Possibly the most confusing "salad" we serve at our Cafe is a dish called "Hot Chicken Salad," which is really more of a casserole. Adding to the confusion is the fact that we keep these Hot Chicken Salads in the freezer for sale for customers to bake at home!
Here in the South, we love to call a dish a "salad." Think about it - Watergate Salad, pear salad, chicken salads, congealed salads, frozen salads, ham salad - what really makes a salad a salad? Maybe it just makes us feel better about eating it?
Possibly the most confusing "salad" we serve at our Cafe is a dish called "Hot Chicken Salad," which is really more of a casserole. Adding to the confusion is the fact that we keep these Hot Chicken Salads in the freezer for sale for customers to bake at home!
It may be confusing, but one thing is for sure - it is delicious! Creamy chicken and rice, dotted with celery, boiled eggs, and almonds, all baked together makes for comfort food at its finest. Its ingredient list is simple, making it perfect for a weekday dinner or covered dish supper, but it can also be dressed up for company with a few extra almonds on top. Pair it with a green salad (meaning one made with lettuce, but no judgment if it's a Watergate Salad), or green beans for an easy meal just about anyone will eat!
Since it is a comfort food dish that almost anyone will eat, it's perfect for taking to a church potluck or to someone's house who's just had a baby or death in the family. In fact, the recipe is enough to make two large (9x13) pans, so you can bake one for your family and one to share! Tara's blog post, A Little Food Goes a Long Way, tells just how much sharing food with our neighbors really means!
Last week, we lost my sweet, 91-year-old grandmother. Many of you have heard me mention my grandmother as she and my grandfather had an enormous impact on my life.
I am so blessed to have had a childhood full of so many wonderful memories, especially of time spent with my Grandparents. Though we lived 12 hours away from them, Wayne and Helen Bloomingburg had an unbelievable way of being involved in our lives and making sure we (both me and my younger brother Troy) knew how much we were loved.
Grandma and Grandpa were hard-working folks that always put God and family first, and they raised their children to do the same. It is hard to talk about my grandmother without also talking about my grandfather. They were the most faithful and selfless people I have ever known. Even though we lived so far away, there was never a doubt that grandma and grandpa were in our corner.
The summer before my senior year in high school, I decided to live with my grandparents and get a summer job. My grandmother landed me a great job with a friend who was a real estate attorney. I spent five summers with my grandparents, working in the attorney’s office and exploring the city. (As much as I was allowed to - Grandpa liked to keep me close!) Oh, how I have cherished the time that I was able to spend with them in the summers. Grandma would tell marvelous stories of growing up in Selma, Alabama, what it was like to lose her mother at a young age, and how much she loved her “daddy”. I didn’t fully appreciate these experiences at the time, but I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for the summers that I spent with my grandparents.
After her move to Florida, I was so happy to have her close and to be able to spend more time with her. She loved telling everyone in her assisted living village that I was her granddaughter, and she was so proud to have me every time I came. I never got tired of her calling me “sweetie” or telling me what a “doll” I was. Even after her stroke she would love to visit and talk about her childhood and memories of her youth. She never stopped being concerned about me, never stopped being my comforter, and never stopped being my grandma. When the words wouldn’t come, her pretty blue eyes and sweet smile still told me all I needed to know.
And now, as I have lost my last grandparent, it is such a bittersweet feeling of growing older. In a way, I feel like not only have I lost Grandma, but I feel like I have lost Grandpa all over again. I know that Grandma is so much happier now, to be with Jesus and Grandpa and her “mama” and “daddy”. I count myself so lucky to have been so loved by those two special people. I have so many friends that didn’t have that same experience. They don’t have parents and grandparents that will drop anything to do anything for their family. Just last week Grandma's care giver in the nursing home told me she had never known a family like ours, so full of love for each other and so many of us concerned about grandma. I told her that it was all because of “her” as I pointed to my grandmother with tears in my eyes. My family is truly lucky to have been led and loved by Helen and Wayne Bloomingburg, and I am forever grateful for their presence in my life and the legacy they have left behind in their family.
In honor and in memory of my Grandmother, I am reposting two blog posts I wrote about my grandparents in years past. When cleaning out my grandmothers' apartment, we found that she had a folder for each grandchild in her filing cabinet, each one filled with mementos and cards from over the years. My folder, amongst other things, held a copy of each blog post that I had sent her in the mail. On the outside of the papers she had written, “keep forever”. I am so glad that I took the time to share with her how I felt about her while she was living. I already miss her so much it hurts, but am rejoicing that she is at peace and with her Heavenly Father.
I am so blessed to have had a childhood full of so many wonderful memories, especially of time spent with my Grandparents. Though we lived 12 hours away from them, Wayne and Helen Bloomingburg had an unbelievable way of being involved in our lives and making sure we (both me and my younger brother Troy) knew how much we were loved. We were able to make the trip to Arlington, Virginia every summer and every other Christmas to pay them a visit.
My Grandparent's House
I am flooded today with memories of my grandparents’ house. As a kid it was a magical place that we were only lucky enough to visit on summer vacations and every other Christmas. It was not a huge house, a modest Sears and Roebuck home built in 1938, just on the outskirts of Washington D.C. My grandfather and his family moved in to the house when he was 14. In turn, my grandfather later bought the house from his father, and my mother moved into the house when she was 14. The house was a happy home to the same family for its entire life. It saw many a Thanksgiving Dinner, Christmas Morning and visiting relative. Some of the happiest moments of my childhood were spent there.
I don’t recall ever reading the Oscar Wilde quote on our latest t-shirt design until Katelyn showed it to me, though I’m sure I’ve come across it before. In any case, between wearing my shirt throughout the summer and seeing it on our chalkboard every day when I walk in to work, it has stayed on my mind. “With freedom, books, flowers, and the moon, who could not be happy?”
In getting ready to send my older boys back to school, I began to think about what it’s like to grow up in the South and in particular, my favorite summer memories. I can recall riding my bicycle up and down our little country road over and over all summer long. Of course, I grew up in the country, so I had no real neighborhood to traipse through or many friends’ homes to hang out. My grandparents lived up the hill, and just past their house was my grandfather’s cousin’s house. “Uncle Merle” and “Aunt Margaret” lived there, and at some point in my childhood, their daughter’s family, Margie, Ron (aka “Rooster”), and Melissa moved in with them. Although Melissa and I were not closely related, we were very close in age, and became fast friends.
We would meet in the mornings at the pomegranate tree in my grandmother’s backyard, then make a plan for the rest of the day. We took turns spending our nights at each others’ houses and our days riding our bikes all over my grandparents’ farm. Our mothers allowed us to get in the kitchen and make our own breakfasts and lunches, scrambling eggs and making peanut butter, jelly, and cream cheese sandwiches - don’t knock it till you try it! :)
When I wasn’t riding around with Melissa, I was attending Vacation Bible School at one of our local churches. My friends and I had quite the VBS circuit, sometimes even attending one in the mornings, and one in the evenings! I also had the opportunity to go to a couple of different camps, Woodmen of the World at Camp Glynn and 4-H Camp at Camp Fulton. When there wasn’t anything else to do or anyone to play with, I spent quite a lot of time in my room reading. One summer, my brother actually built a platform in a tree for me to climb up and read there. It became one of my favorite places outside because I was enveloped in the leaves of that oak tree and surrounded by the scent of the jasmine vine growing up the trellis nearby. I felt so “outdoorsy” and almost as if I was in heaven, even though I was no more than 20 feet outside the back door!
Those summer memories helped make for a happy childhood, and even recalling them now gives me a happy feeling of nostalgia. I had freedom (limited, of course), books, even flowers and the moon, which are simple, everyday things we take for granted. You know, so many people chase happiness all their lives, but are never satisfied. They fill up with what makes them happy at the time, then when that no longer makes them happy, they become depressed or turn to something else to try to fill that void. At times, I’m sure we’ve all been there; I know I have.
Happiness is a result of our circumstances, while joy can be found no matter our circumstances. That is what I’ve learned to focus on, that I can choose to have joy in spite of whatever is going on in my life. The simple things in life can bring happiness, even in the midst of trials. On busy days, a flower or joke from one of my boys puts a smile on my face; when someone passes away, remembering time spent together brings laughter through the tears; during tough times, a song can life my spirits.
Although happiness can be short-lived, those moments remind us to focus on others rather than ourselves and bring us back to our true joy. I’m reminded of an acronym I probably learned in one of those Vacation Bible Schools I attended. JOY stands for Jesus, Others, Yourself. I know it seems a bit cliche, but if we live our lives with our priorities in that order, we can find true joy instead of just trying to be happy. Isn't it funny how simple summer memories can have a lifelong impact?!
It's not too late to order one of our Southern Merc T-shirts featuring original artwork by our Katelyn! Let our favorite Oscar Wilde quote help you remember to find your joy in simple things! They are on sale right now for $19 so grab yours while they last!
Even though I was raised in a small, rural area in the south, I never learned the art of keeping up a garden or canning and "putting up" vegetables. My family traveled a lot in the summers and I didn't have a grandma to teach me those important southern traditions.
When I moved back after college I turned to my friend Mrs. Carolyn for a little help! I have known Mrs. Carolyn my entire life. She was the secretary at the elementary school where my parents taught and our families have been long time friends. When my dad was opening our shop and cafe 16 years ago, he called on Mrs. Carolyn to help in The Cafe. She has been with us ever since! She lovingly tends to our Cafe guests every Tuesday and it is her pimiento cheese recipe that has become famous in our little town.
By the time Perry was about 6 months old, I already knew what his First Birthday Party theme would be. Little Blue Truck is absolutely his favorite book, and he has shown a preference for it long before I thought he should be able to. As we read the book to him, he would lean around the page to see what was coming next as he turned the page. And, when we finished, he would cry for us to read it again, even pushing other books out of the way!
I had never even heard of Little Blue Truck before one of my teacher friends gave it to us at Perry's baby shower (side note, the other book she gave me, Pete the Cat's Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star is also among his favorites!). It's a sweet story of Little Blue Truck who makes friends with lots of farm animals as he rides down the road. When a rude dump truck gets stuck in the mud, no one comes to help until Little Blue Truck shows up and get stuck himself. When all his friends hear his "Beep! Beep! Beep!" they show up and do what it takes to get both trucks out.
Since it's not a very well-known book, there aren't a lot of party decorations readily available, so I had to get creative. In the back of the book, there is a link to download a party kit that includes party hats, cupcake toppers, coloring sheets, and a "Pin the hat on Blue" game (which was a lot of fun for the older kids). That gave me a good start, but I knew I needed more, beginning with an invitation. So, I got to work using some of my favorite online tools!
I got on Pinterest and created a board for Perry's birthday party to get some ideas. I was surprised and very pleased when I searched Etsy and found several invitation options! I finally settled on a digital version I could send electronically and print myself. Of course, once I started looking, I discovered lots of Little Blue Truck items made by people who are more creative than I am. I found decorations for centerpieces I could also download and print myself. I ordered a onesie embroidered with Little Blue Truck and his friends (which I managed not to get a good picture of him wearing). I even found fondant characters to put on the cake, which is one thing I could do myself. I'm pretty proud of how the ombre icing turned out, thanks to tutorials I found and Tara's help! If you like the idea of ombre, but aren't sure about tackling the icing, check out Tara's tutorial for ombre cake layers.
I also saw several high chair banners people had made, and I realized that I could do that myself, too, and I did for half the price I would have paid. After Perry's party, I used it as a backdrop for some of his 1-year pictures. Didn't it turn out cute?
While looking at all the things I could order from Etsy, I saw the cutest decorated sugar cookies that reminded me of cookies I had seen from a bakery in our neighboring town. I sent the picture to the bakery and asked if they could make some similar? Not only could they, their cookies were actually less expensive! I love Etsy because you're purchasing from a small business, but I love supporting a small business in my local community even more!
Amazon and Oriental Trading were my sources for paper goods (plates, napkins, tablecloths, etc.) in blue and white gingham, which matched the invitations and color scheme for the party.
If you're planning a party and want the look of being crafty without too much work, my recommendations are to check out Pinterest for ideas, then look for what you need locally when it's possible or Etsy when it's not. Fill in whatever can't be made (by yourself or someone else!) from your local dollar stores, Oriental Trading, or Amazon.
If you don't already follow us on Pinterest, we'd love it if you check out our boards! They are full of great ideas and resources, like our "Soiree" board that has wonderful ideas for parties and gatherings!
I love Mexican food! On a warm summer night there is nothing much better than chips and fresh salsa, preferably accompanied by a good margarita! I love this time of year when fresh produce is starting to come in, and after a long winter of sub-par vegetables, you can finally find some big, juicy, red tomatoes! I have tried so many brands of jarred or canned salsa, but I just can't find one that I love. I have come close when visiting Texas, as the grocery stores there seem to have a thousand to choose from, but nothing quite compares to the good ole homemade option. Fresh salsa really is so simple and easy to make, there is no reason to be intimidated and no reason you can't enjoy this treat all summer long!
The last room to reveal in our home renovation just so happens to be my favorite--the master bedroom! Though I truly love every single room, I think I love this one most because it has become my little nest! It is where I read, where I rest, and where I feel most comfortable. I am excited to share its transformation with you, and hope that you love it too! Here is a reminder of what this room looked like when we purchased the home.
With 6 large windows and an exterior door, we wondered what this room was used for. A friend of ours who researches old homes called this room a solarium (sun room), which was often used for gatherings and quite possibly a bedroom. After talking with the granddaughter of the original owners of the home, she informed us that this was, in fact, her grandparents' bedroom! She said that it also doubled as a sitting room, and guests would gather around the fireplace to chat after dinner.
In order to make this room our master bedroom, we knew we wanted to add a master bath and move a few doorways around. Before we could get started, we had the daunting task of removing all of the bead board from the walls, once again!
We decided to close up the middle window to give us a place for our bed, as well as tear out and cover up the fireplace. This fireplace was no longer in working order and had sustained some damage to the brick over time, so we decided that a solid wall might be of more use. We had it insulated and sheet-rocked, and we were ready to roll! The original floors turned out beautifully once refinished.
One night, two sweet friends came over to help me paint the walls so we could be one step closer to moving in! You might recognize the blonde on the right, that's Katelyn! :) When deciding on a paint color, I knew I wanted something cozy. With so many windows and white trim, I knew a dark color would be the way to go. I saw this bedroom (middle picture) on Pinterest and fell in love with the brown walls! I ended up going with Less Brown SW6040 by Sherwin Williams , and I love how it turned out!
Now, for the finished room! You enter our bedroom from the end of the hallway, right next to the guest bathroom.
Phillip built our bed, which turned out perfect for the space! I was so glad that we decided to get rid of the middle window. It is so fun to dream something up, and watch it come to life. It wasn't so simple when I went on the search for our other bedroom furniture. I just couldn't find anything I liked in the surrounding furniture stores--it all seemed so bulky and traditional. I wanted a softer look, that would coordinate but not "match" the bed. I finally decided to take a chance and order something online! I was nervous, but I am so happy with my choice! The night stands, dresser and chest of drawers came from Pier 1.
I have also had the hardest time finding curtains that I liked, and could actually afford! I had no idea that Ikea had a select few curtains available in 118". They turned out to be beautiful--and I love how the white just brightens up the space!
One of my favorite things in our bedroom are my monogrammed pillow cases! Our sweet Ms. Carolyn embroidered them by hand. What a treasure! It makes me happy every time I crawl into bed, and every time I make it up. I just love the personal touch it adds to the room!
This view shows you how we moved the doorways around to make the master bath add-on make sense.
It worked out great that we ended up sheet-rocking over the fireplace. Now we have a solid wall that provides enough space for our dresser.
Our most recent addition to the bedroom has been a sweet little crib for Lila! Throughout our journey in foster care, one thing that we have realized is how uncertain things can be. We decided to just plan on Lila being in our room for a little while, while we get used to this baby thing! We had plenty of room to put the crib over by the windows.
It has been a sweet thing to look over and be reminded that she will be here so soon.
As we anxiously await her arrival, we have prepared as much as possible! I can't wait to see her sweet face, and bring her to this house we've made a home. I hope she grows to love it as much as we do.
I hope you have enjoyed the last Beech Street Bungalow Room Reveal! Don't worry, there are still more projects to be finished and decorating to do--so this definitely won't be the last Beech Street blog. I have a long list of things that I still want to share with you! In the mean time, feel free to go back and relive our progress!
Beech Street Bungalow: Before
Beech Street Bungalow: The Fireplace
Beech Street Bungalow: The Walls
Beech Street Bungalow: The Floors
Beech Street Bungalow: The Kitchen
Beech Street Bungalow: The Master Bath
Beech Street Bungalow: The Living and Dining Room
Beech Street Bungalow: Guest Bath
Beech Street Bungalow: The Laundry Room
Beech Street Bungalow: The Exterior
Beech Street Bungalow: Porch Planters
Beech Street Bungalow: The Kid's Rooms
I was truly blessed growing up to be a part of a family that traveled. Since my parents were both school teachers, we had plenty of time in the summer to pack up and hit the road! Keep in mind, my parents were school teachers, so these were not glamorous vacations full of ski trips, water parks, restaurants and hotels. Our road trips consisted of tent camping (thank you K.O.A.), dinners from the cooler (a.k.a. cooler crud) and finding all the cool stops along the way that were free or cheap! While our trips may have been a strain on the family budget, they were full of fun and happy memories (somehow you forget the stressful times when it is over). My brother and I were really lucky to have gotten to see so much of the United States of America!
Summer is certainly here, along with all the fruits and vegetables that we all love! There's just something about biting into fresh locally grown produce - whether it's from your own garden or a farmer's market - that just makes you want to slow down and enjoy life, and maybe live a bit more simply.
You may already have your favorite recipes for putting up fruits and vegetables, but if you don't, check out some of our best-loved blogs for ideas. Ms. Carolyn's Southern Sweet Pickles are a great way to use up those cucumbers, while Roxie's Fresh Summer Salsas will make good use of tomatoes. Or, if you need some relish to go with your peas, read Peas and Relish. If it's fruit you have, see Jams for Sale or It's Putting Up Time for jelly-making ideas.
Of course, this time of year, there's an abundance of such delicious, fresh from the farm produce to enjoy. Want to share that feeling with family and friends throughout the year? We have just what you need in our July Curated Collection!
Our Canning Kit is the perfect way to dress up the jars you're putting up this summer to give throughout the year as hostess gift, teacher gifts, or any other occasion to show a little thoughtfulness.
With tags, fabric circles, and string to tie them all together, it's easy to take your hard work and make it a cute gift!
This cute little wooden spoon is great to tie onto the jar, or keep it for yourself! And, for more jelly-making ideas, our Jams and Jellies in Less Than 30 Minutes cookbook is full of quick and easy recipes to make and share! Just in case you don't have time to whip up something yourself, we are also including a jar of our homemade jam!
So, if this month's collection looks like something you'd love to help savor the taste of summer, head on over to the store and order one today!
If there has been anything that I have experienced so far this summer, it is what it feels like to be hungry and hot! Now being 8 months pregnant, I have found myself in a current state of snacking, rather than eating large meals. While doing so, I have done my best to keep the snacks as healthy as possible. You know that's a hard task with the sweet tooth I have!
Here are a few favorite snacks that I thought any family would love--adults and kids alike! Great for hot summer days, or relaxing summer nights, make a few new memories in the kitchen (or backyard) this year!
Frozen Fruit Salad
This recipe was introduced to me by Mr. Terry, Roxie's dad! He brought in this delicious treat one day at lunch and I just fell in love with its refreshing flavor! This recipe can be made in individual servings or by the pan. Perfect for a summer dinner party or afternoon snack, you're going to love this Frozen Fruit Salad! Visit our Recipe Archive to find this recipe, along with other great recipes to try!
There is something magical about s'mores...or maybe it's just the campfire. Either way, I'll never turn them down! Making memories around a fire with friends and family is always fun. Whether you stick with the classic stack of graham crackers, hershey bars and roasted marshmallows, or you put a new spin on an old classic, you can't go wrong! (I found a delicious S'mores Bar recipe that is so fun, and easy to make.) My Nana always made a simple and yummy treat for us grandkids when we rustled up an appetite. She would lay out saltine crackers on a pan, smear a little peanut butter on each one, and top them with a few mini marshmallows--then pop them in the toaster oven until the marshmallows were perfectly toasted! It never failed, this simple treat would always make my night! Maybe the magic is actually in the marshmallows...
Homemade popsicles are also something we would make as kids, that seemed so fancy at the time! Even if it was something simple, like kool-aid, that my mom would pour in the molds, I felt like a summer princess eating my popsicle on the back steps. I'd savor every bite while the melted drops of juice stained the dirt. Now, there are endless possibilities for making your own pops. There are a million recipes ranging from using fresh fruit and yogurt (more healthy options) to fudge and ice-cream (a more indulgent choice). Whichever you choose, popsicles should be pressure-free, fun snacks! My personal favorite right now is a combination of homemade lemonade and fresh strawberries!
A simple trail mix is as classic as it gets when it comes to summer snacks. Whether your taking a week long road trip or a 30 minute grocery store run, a baggie of trail mix can save the day! Mix it up ahead of time for a quick snack on-the-go! Keep it as simple as you wish using cereals and pretzels, or shoot for a healthier option with dried fruits and nuts. Trail mix is a great way to get the kids involved in choosing a fun snack they'll love to munch on!
A slushie is another great way to sneak a little fruit into your daily diet, not to mention a quick way to cool down! I usually opt for a quick combination of frozen fruit, ice and a splash of juice when I'm on the run--but your options are once again endless! There is just something special about those tiny bits of chipped up ice that makes a simple drink all the more refreshing.
When it comes to summer nights, fresh popcorn is right up there on the list next to s'mores! Whether you make it over a campfire, or on the stove, this fresh and flavorful snack is always a winner! My roommate in college loved to make this quick and simple snack for us to have while we watched a movie or socialized. I just love all of the possibilities and flavor combinations--they're endless! Mary Claire's staple recipe was coconut oil, popcorn and salt. It is so light and such a guiltless snack when kept simple!
Be sure to check out our Southern Summer board on our Pinterest page for more great summer snack ideas! The possibilities are endless--so let loose and have a little fun with your food this summer!
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