Merry Christmas Eve, friends!

We're spending the day mostly at home, with some candy cane coffee and plans to go to our church's Christmas Eve service tonight. We celebrated an early Christmas with Nicholas' side of the family (as you'll read about below) and we'll celebrate with my side from afar, so it's a quieter affair this year.

On December 13, we flew out to visit his family. The nearest large airport to NW Indiana is Chicago, so we always fly into O'Hare. His mom and sister picked us up from the airport and we headed downtown for a fun afternoon in the city. It was rather mild weather, but I was still glad that Nicholas gave me a (generous) Christmas gift early of a warm winter coat. I wore it nearly every day on the trip and it is so cozy.

In Chicago, we found parking, and walked to Intelligentsia for coffee. Between the four of us, we ordered two coffees, a mocha, a peppermint mocha, and a few sweet treats, since we hadn't had lunch just yet. Mochas at Intelligentsia are something we get whenever we visit Chicago. From there, we walked to Chriskindlmarket to browse all the lovely handmade items, buy some roasted nuts for snacking, and walk past wafts of all the German food and gluehwein. We browsed around Macy's after that, to warm up a bit. And then, we walked to another favorite, Quartino, for an early supper. After supper, we drove home in the rain to greet two wiggly puppies and for hot showers after a long day.

On Friday, we woke up to have pancakes for breakfast with all of us together, since Nicholas' dad had gotten home late that night from a business trip. We drank candy cane coffee and watched The Price is Right. Later that day, we went out for lunch and coffee at Uptown Cafe. I ordered my classic childhood favorite, a BLT, on gluten-free bread and then we went bowling! I hadn't been bowling in years, but we've been talking about it more recently as Nicholas' reminisces about his time on the high school bowling team. It was a fun afternoon, and I bowled my best game ever. I rarely, if ever, break 100, so this was exciting for me. Then we drove back to the house for dinner and games at home.

The following morning, we woke up and I wrapped Christmas gifts with Nicholas and my sister-in-law, Katelyn, since we planned to exchange our early Christmas gifts later that evening. We watched Christmas with the Kranks and took turns holding a dog that really wanted to be on somebody's lap. That afternoon, we drove to Grandpa DeVries' home, and it's such a nice drive. We had afternoon coffee and snacks, and saw Grandpa and aunts and uncles we hadn't seen in over two years (far too long, my goodness)! The sky boasted the most beautiful sunset and Nicholas, Katelyn, and I snuck the dogs out for a quick off-leash walk for some fresh air and to get a better look at the sky. We drove home after dark, looking at Christmas lights, and feeling sleepy in the car.

That night, we played Phase 10 and had my sister-in-law's stir fry for dinner. Later that night, a good friend from Purdue (me) and childhood (Katelyn and Nicholas) stopped by with her boyfriend to visit. It was so nice to see you, Angelica

Sunday morning, it was so foggy and frosty and beautiful. We went to the 8:15 service at church, and then we went out for brunch before heading home for naps (some of us) and the Bears' game (others of us). We took the dogs on a walk on a new-to-us trail during the golden hour. It 's a beautiful trail and so pretty, but I should have dressed warmer! That evening, we finished our round of Phase 10 and went to bed early, which also felt like a treat.

On Monday, our last full day, Nicholas and woke up extra early to watch The Tourist while puppies slept on our laps and I knit a few rows on my Christmas socks, and gradually everyone joined us. And when everyone got up/got home from the YMCA, we had breakfast, and then drove to Fluid for tea/coffee. Later that day, we ran a few errands, and then had a really nice dinner out. When we got home, we watched a documentary that my brother introduced me and Nicholas to on our recent trip to MN, Meru.

On Tuesday, the day of our departure, Nicholas and I made Pannukakku for breakfast. Pannukakku is a Finnish baked pancake, somewhat similar in concept to a Dutch baby and a longtime favorite of mine. Per usual, I omitted the blueberry sauce and the lemon zest, and we opted to eat it with syrup or jam spread on top. We played Ticket to Ride over breakfast. Then, after packing up, eating a quick lunch, and taking the puppies for one more walk, we piled into the car to drive to the airport.

Other favorite parts of the trip:

  • listening to Christmas music in the car
  • a tiny, sleeping puppy on our bed every night
  • naps on the couch with a different sleeping puppy
  • snacking on Texas Sheet cake, chips, crackers and cheese, and clementines
  • drinking coffee out of Christmas mugs
  • opening thoughtful/generous gifts from family
  • enjoying the ease of travel with real, adult luggage for the first time
  • knitting on Christmas socks here and there
  • holding Nicholas' hand and feeling so thankful he's my husband
  • early bedtimes and early mornings
  • listening to advent studies with the family
  • admiring blue skies and big trees, foggy, moody mornings
  • heart talks with and borrowing clothes from my sister-in-law
  • downtown Chicago and downtown Valparaiso decorated for Christmas
  • wearing new wooly, cozy slippers

It was a delightful trip, with lots of downtime, fresh air, good food, and family time. It was wonderful for us two Midwestern-born people to spend some of our Christmas season up north. And as we flew back to Austin, we were already looking forward to the time we can return to both MN and Indiana to see our families again.

Whatever your Christmas Eve looks like, I'm praying its a joyful one with plenty of rest and time celebrating the birth of Jesus with people you love! And I wanted to share an excerpt from a William Cowper hymn first written in 1615, called God Moves in a Mysterious Way, featured in one of the advent studies:

You fearful saints fresh courage take
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and will break
In blessings on your head.