This Christmas was different for us this year. For the first time since 1990, we had no kids at home. Our beautiful older teacher daughter flew to Colorado to spend it with her fiancé’s family, and our adorable high schooler flew off to Germany to spend the break with our exchange student and her family. What lucky girls! But it left us childless at a time that has been very child-centric for 24 years now. We spent a beautiful Christmas Eve at our church’s candle light service, followed by wine and fondue by the fireplace afterward. We are lucky to have my parents living nearby, so they and my sister and brother-in-law came over to open gifts and eat standing rib roast for Christmas day dinner. (Pepper crusted roast with garlic potatoes and Yorkshire puddings – oh, my! And every bit as good the next day for Boxing Day!) Still, we had quite a few days before Kirk was due back at work, so we decided to vacation in our “home city” of Seattle. We aren’t natives, and love the chance to get into the city and get to know it better.
We booked a couple of nights at Hotel Ändra in Belltown, downtown Seattle. I’ve loved their modern Scandinavian vibe ever since I first saw it, and was waiting for the chance to stay there. We really enjoyed our time there, and would definitely go back again. (We’ve also stayed at The Roosevelt in the past, and had a great time there as well. It’s a little more old-fashioned, but very charming and close to wonderful restaurants and stores.) Hotel Ändra is easy walking distance to both the Space Needle and Pike Place Market, and conveniently right next to Lola, my favorite of Tom Douglas’s restaurants. The weather was mostly in our favor, and we enjoyed walking to the market to have lunch at Uli’s Famous Sausage (I had the Nuremberger sausages while my daughter was visiting the real town. 😉 – and there’s a reason those sausages are famous), and walking over to see the Needle and Seattle Center at night. I haven’t been inside the Chihuly Museum yet, but it was beautiful all lit up. I’m not sure if you can tell, but there’s a Christmas tree at the top of the Space Needle. Christmas lights and decorations were still up around town, and it made everything so festive. And can you imagine our luck, a big flat screen was in our suite, so Kirk was able to watch his Seattle Seahawks beat the St. Louis Rams. 😛 (They were once the Los Angeles Rams, but there’s no way we can root for those traitors even if they weren’t playing against our local team.) I don’t really follow football, but I stretched out on the couch with a book and we were able to hang out together while he watched and I read. Dinner one night at Lola’s was as good as always – honey harissa pork skewers and halloumi and figs skewers with Greek salads and tzatziki and pita. Dahlia bakery was just across the street, so we had lovely pastries for breakfast in our room one morning. Another night we ate at Etta’s on the waterfront. We didn’t INTEND to only eat at Tom Douglas restaurants, but it’s kind of how it worked out. The fish and chips were very good, and after living in England, I’m a bit of a fish and chips snob. The final day on our way back to Woodinville, we headed to South Lake Union to have a (big) bite at Serious Biscuit. Did I say Lola was my favorite Tom Douglas spot? Oh, can one really have a true favorite when it’s also possible to have crispy fried chicken and black pepper gravy on top of the most delicious biscuit? Or there’s Kirk’s choice of fennel sausage, eggs and fontina cheese? These biscuits are seriously good. Seriously. After all that eating, we waddled back to our car and finished off our trip with a visit to Capitol Hill and The Elliot Bay Book Co., of “Frasier” fame, for a lovely browse and perhaps a purchase of a book or four. But that’s another blog post, I’m afraid.
When we moved to Washington, we were the only people we knew in the entire state. After having both spent most our lives near our extended families, it was a big transition to celebrating holidays and other events without our usual traditions. We’ve kept some of the same ways of celebrating, and also have incorporated new ones as well. I’ve come to love cooking Thanksgiving dinner at our house, and am so happy to have new friends along with family join us in a day of plenty. The first Thanksgiving we moved here, we’d been here only about 3 weeks. We needed to fill a four-day week-end with a fun outing. After cooking for our little family, we considered some options and decided to visit Leavenworth. Just over the Cascade mountains, it’s a faux Bavarian town with a Christkindl Market and holiday lights. It had just snowed and the drive over the Cascades was beyond beautiful. I don’t think any self-respecting German would consider it a real Christmas Market, but the stores were beautiful, the spiced nuts were warm and sweet, and the German schnitzel delicious! We’ve since made it a Thanksgiving week-end tradition, and we wouldn’t miss it for anything. Horse-drawn carriage rides, sledding under the Christmas lights, glühwein und bier. Wunderschön!
Our beautiful older teacher daughter is marrying her sweet fiancé in June, so there will be many holidays coming up when they need to decide whether to spend it here in the PNW or in lovely Colorado. (Those lucky ducks had a white Christmas this year!) And my adorable high schooler will be thinking about colleges before too long, and it may be local or it may be in another state or country. Things they are a-changing, and while part of me would like those little girls back in their footie pajamas crawling around under the Christmas tree, the other part is so excited for the new adventures ahead of them as they make their own way in the world. We did miss those girls like crazy, but this Christmas season was a good chance for us to start on new traditions and ways of viewing our life. I hope the holidays were good to you, and wishing you all good things in this new year of 2015!