Thursday, June 26, 2014

Life Without Internet

Life without internet...is quiet.  This is counting cell phone internet as well. 

Because of our financial difficulties, my hubby and I are living the quiet life until we can afford to pick these so called luxuries back up.  My husband doesn't quite understand what I do online and doesn't understand why the internet is vital to indie authors.  'Just take your book someplace else to be published' he says, in a moment of old fashioned ignorance.  I tried to explain to him that it's not that easy, but I don't think he got it.

An interesting side note, about the irony of him being the old fashioned one...he's ten years younger than I am!

But it is giving me plenty of quiet time while off work to do what I love most: read and write, write and read...and an occasional movie while icing my foot.  I am quickly closing the gaps in my second novel.  It's exciting!

I've managed to borrow about an hour of wifi to write this on my cellphone.  Maybe I will get out to my friend's next week to post on my own blog, but since I stumbled on this moment I thought is best update this one first since it's my week. 

Last week I had the pleasure of being the guest at the monthly book club meeting at the Bradford County Library.  It was a pleasure!  A true meeting of kindred spirits!  We might not all like the same genres etc., but we all love to read!  I spoke about my own writing and publishing experience by just letting the ask questions.  
I recognized a few faces, most notably my fifth grade English teacher Miss Carol Myfelt (on my right) and my elementary music teacher Mrs. Smith.

And ran into one of  C.P.'s English teachers as well.  It really is a much smaller world than we think sometimes. 

Especially if you consider that one of the ladies present (Jane, in white) actually met Ernest Hemingway!  She didn't sound all that impressed with him, but we were impressed with her!

I want to write more, but my clock is ticking. And I'd like to pretend to proof this before I hit publish!  Things will be coming together for Mr. Janney and I, he has just started a new job and hopefully my foot will be better soon. It is taking foooorevvvvvver to heal!  One of the curses of diabetes. 

Until next time, I'll be writing in an 'almost Amish' paradise......


Monday, June 16, 2014

Let's Discuss Life and Writing By C.P. Stringham

I had planned on visiting Cornell Plantation, located on the Cornell University campus, this past weekend and using the experience and pictures captured for this week’s blog. The trip had to be postponed. My friend, Debbie, an avid bird watcher and nature lover, was going to join me for the trip, but she had a family emergency come up last week. Her sister-in-law, Sherry, has been fighting for her life inside the ICU of our local hospital. Family comes first. As a community, we’re all pulling for Sherry to overcome her illness. She’s proved to be one tough cookie, surviving a surgery only one in two-hundred could do. Due to her extremely low blood pressure, they can’t administer pain medication and she’s conscious—that’s right, she is aware and feeling everything. If you get a moment today, send out positive energy, healing prayers, or even good juju (if that’s what you’re into) in Sherry’s direction to help fortify her strength. The ladies of Broads of a Feather offer their thoughts and prayers to the entire Yale/Learn family during this time and hope Sherry gets stronger with each passing day.
The cover came together quickly. The butterfly represents
life changing from one phase to another; a sign of hope.


So… What should I blog about today? My latest work-in-progress? I guess I could. My partner, Robin Janney, blogs about writing and, since it’s a blog about writers, I may as well give it a shot. With Rest In Peace being released a full six weeks past my original date, it has put Overcoming Sarah behind. It was my hope to have the novella available at the end of June, but even with hitting a word count of 2,000 words a day, I’d still be cutting it too closely for my taste. I find that when I force the words, the story, my voice, falls flat. It’s too hollow sounding. Due to the subject matter, the suicide of a college youth, I really want to explore the characters’ emotions and methods of coping while bringing light to the sensitive subject of depression and suicide.  As you can imagine, it has been an emotional story to write. While I don’t want to bog it down in the depths of human despair, it is important to accurately portray what life is like for those left behind. The story is told from the mother’s perspective, a role I understand all too well. My oldest graduates next year. Any good psychiatrist will be able to read Overcoming Sarah and say, “This author is working through her own separation anxiety regarding her daughter leaving for college.” Yep. It’s pretty transparent. My friend, Tina, is one of my test readers. Like me, she has a teen daughter. Courtney just finished her first year of college. I have been killing Tina’s emotional resolve with each new chapter I send her. The “what ifs” can shake a mother to her foundation. With that said, I’m hoping to draw awareness to teen depression, signs to recognize for those at risk, and also to show the evolution of a family after they experience the unthinkable. Hence the “overcoming” part. Proving that life does, indeed, go on.
While the manuscript of Overcoming Sarah started forming, I found myself seeking council from my friends, Jenn and Lisa, as we did our daily workout on The Matterhorn. Both of them have teen sons the same age as my oldest daughter. The three of us have known each other since our kids started kindergarten together. Lisa and Jenn offered some candid insight while I poured out my literary heart to them. Writing comes from the soul. To be good at it, to move your readers emotionally with your work, you have to walk in your character’s shoes. I immerse myself into each role. While writing, I leave my own reality behind and become an observer inside the world I’ve created. In doing so, it allows me to describe what I see and hear and feel. What better way to peel away my own emotions, like the layers of an onion, to get to the core of the character? Immersion like that takes a toll on me both mentally and physically. It’s another reason why I can’t force myself to write. I may not be feeling it. This side of creativity can’t be turned on or, as I’ve found out during many a sleepless night, can’t be turned off either. Like a surfer, you have to ride the waves when the tide is just right. With that being said, it’s time for me to get back to work. I have one week before the girls are out of school and I need to take advantage of my final week of quiet, undisturbed mornings.

Here’s a little snippet from Overcoming Sarah:


Set in Elmira, New York, I visited Woodlawn
             Cemetery while working on Overcoming Sarah.
I made the short trip, knowing I could have closed my eyes, and arrived at the spot since the smell of freshly turned soil grew stronger with each purposeful step.  And there it was.  Musty dampness permeated the air as the image of my daughter being swallowed up by the silky, black darkness of the dirt made me feel as if I, too, was under its weight and suffocating.  My shoes were perched an inch from the perimeter.  A temporary grave marker was already in place and provided her full name, pertinent years, as well as the name of the funeral home.  They told us that once the ground was through settling, usually within six months, her permanent monument could be installed.  Per our wishes, the only flowers left behind was the casket spray Eileen designed with delicate pink tea roses, rich green ivy, and white snapdragons.  It was easily a five-hundred-dollar arrangement and very time consuming to put together.  Cost and time were an afterthought to my shop employees.  They’d do anything for their Sarah-Bear.  I knelt down and pulled a tea rose from the arrangement.  I’d press it inside my family bible.  A keepsake that would forever represent life turning into something brittle and faded.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Introducing Guest Author: C. R. Benson!!


     The first of (hopefully) many more guest author bloggers, the ladies of Broads of a Feather would like to welcome fellow Northeastern Pennsylvania indie author C.R. Benson! C.R. is also C.P. Stringham's nephew. His first novel, Bloodlust, is a combination Paranormal Suspense/Romance book and he has been receiving fantastic reviews from book review bloggers. If you are ready for something different in YA Paranormal books, then you need to get a copy of his book today. C.R. has added a maturer tone and a new twist to the genre. In other words, this isn't a reincarnation of the Twilight formula


"...a new novelist to watch." - Grady Harp, Amazon Hall of Fame Reviewer





Book One in C.R. Benson's In Another Life Series

 C. R. Benson


     Hello, readers! I’d like to introduce myself for those of you unfamiliar with me, as well as thank the lovely ladies from Broads of a Feather for having me guest blog here. I go by many names; Cory, author C. R. Benson, Dad (by my son), and Pain in the ass (by my girlfriend). Exposing yourself as an untraditionally published author is tough, so I try to take advantage where I can to connect with new readers who may enjoy my work. I was only twenty-one when I began my first novel, Bloodlust, which is the first of the In Another Life series. After college, I was so inspired by me and my girlfriend’s story that I felt compelled to share it with others. Bloodlust, while filled with fiction and plenty of paranormal romance, began with the outline of how the mother of my child and I came together over three years ago. Of course, being a fiction novel, much of the story and events that take place are made up or exaggerated (extremely), but it still retains enough truth to mean something, which is
Are you reading C.R Benson's book?
If not, you should be! 
what I wanted. Also, I feel the need to mention that I hope my son is an avid reader like myself. He is hearing-impaired and has to wear hearing aids, so I pray that he falls in love with books as much as I did. Don’t get me wrong, most people would never believe I’m an author without proof. Indeed most people who see my book call me and say, “What? YOU wrote a book??” I was somewhat popular in school, but never the “yeah, I could see him writing a book, or even reading one,” kind of guy. I had many friends, but even with my chameleon-like powers that allowed me to blend into many crowds, I didn’t really fit in per se. There was always something a little different about me. That was before I started writing. I was never surer about myself then I am with a pen in my hand. Therefore, readers, if you’re into anything paranormal, young adult, or suspenseful romance, feel free to check Bloodlust available for Kindle, Nook, Kobo, or paperback. For your convenience, each highlighted word is a link.


     I’m finding things tend to get more difficult as I get older. My son, who will be three in December, no longer sleeps fifteen hours a day, so I went from writing ten pages a day to three at best. My better half (or so she likes to think) wants better things in life; a nicer house, a new car. And who can blame her; I can’t say she’s the only one. The reality is my son is getting older, we need more for our family, and, dude, I work a full-time job. Writing as a hobby is going to be a lot harder than I thought. However, it hit me the other night, while I was filling out my application to start my Bachelor’s in English, that I really want to do this full-time (writing, that is). Like a lock clicking into place, I’ve found my niche. My dream, readers, is to write for a living. Not for fame or glory (not that they wouldn’t be welcome), but for that career where I smile at work all day long. Remember them telling us in school that was the goal? Anyway, I hope to hear back from you if you enjoy my story, and thanks again for having me here. A special thanks to C. P. Stringham, for honoring that time-old belief that family is always there for family.

       For updates about my series, In Another Life, please follow me on Twitter @BloodxWolf, "Like" me on Facebook @facebook.com/BloodlustCRBenson, or email me at xxcrimsonwolf@gmail.com.

        Thank you, C.R. Benson, for dropping by and blogging at Broads of a Feather! We would love to invite you back sometime soon. And, just for our Broads of a Feather readers, a teaser for his upcoming book, Blood Feud!


Book Two Coming soon! Release date set for Fall 2014. And, just for you fans, a taste of what’s to come:

Book Two: Blood Feud
               
Revenge is a poison, like any other, 
that flows through the blood and changes that which we are.”

Anger and depression are all that remains within Mila as she finishes her final academic year at Global-Tech. Her life now back to how it had previously been, she returns to the Valley to an empty home and a lonely summer. Driven to the point of desertion, she meets a certain knowledgeable Priest, and together, they set their sights on an adventure farther north. Determined to rid the world of the Devil’s curse, Mila Baine becomes known as the Bain of the Wolves when her objectives become clear. However, this notoriety could become deadly when the Blood Wolves take notice of her. Can Mila finish what she started, or did she meddle with forces that are out of her grasp? Little is known about the curse and the Blood Wolves, and sometimes, evil twists the known into the unknown.

Mila thought she had seen all that there was to see when it came to Blood Wolves, but she is sorely mistaken. Now, she must face even more paranormal circumstances, the most terrifying of which is when an old enemy returns, vastly more powerful than before. More than that, however, Mila finds something she thought she had lost forever in the depths of the Blood Wolves territory.  

Monday, June 9, 2014

Physical Therapy and Hybresis: By Robin Janney

Monday marks the start of my second week of physical therapy.

Truthfully I feel kind of silly for being in physical therapy for something as "simple" as plantar fasciitis.  That's just a fancy way of saying that my plantar tendon has been torn and is inflamed because of those micro-tears.  Micro or not, they hurt.

I hope no one's offended by a foot pic...
Being off work has lessened the pain, but it hasn't erased it entirely.  And the brace that I wear at night causes ankle pain and swelling (that no one seems to think important)  What you can't see in the photo I've posted is the thick plastic support piece that runs up the outside of the leg.  There's a hole to release the pressure against the ankle bone, but it does not do a good enough job.

Lately, I have awakened in the middle of the night in such pain that I take the thing off and finish the night without it.  I shouldn't be doing that...but it hurts and it's the only way I know to stop it!

Part of the physical therapy, which I saw coming and knew of no way to stop, is the stretching they make me do with my foot.  How can something heal if it's being stretched?  I don't know, but I ache more after therapy than I do going in.  Of course, almost to the end, the foot does get massaged.  The therapist seems to know how to hit all the hot spot pressure points of pain too!  Especially the last one I had.  She didn't just massage the foot and ankle, but also the back of my calf up to my knee.  Her reasoning was that many people with plantar problems will develop pain and tender spots in their calf and not even realize it.  She wasn't kidding!

Please forgive another foot pic...
After that part is over, which admittedly is my favorite part, comes my least favorite part.  The Hybresis iontophoresis treatment.  Which breaks down to mean that the device uses a small electrical charge to push a medicine through my skin.  In my second picture, I am wearing the large medicated band-aid and Hybresis device.  The medicine, a steroid, is on the pad under the foot on the "negative" end of the charge and on the "positive" end is a saline solution.  Oddly enough it is on the saline end that I feel the most current!  And let me tell you, my foot does NOT like it!  I actually feel nothing at all on the medicated end and I can only hope the medicine is going into where it needs to be.

Being off work has completely messed up my normal routine.  By the time I get adjusted to it, I'll be all healed and on my way back to work!  That is how these things tend to happen, yes?

While I haven't gotten a jump on anything for my blog, which I need to, I have made progress with my sequel to Farmer's Daughter.  I think I might be closer to being done than I thought.  I still have gaps to fill, a couple rather large ones, but I'm edging closer to completion!  And that's exciting.  I haven't worked on it yet today, Sunday, because for most of the afternoon I was at a baby shower for a relative.  But the night is young yet.

It's hard financially being off of work.  I've got bills due this week that I'm not sure how they're going to be paid.  And I have to buy new boots for work too, as well as inserts for them.  How and with what, I'm not sure yet.  I am receiving short term disability, but it's not that much. Not compared to a full paycheck. I have a few leads to investigate, but regardless I know hubby and I will be okay.  Eventually.

In the meantime, I'll be keeping ice on my foot - I tie it on with a piece of denim I chopped off leg-bottoms of new jeans.  And elevating it while icing.  Even though I'm guessing at the right way to ice it anymore!  The nurses and doctors always say 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off.  The physical therapist says NO! to that - it should be 10-15 minutes every hour.  Uhm, ok, I'm glad we cleared that up!

Also, for any local readers who are interested - I will be speaking at the June book club meetings at the Bradford County Library on June 17th.  It starts at 1pm.  It's going to be a tad embarrassing sitting down for it, but I'll deal.  I hope to see some of you there.

Question for the readers: What fun things have you been up to so far this summer?  I would love to be out walking and enjoying the nice weather.

A pretty picture to make up for making you look at my foot...

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Are We There Yet?! By C.P. Stringham

Our dinner out in January. L-R, Myself, Vicki, Sue, Kurt, and
Melinda. 
In another life, before I added romance writer to my resume, I was a PTA mom. Through my years of volunteer time, I made several close friendships with faculty and staff alike. Vicki was our small elementary school’s secretary. Nine years ago, she and her family moved to South Carolina seeking warmer temperatures and shorter winters. When she left, she gave us an open invitation to visit her. For nine years, Sue, Kurt, Melinda, and I have promised her we’d visit. This past January, Vicki made the trip to Northeastern Pennsylvania to see her family and, while she was home, we got together for dinner to catch up and talk about the shenanigans we took part in at school many moons ago. And there were shenanigans. During dinner, Vicki asked us when we were coming to visit her in South Carolina. The four of us looked at each other and decided this was the year we would finally do it. As the months passed, plans culminated and a date was set. Kurt had to drop out because his gourmet whoopie pie business is a full time part-time business these days. Three weeks prior to our trip, Melinda learned she needed surgery. Her doctor didn’t want to wait and scheduled the procedure for two days before we were to leave for South Carolina. And then there were two. Sue and I decided we’d make the trip anyway.  Lots of Facebook messages and phone calls happened over the days leading up to our trip as we planned our travel route, decided on a tentative itinerary during our visit, and made other necessary preparations. Sue even got her Jeep serviced for the trip.
Sue at the wheel--this could get dangerous!
This past Thursday evening, the recently retired school cafeteria manager and the former PTA president set off on a 751-mile road trip to visit the former school secretary. We were excited and fresh. Ready for an adventure. Joking around while we discussed Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books and all seven seasons of the Gilmore Girls—two things Sue just discovered over the past few months now that she’s retired. That lasted until we hit mid-Virginia. And then the moments of silence stretched out. Don’t get me wrong, nothing negative happened. The weather was perfect, traffic was light, the Jeep cruised along nicely, and the company was great. All in all, a lovely trip. As we crossed into North Carolina, Sue finally said, “I think we should tell Vicki that Virginia is far enough away! Why couldn’t she and Tom fall in love with Virginia?!” We stopped three times; once for a late dinner and twice to refuel. Each time, giving us a chance to stretch our legs and consume some caffeine to help us stay awake. The longer we drove, the sillier we became. At one point, I said to Sue, “We’ve got to do this damn drive all over again on Sunday night. Let’s just fly back and let them send the Jeep back the next time they drive home to PA.” Sue didn’t respond right away. Even though I was joking, I think she was actually considering it. That’s how long the drive was. Google Maps said it would take eleven hours and forty-two minutes to reach our destination. We made it in fourteen hours and fifteen minutes with our pit stops and hitting the very beginning of morning rush hour traffic outside of Spartanburg. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Vicki had coffee and bagels ready for us when we arrived. We sat around, discussed our drive, and I even went to my room for a twenty-minute catnap. Afterward, we headed out to see the local sights. Vicki took us by the high school she works at, we grabbed lunch, drove around sections of Lake Keowee and Clemson, past the university, and then hit up Food Lion for dinner provisions. Sue and I didn’t want Vicki to fuss. We ended up selecting nibbles to have with wine and pizza. We sat around her kitchen island sipping wine and eating homemade jalapeño popper dip and pizza. A feast for weary travelers looking to unwind. I retired to my bedroom at 8:45 with plans of working on my manuscript, Overcoming Sarah, but didn’t even open my laptop case. Instead, I went to bed and slept until 6:30. I can’t recall the last time I slept so soundly. It only took being up for thirty-six hours to achieve it.
video
Vicki, Sue, and I got around early on Saturday morning for the only pre-planned adventure on our weekend itinerary. Like many people, I have a bucket list. Only mine is comprised, primarily, of travel destinations. Our two-hour drive from Seneca, South Carolina to Asheville, North Carolina enabled me to cross off one of my bucket list items; The Biltmore Estate. From the moment we turned onto Approach Road and drove under the large archway, we knew we were in for an unparalleled visual treat. The three-mile driveway serpentines around luscious forests of both deciduous and coniferous trees as well as flowering shrubs, carpets of flowering plants, open meadows, and lakes. It was named “Approach Road” because, during the planning process, the homeowner wanted the buildup of anticipation and excitement of his guests to increase as they chugged along towards the estate. This stunning masterpiece was achieved by noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead—designer of NYC’s Central Park. Olmstead was a true genius.
Visiting The Biltmore Estate is fairly easy to do. We chose to order our tickets seven days in advance in order to take advantage of the lower admission price. It saved us $15.00 and also allowed us to reserve a time for our tour of the mansion. We pulled into the parking lot outside of the reception center and picked up our tickets from a friendly teller who offered us some insight on the estate and wished us a pleasant visit. Once the tickets were in our possession, we got back into the car and headed up the road until we were directed to a parking area. From there, we were shuttled to the mansion. No matter what you have been told by others or even what your imagination has dreamed up about Biltmore, you cannot truly appreciate or wrap your mind around the sheer size, beauty, and planning of this dwelling until it is seen in person. From the moment the shuttle made the right turn into the courtyard, my jaw dropped. Our driver shared with us some quick facts about the estate. George Washington Vanderbilt brought his ailing mother to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville for a wellness retreat. He fell in love with the land and, at only 25 years old and a bachelor, hired architect Richard Morris Hunt to design the French Châteauesque-style mansion. Construction took six years. Although Biltmore is now part of an 8,000 acre estate, Vanderbilt originally purchased 125,000 acres to build his dream country retreat. The land had been previously used in slash and burn style farming. The mansion has 175,000 square feet—or, to put it into another perspective, four acres of living space. It has 250 rooms among which are 33 bedrooms, 43 (modern) bathrooms, and three kitchens. It has a two-lane bowling alley, an indoor tiled, heated swimming pool that held 70,000 gallons of water, and has a total of 65 fireplaces. Vanderbilt wanted his estate to be self-sustaining and created his own little miniature town within the original 125,000 acres. He employed and housed farmers who grew crops and also had a dairy. Even an estate school was constructed for his employees’ children because Vanderbilt was an advocate for education.
The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.

The Biltmore Estate is still family-owned and, although opened to the public as a historical site, is not government funded. It survives solely on the funding received through admissions, memberships, and the purchases of goods and services from restaurants, cafes, and gift shops to maintain and continue on with restoration and conservation. Fifth generation family members are being polished to eventually take over the reins of The Biltmore Company which is currently run by George’s grandson, William Cecil.  Sharing his grandfather’s vision, Biltmore takes care of its own while also being open for guests to enjoy. In a sense, the estate is still its own miniature town. There is a large hotel complex called Inn on Biltmore Estate that provides posh lodging and packages for estate tours, Biltmore Winery which produces award-winning wines, Biltmore Estates Equestrian Center that offers guided trail rides, carriage rides, boarding, and riding lessons, and many more activities. They also have Antler Hill Village which is a little promenade with boutiques, winery with tasting room, and restaurants. Between all the activities offered, you could enjoy a wonderful vacation and never leave the estate.
Indoor photography of any kind is prohibited. They won’t even allow sketching. Aside from the drawbacks that rule brings, I realistically understand why they can’t allow it. If you figure in the large number of daily visitors and the need to make reservations for the house tour, can you imagine how long it would take a shutterbug like me to walk through the house?! Instead of the average two hours, I’d be roaming around for days, finding unique decorating and architectural nuances to capture in photos. In all honesty, there is so much detail to take in, you could visit Biltmore a dozen times and still take in new details each visit. If you want photos of the interior, I highly recommend purchasing the book Biltmore: An American Masterpiece. It’s offered in both hardcover and paperback. The paperback is extremely affordable at $10.00 and the pictures are better than anything you could try and capture during your tour as a steady flow of fellow visitors pass by. Some areas are congested and lighting is poor. The book also offers a great narrative of history about the Vanderbilts and the Biltmore Estate.
The three of us entered the house for our 11:30 reservations and immediately fell in love with Biltmore. To live in such ostentatious style was entirely unimaginable to us. The basic self-guided tour takes you around the estate to 39 places of interest. You see common rooms, bedrooms, the basement recreation rooms, and the servants’ area. All aspects of estate living. The posh luxury of the family and guest rooms are magnificent with their individual decorating style of furniture, color schemes, and artwork by renowned international artists. I had some favorite rooms, but have to admit George’s library stole my heart. He has a collection of nearly 23,000 books and the two-story library houses 10,000 of them. The walls are mainly comprised of walnut bookcases. The ceiling holds a painting by Venetian artist Pellegrini and has 13 separate canvases pieced together to create the 64’X32’ masterpiece called “The Chariot of Aurora” which was originally displayed in the Pisani Palace in Venice. Rich red fabrics are used for upholstery and drapery, iron scrollwork for railings, and a huge black marble fireplace make the large room warm and cozy. The guide set up in the room told me George was a fan of Charles Dickens and that his collection boasts a first edition copy of A Christmas Carol.
Our favorite part of the tour was the section called “Servants’ Domain.” It was one thing to catch a glimpse of what it was like to be part of the Vanderbilt family, it was another to see where those that kept the house running, in the manner expected by the family, worked and lived. Each employee was given their own furnished private room. Female servants lived in the basement section of the house and male servants lived in quarters above the connected stables. The accommodations in the basement were far from dreary. Bedrooms were large and bright since the foundation of the house is situated enough that windows offered natural light. Biltmore was technologically advanced for its time. It had electric, indoor plumbing with hot water, central heating, and it even had mechanical refrigeration. Three kitchens served the house: the main kitchen, a pastry kitchen, and a rotisserie kitchen. It had a modern laundry room with heated drying racks and even a motorized tumble-washer. The servants’ dining room could accommodate up to 30 diners at its table and domestic staff was provided with three meals a day. A separate tour called “Butler’s Tour” is available for an additional fee. The tour takes approximately 60 minutes and includes unrestored rooms of the estate as well as rooms storing mechanical apparatus used to run the house. The guide tells visitors about life for domestic servants inside Biltmore. If I return to the estate, this is a tour I would very much like to take advantage of seeing.
As some of you know, I love using photography to capture architectural beauty. I was in my glory at Biltmore. While I couldn’t take shots inside the house, I took plenty of shots of the exterior. It is truly a one of a kind architectural gem. Each carved representation, such as knights, gargoyles, and saints, are used only once on each column capital, lintels, pilasters, etc., making the outside carvings unique pieces of stunning artwork. Too many to try and capture in photos—but I did my best to get my favorites.


From the mansion, we walked the grounds and gardens—all a horticultural delight. The short stroll along the macadam pathway to the Conservatory winds through the wooded Shrub Garden, the Spring Garden, the Walled Garden, and the Rose Garden. Biltmore really shines in June. The Conservatory served as the estate’s official greenhouse and provided all of the flowers for gardening and indoor arrangements. Every specimen you can imagine is grown inside. Their collection of rare orchids was my favorite and I took as many photos of them as I could. I see a future photo collage coming together for my hallway in the near future. While I can never recreate the grandness of what we saw in the gardens, it did give me ideas for future landscaping projects for our backyard paradise.



While we could have spent hours investigating the gardens and nearby trails, time was running short so we took the shuttle back to Vicki’s car and headed for Antler Hill Village. The promenade welcomed us with live music as a band played while under the shade of the central gazebo. Each attractive building sharing a blend of French-style architecture were connected by winding paved walkways surrounded by beautiful landscaping. Our first visit was to the wine tasting room where we sipped on a few of the estate’s labels. Sue and Vicki prefer sweet wines while my palate prefers dry reds. I asked our tasting sommelier to pick my samples for me. I tried their Cabernet Sauvignon, Limited Release Merlot, and Syrah. The Syrah was my favorite. Due to how busy the tasting room was, it was hard to truly enjoy the experience since we had to wait long periods between each sample and there was no room for chit-chat about the wines with the sommelier. Living near the Finger Lakes' wine region has spoiled me. I’m used to focused attention during tastings where the person serving you discusses the vintage and also asks for feedback. In other words, I wasn’t feeling schmoozed. Since I take my wine consumption seriously, I like being schmoozed while learning about their products. Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t have a bad experience. It just didn’t live up to the rest of our service experience at Biltmore. I was left uncompelled to buy wine—which never happens. From there we walked from shop to shop. They varied from upscale home decorating boutiques to cozy country home decorating boutiques carrying merchandise like Tiffany lamps, jewelry, polo shirts, hats, place settings of Vanderbilt-inspired china, and oodles and oodles of stuff. My only needs were souvenirs to bring home for the kids. My youngest is always the hardest to buy for most of the time. I lucked out at the Mercantile when I found a book about poultry with gorgeous photographs inside. She LOVED it. My oldest is all too easy to find things for since we are so much alike. I considered a tea cup and saucer from the Biltmore Collection, but found a t-shirt that reads, “Biltmore Estate Equestrian Center.” Syd loves anything equestrian. Sue bought a metal funnel converted into a hanging planter and an old galvanized wash tub converted into a mirror. Both unique items she can use to decoration her cozy country home.
The Conservatory and grand gardens of Biltmore.

As we left the Biltmore Estate, each of us declared that our $44.00 admission was money well spent. We had hours and hours of entertainment and still only skimmed the surface of what Biltmore has to offer. And Biltmore isn’t just for women. It has plenty to offer for children and men alike. I encourage everyone to check out their website for a full list of sites and activities. I hope to return to Biltmore to investigate some more.
While our long-weekend totaled 96 hours and, of those 96 hours, 27.25 were spent commuting to and from South Carolina, it was entirely worth it. Sue and I were Thelma and Louise without any calamities or the tragic ending--even though Google Maps threw us for a loop with a glitch in the directions on our way there, we never got lost. While Sue was driving, there was only one close call and it involved an innocent traffic cone that fell victim. Trust me, one incident, in a 1,502-mile roundtrip, is an amazing improvement for Sue since Kurt, Melinda, and I could write volumes of anecdotal books about Sue’s driving escapades during our other road trips! We had a fantastic time visiting with Vicki and seeing her kids and meeting her grandkids. Their new home is beautiful and the setting is idyllic—even if the name on their neighbor’s mailbox is Haltiwanger. (Insert immature cackling) Doesn’t it sound like it should be the last name of the person who invented the chastity belt? 
My favorite shot.
 Do any of our blog readers have upcoming plans for a summer road trip? We’d love to hear about it in the comment section below!