Thursday, January 7, 2010

Christmas in Cleveland

When I left off in my last post, I was heading off to my weekend in Cleveland. Well, this year the visit was actually longer than a weekend - I stayed five days! It has been a long time since I've spent that much time there, so that was nice. It gave me plenty of time to visit with family.

I flew in Friday evening (Christmas Day). I have to say, I love flying at night. It's just more relaxing, and you are treated to sights like this out the window:

View from my window on my flight to Cleveland

It's especially beautiful at Christmas, with the added lights on the houses. Lovely.

When I got in, my mom and Aunt Rachel picked me up and took me back to my Gramps's house. I dined on some of his amazing chicken soup, and of course - CHOCOLATE. Every Christmas, Gramps makes pounds and pounds of chocolate. This year even featured a new treat: chocolate covered popcorn! It was quite tasty, actually.

A tray of chocolate left out for us to graze on all day.
Also, what's that head-first in the chocolate? Why, it's HEATHER-ON-A-STICK! She's back! And she's wearing a scarf for the cold. How smart of her.

That night many of us stayed up late talking, drinking wine, and working on another enormous crossword puzzle (like the one last year).

The next morning, the ladies (me excluded) went shopping for the ingredients for our Christmas feast. I stayed home typing up recipes - I have decided to make a cookbook of my grandmother's favorite recipes, so I was raiding her cookbooks and recipe files for some good things to take home. I also nearly electrocuted myself when I went to plug in my computer and my long necklace got caught in the plug, causing quite the burn on the power strip and burning my necklace right in half. Scary! But, I didn't die and my computer didn't fry, so all is well.

Later that afternoon Uncle Peter, Rosemary and Molly arrived, so all were accounted for. My mom and Aunt Rachel worked hard to make a delicious dinner for all of us, consisting of ham, a double batch of potato casserole (yum!), mixed vegetables, corn, baked pineapple, rolls, and pretzel salad. Delicious!

Aunt Rachel and Mom hard at work in the kitchen

Gramps slicing up the ham

While they were cooking, Molly and I took it upon ourselves to make sure everyone would be crowned for the evening. I think I explained last year that every year we have Christmas poppers to open after dinner, which usually contain a paper crown and a toy. This year there was a little twist on them (I'll get to that in a minute), but we were two poppers (so two crowns) short. So, Molly and I made two more crowns. Actually, we made THREE crowns - Heather-On-A-Stick needed one, too!

Making crowns out of tissue paper, with Heather-On-A-Stick's help

Then, we were finally ready to enjoy the delicious Christmas feast.

Festive Christmas table

Dinner time!

After dinner, it was popper time, which was especially fun this year! See, the twist was that instead of a random toy, our poppers each contained a whistle. Each whistle was numbered, and one person received a conductor's wand and "music." By pointing to each numbered whistle according to the sequence listed on the "music", you can play Christmas songs! Uncle Peter was our conductor, and didn't even need the music to lead us in beautiful song. We had a great time playing Christmas carols in between fits of laughter.

Whistling Christmas carols

Even Heather-On-A-Stick got into the whistling fun!

After dinner, it was time for the annual Paper Crowns family photo in the living room. The fun of this photo is often trying to cram all of us into a fairly small space, but this year it was pretty easy. Only 10 of 22 of us were able to make it this year, unfortunately. Uncle Nathan, Aimee, Alex, Taylor, Henry, Jackson, Eric, Heather, Gary, Jacob, Zita and Arturo - we missed you!

Family shot! Clockwise, from top left:
Rosemary, Uncle Peter, Gramps, Aunt Rachel, Uncle Mark, (Heather-On-A-Stick), me, Mom, Sarah, Molly & Adam

I love this goofy shot my mom took. It really shows our personalities (and Molly's Christmas socks) well.

After the photo, our traditional Christmas celebration continued with our gift exchange and hymn sing. Always a nice time.

Gramps opening gifts

Mom singing hymns, with Uncle Peter on the piano

That night, Molly and I stayed up entirely too late drinking wine and talking (especially considering we were getting up early for church the next morning), but we had a great time talking with each other and with my cousins Adam and Sarah. My mom and Molly's mom used to always be the ones who stayed up late with wine, so I guess the torch has been passed now!

Sunday morning we went to church early. I always love going back to that church where I grew up. It's so beautiful.

After church, Molly and I started getting ready for our fun day - we were going to the Browns game! Before we realized both Eric and Arturo would have to miss this Christmas in Cleveland, we had been planning for the four of us to go to the game. When the boys realized they wouldn't be coming, they were both pretty bummed about missing the game. So, Molly and I decided to go anyway in their honor, despite not being able to convince anyone else to join us. We had so much fun! Of course, we bundled up like crazy - we're talking tights, multiple pairs of socks, pajama pants under our jeans, tank tops, long-sleeved tops, sweaters, scarves, gloves, mittens, leg warmers, the works. If we could find it, we put it on. I think I basically wore my suitcase. Everyone thought we were just insane to go to this game in the cold, but I kept telling myself that it would not be colder than New Year's Eve in Times Square, and it definitely wouldn't be as long, so I could do it. And we had so many layers on that our legs looked like elephant legs, so we were good.

All bundled up and ready to go!

Molly and I drove Gramps's car to the Rapid Transit station near his house, then took the Rapid into Cleveland. We made our way to the stadium, bought our tickets, then started the HIKE up to our seats. We walked up ramps for basically ever, then climbed 30 steps to our seats. Wow. So, we were pretty high. But, our seats ended up being great - we had our backs to the lake with a wall behind us, so the wind off the water wasn't a factor, and we were even underneath an overhang for the lights, so when it started snowing in the third quarter we didn't even get snowed on. Of course, in the time it took us to get all the way up there, we actually missed the first Browns touchdown! But, we got to see a few more, and the Browns ended up beating the Raiders, 23-9. Go Browns! And, we stayed pretty warm! Our toes got a little cold starting in the third quarter, but overall, we were great. And the good thing about a Browns game in the cold? Your beer never gets warm! Plus, they sell souvenir hot chocolate. So, all around, a good time.

Me in front of the stadium before the game

Inside the stadium

Happy to be at the game (and finally up in our seats)!

Go Browns!

Molly demonstrating how close our seats were to the top of the stadium

Happy Browns fan cousins!

VIDEO: Browns touchdown!
I like this video because it has a little bit of everything about the experience: crazy fans, good Browns moment, quick shot of the stadium/skyline, some barking, some crazy Molly dancing, the final score, and snow. Awesome.

After the game we walked back to Tower City to pick up the Rapid (rather than just going to the nearest station) so we could enjoy the snowy city a little bit.

Tower City and Christmas Tree

Christmas decorations in the square

When we got back to the house, we were just in time for a chat with Heather! She called my mom and Mom put her on speaker phone in the dining room so we could all talk to her. It was good to hear her voice!

Mom talking to Heather on speaker phone (with the help of Heather-On-A-Stick)

The rest of the night was pretty quiet. We watched "Up" and relaxed. It was a long day! Being out in the cold like that really wears you out.

Monday was another pretty quiet day around the house. There was some instrumental caroling in the afternoon, with Mom and Aunt Rachel on piano, Uncle Peter and Rosemary on recorders, and Molly on violin. Also, it snowed all day and we got some good accumulation!

We are a very musical family.

Snowy back yard

Aunt Rachel, Uncle Mark, Adam and Sarah left that afternoon (although they had to come back briefly for a forgotten backpack). The rest of us had dinner, then I met up with my friend Megan for the evening. She just bought a townhouse this summer, so I got to see that for the first time. We relaxed on her purple couch, drank mint hot cocoa, and ate fresh-baked cookies with mint chocolate chip ice cream. All very "us" activities! We had a nice time talking and catching up, then went to Target for a bit before heading home. It's always so nice to see her.

Tuesday morning, Uncle Peter and Rosemary left early and my mom left in the afternoon. Molly and I rode with Gramps to drop Mom at the airport, then we went and walked around the mall for a bit. We had leftovers for dinner and hung out watching sports with Gramps for most of the night. The highlight of the evening was another chat with Heather and Rick, this time via Skype so we could actually see them! That was great.

Rick and Heather on my computer! (And me and Molly on the bottom left)

And that was basically my visit! I left early Wednesday morning, and was back in New York by 12:30 p.m. There is a fairly interesting story about that - usually I take the bus from the airport back to Port Authority, in Times Square. The bus also stops at Grand Central first, and this time I planned to get off at Grand Central instead since it's closer to Eric's office, so we could have lunch together. It's a good thing this was my plan, because it would have happened anyway due to a BOMB SCARE in Times Square. Apparently there was some abandoned van with blacked out windows or some such thing, so right when I arrived back in Manhattan they had closed off Times Square and the bus couldn't even get in to Port Authority. So, fun. Turned out to be nothing and by the time I was done with lunch Times Square was reopened, but it sure did screw up midtown traffic for a while. I took a cab home and the cabbie was literally putting the cab in park because nobody was moving. Awful.

So that was that! Once again, another great trip to Cleveland. If you're interested, I put together this little video montage of some of our (mostly musical) moments from this trip:

VIDEO: Great moments in Cleveland

Thanks for a great visit, family!


Becky said...

Dear Meghan,
It was fun reading this and re-living all the fun moments! Thanks for the memories!!

Anonymous said...


Molly said...

HAHAHAHA hilarious! Love the last video :-D We did have fun, didn't we!? GO BROWNS!