Walk in a Winter Wonderland at Fernbank Museum

Great Hall View

It is, without a doubt, the best time of year to be at Fernbank Museum. With 35 trees provided by consulates and cultural groups from around the world, three display cases and, of course, the Fernbank tree itself, it’s hard not to find yourself filled with holiday cheer.

Though it was difficult, I have narrowed down my top five favorites and would love to share them with you.

Arab World Tree

The Arab World Tree

I think this tree is one of the very best. It is decorated with traditional arts and crafts, including metal work, wood intarsia, straw weaving, embroidery and folklore figurines. As if those things are not cool enough, the star ornaments have fun facts written on them! Here are a few examples:

“Did you know? Hummus is the most popular appetizer in Arab cultures.”

“Did you know? The guitar and tambourine were introduced to the west by Arabs.”

Japan Tree

The Japan Tree

I love how this tree remains so committed to culture. It is covered with origami cranes, which symbolize longevity and happiness. The best part? Ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds 1,000 origami cranes will be granted a wish. I’ll get started on that now.


The Philippine Tree

This tree just might be every girl’s dream come true. Dripping with pearl necklaces, gorgeous shells (which highlight the nation’s deep connection to the ocean) and to-die-for ribbons, the Philippine tree is definitely in it to win it. During the Christmas holidays, the country is adorned with the iconic, star-shaped lantern called a parol which symbolizes the Star of Bethlehem. The top of the tree is adorned with the beloved Belen, which depicts the nativity scene.

Venezuela Tree

The Venezuela Tree

The Venezuela tree was one of the first to be decorated, and it has been a front runner in my book since I first laid eyes on it. I love that they used beautiful, rich colored ribbon to display their national colors. The best part? The plates are hand painted by members of Atlanta’s Venezuelan community! Venezuela celebrates the holidays much like we do in America; they listen to gaitas (holiday music) and prepare traditional dishes (hallacas, pan de jamón, dulche de lechoza). Two fun added traditions include eating grapes on New Year’s Eve and watching children open gifts brought to them by Baby Jesus.

Norway Tree

The Norway Tree

This tree truly transports you to Norway. This tree combines its national flag, Norwegian dolls and handmade straw ornaments to make itself a true original. In Norway, families gather on Christmas Eve to open presents and sing carols around the tree, and Christmas Day is spent visiting family and close friends while sharing in desserts of rice porridge and cookies.

Fernbank Tree

I will end on my favorite tree of them all: The Fernbank Tree. It has 22 magnolia blossoms, one for each year that Fernbank has been in existence.

This is just a small sampling of the 30+ trees currently on display at Fernbank Museum. You can experience the entire Winter Wonderland exhibition through January 11th. Click here to learn more.

Profile PictureBrittany Loggins is the Public Relations Coordinator at Fernbank Museum. She graduated from the University of Georgia in May 2013 and can be found on Twitter @bloggins1.

FREE Holiday Events Happening This Weekend

Get in the holiday spirit at these FREE events!

Yule Log Celebration - Listing

Friday, December 12th: Children can search for the fabled Yule Log during the Yule Log Celebration at Reynolds Nature Preserve in Morrow. Other activities include ornament making, storytelling, face painting and seasonal refreshments.

Thursday, December 11th: Eat dinner by candlelight, take a horse-drawn carriage, roast marshmallows and meet Santa during the 12th Annual Hometown Christmas in downtown Warrenton. Don’t miss the tree lighting at 5pm!

Friday, December 12th: Dreaming of a white Christmas? Snowing on the Square in downtown Washington can make those dreams come true. Snow will fall at 6:30 p.m., 7:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, December 11th – Friday, December 12th: Stroll the old-fashioned brick streets in your best Victorian finery and enjoy the carolers singing your favorite holiday songs, or board a horse-drawn carriage for a ride through these historic streets lit by candlelight during Victorian Christmas in Thomasville.

Tripp Christmas  - Tripp

Photo Credit: Tripp Family

Nightly: The Tripp Family invites you to experience their 500,000+ light display in Cochran. The lights are open for viewing nightly with Santa Claus making an appearance Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. Admission is free but donations are accepted.

Nightly: TMT Farms Christmtas Lights in Statesboro will be open every evening from 6 p.m. – 12 a.m. Drive through or park in the designated areas to explore on foot, and look for the antique and vintage cars, trucks and tools. Admission is free but donations of canned goods, gift cards or new/unwrapped toys are appreciated.

Saturday, December 13th: Take a Candlelight Christmas Tour of President Carter’s Boyhood Home to see the holiday decorations; listen to interpreters presenting President Carter’s memories and hear how these memories are special to him still. Tours will start at 6:30 p.m. and will end at 8 p.m. Time slots can be reserved by calling the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site at 229-824-4104.

Wreaths Across America Andersonville - Andersonville

Photo Credit: Andersonville NHS

Saturday, December 13th: Each December, Andersonville National Historic Site participates in the national Wreaths Across America program to remember and honor our military veterans. Sponsored wreaths will be laid on gravesites in Andersonville National Cemetery from 12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

ENDING Saturday, December 13th: This is the final week to experience the famous Festival of Trees at Unicoi Lodge and Conference Center in Helen! The trees are open to the public from 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Saturday, December 13th: Enjoy one-stop holiday shopping, featuring arts and crafts, jewelry and more during the Simply Christmas shopping event at the Historic Haralson County Courthouse in Buchanan.

Santa McDonough - Listing

Saturday, December 13th: Meet Santa Claus during Santa Saturday on the McDonough Square! Santa will be available for meet and greets from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Photos for purchase will be available.

Saturday, December 13th: The Albany Area Arts Council (AAAC) and Albany Recreation and Parks Department (ARPD) will present a Holiday Party from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Arts Council. Families will enjoy hands-on holiday art activities and the DCSS Elementary Art Show.

Saturday, December 13th: Enjoy an evening full of music and holiday spirit brought to you by Madison Main Street. Local choral groups, bands and musicians will perform holiday carols that are certain to warm your heart. Learn more here.

Sunday, December 14th: Welcome Santa Claus and his friends at the Royston Christmas Parade! The parade begins at 3:30 p.m.

11 Ways to Celebrate the 75th Anniversary of “Gone with the Wind”


Before there was Brad and Angelina, there was Scarlett and Rhett. Explore Georgia to celebrate 75 years of this quintessential Hollywood classic.



Photo Credit: Atlanta Restaurant Blog

Atlanta Movie Tours will offer their special Gone with the Wind tour on Saturday, December 13th.  Board a luxury coach for a 3-hour tour based on the world’s most famous novel with the woman who created it. Book your spot here.

In celebration of the film premiere’s 75th anniversary, Oakland Cemetery will bring back their special topic tour on Margaret Mitchell on Sunday, December 14th. Reserve your spot ASAP – tickets for the 3pm tour are already sold out! Click here for reservations.

The Road to Tara Museum, Margaret Mitchell House and Marietta Gone With the Wind Museum: Scarlett on the Square will be offering visitors a special admission rate of 75 cents at each location on Monday, December 15th. Click here to learn more.

10650053_10154898555050151_6880114776464112800_nMonday, December 15th: Join the Atlanta History Center in celebrating the 75th anniversary of Gone With the Wind by reliving the glitz and glamour of the 1939 Atlanta premiere through real-time updates and photos chronicling the event. To follow the live blog, visit AtlantaHistoryCenter.tumblr.com and look for posts with #GWTWATL.

Watch a special 75th Anniversary Showing of Gone with the Wind at The Marietta Gone with the Wind Museum on Monday, December 15th. Film begins at 7pm with a pre-show at 6:30pm. Buy tickets here.


Travelguide2014(1)Relive the excitement of the 1939 premiere of “Gone with the Wind” on page 12 of the 2014 Georgia Travel Guide! Order your FREE copy here.

Discover the history and legacy behind one of the world’s most beloved novels through the Gone With the Wind Trail in and around Atlanta, an official state designated trail.

The Gone With The Wind Tour is a nostalgic audio narrative through the rich and romantic antebellum era that inspired Margaret Mitchell’s legendary novel. Be entertained with the tales of Mitchell’s world-renown Gone With The Wind and its unique literary ties to Jonesboro.

The University of Georgia Special Collections Libraries will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the premiere of Gone With the Wind with a major exhibit. The UGA Libraries has the largest collection in the country of Mitchell’s personal papers and other materials, donated by Mitchell’s brother, Stephens Mitchell. The exhibit will remain on display through the end of 2014.

Photo Credit: Twelve Oaks Bed & Breakfast

Photo Credit: Twelve Oaks Bed & Breakfast

Spend the night in the Frankly Scarlett Suite at The Twelves Oaks Bed & Breakfast in Covington. In his book “Antebellum Homes of Georgia,” David King Gleason writes that Margaret Mitchell recommended Twelve Oaks as a model for Ashley’s home in the Gone With The Wind film.

Tour Stately Oaks Plantation in Jonesboro – the home that was said to inspire Margaret Mitchell’s Tara.



Surprising Suburbs: Montaluce Winery & Estates


IMG_3292Take wine tasting to a new level and move right in. That’s the way Montaluce Winery & Estates embraced me on a side trip from Dahlonega.

Treat the classic “Let’s do lunch” the same way; start early and stay late. Or longer. Overnight options here too.

Of course you’d expect the food and the wines to be excellent so here are six tips you might not be thinking about for stay-longer planning.

P1010662A neighborhood

Streets with names like Plaza Pomino and Via Montaluce, evocative of Tuscany whether you’ve been there, or just dream of a trip. Wind through woodsy and wide-open byways, meadows too as you seek the restaurant and tasting room.

Then take a walk afterwards. Stroll awhile.

Expansive views

The glass-walled dining room and the open-air porch give sweeping views of the vineyard where ten varietals are harvested.  Outdoors, the railing is wide enough to balance your wine glass comfortably and lean on your elbows to gaze.

P1010659Abundant colors

Executive Chef Sean Fritchle is an artist. Plating is the term used often in culinary conversation, referring to pretty ways the food might be arranged. Devise a new word for his artistry, and order the beet root salad no matter what you think about beets.

Rainbow quinoa involves heirloom merlot lettuce, toasted almonds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, lemon, feta and a dash of sauvignon blanc.

Panna cotta and pound cake might sound like a bland-colored desert, but not here. Bourbon peaches, raspberry pulp and canteloupe sorbet provide this rainbow.

Same for the tomato macaroon with blackberry tomato jam, almond tuile, blackberry sauce and thyme ice cream — sumptuous.

IMG_3300Fresh, natural, real food

The Montaluce Winery & Estates gardens are Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) and that’s important. To me it means they’re committed, practical and honest in a world where organic claims are dubious with so many hoops to jump through.

CNG means real food, no genetically modified substances, no synthetic chemicals and local farming, rooted in community.

Admire rough-cut cedar raised bed gardens in a big field across the way from villas where the neighbors live.  Tuscan kale grows here!

Also, heirloom lettuces and rainbow carrots, micro greens started inside in hydroponic Montaluce gardens, turnips, cucumbers and more.


Joy and curiosity permeated the luncheon guests throughout my afternoon, greeting one another, asking what another had ordered because it looked so spectacular.

The only electronic devices I saw interrupting meals were my own and my excuse is the professional need to share Montaluce wonders via real-time social media.

Full disclosure suggests I should advise you to employ the same disreputable table manners I used. I ate most of my delicate beet root salad with my fingers, wanting to separate each flavor instead of blending them with a proper forkful.

P1010655Spend some nights

Four privately owned villas can be rented with two-night minimum stays, housekeeper included. Three have three bedrooms and one has five. Prices start at $350 a night, or $500 for the largest.

Enticing names like Villa La Vigna Vista and Villa del Sole, or Villa della Luna and Villa Oliveti. Payments can be made directly through VRBO, Vacation Rentals By Owner, but the Montaluce website will provide the rental link and contact.

Le Vigne Restaurant serves lunch Tuesday – Saturday from 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Sunday brunch  11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Saturday dinner 5:30 – 9:00 p.m.

Wine tastings Tuesday – Saturday 11: a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Sunday Noon – 5:00 p.m.

Photos by Christine Tibbetts

Christine 12. 2007 4Christine Tibbetts claimed Georgia as her home state in 1972.  She covers Georgia destinations, and the world, always offering prompts for exceptional experiences and opportunities to muse. Tibbetts earned a Bachelor of Journalism from the prestigious School of Journalism at the University of Missouri and is the recipient of numerous gold, silver and merit awards from North American Travel Journalists Association writing competitions. Follow her at www.TibbettsTravel.com.


Civil War Wednesday: Georgia’s Old Reliable

Lieutenant General William Hardee, Library of Congress, LC-USZC4-7972

Lieutenant General William Hardee, Library of Congress, LC-USZC4-7972

Lieutenant General William J. Hardee, born in Savannah in 1815, graduated from the United States Military Academy, served in the Mexican-American War, and authored a book on military tactics, which both sides consulted during the American Civil War. His manuscript – Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics for the Exercise and Maneuvers of Troops When Acting as Light Infantry or Riflemen – usually referred to as Hardee’s Tactics – provided basic training for young officers eager to learn the art of war.

Hardee served as commandant at West Point until shortly before his native Georgia seceded in 1861. He cast his lot with the Confederacy, and for most of the war he fought in the western theater, where he participated in the battles of Shiloh, Perryville, Murfreesboro, and Chattanooga.[1] After the failure of General Braxton Bragg to take Chattanooga, President Jefferson Davis accepted his friend’s resignation and offered command of the Army of Tennessee to Hardee, who declined the position. Davis turned once again to his nemesis, General Joseph E. Johnston. During the Atlanta Campaign, Hardee led one of the army’s three corps, and performed satisfactorily in most engagements prior to the fall of Atlanta. When Davis removed Johnston, and replaced him with General John Bell Hood on July 17, 1864, Hardee felt somewhat slighted, despite the fact he had previously refused to take command of the Army of Tennessee. He and Hood never got along, and Hood blamed Hardee for several losses in the struggle to maintain Atlanta. During the final action of the campaign at Jonesboro, Hardee performed well, given the circumstances, yet again found himself on the receiving end of Hood’s blame game.

Requesting a transfer away from Hood, Hardee received the assignment to head the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. During Major General William T. Sherman’s March to the Sea in November and December 1864, Hardee joined with other Confederate officers in the attempt to slow the advancing Federals. Operating from his headquarters in Savannah, Hardee garnered all available men to guard the outer and inner defense systems surrounding the city. On December 15 – five days after Sherman’s forces arrived at the doorstep of Savannah – Hardee dispatched Davis with his assessment of the situation. “Unless assured that force sufficient to keep open my communications can be sent me, I shall be compelled to evacuate Savannah.”[2] Two days later, Hardee received a reply from Davis, which set the plans for evacuation in motion. Davis, eager to protect a Confederate army in the field amid a dwindling supply of soldiers, instructed Hardee to maintain a vigilant observation of the Federal troop movements, while making “…the dispositions needful for the preservation of your army.”[3] On December 20, Hardee and his troops began evacuating Savannah, crossing hastily constructed pontoon bridges onto South Carolina soil.

For the balance of the war, Hardee attempted to slow Sherman’s progress during the Carolinas Campaign, and joined with Johnston in the last major battle in the western theater at Bentonville, North Carolina, where Hardee lost a son during the fighting. Moving to his wife’s plantation in Alabama after the war, Hardee served as president of the Selma and Meridian Railroad. Ill health prompted a visit to a sulphur spring in West Virginia, and during the journey, he died in Wytheville, Virginia, on November 6, 1873. ‘Old Reliable’ – a nickname his soldiers bestowed upon him during the war – rests in the Live Oak Cemetery in Selma, Alabama.[4] William J. Hardee proved a capable officer, one who sought to protect his native state against great odds.

[1] Ezra J. Warner, Generals in Gray; Lives of the Confederate Commanders (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1987), 124–25.

[2] U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, reprint 1899 ed. Series I 44 (Harrisburg, PA: National Historical Society, 1971), 960.

[3] Ibid., 964.

[4] Michael R. Hall and Spencer C. Tucker, “William J. Hardee,” World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society, ABC-Clio, http://worldatwar2.abc-clio.com.ezproxy1.apus.edu/ (accessed December 1, 2014).

Learn more about the Civil War in Kennesaw State University’s latest course, 1864-1865: The Conflict Draws to an End. Learn more and/or register for the class here.

imageMichael K. Shaffer is a Civil War historian, author, newspaper columnist, and lecturer. He can be contacted at: www.civilwarhistorian.net.