Thursday, January 28, 2016

Canon EOS 5D III - Photo Memories 2015

Time permitting, one of my favorite things to do is to get my camera and take off in search of pretty things to photograph.

I was looking back over photos I have taken throughout the months of 2015 and thought it would be fun to share some of those moments in photos.   There is not any story to be told, but just moments captured in time.

Just in case you are interested,  I used a Canon EOS 5D III camera with a 24-70mm L-Series Canon lens for all of these photos from last year.   

The Canon EOS 5D camera does not have a built-in flash.  Not being a real photographer,  of course I had no idea how to add a flash.  Our local electronics store Best Buy told me I should contact the B&H Camera Superstore in New York City (Phone: 1-212 615-8820).  I did contact them and they suggested the Canon Speedlite 430EX II flash attachment for my kind of photography.

A Southern Winter flower
 blooming in January and February.  A pretty bouquet picked for the kitchen table.

Awakening of the Dr. Van Fleet rosebush in the early Spring.

The below photo shows the Cherry Pie 
made for my husband for Valentines Day ... his favorite!

Lovely Valentine Roses from my Valentine.

Roses are amazingly beautiful and perfect works of art.
We could not make one of these no matter how hard we tried.

Beautiful memories of Springtime.

A photo of early Springtime from last year.

Our baby daughter Sharon, her husband and four sons during her birthday party in March.  

Grandson John Scott-19 let me take his picture!  

Old country roses blooming across the front fence.

An old country rose bouquet from our yard.

A rose contest at the local Garden Club.

The below photo shows a rainy day in our side yard.

Rhododendrums growing in North Carolina after the rain.

Mr. Bluejay stopping by the bird feeder.

Family photo ...
Youngest Daughter Sharon and Family.

Family photo ...
Middle Daughter Stephanie and Family.

A Sunflower growing in the garden.

Home Sweet Home in the Fall.

A lovely vase and Christmas Cactus taken at a friend's home.

Holly berries growing in the yard at Christmas time.

Love the huge lion statues at the Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina.
If you would like to see more photos of the Biltmore House you can click on the link below.  

Photo of grandsons Dillon and Chase's recent Lemon Happy Birthday cake.
It is a little home-made looking, but it was so-o-o good.

A pretty blue sky over the mountains in North Carolina.

Sharing a set of photos at the photo contest held last Spring at the local Garden Club.
It was so much fun entering this contest.  

Well! Here we are at the end of the month of January already ... How can time go by so fast!!   Spring will be here before we know it and I, Lord willing, will be out and about trying to capture some of the Good Lord's amazing artwork with my camera.

I hope you are doing well and enjoying these cozy winter days.  Wishing you lots and lots of blessing in this New Year.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Two Delicious Appetizer Recipes

January is not a very good time to be sharing delicious recipes.  Most folks have New Year's resolutions which include making good food choices and cutting down on calories.  

OK, yes, that includes me too, but, before I forget how delicious these appetizers were during the holidays,  I wanted to share them with you.  So,  if these recipes sound good to you, just copy/paste/print and store away until you are looking for a really good appetizer recipe.

We were visiting a friend's home for dinner one evening when she served the recipe seen in the first photo below.   She is a great cook and always shares her recipes.  This one is so good my husband requests this just about any time we are in need of an appetizer for a get-together.  And, you will not believe how EASY it is to make.

We were given the option to bring appetizers to our neighborhood Christmas party this year and, of course, I thought of this recipe right away.


I'm not too good at presentation of a recipe ...  In retrospect, it would have been nice to have added a pretty large themed-napkin in the bottom of the serving dish, or possibly some ruffled-edge lettuce or greenery of some type in the bottom of the serving dish.  But, the recipe was very good anyway.


  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 1 cup no-fat mayonnaise
  • 1 cup lower-fat Swiss cheese, grated  
  1. Mix one-cup each of onion, mayonnaise and Swiss cheese.
  2. Mix all together until well blended.
  3. Place in a pretty baking dish.
  4. Bake 350 degrees for about 30 minutes until top is slightly browned and mixture is bubbly. 
  5. Serve hot with crackers or chips of your choice. 
Image result for border clip art christmas

In the below photo you will see a photo of the second appetizer we took to the neighborhood Christmas party.  This recipe is also a favorite and I have been making it for so many years for different events.  This recipe was given to me from a friend many years ago.

If you use your imagination, this is supposed to look like a Christmas tree.  The original recipe is called a  "Cheese Ball Ring" but I tried to shape this one into a Christmas tree.  I used a yellow pepper and cut out the star for the top of the "tree" and used small cherry tomatoes (on toothpicks) for the "tree ornaments."  And, of course, a little parsley for the "tree greenery."

Shaped into a Christmas Tree ... almost!



  • 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 small onion, finely grated
  • black pepper
  • dash cayenne
  • 1 cup pecans, finely chopped
  • strawberry preserves
  • crackers of your choice 
  1. Combine cheese, mayonnaise, onion, black pepper, and cayenne.
  2. Mix well and place in a 5 or 6 cup lightly greased ring-mold.
  3. Refrigerate untio firm for several hours or overnight.
  4. To serve:  Unmold and if desired, fill center with strawberry preserves.
  5.  Sprinkle chopped pecans over cheese ball.
  6.  Serve with crackers.
  7.  In recent years I no longer use a ring-mold but just shape mixture into a ball and then add preserves on top and sprinkle with pecans.
One year at a Halloween Party for the children we turned this cheese ball recipe into a edible spider ...  We placed olives for the eyes and mouth.  Then we placed 4 L-shaped pipe cleaners on each side of the cheese ball for the spider legs.  Then we circled the spider with crackers ... He was really cute and just another way to use this recipe.
Image result for border clip art christmas
If you decide to use either one of these recipes I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.
I surely do hope all is well for you and that you and yours have many blessings as we travel on into this New Year.  
If you happen to be in the path of the huge Winter storm coming across the United States tonight, we wish you warmth and safety wherever you may be.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Biltmore House - The Largest House in America

We recently received a very nice and thoughtful gift from my husband's office ... A three day trip to the amazing Biltmore House Inn located in Asheville, North Carolina.  Included in the gift was a tour of the historic Biltmore House and the Estate grounds.

Last week after our family members returned home from Christmas visits,  we decided it might be a good time to take advantage of the gift to the Biltmore House while it was still decorated for Christmas. 

The Biltmore House and Estate is a large 8,000-acre private estate and tourist attraction in Western North Carolina and is one of the most popular attractions in the world.  This home is the largest privately owned house in the United States.  The home is still owned by one of the Vanderbilt's descendants.

1 Lodge Street
Asheville, North Carolina

 Gatehouse of The Biltmore House and Estate 

A couple of miles through the gatehouse entrance we spotted the Biltmore Inn entrance turnoff.

As we turned and started up the hill we spotted the Inn.  This is a 213-room hotel designed with the thought in mind of providing guests with an opportunity to enjoy Vanderbilt style hospitality.

You can get a glimpse of some of the Estate grape vines growing down the hill from the Inn.

Of course I brought my camera with me in hopes of capturing some 
of the beauty of this amazingly historic Biltmore Estate.

The below photo shows the Lobby of the Inn in the evening shortly after our arrival.

We made reservations to have dinner downstairs in the lovely formal dining room.  You can see the entrance to the dining room below from upstairs in the Lobby.

The sun was setting as we arrived in the dining room.  We were so glad to see that the 
Christmas decorations were still in place.

In the below photo we see a  beautiful view of the mountains from the window of the dining room.

All of the dinner plates were monogrammed with "V" for the family name Vanderbilt;
the family responsible for creating and designing this amazing Estate.

Our dinner in this dining room was delicious.

The next morning we had a quick breakfast before heading off to our tour of the Biltmore House. In the morning light I wanted to get the same photo I had gotten the evening before looking down the stairs from the lobby toward the beautiful dining room.

This room was pretty in the evening and also in the morning light during breakfast.
I loved the large fireplace with the nice warm fire providing heat for this big beautiful room.

I loved the simple red berries
decorating the two Christmas trees on each side of the fireplace.


As you can see the dining room extended on into a large circular room with lots of windows to look out and see the beautiful mountain views.

A nice view from this lovely location.

Upstairs in the lobby there is a similar restaurant called "The Library."
Less formal meals are available here and it is a nice place to have lunch.

                                       The below photo was taken looking out over the Inn patio.

The Inn provided a very convenient shuttle service to take guests all around the Estate.  The shuttle comes around every 15 minutes and is a wonderful way to see the whole Estate.  There is a stop at the hotel, then on to the Antler Hill Village which includes an Exhibition Hall  showing the History of the Vanderbilt family.  There is also a Winery located in the Village offering wine tasting.  And, of course, there are also gift shops in the Village.

On this day we had tickets to see the amazing Biltmore House.  We also had additional tickets to tour the entire Estate with interesting information supplied about the Estate by the shuttle tour guide.

We begin the driving tour up to the Biltmore House ... The same route the horses and carriages took in the late 1800s when the family lived there. 

Even though it was Winter and the leaves were off the trees it was still a very picturesque drive.

In the below photo we see one of the several cow pastures on the estate.   
Off in the distance you can see the white plastic covered hay bales.

George Vanderbilt desired and planned his house and estate to be something unique and different than the rest of the vacation homes of the rich at that time.  He wanted the estate to be self-sustaining and produce it's own income.

His estate had it's own herd of sheep, swine, poultry, cattle, gardens and nurseries.  His own personal dairy farm had 200 cows which were originally brought down from the family farm in New York.

In the above photo we see part of the vegetable gardens.  
This particular field looks like it may have been a field of corn.

And in the below photo we see more vegetables growing.


We were slowly driving up, up and up on our way toward the Biltmore House.

We spotted this pretty little creek along the way.

Can't you envision the horses and carriage traveling along this roadway with the guests on their way to the Biltmore House waiting in curious anticipation of what might lay ahead.

Our tour guide told us the carriages often stopped along the way for the guests to get out, stretch their legs and sit and enjoy a little something to eat or drink along the way.

As we rounded the last bend in the road we spotted the entrance gates to the house.

And then looking to our right there it was in all of it's magnificance, the amazing Biltmore House.

The shuttle bus drove us right up to the entrance.  For those not taking a shuttle 
there is a large parking lot and then a shuttle to take guests on up to the house.

George Vanderbilt II, the man responsible for building this house was born into money.  His grandfather was very successful in the railroad and shipping business.  Upon his grandfather's death, George, even though he was the youngest son would still receive a fortune.

George Vanderbilt was born in 1862.  He grew up with tutors and received a good education, attending Columbia University at 16 and graduating early with honors.  He was able to travel a lot and experience historic sites, museums and theaters.

When he traveled to Asheville, North Carolina in 1888 to investigate the beautiful scenery and climate it was at that time he decided this is where he would build his home.

During his travels he had become inspired by two beautiful homes, one in France and one in England.  He along with his architect combined elements of both estates to design his home.  He also designed the Estate gardens with the help from the same landscape architect who had designed Central Park in New York City.

The amazing Biltmore House was officially opened on Christmas Eve 1895 with a holiday feast and coaching party.  It was the first of many gala parties in the home.

The house is a 4 story house with 4 acres of floor space with 250 rooms, 3 kitchens including the main kitchen, a rotisserie kitchen, a pastry kitchen, a library with 10,000 books, a 64 seat banquet table in the huge dining room, 43 bathrooms, 33 bedrooms for family and guests, 21 bedrooms on the fourth floor for the housemaids, laundresses and other employees,  a laundry room, 65 fireplaces, a heated swimming pool inside the home, a bowling alley, and a gymnasium.  The house had two elevators, indoor plumbing and even a telephone.

George Vanderfilt envisioned a park-like setting for his home. For the grounds surrounding the home he used 75 acres to build his formal gardens which included an Italian formal garden, a walled garden, a shrub and rose garden, fountains, a conservatory, an outdoor tea room, and pools.  

On this day it was icy cold, therefore we did not visit the gardens.  We might have anyway, but being so cold we did not think that much would be growing during the Winter months.

Below we see the entrance to the home flanked by two huge lion statues.

I love this adorable face.  I think this would have been a really nice photo if I had not forgotten and left my camera case in the photo.  Isn't he SO cute!  And, I love his big red Christmas bow and wreath.

Such an aristocratic lion.

Love him!

As you step up the three steps just past the double lion statues
we see the entrance to this beautiful home.

We were so glad they were still decorated for Christmas.  How pretty!

This pretty vase of berries and Christmas tree branches was located beside the entrance door.

Oh! And there is just nothing like a pretty Christmas Tree.  There was also a beautiful Christmas tree decorating each side of the entrance to the home.

I did not have a telephoto lens, but could still capture some of the amazing architecture of the outside of this home.  This home could be a real photographers delight.  Unfortunately photos were NOT allowed in the house.  It is probably a good thing, because I would have been there all day.

The below photo was taken just inside the entrance as we walked in.  This is the view looking out from the outside foyer entrance and not actually in the house.

Too bad there are no photos to show you the inside ... If you get a chance, you simply must go see this amazingly beautiful home so you can see the inside.  Some say this is the American version of Downton Abbey.

The house tour took about two hours as we walked through each room with a guided tour guide.  The tour included the upstairs and the downstairs as well.  

When the tour was finished we were directed to see the Carriage House off to the left side of the home.   You can see the entrance off in the distance in the below photo.

As you walk through the Carriage House entrance you enter into a courtyard.  If you use your imagination you can still see the horses and carriages.

I loved the old brick on the floor in this Carriage House.  It surely must be the original brick.
You can see the charming little shops located in the old Carriage House.

All of the "girls" in our family love to cook, so while in the Carriage House Shop we found the perfect gift to take back home for our daughters ....

This book has some wonderful recipes.  If you are at all interested this book is currently on sale and is available at this website:

Also available in the gifts shops and in the Winery at the Builtmore Estate are the many wines from the Estate.  I am not really a wine person, but did have a sip of my husband's wine and it was the best wine I have ever tasted.  It was the Sauvignon Blanc and what they call their American Legacy and Traditional Wine.

We had a bite to eat at The Stable Cafe while visiting the Carriage House.

Isn't it interesting how they turned the individual horse stalls into seating for the Cafe.

 There was an upstairs to the Cafe providing additional seating as well.

Well, all good things come to an end.

The shuttle bus delivered us back to the Inn.   As we were leaving the
Estate we looked back for one last view of this amazing home.

It was so peaceful driving through the winding roads of this beautiful estate.  I thought it was so picturesque as we passed this pasture with  the cows grazing and the beautiful mountains in the background.

It was surprising to find out that after George Vanderbilt went to all the effort to design and build this amazing estate, at the young age of 51, poor George had an emergency attack of appendicitis and died.  His wife, daughter and then other family descendants maintained the home until 1930.  At that time they decided to open the home to the public.  

I hope you enjoyed coming along on the tour with us and seeing all that George Vanderbilt created for all to appreciate.

Wishing you many Happy New Year blessings to you and your family wherever you may be.