Oktoberfest 2016

Today was our annual Oktoberfest celebration!

We spent the day at home, watching episodes of Rick Steves’ Europe set in Germany, as well as The Sound of Music (ok, so it was an Alpine Oktoberfest, not strictly German!). We also listened to one of my favorite CDs…Germany’s Greatest Hits. It wouldn’t seem like Oktoberfest without the “Schnitzelbank!”

We enjoyed our traditional feast. We had a light lunch so that we could enjoy a hearty afternoon snack of fondue with homemade pretzels, pickles, and brats. For dinner, we had more brats (one of these years, I’m going to make Jagerschnitzel again!), sauerkraut, and German potato salad. It’s been several years since I last made an apple strudel, so that’s what we had for dessert, but I used dried cranberries instead of raisins this time, which I think gave it an extra fall flavor.

This was kind of a silly tradition I started when the children were small, but I think it’s become one of our favorite days of the year! Prost!

Olympics School–Day Six

Our 2016 summer school wrapped up today. We finished our overview of geography with longitude and latitude, and how to find a place based on its geographical coordinates. We learned more about some famous past Olympians. We also had an interesting current events discussion about the actions of some of the US swimmers, and I had an ethical/bioethical conversation with my oldest students about the issues surrounding runner Caster Semenya. The children had one last fun creative assignment…they each designed an Olympic medal for a future Olympiad.

We also tried one last Brazilian meal. We enjoyed the children’s two favorite recipes that I’ve made recently again: Pao de Queijo and the Brazilian lemonade. I also made Brazilian rice again, to go with a delicious Brazilian fish stew. Since I was feeling adventurous, I even made Brazilian collard greens, which sadly only Ladybug and I enjoyed, but at least everyone tried them! For dessert, we had a double coconut cake, which was delicious!



Our adventures in Brazilian cooking have been interesting. I’ve used a lot of black beans and peppers in the last two weeks, as well as coconut and coconut milk. I’ve really enjoyed learning how to cook new things, and teaching my children some cooking skills and wisdom (I don’t think they’ll ever forget that “ganache covers a multitude of sins!). I’m especially glad that everyone was adventurous enough to try (and mostly enjoy) everything I made!

Olympics School–Day Three

I can’t believe we’re already almost to the halfway point of the Olympics!

We’ve continued our survey of geography, moving on to locating European countries and cities. Turkey, Bunny, and Ladybug have been working their way through a few more of the books I put in our book basket, reading a biography of Pelé, which they really enjoyed, and a novel set in the Amazon. We also made our one big Olympics craft: salt dough medals, to be awarded following our quadrennial family Olympics. As we did in 2012, we made only gold medals, because every member of Team Markel is a winner!


I made another Brazilian dinner for our enjoyment…spicy pork and black bean stew. I made the Brazilian lemonade from our Opening Ceremony celebration again, too, and I even added paper umbrellas, something the children have been begging me to add to a beverage for years! For dessert, we had a lovely passion fruit mousse:

Next up is our Markel Family Olympic Games!

Olympics School–Day Two

We had a very busy second day of summer school!

After updating our medal chart, and being very happy that Team USA remains on top, we reviewed the geography of the United States, including state capitals and abbreviations. I read all of our Olympics-themed story books out loud, and we discussed some of the athletes that appeared in them. We also talked about some of the political issues surrounding the Olympics. The children (especially Ladybug!) were very excited to start on the workbooks I made for them, and they’ve already compared and contrasted the ancient and modern Olympic Games, done a word search, and colored a few pictures, including one of the Brazilian flag. I was very impressed with how hard Chickadee worked on her flag!


We also tried out another Brazilian meal for dinner. I made Brazilian chicken with coconut milk (pretty spicy, and yet all of the children enjoyed it!), and another batch of the Pao de Queijo we enjoyed on Friday, but with butter instead of olive oil this time. For dessert, the children helped me make Brigadeiro, which are kind of like truffles, and fun to roll in different toppings.


It hit me yesterday that this is my best opportunity to make the Olympics special for all of the children. Chickadee was only a few months old during our amazing London 2012 celebration, and by the time 2020 rolls around, Turkey will be 17 (YIKES!), and probably much too busy to do this kind of thing. I hope I’m doing a good job of making this an especially memorable and fun chapter of summer school!

A Brazilian Feast for the Opening Ceremonies

The Olympics always provide us with an opportunity to try some new recipes that reflect the food and culture of the host country. I decided to jump right in this year, and have our first Brazilian meal for the Opening Ceremony.

But before we get to dinner, there was first an Olympic snack this afternoon. We made Olympic “torches” again this year…pretzel rods dipped in white chocolate, and topped with red and yellow sugar crystals for the “flame.” I added some Olympics-themed Hershey Kisses that I bought on an impulse at the grocery store this week. I also made Brazilian lemonade (which is made with limes, not lemons…I have no idea why), which was a huge hit!

On to the dinner feast. I tried three new recipes. The main course was a Brazilian black bean stew, which also had ham, chorizo, sweet potatoes, and mango. I served it with Brazilian rice, which was cooked in a similar way to risotto, and had garlic and onion in it. We also had Pao de Queijo, which is a Brazilian cheese bread made with tapioca flour. I was a little worried that this meal would be a little too different for the children, but it was a huge hit!


For dessert, I made a Pudim De Laranja, which is a Brazilian orange flan. I screwed up the caramel part a little bit, but it was still delicious!


I have a few more recipes to try over the next few weeks…are you making anything special to celebrate the Olympics?

A Feast for Father’s Day

Since today is Father’s Day, Ryan got to choose what we had for dinner. Unsurprisingly, he picked his favorite dinner: fish tacos. I also made an avocado and mango salad with a spicy lime dressing to go with it, and a triple berry crisp for dessert:

Happy Father’s Day!


2015-16 School Year–Week Eighteen

This has been another fun and busy week!

Everybody has been working on new concepts in math. Turkey and Bunny have been learning how to find the area of shapes like triangles, trapezoids, and circles. Some of this was review, and some of it was very new. Next week, they’ll be moving on to solid figures…even more fun! Ladybug is working with mixed numbers, which has been a little confusing to her. They all did well on their math tests today, so I think it’s been a successful week!

Ladybug got to start Charlotte’s Web this week. This is one of my favorite books to read out loud, and I’m already looking forward to watching the movie when we’re done. Turkey and Bunny are still working on Tom Sawyer, but we’re getting close to the end. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

In history, we’ve been learning about Captain Cook’s travels and the colonization of Australia. We’ve had some good conversations about the way native populations all over the world were treated when the Europeans began exploring. I think next week we’ll be back to the early days of America.

On Monday, in honor of the lunar New Year, we took a break from our regular history and literature to learn about China and read some Chinese folk tales. We also enjoyed a dinner of homemade egg rolls, Szechuan shrimp, and pineapple fried rice. I love taking time to learn about other cultures and enjoy some new foods!


Next week, we’ll finally be celebrating our official 100th day of school!

Mardi Gras 2016

Today we had our annual Mardi Gras celebration. We started the day as we always do…with pączki. I’m still planning on making them from scratch one of these years! Like last year, we had red beans and rice for lunch. Much to everyone’s disappointment, I didn’t make beignets this year (there are only so many hours in the day!), but I did try a new recipe for dinner at Bunny’s request: shrimp gumbo. I even made my own shrimp broth, which was a new and entertaining experience. We finished the day with butterscotch bread pudding for dessert. I know,..that’s Southern, not Mardi Gras, but I really don’t like king cake, so I thought it was a decent substitute.

The celebration is over, and we’re ready for Lent to begin tomorrow!

Celebrating the Year of the Fire Monkey

Since we’ve been learning about Asia this year, I wanted to make a special meal to celebrate the Chinese New Year. I decided on homemade egg rolls (which Turkey has been begging me to try making for quite some time), Szechuan shrimp, pineapple fried rice, and (store-bought, of course) fortune cookies for dessert (yes, I did get the world’s most generic fortune…”Your future looks bright.”).

Everybody liked at least one part of the dinner (Ladybug, my most adventurous eater, liked it all!), and the egg rolls were especially popular. It was fun trying some new foods from a different culture!

Tasty Tuesday–Christmas Baking 2015

On the twelfth day of Christmas, the Christmas baking is finally done!

I think this was a record year…I baked over 60 dozen cookies. About 15 dozen each of raspberry-almond thumbprints and chocolate peppermint cookies (the two most popular that I bake), Another 12 dozen or so each of gingerbread and sugar cookies, plus kolaches and hot chocolate cookies. I also made two trays of Christmas cracker candy, which are kind of cookies and kind of not.

Our big family baking day is always so much fun!

We’ve really upped our decorating game! Turkey made Mario and Luigi snowmen, and Bunny made the “leader of the hosen”…I really liked that she included a feather in his cap! And we also added actual ninjabreadmen cookie cutters, which provided even more opportunities for creative decorating…

There were other special baked goods, as well, including our St. Lucia Day lussekattes, baklava for Epiphany, two birthday cakes (one for Jesus and one for Ryan), a bûche de Noël, my first-ever lattice top pie, a trifle, and a coffee cake:

I even baked one savory item…smoked Gouda cheese straws:


The Markel Bakery is now temporarily closed…but I’m sure it won’t be too long before I get the itch to bake something again!