March Sightings

March in our mountains has been more lion than lamb thus far. Yesterday we awoke to some snow and today, although it is a beautiful day, we can hear and feel strong winds heading down from the higher elevations. It takes some snow and the sun at just the right angle to see the bride and groom of Mt. Pisgah. Legend has it that a young couple wished to marry, but the bride's father objected. In their wedding clothes they raced along steep trails on the mountain, followed closely behind by her father. In the snow, they slid off the trail and off the mountain to their deaths. Look closely at the photo to see the groom on the left leading the bride with the train of her gown trailing behind her.

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A little snow on our road.

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The good news is that robins are appearing everywhere!

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A turkey buzzard enjoying the thermals

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A pair of bluebirds approving the bluebird box that my husband built

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Spring arrives next week!

Cutting The Cord

After years of having "bundled" our phone, internet and TV with our local cable company, we are now liberated! For those of you who have done this you know what a freeing experience it is. For us, the last straw was an increase of $30.00 per month, for no reason except the company "could". We had the basic service, as TV watching does not dominate any portion of our day or evening. When we called to try to change the cost we were told "nope". Wrong answer.

Our quest for liberation from the cable cord began with perusing the websites of streaming providers including, youtube tv, hulu, and sling tv. Based on our programming interests we chose sling to begin our adventure.

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We ordered three months of sling blue with a couple of add ons, and as a promotion we got a Roku ultra for half price. We wanted to retain our landline numbers, one for the business, and a "home phone" so we opted to port our phone numbers to Number Barn.

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Once we ported our numbers from our cable company to Number Barn, we then forwarded them to our cell phones. Easy Peasy!

Another great advantage of the various TV packages, is that you can cancel them at any time if another provider better meets your TV watching needs. For local stations, (ABC, CBS, NBC) we purchased an antenna for our attic. With the antenna, we also receive PBS (For "Victoria" ) as well as some vintage and local TV shows.

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So here's the cost breakdown: Old provider TV, Internet, two phone lines: $182.00 per month.

Our old provider still provides us with internet only at a cost of $64.99, sling tv, $39.99, business phone and home phone, $12.00. Total savings $65.02 (!) and A LOT more channels that we actually WANT. Oh, and might I add, that the picture quality is superior! 

Cable box gets returned tomorrow!!!!!

 

A Chance En(counter)

I’m a Clinique girl, and love their “gift with purchase” campaigns that come along a few times a year in various department stores. I found out that Belk was the next one up beginning February 6th. Knowing that it would be pretty busy during the purchase period, I decided to visit our local Belk in Asheville to do a “pre-sale” which means you choose your products and any choices offered for the free gift, pay for all and pick up at your leisure. I arrived at the counter and met a lovely woman and proceeded to purchase the items on my list. Next, I chose my free gift. You can choose either:

•The Brighten & Glow Gift which includes Take the Day Off Makeup Remover, Turnaround Daytime Moisturizer, Turnaround Overnight Moisturizer, Pop Lip Colour + Primer in Bare Pop, and High Impact Mascara, an exclusive Marimekko for Clinique cosmetic bag and a Marimekko for Clinique credit card pouch or the Marimekko for Clinique mirror .

                                                                   or

•The Standout Eyes Gift which includes Rinse Off Eye Makeup Solvent, All About Eyes, All About Eyes Shadow Trio, Quickliner for Eyes in Intense Ebony, and High Impact Lash Elevating Mascara, an exclusive Marimekko for Clinique cosmetic bag, and a Marimekko for Clinique credit card pouch or the Marimekko for Clinique mirror.

Because I spent more than $55.00 I got to also got to “step up my gift” where you get to choose between:

Refresh Duo (7 Day Scrub and Pop Lip Colour + Primer in Love Pop) or Happy Duo (perfume spray and body cream).

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Once she added my purchases, she noted that I was only $8.00 away from the "Step up your gift even more!"Spend $75 on Clinique and also receive a bonus black and white Marimekko for Clinique tote. How could I resist because it also includes $15.00 in "Belk Bucks" to spend with no exclusions!

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The lovely woman who was taking care of me (and giving me all of these free products!) noted the New Jersey area code for my cell phone number. She told me that she too, had moved to Asheville from New Jersey and we both agreed, it was indeed a small world. She saw that my name was Patricia, and then told me that her middle name was Patricia and that her first name was Lynn. I looked her straight in the eye and said “ My middle name is Lynn!” To say we had a bonding experience was an understatement!

If you don’t have a Belk near you, and you like Clinique too, call or email my new friend Lynn Patricia at 828-298-4970 ext 267 or Lynn_Mcelroy@belk.com and tell her Patricia Lynn sent you!

Turkey Day

We recently had a slight warming trend from our very cold temperatures, and I took the opportunity to go for my run/ walk/ hike on our mountain road. As I was heading up the road I saw our "resident" flock of turkeys eating seeds at the base of our bird feeder.

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They were also on the hunt for anything else they might find in our foundation plantings and slope. On my way back down the mountain, I saw that they were making their usual rounds back down our property before heading into the woods.

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When you're standing right behind them and they can't figure out where the sound is coming from!

December Memories

Indeed, here we are in the middle of January and December is but a memory, but I'm so happy that I took photos of some of the highlights!

Even though predictions were for a "mild winter", we managed to have an 11" snow storm early in the month.

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During the day, the sun began melting the snow on our metal roof,which began its slide down only to refreeze at night.

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The Biltmore Estate is a special place and even more so during the Holiday season.

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Gorgeous winterberry and rhododendron at the NC welcome center! 

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Our extended cold weather resulting in the French Broad River freezing into large chunks as it tried to flow through the Biltmore estate.

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The frozen lagoon at Biltmore

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 A giant, beautifully carved bear spotted in the Lowes parking lot. We met the artist, named Dennis who enjoys carving animals of all sorts. He was taking his latest creation to its new owners. His phone number (which he gave us permission to publish) is 828-435-1980. He is truly gifted!

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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.

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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!