Tuesday, July 31, 2012


There are soo many things that I want to share about summer harvesting, I just don't know where to start. I write today's post about a little yellow flower we've been busy picking. It's usually called pot marigold. But the interesting thing is...it's not even really....a marigold. I'm talking about calendula. For centuries, countries in Europe have been using calendula flowers for it's healing capabilities. It is known to reduce pain & inflammation of the skin. Often, it is seen to treat wounds that have difficulty healing. It helps leg ulcers, ear infections, bladder infections, menstrual cramping, tonsillitis, gum, & tooth infections. I think you get the hint that it has huge antibacterial properties. Hip, hip, hooray for calendula! 

The flowers can be made into tinctures, teas, salves, & ointments. But....if you decide to use it for a skin wound, use it only in tea form only. You could do this by placing a couple of drops onto the affected area. Salves for broken skin may cause more irritation than help. Not because of the calendula, but because of the beeswax & other oils used to make it. Salves are great for minor skin issues like eczema, minor burns, & abrasions. For the tea, all you need is a cup of boiling water & a teaspoon of dried calendula flowers or petals. Place the flowers in the hot water and cover. Let it steep for 3-5 minutes before drinking. They also make for great cold teas. A wonderful site that will help you with all your herbal needs is mountainroseherbs.com. Pricing is good & you can find calendula, plant products, & much more in bulk. Another neat thing about calendula is that studies have shown it to be safe, non-toxic with no side effects. This is great, but I still wouldn't overuse nature's pharmacy.

Hope you enjoy & give this tasty tea a try!

Happy Trails:)

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Biltmore Estate

We are history lovers....

America's largest home boasts 250 rooms, 8,000 acres, & 43 bathrooms when many people didn't even have 1 indoors. The home was built in 1895 by George W. Vanderbilt and was designed by Richard Morris Hunt. (He also designed Central Park in New York.... I thought that was pretty cool.) We were utterly blown away by the immensity of this home. More like a castle if you ask me. Completely self-sufficient at the time, the Vanderbilt family were pioneers in gardening & agriculture. George & Edith had one child, Cornelia, who inherited the estate & continued to maintain & expand on the family's establishment.

Regardless of how close all the hotels are to the home, everyone has to pass through the gates and embark on a beautiful scenic road that leads you to an entrance building where you can purchase tickets. (You can get them in advance online & cheaper if you have a promo code.- Kids were free.) Then, back to your car through another set of gates where you present your tickets. A further drive takes you to specific parking areas where a shuttle then picks you up & takes you right to the front door. Astonishment! Wow, was it beautiful! Now, my pictures are going to focus on the gardens & outdoors. (Absolutely no picture taking is allowed inside, and yah... I was kinda sad.) But, I do have to say ~ this was the most organized self-guided tour ever. You could take as long as you wanted. The rooms were gorgeous. Seventy foot ceilings, fireplaces you can stand in and a bowling alley stuck back in time. My favorite rooms included the Louis XV Room, Oak Sitting Room, Pastry Kitchen, Banquet Hall, & Library. After the home tour which embarks on 3 floors and the basement, you are led outside where there is a mini bistro center offering food, drinks, and yummy southern ice cream. It's time I stop writing & show you some pictures!

I thought it was pretty romantic....
We were spending our nine year anniversary at an amazing place.

Gardens, gardens, & more gardens. There were so many to see!
(I didn't include the Spring Garden, Azalea Garden, & Shrub Garden in my pics...Sorry.)

The Italian Garden

The Rose Garden

The Conservatory

The Walled Garden

After touring the main grounds, the path headed over to Antler Hill Village & Winery.
Here, we got to explore farm life in the 1900's & meet some friendly animals.
We ended our visit with wine tasting (grape juice for kids) & a wonderful dinner.

I couldn't believe how huge this Eucalyptus was! I'm so used to seeing the little ones
at the garden center.

Future tomato posts. We have to try this next year.

I love when the kids have activities to do on sight.
They made puppet caterpillars:)

The blacksmith didn't make your typical "nail". Instead, he made a beautiful
piece of jewelry in the shape of a leaf with amazing curves.

I wanted to make this our Christmas card photo until I noticed my bra strap showing....Ughhh.....

You really need two days to visit this great landmark. For us history buffs, it was truly enjoyable & utmost interesting. There is so much to see & do. One things for sure, we're going back...
when the leaves turn color:) 

Happy Trails:)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Asheville, North Carolina

Yes....we were on vacation and sadly it is over.
But I come back home to The Mint Needle Blog ranting and raving about a new destination for history savvy souls.

My husband had a wonderful idea. "Let's see something new this year. Let's break up our drive down to the beach by stopping in Asheville, North Carolina." ~ "We should visit the Biltmore Estate & town." Ecstatic, I immediately began to plan our itinerary. I love visiting museums & anything that involves the times of yester-year.  Besides, the girls are getting bigger. What could be better than to take them on a historical trip followed by the ocean fun & sun?
It was a win win:)

I want to start off by letting you all know some great things about Asheville, North Carolina. Located at the foothills of the Blue Ridge & Great Smoky Mountains, this area is packed with things to see & do. The Pisgah National Forest, Grove Park Inn & Spa, Blue Ridge Parkway, Biltmore Estate, Chimney Rock Park, & the Folk Art Center are just to name a few. With a population of about 84,458 (2011 census), you have a perfect town feel. Our couple of days could've easily turned into a week. And The Blue Ridge Parkway is truly beautiful. (Even though I didn't see all 469 miles of it.) It's a great place to visit for those lovers of outdoors.
I wish I had brought my Schwinn bike on the trip!

There are a ton of hotels to pick & choose from, all within minutes from the Biltmore home. I have to admit, I couldn't picture everything being so close to an estate that owns 8,000 acres, but it really is.

Downtown Asheville is packed with indie, pop culture, small shops, & restaurants. And....I have NEVER seen soo many art gallery's in one city. For art lovers this HAS to be a stop. Musicians line the various streets with saxophones, cello's, xylophones, & guitars.

I especially indulged in the Fabric, Fiber, & Bead Trail.

 A little pamphlet to tell me where all the fabric shops are located.

 Of course I came home with few new yards of material:)))

The Foam & Fabric Outlet was packed with great pricing...& The Asheville Cotton Co. had me thinking I was in fabric heaven with 8,000 bolts to choose from!

Here's just a few of our special vacation pics:

The master mind behind our journey:)

Art is everywhere.

Great architecture is all around. Details.....

The city uses buildings & bridges as their canvas. Truly beautiful.

Shopping, shopping, & more shopping.

Yummy place to eat in downtown. The picture above shows the outdoor atmosphere.

Now.... I'm not going to upload all 407 pictures to the blog, but I will be breaking our trip up into many future posts. Ya know...all those new ideas & exciting things I have to share with my readers.
Next post, a visit to the Biltmore Estate.

Happy Trails till then:)