Biltmore Estate

When we first arrived I was awe-struck as the home came in to view, it sort of just jumped out at you. This past Saturday we visited America's Largest Home*, Biltmore Estate. In 1888 George Vanderbilt II visited the Great Smokey Mountains and it was at that time he decided to build a 'winter retreat' right here in North Carolina. A winter retreat which has 250 rooms!?!? With our timed entry tour we were able to see four floors within the house, although that didn't include every room on each of the floors. There are still many areas in the home which have yet to be restored. As you can see in the photo the grounds were crawling with visitors, you could barely get around without bumping elbows with a stranger. After a number of cell phone calls and uncoordinated instructions we finally met up with Mom and Rick at the house. The weather began as a less than favorable cloudy, gray, and semi-rainy day that after some time cleared up to reveal beautiful blue skies. I am positive that it was all because I was constantly chanting "blue skies, blue skies" during the entire tour of the house. I got terribly excited when I noticed the change taking place while touring through the house; that turned the whole day around for me. The tour was self-guided but still took a while to shuffle through since it was one long line that meandered in and out of every floor. I felt like I was waiting in line for a ride at Universal Studios, the only difference here being that the people were less sweaty! In the beginning they supplied you with small books which briefly explained each room you passed along the way. We waived the option to get a set of headphones which gave you further explanation with stories behind the rooms being toured, maybe next time we visit we'll get a pair. I absolutely have to go back when the gardens are in full bloom, and when less people are in attendance. There were so many different things to see and do while at the estate, it would be nearly impossible to take advantage of it all in just one day. The most disappointing part of the visit was the fact that you weren't allowed to take pictures inside the home. It was explained that flashes can deteriorate the artwork........which is understandable.
Mr. Vanderbilt was quite an avid collector of fine art, the mansion housed antiques, Oriental rugs, tapestries, and various artworks, some of which who are very renowned artists. The house was beautifully decorated; my favorite room was Mrs. Vanderbilts. I can't wait to go back and explore the house and grounds a little further in the near future. I do have some more photos to share so be sure to check back later in the week, thanks.

*Still privately owned

Haze of Prosaic Days

Greenway Haze

*Arrangements have been made and once Cody gets home and packed we are off, again?! I know that we just returned from Atlanta on Wednesday but I am dying to do something 'fun'. We've been talking about this since last year so we are well over due. We are going to be staying the weekend in Asheville, which is only about 2 hours away, a breeze compared to 5 (Atlanta) or 8 (Jacksonville). I found a decently priced hotel, not too cheap, so we don't have to worry about bringing our own sheets!? I'm really excited, it's been a while since we've been anywhere as the tourist that I so love to be, mostly just traveling for the holidays. If all goes according to plan we will be meeting my Mom and Rick down there so that we can all go together. The tickets to Biltmore Estate are running upwards to $59.00 at the gate right now, with a measly $4 off if you order yours online. Thankfully, there's a deal through AAA and I was able to get our tickets for just $34!!! Whata deal, eh? So yeah the Biltmore Estate is where we are headed on Saturday, I can't wait!!
I'm in the process of getting motivated right now since there are some things I need to get done before we head out. Today looks much like the photo featured foggy, & blah which doesn't help in matters of motivation........12 is my dead line to get moving whether I like it or not! I better get off here if I am to get anything done.

Something is Never Nothing

P.S. I love you

Critics have said that this is a movie to go see with someone you love, as well as that this is the perfect date movie.........I beg to differ. The instant I saw the trailer to the movie I decided that I wanted to see it, and above all it had to be all by my lonesome. Now that I've seen it I would say that I made a wise choice to do so. Some guys may like sappy love movies but I didn't for see Cody enjoying this flick, so there was no point in subjecting him to such. For a moment when I first sat down in the theater no one else was around, then the epitome of seeing a movie alone was spoiled by a few other folks who were also entertained by the idea of a sweet, mushy little love story to warm their souls. It was thankfully a quiet handful of people who allowed me to watch the movie in peace. I purposely decided to skip wearing mascara because I anticipated this movie to be somewhat of a tearjerker and I wanted to let em' flow, I needed to. At certain points we all cried in unison over the bittersweet sequences displayed before us. Holly (Hilary Swank) was faced with unexpected hardship and uncertainty that I myself can not even begin to relate to; my heart ached for her and the situation that stood before her. To say the least I was touched by this story. I highly recommend this beautifully good-humored and somewhat morbidly romantic film for some lighthearted entertainment that is sure to inspire and uplift your spirit.

Check out the trailer here:

News to me................

Hi Jessica,

I am delighted to let you know that your submitted photo which was shortlisted has been selected for inclusion in the newly released fourth edition of our Schmap Las Vegas Guide:

Top of the World Restaurant

Thanks so much for letting us include your photo - please enjoy the guide!

Best regards,

Emma Williams,
Managing Editor, Schmap Guides

*Our dinner at the Top of the World Restaurant in Las Vegas was most memorable, read more about that evening here at: Wayfaring.Wanderer: Thursday Evening in Las Vegas

Kicking & Screaming

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!

Christmas 1982

Here we are in Atlanta, Ga. safe and sound to spend Christmas with Cody's family. The drive went fairly well, thankfully we didn't hit traffic until the last 30 minutes of our ride. The weather was damp and dreary the entire time and looks as though it will remain this way according to the forecast. There aren't any strict plans we are to adhere to while in town so we'll be playing it by ear. I do know that I really want to see Sweeney Todd while we're here since being the lame town that we are, it won't be shown in Boone!?

I'm sure that you can tell that I've been sorting through some of my old baby photos* passed down to me from my mom. This one is particularly funny, aside from the obvious facts that a) I'm screaming bloody murder and b) the 'fake' Santa holding me can't wait for my parents to take me back so the screams aren't bursting his eardrums any further; what's even funnier is that another photo found of me sitting on Santa's lap is ALSO of me red faced, mouth wide open, with a full on scowl. There are only two that I've found so far but who knows what others are floating around in the land of forgotten photos that my mom still has!

*See a few posts back, entitled 1984.

Tree on Hilltop...........

Tree on the Hilltop

I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do.

Willa Cather (1873 - 1947)

Someone once said that the "Tree of life is self-pruning", I have slowly come to understand and embrace this simple little statement. You see, I have been feeling somewhat disenchanted as I wait for the holidays to roll by. I've watched the meaning of the season get lost in the midst of the turmoil created by certain pressures we feel at this time of year. Waiting until the last minute to buy for someone on your list is particularly stress inducing, although I think the cause for my distress comes from other issues that go a little deeper. Looking back on the past year has opened my eyes to how much has really changed during these 12 months. When I began to anticipate what is to come for two thousand and eight is where I begin to get anxious. I've had so many ups and downs and I know that 2008 will be filled with the same, but different?! The majority of my discomfort is in part due to my inability to 'really' come to terms with the changes my body has gone through during this time. I have told people many times that I have come to terms with it all, but inside when I dig a little deeper, that just isn't true. My Acupuncture treatments are offering some very valuable insights into other underlying problems that the pain I have and feel on a daily basis is a very small part of when looked at as a whole. I am attempting to absorb as much as I can with what little they give me to work on, and through some independent research am learning about changes I need to make with things that I'm either doing or not doing right now. This is a commitment that I need to make in order to aid my recovery that has taken way longer than I initially expected. I don't want to end next year with my body in the same condition. I want to support my whole body by treating it the way it deserves to be treated. I'm not going to set myself up by making this some New Years Resolution, the time is now and I need to adopt these practices as soon as possible. I plan to continue with my Acupuncture treatments as I've seen some minor results thus far, my hopes are that I will continue to see results which have a bigger impact in the near future. I like the idea of what is to come, not just with my condition, but for the future. I'm sure you've noticed that time doesn't wait for anyone, and unless I want to watch my ideas go to waste I need to embody that which inspires me!

I found this video while viewing Time Magazines "Top 10 Viral Videos" list. There was another one there that really, really made me laugh but I chose not to share it due to the "language". My sense of humor might not have been shared with others who read the blog.
This list of videos have each had millions of downloads a piece; click on the link above to see what all of the fuss is about. For instance, my other favorite one of the bunch (the one with the "language") was #2 The Landlord with Will Ferrell which had nearly 50 million downloads! Take a look at:


I thought this little video was rather funny and to a certain extent ingenious, although I don't really know when or if it has been done before. Clearly someone had some time on their hands here with this little show of wit. I don't think I myself could have kept all of the words straight, I wonder how many takes were involved here?! Personally, I laughed and smiled throughout the entire video which compelled me to share it with you in hopes that it would do the same.

Favorite Things..................

'Twisting Tree Necklace'

Twisting Tree Necklace

Maybe you've noticed or maybe I've failed to mention the fact that I love, love, love TREES;
taking photos of them, wearing them, sitting beneath them, etc.
The Twisting Tree Necklace is something I purchased (a few weeks ago) the instant I laid eyes on it, especially since it was only $11.99, whata deal**! Unfortunately, I'm dropping the ball on you and the Twisting Tree Necklace is now sold out, but they did still have the rings available tonight when I checked. Which by the way, are equally as cute. Other items are available throughout the website, and as the name "ModCloth" implies they do carry items that fit in that genre along with others that are similar in taste. I was extremely pleased with the websites service, my ordered was processed very quickly and it was shipped faster than lighting!

**Maybe you would like to know that these are not sterling silver, hence the low, low price!
*This vinyl tree necklace to the right is next on my list if I get to it in time!!

Widow's Prayer

Widow's Prayer

(Congratulations...this was selected to be one of the MANY WINNERS in Our Bokeh Shots Thread! )

You may or may not recognize this photo, that would solely depend on whether you looked at the Evergreen Cemetery Set on my Flickr account as I did not post it here prior to today.
I decided to post it because it's receiving a lot of looks right now because it was chosen as
a winner of the Bokeh Shots Thread for a group that I am a part of on Flickr. Sometimes it's hard to keep up with groups and commenting on other peoples photos within Flickr since I spend time reading blogs as well, but I really enjoy and appreciate getting feedback on my photos whether it be good or bad. Obviously the bad feedback isn't as well received at times but I'm a big girl and can handle it. Well, anyhow I posted this photo in the Bokeh Shots Thread amongst I don't know how many others, and was subsequently selected with 21 other people as a winner. I don't get anything except for a little praise so it's not really that big of a deal I guess but I thought it to be worthy of sharing.

Click here to see the Bokeh Shot Thread winners.

Click on the photo or here to be taken to the picture on my flickr account to see some of the comments I've received.

I also posted it at jpg, although I'm not sure if it's a good fit for the category I put it in.

*And if you're wondering what the heck Bokeh is, click here. It's pretty interesting!!



(I didn't take any photos this weekend so here's this kid next to a snowman)

It snowed on Sunday, I mean all day Sunday...............
I hate to admit that I didn't even step foot out of the house but, I didn't.
I kept thinking that I needed to get up and take some shots of the snow, but I simply didn't feel like it. The fire was too darn cozy!
There will be many more to come, I hope. No, I'm positive! I know the winters are not nearly as rough as they were a number of years ago, and from my experience thus far with snow I've noticed a change. Last year it seemed like it only snowed about 4-5 times, I mean a real good, heavy snow. Locals will agree that we've had it pretty easy the past few years. The guy delivering our wood last week was talking about living in this area in the early to mid-90's, and he was telling us how they used to ski down the mountain to get to the grocery store and stuff when they were snowed in for days or weeks at a time, now that's crazy?!?! Indeed, times are a changing................

*For those of you who have yet to realize that dorky little kid is, you guessed it, me!

The World As I See It

The World As I See It

When you look at yourself from a universal standpoint, something inside always reminds or informs you that there are bigger and better things to worry about.

Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

*Little do we realize while bouncing about our busy lives that in the grand scheme of things we really are a minuscule part of what really holds it all together. As a whole we do have a huge impact on the world around us depending on what we do or do not contribute to that, although that doesn't encompass the point I am looking to convey. When I saw this picture later in the evening while sorting through the Grandfather Mountain shots of the day I came upon this one, and as my gaze was fixed upon this spectacular sight I began to feel quite small. Other than the obvious fact that the silhouettes of two unknown individuals are pretty small, I myself felt microscopic in comparison as well. The opportunity to have these experiences not only reminds me that there are bigger and better things to worry about sometimes, but other than that it was simply and utterly humbling to encounter.

Royal Range

Royal Range

The greatness comes not when things always go good for you. But the greatness comes when you're really tested, when you take some knocks, some disappointments, when sadness comes. Because only if you've been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain.

Richard M. Nixon (1913 - 1994)

A Girl Can Dream...............

A Girl Can Dream

I found out about this Photography Contest that is being held here in the High Country & I'm seriously considering entering some of my photos. This means that I need to do a major overhaul of what I have to offer from what has been taken in the past year or so with my new Lumix. When I bought my camera last year as a sort of Birthday/Christmas present to myself little did I realize the heights that little baby would take me to. I have dove in head first and am learning a lot of new things about myself as well as photography along the way. My Dad not too long ago asked me who my inspiration was, and normally this wouldn't seem like a hard question for someone to answer, especially when it is such a significant part of their life. But for me I didn't have an immediate answer, so I had to come up with one. My Dad is the closest to inspiration that I have had growing up, he gave me my very first camera when I was 10 or so, and when I got older I graduated to his 35mm Minolta that I still have but rarely use (which will change soon). When I was a kid I remember my Dad wanting to stop at each and every location we passed to snap a photo, and as a youngster you get a little annoyed at times because let's face it, kids can't sit still!! I have since taken on these attributes that as kids we didn't have the capacity to appreciate. I am the one who turns a 5 mile hike into a 6 hour photography extravaganza when it should only take a few hours. Cody makes fun of how I stop every 15 feet to take a photo of something. I'm getting a bit more discerning or calculated if you will and don't take nearly as many photos during a trek as I once did a number of months ago.
***Some of you may recognize my Bambi picture above which I superimposed into a museum setting with some internet magic, I thought it would give me some motivation to sort through the copious amounts of pictures I have to come up with a few entries for the Photography Contest. I was racking my brain last night about the Flora & Fauna category, thinking what would be a good fit..............then it hit me like a ton of bricks, DUH - my little Bambi with the mountain background would be perfect! Now, this is only MY meager opinion, but I think it looks pretty good on that wall. What do you think? My plans are to a) go through my photos b) create a favorite photos folder c) upload the photos to Flickr so that maybe I can get some feedback from those willing to participate in helping me choose which ones I will enter. The goal is to have this completed by the end of the month, and use the month of January for feedback purposes.

Autumn Omission
Autumn Omission

The acoustics of the season tend to change as the month wears on, most of the trees are, for lack of a better term, naked now. I can't help but gawk at the branches and how beautiful they look against the sky. What lies beneath is just as interesting to me as they were with the changing leaves. I can appreciate a tree in any condition it seems, although this picture wasn't really about a tree.
This picture was inspired by the lonely chair I spotted behind an abandoned house located on Hwy 105, which is a main stretch of road I travel on occasion. I saw it, oh probably about a month ago, and instantly had the urge to pull over and photograph the lone chair, but I resisted.
Until the perfect day came along, and I was prepared, it wasn't really meant to happen. On the way home from Grandfather 2 weekends ago I finally decided it was time I brought my idea to full fruition. Cody definitely helped motivate me as well, the awesome assistant he is. Okay, that's sort of our joke, that he's my assistant - sets up the tripod, carries the equipment, etc.
Anyhow, the mission was accomplished and I was pretty pleased with the results.
What are your thoughts about the lone chair, or have you ever had the idea to photograph something out of the ordinary?

In no way am I advocating war, I am merely an advocate of people.
This video was sent as one of those office emails that I couldn't help but share. Tears began to fill my eyes when I watched this video; it is so sad to think of ALL the men and women who are still over there right now that won't get to see their families during the holidays or any other time within the next few months or maybe even longer. Here is something that you can do to let someone know that there are people who care, it's a small gesture but nonetheless meaningful.
This website gives people an opportunity to send a free printed postcard to U.S. Military personnel stationed overseas: It doesn't get easier than this folks! It takes less than 3 minutes unless you can't figure out what you want to say in which case they already have messages that you may choose from if you are at a lose for words. Let me know what you think and please pass along the message! Thank you.

Like a Rock..........

In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.

Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826)

In a million years............

Progressive Hesitation

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Little of everything.......

Closer to the peak of our destination is when I began to sweat, in the last blog I made mention of the difficulties involved with the hike we took while at Grandfather. I'd like to proclaim that along with physical constraints accompanying it was a burst of emotional uncertainty that I haven't been through for quite sometime now. On the last leg of the trail where you begin to climb using these ladders is where things got a little hairy. As I climbed one set of steps I could see two others higher up but didn't think too much about it as I thought those would end our hike to the peak. Little did I realize exactly what was in store for me once we got a little further up. When the next set of stairs were behind me I looked up to see a third set (which I was fully prepared for); and then as a complete surprise I see a FOURTH, mind you we are climbing upwards to 5900 feet and are surrounded by more blue sky than anything else. I began to get scared as we climbed the next set of stairs, my grip got tighter, and Cody worked so hard to coerce me into getting to the next step, but I didn't want to let go of that took a moment once I reached the top to step up onto the rock from the security the ladder had to offer - at least with that I had something to hold on to. I couldn't believe how scared and panicky I became, Cody said it's just because I'm more cautious now. It's true, I see it as me being a pansy really, but he's right. It was just a little over a year ago when I was the girl who wasn't scared to try anything, especially when it came to climbing, and not JUST ladders. In rock climbing I had to take risks if I wanted to accomplish a boulder problem. Bouldering is arguably the purest form of climbing since you don't use ropes, all you have is a crash pad & sometimes good spotters to break your fall. I remember gaining a tremendous amount of strength in a short period of time, climbing was my life. I now have different things to occupy my time but they don't have any risks involved. My Dad and Mom are probably happy about that - I was careful though! The problems with my neck and back are a big part of why I'm not as confident in my abilities anymore, I feel as though there are better things in store for me, and unlike I thought, climbing just isn't one of them - at least for right now......

Getting there.......

~ Where Clouds and Peaks Meet ~

Only 507 biospheres exist worldwide and Grandfather Mountain is the only one that is privately owned. To meet biosphere criteria, properties must have global ecological significance. They must also be legally protected from development, have a history of scientific study, and provide for public education. At 5,634 feet above sea level it is the highest peak in the Blue Ridge Range. What's more amazing is that the mountain itself is said to be 65 million years old!
Me being the semi-adventurous soul I have become the hike I wanted to do was one that had cables and ladders in-place because if I remember right I thought it would be fun! The hike went for longer than one mile but our time constraints wouldn't really allow us to go any further, but maybe next time. Our hike took us to a fabulous view of Macrae's Peak and as trying as some sections were for me it was well worth the difficulty involved. The boulder-strewn path was enough to get your heart pumping but didn't push too hard, the problems I had were with some of the steeper parts of the ascent as we reached the pinnacle, but you'll here about those later on. The views were absolutely spectacular; and the continuity of the mountains lend an emotional depth which holds an ethereal beauty I believe all should bear witness to at some point in their lives.

"Favorite Things"

My New Purse:
I've gone to some great lengths to find a new purse that is big but not too big, and a purse that has enough pockets so that everything isn't scattered about in the depths so no one can possibly find what they are looking for when they need it. This purse fits that criteria perfectly! What makes this "blog worthy" is a) I've been looking for a new one for some time now b) I bought this one instead of another one that would have been more expensive. There are some slight variations between both purses but as far as I'm concerned they are basically the same but one was cheaper! See The More Expensive Purse here and notice that the only color options were green or red which I was prepared to deal with. Anyhoo, you can only go on so long about a stinking purse, but I just had to share. Oh and this purse I only paid $12.96 for with no shipping necessary!! Whata deal....

The Long Way Home......................

Hilltop Sunset II
It's probably a good thing that the blog I was previously typing up froze and subsequently was lost somewhere in cyberspace, since I was only releasing some pent up aggression that I'm currently dealing with. Well, it was more of a tirade, and I'm trying desperately to gain control over these emotions right now. This particular time of year takes a lot of getting used to and truth be told I'm not there yet, not even close. The days continue to get shorter which I hate, I mean almost instantly after I get off work it's dark outside?! Now, today I was introduced to the most splendid sight when I stepped out of the office.............the colors painting the sky were so brilliantly amazing I just stood there for a second trying to take it all in.
Hilltop Sunset I
I decided that since I would get a better view of the sunset and all it's glory I would "Take the Long Way Home", a portion of our road is now closed due to the construction for the new high school coming so the road you're diverted to takes you up a hill through I neighborhood I never really knew existed before the closure. The whole way home I struggled to keep my eyes on both the road and the sky so that I wouldn't miss the transition of colors dancing across the clouds. I decided that I would pull up in my driveway, hop out and grab my camera, then ascend the hill where I had the best view, while on my way home. I basically had to pull over on the side of the road and jump out to get a decent angle...........the wind was brutal as I attempted to compose a shot, by the time I was through my fingers were numb and frozen, when I gripped the steering wheel I could feeling NOTHING!! Even though the shots weren't all that great what's most important is that I at least made the effort. It's hard to get motivated these days when you get home and cannot move around freely since all the other rooms in the house will chill you to the bone. Week after week we talk about buying wood but it just hasn't happened after a month of chilly weather, it's sort of miserable and discouraging at times. Maybe I should just stop whining and get on with it..................

Mile High Swinging Bridge

Mile High Swinging Bridge

While waiting for our table at Melanie's on Sunday we came upon an ad for Grandfather Mountain announcing "Dollar Days"!!! This only means something to locals since it really only applies to us or those who work in the surrounding counties; to say the least we instantly knew what we were going to do with ourselves on a semi-gloomy Sunday afternoon. After eating a delicious breakfast at Melanie's we made a quick stop back at the house so Cody could get some shoes fit for hiking. This visit was the first time we were actually able to hike one of the trails on Grandfather Mountain, which I was very excited about. Just so you know how awesome Dollar Days are at Grandfather I'll tell you that when we first pulled up to the little ticket station the lady had us wait a moment, then very pleasantly said that'll be $28 dollars, along with a $10 bill I handed her my id and she said oh, you're locals, in that case it will be $2.00!!!! I mean that's a deal otherwise we probably wouldn't go to Grandfather as cheap as I am. The above photo is doctored up if you couldn't tell, I didn't spend time setting up the tripod or else I could have gotten some better exposed photos, I'm finding myself getting really comfortable with my new Corel Paintshop Pro software.............I even commented to Cody that I hope I don't become a crappy photographer because of it. I did get some shots yesterday that I really like with only slight adjustments made to brightness and/or contrast..............I'll share more as the week continues.

Purple Passion

Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.

Anne Frank (1929 - 1945)

Maybe you've had enough cemetery shots, so I thought I would leave you with this beautiful and dainty cluster of purple flowers. Yesterday was pretty uneventful except for our trip to the Walmart (woo-hoo). This morning we are going to go eat breakfast and then possibly go for a hike. It's sort of gloomy but the sky is still blue which may make for a great day of shooting. If you haven't noticed on the last 2 sunset pictures I uploaded when you click on them you get a download box, that was really urking me and I finally found out that it is a problem everyone is having within blogger. The last two photos I have posted are linked to my Flickr account which I like much better.


Forever Green

See my favorite Evergreen Cemetery shots here.

I have really enjoyed these cemetery photos taken while back in Jacksonville, I wish we would have gotten there sooner and stayed longer. Walking through you find some of the neatest things that otherwise would usually go unnoticed. We barely scratched the surface here at the Cemetery because later I found out that it was 167 acres which honors 70,000 lives. As far as I know only one person that has been a part of my life now resides there, Angie. Angie was a childhood friend of mine and my Sisters who's life was not nearly long enough - the day we attended her funeral will forever be etched in my memory. When we were kids we would have these massive sleepovers and watch the scariest movies and play made up games like dookie, dookie man (don't ask!) we practically lived at each others houses. It was always so much fun, we played together, got in trouble together, and eventually grew apart once we all got older and began to forge new lives for ourselves. Those days are long gone but not forgotten............

*I had to sort of smash the photo so it would fit into the blog :( although if you click on the photo it will take you to view it in Flickr.