Easy Peasy, Two Ingredient Jam Tart

Dec 21 2017

Alright, folks. It’s 5 days ‘til Christmas, and I don’t know about you, but I still have 85,000 things to do and the energy for, like, 6 of them. It’s OK, though. I am not panicking, and do you know why? Because I intend to half-ass All the Things from here on out. I will give partial effort that LOOKS like full effort. I will do what delights me and spreads magic, and I will let go of all the things that do not qualify.

My house is partially decorated, and that’s AWESOME. Let’s hear it for PARTIALLY! We put up our lights six weeks ago and left a string dangling because we intended to put up more. Half of those have burnt out now, and the other half are dimming and on the way toward death. In other words, you can tell by looking at the outside of our house that WE TRIED, DAMMIT, and that is good enough for me, friends. Good enough for me.

My tree is up and lit, there are stockings hung by the chimney without care because I CANNOT CARE ABOUT EVERYTHING, and there’s still a giant garland in a heap in a corner of the family room — one we got out of its box on November 1st — that hasn’t made it to the mantel. You know what we’re going to say about that? THAT I AM SO GOOD AT DECORATING, I’M EVEN MAKING SURE THE CORNERS HAVE GARLANDS. I hereby declare myself the Queen of Half-Assery, and I am content.

So. In that spirit, I offer you this easy, peasy, two ingredient jam tart that looks Very Fancy, tastes delicious, but is still completely and utterly a half-assed effort. It is, in other words, one of my favorite desserts of all time.

Easy Peasy, Two Ingredient Jam Tart

Ingredients:
1. Jam
2. Frozen Pie Dough

I prefer to use Marie Calendar’s pie dough because they bake up flakey and perfect like my mom’s pie crust, but with, like, ZERO work. Any pre-made pie dough will work, though.

Directions:

1. Thaw pie dough. Since Ms. Calendar puts hers in a disposable tin, I pop them out of the tin still frozen and let them thaw so I can mush them into my own pie plate, thus making this dessert look fully homemade and procuring credit I don’t deserve. WIN/WIN.

2. When soft, mush it into your own pie plate, cutting off the top edge. (This is a thin tart, so you don’t need the excess dough, plus you’ll use it in a minute to be Extra Fancy.)

3. Add 1 cup of jam, any flavor and spread it into the crust. My favorite is a berry mix or lemon curd. OMG, SO GOOD.

4. Roll the remaining dough into a ball, roll out to 1/8” (3mm), and, using whatever cookie cutter you decide is fanciest, cut a few shapes to decorate the top of the tart.

5. Optional, depending on how fancy you want to be: brush crust with egg and sprinkle with sugar.

6. Bake at 425F (220C) for 10 minutes, then decrease the temperature to 375 and bake 15-20 more minutes. Remove from the oven when the crust is browned and the jam is bubbling. Let cool, then cut and serve.

Serves 4. Since the Marie Calendar’s pie crusts come in sets of 2, I make at least 2 at a time.

ALTERNATIVELY — I just made these last night, and I bypassed steps 2 and 4. EVEN EASIER. I rolled the dough into a circle approximately 1/8” (3mm) thick, put it on a greased baking sheet, put the jam in the middle, spread it to within 2-3” (50-75mm) of the edges, then folded the dough edges over, galette style, to make a rustic tart, instead. It was SUPER easy and worked beautifully. Of course, I only remembered to take a picture before I baked it — HELLO, HALF-ASSERY — but this will still give you a good idea of what I’m talking about:

(Psst…She was REALLY pretty with egg wash and sugar, all bubbly and brown from the oven. You’ll just have to imagine with me.)

In conclusion, friends, half-assery for the win! And Merry Christmas to all. Unless Christmas isn’t your jam, in which case I still recommend jam tart. And half-assery. 

X’s and O’s,

 

 

 

P.S. You can find all the Easy Peasy recipes — including my other holiday favorite, Two Ingredient Fudge — by clicking here. Enjoy!

Sometimes We Can Walk Through the Mystery and Not Even Know It’s There: Thoughts on the Cluster That Is 2017

Dec 17 2017

I have been moving at a frenetic pace, friends. Every minute of every day it seems, and I hardly have words to put to the whirlwind of desperate activity in my mind.

Two thousand seventeen has been a series of flash floods; powerful, destructive, and pulling everything off its foundation. I feel like I’ve spent December trying to distract myself from the devastation — QUICK, BETH! DO ALL THE THINGS! COOK! CLEAN! TRAVEL! MAKE CINNAMON BREAD, STAT! — and simultaneously picking through the rubble to see what’s left.

Refugee crisis = FLASH FLOOD.

Brexit = FLASH FLOOD. 

America elected the Lyingest President of All Time = FLASH FLOOD.

Trump, who brags about sexually assaulting women and bans immigrants during the largest displacement of vulnerable populations the world has ever known is mainly supported by Christian Evangelicals. FLASH FLOOD. 

Our umbrella group of churches has removed us from membership. FLASH FLOOD.

The camp our kids have always attended — the one at which Greg and I met and volunteered for 24 years — has notified those of our ilk (who are affirming and inclusive of our gender and sexual minority (GSM) neighbors) that we are no longer allowed to be in leadership roles. FLASH FLOOD.

And, of course, the knock-down, gut-punch, breathless realization that our GSM friends were systematically wounded by our churches and our camp all along, while we remained silent and were complicit in maintaining the power structure that caused such pain. FLASH FLOOD. And ugh. 

Flash floods, friends — calamity after calamity — are running down the hills of 2017 and crashing together at the bottom, the confluence too tumultuous to separate into streams that can can be crafted into concise explanations. Words become hard to shape from the madness, and my pace in trying to outrun the landslides keeps increasing. It’s like being manic, I suspect, this relentless frenzy I find so appealing lately. Like being on uppers, rushing from cooking to baking to cleaning to shopping to wrapping to cooking again. Running to events. Running up the stairs because I forgot my wallet. Running out the door to the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing, and the next. No time to rest or else 2017 will catch me, and I’ll be swept away. 

My right butt cheek hurts — it has for days, so if anyone can explain why and what to do about a butt injury other than, you know, rest, please do tell — and also my left bicep, the space between my shoulders, and the back of my skull. I should sit down. I should go to sleep at a reasonable time. I should stop watching zit popping videos until midnight. Instead, I pop ibuprofen like it’s candy and keep going as fast as my internal monologue which never stops. “THOSE 6 LOAVES OF CINNAMON BREAD ARE NOT GOING TO MAKE THEMSELVES, BETH. DO MORE.”

Do you get it, friends? Do you know what I’m saying? 

I mean, I realize I could blame “the Season.” There’s so much to do for Christmas, after all, but if I’m honest it’s not Christmas. Sadly, no. The pressure comes from me in my haste to busy myself out of feeling all that 2017 has had to offer. 

But I went to church this morning — our church that kept us when the other churches had no room for us in the inn — and I sat with the cool college humans, and I sang the Christmas songs, and I discovered I have something important to tell those of us who are the Frenzied Folks right now. I remembered something critical. 

We are in the middle of the mess. 
Yes. OBVIOUSLY.
Which also means we need to be on the lookout for the magic.

I FORGOT for a while. I forgot that there is ALWAYS magic in the mess. Even though we talk about it ALL THE TIME here, I forgot until Pastor Kim talked about the Mystery. 

Pastor Kim is our children’s pastor. She wore her grey dreads up in a yellow wrap this morning, and she was very beautiful and very brave as she taught her lesson to the kids on the big brown rug, with us, the host of larger humans, looking on. 

“Sometimes we can walk through a Mystery and not even know it’s there,” she said. “And this is a time of Mystery, because we are waiting for Jesus to be born, but Jesus is also already here.”

Now, remember, friends, that you can substitute “Love” for “Jesus” anytime we get too Jesusy up in here, and the point is the same. Love made flesh and dwelling among us. Love that challenges everything we thought we knew. Love that champions the lonely and distressed. Love that is fierce. Love that makes the weak strong. Love that never fails. 

Sometimes we can walk through a Mystery and not even know it’s there. And this is a time of Mystery, because we are waiting for Love to be born, but Love is also already here. 

THE WORLD IS SUCH A MESS RIGHT NOW. But there is magic in the mess, friends. There is magic here, too, for those of us on the lookout. There is magic, called Love, and even as we’re longing for it, not sure we can wait for it to be made REAL, to be BORN already and dwell among us, it’s also already here. And we get to make more.

The flash floods of 2017 took out some of our foundations, sure, but only the faulty ones. False worship of America. False adherence to Silence and Compliance. The false idol of Maintaining the Status Quo. But I’m digging through the rubble now, and I’m starting to hit bedrock; a firmer foundations than the former could ever be. Two thousand seventeen has given me the gift of sight. The cards are on the table. We know where folks stand. We know who’s in. We know who’s out. And we get to pick where and with whom we stand. We get to pick what we stand for. 

As for me and my people, we serve Love. That’s it. That’s the foundation. So we stand with the vulnerable. We make camp in the wreckage with the outcasts. We share whatever little we have as refugees of another life, even if all we have is our words. We are the Magic-Bringers, after all. The Agents of Love. The Justice Mongers. The Voice Amplifiers. We are the Hope-ers who sit in the darkness and believe the dawn is coming. We are the ones grasp the hands of our neighbors and whisper, “You don’t wait alone.”

This year has asked a lot of us. A LOT, a lot. And next year looks to bring its own share of the mess, so we must be very brave. But remember how the Christmas story started, with an angel saying, “Do not be afraid.” Do not be afraid. We have every reason to be, but we can defy fear anyway. We can embrace the promise of dawn after darkness. We can search for the magic in the mess. And we can stand together on Love…

…which I’m sending you now,

This I Believe: On Self Acceptance by Eleanor Gustavel

Dec 7 2017

Eleanor Gustavel is one of my heroes. She spins words like magic, she’s not afraid of the mess, and I hope to be like her when I grow up. Eleanor is also 16, and I’ve never met her in person — not that in person matters when we’ve met by heart.

Eleanor’s mama, Wendy, introduced us a while back. Two years ago, maybe? I remember it was Christmas time, and I remember Eleanor wasn’t OK. She wasn’t well. She was mired in the mud and the muck of which I’m far too familiar as her brain sucked her under, into the mental darkness. Her mama was wasn’t OK, either, as mamas never are when their children suffer and don’t know their way out of the dark. And so Wendy and Eleanor and I spent that Christmas texting and emailing, sitting figuratively together and waving in the dark, hoping dawn would come swiftly, but whispering to each other that we weren’t alone while we waited. 

And dawn came, like it always does. And then day. And then dusk. And then dark. And then dawn again. Eleanor lived. Then Eleanor thrived. Then Eleanor found her voice, which is brilliant. And her brain still betrays her. And she is still the Phoenix, rising from the ashes, again and again. 

I love Eleanor to the moon. And it’s with a tender heart, I share her words below with you, knowing you’ll love her like I do.

 

 

 


On Self Acceptance
by Eleanor Gustavel

I believe in self acceptance.

Self love is simply a stupid, fabricated, superficial idea. We never love ourselves 100 percent of the time, but we can learn to accept ourselves. We can learn to look at ourselves and accept what we see, even if we don’t love it.

As a child I loved who I was as a person, but as time passed ideas seeped into my brain like slow, black, cruel molasses saying I wasn’t good enough.

I started to notice how my hair doesn’t fall like a perfect silk curtain, and I grow out of my child sized jeans and suddenly I start to pay a lot more attention to those little embroidered numbers on the tags.

I start to measure my worth in the calories in an apple, slip smoke out of my nostrils and eat the ashes of who I used to be because they’re calorie free, and I’m not pretty unless I can fit in a size zero.

Zero.

Nothing.

I am nothing.

I drink my tears to drown my sorrows.

I start to notice my nose and how ugly and hook shaped it is. And I hate my cheekbones because Angelina Jolie wears them better.

I cover up my feelings with foundation and put glitter on my eyelids because I just want to shine like a crystal slipper, but I look more like a crystal pipe.

I live in a funhouse, full of carnival mirrors. Bending me, breaking me. I shatter.

Acceptance came when I decided to breathe in and out without the smoke, without the tears, without the calculator in my head.

Acceptance came when I decided to fight those monsters that snuck into my head.

Acceptance isn’t easy.

Acceptance is a tear streaked face. Acceptance is red puffy eyes. Acceptance is many hours of self hatred turned into determination.

Acceptance is messy, and beautiful, and scary, and necessary.

This I believe.


Beth told me to write a bio about myself. I was going to write it last night, but I’m a procrastinator. Oops. My name is Eleanor Gustavel. I am 16 years old and from Rhode Island. I enjoy dying my hair unnatural colors and playing as many instruments as I can teach myself. I’m a trapeze artist, an animal lover, and a free spirit. Oh, and I’m clinically depressed, suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and have Anorexia Nervosa. I have self harmed, attempted suicide, been in an abusive relationship, and been bullied. That is my icebreaker. I‘m laying it all out for you because my writing is my therapy, and those who read it are people I could be helping out of a dark place. I lay it all out because I want people to know they’re not alone and it’s okay to be not okay. My writing has helped me through my darkest moments. From being hospitalized, to being bullied in the halls at school, when I take pen to paper I feel a little bit better. I don’t write for sympathy, but for empathy. I hope for my writing to make people more empathetic, not towards me, but towards the rest of the world and the struggles people may be going through.

I Had It All Together

Dec 6 2017

I had it all together yesterday. I woke up early. I ate breakfast. I drank an entire cup of coffee. I wore clothes that weren’t pajamas. I put on makeup so I didn’t look like the living dead. OK, fine; I had to throw the hair into a bad braid because who has time to do hair after all the above? But still, I had it all together yesterday.

I had it all together yesterday because I had a Place to Be; an Appointment volunteering at the local high school which made me feel magnanimous. I was both dressed and volunteering which qualify me for at least a few hours of super hero status, yes? Yes. I’m glad we agree on the criteria. 

So I had it all together yesterday. I volunteered at a school, and then I had a break, and then — wait for it — I volunteered again

Now, I realize there are parents in this world who volunteer regularly, in all the schools, all the time. They are not super heroes. They are magical, mythical creatures of light and love, imbued with benevolence and grace. They are better than super heroes, is what I’m saying. Still, being a Sometime Super is nothing to sneeze at, and I was super, if only for a day.

I had it all together yesterday. I walked with confident strides and shoulders back and smiled at All the People, as one does when one has it All Together. And so, to celebrate, I took myself to the Fancy Restaurant in town for lunch. Just Me, who had it all together, ordering the Cheapest Thing on the menu so I could sit and soak in the atmosphere, look at the giant, expensive Christmas decorations, and enjoy being pristine a few more minutes before going home where there are rice crispies ground into the couch and our giantest decoration is the tumbleweed of dog hair and spilled sprinkles roaming from room to room.

I had it all together yesterday until I laid my napkin in my lap and thus glanced down at my Super Self… which is when I realized I had my sweater on backwards and also inside out… which is when I hightailed it to the ladies’ room to fix the sweater… which is when I saw the Giant Spot on my pants… which is when I remembered my son “blessing” them with a handful of cupcake frosting… which is when I remembered I’d meant to wash these jeans but had relegated them to the recesses of my mind where all the non-urgent things go. You know, all the non-urgent things that don’t have to do with stopping someone’s bleeding or telling the legions to TURN DOWN THE TV VOLUME OR I’M TURNING IT OFF or running to the store for emergency toilet paper because no one ever puts that on the shopping list.

I had it all together yesterday until my clothes were on backwards and inside out and decorated with a spot that looked like feces but smelled like chocolate frosting. And until, while standing at the Fancy Sink in the Fancy Restroom of the Fancy Restaurant, using their Fancy Cloth Hand Towels to try to scrub the icing from my pants, I glanced in the Fancy Mirror to see that my hair had fallen out of its braid — or rather, half of it had while the other half struggled valiantly but futilely to stay coiffed. Really, by the time I noticed that, I just felt the hair was trying to fit in with its peers. The sweater and the pants had jumped off the cliff, so, by God, the hair was going to jump, too, and damn the consequences. 

But I had it all together yesterday, and even though I didn’t — not really — it felt good while it lasted.

Sincerely,

 

 

 

P.S. We are officially in Christmas Christmas season now, as opposed to Halloween Christmas or Thanksgiving Christmas. This is FULL CHRISTMAS, friends. Thus we begin our Christmas Christmas posts on this blog.

P.P.S. Christmas Christmas posts on this blog are the regular mish-mash of posts that wreak havoc and have no overarching theme other than the usual magic and mess and bizarre, beautiful bits about being both human and divine. 

P.P.P.S. I have things Planned — thoughts on faith, thoughts on politics, easy peasy recipes to share, an Escapist Book Club book for December, a Gorgeous Piece on Authenticity and Grace and Mental Health by my friend Eleanor who is Wise and Beautiful and Amazing, and more. When I listen to my fears, I’m afraid I’m going to give you whiplash, diving as I do from the mundane to the meaningful in rapid succession. When I listen to Love, which drives out fear, I realize this jumble of shallow and deep is simply Real Life, and Real Life is worth sharing.