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!


Quote of the Day–New Year’s Eve

Violet Crawley: Makes me smile, the way every year we drink to the future, whatever it may bring.
Isobel Crawley: Well, what else could we drink to? We’re going forward to the future, not back into the past.
Violet Crawley: If only we had the choice!

2018 in Review

This has been a weird year. There were some major highs (especially our vacation to Orlando!), but there were also some maddening lows, mainly, I don’t know, everything in our house breaking…roof, dishwasher, garage door, hot water heater, my ankle… I’m actually not sure how I feel about it in the end…but I’m looking forward to starting fresh with 2019! Before that, however, a look back at 2018…

January kicked things off with a bang, as our dishwasher broke at the same time our town had a multiple day boil order. Talk about frustrating…I couldn’t even use the sanitize cycle to make sure things were really getting clean! Even with all that hassle, I managed my first attempt at Japanese cooking for Ryan’s birthday dinner…but I think I’m still recovering from cleaning up all those dishes! We also took a weekend trip to Chicago, where we visited the Adler Planetarium, the Legoland Discovery Center, the Chicago Botanic Garden, the Little Popcorn Store, and Portillo’s.

February was fairly quiet. The highlight of the month was the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. I learned how to cook some Korean dishes, and we had a taste of Asia to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

March is always a busy month, and this year was no exception. Chickadee lost her first tooth! We had our traditional St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Turkey turned fifteen!!! A few days later, Chickadee turned six! The Hofbräuhaus finally opened, but we wouldn’t make it there until the following month.

In April, we celebrated Easter, and then the Cardinals home opener. I won a Nintendo Switch?!? We attended Chinese Culture Days at the Missouri Botanical Garden. We finally enjoyed a meal at the Hofbräuhaus!

May is another busy month every year. I got to see my name in print as a published writer! We enjoyed a beautiful spring in Forest Park and Tower Grove Park. Ladybug celebrated her 11th birthday. Ryan and I celebrated our wedding anniversary with a tea party the day before the Royal Wedding. Turkey, Bunny, and Ladybug received choir awards on Ascension Day. Pinup Girl Clothing sent me a box of Mary Blair print items which I joyfully reviewed. I had a very pleasant Mother’s Day. Turkey, Bunny, Ladybug, and Chickadee finished the 2017-18 school year, and then Moose finished elementary school! We went on what is now an annual Memorial Day weekend trip north for Combo Breaker, where the Fab Five and I spent a fun day in Chicago and took a Wendella boat tour. We also visited the Chicago Botanic Garden for the second time in the year, and had a Rainbow Cone.

And then June. It started off fairly calm, but that didn’t last long! We took a trip to Bowling Green, KY, where Bunny attended WKU’s volleyball camp. While we were there, I celebrated my first 39th birthday…we even went to Mammoth Cave! Back home, the children attended a very busy week of Kantorei Kamp…and that was the calm before the storm, because we had a big, Harry Potter-themed vacation up next! We headed to Orlando, where we visited Legoland, Universal Studios Florida, (including Diagon Alley), Islands of Adventure, (including Hogsmeade), and had a fun cabana day at Cabana Bay Beach Resort. We even saw a SpaceX launch (from a distance) early one many dreams came true on our trip!

Our vacation wrapped up in July…we even visited the ocean on our way home. It was the most amazing vacation ever! Bunny and Ladybug joined Turkey for a week of RSCM camp. While they were away, Moose, Chickadee, and I took a little train trip. Bunny celebrated her 14th birthday when she got home from camp.

In August, we finally made it to the special summer event at the Missouri Botanical Garden: Flora Borealis. Our summer school wrapped up. We got ready to begin another year of school…our first day of homeschooling for the 2018-19 school year saw Turkey and Bunny starting 10th grade, Ladybug starting 6th, and Chickadee starting 1st. Moose had his first day of junior high! Moose, Chickadee, and I went to a Cardinals game and hung out with Fredbird.

We were back at the Missouri Botanical Garden in September, this time for the Japanese Festival. The girls and I went to Art Hill to experience the Great Forest Park Balloon Race’s Balloon Glow for the first time. Bunny and I went to Powell Hall to watch Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on the big screen while the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra played the score.

In October, we finally got to see the much-awaited Olympic Spectacular in St. Louis. The Fab Five and I went to Braeutigum Orchards to pick pumpkins and baby porcupines, apparently. We headed west to St. Charles for the third year of Legends and Lanterns.

And then November. The month started out so promisingly, with our annual Extra Life for Kids fundraiser…which also turned out to be the day I broke my ankle. I was really afraid that would be the end of our fun for the year, but I was determined not to let it ruin things, so we eased into the celebratory season with Moose’s 13th birthday. Garden Glow was a bit of a challenge, but I was able to (slowly) make my way through the event. Thanksgiving was a scary proposition this year, but somehow, we got everything done, and had a nice dinner, even if I did overcook the turkey. We even made it to the Boar’s Head Festival for the first time since Chickadee was a baby!

December started with a Christmas Getaway north to St. Charles, IL and Pheasant Run. We got to experience a rainy Christmas in Chicago while we were there. We celebrated Santa Lucia Day. Moose and I got to go to Powell Hall and watch Home Alone on the big screen while the St. Louis Symphony played the score. We traveled west to St. Charles, MO, for Christmas Traditions. Our hot water heater died right before Christmas, but we pressed on and enjoyed a mostly typical Markel Family Christmas.

There was much about this year, and especially the last two months, that was difficult. But I found strength I didn’t know I had, and accomplished almost everything I set out to, and really, what more can you ask for? I hope that in 2019, I will continue to conquer every hurdle I face!

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!

2017 in Review

As much as I wanted 2017 to be an improvement over 2016, in many ways, it was just as difficult a year as its predecessor. No matter what is going on in the world around us, though, we always manage to have fun times and make happy family memories!

January was a pretty quiet month. I got to attend the One Nation Classic at Busch Stadium, after Ryan was there for the first ever St. Louis Winter Classic on January 2nd. It was so cold, I was certain my feet were going to snap off before the end of the day, but it was also a lot of fun, and a unique way to view the ballpark! We also had fun visiting the snowy Missouri Botanical Garden, the Missouri History Museum, and especially the St. Louis Science Center, where we had a membership for the year.

In February, the children and I took the train downtown to visit the NHL Centennial Fan Arena, which was held outside the St. Louis Public Library Central Library…and they were hosting a special exhibition called “50 Years of Blood, Sweat and Cheers” in honor of the Blues 50th season in St. Louis. We attended the Orchid Show at the Missouri Botanical Garden, which is always a nice bright spot in the middle of the winter. Bunny got a major hair cut, and donated what was cut off to charity. We celebrated our fourth annual “Seamus Day,” which is one of the most delicious days of the year!

March is always a busy month. Our new refrigerator was welcomed with much excitement after the unexpected demise of the old one. We visited the Butterfly House. We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, and then Turkey’s birthday. Right after that, it was time for Chickadee’s 5th birthday, just proving how time flies!

April was a very exciting month. Moose was confirmed! Spring in St. Louis is always beautiful. April finally had that baby giraffe! We celebrated Easter. We visited the St. Louis Art Museum and saw both art and hats.

I’ve come to realize that May rivals November/December in busyness! The American Kantorei performed their last concert at Concordia Seminary. Ladybug celebrated her 10th birthday! Twitch ran a Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood marathon, and we all fell in love with Fred Rogers and all his neighbors all over again. We wrapped up our ninth year of homeschooling, which included Turkey and Bunny completing the eighth grade!!! Ryan and I celebrated our 16th anniversary. We attended Art on the Square. The Missouri Botanical Garden opened their outstanding “Garden of Glass” exhibit. The four oldest children received choir awards again on Ascension Day. We attended Combo Breaker for the second year, and while we were in Chicago, we also visited Medieval Times, the Naper Settlement, and the Museum of Science and Industry.

We traveled to Bowling Green, KY, in June so Bunny could attend volleyball camp at Western Kentucky University. While we were there, we drove to Nashville, TN, and used our reciprocal membership through the St. Louis Science Center to visit the Adventure Science Center. Right after we returned home, the four oldest children attended Kantorei Kamp.

July was another busy month. The Magic House was hosting a Clifford the Big Red Dog exhibit, so we went to see it for the second time in just over 10 years. We had a German July 4th. We visited Purina Farms for the very first time. Our air conditioner broke down on one of the hottest days of the summer during Vacation Bible School. We had summer school field trips to the Lewis and Clark Confluence Towers, Camp River Dubois, and Faust Park Historic Village. I found out I was an honorable mention winner in the “PUG Changed My Life” contest. Bunny became a teenager! Turkey attended his second summer of RSCM camp. We visited the St. Louis Carousel on National Carousel Day.

Things didn’t slow down in August. While Ryan was out-of-town for work, the Fab Five and I had a tea party, went roller skating, and had dinner at IKEA…and our air conditioner broke down again. We saw the Wienermobile, and all of the children received Weenie Whistles, which may have been a bad life choice on the part of their mother. We visited the “Dressing Downton” exhibit at Cheekwood Estate and Gardens in Nashville. While we were in town, we also visited the Parthenon! We had our 11th first day of homeschool, and Moose started sixth grade!!! We all really enjoyed the Great American Solar Eclipse.

September was a month of firsts. We attended the Japanese Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden for the first time, and it was AMAZING! We went to the Great Forest Park Balloon Race for the first time, too, and even though it started late, it was a lot of fun. I entered a St. Louis Post-Dispatch recipe contest for the first time, and I came in second place!

I guess we kind of had a chance to catch our breath in October. Turkey, Bunny, and I went all in on Hogwarts’ House fashions. We attended the second season of Legends and Lanterns in St. Charles, MO, and visited the most sincere pumpkin patch in Belleville. We discovered how difficult it is to be a Ninja Warrior. We celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, with Bunny, Moose, and Ladybug participating in a mass children’s choir at Concordia Seminary on Reformation Day.

As always, things really picked up in November. The American Kantorei, in a never-say-die movement, had a concert at St. Paul, Des Peres for Bach at NOT the Sem. We visited Creve Coeur Park, and took a walk around the lake. Moose turned twelve! We went on our annual field trip to Cahokia Mounds, where we saw lots of deer! We attended the Conference USA volleyball tournament at Western Kentucky University, and the girls posed with Big Red. We celebrated the Platinum Wedding Anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh with a tea party. I made all of the pies for our traditional Thanksgiving dinner. We visited the Missouri Botanical Garden’s “Garden Glow,” which is one of our favorite Christmas activities of the year!

And that brings us to December, which is always the busiest month of the year! Way too much of this month was taken up by various family members having what I have to assume was some strain of influenza, but we made the best of the time we had. Christmas Traditions in St. Charles, MO, is always one of our favorite events of the whole year, and this year was no exception, even if it was one of the coldest visits we’ve had! Our St. Lucia celebration was as fun as always. We visited nativity scenes from around the world at Belleville’s Cathedral Basilica, learned about Hanukkah, and rang the Salvation Army bell. IKEA has an annual Swedish Julbord dinner, and we attended for the first time. We enjoyed a traditional Belleville Main Street Christmas. And our Markel Family Christmas celebration was a big, three-day event this year!

Of course, no year is perfect. This seemed especially true this year, because there has been so much bad news everywhere you look.  But we hang together, and find our own joy in the everyday, as well as special events, and what more can you ask of family? It’s us against whatever part of the world tries to interrupt our happiness!

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!


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!

2016 in Review

It’s that time of year again, when I look back over the past 12 months, and try to summarize all of our family’s activities. There’s no denying that 2016 was a difficult year for many people in various ways, but there were also many good times for our family.

January began with the first of many trips to the St. Louis Zoo, where we had a membership for the year. We also visited the St. Louis Art Museum in Forest Park, to see the St. Louis Modern exhibit before it closed. The day we took down all the Christmas decorations turned into something much bigger, and resulted in massive furniture rearranging across almost all rooms of the house, and the purchase of some new pieces of furniture, as well.

In February, I completely lost my mind, and decided to paint the children’s bathroom while Ryan was out-of-town. We also painted Ryan’s new office, and finished rearranging the furniture…that one bookshelf that sparked the decision to move things around when we took the Christmas tree down in January certainly had a domino effect!  We celebrated the Chinese New Year and Mardi Gras back-to-back. I got my first new pair of glasses in several years…I fell in love with their vintage vibe! We made several trips to visit the Orchid Show at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

As is usually the case, March was a busy month. Ryan and I finally finished building my Christmas present from the children…my dream Lego set, the Brick Bank. We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, and then the following day, woke up to discover we had a teenager living in our house! Ladybug was confirmed on Palm Sunday, and two days after that, Chickadee turned four. The following week, we celebrated Easter.

April was, mercifully, a fairly quiet month. A new season of Cardinals baseball began, and we enjoyed our standard Opening Day baseball dinner. We visited Forest Park to see all the beautiful spring flowers. The Missouri History Museum debuted a new exhibit about the history of the Little Black Dress, and we toured it for the first of several times. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her 90th birthday, and we had a tea party in her honor.

May was a very busy month. Turkey, Bunny, and Ladybug received choir awards on Ascension Day. Ladybug turned nine. We attended Zoo Friends Day for the first time. Art on the Square was fun, as always. Ryan and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary. Moose completed fourth grade. We took a Memorial Day weekend trip to Chicago for Combo Breaker. While we were there, we visited the Shedd Aquarium and the Art Institute, rode the escalators all the way to the top of Marshall Field’s (of blessed memory), and took in all the sights…the Tribune Tower, the “Bean,” Buckingham Fountain, the lakefront, and all of the architecture.

Our busyness continued throughout the month of June. Turkey and Bunny completed seventh grade, and Ladybug completed fourth. Bunny attended a volleyball camp at Western Kentucky University. While we were in Bowling Green, we also visited the Historic Railpark at the former L&N Depot, Aviation Heritage Park, and Chaney’s Dairy Barn. When we got home, “The Bigs” attended Kantorei Kamp at Hope Lutheran Church in St. Louis for the second summer.

July was a bit less crazy. We celebrated Independence Day. The new Route 66 exhibit at the Missouri History Museum opened, and we toured it for the first of many times. Bunny turned 12. We spent a busy week at church for Vacation Bible School. Turkey spent a week at an RSCM choir camp, and even got to sing at the Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis!

In August, we visited the St. Louis Public Library’s Central Library for the very first time, to tour the building and see the Fantasy Maps on display there. After that, it was all Olympics, all the time, for over two weeks, as we watched as many of the events from Rio as we could. We also ate Brazilian food, held our once-every-four-years family Olympics, and sat on the edges of our seats for Michael Phelps’ final race. Moose began fifth grade, and a few days later, we had our first day of the homeschool year, with Turkey and Bunny beginning eighth grade, Ladybug starting fourth, and Chickadee entering the world of Pre-K! I took a morning for myself at the end of the month to visit the traveling Baseball Hall of Fame exhibit, which stopped at Ballpark Village across from Busch Stadium.

September was very quiet, possibly in part due to a bad streak of car trouble. We were also busy with school and trying to get back into our regular routines. We did visit the Flags of Valor installation on Art Hill in Forest Park, which was a sobering sight indeed. We picked apples and pumpkins at Eckert’s. Mostly, we just waited and hoped for cooler weather to arrive!

We continued to wait for fall to arrive in October. While we were waiting, the children and I took a walk across the Eads Bridge. We celebrated 10 years living in our house. The Missouri History Museum had a “Homeschool Day” that focused on the Route 66 exhibit. We reached the breaking point with our car problems, and said goodbye to our Volkswagen, and hello to a new Dodge Grand Caravan. Historic St. Charles, MO held their inaugural “Legends and Lanterns” festival, and we were there. We finally made our yearly visit to Grant’s Farm…just before they closed for the season!

November saw things ramping up, as the holidays approached. First, though, we participated in Extra Life 2016. Moose celebrated his 11th birthday. After another field trip to the Missouri History Museum, we spent a beautiful fall afternoon in Forest Park. We attended the Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Our annual Thanksgiving feast was enjoyed by everyone. We participated in one of our very favorite events of the year…Christmas Traditions in St. Charles, MO.

And finally, December. We visited the Gingerbread Walk in downtown Belleville more than once. I was worried that we might miss our annual Santa Lucia celebration, as Chickadee was sick the day before, but she felt better the morning of the 13th, and none of her siblings fell ill. We went to see the holiday lights at the Anheuser-Busch brewery in St. Louis. I upped my Christmas fashion game. And we had our traditional family Christmas celebration.

There are other things about this year I’d rather forget (or pretend never happened in the first place!), and those are best left in the past. Mostly, I’m looking forward to a fresh start in 2017, and excited to see what kind of adventures our family will have in the coming year!

The Final Feast of 2015

I’m not sure that our annual New Year’s Eve hot chocolate bar really counts as a feast, but the children seem to think it is, and who am I to argue with them?


In addition to all of our standard favorites, I made some hot chocolate cookies to go along with our drinks…they were a huge hit!

Chickadee Thursday

Chickadee had fun making the little hot chocolate-themed craft I got for New Year’s Eve:

What a great 2015 it’s been…I’m looking forward to seeing how Chickadee grows and changes in 2016!