Category Archives: We Travel

Rewind: Traveling Together to Nashville

This year we started a new tradition with Matt’s parents… traveling together! Matt and I suggested it and I am so glad that we did. It’s no secret that Matt’s folks wish we could visit Indiana more often. But our vacation time is limited and needs to be divided among all our family (my dad is in AZ, my brother’s family is in CO, we see all of Matt’s family when we visit IN) not to mention saving a little time for the two of us. We try to get to Indiana once or twice a year. In addition to our regular trips home, we suggested that we meet his parents somewhere that neither of us had been for a long weekend. Adventure, seeing new things, having shared experiences, that is the stuff that builds memories.
Matt and I suggested Nashville for our first trip. It was close enough to his parents that they could drive. They even continued down to the Smokey Mountains after visiting with us and had a nice vacation just the two of them. Matt and I also were interested in Nashville because of its music history. We aren’t country music fans per say, but we do enjoy all types of live music. We rented a 2 bedroom condo in a high-rise close to downtown. It made for a pretty relaxed weekend.
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Ryman Auditorium: Our first full day in Nashville we toured the historic Ryman Auditorium. It was great to see the birthplace of country music. I was amazed how many great artists had taken the stage.

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I loved the honky-tonks on Broadway, but what I didn’t love was the smoke in the bars. I was 7 or 8 weeks pregnant when we made the trip and my sense of smell was in hyperdrive. I was surprised that smoking was allowed in bars because it has been years since smoking was banned in all public places in Washington. The boot shops, especially the one pictured above were very tempting but I was able to resist purchasing my first pair of cowboy boots.
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Our second day there we explored the Grand Ol Opry Hotel. I didn’t realize how huge the hotel was and that it had so many indoor gardens. It kinda reminded us of a less intense Disney Land or Las Vegas. We would love to stay there sometime on a return trip.

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That night we had tickets to the Grand Ol Opry. I loved the show, even though there weren’t any artists that I recognized. My in-laws really enjoyed it as well.  I highly recommend it if you are visiting Nashville.

These are the only 4 photos I took in Nashville… sigh. Pregnancy got the best of me and I didn’t take many pictures at all… or I was too busy having fun! Our final day there we visited Belle Meade plantation on the recommendation of Weddingbee reader Cafegirl. We enjoyed a great southern style breakfast before touring the house and grounds. It was a nice relaxing day.

We had so much fun with my in-laws and I am already looking forward to planning a trip in 2013… this time with a little baby in tow! We also asked my Dad and my Mom to both plan long weekend trips with us in 2013. I am very excited for this new tradition.

Do you travel with your parents or in-laws? Any suggestions for good weekend trips with an infant?

Amy_red

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Rewind: Anniversary and Zoo

{Anniversary Dinner and Les Miserables}

Matt and I celebrated 2 years of marriage in July.
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We pretended we were back in Italy at La Fontana Siciliana

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Before taking in a performance of Les Miserables at the 5th Avenue Theatre. Les Mis is my favorite musical and the tickets were well worth the price.

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{Fort Wayne Zoo}

At the end of July we also made an UBBER fast trip to Fort Wayne to meet our newest nephew. While there we visited with Matt’s parents, siblings, and our niece and nephews.  A family trip to the zoo was the highlight of the 2 day trip.

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Meet Ayden!

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Nieces, Lions, and Nephews oh my!

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It was also the last time we would get to see my BIL before he deploys.  Was great to see him with his son- passing those musical genes on early!

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I am not sure who was cuter- my nieces and nephews or the animals… ok my nieces and nephews!hatch-imp

Or my husband playing with the kids.  Yeah, I think Matt takes the prize.

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As much as I hate doing quick trips (the monday’s suck!), this one was well worth it. I was very impressed with the Fort Wayne Zoo.  For a small city zoo it really represented.  I’ve been to the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle once and Matt has never been.  Its on the list of things to do now. Does your town have a zoo? Have you checked it out?

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Rewind: Back on Skis Again

When Matt and I started planning our vacation for the year it was important for us to “spread the love” around to both sides of our families. This year we are focusing on taking trips with our families- not just visiting them where they live.   Last fall while we were visiting my Dad at the NASCAR races in PHX we received some text messages from my brother and sis-in-law Tig.  They were at a charity auction  and were bidding on a cabin at Breckinridge. They wanted to know if we would join them.  Dad, Matt and I all agreed that is sounded amazing and luckily they won the cabin.

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When we arrived to Denver, Dad picked us up in a rented mini-van. I haven’t skied in 16+ years and Matt recently learned to snowboard so we didn’t have any equipment.  We opted to rent from Carvers Ski Shop in Breck.  I liked that they also rented clothing- which is good because even if I had my (retro) ski clothes from 16 years ago I could guarantee that they wouldn’t fit.

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The welcome wagon was in full force when we got to the cabin.  My nephew “The boy” met us at the door.  My brother had taken the kids skiing earlier in the day and they were bouncing off the walls when we arrived.

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We played perhaps the longest game of Muppet Uno in the history of the world.  The Boy and The Girl are very competitive… no idea where they might get that… my brother and I weren’t competitive… no sir-eee.. don’t know what you are talking about.

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The next day it was time for business.  My brother has taken The Girl skiing for several years and The Boy has been snowboarding for the past 2 years.  I was really impressed how good they were about carrying their own equipment.  I was a little nervous about not having been on skis for 16 years but as my dad and brother assured me, it was like a day hadn’t passed.  We grew up on the slopes- from the time we were 5 years old until graduating from high school we skied almost every weekend during the season as a family.

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The biggest difference for me was the new style of skis and wearing a helmet. I adjusted quickly to both.

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The boy was really showing improvement over the videos I saw of him boarding earlier in the season.  He was doing both front side and back side turns.  He even offered to coach Matt (who can’t turn in both directions yet)… so stinking cute.

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Being out of practice Matt and I required some breaks.

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But we only sat out 1 run. My SIL Tig doesn’t ski, so she keeps base camp, hanging in the sun or by the fire at the lodge and reading.

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By the time lunch rolled around she had staked out a table for us.

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I love having time to just be silly with my niece and nephew.  The Boy decided to call it a day at lunch but the rest of us decided to get a few more runs in.

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Seriously couldn’t have asked for a better day weather wise.  The snow was getting sparse this late in the season but it was still great.

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I decided to get some video of Matt boarding and when I got ahead of him I decided to be “fancy” and ski backwards for a bit.  My hot dogging bit me in the butt and I fell (the only time that day).  I guess I deserved that.

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Matt and I have decided to try to make 1-2 ski trips next year, likely in our own backyard at one of the ski resorts in the Cascades. I am shaking my head wondering why I haven’t been skiing in the many years I’ve lived in Washington.

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After skiing we all enjoyed the rest of the afternoon.  My Dad, who the kids call “Granddude” took them down near a brook on the cabin property.  They were giggling when I snuck up behind them.  Apparently Granddude had just said that he bet Aunt Amy would be coming along soon to take a picture of them sitting on the swing.

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Busted!

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We cooked at lot at the cabin but did enjoy one dinner out on a riverboat restaurant.

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Instead of skiing a second day we opted for a relaxed day around town.  Traveling with Granddude means ice cream cones- not that the kids were complaining.

I loved going on vacation with my brother’s family and my Dad.  These are the times when memories are made.  It puts everyone on neutral ground, nobody has to “host” and everyone is free to just enjoy each others company.  When you live far away from your family I really feel like these types of trips are necessary. We’ve already penciled in a trip with them to Disneyland next spring- I can hardly wait.

Do you go on vacation with family? What is your favorite destination? Tips for vacationing together?

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Elevensies in Austin

If you hadn’t noticed Matt and I have a very healthy geeky side. We are in touch with our inner geek and aren’t ashamed.  When Matt’s friend L posted a link to the Alamo Draft House’s Hobbit Feast in Austin there wasn’t hesitation. We were in.

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Here is the event in a nutshell- Alamo Draft House is a movie theatre that serves food and beer.  Good food and beer.  They also do themed movie viewings and a couple of years ago they created the ultimate movie event for geeks like us- Hobbit Feast.  View all three Lord of the Rings (LOTR) movies in their extended director’s cut formats while dining on Hobbit inspired food and drink- get this- for all seven courses of Hobbit meals-

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First Breakfast
Fresh Hens eggs, nice crispy bacon, grilled mushrooms and orange slice Canella Blood Orange Mimosa

Second Breakfast
Strawberries and Cream Fleurasion Oberhoff Mead

Elevensies
Pan seared sausage and tomatoes with cheeses, cabbage and pickles Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale

Luncheon
Grilled lamb chops, cabernet reduction with mashed potatoes, roast baby carrots and a brown ale Guinness Stout

Afternoon Tea
Tea Baby greens with garlic blackberry vinaigrette, salted pork-cheese galette, tea cookies served with hot tea

Dinner
Stewed Coney with taters, carrot, and leek, fresh garden herbs with crusty bread Woodchuck Amber Cider

Supper
Swirl of tomato and spinach soups wild mushroom crouton, apple pie NV Charles Bove Sparkling Brut

Lembas bread as needed

*Cue choirs*

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In January Matt and I sat down and looked at our vacation for the year and did some strategizing. When you have family spread all over the country (Indiana- him, Colorado, Arizona, Maine, Michigan, Massachusetts-Me) vacation is a precious commodity that must be rationed.  We knew that in addition to trips to the East Coast and Indiana we wanted to visit his friends L & N who recently moved to Austin.  We were certain Austin would be our kind of town.  Hobbit Feast provided us the perfect opportunity to visit L & N and check out all that Austin had to offer.

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Now wanting to go to Hobbit Feast and actually getting to go are two different things.  The tickets are limited and hot commodities. It’s all very mysterious. They don’t actually announce when the tickets will go on sale- they just do.  And apparently they release tickets in waves so you have to be fast.  L was on it though. She supper stalked the website and one night Matt got a text late at night “They are on sale”  He logged in and tried to purchase 2 but they only let him buy one. He woke me up and told me to buy 1 but it was closed.  L had snagged 2 so we were 1 ticket shy.  Cue stress.  The next day L worked her networking magic and had the fourth ticket for us.  Hence our excitement in these photos.

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It was amazing. 12 hours of Hobbits!  Next year when they add The Hobbit to the mix it will stretch 16+ hours- Whoa.  I would totally do it again though- the food (especially the Lembas was ahhh-mazing).

The rest of our trip was pretty awesome too.  We had a blast eating our way through Austin. Fried avocado (pictured below) is the most amazing thing ever.

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I can think of no better place for a post-drinking dessert than Gourdoughs- YUM.
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We even fit in brunch with some of my favorite Bees. Austin is most definitely on my cities I can live in list.  We can’t wait to come back.

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And just to cap off our wondrously geeky weekend, we attended the Seattle Symphony’s Legend of Zelda night on our return. Ironically we found ourselves sitting next to our friends T and D (of murder mystery night fame)- awesome.

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🙂 *sigh*  Does 12 hours of LOTR sound like heaven or hell to you? Who else is counting down the months until The Hobbit (my fav book BTW) releases?

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Train Trip Wish List

Our trip on the Empire Builder really got Matt and I thinking about seeing the country via train.  After a little research, here are the 5 trips I would like to take sometime.
The Coast Starlight
(all maps courtesy of Amtrack.com)

Runs from: Seattle to LA.

Trip time: 35 Hrs end to end

Major Stops:  Seattle, Portland, Eugene-Springfield, Sacramento, Oakland, San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles

Scenic Highlights: Steep mountains, rolling valleys, and ride right along the coast and sandy beaches of the Pacific NW

Amenities:  Dining Car and Lounge car. Sleeper Cars also have a first class parlor (with bar), movie theatre, (outdated) arcade, and wine/cheese tasting. This train does have WiFi (yay). The dining accommodations on this train are said to be the best in all of Amtrak’s historic routes.

Sample cost (one way, 2 Passangers in a Roomette):  Seattle to LA – $507

My thoughts: This is tops on my list of trains I want to ride. I could see us taking this and making a stop in San Francisco along the way.

Pacific Parlour on the Coast Starlight

Pacific Parlor Car Source: sjb4photos on flickr

Bishops peak from the Coast Starlight

Bishops Peak Source: Loco Steve on Flickr

California Zephyr

Runs from: Chicago to Emeryville, CA

Trip Time: 51 hrs

Major Stops: San Francisco, Sacramento, Reno, Salt Lake City, Denver, Omaha, Chicago

Scenic Highlights: The Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevadas, Winter park, Moffat Tunnel, various canyons

Amenities: Dining Car, lounge/sight seeing car.

Sample Cost (one way, 2 Passangers in a Roomette):Chicago- Emeryville = $694 Denver to Emeryville=$532

Comments: This one is lower down on my list. Personally, I’d catch this one in Denver and take it to California.  Eastern CO, NE, IA, and IL aren’t super exciting in my book, but CO, UT, NV, and CA are.

Rock Creek Trestle Source: Western Pacific Depots and Stations

Source: Delargy.com

The Sunset Limited

Runs from: Los Angeles to New Orleans

Trip Time: 48 hrs

Major Stops: LA, Tuscon, El Paso, San Antonio, Houston, New Orleans

Scenic Highlights: Big Bend National Park, Saguaro National Park, Desert, The French Quarter

Amenities: Dining Car, Lounge/Sightseeing Car

Sample Cost (one way, 2 Passangers in a Roomette): Maricopa, AZ to New Orleans $544  LA to New Orleans $744

Comments: This one would be fun to do with my Dad, from Maricopa  to New Orleans.  From what I understand the scenery isn’t too varied- perfect for a short trip.

Louisiana Source: 30 Days on Amtrak

Source

Southwest Chief

Runs from: Los Angeles to Chicago

Trip Time: 40+ hrs

Major Stops: Los Angeles, Albuquerque, Kansas City, Chicago.

Scenic Highlights: Mojave Desert, Santa Fe, Red Rock Canyons, Painted Desert,

Amenities: Dining Car, Lounge, Cafe and Snack Car

Sample Cost(one way, 2 Passangers in a Roomette): Los Angeles to Chicago: $745; Los Angeles to Santa Fe: $424

Comments: I think this one would be fun to take to Santa Fe from LA (see a pattern here) it would be a relatively short trip- just an over night trip.

Apache Canyon: Source

The Adirondack

Runs from: New York to Montreal

Trip Time: 11 hrs (due to freight traffic north of Albany)

Major Stops: New York, Albany, Montreal

Scenic Highlights: Hudson Valley, Adirondaks, Montreal (YAY)

Amenities: Snack Car

Sample Cost (one way, 2 Passengers in Coach): New York to Montreal: $140

Comments: So it isn’t the same experience with a sleeper car and dining car, but it is a beautiful way to see New York state and to get to one of my favorite cities in the world- Montreal.

Source: Fromers

While researching I stumbled upon the blog of a profession photographer who set out to document 30 days riding the  rails all over the US.  He stopped blogging halfway though, but I enjoyed the photos and stories nonetheless.  If Matt and I could only take 30 days off from life and do something similar, would be amazing.

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Christmas Train: Chicago to Seattle

You can view the first part of our trip here, here, and here.

December 28

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After our Christmas visit we headed back to Chicago’s Union station to catch our train home to Seattle.  The Christmas decorations we starting to be taken down but the Great Hall still looked amazing.

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Union Station has an Amtrak lounge for sleeping car passengers.  The lounge was a nice and comfy change from the hustle and bustle of the station.  They even had complimentary coffee, tea, sodas, and juices. I’ve recently discovered the bliss that is an Airline lounge in airports… it all started with the Amtrak Lounge. Soon it was 2:15 and time to board the train.

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Meet Betsy*, our Sleeping Car Attendant.  She wasn’t bad per say, but we realized how good we had it on the Eastbound trip with Patrick.  We were in the same room as the previous trip, but Betsy didn’t run her car the same way Patrick did. The door across the hall was closed and all the things that he had told us to help ourselves to (which were neatly arranged) were flung about her room.  She didn’t detract from the trip, but she also didn’t add anything to it.

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We were a bit more tired on the trip home.  We spent a lot of time knitting, playing games (on the DS and iPad), and napping.  Matt even borrowed the eye mask I got in my stocking.  Apparently he was oblivious to the red satin and “sweet dreams” on it.  Thanks to my MIL we also had lots of snacks for the trip.

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The beginning of the trip West Bound has an old industrial feel – and we loved it.

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That first day we passed through Chicago, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis by 11PM.

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The sun was setting over Wisconsin when we decided to break out the complimentary Champaign (no extra splits for us- although we did help ourselves to some sparkling wine.)

December 29

The next morning we woke up in North Dakota.  I love the next series of photos as they show how beautiful the plains can be a the sun comes up.

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Our train had to stop on the tracks in the middle of nowhere because of high winds.  I took this photo while we were stopped for almost an hour.

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The highlight of our second day was of course the wine and cheese tasting.  I really wish we could have bought the cheeses we ate- the blue was amazing.

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It was on that second night at dinner that we met the most interesting couple ever.  You meet lots of characters and interesting people on the train but this couple took the cake.   They had just returned from spending 7 years in Paupa New Guinea on a mission trip.  They are professional mariners (sailors) and they sailed from Seattle to Papa New Guinea where they taught the missionaries to sail and established safe sailing routes.  My understanding is that the Missionaries learn the local language and work on translating the bible in very remote locations where boats are essential.  Paupa New Guinea has 200+ local languages- whoa.

Oh yeah, Matt and I won another bottle of wine- as you can see we were quite excited to split it back in our room that night.

December 30

The next morning we woke up in Washington and by early morning we were riding the rails along Puget Sound with Whidbey Island in the distance.

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It was a great experience to ride along the coast like this.  The train tracks are virtually on the water, it is a much lower and closer view of the sound than is possible by any other method of transportation (well except for boats of course).

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A Shipwreck?

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*sigh* Seattle at last.

Looking back on the trip we feel that we should have only taken the train Eastbound and caught a flight home.  The two-day trip on the way out was perfect. It allowed us to slow down and unwind before seeing family. We arrived very relaxed. On the way home the two-day trip felt like a hurdle between us and our own beds.  There are so many great rail trips you can take, I’d definitely suggest looking into a few.  Matt and I have created a list (I’ll list them in another post) that we hope to try some day- maybe you’ll try one soon too.

*I’ve forgotten her name- as has Matt.  I couldn’t very well call her “not Patrick” but that’s how we think of her.

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Christmas in Fort Wayne

The whole reason for our trip east was to spend Christmas with my in-laws.  My BIL is likely deploying to Afghanistan this year so it was great to have everyone together over Christmas.  I didn’t take many photos, I really tried to focus on good quality time with family and that meant not being behind the lens all the time.

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My FIL with his youngest Grandson- W.  Watching him with the Grandbabies was such a blast and yes I am totally guilty of 95% of my photos featuring a nephew or niece.

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My niece M loves to be on the floor and sans pants! Love her little maryjane socks.  BIL Mark was quite smitten with the little ones too.

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We didn’t open gifts until late Christmas night (visiting with other family all day) and poor M was too tired to open all his gifts.  We had Christmas part deux the next morning.  The little people airplane from Uncle Mark was quite the hit.

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The youngest member of the family M’s little brother W got some good quality snuggle time in.  That kid is a snuggled and loves to be super warm

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We had a nice day after Christmas lunch with the Grandmas (and Grandpa too).  My MIL’s parents (below) picked up by FIL’s mother and brought her over to the house to hang out with all the Great-grandbabies.

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I adore both of Matt’s grandmas and his grandpa.  After the passing of my grandma they are the only grandparents left between the two of us.  In particular I have a very fond affection for my FIL’s Mum (talking with Matt in the photo above).  She raised 11 children- yes ELEVEN, and is incredibly intelligent.  We share a love of shows like NCIS and the Mentalist and there is just something that I really connect to.  This visit was a pleasure- usually we see her at large (remember those 11 kids?) family gatherings and there is a lot going on.  It was great to sit with her one on one and try to count all of her Grandkids and Great Grandkids.  I think there were 60+ Grandkids and about 20 Great Grandkids.

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It was hard to say goodbye (my FIL hugs M before he and his brother and parents took off for Chicago) even though we knew we would be seeing everyone again in a few weeks.

Up next: We get back on the train!

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