Sprocketts by the Bay

Sprockett family adventures as California residents

Christmas Season in California, Columbus, Cortland, and Cleveland

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It’s been a full and happy holiday season.

San Jose Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

San Jose Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

To kick-off the holidays, we visited the tree lighting festival in San Jose, followed by the Cirque Holidaze Dreams performance at the San Jose Performing Arts Center. We were crazy impressed by the range of acrobatics and stunts, and I’m already looking for another show to go to. And I’m stretching a bit more at home. You know, just in case they call up an audience participant, I want to be ready.

To continue in the holiday spirit, I bought a gingerbread house for Dan and me to make. While checking out at the store, the cashier asked if I was going to build it with my kids, where I faced a quandry about whether to lie, and say yes, it was for my non-existent kids, or to be honest and get that look from the cashier. I opted for honesty and the confused look my confused cashier gave me. Adults doing a gingerbread house? Yes, the fun type of adults!

Dan even made icing icicles.

Dan even made icing icicles.

With the sweet scent of the gingerbread house filling the living room, I was inspired to start the holiday baking with homemade Christmas cookies (it’s not Christmas without Aunt Mollie’s molasses cookies and the Morrow family sugar cookies), and began the holiday movie watching with “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Mom trained me well!

Mom trained me well! Although I usually rely on her to make the dough (and icing) and my role is reserved to rolling out the cookies. This is perhaps only the 5th or 6th time I’ve made the cookies from start to scratch on my own.

We also spent a tastey day in Oakland baking and decorating cookies with two of our favorite people in the East Bay, adding to that fun with a delicious soup dinner (with some bonus cookie decorating) with friends and colleagues from work.

Sugar cookies and peanut butter cookies = yummy, yummy.

Sugar cookies and peanut butter cookies = yummy, yummy.

Creative cookie decorating.

Creative cookie decorating.

Our finished products.

Our finished products.

Stanford’s Memorial Church invites the community to come together for a variety of different holiday celebrations. Dan and I check out this traditional English mass, “A festival of nine lessons” with readings and songs led by the Memorial Church Choir and a select Stanford choir.

Memorial Church is such a beautiful place on campus.

Memorial Church is such a beautiful place on campus.

Dan’s lab also hosted a holiday potluck and white elephant, bringing together delicious eats and a load of laughter as the poop-paper journal and spinning spaghetti fork were fought over in the exchange.

Relman Lab.

Relman Lab.

December was a blur — this month seems to only get blurrier as I get older. As a child, Advent seemed oh so long. Lighting the Advent candles, opening the little doors of the countdown to Christmas calendar, filling Santa’s beard with glued on cotton balls to supplement and double check the countdown calendar all seemed to actually slow time. Even with St. Nick’s Day to celebrate on December 6 (where we set out our shoes for St. Nick to bring little gifts), it was a long, long time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Now the time seems to rush by, with hardly enough time to watch the claymation Rudolph with nostalgia and smile at the happy memories/cringe at the blatant sexism.

Before we knew it, it was the end of the third week of December and we were on our way to the airport for an overnight flight to DC and a quick jump over to Columbus and winter weather. We had a beautiful time visiting family in Columbus, playing games with our niece, baking cookies, reading to our nephew, meeting a new little cousin, checking out the zoo lights, hanging out with our Columbus aunt and uncle, visiting the new homes two of Dan’s brothers bought, and enjoying the chance to put our winter coats to good use.

Making and decorating gingerbread cookies.

Making and decorating gingerbread cookies.

Columbus Zoo Lights - millions of lights strung throughout the zoo.

Columbus Zoo Lights – millions of lights strung throughout the zoo.

It's difficult to get a photo of three little ones, a mommy, and a dog where everyone is looking. Sorry, all, this is the best I got...

Having a blast at Aunt Lori and Uncle Lloyd’s house. It’s difficult to get a photo of three little ones, a mommy, and a dog where everyone is looking. Sorry, all, this is the best I got…

The added bonus of this trip to Columbus is that we happened to overlap with Natalie and Daniel’s trip to Ohio. I love that this year I get to see two of my dear, dear friends from college who both (like me) married men from Northeast Ohio and (like me) were celebrating Christmas 2014 in Ohio. I should thank Melanie for starting the trend. And it was just sheer luck that our time and location in Ohio overlapped so synchronously with Natalie and Daniel’s time in Ohio, down to even the neighborhoods of Columbus. Any amount of time that we can get with these two is always so enjoyable. We appreciate the chance to pick their brains for medical and geologic detail and certainly learned a lot. I hope we can continue to coordinate these Christmas visits because it was so lovely to have the afternoon connecting together. And (a common theme to this point), just not enough time!

Kitamu Coffee. Dan opted for the Buckeye Coffee, because if you're in Columbus and it says "Buckeye" it's bound to be a good bet.

Kitamu Coffee. Dan opted for the Buckeye Coffee, because if you’re in Columbus and it says “Buckeye” it’s bound to be a good bet.

After two days in Columbus, we drove with Dan’s brother to Cortland to continue the festivities. Christmas Day tradition in Ohio is lunch at Uncle Joe’s and Aunt Moni’s, so come hungry.

Christmas Day portrait.

Christmas Day portrait.

It's not a joke, that's a real bottle of wine.

It’s not a joke, that’s a real bottle of wine. We nearly finished it on Christmas Day. We’re a large family of Italians. What more can I say?

Pouring the gigantor bottle of wine into what looks like a matching enormous wine glass that is actually a pitcher with a spout.

Pouring the gigantor bottle of wine into what looks like a matching enormous wine glass that is actually a pitcher with a spout.

Family!

Adorable family!

Nieces and nephews playing at Aunt Moni and Uncle Joe's.

Nieces and nephews playing at Aunt Moni and Uncle Joe’s.

To accommodate Santa’s travels and time at home to open gifts for the 15 little ones in our family, we have moved Sprockett Family Christmas to December 26. It’s a good thing, because I don’t know how we would possibly get through all of these gifts if we didn’t have a full day for it. This year we started what I hope will become a new tradition: Chipotle Christmas with, you guessed it, catering from Chipotle.

The present mountain to open.

The present mountain to open.

Merry Christmas from the Original 8!

Merry Christmas from the Original 8!

Dan and nephew celebrating Christmas.

Dan and nephew celebrating Christmas.

Laughing cousins in matching pajamas.

Laughing cousins in matching pajamas.

The next day we took a new family photo, getting all 31 immediate family members into the shot. I’d say this was a huge success — everyone was there on time, in coordinated colors, and we didn’t have any crying babies during the session.

All 15 nieces and nephews -- we've got a good group, here.

All 15 nieces and nephews — we’ve got a good group here.

Following the family portrait, we got to celebrate our youngest nephew’s first birthday. I’m guessing he liked the cake!

Happy birthday, bud!

Happy birthday, bud!

We were also lucky to fit in a BW3’s lunch with Dan’s good friends from high school and their significant others. This growing group is a very accomplished and fun one to catch up with!

Friends from long ago -- and still friends so many, many years later. ;)

Friends from long ago — and still friends so many years later. 😉

Because we like to really pack it in, we picked one day and successfully scheduled visits with our Cleveland friends, working our way (or perhaps more accurately, eating our way) across Cleveland from east to west, starting with breakfast with this lovely lady and little gentleman:

Time with Mel makes my heart happy.

Time with Mel makes my heart happy.

Such a happy little man!

Such a happy little man!

Melanie is an honest and positive spirit that fills whatever space she’s in with calm and joy. I enjoy her unique perspective and gentle way of sharing it. Our conversation roamed from work to travel to children to future dreams in our short time together and left me feeling utterly refreshed. And sad. Darn her that she’s such a fun person to be around! I miss living nearby.

Moving toward Downtown Cleveland, we stopped for lunch at Presti’s in Little Italy after meeting up with Dan’s former boss from Case Western Reserve University. It was so nice to have the time to catch up with her to get and share updates about life, science, and family. It speaks volumes to the conversation and the company that I was so engaged that I totally forgot to buy the approximately 16 lbs of cookies I was eyeing when I originally walked into Presti’s Bakery.

A trip to the CWRU lab.

A trip to the CWRU lab.

A trip to Cleveland wouldn’t be complete without a drive through downtown to explore the growth, followed by a stop at the Westside Market, where local vendors sell fruits, vegetables, meats, breads, and many other delicious treats. I was finally able to satisfy my craving for Campbell’s popcorn and am over-the-moon to learn that they will now ship their product across the country.

We also took a little drive through Tremont, reminiscing about Art Walks and Lucky’s Cafe brunches, on our way to Lakewood for dinner with my former boss/current friend and his family. As always, it was a lively and motivating discussion. Kris is doing really impressive things with “This Girl’s Tees” that are so fun and exciting to hear about. When her shirts are someday seen across the nation, you’d better believe I’ll be bragging about, “I remember when she was starting her kickstarter campaign…” And Jason continues to impress me with his thoughtful approach and balance to work, family, and hobbies. We always leave Jason and Kris with a smile, a commitment to try to make the same tasty and healthy meal they served (we’re usually not successful in replicating and may need to request lessons next visit), and a list of things we want to follow-up on. First on the list, an item from last year: a documentary called “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.”

A new addition to Playhouse Square. I'm still a bit uncertain how I feel about the giant chandelier.

A new addition to Playhouse Square. I’m still a bit uncertain how I feel about the giant chandelier.

One of my Cleveland loves.

One of my Cleveland loves: the Westside Market.

Cleveland skyline.

Cleveland skyline.

Our day in Cleveland was an utter success. So how do you follow that up? Why by spending an evening building a gingerbread village with our niece and nephews. Nater’s Party Palace was the most highly decorated of the five chalets, but I must say, they each had a lovely and unique personality.

Building a gingerbread village -- with kids this time.

Building a gingerbread village — with kids this time. See guy from the store? See?

Our last days in Ohio were spent ringing out 2014 and bringing in 2015 with the Marando family. This is becoming our Ohio New Year’s Eve tradition and something we look forward to with each visit. It’s an excellent excuse to stay up until 2 in the morning talking, since, I mean, we were staying up late anyhow. Even though we don’t get to see these two lovely people and their two lovely children as often as we’d like (because, you know, weekly trips to Ohio exceed our budget by just a little bit), it’s so easy to pick up like we just talked the day before. A mark of lifelong friends.

We always learn a new game when we visit. And if we'd stopped after round 3, I would have totally won. Good thing we didn't finish the final round to show my utter and complete defeat! It shall still remain a possibility in my mind that I make a major comeback!

We always learn a new game when we visit. And if we’d stopped after round 3, I would have totally won. Like, mopped the floor with everyone. Good thing we didn’t finish the final round to show my utter and complete defeat! It shall still remain a possibility in my mind that I make a major comeback!

And we got to meet this little man and hang out with his awesome big sister.

And we got to meet this little man and hang out with his awesome big sister.

Big sis was so sweet and wanted to accompany us to the airport when her dad drove us there. And hey, she said she was going to "take a little snooze" and was just sticking to her word. Loved hanging out with these little ones!

Big sis was so sweet and wanted to accompany us to the airport when her dad drove us there. And hey, she said she was going to “take a little snooze” on the way and was just sticking to her word. Loved hanging out with these little ones!

What a wonderful way to celebrate the holiday season!

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