“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…” So it’s said of the Postal Service, and so it could be said of this year’s Christmas trip.
Grandpa Liggett had been due to join us in SJ the day after Christmas, but weather & Southwest Airlines had other plans. Happily, he was able to reschedule for a week later, and we made the most of it by using Margot’s new AirBnB credits to book a lovely little place near Monterey, just half a block from the ocean.
Although rain & wind whipped the whole coast during our visit, we were able to get out to favorite sites like the Monterey Bay Aquarium, taking in sights of everything from adorable otters to scary giant Japanese crabs.
The weather made for some spectacular waves, and my photo assistant Henry nervously & vocally deterred me from heading too close to any danger. “Just don’t let my dad get taken by a sneaker wave!” added Margot.
We’ve kept things quite & close to home these last few days—heading over to Vasona Park for our annual tour of the lights, then visiting the little Stone Church for Christmas Eve services, and then staying home on Christmas Day.
Seamus eagerly assisted in the unwrapping (and, unfortunately, in the bacon consumption!), and we felt just as lucky as ever to be able to give & receive so many delightful gifts. Margot & the boys whipped up some delicious breakfast rolls, cheesecake, and finally dinner. It wouldn’t be Christmas around here without some Legos, and everyone pitched in on Mom-O’s Lego botanicals & Hen’s new Galaxy Explorer.
Check out our gallery from the last few days, and stay tuned for more after Grandpa Liggett arrives mañana!
Wrapping up our Christmas adventure for 2021, here’s a gallery showing some of the great gifts we exchanged with the fam amidst ingestions of mass quantities of fondue (the boys’ first, and quite a hit!), shrimp dip 🤤, and more.
One particular highlight was getting to make Lego versions of Jenna, Austin, and Morgan, then give them to the kids in person:
And to close things out, here’s a draggable interactive panorama of our pretty little town:
One of the real highlights of our trip to Big G was seeing Grandpa Nack pass a piece of family railroading heritage on to Henry. His grandfather from Ireland has emigrated to New York state & become an engineer (on the NY Central RR, we think), and during summer visits he’d call my dad “Seamus” (Irish for James). Happily, the beautiful gold watch he received upon his retirement made its way to my dad, and it’s now in the very appreciative hands of one Henry Seamus. 🥰 Here’s a little gallery showing the passing of this cherished torch.
Our man Henry is nothing if not just a little bit obsessive 🙃, and he spent many weeks ahead of our trip to Galena—where he caught the insulator-collecting bug during our March trip—plotting efforts to grab more of the little glass gems.
On our very first afternoon in town, we headed to Dubuque to meet up with Uncle Ted’s friend Tom who gave us three insulators!
The following morning, we grabbed some equipment & root beer at the hardware store, then headed out to the 1888 Winston Tunnel. The winding path got us turned around a few times, but thankfully Uncle Ted was our eye in the sky, texting us guidance right to the tunnel.
Despite a huge application of my elbow grease as I stood atop a very sketchy stump, we just couldn’t dislodge any of the insulators we found. At least the root beers hit the spot before we refueled with fried cheese curds at Culver’s.
The next day (Christmas), Hen & I took a long walk down the tracks below Grandpa Nack’s childhood home. “I feel like Tantalus,” he said, as we noted tons of insulators that were just out of reach. We came away with just a shard of glass as a consolation prize.
Afterwards we dropped by Uncle Louie & Aunt Dolores’s house, and in the course of catching up with their family, we talked insulators with Joe Nack. Having gathered insulators as a kid, he gave us some good pointers on where to go Sunday.
To our great surprise, Joe showed up at our house on Sunday morning, offering to take us out on a hunt. Thanks to his ladder & tools, we immediately scored an insulator that had previously eluded us, and shortly thereafter we hit pay dirt—finding tons of poles out past Rec Park. “I hope you brought diapers, Henry,” said Joe, “’cause you’re about to crap your pants.” 😝
In the end Joe & I teamed up to climb high & score an additional five insulators for Henry. As Margot texted in response, “Joe Nack saves Christmas!”
Check out our gallery, as well as Henry’s video recap of our three outings:
Though I can hardly believe it, nine years have passed since our last Christmastime visit to Chicago and Galena. Back then we took the dudes around the city (see gallery & post) and to the Murrays’ house before heading to Big G. This year we were all set to see the gang at Liz’s house, but sadly Covid put the kibosh on those plans. Thankfully, we were able to see Aunt Jane for a bit & fuel up on Lou Malnati’s before heading down to the Palmer House.
I have fond memories of visiting the Marshall Field’s windows & Walnut Room with its giant tree, as well as of myriad trips to Water Tower Place, so the next morning we enjoyed bundling up & taking the dudes to these old haunts.
Our pal Samantha (who escorted Henry on a little train & photo safari back in 2018; see post) lives right downtown, and it was great to drop by her place & warm up over good stories & a little Irish whiskey. Afterwards, while Margot & Finn took a pit stop at the hotel, the rest of us stopped by Millennium Park to visit the “Bean” and the start of Route 66:
Afterwards the four Nacks headed to one of my folks’ old haunts, the Italian Village restaurant that’s just across the street from the building where they both worked. We had a ball hiding out in one of the tiny dinner alcoves that probably haven’t changed in all the intervening decades.
Lastly, after a second night at the hotel, Henry & I took a whirlwind tour of the former State of Illinois Building (one of my favorite places to visit & photograph as a kid), noticing & posing with various Blues Brothers movie locations along the way.
For many, many months now, our former nanny Yvonne’s brother in law has been quietly applying his patience & skills to the task of carving some really amazing, beautiful animals for the boys—a lion for Finn & an owl for Henry. It was great catching up with Yvonne after all these years, and Seamus took a shine to our new animal buddies. Check them out in our gallery!
Our story begins when Henry showed us a video of the Lego designer and the architect who created the most colossal Lego set ever, the Roman Colosseum – over 9,000 pieces! Upon seeing the video, I completely flipped out – I had no idea Lego had created a Colosseum set, and I knew right then that’s what I hoped to get for Christmas 2020.
My loyal and big-hearted boy Henry immediately went to work on making some Christmas magic with John, and they secretly set out to find the set (limited edition!) and give it to me.
Within a few days there was an extremely large wrapped box underneath the tree, and Henry worked hard to cover his tracks when I started playing Twenty Questions. He spooled out an elaborate story about a new Japanese store at the mall called “Clown Town,” telling me that he and John had obtained an amazing hat made of shards of glass, and a huge clown wig. I kept my fingers crossed that it was really the Lego set, and not a giant pair of clown shoes!
You can imagine my glee when I opened the set on Christmas day and it really was what I had hoped. I sent out an SOS to borrow a neighbor’s card table so we had a place to build, and soon enough, Henry and I were set up in the master bedroom with task lighting, two chairs, and dozens of bags full of thousands of Lego bricks. Hen was my right-hand man all the way – after I completed the base, we took turns building the Colosseum itself – which is ingeniously designed into vertical slices that snap together with ball and socket joints.
This set really activated all my nerd buttons: archaeology, Roman history, architecture, and Lego! It really is the best set they’ve ever made, and we had a ball putting it together. You can get a sense of the intricate details and overall design in the photo gallery, which also features Henry’s minifig Egyptian archaeological explorers checking out the ruins. (They are from a different set but had to come check out the scene!) We worked for 5 days in a row, reading up on the Colosseum’s history, and the Roman Empire in general, while also enjoying dumb TV game shows in the background, and just chitchatting the afternoons away. Now that it is finished, Hen and I have had a few “appreciation sesh’s” (as he puts it) just to marvel at our accomplishment and the neat details of the set. It is 2 feet in diameter and warranted its own display table (seriously, we had nowhere to put it that was dog-safe or big enough!). Best. Christmas gift. Ever!
Christmas this year was different, but we tried to bring as much Santa Claus magic as possible to the boys. As they’ve gotten older, the gift requests have become very short and very specific, and happily we were able to deliver on the specifics, as well as throwing in some excellent surprises.
Even Seamus got in on the action, helping to tear open the wrapping paper (a gift in itself!), and reaping a few gifts of his own.
Each human got a much-coveted Lego set – Star Wars & Mandalorian sets for John and Finn, a vintage pirate set for Henry, and the quite literally colossal Roman Coliseum set for Classical history-nerd mom. Santa also brought fun novelty socks, books, games, handmade stuffed animals, candy, and some incredibly soft and fuzzy new jackets for the boys. Seamus got a new leash and toy, new portable food and water bowls and a doggy water bottle for hikes.
The best surprise gifts came in the form of Seamus portraits. Grandpa Liggett had a friend do a beautiful pencil portrait of our boy, and I commissioned a custom illustration of Seamus in a Venetian Doge costume (dog, doge…get it?). Finn absolutely flipped out upon opening them – and now he has both portraits hanging above his bed where he can admire them anytime he likes.
Here is our Christmas Day gallery, where you can see the shock and awe Santa was able to deliver this year. We surely missed sharing it in person with family, and hope that 2021 permits us to travel and celebrate together!
Continuing our efforts to bring the party to the people, we keep driving the blinged-out Westy around San Jose & points beyond. Last night was no exception as we headed over to Los Gatos to take in their Fantasy of Lights—one of our favorite Christmas traditions. Like last week & last year, my co-pilot Hen hung himself out the window to get the best look, but this time he was content to put down his camera & just enjoy the moments.
2020 is, of course, all about adaptation & flexibility, so San Jose has converted its traditional Christmas in the Park into a driving tour for this year. The five of us (Seamus included!) piled into the car on Friday evening, and after a long wait in line we were rewarded with a gorgeous & festive spectacle. Braving the (relative) cold, Henry hung out the window & captured a nice gallery of images while I made this fun little time-lapse video. Check it out!
Finn is very sentimental about the holidays. He loves our annual rituals, which we add to each year. The pandemic has certainly done its part to hamper our normal activities like going to the Nutcracker, Christmas tree lightings and parties, and the like, and to prevent us from traveling to see our families.
To that end, we are trying to create some safe, local joy that will keep our Christmas spirits up. I saw a photo recently of an old VW microbus that was decorated with Christmas lights, and I thought it would be fun to do the same with the Westy, and drive around spreading some Christmas cheer. I asked Mr. Christmas, Finn, what he thought, and he loved the idea. Last weekend, we headed out to Ace Hardware and picked up some colorful lights, and some small suction cups with hooks that we could safely stick to the van. We already have a big rechargeable battery in the Westy that we can plug the lights into.
Needless to say, we got the lights strung, plugged in, and did our first Christmas Lights Cruise around the neighborhood on Sunday night. A few observant passersby noticed our moving light show and seemed charmed. Most of all, though, Finn and Henry both love it, and they’re all smiles when we light up Westy and hit the streets, playing Christmas music on the radio. Seamus seems to enjoy it as well, cuddled up on his boy’s lap, watching the world go by. We plan to cruise around in our portable light show as often as possible over the next few weeks. Maybe we’ll even hand out candy canes!
Happy New Years, gang! I thought I’d share pics from a couple of sparkling nights out we recently enjoyed. First, as is our yearly tradition, we drove through the lights in Vasona Park in nearby Los Gatos, and a few nights later Henry & I cruised the streets of Santa Cruz in style via the New Years Lights Train. I hope you enjoy our galleries:
We had a ball celebrating our first nativity with the Sea-Moose, hanging around Chez Nack and opening a bunch of terrific gifts before wolfing down the googley-eyed cookie trees we made. Since we’re in Carmel for a couple of days, I’ll keep things brief for now & just pass along our photo gallery to check out.
Awaiting Christmas Day loot is a delightful burden, but sometimes one just has to jump the gun (or is it tracks?) a bit. Mom-O found a great little HO-scale engine & cars for Henry, and we surprised him with the gift a bit early so that it could liven up our tree for the next few weeks. Check out this quick tour Hen made to celebrate its inaugural run:
I feel so deeply fortunate to say that this year our little gang is once again healthy & happy & having a ball. Although we couldn’t be together in person with our far-flung family, it’s been great to trade phone calls and some pretty excellent gifts—not to mention a little good-natured long-distance trolling (e.g. Ted sending me pictures of our mom’s shrimp dip, and me replying with shots of hot tubs in California sunshine) 😌.
We’re off to the Grand Canyon (!) bright and early tomorrow (sporting our custom Westy caps from Mom-O), so I’ll keep things brief for now & share a few shots from yesterday. Keep an eye out for, among other things, Finn reading his amazing letter from Santa (more on that soon); the leash for our future dog Séamus (!!); Henry getting the currency proof set Auntie Laura got as a baby; Finn “fishing” via a clever Nintendo add-on from Grandpa Liggett; the boys dueling in geography via a globe from Grandma & Grandpa Nack; and more.
Much love to you & yours from Nacks Micro & Macro!
“You’ll shoot your eye out!” Happily that hasn’t happened yet, and both bandito Hen & Nintendo-lover Finn are happily ensconced in a pile of Legos, wonderful books from Grandma & Grandpa Nack, a Lego-style drone (!) from the Lingle cousins, and more. Here’s a little gallery of the chaps celebrating with Grandpa Liggett. We feel, and are, blessed indeed. 🙂
All the way back in 2011, we enjoyed taking the lads on a Christmasy train ride through town (see little gallery & vid). Given that Hen’s passion for trains has only increased, this year we brought along Grandpa Liggett for an evening ride that featured letter-writing to the big guy, visits from Mrs. Claus & then Santa, and finally some requisite “cooling off” at Marianne’s Ice Cream. Check out the gallery and the short video below.
“Waste not, want not”—true, but you might gain an unwanted reputation!
Around our house I (“The Goat”) am infamous for finishing off others’ chow a little too quickly—something I’ve largely stopped doing, though Finn will never let me off the hook for decapitating his gingerbread man years ago. In any case, this week I discovered that each boy had surrounded his cookie “Masterpiece” with cautionary text aimed my way. As you can see from Henry’s, it was “The opposite of Bon Appetite for Dad today!”
It’s hard to believe that Christmas 2016 has already come and gone! This year, it was just us four California Nacks, enjoying a quiet, relaxing day at home. Although Henry and Finn tried to wake us up at 3:30 a.m. to open presents, we put them off until the only-slightly-less-unreasonable 5:00 a.m.
Santa and our extended families bestowed many gifts upon the lads this year, especially the much-discussed and eagerly-anticipated big lego sets that each boy was hoping for. Henry got his Lego Airport, and Finn got his Lego Volcano Exploration base station. Certainly not forgotten was Dad-o, who was the happy recipient of a Lego Creator Big Ben set (which he is still constructing!) and a remote control drone! Among other wonderful gifts, I got a terrific Lego Beatles’ Yellow Submarine set. Needless to say we spent a great deal of the day working on our Legos, alternating construction time with dinner, movies, naps, and snacks.