A Year of Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Today is the one-year anniversary of the day I began living the island life on Gloriana in Animal Crossing: New Horizons!

It’s been a fun year, and a nice way to escape reality, which, let’s face it, was a necessity over the last 12 months! Let’s take a look back, shall we?

One of the first events was “Bunny Day,” where my old friend, Zipper T. Bunny stopped by:

Cherry blossom season was a lot of fun, but I didn’t collect nearly enough recipes, so I hope we get to do it again this year!

Reese and Cyrus arrived at Harv’s Island for a special wedding-themed event:

My neighbors made my birthday a special day:

And a few days later, my very favorite neighbor, Roald, moved in!

Swimming and diving for deep sea creatures was added over the summer:

The day I received my perfect island rating was A Big Deal:

It wouldn’t have been summer without a fireworks show:

Jack, the Czar of Halloween, hosted a special event in October:

There were moments when island life imitated real life a little too well:

My favorite turkey, Franklin, made a special meal for Turkey Day:

After a few failures, I finally built a perfect snowboy…and then enough others to complete the furniture collection:

And Jingle the black-nosed reindeer let me help him hand out gifts for Toy Day:

I think we were all happy to say goodbye to 2020 and hello to 2021 on New Year’s!

I had fun celebrating all of my neighbors’ birthdays throughout the course of the year, but none more so than Roald!

Pavé brought his amazing dance moves to my island for Festivale:

Mario Day was extra fun with special themed items:

Even Pi Day made an appearance in my game!

And just a few days ago, I celebrated Shamrock Day, island style!

It’s been a fun year on my island, and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings…I’m hoping for more familiar characters such as Brewster, Pete, and Kapp’n, and maybe some new events I haven’t even thought of!

2020 in Review

“It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times.”

All jokes from The Golden Girls aside, I think we can all agree that this was an “annus horribilis” for the entire world. It’s difficult to look back at all of the things we didn’t do this year, and challenging to look for the positives we did experience. But there were positives, and I’m going to try to focus on those…as much as I can, anyway.

Way back in January, the world was still “normal,” so to speak. I started the year looking forward to many things, some of which actually happened! We attended the Star Wars First Friday at the St. Louis Science Center. Ryan celebrated his 40th birthday! We traveled north to Chicago for Frosty Faustings, and visited Brookfield Zoo and Medieval Times while we were there. On the way home, we stopped by the Chicago Baháʼí Temple, the lakefront, and of course Portillo’s. Turkey and I went to see Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back live in concert at Powell Hall with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

By February, everyone had heard of COVID-19, but we were still unsure of its impact on us. So we carried on mostly as usual, although there was already a certain wariness, such as when Bunny and I went to see Riverdance at the Fabulous Fox Theatre, and wondered about the person coughing just a few seats down from us. We celebrated Bobunk with a carryout meal from Beast Craft BBQ…if only I had known then that the few other meals we got from restaurants this year would all have to be carryout! We had what would be our last field trip of the year to see the DaVinci exhibit at the St. Louis Science Center. We visited the Orchid Show at the Missouri Botanical Garden. We were sad to say farewell to Pheasant Run Resort (from a distance), as it ceased operations at the end of the month.

Obviously, the world turned upside down in March. It started out ok, with me getting bangs, Ladybug and I getting some ear piercings together, and what ended up being the last time I would visit the mall this year. I got a new iPhone. But then the announcement came that the schools in the area were moving to distance learning, which ended up lasting through the end of that school year…and the start of the next. Turkey and Bunny were worried that the SAT that they had been diligently preparing for would also be cancelled, but they were in pretty much the last group to get in to take it…and both did exceptionally well! We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day. Turkey turned 17! One of the highlights of my year was the day Animal Crossing: New Horizons was released…the same day that the stay at home order for our state was announced. Chickadee turned eight! She started doing catechesis from home on Zoom, while Moose started doing school from home with the rest of us.

April was a weird month. We attended all of the Holy Week and Easter services in our living room, where we also attended regular Sunday services for three months straight. The announcement was made that the school buildings would remain closed through the end of the school year. I started grocery shopping once every two weeks (no small task when you’re shopping for a family of seven and don’t have a bonus fridge or freezer!), and started wearing a mask everywhere even before it was required…I was very thankful we already had one Ryan received at a previous Combo Breaker!

I’m not going to lie…May was a very difficult month for me. It was almost impossible not to dwell on all of the things I usually look forward to that month that we weren’t doing. Ladybug turned 13! We celebrated Mother’s Day in an unusual way. The 2019-20 school year came to an end. So did Moose’s school year, complete with a virtual 8th grade graduation. I imagined a virtual vacation to Chicago in lieu of our annual trip north for Combo Breaker, which, like everything else this year, was cancelled.

June came with its own challenges, as we realized that with school over, we really had nothing to do. I did plan a few fun activities, and we actually left the house as a family! I celebrated my 3rd 39th birthday with Roald and a reminder of Lake Michigan. I trimmed my own bangs for the first time! For the first time in almost three months, I finally put gas in the minivan. I got in line in a virtual waiting room to “secure the asset”…The Child!

In July we were finally able to attend church in person, and I Was Glad! We watched Hamilton so many times. We also watched every Pixar movie, including a few we hadn’t seen yet. Bunny turned 16! I achieved a perfect island rating in Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

In August, we had a Hamilton-themed movie night at home. Did I mention we made a lot of waffles over the summer? I think we were all relieved when school started up again, (Turkey’s and Bunny’s senior year!!!), because at least it was something mostly normal…although Moose was still distance learning.

September saw us getting a lot of use out of our new omelette maker. We celebrated Oktoberfest. We were relieved that the temperature finally cooled off, and we could start enjoying our morning walks around our neighborhood again. We had a special feast for Michaelmas Eve.

Some things in October seemed almost normal. Ladybug and Chickadee started working on an election lap book in the lead-up to Election Day, and I was able to show them what an actual ballot looks like before Ryan and I voted in a new way. Bunny and I were very excited that Supermarket Sweep came back on the air, this time with the inimitable Leslie Jones as the host. Continuing a trend of breaking electronics this year, I got a new laptop. We went pumpkin picking! We had a stay-at-home Halloween, which honestly wasn’t that unusual for us.

November was another hard month, although it started out pretty well. We took our annual walk around Creve Coeur Lake. Ladybug and Chickadee finished their lap books just in time for what I’m sure will be a very memorable Election Day! We attended Garden Glow. Moose turned 15! Then things kind of fell apart. My mom spent almost two weeks in the ICU and about a month after that in a rehabilitation facility. Things were kind of a blur during that time, but we still visited Cahokia Mounds in the lead-up to Thanksgiving, baked a ton of pies, and had a very nice family dinner. I even participated in my second Dapper Day (At Home) in the midst of all of that! The beginning of Advent at the end of the month, and a special Lego project with it, was a very welcome time.

And that brings us to December. I guess I had kind of been dreading this month all year, because I knew how many special Christmas traditions and events we were going to miss. And we did. Some things weren’t too difficult to let go of, and others really hurt. But there were a lot of good moments, too. We got to preview the newest concept from Beast Craft BBQ, Beast Southern Kitchen & BBQ, before they opened to the public (from home, of course). We decorated the Christmas tree on St. Nicholas Day, like we always do. We also celebrated Santa Lucia Day. We had a very nice Advent, and this may have been our best week of “Christmas School” ever! My website celebrated a significant anniversary. We had a very nice Christmas, including a new experience of dressing for an outdoor Christmas Eve service, and a delayed yet still lovely Christmas dinner. We also participated in what I hope will become a new day-after-Christmas tradition, Lego Build Day.

This wasn’t the year anybody wanted. It’s certainly not a year I’d care to repeat. But it is part of our history, and we definitely won’t forget it!

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–Photos of 2019

Time to take a look back at my five favorite photos from 2019! Notable this year is that a lot of my pictures were taken (or cropped) in “square” mode, since I’m using Instagram more than ever.

First, a picture from early in the year, when we enjoyed a snowy day in the Japanese Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden:

Another winter picture, this time of two snow leopards at Brookfield Zoo in Chicago:

A spring photo featuring cherry blossoms in the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Japanese Garden:

The Red Arrows in flight!

Fall at Forest Park’s Pagoda Circle:

And an honorable mention…a photo taken at the holiday flower and train show at the Missouri Botanical Garden just a few days ago!

Obviously, I have my favorite places to take pictures, but I like that I’m constantly finding new ways to highlight them!

2019 in Review

Here we are, not only at the end of another year, but also a decade. I feel like I should have something profound to say, some great insights into the last ten years, but all I have is a look back at another year of Markel family fun.

January was a pleasant month. We started our “Great Star Trek Project,” an effort to watch through all of Star Trek from Enterprise through Voyager, including the movies and even the animated series, chronologically (at present, we’re watching Deep Space Nine). We went up to Chicago, where we got to experience a good, old-fashioned, Chicago snowstorm. While we were there, I took the Fab Five to Brookfield Zoo for the first time, and even though it was a winter day, it was one of our best zoo visits ever! At the end of the month, Turkey won a Lego building contest!!!

In all honesty, it’s hard to find much to say about February. It’s always a pretty quiet (and dare I say, boring), month, and this February was no exception. We had a lot of poor weather, including ice, but we did start playing tennis on some of the nicer days, which was fun. Turkey, Bunny, and I went to see The Lego Movie 2, which we really enjoyed.

March is always a favorite month, with so many things to look forward to, including St. Patrick’s Day. Turkey turned sixteen in March, which I still can’t believe, and Chickadee celebrated her seventh birthday. We got new dishes, which really brighten up our table!

At the beginning of April, we had a new roof put on the house…quite an expensive project! We were excited about the start of another season of St. Louis Cardinals baseball. The Missouri Botanical Garden stayed open late for cherry blossom viewing, which was a rare treat. Our Easter celebration was a lot of fun! We all went to see Avengers: Endgame in the theater opening night, and some of us cried all the way home.

May is always one of the busiest months of the year for us. We celebrated Ladybug’s twelfth birthday. Another year of homeschooling wrapped up. Moose received a choir award we didn’t even know he was getting! At the end of the month, we went up to Chicago for Combo Breaker. While we were there, we visited the Lincoln Park Zoo, a special Lego exhibit at Brookfield Zoo, and made the journey to the top of the Sears Tower.

June‘s schedule was unusually packed. We took a trip to Michigan, which included visiting Frankenmuth, Michigan’s “Little Bavaria” enjoying a wonderful meal at the Bavarian Inn, and shopping at Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, which was a dream come true for me. Bunny and Ladybug attended volleyball camp at WKU. The St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup for the first time ever, and we went downtown for the rally! We saw Superman. I celebrated my 40th birthday in a rather epic way. Kantorei Kamp week was a lot of fun!

The busyness continued into July. Ladybug earned a very special choir award. While she, Bunny, and Turkey were at RSCM camp, Moose, Chickadee, and I took a ride on the St. Louis Metro Link. We celebrated the anniversary of the moon landing. Bunny turned 15! Chickadee got her ears pierced. We had the privilege of participating in the rededication of the sanctuary at Hope Lutheran Church. We celebrated Christmas in July with a European twist.

We wrapped up our Rick Steves’ Europe themed summer school in August, and then turned around and got ready to begin a new year of homeschooling (and Moose started eighth grade!). We enjoyed another Japanese Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden. After how busy the summer was, it was a relief to have a more quiet month!

September was a very exciting month! We started it off by attending the St. Louis Greek Festival at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. I received a Post-It note tweet from Alton Brown! We saw the Red Arrows perform at the Spirt of St. Louis Air Show!!! Moose was named Student of the Month at his school! The girls and I went to see the Downton Abbey movie. We celebrated Friends Day.” The Fab Five and I went to “Garden Party Lights” at the Missouri Botanical Garden. We had our traditional Oktoberfest celebration.

We got to see the Stanley Cup in October! Our school acquired a mascot. We attended the fourth year of Legends and Lanterns, and saw some of the STC250 dogs while we were in St. Charles. We picked not just one, but two pumpkins. Moose got to play in the band at a high school football game.

We put up our brand-new (and quite tall!) Christmas tree earlier than ever in November, to make sure it was up in time for Moose’s 14th birthday! The girls and I went to see Frozen 2 opening night…it was a very movie-heavy year for me! We attended one of our favorite events of the year: Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Our three-day Thanksgiving celebration was just as much fun as always!

And just like that, we made it to December. The Fab Five worked on a project throughout Advent…they built the 6,020-piece Lego Hogwarts Castle. We celebrated St. Nicholas Day, St. Lucia Day, and an unexpected snow day following a fairly large snowstorm. We attended Christmas Traditions, and for the first time in several years, Christmas on the Hill. I went to a movie’s opening night for the fifth time of the year when we saw Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (for the record, I liked it!). We had our standard, huge Christmas celebration…one of the best ones ever, I think! We finally made it the holiday flower and train show at the Missouri Botanical Garden, and I’m glad we did, because it was lovely!

2019 was a busy year, and I expect 2020 to be more of the same. There are lots of things to look forward to, not just in the next year, but also in the next decade. I’m going to do my best not to think too far ahead, though, lest I realize how old the children will be at the end of another 10 years, and I start feeling old myself!

2018 in Review

This has been a weird year. There were some major highs (especially our vacation to Orlando!), but there were also some maddening lows, mainly, I don’t know, everything in our house breaking…roof, dishwasher, garage door, hot water heater, my ankle… I’m actually not sure how I feel about it in the end…but I’m looking forward to starting fresh with 2019! Before that, however, a look back at 2018…

January kicked things off with a bang, as our dishwasher broke at the same time our town had a multiple day boil order. Talk about frustrating…I couldn’t even use the sanitize cycle to make sure things were really getting clean! Even with all that hassle, I managed my first attempt at Japanese cooking for Ryan’s birthday dinner…but I think I’m still recovering from cleaning up all those dishes! We also took a weekend trip to Chicago, where we visited the Adler Planetarium, the Legoland Discovery Center, the Chicago Botanic Garden, the Little Popcorn Store, and Portillo’s.

February was fairly quiet. The highlight of the month was the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. I learned how to cook some Korean dishes, and we had a taste of Asia to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

March is always a busy month, and this year was no exception. Chickadee lost her first tooth! We had our traditional St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Turkey turned fifteen!!! A few days later, Chickadee turned six! The Hofbräuhaus finally opened, but we wouldn’t make it there until the following month.

In April, we celebrated Easter, and then the Cardinals home opener. I won a Nintendo Switch?!? We attended Chinese Culture Days at the Missouri Botanical Garden. We finally enjoyed a meal at the Hofbräuhaus!

May is another busy month every year. I got to see my name in print as a published writer! We enjoyed a beautiful spring in Forest Park and Tower Grove Park. Ladybug celebrated her 11th birthday. Ryan and I celebrated our wedding anniversary with a tea party the day before the Royal Wedding. Turkey, Bunny, and Ladybug received choir awards on Ascension Day. Pinup Girl Clothing sent me a box of Mary Blair print items which I joyfully reviewed. I had a very pleasant Mother’s Day. Turkey, Bunny, Ladybug, and Chickadee finished the 2017-18 school year, and then Moose finished elementary school! We went on what is now an annual Memorial Day weekend trip north for Combo Breaker, where the Fab Five and I spent a fun day in Chicago and took a Wendella boat tour. We also visited the Chicago Botanic Garden for the second time in the year, and had a Rainbow Cone.

And then June. It started off fairly calm, but that didn’t last long! We took a trip to Bowling Green, KY, where Bunny attended WKU’s volleyball camp. While we were there, I celebrated my first 39th birthday…we even went to Mammoth Cave! Back home, the children attended a very busy week of Kantorei Kamp…and that was the calm before the storm, because we had a big, Harry Potter-themed vacation up next! We headed to Orlando, where we visited Legoland, Universal Studios Florida, (including Diagon Alley), Islands of Adventure, (including Hogsmeade), and had a fun cabana day at Cabana Bay Beach Resort. We even saw a SpaceX launch (from a distance) early one morning..so many dreams came true on our trip!

Our vacation wrapped up in July…we even visited the ocean on our way home. It was the most amazing vacation ever! Bunny and Ladybug joined Turkey for a week of RSCM camp. While they were away, Moose, Chickadee, and I took a little train trip. Bunny celebrated her 14th birthday when she got home from camp.

In August, we finally made it to the special summer event at the Missouri Botanical Garden: Flora Borealis. Our summer school wrapped up. We got ready to begin another year of school…our first day of homeschooling for the 2018-19 school year saw Turkey and Bunny starting 10th grade, Ladybug starting 6th, and Chickadee starting 1st. Moose had his first day of junior high! Moose, Chickadee, and I went to a Cardinals game and hung out with Fredbird.

We were back at the Missouri Botanical Garden in September, this time for the Japanese Festival. The girls and I went to Art Hill to experience the Great Forest Park Balloon Race’s Balloon Glow for the first time. Bunny and I went to Powell Hall to watch Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on the big screen while the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra played the score.

In October, we finally got to see the much-awaited Olympic Spectacular in St. Louis. The Fab Five and I went to Braeutigum Orchards to pick pumpkins and baby porcupines, apparently. We headed west to St. Charles for the third year of Legends and Lanterns.

And then November. The month started out so promisingly, with our annual Extra Life for Kids fundraiser…which also turned out to be the day I broke my ankle. I was really afraid that would be the end of our fun for the year, but I was determined not to let it ruin things, so we eased into the celebratory season with Moose’s 13th birthday. Garden Glow was a bit of a challenge, but I was able to (slowly) make my way through the event. Thanksgiving was a scary proposition this year, but somehow, we got everything done, and had a nice dinner, even if I did overcook the turkey. We even made it to the Boar’s Head Festival for the first time since Chickadee was a baby!

December started with a Christmas Getaway north to St. Charles, IL and Pheasant Run. We got to experience a rainy Christmas in Chicago while we were there. We celebrated Santa Lucia Day. Moose and I got to go to Powell Hall and watch Home Alone on the big screen while the St. Louis Symphony played the score. We traveled west to St. Charles, MO, for Christmas Traditions. Our hot water heater died right before Christmas, but we pressed on and enjoyed a mostly typical Markel Family Christmas.

There was much about this year, and especially the last two months, that was difficult. But I found strength I didn’t know I had, and accomplished almost everything I set out to, and really, what more can you ask for? I hope that in 2019, I will continue to conquer every hurdle I face!