Sunday, October 24, 2021

Best cheesecake ever?

I have shared so many cheesecake recipes here and have made more that didn’t get into posts, I feel like Forrest Gump: peanut butter and jelly cheesecake, blueberry pie cheesecake, pecan pie cheesecake, carrot cake cheesecake, pumpkin cheesecake, cupcake cheesecake, brownie crust cheesecake and plain old regular lemon cheesecake. It is possible that the superlative cheesecake has just been made and consumed this month!I also cannot believe that I forgot to post the pumpkin cheesecake recipe here, as it has been the overall winner so far. I just made it 2 weeks ago but didn't take photos, so I will correct that omission the next time I make it.


Thanks to the original recipe from

I made some modifications and may have to scientifically test the hypothesis that it’s outstanding the next several times I make a cheesecake!


I modified the original “Oreo” crust recipe by using gluten free oreo-type cookies that came in a 10 oz package. I used 1 stick of melted butter and wished I had used a blender to really pulverize the cookies. The old “mash the cookies with a rolling pin or can” (inside a plastic bag) technique was ok, but finer crumbs would have been better. Line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper, spray or grease it, and pop the crust (pressed into the pan) in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up.


Preheat the oven to 350.


I used 2 packages of cream cheese (8 ounces each). This made for a thinner cheesecake, but it was so rich that it didn’t need to be super tall. I used less sugar than called for, ¾ of a cup instead of more, and found that to be plenty sweet. 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, 2 teaspoons vanilla, about 8 oz or so of chocolate chips, melted, followed by 3 eggs with a hand mixer - only because I don’t have a stand mixer! When you take the springform pan out of the freezer, wrap a layer of aluminum foil around the bottom and partly up the sides of the pan. Pour the cream cheese mix over the crust and spread it around. Place another pan filled halfway with water on the oven rack under the cheesecake. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.


Turn off the oven and open the oven door slightly to cool the cheesecake slowly for one hour.


Gloucester, MA

For the coconut topping, toast ¾ cup pecans and ¾ cup coconut flakes in the oven for 10 minutes. Bring to a gentle boil 1 cup canned coconut milk, 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, ½ cup of brown sugar (this is less than the original recipe), and 3 egg yolks. I stirred it the entire time as it thickened. After at least 10 minutes, turn off the heat and add 1 teaspoon vanilla and the toasted nuts/coconut. My topping did not get to a pudding consistency that was expected using evaporated milk in the original recipe, but it tasted fabulous after firming up overnight in the fridge. In fact, I needed to warm the topping in the microwave for 30 seconds to get it to spreadable consistency so I could top the cheesecake.


Essex, MA

The original recipe calls for extra chocolate frosting to decorate the cake, which I skipped, and nobody noticed or complained. I used the leftover egg whites for an omlette at breakfast the next day.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Week 4 – lots of pounds of donations

After buying several non-consumable items last week, I’m pleased about the large bag of donations that is in the works now. I’ve created a specific challenge to help meet my goal of downsizing: my reward for passing along 100 pounds of items will be a trip to a local used bookstore. Can I go to this bookstore any time I want? Yes! Do I need to buy any books? No! But I do well having something to look forward to and I’d rather avoid tempting shops while I truly want to move things out, not in.


Ipswich, MA

So, to that end, I am ruthlessly finding items I don’t love, and setting them aside to be weighed once the bag is full. I’ve collected (bought) picture frames over the years to create gallery walls, but I can’t stand the thought of silver (nickel) frames on my gray walls, and I’m ready to keep what I truly love- nothing else. So there are a number of frames in the bag to bless someone else’s home. 


Gloucester, MA

I went apple picking and got some consumable fruit, cider, and gluten-free donuts which did not taste good to me. Apparently, apple cider donuts are worth the gluten, which I can have periodically, just not multiple times per day. The farmers’ market yielded corn on the cob, other fruit and veg, and a small bag of delicious mini apple cider donuts (with gluten)!


Salem, MA

More walks along different beaches are keeping the exercise and sunshine goals going, and I found the small path over the hill from my new place to get to the library by a walkable shortcut instead of a drive. Yay!

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Week 3, not so minimal

I’m proud of myself for focusing on my intentions and will freely share the non-consumable items I brought home this week. In consumable purchases, I checked out another grocery store and was pleased to see a sizable health-food section and plenty of gluten-free, lactose-free and vegetarian options throughout. I’ve continued to explore the new area by taking walks and spending time in nature. As tempting as it is to pop into local shops, I am resisting the urge. It’s easier for me to not even go into the store- I can see enough pretty things in the windows.


Lynn, MA

I bought room darkening curtains and hardware to hang them, which I have never had before now. The parking area lights are a good safety feature but shine brightly through the window blinds and sheer curtains that I already had. I looked at several different types of shoe racks and decided to try cloth hanging ones since I have enough closet space. They seem to work so far, and having limited/designated space for shoes is helping me with the other endeavor of passing things along (out of my home).


Tossing/donation report: shoes! I can hear my friend Jessie’s voice (she offered to fill this role): why do I have 2 pairs of strappy, dressy, sandals in black? Well, because the prettier ones were so uncomfortable that I bought a second pair that don’t hurt my feet. OK, time to go, pretty shoes. Maybe someone else can enjoy you. Ditto about 2 pairs of black pumps. Next week I’ll tackle the extra sneakers I never got rid of when I got new ones.


I realized that I am attributing emotions to things that other people wouldn’t. For example, I bought a fun nail polish color in Germany, and the bottle is DONE. It was included in the 10 pounds of stuff that I weighed today to help me keep track what I’m bringing out of the house (I am not weighing recycling, which would be a LOT of pounds). I feel sad about saying good-bye to that bottle of nail polish because I can’t get the same one again and it represents the great selection of nail polish shades that I discovered in Germany. AND THAT’S OK. I’m putting way more meaning into something than I need to.

Salem, MA

If you have a favorite tip to share about downsizing stuff, please leave a comment!

Monday, September 20, 2021

Week 2 living minimally

Getting to know local grocery stores and farm stands is interesting. This coming week I look forward to at least one farmers’ market. In the meantime, I liked the farm stand a few minutes away, and plan to return. Their bags of spinach and spring mix for salads looked great, plus signs indicating local produce were helpful. They were completely out of just-harvested corn on the cob, and another customer asked the clerk while I was checking out when more corn would be in (40 minutes from now, was the reply). Nearby was a boat docking area which was posted “not for beach parking” but since there were enough spaces at the time, I sat on a rock at low tide for a few minutes. The mud really tugged at the bottoms of my sandals/flip-flops (which have now been relegated to stay in the car permanently so I can stop by various beaches on the way home from work). I have special water shoes that I need to find, and I don’t mind the feeling of mud on my feet, but I’ll need to designate a car/mud towel for my feet afterwards.


Salem, MA

In terms of consumable purchases, I bought light bulbs and batteries, gassed up the car (which passed inspection and now has Massachusetts license plates!), and am experimenting with different gluten free crackers, frozen g.f. cinnamon raisin bread, and one bottle of local “raspberry lime rickey” soda. WAAAYY too sweet, but tasted great when watered down and a wedge of fresh lime squeezed in.

I’ve emptied so many more boxes and made plenty of trips to the recycling bin. Interestingly, some boxes I don’t even want to unpack. I will probably keep some boxes with their contents and see how I feel over the next few months. I might need the china cabinet for some books, and will bring other books to my work office, where a lonely bookcase is eagerly awaiting contents.

Gloucester, MA

It was fairly thrilling to determine the first two items to be given away as I was unpacking, and I selected a box to designate as the donation bin. Someone already let me know about a place to bring items for donation. I also started a closet system where I put the items I’ve worn to one side. Right now, that section is small, but eventually it will become apparent what I haven’t worn yet, and that might help decide whether to keep it or give it away. Some items I’ll keep due to circumstance, such as my floor-length black skirt for choir concerts, not knowing if there will be an in-person choir concert this December (the first rehearsal is mid-September). Plus, it took a long time of searching to find that skirt, and it wasn’t cheap, so given my dream of singing in choirs for the rest of my life, that’s worth holding on to.

I have kept shells from past years, but so far am not bringing new shells inside (good thing I'm working on this challenge right now!)

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Week 1 of minimalist living

The drive to Massachusetts went well. Thanks to Stephanie for giving me two lunch items so I didn’t buy any highway rest stop food en route. I listened to a 4-hour meeting with other new employees at my job, which drowned out some of the cat opera singing (aka objecting to being in a cat carrier for so many hours). 


Gloucester, MA

My first purchases in the new location were grocery basics, such as eggs, yogurt, fruit, and veggies. It makes me happy to have a bowl of fruit on the counter, ready to eat, and I have never been so thrilled as to find my favorite frying pan and knife to prepare fresh vegetables for dinner (along with a protein and a gluten free carb).


I got one non-consumable item: a dustpan. I brought a vacuum cleaner and a full-sized broom, but really needed to be able to sweep up stray pieces of cat litter efficiently. The local health food store had one with a wood handle on the mini broom. I have used it every day since buying it, so that makes sense as far as I’m concerned. I also gassed up the car, though I guess that’s a consumable purchase, too!

Beverly, MA
I received one non-consumable item as a gift in the mail from a friend who wanted to encourage me on this new journey in life! Thanks to Nicole for bringing a tear to my eye with kind words and a heartfelt gesture on a day when I was feeling sad. One nice way I can pass along encouragement and meet my challenge is to use the large amount of stationery I own to send snail mail to others!

So far I have emptied 20 regular packing boxes and all the cardboard around framed posters/art. I’m getting my exercise by carrying the empty boxes down the stairs to the recycling bin and then walking back up the stairs. 

Salem, MA
Donations/tossing to report: I threw away a cassette tape that I was affectionately listening to on my ancient stereo that I mentioned when I unpacked it previously. In the olden days, we would have used a pencil to fix the cassette tape spool, but this malfunction provided a good excuse to start the "tossing" report.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

A year of minimalism?

I have too much stuff! This became obvious during my recent move when I packed over 75 boxes. Some items are “keepers”, such as scrapbooks and my grandmother’s china tea set(s), but other stuff accumulated over the years and has become too much. I’ve enjoyed supporting other people’s home parties but have way too many kitchen gadgets that I don’t use very often, if ever. 


Near my new yoga teacher's place!

I’m issuing myself two challenges for the next 12 months: use it or lose it, and don’t buy anything that’s not consumable. I have never been interested in living in a “tiny house” or RV permanently, but there is something good to be said about streamlining possessions. As I unpack belongings, I will consider tips from and Marie Kondo, rather than just dumping items into drawers or cabinets. 


I made several donation trips to charity shops this month, and gave many items to friends (before and after every move), and still have too much. It’s difficult to let some items go, so that is why I’d like to challenge myself publicly in this journey. I wouldn’t normally keep track of how many things I’m passing along (doesn’t that sound better than “getting rid of”?), but I will attempt to do so now as a pat on the back for working towards this goal. It will be a good exercise in using what I have before buying new (hello, scrapbooking supplies and soap-type products). 


Near my new office

As soon as I thought of this invitation to stop buying anything that’s not consumable, I worried about an exception! I will consider scrapbooking tape to be consumable because I used 4 rolls of tape this year alone, so those little boxes are not hanging around taking up space. But I have enough paper and decorations on hand from the wonderful online scrapbooking weekends that I participated in during the pandemic. Who doesn’t love getting a “care package” in the mail with fun supplies?


The term “use it or lose it” is most commonly associated with vacation time or sick time at work, but I have also heard the concept expressed by people who are trying minimalism at home. They pack up everything they own, even if they are not moving, and see what they miss. For example, I bought a gadget to remove pits from cherries. However, I only eat raw cherries one by one, and spit out the pit. I am too lazy to use the cherry pitter to make a pie from a bowl of fresh cherries. Ok, this tiny gadget does not take up a lot of space, but there are other gadgets in the drawer. I use the garlic press every week and love the microplaner for fruit peel such as lemons in cheesecake, so they are safe to stay. But the vegetable spiralizer may need to go. I will unpack things and if I don’t use them by Christmas, they are in line for donation. I will feel badly about not supporting friends who are having home parties for this year-long challenge, but I really have enough candles for now (I love my friend who is a candle company rep, and don’t plan to buy candles from anyone else- let’s see if I use up my entire inventory in less than a year). 


What are your tips for decluttering and not buying new things?

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Summer travels and transitions

Earlier this spring I promised to post more regularly, and then life happened! We traveled to New England last fall when COVID restrictions were lifted, but didn’t share photos of that trip. It was short and mostly visiting with family and friends.


Ogunquit, Maine

Then over the winter and spring, COVID got worse and we didn’t travel again until the weather got warmer and things felt a bit safer after vaccinations ramped up. Here are some photos from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont this summer. 


Norwich, Vermont

Another reason for the pause in blog posts is a significant transition coming soon. I posted 2 years ago about the “moving ring-binder” getting hauled out again, and it’s back! This means selling the house, going through belongings for charity shop donations, packing, setting up new utilities, etc. 


Ogunquit, Maine

It takes a lot of mental and physical energy to move, and many tasks are on a deadline, if you want electricity available in your new home. We also upgraded several aspects of our current home this summer, from a new back deck to insulation and siding.


Thanks, Betsy!

The scenery in upstate NY is beautiful, yet it was refreshing to see the seacoast in Massachusetts and Maine, along with lakes in New Hampshire and Vermont. I’ve finally realized that I’m more of a country person than a city person. I appreciate the perks of living near a city, and having access to cultural institutions of music and art, but at the end of the day, give me nature, bird song, and quiet.


This gorgeous vine loved our back deck!

It will probably be a while util the next post, complete with photos of a new location. I’m starting a job, so that will keep me really busy, on top of unpacking and getting to know a town near the ocean.