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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

"Recap: Christmas & New Years 2009"

Well, ok, it was a bit more than just a few hours. I got distracted, and was unable to get my Christmas and New Years recap online yesterday. It's Tuesday now, but we'll give it another shot.

As most of you know, I was traveling for the Holiday's last year. And by "last year" I mean the eleven days surrounding Christmas and New Years 2009. I took the bus (Greyhound) north to Brillion to visit Kelli, and hook up with her in order to make the drive west to Tomah, WI where her family lives. We spent a day up in Minneapolis where my family lives, and then returned to Tomah before driving back east to Brillion this past weekend. I took the bus back down here to Milwaukee on Sunday, and as I write this, I'm back in my apartment, typing on my own computer.

So, while many of you may have been visiting my Facebook fan page during my blogging absence, I thought, for the sake of those who weren't, I'd recap my travels. Sit back and enjoy!

On Wednesday, December 23, I departed Milwaukee and arrived up in Manitowoc, WI to await Kelli picking me up. She had a half day of teaching, so I didn't anticipate having to wait long. As a matter of fact, I was just sitting down to lunch at Arby's when she pulled up, so I finished my sandwich, and we drove half an hour west to her apartment in Brillion. We hung out for the rest of the day, and then I spent the night at one of the other teacher's houses.

On Thursday, Kelli's kindergarten students were singing in the Trinity Christmas Eve service(s), so I joined her at church, and heard some wonderful music. There were actually two services scheduled for Christmas Eve Day, however, with a looming major snow storm crossing the state, Kelli and I left right after the morning service in the hopes of beating the icy conditions. We did, and arrived in Tomah on the other side of Wisconsin by mid-afternoon.

That afternoon/evening, we attended the first of four Christmas gatherings, this one with Kelli's dad's side of the family there in Tomah.

On Christmas Day, the two of us spent the day at Kelli's younger sister's house -- also in Tomah. This was our second Christmas gathering, and involved only the immediate family -- Kelli; her parents; grandmother; sister, husband, and two little nephews; younger brother; and myself.

On December 26th, Kelli and I drove further west into Minnesota, and spent the rest of the day in Minneapolis with my family. Everyone was able to be there except my younger sister Rachel (and her husband), and my youngest sister, Lydia, who was stationed on her Navy ship in the Pacific Ocean. As it turned out, however, thanks to Skype and a laptop webcam, Lydia was able to be there with us -- all the way from the Pacific. It wasn't quite the same as actually having her in the room there with us, but it was the next best thing -- and quite cool if you ask me!

We -- in Minneapolis -- had pizza (delivered) for dinner, and opened Lydia's presents while she watched over the internet. She had actually done her Christmas shopping all over Asia, so, some of the most unique Christmas gifts I have ever received came from her. Such as: an authentic hand-painted porcelain Japanese tea set... as well as other neat items from Australia, Singapore, etc. THAT was pretty memorable, if I do say so myself. :)

I also received a very fashionable ethnic Greek fisherman's hat from my parents. I like unique hats, so, that was another neat gift from this Christmas. I'll post photos on Facebook. ... [wink]

Anyway, the next day -- Saturday, December 27th -- Kelli and I hit the road, once again returning to Tomah in the middle southwest of Wisconsin. We spent the rest of the day just relaxing around her parent's house, and I was introduced to the wonderful taste sensations of chocolate and alcohol. One of the gifts my Air Force sister gave Kelli, was a collection of authentic German chocolates containing various types of alcoholic beverage -- gin, champagne, etc. Becca was stationed in Germany so these chocolates were the real thing. Very tasty too! (And no, you can't get drunk off of said chocolates. ... [laugh])

We spent the 28th in and around Tomah with Kelli's family, and on the 29th -- Tuesday -- drove west to LaCrosse, WI to do a little shopping and pick out the tuxes for our wedding in July. We found a very classy selection too -- tuxes that will be worn by myself and all the groomsmen on July 10th. Keep an eye on my Facebook page. I'll post a picture(s) in a little bit.

On Wednesday, Kelli and I sat down with the pastor who will be marrying us in July, and had our first session of marriage counseling. It went well, and was actually quite enjoyable. Granted, we surprised the pastor a bit because of our strong familiarity with the advice he was giving us (both of us are strong Lutherans), but he did have some additional advice for us to think about, and we went away from the session a little more prepared for the life we're about to embark upon together.

On Thursday -- New Years Eve -- we prepared for the traditional [Kelli's family] feast. Kelli's father is a retired Navy cook, and for many years has put together a smorgasbord of food to serve as the last meal of the year. This year, we had: lobster dipped in melted butter, shrimp, crab, steak, pickled herring, potatoes (mashed and not), corn, grapenut bread (baked by Kelli's mom), and homemade biscuits. Later in the evening, as a few of us sat around talking and looking through old [Kelli's family] photo albums, we sipped homemade wine (Kelli's dad made it; it's a hobby of his), and yahoctis (spiced raw hamburger spread on crackers). I've never had the nerve to snack on raw hamburger, but... this year I decided to try a few new things. And you know, it was pretty darn tasty! My dad would be proud!

I even had whiskey for the first time too! Whiskey and Coke. And I liked that as well! I've become a fan of rum ever since Kelli introduced me to it a few months ago, but whiskey is a new one for me. I'm not a drinker; alcohol and I are merely acquaintances, but I'm finding that the discovery of said beverages is quite an interesting adventure. I still don't care for the taste of beer, but even that is something I'm much more willing to try these days.

On Friday, Kelli and I joined her mother's side of the family for their Christmas gathering out at the farm -- the original [Kelli's family] homestead. It was nestled neatly into a small valley among the high hilly ridges just outside of Tomah. Quite a quaint and beautiful area too -- all covered in white snow. Very pretty. I'll post pictures on Facebook in a little while as well.

On Saturday, we hung out at Kelli's sister's house... with Kelli's two little nephews (one is four years old, the other is a few months old), her parents-in-law, and Kelli's grandmother (her dad's mother). It was great fun -- watching the older nephew play with his new Legos, and bounce around cheerfully sharing his enjoyment at the new toys gracing the living room floor! I even played around with some of the Legos myself. I'm nearly 30-years-old, and yet, Legos are still cool. Go figure!

Early the next morning (as in... 5am!), Kelli and I packed her car with the gifts we'd received over the course of our travels, our luggage, etc, and set out driving back east across Wisconsin to her apartment in Brillion. We arrived safely (while watching the sun rise on the horizon in front of us), and then after a few hours (and a much-appreciated nap) in Brillion, Kelli dropped me off at the "bus station" in Manitowoc. We waited an extra hour for the bus to arrive (it was EXTREMELY late!), and then I was on my way back south to Milwaukee.

I arrived here in the Brew City at 6:15pm on Sunday, caught my city bus west across town, and was home in my own apartment not long after. I ate a little something for dinner -- not much, but something -- and was in bed before too late. I slept for over nine hours -- catching up on sleep, and returning to my regular sleep routine.

And that was my Christmas and New Years adventure this year (2009). Pretty enjoyable! It was a lot of travel, but definitely worth it. Memories like that are always worth it. Now I'm back in Milwaukee. Back to business as usual. And ready for the start of a whole new year.

How was YOUR Holiday season? :)

-Jon

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