There are few things in this lifetime that I enjoy more than good friends and great adventures – as anyone who knows me knows and I may have mentioned a time or two. Fortunately, this past Thanksgiving provided me with ample opportunities for both, and I could not have been more grateful!
Tim and I had recently been discussing how little use we actually get out of our guest room by out-of-town visitors, so I was more than ready to have someone from back home to host in our new home. My sister and one of her best friends made the trek out to visit us for the holiday, and arrived at LAX on Wednesday. It was still fairly early, so we introduced the only remaining noob in our group to her first In N’ Out Burger experience, and spent the rest of the afternoon resting up from their trip. Once Tim was released from work for the day, we ventured out into town for the evening. They were both shocked by how cold it was here (trust me, it was alarming to me, too), but we off we went and explored the pier and the beach. There were a handful of groups crowding around bonfires on the sand, which was intriguing, too – something I’d definitely like to try when it isn’t so freezing outside. We walked up and down the main street, but all of the neighboring bars and restaurants were pretty dead, which I assumed had much to do with the holiday. We chose a local Mexican restaurant for dinner (Did you know they put french fries IN burritos around here? Serious game changer.) and made our way back to the house for the night to prep ourselves for the next day.
The thought of cooking our first Thanksgiving dinner on our own was intimidating enough, but throwing in a good handful of people coming over for the occasion into the mix, too, sent my anxiety through the roof. Tim and I had volunteered to host a couple of guys still in training on base to join us for dinner as they weren’t allowed to go home for the holiday. They were sweet, polite, and genuinely appeared to enjoy spending the day with us. They thanked me repeatedly and passed on their thanks from their parents/families, as well. It really warmed my heart to see how much the opportunity seemed to mean to them all, and to us, too; I know I would’ve wanted the same thing for my loved one had the roles been reversed. That’s perhaps my favorite part of this lifestyle – no matter what walk of life, where or what you might come from, there’s a strong sense of family surrounding us all.
To my pleasant surprise, the food came out PERFECTLY. No, seriously! I was most anxious about cooking a turkey for the first time, especially since I was following a Pinterest recipe I’d stumbled upon, but had never attempted before (and this was not the time for a Pinterest fail), yet it came out juicy and delicious and perfect. I’m not ordinarily a big fan of turkey, but if I’m able to cook it that way every year, it may change my mind going forward. On the menu: turkey, brown sugar & pineapple ham, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, macaroni & cheese, corn casserole, stuffing, and Hawaiian rolls. And to my immense surprise, there weren’t even any leftovers to put away by the end of the night. It was nice to have a full table for Thanksgiving dinner, too; despite being so far away from home, we came together and formed a sort of makeshift family of our own. And it was perfect for that reason in its own unique way. *Totally forgot to take the “pre-carved” picture, so this one will have to do. I promise it all tasted MUCH better than it may look!*
Friday, we visited La Jolla Cove. I hadn’t gotten to do a whole lot of exploring before my sister’s arrival, so it was all new and exciting for me, as well. The waves would wash up right to where the stairway left off (there was even a sea lion wading in the low tide, not far from all the people), and there were small caverns and large rock formations all around. There were also quite a few sea lions basking in the sun from atop those rocks. We worked our way down to the other side of the beach where we could get much closer to the animals (though it was advised not to get too close or touch them – some were incredibly unfriendly, so it made that easy for the most part). It was amazing to see the waves roll in from the top of the cliffs. La Jolla had many small shops and restaurants to offer, as well. Definitely a day trip I wouldn’t mind going on again and everyone else seemed to enjoy it, too!
We headed out somewhat early on Saturday to check out Los Angeles. I believe this one was a first for all of us, so it was going to be an adventure in itself getting to everything we wanted to. The trip look somewhat longer than anticipated with traffic – which I’ve come to realize is a major part of California life overall – but we made it by early afternoon to our first stop: the Hollywood sign. We followed the first route the GPS provided us with, but as soon as we’d arrived, it was clear that we weren’t the first or only with this idea today. We found the first parking spot we could and started our voyage to the Griffith Observatory. Not only were there an obnoxious amount of people, but the sky had become completely overcast, and the small window for rain I’d seen on my weather app seemed imminent. And sure enough, barely into our walk, it began; not a sprinkle, or a drizzle, either. No, it began raining with a vengeance – the hardest I’ve seen it come down in the couple months I’ve been here, as much as people said I wasn’t going to experience rain at all out here – and paired with the harsh wind, it was coming down sideways. We finally made it to the observatory where the rain was beginning to let up, but not quite enough. My saint of a husband decided to head right back down and get the car for us (have I mentioned he’s perfect?) because it was evident we weren’t doing the hiking we’d intended today. The girls and I took all the shots of the sign that we could from where we were, and waited for him inside. Fortunately by the time he’d returned, the rain had slowed substantially. He was able to find a parking spot much closer and we took all the pictures we could. Drenched and freezing and not looking nearly as cute as when we left, I’d still say they turned out pretty great – and it was an experience in itself, if nothing else.
After the sign, we ventured into town for a place to eat. We found a cute, non-chain sandwich shop and decided on there. By the time we’d finished up, the rain had stopped altogether, so we went on to the next stop: Hollywood Boulevard. Super cliche and touristy, but none of us cared – we wanted to make the most of our time there, no matter how soggy we were. It seemed to go on forever, and bore a striking resemblance to New York City from what I could see. There were street performers, musicians, people donning various costumes, etc. Somewhere toward the middle there was a set up of stands and media equipment, appearing to be some kind of red carpet event.But most importantly – and what we had come for – was the Walk of Fame. We used the rest of the daylight to spot as many of our favorites as possible: Johnny Cash, Tim McGraw, Robin Williams, Walt Disney, Mariska Hargitay, and Ellen DeGeneres to name a few. After departing from there, we checked in to our hotel (as they were flying out of LAX the next morning, it seemed pretty pointless to go all the way home just to come right back out here early the next morning) to drop off our bags and recover after a long day. Once we freshened up and could feel our toes again, we went to the Santa Monica pier for dinner and to check out all that had to offer. There was a Ferris wheel, a handful of vendors, restaurants, carnival games, plenty of neon lights, and even more people. As completely drained as we all were by the end of the day, it was a short visit, but one I’m glad we took none the less.
The next morning came and went far too fast. We were all up and getting ready at 7 am, and were especially appreciative of our hotel’s close proximity to the airport for that reason. Before I knew it, we were exchanging goodbyes and off they went. Our time together will never be long enough, but it meant to much that they were able to come so far to see us at all. Tim and I slept the entire day away once we arrived back home (we’re both exceptional nappers) to recover from the longest, most active weekend we’ve had since I arrived and to prepare for the week ahead. We were tired, but I was oh so grateful to have gotten to do all we did.
My heart is entirely (almost to the point of bursting) full of gratitude for family, friends, and endless opportunities for adventure. I still don’t know how or why I was picked to be the one to live a life as beautiful as this. But I’ll never take it for granted.