May the Fourth Be With You

Happy Star Wars Day!

I promised the Fab Five that we would do something special to celebrate this year, especially since we were so excited about the premiere of The Bad Batch, so I planned a special Star Wars themed dinner featuring recipes from The Official Black Spire Outpost Cookbook. I chose stuffed “puffer pig”, roasted chando peppers, fried zuchii, and for the evening’s beverage, the cliff dweller:

For dessert, I made Bespin cloud drops (and we’ll just ignore the fact the I had to ask what Bespin is):

May the Fourth be with you!

Easter in the Time of COVID-19

Time for another look at a Markel Family holiday in the time of COVID-19!

Last year, I was all about keeping as many things as normal as possible for everyone. This year, I decided to embrace the new and different as much as I could. For starters, even though I’m now back to grocery shopping once a week instead of every two weeks, and could have bought hot cross buns from the bakery, I decided to make a batch again this year:

We went to our new church for the evening Maundy Thursday service to begin the Holy Triduum, and it was short, but very nice:

On Good Friday we were back at our new church for an equally moving (and equally short) Tenebrae service:

On Holy Saturday, we watched Rick Steves’ European Easter and made our Paschal candle for the year, as is our tradition. This one didn’t turn out so well, but it still gets the job done!

We attended the Great Vigil of Easter at our new church…I’m so glad they offer that service. More of it was spent outside than we are used to, and that was really nice!

After church, instead of getting sundaes from McDonald’s like we usually do, we got Frosty’s and fries at Wendy’s, and I introduced the Fab Five to the culinary experience that is dipping the fries in the Frosty:

We didn’t have a sunrise service this year, but I was still up early enough to see the sunrise:

And even though we didn’t need to leave the house super-early, I still bought our traditional Pop-Tarts:

It was a beautiful morning!

I took pictures of the Fab Five in the garden outside of church:

Since I couldn’t really take pictures of them inside the church (and especially by the baptismal font) like I usually do, I did that the day of Chickadee’s confirmation:

Our new church is beautiful!

After church, we came home and made Easter breakfast…eggs and sausage, English muffins, pomegranate juice, and every flavor of mini donut I could find…seven varieties. Maybe we’ll be able to go to Easter breakfast at church again in the future, but for now, it’s nice to have the meal at home!

I may have completed all of the Bunny Day goals in Animal Crossing: New Horizons last year, but I still checked in with Zipper T. Bunny:

We had fun watching some of our favorite Easter movies today, including My Big, Fat Greek Wedding, Easter Parade, and It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown. While we did that, I made sure the table looked pretty for dinner:

And made our Easter feast for dinner. I tried a new leg of lamb recipe in the crock-pot, which was both amazingly delicious and easy. We also had Greek potatoes, carrot fritters, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, breaded artichokes, cherry Jell-O, and popovers:

For dessert, I made carrot cake Oreo truffles:

No matter what stays the same or what is different from year to year, our reason for celebrating remains constant. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!!!

St. Patrick’s Day in the Time of COVID-19

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Can you believe this is the second time we’ve celebrated this holiday in the time of COVID-19?!? Of course, last year, we really didn’t know what we were in for yet, and this year, we’re all hoping that we can see a light at the end of the tunnel, but either way, our family celebration remained largely unchanged, although this year, we did start celebrating pretty early in the month with Shamrock Shakes (almost impossible to find in our area this year, so when we did pinpoint a location that was offering them, we jumped on it!) and a Green River Soda cheesecake from Eli’s:

We started the day with Lucky Charms and the leprechaun trap…spoilers, we didn’t catch him (again!)!

We read all of our favorite St. Patrick’s Day books, watched all of the Ireland episodes of Rick Steves’ Europe we have on disc, and also watched Aerial Ireland. I really enjoyed “Shamrock Day” in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. While it wasn’t a huge event like some, there were some special items, including what look suspiciously like Shamrock Shakes!

I also enjoyed giving a few of my favorite neighbors a Shamrock Suit to match mine:

The highlight of the day (for me at least) was dinner. I love corned beef and cabbage and all the trimmings!

And of course we had Guinness cake for dessert, which is a family favorite!

We had a nice St. Patrick’s Day, as we always do, but I really hope that next time the holiday rolls around, things in the world are a little more normal!

Celebrating the Pride of Mount Vernon

“Ladies and gentlemen!…The moment you’ve been waiting for!…The pride of Mount Vernon!…George Washington!” (From Hamilton)

I decided that, since we’ve enjoyed Christopher Jackson’s portrayal of George Washington in Hamilton so much, and since I knew we’d be watching Hamilton again for Washington’s Birthday today, I should also make the whole day a celebration. Actually, this was just the kind of festivity we needed at the end of February in the time of COVID-19! We started with coffee cake for breakfast…cherry, of course!

I got into the spirit of the Day in Animal Crossing:

The highlight of our celebration (other than watching Hamilton, of course), was dinner. I found four new recipes on the Mount Vernon website, all based on recipes from Martha Washington’s collection…chicken chasseur, popovers, carrot fritters, and stewed parsnips. Everything was delicious, but even I was surprised by how popular the fritters were!

Not too bad for a Monday night!

For dessert, I made pie. Cherry pie (of course!):

I threw in some ice cream for fun:

George Washington was a flawed man, as we all are, but he was a great leader for our young country, and I think these words from his farewell address to the nation sum up his character well:

“Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.”

Tasty Tuesday–Burns Night Supper

Yesterday was one of my favorite lesser-known holidays…Burns Night! While we don’t celebrate the famed Scottish poet every year, it is always a day we look forward to it when we do celebrate it. Since you can’t really get haggis in America (and I’m not sure I could get everyone here to try it even if you could!), our Burns Night Supper is always cock-a-leekie pie according to the recipe used by The Scottish Arms restaurant in St. Louis, as it appeared in Sauce magazine. I was feeling a little extra fancy this year, so I used cookie cutters to give the puff pastry a wintry twist:

Our traditional Burns Night dessert is always sticky toffee pudding, made according to the Schlafly recipe…with apologizes to Robert Burns, I think this is the “Great Chieftain o’ the Puddin’-race!” The cake is so popular, I’ve also made it for birthdays in the past!

What fun and unusual holidays do you like to celebrate?

Tasty Tuesday–A Look Back at Festive Feasts and Holiday Baking

I often take a look back at the holiday baking I did from Thanksgiving through Epiphany; this year, I thought it would be fun to look back at all of the holiday meals and treats we’ve enjoyed, starting with Thanksgiving dinner:

We had our pick out dinner on Christmas Day this time:

And our fancy Christmas dinner on the Sunday after Christmas:

Of course we had our traditional New Year’s Eve hot chocolate bar:

And a special New Year’s Day dinner to start the new year right:

And finally, our Ryan’s Birthday/Epiphany feast:

On to the baking. There were pies for Thanksgiving:

And several cakes throughout the season, for St. Nicholas Day, Santa Lucia Day, Jesus’ Birthday, the fancy Christmas dinner, and New Year’s Day:

We baked so many Christmas cookies!

And an obligatory “other” section, for things like lussekattes, coffee cake, and even some special holiday beverages:

I put in a little extra effort this year, to make up for the fact that we couldn’t go anywhere or do most of our normal Christmas activities. In the end, I think we’ll have a lot of delicious memories from this holiday season!

A Birthday Feast on Epiphany

It’s hard to write about a celebration on a day like today, but regardless of what is going on in our country, today is Ryan’s birthday, and we still wanted to celebrate him, even though we spent most of the day glued to the news. So, while we watched in disbelief, I carried on with the special dinner I had planned for him, starting with setting the table. (At one point while I was preparing for our dinner, I yelled so loud at the TV that I almost shattered a glass!)

The meal included a standing rib roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans with almonds, Brussels sprouts, rolls, and spiced apple rings.

It was a nice meal, in spite of everything:

For dessert, he asked for Oreo truffles. Since I didn’t have a cake to decorate, I made a fancy display for them, which I was pretty happy with.

I even found a fun star-shaped sparkler (that’s what happens when you have an Epiphany birthday), to top the truffle tree:

It wasn’t the birthday celebration he wanted, but it certainly will be an unforgettable one.

Celebrating the New Year in the Time of COVID-19

How in the world do you say goodbye (or perhaps good riddance), to a year like 2020 and then immediately move into celebrating what we all hope will be a better, brighter future?

In our case, we did what we usually do on New Year’s Eve and Day…stay home. I made stromboli, one of our favorite dinners, for New Year’s Eve:

And we had our traditional hot chocolate bar while watching Apollo 13. It wasn’t as fancy as it has been in the past (finding all of the things I usually include was too difficult due to COVID-19), but all things considered, I think I did a pretty good job of putting it together!

Most of the rest of the evening was spent playing Animal Crossing New Horizons and waiting for the final countdown, if you will, while we watched Ocean’s 11.

Roald had some wisdom to share:

Aurora and Wade echoed my thoughts on the year, too:

After staying up far too late trying to place an order on Lego’s website (I finally had success at 1:30 a.m.!), I was up fairly early this morning, and got to see the ice on the trees before it melted:

Sprinkle must not have gotten enough sleep, either, because she was in desperate search of coffee:

I think Ursula summed up my feelings on the new year pretty well:

A new year deserves a fancy dinner. I went with cool colors for the table this time:

I kind of took the easy way out with dinner…I just made pork tenderloin for the main course, which isn’t difficult to make and doesn’t even take much time, but feels fancy. I also made roast potatoes and Brussels sprouts, creamed spinach, breaded artichokes, and rolls. We even had spiced apple rings, which are a favorite of mine!

It was a really delicious dinner!

After watching Happy New Year, Charlie Brown!, we had dessert, a hot chocolate cake. I won’t lie, I used a mix, and canned frosting. But I still tried to make it look fancy:

I’ll leave you with a gently misquoted toast to the New Year by Colonel Potter on M*A*S*H:

“Here’s to the New Year. May she be a damn sight better than the old one, and may we all leave home before she’s over.”

Happy New Year!

The Christmas Feast

Today was the day of our big Christmas feast! Because of COVID-19, we didn’t have any guests to share it with, but I still made a nice dinner for the seven of us, and since we went to church this morning, it kind of felt like Christmas Day usually does!

As always, a holiday meal begins with a pretty table:

I didn’t make as much food as when we have family visiting, but I still think it was a nice spread. Beef Wellington, mashed potatoes and gravy, Brussels sprouts casserole, sautéed mushrooms, rolls, and cherry cola Jell-O were all on the menu. (We were also supposed to have creamed spinach, but the chef ran out of energy).

For dessert, I made a gingerbread Yule log with white chocolate bark and sugared cranberries:

It was a different Christmas feast than we’re used to, but it was still festive (and delicious!).

Merry Christmas!

Christmas in the Time of COVID-19

Time for a look at this year’s scaled-back Christmas celebration. Some things were the same, like starting Christmas Eve with a bowl of Christmas Crunch:

Some things were different…but not necessarily because of COVID-19. I had a fun time playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons and helping Jingle deliver his gifts yesterday morning:

The Fab Five finished this year’s Advent project, Lego Diagon Alley:

And I played Animal Crossing some more:

Our Christmas Eve dinner was different this year…I ordered tamales from Portillo’s, and we had them before church.

I always take pictures before church. This year, I took two sets. One with the year’s hottest accessory:

And one without:

This year, we attended an outdoor Christmas Eve service. It was cold, so we weren’t too sad it was short (although I missed all off the familiar Christmas hymns!). We did chuckle when a helicopter flew over during “Silent Night,” drowning out the singing!

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

For Jesus’ birthday cake this year, I made a peppermint chocolate cake with two kinds of frosting (white chocolate peppermint buttercream inside, and an Italian buttercream outside). I think this is one of the best cakes I’ve ever made!

Of course there were new Christmas jammies:

We skipped playing Ticket to Ride on Christmas Eve, so I just had to fill the stockings and set up the nativity scene under the tree before bed:

We didn’t have to get up early, so we enjoyed our traditional Christmas morning coffee cake a little later than usual (but not much):

And since we didn’t have a Christmas Day service to go to (probably the biggest disappointment of the holiday for me), we opened presents in the morning, which was very strange!

We had our traditional Christmas Eve “pick out dinner” for Christmas Day lunch…and dinner (we’re saving our fancy Christmas feast for Sunday…stay tuned!). Here’s a look at some of the things we had:

We spent the afternoon watching Christmas movies, including my very favorite, White Christmas. We played our annual Christmas Eve game of Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries tonight. And since we were a day late, we also played the new Ticket to Ride game Ryan gave me, the 15th anniversary edition with clear trains, which I love! Everything is different this year…we might as well embrace it!

“Hail, O everlasting morn!
Hail, redemption’s happy dawn!
Sing through all Jerusalem:
‘Christ is born in Bethlehem!'”

Merry Christmas!