The Top Five–Photos of 2020

For my final “Top Five” list of 2020, I’m looking at photos that were taken the few times we actually went somewhere, starting with this wolf we saw at Brookfield Zoo back in January:

One of the last places Bunny and I went was to the Fabulous Fox Theatre to see Riverdance in February:

We took a lovely walk around Creve Coeur Lake in November:

Later that month, we attended Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Because the event started earlier than usual, we had the added bonus of not just seeing beautiful lights, but also a carpet of bright yellow gingko leaves!

When we visited Cahokia Mounds in November, I thought this tree stump was really cool:

It wasn’t hard to choose these pictures, because I just didn’t have many pictures taken away from home from which to choose. But in a way, that made these moments more special, and helped me appreciate the beauty around me in a way I might not have otherwise!

The Top Five–Around the Neighborhood Photos of 2020

For today’s “Top Five,” I’m venturing out of the house…and into our neighborhood. We might not have been able to go places this year, but we spent a lot of time walking around our subdivision, from the 2-mile walks we took in the morning before school started every day the weather was amenable to evening sunset walks. The two ponds in our neighborhood are an especially good spot for a nice view, starting with this one in the early spring:

I really like this tree I started noticing while we were walking, and I think Bob Ross would have liked it, too…it looks like it’s led an interesting life!

I caught the evening light at just the right moment for this photo:

And I’m pretty sure the evening light caught me for this one!

One last sunset photo, near one of the ponds, but looking out toward the farmland that borders the neighborhood:

My only disappointment with this list is that there aren’t any snow pictures…I hope we don’t have to wait too much longer for a real snowfall!

The Top Five–Food Photos of 2020

Today’s “Top Five” continues in the home and focuses on food photography. If there’s anything I’ve done a lot this year, it’s cook. I already did a lot of cooking to begin with, but between not being able to go out to eat at all, and wanting to find something nice I could do for my family at home, I upped my cooking game (in my opinion, anyway). And while I was cooking a lot, I decided to work on my food plating and photography, too. I actually think I’ve improved a lot this year, so at least I learned something!

The first picture I chose is from the very beginning of the year, when I made Beef Wellington for Ryan’s 40th birthday on Epiphany:

We have had shawarma so many times this year. It’s always a pretty meal because it’s so colorful…this is my favorite picture of that dinner:

I’ve also done a lot of baking this year, including this lovely carrot cake:

I found a new recipe for potato-parsnip soup, and not only was it delicious, it looked beautiful!

And finally, a picture of the dessert I made to accompany our fancy Christmas dinner on Sunday. I love the colors and textures in this picture!

Food can be a tricky thing to photograph, so I’m going to keep working on improving my skills!

The Top Five–Around the House Photos of 2020

Continuing my series of “Top Five” lists to end the year, I’m moving on to photos taken around the house, a place we’ve all spent many more hours than usual in 2020!

To start off, a picture of my complete Ticket to Ride collection, as seen in February. I’ve actually added two more games since then (the newest board, plus the only other one from my collection that was missing), but I still love seeing how many different maps are/were in my collection!

This might not be the best picture ever, but it represents one of the few high points of the year for me…the release of Animal Crossing: New Horizons:

I’m a huge fan of the Bésame Cosmetics “Love, Lucy” collection, and I really like how this picture of the lipstick I purchased turned out:

One day, I went upstairs for school and found this in my chair. It tickled me.

To the end the list as I began, a recent picture of an old Ticket to Ride game played with the clear trains from the edition I received for Christmas. The trains are so cool!

That’s just a small glimpse into our year as seen in photos taken around the house!

Sartorial Saturday…On a Sunday–The Top Five Fashions of 2020

We’ve finally made it to the final week of 2020! To commemorate the end of this past year that has been a decade long, I’m beginning a series of “Top Five” posts, because even in the middle of a pandemic, I like making lists. I’m starting with my favorite fashions from this year, most of which weren’t worn away from home, but are still worth noting.

To start, here’s a look at my favorite HOMES bracelet stack, from their birthstone collection. These bracelets have been very important to me, because they have helped me feel connected to Chicago and Lake Michigan during a time when I could visit neither, plus they’re really pretty!

My second fashion is from the second “Dapper Day at Home” of the year. I love everything about this look I put together, from the hat to the handbag, and especially my first Miss Candyfloss dress!

I figured one of my top five fashions should focus on this year’s hottest accessory, the mask. I really love this Christmas mask from Old Navy, and the accessories I paired with it!

Speaking of Christmas, one of my very favorite looks from this year is the outfit I wore last week to the outdoor Christmas Eve service we attended. I don’t have a lot of opportunities to wear my cape and muff together, so I was pretty excited to have a reason to wear both!

And finally, a look so new, I haven’t even featured it on my website yet (stay tuned)! I was super excited to order this beautiful purple-striped Stephanie swing dress from Pinup Girl Clothing on Pink Friday, and I love the way this look turned. out, especially with Spiffy the Sausage Dog making an appearance on my cardigan!

So there’s a look at my favorite fashions from this year. Maybe at some point in 2021, I’ll have a reason to wear some of them somewhere other than at home!

The Top Five–Episodes of Rick Steves’ Europe

Time for another Top Five list! I’m not even going to pretend I can pick just five of my favorite episodes of Rick Steves’ Europe, though, but I did narrow it down to seven, which honestly, I think is pretty good. Not up for consideration on this list are the specials, especially Rick Steves’ European Christmas, because if I had included them when I was compiling the list, it would be even longer!

  • “Switzerland’s Jungfrau Region: Best of the Alps” (season two)–While I’ve always thought it would be cool to visit the Alps (probably because I’ve seen The Sound of Music so many times!), I didn’t realize just how many charming places like Gimmelwald there are in Switzerland until I saw this episode.
  • “Normandy: War-Torn, Yet Full of Life” (season three)–This episode introduced me to Mont St. Michel, an Abby built on an island which is sometimes accessible by foot. There is so much history in this episode, from the old tradition of keeping the beat while making omelettes for people on a pilgrimage to the abbey, to Monet’s lilies, and especially the beaches of Normandy, which still echo with memories of D-Day.
  • “Dubrovnik and Balkan Side Trips” (season six)–Continuing with the theme, I had never heard of Dubrovnik until Rick Steves took me there. I have learned so much about the world from watching the show, and this was no exception, but now that I know about it, I think it would be an amazing place to visit, evening if watching the guy dive off the bridge does always make my heart race!
  • “Florentine Delights and Tuscan Side Trips” (season seven)–This might be my very favorite episode of Rick Steves’ Europe (other than the Christmas special). I never really thought Italy would be at the top of the list of places I’d want to visit in Europe, but seeing Pisa and watching Rick dine at a local restaurant sold me on the experience!
  • “Paris: Regal and Intimate” (season seven)–It’s Paris…what more do I need to say?
  • “London: Historic and Dynamic” (season seven)–I guess it’s not really fair to include this episode on my list, since I want to visit London so badly, but I think I did pretty well to only have one London episode represented here. It’s my favorite look at that city because Rick visits all the places I would want to go!
  • “France’s Loire: Château Country” (season eight)–The Loire Valley is another region I never really thought about visiting, but looking at all of the beautiful, stately homes makes me want to spend a day or three exploring the history of the area!

Maybe someday, I’ll even be able to travel to some of these places, and see them for myself! It’s nice to dream of a world where international travel is a possibility, isn’t it?

The Top Five–Things I Miss

I’m sure we’re all missing things from our old “normal” lives…here’s a look at the top five things I’m missing, and for once, it’s exactly five items, and I didn’t even have to think to come up with them!

  • Church/Choir–This one was a no-brainer. I am thankful for our online church services, because we can still hear the Word, but it’s just not the same. I also really miss hearing my family sing in their various choirs at church, even though I am not musically gifted myself.
  • Extended Family/Friends–Another no-brainer is missing visiting family and close friends or having them visit us. Again, I’m thankful for other ways to communicate, like phone, text, or video chats, but it’s still not the same. We’ve already missed out on so many opportunities to gather that should have been on the calendar, and that’s just sad.
  • Chicago–I really missed our annual Memorial Day Weekend trip to Chicagoland. I missed it so much, I even created a virtual vacation. Not getting to see the skyline, and especially Lake Michigan, was really hard for me, and even though I enjoyed looking back through photos from previous trips, once again, it’s just not the same.
  • The Missouri Botanical Garden–I guess this is the number one St. Louis area location I’m missing. Normally, we go to the Garden at least once a month, and in the springtime, it can be more like once a week. Besides missing walking around the Garden and seeing all of the beautiful flowers in bloom, I’m also sad that I had to abandon my yearly photo project.
  • Wandering Around Target for No Reason at All–This is a silly one, but still a big deal to me. I really miss just impulsively stopping at Target and looking for absolutely nothing in particular. There have been some weeks (including one right before COVID-19 became a big deal), where I have literally stopped at Target five days of the week. Even if I don’t come out with anything, there’s something fun about shopping there, but I haven’t stepped in a Target for over two months!

What do you miss most from life pre-COVID-10?

The Top Five–Episodes of M*A*S*H

Time for another “Top Five” list…this time, I’m taking a look at my favorite episodes of M*A*S*H! This could have easily been a “Top Ten” list, but for once, it was easy for me to pick my five very favorite episodes, so I’m going to leave it right there.

  • “Movie Tonight” (season 5)–This episode, where the camp gathers to watch Colonel Potter’s favorite movie (with many interruptions), always makes me laugh, and also has me singing along!
  • “The Party” (season 7)–I love the idea of the family members of those working at the 4077th getting together and having a reunion of sorts…and when Klinger’s mom told them all that of course she knew he was in Korea, it always make me cry.
  • “Nurse Doctor” (season 8)–This may be my very favorite episode ever, because it has me laughing from “I think the sun was in my ears” to “You stop talking about her, you stop hating her, and you stop dating her!”
  • “A War for All Seasons” (season 9)–Because of how fluid time usually is in M*A*S*H, this episode is especially interesting, because it looks at the events of a whole year. It’s funny, but also bittersweet.
  • “No Sweat” (season 9)–Between Colonel Potter being constantly dragged out of bed after taking sleeping pills and Margaret’s unfortunate case of prickly heat, this episode is hilarious from start to finish!

I realize that there are no episodes on my list from the time Colonel Blake and Trapper John were on the show, and there’s a reason for it…I hate those three seasons. I know that’s sacrilege to some, but I don’t like those two characters at all, while I love Colonel Potter and B.J. So when we watch through the show, as we’ve been doing recently, I always start with “Welcome to Korea” and just pretend the show started from there!

The Top Five–Christmas Albums

We’re still Christmas-ing here!

As the season winds down, I thought it would be fun to take a look at my top five favorite Christmas albums. Yes, there are six albums on the list, but in my defense, the last two are fairly short, so I think together, they make up one space!

  • Classic Christmas Carols–This album (actually, a two-disc collection), featuring the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, is my absolute favorite collection of sacred Christmas music.
  • Christmas with the Rat Pack–This is not just one of my favorite Christmas CDs, but also my favorite collection of music sung by Frank, Dean, and Sammy!
  • The Christmas Song–My version of this classical Nat King Cole album is slightly different from the one currently available, which is too bad, because one of my favorite things about it, the “Toys for Tots” song, is one of the most delightful aspects of the album. But I also love all of the different versions of “The Christmas Song,” as well as all of the other Christmas songs on it.
  • A Classical Kids Christmas–This started out as a school album, but I love the way a story is woven into the Christmas music, and how different Christmas traditions are explained.
  • White Christmas–The classic Bing Crosby Christmas album will always be one of my favorites!
  • The Andy Williams Christmas Album–There’s something special about Andy Williams and Christmas, and so many of the songs on this album remind me of my childhood!

The Top Five–Things I’m Looking Forward to in 2020

Here we are, at the beginning of a new decade! I thought it would be fun to come up with a “Top Five” of the things I’m most looking forward to this year. I kind of wish I had something really big on my list, such as a family vacation like the one we took to Florida in 2018, or a trip to London, but I really don’t need grand events to come up with things I’m excited about! So here are the things I’m thrilled are coming up in the next year (more or less in chronological order):

  • Lego Modular Bookshop–I always look forward to the release of the new modular building on January 1st, but I’m especially excited about this year’s set, because like the Pet Shop, it is a building in two halves, which will offer me lots of options for displaying it on my Main Street! Actually, I was so excited about the set, I was in line outside the Lego Store 20 minutes before they opened this morning, just to make sure I got one of the 29 sets they had in stock (I did)!
  • Animal Crossing: New Horizons–I feel like I’ve been waiting for a new Animal Crossing game forever. Sure, I’ve played (and enjoyed) Pocket Camp for the last two years, but it’s not a full game, and it’s just not the same. So if you’re looking for me on March 20th, I’ll be living the island life with my animal friends!
  • Katheryn Howard: The Scandalous Queen–One of the highlights of every year for the last several years has been the release of the latest book in Alison Weir’s Six Tudor Queens series. We’re nearing the end, with the last book set to come out in 2021, but until then, May will be a great month for reading for me!
  • Tokyo 2020–Everyone knows I love the Olympics, and I’m especially looking forward to this year’s summer games, because our whole family has an interest in Japanese culture. It will also be a bit bittersweet for several reasons, including the fact that it will be the closing bookend on Turkey and Bunny’s homeschool summer school experience (summer school began in 2008 with the Beijing Olympics), but in spite of that, it’s still going to be a fun time!
  • Great North American Oktoberfest–I actually thought this event, which is the first in what appears to be an annual event traveling to different cities, was going to be held in 2019 (and, as it turns out, I was right…originally it was scheduled for last year), so you can imagine my disappointment when we didn’t get to attend. I’m hoping that it won’t be postponed again, and I will be able to enjoy this experience in St. Louis in the fall!