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.
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.