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

Lessons From Mom

As performed in the live show Expressing Motherhood in May and June of 2018

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.

Freckles & Perspective

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. 💓

Why I Blog

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?

A Salute to Parenthood

 

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

(Not Exactly) Mama’s Kitchen

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

1/2 lemon

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!

Seven Sure Fire Signs You Live with a Toddler

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?

Trash Bags from Heaven

Not a single day goes by that I don’t miss my mom. I wish that she had had the chance to meet my daughter. But that’s impossible, because she died five and a half years before she was born. Those five and a half years were full of both despair and happiness, but all of it was tainted by Mom’s absence.

Some days, a piece of me is still sad. Even though I am overflowing with joy, I often turn to my husband and say that I wish Mom was able to share in her granddaughter’s growth. My heart is forever cracked. I can’t help it. I miss having my best friend present.

Other days, like today, that sad, little piece of me is surprised with a visit. Not by apparitions, but by trash bags. Let me explain: my lovingly neurotic Jewish mother shopped at Costco for everything. Our house was always stocked full of copious amounts of well… anything you could imagine.  Jelly beans, zip ties, you name it, we had it. And so, the 800-count box of trash bags my mom purchased not long before her death still persists. For some reason, unbeknownst to me, I kept them for these six plus years even though they didn’t fit any of my trash cans. And finally, when we purchased our diaper pail that is compatible with any bag of our choosing, I was thrilled to discover their purpose.

Now, as I change my daughter’s diaper pail bag, I can’t help but smile (despite the awful stench) because my mother’s thoughtfulness and ever preparedness persists, too. In turn, I am reminded that her unending love will also continue through eternity. Thus, I know she is still present, and each day I love her even more.

Image

8 Signs You’ve Entered into Parenthood

I’ve caught myself having an “Oh shit, I totally made you,” moment while staring at my little one quite often in the last eight months. But, as if the tiny person that clings to us and requires help 24-7 wasn’t enough, here are eight more signs that we’ve entered the unending, life-changing condition that we call “Parenthood.”

1. We’re somewhat alarmingly infatuated with another person’s bodily functions. Never in our lives has someone else’s constipation or consequent bowel movements had the ability to excite, shock, and worry us all at the same time.

2. We create a theme song for everything. For example, our household’s personal favorite – “The Poop Song,” which goes something like this (ahem): “P-O-O-P, Gotta push it out of the tushie!” Or even “The Food Song:” “Open up your mouth real wide, and let me put the food inside.” It’s ridiculous and almost scary how quickly we can come up with a verse about the most trivial of topics.

3. We catch ourselves checking out other people’s strollers more than their cars.

4. Our clothing is a magnet for stains. Said stains either result from our baby’s bodily functions, or our own inability to get food into our mouths. Either way, we never seem to notice until someone else points it out. Lovely.

5. One of the very best side effects of being a parent is that it becomes incredibly easy to laugh. For example, when my child giggles uncontrollably at the ball she just threw, I can’t help but join in. I used to pride myself on having a rather intellectually advanced sense of humor. Well, not anymore. Nothing is funnier than anything our baby finds funny.

6. Movies take hours to watch. And I’m not talking about the regular 1.5 – 2 hours. I’m talking 5+ hours. There is absolutely no way to control the amount of times the pause button is hit.

7. We have somehow developed what I call “parent-like reflexes.” Once our little one reaches the phase where everything in his or her grasp is fair game, our reaction time whittles itself down to virtually nothing. Out of the corner of our eye we may spot our child tipping a water glass over several feet from us, but somehow we make it there in time to keep the cup full and our baby dry. I still can’t figure out how this happened, but I am uber thankful that it has.

8. Finally, we often consider taking Dramamine on a regular basis because the world NEVER. STOPS. SWAYING. Oh wait… that’s us. Yes, even when our precious baby is not cradled in our arms, our body is still rocking. I’ve even caught myself standing around, moving from side to side when our daughter is home with a babysitter. Hello, motion sickness.