by Charlene Burgi
There is no denying it. The holiday season is here. Some of us turn into little kids again during this time of year, while others tend to identify more with Scrooge and his “bah, humbug” attitude.
Attitude is exactly what makes the season bright. While we were living in the Bay Area, the hustle-bustle of the department stores, fighting for parking spaces and getting saturated by holiday decor before Halloween could sour even the brave-hearted before December arrived.
I am finding country living much different. The simplicity is refreshing. The nearest department store is a hundred miles away. I found pleasure meeting new people at the eighth-grade fundraiser where local crafts are sold to help fund the school library and the children’s field trip planned for San Francisco in spring. People with and without school children attended not only to support the students but to have an opportunity to socialize.
Despite this community event, I needed an attitude adjustment when I realized that my favorite time of the holiday season was baking cookies with my grandchildren, who would not be able to visit. That adjustment came quickly when I asked my youngest granddaughter what she wanted for Christmas. She asked me to send her some of my yummy cookies. My heart soared at her response and I started baking that very day.
Other things that helped my adjustment included preparing a holiday open house to thank those who have helped us in various ways during the year; finding treasures (such as pieces of fruit, popcorn and an electric water dish to prevent ice from forming) to attract birds and provide additional sustenance for them in the freezing weather; and searching for gifts that keep on giving.
As a gardener, one of the gifts I have most appreciated came in the way of a beautiful glazed pot. It was full of soil and I was promised that in a few months I would be delighted by the paperwhite narcissus that lay dormant within. That gift was given to me over 30 years ago, and I still think of that person every year when those bulbs bloom.
I mentioned last week that I would gently nudge you to start thinking about pruning. With that said, consider giving yourself the gift of good pruning shears. I went into the local saw shop the other day and was delighted to see the various sizes of pruning shears offered. It was an excellent brand that I knew would stand the test of time. There is nothing worse for a woman with small hands than trying to manage the man-sized spread of some pruning shears. Like gloves, you will want to try them on for size! A good fit will make the job of pruning seem effortless. That gift will keep giving every time you use them.
We are in the midst of bare root season at the nurseries. Roses, berries, grapes, fruit trees, shade trees, shrubs, artichokes and asparagus can be had for half the cost of a potted plant in spring. A gift certificate, or an outing to the local nursery with someone in need of a perfect plant for his or her garden, will continue to give year after year.
Over the years I have learned that gifts come from the heart more than the pocketbook. My youngest granddaughter’s request for yummy cookies reminded me of this. And so, I would like to share the gift of my Noni’s recipe for biscotti. She was from Italy and brought this recipe with her. My mom continues baking these treats, and the recipe continues to get passed on through the generations.
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
4½ cups flour
4½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
3 or 4 tablespoons anise seeds
1 cup chopped walnuts or almonds
Beat the eggs; add the sugar and melted butter. Once the butter mix cools, add the vanilla. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into the butter mixture and stir in anise seeds and nuts. This will be a very heavy dough.
Roll dough into one-inch-diameter logs on a lightly floured board. Each roll should be as long as your cookie sheet. Set each roll about two inches apart on the greased pan. Bake in preheated oven set at 375 degrees until light brown. Turn rolls onto a board and allow to cool a little, then cut into diagonal strips. Turn the cookies on their sides on the cookie sheet and return to the oven until brown. Keep in tight containers after they cool.