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 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.

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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.

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 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.

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

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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!

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And then there was the grand prize…

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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!

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Off to the Races

Believe it or not, I am a huge fan of cars and especially cars that go really fast.  This weekend is the fall race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, one of my favorite tracks without a doubt!  CMS is located in Concord, NC, just outside of Charlotte.

Bank of America 500 at CMS

Bank of America 500 at CMS

Racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway

Racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway

As I’m getting things together to head out for the weekend I thought that it would be fun to share a few Do’s & Don’ts of attending a race just in case you ever want to see what the exciting world of NASCAR is all about…

Do plan for a long day…. And get there early!  Parking can be a freaking nightmare challenge at almost all tracks, so you’ll want to arrive early for a decent location.  Otherwise you will be walking miles to arrive and leave.  I’d rather be close and sit in traffic than walk forever after an already long day.  Whether you are walking through the vendors and other off track activities, touring  Pit Road or sitting in the Grandstands, you will have a long day.  Walk around and catch some of the driver interviews around the track, indulge in a few of the corny games, check out the really awesome cars on display, and hang out by the broadcast area… you might see one of your favorite drivers or find yourself on TV.  It’s all a part of the NASCAR experience!

Bradley doing a Pit Road challenge

Bradley doing a Pit Road challenge

Do stay hydrated.  NASCAR may begin in February and run through early November, but long days, often extreme temps and the fact that you might drink (I do not) add up so keep your body refreshed and hydrated with plenty of water.  I can assure you, water will set better in your gut than soda and booze which will make your day much more enjoyable.

Do bring your camera.  There will be a lot of photo opportunities at the track for both you and your family.  If you like to be adventurous with you photos, try shooting the cars as they pass at 175+ mph.  That is a challenge I take EVERY time we are at the track.

Charlotte Motor Speedway

Do take a large tote bag with you.  This makes it easy for carrying around extra water, a camera, light snacks, and other track “goodies”.  Oh yeah!  You can’t forget the sunscreen.  Apply when you arrive and throughout the day or you will have some crazy  lines and a painful burn!  Check the weather before you go; you may need to bring a rain jacket or poncho with you.  Most tracks don’t allow umbrellas inside so you want to be prepared.  My track bag is a Calvin Klein tote that I picked up at TJ Maxx three years ago, just for race weekends.  It’s light, has a couple of pockets, and plenty of room to stash necessities that I might need throughout the day.

Do dress appropriately. I’m amazed and often embarrassed by what people (especially women) will leave home in.  Seriously, dress appropriately.  Cowboy boots and shorts so short you cheeks hang out are NOT appropriate.  Trashy?  Absolutely.  Crop tops with your fat hanging over the sides of your shorts or pants?  Please have a little dignity!  Short little dresses with stilettos in the grandstands are NOT appropriate.  The men may like you wearing it as everyone gets a full view of your derrière as you climb the stairs…. just don’t.

And men…. Your shirtless, tattooed pot belly is not attractive.  I understand you want to buy your driver’s favorite shirt once you arrive at the track, but wear something into the track that you can throw away.  Please don’t come in half-dressed, showcasing a body that hasn’t seen the gym since middle high school PE.

Last year when Audley met Samantha Busch, wife of the #18 Kyle Busch

Last year when Audley met Samantha Busch, wife of the #18 Kyle Busch

The wives and girlfriends of NASCAR’s elite are often dressed as if they walked off the stage of fashion week; chic sundresses, heels, large framed sunglasses, hair styled perfectly so that they are camera ready with their men. It looks out-of-place for a racetrack, but I do appreciate women who dress up. With cameras in their faces all day it’s only appropriate.  While a more upscale look is acceptable for these ladies, it’s not as practical for the gal who is attending the race as a spectator (unless you are leaving your vehicle and headed straight to the air-conditioned suites for the race). So what do you wear for a long day at the track?

In the spring and fall, jeans and cute top are always appropriate. Add a pair of comfortable walking shoes, and even some cute accessories & fashionable sunglasses to finish your look. You can also layer your look as many races run into the evening. It may be warm as you tailgate and shop, but once the sun goes down (especially in late October), it can become extremely chilly. Leggings with a denim top and boots (that are made for walking) also make for comfortable fall race attire.  In the warmer months I’m all about a long sundress (If I will be on Pit Road) or a great pair of capri pants and comfortable sandals.

Shorts are acceptable, but at  40-something I just don’t wear them except to the gym or beach.  If you choose to go with shorts, be sure to bring along a beach towel to sit on as the bleachers or seats can really absorb some heat and burn your legs.  Hats are good; not a big, floppy derby style hat, but a cute monogrammed cap.  If there is a chance of rain, you will actually want a hat because your hair is going to fall flat, like it or not.

Madeline repine' Dale Jr. for race day

Madeline reppin’ Dale Jr. for race day

While there are fans who like to take things to the extreme, don’t be ashamed to rep your favorite driver.   Since Mark Martin fully retired from racing a couple of years ago I haven’t just one favorite driver anymore, but occasionally your might find me wearing a ladies-cut Kyle Busch or Kevin Harvick shirt with a cute pair of capris as we are hanging at the track.  I like to dress-up a little more though when we are on Pit Road or in a suite.

Dressing up to be on Pit Road during the race.... My friend Yvonne was a NASCAR official so we've enjoyed our share of perks.

Dressing up to be on Pit Road during the race…. My friend Yvonne was a NASCAR official so we’ve enjoyed our share of perks.

Don’t drink too much.  Seriously, save yourself and those around you the embarrassment and put down the alcohol.  NASCAR can be fun for the whole family and personally I would rather my teenagers not reek of the beer you have tripped and split on them or hear your potty mouth.  Now, if you want to be made fun of, feel free to act the fool because my husband and kids will have plenty of jokes to make at your expense.

Don’t be rude.  It’s simple; everyone who is at the race is there to enjoy themselves. Don’t be that person who holds up the line at security with bags/coolers and extras that you probably should be bringing to the track.  Each track website has rules of what is and what isn’t allowed.  It takes five minutes to pull it up and read.  Take the time to do it.

Also, if you do have the opportunity to meet a driver or grab a few autographs, don’t take up all the time so no one else gets a chance and for sure let the driver move on!  With team meetings, driver meetings, media interviews, sponsor obligations and of course Driver Intos, race day is crazy busy for these guys and gals!

And have respect for those around you.  It’s that simple.  Just have fun without being uncivilized!

A few must-haves for race day:

Camera with a zoom lens

Binoculars (for an up close view of Pit Road action)

Scanner for listening to the crews communicate (Can rent at the track)

Earplugs, it gets LOUD

Sunglasses

Sunscreen

Water

Snacks, although concessions are available

Tote Bag/Backpack

Lot’s of energy!

Using a scanner lets you hear the different teams communicate with the drivers and spotter; you really get a feel for the teamwork required in auto racing

Using a scanner lets you hear the different teams communicate with the drivers and spotter; you really get a feel for the teamwork required in auto racing

If you want to check out some of the ladies of NASCAR meet Samantha Busch and Whitney Kay Scott; bloggers as well as living the hectic and glamorous life of a NASCAR wife.

I love watching the teams celebrate post race ... So awesome to see the emotion!

I love watching the teams celebrate post race … So awesome to see the emotion!

Have fun and LET’S GO RACING!

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A Night at The Theatre

Audley and I love culture and arts, so a night out to the theatre makes for a perfect date night for the two of us.  Whether it be ballet, Broadway, the symphony, or a local band art events have been some of our more memorable nights out over the years.

Recently we slipped away to Flat Rock, NC (just forty-five minutes away) for a local production of “Boeing, Boeing”.  I just love supporting local arts.  There are times that we have seen better productions from the small community troupes than the larger national programs.

“Boeing, Boeing”! As much as Audley travels and dashes through the airport we couldn’t have picked a more perfect production.

Flat Rock is a quaint little town just outside of Asheville in the North Carolina mountains.  There are actually two theaters in the area; a small intimate setting in historic downtown Flat Rock and a much more grand stage for more detailed and large-scaled productions.

For our evening out we visited the intimate downtown theater.

Flat Rock downtown playhouse

Flat Rock downtown playhouse

The entrance to the downtown Playhouse theater

The entrance to the downtown Playhouse theater

The stage was set up with just one set that was the setting of the entire play.  I liked that concept as it made the play so easy to follow.

The set ... we weren't supposed to take any pictures, but I had to sneak just one!

The set … we weren’t supposed to take any pictures, but I had to sneak just one!

A little on the raunchy side, but absolutely hysterical, the story was set in the 1960’s, the boom of airline travel and the “romantic” lives that stewardesses lived.  It was the remake of a 1962 comedy about a swinging bachelor living it up in Paris, France and the three stewardesses he as a relationship with.  Add a friend from high school to the mix, a busy-body maid and let the laughs begin as one catastrophe after another takes place!

The local troupe did a fabulous job of acting and truly made the performance one to remember.

Since it was date night and we were headed out to a live performance, I wanted to dress-up for the evening.

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All dressed up and ready to go out!

I think I was a little over-dressed compared to several in the audience (I really didn’t mind), but my simple shirt dress was a perfect complement to my handsome man’s jacket and jeans.

And can you believe it?  I’ve gone from a brunette to a blonde!

It’s my mid-life crisis.

While I do like to dress up even more for the ballet or a Broadway show, I thought my choice was great for the community theater.

Do you dress up for shows?  What have you checked out lately?

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