December 2012 – another holiday season, another Christmas celebration, another time to reflect on Christmases past and another time to plan for Christmas presents.

For me it has always been a wonderfully busy time of the year. As years go by it seems there is less time to get it all together.

Christmas 2012 comes with its own issues. Recovering from a bout with a broken ankle there will no trips to the tree farm in Butler, no dashes to the Strip for nuts, raisins and cheeses. This year will be a Northside Christmas.

In many ways it will be like those Christmases of the 1950s when all of my shopping was done on East Ohio Street and the many small shops in and around the North Side Market House. Most gifts were within the price range of 50 cents to a dollar. Our extended family numbered about a dozen and everyone got a present for everyone. They were simple gifts.

My cousin, Charley, and I delivered The Press and Sun Telegraph in those years. We had squirreled away a few bucks for shopping.

We were always looking for “big” gifts at bargain prices. For a year or two, it was a “giant” jar of brightly colored, heavily perfumed bath salts. Recently, I’ve read that some sort of “bath salt” is taboo. I had to laugh thinking of the many jars of “salts” Charley and I gave to our mothers, aunts, cousins and grandmothers. We considered them a much more significant gift than handkerchiefs of candy of earlier years.

A recent message about keeping our Christmas shopping on a local level arrived via Facebook, and they made a lot of sense to me. The emphasis of the message was to shop in the neighborhood where you live. That neighborhood, to me, is the Northside. I’ve made a list, not of folks for whom I am shopping, but of Northside enterprises where I will shop.

Giftcards are a great way to share the joys of Northside living. Any omissions are not purposeful but simply the result of my limitations.

For folks who like to dine out consider these great options: The Monterey Pub, Legends of the North Shore, Nicky’s Thai Kitchen, Billy’s Troy Hill Bistro, Bistro-to-Go, Old Allegheny Sandwich Shop, Pasta Too, Giorgios and Miller’s Seafood House (called “the last chance “ by my aged Aunt Minnie, who lived in dry Bellevue).

For java loving friends, don’t forget our great neighborhood coffee shops as quick stop for a giftcard or a pound of someone’s favorite blend.

Unique and special items, including really fascinating cards, candies and children’s items are always available at The Sweet Time Cafe and General Store on East Ohio Street as well as at K. S. Kennedy’s Floral and Gift Shop on Western Avenue, where you can also purchase a stunning poinsettia.

If you have no green thumb but have someone on your list that loves to garden, a gift card from the Urban Gardener might be a welcome surprise. Their garden shop will be open until the last tree is sold. The gift card can be used throughout the growing season.

Food items, of course, are best if homemade. However, a tin or gift bag of Zimtstern (cinnamon stars) from Schorr Bakery on Perrysville Avenue or a beautifully decorated holiday cake from the Priory would be a great gift.

A gift card from Tom’s Friday Market on California Avenue might excite that carnivore friend who could redeem it for some fine steaks or lamb chops.

Finding oranges and apples and pears for the stockings, however, will require a stop at either a local Giant Eagle or Kuhn’s.

Of course, there is always the slight chance of taking care every gift from those massive racks of gift cards. You and your friends and the whole Northside will benefit by walking right past these racks and into the stores and shops that add to our Northside’s quality of life all year long.

This year and throughout the coming year, shop locally – shop Northside.
Merry Christmas!