Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I am NOT a scullery maid.

And yet somehow tonight, though my plans had not been made for it, I turned into one. This does not make me happy.

I started my evening by calling my mom and asking her for a "cheap" dessert that I could make for tonight's (as it is now after midnight) dessert night/party. There were a few suggestions, but I declined them all. Dessert nights/parties require one thing: cheesecake. And so I headed to the grocery store, for the second time this week, and picked up the ingredients to make a cheesecake. Now, I'm sure I threw in a few other things... No. I take that back. I paid $23 for my ingredients. Splurging on things like a box of graham cracker crumbs instead of actual graham crackers, that I would have to crumb myself, and a bag of chocolate chips - just in case.

After a very fun, and social, Ward Activity at Rock Canyon Park (which I had never been to) I started my adventures in the kitchen. I looked up a new recipe, as I didn't buy anything to put on top of a New York style cheesecake, and didn't have ingredients for the 2 that I have in my "cookbook" and found one that I was most excited about - Peanut Butter Cheesecake. Mmmm... I double checked to make sure I had all the ingredients and then set to work.

I should have known that cheesecake was not in the cards for me tonight when I didn't have the recipe that I was originally going to make. But that isn't unusual, so when I opened my cupboard and noticed that the plate to my 9-inch springboard pan was missing, I should have given up. Instead, I opted for the next biggest size and DOUBLED the recipe. When doubling the recipe, I noticed that I didn't really have enough graham cracker crumbs, but it seemed to work out and so I pressed on. I should have seen that the foil covering the springboard pan was trouble and that the lack of a roasting pan for a water bath would have caused problems. The fact that this cheesecake required a half hour longer than normal should have also been a tipoff to the problems ahead. But I pressed on. Ignoring the fact that there wasn't enough room in my mixer, and that contents could have easily overflowed at any point. Still, I beat the cream cheese (all 6-8oz bars) and poured the delicious concoction. I knew I had chosen a winner! It smelled so good, it looked so fantastic.

I put the decadent dessert into the oven and set the timer. I was enjoying Ashley's company and reading Harry Potter (and the Order of the Phoenix) and noticed that it was already 11:00 pm. Knowing that I would be up a while, I settled in and got comfortable.

When the buzzer rang, I eagerly got up to see the masterpiece. Now, when you are baking cheesecakes, there is a very difficult way of determining when they are done baking. I still haven't figured it out completely, but I've been more successful than not - so I keep trying. The buzzer went off and I looked to see whether my cheesecake jiggled like set custard or not. It seemed to and I removed it from the oven.

This is where the problems arise. When I am trying a new recipe, I ALWAYS follow it to the letter of the law. Modifications can come as you've gained more and more experience with that recipe, knowing what works and what doesn't. The recipe told me to allow the cheesecake to cool for 15 minutes and then remove the spring. So, I set the timer for 15 minutes and returned to Harry.

When the buzzer rang, looked at the delicious thing I had just created! It was magnificent. I knew that I would impress all the boys that will be coming tonight to honor my roommate Jaynann, and make all the girls jealous at my ability at being a domestic goddess.

But that's when the domestic goddess idea was squelched, and the Scullery Maid appeared. As I removed the spring from around my wonderful cheesecake, I could see that it wasn't completely set up. This is quite normal for me, as I rarely get the cheesecake baked to perfection. As if it had happened in slow motion, the filling of the cheesecake began to ooze from the middle. The lava of sugar, cream cheese, and eggs quickly overtook one burner and then another. I watched in horror as the entire cake deflated and created a disaster on my stove top. How any body can watch $23 and 2 hours of work deflate and NOT swear, I don't know. But all I said was, "Shoot." (It's hard to believe, I know. But really, the other words came later...) Shoot - and then it was gone. Apparently, I was only supposed to be removing the spingboard pan from the non-existent water bath. SHOOOOOOT.

And that's how I'm going to be serving $25 milkshakes. Because I am not letting this go to waste. I will be picking up a gallon of ice cream on the way home tomorrow, and we are having Peanut Butter Cheesecake Milkshakes. They will be divine. And I should charge for them.

Not ONLY was my cheesecake ruined beyond repair (there was never any hope of repair...) but I also had a GIANT mess to clean up; which, of course, did not include the dishes that I had dirtied while baking. The goo that was my cheesecake had spread into the burners. As I pulled each burner away, I noticed that the foil was old, and to my dismay the underside of the stove top looked like it had been baking random bits of food for over 2 years without having been cleaned. And that is how I became a scullery maid. I scrubbed as best I could without a Brillo pad or even 409, and didn't make any more progress than destroying the sponge beyond what I would allow to be used again.

There are few things that make me completely grossed out, but scrubbing an oven is one job that I have to be careful not to gag to the point of throwing up. It smells, and it's gross... Fewer people than Mom's have to clean such nastiness.

I'm so glad that I don't live in the 1500-1600s and have to work as a scullery maid, I would have died.

On that note, if you want to celebrate Jaynann with us, and have a peanut butter cheesecake milkshake - my place, at 9pm.

Anybody brave enough, try:

Peanut Butter Cheesecake

2 cups graham cracker crumb
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
24 ounces regular or low-fat cream cheese (do not use fat-free)
1-1/3 cups sugar
1 cup creamy standard peanut butter
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup regular or low-fat sour cream (do not use fat-free)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1. Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Wrap the outside of a 9-inch springform pan tightly in aluminum foil (this will keep the water in the water bath from seeping into the batter as the cake bakes); set aside.
2. Stir the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl until the graham cracker crumbs are thoroughly moistened. Pour a little more than half of this mixture into the bottom of the prepared springform pan and press it all the way to edges so that it coats the bottom of the pan. Pour the rest of the mixture around the inner seam of the pan, where the rim meets the bottom; press the crust halfway up the sides of the pan, filling in along the bottom where necessary. Set aside.
3. Beat the cream cheese and granulated sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. If you rub a small bit between your fingers, you should feel only a few sugar granules. Beat in the peanut butter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, then beat in the eggs one at a time, making sure each is thoroughly incorporated before adding the next. Finally, beat in the sour cream and vanilla.
4. Taking care not to disturb the crust, pour this mixture into the prepared pan. Smooth its top with a rubber spatula. Place the springform pan in a high-sided roasting pan that's large enough to accommodate it comfortably. Fill the larger roasting pan with hot water until it comes about halfway up the outside of the springform pan.
5. Bake until the cheesecake's top is dry and lightly browned and the cake jiggles like set custard when tapped, about 1-1/2 hours. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove the springform pan from the water bath and cool it completely to room temperature on a wire rack.
6. Remove the foil and cover the pan with plastic wrap, taking care not to press the wrap onto the surface of the cheesecake. Refrigerate overnight.
7. Unlatch the sides and transfer to a serving platter. If desired, run a long knife between the pan's bottom and the cake, then gently slide the cake onto the serving platter.

Monday, June 16, 2008


AUGUST 2nd is not close enough.

46 days 8 hours and 18 minutes


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Lame Post - ABCs


A = ADVOCATE FOR: Preservation of historical buildings and underdevelopment of land.

B = BEST FEATURE: My winning smile.


D = DREAMS AND DESIRES: Graduation. Marriage. Babies.


F= FAVORITE PAST TIME: Looking at old family pictures. Reading.

G = GOOD AT: Procrastinating.

H = HAVE NEVER TRIED: Sky diving, bungee jumping, or anything extreme.

I = IF I HAD A MILLION DOLLARS: Purchase rural land and never allow it to be developed. Restore an old farm/Victorian house.

J = JUNKIE FOR: Twilight and CLEAN Romance Novels.

K = KINDRED SPIRIT: Holly Olson.

L = LITTLE KNOWN FACT: I lived in Washington for a year.

M = MEMORABLE MOMENT: Carrying home a giant dead fish on a stick.

N = NEVER AGAIN WILL I: Lower my standards for someone.

O = OCCASIONAL INDULGENCE: Watching old movies.

Q = QUOTE: "What!? Is this true? Could there possibly be more bare chested men who are freakishly huge to write about? Beautiful." - Courtney

R = REASON TO SMILE: God loves me.

S = SORRY ABOUT: Relationships with siblings that become more and more distant.

T = TAG SOME FRIENDS: Uncle Tony, Capellini


V = VERY SCARED OF: Ladders.

W = WORST HABIT: Putting things off.


Y = YESTERYEAR DECADE OF CHOICE: Somewhere in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Z = ZODIAC SIGN: Sagittarius

Monday, June 02, 2008

Childhood Home

21 S Monroe.


As you may have guessed by my very descriptive title, this is the very house that I spent 13 glorious years, and where my parents currently reside in Troy, OH. Much has changed since we moved into this house all those years ago and I wanted to scan some before shots and post them as well, but I ran out of time... Maybe I will do that some other time, as the transformation is amazing.

The house is old. Real, real old. When we moved in, it only had 2 fuses, that blew constantly. You couldn't run the heater in the bathroom and turn on the curling iron. The landscaping was AWFUL, and we dealt with more overgrowth, weeds, poison ivy, and out of control bushes than you can imagine. But that was hardly something my parents had to think about when they moved in. When the house was bought, the bathroom was the first to be remodeled. I was looking at a picture, and guys... this bathroom. Well, it's no wonder my mom insisted that it be finished before we moved in. It had a claw foot bath tub and toilet with a window over it. When we moved in, the kitchen and "dining room" were two separate areas, but the kitchen was opened up to the bathroom. We have a picture celebrating my brother's birthday and though we sat at the kitchen table (the dining room was full of evidence of the demolition going on in our house: a torn down wall, ladders, a weird book shelf we were using to store food because we didn't have cupboards, tools, plastic to try to keep the dust in control, etc.) the bathroom door was open and there is a toilet in the picture staring right at us. My mom and I had a pretty good giggle over that.

The house was initially a 3 bedroom house. The "master" bedroom connected to the bathroom through a door that has not been removed completely to accommodate a laundry room, but in those days, my parents built a wall to cut off the great room that was across from the "master" and turned that into their room. The old master turned into a baby's room, office, another baby's room, the office, then my room, and now houses the washer and dryer (that sat in our kitchen for YEARS) and my brother. He likes to tell people that he lives in the laundry room, and it will probably be an emotional scar he bears for years to come. I look forward to it. (One day it will be a story similar to the Shiny Blue Mumu for Halloween, that will bring my mom to tears every time we tell it.) Speaking of walls being built, my dad built a wall across from the bathroom to give it more privacy.

We spent years with UGLY pink carpet that was somebody's leftovers when they carpeted the house. The linoleum in the bathroom was also extra from someone. The rest of the house had wood floors, and I wish we would have kept those...but they were covered in hunter green carpet that was popular in the 90s. The whole house was also covered in layers and layers of wallpaper. When we sanded the trim the dust was TOXIC. Basically, the house on the inside is unrecognizable to what we moved in to.

The back of the house has changed traumatically as well. As you see in the picture, there are two doors that lead to the outside. The one on the left used to be a window in the "dining room" (where my dad tore down a wall and place counter-space and cupboards) and the other door lead out to a large carriage house. Yes, a carriage house. The hitch post was even still there when we moved in. My dad built a make-shift wall in the middle of the carriage house and one of the large, swinging doors lead to a storage space that wasn't insulated. The door walked out into the other portion of the carriage house where we stored the horses, I mean, we actually put our washer and dryer there. In the winter my mom had to leave a space heater running and "tuck them into bed" so the water pipes didn't freeze. She usually did this before she tucked us children to bed. Once the carriage house was torn down (we helped with that!) there was nothing but a pile of rubble for a while. There was talk of building a laundry room/play room but that would cost too much. We put siding up (the old shingles were disgusting!) and opted for a deck. Now, my dad had built a deck outside the back door (the one that used to be a window) years and years ago...and we decided to extend it, and add railings and stairs. I helped build the deck that turned out to be amazing.

After all that has been done on the house, the one thing that has NOT changed (with the exception of getting a new furnace and a bigger fuse box) is the basement. It still is dirty, and smells the same. And it gets creepier the older I get. I swear the stairs get steeper too.

Yes, that is a dirt floor. And that is the step/ledge we sat on during a tornado watch one night. Amy and I tried to pretend like we were really terrified, and we brought stuffed animals down with us, ones that we needed to "save" and really, they weren't very important. My parents had to carry us from the bottom of the steps to the ledge because that bottom part was flooded well past their ankles.

Also, to be noted - the debris that you are looking at in the top of the picture is a pile of dirt that was directly under a secret passageway/stowaway in our "dining room." It had a cellar like door that could be opened and I think I was told that it was used as a sort of refrigerator at one point, because the cellar was able to keep things cool. We found stacks of newspapers of insignificance (at least, I couldn't convince my parents that the rotting old newspapers of the past were significant) and they were disposed of. I don't even know what the dates were - if they were older than the 1980s, I'm really upset we threw them away.

There are a few things to note in this picture. #1 - the newer beam that is cut out of the right side of the picture is a support beam, that I am pretty sure is being sustained by the piles of dirt, rocks, and debris that is surrounding it. It is also the support beam that was directly under my bedroom/laundry room/Bradley's room (or whatever it was at the time). Now, I've always thought that maybe if we could clear out the piles of dirt, rocks, etc. then maybe we would find something worth money. Perhaps buried treasure. Since I am also fairly convinced that the house could collapse if we decided to dig, we have not done so. #2 - It is pitch dark in this area because the single light bulb, dangling from the ceiling like in an old torture chamber of some foreign film, burnt out and you can't see anything to change it. At least, I wouldn't go trying to change it in the pitch black. There are all kinds of spiders and creepy things down there! #3 - The stone wall that you see in there is the Coal Pit. It is where they used to shovel coal into the house so people could feed their furnace. The coal shaft/door is now used whenever my brother is locked out of the house. He kicks it in, finds his way through the darkness, and then kicks in the door that is at the top of the treacherous stairs.

I LOVE this old house. We have modernized it for our own purposes, and of course, had I been in charge, I would have done things differently. Very differently. But, I enjoyed growing up here and it's central location made it very easy for us to run around town as though we owned it. We could get near to anywhere on foot or by bike. We walked across the street to the library, weren't far from the levy, the Square, the pool, the park, the school, to our friends' houses, and back again. The Strawberry Festival parade would always bring people from church to our house in order sit on our porch and use our bathroom. Living across the street from Dunaway's (the Irish pub) always made for a good laugh whenever a drunk would come and attempt to ride his bicycle home.

Even though it is small - four bedrooms and one bathroom is hardly enough space to fit seven people - it was comfortable. We even fit my uncle's family in for a time - 13 people in that house! Can you imagine? It was fun, let me tell you. I still don't know how we did it.

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