Highlights of the Holidays

I am so grateful to have such a nice long holiday break! Although I work at a university, we don’t get all the same holiday breaks as students. However, we have time off from right before Christmas Eve through New Years and it is glorious. Pittsburgh had its first white Christmas in about five years, and I found a perfect balance of places to be and time to stay home and read. πŸ™‚

– Celebrations –

This year, Joe and I drove back to Pittsburgh on our one year anniversary so we went straight to the restaurant where we went on our first date! I love Mexican food, so it fits that we first ate at Mad Mex together. December = my birthday, Christmas, and our anniversary, so we decided to exchange little gifts to commemorate the day.

We continued celebrating happy occasions when we spent time with Joe’s family the next day. His cousin is getting married in September, and since he lives in Florida, there’s rarely a time when the whole family is together. So, his parents hosted an engagement party for them while they were home for the holidays!

engagement

The happy couple, Brian and Lindsey, are in the middle. πŸ™‚ Their announcement was just published in the newspaper this past week. So exciting!

– Heinz Hall –

Joe, his mom, and I met up with my mom and brothers to see Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical at Heinz Hall downtown.

IΒ loveΒ the Grinch, and this show was really well done! I think I was expecting to see the cartoon or the movie done in a live performance, and there was much more singing in this show, because you know…musical. πŸ™‚ The Grinch was played by a really animated actor and Cindy Lou Who’s voice was amazing! Our favorite moment was probably when the Grinch came on stage waving a Terrible Towel. Only in Pittsburgh!

– Christmas Eve –

My brothers and I have a tradition of going out to brunch with my Dad on Christmas Eve. This is usually followed by a bit of last minute shopping, and this year was no exception! I just had a few gifts to pick up that I had ordered online and planned to pick up in the store, and my brothers found the most amazing suits to wear to Christmas Eve dinner. πŸ™‚

That night, we went to Joe’s Dad’s house for dinner. We left for a second dinner and games at my uncle’s house, and then went back to Joe’s Dad’s for a Secret Santa gift exchange!

We played Minute to Win It style games at my uncle’s house, and they were hilarious! In the game above, you started with one stack of cups, and in 60 seconds you had to build a “tree” and then disassemble the cups back into your one stack. It got very competitive! We also used candy canes to pick up marshmallows to assemble as many snowmen as possible in one minute, and used a straw to move as many M&M’s as possible from one plate to another in one minute. My family has never done a Secret Santa, so it was fun to participate in Joe’s family’s tradition and see everyone open something they loved!

– Christmas Day –

Christmas Day brought snow! I helped my mom get brunch in the oven, and once my Dad arrived, we started opening our gifts to one another. My brothers and I are lucky to have parents who will still celebrate the holidays together for us. πŸ™‚

On the topic of parents who are divorced…both my mom and my dad got Jake a leather Steelers notebook for school, and they had no idea. Haha! Great minds. πŸ˜‰ I quite enjoyed watching the dogs open gifts. Colby loves to chew and shred the paper…he seems to really know what he’s doing. And Amigo…well, after a few prods at the paper, he just carried his gifts right over to my mom’s lap!

After brunch, I left for an afternoon with Joe’s Mom’s family where we did a Secret Santa gift exchange and broke out some more Minute to Win It style games. I was most excited to get back to my house for dinner so that Joe could open his gift from me…a new Xbox!

The Xbox was well received and I spent lots of time over break reading while all the guys I love enjoyed Joe’s newest gadget. πŸ™‚ We ate dinner with my Mom’s family and watched the Steeler game. Then my Dad tried to teach me how to play poker, and I’m still sure I have no idea what I’m doing. Ha!

– Favorite Friends –

I keep in touch with my best friends from college via a group text message, and a few weeks before the holidays, my friend Lindsey stepped up and decided to plan a get together for us. We all met for dinner and drinks at Narcisi Winery, which is just north of Pittsburgh.

As you can imagine, we were not out walking around the vineyard on this night…I’m pretty sure it was about 5 degrees. πŸ™‚ But we enjoyed a delicious Italian dinner and sipping on different bottles of wine. We talked for hours and it was so fun! Another reason to celebrate during this get together: Johna and Jeff, second from left in the group photo, got engaged on Christmas Eve! Yay!

IMG_6124

Later in the week, I met up with my friend Randi for coffee. Randi and I went to elementary school together, but we reconnected in the last few years via our blogs and we could not be more alike. πŸ™‚ We took over Starbucks for a few hours, exchanged Christmas gifts, and talked about everything under the sun. The best kind of time!

– New Years Eve –

This is what I like to call reality vs. Instagram. πŸ™‚

The evening started at the casino where my mom walked away a winner! It ended at home playing Scrabble and hanging out with Joe, my brothers, and their friends. A great evening, especially since it felt like negative degrees outside in Pittsburgh AND in Times Square. I was happy to be hanging out by a fire!

I had so much fun celebrating the holidays with Joe and his family for the first time, and I loved having lots of time to see my mom since she is a teacher and gets lots of holiday time off too. πŸ™‚ Of course there were other things that filled my days like lunch out with siblings, chiropractor appointments, a trip to the movies, and Sunday breakfasts at my aunt’s house…overall, a great time at home for the holidays. ❀

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