Wednesday, June 27, 2012

bitter sweet

Twice a year, I get that bitter sweet feeling.  I usually get this feeling at the beginning of summer...and at the end of it.

When I wrote this, I was sitting by an open window…and feel the cool breeze of the early dusk begin.  There is a distinctive smell and sound.  The street is fairly silent…a few pleading bursts from children asking to stay up just a little bit longer, as they reluctantly head to bed before the last day of school.

The temperature in the air is cool with a warm undertone which is relatively the same temperature at both bookends of the summer.  Cooled evenings as a reprieve from a long hot day. It’s also that feeling of calm (before the storm?)

Both the beginning and end of summer marks an unusually reflective time for me.  At the beginning of the summer, I usually reflect on the past school year, and wish it would stay the same for just a little longer.  Especially if the kids had a good year…and both of them did!  Amazing friends to play with, wonderful doting teachers and a good mix of academic and social accomplishments.  I don’t want things to change, and deep down, I want to keep things status quo.  

Maybe this marks another stepping stone towards become adults.  This is the bitter sweet end of the school year for me.  As much as I look forward to the lazy days eating ice cream and enjoying the laughter and bliss with my children, part of me doesn't want to rock the boat, as they thrive in their routine.  Will they like their teacher next year?  Will their friends be in the same class?  Will they feel the same sense of accomplishment or would they be frustrated with the ever so increasing difficulty of the academic requirements as they go up one more grade?

At the end of summer, I usually reflect on times spent as a family.  Did we make it to that park?  Did we set out to see everything that summer has to offer?  Did they enjoy their time with me?  Did we waste the summer away, or did we make the summer memorable?  Did they learn anything...not in an academic way, but in a more important way...did they learn any new life lessons?

I guess I will have to brave forward and find out...that's what parenting is all about... learning to navigate the bitter and the sweet, and to find a happy balance between both.

Sweet Tarts
(adapted from Anna Olson's Raisin Butter Tarts)

I love the mix of the tartness of the raisins, the sweetness of the sugar filling and the buttery pastry.  A wonderful balance of textures and flavours...this is apparently Anna Olson's (celebrity pastry chef) signature dish.



  • 21⁄3 cup (575 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 4 tsp (20mL) organic sugar
  • 1 tsp (5mL) salt
  • 1/2 cup (125mL) unsalted butter (Anna Olson used 1 cup of butter, but I like to add vegetable shortening to make the crust more flaky in texture).
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable shortening
  • 2 Tbsp (30mL) cold water
  • (The original recipe calls for 1 egg...I omitted the egg and didn't find a major difference).


  • 3⁄4 cup (175 mL) dark brown sugar, packed
  • 3⁄4 cup (175 mL) corn syrup
  • 1⁄2 cup (125 mL) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp (5mL) white vinegar
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract
  • 1⁄2 cup (125 mL) organic Thompson raisins


  • Combine flour, sugar and salt. 
  • Cut butter and shortening into small pieces and add to flour, mixing until dough is a rough, crumbly texture. 
  • Slowly add water, mixing until dough comes together. 
  • Shape dough into 2 logs, wrap in plastic and chill for at least one hour.
  • Preheat oven to 400 °F (200 °C) and lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin. 
  • Lightly dust a work surface with flour and unwrap pastry logs. 
  • Slice each log into six pieces. 
  • Roll each piece to about 1⁄4 inch thickness and line each muffin cup (I use either a fork or my fingers to create a ruffled pastry edge).
  • Chill lined muffin tin while preparing filling.
  • Whisk sugar, corn syrup and butter in a bowl by hand until combined. 
  • Whisk in eggs, then vinegar and vanilla. 
  • Sprinkle a few raisins in the bottom of each muffin cup and pour filling over the raisins. 
  • Bake tarts for 5 minutes, then reduce oven to 375 °F (180 °C) and continue baking until butter tart filling starts to done, about 20 more minutes. 
  • Cool tarts in the tin and chill before removing, but serve and store at room temperature.

Serves 12.


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