Mama’s made her 1st Cheesecake (hey, we’ve gotta have our own milestones, too, right?)!
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 😜
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!)
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.
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 🤤
“There are things our parents choose to do that stay with us forever. These actions, good or bad, teach us the lessons we carry into adulthood and especially parenthood.
Like the time my older brother found a wallet filled to the brim with cash. I was four and he was seven, but as children of a single mother in the eighties, we already knew the value of a dollar; Mom was never one to shelter us from our reality. I remember my brother handing her the leather square in the narrow aisles of a pharmacy. Mom had just tearfully admitted to the clerk she had only enough money for one antibiotic regimen, but two sick children. After she grew a bit sharp with her tongue, as she sometimes did, she was given back the prescription slip and turned away. Only moments later the Universe delivered her a wallet full of money.
I remember Mom looking around, then stuffing it deep underneath her arm in one swift movement. When we arrived home, she unearthed it from her purse, then began counting out the bills onto our hand-me-down coffee table. When she finished at just over a thousand dollars, she pulled out the Driver’s License within the plastic protectant and picked up the phone beside her. We waited with baited breath, unsure of what her next move would be.
“Operator? Yes. Can I please be connected with a ———– from Studio City?”
Moments later she was chatting with a very worried man who wanted to know the whereabouts of his wallet and missing mortgage payment. She offered him her work address and told him to pick it up the next day, but not before confirming how much dough he expected to be returned to him.
When she had replaced the receiver in its plastic cradle, my brother asked, “Why didn’t you return the wallet to the pharmacy if you weren’t going to take any of the money yourself?” To which she replied, “I don’t know if they would have returned it with everything inside. But, I knew I would. I don’t take what’s not mine, because that would be assuming we need it more.”
And at a very young age of four, I learned what my mom’s credo was: honesty must come before anything, including my own needs.
Speaking of Mom’s honesty, I’ll admit it wasn’t always my favorite. She had little filter, and people were often made uncomfortable by her. For example, she once wrote a letter that would be read to my entire sorority at a graduation-related event, which she knew when set out to write it. Despite this, she described in the note how I matured early, as well as that by the age of five, was already concerned whether I’d “get my period by college or not.” See? You’re uncomfortable. So, yeah, I didn’t always enjoy her openness.
But if Mom’s actions taught me anything it’s that the world needs honesty, even if people have trouble digesting it. There was the time she beat me to picking up the phone, and Corey Feldman was on the other line. At the age of seventeen I began running his website, and over the next four years would help him a great deal with local appearances. But, in this moment, he was my boss, and Mom was my very uncool parent who I obviously still lived with.
When Mom realized the gruff voice on the other end belonged to Corey, she was thrilled. She cooed,”Hey Corey! We actually just finished watching one of your films.” She hit the speaker phone and winked at me playfully.
“Oh, yeah?” he replied. “Which one?”
“Amy? What was it called?” Meanwhile, I have turned a ripe shade of red and was silently begging for the phone. But I whisper my reply nonetheless, “Edge of Honor.” She repeats me, and for a moment things seem O.K. because, hey, she hasn’t embarrassed me. It’s a miracle! Then she concludes, “You looked really drugged out in it.”
My heart fell into my stomach, and I instantly tasted bile. I held my breath as my recently exciting social life flashed before my eyes.
Corey waited a few beats. Finally, he replied, “Well, that’s because I was.” And with that, the floodgate opened. He talked about his difficult childhood and former addictions, and Mom listened. Just before Mom finally disengaged the speaker and handed me the phone, Corey asked her to attend an anniversary screening of The Goonies as his date. Much of the cast would be there, and he was inviting her to sit with them.
And, in all my years as one of Corey’s assistants, this would be the most Corey ever opened up. Thus, driving home Mom’s point that transparency is the most healing policy.
Mom’s emphasis on honesty was the most recurring lesson I ever received from her, and I suppose it is what led me to this point. To being a mother that strives to create children who are fair and thoughtful. And to pursuing a career that is intended to inspire mental health and a more accepting world. But, every parent leaves their children with indelible memories that turn into life lessons.
Maybe my children will be up here in a few decades talking about me, and with any luck, it’ll be positive. Maybe your children will be up here narrating what you did with your time as a parent. What will our actions teach our children? I wonder what sort of world they will create together with these lessons.”
To listen to this via Podcast, click here, but please pardon my opening night jitters.
She hunches over, furiously scribbling on the paper taped to the floor. It is there to catch excess paint from the ceiling, but the men have packed up for the day, and I see no harm in decorating the barely marred surface.
“Why not draw on the floor?” I had proposed when her tiny body got antsy after dinner and before bath.
I’m not sure any idea has ever sounded better. “I’m going to draw Daddy!” She proclaimed proudly. “He’s one hundred handsome,” Her voice tapers as she doodles and day dreams about the first man to steal her heart.
Moments pass, and I peer over her shoulder to see her work. Daddy’s rectangular body isn’t accurate, but it sure is adorable.
“Wow, great job,” I encourage her.
She smiles, “Thanks. Oh! I almost forgot.” The cap of the pink marker raps against her lips as she ponders aloud, “Does Daddy have freckles?”
“A couple, sure, but not too many,” I reply.
Chock full of gumption, she retorts, “Well, this is my drawing and I like making freckles. So, he’s gonna have a lot.”
Her arm works quickly as her marker dots the paper, and I cannot help but promote her artistic spirit, “There’s no arguing with that logic.”
“Don’t worry,” she adds, “I won’t give him as many freckles as you. You’ve got one million freckles.”
“True,” I once again agree.
“But, Savta Dasi (the Hebrew word for grandmother combined with my mom’s nickname) had INFINITY freckles. More freckles than anyone on the planet!” I watch her tiny face brighten as her reflections revive my mother’s memory. A silly grin spreads across my face.
In the midst of my grief, I have found my greatest sadness over memories Mom and I never got to make. I suppose that’s the biggest pain in all grief: time lost.
But, then life has this beautiful way of reminding you (even in conversations about freckles) that your ultimate merit is not found in how long you live, but how long your your sweet memory persists. For Mom will be gone eleven years this September, and my daughter only turned five in June.
It is moments like these that surely define our lives. That remind us it is less about how long we live, and more about the weight of our impact on the world. 💓
*As Seen in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope and Miracles*
“There’s a story behind everything… but behind all your stories is always your mother’s
story…because hers is where yours begins.”
~Mitch Albom, For One More Day
“You know, your aunt was always jealous I was picked that day,” my mother would begin. A smile would spread across her face, ever the competitive little sister. “I was no more than twenty-one, and I had on the cutest bunny costume!” Her face would shine even brighter. “I made it myself, you know. I even had a tail. That day I won a year’s supply of Reynolds Wrap and Super Glue.”
She was speaking of her early 1970s appearance on the ever popular Let’s Make a Deal. This tale was one of her favorite memories of all time, and I had heard it throughout my childhood far too many times to count. I never minded though; I loved to see her smile so radiantly.
It was now early October, five years and one week since I had last seen my mother smile. As I often did around that time of year, I spent much of my time reminiscing and flipping through family photos. This year in particular though, I desperately missed seeing her face light up and hearing the heartiness of her laughter. For the billionth time, I searched for family videos, but nothing new surfaced. My mother had hated to set foot in front of a still camera, let alone allow herself to be videotaped.
As I was flipping through a scrapbook I had just applied the finishing touches to, it dawned on me. I could search the web for old Let’s Make a Deal clips. I mean, there are stranger things on YouTube, right? I grabbed my iPad and swiftly typed in “1970s Let’s Make a Deal clips.” Hundreds of options popped up, mostly boasting 1970s cars (which I knew my mother had definitely not won). But one bold blue line caught my eye.
“Let’s Make a Deal Tickets.” Tickets? Huh? I didn’t know they were still filming.
I clicked the link and found information for tapings in the Los Angeles area. I read through, and as the moments ticked by, I grew giddy and excited. Tickets! I entered my information, requesting tickets for a date a few weeks from then. I couldn’t wait to tell my husband when he got home!
A few hours later, as Danny and I were sitting down for dinner, I heard my phone ping, alerting me that I had received an e-mail. I would usually disregard the noise during dinnertime, but for some reason I was drawn to the phone. I picked it up, and immediately saw the subject line, “Let’s Make a Deal Tickets for Friday!” Friday? Tomorrow? Tomorrow! I checked my Google schedule and lo and behold, I had the day off.
“Babe, Let’s Make a Deal, tomorrow! Let’s make it happen!” I shouted.
“What?” he called from the kitchen. “I wish! I have to work. Are you serious?” I had told him about my previous search and he was as excited as I had been.
I forgot all about dinner and ran upstairs, searching for my newly acquired Halloween costume that would have to work for the next day. I slipped it on and looked in the mirror, finishing off my rather convincing pirate getup with an “Arrrrrg!”
“Verrry nice,” Danny said, coming up behind me. He spun me around and hugged me. He held me gingerly for a minute and then said, “Something tells me your mom is responsible for this. I know it in my heart. Just you watch, you’re gonna win. I know it.”
The next morning found me standing on the back lot of the studio, waiting in line, dressed as a pirate, surrounded by a gorilla and a Greek goddess. There was nowhere else I’d rather have been. In what felt like no time at all, we were herded into our seats and the cameras were rolling. The music, the people, the lights—it was beyond overwhelming, in the best possible way!
Everyone was encouraged to dance, and that we did. I moved with the music and waited for Wayne Brady to make his debut for the day. Within moments he appeared, and after some more silly moves, he quieted us down and got us into our seats.
“Alright, who’s ready for our first game?” he asked after his hilarious introduction. Of course, we all screamed our heads off. Pick me, pick me!
“Alright, you,” he said, pointing to a brunette woman dressed in bright yellow.
“And… you!” he shouted, pointing at me. Me? Me!
I ran down the steps to join the two of them on stage. My ears were ringing, my face was flushed, and my heart felt like it was about to leap out of my chest.
“… you got it?” Wayne asked. I snapped back to reality. My head may have been nodding up and down, but I sure didn’t catch the rules. Everything was going so fast. “Go ahead, which door would you like?” he asked, facing my opponent.
“Door number one!” she replied enthusiastically.
“Alright, Amy, that leaves you with door number two,” he explained to me. Thankfully I now had some idea what was going on.
“Now, I’m going to offer you five hundred dollars for your doors, but you both must decide to sell or stay, even though you are ending up with different doors.”
‘Okay, I’m getting it now,’ I thought.
We looked at each other and decided to stay
right where we were. “We’re not selling!”
He offered us more money, but we weren’t interested. Give us our doors! Wayne revealed my partner’s door. Behind it was a… ZONK! A cactus-shaped something or other, who knows? What was important was that was not my door! She took a seat, which left Wayne and me all alone.
“Amy, how are you feeling?” he asked me.
“I’m feeling great, how about yourself?” I quipped.
“I’m wonderful. I’m just hoping to give you something amazing like a brand new
“I hope so too. I’m going to keep the door. Can I keep the door?”
“Well, you have to,” he paused, laughing.
I blushed, but then I saw an opportunity. “You know, my mom was on this show almost forty years ago, and today I know she’s with me, watching from up above. Thanks Mom.”
Tears filled my eyes and the back of my throat. I choked on my words and Wayne continued seamlessly.
“I’m sure she is. Now, do you want to see what’s waiting for you behind door
“Yes!” I exclaimed.
“It’s a… brand new car!”
My heart stopped. Or did it speed up? I’m not sure what happened. All I know is that my knees turned to jelly, yet still they helped deliver me into the driver’s seat of my brand new Honda Fit. I gripped the steering wheel tightly, thanking the powers that be, and most especially my mother. I may not have seen her smile or heard her laugh that day, but I sure do know she was doing both in the purest and happiest of ways.
When I first entered the blogging world, my goal was to simply create an online diary. I had felt so isolated during those first few months of motherhood; the majority of my days were spent with no social interaction beyond my infant daughter and a few groups on Facebook. But I had so much to share, so many feelings and thoughts about this new, amazing, terrifying adventure. So I started a blog. I had no plan for it. I just wanted a place to vent.
As time went on and I wrote more, my emotional load became much lighter. I realized that when I share my feelings, the thoughts that normally just circulate endlessly through my head are given a different place to be: online. Which is scary. Scary as shit, if you ask me. Putting your unabashed thoughts and feelings into the hands, hearts, and minds of others is terrifying. But, the beauty (and danger) of making your feelings public is the ability to receive feedback. And I will admit not everyone always understands what I do.
But then there are those people who reach out to me to say that knowing my struggle is helping them with their own. That knowing that they’re not alone changes everything. And that’s why I blog. To share my stories (whether serious or light-hearted, silly or sad) and hope they help someone. To read other people’s stories and know that I have a community. To learn and share, to love and understand. To be inspired…
So, with that said I’m taking my thirst for inspiration to the road (well, just a couple freeways actually) and am joining a slew of other wonderful BlogHers at #BlogHer16 ! I’ll be sharing the process on my Instagram (@house_of_love24), Twitter (@chesler_amy), and Snapchat (@thishouseoflove – wtf?! sooo many apps to keep up with!). In fact, you can even find me on the BlogHer16 app. I want to be inspired by all of you and look forward to the fun and knowledge I will leave with! Join me, won’t you?
Your wake-up call is before the crack of dawn,
Because your life is controlled by your cranky spawn.
You feed them, you dress them,
You just can’t impress them.
They aren’t very thankful, yet you love them the same,
Even if they always ask “Why?” and often complain.
You’re housekeeper and driver, tutor and cook,
You keep them in line with one smoldering look.
Tailor, Accountant, Doctor and Baker,
Even do-it-yourself Christmas wreath-maker.
Parenthood is a difficult, never-ending career,
Filling you halfway with love and another part fear.
But despite these complaints and your lack of rest,
Parenthood really is the best of the best.
No feeling can top watching your little tike grow,
Standing by his side while he learns to throw,
Or helping her up when she’s had a big fall,
Teaching them to be kind, proud, and stand tall.
Although Parenthood is a hearty sacrifice,
The payback truly is more than twice as nice.
Seeing the world from a child’s view is priceless,
Even if you’re constantly in diaper crisis.
So when Parenthood has you feeling overdrawn,
Wear a happy face and “keep on keepin’ on,”
Because today’s hurdle may be tomorrow’s success,
And the more love you have, the more you are blessed
Mom was the best cook, and she had lots of specialties. Decadent lasagna, complex compote, gargantuan burritos. You name it, she made it. Perfectly.
I, on the other hand, never quite found my niche in the kitchen.
When Mom passed she left behind a beautiful legacy and an almost empty recipe box. The few recipes she had bothered to write down rather than commit to memory offered no guidance in terms of ingredient amounts. They were simply shopping lists for meal prep.
So, I was left in a rough spot. I wanted to taste the foods that Mom had fed me throughout my childhood, to be reminded of a somewhat simpler time. But how was I to cook like Mom if she hadn’t equipped me properly? The answer to that, my friends, is trial and error. And lots of Ajax for the burnt pans.
With that said, and since the holidays have settled upon us, I felt the need to reconnect with Mom and her food. I made one of my personal favorites from her repertoire – her chili. Well, I sort of made her chili. Just as her cards boast a casual approach to cooking, I also follow a laissez-faire philosophy. I often allow her lists to guide me, and end up in a different direction than she would take. And that’s OK. And sometimes, it’s better than OK. Like last night. So, here it goes:
(Not Exactly) Momma’s Chili
16 ounces of chopped grape tomatoes
1 can of kidney beans
1 pound of 96% lean beef
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 packet of Lawry’s chili seasoning
1 tsp of oregano
1 tsp of fennel
1 tbsp coconut oil
salt to taste
lemon pepper to taste
Directions: Saute onions in pot with coconut oil, allow to soften. Throw in tomatoes and seasoning, boil, then let stew on low until desired taste. Meanwhile, brown and season meat, then combine with tomatoes. Follow that with contents of kidney bean into pot and simmer. After meat is brown, place in pot after draining excess fat. Add a packet of Lawry’s chili seasoning, and follow instructions to complete.
You can serve it over my favorite – a crunchy-skinned baked potato, underneath another favorite (runny egg, pictured above, or even a poached one) or for a lighter version, this delicious recipe right here 👇🏻
Light and Crunchy Wilted Spinach
1 cup of baby spinach
1 tbsp of shredded parmesan cheese
1 tbsp coconut oil
salt and pepper to taste
Melt coconut oil over medium-low, throw in spinach. Wilt just slightly then spray with lemon juice and add salt/pepper. Mix and allow to continue to wilt. Allow for a bright green color rather than a dark green to keep spinach from getting too soggy. Top with parmesan and serve!
Hope you all enjoy. Let me know what you think, and be sure to follow my blog for more recipe ideas!
Life with a toddler is… special. So special that at times it’s absolutely necessary to stop what you’re doing and confirm that this is, in fact, your reality. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Here are seven ways that your life mirrors every other poor sap who has a roommate under the age of four.
1) You’ve had the most asinine, outlandish arguments that you just can’t win, even though you are 1000% correct. For instance, you’ve had to explain to your two and a half year old at least a dozen times that no, she can’t drive to the grocery store or Grammy’s house. Appealing to logic (i.e. “It’s illegal,” “Your feet won’t reach the pedals,” “It’s MY car,” “You’re FUCKING TWO”) just won’t work. Ever.
2) You’ve made a public appearance with your very own caped crusader: Super Girl, Spider-Man, or a makeshift superhero who designed their costume out of a blanket and a robe sash. And said super hero has caused more mischief than solved any social issues. But damn, are they cute.
3) You’ve dealt with about eleven different illnesses in the matter of half that amount of weeks. A day or two after you’ve kicked your cold, croup is knocking on the door. Then a week and a half passes and you’ve been gifted with the flu. Merry bloody Christmas.
4) You have perfectly honed your role playing skills because your little one has requested you bring any and all inanimate objects in your house to life. Your rocker? The seat cushions have told the wildest bedtime stories. Your favorite blanket is actually named Bernie and has thirteen children he’s simultaneously putting through college. The spatula you cooked breakfast with danced the Macarena right after “she” flipped your eggs.
5) You’ve caught yourself saying things that you could never have imagined in a million years if it wasn’t for your toddler’s antics: “No, your poop does NOT belong in the toaster!” “Please eat your food with your fork, not your shoe!” “The cat does NOT want your Legos in her butt!” “Mickey Mouse is NOT allowed to go swimming in your pee-pee!” Or my personal favorite, “Please don’t put your finger in my nose!” Yep. This is very much your life.
6) You’ve been forced to watch the same movie, play the same game, listen to the same song, and read the same story everyday for the last month. It’s safe to say you know every line or strategy by heart. By now, you’re both thoroughly looking forward to and scared shitless of finding out what your child’s next obsessions will become.
7) Even though your days can be difficult and unnerving, your toddler manages to make everything simultaneously much more difficult and simple at the same time. And you wouldn’t have it any other way, because being around someone who is just mastering the English language is the “funnest” ever. Seriously. Who else can you spend an hour discussing poop and farts with?