Sunday, November 29, 2015

2015 Christmas at Biltmore Has Begun

One of the most impressive Christmas displays in western North Carolina, Christmas at Biltmore is nothing short of spectacular. Their theme for 2015 is "A Gilded Age Christmas" and Biltmore is definitely living up to that theme! Read on for information about Biltmore, this year's Christmas at Biltmore celebration, including the chance to tour Biltmore House in the evening during Candlelight Christmas Evenings, and our December ticket special from the Inn on Mill Creek B&B...

Biltmore House [Photo: Southern Living via Facebook]
George Washington Vanderbilt, grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, was Biltmore Estate's first owner. His grand, 250-room, 175,000 square-foot home took six years to complete, and was opened to friends and family on Christmas Eve of 1895. Christmas and Biltmore go hand and hand, and wow, the folks at Biltmore know a thing or two about putting together some serious holiday splendor. Throughout the four floors of Biltmore Estate open to the public, you will find decorated trees in most of the rooms, garland, twinkling lights, and live Christmas music. Beyond the house, the Conservatory is outfitted with the addition of holiday plants and creative decorations.

Take a seat! The Biltmore Conservatory [Photo: Biltmore via Facebook]
The tradition of welcoming visitors to Biltmore has been kept alive by Mr. Vanderbilt's descendants, who own and run the estate today. When you go, you'll of course want to tour the beautiful Biltmore House, set on 8,000 acres of forested land, with amazing views of the mountains and plenty of walking paths through gardens and park-like outdoor spaces.

Looking toward the Library from the South Terrace at Biltmore House
The view of the Deer Park and Blue Ridge Mountains from Biltmore House
A dairy on the estate was converted to a winery in the mid-1970s, and the area around it built up beginning in 2010, into what is now called Antler Hill Village & Winery. In addition, you can find restaurants on the estate and even two hotels. A small route around a lagoon between Biltmore House and Antler Hill Village & Winery offers a unique view of Biltmore House from the back.

The back of Biltmore House from the Lagoon, late November
CANDLELIGHT CHRISTMAS EVENINGS AT BILTMORE: Christmas at Biltmore has begun, and with it, the opportunity to take a self-guided tour of Biltmore House in a more intimate evening setting. Crackling fireplaces and candlelight set the mood, with live music throughout the house as well. Guests of the Inn on Mill Creek B&B can upgrade their daytime admission Biltmore tickets purchased at the Inn to add a Candlelight Christmas Evening tour, at just $15 per person. We will help with making all of the arrangements for your tour time and confirmation.

DECEMBER 2015 BILTMORE TICKET SPECIAL FROM THE INN ON MILL CREEK B&B - BUY ONE GET ONE FREE DAYTIME ADMISSION TICKETS: All guests who stay with us in December will receive a FREE Biltmore daytime admission ticket with the purchase of one Biltmore daytime admission ticket. In December, our Biltmore tickets are available at a discounted rate of $50 per person, keeping even more green in your pocket! Tickets are good for a daytime visit to Biltmore Estate on any day of the week, and are also good for the following day for FREE. And don't forget, you can upgrade your daytime admission tickets purchased at the Inn on Mill Creek to add a Candlelight Christmas Evenings self-guided tour of Biltmore House for $15 per person. Visit our website at to check room availability.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

November 2015 Kiva Update

Exciting news...we have passed the halfway point in our goal to help at least one small business owner in every country that has partnered with Kiva. For those of you who do not know about Kiva, it's a non-profit organization that provides a means for regular, everyday people such as your innkeepers, to help those less fortunate to lift themselves out of poverty by way of improving their local businesses with microloans. Once the borrower has paid back the loan that you helped to finance, you can re-lend your money, to another borrower, which is exactly what we do. You can learn more about Kiva at Here's a video that also explains Kiva's mission:

Kiva is currently helping to facilitate microloans to small business owners in 82 countries. With our most recent loans, we checked off countries 41 and 42. For these loans, we headed east, to India and Timor-Leste. The loan in India is going to two female entrepreneurs who formed a group (Kiva loans can be for individuals or groups), and one of those women is a single mom who handcrafts cushions and soft toy items to support herself and her children.

In Timor-Leste, our borrower is a 24-year-old man who works as a teacher and supports his immediate family. His loan will help to pay for his sister's education. We love education loans, especially those for girls in developing countries.

In October, Kiva celebrated its 10th anniversary and posted a neat graphic showing the impact that people have had in helping others and changing the world for the better. Check it out at

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

2015 NC Mountains Fall Color Report Week 6

Peak is passing at our elevation (2,300 feet), and this will be our final fall leaf report for the Asheville, Black Mountain and Old Fort, NC, area. The scarlet, bronze and rust-colored tones of oak leaves will remain on the trees around here for another week or two, but other trees are fading fast, with the exception of some beech trees that decided to bring some good pops of orange/yellow to the end of the annual fall foliage journey in western North Carolina.

As we turn the corner past leaf season, here are the places to capture those final bits of fall color during the first week of November:

Toms Creek Falls in Marion: This is one of our favorite easy waterfall hikes, and the tree types that are present on the trail are perfect for late fall color viewing. In addition, there's a really cool former mica mine near the falls, as well as a new waterfall viewing platform. We did a blog post last year about Toms Creek Falls with more details.

Remnants of the mica mining operation at Toms Creek Falls in Marion, NC
Chimney Rock State Park: Located 30 minutes south of the Inn on Mill Creek B&B, Chimney Rock State Park is a popular place to see fall color in early November. That's typically their peak fall color time. Hike to the bottom of the 404-foot Hickory Nut Falls, check out the Four Seasons Trail, or climb to the top of the Chimney, a large granite monolith with views of Lake Lure and Hickory Nut Gorge, on your way to the Skyline Trail. Note that as we write this, the elevator to the Chimney is undergoing maintenance and the way up to the Chimney is via the Outcroppings Trail, a set of stairs leading to the top. For more information about Chimney Rock State Park, check out

Chimney Rock Park/Hickory Nut Gorge
[Photo credit: Chuck Hill Photography]
Chimney Rock [photo credit: kmhouser21 Instagram]
Point Lookout Trail near the Inn on Mill Creek: Point Lookout Trail is a fabulous 3.5-mile greenway trail. If we're having a rainy November day, it's great to walk on as it's paved. One end, near Ridgecrest, is right next to the start of our road -- Mill Creek Road -- so it's easily accessible. The other end is accessed by going to the other end of our road and bearing right onto the next portion of Mill Creek Road, and then turning right at the T-intersection of Mill Creek Road and Old US Hwy 70. From the Ridgecrest end, the Point Lookout overlook is about a mile down the greenway, looking out over 24 miles of Royal Gorge and peaks in the 2,000+ foot range. Lots of oak trees mean superb color in late October and early November.

View from Point Lookout overlook near the Inn on Mill Creek
North Carolina Arboretum: The North Carolina Arboretum features many different tree types, as well as interesting garden spaces, an exhibit hall, and an extensive trail system. One of our favorites is the Bent Creek Trail, a little over a mile in length, that meanders with Bent Creek on the northwest side of the Arboretum. And don't miss the bonsai exhibit...see fall color in miniature!
Natchez Crepe Myrtle bonsai at the NC Arboretum

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

North Carolina Mountain Birds: Red-Winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird at the Inn on Mill Creek in Old Fort, NC
The Red-winged Blackbird always reminds us of Halloween. Not sure if it's because it's a blackbird or because it has a splash or orangey-red on its wings, but at any rate, we've chosen the Red-winged Blackbird as our October 2015 bird in our 12 Months of Birding at the Inn series on the blog.

Red-winged Blackbirds are considered year-round residents of our area, but we don't see them very often. They mostly prefer watery spots like marshes in the spring and summer, and like meadows, crop fields and pastures in fall and winter. Also telephone poles, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The crop fields and pastures thing makes us think that they're in abundance south of Old Fort on farmland around Painter's Greenhouse or near the the farm at Warren Wilson College west of Black Mountain, which also conveniently borders a waterway, the Swannanoa River.. and by the way, Warren Wilson really is as beautiful as the pictures. Red-winged Blackbirds do get around (migrate) a little bit, and come to visit the Inn on Mill Creek B&B from time to time. The one pictured above was photographed in November of 2013.

Male Red-winged Blackbirds are pretty easy to spot, black overall with a red and yellow block on their shoulder. They can puff the colored feathers up to make the color block look larger, too. Females are a streaky brown overall, with a pale orange or buff-colored throat. The females almost remind us of a Song Sparrow.

Here's a cool fact from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

Different populations and subspecies of Red-winged Blackbirds vary markedly in size and proportions. An experiment was conducted that moved nestlings between populations and found that the chicks grew up to resemble their foster parents. This study indicated that much of the difference seen between populations is the result of different environments rather than different genetic makeups.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

2015 NC Mountains Fall Color Report Week 5

Inn on Mill Creek B&B, October 25, 2015
Week 5 of our fall color reporting is hereby declared Peak Fall Color Week at our elevation (2,300) and for surrounding areas like Black Mountain and Asheville. The 2015 fall season has been especially bright, with an awesome variety of reds, golds and oranges. It appears that several trees, such as sassafrass, beech and some maples, were "stalled" during our 10-day rainfest at the beginning of the month and are changing now rather than a few weeks ago. In addition, the rain was not torrential, so many of the early leaves, like dogwood and sourgum, kept their leaves. With the addition of what we call the "late changers" -- several types of maple and oak -- Mother Nature is putting on quite a show this week.

And as we are writing this, it is, guess what, raining, so as long as it's not too windy, we suspect the late changing leaves will stick around for at least another week in our immediate area.

Fall color at the Inn on Mill Creek, October 25, 2015

In late October, there are quite a few nearby places in the mountains of Western North Carolina to explore in search of great fall color. We bring you our favorites, accompanied by photos from talented Instagram photographers:
  • DuPont State Forest: Take Hwy 280 south of Asheville, or make it more scenic with a drive down US Hwy 276 as we mentioned last week, and discover the waterfall-laden area known as DuPont State Forest. With almost 10,500 acres, DuPont State Forest is a beautiful spot in late October. See's excellent information page on waterfall hikes in this lovely state park.
Near DuPont State Forest
[photo credit:
@johnfcarter on Instagram]

Triple Falls at DuPont State Forest
[photo credit: @naokokokito on Instagram]
  • Montreat hiking trails and Lake Susan: Montreat is one of our favorite places to send guests for hiking. More than 20 trails surround this picturesque community, anchored by Lake Susan, Montreat College and a Presbyterian conference center. The path around the lake is perfect for an autumn stroll. Trails in Montreat vary from the walk-through-the-woods Rainbow Road Trail to the lengthy Greybeard Trail that takes you to the top of the highest peak in the Seven Sisters range. One of the most popular hikes in Montreat is Lookout Mountain -- just before the peak is a rocky outcropping with fantastic views.
Lake Susan in Montreat, NC
[photo credit: @78bob on Instagram]
View from Lookout Mountain in Montreat, NC
[photo credit: @a_isfor_abby on Instagram]
  • Biltmore Estate: How does 8,000 acres of outdoor beauty sound? In addition to a 175,000 square foot mansion (castle, really) and a winery, Biltmore Estate features gorgeous gardens, both formal and park-like, a lagoon and bass pond, and multiple bike and walking trails. You can purchase discounted tickets to Biltmore right here at the Inn on Mill Creek B&B and get a free second day to explore the estate. Bonus: The decorations go up in October at Biltmore in preparation for the estate's Christmas season that starts in early November, so visitors this time of year also get two seasons for the price of one!
Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC
[photo credit: @mythicgirl on Instagram]  
It's likely that next week will be our final fall color report for the 2015 season. You'll still be able to see color just south of the Inn...we'll see you next week with the details!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

2015 NC Mountains Fall Color Report Week 4

Inn on Mill Creek B&B tucked behind beautiful fall colors
Color is beginning its swift migration down to elevations below 3,000 feet and we are on our way to peak time around Asheville and Black Mountain, NC, which typically arrives between October 21 and October 31. A few rather chilly nights have appeared to speed thing up, as maple trees start to shine and oaks begin to turn.

Above 3,000 feet, you can still capture color as vibrant hues start fading into more muted tones. Although higher elevations are starting to go past peak, we're impressed by how long color is staying on a lot of the trees this year along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Here are our recommendations as we head toward the weekend of October 23-24, and into our "peak week":
  • Rattlesnake Lodge off the Blue Ridge Parkway: This is a great fall color hike along the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, about six miles northeast of Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Rattlesnake Lodge has a great history as well. Read more about this hike via a recent blog post of ours.
Mountains-to-Sea Trail near Rattlesnake Lodge, October 20, 2014
  •  North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville: Located southwest of Asheville, accessible via Highway 191/Brevard Road or the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 393 is one of our favorite places -- the North Carolina Arboretum. With garden spaces on more than 430 acres and 10 miles of trails, the Arboretum is a fantastic place to get your nature fix. Plus, they have a beautiful bonsai garden and many of the bonsai trees change color as well. Definitely worth the price of admission. More info available at
  • Toms Creek Falls in Marion: Need an easy waterfall hike? This one fits the bill and takes you on a trail through what we think is one of the prettiest areas east of the Inn on Mill Creek B&B. It's located north of Marion off of Highway 221, south of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We blogged about this waterfall hike last year.
Toms Creek Falls [photo credit:]
  •  US Route 276 between Asheville and Brevard: In search of a scenic fall drive? Take the Blue Ridge Parkway south from Asheville to Milepost 412 and turn left for a beautiful 18-mile drive on US Route 276 to Brevard. Along with fabulous fall foliage this time of year, US 276 offers quite a bit to see, including the Cradle of Forestry and Looking Glass Falls. And once you're past Brevard, you can head to Dupont State Forest for even more excellent waterfall hiking. Our friends at have a great write-up on DuPont State Forest.
Finally, for your viewing pleasure, here are some photos taken over the past few days around the Inn on Mill Creek and our "neighborhood"-- nearby Black Mountain, NC. See you next week as we head into the peak!

Lake Tomahawk in Black Mountain, NC
Old US Hwy 70 on the way from the Inn to Black Mountain
Pisgah National Forest near the Inn on Mill Creek B&B
View from the Mountain Laurel Room's deck area
As if the scarlet leaves aren't stunning enough... our forsythia always blooms in fall

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Recipe: Snickerdoodles

Snickerdoodles from the Inn on Mill Creek B&B
Oh, snickerdoodles, we love you so. The perfect combination of cinnamon and sugar wrapped up in a not-too-soft and not-too-crunchy cookie with a silly name, the snickerdoodle is a treat we like to make for guests when the weather turns cooler and the days get shorter. We make them with a fairly standard recipe (adding our own secret ingredient...milk!), but we sometimes sub baking powder for the baking soda and cream of tartar. Don't judge.

Snickerdoodle Cookies
from the Inn on Mill Creek Bed & Breakfast
Prep+bake time: 60 minutes / Makes 3.5 dozen

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.


1 Cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 Cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 Cup milk
3 and 3/4 Cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder OR 1 tsp of cream of tartar + 1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
Cinnamon/Sugar mix for rolling: 1 part cinnamon to 2 parts sugar


1. In a mixer, mix butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
2. Add eggs one at a time, then vanilla extract, then milk.
3. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients (minus the cinnamon/sugar mix)
4. Steadily add dry ingredient mix to the mixing bowl and mix well.
5. Refrigerate dough if sticky (usually 30 minutes is plenty of time); this will make it easier to roll the dough into balls.
6. Place cinnamon/sugar mix into a small bowl. (Typically, we make a lot, something like 8 tablespoons of sugar and 4 tablespoons of cinnamon and keep the extra in an empty spice bottle to use for future cookies.)
7. Roll dough into balls, place in small bowl and roll until the dough balls are covered in the cinnamon/sugar mix.
8. Place dough balls on a cookie sheet and flatten slightly with the flat end of a spoon.
9. Bake for 12-14 minutes.
10. Let cool, then enjoy!

For our fellow chocoholics out there, we have a snickerdoodle for you: Check out our Cherry Chocolate Snickerdoodle recipe.