A Fire with Friends

Since being back in Utah (we lived here for about 5 years before we left on our Twelve Countries trip), we’ve been able to visit with some family and friends and we still have several that we need to see!  It’s been great catching up with people and often it feels like we never left.  Some have gotten haircuts while others have a kid or two we hadn’t met before, but we seem to fall back into each others lives just like we did before.

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Last weekend, Scott surprised me for my birthday with a fire on Utah Lake with some of our closest friends from Provo (we did miss out on one couple who has since moved to Washington).  It was so good to see everyone and learn of all of their accomplishments from the previous year.  We laughed so hard at some of the same jokes that our friendship was built over and we shared stories and experiences to get us caught up on what we’d missed out on.  We sat around the fire while the babes played in the sand and the sun set.  We soaked up the warmth of the flames as the night drew on and it was sad to say good-bye.  I love that we’ll be here in Utah for a little while though so we’ll get to hang out with them again and continue to see some more friends and family!

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Country #12 Starts Nnnnnnnn… (wait for it…)

You know, if there’s one thing we’ve learned about being here in the United States for the past couple weeks (a bit earlier than planned, if you recall), it’s that there’s very, very, very, very, very little you can do here without a car.  In every other country we survived just fine on public transportation, even getting between major cities and destinations for the equivalent of a few bucks.  But back here, and especially in a small town north of Dallas, Texas where we are currently kicking it, public transportation is more of an urban legend than a reality.

We’ve been lucky and blessed to have family willing to haul us places and let us borrow their vehicles, but we can’t do that forever, and we’ve got plenty of things we want to do that require us to have our own set of wheels.  And since we’re here in this country for a while, we figured we might as well get our auto searching on now.

The goal was to have a car by the time we started country #12, which “officially” starts today–in fact, our phone still gave us the notification that we’re supposed to be getting on our flight from Costa Rica to Salt Lake City in about an hour. But so far, things haven’t quite worked out.  We’re being picky; we don’t just want a car, we want a manual transmission 3rd-gen 4Runner with 4-wheel drive, a moon roof, good condition interior, a tow hitch, and a roof rack.  As it turns out, finding exactly that is a bit more on the difficult side.

 

Is that really too much to ask? Yes? Okay, fine.

We’re sort of awkwardly in a middle area here, not yet capable of doing the things we’ve determined to do for our 12th and final country, but not having the luxury (or desire) to move our official start date.  As much as it might seem nice to calm down and have a break, we are soooo ready to get things going. We want to explore, and show Carter some of the cool things this state (and a few others) have to offer.

It’d be easy enough to lower our standards and just get an acceptable car (perhaps one with better gas mileage), but it’s unfortunately a larger decision than that. We’ve got some exciting future plans that we’re not telling you about yet, and having the right car has a lot to do with making things work.  So we’ll continue the search, and we might have to finagle our dates a little bit to accommodate–but we do promise that this country won’t suck. We’re so excited to do what we’ve got planned, and you should be too… for you’re about to see an America that you’ve never seen before.

And if you happen to have a 4Runner that fits that description, I’d love to make you an offer.

A Wintery Texas

Since we did our best to avoid winter while we were traveling, I was very excited when I woke up to snow in Texas the other day!  I missed the cold weather around the holiday seasons so I felt like this light blanket of snow the other day was meant just for me.  And Carter of course!  This was his first time ever playing in snow!

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The day we arrive in Texas was 75 degrees and I was happy to be greeted by the warm weather–mostly because we had zero clothing for cold weather!  We’ve been able to unpack a bag of clothes to find coats and scarves for Scott and I, and we’ve made a few thrift store shops for Carter’s winter gear, so we’re adjusting just fine.

This hat was a gift from some Kiwi friends in we met in Australia!  We're glad we've been able to put it to good use.
This hat was a gift from some Kiwi friends in we met in Australia! We’re glad we’ve been able to put it to good use.

Seriously though, the snow!  The flakes were big and beautiful and fluffy and they made me giddy.  Carter was very excited to go outside because we had been essentially locked up for two days because everything was iced over.  He walked right to the edge of the front porch and stuck his little arms out to touch the snow as it fell.

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Yes, he is wearing crocs in the snow… I understand it’s not a great winter shoe, but it’s all we had! And what I lacked in sturdy winter footwear I made up for with these super intense gloves!

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He loved walking through the snow and I loved seeing his little footprints that trailed behind him.  Unfortunately he walked right into a puddle of water and ice while I was taking a photo (bad mom moment!) and it resulted in some very high pitched screams.  I ran him inside and we took off his socks and shoes to warm his toes by the fire.  Even though the poor little guy seemed a little bit traumatized by how cold his toes got, we still had fun in the snow for a few minutes!  And, lucky for us, it all melted by the afternoon and it ended up being sunny and over 50 degrees so we spent some time at the park.

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12 Countries in 12 Days of Christmas Part 1: United States

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This year, Christmas is going to be a bit different for us than it’s ever been.  For one, this will be the first warm-weather Christmas we’ve ever had… and it will also be our first Christmas away from family.  It’s been wonderful to think about our own traditions at home, but that also got us wondering about the Christmas traditions of other people and cultures—especially of the countries we’ve encountered and will encounter in the coming months.

We asked several friends from the various parts of the world to help us out, and now we want to share their traditions with you in a 12-part series we’re titling, “12 Countries in 12 Days of Christmas”. Catchy, right?

Each day until December 25th we will be posting a different article about a country that’s near and dear to us, some which have some very unique and wonderful traditions you may never have known about otherwise. So keep tuned in, and without further ado, here’s our first installment, right from Emily’s mom and dad (who truly make Christmas the most wonderful time of year): The United States of America.

 

Santa Claus | 12 Countries in 12 Days of Christmas

What is a typical Christmas in the US like?

Christmas these days in the US is very commercialized with tons of decorations at malls, shopping deals, and seems to be all about gift giving.  For us, it’s different. Though Christmas these days is more than a religious holiday for people in the US, we try to focus attention on the birth of Jesus Christ and what He has done for us, and on our family.

Preparing for the arrival of family to share the holidays with is a several-week event.  Lots of shopping, wrapping presents, preparing candies, cookies and treats.  Time is fully spent thinking of others and what gifts could be given to bring a little Christmas joy.  On Christmas Eve, we gather for our little family program that the children and grandchildren prepare each year to share their talents, and read/act out The Christmas (Nativity) Story.

For the final event of the evening, Santa Claus delivers gifts of “Christmas Jammies” [pajamas usually decorated with reindeer antlers or Santa hats, etc.] to each member of the family, and everyone puts them on before going to bed.  On Christmas morning we awake to children “whispering” loudly, excited to see the gifts Santa brought and gifts given to each other.

 

Christmas Breakfast | 12 Countries in 12 Days of Christmas

What foods/meals are a part of the holiday season?

In our own family, on Christmas day we have a tradition of making a Christmas breakfast casserole and what we call “monkey rolls”: dinner rolls cooked in a sugary delicious syrup-like caramel or butterscotch sauce.  Neither dish makes it past lunch most of the time.  Ham and potatoes are our go-to Christmas dinner, and candies like fudge, caramels, divinity, pumpkin rolls and Christmas popcorn is found in plenty, and often made from scratch.

What songs/music do Americans listen to?

There’s all sorts of music that Americans listen to to bring in the feeling of festivities, and Christmas music is a genre all on its own.  There’s nothing like the classics, though, and songs like “Jingle Bells”, “Deck the Halls”, and “Angels We Have Heard On High” all set the mood quite well.  I personally love the song ‘Mary Did You Know’, and just heard to the song by the piano guys with the video and was very touched.

 

What symbol represents Christmas best in the US?

Santa Claus, Christmas trees, wreaths, candy canes, and the Nativity are all pretty common symbols of the holiday season, and even for some people it is the gifts under the tree. For us, however, it is the star of hope that sits on top of the tree that represents the spirit of Christmas best.

Christmas Tree | 12 Countries in 12 Days of Christmas