Happy New Year everyone!
I hope you had a great holiday season and a fun celebration of the turning over of the calendar. We ate good food, spent time with family and friends, completed a puzzle (an activity that’s become something of a tradition), and toasted the fireworks at the Space Needle from far across Elliott Bay while also watching them on TV.
I had grand plans to document a series of Christmas adventures here on the blog, but I feel like the seasonality of it has gone now that December is over. I also don’t want to get bogged down on old stories when there will be plenty of new stories to tell in 2015. So I will settle for summarizing all the fun as best I can in one (monster) post.
The Christmas fun started for me the weekend after Thanksgiving when I tagged along with some friends to cut Christmas trees. Can you believe that I’ve never been to a Christmas tree farm before? This year I thought it would be a fun new experience, so I asked M if I could tag along with her when she went. I told her that I’d really like to explore a Christmas tree forest in the snow (but realistically we were expecting to do it in the endless PNW rain). Saturday morning dawned sunny, bright and extremely cold… with a thin layer of snowy pellets on the ground! M’s friend K had asked if M wanted to join her at Henry’s tree farm in Kingston – apparently up north they had had a few inches of snow and K was taking her kids up there. Hell yeah! was my answer. We stopped at K’s mom’s house and played in the snow with the kids, complete with a lesson in the dangers of yellow snow from the dog. There was a ton of snow up there. The tree farm was absolutely gorgeous, every tree heavy with wet snow, with sunshine and blue sky and extremely cold temperatures. I made good use of layers and plush lined tights (yes, plush lined tights!) so I was fairly comfortable even in a skirt. Everyone’s feet were frozen though – except K’s injured foot in her walking cast – she’d wrapped it in 2 pairs of wool socks and 2 plastic bags. Her snow boot foot was frozen but her plastic bag foot was toasty warm! We found and cut 3 small trees (for M, K, and K’s mom). The kids played/pulled the littlest one in his sled, then we all got hot drinks and candy canes while the trees were measured, paid for, and sent through the clever little chute arrangement that baled the tree for easier transport. I didn’t buy a tree (however much I was tempted) because we have a nice little fake one that works just fine. I did get a fresh wreath which was pretty and smelled lovely. What a fun day!
My next Christmas fun was on Friday Dec 5th when I got to choose whether to attend the tree lighting in my part of town or a neighboring area. My part of town has a nice tree and had a good celebration last year, but because the main road has to stay open all the time for ferry loading, the tree is disconnected from all of the town festivities – something that always makes me sad. As it turned out the decision was made when M asked me to tag along with her and the kiddo to the Manette festivities. The library had their Bookmobile out and they also ran a scavenger hunt that took us from store to store (Christmas decorated antique store to Christmas decorated junk store). The kiddo was a little overwrought after a long week but she was excited to hunt down the pictures and visit every store, and M and I were happy to get to see some stores that are always closed when we walk past during the week. The town was hopping and looked lovely and their compact shopping area works really well for these kinds of events. I had my dSLR with me so I had fun trying to capture Christmas-y shots for my album. We ran into the Mayor a couple of times (kiddo cut her off in line once, she obliviously stole the table I’d been saving, then she talked to M about a different school than M had been talking about). We watched the Navy band (4-5 guys) playing for a few minutes then joined in the tail end of the caroling as we all made our way to the tree. (Last year the carols had been spontaneous, waiting for the Mayor to show up. This year they were planned. Next year they might be planned a little bit better). The tree lighting was a bit of a let down for M (I already knew how half-assed the decorations are) but the kiddo got to talk to Santa (“I’m going to visit you tomorrow”) and take pictures with the Ice Princess (not Elsa, unfortunately).
The next day, Dec 6th, I joined the Jingle Jangle Joggers and Walkers team at the Jingle Bell run in the town across the bay. If you’ve ever been to a fun run you’ll know that tutus are all the rage, so I had made myself a red, white, and gold one to pair with my ugly sweater tshirt. There were some amazing costumes and get-ups, and I was happy to see some guys rocking awesome tutus as well (like my friend Chad). His wife Amanda was the one who invited me and organized the team. She’s a speedy woman. She had made the turn back towards the finish before we even got started! I had a library friend to walk with and we took it at a moderate pace. We high-fived Amanda when she passed us (first female finisher!) and cheered on Chad a few moments later. We took 40-odd minutes longer to walk the 5km course than they took to run it, but we had a good time. My favorite part was that we got jingle bells to attach to ourselves so we could jingle all the way. I’m pretty sure I’ll sign up next year – I might even jog it next year!
The Christmas event I was most looking forward to was scheduled for Sunday a week after the run. The Seattle Men’s Chorus is a wonderful, talented choir of gay men (including my BIL’s cousin). Their Christmas concert is a huge event, and I was enthusiastic about going once I found out that ticket prices were reasonable and found a couple of singing friends who wanted to join me. We went to the Sunday afternoon matinee performance, allowing us time to enjoy Christmastime in the city (silver bells…. which I was singing to myself most of the day…) and still make it home in time for dinner. (We didn’t know that we would hit the massive 12th man Seahawks crowd on the ferry both coming and going. sigh… could have done without that.) Benaroya Hall is a lovely venue and even though we were at the very back of the lower level, we had a good view and of course we could hear everything (even if we couldn’t quite see the details of the marvelous holiday sweaters). The show was funny and touching and beautiful and moving. The singing was magnificent and the songs were a mix of stuff we knew and original songs around the theme of “our gay apparel.” The part that I was excited for was the audience singalong. It was fun, even though Rocking Around the Christmas Tree and Jingle Bell Rock are probably my least favorite carols to sing. They encouraged people to get up and dance and one couple ahead of us did a little rock & roll dancing in the aisle. We loved seeing what people had chosen to wear – a lot of ugly holiday sweaters. I bought some bright red tights especially for the occasion and I thought it was the perfect day to wear my new black and silver/grey striped dress. During intermission some of the performers were selling raffle tickets, still in costume, so we got an up-close look at the guy with tinsel trees all over his argyle sweater, and at the sugar plum fairies in their tutus! The story of the WWI Christmas truce, with Silent Night sung in German and English, was haunting and quite emotional. But the show ended on a classic note – a tribute to the many wonderful people who are now in heaven, with special performances by an Elaine Stritch impersonator (in pantyhose and menswear shirt) and an amazing Joan Rivers who made us all laugh. They were joined by Princess Di, Maya Angelou, the Ramones, and many more recognizable characters. It was a grand time and I want to go to all their shows.
Exploring the city with my friends was great fun too. We took so many pictures of the lights, ourselves and each other that I had too many to reasonably share. The next day, Monday Dec 15th, I went back into the city to do the same thing with another friend. Lizzie and I always take a day to wander around the city and see the lights and explore new places. We walked a lot! Around South Lake Union, to Seattle Center, where we had lunch and took selfless outside the EMP with it’s colorful siding, then we rode the monorail the 90 seconds it takes to get to the central city, where we wandered and photographed some more. We found a Nordstrom window that told the story of the time when Santa couldn’t manage the present delivery so he was helped out by aliens! The story was a poem that played for 10 or more minutes on a screen, which I listened to while we looked at the dozens of toy robots arrayed in the window with a backdrop of aliens dropping them off for the kids. Very cool.
This was a busy week for me. The next day, Tuesday, I met with some friends in the park across the street for Christmas caroling with a couple of local organizations. They provided hot cocoa and a song book and had a Santa & Mrs Claus available for requests and photos. We spent an hour calling out carols that we liked and singing together. Seven of my friends and colleagues came, and there were at least another dozen groups or families who came and went as the singing went on. Not all of them seemed to be there by choice but even if they weren’t having fun, we were! We spread Christmas cheer by signing loud for all to hear, in the words of Elf, my favorite Christmas movie.
(I watched Elf 3 times this holiday season, The Holiday twice, and caught bits of National Lampoon’s Christmas movie, plus singing along with the Sound of Music, which is not actually a holiday movie even though it usually screens at this time of year).
By Thursday I was feeling pretty burned out and really just wanted some quiet time to myself but I dragged myself in to work at the library anyway because it was Christmas potluck and raffle day. I had contributed a lot of things to the potluck, some things that were quite precious to me – things I had made as well as things I had loved. I was happy to see that many of them were very popular and people were bidding more for them in the auction than they actually cost me new. My 2 quilts, 3 baskets, craft supplies and other assorted things brought in over $100 for the food bank, so that made me feel good about passing those things on. I had a nice meal and a chat with a few friends.
On Friday I got some quiet time to myself and a chance to write the last of my Christmas letters, so I was ready to spend all day on the Snow Train to Leavenworth with a friend, 2 sisters-in-law, and two 5 year olds. This was planned as a grand adventure in place of a Disneyland trip we had considered, and a gift to my sister in law. Leavenworth is a Bavarian themed mountain town a couple of hours east of Seattle in the Cascades. The train ride would take us 4-5 hours each way and give us about 4 hours in town to see the sights and enjoy the ceremonial lighting of the tree and town at 4:45pm. The train was much more spacious than other modes of transportation and food and entertainment were provided. We were treated to 3 magicians (ugh), an oompah band, a Vegas crooner, a barbershop quintet, and a guy playing the spoons with another playing guitar, colorful characters all. The kids were happy to sit and play together while we adults chatted. We only had one long period where the train wasn’t moving and everyone was overheating and getting restless – a tunnel had to be flushed so we wouldn’t asphyxiate on diesel fumes. After the long wait and the long tunnel we emerged in the mountains where a LOT of wet snow had been falling – the whole train gasped with the surprise!
Leavenworth is probably a very pleasant place. But it was extremely crowded. We had to hold on tight to the kids and we were constantly losing track each other in the crush of people. It wasn’t much fun for strolling and conversing, especially as the sidewalks were snowy, slushy, and/or icy, and we were looking for a place to have lunch. B recommended a Mexican place but at 2pm we were told that the wait would be 90-120 minutes for a table. We kept looking (although they texted us to let us know when the table did finally open, close to 4pm). We couldn’t take the kids into some places because they were bars, and most places were crowded with people wanting to get out of the snow, which was still falling. We found a place with a shorter wait time eventually, and the kids got to try out sledding for a few minutes (at which point they were done). They had both had some moments of distress but they went into simultaneous meltdowns while we waited for our table to open up at the Waffle and Dinner Haus. One eventually calmed down, the other fell asleep and slept through the entire meal, propped up in a chair, much to the amusement of our fellow diners. After a pleasant meal in a warm space and a long wait for bathrooms we ventured back out into the snow to find a spot to watch the tree lighting. We ended up high up in town near where we were headed to get our shuttle/school bus back to the train at 5. We could have done without the speeches, but when the lights came on, it was lovely. Not that we had a great view, but we avoided the tremendous crush of people, and by that time the sleeping child had awoken and everyone was ready to be done. We trudged back to the bus to the wailing of a 5 year old “I don’t want to go outside!” over and over and over… 10 minutes later that was all she wanted to do. The long bus ride home was quieter and the kids were happy again and we all made it home to bed by about midnight. Not the funnest experience for the crowd-averse like us… but I was actually quite cheerful all day. It was only in reflection that the day seemed a little disappointing. Oh, and the next day we all felt like death! I declined 2 invitations and slept the afternoon away and watched Elf and the Sound of Music.
The last event of my Christmas season before celebrating the event itself was early on Christmas Eve morning. I was recharged and relaxed by this time and quite happy to join my friend Amanda’s running group for a really informal run/walk. We gathered outside a Starbucks at the crack of dawn and then walked or ran as far as we wanted on the Clear Creek Trail. I had 2 friends, 2 sisters-in-law, and a 5 year old with me, and that 5 year old was wearing the candy cane colored tutu I had refashioned from my Jingle Bell run one. (I also owed her a real candy cane because I ate the one Santa gave her on the snow train and she was VERY upset with me about that. I managed to stop laughing at her melodrama and apologized because it wasn’t a kind thing to do, regardless of whether she would have ever eaten it, and promised to replace it with a full sized one. I had after all eaten 2 mini ones that were hers! lol) We had a great time with our silly Santa hats on, walking, dance-walking, singing carols with the kiddo, and racing the last part at full speed. My SIL treated us to hot drinks before we headed home to start preparing for Christmas Eve.
Christmas Eve was spent together at my MIL’s, eating a casual Japanese meal, and watching J open his gifts. His highlight was his new friend (actually he called it his new brother) RoboJalen92. He had a great time making it walk and stretch and burp and try to pick things up. The next day we got together at his other grandparents house and ate traditional ham and turkey meal and put together legos, played with toys, watched movies on TV, and opened the last of the presents. The walkie talkies were the highlight of Christmas night. It was fun seeing my nephew so much. He is growing up so fast. He changes a lot between visits. 5 seems to be the age of hamming it up for the camera and dancing. I love it! He’s a funny kid.
And now it’s 2015. We’re in the future now! (I’ll have to watch Back to the Future II and see how things were supposed to be).
Sorry this post was so long! I really should have been more organized and blogged as I went along. I apologize if the writing is less than my best too. I don’t have the energy to do a proper proofreading right now. Too many projects to finish up so I can start new ones. I’ll be back soon with lots of details.
Thanks for stopping by!
Hi Jo, I loved your Christmas epistle. What a busy time a lots of exciting things going on. Rosie tells me America is big on Xmas, nothing like NZ. I spent my time with family and friends, it was pretty quite. NZ friends were in Vail, Colorado, some of their photos looked like your Xmas trip to Levenworth. I admire you for parting with your treasures, I can’t. Well done for making so much money. The (male) choir sounded like fantastic fun, one of my favourites is Silent Night. I would love a white Xmas. Lots of love. Dale