Summer Pastimes

Now that it is officially summer, and the weekend is coming up, and just maybe you’ve carved some time out of your busy schedule for a few days of vacation – what do you like to do with that time?  Since we live in the mountains here, many of us head to the beach for a few days of sand everywhere we don’t want it, sun burning in our eyes and heating up every un-shaded surface, and seafood hey it may be costing an arm and a leg but I don’t have to cook or clean up after.  Sure it’s just as humid as home, but the sunrises over the ocean….wait, I don’t do sunrises…

Yes, I guess I’ve let a little subtext show there … not a beach person myself, although I find I quite enjoy it when accidentally I find myself near extremely large bodies of water.  I think the largest bodies of water are best viewed from 35,000 feet – on your way to somewhere you may not be able to read the menus, but it’s definitely cool-ish and un-sandy.

Me, I’d rather stay home and read books .. every day.  That’s my vacation paradise.  Show me a book review, and chances are good there will be a slip of paper somewhere nearby with the title scribbled down, for further research and possible acquisition.  Is anyone surprised to hear that I still prefer paper?  Anyway, I especially love to grab titles suggested by people I know who read a lot – such as this selection of “under the radar” reads from Nancy Pearl.  Nancy has included a wide variety of genres, for readers of all ages, among her suggestions over the years; this list includes one that she says will appeal to Jane Austen fans as well – you know who you are.

I love to spend time lost in the words of a true storyteller, the kind of story where, when you have to interrupt your reading time, you must shake your head a little to bring yourself back to the present.  That’s just the best experience in the world to me, when I come across a good book.  Every day can be a vacation day, in a book.

Whether you prefer all the active stuff we have around here, like putt-putt, race cars, rides – did you know that we can now boast about our giant Ferris wheel here in Pigeon Forge? – or hiking in the Smokies, or you also appreciate the quieter pastimes as I do, I sure hope you save a little time each day to let your brain escape into imagination, history, biography – and if you come across something really good, don’t forget to send me the title.

I hope you have the vacation of your dreams this summer!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

P.S.  If making it to the beach is just an unattainable dream for you this summer, I recommend that you make yourself a little living room beach escape – put up a mini palm tree, add some beach ornaments, string some summer lights, pour yourself a fruity beverage, and cover the couches with beach towels.  Put on your swim suits, dab a little coconut lotion behind your ears, and relax.  Just think, NO SAND!  NO BURNING!  NO hours in the car driving home, filled with regret for that last 3-scoop ice cream cone!

Animated Specials from Department 56

Animated Toy Stores

Long-time Department 56 collectors will be expecting to see special gift sets in the mid-year collection, but they’ve done something different this year.  Instead of sets, they are offering the cutest animated toy stores for three villages – Snow Village, Dickens Village, and North Pole Village.

“Toy Town Toys” in The Original Snow Village is brightly-lit, and animated with a rotating miniature Christmas tree visible through the shop’s windows.

“Tegan’s Toy Shoppe” in Dickens Village has a rotating display of Victorian toys suspended from a tower in front of the store.

The colorful North Pole Village addition, “Jolly Fellow Toy Company,” shows its wares on a rotating carousel visible through the shop’s brightly-lit windows.

Christmas In The City

The most striking building Department 56 has introduced to date, in our humble opinion, is the over 22″ tall Chrysler Building, a masterpiece of Art Deco architecture.  This reproduction is highlighted with chrome plating, and LED interior lighting and exterior spotlights enhance the building’s famous terraced spire – a very glamorous look, this would be grand as a stand-alone piece!  Before completion of the real structure in May 1930, the spire was secretly added by pushing it up from the inside – a bid to win the race to build New York City’s tallest skyscraper.  It held onto this status until the completion of the Empire State Building a year later.  It still stands as the world’s tallest brick building.  (Figures shown in the picture are sold separately.)

 New!  “The Simpsons” Collection

Fans of the longest-running adult animated sitcom will be delighted to find Homer and family hanging out with Department 56 this year – just in time for their 25th anniversary in 2014!

Snow Village Halloween

The Halloween village collection is one of the most popular lines for Department 56, and with so many colorful, creative, and ghoulishly-whimsical pieces, it’s easy to understand the appeal.  “Jack and His Lanterns” is the latest car added to the Haunted Rails series, powered by being attached to the engine.

Nov. 2nd Dept 56 Artist Store Visit

The best thing is that you can pre-order any of these buildings, and we will hold them for you until our November 2nd signing with designer Scott Enter, and ship them after the event!  Signed houses have a much higher value over time.  (We do not offer signing of accessory items such as the people pictured here.)  Of course, if you’re in the area, we want you to come to the store and meet Scott in person – he enjoys talking with collectors about the pieces and displays that most excite them.  We add to the fun with hourly door prizes and our annual weekend Secondary Market Sale in the courtyard, where other collectors sell retired pieces from their own collections.

There’s a lot going on in Department 56, and we are enjoying helping many families start their own collections, a tradition that will be passed down through the generations and make each Christmas (or Halloween) a more memorable time.  Come see what’s happening, and get in on the excitement!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

P.S.  We’ll be adding artist signings to our calendar soon, so check the “Visit Us – Event Calendar Page” for information.

It’s a Vintage Christmas!

Somebody knows how to hook me for Christmas – I love vintage styles, especially with bits of tinsel and glitter.  We just received a whole new collection of vintage ornaments and decorations .. be still, my beating Christmas heart!

Snowman Bubble Light

There are a few other ornaments that I haven’t yet photographed – I love the style and detail on display in each piece.  The collection includes some charming accessories as well – fuzzy red string for garland or tying packages, mini vintage glass ornaments, crystal snowflakes, and there may be more to come.

Do you have a favorite era for Christmas decorations?  I remember the silver tinsel tree (with color wheel, of course) from my childhood in a part of the world where the typical North American Christmas tree is not available – that’s probably when I acquired my love of things sparkly.  We used our oversized cardboard toy bricks to build a fireplace every December, hanging stockings from it and keeping the air conditioner on maximum cold to survive the heat of the tropics.  My father would make me leave my glasses on the nightstand when I insisted he take me to the kitchen for a drink of water in the middle of Christmas Eve night – no glasses meant I couldn’t see the treasures laid out for us for the morning!

I hope you have good memories of childhood Christmas celebrations – and are looking forward to making some new ones this December.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

P.S.  It’s less than 200 days to Christmas – are you thinking about it while you’re splashing in the pool this summer? We’re celebrating Christmas in June at the Smokies baseball game next Tuesday, June 25 – exactly 6 months til Christmas, so come and see Santa and Mrs. Claus at the game.  Santa likes to sing for the fans!

One of the big, important questions in life: do we add nuts, yes or no?

Sunday, June 16: National Fudge Day

As the celebration is fast approaching, I feel the need to ponder this big life question:  nuts, yes or no?  I am firmly in the “NO NUTS” camp.  I like my confections smooth and creamy.  There’s no need to confuse my taste buds, while in the midst of savoring the creamy sweet goodness of the perfect blend of sugar and cream and sometimes a touch of caramelized something, with a sudden jolt of rough edges and the slightly-acidic tang of a nut.  None whatsoever.  And I’m not even opening up the discussion of which nuts are more acceptable than others.  IMHO, all nuts should be banned from all fudge, henceforth and forever more.  Not that I’ve really given it that much thought over the years.  I have simply never enjoyed a piece of fudge with a nut component.  Ever.

Now please enjoy a few pictures of Mrs. Claus’ fresh fudge, in anticipation of an exciting announcement about a fudge giveaway!

Bear Butter Fudge from Mrs. Claus' Candy Kitchen
Our famous Bear Butter Fudge – chocolate fudge with real peanut butter on top, swirled with a touch of white chocolate.
Tiger Butter Fudge from Mrs. Claus' Candy Kitchen

 Tiger Butter Fudge, vanilla fudge layered with real peanut butter and topped with peanut butter and chocolate swirl.

 Hurshel’s Kiss – chocolate fudge layered with vanilla stuffed with nuts and miniature chocolate chips – our homage to one of our founders, who always had Hershey’s Kisses in his pockets!

 Watermelon!  Layers of green, white, and pink fudge sprinkled with chocolate ‘seeds’ on top.  No kidding, I sampled this one, and it tasted very like a Jolly Rancher Watermelon candy – as agreed between me and a random guest who happened to be at the counter with me and was game for a sampling, too.

 Pralines & Cream Fudge – layers of vanilla fudge sandwiching a layer of caramel & nuts, with a caramel swirl on top.

(As always, click the picture twice to see the photo full size.)  Have you had enough yet?

Fudge Giveaway!

The first 25 customers in Mrs. Claus’ Candy Kitchen this Sunday, June 16th, will win a free pound of fudge!  The store opens at 9:00 a.m.  All you have to do is come in.  One winner per household, please.  We’ll have the fudge packaged and ready to hand over to you.  Everyone’s on vacation, so we don’t care if you have it for breakfast, no judging going on, it is yours to enjoy as you wish.

Sound easy?  And delicious?  Remember, vacation calories don’t count.

We’ll have a little treat for dads, too, since their special day happens to fall on National Fudge Day this year.  Children are invited to make a Father’s Day card from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the courtyard – don’t you think a hand-made card is much more memorable?

Come see us for a really sweet time this Sunday!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

P.S.  We ship our fudge from September to April, but it’s too warm in the summer time, sorry…