Christmas 2012

How was your Christmas?  I had a wonderful Christmas.  My parents drove down from Nebraska to celebrate with us.  This was the first time I have hosted my family in my home.  Usually we travel back to Nebraska, but this year my siblings were all spending the day with their in-laws so I was lucky enough to get my parents all to myself.  

We took a horse drawn carriage ride through Highland Park in Dallas to view all the lights.  Our driver mentioned that most of these lights start at $10,000 to install!  Wow!  They were beautiful, and it was a treat to see them up close.

Top Golf was on the agenda.  Notice the weather.  It was a sunny 65 that day.  

Luna snuggled in for gifts on Christmas Eve.  

Santa had to come to our house through Thunderstorms.  Early Christmas morning we had thunder and lightning, hail and RAIN!  The moisture is such a gift.  Then the temperature started to drop and slowly the rain started turning to flurries.  

By the end of Christmas day we had a pristine blanket of snow on the ground.  It was magical.  I took Annie out to play in the snow and she loved it.  

We were all spoiled and very blessed this Christmas.  Even Annie got a little something in her stocking.  I am so thankful for parents that love me so much.  It was special for me to have them in my home for the holiday.

Unfortunately, they have to drive home on icy roads.  Texans are not accustomed to bad road conditions which has made the trip a rather treacherous.

My heart is full this year.

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

We're kicking off our fun old fashion family Christmas by heading out into the country in the old front-wheel drive sleigh to embrace the frosty majesty of the winter landscape and select that most important of Christmas symbols.

Name that movie?*  Oh the holiday tradition of picking out the tree.  It is much more fun than actually decorating the tree, which is why you won't see any photos of my tree with twinkle lights and ornaments.  We headed off to Wintergreen farm again this year to pick out our Christmas symbol.  The experience is vastly different from last year.  The only exception being the title of the post!  This year I could have been wearing my bathing suit it was so hot.  As compared to last year when we needed a parka.

Something is not quite right when one wears flip flops to saw down their tree. Seriously. It was surreal and the "frosty majesty of the winter landscape" just wasn't happening.

BUT, we did actually get to cut down a tree, which means we are celebrating our Christmas locavore style.  Last year the farm was new, the trees too small, and several inches of mud lay in the fields.  

We choose a lovely Leyland Cyprus and commenced to sawing. 

Note the t-shirt and the sunshine!  Sorry for the blown out photo.  cc took the shot and I forgot to change the settings for her.  

There was only one injury during our expedition to the field.  cc nearly cut my hand off as we were walking.  The saw was swinging like a guillotine in her hand and she bumped up next to me.  It was a bloody mess.   You can see it if you look really close. 

Now comes the not so fun part.  The lights are up, but other than that it is still bare.  I'll be busy this week getting the finally touches on because my sister comes this weekend!  Christmas is here.

What is your tree tradition? 

Road Trip || Austin...Again

I just can't get enough of Austin.  This road trip will never get old.  I realized that this post looks very similar to this one.  Creature of habit, what can I say?  We did have a purpose this time.  A friend of ours has a senior in high school AND she loves Austin as much as we do.  So we took her down to check out St. Edwards University and hang out in the SoCo district. 

We stayed in the wonderfully quirky Austin Motel on South Congress.  It's an old motor inn.   Each room has a different motif.  Ours happened to have wallpaper showcasing a desert scene.  All of the furniture is vintage.  I loved it. It was clean and within walking distance to all of our favorite spots.  

We took photos all weekend long.  We possibly have a photojournalism major in our future.  SoCo boasts food truck vendors, vintage clothing, and artisan vendors.  We hit all of them.

Jo's is a corner coffee shop on SoCo that makes the best latte.  While the teen slept, we walked over to enjoy a latte and the morning paper. 

You can't go to Austin and not visit Uncommon Objects.  Even if you are not into antiques they carry the strangest things that are so much fun to look at.  I walked away with quite a few new objects.

My favorite street vendor, besides Black & Bluebird Studios is a couple that makes succulent gardens from children's toys.  I have no idea where the card is to even tell you who they are, but if I find it, I'll let you know. Genius!  

A new find on this trip is a store named Parts + Labour.  Their motto is All Texas All the Time.  They only sell merchandise from local artists, and Austin is full of very creative people.  I bought the most adorable onesies for the babies in my life.  

There is no telling when I'll be back.  I just know it won't be soon enough.  If it were possible, I would set up camp in Austin.  It's weird, I'm weird.  Seems like a perfect fit!  I suppose what draws me in is the originality.  Austin, in particular South Congress Ave, doesn't look like the rest of the world.  It's hard to find a chain store of any kind.  It's defines the term local business and I dig it.  

Road Trip || Galveston Island

This year cc and I had a non-traditional holiday.  We left town and headed to the beach.  We stayed on the west end (the quiet side) of Galveston Island.  We shut ourselves in with books, comfort food, and old movies.  Most of our time was spent on the beach as you can tell from these photos.  The weather was too gorgeous to pass up. 

It was an interesting turn of events.  We booked at the last minute but we were still able to find a cottage steps from the crossover that allowed dogs.  While we planned on taking Annie, we did not expect to take Luna, our oldest cat.  Luna came down with an abscessed anal gland, I'll spare you the disgusting details, and therefore had to wear a collar and take medicine twice a day.  

I've never traveled with a cat.  She started in her crate, but when the crying became too much, we let her roam around the car.  Annie, who still thinks she is a lap dog, rode in cc's lap and Luna rode in mine and looked out the window most of the time.  A passing stranger would get quite a chuckle.

After a long car ride, we made it.  Annie loved the beach, and Luna was just fine perched next to a sunny window.

We did venture out to The Strand and walked around.  We found this fortune teller (similar to the movie Big) and decided to give Zoltar a try. Here is our fortune. 
Recently you've had to make some judgements as others may be judging you. A wise man makes his own decisions, an ignorant man follows the public opinion.  A mountain is composed of tiny grains of earth.  The ocean is made up of tiny drops of water.  Even so, life is but an endless series of little details, actions, speeches and thoughts...and the consequences whether good or bad of even the least of them are so far reaching.  The more we judge, the less we love.  Patience and thought will show you the right way.  
Wise words.  Very applicable to recent events in our life.  

We celebrated Small Business Saturday by dining at Gaido's.  It's a family owned and operated restaurant that is been in Galveston since 1911 and is still in the Gaido family.  

Other than a few brief adventures out in public we were on the beach: walking, watching dolphins play, mesmerized by the pelicans diving for fish, and falling asleep to the sounds of the surf.  It was rejuvenating...and I really didn't want to come back to the real world, but all good vacations must end so there can be another.  

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.  

Road Trip || Alaska

"I can't believe she is your grandmother."  That is all I heard the entire trip.  She is not your typical 80 year old woman.  I had to keep up with her.  She's feisty, and so when she said she wanted to take a cruise to Alaska I told her I would go with her.  When she finally realized I was serious, we booked it.  

I've never been on a cruise, and that was fastest and easiest way to see Alaska.  If I had to do it over again I wouldn't get on a boat, but I loved sharing this experience with her. 

We flew into Seattle to get on board.  We were lucky enough to have lots of sunshine in Seattle and I was hoping that was a good indication of the days ahead.  Of course they were having record highs, but I loved it. While in port, just beyond the shipping yards, you could see Mt. Rainier in the distance. 

Then we sailed for two days.  I didn't think the boat was ever going to stop rocking.  It didn't make me sick, but it left me feeling out of control of my body.  You know when you've had a few drinks and all of a sudden you can't quite control your dexterity?  It felt like that but without the buzz.  I'd be walking and then all of sudden take a side step when the boat shifted.  

When we finally passed through Canadian waters, our first stop was in Tracy Arm.  This was my first experience with icebergs.  Plenty of Titanic jokes heard under breath, but I did have a slight freak out moment.  They really are larger under the water than they appear on top.  I did not want to put our new life boat skills into practice.

Tracy Arm is a long channel and the Captain navigated this large boat around the icebergs like a ping pong ball and we were successfully able to see the Sawyer glacier.  

As we motored along I started to understand why Alaska has so few inhabitants.  The wilderness is vast and expansive and there seems to be no way to go but up. 

Upon closer inspection of the glacier, the most beautiful shade of blue I have ever seen was glowing. Glacier blue has a whole new meaning, but no matter how many photos I took, I couldn't seem to get the color to translate.  It looked as if someone dropped a bunch of cotton candy right in between the mountains.  It appeared fluffy and light when in reality it's jagged, and solid.

After leaving Tracy Arm we headed to Juneau, the state capital.  This was my favorite destination, although I didn't know it would become so then.  The Seattle weather was not an indication of our trip.  The two days at sea were spent in heavy fog, but we were lucky it lifted slightly when we drifted into Juneau.     

The city reminds me a lot San Fransisco.  There is only so much space to build here though and so the landscape is tight.  Straight up behind the buildings were wooded mountains beaming towards the sky.  Water falls were gushing down into ravines and clouds lingered low. 

When you got passed the tourist trinket shops, the truly local businesses were charming and friendly.  Unfortunately, we didn't get to explore the streets long because we had a couple of excursions planned.

First stop was river rafting on the Mendenhall.  This lake and river are glacier melt and the temp is around 35 degrees.  We donned our rain gear and life jackets and sat in the front of the boat.

We got up close to an iceberg that drifted off the Mendenhall glacier.  We were able to break off a piece for closer inspection.  It's full of sediments.  I knew it would be, I just like to see science applied to life.

While on the river the clouds came in close and it started to rain, but since we had waterproof gear on it didn't really matter.  We shot the rapids, and since we were sitting in the front of the raft we got hit with all the water.  We stayed dry but we didn't stay warm. 

While out on the river we saw salmon swimming upstream for the spawning process, bald eagles in trees and on the shore.  Even though we were cold, we were able to see a lot of life we wouldn't have seen on the street.  

After we shot the Mendenhall we got on a boat to see a few whales.  It's one of the best times of year for viewing whales in Alaska because they are busy eating in order to get ready to migrate back to Tijuana.

We did spot several humpback whales.  They don't always travel in groups, but when they are feeding they will team up to maximize the feeding process.  Plumes of water were everywhere in sight. 

This little guy put on a show for us and breached a few times. 

We were also very lucky to see Orcas.  Even the locals were excited about this.  This is a rare sight around here and I'm happy we got to see three of them together. 

Of course no experience to Alaska can go without a bear sighting.  They are so prevalent.  After leaving Juneau we traveled on to Sitka which is on an island and then to Ketchikan.  While in Sitka I learned that on this very small island there are 1.4 bears per mile.  Your chances of running into one is high.  Since I have a thing with bears it was only natural that I spotted one. 

But alas, it was in captivity and not in the wild.  We viewed a bear sanctuary for orphaned cubs.  This guy is just a baby.  I'm afraid he will be huge when he is an adult and I really wouldn't want to run into him in nature. 

There was so much to see and I'm afraid I'm going to have a plan another trip.  Traveling around the state is tricky though because there are not a lot of roads.  Most travel is done through boats and small planes.

We made one last stop after leaving Alaska and that was to Victoria, British Columbia in Canada.  We were having issues with one of our propellers so we arrived in town really late and didn't have time to see much.  We opted for a pedi-cab ride to give us a little history around the city.  It was a beautiful city and I know I'll be spending time there in the future.

Our trip was beautiful and an event I will never forget.  I'm a big advocate of traveling, but I have a new perspective on getting out there and spending time with those you love.  I have the best grandmother, even at 80!

To see more photos from the trip you can jump over to my flickr page.