Stitch’s Bread

The one thing Ladybug would have like to done while we were at Disney World, or the one thing she’d like to go back and do someday, is go to the “Ohana Breakfast” and share a meal with Stitch at the Polynesian Village Resort. I don’t have a time machine or the ability to produce another trip, but I did find a copycat recipe for the pineapple-coconut bread they serve, and we made it on Friday.

There must have been a big air pocket in the dough, because there’s a tunnel running through the bread, but that doesn’t effect the taste, and it’s a fabulous recipe…it was nice to have a taste of the tropics in the middle of winter!

2022 in Review

What a year it has been!

For the first time since before the pandemic, this is a year I’m actually sorry to see go. We had a lot of fun this year, and made enough memories to make up for all the things we didn’t get to do in the previous two years.

But first, January, which is always a fairly quiet month. We rang in the New Year, and I looked ahead to some of the things I was most anticipating in 2022 (Spoilers: they all happened this time!). Ladybug and I had the opportunity to go to the “Beyond Van Gogh” exhibit, which was really cool. Chickadee finally resumed her job as my grocery shopping buddy after taking a very long hiatus during the pandemic. We had our traditional Burns Supper.

We finally had a decent snowfall in February, which provided Turkey and Bunny with their first-ever official snow days. On the 6th, we celebrated the 70th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Accession to the Throne with a tea party, the first of many Platinum Jubilee celebrations. We had a special dinner for the Opening Ceremonies of Beijing 2022, the first of several special themed meals we enjoyed during the Olympics. We eagerly celebrated “Twosday.”

March is always a fun month. We began with a special Mardi Gras celebration. We enjoyed the “Markel Family Tour di Pizza” which began on MAR10 Day and ended on Pi Day, which also happens to be the local observance of 314 Day. Lucky the Leprechaun dodged our trap (again) on St. Patrick’s Day. We celebrated Turkey’s 19th birthday. We spent a morning at Laumeier Sculpture Park. Chickadee turned 10. We had a fun time with Kirby Day.

April was an exciting month. It began with the news of Albert Pujols’ return to the St. Louis Cardinals for the final year of his storied career…I was over the moon about this storybook ending, and our Opening Day celebration was better than usual! We enjoyed the cherry blossoms at the Missouri Botanical Garden. We started preparing for our postponed epic family vacation in earnest, going so far as to count the days until our departure. Easter was especially nice.

May is always one of my favorite months of the year. We went asparagus picking for the first time, and then had a Spargelparty. As always, we celebrated May the Fourth and the Revenge of the Fifth with special meals, which were kind of precursors to the first of many Disney Dinners we would have this year. Ladybug turned 15. We ended our school year, and Turkey and Bunny finished their first year of college with spots on the Dean’s List and admittance into Phi Theta Kappa. We visited Art on the Square for the first time since 2019. The girls and I went to the St. Louis Aquarium. We made a triumphant return to Chicago and Combo Breaker, where Turkey joined Ryan as a paid worker, and the rest of us had the chance to volunteer.

Where do I even begin with June? I don’t think there has been, in the whole history of our family, a single month packed with so much fun. We started by attending a street party for the Platinum Jubilee, and I even made the Platinum Pudding to continue the celebration at home. We acquired some new neighbors. To celebrate not only the return of Albert Pujols, but also the historic season for the battery of Molina and Wainwright, we attended a Cardinals game at Busch Stadium as a family for the first time in at least five years. We picked lavender for the first time. I had a fun birthday celebration. And that was all the “boring” half of the month because….

On the 18th, we piled in the van to begin our epic family vacation! We visited Washington D.C., discovered a really cool memorial, ate at an amazing local establishment, took a tour of the capitol, and went to George Washington’s Mount Vernon. We spent a night in Myrtle Beach, SC, got the rotors replaced on our car, and took a walk through Forsyth Park in Savannah, GA. After we stretched our legs, we finished the drive to Orlando, FL, where we visited all of the Disney World parks…Epcot, Hollywood Studios, the Magic Kingdom, and the Animal Kingdom. We traveled the world, enjoyed the Flower and Garden Festival, immersed ourselves in Star Wars, ate lunch at The Hollywood Brown Derby, took part in the World’s Most Magical Celebration, rode the monorail and explored the Mary Blair mural at the Contemporary Resort, and met some of our favorite characters. We even found some time for shopping at Disney Springs. If all that wasn’t enough, we also toured Kennedy Space Center (and saw a rocket launch while we were there!), and spent a day hanging out by the resort pool. Oh, and after all this time, we finally got COVID…that also appears to be part of the Disney World experience.

After all that fun, July was spent from recovering, both from COVID, and from all of our travels! We spent the first two weeks back home lying around the house watching old Disney movies (Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros were favorites) and playing with our souvenirs. We were all healthy by the time Bunny’s 18th birthday rolled around. I had my first root canal, which was not as bad as I feared, but not something I’d care to repeat.

August was a similarly quiet month. We did make a quick day trip up to Chicago for the Fab Five’s first visit to Navy Pier and an appointment at the Rare Dirndl design studio. We finished summer school (Disney themed, of course!) before everyone started back to school…Turkey and Bunny in their second year of college, Moose a junior in high school, Ladybug a sophomore, and Chickadee in the fifth grade.

September is usually a low-key month…it’s kind of the February of the second half of the year. Ladybug, Chickadee, and I did go back to the Missouri History Museum for the first time since before the beginning of the pandemic, and took part in a great hands-on exhibit. Chickadee had her braces removed. And then, a terrible day. Of course I knew Queen Elizabeth II wasn’t going to live forever, and based on her age, her time on earth realistically had to be drawing short. Just the same, I guess I really wasn’t prepared for her passing to coincide with her Platinum Jubilee year. I did take a break from the wall-to-wall news coverage I couldn’t turn off to attend our town’s Oktoberfest.

In October, we started cooking our way through The Nightmare Before Christmas Cookbook. We visited Grant’s Farm, picked the perfect pumpkin (or four), and returned to Legends and Lanterns for the first time since 2019 (do you sense a theme this year?). Our family Oktoberfest was later in the month than I would have liked, but better late than never, right? Ladybug, Chickadee, and I took a hike at Shaw Nature Reserve and had a great time.

November was a busy month. We celebrated Moose’s 17th birthday. On Election Day, we took our annual walk around Creve Coeur Lake, and then Turkey and Bunny voted for the first time! We had a very unexpected snow. Ladybug, Chickadee, and I took a new trail at Cahokia Mounds. We attended the 10th anniversary of Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Garden. We baked all of the pies in preparation for Thanksgiving. The Fab Five started a new Advent project.

And that brings us to December. We were back in St. Charles for one of our very favorite events, Christmas Traditions. We had a very nice Nikolaustag, even if it did make me feel old. We also enjoyed Luciamorgon. Our Christmas in Germany themed Christmas School was a lot of fun and helped us connect to our heritage! We baked all of the things. The Fab Five finished their Advent project. We had a very merry Christmas. But we needed a little more Christmas, so we visited the Wild Lights at the St. Louis Zoo before it closed for the season.

I don’t see how 2023 can top this year, and I don’t think there’s really any point in trying. Some things are once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and there’s just no competing with them!

The Top Five–Vacation Photos of 2022

I took so many photos on our vacation this summer, and so many of them turned out better than I hoped, so it was almost impossible to choose a selection for this “Top Five” list. Yes, there are six photos, and no, I’m not sorry…the fact that there is only one bonus photo is a miracle, and I refuse to apologize for it!

We’ll start at the beginning of our trip with this photo of the Washington Monument as seen from the German-American Friendship Garden. It’s probably not my best photo of the landmark, but I love the lighting, I love the fountains, and of course I love the monument standing tall in the background:

This photo captures that boardwalk feeling in Myrtle Beach, SC perfectly!

Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge is such an immersive experience…you actually feel like you’re in one of the movies when you’re there! Also, this may be the best picture I took on our trip.

I took many, many (MANY) photos of the castle at the Magic Kingdom, but there’s something special about seeing it lit up at night:

I know it’s kind of silly, but this picture I took at Disney Springs just looks so good! It has a real Rodeo Drive vibe:

On our final day at the parks, Bunny and I did a speed run through EPCOT looking to add 50th anniversary pressed pennies to our collection. We did pause to admire the view here, though, and it was a perfect moment, with the puffy clouds against the bright blue sky reflecting in the water and the colorful flowers in the foreground. The only thing that could have made it better would have been a monorail going by on the bridge!

Tomorrow I’ll wrap up my “Top Five” photos lists from 2022 with a look at everything else!

Christmas 2022

We’ve had another happy Markel Family Christmas!

Our celebration started, as always, on Christmas Eve, with Christmas Crunch for breakfast:

I played Animal Crossing early, because I knew that might be my only opportunity to deliver gifts for Jingle and say “Merry Christmas” to Roald:

The Fab Five completed this year’s Advent project, the Lego Disney Castle.

Speaking of Disney, Ladybug and I made red velvet Mickey Mouse waffles for lunch:

And then we went to church. It was quite early for us…3 p.m. It was definitely different to go to Christmas Eve church when it was still so bright out!

It was even bright when we stopped to see the city of St. Louis Christmas tree after church…but that made it easier to see the snow on the ground. We finally had a white (and very cold) Christmas!

It was also still pretty bright when we drove through the Way of Lights, but after all these years, it was kind of cool to see it in a different way:

I took lots of pictures when we got home:

And we enjoyed some cake:

We played a couple games of Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries. I suffered one of my greatest losses of all-time in the first game!

The theme for this year’s Christmas jammies was (surprise, surprise) Mickey Mouse:

I still always set up the Little People nativity scene before bed:

We almost kind of got to sleep in on Christmas Day…but just barely. Stockings were the first order of business:

And then our traditional Christmas morning coffee cake:

And then we headed back to church for the Christmas Day service.

We found time for a nice family photo:

After we got home, we opened presents.

And then I got to work putting together the “pick out dinner.”

I was once again very pleased with how my charcuterie board turned out!

It’s such a fun and delicious meal!

We had another little reminder of our vacation when I burned the Christmas candle we picked up at Disney Springs:

Yesterday was a pretty quiet day because we waited for today for our fancy Christmas dinner. The table looked especially nice with our (kind of) new glasses added to the place settings:

For dinner, I made a beef tenderloin, which turned out beautifully. We also had sautéed mushrooms, hasselback potatoes, roast Brussel sprouts with a balsamic glaze and dried cranberries, our favorite cherry Jell-O, and rolls:

It was delicious and elegant!

For dessert I made a pair of yule logs. I tried a new recipe for a red and green variety, which was delicious, but not as pretty as I wanted it to be. I also made a favorite gingerbread variety, which was delicious and pretty!

The whole season of Advent went by quite quickly, and so has the beginning of the Christmas season, but I’m looking forward to making the most of the days ahead!

The Lego Disney Castle

As promised, here’s a look at the completed Lego Disney Castle:

And here are some of my favorite details:

This was a really fun project for Advent, and a great way to end a very Disney-themed year!

Advent 2022–Day Twenty-Eight

Today is the final day of Advent 2022, and Turkey completed the Lego Disney Castle. He built the rest of the final tower, which includes a nice spot for a watchman (or Donald Duck), and the he put all the castle pieces together.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a look at the full castle!

Advent 2022–Day Twenty-Seven

Ladybug continued building the big tower for the Lego Disney Castle today:

And she added vignettes representing Tangled and the original animated classic, Snow White:

Tomorrow we see how it all comes together!

Advent 2022–Day Twenty-Six

Today Chickadee worked on building a part of the Lego Disney Castle that will go behind the balcony Bunny built yesterday:

She was also very excited that she got to build the last minifig for the set, Tinkerbell!

Advent 2022–Day Twenty-Five

Today Bunny continued building up the section of the Lego Disney Castle that Moose started yesterday, and added a pretty little balcony:

The part I think she was most excited about, though, was building a secret compartment (under the blue section behind Daisy) that contains Cinderella’s glass slipper and a storybook that begins “Once upon a time…”

Advent 2022–Day Twenty-Four

Moose asked for a short build today, so he just took care of building up the walls around the bedroom Ladybug started yesterday, and also added some really nice curtains above the bed:

I love that you can see them from the outside, too!