Every holiday has its traditions. For Christmas, we go to church, eat oyster stew, and gather in the living room at my parents' house to open gifts from each other on Christmas Eve, then go to sleep and open presents from Santa in the morning before we head over to my grandparents' house in Minnetonka and celebrate with the extended family. On Easter, the bunny still manages to drop things off in our baskets. For the fourth of July, the trend has been to go out on our friend's boat on the St. Croix River and watch the fireworks, though as I've gotten older, that tradition has changed a bit as well. Almost every holiday has remained consistent throughout my entire life. Except Thanksgiving.

I have spent Thanksgiving in Minnesota, Illinois, and Texas. Sometimes we are at other peoples' houses; sometimes they are at ours. I have celebrated Thanksgiving with both sides of the family, at large gatherings as well as smaller, more intimate ones. My parents and brother came to visit me and my cousin Mikaela in Costa Rica in 2009 when we were studying abroad, and this year, they came to visit me here in Los Angeles. I think I can safely say that this was our most adventurous Turkey Day yet.

In Costa Rica, we went to one town and lounged on the beach every day. I was tan (no, don't laugh, I was seriously the darkest I've ever been in my life), relaxed, and chill. We went out to eat at a restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner, which meant my dad didn't have to worry about menu planning, and we had nowhere special to be except for next to the ocean each morning to claim our spot.

Pura vida, mae.

This Thanksgiving, I had an agenda. I would show my family every single possible place I have ever been to in SoCal, and they would go back to Minnesota being able to picture my LA references just from me naming them in my blog or over the phone. As a result, I turned into Tourist Guide Supreme. I wrote out a detailed schedule, had them wake up early in the morning every day, and only allowed them relaxation time while eating Thanksgiving dinner (courtesy of my father) and for short periods of time on the beach. Luckily, my family is a clan of troopers, and they know me all too well, so they put up with my insanity and went along for the ride.

The week went as follows:

Wednesday = arrival, dinner, bed

Thursday = Thanksgiving meal prep, Runyon Canyon hike, brief stop in Hollywood, dinner, Griffith Observatory, driving tour of Sunset Boulevard and the Beverly Hills shopping district

People have always said that my dad looks like Bruce Willis, so when we randomly ran into his star on the walk of fame, photos had to be taken. Side note: my father's forehead, while taller than some, is not as bulbous as this photo makes it seem - my wide-angle lens is to blame for that. 
See? Normal forehead =]

The only proof that we actually sat down and ate, courtesy of my mom - while I'm good at bringing my camera with me and taking spontaneous photos, I need to work on the whole "documenting important life moments" thing. 

Cue montage of proof that my brother is unable to sit still for more than a few seconds at a time:

Friday = Santa Monica, Venice Beach, and Malibu

Sometimes when the tide is going out, these rivulets show up in the sand...I think they must be from seaweed that got stranded on the beach and engrained in the sand. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you...

...Eric Jackson.

Cue montage of my brother frolicking on the beach: 

Saturday = Showing my family where I work, bringing Alex to the Welcome to Burbank sign, lunch in Manhattan Beach to have a reunion with cousins on my dad's side of the family (once again, forgot to document that particular life moment), brief stop in Hermosa Beach, and sunset on the bluffs in Rancho Palos Verdes, and then the Farmers Market for dinner and The Grove for a little end of the day fake snow action

Sunday = The Getty Center and Laguna Beach to meet up with more long lost cousins from my dad's side...

...but you know what? I think I'm going to abruptly cut this post off right here. Laguna Beach has its own giant set of photos, and I have a lot of thoughts from Thanksgiving weekend that I want to write about, but I'd rather do it on a fresh page.

A couple things I'm diggin' right now:

:: I cannot stop listening to this song (a cover of José González's "Heartbeats", by Ellie Goulding):

I love the original version of this song as it is, but the way Ellie Goulding sings it tugs at my heartstrings in a way that no song has been able to in awhile.

:: A stop-motion video of what it would be like to traverse the United States on Google Maps, from a toy's point of view. Super gorgeous and adorable.

I leave you with a teaser from Laguna Beach, and my first attempt at creating a panorama. It didn't turn out too badly, but you'll be able to see the botched areas. It's a credit to Laguna and to California sunsets that it's beautiful anyway.

Happy belated Thanksgiving!