Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Un-friken-believable Cheesecake Recipe

explanatory note: I have come to hate blogging.  It has become intimidating to me.  I feel like I have to make a perfectly worded, deep and thought-provoking post complete with pictures and insightful links.  That is not where I am right now.  Right now I am great a capturing little things our family is doing in a quick little facebook post and calling it good.  I love looking back on my wall & remembering the things my kids said and how crappy days are quickly followed by awesome days.  So that's where I am these days.  Also, instagram, now that I have an iPhone again (YAY!!)

BUT I have been asked many times for my cheesecake recipe and I figure it'd be easier to post it online somewhere so I can just send people here for it.  This is the base recipe, I'll tell you where to mix it up, but no matter what you add to it, you MUST follow the technique.  That is how you get a perfect, crack-free cheesecake.  Don't mess with it.  Take the time. It's worth it. Plan ahead.  Start in the morning. I cannot cake credit for this or really any recipe I use.  Well, except for my Whole Wheat Waffles, I've messed with that one enough that I feel like I can claim it.  Back in Layton, Cydney & I went to a couple of cooking classes at Corbin's Grille.  If they are still doing it, and you are in the area, you should totally go.  They know what they are doing.

So without further ado.... I give you Un-Friken-Believable Cheesecake

Everything (eggs, sour cream, cream cheese, butter) should be at room temperature before beginning.  This is non-negotiable. Unless you like gooey, cracked cheesecake, and that is NOT the point of this recipe.

1 pack Lorna Doone cookies
2 oz salted butter, super soft but not melted
Mix the cookies in a food processor until you have a fine crumb then mix the butter in with your hands.  Pack tightly onto only the bottom of a heavily sprayed 10" springform or cheesecake pan.  Bake at 425 for 3-5 minutes.  Set aside while you make the filling.  Turn the oven down to 350.

2 lbs Philly cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
pinch of lemon zest
1/2 tsp lemon juice
8 eggs

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the cream cheese for a few minutes until it's silky.  Add the sour cream and mix till it's totally combined, scraping down the sides a few times.  Add sugar, vanilla, zest & lemon and combine, scraping down the sides.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing each in completely before adding the next.
Surround the pan with a layer or two of tin foil.  Now you're going to make water bath for your cheesecake.   Place your tin foiled springform pan in roasting pan or big cake pan (in a pinch, use a rimmed cookie sheet, but it's not ideal) and pour the filling over the crust.  Place both pans in the oven, then pour water into the bigger pan, until the water is about 3/4 of  height of the cheesecake, and being sure not to get any into the cheesecake filling.  (I always move the pans into the oven before pouring the water in because it gets heavy & I don't want to slosh water all over my floor.)
Bake at 350 for 65 minutes.  The center should still be a bit jiggly when nudged, but DON'T GET IT OUT YET!!!  Turn the oven off and open the oven door & let it hang out for 20 minutes.  Then take it out of the water bath & let it hang out on the counter for an hour.  Then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

I've made this a pumpkin cheesecake by substituting the sour cream for 1 cup of pumpkin puree and the lemon zest for a generous amount of pumpkin pie spices.  I probably use 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg & 1/2 tsp ginger.  Keep the lemon juice though.
I have also added mini chocolate chips to the batter.  Just coat them with a bit of flour before you add them, to help them not all sink to the bottom.
The Lorna Doones are an expensive cookie and not widely available.  I have used Oreos, graham crackers and homemade shortbread and sugar cookies with great results.  The main thing with this is to to follow the method and have everything at room temperature.

In the next little bit I'll be making one & I'll add pictures.

Monday, September 24, 2012

again???? gah.....

Oh my gosh, are you so sick of me? Honestly, I never post unless I need something, huh? Now you know how my parents feel. Well, guess what? Tonight at midnight, voting for the Epic Room Makeover ends, and I will shut up. So here it is again, your daily reminder to go to here and vote for me and then do some serious finger crossing!! I'm dying from the suspense!! I made another video if you didn't see it yet. It's a bit boring, but if you're wondering what this playroom that I'm dying to have redone looks like, here it is.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Only today and tomorrow left to vote, people. I am going insane. I just wish I knew if I were even a contender! So today I made a little video, pleading for votes, showing the actual room in question, and fixing my hair a lot. So, would you do me a kindness? Again? Please go to here to vote, again. Thank you ever so much!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Today Matt & I are in Vail and it is amazing.  We are about to head out on a hiking/biking extravaganza on the beautiful mountain, and I just wanted to take a minute to get up in your face about remembering to vote for us in the Epic Room Makeover.  So Matt wrote you a poem.

I hope you're not thinking "oh here she goes again."
don't worry, I am not selling you on an MLM.
I just want to clean up my room.
 Because my house looks like the temple of doom.
So don't take it as annoying,
and keep the voting momentum going!


Also, voting goes through Monday at midnight... then I will shut up, and you can come visit and see the awesomeness.

so go to here.

Monday, September 17, 2012


You guys we did it!!! We made it to the TOP TEN finalists in the Vintage Revivals Epic Room Makeover!!! I cannot believe it! I'm so freaking excited I cannot even handle it.  I can't sleep at all, and can't stop thinking about how awesome this room would be if we won.  Have you seen some of the things Mandi has done?  Seriously, just look at this and this and this and thisHere's what she recently did for Studio 5 with only $150.  And here's the winner from last years Epic Makeover. Are you dying?  She's clearly amazing!  Did I tell you she was on the Nate Berkus show?  Yeppers.  She's kind of a big deal.

She's also completely awesome on a whole other (more important) level, that you should totally read about here.  Inspiring, right?

So can you see why I am freaking out here? I'm thisclose to winning not only an awesome room, but the chance to hang with a totally rad chic.  Here's the deal though.... I need help.  I need your votes.  Now I know that you are getting inundated with pleas for your vote right now.  Goodness knows I'm SICK to DEATH of people asking for my vote at this point in my life.  I'm sorry to add to the voting obnoxiousness.  Nevertheless....

Go to here.  Watch the silly video that Matt & I made.  Scroll down past the other entries to the bottom and click the star/vote thing by my name.  And then do it again tomorrow and the next day and the next day.  From every computer/ipad/iphone/droid/whatever device you are within a few miles of.  (one vote per IP per day)   Voting goes until midnight next Saturday.... I believe.....

I seriously would appreciate it so much.  Thank you! I love you!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

unplayful playroom with potential

aka Vintage Revivals Epic Room Makeover Submission

Dearest Mandi-
Hi! My name is Celeste.  I am a huge fan of the awesomely creative brain inside that lovely noggin of yours.  The only thing I would like better than to have my room made over would be to be able to watch how that brain works in the process.  You see, we recently made a huge life change as my husband changed careers and we moved from Layton Utah, surrounded by family and friends, to Las Vegas Nevada, surrounded by.... no one!  It's been tough and awesome and I'm so glad for how things have worked out.  (Here are some pics to endear ourselves to you.)
Celeste and Matt... totally unsketchy people with whom you would be in no danger to stay.

Sawyer, aka Sweetest Girl on the Planet

Abram, aka Main Reason We Need a Padded Play Room
Obviously, the main thing that has been occupying my mind in the last 7 months, (since we purchased an awesome house in an awesome neighborhood,) is making this house, feel like home.  Flooring, paint, light fixtures, front door, sink and disposal all swapped out, frankly, with me doing most of the work.  I've become Craig and his list's newest girlfriend.  We go out nearly every weekend, scouring the valley for just the right tables, chairs, dressers, consoles, beds, etc to make over for this house. Don't worry, I do not pay Craig OR his list with sexual favors of any kind, this IS Vegas, yes, but I haven't been here that long.  But I want to learn more from you about how to do this thrifting thing, how to make freaking awesome belt look drawer pulls, amazing chandeliers from hideous non-chandelier things, paint ombre walls... you never cease to amaze me!  Teach me! Teach me!

wha wha.  the last remaining unpacked box.  Also you can see where I ripped the desk out.
this hot mess of a desk totally does not have to stay here.
Anyway, the house is coming along with the exception of the cursed upstairs playroom.  The previous owners had used it as an office of some sort.  It had a rather large "built-in" corner desk that I ripped out with my bare hands the day before the carpet guys came.  It was made of mdf and screws and attached to the wall with liquid nails and I showed that beast who was boss.  But did I ever clean up the leftover liquid nails and repaint the wall so that it didn't look like a nasty scar around one quarter of the room? No.  I did not.  Why would I do that when I have no direction or vision for what I want this room to be?  Which is sad, because this is one of the best rooms in the house.  It's got great windows, a cute arched doorway, and a beautiful view of our palm trees and pool in the backyard.
two of the four great windows, and half of the greatest movie poster of all time.
"help me, help me Mandi!" said this sorry excuse for a media area
the closest thing we have to a padded room

So there isn't any nasty paneling to rip out, no random sink in the corner, no hideous attempts at tiling, no electrical that needs moving.  The carpet is brand new, the ceilings are only sort of popcorny, but there is nothing going on.  I just haven't caught a vision for it.  At all.  We bought two huge LoveSacs and haven't been able to commit to much else.  It's a freaking blank slate, Mandi.  An awesome, awesome blank slate just waiting for you (and me and anyone that owes me a favor) to turn it from blank, beige blah to Mandilicious-awesomeness!

The rest of the house is totally shopable, the Lowes is just down the street, as is the Home Goods, and I hear there is good thrifting to be had here and I am quite handy.  I'm sorry none of these pics are of the entire room, Abram threw one of my camera's lenses down the stairs, so we are just working with the 52mm.  (Apparently he's unclear as to what is okay to play with and what is not, you know, since the playroom is so unplayful and blah.  Help me help him out with this before he destroys anything else!)  But the room is about 14 feet by 20 feet and other than the things shown in the pictures, empty.
I've got plenty of room for you to stay, and hello, it's Vegas. I'm certain we could have a good time when we aren't working our tails off. 

Also, there will undoubtedly be cake.  Amazing cake.
Pick me.  You'll be happy you did.  Please.  Pretty please?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

its on purpose, ya'll

wanna see my sweet new ride phone?

 AYUUUPPPP. Don't be jealous.
The Motorola Zoom.  That's right. 

A month or so ago I tossed Abram out onto the blow up mattress that we have turned into an awesome raft in the pool.  As I chucked him, I realized that it wasn't going to end well, that he was going to bounce right off that raft and roll backwards into the pool, so I jumped in and pretty much caught him before he had a chance to submerge.  Boo/Yay for my mom skills!  But I was fully dressed and had my beloved droid in my pocket.  After a week in the rice, it became apparent that the droid was never going to resurrect itself. 
Sad face.
In the meantime I had borrowed this bad boy from my sister-in-law's sister-in-law, Kristin.  I have no desire to extend my contract with the abomination of poor customer service that is known as Verizon Wireless, nor do I dare buy a phone of some random person on Craigslist, so the zoom and I are hanging out for a while.

That's the way the story goes to the world at large.
In real life here's how I choose to look at the situation:

As I mom, everyday, multiple times a day sometimes, I pray to know how to best parent my children.  I am overwhelmed by their awesomeness and feel completely inadequate to be entrusted with their welfare, spiritual, mental, physical or emotional.  Lately I've been feeling like I need to be more accessible, more presesnt, less facebooky/pinteresty/instagrammy.  I am sure you know what I'm talking about.  It's crazy, right?  Everyone, everywhere has their freaking faces stuck to their smart phones.  All.  The. Damn. Time.  All the time!  I was the worst of them.  So yeah, I tried to "back it off a bit", only being on my phone constantly instead of all the time.  Go me! Let's just say my efforts were weighed and measured and found wanting.  And there we go, that is why my phone died a soggy death. 

But guess what?

Since returning to the late '90s, I've found that my brain is more clear, that my daughter wants to talk to me all the time and that I'm more conversational with real life people! People that are right there in front of my face! I guess they've been there all along, just waiting for me to put my phone down.  I'm not suggesting that everyone downgrade their phones, I'm just saying that I suck at being a mom and a smartphone user.  I honestly don't think I'll go back, which is weird because it used to feel like I'd die and never be organized again without my phone.  Well, if you feel that way, I'm here to tell you that it simply isn't true. 
You wanna know what I do miss?
-talk to text.  Because tapping 2 three times to make a C is ridiculous.
-the my fitness pal app.  Because I am need to be a calorie counter at this point in my metabolic life.
-audibel.  Matt & I used to listen to the same book together.  It was fun.

That's it.  I really like using proper scriptures again, and I do not miss being all plugged in. So if you text me and you get a one or two word answer, that's why.  Call me, I promise I still love you.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

from frumpy to yummy

So in the new house, we have two dining areas, and needed a new, more casual situation for this little nook in the kitchen.  And we are cheapos, so off to Craigslist I went! Can I just say that I love craigslist here in Las Vegas? This table was quite cute on its own, but didn't come with chairs and the chairs we found were beat up and didn't match the wood of the table at all.  So they all got a facelift.  This was my first time using oil paint, and I'm so stinking happy I did.  I was a bit intimidated by it at first, but it wasn't tough at all.  And you can't argue with the results.  This paint feels like armor, I love it.  The seat cushions got fancy on me and demaded to be Amy Butlerized, I'm so happy with them.  I used laminated cotton, which is the best ever, they just wipe off, love it.  Anyway, that's what I've been doing; moving in and making this house ours.  I'm so happy about the house and the ward and the pool, life is good.
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Thursday, December 22, 2011

the magic forest at opportunity village

so, living in vegas now, i'm totally excited to start our own holiday traditions, and this for sure is going to be one of them.  opportunity village is a charitable organization that assists handicapped adults with employment & being more self-sufficient.  at least as far as i understand.  totally something i can feel good about supporting.  apparently so does the entire las vegas community.  companies in the area sponsor & decorate trees in the magical forest and it's so fun to walk around & see all the lights & cute displays.

my sweet boys.

and, bonus, because it's vegas, it's nice & warmish and they have all sorts of carnival rides.  so you walk around, see the lights, the gingerbread house displays, ride the rides, play a little put-put and it's a totally fun night for everyone.  we can't really plan things, because matt gets home at such random times, but I'm way glad he got home early one day & that we took the chance to go here, it was so much fun.  a must for next year for sure!

Sawyer was terrified to go on this ride.  we tried resoning & bribing & threatening because we KNEW she'd love it once she got on it.  plus we'd paid extra for her to have the unlimited ride pass, so by dang, she was gonna use it!  Matt finally got her on it by telling her how there would be butterflies in her tummy.  Oddly enough, that did it for her, and the first thing she said to me when she got off, was "Mommy! I felt them! There were butterflies in my tummy & I felt them!!"  Then I had to go with her & it was so much fun! We had a riot screaming like idiots & giggling together.
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this is how we do

by the time matt gets home each day, ususally about 6:30 or 7 if we're lucky, the kids are so super sick of me.  they're excited to see matt & listen carefully for the front door to open so that the craziness of "ATTACK DADDY" can begin.
Sawyer goes straight for the legs, while Abram is generally too excited to stick to any one thing, so he alternates between riding on Matt's legs and running around the house screaming.

Then the wrestling on the bed portion of the evening begins.  And yes, that is a king size mattress & box springs in my front room.  You got a problem with that?  How else are we supposed to wrestle daddy & sleep under the tree?

Speaking of the tree, this is it. And that concludes the Christmas Decorations 2011 tour.  I was not about to sift through any boxes just to decorate a house that I barely care enough about to sweep.  Plus, we are in Utah for Christmas, so it's kinda just gonna have to be enough this year.  As it turns out, it is.  Christmas decor is actually not the life or death situation that pinterest would have you believe it is.  For our family it's the music.  Oh, and we've got music.
and cookies.  They are essential.  We've been making cookies about every day it seems like.

 and doughnuts. 
Doughnuts are kind of my Moby Dick. I will get them one day, I swear it.
 Not this day though.  See how gooey that big one still is?  So I kept making them smaller & smaller, and although they just kept getting cuter & cuter, they did not become less doughy inside.  Well, maybe a little bit, but no one seemed to mind.  I mean, geez, they're cinnamon buttermilk doughnuts.  How mad at them can you be?
 These little gingerbread buddies were a total hit.  I saw this recipe & had them baking in the oven about ten minutes later.  No lie.  Plus it uses whole wheat flour and molasses & honey instead of sugar. 
 or as Meredith puts it, "basically they're just really festive vitamins".
 the crap dollar store canned frosting however, not so much.  ew i hate using that stuff.  but it does help me not eat whatever i let the kids put it on.
 see, it's making my kids go retarded.  damn two mile long ingredient list.
 to distract abram from the cookies we gave him the rice crispie treats we had made the week before.  yeah, the week before. i make my kids work for their sugar, yo.  it was probably like gnawing on a rock.  but he kept at it long enough for sawyer to decorate all the cookies.
 'cept this one.  I did this one.  That's my very special Charlie cookie cutter Grandma Susie got me & I get to decorate my Charlie cookie whenever we do cut out cookies.
these ones are sawyer & abram holding hands.  how sweet is that?  ohhhhh I love my kids!

my baby turns six.

Sawyer's birthday was November 9th, she was very excited to turn six, and for some reason that seems like way too many years to me. Five was just a kid, but six seems like a little girl, a young lady, if you will. And she is, she is the best little girl that I have ever known. She's so thoughtful and sympathetic and kind. She's about the best big sister I've seen, too. She shares like a champ and would rather do without something than have Abram be sad. She loves to go get him up from naps & in the morning, she has a whole routine worked out so that if he's having a hard time waking up that it's easier on him, she explained it to me one day & I about died with how thoughtful she is. If Abram is having a fit about something, having to hold still for a diaper change or some other injustice, she knows just how to calm him down & get him laughing again. No wonder he's such a perma-happy boy, his sister sees to it!

annnnnd she's a goof. A total goof. She is in that kindergarten phase where she makes up jokes that are completely stupid, and laughs like a maniac at herself. She's starting to pick up lines from movies that are just sassy, and I can't help but laugh when she tells me things like "well, duhhhhh".

Miller tradition states that the birthday girl/boy is entitled to their very own box of non-generic cereal. No one else is allowed to eat it. But she shared with Abes of course. Also she taught him how to howl like the Cookie Crisp wolf. A good skill to have in this life.
After Daddy got off work we headed to the strip to see what fun there was to have there. Circus Circus is a joke, someone please tear the place down. But Sawyer loved the rides & had a blast with her unlimited ride wristband.

I love this picture. She went on that ride like 5 times & it took me that long to get the metering to even this point. Dingy lighting + fast moving train = crap for pictures.

Every ride Sawyer went on she met a friend. Which was good because Matt & I were too cheap to buy ride passes of our own. Its so fun to see how little kids just automatically are friends if they are near the same age and doing the same things. She & another girl just went from ride to ride to ride for about an hour together, they were so cute, holding hands & all. After she had riden every ride she wanted to a few times, we went to the Excalibur in hopes of seeing a princess, I swear they had roaming knights & ladies there when I was younger. Not so anymore, now they have skanky barely dressed wenches & guys in chain mail/mesh shirts. I don't know what they were supposed to be. But the buffet there was fun. We walked through the Bellagio & looked at the art, the blown glass & this awesome pastry/chocolate shop. She's so artistic she really gets into stuff like that. It was so nice to just have an evening as a family to explore our new city, we loved every second. Happy birthday sweet girl!!! I love you more & more everyday.