The Siberian American: February 2019

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Ultimate Biltmore Estate Guide: What to Know Before You Go

I have wanted to go to the Biltmore Estate since I was a kid, so when we were planning our Smoky Mountains road trip, a stop in Asheville was on the top of my list. I’ve always loved history, beautiful architecture, and extravagant homes, so I knew I would love the largest privately owned house in the United States! I’ve been wanting to write a guide to the Biltmore Estate since we visited, so I’m super excited to share this stunning home with y’all today.

Before You Go

Buy Your Tickets
Tickets to the Biltmore Estate can be purchased here ( Not only do you save $10 per ticket by buying it online more than a week in advance, but you also skip the usually long line once you get to the reception & ticketing sales center. Keep in mind that if you are going to the property during a busy time (holidays, school breaks, and most weekends), you will be required to make a reservation. With your reservation, you will receive a specific time to enter the Biltmore House.

Purchase Your Tour Tickets
Unfortunately, the price of admission to the Biltmore Estate does not include a tour. You are welcome to take a self-guided tour, but in this case, I would strongly encourage taking a guided tour. I’m usually a big fan of audio tours, but due to the size of the house and the amount of people visiting at the same time, I think a guided tour is the way to go.

Tour Options
We did two tours while visiting the mansion, so I wanted to share what I liked about each one.

Guided Biltmore House Tour
This was the standard 90-minute tour of the house, which provides a very detailed overview over many rooms. I loved learning interesting facts such as the most guests that were at the house at one time was 38. If you only have time for one tour, you will receive a fantastic overview of the house with this one.

Rooftop Tour
I absolutely loved this tour. If you are interested in stunning views and amazing architecture, this tour is a must. The rooftop tour explains all the little details about the intricate architecture. For example, the two gargoyles are different because the tail broke off on one of them (so they added a butt). Plus, the views from the balcony were absolutely stunning! I personally preferred the rooftop tour to the house tour, but I would still do the house tour to see more of the rooms.

Plan to Get to the House Early
Plan to get to the Biltmore Estate as early as you can, even if you have a reservation. The drive to the entrance can get really backed up. The Biltmore Estate recommends getting there at least 45 minutes before your reservation time, so you have enough time to park and take the shuttle to the house. We got to the house around 8:30 a.m., and I noticed that it was already getting crowded by 10 a.m.

Once You Get There

Go on a Tour
I’ve already shared about the two tours we did, but I think a guided tour is the best way to experience Biltmore. We learned so much about the Vanderbilts and everything that went into building the estate.

Visit the Gardens
The gardens are a must! I really enjoyed the beautiful mixture of flowers and plants, and I could have walked around the area for hours. I especially loved the Rose Garden and Conservatory.

Visit the Antler Hill Village and Winery
A wine tasting is included with your ticket to the Biltmore Estate, and it’s worth checking out! The Antler Hill Village also includes temporary exhibits, a farm with a historic barn, trails and outdoor adventures, and several places to shop and dine.

Eat Lunch at Stable Café
The food at the Biltmore Estate was surprisingly good! I really enjoyed my burger, and I’m still dreaming about that peanut butter cake with raspberry jam.

When Should You Visit?

The Biltmore Estate is beautiful throughout the year. We went to the Biltmore during the fall, and the fall color was spectacular (though it would have been even better if we had gone a few weeks later). They had already started to set up for Christmas while we were there in October because it takes them that long to decorate the whole house, and I would love to visit during Christmas someday to see all of the gorgeous decorations. The gardens are also stunning to see in the spring, but if you go during the spring, try to avoid Spring Break weeks to minimize the crowds.

Where to Stay

I honestly wouldn’t stay at any of the hotels on property. The prices are really high, and they don’t add anything to the experience. If you are looking for a luxury stay in Asheville, I would pick the Omni Park Grove Inn, which has a fantastic spa and stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Other Smoky Mountains Road Trip Posts:
Have you ever been to the Biltmore Estate? Tell me about your visit!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Anthony's Milestone Photos: Six Months, Nine Months, and One Year

I know, I know. Let's file this under "blogs Olya should have posted last year," but I really wanted to share some of my favorite photos from our milestone sessions with y'all. I loved doing milestone sessions because even though I take photos of Anthony often, we only really take photos as a family for special occasions. I already love looking back on these and seeing how much Anthony has grown, so I know they'll always be special to me. Also, I have to give a big shoutout to Brittnie Renee Photography for being a great photographer!

Six Months

This was our first session after our newborn photos, and I wasn't sure how it was going to go. Anthony ended up loving the camera, though! He kept staring straight at Brittnie. It was also one of the hottest days we'd had in April in a long time. The other memorable thing from this session was Chris and Brittnie ended up getting chigger bites from our time in the grass. Thank you, Texas.

Nine Months

For Anthony's nine month session, we decided to do another home session. We had moved by that point, so it was nice to have a session in our new place. Once again, Anthony loved the camera and had so much fun! He was really on the move at this point, so getting those shots on the bed was entertaining!

One Year

His one year photos might just be my very favorite! The State Fair of Texas has always been special to our relationship, so we knew we wanted to take Anthony this year. Since he has an October birthday, I thought the fair would be perfect for his one year photos! He loved looking at all the lights, and I'm a big fan of how these photos turned out.

Did you do milestone sessions with your babies?

Monday, February 11, 2019

Let’s Have a Coffee Date: Vacation Planning, Instant Pot Fun, and Residency

Hey, friends! It’s been a while since I’ve done a coffee date post (not since we were in DC in September), and I thought it would be a good way to share some of the random news I haven’t mentioned on the blog yet!

Life has been really busy lately, and Chris has had barely any time off. Thankfully, it will be a bit slower for a bit (and then more nights. Yuck). We’re planning some fun things with Anthony to take advantage of our time together! Also, Chris just got elected chief resident by his fellow residents and attendings! It’s a huge honor, and I’m super proud of him, but it does mean he will have even more work. He also has several conferences coming up, and he has to take the intense radiology board exam in June, so the next few months will be interesting!

All of that to say, we are looking forward to him taking two weeks off in July. We are celebrating our 30th birthdays and 10-year wedding anniversary during the same week this year, so we’re hoping to go somewhere fun. We haven’t actually planned the trip yet because we won’t know the exact dates we can go until the residency schedule for next year is final (the Medical New Year is July 1). Anyone have any ideas for us? It’s been hard to narrow it down since it is our first big trip since Anthony was born.

Speaking of it being our first trip since Anthony was born, I am already having a hard time with the idea of leaving him. I know we need time together as a couple, but I work from home, and the longest I have been away from Anthony is three hours. I know it’s healthy for both of us to spend time apart, and he will be in extremely capable hands, but I can’t promise I won’t be crying on the flight to our destination!

Anthony has been so much fun lately. He’s running all over the place, and I feel like he learns a new word a day. I just love seeing his personality come out more and more. For example, he loves cleaning up and putting everything in its correct place. He didn't get that trait from me. Haha!

I messed up last week and posted my books reviews a week early! I’ve read two more books since I published my books reviews, and they were both super good (Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center and American Duchess: A Novel of Conseulo Vanderbilt by Karen Harper). I’m currently in the middle of The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, and it’s one of the most complicated mystery novels I’ve ever read, but it’s really interesting. I’m definitely curious to see how it ends!

We finally got an Instant Pot for Christmas, and we have really loved using it for many different recipes! We just made a quinoa chicken fried rice in it yesterday that was super delicious! I might do a roundup for our favorite Instant Pot recipes soon if anyone is interested.

Since I didn’t blog much last year, I don’t think I ever mentioned that Chris decided to stay at his current program for his fellowship in neuroradiology (in an oversimplified explanation, he will be reading brain scans and doing procedures). He decided he didn’t want to spend the money to interview all over the country again (been there, done that), and it would be hard for us to move somewhere for just a year. He will be starting his last year of radiology residency in July and doing neuroradiology fellowship the following July. It still feels like we’re a long way away from the end of training, but we’re getting closer!

Monday, February 4, 2019

Eight Books I Read in January

Hi, friends! I'm excited it's time for another book day. This might be one of the most diverse lists of books I have ever posted on here due to Erin's Book Challenge. I love Erin's Book Challenge because it makes me read books I normally wouldn't pick up, and I tend to read more in general! I've included the category for each book so they don't seem quite as random.

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
Erin's Challenge: Book Made into a Movie
I used to love YA, but it's been a while since I've read it, so it took me a while to get into this book. I ended up enjoying it, though! I really liked the characters. It's such a sweet story of confidence and acceptance, and I think it's especially important for high school girls to read! It was fun that it was set in Texas, too!

(c/o NetGalley)
Erin's Challenge: Favorite Book of Family/Friend
It took me a bit of time to get into this book, but overall, I liked it. After Miranda's uncle Billy passes away, she receives a clue to a scavenger hunt to find out why Billy and her mom had a falling out 16 years ago. The big secret became obvious to me early on, but there were still interesting tidbits through the book that I enjoyed. I loved the bookstore setting and how much the story revolved around books.

(c/o NetGalley)
Erin's Challenge: Originally Published in Different Language
I think I would have liked this book better if I had read it in French (which wouldn't have worked since I needed it for a book in translation in a book challenge). This book was written entirely in a poetry format, which was interesting and unique, but I do think some things were lost in translation here and there. I didn't love the ending, but it doesn't surprise me because it's very French. Overall, it was an OK read, but I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend it.

Erin's Challenge: Published 100+ Years Ago
I somehow missed reading Persuasion all these years, and I absolutely loved it. The first few chapters weren't my favorite, but it really picked up, and the ending was fantastic. I loved Anne and Frederick. This is definitely one of my favorite Jane Austen novels.

(c/o NetGalley)
Erin's Challenge: Set in Europe
I thought learning about British spying during WWII was interesting, but there were a lot of confusing things in this book. I feel like there were parts of the plot that didn't end up being explained, and the ending was way different than I expected. Juliet was not my favorite character, and it felt a little slow. Still, it was a decent read, and I would definitely read more Kate Atkinson books.

(c/o NetGalley)
Erin's Challenge: Cardinal Direction in Title
This was a quick-paced, cozy romance. I liked the characters, but the story wasn't super unique or exciting. It was a decent read, but it's not a book I would go out of my way to recommend.

(c/o NetGalley)
Erin's Challenge: Title Starts with N
I loved this book! It's a quick, fast-paced story of a mother's love and determination to get her daughter back after she was abducted by her father. The chapters go back and forth between the past and the present, where the daughter faces some difficult challenges in her own life. The beginning was a little slow, but it soon pulled me in, and I couldn't stop reading.

(c/o NetGalley)
Erin's Challenge: Newberry Award Winner/Honor Roll
Last time I read this book, I was in elementary school. I think I enjoyed it even more as an adult. It's about the beauty of friendship and dealing with change. It's sweet and funny and teaches great lessons.

Favorite reads in January: Dumplin', Persuasion, and No Time to Blink.

Linking up with Steph & Jana.

I love book suggestions. What have you read lately?