It's a little embarrassing that I'm posting Christmas photos around Valentine's Day, but better late than never, right? As I revisit these photos a month and a half later, I am bombarded by the unforgettable memories we made those few days leading up to the holiday, and Christmas itself. Our performance the night of the 23rd was possibly our best show, with the house completely sold out and everyone's energy skyrocketing through the roof as we sang the opening lines, 'We're getting close to Christmas'. When the curtain dropped, party time commenced, as the cast and crew had off for both Christmas Eve and Christmas! Even though it was tough being away from family this year, our production company did a great job of making us feel at home and in the holiday spirit with TONS of food, a Secret Santa exchange that went for the entire month of December and even a MASSIVE Chinese dinner just like The Parker family has in the movie and musical. Back at the hotel, we decorated our room with a darling golden mini tree (thank you Target!) and only got out of our Christmas PJ's when we went to one of the above parties listed. It was by no means, a 'normal' Christmas story, but it was our Christmas Story, one that I shall never forget.
Our Secret Santa reveal party was painfully delicious! And I do mean painful. I ate so much of the delicious food, I sat in a corner and moaned for a while. Rudy, our sound technician, came out in one of the funniest make shift Santa costumes I've ever seen, and the Secret Santa's were a total success! Most of us were very surprised by who ended up being ours. Mine was darling little Leah! She did a fantastic job giving me some very touching gifts throughout the month of December including photographs, sweet letters, and even a huge bottle of Evan Williams eggnog that was DELICIOUS! (Her mom may have helped with that one...)
Then came our Christmas Eve dinner at our very own Chop Suey Palace. The restaurant was SO hospitable, especially since we were the only party probably for the whole day and we were HUGE! I couldn't keep track of how many courses we had, but each one was amazing! We even had Chinese turkey, as one of the kids affectionately called it, aka duck! Thank goodness we had Charles there to help explain and show us how to eat each platter. I think there were a few times other tables were a bit confused.
Then came Christmas morning! Our hotel's dining area stayed open extra late into the morning and made us a delicious Christmas breakfast. And in the afternoon we all headed to a darling old movie theatre and saw Into The Woods, which I loved. When the movie started, I couldn't help but think how special it all was that we were together, in a random movie theatre in a quiet neighborhood in St. Louis. Definitely one of those, how did I get here moments.
Another major 'how did I get here' moment of the day was after the movie, when we drove around for a long time trying to find somewhere to eat. We finally found a delicious steak house in the lobby of a gorgeous Hilton Hotel. If you asked me to even try to explain what street we were on or what part of town we were in, I would never be able to tell you. It was as if we'd entered into an alternate universe. All through the meal we couldn't stop laughing . I remember even saying, 'This is one of the moments we'll always remember. Christmas dinner in a random steakhouse in a random Hilton off the beaten path!' Fantastic!
As the night progressed, we headed to Maria's house, one of the girls in our show, and let's just say, her home is extraordinary! It certainly was not lacking in many things to do. I didn't take too many photographs, but my favorite moments were hanging with the kids in the indoor jungle gym (above), Charles and Cole playing chess (below), lounging in their theatre and watching Harry Potter and playing in their dollhouse underneath the stairs!
By far my favorite gift this season was my Butt Mug that Andrew gave me. He said there was an incredible likeness he could not ignore, making it the funniest gift ever. I am drinking coffee out of it as we speak!
Below are a few extra photos taken in our last week in St. Louis of my favorite places and moments.
Bailey's Burgers is a MUST when visiting. It was possibly THE BEST burger I've ever had in my life! And that is saying something!
Snarf's: Sub Shop was right across the street from our hotel and became the go to for lunch every day (It is soooo good, I want a chicken salad sandwich NOW!). The staff is so friendly and quickly learned my name and made me feel so special every time I visited! Andrew started calling me The Duchess of Snarf's. When I wasn't feeling well, Andrew even went to pick me up a sandwich, and when he let them know it was for me, this is what they wrote on it! Thank you for making me feel like a million bucks Snarf's team!
LEFT: Barbi, my Miss Lynch from Grease, traveled three hours from Branson to see the show! It was such a great reunion and I can't thank her enough for making the long trip! RIGHT: One of the many closing night gifts and cards received from cast members. This one brought tears to my eyes from our little Evan, one of the Ralphie's. The card read something like, 'It was fun being your cast mate.' Simple, sweet and oh so true.