Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland

I have waited over two months, but I’m finally sharing the pictures from our visit to Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland in June!

As the Christmas Queen, this store was a dream come true for me. Imagine it…the world’s largest Christmas store. It’s the size of almost two football fields. Ornaments are arranged by color, or the country they represent, or interest, or…well, whatever! There are over 300 decorated Christmas trees and over 500 nativity scenes. And collectibles! Hummels, Precious Moments, Department 56 items representing all kinds of interests including A Christmas Carol and Harry Potter. Plus German collectibles (of course, in Michigan’s “Little Bavaria”), such as steins and smokers!

Naturally, we picked up a few souvenirs while we were there, including our standard trip magnet, a personalized ornament, and a vintage-style ceramic trees (details to come closer to Christmas!). I have wanted to go to Bronner’s for as long as I’ve known it’s existed, and this was an amazing experience for me…I hope I might to go back someday!

(European) Christmas in July

I know we put it off until the very last minute, but today we celebrated Christmas in July! And not just any Christmas in July, but (European) Christmas in July, inspired by our Rick Steves’ Europe summer school. Actually, most of my ideas for our celebration came from the Rick Steves’ European Christmas TV special and/or the accompanying book! We enjoyed Gimmelwald fondue (recipe found in the book) and Norwegian Julekake (also found in the book).

We also listened to the Rick Steves’ European Christmas CD, which always makes my spirit bubble up with joy…only 147 day until Christmas!

Hymn of the Day–Where Shepherds Lately Knelt

Where shepherds lately knelt and kept the angel’s word,
I come in half belief, a pilgrim strangely stirred;
But there is room and welcome there for me,
But there is room and welcome there for me.

In that unlikely place I find Him as they said:
Sweet newborn babe, how frail! And in a manger bed:
A still, small voice to cry one day for me,
A still, small voice to cry one day for me.

How should I not have known Isaiah would be there,
His prophecies fulfilled? With pounding heart I stare:
A child, a son, the Prince of Peace for me,
A child, a son, the Prince of Peace for me.

Can I, will I forget how Love was born and burned
Its way into my heart–unasked, unforced, unearned,
To die, to live, and not alone for me,
To die, to live, and not alone for me?

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp–The Jingle “Toy Day” Spectacular!

It’s the most wonderful time of year in Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp! That time when Jingle, the black-nosed reindeer, comes to town to celebrate Toy Day! The Toy Day event just wrapped up, so here’s a look back at the fun event that lasted for the better part of a month.

It began with a gardening event. This time, the goal was to plant poinsettias to attract “elf hats” to the garden.

The rewards included furniture and clothing items, as well as bell ornaments (more on that later). I really liked displaying the Toy Day furniture items in the new cabin, which was added in the last update. And you can see the Toy Day gift for all, a snowy dollhouse, on display on the table:

The second part of the Toy Day event was a gyroidite hunt.

The prizes for that included clothing items, like this Christmas tree dress and star hood, and more bell ornaments. The end goal of collecting the bell ornaments was earning this beautiful blue Christmas tree:

There was also a special Toy Day fortune cookie, courtesy of Fauna, a deer who aspires to help Jingle deliver gifts. For the first time ever, I bought a five-pack of the cookies (three times!), and got tons of cool items (including a full Christmas market, light-up reindeer, and a gift sled), I used to decorate my campsite.

The final part of the event was a fishing tourney, and there were special holiday fish to catch…sweet shrimp, horsehair crabs, and lobster.

The rewards for the fishing tourney were different snowmen and snow sculptures:

There was also a special Leaf Ticket item…Jingle’s Holiday Balloon. I had been saving my Leaf Tickets for a long time to make sure I could get this item!

If all of that wasn’t enough, five new animals were added to the game as well, all with a wintry theme. My favorite it Aurora…I’ve been waiting for her to visit my campsite!

I like to think she’s Roald’s girlfriend. Speaking of Roald, I especially enjoyed dressing him in my new Christmas sweaters…he looks so pleasantly round and jolly in them!

I loved decorating and redecorating my campsite throughout the event…I don’t ever want to take the decorations down! I guess video games imitate life…

This has definitely been my favorite Pocket Camp event so far. I’m looking forward to seeing what 2019 holds, not just in Pocket Camp, but also for the new Animal Crossing game for the Nintendo Switch that’s scheduled to come out!

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 jalapeƱo 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!

Christmas on the Town Square…and Main Street

It’s hard to believe, but another year of festivities has wrapped up in downtown Belleville. Here’s a look back at some of the Christmas fun from this year.

Live reindeer made several appearances by the Christmas Market:

I’m pretty sure the market is a permanent fixture in Belleville, now…it’s always good to see people shopping!

As always, there were gingerbread houses on display in store windows:

The whole downtown always looks so nice!

I love Christmas in Belleville!

Chickadee Thursday

Tonight we visited the St. Louis Science Center to see their new Science Illuminated lights display…Chickadee really enjoyed it!