Friday, December 30, 2011

The Eye of the Beholder

Today at the junk store, I found four of these. I resist most things at those stores, but I was done for on this one. I bought them. 50¢ a pair. That's not too much financial damage.
I don't know why I love these old cups. They remind me of what you'd be served in old diners, or perhaps an old hotel in the '50s. I know they're thick and clunky, but that's part of what I like! I also like bone china so thin you can see through it. But these really appeal to me. I came home and promptly heated up a cup of tea.

Are there things that you find beautiful, that others don't? Each to her own.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Relaxation

Morning mist along the Blue Ridge:
This is an awful, fuzzy picture, but we moms have to be sneaky, when photographing our kids. This shows just what the kids are doing over their Christmas break: vegging.
Anna is in the chair. Julia is on the far couch, and Peter on the near one. Philip was seated at the table next to me. Two were on laptops, and two were reading. Yep, we're taking it easy.
Adam, however, has been working all week, sitting with his elderly friend while the usual sitter is on vacation. It's a good bonus for him. Plus, he's not nibbling on all the holiday treats all day, as the rest of us are. Somebody really needs to remove the chocolate from the house!!

Product Post: The Hair Wrap

This is one great Christmas gift! When Anna came home from college, she was sporting one of these hair wraps on her head, after a shower:
She bought it at Dollar Tree. Yeah, you know, the real dollar store, where everything is actually $1!
I asked her how it was working for her. Anna has mountains of hair, and anything that can contain that mop must be good. She likes it because it's made of microfiber, so it dries very quickly. She was tired of drying her hair with a still-damp towel from the day (or two) before.

It hangs on your bathroom rack.
It's shaped rather like a long, pointed cone. After washing your hair, you hang your head down, and drape your hair over, as if you were going to twist it up in a regular towel. The larger end of the wrap cups around the back of your head. Then you just tuck the loose ends of wet hair into the rest of the wrap neatly. It's easy. Then you give the wrap a couple of gentle twists to enclose the hair, stand up straight again, lay the twisted tail down the center of your head, and attach the loop (on the pointed end) to the button (on the back of your head).
A real live demo. What I like about this wrap is that it's so light-weight. A full-sized towel on my head gets heavy after a few minutes, and makes my neck ache. I could wear this for hours, comfortably. It dries quickly. It costs a dollar. I bought one for me, one for Julia, one for Mother. Head for Dollar Tree!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bacon Cup Salad, Kind Of

This recipe came to Adam by way of both our sons. Both boys saw pictures of this idea online, and came to Adam, and begged that he make it. That doesn't happen very often, frankly.

Here's a website with pics and instructions for this delectable fried-pig yumminess. Yes, yes, I know -- hers turned out way better than Adam's. Oh well. C'est la vie.

Okay, so use an upturned muffin pan, line the bottoms of the muffin domes with tin foil. Adam did not do this. I think it makes the bacon cups taller if you do this. Wrap bacon around, lattice it to strengthen it, and be sure there's bacon for the bottom of your cup. Adam didn't do any of this either. He wrapped 2 pieces of bacon for each cup. Oh well. C'est la vie.

So, here's Adam's.
Our boys don't like tomato much, so that's why they're on the side. Adam also made a delish vinaigrette using the bacon grease, and drizzled it over the affair.

I found it easier to eat it by picking it up with my hand and just munching into it. Oh, and Adam made his own croutons too.
We'll probably try this again sometime, and use more bacon. Bacon is kind of like butter than way, don't you agree? More is better :)

Kid Pics

I snatched the opportunity to take pictures of the kids the other day. They were dressed for the Christmas Eve church service. The older they get, the more they warm my heart, and the more I adore seeing them together.
Julia is holding Philip's mug of hot green tea with honey, useful in soothing his voice before he sang "O Holy Night" at the service, with the Men's Chorus in the background. It was beautiful.

I have to admit, I really wanted a picture of my two boys together. They're such young men now. They're finally beginning to really enjoy each other's company, although they're very different. They've been playing ping-pong the past few days, and have carried on a fierce rivalry in Scrabble, which they play on Philip's new small computer machine. I don't even know what it's called. It kind of looks like a Kindle, but isn't one.
Soon Peter will be graduated and gone, and I'll only have them together occasionally. I know we raise them to let them go, but it's simply hard not to be able to see them more. Hard to explain, but I know that all other parents with grown kids will understand. I'm trying to enjoy these days as much as possible. Anna leaves for college next Monday, and then we'll soon return to our new "normal."

There's much debate about having children. Some good people claim they don't want any. Others want only two or three. I understand these sentiments. I felt that four was my limit, when it came to those exhausting child-rearing years in my 30s. I have a few friends who took as many as God provided, and ended up with seven or thirteen! But consider this: the bearing of children is the only thing we do, physically, that produces a new person whose soul will live into eternity. When I look at my children's faces in those photos, I see people I love who will often be parted from me in this life, but whom I'll be able to enjoy for eternity. Don't dismiss too quickly the wonder, the eternal value, of such a thing. Do I wish I'd had six more -- six more children of God to love and cherish forever? I wish I'd been up to it. I know I wasn't. But I do know that those who choose many children can always make this argument -- that it is an eternal investment --  whereas those who choose none or few, can never do so. There really is no eternal validation for choosing childlessness, I think. Perhaps I'm wrong. I know each parent has his or her own cross to bear. I do not want to pass judgment on situations I'm not aware of. I just hope young parents-to-be will add this eternal view to all their other considerations.

May you, dear reader, be enjoying these holidays with the ones you love.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Double-Pointeds

I thought some of you knitters would enjoy seeing one of the Christmas gifts around here -- two sets of double-pointed needles, handmade. Adam made them over the past couple of weeks, one set for me, and one set for Anna.
He started with steel rods, cut them to the length I specified, polished and smoothed them, and worked the ends down to perfection. Small double pointeds like this have to be metal; the wooden ones are too much like toothpicks, and if you apply pressure while knitting, they will snap. These are really beautiful. I'm eager to start a new sock pattern with my set.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Potato Chip Cookies

My dear cousin sent these cookies to me for Christmas (part of a glorious love-package that I will not even begin to describe. But these cookies are almost my favorite thing). And I must share the recipe because they are so, so good. If you like those Danish wedding cookies, these are similar, but about twice as good. They have great crunchy/crispy/crumbly texture.
1 pound of butter
1 cup of white sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups crushed Lay's Potato Chips (Don't use baked chips, just regular)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and continue to mix. Add the flour one cup at a time until well blended. Fold in crushed potato chips and drop by teaspoon on to cookie sheet. You can also add chopped pecans. Bake for about 15 minutes (some ovens vary) Remove from oven and let cool. Dust with powdered sugar.

Makes 5 dozen cookies. / 100 cookies

All I can say by way of confession is that no other family member has eaten one of these cookies yet. And they're not going to. They are MINE.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Sandy and the Squirrels

This was the view from my window, yesterday morning. The big knobby mountain is Toxaway. See the twinkling lights? Those are actually the rooftops in early morning sun.
One of the first things I do is put out fresh seed for the birds and the squirrels. The furry rodents are much more assertive, and they get their way with the seed. They fight, chatter and squabble with each other, and rattle the screens. The poor birdies must make do with whatever they can find, when the squirrels aren't looking.
See this fellow? The squirrels have all found a way inside the cage around this feeder. The gray squirrels climb up under the bottom; they're very agile. The red American squirrels can actually squeeze through those squares in the wire. Can you imagine?
This is an American red.
This is the squirrels' view also. Do you think they notice? Would they just as soon live in Florida? Pittsburgh? Boston? I wouldn't.
But poor Sandy. She's a squirrel-chaser from way back. She was standing in front of this glass door yesterday morning, watching about five squirrels happily nibbling their breakfasts. It drove her crazy. Finally, in a moment of madness, Adam opened the door. Sandy flashed out with a roaring bark!
Yep. Those squirrels vanished into thin air -- poof!!! They did not return all that day. Did they collapse from terror? This morning, I think perhaps three brave ones ventured back to their buffet on the deck with the impossible view.

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone. May you wake to great joy as you consider that God decided to rescue you, over 2000 years before you were ever born, and He used a most unexpected, unlikely baby to do it. Doesn't He have an imagination?

The Best Christmas Present

This is the best Christmas present I've ever received -- the best anyone could ever receive. A baby. What a joy he's been! I love you, Philip. May God continue to bless and direct your life.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Pretzel Rolo Recipe

For all three of you out there in the world who've not eaten this treat, you must make them! I don't know what their official name is, but basically they're made of snap pretzels, Rolo candies, and pecans. They take about 15-20 minutes to make, and whatever you do, don't -- I repeat, DON'T -- snitch any of the Rolos. Every Rolo you eat cold out of its wrapper is one fewer bite of pure, blissful Christmas pleasure you have later. You have been warned!

Warm your oven to about 250ยบ. I didn't need any more heat than that, and you wouldn't want to melt the Rolos into little puddles.

Spread the snap pretzels out on a cookie sheet. I like to use parchment paper underneath. There will be lots of pretzels left over, so if you're tempted to snitch, eat those. Don't use any other pretzel. Not only are these the perfect size, I think they're actually called "butter snaps," and their flavor is superior to other pretzels. Of course it is, if it has butter!
Then place one unwrapped Rolo atop each pretzel. Put the pan in the oven and allow the Rolos to soften fully. They'll be shiny and very soft. Remove the pan from the oven and squash one pecan half into each Rolo while they're soft and warm.
Thus:
Please note the flavor combination: buttery/salty pretzel, chocolatey/sweet candy with a hint of caramel (but not too much), and the world's best nut. These gorgeous, huge pecan halves were sent to me from my Alabama friend, and I am so, so grateful for them!
I like to sprinkle a little confectioner's sugar on them too, for prettiness. Although this one was not visually appreciated for long, I can assure you! He was popped straight into my mouth after this photo.
Seriously, my friends, these are so terribly good that any party you take them too will consume them instantly. They're the kind of addictive that we try to restrict to the holidays. They're fast. I promise!

Christmas Blogasbord

Hello, friends! Time for a few nibbles from the internet. In spite of all the bites out there not worth eating, there are always a few things delectable and interesting.


"It's What You Scatter," from The Soap Bar blog. I loved this sweet story of goodwill, mercy and thankfulness.

"Secret Santas" -- You've probably already read about this, but there are dear, generous people across the nation who are quietly helping families this Christmas, and the store employees are in on the secret! Fun read.

"Back to the Farm" -- Now, here's a heart-warming thought for all of you who feel that in our century of progress we have lost a beautiful way of life. I know a young couple just like this, making a go of it here in North Carolina. Let's hear it for the small farm! Next, I want to get back to small, local stores and mom-and-pop groceries.


"Grinches in Santa Monica" -- Okay, it wouldn't be news, if there weren't one bad story in the lot. Atheists in this town, ironically named for a saint, try to ruin Christmas for everyone who might possibly want to celebrate it there.  There was a time when, even if you didn't agree with someone's religion, you treated it with respect. I'm sorry to see that modern men seem to have lost this ability. I wonder how long it'll be until they insist on changing the town's name?

"The New Empires" -- And here's a link to a new band's site. You can listen to their album there free, download, or buy. These folks are from my college, Covenant College, and the lead singer, Matt Brown, still works there. They've got a good sound; if you're in your 40s or 50s, and you miss the clear folk sound of your youth, this might appeal to you. Matt's voice reminds me a bit of the Fogelberg, Coburn, Jackson Brown type of voice. The instrumentals are very good, and the lyrics are excellent. I enjoyed just reading them. I listened to four of the songs. My only complaints are that they might want more vocal variety, instead of the lead singer each time. And whoever is playing guitar needs to get the squeak out of his play. It's okay for most guitar play, but on a professional album, there needs to be enough skill for the listener not to endure that. I know it can't disappear entirely unless you're really, really great. Still, I'd work to minimize it.  Good luck to these guys/girls. I thank you for what you're contributing to the musical world.


"Candle In the Forest" -- Saving the best for last!! I hope you read this far. This is a Christmas story of crystal-clear, childlike beauty. Carrolls All Year blog has given us a happy gift in this story. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

House-sitting

We're settled into our house-sitting adventure here in the mountains. It's foggy today. On a foggy day, our world looks just like this, all day. We would normally be able to see trees, mountains, valleys, and eagles drifting leisurely on their thermals.
Adam and Philip were gone all day, trying to repair the Jaguar. It had multiple issues, and diagnosis was difficult. So the girls and I were stuck at home all day, and I decided to make the most of it. I donned an apron and took to the kitchen. I made peanut butter cookies.
I made a pumpkin pie for Adam. (Allow me to say that I used a can of Laura Lynn pumpkin, and was therefore stuck with the recipe on the back of their can. It was not the Libby's recipe - boohoo! I think it called for an extra egg or something, and the texture was not quite right, not quite custard, too fluffy. Adam said it tasted right, though.)
Clearly, I need to make another one. And I made a batch of homemade spaghetti sauce.
And some French bread to go along with it. It was a good cookin' day.
Pom, you asked about how Sandy's doing.  She's doing' just fine! She likes her new digs.
The girls watched National Velvet on Anna's computer.
Our friends put up a little tree in their window. This may be the extent of our tree this year, unless the boys want to go out in the far woods and chop down a little Charlie Brown tree for us. I told Julia we should trim it with popcorn garland, paper angels and snowflakes, and pine cones. Sound good? I think it does!
I brought along my favorite candle. It's smelling like Christmas!
You know, I totally forgot about Pom's "Childlike Christmas" today! I'm sorry. I guess I'd just have to say that a Childlike Christmas doesn't need one's own home, or even one's own tree, or even a pile of presents. It needs the warmth and security of love, just love. A spirit of thankfulness and joy. Sometimes these things are more readily found, when the familiar physical comforts are removed. I think we will have a very fine Christmas indeed.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

This Is Not a Christmas Post: AKA, why we should avoid the government

I have two stories to tell.

The first has been brewing since early August, but I have refrained -- yes, I have! -- from telling it. We moved on  August 3, from Statesville. Our son Philip, however, needed to stay an additional two weeks, for work. The house was mostly empty, but we left the utilities on for him. From Brevard, I called the City of Statesville Utilities Department, and asked them to cut off the utilities on August 15, after Philip would had left. They said I could not call and ask that; I had to come to the office to request it, or fax them a letter with my request. I promptly sent in a detailed, clear fax message.

And they cut off the electricity and water a week early. Poor Philip had to use the Sheets gas station to go to the bathroom. Eating was problematic. I called them, talked to a supervisor, and got the utilities turned back on.

But before the conversation ended, I asked again -- would they please be sure to disconnect all utilities on August 15? I was assured that it would happen.

So you can imagine my surprise a month later when the utility bill came. It covered a few last days when Philip was there. It seemed high, but I grumbled and sent payment in. It would be the last,  I thought, and then they would be off my back.

A month later, another bill arrived, with dates of service that included no day when any of us was even in Statesville.  I called their office.

I was told various things:  1) The utilities were not cut off, and it must be my fault for not asking. I said I had the fax in my hand. 2) The utilities had been cut off, but someone clearly had gone to the water main and turned it back on. I scoffed at the idea that a total stranger would go in the dead of night to turn on water in an empty house. Besides, who was there to use it? 3) I was told that they were unable to turn off the utilities. I asked, why then had they been turned off when my son was there?  Then the girl transferred me to her manager.

The manager said this: they didn't really ever turn off utilities. If the house was in our name, and hadn't sold yet, then there was a $25+ fee -- some sort of maintenance fee -- that they charged, even if no one was in the house.

Yes, you heard that correctly.  Over $25 per month, for absolutely nothing. I was dumbfounded. I knew this was not standard practice. We've moved so many times in our married life, and no utility company had ever spouted this line before.

I told the woman that I was sure it would be mighty fine for her if I just handed over $300/year for services that they never gave, and I never asked for, but I didn't have that money. She could send those bills, but I would not pay.

Click.

I do hate conversations like that, I really do. They're upsetting, and they're unnecessary.  But I know why the City of Statesville is doing this:  there are scads of empty homes, foreclosed homes, unrented homes, in the city, and they simply can't bear to get nothing at all from all those homes, in utility fees. So they charge anyway. Just because they can.

I received a bill or two, and then (you guessed it), I started getting the bills with the scary red letters splashed across the top:  DISCONNECT NOTICE!!! The last one told me that, if we didn't pay up all those belated charged for service we never asked for and never used, our utilities would be turned off on Dec. 23.

Please, City of Statesville, please disconnect our utilities. We've only been asking for it for five months.  It's so nice of you to finally admit that you can do it. Ugh and double ugh. I abhor bureaucracy.

And now for Story #2:

Philip called last Friday.  He'd finished his semester at college, dropped his roommate at the airport at 3:00 AM, and was heading home. Then the alternator belt on the car crumpled into a powder, and he was pit-stopped at WalMart. But then another crisis occurred:

Sometime in the autumn, Philip was driving along, and the speed limit reduced from 35 mph to 25 mph. He didn't slow down soon enough, and a policeman (who was conveniently waiting there for him, ahem) pulled him over and gave him a ticket. When he searched for his insurance card, it was gone. Some students had been playing pranks that fall, and stealing various items from cars, just for kicks. His card was one casualty.

So the policeman told him he'd need to go to court and show his proof of insurance. Philip's court date was set for Dec. 20. Yes, that's today.

But he called and was told he could get his court date delayed until after his Christmas break. Then he could get new insurance documents from us over the break, and get back to college. In fact, he didn't tell us any of this, because (as he said) he wanted to be an adult and handle his own troubles. Bless his heart.

But, on Friday, he found out the disquieting news that the court would NOT delay his date, and he had to appear today, at 5:00 PM, in court.  Poor thing!! He fell apart. He called me. The dorms were shut, the college was closed, it was raining and cold, the car had no power steering, and he had nowhere to stay.  For four nights.

(This is when I say thank-you to Facebook, which allowed me to wail to my friends near and far, and find my boy a place to stay, the week before Christmas, for 4 days. It was God, looking out for us.)

But, of course, Philip didn't really need to go to court. He just needed to go to the courthouse on Monday morning, pay his fine and present his license and his insurance proof (which we emailed to him over the weekend) to the Clerk of Court, and he could be on his way. Right?

Wrong. When he got there, the lady who handles that was "taking a sick day."  Translated: she wanted a long weekend before Christmas and didn't care whether her job got done. Apparently no one else in the building could do it. Philip went down again today, and she was gone today as well. I can't believe that, in the government (with their hefty pay, benefits and retirement) that a person who takes a day off doesn't have to do what we teachers always had to do:  we had to prep our lessons, find our sub, explain it all to her, and leave copious notes. It was barely worth the day off. Secretaries know this scenario also.

So, my son is still stuck in Chattanooga. His court appearance should begin in one minute. Will it begin on time? Will he wait two hours? Will they then tell him, "I'm sorry. We'll have to reschedule you for tomorrow? January?"  ARGH!!!! I want to strangle someone! This is my college son, who just wants to be home for Christmas. If these people did their jobs in an efficient manner, none of this would have happened.

The only way around it is to stay away from the government.  I'm convinced our government is like a massive, brutal metal machine, with long, spidery grasping arms that swing and fling around, looking for citizens to ensnare with its pincers.  Stay far away! Even when you try to do a thing correctly, they will ruin your attempts and turn your life to chaos.

It's a six hour drive home for Philip, sometime tonight.  If you think of it when you're closing your eyes in sleep, say a prayer for him, as he weaves through those mountain roads. He should have been home last Friday.

Julia Decorates

Yesterday afternoon, Julia went downstairs and retrieved Grandmother's little Christmas tree. Often, my mother puts it away for the year, covered in a sheet with all its ornaments still hanging. But this year, it was bare, and Julia had the delight of decorating it.
There's a particular joy that comes with digging into one's Christmas boxes each winter. I won't get to do that with my holiday stuff this year, but Julia enjoyed doing Grandmother's.
More little houses. Aren't they sweet?
Are you all done with your home's decorations? Baking? Shopping? I've barely begun any of that. It'll all be this week. Our family will be house-sitting for some friends for the next few weeks, so we'll need to settle into our celebrations over there, get down to some serious baking, and enjoy town shopping after Philip gets here (hopefully tonight). Today, we are wreathed in fog.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Man of God's Own Choosing

A pattern screams from the Old Testament stories: God chooses the unexpected. He chose Isaac instead of the first-born Ishmael. He then chose Jacob instead of the first-born Esau. He chose Joseph, over his many older brothers, and then when a blessing was being given to Joseph’s sons, the boys' grandfather deliberately crossed his hands. It’s almost as if Jacob were carrying on the tradition of confusing the blessing.

What a crazy family! Jacob had 12 sons. And Joseph, dearly beloved of his daddy, didn't get the real blessing. When handing out blessings, Jacob skipped right over Reuben, Simeon and Levi, when looking for a son to lead the others. Genesis 49 gives hints to Jacob’s reasons for this; the three sons had sinned grievously. So, the leadership, and the kingly line, and the Messianic line, are given to Judah.

Judah. As if he is a sinless choice.

It’s wrong to examine the lives of these men, looking for reasons why God chose them. God doesn’t choose men because they are worthy; He chooses them for His own pleasure, and a mysterious pleasure it is! Why would God be pleased with Judah, who left his father’s house, united himself with a Canaanite woman, raised sons so evil God killed them outright, lied to his daughter-in-law, and cavorted with a prostitute. That’s Judah, God’s chosen.

But the house of Judah, riddled as it was with outcasts, was God’s choice. Think of the women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, all of pagan peoples, yet ancestors of the Messiah. In this line of kings are wicked men as well as righteous.

If God can bring his perfect son from a line of sinners and reprobates, certainly He can transform us, beggarly sinners, into children made royal. This mysterious choosing of God’s should give us hope. It pleases Him to choose the unworthy, the unexpected.

God seems to be playing a cosmic shell game with the powers of evil, and He always wins. They think they know His plans, but they never get it right. They know He hopes to save mankind, but He never seems to pick the ones for His purposes that they expect. The ultimate example, of course, is Jesus Himself. How the powers of hell must have screamed in anger and frustration when they realized that He had come, and later when they realized that their killing of Him had only completed the Father’s plans.

Thus it always is with God. He redeems things lowly, and uses them gloriously. He not only conquers His enemies, He uses them and their acts, without their knowledge or consent, to achieve His own ends. I want to serve a king like that.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Lessons and Carols with Musicke Antiqua


Yesterday Mother and I enjoyed a concert at our local library. This little band of minstrels offer their baroque, and even ancient, music to the public free of charge. They're amateurs, but they sure are good! They are "Musicke Antiqua." Here's their website. Their costumes, their instruments, their talents and their banners were sheer pleasure, and what a way to help everyone get into the spirit of Christmas!
Before they began, I tried to get a few photos without being too intrusive.
This man is an acquaintance of ours, a retired pastor whose daughter went to college with me. In addition to that collection of recorders, he also plays the small bagpipes.
One lady played this elegant hammered dulcimer. She performed "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," with other instruments in the background.
Their little hats are so novel! In addition to the various recorders, many played something called a cornamuse. This is not the French bagpipe, which is a "cornemuse," but a large recorder with a double reed and a soft tone.
This lady played a small harp. I wanted to be sure to show you the instruments, which I found most interesting.
Here's a short example of the fun Renaissance music they played. I think this one is called "Gaudete," a 13th century piece arranged by Mark Burrows.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Biltmore House with the Girls

Yesterday I took the two girls to the Biltmore House, that glorious edifice in Asheville that attracts many visitors each year. A dear, generous friend at church gave me three tickets, and boy did we have a great day! I got a snap of the girls outside the ticket office.
The grand house. Biltmore was designed by Mr. Vanderbilt to be an like a 16th century French chateau or an English manor home. There are so many perfect photos of it online, I won't try to compete. The sky was a fine backdrop yesterday. We chose that day because the weather was still a bit balmy and comfortable. I dislike going on an all-day field trip loaded down with sweaters, coats, scarves and gloves that must come on and off, repeatedly.
The house is astounding, but one should not neglect to appreciate the grounds at Biltmore. This tranquil field of hay bales set the tone for the day, as we drove in.
One always needs a photo with the lions out front.
This is shot of the front lawn, from an inside window. They do not allow photos inside the house, unfortunately. They're rather over-protective off their "images," in my opinion. If I could post a few of the gorgeous rooms and Christmas decorations here, it might entice some of you to visit the house! Ah well. (There are shuttle buses all day to take you to and from your car in the parking lot.)
Our favorite rooms, you ask? Well, most of the first floor rooms. The baronical hall (dining hall) is just amazing. A huge tree stretched to the ceiling, which was flung with flags. Two carved wooden thrones grace the far wall. A triple fireplace stands opposite the tree, to warm the eaters. Music from a pipe organ rings in the rafters, and images from Wagnerian operas are craved in stone and wood high overhead. Full-sized carved statues of Joan of Arc and Louis IX flank the largest door. Even that does not begin to describe the majesty of the hall. We also love the tapestry hallway, where they met for afternoon tea and music, and the library (my personal favorite) with its overwhelming painting on the entire ceiling, bought by Vanderbilt from a Venetian palace, painted in 1702, peeled off its home there and brought to the mountains. It's an image of Aurora, I think -- the dawn.

After the house, we were famished, and we looked for a quick lunch over at Antler Hill Village, the new, quaint shopping area near the winery. This whole area was not crowded at all. We visited the exhibit there of about 40 Tiffany lamps. I'd never been so close to a Tiffany lamp before. Breath-taking. (And, no photos allowed)
We strolled up to the old farmyard, now transformed into a living history-type exhibit, but with a shop and fun Christmas wares:
We ate lunch at the Smokehouse. If you're looking for the cheapest eating at Biltmore, either the Smokehouse, or the Courtyard at the Stables, is your best bet. This is a cross-section of a tree cut on the estate. Anna is 5'1".
The horse stables, for the family's riding and carriages, are up next to the house. I guess these farm stables were for working horses or other farm animals. I love the rusted copper roofs.
Anna poses where the horses used to live.
These are bronzes of Cedric, Vanderbilt's beloved dog, and I suppose the little girl is Cornelia, his only child. What a place to grow up as an only child!
I decided that I would luxuriate in the day. Who knows when I'll next be at Biltmore? I went through the ground floor rooms three times! The ticket is good all day, and you may reenter the house as often as you like. We went back in at 3:50. The doors close at 4:30, so there were few people entering at that time. Julia went off to see her favorite room, the Louis XV bedroom where the Vanderbilt women opted to give birth to their babies. It's a light-filled room with a balcony, on the far-left end of the house. After Antler Hill Village, we drove back up to the house and shopped in the Stables. I know Biltmore has a reputation for gouging its visitors on prices, but honestly, I found many items to be reasonably priced for Christmas gifts, and you know what a cheap-skate I am.

Good-bye, Biltmore! Thank you for welcoming us again.