Last Thursday I journeyed back to the East Coast for some fun holiday family time!  I unfortunately took the trip alone, as John didn’t have enough vacation days saved up for the trip, so early Thursday afternoon we said our goodbyes as he dropped me off at the airport.

I arrived in NYC late Thursday night and was picked up by my family who I couldn’t wait to see!  We enjoyed the ride back from the airport together, but I fell asleep shortly after arriving back home, tired from my long day of travel.

I woke up on Friday ready to go, and my mom and I started out the day by bringing Boots to the vet for a check-up and travel approval.  Boots would be heading back to San Diego with me on Christmas Eve, so we needed to ensure that he was of good health and up to date on his shots – and I needed a sedative so he wouldn’t wail during the entire plane flight!  The vet appointment went well, and aside from gaining a pound while staying with Grandma (thanks a lot mom!), he was good to go! :)

I headed to Blu Salon after the vet appointment, and was reuinited with my Nouna (godmother) and Yiayia (grandmother).  After many hugs and a few happy tears, catching up with all the girls I used to work with, and eating some holiday treats, Nouna gave me a fabulous new Hair ‘do.  After my haircut, Yiayia and I made our way to lunch and then met up with Papou (grandpa) for a visit.  We had a great time enjoying each others company over our meal.

Friday night was Chris’ work Christmas party, where the whole family gathered for an exciting night of festivities.  The food was amazing, the drinks were flowing, and the cameras were snapping memories of our fun night together.  All of the kids were there except for Matt, who couldn’t make it at the last minute.

Saturday was another busy day, which started off with Dan and I enjoying some lunch at my dad’s house.  After enjoying some delicious filet mignon, we exchanged gifts and hung out for a bit before it was time to move on to the next activity.

Saturday evening, my family, Yiayia and Papou, and Nouna, all joined Chris and the gang at the Labarbiera household for a festive “Christmas Eve” celebration.  Since I wasn’t going to be in NJ on actual Christmas Eve, they made a slight adjustment and we celebrated all together a few nights early.  In similar fashion to years past, Matt prepared a scrumptious dinner for all of us to enjoy, and after sufficiently stuffing ourselves, we cozied up for some present opening.

Sunday started off with church with the fam, and afterwards I was excited for the arrival of my friends – Michelle and Therese.  We’ve been friends since middle school, and every time I go home, we try and get together at least once.  This trip was no exception, and we spent Sunday afternoon laughing, hugging, sharing stories, and enjoying my mom’s yummy lasagna that she made us for dinner.

After Michelle and Therese left, the rest of Sunday night was spent hanging out with my family, and at about 10:00PM, we took an impromptu drive around the town to check out everyone’s Christmas lights and decorations.  It was so much fun to see all the decorations, especially since John and I haven’t seen that many in San Diego.  Since we live downtown, the only decorations we’ve really seen have been Christmas trees in people’s apartment windows!

Monday was my last day in New Jersey, so I wanted to spend every minute of it with my sister, Christina, who had been working a lot over the weekend.  We enjoyed breakfast together and then made our way to the craziness of NJ malls – I don’t know how my mom and sister convinced me it would be a good idea.  Needless to say, we spent much more time outside the mall in the parking lot looking for a spot, than we did inside once we finally found one! ;)

After our crazed mall visit, I packed up my suitcase and waited for Yiayia, Papou, and Nouna to arrive for my goodbye dinner.  It was another delicious meal – mousaka prepped by Yiayia – one of my favorite meals of all time!  I had a wonderful time with my family and of course, saying goodbye was just as hard as it always is.  Many tears were shed and we spent about an hour hugging, crying, and saying our sad goodbyes. 

Christmas Eve I was up at the butt-crack of dawn for my 7:30 flight, and was able to catch Boots and get him in his crate.  Five minutes into the drive to the airport, though, he escaped his crate (that tricky little bastard!) and we had to jerry-rig it so he wouldn’t escape again in the airport!

After two flights, a layover, and 12 hours of travel with a cat, I finally arrived in San Diego and was greeted by a smiling John wearing shorts and flip-flops, a much different outfit than those I had been wearing in New Jersey! :) Once we arrived home, I helped Boots to settle in, unpacked my luggage, and then made a delicious Christmas Eve dinner for John and I to share.  We made four pounds of enormous clams (4 lbs. ended up being 21 massive clams!) and Yiayia’s dill rice recipe.   It was incredibly delicious and we went to bed full and happy.

Santa gave us San Diegans a beautiful Christmas, with sunshine and temperatures reaching 77 degrees!  John and I started off his birthday with some French toast that I prepared with homemade maple whipped cream.  It was really freakin’ good.  We followed breakfast with a birthday and Christmas gift exchange, and debated what to do with the rest of our day.  We settled on a walk on the beach – I mean, how could we not on such a gorgeous day!?  And I obviously wanted the pictures as proof that it was warm enough for the beach on Christmas!

The beach was actually PACKED when we arrived; John and I were surprised to see kids playing in the water, women tanning on the beach, and individuals exercising on the sand.  We took a long walk down Mission Beach, enjoying the sunshine and each others company.  It was simply gorgeous.

For John’s birthday dinner he chose to have steak, so I prepared grilled steak with a garlic butter sauce, broccoli casserole, and garlic parmesan steak fries.  We enjoyed the delectable meal and followed eating with a viewing of a Christmas classic- Elf.  It was the first Christmas and John’s Birthday that John and I have been able to spend the whole day together.  It was so fun to spend our first Christmas together in sunny San Diego!

Tonight, John’s parents and brother are arriving for a visit, and they’ll be here until New Years Day.  We are so excited to see them and are looking forward to the weekend so we can show them all of our favorite spots in San Diego!

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