It's the end of January 2021 and I finally got around to this post. The end of the year is always so busy with holidays, birthdays, and celebrations and this year, even in the middle of the pandemic, was no exception. A time that is usually filled with eating out, traveling (we went to London last year for the holidays), and meeting up with friends, was of course spent at home this year (a four hour trip each time) but I felt extremely lucky and grateful I was even able to spend it at home in Maryland with my immediate family.
For me, the end of the year starts with Halloween, which is my sister's birthday which we celebrated early in the Poconos earlier this year. Then my mom's birthday is a week later, and then my dad's birthday is three weeks later around Thanksgiving.
My mom's birthday happened to fall on the weekend of Biden's election win. We drove up to Maryland early and heard the news just as we were stepping inside the house, buoyed by the celebrations we saw on social media and TV. I felt bad as it was my mom's 60th birthday and we weren't able to give her a big birthday like my dad had for his 60th a few days ago, but I made her some food, got her cake, flowers, and balloons and had hot pot for dinner. I swear my mother is the biggest social media user of our family and couldn't wait to post these pictures to her WeChat of her balloons!
I also made some pandemic focaccia 😂 I used this recipe and it turned out really well!
I know I was super lucky to even see my parents over the holidays during covid. I have a small family to begin with (just my parents and sister outside of me and C's immediate household), and I was fortunate to live only a 2 hour's drive from my parents. My parents have been basically quarantining at home the entire pandemic and C works from home as well, so the only exposures our family had were myself and my sister who is away at business school in Philadelphia. My sister had a few covid exposures and scares but quarantined in her room when she came back home, and I--well, I had been using all the masks/face shields at work and took all the necessary precautions. While there is a lot of (legitimate) concern regarding asymptomatic covid spread, the research shows that truly "asymptomatic" covid patients are rare. Looking back, over 90% of covid patients have some sort of symptom, even if it was mild like a runny nose or sore throat. As I didn't have any symptoms, I decided to spend the holidays with my parents, driving up from Richmond every time. It was definitely a risk, but a risk we all took. And then the day I left Richmond for Christmas break, I got the covid vaccine! The best Christmas gift anyone could ask for in 2020.
We went back up for my dad's birthday a few weeks later and played with the new firepit C had ordered for us. JJ was still under quarantine so we all wore masks inside the house and made JJ sit 6 feet away from us. She even took a covid test, but that ended up coming back inconclusive. In the end she made it through her quarantine without incident however did end up missing a planned trip to Hawaii with her friends.
We even brought out a TV screen for our patio and spent hours outside by the firepit, eating snacks and watching travel shows to fantasize about where we could go next. JJ and C, who both have a curious fascination with fire, fed and stoked the fire to their heart's content. Highly recommended as a socially distanced outdoor activity.
I made cumin lamb skewers
Dad's socially distant birthday (pic taken with the new iPhone 12 mini)
The obsession with Xian Famous Foods continues! I brought back ingredients to make their famous lamb noodles (N1) and it was a hit!
A week later, we drove back up for Thanksgiving weekend. It was my first Thanksgiving in a few years to be able to spend four days at home. For my 3 year-fellowship program, the first years have to work both Thanksgiving and Christmas, the second years have to work either Thanksgiving or Christmas, and the third years like me get both Thanksgiving and the Christmas holiday off, so it was finally my turn! My mom's friend invited to their outdoor farm and we spent actual Thanksgiving day having lunch outside and doing activities around the farm like archery and shooting my first (bebe) gun.
That night we cooked up our traditional "box Thanksgiving" where we typically skip the hours long Thanksgiving prep and opt for the ease and deliciousness of food from the box. We got a rotisserie chicken from Costco (better than any turkey I could make) and made our favorite sides like stuffing and mashed potatoes from a box! It's a success every year.
Don't feed me salad, I want the good stuff! says Charlie
So my 1-second a day video resolution kind of failed halfway through the year but I started picking up the hobby of making more longform videos, just for fun. Take a look if you want to see more of our Thanksgiving!
Both C and my mom fell sick the day after Thanksgiving (not covid sick, but headache/migraine sick!) so they both literally spent the day in bed or on the couch until late afternoon. We tried to putter around quietly while they rested and then my sister and I worked on putting up the Christmas tree and making my parents watch The Queen's Gambit when everyone felt a little better.
Fast forward another few weeks later, me and C visited the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden which lights up every year around Christmas. And then before we knew it, it was time for Christmas! Our fellowship splits the Christmas and New Year's holidays up so half of the group gets one holiday off and the other group gets the other holiday off. As a third year I got the week of Christmas off but even though I was supposed to work the week of New Years, I was also due to get a three day weekend for New Year's day.
As luck, and scientific progress, would have it, the covid vaccine was approved in early December and my hospital got the first batches of the vaccine right before Christmas. I became eligible to get the vaccine and got the first shot the day we left for my one week vacation in Maryland. It does take some time for the vaccine to stimulate antibodies (giving you about 50% immunity 10-12 days after the first shot, and 95% immunity 7 days after the second booster) however receiving the vaccine did made me feel better about seeing my family knowing it was much less likely I would transmit it to them. A variety of side effects have been reported from the vaccine but I only developed a sore arm, similar to the flu shot, after both doses.
Christmas break was spent doing a whole lot of nothing. Christmas fell on a Friday this year and my parents still had to work Monday through Wednesday, so we ran some errands, organized their pantry, baked, and took turns cooking every night. The one thing we did was pile up the car and walk around the National Christmas Tree on the national mall, right next to the Washington monument and the White House. I don't think I've ever seen it in person, despite only living 45 minutes away, and it was definitely worth bundling up for. There were quite a few people there but everyone was wearing masks outside.
Family Christmas card 2020 lol
Mom attempted a dairy free yule log (my sister is still dairy free)
Dad made lobster and 8 ducks (and then many fights ensued *nervous laughter*)
We celebrated C's birthday with a Shiba cake! Only a placeholder until we get our real shiba next year 😊
JJ taught me how to make face masks!! She was the workhorse and I helped
Best Christmas gift -- a wagon for geriatric Charlie!
I spent more effort trying to film videos this Christmas, check out the video for more on what we did and cooked every day! And no, despite all the prompts from YouTube when I uploaded it, I'm not trying to monetize anything so I get nothing if you watch the video 😂
All in all, a quiet Christmas but likely last Christmas at home for the forseeable future because....I signed a job offer back in California!!! It finally happened over Thanksgiving break and the parts are moving for me and C to finally move back to California together. It'll be in Southern California, about an hour outside of LA and close to C's family. The sad thing is, I signed the job contract the same day as my mom and C were sick, so I never even got to celebrate 😰 But it's ok, I think being in Southern California will feel like something to celebrate every day while I'm writing this in the middle of cold January in Virginia right now.
Although we came back to Richmond for New Year's as I had to work (and was last-minute called in to help in the hospital due to the covid surge), the celebrations continued as me and C celebrated our 2nd anniversary. He ordered us more Xian Famous Foods (we are obsessed) from their store in NYC which I got to bang out the noodles for on the countertop. That'll be in the 2021 video lol.
Then I made us dress up and eat outside at a local Italian place for our actual anniversary. It was just meh 😑 Looking forward to better food in SoCal!
Every year we travel for the holidays I complain that I don't get to spend Christmas at home. While this year was definitely different and hard not to see friends I see every year because of the pandemic, I got my wish to stay home and spend quality time with my family, though just not in the way I imaged. I'm just gonna be real though...I can't wait travel again and ideally spend next Christmas not at home!
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