St. Patrick’s Eve

Sometimes, you just have to celebrate a holiday on an alternate day. St. Patrick’s Day is one of those days for us this year, so today, we had a St. Patrick’s Eve celebration!

We started with our traditional breakfast of Lucky Charms…but this time, they were Lucky Charms with Frosted Flakes! They were very popular. We also checked our Leprechaun trap, and discovered that, as always, it was empty. There were some delicious mints for a consolation prize, though!

We had a couple of special treats with lunch…Irish cheddar, and St. Patrick’s Day Cakes:

And our traditional St. Paddy’s dinner…well, mostly traditional. Instead of the roasted potatoes I usually make to go with the corned beef and cabbage, carrots, and soda bread, I made mashed potatoes and colcannon:


And our favorite Guinness cake for dessert!

It was a little weird celebrating a day early, but any family feast is a fun occasion, no matter when it takes place!

Valentine’s Day Dinner

Some years, I make something fancy for Valentine’s Day, and some years, I make something fun. Whatever I choose, though, I try to make something special. This year, I decided to go with a sandwich bar similar to the one we had on New Year’s Eve, because it was such a hit:

I also made a Piña Colada cheesecake for dessert:

Valentine’s Day may not be a big deal around here the way some holidays are, but I still like to do a little something for my family to show them I love them!

And, I will leave you with this…a Valentine’s Day poem, written by Bunny:

“Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Spock wore yellow,
In pilot number two.”

New Year’s Eve 2018

Here we are at another New Year’s Eve. Not my favorite holiday (especially not just a week after Christmas, which is very much my favorite!), but I’m always looking for ways to make it special for my family. This year, I decided on a build-your-own-sandwich bar for dinner, which was a huge hit with the children. We had our favorite brioche buns, three types of meat (turkey, ham, and roast beef), four cheeses (cheddar, American, Muenster, and provolone), lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and pickles, plus the usual condiments.

Tonight we went to New Year’s Eve church (which is actually the Eve of the Circumcision and Name of Jesus) for the first time. To be honest, if we hadn’t been serving on Altar Guild, we probably wouldn’t have gone this year, but it was nice to have a reason to get us out of the house and into the pew.

Back home, we enjoyed our annual New Year’s Eve hot chocolate bar while we watched Apollo 13. These are our two firm New Year’s Eve traditions, and the best thing about the day!

As usual, Ryan and I had our toast to the New Year well before midnight, because who knows if I’m going to be able to stay up that late?

So that’s another Markel Family New Year’s celebration. I’m making a nicer meal for New Year’s Day tomorrow, but nothing spectacular. Mostly, I’m just thankful for the blessings 2018 brought to us, and looking forward to seeing what 2019 has in store!

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!

A Markel Family Santa Lucia Day

Santa Lucia Day is one of my favorite holidays! I love planning and preparing, especially when it comes to making the Lussekattes and setting up the night before:

The girls all still love dressing up, and while it may not be traditional, they all dress as Santa Lucia. This was the fifth year using the crowns I made for them!

We even had a Swedish dinner! I’m so glad St. Louis has an IKEA now, because it made planning our meal so much easier. We had Swedish meatballs with gravy, egg noodles, lingonberry juice, and for dessert, Swedish sandwich cookies, plus Dala Horse and Sour Viking candies:

We also read our favorite Santa Lucia stories today. It’s such a lovely holiday in the lead-up to Christmas, and one I look forward to all year long!

A Markel Family Thanksgiving, Broken Ankle Edition

Normally, Thanksgiving in our house is a three-day affair, beginning on Wednesday (pie day) and culminating the day after. Because of my broken ankle, this year Thanksgiving had to be a four-day holiday. I started by baking four pies (S’mores, Nutella, pecan, and pumpkin), on Tuesday, (and we had a regular school day, too!), in addition to making the cranberry sauce and chopping the vegetables for the stuffing and the turkey soup. I knew there was no way I could do all of that, plus the other five pies and stuffing prep on Wednesday, and I’m glad I planned it that way, because even just that was a lot of work on my booted leg!

On Wednesday, the other five pies were prepared (banana cream, caramel apple made by Bunny, strawberry, cranberry apple, and butterscotch), plus the stuffing was finished and ready to go in the slow cooker Thursday morning. We also read all of our favorite Thanksgiving stories (it was the least I could do to make up for the lack of our regularly scheduled Thanksgiving school) and made hand and footprint turkeys. This was an exhausting day!

I do have to admit, all the pies did look really nice!

Of course, Thursday was the Big Day. There was more work, including giving the turkey a bath in the sink and prepping the rest of the menu. We also watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and the National Dog Show, which are Thanksgiving highlights for me. I also love setting a nice table for a holiday!

In case you’re wondering, my motivation for doing all of this even with a broken ankle was the Fab Five. I have been aware that “the days are long, but the years are short” since the very beginning, and that’s becoming even more real now that we’re getting closer to the time when the children will all start scattering as they reach adulthood.

We had our usual Thanksgiving feast…roast turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, carrots, Brussel sprouts, green beans with almonds, cranberry sauce, and rolls with butter:

Red and white wine, and red and white sparkling grape juice accompanied our meal:

It was a delicious feast!

And then, after much clean-up, the annual watching of Holiday Inn, and the boiling of the carcass for turkey soup, it was pie time!

I went with my favorite, cranberry apple, plus the Thanksgiving standard of pumpkin pie with whipped cream:

The celebration continued this morning with our traditional day after Thanksgiving breakfast of pie:

And then, something new this year! Moose got to march in the town parade with his school’s band. We’ve never attended before, and despite the wind, it was a lot of fun!

This year, our annual day after Thanksgiving Lego build didn’t feature a Winter Village set. Instead, I carried the year’s Harry Potter theme through to Thanksgiving, and we built the Whomping Willow set, plus a free-with-purchase Diagon Alley set.

And then turkey soup for dinner!

And more pie for dessert…this time, I went with the chocolate-based pies…S’mores and Nutella.

And that’s the end of another Thanksgiving in the Markel house. We didn’t go to downtown Belleville following our turkey soup dinner this year, partly because we don’t enjoy the tree-lighting as much without the community sing they used to have, and partly because rain postponed some of the other activities. But almost everything else went according to our normal Thanksgiving traditions, even if the timing of some them were altered a bit…but there was no way I was going to allow a broken ankle to ruin our holiday!

A Family Feast Mash-Up

In our house, October 31st is pretty much about Reformation Day, because we’re not really into Halloween (or are we?). But this year, since we’ve been so focused on Harry Potter, I wanted something that was both a nod to the series, which celebrates Halloween, as well something that was a reference to our German heritage/Reformation Day. So I came up with what I think was a good compromise…we had a German dinner of brats, sauerkraut, and kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes), with a pumpkin-themed desert featuring recipes from our Harry Potter Cookbook (pumpkin fizz and pumpkin pasties).

The rest of the day was spent enjoying the “Reformation Polka,” reading about Martin Luther while hearing Lutheran hymns, listening to the Baby Snooks Halloween special, and watching The Wizard of Oz, Rick Steves’ Luther and the Reformation special, Bob Ross’ The Joy of Painting, and Halloween episodes of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. It’s not really a traditional Halloween celebration, and not only a Reformation Day observance, but it’s very us!

Tasty Tuesday–A Magical Birthday Feast

It’s already been two weeks since Harry Potter’s (and J.K. Rowling’s) birthday! To celebrate that occasion, we tried out some more recipes from The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook. I can’t recommend it enough…we’ve loved the recipes we’ve tried so far, and it’s so much fun to have themed dinners!

This time around, we tried Gillywater (a drink made from honeydew melon and mint), hot rolls, Brussel sprouts with béchamel sauce, Chiddingly hotpot (a fantastic stew with many sour notes from two kinds of vinegar and green olives!), and Sirius Black’s coconut cake for dessert (yes, I got Hogwarts paper plates from Walmart!):

No, not all of these recipes appear in the Harry Potter books. J.K. Rowling never explains what Gillywater is, so the author of the cookbook just went with something green and refreshing (which it was!). The coconut cake is also a creation from the author’s imagination, based on the fact that Sirius Black was hiding out in a tropical location, so she decided that when he sent Harry a birthday cake, it would have a tropical flavor. I really appreciate not only the known recipes from the books, but also the author’s interpretation of some of the more vague culinary mentions!

Ready for the First Day of School!

Our super-fun summer has just sped by, and tomorrow it’s already time for the first day of school! To make our last week of vacation extra special, I prepared everyone’s favorite meal (with some exceptions…for example, no one was allowed to request Thanksgiving dinner!). Our lineup for the past week was:

  • Amanda–Reuben casserole
  • Turkey–Stromboli
  • Bunny–Brazilian black bean stew with Pao de Queijo and Brazilian lemonade
  • Moose–French toast with bacon and cranberry-pineapple juice
  • Ladybug–Creamy onion soup with Irish soda bread and pumpkin fizz
  • Chickadee–Mac ‘n’ cheese with bacon
  • Ryan–Cock-a-leekie pie

Tonight we had a “Farewell to Summer” dinner of hot dogs (including Chicago-style and chili dogs) and brats, with a special cream puff dessert:

The school room has been cleaned and organized, and for once, there really haven’t been any significant changes in the way it’s arranged! We’ve either found a really good layout that works for us, or we’ve run out of room to make any changes…or most likely, a combination of the two!

And the First Day of School outfits are ready to go…we’re going with a Harry Potter theme this year!

Tomorrow marks the beginning of our 11th year of homeschooling. As always, I am both excited and terrified, but one thing is for sure…I can’t wait to see what this year brings!

Tasty Tuesday–A Magical Feast

Happy Birthday Harry Potter!

We had a special magical feast last week, based on recipes from The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook. Since today is Harry Potter’s birthday, it seems like the perfect time to share our feast, which included pumpkin fizz, a new Irish soda bread recipe, creamy onion soup, beef stew with herbed dumplings, butterbeer, and an English strawberry trifle:

It was a delicious meal…we’re definitely looking forward to trying more recipes from the cookbook!