Today is Black Friday but you can’t tell round here. We all slept in; no one has any shopping plans, not even online. Ilsa has a friend over and they made hot chocolate from scratch and it boiled all over the stove, so the house smells warm and burnt-chocolately, which isn’t as bad as it sounds. We get the paper on holidays and weekends and yesterday’s was ENORMOUS, less than half news and commentary and comics and sports, most of it full-colour glossy ads screaming about great deals. At first it was tempting—I need a winter coat and I’m eyeing one at Macy’s, watching the price drop lower and lower and hoping they don’t run out of my size—but I was soon overwhelmed. I put most in the recycling without even glancing at it. What you don’t know exists, you don’t know you need.

People decry, rightfully, American consumerism. But I think it’s deeper than that. I think people are the same the world over. So in our culture, it shows itself in people willing to sleep outside in freezing temps and trample each other in their rush to get to the best deal. But in other cultures, it shows itself in other ways—in the ways prices double in the ancient medinas of Morocco or Mauritania right before a feast day, when culture pretty much obligates everyone to buy gifts for loved ones; in the ways that foreigners need to take extra precautions to avoid being robbed to subsidize this gift-giving. In Nouakchott, even those who lived in the poorest of tents and shacks, without a dream of running water or electricity, would nonetheless have TV powered off car batteries, and satellite disks propped outside, surrounded by goats.

We had a quiet day yesterday. In the morning, I made a pumpkin pie and the mince and coconut pies I make every year at this time. ( In the afternoon, we headed over to Donn’s cousin’s house for the big meal. Turns out he’s had family in the area for YEARS and we didn’t realize it. This cousin and I became friends on Facebook, and realized, after we moved into our new house, that we live less than a mile apart.

We enjoyed a delicious meal at her house yesterday. It was a nice size gathering, with 4 couples plus kids. (His cousin’s daughters are grown and came with their own spouses and children) A time of getting acquainted, figuring out memories, learning some fun family history (aside: Donn’s family, especially his parents’ generation, are extremely colourful). Ilsa regaled us with school stories; Abel played legos with the grandkids; Elliot watched football. Nothing too exciting, but certainly a change from recent celebrations in our family’s life.

Ilsa and I stayed up late watching “Julie and Julia,” which was pretty fun and made me feel slightly better about how much I like to eat good food. It was a good Thanksgiving movie.

So what did you do? And for what are you thankful this year? I’m looking for something small in the grand scheme of things, something like good coffee, or being able to open a can of pumpkin and make a perfect pie, instead of having to cook it from scratch and agonizing over the difficulty of getting the texture right. Life’s easy here.