Holiday Road Tripping

Taking a road trip on the dreaded day before Thanksgiving, declared the WORST travel day of the year by the media and anyone who has ever been silly enough to travel on this day, I keep reminding myself why this journey must take place.  The rainbow at the end of the trip.  Mom.  She’s worth it.  She’s our pot of gold.

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Living in Seattle, far away from my family, I haven’t spent a holiday with my Mom and Sister in ages, perhaps 20 years or so.  This is the year to break that spell.  While spending Thanksgiving away from my kids for the first time will be tough, off to Indiana we will go.  Planes, trains and automobiles lay ahead of us today and I’m not just quoting a fav holiday movie title.  LITERALLY, we will Uber, fly, hop on the local C line from Midway to downtown Chicago, drag our asses and luggage through the streets of Chicago to the South Shore Line and tonight at 9 p.m. arrive at South Bend airport where my sister will pick us up, if and when we arrive alive.  Our travel day will take as long to go from Seattle to South Bend as what we experienced travelling back and forth from Seattle to China, which was an easy 14-hour day at most, spent in Business Class being wined and dined with a nap in between and some movies throughout to keep me entertained.  Ahhh…I miss those travel days for sure. 

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But, I surely don’t have it as bad as the fellow traveler observed this morning at 7:30 AM at the wine bar at SEATAC sipping a champagne tasting flight while waiting for her journey.  How bad do your relatives have to be in order to do that?  I walked by, did a double take and told Thom to sneak a picture.  WTF!  Not a wee nip to get you going or a gentle hair of the dog to get over a bad night but 3 full glasses of the bubbly for breakfast.  Wow.

Reading news articles about the apprehension many people face over the possibility of interactions with dysfunctional family members, not often seen or heard from but present at the holiday dinner table, always makes me appreciate our family more.   We don’t fight over who cooks the meal or what is included in the menu. Thom and I will both be very happy to just show up and enjoy what is beautifully presented to us by my sis and her husband, both very good cooks.  We will let them have it and instead go see my Mom and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade the morning of Thanksgiving before the big meal.  It will bring back great memories of our time spent in NYC during the holidays, wandering the parade route in 2012, seeing the ginormous balloons up close and personal.  Everyone should do that one time in their lives.  It was special.

We spent this past weekend cooking up an early Thanksgiving feast so that our son and his girlfriend could partake in our family favorites of stuffing, corn casserole, green bean casserole, yeast rolls, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes and, of course, turkey.  A carbolicious buffet that sent me straight into a coma after watching the new Ghostbusters movie with the kids.  Not the best movie I’ve seen lately but at least it didn’t have any embarrassing scenes that weren’t family friendly.  Even at 23, my son is very protective of me and filters what he considers “appropriate” material to watch with his mother.  When I expressed that Sausage Party looked like a fun film, he shuddered and declared that there was NO WAY we should watch that together.  What could be so bad about a film featuring a party where you cook and serve sausages?  In speaking with a co-worker who experienced the film, she had to agree with my son.  Apparently, I was spared an embarrassing and tragic movie-watching experience.

During and after our hectic travel day, I am concentrating on being calm, relaxed and tolerant.  Here’s hoping the Trump supporters and neo-Nazi confederate flag-waving Midwesterners stay out of our paths.  I grew up in Indiana amidst the KKK so I’m just being realistic of that demographic being real, not that I’m saying that of all Hoosiers, though they are a conservative bunch in general.  Blinders on and diligent to avoid politics at all costs this weekend, Thom and I both need at least a brief respite from the despair and terror we experience daily reading Twitter or watching the news.  Now, it’s all about family and love and kindness.  Happy Thanksgiving all!

Boise Charm-Home for the Holidays

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Mia and I taking a walk near our cottage in Boise

While we are lucky most of the year to enjoy our beautiful place in Seattle overlooking the water, when we come home for the holidays to our house in Boise, we get to revel in family time and experience the rolling foothills, bitter cold (brrrrr!) and snow.  Seriously, I brought warm clothes but you can’t dress in enough layers to cope with this frozen tundra crap.  And, while Thom is squiring us around town in our cool red Kia that we keep here, the squirrel community has already declined, with more surely to meet their early demise, as seemingly endless supplies of the squirrel population have some freaky death wish to run right in front of our car ALL THE TIME!  In speaking with David Sedaris at his recent Seattle talk at Benroya Hall, we explained our daughter lived in Boise, Idaho, to which he reacted by saying something to the effect that the squirrels were stalking him when he visited Boise and seriously, WTF!  Yep, the squirrels here are plentiful and crazy but Thom may have a personal hand in changing that status.  David, you’ll be safe to return to Boise soon to give an inspiring reading.

Braving the cold at the Bowls fundraiser-Thom & I, James & Hannah and Mia
Braving the cold at the Bowls fundraiser-Thom & I, James & Hannah and Mia

The day after Thanksgiving, we bundled up to go to the Idaho Food Bank’s fundraiser, Bowls, that is a tradition for many Boise families.  People throughout the year decorate bowls and donate them for this event where you spend $10 to buy a bowl and then get soup donated from local restaurants.  Last year, with temps in the 40’s, it was lovely and we lingered, eating our soup outside.  This year, we quickly bought bowls, snagged some soup and ran home to eat.  Still, we participated and all proceeds went to a worthy charity, that raised $39,000 last year at this event. Here’s hoping they exceeded that this year!

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Our cute little cottage

Our social life in Boise differs greatly from Seattle because we are Mia-focused here, soaking up the cutest darling in the world while we can.  To say she is the most intelligent, beautiful child would be a vast understatement.  She loves to dance and play hide and seek with her Gi Gi and Nai Nai.  Mostly on-the-go, sometimes she will consent to sit down to color or read a story.  Before the cold wave hit, we enjoyed the park by our house, creeping and crawling through and under tunnels, going up hills and swinging endlessly.

We rent our cottage in Boise most of the year to short term VRBO clients and it’s so popular we had to book it out to use ourselves while we are here in December. Close to the trails and Hyde Park social scene, I can actually walk to the local office here and work remote.  With only 800 sq ft, it is a bit small if we moved here full time in the future so we are dreaming of an extension that would allow us to have a family room, modern bathroom and fireplace.  I know that clawfoot bathtubs seem romantic and vintage but they are a royal pain to climb in and out of.  Death by clawfoot tub-it could happen.  Give me a multi-head walk in shower…please!  I have to admit I’ve never stepped into the basement where the w/d is located, down a steep set of fold down stairs so that will have to be addressed too in a remodel–no crawling down into creepy space to do laundry for me.  Thom, at this point, is calling me out that I rarely do the laundry and, while that is very true, there may be a time when I have to so plan we must for that rare scenario.

Mia and I enjoying the park
Mia and I enjoying the park

While we don’t have the urban walks, night clubs, professional sports teams and frequent concert opportunities like we do in Seattle, we did enjoy going to a Boise State basketball game last week that they won handily and plan on trying out a jazz club soon.  I found an indie bookstore that was just enchanting in downtown Boise, which is a vibrant place full of shops and restaurants.  They even have a vinyl store that, thankfully, Thom has yet to check out.  The biggest difference is that with the frigid temps, it discourages the long walks that we love so much.  Definitely have to be a gym rat here to stay in shape indoors in the long winter months.  Oh well, you adjust and, while we might not love the weather, we do love our family and they are the first priority come snow or rain.  So, it’s happy holidays, Boise-style, which means enjoying the Idaho Potato Drop (from a crane downtown) to celebrate New Year’s Eve.  Yes, really.  When in Idaho….

Fa…la…la…la…la…ho…ho…ho..Santa, Shanghai Style

Santa customsSanta has left the North Pole and landed in Shanghai—who knew???   Going through Customs as a “Foreigner”, Santa was decked out in full-on “ready for the sleigh” uniform, pausing only briefly to gather his personal belongings with us mere mortals at baggage carousel #26 before heading out to take care of the holiday needs of all the good little boys & girls in China.  Hope he ate his Wheaties cause there are LOTS of folks needing some holiday magic here!

Santa Baggage

Embracing the holiday spirit despite warm weather and crushing pollution, many retail establishments have hung their Christmas stockings with care.  Decorated trees and Santa images abound in almost every venue.  Bing Crosby croons on the Muzak. We decided on an artificial tree because we are unsure of the true “freshness” of the $200 US trees that are sold here, primarily for the expat demographic.  We envisioned a pile of pine needles greeting us upon our return home one day so are playing it safe with fake.  The China versions of Christmas trees come in many different colors-gold and red are popular “lucky” colors here….buying a boring green one just doesn’t seem local.

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At Boxing Cat Brewery, they are even embracing one of the more crazy traditions from the U.S. by having an Ugly Sweater Christmas Party with Santa & his elves hosting with “free flow” drinks—I’m guessing Santa will probably be very merry at this party on Christmas Eve so the sleigh may be weaving a little on the way back to the North Pole. Ho, Ho, Ho!  Rudolph with your nose so bright, let’s try to fly through that funny hole in the Financial Center tonight!

Ugly Swtr Party

At only 250 RMB per adult, the Ugly Sweater Party is one of the cheaper ways to celebrate Christmas Eve here in Shanghai.   Shanghai likes to eat and the holidays provide a great opportunity to put on lavish spreads.  I’ve never seen so many Christmas dinner offers by all the restaurants in town—running anywhere from 300-1200RMB and more for a multi-course meal.   Not sure what we’ll be doing on Christmas this year but it’s guaranteed to be an adventure and a new experience..Santa, Shanghai Style!