We have one Labor Day tradition that has been going on so long, I can’t even remember how it started…we always have chili and (usually) fry bread Labor Day Weekend!
This year, I tried a new twist. We had extra fry bread, so I made fry bread sundaes for dessert. The crunchy saltiness of the fry bread was the perfect foil to the ice cream, and it was so good! I will definitely be making this again!
I love the little traditions that you don’t plan that just kind of happen!
As hard as it is to believe since Lent always seems like it lasts forever, Holy Week and Easter Sunday have already come and gone. We had our traditional four day celebration, beginning on Maundy Thursday, with a fun twist for Easter dinner this year! I really look forward to this celebration every year, this 2023 did not disappoint!
On Maundy Thursday, I made hot cross buns. This is definitely a tradition now…what started as an experiment in 2020 when I was only grocery shopping once every two weeks and couldn’t plan on purchasing them has become an expected part of our Holy Week observances! I did try a new recipe this time, and I think we all liked it even better than the other ones I’ve made!
The evening church service was, as expected, lovely, especially the music.
Everyone had off of school on Good Friday, which was nice. I dedicated my day to baking. I made what were probably the best buttermilk biscuits ever, as well as blueberry muffins:
We were back at church that evening for another moving service:
Would you be surprised to know that I was back to baking on Holy Saturday? I made my first-ever angel food cake…keep reading to see how it turned out!
We also made this year’s Paschal candle…I think this was our best effort ever!
The Great Vigil of Easter is still my favorite service of the whole church year…I love the meaning behind each different part!
On the way home, we stopped at Wendy’s for Frostys and fries:
Sunday morning dawned bright and beautiful!
One of my favorite traditions is taking pictures of the Fab Five by the baptismal font:
Of course, I took other pictures, too:
We also got a very nice family photo:
When we got home, we had Easter brunch (our first brunch of the day…stay with me!). I made biscuits and gravy, and we also had scrambled eggs, sausage patties, and a variety of mini donuts. And pomegranate juice, which has become something of a tradition.
It was a great first meal of the day!
We watched some of our favorite Easter specials, and I visited Zipper T. Bunny when I wasn’t working on our big meal.
I learned how to turn our napkins into flowers for Easter!
I love how pretty the Easter table always looks!
For Easter dinner, we had Easter brunch (again). But this was a fancier brunch suggested by Turkey, including eggs Benedict, breakfast casserole, bacon, waffles, a salmon and radish tart, fresh fruit, gouda tea sandwiches, blueberry muffins, and a cheese board.
It was fun (and delicious!) to do something so different for dinner!!!
For dessert, we had the angel food cake I made, served with strawberries and a cream cheese filling/frosting…it was really good!
Easter is, of course, the highlight of the church year, and our celebration this year at church and home was especially lovely!
Time for a look back at another Markel Family Easter, which started, as it does every year, on Maundy Thursday:
On Friday, I made hot cross buns (again), but this year, I tried a new recipe:
The Good Friday service was, as always, lovely and moving:
On Saturday morning, while we watched Rick Steves’ European Easter, we made our Paschal Candle for the year…I think this may be the nicest job we’ve ever done!
While I did have work to do on Saturday to prepare for our Easter dinner, most of the day was really spent waiting until it was finally time for my favorite service of the church year, the Great Vigil of Easter:
After church, we stopped at Wendy’s for Frostys and fries:
We’re still getting used to the fact that we don’t have to get up for a sunrise Easter service, so we felt a little more leisurely about getting ready. We were still at church early enough to take pictures outside:
And some indoors, including our traditional by-the-baptismal-font Easter pictures:
The church looked especially beautiful!
Ladybug even got to acolyte:
And we got a nice family picture after the service:
When we got home, I made Easter breakfast, which included Kaiserschmarrn (the Kaiser’s torn pancakes) with Rhabarberkompott (rhubarb compote), hard-boiled eggs (this is really the first time we’ve ever dyed eggs…you’ll see why in a minute), and pomegranate juice:
While we watched Easter Parade and My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding, I found time to play a little Animal Crossing: New Horizons so I could visit with Zipper T. Bunny. I also caught up with Roald, who was wearing an egg suit…I wonder if that’s what he looked like when he hatched?
I spent most of the rest of the day working on dinner and setting the table:
I chose an Italian theme for this year’s dinner. I served the same lamb in the slow cooker we had last year (technically Greek, but more generically Mediterranean, so close enough), lemon parmesan risotto, insalata caprese, roasted cauliflower, panzanella, breaded artichokes, capers, olives, Italian Easter bread, and lemon Italian soda.
I stuck with the Italian theme for dessert…we had cannoli and Italian sprinkle cookies:
This was an especially nice Easter. Maybe it’s because things felt more “normal” (I actually shook hands for the first time in over two years!), maybe it was because the church services were so meaningful, maybe it was because this may be the nicest Easter dinner I’ve ever made. Whatever the reason, I’m thankful we had such a wonderful celebration of Christ’s resurrection!
Time for another look at a Markel Family holiday in the time of COVID-19!
Last year, I was all about keeping as many things as normal as possible for everyone. This year, I decided to embrace the new and different as much as I could. For starters, even though I’m now back to grocery shopping once a week instead of every two weeks, and could have bought hot cross buns from the bakery, I decided to make a batch again this year:
We went to our new church for the evening Maundy Thursday service to begin the Holy Triduum, and it was short, but very nice:
On Good Friday we were back at our new church for an equally moving (and equally short) Tenebrae service:
On Holy Saturday, we watched Rick Steves’ European Easter and made our Paschal candle for the year, as is our tradition. This one didn’t turn out so well, but it still gets the job done!
We attended the Great Vigil of Easter at our new church…I’m so glad they offer that service. More of it was spent outside than we are used to, and that was really nice!
After church, instead of getting sundaes from McDonald’s like we usually do, we got Frosty’s and fries at Wendy’s, and I introduced the Fab Five to the culinary experience that is dipping the fries in the Frosty:
We didn’t have a sunrise service this year, but I was still up early enough to see the sunrise:
And even though we didn’t need to leave the house super-early, I still bought our traditional Pop-Tarts:
It was a beautiful morning!
I took pictures of the Fab Five in the garden outside of church:
Since I couldn’t really take pictures of them inside the church (and especially by the baptismal font) like I usually do, I did that the day of Chickadee’s confirmation:
Our new church is beautiful!
After church, we came home and made Easter breakfast…eggs and sausage, English muffins, pomegranate juice, and every flavor of mini donut I could find…seven varieties. Maybe we’ll be able to go to Easter breakfast at church again in the future, but for now, it’s nice to have the meal at home!
I may have completed all of the Bunny Day goals in Animal Crossing: New Horizons last year, but I still checked in with Zipper T. Bunny:
We had fun watching some of our favorite Easter movies today, including My Big, Fat Greek Wedding, Easter Parade, and It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown. While we did that, I made sure the table looked pretty for dinner:
And made our Easter feast for dinner. I tried a new leg of lamb recipe in the crock-pot, which was both amazingly delicious and easy. We also had Greek potatoes, carrot fritters, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, breaded artichokes, cherry Jell-O, and popovers:
For dessert, I made carrot cake Oreo truffles:
No matter what stays the same or what is different from year to year, our reason for celebrating remains constant. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!!!
Time for a look at this year’s scaled-back Christmas celebration. Some things were the same, like starting Christmas Eve with a bowl of Christmas Crunch:
Some things were different…but not necessarily because of COVID-19. I had a fun time playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons and helping Jingle deliver his gifts yesterday morning:
The Fab Five finished this year’s Advent project, Lego Diagon Alley:
And I played Animal Crossing some more:
Our Christmas Eve dinner was different this year…I ordered tamales from Portillo’s, and we had them before church.
I always take pictures before church. This year, I took two sets. One with the year’s hottest accessory:
And one without:
This year, we attended an outdoor Christmas Eve service. It was cold, so we weren’t too sad it was short (although I missed all off the familiar Christmas hymns!). We did chuckle when a helicopter flew over during “Silent Night,” drowning out the singing!
We drove through the Way of Lights on the way home:
For Jesus’ birthday cake this year, I made a peppermint chocolate cake with two kinds of frosting (white chocolate peppermint buttercream inside, and an Italian buttercream outside). I think this is one of the best cakes I’ve ever made!
Of course there were new Christmas jammies:
We skipped playing Ticket to Ride on Christmas Eve, so I just had to fill the stockings and set up the nativity scene under the tree before bed:
We didn’t have to get up early, so we enjoyed our traditional Christmas morning coffee cake a little later than usual (but not much):
And since we didn’t have a Christmas Day service to go to (probably the biggest disappointment of the holiday for me), we opened presents in the morning, which was very strange!
We had our traditional Christmas Eve “pick out dinner” for Christmas Day lunch…and dinner (we’re saving our fancy Christmas feast for Sunday…stay tuned!). Here’s a look at some of the things we had:
We spent the afternoon watching Christmas movies, including my very favorite, White Christmas. We played our annual Christmas Eve game of Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries tonight. And since we were a day late, we also played the new Ticket to Ride game Ryan gave me, the 15th anniversary edition with clear trains, which I love! Everything is different this year…we might as well embrace it!
“Hail, O everlasting morn! Hail, redemption’s happy dawn! Sing through all Jerusalem: ‘Christ is born in Bethlehem!'”
I think we can all agree that Easter was weird this year, right? Without our normal church commitments like choir, acolyting, and serving on altar guild, Holy Week and Easter Sunday fell a bit flat. But whether we were at church or not, we still had reason to celebrate, so I tried to make this time at home as special as possible.
On Maundy Thursday, we enjoyed some beautiful weather while we were out for a walk in our neighborhood before we “went” to church, which we watched from the comfort of our living room.
We were a little busier on Good Friday, with some baking (including homemade hot cross buns for the first time!), and another walk, before we once again watched the church service from our living room.
We were especially busy on Holy Saturday. We did some more baking, including these amazing rosemary dinner rolls, one of my favorite new recipes that I’ve tried:
We also made our new Paschal Candle for the year, as we usually do on Holy Saturday…it was disappointing not being able to take it to the Easter Vigil, though!
We had a fairly last-minute change of Easter dinner plans, because Beast Craft BBQ announced that they were going to be selling hams, so Ryan went and picked that up Saturday afternoon. It smelled amazing, and there was great restraint on the part of everyone in the house, because we left it alone until Easter dinner!
I dug out some extra candles so we could really feel like we were participating in the Great Vigil of Easter:
But once again from our living room:
We always get hot fudge sundaes at McDonald’s on the way home from the service, so I tried to recreate that experience, as well:
We didn’t “need” Pop-Tarts for breakfast this year (do you ever really need Pop-Tarts?),, because we didn’t have to get up as early for the sunrise service, but tradition is tradition!
I was very happy to get to sing my favorite Easter hymn at the first service, which we attended from, you guessed it, our living room!
We always have Easter breakfast at church between services, so I tried to replicate that experience, too. Homemade biscuits and sausage gravy were the star of the meal (both of which I prepared on Saturday), because that’s what they serve at church, plus sausage patties, eggs, orange juice, and mini donuts:
I always take pictures after breakfast, and this year was no different. Yes, we all got dressed up, even though we were at home!
I really missed taking photos of the children by the baptismal font, but at least I got pictures of them on Easter, right?
I already shared the details of my Easter outfit, but here’s one more picture, with Ladybug, because this was her first occasion to wear a dress from Pinup Girl Clothing!
Back inside, and back to the living room for the second service, where we sang another favorite hymn:
The church part of the day was over much quicker than usual, which was sad. I did have plenty of time to prepare our Easter dinner, though, starting with setting the table with our china and spring table linens:
On the menu: ham, mashed potatoes, a trio of green vegetables (Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and green beans with almonds), cherry Jell-O, and rosemary dinner rolls. It was a delicious meal!
For dessert I made the same lemon cheesecake with lemon-rosemary shortbread crust that I made last year:
We’re not done, yet, though! Since Easter is a celebration that keeps on going, and since our dinner plans had changed after I had already bought what was supposed to be the main course of Easter dinner, we had another special meal tonight…rack of lamb with some new sides (roast potatoes and cauliflower), plus some repeats (Brussels sprouts, green beans, Jell-O, and rolls), plus more cheesecake for dessert!
So there you have what was the strangest Easter I have ever experienced. Of course, our reason for celebrating never changes, but just the same, nothing felt quite right, and I truly hope we never have another Easter like 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 Eve 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!
Time for another installment of “A Markel Family Holiday!” St. Nicholas Day has always been one of favorite days in Advent, so I thought I’d share what we do to make it special.
The day always begins with stockings. We keep it simple…chocolate coins, oranges, and a new ornament for each child to hang on the tree. They’ve each received an ornament every year since their births, so they will have a nice collection to start their own trees when they have homes of their own someday!
We always read Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend from CPH. It’s a fantastic book!
And of course we do our Jesse Tree reading for the day. This year, the commemoration for St. Nicholas fell on the day we read about Jacob:
In the afternoon, we decorate the tree. I put it up and hung the lights almost a month ago, but we always wait for St. Nicholas Day for the addition of the ornaments.
We enjoy hot wassail while we decorate:
Some years, I make a special dinner. This year, we tried a Turkish fish stew and flat bread, to honor the area of the world from which St. Nicholas comes.
And of course we have evening prayers by the light of the Advent wreath.
I really love this holiday, and the special ways we celebrate it!
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!
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: