Thanksgiving 2019

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!

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 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 Markel Family New Year

New Year’s is not one of our family’s favorite holidays. Even so, I try to make it special, since it is the end of one year and the beginning of a new one. This year was especially nice because we got to start New Year’s Eve morning at church (and got to see the Advent wreath all lit up one more time!):

We always enjoy our New Year’s Eve hot chocolate bar. This year we had five flavors of hot chocolate to choose from: dark and milk chocolate, French vanilla, salted caramel, and mint. We also had three kinds of mini marshmallows…regular, mint, and vanilla snowmen. Unfortunately this year, I could not find chocolate whipped cream, so we only had regular to go with our other toppings and add-ons:

Ryan and I enjoyed a toast to the new year, but we didn’t wait until midnight. While we were awake to ring in the new year, I wasn’t sure I would make it, so we had our toast a few hours early, while we watched our traditional New Year’s Eve movie…Apollo 13.

We didn’t have any big plans for today. Originally, we were going to have a nice stay at home day, followed by our first family feast of the new year, but we ended up driving into West County to do a little shopping…I find it very hard to do nothing all day! When we got home, I started on our dinner…Cornish hens roasted with lemon, garlic, and rosemary in a white wine sauce, mashed potatoes (with homemade gravy!), roasted red potatoes, carrots and Brussel sprouts, cherry Jell-O, and dinner rolls. It was a little different from our standard New Year’s Day dinner (although, I used to make Cornish hens for New Year’s when Ryan and I were first married), and very delicious!

For dessert we had a tuxedo cake, which I thought was just the right amount of formal for this holiday!

So, while we’re not big New Year’s people, I hope I still made it a special two days, as we said goodbye to 2017, and welcomed 2018 with open arms!

A Markel Family Christmas

Our traditional Markel Family Christmas was a three-day affair this year!

Because Christmas Day fell on a Monday, our church schedules were a little complicated this time around. There wasn’t a large enough break at home on Christmas Eve for our traditional “pick out dinner,” so I decided we’d have it a day early. But before we got to that, our day Saturday started in a most pleasant fashion…the first snow of the season, and Christmas Crunch for breakfast!

And then the best dinner of the year. I love how it’s always a little bit the same as the previous year’s feast, and a little bit different! This year, in addition to the standard summer sausage and crackers, cheeses, buffalo Chex mix, and sausage squares, we also had Greek spirals from Trader Joe’s, meatballs, Rotel dip and jalapeño popper dip (both served with festive red and green tortilla chips), deviled eggs, pizza rolls, mozzarella sticks, Ranch dip with assorted veggies, and Dino Nuggets. As always, there was way too much food, which is how we like it, because we can enjoy the leftovers for several days!

As it turned out, we were fortunate that Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday, because if it hadn’t, we wouldn’t have been able to attend our regular church at all. Even though it was still technically Advent, I wore my new Pinup Girl Clothing ornament print skirt:

The children’s blue Christmas outfits fit right in with Advent 4 (and the snow falling outside!), though, and I was able to get our annual pictures at our church…including one where Bunny insisted on giving her youngest sister bunny ears!

After lunch and a little downtime at home, it was time to drive into St. Louis so Ryan and the four oldest children could sing in their respective choirs. I wore my standard Christmas Eve dress, but I added some Splendette bangles to give a more retro look:

Of course I had to get another picture of the Fab Five:

Bunny sang the first verse of “Once in Royal David’s City” solo, and she did an amazing job!

I always love hearing the children sing Stille Nacht:

Back home for even more pictures:

And Jesus’ birthday cake:

And everyone opened their one Christmas Eve gift…new Christmas jammies!

After stuffing the stockings, Ryan and I played Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries, as we always do…and I was once again a poor sport when I won, repeating last year’s victory lap around the kitchen table. For what it’s worth, I did apologize for my bad behavior.

A last look to make sure everything was ready before bed:

We were up extra early this morning, to make sure there was time to open the stockings before driving back into the city. For some reason, I rarely get pictures of the boys that early in the morning…it may have something to do with the fact that they’re always annoyed with me for waking them!

We also managed to find time for our traditional Christmas morning cherry coffee cake:

I had to wear my ornament print skirt again, because it’s so gorgeous, but at least I styled it a little bit differently this time!

I’m a sucker for pictures of the Fab Five!

Only the adult choir (of which Ryan, Turkey, and more recently, Bunny, are members) was scheduled to sing, but some of the children were also recruited to fill out the soprano section. “See in Yonder Manger Low” was my very favorite piece they sang!

After church, we even managed to find time to get a picture of the whole family!

After lunch, we opened presents. I am so thankful that everyone was thrilled with their gifts!

The aftermath was…something:

I spent what felt like an eternity in the kitchen preparing our very festive meal. The dinner table was a little low-key this year, but it still looked nice:

We had a very nice spread this year. The star of the meal was new for me…Beef Wellington. I think I did a pretty good job! We also had two kinds of potatoes (mashed and roast), two vegetables (carrots and Brussel sprouts), a shrimp ring, cherry Jell-O and dinner rolls…it was delicious!

And for dessert, an Oreo truffle Christmas tree!

This Christmas season has seemed especially hectic, and the last three days were no exception. But we had a lot of fun, and hopefully made some happy memories in the process, so all the work was worth it!

Thanksgiving 2017

Around here, Thanksgiving is really a three-day event. It started yesterday, with the baking of all of the pies, and it won’t end until tomorrow, when we eat pie for breakfast, build our new Christmas Lego set, and have turkey soup for dinner. But today is the Big Deal…the Thanksgiving feast!

I love making the table look pretty:

Thanks to Ryan, we even had flowers this year!

We had a nice selection of beverages:

And our traditional Thanksgiving dinner:

It’s a lot of food!

No Thanksgiving is complete without pie(s) for dessert!

There was a rumor going around that I was under the weather this year. But seriously…if I wasn’t feeling well, do you really think all this could have happened? I’m not allowed to be sick on Thanksgiving ever!

The First Family Feast of 2017

I’m not going to lie…New Year’s Day (or Eve, for that matter), isn’t really my thing. After the excitement of Christmas, it just seems blah to me. This year, I wasn’t even going to do a big dinner. We were going to have pot roast, because chuck roasts were on sale last week, and carrots, and that’s it. But I must have felt guilty or something, because I decided we should have mashed potatoes, too. And I figured I should add the children’s favorite vegetable (brussels sprouts), while I was at it. Then I decided to make our favorite Jell-O, too. And then I got really crazy, and resolved (see what I did there?) to make both Parker House rolls and gravy from scratch. So much for ignoring New Year’s Day, I guess!

I’m so not into this holiday, I wasn’t even going to make a dessert. Until I ran across a recipe for mint hot chocolate bread pudding. Fine. I made dessert, too.

I didn’t get out the fancy china this time…because I’m still not into today. But, we had a nice family feast, and I guess it was a pretty good way to start a new year!

Hot Chocolate for New Year’s Eve

This New Year’s Eve hot chocolate bar tradition has really stuck! The children look forward to it all month, with suggestions for what we should have. Well, all the children except Chickadee, who is opposed to all warm beverages. She had chocolate milk with whipped cream and sprinkles on top instead!

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This year, we had three different kinds of hot chocolate…mint, dark chocolate, and milk chocolate. We also had three kinds of marshmallows…cinnamon, vanilla, and regular. There were also various sprinkles, crushed peppermints and candy canes, and two kinds of Pirouette cookies. Plus chocolate syrup for drizzling on top, and a little bonus addition for the adults. We also added our Christmas crackers to our New Year’s Eve celebration, since we didn’t use them earlier in the week…they just added to the fun!

Happy New Year’s Eve!

Christmas 2016

It’s hard to believe that another Christmas Eve and Day have come and gone already!

As always, our celebration started yesterday, with my favorite meal of the whole year…the “pick out dinner.” We had summer sausage, cheese, and crackers, jalapeno popper and buffalo chicken dips, sausage squares, deviled eggs, toasted ravioli, mozzarella sticks, cheese squares, buffalo chex mix, and pizza bagels. Oh, and the chef’s favorite sour beer:

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Then it was time to get ready for church. I wore my traditional Christmas Eve dress and brooch. I’ve featured the brooch here a lot, but I’ve been wearing this same dress every Christmas Eve for at least five years, and I’m pretty sure it’s never appeared here before!

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As they did last year, “The Bigs” sang for Hope Lutheran church in St. Louis’s Christmas Eve Divine Service.

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After we got home, I took lots of pictures:

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And we had Jesus’ birthday cake, and lit all of the candles on the Advent wreath:

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Everyone always opens one present on Christmas Eve. Ryan and I both got slippers, and the children each got a new pair of Christmas jammies:

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Ryan and I also always play Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries on Christmas Eve. The final score was 162 to 131…I’ll let you guess who won!

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After the children went to bed, I made sure everything was ready for the morning.

They always get to open their stockings before Christmas Day church:

I really love our very delicious tradition of cherry coffee cake for breakfast on Christmas morning!

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Another Christmas church service means another Christmas outfit (with a new brooch) for me!

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This year, all four of “The Bigs” served as acolytes. This was Turkey’s first opportunity to be crucifer…he was very excited (and a little nervous)! Bunny was the book bearer, which seemed fitting, and Moose and Ladybug both served as torch bearers.

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I always have to get another picture (or eight) after church:

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When we got home, we had a quick lunch, and then we listened to Ryan read the Christmas story. Chickadee still loves acting it out with our Little People nativity:

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And then there was a flurry of gift opening!

This Christmas has been a little different, but it was still a wonderful weekend to celebrate our Savior’s birth, and spend time together as a family! Merry Christmas!