It's got to be a really good thing when you come out of Thanksgiving week feeling even more thankful than when you started.
There is nothing in this world that is better for me than having my whole family in one place.
My parents got in on Tuesday night and apparently, so did the rest of the country. It took us forever to drive home from the airport and so we ditched our fancy dinner reservations and went to our favorite local Mexican restaurant. And tequila and guacamole literally saved my entire day. Traffic and Tess don't get along well.
My sister arrived later that night too...but I forced her to get a cab.
Wednesday was our first official day and since LA got a heat wave we took advantage of the gorgeous weather and went for an early lunch at Shutters on the beach.
We met up with my cousin Cole and Aunt Betty (who flew in from Atlanta) for a drink, and then went back to my house to start prepping my house and the menu for Thanksgiving.
I finally got a chance to open and use all of my wedding china and it was way more fun than I could have thought - it was probably the first time I truly enjoyed setting the table.
We turned my china cabinet into the bar which really helped keep people out of the kitchen area on the day of Thanksgiving.
After the house was set, we made a corn casserole, brussels sprouts and date salad, and pecan pie (Joel had a list of his own dishes too). We finished up right as our Thai food arrived and after dinner we opened a bottle of wine and watched Elf for the first time this year.
My black Wednesday was really wild and crazy.
Joel and I started Thanksgiving off with a Turkey Trot which a tradition we've kept for 8 years strong.
The high for Thanksgiving was 86, so our run was probably 65 degrees hotter than it normally is in Chicago, but we had some pretty insane views and even though I had to blast my A/C all day long, my family was over the moon for some sun and above 30 degree temps.
Once we got ready for the day, we opened up some champagne and the six of us got to hang out for a few hours on our own.
Once the turkey was on the grill, our guests started to arrive and everything went off without a hitch. The appetizers were filling enough, we had plenty of wine and cocktails, people brought their own serving spoons....the silly little things I worried about never happened anyway, and all of a sudden it was time for dinner.
My "holiday crack dip" was the big hit pre-dinner. It's so damn good that I only allow myself to make it once a year.
Joel's turkey turned out incredibly and all of the food warmed up without over cooking, and dinner was truly amazing.
Going around the table sharing what we were all thankful for didn't leave a dry eye, and most of all we were all reminded how lucky we are to have such an amazing, tight knit family near and far.
Thanksgiving was such a success and I would be remiss not to mention how much of that was due to Joel. He made sure everyone was happy and comfortable, was over the top helpful, and stayed up late to make sure I didn't have to wake up to a disaster. He let me sit after dinner and just enjoy while he took care of the dishes, and kept things flowing so well. I am so, so thankful for him as my husband.
And, because there is no rest for the wicked, our party continued all weekend long. Friday morning, bright and early, we kept the bender going and drove into Santa Barbara for a day trip.
We got up there in time for lunch which meant a trip to our favorite spot in Santa Barbara, Metropulous, for deli sandwiches outside.
After lunch we walked the water and the harbor and then landed at a tasting room for a glass of well deserved champagne.
After fueling up, we hit State street for some Black Friday shopping. Everyone had a little success and before driving home we stopped at another tasting room on our way out, Carr Winery.
We walked over to sushi once got home and everyone pretty much crashed by 10.
Saturday was my mom's birthday, so after brunch with the six of us, my family spent a few hours relaxing at the pool.
Joel's parents were in San Diego for Thanksgiving, so his brother and sister-in-law drove them up to LA for the day and once they arrived, we all met my family back at their hotel for a light lunch and visit with Sulley.
We went back to our house with the Shields fam for a little more visiting with them before Corie and Andrew got back on the road to head home. It was a short visit with them, but I'll take as many doses of that sweet boy as I can!
For dinner on Saturday, my family and Joel's parents all had dinner together in Westwood - which was a fun way to celebrate my mom's birthday. We were able to sit outside near the fireplace and dinner couldn't have been more fun.
Put another note in my thankful list for the fact that my family and Joel's family get along so well. It makes everything so much easier for Joel and I, it is a rare thing for two families to click so well, so Joel and I know that we are really, really lucky.
My sisters left on Sunday and a storm rolled into LA so the four of us relaxed most of the afternoon. We ended up having a Sunday Night Dinner at my cousin Cole's which was the perfect way to cap off the weekend.
It was hard to say goodbye to my parents on Monday morning, but in just four weeks we will all be together again in Mexico.
It's hard for me to not live a drive away from my family, but we're starting to really figure out that as long as we all get on a plane as often as we can, the quality of time might even be better than the quantity.