The Best Darn Cheesecake You’ll Ever Have

Mama’s made her 1st Cheesecake (hey, we’ve gotta have our own milestones, too, right?)!

Cooling, all pretty and stuff 🤤

I won’t bore you with a lot of jibber jabber about how this recipe is a family secret and Grandma Mae used to make it every year (I don’t even have a Grandma Mae, and I concocted this recipe from a few different ones on Internet). But I will tell you this is the perfect seasonal dessert to bring to *any* gathering or eat all by yourself in one sitting. Either way, it’s divine.

This whole process is super simple and family-friendly for the kitchen, but it does take about 7-10 hours from start to finish. Just a heads up that this miiiiight be the perfect winter break activity to do with your kids ALL DAY LONG. So, preheat your oven to 350 now, so you don’t forget later 😜

Interior shot of the best darn cheesecake ever

Crust:

1 3/4 cups Graham Cracker Crumbs (about 15 full crackers)

1/3 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

In a large bowl mix the graham cracker crumbs, butter, granulated sugar, and salt together evenly. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of 9-inch springform pan (or a thin, pre-made pie pan if that’s what you have – it’s what I worked with!)

Pre-baked apples

Apple Filling:

4 apples (peeled & sliced)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp cinnamon

1 cup water or apple juice

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp sea salt

1/3 cup sugar

Mix it all up, and bake at 350 until desired softness and juices have turned into a thicker syrup like consistency.

Cheesy coconut filing:

16 ounces of Cream Cheese, room temperature (I prefer whipped cream cheese for a lighter, fluffier cake)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup coconut milk, room temperature

1 teaspoons vanilla

1.5 eggs, room temperature

Mix cheese and sugar at a medium speed with a flat mixing spoon or mixer attachment. Then lightly beat in the rest of the ingredients.

Ready to bake!

When the apples are done, bake the crust for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly golden. Set the cooled apples in the bottom of the pie pan, then cover with the cheesecake mixture. Make sure the bottom of the cheesecake pan is tightly sealed, then place it in a larger, deeper pan of hot water (so that the water never actually touches the pie tin, and only surrounds it).

Bake at 350 for 60-70 minutes or until top has become a slight golden color. Take it out and cool it for an hour. After it’s cooled, tightly wrap it and place it in the fridge for anywhere from 6 hours to the whole night to set. Then ENJOY because this is the best cheesecake you’ll ever have 🤤

Hubby’s serving suggestion

Splish Splash, We’re Having a Bash!

When little lady asked for a mermaid fifth birthday party I knew I had to go big. Not because I’m one of those moms who always has to go big, but because FIVE is big. In fact, it’s huge.

But you know what didn’t have to be? My budget. Yep, that’s right. All decor you see in this post arrived at a total of under $115. Photo booth, centerpieces, backdrops, and more, all for just over a hundred. Here’s a break down of all of the mermaid magic that I made from simple household items and inexpensive goodies from Amazon.

Bubble-riffic Photo Backdrop

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Photo courtesy of Life of Mom

Supplies:

– Green streamers (dark and light)

– Scotch tape or doubled-sided tape

– 5′ x 4″ cardboard slice (I used the top of a display board which I also used for all the signs at the party – see below)

clear balloons

-photo booth props

Instructions:

Tape randomized pieces of streamers in desired length all along the piece of cardboard, then drape over other side, and adhere with one more piece of tape. Blow up balloons in varying sizes and adhere to top of cardboard. Hang on the wall and viola, you’ve got a backdrop!

I even made a sign for it, which is optional, but only cost me about an extra two bucks. Supplies included glitter glue, glitter, and the same display board I bought for the backdrop.

Item cost: $35 (although some of these supplies will be used elsewhere)

Mermaid Tail ‘5’ Centerpiece

Supplies:

green foil cupcake liners

– cardboard

– pencils & ruler

hot glue & gun

Optional supplies:

pipe cleaners

coffee filters

– 1 marker (to be disposed eventually)

shells

Instructions:

Trace the desired number on cardboard, then cut it out. Also prepare a base to attach the number to. Cut each cupcake liner in half, then glue in a alternating pattern from the bottom to the top of the number. Glue the number onto the base and use fortification if necessary. Color the base blue, then cover with hot glue.

Optional instructions:

Coffee filter coral can be made from dyed coffee filters (open a marker and stick one end into water, allow all of the color to bleed in, then dip dye the filters). Other coral pieces can be made from pipe cleaners. Then glue them in!

Item cost: $5-$20 (depending on what you have at home already)

Fishnet Photo Display

Image via DeaVita

Supplies:

net

clothes pins

earthquake putty

– photographs of the birthday girl throughout the years

– shells

Instructions:

Hang, pin, and enjoy (this is a great way to add easy, themed decor!)

Item cost: ~ $15.00

Centerpieces

Supplies:

blue mason jarsblue mason jars

flameless tea lights

– sand

– shells

– flowers from Trader Joe’s (optional)

Instructions:

Place sand in jar, and flame less candle on sand. Close the jar to avoid spillage. Add flowers for more fun!

Item cost: ~ $25.00

Guppy Grub

Supplies:

– goldfish

blue sixlets (cheaper than M&M’s)

glass fish bowl

– serving spoon

Instructions:

Mix, pour, enjoy (this is a crowd favorite, for sure!)

Item Cost: ~ $15.00

Trendy Little Letterboard

I know, I know. It’s so trendy. Like, too trendy. But it’s little, cute, and it makes a statement, which is kind of my life mission. So, when I found this cheap one on Amazon I couldn’t resist.

Item cost: $16.95

Total Cost: <$115!

Relatedly, if you’re in the LA area and would like more information on the wonderful company we hired for our outdoor play, Pump and Splash, see their website.

Balloon Animal BFFs

Our Florida trip is in t-minus three weeks and the nerves have already set in. This will be our first time flying with the kids, and Charlotte has been saying “I’m scared of heights” on repeat. I’ve tried to sweeten the deal time and time again: “But we’ll be landing and going to DisneyWorld!” “You won’t even notice you’re in the air!” or “C’mon, you’ll be able to watch movies the WHOLE time.” I’ve even offered her cool flight swag (a captain’s hat, an iPad, etc) to assuage her fears. Nothing has worked.

Until, that is, we watched Home and Family on Hallmark Channel – our new mother and daughter ritual – and saw Orly Shani‘s super fun balloon animal pillow project. She made the cutest snowmen, unicorn, and puppy dog! Charlotte’s eyes lit up and she shouted, “That’s it, Mommy! That’ll be my nap time pillow for the plane. I can cuddle it if I get scared! Can we make twoooo?” How could I refuse a family craft time that’s simple and super cheap?!

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To watch the full video from Home & Family click the link here, or keep reading for step-by-step instructions!

ballanimals
Photo courtesy of littleinspiration.com

All you’ll need to make these super duper cuties is*:

– A pair of opaque tights or stockings

Pillow stuffing (as white and fluffy as possible!)

– *Optional supplies: needle and thread matching the tights you choose, as well as extra decoration if desired (see the video above or extra project ideas below for inspo on how to use them)!

        Directions:

       Simply slit the tights in two at the crotch (see video above).   Then start stuffing! When you want to create a bend in the material, simply tie a knot. Or, to maximize neatness and eliminate floppiness, you can even sew a tight twist in place with thread that matches the hue of tights you’ve chosen to work with. Then continue stuffing! For easier manipulation, you may follow the instructions for creating a “dog” below. I’m always  confused watching the balloon artists anyway!

balloon animaldirections
Simple step-by-step instructions to folding a dog balloon to model your pillow

Do not stuff the pillow until you manipulate each step of folding. If you fold after stuffing, you may not have enough room to manipulate the tights into the shape you prefer.

After creating your base animal, it’s time to get creative! To add the extra details, simply purchase things like these awesome unicorn horns or “hair” tassels!

I can’t wait to post photos of how our own pillow pets turn out – make sure you’re following my Instagram to see! Also, follow my blog for more DIY inspo and family fun!