Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas 2013 Review

I've just returned from my trip back to Minnesota for Christmas. For now, Andrea and our boys are still visiting family. (She stays a bit longer because she doesn't have the vacation time constraints I do.)

Having left before Andrea, I brought a suitcase jam-packed with clothes, winter gear, and gifts. This actually let me walk on with next to nothing: my new phone (which I am very happy with, by the way), charger, and earbuds; a copy of Siddhartha that I intentionally left at MSP on my return trip; my e-reader; and a journal I've been keeping since August.

I flew out on the 17th, getting to my parents' place around 1:00am. The next day, Andrea, Jacob and Reed followed, and we spent the next few days with my parents, brother and sister-in-law at my parents' house and their lake place. The time consisted largely of Grandpa playing with the boys.

At the cabin, Nate and I helped Dad with the 200lb+ limestone hearth, several boxes of "cultured stones" for the fireplace facade, and jacks in the basement to help support the weight. Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures of any of the installed hearth, but one of Dad's updates from a couple weeks ago does include his homemade mantle (with inset LED lights) and much of the facade:

For longer than I can remember, Dad has been an avid woodworker and all-around handy guy, so when we're at their house, our boys are often in the basement with him "helping" in some way or another. On more than one occasion, one of the boys asked to go downstairs to build something with Grandpa.

Perhaps more than usual, Reed was Daddy's boy for much of the trip. On Christmas Day, as I was talking with Dad, Reed "snuck up" behind me, messed up my hair, and promptly hid behind me, giggling the whole time.

That first Saturday, the Seattle and Becker Shireys went out for the Christmas tree at a tree farm less than a mile away.

Along the way, I spotted what very well may have been a storage or utility shed, but it reminded me of Cabin Porn, so I had to get a shot of it:

At Doug and Sarah's house, we visited with Andrea's sisters and their families. Gavin, who is just shy of his first birthday, was Reed's favorite.
Reed tries to entertain Gavin by position himself upside-down for his cousin's amusement.
Reed also was fond of holding Gavin, especially for about a half hour at Christmas Eve church service.

Hot cocoa is best when served with a fistful of marshmallows.
For Christmas Eve and Christmas Day breakfasts, I made my Grandma Shirey's sweet bread dough, making Hungarian coffee cake and cinnamon rolls, respectively:

As is tradition, we exchange gifts on Christmas Eve with Andrea's side, and Christmas morning, we go to my parents's place for the Shirey exchange. Our boys were very excited about their new Seahawks hats, and my brother gave each boy a rock from the Dead Sea and shell from the Mediterranean Sea. Jacob put his in a small jewelry box and wrote his initials on it:

The boys were well-behaved for both gift exchanges, saying "thank you" and "merry Christmas" and giving hugs. They got a bit silly come picture time, but I'm sure some of them turned out well.

On Thursday, Andrea and I got up at 4:00am and left my parents's house at 4:30 to get to the airport for my flight back to Seattle. Unfortunately, Sun Country had to "replace a dirty seat belt" on the plane. Combined with the de-icing process, my 7:50 flight didn't leave until around 9:10. Just as well, since Seattle had heavy fog, causing us to waste some time in the air. Our fallback was to land in Yakima, where I'd still be a 2hr+ drive home.

Luckily, we got clearance to land in SEA. As we slowly descended, I noticed the trees, houses and cars far below. But perhaps five minutes later, I noticed we were back above the thick clouds - more time circling? We descended into the clouds, and when we emerged on the other side, I found we were barely above the tarmac - not the hundreds or thousands of feet that I was expecting.

Home again, weather is warmer by 20 to 40 degrees than in Minnesota. And hey, University Street Station now has its escalators functional again. Merry Christmas!

I've also included a small subset of [this visual week] pictures and details from my first and second calendar weeks in Minnesota.