Happy Thanksgiving!

So, I started this post yesterday as a kind of catchall bin for some thoughts about Thanksgiving and Black Friday. I started rambling, got distracted by suspicious pie-shaped aromas emanating from the kitchen, forgot what I wanted to say, and then decided to save it for the morning.

It’s morning, now, and I still don’t remember what I was going to say. I was going to talk about Turkey Day, and how I wish people would stop calling it that. I really don’t like the casual admittance that our society has such plentiful resources that we expect a feast so enormous it will incapacitate us. I don’t like the air of glib consumerism that Turkey Day evokes, as though the day of Thanksgiving has been relegated to nothing more than a warm-up for a frenzied scramble to Acquire.

But then I realized that all that just sounds like grumbling and moaning, and that’s really the opposite of what I want to feel on Thanksgiving. If you’ve been following me since my somewhat rocky debut on Blogger last year,* I’ve put you through a lot of grumbling and moaning. I didn’t really blog much about what was going on in my life, but I wanted to take a moment to thank you for reading along with me anyway. You get extra credit for following along, because it’s pretty obvious that this blog has been chaotic, if nothing else. I’ve tried running regular themes, but we’ve seen how long those have lasted; it turns out, I write whatever I want!

*If you’ve been following me since my short-lived blogs on Xanga, Deadjournal, and Myspace, you get ten bonus points for each one!

I really like Thanksgiving. I like all holidays, really, but I have a special fondness for a day dedicated to gratitude. I like it because it’s a secular holiday. It’s open to people of every belief system. Certainly, for many, gratitude entails thanking a god for the gifts it has bestowed upon us. For the rest of us, it means spending the day telling our friends and loved ones how much we appreciate that they are in our lives, and acknowledging how much of our success has been made possible –directly or indirectly – by their support.

I truly believe that we should live a life of gratitude. If nothing else, it’ll brighten your day. When you’re thankful for what you have, you treat the world and its people better. But no matter who we are or what we believe in, our gratitude stems from a tacit understanding that what we’re thankful for are things that everybody doesn’t have.

That can be a tough, solemn nut to swallow, but a day of wanton festivities is a wasted day if we don’t allow ourselves a moment of repose to get serious and think about how amazing our lives are. Living a life of gratitude is an all-year process; it can’t be constrained to a single day. Still, heaven knows it’s easy to get bogged down by a year’s worth of toils; most likely you’re not thrilled to go in to work every day, and I bet you don’t make as much money as you’d like. Maybe you don’t even have a job, and the hunt gets depressing after the months start to stack up.

Thanksgiving is a great time to refresh, to think about the things we do have. Think about all the things you have that your life would be worse without.

I am thankful for all the people in my life who have been with me every step of the way. I am thankful for the people I see every day, and for the people I only see once a year. I’m thankful for the people in my house, the people across the Lehigh Valley, and the people across the country. I’m thankful for the people who are with me, and I am thankful to have known the people who have moved on. I am thankful for the people across the world who pursue their passions and, so doing, make the world better. I am thankful for my countrymen, even though we’ll never all agree on anything. Maybe because we’ll never agree on anything.

Yep, I’m thankful. I was thankful yesterday, on Thanksgiving, I’m thankful today, on Black Friday, and I’ll be thankful for the next 364 days until next Thanksgiving.

Happy holidays to you all!

If you see this…

…it means I don’t like you.

I just found my old DeadJournal.

Because this isn’t a very cool fact, I don’t blame you for not caring very much. However, I should impress upon you my historical unwillingness to preserve any record of anything I had ever written. To wit, I rarely preserved any record of anything I had ever written.

That the meager offerings I had posted to DeadJournal survived is even more impressive given how long ago they were; most hosting companies like this tend to dump unused accounts that haven’t boasted any activity in a while. Or puff out of existence entirely. Or become pay sites and dump the accounts that haven’t joined the club. But DeadJournal is still, well, I don’t want to say alive, but it’s there.

And my god, was I pompous. Especially my earlier posts—I was just sure I had a way with words, and that way included using those words to deplorable excess. I mean to charming excess. Scratch that; I probably continue to be pompous. But I like it that way!

Still, it does make me wish I had kept more accurate records of my daily life. Not because the content is interesting, of course, because it really isn’t. No more interesting than any other inane ramblings of any other high schooler or college freshman, that is. But it does interest me to see how impressively consistent my writing style has remained. I find I have developed several distinct styles over the years, in all of which I am fluent; I can seamlessly transition between them like second or third languages, and they each express a facet of my character I endear.

So since the time I have written in DeadJournal, I have developed a few more whose subtleties are admirable. But I am not unfamiliar with the ones in DeadJournal at all! In fact, some of them read as though I could have written them last week. Maybe that’s not a good thing! Maybe I need to push myself a little more!

It’s funny, too, that my subjects were always so similar! There are several posts about the weather.* My preference for October is readily apparent. I really must be a creature of habit! In fact, each and every one of the songs mentioned in the “Current Music” sections of the posts are in my current iTunes playlist—how things stay the same!

Still, it is lovely to look back on these memories and reminisce. I do love reminiscing. I do it all the time, so if you’d ever like to be remembered fondly, I suggest you approach me under some particularly memorable circumstances. Anything during adventuring weather is a candidate!*

* Some people talk about the weather for lack of any better subject. Fine weather has always been one of my principal interests, so when I discuss it, it is with the utmost admiration!

Pumpkins Are Real Pretty!

I love the gloriousness that is October. I generally avoid having a favorite of anything, but I think I would, if pressed, pick October as my preferred month. I adore the weather just about every single day, from the warm, pleasant afternoons to the spitefully cold mornings to the jarringly chilly rain. I love the trees’ flashy wardrobes. I love the first scents of burning wood and leaves hanging in the evening air. I love the spectacular sunsets, and watching them earlier each day. I love the tacky Halloween decorations.
But most of all, I love the food.
Oh yes, the apple cider and the hot meals and the insatiable urge to bake cookies and cakes and treats. But you know why you’re really here. Pumpkin spice. About halfway through September, at least in my neck of the woods, the first glorious pumpkin spice products start coming out of hibernation. By the first day of October, there’s a veritable glut of tongue-blazingly delicious treats to delight your mouth—and soul.

Pumpkins Are Real Pretty!

Pumpkin cream cheese and pumpkin coffee!
©2010 Justin Gifford
I freaking love pumpkin-flavored things. And I freaking love pumpkin spice things, as well. Pumpkin spice has over the years developed its own character as a distinctive flavor of its own; indeed, I’ve had many a delectable pumpkin spiced treat that was flavored solely with the spices traditionally associated with pumpkin pie, but without any of the pumpkin itself. Of course, it’s always preferable.
Why, I started my day with a generous cup of coffee—complete with pumpkin spice creamer. And the moment I set the coffee to brew I buzzed over to the toaster to prepare a pumpernickel bagel* to get slathered with pumpkin cream cheese. Okay, I’ll admit that the pumpkin cream cheese wasn’t a great decision on my part, but it is an adequate demonstration of my utter inability to avoid impulse-buys featuring pumpkin products.

However, I made up for that blunder when I made my weekly† trip to Starbucks, home of the fabled PSL. The PSL – the Pumpkin Spice Latte – is an honored tradition of autumn. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t love a PSL in October, and if such a person does exist, I don’t want to know. Sure, you can get a pumpkin spice latte anywhere, but there’s just something quintessentially autumnal about the Starbucks PSL. I don’t know what it is; maybe I’m just a slave to good marketing. Of course, part of its universal appeal is that it’s so, well, universal. If I tell you I loved the Dalai Latte at Deja Brew, unless you’re from the Lehigh Valley you probably won’t have any idea what the hell I’m talking about. But when I rave about the PSL this time of year, well, it needs no introduction.

Anyway, while I was standing in line (which didn’t take very long at all, since I was the only one there, so really I was just waiting for attention), I spotted a curious Round Item amongst the baked goods. I’m glad I investigated; the unassuming plastic package claimed to hold a Pumpkin Bundt. I shrugged and turned WAIT WHAT. Pumpkin bundt‽‽ I bought.

The whole way home I thought about what a good dessert it would be after dinner. Once home, I set about crafting the dinner that would make such a dessert appropriate. Well, I just had a turkey sandwich (on pumpernickel!), but that was tasty enough. I did have pumpkin ale alongside it, if that counts for anything. I do love pumpkin ale. Every year I try to sample as many as I can, and every year I think I must finally be getting to the bottom of it all, and every year I see more varieties to choose from! I love it when my attempts to try All the Pumpkin Stuff are thwarted in this manner.

The Cute Pumpkin Bundt!
©2010 Justin Gifford
Dinner was outstanding. That sandwich was good, but top it off with good beer and good movies (we watched a good movie) and you’ve got yourself a winning evening. But that cake was awesome. Just look at it! It was much cuter in real life; it was tiny! This cute, hand-held little pumpkin bundt! It was adorable and covered in caramel, and that’s the best praise I can give a thing!
October’s only halfway over; that gives me plenty of time to compile pumpkin breakfasts and pumpkin
lunches, pumpkin dinners and pumpkin desserts. Pumpkin ice creams and pumpkin pancakes; pumpkin syrups and pumpkin cookies. Pumpkin breads and pumpkin pies, pumpkin candies and pumpkin drinks. Even as I’m writing this I’m enjoying some pumpkin spice tea and listening to Naturescapes: Sounds of the Wild Pumpkin. Just kidding; that isn’t real. But if it were I’d listen to it. But seriously, I do have a pumpkin-shaped bath sponge. It’s really cute and I love it. Pumpkins are real pretty.
* I love pumpernickel bagels for reasons completely unrelated to the coincidental similarity of the name to the name of Pumpkin.
† By weekly I mean any one of the many trips I take to Starbucks each week.