I always look forward to the holidays, but this year was especially anticipated because it was my first Christmas to come ‘home’ to after moving down to Pittsburgh.

Keeping up with our annual family traditions, our family had our usual Christmas Eve pilgrimage to the Strip District to buy steaks and crab legs for our traditional Christmas Eve surf’n’turf. This year Bober and DPM tagged along and we had a fun morning exploring some of the shops in the Strip. We had a spur-of-the-moment lunch at Luke Wholey’s Wild Alaskan Grille and savored some awesome lobster bisque.

Our dinner was delicious as usual. We probably bought too much food (8lb of crab legs), but this is our once-a-year meal of extravagance, so no shame. #YOLO. I snapped a great photo of my grandmother saying grace:

The God-Grandmother

After all of the family holiday events were wrapped-up, we had our annual Poor Man’s Pretentious dinner party, however truthfully, this year was a little less than organized. We had too many people to sit around the table and discuss the price of oil, so the party quickly became a sweatpants party, and we ended up watching a movie instead. No regrets.

I made Bourbon Sweet Potatoes, however my last-minute decision to quadruple the whiskey amount in the recipe left the potatoes pretty stiff. Also, our house had no Bourbon (odd circumstances), so Iused Scotch instead. So in the end, only the manliest of contenders could put the mashers away, but I was amongst them and loved the concoction.

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We have a yearly secret-Santa exchange (which we typically do during the dinner party), and this year I had Adam. So given my fortunate position as their wedding photographer, I made him and Krista a 12×12″ wedding album for their coffee table out of the photos I took at their wedding in Long Island.

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Kurt was my secret Santa, and he got me an awesome cashmere scarf and a bottle of Crown Royal for Christmas; what can I say? The man has excellent taste, and knows me well.

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For New Years Eve, Doug happened to somehow get reservations for Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Downtown, Pittsburgh. We’re not sure how; the place is usually booked up weeks in advance. Doug just went on OpenTable to get the reservation last-minute, so someone must have just cancelled before we called. Either way, there aren’t many better ways to celebrate the new year like a Knob Creek Manhattan, a perfect filet, and family.

After dinner, we took a stroll around Highmark’s First Night, a big downtown celebration with lots of music, performances, a parade, and vendors. Highmark did a great job with the free event (props), and Doug, Mom, my grandmother, and I had a blast.

The midnight plan was going to be a trip to Greensburg to visit my friends from that side of town, but the weather was less than perfect and I realized that I didn’t have many opportunities to count down with my family, so I stayed in for the night. I had little pockets of friends all over the place, and didn’t want to choose a single group to count down with, so spending the holiday with my family was a great choice.

The following day, I got a surprise text from Skivvy that he was having breakfast with some old high school friends Keri and Gina (along with Gina’s fiancee Doug and her friend Katya; not sure if I spelled that correctly). It was a great treat to reunite with some old cronies.

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Thanks to a mix of social networking, cell phones, and good old fashioned commitment, I’m happy that I’m able to keep in touch with old comrades. One of the best things about the holidays is getting to reconnect with people you don’t get to see very often, and I definitely packed a lot in to a short break.

Happy New Year, everyone!