Black Eyed on New Year’s


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!


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!








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? 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.





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.