Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.

Wordless Wednesday




She can’t silence me people!

Katie here.

Well I never. I never! Mama and Daddy left me for almost three weeks! I was at camp and it was noisy and other dogs got all the attention! I swear no one fed me or played with me or took me outside and I was all alone!

Checking out my gardens.

Oh. You don’t believe that?

Well, OK, it wasn’t all that bad and they love me a lot there and I get to go outside a bunch, in fact they say I don’t want to come back inside when they call me. That’s cause I think I should get all the attention wherever I am, and do whatever I want, given I’m a princess. But it turns out all those other doggies are princesses and princes too! Who knew?

Hey mama! You saved me some tomatoes!


Mama finally came and got me and I told her off the entire ride home as is my right. And when I got home I told daddy off too. For hours. But then mama asked me if I wanted to go for a walk around the yard. Well yea mama!

I also told mama that none of you wanted to see her old pictures of forts and oceans and old houses and stuff. What you wanted (and I’m sure I’m right) is to see me! The Princess! Of course!! So I told her there better be lots of pictures on this blog (I can type but I don’t get the ‘insert media’ part of it. Plus I can’t decide which of my beautiful portraits should go where.) of me and she better get hopping because it’s been way too long since you’ve had the pleasure of seeing me.

And I told her she’s way behind in the camping quotient and I don’t care if it gets cold at night she better get that tent put up and it better be in an interesting place, not just my old back yard. Though on second thought the backyard might be OK, just don’t tell her that yet, I want to make her work for it.

I got to run in my yard!

I’m not vindictive, no I’m not.

Mama says daddy set the alarm clock each morning for 6:30 or 7 a.m. and she doesn’t know why. She thought she should be able to sleep in more, given it was her vacation. Well. I’m here to tell you mama, that 6:30 was sleeping in. Now that I’m back in town we’ll get right back to our normal schedule. Yep, 4:00 a.m. seems a reasonable time for a sheltie-mom to be up and at ’em.

Yes siree, I’m going to whip her back into shape. No more slacking mama!

My flowers are still pretty.

It is, after all, my responsibility as the Princess in the household to make sure my subjects are in shape.

She’ll thank me later.

Your gal Katie.


Mountains and a wedding

Yesterday afternoon we attended the wedding of friends of ours – a sweet wedding in a beautiful backyard filled with friends and family. It was a good day. And the sun shining over the mountains as we left the party made us smile too.

Beautiful clouds on a beautiful day for a wedding.

Today, the weather guy said we’d have more of the same sunny weather so we drove a portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway, looking for those beautiful blue ridges undulating off into the distance. We started out hopeful. But the higher we got the closer we were to the low hanging clouds.

The valley filled with clouds.

Until we were swallowed up entirely.

The cloud surrounds us.

The overlooks no longer overlooked anything.

What’s out there?

We drove very very slowly, but there was nowhere to go but on. Sometimes, depending on our elevation we’d get lucky and be able to see a mountain far off in the distance.

See Table Rock Mountain way over there?

The sun worked hard to burn away the mist, and eventually we started to see things. Like this orchard down below…

Apples are in season here now.

…and the beginnings of layering mountains showing their true colors.

And that’s why I love them…

We stopped to hike along some trails to a set of waterfalls. This was definitely worth the walk, the climbing up root covered hills…

Twin waterfalls! Aren’t they cute?

and flights of stairs to get higher…

When we were looking at the twin waterfalls we were standing near the top of this bigger fall!

…and higher in order to see some of the wonders that nature has hidden way back in the mountains.

Can you see the people?

We had a great time hiking through the woods, all the way to the very top overlook.

What a great day for a hike!

By the time we got back to the car and out on the Parkway again the sun was making those mountains glow. Just about everywhere we looked was a beautiful view.

I think I should build my house right here.

It was simply amazing.

Abstract art, but real life.

It was like this around every bend in the road. And there are a lot of bends on the Blue Ridge Parkway!

And now the clouds are pretty accents instead of hazardous fog.

Even though it was a very long drive, I didn’t want it to end.

Goldenrod signifies summer’s end, and the end of our mountain adventure. For now.

Sadly we have to move on to the next thing on our agenda.

But wait!

You say you wanted to know more about the wedding? Well, here’s the happy couple, very much in love. And of course they made us all cry when they shared their personal vows with each other. Plus they had really good food at the party after!

Here’s to many happy years together!

Congratulations Jackie and John!!

The cake was yummy too!


The gardens at Biltmore

When you visit Biltmore in Ashville NC, don’t forget to budget a lot of time to wander the gardens. They begin just down the hill from the house.

Make sure to visit the gardens down here!

There’s the original greenhouse structure that’s just chuck full of beautiful things. Inside it feels like you’re on a tropical island, or in a rain forest.

Make sure you venture inside here!

Here’s just a glimpse of the wonders you’ll find:

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And the gardens surrounding the greenhouse were stunning on the late summer day we visited. Blocks of color covered the grounds. It was so beautiful it was hard to know where to look first. Here’s some of it:

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And don’t forget the three water gardens. Just exquisite and in the end perhaps my favorite:

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I hope you all get to visit Biltmore sometime. I think the gardens would probably be pretty just about any time of year. There’s an azalea garden that would be stunning in the spring, and a huge rose garden that was past it’s prime when we were there, but would have been something a couple of weeks ago. And there’s always the mountains to marvel at, any time of year, but especially in the Fall when the leaves are turning.

So think about a trip to North Carolina and a stop at the Biltmore Estate. I don’t think you’ll leave disappointed.


Biltmore revisited

Many years ago, before we were married, my husband and I visited Biltmore in Asheville North Carolina. Today, 27 years later, we stopped by again.

Have you ever been? If not, visit their website, or if you’d rather, I’ll take you on a short (not covering nearly everything you understand) tour. I personally love the long drive back to the big house.

The long and winding drive.

It inspired me years ago, to dream about building a house in the middle of a hundred acres, just so that I could have a lovely long drive home through the trees similar to this one up to the Biltmore mansion.

The first glimpse of the house itself always makes me gasp, and then smile. It’s just so magnificent! Not my style, by any means, but it’s a beautiful structure. Completed in 1895, it was a summer home for George W. Vanderbilt and his family. With thirty-three guest rooms, it was a summer getaway for family friends too.

You can view it after climbing a switchback to an elevated stone wall…

Behind these walls are many steps.

…or climb way up a hill for higher vantage point.

See the mountains behind the house?

But once you get up close you notice all the amazing detail. Like the carvings and statues as seen on the front of the house, lining the grand staircase.

This is not builder grade.

Even the windows are elaborate.

Can’t you just imagine enjoying the view from these?

Inside it’s even more intricate, with a glass enclosed winter garden…

Glass ceiling with views of the tower.

…and an opulent dining hall.

What would I wear to a dinner party here?

Each room has ceilings that are different and extravagant…

Just one ceiling, and not even the most ornate.

…and the furniture is ornate too.

Beautiful embroidery.

But my favorite place in the whole mansion is the back veranda…

Such a peaceful beautiful spot.

..where the view of the distant mountains is stunning. I could sit out there all day, and I’m sure there were people a hundred years ago that did just that.

Imagine breakfast with this view every day.

Inside, the library was amazing, thousands of books that George Vanderbilt handpicked, covering all sorts of topics. The bedrooms were beautiful too, complete with their own bathrooms long before en suites were normal.

A warm, cozy place to spend a few hours reading.

And in the basement was a giant party room, painted by members of a party in 1920…

Just a tiny part of the giant mural painted by party guests.

…a bowling alley…

Fun on a rainy evening.

…and a 70,000 gallon pool with water pumped in from a mountain stream.

Anybody for a dip? Just have to fill the pool!

Biltmore, it’s an amazing, almost magical place, and that’s just the house.

A single family home.

Wait until you see the greenhouse and the gardens!


Late to the table

“Doesn’t anyone cook anymore?” I asked my husband as we stood in a long restaurant line after 7 p.m. on a Monday evening. We were, actually, there because I didn’t want to cook. Apparently not a unique position.

“But you usually cook,” he replied and I felt better somehow.

Now I wonder if cooking could have more than just health benefits. If you stretch your imagination a bit, think outside the box, maybe cooking could help fix what ails our country.

From the garden.

Don’t discount me immediately. That’s one of the problems we all have right now; we make instant decision about what’s right and what’s wrong before we hear a person out.

I have lots of time to think as I’m chopping and dicing, stirring and folding, preparing food for dinner. Today I’m making the marinara sauce for tomorrow’s eggplant parmesan.

And I’m thinking as I’m chopping onion and garlic that the problems facing our country, and the world, are so huge, so unsolvable, so much bigger than me. That I really have nothing to say that could change anything.

And yet.

I’ reading the articles and listening to interviews that point out people who stay silent are in fact condoning the hate and violence we all witnessed via twenty-four hour news this past weekend. Incidents that we’ve seen on other days too, prior to this weekend, and what we will likely witness in the days ahead.

I know I’m late to the table, but I don’t condone those hateful, racist, violent actions. I’m quiet because I don’t know what I, an individual, someone who hates politics on a good day, can do? What difference can my voice make?

It’s clear to me that the talking heads on television and on the radio aren’t going to fix the problem. The panels of people they bring in to ‘discuss’ the issues are entrenched in their own opinions, are spewing out the party line, give nonsensical answers to hard questions. Nothing is going to get resolved by watching their arguments.

And no one watching is going to change the minds they have already made up.

As I continue to chop and stir I contemplate the hateful events of the weekend, the political responses. The lack of response from me. And I realize that the only thing to change a person’s mind is talking, really talking, to another person.

And what better place to talk than over the slow preparation of a healthy meal?

One person listening to another person without forming judgement. And then having a chance to quietly, with logic and care express an opposing opinion. And continuing that discussion over the meal thoughtfully put together.

Getting to know someone who is different than yourself takes time and work and sometimes the overcoming of fear. But that’s the only way to make change in the world; getting to know people who are different than we are.

Chopping and thinking.

Oh I know the hate filled members of many white supremacist groups aren’t likely to have a calm discussion with anyone. They’re looking to escalate the hate. But there are plenty of people sitting on a fence about many of these issues, people that maybe voted in a different way than you or I might have. People who might feel strongly but may also feel a little doubt creeping in.

There are people from different religions with different ideas, people from different cultures, or just different upbringings who have ideas that deserve to be shared. Everyone has a story, and each story adds to the strength and value of all of us if we only listen.

There is actually much a quiet person like me can do.

So as I put the eggplant dish together I think I’ll push myself outside my comfort zone. I’ll try to stand up for that person getting bullied, voice another opinion when I think it needs to be heard, invite someone I don’t know to engage in thoughtful debate. I’ll stop reacting to Facebook politics, for either side, because that’s too easy, too anonymous and only reinforces opinions deeply held on polar opposite sides of any issue.

Lots of different flavors all stirred together in one pot.

And while I’m trying to understand the other side of some argument, maybe I can put together a simple meal and sit down and talk about it . Without rancor, without despair, without judgement.

Maybe a discussion held over a healthy meal won’t change anyone’s mind. But maybe it will. And at worst I’ll get a good meal, one I don’t have to stand in line for on a hot summer Monday night.

Maybe what our world needs is a food revolution of a different kind.

Summer hope.