|Simple yet elegant Christmas lights
| Elaborate Christmas lights
|My wife Kathleen, nephew Josh, sister-in-law Anna, niece Mariah and me|
|Merry Madagascar exhibit
|How did they know Sochi was coming up?
The holidays are a special time of year filled with tons fun and excitement, and lots of traditions and activities with both my in-laws and my family.
To start off the yearly festivities, my wife, Kathleen, and I drove through a local neighborhood that is known for its Christmas lights. We stopped by Starbucks to get something warm to drink, and joined the lines and lines of cars driving up and down the streets admiring the elaborate displays of lights. Some were very simple with just the house and yard outlined in white lights; while others were very elaborate with thousands of lights strung around the house, in the trees and bushes, and displays set up throughout the yard, and everything synchronized to music on a local radio station. After an hour or so of driving around, we determined that our personal favorites are the houses with simple lights – bright and elegant!
Next on the list was to take our niece, Mariah, and nephew, Josh, (both 4 years old) to the Gaylord Texan Resort’s ICE! Experience, whose theme was DreamWorks' Merry Madagascar. According to the resort’s website: DreamWorks’ animated holiday TV special is brought to life in an interactive world of colorful ice sculptures and 20-feet tall ice sliders hand-carved by 40 artisans from Harbin, China. The kids loved the huge ice creations of their favorite movie characters, and really got a kick out of the ice slides, which they wanted to do over and over again. To keep all of that ice frozen in Texas, the resort keeps the inside of the convention center at a bitter nine degrees!!! At the end of exhibit, there were eight snow hills set up, made of actual snow, where everyone could go snow tubing down the 30-foot-tall hills. Who would have ever thought Texas would see nine degrees and two million pounds of ice and snow!
After the ice adventure, we headed to my in-laws’ annual soup & salad feast and baked goods white elephant gift exchange. My mother-in-law (native of Louisiana) made her famous smoked turkey and sausage gumbo, along with chili, baked potato soup, salad, and homemade rolls. We only get her gumbo once a year, and boy is it worth waiting for! After everyone has consumed as much soup and salad as possible, we all move on to the living room to carry out the baked goods white elephant gift exchange. Each family brings some homemade desserts, we all draw a number, and go through picking and choosing, stealing, and playfully fighting over who ends up with the most sought after desserts. After the desserts are divvied up, all the kids gather around to open of their gifts from each of the families. With 10 grandchildren and close to 30 adults on hand, you can imagine the madness that ensued as the wrapping paper began to fly!
Now it is Christmas Eve, and we will meet the in-laws at PF Changs for dinner (not really sure how PF Changs became the annual restaurant of choice) and then head to a candle-light service before heading home and preparing for the remainder of the festivities tomorrow. We will start the day off, just my wife and I, with a cup of coffee and exchange our gifts to each other before heading over to her sisters for brunch and her immediate family’s gift exchange. After that, we will head to my aunt and uncle’s house to conclude the day with my family’s Christmas dinner and gift exchange. There aren’t near as many in my family as there are in my wife’s family, so it is much lower key and a great way to conclude the Christmas holidays.
With everyone full and excited about their gifts, and after reflecting on what the holiday season is really about, we will all try to recover before we reconvene to welcome in the New Year! With that, from my family to yours, we wish you a very happy holiday and a great New Year!!!