Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wednesday's Words

This is the last Wednesday of September, and my word for the week is Michaelmas.  It's another of those words that I find fun to pronounce :)  Michaelmas is a good September word, because it's officially celebrated by the Roman Catholic church and the Church of England on September 29th.  Michaelmas, or the Feast of Saint Michael and the Archangels, falls near the equinox in the northern hemisphere, and thus is associated with autumn.

In England, Michaelmas is one of the four "quarter days" in the year; Lady Day (March 25th) , Midsummer (June 24th), Michaelmas (September 29th), and Christmas (December 25th).

In earlier times, the harvest had to be completed by Michaelmas.  It was a time when land was exchanged or debts were paid, and when servants were hired.  Eventually Michaelmas came to be the time for electing magistrates, and the beginning of the legal and university term.

England used to have harvest festivals, or fairs, and goose was the traditional dish served in households for Michaelmas Day.  Our local Dixie Classic Fair in Winston-Salem opens September 30th this year, one day after Michaelmas.  The North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh begins October 13th ( in Britain Old Michaelmas Day was October 10th).  Coincidence -- I think not ;)  Another tradition carried over from the Old Country.

I do love this time of the year.  Cool, crisp weather; fall festivals at schools and churches; local fairs; big, golden-orange moons; beautiful fall foliage; and cooking and eating comfort foods.  What's not to love?

By the way, have you planted your Michaelmas Daisies yet?  In America, we know them as Asters.

Image courtesy of

Have a lovely end of the month!


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Finding Mitford, Part 2

I've been MIA from Blogland for the past few weeks.  I had just intended to take a few days, or maybe a week, off.  Sometimes we all need a break.  I've been reading other people's blogs, but I just couldn't seem to find the energy or inspiration to do anything on mine.  Last week was a really bad week for us -- you know how life has a habit of throwing those curve balls at us.  We're just hoping for a better month in October. 

In July, I did a post about the fictional town of Mitford from the series of books by Jan Karon.  Mitford is actually based on the real town of Blowing Rock, North Carolina.  In the first post, I shared a lot of pictures of the town, including Father Tim's church, the antique shop, and the town park.  That was a long post, and I decided to save the rest of the pictures for a second post.

If you've read these books, you'll remember the character of Sadie Baxter.  In the author's words, "Miss Sadie Baxter was the last surviving member of one of Mitford's oldest families.  At the age of eighty-six, she occupied the largest house in the village,

...with the most sweeping view."

"And she owned the most land, much of it given over to an aged but productive apple orchard."

Miss Sadie's house in Mitford was called Fernbank; and it was such a prominent part of the stories, I was very determined to find this house.  You see, after I read the books about ten years ago, my husband, our son and I drove up to Blowing Rock for the day so that I could wander around and try to find the places that Jan Karon wrote about.  It was fun for me, but by the end of the day, I was really puzzled.  Where was Fernbank?  Oh I knew the house wouldn't really be called Fernbank, with a big sign out front identifying it as such.  But still, based on the description in the books, nothing seemed to fit.  There were several large, old homes that could possibly have fit the bill (most had been turned into Bed and Breakfasts or shops).  But after walking and driving through the main part of town several times, I realized the house just wasn't there.  Surely they hadn't torn it down?  Or did this house exist solely in the imagination of the author?  Somehow, I didn't think so.

I couldn't get that house off my mind; I guess I love a good mystery, and I felt more determined than ever to find it.  But time went by, we were busy with other things, and we didn't go back to Blowing Rock right away.  Then one day in autumn we were taking one of our drives in the mountains, and I happened to get a glimpse of a big white house just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.  When I asked my husband about the location, he said it was not far at all from the town of Blowing Rock.  So the next time we stopped at one of the information centers along the parkway, I looked at the brochures until I spotted the house.  It was called Flat Top Manor, and it was part of Moses H. Cone Memorial Park.  Well, what do you know ;)

We didn't have time to stop at the house that day, but some months later, we made a point to visit Flat Top Manor.  As soon as I got a good look at it, I knew.  This was Fernbank.

What a wonderful old house!  And the history of Flat Top Manor is very similar to that of Fernbank in the Mitford books.  In the books,  Sadie Baxter's father, who built "Fernbank", earned his money in a lumber mill located in the valley near Mitford.  In real life, Moses Cone and his brother, Caesar, earned their money in the textile industry.  In 1895, they built their first cotton mill in Greensboro, North Carolina, named it Cone Mills, and went on to become the world's leading producer of denim.

In the Mitford books, the author talks about how Miss Sadie loved to give away the apples from her family orchard; and the firm, slightly tart apples had come to be called "Sadie Baxters".  The village cooks preferred to make their pies from Sadie Baxter apples rather than Granny Smiths.

Moses Cone who built Flat Top Manor, along with his wife, grew over 30,000 apple trees in four orchards on their 500 acre estate.  The Cones were key contributors to the town of Blowing Rock, and they donated land and funds for the beginning of what is now Appalachian State University.  The Manor House is now the home of the Parkway Craft Center, which features crafts by hundreds of regional artists.

I don't have any pictures of the interior of the house to show you.  As best I recall, it wasn't really furnished, except for a few pieces here and there.  I do remember the rooms were large with high ceilings and lots of fine mill work (carved molding and such), which was considered a status symbol at the time.  Now, it's mostly used as a venue for the arts and crafts sold there.  Tours of the upper floors are available at very limited times.

Here are the remaining pictures we took on our visit Memorial Day, 2011.

Looking down at the back of the house...

The approach from the side of Flat Top Manor...

Imagine how long it must have taken to carve all the spindles in these banisters.

More side views...

I love the elegant Greek Ionic columns.

More pretty columns and a wonderful conservatory for enjoying the sunlight and the spectacular views.

This drive runs along the front of the house.

I'd hate to have to keep all this woodwork painted :)

This looks like one of the few remaining apple trees on the property -- kind of sad I think.  You can tell it looks very old.

This is a side view of the carriage house belonging to the Cone family.  Sadie Baxter talked about her papa's carriage house in the books.

Fernbank's namesake plant.

Thanks for stopping by The House at Forest Manor, and I hope you enjoyed the tour.  I'll be joining Susan at A Southern Daydreamer for Outdoor Wednesday and The Tablescaper for Seasonal Sunday this week.  I hope you'll visit these blogs to see some creative and inspirational posts.  Have a great week!!


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Never Forget

The week before Christmas 2005, our family went to New York City with my husband's parents.  We were determined to see Ground Zero while we were there.

This small fire station was directly across the street...

from these craters, which were all that remained of the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

A small temporary memorial had been erected outside.

The extraordinary courage of those men (who were only human, after all) stays with me to this day.  They had been trained to fight fires, all of which could be deadly, but I can't imagine that they ever expected anything like this.  I know I certainly didn't.  But they all responded as they had been trained to do.

A group of people with an evil purpose tried to destroy our country that day.  They inflicted incredible pain and loss, and yet...we persevere.

I don't live in New York City, but I do live in the United States of America.  And I want to say "Thank You" to those heroes of September 11, 2001; in New York, on Flight 93 over Pennsylvania, and in Washington, D.C.

I'll never forget.


Friday, September 9, 2011

"Word Is..."

I'm one of those people who are fascinated by words, how about you?  I like some words because I enjoy the way they sound, and others for the context or meaning.  But I'm really fascinated with the derivation and history of words.  Cause ya'll know I love me some history :)

So, where to start when there are about a gazillion words out there to choose from?  I decided to start with September, and try to follow that pattern for each month; and after that, I'll have to come up with a different theme.  September just happens to be my birth month (and my sister's, too), and it has always been one of my favorite months of the year.  I love the gradual weather change from hot summer to early fall.  The autumnal equinox occurs (in the Northern Hemisphere) in September; this year it will be on September 23, at 9:04 a.m.

September is derived from the Latin word septem, meaning seventh, because in the Roman calendar, it was the seventh month.  The Gregorian calendar (which we use today) was introduced in 1582, where after September became the ninth month of the year.

Some words are just fun to say because they seem to roll off your tongue, like derivation, septem, autumnal, equinox, and Gregorian.  I know I'm quirky, but there you are :-)  More about September next week.

*You're invited -- if you enjoyed this post, please consider following me at  Thanks for stopping by!


Image Source -- Wikipedia

"September" from a 15th century calendar, or 'book of hours', the Tres Riches Heures (the Very Rich Hours)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Beach and The End of Summer

We went to the beach with our son back in the first week of May -- it feels like so long ago now.  We like to go early before everything gets so crowded, but I think this is the earliest we've been since our son was in pre-school.  He finished his final exams around May 4th, and we took our vacation a few days later so that he could go with us.  He had to get back to school because he was working as a Resident Advisor on campus both sessions of summer school.

While we were there in May, I did a post on Historic Wilmington, which you can read HERE.  I wanted to do another post showing some pictures we took around the island and on the beach.  I'm posting these this weekend, because to most of us, Labor Day weekend symbolizes the end of summer.  As I mentioned in my Wilmington post, I love houses.  There are so many interesting houses, both old and new, at the coast.  I don't think these pictures are as pretty as they normally are because we had overcast skies almost the whole time we were there this year.  But as my DH says, "A rainy day at the beach is still better than a sunny day at work."

These first homes are in a development adjacent to my in-laws' house.  I always like to walk or ride the golf cart through there, because I love to look at the houses.  A pretty wooden bridge over a pond and fountain marks the entrance to this neighborhood.  You can see how overcast the sky is in these pictures.

This first house is possibly my favorite in the development; it reminds me of a storybook cottage, with it's cottage design and charming landscaping.

Here it is from the front...

The next house is hard to see because their trees and shrubs have grown so much over the years; I suppose they wanted the shade and the privacy. It's three stories counting the bottom level.

I love the pink garden butterfly and the pink geraniums on the front porch.

Can you see the starfish in the glass above the door in this next house?

The next house has been here for about 20 years, and during that time, the shrubbery has grown so much.  I was disappointed when we tried to get a picture because the shrubs are hiding some of the architectural features, namely the pretty steps leading up to the front porch.  This is what I think of as low-country style architecture.  A steep, sloping roof with dormer windows, front porch running the length of the house, and sweeping steps (hidden by the shrubs, or course) up to the porch.

This next house is built somewhat in the manner of Charleston houses.  It's built practically on the marshes of the intracoastal waterway, so we were only able to get a picture from the side.

If you notice the taupe colored door on the bottom left of the house, these are a prominent feature of Charleston homes.  It's an interesting feature -- a door that leads to an open front porch rather than to the interior of the home.

The next house is actually a better example of low-country style, and thankfully, it's not hidden by lots of landscaping.  I'm thinking the houses built in the real low country of the deep south probably are built a bit higher off the ground, with more steps leading up to the front porch.  I really LOVE this house!

On this particular day, we had driven the golf cart to this neighborhood in order to take some pictures.  Just after we crossed the pretty white bridge, we had our wildlife adventure.  I happened to glance over to the right, and this is what I saw in front of the big, pink Oleander bush --

Our son was driving the golf cart, and I called for him to stop.  A debate quickly ensued between my husband and I about whether or not this fellow was real or someone's peculiar idea of a lawn ornament.  My husband tended to think it was not real -- it stayed completely motionless while we got out of the cart and stared and pointed.  And it still didn't move when my husband got his camera out.  I was convinced it was real.  I pointed out how leathery its skin looked (you know, like those belts, shoes, and purses you can buy).  ;-)  Animal lovers please don't be offended, I don't own any alligator leather accessories (just sayin' folks).

This guy was also sitting next to the pond; I wonder if he was starting to feel like he might wind up as lunch.  I was kind of worried for him.

While we were debating and taking pictures, a resident came over the bridge and we pointed to the alligator.  She stopped and told us it was real.  By this point, I was starting to agree with my husband; it hadn't so much as batted an eye.  Then before we could bat an eye --

He's definitely real.  Do you think the turtle's relieved? :)

So that was our wildlife adventure.  These gators are actually pretty common in that area, but it's always interesting to see one (as long as there's a pond between it and me).

We saw some pretty pink and yellow Snap Dragons..

and some pink and yellow Lantana in the neighborhood.

And finally, some pictures of the ocean and the beach.

 More gray skies.

Can you see the fishing boat way out on the horizon?

These last photos were taken in the evening.  The fishing boat has its lights on now.

A touch of pink in the evening sky...

I'm linking this post to Seasonal Sundays hosted by The Tablescaper and to Pink Saturday, hosted by Beverly at How Sweet The Sound.  I hope you'll stop by and see all the interesting posts there.  As always, thanks for stopping by The House at Forest Manor!  I look forward to your visits and comments.  Hope you enjoy this holiday weekend -- the official end of summer.

I'm joining Susan and the other bloggers at A Southern Daydreamer for Outdoor Wednesday.


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