Two for Tuesday

All day today this collection of silk flowers and holly have been catching my eye as I walk through the store.  The velvet magnolia, silk poinsettia dusted with gold, and realistic (but less stick-you-in-the-finger) holly are each very striking.

And here is how you can use these elegant stems in your Christmas tree, and they even work with a cabin-woodsy theme.  Notice the stuffed bears in the background ~ this is the tree with the raccoon in the top!

Right around the corner, I’ve been admiring this handsome golden Santa in a luxurious, fur-trimmed, golden brocade  hat and coat, bearing a bountiful garland of fruit and gifts.  He will really stand out on your mantle or sideboard.

Have a wonderful evening – time to start dreaming those sugarplum dreams!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

A good reason to buy M&M’S®!

How can you tell a blonde has been baking chocolate chip cookies?  By the M&M’S® shells all over the floor!


Okay, that was told to me by a redhead, so someone needs to give me a good redhead joke in rebuttal.

In the mean time, go to your favorite shop and purchase a bag of special pink blend M&M’S® in support of breast cancer awareness.  They are only available in the months of September, October, and November, and M&M’S® Brand will donate a portion of the proceeds from each sale to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.  In fact, Mars Snackfood US is committed to donating a minimum of $1 million to the Foundation.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

What are you doing this weekend?

I saw a billboard on my way in to work this morning advertising the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair at the convention center – October 9th through the 25th, $5 admission.  They host the most amazing craftsmen from around the country at the convention center every year.  Conveniently, you’ll go right past our store on the way up to Gatlinburg…and we’ll be open from 9 am until 10 pm, so please stop in and say hello.  Santa will be here through Monday (he visits the Pole on Tuesday and Wednesday each week).

Then, I filled my gas tank for only $3.29 a gallon!  Woohoo!  Earlier this week all the stations dropped to $3.39 but I told myself I was holding out for that extra dime.

It was a good week.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Food for Friday

We’ve just had a day of cool rain, and it left in most of us a desire to stay home, warm and dry by the fire, with a nice bowl of soup or chili ~ so here’s my favorite chili recipe.  This is actually a Weight Watchers recipe, making it both good tasting and good for you.  Now, in my family, on the Sunday nights when we didn’t get pancakes for supper, we sometimes got chili over scrambled eggs – don’t knock it till you try it, I’m just saying!

I think I copied this down over the phone many years ago, so I can’t quote the publication date, but I know it is from a Weight Watcher’s cookbook published some time in the last 20 years.  This is one of those that freezes well when you make a big batch.

I just call it “Chili” in my little book of handwritten recipes.

1 lb. ground beef cooked in 2-1/2 C water; pour off the water and refrigerate both the meat and the water.  After it has cooled, skim any fat off the cooking water and save 3/4 C to use as stock.

1/2 C green pepper, chopped
1/2 C celery, chopped
1 canned hot jalapeño pepper, diced (this makes it too hot for me so I leave it out)
1/2 garlic clove, minced (I put in the whole thing)
4 oz. onion, chopped

1 15 oz-ish can of tomatoes with juice, chopped (now they are available chopped in the can, yah!)
1 C tomatoe sauce
1 T chili powder, to taste
1/2 t black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 t Cayenne pepper or hot sauce (I usually add a 1/4 t of Cayenne and a few splashes of Tabasco sauce)
1/8 t cumin
2 cloves, 1 bay leaf
Salt to taste
1 lb can kidney or pinto beans, drained and rinsed

Sauté the first 5 ingredients (I usually do this in a splash of olive oil).  Add all the other ingredients, including the meat and stock.  Simmer for 30 minutes.  Enjoy!

Occasionally I have added fresh sliced mushrooms at the sauté stage.  And I sometimes over pepper, defeating the whole purpose in skipping the jalapeño.  This is when the “over eggs” really works well, as they help to cut the extra spiciness.

C = Cup; T = Tablespoon; t = teaspoon

Rainy fall days are some of my favorites, when wet tree trunks really contrast yellow leaves to their best advantage.  This morning there was a heavy fog, and I noticed red leaves standing out in the mist.  At lunch time, it was the oranges catching my eye after the mists had dissipated.  Tomorrow should be sunny again, and I can’t wait to see what colors have developed in the last few days.  We’re getting there, people!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

A great party idea

One of my colleagues, a 5-year breast cancer survivor, shared a great party idea with me ~ another friend was facing hair loss after chemotherapy for cancer, and a group got together to host a hat party for her.  She went home with a terrific collection of hats and scarves, and, even better, the encouragement of all her friends to help her through that difficult time.  The site offers a wide selection of hats, wigs, and accessories for hair loss and cancer patients.  Click on the Gifts link to shop their huge assortment of gifts and awareness products.

While not a great reason to have to throw a party, what a cool way to be there for a friend needing a support team to cheer her on!

 ~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Update – a quick and easy way to donate

A reader has let me know that there is a quick and easy way to donate to the Susan G. Komen For the Cure Foundation.  I just spoke with the Foundation to confirm the information, as it is not yet posted on their donations site, and they confirm that it is true.

Text ‘Komen’ to 90999, and a $5 charge will be added to your next phone bill, $4.25 of which is sent to the foundation (it is classed as a non-deductible contribution).

As always, before you choose to make a donation to any charitable group, I recommend that you check them out with Charity Navigator or a similar organization.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

During the month of October, Breast Cancer Awareness, an issue that affects women – and men – around the world every day, is highlighted by cancer awareness and prevention organizations.  Here are links to some of the groups that are working hard to identify those at risk, treat those in danger, and assist those dealing with the disease and its consequences.

We can only be responsible for our own health, and I encourage you to visit these and other sites.  Develop a proactive plan to monitor yourself, and learn what to do if you think you discover a potential problem.

In support of Breast Cancer, we offer several products in the store, the proceeds of which are donated to breast cancer causes.

Mark Roberts, having lost his own mother to breast cancer, is a supporter of the search for better detection, treatment, and a cure for breast cancer, and offers the “Fairy of Hope” for the cause (it comes in several sizes).

Here is an attractive glass ornament featuring an angel, the pink ribbon, and the encouraging message “Faith goes the distance.”

Perhaps you would like to show your commitment with a striking pink and white crystal ribbon lapel pin from Swarovski.

These are just a sample of the more than a dozen items we are highlighting in our on-line store; please browse the whole selection, and make breast cancer awareness your priority this month – for yourself, your family, your friends, and all the women – and men – in your life.  Anyone can get breast cancer, and you will be touched by it in your lifetime.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

How to have a good time at The Christmas Place

Pick a day of perfect weather – sunny, high in the 70s to low 80s.  Add several artists from well known companies like Ne’Qwa Art and Department 56.  Set up a tent in the courtyard for long-time collectors to bring out their favorite retired pieces.  Add a family of entertainers wandering the courtyard and store.  Serve up a taste of homemade fudge (all flavors!).  Top it all off with a basket full of treats delivered by a character in a puffy white Snowbaby suit, and everyone’s enjoying the party!

Trieste of Ne Qwa signing an ornament

Trieste of Ne Qwa signing an ornament

Kristi Jensen Pierro signing a Snowbaby

Kristi Jensen Pierro signing a SnowbabyEntertainment by Team Kirkwood

It was a beautiful day for a Secondary Market

It was a beautiful day for a Secondary Market

Department 56 collectors selling retired pieces

Department 56 collectors selling retired pieces

A portion of the proceeds from the sale was donated to Mountain Hope Good Shepherd Medical Clinic in Sevierville, Tennessee.

The pièce de résistance, Snowbaby on Santa's lap!
The pièce de résistance, Snowbaby on Santa-s knee
Okay, yes, there was a bit of competition as to who has the rounder belly, but Santa claims his is the only real one in the photo!  We just have to share a couple more photos with you.
Our Snowbaby handing out treats
Our Snowbaby handing out treats
Kristi Peirro with Christmas Place Staff

Kristi Pierro with Christmas Place Staff

It was a terrific day, thanks to all of you who came to the store and joined in the fun of having an ornament, Snowbaby or village house signed by one of the artists.  Pebbie Mott was on hand, too, signing her painted backgrounds for Department 56 villages.  She’s added quite a few for the new year, including a Snow Village Halloween backdrop.

Although the leaves are changing more slowly than I would like, the crisp mornings and evenings are so lovely in the mountains this time of year – arriving home around sunset one night last week, the wood fire smoke was hanging blue in the air, skimming the valley – a site that makes me very happy, and is not to be missed!  If you haven’t yet, come on down to the mountains and take in a little early fall for yourself.  It’s almost Wednesday!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

We have them dancing in the – well, the courtyard!

We weren’t quite dancing in the street, but we had several rousing rounds of The Chicken Dance in the courtyard today, along with a few Polkas ~ courtesy of John & Becky Lowery and friends who entertained the crowds on two German street organs and an accordion.

The hand-crank organ was custom-made in Germany, and the performers were even able to select the paintings that decorate the case.  The pipes in front are carved, and tunes are played by a punched-paper music roll run through rollers.  The sound is similar to a calliope or hurdy gurdy.

The crowd really enjoyed dancing along with the music!

Along with the two organs, one performer entertained on this beautiful accordion.

It was great fun to watch, sing, and dance along with the group ~ no lederhosen required! ~ and a great start to our very busy weekend.

We’ve packed Saturday’s schedule with artist signings and activities:

  • 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Pebbie Mott of Pebbie Art is signing her delightful Department 56 Village backdrop prints.
  • 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Trieste is in the store to demonstrate the Ne’Qwa technique of painting mouth-blown glass ornaments – on the INSIDE surface!
  • 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Kristi Pierro, the creator of Snowbabies, will be signing Department 56 Snowbabies and Village houses (and we’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Snow Village Halloween collection).
  • Opening at 9 a.m., five vendors will be in a tent in our courtyard participating in the Department 56 Secondary Market, selling retired village houses and collectibles.  The Secondary Market continues on Sunday.
  • Team Kirkwood will be in the courtyard from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. entertaining with clowning and balloon animals.
  • Parrot Mountain will be here all day with a selection of exotic birds.
  • Singing Santa will be in concert several times during the day, as well as available for visits and photos.

I need to get some rest before all the fun begins in the morning ~ and I believe it’s scheduled to be another spectacular fall day in the SmokiesCome join us!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Food for Friday

Here’s a tasty pretzel snack that makes a great Christmas gift or party treat.  You must use the brand name ingredients listed for the full taste experience, however – no cheating.

Seasoned Pretzels

4 – 14 oz bags of Rolds-Gold Hard Sourdough Pretzels
1 – 12 oz bottle of Orville Redenbacher’s Popping and Topping Oil
2 to 3 – 1 oz packet of Hidden Valley Original Ranch Salad Dressing Mix
1-1/2 T garlic powder (or more, to taste)
1 to 1-1/2 T dried dill

Break pretzels into bite size pieces and place in an aluminum baking pan.  Cover with popcorn oil and toss to coat evenly.  Sprinkle with dressing mix, garlic powder, and dill.  Toss well.  Set aside for an hour to allow the oil and seasonings to absorb, tossing every 10 minutes or so.  Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour, tossing every 20 minutes.  Let cool, then transfer to a sealed storage container. 

Package in gift bag or container, attach a festive tag and some curly ribbon, and gift away!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

T = Tablespoon