Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas at the Grove Park Inn, Asheville

Thanksgiving weekend heralds the holiday celebration at the Grove Park Inn. The Gingerbread House Competition is over and the place is bustling with holiday activity. On the Friday after Thanksgiving they light the Christmas Tree in the Great Hall with festive celebrations. Crowds gather around, listening to the music or relax watching the roaring fire in the massive fireplace. At about 8 o'clock the tree is lit with lots of fun and fanfare much to the delight of the kids in attendance.

The tree this year is covered in lovely re, gold and white balls, butterflies and sprigs of glittery branches.  The hotel design staff works all night on Thursday to get it ready for the tree lighting ceremony on Friday.

Like Christmas elves, they have been busy decorating the rest of the hotel.  The second fireplace in the Great Hall has been set up for photo opportunities either by the house photographer or for anyone else who wants a great holiday shot of the family.

Each wing off the main building is lined with Christmas trees decorated beautifully.  They each have a specific theme  - peacocks, gingerbread, sports etc.  Many of the ornaments are sold in the Christmas Shop on the Vanderbilt Wing.

In the Sammons Wing another huge tree graces the hall there covered in white birds with flowing feathers, pine cones, hydrangeas and silver ornaments of all sizes.This one is my favorite. I also like this table piece with drift wood penguins playing with a red bow.

There are plenty more trees to feature on other posts.  On the tree note, I will be cutting down my tree this week and will post about that. Christmas tree farms are one of the main businesses in our area and getting a real tree is a must.

I have been working extra shifts this week for someone who was out and did 8 days straight over Thanksgiving so I hope to catch up on return visits this week. High winds knocked our phone lines out plus the Internet over the weekend too.  I am hoping for a quieter week this week! Have a good one!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Holiday Gingerbread Competition

About a week before Thanksgiving the Grove Park Inn begins to set up their holiday displays, getting ready for their 18th National Gingerbread House Competition. This is an annual holiday event for my husband and I. Contestants from all over the country bring their baked masterpieces for the judging on November 15 by 12 elite judges. After this four hour competition, the resort's visual design team moves the 325 entries to selected locations throughout the hotel for viewing.

The grand prize winner and other selected entries will be transported during the week of December 18 to NYC for the 12th appearance on ABC's Good Morning America. The competition entries will also be featured in Paula Deen Cooking Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, Southern Living and Family Circle.

Located way down the very end of the Vanderbilt Wing is the Grand Winner. With  a very untraditional display, Grand Prize Winner this year is Heather Lewis of Austell Georgie. Heather is the lucky winner of  a $3,000 cash prize, plus a two night Club Floor stay at The Grove Park Inn & Spa Resort, complete with dinner for two and breakfast daily at the historic hotel. All contestants receive a personalized certificate.

I thought most of the winning entries were very eclectic this year - the judges seem to choose the unusual over the traditional. The Adult (18 years and older) First Place winner is Angel Adkins, Kodak, Tennessee for her rocking horse.

I loved the Teen (13-17 years old) First Place by Skyla Delerme, Asheville, N.C. - it reminds me of the house and characters form the movie UP! Pretty impressive effort for that age group!

Interesting and well done is Youth (9-12 years old) First Place by Lydia Gentry, Hendersonville N.C.

Very elaborate work for Child (5-8 years old) First Place by Christian Ray, Charlotte N.C.

The gingerbread creativity featured themes running the gambit from castles to barnyards and country inns to windmills.  Entries were judged on overall appearance, originality/creativity, difficulty, precision and consistency of theme. The National Gingerbread House Competition™ awards more than $12,000 in cash and prizes. All the entries are showcased all over the hotel on each level.  It takes some walking to get to them all. Interspersed throughout are lovely wreaths and trees decorated for the season in many themes - that will fill another post.

Thanks for coming along on my annual visit to the gingerbread houses!  Wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving!  See you later this week.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Chocolate Gems of Black Mountain

I love chocolate.  I mean I would chose chocolate over just about anything. really.  I seek out the best places for chocolate and thankfully have one place a few minutes drive - Chocolate Gems.  They make all their own chocolate candy by hand in small batches with Belgian white, milk and dark chocolate - everything from truffles, nut clusters to chocolate sculptures.  They recently added gelato to their warm weather offerings.

The apple green storefront entices you in with descriptions of all their offerings. Let me tell you a bit about the owners -

Andrew and Sue met in France in 1996 while they were both signed on as crew for the delivery of a catamaran from France to Texas. The following year they set sail on their own boat from Waukegan, IL and sailed out of the Great Lakes, down the St Lawrence River and on to England, which is Sue's home country.

After five years of sailing they bought a house in Asheville. Sue started making chocolates at home and decided she wanted to do more. In 2005 they opened the shop in Black Mountain, NC. You will find them both in the shop early in the mornings, making chocolates.

My favorites are the truffles - at $1.95 each you only get few in a lovely wrapped gift box and and they are sinfully delicious. Since coffee is my other vice I love the Espresso Truffle -A dark chocolate and espresso coffee truffle, dipped in dark chocolate, sprinkled with cocoa powder. Second favorite is Lavender Truffle - A smooth creamy truffle made with a blend of chocolates and real lavender,
covered in milk chocolate topped with a crystalized lavender flower.  Mmm mmm.

They have added something new since I stopped by last - chocolate body products - now I know what to get other chocoholics for gifts!

Hope you have a enjoyed a peek into my town's guilty pleasures.  What is your favorite place to indulge?

We have a winner for my 150 Follower Give-away of a mystery novel by local writer Sallie Bissell and other locally handmade products from the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina.  Using Random.org with the entries numbered, the winning number belonged to Carol of Old Glory Cottage. Congrats to Carol and thank you all for entering and for your wonderful support.

Monday, November 15, 2010

River Arts Studio Stroll

Twice a year the River Arts District hosts an open house for all the galleries in this secion of town. I took advantage of the lovely fall day and went by myself on Sunday.

This was a very marginal neighborhood for many years after the mills closed in the 60's and 70's. The old and vacant warehouses along the French Broad River in Asheville are becoming a source of pride once again, with many being converted into studios and living quarters for aspiring artists. Today, more than 100 working artists have set up shop in the River Arts District. Many of these studios are open on a regular basis. Their "River Arts District" signs are easy to spot along the small triangle of streets and avenues with road names such as Clingman, Depot, Haywood, Lyman, Riverside and Roberts.

Clingman Cafe

Almost all of the studios are open for the Studio Stroll, now in its 14th year. Artists welcome you into their studios to talk with them, see their latest artwork, watch demonstrations, and experience for yourself the magic hidden inside the old factories and warehouses along the French Broad River. More than 110 artists are participating! The Studio Stroll is free and open to the public. Most studios are within walking distance of each other, and there is plenty of free parking. 

The Clingman Cafe was doing a booming buisness and was selling food to go by the sidewalk. The first studio I checked out was 240 Clingman with these large abstract and colorful paintings by Jonas Gerard.  They had quite a spread with music, lots of appetizers - strawberries, chocolate, veggies and dip with beverages.

I head back down the street to where I parked and crossed the railroad track to the the Warehouse Studios which houses several artists including Wendy Whitson - I loved her soft landscape paintings.

Next to them is a group of buildings called Curve Studios and Garden. Fabric artist Pattiy Torno bought the building in 1989 back when there was no "District" here.  One of the buildings then housed a punk rock bar. It is come a long way since then  They had a great selection of pottery and clothing with many artists on hand to demostrate their craft.

Colorful fabric from Pattiy Torno's studio.

The kids were sounding the tube shaped bell.

Potter Patty Bilbro at work.

Some of the garden  metalwork

There is more to see on my next post.  It is great that this area is being lovingly brought back to life by such creative folks.  Be sure to check back later this week for the announcement of the winner of my drawing - leave me a comment that you want in, if you haven't already.  The Giveaway page under the header will divulge the details.


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