Thank the lord for the holidays! Not only is it the time to see family and share holiday cheer, but for me, it also meant the end of a very stressful semester. As in on the verge of losing my sanity, the stress of my finals made me sick, kind of semester. A flight home meant that the last final was submitted, my brain was totally fried, and I was able to escape it all for the next three weeks. Bring it!

I took a night flight out of San Francisco to Pittsburgh and arrived at 05:55 the next morning. Baby Emmeline picked me up at the airport and took me to her house in Pittsburgh to meet baby Van, born 3 weeks early on 09 December, 2017. The day I became an aunt!

Meeting Van for the first timeSo excited to see him in the onesie I got for him! After a couple hour nap, we bundled Van up to the point that you could barely see his eyes (it was cold outside), and headed into Pittsburgh to shop at the Christmas markets and have lunch.

Holiday Celebrations at the Hauser House 27Auntie’s little Explorer, Getting Van ready to travel the world. I mean, you gotta start somewhere!

We stayed out all day, and Van was so good, he slept peacefully as we toted him from store to store for last minute Christmas shopping. Back at Emmeline’s house we had dinner and watched It’s a Wonderful Life. My first time having cuddly snuggles with Baby Van.

Holiday Celebrations at the Hauser House 26Two days later, my other sister Linnie arrived from Japan and we headed to our small town of Mount Pleasant, on the outskirts of Pittsburgh.

There was a lot of holiday cheer at our house. My mom had been preparing for quite some time for 18 guests. My mom and dad had put up four Christmas trees, cleaned the house, prepared the beds, and cooked tons of food for our arrival. It was wonderful!

The morning after we arrived, we woke early and headed to Seven Springs for some skiing. One of my best friends, Megan, joined us.

Skiing at Seven Springs with barely any snowAs you can see, the snow was not as prominent as it usually is, but there were still some great runs and we were able to laugh a ton and ski all afternoon, which was a huge plus.

On Christmas Eve we snacked all day and headed to church early for the Christmas Eve service.

TBS starts playing A Christmas Story precisely at 20:00, and my dad loves to watch it on repeat so we turned that on and hung out late into the night playing scrabble on mom’s elaborate scrabble board.

Christmas Eve at Church Sisters!Seesters!

Selfie with dadSelfie with dad at the church, đŸ™‚

For Christmas we had an elaborate dinner with just the Hauser family, grandma included, oh and I can’t forget a Depalma showing up and never leaving until it was time for his dinner at the Depalma household.

Holiday Celebrations at the Hauser House 29Dinner in the living room, Mom made coleslaw, potatoes, green bean casserole, grandma provided the zucchini bread, and dad made the steaks. Delicious!
Holiday Celebrations at the Hauser House 30Hi Justin! Welcome to a Hauser Christmas feast. Afterward, we napped and dad and I watched the Steeler game. Boy what a game that was! I mean, it couldn’t have been more exciting to become the AFC NFL champs. Woo hoo!

Then, we all drove over to the Depalma house to crash their Christmas feast. I brought the Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia, Linnie and I’s Christmas tradition that began in Japan 5 years ago, and a bottle of moonshine dad got that came all the way from Arkansas. In Linnie’s words, “Its not good moonshine unless it can melt the shell off a garden snail.” This was the real deal.

We crashed the party, played cards, drank exotic drinks (including the moonshine), and even tried our hand at the Mannequin Challenge. It was truly ridiculous.

Holiday Celebrations at the Hauser House 31Northern Exposure, Japanese Whiskey, and some good ol’ fashioned moonshine.

Wild and Wonderful Whites and some MoonshineIt’s a Hauser Christmas tradition.

Skiing at Laurel MountainThe next morning we were up early again, and this time we were skiing at Laurel Mountain, which has just opened this season after a couple years of renovation. The snow was not great, but the few runs that were open were fun and we rode them until our legs burned, and we were hungry for lunch.

Reunited with Megan at the Hauser HouseMegan and I reunited after such a long time! I think we saw each other 6 days in a row on this break!

Holiday Celebrations at the Hauser House 32The newly renovated bar area looks awesome. We sat downstairs and ordered a couple mimosas as we debated whether the snow was good enough to ski, and then we left it up to chance. A flip of the coin is what gave us the go ahead.

Mimosas before skiingCousin Cassey and Megan, having a couple mimosas.

Holiday Celebrations at the Hauser House 33After we were done skiing we took a few photos with Christmas hats that Megan brought, and then headed into Ligonier for lunch.

Holiday Celebrations at the Hauser House 34Hey guys!

Gazebo in LigoneerIn the town of Ligonier, we stopped for a few photos at the gazebo in the center of town.

Cousin Cassey at PromHaha, prom photos! Cousin Cassey and Justin workin it on the gazebo steps. Wonder what the future holds for these two?!

Ligoneer town centerMeanwhile, we also stopped for a few photos in front of the church doors because they were so fancy.

Ligonier CreameryWe stopped in at the Wicked Googly, bar and bowling alley for lunch, walked across the street to Joe’s bar to look at the over 200 animals that are stuffed in the back and upstairs to include an elephant’s head, a rhino, and much more! Then we headed over to the Ligonier Creamery for a quick bite of ice cream in an old style creamy, sitting at the bar with our ice cream Sunday’s. So Good!

Afterward, we sped home because our family from Wisconsin was on the way and we wanted to be there in time to meet them. Their arrival meant gifts, card games, local pizzerias, and a fun day in Pittsburgh.

The gang’s all here, 18 of us staying in one house, including 3 babies born within the past 2 months, 2 of which were twins. Let the fun begin..!

PPG Place in Pittsburgh, Ice rink through the archwayOne of my favorite things to do in Pittsburgh during the holidays! Ice skating at PPG place.

PPG Place, PittsburghLoves it!

PPG Place, Pittsburgh Heinz Ketchup DinosourPlus everybody knows you have to take a photo with the Heinz ketchup Triceratops, located in the square right next to PPG place.

Gingerbread houses in PittsburghAlso over there was a gingerbread show, we walked in and had a look about.

Gingerbread House of Up!Look, I found a gingerbread house from Up!

Pirmani Brothers, PPG PlaceCheers!

Pirmani Brothers PPG Place PittsburghPirmani Bros, Bro. You gotta get it if you are in Pittsburgh for the day.

Pirmani Brothers Roast Beef Sandwich

Downtown Pittsburgh for DrinksHeaded off to try some beers at bars in Pittsburgh. Then over to the Southside for dinner, and last event of the night. Our attempt at escaping a mafia riddled escape room with Questburgh.

Quest burgh Escape Room, Pittsburgh Quest burgh Escape Room Pittsburgh 2We had a great start but nearly made it out in time. Got out the back door with 30 seconds to spare. Phew.

Holiday Celebrations at the Hauser House 36That night, we exchanged gifts in the living room before heading off to our beds.

Babies!Oh and took a picture of these 3 sweet babies!

The Dinner Party

Holiday Celebrations at the Hauser House 14So excited to have all these peeps together for dinner. To include Megan and Krista!

Holiday Celebrations at the Hauser House 3These two! Loving the sweater and apron combo.

Holiday Celebrations at the Hauser House 16Hauser house is filled to the brim with food and people, stop by for a bite.

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Holiday Celebrations at the Hauser House 24 26Classy with the bud light cans, haha.

Holiday Celebrations at the Hauser House 24After dinner we went through mom and dad’s wedding album, hehe.

Card Games at the Hauser HouseAfter all the partying, the next morning we started the day off with a rambunctious game of hearts.

Baby Van!Awee, and cuddles with baby Van!

BABY VAN on New Year's EveFor New Year’s Eve, Baby Van took the cake for best dressed of the evening.

New Year's Eve with Van babyWake budy!

Heather and IPeople went every which way before midnight, some to bed, some to other parties, and I was able to ring in 2017 with 3 Depalma’s, my mom, my dad, and my Aunt with a couple of their friends, and it was really fun! We stayed up till 2 in the morning and the low key impromptu New Year’s party was just what I needed after being away from home these past 5 years. I’m ready for 2017!

San Jose California with FamilyIn fact, I even got to see Linnie and Carl in San Jose after flying back to Monterey this past weekend, to bid them a safe farewell to Japan.

Nic's suprisde partyIn addition, I drove straight to Sacremento for a Suprise, “Nic’s deploying to Kuwait in a few weeks Party,” and we wanted to send him off in style. A very good way to end this holiday season.

This article appeared first on The Cassey Excursion.