2023 Christmas Recap: What we gave, what we got, what we did and how low energy was the best energy.

January 6, 2024

We believe we should all love where we live.

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Although the Christmas decorations have all been packed away, we’re still on a high from our holiday break. It was a pretty special year, not only because it was my parents’ first Christmas in North Carolina, but Chris’s parents decided to fly out for a week, as well! My in-laws stayed in our guest house and we bounced back and forth between entertaining both sides of the family, but definitely didn’t pass up the chance to get an impromptu photo (on my phone!) with both sets of grandparents.

We did all of our favorite holiday activities: countless puzzles, a visit to the bowling alley with cousins. This year, I took each of my daughters on a one on one shopping trip to get gifts for their sisters and Christmas jammies and a dress, too. I always bought the dress and pajamas myself in previous years and I can’t tell you how FUN it was this year to make an event out of it and also, relieve some of the mental weight of choosing those things for each girl. They didn’t all match, and I didn’t even care.

This was our third year going to the Chinese Lantern Festival (I believe it may be a traveling event, but it’s always in our area from Thanksgiving through the New Year, so it’s become a favorite tradition of ours!) and every year, it’s a little different. Our whole family loves it and my parents can’t get enough of being outside in good weather in December.

We were so lucky my sister in law got tickets to the Pullen Park Holiday Express. Tickets sell out so early and fast and she got some for both of our families to go together! The whole thing felt very much like a Hallmark movie. There was music and lights everywhere. A train ride. All-inclusive games to play. A larger than life snow globe! Food stands. And the weather was just cold enough to wear a coat, which we all happily did to get the full effect.

On Christmas eve, before church, we made fried dough like my Italian grandma used to make (the best sugary donuts, and then a few have anchovies in them! eek!) at my sister’s house. I often get asked how I maintain eating restrictions through the holidays and I feel very blessed to not feel left out at all. I find so much joy in watching others enjoy things.

That evening, we hosted Chris’s brother’s family along with his parents and we accidentally filled our entire 17′ island with charcuterie. My SIL cautiously asked, “Is…anyone else joining us?” And we laughed so hard when I said NOPE! We barely made a dent in the spread, but pulled it out the next couple nights, too. It was the meat that kept meat-ing.

Chris and I made a pact this year that we wouldn’t leave any wrapping until Christmas eve and I’m so grateful that we stuck with it. It made the day and evening so relaxing. After the girls went to bed, we set out all the gifts under the tree were in bed before midnight. (Very late for me, but I made it somehow!).

Our girls are steady, almost always waking up at 7am every day. And Christmas was no different. With no where to go, we like to take our time with opening gifts. Chris will turn on the fire and some Christmas instrumental music and I’ll set up a perch right by the tree to pass out gifts. We got in age order, starting from the youngest (Polly), to the oldest (Chris) and watch each other open every gift. There’s about 7 gifts per person, here were a couple of the favorites:

  1. Oura Horizon Stealth Ring $449 (Chris) After Chris got me an Oura ring for my birthday, and I raved about it, he asked for one for Christmas. He wears it on his ring finger (in place of the silicone band he was wearing as his wedding ring–that’s tucked away in a box) and raves about it all day.
  2. TV Backlight Camera $159 (Chris) This was a surprise gift for him that has also gotten rave reviews. The LED lights mimic the colors on the TV to make for a more immersive watching (or gaming) experience. He installed it on the big TV in our rec room where we mostly play video games.
  3. Vuori Waffle Crew $78 (Julia) While Chris is a Vuori junkie, I might be right behind him thanks to this gift. He got me what looks like a basic off-white crew neck, but it fits so perfectly. It’s just the right length crop with sleeves that are actually long enough on me. I put it on immediately.
  4. Custom Frame with Plaque $125 (Julia) This was a very thoughtful gift from my sister, Victoria I had to share. We went to the Era’s tour together in April and she framed a photo of us from the night with Framebridge. They have the option to add a plaque and she had it say “it was rare, we were there.” IFYKY. We both cried. It was a highlight of the year, honestly. (A great gift for any Swiftie!)
  5. Stanley 30oz IceFlow Flip Straw Tumbler $35 (Greta) We have so many Stanley cups, I could barely bring myself to buying this hot pink one for Greta but she had talked about it for months, it was so fun surprising her on Christmas morning.
  6. Aerie Bootcut Legging $41 (Greta) As soon as she finished screaming and jumping up and down, Greta informed me that I need stop wearing normal leggings and get a pair of flared leggings, too. (I could never give up my standards, but they are very cute!)
  7. Custom Neon Name Sign $Depends on Word (Faye) Since we finished her room earlier this year, Faye has been asking for a neon sign that says her name. I love this one because it reads as white when it’s off, and it’s neon orange when one. It also comes with a dimmer so you can control the brightness. I know I would have loved having this as a child, and it was so fun watching her open it.
  8. Razor Electric Scooter $159 (Faye) This was the year of electric scooters. Faye and Polly both got electric scooters and I surprised Chris with one, too (the brand is fluid freeride). Greta has an electric bike, but now we kind of wish we got her one! They have had so much fun all break on them.
  9. Waitress Costume $34 (Polly) Polly is heavy into make believe right now and can’t stop playing restaurant. She’ll set up little make shift tables all over the playroom, with a bell and a towel as a table cloth covering each table. Her restaurant is called The Fox Den and not only is she the waitress, but she’s also the host, and chef and manager. We got her this cute costume along with a bunch of play menus and food.
  10. Kit Kittredge American Girl Doll $150 (Polly) Polly was the tear-filled recipient of our family’s first American Girl Doll. And! Kit’s little puppy too.
  11. Arcade Basketball Game $599 (Family) We try to get a fun family gift every year, something that we can all play together. And this year, it was this basketball game that Chris and I put together for the better part of Christmas morning. (Still preferred to staying up all night on Christmas eve, imo). We have been playing it non stop! So fun!!!

Of course, every gift meant so much. Chris got me a vintage plant stand off of Chairish that shocked me in all of the best ways. It lives happily in our dining room and is used daily for moving the vase from the table when we’re about to eat. My mother gave me my late grandmas glass candy dish with a note, “She wanted you to have this.” We got my dad tickets to the UNC vs Duke game in February, because after such a hard year of cancer, you start to realize–why wait to go to a game you talk about all year.

The best gift of all was expanding and filling our dining table for Christmas dinner and Chris’s prime rib. We didn’t send out Christmas cards this year (our first time in our 15 year marriage, exhaustion won), but if we did, this would be it (except we would all be in it haha). The happiest scene:

We ended the year by having my sister, Andi and her husband and son over for the chillest new years eve on the planet. The dress code was sweats. The menu was snacks. There was no promise of midnight in sight. We played games and talked and laughed for hours. And then we were all very surprised when we were suddenly just minutes away from midnight.

None of us had any idea Andi would go into labor just a few hours later, but that’s her story for another time. Starting the year with a new baby in the family is absolutely the happiest way to do it.

We didn’t go on any trips over the break, and honestly, we barely left the house. It was blissful. It was low energy in all the best ways. I’m not quite sure I’ve come out of my hibernation yet, I haven’t felt that new year’s pep in my step yet. But I don’t think I’ve ever felt so grateful. Hope you and yours had the best season.

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What do you think?

  1. Sarah Wilson says:

    Tears in my eyes reading this sweet recollection.
    Thank you for sharing and reminding us that—for all our focus on and investment in our homes—the reason is for the home to host and support and connect our families for these precious moments together.
    Quietly following and always with appreciation.

  2. Jennifer I says:

    This was a really lovely and touching read, ty for sharing.

  3. Jody says:

    I’m currently taking an indefinite break from Instagram and your stories are one of the only things I miss! So I loved this personal recap of your holiday season! Seeing your niece at the end is just 🥲🩷 congrats, Auntie!!

  4. Lisa says:

    Sounds like a beautiful, thoughtful, restful holiday time! Well deserved! Are you going to expand on the anchovies in the doughnuts?! 😃

  5. Jennifer Kraft says:

    I believe happiness at home is such a gift. I love my home, I love being at home alone, which is new, but I just have this connection that I can’t explain. Vacations are cool and wonderful, but my home is where my heart is.

  6. Dd says:

    Tickets to the Duke Carolina game?! Wow, what a great treat for your Dad after a rough year. Cheers.

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