Merry Christmas!

We had the joy of waking up to what I will call an incoming white Christmas this year – snow began falling at about 9:00 a.m. on Saturday and continued through the weekend – some of our associates report up to 15″ at their homes this Monday morning!  Here are a couple of pictures from our courtyard and looking across the parkway to the hotel.  We haven’t enjoyed this much snow in quite a while, and we’re all kids again today here at Christmas Place!

Hurray for the glimpses of blue sky!

Nothing is prettier than snow on evergreens!

One frosty slide ride today!

Did you get enough of “A Christmas Story”, wrapping & bows, leftovers, and smiles and hugs and laughter this Christmas??  Tell us about it! 

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Wreaths Across America

Each year at this time I like to remind everyone about Wreaths Across America.  This non-profit organization pursues the goal of honoring every one of our fallen soldiers with a grave wreath at Christmas time.  Please visit their site for more information, to make a donation, to request a wreath, or to find out how you can help on wreath-laying day.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Halloween Time!

How spooky is your Halloween village?  We’ve really creeped ours out with giant spiders, a purple skeleton,  and – my personal favorite – Road Kill Cat is back – at least as a decoration!  He’s been replaced for sale by Solar Cat (a.k.a. Rabid Cat – you’ll see…))))).

Where did we get all the cobwebs?  Why, it’s angel hair, of course – what else would we use??

And, here is Rabid Cat!  A few hours of sunlight, and his eyes glow like the head lights on a Ferrari .. well, um, maybe a cross-eyed Ferrari ..

CANDY CORN RULES!

Okay, not sure who took over my computer and inserted that message.  Guess I’m already getting spooked for the holiday!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Halloween Giveaway!

Are you ready to spook and be spooked?  It’s almost witching night, and we’ve got a creepy contest going on .. surf over to the Christmas Place contest page and enter to win this pair of boo-licious 19″ lighted bats for your belfry! 

They’re guaranteed to scare up the Halloween fun for all!  The giveaway starts today, and you can enter once a day through midnight (of course!), Friday, October 22nd.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Newly Irish

All my life, my family claimed a Scottish heritage through the McDonald clan on my father’s side.  We’ve been to Scotland many times, proudly collected the McDonald tartan (it’s much more attractive than the Dress Stewart you see so often), even stayed in the village where the Campbells massacred the McDonalds hundreds of years ago.  (They are a lot nicer to us now!)

Last year, however, in further pursuit of our genealogical history through DNA testing, we discovered that we’re Irish!  This is my first year as an Irish McDonald, so I’m entirely new to celebrating St. Patrick’s day.  Fortunately, my favorite show and chef came through for me this morning over on National Public Radio ~ Nigella Lawson came onto Morning Edition with recipes for Irish Stew and Chocolate Guinness Cake.  I’ve tried several of her recipes, and they are always quite wonderful.  I’m not sure I’ll have time to make both tonight, but at least now I don’t feel like I’ll have to add green coloring to everything I eat tomorrow.

So, top o’ the mornin’ and Happy Saint Patty’s Day to all my fellow Irishmen!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

P.S. On Mother’s side, we’re pretty sure we’re distant relatives of the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury.

Easter Bunny visits Christmas Place

Easter weekend, the Easter Bunny had a great time visiting with guests and staff here at the Christmas Place.  Here are a few pictures.

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Your head is sure a lot bigger than Santa’s!

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Just look at those dimples!

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Take the picture and hand over the candy and no one gets hurt!

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Daddy’s wearing that crazy hat with the two points again!

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We promise we won’t eat it all in the car before dinner!

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I love’s me my pink!

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 Don’t tell Santa, but I always liked you better!

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Wait, what, are there THREE bunnies???

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Pleased to meet you, hope you know my name.

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faith-and-janice

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Sorry – how could I leave any of these precious faces out of the post??

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Almost Wednesday ~ and almost July

There seems to be a general case of that “almost Wednesday” feeling floating about today – I know I am not alone in wishing for some nap time…some Mondays are just that much more Mondayish.  Where’s a George Costanza desk when you could really use one??

Of course, by Wednesday, it will be next month already, and into what mist has the first half of 2008 vanished, precisely?  Ah, well, July will be a great month – after all, we get to celebrate all this wonderful summer stuff for the next 31 days:  Blueberries Month and Air-Conditioning Appreciation Days; Grilling, Ice Cream, Horseradish, Hot Dog, and Bikini Month; and Women’s Motorcycle and Nation Recreation & Parks Month.  I see some real alignment of the stars going on here – and the earth is at aphelion on July 4th!  ((The best thing about looking at the calendar occasionally is all the new stuff I learn.  Check out aphelion here if you don’t know it already.  Although this article refers to the year 2001, aphelion is occuring on July 4th again in 2008 according to the Navy.))

In addition to celebrating our nation’s independence this Friday, there are a plethora of special days this month.  Let me just mention the one which, perhaps, holds the most significance for the human race:  Chocolate Day, July 7th.  Never mind national or international chocolate day or any of the varietal chocolate days.  I find the simple Chocolate Day to be preeminent, expressed preeminently in the fudge state of being.  It comes long before Cow Appreciation and even Walk on Stilts days.

The United States is the only country with a known birthday.  ~ James G. Blaine

You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness.  You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.  ~ Erma Bombeck

We welcome a visit by Uncle Sam to the store this weekend.  He will be handing out American flags to our guests, and reminding us of the hard-won freedom our nation cherishes and celebrates on Independence Day.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Back to Monday…

Whoa, is it Monday already?  How time flies when you’re doing a wedding with 200+ guests!  But a good time was had by all, and the couple are soon off for a week’s holiday while the rest of us happy celebrants are back at our keyboards.  I would be the TALL one, so any high stapling and reaching and placing fell on moi’s shoulders – my arms are sore ~ but my fingers aren’t.

We’re sailing into summer already here and looking forward to the annual Garden Party, falling on Father’s Day weekend this year.  It’s all about fun activities and entertainment, including a plant sale and prize give-aways throughout the day.  Our very own horticulture team will be on hand with plenty of information and helpful hints to keep the garden blooming all summer.  Details to come….

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

What garden is complete without a gnome?  We’ve got gnomes from all the big schools on hand in Second Nature.

Good food and fast cars, it’s a long weekend!

I hope you’re anticipating good food in large quantities at some point over the long weekend ~ and that you get to enjoy an extra day or two of leisure.  Here are a few recipes that I frequently cook for summer parties.  And winter.  Oh, spring and fall, too.  I was going to share one for my Triple Layer Chocolate Cheesecake, but it’s four pages long…

Let me know if you try these, and how you like them.
Note:  T = Tablespoon.

Key Lime Cake (hmm…why did I start with dessert??) – really refreshing on a warm day and a good sweet bite after a heavy meal.  It has a lovely tart-sweet glaze.  (This is the cake I bake myself to celebrate another trip around the sun.)
Bake in a 13″ x 9″ greased and floured pan, 350 degree oven, for 35 minutes or until clean toothpick stage.
Lemon cake boxed mix (Duncan Hines Lemon Supreme is best)
Lemon INSTANT pudding boxed mix
4 eggs
1/2 Cup water
1/2 Cup Key Lime juice
1/2 Cup oil
Mix these ingredients together at medium speed for 2 minutes; pour into pan; bake; cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.
Glaze:
2 Cups sifted powdered sugar
1/4 Cup Key Lime juice
Mix and drizzle over cooled cake.
I like to add a little green food coloring to the cake and glaze so that everyone knows it’s lime.  One year, I got it to a lovely shade of acid green toxic waste – but everyone gobbled it up!

Oriental Cabbage Salad – this is really fun and tasty, and I usually bring the elements separately and mix them on-site for maximum freshness.  It’s also fun to toss in a bag of (defrosted) frozen peas.
Base:
1 Bag coleslaw mix
1 Bunch green onions, chopped
Mix in a large bowl, set aside.
Toppings:
1 stick butter or margarine
2 bags Ramen noddles, crushed (we will not use the seasoning packets)
1 small bag slivered almonds
1 T sesame seeds
Melt better in a skillet over medium heat; add the remaining ingredients and toast until golden, stirring frequently.  Drain and cool on paper towels.
Dressing:
1/2 Cup sugar
1/4 Cup vinegar
2 T soy sauce
3/4 Cup oil
Combine sugar, vinegar, and soy sauce in a small pan and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and cool completely.  Add oil.
When you’re ready to serve, add toasted toppings to the salad base, shake the dressing well, pour over the salad, and toss everything together.

Cornbread Casserole – this is The Easiest Dish in the World and is always the first empty pan at a meal!
In a greased, 1-quart casserole, mix the following ingredients and bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour, uncovered.
1 Box cornbread mix (about 8.5 oz)
1 Can creamed corn (about 16 oz)
1 Can kernel corn, drained (about 16 oz)
1 Egg, lightly beaten
1 Stick butter or margarine, melted
1 Cup sour cream
1 T chopped onion
I’ve made this one using all low-cal ingredients and it tasted just as great as the fully loaded version.  Some friends claim they save it for dessert.

All you need is someone with a grill and your favorite protein, a large, ripe watermelon, some salt and pepper shakers, and you’ve got the kind of pic-a-nic to which I’d like an invitation.  See you on Sunday (at Bob’s with the pool and the figure-eight waterslide, I hope).  I’ll be rooting for the number 10 car, go Danny!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

(It’s almost Monday ~ in a really good way!)

Speaking on Memorial Day

NPR had another great StoryCorp entry this morning, about a man who learned about his father’s life through helping him tend the graves of his community.  Go here to listen to the story.

A few quotes in honor of our service men and women this weekend:

We come, not to mourn our dead soldiers, but to praise them.  ~ Francis A. Walker

The story of America’s quest for freedom is inscribed on her history in the blood of her patriots.  ~ Randy Vader

These heroes are dead.  They died for liberty – they died for us.  They are at rest.  They sleep in the land they made free, under the flag they rendered stainless, under the solemn pines, the sad hemlocks, the tearful willows, and the embracing vines.  They sleep beneath the shadows of the clouds, careless alike of sunshine or of storm, each in the windowless Place of Rest.  Earth may run red with other wars – they are at peace.  In the midst of battle, in the roar of conflict, they found the serenity of death.  I have one sentiment for soldiers living and dead:  cheers for the living; tears for the dead.  ~ Robert G. Ingersoll

The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.  ~ Thucydides

~Janet @ The Christmas Place