2022 in Review

What a year it has been!

For the first time since before the pandemic, this is a year I’m actually sorry to see go. We had a lot of fun this year, and made enough memories to make up for all the things we didn’t get to do in the previous two years.

But first, January, which is always a fairly quiet month. We rang in the New Year, and I looked ahead to some of the things I was most anticipating in 2022 (Spoilers: they all happened this time!). Ladybug and I had the opportunity to go to the “Beyond Van Gogh” exhibit, which was really cool. Chickadee finally resumed her job as my grocery shopping buddy after taking a very long hiatus during the pandemic. We had our traditional Burns Supper.

We finally had a decent snowfall in February, which provided Turkey and Bunny with their first-ever official snow days. On the 6th, we celebrated the 70th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Accession to the Throne with a tea party, the first of many Platinum Jubilee celebrations. We had a special dinner for the Opening Ceremonies of Beijing 2022, the first of several special themed meals we enjoyed during the Olympics. We eagerly celebrated “Twosday.”

March is always a fun month. We began with a special Mardi Gras celebration. We enjoyed the “Markel Family Tour di Pizza” which began on MAR10 Day and ended on Pi Day, which also happens to be the local observance of 314 Day. Lucky the Leprechaun dodged our trap (again) on St. Patrick’s Day. We celebrated Turkey’s 19th birthday. We spent a morning at Laumeier Sculpture Park. Chickadee turned 10. We had a fun time with Kirby Day.

April was an exciting month. It began with the news of Albert Pujols’ return to the St. Louis Cardinals for the final year of his storied career…I was over the moon about this storybook ending, and our Opening Day celebration was better than usual! We enjoyed the cherry blossoms at the Missouri Botanical Garden. We started preparing for our postponed epic family vacation in earnest, going so far as to count the days until our departure. Easter was especially nice.

May is always one of my favorite months of the year. We went asparagus picking for the first time, and then had a Spargelparty. As always, we celebrated May the Fourth and the Revenge of the Fifth with special meals, which were kind of precursors to the first of many Disney Dinners we would have this year. Ladybug turned 15. We ended our school year, and Turkey and Bunny finished their first year of college with spots on the Dean’s List and admittance into Phi Theta Kappa. We visited Art on the Square for the first time since 2019. The girls and I went to the St. Louis Aquarium. We made a triumphant return to Chicago and Combo Breaker, where Turkey joined Ryan as a paid worker, and the rest of us had the chance to volunteer.

Where do I even begin with June? I don’t think there has been, in the whole history of our family, a single month packed with so much fun. We started by attending a street party for the Platinum Jubilee, and I even made the Platinum Pudding to continue the celebration at home. We acquired some new neighbors. To celebrate not only the return of Albert Pujols, but also the historic season for the battery of Molina and Wainwright, we attended a Cardinals game at Busch Stadium as a family for the first time in at least five years. We picked lavender for the first time. I had a fun birthday celebration. And that was all the “boring” half of the month because….

On the 18th, we piled in the van to begin our epic family vacation! We visited Washington D.C., discovered a really cool memorial, ate at an amazing local establishment, took a tour of the capitol, and went to George Washington’s Mount Vernon. We spent a night in Myrtle Beach, SC, got the rotors replaced on our car, and took a walk through Forsyth Park in Savannah, GA. After we stretched our legs, we finished the drive to Orlando, FL, where we visited all of the Disney World parks…Epcot, Hollywood Studios, the Magic Kingdom, and the Animal Kingdom. We traveled the world, enjoyed the Flower and Garden Festival, immersed ourselves in Star Wars, ate lunch at The Hollywood Brown Derby, took part in the World’s Most Magical Celebration, rode the monorail and explored the Mary Blair mural at the Contemporary Resort, and met some of our favorite characters. We even found some time for shopping at Disney Springs. If all that wasn’t enough, we also toured Kennedy Space Center (and saw a rocket launch while we were there!), and spent a day hanging out by the resort pool. Oh, and after all this time, we finally got COVID…that also appears to be part of the Disney World experience.

After all that fun, July was spent from recovering, both from COVID, and from all of our travels! We spent the first two weeks back home lying around the house watching old Disney movies (Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros were favorites) and playing with our souvenirs. We were all healthy by the time Bunny’s 18th birthday rolled around. I had my first root canal, which was not as bad as I feared, but not something I’d care to repeat.

August was a similarly quiet month. We did make a quick day trip up to Chicago for the Fab Five’s first visit to Navy Pier and an appointment at the Rare Dirndl design studio. We finished summer school (Disney themed, of course!) before everyone started back to school…Turkey and Bunny in their second year of college, Moose a junior in high school, Ladybug a sophomore, and Chickadee in the fifth grade.

September is usually a low-key month…it’s kind of the February of the second half of the year. Ladybug, Chickadee, and I did go back to the Missouri History Museum for the first time since before the beginning of the pandemic, and took part in a great hands-on exhibit. Chickadee had her braces removed. And then, a terrible day. Of course I knew Queen Elizabeth II wasn’t going to live forever, and based on her age, her time on earth realistically had to be drawing short. Just the same, I guess I really wasn’t prepared for her passing to coincide with her Platinum Jubilee year. I did take a break from the wall-to-wall news coverage I couldn’t turn off to attend our town’s Oktoberfest.

In October, we started cooking our way through The Nightmare Before Christmas Cookbook. We visited Grant’s Farm, picked the perfect pumpkin (or four), and returned to Legends and Lanterns for the first time since 2019 (do you sense a theme this year?). Our family Oktoberfest was later in the month than I would have liked, but better late than never, right? Ladybug, Chickadee, and I took a hike at Shaw Nature Reserve and had a great time.

November was a busy month. We celebrated Moose’s 17th birthday. On Election Day, we took our annual walk around Creve Coeur Lake, and then Turkey and Bunny voted for the first time! We had a very unexpected snow. Ladybug, Chickadee, and I took a new trail at Cahokia Mounds. We attended the 10th anniversary of Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Garden. We baked all of the pies in preparation for Thanksgiving. The Fab Five started a new Advent project.

And that brings us to December. We were back in St. Charles for one of our very favorite events, Christmas Traditions. We had a very nice Nikolaustag, even if it did make me feel old. We also enjoyed Luciamorgon. Our Christmas in Germany themed Christmas School was a lot of fun and helped us connect to our heritage! We baked all of the things. The Fab Five finished their Advent project. We had a very merry Christmas. But we needed a little more Christmas, so we visited the Wild Lights at the St. Louis Zoo before it closed for the season.

I don’t see how 2023 can top this year, and I don’t think there’s really any point in trying. Some things are once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and there’s just no competing with them!

The Top Five–Photos of 2022

Since all of my other 2022 in Review “Top Five” photo lists have six photos, this one had to also, right? Right?!? I’ve already looked at food, drinks, desserts, and our trip…these are my favorite photos from the past year that aren’t food or vacation related.

I’ve taken hundreds (thousands?) of photos at the Missouri Botanical Garden over the years, but there was something special about this one featuring Henry Shaw’s final resting place in front of his country house:

This photo taken in downtown St. Louis in May reminded me how much I love an urban environment:

Speaking of urban environments, this spring was the first time I’ve visited the Chicago Water Tower in many, many years, and I discovered just how photogenic it is!

That’s a quality shared by the entire city of Chicago…I loved having a bird’s eye view of the city from the Centennial Wheel!

A little closer to home, I really like the beautiful gingko tree outside of our town library, especially in the fall:

Our town is also especially pretty at Christmas:

That wraps up what ended up being my top 30 photos of the year. In light of all of the fun things we did in 2022, I think I should get at least some credit for keeping the number that low!

The Top Five–Vacation Photos of 2022

I took so many photos on our vacation this summer, and so many of them turned out better than I hoped, so it was almost impossible to choose a selection for this “Top Five” list. Yes, there are six photos, and no, I’m not sorry…the fact that there is only one bonus photo is a miracle, and I refuse to apologize for it!

We’ll start at the beginning of our trip with this photo of the Washington Monument as seen from the German-American Friendship Garden. It’s probably not my best photo of the landmark, but I love the lighting, I love the fountains, and of course I love the monument standing tall in the background:

This photo captures that boardwalk feeling in Myrtle Beach, SC perfectly!

Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge is such an immersive experience…you actually feel like you’re in one of the movies when you’re there! Also, this may be the best picture I took on our trip.

I took many, many (MANY) photos of the castle at the Magic Kingdom, but there’s something special about seeing it lit up at night:

I know it’s kind of silly, but this picture I took at Disney Springs just looks so good! It has a real Rodeo Drive vibe:

On our final day at the parks, Bunny and I did a speed run through EPCOT looking to add 50th anniversary pressed pennies to our collection. We did pause to admire the view here, though, and it was a perfect moment, with the puffy clouds against the bright blue sky reflecting in the water and the colorful flowers in the foreground. The only thing that could have made it better would have been a monorail going by on the bridge!

Tomorrow I’ll wrap up my “Top Five” photos lists from 2022 with a look at everything else!

The Top Five–Drink Photos of 2022

Between our Disney Dinners and other special events this year, I’ve made a lot of speciality drinks, and some of them were really pretty! Here’s a look at my my favorite (and prettiest!) creations from 2022, starting off with a concoction I created for Kirby Day:

I think the pink salt rim is what really sells this Kyyyalstaad Fizz (lemon and lime juice with sparkling water) we had on May the Fourth:

I created a nonalcoholic version of the Monorail Yellow…I love how summery it looked!

If the Monorail Yellow looked like summer in a glass, the Lava Smoothie looked (and tasted) like the tropics in a glass!

The Witches Cauldron Brew from The Nightmare Before Christmas cookbook was the perfect drink for fall:

Keeping up with the theme of six photos in my “Top Five,” here’s one that’s definitely not like the others…hot chocolate from our first snowfall of the year in November!

Tomorrow I’ll be taking a look at my favorite vacation photos…let me tell you, that was a hard list to narrow down!

The Top Five–Dessert Photos of 2022

As promised, here are my top five dessert photos from this year, starting with a King Cake I made for Mardi Gras…I just love the vibrant colors, and the fact that I was able to come up with enough beads from around the house to make it a little extra fancy!

This cupcake photo just came out perfectly…I don’t think I could have staged it better!

These Easter cannoli tasted as good as they look!

I really like how I embellished this chocolate malt cheesecake:

And finally, a cake from The Nightmare Before Christmas cookbook that was decorated by Ladybug and photographed by yours truly:

Also, because I’m not me if I’m not trying to sneak a sixth item into a “Top Five” list, a bonus photo of a Rainbow Cone at the lakefront in Chicago, which is honestly more about the setting than the food itself:

Stay tuned for my top drink photos from this year!

Tasty Tuesday: The Top Five–Food Photos of 2022

It’s time to take a look back at 2022, starting with my favorite food photos of the year (minus desserts and drinks)!

Let’s start in February, with this beautiful quiche I made for the tea party we had to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne:

A lot of my best food photos this year occurred during our “Disney Dinners,” like these Moana’s Motunui Sliders:

Some of my other best food photos came from my adventures in German cooking, like this Bavarian Obatzda with homemade pretzels:

We had a lot of fun with The Nightmare Before Christmas cookbook…I love how colorful this “Snake and Spider Stew” was!

More German cooking…this time, a whole dinner plate featuring homemade schnitzel:

And a bonus picture, because nachos at the ballpark just photograph so well!

I took a lot of food photos this year, so stay tuned for specialized lists focusing on desserts and drinks, too!

Sartorial Saturday–The Top Five Favorite Fashion Purchases of 2021

Time for one last “Top Five” list for 2021!

2021 was a year where I explored new options for my wardrobe, found some new favorite retailers, and really discovered what I like and I want I don’t in my clothing and accessories. I added some special pieces to my collection, starting with this Erstwilder brooch inspired by Animal Crossing:

Speaking of Animal Crossing, I have never been as excited about a makeup collection as I was about the ColourPopxAnimal Crossing collaboration!

Miss Candyfloss quickly became my favorite vintage-inspired clothing brand in 2021, and I think the Myrtle-Sun dress was my favorite out of the ones I purchased (although, everything I have in my closet from their brand is simply amazing!):

I explored my heritage in a sartorial way this year by adding two dirndls from Rare Dirndl to my wardrobe. They’re both beautiful, but I’m sharing “Die Heimat” because the other was a gift, so not technically something I purchased myself.

And finally, a look at a few pieces from Splendette’s Christmas line…this is my favorite Christmas collection they’ve offered to date!

I’m looking forward to discovering what new things all of my favorite brands offer in 2022!

2021 in Review

We started the year off cautiously optimistic that things would be better than 2020…I guess it’s up to the individual to decide how much truth there is to that! I do know that over the course of the last 12 months, our entire family has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and some of us have also been able to get booster shots, and for that I am extremely grateful. There were, of course, ups and downs to 2021…here’s a look back at some of our moments.

In January, we rang in the new year in our traditional way. Ryan celebrated his birthday on a day when it felt like the world was falling apart. We enjoyed a nice Burns Night Supper. We finally had enough snow to play in. Bunny gave me a haircut in our kitchen salon. I began a second attempt at photographing the Ottoman Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden every month.

February is never my favorite month of the year, and this year was no exception, but I was very excited about the ColourPop Animal Crossing collaboration. I finally made pączki from scratch, after threatening to do so for I don’t even know how many years. Ryan was the first member of the family to get a COVID-19 vaccine…he went to a mass vaccination site that was held not too far from our home. We had a nice celebration in honor of George Washington’s Birthday.

March is always a fun, busy month, and that was true this year more than most. We did start of the year on a serious note, as we reflected on a full year of COVID-19’s influence on our lives. We had a fun time celebrating MAR10 Day and then Pi Day. Ryan received the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and we all breathed a sigh of relief at the knowledge that one member of the family was fully vaccinated. We were all excited to hear from Lucky the Leprechaun on St. Patrick’s Day. Turkey turned 18, and I still can’t believe it! I celebrated one year of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Chickadee turned nine! She was also confirmed at our new church in a very quiet, private service, which was just another strange thing COVID-19 has brought us.

We started April strong with a fantastic Easter celebration, especially after our subdued Easter-at-home in 2020. Turkey, Bunny, and I went to a vaccine clinic at our local hospital and received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and celebrated with smoothies from Smoothie King afterward. We visited Origami in the Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden for the first time.

In May, Turkey, Bunny, and I were back at the vaccine clinic to receive the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and Moose and Ladybug got their first doses at Walgreens. We celebrated “May the Fourth” and the “Revenge of the Fifth.” Ladybug turned 14 on Mother’s Day. We took a very special field trip to Grant’s Farm. Ryan and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. Ladybug finished 8th grade. After 13 years of homeschooling grades K-12, Turkey and Bunny graduated from high school (and I’m not sure I’ve recovered yet!)! We bought a new double oven, which makes our endless cookie baking much easier!

We started preparing for Tokyo 2020 in June with a summer school that was, like the Olympics themselves, delayed a year. Moose and Ladybug received the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. We visited Origami After Hours at the Missouri Botanical Garden. I shared a tour of my Animal Crossing: New Horizons island (I’ve made quite a few changes since then). I had a very nice birthday. Chickadee got braces! We saw the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile.

In July, I continued my Animal Crossing: New Horizons tours with a peek inside my home, a look at my neighbors’ homes, and a visit to the museum. I also took a look at one of my neighbor’s obsession with the native fruit. We actually took a trip and visited Bowling Green, KY! We also stopped in Nashville to see the Nature Pop! Lego exhibit. Bunny turned 17…the second Golden Birthday of the year! We visited Francis Olympic Field and the Olympic Spectacular in St. Louis. The Tokyo 2020 Opening Ceremonies were finally held, and I made a Japanese dinner to celebrate.

August was a Big Month. Moose attended band camp for the first time…all day, five days a week for two weeks, and he loved it! We watched as much of the Olympics as we could…there were a lot of great moments! Turkey and I finally visited the St. Louis Aquarium at Union Station. We began a new school year, and I found myself with only two students in my classroom for the first time in years, with Ladybug in ninth grade, and Chickadee in fourth. Moose started his second year of high school, but his first year in-person, and he loved that, too, especially all of his band performances and competitions! Turkey and Bunny started college (spoilers: they both earned straight As in their first semester!). I abandoned my photography project of the Ottoman Garden for the second year in a row, but for very different reasons. We visited a beautiful sunflower field!

September was a quiet month. We did a lot of cooking in school, trying recipes from around the world, and from the Little Women Cookbook. We also took a field trip to Forest Park and visited the St. Louis Zoo. We had our annual family Oktoberfest celebration.

In October we went pumpkin picking, and we were even able to go on a day when everybody could come along. We finished cooking our way through the Little Women Cookbook. I had fun celebrating Erstwilder’s 10th birthday. We had a nice Reformation Day/Halloween.

We started November with a fun “Outdoors Week” in school. Bunny and I were very excited about the update for Animal Crossing: New Horizons! Moose turned 16! I wear dirndls now. We went to Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Chickadee finally got her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Walgreens…and then a few weeks later, got the second, as well! We visited Creve Coeur Lake. We had fun doing all of our traditional Thanksgiving activities in school. I learned something really interesting in church. Pie Day involved making nine pies this year! Our three-day Thanksgiving celebration was very nice, especially because this year, we could have visitors. We started our new Advent Lego project.

That brings us to December, one of the best months of the year. Bunny participated in a speech contest at college and placed third in the persuasive category. We made our triumphant return to Christmas Traditions. Speaking of traditions, we may have come up with a new family tradition for St. Nicholas Day. We had fun celebrating Santa Lucia Day. Christmas School was a lot of fun! We got to hear Moose play in a band concert for the first time in two years. I’m really into gnomes right now…no, seriously! We finished building the Lego Millennium Falcon, but we’ve yet to figure out where it’s going to go…it’s an enormous set! We had a very nice three-day Christmas that included lots of church and visiting with family. I wasn’t ready for Christmas to be over, so we visited the Wild Lights at the St. Louis Zoo for the first time.

I think it’s safe to say that for us, at least, this year really was better than the last. I know that wasn’t true for everybody, so my hope for 2022, whatever it may bring, is that more people are able find joy and things to celebrate in the midst of whatever chaos we’re still living in!

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!

Tasty Tuesday–The Top Five Food Photos of 2021

Time to take a look back at some of the prettiest food photographs I’ve taken this year! Not surprisingly, over 50% of them are desserts…I really like baking!

We may not have had a party for Chickadee’s Confirmation in March, but I still made our favorite punch, and I took a very nice picture of it:

This lemon blueberry cake has got to be one of the most beautiful cakes I’ve ever made!

The cranberry custard pie I made for Thanksgiving may not have fully set inside, but the outside looked gorgeous!

The Bløtkake with sugared cranberries I made for Santa Lucia Day was simple, but lovely:

I can’t believe how easy salame roses are to make, and they look so cool!

I’m looking forward to trying more new and beautiful recipes in 2022!