Friday, January 11, 2008

Home for the Holidays

Home is a strange concept for us these days since “home” is in essence wherever we park our car. Most of the time that’s an adventure, though we’ll admit to a few days when we were tired and just wanted to go home, but weren’t even really sure where that would be. Anyway, we spent Christmas “at home” with Sarah’s family in Maine. It was wonderful to have such a long visit because typical holiday visits seem very rushed. We certainly kept busy during the two and a half weeks we were there, though.

The first few days of our visit were spent mostly painting Sarah’s grandmother’s living room. We had never painted a room before, so this was a new experience. Diane, a friend of Sarah’s family, graciously offered to come help us out. This was much appreciated because things that are obvious when you’ve painted once are not necessarily all that obvious the first time around. We also really enjoyed our time visiting with Diane. It turns out that painting is kind of a process. The first day was spent moving furniture (including two china cabinets) away from the walls and covering it, washing the walls (which, as it turns out, hadn’t been washed since the walls were last painted sometime in the ’80s), and priming the formerly brown trim. Day Two was spent doing a first coat of paint on the walls and trim. On the third day, we put a second coat of paint on the walls and a second and third coat of paint on the trim. We were pretty proud of our handiwork when we were done. Here are the almost-before (the trim has already been primed) and after pictures.



While we were in Maine, it snowed four times. Sarah’s Dad thinks this is a big pain because each snow storm results in several hours of work to get the driveway and the lot of his business cleared out. We took the opportunity to play in all the snow. Our first outing was with Sarah’s parents and Diane to get Christmas trees. We went hiking behind Grammy’s house. Hiking in the woods for a tree is something Sarah did as a kid but this was a new experience for Brian. It’s actually pretty tough to find a natural tree that isn’t really lopsided or with oddly spaced or sparse branches. We had a lot of fun walking around in the woods and we found trees for Sarah’s parents’ house and for Grammy’s house. Here’s Sarah cutting down a tree for her Grammy:

And here is Sarah hoisting the tree – isn’t she strong?

Somehow the trees always look better in the woods covered in snow. When we got the trees back, Grammy pointed out that hers was the scrawniest tree she’d ever seen (despite the fact that in years past she’s had some pretty scraggly trees). Brian promptly dubbed the other tree “the Barbie tree” because it was very full on the top and bottom and thin through the middle.

We also did some snowshoeing behind Grammy’s house after one of the snowstorms. Since we had left our snowshoes with our ski equipment in a friend’s garage in Boulder, Colorado, we used my parents’ snowshoes. These snowshoes are the old-fashioned wood-and-leather style that are really large. After tripping over the shoes repeatedly for a few minutes, we got the hang of it. We snowshoed for a couple of hours and took a bunch of photos along the way. Here’s the barn behind Grammy’s house:

Sarah resting in the snow:

Some views from the top of the hill behind Grammy’s house:

Brian taking in the views:

Another afternoon, we went on a family cross-country ski and snowshoe outing behind Sarah’s parents’ house. Here’s a picture of Sarah and her sister, Amy:

Sarah with Amy and Mom:

Funny pictures of Amy and Sarah’s mom trying to cross a creek on cross-country skis, which is no easy feat:

After crossing the creek, our skis were so iced up that they wouldn’t slide at all. It was like trying to snowshoe with cross-country skis on. Here Lisa, Sarah’s other sister, is scraping the ice off her Dad’s skis:

Shortly after this, Dad’s several-decades-old cross-country ski boots and bindings fell apart and left him walking, with one of his feet very cold. We eventually made it back to the main trail. Here’s Mom celebrating:

And lastly, Sarah just before getting back home:

We did lots of cooking while we were in Maine. Sarah likes to cook, and since she hasn’t had a real kitchen in several months, she was excited to have access to one for a couple of weeks. Somehow though, mention of this to her mother turned from her volunteering to cook a couple meals to her taking over the cooking while she was home. Something must have gotten lost in translation. The cooking that was the most fun was, of course, baking Christmas cookies. We spent a day with Diane baking her famous chocolate crinkle cookies and holiday-shaped sugar cookies. Every year, she bakes nine batches of each type of cookie for holiday gifts. Diane’s house is the perfect place to get into the holiday spirit because she has more holiday decorations per square inch than anyone else we know. There are decorations everywhere! The cookies were delicious. Needless to say, some of them were pillaged off the cookie sheet. Our big downfall, though, was forgetting to take some home for Sarah’s Dad. Anyone who knows him knows what a chocolate fanatic he is, so forgetting to bring him cookies was a big oversight.

Also on the cookie menu for the week were peppermint bonbon cookies. These were an experiment and turned out to be the most decadent chocolate cookies ever. Here’s Sarah showing off her creation:

If you’d like to try them out, you can find the recipe here. Brian also made these crazy multi-layered cookies, which are officially known as “Black and White Striped Cookies” but which Brian promptly renamed “Forty-three Layer Cookies”. If you’ve got some patience, there were really yummy. You can find that recipe here.

Once Lisa and Amy were both home, we decorated the house. Here’s the “Barbie tree” all decked out:

In addition to decorating the tree, the “house pets” got decorated as well.

Cary the Caribou:

Max the Moose:

Wally the Deer:

Dad and Amy chilling after decorating:

The Sunday before Christmas was busy with family Christmas parties. First was the Damon family Christmas party. Sarah’s Dad is one of nine kids, so there are always lots of people at the Damon party. It’s always fun to see aunts, uncles, and cousins that we don’t see the rest of the year. After the Damon family party, we went to Sarah’s mother’s family Christmas party. By this point, we were stuffed from potato rolls, scalloped potatoes, and a number of other yummy foods from the first party, so even though the food looked delicious, none of us ate much at the second party. The first party was all adults. By contrast, there were eleven kids under age 6 at the second party, mostly the children of Sarah’s cousins. Sarah had fun chasing them around with her camera. They all move so fast that it’s tough to get a good shot.

Nicholas posing for the camera:

Katie and Riley:

Ava and Hannah:

Bailey and Emily:

Another one of Bailey and Emily:


A bunch of the kids playing with a sand-castle kit:

On Christmas Eve, we went to mass and then to another family holiday party. Brian was a hit with the three-foot-and-under crowd, who were all sad to see him go at the end of the evening.

Brian playing with Brandon:

Brandon lounging:

Brandon and Bailey (Sarah’s twin cousins) and Acacia and Quinn (kids of one of Sarah’s cousins) posing in front of the tree:

Quinn showing off his new hat:

Sarah’s family after the party:

On Christmas morning, we got up and opened our stockings and presents. Brian thinks Sarah’s family is the slowest ever to open presents. There were plenty of presents to be opened.

Sarah and Lisa still waking up:

Lisa, Sarah, and Amy with cookies from their stockings:

Dad opening a present:

It was the year of headlamps, with Sarah, Lisa, and Mom all getting headlamps. Here’s Mom showing hers off:

Sarah and Amy showing off their new Patagonia long johns:

Sarah with her gift from Amy – a gift certificate to go tubing at a local mountain:

Later on Christmas day, Grammy and Ervin came over for Christmas dinner. After dinner, we got everyone together for a family photo:

This is my favorite “outtake” photo from the photo shoot:

The rest of the week of Christmas was spent hanging out with Sarah’s family. We went to see Charlie Wilson’s War at the movies one evening. Another day, we went tubing with Amy and Chuck. If you’ve never been, I’d highly recommend it. Each person gets their own tube. There are a couple of lanes on a hill with banked slides. A tow pulls you to the top of the hill and then you slide back down. It’s amazing how fast you go! You can slide down by yourself or form trains of tubes by holding on to the handles on someone else’s tube. At one point, all four of us went down at once. Whee! That evening, we had dinner and celebrated Christmas with Diane and Larry. This, of course, involved eating more cookies! We finished the week out with a lobster and steak dinner with Sarah’s family plus Grammy and Ervin. Though we don’t eat lobster for breakfast, lunch, and dinner while in Maine like some people seem to think, no trip to Maine would be complete without lobster.

Finally, since this seems to be the blog entry of photos, here are pictures of Sarah’s parents’ house and the surrounding area that we took during the week.

We had a great visit in Maine, but it all too quickly was time to continue on our journey. Next stop is Chicago, on our way to Colorado for the winter.

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