by Nancy Northcott
Well, here we are at the end of the year. Some people see December 31 as a time to look back on the previous 364 days, count successes and shortcomings, and devise a plan for what they hope to do in the next 365. Other people will shrug their shoulders, label this just another day, and move on into the New Year. Some people will stay up to watch the ball drop in Times Square while others will dive into bed early, pull the covers over their heads, and say, "Go on, already, 2007! You're outta here!" before they drop off to sleep.
December 31 wasn't always the last day of the year, of course. According to various books and websites I've checked, the new year once started on March 15 and then was set as March 25 to coincide with the date the Catholic Church commemorated as that of the Annunciation. The switch to the Julian (named after Caesar) calendar set the New Year as beginninng on January 1, a change not accepted in England until the 18th century. Various religions still count their church years as beginning on particular dates not coinciding with January 1.
For me, the last day of the year is an occasion to look back, think of where I've been, and see where I am relative to where I'd like to go. This year saw a couple of difficult and interlocked family situations come to a close. I'm looking forward to starting a year with those receding in the rear view mirror instead of floating overhead. I've read some fabulous books but have a TBR pile that, well, teeters dangerously, so I hope to whittle it down this year. I used to read more. I'd like to slide back into that. There were some wonderful developments, not least being my association with the banditas and the renewal of ties with old writing buddies. Of course, there were also a couple of things I wish had turned out better. As my golfing cousin might say, however, "you play it where it lies," so I'll be shooting for more landings in favorable territory in 2008. As far as goals go, I'd like to write my first short story in about 15 years, whether or not it sells, write "The End" on book-length manuscripts twice, and build the content on my website. Of course I have the usual resolutions about exercise and better eating, but I prefer to think of all such things as plans. "Resolution" sounds so . . . fragile at times, despite the word's firm meaning.
Tonight is party time for a lot the world, some of whom won't be in the best shape tomorrow, depending on how enthusiastically they party. A lot of people will haul themselves out early to mop up the last of December and launch the new year. Many people will watch football games. I've included the dh's recipe for a great dish to take to buffets. It travels well, though its density means it doesn't reheat especially well in a microwave.
Are you a party-goer or a homebody on New Year's Eve? What do you like and dislike about the holiday? What are you most looking forward to in 2008? If you have resolutions or goals you'd like to share, feel free!
I'm giving away a $15.00 Borders gift card to one commenter chosen at random. I'd like to thank all our visitors, commenting and not, for stopping by and to wish each of you health, happiness and success in 2008!
Stuffed Shells Florentine
1 pkg. jumbo pasta shells (12 oz.)
2 cups pasta sauce (bought or made; can be with or without meat)
1 can sliced mushrooms (4 oz.)
1 pkg. chopped, frozen spinach (10 oz.)
1 pkg. ricotta cheese (15 oz.)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup grated mozarella cheese
1 large egg
nutmeg, garlic powder or garlic salt, dried oregano, salt, pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Boil pasta shells in large pot, stirring often so they don't stick to the bottom, for about 15 min.
Drain shells and set aside.
Beat the egg and mix with the ricotta cheese until well blended.
Add the parmesan cheese to the ricotta mixture and blend well.
Add 1/2 cup of the grated mozzarella (reserve the other 1/2 cup) to the ricotta combination and mix well.
Prepare frozen spinach according to package directions; drain any excess moisture.
Add spinach to the cheese mixture and blend well.
Drain mushrooms and mix into the cheeses.
Season mixture with dash of nutmeg, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, and 1 tsp. dried oregano.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cover the bottom of a 13"x9" baking dish with pasta sauce (about 1 cup).
Fill each pasta shell with 1 tablespoon of ricotta mixture and arrange shells in dish.
Pour remaining sauce over shells.
Sprinkle remaining grated mozzarella cheese over shells.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1/2 hour.
Makes 7-8 servings as an entree. As a buffet side dish, serves about twice as many.