It is nice to be writing my blog this morning. The first blog of a brand new year. A year laid out before like a clean sheet of paper before a writer waiting to add his first word to his story.
A good deal of my time over the holiday season was devoted to getting my mother ready to relocate. Shopping took the back burner to more pressing issues, making the holidays truly about family and friends and not about what was under the tree. I have to say it was rather freeing not spending hours searching for just the right gift. A gift which most likely would find itself on top a pile of other unwanted items in the return bin at the store the day after Christmas. Though not Catholic, I have to get on board with the Pope when he said Christmas is being held hostage by materialism. Certainly the true meaning of the day has been lost somewhere among reams of wrapping paper and blinking lights as the years have passed.
Once the Christmas decorations are back in their boxes we quickly lay siege to the next holiday on the calendar, New Year’s. I’ve never been a big fan of New Year’s Eve parties to be honest. Not that I haven’t participated in them over the years, I have. More often in my misspent youth than as I’ve gotten older. Drinking is usually an integral part of such parties. Being of small frame it doesn’t take much alcohol for me to feel the effects that I’m quite sure many revelers were experiencing yesterday after a night of New Year’s Eve imbibing.
Years have gone by since I’ve had a hangover, yet I can remember it well. Once you’ve endured a really significant one, your mind doesn’t easily put the memory aside. The following morning life can seem substantially less sunny when viewed from the backside of bloodshot eyes. Nausea often leads to finding oneself assuming the position over a porcelain bowl either taking the pledge as you relieve the contents of your churning stomach or finding religion. When you’re drinking champagne with all it’s bubbly goodness you’re not really reflecting on what the experience might be like should the golden deliciousness decide to come back in the opposite direction. Like many bad ideas, it may appear a stellar road to take at the time you are going down it. We humans are always looking for something to make our experience while on earth a little bit easier to bear I believe. A little something to enhance our situation, to dress the windows of our lives, if you will. Sometimes a little libation can help to temporarily ease the pain of a recent breakup, the loss of a loved one, or make you forget for the moment the stack of overdue bills waiting for you on the counter when you return home. Never will it provide a permanent fix for anything, most likely the opposite.
As usual I’ve digressed so far from the subject as to make it nearly invisible unless viewed under a microscope. I began this blog by speaking to helping my mother pack up and relocate. Years of accumulated “stuff” mounts up, making sorting through it and deciding what to keep and what to let go a most formidable job. Last week was my fourth trip down to the Bay Area in two months and will not be my last before the move is done. Mum is downsizing considerably. Many family treasures have been dispersed among family members for safe keeping. Boxes are stacked on walls in each room with directions to movers. I’m exhausted and find myself wondering if the move will actually ever happen without divine intervention. I have to say my mother is far more grown up than I might be about parting with much-loved items. “Here take this” is her most frequent response when I ask what to do with something. “Me”, says I? I can barely fit the cat and Rick and I in our house as we downsized to move to our new digs. I see a garage sale in my future even after the huge moving sale anticipated at the end of the month. Sigh. Anyone need twenty matching spatulas? Just give me a heads up.
For some reason the end to 2016 feels more like a relief than a celebration. Even the television stations seem to have given only a passing nod to the occasion. So many famous people laid to rest, political strangeness, and just a general unease about what’s around the next corner.
For us we ate manicotti and watched movies to welcome the incoming year. Life on the edge. Probably the most amazing thing about New Year’s Eve was I made it to midnight with Rick. Well, I made it in stages. I went to sleep before the witching hour, but was up again precisely at the stroke of midnight. Our neighbors commenced a half an hour display of rather impressive fireworks as 2017 made it’s entrance accompanied by a chorus from the neighborhood canines.
2017 is calling and we must answer. With so many changes in our world it should at the very least be interesting to watch as it unfolds.
In closing I would like to acknowledge the passing of two screen ladies I most admire. Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher have gone on to a higher stage and I for one will miss their attendance at roll call.
Here’s yet another manicotti recipe, but a good one. I’ve decided to forgo my New Year’s weigh in until next week after admitting to a second helping of the richly filled tubes.
1 8 oz. pkg. manicotti shells
1 10 oz. pkg. frozen spinach, cooked and drained well
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. bulk Italian sausage, mild
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
3 cups tomato basil pasta sauce
3 cups ricotta cheese
3 Tbsp. chopped parsley
2 eggs, beaten
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. chicken bouillon granules
2 Tbsp. flour
2 cups half and half
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook pasta one-half the time indicated in box cooking directions. Place in cold water to stop cooking process. Drain and pat with paper towel.
Heat olive oil over med. heat in large skillet. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook for 1 min. Add ground beef, sausage and basil Cook until browned and fully cooked. Add salt and pepper. Drain on paper towels. Return to pan and add tomato basil pasta sauce.
Mix together together ricotta cheese, parsley and cooked, drained spinach (cooled). Add eggs, and salt and pepper to taste.
Grease 9 x 13″ pan. Spread 1/4 cup sauce over bottom of prepared pan. Stuff each shell gently with ricotta cheese mixture. Layer in single layer in pan.
Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in saucepan over med. heat. Whisk in flour and chicken bouillon. Cook, stirring constantly for 2 mins. until. Slowly add half and half. Bring to boil and continue cooking 1-2 mins. until thickened. Salt and pepper to taste.
Pour oven manicotti. Ladle remaining tomato basil sauce over top. Cover. Bake for 50 mins. Remove cover and top with Parmesan cheese. Bake 15 mins. longer. Allow to cool 5 mins. before serving.