12 posts before Christmas: Christmas gifts from Santa

So I failed at 31 posts.

Maybe 12 leading up to Christmas? Let’s try.

One of my favorite Christmas things is finding all of my gifts Christmas morning labeled from Santa.

Gifts are shared Christmas Eve from my brother and me to everyone and from my uncle.

Then on Christmas morning we open gifts from Santa.

I’ve never understood why my parents never have given my brother and me any gifts, though??

Happy eighth and final night of Hanukkah!

Christmas TV: Dec. 1

Some good stuff on tonight, including RUDOLPH!! Plus, ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas starts today!

  • 6 p.m. — “The Year Without a Santa Claus,” ABC Family
  • 7 p.m. — “The Polar Express,” ABC Family
  • 8 p.m. — “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” CBS
  • 9 p.m. — “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” ABC Family
  • 10 p.m. — “Christmas with the Kranks,” AMC
  • 10 p.m. — “Ice Sculpture,” Hallmark

37 things: Thanksgiving/Black Friday shopping

This post is part of my attempt to post daily between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. That means, if my math is correct, I will have offered 37 different topics about my favorite time of the year. Learn more about 37 Things for the Holidays.

This is the second post in this series. This will discuss Thanksgiving and Black Friday shopping.

I’ve never understood the need to rush to a store, wait in long lines and drop cash on something that probably isn’t worth the hassle anyway.

Sure, I’m guilty of traveling to three different Targets for a Nintendo 3DS XL a few years back and to three different Best Buys for a video game, but I didn’t wait in any lines and only traveled to so many stores because inventory counts were incorrect!

So the Black Friday and, as of the last few years, Thanksgiving night shopping experiences have no “wow” factor for me.

That doesn’t mean I ignore the experience. I never got up early on Black Friday.

But — and many of you will complain — I do enjoy going to the stores on Thanksgiving after dinner.

It’s an escape from family, which I think is why everybody really goes shopping that night!

But for me, it’s also a chance to just watch people go nuts for the latest TV or get lost in a bunch of so-called “doorbuster” deals.

While TV news sometimes plays up the hype of the shopping hysteria, there is plenty of research and stories to prove that many of the “deals” advertised on Thanksgiving and Black Friday are not deals at all.

I noticed this Thanksgiving night in Target. In a huge cardboard display of video games was a bunch of “Mario Maker” games for Wii U. I poked around looking for the display prices to discover the Thanksgiving/Black Friday price was $59.99, which is what I thought the original price was.

At the same time on Amazon, the price was $54.99, slashed from the regular price of $59.99.

I headed back to the electronics department to find the sticker untouched in the display of games. The price? $59.99.

So there was no deal after all. Just a ploy.

DVDs were $4 or $6 and $10 for complete seasons. But those $4 and $6 DVDs had no bells and whistles. (And who buys DVDs these days, anyway?)

I did buy an ornament at Macy’s. It’s a Spode Christmas tree. I got it for a little more than $10 with tax. Macy’s claimed it was 65 percent off the original price. But we all know Macy’s never sells things for that “original” sticker price.

So was my purchase a good deal?

I’m going to keep watching the price just to see. I’m willing to bet the ornament typically is sold for anywhere from $13 to $18.

If that’s the case, then I didn’t really save 65 percent.

37 things: Thanksgiving food

This post is part of my attempt to post daily between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. That means, if my math is correct, I will have offered 37 different topics about my favorite time of the year. Learn more about 37 Things for the Holidays.

My first post talks about Thanksgiving food.

I like to tell people I gave up eating meat cold turkey.

But the reality is that it took many months. While I officially mark May 2012 as the period in my life when I went meatless, it is November 2011 where the quest began.

It was the first Thanksgiving in, I assume, all of my life where I did not consume one piece of turkey — or any meat product! There was enough commotion at the table for nobody to really notice, but my mother asked me later if I had any turkey and I told her I had not.

Instead, I chose to savor the green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and more.

Though I enjoy good tofu, I’ve yet to experience a tofurkey. I considered making tofu this year, but my mom made pasta for me.

While turkey is the focus of Thanksgiving tables, there are a number of people who I’ve encountered over the years who either don’t have turkey or whose side dishes are not traditional (at least to what I think of).

Last week, a friend told me she enjoys macaroni and cheese for Thanksgiving — a dish I could eat daily.

Later on Thanksgiving, I ventured to Sheetz (of course!) after visiting Target and Macy’s and discovered a number of people ordering MTOs. They could have been college or high school students just looking for something to do, but some of them seemed to have been coming from work and picking up a quick, late-night bite.

If I could choose my own Thanksgiving dinner menu, I’d likely stick with mashed potatoes, green been casserole, macaroni and cheese, maybe some cornbread and a pasta dish. Someone else can bring the turkey!

Light Up Night still excites

IMG_4450Light Up Night.

It’s been the official start of the holiday season in Pittsburgh for 55 years.

The Horne’s tree still will be lit. And the windows at Kaufmann’s will be unveiled as they’ve been for more than 70 years.

But 2015 marks the first Light Up Night without a major department store Downtown. Macy’s closed the nearly 130-year-old Kaufmann’s store in September.

Sure there is Burlington and Brooks Brothers, some small shops and a bunch of drug stores.

But gone are the anchor stores that helped bring people to all of the shops Downtown.

In many ways, Light Up Night is more important now for Downtown retail than ever before — events like this get people into town and maybe get them to return throughout the season.

Everybody seems to have their own belief for why department stores no longer exist Downtown.

No matter the reason, though, Light Up Night goes on, even if it seems strange to reveal holiday windows under the Kaufmann’s Clock and have no inside activities. (Kaufmann’s and Macy’s always had wonderful inside events on all of the floors.)

I’m excited for Light Up Night — for the American Cancer Society and PPG Place tree lighting, for the cute shops and dancing lights at Market Square, for Wintergarden at PPG Place, for the old Horne’s tree and to see the reincarnation of the Kaufmann’s windows.  

Like I have for many years, I’ll enjoy all of the festivities to kick off my favorite time of year in the greatest city on earth.

Happy holidays, Pittsburgh!

50 years of ‘Days of our Lives’

Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.

I’ve heard that phrase spoken hundreds and hundreds over the course of my life, and — I sometimes joke — even before I was born.

“Days of our Lives” — NBC’s longest-running drama — is celebrating 50 years, having first welcomed Salem and the Horton family into the lives of American television viewers on Nov. 8, 1965.

Since then, “Days” has made a lasting impact on millions of viewers over several generations.

My love for the fictional drama began early in my life, and I do sometimes joke that I’ve been watching the show since I was in my mother’s womb. As a child, I remember watching explosions in far off lands as Bo and Hope traveled the world, the “Cruise of Deception” and Marlena’s demonic ways.

Using a VCR (remember those?), I recorded “Days” every afternoon on Pittsburgh’s WPXI Channel 11 and enjoyed sick days, holidays and summer breaks so I could watch without recording.

For an hour a day (or for binge sessions late at night or on weekends), “Days” gives me that escape from real life and a chance to let my imagination soar in Salem.

I’ve watched Sami Brady drug and rape a guy, nearly be put to death, lie about the father of her child, abduct her baby half-sister, be left at the alter at least twice, hide her identity as a transgendered man named Stan, shoot her fiance in the head, be arrested by her dad for murder, among many other less-than-notable schemes and dramas.

I’ve watched murders be staged only to have all of the “victims” appear together on a previously unknown island before being reunited with their loved ones in Salem.

I’ve watched as Marlena Evans has been kidnapped more times than I can remember, became possessed by the devil and was used as a surrogate for “alien” twins.

Storylines such as those sometimes force fans like me to defend our beloved drama. (Never mind the outrageous storylines on dramas on HBO and in primetime on broadcast TV, eh?)

But along with the out of this world stories, I’ve watched generations of Salem residents share love and laughter, holiday memories (Horton ornaments!) and loss of loved ones.

“Days” now is one of four daytime drama remaining on broadcast television, making this golden anniversary even more special.

Let’s hope for even more “Days” to come!

Days links