Category: New Year

A Quilt for the New Year & Book Giveaway

MargaretBrownley-headerYou’re invited to an old fashioned Quilting Bee.  Look at my quilt below and tell me how you would decorate a patch to add. It can be a picture, a resolution, a wish for the New Year or anything you want it to be.  One lucky “quilter” can choose either a copy of Petticoat Detective or Undercover Bride(Sweepstakes rules apply.)

patchwork-quilts

I’m giving you each a blank patch to add to my quilt. 

What would your patch say or what would it look like?

 

HeaderBanner_CalicoSpy

Someone is killing off the Harvey Girls and undercover Pinkerton detective Katie Madison hopes to find the killer before the killer finds her—or before she burns down the restaurant trying.

To order my brand new release, Calico Spy, click here!

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Updated: January 2, 2016 — 10:44 am

A New Year Approaches

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christmas-card-vintage-tree-momI pray that you and your family had a wonderful Christmas holiday. Perhaps you are still enjoying time off. At the Witemeyer house, we spend lots of time in our pajamas playing board games, watching movies, and piecing together the puzzle that sits on the card table often through New Year’s Day before it is finished.

As we look forward to 2016, I am anticipating many exciting things. My daughter (the oldest of our kids) will be graduating from high school and starting college. Wow. We are all still a bit numb from that thought. My middle child will be turning 16 and getting his driver’s license. My youngest will be starting high school. (Not so young anymore.) My in-laws will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. What a fantastic accomplishment that is! And in the midst of all that, I will have the chance to travel to Germany with another author and participate in a book tour. My German publisher has invited me for a visit, and I can’t wait to see a portion of that wonderful country!

  • What are you looking forward to in 2016?

Short-Straw Bride CoverOne thing you can look forward to right now, is a great discount on my most popular novel, Short-Straw Bride. Today through January 1, you can download the e-version for only $1.99. Yeehaw! And if you already have a copy, you can send one to a friend for less than you would pay to send a Hallmark card. What a fun way to start the New Year! Click on the cover to get the deal.

May the Lord bless you richly in 2016.

Attractive Young Woman with a Horse the Snow

Black-eyed Peas: Harbingers of Doom (plus recipes)

Kathleen Rice Adams header

Did everyone have a merry Christmas? Good, because a new year is on the horizon. No red-blooded southerner can let New Year’s Day pass without complaining about honoring one of the most reviled respected traditions of the day.

So let’s get it over with.

No one in the American South escapes childhood without becoming painfully aware black-eyed peas are a mandatory part of the New Year’s Day meal. I say “painfully” because I would rather eat dirt than the black-eyed peas grown in it — and I’m not alone in that sentiment. Nevertheless, no matter what else is on the New Year’s Day menu, the cook had better sneak black-eyed peas into the mix somewhere or the whole year will head straight for hell on the handbasket express.

black-eyed peas

Notice the pure evil in those little black eyes.

Native to Africa, black-eyed peas reportedly migrated to Virginia in the late seventeenth century. Not until after the American Revolution did anyone take them seriously, but that didn’t stop the little connivers from worming their way southward and westward with settlers. The scoundrels proved incredibly hardy, darn them, and soon were well entrenched in fields hither and yon, biding their time until the moment was right to spring onto some unsuspecting family’s table.

According to legend, that moment occurred in early 1864 as General William Tecumseh Sherman’s Union troops ran roughshod over every square inch of ground from Atlanta to the sea. As if the situation weren’t dire enough for the Confederacy, the Yankees “confiscated” (read “stole”) every edible scrap they could get their hands on, leaving behind only things they considered livestock feed: black-eyed peas, greens, and corn. For Lord only knows what reason, they also left the salt pork, although they made off with every other kind of meat they could scavenge.

Little did Sherman and his men know that by abandoning the black-eyed peas, they abandoned an excellent source of calcium, folate, protein, fiber, and vitamin A, among other nutrients. (That is the only nice thing I will ever say about the vile vegetable.)

cornbread

Here — look at the pretty picture of cornbread. It’ll settle your stomach.

Thankful the Yankees left anything in their wake, white southerners learned to consume food slaves and po’ folks had eaten for generations: black-eyed peas, greens, salt pork, and cornbread. Those staples helped southerners survive the winter. When New Year’s Day 1865 rolled around, they were delighted to find themselves still alive. The same could not be said for their palates, if the black-eyed pea custom is any indication.

Thus, a tradition was born, dang it.

According to southern lore, black-eyed peas, greens, pork, and cornbread each symbolize a hope for the future (or a reminder of the “just shut up and eat it” principle):

  • Black-eyed peas are for prosperity, because they swell when cooked. Some also say the peas represent coins. Folks who want to get technical about their prosperity eat one pea for each day of the coming year, although for the life of me I can’t figure out who has the patience to count out 365 black-eyed peas per serving.
  • Greens (collard, turnip, or mustard) bring money, because they’re the color of dollar bills. In addition to eating cooked greens, some folks hang uncooked stalks from the ceiling in order to attract prosperity. To my way of thinking, that habit just means one more thing to dust.
  • Pork symbolizes forward progress, because pigs root forward when they forage.
  • Cornbread symbolizes gold. It also does an excellent job of soaking up pot likker — the liquid left after greens are cooked — which is considered a delicacy and an aphrodisiac. In addition, if you crumble enough cornbread into a serving of black-eyed peas, you’ll never know the peas are there.

There’s a trick an art to preparing inedible irresistible black-eyed peas: Disguise their flavor and texture with a whole mess of other ingredients. If you feel compelled to adopt or continue a tradition passed down to today’s southerners by ancestors with a sadistic streak, my recipe is below. (A word to the wise: I cook by taste, not necessarily by recipe. The one dish I don’t taste while it cooks? Black-eyed peas. I prefer to conserve my appetite for dinner, in the fervent hope the disgusting delicious peas will have been devoured — or mysteriously disappeared — by the time I get to the table.)

 

A Pot of Good Stuff with a Couple of Black-eyed Peas Thrown in So I’m Not Singlehandedly Responsible for the End of Civilization as We Know it

Black-eyedPeas4 or 5 slices of bacon
1 large onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups fresh or frozen black-eyed peas
3 lbs. smoked ham hock, a large, meaty ham bone, or an enormous slab of ham (The more meat, the less chance a black-eyed pea will creep into your portion, so go…ahem…hog wild.)
½ tsp. kosher or sea salt (or to taste)
Ground black pepper to taste
¼ tsp. allspice
1 Tbsp. Tabasco or other hot-pepper sauce (use more or less, to taste — I use about half a bottle)
4 cups chicken stock
Additional chicken stock or water, as necessary

In a large stock pot, fry bacon until crisp. Remove and set aside.

Sauté onion, celery, and garlic in bacon drippings until tender.

Add remainder of ingredients, plus crumbled bacon, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 30 mins. to 1 hour, adding liquid as necessary to keep peas covered, until tender. (There’s a fine line between tender and mushy. For me, that line is before the peas are in the pot. You’ll have to determine the texture you prefer on your own.)

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No one has to force me to eat collard or turnip greens on New Year’s Day. I’ve always enjoyed them. (Psst: The secret to great greens is vinegar, but you didn’t hear that from me.)

Always serve greens with black-eyed peas. Always, because this is where finesse comes into play: If you ladle greens on top of the black-eyed peas, you can eat your fill of greens and then push away from the table, pat your stomach, and announce “I can’t eat another bite!” before you’ve reached the detestable delectable peas hidden underneath.

 

Collard, Turnip, or Mustard Greens with Salt Pork

CollardGreens2 pounds (about two large bunches) fresh greens
4 or 5 slices of bacon
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tomatoes, chopped
5 cups water
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 piece salt pork, sliced, or 2 meaty ham hocks (or both)
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and ground black pepper to taste

Thoroughly wash leaves and remove any woody stalks and center veins. (Small stems and veins are okay.) Tear leaves into large pieces or cut into strips.

In a large stock pot, fry bacon until crisp. Remove and set aside.

Sauté onion and garlic in bacon drippings until tender.

Add tomatoes and meat, plus the crumbled bacon. Pour in water and vinegar and bring to a simmer. Add greens, tamping them down so the water covers them.

Cover and simmer until tender — about 1½ to 3 hours, depending on type of greens. Turnip and collard greens require 1½ to 2 hours; mustard greens may take as long as three hours.

Do you celebrate New Year’s Day with any traditions? I’d love to hear about them. If nothing else, I’d find it comforting to know people in other parts of the world don’t start each new year dreading dinner.

Here’s to a fantastic 2016, y’all! May all of us enjoy health, happiness, and prosperity whether or not we eat black-eyed peas.  🙂

A Cowgirl’s New Year’s Resolutions

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According to a recent survey 38% of us will go through the ritual of making New Year’s resolutions this year. Sad to say, only 8% of the resolutions will make it to January 2nd. As someone once said, even the best intentions go in one year and out the other. That’s probably because we insist upon making resolutions that involve giving up something (smoking) or getting rid of something (weight, debt).

 
I don’t know what resolutions they made in the Old West, but I’m willing to bet that giving up or getting rid of something was not on anyone’s priority list. It was more like getting something (land or gold). Early settlers probably didn’t do any better than us modern folks in keeping their resolutions, but you have to give them credit: some died trying.

 
I plan to take my best shot at keeping my New Year’s resolutions this year—but dying is where I draw the line.

A Cowgirl’s Resolutions for 2015

 

Lose the extra five pounds on my hips. From now on, pack only one gun instead of two.

Make an effort to see the good in everyone. Even barbed wire has its good points.

Stop treatin’ suspicion as abs’lute proof.

Be more generous. No more keepin’ opinions to myself.

Make exercise a priority—for my horse.

Practice my quick draw with my gun—not my VISA card.

Keep from taking sides during a shoot-out, especially shoot-outs involving family members.

Avoid stampedes by shopping online.

Limit time spent on the open range. That www dot brand sure can waste a lot of time.

Clean out closets. Nothing (or no one) should hang that doesn’t deserve to be hung.

And finally: Stop holding up shopping carts and forcing people to buy my book.

 

 www.margaret-brownley.com

 

I told you my resolutions, now tell me yours. Afraid you won’t keep them?

Not to worry. I promise not to tell if you don’t die trying.

 

 

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Updated: December 13, 2014 — 7:50 am
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