This week in The Cafe, we celebrated "Muscadine Week," serving dishes and desserts featuring fresh muscadines and Muscadine Jelly, Sauce, and Preserves from our friends at Paulk Vineyards (also known as one of Our Makers: Paulk's Pride). We even served the delicious Muscadine Apple Pie again!
If you've followed us for very long, you probably know that Jorjanne in particular has a special connection to muscadines, especially Paulk Vineyards and Paulk's Pride! If you don't remember, you can read her blog posts, "Muscadines, Grandma, & a Husband" or "Faithful in the Little Things" to see why they're so dear to her.
When we were planning our specials for Muscadine Week, we tried to think of something to serve with a simple PB&J, using Paulk's Pride Muscadine Jelly, of course, and chips. Now, we've told you before how much we love a congealed or fruit salad here in the South. (You can read more about that in our blog post, Fluff or Frozen?) We looked for a Muscadine Fluff recipe, but couldn't find one anywhere. We just couldn't believe it! So what else could we do but create one of our own?
After a few test batches, we finally decided on the perfect combination of sweet and creamy, cool and fluffy, with a little bit of crisp apples too! Since we used the Muscadine Sauce, we didn't need any other sugar or spices. It's a simple recipe, which makes it great to serve with just about anything. Take it to a potluck dinner or on a picnic, and impress folks with its sweet and savory flavor that makes a lovely transition from summer to fall.
If you decide to make our Muscadine Fluff, we'd love to hear what you think about the recipe. Comment below, or share a picture on Facebook or Instagram.
In the last Beech Street Bungalow blog, The Exterior, I mentioned that we were planning to build planters for our front porch! I knew it would be a fun project, and that it would add a little something special to our porch area. What we didn't realize was how much work we were in for!
Here is a look at what we were dealing with...
If you look at the pictures above, you will notice a patch of brick that obviously looks filled in. We decided to remove this brick (since it was not original) and thought we could build planters to fill in the space where the brick was removed.
After the brick was removed, we were faced with the challenge of building planters that fit the space, and that were also functional. I knew without a doubt that Phillip could build beautiful planters that flowed with the rest of the house--it was the inside of the planters that had us stumped! We wanted these planters to last, so we wanted to make sure that the planters had a way to drain and that inside of the planters were protected from the damp conditions.
I searched for what seemed like hours trying to find a tutorial online. What I knew was that the water needed to be able to drain, and that the wet soil didn't need to be in direct contact with the wood...I just couldn't find anyone to tell me how to make it happen!
We started by building the outside of the planters to fit the openings. We purposefully built them wide enough to hang over the edge of the porch to provide a space for them to drain. We also built them bottomless--our design will keep us from having to fill the entire box with soil. (Which will save us money and still look great! :)
This tutorial will only work for planters that are located on the edge of a porch, so that there is a place for them to drain. Like I said before, this will work for window boxes too since they can drain right into your flower beds.
The first step in creating this "V" shape is to cut braces that will hold a piece of plywood in place. We measured and cut the braces for the smaller side of the "V" at a 45 degree angle.
The second step was to cut the braces for the longer side of the "V".
Next, we measured and cut pieces of plywood to attach to the braces and give us a platform that would become the bottom of the planter. Once we had one side of the "V" in place, it was time to cover it and protect the wood from water damage.
Phillip chose to use tar paper (the material used in roofing) to line the planters. He felt like it was our most durable and waterproof option. We carefully lined the planters using nails and a small staple gun. I brought the paper up high enough on the sides to protect the planter, but low enough that it wouldn't be noticed once it was filled with plants.
We added the second piece of plywood and covered it too.
Once the "V" was in place, there was a two inch gap where the water could drain. Because of this gap, we used screen to line the bottom. We knew that the screen wouldn't be enough to keep the soil from washing out, but it would create a draining bottom for the planter.
.e decided to use a material called Weed-X to line the planters, keeping the soil in when watered! This material should do the trick. Water passes through, but soil won't! We gently laid this material along the inside of the planter, stapling it to secure it to the sides.
*You may be wondering why we couldn't skip the screen step, and the answer is because of the weight of the soil and plants. We needed a sturdy, yet drainable, bottom for the planter.
Now we are ready for the fun part! It is still hot (really hot) here in South Georgia, so we are going to wait a little while before we plant. Keep an eye out though, I'll have a little help from my friends choosing the perfect plants to complement our porch! If you have any ideas yourself (preferably hard to kill plants :), leave a comment below! I'll take all the help I can get.
I hope this tutorial was helpful for those who are looking to do a similar project. It is always fun for me to share tips we have picked up along the way!
If you are not feeling ready to take on large container gardening, check out our selection of smaller pots in the store. Perfect for smaller gardening projects on your porch or patio!
Breakfast has always been my favorite meal of the day. I love everything about it! I love starting my day off right; cooking up something delicious, and I especially love the syrupy sweetness that comes along with a breakfast menu. I am a tad picky when it comes to food, unfortunately, but with breakfast I can't go wrong! I love breakfast food so much so that it influenced the time we chose for our wedding ceremony. I was so excited to be able to feature a yummy breakfast spread at our reception!
I love the idea of "brunch" and I think whoever came up with it is genius. It's perfect for Saturdays, holidays and special occasions!
When hosting a shower, I love having them in the morning. Not only does it free up your afternoon/night, but it allows you to offer a fun variety of morning munchies. Everyone loves fruit, casseroles and muffins! You can do different things to dress up your breakfast menu, like having chocolate dipped strawberries! Not only are they pretty, but they're a delicious brunch dessert.
I thought it would be fun to share a few of my favorite brunch recipes with you today! A few of them are ones I found on Pinterest, while some of them were shared by friends.
These Lemon Blueberry Muffins have to be one of my all-time favorites. They are so full of flavor and a fun play on the classic blueberry muffin. You'll never go wrong using fresh blueberries and lemon zest!
Lemon Blueberry Muffins by Gimme Some Oven.
At the last baby shower I hosted, I tried a new spin on a breakfast casserole! We wanted to serve muffins, and rather than serving a casserole made with more bread, we opted for a "Baked Omelet" recipe. It turned out to be delicious and it helped create a balanced menu!
I make this recipe from time to time for us to eat throughout the week. It's perfect for a quick morning meal with a bagel or slice of toast! It's also a great recipe to use if you're wondering what to do with the leftovers from a baked ham.
Baked Ham and Cheese Omelet by The Seasoned Mom.
One of my daily favorites would have to be yogurt with granola and fresh fruit. I love taking this snack on the go and I feel good knowing I made a healthy choice. We served this at our wedding, and I have served this at showers before--the guests love it! They can dress it up however they'd like! (My all-time favorite is vanilla yogurt with sliced strawberries, granola and chocolate chips. :)
*Also, my favorite brand yogurt is Dannon Light and Fit Vanilla.
Pancakes and waffles are great, but I love french toast. There is just something about the way the egg sinks into the bread, yet crisps up the edges! I could make it (and eat it) every morning....if I had time. We usually cook up french toast on Saturdays, when we're allowed to be a little lazy. I have recently ventured into the french toast casserole realm after having it at a friends house, and I love it too! The possibilities are endless. With a perfect pairing of added fruit or flavored syrups--it's quite the treat!
My friend, Kaitlyn, invited Phillip and I to her moms house for the weekend. The boys enjoyed an adventurous river trip while us girls relaxed and visited with family! We had the best time and were able to enjoy breakfast together on Sunday morning. Mrs. Redonna served a french toast casserole that we all just loved! She shared the recipe with me, and agreed for me to share it with you! She altered a bread pudding recipe to create this french toast delight, and boy is it delicious! Once we were home, I tried the recipe out myself! Click HERE to see the recipe!
Last, but not least, is the classic breakfast casserole. My mom serves breakfast casserole every Christmas morning, so it holds a special place in my heart. She cooks up a big pot of grits to serve alongside it, making an irresistible combination. I have even tried making breakfast casserole in muffin tins. The recipe I used called for english muffins--which created a sturdy base! They were perfect to make ahead and freeze for individual morning meals.
If you don't have a breakfast casserole recipe of your own that you love, try ours! (For a fun spin, use Maple Sausage!) Check out our Recipe Archive to see the recipe!
If you're looking for more brunch menu ideas--here are a few other favorites!
If you have a brunch favorite of your own, we'd love to know what it is! Send us the recipe to try for ourselves, or post a pic and tag us on social media! Meanwhile, take a look at what we have listed online to add a little southern soul to your next brunch.
Even as I am writing this, it is so hard to believe that I am reflecting on the past 15 years of my life. In some ways it has flown by, and in other ways 15 years seems so long ago! You have heard me say before that I was young and dumb when I started this adventure in retail so many years ago! I was fresh out of The University of Georgia with no clue what I wanted to do next. I always swore I was never moving back to my home town of Ocilla, GA, but it was home that came calling after graduation. So I made my way back, and here I sit, 15 years later, with a life I never could have dreamed up for myself!
In 2003, my dad had been retired for a couple of years and was running a floral and event business with his business partner, Lisa. They decided to take on a huge project in our downtown by renovating this century-old, Greek-revival style bank building.
The renovations began in the spring, and I moved home in the summer of 2003. The building was to house a market-style retail shop with a café in the downstairs and an event space upstairs. Dad and Lisa were going to need someone to run the shop while they focused on the floral business, so I agreed to come home for one year and help get things going.
That June-December of my life flew by! I worked part-time at another gift shop downtown to make a little money until our shop opened. On days I wasn’t working, I helped work on the building. As you look at all of my pictures, you might be imagining a very large work crew that got this place whipped into shape in such a short period of time, but you would be wrong! Dad and Lisa, with the help of a couple of paid workers, lots of family, and many sweet volunteers, moved mountains that summer. I have never done so much painting in my life!
The Shoppes at Fourth and Cherry opened in August of 2003, and I was blown away by the excitement of the community. The first couple of weeks were so fun. People flocked in to see the building.
All of the older residents in town had so many great stories to share of what the building was when they were young - how they used to get their hair done upstairs at Lily Mae’s beauty shop, or how they dreaded having to climb those tall stairs to get their shots at the health department.
The shop was just beautiful and unlike any store we had ever had in our little town before. Lisa was, and is, a very talented designer. I soaked up so much from her in a short amount of time and definitely learned a lot about the design aspect of running a store from both her and my dad.
The grueling work didn’t end when we opened, as we had to move upstairs to finish renovations in time for a wedding in October! I was still painting trim the morning of the wedding while Dad and Lisa were doing all of the flowers!
That was a crazy weekend, but I guess at that point, we had all gotten used to the hustle. Fifteen years later, I can tell you that the hustle continues! There is always something to fix, paint, clean, move, or cry over in this old building. It has been a labor of love for sure!
I like to say I went to the school of hard knocks in the early days. With Dad and Lisa, you have to catch on fast! One wedding weekend they left me in the florist shop and said, “We need 15 table arrangements; we’ll be back after we decorate the church.” I guess I should have been honored that they had so much confidence in my abilities, but I was stressing! It seems I had soaked up a few tricks by watching my dad all those years because the arrangements turned out ok, but I was a nervous wreck! Another weekend, we were catering a party in a neighboring town. Dad and Lisa had done an out-of-town wedding and were traveling to be back just in time for the dinner that night. She had me, by myself, take pot roast for about 100 people to the venue with all of our cookers to cook the roasts, with her giving me instructions over the phone. I had never cooked a roast in my life!
In 2004 Lisa’s husband, Harvey, was diagnosed with cancer that would later take his life. This was a devastating diagnosis, and Lisa had to spend most of her time with him, traveling to treatments in Maryland and caring for him when he was sick. Around the same time, my grandfather in Colorado became ill so my Dad was away for 8 weeks. It was a stressful time for me to be pretty much alone at the shop so Dad and Lisa decided to sell the building and business. The short version of this part of the story is: in walked Matt Seale. He was a financial advisor from Atlanta and looking to invest in real estate. Little did he know he was about to get a building, a retail shop, a floral and event business, a café, and a wife!
Matt bought the building and the business in the fall of 2004, so he and I have been in it together almost the entire time. It was a trying first few years together, as we both had limited experience with events and running a small business. I think we did pretty well considering how young we were! We married quickly in August of 2007 because Matt was being sent to Iraq to serve with the Navy Reserve. It’s not the month I would have picked (the day we got married was, literally, the hottest day of the year) but it is pretty neat that our wedding anniversary always coincides with the anniversary of The Shoppes, since it is what brought us together in the first place. We spent our first year of marriage apart, and looking back, it was probably the hardest year of my life so far. Because of our quick wedding, I had to deal with the daily onslaught of nosy, southern women asking me when my baby was due. I was a newlywed with no husband, the owner of a struggling small business with no business partner, and the caretaker of an old building that seemed to just develop one new problem after the other. I don’t know what I would have done that year without my parents and a few really good friends. Needless to say, that is not a time in my life I like to look back and dwell on!
The years rocked on as we continued catering events, making prom and wedding flowers, and keeping the shop going. I have been involved in over 37 weddings and rehearsal suppers, countless smaller parties, and more funerals than I could ever count.
Vendors in the shop came and went. I have had over 40 vendors and 14 local consigners throughout the years. It was so nice to get through those first few years of turnover and settle in with some serious shop owners that help make The Shoppes at Fourth and Cherry so great!
It has been so interesting to learn to deal with the specialties of running a business in a small, southern town. Over the years I have had more than one person call and ask me to look up someone else’s number for them in the phone book. I’ve had a customer ask me to order her something off the internet because she doesn’t have a computer. I have customers drop off gifts for people (that they didn’t buy here) because they know we’ll make sure they get passed on to the right person. I’ve had a customer give her bag of purchases to the mail man, as he walked in to deliver the mail, and ask him to deliver it to her mother at the nursing home (which he did, sweetly and without question). I could fill a book with stories about customer interaction - some funny and some not so funny! The Fourth and Cherry team has been blessed over the years to have mostly very sweet people enter our doors, and we thrive on providing as many services as possible. We still operate a traditional wedding registry where brides can register for fine china, flatware and other things needed to set up a home. We deliver to local showers, sell flatware by the piece (so there is something for everyone’s budget) and offer free gift wrap. We try to include the address of the giver on the back of every wedding card to make it a little easier for the bride to send her thank-you notes. We’ve made salads with croutons only, cut crusts off of bread, and kept lists on the café wall of how certain customers like certain meals. We are happy to help customers over the phone, happy to pick out Christmas gifts when you send over the list, happy to walk your packages to your car, let you borrow our phone, and even fill out your check for you. (Yes we still take local checks and no, we don’t have a stamp. If you don’t know what that means, you are definitely not from a small town.)
Over the years our little business has grown, evolved and changed. At some point we closed the florist, but I can’t remember what year. The shop and the café were becoming busier, and my Dad was retired and traveling a lot, so it just made sense to let that go. We have still continued to do weddings here and there because I just find it so hard to say no! The Café has slowly grown and now offers a much more extensive menu than we did in the beginning. The Fourth and Cherry Company now has three full-time employees in addition to seven part-time. I can’t pass up the chance to mention that Mrs. Carolyn has been with us the entire time we’ve been in business. She has long been a friend of my family and came to work in The Café after she retired from the school system. Her hours have shortened over the years and roles have changed, but she has been a steadfast and dependable friend to us over the last 15 years. She has tried to “retire” at least twice, but we are always thrilled when she decides she wants to come back! She tells me she is going to retire for good when she is 80, so I’ll keep you posted on that! And one other fun fact, Mrs. Carolyn came to Lily Mae’s beauty shop, located in the upstairs of our building, on her wedding day to get a perm! Just one example of how the history of our building is so intertwined with the history of our community and the lives of our customers.
In 2015 (deciding that we didn’t already have enough to do) we created The Southern Mercantile. I had always loved the name and even threw it in the hat when Dad and Lisa were choosing a name for the shop. I kept it in the back of my mind with the hopes of getting to use it one day. We are now growing and building this new brand, while running The Shoppes and Café at Fourth and Cherry, in an attempt to expand our market a little bit and share our love of the South. We are on a mission to preserve some of our more noble traditions by sharing our simple, southern lives with you. It has been so exciting to meet many of you at shows when we are traveling, and to hear from you through email, social media and the website. We have loved every minute of getting to connect with a whole new tribe!
We are excited to share with you that The Southern Mercantile is currently setting up a brick and mortar home inside The Shoppes at Fourth and Cherry! The historic bank room of our building is in transition and will soon be our flagship Southern Mercantile location. The bank vault has already been set up as the Southern Merc office and we are slowly transforming the retail space into a beautiful shopping area. It’s just another way the Fourth and Cherry Company is growing and changing.
Love for our community is at the heart of everything we do. In 2011, Matt and I made a choice to stay here and to commit to working hard for Ocilla. We work hard to keep this building standing, keep this shop running, and keep our online presence thriving because we want to see our little town prosper. Our team has a deep desire to continue to love, encourage, support and work for the community we live in. We thank all of you from the bottom of our hearts for your support of our mission. Whether you have been a fan of The Shoppes for the last 15 years, or if you are a new fan of The Southern Mercantile, we want you to know that you are appreciated. Every purchase you make, every Facebook post you share, every kind comment you give, strengthens our mission as we move to be a force for good in our community.
If it seems this post has been more like the story of the last 15 years of my life rather than just the history of my business, it is because they are so connected, I could never attempt to separate them. This shop and what it means to our little town is all I know. It has been my everything. I am humbled when I think of all of the people that have loved and supported me personally over the last 15 years. Without your support and prayers (and checking for my horns from time to time), I would have succumbed to stress and discouragement many times. I can’t wrap this up without a very special Thank You to my parents! You are such an example of selfless love, always there to help, no matter what the problem is. Water, termites, absent employees, plumbing problems, leaky roofs, holiday baking; nothing keeps you from running to my aid!
15 years of perspective has helped me to see that time and time again, the Lord has provided just what we need, when we need it. I know He will do the same for the next 15!
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