Christmas Baking 2017

Another Advent and Christmastide has come and gone all too quickly. As always, we enjoyed baking (and eating) a lot of treats along the way!

We didn’t make quite as many cookies this year, but we made all of our favorite kinds…thumbprints in two flavors (raspberry and apricot), chocolate peppermint crunch (those are the ones we didn’t make as many of…I only made about half of what we usually bake), sugar, and gingerbread:

Of course we had lussekattes on Santa Lucia Day!

Cherry coffee cake for Christmas Day morning:

I’ve made Oreo truffles in the past, but I’ve never made an Oreo truffle Christmas tree…pretty and delicious!

I baked three different cakes in about two weeks’ time. Chocolate for Jesus’ birthday, a more formal tuxedo cake for New Year’s, and a Guinness cake for Ryan’s Epiphany birthday:

It’s become a tradition for me to make baklava for Epiphany, too:

And one new recipe for a savory baked good…cheese thumbprints with pineapple jalapeño jelly. That recipe is definitely a keeper!

I’m always amazed by how many baking staples I go through at this time of year, and the kitchen is always busy, and smells kind of like a bakery for weeks on end. I will admit to looking forward to a break from various doughs and batters, though!

Sartorial Saturday–Festive Fashion

The 12 Days of Christmas are officially over, but I’m here with one last look at all of my festive fashions from this season!

Last year, I focused mainly on red & green and blue & white outfits, with one Christmas print thrown in. This time around, I’m focusing on one Christmas print, the gorgeous ornament border print Bella skirt from Pinup Girl Clothing, and all of the different ways I styled it.

I went with solids on top…white, black, and red:

I also wore stripes…pink & white, black & white, and red & white:

Of course I accessorized. I focused on my festive Splendette stacks last week, so here’s the rest…beautiful necklaces and always my Christmas tree brooch!

I have had so much fun wearing this print…I’m going to have to find a few ways to sneak it into my wardrobe before next Christmas!

Chickadee Thursday

Yes, we’re still celebrating Christmas!

Every year, I wonder if this is the last year the Fisher-Price Little People nativity scene will be played with…that will be a very sad year, indeed! Fortunately, Chickadee still loves it…she started beginning me to get it out at the beginning of November! She’s been edging the three kings closer and closer every day, and she’s also still playing with the sheep and shepherds and all of the other animals, and making sure the Holy Family are comfortable in the stable.

I know that one of these Christmases, she’ll no longer be interested in it, and that will be the end of a long run of Little People in our house. Until then, though, I’m going to enjoy watching and listening to Chickadee tell the Christmas story!

Nativity Scenes from Around the World–2017 Edition

The 12 Days of Christmas aren’t over yet!

In 2014, we visited the Cathedral of St. Peter in Belleville to see a display of nativity scenes from around the world. We had the chance to go there again last month, where they had a similar display, but with many different nativities than the last time we were there!

There is no doubt about where some of the nativity scenes came from:

My personal favorite was from Germany, although I guess the origin of this one wasn’t as obvious:

I love how unique and beautiful they all were…especially the ones made out of unusual materials, like shells!

The most talked about item was the “hipster nativity scene.” While I wouldn’t want it on display in my home, it certainly was food for thought. There were some things about it that really make me hope that this isn’t how history remembers us, though! Here are some of the things we noticed about it:

  • Solar panels on the stable roof
  • Drone on the stable roof
  • Joseph, sporting man-bun and barefoot, taking selfies
  • Mary, Starbucks cup, duck-face, and possible Uggs
  • Shepherd with an iPad and a sheep with a Christmas sweater
  • Wise men on Segways sporting a combination of fedoras, sunglasses, facial hair, scarves, suspenders, and skinny pants, carrying Amazon boxes
  • 100% organic cow with gluten-free feed

I love seeing how different cultures depict something that has become so common to me!

Sartorial Saturday–Splendette Christmas Stacks

As silly as it might sound, one of the most exciting things that happened for me this year was learning that Splendette was going to make Duchess Bangles that could actually fit over my hand without me having to break my thumb. I’ve had so much fun incorporating various stacks into my outfits all year long, but the most fun has been making different Christmas stacks with all the green, red, silver, and gold bangles I have. The glitter bangles have been an especially fun and sparkly addition to many of my outfits!

I’m hoping that Splendette will add more Duchess Bangles to their collection in 2018…I will never get tired of mixing and matching, but I will also not complain about having more colors or styles to work with!

The 12 Days of Christmas at the Missouri Botanical Garden

The Missouri Botanical Garden had a new section of the Garden Glow this year, featuring the “12 Days of Christmas.” I thought it was a pretty cool display, especially because it was so interactive. There were places to pose, pipes and drums to play, and puppet lords for leaping, in addition to great Christmas lights (I especially enjoyed the three French hens at the Eiffel Tower!). I hope they keep it around next year, because it was really fun!

Eleven Pipers Piping

Twelve Drummers Drumming

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!

Christmas on Main Street

I love Belleville’s Main Street. Whether you’re dining out, looking in store windows, or attending one of the great events that take place on the town square (like Art on the Square), it’s just a charming place to be. But there is no better time to visit Main Street than Christmastime…there are beautiful decorations, fancy store windows, horse-drawn trolley rides, and the sounds of Christmas music coming from the Lincoln Theatre.

This year, a beautiful sand sculpture of a glockenspiel added to the holiday decor. I had meant to take a picture of it at night, because it was beautifully lit, but I never had the chance before it started crumbling. At least I got a good shot of it during the day!

The gingerbread houses in the stories windows up and down Main Street are always a family favorite…we love going from shop to shop in anticipation of what we’ll see next, and I am here to tell you that there are some very creative and talented people in Belleville!

A few always stand out as family favorites. Extra kudos to the child who called the tower that houses Big Ben by its proper name!

The Mayor’s Choice winner is always special, because it really captures something special about what makes Belleville unique:

For the last few years, a Christkindlmarkt has joined the other Christmas activities downtown, and I can’t think of anything more perfect, given Belleville’s German heritage! In addition to booths selling unique items, you can grab a bite to eat, warm up in the big tent, visit with reindeer on certain dates, and sometimes, even catch a musical performance!

I’m so happy we live in Belleville…there’s really no place I’d rather be!