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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Downton Abbey and Dressing Downton at Biltmore House and Gardens

It will come as no surprise to anyone who reads my blog that I am very fond of the history associated with the places that my husband and I travel with each other and with family and extended family. How and why certain places, be it historical towns such as this one or seashore treasures such as Saint Simons Island which I posted about here. Some of the places we enjoy visiting are associated with great American companies. The name Bush's Beans might well be familiar to many of you. My family enjoys the many varieties of Bush's Beans and so we were excited when the company opened up Bush's Family Cafe, Mercantile and Bush's Beans museum. The museum chronicles the history of this famous business. I posted about the cafe, the mercantile shop and factory and family history museum here and here.

It will also not surprise my blogging friends and Pinterest followers that I am especially fond of British drama and sitcoms. I love the old sitcoms such as "Keeping Up Appearances" and "As Time Goes By." I am addicted to the "Downton Abbey" series, which I have followed since it first premiered in the United States. I am hooked on watching the evolving times in the lives of the aristocrats who occupy Downton Abbey and in those who visit the occupants. The drama that goes on in the upstairs area is more than a little compelling to me. The drama does not end in life upstairs. What goes on in the lives of the servants, who either live downstairs within "the big house" or in cottages elsewhere on the estate, is every bit as exciting and interesting as that of the aristocracy. Maybe even more so!

All this has been leading up to my account of a place my husband and I visited last Saturday with my daughter, Stephanie, and her family. Stephanie, like her mother, is an avid fan of the Downton Abbey show too! I first visited Biltmore House in Ashville, North Carolina, close to a decade ago. I thought it was wonderful then, but this visit promised to be even better. Stephanie and I were both about to burst with anticipation waiting for last Saturday's visit. You see, Biltmore House and Gardens is currently hosting a Downton Abbey exhibit.  The exhibit is called "Dressing Downton." and features an awesome collection of original costumes worn by various characters from the series. These costumes are placed in many locations throughout the tour of the house! What could be more fabulous for anyone who loves the series? A visit to Highclere Castle where the series is set? Perhaps. That is something I would also love to do. Still, I have not heard about the costumes being on display at Highclere. The house at Biltmore reminds me so much of the pictures I have so often seen on Downton Abbey, both inside and outside.

It was a beautiful day on which to make our visit to the Biltmore. The weather was perfect. For those touring the inside of the house, taking photographs of the interiors is prohibited. I am posting some photos from one of Biltmore's websites advertising this wonderful display. This photo is one of the sharp-tongued and quick-witted Violet (the Dowager Countess) Grantham. The role of Violet is played by the extraordinarily talented Dame Maggie Smith. She is called Granny by the young ladies (her grand-daughters) at Downton Abbey in the series.
Maid and butler uniforms, such as those in the following photo, are also on display.
Lady-grantham credit
I could have spent all afternoon snooping around in the kitchen of the Biltmore. Some of my favorite scenes from the series are those that take place in the kitchen of Downton Abbey. In the kitchen area of the Biltmore, there is a uniform like the one which cook's assistant, Daisy Mason (played by actress Sophie McShera), wears as she works in the kitchen. I found this picture of Daisy wearing her uniform on Pinterest. 
Pinterest source
Lady Cora and Lord Robert Grantham:

If you watch Downton Abbey, you might recognize the costumes in the following pictures I am posting from the Biltmore House Estate website:




The above photos are of just a few of the costumes from Biltmore's "Dressing Downton" collection. There are a good many more to be seen on the tour of the house.

I was able to take some pictures in the section of the house containing various shops and restaurants. The fact that the outfit is enclosed in glass does not help with the quality of the picture. The next several shots were taken in the main gift shop, as well.
An Ensemble Worn by The Dowager Countess "Granny" Grantham
Another Picture of  the Dowager Countess's Outfit Behind a Photo of Her Wearing the Dress and Hat
This shot is of Downton Abbey themed merchandise, including an apron with the Downton Abbey initials embroidered on its bodice. Some replicas of china, lamps, service bells, candelabra and books related to Downton Abbey. Notice that great hat near the bottom of the apron! There were lots of different style hats for sale as well.
Downton Abbey Merchandise in Biltmore House's Downton Abbey Collection
Tea sets, tea and napkins. I love the picture/sign which states "My Second Home is Downton Abbey."
More of the Downton Abbey Collection of Merchandise at Biltmore House Gift Shop
There are Christmas ornaments, videos, picture frames and other items, as well.
Merchandise from Downton Abbey Collection at Biltmore House
There is even a collection of perfumes, but Stephanie and I were having so much fun seeing what each ladies fragrance was that I forget to take a picture of the perfume collection. There is a fragrance for each of the "ladies" who are in the series. I seldom wear much in the way of perfumes because I am a bit sensitive and tend to get a little stuffed up while wearing it anywhere near my face. Still, it would be fun to own some! We hope to make another trip up there in the near future and I might have to splurge on some. It would be fun to own a bottle!

We had a late lunch in one of the restaurants at the estate. The Stables Cafe' was previously the estate's stables. I took a picture of the area in the cafe' which shows where some of the stalls were located. You can see the iron dividers.
The Stables Cafe' at Biltmore House Estate
The food at the Stables Cafe' was delicious! My husband and I shared an item for two called the Stables Sampler, which included barbecued ribs, rotisserie chicken, pulled pork and vegetables. It was a good choice, but was much more food than either of us could consume at one sitting.

Now for some pictures of the outside of the house and grounds. This first picture is of our daughter, Stephanie's, family in front of the Biltmore house.
Biltmore House and Gardens in Winter
Architecture at Biltmore House and Gardens

Beautifully Elaborate Architectural Details on Window at Biltmore House
Statue on the Grounds of Biltmore House in Winter
Statue at Biltmore House in Winter
Statue at Biltmore House in Winter
Wonderful Old Wisteria Arbor at Biltmore House in Winter
Biltmore House and Gardens in Winter

There is now an area of Biltmore called Antler Hill Village and Winery. It has an ice cream and sandwich shop and a winery. There is a petting zoo and farm animals there, as well. After taking the Biltmore bus back to the main parking lot, we drove over to Antler Hill Village and Winery. We did not actually visit the winery. It was a three hour drive to get home and it was getting pretty late by the time we finished the house tour and had something to eat. Since the children wanted to visit the petting zoo and see the farm animals and horses, we went through the petting zoo and bought a treat from the ice cream shop before heading back home.

I took this picture of the mansion in the distance, through the window of our departing bus.
Biltmore House and Gardens
I took these pictures in the area of the petting zoo. These two goats were basking in the sun on top of a bench.
Goats at Biltmore's Antler Hill Village
Some chickens at Antler Hill Village.
Some of the Chickens at Biltmore's Antler Hill Village
A curious rooster at the Village. I took this shot through the fence as he was not roaming freely about.
Rooster at Antler Hill Village, Biltmore House and Gardens

These big beautiful horses are some of the residents at Antler Hill Village.
One of the Horses at the Biltmore's Antler Hill Village
Horse at Biltmore's Antler Hill Village

The history behind the house and gardens is quite interesting. Construction of the house began in 1889 and took six years to be completed. It is considered to be America's premier and largest residence. The house was built by George Vanderbilt. George Vanderbilt's only child, a daughter named Cornelia, married John Cecil and the house still remains under the ownership of the Cecil family.

You can read about the life and times of George Vanderbilt at this link. He was the grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt. Cornelius began his career as a steamboat captain, who eventually owned a fleet of boats. He learned this occupation from his father. He went into the railroad industry after the steam engine began to be used to power railroad trains. I found a short video (less than 4 minutes long) about Cornelius Vanderbilt and the amazing story of how he went from being a steamboat captain to becoming a self-made millionaire in the railroad industry. Cornelius Vanderbilt was also the major force behind the building of the original Grand Central Depot, which eventually evolved into Grand Central Station Terminal. You can watch the short but very interesting video at this link.

Are you enamored with all things Downton Abbey?  If so, a visit to Biltmore House and Gardens while Dressing Downton is still there might be something you would enjoy. The Dressing Downton event will run through May 25, 2015. I am not being compensated in any way for publishing this post about the Biltmore House and Gardens or for providing this link which contains the information about the event. You know how much I enjoy sharing interesting places to go and things to do.

A Couple of Tips:  This is a very popular event! Biltmore advises that you reserve your spot on the tour AHEAD of time. We were glad that we scheduled reservations for the tour a couple of days before we made our trip.  Be prepared to spend a couple of hours on the house tour as the tour lines are pretty long and move at a somewhat leisurely pace. Naturally, every one wants to see as much as possible of each area in the house on the tour. ALSO, be prepared to climb up and down many flights of stairs and/or steps. There are some small elevators, every once in a while. We did see a person or two who had to bow out early.

Friends, I do hope you enjoyed my post about Biltmore House and Gardens! I want to thank you for stopping by for a visit. Have a great week friends!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Magazine Obsessions

My mother enjoyed reading and read to me quite often. My father could not get enough of the printed word in newspapers, books and magazines. We might not have been wealthy, but by the time I (the last of the children) came along my father always made certain that we had a large collection of books and many magazines around our house.

The two of us, my father and I, would sit together and peruse those beautiful, glossy, large pages of "Look" and "Life" magazines. Daddy would point out things to me and we would sometimes have  conversations about what was on the pages. Sundays, after church, were some of my favorite times because I would snuggle up next to my father on the couch as we read the Savannah Morning News. He would always read the comic strips to me (they were called "funny papers" back then)! There was always a big colorful section of funny papers. He and I would laugh together as he ran his fingers along  the words on each comic strip, reading every line to me. I adored my father and I look back so fondly on those special times we shared together.

Is it any wonder that I grew up to love reading a good book or that I eagerly anticipate opening the latest issue of my favorite magazines? Probably not.

We enjoy traveling. My husband and I are always interested in finding out about other places and how people in different parts of our country and world live. We both enjoy reading about those things. In addition to that, my personal interests are those of family life, cooking and gardening, and home design and home decor. I also enjoy sewing and crafting. Therefore magazines that speak to those interests are of personal appeal to me.

I will not mention names, but for many, many years we subscribed to a number of well-known monthly publications that, as a whole, reflected all of those interests. In recent years, my husband (who particularly enjoyed one of them)and I had begun to notice a big decline in the general appearance(ex. dimension and quality of paper used) inside and on the covers. They were a lot thinner than in the past, as well.. It is understood by most reasonable people that a number of advertisements are to be expected, but when a publication has more ads than substance, it is a real turn-off to me. As a result of our shared disillusionment with those we had once so greatly enjoyed, we discontinued subscriptions to most of the magazines we were receiving. The quality and content was no longer evident and they had lost their appeal to us. We began to search the books and magazines racks of stores and book stores for some others that we might enjoy.

I have been thinking that, perhaps, it might be of interest to some of you what type of magazines my husband and I are enjoy. I will tell you about a few of them in this little post.

We have not traveled to England nor to any part of the European Continent for that matter thus far, but that does not deter us from dreaming about doing so. A magazine we read on a regular basis is "Britain the Official Magazine". We find it at Books A Million, here in town.
We also enjoy and subscribe to "France" magazine. Go here to find out more about their publication. This is a favorite of mine since I studied the French language for a couple of years in high school and have a love for the language. I endeavor to speak it more fluently. There are all sorts of tips and a crossword puzzle in each issue, so I try to work that out. "Try" being the operative word!

Anyone who reads my blog will realize pretty quickly that our family and extended family are avid Disney fans. We are frequent visitors to Walt Disney World and to make visiting more economical and pleasant, we decided to become members of the D.V.C, Disney Vacation Club, some years ago. Our "home" resort is Disney's Boardwalk Inn and Villas. If you care to check it out (I am not being compensated for linking) you can go this site to find out more about the Disney Vacation Club and Disney's Boardwalk Inn and Villas. You can check out a couple of posts I wrote about Disney's Boardwalk Inn here. Since we like to stay on top of the happenings at Walt Disney World and all the Disney's member resorts, we receive the "Disney Files Magazine." This magazine is a special publication for D.V.C. members.

We also subscribe to a magazine that is about all things Disney. "Celebrations" is another fabulous magazine, which publishes dozens of facts(some of which are little known) about the Disney parks, places to dine, tips about saving money and time on your visits, events and great things to see and do that are sometimes overlooked. "Celebrations" has a Facebook page that will give you some idea of the content and quality of the magazine which, by the way, is superb! I was surprised several years ago that "Celebrations" magazine chose to publish a short article I had sent to them on their website about what Walt Disney World has been to our family and the memories that have been made for us there. I found out the piece had been published only as I was reading the magazine a couple of months later. There it was, my humble little piece, in the beautiful and quality magazine we so much enjoyed!

My favorite home decor magazine for the past couple of years has been "The Cottage Journal." If you like leisurely browsing through pages of photographs of beautiful homes and gorgeous decor, you would probably enjoy reading this magazine. I sit and soak up every last article and photograph in every single issue!  I think it is a marvelous publication with something to appeal to most every design aesthetic.

Stay by the Bay4



DIY House bedroom

I love to cook and I love gardening, so for the cooks and gardeners among you, there is always something for you to enjoy. Have you ever seen more beautiful photographs? I tell you, "The Cottage Journal" is such a great publication.
Braised Short Ribs
Perhaps, you can see why "The Cottage Journal" is one of the magazines which I read. I am not being compensated for giving you my opinion, but I can truly tell you that I cannot wait for each new edition of this magazine to be available. The moment one's fingers feel the cover and pages, the quality of the publication is evident. The articles are well written and the photographs are gorgeous. I actually buy my copy from shelves locally, sometimes at a book store and sometimes at Sam's Club. It seems that only a few places stock it and that puzzles me. A new edition comes out about five times yearly, with special holiday editions.

I hope you have enjoyed my little post about the magazines we enjoy in our home, though I have to admit I didn't mention a couple of others. Yes, I am obsessed.

What are you reading? I would love to hear about the magazines that you enjoy reading!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014



Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Season of Memories

We began the holiday season this year by  celebrating Thanksgiving at our home. My husband and I put up and decorated a tree in our living room and another in our kitchen. When it comes to decorating our Christmas trees we  are sentimental and nostalgic in how we do it. We have collected ornaments since we were married and though we cannot fit all of them on our trees, we put as many on as we can each year. It brings pleasure to us as we place each one on the tree, remembering how it was acquired, whether purchased, handmade and/or given to us by family or friends.

The very first ornaments we purchased are the red, blue and gold ones pictured in the photos below.  My husband was deployed overseas with the U.S.M.C. the first year of our marriage. These ornaments, along with some tinsel garland and some icicles were about the only thing we had for decorations on our first Christmas tree the following year after he came home from overseas. They are quite worn after all these years. I can still remember what a sweet Christmas we spent in that drafty little rented duplex in Jacksonville, North Carolina near the base where my husband was stationed. These days we place them farther back in the tree where they are less likely to be broken and where they reflect the light from the Christmas tree and are less likely to get broken.
Vintage Ornaments  Placed  Deep in the Tree to Reflect Light
One of our First Christmas Ornaments as a Married Couple
Our Vintage Ornaments from Christmas 1969
There had been four boxes of these ornaments but in the early years, when sweet little hands began to help decorate the tree, some of the ornaments were shattered and one of the container boxes has been, much to my regret, discarded. Can you believe I still store them in the original boxes that I have patched and taped together over and over again? The cardboard has become so brittle and the inserts have pretty much fallen apart. The cellophane which once covered the "windows" of the boxes has now been replaced with plastic wrap. The boxes indicate that the ornaments were made in the U.S.A., a rare thing in this day and time!  I still cannot bring myself to throw the boxes away after forty-five years!

Vintage Ornaments in Crumbling Boxes

Tattered Vintage Ball Ornaments from Christmas 1969
In the past, I have purchased kits to make gingerbread houses and had my grandchildren over to decorate them. This year we did something different. My two daughters, five grandchildren and I met  at my daughter's home to make gingerbread houses. Technically, however, we did not use gingerbread.  I raided my pantry to find some boxes to cut up and use as foundations for our houses, which we covered with graham crackers, icing and candy.  Following is a picture of some of them, after I cut, taped and stapled them together to form the foundations.
Foundations for Our Gingerbread Houses
The grandchildren used a lot of imagination and had fun sampling the icing "stucco" and candies. They all had so much fun. We used lots and lots of icing, many graham crackers and a vast array of candies.
Constructing Christmas Gingerbread Houses
They got really creative with their designs. Jewel's was loaded with decorations!
Getting Creative with our Gingerbread Houses
This little one was very proud of her creation!
Creativity in Progress
Our oldest, Glenn, got quite serious with his house. He built his own foundation. He wanted a bigger and taller house than the others. He covered the back of his house with ice cream sticks.
This is Serious Business for Our Grandson Glenn
Our Oldest Grandchild with his Gingerbread House Creation
My daughters had just as much fun as their children. As you can see from this picture, the children weren't the only "kids" eating the icing!
Having Fun Making Gingerbread Houses
What a fun time we had decorating those houses!

Those who follow my blog will know that one of the places our family enjoys visiting is Riverbanks Zoo and Garden in Columbia, South Carolina. We have been fans of the zoo and gardens since it first opened some forty years ago when the eldest of our daughters, Angela, was not much more than a toddler. It has grown over the years in both size and popularity, offering many more family-oriented activities and features. The love of this place has been passed down from us to our girls, who are now parents themselves. Our five grandchildren have developed a love of the zoo and beautiful gardens and the wonderful and diverse animals there.

Each year during the holiday season the folks at Riverbanks is host to an event known as "Lights Before Christmas." It starts just before Thanksgiving and ends a day or so before the New Year begins. During this time, the place is aglow with nearly one million twinkling lights which have now been transitioned into LEDs. It quite an awesome spectacle and one that our family endeavors to fit time into our schedule for every year. This year we attended the event with Darien Baptist Church, where my son-in-law, Jason, is the pastor.  If you would like, you can check out their Facebook page
here. There are a few photos of some of the folks who attended the event with us in the photo album of the church's page. I am including a few of the pictures I took of the lights and one of the animals. as well.
Lights Before Christmas 2014 Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens

Lights Before Christmas 2014 Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens

Lights Before Christmas 2014 Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens
Lights Before Christmas 2014 Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens
Lights Before Christmas 2014 Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens
Lights Before Christmas 2014 Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens
For those who love snow, such as our granddaughters, it snows every night of the event--courtesy of a snow machine!
Lights Before Christmas 2014 Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens
Lights Before Christmas 2014 Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens
Lights Before Christmas 2014 Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens

The Koalas are some of my favorite animals at the zoo and the female recently gave birth to her baby! I was fortunate to get the following picture of this sweet Mother Koala while she has her new baby nestled between her hind legs. If you look closely, you can see its little head peeking out near the bottom of the picture! This was an unexpected surprise and delight to be able to see this mother and her new baby during our visit.
Mother Koala and Her New Baby at Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens 2014
We went to see our grandson Stephen play in the holiday band concert at the school he attends.
He is the one on drums in the back row and wearing the red Santa Claus hat. He enjoys playing in the band. Okay, please humor me and allow me to boast a little. This school year, his last in middle school, he was asked to play in the High School band and so he has been playing at the football games at the high school too. I am just a tiny bit proud of him!
Stephen's School Holiday Bank Concert 2014
Another even that we attended was the children's Christmas program at the church where our daughter Angela and her family are members. There were several angels being "heard on high," complete with wings and our Jewel was one of them. She is the angel in the middle in this not very clear picture.
Church Christmas Program 2014
In addition, I had the pleasure of having lunch a couple of days before Christmas with my sweet sister-in-law, Janet and one of her best friends and my friend as well, Kelli Johnson. These are two of the sweetest gals I know, barring none! They are such treasures to me. This is a picture I posted of them when I gave them the "Darn It" dolls I made for them to have when they get stressed out at work!

We wrapped up 2014 holiday celebrations with dinner at my daughter Angela's home on Christmas day with family and friends. It was an especially precious time for us because we are blessed to have my son-in-law, Angela's husband Jimmy, with us for another Christmas! Some of you might remember that he is courageously battling stage IV renal cell cancer. I do not know anyone who has not been impacted by cancer in some way. One of my most ardent prayers is for a world that is free of all cancer.

As you can see, our family has been very busy with holiday festivities,events and activities. I have not had much spare time to visit your blogs or to post on my own. I have a lot of catching up to do on all your blogs!

What have you been doing to celebrate the holiday season? Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or any of the special events that take place during this particular season, I hope your celebrations have been and will continue to be blessed with many sweet and precious moments, shared with the people in your lives that make the season so special and meaningful to each and every one of you. Hopefully, you will have some beautiful memories too.  I wish for you a new year in 2015 is that you will be blessed with a peace that passes understanding, boundless love and happiness beyond comprehension!