Thursday, December 31, 2009
Since The Grove Park Inn was just under five miles from Biltmore we could not head for home without stopping by on our way out of town.
Each year The Grove Park Inn host The National Gingerbread Competition. You can click on the link above for addition pictures. Some of the top winners were no longer on display and had been sent on to New York (bummer) but there were still lots of amazing pieces available to viewing.
It had an amazing Sunset Terrace and just as we were leaving the sun was setting. We Took a brief detour before heading home and spent a few minute watching the sun set over the North Carolina mountains.
God is just to awesome! This picture just does not do the sunset justice.
If you look closely at the picture above you will notice several crazy people enjoying a soak in this outdoor hot tub.
Yea…I don’t think so!
And what I find even more amazing is that there was not a soul enjoying this amazing fire. Go figure?????
Well life has returned to normal, DRAT!!
As per usual thanks for stopping by I hope you enjoyed my little sojourn to North Carolina as much as I did!!
I anticipate my next opportunity to visit some where new and exciting almost as much as I look forward to sharing it with all of you.
Blessings to all of you as we approach a brand new year!
Happy New Year Y’all!
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Just down these steps and a short walk from the main house is the Conservatory.
There were no restrictions on picture taking in there so having been restrained for the better portion of the day I had an absolutely wonderful time snapping away to my hearts content.
It was just amazing inside. If you are a regular visitor here at my blog you will know how exacted I get over God’s creation, and boy was He showing of in big way inside the walls of that conservatory.
Here is my tropical adventure in the middle of a winter wonderland!
Y’all take my advice if you make a visit to Biltmore make sure you take the short walk down those steps and explore the Conservatory.
To sum up our visit to Biltmore, it really made me think. On the way home my husband and I discussed how different life must have been, and the reality that we have no concept what it must have been like growing up with that sort of privilege. Cornelia Vanderbilt, the only child of George and Edith Vanderbilt grew up on the estate. Edith Vanderbilt gave birth to her daughter right there on the estate. The room she gave birth in is included on the tour of the now open up upper floors.
There are pictures of Cornelia swimming in the fountain (the one that was frozen over outside the front of the house) as a young woman.
The lifestyle of the Vanderbilt's is something that in this ere we can not even come close. The attention to detail, the appointments in the rooms. The great lengths that Mr. Vanderbilt went to insure the comfort of his guests and even his staff were amazing. All the servants rooms all had fireplaces and they all had rooms to themselves.
The Vanderbilt's began a tradition of throwing a yearly Christmas party. At this celebration presents were presented to each member of the staff and their children. That tradition is still continued to this day.
I do not know for certain but I came away with the sense that Edith not only relied upon her staff for the running of her household she also counted them among her family as well.
One final recommendation.
If you do find yourself with an opportunity to visit Biltmore, I would highly recommend spending the extra $10.00 for the audio tour. It was well worth the extra expense. It provide me with lots of additional information including stories of humorous things that went on and personal insights of some of the guest that stayed at the estate.
One story which I think will give you some insight into Edith was very sweet. One year as the children were receiving their presents one of the little girls was not happy with her gift. Apparently she was not at all enthused with her paper dolls, Edith questioned her and asked “Well what do you want for Christmas?”
The little girl pointed to the Christmas tree behind her at one of the beautiful glass ornaments. Edith walked over to the tree and removed it and gave it to her. Every year after that when she made her yearly trip to Europe (again another example of things we have no comprehension of) Edith made it a point to purchase a glass ornament for this little girl.
I think that is very cool!
Well that’s it for our Winter Wonderland Adventure in North Carolina.
Up next Gingerbread…
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Without boring you to tears here is a very brief background on the Vanderbilt's and Biltmore Estate.
George Vanderbilt III (he was not married when he began building the house, I would call this the ultimate bachelor's pad wouldn't you) opened Biltmore on Christmas Eve in 1895.
It still maintains the title of the largest private residence in the United States. It took six years to build. The total floor space of the estate is 4 acres, y’all want to vacuum that???? The mansion has a total of 250 rooms, 43 bathrooms, 33 family an guest rooms, 65 fireplaces, three kitchens, and indoor swimming pool as well as the very first bowling alley built inside a private residence.
In 1650 Jan Aertsen van der Bilt emigrated to the United States. The family did not become the American industrial icon’s until Cornelius Vanderbilt began the family empire, legend has it that he borrowed $100.00 for his mother and then launched a ferry service across New York Bay which he eventually turned into a fleet of ships and the rest is a story of multi-millions of dollars.
George Vanderbilt named Biltmore by combining two words: "Bildt," the region in Holland where the Vanderbilt family originated, and "more," an old English word meaning upland rolling hills.
If you click on the link below it will take you to the official website. There is a short slide show of some of the rooms inside the house.
I have to share that I was very disappointed in the rule they have of NOT allowing photographs inside the house. It was defiantly and exercise in restrain and obedience not try to sneak a few shots while the “Official Biltmore No Picture Taking Police” were in view. I did however restrain myself and followed the rules, even if it was really really hard. I would highly recommend purchasing a guide book. It was $12 and it has lots of information about the estate as well as very good photographs of all the high points through out the house.
So since I have no pictures I will try to describe the experience as best as I can.
I have to share with all of you that being the decorating challenged individual that I am I found Biltmore to be a bit overwhelming, the sheer scale of the massive undertaking to get each room decorated for Christmas made my head swim.
There was a fully decorated tree in each room. Not to mention the HUGE 40 foot Frasier Fur tree in the massive dinning room. Y’all I have never in all my life seen anything as beautiful as that tree. The tree was so big, all the ornaments were full size wrapped present. Big ones too!
Some of the larger rooms had multiple tress in them. All the various fireplace mantles were all decorated and there was NOT one repetition. Each room was decorated with a different theme as well as color coordinated to match the decor of the room.
It really did defy description. There were massive amounts of potted poinsettias, in every variety there was, some varieties of poinsettias I had never even seen before. They had poinsettias that had been trained to grow like topiaries (I really wanted to take a picture of that, they were amazing). There were writhes, garland and bows
oh my galore.
If I had to pick which rooms were my favorite I would have to say the library was pretty amazing and then the main dinning room. But it was all beautiful!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And then to add to the experience! What are the odds of visiting the largest, most beautifully decorated house in the country and coincidentally have close to 10 inches of snow on the ground to complete the perfect “Biltmore White Christmas Experience”?
I will say that at times the snow was a bit problematic but over all it was beautiful to look at and my DD and niece had a wonderfully splendid time tromping and frolicking about in the ankle deep fluffy wintry fun.
There were two of these proud lions majestically guarding either side of the massive entry way to the house.
And this is the final picture I was able to snap just prior to entering the main foyer, you will just have to use you imagination and picture yourself surrounded on every side by the most beautiful Christmas fantasy you can ever possibly imagine.
The stable were off to the right side of the house which had been converted into shops and there was a small food court as well as pubic restrooms. The food court was in a small courtyard protected from the wind. They had those big outside space heaters in various places. With the sun shinning down it was really quite comfortable to sit at one of these table and have a rest for a bit!
The had several gift shops and yes I did my fair share to support the local tourist economy. The had a wonderful Christmas Shoppe and our tree now has several new addition from our visit to Biltmore.
We took a very brief tour of the winery and then enjoyed the complimentary tasting that is offered after the tour. The DD and my niece enjoyed a complementary grape juice tasting while we enjoyed our sips of wine. There was a wonderful Bistro where we had lunch, a warm bowl of French Onion Soup and Brick Oven Pizza’s and then we headed over to the Wine Store and…YES we did come home with a few bottles of wine. I will say that most of the wine I tried was very good. The Winery is now in what used to be the dairy farm, follow the link above if you want more information on the winery.
Y’all there was so much to see and take in I know I m leaving a lot of important stuff out. Needless to say if you ever get the opportunity to travel to North Carolina I would highly recommend a stop at The Biltmore House!
I will close for today with this video (just over 5 minutes in length) of our time at Biltmore.
Next up…“The Conservatory” and can I just say for as beautiful as the decorations and the house were I was very excited about the Conservatory.
It was AWESOME!
P.S: I commented to the Hubs the other day that since we now have a Wii
the DD Christmas present this allows us to have a Bowling Alley in our own home, just like the Vanderbilt's. I will be pondering what to rename my house…something fitting the prestige and stature it deserves, hmmmmm, that’s me pondering…..
Monday, December 28, 2009
A long time ago in a land far far away,
which really means when we went for a visit to my MIL, she had an extra copy of the much loved and treasured Southern Living magazine.
Now to give you some brief background on this chocolate adventure I was at my local grocery store standing in the check out lane. My cart was loaded to the brim with all the fixing's for my thanksgiving dinner. As I patiently waited for my turn to empty my checkbook the magazine vendor was there diligently refreshing the racks at all the check out stations. All of us ohh’d and ahh’ed as we saw her depot the December edition into the rack with this amazing cake on the cover.
Seeing as I was still basking in the warmth of my success from my spectacular German Chocolate Tower of Amazing-ness at Thanksgiving. I decided to throw caution to the wind and whip up something equally spectacular for our Christmas Celebration.
I again asked the age old “Be Still and Know” question “How Hard Could it Be??”
Should you decide to undertake this perilous chocolate adventure for yourself I have provided the link to the recipe below.
I warn you it is not for the faint of heart.
If your counting there are 21 separate things listed in the ingredient for this cake.
Hands on Time: 1 Hour (that means one hour in the Southern living test kitchens with a full staff of experienced pastry chefs with assistants and a fully stocked pastry kitchen) in the normal world it probably took about twice that long.
Total Time: 6 Hours and 40 minutes (plus 45 minutes in Hell) giving us a grand total of 7 hours and 25 minutes.
Now I should have know there was going to be trouble when I ran across one of my pet peeves' where recipes are concerned.
In my humble opinion I feel that all recipes should be written from the perspective of what needs to be done first. This is a small matter but if I am going to nit-pick then I feel that the Whipped Ganache Filling needs to be listed first since it needs to chill for 2 hours in the refrigerator. It is a good thing the DD and I read through the recipe before getting started.
But I digress.
The Ganache was simple enough. Heavy cream chocolate chips and a splash of orange liquor melted in the microwave and stir until smooth. Easy peazy!
Waiting for two hours for it to chill was an exercise in patience. But it did give us plenty of time to get the cakes underway.
Here is all you need to do.
Completely empty your pantry of every ingredient you have and then begin.
We melted more chocolate, we brewed espresso, we alternately added dry and wet ingredients…
Things were moving along rather smoothly if I do say so myself. The DD and I were patting ourselves on the back and anticipating the afterglow of our chocolate success.
Out of the oven and they are looking very good and smelling even better!
The chilled Ganache was ready for whipping.
The chocolate was set perfectly, it was wonderfully flavorful and exactly right.
We heaped it on and stacked our cake!
All that was left was the frosting.
“How hard could it be???”
The 7 Minute Frosting, well I have affectionately re-named it “45 Minutes in Hell Frosting” as I poured the first batch down the disposal and then had to completely start over.
Let’s just say that if I ever attempt to make this cake ever again I will be making a substitution in the frosting. Finally after a few course words and a few moments of wishing that my dear departed grandma was still with us (she would have totally know what to do), I also considered downing a few shots of the orange liquor that was sitting on the counter to dull the pain of my frosting failure. However not wanting to allow our first failure to deter us we forged ahead.
I consulted…who else, my Paula.
Thankfully her directions were a but clearer and after reading them through few times we managed to make something that appeared to be somewhat similar to the pictured frosting.
At least the DD had a good time making swirly designs in the frosting. Teenagers are so resilient in recovering from major baking trauma. I however may have nightmares for months to come from my “45 Minutes in Hell Frosting” experience.
Needless to say…my cake pictured above did not come out resembling the perfection of the one pictured below on the cover of Southern Living.
It did however end up tasting very good, all trauma aside. I would recommend cutting the slices on the small side as this is a very rich dark chocolate. If you were to consume a slice the size of the one pictures above I feel certain you would fall into a complete chocolate coma for a very long time.
Next up I’ll give you a glimpse into our snowy adventures in North Carolina and The Biltmore Estate.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Here is the money shot prior to the carnage of unwrapping.
My tradition of rising early and getting the coffee going allows me the privilege of having a few quiet moment alone. However now that my little ones are nearly all grown up the chaos of Christmas morning is a lot calmer.
In fact I had to finally go and wake the DD up after I had endured the peace and quiet long enough.
Mom wanted to open some presents!
But moving on the really important things…My Little Sock Monkey on her first Christmas!
She had a wonderful time playing with all the torn up paper and empty boxes.
Merry Christmas Y’all
Stay tuned for a post about our snowy adventures at Biltmore Estate and an exciting tale about the perils of 7 minute frosting and a chocolate cake extravaganza!
Saturday, December 19, 2009
A New Addition, I Finished My Shopping, A Thing and a Thing, A Meat Lovers Dream, A Good Christmas Read and We’re Outta Here!
Where to start…
On Thursday I went to meet the newest addition to the world. She was born Thursday morning at 10:27 to the DD of one of my oldest and dearest friends. She is a precious 7 plus pound bundle of sweetness.
I am looking forward to being able to share the blessings of grandmother-hood with my friend, however we are having a slight disagreement. Going under the principles of seniority I feel I deserve the lone title of “Her majesty” gather than granny, ma ma or whatever other grandma-ish type names are out there and she is sadly under the mistaken idea that she can claim this prestigious title for herself.
Oh well, I suppose there is room in the world for two supreme rulers of the grandmother realm,
even if I was first.
In any event I suppose our grandchildren will decide for themselves what they will call us in due time. We both wait with great expectation to see what that will be.
On Friday I met skoots1mom for lunch and she brought me my birthday present. It was a few weeks ago an it was a real unexpected treat.
Y’all I got a thing and a thing, for lack of a more sophisticated culinary term.
It is so wonderful to have friends who know you well. The bag was an assortment of wonderful things in honor of the BIG YOU KNOW WHAT
50th but the best thing was my “Thing and a Thing.”
Skoots1mom knows how I enjoy getting in my kitchen and she attentively listened to me whine several months ago as I shared with her my struggling to get my jars of pepper jelly out of my pot after they had been processed because I did not have a jar lifter. I also complained about what a mess I made because I did not have a funnel thingie either!!!!
Y’all it’s the simple things that mean the most to me. I could not have been happier pulling my jar thing and my funnel thing out of that bag.
I can’t wait to can something now so I can you my new “thingies”
As well as my thing and a thing there were lots of wonderful other things that I will enjoy for a very long time and a really cool gift/reusable shopping bag. I just love it!!!!
On Friday evening we went to my husbands office Christmas party.
Have y’all ever been to a Brazilian Steak house???
Well we had never been to one. It was amazing, a true meat lovers paradise.
The restaurant was called Fogo de Chao, it was a bit pricy which made me very thankful that the company was picking up the tab.
They had a massive salad bar but the main event were the near endless selection of various meats, 15 different types to be exact.
It is very simple concept, on the table next to your plate was a small cardboard coaster. It had a red side and a green side. As long as the green side was facing up these wonderful waiters would wander around the restaurant with these massive skewers full of meat. They would approach you with whatever tasty treat they had on there skewers and then they would slice you off a serving and you would grab it with your meat tongs and bask in the meat lovers heaven.
Needless to say my husband was in a near meat coma by the end of the evening.
I have to share that it was exceptionally good. The lamb chops I had and the filet mignon, Beef Ancho and lots of other things, well everything was cooked perfectly. It was mostly beef but they did have a few other things. They had pork sausage and pork tenderloin and some chicken also.
The trick is to skip lunch (which I should have done and didn’t) and to pace yourself which I managed to do. As soon as something wonderful was placed on my plate I would reach over and flip my little stop sigh to red and then savor my small sampling of wonderfulness. When I was finished I would flip my little stop sign over to the green side when I was ready for something new.
Did I try all 15?
That would be a BIG NO!!! However I think my husband may have.
Let’s just say that we both got our fill of protein or a very long time.
I woke up this morning having finished my Christmas shopping yesterday
BIG YEA FOR ME and since I was diligent and got them all wrapped immediately I found myself with nothing to do but sit cuddled up on my sofa with my coffee in front of a roaring fire.
Life is good at times and this morning was one of those rare moments when peace and quiet were abounding.
It was good y’all!
One of the ladies on my small group gave me a Christmas Book and it was sitting next to me on the coffee table I picked it up and spent the next hour (give or take) indulging myself with a few really good Christmas stories.
I can highly recommend The Max Lucado Christmas Collection” It has three different stores in it and they were all wonderful. It was a super easy read and I had the book finished in an hour maybe 90 minutes. It would also be a great gift if you are looking for a last minute suggestion.
I have passed it on the the DD and she is currently making her way through the first story as I type.
Tomorrow we will head out the my husbands family for our first gathering since the passing of my FIL. Y’all keep us in your prayers, I am sure there will be mixed emotions as we gather to celebrate Christmas with a very large missing piece of the family puzzle.
But life goes on and those left behind are charged with remembering and moving forward.
On Monday we head out for a very short family trip to Ashville NC. We are going to The Biltmore House. Can I say I am super exited!!!! I have never been there and I am told by just about everyone who has been there that it is absolutely amazing at this time of year.
The weather report is also saying that there is a very good chance that there may be some snow in the ground when we get there. So we may get a few minutes of a White Christmas. That will be enough for me. I will enjoy looking at it and I will enjoy even more leaving it all behind as we drive back home.
However the forecast does say that there may be a chance for some flurries on Christmas Eve or Christmas day in our area. But I will believe that when I see it.
So once my head stop spinning from all the activity of the holidays I will be back with some wonderful pictures I am sure.
In closing I want to wish all of you a joyous Christmas time and I will be praying for all of my blogging buddies out there.
I love you all and I hope that the Joy of the Christmas season will visit you and your loved ones in a might way.