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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The “winter” tree in the tapestry room

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

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These books looked so lovely tired up in colorful ribbon

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Feathers and roses help make this a stunning tree indeed!

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

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

8. Take your time.

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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

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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

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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!

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Christmas Home Tour

Merry Christmas my friends!  I hope your holiday season has been all you could have possibly imagined!  This is such a busy time of year for all of us, and as I have discovered, working full-time (after being very part-time) can present so many challenges of its own.  As crazy as it has been, I’ve been determined not to let those challenges steal my joy, which in turn could affect my entire family.

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“Christmas now surrounds us,
Happiness is everywhere
Our hands are busy with many tasks
As carols fill the air.”

~ Shirley Sallay

I took a different approach in decorating this year; instead of stressing myself (and my litle family) out to create a house over-filled with Christmas, I focused on only two rooms, settling for two themed trees with a touch of garland on my banister & a little whimsy to remind us of the innocence of Christmas.  It was simple, but very effective.  It’s also what worked best for us with an overwhelming schedule.  There is no need to add chaos in decorating for the holidays when you already have so much going on!

And believe me, a little can go an awful long way.

Although I’m way behind & “late to the party”, I wanted to share our living room with you, so please accept this late invitation to take a peak into our home!

Home Tour

As Audley and I spent several days putting everything together I kept thinking of the words “warm”, “cozy”, and “peaceful”.  While these are words that are definitely associated with this beautiful season, they are also words I have tried to focus on each and every day lately as I try to create an atmosphere that is welcoming to both my husband and children, as well as all who enter our home at any time of the year.

“For centuries men have kept an appointment with Christmas. Christmas means fellowship, feasting, giving and receiving, a time of good cheer, home.”

~ W. J. Tucker

  Without a doubt the living room is definitely the most common room in the house, so I put a lot of thought into how I wanted it to look.

Living room tree

For the most part I am such a traditionalist when I decorate for Christmas.  I love red and green sprinkled all around accented with Santas I have collected over the years.  Our living room tree this year was filled with vintage and rustic touches combined with  Santas and fairies for a touch of whimsy.

A little fun repping our daughter's college of choice ... It's a Carolina Christmas

A little fun repping our daughter’s college of choice … It’s a Carolina Christmas

In our tree I used plaid ribbon (purchased at Costco), deer antlers, pine cones, evergreen filler, and berries to create the rustic feel; then added a combination of ornaments from old-fashioned red and green balls to mercury bulbs to complete the look.

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Detail of my natural, traditional, and vintage style ornaments

There is something about those vintage-looking ornaments that make my heart feel warm and happy as I long for the simplicity of days gone by.

I used some of the same elements for garland around the fireplace screen (it’s been as high as 70° around here, so it wasn’t needed!), and on the wreath above.

Fireplace

Fireplace Hearth

I picked up the red lanterns at a yard sale several years ago. They fit perfectly with the theme I was trying to convey in the living room.

I created two small vignettes in the living room: one using Bradley’s “Thomas the Tank engine” from his days as a little boy (I was feeling nostalgic), and another scene using a porcelain Santa and reindeer we received as a gift our first year of marriage.

True story, while wandering through a local toy store I found this Gamecock engine which was the entire inspiration for putting out the train.

True story, while wandering through a local toy store I found this Gamecock engine which was the entire inspiration for putting out the train.

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We’ve displayed these beautiful pieces every year for 21 years now!

One of my favorite Christmas traditions!

One of my favorite Christmas traditions!

We ran garland intertwined with lights down our banister from the loft.  Our garlands have become thin from the years of use, so we filled them with fresh cedar branches to give them a fuller look.

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The stockings were hung on the banister with care … in hopes that St. Nicholas would soon be there.

Tying in the banister to our tree with a Mark Roberts fairy

Tying in the banister to our tree with a Mark Roberts fairy

A few throw pillows and I had a space that didn’t feel overdone or over-the-top, a little nostalgic, as well as cozy, warm, and peaceful which has been most needed and appreciated by all of us this season.

I found this pillow (and another made in the same way, at Dollar General.

I found this pillow (and another made in the same way), at Dollar General.

Thanks for visiting our home today.   I do hope you found a little bit of holiday joy as well as felt the mood I was trying to create.  As I leave you today, I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate each and every one of you!  Thank you so much for stopping by!

And a Merry Christmas to all!

I would love to hear from you and how you are spending this blessed season.  Feel free to share in the comments if you would like, or check in with me on Facebook.  I often post there when my days are too short for blogging.

Merry Christmas Eve, Eve!

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Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry Sauce

It’s just eight days before Christmas.

 The halls are decked (well the best they are going to be this year); travel plans to see family are in place; wrestling season is in full-swing, frantic, last-minute shoppers are descending upon Macy’s (pushing me into week number two of overtime), we’ve had our visit with Santa, and I’m finalizing our menu for a lovely Sunday afternoon Christmas with special friends.

Yes, my teenagers still visit Santa Claus each year.

Yes, my teenagers still visit Santa Claus each year.

‘Tis the season, right?

My absolute favorite part of celebrating the holiday season is sharing this special time of year with friends, especially those who live a good distance from family as we do.   Each year since moving to South Carolina we host a cookie baking and decorating party.  This year it happens to fall on a Sunday which does shorten our day, but will not deter us from having a fabulous time!  As we are planning for Sunday I wanted something super flavorful and easy for lunch since we will be working around regular worship Sunday morning and a special Christmas service that night.

My choice?  Grilled pork tenderloin  (with an option to make into sandwiches using Kings Hawaiian Sweet rolls) topped with homemade cranberry sauce.  Seasonal, flavorful and easy to make a head of time, this will be a perfect treat for Sunday lunch.  I love this for two reasons: one, hubby can man the grill which takes care of the tenderloin, and two, it really is easy.

Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry

INGREDIENTS:

Pork tenderloin, pan seared and grilled  (season with pink salt and black pepper)
1 (12 oz) bag fresh cranberries
1  cup Splenda Brown Sugar blend (to keep it lower in sugar)
2 Tbsp orange zest (from 1 large orange)

1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup fresh ginger, minced
Juice of one large orange
1 1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp fresh chopped rosemary

DIRECTIONS:

1. For the tenderloin:  heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil (I use California Olive brand) a large pan or dutch oven on medium-high heat.  Season your tenderloin with black pepper and pink Himalayan salt and place in the pan, searing each side five minutes to lock in your juices.

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2. Preheat your grill to 400°.  Take the seared tenderloin and place on the grill.  Grill, turning once, until internal temperature reaches 160°.  Place on a platter or large cutting board to rest for a few minutes before slicing.  Use an electric knife to aid in slicing the tenderloin thinly, especially if you will serve rolls with it for sandwiches.

3. Making the cranberry sauce is as easy as it gets!

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Peel and chop your fresh ginger

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Squeeze the juice from your large orange.

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Chop your walnuts.

Take all of your ingredients and combine in a medium saucepan.

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All the ingredients added and ready to simmer.

Bring to a boil on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking.  I prefer tart over sweet, so taste for sweetness.  If you feel you want it sweeter, add  Splenda brown sugar blend 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired sweet flavor you want.  Reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes (stirring occasionally) until the sauce has thickened up.

If you hear a little pooping, don’t worry, it’s just the cranberries!

4. Remove the cranberry sauce from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

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You can serve the cranberry sauce over the pork tenderloin or on the side to use as a condiment on little sandwiches (which is my plan for Sunday).

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The sliced tenderloin glazed with the cranberry sauce makes such a pretty main course for any holiday buffet, and the homemade cranberry sauce will be a hit with all of your guests!

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What holiday celebration (outside of family Christmas) do you enjoy most?  I would love to hear your traditions!

Have a fabulous weekend!

Linking up with Rattlebridge Farm for Foodie Friday this week!  Check out all of the fabulousness!

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Cream-Filled Christmas Cookies

If there is one thing that absolutely completes the holidays, it’s spending time in the kitchen baking sweets and treats galore!  Baking is a tradition that began for me as a little girl growing up.  Each Christmas Momma would pull out all the ingredients to make every variety of cookie imaginable for several days straight.  {Martha Stewart has nothing on this Momma of mine!} My sisters and I would help her decorate or fill each cookie, occasionally sneaking bite or two… or twelve, until we would be on a sugar high and Momma would be pitching a fit because we were eating all of her holiday gathering treats and gifts!

Now my girls do the same with me.  They ice, fill, and strategically arrange M & M’s or sprinkles on cookies to steal and eat share with family and friends.

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As I join The Everyday Home Blog‘s virtual cookie Exchange, I wanted to share a cookie (that I swiped from an old Better Homes & Gardens magazine & tweaked just a little) that has been a favorite tradition in our home for nearly our entire marriage; buttery, sweet, simple, and colorful cream-filled cookies that our own Christmas celebrations would not be complete without!

Now, just a little disclaimer before I share this recipe. These buttery, melt-in-your-mouth, bite sized cookies are really, really unhealthy and extremely addictive.  As a matter of fact, when I made them for work last week I was told they were like crack.

So bake these fattening, addictive cookies at your own risk.

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Ingredients:

1 cup cold butter, absolutely NO substitutes (I used Kerrygold butter for my recipe)

2 cups cake flour (I used King Arther brand)

3-4 tablespoons organic, heavy whipping cream

Sanding sugar

Powder sugar frosting (recipe to follow)

Putting it Together:

Preheat your oven to 375º.

In a medium mixing bowl, cut the butter into the flour until the pieces are the size of green peas.

I actually used the pastry attachment on my Kitchen Aid for this and it worked out great!

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Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the cream over the mixture and gently toss with a fork, pushing to the side of the bowl.  Repeat until all of the butter and flour mixture is combined into a dough that you can roll into a ball.

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Roll dough on a lightly floured surface to an 1/8 of an inch.  Cut into rounds using a cookie cutter.

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Using decorative & themed baking tools sure keeps the fun in Christmas baking! I LOVE this rolling-pin from Williams-Sonoma … sturdy for rolling as well as themed for keeping spirits bright!

Place the cut cookies on an ungreased, non-stick cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with the sanding sugar.  With a fork, poke four parallel rows in each cutout.

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Bake 8-10 minutes, or just until the edges begin to brown.  Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Now for your Powdered Sugar Frosting: In a small bowl, mix together 2 cups sifted powder sugar, 2 Tablespoons softened butter (no substitutes), 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract and enough heavy cream to make a spreadable frosting. If you are coloring the frosting with just one color, add a couple of drops, mixing well. If using more than one color, divide icing before coloring. I used “Wilton” gel coloring in sky blue for my blue frosting and “Candy-n-Cake” brand powdered food coloring in red to get a true red.

Spread a smidgen of the powdered sugar frosting on the non-sugared side of a cookie and then top with another cookie round.

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Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

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These are actually super easy to make; the most tedious part is carefully icing the cookies without grasping them to hard and crumbling them in your hand.

Serve your pretty little cream-filled bites of butter with hot cocoa or a cold glass of milk (skim milk not allowed).

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These dainty bite-sizes delights are perfect for parties, potlucks, gifting, and being absolutely naughty on your diet.

You can’t eat just one.

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And if you want to change these up just a little take Andes peppermint crunch, and top your cookies when they have about 1-minute left to cook.  Let cool and then ice with frosting that has 1 teaspoon of real vanilla extract instead of the peppermint flavoring.

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These cookies are very delicate, so pack with care if you are taking them to an event of gifting them.

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They’ll be a hit no matter where you serve them!

Take a little time to check out all the other fabulous cookie recipes that are a part of the Virtual Cookie Exchange today!

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