This year, thanks to my brother's wedding and my parents who paid for our tickets, we spent two weeks over Christmas and New Year's in Colorado. We finished school on December 22nd, and early on the 23rd we boarded a plane to Frankfurt, and then finally westward towards Denver. Inevitably, we arrived tired and hungry, but nothing that hitting the ground running couldn't solve: we had dinner at Chick-fil-a that evening and in the morning I met up with my friend Kristen who was in town from Alaska for a short time and who I hadn't seen for two years. It was Christmas Eve, so we (okay, mostly Danny) wrapped up all the presents we brought with us, and in the afternoon Eric and Megan came over for church and dinner.
It actually snowed! White Christmases are definitely not a given in my parents' part of Colorado, so aside from the frigid temperatures, it was a real treat for us!
After opening stockings and eating breakfast and then opening presents, we headed down to Colorado Springs to spend the day at my aunt and uncle's house. Because of the close proximity of Eric and Megan's wedding to Christmas, my aunt, uncle, and cousins from Texas were in town as well, which made this year extra special! Last year it was just the Colorado crew so with us honorary Spaniards plus the Texans around, it was a fun, full house with plenty of games played, appetizers and cookies eaten, and even a flute and piano concert from my cousin Michaela and Uncle John!
Christmas night Danny and I spent with his family, opening presents and catching up a bit. It works out well that both my aunt and uncle and Danny's parents live in Colorado Springs so we could see everybody on Christmas, at least for a bit. We left late Monday morning and met my aunt, uncle, and cousins from Texas in Denver for a pizza lunch, cello concert by my cousin, Paul, and an afternoon of bowling.
On Tuesday, we made up for the fact that we arrived just barely 24 hours before Christmas and did all kinds of Christmas-esque things, like blew up an inflatable Santa in the yard, made and frosted Christmas cookies, had dinner at Olive Garden (what? you don't do this at Christmastime? I'd actually been having cravings since the month or so before...) and drove around and looked at Christmas lights, despite the fact that it was two days after Christmas. There's just something about Christmas in America (especially when that's what you grew up with) that is so festive and traditional and iconic and it was really, really special to get to be a part of some of it this year.
And then, the day(s) arrived! The day before the wedding was busy with the wedding rehearsal followed by the lunch (and our yearly quota of Mexican food since Spain surprisingly doesn't really deliver in this area) and then the arrival of more out-of-town family!
We had dinner with my aunts, uncles, and Grandma from the Chicago area, and pecan pie and lemon bars to celebrate my grandma's birthday! So special to not only get to celebrate Eric and Megan's wedding, but also my grandma's birthday altogether.
On the night before the wedding, Eric and many of his groomsmen stayed the night at my parents' house and I stayed the night with Megan and some of her bridesmaids at Megan and Eric's apartment. In the morning (WEDDING DAY!!) my mom brought over breakfast for us, and then I came back over to my parents' to have my aunts do my hair and make up (with the make up I haven't used since my wedding four years ago! I didn't apply it then, and I wasn't much use this time either...thank goodness for stylish and helpful aunts who willingly helped out their clueless niece!). And it was pretty special to get that extra time with them and my grandma who was around, too. My mom saw how well it went and even hopped into the hot seat herself when I was finished!
I rode over to the venue with Megan and the bridesmaids, where we finished getting ready, had lunch, and took pictures before the ceremony began at 4pm. I didn't take out my camera much during the day, and when I did the pictures often didn't turn out as I might have hoped, so thank goodness they had a professional photographer.
What you might not see in the pictures below, though, is that it was a really fun and special day and unless you were there, or have seen the entire professional album, I was basically crying the whole time (but so were a few other people who will remain unnamed, so I didn't feel totally alone in my emotion). It was really and truly an honor to get to be a part of the wedding, to get to be "behind the scenes" and spend so much of the day with Eric and Megan (okay, mostly Megan - I wasn't sneaking into the groom's quarters), and to get to share in their joy. It was also a treat to see my uncles go crazy, just CRAZY! on the dance floor and see so many friends and family who came for the big event, all in one room - aren't weddings so fun?! In a few small ways, it felt a little like our own, which made it feel pretty awesome (although, admittedly, I'm biased of course!).
The day after the wedding, despite going on a pretty minimal amount of sleep, we met up with my cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents at their hotel not too far from the wedding venue. We visited while they ate breakfast, and spent the rest of the morning playing games and hanging out - Chess and Monopoly for the fellas and Rack-o and Skip-Bo for the ladies (and a few uncles who jumped in here and there).
On New Year's Eve evening, Danny and I and my parents bundled up and went to downtown Ft. Collins to wander around, look in the shops, eat some treats, and wander through some festive gardens. Turns out many places close early on New Year's Eve (who knew? not me!) so the looking in the shops part didn't really happen, but all the rest was great and made us especially thankful for my parents' heated car and home as it was CHILLY that evening. All throughout the break we realized that our definition of cold here in Spain has become a bit...weak...because it was legitimately cold in Colorado: it even got down to -15° Fahrenheit one morning.
On New Year's Day, in between all of the, ahem, football (one of the many things I'm not missing while living in Spain!) Danny, my mom, and I put together an afternoon tea. Danny and I have had fun learning to make scones topped with jam and cream while living in Madrid, and going out for afternoon tea together is one of our favorite things to do, so we wanted to finally put the tea set he gave me (multiple years back on my birthday) to good use this break and see what others thought of our creations. I made cucumber sandwiches, Danny and my mom oversaw the scones and cream, and we brought some sweets back from Spain to round things out at the end. If I do say so myself, it was a very nice afternoon, even if my dad called the scones biscuits and suggested that they were best without the cream.
And on Monday I think it became real that we were going back home (when we're in Madrid we refer to going to the U.S. as "going home" as when we're in the U.S. we refer to going back to Madrid as "going home"...I guess we've officially confused ourselves and established two homes for ourselves, at least at this point in time. One where we're from and where our families are, and one where we live and work now - in a very real sense both are home to us) in just four days, so we spent all of Monday running errands and shopping and making returns and exchanges and starting to pack. We don't know when we'll be back in the U.S. next, so I felt a certain urgency to "get it right" and pack enough of the things I know we can't find in Madrid for...a while.
On Monday night and Tuesday during the day we celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary - saving those pictures and such for another post - but we also played a few games...a treat for us since we have one board game, one dice game, and one card game here in Madrid: it's slim pickings here, so we love all the selection when we go back to the U.S.!
After our anniversary celebration, we drove on to Colorado Springs and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with Danny's parents. We helped his dad make dinner and then ate with his parents. Later on in the evening Danny's brother and his family arrived, and stayed on for the rest of our visit...which was supposed to be through Thursday afternoon, but then a good bit of snow was predicted for the area, so we made the hard decision to leave a day early. The drive back to my parents was still terrible: it took four hours instead of the usual hour and forty minutes in good weather/traffic.
And on Thursday, when it was freezing (actually, well below freezing, but...) we worked on organizing ourselves for our trek back to Madrid, we had lunch and spent some time at Danny's brother's, and even bundled up for some sledding (short and sweet it was, but we did it!). In between driving 20 minutes just to buy a pair of socks (for me, Danny would like me to note), Danny and I decided to made homemade pot pies for dinner (check out the recipe here - it's one of our very favorites!) and thankfully they were pretty much as good as we remembered.
On our final day we did our last loads of laundry (oh the glory that are dryers!!!!!), packed everything up, ate more pot pies with some homemade mac and cheese my mom just pulled out of nowhere, and just like that, we were back at the airport.
What a great two weeks it was! It was cold, yes, but so special to be around for Christmas and Eric and Megan's wedding and get to see so much family. Thanks to everyone who made our visit so memorable and fun - we'll remember this trip fondly for a long time to come :)