The Home Opener

Baseball is back in St. Louis!

After what has seemed like a never-ending winter (that still isn’t over!), today’s Cardinals home opener came as a bright spot in an endless sea of grey. We had our traditional Opening Day dinner of hot dogs, brats, pretzels, and nachos, with special baseball cupcakes for dessert. All the fixin’s for Chicago-style hot dogs, chili dogs, and brats are quite a sight!

As always, I also took a picture of the Fab Five in their Cardinals gear:

Happy Baseball Day St. Louis!

A Markel Family Easter

I’ve shared a lot about what Markel Family holidays look like over the last few years, but I don’t think I’ve gone into any detail about a Markel Family Easter yet. It’s definitely a big event…while most of our holidays are celebrated over two (and occasionally three) days, a Markel Family Easter is a four-day event, because the Great Triduum cannot be separated from Easter Sunday!

Our observance of the Triduum always begins on Holy (Maundy) Thursday. Because the children were singing with their choir in St. Louis, we were not at our home church, but at one of our sister congregations. It was a beautiful service!

We were feeling especially ambitious on Good Friday. We started the day at another sister congregation in Waterloo, where we participated in a Karfreitag service, which is a German Good Friday service. We may not have understood all of the words, but the meaning was clear!

We then attend the Chief Service with our congregation, where we were privileged to receive the Lord’s Supper.

And that evening, we were back in St. Louis, where we again participated in the Chief Service, but this time with Schalk’s “The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to St. John” sung by the choir.

Much of Holy Saturday is a day of preparation, where I attempted to make as much of our Easter meal ready as possible. I baked bread and made a cake, and trimmed the lamb for our dinner. Once all that was done, we turned our attention to our big Holy Saturday tradition…the making of the Paschal candle for the year:

We then took our candle to the Great Vigil of Easter at another sister congregation, where we had it lit for the first time at the beginning of the service. This is definitely my favorite church service of the year, and it’s always over far too quickly. We did stop for hot fudge sundaes at McDonald’s on the way home, as we have for close to a decade, though, to keep the celebration going!

And that brings us to this morning, where we were up very early on the first day of the week for the Easter Sunrise service.

Bunny was not only the acolyte but the crucifer!

After the service was one of my favorite breakfasts of the year…our church makes great biscuits and gravy!

I have to take pictures after breakfast:

And then it’s time for the Divine Service. We were privileged to serve on the altar guild this morning, and we took extra care trying to make sure things were just right for this festival of festivals!

All four of The Bigs were able to assist in this service. Moose and Ladybug were acolytes and torchbearers, Bunny carried in the much-missed Alleluia banner, and Turkey was the crucifer:

After church and lunch at home, I got started on our Easter dinner:

This recipe for lamb stew was started on the stove top, and then finished cooking in the oven:

We had some beautiful new tables linens this year courtesy of my generous in-laws. The children loved being able to choose their own napkin color! I loved how spring-like the table looked!!!

Our dinner of lamb stew, homemade French baguettes, cherry Jell-O “salad”, and sparkling apple cider was a fairly simple holiday meal in some ways, and yet it was something everyone wanted and something I don’t usually make, so in the end, I think it was the perfect holiday meal!

Did I mention it was also delicious?

For dessert, we had a sponge cake soaked in lemon syrup, filled with lemon curd and filled and frosted with a lemon mascarpone cream:

It was also delicious!

It has been a busy, reverent, exhausting few days. But I wouldn’t want it any other way, and I’m so happy to celebrate our Lord’s resurrection the way we do!

A Markel Family St. Patrick’s Day

It’s time for another Markel Family holiday recap! Like all good holidays, the fun really started last night, when we set our leprechaun trap:

We watched every episode of Rick Steves’ Europe featuring Ireland that we could find (I think there were four on Hulu), and then watched Riverdance. And I had a Shamrock Shake, because I have to have one every year!

Early this morning, we went downstairs to discover that as is the case every year, even though it looked like we had caught something in our trap, all we found was a small treat (leprechaun-sized “cobblestones” that were actually Dove mint chocolates):

This year’s breakfast of Lucky Charms was extra special, because we found a limited edition green marshmallows variety!

In between preparing dinner and working on Turkey’s birthday cake for tomorrow, I found some time to bring my St. Patrick’s Day spirit to Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp:

This really was the children’s “lucky” day, because they also got a special treat with lunch…St. Patrick’s Day cakes!

Of course I took a picture of them all in their wildly varying shades of green:

We had our usual dinner of corned beef and cabbage, roast carrots and potatoes, and soda bread with Irish butter. But this year, we had something extra special to go with it…Green River soda, a Chicago favorite that I remember from my childhood. I managed to pick up a few bottles when we were in Chicago in January, and we used every ounce of self-control we have not to open them until today!

And for dessert, Guinness cake, which I think may be our family’s favorite cake!

It was another fun St. Patrick’s Day, and there’s even more fun to come tomorrow on Turkey’s 15th birthday!

One Last Korean Feast for the Closing Ceremonies

Just over two weeks ago, I shared the Korean dinner I made for the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics…tonight I made another special meal for the Closing Ceremonies. I used the same cookbook, and we tried two new foods…Sundubu-jjigae (spicy soft tofu stew) and Gaji-namul (steamed eggplant). Once again, I got to work with some new ingredients and cooking methods.

One of the ingredients in the stew was kimchi, so we had that as a side dish again, along with short-grain rice. I even found Jinro, a brand of soju (a distilled beverage), for the adults in the house! I strained my stew because I wanted to make sure I found one of the eggs, but everybody else enjoyed it as soup like you’re supposed to.

I left the gold and silver table linens we used at our tea party on the table, to complete our Olympic look:

When I was researching Korean food and culture, I discovered that we know as Moon Pies in America are quite popular in Korea. I managed to find Choco-Pies made by the Orion Confectionary Company, a South Korean confectioner!

This meal was even more foreign to us than the one I made for the Opening Ceremonies. It was also quite popular, but I will confess…I didn’t like the stew! I’m glad the children enjoyed it, though, and I really liked the experience of making something new and special as we say goodbye to the Olympics!

A Taste of Asia to Celebrate the Lunar New Year

When I was planning our special meals to celebrate the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, I realized that the Lunar New Year was going to fall right in the middle of the festivities. China is probably the first country that comes to mind when you think of Lunar New Year celebrations, but Korea, Vietnam, and several other Asian countries also observe this holiday. I also discovered that while it no longer is, it also used to be on Japan’s calendar, too. With that information in mind, I decided to make not just a Korean meal, but a whole “Taste of Asia!”

I did most of the cooking from scratch. I made shrimp egg rolls (which I’ve done once before) and Japanese pork gyoza, as well as more of the Korean fried tofu we enjoyed last week, and some light Vietnamese shrimp spring rolls. We also bought a package of frozen pork buns from the Asian market, and I used my bamboo steamer for the first time to prepare those. And Ryan went out and bought some crab rangoon from our favorite Chinese restaurant…they make them so well, there was no way I was going to bother trying to replicate them at home!

It was a nice selection of foods, from a good variety of Asian countries!

I even tried some Japanese sake for the first time:

I confess…I didn’t make any of the dessert from scratch. But we found two varieties of mochi (red bean and green tea) at the Asian market, and I bought a bag of fortune cookies, as well:

This was another fun meal, and gave us all the opportunity to try some new things. I’m planning one more big Korean dinner before the end of the Olympics, so stay tuned!

A Korean Feast for the Opening Ceremonies

The Opening Ceremonies of any Olympics are always reason for a feast!

I have been so excited all week, because I have been planning a Korean dinner to celebrate PyeongChang 2018. I spent a lot of time looking through the Korean cookbook I purchased just for this occasion, and choosing the things I wanted to cook for our Korean feast. When I finally came up with the menu, I realized there were quite a few ingredients in the meal that were new to us:

I had fun cooking all of the various components of our dinner…especially those that required me to work on my wok skills:

We had sweet potato starch noodles with stir-fried vegetables and beef (japchae), panfried tofu with spicy seasoning sauce (dububuchim-yangnyeomjang), and kimchi. I made everything except the kimchi, and originally, I had planned to make that, too, but I think I’ve watched too much Food Network, and it scared me a little!

It was a delicious dinner, and to my surprise, everyone enjoyed the tofu, which was probably the most foreign item on the menu!

For dessert, I had planned to make panfried sweet rice cakes with edible flowers (hwajeon) to go with the pear punch (baesuk) that has been steeping in the fridge all week. When I couldn’t find the necessary edible flowers, I bought a package of Korean rice cookies instead. But then Ladybug and I decided that mint leaves might work instead of the flowers, and you know what? They were delicious!

We had a really fun time trying out some very new-to-us Korean foods, and not only did I love cooking some new foods,  I was pleased with how much everyone enjoyed the things I made. We have a few other fun foods to try during the Olympics…I hope they’re as popular as tonight’s dinner!

My First Foray into Japanese Cooking

For Christmas, I bought Ryan a Japanese cookbook, with the promise I would cook the things he found interesting. My first chance came tonight, for his early birthday celebration.

Some of the ingredients were familiar to me, but there was also a whole lot of new stuff in the dinner prep!

For his birthday dinner, Ryan picked pork gyoza with a spicy dipping sauce plus pork tonkatsu sandwiches, served with shredded cabbage, Bulldog sauce, and Kewpie mayo. We also found Japanese Sapporo beer to go with the meal:

There is definitely a learning curve to both the cooking and the timing of the dishes (not to mention the clean-up, which was super fun with our dishwasher out of commission!), but everything tasted great, so I think it was a pretty successful first attempt!