Food for Friday

Yay!  We’re sitting here waiting for The Big One of 2010 – snow!  I really hope everyone stays safe on the roads today.

I’m thinking about what’s good to eat when you’re snowed in – maybe a big pot of stew?  We don’t actually have a cookbook titled “Snowed-in Favorites,” so instead I’m checking out Family Favorite Recipes from Gooseberry Patch.  This volume includes a paragraph on “How Did Gooseberry Patch Get Started?”, an oft-asked question, I’m sure.

Here’s what I recommend for the home bound, submitted by Michelle Heurung, Mokena, IL:

Cream of Chicken-Rice Soup


4 quarts water
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 carrots, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/4 C fresh parsley, minced
1/4 C butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 C rice, uncooked
2 t salt
2 C milk
1/2 C cornstarch

Bring water to a boil in a Dutch oven.  Add chicken and cook until done.  Remove chicken from broth to cool, reserving broth in Dutch oven.

Meanwhile, sauté carrots, celery, onion and parsley in a large skillet until tender.  Add garlic and cook one minute.  Cut chicken into bite-size pieces.  Add sautéed vegetables and chicken to reserved broth.  Stir in rice and salt and simmer 15 minutes.  Mix together milk and cornstarch; add to soup.  Stir until thickened.  Serves 16 to 20.

C = Cup; T = Tablespoon; t = teaspoon

That should keep the troops going ~ especially the ones you send out to shovel and scrape!

Again, everyone have a safe weekend out there ~ Christmas Place staff is headed over to the hotel tonight so we’ll be here in the morning.  When you do get out and about tomorrow, come in and say hello.  We’ll look forward to your company!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Two for Tuesday

My coworker Laura saw me wandering around with the camera today, looking for my (belated) Two, and she suggested The. Greatest. Idea.  Take a look at this wonderful cookie platter (it should be on the site shortly):

The back of this plate is white, with lots of smooth surface.  Laura’s Greatest. Idea. is that you would purchase the plate and write your name and the date on the back in indelible ink, serve guests with it at your fabo Christmas party, then pass it along to a friend or family member.  They would add their name and the date to the back after using it at a party, and continue passing it on.  When all the space on the back has been used, return the plate to the person who started the chain.  What a great collection of memories will come back to you with this gift!  You see why I say it’s The. Greatest. Idea.

Now, another quick Two for ..

Super Bowl’s coming up .. anyone up for some Colts victory??  I searched our NFL collection, and found a Colts nutcracker, Christmas tree skirt, scoreboard clock, wreath, nightlight helmet, and snowman ornament, along with this animated Colts player looking awfully fierce up in here!

For the New Orleans Saints?  Well, I found this cute little ornament.

Eh.  Not so much.  Who knew we were such fans of the AFC here?!  As I’ve said before, I say again, Go Blue!

And have a great day out there!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Vera Bradley Spring 2010

I noticed on our reader board that the new Vera Bradley colors are in .. and surely they need to be shown off!  There are a few new bag profiles, too, including the “Alice” which has a metal clasp at the top; the “Emma” which features an outside, vertically-zippered pocket on each end; and the “Angle Tote,” a great shape and generous size, with shoulder-length handles.

Here is a selection of the spring colors and bags.

Sittin’ in a Tree:

Poppy Fields

Emma is pictured above, on the lower shelf.  Here’s the Alice:

Totally Turq

The new angle tote is on the right in the Totally Turq selection above.

Loves Me, a classic in hot pink and navy blue with white and orange accents:

I know a teen or two who would just love this one:

Loves Me Large Backpack

Don’t forget the laminated travel collection from Vera:

Give us a call at 800-445-3396, extension 122 (The Boutique) to order your favorites for spring!  Our local number is 865-453-0415.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Winter Wonderland

We had a bit of a cold, wet spell here recently, along with most of the rest of the country, so last Monday I took a trip up to the top of Old Smoky for some photos.  The deepest snow was on the mountain ranges that you can’t see from Newfound Gap, but then we wouldn’t have been able to drive up, now would we?  There were still a few icy patches that required cautious negotiation, but many travelers were on the road with us.  Passing trailheads along the way, it was clear that there were also plenty of hikers enjoying a snowy climb.

Here are a few images I captured.  The stream was mostly snow- and ice-covered, with  barely visible patches of flowing water occasionally reflecting the sky.. well, not that much sky gets through the thick surrounding brush.  About halfway up the mountain to the pass, a pair of very skinny wild turkeys crossed the road behind us – we wished we had some corn to help them make it through the week.

Next is my favorite picture, because it looks like it’s snowing .. but really I took the picture with the sun in the wrong place .. I just wanted to be up there while the snow was coming down!

The next pictures show that there was not much wind during the snowfall – just enough to stick snow to trunks and branches, but then leave it there.

Newfound Gap

Looking south into North Carolina:

Looking north into Tennessee:

Looking west up the valley towards Gatlinburg:

I love that snowy landscape!  For a few days, we were even telling each other the snow was “laying for more snow,” but I sure don’t see it in the near forecast.

Til the weekend, all our cars were white with salt and spray, but now everyone has had a chance to take cars through the car wash, and I’m blinded every time I look out the window here .. which is a good problem, because it means we have guests ~ people are still feeling the spirit of Christmas, even three weeks into the new year.  I think there are only about 341 days til next Christmas ..

Wishing you blue skies and clear highways wherever you may be today!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Food for Friday

I’m serving white chicken chili for supper tonight.  It would have been more appropriately-colored but I bought the wrong cheese, so it’s kind of orange-y ~ but still incredibly delicious, I assure you, and I’ll just say the color is in honor of the tragedy that befell Volunteer football this week.  Oh, yeah, they’ll buy it.  But I need a good cornbread to serve on the side, so I strolled down to the Gallery for a Gooseberry Patch cookbook – you know they’ll have a suggestion.

Where else but Church Suppers!  Who’s been to a pot-luck gathering without finding the tastiest foods on the table ~ and thank goodness your favorite dish always shows up, time and again.  This volume covers everything from Pancake Breakfasts to Ice Cream Socials & Bake Sales, with Summertime Socials and Election Day Dinners among the chapters in between, and is filled with taste-proven favorites and easy serving and decorating suggestions for every occasion.

The corn bread recipe I found is for cornbread muffins, perfected by the patriarch of Rosemary Trezza’s family, and prepared by him for the family until shortly before his death at the age of 96.  He used to carry the recipe in his wallet to share with others!

Our Family’s Corn Muffins

1-3/4 C yellow cornmeal
2-1/4 C all-purpose flour
1 C sugar
8 t baking powder
1-1/4 t salt
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 C oil
2 C milk

In a large bowl, combine ingredients in order listed; beat until well blended.  Fill greased muffin cups 2/3 full.  Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick tests done.  Makes 1-1/2 dozen.

Simple and delicious!  My own father likes his cornbread ready to dunk into a glass of milk.  I like to add a bit of kernel corn to my bread for extra texture and crunch.

Hope you’re experiencing a bit of a thaw where you are today .. but the snow still lingers in the deep shadows of the mountains here.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

.. and a shout-out to all my Colts fans/friends ~ first playoff game this weekend .. Go Blue!

Department 56 Village Display

Our thanks today to Mary C. of Desoto, Texas, for sharing photographs of her extensive Dept. 56 Village collection and display!  It must be a real joy and a labor of love for her to assemble such a detailed presentation for the holidays.  (I didn’t have a chance to speak with her myself, but I’m guessing this is a Christmas display, not out year round.)  We hope you enjoy these images.

I’m a particular fan of this last scene, and the blue stream flowing through the center of town!

We’d love to see your Village displays, too.  We have a place on the forum for your photos,, or you may share them with us on Facebook, or send them to me and I’ll post them here on the blog.  It’s fun to get ideas and compare collections with other collectors!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Two for Tuesday

Actually this past Tuesday was more like twenty thousand than just two – it was our annual store inventory-taking exercise.  Hurrah for Two Guys Pizza and plenty of caffeinated beverages to help us make it through the day!

 With all that heavy lifting out of the way, a couple of little things seemed like more than enough for the day.

From Old World Christmas, this little mouse is one of the tiniest and cutest ornaments you’ll find around here, at just about an inch tall.  He should be settling down for a nap along with the rest of the household, but it looks like he’s up having a last bedtime snack.

Hard to figure, much as I enjoy chocolate and marshmallows, and graham crackers with a cup of hot tea, but I have never put them all together to make ‘smores.    It must be the fact that I just don’t do camping – leave the door open on the motel room, that’s close enough to overnighting in the great outdoors for me.  These little ‘Smores ornaments will have to do for me instead – here are a couple just made for winter.

We almost had enough snow last weekend to build a snowman in the courtyard .. but not quite.  Still keeping our fingers crossed for some more white stuff this winter.  (Okay, I may be the only one in the county hoping for more snow, I admit it!)

Have a warm week!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Food for Friday

People are so worried about what they eat between Christmas and the New Year, but they really should be worried about what they eat between the New Year and Christmas. 
                                                                   ~Author Unknown

Isn’t it marvelous that, in our world, we have access to the most wonderful selections of fresh fruits and vegetables all year round?  Although they may not be quite as tasty in winter as they are straight from a summer garden, we enjoy an astonishing variety of foods that our ancestors could never have imagined when they were struggling each day to survive a hostile winter.

Last year I shared a wonderful salad recipe here, and during the year another blogger turned me onto an article in the New York Times, 101 Simple Salads for the Season Sure, it was published in July, but I’ve already made my point about the ubiquity of fresh foods in our 2010 world.

You must try #7, the carrot and blueberry salad.  I have, and it is worth  raving about!

Just for giggles, I thought I’d see if I could find a salad recipe that included lettuce but not mayonnaise or heavy whipping cream in a Paula Deen cookbook – AND I DID!  Even the butter is measured in teaspoons, not tablespoons, in this interesting dish from The Lady & Sons, Savannah Country Cookbook.

Orange Walnut Salad with Sweet-and-Sour Dressing

Salad Ingredients
3 small heads Bibb lettuce, cleaned and torn into bite-size pieces
1-1/2 lbs. fresh spinach, cleaned and torn into bite-size pieces
3 oranges, peeled, sectioned, and seeded
3/4 medium red onion, sliced and separated into rings
3/4 c coarsely-chopped walnuts
3 t butter

Combine lettuce, spinach, oranges, and onion in a large bowl.  In a saucepan, sauté walnuts in butter until lightly browned.  Add to lettuce mixture and toss with dressing.

Dressing Ingredients
1-1/2 C vegetable oil
3/4 C vinegar
3/4 C sugar
1-1/2 t salt
1-1/2 t celery seed
1-1/2 t dry mustard
1-1/2 t paprika
1-1/2 t grated onion

Combine all ingredients in a lidded container and chill; shake well and toss with salad.

C = Cup; t = teaspoon

I’m sure many of you cooks out there know how to turn this into a low-fat, low-sugar dressing that would make this a really healthy salad ~ and it sounds so tasty.  When I think orange, onion, and spinach in a salad, I have to think about the sweet and tangy taste of a good balsamic vinaigrette, even something like this.

Here’s to a great start to the new year in the kitchen!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place.

The Partridge & Pear at Christmas Place

January 2010 Update

People have been asking for more photos of our progress on the restaurant.  We’re expecting to open in early summer, and, with the addition of things like windows, doors, walls, and such – oh, and a roof, too – the prospect looks really good for on-time service! 

So here we go with some photos.

The problem is, see, that many of the photos I have filed tend to show things like this ..

and this ..

and even this ..

or people standing around like this ..

and they get cranky when I put yellow boxes around them .. and these are generally people who know how to use things like power nail guns and compressors, too, so you kinda want to keep on their good side, you know?

Now, for the mechanical among you, pictures of giant bolts in the floor and framing on the wall may be just the ticket.  However, for the more big-picture folks out there, how about a few “where we started and where we are now” images instead?  For one thing, ignoring “loafer in the yellow box” above, look at the shape of those walls and that lovely window bump-out!  I understand that the wood on the right side of the photo is a base for some wonderful stonework to come.

Sometime last fall, we started with this ..

And here we were on Thursday ..

.. installing those beautiful copper gutters.  Notice the presence of a front door, too!

To the south of this facade ..

 We’ve added a conservatory, a beautiful, light-filled room that will also be available to reserve for private gatherings ..

Inside, walls are going up and the spaces of dining rooms, reception areas, and the bakery nook are beginning to take shape.

You’ll find these marvelous tray ceiling details in most of the dining rooms.

Personally, I can’t wait to linger in front of a fire in this massive fireplace.  How spectacular is that going to be on a wintery day like today?  (We had to close the store today – too much snow in the area, too treacherous for staff to drive in, except for a few of us nuts.)

 Let me just go back a few months, though, and show you one other technical shot .. for some reason, I find these massive footings rather fascinating.  I understand that, should a hurricane strike these Great Smoky Mountains, The Partridge & Pear is THE place to be for safety from the raging winds.  Now you’ll agree with me.  (Please pay no attention to the man leaning against the little tractor at the top of the picture.  It’s a vital role at any job site.  “They also serve who only stand and wait,” am I right?)

So, that’s a little glimpse into our odyssey to date.  As the interior starts to take shape in such a way that recognizable photos can be taken, I’ll be back with another update.  Til then, I’ll leave you thinking about Sweet Potato Ribbons, Christmas Tomatoes, Butternut Squash Soup, Pear Salad, Leftover Turkey Clubs, Bone-in Pork Chops, Chicken and Dumplings, Steak Au Poivre, and Prime Rib.  Don’t get me started on dessert ..

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Calling All Department 56 Collectors!

It’s new 2010 collectibles release time for both Villages and Snowbabies from Department 56!  Although they won’t ship the merchandise to us until early summer, we’ve seen pictures, and there are a lot of great new buildings, accessories, and Snowbabies figurines on the way.

We have a special offer for Christmas Place customers – pre-order your 2010 pieces now, and we’ll include a free gift with your qualifying purchase.  In addition, we won’t bill your credit card until the merchandise is ready to ship from our store!

With a $100 Village order of 2010 items, we’ll include a bag of Fresh Fallen Snow, a 3-socket replacement, and a 3-pack of replacement bulbs.  With a $50 Snowbabies order of 2010 items, we’ll ship a 13″ pine tree in a gold urn and the newest copy of the Discovering Snowbabies collector’s handbook.  These free gifts are only available while quantities last, so get your order in today.

We’re also offering free freight on all orders over $100, another Christmas Place perk of which you’ll want to take advantage.

Here are a couple of highlights from among the new releases.  Check out “SVPD Precinct 76″ police station, keeping the peace in Original Snow Village style.

From the Winters Frost collection that was introduced last year, “Winter’s Light” features a rotating beacon light in the top of the lighthouse tower.


“Better Watch Out” Coal Mine in the North Pole Series ~ almost buried under an avalanche of snow!

Snowbabies offers about 40 new figurines, ornaments, and water globes this year, including “Trust Me – Wear This”, as Snowbaby helps a snowman attach his carrot nose.

Nativity collectors will appreciate the charm of the “Babies in Bethlehem” tableau.

New for 2010, Department 56 is introducing a porcelain village collection titled “A Place to Remember.”  The intricately detailed and painted buildings range in size from just under 4″ to as much as 11″ wide side-to-side, but are only about an inch thick, and mounted to bases that are between 2″ and 3″ deep – perfect for display on a narrow shelf, mantle, or ledge.  There are three series in the introduction:  An Evening in Paris, The Hills of Tuscany, and Carmel by the Sea.  Below is the large An Evening in Paris piece, and it measures 9.5″ wide by 8.5″ tall (all three buildings are in one piece).

 Snowbabies collectors will be interested to know that Department 56 has upgraded the product packaging this year to match that of Villages, with a printed sleeve wrap featuring a photo of the figurine inside.  The photos have been enhanced to highlight the building or figurine, making it stand out from the surrounding graphics.  You’ll easily be able to sort your stored pieces, and keep your collection up to date.

 Follow the links, and place your pre-order today.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place