We kicked things off by attending Christmas services at Harvest (on Saturday) and at First Baptist in Wheaton (Sunday morning). Travis got his first glimpse of the sanctuary where we'll be married next fall, and met LOTS of people I know from my many years there who had heard about our engagement and were eager to wish us well.Christmas Eve morning Travis and I went snowshoeing at the arboretum. We experienced our own "Christmas Miracle" when we found Travis' cell phone and keys he'd lost there the day before (when we'd gone for a brief afternoon romp through the snow). Despite the several inches of snow and some freezing rain that had fallen overnight, we came across both items (near where Travis had taken a flying leap into a snow-covered bush, causing the items to fly out of his pockets, which neither of us realized at the time) AND when Travis got home and plugged his phone in later that night, he found IT STILL WORKS! He could give the cell phone manufacturer a great testimonial on the durability of their product, that's for sure.
Later that evening we gathered for dinner with my extended family. It was "the year of the fiance," as I and two of my cousins added our beaus to the mix. Christmas Eve held an undercurrent of sadness for me this year, as the event that had always revolved around my grandpa was punctuated my his absence. I'm glad the family still came together, though, and we enjoyed conversations, games, and laughter back at my aunt's house after dinner.
Travis and I hosted Christmas Day for my immediate family at his house in Chicago. In typical Johnson-family fashion, it was a very relaxed, low-key day of food, presents, and Pixar animation.EARLY the next morning (5:45 to be exact) we hit the road for Michigan. An ice storm had hit overnight, but Chicago's salt trucks had done a good job on the city's roads, so we didn't realize how bad and far-reaching the storm had been until we found ourselves at a stand-still on the highway, just over the Indiana border. The road was a sheet of ice, and we learned the highway was shut down across the entire state of Indiana. And so there we sat, locked in place by the unmoving cars and trucks around us, for THREE HOURS. Thankfully we were able to stay warm enough, even with the car off most of the time. The only food we had in the car were the cookies my aunt had sent home with us Christmas Eve, so those became breakfast. Finally, traffic had shifted enough (every hour or so people up ahead of us became restless and created false hope by moving their cars up a few feet) that a brave soul from behind us was able to squeeze between the two lanes of traffic and make his way up to a break in the median where he pulled a U-turn. We wasted no time in following his lead! We took the next exit and then proceded to slowly follow ice-covered Rt 12 all the way around the lake and into Michigan. Finally, TEN HOURS after we'd left home that morning, we pulled into his parents' driveway in Michigan, rather bedraggled and stir crazy, but gratified that when put to the test, we were able to enjoy the ride and amuse ourselves for 10 hours without any conflict or irritation between us.
We spent that evening and the next two days with Travis' family, exchanging gifts, eating yummy food, playing games, and generally relaxing. It was great. And the trip home only took the usual 4 hours, which was quite a relief!
Monday night (Dec 29th) I received my Christmas present from Travis, which was dinner at Trattoria No. 10 in Chicago, followed by A Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theater. Dinner was scrumptious, and the play was really well done. Another amazing date!
Allison & Alex hosted the TU New Years bash this year. The festivities started Tuesday afternoon when friends started arriving from all over the midwest. This year's gathering had more of a chill vibe than years past, which was to everyone's liking. We prepared and ate meals together, played games, told stories, caught up on each other's lives, threw a baby shower for Chris & Janelle (which included a hilarious game of "Pin the Beard on the Baby"), and reflected with thankfulness on our enduring friendships. This was our 10th New Year together!
My two weeks of family, friends, and freedom wrapped up on Saturday, Jan 3rd with wedding dress shopping. I found my gown in the first boutique we visited (though we went to another before making the final decision, just to be sure). The dress isn't exactly what I'd envisioned myself in when I was poring over bridal magazines, but when I looked in the mirror and saw myself as a bride (veil and all--there's something about putting on the veil that makes you go from a girl in a pretty dress to a bride), I knew it was the one. That evening Alex & Allison introduced Travis & I and Nate & Bethany to their new favorite place for shabu shabu in Chicagoland, Shabu House in Niles. We quickly understood why this place is the best around for this type of cuisine, and we'll be returning for more!