One great road trip!

Whew!  Just got back from a two-and-a-half day business trip with three colleagues, and boy, did we have a great time!  Not only was the conference tremendously informative, the food was even better.

This is the first conference I’ve attended that afforded us the opportunity to actually GAIN weight, the food was so good.  We may judge all future events by the gold standard set this week.  Hot breakfast every morning, with the most delicious bacon; hot lunch both days (a divine apple pie on day one);and a cocktail-and-hot-hors d’oeuvre reception (I just had to include that to prove I could spell it), with everything from jumbo shrimp to a freshly roasted turkey served with rolls and cranberry sauce (with crab cakes in between), thank you, Google.  They served us food about every hour-and-a-half, including an ice cream sundae bar, fruit smoothies, and popcorn and pretzels.

It almost made up for the trip down and the fact that we had to leave before they gave away the iPod Chromatic Nano and the Chumby.  There’s a bit of a story there ~ had I won the Chumby it would have been surrendered to our driver as his Christmas gift.  Does that sound fair?

Next week I can share more tales of the trip…how, on the way down, they were all “this better NOT show up on the blog, what happens on I-75 stays on I-75″, and how, on the way back, they were all “this BETTER be in the blog, because this is too good not to talk about.”  Hmmm.  I still need to do some “editing,” if you know what I mean!  Oh, and gas went down to $2.19 a gallon while we were in the parking lot of one station near Athens at 8:30 pm last night.  Since we didn’t need gas at that point, we felt that they did this to get even with us for being not quite bad enough to call out the local constabulary…

Anywho, we have the lovely Egyptian Glass artist signing at the store, 2 to 5 p.m. tomorrow, and it’s going to be around seventy degrees here in the foothills, a nearly prefect day to come out to the store and meet the artists behind the collection.  We carry several styles of their Christmas ornaments, in addition to all the novelty gifts in this decorative line.

See ya’ll tomorrow!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Two for Tuesday

We’ve just put on display a really elegant collection of stoneware mugs, trays, salt & pepper shakers, and such along these lines:

There is a “Be Merry” mug that I really need.  Really.

Here is another example of the Egyptian Glass that will be featured for our artist signing this weekend – I have sold quite a few of these cut-glass eggs in the last couple of weeks.  They are so unusual and quite lovely.  I would place a tea light behind it on a shelf to make it glow.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

P.S. Someone sent me this link to a really cute site today – go carve yourself a pumpkin!

Breaking News – Egyptian Glass Signing this Saturday!

This Saturday, November 1st, the founders of the Egyptian Museum company, Linda Paul and Mohamed Abdelhameed, will be in the store from 2 to 5 pm, signing their exquisite cut-glass creations.

Here is a picture of one piece from their line, which is quite extensive – unfortunately, we only offer a handful of their collection in our on-line catalog.  In the store, we have dozens of styles of ornaments, urns, finials, perfume jars, eggs, and more.  Photos can hardly do justice to these delicate crystal pieces with their cut-glass designs, luminescent finishes, and golden highlights.  The glass comes in a wide variety of colors, from clear to pink, purple, golden, red, blue, smoke, and more.

The Egyptian Glass line is manufactured in Egypt from German glass and paints, highlighted with 24kt gold.  Certain styles are accented with Asfour Crystal, a 33% lead crystal manufactured in Egypt.  Moe and Linda design most of the items, and add new pieces each year.

These unique creations add grace and elegance to any setting.  Be sure to come by the store this weekend to meet Linda & Moe and purchase a hand-signed piece or two for yourself.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Contest Announcement!

Starting next week, and for each of the next 9 or 10 weeks, we are having a CONTEST (alert~alert~alert!) on our forum!

Each week, in one category per week, we are asking for posts from our members – original and appropriate content, please.  At the end of the week, the powers that be (that would be me) will pick a winning post, and I will send you a $25 gift certificate to use on our Web site.

At the end of the weekly contests, we will award a GRAND PRIZE to one of our weekly winners in the amount of $100 to use in our on-line store!  If “we” can’t make up our mind and choose only one fabulous winner, we will split the grand prize amoung winners.

I hope this sounds like fun!  We’ve been hearing from our members, but we’re ready to pump it up a little, and we’re rewarding you for joining the conversation.  As I said above, your post should be relevant to the forum topic of the week, which will be announced here each Friday and on the forum itself (when I can figure out how to turn on the news box over there…) and it should be original stuff.

To make it easy, let’s start with the Holiday Recipes board, new posts from Saturday, October 25th through Friday, October 31st.  Please share some of your favorite dishes for the holidays – and a little story about where you got the recipe or any family traditions associated with it would sure be fun as well.

We’re really looking forward to hearing from you, getting to know you a little better (try the Getting to Know You board), and finding out how we can help you enjoy the holidays and experience the true spirit of Christmas.

As always, employees of Christmas Place and their families are not eligible to win prizes, but we’d love to have you share your stories with us anyways.

Join the forum and join the contest!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

This was fun – I got to use bold and ALL CAPS and Colors and italics all in one message!

Food for Friday

Well, this week has been one of our busiest weeks so far this year!  I’ve barely had time to think about writing, in the midst of all the excitement of the fall season.  Today, it’s one of those terribly chilly, rainy, dreary days ~ perfect for sitting by the fire with a warm bowl of soup and a football game in the background……here’s a quick recipe for a delicious hot soup you can cook up in minutes!  I think I got this off a can a bunch of years ago, so thanks to the vegetable company that provided it, whoever you are.

Ham Potato Corn Chowder

1 can kernel corn
1 can creamed corn
1 can diced new potatoes
1 cup diced, pre-cooked ham
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup diced onion (optional)
1/2 to 3/4 cup shredded cheese of your choice (Colby-Jack is good)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Carefully open each can.  Drain the kernel corn and potatoes.  Place the contents of each can into a large, heavy pan.  Add ham, chicken stock, onion, cheese, and seasonings.  Gently warm over medium heat to a slight boil, stirring frequently.  Serve in stoneware bowls with slices of a hearty bread, fresh butter, and a small garden salad.  Brownies or oatmeal raisin chocolate chip cookies for dessert.

See, using all those words like “carefully” and “gently” and “stoneware” and “hearty” and “fresh” make it sound a lot better than “throw it all into a pan and make it hot.  Eat.” ~ doesn’t it?  Don’t forget to rinse and sort your cans for recycling!

If you want gourmet, maybe we’ve got the cookbook you’re looking for in the store.  Look at this beautiful volume.  I hope you enjoy the flavors as well as the sights of fall.

Stay warm and dry, wherever you are!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

      “My sorrow, when she’s here with me, thinks these dark days of autumn rain are beautiful as days can be; she loves the bare, the withered tree; she walks the sodden pasture lane.”  ~ Robert Frost

Artist Signings This Weekend!

We have two exciting signings happening at the store this weekend!

Jacqueline Kent, the artist and creator of a very unique collection of dolls, will be in the store on Saturday from 1:00 to 4:00 pm to sign her Santas, Fairy Godmothers, Angels and Elves.  If you haven’t seen them before, her dolls look like little old people.  My friend Lisa even has one that looks just like her dear departed father, and it is quite a treasure.  We have an almost-life sized, four-foot-tall elf figure in the store right now that is quite fantastic to see!  Don’t miss this opportunity to personally meet Jacqueline and have her sign your favorite purchases from her whimsical collection. 

 Returning to Christmas Place for a second fall signing, acclaimed Tennessee wildlife artist Ralph McDonald will be in the store on both Saturday and Sunday, October 25th and 26th, from 11 am to 5 pm.  McDonald is best know for his wildlife paintings, but we also carry a wide selection of his unique Santa prints, some of which can be personalized with a name – which he will happily do for you this weekend!  We also display at The Inn and sell here and in Second Nature many of his wonderful winter landscapes, and his boxed Christmas card collections (…it’s not too late to start on your card list for 2008).  One of the country’s most respected wildlife artists, Ralph has made numerous contributions to conservation groups around the world.

We sure hope to see you this weekend – be sure to come by to meet these two artists and enjoy their work!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Mountain Makins Festival this weekend

It’s time for the 33rd Annual Mountain Makins Festival in Morristown, Tennessee!  The festival will be celebrated at Rose Center from 10 am to 5 pm on Saturday, October 25th, and from 11 am to 5 pm on Sunday, October 26th, with a special preview night reception from 6:30 to 9:00 pm on Friday, October 24th.  Preview night tickets ($25) may be purchased at the Rose Center or by calling 423-581-4330.  Day admission is only $4 for adults, $1 for children.

This award-winning festival celebrates an outstanding array of traditional mountain skills and crafts.  More than 65 juried crafters will be exhibiting, demonstrating, and selling their works throughout the building and grounds, representing a variety of skills from basket-making and glass work to wood crafts and painting of all kinds, fine arts, and fiber arts ~ with lots more in between.  When was the last time you watched a wheelwright or a blacksmith at work, talked with a beekeeper, or learned how to make apple butter from scratch?

In addition to the crafts demonstrations and sales, there will be live entertainment on two music stages both days, special activities for children including pony and horse-and-buggy rides, and crafts for kids of all ages – including pumpkin decorating!  There’s even a Civil War Encampment for you to tour.

You’ll have an entertaining day and you’ll learn a lot at Mountain Makins!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

San Francisco Music Box Signing Tomorrow (October 18th)

John Satterfield of the San Francisco Music Box Company will be in the store on Saturday, October 18th, from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm, signing music boxes and collectibles.  We have four wonderful prizes to give away to music box customers – and they are really really big – I mean BIG – the boxes are over 3 feet tall!  I understand they plug in, but I’m not sure just what they do – you’ll have to come and find out tomorrow – and bring a car with a big trunk.

Remember that this snow globe has been selected as the special piece for this signing, but John will sign any of the San Francisco music boxes, snow globes, and collectibles purchased at the store.

See you tomorrow!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Food for Friday

Though the rest of the world may have celebrated Boss’s Day only on Thursday, here in the office at Christmas Place we value our bosses so highly that we decided to celebrate Bosses WEEK.  Needless to say, next week we are starting a new exercise and diet competition, as the calories have been flying around here with great abandon!

We started the week with a hot breakfast on Monday, offered fruit selections on Tuesday (chocolate covered strawberries are too a fruit), and Wednesday…ah, Wednesday.  Chocolate.  All chocolate.  Thursday, we gave a certain credit card holder the opportunity to take us to lunch; and today was a pot luck that included my chili recipe and a delicious chicken casserole, the maker of which promises the water chestnuts and broccoli will be remembered next time around…  I’m sharing with you today the dish I brought on Monday.

ATTENTION PEOPLE OF THE NORTH:  You have nothing to fear from grits.  Sure, we may be in the south, but I have cooked this for people from as far away as Minnesota, Australia, and even Cincinnati, and they have loved it, too.  Now, I, for one, never, EVER, eat restaurant grits (yuk!), so please do not use them as your standard when contemplating the consumption of grits.

You have to cook your own, and they are the easiest thing in the world to make.  If you can boil water, you can cook grits.  Just get the water boiling, add the grits, turn down the heat a little and stir often until your grits have reach the desired consistency ~ which will vary according the manner in which you choose to eat said grits.

For a hot cereal with butter, sugar, and a touch of milk, take the pan off the heat a little earlier.  Adding a slice of cheese, cook a little longer for a thicker consistency.  Same for just slapping them on the plate.  My heavens, you can even cook grits in the microwave these days, but I’m a pan purist.

Mom’s Sausage Grits Casserole

1 lb sausage
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1-1/2 C sharp cheddar cheese, shredded & divided
1 C uncooked grits
Salt to taste, start with a teaspoon

Cook grits according to package instructions ~ but do not cook them too dry, leave in some extra liquid  to compensate for oven time.  Cook sausage, pepper, and onions together.  Mix grits, sausage, salt, and 1 cup of cheese together and spread into an ungreased casserole dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and top with remaining half cup of cheese; return to oven and bake about 5 more minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbling.  Serve hot!

Spice this up with a flavored sausage or add a few jalapeño peppers ~ or try both, if you dare.  This freezes and reheats beautifully (unless your grits are too dry, in which case just add a little more water and mix it up again).  It usually figures into our family’s holiday gatherings at least once.

It’s going to be a cold and sunny weekend here, perfect weather for a dish of fancy grits and scrambled eggs – so enjoy!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

 

‘Tis the Season…

for craft fairs in the southern Appalachians!

This weekend, October 16-19, is the Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands fall show at the Asheville Civic Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.  In addition to sales of handcrafted items, the Fair features demonstration classes and live musical entertainment all weekend.

Ongoing here in Pigeon Forge are the 12th Annual Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival and Dollywood’s National Gospel and Harvest Celebration.  Check the link here for an extended calendar of area events.

The leaves are continuing to change colors, painting the landscape in red, gold, and copper ~ tomorrow we’re expecting cooling temps and a bit more rain, which will hopefully speed the process!  Saturday and Sunday should be cool, dry, and mostly sunny, so put an East Tennessee excursion on your calendar.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

P.S. Gas is down to $3.09 – now I’m holding out for $2.99!  Good thing I’m getting 40 miles/gallon!