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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Planning....or not...

Are you a planner??? Do you make lists and have timelines...stick to schedules?? Know when, where, who etc. at all times?? I am...I mean, I have to be. I have a restaurant and gift shop to run. I am not a big fan of surprises...(not even the good kind) I need to have complete control and know what is expected of me at all times. Today was a huge challenge!!! It started off just like any other day...lots to do and a, relatively, short amount of time to do it. We were booked for today...we are going to be closed tomorrow and Saturday, and then open again for Sunday. Lots of larger groups and people still trying to get together for the Holidays. I had a lot of bakery orders to get done, too. But, not too far into our "normal" morning we became aware of some strange stuff...like barricades and crime scene tape....hovering helicopters and police presence...Before long we realized that people were having difficulty getting into town. This was due to the police barricades....they were searching for the third bank robbery suspect. I am sure that this is a very stressful situation for all of the law enforcement people involved...however, I think part of their job, in situations such as this, should be to keep citizens, who find themselves caught in the middle of a situation beyond their control, informed about what is happening!! The fact that they had streets blocked and were not allowing cars through did not deter OUR customers!!! They parked way up the street and walked down to us!!! This says a tremendous amount about how wonderful our customers are...how dedicated they are...not rain nor sleet (well...maybe sleet...) will keep them away...for this I say "Thank you"...you guys are awesome!!! But the fact of the matter is I should have known what was going on so that I could do everything in my power to keep these fantastic people safe!!! Everything we knew about what was going on we learned by ourselves...Not very professional!!! I am, still, very upset about how all of this was handled!!! I did learn something today, though...some things you JUST CAN'T plan for...I mean, who in their right mind would have ever thought I would HAVE to plan for this??? Oh...good old small town life!?!?!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Resolutions....just say "no"....

The new year is right around the corner...what is your view on resolutions?? I don't like them. I am a very positive, optimistic person...and I think that new years resolutions are very negative. You are supposed to vow to change all the things you hate about yourself...what a way to start off the new year!!! I think it would be better to take a more positive approach. What can you do to make yourself happy?? Have you always wanted to learn how to quilt?? Take a class. Find a new hobby...gardening or feeding the birds. Are there a bunch of old movies you have always wanted to see?? Rent them!! Is there a list of books you have always wanted to read?? Go to the library or bookstore. Pick a room and paint it a bold new color...one that makes you happy!!! I think vowing to find the things in life that make you happy is a much more productive use of your time!!! Think about all of the good things, the things that you are thankful for, instead of the things you would change!! Life is too short to sweat the small stuff!!! Needless to say...I don't have any resolutions! I will tell you how grateful I am to have all of the friends, family and wonderful customers we have in our lives. 2010 has been another great year...I hope it has been for you, too!! Now...go give some thought to your "anti-resolution"....what should you do with all of that POSITIVE energy???

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"After Christmas".....

So...Christmas is behind us. This can be a very depressing time of year. All the excitement leading up to the big day...and then it's over. Just like that. No more music...no more lights...no more decorations.How do you deal with that "after Christmas" feeling?? A few years ago, I decided to "extend the magic" by decorating with my snowmen. Up to that point I had always included my snowman collection with my Christmas decorations. I mixed Frosty in with Santa and made snowy scenes for Christmas. Then, one year, as I was taking everything down and packing it all away, I thought "this is stupid...it is so depressing to have the house empty after all of the Christmas stuff is put away...I am going to separate my collections and put the snowmen out after Christmas!!" So...that's what I do...and I have almost as much in that collection as I do in my Christmas collection. I, actually, look forward to decorating with them and that makes putting the Christmas things away easier to do!!! The transformation is on my agenda for this Monday.~~~ We went to look for the finishing touches to re-do the front porch at the shop. It looks so pretty all lit up at Christmas time...I hate to take everything down and leave it all...dark!!! We have a plan to make it winter-y/Valentine-y. The lights we got were not what I had planned...but I think it's going to work very nicely!! But...talk about depressing! Go and dig through the "after Christmas" piles of leftovers!!! Fight the other people who are looking for cheap stuff for next year!!! If that doesn't depress you...I don't know what will!!! We weren't looking for cheap...we just needed lights!!! But, now, I am looking forward to getting that job done and seeing what it looks like....as long as there is something to look forward to, the depression doesn't have a chance!! I spent most of the day, today, trying to get things organized in the gift shop. There is still some work to do, but I got quite a bit done. I have some great new merchandise on it's way, but I didn't want it too early...I need some time to make room and get everything the way I want it first...so that's what I'm doing right now. Oh....that "after Christmas" feeling....give me a couple of days and all will be right with the world again!!!!

Monday, December 27, 2010

What a great Christmas!!!....

Well...we did it!! The cookies were all baked, everybody got their favorites, the gingerbread house was designed, baked, constructed and decorated, the tree is full of years and years of memories (and looks beautiful!!) the stockings were filled, the presents wrapped and it all got done on time!!! We went out for breakfast on Christmas Eve (as is our tradition...) but the kids "significant others" were there, too. Then we headed over to the shop to get everything ready for our big Christmas morning breakfast with the family. It is our Christmas gift to everyone. We serve a big breakfast...everyone spends some time together and then we can carry on with our day having spent some time with one another. There are between 25 and 30 people, usually. We started this tradition as a way to keep our kids at home for Christmas day...but still have them see everyone and show what Santa had given them. Then it became a wonderful family tradition...and everyone who is important to us comes and enjoys themselves...we have to have it at the shop because there are so many of us!!! After all of that food was prepared and the tables all set up and ready to go...it was back to the house for a Christmas marathon!!! Cookies, gingerbread houses, tree decorating....dinner (homemade pizza...) then a trip to the Lights in the Parkway!! It was a wonderful Christmas Eve!! Christmas day we skipped the presents until after breakfast...headed over to the shop early and started to get the food ready. Ham, potato casserole, sausage strata, pancakes, baked oatmeal, homemade sticky buns and plenty of juice and coffee!!! My grandson made a grand entrance in his Santa hat....and surprised everyone with a nice long walk (all by himself...) into the dining room!! Walking before he even hit the 10 month mark!!!! A few hours with family...clean up and back to the house for round one of gifts. A nice, quiet afternoon of preparing dinner and then the evening with my grandson!! His "Santa Bag" was full...and then there were more that couldn't fit!! Of course, at this age, all they really want is the wrapping paper!! We got him a "walk behind" dinosaur toy...he can push it while he walks behind it. Then, when he gets bigger, you can lock the seat in place and he can ride it....he really liked that!! We put his little farm animals on PopPop's train and gave them a ride (he loves the train!!!) listened to all of his new toys sing and make all kinds of sounds...it was a great Christmas!! I hope you all had a great Christmas, too!!!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve...

Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house, not a creature was stirring....so it turns out that I can't keep up with my blog AND do everything else that I had to do, too!! I guess the big guy is better at this time management thing after all!!! I just wanted to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas...enjoy your day and make lots of Sweet Memories. I'll try to get back on track soon!!!

~~~~~~Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!!!!!!!!!!!~~~~~~

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Visions of sugar cookies dance in my head....

All of the shopping is done...we just have some wrapping to do. We shopped local, small businesses yesterday. I am very happy with the surprises I found for the kids and I was happy to keep my purchases right here in the "neighborhood"! Today is about the baking. Like many of you...I have to make Christmas cookies, today. I just have to do it in much larger quantities!!! This is going to be short and SWEET (get it??) but I did promise to try to keep up with my blog responsibilities!! I have a list of the cookies that need to get done today and the ones that need to get done tomorrow so that I can stay on schedule for all that I need to do on Thursday...wow, I am tired just thinking about it!! I have visions of...well not sugar plums...but sugar cookies dancing in my head. Santa, stockings, bells and trees....eggnog crescents, candy canes, snowballs...but, can I make a confession?? I, also, have visions of red hearts and raspberry filled cookies and heart shaped spritz...yes, OK...I'll admit it...even while I am baking beloved Christmas cookie recipes (most of which were my grandmother's...) I am thinking about Valentine's Day!!!! It really is no wonder I don't know what month we are in most of the time!!! Happy 4 more days until Christmas....maybe if I say it enough, I will remember which month this is!!! I am off to bake...Christmas, Christmas, Christmas....oh, wouldn't those checkerboard cookies be pretty in red and white?? Maybe a little pink....focus, focus, FOCUS!!!!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The stockings were hung....

This is our last day off before Christmas. It is the day for stocking stuffers. Our kids are all grown. They all have their own lives and responsibilities, so we are going to give them the best, and most useful, gift at this stage of life...cash! It isn't fun or exciting...and it certainly isn't a big surprise....but it will be a perfect fit! The whole gift giving point, after all, is to find something to make the person receiving the gift happy...when you are in your 20's...cash fits the bill!! That doesn't mean we can't throw a few surprises in the mix...that is today's purpose!! I don't know what I am looking for...but I'll know it when I see it!! Now...my grandson, on the other hand, HE is getting all kinds of surprises!! We are really looking forward to his first Christmas. This Mom Mom thing is awesome!! I am going to enjoy myself, today, because tomorrow marks the beginning of a very busy week!! This weekend was a "sweet" one....the bakery case is empty!! So, I have a ton of baking to do for the case as well as all of my orders...and the restaurant is booked, booked, booked!!! Christmas parties galore!! Owning your own business is a lot of work...but it is so worth it when you see how many people want to spend special times with you....it makes me happy to know the hard work is appreciated!! I will do my best to keep up with my blog, this week! Hey...if Santa can keep up with everything he has to do...I guess I can do my part too!!! The stockings were hung by the chimney with care...in hopes that I find something cool to put there!!! Have a great Monday!!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

The magic of Christmas......

The big day is approaching!! Well...yes, THAT big day is approaching, too...but the delivery day for all of the gifts we have purchased for our "adopted family" is Monday. My Husband and I went shopping last night and finished up the list. The Ladies of the family started this at Toys 'R' Us as a big group when we went shopping for Toys for Tots. Then my Brother-in-law and Sister-in-law took care of the bikes and my niece got some things while she did her own shopping. So we went with our final list of gifts and finished it up last night. This has been a wonderful experience. We have been able to feel exactly what it's like to BE Santa Claus. It has made me realize the important lessons Santa Claus teaches. When your kids are little you tell them all about Santa....(or, at least I hope you do...) We tell them all about the North Pole and the reindeer and the elves. Sometimes, though, I think we may forget what we are really teaching them. The Santa Claus legend is just like every other fairy tale...fantasy based in truth. A great story all wrapped up in a moral....a lesson taught in a not so obvious way. What better lesson could there be? Santa Claus teaches us kindness and generosity~~selflessness and unconditional love. He teaches us to try to do the right thing (or be good for goodness sake...) and to put others first. He shows us that anything is possible (even squeezing down a chimney...) with a lot of hard work and dedication!! And he shows us that giving of yourself is the best gift of all!!! Oh sure...somewhere along the way the "truth" shows itself....but if you've done your job the magic will stay with your kids their whole lives!! Mine were a big part of this project, and all three of them get a whole lot more out of giving gifts than they do receiving them. They are very kind, tolerant, hardworking and generous members of society....I would like to take all of the credit for this...but I'm pretty sure Santa may have had something to do with it too!! Do you believe in Santa Claus and the magic of  Christmas?? I know I do....I'm calling it a night...We are going to be very busy at work, tomorrow, and then there is a sleigh full of presents for "the elves" and I to wrap!!! Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!!!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Oh Christmas tree....

Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree...we went and found our tree on Monday (this has been one crazy week....sorry I am so behind in my blogs!!) We headed North, this year. We went to a tree farm up near Blue Mountain. I would love to find a farm that we can call our own and go to every year, but we either can't find the kind of tree we like...or they only have weekend hours, or the trees are not big (tall) enough. My niece told us about this one...I think we will be going back there next year. We always used to get Douglas Firs...but the last few years we have been getting Frasier Firs. It took a little convincing, at first, because the ones I was drawn to were not super full...you could see the trunk between the branches...and they were also very "natural" looking, not "perfectly" shaped...which is what I loved about them. (They remind me of The Waltons Christmas trees) Once we get them in the house, though, everyone comes around. The farm we went to this year does do some pruning, so I was a little concerned that the charm I was looking for would have been cut away...but the one we found was minimally pruned. It is a little fuller than we have had the last few years, but I am happy with it!! We won't decorate it until Christmas Eve...that is our tradition. This tree is covered in memories...many of the ornaments we have are handmade...quite a few by us. Each and every one has a special meaning. We have more than one tree, though, four to be exact! The full sized artificial tree is covered in blown glass...I have a huge collection and add to it all the time! Then the other two trees are only about 4 foot and thin...they are both covered in "edibles"...candy, cake and cookie ornaments (I can't imagine why I collect those????) We have another tree, too. It's in the living room. It's made of wire and each "branch" has a hook on the end to hold an ornament. It is covered with my husband's collection of vintage Christmas balls. He collects the glass balls from the 50's...only the ones with pictures of some kind....we have houses, churches, deer, toys, bells....he remembers these balls from when he was a kid...it's a really cool collection!! The tree is full, though, so I don't know what we are going to do with more....but we keep looking anyway!!! It is really fun to hear all the different traditions that everyone has when it come to our trees....but, no matter what YOUR tradition is, I hope the time you spend around that tree is wonderful!!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Christmas song rant.....

Well...here we are, less than two weeks to go until the big day!! A few weeks ago, if you had asked, I would have told you how much I love Christmas music. I think it's a shame that we only get to hear it for such a short period of time. I would have told you that I love ALL of it...from the more religious carols to the silly songs of Santa!!! I would have told you that, without a doubt, there isn't a Christmas song that I don't like!!!~~~I would have been wrong!! I have come to the conclusion that there are, in fact, a few that I CAN'T STAND!!!!!!!!!! OK...that may be a bit harsh...if the truth is told, it is the "artists" singing the songs that I can't stand!!! I was SO excited when one of our local radio stations started to play all Christmas music...even before Thanksgiving!!! I was in my glory!! A few extra weeks of my beloved Christmas music is a great thing!! However, they play the SAME exact songs over and over and over...(and we listen to it ALL day long!!!) I am going to tell you, right now, I can't stand Mariah Carey!!!! Seriously. I am, also, finding myself turning the station off each and every time I hear the beginnings of any and all Jackson 5, Bruce Springstein and Carrie Underwood. I absolutely hate the Dean Martin version of Rudolph the red nosed reindeer...or as he (drunkenly???) refers to him "Rudy"....I am not a fan of John Lennon...or his wife (eeeish!!!) and that "Band Aid" song should be outlawed!!! "Just thank God it's them instead of you"...really???? Where are the classics??? Give me a little Julie Andrews...I don't think they have played ANY...Andy Williams, Burl Ives, Perry Como, Bing Crosby....THAT is Christmas music! Don't get me wrong, I love some of the "newer" classics, too....I mean does it get any better than the Muppets?? How about those 12 pains of Christmas??? Give me John Denver, Celine Dion, Josh Grobin....how about some of those country CDs....Brad Paisley, Vince Gill, LeAnne Womack....there is SO much amazing music and I have to listen to the same, horrible, songs over and over.....Thank God I have the vast CD collection that I do....I am, currently, looking into starting my own radio station...does anyone know how to go about doing that??? I'll tell you right now....even if you listen to it 10 straight hours, like we do.....you wouldn't have to hear Mariah Carey once. And certainly NOT the every 20 minutes that she is currently played!!!!! All I want for Christmas is you....to GO AWAY!!!!! I feel better!!!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Two weeks to go....

Up on the housetop, reindeer paws...out jumps dear old Santa Claus....The countdown has, truly, begun...I know this because today is my husband's birthday!!! His birthday was always a barometer of sorts...only two weeks to go, how ready are we??? What else needs to get done??? This was a much bigger issue when the kids were little. I already told them to expect cash...they seem to be OK with that!! The one we have to get ready for, now, is my grandson. All I have left to do, for him, is the Hess truck (it's a MomMom thing...my MomMom collected the Hess trucks for my son...he got one every year...so we are carrying on the tradition with my grandson. We got him his first one last Christmas and he wasn't even here yet!!) Of course, when you own your own business, you have to rearrange the calendar a bit...so we will be celebrating his birthday on Monday (our day off...) We have all become accustomed to this. Sometimes you get lucky and your birthday FALLS on a Monday (every 7 years, to be exact...) but the rest of the time we just postpone it a bit. We are heading out to get the tree. He wants to put it up and get the lights on it. That way he can put his train underneath it. He loves to run the train and can't wait for my grandson to see it!!! The tree won't, actually, get decorated until Christmas Eve (the kids always thought Santa did it...) but the smell will be enjoyed while it awaits adornment!! We are planning a quiet evening at home...those are his instructions...and that is OK with me!!~~~ Tonight is our family "Ladies Night" Christmas party...this is when we find out who our "secret pals" are! We have it at my sister-in-laws house. I feel badly that we are leaving my husband home alone on his actual birthday...but he will, probably, be happy for the peace and quiet!! If you are planning to come in and see us, today, wish him a "Happy Birthday"....better yet, sing it to him!! We had a special party booked, on his birthday, a couple of years ago. It was a church function...all women. They wanted me to teach a special class ( I taught them how to make a yule log..) and they had their Christmas "meeting" at the same time. They brought a portable keyboard and they were singing Christmas carols while they ate the yule log. They, really, had a great time. The lady in charge of putting it together knew it was my husbands birthday...and, at one point, he came out and was listening to them sing...all of a sudden they broke into "Happy Birthday"...and it took him a few seconds to realize they were singing to him!! It was great...a real Sweet Memory!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I still believe...

I don't have a whole lot of free time, this time of year...who does?? I mean it is Christmas!! I have been "surfing" on here a little bit, though...quickly reading some of the blogs I follow and reading facebook posts. It is really interesting to me how differently we all see this Holiday. I have seen some posts from Grinch, himself...and I have seen some posts that, surely, are from Santa's #1 elf. I have seen things written about how no one wants to bake...how tired everyone is of Christmas songs and movies...how they need to finish shopping or still need to get the decorating done. I have, also, read posts from people who are as excited as kids for this season!! As far as I'm concerned, Christmas is a state of mind...and, for me, it lasts at least the whole month of December...(and, truthfully, half of November!!) All those things that everyone is complaining about IS Christmas, to me! It would be sad if this only lasted one day. Christmas day, itself, is great. We spend time with our family and have all kinds of traditions...but the decorations and the smells, the lights and the music, the magic and the memories ARE Christmas....even the "sappy" movies and cartoon specials are important parts of the puzzle. I have a lot to get done, too....but I really hope and pray that I never get to the point where I feel like I don't want to do it...that it is nothing but a hassle...once that thought gets into your head, the magic is gone! I don't know about you....but I still believe. I believe that we can make a difference, I believe that making other people happy is the best gift you can give yourself and I believe that Christmas is more than just a day on the calendar. The magic is out there...and there is still time to find it! I am going to work and bake cookies...my grandmother's ginger cookies to be exact!!!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The snowflakes are falling....

The snowflakes are falling...the frost's in the air...but Christmas is coming so what do we care...kind Santa is knocking, perhaps you can hear...hang up every stocking and be of good cheer!!!~~~~My Mom Mom sang that song every time it snowed...and we had a little flurry activity, yesterday....just enough to be pretty~not enough to be a problem. That's the way I like it!! I ran into a friend of mine, yesterday...she said if it's going to be this cold she wants 3 feet of snow so she doesn't have to go to work. I said I wholeheartedly disagree. That would really mess up a lot of plans for a lot of people. The "party" season is in full swing this week...lots and lots of "big" reservations on the books....we are busy, busy, busy....PLEASE no weather concerns to mess that up for everyone....especially this weekend. We have a birthday party for a 5 year old on Saturday, and our Ladies Night Christmas party is Saturday night, too. They aren't calling for anything...let's just keep it that way until January~ We were on a mission, yesterday, to find a wreath for my front door. That, probably, sounds silly since I sell things like that in my gift shop! However, our front door faces South and we have a full-view glass storm door...it creates a "greenhouse" effect in between the doors that make decorations, such as berries, explode. When I am ordering the wreaths that will be for sale in the shop, I order the prettiest ones I can find...which usually means lots of decorations. You would think I would consider my own needs while I am at it...but I don't!! I have some really pretty things, at the shop right now, that I would love to be able to use...but they would just get ruined. I can't use a fresh one, either, because it would "cook" and all of the needles would fall off!! I, finally, found a plain, rather real, looking one with little pine cones. I added an ice skate filled with snowman faces and I will bring home a snowflake garland that I have at the shop, today. that will finish it off, nicely...and it can stay up for the whole Winter!! Job done. I also planted all of my paper white bulbs...another job done. I am going to work on my "kissing balls" tonight...I bought styrofoam balls at the craft store, but quickly realized that I should have gotten floral foam...it will be too much work just to get them done and have all of the greens fall out...I don't think so!! So...floral foam it is. I will update you on the progress of this project later...for now, have a great day!!!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Long Day...and cookie presses...........

This has been one long day....we have done a special "Christmas party" breakfast for a group of Hospice volunteers for the last four years. We open just for them on a Saturday morning and they have their Christmas party. We have had the need (unfortunately...) for Hospice in our family, and the people who work and volunteer there SHOULD have a special party!! It is a very, very hard time for anyone who is using their services...and how they can do what they do, day after day, is amazing. We are all too happy to open early and feed them...we make a slightly pared down Sunday Brunch menu for them...this year there were 31 people at the party!! It was a big group...(the trick is to make all of the food we will need for our "normal" lunch service and all of my bakery orders at the same time!!) I feel like we're giving back, a little...and we will do whatever it takes! ~~~On a different note...I got it into my head to make spritz cookies, yesterday. Once upon a time I had one of those old-fashioned crank type cookie presses. I am not sure where it went...I'm sure it's around here somewhere...but, along the line, I was enticed to leave that old relic behind and replace it with a newer, better, more efficient model. Uuummmm....I bought a Wilton cookie press, first. Piece of junk. Then I replaced that one with a Pampered Chef. Also a piece of junk. Then, last year, I replaced that one with a Cuisinart....ELECTRIC....with a plug....also, a piece of junk!!!! I took it out, yesterday, to make these cookies and could not get it to work~~surprise, surprise~~ my daughter said "don't you have this problem every year??? Is it some kind of joke??" Well...if it is I'm not laughing!! I had my daughter call the kitchen store and ask if they had a cookie press. So...I don't know if you are keeping track....but this is now cookie press #5...yes, I said #5...but guess what?? It's brilliant!!!! It is made in Italy and it is awesome....if you have found yourself in the "cookie press" nightmare, let me know and I will tell you the name of this one..end of nightmare!!! (Needless to say, there are pretty little green Christmas tree spritz cookies in the case!!!Anybody who knows me knows that once it's in my head...it's as good as done...even if that means buying yet another cookie press....I guess FIVE times is the charm!!!) If you don't want to make them at all, you can always call and order them from us...I'll be HAPPY to make them now that I finally have a cookie press that works!!!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Need a little Christmas....

There is SO much preparation involved in each and every Holiday and season, when you are in retail, that it seems to go on for months...but, then, there comes a moment when you realize that it is, actually, here. It can be very surreal...and, kinda mess with your head a little!! That realization hit me yesterday. The "real" countdown has begun...not just the "retailers" countdown, but the "real"...everyone is on the same page at the same time...countdown!!! So...are you ready?? I have a friend who is frantically searching for the little red hot cinnamon candies for her gingerbread men and another friend who decided to have her "work" Christmas party earlier this year...and is now regretting it. There just aren't enough hours in a day to do it all...get it all done...and yet, come December 25th...all over the world...we are all, somehow, ready. The tree is up and decorated, the gifts are wrapped and under it, the cookies are baked and the dinner is in the oven. I say we start a new tradition this year and stop stressing...I say, let's enjoy the season!!~~~ What does that mean for you??? What is your favorite Christmas activity?? What is your favorite Christmas movie/special...favorite song...favorite kind of Christmas cookie??? Do you drive around and look at the lights...go caroling...travel to see family?? Do you love to wrap or decorate or bake?? Take a moment to think about this, today, and try to get all of those activities in your schedule...after all, Christmas comes but once a year...and we all need a little Christmas...now!!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Gingerbread House Class #3....

Last night we hosted gingerbread house class #3...it was the biggest and most attended ever!! A lot of little ones...and a lot of helpers (and picture/video takers!!) I made all kinds of food...a "pizza" Christmas tree, cheese dip with little soft pretzels, little crab appetizers, glazed meatballs, ranch deviled eggs...all kinds of desserts and a punch...they wiped me out~~ate everything!!! Which makes me happy, on one hand, but concerned that there wasn't enough food on the other hand!! No one complained...so I guess they had enough to eat!! We had a last minute cancellation because someone was sick, so the plan is to decorate that house and have it available for sale. We do this every year anyway...it will just get done sooner!! We had a little group come, but half of them had another engagement an hour into the class....THAT has never happened before!! The little girl couldn't finish the house....(no matter how good you are an hour for eating AND finishing a house is NOT going to cut it!!!) so the rest of the party took a stash of candy and one of my bags full of icing home with them so that they could finish...unfortunately, the bag is disposable...but it had one of MY pastry tips in it!! We, also, have quite a few "artists" who have been doing these houses for years...so they have developed an eye for spotting unusual candy...some of them "collect" it during the year to use on these houses!! But it does belong to them...they are, usually, generous and have no problem sharing...but, sometimes, they have a plan and need all of it....there was some "helping yourself" going on, last night. We will need to address some little glitches in the future...but, all in all, it was a great night and they all did a great job!!! With the Christmas music playing in the backround, the lights on outside, the tree and fireplace all decked out and so many excited little "artists"...it was, really, beginning to look a lot like Christmas!!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Still playing Santa....

So...I am playing Santa...again!!! I had this great idea, yesterday. We have a mailbox for letters to Santa! The kids can put their letters in the box....but we will hold on to them so that you can have them as a keepsake!! I was watching a movie on the Hallmark channel, and the main character found a letter that she had written when she was a little girl...I thought "I wish I had the ones that the kids had written..." but, of course, we sent them. This way you can send them...AND keep them, too!! I was telling my husband this idea and he was trying to figure out what this meant for him (most of my ideas involve some sort of extra projects for his "honey-do" list...) but all I needed him to do was pick up a nice new mailbox at the Home Depot when he went to RETURN some of the candy cane lights ( a new record???? These not only didn't last the normal ONE season...they didn't even make the two WEEK mark!!!!) which he did yesterday. So...the mailbox is open for business!! We have so many great "little customers"...I can't wait to see them use this mailbox!!! I am so excited...~~~ On to other news...tonight is gingerbread house class #3. There are a lot in attendance, this evening, so we have a gingerbread city awaiting them, this week...not the usual village!! I spent about half of my "day off" ( I am beginning to use that term very loosely..) making the dough and baking off pieces. It was worth it!! We only had to stay an extra hour, last night, to get the rest of the pieces baked and the houses put together....all ready to go!! Now, I wish it would stop raining!!! Yuck!! Not at all what you picture the first day of December to be like...at least not in Pennsylvania!! Oh well, Happy December anyway!!!!!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Playing Santa....

Last night we played Santa. It was awesome!! In my family we have experienced some loss...this, of course, is not exclusive to our family. However we have had some harder than average hits. This kind of experience can drive you apart, or bring you closer. We started a "Ladies Night" in our family. Actually, my sister-in-law started it. We have since lost her. What we do is...once a month all of the Ladies in the family get together and have dinner. We rotate hostesses and the hostess of the evening makes the food. We have had craft nights and game nights...we have had themed food nights...we have even gone out to dinner. Those of us who are committed to this have become even closer. We have "lost" some along the way who weren't committed...but that's to be expected. It is still a very worthwhile way to spend one night a month. A few years ago, my husband asked everyone to start to pay "dues" so that we could give back...as a way to "honor" the family we've lost. The first two years we gave a nice sum of money to St. Jude through our local radio station...but last year just got away from us. The result...we have quite a bit of money in our "account"!! So, we decided to do as much "good" this Christmas as possible!! Last night we all met up at Toys 'R' Us and filled a shopping cart with all kinds of toys and games for as many age groups as we could and filled the donation box....We, also, did some of the shopping for our adopted family while we were there. So, when we got up to the cashier, I said we need to keep these separate if you don't mind. We checked out the gifts for our adopted family first...she gave me the total and then asked if I would like to donate a dollar to the Toys for Tots...I said "this next whole cart is for Toys for Tots..." She looked surprised...said "Oh" and finished that transaction!! Then she asked me if I needed a bag for the next cart load....I said "no...I think we'll just put them right in the box". We created a bit of a scene and several employees were watching, and thanking us, and one nice young man gave my little 4 year old niece a high five on the way out!! My husband and I have done this, before...but it was a great experience to watch my little niece get in on the fun!! She insisted that we buy a fire truck for a little boy...needless to say...there is a fire truck in the box!! If you have ever thought about doing something like this...I cannot recommend it enough!! It's what Christmas IS about...giving to others. I am super proud of my family...they are the best!! Now we are on to the next "giving project"....HoHoHo!!!!

Monday, November 29, 2010

And the quest continues....

Our attempt at turning the shop into a gingerbread house continues. In between our Brunch service and our Sunday Supper service, yesterday, my husband took the "ingredients" that we found on Saturday night and decorated the front windows. We wound up buying garland (evergreen and pinecone...) and more little colored lights (the only thing available...) then we, also, bought "shatter proof" (aka plastic) Candy cane and little peppermint ornaments. We found them at The Home Depot...they are Martha Stewart brand (she is making some odd marketing choices...) The candy canes all needed to be re-glued and one of the peppermint candy ornaments was broken...(I must have misunderstood the meaning of shatterproof....) Seriously?? This whole experience has just made me that much more determined to carry quality, unique gifts and decorations in the shop!! It wasn't enough that we had to go all over the Lehigh Valley, or that we had to "settle" for this solution...(I will be honest...it looks really good, so this may have been for the best...) but we had to "fix" everything before we could even use it!! Maybe it's just me...but I think when you put your name on something you should make sure it's a better quality. I don't think it should always be about the $$$$...but that's just my opinion...or as I was once told "the world according to Jamie"...(I think it was meant as a dig...but I don't see it that way...) If everyone took pride in their product and had really high standards....the world would be a better place!!! If things were of a better quality, they could be handed down as heirlooms instead of thrown in the landfills. If lights would last more than one season...there would be fewer "Scrooges" driving all over the place trying to replace them. If we could spend more time enjoying the Holiday, and less time getting frustrated....that would be a "good thing"...right??? I think I might go on the Martha Stewart website and give them a piece of my "world according to Jamie"...IT'S a good thing!!!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Looking for Christmas...Lights.....

Every year, when we decorate the outside of the shop for Christmas, I have visions of  sugar plums dancing in my head....well, visions of a gingerbread house, anyway. I think, with the porch and the little front garden, that it lends itself to decorating it to look like a gingerbread house. We have lights that are colored (the candy) but with white "icicles" hanging down (the icing)...they go along the edge of the porch. Then we try to find as many things that are candy related as possible for everything else. In the past we have had a candy cane tree (which fell apart and burned out all at the same time...) peppermint lights that go in the ground...which, also, burned out (but my wonderful brother-in-law fixed them for me...Thank-you, again!!!) candy canes that, also, go in the ground...although usually don't last more than two seasons....peppermint lights that we put all around the front door (We searched them out, last year, and bought all that we could find...only one strand is working this year...) are you seeing a trend??? Nothing is made to last...nothing!! So...with so little to work with, this year, we were on a quest to fill in the "blanks". We had a little time last night, so, after a dinner of leftovers (again) off we went....the conclusion to this quest??? The choices in outdoor lighting and decorating (and, frankly, indoor as well...) are HORRIBLE!!!!! What a huge disappointment!! I mean we were EVERYWHERE and everything that is available is junk!! I wasn't really looking for decorations...I mean, I know where to get the very best...Sweet Memories has it (wink wink...) but the lighting selection was non-existent. So...our creativity has been challenged...and we will have to go with plan B. I have to spend some time baking off gingerbread house pieces, tomorrow,(class #3) so my husband is going to see what he can do with what we've got!! I'll let you know how it all turns out...in the meantime, if you know of a place, that I am unaware of, that is carrying anything....ANYTHING...other than plain multi-colored lights...please let me know!!!!!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"Small Business Saturday"....

Wow...Black Friday!! Let's be honest...we are the antithesis of Black Friday. No parking problems, no crowds, no frustration, no pushing or trampling. Pretty Christmas music, a nice lunch, some treats out of the bakery and shopping happily. All day. Busy, busy, busy!! Everyone was really getting into the Christmas spirit!! Lots and lots of shopping bags heading out the door~~~and I have a sneaking suspicion that many of the purchases were personal treats!!! Nothing wrong with that!! We were VERY busy in the restaurant and bakery as well...either everyone was sick of turkey or just wanted to get out and enjoy themselves...nothing wrong with that, either!! We have a family (well...the female part of a family) that has made an afternoon with us their "day after Thanksgiving" tradition. We were trying to remember how many years they have been doing this...at least the last 10, if not longer!! When they started this, we could get all of them at one table...there were 17 attending yesterday, I believe!! The family is growing...and we are, still, a part of their lives!! It's pretty awesome!! Today has been dubbed "Small Business Saturday". Trying to compete with "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday"...I think it's a good idea. Sometimes we forget about the "little guy" and find ourselves in the "big box stores" more often than not. So, I think, whatever can be done to promote small businesses is a good idea. I have explained my view on this issue, before. I always try to spend some money when I am in other shops...even though I have access to the same merchandise (wholesale). It's not, always, about the pricetag. There is a whole lot going on in these small businesses. At least there is for us. Personal service, interaction with our customers...most of the time we consider you all part of our family. You can't get that at the "big stores"....and it is not included on the pricetag!! If there is a shop you love (I hope we are on that list!!) go and see them, today, and tell them they are doing a great job....spend some of your Christmas budget with them. It might not get you that laptop for $10.00....but, in the long run, you'll get a whole lot more!!!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thansgiving memories...

So...Thanksgiving is a memory!! For us it is a "sweet" one!! It was a very nice day!! I had to start from scratch and make everything, including our pies...but it all got done! We had a lovely breakfast and then didn't eat until 5:30 (that way I had the oven all day and could get everything baked.) My husband got most of the Christmas lighting done...in the SNOW...that was an interesting twist!! It is his tradition to do all of the lighting on Thanksgiving morning. We were keeping an eye on the weather all last week because they were calling for rain, then they changed it and thought it would hold off until later in the day...then they changed it, again, and he was pretty sure he wasn't going to be able to do it. As soon as it got light, he went out and got started...hoping to, at least, get some of the lights up. Next thing you know...it's snowing!!! He still has some more he wants to do...but we did have some lights for Thanksgiving. It would have been heartbreaking to have a dark night!! We had our Grandson at the table for dinner. He couldn't figure out why he couldn't eat what we were eating...but that will have to wait for next year!! He had a long day and was very tired (and cranky) by night's end...but, then again, weren't we all!!! I had planned to write this last night, but I will be honest and tell you...I didn't have the energy!! We started to watch "Miracle on 34th Street"...but I fell asleep soon after the Thanksgiving parade part...which is at the beginning!! Oh well....good thing we have DVDs!!! I am off to work. I have a lot to do. The empty bakery case is calling me!! Have a great day....

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!

Twas the night before Thanksgiving....and we got everything done! Our day started at the crack of dawn...but that early start was crucial to our success. 25 cakes, 14 pies, 8 cheesecakes and a mixed bag of various other goodies later and all that was left to do was wait for them to get picked up!!! Everyone respected my pick up time and came when they were supposed to.(The pick up time is between 2:00 and 5:00....at 1:59 I was finishing the last cake!!!) No one forgot, so no "reminder" calls had to be made. And the "icing on the cake"...we closed 20 minutes early so I could come home and do some of MY preparations. (I think it's funny~~ all of our hard work, all of the white boxes that left the shop today and I need to get up early tomorrow....I still have to bake OUR pies!!!)~~~ I started roasting only turkey breasts a few years ago. No one in our family is a dark meat fan, and roasting the whole bird was a waste. I have done the brine method before and decided to do it again this year. So I had to make the brine and submerge the turkey in it overnight. I bought a brine bag at the store...super easy!! They are HUGE and very sturdy. I wanted to add fresh herbs to the brine mixture....so there I am, in the dark, cutting herbs from my garden!!! I put rosemary, oregano, sage and thyme in the bag...added the salt, some sugar, onion, celery, peppercorns and water, rinsed the turkey off and put it in the bag, put the twist tie thing on it and put it on a cookie sheet in the refrigerator...easy!!! I will let you all know the result tomorrow night. In the meantime, I am beat and calling it a night!! From all of us at Sweet Memories....have a fantastic Thanksgiving!!! I would say don't eat too much....but that's the whole point of this Holiday....so go for it!!!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Can I have the recipe???

These are our newest recipe cards...the art work is SO cute!!! They would be a great gift...or an addition to a gift. If you make homemade things for gift-giving (which is brilliant by the way....everyone eats and something homemade is awesome!!!) include the recipe~~on these cards! We have had a whole bunch of new arrivals show up the last few days. The Switchables are in, the magnetic calendars, the advent candles, the bayberry candles and the cutest little gnomes...they are supposed to help you with your household chores...too cute!!! Lots and lots of unique things for gift giving ( or self treating...) We are, also, expecting the Christmas cookie cutters any minute...I really thought they would show up today. I did an awful lot of "Thanksgiving order" preparation today....I peeled pounds and pounds of apples and mixed up a ton of piecrust!! Tomorrow will be a challenge....mostly because there just is not enough oven space....probably the same problem you have at your house when you are cooking a big meal!! A little organization, some planning and an early start should do it!! I haven't failed yet...and it won't happen this year, either!! It really is a very nice feeling to know that you are a part of so many celebrations....I have a great job...exhausting, but great!! I am hitting the hay....big, BIG day tomorrow. I will be back tomorrow night....or out like a light on the couch, depending on how it goes!!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Happy, almost, Thanksgiving!!!!

Here it is...Thanksgiving week!!! The official start to the Holidays!! I am very excited...I love this time of year!! We ran all of our errands this morning, so Thanksgiving~~~~is in the refrigerator!! Of course I still have to cook it, but that is just a technicality. Everyone always asks me if I have to cook. When I say "yes" they always look a little offended on my behalf. The truth of the matter is I wouldn't have it any other way! When you compare this meal with what we have to do everyday...this is a walk in the park!! I enjoy making everyone happy...it's what I do!! We had our ladies night on Saturday and decided to head up to Toys 'R' Us and buy things for Toys For Tots...but we also "adopted" a family through my niece's church and we are going to play Santa Claus for them~~hopefully make their Christmas happier!!! We are also going to help another family that is going through a rough patch and are looking into donating food to the food bank!! All in all...a very successful Ladies Night!! I am really looking forward to the Holidays this year!! The next few weeks are going to be crazy busy...but that's part of the fun!!! This week we have Thanksgiving, next week is Gingerbread House Class #3...then we have the Breakfast coming up that we do for the Hospice volunteers, Gingerbread House Class #4, December Ladies Night, Lots and lots of parties booked at the restaurant, orders, orders and more orders....Whew, I think I'll go take a nap!!!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Getting caught up.....

Let's play a little catch-up.....These are some of the houses from class #2. Again....they did a great job!!! Class #3 is the first Wednesday in December. When I came up with this class schedule it was still HOT outside and the thought of all of this was really just a misty "down the road" idea....and then, just like that, it's here!!! Crazy!! First things first, though, we have to get through the mountain of orders I have for Thanksgiving!!! I attended a meeting on Thursday night to discuss a very interesting idea for next Fall....I won't elaborate just yet...I feel that it is important for me to focus on the tasks at hand right now....I have enough of them at the moment....but I will keep you updated!!! I ordered the Christmas cookie cutters (that I have been planning on ordering for 2 weeks....) and the Switchables, too. Both companies are very prompt, so they are on their way as we speak....(but I, also, ordered my Valentine and Easter candy. Too funny!!) I have really gotten all out of whack with my writing schedule for this blog...we haven't been home, in the evening, all week. I will try to get back on track, AGAIN, this coming week. We have "ladies night" with my family, tonight, so that is why I'm writing now. We get together once a month and have dinner and hang out!! My 4 year old niece is, usually, the entertainment. It is a lot of fun....but we have some important business to discuss tonight. We give "dues" every month and then try to do something charitable with the money. We need to figure out what we are going to do this year. We have enough money in our treasury that we will be able to do many things.. I am excited!! This is what Christmas is all about....I will let you know what we decide to do....but in the meantime...this might be an idea to help with some of the stress of gift giving!! Maybe instead of giving gifts to your friends (and maybe even the adults in your extended family...) you could pick a charity and do something for them!!! Among other things, we have Toys for Tots on our list...what a fun thing!! Go buy some toys that you know will make a little ones Christmas...playing Santa has much more appeal than earrings!!! Just saying!!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Almost done....

The transformation is almost complete...I am going to do this fireplace display on Tuesday...and that will put us in total Christmas mode!!! My husband and youngest daughter worked on the front porch, yesterday, and it looks great!! They are not done...but it got dark and some of the lights weren't working...so the frustration set in. Today is a new day!! Doing the lighting is their thing. They do all of the lighting outside, at home, together...on Thanksgiving morning while the turkey is roasting. It's their tradition. Speaking of which...our next installment...Another source of Holiday stress is decorating. I think that's a shame!! Stop freaking out about it!! There are NO rules. You do what you like and what makes you happy!!! If hours and hours of primping and fussing make you happy...go for it!! If you like all white...do it!! If you are into "retro" go retro!! If you want an all pink tree...make sure your husband is on board...and go pink!!! If you lovingly collect and display things that are very meaningful to you, that's awesome!! If you want to start all over every year...do it!! This time of year should be fun and magical...go with your heart and you can't go wrong. If you love it...it will all work together! That holds true for decorating all year...you can't make a mistake!! If your home makes you smile...you've done something right!! If anyone would like to add anything...please do!!! Have a great day!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Some new traditions....

Our second gingerbread house class was last night and it went well!! I think the ladies set a record for speedy construction!! They didn't even dig into their "tea party" until they were all done. Many of them had some ideas before they got there...we even had an all chocolate house this year!! We took lots of pictures...and then forgot the necessary cord for the camera at the shop!! Always feel like I have a 5 second (or a week..) delay on the picture thing!! Oh well....I'll get that worked out eventually.~~~So...this is a pickle. There is a tradition attached to it. It is hidden in the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve and on Christmas morning the one who finds it gets an "extra" little gift....they are selling like crazy...they do every year...but I am bringing this up for a reason. We are about 5 weeks-ish away from the big day and I want to start to give you some stress relievers, in the form of new traditions. One thing that gets everyone stressed this time of year is finding time for everybody. So I thought we would start there. If you have a large family, have a party. That way everyone can get together at the same time. It is much easier to get together once than to run all over visiting each other. You could plan a "pot luck" and that way no one person has to do a lot of cooking. The added benefit is that there are all kinds of great dishes to choose from!! We host Christmas Morning Breakfast every year....our whole family comes. It is a much looked forward to event...and no one would miss it!! We have all kinds of casseroles, my husband's famous pancakes, baked ham and of course the greatly anticipated sticky buns!!! We "give it" as a gift to our family...but it could just as easily be pot luck. Everyone gets to spend time together, and then go do their thing for the rest of Christmas Day. The same idea could be applied to a gathering of friends. You could even kill two birds with one stone...have a "purpose" party...for example, a cookie exchange (takes some of the baking stress away...you could even "exchange' cookie dough...that way you still get to bake, but the messy part is done!!!) or a "wrapping" party. Bring the gifts that you want to look really special and then everyone brings paper, tape, scissors and then fun embellishments that you can share. Your gifts will look great without spending a fortune on all different paper. Or, if you are a crafty bunch, have a night of gift making. It is much more fun with company!! A progressive dinner with your friends or neighbors is nice, everyone is responsible for one course and you go to the next house for the next course. If all of your friends or neighbors really enjoy decorating that would be a nice way to enjoy their hard work!! I have more ideas...but I will sprinkle them in for the a while instead of all at once. If you have any ideas to add....please feel free to add them! Comment on here or on Sweet memories face book page....I may not be the ghost of Christmas Past...but I will get rid of the Scrooges of the world one way or another!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Believe in the magic....

OK...a few days ago I was on my soapbox (again) talking about The Scrooges out there. I have gotten down from the soapbox...but I haven't given up on the crusade! I have been watching my customers and listening to their comments and I have come to the conclusion that there are people who believe in the magic...and people who don't. Most people believe. I can tell because they are calling and asking about parties and special sweets orders....those are people who want to make someone happy...they believe! We are getting phone calls about certain special items in the gift shop...things to put the finishing touches on your decorations or celebrations...those are people who want everything to be perfect...they believe!! We have people who get lost in their thoughts while they are shopping...looking for a special gift for someone who is special to them....who are so excited with their finds and can't wait to surprise the recipient....they believe!!! Every once in a while, though, I hear "Oh...Christmas already...I'm not ready for this yet..." A non-believer!!! We stayed late at the shop tonight to cut out, bake off and assemble the gingerbread houses for class #2 tomorrow night. I listened to Christmas music all day, today....and when we got home the first thing I did was turn on all of the tree lights in the house!!! I believe in the magic and would like to help everyone else believe too!! Is there some part of the Holidays that stresses you out?? Is there some obligation that you dread?? If so....please tell me about it (either with a comment on here or on Sweet Memories facebook page..) I would like to see nothing but "jolly, happy souls" from now until Christmas....I have some great ideas for gift-giving, entertaining and just plain enjoying....It is possible to have a wonderful Christmas....You just have to believe in the Magic!!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.....

Our house is all decorated for Christmas!!! The outside still needs to get done...but inside it looks great!! I started to unpack the bins and, coincidentally, unpacked the ones with all of my greenery first. Those are the first things I need when I'm decorating...they are like the backround. However they also make a huge mess. There are so many that they cover the floor...and then some!! My plan was to keep going and unpack everything just like I always do. That way I can see everything and figure out where I'm putting what. That part of my plan was suddenly changed, however, because my son called and said he was coming with my grandson for a visit!!!! I just stood there looking at this HUGE mess...all over the floor...where he will expect to be able to CRAWL!!! Small problem!!! I managed to get almost all of the greens put where I wanted them before they got here...all clear for crawling!! Then we took a break and played with my grandson...then got back to work!! It was a nice afternoon...and we still got done in pretty good time!! It really does look great...I will post some pictures as soon as possible. Right now, though, I am getting my PJs on and calling it a night!! I do believe these "days off" are going to kill me!!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Deck the halls.....

One of our local radio stations is playing the Christmas music!!!! I am so excited...it's on on the radio in the kitchen at work (and in my car!!) It is so much fun to work to the Christmas music!! Last night, my husband and I did a little furniture re-arranging and put up the new, artificial, tree we bought Tuesday night. It is all "fluffed" and ready to go!! Now, I don't want ANY confusion here...I am a "real tree" gal 100%!!! The only way I will not have a real tree in my house for Christmas is if I am in a coma....We have more than one tree. This one is for my collection of blown glass ornaments. We used to put it in the foyer. The one we had was just a little big, not nearly as realistic as the ones on the market now (they are like computers and cell phones...state of the art today, out-dated tomorrow!!! The one we had was top of the line a few years ago, and very realistic....then!!) and I wanted to move it into the library. So we found one that is a little taller and slimmer and it fits perfectly!!! The real tree will not get decorated until Christmas Eve...that is our tradition. When the kids were small, they didn't even see it "done" until Christmas morning...they thought Santa decorated it!! Everything else is getting done tomorrow, so we thought we would get all of the "ground work" stuff done last night so we weren't wasting time on that!! It looks great and it's all ready for the 20+ "bins" to come down from the attic!! I know it will be a long day and a lot of work...but I am excited!! I will get pictures on here as soon as possible!! I have not forgotten about my promise to give you some ideas to make your Christmas jollier...I am working on a "format" of sharing...I may even ask for some audience participation....we will see!! In the meantime...I've got to get to work...the Christmas music awaits!!!!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Yeah Candy!!!!!!!!!...........

The Christmas candy IS IN!!!!! Yeah!!!!!!!! I really wanted it to show up on Thursday, but if I were honest with myself I didn't really expect it to come until yesterday. However....time was ticking away and no sign of any trucks...no delivery men...no boxes full of Christmas sweetness....again, I have to be honest...I was getting ANGRY!!!! I thought...I am not going to get it until Tuesday...seriously???? Then, in the middle of lunch service on a Friday....(poor guy) he attempted to make his way in the store, through all of those customers (and said something about no recession here....) gave up and put everything on the porch!! Now, keep in mind, we serve on Friday nights...so we are frantically trying to price everything, move all of the "filler-inner" stuff that I had to use to make that area look presentable for the last TWO weeks, re-arrange the display to my liking (not a small feat in itself...) all while shouting food directions to my husband who was holding down the fort in the kitchen!!! I have to thank my oldest daughter....she was pricing while I was re-arranging. The reason I am thanking her is that I ordered new hot chocolate in little packets 140+ little sticky tags...chocolate Santas with strings on them so that they can go on a package or the tree...60 some...hot chocolate spoons, 4 tubs with 24 in each...you get the picture!! She was a trooper....especially because I kept saying "are you done yet??" Hahaha...anyway, GREAT stuff!!!!!!!! Chocolate advent calendars, Belgian chocolate lollipops, "snowball" bubblegum, flavored hot chocolate stirrers, old-fashioned ribbon candy, chocolate filled candy canes, chocolate covered peeps, Asher non-pareils, little candy cane trees, the pasta shaped like snowmen and reindeer....the list goes on!!! I can, finally, say that we are ready.....not to say that we don't have anything left to do, I just feel SO much better to have this project done!! Not to mention the fact that I won't have to hide in the kitchen so I don't have to see the disappointment on all of my "little customers" faces!!! They are used to a delightful experience when they rush up to the "candy shop".....the Santa cookie jar (empty) just wasn't cutting it!!! Make sure you stop in and see it for yourselves!! I will get some pictures and share it with those of you who are not in the area!! "The children were nestled, all snug in their beds, while visions of sugarplums danced in their heads....." What a relief!!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Soapbox....yet again!!!!

Indulge me....I am going to get on my soapbox again!! We had some beautiful winter and Christmas artwork arrive yesterday afternoon. We had to spend a little time finding just the right place for it...although I don't expect any of it to "hang around" (pun intended!) for long. While I was pondering the arrangements, and the re-arrangements, a lady came into the shop. When she came upstairs she seemed genuinely surprised that we were "ready" for Christmas...she even questioned weather we were Christmas year round???? Really???? It is the middle of November...right?? I mean, I am constantly confused as to the time of year  (I am figuring out my Easter candy order as we speak!!!!)...however, I have not lost the ability to understand the calendar. I defy you to locate a retail venue that is NOT "ready" for Christmas!!! I know this a hot topic, and everyone LOVES to complain about how it all seems to get earlier and earlier every year. The fact of the matter is it is a LOT of work (getting all of the merchandise out and the displays looking amazing...) and there is a huge monetary investment in this inventory. I don't want to wait until December 1st to bring it all out....you could have been enjoying all of the fun and excitement and magic that is Christmas for weeks!! I think part of the problem is that there isn't enough fun and excitement and magic!!!! When you see hyacinths, in the grocery store, in January...you think "Oh the promise of Spring..." and your thoughts turn to flowers and dinner on the patio...it gives you something to look forward to!! When we spot those first pumpkins we are so excited for the Fall weather and Halloween fun!! But when those first Christmas decorations come out, everyone turns into Scrooge!!!! You can hear the moaning and groaning all around you!! What a shame!!! I LOVE Christmas....and everything that goes along with it!!! If you don't look forward to this season, maybe this is the year to figure out why!! Make some changes...it's not illegal. If there are obligations in your Holiday schedules that make you unhappy...consider them opportunities for change. I know Christmas is for kids...but, at least once a year, we all deserve to enjoy life "like a kid". The magic is there...you just need to believe!!!~~~~~I'm not done with this...I've decided to take this opportunity to come up with some ideas to help you all find the Christmas spirit....even in November!!!! Stay tuned!!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Books, books, books.....

I am sorry that I didn't write anything last night....but I was at the book store!! I am a book junkie!! I love them...I collect cookbooks...they probably number in the 600's...that one is sort of obvious, considering what I do. However, the obsession does not stop there. I have many, many gardening books, books about birds, decorating books, Halloween books and Christmas books. One look at my shelves and it is clear where my heart lies! Of course, I also have all things Harry (Potter) and a friend is hunting down another, more pristine, set for me when she goes to yardsales...because mine are SO loved and read that they are showing their age!! I went to the bookstore looking for one book, in particular, which I found....then added two more to my pile!! I told my husband when we got in the car..."some women love shoes, some purses, some jewelry....just set me loose in the bookstore and I am happy!!" While we were there, we checked out the current issue of Lehigh Valley magazine...we are in it. I hadn't gotten to see the article...it was nice!! So, all in all, a very successful evening!! I am off to work...lots to do!! Another day of watching for that candy order...I won't know what to do if it shows up!! It will be like Christmas!! Waiting for some other things, too. So, have a great day...and thank a Veteran. If it weren't for them...none of us could do what we love, and enjoy the freedom to live the way we do! I'll try to get back on track, tonight. Although, I make no promises...I have new books to read!!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Where are you Christmas Candy?????..........

So...we are now in week three of waiting for the Christmas candy order. I put a delivery date on it that should have ensured it's arrival before Halloween. I have been patient...not a trait I usually possess...and I thought that, perhaps, the delay was caused by the very busy time of year we are in the midst of as we speak....as it turns out, the delay is because the order was not in the computer!!! I called my Rep this morning and told her that I still had not received my order and asked her to check on it for me. I guess she got a little huffy with the company because she called me back and she assured me it would be sent out tomorrow at the latest!! Now I am concerned that I am not going to get the whole order...that things will be gone...which would really make me angry! I did this "pre-book" in the time frame allotted, and then got the order in before it was due....and all of this happened so long ago that I can't even remember when I did it!!! The moral of this story is "no more Mrs. Nice Guy"...from now on I am going to be that squeaky wheel you have heard about!! When things don't go the way I think they should....someone is going to get a phone call!!! I spend my whole professional life being dependable and responsible....I wonder what would happen if I lost someones cake order??? Un-thinkable!! Yet....I just don't know!! I did, however, finally receive another order that I placed a long time ago....some of the cutest recipe cards EVER....and these "Thank You Notes" for kids....they just fill in the blanks on the cards. It's a great (and fun) way to teach them etiquette...Really cute!! Hey...maybe if we teach them early, they will be less likely to mess up an important order somewhere down the road!!! Tis the season to be jolly....I'll just keep singing!!!

Monday, November 8, 2010

All packed and put away....

The Halloween is all packed and put away...see you next year!! It's kind of sad, especially because the house looks so empty!! (That is the only blip in the "one day to take down...one to put up" system..) But I only need to put up with it for a week...and I can spend the week thinking about my Christmas displays! I have candles burning, so it smells great...just looks sad...oh well!! It took longer than it should have (although I have a LOT of Halloween....) because I am running on fumes. This stupid "daylight savings time" thing doesn't help. I know the clock is saying 20 of 8:00, but we all know it's 20 of 9:00...and the clock said 3:45 but my inner clock said "get up...it's 4:45!!! I found myself walking in circles...trying to get organized and energized, this morning...so I put "The Santa Claus" on. It helped. I love Christmas movies and cartoons (actually...I love ALL things Christmas!!) and I still get excited when the "specials" come on regular TV...even though we can watch them any time we want to with DVDs...there is just something about them being on TV that I think is exciting...maybe a little "child-channeling"???? I sat and watched "White Christmas" two years ago...I have to say, I didn't care for it. I am sure that statement is punishable somewhere...but there you go! I, also, don't like "A Christmas Story" or "Christmas Vacation" (although the latter is one of my husband and kids favorites...????) Other than those...I pretty much love them all...even the somewhat sappy Hallmark channel selections. By far, though, my all-time favorite is the "Muppets Christmas Carol"!!! I love A Christmas Carol to begin with...and then Michael Caine is brilliant as Scrooge...and the songs are so GOOD...then you have the amazing creative talent of the Muppets themselves thrown in for good measure...It just doesn't get any better!! That will be my entertainment of choice next week when the 20 bins of Christmas come down the attic steps!!! I will sing along with Kermit and hope it goes smoothly!! What are your favorite Christmas movies?? ( If it's White Christmas...sorry!!!) ....to all a good night!!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Spending a little time at home....

We have not been here much this week!!! This was a rough one...but we made it!! The 1803 house candlelight dinner went very well, last night. No trains, again, (that is my biggest fear...that I'm going to get stuck sitting and waiting for the train with hot food in the car...)all of the guests were on time...early in fact. They seemed to really enjoy themselves and we were not too, too late getting home. So all in all, a good night!! We made cranberry-apple pork roast, little dumpling squash stuffed with apple-cheddar-leek custard and roasted asparagus. Dessert was a pumpkin-chocolate cheesecake. The appetizers were bacon and cheese stuffed baby potatoes, broccoli-mushroom cups and creamy crab spread on crostini. The guests all were talking about ghosts and how they would like to see one while they were in the house...no luck. Oh well! So my day off, tomorrow, will consist mainly of taking down all of my beloved Halloween decorations and packing them, carefully, away for next year. I am a little sad...but I am going to get the Christmas things out, next Monday...everything at the shop looks so great I am excited to get that done here at home, too. Something to look forward to. I used to wait until the Monday after Thanksgiving...but then I can only enjoy all of my collections (and hard work...) for a short time and then I have to put it all away!! A few years ago I told my family that I was going to have all of the Christmas "up" for Thanksgiving and asked if there were any objections....they said "no" so...this is what I do and it works for me. I get to enjoy it for a little longer and, by the time we are in full Christmas mode (in the rest of the world...) I have a little time to myself to enjoy it. We can spend our Mondays off doing fun things instead of worrying about decorating!! Besides...Thanksgiving is the start of the Holidays, anyway...otherwise, why would Santa be the highlight of the parade?? If he can show up in the Thanksgiving Day Parade...he can watch all of my family eat turkey...sounds about right to me!!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Candlelight Dinner....

Well...the 'back on schedule" was short lived! This has been an insanely busy week for us, and it's not over! So, I am not going to beat myself up for not being on schedule! We have the 1803 House candlelight dinner, tonight. They hold a raffle. you buy tickets and then a winner is chosen. The winner receives a candlelight dinner for 10. They start with appetizers, then they get a tour of the house. Then they sit down to a salad course, the main entree and then dessert. The trick, here, is that there is no modern kitchen facility...it is a historic site. So we make all of the food in our restaurant and then transport it, one course at a time, to the house. My daughters are at the house, serving and helping out, and they keep me informed of the progress of the guests via cell phone. (WHAT did we do before those things?? Does anyone remember???) When they are "up to" the next thing, they call me and let me know and I put the next course in the car and race over the railroad tracks...(the ONLY potential fly in the ointment....but, in three years, I have not gotten stuck waiting for a train...knock on wood!!!) and deliver. Then I race back and prepare the next course. My husband stays at the restaurant and keeps an eye on the food. It sounds kind of crazy...but it works. It involves a tremendous amount of timing to get it all done when it needs to be...but, as long as the guests are on time, it's fine!! This event and the gingerbread house classes are the "trigger" for me that the Holiday season has arrived!! I don't think we have ever had both events in the same week, before...but sometimes these things are unavoidable!! This picture is of one of our rooms in the gift shops all decked out!! Everyone who has come in this week has been excited about the Christmas merchandise! Lots of shopping going on....so I am not alone!! Once we get to the end of this week, the Holidays will be here!! ....My candy order, is not....but the Holidays are! Enjoy your weekend....and come in and see us, and Christmas, we'll be around all weekend!!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dishtowels and salt & pepper shakers....

OK...back on track!! I prefer to write this at night, but all of my nights, recently, have been spent at the shop!! Tonight...we have some down time! This is the promised picture of the fireplace that my husband built in the gift shop. Pretty cool, right?? It's all decorated for Christmas...along with everything else! Well, actually, that is not true because I am still waiting for the candy order!! We worked on the "kitchen shop" today...it looks great! Lots and lots of awesome dish towels and adorable salt and pepper shakers among many other things. All would make great gifts...and the customers who were buying them, today, as we were getting them out, said the same thing!! We, also, got our back-order from one of my companies. That is all priced and out, too! When we started to get the dishtowels out I thought "What was I thinking? Why did I order SO many..." but once I started to really look at them I realized I ordered them because they are all so pretty!! They are an inexpensive way to add a touch of the holidays to your kitchen, can be changed whenever you want to and are useful, too!! Then I found myself thinking the same thing about the salt and pepper shakers!! But, once you see them, you just can't pass them up!! And, again, what a cute way to add some personality to your dinner table...with very little investment!! The back-ordered items are wonderful, too! We have a real touch of nostalgia happening, this year...you should come in and see for yourselves!! Like I said before...if you are looking for Christmas, I know where you can find it!! Well...We had a very productive day...and I am looking forward to relaxing and watching some TV. Big Bang Theory and Grey's...gotta love a "free" Thursday night!!!

One down...three to go...

The first Gingerbread House Class of 2010 is just a (Sweet) Memory....Once again...they did a great job!!! So much creativity...The table was full of candy and cookies. The icing bags were loaded (and loaded again and again....) the Christmas music was playing in the backround. The refreshments were in place. A big sandwich shaped like a wreath and another one shaped like a candy cane, chips and pretzels with dip and our famous "pizza dip" (we had some little helpers...2 four-year-olds and 1 six....didn't want to get too fancy with the food or they wouldn't eat anything but the candy!!) Then there were several plates of Christmas cookies! I think everyone enjoyed themselves...I know the kids did!! One of our littlest customers is a huge Harry Potter fan and she wanted her house to look like Hogwarts! That was a challenge...but I think we did a pretty good job! We also had an Alaskan log cabin appear right before our eyes! Both of my daughters and I actually rolled up our sleeves and helped in this class...with the bar set so high, we had to do more than just suggest and fill the icing bags!! Once again, I have to say "Great job, one and all!". Our next class is in two weeks. Right now, though, I need to concentrate on the candlelight dinner at the 1803 house...and my big project for today is getting the "kitchen shop" upstairs all ready for Christmas!! Lots of great merchandise for that room, this year!! So, I am off to work...still waiting for the Christmas candy order...I sure hope it comes today!! I will try to write this, tonight, and get back on schedule!! Have a great day!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Gingerbread House Class #1.....

Our first Gingerbread house class of the season is tonight!! All of the houses are baked and constructed and ready for the creativity!! I love these classes...they are so much fun. Everyone really gets into their creations and enjoys themselves. It always amazes me...we provide candy (TONS...) and everyone has the same candy to choose from, yet all of the houses will be different!! So cool!! I need to make all of the refreshments later today...I have decided to make an assortment of Christmas cookies for dessert...nothing says "Christmas" like cookies! I made the house a very box-y shape for this class, because I have been told of some of the plans for the decorations and I didn't want the shape to get in the way...I will take pictures and get them on here...along with some new, Christmas, pictures...my schedule has just been crazy the past couple of weeks and time has flown by...but I will take new ones, today!! We are, still, waiting for the candy order...maybe that will show up this afternoon...that would be awesome...because the "candy shop" looks like heck and is making me crazy!! I hate when things don't look amazing...this could be the day when a whole bunch of new customers come through the door (well...everyday is...) and their first impression is ...."what is that???" you see my point! You only get one chance to make a first impression. I did put a ship date on this order that should have ensured it's delivery before I needed it...I spend my whole life on a schedule with deadline after deadline...it confounds me that the rest of the world doesn't??!! Oh well...maybe today! If it does show up I will take pictures of the "candy shop" too! I have a lot to do so I am off...see you later!!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's Christmas....

It is, officially, Christmas in the gift shoppes at Sweet Memories!! We put in a twelve hour day creating a Christmas wonderland...and we are not done yet!! There is still merchandise to get out and still some more coming in!! But the hard work is done!! (And I am feeling it...) Most stores close for days to get this job done...but, because we are also a restaurant, we can't do that. I don't think I would want to anyway...We had another small problem because we are also a restaurant...we needed to un-decorate the fireplace mantle in the dining room and then, of course, re-decorate it...with what?? I am not ready to do the dining room for Christmas, yet...it's too early!! We opted for Thanksgiving...and it is REALLY pretty!! Then we had the hallway...again, not quite ready for all out Christmas (The front porch will wait a couple of weeks, too...) but where is the dividing line?? So the hallway is still Fall...beautiful wreaths for your front door to welcome your Thanksgiving guests!! It really looks good! I did prepare the "Candy Shop" for a little Christmas...because I am expecting the candy order any minute...but once that is all done, I don't think anyone will mind a little taste of Christmas while they eat their lunch!!! I have to go and Bake, bake, bake...we had a crazy "sugar" weekend...but I wouldn't expect anything less...it was Halloween after all!!! I have to get the gingerbread houses done today, too...our first class of the season is tomorrow night!! It really is beginning to look a lot like Christmas!!!!