Thursday, December 11, 2008

More Holiday Traditions

My father was a security guard for most of his working life. My college-educated mother stayed at home with their three daughters until the oldest of us was married. We didn't have much in the way of material goods. But we had books to fill a library. That made us as good as rich.
I passed to our children the love of language by including the gift of a book with every holiday celebration. No celebration is complete in our home unless there is something to read and remember.

Here are a couple recommendations I would like to pass on to you

First thing in the morning, Doug Green is a double- shot of espresso. He runs a blog from about as far away from here as one can get and still live on the same continent. On the east coast- in another nation, Canada. I subscribe to his blog because I find it much like him- intelligent, thought-provoking and high energy.
His recommendation of My Natural History (The Evolution of a Gardener) by Liz Primeau pushed it to the front of the line to make it to my last book order.
My Natural History is a loving journal of what it means to become a gardener. Liz Primeau put in writing "Whatever our differences in regards to politics, religion or age, all the ones I've met could talk non-stop about gardening."

Paula Panich sent an e-mail addressed to her friends who love France and life about Mark Greenside's newly published I'll Never Be French (No Matter What I Do)- "I am a terrible snob when it comes to nonfiction writing, so that when I beg, plead, and whine: BUY THIS BOOK NOW, please know I love it myself, even though it contains a terrible flaw: I'm NOT in it."

John McMurtrie, Book Editor for the San Francisco Chronicle wrote in his December 7th review, "Imagine Larry David, the maddeningly neurotic but hilarious comic, spending a summer in a French village - against his will, of course - and you get some sense of what Mark Greenside goes through in his engaging memoir "I'll Never Be French (No Matter What I Do)."
Turning the pages, I couldn't help but think that if Mr. Greenside and I met in a political context, we would almost certainly lock horns. However, on the pages of this book- I liked this man very much.
Travel has a way of changing how you look at yourself. Mark Greenside's retelling of accidentally falling in love with a foreign land while simultaneously feeling more mainstream American is enchanting and crisply humorous.

How information is gotten out is changing. In addition to books- there is the Internet.
When searching for a specific recipe- it can be pretty handy. Helen Doss found this gem of an appetizer on the Food Network site. It is by Giada de Laurentis. It is GOOD.

Crostini with Sun-Dried Tomato Jam:
1 (8-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and chopped, oil reserved
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Crostini: 1 baguette, cut into 3/4-inch slices
1/4 cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
5 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves

For the Sun-dried Tomato Jam
Place a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped sun-dried tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of the reserved sun-dried tomato oil, olive oil, onion, and garlic. Stir and cook until the onions are soft and beginning to brown at the edges, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the sugar, vinegar, water, chicken broth, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and continue simmering until most of the liquid is reduced and the mixture is the consistency of jam, about 5 to 10 more minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. For the Crostini: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place the baguette slices on the baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the baguette slices with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until lightly toasted, about 8 minutes. Place the soft goat cheese in a small bowl. Stir in the thyme. To assemble: Spread the crostini with Sun-Dried Tomato Jam and top with the goat cheese and herb mixture. Transfer to a serving plate and serve.

Doug Green's website is You can subscribe to his blog there.

San Francisco Chronicle article can be read in its entirety at

Giada de Laurentis' recipes can be accessed through the Food Network at


Anonymous said...

Lydia, Thanks for sharing your childhood memories in this post as well as your lifelong affair with books and language. Gardening, food among many others. If memory serves, Helen served that crostini at one of our events some time ago. I recall it was good stuff Maynard.

A friend of mine will be defending his thesis before a committee in a week or so. It will aso become a book, which is already scheduled for publication. It triggered a childhood memory of my own, and the Platt & Munk children's book, "The Little Engine That Could". He certainly is proving the theory from that book, "I think I can, I think I can", so representative of the American Spirit that is with us all, in this great big melting pot of cultures that has become America.

Keep the Christmas Spirit flowing with your posts....Merry Christmas to you and yours, Edda

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great feedback - I loved the "high energy" part as I'm feeling pretty slug-like with our snow and cold right now. Liz Primeau's book is indeed a small gem out there that connected with me. Glad you enjoyed it too.

Lydia said...

I cannot image anyone who has ever tried to garden or just wanted to garden would not just love Liz's book. One of my favorite stories tucked inside was about the ladder left outside a window for a cat- until the racoons discovered it...

Frequent Traveler said...

Thank you for sharing the memories, Lydia !

Hope that you are having a good - if cloudy - weekend.
Did you read that it is going to be 35 degrees on Wed and Thurs. morning ?
Brrr - long underwear time !
Hope your citrus trees/roses (and mine) don't freeze !

Lydia said...

Thank you Annie for the warning...
I need to check the tree roses and my weeping hibiscus to make sure the trunks are safely staked so the wind doesn't snap any. My garden is most of the way upslope, so the plants generally do quite well avoiding serious frost damage. Part of the citrus' good luck is enough moisture in the soil (not on leaves) and sometimes some bubble wrap stapled together in a tube around the trunks.

If your citrus or other tropicals get frost bite- try to avoid cleaning them up until the end of February. The damaged parts can offer some shelter to the healthy plant tissue.