I Was Glad

We went back to church today for the first time in almost four full months…I have never before understood so well the words of Psalm 122:1-“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’”

The Top Five–Things I Miss

I’m sure we’re all missing things from our old “normal” lives…here’s a look at the top five things I’m missing, and for once, it’s exactly five items, and I didn’t even have to think to come up with them!

  • Church/Choir–This one was a no-brainer. I am thankful for our online church services, because we can still hear the Word, but it’s just not the same. I also really miss hearing my family sing in their various choirs at church, even though I am not musically gifted myself.
  • Extended Family/Friends–Another no-brainer is missing visiting family and close friends or having them visit us. Again, I’m thankful for other ways to communicate, like phone, text, or video chats, but it’s still not the same. We’ve already missed out on so many opportunities to gather that should have been on the calendar, and that’s just sad.
  • Chicago–I really missed our annual Memorial Day Weekend trip to Chicagoland. I missed it so much, I even created a virtual vacation. Not getting to see the skyline, and especially Lake Michigan, was really hard for me, and even though I enjoyed looking back through photos from previous trips, once again, it’s just not the same.
  • The Missouri Botanical Garden–I guess this is the number one St. Louis area location I’m missing. Normally, we go to the Garden at least once a month, and in the springtime, it can be more like once a week. Besides missing walking around the Garden and seeing all of the beautiful flowers in bloom, I’m also sad that I had to abandon my yearly photo project.
  • Wandering Around Target for No Reason at All–This is a silly one, but still a big deal to me. I really miss just impulsively stopping at Target and looking for absolutely nothing in particular. There have been some weeks (including one right before COVID-19 became a big deal), where I have literally stopped at Target five days of the week. Even if I don’t come out with anything, there’s something fun about shopping there, but I haven’t stepped in a Target for over two months!

What do you miss most from life pre-COVID-10?

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!

Christmas 2019

I thought Advent went by quickly, but our three-day-long Christmas extravaganza flew by even more rapidly!

As always, our celebration began Christmas Eve morning, with a breakfast of Christmas Crunch:

New on Christmas Even this year was putting the final touches on Lego Hogwarts Castle, a project the Fab Five worked on throughout Advent:

We had our “pick out dinner” for lunch as we have for the last few years, and it may have been the best one yet! In addition to our Christmas Eve favorites, which included a few favorites from tea parties, too, we added a Volpi Salame plus a large basil roltini.

After lunch, we headed to church, where Ladybug had the solo for the first verse of “Once in Royal David’s City.”

I especially enjoyed the Quempas Celebration.

It was nice to get a picture of the Fab Five in the newly renovated church sanctuary after the service:

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

And then I took all of the pictures!

It’s always exciting to light all of the candles in the Advent Wreath!

Jesus’ birthday cake turned out a little better than last year’s, but not by much, because it fell apart a bit on one side. At least I could get a semi-decent picture, and the chocolate peppermint flavor certainly tasted good!

The entire family, including Ryan and me, received matching Christmas jammies this year, and these may have been the cutest ones yet!

Turkey joined Ryan and me for our annual game of Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries, and he won by a lot.

Chickadee set up the nativity scene before I filled the stockings and we headed to bed:

We were up very early on Christmas Day, and I finally got pictures of all of the children while they were opening their stockings!

We enjoyed our traditional Christmas Day cherry coffee cake for breakfast:

But that paled in comparison to the beautiful Christmas sunrise…”A holy day has dawned upon us!”

Back at church, the adult choir had the opportunity to sing again, including these two beautiful descants:

Of course I had to get another picture after the service:

After lunch, we opened presents:

The rest of Christmas Day was fairly quiet…we watched Christmas movies, as well as a few episodes of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which the Fab Five received for Christmas.

Yesterday, on Boxing Day, we had our big, fancy Christmas dinner. As always, I had fun setting the table:

This year’s dinner included roast beast (a standing rib roast that I found for a steal at Aldi), mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, Jell-O, and croissants, plus a festive Comet and Cupid Cabernet Sauvignon for the adults. I think I cooked the beef extraordinarily well (or maybe good would be better, if not grammatically correct, because it was definitely not well-done!).

We had a trio of Christmas desserts, and I hit pretty much every Christmas flavor except peppermint. There was cranberry-apple bread pudding with a vanilla cream sauce, gingerbread-eggnog trifle, and a chocolate Yule log:

And that’s the end of another Christmas celebration. I’m already thinking about how we can celebrate next year!

The Return of Choir

The children are always excited about the first Sunday they get to sing after a long summer break, and yesterday was that Sunday! This year we still have only two choristers in the children’s choir (Chickadee isn’t quite ready for the kind of commitment), but both Moose and Ladybug were excited to be back, and it was nice to get a picture of the two of them wearing their new medals in the renovated sanctuary for the first time:

I recorded one of their pieces, and it was an excellent choice, because not only do you get hear the new organ playing along with the choir singing, you also get to hear the choristers playing handbells!

It’s a small group this year (only five members), but if the first Sunday was any indication, it’s still going to be a great year of music!

Chickadee Thursday

I can’t believe I didn’t mention it last Thursday, but Chickadee started catechesis last week! Here’s a picture of her right before class began yesterday, deep in thought, and ready to turn her first sermon report in:

It’s hard to believe that this is the last time I’ll be going through this process with one of my children…I’m trying to make sure I slow down and enjoy it!

Historic St. Lorenz

I’m still trying to get caught up on our fun travels from this summer, so today I’m focusing on St. Lorenz Lutheran Church in Frankenmuth, MI. There are several Lutheran churches in that town, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this one is the most notable:

Normally, I’d think the pink walls behind the altar were weird, but somehow, it really works at St. Lorenz:

And the stained glass was outstanding:

The sanctuary is quite large:

There are many beautiful details everywhere you look:

And the pipe organ is quite impressive!

Of course, I also enjoyed learning the historical significance of the place:

We saw the log church, and the church bells across the road:

It’s a beautiful building from every angle!

Stay tuned for a few more Frankenmuth locations before I finally wrap up our summer adventures!

Church Before and After

After a year and half without the organ, and nine month of worshipping in the basement, the renovations at Hope Lutheran Church in St. Louis are finally complete! We were fortunate that some of the family got to be part of the special choir that sang for the service of re-dedication this morning, but before we take a look at the new worship space, let’s look back at what it used to look like:

We’ve been checking in on the renovations all along, and we even heard the children’s choir perform a recital in the not-quite-complete space last month, but there was something special about seeing it this morning!

It is the same, and yet so very different (and lovely!):

This was the perfect morning for an organ re-dedication, because it also happened to be the commemoration date for Johann Sebastian Bach, Kantor. Can you think of a better day for music of all kinds? I will leave you with a few selections from the choir this morning, beginning with “Locus Iste,” which welcomed worship back to the sacred space, followed by two verses of “Stone on Living Stone,” which written for the church’s 100th anniversary a few years ago:

How lovely is Your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!

Markel Family Combo Breaker Getaway–Day Five

On Sunday, we stopped by Combo Breaker just as the pools were starting for the day. Since we were dressed for church, I took a picture of the Fab Five in their Sunday best:

And as is my tradition, I made sure to get a picture of myself wearing Pinup Girl Clothing on the Combo Breaker floor:

We then went to church at St. John Wheaton, where we unexpectedly ran into someone we knew…the Lutheran church is so small!

And then a stop at Oberweis for ice cream:

The lemon-blackberry was delicious!

After some lazy time in the hotel room, we went down to Combo Breaker for the Tekken 7 Top 8. The crowd was on fire, and I think this was my favorite fighting game to watch!

Ryan received a medal, as he has every year he has attended in one way or another:

That was the end of Combo Breaker, but we still had a few fun Chicagoland activities planned!