Beyond Van Gogh

Last week, Ladybug and I went to “Beyond Van Gogh,” which is currently being exhibited just outside the St. Louis Galleria.

It was really cool to be immersed in his art work…you really felt like you were a part of the paintings, and just letting it wash over you was an amazing experience!

In the end, Van Gogh’s life was so sad, so it was a little sad to see his work, and know the inner struggles he faced. But it was also very interesting to get to know more about him, and see how his life influenced his art.

The First Birthday of 2022

How lucky are we that we have Ryan’s birthday to celebrate so early in the year every year?!? Since his birthday also falls on Epiphany, it’s always a double celebration, as we have our last holiday meal of the festive season, too!

He picked chili for his birthday dinner last night, with all the fixin’s, plus fry bread, which everybody loves.

For his birthday cake, Ladybug and I tried a new recipe from The Ultimate Final Fantasy XIV Cookbook for a “Chocobo Cake” which I can assure you was made with no actual chocobos. It was a vanilla-cardamom cake soaked in a lemon syrup and filled with strawberries and topped with vanilla whipped cream. It was very delicious!

I always feel like we’ve gotten the year off to a good start once we’ve had a birthday celebration!

“Fallen Idol”

I was thinking recently about an episode of M*A*S*H I don’t really enjoy watching.

It’s not the one single episode out of the eleven seasons of the show that I dislike so much I refuse to watch it (“Dreams”).

It’s not the finale, which is so emotionally draining in the first half that I can’t handle watching it very often at all.

It’s an episode during my favorite time in the series, when Winchester has arrived, and Radar is still at the 4077th. Actually, the episode centers around Radar…and Hawkeye.

The episode I’m talking about is “Fallen Idol,” and I have an oddly visceral reaction every time I watch it. If you haven’t seen it, the premise is that Radar is injured, and Hawkeye feels guilty about it, because the injury is indirectly the result of some advice the chief surgeon gave to the company clerk. Hawkeye successfully operates on Radar, and then goes out and gets drunk in celebration (which isn’t unusual for the character in any way). The next day, though, Hawkeye is so hungover, he has to leave the OR in the middle of an operation to be sick, which never happens. Radar finds out about it, and is extremely disappointed in Hawkeye, and the two of them end up yelling at each other…and everyone else in the camp gives Hawkeye a piece of their mind, too.

The bottom line is that Radar, who has always idolized Hawkeye, realized that his hero has feet of clay, and no longer views him in the same way. At the same time, Hawkeye comes to realize just how much Radar looks up to him, but also realizes that some of that hero worship has been lost. In the end, they repair their friendship, but you know that they never see each other in quite the same way again, because Radar has lost a bit of his “Iowa naïveté” because of the actions of the chief surgeon.

I guess this episode is so uncomfortable to me because I share Radar’s admiration of Hawkeye. He certainly has his faults…especially in the early seasons, he’s kind of a lothorio, which is the thing I dislike about his character the most. But throughout, he’s always an excellent doctor (except, I guess, those few times he does an unnecessary surgery to prevent someone from returning to action in the war), so I share Radar’s disappointment in him for having to leave his post. Worse than that, though, is the fact that Hawkeye yells at Radar, who is still in many ways an innocent kid, when he’s already down and out. It is so out of character for Hawkeye to become angry with Radar in particular that it’s upsetting to watch…and yet, part of me always sympathizes with Hawkeye, because I can see his point, too, that it’s not fair for Radar to have put him up on a pedestal so high. It’s a very conflicting episode to watch!

It’s a good episode. I don’t skip it when it comes up in the rotation when I’m watching through M*A*S*H. But it always leaves me feeling uncomfortable and disappointed in Hawkeye, which I really don’t like. And that’s why it’s probably one of the best episodes of the series, because it really makes you feel something, and good writing always elicits a response in the reader/viewer.

Out with the Old, In with the New

Already it’s the second day of 2022! Here’s a look back at our New Year celebrations.

I found some hot cocoa rolls with marshmallow frosting for breakfast on New Year’s Eve…I thought it was the perfect way to start a day that features a hot chocolate bar!

We had pizza for dinner…I don’t know that we ever have the same thing two years in a row on New Year’s Eve!

After our annual viewing of Apollo 13, I set up our hot chocolate bar. Things were a little different this year due to various shortages…I couldn’t find speciality hot chocolate or peppermint candy canes (which I hear became very difficult to find this year), but we did have several other flavors (mint chocolate, raspberry, and wintergreen), and three kinds of whipped cream (regular, chocolate, and peppermint).

I did manage to stay up until midnight, but only so I could ring in the New Year on my island in Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

We had what is a fairly common dinner for us on New Year’s Day, starring pork tenderloin.

Chickadee helped me make dessert, featuring two different recipes from the My Little Pony Baking Book she received for Christmas:

I think we got the New Year off to a good start!

The Top Five–Things I’m Looking Forward to in 2022

I’m not going to lie…I’m a little reluctant to even try to put this list together, because the one and only other time I came up with a list of things I was looking forward to in the new year, it was 2020, and I think we all know how that turned out (one of the five was cancelled outright, and one was postponed a full year). I do have some things I’m really excited about this year, though, things that I’m praying will all happen as expected, so let’s take a look at what I’m most anticipating!

  • Family Vacation–We were supposed to take a big family vacation in 2021…it was kind of going to be a celebration of Turkey and Bunny graduating from high school, and we were going to visit Disney World and especially Galaxy’s Edge, among other things. We realized pretty quickly that we would need to postpone the trip, so now we’re planning on going this summer, and I’m really praying it all works out, because we’ve added some destinations, and I’m really excited about it!
  • Alison Weir’s New Book–For six years in a row, Alison Weir had a new fiction book published in May, each focusing on the life of one of the wives of Henry VIII. I was pretty sad when the last book came out in 2021, because I didn’t know what I’d look forward to reading at the beginning of our summer vacation, but then I found out that this year, she’s publishing a book about Elizabeth of York…I can’t wait to read it!
  • Beijing 2022–I have mixed feelings about even looking forward to this, partly because, like the Summer Olympics last year, I feel like it should probably be postponed/cancelled, and partly because I think a diplomatic boycott is a coward’s boycott, and we really shouldn’t be participating on principle. Despite my misgivings, though, I know I’m going to watch, and I really love the Olympics…
  • The Platinum Jubilee–I have been looking forward to Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee for 10 years, ever since, during the Diamond Jubilee, a quite-young Turkey asked me what the next celebration would be called, and I guessed “Platinum.” It seemed so far away then, and Her Majesty was already quite elderly at that time, but here we are, about six weeks away from the anniversary of her accession to the throne, and I’m looking forward to celebrating her extensive reign!
  • “2”sday–I can’t believe our good fortune that 2/22/22 falls on a Tuesday! This is exactly the kind of thing that amuses me, and I’m so excited about it, I think this year Bobunk will fall on that date! It’s the little things in life…

I can already see how up to three of these things could go south very quickly, but I’m going to hold out hope that there will be no major hiccups this year, because that’s all we have…hope and a nectarine.

2021 in Review

We started the year off cautiously optimistic that things would be better than 2020…I guess it’s up to the individual to decide how much truth there is to that! I do know that over the course of the last 12 months, our entire family has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and some of us have also been able to get booster shots, and for that I am extremely grateful. There were, of course, ups and downs to 2021…here’s a look back at some of our moments.

In January, we rang in the new year in our traditional way. Ryan celebrated his birthday on a day when it felt like the world was falling apart. We enjoyed a nice Burns Night Supper. We finally had enough snow to play in. Bunny gave me a haircut in our kitchen salon. I began a second attempt at photographing the Ottoman Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden every month.

February is never my favorite month of the year, and this year was no exception, but I was very excited about the ColourPop Animal Crossing collaboration. I finally made pączki from scratch, after threatening to do so for I don’t even know how many years. Ryan was the first member of the family to get a COVID-19 vaccine…he went to a mass vaccination site that was held not too far from our home. We had a nice celebration in honor of George Washington’s Birthday.

March is always a fun, busy month, and that was true this year more than most. We did start of the year on a serious note, as we reflected on a full year of COVID-19’s influence on our lives. We had a fun time celebrating MAR10 Day and then Pi Day. Ryan received the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and we all breathed a sigh of relief at the knowledge that one member of the family was fully vaccinated. We were all excited to hear from Lucky the Leprechaun on St. Patrick’s Day. Turkey turned 18, and I still can’t believe it! I celebrated one year of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Chickadee turned nine! She was also confirmed at our new church in a very quiet, private service, which was just another strange thing COVID-19 has brought us.

We started April strong with a fantastic Easter celebration, especially after our subdued Easter-at-home in 2020. Turkey, Bunny, and I went to a vaccine clinic at our local hospital and received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and celebrated with smoothies from Smoothie King afterward. We visited Origami in the Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden for the first time.

In May, Turkey, Bunny, and I were back at the vaccine clinic to receive the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and Moose and Ladybug got their first doses at Walgreens. We celebrated “May the Fourth” and the “Revenge of the Fifth.” Ladybug turned 14 on Mother’s Day. We took a very special field trip to Grant’s Farm. Ryan and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. Ladybug finished 8th grade. After 13 years of homeschooling grades K-12, Turkey and Bunny graduated from high school (and I’m not sure I’ve recovered yet!)! We bought a new double oven, which makes our endless cookie baking much easier!

We started preparing for Tokyo 2020 in June with a summer school that was, like the Olympics themselves, delayed a year. Moose and Ladybug received the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. We visited Origami After Hours at the Missouri Botanical Garden. I shared a tour of my Animal Crossing: New Horizons island (I’ve made quite a few changes since then). I had a very nice birthday. Chickadee got braces! We saw the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile.

In July, I continued my Animal Crossing: New Horizons tours with a peek inside my home, a look at my neighbors’ homes, and a visit to the museum. I also took a look at one of my neighbor’s obsession with the native fruit. We actually took a trip and visited Bowling Green, KY! We also stopped in Nashville to see the Nature Pop! Lego exhibit. Bunny turned 17…the second Golden Birthday of the year! We visited Francis Olympic Field and the Olympic Spectacular in St. Louis. The Tokyo 2020 Opening Ceremonies were finally held, and I made a Japanese dinner to celebrate.

August was a Big Month. Moose attended band camp for the first time…all day, five days a week for two weeks, and he loved it! We watched as much of the Olympics as we could…there were a lot of great moments! Turkey and I finally visited the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station. We began a new school year, and I found myself with only two students in my classroom for the first time in years, with Ladybug in ninth grade, and Chickadee in fourth. Moose started his second year of high school, but his first year in-person, and he loved that, too, especially all of his band performances and competitions! Turkey and Bunny started college (spoilers: they both earned straight As in their first semester!). I abandoned my photography project of the Ottoman Garden for the second year in a row, but for very different reasons. We visited a beautiful sunflower field!

September was a quiet month. We did a lot of cooking in school, trying recipes from around the world, and from the Little Women Cookbook. We also took a field trip to Forest Park and visited the St. Louis Zoo. We had our annual family Oktoberfest celebration.

In October we went pumpkin picking, and we were even able to go on a day when everybody could come along. We finished cooking our way through the Little Women Cookbook. I had fun celebrating Erstwilder’s 10th birthday. We had a nice Reformation Day/Halloween.

We started November with a fun “Outdoors Week” in school. Bunny and I were very excited about the update for Animal Crossing: New Horizons! Moose turned 16! I wear dirndls now. We went to Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Chickadee finally got her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Walgreens…and then a few weeks later, got the second, as well! We visited Creve Coeur Lake. We had fun doing all of our traditional Thanksgiving activities in school. I learned something really interesting in church. Pie Day involved making nine pies this year! Our three-day Thanksgiving celebration was very nice, especially because this year, we could have visitors. We started our new Advent Lego project.

That brings us to December, one of the best months of the year. Bunny participated in a speech contest at college and placed third in the persuasive category. We made our triumphant return to Christmas Traditions. Speaking of traditions, we may have come up with a new family tradition for St. Nicholas Day. We had fun celebrating Santa Lucia Day. Christmas School was a lot of fun! We got to hear Moose play in a band concert for the first time in two years. I’m really into gnomes right now…no, seriously! We finished building the Lego Millennium Falcon, but we’ve yet to figure out where it’s going to go…it’s an enormous set! We had a very nice three-day Christmas that included lots of church and visiting with family. I wasn’t ready for Christmas to be over, so we visited the Wild Lights at the St. Louis Zoo for the first time.

I think it’s safe to say that for us, at least, this year really was better than the last. I know that wasn’t true for everybody, so my hope for 2022, whatever is may bring, is that more people are able find joy and things to celebrate in the midst of whatever chaos we’re still living in!

Wild Lights at the St. Louis Zoo

Would you believe that I, the Christmas Queen, had never been to Wild Lights at the St. Louis Zoo?

Well, almost never.

The first year Ryan and I lived down here (I think) we did visit, so that was almost 20 years ago. But we weren’t impressed, so we never felt like spending the money on tickets again. Maybe it was because we had a pretty recent memory of the lights at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, and that is a display that’s hard to top. Or maybe it really was just that underwhelming. But after that first time, we never went back.

Until last night. I needed a little more Christmas, and from what I’d seen of pictures of the lights, it seemed to be pretty different, so we decided to buy tickets for the family before the event ends for the season on the 30th.

I have to say, it was nothing like the hazy memories of being disappointed two decades ago I had stored away in my mind. There were lots of cool displays throughout the zoo, fun Christmas music, and the smell of funnel cake in the air (even with masks on!)

One of my favorite things about the displays was that the ornaments and presents displayed with the various animals had those animals’ prints on them, and I thought that was really cool!

Of course there were plenty of opportunities to take family photos, too!

I’m really glad we decided to take a chance on this…I would definitely pay for tickets again in the future!

The Top Five–Photos of 2021

Yesterday was all about food photos; today I’m looking at everything else, starting with an icy picture I took last winter:

I love how sharp the shadows in this photo I took on my birthday are:

I took this picture of the Nashville skyline last summer:

And a fall picture of our church framed by leaves:

I’ll end with a beautiful fall sunset:

I’m looking forward to taking more pictures in different and interesting places in 2022!

Christmas Island

Welcome to Christmas Island!

I have had so much fun decorating my island and taking pictures with my neighbors this month. I have both Christmas and ice displays all year long, but I added more merriment throughout my island…and I think I’m going to leave those items up all year, too!

It looks especially pretty at night:

Between the lights on the cedar trees, the snow, and the jingle bells in the music, this is my favorite time of year to play Animal Crossing!