"" Writer's Wanderings: 2024

Wednesday, July 03, 2024

Tributary Or Distributary? Are We Cruising The Ganges?

 This fall we will be doing a river cruise in India. Our main goal is to get to see the Taj Mahal but the river cruise will give us a deeper look into the culture and traditions and, don't forget, the food of India. The cruise is advertised as "India's Golden Triangle And The Sacred Ganges".  The Golden Triangle includes the cities of New Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Our visit to those places are all pre-boarding the river boat.

As always, I try to do as much research ahead of a cruise to see where we are going and what we might want to do or see along the way. New Delhi promises an excursion with a rickshaw ride to a historic area and a market. Agra is where the Taj Mahal is located and the hotel that is booked by the cruise company is said to have amazing views of the iconic structure. Jaipur is a place that I was unfamiliar with but it is called the Pink City because the Maharaja at the time of Queen Victoria's visit to the city ordered the buildings to be pink, a sign of hospitality. It should be interesting.

Then we fly to Kolkata to board our riverboat. I was curious about our itinerary and the path it would take on the Ganges. As I began to search for the cities and towns where we were to stop, I found that we were actually navigating what was labeled on the Google Map as the Hooghly River. What?

A little more internet surfing and I had the answer. The Hooghly River is actually fed by the Ganges River. It is known as a distributary as opposed to a tributary which would flow the other way to feed the Ganges. Confused? I was. I had never heard the term distributary but it applies to a river that flows away from the main stream and does not return to it.

So, are we cruising the Ganges? In a sense we are. Does it matter to us? Not really. As I said, our main goal is to see the Taj Mahal. All the rest is just extra time to explore and absorb all that we can. We've never been to India before so it will all be new to us. I am packing the antiacid however. I've tasted curry and every delectable dish that I see recommended for us to try while we are there mentions lots of spices. 

Monday, April 01, 2024

New Release! Hidden In Harper Valley


Announcing my new novel, Hidden In Harper Valley. Here's the back cover teaser:

Suzanne Brown and her daughter, Dominique have begun a new life in the pretty little town of Harper Valley. Suzanne and Dominique struggle a bit with their new identities and the backstory they have created to fit their new circumstances. Although Suzanne does not need to work, she finds a job as a bookkeeper at the fabric mill in town so people will not suspect she secretly has a net worth of millions.

While Dominique who is about to turn thirteen tries to adjust to attending a public school and a church teen group, she desperately misses her BFF back in California but she has been warned not to communicate with her. How can she survive with no friend to share things with, especially her love of photography.

Scott Frazier, youth pastor at Valley Christian Church, grows closer to Suzanne and Dominique as he seeks to help Dominique fit into the church youth group. At the same time, he finds that Suzanne is a woman he would like to get to know better. Little does he know what danger that may put him in.

Although Suzanne’s brother Michael, a US Marshall who has arranged for them to be hidden in Harper Valley, assures her that her past will not find her, she soon realizes all the precautions they have taken have failed. She is being stalked. Their hiding place has been discovered. Will her ex-husband follow through on his promise?

Hidden In Harper Valley is available in paperback and Kindle formats at Amazon. If you get a copy and read it, a review on Amazon would be greatly appreciated even if it is just to fill in a few stars. The reviews really help.

Now, on to the next in my Casey Stengel series...

Friday, February 16, 2024

What's Up With The Snowbirds?

 My blog has been a bit neglected but I have a good excuse. I am finally nearing the finish of my next novel, Hidden In Harper Valley. I'll give you a hint with a question: What would you do if you suddenly had millions of dollars but your life was in danger?

My other excuses have to do with continuing to explore with our Florida grandkids. Life has been busy. 

Have you ever been on a chocolate walk? Thanks to our daughter-in-law who messaged me the information, we were able to have a great evening in historical downtown Venice. We went early and had dinner at the Crow's Nest which had a beautiful view of an inlet from the gulf. Afterward we walked down to the jetty and joined the crowd watching a beautiful sunset. Then it was on to the chocolate walk.

The chocolate walk took place between five and eight and by the time we got there around 6:30, many of the shops were out of chocolate. Still we managed to score some delicious chunks including a couple of Godiva chocolates as well as a taste of rich hot chocolate from an ice cream shop where we also got our dessert, creamy ice cream. 

There have been some lovely sunset evenings at Maxine Barritt Park about twenty minutes or so from where we are staying. It is amazing how many people flock to the Sharkey's Restaurant pier to see the sunset but the park right next to it is mostly empty with a whole beach in front of it to watch the sunset. We find a little spot where there is a bench and a break in the sea grape trees and brush and relax as we watch the colors in the sky turn from bight yellows to pinks to purples and sometimes come ablaze with oranges as well.

After a lunch with friends from home who actually have become residents of Florida, we met our son and his family for a walk through the MOTE Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in Sarasota. It's one of their favorite places to visit and they were eager to show us around. We got quite a tour.

The aquarium was a pleasant drive from where we had lunch and took us over a huge bridge that spanned the narrow part of Sarasota Bay. It was a nice sunny day and while some are complaining about the cool weather here, I'm happy with sun and days that start in the upper 50s and climb to the 70s.

While we waited for our kids to arrive, we took a little time to explore the bird sanctuary that is right next to the aquarium. It is free--donations encouraged--and a very pleasant walk around to see the birds they are caring for, some who will return to the wild and others whose injuries will make them permanent residents. We found spoonbills which are always a delight to see.

Once the rest of the family arrived, we entered the aquarium and began our visit. There was quite a variety of marine life both large and small. Lots of research going on here. Some is visible, like the jelly fish reproductive area. Much goes on behind the scenes. 

The aquarium is expanding and building another facility near I-75. With all the spreading development in Florida there is a concerned effort to protect the natural beauty and environment of the state. Hopefully they will succeed because the rich abundant wildlife and marine life are absolutely worth preserving.

Part of the aquarium is located across the street in a separate building where there is a manatee and a huge shark tank. The only alligator we saw was the sculpture we passed in a hallway on the way out. Of course there always has to be one clown in the group. Neither she nor the sculpture were harmed. 

And between all this activity, pickleball, card games, writing and discovering new restaurants to sample, we managed to finish the jigsaw puzzle we purchased at Biltmore and start another.

Saturday, February 03, 2024

Marine Lab and County Fair

 The weather is not the only thing that draws us to Florida each winter. It is an opportunity to be close to grandkids and to be a small part of their lives. Our oldest who are in high school have the unique experience of taking marine biology courses and becoming part of a marine biology group at school.

The school is amazing in all of that they do. There is also a performing arts group and lovely theater where we've been able to see a production already. The granddaughter who will be in high school next year is already part of that group and loves costume designing.

Getting back to the marine lab. We were able to attend an open house at the school lab. It is a huge lab (and classroom) with several large tanks and many individual smaller ones which are assigned one to each student to maintain. The school is licensed to collect from the bay area near them and they have a nice variety of fishes and other marine life on hand to study.

The large tanks include a "touch tank" with animals such as a starfish that you can actually touch--much like a touch tank in aquariums or at marine parks. Another large tank is home to several sting rays. 

The lab and its instructor who is a marine biologist (naturally) is a great opportunity for learning to appreciate the marine environment that is a big part of Florida. Whether it produces more marine scientists or not, it will certainly produce adults who care about their surrounding ecology. So grateful that our kids can be a part of it.

Our other venture into Florida culture was to visit the county fair. We haven't been to a fair in quite a while and with the cool temperatures, it was a perfect day for it--or evening as the case was. The fair was only open during the day on weekends and then from five to ten on the weekdays. 

It was not as big as some of ours are in Ohio but it had all the components that make up a fair--animals, agricultural and craft displays, rides and of course, fair food. 

We walked past cages of chickens and roosters, some fancier than others. I was surprised to find a couple of pheasants. I've never seen a pheasant at a fair before. There was a row of bunnies. There were plenty of ooos and ahhhs as people walked that row. Bunnies will do that to you.

In a large barn were rows of pigs. No ooos and ahhs but plenty of comments of how much they weighed. Most were just under 300 pounds. Lots of bacon!

The steers were outside in a covered coral probably to be sure they didn't get overheated in the Florida sun although heat hasn't been much of a problem since we've been here.

Well, after seeing the bacon and steaks, we were getting hungry so we perused the fair food offerings. There were a lot of repeats of the same food but we settled on a place that had some tables set up where we could sit and eat. Bob ordered a well done cheeseburger and I got a Polish sausage with onions and peppers. The fries only came in one size and one order was more than the two of us could eat. Add a bottle of water and our total cost for dinner at the fair was $40! Dessert was two caramel apples that we carried home to eat.

The rides area was the busiest of the whole fairgrounds. We watched a few and reminisced about the days when we could ride and enjoy. Now, we'd be afraid we wouldn't be able to stand up after them. The ferris wheel was tempting though but we passed.

Pickleball, the hand and foot card game, Bible study, church, a jigsaw puzzle, long walks and the occasional race after dinner to the beach which is about 25 minutes away to catch the sunset fill our days. We've only had a couple of days that were pool worthy but for me, I've enjoyed the temps in the upper 60s and middle 70s along with low humidity. Kind of like spring in the north.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Exploring Venice (Florida not Italy)

 Entering our villa in the Gran Paridiso community was relatively easy. We arrived a little early but when we contacted our leasing agent, she quickly gave us the entrance information we needed to move in. Gran Paridiso is a gated community in what we thought was Venice, FL but it turned out to actually be in North Port. The zip code assigned is for Venice but they pay their taxes to North Port who provides the city services. 

It took a little organization in learning what was and what wasn't in the villa as far as supplies went. In Key Largo's condo, there were always some condiments and lots of cleaning supplies. There was only a small smattering of cleaning supplies (no rags to use) and absolutely nothing in the super clean refrigerator/freezer. Oh wait! There were ice cubes. 

Lake Jervy

Wellen Park is a developing community only about a mile and a half away and has a Publix, as well as several restaurants, a Great Clips and a nail salon. And for Bob, the all important Ace Hardware. He can always find something to tinker with. We hit the Publix and did a major shopping trip for the absolute necessities. Over the next week, we'd find more things we needed and hopefully will get all used up before we leave in March. If not, our kids who are not far away can expect a windfall of leftovers. 

The all important pickleball courts were our next adventure. Gran Paridiso has six permanent courts and two that are flexible. It's not much different than back home where rules are a bit loose for rotation time on the court but for the most part, it works well and we were welcomed in. Pickleball people are usually very friendly no matter where you play.

Always smiling

The pool is huge but it does have to serve a community of 2,000 homes. We could only look at it for the first week since the temperatures were not conducive to swimming. Getting in would not be bad. It's heated.  Getting out would be a chilly run for cover. 

There is a nice gym with saunas as well. In the same center, there is a craft room and card room with two billiard tables. We found a group that plays hand and foot cards (Wisconsin style) every Tuesday and learned a few new rules and strategies. In the building that houses the offices and a huge lounge area, there is also a library full of books. 

Sharky's pier

The beaches of Venice are about twenty-five minutes from us. We found a place called Sharkey's that has a pier reaching out into the water where many people stroll and/or fish. The beach is known for finding shark's teeth and one warmer day we saw lots of kids with screen scoops searching the sand for good finds. 

Next to Sharkey's however, was a beautiful park and we enjoyed exploring and finding places where we could watch sunsets in the future. Our first couple of weeks were a bit cloudy, rainy and some days, downright cold. But it didn't snow!

Before leaving home, we had done a little research online to find a church to attend. We happened upon a group called The Church at Wellen Park which is five minutes from our villa and is a start-up church that meets at a small college campus. When we were first married, we were members of a start-up church. This has brought back fond memories. It's a nice congregation who are very friendly and welcoming. 

The campus of the college has a natural habitat in the middle of the acreage. It is a large lake named after a professor, Lake Jervy. There are some herons and other cranes that can be observed as well as a few alligators of course. The trail around the lake is pleasant to walk and we've visited several times already.

Gran Paridiso is not without nice places to walk and I have often walked from the community center back to the villa (about a mile) past several ponds. The interesting walk however is when Bob and I go the other direction to the two ponds by the back entrance near our villa. There are a couple of resident alligators there who come out when the sun shines. Oh and some very brave birds that dot the shoreline.

Big Hank

While the villa does not have the beautiful view that the Key Largo condo did, it is close to lots of interesting places, not to mention about twenty minutes away from our kids. We've already had a football watch party, a swim excursion, an evening with the conservatory they are part of that educated us on sawfish. One evening we were able to join them for a play at their high school and look forward to going to an open house for the marine lab they are involved with at their school. 

We are finding great places to eat including two that are on the Myakka River not far from us. One of them features BBQ and the best brisket I've had in a long time. Not sure about the alligator meat although they do have two very large stuffed alligators that decorate the indoors. Then there's the restaurant that we ate at just by chance with a spaghetti sauce that outdoes Olive Garden by far. Of course we had to find a Saturday breakfast spot. We found two. One which is similar to our favorite back home and another that is a pleasant alternative.

Sandhill crane

On Sundays, there is a farmer's market at what's called Wellen Park Downtown. It is a cluster of restaurants and big central area where live music is scheduled on weekends. My guess is this will be the center of all the development planned for the area. So far at the farmer's market we've found some nice veggies, strawberries and Bob's favorite bread and butter pickles and my favorite, soft pretzels.

A big find for Bob is a local ham radio club and they have invited him to join in on their winter field day. 

One of the things unique to this area are the sandhill cranes. They are about four feet tall when they stand up straight. The ones in Gran Paridiso don't seem to be afraid at all of people. The one I managed a picture of walked part of the way next to me on my morning stroll back  to the the villa from pickleball. 

We have only made a dent in the places to explore around here. We have plenty of time left for more great finds.

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

The Rest of Our Migration

Originally our migration south was to follow our usual route of home to Dobson, NC, to Fernandina Beach, FL, to our new destination in Venice, FL. Unfortunately when Bob tried to book our usual Hampton just off of I77 in Dobson, there were no vacancies. Unusual because we were booking months in advance. He booked our second choice, the Hampton in Mount Airy. He continued to book our stays and restaurant choices (we have some favorites) and paid ahead making them impossible to cancel.

Of course then he decided we needed to do something more with the Christmas season and we found the information for Christmas at Biltmore. That meant that after our Biltmore visit, we would have to backtrack a bit to Mount Airy for our stay there.

Mount Airy is Andy Griffith's hometown. It is Mayberry for all intents and purposes. Stores full of Mayberry themed products dot the downtown streets. We did a great tour on our own a few years ago and I posted about it. You can find it here: Mayberry USA.

It was still very cold and a bit windy so a lot of exploring in Mayberry was not going to happen. We were hungry when we arrived and sought out a place to eat. Where we parked was close to Barney's Cafe so we ducked in there. Lots of good choices on the menu that struck a chord with us. I ordered a PBJ with fruit cup and Bob got a grilled cheese sandwich, his favorite. It's a tiny cafe but very nostalgic.

We visited a couple of stores and then retreated to our hotel room for the rest of the afternoon. Dinner was at our favorite boutique restaurant at the Shelton Vineyards, Harvest Grill. We sat by a crackling fireplace and enjoyed a delicious meal.

On to Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island. Our favorite little French restaurant has been changed to a more contemporary restaurant and we had to sit outside on the patio with the aid of area heaters to keep us warm. It was New Year's Eve and they were busy.  The plan was to walk down to the marina and watch the shrimp drop (a giant lighted shrimp they drop from a big crane). Unfortunately we didn't realize the drop wasn't at midnight. It was at seven o'clock followed by fireworks. We did get to see the fireworks. The early hour for the drop and fireworks explained why there were so many kids around to celebrate.

We arrived at Gran Paradiso in Venice the afternoon of New Year's Day and after a phone call to the management rental company, we received our information to get into our villa. The villa is lovely but we have given up our wonderful view of the Florida Bay for grass and shrubs but we are closer to where our kids now live. The things you do for grandkids.....

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

Exploring Biltmore--The Conservatory

 There have been many indoor garden displays that we have explored but I think this is my favorite. The conservatory sits inside the walled garden. At first we thought it wasn't open until ten and we had arrived at nine when the Biltmore app said it was open. There didn't seem to be any activity, few cars in the parking lot and from the back of it, it didn't look open.

We shivered as we walked around to the front thinking if it was closed, we'd explore the garden area inside the wall and hope the wind wasn't as sharp there. 

The garden is probably quite beautiful at other times of the year but winter was not kind. Roses had lost their blooms and it was difficult to tell what the other plants were since they were in their dormant stage. 

We walked through the arbor that runs down the center of the walled garden but just as we were about to give up and sit in the car for a bit, we noticed other people arriving. A try of the front door rewarded us with entry.

Given the Christmas season, there were plenty of poinsettias, some I've never seen before. Back home, during the season, many poinsettias are artificially colored and its obvious. Here, there were several that were variegated. Some were a yellow green and I saw one that was a purplish color. None looked artificially colored. 

Larger shrubs and trees, including a lemon tree and several orange trees, must have been there for a long time. Some of them had extremely large roots and I wondered how the horticulturalists kept them contained in the walled sections where they grew.

Lots of gorgeous orchids were dotted through out the several exhibit rooms. Again, some colors and shapes that I've never seen before.

Blooming plants and foliage were fascinating, unusual and, when the sun emerged, were caught in the spotlight of sun beams through the glass windows. 

Before I forget, I do need to mention that the conservatory dates back to 1895, the year that the Vanderbilts moved in. It was a collaboration of George Vanderbilt, Frederick Law Olmsted (the estate's landscape architect) and Richard Morris Hunt (the mansion's architect).

There are more gardens to explore to one side of the front of the mansion but with the cold weather, we were done once we left the warmth of the conservatory.

I need to mention as well that there are all sorts of hiking trails that wind around the estate where you can take in the beautiful rolling fields, shaded forested areas and ponds and lakes. 

Lots to see but we had miles to go yet before reaching Florida. Hopefully it would be warmer.

Meanwhile, enjoy the pictures. I couldn't stop taking them.

Monday, January 08, 2024

Biltmore--Lunch in a Stable?

After two hours exploring the Biltmore mansion, it was definitely time to eat. Still cold outside, we decided against the outdoor cafe even if it was tented and had some heat lamps. There were quite a few people milling around inside the stables and sitting on the few benches that were there apparently waiting for the call that their table was ready. 

We thought we might have to give up on the notion of eating inside but the thought of actually eating in one of the stalls of the stable was irresistible. Bob put in our names and the hostess took our phone number and said it would be about a half hour wait. Not too bad even if my tummy did grumble a bit.

The wait was worth it. We actually sat in one of the horse stalls and split a chicken salad sandwich with fries and onion rings. Pictures on the wall showed Edith and her daughter, Cornelia, in riding gear and various other pictures related to the horses. Edith was quite an equestrian and could often be seen racing across the fields of the estate.

Next on our agenda was to explore the Antler Hill Village that is a collection of shops, cafes, and restaurants. The winery is also there and that is where we started. I expected to see a bit more but the "tour" was a walk through a stone walled corridor that was full of sparkling little white lights and a few exhibits of wine barrels and pictures and some explanation of the wine making process. 

Our ticket included a wine tasting but the line for the tasting was wound all around the store. Coffee was more to our liking at that moment so we headed off to find some. All of the little cafes were crowded and waits for just a cup of coffee seemed a bit much especially since there was no place warm to wait and little tiny specks of snow were swirling a bit in the breeze. 

Back in the car with the seat warmers on (gotta love that extra) we started around the parking lot and up the hill. As we were passing the hotel and approaching the inn, Bob said he thought we'd stop at the inn. "Must be a coffee shop in there, right?"

After passing up the valet parking, we found the self park lot and hustled into the lobby of the inn. It was lovely but not nearly as impressive when compared to the Grand Hotel at Mackinac in Michigan. We found a lounge at one end of the main foyer which was the only offering besides the main dining room and asked if we could get a cup of coffee. We were directed to the bar which only had four seats and two small tables. All but two seats at the bar were full unless you wanted to sit outside on the porch. Ah, nope.

The poor bartender had her hands full filling orders that were going out into the lounge area as well as the dining room, I think. She was so busy that she was running out of glasses and had no one there to help her clean up. I felt bad when I realized she had to run to the dining room to get our coffee. It was good though even without the little pastries we'd also ordered and never received. As we sipped, we realized that it was busy because those arriving were waiting there for their rooms to be ready.

Coffee urge satisfied, we decided it was too cold to be walking around and we had not prepared for it so we started out to finish the loop and exit the estate. Our tickets were for two day entry to the estate grounds and we had planned to visit the conservatory and gardens on the next day since our next stretch of driving was not too long to reach Dobson, NC.

After some time to rest, we found our way to the place where the Ohio State Alumni watched the football games. It was another bar night and this time there was not a good alternative to bar food so we were in for some nice fried food. The group was friendly and ready to cheer on the Buckeyes. The Buckeyes were obviously not ready to play. At halftime, between the score and the median age of the group, everyone got up and said goodbye. Okay with us. We were tired and watching the rest of the game in bed was just fine, well except for the score. As the Cleveland sports fans say, "There's always next year."

Sunday, January 07, 2024

Exploring Biltmore--Part Four

 Our tour of Biltmore took us up to the second floor and down to the "basement" or the area that had a hallway in it that showed how the foundation of the house looked. Up and down involved the Grand Staircase as well. As we were coming down at one point in our tour, a private tour was headed up to the third floor which was not open to us. At least I'm pretty sure we were never on the third floor. We wandered up and down for two hours. Definitely a place you could get lost in.

In the lower level, we passed through the corridor of layered stone that made up the foundation of the mansion. Even here, there was a bit of Christmas with a wreath that hung at the end of the corridor.

The hallway led us to the bowling alley. Yes, bowling. There were no automated pin setters back then so one of the servants had to manually reset the pins and return the ball. I was surprised that there wasn't a rack of sorts to rack up the pins but with further research, I learned that mechanical pinsetters like the ones I remembered at the old Colonial at Put In Bay, Ohio weren't invented until the 1940s. We kids used to love coaxing the older kids who were hired to set pins to let us do it. You put pins in the rack and pushed a large horizontal lever that put the pins on the alley where they belonged.

Next we walked around the indoor pool. It was really deep and had a diving platform at one end. There were ropes that hung along the side to hold onto if you got tired trying to swim from one end to the other. Just before entering the pool area, there was a row of dressing rooms, some for ladies, others for gentlemen. The ladies had no mirror in the room due to the fact that their lady's maid would dress her and fix her hair.

Next up was the gym or did they call it the fitness center? Whatever, there was a lot of recognizable equipment and some, not to much. The rowing machine was obvious.

Several rooms we passed were for servants and certainly not as lavish as the guest rooms or main bedrooms for the family. The rooms we passed were probably for the kitchen staff since the kitchen was just around the corner. They could just roll out of bed quickly and get breakfast started.

There was a rotisserie kitchen that had a large spit that could hold a lot of chickens or a huge chunk of meat. It actually had a bit of a roasted meat smell in the room. Or maybe I was just getting hungry.

Through the door, we entered the large kitchen with the working stove, large warming cupboards and a huge working station that displayed a perfect replica of the Biltmore mansion in gingerbread. Bob was quite envious. That's his thing each Christmas. 

Just off the kitchen was a small dining room for the serving staff. Obviously they did not all eat at the same time as I'm sure the table wasn't large enough. According to the voice on our audio guide, they also sat around the table according to rank. 

Besides the pantries and a walk in cooling room (refrigerator), the other important rooms here made up the laundry area. A huge tub was used for the larger items like linens. Several sinks lined one wall and that was for hand laundry, those items that were of fine fabric that needed delicate attention. 

In one room, there were drying racks for the bed sheets. They were large drying racks that you would hang the wet sheet on and then push them back into the drying cabinet. There was also a large mangle for the tablecloths, one of which was 35 feet long. Of course there was also an ironing board and what was said to be a very heavy iron.

Toward the end of our tour as we explored the smoking room and as we were about to exit, we found an open door to the banquet hall that offered one more stunning look at the elegant room. 

Yup, I was ready for lunch.

Saturday, January 06, 2024

Exploring Biltmore--Part Three

 Take a look at the view! Is it any wonder that George Vanderbilt chose this spot for his beautiful mansion.

As we continued through the halls, we stopped and listened at each spot that contained a number for us to listen to commentary on our audio guides.

Probably our favorite room was the library. It was featured prominently in A Biltmore Christmas Hallmark movie. As a matter of fact, there was a small sign that said the library was arranged just as it was in the movie. Sure enough, on the large reading table sat the hourglass that was the catalyst for the story. 

The Vanderbilts not only were conservationists of the land and collectors of art treasures, they also collected volumes of books. The shelves are ceiling to floor and hold about 10,000 of the over 24,000 that they owned. 

The ceiling painting is actually 13 different canvases that make up a painting called "The Chariot of Aurora" by Giovanni Pelligrini and dates back to the 1720s. It originally graced a ceiling in the Pisani Palace in Venice.

George Vanderbilt's room was done in reds and dark woods. A hat sat on a holder on the dark wood vanity that was his. Mrs. Vanderbilt's room was rich in golden colors that filled the room with a warm glow. Heavy brocade furniture, bedspread and drapery added to the richness of the surroundings that included chairs and a lounger as well as a gilded mirrored vanity. This was not the room where she gave birth to their only child, Cornelia.

Cornelia was born in 1900 and in those days, a woman was usually confined for a long time before and after delivery. Edith chose a room with a large window that had a nice view. The room, even though quite large, had a cozy feel to it and the cradle was a sweet reminder of the child born in the room. 

Each room was decorated for Christmas and every one we saw had a Christmas tree in it. There were 67 Christmas trees in all with the largest being the one in the banquet hall that was 35 feet tall and sported 500 lights, 500 ornaments and 500 individually wrapped presents under it. Glad I don't have to put all those decorations away.

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