Black Eyed on New Year’s

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It’s New Year’s, and this year I resolve not to make any resolutions. Instead I choose to be me. The best me. The me that decides to take things day by day, and to live simply and without regrets. The me that has learned to breathe and humbly seek God, to let go and forgive the past , and most of all, to forgive myself. I choose me. Today.

Along this journey of life, and particularly today, I hold on tightly to traditions. From jumping up and down with my family, and to making sure I wear polka dots on New Year’s Eve (to bring in money for the new year), you can bet that my superstitious self is in full effect and kicked into high gear. I mean really, who can’t use a little more luck? And then it hit me. There was one more tradition that I haven’t yet embraced, and it involved Black Eyed Peas. Until now.

No, I’m not talking about the band with Fergie’s Humps and getting all Boom Boom Pow, but I Gotta Feeling that you’ll want to try my New Year’s soup below. It’ll make you want to dance. Okay, not really. It does, however, involve black eyed peas, the yummy bean variety. Known as a tradition from the South, eating black eyed peas for New Year’s was to have the heavens above bring on good luck and prosperity. The beans symbolized wealth because they swell when cooked and somewhat resembled coins. Traditionally they are served with collard greens to represent money, along with cornbread, to represent gold.

So that’s pretty much the jist of it. I originally found a recipe by Jennifer Morganthaler from the blog Spoon With Me. It looked delicious and simple enough, but for the time and actual ingredients I had on hand, I’ve come up with a this-is-all-I-got-so-deal-with-it adapted version. I excitedly opened my fridge door, expecting the choir of angels, of course, and took inventory.

Warning: This is the kind of soup where you don’t need extra bread or rice. It’s hearty. It’s chunky. Its full of flavor. It’s got parsnips. I love parsnips. Oh, and another thing, I Just Can’t Get Enough. Yes, really.

New Year’s Black Eyed Pea and Kale Soup
Serves 8-10

1 cup dried black eyed peas, soaked overnight or for at least 6 hours
1 package Mild Italian Sausage
1 cup chopped ham
1 large yellow onion
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
3 medium parsnips, peeled and diced
3 ribs celery, chopped (I include the green tops too, for extra flavor)
5-6 large cloves of garlic, chopped or smashed
1 bunch curly/dino kale
8 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
4 small bay leaves
4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
Salt to taste
Lemon Juice to taste
Olive oil

Rinse the presoaked beans and drain. In a medium stockpot, place the beans in with enough water to cover and allow to simmer and do a slow boil until they are tender. Do not overcook. We don’t want mashed beans here.

While the beans simmer, take the sausages out of its casing and break them apart. I got in there and pinched off little bits and pieces. In a separate pot, cook it through, brown, and set aside.

In the same pot you cooked the sausage, on medium low heat, sauté the onions until translucent, and then add the garlic. Let these two flavors mingle, until the garlic gets soft and fragrant. Smell it and take it in. Add the tomatoes. Go ahead and toss in the ham, and heat through. Add the parsnips, carrots, celery, thyme, pepper, bay leaves, chicken broth and the two cups of water. Bring the pot to a boil on medium high heat. When it is boiling, add the drained black eyed peas. Add the sausage. While you’re at it, toss in the red wine vinegar. Let boil for another five minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium low and let the goodness of it all simmer for an extra hour. Occasionally stir. When you know that you are almost ready to serve it, add the kale and allow to simmer for an additional 7-10 minutes, to the point where the leaves are still bright and has just become soft.

I personally try to really watch my sodium intake, so if you noticed, I haven’t added any extra salt. I felt that the low sodium chicken broth, along with the ham and sausage, provided enough of it. I did add a sprinkle of lemon juice as a finishing touch. It added just the right amount of acidity, and gave it a fresh tang. Add salt if you absolutely must. Now grab a spoon and enjoy!

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Wedded Bliss

Wedding season came and went, and each time I am reminded of the fun and memorable moment when my husband and I both made our vows, 10 years ago. I want to say the day was blissfully perfect, but as many of you know, nothing ever really is.

Flashback to October of 2003, when we were taking our wedding pictures at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. I was in a huge tulle confection of a dress, bent over a bush , throwing up. No, I wasn’t hungover, but my nerves had gotten the best of me, I hadn’t really eaten breakfast, and I was deliriously hungry.

My bridesmaids (while laughing-of course) were trying to hold up my veil, my dress, and my hair!! My Groom nervously looked on, with a napkin in his hands. My youngest brother ran to a couple picnicking nearby and asked for some crackers and an apple. Revived and somewhat nourished by these humble offerings, I soldiered on to make it to the reception with my dress relatively vomit free!

This past Summer I had the joy of styling a modest dessert table for a young and beautiful bride! Her only request was for a beach/shells theme, using the colors turquoise and coral. My daughter even helped a bit by painting some seashells a glittered gold. Her friends had also ordered these delicious, boutique style cupcakes from Poppadee’s, in Napa.

Lai, the Bride, has a very bright, fun, and energetic personality. I wanted the table to reflect this. Her Groom, Wade, is a true gentleman. They truly are a wonderful couple! For the table, I also brought out some of my milk glass collection, featuring two vases, two 1950′s wedding boxes by Westmoreland and two 1960′s pedestal cake plates by Anchor Hocking. Lai has a big megawatt smile, and made for such a gorgeous Bride!

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Bubbling over Donuts!!

So the summer flew by and mind you, it was fun! My family and I attended 6 Birthday parties, 3 Weddings, 2 Baby Showers, and also celebrated my hubby’s 40th Birthday, my daughter’s 6th Birthday, and the 38th of yours truly. We are so grateful and feel blessed to have been a part of our friends’ milestones and life events. I really can’t thank them enough for being a part of our lives as much as we have become a part of theirs.

So it’s pretty obvious at this point that I love parties, just as much as a fat kid loves cake. Or donuts. No, I’m not kidding. I am that fat kid. I love the kind of party where the champagne bottles outnumber the beer and wine selection. The kind where the food is so plentiful and delicious that I must have seconds. The kind where I get to put on a dress and feel like a girl in grown up heels. And especially the kind where the Aunt of a best friend pulls you aside at the end of a party and tells you not to use the foil because she already packed up some food for you to take home. In a to-go box. Yep, that kind.

Oh, and that Aunt? God, I love her.

And that best friend I mentioned? Her name is Stacey. Well, let’s just say this past summer, her backdrop for her children’s birthday party blew me away. Stacey and I have been friends forever. This year she and her husband hosted a Bubble Party, complete with an adorable donut bar, bubble scientist, bubble station, and of course, food for days!! But let’s not forget that she had me at donuts.

There are six of us girls that have been besties since the dawn of time, and I consider them my sisters. There’s Eunice,Charm, Kathy, Karen, and last but not least, Stacey. These girls are hilarious!! When we all get together, one of us or all of us usually ends up crying, and laughing , sometimes at the same time. Throw in some wine and appetizers in there, and we can call it a day.

Stacey though, I can definitely say, is my arts and crafts bestie. She understands, with complete empathy, my need for paper and fabrics to coordinate with a theme. She has a craft style that is both lively and modern. There’s nothing cheesy with this lady.

I love how her eyes glaze over with that crazed look as she starts to describe how she’s tackling her latest project. I know that look well, because I get that too! Then there’s those phone calls during a Michael’s trip that we simply cannot decide on something. Anything. Between crafting our bridal showers, our weddings, our own baby showers, and now our own children’s parties, we haven’t met a glue gun, stamp, or paper that we haven’t conquered.

Ok, you really have to see these pictures already. Her design and event style was just amazing. Did I mention that she had food for days?? Ok, I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.

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Wild flowers

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I love flowers. Not the ones with a scent so heavy it’ll make your head spin (I mean really, who wants a spinning head), but the unscented ones. The dainty ones with little delicate petals, or the ones that just would never make it in a bridal bouquet of some sort. Most would call them weeds, but I prefer to see them as the nonconformist variety. Wild flowers.

When I was little I used to pick them all the time, and made little bouquets to give to my mom. And buttercups? Remember those? Little yellow wild flowers that grew on a long stem amongst the clover. One time on a dare a neighbor girl told me the stem tasted like lemons and that I should try one. I dare you, she taunted. So I did, without even blinking. And yes, it was sour, and thank goodness I’m still alive.

Early on I always tried to teach my munchkin that beauty is always around us. The easiest way I could show her this was through our walks, while picking wild flowers along the way. She loves this activity, and I really do cherish it. I never claim to know their names, so we just call them by size or color. Just keepin’ it simple for my 5 year old and my 37 year old brain.

My sister bought this adorable and tiny flower press for my munchkin. As she gave it, my first thought was, Yay for ME!! I love my sister (and yes Sister, if you’re reading this I told your niece you bought it just for HER). So today we cracked it open and put it to good use. Hopefully we did it right. According to the instructions the flower should be ready in 3 weeks. Guess I’ll have to update you on that later. I hope I do my sister proud.

 

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Lights, Party, Action!

I asked Cristina what kind of theme or decorations she wanted for her 18th Birthday Party. It was, after all, on a chartered boat that cruised the San Francisco Bay.

Her reply? String lights. Lots of it. And a candy bar. With Gobstoppers, and Pop Rocks. Nothing cheesy.

That, folks, pretty much sealed the deal. We’re talkin’ sunflowers. Loads of them. And a ton of candy. Oh, and those cupcakes? Oh.my. Poppadees. Now those cupcakes were gone in less than two hours. I kid you not. Baked in the heart of wine country, this mother/daughter team knew exactly what they were doing.

With Cristina’s mom Tina, and our good friend Mildred, we collaborated on a simple yet elegant affair to celebrate this bright, talented, and native San Franciscan. Did I mention she is headed off for college to the east coast!?!? Gasp!!

Nonetheless, I wish her lots of luck, lots of happy new beginnings, but most of all, love. Happy 18th Birthday Cristina. May your journey be lined with sunflowers.

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Party Sneak Peek

I’ve had the greatest luck of being asked to assist a great friend of mine plan her daughter’s 18th Birthday Party! Here’s a little peek into how we began to decorate the party boat.

Trust me, putting up string lights on a moving boat was not an easy task! Thank goodness I had my friend Mildred holding the chair for me, since I nearly toppled over several times. That would’ve been a major party foul for sure! Crisis averted, and three broken lightbulbs later, we soldiered on.

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