Waiting for Opening Day

The two big girls both received Cardinals jerseys for Christmas. With the year winding down, and the 12 Days of Christmas almost half over, what else is there to do but look out the window, and wait for spring (and Opening Day!)?

Cakeway to the West–Christmas Cakes

Even though our cake hunt has been over for a few months now, revisiting the cakes with the change of seasons has been a lot of fun, especially over the Christmas season. Whether it was seeing a cake with a backdrop of lights, or snow, or a Christmas character, or even in the midst of a Christmas tree lot, the festive setting added a little something to each cake we saw. Sometimes, you had to look hard to find the Christmas spirit, but it was always there!

Chickadee Thursday (on a Saturday)

In all the busy-ness of Christmas, I forgot to share a few “Chickadee Thursday–Christmas Edition” photos. So, the pictures may be a few days late, but at least they were actually taken on Thursday!

Happy Christmas!

Today we had our big English Christmas feast…turkey and stuffing, two kinds of potatoes, rolls, carrots, parsnips, and brussels sprouts, and homemade cranberry sauce.


We also had a bûche de Noël for dessert.


The table looked so pretty, especially with the festively-patterned Christmas crackers decorating the plates. And popping them open, and enjoying our hats, bad jokes, and trinkets is always a blast!


Happy Christmas!

Christmas 2014

If you’ve ever wondered what a Markel family Christmas looks like, here’s your chance to find out!

The celebration begins on Christmas Eve, with what we have come to call the “pick-out dinner.” This is an appetizer meal we have in the late afternoon before church, and everyone gets to “pick out” one thing that I’ll make or buy. It’s one of our favorite meals of the year!


Before we leave for church, I harass the children and make them let me take pictures…lots and lots of pictures!


Then it’s time to head to church for the children’s Christmas program. This year, Turkey played the part of Gabriel, while Bunny was the head angel, Moose was a shepherd, and Ladybug got to be Mary for the second time. They all did a great job!


After church, we head home, light all the candles in the Advent wreath, and enjoy Jesus’ birthday cake.


Before bed, everyone gets to open one present. For the children, this means new jammies. The boys loved the Yetis I found for them, and the girls thought their bears were cute. I got a new pair of Cardinals slippers! (Not pictured is Ryan’s new Tardis sleep pants.)



Once the children are more or less in bed, Ryan and I put the presents under the tree, fill the stockings, arrange the Little People nativity scene, and then settle down to play Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries while we watch the San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker.

In the morning, before church, the children are allowed to open their stockings, and we enjoy a leisurely breakfast of coffee cake (and stocking candy!).

We then head back to church for the Christmas Day Divine Service. After the service is over, I try to get one more group shot of the children.



We have lunch when we get home, and then get down to present opening.

The aftermath of the gift exchange is always quite the sight to see!


After the presents have been opened, and the mess more or less cleaned up, the rest of the day is very relaxed. The children usually play with whatever they received, while we watch Christmas movies (or Doctor Who!), and listen to Christmas music. No big feast for us on Christmas Day…we save that for the day after Christmas. Instead, we enjoy what’s left of the appetizers and the birthday cake from the night before.

That’s our Christmas. It’s always a fun, special day. I hope your Christmas was similarly merry and bright!

The Automattic Christmas Box

Every year, Ryan gets a Christmas box from work…a gift each Automattic employee gets sometime in December. Usually, I watch him open it, and then promptly forget about it, because it tends to be a bunch of techie stuff that’s nice for him, but doesn’t hold much interest for me. This year, however, there was something for everybody, starting with this logo hat that Chickadee promptly claimed for her own!


There were enough Wapuu socks for the big kids to each have a pair:


And a nice, wool throw…did I mention that I’ve been searching for a new throw to put on the couch in our newly rearranged den/Ryan’s office?


There was some other stuff, including techie stuff, as well. But I was very excited that this year, we all found something in the box that we could use and enjoy!

Extreme Christmas House, Part Two

Belleville certainly doesn’t have the Metro East market on extreme Christmas houses cornered…we saw this display driving around before the Christmas program rehearsal tonight!


The Dress Rehearsal

You’d think that after all these years, the dress rehearsal at church for the children’s Christmas program would be old news. But there are several new things this year, and new equals exciting around here!

For the first time for as long as we’ve been participating in the Christmas program, they’re having a boy play the angel Gabriel. Guess which boy that would be? If your answer was Turkey, you’re right!


Also for the first time, they’re having a big kid play the part of Mary, because this year, Mary has a speaking part. So Ladybug gets a second turn in this role!


Bunny is playing the head angel again this year, so that’s not new, but it’s still fun for her!


The big news, though, is that Moose decided he wanted a speaking part this year! If you know Moose, and how he has struggled just to be in the program in the past, you know what a huge deal this is, and he’s doing a great job! We’re very proud of him!


Hopefully everyone does as well tomorrow night as they did when practicing today…they’re all very excited about their roles in the Christmas Eve church service!


Belleville’s Christmas Market

Today is the last day of the first-ever Belleville Christkindlmarkt.

Ever since we moved to this town in 2006, I’ve told Ryan every Christmas that I don’t understand why Belleville didn’t have one. The town square is the perfect location for it, and there’s already a lot of Christmas festivities going on down there. Belleville is also very proud of her German heritage, so it seemed like a no-brainer to me.

This year, to celebrate the city’s 200th birthday, I finally got my wish…a Christkindlmarkt set up on two quadrants of the town square. It was pretty much exactly like I imagined it, right down to the specially designed mugs for Gluhwein!


There were some lovely stalls selling some wonderfully unique gifts:

On the weekends, different groups performed on the square, like the O’Fallon High School madrigals:


They also periodically had demonstrations of different crafts, like this Sole Survivor leather work demonstration:

A pair of reindeer visited (Prancer and Sven), and we even got to see them lock antlers!

And with the reindeer came a beautiful, antique sleigh:


It really was just like I dreamed it. And every time I was down there, (many times over the last few weeks), night or day, it was busy, even in bad weather. I’m hopeful that this wasn’t just the first-ever, but the first-annual Christkindlmarkt on our town square…I’d love for it to be part of our Christmas traditions for many years to come!