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Pop-Up Spring Shoppe at Christmas Place

Because it’s been a hard winter for so many around us, I thought I’d add that extra “pe” on the end – put a little zing into Spring at Christmas Place!  Look at all the lovely blooms and baubles we’ve brought in to brighten up the place for a little while.  You can find many of these items in our “New” or the “Christmas Floral” selection on the web site, or click here.  We hope you’ll enjoy these photos for now.

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And somehow, the aqua bunnies and the Morning Glory mini-jar came home with me after this photo session .. funny how that sort of thing can happen.  Happy Spring, y’all!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Quick & Easy – Easter Chicks!

Easter is upon us, and guests at The Inn at Christmas Place on Saturday will be treated to cookie decorating before the 5th annual egg hunt on the lawn.  Here’s a sneak peek at the cute cookies guests will be decorating (and eating, of course):

Pilsbury Bunny Butt Cookies

Hmmm.  Something must have slipped when I cropped that last picture.  Guess you’ll just have to come and be our guest this Easter to see the rest of that cookie story.

Anywho, on the way to deciding on the cute cookie idea, Kristy came across another, equally cute idea – it just takes a little bit longer to create, so we suggest you try this at home.

Easter chicks

The basic idea is shared on the site Sweet Simple Stuff, and it’s pretty easy.  You need (emphasis provided by Kristy):

  • FLAT candy sticks or coffee stir sticks – round ones are just trouble, nothing but trouble
  • Nabisco® Nutter Butter cookies
  • Yellow candy melts
  • Reese’s Pieces®
  • Mini chocolate chips
  • Orange Tic-Tacs®
  • Parchment or waxed paper

Melt the candy.  If you have the patience, you can split the Nutter Butters open and add a dab of melted candy in the middle to secure your flat stick; or, you can just insert the stick between the layers and go on.  You’ll get better results if you use a spoon or spatula to coat the cookie with yellow candy – dipping can lead to an unfortunate and messy loss-of-cookie situation.  While your candy coating is still good and melty, place two chocolate chips for eyes, a Tic-Tac for the nose, and two orange Reese’s Pieces for the feet.  To complete your chick, add a yellow Reese’s Piece on each side of the cookie to make wings (not pictured here, you can see them on the site if you use the link above).  Cool on your food-safe paper of choice.  Place on the BREAKFAST TABLE (my emphasis), and quickly devour eat .  (I have been told it’s not polite to devour at the breakfast table.)  (I didn’t have a whole bag of Reese’s Pieces to use for my display picture .. but I did quickly devour the samples, not at breakfast.)

Don’t you just love using The Google to look for all kinds of fun and easy ideas to brighten your holiday table?  Hope you’re planning some fabulous treats for your Easter weekend!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

P.S.  Up next, pictures from our pop-up Spring Shop at the store – Christmas first, but we have to get past spring (and summer and fall) to get there, don’t we?!

Food for Friday

Now that the chill of winter has set in, I want something hot and hearty for dinner – but I don’t want to spend a lot of time cooking when I get in at the end of the day.  Me?  I want to get under a warm blanket as soon as I can!  I found this fantastic Gooseberry Patch cookbook – One-Pot Meals.  What could be more simple?  “Flavor without the fuss …home-cooked dinners your family will love!”

http://www.christmasplace.com/shopping/ItemNumber/66071

The recipes cover most every cooking method you might use, including range-top, crockpot, microwave, and even campfire entrees, as well as cold salads and desserts.  As I set the book down and randomly flipped open the pages, what did I land on but a personal favorite of mine all year round – Potato-Corn Chowder!  The publishers allow me to share a recipe with you occasionally, so here it is:

Potato-Corn Chowder

Ingredients:

    • 2 – 10-3/4 oz cans potato soup
    • 2 – 14-3/4 oz cans cream-style corn
    • 8 slices bacon, crisply cooked and crumbled (substitute ready-cooked bacon if you’re short on prep time)
    • 1/2 to 1 C milk (for extra creamy soup or chowder, replace milk with evaporated milk)
    • salt, pepper and garlic salt to taste
    • Optional: 1 to 2 T bacon drippings
    • Garnish:  fresh parsley, chopped

Blend soup and corn in a slow cooker; add bacon along with bacon drippings if desired.  Add milk until soup is of desired consistency; add seasonings to taste.  Heat on low setting in your slow cooker for 8 to 10 hours.  Sprinkle individual servings with parsley.  Serves 6 to 8.

Imagine coming home in the evening to the scent of a steaming pot of this chowder!  Better hope you’re the first one in the kitchen!

My recipe short-hand:  C = cup; T = tablespoon

Hmmm….now what do they have in here that will work for a hungry crowd that’s coming over for some big event I’ve heard is happening this weekend?  You know, the one where everyone gathers around giant T.V. screens to watch a whole bunch of commercials, periodically interrupted by some bits of guys running about a field, chasing after an odd-shaped, punkin’-looking thing?

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

P.S.  Check out some of the other yummy cookbooks from Gooseberry Patch – they’re the best books you’ll find anywhere!

 

Two for Tuesday

As Valentine’s Day approaches, thoughts turn to romance, and to romantic spots on the planet.  Spots like Paris – I haven’t been since I was quite young, but I hear it’s aging well! I noticed this distressed-look fabric ribbon printed with iconic French images and text, and found a glittering Eiffel Tower with which to pair it.  I’m also intrigued by the chocolate brown spruce I used in this photo.  It’s such an unusual – but gorgeous – color choice for Christmas!  Pair it with a white tree and either pink or blue – yummy color palette for a tree. Eiffel Tower & Ribbon My second Tuesday find is – here I go with chocolate again – a rich, brown glittering poinsettia.  I just realized my theme – I must be anticipating Valentine chocolates coming my way!  This could be a problem on the calorie frontier .. maybe I’ll just stick to a little eye-candy instead.  (No fudge for me.  No truffles for me.  No M&Ms for me.  I can do it.  I can do it.) Brown poinsettia What’s on your schedule for romance this February – Paris or chocolate?  Or both?

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

P.S.  For a truly romantic holiday, book a get-away for two at The Inn at Christmas Place – pick your package, with choices including a gift basket, arranged roses, and more.  Why not add some chocolate-dipped strawberries from Mrs. Claus’ Candy Kitchen, or a gourmet Valentines apple to share?  We have a lot of ways to help you celebrate!

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Two for Tuesday!

On the day!

What we love today – lots of hammering and sawing and banging .. and the stairs have moved!

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Can you believe it?  The elves are hoping they’ll leave us the little cubby underneath – just the right size for a few elf bunk-beds, don’t you think?

Love the beautiful and wild garland choices we have – some with lights, some with red berries and leaves, some with frost and snow.  What’s your favorite?

Garland

Santa may be way up north or down by the beach for a few months, but there’s still plenty to enjoy as you stroll through Christmas Place, Second Nature, and The Partridge & Pear Boutique.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

P.S.  Oops!  Did I forget to mention Mrs. Claus’ Candy Kitchen?  Now would be a great time to pre-order your fresh-dipped strawberries – Valentine’s Day will be here before you know it!

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Two for Tuesday (no, really! well, maybe…)

Okay, yes, I know it’s Friday!  Such a busy week with inventory counting of everything in our warehouses and on the sales floor and in my office, working on projects, and going to the elves’ Christmas party.  So I didn’t get my two pictures up on Tuesday.

As a reward for your patience in waiting for a post, I’m sharing “Five for Friday” — but I won’t give the post that title, because then you’ll probably want more.  Again.  Like, next week, and the week after that, and the week after that!  :o  So enjoy this one-week bonus, please.

Let’s start with plenty of glitter – a show-stopper IMHO, the glitter-scape of Santa, trees, and village outline is also lighted with twinkling LEDs that give the layers sparkling definition.  Battery operated, this can easily become a Christmas focal point anywhere you’re feeling bold enough to embrace your inner glitter-fan.

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It’s the stars of Christmas, Santa and Frosty.  Love the vintage design style, and the over-the-top glittering snow coating this ornament and figurine.

Santa&Frosty

 Give me more!  Here’s a turn to glittering gold for the holidays, with these ivory-colored holly leaves edged and sprinkled in gold glitter with clusters of gold berries on the stem.

Gold-Cream maple leaf

Had enough?  Okay…how about some silly Christmas fun.  We agree ‘staches are in fashion these days – and even Santa has a good one.  Found this darling mug in the Christmas Gallery – there are a couple of other styles in the collection, but they’re not on line, in-store only, call 1-800-445-3396 to order.

Mustache mug

Have you added an ugly sweater to your Christmas tree yet?  Department 56 put together a great collection this year, including Grinch sweaters.  I’m partial to the Christmas tree with the lovely faux-fur cuffs – and I really don’t want to call it ugly, okay?  It’s cute!

Ugly sweaterslr

Just a few of the things I love this week.  I’ll be back on schedule next week.  If you see something on line and would like to see more pictures or see it “in use,” don’t be shy, just ask!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

P.S.  Deconstruction and reconstruction continue at the store – we elves can’t wait to see the final result!

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Food for Friday

Now that the rush is over, I’m discovering new publications that I missed in the store – including seven gorgeous cookbooks under the main title “The Gathering of Friends,” with volume subtitles including “A Year of Holidays at Home,” “Return to the Table,” “Celebrating With Simplicity,” and four others.  From the creators and publishers:

The Gathering of Friends cookbooks were created to introduce “food as a love language,” enhancing traditions, fortifying relationships and celebrating life!

Gathering of Friends book

Paraphrasing Brian Wansink, we eat first with our eyes – and these volumes demonstrate that presentation is just as important to the enjoyment of a meal as food preparation.  Chapters feature recipes illustrated with beautiful photographs of each dish, along with a bit of inspiration, serving and tablescape ideas, and decorating suggestions.  Also included is a complete shopping list for the chapter menu!  Though hard-backed, the pages are spiral bound, so the books will lay open in a stand or on a tabletop for easy viewing.

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Naturally, the one which first caught my eye, “A Year of Holidays at Home,” features a Christmas dinner table, though it includes menus and ideas for July 4th, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, a Winter Celebration, Valentine’s, and Easter!  Curated (my choice of words!) by Michelle Huxtable and Abby Jane Green, it’s “an inspiring collection of delicious recipes and memorable menus.”  There is a comprehensive index of all recipes, so you can easily pull together your own menu, too.

Here’s an easy little Christmas recipe that just might work for Valentine’s, too, especially in color.

Cranberry Coconut Squares

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 C butter, softened
  • 2 C sugar
  • 2 C flour
  • 2 t coconut extract
  • 1-1/2 C sweetened flaked coconut, divided
  • 1-1/2 C white chocolate chips, divided
  • 1 C dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; prepare a 9″ x 13″ baking dish with cooking spray.  Beat eggs in a medium-sized bowl.  Fold in butter, sugar, flour, and coconut extract.  Gently stir with a fork until just combined.

Fold in 1/2 C sweetened flaked coconut and 1/2 C white chocolate chips.  Pour batter into the baking dish, and sprinkle with dried cranberries and remaining white chocolate chips and coconut.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Fully cool before cutting into squares.

Serve up these lovely, sweet, red-and-white squares on cut-paper doilies as a treat, any time of day!

(C = Cup, t = Teaspoon)

I’m making room on my shelf for a few of these delicious cookbooks!  What’s your favorite Christmas – or any holiday – recipe?  We’d love to expand our culinary horizons with a few of your suggestions.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

P.S.  The volume pictured is available to buy; call the store at 1-800-445-3396 and ask Guest Services to arrange shipment of item 766005.  We have all seven volumes, numbered from 766000 to 766006!

Two for Tuesday (almost made it!)

Getting back into the swing of things, and sharing anything that particularly catches my eye! This week, two very different ornaments.

Adorable Hedgehog! I added a bunch of these to my décor for Christmas, and I’m loath to pack them away – there’s sooooo cute!  I think they’ll just be my winter décor buddies.

Hedgehog

Take a look at this unique, 2-D image ornament – I hope you’ll be able to see the effect on your screen – in your hand, you have the sensation of being able to walk into the snowy forest…well, if you can miniaturize yourself to about 2″ tall, of course.

3D-ornament

Is everything being packed up at your house, or are you keeping anything out year round just for the love and beauty of Christmas?

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

P.S. Our buyers are out this week finding lots of lovely new Christmas for 2015 – can’t wait to see what they find!  We’ll be closed on Tuesday, January 13th, to take inventory – busy elf day at the workshop, you could say.  Stay warm out there!

5 Steps for Safely Storing Your Artificial Christmas Tree

Rudolph shows off a new, color-changing tree

Rudolph is showing you our new tree that can change from multicolored to all-white lights!

We know that most of you, like the elves here at Christmas Place, plan to keep your Christmas trees up all year round. ;)  For those of you out there who DO happen to take your trees down sometime after Christmas (we don’t judge!), here are 5 simple steps you can follow to keep your tree looking fresh and new every time you release it from confinement display and decorate it for the enjoyment of all who enter your home.

Artificial Christmas trees are durable by design, and depending on the model you choose, can be quite an investment.  Taking the time to properly store away your tree each year will help to retain its original shape, style, and luster, and achieve the long life you expect from your Christmas tree.

After you have removed all the decorations, but before you unplug the lights, follow these 5 easy steps to ensure the maximum lifetime value of your tree.

General Hints:

  • A pair of lightweight gloves will save wear and tear on your hands.
  • Use brightly-colored tape or string to mark non-working lights for repair or replacement.
  • A Light Keeper Pro gun will be a help with non-working bulbs.
  • Strong twine or cloth-covered bungee cords (non-rubber) will help save storage space.

1.  Replace Broken or Burned-Out Bulbs

How long?  About 15-20 minutes for a 7.5′ foot Christmas tree.

What?  The goal is to identify and replace any burned-out bulbs.  Turn on the tree lights.  Starting at the top, trace the light strand and make sure each bulb is functioning.  If you find a non-working bulb, replace it bulb.  If you run out of replacement bulbs, mark the non-working bulb with brightly color string or tape for replacement when you get more bulbs.

A handy tool to try before replacing bulbs or light strands is the Light Keeper Pro.  Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to see if you can re-boot or repair any non-working bulbs or strands before you start replacing them on the tree.  This could save you a lot of time and money.

Why?  It is important to the life of your light strands to quickly locate and repair/replace bulbs which are not working. The more bulbs not working on a light strand, the more electricity the working bulbs will consume and output.  For example, if you have a 50 light set, each bulb consumes 1/50th of the electricity in the string.  If 10 bulbs are not working, the 40 bulbs which are working are forced to take 20% more electricity.  If this continues for a long period of time, the light strand may be permanently damaged.  The lights will stop working, and the individual bulbs may take on a brown tinge from over-use.  This type of damage is not typically covered under a tree warranty.

2.  Un-Fluff Your Tree

How Long?  About 10-15 minutes for a 7.5′ Christmas tree.

What?  Some of today’s modern tree manufacturing styles do not require compression.  For those that do, the manufacturer’s information should include “fluffing” instructions, and if the tree must be fluffed for display, then it can be “un-fluffed.”  The goal is to compress the branches of the tree in an orderly fashion to preserve the lights, needles and branches.  Starting at the outer-most, top branch layer of the tree, carefully fold the smallest branches in and up towards each other and the central trunk.  Work your way around the top layer, moving down through each row of branches in similar fashion, one section at a time, until the entire tree is compressed.

Why?  Trying to put the tree back into its storage box or bag without un-fluffing or compressing the tree will be almost impossible.  Folding the individual branches and layers into the trunk compresses the tree much more efficiently, allowing a better fit into a smaller space; and the needles, branches, and lights are much less likely to be damaged while in transit and storage.

3.  Disassemble Your Tree

How Long?  About 10-15 minutes for a 7.5′ Christmas tree.

What?  Starting from the top, remove each section of the tree, one at a time.  As you work, gently continue to press the branches toward the center trunk.  Lay each section aside, waiting to box/bag the sections until all are separated.  Remove the tree stand from the last section, and carefully secure all its parts together for next use!

It’s a good idea to wrap the sections with twine or bungee cord as you go, both to further compress the tree and to preserve the branches from any extra stress during handling.  Take care not to bind the sections too tightly, however.

Caution:  Make sure that, as you fold up any hinged branches, light bulbs or wires do not get caught or pinched in the hinges.  If any branches do not easily fold up, go over them manually to safely move away any parts that may be interfering with the hinge mechanism.

4.  Place Your Tree in a Bag and/or Box

Place the tree in a box or Christmas tree storage bag for off-season storage.  Should you keep your tree in the original box or in a storage bag?  The best answer is…both!  Place your tree in a storage bag, then put the bag in the original tree box.  The tree box is generally easy to identify and transport to storage, while the tree bag inside will provide additional protection against humidity, dust, and temperature fluctuations.

How Long?  About 10-15 minutes for a 7.5′ Christmas tree.

What?  Place the bottom tree section into the bag first.  Position this section so the sharp end of the trunk, if it has one, is in the middle of the bag, and the non-pointed end is at one end of the bag.  Position the middle section so that the widest part of the section is at the other end of the bag.  Position all other sections and the tree stand in the middle of the bag, evenly distributing the volume and weight as much as possible.

5.  Storing Your Tree

Safe storage depends to varying degrees on the style of tree.  A typical green artificial tree will not be affected by average swings in temperature or humidity levels, though extremes should always be avoided.  Temperatures between 40 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit are generally considered safe for most average trees.  Low humidity is always best, too.  If your tree has extra embellishments such as cones or berries, be sure to give attention to the manufacturer’s guidelines for temperature and humidity.

Frosted, flocked or white Christmas trees are particularly sensitive to extreme temperatures and humidity.  These types of trees quickly discolor in hot and humid storage conditions.  Give extra thought and care when handling such trees; they will survive best and give you the longest life when stored in a controlled environment.

Secure your tree from potential animal intrusions – birds and rodents love to make their homes in artificial Christmas trees.

We know you want to protect the investment you have made in the Christmas tree that is the focal point of your holiday decorating and celebrations.  Following these 5 steps for securing and storing your artificial tree between uses will give your tree the best chance for a long and beautiful life.  We hope you’ll be making cherished memories to share at Christmas and throughout the year – for many years to come!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

P.S.  Our decorators have already selected the tree themes we’ll be displaying for Christmas 2015, and we can’t wait to show them to you as the decorations start to come in next year!  Stay tuned for more pictures and information!

Elves Behind the Scenes: Picnic Time!

If you’ve been to the store or the hotel, you surely know how hard the elves work every day to make everything special for you.  Each August, our “owners & outlaws” (as we call them) host the elves at a pre-season kick-off picnic – it’s one of our favorite days – after Christmas, of course.  Our Elf on the Shelf, Chrissy, sent out the invitations a few weeks ago.

What other tent color would Santa have but red and white?

The food was a special treat – Chef Manolo Diaz flew in from Puerto Rico to cook for us – and who else but a chef would fly in with a GIANORMOUS paella pan – big enough to feed everyone at the North Pole.  Finally, we can answer that nagging question that so often wakes you up in the middle of the night.  Just how big a pan do I need to cook a meal for 200 elves all at one time?

THIS BIG!

How many airplane seats do you suppose that thing took??

Also hiding underneath all the *shiny* foil (you know I love shiny!) was tender, garlic-marinated pork.

Even the most responsible elf sometimes can’t resist a quick sampling before dinner gets to the table….

It’s the owners and outlaws turn to serve the elves, and we get to thank them for all they do for us throughout the year.

Chrissy loved the red peppers and green olives in the Christmas – make that chicken – paella.

Now here’s how you really dig in, elf-style!  Go for it!

Ho, hum. No milk bone treats for me? Sorry, Latina, hopefully we’ll remember next year.

Can’t have pork and paella without brownies. BIG brownies. PLENTY of BIG brownies.

Because, BROWNIES.  (Oh, Chrissy.)

Chrissy encouraged the elves to share a little instant praise with each other, too, for the great teamwork that keeps us all on the mark each day.

It’s a great time for the elves from both sides of the parkway to relax together and enjoy conversation over a good meal.

More dessert, Chrissy? Can we teach you about the elf way of sharing, dear?

Now it’s time to get down to the good stuff – to finish decorating all our Christmas trees, throw a bunch of new lights up on the roof, fill the racks with new ornaments and gifts and goodies, and keep singing loud for all to hear – so you’ll all join in the Christmas cheer! We’re sure looking forward to seeing you at the store between now and Christmas.

~Janet @ Christmas Place

P.S. If a trip to Tennessee is not in your stocking, just join us at www.christmasplace.com – we’ll be adding new goodies every day until Christmas.