It's Christmas! And I'm in New York!

I'm home spending the holidays with my family in upstate New York. I thought I'd share a few of our family traditions in addition to my own tradition of seeing the holiday sights around The City.

In between upstate shenanigans, I was in New York City a couple of times over the last few weeks. I got to check out Rockefeller Center, view the decorated Macy's windows, and watch people fall on their faces ice skating in Bryant Park (my favorite!).

But now I'm home, baking up a cookie storm with Mom and preparing for our family tradition of opening presents on Christmas Eve.

Throwback Thursday

I can't believe it's been a year since I was in Wellington New Zealand for the holidays house-sitting a greyhound/pit mix puppy and baking a traditional New Zealand pavlova.

I had planned to spend the holidays on good Wi-Fi after camping all over the North Island. That way I could chat with my family and watch them open presents I had mailed to them from Thailand.

And it worked out wonderfully!

As I watched them tear open cardboard and packing tape, I baked a traditional Kiwi dessert called Pavlova.

I ended up eating only about 1/4 of what I made and then left the rest behind in the fridge for the family who returned to find it there after their holiday up in Auckland.

They told me they loved it! SUCCESS!

Christmas in New York City

This year, I am in New York. I was living in New York City for 6 years before I started traveling so it feels very at home to return there.

I have lots of friends living in New York City still, so I had a place to stay when I visited over the last few weeks. My buddy Dasha over at Dancin' Down Dirty Dusty Trails hosted me at her beautiful new apartment in Brooklyn. Yay!

I love, love, love this time of year in New York. It's magical walking around the holiday markets with all the twinkling lights and seeing famous locations like Rockefeller Center.

There's nothing like standing right where Mccauley Culkin stood after he got Harry and Marv arrested in Home Alone 2.

One rainy day when I was down there last week, I experienced a small New York moment on my way to grabbing a coffee/tea with some old friends and coworkers. A woman was rushing across the road, umbrella in one hand and satchel flailing around in the other hand. She stumbled onto the curb and her satchel flew into the air, flipped around comically, and landed on the wet pavement.

She yelled out this hilarious gasp of desperation, "GYYYUUUULLLLLGGAHHH!" as she failed to catch the stachel midair.

A man rushing by lifted his umbrella to get out of the way and laughed loud and heartily at her sad moment. Don't feel too bad for her, the woman was smiling at her own situation at this point as she scooped up her satchel and continued on her way. The man smiled on his way, too.

That's New York. Strangers one second, sharing a good laugh another second, and then back to business.

Being back in New York after traveling for nearly 15 months is definitely weird. But after all of the traveling, I realize New York is home for me, through and through.

The following are some of my favorite moments and images from my personal "Holiday Tour of New York" this month.

First stop on the tour was Rockefeller Center. I nearly shouted, "KEVIN!!!!!!" in the middle of the crowd there.

I made my way down to the NY Public Library to check out their decorations.

Then I moved on to the Holiday markets in its backyard of Bryant Park. I usually like the holiday markets at Union Square better, as I have this tradition of getting an apple cider donut and sipping a hot cup of cider as I browse through the shops. But I didn't have a chance to make it down there this year!

You really can't visit NY during the holidays without stopping to see the ice skaters in Central Park or Bryant Park. If you're not going to go ice skating yourself, at the very least you have to stop to watch.

I went over to the rink on my stroll through the markets at Bryant Park.

Finally, Macy's. Macy's is like the Queen of the holidays in New York. They do the Thanksgiving Day Parade and they are super famous for the holiday themed windows they decorate on the outside of their department store. Every year is a different theme.

This year they have A Charlie Brown Christmas theme.

Both young and old enjoyed the displays. There were even some really cool interactive parts to it, like turning yourself into a Peanuts character on a touch screen which would then be uploaded into the scene behind the glass. So cool!

Cookiemas in Upstate NY

I am happy to say I am now home in upstate New York spending the Holidays with my family. They live about an hour train ride North of New York City in the Hudson Valley.

We gear up for Christmas by baking hundreds of cookies and putting presents around the "Jewmas" tree. Mom grew up Catholic and Dad grew up Jewish so we celebrate both cultural traditions in our own fun way as a predominantly non-religious family.


(The tree is actually an Oleander taken inside for the wintertime.)

So yes, I've been baking again. Instead of a pavlova, I am baking more traditional this year. Mom and I used my grandma's old recipes and made probably 16 dozen cookies. All different kinds!

Macaroons with dark chocolate kiss
Peanut Butter with milk chocolate kiss
Jam thumbprints
Powdered moons
Chocolate chip
Butter cookies
...and a butter cookie in the shape of a gingerbread man...but his legs promptly fell off.

We baked sooooo many more than are pictured above.

There are usually so many cookies every year we start calling it Cookiemas. I missed out on it last year so I'm definitely going to be eating both this year and last year's share. WATCH OUT WORLD.

Presents from Around the Globe

Gift giving is an awesome tradition and my family loves exchanging presents.

Last year, I couldn't resist buying a bunch of stuff from the markets in Chiang Mai and sending it all back home. I was happy they had something to open from me despite my absence, even if it was a little awkward having them put the presents aside for nearly 2 months.

This year I get to give my family their presents in-person. And I'm super happy about what I got them all.

In my last few weeks of travel through Bali, Bangkok airport, and Tokyo, I picked up their gifts. So I've been busting at the seams to give it all away.

I can't share what I got them because they haven't opened them yet. I will at least share this one because my parents have already seen it. I got my parents this awesome painting from Bali. I wanted them to pick out a frame for it so I gave it to them early this year.

A unique part of my Christmas this year was sending gifts from the USA out to people whom I met in my travels. I sent Einar, my very first couchsurf host in Iceland, a tin of Harney & Son's tea. It's my favorite, top quality tea made locally here in upstate NY. I promised to send it to him when I returned home!

I also sent a small package to my travel buddy Carolina to her home in Sweden. If you remember, we met in Iceland and then met up in New Zealand and traveled around the South Island together for a month. She got a few little USA/local-inspired treats, too!

I have sent and received cards from my Bavarian family in Germany. I reconnected with them last year and have been sending postcards to them ever since! I even got a little package from my cousins with prints of old photographs of my grandfather and his family when he was a little boy.

Best gift from overseas ever!

I also sent a ginormous package to Jono in New Zealand. We are doing the long-distance relationship thing and so far so good!

I put tons of stuff in his package including lots of USA food that they don't have over there in Kiwiland. He sent me a package, too, so we're going to open them together over video chat tonight!

Perhaps I'll post an update after the holidays showing more about the present exchange! Until then, I'll be continuing to update about my travels in Bali! There's tons more to share about my 2 weeks there.

Now it's time to go grab a cookie and see how much bigger the pile of presents has gotten!