Cookies for Santa!

I have long been a recipe collector – I don’t bake or cook a lot, but I love collecting and reading recipes.  I’m guessing I am not alone in this pastime.  It paid off this week, when I pulled out a folder to begin my search for a good cookie recipe to share – the first packet I turned to is titled “100 Cookies for Christmas.”  Meant to be!

Remember, when you’re working with chocolate, water is not your friend.  Keep your work area and tools dry, especially when chopping or shaving the chocolate – dry knife and cutting board.

#5 Black Forest Cookies

400° Oven; large cookie sheets, greased; bake 10 to 12 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 8-oz. package semisweet chocolate squares
  • 1 16-oz. can pitted dark sweet cherries in light syrup
  • 2¼ C all-purpose flour
  • shortening
  • ¾ C sugar
  • ¾ C milk
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • ½ t baking soda
  • ½ t salt
  • ½ t almond extract

Instructions

About 3 hours before serving, or up to 3 days ahead:

  1. Grease cookie sheets.  In heavy small saucepan over low heat, heat 2 squares semisweet chocolate until melted and smooth, stirring occasionally.  Remove saucepan from heat.  With knife, coarsely chop 4 squares of chocolate; set aside.
  2. Drain cherries, reserving ¼ C cherry liquid; coarsely chop cherries.  Pat cherries dry with paper towel.
  3. Into large bowl, measure melted chocolate, reserved cherry liquid, flour, ½ C shortening, and remaining ingredients.  With mixer at low speed, beat ingredients until blended, occasionally scraping bowl.  Stir in cherries and chopped chocolate.
  4. Drop dough by level tablespoonfuls, as many as possible, about 2 inches apart, on cookie sheet.  Bake 10 to 12 minutes until lightly browned.  Remove cookies to wire racks to cool.  Repeat with remaining dough.
  5. When cookies are cooled, in small saucepan over low heat, heat 1 teaspoon shortening and remaining 2 squares chocolate until melted and smooth, stirring occasionally.  With spoon, drizzle chocolate mixture over cookies.  Let chocolate drizzle dry about 30 minutes or until firm.
  6. Store cookies in tightly covered container in refrigerator to use within three days (as if they will be around that long!).  Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

Cookies as rich and grand as these deserve an equally fabulous cookie plate – I think they would contrast quite nicely with this fabulous Reindeer Cookie Plate!  You’ll have to call us at 1-800-445-3396, ext. 192, to order item 104490, $29.99.  We’ll be happy to ship one to you for the Big Night!

Reindeer Cookie Plate

General knowledge I have gained about working with chocolate:  do not store it in the refrigerator; room temperature is fine.  White patches, called “bloom,” are generally not a problem – perhaps a little moisture was in the package, but it should not degrade the taste or usefulness of the chocolate.  M&Ms will go stale if left forgotten in the back of a drawer for a year.  Do not let this happen to your M&Ms.

Find more cookie-themed items on our website [here].  Then gather the family together and have a baking night for Santa – guaranteed fun and memory-making, no matter the skill of the chefs or the outcome of your endeavors!

~Janet @ The Incredible Christmas Place

P.S.  IT’S FINALLY HERE!  Department 56 signing weekend and retirements have been announced!  Come meet Scott Enter, North Pole Village designer, and Bill Sheldon, landscape designer – 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, November 5th.  Door prizes, too!

Around Christmas Place

It’s technically still “winter” for us around here, as we’ve got lots of construction and remodeling projects underway to get ready for summer – and your next visit to our little corner of paradise here at Traffic Light 2A on the Parkway!  Here are some images that caught my camera last week.

 

Raising the roof – every building is being reroofed!

Remember those walls we put up a few weeks ago?  All is now revealed!  We’ve opened up the spaces between the front entrance, the old toy store, and right into the Personalizing gallery.

When the walls come tumbling down ..

New spaces are revealed!

We’re excited to find out what our design team has in mind for the newly-painted area that previously housed our toy store.

Cool waters for a hot spring day.

Our Parkway Oasis!

No fishing, please.

The Big Kahuna in the Little Pond.

Have you toasted marshmallows with us around our fire pit?

Beautiful blooms at The Partridge & Pear Restaurant.

A beautiful thing I found – an egg, hand-painted with a Nativity scene.  I think it is an ostrich egg, as it is quite large; we are keeping it under a glass dome.

Brilliant Vera Bradley summer-pattern bags – just luscious!  Making me want to plan a vacation somewhere sunny just so I’ll need one of these colorful bags for the trip…. 

MAD LOVE for these Home Grown veggie critters!

 Okay, time to get back to work.  But I will leave you with one more image – a photo of a new threat now looming over the city…

Giant Ape Attacks Pigeon Forge!

Thanks for joining me for a stroll around our place.  What’s happening in your neighborhood?

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

P.S. Early forecast for Christmas in July – fantastic daily fun for guests at The Inn at Christmas Place – check out the full month’s calendar over at facebook.com/InnAtChristmasPlace!

From the yard .. and near by

Just a few photos of some visitors to the bird feeder, and from around the house .. and around the county .. for a beautiful Easter weekend.  Enjoy!

Misty morning ..

What does the day hold?

 

Mourning Dove, Red-winged Blackbird

Robin Redbreast

Rufous-sided Towhee

Look at his bright red eye!

Rufous & Friends

Just look at that gorgeous Dandelion back there...

Gimme more sun...

Look at me now!

Redbud - one of the first colors of spring. Each bloom looks like a Ladyslipper. (Check out the pink snow in the background.)

Redbud beginning to leaf

 
Beautiful Lady!

Mystery Bush - first come these golden-tipped pods (a bit soggy from the rain), blown away in the wind leaving the tree with white tips, and finally a very short-lived flower.

Muscari, or Grape Hyacinth (a member of the lily family)

Lenten Rose

She's a shy bloomer, but here is her face.

The spring condo has been completed.

Who can resist these smiling faces?

Love the dark sky when a storm has passed and the green-ing trees and rosebuds are a brilliant contrast .. and then the sun fades at the same moment you press the button ..

The mountain floats above the morning clouds.

What has spring looked like in your part of the world?

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

P.S.  Santa will be at the store again every weekend starting tomorrow, April 7th – from 10 am to 6 pm on Saturday and Sunday.  On Easter Sunday, the Easter Bunny will be hopping by between 11 am and 5 pm (the store is open 11 to 6 this Sunday).

Infestation!

It’s starts so innocently .. you see a cute & colorful garden flag, with maybe a picture of Easter eggs, or a chick, or an Easter bunny, and you think, “I need that for my porch!”

So you buy one or two and you hang them up and you enjoy the bright colors as they move gently with the breeze.  Life is good.  The sun is shining.  Forsythia is blooming by the front door.

Then suddenly one morning, you open the front door, and .. they’re everywhere! 

Bunnies to the left, bunnies to the right, bunnies behind and bunnies in front of you!  Big bunnies.  Small bunnies.  And they coordinate so well with your pansies.

What are you going to do?  There are too many to count – and they are too cute to shoo away!  And the next thing you know .. they’ve crossed the street to the neighbor’s place.

But, you know, that whole TOO CUTE thing.  So there they stay.  We can’t say when or where the infestation will end .. but why would we want it to??

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

P.S.  I know you are loving our new breakfast and all, but pleasepleaseplease DO NOT feed the bunnies on your way out.  Please.

Ugly Christmas Sweaters!

We had the opportunity priviledge thrill of hosting Ugly Christmas Sweater Night for the Knoxville Ice Bears last week – and I can prove it!  Prepare to be .. underwhelmed?  Is underwhelmed a word??

Brilliant move – turn an ugly garden sweater into a Christmas prize with the right turtleneck and a jaunty Christmas tree hat.

This gold-and-green wonder was actually the prize winner of the night!

As you’ll see, more than a few men were willing to appear in a wife’s-mother’s-mother-in-law’s ugly sweater.  Points for the poinsettia embellishment!

Poor girl, confused ugly sweater night with crazy pants night!  That’s not til February, dear.

A sweater pattern composed of various doors, including an elevator door?  GENIUS!  I’m not sure what makes this ugly.  (Kidding!  I’m kidding!)

I hope Grandma doesn’t catch me in this!

Chess Club or Cheerleaders?  You decide.

A two-part entry: notice the dove on her shoulder.

And notice the dove poop on her back.  Bold move.

Own it, baby!

I’m not sure this is a first for these guys .. just sayin’.

 Snaps for coordinating the mock turtleneck with Mom’s 3/4 sleeve sweater!

 Mad glue-gun skills with the red garland – so evenly placed!

 

Extremely Honorable Mention: This playa’ added photos of the Ice Bears team to her adornments!  How was she not the winner?! 

Aaaaawwwwwww!

 

We’re going bowling after ice hockey!

 

Yes, there are still more to come….how about this hand-painted creation:

She even brought the gingerbread man!

Just off the plane from Aspen.

Dontcha think they should have swapped sweaters?

My personal favorite – look at that arts-and-crafts touch with the braided necktie.  A truly original touch!

So, no judgement, but that’s a whole lotta ugly!  Everyone had a lot of fun – and I’m sure I didn’t even get pictures of all the contestants.  I heard there was also a hockey match that night .. and the Ice Bears won!  Congrats to the team!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Angel Mischief

November 5, 2011

The corner where The Inn, the restaurant, and the store come together features mannequin-like carolers, their air-brushed faces frozen in concert, holding their songbooks.  They are grouped together facing the street, standing in their winter clothes.  Today I slipped in amongst them, standing stock still, with my feather wings and gossamer garb.  A group of visitors was approaching the corner to cross the street, paying no attention to the silent choir.  When they came close, I stepped out and said “hello!”  They all started laughing loudly, reacting to the unexpected.  How fun!  Now I’m occasionally doing this for the traffic stopped at the light on the corner.  Surprise!

Inside the store, one of my favorite things to do is to “hide” behind a free-standing display of merchandise.  Standing still, I blend in from one side while people look at the music boxes, floral arrangements, and ornaments in a row from the other side.  Then they see my face or I’ll wave at them, they realize I am “real” and have a good laugh!

As people enter the store, there is a large white tree draped with lights.  There is a contest to see if anyone can guess how many lights are on the tree.  As customers slowly gaze upwards, concentrating on estimating a number, sometimes they will see me looking back at them from my perch halfway up the stairs behind the tree!  Sometimes someone will spot me first, then stand back and wait to see if the others see me or often they will point out the half-hidden angel above  them.  They all seem surprised and delighted!  I love my job.

It IS a job.  Costumes can be hot and cumbersome.  I must constantly and unobtrusively hold the wings with one hand so they won’t fall awry and to guide them through the store without knocking down the fabulous displays.  Knowing how and when to pose effectively for pictures can be trying, and often the requests for pictures come one right after another, very quickly.  Sometimes I am bombarded.  When it’s slower, I’ll offer to take pictures of the entire group with their camera, which is appreciated.  (I’m a fairly good photographer.)

When I wave, it’s not the unfeeling, automatic, mechanical wave of the person holding the pizza signs out by the curb.  I single out guests and look them in the eye until they wave back or at least smile (which is usually almost immediately).  My goal is for them to come away with a little bit of that feeling of having been “touched by an angel.”

I rarely take my scheduled breaks – I love what I am doing and feel that I should be present when the crowds are there.  I have great stamina, relatively comfortable shoes, and a strong constitution.  And some functions are a bit tricky while wearing wings and flowing, sequined sleeves…

~Joy the Angel

Letters to Santa

“Dear Santa,

I am a p.e. teacher in Florida.  My students have no money and live in tiny, overcrowded trailers.  They are all sweet angels.  I was hoping you could bring a little something for each of my students so that they can experience the wonderful feeling of excitement of Christmas morning.  My students are always nice and polite and full of compassion and love.
Good luck with all your Christmas prep work!

Love, Kiki”

“Dear Santa,

What can I give you this year.
You have blessed me and never once was I ever not a happy child.  You must be next to Heaven as special as you are to every child, young to old.  Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.  So my wish is to tell my Mom & Dad – I love you, miss you, & send us snow again Xmas day in our town for all my family.
I love you,

Debbie

P.S. Tell God Thanks for Tony’s blessing.”

“Dear Santa,

We had a lovely stay in Pigeon Forge for my 65th birthday!  I still believe in Santa and want our troops to come home safely – God Bless America – and for the economy to turn around for all.
Have a safe trip Christmas Eve and make all the children happy.  You are loved very much by all.

Alma”

“Dear Santa,

I want a new Corvette.  You can bring my wife a nice sweater.

Grandpa Fogt”

We love every one of our letters to Santa – not just from the kids, but from the kids-at-heart, too!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Pretty Stuff! (Part I)

We’ve been so busy around here that I’ve hardly had time to take pictures and explore the new Christmas decorations & ornaments filling the store right now.  Yesterday I took the time to make a tour, and here are some of the things I’ve found inspiring, including our new crystal entrance, the tree in the nativity area, a couple of beautiful under-the-sea wreaths, and a few other highlights.

Are you shivering yet??

We’re showcasing a new style of LED light strand called “Angel Tear” lights.  These lights resemble tear drops or water drops on a strand, and are attached in a branch-like form that is shape-able – you can bend the strand and it will mold to the shape that you want without having to be secured.  They are so beautiful, lightweight and functional, you’ll find many different ways to incoporate them into your decor – maybe even year-round.

Angel Tear LED Lights

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the left, you can see how we’ve tightly entwined a strand with silver branches.  On the right, you can see the strand draped more loosely with the same silver branch.  I love it both ways!

We also have in the store a pre-lit, 3′ tree that is entirely white and fuzzy ~ and our decorators suspended four of them from the ceiling and iced them with sparkling birds and ornaments – what an interesting and beautiful result!

Check out this colorful, glittering wreath – a handsome turquoise reindeer and sparkling “Merry Christmas” sign, enhanced by iced pine branches and silvered leaves – breathtaking!

Just around the corner from what I’m calling our “crystal entrance” is the new undersea area, and though the tree hasn’t been decorated yet, here are a couple of wonderful & whimsical wreaths already on display.

I particularly like the seafoam effect from the white guaze used in this wreath.  These are each one-of-a-kind creations, so we don’t have the opportunity to feature them on our shopping site, but phone orders and shipping are available.  Just call Guest Services at 1-800-445-3396, press 2, and they’ll take care of you.

Tucked into a corner I found a small yet brilliant peacock tree – so very colorful!

Here are a few closeups of two of the peacocks on this silver, slim-line tree.

Okay, I’m kind of afraid to put more photos into one post, so I’ll do a Part II for the rest of my finds!

Have you started planning for Christmas 2011?  Tell us how it’s going – and remember to check out our Themes area on the shopping site – get some help from our designers, whose selections will show you how to creatively build a theme or a color plan for your most fun holidays yet!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

We had a Party!

Oh, what a GREAT party it was, too!  Beautiful sunny day (mostly), comfortable temperatures, lots of balloons and popcorn and hotdogs and cake, entertainers, activities, music – and most of all, plenty of smiles & laughter all day long!

We are officially 25 years old now, and celebrating for the rest of the year both in the store and through our online catalog and our Facebook presence – you’ll find special sales offers and giveaways, so come along as we keep the party going.

Let’s get to it – a gallery of photos from June 15th!

Let's get this party started!

Elf tatoo in the house, y'all!

The Floral Ladies are Soda Girls for the day!

Phil Williams gets to meet the Chairman!

So we moved the party inside…

Phil Williams, who hosts a daily radio talk show in Knoxville, Tennessee,  brought his show to our property that afternoon.  His mother was our first employee in Tennessee!  He led a wonderful interview with his mother, our owner, Marian, and two other long-time employees, Marg & Jama – right in the middle of the store.

Lennis got to meet the Chairman just before his bedtime:

Just a couple of junior elves on the scene, givin’ it up for Santa!

We plan to continue the celebration all year, so whenever you come to the store, we’re including you in the party!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

P.S. If you were able to celebrate with us that day, please share your photos, too – easiest way is at www.facebook.com/christmasplace

Memorial Day Tent Sale @ Christmas Place

Tent Sale!  Friday through Monday, in our courtyard!  We’re getting on the holiday weekend sale train with our own start-the-summer-right sale .. ornaments, floral stems, ribbons, decorations, gifts, bits, bobs, and et cetera – a fabulous collection of bargains for the buying.  Don’t miss out!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place