017

It’s Art on the Square weekend in Belleville! This year is the 16th fair, which means Art on the Square has been a thing for as long as our Markel family has…as a matter of fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the first one was the exact same weekend that Ryan and I got married!

This is always one of our family’s most anticipated events of the year, and if I counted correctly, this is the 10th year we have attended. We all love walking around and looking at the different art. And we all love finding new favorites: styles of art, individual pieces, and artists! This year, we were especially impressed with the art made from sculptural felt, something I didn’t even know about before this weekend!

We went on Friday night for the first time this year…usually we go bright and early on Saturday morning. I don’t know if it was because of the impending rain, or if it’s always like this on Friday, but it was busy!

There was so much to see. Jewelry and textiles, glass and sculptures, photography and line drawings, and all the different kinds of paintings you’d expect. I may not understand all the different styles of art, and of course, they can’t all be my personal favorites, but even a novice like me can appreciate how much talent is on display in every booth!

Belleville always looks so pretty for Art on the Square!

Today is the last day of the fair for 2017, and then we have to wait a whole year for it to come back again!