Zelda (a white Jack Russell terrier) with reindeer antlers
Z was almost tolerant of the reindeer antlers. Almost.

My holidays lasted a week.

On the first day of Christmas, aka last Saturday, my dad and stepmom and I went out to dinner, their Christmas present from me.

On the second day of Christmas, we went to church, then to brunch with my sister and her kids, as well as R and his girlfriend, M. Afterward, we exchanged small presents. I gave everyone colorful socks; my dad and stepmom gave everyone t-shirts with funny sayings. Mine’s in my laundry basket, because I wore it immediately, but it says something like, “Camping, How to spend lots of money to live like a homeless person.” It makes me laugh.

On the third day of Christmas, I came back to Sanford and had Christmas dinner and presents with Christina & co. Dinner was fantastic: a maple-glazed pork tenderloin stuffed with a sausage & cranberry dressing; roasted brussels sprouts with pecans and gorgonzola; roasted root vegetables; and a chocolate mousse for dessert. And the presents were perfect. Christina and I exchanged (among other things) identical boxes. Mine to her contained Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries; hers to me contained Ticket to Ride: Europe. Great minds!

On the fourth day of Christmas (aka Christmas Eve), I drove to Port Charlotte, to M’s mother’s house. I meant to get there in time to make Christmas cookies, and we really did have time, but I don’t think we did. The days have started to blur together a little bit — did we play games? Did we sit around and talk? I think there was still some present wrapping underway, but in the late afternoon, we went to church.

The church service had the nicest beginning — a guitar player was leading people in Christmas carols as people arrived, in a Christmas singalong. Very fun. The church service itself included music; kids dressed as angels and shepherds and wise men; the reading of the Christmas story (distracted by wondering what in the world that angel was trying to do — adjust another angel’s wings, I think) and candles lit while singing Silent Night. In other words, the perfect Christmas Eve service. Afterwards, we went to an open house at M’s mom’s friend’s house. More food, fun conversation, and it was the second year in a row that I’d been there on Christmas Eve, so felt nicely familiar.

On the fifth day of Christmas, we exchanged presents in the morning, then baked and cooked. M & I made sugar cookies — I got to do the fun parts, she got to do all the work. Mid-afternoon, we went to another friend’s house for dinner. It was full-on feasting — pear salad with pecans and cheese, followed by turkey, ham, green beans, asparagus, potato salad, baked sweet potatoes, baked potatoes, cranberry chutney, bread, and homemade chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream for dessert. Oh, also, really cute and delicious antipasto skewers for appetizers. I obviously didn’t eat any of the things that included gluten, but I’m going to call that fortunate: it’s going to make the post-holiday, trying-to-fit-into-my-clothing-again period that little bit easier!

In the evening — and possibly at some other point, too — maybe earlier in the day, maybe on Christmas Eve? — we played Ticket to Ride: Europe. And then more Ticket to Ride. And possibly some Five Crowns, too.

On the sixth day of Christmas. aka Boxing Day, I intended to head back to Sanford. M’s mom, Renee, is a wonderful, welcoming and generous hostess, but M’s dog, Millie, is (potentially) unwilling to share her space with another dog. That meant Z had spent a fair amount of time alone in the van, which is hard on her. But in the morning, before I planned to leave, we all went for a really nice walk around a local pond. Lots of birds, including something pink that might have been a roseate spoonbill. In the afternoon, we tried a small experiment and let Z be on the lanai while Millie stayed in the house. After some initial excitement on Millie’s part, she settled down, so we spent the afternoon on the lanai, playing Ticket to Ride, with Z with us, Millie watching from inside. I wound up staying long enough that I would have had to drive in the dark, so I spent another night in Port Charlotte. It was a really nice day — cozy and fun and comfortable. A nice walk, some beautiful birds, some fun games, and terrific company.

On the seventh day of Christmas, after one last morning game of Ticket to Ride, I did leave. It was a grueling drive: lots of traffic, off-and-on rain. The kind where the timer on the maps app keeps getting later instead of earlier, so that after you’ve been driving for an hour, your arrival time is later than when you started. Ugh. But when I finally got back to Sanford, Christina was making bacon tacos with tomatillo salsa. Yum! (It’s not really bacon, but pork belly that’s simmered for hours. Totally delicious.) After dinner, we played Ticket to Ride, the US version this time.

All in all, two thumbs up for this Christmas. And now it’s time to get back to work. But first, maybe some bacon taco leftovers for breakfast. They’re excellent topped with an egg.

Happy New Year!