Hello there, 2014!

Ready or not...it's here! The bright and shiny New Year is upon us.

We stayed up to watch Duke in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl (which I still call the Peach Bowl) in Atlanta. Lost a heart-breaker to Texas A&M. Saw the epitome of "class act" dressed in blue in Coach Cut...and the opposite out on the field, dressed in maroon...usually behind the center. I really don't want to talk about it other than to say if I don't ever hear an announcer gush over "Johnnie Football" again, I won't be in the least disappointed. Oh...and I do indeed hope he goes pro, because he really needs some big ol' NFL right guard to slap him silly help him mature, shall we say? I know he has an innate talent for playing seat-of-his-pants footbal and is loved (?) by the die-hard Aggie fans, but can they see why others might think he is immature, whiny, self-serving, and self-centered? Enough about that subject...starting to sound sour-grapish, even to me...😋

As is our custom, we three welcomed in the New Year with Mimosas (sparkling wine and orange juice, served this year in our Waterford "Twelve Days of Christmas" glasses - photo, above).  Yes, Missy M postponed her return trip to the 'Ville until today so she could be here...and not on the road on New Year's Eve. Good plan! We had given all the dogs Composure™ Pro (a calming support formula treat recommended by our Vet for "dogs exposed to increased environmental stressors")so they weren't too bothered by the fireworks the neighbors were using to frighten away any evil spirits lingering from the Old Year (well, that's the superstition, don't you know?).  Surprisingly enough, Duche$$ and Dixie didn't go through their usual fear-acts about the fireworks; we decided that it was either the Composure (Dixie) or because she's so deaf now that she can't hear them (Duche$$).  Since they were something new for both Winston and Abbie, they had to go outside to investigate...but Winston seemed more alarmed about my (loud) cheering for the Blue Devils during the football game. Yeah, I did have to tone it down a wee bit.

Anyway...more about those New Year's Day superstitions...

You know by now that we eat black-eyed peas, cooked with a ham-hock, on New Year's Day for good luck (peas) and good fortune (pork)...and we will hold to that tradition, serving Braised Brown Sugar Ham Steak and black-eyed peas in the form of Hoppin' John* (recipe, below).  To ensure wealth, you're supposed to eat greens (always turnip greens and collards in a true house of the South), so they will be on the menu.  Over the years, we've added good luck foods from other cultures to the menu, like rice and grapes.  And, because Mr. T won't touch greens with a ten-foot pole, I usually prepare cole slaw (because cabbage is the "green" of choice for many cultures)...he will eat that.  We make sure to serve pork for all meals (bacon or ham for breakfast; pork chops, ham, or roast/BBQ for lunch or dinner), and never, ever chicken or turkey.  [Poultry scratches around for everything; pigs move forward and make progress...or, so it is said.]  I'm not really superstitious.  Really, I'm not...:)

Remembering the superstition that "what you do on New Year's Day, you will do all year long," I have tried to spend a relatively stress-free day.  Mr. T and I bundled up and worked in the garden a little bit this morning.  He removed the last of the okra stalks, while I picked turnip greens and collards for our "good luck" meal tonight (see photo, below), along with some broccoli, carrots, and spinach.  I noticed that the onions and garlic are overwintering in fine fashion, and I look forward to a bountiful harvest later this year.

I also made sure the row covers over the raised beds in the Box Garden were still anchored at the top of the hoops with clothes pins (hmmmm...the pups seemed to have removed a few) and at the bottom with rocks...trying to give the beets, spinach, broccoli, carrots, etc., a little more protection as we have bitter weather on the way back tomorrow night. Missy M and her pups, Dixie and Ella Rae, had to leave us at noon to get back over the mountains, up the turnpike, through the toll booths, and across the river. I eagerly await each and every text she sends of her progress.

Mr. T has been diligently incorporating our abundance of shredded leaves into several garden spaces, including the Rose Garden, where he is while I warm up inside and write this post. This is the first year we have used the leaves as winter mulch on the roses, and we want to see how that works.  Looks great for now! He had spent some time yesterday refilling the bird feeders as they seem to empty before he can get back in the house. I suggested he put out some corn cobs on the squirrel feeders to keep the critters occupied long enough for the cardinals, chickadees, and titmice (mouses?) to grab a few of the seeds.

I'd really rather not do laundry, pay bills, or do any housework on the first day of the New Year...other than make our bed and maybe a few dishes.  The first three listed carry negative vibes...and none of them is particularly fun for me, so I don't want to be doing too much of any of them this coming year.  I did read some of my newest book (I finished Sue Grafton's W is for Wasted; I'm now starting Doris Kearns Goodwin's Bully Pulpit, which I bought for my brother, not knowing Mr. T would take my huge HINT to heart and get a copy for me for Christmas!).  I played Scramble and  Words With Friends...with friends; and ball, fetch, and tug-rope...with the pups.  I fixed apple fritters this morning (apples, as a round food, are supposed to bring good luck, too...🍀 and will soon cook our "good luck" meal. 

In the creative department, I downloaded pictures from my camera, new iPhone, and iPad and organized the pictures on my computer...cleaning up the 2013 files a bit.  I wrote in my Garden Journal as well as my bedside Journal, and perused some of the many seed catalogs that have arrived in our mailbox. And, now...I've written this blog-post, and I will use it to represent the year ahead, spent writing. Since the bowl games are coming back-to-back-to-back now, we will probably spend the rest of the day watching sports...and of course, I have a new project on my knitting needles to represent

Gardening, writing, reading, playing, taking pictures, watching sports, cooking, and knitting. The only thing missing from the list is "traveling," but I'll let Missy M's trip be a stand-in for us. Otherwise, sounds like just the kind of year I look forward to enjoying!

I hope it's the beginning of a great one for all of you, too!

Recipe for Hoppin' John

  • 1 tablespoon oil or bacon fat
  • 1 large ham hock (left over from Christmas Dinner)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup carrots, diced 
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed...or,
  • 2 cans black-eyed peas, if you are in a hurry
  • 2-4 cups chicken stock
  • Bay leaf
  • 1 cayenne pepper pod
  • 1 teaspoon parsley, minced
  • 1 packet of Goya Ham seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste  
  • 2 cups steamed white rice

  • Directions:

    1. Heat fat in a large soup pot. Add the ham hock and sear on all sides for 4-5 minutes. Add the onion, celery, green pepper, carrots, and garlic (last), cooking for 4-5 minutes until tender.
    2. Add the black-eyed peas, 2 cups stock, bay leaf, pepper pod, parsley, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40-50 minutes, or until the peas are creamy and tender, stirring occasionally. If the liquid evaporates, add more water or stock.
    3. Remove the ham hock and dice the meat, returning the meat to the pot. Remove the bay leaf and the cayenne pepper pod, and adjust the seasonings to taste. 
    4. Serve over rice and garnish with chives and/or green pickle relish. Enjoy!


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