23 December: Festivus
We take a shared SuperShuttle van to the airport along with a couple and a lady with a little dog. Laurel asks the canine's owner if it gets its own seat on the plane and shares my Tic Tacs with everyone. After passing through security just after 6 PM, we find find the Burger King nearest our gate closing, much to Laurel's dismay. Passing on several other options, she decides to have a personal deep-dish pizza from one vendor and only eats half of it. I tell her she's going to take it with her and either eat it or share it with someone. Six dollars for a pizza?! Bah.
The inbound leg of our flight is delayed due to weather, so we browse through a magazine kiosk where I find our elementary school in "The Best Public Schools" in the December 2006 Texas Monthly and buy copies of Nick Magazine and Dell Logic Puzzles.
We spread out among three seats at our gate where we do puzzles, Laurel does somersaults, and we play tic-tac-toe and fences with some kids waiting for the same flight that were looking longingly at Laurel's carry-on bag of tricks. If anyone's interested in a detailed list of what I pack in her carry-on, ask in comments.
We arrive in Denver shortly before 10 PM and wait through three cycles of the train to the main terminal because they're packed like sardines. (I remember later that there's a bridge to the terminal from concourse A, but we'll get to that later.) When we come up into the terminal from the train let-off, Dad and Sarah are waiting for us. Dave is looking for a good parking spot and there are four incoming flights on the baggage carousel our bags are supposed to come in on. Yikes! Between that and having to thread through groups of luggage from other flights waiting to be claimed after the backlog of the airport being closed for two days, we give up on finding Laurel's booster seat and leave without it.
My nephew is awake after a nap when we get in, so I finally get to meet the little guy. He's so cute and mellow it should probably be illegal. Amy likes the cute little Christmas outfit I bought and says he'll wear it on Christmas Day. I am pleased.
24 December: Christmas Eve
Last week's blizzard has melted down to just past knee-deep with higher drifts alongside shoveled areas, but Laurel cheerfully goes out and stomps in the snow, makes snowballs and has to be called in when it's obvious she's cold enough. In lieu of waiting for real gingerbread to bake, she and Sarah assemble and decorate a gingerbread house from craft foam.
Inside, my older sister has a bunch of recipes pulled out of a Cooking Light compilation that she wants made for a Christmas morning brunch so I lend a hand to Mom and I wrinkle my nose at the Roquefort purchased for a pear strata. I think it's too strong, but it's what she bought and we use it. After it's baked, we sample it and are uniformly unimpressed, except for Dad who thought it was a savory dish and put Tobasco sauce on his serving.
Laurel opens one gift on Christmas Eve and hurries to bed after hearing "Santa" outside (actually Mom in the front yard shaking sleigh bells) .
25 December: Christmas Day
I wake up to find a note slid under my door that reads "Please do not come out NUDE, [visitors] are coming over." It also has a holly sprig on it with an arrow pointing to the berries labeled "holly berries (not testicles)".
I emerge in pajamas to find the finishing touches going on brunch. The stinky Roquefort tart remains in cold storage. Amy arrives with her family and a Belgian waffle maker, puts the baby down for us to pass around, and starts making waffles. We demolish brunch, then open gifts and stockings. Among the gift cards and hanks of 550 cord, I recieve a mojito set and announce I can now get drunker faster.
We nibble away at brunch throughout the day and laze around. My sister and her family leave shortly after noon to join his family, reminding us we're invited to dinner there. We head up there in late afternoon, chat with my brother-in-law's nephew (he's in high school now; I feel old) and play with Austin until dinnertime.
After a great dinner made by Branden's mom, we move toward the living room to watch the Dallas-Philadelphia game and Branden's stepbrother and family make a late appearance for pie and opening their kids' gifts. On the way out, Branden's mother tells us to take the ham bone. I ride home with a lapful of ham in a Ziploc bag.
26 December: Boxing Day
We take Laurel down for an overnight visit with her Grandma Betty and boggle at the unplowed secondary roads in the suburbs. After seeing her off, we have lunch at the panaderia on the corner and part ways with Dad, who heads off to work. The rest of us head over to Best Buy for a CAT-6 crossover cable, find that store's wireless print servers are sold out, and a few incidentals: a wireless mouse for Amy, an Usher CD for my brother-in-law, and a bling-tastic iPod case for Sarah.
Once back in Evergreen, we take a detour through the new-to-me shops back where The Snow Leopard ski shop used to be and cross the parkway to stop in at Monkey Doodles and the Village Gourmet (303-670-0717). We have fun playing with toys and we pick up a few outfits since they're having a 40% off sale, then we head into the kitchenwares headlong where I find a Graviti battery-operated pepper mill and a y-peeler for Vogon and Sarah falls in love with a Vera Bradley handbag.
Later that evening, I wind up looking at Mom's in-progress Tumbling Blocks quilt, discuss machine quilting with her and fondle my way through several of her smocking books and magazines. We go through a box of miscellaneous stuff in the sewing area where we find a couple of my vintage dresses and some sundries I'd like shipped to me, then pick through the books in the family room, pulling my 1971 Sesame Street Songbook and a few books from my maternal grandparents' house.
I stay up late with the crossover cable and my sister's old and new laptops getting things just so and briefly stealing the neighbor's unsecured wireless signal to post while I download iTunes, Picasa and something else I've since forgotten -- maybe old camera drivers? I definitely know I was awake when Dad came in from evening shift.
27 December: Sarah Vowell's birthday
My sisters want to go shopping and we hit the ground running after we pick Laurel up. Heading east toward Tattered Cover, I spot a Jersey Mike's at 6th and Broadway so we stop for lunch and I enjoy the happiness of a #4 all over again. Mmmm! We spend an hour at TC, make a pit stop at Liks Ice Cream and head southwest.
Shopping stops, in no particular order: Sports Authority, REI, Best Buy (finally finding a wireless print server), Once Upon a Child, Petco and some other places that have since fallen out of my head since I didn't take notes. Finally hungry again, we hit The Garlic Knot. I have the dinner of champions: an order of garlic knots.
On the way home, Laurel sees the lighted cross marking Mount Lindo Cemetery and asks, "Is that where God died?". It was hard not to laugh.
28 December: Feast of the Holy Innocents
It snows -- nearly two feet by the time I go to sleep. Vogon has a bad gut feeling about our original flight time so I call to rebook, waiting for half an hour on hold to change the flight and cite my reason as that there's no way we'll be dug out in time to arrive four hours early for a 1 PM flight.
After her nightly bath, I encourage Laurel to dictate her thank-you notes so we can have them in the mail by the end of the week. You know they weren't my words when part of a thank-you for a handbag includes the phrase "now I can be a GLAMOUR GIRL with it".
29 December: Texas admitted to the Union as a state, 1845
Laurel wants to play in the three feet of fresh snow but it disappointed that it's too dry for snowballs or snowmen. Sarah goes sledding with her until they're too cold for anymore while Mom and I shovel the driveway. After awhile the drifts alongside the driveway, which have barely melted from the previous week's snow, are taller than me and hard to pitch snow onto, so I don a pair of snowshoes and climb them to knock the tops down a few feet into the yard beyond. In the process I fall on my behind and have to roll over to get up, which is hilarious but sadly not captured on film. A few photos of me standing on top of the snowdrift looking stupid are taken.
After digging out, we cautiously drive over to my sister's where Dad digs out her car while I install the wireless print server and get it one step from working, at which point I am tired and claustrophobic. Did I mention that my sister lives in a tiny cabin that was a schoolhouse in the late 1800s?
From my sister's, we head down the hill via 285 and get off at Quincy so I can wave to my alma mater's current location, which looks fortresslike standing alone in the slated-for-development ranchland around it. The area will eventually be occupied by a library, community center, and open space, but for now it looks a lot like the prison across the road. We stop for dinner at Carl's Jr then hit up Best Buy for the computer system I helped Dad decide on and a hard drive enclosure to transfer the data from their old system since it's not booting. On our way home, we stop by Sam's Club for a few staples and Sarah wins three toys from the claw machine for Laurel -- not a bad deal for less than a dollar.
Once home, Dad helps me extract the hard drive from the old and dusty case, I hook it up into the new enclosure and we're cooking with gas. I transfer their files and settings, then install their ISP dialer, iTunes and Picasa.
30 December: The Pirates of Penzance first performed, 1879
All dug out, I sleep in and quickly pack and put together a pile of gifts and things to ship back to us. Our big suitcase is pushing 50 pounds so I requisition Mom's old military duffle to hold some of its contents and add Laurel's new clothes padding the jewelry box she got as a gift to round it out. My brother surprises us by dropping in and I hand him thank-you notes from Laurel and I, saving some miniscule amount of postage, and thank him for loading our luggage into Amy's car.
I-70 is snowpacked and the center lane is barely visible most of the way down into the city, but gets to just wet by the time we cross I-25 and decide to eat lunch at the airport instead of eating drive-thru in her car. Dad wakes up from napping just in time to direct Amy to the most efficient parking and we score a loose SmartCarte as we park.
Once inside, the ticket counter area is verging on chaos, but airline personnel are trying to direct people to the correct line and fellow passengers don't even complain about the group of 10 checking in together at one of the self-service kiosks. I get randomly flagged for secondary screening and our reservation is flagged for a $100 rebooking fee, but Amy uses her pedantic voice on the ticket agent, who checks to see our original flight's status and waives the fee once realizing the flight had been canceled shortly after I changed the reservation.
We have lunch in the terminal food court and pick up postcard stamps at the airport post office, along with a golden tenth anniversary Blue's Clues notebook after Amy shows Laurel the gift items in the post office. Wanting to avoid another cattle car situation on the train to the concourses, we take the bridge to the A concourse and have a tearful goodbye at the security checkpoint, then Laurel and I get to stand in the air jet explosive trace detector together because she doesn't want to go in alone. At the gate, we talk to a stitcher working on Mirabilia's Halloween Fairy who asks me if there's a fourth one in the Fairy Holiday collection yet (I didn't know then but "Miss Valentine" is now available) and we chat about the dearth of good stitching shops in the D/FW area.
Laurel sleeps for part of the flight, but is up and wired by the time I call SuperShuttle from the baggage claim for our pre-arranged ride home. The dispatcher says they won't have a shuttle going our way for at least an hour, so we should expect a shared towncar to be there in about 15 minutes. The towncar takes a little longer than that, but it's okay since the pre-arranged limosuine lane is occupied by a bunch of people that apparently couldn't parallel park if their lives depended on it and a unoccupied pickup truck with its flashers on. The driver and his thick Jamaican accent arrive, loads our bags, and circles the arrivals area three times looking for the other passenger, who he finally calls on his cell phone and finds out he decided to take a shuttle van instead, so we have the car to ourselves for the quiet ride home.