New Year’s Eve found me in my living room watching chick flicks with our dog. My son, David, and his girlfriend were out with friends ushering in the new year; Sassy and I were sharing the couch and a bowl of real popcorn. (Real, as in popped in oil and heavily laced with butter, salt and parmesan cheese, as opposed to microwave popcorn which she won’t touch.)

The first flick of the evening was "Dirty Dancing." OK, so it was maybe the 200th time I’ve watched it, but who doesn’t like Patrick Swayze? That man was hot!

We finished that movie and bowl of popcorn and moved on to another oldie, but goodie -- "The Bridges of Madison County." And, as always at the end of the movie, I urged Francesca (played by Meryl Streep) to pull the door handle and run away with photographer Robert Kincaid (Clint Eastwood).

The last movie of the night starred Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, in one of the funniest comedies I think they made together, "The Long, Long Trailer." In the movie, newlyweds Nicky and Tacy start marriage towing a mobilehome across country to Nicky’s construction job site and discover the perils -- and expense -- towing it brings.

We only made it halfway through that movie before the two of us started drowsing and went to bed. As I lay in bed, I began to make my New Year resolutions.


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For better or worse, here are my top five:

* Try to live by the words of the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

Although I am not an alcoholic and have never attended an AA meeting, they are words I try to live by. I received a bracelet with the prayer on it as a child and it’s been my mantra in times of stress.

* "No worries, mon." On a Christmas trip to Jamaica, it became evident that those words were a way of life in Jamaica. Most of the people in the country are dirt-poor and live in particle board and plywood roadside shacks and yet they are happy and worry-free. Something to strive for ...

* Try to pay off some of my credit card balances. "In God we trust, all others pay cash" is going to be my new motto. I’m getting those scissors ready to slice, dice and chop some of the plastic in my wallet.

* Have more patience, tolerance and understanding with the people -- and the dog -- in my life.

* Declutter the house and pass on books I’ve already read. (So there’s room for more books!)

* Lose some more weight. OK, so this one is a perennial resolution. This year, I actually lost 10 pounds, so I’ll try again after this weekend.

Why the delay? I’m going to make Red Velvet Whoopie Pies. Lately, Red Velvet cakes, whoopie pies, muffins, doughnuts and even ice cream have been the rage. I always thought it was merely adding a lot of red food coloring to a chocolate cake batter, but there is something subtly different in the taste.

These whoopie pies come out a bit flatter than regular chocolate whoopie pies. You can adjust the cocoa, using as little as 1/4 cup, if you like less cocoa flavor and want a more intensely red whoopie pie.

Red Velvet Whoopie Cakes

Makes about 48 two-inch cakes

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 ounce (one small bottle) red food coloring

1 cup buttermilk

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt onto a sheet of waxed paper.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, shortening, and both sugars on low speed until just combined. Increase the speed to medium and beat until fluffy and smooth, about 5 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and red food coloring and beat just until blended.

Add half of the flour mixture and half of the buttermilk to the batter and beat on low until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining flour mixture and 1/2 cup buttermilk and beat until completely combined.

Using a spoon, drop about 1 tablespoon of batter onto one of the prepared baking sheets and repeat, spacing them at least 2 inches apart. Bake one sheet at a time for about 10 minutes each, or until the cakes spring back when pressed gently. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the cakes cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Filling

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

3-1/2 cups (one pound) powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In the bowl, beat together the cream cheese and butter on medium speed. Add the sugar and beat on low speed until combined. Add the vanilla and increase the speed to medium until creamy and smooth, about 4 minutes. Spread on one whoopie pie and top with another to make a sandwich.

Margaret Button is the city editor of the North Adams Transcript. Send recipes to the North Adams Transcript, 85 Main St., Suite 2, North Adams, Mass. 01247 or email them to mbutton@thetranscript.com.