Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Your Favourite Slightly Eccentric Aunt

I spent yesterday helping some friends unpack their kitchen. After ten years of "wandering", they are retiring to Kamloops and have moved into a condo quite close to ours. Kamloops is a transient community. People move away all the time. That's very hard when you're the one always staying behind. It's different... and rather fabulous... to have friends come back. Another friend says she'll be moving back in a few years once she retires. She sews. How fun is that.

That many of my friends are staying in Kamloops and that several are moving back to retire here is one of the factors in why I am staying. At one time, all I wanted to do was leave. I've lived here since I was eight when I moved with my parents and would love to try living somewhere else only when I weigh it all out, staying here is a good choice. I tell myself that moving is most likely one of those grass is greener things and even if it isn't, staying is still a good choice and I can do a lot of visiting from here. I intend to look into artist in residency programs to get small bits of living elsewhere.

Retirement - as in we're both home - is in the next few years. How strange is that? I certainly don't feel old enough to retire although, in reality, I already am semi-retired even if I'm open to working possibilities. From my own experience with leaving the work force, and from watching friends retire, I understand how important it is to actively fill the spaces. You have to have something to retire to otherwise it's quite easy to go crazy. Once again, I am so glad I sew.

Creativity coaching is part of how I am shaping my life. I thought about it for a long time and in September decided to go ahead and it has been exactly what I needed at exactly the right time. This week, my creativity assignment was to create a collage about the woman I am becoming. I spent an hour going through a stack of magazines pulling out quotes and pictures that resonated. There were too many and that's good because having too many forces you to really pick what you put on the poster board and that's important.

If I am going to choose images that represent my life going forward then I am going to make sure they are images that resonate. I'm very careful to insure that I can live with whatever is in the image - that it means something positive to me. If I can't cut out or see around whatever offends me, the picture doesn't go into my collage no matter how amazingly perfect one aspect might be.

For this collage, I cut the poster-board into long narrow strips because I wanted to hang them between the counter top and overhead cupboards at my desk. I thought two strips would be enough but I ended up with three. LOL - how typical. I had more to say.

The first time I made a collage, I was surprised by how many words showed up. Their presence helped me recognize how important words and writing are to me and now, I just expect them. Below the image of this fun loving, confident, grey-haired woman is the phrase this look might be pretty, but it has a gutsy, witty edge and it definitely doesn't take itself seriously... almost like your favourite slightly eccentric aunt.

When I told Howard the other day that I was working at being more eccentric, he started coughing and laughing. He thinks I'm already quite eccentric... and I am... in relation to the people he knows but he has no idea how normal I am in the realm of eccentricity and individuality. Darn near conservative.

And now... switching topics... I also made butter tarts yesterday. When I looked up the article in Wikipedia that ElleC referred to, I was surprised - and pleased - to learn that butter tarts are one of only a few recipes of genuinely Canadian origin. In a multi-cultural country such as Canada, it is easy to lose - or to not even be aware of - what is uniquely part of my heritage. The recipe has all sorts of variations. Mine is an adaptation of my mother's recipe and I - of course - like it best but so do a LOT of people I know. They are YUMMY.

The filling is a combination of eggs, brown sugar, butter, vanilla, raisins and salt. Above, the chunks of yellow are butter. REAL butter. Not the fake stuff. Fake ruins the flavour. I put the butter in first to start melting and then add the salt and vanilla. Then I mix the eggs and brown sugar together with  washed raisins before adding those to the mix. The tart will have a better taste if you wash the raisins first. I put them in a colander and run them under the hot water tap to soften them and to remove excess sugar. NOTE... it's really important not to crack the eggs into hot butter. You will get fried eggs and fried egg bits do not belong in butter tarts. VBG - ask me how I know.

At first, the mixture will be thick and hard to stir. As the sugar melts and the ingredients mix together, it'll will make a clear syrup.

The tart shells are filled with two tablespoons of the raisin mixture. The first is mostly raisins so they sit nicely on the bottom of the shell and the second is mostly syrup to fill up and around the raisins and to give the tart a creamy taste. This is the ratio I prefer. I have friends who do it the other way around with more raisins. Hmm... NOT.

The tarts are baked until golden brown - about 12-15 minutes. If you like to make pastry, you can make your own tart shells. I buy mine but I'm fussy about the taste so I've done a lot of "taste testing". These tart shells are from Costco and come in boxes of 120.

Here's the recipe: Myrna's Butter Tarts

Melt 1 cup of butter over low heat and add 2 teaspoons of vanilla and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Mix together 8 eggs and 5 cups of packed brown sugar. Add 4 cups of washed raisins and mix well. Add the raisin mixture to the melted butter and stir over low heat until the mixture forms a clear syrup. Fill shells and bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes. Makes 60  
I baked only one box box - 120 tarts - yesterday. In the past, I've made three or four boxes because we were giving so many away as gifts. I think I'm done with that or at least I'm taking a break. When traditions become prisons, it's time to change.

Making a change is one reason for making a collage. Collages can clarify situations, answer questions, and bring up new questions that you didn't know you were asking. They are a fabulous form of self exploration. As the images dance around my desk and as time goes on, their meaning will become clearer. When that happens, the choice is mine what I do with that information. It's always interesting when someone you trust looks at your collage and sees things you didn't see and it's fascinating when images on your collage become real in your life. The purple chairs I bought last week were an image in a collage I made about ten years ago. TOO FUN.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - friends moving back

Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together. 
- Marilyn Monroe


  1. Miss Myrna, you amaze me in so many ways. 120 Butter Tarts? In one day? On top of helping a friend unpack a kitchen? And writing coherent, informative blog posts? With pictures? And a tutorial? You may not be eccentric enough for your liking, but you are amazing!

    1. They go into the oven 30 at a time and I bought the shells so it's not quite as intensive as it sounds. Two batches, four rounds in the oven, and done. Amazing is good. I'll take that. Thanks.

  2. You do know how to fill up a day, dear Myrna! Wow! ...and thank you very much for sharing your recipe for the butter tarts. I believe I must give them a try. There is a rather large family gathering next Sunday and they would be a great thing to bring to share. Here's to a joyous holiday!

    1. You're welcome for the recipe. Let me know how they go over. Happy holiday.

  3. Wow." When traditions become prisons, it's time to change." You just gave me a "got it"


Thanks for commenting. I appreciate the feedback and the creative conversation.