The Biltmore Christmas Tree Arrival!

On November 1st, we went to the estate to watch the arrival, by horse drawn wagon, of the 35 foot tall banquet hall Christmas tree. It was an appropriately chilly morning while we waited for the tree and Santa himself. The wagon’s entrance  into the gate was heralded by a trumpeter who was stationed in a turret window in the house.

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Ready to unload!

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Getting the tree through the doorway takes a lot of muscle!

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While many people went into the house to see the actual raising of the tree, we strolled the grounds drinking hot chocolate. Santa and Mrs. Claus awaited the children that came to visit.

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Once the crowd lessened somewhat, we entered the house.

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We loved watching the crew get the tree prepared for decorating. We're going to wait until Thanksgiving to see it and the entire house in full splendor!

The Flip Of A Switch

The remnants of hurricane Irma slowed the arrival of cooler weather here in our mountains.  Only last week I was still dressed for summer when I hit the trails at Biltmore. Yesterday the decision was between a lighter or heavier jacket or cool weather or colder weather gloves. Even though I’m aware we’ve been continually losing minutes of daylight since the summer solstice, it’s not really that noticeable until that first frost.

The sun, due to the earth's tilt away from it, appears lower in the sky. This field of silage awaiting harvest at Biltmore, seems golden in its slanted rays.

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The hanging baskets at Antler Hill Village are dressed in vibrant fall colors.

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A holly tree “decorated” in its own vibrant berries.

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Holiday decorating is also well underway on the estate.

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Next week the 35 foot tall Banquet hall Christmas tree will be brought to the Biltmore house.

Post to follow!

Breathing Room

When we moved to our home in the mountains of western North Carolina, I described our two acre property as a "blank slate." The previous owner build a solid, lovely home, but attempts at landscaping were sadly lacking. Little by little over the past two years, we have been adding plants and generally sprucing up the property. The wooded area was filled with bittersweet vines that were winding around trees and literally choking them. Black locusts were taking over and thorny thickets were everywhere. Our plan has been to remove invasive species thus opening our wonderful view and allowing other trees and plants to thrive. Last fall we had two of the largest (and sickly)  Black Locusts removed. The difference was dramatic.

Before 

Before 

Our view after tree removal

Our view after tree removal

This year we've removed even more trees, and as a result, more light has been wonderful for the growth of so many plants and trees that had been struggling such as Christmas Fern.

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A Dogwood

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Maple trees

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Holly

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Opening up a landscape can reveal some really beautiful Images.

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Can you see the heart?

Beach House Beauty

Thus far, we have designed and woven 16 rugs and runners for this beautiful Long Beach Island, NJ water front home. Our wonderful clients sent us these photos of the last group that we shipped.

Guest Bedroom

Guest Bedroom

Gallery

Gallery

Boys bedroom. Note the car and boat beds!

Boys bedroom. Note the car and boat beds!

They also sent a photo of the Montauk daisies they planted on their dune.

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We so look forward to working with this lovely couple on their next project and so pleased that over these last months we have also become friends!

Housekeeping

After a few chilly days, yesterday and today have been warm enough to do some outdoor housekeeping chores. The front porch which is covered, needed a thorough power washing to get rid of pollen and dust as well as spider webs. Another semi-annual  job is window washing. I’ve been using a mixture consisting of :

                          ¼ cup white vinegar

                          ¼ cup rubbing alcohol

                          1 Tbsp. cornstarch

                          2 cups warm water

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I mix it all  up in a spray bottle and it seems to work well both on mirrors and windows. I recently saw a great article on window washing on the website Houzz. The tip about how to tell if a streak is outside or inside was one that I hadn’t thought about!

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We’ve recently done a master bath renovation (more to follow in a future post) and I was looking for a non-abrasive and non-toxic alternative for cleaning the tile, glass doors and acrylic base. A mixture of Dawn dishwashing detergent and once again, white vinegar, has been working like a charm.

Into a 16oz spray bottle, I add ½ cup dawn and fill the rest of the bottle with the vinegar.

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Rug cleaning was the next chore. The runner in front of the sink in our last home is one that I wove over ten years ago.

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It has found a new home at the door and hallway to the studio. There is also a door from the basement so consequently, it gets a lot of traffic.

I brought it out to our deck and hosed it down then used a scrub brush to clean it with a combination of Dawn, OxiClean and warm water.

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Dried in the sun and back in place. Not bad for a ten plus year old runner that has spent its life in high traffic areas!

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What are some of your favorite housekeeping tips?

The View From Here

My previous posts are indications of my fondness for all that comprises the Biltmore estate. The grounds are breathtaking and ever changing and I love the fact that it is so close by. The land that surrounds our little neighborhood is also beautiful and indeed, ever changing.  I describe our house and property as being on the side of a mountain, and if you could experience the steepness of both the property and our road, you would understand why! I’ve been doing my “run, walk, hike” as I describe it, since we’ve been here, but a bit of a “bear scare” this past August made me decide, that at least for a while, I should take to the trails of Biltmore. Earlier in the summer our neighbor took a photo of this bear who, as she described it, was laying on our property “as if he owned it.” Except for his size, I wasn’t overly concerned, as we also had bear sightings in New Jersey.

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A month or two later, another neighbor took this photo from her house.

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On August 7th, I finally encountered a bear as I was rounding the bend on our road. He was under an apple tree, presumably having his morning snack. I don’t have a photo as I made my way back to our house in record time. Hence my morning routine moved to Biltmore.

This morning I finally hit our road again, and happily only encountered some deer and these beautiful views.

Heading up our mountain

Heading up our mountain

Mt. Mitchell as seen from the top of our property

Mt. Mitchell as seen from the top of our property

The ridge behind our house in the morning sunlight

The ridge behind our house in the morning sunlight

More Biltmore Views

Late on a fall Sunday afternoon is a perfect time to visit the gardens on the Biltmore Estate. It is certainly less crowded and the glow from the soon to be setting sun is magical.

Fall blooming roses

Fall blooming roses

Jewel toned mums

Jewel toned mums

The American Beauty Berry that first caught our eye a month ago, was in full bloom.

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We loved it so much that we knew we wanted to add it to our landscape. We chose "Pearl Glam" because of its blackish purple leaves that offer interest before the berries are visible. When the berries first appear they are white hence the "Pearl" in the name.

Speaking of where we live, I caught this hummingbird taking a rest on our Canna. I will miss seeing the butterflies and hummingbirds that grace our property, but will look forward to their return next summer!

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Evening Entertainment

Early evening on our deck this time of year is a special time. The sun sets in the front of our house, and we are able to enjoy the changing light on the ridge behind us.

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One evening I heard some rustling noises below me and looked down to see what was going on. Two fawns were playing tag with some wild turkeys at the edge of our woods. The turkeys were not amused!

Biltmore Views

One of the joys of living here in the mountains of western North Carolina is our proximity to the Biltmore Estate. We are pass holders, which for a nominal yearly fee, gives us access to all that the estate has to offer including the magnificent house, gardens and all of the trails on the 8,000 acres that comprise the estate. I love driving onto the estate in the morning to run or walk the trails and be inspired by all that surrounds me. Here are some of my latest views.

Sunflowers on the lagoon trail

Sunflowers on the lagoon trail

Cattle getting some shade

Cattle getting some shade

Iconic view from the lagoon

Iconic view from the lagoon

Monarchs feeding during their migration

Monarchs feeding during their migration

The farm trail

The farm trail

Morning dew on Pink Muhly Grass

Morning dew on Pink Muhly Grass

In Remembrance

The first funeral I ever attended was for Jeffery Maloney. I was just a freshman in high school and he was a Marine Corporal who was killed in Vietnam. He was 21. Jeff and his family were part of our neighborhood. He had a younger brother and sister and all had attended the same grammar school as my sisters and me.

 Jeff had returned to Vietnam after R and R in Hawaii where his fiancé joined him. They were nearly next door neighbors and were to be married upon his return. I remember the day of his funeral as if it were yesterday. What stands out in my mind was his flag draped coffin with a photo of him in his uniform and his helmet on top. It is too simple to say that to men and women like Jeffery we owe a debt of gratitude. We owe them our very freedoms, that so many seem to take for granted. Here is a link to a website created  in remembrance of Jeff.

http://marines.togetherweserved.com/usmc/servlet/tws.webapp.WebApp?cmd=ShadowBoxProfile&type=Person&ID=229667&source=fold3

A year Gone By

To be exact, it has been a year and thirteen days since Tom and I moved to the mountains of western North Carolina. Our real estate agent and now dear friend Sandy Austin, said it best when she described our move here as “a leap of Faith”. It’s been a year full of wonderful “firsts” after my initial feeling of “how did we get here?” Here’s some photos of our little piece of the world.

Sunrise from our deck

Sunrise from our deck

From the Blue Ridge Parkway right near our house

From the Blue Ridge Parkway right near our house

A hummingbird drinking from our Canna

A hummingbird drinking from our Canna

A few of our resident turkeys

A few of our resident turkeys

and some of the feathers they left behind!

and some of the feathers they left behind!

More to come!

Those Moments

I called UPS after receiving an extra $7.00 charge for a shipment I sent to a customer. I was told that it was because I had used my UPS shipper number from NJ to send a package from my new address in NC. She gave me a new shipper number but I couldn’t replace the old address on my online account. After being sent from one representative to another, I finally was connected with tech support. Three tech support people (one of which told me she would call me back but never did) later, and with my frustration level rising, I thought I should give up and try again the next day. Instead I stared at the phone and then proceeded to call tech support AGAIN. This time I reached Harley, who had the key to my account change dilemma. After working with him for ten minutes, he told me he didn’t feel like he was at his desk working, but rather that he was talking to a friend. I told him I felt the same way. One of “those moments”.

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I received a call from a lovely woman in Virginia who after a google search, felt that I was the only one that could weave a rug to replace her vintage rag rug that was destroyed by her previous dog. I shipped it to her and got a call from her indicating that she was “thrilled out of her mind” and it was even better than she could have imagined. One of "those moments".

I was in the grocery store and while I was trying to find a particular item I heard a voice say, “I love your pocketbook” I looked over to see a sweet young woman with special needs looking at me. I thanked her and then she said, “what library do you go to?” I told her we had just moved here and wasn’t sure where the libraries were and could she suggest one. Without flinching, and very assertively she said “the Enka library.” I thanked her and told her I was grateful for her help since we were learning so much about the area. Her mom, who she introduced to me, looked at me as if to say “I hope we are not bothering you.” The young woman then asked me my name I answered “ my name is Patti and what is your name?” She smiled sweetly and said “Lee Ann”. She then asked me how I spelled my name. I spelled it for her and then said “my given name is Patricia but most people call me Patti. Do people call you Lee or Lee Ann?” She assuredly told me “Lee Ann”. She asked me where I was from and then asked me about the weather in NJ and I learned that Lee Ann and her mom were from Syracuse. I wished them a wonderful weekend, and we said “so great to meet you”. One of "those moments", and God moments all!

Wild(er)Life

We have only been living in the mountains of western North Carolina for a few months but  we've already been pretty entertained by a few of our neighbors.

I took this picture from one of our bedroom windows because I didn't want to scare away these wild turkeys. I discovered once I went to get into the car to run an errand that I could have walked up behind them and taken a picture from two feet away. They were, as you might say, totally oblivious, looking down hill from where I was as if to say "do you hear something?" They only alighted (flying isn't their forte) to the trees when I started the car.

During the milder days of early December, I caught these bluebirds catching some sun on our deck. Time to build another bluebird house!

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Yesterday, while doing my run/walk/hike up our mountain, I saw these girls. They are skittish here, not so much on my runs in NJ when our herd would stand within five feet of me as I headed past them.

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A bird, the likes of which I have never seen,  was perched on one of our trees. I took a picture, but this photo that I found online is far superior to mine.

Photo by Ken Schneider

Photo by Ken Schneider

I think it is a Loggerhead Shrike. Here is a description of its feeding habits in an article by George Ellison:

If on a late afternoon walk across an open field you encounter a thorny honey locust tree with an impaled display of songbirds or field mice dangling in the wind — like macabre ornaments on some ghastly Christmas tree — you’ll know you’ve entered the “butcher shop” of a loggerhead shrike.

 

To say that the loggerhead shrike is “fearsome” is not an overstatement. With an especially adapted beak that is hooked and notched, the shrike kills birds and mammals by biting them behind the head until the cervical vertebrae are severed.

 

The male shrike has the distinctive habit of impaling captured insects, birds, mice and other prey upon handy strands of barbed wire or plant thorns and briars. Leftover portions are sometimes left hanging high and dry for later consumption.

 

In a “Birder’s World” article, “Masters of the Macabre,” Matthew Douglas noted that, “Male shrikes accumulate larders for their own use and for feeding their mates and young. Larders usually reach peak size during courtship and incubation so maximal food is available when the young hatch.

 

“While shrikes have a reputation for wanton killing, most evidence suggests they don’t kill more than is required for sustenance. It’s not clear whether most shrikes feed on cached food that is old. While some have returned to larders weeks after they formed them, others seem to avoid ones more than two days old.

 

“Another function of larders may be as indicators of a male’s hunting ability. Evidence suggests a male with more food stored in larders has a greater chance of being selected by a female.

 

“Whatever the purpose of the larder, it appears that the impaling behavior offers the shrike an anchor from which it can tear apart the prey’s body. This would be a reasonable assumption because although shrikes have powerful feet, they do not have the talons of other birds of prey.”

Will keep you posted as to what's around the next bend!


Out of the Box

Now that we've made our move to our home just a little west of Asheville, NC, I continue to get the studio unpacked. One box that has been packed since we lived in Connecticut holds special meaning. It contained some beautiful items pertaining to weaving, that once hung on the wall to the entrance to my studio. In our home in Clinton, CT, my studio was located above our garage and the hall way up the stairs, was a perfect location for these treasures.

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My studio, in a converted horse barn in Tewksbury Township, NJ, did not have a foyer or entrance way, and I was concerned that these wonderful items would get damaged during the daily movement of bolts of fabrics, finished rugs and boxes packed for shipping. Now that I have a foyer in my current studio which is out of the fray, these antique shuttles, prints,  paper cuttings and an antique lap loom, hold a place of honor.

One of my favorite pieces is this framed "Weaver's Prayer" with paper cuttings and calligraphy by my dear friend Martha Link Walsh.

Another favorite is this hand colored wood cut print by Mary Azarian. It was given to me by Joy Kilbourn who was the owner of the beautiful home furnishings store "Cliffhangers" in Bronxville, NY. Joy carried our rugs for many years and it was such a pleasure to have known her.

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What memories and inspiration!

Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore

This famous phrase from L. Frank Baum's "The Wizard of Oz" pretty much sums up the events leading to our recent move to North Carolina. At this time last year, I could not have predicted the  ups and downs and twists and turns that led us to our current home in the mountains. Although our home and bodies didn't get taken up into the sky by a cyclone, it sure felt like it at times.

A view from our deck

A view from our deck

A rather abrupt change of employment for Tom resulting from the company he worked for basically imploding, caused us to do some quick decision making as to our future. Since our plan was never  to stay in New Jersey indefinitely, Tom felt he should continue to send out resumes while simultaneously getting the house ready to sell and we would go with whatever came first. I think I could write a book about all of the events that followed, but in a nutshell, here goes: The house goes on the market, less than two months later we get a cash offer. Great! Not so great is that our buyers wanted a thirty day close. Mad dash to start to pack non-breakable items, moving company to pack the rest. Brakes put on when septic inspection reveals we need a new septic system. Good news is that we had a great engineering firm and excavators and I got to play on one of the big rigs!

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The weather and the fact that our excavators were backed up (so to speak) with work, gave us a chance to bring the contents of the studio (minus the 4,800 lbs. of looms that the movers were to transport) to a self storage unit in Asheville. A week later we travelled back to NC to look for a house, with the caveat that there be a space for the business. Low and behold, on the third day, the last house we saw, was the one on which we made an offer. Long story short, great house, great views, and more than enough room for the looms and the contents of my previous studio.

I can't say any of this was easy, and at times (more times than I or Tom care to remember!) I wasn't sure I had it in me. What I do know, and what I truly believe, is that  this is where we were meant to be, and as Dorothy said "there's no place like home."

Independence Day

The Califon volunteer fire department once again out did itself with its fire works display. Tom and I took a seat on the Municipal building steps and were literally right under them!

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We are so proud of all of the men and women, past and present, who have fought in order that we might retain our freedom. Our family has served in all four branches of the armed services: my dad was a Marine, my father-in-law was in the Army, Tom was in the Navy and nephew Matt continues to serve in the Air Force.

McGuire AFB

McGuire AFB

McGuire AFB

McGuire AFB

God Bless America!

Just The Right Color

One of my favorite old movies is "Mr. Blandings builds his dream house" starring Cary Grant and Myrna Loy. The Blandings purchase a "fixer upper" in Connecticut, and then the fun begins. Probably my favorite scene is Mrs. Blandings describing to the painters the colors she wishes to have in the various rooms.

Now that we are starting to show some long awaited color on our property, here are a few examples: for our cream we have "Andromeda"

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For our pink, "Magnolia"

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and for our yellow, "Daffodil"

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More to come!

Right On Time

Sure enough, as mentioned in my last post, the bluebird momma has started feathering her nest, or in this case, building it with our  ornamental grass clippings. The one in the photo below is at least 24" and she seems to be handling it with ease.

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Here she is flying through the air with more nest building material in her beak.

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I can't tell if papa is checking out her handiwork, or helping. You can just see his tail feathers on the cage we added to the house to keep a raccoon from reaching his paw in to steal eggs. That happened to the first eggs laid two springs ago. So far, it has worked!

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I think she's resting after getting this long piece of grass up to the entrance.

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A little sit in the sun before dinner.

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Dinner!

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We've got the Blues

We just sent two rugs to a beautiful home in Winston-Salem, NC. The home has a country French flair so French blues with soft linen tones were in order. We wove a 6'x9' in our "Quartz" and a 10'6"x10'6" using a combination of the fabrics in our "Linen" and "Dove" along with accents of a different shade of blue which is also used in the room.

6'x9'

6'x9'

10'6"x10'6"

10'6"x10'6"

We've also got blues of the feathered kind. Our bird cam captured these photos of the soon to be inhabitants of our bluebird box!

"I like the porch"

"I like the porch"

Here comes Superman

Here comes Superman

Catching some rays

Catching some rays

Nest building should begin soon!