Azalea Garden
If you’re visiting Asheville (or if you live in the area) one of the things I highly, highly recommend you do between the end of April and beginning of May is visit the Azalea Gardens at The Biltmore Estate. They are exquisite. I wish I could share the fragrance with you along with these photos.

bee If you arrive early (as in, right when the Estate opens) and park down near the gardens you’ll probably be lucky enough (especially on a weekday) to have your own private sanctuary for a good half an hour before more guests head your way. Along with the birds, bees, and bunnies, that is!

raindrops We have had so much rain (and thunderstorms, and even a tornado warning!) this week, so the flowers were still pretty wet the morning I visited.

purple azalea It makes for a nice floral carpet, though, no?

purple azalea

pink azalea I had such a relaxing time wandering down the path, absorbing all the color. The kids were in school so it really was quiet (except for the aforementioned birds). However, I have taken the kids on this same walk before and it’s great exercise for them, too!

sunshine and azaleas Loved the morning sunshine (around 9:30am)…

azaleasonrocks…and the petals on the rocks.

azalea gardens I tried to take some wide shots to really give you an idea of the scope of these gardens…

Biltmore Estate Azalea Gardens…love, love, loved this misty grove near the Bass Pond.

Azalea Gardens at the Biltmore Estate

ivy Of course, there’s plenty to see when the flowers aren’t in bloom, too. It’s such a gorgeous place!

Last photo of the morning – I had to pull over to the side of the road for this shot when I saw that mama and papa goose were out & about with their babies. (Thanks to a telephoto lens, I wasn’t really that close to them; I know to stay away from hissing geese even after trying to explain myself.)

PS. If you’re a Biltmore bride, I think the Azalea Gardens (especially when in bloom) would make an excellent location for your bridal portraits!

Last night Mark & I dropped by the Blue Spiral 1 gallery downtown for the opening of their newest art exhibit. (You can probably imagine how we loved having an excuse to hire a babysitter and get dressed up & go downtown.) We were invited by Aaron, who is showing his work there along with several other artists in the new exhibit (you can see a tiny glimpse of one of his colorful paintings in the very center of the photo above, if you look through the door to the gallery.)

I really enjoyed the mix of artists as well as the combination of different mediums – wood, paint, clay, glass, and mixed media. Of course I loved Aaron’s new work, and I also liked Emily Leonard’s paintings — there’s a piece of hers that greets you right as you walk in the door that was my favorite. It’s hard not to touch things, though, so I just stood as close as I could possibly get to the pieces so I could absorb them. Also, the top floor of the gallery houses all of the work they have on hand, and there was a lot of glass up there to enjoy. Anyway, it was fun, and inspirational – a good way to spend a few hours on a weekday evening (or anytime) if you find yourself looking for ideas.

I am curious about this book. Apparently Asheville is listed in it as a happy place. The Asheville Citizen-Times quotes the author as saying, “Asheville has earned a singular reputation as the kind of city that Americans move to seek their bliss.”
My favorite quote in the article, though, is from a local Ashevillian, who says, “I think Asheville is the happiest place because we have a high concentration of creative people.” He continues, “Being creative and knowing you are not alone in the world, that is enough for hope.”

I love that! Being creative is certainly a large part of our lives here.
But I’m sure you can be happy in your creative home, too!

We had brunch yesterday with the lovely Gabby & Mike, who were in town for a wedding this past weekend. As you can probably tell from the photo below, Harper had a good time with Gaaahby (who diligently picked up every single crayon Harper threw on the floor) and Mike (a name considerably easier to pronounce than Gabby, apparently!) When Harper woke up from her afternoon nap she said, “Gaahby be right back!”

So, so happy to know that Mike & Gabby are expecting their own little one at the beginning of next year!
Thank you so much for brunch, guys! Please come back to Asheville soon!
PS. I can’t believe I forgot to order some of those free-range eggs.

Obviously, if you know me well enough, you’ll realize that the title is tongue-in-cheek.

Do I always start out that way? Probably.
So. Today while taking Cole to school the weather report on the radio called for “overcast skies with periods of sunshine.” Not bad, I think. We drop off Cole, run errands, hit the dry cleaners where they know us by name (love that!), stop at home, start a new book, check email. get mail. blah. blah. While looking online I discover that we have once again missed the peak monarch migration in our area, which happened a mere 2 evenings ago up on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

But why not just go up there to check, I think? There might be a few stragglers, after all, and overcast skies are usually good for taking photos. So I pack up Harper and ponder a picnic, which would be the good mom thing to do. Instead we swing by McDonalds, where they probably already could know us by name but thankfully don’t rub it in our faces, and the lady hands over our bags and says, with force, “you have a good day.” Not in a whimsical, la la la maybe you’ll have a good day, but more like in a drill sergeant way. “Yes, ma’am.”

We pick up Cole, who is immediately alerted to the fact that we’re not going home when I turn left at the stoplight rather than right. He’s excited about the possibility of seeing butterflies when I tell him that we’re taking a drive along the parkway, but really more excited about the toy in his happy meal.

I’m just going to blame this next little part on growing up a flatlander, but as you may or may not know, the thing about driving up a mountain is that you sometimes encounter different weather conditions than you would if you were in the valley. In our case, we quite literally drove into those overcast skies, in the form of heavy cloud cover. Which looks really pretty when you’re gazing up at the mountains but is rather dense and a little hard to drive in when one is actually up on the mountain without guardrails on either side.

But never fear, this is an adventure! We continue on, the kids, oblivious to any of my agitation as they snack on their food and watch Charlotte’s Web, and me, looking for mile markers to determine where we are, and which are VERY hard to see due to the fact that well, we pretty much can’t see. Honestly, though, I’m making is sound worse than it is.

See for yourself — go ahead, take a moment to enjoy the view.

What? You can’t see it? Well here, maybe if you look over the sign (that would be me holding the camera over the sign.)

Seriously, though, we did have fun! We discovered we’d been looking in the wrong spot for the monarchs all along, so we might actually see them next year when they come (I fear that if I ever do get to observe the migration it’ll be rather anticlimactic.) The location where 300+ were reported the other night is right along this trail…

And look! Acorns — you can’t find those at home.

I think Harper took me a little too seriously on the whole “look over” the overlook thing…

Awww, it’s love.

But only briefly before the screeching begins.

So yes, we did have fun. The kids got to run around and get dirty and I entertained myself by taking funny photos. But just guess what happened when we finally decided to turn around and head back down the mountain? Oh yes, the cloud cover was finally lifting. Ha ha ha, God. That’s funny. See? there’s a peek at our pretty view.

Oh, and for the record, we didn’t see any monarchs.

Floating over the neighbor’s yard…