Spargelparty

Last weekend was the first-ever Markel Family Spargelparty!

When I first came across the idea of an asparagus celebration in one of my Duolingo lessons, I think my family thought I was joking when I said it was something we should do this spring. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I could run with the idea of a meal centered around asparagus…(and it even makes a pretty centerpiece, especially when you have all three colors Eckert’s offers!):

I picked five recipes, all of which were at least somewhat new. There was an asparagus tart, bacon-wrapped asparagus bundles, cream of asparagus soup, asparagus and bacon quiche, and sautéed asparagus with (homemade!) Hollandaise sauce. Many of recipes included lemon, nutmeg, or a combination, and I discovered both are great additions to asparagus dishes. The overwhelming favorite was the soup…it was smooth and delicious.

It was a very spring-y meal!

I offered to incorporate asparagus into our dessert, as well (perhaps an asparagus cheesecake?), but no one took me up on my offer. Instead, I used a mix from Dr. Oetker to make a Käse-Sahne Torte. German Girl in America’s website was very helpful in translating the directions on the box, and I also followed her tips of using plain Greek yogurt instead of the quark, which you can only find around here sometimes, and serving it with fresh strawberries. It was the perfect end to our celebration of spring!

For years I’ve told my children the story of how they ring the church bells in Germany when the asparagus season begins…I’m glad I found a way for us participate in this tradition of celebrating the arrival of spring in a uniquely German way here at home!

Easter 2022

Time for a look back at another Markel Family Easter, which started, as it does every year, on Maundy Thursday:

On Friday, I made hot cross buns (again), but this year, I tried a new recipe:

The Good Friday service was, as always, lovely and moving:

On Saturday morning, while we watched Rick Steves’ European Easter, we made our Paschal Candle for the year…I think this may be the nicest job we’ve ever done!

While I did have work to do on Saturday to prepare for our Easter dinner, most of the day was really spent waiting until it was finally time for my favorite service of the church year, the Great Vigil of Easter:

After church, we stopped at Wendy’s for Frostys and fries:

We’re still getting used to the fact that we don’t have to get up for a sunrise Easter service, so we felt a little more leisurely about getting ready. We were still at church early enough to take pictures outside:

And some indoors, including our traditional by-the-baptismal-font Easter pictures:

The church looked especially beautiful!

Ladybug even got to acolyte:

And we got a nice family picture after the service:

When we got home, I made Easter breakfast, which included Kaiserschmarrn (the Kaiser’s torn pancakes) with Rhabarberkompott (rhubarb compote), hard-boiled eggs (this is really the first time we’ve ever dyed eggs…you’ll see why in a minute), and pomegranate juice:

While we watched Easter Parade and My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding, I found time to play a little Animal Crossing: New Horizons so I could visit with Zipper T. Bunny. I also caught up with Roald, who was wearing an egg suit…I wonder if that’s what he looked like when he hatched?

I spent most of the rest of the day working on dinner and setting the table:

I chose an Italian theme for this year’s dinner. I served the same lamb in the slow cooker we had last year (technically Greek, but more generically Mediterranean, so close enough), lemon parmesan risotto, insalata caprese, roasted cauliflower, panzanella, breaded artichokes, capers, olives, Italian Easter bread, and lemon Italian soda.

I stuck with the Italian theme for dessert…we had cannoli and Italian sprinkle cookies:

This was an especially nice Easter. Maybe it’s because things felt more “normal” (I actually shook hands for the first time in over two years!), maybe it was because the church services were so meaningful, maybe it was because this may be the nicest Easter dinner I’ve ever made. Whatever the reason, I’m thankful we had such a wonderful celebration of Christ’s resurrection!

A More Normal Christmas

After what was a very strange and low-key Christmas last year, this year’s three-day Christmas celebration was closer to the normal we remember. We started the day on Christmas Eve by forgetting to eat the Christmas Crunch I had been saving specifically for that day. The Fab Five (specifically Turkey) finished building the Lego Millennium Falcon in the morning:

I found some time to play Animal Crossing and deliver gifts to all my neighbors:

We enjoyed Portillo’s for an early dinner before church:

And we got to go to church inside this Christmas Eve!

On the way home, we stopped to see the city of St. Louis Christmas tree and drove through the Way of Lights:

Of course I took pictures when we got home!

We lit the Advent wreath and had birthday cake:

And the Fab Five received their yearly gift of Christmas jammies…this year’s theme was gnomes!

I filled the stockings and made sure the tree and nativity scene were just right before I went to bed:

On Christmas Day morning we had our traditional Christmas coffee cake, plus the previously-forgotten Christmas Crunch:

We got to go to church on Christmas Day this year!

And I even had a chance to take a picture of the Fab Five without their masks before the service because we arrived so early and there was hardly anybody else there yet:

We opened presents after we got home:

And had the best meal of the year, the “pick out dinner.”

There were old favorites and a few new items:

I think the star of the meal, though, was the charcuterie board I put together, featuring salame roses:

Seriously, it’s the most delicious dinner ever!

And this morning, we were back at church, and again we had an opportunity to take a mask-free picture, this time of the whole family!

Tonight we had our fancy Christmas dinner, featuring beef Wellington:

It was also a delicious dinner (but not as good as the pick out dinner!).

For dessert I made both a gingerbread Yule log with sugared cranberries and a more traditional chocolate variety:

So this Christmas was still a little different, but more familiar than last year. I’m so grateful we had more opportunities for worship this year, and the ability to have family visit. Maybe next Christmas will be more normal still!

Thanksgiving 2021

Time for a look at our annual three-day-long Thanksgiving celebration, beginning with a beautiful sunrise on Wednesday morning, which gave me encouragement to bake nine pies, prep two different kinds of stuffing, and make the cranberry sauce.

On Thanksgiving Day, we had fun watching the Macy’s Parade and playing Thanksgiving Day Parade Bingo, picking our favorite dogs at the National Dog Show, and playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Of course, there was dinner to attend to, as well. I thought the table looked extra pretty this year…maybe that’s because we had guests to set it for!

The menu was a mix of old and new. I made our traditional stuffing to go with the turkey, but also a new recipe for everything bagel stuffing. I also tried a new roasted winter vegetable dish to go alongside our usual green beans with almonds. Of course we also had mashed potatoes and gravy, rolls, and cranberry sauce:

It made a very pretty plate!

For dessert, all of the pies. Sadly, the pie I was most looking forward to trying, cranberry custard, didn’t set right, so even though it looked pretty, it didn’t come out right at all. I guess that’s the risk you run when you try a new recipe on a holiday!

This morning started with one of our favorite traditions of pie for breakfast.

I was very happy to get to go see Moose march in our town’s Santa Parade for the first time since 2019, and for the first time with the high school marching band! We honestly weren’t planning on staying for the whole thing since his group was near the beginning, but it was fun as well as short, so we ended up seeing it all!

I enjoyed having a place to wear one of my new Erstwilder Christmas brooches:

Turkey sandwiches for lunch are another great thing about the day after Thanksgiving!

And more pie:

We built the annual addition to our Lego winter village:

And had turkey soup for dinner:

After dinner, some of us went back downtown for the tree lighting and community sing:

And more pie for dessert when we got back home:

There you have it. It was a mostly normal holiday, and it was good to do things that felt familiar again!

Reformation Day/Halloween 2021

Today was the rare occasion where Reformation Day/Halloween actually falls on a Sunday. We started the day at church, where we enjoyed some especially amazing music featuring hymns written by Martin Luther:

We went for a short walk in Forest Park after the service, where we enjoyed the beautiful fall colors (in spite of the wind):

I was so excited to pick up a box of Monster Mash cereal for the Fab Five for breakfast!

This afternoon, we watched The Nightmare Before Christmas for the first time, as well as It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. For dinner, I made potato-parsnip soup, cheese and jam turnovers, and butterbeer…it was the perfect meal for today!

Dessert was the Jell-O Halloween Special, as advertised by Harlow Wilcox in the 1940s…”Looks like a dish of sunshine all dressed up, doesn’t it?”

I chose my costume in Animal Crossing: New Horizons with great care…I’m a hot dog!

I tracked down the Czar of Halloween right away.

I think my neighbors enjoyed the festivities, too!

This was a busier Halloween than most for us, and it was a very fun day!

Oktoberfest 2021

For the second year in a row, we didn’t get to go to the inaugural Great North American Oktoberfest in St. Louis (and at this point, I’m kind of thinking that the event will never happen), but we did have a happy Markel Family Oktoberfest at home! I started last week by assembling all of our favorite German foods from Aldi’s Deutsche Küche:

For lunch, we had cheddar and beer fondue with homemade pretzels, German pickles, and Nürnberger Bratwurst, plus more pretzels with beer mustard and nacho cheese sauce for those who don’t like fondue:

Dinner was schnitzel with optional Jäger sauce, spaetzle, sauerkraut, artichoke and cheese strudel, and red cabbage with apples:

And dessert was, of course, Black Forest cherry torte:

I also had a fun Oktoberfest celebration with my neighbors in Animal Crossing: New Horizons:

It wasn’t quite the Oktoberfest I had hoped for (again), especially after I derailed our pretzel-making to go to Urgent Care to have a splinter removed (that was unpleasant!), but it was a fun day of celebrating our German heritage!

Easter in the Time of COVID-19

Time for another look at a Markel Family holiday in the time of COVID-19!

Last year, I was all about keeping as many things as normal as possible for everyone. This year, I decided to embrace the new and different as much as I could. For starters, even though I’m now back to grocery shopping once a week instead of every two weeks, and could have bought hot cross buns from the bakery, I decided to make a batch again this year:

We went to our new church for the evening Maundy Thursday service to begin the Holy Triduum, and it was short, but very nice:

On Good Friday we were back at our new church for an equally moving (and equally short) Tenebrae service:

On Holy Saturday, we watched Rick Steves’ European Easter and made our Paschal candle for the year, as is our tradition. This one didn’t turn out so well, but it still gets the job done!

We attended the Great Vigil of Easter at our new church…I’m so glad they offer that service. More of it was spent outside than we are used to, and that was really nice!

After church, instead of getting sundaes from McDonald’s like we usually do, we got Frosty’s and fries at Wendy’s, and I introduced the Fab Five to the culinary experience that is dipping the fries in the Frosty:

We didn’t have a sunrise service this year, but I was still up early enough to see the sunrise:

And even though we didn’t need to leave the house super-early, I still bought our traditional Pop-Tarts:

It was a beautiful morning!

I took pictures of the Fab Five in the garden outside of church:

Since I couldn’t really take pictures of them inside the church (and especially by the baptismal font) like I usually do, I did that the day of Chickadee’s confirmation:

Our new church is beautiful!

After church, we came home and made Easter breakfast…eggs and sausage, English muffins, pomegranate juice, and every flavor of mini donut I could find…seven varieties. Maybe we’ll be able to go to Easter breakfast at church again in the future, but for now, it’s nice to have the meal at home!

I may have completed all of the Bunny Day goals in Animal Crossing: New Horizons last year, but I still checked in with Zipper T. Bunny:

We had fun watching some of our favorite Easter movies today, including My Big, Fat Greek Wedding, Easter Parade, and It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown. While we did that, I made sure the table looked pretty for dinner:

And made our Easter feast for dinner. I tried a new leg of lamb recipe in the crock-pot, which was both amazingly delicious and easy. We also had Greek potatoes, carrot fritters, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, breaded artichokes, cherry Jell-O, and popovers:

For dessert, I made carrot cake Oreo truffles:

No matter what stays the same or what is different from year to year, our reason for celebrating remains constant. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!!!

Christmas in the Time of COVID-19

Time for a look at this year’s scaled-back Christmas celebration. Some things were the same, like starting Christmas Eve with a bowl of Christmas Crunch:

Some things were different…but not necessarily because of COVID-19. I had a fun time playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons and helping Jingle deliver his gifts yesterday morning:

The Fab Five finished this year’s Advent project, Lego Diagon Alley:

And I played Animal Crossing some more:

Our Christmas Eve dinner was different this year…I ordered tamales from Portillo’s, and we had them before church.

I always take pictures before church. This year, I took two sets. One with the year’s hottest accessory:

And one without:

This year, we attended an outdoor Christmas Eve service. It was cold, so we weren’t too sad it was short (although I missed all off the familiar Christmas hymns!). We did chuckle when a helicopter flew over during “Silent Night,” drowning out the singing!

We drove through the Way of Lights on the way home:

For Jesus’ birthday cake this year, I made a peppermint chocolate cake with two kinds of frosting (white chocolate peppermint buttercream inside, and an Italian buttercream outside). I think this is one of the best cakes I’ve ever made!

Of course there were new Christmas jammies:

We skipped playing Ticket to Ride on Christmas Eve, so I just had to fill the stockings and set up the nativity scene under the tree before bed:

We didn’t have to get up early, so we enjoyed our traditional Christmas morning coffee cake a little later than usual (but not much):

And since we didn’t have a Christmas Day service to go to (probably the biggest disappointment of the holiday for me), we opened presents in the morning, which was very strange!

We had our traditional Christmas Eve “pick out dinner” for Christmas Day lunch…and dinner (we’re saving our fancy Christmas feast for Sunday…stay tuned!). Here’s a look at some of the things we had:

We spent the afternoon watching Christmas movies, including my very favorite, White Christmas. We played our annual Christmas Eve game of Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries tonight. And since we were a day late, we also played the new Ticket to Ride game Ryan gave me, the 15th anniversary edition with clear trains, which I love! Everything is different this year…we might as well embrace it!

“Hail, O everlasting morn!
Hail, redemption’s happy dawn!
Sing through all Jerusalem:
‘Christ is born in Bethlehem!'”

Merry Christmas!

Thanksgiving in the Time of COVID-19

If there’s anything that didn’t change too much for us this year due to COVID-19, it was Thanksgiving. That’s not to say things weren’t different at all, but we never travel for Thanksgiving, so at least we didn’t miss that, and we don’t always have family over, so while we missed seeing them, it wasn’t necessarily expected either. So, a lot of our three-day Thanksgiving holiday looked pretty much the same, starting with Pie Day on Wednesday, when we baked eight pies (seven for our family, and this year, one to give away).

In the middle of the baking, the children also made their yearly hand-and-footprint turkeys…Turkey and Bunny were kind enough to play along again this year at my request, since it is their last year in my homeschool.

We watched a very different version of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thanksgiving morning (in the words of Al Roker, it wasn’t the parade we wanted, but it was the parade we needed), which we enjoyed very much because it was something somewhat familiar. The same went for the National Dog Show, which was extra exciting for me this year because the dog I wanted to win actually did! And then we got ready for dinner. One of the best parts of any holiday is setting the table:

And the food. There was a lot of food, even with the turkey mishap we had in the morning (I ended up having to throw out the turkey I had purchased to roast, and we decided to order a second Beast Craft BBQ smoked turkey to ensure we had enough leftovers).

It’s always a pretty-looking dinner!

After clean-up and Holiday Inn, I got out the pies:

I limited myself to trying two kinds. This was my first attempt at lemon meringue pie, and I was very pleased with the results!

I made sure to play Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and helped Franklin prepare his holiday feast:

The day after Thanksgiving has been pretty different. We didn’t get to see Moose march in our town’s Santa Parade this year, which was disappointing…I’d really come to enjoy that event. And there was no town tree lighting or gingerbread house walk or trolley ride to look forward to after dinner. This morning, though, the family traditions did continue with pie-for-breakfast:

And turkey sandwiches for lunch, which I almost like better than Thanksgiving dinner itself!

Lego building is also part of our day-after-Thanksgiving celebration…I built the free-with-purchase A Christmas Carol set we received:

I always make turkey soup for dinner the day after Thanksgiving:

And after dinner, the Fab Five built a Lego Harry Potter set to add to our Hogwarts setup in the school room.

It wasn’t exactly the Thanksgiving we had planned, but all things considered, we had a very nice family celebration!

A Markel Family Easter, Isolation Edition

I think we can all agree that Easter was weird this year, right? Without our normal church commitments like choir, acolyting, and serving on altar guild, Holy Week and Easter Sunday fell a bit flat. But whether we were at church or not, we still had reason to celebrate, so I tried to make this time at home as special as possible.

On Maundy Thursday, we enjoyed some beautiful weather while we were out for a walk in our neighborhood before we “went” to church, which we watched from the comfort of our living room.

We were a little busier on Good Friday, with some baking (including homemade hot cross buns for the first time!), and another walk, before we once again watched the church service from our living room.

We were especially busy on Holy Saturday. We did some more baking, including these amazing rosemary dinner rolls, one of my favorite new recipes that I’ve tried:

We also made our new Paschal Candle for the year, as we usually do on Holy Saturday…it was disappointing not being able to take it to the Easter Vigil, though!

We had a fairly last-minute change of Easter dinner plans, because Beast Craft BBQ announced that they were going to be selling hams, so Ryan went and picked that up Saturday afternoon. It smelled amazing, and there was great restraint on the part of everyone in the house, because we left it alone until Easter dinner!

I dug out some extra candles so we could really feel like we were participating in the Great Vigil of Easter:

But once again from our living room:

We always get hot fudge sundaes at McDonald’s on the way home from the service, so I tried to recreate that experience, as well:

We didn’t “need” Pop-Tarts for breakfast this year (do you ever really need Pop-Tarts?),, because we didn’t have to get up as early for the sunrise service, but tradition is tradition!

I was very happy to get to sing my favorite Easter hymn at the first service, which we attended from, you guessed it, our living room!

We always have Easter breakfast at church between services, so I tried to replicate that experience, too. Homemade biscuits and sausage gravy were the star of the meal (both of which I prepared on Saturday), because that’s what they serve at church, plus sausage patties, eggs, orange juice, and mini donuts:

I always take pictures after breakfast, and this year was no different. Yes, we all got dressed up, even though we were at home!

I really missed taking photos of the children by the baptismal font, but at least I got pictures of them on Easter, right?

I already shared the details of my Easter outfit, but here’s one more picture, with Ladybug, because this was her first occasion to wear a dress from Pinup Girl Clothing!

Back inside, and back to the living room for the second service, where we sang another favorite hymn:

The church part of the day was over much quicker than usual, which was sad. I did have plenty of time to prepare our Easter dinner, though, starting with setting the table with our china and spring table linens:

On the menu: ham, mashed potatoes, a trio of green vegetables (Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and green beans with almonds), cherry Jell-O, and rosemary dinner rolls. It was a delicious meal!

For dessert I made the same lemon cheesecake with lemon-rosemary shortbread crust that I made last year:

We’re not done, yet, though! Since Easter is a celebration that keeps on going, and since our dinner plans had changed after I had already bought what was supposed to be the main course of Easter dinner, we had another special meal tonight…rack of lamb with some new sides (roast potatoes and cauliflower), plus some repeats (Brussels sprouts, green beans, Jell-O, and rolls), plus more cheesecake for dessert!

So there you have what was the strangest Easter I have ever experienced. Of course, our reason for celebrating never changes, but just the same, nothing felt quite right, and I truly hope we never have another Easter like it!