The Best Black-Eyed Peas Recipe in the World

This is a ridiculous recipe (you know it is the instant you see “First Day . . . Second Day . . . Third Day”).  But it’s the very bestest recipe in the entire world for blackeyed peas. It’s from The Nashville Cookbook, published in 1976 by the Nashville Area Home Economics Association (an altogether worthy volume that exemplifies classic Southern cooking — indubitably a must-buy, if you can find it). These are on page 66.

Now, don’t be intimidated by the length of time these take to cook (it’s mostly hands-off). They’re quite easy — and cheap! — and they just require some planning.  I’ve made them a couple times for New Year’s Day (since all Southerners know that you must have black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day).  I’m making them right now, to have with cornbread in a couple days.  And I thought it all smelled way too good not to share. And by the way, these are, in my not-so-humble opinion, much better than the black-eyed peas that Cracker Barrel makes on New Year’s.  If you find a tastier peas recipe than this one, let me know — but I don’t think you will.

Southern Black-Eyed Peas

  • About 2 lb. ham shank (including skin and bone) — I used smoked ham hocks
  • 1/4-1/2 lb. smoked hog jowl (today, since Kroger didn’t have that, I used bacon)
  • 2 lb. black-eyed peas
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 1 large green pepper, diced
  • 2 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper

First day: Cover the ham shank and hog jowl with cold water in a 4-qt pot and boil gently for two hours or until the meat comes off the bone easily.  (It’s really good if you pull the meat off the bone, so you can include it in the peas later.) Chill overnight.

Second day: Skim off most of the hardened fat. Discard the fat, skin, and bones, reserving the liquid. Add dried, washed, black-eyed peas (removing the brown ones, pebbles, etc.) and soak them overnight. Use two pounds of peas to four quarts of water.

Third day: Add the remaining ingredients (onions, peppers, dry mustard, salt, and pepper).  Bring to a rapid boil, cover, and simmer three hours on low heat, stirring frequently.  The secret of the taste lies in soaking the beans in the ham-flavored liquid.

Note: This makes a huge amount (I found this out the hard way when I made them for Jonathan and me a couple years ago).  This time, I’m cutting the recipe in half and plan to freeze a lot of it.

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Styling a $2.99 Dress Eight Different Ways for Fall

Today I went to Salvation Army to try to find a birthday present for my husband.  I was not successful in that.  As usually happens, however, I found something else: a $2.99 Ann Taylor knit jersey dress.

Ann Taylor dress from Salvation ArmyI’ve been dealing with early-morning wardrobe crises for the past few weeks.  As a fashion grad student, I feel a certain obligation not to wear T-shirts to class.  Summer was easy — I could throw on a maxi dress and some earrings and head out.  But, with very few of my dresses suitable for fall, I now have to think to put together an outfit.  Thinking is not my best function early in the morning.  So this afternoon I pulled out all my fall/winter clothes to evaluate.  And, since I obviously can’t wear this sleeveless number by itself when it’s 50 degrees outside, I decided to see how many different ways I could accessorize this dress.


I stopped at eight looks, although I could do several additional things with it (and would do an entirely different set for summer!).  This is just to demonstrate what you can do with one basic dress, a few cardigans, and some accessories.  If you have a limited budget and/or wardrobe space, here’s what you should look for when shopping:

  • A few simple basics — a pair of jeans, some camisoles, a couple of simple knit dresses (which, by the way, are excellent for traveling).
  • Traditional cardigans in several colors — if you shop carefully, you can find well-made classics that should last for years.  They can be worn with dresses, jeans, or skirts, and they look good every time.
  • Scarves in a variety of colors — multicolored scarves are most versatile and can tie together pieces in an outfit that might otherwise look mismatched.
  • Belts in a variety of colors.
  • A good assortment of costume jewelry.  You can accomplish a lot for a little money if you make it yourself — basic fishhook earrings and necklaces can be made easily with very little experience.
Posted in How-To, Money-Saving Tips, Mrs. Everett's Household Guide | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Making Your Own Jeans — Not As Difficult As You Thought

Jeans made with McCall's 5894 Jeans that I sewed

I finished my first-ever custom made pair of jeans tonight! (They were finished enough to wear last weekend — pictured — but I hemmed them up a little more and added the rivets tonight.)

Custom made jeans

The rivets had not been added when the pictures were taken — and I’d also been wearing them all day and they’d stretched (more on that later).

Here are some tips, if you’re looking at making your own jeans:

Go try on some expensive jeans that are very flattering; take pictures and measurements.  You’ll want to pay particular attention to pocket placement.  To see why pocket placement makes a difference, you may want to visit this very enlightening blog post.

I used the McCall’s 5894 pattern.  It needed a bit of tweaking — it came up way too high in the front for my taste, and I moved it down a good inch or more at center front.  If you follow the fitting directions boldly, however, you should end up with a good-looking pair of jeans.  I have always had a problem with jeans gapping at the center back, so I took in the center back seam quite a bit. I also changed the curve of the crotch seam — I took it in more for a better fit.  I also had to let out the seam a little at the inner thigh, but take it in on the outer thigh.  Everyone’s fit will be different, so don’t be afraid to experiment with it — once you get it right, you can use the pattern over and over.

I had also bought the Jalie jeans pattern, but I found the McCall’s on sale for under a dollar at Joann’s and decided to go with that instead because it had more detailed fitting directions.  And, in reality, the fitting was definitely the most time-consuming part of this. Actually sewing them was a piece of cake.

Zippers and topstitching thread can be ordered at a very reasonable price from Wawak.  They also carry jeans buttons, but if you use their jeans buttons, you’ll have to add some denim “washers” — the post is longer than the button is deep.  For jeans buttons, there are a lot of really fascinating options on eBay — I even saw some from overseas that had a cameo on them.  Before you buy them, watch the Brian Sews video on buttons and make sure you’re getting the right kind (the first kind that I bought had an unfortunate tendency to pop off).

When topstitching, you’ll want to use the topstitching thread on the upper part of the machine and regular thread in the bobbin, with a heavy #16 needle.

Rivets — if you want to make your jeans look particularly professional — can be ordered in small quantities from or in larger quantities from Grommet Mart (I ordered from Cast Bullet, but I have seen Grommet Mart recommended several places).  Definitely order quite a few more rivets than you think you’ll need — they take some experimentation to get right.

For help with installing rivets, the video from BrianSews is great.  However, since I already have a HomePro LR grommet setter — now discontinued — I bought a set of Home Pro rivet dies and set the rivets with that. (Thank heavens I bought things like grommet setters in high school, instead of the usual teenage stuff.)

I got my fabric from  When looking for denim, pay attention to the weight of the denim (defined in number of ounces per square yard).  I used 10-oz. denim with 2% Lycra and was very happy with it.

If using stretch denim, though, make the jeans tighter than you think you need to.  I had mine fitting like a glove, and by the end of the day (when the pictures were taken) they felt baggy and later had to be taken in quite a bit more from just below the waistband almost to the knee.  This may also be because I decided to prewash my denim — but I think I’d rather prewash and take in, than to have them come out of the dryer an inch too short!

Have some fun with the pocket lining Jeans pocket detail— even though you’re the only one who will see it (or you can use it as an excuse to show off your jeans to all your friends).  I used some scraps of vintage green calico with white flowers.

Also come up with your own fun back pocket design (just don’t copy my skeleton keyhole!) — play around with some different stitch types on a piece of scrap denim.  This may be one of the only times that you actually use anything your machine for anything besides a straight stitch or zigzag!

I’m about to start a second pair of jeans with the same pattern — this time, I’m lowering the front and back by another inch, and taking the legs in just a bit more.  I’m also going to flip the placket the other direction — the pattern had it on the opposite side from the rest of my jeans.

I will tell you this:  Unless you’ve got $100 to spend on a pair of jeans, you can probably make your own faster than you can shop for a pair that actually fits.  And that’s why I made my own (well, that, and bragging may have been a factor, too).

UPDATE 12/11/13 — I’m working on the second pair, and decided to go for a curved (contoured) waistband rather than the straight one found in the pattern.  I simply traced the waistband of a worn-out pair of jeans that I already had, added seam allowances, and went with that. It worked like a charm. Advantages? I didn’t have to make a dart in the center back to compensate for my waist/hip ratio, the waistband hugs my body better, and the waistband doesn’t try to bend outward at the top like the straight one does.

Posted in The Lady's Workbasket | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Avoid All the Billionaires: A Guide to Discernment for Free Kindle Fiction

Since my husband gave me a Kindle for Christmas almost two years ago, I’ve maxed out most of the good freebie classics and have been reduced to browsing the Top 100 Free Bestsellers on  Sometimes, you find amazing stuff.  Sometimes, it’s not so great. Having read several of the not-so-great ones, I’ve developed a reliable system for judging a book by its cover.  (I know, I know, judging a book by its cover – but most of the time, you simply have to if you wish to ensure your own literary survival.)

Please note that, unless I indicate otherwise, I have made up all of the following titles. Some of them may exist in real life — if so, they are probably particularly unfortunate works of fiction.

The first, and most obvious, category is the Trashy Romance Book.  Once in a while, you might come across a good one. But there are many with no redeeming qualities. It appears that, with some of them, the author has spent more time in bed than in the schoolroom studying grammar. Here are some ways to spot the latter variety:

  • There’s any kind of billionaire involved.  For example, Heart of the Billionaire, Teasing the Billionaire, The Billionaire’s Desires, The Hot Body of the Billionaire (okay, so I made the last one up, but the others are actual titles). And now I just realized that I’ve probably just skewed my Amazon recommendations for all eternity by searching “billionaire.”
  • The title begins with the word “her” or “his”His Wild Bride, Her Forbidden Tryst — you get the picture.  This is also applicable to any possessive noun at the beginning of a title (Lucretia’s Secret Knight)
  • Any of the following words — or variations on these words — occur anywhere in the title: Tangled, surrender, bed, highlander (I have no explanation for that, but it’s true), forbidden, dare, innocence, lover, teasing (yes, with Teasing the Billionaire, we do have a double score), or dangerous (i.e., The Sheik’s Dangerous Lover. I swear, brain cells were killed in just reading the title).
  • There is a picture on the front involving only torsos — regardless of their state of dress or undress — with the heads invisible, cut off by the top of the page.

Another type frequently encountered is the Depressing Modern Literary Work.  This book is apparently designed to send the reader into a deep depression that can only be solved by consuming vast quantities of Cheetos.  Since I already have a problem with eating too many Cheetos, I find it best to avoid this type of book.  Here are some things to watch out for:

  • The title is exceptionally non-descriptive and/or abstract. Examples of this type could include:  The Color Blue, The Sound of Feathers, A Clear Glass Mirror, Waking Up Alone (all these titles were just made up by me, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find one or more of them in a search).
  • The title includes anything about a thread or threads.
  • The front cover depicts a shadow or silhouette.
  • The front cover depicts anything sitting by itself — i.e., a pair of shoes; a lit candle, or, worse, a burned-out candle; a blade of grass; a single bird in flight (assuming, of course, that it’s not a book about wildlife). Any item sitting by itself without a person in attendance is a dead giveaway.
  • The front cover depicts a highway leading to nowhere. While not infallible, this can be a sign that the book itself leads to nowhere.

Another type frequently encountered is a book spawned by a successful book.  This is The Cheap Imitation or The Literary Knockoff.  While identifying characteristics tend to shift with new popular titles, titles of this type may currently be identified by any of the following indicators:

  • A reference to “shades” or “gray” in the title.  You want to stay away from books like Eighty Shades of Gray or Fifty Shades of Black or Shades of Black and Blue.  Any titles written before the popular book, however, are exempt (The Picture of Dorian Gray, for example).
  • Any reference to vampires.
  • An actual book, discovered while researching, is A Shade of Vampire.  Hmmm.

Another popular category is The Cheap Fantasy Novel.  You may have one of these on your hands if you spot any or all of the following elements:

  • The title includes two words smushed together into one.  Examples could include: Lightbringer, Everflame, Shadowmoon.
  • Other key words to avoid include: Rise, light, fire, elemental, fall or fallen, sacred (assuming that you’re not shopping in the Religion section), legend, demon, souls, shadow, sword, moon, realm, truth, and mortal.
  • Any title that includes one or more of the above words with the addition of “of” is likely to be particularly awful.  Examples could include The Rise of the Fallen or The Shadow of the Realm.

Any of the above identification markers may be combined into a Hybrid Book.  Examples of hybrid books could include titles such as Samson’s Lovely Mortal (an actual title that I just found).  You see that the title includes both a possessive noun (Samson’s) and a fantasy keyword (mortal).  This classifies the book as a Trashy Romance/Cheap Fantasy Hybrid.

These are just a few of the identifying markers I’ve observed — what else have you noticed that I didn’t include?

Posted in How-To, Mrs. Everett's Household Guide, Ruminating, Reminiscing, & Rambling | Leave a comment

How to Reheat Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Successfully

You know that feeling, when you’re PMS-ish, or grumpy, or depressed, and you get one of those bizarre food cravings? Some days I simply have to have a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese (even though I normally prefer my macaroni made from scratch). I have no explanation for this phenomenon. But I have, on (very, very grumpy) occasions, been known to eat almost an entire box in one sitting.

I have one problem, though:  I simply can’t eat it when it’s leftover. I think it’s utterly vile when reheated.  I’ve tried several experiments — I tried adding American cheese. I tried cheddar. Nothing worked.

Then, tonight, I made a discovery.  Before I reheated it, I poured a little milk into the leftover macaroni, and then microwaved it.  Of course it pooled into the bottom, but I stirred it up with my fork, and it assimilated. It was just like it was made fresh!!  I HAD RESURRECTED THE KRAFT MACARONI!  I’ll never hate leftover macaroni again.

Of course, this also means that I no longer have a valid reason to eat the whole box.

Posted in In the Kitchen, Kitchen Tips & Gadgets, Other Recipes | 7 Comments

The Great Big News

I read somewhere once that a large percentage of blog posts are explanations for why no posts have been posted. I’m about to join that percentage.

I’m writing this at my desk in the Textiles, Merchandising, & Interiors graduate student office at University of Georgia.  I’M IN GRAD SCHOOL!!!

Living room in my new apartment.

Living room in my new apartment.

In February, I was idly looking for grad schools again. I had been looking on and off since I graduated from college in 2009, but no program seemed like the right thing. Everything in the Southeast appeared to be either textile science or fashion merchandising, neither of which was quite what I wanted.  I don’t know what happened, but in mid February, my Google search popped up a new result: a Master’s degree in Historic/Cultural Aspects of Dress & Textiles.  I was ecstatic. And I was barely ahead of the deadline.

This entire spring and summer was a mad rush to submit all the pieces of the application before the deadline, figure out the financial end of it (or mostly figure it out, anyway), try to get in-state tuition (through a vast bureaucratic ordeal), find a house in Georgia, quit my job, and move over 300 miles away. None of it would have been possible without my husband’s support, my mother’s willingness to take spur-of-the-moment trips out of state (“Hi, Mama, would you like to go and help me look for an apartment in Georgia the day after tomorrow?”), and wonderful friends and family who made a five-hour trip down here just to help us unload and get settled.

I’m really going to miss my good friends and my doorknobs at Preservation Station, but I’m so excited that my collection of vintage and antique clothing will actually be relevant again, instead of just being stashed away in the top shelf of my closet.  All my fashion textbooks, that I couldn’t part with three years ago, are back in service.  And I got to identify cross sections of mercerized cotton under a microscope yesterday. This is fun.

Posted in Ruminating, Reminiscing, & Rambling | Leave a comment

Pimiento Cheese Failure (and How to Avoid It)

Pimiento CheeseWhen I was little, two of the highlights of my year were going to Aunt Julia’s house and to the Woodbury church of Christ annual ice cream supper at Mr. Boyd’s house.  What do these two have in common? Pimiento cheese.  My mom hates pimiento cheese and so I never got any at home. Luckily for six-year-old me, Aunt Julia didn’t share this bizarre and incomprehensible aversion, and the little old ladies at Woodbury church of Christ make more varieties of pimiento cheese than any group I have since encountered.

So, when I grew up and moved away, I decided I needed a good pimiento cheese recipe. My friend Sarah Grace sent me the excellent Southern Living pimiento cheese recipe. As a matter of fact, I made it tonight.

But I made a grievous error.  Last time I made it — a half recipe, since I cannot (and probably should not) eat an entire batch — I cleverly froze the other half of the blocks of cheese to save it until I wanted pimiento cheese again.

Bad move.

Freezing cheddar makes it impossible to grate.  It’s easier to give a cat a bath than to grate previously frozen cheddar.

It collapsed into chunks beneath my fingers. I now have chunky pimiento cheese to take for lunch all week.

So, the moral of the story: Don’t hog a batch of pimiento cheese all to yourself. Make the entire recipe, don’t freeze the cheese, and give the extra to a friend.

Oh, and as a side note, if you make the Southern Living pimiento cheese — they really meant a scant 1-1/2 cup of mayo instead of a full 1-1/2 cup. Makes it much better.

Posted in In the Kitchen, Other Recipes | 2 Comments