Saturday, January 11, 2014

New Year at The Little Cabin in the Woods

As the sun was setting on 2013, we headed to Hocking Hills to ring in the New Year by enjoying the peace and tranquility of the National Forest… and the hot tub.

We took advantage of the lovely New Year's Day weather to spend the first day of 2014 hiking through the parks in the area.  We hit them all- Ash Cave, Old Man's Cave, Cedar Falls.  

I have to hand it to Seamus, for a dog with short legs, he can hike with the best of them.  But he was sooooooo tired when we got back to the cabin.

The next day we awoke to a winter wonderland and got to spend a little time sledding before heading back to the big city.  It wasn't great sledding, but it was sledding and we loved it!


Holiday Mix Up

Grandma and Grandpa arrived for Christmas with prefab gingerbread house components and a big bag of candy.  We got our holiday going with a quasi-Amish style barn raising (in the form of a gingerbread house) and seemingly all day flurry of eating candy and sticking some on the gingerbread house and eating more candy. What fun!

Thanks once again to the Hagerstown Police Department, Uncle Ed was able to come to Columbus for Christmas but had to leave early Christmas morning to get back for work.  So we called in a favor from Santa who delightfully agreed to bring presents Christmas Eve morning (truthfully he was probably happy to have one fewer house to visit that night).  
I have to admit this arrangement worked out pretty well.  The Smiley Family Wrapping Paper Ripping Extravaganza lasted most of Christmas Eve day.  We went to the Christmas Eve Children's Mass at St. Mary's (where we had a reserved front row pew thanks to a couple of glasses of wine and my awesome bidding skills at the school fundraising silent auction last winter).  We came home and had a lovely Christmas Dinner.

Our Christmas Day started out with birthday pie (we were too stuffed after Christmas dinner to eat dessert) and birthday presents. 

 Will got an antique adding machine from Grandma and Grandpa that was really cool and gave him the chance to quiz everyone on their math skills for the rest of the day.

Then we waved goodbye to Uncle Ed and spent a tranquil day playing with our new toys and celebrating the fact that 

Happy Birthday, My Sweet Boy!


The Two Best Kept Secrets of the Columbus Zoo

OK, the world knows that we have the best zoo.  
That is no secret.  
But even our awesome, world-renowned zoo has a couple of hidden gems.
Secret #1: The Columbus Zoo has the most beautiful Santa.  We are talking real beard, jolly demeanor, and the most amazing red velvet Santa suit.  He has several variations that I have seen, sometimes with a coat, sometimes with just a vest over a puffy shirt.  My favorite touch is a gorgeous big brass belt buckle that says Santa and this year I noticed that the buckles on his boots have the same design. Just gorgeous!
You have to plan your visit to the zoo Santa just right because the line is usually excruciatingly long, but if you happen to go on a less crowded day, and if you happen to be able to keep your children from going bonkers while they wait, the payoff is amazing Santa pictures: beautiful backdrop, beautiful Santa, beautiful!  
And the zoo will happily sell you as many copies of the picture as you want and make them into ornaments or snow globes or tuck them into picture frames they conveniently have on hand.  Because I am a sucker- we have all of these things.  But I love them, so what is the harm?

This year the zoo advertised Breakfast with Santa and it seemed like a no brainer.  Not only would we get to see the beautiful zoo Santa in a hopefully more crowd-controlled setting, we would get to have breakfast with him and Mrs Claus!  Awesome!
And the zoo did a great job as always.  There were Zoo Ambassadors chatting up the kids and posing for pictures, zookeepers holding interesting animals that the kids could pet, a guy doing amazing yo-yo tricks and juggling, festive face painters, a chance to decorate your own Christmas cookie, coloring pages, -oh- and also breakfast.
Santa arrived to much fanfare and spent time with each family.  It was very nice.

My only complaint was that they didn't set up Santa's regular backdrop.  So we did get our pictures with the beautiful Santa, but the background is a green cinderblock wall with a fake ficus tree.  There might even be an electric outlet in view.  Well, you can see for yourself:

Probably the only person who cared was me so I will let it go and focus on the Magic and Wonder of the day.

Secret #2: The zoo in winter.  Sure the zoo does a great job with Wild Lights, but I think that the zoo is also open during some days in the winter.  After Breakfast with Santa, the boys begged us to walk around the zoo a little bit.  It was definitely chilly, but as you know there are plenty of indoor attractions.  And it was right around noon so the animals were ready for their lunches and were up and moving around.  Of course the sturdy animals of North America- the bison, the wolves, the moose- were out and about.  And we got to see Santa's reindeer preparing for their long journey.
And we practically had the zoo ALL TO OURSELVES! 

If you have a zoo membership I would definitely recommend using it year round.
And maybe I'll call someone about that Santa photo backdrop...