I 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?
One 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.
I always enjoy looking back at the end of the year and measuring my progress. Each year needs to show how far I’ve come. If it doesn’t then I slept through it. No sleeping for me this time. Man, I was busy! But 2015 was a stellar year. For the first time in my life I had three new releases–all in my Bachelors of Battle Creek series. January started off with a bang with TEXAS MAIL ORDER BRIDE. The month of May saw TWICE A TEXAS BRIDE and December wound up the series with FOREVER HIS TEXAS BRIDE.
I also did quite a bit of traveling. Put a lot of miles on my car and on my body too!
My trip to New York City lingers in my mind as one of the best places I’ve ever gone. I’d always yearned to see it just once before I died. And I did. I toured the Sourcebooks Publishing NY office, did a walking tour of the financial district, saw the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
Not all was related to my career. Our family had a family reunion in East Texas and that was fun. I won the Hula-Hoop competition. I beat out my little sister. My oldest daughter got married and my oldest granddaughter graduated from Texas Tech University Suma Cum Laude.
I wound up the year back in Dallas at Richardson when I attended the annual Buns and Roses Literacy Event. So much fun.
My Christmas celebration was low-key. I dragged out my Charlie Brown tree that I’ve had forever and hung little cowboy boots and hats on it. Then I sat a bunch of little doggies wearing six shooters and deputy badges on their vests around it with my cowboy statue guarding everything.
In between all the travel and book releases I enjoyed being with my friends. I have some of the best friendships ever made.
But now I’m ready to get back to work. I need to finish up book #2 of my Men of Legend series and get the third one written. I’m really loving this series that has the big feel of Bonanza about it. A father and his three sons live on a huge ranch called The Lone Star. Their last name is Legend. I think readers will love it. And I have to turn in a proposal for another series that will come after Men of Legend. One thing about it, writers never have much time to sit around twiddling their thumbs. Maybe that’s a good thing.
And yes I am grateful to be here celebrating it with my filly sisters and everyone at Wildflower Junction!
Although there are people who consider a birthday so close to Christmasto be unfortunate, I have NEVER felt that way. When I was young, my folks always made a point to have a gift tucked away for me with birthday wrapping and it was fun to know that I had my special day “off” from school. For me, having a December birthday every year has been like having a continual party from Christmas Eve until New Year’s Day ~ simply wonderful!
My dad was in the Navy when I was born and he has always said I was a bargain — costing him all of $1.25 at the Naval Hospital. From there he goes on to tell a few tales of when I was very young. (I’ll spare you the details!) I never tire of hearing him retell those stories because they shine like a new penny every time he brings them out and remembers them.
I remember one very special birthday as a child.
When I was ten, I lived in San Diego, California in the city-proper. I was a horse-lover without a horse. I played with Breyer horses and other plastic horses more than with Barbies and other dolls. I knew we couldn’t have large animals in the city, but I’d found a place that gave riding lessons not too far away. I was absolutely thrilled when my parents made that my present even though it stretched the family budget quite a bit.
I still love horses — and of course cowboys and all things western, but nowadays, my wishes are much more precious and intangible. I wish for my three sons to find purpose and passion in life and find joy. I wish to have loved ones near. And I wish for peace and good health for my family, friends and readers.
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.
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.)
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
4 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.)
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
2 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. 🙂
Don’t think of my Christmas letter as NEWS, think of it as an outline—no maybe a summary. A synopsis…there’s an author word…of all you’ve heard if you hang around my Facebook page.
My Cowboy and I are….pretty much the same. He raised cows. I wrote books. I know, nobody’s shocked. At this point in my Christmas letter I spend about one page of a two page letter talking about my children which I will spare you.
I try NOT to brag. But c’mon, my kids are spectacular, even couched in the most humble terms possible you KNOW I did a terrific job of raising these four young ladies. And yeah, maybe all they’ve accomplished is by their own hard work and intelligence, but you KNOW people would be blaming me if they were a bunch of criminals so I think I should claim the credit that they are all employed and have no permanent record. (Yes that includes records that could be expunged!)
My Cowboy and I did a little traveling this year but honestly I can’t imagine anyone wants to hear about it. Some Christmas letters are more of a geography lesson (and then we flew HERE and then we basked in the sun HERE and then we climbed a mountain HERE) than a true story about your year. I mean sure you may have done all that traveling, but in this day and age, maybe you just GOOGLED
the top ten destination vacations and claimed them all.
Who can be sure in a situation like that where your news is just a bit too breathtaking to be believed. I do travel some and I cannot tell you how often I have been saved from disaster in one way or another. I’m a Christian so I can claim my survival as a miracle but I do wish I’d ever be able to get from Point A to Point B and back without needing direct intervention from The Almighty.
I have a theory I’ve developed. This came about based on my own personal real life experience and the fact that though I am not a skilled and confident traveler I have always gotten on the correct plane and ended up at the place I was going. I call this:
Airports for Dummies
I think all the signs and people at airports make assumptions and treat people like they are scared three year olds who’ve become separated from their mommies. This system is not deployed for everyone. So if you’ve walked through airports and never felt like you were being treated like a 3-yr-old it’s possibly because you haven’t needed help on a serious level. The system kicks in only for people who are wandering with confused, nervous, wide-eyed looks on their faces as they desperately look from their ticket to the overhead signs and see that the numbers they thought were there have VANISHED.
I have a mental image of my face being used as “Exhibit A” in the training classes. Some teacher with a pointer, slaps the pointer on a picture of my face. “What do we do when a traveler has this expression?” >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
“We rush immediately to her side and ask if she’s lost.” This has happened a few times and though it’s exhausting and humiliating, I’m glad I can help even if it is as a bad example to others. The job is probably similar to herding ducklings. I mean you have to be gentle with them or they will be crushed. And yet, they must be shooed along in the right direction, they cannot be allowed to waddle here and there while you hope for the best.
I think all the signs are designed to apply to my Airports for Dummies theory. And so far, so good! Keep up the good work! This happens far less if My Cowboy is with me and he usually is because c’mon, what rational person is going to let me wander around on my own?
We got our calves sold right near the start of December, so we have almost two months before the new babies start coming. When that happens it’s always fun and My Cowboy and I ride out together to check for newborns—which I photograph and put on my Facebook page. I love driving out to see the new babies. (Except on days that are bitter cold, snowy and windy. Then, mysteriously, it all becomes My Cowboy’s job)
My Cowboy and I will be married 39 years at the end of January. That is official A LONG TIME!
HAVE A JOYOUS CHRISTMAS AND A WONDERFUL AND BLESSED NEW YEAR!
Ever since I came upon some of the weirdest vintage Easter cards I’d ever seen and blogged about those (in two parts, no less!) I’ve just been fascinated by some of the ideas that artists of the past have had for greeting cards. What in the world crossed their minds? Who did they think would enjoy these cards, much less pick them out of all the choices available to buy and send?
Evidently, I’m not the only one who has wondered. Take a look at some of these—they are beyond “odd”.
Yes. Scallops lamenting the absence of their friends (natives), so the card says—obviously the British. “May we soon see them again.” Uh…why? So they can eat us? MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Okay, maybe it’s just me, but…being wish “Compliments of the Season” by a boiling pan head imp that looks female on top and male on the bottom…well, that’s just plain weird. For some reason, this reminds me of the scene at the beginning of Bewitched when the pan boils over on the stove…
Downright creepy. An educated pigman. Or is it a boy? The hat looks like that of a young boy, but that face is anything but endearing. And why does he need the binoculars? “The better to spy on you with, my dear…” Oh, but he’s carrying a book, so at least he must be educated.
Nothing says Merry Christmas like a picture of a dead robin, does it? I mean, what could be more joyful? Nope…can’t think of much else that could come close.
Do y’all remember the picture on the Easter card of the rabbit carefully stepping out of his home to go hunting with the colored eggs all around him? That’s what this reminds me of. A sweet little dog with a rifle near at hand…just in case he needs it.
Well, what have we here? A frog that has been robbed and murdered by another one. But, let’s not forget to have a MERRY CHRISTMAS, shall we?
As long as we’re on the subject of frogs, how about this one? Beetle and frog having a Christmas waltz, while the dragonflies dance in the background and the giant mosquito plays the tambourine. Festive, right?
Merry Christmas! If you survive being mauled by the polar bear…
It’s hard to think what must have been going on inside the creative brains of these illustrators, isn’t it? Or…were they just toying with us? Maybe these were meant to be ridiculous and make us laugh.
But wait…what’s that I hear? Crying children? Wings of a…LOOK OUT!
Above all, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, even if you’re fighting off polar bears, dancing with frogs, or running from wasps!
For me, Christmas isn’t Christmas without memories. And each year, I treasure our tree, because I get to relive the story of my life.
As newlyweds in 1974, Hubs and I selected red gingham as our Christmas theme. This pretty little bird is one decoration that never flew the coop.
A few years later, our son’s first birthday featured a firefighter theme in honor of his daddy. This little house remains of the little tableau upon the birthday cake that, then, had a real toy fire truck and frosting firemen fighting frosting flames.
When our baby girl joined the family, my well-traveled mother brought her this darling cradle ornament from Hungary.
That little guy when he was three made this bread-dough candy cane in preschool.
These eons later, we now have two darling grandsons, thanks one each to our son and daughter. Each year, Hubs gets a photo ornament of him with the little guys.
Yep, we’re homebodies a lot of the time, but we do like to get around. The Alamo in San Antonio reminded Hubs of his Army training there.
London happens to be one of those places I long to return to… In fact, I promised the nine-year old grandson a trip there when he’s eleven. Hmmmm.
And Hawaii happens to be our favorite place on earth! Of course, having our besties (Hubs’ sis and her husband ) move there for work two years ago gets us there a few times each year.
Thank you for hobbling down my Memory Lane with me. Wishing you and yours Mele Kalikimaka, in Jesus’ name.