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Christmas in America ...

...and four sleeps until I'm home (to the tune of a holiday song!).

Yesterday I went for the second time this season to see the National Christmas Tree. This time I went with Katie and Patrick starting in the afternoon. We walked from the White House down to the Mall.

We stopped to check out the Smithsonian outdoor skating rink (cannot WAIT to do that later this winter). We walked into the National Gallery to see the Christmas decorations (really beautiful), then quickly strolled through the Turner and Hopper exhibits.

Back out in the cold, we went to see the Botanical Gardens "Mall" exhibit with mostly natural constructed models of important buildings in DC. They also have this amazing model train set-up outside. If you're local, definitely put the Gardens on your to-do list of things to see.

Then we wandered down to the Capitol Christmas tree - which was about 900 times better than the one pictured above (but Katie has the picture of that one). From there we strolled to Chinatown, had fabulous, fast dinner and then walked over to the White House gift shop in the National Press Building. Unfortunately it closes early on weekends, so we went back over to the National tree so Katie and Patrick could see the wimpy bows all lit up.

A long metro ride later, just avoiding the freezing rain, we hung out for a couple hours swapping old stories and eating Christmas cookies. Definitely a perfect way to spend a Saturday.

This morning I went to church early to practice for the Christmas Eve mass, even though I won't be able to sing here because I'll be HOME! Anyway, for the first time since high school I sang through the alto part to the Hallelujah Chorus without messing up (hooray!). I am pretty disappointed I won't be able to sing with the group, but I'm glad I get to practice the music for fun. I also got to play the bells at mass today, which I love and don't get to do much anymore since the little girl who joined the choir pretty much takes care of that now.

This afternoon I cooked and watched/listened to movies. A couple of nights ago I finally cut into my Halloween pumpkin (no worries, pumpkins stay good for a long time). My pumpkin was about the size of a basketball and, like most pumpkins, basically hollow. Yet somehow all the "meat" of the pumpkin filled a GIANT baking bowl I have. So today I made a giant stew pot of pumpkin soup (half for now, the other half in the freezer), a pumpkin pie, and three loaves of pumpkin bread. I still have between three and four cups of pumpkin "mush" left (mush because I pureed it with a hand-mixer - which I must say was ridiculous as I should have fixed up my blender and used that).

So my kitchen has orange drips everywhere which I need to clean up before bed and I have enough cooked gourd to last me until I go home, even if I eat nothing else between now and then (which would be rather bad for me I imagine). So now I am going to sit down with a small slice of pumpkin loaf and finish the Christmas present I'm working on.

This week I'll be working to holiday tunes in the office, baking cookies at night, caroling, and packing up for home. Really, life couldn't be better. Thank God for a glorious week.

Love always, ~Heather