A Family Tradition

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is typically a time where I like to prepare for the coming year. I consider it a self-imposed deadline to assess what I have and purge what I no longer need. When I was younger, this would entail putting a list together of things I thought I “needed” in order to get my life more organized. Now that I am older and wiser, I practice the art of elimination, not acquisition. I’ve learned that adding to my life is not a benefit any longer. It’s a responsibility that will require more time…a most precious commodity of which I have very little.

One Saturday this past August, I was at the Old Town Farmer’s Market and overheard a conversation between two women. It was as if I were suppose to hear them because the words continue to ring in my mind every time I clean out a drawer, closet, box, or cabinet.

“We spend half our lives accumulating stuff and the other half getting rid of it.”

I had to turn and put eyes on these women to see how old they were. As it turns out, they were probably a little bit older than I was, which gave me another clue. It was indeed time for me to start paring down what I own. I’ve already lived through downsizing my father-in-law’s belongings and understand his intentions for keeping these things never came to fruition.

My children are Generation Z, a unique bunch coming after the Millennials who aren’t attached to possessions…except their technology. Gen Z is similar in having less but they definitely aspire to be “haves” over “have-nots.” The difference is that this generation wants fewer but better quality items. This was summed up in our house by the fact that both my son and my daughter asked for (and received) shoes for Christmas. A pair of soccer cleats for Finn and Golden Goose sneakers for Lane. The shoes cost roughly the same amount — go figure.

I don’t dwell in how this differs from how it was when I was their age. I have come to understand life is like a moving current where I want to enjoy the ride. I love that my kids have fewer things but are more thoughtful about what they want. They both executed the art of Marie Kondo upon opening…joy to their world!

This brings me to what I received from my mother this year. We all select a name and shop for one person instead of shopping for everyone individually, another exercise in economics. My brother is a gadget guy in the best sense of the word. He trolls the internet for the newest and hottest gifts for himself and for others. He gave me Alexa two years ago! I’m pretty sure he helped guide my mom to the foodies “hot” item for this Christmas. I received the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker!

Such the perfect gift for all aspects of how my family knows me. It is convenient, energy-efficient, and preserves nutrients while making healthy meals. I tire each one of them with my knowledge of not only what to eat and why, but in what order to eat it! I’m pretty sure this was their way of embracing my overactive interest in nutrition.

To show my appreciation for the gift and my Southern roots, I’m preparing my parent’s iconic New Year’s Day meal, Hoppin’ John, to bring optimism and prosperity to 2018! As Nicole mentioned in her lucky New Year’s foods post today, the beans represent coins, and the pork conveys optimism, because pigs forage forward and don’t look back. We put a new penny under the dish as well for extra luck!

Photo by Johnny Autry

Lucky for you all, I unearthed my favorite recipe during my super clean this week! If you are so inclined to join me in this Southern tradition, here’s my recipe.


Hoppin’ John

Ingredients, stage 1

1 lb. dried black-eyed peas, rinsed, and picked over

3/4 lb. Tasso ham, diced (sometimes I substitute shrimp)

1 onion, halved

3 cloves garlic

3 bay leaves

Ingredients, stage 2

1/2 lb. bacon, diced

1 onion, diced

3 ribs celery, diced

1 bell pepper, diced

1 jalapeño, seeded and minced

1/2 tsp. fresh thyme

1 cup Cajun Grain rice (or a good-quality long grain rice)

6 green onions, sliced

1/2 bunch parsley, chopped

1 tsp. coarse salt

1 tsp. ground black pepper



Method, stage 1

In a large Dutch oven or kettle, combine ingredients with 6 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer gently until beans are tender but not mushy, 2-2½ hours. Drain the black-eyed peas and ham, saving cooking liquid separately. Remove and discard the onion pieces, garlic, and bay leaves.

Method, stage 2

Wipe out the pot and return to stove over moderately high heat. Add bacon and render until golden (8-10 minutes), then add the onion, celery, bell pepper, and jalapeño. Using a wooden spoon, stir occasionally, cooking until onions look translucent (8-12 minutes). Add the thyme and 2½ cups water, and bring to a boil. Lower heat, stir in the rice, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender, about 17-22 minutes. Stir in the green onions, parsley, and black-eyed peas and ham, season with salt and pepper, and adjust the consistency with the reserved cooking liquid. The Hoppin’ John should be lushly moist but not soupy.

My version substitutes green peppers for jalapeño peppers with a healthy shake of Melinda’s hot sauce and a side of collard greens (resembling paper money, Nicole has a great recipe here) for added vitamins C and A.

Cheers & Happy New Year Stylebook Readers!


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Alicia was born and raised in Alexandria, and married a local boy. She is happily married and the mother of two amazing children and one adorable and terribly smart border terrier named Dixie. Alicia has always known she was a creative. She collected editions of Vogue from junior high on and has always loved clothing and design. She studied interior design at VCU and parlayed that degree into commercial interior design, the web design, and ultimately found herself managing a local boutique and serving as a stylist to many Alexandrian women. She now has a successful full-time styling business, The Tulle Box, and makes it her business to make her clients feel great about themselves and the way they look.

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