SnowGirlsThough Zoe has corrected me several times (“No, Mom, it’s MinneSOTA“), I knew exactly what to expect when we headed there for Christmas – and I was not disappointed.

Granted, it could have been colder (the first time I visited MN, it was 8, yes E-I-G-H-T degrees). But I am a spoiled SoCal girl after 18 years here in LA, so 50 is my freezing point. It takes months for me to give up my Uggs when summer rolls around.

But back to Christmas.

I was excited that Bart’s entire family (grandparents, all 5 grown-up children, 3 spouses, and 4 grandkids) would be home for Christmas. We rented a place from Airbnb for those of us who traveled and walked into a house filled with Ruth’s homemade cardamom cookies (with frosting), homemade Chex mix (it’s a thing), and various other goodies.

The trip was action-packed, including the following festivities:

SNOW SHOVELING. Well, Bart did some – once to go get coffee and once to drag our small child around the snow-filled yard:

SNOWBALL FIGHT + SLEDDING. Some may call our “sledding” wimpy, since it was down a tiny hill in the front yard, but hey, that counts:

SNOW ANGEL + TREE SHAKING. Yes, Bart told Zoe to stand under that tree, which she did, then shook the snow all over her, which she loved.

PARTYING!! We had Christmas Eve festivities, Santa morning (followed by an Omelet-fest at Grandma’s house), and an extended family get together:


We also had delicious Vietnamese food on Christmas Day from Quang in Minneapolis, which Bart and I volunteered to go pickup. It was incredibly busy, so while we waited for the food, we headed across the street to El Nuevo Mariachi, where we had a shot of spiced rum and watched some very odd karaoke… Oh, and it was cold:


OH, and I can’t forget the Water Park. Not kidding. My college roommate (who is basically my second sister, no relation) drove with her two beautiful children from Milwaukee – over 5 hours! She booked a room at a hotel with a WATER PARK INSIDE.

I have never even heard of this, though I guess if you live in Minnesota, it’s the only way you’ll get year-round access to a Water Park. The kids had a blast, and Ella fell asleep with a too-big life vest on, bobbing in the water as I held her, then napped for 30 minutes in the middle of that crazy place. That’s commitment.

It was a family-filled vacation, for sure. We even had an afternoon with just the “big kids” and went to see Star Wars while Grandma & Grandpa watched the little ones. So decadent! Before going, we watched an incredible (not kidding) 9-minute summary that covers all 6 films. If you haven’t been yet (or are trying to talk someone into going), I highly recommend it.

In contrast to our trip out, where we were stuck on the tarmac for 2 hours and 20 minutes before our 3-hour flight, our trip home was uneventful. And let me be the first to say that after all that travel in Nov-Dec, I was super glad to be home!

We wrapped up the year with FONDUE fun with some friends – and marshmallows over a fire – ending with a King Julien countdown on Netflix around 9 pm PT, and two little girls falling asleep in the car on the way home.

All in all, I won’t miss 2015 much. In so many ways it was challenging (adjusting to two kids, for example) and given my hip issues (which are getting better!), literally painful. I’m looking forward to the next chapter in the Johnson Family Saga. Onwards and Upwards!





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