Whew! It’s been a little bit since I’ve been here and I have to admit, it felt really nice to step away and really enjoy time with family. Dane and I returned to Hawaii late on December 30th after 10 days on the east coast celebrating the holidays with our parents. IT. WAS. WONDERFUL. It was the first time we had been home for Christmas since Dane returned from Afghanistan in 2013, so it felt really special enjoying cold weather, holiday traditions, homemade food and more. Today I’m sharing all the details of our trip, what we did, how we spent the holiday and more. If that’s something you might be interested in, today’s post is for you 🙂
Our 2018 East Coast Holiday Trip
We started by catching a red eye out of Honolulu into JFK since we found an insanely cheap deal. It also gave us the opportunity to spend a super short amount of time in the city at Christmas. We always went to NYC at Christmas growing up, so it was sort of a special treat to be there with Dane. My brother-in-law lives in the city so we got to see him briefly, as well as our friend Joe who works for United (you might remember him from our Italy trip!). Kind of crazy how we met in an airport this spring and found ourselves sharing wine, food and tons of laughs at the end of the year. We had dinner at Bocca in Union Square and it was OUT OF THIS WORLD delicious.
From NYC, we boarded a train to Harrisburg to see our families! My in-laws picked us up from the train station and we ate dinner together at The Millworks. It’s a delicious spot in Harrisburg if you’re local to the area. Mid-dinner a marching band came through and played Christmas songs, which was a fun way to end the evening. Two of my favorite things – marching bands and Christmas carols! The next morning, Dane and I woke up early to run (holy weather adjustment!!) and caught this beautiful sunrise. It seemed like the whole sky was glowing bright red and pink!
That afternoon, we headed to my parent’s house and this was waiting on our bed. I can’t get over how thoughtful they are, but it’s touches like these that really make me smile. Also, Millie is the dog, so you can see where I get my crazy god lady tendencies 😉
That night, both our families were getting together for our annual gingerbread house building competition. It’s a fun tradition my family has always done and when Dane and I got together, we started inviting his family to participate. It’s always a fun evening and this year, my parents hosted. We also celebrated Dane’s birthday and I had a chance to redecorate my parent’s chalk board!
It feels like the days leading up to Christmas were a total whirlwind. We did a new tradition with Dane’s parents, White Elephant, which turned out to be pretty funny. We all started with $25 gift cards and had 1 hour to spend at the mall. We followed it all up with beers at Dave + Busters, before wrapping + exchanging/playing the next day. I helped my mom prep all kinds of yummy holiday treats and we even got to have dinner with one of my very best friends and her family. It’s a nice treat that our parents get along so well and it was great to catch up.
Before I knew it – Christmas Eve was here!
My favorite Christmas Eve tradition in my family is finding a way to pay it forward. In previous years we’ve paid off layaways, volunteered at animal shelters, bought coffee at Starbucks and adopted families. This year we made 6 bags (representative of each member of our family), stuffed them with cold weather gear + distributed them around town. My heart was so, so full being able to be together to make this happen. It’s a tradition Dane and I have carried on separately, but there is something so special about being together.
And that evening, we attended my parent’s church for a Christmas Eve service. It was the kid’s service and it was SO DANG CUTE! I was honestly super excited to be wearing tights again. Man, I miss seasons!
After church, we all enjoyed Feast of The Seven Fishes! It was DELICIOUS, though admittedly, we only had 5 different dishes, since there were only 5 of us! And hello – seafood is expensive in the Northeast this time of year. Also, this falls under “Feast of The Seven Fishes (that we like)” — you won’t find seafood stew or fried smelts. We ate wild salmon, jumbo scallops wrapped in bacon, boiled beer shrimp cocktail (with the most adorable ice molds my mom made!), shrimp stuffed with cheese and wrapped in prosciutto on a bed of spinach and lobster mac and cheese. For good measure there were also garlic green beans!
Now, if you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know that Christmas is a BFD in my family. Every year my parents make present pile “name tags”. The first year Dane and I were dating they did fat heads of our faces and I’m pretty sure he had no idea what he was getting into. Anyway, this year they picked animal photos from our Kenya trip that were representative of our personalities and it’s safe to say it might be my favorite yet. The hippo wearing glasses is a true Christmas treasure that will make me LOL until the end of time. As I looked around Christmas Day, surrounded by all the people I love most, I couldn’t help but feel like my cup runneth over. Being home this year was the greatest gift!
Another Christmas tradition (can you tell we are a family steeped in holiday traditions?!) is to stay in our pajamas all day and enjoy a big Christmas Day brunch. When I was younger, my aunt and uncle and cousins would come over in their Christmas pajamas and we would make a whole afternoon of it. It’s simply the best way to spend the day! This year was a little different, but delicious all the same. My parents whipped up individual crab cake benedicts, hash browns, bagels, fruit and cookies (it’s Christmas – why not?) for us to enjoy. I’m still drooling.
We were pretty lazy the rest of the day (and the rest of the trip to be totally honest!), and Dane was actually really sick, so it was nice to just relax and lay low. We didn’t have a ton of plans for our trip home and it worked out in our favor! The days after Christmas and between the new year always feel like such a sluggish blur and it’s nice to not know what day it is, what time it is or have anywhere to be. Quite honestly, those handful of days have morphed into my favorite days of the year!
I was LOVING wearing my UGG Boots, which are kept lovingly by my mom when I’m not home to enjoy them 🙂 It seemed like our entire trip zipped by and sooner-than-I-would-have-liked, we were flying back to Hawaii to ring in the new year. We kept it very low key this year, had a picnic with just us and the dogs and were in bed by 8PM. Hawaii is a madhouse on NYE (just Google the insanity and you’ll see what I mean), so it’s always the worst day of the year for our dogs. We all jumped in bed together, complete with sound machine and relaxing oils diffusing and slept right into 2019! It was wonderful, LOL!
I hope everyone had a wonderful, relaxing holiday + I’m excited to see what 2019 brings!