Biltmore Estate Girls Weekend

Last weekend, my blogging girlfriend Tammie Reed (Talking With Tami) & I took off to Asheville for a really fun girls getaway!


Weekend of fun coming right up!

 Tammie was reviewing Chevrolet’s new totally electric car, a Bolt EV they provided the trip, and she asked me to accompany her.


I was able to drive the Bolt EV as well.

Tammie and I left on Friday about lunchtime and we casually drove up, stopping to freshen up the charge on the car in Greenville, SC.  We arrived late in the evening, checked into Aloft Hotel (I’m a hotel snob & I approve), walked down to a local sushi restaurant (who knew that you could find delicious sushi in the North Carolina mountains), and then grabbed some rest for our fun-filled Saturday at the Biltmore House.


I’ve been a season pass holder for the Biltmore Estate for several years now.  It’s always changing and I think I learn something or see something new with every visit!

Biltmore-Welcome | Fiddle Dee Dee

Main entrance… guests of Biltmore have entered this gate since 1898!

This was Tammie’s first visit and she was shocked at the size and beauty of it all.

Biltmore-Estate | Fiddle Dee Dee

We had so much fun walking through the estate and taking in the opulent lifestyle the Vanderbilt family must have enjoyed.  One of the goals of the Biltmore estate is to carry on the many legacies of George W Vanderbilt.  These include a gift of hospitality, sustainability, and education.

Each guest who visits the Biltmore Estate is made to feel welcomed and valued.  The Vanderbilts were known for their lavish dinner parties and weeks of entertaining guests at a time.  While I’m sure Vanderbilt never intended to open his home to the public, he wanted a place designed that had the comfort of his guests in mind.

As you tour the home and see the beautiful tables, you can easily imagine the dinners that were enjoyed by family and guests alike.

When George W Vanderbilt III made the decision to build the estate in the 1890s he was inspired by all of the amazing country homes he had seen in his many travels in Europe.  He wanted a place that he could invite friends and family to enjoy the same hospitable lifestyle he had come to enjoy while traveling abroad.  While this was not his only home, it was one he loved and put a lot of effort into creating.  GW wanted a home that would showcase his love for art and literature (he had an amazing collection of both), while also being a self-sufficient, working country estate.  He used the latest in technology and technique to help achieve his agricultural goals.

When guests came to Biltmore they were celebrated and entertained in a spectacular fashion.  Guest often stayed for weeks at a time and had enough activities planned that they never grew bored with the country estate.

The Vanderbilt’s hospitality was enjoyed by many high-ranking social, political and art individuals including the US Ambassador to Great Britain, Joseph Hodges Choate as well as authors Edith Wharton and Paul L. Ford.

When guests dined at the Biltmore they were able to enjoy large meals served in the banquet hall.  With its medieval decor, large triple fireplace and rich, dark colors it was an impressive setting I am sure!  The tapestries hanging on the wall were antiques from the 16th century when GW acquired them so they are true treasures now!

Biltmore-Formal-Dining-Room | Fiddle Dee Dee

Couldn’t you just see this table set for a large dinner party with pressed linens, gleaming silverware, glistening crystal, and beautiful china?  Seating arrangements would have been carefully arranged so that guests of honor were predominately seated for conversation.  Dinner may have been for a party of 6 or a party of 36!

Menus for guests were planned around the seasonal bounty that was readily available on the estate.  Once a menu was planned, Mrs Vanderbilt would approve it, or even tweak it a little.

I found this menu dated from March 26, 1896 published a current Biltmore cookbook:

Blue Points (oysters that would have been overnighted by rail) w/ celery, olives, radishes, salted almonds

Saucie de Lyons

Consumme Royale (a rich, clear soup that has been clarified)

Parisienne Potatoes

Cucumber Salad

Terrapin ala Maryland

Sweetbreads with French Peas


Lettuce Salad

Cheese & Biscuits

Ice Cream

Fruit & Coffee

That is a huge meal and just a sampling of what a guest of the Vanderbilt’s might enjoy!

Guests were treated with the finest of food, almost all of the bounty from the estate itself, although an ocasional telegram might have been sent North to have a shipment of lobster overnighted by rail to the estate!  Attention to detail was a standard guests came to expect when they entered the home.

Oh how I wish we still entertained and showed such hospitality today!

Edith Vanderbilt’s sister wrote after visiting the estate,

“The dinner table, in the center of the room, being too large for common use, a small cosy round table is drawn up before the central fire, & there we dine each night, with 2 footmen in knee breeches, gold garters, etc. to serve and look de style!”

Biltmore-Dining | Fiddle Dee Dee

The breakfast room was a perfect place to enjoy an intimate luncheon or take afternoon tea.  Luncheons were smaller affairs consisting of only five courses.  It was a wonderful opportunity for guests to gather to talk about events of the morning or plan other activities for the afternoon.

Biltmore-Breakfast-Room | FIddle Dee Dee

 I love the blue jasperware tiled fireplace mantle!

Biltmore-Jasperware-Fireplace | Fiddle Dee Dee

Food and drink were an expression of hospitality and home away from home for the guests of Biltmore.

Cooking would have been done in one of three kitchens; the rotisserie kitchen (where meats might have been prepared), the pastry kitchen, or the main kitchen with its large stove and oven, icebox for storage and plenty of workspace!

Biltmore-Estate-Main-Kitchen | Fiddle Dee DeeBiltmore-Picnic | Fiddle Dee Dee

There were pantries for canned goods, fresh goods, and a huge walk-in refrigerator!  It was the most modern of its time!

Biltmore-Estate-Pantry | Fiddle Dee Dee

Total pantry envy!!

After supper, ladies might retire to the salon for conversation and possibly live music, while the men disappeared off to the smoking lounge and gun-room for a nightcap.

Biltmore-Smoking-Room | Fiddle Dee Dee

I love the dark masculine interior of the smoking room

Guest lodging was plentiful in the home.  With 250 rooms, you can imagine the space available.

Biltmore-Estate-Guest-Room | Fiddle Dee DeeBiltmore-Guest-Room | Fiddle Dee Dee

Mr. Vanderbilt’s own bedroom was set up so that when he awoke in the morning and curtains were open, he could see the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.

George-Vanderbilt-Bedroom | Fiddle Dee DeeBlue-Ridge-Mountains | Fiddle Dee Dee

Mrs. Vanderbilt’s room was set up in a similar manner, yet much more graceful and elegant!

Edith-Vanderbilt-Bedroom | Fiddle Dee Dee

There were so many activities available to guest and residents of Biltmore House during the day and evening.

Biltmore-Estate-Grounds | Fiddle Dee Dee

Outdoor activities including horseback riding shooting sporting clays, hunting, bocce ball, bicycling, hiking (yes they hiked during the Guilded Age), picnicking, fishing were all apart of life at Biltmore.

A July 1908 New York Times article noted that “Mrs. Vanderbilt hosted a fishing party on the estate and landed 20 large mountain trout, the largest catch of the day!”

{I feel like we are missing out on so much in this day and time!}

If you wanted something more relaxing, a stroll through the beautiful gardens or conservatory adjoining the house would be just perfect, especially as the sun is beginning to go down.

Biltmore-Garden | Fiddle Dee DeeGarden-Roses | Fiddle Dee Dee

Tammie-Reed-Biltmore | Fiddle Dee Dee

Tammie enjoying the garden late inthe afternoon

If the weather was less than desirable a guest could remain indoors and swim, bowl, workout in a gymnasium, play various board games or read one of the nearly 23,000 books in GW’s library!

Biltmore-Library | Fiddle Dee Dee

George-Vanderbilt-Library | Fiddle Dee Dee

It is said George W Vanderbilt III read nearly 4,000 books between the age of 12 and his death at 51.  He kept a journal listing all of them.

Billiards-Room | Fiddle Dee DeeBiltmore-Bowling-Alley | Fiddle Dee Dee

“The vast swimming tank under the great hall is a great resort for the young men after exercising — ten feet deep so they can take a deep dive.  This forenoon we are to drive about the farms and see the wonderful stock.  Mr. Vanderbilt is teaching the farmers about the first rudiments of farming.”

~from a letter written by Joseph Hodges Choate to his wife, January 1902.

Biltmore-Estate-Indoor-Pool | Fiddle Dee Dee

Each activity would have required an outfit change, up to five a day!  Could you just imagine the flurry of fashion in that house?!

Guilded-Age-Clothing | Fiddle Dee Dee

Just an example of attire from the Guilded Age

Not only were guests at Biltmore treated well, but so were the large amount of staff and employees.  House staff had their own kitchen and dining areas with fresh foods and game as well as bedrooms they did not have to share, which was a rare treat in that time!  Employees of the estate were able to enjoy the bounty of the estate farms as well, in their homes or on their breaks.  It was as if they were family.

Biltmore-Staff-Dining-Room | Fiddle Dee Dee

House staff dining room

The legacy of hospitality and sustainability are two of my favorite reasons to visit the Biltmore Estate over and over as these are still prevalent around the estate today.  No, it’s not exactly the same, but the staff of Biltmore are gracious and kind, welcoming, and knowledgable.  The restaurants utilize a farm to table program with much of the produce and meats are estate raised!  And while we did not visit the winery on this trip (I did purchase some amazing grape juice), the legacy of Vanderbilt land continues.

Biltmore-Sunflowers | Fiddle Dee Dee21751594_1594918093902361_8581185044392291680_n

Take a trip for yourself and see just how fabulous the Biltmore Estate is!



Decorating Lessons from the Biltmore Estate

One of the highlights of the holiday season each year for me is a trip to the beautiful Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.  Every year the mansion is completely decked out from basement to attic with festive trees (there are over 70 of them!), garlands, lights, and other delightful frivolities.  It’s truly a magical experience for everyone in the family.

After so many holiday visits to this lovely home, you can’t help but pick up a few things that you might want to add in your own home.  It’s only natural!

So, today I am sharing ten Christmas decorating lessons I’ve learned from the beautiful Biltmore Estate.  I apologize for the quality of photos; they have just now allowed visitors to take pictures in the house and I had the rely on my phone as my camera had the wrong lens on it for great shots.


1. Deck it all.  Seriously, go all out!


The beautiful view looking up the grand spiral staircase; trimmed out with live garlands and ribbon.


2. Mantle decor doesn’t have to be symmetrical.


3. Use a lot of natural elements.  biltmore-christmas-8-ohfiddledeedee-com


Could you imagine over 1,000 scattered throughout your home?

4. Add bling and a lot of twinkle lights…  Everywhere!



5. Multiple trees are highly recommended; maybe even throughout one room!


The beautiful tapestry room had four trees all decked out, one representing each season!


The “winter” tree in the tapestry room


6. Dress-up everyday ordinary items or use unexpected items to decorate with.


These books looked so lovely tired up in colorful ribbon


Feathers and roses help make this a stunning tree indeed!


7. Deck the bedrooms. After all, the children shouldn’t be the only ones nestled in their cozy beds.


Mrs. Vanderbilt’a beautiful bedroom with not one, but two gorgeous trees!

8. Take your time.


Decorating just one room in the estate can take up to ten hours!  We may not have a design team in our own homes, but there are no rules that say it all has to be decorated in one day!

9. Use your imagination


The “naughty & nice” list running down the tree is such a cute idea for your children or grandchildren

10. Make decorating a BIG deal and a celebration itself within your family


The grand banquet hall tree arriving at the Biltmore Estate

I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse of the Biltmore Estate at Christmas and found a little inspiration for your own home.  If you ever want a fabulous holiday get-away I highly recommend that you  slip away to Asheville and the Biltmore Estate.  We are all decked out here in the Jones home and are ready to kick off the month of celebrations with a Christmas caroling party this weekend!  I’ll be sharing our decor over the next few days and hope that you will stop back by.

Have a blessed day!


Christmas at Grove Park Inn

One of the advantages of moving often and living in so many different areas is our Christmas adventures are extremely versatile and ever-changing.  While we have a few traditions that are most important no matter where we live (like a visit to Santa… and yes, I know my kids are teenagers), other things we do to celebrate the season are subject to change based on where we are living.  From making the round of small-town Christmas parades in Tennessee and Alabama to celebrating Christmas at the John Deere museum in Moline, Illinois; we have made so many fabulous memories over the years!

Grove Park Inn

While living in South Carolina the last  four years (The longest we have stayed anywhere, I might add), we have built many special traditions; one of our favorites being the one-hour drive up to Grove Park Inn in  Asheville, NC to see dozens of beautifully decorated Christmas trees and the Gingerbread houses that are a part of the National Gingerbread Competition each year.  We do this a some point during Thanksgiving week as a way to kick off our family holiday celebrations and I must tell you this year was absolutely fabulous!

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A visit to Grove Park Inn is a treat in itself and a trip back in time.

Grove Park Inn 3

Opened in 1913 as a resort, the Asheville area was chosen based on the belief that the climate was healthier for Edwin Grove, the mind behind this beautiful space.  Over the years many notable people from presidents to celebrities have stayed at this luxurious and historic location.  F. Scott Fitzgerald stayed here for two years writing while his wife was hospitalized in Asheville.

Grove Park Lobby

Besides the gorgeous lobby with its amazing fireplaces and lodge atmosphere that immediately gives you the impression of arriving home, there are several unique shops that fit the area, a restaurant that allows you to enjoy the beautiful mountain views as you dine, a sweet little cafe & coffee shop and a grand spa in which to pamper and spoil yourself.

Grove Park Views

 The Inn is now owned by the Omni Group, but they have still maintained much of the charm that the Inn represents.  It makes for a wonderful family get-away, or in our case an easy day trip.

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The charm of the Inn is evident from the moment you arrive until you leave, especially during the holiday season.

Grove Park Inn 2

 The lobby with its double fireplaces, one on each side of the space, is magnificent and cozy all at the same time.

Grove Park Lobby 2

There are Christmas trees all throughout the hotel;  so many  themes, every style, and each one of them putting you in the mood to celebrate the season!

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Enjoying a little time with my girls

Enjoying a little time with my girls

And then there are the Gingerbread houses.

A model of the Grove Park Inn on display

A model of the Grove Park Inn on display

These aren’t your buy a kit, assemble in the kitchen, and decorate with icing and candy gingerbread houses.  These are carefully planned and crafted  creations that will amaze you with their creativity and detail.

The National Gingerbread competition is held in November each year and is open to all ages and even teams of people.  According to the rules, entries are not limited to the structure of a house as long as it meets the guidelines set.  Except for the base, entries must be entirely composed of edible materials.  That last phrase is what makes these creations so neat!

Check some of these out!

This was one of the child entries displayed at the hotel.

This was one of the child entries displayed at the hotel.

One of the teen winners on display.  So very impressive!

One of the teen winners on display. So very impressive!

I loved this scenery entered by an adult competitior.

I loved this scenery entered by an adult competitor.

How cute is this??

How cute is this??

The detail of these creations is unbelievable.

The detail of these creations is unbelievable.

Can you believe the color, detail and execution of theme in this winner?

Can you believe the color, detail and execution of theme in this winner?

Not all entries are houses...

Not all entries are houses…

Some are angels...

Some are angels…

Some are Santas.... I LOVED this entry!

Some are Santa’s…. I LOVED this entry!

National Gingerbread Competition

And then there was the grand prize…

Grand Prize Winner

Not as colorful as some, but completely and totally so full of craftsmanship and detail it is unbelievable!

Not as colorful as some, but completely and totally so full of craftsmanship and detail it is unbelievable!

Check out the opossum in the window!!

Check out the opossum in the window!!

Visiting the Inn to see the Gingerbread houses does not cost anything, other than parking.  I do recommend if you are going to visit Grove Park, whether you are staying several days, or just spending the day, that you use the valet parking service.  It’s only $5 more than self-parking and so much easier than a long walk or waiting on a shuttle.  Also, be prepared to a little crowd.  Going on a weekday is obviously going to be less busy than the weekend.

A little wish from our family to yours!

A little wish from our family to yours!

Casual Dining Biltmore Style

When we visited the Biltmore Estates over Christmas break our favorite meal was Sundaylunch in the Bistro next to the winery.  From the welcoming atmosphere to the cloth napkins decorating the tabletop, everything was nicely laid out as if we were enjoying a casual lunch with the Vanderbilt’s themselves.



Like the Stable Cafe, the menus and food here rely on local grown and fresh seasonal ingredients.  The menu had so many wonderful items, it was difficult to chose what to have for lunch!  Our waitress was so friendly and extremely attentive.  Near perfect service is often something a large party doesn’t always experience.
When a waiter or waitress pays attention to young people at a table, answering questions and listening to their desires, they earn much admiration from me.  Children often go ignored.  Since I expect mine to behave as young adults, I expect others to treat them as such.  The young lady that took care of us will go far in life with her care and attention.
Audley and I both chose to start of with baked French onion soup.  It was so rich and delicious and totally satisfying.  I considered a second bowl, but remembered that I has already ordered a main course!
For my main course I chose a beef tenderloin tip sandwich with sweet onion jam, bacon and arugala lettuce.  It was served up with kettle cooked truffled chips.  I am not quite sure that I can put into words how delicious these chips were.



I was so full after lunch, but the cheesecake with cherries and chocolate was too much to pass up.  Thank goodness for friends and family to help eat it!



I loved how the kitchen was set up for viewing all of the action.  The chefs were all so intent on creating the perfect dish to send out to each customer.  It was like watching an artist work.  Chefs are definitely artists in my book because it takes a lot of work to make some of the dishes they create.
Look at the tower of chicken salad!





Audley enjoyed the Pastrami Rueben “Croque Monsieur”, Bacon-Fennel Sauerkraut, Gruyère Fondue for his lunch.  That was the quietest he had been the entire weekend, so I am assuming he enjoyed his choice!


The kids all went for pizzas.  These weren’t just your normal pepperoni and cheese pizzas (although you could have them), but topped with ingredients that were “out of the box” and wood oven fired.



A table favorite was the Roasted Mushroom, Spinach, Sun-dried Tomatoes, Swiss and Mozzarella topped pizza ordered by our friend Amy.

One of my girls tried the Italian Sausage and Pepperoni, Mozzarella, Pomodoro Sauce topped pizza.


And the pizza of the day topped with mushrooms, pepperoni, pineapple and fresh arugula lettuce was very flavorful indeed.



This butter pecan and chocolate chip bar dessert was a hit all around the table!


This was Christmas, so after lunch we all ventured over to Antler Hill to walk off some of our lunch and have our picture made with Santa.  There is nothing better than enjoying a vacation with precious friends.


And don’t you just love the vintage Santa costume?


I’ll be honest with you, the pizzas have been the topic of many conversations over the last several weeks.  On display in the entryway was a cookbook assembled by the chefs of the Biltmore Estates.  I bought it two years ago and have prepared several dishes from it.  The Bistro was high lighting the pizza recipe , over the weekend we made our own homemade pizzas trying the recipe from the Biltmore.
Pizza Dough Ingredients:• 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• 2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 teaspoon dried basil
• 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
• 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• ¼ cup vegetable oil
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 tablespoon quick-rising dry yeast
• 1 cup warm water
Method:Combine the flour, sugar, garlic, basil, rosemary, tarragon, olive oil, vegetable oil, and salt in a mixing bowl; mix with a dough hook. 


Add the yeast and mix at low speed. Add 1/2 cup of the water gradually, mixing constantly. Add the remaining water gradually, mixing constantly until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl. Mix at low to medium speed for 3 to 4 minutes longer. Remove to an oiled bowl, turning to coat the surface. Let rise, covered with a clean towel, until doubled bulk. 

 Punch down to remove air bubbles and divide into 4 to 5 equal portions. Makes four or five pizzeta crusts.


Roll out and bake for 5 minutes on 350 before topping with your favorite toppings.  Cook until cheese bubbly and the crust is cooked through.



Dinner was not a disappointment at all.  The crust was fabulous and we topped the pizzas with our own favorite ingredients for a wonderful family supper.


Try the crust.  You won’t be disappointed.
Do you ever find inspiration from eating out?