Monday, January 13, 2014

Preparing for Christmas in Jax

At long last, I'm officially declaring my blogging hiatus over. All of our holiday travel is finished and we're back into our routine at home. My Big Secret is out, and now that I'm in my second trimester, I no longer feel like I'm going to fall asleep on my keyboard at any given second, so I can sacrifice some nap times for blogging. Our December was wicked busy, and I'd love to recap a lot of that, so I have my work cut out for me. I hope you all enjoyed your break from me, because I am back with a vengeance.

For today, I want to start by talking about our Christmas preparations in Jacksonville before all the travel kicked in. Ellie and I left Jacksonville for St. Petersburg on December 11th and didn't return until the 22nd, so we crammed as much holiday prep into the last weeks of November/first week of December as we possibly could.

First things first: we took Ellie to meet Santa at the St. John's Town Center. Now, Ellie was PUMPED about Santa all season. She figured out who he was immediately and LOVED to identify Santa any time or place she saw him. She also loved Santa hats, and even had a red sweater that she called her "Santa sweater." She was Santa-obsessed.

Super happy to be rocking a Santa hat!

At the Town Center, Santa's little "hut" was set up right behind the children's playground, where Ellie and I often stop to run off some energy when we're in the area. Every time we stop to play Ellie would notice him, and she would stop mid-play to point him out to me. She would blow him kisses and hugs and call out, "hi, Santa! I love you, Santa!"

"Mama, look! Santa!"

So, needless to say, I had high hopes for this year's Santa Encounter, especially considering last year's meeting at Macy's went so well.

But alas. If you received our Christmas card this year, you already know how this went down.

Oh, for heaven's sake.

As soon as we got into Santa's hut, Ellie clung to Eric, sucked her thumb and covered her eyes with her fingers. We did finally get her onto his lap, and she rewarded us with the above epic pout...a pout so epic, in fact, that our Santa asked if we minded if he took a copy of that picture to put in his scrapbook of memorable children. (Creepy? Sweet? I'm on the fence.) Ellie made quite an impression.

Because we were hoping to use Ellie's Santa photo for our Christmas card, we weren't ready to give up quite so easily. We let Ellie play at the play area, we shopped, we ate a little, we checked out the big Christmas tree. She seemed in better spirits...

The sweetest.

...until we got back to Santa, and then it was as awful as ever. So, we gave up and purchased the Pout Picture. And of course, on our way to the car, Ellie was all, "where'd Santa go? Saaaaanta, where are you? I love you, Santa!" Save the act, kid. You're not fooling anybody.

And thus, that is how our 2013 Christmas Card came to be:

"Merry Christmas? Wishing you and yours a joyful holiday season!"

Of course, our holiday preparations didn't only consist of tormenting our poor, sweet daughter with jolly old elves. We also had a little fun, with local events such as Christmas in Avondale. I had a friend recommend this event to me and I was so glad we were able to make it. Avondale is an adorable little neighborhood with lots of local shops and restaurants (it reminded me a bit of Washington Street in Hoboken, actually), and for one evening around the holidays they close off the street to traffic, all the businesses stay open late and offer freebies, and there is lots of food, music, dancers and other performers, face painting, and of course, an appearance by Santa himself. We only spent a little bit of time there (and missed Santa, unfortunately), but it was a gorgeous evening and very fun activity.

People wandering the streets of Avondale

Enjoying a (free) chocolate fountain in a local sweet shop!

Ellie also enjoyed the chocolate fountain!

Young musicians performing on the street

Snacking on (free) popcorn while watching "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" projected on the side of a building

Ellie loooooved the popcorn!

And, of course, we decorated our house for the holidays. We sort of did a scaled-down decorating job this year, opting to leave most of the glass/ceramic/otherwise-toddler-unfriendly items boxed up, which means a couple of my nativity scenes didn't make it out. We did, however, put up our tree and adorn our fireplace with our stockings (new ones for Eric and me this year!) and a large wreath I threw together. We also put up our Willow Tree Nativity (as well as a couple of small nativities I could fit on the top shelves of our bookcase), decorated our pass-thru kitchen window with Christmas cards we received, and put out a couple other Advent calendars. All in all, the effect was very homey and inviting, and frankly, I was sad to be away for so much of December and unable to enjoy it for the whole month.

Our Christmas living room!

Closer view of the fireplace, with our stockings, Ellie's Fisher Price Nativity, and other misc holiday knick-knacks

Our Christmas dining room, with festive tablecloth and Advent wreath

Our pass-thru window, with some of the cards we received (this isn't all of them!), the Willow Tree Nativity, an Advent calendar and our old stockings

The only thing I really would've liked to add to our holiday home was a crackling fire in our fireplace, but that did not happen thanks to a whole big debacle including wasps in our chimney. If I can stop shuddering and having wasp flashbacks one of these days, I will share the story with you, because OMG WASPS IN OUR HOUSE. That kind of thing doesn't happen in New York, my friend. Score One for winters up north, am I right? WASPS. IN OUR HOUSE. I just can't.

But, invasive stinging insects aside, I think our holiday home came together quite nicely. Our apartment made a great canvas for our accumulated Christmas decor, and I was quite sad to take it all down after Epiphany. I was especially sad to say good-bye to that big wreath over the fireplace, because now the mantle looks so bare. We'll have to figure out a good way to fix that this spring, I think.

Now that we've prepared for Christmas in Jacksonville, it's time to head to St. Petersburg for some family time. I'll try to get those recaps started tomorrow!


Lauren said...

Love all the festive decor you had and Ellie was just the cutest, even if pouting while meeting Santa :-)

Becky said...

Your house looks so pretty all decorated. Wish I could've seen it in person, but you were barely there yourself! Also, love that Ellie loved popcorn - a true Hesterman!