Little did I know that across the county, another family was growing muscadines and raising a little boy into the man I would marry!
As a little girl, my sisters and I were forced to pick whatever fruit or vegetable was in season, wherever my parents or other family members grew it. I even remember stopping on the side of the road not far from the house I grew up in just to pick blackberries so Mama could make a cobbler. (It was delicious!) Since I was a lazy baby sister, I never enjoyed these trips to the garden or orchard or friend’s backyard because they meant working in the sun rather than reading in my room. I did, however, enjoy the “fruits” of all our labor! Now, as an adult, I realize the value of hard work and am grateful for these memories.
One of my favorite memories is of going over to Grandma Willa Ree Tucker’s house at the end of every summer to pick muscadines and scuppernongs. She had quite a few rows of those beautiful vines that were always loaded with the sweet fruit of a southern summer. And, Grandma Ree loved nothing more than to share all that she had. There was always a debate among my sisters and I as to which was better - the purple muscadines or the bronze/green scuppernongs? As a child, the purple were always my favorite, but as I’ve grown older, I tend to love the bronze. I can still remember popping the skins with my teeth, sucking out the juicy pulp, then spitting out the seeds, all while I was supposed to be putting the muscadines in my bucket. For some reason, my bucket never seemed to fill up.
Little did I know that across the county, another family was growing muscadines and raising a little boy into the man I would marry!
I guess it’s a good thing I fell in love with muscadines before I fell in love with him, since they would become such a large part of my adult life! We built our home right in the middle of his family’s muscadine vineyard, and my husband has taken the family business from growing and selling fresh muscadines to creating products made from muscadines. Now, I help with the social media for the family businesses and even make the jellies that we sell.
We talk to a lot of people about muscadines, some to educate on what they are, how to eat them, and how good they are for you. For most who grew up in the south, though, it’s to reminisce about their time in the woods or their grandmother’s backyard, or how their grandfather made homemade muscadine wine! I always love seeing their faces when they eat a muscadine or try our juice or jelly, then hearing their stories. You can see how the taste and scent take them back to the innocence of childhood and the joy they felt in a simpler time. I love being able to provide people with such a nostalgic experience!
Since it is muscadine season, we’d love to hear your stories and memories! If you need a little inspiration and don’t have access to muscadines, you can always order a jar of Paulk’s Pride Muscadine Jelly, Preserves, or Sauce from us here at The Southern Mercantile! In case you’re wondering the differences, the Jelly is made from muscadine juice for a smoother texture, while the preserves and sauce have the skins for a chunkier texture. The sauce also has spices like cinnamon and cloves, which makes it delicious on pork or with turkey and dressing - it’s my personal favorite! Either way, we’d love to hear your stories and how you serve muscadines!
Summer is here,and so it begins! Our gardens and neighborhood farmer's markets are full of fresh fruits and vegetables ready to be enjoyed. It seems like we Southerners live for summer and the excitement of growing, picking and putting up our own produce. Although I don't enjoy eating many vegetables (yes, I know I'm weird), there is just something nostalgic about taking part in this Southern tradition. (And my husband is thankful for my participation!) I particularly LOVE the fresh fruits that become available to me in the summer. If you know me, you know I love to bake--and summer is a baker's delight!
As a kid, I discovered wild blackberries trailing through the woods behind my Nana's house.
Though these look like just plain old woods, look a little closer.
As a kid, I loved the adventure of hunting out the ripe berries and showing off my bounty. As I stumbled upon each darkened berry, my soul smiled. Now as an adult, I have found that my experience hasn't changed much. I still feel that flutter of excitement when I spot perfect berries ready to be picked.
I love finding new and delicious ways to enjoy these summer treats--juice, jellies, syrup, cobblers, pies...you name it, I've tried it! Syrups and cobblers are my go-to options because you don't need a ton of fruit to whip up something delicious!
This past week, I chose to make a little syrup with my haul--since it was a LITTLE haul!
You won't believe how we chose to enjoy our syrup that night. Nana made her delicious cornbread, like only she can do, and we decided to dip it in our fresh blackberry syrup! Phillip was skeptical at first, but later admitted that it tasted like blackberry cobbler--talk about a southern makeshift dessert!
You may not be brave enough to dip your cornbread in blackberry syrup, but you have to try these delicious Blackberry Pie Bars if you get your hands on fresh blackberries this summer! The only thing that could make them even more delicious is adding a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.
If you want to store your fresh summer berries in style, we have just what you need! How cute are our ceramic berry baskets? What a simple way to dress up your kitchen and have a little fun with your summer finds!
Whether your eggs are fresh from the farm or from the carton, our ceramic egg holders are the trick! Not only are they cute, but they make reaching in the fridge for a few eggs easy when your hands are full!
Be sure to have joined our email list on the Homepage or our Recipe Club to receive the Blackberry Pie Bar recipe and many more! We love sharing our favorites with you, and we would love for you to let us know what your favorite summer recipes are too!
The very first memory I have of Valentine’s Day takes me back to Mrs. Lois’s preschool class.
This class was held in a bright and beautiful room complete with a felt story wall and a “Sugar Chair” (where you were made to sit when you displayed less than perfect behavior) at Ocilla Baptist Church. I have many memories of the stories told on that wall, time spent in the “Sugar Chair”, and celebrating special days.
Mrs. Lois most definitely made Valentine’s Day one to remember. We spent, what seems like days now, handcrafting the most perfect valentines mailbox one could imagine. All you needed to construct this masterpiece was a shoebox your mom let you empty, construction paper (preferably pink and red), glue--and if you were well behaved, glitter! Once everyone was finished making what would collect letters of love, we lined them up on one long table ready for delivery. We waited in anticipation for day 14, when we were allowed to fill each box with our premeditated love gifts.
The best was yet to come. Once everyone had taken their turn, we were told to grab our overflowing boxes and return to our seat.
I vividly remember thinking how sweet and special Valentine’s Day must be. What a pure joy it was to be 4 and filled with love.
We at The Southern Mercantile want to recreate this feeling for people of all ages. We want to share the love!
Let us introduce you to Hannah, the founder of More Love Letters. Hannah started sharing the love in her own small way and now thousands, maybe even millions, have been loved. Click this link to learn more about her story: https://moreloveletters.squarespace.com/
We hope you feel inspired by her mission. We would love for you to write your own love letter and leave for someone who needs it most. Share the love!
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.
The house that was full of family memories for me was full of great memories of generosity and hospitality for many others. Through the years my grandparents hosted more guests than you can imagine, most for a few days but many for months at a time while they were getting on their feet in a new area. It would be impossible to count the number of Sunday dinners that were hosted in that dining room. I doubt my grandparents could tell you how many times that they were alone in their home in the 53 years that they were married. I cannot think of a better example of love and compassion than using the home that the Lord has provided to do good works!
In 2006 my grandfather died of cancer. I remember so vividly the whole experience, his diagnoses, the phone call, my last visit with him. It was a time in my life that I can look back and really feel like I was crossing a milestone. Something I knew I would have to face as an adult but wished I could run from as fast as I could. Of course the family gathered from near and far for his funeral and once again the house was full.
Though it was a sad occasion, it was wonderful to sit at the kids table again, squeeze in the tiny t.v. room with all of my cousins and sit around and tell funny stories about Grandpa. Though we were missing a very important member of the family, the house somehow seemed to be happy to be full once more with its family.
I returned many times over the years after Grandpa’s death to visit my grandmother. Every time, I fought back tears when I arrived because Grandpa was not there to greet me. Even with him gone, the house was still a home - it was my home away from home. The old family photos were still on the wall. The trunk full of family memories was still in the basement. There was still a quilt on my bed, my grandmother was still serving ice cream after dinner,and the cookie jar was still on the counter. My grandfather was still everywhere.
This year I feel that I have crossed another mile stone in life. I am still growing up and still wishing I could run! My Grandmother sold the house and moved closer to her daughters. While this was the right decision for her, it has been so devastating for me. Shortly after she moved, my grandparent’s house was torn down. Making room, I am sure, for a larger, nicer house with a huge master bedroom with a walk in closet. I cannot express to you the sadness I have been feeling. To know that my happy home away from home is gone forever. I have been beating myself up and telling myself that it is ridiculous to be so attached to a house. It was just a house. It just happened to be filled with some pretty great people and some pretty unbelievable memories. My mind has been flooded with memories of my grandfather, and this event has made me miss him so much more. What I wouldn’t give to sit on his porch with him one more time and have a chat while he fed his squirrels!
I have been lucky, I think, to have such stability and happiness in my life. To have grandparents that never moved, and parents that have never moved! My parents still live in the house I grew up in, and now I live next door! I guess I will forever be a nostalgic person that is too attached to my worldly things. As I say goodbye to my grandparent’s house, I know this means that I am getting older. There will be more milestones to cross and more sadness to face, but there are also many more happy memories to be made! I can’t wait to tell my nieces and nephews and little cousins all about my grandparent’s house and all of the good times I had there!
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 grandmother was originally from Selma, Alabama, and made her way to Arlington by way of my Grandfather, a very handsome WWII vet that was born and raised in Arlington, VA.
Other than his war time and his college days, he never lived anywhere else. They were magnificent people, truly members of the greatest generation. They were hard-working folks that always put God and family first, and raised their children to do the same.
I am one of 7 grandchildren, so you can imagine we had quite a grand time when we were all together. There was a big side yard at my Grandparents’ house that hosted all of our wiffle ball and badminton games. This same yard happened to be a fantastic hunting ground for lightning bugs, and Grandma always had a jar ready for us when we arrived. We begged grandma to tap dance for us and jump rope in the kitchen. There was a cookie jar that sat on the corner of the counter that you could help yourself to whenever you wanted. Can you imagine a cookie jar with no rules? (I learned later in life that this was less about the grandchildren and more because Grandpa had a serious cookie addiction!)
There was a big basement that was great for playing hide and seek, and it also hosted many a ping pong tournament. The whole family would not fit in the small dining room so there was always a designated “kids” table in the kitchen. Even as adults my cousins and I much preferred to sit at the kids table.
The summer before my senior year in high school, I decided to live with my grandparents and get a summer job.
Grandpa was born a natural tour guide and loved showing off “his” city. He could give a tour of D.C. like no one else. I loved talking with them in the evenings and learning about their childhoods. Grandpa loved to tell history stories, though we could rarely get him to talk much about the war. He and his twin brother were combat medics in WWII. My Grandpa earned a bronze star and a silver star. 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.
As I have decorated my little house, I have found myself filling it up with pictures of family!
I love to be surrounded with memories of my loved ones. As I get older and am starting to lose members of that generation of my family, I count myself lucky to have been so loved by those two special people! It is wonderful to be able to call on such happy childhood memories as I try to navigate this crazy world as an adult!
Keeping old family photographs in your home is a great way to give your décor a little character and it will serve as a great reminder to you every day to remember where you came from. I am filled with warm feelings of nostalgia and happiness every time I look at the sweet faces in all those frames in my home.
Below, I have shared a few ideas on displaying some of your special photo’s in your home.
Click HERE to see a great selection of frames and other useful tools you can use to show off your family!
I have been very blessed in this life to have been influenced, mentored, and spoiled by some pretty fantastic women. These generous women have given wonderful gifts, as well as the priceless gifts of their time and love. I am proud to call these women my Fairy Godmothers.
As a kid, my first fairy godmother lived next door.
The simple gift of a bike ride or a “sip up” (juice box) after school made my brother and me feel like a million bucks. She loved to give us little things that we considered wonderful treats. We felt like a king and queen when she picked us up and took us to McDonald’s to get a Happy Meal. This was a treasured prize as we rarely ate out, and when we did, we were not allowed to splurge on such things. Can you imagine a Happy Meal qualifying as a splurge! She moved when I was in middle school but has always kept up with us. In high school she would swoop in with the J. Crew catalog and order me some new clothes. When I headed to college she shipped me off with a small TV. and a rug for my room. She would mail me cards every few weeks with $5.00 in them. It was great to have a little guiltless mad money in my pocket!
As an adult, I have added to my Fairy Godmother collection. I have been showered with shopping trips, linens for my new home, money to go towards the renovation of my new home, help with cleaning, help with events at The Shoppes, weekend getaways... the list goes on and on!
These women have been such a blessing to me and have contributed so much to my character and growth as a person. As a result of the love they’ve given and the time they’ve spent with me, I have had a great lesson in the art of being a fairy godmother.
I am the proud fairy godmother of many fairy godchildren!
These are fabulous young people that I have become incredibly attached to over the years. I have been blessed to watch them grow up and become young adults. We’ve celebrated birthdays, and high school and college graduations. I’ve made too many prom and homecoming bouquets to count and have had the honor of helping with and celebrating a few weddings!
It has been so fun and rewarding to watch them become adults and grow in their faith and character. I have learned many lessons from these special people and I can’t imagine my life without them! I also LOVE to spoil them! (That is, after all, the best part of being a fairy godmother)
I am so richly blessed to have fairy godmothers and children to love and add to my “family”. I cannot describe the happiness and joy it brings me to know that I am loved by them!
I can’t tell you how many times I have started this post and then deleted and started over. It has been so difficult for me to narrow down my memories of my mom to a short but sweet little blurb. I think most of us, if we spend some time really sitting and thinking about our mothers, would find it difficult to choose what to say. Most of us would need to write a novel to express our love and appreciation for our mothers, not just one short blog post.
I have chosen a couple of my favorite pictures to share with you that I think embody the spirit of my mother. She was always very encouraging of my creativity and imagination. She would play with my brother and me for hours, whatever stupid game we wanted to play, whether it was candy land or something we made up! She loved for us to brush her hair and put make up on her. For some reason she actually found this relaxing!
She didn’t keep us on a full schedule of lessons and ball games. We were encouraged to play in the back yard and ride our bikes (or roller skates) and just be kids.
My mother truly enjoyed her children. She loved playing with us, cooking supper for us, reading to us at bedtime.
She couldn’t wait for school to end so she would have the whole summer to play with her family. I can tell you that my mom has never stopped enjoying her kids. When I was in college, she and my dad would drive almost four hours on a Sunday morning just to go to church with me and take me out to lunch, and then drive four hours home. Just because they thought it was fun! Now that I live next door to her, she is always ready at a moment’s notice to go antiquing or run errands with me. She is so sweet to help me with things at work and at home.
She has never “mothered” us out of obligation or guilt. She has enjoyed being our mother and it shows! What a blessing to know that you are loved and enjoyed by your mother!
As you may already know, I grew up as the baby of a large family. My siblings are all 6-8 years older than I am. This made for a unique dynamic, sometimes making me feel like I had multiple mothers, and as my sisters all married, multiple fathers, too. I appreciate it now that I’m grown, knowing that I have always had a large safety net of family whenever I need them.
One of my most vivid memories as a small child in this large, older family is when I was about 4 years old. I distinctly remember looking around the family room and seeing that everyone was reading something. My father had the newspaper, my mother had her harlequin romance novel, and my sisters all had a magazine or book. I stood up and announced, “I want to read, too!” My mother calmly responded, “Sure, baby. You’ll learn to read when you go to kindergarten next year.” Being a stubborn and precocious child, I responded with, “No! I want to read now!”
Not long after that, my mother purchased flash cards of letters and their sounds. I spent the evenings sitting at the bar across from the stove, going through my flash cards while Mama would cook dinner. I would hold up a card and ask her, “What sound does this letter make?” then repeat it after her. That’s how I learned to read, and once I started to school, I sat at the same bar to do my homework every night. When I didn’t understand something, I would ask her for help, just like I did when I was learning to read. I'm so grateful to have a mother who made sure to give me the tools I needed to be successful in life.
That bar is not only the place I learned how to read. Sometimes, I would sit at the bar and just talk to her and watch her cook, even if I didn’t have any homework. I do have some specific memories, like watching her make chili or fry canned biscuits into doughnuts, but mostly I remember the feeling of being connected to my Mama and her cooking. I suppose that bar is where I first began to learn how to cook. And to this day, when I make one of my Mama’s recipes, I feel that connection.
When my husband and I decided to build our home, I made sure that the plan we chose had a bar looking into our kitchen. At the time, I only had one little boy, but I wanted to know that he and any future babies we had would be able to grow up sitting there and connect with me.
When I think about my mom, I think about manners, speaking correct grammar, cleanliness, ironing, and lipstick. My mother is one of a kind, and I couldn’t have picked a better one. From the time I was little I knew she was something special. She would wake us up in the mornings by bringing us a warm washcloth to wash our face with in bed. She cooked dinner every night for us to all eat at the table together. She did her best to teach me how to be a lady. She even ironed our play-clothes.
My mom is a great example of the kind of mother I want to be. She raised us to be respectful of others, to always do our best, and to take responsibility for our actions. She pretended to be ballerinas, pirates, students, customers and so much more. She was was my number one side kick and my place of comfort.
She pushed me to follow my dreams by encouraging my talents and teaching me the value of independence. She did for us, while she went without. She exhibited and still exhibits a selflessness that I have never experienced in anyone else. There are many things in my life that I am grateful for, but on the top of my list is my Mama.
One of my favorite books in recent years is The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Because I was raised in the South, I can relate to many of the stories told in this book. Like so many books about life in the South, racism is certainly a predominant theme, but this book is about so much more.
I relate so well to Skeeter Phelan, who publishes the stories of the black maids. She feels pulled in so many different directions - by her mother, her friends, and society, but also by her intellect, her ethics, and her love of her maid, Constantine. She feels trapped by the way things are supposed to be. Something inside her realizes that things could and should be different, both for herself and for the black maids she befriends.
Fortunately, my experience has been much more positive than what is portrayed inThe Help. James and Melvine (Mel-VINE-uh) Bryant were like grandparents to my husband, Chris, and his siblings growing up. In fact, they were given seats of honor along with our biological grandparents at our weddings!
There has always been a mutual respect between the two families. The Paulks were not only their employers, but also their friends. Countless times they would invite the whole family over for celebrations. Both families helped each other out in times of need. And, throughout the years, even more Bryant family members continued to work with the Paulks.
Melvine was the person who taught my father-in-law how to cook, and our family is grateful for that every Sunday! So many times, I have heard someone remark about a dish, “I just wish I could do it like Melvine!” She may have been “the help” to others, but to us, she was family, and an example to whom we should all aspire. I can still see her ironing clothes or standing at the stove, laughing at the silly antics of Chris, his brother, and their high school friends or watching Chris’s little sisters dance through the house or shaking her head at yet another one of Gary’s jokes. Those memories and more are so precious to us all.
Mr. James was in charge of the vending machines used by all the farm workers. As he grew older, Chris would drive him once a month to Sam’s Club to purchase all the snacks and drinks to fill the vending machines. Chris has such sweet memories of the fun they had and their talks on those trips. Mr. James passed away a few years ago, and he left those vending machines to Chris. At his funeral, the church was packed full of people - black and white, young and old - who came to pay their respects to a man whose life taught respect.
Skeeter’s love and devotion to Constantine resembles the love that the Paulk family continues to have for the Bryants. There is a connection between us all that rises above the color of our skin. Our families are intertwined because of our own history and positive experiences. And, for that, I am grateful.
This week in honor of the NEA’s Read Across America program that is promoted nationwide, The Southern Merc girls thought it would be fun to highlight our favorite southern books by southern authors. When we were all choosing which books we wanted to write about, I did not hesitate to choose “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. It not only is my favorite book by a southern Author, but it just might be my favorite book, period.
I didn’t read “To Kill a Mockingbird” until I was out of college and had just moved back to my small hometown. It’s one of those classics that I always felt I should read but since I never had to read it for school, it just hadn’t made it to the top of my list. My brother, an avid reader and an overachiever when it came to knocking out classics, sent me a copy of the book as a birthday present with the sweetest inscription: “Hope this will always remind you of home.” His words absolutely sum up my feelings about this book. I poured through the pages and couldn’t get enough of Scout’s accounts of being a kid in her small southern town. I was definitely able to identify with both Scout and Jem as their story reminded me so much of growing up with my brother in our small, southern town.
Yes, I do realize that “To Kill a Mockingbird” is so much more than a tale of two kids growing up in a small town. The discussion of the social and political problems of racism, civil rights and women’s roles most certainly is what hits the hardest in this story, and unfortunately, while great improvements have been made, all are still relevant topics and problems today. With that being said, there is something magical about growing up in a small, safe environment, where everybody knows everybody else. Scout states that “Maycomb was a tired old town” where people moved slowly and took their time. “There was no hurry for there was nowhere to go.” When reading this I instantly visualize the sidewalks of my own tired old town. To me, this book is somehow a frozen time capsule of my own childhood memories.
When my brother and I were kids there literally was nowhere to go, except to ride our bikes to the gas station to buy a coke. Our house was just two blocks from downtown so we were allowed to ride our bikes or roller skate wherever we wanted to go. Jem and Scout had “summertime boundaries” that were in calling distance of their maid, Calpurnia. Troy and I had similar boundaries, we had to be within whistle distance of my dad, and he has the loudest whistle of anyone I have ever heard. I have tried and tried to replicate it but am afraid I do not possess that talent. My friend’s dad owned an appliance store downtown and sometimes we would venture down there to claim a refrigerator box. I would give anything to have a video of the three of us walking home with a box that was bigger than all of us put together! Those boxes provided hours and hours of backyard fun. Life really did seem so simple then. If we weren’t in school, we spent most of our time outside. We spent hours acting out dramatic scenarios, like escaping from an orphanage on a boat made of lawn chairs. We made up our own games like obstacle kick ball and “Miss Geronimo”, a game we made up to play with our very energetic dog Neva.
I could, and can still, relate to other things mentioned in the book, such as not really being “from” a place unless you have proof of many generations of ancestors there. Or things like the mystery surrounding Boo Radley. All small towns have their own version of Boo. Folks just need something to talk about. Mysterious secrets and rumors to keep the good townspeople entertained. Harper Lee had such a brilliant idea, to tell the story of growing up in the south through the eyes of a child. Though both the good and the bad aspects of growing up in a small, southern town are represented here, this book will forever remind me of being a child in a small town in South Georgia. I have such happy memories of rambling around town with my brother. Some days, how I long to go back to those simple times!
When I decided to move home after graduation, most everyone in our little town asked me why. Well, the reason why is simple: I love my family, I love this slow paced life, and I love my job. Everyone in my immediate family lives within 10 minutes of me, and my Nana lives right next door. The only time traffic gets backed up is for a parade or a tractor. I work for the Fourth and Cherry Company serving our community, running a retail store, developing websites, and planning events. I get to do what life was meant for--enjoy it.
Since moving home, I restored and am living in my great grandparents home, I am raising a puppy, and I recently became engaged to my high school sweetheart.
I could not ask for life to get any sweeter. I haven't realized how much has actually happened in the last year of my life until this very moment. What a year! I am so thankful and blessed to be surrounded by people who love me and appreciate my gifts and talents. If you are reading this, I am sure you will be reading many other posts about my home and how it came to be, my sweet Breezy girl (a boykin spaniel), and my future husband and the life comes along with him.
I love to travel, I love trying new things, and I love experiencing new cultures--but there is only one place I desire to call home.
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