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There are two New Year’s Day traditions in our house. James must have his black-eyed peas and I must have pork and sauerkraut. Ever since 1997, we have been enjoying both the Pennsylvania Dutch and the Southern dishes on New Year’s Day, and it is something that we both look forward to with a great deal of happiness.

So this morning, as soon as we had our morning coffee and polished off the delicious fried grits and fluffy cheese omelets that James served up, we got busy with the holiday meals. James rinsed off the peas he had soaking and got them cooking in the electric kettle. I pulled out the zip lock bags that held our garden-grown, home made sauerkraut and poured the contents into our biggest crockpot.

Usually we have pork with the sauerkraut and the leftover ham bone from Christmas for the peas, but today all we had was a whole ham that Colette and I had never cooked for Christmas, determining that the twenty-something pound turkey was plenty for the twelve of us. James took one side of the ham for his peas, and he cut off a generous bit for sandwiches and supper steaks and then gave me the other end for the sauerkraut.

We cut up our ham and put it in our dishes and it was the easiest meal ever. All James did was add some jalapeno and salt and pepper to the peas and they cooked all morning and then got put in the cast iron kettle on top of the woodstove to keep warm for the rest of the day. I added nothing else to the sauerkraut, not even pepper and that cooked in the crockpot into the afternoon and then I put the crock on top of the woodstove as well to stay warm.

Meanwhile I made several batches of bread dough. I froze three batches and kept two out for the rolls that go with the dishes. The dough was rising so fast, so the oven got turned up as high as it could go and 20 rolls were balled up and patted and poked and buttered and baked. It didn’t take long until they were nice and brown on top.

The red potatoes were diced and placed, soaking in lightly salted water, to cook later for mashed potatoes. Yesterday Jared was put in charge of dessert, so no need to bake a pie or make applesauce. However I did cook a dish of whole cranberry sauce because every single bit of it was gone from Christmas and it is everybody’s favorite. The sugar syrup was almost gone, so more of that was made for the iced tea.

Meanwhile, James gathered the eggs and fed the chickens and ducks. Today’s offering was over a dozen beautiful brown eggs. He stoked the woodstove, and burned the trash. Then he started working on our new bookshelf.

We have this extra room off our current bedroom that leads to the new construction. It was my idea to take the wall where the French doors used to be and make a primitive style bookcase out of the cavity – just leave the existing two by four frame and put some more two by fours up to hold all my paperbacks that do not fit into the glass-cased bookshelves in my office. It was James’ idea to use two by sixes for the “shelves,” and it was his expertise with the saw, level, and hammer to make it happen. We started it last night and he said that he would finish it today. I resisted his efforts to beautify it. I love primitive rustic things – taking something old and worn out and getting a second use from it – and in this case, he put aside his own preferences and made me the style of bookcase I wanted. I could not be more thrilled.

A reading nook.

While the dishes were cooking themselves in their separate electric pots, I was busy toting my paperbacks over from the old part of the house where they had been stashed all these long months. When the case was finished, James sat down and had a cold beer, while I cleaned up the splinters and shavings and wiped the boards down and put all my beloved books on the shelf. “Are you going to put them in any kind of order?” he asked. I said no.

Just touching them and reading the covers of my ragged collection brought me such joy! Books have always been my best friends. Sinking into a book is one of my biggest pleasures. My dream is to have a house with walls made out of bookshelves. And here was a wall and my paperbacks. There were shelves for the kids’ Golden Books. As broke as we were, every time I went to the grocery, I bought Golden Books for Jared and Manda. The books have stayed with me.  Memories of sitting up in bed with them, one on each side, brought tears to my eyes. And now the grandkids get the same stories read to them! We would love to be around for the great grandkids and do it again. Wouldn’t that be lovely? But we don’t want to rush things.

So all the books fit and even James had to agree with me, it looked nice. I sat down in my new black leather swivel chair (a surprise Christmas present from my darling) and instead of reading, I just looked at them all. It was a reunion with old chums.

Jared had gone snowboarding with friends; Lisa had taken the two youngest grandsons to see “Night in the Museum 2,” and David had worked at McDonald’s. They weren’t getting here until 6:00 or so, and so there was plenty of time to get a little reading in. I could not settle myself down to read though, so I folded laundry and we tucked into the sauerkraut and beans for a light lunch. I made James a buttered roll and he said they were delicious – all yeasty and warm and just the right texture.

Later, the Curry’s got here at different times. Jared and David showed up first and we sat around the table and chatted and drank iced tea and talked about New Year’s resolutions. Lisa and Jonathan and Zachary came later. We served ourselves plates of food whenever we felt like eating and it was casual and fun. Everybody admired my new bookshelf. “It looks like you,” said Jared. “It looks like your house,” said Jonathan. “It fits.”

Zachary and Jonathan and Lisa tried out my new chair. It was not Zachary and Jonathan’s first time, but it was Lisa’s first time. She did not seem anxious to move once she got in it. You would have to sit in it to see why. She showed me her new tattoo. A lovely blue flower on the top of her foot. She said how much it hurt when she got it. I can only imagine. David showed me his tattoo – it says Tai Kwan Do in Korean. (They both have their black belts.) Jared showed me his new tattoo – a frightening  face on the side of his original one on his upper arm. Although I personally would never get a tattoo, I admired theirs.

We had plans to watch a movie or play games, but everyone was tired and some of us have to get up and go to work tomorrow! So we called it a night and bid each other farewell. It was a really nice day – there was a Denzel Washington movie to watch but I got sleepy and so I kissed my darling goodnight and came upstairs to go to bed.

The house still smells of ham and sauerkraut, black-eyed peas and fresh baked yeasty buns.

What a nice way to spend the first day of the New Year.