A Markel Family Easter, 2019 Edition

Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti!

It may be hard to believe, because this year, it seemed like Lent lasted an eternity, but it’s time for another Markel Family Easter celebration! As always, it was a four-day affair, beginning with the Divine Service on Holy Thursday, where we got to hear Moose and Ladybug’s choir sing.

On Friday, we had the opportunity to experience a worship service that was new to (most) of us…the Good Friday Tre Ore service, which was a circuit event hosted at a church in south St. Louis, where once again, Moose and Ladybug’s choir sang…and this time, Bunny also joined in. We stayed for one of the three hours, and we really enjoyed the solemnity of the segments of the service we participated in.

We spent our Good Friday afternoon walking around the Missouri Botanical Garden and Forest Park. It was a blustery, but beautiful, day:

In the evening, Ryan, Turkey, and Bunny sang with the adult choir for the Good Friday Chief Service.

Holy Saturday is always a busy day. There was cooking, rehearsing at church for the Easter Sunrise Service, cooking, and the making of the family Paschal Candle:

Of course, the highlight of Holy Saturday is my favorite church service of the entire year, The Great Vigil of Easter!

After the vigil, we always stop at McDonald’s to get hot fudge sundaes for the Fab Five:

We never get enough sleep on Holy Saturday night, but the promise of Pop-Tarts before the Sunrise Service helps get the children out of bed.

This year, since Easter was so late, the sunrise was a little farther along than we’re used to!

Bunny, Moose, and Ladybug got to dress up and help with the outdoor reenactment before church:

Our sanctuary always looks especially beautiful for Easter!

After the first service, we enjoyed Easter breakfast in the church basement…I love the biscuits and gravy!

Of course I had to take pictures after breakfast:

I also had Ryan take a picture of me, because I love this year’s Easter outfit!

Did I mention I like to take pictures?




We had the privilege of serving on Altar Guild for the Divine Service:

And Moose and Ladybug got to acolyte, and all four of “The Bigs” participated in the processional:


Following an afternoon of watching movies, we had a nice Easter dinner. I made sure that the table looked extra pretty, since I failed in that department at Christmas.

Our rosemary-themed feast included leg of lamb (marinated in garlic and rosemary), rosemary smashed potatoes, sautéed asparagus, roast carrots and Brussels sprouts, rosemary dinner rolls with rosemary-garlic butter, and cherry Jell-O “salad.” We also had multiple options for both sparkling grape juice and wine, since I couldn’t decide what I wanted to serve.

I think this might be the best Easter dinner I’ve ever made!

For dessert, we had lemon cheesecake with a lemon-rosemary shortbread crust, and it was delicious!

After dinner, we watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which is one of my favorite fun Easter traditions!

I love the way we celebrate Easter…it’s a been a busy, exhausting four days, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

A Markel Family Epiphany

Epiphany has always been a festive day in our house, because it’s Ryan’s birthday. But for the last few years, it’s been an extra big deal, because Epiphany is the biggest day of the year for the children’s choir. This year was a little different because the holiday fell on a Sunday, so instead of the usual evening Divine Service, Epiphany was observed as part of the regular Sunday morning Divine Service, and the adult choir sang with the children on Mendelssohn’s “There Shall a Star.” Ryan even got to be part of the trio in the first part!

There is always a reception after the Epiphany service, but it was different this year, because it was a brunch reception instead of an evening one. The ladies did a wonderful job of decorating the church basement and putting everything together! As for me, my annual contribution is baklava (my signature dish, apparently), and I added in a more brunch-appropriate coffee cake, as well.

We enjoyed a relaxing afternoon at home following the service. Ryan picked chili for his birthday dinner, and it made the house smell amazing for several hours!

He also picked a Guinness cake for dessert, which is definitely our family’s favorite!

So this Epiphany was a little different from normal, but all the basic elements were there…a church celebration and a birthday celebration. It’s a fun way to say goodbye to Christmas!

New Year’s Eve 2018

Here we are at another New Year’s Eve. Not my favorite holiday (especially not just a week after Christmas, which is very much my favorite!), but I’m always looking for ways to make it special for my family. This year, I decided on a build-your-own-sandwich bar for dinner, which was a huge hit with the children. We had our favorite brioche buns, three types of meat (turkey, ham, and roast beef), four cheeses (cheddar, American, Muenster, and provolone), lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and pickles, plus the usual condiments.

Tonight we went to New Year’s Eve church (which is actually the Eve of the Circumcision and Name of Jesus) for the first time. To be honest, if we hadn’t been serving on Altar Guild, we probably wouldn’t have gone this year, but it was nice to have a reason to get us out of the house and into the pew.

Back home, we enjoyed our annual New Year’s Eve hot chocolate bar while we watched Apollo 13. These are our two firm New Year’s Eve traditions, and the best thing about the day!

As usual, Ryan and I had our toast to the New Year well before midnight, because who knows if I’m going to be able to stay up that late?

So that’s another Markel Family New Year’s celebration. I’m making a nicer meal for New Year’s Day tomorrow, but nothing spectacular. Mostly, I’m just thankful for the blessings 2018 brought to us, and looking forward to seeing what 2019 has in store!

A Markel Family Christmas–2018 Edition

This whole Christmas season has been a bit more challenging than usual, because of my injured ankle. My CAM boot came off exactly a week before Christmas, and I was determined to have our usual, festive, three-day Christmas event, while relearning how to walk normally, starting with our favorite Christmas Eve breakfast of Christmas Crunch:

As we have for the last few years, we had our “pick out dinner” for lunch, before heading into the city for church. This year, we had our standard crackers and various cheeses, summer sausage, buffalo Chex mix, and jalapeño popper and rotel dips (with festive red and green tortilla chips!). We also enjoyed deviled eggs, shrimp, pizza bagels, mozzarella sticks, sausage squares, cranberry brie bites (a new recipe that was so good!), and cheese squares.

We then went to church, where “The Bigs” and Ryan were singing in the Christmas Eve service. I was very happy to wear only an ankle brace on my left leg with my standard Christmas Eve dress!

There’s always one piece of music that really stands out to me…this year, it was “Where Shepherds Lately Knelt”:

I took a picture of the Fab Five after church…in the church basement, where the service was held because the sanctuary is undergoing extensive renovations!

On the way home, we drove through the Way of Lights at Our Lady of the Snows:

At home, I took more pictures, of course:

For the first time ever, the children received completely matching Christmas jammies, and they even were in keeping with this year’s Harry Potter theme:

And then time for Jesus’ birthday cake. Doesn’t it look pretty? It’s a good thing I took this picture the day before, right after I finished decorating it, because apparently there’s too much humidity in our refrigerator for the cookie icing to set up properly, and it ran everywhere. I’m told the cake still tasted good, though…I, however, was too upset to try it.

I kind of had a meltdown at that point. I was so tired, and my ankle was bothering me, and I was just done for the day. Oh, and did I mention that at that point, we were on day four with no hot water, as we were waiting on a part and a repair on our water heater? Just done. So Ryan and I didn’t play Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries like we usually do on Christmas Eve, and we didn’t watch the San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker. I did get the stockings filled and the tree prepared before I went to bed, though:

Things looked better in the morning (even though I didn’t sleep much because my ankle was still bothering me). We had fun opening stockings (although the boys continued to elude me in my early-morning photography):

And enjoyed our Christmas Day coffee cake:

I have really enjoyed wearing this Pinup Girl Clothing dress all throughout the season, and I was especially excited to wear it on Christmas Day without the CAM boot as an accessory!

We then drove back into the city for the Christmas Day Divine Service, where Ryan, Turkey, Bunny, and Ladybug were singing in the choir:

Another picture in the basement, this time of the whole family:

After lunch, we opened presents. Bunny found the pickle ornament on the tree this year, so she got to hand out the gifts.

The rest of the day was spent snacking, relaxing, and preparing for the big Christmas feast, which we had yesterday. The star of the meal was a smoked ham from Beast Craft BBQ. We also had mashed potatoes and gravy, roast carrots, butternut squash gratin, croissants, and our favorite cherry Jell-O “salad.” You may notice a lack of festive table photos…that’s because I didn’t use the china (other than serving pieces) or set the table with our linens. My ankle might be healed, but I’m still kind of slow and still tire easily after being on my feet all day, so that was something I let go of this time.

I made a trio of Christmas desserts…an apple-cranberry bread pudding, a gingerbread-eggnog trifle, and a Buche de Noel. They were all delicious…I especially liked the bread pudding, which was a new recipe.

So that was Christmas 2018. More things went wrong than I would have liked, but most things went right. What really matters, though, is that we were all together, and we had plenty of opportunities to celebrate our Savior’s birth!

A Markel Family Santa Lucia Day

Santa Lucia Day is one of my favorite holidays! I love planning and preparing, especially when it comes to making the Lussekattes and setting up the night before:

The girls all still love dressing up, and while it may not be traditional, they all dress as Santa Lucia. This was the fifth year using the crowns I made for them!

We even had a Swedish dinner! I’m so glad St. Louis has an IKEA now, because it made planning our meal so much easier. We had Swedish meatballs with gravy, egg noodles, lingonberry juice, and for dessert, Swedish sandwich cookies, plus Dala Horse and Sour Viking candies:

We also read our favorite Santa Lucia stories today. It’s such a lovely holiday in the lead-up to Christmas, and one I look forward to all year long!

A Markel Family Thanksgiving, Broken Ankle Edition

Normally, Thanksgiving in our house is a three-day affair, beginning on Wednesday (pie day) and culminating the day after. Because of my broken ankle, this year Thanksgiving had to be a four-day holiday. I started by baking four pies (S’mores, Nutella, pecan, and pumpkin), on Tuesday, (and we had a regular school day, too!), in addition to making the cranberry sauce and chopping the vegetables for the stuffing and the turkey soup. I knew there was no way I could do all of that, plus the other five pies and stuffing prep on Wednesday, and I’m glad I planned it that way, because even just that was a lot of work on my booted leg!

On Wednesday, the other five pies were prepared (banana cream, caramel apple made by Bunny, strawberry, cranberry apple, and butterscotch), plus the stuffing was finished and ready to go in the slow cooker Thursday morning. We also read all of our favorite Thanksgiving stories (it was the least I could do to make up for the lack of our regularly scheduled Thanksgiving school) and made hand and footprint turkeys. This was an exhausting day!

I do have to admit, all the pies did look really nice!

Of course, Thursday was the Big Day. There was more work, including giving the turkey a bath in the sink and prepping the rest of the menu. We also watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and the National Dog Show, which are Thanksgiving highlights for me. I also love setting a nice table for a holiday!

In case you’re wondering, my motivation for doing all of this even with a broken ankle was the Fab Five. I have been aware that “the days are long, but the years are short” since the very beginning, and that’s becoming even more real now that we’re getting closer to the time when the children will all start scattering as they reach adulthood.

We had our usual Thanksgiving feast…roast turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, carrots, Brussel sprouts, green beans with almonds, cranberry sauce, and rolls with butter:

Red and white wine, and red and white sparkling grape juice accompanied our meal:

It was a delicious feast!

And then, after much clean-up, the annual watching of Holiday Inn, and the boiling of the carcass for turkey soup, it was pie time!

I went with my favorite, cranberry apple, plus the Thanksgiving standard of pumpkin pie with whipped cream:

The celebration continued this morning with our traditional day after Thanksgiving breakfast of pie:

And then, something new this year! Moose got to march in the town parade with his school’s band. We’ve never attended before, and despite the wind, it was a lot of fun!

This year, our annual day after Thanksgiving Lego build didn’t feature a Winter Village set. Instead, I carried the year’s Harry Potter theme through to Thanksgiving, and we built the Whomping Willow set, plus a free-with-purchase Diagon Alley set.

And then turkey soup for dinner!

And more pie for dessert…this time, I went with the chocolate-based pies…S’mores and Nutella.

And that’s the end of another Thanksgiving in the Markel house. We didn’t go to downtown Belleville following our turkey soup dinner this year, partly because we don’t enjoy the tree-lighting as much without the community sing they used to have, and partly because rain postponed some of the other activities. But almost everything else went according to our normal Thanksgiving traditions, even if the timing of some them were altered a bit…but there was no way I was going to allow a broken ankle to ruin our holiday!

A Markel Family Mother’s Day

Time for the latest installment in the “Markel Family Holiday” series!

Let’s start with wardrobe. The Mary Blair Mother and Child print Lydia dress from Pinup Girl Clothing is the perfect outfit for Mother’s Day. Really, the outfit just creates itself, and I have to say, it’s nice to have a day where I don’t really have to think about what I’m going to wear!

Since Mother’s Day is always on a Sunday, we’re always at church in the morning. This year was extra special, because we were on Altar Guild duty. Of course, while we were there, I had to harangue the Fab Five into taking a picture with me!

My children are very thoughtful gift-givers. I received both a book about Mary Blair, and a new Lego Architecture set. They know me so well!

Ryan and I didn’t get to spend the day with either of our mothers, but when Ryan’s parents were here for Ladybug’s birthday last week, his mom gave me a beautiful bouquet of flowers that I somehow haven’t managed to kill yet, so they made our dinner table extra special!

Speaking of dinner…my one rule is that we don’t go out to eat on Mother’s Day, because I hate dealing with crowds. This year, I decided to try a new recipe for spinach-artichoke pasta that seemed both easy and delicious, and everyone in the family liked it! I made my favorite asparagus to go with it, and we had carrot cake for dessert:

The rest of the day was spent doing things I enjoy, including watching a dubbed Animal Crossing movie that Ryan stumbled across. It was a very fun, relaxing day, and I’m happy I got to spend it with my family!

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!

A Markel Family New Year

New Year’s is not one of our family’s favorite holidays. Even so, I try to make it special, since it is the end of one year and the beginning of a new one. This year was especially nice because we got to start New Year’s Eve morning at church (and got to see the Advent wreath all lit up one more time!):

We always enjoy our New Year’s Eve hot chocolate bar. This year we had five flavors of hot chocolate to choose from: dark and milk chocolate, French vanilla, salted caramel, and mint. We also had three kinds of mini marshmallows…regular, mint, and vanilla snowmen. Unfortunately this year, I could not find chocolate whipped cream, so we only had regular to go with our other toppings and add-ons:

Ryan and I enjoyed a toast to the new year, but we didn’t wait until midnight. While we were awake to ring in the new year, I wasn’t sure I would make it, so we had our toast a few hours early, while we watched our traditional New Year’s Eve movie…Apollo 13.

We didn’t have any big plans for today. Originally, we were going to have a nice stay at home day, followed by our first family feast of the new year, but we ended up driving into West County to do a little shopping…I find it very hard to do nothing all day! When we got home, I started on our dinner…Cornish hens roasted with lemon, garlic, and rosemary in a white wine sauce, mashed potatoes (with homemade gravy!), roasted red potatoes, carrots and Brussel sprouts, cherry Jell-O, and dinner rolls. It was a little different from our standard New Year’s Day dinner (although, I used to make Cornish hens for New Year’s when Ryan and I were first married), and very delicious!

For dessert we had a tuxedo cake, which I thought was just the right amount of formal for this holiday!

So, while we’re not big New Year’s people, I hope I still made it a special two days, as we said goodbye to 2017, and welcomed 2018 with open arms!