The Holidays

It’s been a long while since I’ve posted, but that’s because life had been filled with fun events and I haven’t had time to write about it. So no apologies for the lack of posting this time. πŸ™‚

Here’s my recap of the holidays from November to January.

Thanksgiving was low key again this year. It’s hard to get excited about Thanksgiving when you have to work that day and there’s no family to visit. November is the hardest month for me because of this very thing, but this year it was eased a bit by having a really nice meal at home. We opted out of the expensive dinner out (it’s about $30 a person) and I made a simple meal at home with just our favorites. We bought sliced turkey from the international store, I made homemade mashed potatoes and steamed carrots, followed by some boxed stuffing and finally gravy. It’s funny how fast you can make a thanksgiving dinner and how much it tastes like home. I am a little nostalgic that Paul will not grow up with drives to his extended family’s house and long days of eating, but he has other valuable memories of family. We have a lot to be thankful for.

The following Sunday, we met up with friends of ours for a special friends-giving. It is their last year here, as well as for another family who attended so it was especially meaningful. I made my mom’s recipe for stuffing (it was really good) and tried my hand at my first apple pie (it was really, really good). Paul was in a terrible mood, so we didn’t linger too long but it was really nice to be in the company of friends who feel like family.

Last year, while my brother was in town, we hosted a Christmas party and invited all kinds of people. We ordered beer from our friend Joe who owns Bionic Brew and made an epic amount of delicious nachos. Since Donnie and I have started to keg our own beer, we’d been playing around with the idea of having a party to share beer with our friends. We knew we’d be out of town for Christmas so we wouldn’t be able to do a second Christmas party, so we decided on a ‘Beer-giving’ party. It was on the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend (in between our Thanksgiving celebrations) and we had two kegs of beer to share.

We invited work people, soccer people, beer people, and friends brought friends. We didn’t do any nachos this year, but had enough snacks to accompany the beer. We called it Beer-Giving because if you came to the party you were asked to bring two of your favorite craft beers to share and then when you left, you took one (or two) you haven’t tried.

It was a blast, and I think everybody who came had fun. I miss throwing pool parties, so it was nice to host a get together for the people we care about here. Needless to say, the two kegs were gone by the end of the party. πŸ™‚

The week after that, we had two fun events. First, we met up with the homebrewers at Joe’s place, and I got to hand out my shirts. The guys were all super pleased, and I was happy that my project was a success. It was great to meet up with them before we left on our extended break. The second event was my friend Laura’s birthday. We had fun dancing and drinking tequila, however the recovery from that was not so fun. I will be avoiding tequila for a few months now.

Shortly after that, we departed Shenzhen for our favorite city in the world, Munich! We had booked to stay in a rather expensive, but large house outside of the city, so we were looking forward to the space and countryside (and hopefully snow!)

Our flights out there were easy, we connected through Moscow, and we arrived in Munich ready for some sleep. Ron and Angie were waiting for us at the airport and we (especially Paul) were overjoyed to see them. We picked up our rental van and headed to an airport hotel in Freising. Donnie and I woke up rested, and after a yummy euro breakfast, we walked down to the cute city center while Paul hung out with Grammy and Papa. There was an adorable Christmas market where we picked up some ornaments and a hat for Donnie (which he didn’t really end up needing). We headed back to the airport to do some grocery shopping (everything else is closed on Sundays). Then we took the drive out to our place, which was about an hour from the airport.

Our house was beautiful, large and modern. It wasn’t centrally located at all, but there was a village nearby and it was only 30 minutes to Munich city center. It had three floors, a magnificent kitchen, and a workout room with sauna! We settled in, and made some dinner and discussed plans for the week.

We had a week until Christmas, but I hadn’t done any Christmas shopping at all, and we needed to set up a tree at some point. So we made plans to do the tree first, then go into town for a shopping trip. It’s amazing how fast the days go, especially when you’re fighting jet lag. Donnie and his parents got a tree the next day, after a trip to Ikea to get some Christmas supplies. Paul and I stayed home to nap and watch Christmas movies. But they came home with a perfect little tree and plenty of supplies to decorate. So we got to work that night. πŸ™‚ It was a really festive evening with music and wine and Paul doing most of the work.

The next day we loaded up in the van to do some Christmas shopping in the Marienplatz. We split up with Ron and Angie, and traded off with Paul so we each could get our shopping done. We met up at our favorite place, the Augustiner restaurant. It wasn’t too crowded since it was still a week before Christmas, which was nice to spread out and eat our delicious meal. All of us were suffering from jet lag, and shopping exhaustion so we headed back to the house after that. It was a lovely day, and we made a large dent in our shopping, but Donnie and I had to make another trip out there on our own before Christmas.

We are creatures of habit, as you may have guessed by our travel to Munich at least once a year and we like to go back to places we like. This trip was all about taking people back to places we love. It did Β not disappoint, but I didn’t really get to see anything new. (Which is ok) So our first repeat was to go to Sunday mass at Andechs Kloster. This is our third time there, so we were just like the regulars! Paul didn’t make it through mass (it’s in German and a little slow), so I took him to the same playground we played at when we were there in the summer of 2014. Then we met up with the family for lunch on the same patio too. It was cold, but clear and was a fabulous day.

The following day we took a long drive out to Pilzen, in the Czech Republic to meet up with Ron and Angie’s exchange ‘son’ who lives near Prague. We hadn’t seen him since our epic backpacking trip in 2010, and they hadn’t seen him in even longer. We picked Pilzen to meet because Donnie, Paul and I had traveled there in 2012 and loved it. It’s also the home of Pilsner Urquell. After a long, cold drive, we found Jan and his family in the main square of Pilzen and settled in for a long meal and catching up. He is still a practicing musician, but now owns a bar, and has a wife and child. It was neat to see how much has changed since we last saw him. After our warm gulasch and delicious desserts, we headed over to tour the brewery. Again, Donnie and I had done this before, but it was one of our favorites and Pilsner Urquell is a favorite beer of Ron’s. The tour did not disappoint, with lots of history and interactive activities for Paul to stay entertained. We got back on the road and were home by 10pm. It was a long, but satisfying day.

The next few days were a blur of shopping, running, and cooking. But I was counting down the days until the arrival of my sister and her boyfriend, Ben. They arrived on the morning of Christmas Eve, so Donnie and I picked them up and whisked them to the Marienplatz for the last day of the Christmas market. Ben was under the weather so we didn’t stay long, but before we left, we grabbed another meal at the Augustiner. My heart was so happy to see her. We got home and they settled in, and Andie was gracious enough to indulge my wrapping party even though all she wanted to do was sleep. We set out our cookies for Santa, wished Paul a good sleep and then finished wrapping and were in bed by a reasonable time. It was a really great day. One of my favorites of the year.

Christmas day was super low key, we had a leisurely morning and opened presents slowly. We have a mixed tradition of how to open presents. As a kid, we used to take turns opening, so that the present opening lasted longer even though there weren’t many presents and you got to see everybody’s reaction to each gift (which is really the best part of Christmas). Donnie just got a pile of his presents and opened them all at once. So we’ve compromised, we open our presents one at a time, but Paul gets to open one in between each gift. (Me, Paul, Donnie, Paul, Angie, Paul…etc you get the idea) That keeps Paul occupied and satisfies my tradition of one present at a time. We called our parents, and wished everybody a happy holiday. Andie and I snuck away for a run in our new running jackets and then watched a Christmas favorite, Muppet Christmas Carol. Of course the day ended with our traditional Christmas Curry. It was a really good Christmas, but I always miss my mom on days like this. She was there in spirit and can hopefully join us next year.

The next day, we all got up super early and took the long way to Neuschwanstein Castle. It should have only been an hour and a half drive, but ended up being close to three hours. 😦 We got there and the line was epic! Donnie and I stood in line for over an hour to get tickets for Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein. We’d never been in Hohenshwangau so it was new for us, only Andie and Ben went to the second castle. It was a bright, clear, cold day and we had time to explore before our tours. The castles are so cool, romantic and interesting. Donnie and I hiked up with Ben and Andie for the start of their tour and stopped for a beer on the way down at a place we went to on our honeymoon. It was another long day, but getting to share a place like that with my sis is worth any long day. πŸ™‚

The next day was Paul’s 5th birthday! I wanted to spend the day at home, but Paul wanted to go sledding so we had another early day in the car and headed out to another old favorite, the Zugspitze. We drove to the train and jumped on the train up to the top. It’s a longish ride and I was grumpy, but once we got to the top I could see it was worth it. Paul was so happy. He got to play in the snow, sled with Donnie and had the most beautiful hot chocolate I’ve ever seen. It was another clear day, and we sat outside in the sun to watch Paul go up and down the hill with his sled. We met up with Ben and Andie at the top, then took the packed gondola back down to the car. We were all tired (Paul slept the whole way back), but we rallied and I made a cake for his birthday. His request this year was a blue cake with blue frosting, and he stuck a marshmallow in the middle. We had his requested dinner of meatballs and macaroni and cheese, then opened presents and had cake. It was a really great birthday, and he’s already saying he wants to go back next year. Me too kid, me too.

The days were going quickly now, but we took a day of rest and did some grocery shopping (we found an amazing one). The next day Andie and I spent a few hours shopping in the city together, funny that our sister day fell on our brother’s 30th birthday. But we thought of him, especially when he emailed us sweet responses to his birthday surprise. Donnie and Ben spent that day at Dachau and a museum about the Nazis. Sort of different from our day….lol. Β We had one more full day together, so we decided it was time to get back in the car…

The next morning we all piled in the car for our last side trip, to Salzburg. This was another trip Donnie and I had made in 2014, but we felt like it was one everybody would enjoy. We drove out to the salt mine and had lunch there while we waited. I wasn’t feeling so hot, but it rose my spirits to see how much everybody enjoyed the tour including the slides down deeper into the mine. Donnie and Paul even went twice! From there we drove over to the Steigl Brewery for another short tour and dinner. It was fun, although I don’t think everybody likes beer tours as much as me and Donnie. πŸ™‚ Unfortunately the 90 minute drive home turned into a terrible 3 hour ordeal because of a horrific traffic jam that left us at a stand still for over an hour. Boo. Not a great way to end the day, but we got home safely and watched some Netflix together before going to bed.

The next day was low key and a little bit sad. We hung out at home and tried to make plans, but everything was full. It was New Year’s Eve, but I wasn’t feeling up to going out and there were no places with spots for us. We opted for hanging out at home and binged watched a show we’d been watching together. Then it was time to take Andie and Ben to their airport hotel (their flight left ridiculously early). I hate saying goodbye, especially to my sister, but it was made just a little easier this time because I will see her in April for our Dad’s wedding. I love her so much and I’m so proud of her. She’s really never far from me anyway, since she’s in my heart and we can text whenever we want. Still, it’s never easy. Donnie and I drove home in the terrible weather and packed up our stuff, since we were leaving the next morning as well, just much later than Andie.

The morning we left was uneventful, we got to the airport early, checked in and had time to eat and relax at the airport before our flight. Our flight to HK from Moscow was terrible, they put us on the plane and then didn’t depart for over 2 hours, adding to our already really long flight. We made it home after 24 hours of travel and I was never so happy to see my bed. πŸ™‚

I love having Christmas break in Germany, and I’m hoping to do the same next year, but we’ll see. It’s also been a long while since we’ve been home for Christmas.

It was hard to get back into routine when we got home, jet lag was harder than we thought it would be. Lots of late nights and early mornings, but we survived the week and it was Donnie’s birthday that Saturday. He didn’t really want a big deal, so we went for a run on the bay as a family, Paul and I made him a pink cake (from scratch!), then met up with some friends at Bionic that night. It was a simple, but nice day.

The following week was our staff winter party. It’s our third year going, and this year it had the most amount of people I’ve seen at one of them. They put us in a bigger room! It was a little strange for me to look around and see so many faces I didn’t know, but comforting to be a part of a solid group of friends. We socialized, got some food (it was a little limited this year), but I spent most of the time people watching. Our friends were headed out to KTV afterwards, and we had every intention of meeting up with them, but we wanted to get some beer from Bionic first (we were in the neighborhood). Β The walk there was a little farther than we thought, and I totally forgot my umbrella at the party.

When we arrived we took a seat at the picnic tables and it promptly started to pour down rain. We figured we’d have a beer or two then meet up with our friends, but the rain didn’t let up. Hoss, the owner of the beer place next door, Peko, came and sat with us and we chatted for a while. We ended up staying for 3 hours! Hoss made us some awesome hot wings, and we ordered some grilled street food from the place next door and just enjoyed our time. I felt a little guilty about not meeting up, but really I had a great time with Donnie and Hoss.

So that’s the update. The holidays are mostly over (except for Chinese New Year) and we are setting up some new routines for the coming weeks. We bought a juicer and have been experimenting with juicing, and are trying to get back to running (I ran 25 miles last week!). But some cold weather has hit us, and it’s hard to get out there in the cold and rain. But we’ll get there.

We went on a family date to see the new Star Wars Movie, and it was really good! I tried to rewatch the old ones, but kept falling asleep, but this one kept my attention the whole time. Paul has been really interested in it lately, and it was super cool to share the experience with him. I think we’ll go to some more movies together. πŸ™‚

And finally a belated Christmas gift has arrived. My new scooter! Donnie special ordered it from a company in Shanghai and it is perfect! I took it out for a test drive yesterday, but the rain and cold makes it no fun to ride. I’m looking forward to a warmer, sunny day in the near future. Hehe. πŸ™‚

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In two weeks we leave to go to Seoul to see the Bates family, and I’m excited for another break. I hope everybody had a lovely holiday season, and know that we love and miss you all. I’m looking forward to the coming months when I’ll get to see loved ones and friendly faces. πŸ™‚

Love to all. J xxo

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