Today is Ryan’s 40th birthday (and Epiphany), so of course I had to make a special dinner!
He hadn’t yet decided what he wanted for his birthday dinner when I ran across whole beef tenderloins on the cheap at Aldi, so I made an executive (chef’s) decision, and bought one, telling him he could choose what I would turn it into.
He picked Beef Wellington, which I’ve only made once before. I think I did an excellent job this time, from the trimming to the preparation, and the sides of mashed potatoes, green beans with almonds, asparagus, and sautéed mushrooms were the perfect accompaniment!
It really was a lovely dinner (if I do say so myself):
Ryan requested birthday pie for dessert, so I made the peanut butter pie that has been a new favorite this holiday season, and our family’s favorite s’mores pie. It’s hard to see, but the candles even “spell” out 40!
Thus endeth another season of festive meals. I’m both relieved and sad that I won’t have another fancy dinner to make for a while…as of now, the kitchen is closed!
Even though I’m not a huge New Year’s person, I do like to make the two days of the holiday special, starting with our annual hot chocolate bar on New Year’s Eve:
This year, in addition to several varieties of hot chocolate, we had four kinds of marshmallows, crushed peppermint and candy canes, chocolate covered pretzels and Pirouettes, two kinds of whipped cream, and chocolate-peppermint cookies that I baked just for the holiday:
I love seeing how different everyone’s cup looks when they’re done assembling it:
Today we had our fancy New Year’s dinner:
The star of the meal was rack of lamb, which was a first for me (I’ve only made leg of lamb in the past). We also had rosemary potatoes, roasted carrots and parsnips, asparagus, fennel gratin, spiced apple rings, and rolls:
It was a very nice dinner, and not quite as much work as our big Christmas dinner was:
And, I made creme brûlée for dessert, which is a real treat!
I have one big dinner left to make, and then that’s it for holiday meals for this season. I know Easter is lurking around the corner, though, so it won’t be too long until I’m back at it!
I thought Advent went by quickly, but our three-day-long Christmas extravaganza flew by even more rapidly!
As always, our celebration began Christmas Eve morning, with a breakfast of Christmas Crunch:
New on Christmas Even this year was putting the final touches on Lego Hogwarts Castle, a project the Fab Five worked on throughout Advent:
We had our “pick out dinner” for lunch as we have for the last few years, and it may have been the best one yet! In addition to our Christmas Eve favorites, which included a few favorites from tea parties, too, we added a Volpi Salame plus a large basil roltini.
After lunch, we headed to church, where Ladybug had the solo for the first verse of “Once in Royal David’s City.”
I especially enjoyed the Quempas Celebration.
It was nice to get a picture of the Fab Five in the newly renovated church sanctuary after the service:
We drove through the Way of Lights on the way home:
And then I took all of the pictures!
It’s always exciting to light all of the candles in the Advent Wreath!
Jesus’ birthday cake turned out a little better than last year’s, but not by much, because it fell apart a bit on one side. At least I could get a semi-decent picture, and the chocolate peppermint flavor certainly tasted good!
The entire family, including Ryan and me, received matching Christmas jammies this year, and these may have been the cutest ones yet!
Turkey joined Ryan and me for our annual game of Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries, and he won by a lot.
Chickadee set up the nativity scene before I filled the stockings and we headed to bed:
We were up very early on Christmas Day, and I finally got pictures of all of the children while they were opening their stockings!
We enjoyed our traditional Christmas Day cherry coffee cake for breakfast:
But that paled in comparison to the beautiful Christmas sunrise…”A holy day has dawned upon us!”
Back at church, the adult choir had the opportunity to sing again, including these two beautiful descants:
Of course I had to get another picture after the service:
After lunch, we opened presents:
The rest of Christmas Day was fairly quiet…we watched Christmas movies, as well as a few episodes of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which the Fab Five received for Christmas.
Yesterday, on Boxing Day, we had our big, fancy Christmas dinner. As always, I had fun setting the table:
This year’s dinner included roast beast (a standing rib roast that I found for a steal at Aldi), mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, Jell-O, and croissants, plus a festive Comet and Cupid Cabernet Sauvignon for the adults. I think I cooked the beef extraordinarily well (or maybe good would be better, if not grammatically correct, because it was definitely not well-done!).
We had a trio of Christmas desserts, and I hit pretty much every Christmas flavor except peppermint. There was cranberry-apple bread pudding with a vanilla cream sauce, gingerbread-eggnog trifle, and a chocolate Yule log:
And that’s the end of another Christmas celebration. I’m already thinking about how we can celebrate next year!
A ton of hard work went into it, but just like that, our traditional three-day Thanksgiving celebration has already come and gone!
I started baking pies bright and early Wednesday morning, while we watched some of our favorite Thanksgiving shows. As always, everyone chose a pie for our dessert table. Bunny made the caramel apple pie, and I made the other six (with some help from various children). Our lineup this year was fairly standard…pumpkin, caramel apple, cranberry apple, butterscotch, pecan, s’mores, and one new addition, peanut butter brownie, which may be the finest pie I’ve ever made!
Before I closed down the kitchen for the day on Wednesday, I also made the cranberry sauce and the stuffing, plus prepped for the turkey soup we had tonight. I was back to work Thursday morning while we watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the National Dog Show (we were so excited that chonky Thor won!), but I did take a break to enjoy a cranberry beer from a local brewery:
Our dinner was actually ready a little early, which was nice, because everyone was hungry! The menu was fairly standard…turkey and gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans with almonds, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower (a new addition to our Thanksgiving dinner), cranberry sauce, and rolls:
I love making the table look pretty!
It was a delicious dinner!
After cleaning up and watching Holiday Inn, we had pie. Lots and lots of pie:
I always have cranberry apple on Thanksgiving evening:
We always have pie for breakfast the day after Thanksgiving, so I got to try the peanut butter brownie pie this morning:
And we got to see Moose play with his school band in the town Santa Parade:
As always, the Fab Five built a Lego set following our lunch of turkey sandwiches. This year, it was the Winter Village Fire Station, and it’s a really nice set!
I got to build a Lego set, too…a nice free-with-purchase Christmas tree that is the perfect addition to my modular Main Street:
Tonight’s dinner was another Thanksgiving favorite…turkey soup. I really think the day after Thanksgiving has better food than the actual holiday!
And I finally tried the pumpkin pie tonight:
Yes, I did work hard, but I have to admit, after doing Thanksgiving on a broken ankle last year, it seemed a lot easier this time around!
As a family, we’ve never been into Halloween. Not once have the children dressed up and gone trick-or-treating, nor have they gone to any Halloween parties. Sure, we visit the pumpkin patch every year, and we listen to the Baby Snooks 1946 Halloween special and watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown multiple times every October. But come October 31st each year, we celebrate Reformation Day instead of Halloween.
Kind of. As the years have gone by, we’ve edged a little closer to a traditional Halloween celebration. I think it all started with Legends and Lanterns, which we’ve visited faithfully every year since its inception. While we still don’t go trick-or-treating (and honestly, we only have one, maybe two children who are still of the age for doing so, anyway!), we have carved a pumpkin (an activity that the children thought was fun to try once, but have no desire to do again!). We’ve also started having a special dinner featuring recipes from The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook. So I thought this year, I’d take a look at how we’ve come to celebrate Halloween.
Halloween breakfast has always featured either Cap’n Crunch’s Halloween Crunch or one of the General Mills Monster Cereals. This year, it was Franken Berry (while we listened to Baby Snooks):
I also found a special treat to go with lunch…pumpkin pie Rice Krispies Treats:
Of course I had the perfect outfit for the occasion:
And a “Little Luther” thrown in, because it is still Reformation Day, after all!
On to our feast for the day. I made one favorite recipe from the cookbook (pumpkin fizz), and tried three new options…”ghoul”-ash (I came up with that version of the name, and I’m rather proud of it!), and glazed carrots for dinner, and chocolate eclairs for dessert. They were all delicious!
We spent the day watching our favorite movies and TV shows that fit the theme…Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Bewitched, The Simpsons, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch (we watched Meet Me in St. Louis recently, which is a family favorite, and has a great Halloween scene, so we didn’t watch it again today, although we often do on Halloween).
So that’s our not-really-Halloween, Halloween celebration. It’s still not my favorite holiday, but I really do love the fun ways we’ve found to put our own spin on it, and it’s definitely something I’ve come to look forward to each October!
Yesterday we celebrated Oktoberfest! This is something we do most years, but not always on the same date, and it definitely doesn’t always look the same (some years, we go pumpkin picking on the day of our Oktoberfest celebration, but it’s still a little too early in the fall for that). Here’s a look at this year’s festivities.
We started the day with a special (but not specifically German), fall-themed breakfast:
We made pretzels from scratch, which is always fun, and they went perfectly with the German fondue I prepared for lunch. We also had pickles and mini bratwurst for dipping (or just for eating, because the boys aren’t big fans of fondue), plus a delicious cheese and artichoke strudel I found at Aldi:
For dinner, I made schnitzel (also from Aldi…they’re the best frozen schnitzel I’ve ever had, probably because they have saltines in the breading), Jäger sauce, spaetzle, red cabbage, and sauerkraut:
And for dessert, our favorite German cake…Black Forest cherry torte:
We spent the day watching The Sound of Music (I know, it’s set in Austria, but Oktoberfest is a chance to celebrate part of our family’s heritage, and my grandfather was from Austria, so I think it works), and every episode of Rick Steves’ Europe set in Germany that we have. We also played Chrono-Trek, which really has nothing to do with Oktoberfest, but is our current favorite game, and so much fun to play. It was a great day!
The summer went by way too quickly, and it’s already time for the first day of the 2019-2020 school year! Yesterday was spent doing a few last fun things before we get back to work…playing board games, baking cookies, building a Lego set, and having an Iron Man movies marathon:
Today, on the other hand, was “cleaning day.” We got the school ready (more or less) for another year of learning. Surprisingly, not too much has changed in the last year, just some minor rearranging, which is very unusual for us!
We had a “Farewell to Summer” dinner tonight…ribs, corn on the cob, baked beans, watermelon, and root beer floats for dessert. We also watched Detective Pikachu, which was a really cute movie, even for someone like me, who isn’t too familiar with Pokemon.
And the outfits are ready for tomorrow morning!
Everything else that needs to be ready for tomorrow is good to go…I put the schultüte together (but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see their contents), organized the bookshelves, and got all the new workbooks sorted out and put on desks. I’m looking forward to beginning our 12th year of homeschooling!
I promised a closer look at the foods we tried making at home for our Rick Steves’ Europe themed summer school. This was probably the most specialized cooking we’ve ever done for a school unit, and not only did we get to try a lot of new things (plus a few old favorites), we also learned some new cooking techniques and got to use some new kitchen tools!
Our first European meal featured French dishes. We started with a cheese course, the star of which was a famous French cheese, camembert:
We enjoyed boeuf bourguignon and French bread for dinner, and Crème Brûlée for dessert. The main course was delicious, but took a lot of time and effort to make. The dessert, which I assumed would be a challenge, was super easy, and possibly the most delicious thing I made this summer!
For our (European) Christmas in July, we tried two recipes from the Rick Steves’ European Christmas book: Gimmelwald fondue and Norwegian Julekake. Both were excellent, and not too much trouble to make.
I looked forward to making a Spanish dinner of paella all summer, and it was delicious, and quite spicy! The dessert of flan was good, but a total pain to make.
Ladybug begged me to make chicken paprikash for Hungarian night, and it was also delicious. I really liked that instead of using sour cream like I expected, the recipe called for heavy cream plus white wine vinegar. For a side dish, I made nokedli (pretty much just our standard spaetzle). For dessert, I made a chocolate cake called Rigó Jancsi, and it was amazing…the star of the recipe was the chocolate mousse filling.
Our British dinner was a simple (but tasty!) one of bangers and mash, plus a lemon-berry trifle for dessert.
For our “Taste of Italy” I made mushroom risotto for dinner, and Panna Cotta with fresh berries for dessert. The Panna Cotta was sweetened (and flavored) with honey, which was a pleasant surprise.
We almost didn’t have a German meal, but while watching our very last episode of Rick Steves’ Europe for the summer, we saw him eating Black Forest cherry torte, and the children reminded me how much they like it when I make that dessert, so I decided to go full German and make rouladen, spaetzle, and sauerkraut, too.
Our final meal took us away from Europe and into the Middle East, because there are a few episodes of Rick Steves’ Europe that also step into that region. We tried Shakshouka (made with a new-to-us ingredient, harissa paste), plus pita bread and pomegranate juice, and it was also delicious!
The vast majority of these recipes were new to us, and there was nothing that was a total flop (although the flan was temperamental, it came close!). Some things were more work than I would do on a regular basis (the boeuf bourguignon and the rouladen), but some were easier than I was expecting (the Crème Brûlée and Shakshouka). I know for sure that we’ll be making many of these recipes again in the future!
Who else is partying like it’s 1969?!? The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing has me in a festive, mid-century mood!
In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that our big Apollo 11 anniversary party was last Saturday, because I knew that the majority of our family wouldn’t be home today. So I started on my preparations extra early:
I found a lot of cool stuff, both around the house (it’s not like we’ve never studied space before!) and at the store. These Moon Landing Oreos were a huge hit!
I planned our party in several parts. I decided to really achieve the proper 1960s atmosphere, we should have a “cocktail hour.” I tried to come up with period appropriate appetizers, which wasn’t too hard. The menu included deviled eggs, cocktail meatballs in grape jelly, “California dip” (you know, the classic Lipton’s onion soup dip), shrimp cocktail, olives, cheese, and Chex mix (a relative of the especially appropriate nuts and bolts snack mix that I have only the vaguest memories of). For our “cocktail” I made Shirley Temples, complete with swizzle sticks!
We spent the day watching both documentaries and movies related to the Apollo program. We also built Lego’s new Lunar Lander, which was a really fun project, and looks great (if not to scale) with our Lego Saturn V rocket!
I tried to go with a 1960s dinner, as well, which was a little more challenging. After considering my options, I decided on Chicken Kiev for the main course. We also had mashed potatoes, cauliflower topped with Cheez Whiz and browned Ritz crackers (a holiday staple from my childhood!), and orange Jell-O (there had to be Jell-O, and since I was feeling nice, I didn’t even make a weird flavor with vegetables!). We also had the astronauts’ drink of champions (Tang) and Schlafly’s Lunar Lagers for the adults. The meal was a hit. Well, except for the cauliflower, which I’m pretty sure only I liked!
For dessert, we had cake (pineapple upside down, another mid-century classic) and (astronaut) ice cream.
If you know me, you know I even had the perfect outfit to wear, from my moon earrings to my space skirt, and even a cool brooch!
And a few treats for today, the actual anniversary, for those of us at home…Moon Pies (of course), and Moonsicle soda made by a local bottling company, Excel, to commemorate the anniversary of the moon landing:
I’m not sure I’ve had this much fun with a special theme since The Great American Eclipse…I wonder what event we’ll celebrate next?
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!