Oh man, you guys. I had such a wonderful Christmas break in my hometown. It was the perfect mix of family, friends, and relaxation.
BETTA THAN EVA.
On Friday, December 23rd, Felix and I hopped in a Mazda 3 that we rented and began the drive from DC to New Orleans after getting the pets squared away. We originally planned to leave DC by 4 p.m. but we were able to scoot out of work early and got to leave by 2 p.m.!
I settled into the passenger’s seat and that’s where I stayed until we ended up in Sweetwater, TN for the evening at the Days Inn, y’all. It was $60/night, and we figured saving some cash is worth the unsettling feeling of resting in a town that does not have a single coffee shop around for miles, aka it’s SECLUDED AF.
We woke up on Christmas Eve, and were out of the hotel room by 6 a.m. My first thought was, “IT’S CHRISTMAS FLIPPING EVE,” followed by my second thought of, “Where is the coffee?”
The Days Inn provided coffee, but it was not up to my persnickety standards, nor was the gas station Folgers coffee I snagged two hours later. Even the Starbucks iced coffee blew, so I was a *S.O.L. for the entire duration of the second leg of our trip.
Luckily I had excellent company, a Christmas tree cake, and Michael Buble’s Christmas album to remind me of the reason for the season. Plus, I knew my beloved New Orleans was on the horizon.
And it was.
We arrived in New Orleans at 2:15 p.m. We dropped off the car as MSY and my mom and brother came to our rescue in her ’08 Corolla that brought back so much nostalgia.
After hugging and jumping up and down in the Budget car rental garage, we loaded up our bags and stopped by New Orleans Originals before driving across the bridge to Ponchatoula.
Medium Cajun eggnog with an extra shot for me please.
We caught up while sipping our beverages on the ride home. We got to Ponchatoula around 3:30 p.m. and when I stepped inside my mom’s house, I thought I had been transported to Christmastown.
It was BEAUTIFULLY decorated. The tree was up, pictures were on the mantle, there was garland and twinkly lights everywhere! She even had little candy bowls placed around the house with our favorite chocolates and stockings hung up on the fireplace.
You could tell she went above and beyond to make home feel extra cozy this Christmas, and I was so appreciative. It was beautiful.
After getting settled in, we decided food was in order. My mom had a huge spread of food planned for Christmas Day, so instead of cooking that night, we ordered takeout from our favorite Mexican restaurant, Mi Patio.
After picking up our takeout, we swung by Rouse’s to grab a six-pack and headed back to Mom’s for dinner!
I walked into the kitchen and found her prepping food for the following day. She even had a homemade muffuletta. Super Mom.
For those who don’t know, a muffuletta is a sandwich made on a huge sesame seed bun and stuffed with salami, ham, olive salad, provolone, mozzarella, and love.
They are too legit, too legit to quit.
We spent the rest of the evening eating and drinking, wrapping last-minute presents, watching the Saints win, and catching up with one of my favorite friends, Steven, who is in town from Chicago for the holidays.
He stopped by my mom’s and we drank wine and chatted at the kitchen table for a few hours like the total adults we are. We also ended up snooping on old classmates’ Facebooks and planning how we’re going to act at our ten-year high school reunion.
It was a great night.
Christmas morning, I woke up EXCITED.
Christmas is my favorite holiday. It’s cheery and bright and twinkly and you can almost always count on at least one family member saying something outlandish that brings you enough joy to carry you through the following year.
This year was no exception.
One, I was elated to be in my hometown driving down the winding country roads, nestled in-between the fluffy pillows on my mom’s sofa, immersed in love and comfort. It was fantastic.
Felix and I started our morning with coffee on the sofa and a little A Christmas Story for good measure.
Watching this movie is an annual tradition of mine, and I couldn’t believe Felix had never seen it, so watching it was a must.
As I was getting ready for the day, I could hear the infamous lines coming from the movie and then Felix immediately laughing.
As soon as we were ready, we hopped into the car and drove down to street to my mom’s (we were staying at a family friend’s place who was out of town and keeping her cat, Jade, company)!
My mom opened the door with a smile and homemade biscuits. Reason #300828759 to visit home. Food EVERYWHERE.
We got our breakfast together (eggs, biscuits, sausage) and brewed another cup of coffee (naturally) and sat by the tree and began opening presents.
I love this part.
I’ve never been a present-hog. I actually feel kind of weird when people watch me open gifts. But if there’s one thing I love doing, it’s watching other people open presents and seeing their faces light up.
We settled in for a little over an hour of gift-giving.
In my family, we go one-by-one.
Hunter started us off.
I was second.
My step-dad, Mr. Daryl, was fifth.
We all got amazing things. Thoughtful, sweet, useful gifts. Everyone was so happy and grateful. My mom made a comment that everything that was gifted or received had meaning, and she was right.
Whether it was a mug for me that displayed a little piece of home…
Or someone’s favorite candy in their stocking…
Everything had meaning.
Once we wrapped up opening presents, my step-dad left to go hunting (country life, y’all) and my mom, Felix, Hunter, and I left for my family’s Christmas celebration in Robert, LA (an even smaller town than Ponchatoula, if you can imagine it).
I should mention, this was the first time Felix met most of my family. Spoiler: he nailed it.
We spent the next few hours hanging out with our loved ones, sharing stories, cracking jokes, and sitting on the back porch while it drizzled.
We sipped wine (lots and lots of wine), and ate a delicious spread of gumbo, casseroles, and slow-roasted beef that my uncle is notorious for making. Like, that’s a huge reason why I drove down to Louisiana for the holidays. Not even kidding.
It was so nice seeing some family members that I haven’t seen in years and spending time with my youngest cousin, who is four and the cutest and most fashionable toddler I have ever known.
Once we left there, we stopped off at the TEXACO GAS STATION, Y’ALL for more beer and wine before heading back to my mom’s for Christmas dinner, because tis the season for eating and drinking.
When we got to the house, we found my step-dad in the back, beer in hand, frying a turkey. It was a most beautiful sight.
We plugged in the holiday lights, finished cooking some of the sides and sat down for dinner. By this point, our neighbor stopped by and ended up having dinner with us. It was so nice catching up with her. She also told me she enjoys reading my blog, so I have to give her a shoutout. Hi, Ms. Cindy!
Around 8:30 p.m., I fell asleep on the sofa watching The Force Awakens with Felix and my step-dad.
We drove back to where we were staying not long after that.
All in all, it was a beautiful Christmas full of love and stretchy pants. I’m so thankful for it.
Oh, and tons and tons of peppermint bark. I also brought some back with me to DC.
On the morning of the 26th, we woke up naturally, which meant 7am is when we climbed out of bed. We were going to spend the majority of the day in New Orleans, but we forgot our friends we wanted to see had to work during the day, so we decided just to meet up for dinner that evening.
We began the day with coffee and breakfast before we headed out for some light shopping in Hammond and lunch at East of Italy so I could eat my weight in hummus.
And I did.
The day was pretty chill, which was nice and just what everyone wanted.
We did swing by Books A Million for some last-minute Christmas gifts and also so Hunter could spend some time reading.
It was so nice to sit with him in a big chair and have him read books to me! It took me back to the summers when I’d babysit him during the day and we’d spend an afternoon reading.
I love my little man. I’m so proud of him, even though he has an attitude. I wonder where he got that from. 😉
After another daiquiri stop (PARTY ANIMALS) and introducing Felix to Crawgator (you’re welcome, fella), we lounged around the house playing with Hunter’s flying droid thing that Felix bought him before freshening up and heading into the city to see our friends!
We decided to meet for dinner at Ancora, which I think has now officially become “our place,” and I’m fine with it. One of Felix’s friends works there and it’s always so nice to see him and his gal if she’s around! Unfortunately, they were both out of town this go around, but we still went anyway.
Fun fact, Felix’s pal who works there is the son of my tenth grade English teacher because the world is tiny and close-knit and it freaked me out when I first found out.
When we pulled up, we looked inside and saw both of our little friend groups sitting at one table chatting while waiting for us, and it warmed my heart so much that I thought I was suffering from cardiac arrest.
We honked the horn, and everyone looked over and smiled. Felix and his buds waved to one another. My lady friends and I flipped each other off because we’re classy like that.
After running into the restaurant and hugging everyone tightly for approximately 60 minutes, we decided to sit down and dine like normal adults.
A round of cocktails for everyone was in order. And an entire bottle of wine for Jenny because she’s a boss.
At first, I ordered a seasonal cocktail but had to send it back because it was entirely too sweet, and also had an after taste of prunes, which totally would have worked if I was backed up and seventy-five.
The next one I went with was one I’ve had before, a ginger cocktail, but you guys, I just could not drink it. I don’t know what’s going on with my tastebuds, but I am suuuuper sensitive to sugar now. I almost can’t stand it.
Unfortunately, it was an 0 for 2 on the cocktails for me. I sipped Felix’s old-fashioned which was good. The bourbon-soaked cherries are my favorite part. But the food, as usual, was great! We shared the Anti-Pizza plate, which comes with meats, bruschetta, sweet potatoes, house-made pickles, olives, shrimp, arancini, and meatballs.
We spent time with our friends at dinner laughing and catching up for hours before heading down the street to another bar for a nightcap. I asked for a French 75, they were out of cognac, so I declared myself the DD for the evening, which never happens. I rolled with it.
We stayed there talking for a little over an hour before we all started trickling out to head back home. It was around 10:30 p.m. when we got back on the road for Ponchatoula.
I’m so happy our friends were able to hang out for a bit. It was so good to see them. And although we didn’t get ANY pictures (I need to get better about this), thank you Jenny, Liz, Cody, Cody’s lady, and Hanlon for coming out. Miss you all tons.
The next morning started early with lots and lots of coffee. I woke up around 6 a.m. and began packing and cleaning and getting ready for the day.
I was packing up our gifts and wrapped this beautiful bottle of red wine my mom gave us in my Christmas cardigan. Again, classy. It made it though, and now it’s safe and sound in our liquor cabinet.
We met my mom at her house at 8:30 a.m., had breakfast, and then headed out for the airport at 9:30 a.m. to catch our flight to DC for 12:30 p.m.
We made it home by 4:30 p.m., grocery shopped, picked up Tuki from Rover, hugged and kissed all over the pets, and had takeout salads while watching a few episodes of Parks and Rec (my favorite I am totally obsessed forever and ever) and now here we are.
The end of the holiday season always comes with a bit of the blues, doesn’t it?
It’s such a joyous time that we wait all year for, and then all of a sudden, it’s over.
I’m choosing to reminisce this year and be thankful for my reality. Welcoming, even. This trip back home reminded me that I have so many loving people in my life.
I am so thankful for each and every one of them.
So, until next year, friends. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and an even Happier New Year! I hope your Christmas was merry and bright, and I hope you carry it with you throughout the new year!
*S.O.L – Shit Out of Luck, something I regularly find myself to be when it comes to coffee in almost uninhabited towns or towns without a Starbucks or even towns with a Starbucks that brew their coffee weaker than Donald Trump’s moral character.