Now. Fresh Raspberry and Lemony Cream Tart

I’m in the midst of chaos.

But in reality, I only perceive it as chaos. It’s a wonderfully blessed life I have, and I’m letting myself perceive said chaos and losing sight of what is ahead. I need to focus on simplicity; I need to slow down. I must quit worrying about the future and appreciate today.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:34

Fresh Raspberry Lemon Cream Cheese Tart from Arts and Tarts

I’m currently packing. The answer to the question I had a few weeks ago “how does one pack for five months?” still eludes me. And now I’m down to four nights left, with a mess of things surrounding a few suitcases. And I’m stressing out majorly.

But why? Why stress when the things that I pack do not matter. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming, if I just go at it with a different perspective – that it will be okay if I miss something, if I have wrinkly clothes, or if I look completely disheveled in the airport.

Fresh Raspberry Lemon Cream Cheese Tart from Arts and Tarts

What really matters is taking time to appreciate how blessed I am, and being grateful to the One who has blessed me. I have this opportunity to travel to Hawaii and live with dear friends for five months while taking a few online classes and spending precious time with my friends and godson. I feel spoiled. And all I’ve been doing is stress about just how I’m going to pack for it.

Today as I was throwing clothes into a suitcase and worrying about running out of time, I realized that rather than hurrying to finish, I need to slow down. I need to live this moment too, instead of only looking ahead.

Fresh Raspberry Lemon Cream Cheese Tart from Arts and Tarts

So, I’m going to soak up these few days I have left in Illinois. I’m going to spend my time with those dear to me and I’m going to drink coffee and I’m going to read. I’m going to pack, yes, but I’m going to be more relaxed about it. Because why stress? Why, when it hides everything good in the days to come. While my countdown will continue because of the tremendous excitement I have for Hawaii, I won’t only see it as a countdown of days till I get out of here, but as how many days I have to enjoy here, in Illinois.

With this in mind, I DO have time to write here, and I DO have time to wander around town doing nothing, and I DO have time to sit in a coffee shop and read, and I DO still have time to spare. Because even if I end up throwing the remaining things I think I need in a bag at midnight the night before I leave, it will all be okay. And this trip will still be good. And a blessed life will go on.  I’m thankful for that, and everything else in my life – the things in the past and in the future and right now, this very second.

Fresh Raspberry Lemon Cream Cheese Tart from Arts and Tarts

Let’s all take time to appreciate and live in this very moment.

Fresh Raspberry Lemon Cream Cheese Tart from Arts and Tarts

To complement this reflection I offer a no fuss tart. Simple. Beautiful. Fresh.

Fresh Raspberry and Lemon Cream Cheese Tart

1 prebaked piecrust in tart pan (Recipe for pie crust that I used at bottom of this post)

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

½ teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup sugar

Juice and Zest of 1 large lemon (or about 2 Tablespoons juice and 1 teaspoon zest)

½ cup heavy whipping cream, cold

2 cups fresh raspberries

In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer until softened and a bit fluffy. Add vanilla, lemon juice and zest to mixture and stir until combined.

Add heavy cream to a separate bowl. The colder the cream, the easier it will whip. Using the whisk attachment of an electric mixer (or a regular whisk), whip the cream until peaks form.

Gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture until combined. Spread into chilled tart crust and top with fresh raspberries. Garnish with lemon zest. Best if served chilled and on the same day it’s prepared.

Pie Crust:

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter (3/4 cup), cold and cut into small pieces

1 2/3 cups all purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup ice water

Combine salt and flour in a medium size bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or fork, until mixture is crumbly. Gradually add ice water until mixture forms into a dough ball. Divide in two, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least an hour. Roll out 1 ball into a circle large enough to fit a standard size tart pan. Place in pan and cut around edges so there is no excess dough. Prick the bottom several times with a fork and bake at 350 degrees F for 8-10 minutes, or slightly browned. Remove from oven and allow it to cool completely before filling. This will make two tart shells.

Love, B

Lavender Lemon Cookies and a Literacy Narrative

“Narrative provides a way to speak things otherwise unspeakable, to give voice to that which would otherwise go unheard” –Lynn Briggs and Meg Woolbright

Lavender Lemon Cookies

Writing for Identity

A literacy narrative I wrote for class and felt was significant enough to share.

Lavender Lemon Cookies

I’m six and a quarter years old. My favorite color is purple and I want to be mommy and daddy’s perfect little girl. I cry when I don’t draw the picture exactly how I want it to be. I rip it up and throw it. But it’s okay, because I can go swing in my backyard – Up, down, up down; kicking in, out, in out; soaring through the air, closing my eyes. I am anything I want to be. It’s quiet, I’m alone, and everything is perfect.

Dude, I’m nine. I want to be a sport star, but I’m terrible at hand-eye coordination, and I think I’m disappointing the soccer coach who happens to be my dad. But, I can get good grades – that comes easy to me. Quietly listening in class, I wish to be the bubbly girl next to me who the other students flock to, the girl who always has something to say.

I am the same age as my sister; well, at least for this month until she turns thirteen. I want to be her. She’s only eleven months older than me, so why does she get to be so much cooler? It’s stupid and not fair.  She can play soccer, sing in musicals, and make so many friends. My teacher’s tell me I’m smart, but I just want to be accepted by the twenty-seven people my age that I know.

I’m like fifteen. I want to be pretty. My best friend knows how to fix her blonde hair and make up her face. She has a boyfriend. I want to make people laugh the way she does. I wish I could just quit being so damn shy, why don’t I know what to say?

I’m finally eighteen. I want to be an artist. I want to be the stereotypical art student – the one who does the unexpected, dresses in awesome but unintentional style with beanies and wisps of hair every which way (yet, still looking put together), makes crazy unexpected artworks, and goes to art galleries to chat about avant-garde art with other artists. I change my style accordingly.

Now, my age doesn’t really matter. I don’t want. I am. I don’t need to have some alter ego to compete with the real me. I have an identity. The reality of my entire life has been, and is, the shy girl. I participate in conversation most often by sitting back and listening, contributing through nods, slight smiles, and soft chuckles. I’m conservative and modest; traditional.

Lavender Lemon Cookies

I didn’t realize this until I created a blog. In a class I was taking, Creative Strategies, one of the major projects of the semester was to create a new self – an alter ego, or our “better half”. The assignment was rather vague and obscure with no right or wrong answer. It wasn’t necessarily supposed to be an alter ego, but someone we would be, without any limitations, if we could. Our future self, perhaps. Most of the project was up to us, if we wanted a new name, a new direction, anything. However, we did have to create a profile on a social network to display our new self and provide an artist’s statement, so I chose to create a blog for my character.

Creating this person was hard for me, even though my entire life I had been creating ideal personalities for myself in my imagination. I wanted her to be perfect, to be the artist I desired to be but wasn’t. I began to create a character that portrayed the “artist” I had been trying to emanate.  The more I worked through all the parts of the assignment though; I began to realize the only person I truly wanted to be was myself. That meant combining the conservative and shy “me” that I had tried to hide with the conflicting artist “me.” I worked through the rest of the project, and finally when the presentation came, I used words on the blog to explain that “I did not know the answer” to the assignment. This was extreme for me, because I had always been the student who gave my teachers what they wanted, because I was supposed to, and this answer to my professor’s assignment was definitely not what she wanted. But through my voice on the blog, I could explain, simply put, that I didn’t quite know how to define the real me yet, that there was a battle between my identities going on in need of compromise, and whoever she turned into was who I wanted to be. I fulfilled all the requirements of the assignment, albeit unconventionally, and I still made it my own.

Lavender Lemon Cookies

This blog helped me define an identity for myself that intertwined each aspect of my character; I realized I didn’t need to choose just one thing to identify myself. I felt free to explore my identity. At the same time, I found that through written word I could define myself, explain myself, and have the voice I had so desperately been searching for in order to conquer my shy “self.” My shy speaking voice had somehow become bold – even loud – in written form, on my blog with an audience.

The concept of audience became very important to me. Throughout my development from child to adult, I was desperately seeking to be someone else because I thought I needed an audience. I wanted to be noticed and heard, and the only way I knew how to do that was to somehow get over my shyness so I wished to be someone else, someone less shy. With a blog though, the world was my audience. Anyone who typed in a few search terms could come across my blog and read the words I voiced. I suddenly had a place to put words that I couldn’t find a way to utter aloud, but could write. And these words were being read! This was exhilarating; I felt terrified but so excited at the same time. Here, I found that when my shyness creeps up and takes away the words I want to speak, I could voice them through writing. Blogging was the perfect way to develop this voice because I could write it, formulate my words, be confident, and know that I had an audience.

Lavender Lemon Cookies

This blog was a new step in defining myself, and led to my current blog here, Arts and Tarts, which has become a place where I can and will continue to tell stories, share my baking experiences and recipes, and explore my photography. It’s a place where I can be the different aspects of my identity all at once, where I can mesh the shy with the unconventional, where my conflicting “selfs” can coincide. Because of this, it’s a place where I can completely be and voice myself.

Blogging has given me a voice. It’s an outlet to explore my identity, and continue the journey of defining who I am. Each blog post I write adds a new ingredient or instruction to the recipe that makes me, me.

And here is the newest ingredient,

Lavender Lemon Cookies

Lavender Lemon Cookies

Lavender Sugar Cookie:

1 cup sugar

4 1/3 cups all purpose flour

1 cup powdered sugar

1 cup butter

½ cup sour cream

½ cup oil

2 eggs

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ – 1 Tablespoon dried lavender buds*

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside. Cream butter and sugars together, add eggs and beat. Add sour cream, oil, and vanilla until combined. Slowly mix in flour, until all combined. Add in lavender buds. Chill dough at least an hour, then use a rolling pin to roll dough out to ¼ inch thick. Cut with cookies cutters. (I cut small 2 inch diameter circles, resulting in a billion tiny cookies). Bake at 350 degrees F for 6-9 minutes, or until just barely browned on edges and top is not longer shiny.  Cool on wire racks.

*Amount of buds depends on preferred taste. Be cautious though, as too much may taste soapy

Lemon Glaze

2 cups powdered sugar

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

2 Tablespoons water

Zest of lemon

Whisk all together. For stronger lemon flavor, replace water with more lemon juice. When cookies have cooled, drizzle or pour over tops and let set out for glaze to dry. Store in airtight container.

 

Always with love,

B

Words and Blueberry Lemon Quick Bread (Update: and Muffins!)

I’m a shy person. Quiet might be a better term. I don’t typically lead conversations, and I often think of things I might contribute but then let them  go unsaid forever. Some might say that this sort of personality is a strange thing, and I used to hate this trait in myself, but somewhere in the mess of high school and the experience of college, I’ve grown to appreciate my character more.

You see, words are such a powerful thing. When spoken, each and every syllable carries significance as each and every sound and inflection speak meaning. The way that we say things, the order, the pitch, the choices we make, have the biggest impacts.

But I’ve come to realize that I don’t need to have a lot of words – one simple word might carry the same weight as a string of sentences threaded and weaved together. I think both of these ways are just as perfect as the other.

Sometimes I just don’t talk a lot. Some people assume that I’m uncomfortable, or maybe that I don’t like them. Sometimes, I’m perceived as a snob. Really though, I love conversations and listening and I don’t always feel the need to add words. I don’t think a conversation needs to consist of back and forth speaking, equal words from both sides. I believe one can contribute equally to a conversation with few words, maybe even with no words at all. It’s all about an exchange – an exchange of sense, of meaning, of feeling. Presence alone gives this. Words have specific denotations, but there are also so many other ways of sharing and communicating. I like to find those ways…

Baking is a way I communicate without speaking. It can display my mood. It can express love. The process itself is more for me, learning about myself, spending time to reflect on my surroundings, having a moment alone. The outcome though, it’s for me to share – to communicate with the people around me, to communicate with you as you read this now.

I made this blueberry lemon bread for family and a few friends. It was for you, too. In making it, I was able to unwind after a day that left me upset. I then happily shared it with some people who each carry special places in my life. And now, I’m able to use it to communicate even further, with you. For you to enjoy the photos, hear a story, and then maybe follow the recipe for your own loved ones.

I’m really loving this adventure of blogging I’ve started, and this new way of expressing myself – this place where I can be “quiet” but still communicate. Where I can be shy, but not so unspoken.

And I really hope you do make this sometime or another, as it was so simple to make, but so perfectly sweet and tart with the combination of fresh blueberries and lemon. The inside dense and moist, speckled with blueberries and lemon zest, and completed with a yummy crumb topping. It’s like a blueberry muffin, but better and in bread form!

 

 

 

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Blueberry Lemon Quick Bread with a Crumb Topping

Recipe makes three mini loafs, or one 8X4 inch loaf, Can also be used in muffin tins for 24-36 muffins

 

For the Bread:

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 cup sugar

3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 eggs

1 ½ cup self rising flour

½ cup milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 ½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries (If using frozen, do not thaw)

Zest of one lemon

For the Crumb Topping:

3 Tablespoons butter

½ cup flour

3 Tablespoons sugar

In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, lemon juice (note, zest your lemon before juicing it), and eggs together. Add about half of the self-rising flour, then the milk, then the other half of the flour, beating well after each addition. Once well combined, gently fold in the blueberries and lemon zest. (Note – toss the blueberries in a bit of flour before folding in, and they shouldn’t sink to the bottom as much) Pour batter into 3 greased mini loaf pans or one larger 8 inch by 4 inch loaf pan.

To make the crumb topping, combine the butter, flour, and sugar in a small bowl. Use fingers to mix together until a crumb forms, leaving some crumbs larger than others. Sprinkle crumbs over top of each loaf, gently pressing down a bit so it sticks.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 18-20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. If using one larger pan, it will need to bake about 60-70 minutes. Cool at least ten minutes before removing onto a wire rack.

Note – If using all-purpose flour instead of self-rising flour, add in 1 teaspoon of baking powder and ½ teaspoon salt when adding the flour.

Another note – I like to used browned butter in the batter to give it a subtle rich and nutty flavor. Try it, I think you’ll like it! It’s really not very complicated, just heating the melted butter a bit extra, but the results are crazy awesome. Technique here.

Update: If making muffins, fill muffin tins with cupcake liners 2/3 to 3/4 full and top each with crumb topping. Bake 15-20 minutes, starting with 15 and checking center with a toothpick. It should come out mostly clean with possibly a few crumbs clinging on.

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home.

Much love,

b

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