We flew to Virginia the evening of Friday December 21st, and we got to stay there for a whole 10 days, and then we flew home on January 1st. It was a wonderful trip, and with flights so expensive we are glad we were able to get so much work off and stay there for so long.
A couple weeks before we went to VA my grandmother was diagnosed with leukemia. This meant that Anthony and Jana were going to head to California for Christmas after all. Luckily we were able to spend one day with them on the east coast before the headed west. We exchanged Christmas gifts, I got an awesome "Desserts in Jars" cookbook from them, that I am so excited to try out! We ate lunch at a place called Golden King, which was Chinese food - but a little bit more authentic than what we were used to. I got Sesame Chicken, so it was safe because the chicken was breaded and fried, but chicken with rice and egg ended up not being a fried rice, but instead something like egg drop soup poured on top of rice. What an adventure. Ethan also decided to order duck, for who knows what reason. Afterwards we headed to the bowling alley. We played 2 games, and I think Anthony won both. My score was I think 99 the first game and 100 the second, at least I improved. What is impressive with Anthony winning is he, Jana and I let Zoe bowl 2 or 3 times each during our games. We ended the day with dinner at the Berretts with the whole gang.
Dain flew in on Saturday and Ash flew in Sunday morning. We went to Taylor and Amanda's single's ward for church because they were doing a musical number. Taylor sang a beautiful rendition of "A Cradle in Bethlehem" while Amanda played the piano.
Christmas Eve was spent finishing up errands, getting last minute gifts and stocking stuffers, wrapping presents and playing games. Also Dain and Ash went to DC and got engaged! As a spin off of Nate and my Christmas Eve lunch tradition we went to Wegmann's and everyone got to eat whatever they wanted to eat. I chose a chicken burrito where I got to pick what I put inside, everyone else got Asian food. For Christmas Eve dinner Sandi made her traditional clam chowder and we supplemented that with pizza from Papa Johns.
Before we went to VA I asked Nate about their family traditions. My family didn't have a lot of traditions but there are a few things we did special, and I wanted to know what to expect that would be different.
Growing up, Christmas morning we would wake up and make some orange juice, fresh squeezed if possible, and start some Pillsbury cinnamon rolls baking, while those were cooking we all went in and opened our stockings. We then ate the cinnamon rolls with our fresh squeezed OJ. Then we would go back to our gifts. I really like opening up presents one at a time, and thankfully the Berretts do that as well - but at my house we would take turns picking a gift from under the tree, but it might not be a gift for ourselves, so then we would give the gift to whoever it was for and watch them open it, we usually picked in order or oldest to youngest, sometimes vice versa. The Berretts separate things into piles for each person, and then go around youngest to oldest opening a present from your pile. I felt very spoiled after opening all our gifts Christmas morning - plus we had opened the gifts from my parents at our house before we left. I got everything I wanted for Christmas plus some. And I loved seeing Nate open the gifts I got for him. Also the Berrett brothers draw names for who they are going to give a gift to for Christmas. I have been included into the drawing, and this year Ash was included as well. I gave to Dain this year, and I hope that he liked what I got him - a fly fishing book about the best places to fish before you die. I think the rest of the day was enjoyed being lazy, eating our stocking spoils, and napping. We skyped with my family in California as well, to wish them a Merry Christmas too. Dinner was spent with Debbie and Pete and we ate ham, potato casserole, rolls, and I don't remember what other goodies - but it was all delicious.
I don't remember which day was which for other parts of the trip. But we all went and saw Les Miserables together, which I personally thought was fantastic. Yes the singing wasn't all perfect, and it was very different from the Broadway versions - but I thought it was so heartfelt. And Anne Hathaway is really growing on me with her performance in that and Dark Knight Rises.
We spent one day in DC. We went to Ford's theater and saw the bed Lincoln was carried to and died in and a museum about a lot of the civil rights stuff that was going on at the time. We went to the Post Office Pavillion and had lunch and then took the elevator up to the top of the bell tower and enjoyed the wind and the view. We went to the National Archives and saw the Magna Carta, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, etc. Then we split up to go to different museums. Nate, Ethan and I headed to the Natural History museum, which was so cool. It reminded me of the Natural History museum in Vienna. They also had this awesome nature photography exhibit with really cool pictures of animals, and trees and volcanoes and things and each picture said the camera that was used and what settings too.
We went to Antietam another day - can you believe that the Berrett brothers had never been. The ground was all snow covered, but it was very cool to walk around and see where the battles took place. We climbed a watch tower that had a cool view of a lot of the area and we saw Burnside Bridge. (Ps. I went to Antietam with my family when I was about 12 but I don't remember much of it). Then we met the Berrett parents and Ethan in Harper's Ferry where we had lunch and walked around the town. On the way home we stopped at the DC temple to see the beautiful lights and snap a few photos. They had a cool exhibit inside the visitor center with a bunch of nativities from different countries. Some day I will have my own German candle pyramid.
Three or four Christmases ago they started a tradition of making a ginger bread house together, one year they made their home, one year a barn. This year we decided to make a castle tower with rapunzel at the top. The tower even included sugar glass windows. Rapunzels long hair was made of licorice and there were penguins repelling down her hair.
One evening Nate and I went to dinner with Nate's best friend Jesse and his girlfriend Ali at an Italian place. We both ordered pizza and I enjoyed hearing stories about Nate's crazy highschool years, while Nate enjoyed hearing what all his friends were up to.
We drove to Bears Den for a cold lunch spent by the fire eating roasted hot dogs and smores and chippies.
Of course other things were enjoyed while we were there too - lots of mario cart, super smash brothers, wii sword fights, foosball, walks to the Potomac River, ping pong, waaaay too much food, ice cream, sugar cookies and more, bananagrams, movies and more. Oh and of course the boys played basketball a few times too.
It was a fantastic trip and we are so grateful to Dain and Ash for planning a spring/summer wedding so we know it won't be too long till we can see them all again.