Here is a small glimpse at our very first Christmas as a married couple with both friends and family!
Posts Tagged With: Christmas
I love the holiday season because of precious time spent with family and friends. Both Matt and I have our families in the Dallas area (for the first time in years, we all live in the same city!), which makes for days filled with celebration.
As we all spend time together, I so enjoy the Christmas music and movies, late nights enjoying a glass of wine and playing games, the fantastic food, and the excitement as presents are opened and you hope you’ve gotten everyone just what they want.
I also love that so many of our friends are here during this time – so far we’ve been able to see quite a few of them for some festive celebrations. From Christmas sweater parties to dinner out with longtime friends in downtown McKinney, it has been such a wonderful time for everyone to come together.
Matt and I have many family and friends in other states and abroad that we won’t get to see this holiday season. Therefore, we want to extend our warmest wishes in hopes that everyone has a joyous, safe and Merry Christmas, and a very happy new year!
Over the holidays, I did many things that were extremely enjoyable. Time with family is always at the top of my list, as I only get to see them a couple times of year. I also spent some wonderful evenings with friends catching up. And there is always the shopping – I never shop over here, so when I go home, especially around Christmas, I bask in the holiday sales and stock up on some essentials for the next half a year.
This visit home, however, included a very special evening. My wonderful sister Melissa hosted a beautiful and elegant engagement party for me and Matt. Though Matt and I got engaged back in August, this was our first long visit home, so close friends and family living in the area were invited to celebrate. I was so excited because many of the people invited were able to make it, so we were able to visit with a lot of friends we haven’t seen in awhile – included in that group were a couple of my bridesmaids, one who’s been my friend since middle school and the other a girlfriend from college who even came to Spain to see me and Matt!
Melissa planned the event at the Stoneleigh Hotel in Dallas, which ended up being a fabulous choice. The area we were given was beautiful, we had our own bartender, and the food was delicious – not a single detail was forgotten. From the champagne for a toast, the bite-sized quesadillas, bruschetta, shrimp & scallop ceviche and shot glass desserts, to the beautiful centerpiece flowers and candlelit tables, it really was a wonderful night to remember.
My Gamma Phi Beta girlfriends also came in for the party, and at one special point in the evening, I introduced them to Matt’s 93 year-old grandmother, who was also a Gamma Phi and is still a very active alum. Having generations of Gamma Phi Betas from such different times standing all together was a unique experience I know I’ll never forget. At one point, my friend started to playfully sing one of our songs, and Matt’s grandmother joined right in!
Throughout the evening, Matt and I told the story of our engagement to those who hadn’t heard yet, I finally got to show off my ring, and it really hit home that come October 19th of this year, we are getting married. Other than the engagement party, we’ve found our band, finalized the wedding cake details with the baker, and have nailed down our gorgeous venue. Everything is starting to come together, making me one excited bride-to-be! Thanks again Mel!
Well, the big day has passed and I am tired. I feel like I’ve been going non-stop since I got home; add jet-lag to the equation and whew! It’s been a good busy, though, because it means that I’ve already had the chance to see a lot of people, get in a good amount of visiting with my family, and make the most of my time at home.
After our long trip over, Wednesday was a chance to re-group and rest up. The only problem was that I hadn’t finished my Christmas shopping, and waiting any longer would mean getting stuck at the mall with all of the other last minute shoppers (you know who you are). I decided to fight the fatigue and push through the day. Besides, I have heard that forcing yourself out and about after a long journey is a great way to kick the jet-lag. So, I partnered up with my Dad and we went out to get last minute things for my Mom, sister, and Matt. It was a nice time just the two of us, catching up and cracking jokes. It was definitely better than wasting time on the couch.
The next day, Thursday, I used my time to finally relax. That night, I took the opportunity to see high school friends, since they were all home for Christmas. Matt came up and we went to dinner with Kaitlyn and Chris, who you may remember from the wedding in August; I was pumped to see the couple for the first time since the wedding. We went to Square Burger in Downtown McKinney, a trendy burger restaurant with over 60 beers on tap. Definitely a great addition to the McKinney Square. From there we met up with my high school friends Ashley, Callie, and pretty much the rest of the 2004 McKinney graduating class.
On Friday, Christmas Eve, we were supposed to go to Christmas Mass, but the rain, excessive amount of people, and lack of parking caused our decision to go Christmas morning. I left for Dallas early to spend the evening with Matt’s family at his future sister-in-law’s home. Anna’s family prepared a Mexican feast last year on Christmas Eve, which I attended, and did the same this year. The food is AMAZING, with guacamole, stuffed jalapenos, tamales, etc. I’ve really enjoyed the occasion both years, this year especially since it’s been so long since I’ve had great Mexican food! Back at his parent’s home, we watched the bowl game and played with his brother’s adorable new puppy.
Yesterday, our decision to push back Christmas Mass was rewarded, because it was comfortable and not over-crowded. Our Christmas breakfast consisted of Belgian waffels, followed by gift exchange and a nap. Matt came up to spend the evening with my family, where we played games of backgammon, Mario Kart on Wii, and watched football on t.v. My Mom made a turkey since we don’t get it often in Ireland, with cheesy potatoes, stuffing, cream spinach, rutabaga, and corn. We didn’t even touch the pie after dinner, due to the onset of a food coma! Matt had a cigar with my Dad and we all just relaxed for the rest of the evening.
Here we are now, the day after Christmas, and I’ve finally slowed down. Brunch was eaten, naps were had, Wii was played, and the house has been picked up. I only get a small chance to breathe, though, because tonight we will have Christmas dinner part 2 thanks to all of the leftovers, followed by an evening out with college girlfriends to celebrate a birthday. Ahead of me, we have the arrival of Matt’s grandparents, Matt’s birthday, New Year’s Eve, you catch my drift. But I’m loving every second of it, because it wouldn’t make any sense to come home and hide out, now would it? 😉
I’m sad to say it’s been well over a week since my last post. Between my work at Suas, submission of my first published article (yea!), events, and Christmas extravaganzas, I’ve been a very busy gal. I’ll try to hit the key points as best I can, especially our main event of the season, because it’s officially time to rededicate myself to my readers. Why call this a “series of Emily’s European adventures” if I don’t chronicle them?
Last week held a variety of activities for me, including drinks with girlfriends, fundraising for Suas by way of street collecting in Christmas hats, an appointment with a dress designer to pick the perfect one for Matt’s company Christmas party, and pampering galore for the same gala. Not to mention that Christmas is just around the corner, leaving me with very little time to shop before heading home for the holidays. By Friday I was pretty exhausted, so a night in with Matt to rest before the big party was in order.
Saturday finally rolled around, bringing with it Matt’s company Christmas party, a night that was highly anticipated as I was absent the year before. Held at the Burlington Hotel in Dublin, the party was a black tie gala complete with a poker tournament and 4-course meal. For the event, I wore a one-shoulder, long, midnight blue dress with matching roses stitched into the strap. My hair was pulled up into a classic chignon and I completed the look with a mix of pearls and gold jewellery. Matt looked extremely dapper in his black tuxedo, bow tie, and pocket watch (a gift from yours truly).
Matt played in the poker tournament, drawing the attention of the entire crowd when he made it to the finals and eventually won it for his team. After the tournament came dinner in the beautiful winter-themed dining hall. The meal itself started with a goat cheese appetizer, potato leek soup to follow, a choice of chicken or beef main course, and a multitude of desserts. The whole time the wait staff kept the wine flowing, while classic Christmas music mixed with an array of soft jazz completed the ambience. Matt and I sat at a table with a few friends and made some new ones, and by the time dinner was over, we were ready to move onto round 2 – of 3 rounds – for the evening.
Following dinner, DJs took to the stage to provide music for dancing, while an open bar made itself available to all. Cuban cigar rollers, who were actually flown in from Cuba, rolled unique and individual cigars for anyone interested. That was something even I, who is not an avid cigar smoker, could not pass up. Matt and I rotated between the throng of smokers outside, to watching the dancers inside until it was time for round 3.
Round 3 was an after-party at the club downstairs. I can only say so much about this aspect of the evening. What I will leave you with is a mental picture of people in formal wear, thumping music, expensive champagne, and extremely good times. We didn’t head home until 6 in the morning – that’s right, 6 in the morning. Needless to say, Sunday was spent either in bed or on the couch and I was asleep very early Sunday evening. It was well worth it though; I had a fantastic time, enjoyed spending it with Matt and our friends, and I now have a gorgeous gown to wear to another event!
Cozy and warm Saturdays are becoming my thing. This is thanks to Matt, who after a long, hard week at work, prefers to relax and unwind. Now that I am busy every day with either Suas or Women’s Club activities, I’ve joined him in his desire to recuperate. Even more so, the weather has really taken a turn for winter, so our warm apartment set at the bottom of foggy mountains, keeping me safe from the rain, becomes more and more appealing with each day. Yesterday, warm and cozy took on a whole new meaning, as Matt and I celebrated our very first Christmas tree unveiling as roomies!
Like most days this month, Matt and I awoke to very cold, very rainy weather. I wanted to stay huddled under the warm comforter all day, but I had plans to make one of my favorite meals, courtesy of my favorite cook – my mom. The closest grocery store is part of a major department store in the mall – Marks and Spencer – so to the mall we went in search of ingredients. I’ve mentioned prior that Christmas season is in full swing here, so when we took the escalator down towards the grocery store, we were bombarded with lights, decorations, and seasonal deals. I could literally feel Matt’s irritation rise, since the area was packed with people and noise. Realizing that it would be next to impossible to drag Matt back to mall again before Christmas, we decided to purchase our Christmas tree early. Add the fact that we will be back in Texas for awhile in December, shortening our time to enjoy our own decorations, and it was a no-brainer to get Christmas started early.
Thus began our cozy and warm Saturday. Once back at home with groceries, a Christmas tree, lights, and ornaments, we put college football on the television, changed into our college jerseys, and popped open a couple of beers. The Christmas tree was first, and actually didn’t take us too long. We purchased a green and bushy artificial tree and got to work spreading the branches so as to make it look fuller. Matt strung the lights and I started placing our silver ornaments in just the right places. One thing I learned from my mom is that you can’t just put an ornament on a tree; it takes care to make sure they are spread out evenly and hanging just right. Once finished, we admired our handiwork in the darkness of the apartment.
I then went to work making a hearty and heart-warming dinner. My mother’s chicken and rice recipe is so easy and I’ve been craving a bit of home lately, so that landed on the Saturday evening menu. It’s a simple combination of butter, celery, carrots, onion, flour, chicken broth, rice, diced chicken, and a dash of cream to make a stew that really sticks to your ribs. The smells emanating from the kitchen while I sauteed the vegetables and added the chicken stock was enough to make my stomach grumble. The best part was that the final product tasted exactly like my mom’s, making me feel like I was having a meal in Texas.
Dinner followed with football and red wine, a win for both the Sooners and the Trojans, and a beautifully lit Christmas tree in the corner. Matt really liked the meal, adding a successful tick on my cooking resume. Like I said, I’m getting used to these comfy and cozy Saturdays. I have a feeling next weekend will be no exception.
There are two things missing here in Ireland that are quite popular back in the States: Mexican food and Thanksgiving. Now, the first is something that Matt and I have had to learn to live without. I’m not the biggest fan of Mexican food, so it hasn’t been a huge adjustment for me. However, I do miss chips and salsa from time to time and don’t even get me started on chili con queso. For Matt’s born and bred Texas taste buds, it has been a huge adjustment. As for Thanksgiving, it may not be a fixture in this country for obvious reasons, but it’s definitely something I can recreate when the holiday rolls around. However, its absence begs the question: what marks the start of the Christmas season in Ireland? The answer to this question was blatantly answered today in conjunction with our first Mexican restaurant experience.
Recently, an American friend of mine and Matt’s recommended a Mexican restaurant to us, but until today we hadn’t checked it out. I woke up this morning after a rather late evening out, craving chips and salsa like I’ve never craved them before. I could not get the idea of the salty and crunchy goodness out of my head, so I basically demanded we try this restaurant recommendation. We made our way over to the Town Centre in the gloomy rain, on foot I might add, with a determined focus to satisfy our craving.
Cortina’s was everything we could have hoped for, minus the cost. Since it is the only decent Mexican restaurant around, their prices were not cheap. It was easy to ignore, though, when a basket of tortilla chips and salsa were placed right next to my Corona and Matt’s margarita. The ambience of the restaurant was fun, with bright colored cushions on the seats and a huge U-shaped bar. Our tacos were on the upscale side, with fancy sauces and cheese, which ironically was a bit of a bummer, as I was hoping for greasy, traditional cuisine. How can I complain, though, when it was all so tasty and about as close as I’m going to get to Tex-Mex? We declared the meal a success and decided it would definitely be worth our while to return in the near future. Did I mention their advertisement for a Chipotle-style burrito? Yeah, awesome.
Cortina’s is situated in a courtyard just outside of the mall, so we decided to do a little shopping/browsing before making our way home. On our way up to the mall entrance, the answer to my original Christmas question slowly took form. We first passed a temporary ice-skating rink, housed in a small building, with large windows to watch the skaters. I didn’t think too much of it, though, because it’s already cold here and it seemed an appropriate setup for the season. It wasn’t until a Christmas tree mascot (yes, a person inside of a Christmas tree costume dancing around) stepped in front of Matt and started to do a little jig. Flanked on either side were his polar bear friends, taking pictures with little kids. Matt and I stopped walking, looked at each other, and burst into laughter. I’m kicking myself now for not having my picture taken with one of them.
The inside of the mall was its very own spectacle. A humongous Christmas tree stood at the entrance, with smaller trees placed at the front of all the stores. In the largest, most open part of the mall, a display from floor to ceiling of dancing polar bears and reindeer stole my attention for the entire escalator ride. To top it all off, a mini choo-choo train transported children from one end of the mall to the other. Everywhere I looked, Christmas stared back. Without Thanksgiving to mark the start of the holiday season, our Irish friends obviously choose November 1st as their kick-off day. I was in a bit of shock and awe, because it all seems so over the top! Plus, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, so for me, it feels unnatural to start thinking about Christmas before our blessed day of food and football.
It was altogether a fulfilling and strange day. I think it’s a bit soon to be sitting on Santa’s knee asking for a pony, but since Thanksgiving is an American holiday, I can understand the haste to put a little cheer into a season riddled with cold, gloom, and rain. In the meantime, I now know I’ve got good Mexican food nearby to remind me, and more importantly, Matt, of home.