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 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!

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!

Christmas 2015

We’ve had another fun Markel Family Christmas!

Our celebration began yesterday, with our traditional “pick out dinner,” which this year, was actually a “pick out lunch.” I love that it’s never exactly the same two years in a row! I was happy to add an actual cheese board to our spread this year, which came in handy for three of the six cheeses we had. We also enjoyed five types of crackers, two dips with tortilla chips, summer sausage, Volpi roltini, buffalo Chex mix, sausage squares, Mexican cheese squares, pizza bagels, mozzarella sticks, and peppers stuffed with ranch dressing flavored cream cheese:

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Of course I always take a zillion pictures on Christmas Eve…I was very happy with the results!

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We did do something new this year. Since the oldest four children are singing with the children’s Kantorei at Hope Lutheran in St. Louis, we went to church there on Christmas Eve. It was a beautiful service, and their singing was wonderful!

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Back home, we lit all of the Advent wreath’s candles, enjoyed Jesus’s birthday cake, and opened one present each. As is our tradition, Ryan and I played a game of Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries, and I hung up our Christmas banner before (reluctantly) going to bed.

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Early Christmas morning, we searched for the pickle on the Christmas tree (to see who would get to hand out presents later), opened stockings (Chickadee got a toy camera so she can continue to pretend to be me!), and enjoyed my special cherry Christmas coffee cake:

Then we went to our church for the Christmas Day Divine Service. Turkey and Bunny were very excited to not just be acolytes, but also torch-bearers in the processional:

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When we got home, we had lunch, and then listened to Ryan read the Christmas story from Luke 2. I loved how intently Bunny listened, and I was amused that Chickadee played along with the story with our Little People nativity scene…I don’t think any of our other children ever did that!

And then we opened presents. I think everyone loved their gifts, especially all of the Lego gifts!

It has been a very happy Christmas indeed, and the celebration is just beginning. I’m looking forward to the full 12 days of Christmas…who knows what’s in store?

Christmas 2014

If you’ve ever wondered what a Markel family Christmas looks like, here’s your chance to find out!

The celebration begins on Christmas Eve, with what we have come to call the “pick-out dinner.” This is an appetizer meal we have in the late afternoon before church, and everyone gets to “pick out” one thing that I’ll make or buy. It’s one of our favorite meals of the year!

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Before we leave for church, I harass the children and make them let me take pictures…lots and lots of pictures!

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Then it’s time to head to church for the children’s Christmas program. This year, Turkey played the part of Gabriel, while Bunny was the head angel, Moose was a shepherd, and Ladybug got to be Mary for the second time. They all did a great job!

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After church, we head home, light all the candles in the Advent wreath, and enjoy Jesus’ birthday cake.

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Before bed, everyone gets to open one present. For the children, this means new jammies. The boys loved the Yetis I found for them, and the girls thought their bears were cute. I got a new pair of Cardinals slippers! (Not pictured is Ryan’s new Tardis sleep pants.)

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Once the children are more or less in bed, Ryan and I put the presents under the tree, fill the stockings, arrange the Little People nativity scene, and then settle down to play Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries while we watch the San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker.

In the morning, before church, the children are allowed to open their stockings, and we enjoy a leisurely breakfast of coffee cake (and stocking candy!).

We then head back to church for the Christmas Day Divine Service. After the service is over, I try to get one more group shot of the children.

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We have lunch when we get home, and then get down to present opening.

The aftermath of the gift exchange is always quite the sight to see!

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After the presents have been opened, and the mess more or less cleaned up, the rest of the day is very relaxed. The children usually play with whatever they received, while we watch Christmas movies (or Doctor Who!), and listen to Christmas music. No big feast for us on Christmas Day…we save that for the day after Christmas. Instead, we enjoy what’s left of the appetizers and the birthday cake from the night before.

That’s our Christmas. It’s always a fun, special day. I hope your Christmas was similarly merry and bright!

The “Pick Out Dinner”

Having a smorgasbord of appetizers on Christmas Eve has become a family tradition, quite by accident. The one year I was thinking about not doing it, Turkey and Bunny protested (loudly!), and I realized that this is probably their favorite meal of the year. I always try to have a few things every person will enjoy, and the children all get to “pick out” what they want–no one is required to try anything they don’t want to, and if they don’t like something, they don’t have to finish it. Of course, I make enough food for a family twice our size, so we’ll be eating appetizers for quite a while, but it’s a special family tradition that I wouldn’t trade for anything!