When Life Hands You Lemons…

I don’t know about you, but usually the advice I get from the rest of that phrase varies between things like “make lemonade”, “throw them back”, or “find someone else who life handed vodka and have a party. Still, no matter what amount of seriousness or humor is thrown in, I still find I can’t stand that phrase.

So why have it as the title for this post? Because I have run out of ideas. Plus today’s recipe has lemons in it.

My best friend and I met up yesterday and over lunch we got to talking about our work. She is a writer/editor who was doing amazing work at the school where she too recently graduated from. We got to talking about writing groups, and how we need to form one along with how to actually go about it, what sort of people, what sort of writing, etc. I thought back to what had been going on in my work-shopping classes at school. We all tended to use the same technique in those classes, which I like to refer to as the ‘Compliment Sandwich’. This occurs when someone is giving their opinion on someone’s work and says “I liked this…..There were some issues in this part….But I really enjoyed this other part here”. Basically it goes Compliment – Constructive Criticism – Compliment. Although this may not get every issue with a piece out in the open right away, it does allow the writer to feel encouraged to continue working on the piece.

That brings us to today’s topic: Motivation and Encouragement.

We all need it in our lives, from friends, from family, from co-workers, from classmates, about our work, our relationships, our choices, our hair color. Outside encouragement helps spur our own motivation and it is something we should remember when people are asking for our advice, our help. If someone comes to you in a time of need, tell them the truth and give them what they need to hear, but don’t discourage them either. Instead, push them to keep going while giving them pointers along the way. It’s a difficult thing to do and I am in no way an example of how to do it but from three years of the ‘Compliment Sandwich’ and the lack of it, I have learned how it can affect people for the better.

For our last class of Poetry Workshop (I am not a poet by any means either, but it is good to expand your horizons. Plus they didn’t offer Advanced Fiction Workshop) we had a little celebration of what we had achieved over the past semester. We celebrated how far each of us had come, how those of us who didn’t write poetry gave it our best effort, how those of us who were seasoned poets learned new techniques, and how we had given each other the criticism that was necessary while also encouraging each other to keep working on every individual piece.

What would a celebration be without cupcakes?! Vanilla Lemon Curd filled cupcakes with Strawberry Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting, to be exact. That’s my ending to the key phrase, “When life hands you lemons….bake with them.”

Vanilla Cupcakes (These are the best ones I have ever made, recipe is certainly a keeper!):

3 eggs
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a muffin tray with paper liners. Then, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
In another bowl, beat together the eggs and sugar until pale. Takes about 5 minutes.
Add in the flour mixture and mix well.
Place the butter and milk in a saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a boil.
Then pour the mixture into the batter and beat well. Add the vanilla extract and mix well.
Scoop the batter into the muffin cups. Bake for 15 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before filling and frosting.

For the Lemon Curd:

I had a lack of time and used store bought which was a huge mistake! Make your own! Use the recipe I used for lime curd here, but use lemon instead.

To fill: with a paring knife or apple corer, take out the middle section of each cupcake. If curd is a consistency that you can use it in a pastry bag, scoop it into a bag and fill the cupcakes that way. If not, just use a spoon to spoon the filling in. If able, replace the topping of the center of the cupcake. Frost when done.

For the Strawberry Frosting:

Typical cream cheese frosting with some fresh strawberries added in. To make the frosting lighter add some whipped cream to it and it will fluff up wonderfully.

Cupcake recipe adapted from: http://shewhobakes.blogspot.com/2010/02/boston-cream-pie-cupcakes.html

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