Only 364 days to go!

I used to be sad on Dec. 26.

Radio stations that began playing Christmas music in mid-November abruptly stopped.

Holiday TV specials that ran 24/7 on some channels were replaced.

And seasonal areas of department stores looked like retail war zones.

Dec. 26 wasn’t fun.

At some point as I grew up, I realized Christmas wasn’t about a day.

For people who believe in Christianity, Christmas is a day to celebrate Jesus’ birth.

For others, it’s a day when Santa leaves gifts for those on his Nice List.

For many, it’s a time to be with family and friends.

Leading up to the finish line, it’s an energetic and fun time. But once you cross that finish line, the race seems very distant.

But as I began to understand what Christmas means to me, I realized that a date on a calendar doesn’t have to be the end of Christmas.

And I’m not talking about the 12 days of Christmas or Orthodox Christmas.

Instead, I think of Christmas as a belief. Christmas spirit can live all year long, without wrapping paper and bows and twinkling lights.

Christmas spirit can live in kind gestures, in hugs, in “Jingle Bells” playing in June.

Christmas spirit can live on long after December is gone.

I think of a three songs: B.E. Taylor’s “Feel the Love of Christmas,” Brad Paisley’s “Only 364 Days To Go” and LeAnn Rimes’ “Today is Christmas.”

Take a listen to each of them.

» “Feel the Love of Christmas”

» “Only 364 Days To Go”

» “Today is Christmas”

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A Very Merry Sewickley

‘Twas a week before Christmas and all through the town,
Shoppers trekked through stores and wouldn’t let the rain get them down.

I spent a little bit of time in Sewickley on Sunday afternoon, taking in the beautiful window displays and shops — despite some rain and less than seasonable weather (it was too warm!).

On select days throughout the month, festive music plays over loudspeakers, Santa sits at the town gazebo and visitors can take a horse-drawn carriage around the block.

My first stop was into House 15143, which looks more like somewhere I want to live than a store. The beautifully designed windows could pull even the Grinch into the holiday spirit. But the festive feelings don’t end there.

Inside, the shop is filled with so many wonderful accents. Their decorations offer such a vintage Christmas feel — with old-school blow mold candles, very welcoming Santa faces and so much more.

There were so many ornaments and decorations I wanted that it was hard to limit myself!

I also visited Gather and found myself in a similar situation — trying very hard to not buy everything!

Many businesses in the town have beautifully designed windows, too.

Take a look at the gallery below. House 15143 was, by far, my favorite. But Consign Sewickley, Gather and Pizza Roma all had windows that just stood out to me.

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Hershey’s nips the Kiss

Whether you call it a blossom cookie or a kiss cookie, there’s something off this year if you use Hershey Kisses.

The company has been nipping the tips off the iconic chocolate, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

Members of The Wedding Cookie Table Community on Facebook brought the issue to light.

Laura Magone of Monongahela runs the group that includes more than 10,000 people.

She told the PG that a member first posted about the nipped Kiss tips.

That member wrote that the company said the missing tips was intentional.

When Magone bought her own bags of Kisses, she, too, noticed the missing tips.

So she called Hershey’s and got the same response — the company did it on purpose.

“I told her she had to be kidding that she thought I would believe that,” Magone said.

In the Facebook group, others have shared similar frustrations of missing Kiss tips.

“Hershey, quit being jagoffs and fix the tips on our kisses,” one user wrote.

Members don’t believe Hershey’s answer.

“My first blush reaction was, ‘what Hershey? You’ve been doing this way longer than any of us have been making cookies,’” Tamsen Mongelli DiBlasio, formerly of Pittsburgh, told the PG.

And as PG writer Gretchen McKay wrote, “If hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, heaven help the chocolate maker who runs afoul of a disgruntled cookie maker.”

Jeff Beckman, a spokesman for Hershey, said the company “is now looking at the issue.”

The company is reaching out to members of the Facebook group to offer gifts.

But DiBlasio said she wants an intact Hershey Kiss.

“We don’t want a defective product,” she said.

11 Sleeps to Christmas: Kaufmann’s thumbprint cookies

img_9512There is no treat like a Kaufmann’s thumbprint cookie.

And if you’re from the Pittsburgh area, you might be familiar with the iconic skyscraper-looking thumbprint cookies made famous by the longtime regional department store’s Arcade Bakery.

The cookies were the most famous treats from Arcade.

After Macy’s closed the longtime flagship Kaufmann’s location in Downtown Pittsburgh, Prantl’s Bakery continued the tradition.

I recently learned that the Arcade Bakery baker Kevin Ulrich (who Prantl’s hires after Macy’s closed) is back on the thumbprint detail as of August!In September 2015, the bakery released its own version of the cookie. At the time, they tasted fine — not the same, but close enough!

Prantl’s has hired the baker who led the thumbprint cookie creation. So I had high hopes for the future.

In November I had some thumbprints for the first time since early summer and immediately tasted a drastic difference.

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The thumbprint cookie I longed for and remembered was back! But I just assumed it was because I bought them at the Shadyside location instead of Market Square where I usually go. (They’re all baked at the same place but delivered elsewhere. But you know, tastes can change in delivery!)

But GoodFoodPittsburgh.com explains that Ulrich was doing other work for Prantl’s before taking over the thumbprint role again.

“I’m happy it happened like this. The cookie is in the right hands,” Ulrich told the blog.

There are many, many flavors available. So go try all of them! And thank me with a thumbprint cookie!

12 Sleeps to Christmas: Special ornaments

Some people theme trees with colors, patterns or styles.

While themed trees look beautiful, I prefer trees that truly represent a person or family through the ornament choices.

My family’s main tree is filled with a number of handcrafted and store bought ornaments — many of which tell the stories of our lives.

Whether it’s an ornament showcasing the Pittsburgh skyline, Myrtle Beach or “baby’s first Christmas,” they all tell a story.

It’s difficult to pick a favorite ornament. I love all of the ornaments depicting Kaufmann’s Clock and the Horne’s tree. My Kennywood Park ornaments (especially the wooden pieces of coaster track) are great, too.

But the ornaments I love most are the ones from my grandparent’s tree.

They are simple glass balls with designs.

Most are in OK shape with some obvious signs that they’re old.

I don’t put all of these special ones on the tree. Some remain in the containers so to try to protect some of them.

They sit near the top to avoid being swatted by a dog’s tail.

I wish I knew more about their origin — what store they’re from, who designed them, if they’re part of a larger collection.

I know nothing about them except that they were part of my grandparents’ tree for decades.

As a kid I remember helping my grandma hang them on her tree.

Holiday TV for Dec. 6: CHARLIE BROWN, ‘Wonderful Life’

8288453167_27ff948aa6_zHere’s what’s on TV tonight to get you into a festive mood!

  • 6 p.m. – “Elf,” AMC
  • 8 p.m. – “A Charlie Brown Christmas, (1965) ABC
  • “It’s A Wonderful Life,” (1946) with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, USA
  • 8:30 p.m. – “The Elf on the Shelf: An Elf’s Story,” TBS
  • 9 p.m. – “The Great American Baking Show: Holiday Edition,” ABC
  • 10:15 p.m. – “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” AMC
  • 12 a.m. – “Nine Lives of Christmas,” Hallmark [One of my FAVORITE Hallmark movies]
  • 12 a.m. – “The Cast of A Christmas Story: Where Are They Now,” Pop

Holiday TV for Dec. 5: Polar Express, ‘Santa Clause 3,’ Debbie Macomber, ‘Elf,’ Kranks

img_1320Here’s what’s on TV tonight to get you into a festive mood!

  • 6 p.m. – “The Polar Express” (2004) with Tom Hanks, AMC
  • 6 p.m. – “Muppet Babies,” Disney Jr.
  • 6 p.m. – “Finding Santa,” (2017) with Jodie Sweetin and Eric Winter, Hallmark
  • 6 p.m. – “A Very Nutty Christmas,” (2018) with Melissa Joan Hart, Lifetime
  • 6:50 p.m. – “The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause,” (2006) with Tim Allen and Martin Short, Freeform
  • 7 p.m. – “Debbie Macomber’s Dashing Through the Snow,” Hallmark Movies & Mysteries
  • 8 p.m. – “Elf,” AMC
  • 8:55 p.m. – “Christmas with the Kranks,” with Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis, Freeform
  • 9 p.m. – “A Godwink Christmas,” (2018) with Kathie Lee Gifford, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries
  • 11 p.m. – “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” (2016) with James Brolin, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

Find more holiday shows tonight and throughout the season at christmastvschedule.com.