Thursday, February 11, 2016

Tulips and tarts


Hello! Are you having a good week? It's been a busy one here, lots of schoolwork and activities. I'm looking forward to our mini-break next week. It's only a couple of days off, but I'm totally ready. We don't have plans. I just want to rest and relax, maybe hit up the library, do some crocheting and sewing, cook something fun for the Bear and me on Valentine's Day, work in the yard a little bit.

I bought my first bunch of tulips for the season last Friday, at Trader Joe's. Their selection was a little disappointing - mostly pale, creamy colors instead of the bright, splashy ones I prefer. I dug around in the buckets a little and came up with these white-edged dark pink ones, which are just perfect to me. I put them in my ceramic jug with strawberries painted on it, and I've spent the week moving them from one table to another, through the living room, dining room and kitchen, just admiring the way they look. We're having a sunny and warm stretch of weather right now, which is glorious and disconcerting at the same time - it's only February but we're outside in shirtsleeves! I never know what to do with myself when the weather doesn't match up to the date on the calendar. I suppose I should just enjoy it; we will be in February for quite a while longer, after all, and February isn't always this kind to us.


I have to tell you that I'm struggling a bit at the moment, with that old, familiar burned-out feeling. I'm looking forward to learning, and teaching, being fun again. These children work so hard, and they rarely complain, but I know they're feeling the stress too. You can see it so easily in a child. All work, no play, you know the rest...



Just look at these tulips, though. Oh, they have made me so happy. It's amazing what fresh flowers can do. These are reminding me that I'll have flowers in the yard before long; some of my own tulips are just starting to push up from the dirt. I noticed tiny cabbage-shaped buds at the base of my stonecrop this week, and the buds on my winter jasmines are just about ready to burst. I check constantly for their tiny, star-shaped yellow blossoms and I know I'll be rewarded any minute now. Spring will spring before we know it.


But first, we'll have one last wintertime celebration. I made some special Valentine's Day treats this morning, while I was home alone in my sunny kitchen, listening to John Tesh on the radio. These are Strawberry Cream Cheese Cookie Tarts from Betty Crocker (the recipe can be found here on the Betty Crocker website). There's plenty of time for you to make some before the big day o' love.


The recipe is also the featured recipe for February in the 2016 Betty Crocker calendar, of which I am a happy recipient. Do you get her calendar too? It's free, but they have limited numbers to give away. If you are registered to receive emails from the company, they'll offer a sign-up for the free calendar in the late fall every year. I think I've had one for about ten years going now. Each month has a different recipe and there are handy cards you can tear out as well. I've discovered several of our favorite recipes in the calendar over the years.


Like a lot of the calendar recipes, these tarts use some packaged ingredients. I try to make most things from scratch, baking and otherwise, but I don't mind a little help now and then. The tarts are made with sugar cookie mix, prepared as directed with butter, egg and water, then they are filled with a mixture of strawberry cream cheese, powdered sugar and milk. Finally, a little vanilla icing goes on top, along with Valentine's Day-themed candy sprinkles. I followed the recipe almost exactly, with a minor modification: I didn't buy the recommended aerosol icing with the interchangeable tips. Have you ever seen them? The can is tiny and it costs a fortune. No thanks. I used regular frosting and made my own decorator bag by cutting the corner off a sandwich Ziploc, which worked great.



The tart bottoms are made with a cute technique that I'm going to keep in mind for other seasonal treats. You take a 1-inch ball of cookie dough and flatten it inside the cup of a greased muffin tin, spreading it up the sides to make a cup shape. After baking, they're nice and sturdy, like shallow tart shells.


The cream cheese mixture is spooned into the shells after they are cooled (I think the filling is something I may change next time; I don't see any need for added sugar, or at least not quite so much of it).



Lastly, I piped some little frosting swirls on top of the tarts with my sandwich bag, and added a few shakes of these Valentine's Day nonpareil decors on top of the icing. I surprised the small Bears with the tarts when they came home from school today; they didn't know I would be making them. They were so excited to eat one after they had their lunch. Well, who wouldn't be; they're little candy-cookie-pies and they're delicious.

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Thank you for your input on my soup post this week. I enjoyed reading about your preferred methods and recipes. Blogging never ceases to bring new information into my life. I hope you found something useful in my post as well.

Right now, I'm reading such an enjoyable book, When All the World Was Young: A Memoir, by Barbara Holland. The author grew up in a suburb of Washington, D.C. during the 1940's and writes about her childhood and adolescence in a very funny and subversive way. She always felt like an outsider, at home and at school, and writes honestly about this. If you like the writing of Bill Bryson, David Sedaris or Russell Baker, I think you'd enjoy this book.

Bad news: I think one of our resident road-runners was attacked by a hawk this week. It was really quite sad. I went out to the front yard and saw hundreds of feathers - both the downy body-type and the long tail kind, littering the xeriscaping. Clearly, a bird had lost some sort of battle. Later, I saw the female of the road-runner pair walking forlornly around the courtyard, looking all around and calling frantically. She was searching for her mate. I felt her pain keenly. I wished I could help her.

If you haven't joined in with my Winter Project Link Party for February, it isn't too late! The link-up will remain open until late Friday evening. Please join in if you haven't already, we'd love to have you.

33 comments:

  1. How sad about the road-runner, I love to see pictures and hear about them from time to time, they are such interesting birds. Sorry you're feeling a bit worn out, I hope you have a bit of a rest next week and re-charge your batteries. The tulips are lovely. I saw lots of spring flowers yesterday, it's been so warm here, and we've just had two days of glorious sunshine as well. The tarts look delicious, what a great idea for the pastry part. I'm wishing you and yours a good weekend Jennifer. CJ xx

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  2. Yes, I was sorry to read about the road runner too. You can feel their pain, I know exactly what you mean.

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  3. Poor little road runner; that's so sad. Lovely tulips and I adore your strawberry jug. The tarts look yummy. Hope you're feeling a bit perkier soon. xx

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  4. The poor bird.

    What a great idea for 'pastry' cases that's genius. I am definitely pinching that idea!

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  5. Beautiful tulips! I am one to love the pale colors in tulips. These are perfect. Great recipe, it has a great presentation, in another words, it looks fancy!!
    Sorry to hear about the birds, poor babies!!!Thanks for sharing about the Betty Crocker calendar and recipe. Happy Valentine's Day to you!!

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  6. The tarts look good, I need to do some valentine baking. Sad about the road runner. We have a trip coming up too, just moved it because of weather.

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  7. I think I need to buy me some flowers :) Those tulips are beautiful, and looking at them made me smile. Enjoy your weekend Jennifer.

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  8. Tulips are so pretty. They definitely brighten a room. The tarts look yummy. I bet that won't last long. You are having a warm spell, we are frigid! Oh this weather. Hope you have a nice weekend.

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  9. That's so sad about the road runner x. I've been the lucky recipient of several bunch of tulips lately all happily received. I hope you enjoy your break next week, it's half term here I am so looking forward to it xx

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  10. Oh, we all need a taste of spring in the house! Lovely tulips and the tartes are looking fantastic. Thank you for the recipe!
    Happy days
    Elisabeth

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  11. Sweet treats for your sweethearts! I do hope the female road runner finds a new mate soon. Do Roadrunners mate for life I wonder? So many bird species do. My tulips are pushing up in the garden and at the allotment and this week I picked the first daffodils from the plot.

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  12. How sad to see the lone road runner looking for its mate. Beautiful tulips. We had our half term break at the beginning of this week and it was really restorative, I hope yours is equally so X

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  13. I have to tell you a secret: I didn't know that roadrunners were actual real birds, I only knew the one from the cartoon. I am a little embarrassed. Your sweet little tarts look very nice, I could bite into one just now. I hope you will be able to relax during your small break, being a mum can be tiring, emotionally and otherwise. We, too, have a break and Richard is taking the small ones to a wigwam campsite. It will be just me and the big ones, which is a breeze because they are not nearly as hard work as the little ones. Have a lovely weekend. x

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  14. Oh, so sad for the roadrunner. It always makes me sad to see any creature when it has lost its mate. Your pink tarts are really pretty and perfect little Valentines, and the tulips would make me feel very happy too. Spring is very special in your climate - something we don't really have here. I will enjoy seeing any posts about your plants as they come into bloom. Happy Valentine's Day, Jennifer.

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  15. Sad about the road runner.

    Hey, you've got a colour scheme going here with pink for tulips and pink in your tarts.

    Have a good weekend and enjoy the mini break

    All the best Jan

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  16. Poor Road Runner...it's only nature but it still makes us sad doesn't it. Lovely tulips :) xxx

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  17. Your tulips are beautiful, such a gorgeous colour. Isn't it amazing how flowers in the house can actually alter your mood? They make me smile just to see them. How delicious your tarts look, a perfect Valentine's treat. Such sad news about the road runner, nature is so cruel sometimes. I think these things show us how animals and birds do have feelings just as we do.

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  18. Those tulips are gorgeous. Enjoy your break. It's the half-term holiday in the UK just now too.

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  19. Sad about your road-runner. Nature red in tooth and claw I guess. The buns look good as do the tulips and I hear you on the burned-out feeling. I'm more tired than usual at the mo too. Hope your mini break helps restore you x

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  20. Oh how sad is that? The poor mate, I am sure it went fast for the one who lost the battle yet she remains and has to deal with it all. I am feeling burned out myself so I know where you are coming from. Yesterday afternoon I was not a nice person, I was banging things, and cleaning like a crazy woman, I just wanted everything done after my week at work so I could relax. Now today I feel like I can breathe, not a deep breath but deeper than yesterday. Love your tulips, I have some on my table and I can't wait to see them bloom.
    Hugs to you and hang in there, get rest and relax, okay?
    Meredith

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  21. Now I am sitting here worrying about this poor roadrunner, sigh.
    I am also sorry about your burn out, I know that feeling well, that
    is why we hit the hiking trail yesterday and I called for a free day
    today, we need it.
    Those tarts looks so amazing, I'm not sure I should bake them for fear of eating them all! ;)
    I do hope your weekend is a great one.

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  22. I love non pariells They make everything so good!

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  23. Your tulips are lovely. I think tulips are my favourite flower...and I like a lot of flowers :) Those tarts look good too. Hope you have a good break...we're going away for a couple of days although I'm not at work next week at all as it's our half term holiday. Have a great week xx

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  24. Once in awhile a bird flies full tilt hitting one of my big windows and dies, which saddens us. To see the roadrunner's mate mourn is heart wrenching. I enjoyed my first batch of tulips recently, too. Joy couldn't resist touching them when they were almost worn out so the pedals fell off rapidly! Your tarts look yummy and I'm glad your little bears enjoyed the surprise treat. Your plans for the weekend sound lovely, and I hope the break will give you time to recharge. Some of us are recovering from sore throats, but we hope to have our traditional Valentine's dinner of spaghetti and meatballs, decorate the dining table with a red check tablecloth and play some Italian music in the background :) Happy Valentine's Day to you and yours, Jennifer! xxxx

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  25. Those are really pretty tulips! Your dessert you made looks very fancy and delicious! I can imagine how much your kids would enjoy them. We have lots of things popping out in our yard too.. I'm soooooo happy that winter is moving on.. hopefully.. I hope things smooth out for you, my friend. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  26. have a good time of rest! may it give you the strenght you need! those tulips are lovely!

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  27. Those tulips are so beautiful! I just got two bunches from Trader Joes myself - yellow and light purple. They were given to me in a gift bag from TJ's from their soup contest. They're in a white pitcher in my living room right now. I absolutely love them. They make me think of spring which is a long way off here. It's bitter cold and tomorrow we're due for some snow.

    Your roadrunner story is so sad. Broke my heart to hear of the female calling for her mate. :-(

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  28. Oh, sorry to hear about the roadrunner. I've never seen one in Real Life but I expect they are fascinating to watch. Your tulips are lovely colourful blooms – I do love a jug of flowers in the house. I do hope you have a restorative few days. It's our half term this coming week and we're all ready for the change in pace. Sam x

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  29. Sometimes life feels like one endless round of jobs to do but do spend some time to look at the tulips. Sending you love on Valentines day...Jo x

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  30. Hey Jennifer,
    I do love a cheerleader bunch of tulips. I have been buying lots of daffs; they are very cheap at the moment, and give a pop of bright colour that is really needed right now. We start our half term holiday from tomorrow, and it really couldn't cone too soon. I plan to potter let the boys be, walk, eat well and lots of early nights. My sympathies to lady road runner. That's very sad.
    Leanne xx

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  31. attacked by a hawk! yikes
    those tarts look amazing..
    and the tulips lovely.. happy to hear they make you happy.

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  32. I am tulip drunk lately. I keep thinking I must buy them before the season is over. They're my favourite bloom by a mile.

    I'm sad to hear about your resident Road Runner though. X

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