Don’s “Best of 2017” – books, meal, wine, new friend, concert, fun experience, travel moment, new project, self-insight

I am so grateful to God for my life, family, and friends. Looking back on the past 12 months several “best of…” come to mind. Here are a few.

Best novel and non-fiction books read
The Last Days of Night – Graham Moore
The Power of Moments – Chip and Dan Heath

I read a lot; my goal is to read one book a week. Two weeks ago I posted a list of all the books I read in 2017. These were my two favorites.

The Last Days of Night – Historical fiction, it tells the story of Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse’s epic battle regarding who invented the light bulb, and also includes the colorful Serbian emigrant, Nicola Tesla.

The Power of Moments – I like everything the Heath brothers write. They combine good research with accessible writing. This book unpacks the importance of pivotal moments and how to make them happen.

Best meal
Pot roast with family

When I was a child we had pot roast every Sunday for lunch. Mom put it in the oven before we left for church and it was ready when we returned. So I have a strong emotional/sentimental connection to the dish. Several years ago I experimented with more than 12 different ways to season and cook a chuck roast and I have perfected the genre. So my favorite meal is to sponsor a carnivore night with family; we often stretch the event to two+ hours. Solomon was right when he said the best thing in life is to eat, drink, and spend time with those you love.

 

Best bottle of wine
2012 Hentley Farm, The Beast, Shiraz

In August I attended the grand tasting at TexSom—a premier conference for sommeliers. Penfold’s (a famous winery in Australia) was pouring samples of their best wine – Grange ($700 per bottle). Then I tasted The Beast from Hentley Farm (a relatively unknown winery from Australia) and liked it better than the Penfold’s. I ordered two bottles from a wine shop in upper state New York. Mary and I shared one bottle with our tablemates on the Queen Mary 2 and we’re saving the other bottle to celebrate a special event.

Best new friend
Buddy

A couple in my church is training a therapy dog which they bring to worship services. It is a beautiful blonde Golden Retriever. One Sunday I asked where they got their dog and they gave me the name of a local breeder. I called; a new litter had just been born. In October I got a wonderful puppy and named him Buddy. He’s my therapy dog: he’s always happy to see me when I get home; he listens to me intently and doesn’t interrupt; he prefers hamburger over lobster. He gives me joy.

 

Best musical concert
University of North Texas A Cappella Choir

My church, Stonebriar Community Church, sponsors Center Stage Concerts in which a limited audience (250 people) sit in close proximity to the musicians. In October we hosted the UNT choir, directed by Professor Allen Hightower. It was splendid. Many people have never heard the sounds we were fortunate to hear. Choral singing at its best.

Best fun experience
Chuck Swindoll directing an orchestra

Chuck Swindoll is the senior pastor at Stonebriar Community Church. I refer to him as the Pope of the evangelical world. He’s the greatest person I have ever known. At our Christmas Eve service our orchestra director surprised Chuck by handing him the baton to direct the 63 instrumentalists in Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride. It brought the house down—unmitigated joy and happiness.

Best travel moment
Transatlantic crossing on the Queen Mary 2

This is our third connective year to sail on this mid-December transatlantic cruise from London to New York City. I want to do this trip every year until I die. It is seven days at sea so there’s nothing to do but read, write, think, and attend lectures—but those are my favorite things to do so I’m in nirvana.

Best new project
Vineyard

I’ve always wanted to have my own vineyard. The challenge has been where to plant it. This year my daughter and son-in-law bought a large lot on Cedar Creek Lake and started building a lake house. They have graciously allocated a 50×60 plot for a vineyard. We’ll grow Blanc du Bois, Black Spanish, and Tempranillo.

Best self-insight
For better and for worse—I’m frugal.

Even at 65 I’m still learning more about who I am and how nature and nurture nuanced me. This year I’ve discovered more about my frugality and how it has been a friend and a nuisance.

I grew up poor. Food was rationed, I wore hand-me-down clothes. So I was imprinted with the gift of frugality. Through the years it has prompted me to be careful with money, bargain hard, and save. That’s the good side. The downside is that I often do things to save money that I should pay to have done. I spent four hours changing out my car battery to save $50. My time is more valuable than that.

I hope 2018 will be a good year for all of us.

Question: Please share with your fellow readers, and me, some of your “Best of 2017” experiences. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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14 thoughts on “Don’s “Best of 2017” – books, meal, wine, new friend, concert, fun experience, travel moment, new project, self-insight

  1. Thanks for sharing your best of 2017. Are you willing to share your perfected pot roast recipe? I’m sure I’m not the only one who’d like to try it.

    • Hi Karen, thanks for getting in touch. Here’s my recipe. I’m also going to post it on my site.

      In my quest to find the best recipe for pot-roast I experimented with different types of meat, flavoring, and cooking processes.

      Here’s my final recipe.

      Buy a chuck roast that has a lot of marbleling (veins of fat). Don’t use a lean cut.
      Put salt and pepper on both sides and cover with a light coat of flour.
      Heat a skillet (I use cast-iron) to a high temperature; don’t put any oil or liquid in the skillet.
      Sear each side of the roast. This will help seal the flavor into the meat.
      Put the roast in a crockpot and sprinkle one package of dry French-onion soup mix on top. Don’t add any water.
      Cook for 8 hours.
      About halfway through the cooking time, drain all the liquid from the crockpot and save it to make gravy. I do this because I don’t want to boil the meat, I want it to be a bit crispy on the outside. If the meat has a lot of fat, you may need to drain it two different times.
      I don’t add any vegetables to the crockpot. I think this compromises the roast and all the vegetables end up tasting the same.

  2. Don, I really don’t like being tweaked!

    So, what is your final chuck roast recipe winner?

    I’m going to hold my breath until you put it in as a ps. on a blog!

    Thanks for your Best of the Best list. So enjoyed the journey!

    • Thanks, Bill, for the request. I’m going to put the recipe into this reply and also put it on my blog site.In my quest to find the best recipe for pot-roast I experimented with different types of meat, flavoring, and cooking processes.

      Here’s my final recipe.

      Buy a chuck roast that has a lot of marbleling (veins of fat). Don’t use a lean cut.
      Put salt and pepper on both sides and cover with a light coat of flour.
      Heat a skillet (I use cast-iron) to a high temperature; don’t put any oil or liquid in the skillet.
      Sear each side of the roast. This will help seal the flavor into the meat.
      Put the roast in a crockpot and sprinkle one package of dry French-onion soup mix on top. Don’t add any water.
      Cook for 8 hours.
      About halfway through the cooking time, drain all the liquid from the crockpot and save it to make gravy. I do this because I don’t want to boil the meat, I want it to be a bit crispy on the outside. If the meat has a lot of fat, you may need to drain it two different times.
      I don’t add any vegetables to the crockpot. I think this compromises the roast and all the vegetables end up tasting the same.

  3. This is All such Interesting & Fun information to read! Thank you for being so open & transparent!
    Sincerely,
    Lynette Williams

  4. Don,

    Thanks for sharing. I always enjoy your emails.

    Would have loved to heard the choral UNT A Capella group.

    Would have really enjoyed watching Swindoll directing the orchestra!

    Your insights always seem to be just on point.

    Thanks again,

  5. -Laying on the beach in Majorca, Spain and swimming in the Mediterranean
    -Hanging out with friends after getting laid off
    -Finding a mentor
    -Getting to speak to the Texas A&M men’s b-ball team
    -Attending my wife’s graduation from Dallas Seminary
    -Getting to talk to and take a pic with one of my heroes in the faith

  6. If ever i had a year to count my blessings, 2017 was at the top.
    Best books: The 5000 Year Leap: A Miracle that Changed the World by W. Cleon Skousen
    Rescuing the Gospel: The Story of the Reformation by Erwin Lutzer
    Best Food: My good friend Bill Gavora cooked us a five course meal for my birthday in March.
    The prime fillet was cooked perfectly and was accompanied by a bordelaise sauce.
    Best Wine: Birthday meal w/ the steak. A 2000 Silver Oak (Alexander Valley) Cabernet Sauvignon.
    Best Trips: Utah Skiing and then back there in the summer. Weather was exceptional. So fun.
    Best of 2017: Becoming new grandparents. Both sons had daughters. Lacey in Sept. Jane in Dec.

    • Robert, Thanks for sharing your personal best for 2017. Having grandchildren must been the best; with the Silver Oak coming in 2nd place.\
      . I appreciate our friendship.