After a 7-hour drive and several failed attempts to listen to books-on-CD (apparently they lull me into a deep, hypnotic sleep - who knew?), we were greeted by a lovely display of Christmas lights in front of the house. There were candy canes and wreaths and, of course, what Christmas display would be complete without a Christmas pig?
Speaking of Christmas pig, Wilbur's friend joined us for dinner later on in the week. But that's a different story entirely.
I think I just made myself cry a little bit.
Early on in the week, Patrick, Susan, and I made the requisite stop at a Westerville staple, Schneider's Bakery.
They did not have their signature "smiley face cookies," but we still managed to bring back a tasty supply of Christmas tree and bell shaped sugar cookies.
Not a bad compromise, as you can see.
Later we engaged in some quality family bonding time at Magic Mountain where we ate pizza, shot at each other multiple times in laser tag, and won some sweet prizes by turning these little bags of tokens...
Patrick won me 500 tickets in one turn on this spin-n-win wheel. The catch was that you had to stand there and actually collect the 500 tickets, which, in exchange, costs a hefty pocketful of patience.
At the end of the night, as a result of our mad Skee-ball skills (and perhaps some faulty machines), we walked away with an Adele CD, a whoopie-cushion, a rubber ducky, a lemon drop, and a tootsie roll.
On Christmas Eve, Patrick and I attempted to coordinate a group Skype session with my side of the family - Mikala and Kyle in Texas, Marcus and Brooke in Florida, and everyone else (including the parental units) in Nebraska. The connections kept cutting out but there were a few seconds where we were all able to see each other, which made it all worth it.
Then came Christmas morning, which started out something like this:
I definitely scored big time and can't wait to try out recipes from my new cookbooks.
Meanwhile, all week Patrick had been hard at work plotting Dan's present - a giant remote-controlled shark that floats in the air.
The shark (who I later named Leslie) made a grand entrance from the landing upstairs...
And there may or may not have been a mishap later on where we had to retrieve Leslie from the corner...
In addition to the flying shark, our attention was captured by this little duckling throughout the week:
It was great getting to spend time with Claire, who is already 6 months! Here she is hanging out with Uncle Patrick...
...although usually she was much more content when she had something to shove into her mouth, like Aunt Monica's hair...
Granny Sue's tablecloth,
her own fist,
Uncle Patrick's fist,
and this delightful spoon...
Not even poor Loo could compete with all that chomp action.
Speaking of Loo, she was kind enough to take Patrick and me out for a walk one fine afternoon.
On our last day in Columbus, we went to see Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol. It's pretty much what you expect of any PG-13 spy action movie -- a generic plot, plenty of high-speed chases and stunts, a slew of product placement, a nuclear threat -- but all done really well. What I like about this movie is that it's pretty much 100% action with a healthy dose of suspense and comic relief spread throughout so there is really not a dull moment.
This store is a book-lover's paradise. It's set up like a maze with 32 "rooms" (more like little nooks) of books that you could easily get lost in... literally and figuratively.
I probably could have stayed in this (cookbook) corner for hours...
It began as a packing house and was converted into a restaurant in 1967. Nowadays it serves traditional German/American dishes and was featured on Man vs Food and The Food Network's Best of Ohio.
We started with the pretzel nuggets, which came out hot and crispy, but were soft and doughy when you bit into them.
It was served with hot sauerkraut, German-style potato salad, chunky applesauce, and a warm bun.
Patrick ordered the "Weiner Schnitzel und Gravy"-- also delicious with a mushroom burgundy gravy, potato cakes, and green beans.
And we couldn't leave without ordering their famous award-winning dessert - a half-pound jumbo cream puff which definitely lived up to its name and reputation.
For second dessert, we headed to Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, which originated near Columbus and has been getting a lot of attention in the media these days.
I first heard of this place when it was featured on Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Hot & Spicy episode for their Queen City Cayenne Chocolate ice cream. Jeni also has a cookbook out that I seem to see everywhere.
Other notable ones I sampled were the Goat Cheese with Cognac Figs, Riesling Poached Pear Sorbet, Brambleberry Crisp, Cherry Lambic Sorbet, and Whiskey and Pecans.
A lot of the flavors were very in-your-face and were fun in sample-size but might have been overwhelming in large quantities. Which is why I ultimately took the safe route and ordered a scoop of the black forest ice cream (on the bottom) and a scoop of the lemon frozen yogurt (on top).
Wow, if you made it this far into the post, you deserve a swift pat on the back.
Hope you all had a Merry Christmas!