Cookies for Santa #3

Week 3 of our recipe helps for Christmas eve .. best cookies to leave for Santa:  iced cookies, but with a twist – instead of a basic sugar cookie, make it chocolate!  We know Santa loves chocolate as much as we do.

Chocolate Cut-Out Cookies (Decorated)

350° oven, ungreased baking sheets, 6-8 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 4 bars (8 oz. box) semi-sweet baking chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 2-2/3 C all purpose flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • ½ t salt
  • 6 T butter, softened
  • 3 T granulated sugar
  • ½ C light or dark corn syrup
  • ¼ C water
  • Decorator icing (colored icing in tubes work well), sugar sprinkles, and candy decorations of your choice.

Instructions:

  1. Microwave baking bars in medium-size bowl on high for 1 minute; stir.  Microwave for additional 10 to 20 second intervals, stirring until smooth; cool to room temperature.  Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a second medium-size bowl.
  2. Beat butter and sugar in small mixer bowl until creamy; beat in syrup and chocolate.  Alternately beat in flour mixture and water.  Divide and shape into 2 round discs; wrap in plastic wrap; chill just until firm.
  3. Roll each disc 10 1/4-inch thickness between sheets of waxed paper; cut with [cookie cutters (may we suggest something like this)]; place on ungreased baking sheets.  Chill again if dough becomes too soft while you’re rolling and cutting.
  4. Bake for six to eight minutes or until set; let stand for two minutes before removing to wire racks to completely cool.
  5. Decorate with colored icing and candy sprinkles as desired.

C = Cup; T = Tablespoon; t = teaspoon

I don’t think I’ve ever been served a decorated chocolate cookie – and seeing how simple this recipe is, I really wonder why?  Personally, I would flavor my icing – orange, raspberry, peppermint – or sprinkle the icing with crushed candy canes!  Yeah, that would be great!  If you decide to try this one, send us your results – and suggestions for personal flavor flair.  Santa will love them any way you bake them.  Oh – and how about serving them on an awesome Santa plates – it looks .. Scandinavian to me, don’t you agree?  I think it will hold all three dozen cookies you’ve just baked.

Santa Serving Platter

You’ll call 1-800-445-3396, ext. 192, to order this platter – #335-333, $29.99.

Keep the yummy spirit of Christmas alive in the kitchen with us this holiday season!  Back with another cookie recipe soon.

~Janet @ The Incredible Christmas Place

P.S. We’re approaching one of our busiest weekends here at the store – this Saturday, we have FOUR signing events – details to come – but we’re looking forward to seeing Ralph McDonald, Karen Didion, Anja from The Christmas Wish storybooks, and the creators of Ginger Cottages.  Do you have plans for November 19th?  We can help…

Christmas Nativity Sets For Every Decor

Ginger Cottage Nativity Scene

This nativity creche is lit by inserting a bulb on your Christmas tree through a hole in the bottom panel, highlighting the three-dimensional construction of the balsam wood scene.

Christmas is only 141 days away!  (That’s 21 Saturdays, if you’re counting.)  We can tell it’s getting closer here at Christmas Place – all sorts of lovely new Christmas decorations are arriving daily – it’s our favorite time of summer.  Today, a sampling of the many [nativities and Holy Family pieces] available – you’ll find one to compliment almost every decor theme and style.

Olive wood from Israel is used in the construction of this popular collection of hand-crafted creches and ornaments from Bethlehem.  This is one of the largest olive wood scenes; they are also available in smaller sizes, and as ornaments to hang on your tree.

Olive Wood nativity

Our talented floral design team has used a large Holy Family trio as the centerpiece of this grand arrangement.

Custom Floral Tabletop features the Holy Family trio.

One of our newest collections is crafted in Italy.  This magnificent, bejeweled set features rich fabrics, detailed accessories and ornamentation, and delicately-painted figures.  The two angels flanking the grouping are each sold separately.  While the Bible story tells us that only the shepherds visited the baby Jesus in his manger, it is hard to resist depictions that include the three Wise Men, who arrived up to two years after the birth.

Crafted in Italy, nativity set includes Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and three Wise Men.  Angels sold separately.

A more simple, natural style is found in this carved-looking collection of 12 pieces, the largest of which is 18 inches tall.

Carved-look Nativity Set of 9

Celebrating their 40th year in business, Department 56 has just introduced an exclusive anniversary set, The Inn at Bethlehem.  The four pieces will be the highlight of any collector’s display.  We’ve displayed ours with [these palm trees], sold separately.  The other side of the building is equally rich in detail, including the front entrance to the inn.

Department 56 The Inn at Bethlehem set of 4

We also offer a large selection of Holy Family groups, such as this Foundations Holy Family figurine, standing 12 inches tall and delicately hand-painted and subtly adorned with crystals.

Foundations Collection Holy Family Figurine

If your holidays are spent near the beach – or just wishing you were near a beach – consider this figurine – the Holy Family with a driftwood sensibility, highlighted by nautical ropes and sea creatures.

Holy Family Figurine, beach theme

Neither a nativity scene nor a holy family, this show-stopping piece nevertheless highlights the theme of the season, peace among all creatures on earth.  The stone and resin figure stands almost 16 inches tall.

Lion & Lamb Peace on Earth figurine

The peace we love in the store comes early in the morning, when the sun streams through our stained glass window, lighting up the collectibles gallery in a rainbow of colors!

Collectibles gallery

Where available, clicking on the photo above will take you to the specific item on our website; I’ve also linked to our Nativity group and the palm tree accessory.  Items not directly linked (such as the floral arrangement) may be ordered by calling the store at 1-800-445-3396, 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Janet @ The Incredible Christmas Place

P.S. We would love to see a picture of your favorite family nativity – share it on our [Facebook page].

Miss Heart of Christmas

We recently welcomed a royal visitor to The Incredible Christmas Place – Kentucky’s Teen Miss Heart of Christmas came to visit!

Miss Heart of Christmas winner

Where else would you expect her to spend her holiday but in a Christmas wonderland?  We were delighted to welcome this sweet young woman to our store.

The “Miss Heart of the USA” pageant programs are focused on teaching young girls that it is never too soon to be involved in giving back to the community.  Every pageant is a food drive!  All participants are required to bring donations to each competition, titles are awarded based on donations, and their community involvement extends beyond pageants to other events.  At the local level, the girls are encouraged to participate with groups like March of Dimes, American Cancer Society, and local shelters and food banks.

Congratulations and good luck to Kentucky’s Teen Miss Heart of Christmas – and keep up the good work for your community!

Janet @ The Incredible Christmas Place

Christmas Time Capsule from My House to Yours!

My father handed me a folder of papers on Saturday that had suddenly surfaced from a drawer or a box or a cabinet somewhere.  Let me tell you, you just never know what scraps from your past your parents have tucked away, and when they’ll appear.  This folder includes my high school transcripts (B+ in typing), some ancient achievement tests (College Board Admissions Testing Program, wherein I am rated well below average for pursuing a career in the field of science), SAT scores (English, fine; Math, not so much), college transcripts ( I DO NOT remember getting a B in bowling!), and – wow – a bill for a hospital room visit for a couple of stitches, total $87.29, my share was $17.40.  Now that’s a true blast from the past!  Sometime after 12 October 1980, I filled up my car with nine gallons of gas for a whopping $10.60 – over $1 a gallon.  Those were the days…

Behind all that stuff (including a few school compositions and my first-ever typed resume, no job experience at all), is the stuff I’m here to talk about.  Yes, this is it, possibly my first letter to Santa – and it’s a poem!  Check it out:

Janet's Poem

My mom wrote my name on the saved slip of paper.  (Don’t ask me about the burn marks along the edge, I don’t remember the fire.)  To go along with it, here’s my dad’s handwritten reply:

Dad's reply

Dad has played piano all his life, and composed his own music and songs, so there is always scoring paper around the house.

But wait, it gets better!  Here’s another poem I composed around the same time, I’m guessing, as my handwriting is very similar.

Jan1

Jan2

I know you’re thinking, “wow, that girl was quite the poet laureate of her family!”

However, there is one more gem of a poem in the folder, this one by my younger sister.  And you’d better believe I’m wasting no time in teasing her about the churches feeding “the poor people and the pheasants.”  Pheasants??  Ha ha ha ha ha ha!  Girl, you messed that one up good!  (Yes, we’re sisters, what did you expect?  Loving support?  Pffft.  Have you met me and my sisters?!)

LeeAnne1 copy-01

LeeAnne2 copy

I don’t know about you, but I think these need to be framed and hung in a place of honor, on display year round.  Rarely do you see such genius word-smithing in ones so young.

Well, anyway, they will be a treasure for my family, at least, for some time to come.  Do you have a collection of your children’s masterpieces tucked away somewhere?  We’d love to see them.

Christmas is all about the memories we make with families and friends.  Be sure to cherish your own collection!

~Janet @ Incredible Christmas Place

The Elves Give Back

The elves here at Christmas Place really do have the spirit of Christmas year round!  Ask, and most will have a story about a special guest who has made an impression on their lives in one way or another.  We are touched and often inspired by those guests who share a bit of their story with us from time to time.  This makes the experience of working for Santa so much richer and more enjoyable for so many.

This year, we have been inspired to be more thoughtful and intentional in passing a bit of that spirit on to the community around us.  We have been adopting a cause each 30 days or so, and putting our resources and talents into giving back to our county.  We’ve even included pets in our efforts – they bring so much joy to the lives of many, so we raised donations of funds and supplies for an area shelter.

Last month, we raised funds for the Food for Kids program sponsored by Second Harvest Food Bank.  Let me quote information about the program we received from Sam Compton, Youth Programs Manager for East Tennessee.

“The Food for Kids program, in so many cases, provides the only food some children will have over an entire weekend, while for others it provides a meal that would otherwise have been skipped. It also offers kids in difficult situations the comfort that comes from knowing there are people out there that truly care about them—something most kids take for granted, but something not all children get to feel. In every school Second Harvest serves, reports of improved self-esteem, behavior, and concentration among Food for Kids participants are common.

“Thanks to coordinated truckload buys with other food banks, “opportunity buy” truckload purchases, and leveraging the buying power of Feeding America (our national affiliate representing 205 food banks across all 50 states) we are able to feed a child every week during the school year for only $60. We feel really good about the program’s impact and efficiency, but we need help to keep it going.

“The food cost alone to offer Food for Kids is $60 per child (with fuel, staff, warehousing, etc., adding additional cost to the food bank that we do not ask sponsors to cover).

“I am so thankful to you (and everyone else you’re working with) for your advocacy for these kids. Please know how invaluable your role is in this process, and that the results of your efforts extend much further than you may realize.”

Simply put, when school is not in session, many kids do not eat.

We are so happy to report that we were able to donate $3,000 – making us the sponsor for an elementary school here in Sevier County for the entire 2013-14 school year!  To know that we are making a real difference in the lives of underserved children who are our neighbors and friends is the best Christmas present we could have this year.

We were invited to visit the Second Harvest facility to present our sponsorship.  They were blessed by another company’s misfortune, and have been enjoying a state-of-the-art warehouse facility for the past two years.  There is even an office for each staff member – rather than having to double- and triple-up in a too-small space, as was the case with their previous location.  Here are pictures from our visit.

What does a ton of beans look like?  Each white “sack” is 2,000 lbs. of pinto beans.  These will be placed into 5-pound bags for redistribution.

Supplies being prepared for a weekend chili cook-off in Knoxville.

On the backpack food aisle – where they strive to provide healthier snacks, such as turkey sticks and whole-grain-based treats.  And chocolate pudding cups.  Chocolate is important for quality of life!

This is a freezer.  It really is.  There is a refrigerator the same size in the next room over.  How do they keep the floor from icing, that’s what we want to know!

 

The program provides a backpack filled with at least 8 food items for each child in need in each home – if they know about siblings, they will also send food for younger children who are not yet in school.

Here is the gang – Miles, Janet, Sam (from Second Harvest), Kelly, and Rhonda.

Second Harvest works with and provides food to other food banks, both in our area and around the nation.  Their purchasing power exponentially increases the impact of the donations they receive.  It was our privilege to tour the beautiful facility, and we look forward to renewing our partnership and commitment for the next school year, too.

Wishing you much joy this Christmas!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

 

How do you take your coffee?

You may remember that I am an NPR junkie – and this week, my reward was a segment from Coffee Week coverage.  They’ve run a fascinating series exploring everything from the discovery of coffee to its spread throughout the world, but Wednesday really caught my attention.  The publisher of a San Diego newspaper for area coffee houses tells how a simple observation and a cup of coffee saved a man’s life.  Find the whole story here.

Coffee Lover Christmas ornament like Starbucks emblem but with reindeer in circle, coffee beans around the base. May be personalized.I recommend you put in some ear buds and listen to the conversation – it’s worth a couple of minutes of your time.

Here’s a funny ornament for the coffee lover in your life – ready to be personalized!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

P.S. Have you tried the White Christmas Blend we use at The Inn at Christmas Place?  I hear it’s smooth– and addicting!

Rootin’ for Regen!

Christmas Place is joining with the Sevier County community, businesses and individuals, in raising support for Regen, the young man with brain tumors.  This Friday through Sunday, we’ll donate a portion of our sales to the fund to help cover his extensive medical bills.

If you’d like to make a personal donation, SmartBank has set up a fund for Regen.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Have you put up your Christmas lights yet?

On the road I travel each day, there is a house that has been displaying Christmas lights since early October.  I say, two thumbs up!  It’s such a pick-me-up to enjoy those colorful lights on a night when I’ve been at the office later than planned…

Well, we’ve done the same here at Christmas Place – this has been a week of lighting up the courtyard for Christmas!  I don’t have any after-dark photos yet, but here are some just-at-dusk pictures I caught yesterday.

Look at this handsome rig we have added below the clock.

Santa & Reindeer all a-glow!

You’ll also see some new elf friends alongside our reindeer.

I'm not sure he's feeling all that merry today, what do you think?

 Now check out our lights.  Okay, you may have to squint a little for this picture – the wreaths & the garland are lighted, as well as all the rooflines.

I mean, don’t we all have our own cherry-pickers so we can light up the house and yard??  Hope you come down to see our lights, as well as the Winterfest lights that are on display all the way from Sevierville through Pigeon Forge to Gatlinburg.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

P.S. May I share one more photo?  I had the priviledge of attending a Salute to Veterans luncheon at the Dixie Stampede today, and was even seated next to the guest of honor, Sgt. Ed Douglas from just up the road in Morristown.  His battalion cleared 2,500 miles of roads in Afghanistan last year, without any loss of life, even though they were bombed many, many times.  (They also got to enjoy 8″ of snow for Thanksgiving, which we did not.)  This Sunday is Veterans Day, and we hope that you will thank a veteran when you have the opportunity.  Sgt. Douglas said that it is not a burden, but an honor to serve the U.S.  The burden is in being away from family and friends.  Thank you, Sgt. Douglas and all veterans!  (Dad, two uncles, my sister, two brothers-in-law, and many personal friends – and now children of my friends – thank you!)

Sgt. Ed Douglas

Christmas Inspiration from Around the World

We’re happy to share our first guest post with you today, from Erin Levine at PaperStyle.  What do you look for in the ideal Christmas card?  Erin suggests looking to the traditions of other cultures as well as our own for inspiration.

Everyone loves to make the most of the holiday season with their friends and loved ones in their own little corner of the world. It can be fun to break outside of the box and think about all the fun traditions people use to celebrate Christmas around the globe. There are plenty of fun and creative spins on Christmas traditions that we can all use to make Christmas crafts for our own home or implement into Christmas cards for friends and family. This year, as you sit down to create unique greeting cards or holiday-themed crafts, inspiration from various cultures around the globe just might spark an idea.

Aussies Heat Things up at Christmas Time

Forget about Frosty the Snowman. For Australians, Christmas actually falls during the hottest time of the year. They experience the holiday season during what is the equivalent of summer vacation to those of us in North America. For this reason, Australians enjoy conducting their Christmas celebrations outdoors. One of the most popular festivities is evening candle-lit processions. Twinkling candlelight is enough to inspire the holiday spirit even during a heat wave.

France Brings the Frosting for Christmas

The French are renowned for their delicious dessert delicacies and un-ending love affair with fine foods. It should come as no surprise that they bring out the culinary love in full force during the Christmas season. Children in France wait all year to long to finally dig their teeth into a rich buttercream cake called “buche de Noel.” A traditional buche de Noel is a beautifully decorated cake made into the shape of a yule log, covered generously in chocolate frosting. This fun and delicious dessert is simply iconic, and artwork featuring this treat makes a wonderful decoration for things like wrapping paper and Christmas cards.

Holidays in Holland are Sweet

Holland is another nation that famously parades out special dessert during the Christmas season. Families in Holland are known to carry out the tradition of baking a special letter cake. A letter cake is a cake created in the shape of the first letter of a family’s last name. The cake is a symbol of family pride and togetherness – not to mention being just plain delicious.

Mexico’s Christmas Piñata Tradition is Simply Smashing

Each year at Christmas time, many Mexicans jubilantly celebrate what is called Las Posadas. The word Posadas means “lodging.” Las Posadas commemorates the journey of Joseph and Mary as they searched for lodging on Christmas Eve. One of the highlights of the celebration is the breaking of the piñata. Beautifully-crafted and intricate piñatas are a great source of inspiration for anyone searching for artwork to use in their own Christmas decorations or Christmas cards no matter what nation they call home.

Americans Love Mistletoe from Head to Toe

Mistletoe is one of the most heralded signs that the Christmas season is upon us. This naturally beautiful leaf, though highly visible during the holidays, is a mystery to most Americans. The popularity of mistletoe as a symbol of Christmas didn’t begin until the 18th century, though it isn’t precisely clear why it began at all. In many American homes, mistletoe is hung in doorways, promising enduring love between any couple caught kissing beneath it. American mistletoe is actually an evergreen shrub that is native to the United States, though there are different species that are unique to Europe. The crisp green leaves and striking red berries are an enduring symbol of the warm feelings of the Christmas season.

Keeping an eye on the traditions and lore from cultures around the globe is a great way to gain inspiration for your own person Christmas crafts. Nothing speaks to the spirit of the holiday season more than embracing the traditions of people everywhere. You can find Christmas decorations and collectibles that represent holiday traditions from all over the world online at Christmas Place!

Erin Levine is a guest author from PaperStyle, an online retailer of wedding invitations, holiday photo cards, and stationery.

You did this!

Earlier this year, we did something we’ve never done before – we asked each guest who made a purchase at Christmas Place if they would donate $1 to a local organization which we support, the Smoky Mountain Children’s Home.  Located in Sevier County since 1949, this charitable outreach of the Church of God has provided residential care to countless at-risk children and teens over the past 60+ years.  What a tremendous, positive impact they have had on the lives of the children and youth of our community.  It has been a blessing to our staff, and we hope to our customers, to contribute to the success of The Home, as they call themselves.

Today, we had the honor of presenting a check in the amount of (Ta-Da!) $7,037 to the Cherish the Child Foundation, which supports The Home!

And the best part is, for this donation, it was ALL YOU – our amazing customers!  Thank you for your generous contributions, $1 at a time!  You are directly impacting the future of children in Sevier County.

Soon you’ll see “Cherish the Child Foundation for the Smoky Mountain Children’s Home” on the jars we keep at each register, as we continue to direct a portion of our community involvement to giving to this terrific cause.

This is the way we like to start the run up to The BiG Day.  Please feel free to join our staff in giving yourselves a great big round of applause!  YOU DID THIS FOR THE CHILDREN!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place