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!

A Markel Family Christmas

Our traditional Markel Family Christmas was a three-day affair this year!

Because Christmas Day fell on a Monday, our church schedules were a little complicated this time around. There wasn’t a large enough break at home on Christmas Eve for our traditional “pick out dinner,” so I decided we’d have it a day early. But before we got to that, our day Saturday started in a most pleasant fashion…the first snow of the season, and Christmas Crunch for breakfast!

And then the best dinner of the year. I love how it’s always a little bit the same as the previous year’s feast, and a little bit different! This year, in addition to the standard summer sausage and crackers, cheeses, buffalo Chex mix, and sausage squares, we also had Greek spirals from Trader Joe’s, meatballs, Rotel dip and jalapeño popper dip (both served with festive red and green tortilla chips), deviled eggs, pizza rolls, mozzarella sticks, Ranch dip with assorted veggies, and Dino Nuggets. As always, there was way too much food, which is how we like it, because we can enjoy the leftovers for several days!

As it turned out, we were fortunate that Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday, because if it hadn’t, we wouldn’t have been able to attend our regular church at all. Even though it was still technically Advent, I wore my new Pinup Girl Clothing ornament print skirt:

The children’s blue Christmas outfits fit right in with Advent 4 (and the snow falling outside!), though, and I was able to get our annual pictures at our church…including one where Bunny insisted on giving her youngest sister bunny ears!

After lunch and a little downtime at home, it was time to drive into St. Louis so Ryan and the four oldest children could sing in their respective choirs. I wore my standard Christmas Eve dress, but I added some Splendette bangles to give a more retro look:

Of course I had to get another picture of the Fab Five:

Bunny sang the first verse of “Once in Royal David’s City” solo, and she did an amazing job!

I always love hearing the children sing Stille Nacht:

Back home for even more pictures:

And Jesus’ birthday cake:

And everyone opened their one Christmas Eve gift…new Christmas jammies!

After stuffing the stockings, Ryan and I played Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries, as we always do…and I was once again a poor sport when I won, repeating last year’s victory lap around the kitchen table. For what it’s worth, I did apologize for my bad behavior.

A last look to make sure everything was ready before bed:

We were up extra early this morning, to make sure there was time to open the stockings before driving back into the city. For some reason, I rarely get pictures of the boys that early in the morning…it may have something to do with the fact that they’re always annoyed with me for waking them!

We also managed to find time for our traditional Christmas morning cherry coffee cake:

I had to wear my ornament print skirt again, because it’s so gorgeous, but at least I styled it a little bit differently this time!

I’m a sucker for pictures of the Fab Five!

Only the adult choir (of which Ryan, Turkey, and more recently, Bunny, are members) was scheduled to sing, but some of the children were also recruited to fill out the soprano section. “See in Yonder Manger Low” was my very favorite piece they sang!

After church, we even managed to find time to get a picture of the whole family!

After lunch, we opened presents. I am so thankful that everyone was thrilled with their gifts!

The aftermath was…something:

I spent what felt like an eternity in the kitchen preparing our very festive meal. The dinner table was a little low-key this year, but it still looked nice:

We had a very nice spread this year. The star of the meal was new for me…Beef Wellington. I think I did a pretty good job! We also had two kinds of potatoes (mashed and roast), two vegetables (carrots and Brussel sprouts), a shrimp ring, cherry Jell-O and dinner rolls…it was delicious!

And for dessert, an Oreo truffle Christmas tree!

This Christmas season has seemed especially hectic, and the last three days were no exception. But we had a lot of fun, and hopefully made some happy memories in the process, so all the work was worth it!

Easter 2017

Blessed Easter!

Our Easter observance really began last night. As we do every year, we made our family Paschal candle:

And took it with us to one of our sister congregations, where we lit it for the first time during the Great Vigil of Easter. This is my favorite service of the church year…I love how it begins with firelight outside at sunset, and ends with the full lights on inside the church as we celebrate the Resurrection!

We were at our church very early in the morning today, for the sunrise service. Bunny, Moose, and Ladybug participated in the outdoor reenactment prior to the service…the rain stayed away, and it was a beautiful morning!

After the first service, and a delicious breakfast of biscuits and gravy, we took pictures (much to my family’s chagrin), and attended the Easter Divine Service, which is probably my second favorite service of the church year. I love the abundance of Alleluias!

We’ve had a low-key afternoon at home since church, but the big Easter dinner feast is yet to come!

Christmas 2016

It’s hard to believe that another Christmas Eve and Day have come and gone already!

As always, our celebration started yesterday, with my favorite meal of the whole year…the “pick out dinner.” We had summer sausage, cheese, and crackers, jalapeno popper and buffalo chicken dips, sausage squares, deviled eggs, toasted ravioli, mozzarella sticks, cheese squares, buffalo chex mix, and pizza bagels. Oh, and the chef’s favorite sour beer:

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Then it was time to get ready for church. I wore my traditional Christmas Eve dress and brooch. I’ve featured the brooch here a lot, but I’ve been wearing this same dress every Christmas Eve for at least five years, and I’m pretty sure it’s never appeared here before!

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As they did last year, “The Bigs” sang for Hope Lutheran church in St. Louis’s Christmas Eve Divine Service.

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After we got home, I took lots of pictures:

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And we had Jesus’ birthday cake, and lit all of the candles on the Advent wreath:

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Everyone always opens one present on Christmas Eve. Ryan and I both got slippers, and the children each got a new pair of Christmas jammies:

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Ryan and I also always play Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries on Christmas Eve. The final score was 162 to 131…I’ll let you guess who won!

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After the children went to bed, I made sure everything was ready for the morning.

They always get to open their stockings before Christmas Day church:

I really love our very delicious tradition of cherry coffee cake for breakfast on Christmas morning!

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Another Christmas church service means another Christmas outfit (with a new brooch) for me!

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This year, all four of “The Bigs” served as acolytes. This was Turkey’s first opportunity to be crucifer…he was very excited (and a little nervous)! Bunny was the book bearer, which seemed fitting, and Moose and Ladybug both served as torch bearers.

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I always have to get another picture (or eight) after church:

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When we got home, we had a quick lunch, and then we listened to Ryan read the Christmas story. Chickadee still loves acting it out with our Little People nativity:

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And then there was a flurry of gift opening!

This Christmas has been a little different, but it was still a wonderful weekend to celebrate our Savior’s birth, and spend time together as a family! Merry Christmas!

Christmas 2015

We’ve had another fun Markel Family Christmas!

Our celebration began yesterday, with our traditional “pick out dinner,” which this year, was actually a “pick out lunch.” I love that it’s never exactly the same two years in a row! I was happy to add an actual cheese board to our spread this year, which came in handy for three of the six cheeses we had. We also enjoyed five types of crackers, two dips with tortilla chips, summer sausage, Volpi roltini, buffalo Chex mix, sausage squares, Mexican cheese squares, pizza bagels, mozzarella sticks, and peppers stuffed with ranch dressing flavored cream cheese:

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Of course I always take a zillion pictures on Christmas Eve…I was very happy with the results!

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We did do something new this year. Since the oldest four children are singing with the children’s Kantorei at Hope Lutheran in St. Louis, we went to church there on Christmas Eve. It was a beautiful service, and their singing was wonderful!

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Back home, we lit all of the Advent wreath’s candles, enjoyed Jesus’s birthday cake, and opened one present each. As is our tradition, Ryan and I played a game of Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries, and I hung up our Christmas banner before (reluctantly) going to bed.

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Early Christmas morning, we searched for the pickle on the Christmas tree (to see who would get to hand out presents later), opened stockings (Chickadee got a toy camera so she can continue to pretend to be me!), and enjoyed my special cherry Christmas coffee cake:

Then we went to our church for the Christmas Day Divine Service. Turkey and Bunny were very excited to not just be acolytes, but also torch-bearers in the processional:

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When we got home, we had lunch, and then listened to Ryan read the Christmas story from Luke 2. I loved how intently Bunny listened, and I was amused that Chickadee played along with the story with our Little People nativity scene…I don’t think any of our other children ever did that!

And then we opened presents. I think everyone loved their gifts, especially all of the Lego gifts!

It has been a very happy Christmas indeed, and the celebration is just beginning. I’m looking forward to the full 12 days of Christmas…who knows what’s in store?

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!

A Markel Family Independence Day

Today was our typical Markel family Independence Day celebration. We watched our favorite Fourth of July movies (Yankee Doodle Dandy and Holiday Inn), listened to A Splash of Pops more than once, and then watched the Boston Pops Fourth of July concert. We also watched our neighbors set off tons of fireworks, which makes me very nervous every year, but it still an amazing show to see. We had our standard dinner of brisket, baked beans, corn on the cob, watermelon, and potato salad, and a few treats…finger Jell-O and a red, white, and blueberry trifle. There were even patriotic flowers this year, thanks to Ryan!

It was, as always, a very fun holiday!