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!


Picture Perfect Framing {& A Gallery Wall Update}

A couple of weeks ago I took a break from cleaning house and playing taxi driver (leaving Audley to handle things for a day) and drove up to the Biltmore House as they were bringing in the grand 35 ft Christmas tree to the banquet hall.

via Biltmore/Facebook

I had mentioned on Facebook that I was going to ride up there, so one of my girlfriends from Atlanta mentioned that her company Larson-Juhl framing was hosting a presentation on art and framing and asked if I would liked to attend.  The presentation was to be done by the art curator at the Biltmore house, Leslie Klingner, and lifestyle blogger, Eddie Ross.  Since I had nothing pressing to do, and knew Audley had the kiddos taken care of, I decided it would be an enjoyable presentation and told her I would love to attend.

via Larson-Juhl (Facebook)  Eddie & Leslie are on the left


{And I am so glad that I did!}
Leslie Klingner, Biltmore’s art curator  did a fantastic job of sharing stories and facts about some of the more prominent paintings and artwork collected by George Vanderbilt and displayed at Biltmore house.

George Vanderbilt was a well traveled and educated man who loved his artwork.  He used such artists as Sergant and Whistler for his own personal paintings.  Leslie shared some of the stories behind the paintings as well as personal correspondence between Vanderbilt and the artists.  One letter was even talking about choosing the perfect frame for a portrait which was important even 125 years ago! I really enjoyed listening to her speak and as Audley and I toured the ouse with friends last weekend, I found myself paying more attention to the artwork displayed throughout the house.

Eddie Ross’ talk focused more on artwork and pictures in our own homes.  As we are trying to put our own house together, I found this so informative.

Here are a few things I picked up from Eddie as he spoke:

** Use artwork as a focal point to complete the look of a room.  Art is personal and should reflect our personal style.

**Frame the unexpected: vintage scarves, buttons baby clothes, even silverware in shadowboxes to use in a kitchen or dining room.

**Monograms are beautiful when framed and make an heirloom keepsake.

**There are so many ways to hang or display  pictures:  a salon style gallery, in a chain or ladder style, up a wall in a stairway, down the hallway in gallery style, floor to ceiling displays, leaned on shelves, or even on a bookcase.

**There is no right or wrong in the height you use for hanging art.  It all depends on what you want to see.

**Mix and match frames, or go with a unified look.  Go bold, using matting and frame edging as a means of emphasizing the picture. Another great idea was to use unified mats, but different frames.

I left the lecture feeling quite inspired, which is always a good thing.  It also gave me a little confidence about my own gallery wall that I put together back in the spring after we moved in (Creating an Entryway).  In the last four weeks Audley and I have finally gotten around to doing a little painting and making this house ours.  Color is always the most inexpensive way to update a room, and I am quite excited about what it has done in our dining room and kitchen.

As we finished painting the dining room, which runs right into our entryway, I updated my gallery wall just a little by taking it on up to the ceiling.  The black frames (while slightly different from one another) really go well together as they all are matted the same and hold black and white photos.

Here is the space as it was when we moved in.

Here is what I put together back in the spring.

And here is my gallery wall (as narrow as it is) updated with our new wall color….. “sparrow” by Behr from Home Depot.

yes, I have started decorating for Christmas …. don’t judge.
Each photograph represents a special place in our lives, including all six states we have lived in during our 17 year marriage.

I may eventually carry the gallery on around the closet door, onto the wall that runs into our kitchen, but I want to put the final touches on the dining room first to make sure it will fit into the entire space.

I hope Audley and I can put the finishing touches on the dining room this weekend, as I am very excited about the changes.  They may not be drastic, but they certainly make the space so much more enjoyable and personal.

Have you done anything special with your photos in your home?

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?