Advent 2023–Day One

Blessed Advent!

For the fifth (and maybe final…we’ll have to see what the future holds as far as big Lego sets we like) year running, we’re building a special Lego set as an Advent project. I’m super excited about this one…instead of being related to a trip we’ve taken, it’s connected to one of favorite Christmas movies…it’s the Home Alone house! I’ve actually been holding on to this set since it came out, so it feels like we’ve been waiting forever to build it. To start, Turkey built the foundation of the house:

But more importantly, he also built the bandits’ van, and the bandits themselves!

I really can’t wait to see how the house comes together, and I’m especially looking forward to discovering all of the details from the movies that are hidden in the set!

The Quiet Joy of “Low Sunday”

I’ve been thinking this week about how much I love “Low Sunday,” the Second Sunday of Easter. Why “Low Sunday?” Is it because attendance is usually lower a week after the great Festival of Easter, maybe even lower than normal Sunday attendance as everyone attempts to recover from the marathon of Holy Week? Is it because the service itself celebrates at a lower degree than just a week previous? Honestly, it’s probably a combination of the two (although more often, I do think it’s a tongue-in-cheek reference to the number of people at the service). No matter the origin of the name; I just really appreciate the quiet joy of the Sunday following the great celebration of Easter Sunday itself.

On Easter, the church is at its best. We deck ourselves out in our finery, buying special Easter outfits for the youngest members of our congregation and looking to our own attire as well, whether that means wearing a button-down shirt with jeans instead of a t-shirt, a dress instead of pants, or even an Easter bonnet. We deck the church in finery, too, adding gold paraments, special banners, uncovering or returning art that may have been put away for Lent or Holy Week, and generally giving the sanctuary a good cleaning. Our readings are full of the joy of the Resurrection, and the alleluia response is said over and over again. The service itself is extraordinary, as well…we bring in special guest musicians, add additional instruments (is it really even Easter without brass?), and play and sing music that is louder, more joyful, and more complex than our regular expressions. We literally, if you will, pull out all the stops.

But the Second Sunday of Easter is different. There may be less of us in the room. We’re probably dressed more casually, more normally. The gold paraments might still be up, but we might have switched to standard Easter white. The music, while still beautiful and full of Easter joy, is probably scaled back from the previous week. And the Bible readings focus not on the act of the Resurrection, but on what happened next. On the disciples, hiding in fear, not really understanding or believing the events of the day. On Jesus appearing to them in their isolation, (all of them but one), inviting them to see His wounds. On Thomas defiantly refusing to believe unless he has the tactile experience of touching those wounds for himself. And then a week later, Jesus appearing again, and giving Thomas exactly what he asked for, prompting the response “My Lord and my God!” Thomas, who is so often criticized for his lack of faith, who we refer to derisively as “Doubting Thomas” when we would have asked for the same of Jesus, is the first one to proclaim Jesus as his God.

Easter Sunday is without a doubt the highlight of the church year, and I look forward to it and long for it throughout Lent. But there is something equally special about the quiet moments of joy that are found on “Low Sunday” as the Easter celebration continues.

Easter 2023

As hard as it is to believe since Lent always seems like it lasts forever, Holy Week and Easter Sunday have already come and gone. We had our traditional four day celebration, beginning on Maundy Thursday, with a fun twist for Easter dinner this year! I really look forward to this celebration every year, this 2023 did not disappoint!

On Maundy Thursday, I made hot cross buns. This is definitely a tradition now…what started as an experiment in 2020 when I was only grocery shopping once every two weeks and couldn’t plan on purchasing them has become an expected part of our Holy Week observances! I did try a new recipe this time, and I think we all liked it even better than the other ones I’ve made!

The evening church service was, as expected, lovely, especially the music.

Everyone had off of school on Good Friday, which was nice. I dedicated my day to baking. I made what were probably the best buttermilk biscuits ever, as well as blueberry muffins:

We were back at church that evening for another moving service:

Would you be surprised to know that I was back to baking on Holy Saturday? I made my first-ever angel food cake…keep reading to see how it turned out!

We also made this year’s Paschal candle…I think this was our best effort ever!

The Great Vigil of Easter is still my favorite service of the whole church year…I love the meaning behind each different part!

On the way home, we stopped at Wendy’s for Frostys and fries:

Sunday morning dawned bright and beautiful!

One of my favorite traditions is taking pictures of the Fab Five by the baptismal font:

Of course, I took other pictures, too:

We also got a very nice family photo:

When we got home, we had Easter brunch (our first brunch of the day…stay with me!). I made biscuits and gravy, and we also had scrambled eggs, sausage patties, and a variety of mini donuts. And pomegranate juice, which has become something of a tradition.

It was a great first meal of the day!

We watched some of our favorite Easter specials, and I visited Zipper T. Bunny when I wasn’t working on our big meal.

I learned how to turn our napkins into flowers for Easter!

I love how pretty the Easter table always looks!

For Easter dinner, we had Easter brunch (again). But this was a fancier brunch suggested by Turkey, including eggs Benedict, breakfast casserole, bacon, waffles, a salmon and radish tart, fresh fruit, gouda tea sandwiches, blueberry muffins, and a cheese board.

It was fun (and delicious!) to do something so different for dinner!!!

For dessert, we had the angel food cake I made, served with strawberries and a cream cheese filling/frosting…it was really good!

Easter is, of course, the highlight of the church year, and our celebration this year at church and home was especially lovely!

Christmas 2022

We’ve had another happy Markel Family Christmas!

Our celebration started, as always, on Christmas Eve, with Christmas Crunch for breakfast:

I played Animal Crossing early, because I knew that might be my only opportunity to deliver gifts for Jingle and say “Merry Christmas” to Roald:

The Fab Five completed this year’s Advent project, the Lego Disney Castle.

Speaking of Disney, Ladybug and I made red velvet Mickey Mouse waffles for lunch:

And then we went to church. It was quite early for us…3 p.m. It was definitely different to go to Christmas Eve church when it was still so bright out!

It was even bright when we stopped to see the city of St. Louis Christmas tree after church…but that made it easier to see the snow on the ground. We finally had a white (and very cold) Christmas!

It was also still pretty bright when we drove through the Way of Lights, but after all these years, it was kind of cool to see it in a different way:

I took lots of pictures when we got home:

And we enjoyed some cake:

We played a couple games of Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries. I suffered one of my greatest losses of all-time in the first game!

The theme for this year’s Christmas jammies was (surprise, surprise) Mickey Mouse:

I still always set up the Little People nativity scene before bed:

We almost kind of got to sleep in on Christmas Day…but just barely. Stockings were the first order of business:

And then our traditional Christmas morning coffee cake:

And then we headed back to church for the Christmas Day service.

We found time for a nice family photo:

After we got home, we opened presents.

And then I got to work putting together the “pick out dinner.”

I was once again very pleased with how my charcuterie board turned out!

It’s such a fun and delicious meal!

We had another little reminder of our vacation when I burned the Christmas candle we picked up at Disney Springs:

Yesterday was a pretty quiet day because we waited for today for our fancy Christmas dinner. The table looked especially nice with our (kind of) new glasses added to the place settings:

For dinner, I made a beef tenderloin, which turned out beautifully. We also had sautéed mushrooms, hasselback potatoes, roast Brussel sprouts with a balsamic glaze and dried cranberries, our favorite cherry Jell-O, and rolls:

It was delicious and elegant!

For dessert I made a pair of yule logs. I tried a new recipe for a red and green variety, which was delicious, but not as pretty as I wanted it to be. I also made a favorite gingerbread variety, which was delicious and pretty!

The whole season of Advent went by quite quickly, and so has the beginning of the Christmas season, but I’m looking forward to making the most of the days ahead!

Advent 2022–Day One

Blessed Advent!

For the fourth year in a row, the Fab Five are working on a special Lego project for Advent (check out their previous builds of the Lego Millennium Falcon, Lego Diagon Alley, and Lego Hogwarts Castle). As so many things have been in 2022, this year’s project is related to our summer vacation to Disney World…they’re building the Lego Disney Castle! Turkey got it started by building the foundation:

It might not look like much yet, but I know from experience it will take shape quickly, and I’m really looking forward to seeing all of the hidden Disney details in the build!

Easter 2022

Time for a look back at another Markel Family Easter, which started, as it does every year, on Maundy Thursday:

On Friday, I made hot cross buns (again), but this year, I tried a new recipe:

The Good Friday service was, as always, lovely and moving:

On Saturday morning, while we watched Rick Steves’ European Easter, we made our Paschal Candle for the year…I think this may be the nicest job we’ve ever done!

While I did have work to do on Saturday to prepare for our Easter dinner, most of the day was really spent waiting until it was finally time for my favorite service of the church year, the Great Vigil of Easter:

After church, we stopped at Wendy’s for Frostys and fries:

We’re still getting used to the fact that we don’t have to get up for a sunrise Easter service, so we felt a little more leisurely about getting ready. We were still at church early enough to take pictures outside:

And some indoors, including our traditional by-the-baptismal-font Easter pictures:

The church looked especially beautiful!

Ladybug even got to acolyte:

And we got a nice family picture after the service:

When we got home, I made Easter breakfast, which included Kaiserschmarrn (the Kaiser’s torn pancakes) with Rhabarberkompott (rhubarb compote), hard-boiled eggs (this is really the first time we’ve ever dyed eggs…you’ll see why in a minute), and pomegranate juice:

While we watched Easter Parade and My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding, I found time to play a little Animal Crossing: New Horizons so I could visit with Zipper T. Bunny. I also caught up with Roald, who was wearing an egg suit…I wonder if that’s what he looked like when he hatched?

I spent most of the rest of the day working on dinner and setting the table:

I chose an Italian theme for this year’s dinner. I served the same lamb in the slow cooker we had last year (technically Greek, but more generically Mediterranean, so close enough), lemon parmesan risotto, insalata caprese, roasted cauliflower, panzanella, breaded artichokes, capers, olives, Italian Easter bread, and lemon Italian soda.

I stuck with the Italian theme for dessert…we had cannoli and Italian sprinkle cookies:

This was an especially nice Easter. Maybe it’s because things felt more “normal” (I actually shook hands for the first time in over two years!), maybe it was because the church services were so meaningful, maybe it was because this may be the nicest Easter dinner I’ve ever made. Whatever the reason, I’m thankful we had such a wonderful celebration of Christ’s resurrection!