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.

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!

Garden Glow in the Time of Construction

So many things in the last…almost two years?!?…have been different, and Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Garden is no exception, but not for the reason you might think…their big construction project has put a spin on how the event is taking place this year!

The biggest difference is at the start of the event. The entrance is through the temporary Visitors’ Center and Linnean House (the latter is the location of the Blizzard Bar which is usually at the tram shelter), and the big Christmas tree is in the Gladney Rose Garden, which is actually kind of a great location for it. The tree is a different style this year, too, which we really liked, and the topper is awesome!

A lot of stuff was the same, although the routing of the path for the first part of the displays was pretty different. The lights around the Central Axis and Climatron are always my favorites, and we got to see them first thing after the big tree!

There were some new things (like a new flower garden), and one notable admission (The 12 Days of Christmas), and many familiar favorites:

For some reason, I especially liked the hedge maze this year:

Another notable change comes right at the end, as the exit is routed through the Ottoman Garden. I don’t think that particular location has been open during Garden Glow before, and it was pretty cool to see some of the trees covered in lights as we said goodbye!

So, Garden Glow was a little weird this year. It was nice to have a different experience due to something other than COVID-19, though, and we liked the new additions…maybe they’ll keep them around!

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!

A Peek Inside the St. Louis Aquarium

At the end of the summer, Turkey and I finally got to visit the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station:

The most beautiful (in my opinion) part of the aquarium is right inside the entrance…a tank fronted with a clock face that is a replica of the original Union Station clock (which is over 125 years old!):

There are other nods to history in the aquarium, as well:

There are many different animals that call the St. Louis Aquarium home, but arguably the most famous are a trio of otters named Thatcher, Sawyer, and Finn, in honor of some of Mark Twain’s most recognizable characters:

Included among the other creatures are a blue lobster named Lord Stanley, which was a gift from a restaurant in Massachusetts following the St. Louis Blues Stanley Cup win in 2019, and other, more typical sea animals like jelly fish and sharks:

I’m very excited with what they’ve done with this property (there are other attractions like a mirror maze, a ropes course, miniature golf, and, of course, the St. Louis Wheel, plus some restaurants, including the delightfully retro Union Station Soda Fountain), and I hope it will continue to be a fun place for people of all ages to visit!

The Ottoman Garden–August

For the second year in a row, I’m abandoning my “Mobot Through the Year” photography project, because for the second month in a row, the Ottoman Garden has been closed to visitors, and the best I could do was sneak a photo of the construction from the side of the (wrong for my pictures) gate:

I’m really bummed about this. Last year, everything was messed up, and while I wasn’t happy about giving up my project, at least it was understandable. But this year is just annoying…I was really looking forward to capturing the beauty of this space as fall approaches. To be honest, I don’t know what I’m going to do next year. I definitely will not be hoping that the “third time’s the charm” with the Ottoman Garden, because I know a cursed endeavor when I see one. But after two completely disappointing years, I’m not sure I have the heart to try somewhere else, either. I guess we’ll just have to see what happens when 2022 dawns!

Summer School 2021

It seemed like the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics would never get here, and now they’ve already come and gone. Here’s a look back at our Japan-themed summer school.

We visited Origami in the Garden at the Missouri Botanical several times over the summer. The large-scale art installation was the perfect field trip to coincide with Tokyo 2020 (and was also postponed from last summer).

We also visited the Olympic Spectacular in St. Louis at Francis Field, home of the 1904 Summer Games:

I made a few fun treats for the Olympics…Olympics torches (white chocolate covered pretzels) and Team USA CHEERios treats.

We did a lot of cooking and tried a lot of Japanese foods. I worked really hard to find things we hadn’t had before, and used a variety of cooking methods and unfamiliar ingredients. We tried:

  • Spicy Ramen/Udon
  • Pork Gyoza
  • Coffee Jelly
  • Okonomiyaki
  • Matcha Mochi Cake
  • Vegetable Tempura
  • Potato Korokke
  • Fluffy Japanese Cheesecake
  • Kani Cream Korokke
  • Chicken Katsu Sandwich
  • Matcha Green Tea Cookies
  • Oyakodon

We were supposed to go out to a Japanese restaurant this summer, but COVID-19, so we got a party platter of sushi instead:

I’ve been holding on to the Lego Architecture Tokyo skyline since last year, and we finally got to build it!

Our American Girl dolls got into the Olympic spirit:

In between watching as much of the Olympics as we could, we also did some more traditional school work. We learned about Japanese history and culture, as well as the history of the Olympics. We read a lot of books…some I read out loud, and some were book basket choices. We also watched a selection of Olympic documentaries:

  • FirstLondon 2012
  • The Everlasting FlameBeijing 2008
  • Atlanta’s Olympic GloryAtlanta 1996
  • 16 Days of GloryLos Angeles 1984
  • Athens 2004: Stories of Olympic Glory
  • Seoul 1988

And we also did several crafts, including origami, paper lanterns, Koinobori (Japanese carp windsocks), pipe cleaner and tissue paper cherry blossom branches, and medals (of course!):

I’ve been holding on to Ticket to Ride: Japan since last year, and we finally had a chance to play! I really enjoyed the new game mechanics introduced in this edition, and it was fun to get to know the geography of the area a little bit better.

We updated our medal chart every evening…here’s a look at the final results…we were very excited that the US won the gold medal race and had the most medals overall!

And, better late than never, our Family Olympics, which was delayed due to heat. We only had four events this year (frisbee throw, broad jump, soccer kicks, and a running race), thanks to time constraints and a lack of basketball hoops on the backboards we normally use. Technically, Turkey came in first, but since we participate as a family, we all won gold!

This summer school was a long time coming. I think we all still have mixed feelings about the fact that the Olympics were held at this time, but we had to just accept that that was out of our control, and embrace the Olympics as we usually do. It’s always hard to say goodbye when they extinguish the flame, but the Winter Olympics are less than six months away, and we only have to wait three more years for Paris 2024!