Some contractors we'd hired over a year ago abruptly decided to begin work on the building just seven days before I was to head out for a two-week holiday whirlwind of traveling and houseguests. That meant that I had to move everything out of their way pronto, with little rhyme or reason, and they had to be done with the messy work no later than the night before my departure so I could move the furniture back into place and vacuum up a bit for the houseguests who would be arriving on the day of my return.
"Had to," of course, is all relative. There is always choice in the matter. It's just that each thing I agreed to made all the other ones just a little more challenging as things unfolded. (For example, in October, the mini college reunion date I'd saved in December 2013 suddenly bumped up against the opportunity to host a very photogenic quartet between Christmas and New Year's. I very nearly bailed out on the reunion, but I still wanted to do both - even though the travel got squeezed into a ridiculously narrow time fame.)
|Chocolate chip pancakes were a hit at the Grand Canyon!|
|Settlers of Cattan|
|Snuggling on the subway|
|"Powered by hot chocolate"|
|Watching the skaters at Bryant Park|
|I brought two extra pairs of gloves and an extra turtle fur with me just in case, and sure enough, they were called for!|
|Bryant Park carousel: Frog with eagle saddle|
|At the New York Public Library|
|Rosy glow of sunset on the Chrysler Building, |
|Empire State Building decked out with Christmas colors and candy cane stripes|
I took a bus up to my parents' place, then we drove out to my brother's place for a holiday concert featuring my sister-in-law and nieces. Some of the music was a bit gloomy for my taste, but it was all good, and it ended with a rousing version of "Go Tell It on the Mountain." (The only off note was a member of the handbell choir who was counting out loud to herself, very audibly.) We stayed overnight, then went back to fix things up for Christmas since my parents had only recently returned from their own time away. We each cranked out our Christmas cards for the year, assembled and decorated ⅓ of their artificial tree on a table top, wrapped presents, and cooked and baked up a storm. I made cardamom cookies from a recipe my mom had found and saved but never before used. (My little niece ended up helping roll some of them out into balls, which was fun. An amusing side note: She told us she really liked these "peanut butter cookies," and a well-intentioned adult's attempt to correct her and express surprise that she liked such spicy cookies almost backfired into getting her to renounce them.)
After Christmas, I flew down to Washington, D.C., checked into a hotel in Arlington and walked around the neighborhood, then took a taxi to Gaithersburg, MD for the mini reunion. (I might have been tempted to rent a car, but fortunately or unfortunately I'd forgotten my driver's license.) It was fun, and very cool to see everyone's families.
The next morning, I dropped off a gift for my friends who were staying in the same hotel (I just hope they got it, since I was going on memory of what their room number was) and then took the bus back to NYC. My houseguests beat me home by about an hour -- but I was very glad I'd taken the early bus, because it turned out that the keys I'd made for them didn't work!!!
All in all, it was a fun and relaxing time (in between all the mad dashes), and we got to see not only the above-referenced holiday concert, but also a performance of The Wizard of Oz and Stomp.