I have never been one to "party hearty" on New Year's Eve. I can remember as a child the thrill of being allowed to stay up and watch the ball in New York's Time Square drop and bring in the new year. (Some years, I actually managed to stay awake; others I wouldn't.) My Dad, who had fallen asleep in his chair hours before, would wake up just in time, say "Happy New Year" and stumble upstairs to bed. Mom and I would follow shortly after.
Nothing much changed through the years. I'm not a fan of large crowds and I'm not a big drinker, so I stayed home throughout college. The year I was a graduate student at Boston University, Boston hosted its first First Night celebration. The celebration, the brain-child of Boston artists, was alcohol-free, family friendly and inexpensive. There were puppet shows, musical groups, rock bands, art exhibits and theatrical performances, all followed by a fireworks display over Boston Harbor.
I went to my first New Year's Eve party with my soon-to-be husband and a group of his co-workers. I was less than impressed. The tables were packed so close together you could barely walk between them, and there were two too many places set at each table, so there was no elbow room. The alcoholic beverages were flowing like water -- at one time I had at least six glasses of red wine, untouched, in front of me -- and people were drunk as skunks. There also was no room on the dance floor.
I knew then and there, I would never darken the doors of a New Year's Eve party again.
For many years, Guy and I stayed home alone and watched Dick Clark as we waited for the ball to drop. We would make something special for dinner, like Coquille St. Jacques or boil lobsters, and then just cuddle on the couch and watch TV.
When our son was in preschool, we became friendly with another couple who had a son there, and for many years we spent New Year's Eve together -- one year at their home, the next at ours. We would have a special dinner and then talk while the boys played or we would all play a trivia game or watch a movie.
We were at their house for the turn of the millennium and watched fireworks being shot off over Mount Greylock from their deck. It's something we'll never forget.
These days, we still stay at home with friends and watch movies, toasting the new year with champagne at midnight. Some years we order pizza or take-out Chinese, others we might make a full dinner. And, of course, there are always goodies to nibble on.
One of my tried and true appetizer recipes is for a spinach dip. I like to serve it with crackers or plain bagel chips.
1 10-ounce package frozen spinach
1 cup mayonnaise (I recommend Hellmann's)
1 cup sour cream
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 8-ounce can water chestnuts, finely chopped
1 package Knorr vegetable soup mix
Thaw spinach and drain well until barely moist. (I place it in a clean dish towel and squeeze to get out as much water as possible.) Combine with the mayonnaise, sour cream, water chestnuts and soup mix. Chill for several hours and serve with your favorite crackers or bagel chips.
Another favorite with my family and friends is a layered taco dip that I serve with Fritos or tortilla chips.
Layered Taco Dip
1 pound ground beef
1/2 package taco seasoning 1 pint sour cream
1 pint guacamole
1/2 can refried beans
1 cup salsa
Shredded cheddar cheese
1 large tomato, seeded and diced
Brown the ground beef and drain off the fat. Add the 1/2 package of taco seasoning mix. Press the meat mixture into a 7x11-inch pan. Refrigerate for 15 minutes to chill. Remove and top with refried beans, then guacamole, next salsa. Place dollops of sour cream on top and spread with spatula. Tops with lots of cheddar cheese and scatter diced tomatoes on top.
The last recipe comes form my aunt Marion Duprey, who made a wonderful shrimp dip for special occasions.
8-ounce package cream cheese
Small amount of milk to soften cream cheese
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons horseradish
3 tablespoons chili sauce
1 can salad shrimp, cut up
Blend all the ingredients together until smooth and creamy.
Margaret Button is the city editor of the North Adams Transcript. Send recipes for inclusion in future columns to the North Adams Transcript, 85 Main St., Suite 2, North Adams, Mass. 01247 or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.