Sunday, December 31

2017: The Year of Surrender

Another year comes to a close. Exhale the old, inhale the new. As I reflect upon this year I am met with a mix of emotions. 2017 was chaotic, unexpected, adventurous, thrilling, exhausting and joyful all wrapped up in one beautiful, messy and unplanned package.

I am constantly amazed by the life God has called me to live. I did a few calculations thanks to one of my favorite travel apps (TripIt) and discovered I traveled:
- 45,161 miles
- 117 days traveling
- 49 domestic flights
- 7 international flights
- 5 countries visited
- 38 different airports
- 1 amazing year

It's been a pretty incredible year of #Surrender. Going into 2018, I hope to #invest in the Kingdom, myself and others. So popping a little bubbly and toasting to a brand new year, hopefully, full of airplane tickets and sweet memories that will last a lifetime.

Wednesday, December 20

Why to visit the Biltmore Estate during the Holidays

It wasn't a tradition we intended to make, but it is quickly becoming one of my favorite mother-daughter traditions. For the past few years we have found ourselves inAsheville, North Carolina during the month of December, and the number one thing on our bucket list: Biltmore Estate. 

Year after year, we return to this American castle with amazement and wonder. There is something exquisitely magical about this enchanting estate. I think it starts off with gingerbread-like entrance gate that shines bright like the North Star  Then there's the miles of windy drive you have to traverse to sneak a peek at the grandeur estate. The scenery is spectacular; wide open fields, pines that tickle the sky, trickling streams and wildflowers are the first to welcome you to the Biltmore Estate. After lingering minutes you finally see it: the tip tops of the towers and peaks that mimic the Blue Ridge Mountains behind it. There in all her glory is the stunning Biltmore Estate. 

I've been to the Biltmore at least a dozen times, in all different seasons, and I tell you I have yet to get bored with this beautiful place. Though I love the sweet tulips of spring and the vibrant colors bursting forth in fall, winter has to be my favorite. Two lions stand front and center to great you adorned with beautiful wreaths and gigantic red bows. As you enter the billowing doors, you can't help but be transported to a time gone by; a time where things were slower, simpler, less technology and more thought. A time where someone wrote hand written letters and the news came daily in the form of paper.

The entire house is adorned with Christmas decorations everywhere you look, from fresh garland to perfectly wrapped presents, it is the picture perfect Christmas. With over 50 immaculately decorated trees it may be hard to pick your favorite however what is definitely meant to be the most memorable is the 35 ft. Frasier Fir that stands tall and mighty in the dinning room for all to see. It's a spectacular display of holiday merriment that will leave you breathless at its glory.

Want to spend a perfectly blissful afternoon at the Biltmore? Here is my perfect day-trip itinerary for Biltmore Estate at Christmas:

1. Conservatory and outside areas

Arrive to the Estate early and spend the morning walking around the gardens, conservatory, and outside stable area. While the gardens are barren during the winter, the fresh air and mild Carolian winter days are always pleasant. There are paths and greenery to walk around as well as the beautiful conservatory with the most beautiful winter flowers.

2. Christmas tea at the Biltmore Inn

One of our favorite traditions is having a delightful Christmas tea at the Biltmore Inn. Just a short drive on the property will bring you the Biltmore Inn. Inside the entire hotel is decked to the nines in holiday merriment and a crackling fire and gigantic tree greet guests. Make your reservations in advance, as they always fill up! Bonus: They offer gluten free options for high tea.

3. Visit the inside of the House
You'll have to choose to do the house tour during daylight or candlelight. Both are beautiful for different reasons. I find that the daylight tour tends to be a bit less crowded personally. Either way, you won't be disappointed by the splendor of the home. Take your time and take it all in. 

What else is there to do at the Biltmore during Christmas, might you ask? Here are my top (5) suggestions on how to have the perfect Biltmore Christmas experience:

1. Take the Candlelight Christmas tour of the House. For more information about this magical event, click here.
2. Take a Candlelight Christmas Tour of the Winery. To book your tour, click here.
3. Take a carriage ride of the grounds. Click here for more information.
4. Do some Christmas shopping in the village shops
5. Have dinner at the Stable Cafe for a wonderful experience. Click here for more information on the dining options at Biltmore.

I hope that you get to enjoy the Biltmore as much as I do over the years. It's an experience that is sure to get you into the holiday spirit. 

Monday, December 18

5 Reasons to visit Asheville during Christmas

Are you need of a quick winter getaway for a little holiday cheer? Here are five reasons why you should visit Asheville, North Carolina this Christmas season.

5. Christmas decorations 
Downtown Asheville is always cute, but you can't beat this town during Christmas. Think traditional small town meets Appalachian charm! There are lights and garland and wreaths strung up all along the town. Biltmore Village specifically is about as charming as it gets.

Oh and while you're here, why not get the ultimate Christmas decoration- a fresh cut Christmas tree!

4. All the chocolate goodness
No stop in Asheville would be complete for the chocolate-lovers dream: The French Broad Chocolate Lounge. Whether you're in the mood for gelato, cake, macaroons, cookies, or a drinkable truffle...there is soemthing for every chocolate lover here. Grab your mittens and be prepared to wait in line but oh it's oh-so-worth the wait. 

Extra bonus: they have gluten free and dairy free options! Yes!

3. Gingerbread galore 

The National Gingerbread Competition is held at the Grove Park Inn every year (going on 25+ years now). It's an amazing competition where talented artists from across North America showcase what they can do with gingerbread and boy, is it mind blowing. It's a spectacular showcase of talent and imagination.

Stop by the 10ft x 10ft gingerbread house in the lobby of the Grove Park Inn for a cup of ooey gooey hot chocolate and your own gingerbread man to munch on!

2. A time to reflect and unwind
As this holiday season approaches, it's easy to get caught up in the holiday hustle and bustle and miss the true meaning of Christmas. Asheville offers some great places to stop, relax, reflect and unwind. Whether you want to bring a book and sit by a roaring fire, take a yoga class, sip a cafe in a quiet coffeehouse, or take a refreshing nature walk, Asheville is the spot for you.

Bonus: Liberty House Coffee and Cafe is a cute little spot to read a book and sip an almond milk latte 

1. The Ultimate Christmas tree 
Probably my most favorite part of Asheville during the Christmas season: The Biltmore. I'm a sucker for all things European influenced, old fashioned and charming and the Biltmore Estate takes the cake for all three! The immaculately decorated rooms, the flickering candlelight, the romantic music that drifts from room to room... it is the most exquisite experience. Of course, the shining star in her Christmas display is the live 30+ ft. fraser fir tree that adorns the dinning room like a proud father.

Bonus: Looking for a taste of Christmas? Book a Christmas tea at the Biltmore Inn. Have a lovely four course tea while overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains and inhaling the fresh aroma of pine and cinnamon. You won't be disappointed! 

I hope that wherever the holidays find you this year that you're met with lots of adventures, memories and joy.