My Favorite Holiday Gifts 2018: Part 8, Southern Gifts

For our friends who live in other parts of the country, or even other parts of the world, it’s fun to send regional gifts. For me, that means sending something that represents the flavor and culture of THE SOUTH. I’ve written about some of these before, but they’re worth mentioning again. You might even want to “gift” some to yourself!  Here are my selections:

Hi Y’all. Holy moly…this is one of my new favorite sites. Based in Starkville, Mississippi, this fun company started in 2012, according to their website. A friend whose daughter is a student at nearby Mississippi State University told me about this company, and I can’t stop perusing the website. They produce handprinted pillows, apparel, prints, and custom paintings…and I love them all! Of course, they have a southern theme, and anything they have would make a great gift for a fellow southerner or someone who has never visited the south. See the website here.

 

Pepperoni Rolls. Country Club Bakery, Fairmont, West Virginia. I’ve just placed an order. I saw a story about these on CBS Sunday Morning (you can see it here), and I can hardly wait to receive them. This was one I hesitated to share, because I want them to be my secret. Alas, I couldn’t resist telling y’all about them too. Y’all are going to wish you lived in West Virginia. Pepperoni rolls were introduced in WV when Italian immigrants went there to work in the mines, and pepperoni rolls were the perfect hand-held snack that wouldn’t spoil in their lunches. You can order yours here.

Olde Colony Bakery Benne Wafers. Based the Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, Olde Colony offers Benne Wafers, which are basically Sesame seed cookies. They’ve been a part of the culture of Charleston for hundreds of years, and Olde Colony has been making them since 1940. Representing a taste of the history of the Charleston area, send these to some friends in other parts of the country, or get some for yourself. Shop here.

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GooGoo Cluster. I don’t know if GooGoo Clusters are sold everywhere, but even if they are, they are fun to send! Made in Nashville, Tennessee, these treats containing marshmallow nougat, caramel, peanuts, and covered in chocolate have been around since 1912, and they’ve survived for a good reason: they’re yummy! Standard Candy, the makers of the clusters, was an early sponsor of the Grand Ole Opry, selling the candy at shows there in the 1920s. They are definitely a taste of the south! Send a box to someone in another part of the country as a Christmas treat! See their website here.

Aunt Sally’s Pralines. Straight out of New Orleans, these sweet treats are definitely a taste of the deep, Deep South. They are described on the website as “creamy and sugary, with hints of vanilla and delicate, melt in your mouth texture.” Pralines are definitely sweet and creamy with just the right number of pecans. They know what they’re doing at Aunt Sally’s. There are lots of great pralines throughout the south, but I went with one from New Orleans, since that’s where they originated in the US. With prices starting at $14.95 for a box of the treats, this is a great gift to send. See the website here.

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King Cakes. Since we’re talking about New Orleans, I should mention King Cakes. Traditionally a Mardi Gras treat, Haydel’s Bakery makes a Christmas version and a candy cane version. If you’ve never experienced a King Cake, the holidays might be the perfect time. And anyone anywhere would love to receive one, because they are fun and delicious. They’re not cheap, though. Priced at $53, they include some beads and a pack of French Market Coffee. You can get their Cajun Kringle starting at $43.95, or as a package with French Market Coffee and a Christmas towel for $55. See Haydel’s here. .

 

Videri Chocolate. This company in Raleigh, North Carolina, makes an assortment of delicious chocolate products…hot chocolate, bonbons, chocolate bars, and even teabags. And they’re not only delicious, they’re beautiful too! And the packaging! I’m sending some friends some of their Jingle Bell Caramels ($21) this Christmas. I’ll be sending myself some too! You know…one for you, one for me. Prices start at $6 for bars. See Videri Chocolate Factory here.

South Georgia Pecan Company. I was introduced to this company, located in Valdosta, Georgia, by a friend who used to live there. She gave me a bag of their Chocolate Amaretto Pecans, and it was love at first bite. She also told me a secret to making them even better…store them in the freezer! Since then, I’ve ordered them for friends and myself too! Check out their website here. 

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The Alabama Sweet Tea Company. A friend recently told me about this company that’s based in Montgomery, Alabama. She loves their full-flavored tea, which you can purchase by the box, and she loves their other products too! Fun fact: their tea is served at Magnolia Table in Waco, Texas…maybe you’ve heard of it on HGTV? You can purchase their tea on their website, but their gear is fun too! Their t-shirts, tumblers, and hats are pure southern. I think my friends at Front Porch Football (see them here) will like these shirts! See the website here. 

Loveless Cafe, Nashville. Opened in 1951, this “down home” establishment is known around the world for its southern-style biscuits and pies. Back in the day, there was an adjacent 14-room motel, but it closed in 1985, and the rooms were converted into shops and office space. The cafe is going strong in 2018, and you can order jams, bacon, hams, a cookbook, mixes, and all sorts of Loveless paraphernalia. It definitely represents the south. I may send the cookbook to a friend who writes her own cookbooks of healthy recipes…she might enjoy trying to decrease the calories and fat in some of the down home recipes. Shop Loveless Cafe here.

Holy Spirit Monastery Gifts. Located in Conyers, GA, the Holy Spirit Monastery has a gift shop that helps support the monks. They sell honey, biscotti, and more, but the most southern gift they make is their fudge. The monks make the fudge by hand on premises, and a friend tells me it’s delicious. Plus, they have one flavor called Southern Touch that contains peach morsels, pecans, and a touch of brandy. Wow! Boxes containing 12 ounces of fudge are $12.95. Shop it here.

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30a Gear. Nothing says “Florida panhandle” like 30a Gear. If you’re thinking “Florida doesn’t have the flavor of the south,” you’ve never visited the very southern panhandle. 30a is a beach lifestyle brand that was created by a man from Birmingham, Alabama, when he moved to Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. With the panhandle being in disrepair after Hurricane Michael, I needed to include a business from there. You’ve likely seen 30a gear, and some of you likely had no idea what it meant. Well, Hwy 30A is a beach road through the panhandle of Florida. I could get more specific, but that’s the gist. It’s a beautiful stretch of beach, and it’s very popular. Shop here.

 

Edgar’s Bakery Cheese Straws. It’s no secret to my friends and family that I love anything Edgar’s Bakery makes. Based in Birmingham, Alabama, but with several locations, this bakery makes my very favorite strawberry cake. Alas, it cannot be shipped. But they can ship their gift tins. With prices starting at $16.50, you can ship a tin of their housemade cheese straws (also my favorite) or wedding cookies. The cheese straws will make you want a tall glass of sweet tea! Shop here.

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Sweet Potato Sweets. Straight from the Sweet Potato Capital of the World, Vardaman, Mississippi, Sweet Potato Sweets offers lots of goodies made from…you guessed it, sweet potatoes. Bread and pies and cakes, oh my! Personally, I never met a sweet potato I didn’t like, especially when a little sugar is added. Representing the true south, anything you send from Sweet Potato Sweets will be welcomed with open arms. I’ll be ordering some of their breads. Shop here.

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There you have it! Wanna share a little bit of the south with someone who doesn’t live here? Send them any one of these items, and they will feel the southern love! Or order some for yourself. I’m placing some orders right now.

 

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Share The South

Y’all might think I’m crazy, but when I travel, I make friends. It’s what I do. It’s my thing.

Therefore, when we return to places, I like to take regional gifts or gifts that represent something about me or where I’m from: the South. For example, when we visit Los Angeles, I have a few friends I like to see, and I try to take a little something for them, because some of them have never been here. It’s fun.

Sometimes, it’s something obvious that I take. If the person knows I went to The University of Alabama, I might take a Bama sweatshirt or t-shirt. But I can’t take the same thing every time. It’s fun, to me, to search for interesting places to purchase stuff that represents North Carolina, Alabama, or just the south in general.

Since it’s summertime, we try to make a few more trips than the rest of the year. During the rest of the year there’s that thing that messes up all our travel. It’s called school.

This summer, we have a few trips planned, and I’ve been looking for the perfect southern gifts to take with me on my trips. You know, lots of people all over the country still think we don’t have paved roads or shoes in the south. They think we still cook everything in lard. But with my gifts, I like to introduce them to the real south. Sometimes it’s funny stuff, and sometimes not. But here are a few of my favorite places to get southern gifts.

THE BUTTERCUP GIFTS AND STATIONERY: The Buttercup on Providence Road in Charlotte has great gifts for everyone, and a lot of them represent the south. They have college mascot gifts, personalized stationery and other gifts, jewelry and art by southern artists, and a lovely assortment of other unique gifts you’d be proud to present to that hotel concierge who fielded all your crazy questions before you traveled. Their website can be accessed here, but they have a much bigger assortment in the store.

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THE BITTER SOUTHERNER GENERAL STORE: A friend recently sent me a text and shared this fun website with me. It’s called The Bitter Southerner, and they offer lots of funny gifts with a southern theme. Some of my personal favorites are t-shirts listing the first names of well-known southern authors; sweatshirts featuring one of our favorite southern sayings, “Bless Your Heart;” t-shirts that simply say “Mayo and Tomato;” baseball caps; automobile license plates…you’ll have a great time perusing this site. They even have The Bitter Southerner Coffee Club, a membership plan through which they ship the recipient coffee from “some of the best coffee roasters in the South,” according to the website. Take a look at their offeringshere.byh-sweatshirt_1024x1024.

LOCALS ONLY CHATTANOOGA GIFT SHOP: Another friend told me about a gift shop she stumbled upon in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where they offer all sorts of Southern fun stuff and delicacies, including one of my favorites…Miss Shelley’s Southern Jam. They offer four flavors of her jam, and many of my friends could tell you they are fantastic jams, and they make great gifts. In addition to this, they offer all sorts of Chattanooga merchandise, Moon Pies, Southern seasoned grits, and See Rock City birdhouses. People who don’t live in the south might not be familiar with the iconic See Rock City rooftops on barns, but this is a fun way to introduce them. This is a fun website I highly recommend. See their website here.

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PAPER SKYSCRAPER, CHARLOTTE, NC: This store on East Boulevard in Charlotte is chock full of gifts that represent Charlotte and North Carolina. I’ve purchased all sorts of gifts there…lowball glasses with “704” (our zip code) on them, bourbon-infused honey, candles made in Charlotte, cans of Bertie County peanuts, books about Charlotte, and postcards galore. If you’re looking for gifts that represent Charlotte or North Carolina, this is a great place to shop. You can get information about the store from their website here, but to purchase from them, you’ll need to go in for a visit…and it will be fun when you do!

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CORNER COPIA GARDENS AND GIFT SHOP: I’ve written about this one before, but it’s worth mentioning again. Corner Copia Gardens and Gift Shop is located in charming Fairhope, Alabama, a lovely small town on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay. It is owned and operated by a childhood friend of mine, Michelle Prouty Johns, who has had a lifelong love of plants and gardening. If you find yourself in the area, it’s worth a stop to see the lovely and sometimes rare plants she has in stock and purchase some fun stuff from the gift shop. She opened the gift shop to supplement the gardens in the off-season, and she has some great gifts, including “air plant jellies,” head-shaped planters, and lots more. If you stop in, please tell her Kelly sent you! She doesn’t have a website, but you can check out her Facebook page here.

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SOUTH GEORGIA PECAN COMPANY: My friend, Linda, who used to live in Valdosta, Georgia, introduced me to South Georgia Pecan Company a few years ago when she gifted me some Chocolate Amaretto Pecans that were absolutely heavenly. She even advised me to keep them in the freezer…it just enhances the flavor. Since then, I’ve gifted them to a few folks myself. The company also offers other types of pecans, gift baskets, and even Southern Pecan Pies, a treat indeed. While you’re at the website, check out their great t-shirts too. They would make great gifts for taking on a flight…easy to get through security. And if you’re not from the south, it’s pronounced puh-KAHN down here. You can order directly through their website here, but if you call them for any reason, please don’t say pee-can.

THREE GEORGES CANDY: Three Georges has been a staple in Mobile, Alabama, for a hundred years. According to a story on the WALA-TV website, the store was opened in 1918 by three Greek immigrants “who, you guessed it, shared the same name: George Pappalamporous, George Spero, and George Pope.” The store is located on Dauphin Street in downtown Mobile, and it should be on your list of places to visit if you find yourself on the Gulf Coast. If you want to try one of their old recipes, go for my favorite, the Heavenly Hash, made up of marshmallows and pecans smothered in milk chocolate. A little bit goes a long way, but everybody in Mobile knows about Heavenly Hash. You an order directly through their website here, but visit if you can.

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I also enjoy sharing books or magazines about the south (click on title for more info): Southern Living Magazine,Our State Magazinefrom North Carolina, Mobile Bay Monthly Magazine, Charlotte Magazine, Southern Home Magazine, and more. Earlier this year, I picked up a photo book about Charlotte from Paper Skyscraper and sent it to a friend who has never visited. Short stories are great too. For a book of short stories about the south, there is The Signet Classic Book of Southern Short Stories, which you can purchasehere.

So, there’s an assortment of places you can find trinkets, apparel, or foods that represent the South. Since I’m going on vacation soon, I plan to put in my orders this weekend. My friends, old and new, that I see on vacation this summer will receive a little piece of the south from us. To me, it’s fun to show them where we’re from, just like it’s fun for me to learn about their homes.

I need to get busy finding things to take, because if I don’t get things done early, I’ll be “as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.” (I thank my Daddy for sharing that little saying with me.)

My Favorite Sports Website

It’s no secret that I love sports. I’m not a great athlete, but I’m a fantastic spectator. I love to watch lacrosse, field hockey, baseball (in person), soccer, football, basketball, tennis…I just love to watch sports.

My favorite sports are the ones in which my 14-yr-old daughter is participating. She plays middle school field hockey, basketball, and lacrosse.

However, my favorite non-daughter-participating sport is football. I love professional football, middle and high school football, but most of all, I love college football…specifically, Southeastern Conference Football.

I’ve been known to scare young children when yelling at the television during an SEC game. Unfortunately, I can’t watch all the SEC games, but I like to stay informed.

Lucky for me, there is a website, run by two young gentlemen, that caters to the SEC Football fan. It’s called Front Porch Football. To see their Facebook page (please like/follow it for updates and invite friends!), click here. You can go straight to the website by clicking here. Its creators, brothers Chris and Brendan Paschal, are the sons of my friend, Maureen, a school librarian who also has a website called Raising the Capable Student (click here…I’ll be telling you more about it in a future post).

The tagline for Front Porch Football is “We take SEC football as seriously as you do.” And they do.11825968_401491053378587_1538355822811269543_n

Chris and Brendan started Front Porch Football when they were both students at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Brendan is a senior there now, and Chris is finishing up his first year of law school at the University of South Carolina.

It all began in the summer of 2015. The idea came about while the brothers were sharing some BBQ at the Q Shack in Charlotte (see the Q Shack website here). According to the brothers, Chris was doing his usual complaining about “how the national pundits don’t know what they’re talking about” when discussing college football. Apparently, he believes pundits on radio shows should be able to answer callers’ questions. According to Chris, “Knowing who won the 1995 Iron Bowl or the latest on a 3-star prospect from Moultrie, Georgia, isn’t too much to ask.” Their mother (my friend, Maureen) suggested to Chris that they start their own website, and the rest is history.

They needed a name. Naming a website is tough. You want it to be catchy, but you want it to be relevant. Because their site is devoted mostly to SEC Football, Chris and Brendan wanted it to be authentic and Southern, but it needed to get attention. They thought, “How many Southerners out there sit on their front porch and talk SEC football?” A name was born. It seemed only natural to call it Front Porch Football.

Now that I’ve gotten all the formal stuff out of the way, I want to tell you what I LOVE about this site. First, it is informative. These guys know their stuff. Second, it is entertaining and oftentimes, downright hilarious.

They write about various SEC programs and do post-game wrap-ups, from which I garner valuable information and insight. They also started some podcasts that are usually under 15 minutes (I’m the guest in one…click here), and they’ve made videos analyzing matchups, picking winners with guest pickers, interviewing a middle-aged University of Alabama alumna (ahem!), and just talking football. I love their videos of weekly picks, because they do their homework. Usually, I have my own ideas about how a game will shake out, but often, they give me a different perspective. I only get mad if they pick against Alabama. They know not to look me in the eye if they pick against Bama. I’ll give them the wicked “stinkeye” my mother taught me.

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BUT what I find most entertaining are their original, hilarious videos. You may be familiar with their video that went viral on October 16, 2017. It is titled “Help a Tennessee Vol,” and it received over ONE MILLION views. In the video, with Sarah McLachlan singing “In the Arms of an Angel,” distraught Tennessee fans appear while a speaker asks viewers to be “an angel for a helpless Tennessee fan.” Of course, it’s a parody of all those ads we see all the time for helping orphaned animals. The University of Tennessee Volunteers have had a few rough years in their football program, and this past season wasn’t any better, resulting in the firing of their Head Coach, Butch Jones. Brendan saw an opportunity in the Vols’ misfortune; he created the video, and the public ran with it. (The University of Tennessee subsequently hired Jeremy Pruitt, the former defensive coordinator at The University of Alabama, and Butch Jones was hired as an off-field analyst at Alabama.)

The “Help a Tennessee Vol” video was shared on Saturday Down South and countless other SEC football sites. You can see it here.

Chris says the videos are Brendan’s “favorite thing to do regarding Front Porch Football, and he thoroughly enjoys poking fun at teams and fans.”

Other funny videos have featured “Burns the Backup,” in which the Paschals’ friend, Ryan Burns, portrays the life of a backup quarterback. I wouldn’t mind seeing him as a recurring character. You can see that video here. There are other videos featuring the brothers’ funny friends and classmates in contests naming all the SEC head coaches, complete with music from The Price is Right (click here); “The Battle of the Brothers” (in which the brothers display some really good “stinkeye” that rivals my own) before the Alabama/Georgia National Championship game (click here); and other hilarious scenarios. One of my personal favorites features the brothers in a parody of Home Alone’s “Angels with Filthy Souls,” retooled as “Playoffs with Filthy Bowls” (click here). Clearly, I enjoy the videos. They are good…really good. You can see ALL their videos by clicking here.

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And I can’t forget the polls they have on the site’s Facebook page. Recent polls have asked followers, “Which is the real Death Valley: Clemson or LSU?”(LSU won) and “Better Rivalry: Iron Bowl or UNC/Duke Basketball?” (That last one was a close one. Iron Bowl won, and I might or might not have had a hand in making sure the Iron Bowl won.)

I’ve known these gentlemen since long before Front Porch Football was even a thought. They are hardworking, clever, witty, and they come from a nice family…have to make sure you know that! In talking with them about the website recently, I asked them what their goals are for Front Porch Football.

They didn’t hesitate. They want to “establish a strong fan base that ranges from the hardcore fanatic to the casual fan to the Grandma/wife/brother who doesn’t know much about SEC football.” They know there are people who just watch the games and people who live for the games. There are fans who watch it because there’s nothing else to do, and then there are the fans who, on any given day, might be re-watching a game from the 1980s, with the late, great Keith Jackson (you remember him, “Whoa, Nellie!”) commentating. They want all these people to follow their page/site and contribute their opinions and comments. They want everyone to become engaged in the discussion.

They say they created Front Porch Football for the fans, so their other big goal is to provide fans with a platform to voice their thoughts about SEC Football. They say they will be making some exciting changes this summer to the site to get more fans involved. I can hardly wait!

Down the line, they’d like to expand their brand and product, “especially into the apparel market.” As students, they know money doesn’t grow on trees, so they’d like to bring some quality apparel to the market at an affordable price. Actually, Chris’s words were, “Of course, each school has their own swag, but it feels like you have to sell a kidney to buy a decent shirt.” The apparel is a longer range goal. Personally, I’d love to own some apparel from my favorite sports website. I’ve already told them I’m first in line when they get some t-shirts out there.

So here’s the skinny: if you love college football as much as I do, this is a great site for you. If you have no knowledge of football but would like to impress someone with your football “knowledge,” you can learn a lot at Front Porch Football. Even if you are just a very casual college football fan, these guys are wicked funny, making Front Porch Football worth your time.

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If websites could have cheerleaders, I’d cheer for this one.

***If you like the videos you watched through my links, please go to Front Porch Football on Facebook and like/follow their site. ALSO, please share this story in support of these guys and invite your friends to follow them as well!***

RTR!

Kelly