Thursday, December 29, 2011

An Active Holiday at Home

After seven months away from home (the longest I've been away) I finally got to visit last week.  I got time off work the four days before Christmas to see my family at home in Orlando.  My sister, Caroline, is on break from her work in AmeriCorp and my brother, Patrick, came to visit during his winter break from college.  It was so nice for us all to be together again and during my most favorite time of year!  

I have been looking forward to this visit for the longest time.  I love being in Chicago, but it is hard being hundreds of miles away from family.  At the beginning of the month my mom sent me a surprise package in the mail.  It was a nifty advent/countdown calendar to me coming home.  She wrapped 20 small package and numbered them 1-20 for me to open everyday until my visit.  It was perfect!  I looked forward to opening each gift.  
Here are a few of the things I got: Santa window clings, gum, a daily cat calendar, Balega running socks, Honey Stingers. 

Tuesday I opened my last gift to find a picture of our house and our three cute cats saying they couldn't wait for me to get there.  After a full day at work I flew out and arrived around 12:30am EST.  Mom and Patrick stayed up to come and get me.  When I got home I made sure to pet all three cats, Callie, Daisy, and Marbles.  I miss seeing there cute little faces everyday.  

Wednesday Mom and I went out for a run through the neighborhood.  It was so much warmer than it is here in Chicago and was a nice change not having to run in layers.  We chatted and completed four miles.

Thursday Patrick and I went on six mile bike ride though the neighborhood.  It had been months since I last rode a bike and it was great to ride again.  Later we all decided to check out a nature trail at Split Oak Mitigation Park that, Andy, our step-dad, had discovered.  Mom and I checked the map and we decided to do the three mile loop and follow the green trail. 
The path itself was very sandy at times, thick dirt, grass, or pine covered depending on where we were.  It was perfect walking weather though with a bright blue sky.  We were pretty much the only ones walking the trail.  
We found some deer and wild hog tracks, stopped to take pictures, sang songs, and talked about survival techniques if a bobcat or wild hog were to appear.  We actually ran right into a small snake across the trail.  Patrick noticed it just in time for us all to kind of freak out and tip toe around.  We couldn't figure out what kind of snake it was, and didn't really want to wait to see if it was poisonous.  
Patrick totally photo-bombed us!
We discovered a pretty lake in the middle of the forest.
Mom was tracking the walk with her Garmin and as we approached three miles we found ourselves no where near the trail head or car.  We just kept walking thinking perhaps the mileage was off.  Uh, it was way off.  We kept with the green trail, but it was in fact 5.3 miles and not just three.  Caroline and Patrick got a little worried we were lost, but we kept following the green trail and made our way back.  Although it was much longer than we planned, we had fun and it made for a good adventure!

Later that evening I met Kristin, my Chicago roomie, and our friend, Mari, for dinner at our favorite sushi place Seito.  Every time the three of us get together we visit this restaurant.  The sushi is made fresh to order and they have some unique rolls to choose from.  Mari and I went to high school together and she introduced me to Kristin, her cousin, and we soon became friends and later roommates at FSU.  It was nice for all of us to get together again.  We chatted, laughed, and walked around Celebration, which made for a lovely evening.

Friday morning Andy and Mom made breakfast bowls and homemade cinnamon rolls, which were delicious.  I think I ate four cinnamon rolls that day -that's how good they are!  Then the four of us, Mom, Caroline, Patrick, and I headed down to Holopow, which is a rural area of Central Florida.  We went to Forever Florida where they offer lots of outdoor activities.  We signed up to do canopy cycling.  We took a big dune buggy bus through the forest to get to our location.  The guide told us about the organization and pointed out some of the animals on the land.
Sally, the alligator, had about eights babies around her.  A few are in the water and some are on the bank above her (they are the brown and tan striped things). 

Once we arrived at the spot we were given some safety instructions and put on harnesses.
Canopy cycling is when you are hooked into a bicycle looking contraption that is attached to cables above the ground and you move through the forest by pedaling.  The track itself was just over a mile or so, but you definitely get a good leg workout by pedaling.  We were about 25 feet above the ground.  It took around 45 minutes to get through the course.  It was something different and we all had a good time!
After our cycling adventure we were all starving and made our way to BJ's Brewhouse for dinner.  I enjoyed a tasty berry cider and buffalo chicken pizza.  Menchies, a frozen yogurt shop, was nearby and we couldn't pass up an opportunity to grab some. 

Since Patrick and I weren't going to be there on Christmas day we decided to have our Christmas that night.  We went through our stockings upstairs and then opened our other gifts down by the tree.  One of my major gifts was the tickets to fly to Orlando.  To open I got a long sleeve shirt, scarf, some cash, pajamas, iFitness hydration add-on bottles for my belt, and a year subscription to Runner's World!  My mom wrapped up a box with this cover of the magazine with my face imposed on Kara Goucher- it made me laugh!
After gifts we decided to go on a walk through the neighborhood that evening and check out the Christmas lights.  The Family Stone is one of our favorite Christmas movies so we all piled in on the couch to watch it together. 

Saturday I went out for another four mile run by myself.  We spent most of the day hanging out at the house.  We took some family photos for Christmas cards and such.  Patrick left midday to head back to Beaufort and after a homemade dinner Mom and Caroline drove me to the airport.  I was not ready to go back and really wish I could have stayed longer.  After a tearful goodbye I checked my bags, boarded the plane, and landed back in Chicago late that evening.  

Since the spa and fitness center, where I work, is located in a hotel, we are open 365 days a year.  I got up Christmas morning and opened my last gift (a pair of slippers) before heading to work.  It was really strange to not be with family on Christmas day, but I made sure to text everyone Merry Christmas on my way to work.  
The day wasn't horrible, it was just different.  I wasn't the only one working, so my coworkers and I made the best of things and had fun day.  I work with some great people, so it was nice.  In the afternoon I Skyped my mom and Caroline and chatted with my dad and Patrick to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.  The rest of the evening was pretty quiet though.  I had my fill of rich, sweet foods at home, so I enjoyed hummus, carrots, and pita chips while I laid in bed listening to Christmas music and watching Home Alone.  

Although it was a short visit I had such a great time seeing my family and friends for a few days.  Not being able to see them regularly throughout the year makes me appreciate the time we do spend together even more!

I hope you all had a great holiday as well!  What did you do to stay active?  What were some of the best meals or treats you enjoyed?