Holiday Shutdown: Vacation Recap

My firm always shuts down for the week between Christmas and New Year’s, so rather than two weekend recaps, I’ll recap the full holiday break. It was lazy and wonderful!

Christmas vacation partially kicked off on Thursday, December 20th, with my mom’s arrival at Denver Airport. She was here to stay for ten days, and I was excited! I usually spend Thanksgiving in Colorado and Christmas in New York, but this year I reversed that pattern.

When my mom arrived, we had a quiet night Thursday: just the two of us, some Chinese takeout, and a movie. The last time my mom was in Colorado for Christmas was 2016, and we binge watched the Gilmore Girls revival on Netflix. This year, I saw my first ever Hallmark holiday movie last month (actually, come to find out it was a Netflix movie – Christmas with a View), and I loved it, so I decided to introduce my mom to the magic of cheesy holiday romance movies. And what better choice than A Christmas Prince, last year’s Netflix holiday hit? My mom fell asleep during it, but I attribute that more to the time zone change than the movie itself :) And, we ended up watching the sequel last night (December 30th) before she headed home, with her getting very into it. Success!

Chinese_Food_and_Chill

Yes, I do know this is not what Netflix and chill means.

Friday I had a ton of work to knock out before I could be off work for good (my company shuts down entirely between Christmas and New Year’s), and it was a race to get it all done before 5pm, when I figured most people would put their out of office messages up. I actually kept working till 6:30pm and didn’t finish everything I wanted to get done, but told myself the break would be a great chance to catch up. And… here it is almost 2019 and I still haven’t done that. Guess I know how I’ll be spending New Year’s Day! Oops.

But Friday night had a hard stop, as I was going to a neighbor’s holiday party that night. In fact, Mom and I had holiday parties literally every night through Christmas Day, sometimes multiple in the same day! Friday night’s shindig was being held by neighbors I had met only once (while campaigning), but we both knew a lot of people at the party and it was great to get to know our hosts better as well. It was fabulous!

Saturday morning kicked off with a visit to Chuze Fitness, where I ran into my friend Heather at the Team Training class. The workout was great, and I was also excited to get to relax in the hydromassage chairs after – they are amazing. Post-massage, Heather and I headed to Whole Foods for coffee (well, kombucha for me since I wasn’t in the mood for coffee) and to catch up. I was so excited to be able to have the time for an impromptu catch up like this! Sometimes I schedule myself so tightly that when an opportunity like this arises, I have to say no; it felt great to have some room in my schedule and be able to make an impulse decision to catch up with a good friend.

After a shower at home and a little bit more downtime, Mom and I headed over to my friend Cathryn’s house for a very special surprise. Our friend Jen is a breast cancer survivor who was diagnosed on Christmas Eve in 2015 (and she selflessly kept that news to herself rather than ruin her family’s Christmas). After undergoing a double mastectomy and receiving a heart-shaped pillow to make wearing a seatbelt more comfortable, she founded a charity in hopes of making 75 similar pillows for other patients. Today, JWILL Pink Village has given away more than 1200 pillows to hospitals around the country. I’ve written before about attending and hosting “pillow parties” to help make these, and for Christmas, several of Jen’s friends decided we’d have a “secret online pillow party”, where we spent the holiday season making as many pillows as possible. Our hope was to make 75 pillows to present to Jen on Christmas Eve, in honor of her original goal; however, we ended up with more than 110 completed pillows and dozens more in various stages of completion.

Pillow_Party_Work_Tracker

Not surprising that Cathryn and I work for the same company, is it? Her kanban board was awesome for tracking this month!

So on Saturday, we put all the pillows in a gigantic box with a gigantic bow, which we loaded into Cathryn’s husband’s truck. Then, we rang Jen’s doorbell, sang an altered version of the 12 Days of Christmas (“And a heart pillow in a pear tree”), and presented her with a small decoy gift… right before the truck rolled up with the 100 pillows. Jen cried, which made me (and several others) cry, and it was just so nice to be able to give to Jen what she’s worked so hard to give to others!

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Posing for a pic with all the pillows!

From Jen’s house, we were off to Flatirons Church – our first Christmas service of the three we planned to attend over the break. A few years ago, I “church shopped” around town and hit on Flatirons as a church that I wanted to attend regularly. This year, unfortunately, I broke that, and probably haven’t been to church in six months… oops! But I still wanted to check out Flatirons for Christmas, even though I knew it wouldn’t be my mom’s favorite, since she likes the traditional Catholic masses. So on Christmas Eve, we planned to attend a slightly-more-traditional (but still non-denominational) service at Calvary Bible Church in Boulder, where my childhood friend Ben is the worship pastor. And then if we weren’t totally churched-out from those, we’d go to a Catholic Mass on Christmas Day. (Spoiler: two Christmas services turned out to be plenty, so we didn’t go to that one.)

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My church had set up this photo station that included fake snow falling (even though you can’t really see it in the photo). How cute!

After Flatirons, we headed home post-haste so I could throw together this healthy deep dish cookie pie for a holiday dessert party we were attending that night at my friend Heather’s house. (Different Heather than the one I saw at the gym.) The recipe came together really fast – basically just throw it all in a food processor – and when we tasted it later, we found that it was pretty good, too. Although it was made with chickpeas instead of flour, you really couldn’t tell once it was baked, so it was a nice way to break up the decadence of all the holiday desserts and drinks.

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Posing for a pic with my girlfriends at the dessert party. We all went different directions with the “holiday festive” dress code :)

Speaking of holiday desserts, Sunday was my annual cookie party! I loved attending Theodora‘s cookie swap when I lived in New York City, and especially love now having the space to host it myself :) This year, although I was hosting it the day before Christmas Eve, over 60 people were RSVPed to come… and I was excited for both the company and the cookies!

Every year, I can never figure out what to serve at the party. Should it just be the cookies? Or should I make savory food to help cut the sugar? Fortunately, my blog has helped me remember how I’ve done it successfully in years past, and this year I made this pull-apart garlic roll wreath, a Christmas tree cheese ball (I use that recipe but follow another recipe’s directive to decorate the tree with parsley instead of olives), these slow cooker turkey cranberry meatballs (I used my own homemade cranberry sauce), and a veggie tray arranged to look like a Christmas wreath. The food was a hit, and for once, I remembered to take photos!

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The Christmas tree cheese ball came out so pretty, and is surprisingly easy to make!

Garlic_Pull_Apart_Wreath

This is also easy, and was gone in no time. I probably should have made two!

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And for a healthy option… a veggie platter and spinach yogurt dip.

Well, I remembered to take pics of everything except the cookies. Whoops! With everyone coming and going (and of course, my big hairy audacious goal to try one of every variety), I totally forgot to take a photo of the big beautiful table of cookies. We ended up filling my entire dining table and needing to take over the buffet as well for more cookies! It was truly an extravaganza, and with all those varieties, I did not quite make my goal to have one of everything. (But I still had plenty, trust me.)

All those cookies meant I needed to hit the gym on Monday morning… but I wasn’t in the mood for a class. Instead, I mixed it up: 15 minutes on the stair stepper (which I am starting to really like – it’s slow but it gets me sweating hard!), 15 minutes on the rower (I’m trying to do this more since I really suck at it), and 15 minutes of battle ropes and TRX. That’s very different than my usual solo gym workout (treadmill followed by dumbbells), but it was a nice change.

And after a quick shower and change at home, Mom and I were into our pajamas and ready for my friend Sarah’s Christmas Eve brunch. Sarah hosts this party every year, but I’ve never made it before because I’m usually not in Colorado on Christmas Eve. I was so excited to get to go, and Sarah didn’t disappoint – tons of friends, tons of great food and drinks, and an overall lovely time relaxing and goofing off with the people I love :)

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Pajama party brunch! This is such a fun tradition.

From there, it was home to change out of our PJs and into real Christmas Eve outfits, then up to Boulder for church. In addition to seeing Ben and his lovely wife Katie, we also saw my neighborhood friend Elisabeth and her family there – and promised her we’d be seeing her again soon the following weekend for her early-New-Year’s party.

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Ben and Katie leading worship at Calvary’s candlelight Christmas service… so pretty!

After church, mom and I closed out Christmas Eve with a lovely party at my friend Kevin’s house in Denver, and then it was off to bed to wait for Santa…

Twas_The_Night_Before_Christmas

’twas the night before Christmas…

In our house, though, there were no kids, and no urgency to open gifts. That meant my mom and I had a nice leisurely morning lounging around and making breakfast before we got around to present time. I even went for a quick run around the neighborhood, and bumped into one of the other Trustees and his family, trying out their new archery set at Wildflower Park!

It was so nice to have such an unplanned do-what-we-want morning, and that relaxed attitude carried through to the evening, when I was putting together a full Christmas dinner for five people (a friend was bringing his parents over). I cooked a light version of my Thanksgiving dinner menu (turkey, mashed potatoes, honey-orange glazed carrots, brussel sprouts salad, roasted broccoli, and caramel pumpkin gingersnap cheesecake), and it was really easy. I’m thrilled with how my Thanksgiving spreadsheet has saved me so much stress over the years for holiday meals! Even when I swap out the dishes, I’ve gotten good at adapting my timeline so it will all come together and be ready to go onto the table at the same time.

Christmas_Dinner_Spreadsheet

Here’s a look at my timeline. I got the turkey into the oven 15 minutes earlier than expected, so that shifted everything else forward.

The next morning, I headed off to Chuze Fitness for a Team Training workout to help me feel better after all those indulgences, and loved every second of it… stay tuned for a full review of this gym and the details of this particular workout, which I plan to do again on my own. Wednesday night, though, it was right back to holiday food and drink: my mom headed to Murphy’s Tap House with two of my neighbors, to enjoy beer, burgers, and live Celtic music (which was really cool). I vowed that one of these days I’d get back to healthy eating…

…and Thursday was (mostly) the day. We didn’t have anything planned for the day, and it was lovely to relax at home, throw together a meal of leftovers, and go to bed early. That was a lot of what I did on this vacation, I guess, but it was needed!

Especially when Friday was pretty jam-packed. I had a Trustee meeting in the morning at Panera (yum!), and from there, my mom and I headed up to Boulder to volunteer for a few hours with the International Rescue Committee, helping a family of refugees move from one apartment to another. As soon as we were done there, we took our own car of stuff out to Minturn, so I could show my mom my new mountain house there. Even though I’ve already stayed half a dozen nights in the first month of ownership, I still feel like there’s stuff to bring every time I go! But it’s starting to feel like home up there, and I am loving how easy it is to sneak in a few ski turns without having to commit a full day to skiing.

Speaking of which – Friday I snuck in about 90 minutes of skiing at Breckenridge on our way up to Vail, and Saturday morning I was able to do two hours at Vail before my fingers and toes were too cold to keep going. It was only 7°F at the base of the mountain, and presumably even colder on the actual trails! I got new Heli Hestra mittens for Christmas that I’m really happy with, but even they can’t combat my poor circulation in those kind of crazy cold temps!

In between skiing on Friday and Saturday, I was really excited to show my mom my new house, and also take her out in the town of Minturn. For dinner, we headed to The Stache for panino night, and both of us loved the cozy atmosphere and hearty delicious food. With three gigantic sandwiches (one is big enough to be a meal!) for just $10, this is my go-to spot on Friday nights… lots of leftovers!

Paninos_The_Stache

Each of these is basically a whole pizza rolled up. So much food!

After my freezing ski adventure Saturday morning, we headed back to Denver, arriving just in time for my friend Scott’s college football watch party. I went to college with Scott and hadn’t talked to him in years when his wife Cathy (who also went to Cornell) came to join one of my get-to-know-the-candidate runs for my campaign this fall. Turns out, they live just a few miles from me! (Though not in Superior.) While my mom was visiting this fall, she hurt her knee, and ended up seeing Cathy for physical therapy, so they got to be friends too. We had a great time heading over to their beautiful home to catch up more and kick back with some yummy food!

We had to leave a little early, though, as we had another party to go to – my friend Elisabeth’s early New Year’s open house. I told you this break was full of parties! Elisabeth lives in Superior, so I assumed I’d probably know someone there besides her and her family, and I was right – there were a lot of neighbors I hadn’t seen since Election Day, so it was great to toast the new year and my victory with them.

And to round out Saturday night, more food: we went to Delvickio’s for a quiet Italian dinner (my mom’s favorite). Even though we skied, went to two parties, and went out to dinner, we still got home reasonably early, and I was happy for the good night’s sleep Saturday night… 10 hours!

Sunday morning we were able to laze around, make steel cut oats for breakfast, and finally force ourselves to shower and get dressed by noon. One of my Christmas presents to my mom was tickets to a show, so I was excited to take her to see Xanadu at the Denver Center!

Xanadu_Denver_Center

The retro style of this poster perfectly captures the spirit of the show.

Xanadu was at the Garner Galleria Theater, a venue at the Denver Center to which I had never been. It turned out to be cabaret-style, with servers coming by with drinks, and I loved the intimate atmosphere. The show itself wasn’t my favorite at first (I’m not a huge fan of retro musicals, and this one was definitely kind of cheesy), but it grew on me and by the end I was really glad I had seen it. It was also a lovely way to wrap up my mom’s last day in Denver… at least for this visit. She’ll be coming again next month, and I’m looking forward to it! This visit had its ups and downs, so I’m especially thrilled she’ll be back so soon.

Monday brought not only mom’s departure to Albany, but a lot of snow. It started snowing mid-morning around 9am, and only got heavier throughout the day. By the time I was ready to head out for New Year’s Eve festivities, it was a full-on storm! I was still dressing up for New Year’s, but had chosen to wear a jumpsuit rather than a dress, and I like to think the pants made my outfit winter appropriate ;)

So where to in this fancy outfit? Just down the street, to the house concert my friends the Simons were hosting. This seemed like the absolute perfect way to spend New Year’s: dressed up, with friends and champagne and a fabulous band, but still low-key and in the neighborhood! And the musical guests, Steve Everett and Bradley Rhodes, did not disappoint. Steve was hysterical in his patter between sets, and Brad had a really rich gravel-y voice that was unique and heart melting. The two of them were an unbeatable combo, and while they usually perform solo, I hope they do more together!

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We snagged a quick pic with Steve after the show! I love that at Sounds of Simon you can actually get to know the artists.

The concert was supposed to end with a toast at 11:30pm, but instead, that got pushed till it was actually midnight, and Brad and Steve kept playing all the way till 1am. While I am usually early-to-bed-early-to-rise, I had no problem staying up for this outstanding show, with nary a yawn. It definitely set me back a bit on New Year’s Day to be up so late, but at the time, I was loving it! And, it helped me get a jumpstart on one of my New Year’s resolutions: to see a live performance (music, theater, or dance) every month in 2019. Check one off the list!

I hope you too had a merry Christmas and happy new year :)

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