Posted in Musings and Mutterings

Quite a nice birthday

Yesterday was my birthday.  All in all, I had a very nice celebration. On Sunday, my children living nearby, joined me for a cookout.  We played a game of casual Uno and just visited. That’s always fantastic. My children are all adult or near adult.  so spending any time with them is always fun.

Yesterday, I worked all day and then went to a very nice dinner. Some may say, “Aww, you had to work on your birthday..” but fear not! The sense of accomplishment and the release of stress due to the fact that I knew I had progressed in a large project that has a close deadline is completely worth it. Factor in that I get to crank tunes and work in my home, (the commute is just so HARD- move cat…heheh) makes it all the more enjoyable.  The dinner was very nice, too. My bestest friend, my husband and I had dinner in Alexandria at Ted’s Montana Grill. Nothing says birthday better than a tender and juicy bison fillet…mmmm! AND to top off the evening, Frank barely even flinched when I accidentally spilled my ice water in his lap!! Now that’s love, I tell you!

As to getting another year older?  I can’t complain, since I recently got carded at a restaurant.  Maybe she was just being nice, but she was insistent in seeing my ID before she served me, and it made me feel extra good.  Vanity, thy name is woman.

Posted in Musings and Mutterings

Home again, home again, jiggety jig

I’m back home in Maryland. I’ve been away more this summer than I’ve been here and sadly, my garden shows it, as does the laundry, the mail, the catalogs, the fur puppies under and around furniture, the dust…. eeek! It was much easier living in a hotel, going interesting places and learning things and then coming home to freshly made beds and clean towels.

Getting back from vacationing is sometimes harder on me then not going anywhere. I feel the pressure to “catch up” on everything I was already behind in when I left! 🙂 I know everyone is in this dilemma somehow. The ones with the perfect houses sometimes are behind in their paperwork or financial records. The people with great yards have so-so interiors and the people who make enough money, pay others to take care of the things they can’t get to…. but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make me feel the pressure to keep everything going. I don’t have the funds to have someone clean the dust off my shelves and pretties… so it sits there and mocks me.

I am in the middle of major home renovations and the workmen are taking much longer than expected, so I have boxes of stuff everywhere and piles of things hither and yon and I’m just about to the point where I would like to just throw everything away and start over again.. but that isn’t very frugal, so I’ll keep my boxes and sort and sift as I can. At least I have clean clothes, a fairly good looking garden, a clean kitchen and a broom to keep up with the pet fur. I guess it’s not perfect like I’d like to have it, but then again, if it were what would I have to blog about?

Posted in Musings and Mutterings

Chimney Rock and Lake Lure

We are tired.

We went to a place called Chimney rock today. It’s for sale, btw, if you have 55 million dollars. We chose to go up the Outcropping trail, a series of boardwalks and steps up 26 stories, or 462 steps, to the peak. We  could have chosen the elevator, but what’s the fun in that? Where is the adventure?? So we trudged up the steps, sweating buckets in the 87 degree heat and made it to the top. Because we really are gluttons for punishment, we took the elevator ride down and then struck out on the Hickory Nut Falls trail. This trail had a moderate incline but was about 1.5 miles and led to the bottom of the falls, which were 404 feet tall. On our way back, we shunned the idea of using the bus to get back to the parking lot and took the Four Seasons trail. Luckily for us this trail was mostly downhill for the 3/4 of a mile we hiked. Now that doesn’t seem like much, but this trail was pretty steep and took a long time to get down. Once we got back to the car, we went to Lake Lure and wandered about for a bit. I especially liked the clever person who had named their restaurant the “Margaritagrille”.  By now, we had worked up a bit of an appetite, so we headed back to the Chimney Rock Village and stopped at the Riverside Cafe for a sandwich before heading back to our hotel.

Honestly, we are both subdued and really zoning… heheh, it’s nice……….we are packing up our goodies and getting ready to make our way home.

Posted in Musings and Mutterings

Cherokee Reservation

The Cherokee nation was broken into two bands when Andrew Jackson decided that he didn’t need to pay attention to the Supreme Courts order to not move the clans off of their land and sent the Cherokee off to Oaklahoma, creating the Trail of Tears. The Eastern Band of the Cherokee nation is the group that lives in the North Carolina and Tennesee area and are the decendants of the indians that hid out in the hills when the government began rounding them up. They currently have 56,000 acres of land in the area and claim that much of their success and wealth has come from the casino that they operate on their property.

During a demonstration we learned that they have been able to begin to reverse the near loss of their language by teaching Cherokee in an immersion class in their nursery schools, requiring a year of Cherokee in their high school, offering college level Cherokee in the nearby college and branching out to the public school system and sharing their language, customs and skills in that venue as well. What a fantastic thing to find out. When I went to Wyoming, I was devastated by the condition of the Blackfeet nation. They lived in slums that even inner city people might take a second look at. During one of my visits to a museum there, I saw a video in which members of the Blackfeet nation lamented the loss of their culture and the difficulty in keeping their tribe together and surviving. There seemed to be an inner turmoil between a part of the tribe that wanted to go the way the Cherokee and Seminole have, and build a casino, and a portion that felt as though that was selling out. In a way it is, but if you can keep commercialism in one area of your reservation to keep your culture alive  in a more private area, isn’t it worth it? Wouldn’t it be basically the same as farming your land and making sure that the crop was contained in one field? 

I wish I had the information available to me to do a lineage search.  I am one eighth Cherokee and thus the last of my line to be considered part of the nation. At least I believe that I am, based on  what my mom had told me about my great grandmother being a full blooded Cherokee. I’m pretty sure she told me that Grandma Hutt was, but since that is about the extent of the information I have, it would take some time to figure out. Guess I’ll file that in the “things to do if I ever have extra money and spare time” box.

Posted in Musings and Mutterings

Grandfather and Caverns

Today we traversed the Blue Ridge Mountains on our way to Linville Caverns and Grandfather Mountain. Dave finally got so sick of me twitching and braking and hissing and grabbing for the “oh sh*t” handle that he pulled off at Craggy Gardens and told me to drive!! Can’t really blame him. It took a LONG tine to get to the caverns, but once there it only took .5 hour to take the tour. This picture is supposed to represent a wedding scene with the bride and groom on their knees and the tall figure to the left is the officiate.

We also went to Grandfather mountain, which has a mile high swinging bridge. It was a bit windy crossing but the bridge was pretty steady, unlike me. I get so dizzy when I’m high up. I can stand on top of a 50 foot square flat surface, but if it is up in the air,  I still get wobbly. After enjoying the view through the passing clouds we went to the museum and animal habitat. The animals were nice to see so close.

I’m not being to descriptive on this blog because most of my time on this computer was spent posting the pictures I’ve put up. Took forever to download the software, choose each picture, rename and such….. I’m just ready for bed at this point. Glad Dave has the laundry duty!! hehehe

Posted in Musings and Mutterings

Biltmore Estate

Obviously we went to the Biltmore Estate, the palatial home of George Vanderbilt. This estate encompasses 8000 acres. Just to drive from one area to the next is typically 3 miles of twisty idyllic roadway meandering through the woods.  Being the naturally reclusive tourist that I am, I requested that we start our day at the furthest point out and work our way back to the front, which typically will help you avoid the crush of tourists. This being a Wednesday, it shouldn’t have been that bad anyway, but when we got to the Winery and Farm Village, as they so quaintly call it, we were one of only a handful of people on that part of the property. Ah, heaven!

Dave and I started our day by touring the Winery and partaking of some wine tasting. The winery is housed in what used to be the Biltmore dairy barns. Mr. Vanderbilt had at one time a very successful dairy and creamery on his estate. Since he had originally wanted his estate to be self sufficient, he had chosen to bring in dairy cows for milk and meat. His herd was so productive, he began to donate the overages to the local children’s hospital. After many comments on how his milk was of such high quality, he chose to begin selling to the general public, thus not only allowing the estate to be self sufficient, but to produce a profit.  Now the only milking occurring on the estate is the milking of grapes!!  Of the 58,000 vines on the estate only those vines that are deemed ready by the winemaster are  hand picked and processed. We got to see the huge vats that are used for the fermenting and the casks used for aging, as well as the wine cellars  on the property. Of course the tour dumps you into the wine tasting area where they give you a list of all their wines. Most are free to taste, but the limited editions and the champagne are available for a small fee. You are allowed to tasted 8 different wines. After about 5, Dave and I had had enough and were happy. We purchased three bottles, one of which Dave had really liked. Wow, he usually hates that kind of stuff.

From the Winery we moved on to the empty Farm Village. Woo hoo again! We got to collect a few eggs from the chickens and put them in the basket on a hook, just for that purpose. We saw the baby chicks and some more goats and two draft horses who were each 16 hands high and roughly 2000 pounds each. We pondered the thought process of someone who had decided to name one of the buildings designed to oversee bike rentals and trail rides “Outdoor Center” . Then we wandered over to the Historic Horse stable, where there were no horses, but lots of farm equipment.

Just as we were leaving, the parking lot was beginning to fill, so we decided to go to the Deerpark restaurant for something light and then we headed off to the Biltmore House for our 4:00 house tour. Arriving a bit early, we wandered the exterior and took hundreds of photos of the ornate carvings covering the outside of the building. The exterior of the building is made of limestone but the building’s foundation is constructed entirely of steel and brick. Considering it was begun in 1889 and finished in 1895, it’s pretty incredible how advanced the building is. It had electricity and phones and was powerd by a 15 kilowatt 12 volt generator, which if you think about it was awesome.

Our tour was good, but we were both surprised at how much information we thought would have been included, but was not. Still, there was quite a plethora of things imparted and we came away with our heads reeling with information. The house has 65 bedrooms, a bowling alley, a swimming pool that was lighted and heated (remember the time frame guys) had 5 refrigerators, an electric dumb waiter as well as an electric passenger car (elevator) which still runs. The stairs are all  counterbalanced and built into the outerwalls so that they need no supports, there is a huge pipe organ in the great hall, paintings by Renoir and Whistler and more beautiful furnishings and artwork than you can imagine. Once we had spilled out of the exit, we needed to wander in nature again, so we went to see the 4 acres of gardens. If we thought we would be wandering simple beauty we were wrong. The gardens were extraordinary! I’ll try to post some of the pictures on here. (You aren’t allowed to take ANY interior photos at all, so all pictures will be exterior.)

Posted in Musings and Mutterings

Black Mountain and Asheville

What can you say about a town that has a huge turnout for an opening exhibit of teapots?? Either there isn’t much to get excited about here, or art means a lot! In Asheville, it is both. Asheville basically rolls up it’s streets at 6pm, assuming some of the shops even opened at all on a Tuesday. We started our day on a bad note- Dave doesn’t understand the concept of exploring and wants direction from me but then gets annoyed that I’ve given him directions to just explore!  Anyway, our slight detour meant that we got to sit and “chat” by a butterfly bush that had at least 30 butterflies flitting all over and around it. How can you stay annoyed with butterflies all around you?

We got to the center of town, Black Mountain, which is close to Montreat and reminds me of Ellicott City near home. We wandered up and down the streets, poking around in the stores. Pottery abounds, however I found a store that makes hammered dulcimers and bow psaltries and had many recordings of artists that play these instruments. I am now restocked with great dulcimer music!

The next stop on the pottery cavalcade was Asheville, another place that has an abundance of artsy pottery shops. We had intentionally not eaten because we wanted to go to a restaurant called “Laughing Seed Cafe”, a vegetarian restaurant. Eagerly anticipating a yummy meal, we went up to the door only to  be greeted by a sign that read, “Closed Tuesdays” GRRR. We had to settle for a nice celtic themed bar called Jack of the Wood and pub food, which I am suffering for at this point… bleh… We wandered around a bit more and decided that we would take a short drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Not sure where we will go tomorrow, depends on the weather…

Posted in Musings and Mutterings

Magnolia Plantation

We ended up going to South Carolina – did anyone really doubt that I wouldn’t? We still have no resolution to  our problem there. I’m hoping everyone has their fingers crossed in our favor.  However, we did need to start moving back up the coast towards home so we visited Magnolia Plantation just outside of Charleston and then headed northwest to Asheville, North Carolina. We are going to base our operations here for the rest of the week.

At Magnoia Plantation, we wandered the gardens ( avoiding alligators), took the nature train around and learned about Carolina Gold rice growing and it’s exportation. We saw canals that were dug by the slaves to channel water from the fresh water ponds to the rice fields. We learned how the Ashley River is a tidal river that can raise about 5 feet during high tide,  making waterway travel the most efficient method to get to Charleston (1.5 hours as opposed to all day by carriage). Saw some turtles, ibis, egrets, snake birds, alligators, a cat, squirrels, peacocks and peahens, goats, piggies and one billy goat that followed Dave into and thru the reptile house. We learned about the Drayton family and how they have owned this plantation for the past eleven generations, that the plantation was a favorite haunt of Charles Kuralt and was a place where  Mr. Audobon had done much of his work and was the setting for one of his most famous paintings.

I think we are going to go to Asheville tomorrow to poke around and to Black Mountain as well.

I’ll keep you up to date.

Posted in Musings and Mutterings

Hi Ho Silver, Away!

Having just returned from Mexico, I will be mounting some kind of trusty steed (transporation device) and running off to a coastline, somewhere. Sound plan? Not really. Months ago, I made plans with my friend to go to Oregon for vacation. The plan was to visit Mt Hood and surrounding area, then drive down to Crater Lake, then over the mountains and up the coastline to see the Sea Lions and Haystack Rock  and Astoria, maybe stopping at Tilamook Cheese factory for a tour and then head over to Portland. Should have been a lovely scenic tour with a minimum of people and plenty of places to hike and take pictures.  Notice I say, “should have been”. At present, it looks less and less likely that we will leave the east coast.


My eldest daughter was slapped with an emergency custody hearing, scheduled for the day I was supposed to fly away. Part of the testimony against her and presented by her ex husband was obtained by him from her exboyfriend and his mother, both of which have an ulterior motive of proving Heather unfit so that she will lose her elder two children and thus lose the baby as well. (That’s their prime goal, get the baby.) Now Heather may be a lot of things, but she’s not what they are acusing her of. Heather never directly asked me to come and support her. I am very proud of the fact that she was going to try and do it on her own, but c’mon… you think I’d be able to fly away when I know my baby may be in need of a shoulder?

So, it looks like my travel plans have changed. My friend decided that a vacation was a vacation and he wasn’t going to give his up for anything!!  (Except a custody hearing and wailing females doesn’t seem to be a great start to a vacation. Just means he’s a great friend.) I was willing to go to SC by myself, but since Biltmore is right up the road in NC, and Florida is just a few states away, we are hastily trying to figure out a new gameplan.

My philosophy is that everything happens for a reason.  For example, in Oaxaca, MX I had booked our hotel rooms in a hotel 8km outside of town. My travel companion had fussed that they were not in the town proper when I booked the rooms. Little did we know that there were to be riots and boycotting and protestors blockading tourists into the downtown hotels when we arrived. Being 8km out of town was a blessing and we were able to continue with our trip and tours without a hitch. So maybe going down the east coast is a blessing, and I’ll just have to try Oregon again at a later date. 

Better change some of my packing!!