Looking Back, Part I

Whew. We are looking at the final couple of days of 2013, and as always, it seems to have gone by quickly.

Bill and I left Denver on Christmas Day after spending the final few days before we left with three-fourths of our children (the other living in Vermont). We had a lovely Christmas Eve dinner with the oldest, Allen, at McCormick and Schmicks, and felt like real grown-ups as we didn’t eat until 7:30.

Christmas morning we got into our already-packed car and headed south. Bill’s engineering mind kicks into full gear when he packs a car. He utilizes every square inch of the trunk and the back seat, leaving just enough room for our goodie bag.

The roads Christmas Day were very quiet. We listened to Christmas music as we headed towards our first stop – Albuquerque. We checked into the hotel early evening where I’m pretty darn sure we were the only guests. (Thankfully I didn’t see Norman Bates.) We have this down to a science. We always pack one little bag for just those things that we need for overnight – pajamas, meds, toothbrush, and toothpaste. This time we also had a bag with our Christmas dinner.

I knew there would be no restaurants open Christmas night, so, at Bill’s suggestion, I packed a picnic reminiscent of those we had when we traveled through Europe a few years ago. I had salami and prosciutto, several cheeses, some vegetables, and of course, a bottle of wine. It made for a nice little dinner.

I’m always nostalgic at saying goodbye to one year and looking forward to the next. First of all, it means we are getting older and so are our kids and grandkids. That’s the cycle of life, of course. But I also always wonder if I accomplished anything important during the past year, or was I just a slug, using God’s resources and breathing God’s air and not contributing a single thing.

As I thought about 2013, I finally concluded that I didn’t accomplish anything in the finding-a-cure-for-cancer type of way, but I certainly feel like it was a good year, full of joy and family (which are really one in the same for me).

Here are a couple of things that were important to me in 2013:

Largely because of my job, I was able to travel around the United States a great deal. There really aren’t many major cities that I haven’t been able to visit. But my job (or my life in general) had never allowed me the opportunity to visit Savannah, Georgia, and that was definitely on my bucket list. This year Bill and I spent a week with my two sisters on Hilton Head Island, and we visited Savannah. What a beautiful city and what a lot of fun we had! We even had the chance to dine at Lady and Sons Restaurant, which was definitely a bucket list item (my bucket list is pretty simple, my friends).

I started this blog. I have always loved to write, but while my job involved a lot of writing, it was all business writing, and largely boring. Approximately 22,000 new widgets will be produced this year as a result of a stronger commitment to the environment, it was announced today by CEO Joe Schmoe at a press conference announcing new widget production. And so forth. I wanted to enjoy writing, and this blog provides that enjoyment. I hope to continue to grow and reach more people, and welcome any and all feedback.

This year at Thanksgiving, my whole family was together – a somewhat rare occurrence. Our daughter and family spent the week in Denver, and the visit was culminated by a joyous Thanksgiving dinner. I showed the family photo the other day to one of my nieces. She looked at it, shook her head in amazement and said, “Aunt Kris, I can’t believe you have that family when you just had one kid.” True, true, true. I am so blessed.

Today I am spending the day with my two sisters at a fancy, dancy spa (where I will likely have to unveil my bare, oh-so-white legs). This is a continuance of my birthday celebration, as it is a gift from my sister Bec. Fodder for my blog, no doubt.

I will reminisce about 2013 more tomorrow.

Last night we watched the Call the Midwife holiday special, and in its honor, I fixed Shepherd’s Pie – a British specialty. Here is the recipe from Simply Recipes.

Easy Shepherd’s Pie

1-1/2 lbs. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1-2 c. vegetables (carrots, corn, peas)
1-1/2 – 2 lbs. potatoes (3 big ones)
8 T. butter
½ c. beef broth
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
Salt, pepper, seasonings of choice

Peel and quarter potatoes, boil in salted water until tender (about 20 minutes). While potatoes are cooking, melt 4 T. butter in large frying pan. Sauté onions in butter until tender over medium heat, about 10 minutes. If you are adding vegetables, add them according to cooking time. Put any carrots in with the onions. Add corn or peas either at the end of the cooking of the onions, or after the meat has initially cooked.

Add ground beef and sauté until no longer pink. Add salt and pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and half a cup of beef broth. Cook uncovered over low heat for 10 minutes.

Mash the potatoes in bowl with remainder of butter; season to taste.

Place beef and vegetable mix into a baking dish. Spread mashed potatoes over the top. Bake in 400 degree oven until bubbling and brown (about 30 minutes). Broil for last few minute if necessary to brown.

Nana’s Notes: I did not make mashed potatoes; instead, I bought the already packaged kind. Very easy. I used fresh carrots that I diced and frozen corn. The Call the Midwife special was awesome!