One of the best perks of working at Stanford is that we get the same winter break as the students - a winter shutdown that starts before Christmas and runs through the first week of the New Year. I just went back to the office this past Monday, and after combining some extra PTO with the holiday, had nearly three weeks off - a total blessing!
I flew home on December 21, and promptly met up with Kels for beers at Union 32, a pull-your-own-pint place near the airport. While I was already suffering from the frigid Minnesota weather (I didn’t even have a proper winter coat with me, c’mon Liz!), it was so good to settle in with her, catch up after months apart, and start break off on a relaxing, indulgent note.
My parents have season tickets to the Hennepin Theatre Trust, the local Broadway touring affiliate, and generously added on three tickets to “Les Miserables” when all of us were home! “Les Mis” has long been in my top three musical favorites, and the new touring production is really beautifully done - updated well, while retaining the poignancy and drama of the original production I fell in love with like twenty years ago.
Post-show, we headed to Northeast for a quick happy hour at the Hewing Hotel, a local fave with Scandinavian vibes that was perfect for the frosty, flurrying afternoon.
And of course, it wouldn’t be a Lizzie trip home if the Schwegfam didn’t somehow find ourselves here…
…it’s truly a dangerous addiction. While our favorite staff member, Nicole, has moved on, we still marveled at the truly outstanding service and food. Particular standouts this time were the winter sunchoke soup, the arancini (a bar menu item, but they always give us an order on the house since we spend SO much time there), and the butternut squash caramelle - Spoon’s heritage grain pasta is seriously to die for.
I also enjoyed running into Matt, a colleague of Dave’s at Stanford, and his family - he’s from a neighboring suburb, and it was a hilarious small-world moment to see him at the next table over just a week after we hung out in California.
Christmas Eve found us headed to my beloved Basilica for the Children’s Choir Mass - an annual tradition I adore. Getting to attend the Basilica makes me so homesick - I haven’t found a church community in California that can even come close to touching how wonderful the mass experience is there.
Post-Mass, we headed home and dressed way down in our coziest clothes for champagne, a huge lasagna dinner, and presents! Particular highlights this year were Emily’s gorgeous archival photo books of our Italy trip - she’s an amazing photographer - and, for my dad, surprise Garth Brooks tickets from my mom! I actually got to play Santa’s helper on this one - she had a doctor’s appointment when the tickets went on sale, so I spent three hours the morning of my Stanford finance program’s orientation trying to purchase them on Ticketmaster. When the site bogged down, I hopped to Stubhub and lucked into an outstanding pair of tickets in the lower tier.
When my mom wrapped the printout of the tickets, she hid them under smaller gifts - a belt and a golf towel. Dad clearly knew something was up, though - he caught sight of the paper underneath the towel, and literally tossed the towel on the ground, shouting “Whatever, nice towel, whatever, I’M GOING TO GARTH!” He was so excited - it was a joy to witness, a true reminder that it’s way more fun to give than receive :)
One of my gifts to my family every holiday season is a suitcase full of wine! I really pushed the envelope this time - my suitcase was 48.8lb at the airport, with four bottles and a magnum crammed in among gifts and, oh right, clothes. We saved the magnum of Iron Horse “M” Cuvee for Christmas Day - it may be my new favorite from them, which is terrible as they’re never producing it again! Proving that we’ll do anything for bubbles, my mom, sister and I, with a little help from my cousin Carly, killed this bad boy - the equivalent of three bottles - in about three hours. OOPS.
Obsessed with these two and their matching plaid and their adorableness. My mom always laments that we don’t get good family photos on the holidays, but I think this one’s a framer for sure. As is this one:
While we thought we were super cute and funny and clever (also, freeeeezing), Jodes was less than pleased with our shenanigans. So we gave her one nice one for the frame…but just one. We had drinking and eating to do!
Post-Christmas, I started a mad frenzy of seeing as many friends as possible before my (originally scheduled) return to the Bay on the 28th. First up was this dynamic duo:
…plus Colleen and Baby R 2,0! So fun to get to spend some time with the cutest family in their new home - not gonna lie, I have major Minnesota real estate envy.
Post-Reuvers, I met up with Kels at easily the most festive bar I’ve ever seen: Lawless Distillery’s Miracle Pop-Up Bar, near the U of M:
Decked out with over two thousand ornaments, vintage signs, a bathroom wall entirely covered with nutcrackers (hahaha, I loved that justaposition), and a seasonally appropriate cocktail menu, I couldn’t get enough of the festive vibe - great way to avoid the post-Christmas crash!
We sipped on a “Partridge in a Pear Tree" and a “Run Run Rudolph,” people-watched to our hearts’ content, and decided we’re doing a warm-weather post-Christmas trip next year - already excited to escape to some fabulous island paradise somewhere with this one!
Post-Kels, I met up with Nate, Margaret, Matt, and Carlos, who is a champ. Nate and Marge also just bought their first home, and it is seriously a palace - I’ve got major FOMO with my 850 square-foot apartment compared to their three floors, four bathrooms, and huge backyard, ugh!
The 27th found me a bit under the weather with what I thought was just a sore throat or cold - nothing serious enough to keep me from getting my hair cut and colored, or spending an afternoon with David. So fun to catch up with him, freshly post-engagement, and after almost a year and a half! By evening, though, my glands were super swollen and my throat was achy…
…and things rapidly took a turn for the worse on the 28th, with an emergency room admit, hospital ride to a different ICU, and admittance for airway monitoring. Definitely NOT how I thought my “last day” in Minnesota would go.
Fortunately, I was pumped full of drugs, monitored and finally deemed fit to make my escape right in time for the Notre Dame-Clemson game. Or…would we say fortunately? I think Em’s best friend Liz summed it up pretty appropriately, sadly.
After the debacle that was supposedly a college football playoff game (WOOF, OUCH, GO IRISH), I laid pretty low for the next several days, riding out a course of steroids that knocked me totally flat. On New Year’s Eve, I was seriously still so out of it that I couldn’t even power through for champagne - and my parents had even bought Nicholas Feuillate, one of my favorites! SAD. Jodi enjoyed for the both of us, once again cementing her status as the cutest human alive:
And Kels, cementing her status as the best and kindest friend ever, came over for an ultra-low-key evening of making homemade tagliatellle bolognese! My parents bought a pasta roller attachment for their KitchenAid after we went to Tuscany, and it was seriously one of the coolest and most fun things I’ve ever done in a kitchen.
LOOK AT THAT PASTA. Seriously so good and fun! I didn’t even make it to the ball drop - pretty sure I was in bed and fast asleep by 10:30, oops. At least I started 2019 well-rested, okay, guys?!
Being a delinquent, and totally drained, I took no photos on my outing with Hannah the next day - the silver lining of being forbidden to fly until the 2nd was that we actually got to squeeze in seeing each other! My parents and I ended my time at home with a trip to Pizzeria Lola - turns out -15 degree windchills will give you a craving for cheese and carbs like nothing else, apparently.
And with that, it was off to the airport, back on a plane, and back to the Bay. All said in done, a break that was simultaneously eventful and uneventful, relaxing and jam-packed, full of highs and lows - sounds a lot like 2018 ended much the way it existed?! So thankful to my fam and friends for making it as great as possible!