I keep thinking about a dear friend that lost her uncle and her father this month and also about the families in Newtown, CT, it seems strange to write about anything else when I’m so preoccupied about life in general. On my long run on Saturday I composed a blog post in my head that tried to make sense of what I was feeling as a mother and just as a human being but then decided this may not be the place for it. If my kids read this someday, I want them to know how many people are kind and caring and that even when events leave us without words, we can use our actions in ways both big and small to be there for all living things. I have to believe that there are differences to be made. That celebrating light in the darkest of times is normal and healthy. I know I’ve personally taken a step back from the internet since the end of September to focus on family and work but at the same time the internet can be a source of community that I really appreciate.
I wanted to share some of our holiday activities while locals could still take advantage of them this year. Earlier this month we visited the Ethel M Cactus Garden to see the light display. The kids are 2 and 4 now so this was an easier outing compared to prior years. We ate an early dinner, bundled up, and were ready to explore. We usually go on a weekday but I was working late on the Friday I had promised the children we’d go. I felt awful not being able to follow through so on Friday the 7th I gave them cups of mint chocolate coconut milk and we drove around our neighborhood counting which houses had lights. We were able to go to Ethel M on Sunday which meant it was crowded earlier in the evening (I believe we arrived a little after 5pm) but everyone was courteous and made way for one another. I make sure to bring safe treats with me, so we brought some pieces of this year’s gingerbread house, pictured below.
The gingerbread house actually collapsed as this photo was taken (see the roof falling in under the weight of the chocolate cookies?) but it has kept well in a bag in our fridge. Speaking of safe treats, at my daughter’s winter festival at school we knew there would be a lot of holiday treats out so we whipped up some chocolate and crushed peppermint flower lollipops for the kids. They happened to be the molds I had on hand, the other option would have been dinosaur shapes (which, though festive, weren’t quite what I was looking for).
The peppermint candies are from Trader Joe’s and I just melted Enjoy Life chips and mixed the crushed peppermint candy in with it before spooning the mixture into molds and freezing them. Not nearly as fancy as the creations over at Nom Yum & Free (Devin included a beautiful photo of the peppermints in this post!) but they were delicious. E and R didn’t feel too left out. E had actually been included in making chocolate dipped pretzels earlier in the day – all the kids used tongs so they never came into contact with the ingredients so when her teacher asked in advance if she could take part, we were glad she could. Aside from maybe making another batch of thin mints, I’d really like to do a broccoli tree with pomegranate lights like the one I just saw at Sometimes I Veg before the month is over. Pomegranates are one of my favorite things about this time of year.
On the 16th we headed out to Boulder City, Nevada to ride the “Santa Train.” We’ve been on the train before but around the holidays they run it with a Christmas theme. The photo above is of one of the free trains they were running that day, our view while waiting for our own train to run let us see this 1800s steam engine in action. E was especially fascinated by it.
The ticket lets you know to arrive 30 minutes early and it isn’t kidding – we boarded the train at 9:30 and it was already pretty well filled in.
We were near one of the front rail cars and Santa and Mrs. Claus began in the back. They made it to our car on our return trip (the train does an out and back), giving attention to every passenger as they passed. R asked to have a picture with Santa, much to our surprise, so we did pose for one. My husband and I were thinking it was a great way to get a picture with Santa. Instead of waiting in line you get to ride a train while you wait. We don’t really do the Santa myth with the kids but they had fun seeing the costumes. A young woman dressed as an elf even heralded Santa’s arrival, it was all well done and a wonderful way to support the railway’s efforts year round.
Nearby there was a model train exhibit open to the public so we walked around there before heading home. Seriously cool layouts and details, one gentleman even had a mini working steam engine and was feeding scraps of paper into it to get the fire going.
My husband caught some video of the 11am train leaving the station so I wanted to include it here. R really likes watching it over and over:
The train runs the 22nd and 23rd under the Santa Train theme but is still a fun outing at all times of the year. They also do a train robbery and a day out with Thomas the Tank Engine at other times but I’ve never attended those events. The Ethel M Cactus Garden is open year round and the lights continue even after Christmas so you can beat the crowds and wait for later in the month if you prefer. I know these are just two events here in town for the holidays but they are both ones we’ll be back to do again next year.