To some, the South may seem like its own country. We have very different traditions and ways of doing things here that you won’t find anywhere else in the world: strangers speaking to you in the supermarket; (we’re just being polite, ya’ll.) children (and adults) replying with “Ma’am” and “Sir.” Here are a few things that sets the South apart.
If you’re not from the South, be careful when you order! We like our tea as sweet as can be. Sweet Tea is a southern staple. Pitchers always have at least one cup of sugar poured into them. In many places, sweet tea might just be labeled “regular”. Unsweet Tea is considered unholy and unnatural.
If you haven’t experienced Mardi Gras, you are missing out on one of the greatest southern traditions of all. While several cities in the USA celebrate Mardi Gras, Mobile, AL, and New Orleans, LA, are where the celebrations began and captured the attention of all revelers. Contrary to popular belief, the birthplace of Mardi Gras is actually Mobile. It started in 1703 – 14 years before New Orleans was even founded! It would travel over to New Orleans around 1722 and grow over the years into what it is today.
Biscuits, cornbread, collard greens, grits, fried chicken, gumbo and more! Known in some places as “soul food” or “comfort food” these dishes will have you feeling fat and happy! Old family recipes are passed down from generation to generation, and almost everything has sugar, butter or bacon fat in it. We try to fry anything we can, including cheesecake, pickles and Twinkies. (try them, they’re awesome). And while food in the South may seem unusual, chances are you’ll love it!
In the South, we will put a monogram on anything we can! From ball caps to jackets, clothing, towels and backpacks, we firmly believe in monograms. This southern tradition can be seen on people of all ages, from toddlers to adults. We want our initials on everything!
Many phrases we use in the South are not common in other parts of the US. We have a different dialect and well of euphemisms to draw from that separates Southerners from the rest of the country. We say, “y’all” and other things like, “Bless your heart,” or, “Miss.” To us, these are just common formalities. We even create new words of our own like “tumped,” a combination of “turn” and “dumped” used to describe something falling over and spilling its contents everywhere. Accents vary, you could have a Savannah drawl, a Cajun mixture bubbling out like gumbo or even a panhandle hard on flat vowels and sharp consonants. The South is a linguist’s playground!
The South has many things that are exclusive to the area. These unique features of Southern culture can be a bit of a shock to those that move down here, but many get used to our customs and find themselves enjoying fitting in with the crowd. The South’s hospitality offers a warm welcome (a humid one, too) to all who wish to experience what this region has to offer!
The Fourth of July is considered by some to be the top dog of summer holidays. You have all of the makings for a good time rolled into one day (minus football). Food, drinking and fireworks are synonymous with the holiday, but the fun can quickly fizzle if you are not on your A-game. Make your July 4th dazzle like a roman candle by following these helpful tips!
Don’t Lose a Hand
Nothing ruins an Independence Day party like a firework accident. Use firework safety practices by having a designated (sober and adult) firework administrator and keeping items away from:
- Small Children
- Drunk Uncles (or any impaired person for that matter)
- That cousin who *really* enjoys lighting matches
Other “handy” firework tips (see what I did there?)
- Keep a bucket of water nearby, or preferably a hose with a spray nozzle
- Don’t point a firework at anyone or any living thing or even objects. Fireworks are meant to be viewed from afar, not up-close-and-personal.
- Make sure they’re legal. Fireworks made non-professionally are more likely to send you or your friends to the hospital. Purchase your holiday pyrotechnics from professionals.
Drink Responsibly. Not Ridiculously.
It’s pretty easy to get carried away with the Fourth of July festivities of fireworks and ice-cold beverages. It’s also easy for you to get carried away by the cops for overindulging and irresponsibly using fireworks. Most of the more powerful fireworks need a licensed professional to be present. Most municipal jurisdictions also do not allow fireworks to be used without a permit within city limits. It’s best to be as far away from the public as possible when shooting fireworks. Police units around the country are highly alert to any public disturbances during the biggest of summer holidays. Drive the speed limit, always have a designated driver and don’t drive on the beach!
Plan a Manageable Spread
You’ve spent months on Pinterest pinning away those super delicious recipes for your star-spangled celebration. But where do you start? The red, white and blue fruit kabobs? The sheet cake decorated like an American flag?? Keep calm, plan a simple spread and don’t freak out if your sandwiches for the kids aren’t star-shaped. Honestly, they only care if it’s not pimento cheese (which means more for you). You can make the meal fun by having a hot dog bar full of toppings such as chili, relish, onions and a smorgasbord of other condiments.
Plan an Escape Route
No, I’m not referring to the party your neighbor invited you to that quickly went downhill after she got into those appletinis. Think about that fireworks show you thought was a good idea at the time. What lasted about six minutes ends up feeling like six years when the whole crowd descends on the parking lot at the same time. All the excitement will quickly fade as you sit in the car waiting for someone, anyone, to let you out. Oh, and someone will HAVE to potty regardless of how many times you asked. My tip? Park furthest out from the show (and the crowd) and stay close to your vehicle so you can try to be the first ones to exit.
Remember, the Fourth of July is more than another summer holiday. It’s the one time of year we come together to throw a party for America with our closest friends and family. It is also a pretty good excuse to drink and blow things up (it’s what the forefathers would want, but responsibly!).
The South is a unique place and not because we have warm winters and we prefer our vegetables fried. We pretty much have our own language and a somewhat odd way of doing things (Would you like some peanuts in your bottled Coke?). While our peculiar phrases and traditions may leave the rest of the country confused, only we understand why it’s perfectly normal.
Sweet Tea is King
Nothing is unholier than unsweet tea and chances are you’ll be damned into eternity if you drink it on a Sunday. Down here, we make it rain with delicious sugar in our glass pitchers.
Humidity Always Wins
Nice blowout you got there…it’d be bad if something were to…ruin it. Yes, you can spend a good chunk of money on the best celebrity-endorsed hair product but humidity will always triumph.
Nothing Compares to Maw Maw’s Cooking
Maw Maw could teach many of these highfalutin, Michelin star eateries a thing or two. They probably don’t know about the magic of biscuits and gravy and that bananas are better covered in pudding and whipped cream.
The Less We Say the More We Mean
Phrases such as “bless your heart” actually mean, “boy, you are dumber than a bag of hammers. I sure you hope you don’t plan on procreating.” “Fixin’ to” doesn’t mean we’re actually going to fix something. It’s more of a phrase about what we’re planning to do in the next hour, week, month, 10 years…you get the picture.
Want to know how a wooden spoon feels to the back of the head? Just try not saying “yes ma’am” or “no ma’am” the next time you’re at Maw Maw’s house.
It Will Always be Hot
Southerners know it’s perfectly normal to wear flip flops in December. Sweatin’ while hanging your stockings? Then call Daycool Heating and Air for the best in air conditioning maintenance and repair.
Southerners didn’t just invent porch sitting as a way of cooling off from the sweltering summers. No, we use it as a way to socialize, drink sweet tea and gossip…in a polite way, of course. Does your porch need sprucing up? Call the pros at Professional Electric for an estimate on services such as outdoor lighting.
There Will Always be Mosquitos
Mosquitos are like that creepy second cousin we all have…except we can’t kill him. But in the South, we smack so many mosquitoes it almost sounds like an applause.
Fall Weekends are for Football
Good luck with planning that fall wedding. While Paw Paw and Maw Maw really love you the most, your autumn nuptials doesn’t stand a chance. Free food and drunk groomsmen speeches don’t hold a candle to a Southerner’s favorite football team.
Fried Food is a Food Group
Did you know that Southerners are magicians? We can take a perfectly healthy vegetable and instantly make it unhealthy…and probably more delicious. I mean, there is a reason why okra is MUCH better fried.
Sure, none of this makes any sense anywhere else but would you really want to live there? Nope, I didn’t think so.
Just as you’re recovering from the multiple mimosas you had on Mother’s Day…guess what, you’ve got another holiday on the horizon. Yep, dear ol’ dad has his own day coming up, but what do you get a guy who has a lifetime supply of ties, bottles on bottles of unused cologne and more hunting equipment than there is deer in the state of Alabama? Well, you get him out of that recliner and give him an experience he won’t forget!
It goes without saying that living on the Gulf Coast and fishing go hand-in-hand (or reel-in hand…see what I did there). Take dad on a deep sea fishing trip in Gulf Shores or cruise the waters of the Mobile Bay. You may not catch anything but your day will be filled with memories.
Cool down with your old man at some of Mobile’s hottest local pubs. The Port City has recently become a pub hub of sorts with the opening of new brew spots around town. Places such as Serda Brewing on Government Street, Haint Blue on Monroe Street, Iron Hand Brewing in Detonti Square and Fairhope Brewing Company all offer on-the-spot brewed beer. Loda Bier Garten has locations in West Mobile and on Dauphin Street with both offering over 100 beers on tap.
Hit the Links
Let dad continue his beer-filled adventure with a trip to the golf course (just make sure you drive the golf cart). He can practice being his inner Jack Nicklaus while practicing his backswing. If you want to be deemed “the favorite” treat him to a round at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Magnolia Grove, a recently renovated course with 54 holes surrounded by beautiful landscaping.
Ok, while it may sound like his worst nightmare, make this shopping trip all about him! Take him to his favorite hunting store, pro shop, home improvement place, sports store or anywhere that makes that giant heart of his pitter-patter. He’ll have the time of life looking at what HE wants to and it gives him a day off from holding your purse.
Do Something Nice
Ok, by nice I don’t mean clipping his toenails. What I’m saying is do something “nicer” than what he’s accustomed. Granted, you’ll have to use special forces to fight the resistance but in the end, he’ll love the change in routine. Start the day with a classic barbershop shave and hair trim. Next, treat him to a nice dinner at NoJa followed by drinks and cigars at a local cigar bar.
Dads are pretty special guys and that’s why they deserve the best. They’re our heroes, our protectors, Mr. Fix-It and, sometimes, he’s also Mr. Mom. But most importantly he’s the guy who has your back. And while he tries to play the tough guy, we all know daddies are nothing but pudgy, barbeque-scented, big softies and we love them.
Have you ever driven across the Bayway and thought to yourself, “Man, I should have taken the Causeway today”? Ok, we’ve ALL thought that but if you live out of state or in a neighboring county you’ve probably also thought, “Mobile and Baldwin County…what’s up with those places?” Are they really that fabulous and do they have enough to offer me? Yes, yes they are fabulous and heck yeah, they have everything you probably didn’t know you needed. Here are seven reasons why you should relocate to Mobile and Baldwin County (why 7 and not 10? Because momma doesn’t like a bragger).
Education and jobs opportunities both rank pretty high on the list for the reasons to move to either Mobile or Baldwin County. The Baldwin County School District ranks as one of the best in the state. The Coast Guard, Austal and Airbus employ people by thousands from across the country and around the world.
Don’t even look at me if you say you’re bored after spending a weekend in Mobile or Baldwin County. These places offer so much to do that your only struggle is trying to fit it all in! If someone isn’t hosting a festival then a business is holding a grand opening. Once that is finished, you know there will be a party and of course, everyone is invited.
The Glorious Food
Down here in Lower Alabama, we love food about as much as we love Jesus. If you’re going to serve biscuits then they better be good enough to share with the Lord. Food is love and you can taste it in dishes served by local eateries in Mobile and Baldwin County.
Raise your hand if you consider yourself a shopaholic. Mobile and Baldwin County have a little bit of everything for your favorite fashionista. The local boutiques and antique shops in Midtown and Downtown Mobile love catering to those who would rather spend the day shopping locally than clicking away online.
History buffs flock to Mobile and Baldwin County because of their deep roots in our country’s French, Spanish and Native American history. Fun fact: the town of Mobile is older (and smells better) than New Orleans.
Mobile residents also love to humbly brag about being the birthplace of Mardi Gras. Sure, the city to the west has the most well-known and biggest Mardi Gras but we don’t have to show skin to get our beads.
If you already live in the South then you know it’s hotter than a furnace (and pretty much all year…except for 4 days in January). But that means it’s flip flop season pretty all year and I think anyone can get behind that idea.
Think about it…would you want to stay in a stagnant situation or move to a place where the future’s so bright that you need to wear shades (because it’s also hot and sunny 360 days out of the year)? Both Mobile and Baldwin County are growing in leaps and bounds and you’ll need springboard just to catch up.
So come on down to Mobile and Baldwin County. No matter the reason you chose, we’ll be happy to have you over.
Down here in Lower Alabama we love to give. No matter the need we are there to hand out food, money and our time. Volunteering is a great way to help those in the community who need an extra helping hand. Give your time this spring to any one of these worthy causes.
Ronald McDonald House volunteers truly make a difference in the lives of families with children receiving care at the University of South Alabama Children’s & Women’s Hospital. Volunteers have a variety of opportunities to help including providing a meal to the families, assisting with in-house duties and volunteering in the Ronald McDonald House Family Room.
Give your time while helping clean and keep the Mobile waterways beautiful by volunteering with the Mobile Baykeeper. This organization has events throughout the year and is in need of volunteers to help with community cleanups, fundraising and office work.
Every summer, Camp Rap-A-Hope provides a week full of outdoor summer activities for children diagnosed with cancer. Because no child battling the disease should miss out on the fun, volunteers are needed for a variety of activities planned. Counselors and lifeguards are needed for the first week of June. Volunteer opportunities are also available throughout the year as well.
If you’re handy with a hammer (or not but it’s probably better if you at least know what one is), then volunteer your time with Habitat of Humanity of Southwest Alabama. This organization provides affordable and sustainable housing for people in the community. Organize your friends and coworkers for a day of homebuilding or help the staff at the organization’s ReStore shop.
Volunteering with the Mobile SPCA is more than just playing with all the adorable puppies and kitties that are available for adoption. There is a lot of help needed to care for the animals but it’s rewarding and fun. Volunteers can help with the organization’s bake sale, adoption clinics, kennel cleaning, office work and fundraising.
Feeding the Gulf Coast has several ways for you to get involved with the organization. There is always a need for warehouse and office help as well as community food drives.
Make a difference in a child’s life by offering your time at the Boys and Girls Club of South Alabama. There are many ways to help out including tutoring, chaperoning field trips, assisting the front desk and you can even coach a sports team!
Use your skills and abilities to help the homeless at the Waterfront Mission. This organization makes a huge impact in our community by providing food, clothing and encouragement for the those who have fallen on hard times. Volunteers are welcomed to organize canned food and essential items for the nonprofit.
Give your time while helping others and you’ll see the ripple effect on your community. You will not only help those in need but you inspire others to do the same.
Oh, spring…the season for warmer temps, crawfish and pollen that hits you in the face like sinus-clogging confetti. You’re fuller from the holidays, your home is still covered in beads from Mardi Gras and where has this left you? Perpetually face planted on the couch. Do better by putting a spring back in your step!
Log Off and Get Out
Sure, you’ve spent most of winter bundled up on the couch cruising social media, but all that screen time has drained your soul just a bit. While it may seem like everyone is having a more fabulous time than you (even MeMaw with that bunco old lady mob she hangs out with), it is possible to have a life again. Think of every minute you’ve spent glued to your phone…yeah, it’s a lot isn’t? Instead use those minutes in some form of physical or social activity. Mingle at a mixer or devote the time you normally spent online at the gym.
Overhaul Your Diet
I know you caught about two years’ worth of Moon Pies at Mardi Gras but despite their impressive shelf-life, they should actually be shelved indefinitely. This isn’t about going on a diet but changing your diet completely. Carbs are delicious and sometimes, the best ones make you feel pretty. In reality all of that isl short-lived after you have crash landed into your bed at 3 pm. Find the foods that you actually enjoy eating that have a heaping side of health benefits.
Make it About You (for once)
The cold winter weather may left you a bit pasty with a few dry patches and oh, my have you seen your feet?? Seriously, they could qualify as stand-ins for Bilbo Baggins. Take a minute (a few hours, days even) to treat yourself! Try a new hairstyle, get that much, much needed pedicure or stop by Fountain of Youth for one of their fabulous yoga sessions. You will quickly see that treating yourself never looked so good.
Quit trying to convince yourself that those Mardi Gras beads bring you joy, they don’t! Even though you did strong-arm a 5 year-old to get them, they’ll just end up as another object you’re constantly picking up off the floor. You may have heard the term, “A clutter space leaves a cluttered mind” (OK, just kidding you’ve never heard it before because I just made that up). But it does make sense, right? Think about how a messy home makes you feel. Anxious? Tired? Generally in a grumpy mood? If you marked “yes” to each one of these then you may have a cluttered home. Label boxes as “Donate”, “Throw Away” and “Keep”. Organize them biggest to smallest so the “Keep” stuff stays at a minimum. (I know those Moon Pies don’t take up a lot of space, but you’re still throwing them away.)
Just because it’s spring that doesn’t mean you have to feel “sprung out”! By unplugging, changing your eating habits, treating yourself and decluttering you will be on your way to jumpstarting a better quality of life.
Spring Break, a parent’s preamble to summer vacation, is right around the corner. Sure, you could round up the kids, pack the minivan, drive 10 hours to Disney and sweat your butt off while spending the equivalent to a down payment. But what if this year you made it a staycation and kept things in the confines of Lower Alabama? Check out this list of Spring Break ideas to keep everyone in your brood entertained.
I know what you’re thinking…the last thing kids want to do during Spring Break is learn. But here’s the thing, getting out and physically showing them where history happened can leave a pretty big impact. Take a tour of the USS Alabama Battleship or get a real sense of claustrophobia inside the USS Drum. Not a fan of tight spaces? Step inside the Medal of Honor Aircraft Pavilion for some up close and personal displays of wartime aviation. Visit The Fort of Colonial Mobile or the Carnival Museum for a history lesson on the origins of Mardi Gras. And if your kids want to learn about a warrior, the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center has the Genghis Khan exhibit.
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach
Life’s really a beach sometimes…especially in Lower Alabama. Just a few miles south are the beautiful beaches of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Make is a lazy beach day by hanging out at Alabama Point or the newly renovated Lagoon Pass Park. Hit up some of the local beach shops or visit restaurants such as The Hangout and The Gulf. Both eateries are the perfect family-friendly spots where you can sit back and enjoy the view.
If you want to spend time at the beach for Spring Break but without everyone else in the country, then hop on the Mobile Bay Ferry to Dauphin Island. Home to around 1,200 residents, Dauphin Island has plenty of restaurants, activities and shops to keep you fed and happy during your visit. For example, Indian Shell Mound Park or perhaps the Sand Island Lighthouse would be the perfect places to visit.
Need a break from being a total beach bum? Head over to Fort Morgan which is driving distance from Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. This stretch of white, sandy beaches has history and beauty (think of it as a two for one). Take a tour of the Fort Morgan Historic Site or if you want to totally wear the kids out, venture through Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge’s six miles of trails.
Many of our area libraries and local art shops are willing to take the reins and show the kids the ways of a paintbrush. Art camps are a great way to get their hands off of the iPad onto paper or canvas. The Art Wide Open Studio in Fairhope, AL has the space available for all sorts of events. And while the kids are squared away, treat yourself by visiting Fountain of Youth for a quick spa visit.
We spend our days running in the same circles that sometimes it better to stay put. This year, why not spend your Spring Break close by with the ones who are closest to you.
Picture it: It’s Friday night, you’re relaxing in the bathtub with a glass of wine and you think to yourself, “I have a good job, a great family and a beautiful home…wow, I really do have it all.” But then it hits you…you have it…ALL. You have all the things that come with having a good job (work commitments, meetings), a great family (doctor appointments, soccer practice, ughh and homework) and a beautiful home (maintenance, mortgage). Wait! Before you decide to end it all by drowning yourself in bubbles, you can handle all the things life throws at you by following this handy guide.
Let Scheduling Be Your BFF
A schedule of your family’s activities can be your Thelma to your Louise. And I’m not talking about the calendar reminders on your phone….put this baby everywhere. The fridge, a cute Pinterest-worthy/DIY version on the wall, a handy-dandy day planner that will surely come with some sort of inspirational quote inscribed on the front (because if you don’t have faith in yourself, at least the planner does). A visual of where everyone is going, what they are doing, and when they are doing it will allow you to see what is actually going on.
Learn to say “Nope”
Sure, volunteering for the school field trip to the farm sounds all fun and games but we all know how it’s going to end: a bunch of hot and sweaty 6 year-olds will end up terrorizing the chickens. Now, I’m not saying don’t volunteer any time to the school. Just decide what school-related activity best utilizes your time and resources.
Guess where else you can use your new favorite word? As scary as it may sound you are allowed to say “no” at work. Speak up and let your boss know that you have a lot on your plate. Trust me, he or she will appreciate the honesty instead of a mental breakdown in the office supply closet.
Make Time for Yourself
Back to that glass of wine and bubble bath…speaking of…when it is the last time you showered?? May need to put that on the schedule. This is why it’s important (not only for you but mostly your coworkers) to make time for yourself. It can be anything from a quick yoga session, a trip to the nail salon or going for a walk or run (just make sure you actually return home).
Understanding It’s a Choice
Wait, what? All this work, volunteering, playdates, sports stuff…this is all a choice?? Ding, ding! As harsh at it may sound, we are responsible for bringing the life’s responsibilities upon ourselves. And while we can’t quit our jobs and move to the Bahamas (minus the kids), we do have the choice of how, when and where we spend our time.
Look, if you are spreading yourself too thin, you’re more likely to break. Saying “no” more often, understanding your choices, and getting that oh, so, so sweet “me time” will not only help improve your family and work life but you as well.
One of the first questions visitors usually ask us Southerners is: “Where can I get a good meal around here?” Your mind quickly scrolls through all the delectable options available, leaving you to ponder, “Should I share my secrets for the best place for oysters?” Of course! Sharing is caring down here in Lower Alabama and we can’t keep all the delicious fried goodness to ourselves. Here is a roundup of the best places for delicious Southern cooking around town.
Now, I know what your thinking…how can a trendy, Mediterranean-Asia fusion restaurant be the go-to place for Southern cooking? Look, just because something isn’t deep fried and swimming in gravy doesn’t mean it can’t be Southern. NoJa cooks up a delicious assortment of seafood dishes with shrimp straight from the Gulf. Dine in their trendy cafe style restaurant.
Ready to get your Cajun food fix? Boudreaux’s in Daphne has a variety of Louisiana-inspired dishes along with a fabulous view of the Mobile Bay. Appetizers include blackened gator and the restaurant’s own Swamp Cakes which are fried boudin cakes topped with a crab and spinach cream sauce. Boudreaux’s lunch and entrée option cover the Cajun gamut of everything from crawfish etouffee, Po’Boys, oyster dishes and of course, beignets for dessert.
Pack your stretchy pants because you will need them after a visit to Mama’s on Dauphin. This downtown staple has all the Southern comfort food you know and love. Along with some dishes you’ve probably never heard of before. I’ll take two servings of the buffalo crawfish, please and thank you.
Home of the flamin’ oysters and fabulous views is the Bluegill restaurant. Take your pick of one of the local institution’s famous seafood dishes including fresh fish, gumbo, shrimp, and of course those fabulous flamin’ oysters. Bluegill also offers up a fried alligator plate (proving a terrifying animal is actually pretty delicious).
Housed in a precious bungalow off of Highway 98 in Daphne (and conveniently located right behind Target…wink, wink) is the Sugar Kettle Café. Get your breakfast and lunch fix at this humble eatery with menu offerings such as biscuits and gravy (drool), country fried steak (double drool) and shrimp and grits (ok, now I need a napkin).
Feeling a bit parched after indulging in all of those Southern dishes? Quench your palette by visiting Peak Alkalinity in Fairhope for the best selection of alkaline water products.
Ok, so who’s hungry and more importantly, who’s paying? Visit any one of these fabulous local eateries for some satisfying Southern cooking (and don’t forget those stretchy pants).