Biltmore Estate and a Vegan Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving sunrise in Leicester NC

On Thanksgiving Day we awoke to the sun rising proudly over the blue ridge mountains. Our cabin provided a cozy night of sleep and we were ready to start our busy day of touring, cooking, and eating. At 8:30 a.m. my dad and brother headed off for a snowy hike while my Mom, Veronica, Ryan and I took off for our tour of the breathtaking Biltmore Estate.

Biltmore Estate, ABLA

Biltmore Estate is a jaw dropping mansion nestled on 125 acres in a valley of the blue ridge mountains right outside of Asheville, NC. The country mansion, built between 1889 – 1895 served as the luxurious family home of George and Edith Vanderbilt. Yes, those Vanderbilts! Today, it is open to the public and is the largest privately owned home in the United States.

With a distinct eye and a passionate drive, George Vanderbilt designed and decorated the elaborate estate with only the best materials, artisans, builders, landscapers, and decor. While the building was under construction, an entire village was formed on the grounds full of all the workers and artisans. They also built a railroad leading to the construction site. No expense was spared! The beautiful grounds were designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed New York City’s Central Park.

The 178,926 square feet, including 250 rooms and 43 bathrooms are filled with original artwork, custom woodwork and furniture, 65 fireplaces, 16th century tapestries, rugs, and priceless decorative pieces collected from around the world. Highlights include the library with 10,000 volumes, a bowling alley, an indoor swimming pool, great hall with 70 foot ceilings, and beautiful winter garden atrium.

The mansion was lavishly decorated for Christmas – I was so ready to make myself at home in front of one of the 70 elaborately decorated Christmas trees or fireplaces that were the size of studio apartments. It was also fun to see the servants quarters and kitchen – I couldn’t help but think of Downton Abbey. It was hard to imagine that this was the daily home of a real American family. Truly a special experience!

You cannot take pictures inside of the mansion, so the indoor photos I am sharing are courtesy of the Biltmore website 


The Great Hall (formal dining room)

winter garden

The Winter Garden – a beautiful atrium

guest bedroom

Guest Bedroom

biltmore estate library

My favorite room in the mansion – The two-story library with over 10,000 books in 7 different languages and a mural ceiling

After touring the inside of the house we explored the luscious grounds which included a beautiful flower conservatory and gardens.

Ryan and Katie outside of the Biltmore

Biltmore Gardens

Biltmore conservatory


Ryan, Katie, Mom tree

Flowers at Biltmore

biltmore red and white flowers

Biltmore Gardens

Biltmore estate

 Touring this beautiful, gilded home is a must for anyone in the area!

Before leaving the Biltmore village we hit up the Biltmore winery and did a fun wine tasting. We tasted some good wines, but only a select are grown on site at the Biltmore vineyards. It was a great way to warm up for the Thanksgiving meal cooking.

Biltmore Winery

Once back at Eric’s home in the mountains of Leicester, we began preparing our Thanksgiving feast. Our gracious hosts, Veronica and Eric are vegan and we were cooking an entirely vegan Thanksgiving dinner. We had all the staples of the traditional feast like, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn casserole, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, gravy, and pumpkin pie. But yes, no turkey. The meat was substituted with a celebration roast. Personally, I’m not a fan of turkey and have never eaten the bird on Thanksgiving day. Give me stuffing and corn and I’m a happy girl!

Veronica and Katie cooking Thanksgiving dinner

mom cooking Thanksgiving

We had a lot of fun having some pre dinner drinks and being silly with each other. Dinner was delicious and as is expected, we stuffed ourselves to the point of being uncomfortable. But, we pulled through, finished off the wine and had a fun night playing games. We must have gone through an entire deck of cards for Gestures and have priceless memories of us acting out hilarious clues. We played boys against girls and had quite the rivalry going. Ryan nicknamed our drinks “Guessing Juices” and as it always goes – the girls won. High five!

Katie and Dad Thanksgiving

Ryan, Dad, Eric Thanksgiving

Walsh family Thanksgiving

Truly thankful for my fun family! We may clash, me may be all different, but we’re family and in the end we have fun and love each other. Isn’t that the best part about family?

Weekend Wrap Up – Thanksgiving Week 11.25.13


Another weekend flew by and now we are greeted with a beautiful two-day week and Thanksgiving vacation! This weekend was kind of a whirlwind – we didn’t have too many plans, but it was busy with errands, and decorating, and preparing for Thanksgiving. I scored that adorable sign above at Home Goods – could have spent a fortune there on Saturday!

Our house is a beautiful cozy Christmas retreat and I love just sitting on the couch basking in the glow of all my reindeer (my obsession) and pretty candles while watching cheesy Lifetime Christmas movies.

Today, I’m so thankful for a two-day week and so thankful to be able to travel to the Asheville, NC area to spend Thanksgiving at my brother and sister in laws house. This will be my first time traveling to his new (3 years!) home. My parents have visited them over Thanksgiving the past couple of years while I’ve stayed at home (no vacation time and dogs to take care of). I’m so excited I get to come along this year!

So, in the wee hours of Wednesday morning Ryan and I will load up my parent’s mini van and join them for the 11 hour trek to NC.

Both the cabin we are staying in and my brother’s house are in the mountains and very isolated, so I will be without internet connection for a few days. My blogging will be limited and I will enjoy unplugging and family time. My brother and his wife are vegans and we will be having a 100% vegan Thanksgiving!

I’m looking forward to exploring their town, touring Biltmore Estate, and seeing the views of the Blue Ridge mountains. Oh, and all the games, drinking, and snacks that will be taking place!

When we return on Sunday – it will officially be Christmas time!

As November is drawing to a close – I thought it best to do a second recap on my Fall Goals:

fall goals

Clean out closets and donate clothes   – almost all done! Will post before and after photos of my closets, because I’m proud! 

Resist buying any clothes until November   – As I mentioned in my first recap – I failed this right away. But I succeeded at not buying any clothes or accessories for myself between mid September to the second week of November! I honestly didn’t miss having a new shirt once a week (yes, I was that bad)I used the saved money on Christmas gifts.Score! 

Organize office

Print photos from wedding and other recent events for albums and frames  

Learn more than just 4 settings on my camera – getting there!

Wake up earlier on the weekends  – nope, we just can’t seem to kick lying around in bed on weekend mornings when we have no urgent plans. 

Do more than 12 full push ups at a time   

Stop late night snacking and wining – nope! this has probably gotten worse – I blame the cold weather and being covered in baggy winter sweats and blankets! Also explains why the only clothes that fit me well right now are yoga pants and dresses. Time to get serious —(after Christmas?!?!) 

So I completed 50% of my goals. Humpf. I decided that in the future, I’m going to break them down in months. I will be posting my December goals soon and will be taking part in Amber’s (from Mr. Thomas and Me) #sayyesproject.  Help me stay on track guys!

How are you spending your Thanksgiving?


xoxo katie