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!

A More Normal Christmas

After what was a very strange and low-key Christmas last year, this year’s three-day Christmas celebration was closer to the normal we remember. We started the day on Christmas Eve by forgetting to eat the Christmas Crunch I had been saving specifically for that day. The Fab Five (specifically Turkey) finished building the Lego Millennium Falcon in the morning:

I found some time to play Animal Crossing and deliver gifts to all my neighbors:

We enjoyed Portillo’s for an early dinner before church:

And we got to go to church inside this Christmas Eve!

On the way home, we stopped to see the city of St. Louis Christmas tree and drove through the Way of Lights:

Of course I took pictures when we got home!

We lit the Advent wreath and had birthday cake:

And the Fab Five received their yearly gift of Christmas jammies…this year’s theme was gnomes!

I filled the stockings and made sure the tree and nativity scene were just right before I went to bed:

On Christmas Day morning we had our traditional Christmas coffee cake, plus the previously-forgotten Christmas Crunch:

We got to go to church on Christmas Day this year!

And I even had a chance to take a picture of the Fab Five without their masks before the service because we arrived so early and there was hardly anybody else there yet:

We opened presents after we got home:

And had the best meal of the year, the “pick out dinner.”

There were old favorites and a few new items:

I think the star of the meal, though, was the charcuterie board I put together, featuring salame roses:

Seriously, it’s the most delicious dinner ever!

And this morning, we were back at church, and again we had an opportunity to take a mask-free picture, this time of the whole family!

Tonight we had our fancy Christmas dinner, featuring beef Wellington:

It was also a delicious dinner (but not as good as the pick out dinner!).

For dessert I made both a gingerbread Yule log with sugared cranberries and a more traditional chocolate variety:

So this Christmas was still a little different, but more familiar than last year. I’m so grateful we had more opportunities for worship this year, and the ability to have family visit. Maybe next Christmas will be more normal still!

Christ the King Sunday

I learned something interesting about the church year in church this morning!

The final Sunday of the church year prior to the first Sunday in Advent marks the end of the season after Pentecost. Many churches celebrate it simply as the Last Sunday of the Church Year (for obvious reasons), or occasionally as the Sunday of the Fulfillment. I remember when I was a child, this Sunday was referred to as “Christ the King Sunday,” but that seems to have fallen out of favor in the LC-MS, and most churches reverted back to just marking the Last Sunday of the Church Year. Our church, however, did celebrate Christ the King Sunday this morning, and I learned where the occasion came from! In the aftermath of World War I, in 1925, the Catholic Church celebrated a Jubilee Year, and Pope Pius XI established the celebration in the encyclical Quas Primas in response to, among other things, growing nationalism and secularism around the world:

…”We lament them today: the seeds of discord sown far and wide; those bitter enmities and rivalries between nations, which still hinder so much the cause of peace; that insatiable greed which is so often hidden under a pretense of public spirit and patriotism, and gives rise to so many private quarrels; a blind and immoderate selfishness, making men seek nothing but their own comfort and advantage, and measure everything by these…”

As the name suggests, this church day emphasizes Christ as King of not a single country, or even denomination, but of all. Why set aside a specific day for this celebration?

“For people are instructed in the truths of faith, and brought to appreciate the inner joys of religion far more effectually by the annual celebration of our sacred mysteries than by any official pronouncement of the teaching of the Church. Such pronouncements usually reach only a few and the more learned among the faithful; feasts reach them all; the former speak but once, the latter speak every year – in fact, forever. The church’s teaching affects the mind primarily; her feasts affect both mind and heart, and have a salutary effect upon the whole of man’s nature. Man is composed of body and soul, and he needs these external festivities so that the sacred rites, in all their beauty and variety, may stimulate him to drink more deeply of the fountain of God’s teaching, that he may make it a part of himself, and use it with profit for his spiritual life….History, in fact, tells us that in the course of ages these festivals have been instituted one after another according as the needs or the advantage of the people of Christ seemed to demand: as when they needed strength to face a common danger, when they were attacked by insidious heresies, when they needed to be urged to the pious consideration of some mystery of faith or of some divine blessing.” Quas Primas

Originally the observance was set for the end of October, but was moved to the Last Sunday of the Church Year in 1970. Although it no longer occurs prior to All Saints’ Day as originally intended, it does still fall at the end of the liturgical calendar:

“It seems to Us that We cannot in a more fitting manner close this Holy Year, nor better signify Our gratitude and that of the whole of the Catholic world to Christ the immortal King of ages, for the blessings showered upon Us, upon the Church, and upon the Catholic world during this holy period.” Quas Primas

I knew that this was a fairly recent addition to many church calendars (which may be part of the reason many of our churches have stopped observing it…it’s too “modern” for them), but I didn’t know the origins of it until today, and hearing about it in the context of the growing nationalism in many countries around the world today made it even more impactful!

Reformation Day/Halloween 2021

Today was the rare occasion where Reformation Day/Halloween actually falls on a Sunday. We started the day at church, where we enjoyed some especially amazing music featuring hymns written by Martin Luther:

We went for a short walk in Forest Park after the service, where we enjoyed the beautiful fall colors (in spite of the wind):

I was so excited to pick up a box of Monster Mash cereal for the Fab Five for breakfast!

This afternoon, we watched The Nightmare Before Christmas for the first time, as well as It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. For dinner, I made potato-parsnip soup, cheese and jam turnovers, and butterbeer…it was the perfect meal for today!

Dessert was the Jell-O Halloween Special, as advertised by Harlow Wilcox in the 1940s…”Looks like a dish of sunshine all dressed up, doesn’t it?”

I chose my costume in Animal Crossing: New Horizons with great care…I’m a hot dog!

I tracked down the Czar of Halloween right away.

I think my neighbors enjoyed the festivities, too!

This was a busier Halloween than most for us, and it was a very fun day!

2021-22 School Year–Week Seven

This was a pretty fun week!

Ladybug learned about transversals and alternate exterior and interior angles in geometry (interestingly, Moose learned about the exact same thing at his school this week!). In grammar, she learned how to diagram adverbs, including prepositional phrases that act like adverbs. She continued learning about ecology in biology with a discussion on biomes and habitats. In history, she read about the first monotheistic religion with the call of Abram, so that was pretty much review. We talked about Mormonism in her study of comparative religions. We read about Meg’s wedding and the birth of the twins in Little Women, and made two new recipes from The Little Women Cookbook…Beef stew with molasses and apple cider vinegar, and chicken salad with grapes and almonds:

Chickadee continued to practice rounding money in math. She learned about walruses, manatees, and dugongs in science. She reviewed everything she’s learned so far this year in grammar. Her dictation assignments in writing have gotten much longer! We took a break from our trip around the world in geography to review the countries we’ve learned about so far and read about how maps and globes developed…next week, we’re going to begin our second loop around the world by visiting a whole new set of countries!

We also had a fun celebration for the feast of St. Michael and All Angels. We prepared a special dinner and dessert (Mediterranean angel hair pasta, and angel food cake with homemade strawberry sauce), and made hand and footprint angels…there’s now glitter everywhere!

We went on our first indoor field trip since before the pandemic began, to pretty much the only place I feel comfortable taking the yet-to-be-vaccinated Chickadee…our church! It is one of the charter congregations of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, and we took a tour of the building, where we learned about not only the history of the structure, but also the congregation and the surrounding community. It was very informative, and even I learned a ton!

I’m not sure how we’ll top the fun we’ve had this week, but at least it’s October now, and we have all of our favorite fall activities to look forward to!