Shortly after last Christmas, Bill brought up the idea of going to Leavenworth for Christmas. We have been there a few times during the summer but never during the winter so I was all for it. I have had empty nester syndrome the last few years and have been struggling with the idea of Christmas and what would make it special for me and our family. I thought that maybe a trip to a Bavarian themed village that goes all out for Christmas was what I needed to make Christmas feel special for me this year. I made our reservations in Wenatchee which is 20 miles away thinking that would be close enough to enjoy the magic and have looked forward to the trip all year long. I had visions of beautifully lit buildings and trees and a German dinner with oompah music playing in my head all year long.
My original plan was to celebrate Christmas with Christopher over New Years weekend. We got a room with two beds just in case he changed jobs and/or would be able to join us in Wenatchee but really knew that it would probably be just Bill and me on our Leavenworth adventure. The plan ended up changing a little bit. Chris is still coming down for New Years but he made a totally unexpected trip to see us the day before we left. I had no idea he was coming and that the rats were coming with him until just a few hours before he left. He wasn't entirely sure at the time whether he was going to come home for New Years or not so I decided we had better open gifts while he was here. Our Christmas celebration with him was going to Dulin's during my lunch break and opening gifts after I got home from work. He spent the evening with his friends at church for a young adult Christmas party. It was very quick and no special meal or activities but we made do with the time we had available. I am planning a much more festive New Years for when he comes down this weekend.
Bill and I hadn't met Curiosity and Cognition yet so I was looking forward to seeing them a little bit. More out of curiosity than anything else. I have to admit that the idea of having rats for pets is a little unsettling for me but I am happy that they make Chris happy. We had a little bit of an adventure with the girls the night they arrived. I didn't hear Chris come in but I definitely woke up when he was scurrying about at 12:30 am. He felt badly for them being stuck in a small cage for so long that he let them out in the upstairs bathroom while he was taking a shower. I did have in the back of my mind as he was driving down that they might get loose and sure enough one of them did. Curiosity has a tendency to disappear at his apartment and true to form, she squeezed under the space between the door and the floor into Bill's office and was running around and hiding behind desks and bookcases. It freaked me out having a rat loose in my house so I got up and talked to Chris about an hour while he was trying to catch her. I finally gave up and left him to do the job on his own.
Friday morning, Chris left at the same time we did to go meet a friend for coffee before heading back to Bellingham so we said our good-byes and headed to the Gorge to start our adventure.
Bill loves going to Stevenson to have lunch at the Big River Grill so that was our first stop. We had decided to break up the trip north into two days and do a little wine tasting in the Yakima area. We had no idea which winery we wanted to go to. We just picked one out on the internet as we were driving there. We ended up going to Wilridge Winery on Naches Ridge. It was at a high enough elevation that we had our first snow while we were doing our tasting there.
We had decided that we were going to try to be good at least part of the time we were on our vacation so we took our food with us and didn't eat out in Yakima but I wanted to do more than just hang out in our room the entire evening. The woman at the winery talked about how much she liked the lights in downtown Yakima so I took a little drive there to wander and take a few photos.
It was a pretty sight and I liked the fun snowflake lights on each of the light poles. Very festive! It reminded me of the song "Silver Bells".
Saturday morning we drove from Yakima to Leavenworth. It was a beautiful sunny day. We drove through the Wenatchee National Forest and I was in awe of how beautiful it was with all the snow on the trees. We got to Leavenworth about noon but it was totally the wrong time to be there. It was so crazy busy and we couldn't find any parking so we finally gave up and drove to Wenatchee to check into our motel, have lunch and find something to do. We tried to go to the museum there but it was closed early for the holiday so we ended up finding the Stemilt Creek tasting room nearby and did some more wine tasting.
We drove to Leavenworth early on Christmas Eve morning to avoid the traffic and crowds. We ate at a diner and wandered around town and into a few shops during the morning.
I do love seeing the Bavarian themed buildings there.
We wandered down to get a peek at the Wenatchee River. They have a nice walking trail along the river but it was so cold-about 5 degrees- and our fingers were getting numb so we didn't go too far before we headed back up the hill to see if there were any shops open yet.
Jack Frost was definitely nipping at our noses. Other than eating, drinking and shopping, there isn't a whole lot more to do there so we left after spending about three hours in town. At the time that I made our reservations, I think there was still availability for lodging in town but it was pretty steep so I decided to go for a motel in Wenatchee thinking it would be "close enough". Not so. If I had to to it again, I would definitely splurge to get at least one night of lodging in Leavenworth. My whole Hallmark-like Christmas fantasy didn't come true. We didn't get to see the lights or have a German meal with German music playing like I had hoped for when we booked the trip. If we had actually stayed in Leavenworth, I would have had the experience I had hoped for. We had a nice time seeing the village and wandering around a bit but it wasn't the Christmas I dreamed of so I have to admit that I was a little disappointed.
We had started going to movies as a Christmas tradition a few years ago so Bill and I decided to go to see "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" at the theater in the afternoon. It wasn't a great movie but was an enjoyable diversion. After we got out, we decided we had better figure out what we were going to do for dinner. We were out of HMR entrees and I had already decided that I wasn't going to have one for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. We started calling around to a few restaurants and they were all closing really early for the evening so at 3:30 in the afternoon, we headed over to Claudio's Mexican Restaurant before it was too late. We had a fabulous Feliz Navidad dinner and margaritas to celebrate Christmas Eve.
Even before we left home, I had a feeling that maybe three nights in Wenatchee might be too long. Given that it would be harder to find things to do and anywhere to eat on Christmas Day than it was on Christmas Eve, I wasn't too sure of what we would do if we did stay and Bill really wanted to travel back home on Christmas Day instead of the day after. It made a whole lot of sense to me too.
We woke up to a White Christmas in Wenatchee. It made driving through the mountains a bit challenging but they had the roads salted pretty well. We came home via Snoqualmie Pass and the Seattle area because going back our usual route to Satus Pass was going to be a little more difficult than sticking to the freeways west of the mountains as much as we could. As it turned out, we wouldn't have had to leave home to experience a White Christmas this year. It snowed here in Vancouver as well and we still have snow on the ground three days later.
Not long after we got home, Tom called us via Messenger. He has been deployed for the past couple of weeks in the Middle East. I rallied our friends and family to send him Christmas cards and some even sent gifts which was really nice of them. We had a pretty long conversation with him. He had worked Christmas Eve going on a refueling mission. We joked that he helped Santa refuel that night too. So grateful for Skype technology to be able to share our Christmas with him for even a little bit. God bless him and all our troops who aren't able to spend the holidays with their families.
I came across this meme on Facebook this year and it really resonated with me. For a long time, I have struggled with gift giving. I struggle with what to get for my family and always feel badly when someone gives me a gift and I don't have one to reciprocate with. I felt like the meme gave me permission to not be forced into the whole gift giving, rush around and bake lots of cookies mindset. But what it hadn't done yet was help me to realize that I don't have to work so hard to find something "special" to celebrate Christmas. I was still setting myself up to be disappointed. I felt terrible that I didn't have a special meal for Chris when he was home just before Christmas. It wasn't my fault because he came practically unannounced and had made plans with others but when I thought that he might not come home again during the holidays, it still made me feel guilty that I wasn't making Christmas special for him. And I set myself up to be disappointed in a trip that I had been looking forward to all year long by setting highly romanticized expectations. Bill and I had a great time just being together and I need to remember that moving forward. Don't set high expectations. Just take things as they come and enjoy the truly important part of the holiday celebrating Christ's birth and just being with the ones that we love and truly being "present" in our interactions with them.
Hoping that all my family and friends had an enjoyable Christmas whether with family or on their own.