"...and with the blessings from above. God sends you His love. And everything's okay. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays."
This year, we had the joyous privilege of celebrating Christmas (Christmas Eve and a couple of days before) with Mimi (the original) and the Dehan fam in Austin. It was a full house with Uncle Chris, Aunt Linda, Mimi, my parents, China, myself, Elisa, Joe, Ed, Lianna and Sophia. But despite the sleeping arrangements, I positively would not have had it any other way. With all the people there, it was non-stop fun. There were countless games of Bananagrams, Scattergories and Jenga, ample bottles of champagne and wine, constant holiday baking and cooking, several rockin' dance parties, loads of Christmas caroling with the backup of four guitars and so much more. It was like one big Christmas party that never stopped.
Here's the play-by-play of our time in the ATX. Upon arriving, we popped open a bottle of bubbly and broke out the Bananagrams. It was a full night of gaming and bubbles and I even won a few rounds.
The next day, I had to wake up early and log on to "work from home," but I needed to first get in a little quality time with Sophia (and of course, photographic documentation). She is so precious and really such a great baby. Lianna and Ed are very blessed to have such an easygoing little girl. After that, I may or may not have had serious technical difficulties, forcing me to relocate to a nearby coffee shop for the next five hours, but it was a small price to pay for being able to leave Dallas a day early.
Once I had officially logged off for the Christmas holiday, it was back to the Dehan casa for a little Christmas tree decorating. With all hands on deck, we had that tree adorned lickety split and then it was time to don our most festive attire and hit up a Christmas party.
We made our way to the Christmas Eve Eve Par-tay (that's not a typo - it was the day before Christmas Eve) and let me tell you, this residence was a work of art. The home was nice to be certain, but it was the sprawling backyard that left me speechless. The only thing I can compare it to is the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas. For those of you who haven't been there, I'm afraid you'll just have to imagine something really over-the-top and hope that it comes close. There were a couple acres to explore, but the highlights had to be the infinity pool, alice in wonderland-esque rose garden (with blooms the size of my head) and the life-size chess set. The pictures scarcely do it justice (especially since it was pitch-dark), but I hope they give you a glimpse of the splendor.
After we had snacked through the food spread and made our spirits bright, it was back to our home base and time for a rousing game of Scattergories which I am happy to report I won...but it was by a rather small margin. Suffice it to say, my skills are not what they once were. I blame lack of practice as no one ever wants to play with me...I cannot imagine why...
The next day was Christmas Eve and it was packed with holiday merriment. First on the agenda was Christmas cookie baking and decorating. We made the wise decision of made-from-scatch dough which was far more successful in terms of rolling out and cutting out shapes that, once baked, actually resembled what they were intended to. Of course, anything in our family can turn into a competition, and that's exactly what happened with our cookies. These peeps had major skills, so my cookies weren't even in the running. Nevertheless, it is always one of my favorite things to do around Christmas time.
Oh, and it should also be noted that amongst the cookie throwdown, Elisa was concocting her very first batch of homemade egg nog. This was not child's play, let me tell ya. She had to give that nog some tender loving care and even had to hold it in an ice bath for a significant period of time. But I can say that it was definitely worth it as the finished product was a real treat...more of a dessert than a drink, but tasty nonetheless. (Please note the awesome Santa goblet in the pic below which was being used to house the delicious goodness) Kudos, Elisa!
After we made enough egg nog and cookies for Santa and all his reindeer, it was time to get busy in the kitchen preparing the Christmas Eve dinner. On the menu was herb-roasted chicken with lemon and red potatoes, baked shrimp with feta, artichokes and tomato, spring salad with pears and gorgonzola and hot, buttery beer bread. China and I were the primary chefs with an assist by Sean and Elisa.
Once the feast was prepared and the wine was poured, we sat down to a lovely dinner and gave thanks and toasts to the family we are so blessed with. It was such a special time and my only regret is that Michelle and her family were not there to make our family circle complete...maybe one day...
After dinner, we made a group effort at tackling the dishes (did I mention the dishwasher was on the fritz?) so we could get to the caroling and present portion of the evening. We also may or may not have blasted the Nsync Christmas CD and busted out some moves while cleaning up...definitely one of the highlights for sure.
With full stomachs and a tidy kitchen, there was only one thing (well 2 things) left to do: belt out some serious Christmas carols and tear open Christmas presents. Accompanied by four guitars, we sang (with gusto, I might add) some of my very favorite carols and I had the distinct honor of performing the "reindeer dance," per Mimi's request. What is the reindeer dance you may ask? Well, I couldn't really tell you, but how can you say no to your 85-year-young grandma? Since I have no shame, I improved a little tap dance diddy much to her delight. Amidst the caroling was our gift exchange and I was spoiled rotten by my very generous (and equally thoughtful) Aunt, Uncle and fousins. I got a bottle of bubbly, "The Four Loves" by C.S. Lewis, an Anthropologie coffee mug w/coffe from Dominican Joes, earrings, a scarf and a clutch...much too generous and so appreciated. I adored it all and couldn't have felt more loved.
After all of that merriment, it was off to midnight mass and it was a really beautiful service. We sang some of my favorites: Joy to the World, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and Silent Night. To sum it all up, I will use one of the lines in Joy to the World: "repeat the sounding joy." That's truly what my time in Austin was, a repeat of joy. It was refreshing for my soul and I cannot express what a blessing every single moment was to my heart.
Up next: Christmas day with Michelle, Nick, Haylee and Meredith!