January 2009


Zen 

With the new year and a rough economy, what better time for a little bit of navel gazing? I like to do my cleaning seasonally as I’m taking out new candles, digging up appropriate clothes, changing sheets, and swapping home accessories. Since winter is a few weeks in and I’ve been on the prowl for some fresh design ideas, I’ve grown more and more frustrated with what I’m seeing.

We all know that mass consumption has got us overwhelmed with clutter and debt, but all sorts of “lifestyle” sites and blogs perpetuate the problem by advocating more, more, more. I don’t think I’m alone in this frustration. See, for example, Apartment Therapy’s Predictions for 2009 post, which seemed all in good fun but drew a lot of bitter comments. I guess the readers got a bit tired of being told that a $1000 table is a great! find! in November 2007, then being told it’s out a year later. Or being told that “obvious mid-century modern” (a phrase that if I never hear again, it’ll be too soon) is so last year, but we should all run out and redo our home Mad Men style because that’s what’s on the TeeVee. 

Ok, I’m giving AT a hard time, but there are good ways and bad ways to approach your home and lifestyle that don’t require a complete overhaul every twelve months. Read the full rant after the jump. (more…)

Now that the holidays are over and life returns to normal, whatever that may be, we are entering an odd time of the year for flowers. The late fall chrysanthemums, pumpkins, and decorative gourds are all past their prime, but it feels like the early spring flowers are a lifetime away. With that in mind, I went hunting for a few ideas for bringing the outdoor greenery inside. The look that I like best is combining a bit of evergreen with a classic flower such as a carnation. Apartment Therapy had a cool example of this meant for the holidays back in December, but I see no reason that we can’t use this in the new year, too. Carnations make this cheap, too!2008_12_05-carnations061Or add cranberries for an extra splash of color2008_12_02-carnations-1Of course, Martha Stewart can be counted on for winter floral centerpieces, too. I love candles most during the dark January days, and a white pillar is perfect here:a98259_1200_pinedouble_xlThis one, however, is my favorite. I’d take away the pine cones and extra greenery around the base as it seems too Christmassy and fussy, but the birch tree vases remind me of winters up north. Love it!mla102728_1207_birch_vase_xl-1

 

Black-eyed Peas

Black-eyed Peas

My mother is a gen-u-wine Southerner, so every year on New Year’s Day we’d eat black-eyed peas to ensure a prosperous year. I never really thought much about it, but it occurred to me recently that I’ve never heard anyone else mention this tradition. Turns out it’s one of those regional things that really hasn’t spread outside The South, which I think makes it even cooler. This year I made the dish based on Emeril’s Food Network recipe, and it turned out fabulous! Black-eyed peas are traditionally cooked with a few spices and ham, sometimes called “Hoppin’ John,” but we never used that name.

Emeril’s recipe was not only super easy to prepare, it also has a great combination of spices that bring out the sometimes bland flavor of the peas. I thought two bay leaves would be excessive, but they were right on balance. The only thing I changed is the meat; I couldn’t find a good ham hock so I used turkey ham, which has a great smokey flavor and is even a bit better for you. Otherwise I followed the recipe exactly, and all the times were right on to end up with a perfect consistency. The tricky part of making black-eyed peas is getting them to be smooth, but not mushy. You have to remove them from heat at exactly the right moment when they are just starting burst, otherwise you end up with a huge mass of bean mush. This recipe worked well to prevent that.

I know you’re supposed to eat this on New Year’s Day, but I served it to friends a few weeks ago and it was a hit. Which says a lot, considering that these peas are not usually the star of the show.