Eat Local at Suga’s Cheese Shoppe & Cafe

March has arrived and so have all the beginning signs of spring, at least here in North Georgia! One of my favorite things to do in the spring/summer/fall month is hit up our local Saturday market to shop from area farmers and support local vendors. It’s so much healthier than big box stores and great for the local economy! One particular vendor has become my favorite stop on market Saturdays: Sugas Pimento Cheese.

Created by Chef Stacey West (a graduate of Atlanta’s Le Cordon Bleu College) these delicious flavors of pimento cheese have become high demand items at the Cartersville Market as well as other metro-Atlanta markets and retail stores. If you want to grab your favorite flavor of pimento cheese on Saturdays, you have to go early because they will sell out! They’re that good!

Already a huge fan of Chef Stacey, I was excited to learn that she has opened a restaurant in Powder Springs, Georgia that features many of her pimento cheese flavors in classic, mostly Southern dishes. Recently Audley and I ventured out to find this new eatery and indulge in a unique and delicious luncheon!

Suga’s Cheese Shoppe and Cafe was a concept born from having customers asking for creative ways to pair Chef Stacey’s pimento cheeses or use in recipes. This sweet little restaurant seats on a first come, first serve basis, and on the Saturday we visited it was quite obvious that word is already spreading about how scrumptious the dishes are. We were chatting with some ladies while waiting on our table, one of which drove across Atlanta for lunch with a friend because they had heard how wonderful everything was!

Before I continue you should know, Audley is very picky about cheese. In fact, he doesn’t eat any cold cheeses unless they are paired with flavorful fruits or spreads on a charcuterie board or melted on a sandwich. Pimento cheese does not fit into either of these categories. I felt like I was dragging a puppy into the vet as we walked in.

Once the menu hit our hands, I saw a spark in Audley’s eyes.

I heard a “hmmmm” escape his mouth and wondered what was going on in his head.

He gave me a snarl when I ordered Smoked Gouda Mac Balls as he dislikes most all pasta even more than cheese. They arrived piping hot to the table and I hear “well those smell good!”

I told him I wasn’t sharing, but Audley grabbed a fork, cut into one of the mac balls and swiped it through the thick marinara sauce on the plate.

He ate two of the three served with our appetizer.

The gouda mac balls are made with gouda and pimento mac n’ cheese, with a deep-fried panko crust and served with the previously mentioned marinara sauce. The outside was crispy while the inside was creamy and rich. They really were absolutely delicious!

We each chose something different off of the menu for our main entree; I ordered Shrimp Scampi after hearing it was Chef Stacey’s favorite dish, and Audley ordered a crispy chicken sandwich.

We both made really great choices!

The shrimp scampi is made with pesto and feta pimento cheese (which is spectacular) with a creamy white wine garlic sauce on a bed of thin angel hair pasta. Audley needed a second, third and fourth taste to decide it really was quite delectable.

Audley’s chicken sandwich had the largest chicken breast I have ever seen on a sandwich with lettuce, pickled red onions, house sauce and of course pimento cheese. Served with fries, there was no way someone would leave without being full.

And Audley LOVED it, pimento cheese and all.

In fact, he didn’t want to share.

After all of that, what is a couple stuffed full to do?

We ordered dessert of course…. something we could share.

Chef Stacey did not disappoint.

Somehow, we found a little more room to take in a slice of pimento cheese cheesecake.

More specifically Pimento Cheese Cheesecake topped with whipped cream and strawberries.

We ate it and Audley proclaimed it better than a certain commercial cheesecake restaurant.

All of a sudden, my skeptical husband was sold on pimento cheese in recipes.

Amazing how these things happen.

Even more amazing is that Audley has picked several other things off of the menu he wants to try, and soon. This especially includes the Black Truffle Pimento Cheesesteak and Oreo pimento cheesecake.

Take time to add Suga’s Cheese Shoppe and Cafe to your weekend ramblings this spring and summer. Not only will you enjoy a whole new culinary experience, but you’ll be also supporting a small local restaurant and that is a huge reward in itself!

And Audley said he will gladly accompany you.

Suga’s Cheese Shoppe and Cafe

4456 Marietta Street, Suite 110

Powder Springs, Georgia 30127

Closed on Monday & Tuesday

15 Ways to Brighten a Winter Day

Happy New Year and Happy Ground Hog’s Day as well! As has become my tradition, I took most of December and January off to enjoy family time and organize myself for this new year! We are welcoming February with high winds, rain and a nice little cold front here in North Georgia. While Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow up north, General Beau, Georgia’s own groundhog apparently did not.

{Rumor has it he wasn’t awake enough to see much of anything!}

Regardless of whether there will be six more weeks of winter or an early spring, the American calendar does confirm we have 6 weeks until the official first day of Spring. Whether it’s rainy, snowy or just plain ugly as winter days can often be, winter is not the most popular season.

With that in mind, I thought I would share Fifteen ways to brighten up your winter days.

1. Plant winter color – pansies, violas, crocus … all of these beautiful options are delightful in a couple of porch or patio containers during the season when everything is so dreary looking.

2. Go for a winter walk or hike. Bundle up if you must, but even just a few minutes in the outdoors on a sunny day improves your mood drastically!

3. Make a savory pot of stew. Simple, filling, homey, cosy … a pot of stew not only warms you up (and lasts through a couple of meals), but evokes wonderful memories of winter at home.

4. Plan out your spring and summer gardens. While you’re at it, order a few seeds as well!

5. Refinish a piece of furniture. Hit up a thrift store or Facebook marketplace and find an inexpensive project piece to keep you busy.

6. Open up the curtains and blinds and let the light in. Natural light (not the beer) is a known mood booster!

7. Set aside a few minutes daily for quiet time. Whether you read, close your eyes while listening to classical music, or really enjoy sipping your morning coffee choose a time of day for refocusing your mind and disconnecting from everyday stress.

8. Volunteer. Shelters and food kitchens all over are desperate for help right now. Even just one afternoon a week can make a huge difference in someone’s life, including your own.

9. Visit a local museum or other historical venue. This is a great way to get to learn your community or region. You might be surprised at what you find out about where you live!

10. Grow indoor plants or try your hands a forcing a bloom or two.

11. Visit the Georgia Coast. Carry a bike, a beach picnic, and enjoy a romantic weekend away in the Spanish moss of Jekyll Island.

12. Have a tea party for one or for several, it really doesn’t matter. Just turn off your phone and television, light some candles, find a Nancy Meyers inspired (think The Holiday, It’s Complicated, Father of the Bride, or Home Again) playlist on Spotify, and serve up a delightful afternoon of “chick” food, tea and conversation or a good book. There is no wrong way to enjoy tea!

13. Have a winter picnic. Pack plenty of blankets, and get creative with your menu. From a location where you can build a bonfire to soup served straight from the thermos there are many ways to enjoy this unique picnic.

14. Exercise. Winter is a great time to begin an exercise program. Not only will it boost your endorphins and your mood (‘happy people don’t kill their husbands” …. name that movie), you’ll feel better in the spring and summer when you bring out the shorts.

15. Set your goals for the year. I made this last for a reason; not everyone has goals or even knows what their goals are! For some people this is high priority, for others it is not, and guess what?! That is perfectly alright! The United States is a fast-paced goal driven society, but sometimes just living in the moment and seeing where it takes you is just as satisfying as checking off something on a list.

Is there anything different you would add to this list? I would love to hear your ideas!

Until next time, create a bright spot in your little corner of winter.

20 Movies to Spark Your Christmas Spirit

Most of us find our televisions bursting with holiday cheer inspired by various television sources who like to get started throughout November and December. To be honest, with all the repeating themes and storylines it’s easy to burn out on Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movies, or the same thing repeating over and over on Freeform. Along with repeating themes and movies we are bombarded with annoying and excessive commercials. I for one will be so thankful when Medicare enrollment is over, and Martha quits yelling at me.

Thankfully we have access to streaming services, a fabulous DVD collection, and premium movie channels to set our own viewing schedule up and avoid commercials. Keeping that in mind I’ve put together a list of 20 (mostly) family friendly greats from way back to recently released that’ll spark your Christmas Spirit while changing up your viewing.

1. Take it way back with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye and kick off the season with 1954’s White Christmas. Between the gorgeous costuming and fabulous music this one is always a cozy favorite. Right now, it’s streaming on Netflix, but if you check TCM’s movie schedule I guarantee you’ll find it!

2. 1946’s It’s a Wonderful Life is my favorite Jimmy Stewart movie of all time and is on Prime right now. And remember, “every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”

3. Netflix’s The Christmas Chronicles (2018) was such a pleasant surprise and feel-good movie. I just adore Kurt Russell’s portrayal of St. Nick. Skip the sequel as all the magic was used up in the first one.

4. Is it really Christmas without watching and quoting 2003’s Elf? This one will inspire you to sing your way through the holidays with a smile on your face, perhaps annoying that one “Central Park Ranger’ of a family member in the process!

5. While quoting Elf is a lot of fun, 1989’s National Lampoons Christmas Vacation is a classic we can actually watch on repeat all season long! Afterall, “we’re gonna have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas!”

6. The Disney Channel’s movie quality has declined over the last several years (let’s face it, the original High School Musical was the last great movie), but Disney+ has made up for it. Several classic Christmas movies are streaming right now and 1994’s The Santa Claus tops the list! Both sequels are available to stream as well if you want to binge the entire series, but the original is the best by far!

7. While there have been plenty of remakes, 1947’s Miracle of 34th Street with Natalie Wood is the most charming of all!

8. Put on your pj’s and whip up some hot chocolate, then settle in with 2004’s Polar Express. You’ll fall asleep dreaming of the North Pole while awakening out your childlike heart.

9. Your Grinchy heart will grow three sizes after an evening with Jim Carrey’s 2000 version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

10. “KEVIN?!?!” 1990’s Home Alone is a hilarious Christmas adventure the entire family can giggle over, while quoting and cheering for the mischievous kid (who really needs a wooden spoon to the bum) as he wreaks havoc while protecting his home. It can be found on Disney+ right now.

11. Disney+ is also showing 1999’s Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas which I watch solely for sentimental reasons; it was my Samantha’s favorite movie to watch when she was little as this particular one showcases the iconic Mickey and Friends.

12. Bill Murray will have you feeling crazy yet entertained while watching 1988’s Scrooged. A little crass for the kiddos this one is a silly and irreverent comedy that you can watch after tucking the little ones in bed.

13. Netflix has put out a few really good movies, and this year’s A Boy Called Christmas is a magical journey sharing another story of how Santa Claus came to be. Dame Maggie Smith narrates the tale which makes it even more enjoyable.

14. Christmas with the Kranks (2004) based off a John Grisham book sharing the humorous experience one couple has as they decide to “skip Christmas”. Let’s face it, we’ve ALL thought about it one time or another. It’s streaming on Prime right now.

15. Bloggers and influencers alike can relate to 1945’s Christmas in Connecticut with Barbra Stanwick as a magazine writer … one who embellishes her uninteresting life through her monthly articles. TCM loves to show this one during December.

16. TCM also airs 1956’s Bundle of Joy with Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher a couple of times in December. Eddie Fisher wasn’t the most talented actor, but his singing definitely made up for it. Reynolds and Fisher were married while filming this comedy and their chemistry is so sweet.

17. I saw 1983’s A Christmas Story in the theater on a cold Sunday night with a group of friends after evening services when I was eleven. I loved it then and I love it now. It’s the movie that never grows old … kind of like me.

18. A Charlie Brown Christmas from 1965 is not really a movie, but is it Christmas if you don’t watch it at least once? It’s a good one for remembering the modern reason for the season.

19. Another not-really-a-Christmas-movie, but one you must see is 1964’s Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Some cartoons you really never outgrow.

20. Finally, I have to add 1944’s Meet Me in St. Louis. While technically it’s not a Christmas movie (only 25 minutes of the movie is dedicated to the holiday), but who doesn’t love Judy Garland’s gorgeous mix of tenderness and heavy-hearted version of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas?

What Christmas movies should I add to this list? I would love to know some of your must-see Christmas movies!

10 Things December Edition

It’s the most wonderful time of the year and I’m ready to savor every moment this season has to offer! I’ve got my bucket list made out and thought I would share a few ideas with you to add to your own list.

1. Visit a Christmas tree farm. If you want the freshest of live trees this is the best way to pick one that will last! Sip on cider, take some fun pictures and bring home a tree that’ll make a lovely centerpiece for the holidays. Thompson’s Tree Farm in Lawrenceville is a great place to check out if you are in the Atlanta area.

2. Donate to Toys for Tots. Sponsored by the Marine Corps, Toys for Tots strives to collect new toys and distribute to less fortunate children across the country. This is a huge undertaking and requires a lot of community support. Could you imagine if every family, that was able actually placed a toy in the bins all around the city, how many children’s holiday could be changed?

3. Make Christmas cookies. These Cream-Filled Cookies or traditional Sugar Cookies are perfect for friends and family alike. They’ll be a hit no matter where you serve them this season.

4. Pay for someone’s coffee. Nothing makes a person’s day brighter than to treat them with a cup of coffee. It’s been a stressful couple of years for A LOT of people and I promise this little act of kindness will go a long way.

5. Take a drive to look at Christmas lights around town. Put some Christmas music on the radio and head out to see all the twinkling lights your town has to offer. This has been a favorite tradition of mine since I was a little girl, and with social media access you can often find where the best diplays are before you head out.

6. Send out Christmas cards. Yes, it takes time to address, write a message and sign the card, but this is a tradition we all need to get on board with again! I love recalling memories we have shared with so many friends and family over the years as I write each message, and it’s the same as I open each card we receive as well. We’ve lived in six states, attended the same Bible camp for years, carry on friendships from college, and traveled on mission trips where we have created a lasting bond with many. Turn off your social media and get personal. One evening of a favorite Christmas movie and a box of cards goes a long way.

7. Speaking of movies, enjoy a Christmas movie marathon over the holidays. From 1954’s White Christmas to 2021’s A Boy Called Christmas there are plenty of movies for every mood!

8. Set up a hot chocolate bar for the family. I’m absolutely loving these adorable Jolly Good marshmallows from Two’s Company. I picked up my bag from the new Buc-ees up the road, but you can also find something similar at Williams-Sonoma.

9. Make a wreath. Simple or elaborate, it’s up to you, but grab some ribbon, a nutcracker and some sparkly floral picks and create your own welcoming wreath.

10. While Jesus was most likely born in the spring and not December 25th, Read the Gospel of Luke in the days leading up to Christmas as a reminder of why the birth of Jesus is so important to many of us who celebrate the Christmas season for more than Santa Claus. For many it’s the only time of the year they are open to hearing about Christ and I’m more than happy to oblige.

Have you put together a bucket list for you and your family this season? I would love to hear what you’ve added to yours!

Happy December!