Holiday Hustle

Ah, the holidays. Parties and family events, cooking and gorging eating, gift shopping, giving and getting, Christmas card photos, trees and sugarplums. What's not to love? This year we were excited to celebrate with family again, after spending last Christmas in Scotland (which was covered in snow at this time of year and very cold!). As usual when we travel from Houston to Dallas for the seasonal festivities, our schedule is a jam-packed hodge podge of events from start to finish. This particular year, we crammed five Christmases and two get-togethers into four days! We started off the night we arrived in town with a trip out to our friend's home. They had recently had a second baby, he was adorable! It was good to catch up with the couple as well since we hadn't seen them much since Scotland.

Our official holiday began the next day with Christmas eve brunch at the husband's parent's house. We all exchange wonderful gifts, and it was special for us to finally give items we'd gathered while abroad, like beersteins, Venetian glass wine stoppers, a rosary from the Vatican and so on. I always look forward to getting the latest kitchen gadgets and cookware from my MIL and Mike got the new Call of Duty: Black Ops game from his brother, which is currently blasting from our TV.

A cozy blanket, a fireplace and gunfire.... what's more relaxing than that?

Christmas eve brunch with the Bells.

The Bell men trying to alight the new flying helicopter!

From there, it was on to Christmas eve dinner with my mom and step-dad and my siblings. We had a fantastic time, my younger brother Ben was even in town from California and all four of us kids (two boys, two girls) were together for the first time in years! Needless to say, our mom was elated. :)

My sister (in red), me and my two brothers rolling sugarplums on Christmas eve.

My adorable niece, Abby.

My older brother's kiddos opening their gifts from Aunt Amber & Uncle Mike!
We gave them letterboxes - every item in each box began with the first letter of their name.
On Christmas, we kicked things off with breakfast in Ft. Worth with all my extended family like cousins, aunts and uncles. We also do a White Elephant gift exchange, everyone brings fantastic items and you pick a wrapped gift and open it up for all to see. Once a gift has been stolen twice, the third recipient gets to keep it! We always look forward to it, and the game works especially well when everyone brings fun gifts. It also helps alleviate the stress of buying for each person.

Sabrina, me and baby Abby. Love her Santa bib!

My grandma and my mom, who is reading Grandma her Christmas letter I wrote.

Christmas afternoon was spent at the movies, something I haven't done in years. We always have so many events to get to and so little time that it's hard to find any leisurely moments during the holidays anymore! Although I must digress, because last year in Scotland my mom and step-dad came to visit us (as well as our friend Stephen) and we went to see Sherlock Holmes on Christmas day. However, needless to say, our schedule was a bit more open then since we were across the pond. ;)

But back to our movie, we went to see True Grit and loved it! Jeff Bridges did a great job as the main character and it was such a witty film. Christmas evening, we went to look at Christmas lights with my dad and his wife (and my younger brother), complete with hot teas and cappuccinos I picked up on the way over! We put on the Pandora Christmas music channel and drove through North Dallas, admiring all the gorgeous Italian-style homes and beautiful holiday decorations. Afterward, we went back to my dad's house for some popcorn, red velvet cupcakes I'd brought over and the original version of True Grit. It was pretty neat to see it with John Wayne after having seen the remake earlier that day. It stayed pretty true to the authenticity!

My dad, Cynthia and Ben on our Christmas light tour!

Me and the husband enjoying all the holiday lights in Dallas.

Sunday was our final leg of Christmas, we attended church that morning then drove out to Sulphur Springs for a gathering with Mike's extended family. It was our first time to see many of them in two years and so it was exciting to catch up, see the newest baby and give gifts to all the kiddos.

Me, Grandma Street and Mike.

Sunday evening was spent at our friends Jill and Wes' place, they were sweet enough to host all the "girls" for the evening with chili, drinks and games. The "girls" consists of my swim team more and less, we all know each other from our years spent in synchronized swimming together and over the years husbands and boyfriends have been added to the mix. It's a great group, the type where you all bring out the best in each other and share a sort of support system that never has to be spoken of, it's just always there. Unfortunately, though, we were too busy enjoying ourselves that night to get any pictures of the group! Two of the girls are newly engaged, one is recently married and several didn't get to make it - but it was a fun time and so good to see everyone.

Monday morning after a check-up trip to the vet for my cat, Snowball, we loaded up and headed out. This time we packed up our two dogs to bring home with us!!! We'd been waiting for that moment for a loooong while. Shiner and Jersey are the loves of our lives, we adore both dogs and they are such amazing pets. It's been difficult to leave them behind during our various trips to Dallas over the past couple months - they've been staying with the husband's parents since we left for Scotland. We are so grateful that they've been so well cared for, but it was time for mom and dad to bring the doggies home at last! My Avalanche was completely loaded down, inside and out, with everything we could possibly squeeze in (which included two cats and two giant dogs!). We've stored random things at all of our parent's houses and friend's places in Houston and it's taking a while to collect it all and just even remember who has what.

Now we are home, over half the house is unpacked, the painting is completely done and we even hosted a New Year's party! 2011 has started off just grand, and I can't wait to share more of it with all of you...

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