The Biltmore Estate and Downton Abbey Exhibit

My husband and I have visited the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, a handful of times. I believe the last time we went was for our 25th anniversary fifteen years ago. I had pretty much decided there was probably no need to return—once you’ve seen it in different seasons, there’s nothing new to see, I thought.

And then I heard they were going to have an exhibition of the Downton Abbey television show at the Biltmore!

Then the question was—how should I go about seeing it? My daughter-in-law and I loved the show, but my husband and youngest son had never seen it. I think Jason, Mittu’s husband had seen at least some episodes, but I don’t know if he was as into it as I was. So should I go by myself? Should I see if Mittu wanted to take a day trip with me? Should I ask a friend? Should I ask my husband even though he wasn’t familiar with the show?

The dilemma was solved when Mittu asked if we could go to the exhibition in lieu of presents for her birthday this year. We went last Saturday.

We got into Asheville around 11 and ate lunch at Farm Burger, as its online menu showed it had gluten free options for Mittu and Timothy. I didn’t want anything heavy or greasy, so I tried the build-your-own chicken burger. It was pretty good. I also snagged a few of Jason’s garlic parmesan fries, and they were great.

Unfortunately, the DA exhibits were in two different buildings and not in the Biltmore house itself. You have to choose a time when you buy tickets, so we needed to go in to see the house when we first arrived.

If you’re not familiar with the Biltmore, it’s the largest home in America, built by George Washington Vanderbilt. He had visited the Asheville area in 1887 and liked it so well, he began buying up land to build a home. Construction began in 1889. He was a bachelor at the time and planned to being his mother to live at the house and to host family and friends. He didn’t marry until 1898, when he was 35. The estate wasn’t even entirely finished then, but it was livable.

I’m reading The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation’s Largest Home by Denise Kiernan about the Biltmore House. I had hoped to finish it before visiting, but was only halfway done. Still, what I read enhanced the visit, and and I am sure that the visit will enhance the remaining reading.

One of the things that impressed me the most was that the land had been fairly depleted before building began. Frederick Olmsted, a landscape architect whose long list of credits includes Central Park, was asked to do the landscaping at Biltmore. He had to take into account not only what the land would like like at the time, but how things would grow over time.

The second impressive thing about the estate, besides the sheer size, is the detail in every single aspect. This is the right half of the house as we’re coming from from where the shuttle dropped us off:

Biltmore estateI have many more pictures that one post will hold, but this is what is called the Winter Garden, just inside the front doors and to the right:

Biltmore Winter GardenOne of my favorite rooms is the library. Vanderbilt was known for being well-read, even buying unbound manuscripts so he could have them bound the way he liked them.

Biltmore Library

You can see a bit of the painted ceiling. One of my favorite moments occurred when we were all exclaiming. “Look at the painting! Look at all the books! Look at the spiral staircase in the corner!” And Timothy (almost age 6) said, “Look at the security camera!” 🙂

My second favorite room was Mrs. Vanderbilt’s bedroom. I didn’t like the black bedcoverings so much, but I loved the ceiling. We didn’t get a picture, but you can see a glimpse here.

We got to go up an elevator that was original to the building. Unfortunately it only went between the first and second floors. The design was all wrought iron, but at some point they put plexiglass behind it for safety purposes. We didn’t get pictures of it, but someone else’s video is here.

One room I didn’t remember seeing before was called the Halloween room, painted by George’s daughter Cornelia. There they offered a photo opportunity with George and Edith. 🙂

The tour includes the downstairs area, where the bowling lanes, kitchen, laundry, and servant’s rooms are. Another funny moment here: we tried to explain to Timothy what the chamber pots were for. When he heard someone else commenting on them, he called them “Thunder pots.”

Just outside the house is a group of little shops and eateries. We enjoyed a snack before heading down to the DA exhibit. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to explore the little shops if we wanted to catch the DA exhibits before they closed.

The first part of the exhibit was in a new building called Amherst at Deerpark. While waiting to get in, we asked what the building was normally used for. The attendant said that once the exhibit was over, the building could be rented for special events, wedding receptions, etc.

This part of the exhibit was called interactive, but that’s probably because there are life-sized videos of Carson speaking to the guests as if he can see them. There are also some artifacts behind glass or in drawers covered with glass. When you first walk in the hallway, there is a massive picture of the DA cast in costume. Then there is a stop to watch a video. Then we stepped into a room where we saw larger than life-sized pictures of half the faces of the cast (not half the cast—half the face of each cast member).

Just to show you a couple of representative displays, pictures and text like this were on walls and tables discussing all the characters and different aspects of the times.

Downton Abbey exhibitOther displays held letters, props, jewelry, etc.

This is where I have a wee bit of complaint. This area was extremely crowded, and there was not a direct flow of traffic. It was very hard to get around to look at anything, much less take time to read the displays. I got around the whole room and glanced at almost everything, but was so claustrophobic, I just wanted to get out as soon as possible. This would have been better in a larger area, or even scattered around in some of Biltmore’s more open areas.

The next section was a lot more fun. It included sets from the show. I didn’t see any information which specified, but I am assuming these were the actual sets (if not, they were very good recreations).

Mr. Carson’s office:

Downton Abbey butler officeThe kitchen:

The bells:

They also had the formal dining room and Lady Mary’s bedroom.

Then we had to take another shuttle to Antler Hill Village to see the costumes. I enjoyed this quite a lot. Even without remembering who wore which clothes, we found ourselves guessing which dress went with which character just by its style. I have multitudes of pictures but will just share a couple.

Downton Abbey costumes

I had mentioned at the beginning feeling like there was no need to go back to Biltmore and see the same things again. What i didn’t know was that the Antler Hill Village area was all fairly recent, plus a few new rooms had been opened up. Plus, in all the times we’ve been there, we’ve never seen the greenhouse or Biltmore Village. The latter was built by Vanderbilt for workmen and employees. I’ve been reading in the book I mentioned about All Souls Cathedral, also built by Vanderbilt, and its stained glass windows dedicated to George’s mother and close friends and other family who passed away. I had hoped to catch a glimpse of it, but by the time we were done, we were tired and needed to get back on the road. So some day I’d be up for another visit to see some of these areas.

Jason and Mittu did stay overnight and went back the next day to see the greenhouse and some other areas. Timothy was a little trooper and seemed to enjoy himself. We were glad there were some grassy areas in-between buildings where they allowed people to walk and kids to run. He was looking forward to the pool at the hotel. 🙂

All in all, it was a fun visit. I enjoyed seeing the Biltmore again and loved seeing the Downton Abbey sets and costumes. If you’re a fan of the show, I hope you get a chance to see the exhibit. It’s at the Biltmore until April 7. I’m assuming the house and exhibit would be a lot less crowded on weekdays: I’d recommend going then if you can.

Have you visited the Biltmore or see the Downton Abbey exhibit?

Summer memories

Sherry at Semicolon had a list of summer memories from childhood, inspiring my own:

Fans at night and nap time (no AC).

Hearing mosquitoes buzzing in my ears at night.

Chasing fireflies.

Ice cream trucks.

Fudge pops.

Trips to the beach.

Visiting DQ afterward.

Thinking my aunt’s house with central AC was so luxurious.

Running through the sprinkler.

Drinking from the hose.

Families in the neighborhood bringing out lawn chairs to their front yards in the evenings and visiting back and forth while the kids played.

My dad taking the neighborhood kids on rides on his motor scooter.

Taking trips with my grandmother to visit my aunts and uncles and cousins.

Riding bikes everywhere.

Walking barefoot outside, being a real tenderfoot at the beginning of the summer and calloused by the end.

Stepping on the occasional cocklebur (or something like it – ours were flatter).

My birthday, sometimes celebrating it with three other cousins with birthdays in the same month.

Asking my mom what watermelon tasted like. She told me to try a piece if I wanted to find out. I finally did. We used to put salt on it.

Popsicles dribbling down our chins.

Going with friends to the pool.

Chinaberry fights (playful ones, not angry ones). We had enough chinaberry trees in the back yard for each kid to climb one, and we’d toss the berries at each other.

Vacation Bible School.

Playing tag, freeze tag, statue tag, Mother May I.


Family reunions.

Taking glass bottle to turn in at the store for change.

Corn on the cob dripping with butter.

My dad barbecuing on the grill he made himself from a barrel.

Sleeping in.

Nehi Cola in grape, orange, and strawberry.

June bugs caught in the front screen door.

What are some of your summer memories?


A good idea…

One of the standard things I say when Jim and Jesse leave for the day is “Have a good day.” I really do mean it every day, but sometimes we can say routine things without really thinking about it.

One day as Jesse left for school, I absent-mindedly said, “Have a good idea!”

He responded, “Ooookay?”

Then I caught my mistake. “DAY! Have a good day!”

Sometimes a good idea can make for a good day. 🙂 At least we started the day with a laugh, and had another when Jim later quipped that that’s how Steve Jobs’ mom used to send him off to school. 🙂

Then a while back I was using Jim’s car and the keyless remote wasn’t working, probably needing a new battery. I was trying to figure out how to get in the car and asked Jesse if he remembered the code. He did, but he looked pointedly at the keys in my hand.

I don’t know where my mind is lately. 🙂 I do have several “stray thoughts” I’d love to take time to untangle and sort through. Writing is the best way for me to do that, where I can pull them out and lay them side by side and then think about them some more, whereas when I’m just thinking them through they stay jumbled. Maybe next week…

In the meantime, have a good day…and if you have a good idea while you’re at it, all the better. 😉

Friday’s Fave Five

FFF daisies

Welcome to Friday’s Fave Five, hosted by Susanne at Living to Tell the Story, in which we can share five of our favorite things from the last week,  wonderful exercise in looking for and appreciating the good things God blesses us with. Click on the button to learn more, then go to Susanne’s to read others’ faves and link up your own.

It’s been kind of an up and down week. I had thought about doing an “up and down” or family update post yesterday, but time got away from me. But here are some of the “ups”:

1. Jim’s birthday was last Wednesday, but he had to be out of town that day, so we celebrated Saturday.


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2. Wednesday night Coffeshop Apologetics. A man in our church has been doing a series called Coffehouse or Coffeshop Apologetics on Wednesday nights basically talking about ways to talk to atheists, agnostics, moral relativists, etc. Evidently God has given him a real ministry in that regard that we hadn’t even known about, but what he’s had to share had been very interesting.

3. These stands were on sale half price at Hobby Lobby:

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Aren’t they cute? They are smaller than normal, only about 8″ or so across, but I have an 6″ cake pan that will make the perfect small dessert for it!

4. Finally getting this project done. It was originally supposed to be a fall wreath, but I got stuck trying to make burlap roses — I never could get the hang of it. Then I was going to do a winter wreath in neutrals. But as we’re getting closer to spring I decided to throw some pink in there, and I think it’ll work, even though felt is more wintery in my mind.

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I made the pink felt roses using this tutorial but bought the other ones, gluing a button in the middle of a couple of them.

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It had been a long time since I had fired up the ol’ hot glue gun, but I enjoyed it!

5. Getting some things hung up around the house that had been sitting in the sewing room for months in some cases. Indecision is my biggest road block! But I finally decided to just go with what I had been thinking about, and I think it pretty much works. I guess I could have taken pictures of those…but no time just now as I’m off to a meeting at Jim’s mom’s place soon.

In family news, Jim did get the pathology report back from his kidney surgery, and the mass was indeed cancerous, which is pretty much what we expected, but there’s no sign of it in the lymph nodes or lymphatic system, so that is very good. He has a follow-up appointment with an oncologist next week just to see if we need to do any other scans to make sure there is nothing else lurking around somewhere. He’s continuing to do well, though still a little tender in places.

Happy Friday to you!

Book Review: The Last Superhero

Last SuperheroA lot of what I had been reading lately required a good bit of concentration, so I was in the mood for something light and fun. Scrolling through my Kindle app downloads, I came across The Last Superhero by Stephen Altrogge. I don’t remember where or who recommended him, but when I saw this book offered for free (at this writing it’s 99 cents), I decided to give him a try.

The story is about a family of superheroes. The grandfather, John Utticus Wagner, is something is a legend in the superhero community. But his son is something of a klutz: he has superhuman strength, but has trouble controlling it. So after nearly killing three professors and causing assorted other problems, he’s kicked out of Superhero College. His wife has super speed…but has trouble stopping. You can imagine the kind of trouble that causes. They decide being superheroes isn’t working out so well for them, so the dad decides to become an accountant. They have Junior, or John Utticus Wagner II, who also has super strength, but without any training, he doesn’t know how to use his, either.

Though the dad has some regrets about not carrying on the family business and some longing to be an able superhero, life goes along pretty well until a new villain, Boom, starts blowing things up around town. Then the three generations of men — an aging superhero, a klutz, and an 8th-grader — decide to go into training to find and defeat him.

Those of you who know me well know this isn’t my usual fare. But it did fit the bill of a clean, light, fun read, at least until a tragedy at the end. The ending sets things up for a sequel, but I don’t know if any is in the works.

Altrogge’s tone had me smiling throughout the books. Here are a few excerpts. The book is written from Junior’s point of view.

Girls like guys who are tall, dark, and handsome, not pale, short, and able to punch a hole in a steel door.

Now you, the reader, probably already know this, but it doesn’t hurt to point out that the last sentence my Grandpa said is something dark and sinister called ‘foreshadowing.’ If this were a movie, the camera would probably zoom in close on Grandpa’s face as he said the words. See, my Grandpa said that he was glad he didn’t have to deal with ‘The Plague’ any more. But maybe they’re not as gone as he thinks. Maybe they’ll play into this story somehow. You probably think you have the whole thing figured out, but trust me, you don’t.

Mom was getting really worked up, and tears began to trickle down her cheeks. As I’m sure you know, it’s a really, really bad sign when your mom starts crying. It can’t get much worse than that. Mom tears are one of the most powerful forces in the universe.

The carpet was so thick I could have made carpet angels.

There are also a number of funny asides about other well-known superheroes, and apparently thee Wagners were behind a number of famous incidents in history. 🙂

I didn’t know, until I looked him up after reading the book, that Altrogge is a pastor and a co-writer at The Blazing Center, a blog I’ve looked at and linked to occasionally. The book isn’t Christian fiction, though there is a Bible verse quoted: it’s just good clean fun. And though I don’t normally like the dad in a story portrayed as a klutz (there’s too much of that on TV), it’s not done here in a disrespectful way: he’s not a clueless idiot, he just doesn’t have quite the superhero capabilities as others do.

Overall I really enjoyed it as a fun weekend read, and I’ve already bought another of Altrogge’s books, Escaping My Story.

(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

To celebrate or not to celebrate…

Valentine’s Scrooges. 🙂 That was the only term I could come up with for those whose comments I have seen here and there who hate and despise Valentine’s Day. And I had to add the little smiley so it wouldn’t sound like I was ranting. 🙂

I don’t mind Valentine’s indifference… didn’t grow up celebrating it much, hadn’t thought about it, not a big deal…that’s understandable. But why would anyone hate it, and not just hate it in their own hearts, but feel compelled to rain on everyone else’s parade by forcibly and publicly saying so?

“It’s too commercial.” Well, sure, but like Christmas, you can be as commercial or uncommercial as you want in your own personal celebration. But don’t look down on store-bought cards or restaurant rather than home-made goodies. Not everyone has the time or confidence or bent to “make” things.

“I don’t need a man-made holiday to show my wife I love her.” Well, good for you. I’m sure she appreciates that. ( 🙂 = not ranting!)

“We should show love every day.” True. We should also give thanks every day, but it’s helpful to have a day focused on it at Thanksgiving. We should remember and be glad for the Resurrection at least every Sunday, but it’s wonderful to especially commemorate it at Easter. We should be thankful for our friends and loved ones every day, but it’s nice to especially let them know on their birthdays or anniversaries. Those special, focused celebrations can remind us of what we should be thinking and feeling every day and spur us on. And that’s how I look at Valentine’s Day. I love my dear ones all the time, but it’s fun on this special day to celebrate love even more.

By “celebrate,” I don’t necessarily mean go all out. We’ve always exchanged cards. Some years ago I got some heart-shaped cupcake pans, and Valentine cupcakes became a tradition. Most years that’s all we have done, with maybe some candy for the kids. My husband has frequently brought me candy and flowers on Valentine’s Day. One year I did a Valentine scavenger hunt for the kids, with little clues on half-hearts — they had to find the other half to get their treat. They loved that and wanted to do it again the next year, but it was too hard to keep coming up with clues. Another year I was inspired to make a garland out of heart doilies, but I don’t know what happened to it. I have a heart-shaped wreath by the front door. Nothing major or expensive — just little tokens of the day. We don’t go out to eat on that day — can’t stand the crowdedness. I think I have usually tried to make a special meal that day, but it is only in the last few years I’ve tried to make a Valentine-themed meal like Crescent Heart-Topped Lasagna Casserole or Li’l Cheddar Meat Loaves shaped like hearts (though the boys did tease that the red sauce on the heart meat loaves looked like blood 🙄 🙂 ). And I’m inclined to play some of my favorite sappy love songs while working in the kitchen that day. We’ve always celebrated it as a family rather than leaving the kids with sitters while we go off for a romantic time (nothing wrong with doing that sometimes — we do on anniversaries).

I do understand Valentine’s Day being harder if you’re single with no prospects in sight. I do remember those days. But still, harsh and bitter comments regarding Valentine’s Day aren’t exactly endearing, you know? Some good articles about from singles about singleness on Valentine’s Day are Sweet Sadness and St. ValentineValentine’s Day Single? No Problem, Seriously, Reaching Out on Valentine’s Day, and a couple on singleness but not related to Valentine’s Day: I don’t wait any more and Renegotiating My Seat in God’s House.

An equally disturbing attitude regarding Valentine’s Day was this comment I saw somewhere: “He better get me flowers, or else!” That’s not particularly loveable, either. Valentine’s is about showing love, not sitting back with arms folded, foot tapping, seeing if he is going to “measure up.” I heard an excellent talk some years ago by Gregg Harris: I don’t remember what the overall talk was about, but what stuck with me was the encouragement not to use anniversaries and special occasions as a “test,” but rather to help him to remember (rather than getting mad at him for forgetting) and discussing whether and how you’d both like to commemorate. A Different Approach to Valentine’s Day explores that further.

All in all, in the grand scheme of life and eternity, it doesn’t matter if you celebrate a particular day or not. “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it” (Romans 14:5-6a). But as for me and my house, we enjoy celebrating holidays. Well, maybe not Groundhogs Day, President’s Day, etc. 🙂 But Valentine’s Day is one of my favorites.

And so I wish all of my bloggy friends a very Happy Valentine’s Day!


“Getting to know you” questions

Whew! It’s been a very full but very fun holiday weekend for us. We just took our oldest back to the airport this morning — always a little sad to see him walking into the airport alone. But this time he’ll be back in a month for Christmas.

Carrie suggested some “getting to know you” questions for a post today, so I’ll jump in to answer a few..probably most of them.

Do you attend church and, if so, what denomination are you a part of?

Yes. We’re members of an independent Baptist church.

What social issue are you the most passionate about?

Right to life issues, on both ends of the spectrum: the unborn and the elderly or disabled. It’s God who gives life and should be God who says when it ends. Life is a gift that is not ours to take away from anyone else. God has a purpose in every life He allows.

There are some thorny issues when it comes to turning off machines, etc., that are keeping a person alive. I’d highly recommend Joni Eareckson Tada’s When Is It Right To Die? for thoughtful treatment of the difference between sustaining life and prolonging death.

Do you home school/use the public system or enroll your kids in private school? Any particular reason why?

My oldest two went to a private Christian school except for four years when we home-schooled. They both went to a Christian college. My youngest went all through school in a private Christian school but is now attending a state community college.

My husband and I both loved school and thrived there so we saw no need to home school. The four years we did so were when we lived in an area that had a couple of Christian schools, but for various reasons we weren’t comfortable with them. I read a lot about home schooling at the time and there is much I liked about it: knowing exactly what my kids were learning and experiencing during the day, shared experiences and increased family time, opportunities to pursue other interests, etc. But it was also overwhelming to me, and they didn’t much enjoy it. I had a one year old when we started and the older two were beginning 5th and 2nd grades. I think if we had started when they started school or kept with it longer I would have eventually found my footing. For instance, because I was insecure and didn’t want to “mess up” their schooling and wanted to prepare them for eventually going back into the classroom, I was very classroomish and kept closely to the teacher’s manual. But if I were teaching them now, it wouldn’t matter to me whether  capitalization was in chapter 3 for one of them and chapter 7 for the other — I’d teach them together, rearrange the coursework to what best fit our family, do more with unit studies, etc.

We also tried video school for a while the A Beka curriculum. It was adequate, but, frankly, boring. It did free me up to be involved as little or as much as I wanted to be, but I don’t think it was the best choice for us: it would have been better for just one or two courses, like Algebra, that I wasn’t comfortable with.

We’ve been pleased with Christian schools. They are not perfect, but nothing is. My kids have been blessed with some very good teachers and great friends. Yes, a couple of times we ran into situations with less than ideal peers, but we ran into that at church occasionally, too, and at some point in time it is something they need to learn to deal with before they are launched out into the world. It provided good conversations about why we do and don’t do certain things.

I could not in good conscience put my children in public schools. I was in public schools from 3rd-10th grade, heard dirty jokes as early as 3rd grade, was subjected to other unwholesome influences in older grades. Yes, we need to train children to be salt and light in the world, but in their formative years we need to protect them and give them a good foundation.

How long have you been married? How many kids do you have, or want to have? Have you ever thought of adopting, or have you?

We’re coming up on our 33rd anniversary in December. We have three kids, all young adults now, only one still at home and one is married. I only briefly considered adoption when we were waiting for our first child: we were married for five years before he came along and were just beginning to wonder if there was a problem. I wasn’t really ready to think about adoption yet: at the time I felt I would only consider it if there were no possibility we could have children biologically. Nowadays I know people who have biological children but still consider adoption as a ministry, and that is wonderful, but it is not something we have felt called to pursue.

What is your greatest personality strength? Weakest?

Hmmm. That may be something I should ask my husband. Off the top of my head I’d say maybe that I am detailed and analytical. If I have a job or ministry to do, the details and the fulfillment of it are very important to me and I won’t do a slipshod job. On the other hand that drives me crazy sometimes.

Biggest personality weakness? Either cowardliness or struggling with self-control.

What is your favorite Bible verse or passage? Why?

There are far too many excellent ones to have just one favorite, but one that has ministered to me often through my life is Isaiah 41:10: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

What is your real name? What does it mean?

My real name is Barbara and it means “stranger.” Whenever this topic would come up when I was growing up. I’d always hear lame responses like, “Well, you’re the strangest friend I’ve ever had!” 🙄 I was named after my mom’s sister (and my middle name is after one of my dad’s sisters). I didn’t really like it until my pastor preached a message on Christians being “strangers and pilgrims” in this world, and that infused it with new meaning. Then I came across Deuteronomy 10:18-19: “[God] doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt,” which helped, too. 🙂

Just please don’t call me “Barb.” One meaning of Barb is sharp, mean things people say to one another, and I know people aren’t thinking of that when they call me Barb, but it still makes me cringe. And “Babs” makes me nauseated – no offense to any Babses out there. I knew a very nice and capable woman called Babs, but when I first knew her it was almost more than I could do to say her name.

Are you a bold and trendy dresser, or are clothes “not your thing?”

I’m somewhere in the middle. I’m definitely not bold, and I see no need to follow after all the latest fashions, but I don’t want to look several decades behind the times, either. I do like nice clothes, but what I think of as nice and what the modern world deems nice may not always match up.

If you were to write a book, what genre would it be?

I discussed what kind of book I might be interested in writing here: probably nonfiction or biography.

What is your favorite thing about where you live (country, neighborhood, etc.)? Least?

Eastern TN is beautiful country, especially during autumn. And I love seeing mountains from different vantage points. The Knoxville area is a nice size — not as big and busy as Atlanta or Houston, but big enough to have some shopping and diversions close by. The thing I like least is the false idea the rest of the world seems to have that TN is full of “hick” or dumb people.

Bonus question of my own: what is your favorite hymn and why?

This is almost as hard to choose from as a favorite Scripture, but one of my all-time favorites is “Before the Throne of God Above“, especially the stanza:

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

Set to this melody:

But I also like “Beneath the Cross of Jesus” (both the old version and the new), “The Sands of Time Are Sinking,” “His Robes For Mine,” “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us,” and many, many more.

I’ll close with a couple of photos that probably won’t make it into the Christmas cards but that were fun anyway — I almost enjoy these as much as the nicely posed ones.

This one will probably make it into the cards, though we had a hard time getting Grandma to look up, much less smile at the camera:

Backyard fun

The Together on Tuesdays topic last week was backyard fun, but I didn’t post because we don’t have much of a back yard now and haven’t spent much time out there in ages, except when my husband grills food.

But over the next few days, some backyard fun from earlier days came to mind.

I’m not sure how old the boys were when they wanted a treehouse. Just buying lumber from a commercial store was beyond our means at that time, but somewhere Jim found a place with a bunch of old wooden pallets, and he asked for them, took them apart, sanded them, and built a treehouse, compete with trap door. To my chagrin, it doesn’t look like we have any photos of it. But they and the neighbor kids spent hours out there.

I found a couple of other photos of their backyard activities:

These little scooters were all the rage at one time.

They pulled each other around in the wagon, and this time it looks they cooled off by adding water. 🙂 (The boys are mine, the girls are neighbors).

There was a little rise at the back of the property that allowed just enough of a thrill for small boys when it snowed to sled down or use an inner tube, or in a pinch, a flattened cardboard box.

Once my husband built a teepee for them.

I think a few times they camped out in the back yard.

We had a sandbox for several years, and when we got the dog, she was always someone to play with in the backyard. They blew bubbles, played ball, constructed mazes out of big cardboard boxes. They had a kiddie pool at one time.

And the trampoline was a big hit, but the pièce de résistance was when Jim put together some PVC piping and punched holes in it to make a sprinkler for the trampoline:


You’d think the water would have made it slippery, but it actually slowed down the bounciness some. It combined running through the sprinkler with jumping on the trampoline. And it looks like it made a handy water fountain, too.

I had always wanted a swing set, and we never had one, but I don’t think they missed out. 🙂 They associated swings and slides with the park which we visited often in those days.

I enjoyed this trip down memory lane. Thanks, Annette and Dorie, for the prompt!

Together on Tuesdays: Favorite Places

Annette at This Simple Home and Dorie at These Grace Filled Days have teamed up to create Together on Tuesdays as “a casual way to meet and connect with other women” over the summer. They’ve created a schedule of topics to discuss in order to get to know one another better, and the topic for this week is our favorites spots, either locally or a vacation spot.

Honestly, my very favorite spot is my own home. I’m not much of an adventurer and don’t travel well. I feel more at peace and rest at home than anywhere else. But it is necessary to get out of the house every now and then.

Many of our vacations have been to visit family, but we’ve had a few other outings over the years. Probably one of my all-time favorites was SeaWorld in FL. We had gone down when my oldest son was checking out colleges to see Clearwater Christian College (loved it, but they didn’t have the major he wanted at the time.) We were so near all the Orlando attractions, we took an extra day to do something fun. We had been to a similar place while visiting Jim’s brother in CA years before when Jesse was just a baby, and I had always wanted to take the family back to something like that when he was old enough to remember it, and this was our chance. I just loved the dolphin show.

I grew up near the beach, and didn’t realize how much I missed it until a family reunion when my older two were small. Unfortunately the standard of dress (or undress) has gotten so bad that we didn’t feel comfortable taking our guys out to the beach much, but some years back when our school’s spring break was a different week that the pubic school’s we took a few days and went to Charleston, SC, and stayed at a hotel right on Folly Beach. This photo was taken from a gazebo out at the end of a pier looking back at the hotel.

Folly Beach hotel

It was lovely. We had the beach mostly to ourselves. I loved hearing the sound of the ocean at night while going to sleep, and because we were right there we could go out on the beach at any time. Jim and Jesse liked going out in the early morning.

Folly Beach sunrise

But we were also close enough to everything else in Charleston that it wasn’t far to drive into town and see a few things there. We took a buggy ride around the city and a harbor tour and took the guys to visit the Yorktown and Naval Museum. It was a perfect blend of sight-seeing and restfulness. I remember coming back and feeling more rested than at any other vacation return. We had been to Charleston as a young married couple before we had children, going with a tour group the local Christian radio station had gotten together, and then we revisited it on our 30th wedding anniversary. At that time Jim had enough hotel points that we got to stay at a hotel right on the heart of the downtown area. It was fun to be right there in the city (for a visit — I wouldn’t want to live where it is so busy!) with restaurants, museums, and tour homes within walking distance.

Another place we’ve enjoyed visiting is the Asheville, NC area. We’ve been to the Biltmore House a few times. On one anniversary — maybe our tenth? — we went there, stayed in a generic hotel, and ate one dinner at the Grove Park Inn. The food was wonderful, and at first we were concerned when we read there would be live music (we’re not prone to rocking out 🙂 ), but it was a lovely string quartet. I said I’d love to come back some time and actually stay in Grove Park Inn. We did on our 25th anniversary. Inside — it was pretty much just like any other hotel room, so I doubt I’d be inclined to do that again, but I love eating there. I don’t really like the outside of the building, either, but their fireplace in the lobby is gorgeous. One of the restaurants in the hotel (there are 5 total, I think), looks out over the mountains, and I always wanted to take my folks out there some autumn, but we never made it before my mom passed away. She loved the fall colors. When we went for our anniversary during December, there was a Gingerbread House contest, and it was fun to look at those (some of them are here).

When my kids were little, some of our favorite places were the library and the Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC, about an hour’s drive from where we lived at the time. We went camping a lot then, honestly not my favorite thing but Jim and the kids really enjoyed it, and we had a couple of favorite spots at Paris Mountain State Park.

A favorite activity at one was feeding the ducks at the lake. This is Jason at about age 2 or 3.

Feedig ducks

I think we only rented paddle boats there once or twice. They didn’t have them available all the time. This is Jeremy and I when he was maybe 5. Jim was on a different paddle boat with Jason (the back of whose head is in the foreground) and took the picture from there.

At the lake

But mostly we did the usual camping stuff: slept in a tent, cooked over an open fire (including s’mores!) took walks, etc.

A couple of times Jim received an award or bonus or “thank you” from his work in the form of a trip, once to Chattanooga (we enjoyed the aquarium there) and once to Callaway Gardens in GA: the Butterfly Center and the little chapel were really nice.


Chapel window at Calloway Gardens

Another favorite outing was to the Applewood Farmhouse Restaurant in Sevierville, TN. We lived in SC at the time, and my mom loved to come visit in the fall because she didn’t have all the pretty fall colors in TX. It was a gorgeous autumn drive, and the food was superb. Plus they had some little shops connected to them, so we could do some of that kind of thing without getting into the more touristy parts of the area. My mom’s brother and sister-in-law lived close enough that they met us there. It was an all-around good time.

I’ve really enjoyed going back and revisiting these memories. Thanks, Annette and Dorie!

Laudable Link and Neat Videos

I almost didn’t post today because I didn’t have many links accumulated from the week’s reading — but sometimes short and sweet is nice. 🙂

Forgiveness For Moms Who Fail, which would be…all of us.

This is sooo funny — a dog trying to get a statue to play fetch. Poor doggie!

And this is just amazing: a young man with several disabilities but amazing talent on the piano:

Hope you have a great Saturday! I’m looking forward to getting my boy back today.