Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas in Maple Grove

Our third and final family Christmas celebration of 2014 was with Mom, Roger, Jessy and Paul.  We started it off at Mom and Roger's in-home bar where we were treated to a robust tasting of whatever wine, spirit, beer or liqueur peaked our interest.  Paul was pretty thrilled with the whiskey offerings.  We tried one that tasted every bit like licking a cigar that had just made a long journey sandwiched between a horse and a saddle. In other words, it was interesting but not something I need to taste again.

There were a good amount of joint gifts given this year, so we practiced cooperative present opening.

We have decided putting Jessy in this giant gift bag is now an annual tradition.  Note to self, next year try to get this picture before all natural light is gone for the day. (To see last year's photo, scroll to the bottom of my 3 Christmases post.)

I also spent a good amount of time looking through old Christmas cards and photos. We found some pretty fun photos of Jessy and I when we were little and my eyeglasses were very big.

photo credit to Paul, didn't even see him with the camera!
We also shared a dinner together and my mom made her beloved (by me!) chocolate mint bars.  My mom has been making fewer varieties of Christmas cookies each year.  That is ok with me so long as the mint bars keep making an appearance.  Luckily for me, I adore them more than anyone there, so I am the one who got to take a stash home to put in the freezer for later!

And with that, Christmas 2014 is a wrap!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas in Champlin

Our time in Wisconsin was brief because we needed to be back in the city for an important date. Christmas Day is spent with Paul's side of the family each year.  We gather at Joanne's house to share a meal, open presents and this year we crafted together, too!

Si is trying really hard to obey the "stay" command he was given.
Paul warming hands at the high tech yule log.


The snow must have followed us from Wisconsin!  There were big, fat snowflakes coming down during our gathering, but when we got to our house about a half hour away, there was no snow! It was a bit magical that the snow seemed to appear when and where we were celebrating Christmas.

Sam is the youngest in the family and the most intoxicated by presents.  He is fun to watch as he repeatedly asks if it is time to open the presents and then finally as he gets to unwrap his presents.

We gave Sam a remote controlled drone, along with the rule that his parents are in charge of when and where he can use it.  The drone was immediately unpackaged by his dad Tim and taken for a test flight.  Seconds after that, it was hopelessly tangled in Sarah's hair. It may be possible that Tim was more enthralled with the gift than Sam.  It is fair to say Sarah was the least enthralled. Thankfully, a little detangler spray and patient, gentle combing left her hair as good as new. Tim promises to use the gift outside next time.

New outfits were tried on:
photo credit to Paul
Legos were assembled:
photo credit to Paul
And I taught a crochet lesson to Mary and Joanne:
photo credit to Paul
photo credit to Paul
photo credit to Paul
And, after all of that we were all happy and some of us were tuckered out.
photo credit to Paul

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas in Wisconsin

This time of year is so rich with celebrations. Due to the timing this year, we were able to fit in one more family event than usual, which meant we got to see extended family on my dad's side that we don't get to connect with often. I am thanking myself for making the decision to tack on a few vacation days in order to extend the break to a full week.  Having that bit of extra time allowed me to really settle in to the gatherings and not feel rushed from one event to the next.

Our first stop was an evening at my dad's in Wisconsin. He is an expert gift guesser, so I didn't bother to wrap this gift up all that fancy.

My dad gave us some homemade gifts, including jars of applesauce made from the honeycrisp apples off his trees.  We opened a jar up right away and passed it around for sampling.  Mmmm! I like it when the applesauce has chunks in it. My sister Jessy does, too.

Paul and I spent that night and the next day at my Grandma's house with some human relatives and some animal relatives.

There hasn't been a lot of snow this year, so it was a welcome change when it started snowing a bit during our Christmas gathering.

photo credit to Paul, quilting credit to Grandma

Grandma Shirley

Aunt Audrey

Cousin Kendra


My Aunt Audrey prepared the fixings and sauce for Yumm Bowls, which made me a very happy guest. It was a nice antidote to the sweetness that is omnipotent this time of year (I am looking at you, Workplace Cookie Week!) The sauce was really good and I was happy to take some of the leftovers home.  The rest of the spread was quite excellent as well.

It was really great to spend more time with extended family.  My Uncle Buster and his family joined us for the afternoon, but by then I had put my camera down and picked up my knitting.  I made a lot of progress on a sweater I am knitting Paul while the family chatted and joked and teased each other.  It was a satisfying way to kick off Christmas Week!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Happy Birthday to Me!

I am one lucky lady!  Once again Paul planned a day of surprise, birthday fun for us to experience together.  We started off with a breakfast feast made by Paul (with a little help from Nellie, since she provided the eggs!).  You can't see it, but there is a delicious marinated and roasted portobello mushroom underneath that egg and a layer of roasted sweet potatoes, too.

Next, we moved on to present opening, which consisted of a whole slew of things Paul has been noting throughout the year.  With his gifts to me, he aimed to make things a bit easier for me on many fronts from crafting to cooking to chicken keeping to daily life.  Each one of these gifts expressed to me how much he pays attention year round and how hard he works to make this a special day for me.

Then, it was time to leave the house.  Since the day's activities were a surprise to me, I received a small amount of instruction about what to bring and how to dress so that I would be comfortable. The instructions this year were to dress in layers so I would be warm outside yet comfortable inside, too.  I was also told to pack my insulated thermos.

Our first stop explained the thermos: hot chocolate from Peace Coffee. I was instructed to seal up my thermos since I would want it to be warm later.

I soon found out why I dressed warmly, when we arrived at Bunker Hills Stable.

As first I thought we were going on a sleigh ride, since I saw several sleighs hitched up for hay rides, complete with bonfires nearby and wool blankets.

But then Paul shared with me that he had arranged for us to have a private trail ride.  A horseback ride through the snowy woods on an unseasonably warm winter day! The 30 degree F weather made an hour in the woods a pleasure.

I rode on Dixie and Paul was on Clark.  Clark is a draft horse so he knows commands through single rein cues.  Dixie, well she knows regular commands but just wasn't in the mood to follow them!  She tried to brush me off her back at just about every opportunity she found!

Dixie may have gotten unauthorized snacks but I stayed on her back for the full ride!  I will consider that a draw. During our time on the trail, we spotted a deer and a hawk amidst the wide variety of trees that were showing off their bare branches.

Then it came time to drink that warm hot chocolate and enjoy a picnic in the car before the nice lady in Paul's phone told us how to get to the next destination. The hot chocolate was really satisfying!

Now here is where I admit that I was a little surprised Paul even knew about this thing we did next much less planned it for us! Have you heard of those places where you can go and make a painting while you drink a glass of wine? Yeah, he picked that for us! I was skeptical of the choice, but went with it and it turned out to be fun!

Paint is not my medium, so I appreciated that the instructor walked us through each step of the painting.  I also learned that Paul used to paint a lot before I met him!

I enjoyed having a glass of wine, which is a rarity for me these days, and I enjoyed partaking of a different craft/art.  I don't think I will be adding painting to my list of crafts I dabble in, but it is always fun to try something new and different.

To finish off the day of celebration, we had a delicious dinner at Barbette.  The location was again chosen by Paul's method of providing me with descriptions of entrees for a handful of restaurants and making a reservation at whichever place I chose. So far the method is working fantastically!

Barbette has previously received awards for being the best local restaurant for romance which makes for great ambiance but not such great photographs.  So, let's just wrap up with this one last one of Paul, the birthday planner extraordinaire!

Thank you, Paul, for being a loving and thoughtful partner on this day and all of the other days, too.
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