Thursday, January 31, 2013

Winter Escape

Over Martin Luther King Day weekend, Rachel and I joined a number of other Unitarians at Massanutten ski resort in Virginia, for our annual Winter Retreat.  The trip was wonderful, with a lot of great people, a long and fun hike through the Shendadoah Mountains, and a trip to a fun winery that had live music.  Pictures are in the video below.  

Friday, January 4, 2013

The BEST Christmas Ever!

I have not written in the blog for a while, mostly because I have been very busy.  My new teaching job has been consuming nearly all of my time- to be honest, sometimes it feels like I am barely treading water.

Rachel and me in Williamsburg

I was grateful, then, for a long, and wonderful Christmas break!  This was, without a doubt, the best Christmas of my life.  Last year, since I was abroad, I wanted to surprise Rachel with something romantic and special.  I took all of the love letters, emails, and poems we'd written to each other, combined with photos of us, and had a book printed.  This year, I did something similar.

Rachel truly thought I was getting her nothing this year.  I had purchased one of her plane tickets for a trip to Los Angeles, where we plan to spend our Spring Break.  That, plus two months of double-rent (having just moved to MD), meant I wasn't going to get her anything this year.  That was of course a ruse...

Christmas Eve
On her last day at her old job (Rachel has an exciting new job which is a big step up), on December 19, Rachel received a surprise at work.  It was a book- like a scrapbook- from me.  I had written a poem, separated into stanzas.  The first stanza was in the book, followed by a clue where she'd find the next stanza.  Each stanza was accompanied by a small Christmas gift.  Rachel came home and found several of them, then had a clue leading her to my parent's house.  There, she found the next stanza in a gift.

Christmas Eve was wonderful- we spent it with my family, including my aunt who I hadn't seen in a while.  There was wonderful Italian food, incredible family, and most surprisingly- snow!  We had a White Christmas.  Rachel got me mostly clothes.  I also got a great TARDIS trash can- for the true nerd in me.  Pictures from my camera are in the video.  It was the first of my three Christmases this year...
Rachel with her book- opening the gift from me on Christmas Day

On Christmas Day, Rachel and I drove to Delaware to visit her family.  We had a lovely time at her sister's house, where we opened some gifts, while getting mauled by the overly-friendly and massive Levi (a 70 pound pit bull puppy).  Then we went to a larger celebration at Rachel's aunt's house.  Her whole family was there, many of whom I know well.  Rachel opened a gift from me which contained a metal rose I'd purchased with her cousin Jen  at the Renn Faire, and then tickets to a surprise trip to Williamsburg!  We'd been for her birthday, and had fun (see earlier entry in blog), but had to leave a day early when Rach got sick.  This was a surprise trip- to help make up for that.  More pics from Delaware are in the video.  My favorite memory of that night was after most of the people left, and Rachel's cousin Stacey (in the pic above) challenged me to a game of Lord of the Rings chess.  The added rule was that you could only move a piece if you acted out the character, using a quote from one of the films.  I won- but it was amazingly fun!

We left Delaware, and after a night at home (receiving her second-to last stanza and gift), we headed to Williamsburg.  Traffic was awful, but we arrived at the Bed and Breakfast at last (pictured far top).  The owner gave us the key, and invited us to drop our stuff in our room.  While there, we were the only ones staying at the Bed and Breakfast, which was lovely.  We went up to the room, and waiting there was a bottle of wine, fresh flowers, and a wrapped Christmas gift.  Rachel opened it, and found the final stanza of the poem.  She inserted the poem into the book, and I told her to read the poem from the beginning.  As she read, I got on one knee, pulled out the ring I'd had custom-made, and asked her to be my wife.  She said yes!  We went downstairs, told the owners, then went to Merchant's Square.  I'd never been to Williamsburg in Christmas, and it was nice.  We had a delicious dinner at Seasons, followed by chocolate fondue at Aromas.
Rachel at Seasons- calling her sister to tell her

Showing off the ring, while swallowing delicious chocolate fondue

The next two days were a celebration of us.  On Friday we walked to the Colonial area and looked at all the neat Christmas decorations- loved the individualized wreaths.  We also visited a number of historic workers who we had missed in our last visit, such as the wig-maker, printer, and the cart-builder.  We had a lovely day, and the weather was cool but sunny, a perfect day for walking around with hot cider.  We stopped at Mad About Chocolate on our way back, for some fantastic hot drinks, then drove to Busch Gardens.  The park was opened and although only some rides were open, the full park was decorated for Christmas.  We walked around, going on a few rides, until we froze and needed some mulled wine while watching a show.  My favorite part was the skytram- looking over all the lights from high up.  Our final day in Williamsburg was filled with shopping and a couples' massage that Rachel bought for me, to pay me back for the surprise trip of a lifetime.  It felt like we had a third Christmas- one all to ourselves, and one we'll never forget.