Monday, December 23, 2013

It's beginning...

   It is, indeed, beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Thursday night marked the start of my holidays (despite the fact that I do work today - but it's the only day this week and it's a slow work day). We had a group of friends over to celebrate Christmas together before we all headed our separate ways for the holidays. The plan was for it to be an easy casual gathering - no real fuss from me and no stress for others...shockingly this actually happened! Friends came over when they could and left when they needed to. I only put out a small amount of food (restraint!) and people brought an appropriate amount of food and drink to contribute. We ate, we talked, we laughed. The mood was cheery and relaxed. I was happy as could be to have so many wonderful friends in one place. 

   Also I tried out two new recipes that evening; 1. Crockpot Peppermint Hot Chocolate and 2. Homemade Mac and Cheese. Both were HUGE successes and I made both again that very weekend. The Mac and Cheese was such a wonderful dose of warm comfort food and the Hot Chocolate was so easy but still tasty. 

   And to make the whole thing even better, my dear friend Candace and her husband Earl were visiting and were spontaneously available for the party. Not only did they join us for the party (and were quite the hit - my friends all loved them) but then they stayed the night. The next day Earl did all the dishes with some help from Candy and I. He was speaking my love language for sure - dishes are such a pain to me! Usually Paul does them but he'd fallen asleep an hour into the party and missed most of it. Friday was the best possible start to the holidays I could have imagined. We had a snow day! Not just frost like normal, but actual snow! While it snowed we could see kids making snowmen in the school yard out back, and got to watch people trampling through the snow in the streets out front. We stayed inside, drank warm christmassy drinks and chatted. I got to catch up with Candace all morning. 

   Candace has been my friend ever since I first met her in September 2009 at Langara College when I was a Campus Minister. I had been praying for a fellow campus minister (and friend) and I was at a christian club meeting when she walked in and introduced herself as a campus minister! Those are pretty rare people to find in Canada and I knew God was answering my prayer. We connected fairly quickly after that: I introcued her to all my friends, and some of them introduced her to Earl - they started dating and fell in love, guaranteeing that she wasn't moving away back to the southern states, making me very happy. She lived with us for the last 4 months before getting married (an awesome wedding)and I got to coordinate her wedding, make her bouquets (with help) and throw her her wedding shower and stagette. It was such a joy to be such a big part of her special day. Shortly after that her and Earl moved to Ottawa to follow the dreams God had put on their heart and sadly through a twist of terrible fate we haven't seen each other since! Each time she has returned we have been out of the country - I even visited her home state, a month before she was there. We have been missing each other for far too long! To have her in my house for a full 24 hours was a HUGE treat. It felt like old times. What a treat to know that despite years apart our friendship can pick up just where we left off - a strong, deep, rewarding friendship. I've always felt so blessed to have such a friend as Candace. She's a keeper for sure!

After a couple hours of girls only conversation Earl emerged from working downstairs and Paul returned home from a morning of work (work being a loose term since his day at school involved pelting teens with snow balls and playing games) and the four of us had lunch together and then spent the afternoon chatting and playing board games. It felt like a perfect holiday day. 

Candace and Earl left by 5:30, Paul and I cuddled on the couch and watched some TV until I left for a party with some girlfriends a few blocks away. I headed home fairly early as Paul and I were planning a morning trip to Bellingham for groceries, and on the last Saturday before the holidays we wanted to ensure we hit the border nice and early. We got up at 6am and were on the road by 6:30am. We only waited 8! minutes in the border lineup and had great success at WinCo, Target, Trader Joes and Costco (USA and Canada!). We were home by 1:30 with a full car (and a 30 minute border wait on our way home). We unloaded and I got to have coffee with Rachel before heading over to my sisters house for a International Student Christmas Dinner. 

Dinner was great - it was Jenna's first solo holiday dinner and she did an awesome job! Great food, and more than enough of it. I was so proud of my little sister on Saturday. The party was great, we were visited by 2 students from Langara, 2 of our international friends from church and most of Jenna's household. It was a great night - and when my back acted up I took the opportunity to lay down on Austin's bed and got to read a bunch of stories to him, which helped fill my "cuteness" quota for a while. 

We headed home around 6:30 as my back was acting up quite a bit. We put away the rest of the groceries and then reorganized the fridge for efficiency (very important at the holidays) and then were happily catching up on week's of SNL by 8. While we watched I also worked on some iron-on's for Connor and Austin's christmas gift - personalized aprons to cook with mom and auntie. I wanted to keep them from being girly and I'm very pleased with how they turned out. All in all we enjoyed a very lazy evening at home - lounging, movies, tv, snacks, was perfect and we were so very content. 

The aprons

Sunday we had our friends Kathleen and Prakash over for breakfast. I made these Breakfast Enchiladas which were a BIG hit. I will make them again for sure. We spent another perfect holiday day with them - playing board games, chatting, and enjoying being together. 

After that our housemate Duncan brought his new girlfriend home for dinner. We were very excited to meet Kait and I can say she is lovely. We so enjoyed having her over and she let us know that Paul is famous at UBC, as she immediately recognized him from a picture of him in the History building. Woot woot. I made Man-Pleasing Chicken for dinner as well as Maple Mustard Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Parmesan Rice, salad and roasted zucchini. This maple sweet potato dish is always such a hit! I usually add diced up carrots and brussell sprouts and seriously, despite the fact that I usually hate all three of those veggies I just LOVE it. I also don't have maple in the house, but use honey instead, which works just as well. We had a great night chatting, the 6 of us. 

Then it was time to head out for a church Banquet at the Alpen club (where we had our Wedding Reception). We were all glammed up and had a wonderful time. There was caroling, and a dance party and so many friends to talk with. 

And I found an outfit twin!

Tonight is a dinner with our students at our place - we have some little gifts to give them and we wanted to celebrate one time all together. Then Paul and I head out to Surrey for Christmas with the Morgan's, and back into Vancouver Christmas day for a Mitchell & Friends christmas. It will be busy but so so so gloriously perfect. 

Merry Christmas to all! I'm off to Costco one last time - must be crazy!

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