Biltmore Part II: Biltmore Estate Landscaping

What pairs well with the biggest private home in the United States? Why, one’s own forest and mountain, of course.

On our visit to the Biltmore Estate we marveled at the beautiful landscape surrounding George Washington Vanderbilt’s mansion. It is even more amazing when you realize that most of this landscape was immature during Vanderbilt’s lifetime. He and his very famous landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, both died before really being able to appreciate the glory of what they designed.

GotMyReservations Biltmore View of Mt Pisgah

Biltmore Estate forests with view of Blue Ridge Mountains

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Wonderful World of Disney Tablescape

This week’s tablescape was inspired by my vintage Ferris wheel (I talked about its history here), and seemed the perfect week to showcase it in Cuisine Kathleen’s “summer whimsey” tablescape party.

GotMyReservations Chein Disney Ferris Wheel

J. Chein Disney Ferris Wheel

Growing up, we traveled in the summer since my father was a teacher. Every June, we packed up the trailer and headed off on a long car trip. The longest — and my brother says the most interminable — trip we ever took was from Ohio to California. It was on that vacation in about 1965 that I first went to Disneyland and was enchanted by Walt Disney’s vision. Continue reading

Vintage Ferris Wheel Tablescape Inspiration

When Cuisine Kathleen posted her “summer whimsey” challenge, I knew that the time had come to bring out my vintage Ferris wheel and feature it in a vacation tablescape.

GotMyReservations Chein Disney Ferris Wheel

J. Chein Disney Ferris Wheel

I grew up with this toy and played with it whenever we visited my great-grandmother’s house. I was named after her, and the toy was passed down to me eventually. I had it evaluated at one of those appraisal parties and they said at the time that it was worth about $100, but to me it’s priceless and will be one of the last items to pass on to family members when it’s my turn. The Ferris wheel brings back good memories of playing at Grandma Jennie’s house. Continue reading

The Biggest Dish Room in the United States? — Biltmore Part 1

The original photo of the two-story butler's pantry at Biltmore is courtesy of The Biltmore Estate.

The original photo of the two-story butler’s pantry at Biltmore is courtesy of The Biltmore Estate.

Dish rooms are my joy, my thrill, my raison d’être. Well, maybe not quite that much, but y’all know how much I love dishes.

When we began to plan our visit to the largest private home in the United States, I hoped to see lots and lots of dishes. Gobs of dishes.

Located in Asheville, North Carolina, Biltmore House and its surrounding estate was imagined and created between 1889 and 1895 by George W. Vanderbilt and his all-star team of Richard Morris Hunt and Frederick Law Olmsted. It is still held privately by descendants of George and Edith Vanderbilt and is open to the public. There is a general tour of the house with an available audio guide that takes about two hours. There are also auxiliary guided tours of areas that are not on the main tour. We spent two glorious days exploring this beautiful estate.

In addition to the regular tour of the house, we also signed up for the Butler’s Tour, which took us “downstairs” into kitchen and mechanicals areas not seen on the other tours. This two-story butler’s pantry just took my breath away.

I’ll share lots more about our trip to the glorious Biltmore Estate, but today I’m going to start with a visit to the gift shops on the grounds of the Estate. After all, it’s dishes that we are interested in — right? Continue reading

Springtime in Vienna Tablescape

It was pretty wet and chilly, that March spring break in Austria eleven years ago — my first trip to Europe. That doesn’t keep me from thinking about Vienna and Salzburg when I think spring. The pansies were profusely blooming and there were flowers and trees making their homage to spring everywhere, despite the weather. Nature is like that.

GotMyReservations Mirabell Gardens

Mirabell Palace and Gardens in Salzburg was one of the shooting locations for the Sound of Music.

Those pansies kept coming back to tantalize me when I started planning this week’s tablescape. I knew I wanted to incorporate the beautiful faux pansies I had seen at Joann’s, since it has still been too cold to have plants outside. I remembered the intricate embroidered cloths that I bought in Austria and voila! I had my inspiration for the week. Continue reading

The Sunday Review: A Virtual Week in Provence

If you have been friends with me for any length of time, you already know that I was lucky enough to have a fabulous vacation in France just about a year ago. I traveled in a group of eight friends and family and it was an amazing trip.

The France Frolickers

We started our vacation by flying into Nice in southern France; I wrote about it here on our vacation blog. I feel very sad that life got in the way and I abandoned our online record of the trip. Maybe I have time now to work on that…

Image Credit

Image Credit

Anyway, since I was feeling nostalgic for our trip, I checked one of my favorite “set in Provence” films out of the library — again. A Year in Provence is a British made-for-television adaptation of Peter Mayle’s book of the same name. Both the book and the television series chronicle Peter and his wife’s first year of retirement after buying a beautiful home in southern France. Starring veteran English actors John Thaw and Lindsay Duncan, the episodes are a relatively faithful adaptation of Mayle’s book.

I have probably watched A Year in Provence ten times, but this time, I saw it in a new light. In fact, I posted a photo of my television on Facebook to show the France Frolickers that we had essentially the same photo that was in the the film.

The village of Gordes in the movie

The village of Gordes in the movie

 

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There were comments and scenes about Provençal institutions, such as the filmmaker Marcel Gagnol and the ubiquitous game of boule (here in the United States, we usually call it bocci — an Italian game that is very similar). And then there’s the story of the truffles, a theme which follows the entire year portrayed in the book. Thinking about truffles brought me back to the fabulous meals we shared while in France — day after day of gourmet cuisine that I’ll never forget.

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If you are planning a trip to Provence or have already been there, give yourself a treat and watch A Year in Provence. It’s got its faults — not everyone loves Peter Mayle and his bumbling behavior, but there’s a lot to love in this series.

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Restaurant Visit: Circa 57 in Arlington Heights

We have been eyeing Circa 57 since it opened. The problem is that Music Man and I are eyeing it through different lenses.

Circa 57 is a new restaurant in downtown Arlington Heights, Illinois, and includes the space at the corner of Vail and Campbell previously occupied by the Grand Station restaurant and Peoples Bank. It’s got a wonderful location!

I was intrigued by the possibilities of their food mission. Music Man wasn’t so sure — he wasn’t interested in ever going back to the food of 1957, thank you very much. I was relieved to actually see the menu. Even though it includes throwback style food, many of the offerings are updated for the more sophisticated tastes of today. Continue reading

Travel Diary: Packing for Mars (or England or California)

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In book club, we recently read a very interesting book entitled Packing for Mars. It was an in-depth and often graphic explanation of how astronauts live and work in the tight quarters of space exploration vehicles. The stories in the book were fascinating and our book club loved it.

My recent trip on American Airlines made me think again about Packing for Mars and how travelers of all kinds need to strip their packing down to the bare essentials. I dragged around a 24″ roller bag, a small roller briefcase, and a large Vera Bradley tote stuffed with my purse and carry-on items. It was just too much. Continue reading

Travel Diary: Tips for Your Next Trip

Linda Dini Jenkins from Travel the Write Way

Linda Dini Jenkins from Travel the Write Way

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Tips From Traveling Friends

I have a blogging friend whom I have never met, yet our thinking trains seem to often run along the same rails — and it happened again this week. I had planned to write a post about some items I’m adding to my travel closet stash, and Linda also wrote a post about the things that are on her travel must-have list.

Linda Dini Jenkins is a travel writer who blogs at Travel the Write Way. She offers tips about tourist destinations, and plans tours in Italy for small group travel. Here’s what she says about this week’s post.

“It’s trip planning season again. At least that’s what all my travel blog colleagues are writing about in their columns lately. This is the time of year, they say, when people start to plan for their annual holiday, especially if that holiday involves crossing oceans. To help potential travelers in their search, all kinds of lists are appearing to promote the top 10 beach destinations, the best European bargain spots, “undiscovered” this or that, and what you should or shouldn’t pack on said trip.” Continue reading

Travel Diary: Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant

Where do you go when you have a large group of friends who want to talk to each other and not disturb the other diners? Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant! How about when you want to have a cozy dinner with your special someone or with close friends? The answer is still the same. Cooper’s Hawk.

Cooper’s Hawk is a winery and restaurant chain that has locations in six states, including Illinois, where I live. Every time we go to Cooper’s Hawk, we say to each other, “Why don’t we come here more often?” The atmosphere is lovely, the decor is interesting with the wine barrel theme, and the food is fresh and creative — especially for a chain restaurant. There is a full bar if you are interested in something other than wine, as evidenced by my recent choice of the Dirty Nasty Martini.

GotMyReservations Coopers Hawk Dirty Martini

It’s not all about the wine!

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