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!

A Markel Family Easter, 2019 Edition

Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti!

It may be hard to believe, because this year, it seemed like Lent lasted an eternity, but it’s time for another Markel Family Easter celebration! As always, it was a four-day affair, beginning with the Divine Service on Holy Thursday, where we got to hear Moose and Ladybug’s choir sing.

On Friday, we had the opportunity to experience a worship service that was new to (most) of us…the Good Friday Tre Ore service, which was a circuit event hosted at a church in south St. Louis, where once again, Moose and Ladybug’s choir sang…and this time, Bunny also joined in. We stayed for one of the three hours, and we really enjoyed the solemnity of the segments of the service we participated in.

We spent our Good Friday afternoon walking around the Missouri Botanical Garden and Forest Park. It was a blustery, but beautiful, day:

In the evening, Ryan, Turkey, and Bunny sang with the adult choir for the Good Friday Chief Service.

Holy Saturday is always a busy day. There was cooking, rehearsing at church for the Easter Sunrise Service, cooking, and the making of the family Paschal Candle:

Of course, the highlight of Holy Saturday is my favorite church service of the entire year, The Great Vigil of Easter!

After the vigil, we always stop at McDonald’s to get hot fudge sundaes for the Fab Five:

We never get enough sleep on Holy Saturday night, but the promise of Pop-Tarts before the Sunrise Service helps get the children out of bed.

This year, since Easter was so late, the sunrise was a little farther along than we’re used to!

Bunny, Moose, and Ladybug got to dress up and help with the outdoor reenactment before church:

Our sanctuary always looks especially beautiful for Easter!

After the first service, we enjoyed Easter breakfast in the church basement…I love the biscuits and gravy!

Of course I had to take pictures after breakfast:

I also had Ryan take a picture of me, because I love this year’s Easter outfit!

Did I mention I like to take pictures?




We had the privilege of serving on Altar Guild for the Divine Service:

And Moose and Ladybug got to acolyte, and all four of “The Bigs” participated in the processional:


Following an afternoon of watching movies, we had a nice Easter dinner. I made sure that the table looked extra pretty, since I failed in that department at Christmas.

Our rosemary-themed feast included leg of lamb (marinated in garlic and rosemary), rosemary smashed potatoes, sautéed asparagus, roast carrots and Brussels sprouts, rosemary dinner rolls with rosemary-garlic butter, and cherry Jell-O “salad.” We also had multiple options for both sparkling grape juice and wine, since I couldn’t decide what I wanted to serve.

I think this might be the best Easter dinner I’ve ever made!

For dessert, we had lemon cheesecake with a lemon-rosemary shortbread crust, and it was delicious!

After dinner, we watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which is one of my favorite fun Easter traditions!

I love the way we celebrate Easter…it’s a been a busy, exhausting four days, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Chickadee Thursday

Ready for Holy Thursday worship…we’re still worshipping in the basement of our church home away from home while they work on renovating their sanctuary, but Chickadee doesn’t mind!

A Markel Family Epiphany

Epiphany has always been a festive day in our house, because it’s Ryan’s birthday. But for the last few years, it’s been an extra big deal, because Epiphany is the biggest day of the year for the children’s choir. This year was a little different because the holiday fell on a Sunday, so instead of the usual evening Divine Service, Epiphany was observed as part of the regular Sunday morning Divine Service, and the adult choir sang with the children on Mendelssohn’s “There Shall a Star.” Ryan even got to be part of the trio in the first part!

There is always a reception after the Epiphany service, but it was different this year, because it was a brunch reception instead of an evening one. The ladies did a wonderful job of decorating the church basement and putting everything together! As for me, my annual contribution is baklava (my signature dish, apparently), and I added in a more brunch-appropriate coffee cake, as well.

We enjoyed a relaxing afternoon at home following the service. Ryan picked chili for his birthday dinner, and it made the house smell amazing for several hours!

He also picked a Guinness cake for dessert, which is definitely our family’s favorite!

So this Epiphany was a little different from normal, but all the basic elements were there…a church celebration and a birthday celebration. It’s a fun way to say goodbye to Christmas!

A Markel Family Christmas–2018 Edition

This whole Christmas season has been a bit more challenging than usual, because of my injured ankle. My CAM boot came off exactly a week before Christmas, and I was determined to have our usual, festive, three-day Christmas event, while relearning how to walk normally, starting with our favorite Christmas Eve breakfast of Christmas Crunch:

As we have for the last few years, we had our “pick out dinner” for lunch, before heading into the city for church. This year, we had our standard crackers and various cheeses, summer sausage, buffalo Chex mix, and jalapeño popper and rotel dips (with festive red and green tortilla chips!). We also enjoyed deviled eggs, shrimp, pizza bagels, mozzarella sticks, sausage squares, cranberry brie bites (a new recipe that was so good!), and cheese squares.

We then went to church, where “The Bigs” and Ryan were singing in the Christmas Eve service. I was very happy to wear only an ankle brace on my left leg with my standard Christmas Eve dress!

There’s always one piece of music that really stands out to me…this year, it was “Where Shepherds Lately Knelt”:

I took a picture of the Fab Five after church…in the church basement, where the service was held because the sanctuary is undergoing extensive renovations!

On the way home, we drove through the Way of Lights at Our Lady of the Snows:

At home, I took more pictures, of course:

For the first time ever, the children received completely matching Christmas jammies, and they even were in keeping with this year’s Harry Potter theme:

And then time for Jesus’ birthday cake. Doesn’t it look pretty? It’s a good thing I took this picture the day before, right after I finished decorating it, because apparently there’s too much humidity in our refrigerator for the cookie icing to set up properly, and it ran everywhere. I’m told the cake still tasted good, though…I, however, was too upset to try it.

I kind of had a meltdown at that point. I was so tired, and my ankle was bothering me, and I was just done for the day. Oh, and did I mention that at that point, we were on day four with no hot water, as we were waiting on a part and a repair on our water heater? Just done. So Ryan and I didn’t play Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries like we usually do on Christmas Eve, and we didn’t watch the San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker. I did get the stockings filled and the tree prepared before I went to bed, though:

Things looked better in the morning (even though I didn’t sleep much because my ankle was still bothering me). We had fun opening stockings (although the boys continued to elude me in my early-morning photography):

And enjoyed our Christmas Day coffee cake:

I have really enjoyed wearing this Pinup Girl Clothing dress all throughout the season, and I was especially excited to wear it on Christmas Day without the CAM boot as an accessory!

We then drove back into the city for the Christmas Day Divine Service, where Ryan, Turkey, Bunny, and Ladybug were singing in the choir:

Another picture in the basement, this time of the whole family:

After lunch, we opened presents. Bunny found the pickle ornament on the tree this year, so she got to hand out the gifts.

The rest of the day was spent snacking, relaxing, and preparing for the big Christmas feast, which we had yesterday. The star of the meal was a smoked ham from Beast Craft BBQ. We also had mashed potatoes and gravy, roast carrots, butternut squash gratin, croissants, and our favorite cherry Jell-O “salad.” You may notice a lack of festive table photos…that’s because I didn’t use the china (other than serving pieces) or set the table with our linens. My ankle might be healed, but I’m still kind of slow and still tire easily after being on my feet all day, so that was something I let go of this time.

I made a trio of Christmas desserts…an apple-cranberry bread pudding, a gingerbread-eggnog trifle, and a Buche de Noel. They were all delicious…I especially liked the bread pudding, which was a new recipe.

So that was Christmas 2018. More things went wrong than I would have liked, but most things went right. What really matters, though, is that we were all together, and we had plenty of opportunities to celebrate our Savior’s birth!