Monday, December 30, 2013

A Technological Christmas

Andy and Megan made it safely to our house on December 23rd, and we celebrated with Andy's favorite meal of Imo's Pizza. It is a must-have when he comes to town, so we figured we would just get it out of the way. On Christmas Eve Jim and I got a workout in at the rec center before the day's festivities began. I made my traditional Italian beef for supper, followed by our new tradition of Cranberry Cosmopolitans while opening gifts. As I mentioned before, Katie was unable to come home due to lack of vacation days, so we did the next best thing. I put my Macbook on the entry foyer steps where she normally sits during our gift exchange, with a Cosmo next to the computer for a virtual toast. Through the miracle of Skype we set up the laptop and my iPad so that she could see us opening the presents and we, in turn, could watch her open her gifts. It amazes me that we could keep in contact with her for over two hours at absolutely no cost to anyone. Thank you, inventor of Skype! Below is a fun gift I received to commemorate my trip to Switzerland this year. I really need to find the connection between this Kubler family and mine!

Kubler Absinthe
MoBot Train
While the kids were here we made our annual trip to the flower and train show at the Missouri Botanical Garden. It was lovely as always, and surprisingly uncrowded on the day after Christmas. We also visited the Art Museum to see the new addition for the first time. While I am not a fan of the architecture it was interesting to see the new exhibition space. I particularly like the exhibit shown below that looked like a fabric quilt but was in fact made from liquor bottle caps. The interactive glass block exhibit is cool as well.

Jim on repeat

I was, however, very offended by this painting.

Jim and I fly out to Los Angeles tomorrow to bring in the New Year with Katie. Kirby will remain here with his favorite dog sitters though he always prefers to be with Jim. Speaking of Kirby, here is the gift I had made for Jim. He loved it, as you might imagine.

Kirby mug
Happy New Year to my readers. May 2014 be everything you hope for and desire!

Friday, December 13, 2013

How Does Your Garden Glow?

For the first time ever the Missouri Botanical Garden is lighting up the night with hundreds of thousands of lights. I have had the opportunity to attend the Garden Glow twice so far, once on corporate sponsor night, and once for a photography class. Both nights were very cold, but that just adds to the ambiance of an outdoor light show. There is something so magical about walking through a large light display rather than just riding through it in your car. In keeping with their sustainable practices, the displays consist of energy-efficient LED lights. They are also using solar panels to recharge the AA batteries that power the lights. For the most part this seems to be working, although one path on my second night there was dark for a bit. I am sure that some tweaking will fix the issue. I highly recommend going to the Garden Glow, and pick a cold night if you can stand it. The crowds are much smaller, and there are warming fire pits throughout the displays. It is certain to get you in the Christmas spirit!

Friday, December 6, 2013

A Non-traditional Thanksgiving

Leavin' on a jet plane
When Jim and I were first married we alternated holidays with our parents on Thanksgiving and Christmas. We did not live in the same state as them, so both trips involved fairly long drives. The weather was often a problem for us. A few years after we had Andy, we decided it was too much to make both of those trips, so we stopped traveling on Thanksgiving. Sometimes whichever set of parents was not going to see us at Christmas came and visited us for Thanksgiving.

Andy and Megan have had the same tradition going since they got married, except they would normally fly home for Thanksgiving since it is a long drive from the Washington, DC area. This year they decided to stay in DC for Thanksgiving, as they will have a longer break at Christmas and will be able to spend several days with both families at that time. Jim and I flew out to see them instead. We have never flown on this holiday before, and so we were part of the 43.5 million people flying for Thanksgiving. Somehow we were given TSA pre-check clearance for the flight, and didn't have to stand in the long security line.

Since Katie is relatively new at her job, she did not have any time off accrued. But her boss said that if anyone wanted to work Thanksgiving day (it is an international company so their customers would not be closed), they could take Friday off instead. So she worked that day and then took a red eye from Los Angeles to DC, arriving around 6:00 a.m. Friday morning.

Washington Memorial
We got in Wednesday around dinner time, so Andy and Megan picked us up and we went out to eat. We decided to celebrate Thanksgiving on Friday when Katie could join us, so on Thursday we went downtown to look around. It was surprisingly busy considering most people should have been at home making their turkey dinners.

Friday was kind of a lazy day. The kids hit some door buster sales, but didn't really find too much. Jim and I took a long walk on a wonderful trail that is right by Andy and Megan's condo. We came upon a dog park that had to be five acres in size. It was amazing to see all the dogs playing with each other. For our Thanksgiving meal, Megan prepared Cornish hens with dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, a lettuce salad, and green bean casserole. For dessert, Katie made sweet potato cupcakes with toasted marshmallow frosting, and Megan made a chocolate mousse pie. Delicious!

Thanksgiving Dinner
On Saturday we went back downtown to the United States Botanic Garden Conservatory. None of us had been there before. Part of the gardens are outside, but most of the displays are inside. As it was quite chilly, we were thankful for that. It was very crowded, but we managed to enjoy the experience anyway. From there I had suggested that we go see the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which is across from Catholic University. I had seen reviews on TripAdvisor that said it was nicer than the Cathedral Basilica St. Louis, and I just couldn't imagine that being the case. I also commented on the fact that we always seem to seek out churches when we travel abroad and never take the time to see the ones here in the United States. Am I glad we went to see it! It is truly beautiful, and is at least on par with the cathedral here in St. Louis in the interior anyway.

Immaculate Conception Interior

Immaculate Conception
That night we had pizza in the condo, and played Five Crowns which is a card game. Jim and I played it for the first time this summer, so I picked up the game for the trip. We had a lot of fun playing, but I am just going to say that my family is pretty competitive!

Jim and I had a noon flight on Sunday, so after breakfast the kids took us to the airport. It was an easy traveling experience, despite the crowds. Katie's flight was early Monday morning, so the three of them had some time alone together, which was nice. They went to see the new Hunger Games movie, and then played cards that night.

It is hard to believe in a few short weeks Andy and Megan will be driving here for Christmas. We will miss Katie this year as she is unable to get any time off, and that makes me sad. Sounds like we will be having a non-traditional Christmas this year, too.