Category Archives: 31 Things in December 2010

31 Things in December: Favorite Santa-related tradition as a kid

Without a doubt, my favorite Santa-related tradition was the neighborhood Christmas party.

When we first moved into the neighborhood my family lives in, there was a civic association that organized events throughout the year at a small hall/event space in the back of the neighborhood.

Around Christmas, the group organized a party that involved a visit with Santa, gifts, treats and other activities.

Santa’s helper was our neighbor, Mr. Arnold. I remember his jolly laugh — it took me many years to figure out who was Santa’s fill-in.

It was a great holiday get-together — especially for the kids!

31 Things: Christmas shopping?

This “31 Things in December” post is themed around this: “What’s your shopping list like? What’s your shopping approach?”

I’m a bit anal retentive when it comes to preparing for Christmas shopping. Every good North Pole workshop has to be well prepared, right?

At some point in November, I prepare a Numbers (it’s the Mac version of Excel, but much better) document complete with a box for each person and one for random things (cards, etc.). Each box has a line listing the item, a line listing an estimated price and then one listing the actual price.

Then, the totals from each box are linked to another area of the document where I can see a grand total.

This system also helps to see what I’ve purchased in the past.

With this elaborate system, though, I still don’t finish shopping until Christmas Eve. I enjoy shopping as late as possible.

I try my hardest to not buy stuff just to buy it. I do try to think of gifts the people on my list will enjoy and appreciate. Many times, this involves one-of-a-kind items or themed-gifts.

For instance, last year, I gave my mom these four hand-made paper mache caroler figures that once were used in a Kaufmann’s window display in Downtown Pittsburgh.

The worst part of shopping is dealing with the rude folks who act like they’re the only people with a lot to get done. If they had planned ahead of time, maybe they wouldn’t have to be in such a hurry.

31 Things in December: Stance on snow?

This is the fifth blog post in a month-long initiative called “31 Things in December.” Check out the list and start blogging!

Of the suggestions posted for “31 Things in December,” the snow question was perfect for today. I woke up to a winter wonderland outside as lake-effect snow bands made their way through the Pittsburgh area.

As the snowflakes fall on this blog post (provided you’re reading it in December), it’s no secret I am pro-snow.

There’s nothing more beautiful than watching, playing in, driving in and being around snow.

Snow can make the darkest day of winter bright and exciting.

I lived in Erie for several years and never tired of the snow the region received from October (literally) through early May.

Many folks fear snow because it disrupts their routine. It’s true that snow means you have to think a little more about planning your day — from cleaning off the car to driving carefully (which could mean slower than 40 mph over the speed limit).

I’ve never understood the anti-snow sentiment, except for those too selfish to appreciate western Pennsylvania’s four beautiful seasons.

Snow brightens Christmas light displays and can provide for hours of entertainment for kids (and kids at heart).

As a kid, I enjoyed sled riding down the hill in our back yard. Sometimes, if we had enough energy behind us, we were able to mimic Kennywood’s Jack Rabbit with a double dip. And after a long day outside sled riding and building snowmen, we’d come in and warm up with a shower and hot chocolate.

Then there was the “Blizzard of ’93.” My brother and I dug a tunnel from the driveway to near the front door!

Mother Nature reminds us that we don’t control anything, so rather than hate the snow, embrace it and enjoy its beauty.

31 Things in December: Treasured ornaments

This is the fourth blog post in a month-long initiative called “31 Things in December.” Check out the list and start blogging!

Each year, I try to add Linda Barnicott pieces to our Christmas tree and decoration collection.

It began with a gift to my mom of a portrait of Kaufmann’s Clock. It has developed into a love of Ms. Barnicott’s pieces.

In 2010, she welcomed a new collection that involves another great regional asset — Wendell August Forge.

Each year for the next five years, Ms. Barnicott and Wendell August will offer three ornaments from her collection.

Including the Horne’s tree (above), this year’s collection includes the Civic Arena and a breathtaking view of Pittsburgh’s skyline.

Ms. Barnicott’s collection captures the spirit of Downtown Pittsburgh during the holidays with pieces like the Horne’s tree.

Her work makes for great Christmas gifts. Visit her online at