Christmas in Ohio
December 29, 2018: As we have mentioned in several posts, our goal for 2018 was to celebrate Thanksgiving with Russ’ side and Christmas with my side of the family. After our eyes popped out of our heads while looking at the price of flights from Albuquerque to several airports in Ohio, we decided we would have to take a long road trip instead. We weren’t able to be quite as flexible with our flight times due to our commitment of a couple weeks of scheduled training for our workamping job with Jackson Hewitt. This put our date of departure as December 22nd, which happened to be the Saturday before Christmas, so there shouldn’t have been anyone else on the roads, right! Baahaahaa! We certainly weren’t looking forward to the long drive, during the holidays and threat of winter weather, so when my parents said they wanted to gift us with an airline tickets to Ohio, we were very thankful. So instead of heading west on I-40 that day, we headed toward the Albuquerque Sunport which is just about 15 minutes from the Albuquerque KOA.
Being that we had never been to the ABQ airport, we don’t have much to base it on, but we had a feeling it was a little busier than a normal Saturday morning. After all, it was one of the busiest travel days of the year. Our travels were uneventful and on time (really all you can ask for during holiday travel) and before we knew it we were giving hugs to my parents at the Dayton International Airport. This airport was also a first and just as equally busy. We stopped for a late lunch in Dayton before heading to my parent’s house in Waldo. Yup, I do know where Waldo is! My sister, her hubby Jim and my nephew Ben arrived the same day after a pretty good drive in from Chicago. We finished the evening with dinner, chatting and games!
While it is easy to let the craziness of holiday preparations take away from the true beauty of holiday celebrations, that wasn’t the case for us this year. We kept things very relaxed and spent lots of time just hanging out together. The closest we got to holiday hustle and bustle was a frenzy of wrapping gifts for Ben and unlike for most, gift wrapping is fun to me. The evening of the 24th, we enjoyed a lovely Christmas Eve service. Walking into Christmas Eve service with my entire family in tow always brings back great memories of Christmas’ past and the traditions we had as kids. It was the start of all of our Christmas celebrations and I was able to relate with excitement Ben had for the holiday festivities to come.
Christmas morning was extra relaxing and extra tasty when my mom pulled her signature broiled grapefruit out of the oven. My favorite and quickly moving up on the list of Russ’ favorites too - at least on Christmas morning! Ben was a patient little one, waiting for all of us boring adults to finish breakfast before digging into his stack of presents. I didn’t even have to teach Ben the trick of sorting through his stocking before any adults woke up and putting it back the way you found it, as his momma had already taught him that one. That was Krista and I’s signature move on Christmas morning. My mom was the best stocking stuffer, so it was always filed with all sorts of happy. As we watched the joyful six year old open his gifts, we shared in the joy chatting about the “experiences” the adults had asked St. Nick and Mrs. Claus for. For at least ten years, instead of gifting material things that none of us likely need, each of us chose something we would like to “do”. Our 2018 “Experience” of choice was a hot air balloon ride, being that we will be spending the first part of 2019 in the “Hot Air Balloon Capital of the World.” This allows us to celebrate Christmas throughout the year and share photos with each other when we cash in on our experiences. It’s been a joy and less to worry about in figuring out what to gift each other each year.
We headed to my cousin’s house in the evening for some more family Christmas celebrations. Being together with aunts, uncles and cousins doesn’t happen nearly enough, but we are thankful for each time it occurs. We sat around enjoying yummy food and sharing laughter over board & card games all together in the same room. We told stories we had heard time and time again, but still make us smile, and even some new ones that made us laugh until our tummies hurt. Sorry that it had to be at the expense of Scott falling out of car as a young little lad. Thanks Shawn & Vicki for the lovely invite - we had a great time catching up with all of you and your sweet pups too!
I was not only lucky enough to grow up with family I like to spend the holidays with, but friends I like to do that with as well. These aren’t just any friends, but friends that have been so since Kindergarten. That’s a long time, but we won’t talk about how many actual years it has been. The four amigas - Megan, Amy, Shannon and I - headed for a fiesta at a local Mexican restaurant and talked, laughed and reminisced for several hours. So glad we were able to coordinate a get-together, considering we live in three different states.
As is our usual, we always scope out good coffee and tasty gluten free food during our travels. Being that we are often in the mid-Ohio area, it wasn’t unusual when a gluten free bakery in Columbus showed up on our social media accounts. It didn’t take long following them on Instagram before Russ declared a must-visit on our next trip to Ohio. It was either that or I would have to live with him drooling on his phone while scrolling through Bake Me Happy photos. You see this wasn’t simply a bakery serving up a few gluten free items, this was an entire gluten free bakery. I know, I know — that might make some of you turn the other way - imagining an entire bakery case filled with crumbly, cardboard-like gluten free sweet treats, but hold out for me here. Quite the contrary. As the six of walked in, with only one gluten sensitive guy in our presence, we all left in awe and wanting more. They were running on a limited menu, being that it was right after the holiday, which was good considering my dad opted to order “one of everything”! Believe me, none of us objected! Our favorite was their take on nostalgic treats - Oatmeal Creme Pies, Ding Dongs, Twinkies, Zebra Cakes SnoBalls, etc. These are the sweet treats that Russ remembers as a kid as being the best and while the actual Little Debbie or Tasty Cake type treats would be very likely disappointing with our more mature palettes, these homemade renditions were delightful! We have had a myriad of gluten free treats, but so far Bake Me Happy tops our list of best gluten free bakeries on the planet. I love their approach stated on their website, “Gluten free feels better for lots of people. We believe it should taste better for all people.” I can honestly say as a gluten-enjoying wife of a gluten-free husband, they nailed it!
Having taken the advice of my Aunt Vick to always eat dessert first, we left the bakery and headed to a nearby restaurant in the German Village neighborhood of Columbus. Don’t worry, nearly all of the gluten free goodies we ordered, were packaged up in to-go boxes for later gluttony. We had just done a pre-lunch, dessert-sampler type session. Just to get the taste buds up and working, consider it like stretching before a run.
Barcelona, nestled in the heart of German Village, is a Spanish-fusion restaurant serving a bustling menu with tapas, paellas and tasty lunch combinations. After some debating and collaborating, we placed our order and very much enjoyed our decisions. Things like chilled peach soup, Spanish olives, paella and green garbanzo bean hummus danced around the table as we enjoyed a bite here and a bite there. The atmosphere matched the culinary delights with exposed brick, stained glass windows and unique artwork. We definitely enjoyed our dining experience at Barcelona and we won’t forget to give my mom some of the credit as she was the restaurant owner’s 4th grade teacher!
We finished off our last few days in Ohio visiting with family, including my great Aunt Betty. At age 91, she is an impressive lady - still sharpening her own lawn mower blades, something I would never attempt now, let alone when I reach that age. We also snuck in some Gingerbread House decorating mostly in thanks of the super discounted after-Christmas sales.
Before we knew it, the week came to an end and if we weren’t already thankful (which we were), we were really happy to not have a 24 hour drive back to Albuquerque, rather we would be back at home in Charlie in just a few hours via a plane ride. Thanks again, Mom & Dad. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night . . .