December 28, 2010

Buckeyes, Turn 2, Lights, Puppies, and a Big Belly

The Christmas season has officially come.... and gone. 
The tree was put up, decorated, eaten a little bit, undecorated, and then thrown back into the woods.  The lights were hung, lit, and then taken down.  The buckeyes were rolled, dipped, eaten and are (almost) gone.  The presents were wrapped and tied with bows, batted at and hid behind, and then opened Christmas morning.  The stockings were hung, filled, emptied, and taken down.  Our Christmas is all neatly organized into a giant red and green tote.  But the memories.  Oh. The memories that were made!

This was the first year my husband and I got to host family during Christmas.  We've gone to see family in Michigan in the past, we've had a roommate share Christmas morning with us, and we've had our own Christmases with just the two of us (plus the kitties) - but this was the first year we got to have family here. 
My aunt and my grandma drove over from Texas this year to spend the holiday with us.  We had so much fun exploring all the Christmas-ness that is to be found in and around the Charlotte, NC area. 
First stop: McAdenville - also known as Christmas Town USA.  (Yes, I took these photos, yes, I was the one driving, and yes, I only had my point&shoot since one hand had to be on the wheel.  No, I wasn't going faster than 5 mph, no I wasn't the only one driving and taking pictures at the same time.)  :)
So McAdenville is a quaint little town about 30 minutes outside of Charlotte where everyone in the neighborhood gets in the Christmas spirit by hanging lights and decorating their homes - yes, people actually LIVE in these homes!  The path through the neighborhood was about 2 miles long, and everyone in the community got involved with decorating - the firehouse, the small businesses, the churches even had bells ringing.  It was pretty neat to see all the different ways people decorated their homes and yards and we all enjoyed riding through the display and ooh-ing and ahh-ing at all the lights.  Kids were hanging out of car windows and sun roofs shouting "Merry Christmas" to all the passersby and the scenic pond we passed had a gorgeous fountain that changed between red, green and white sprays with twinkling white pine trees in the background. 

The next night we decided to venture over to the Carolina Christmas at Lowe's Motor Speedway.  It was quite the experience!  We drove all throughout the infield through a maze of lights, we stopped in the infield and warmed up with some hot chocolate in the garages - which had been transformed into a skating rink and little booths filled with goodies to look at, eat, and purchase.  We walked through Bethlehem village - which not only included a live nativity, but live animals, the Inn that was too full, and townspeople walking around.  It was pretty neat.  After that we hopped back into the car and finished out the lights, ending up going up on the track and rounding turn #2!  I thought the car was going to flip over on that 24* turn- needless to say, I didn't take any pictures during that part!  I did manage to catch a few of the lights as we drove through though. :)
 I thought I was going to loose my dinner through this tunnel - the lights were flashing really fast in a spiraling pattern making it look a lot like that boat scene on Willy Wonka... whew, I was glad to get out of that!
They were offering horse-drawn Carriage rides through the lights, but I'm pretty sure the windchill was negative 583* because it was FREEZING out there with the wind!
This was the turn we went up on - FUN!

Thursday was my first day off of school, and Aunt Deb was seriously jonesin' for some buckeyes.  April & I had already made one batch (144) but those were all given away to friends and coworkers, so I taught Aunt Deb & Gramma how to make them - they're a lot of work, but they're worth it!

The puppies enjoyed watching and making sure we weren't dropping any peanut butter crumbs. :)

When they realized we weren't going to drop them any pieces, they went right back to their favorite spots:
We ended up with the first White Christmas in Charlotte in 20 years!  It was very pretty to look at, and even better knowing that it will be gone in a few days - rather than a few months! :)
All in all, we had a great week spending time with family, celebrating the season and doing lots, and lots and lots of relaxing!  It may have been our first year spending Christmas with family, but it was our last year having Christmas without our little one!
Next year there will be THREE stockings hanging from our mantle!