The Book That Continued to Eat My Brain After I Finished It

9780307588364_p0_v1_s260x420Gone Girl

By Gillian Flynn

Last night (or early this morning, if you want to be technical), I finally finished Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  Flynn weaves a well-crafted, engaging, and stupefying tale of two people who are…Messed.  Up. The recommendation to read this book came down the line through a couple of people, but what finally pulled me in was a comment made to a co-worker about the novel.  That referral went something like this “this woman is so evil you almost end up rooting for her by the end of the book.”  Okay, who could resist that?  Also, he wasn’t wrong.

The story follows Nick Dunne and Amy Elliot Dunne, and begins on their fifth wedding anniversary, the day Amy disappears.  Flynn does a great job of switching points of view with each chapter.  You hear both sides of the story, but is either side telling the truth?

Especially in the beginning, it is hard to determine who to trust.  Nick initially gets center stage for the simple fact that his point of view is immediate, and the reader is left with Amy’s diary entries to provide insight into her character.  Even going into this novel with the knowledge that this woman is “evil”, I found myself wondering, waffling…who is the “bad guy” really?

Nick and Amy are believable characters, for all of their dysfunction, but I wouldn’t call either one of them a reliable narrator.  They’ve filled their lives with lies…to everyone, including themselves, and sifting the truth from the lies is like panning for gold in a played out mine.  Just because it shines, doesn’t mean it’s worth anything.  By the end, I wondered if they were too damaged to even see the truth for themselves.

When you read this, find a buddy who has finished it (and won’t spoil it for you).  I needed to discuss this book as I went along.  Fortunately, I have some great co-workers who not only understand my craving for new fiction (and are willing suppliers) but had also read Gone Girl before me.  They gave me the freedom to storm their offices the every time I thought I’d made a revelation with an exposition on what I thought was going to happen next.  “Did Amy really….”, “I bet you that Nick is going to…”, and today “Seriously, these people are messed up.”

Would I recommend this book?  Oh yeah, baby.  It is definitely captivating and worth a read.  This is a novel that will stick with you.  I cannot stop thinking about these characters.  Questions keep spinning through my mind.  How did these people got to the place they ended up?  What must their childhoods have been like?  What kind of parents did they have…really?  All interspersed with, seriously, these people are messed up.  The only cure I can think of for this condition is another good novel…immediately.  Fortunately I have a stack of those at home.

First Lines: “When I think of my wife, I always think of her head.  The shape of it to begin with.  The very first time I saw her, it was the back of her head I saw, and there was something lovely about it, the angles of it.”

Now, Gone Girl has been adapted for the screen.  The film will star Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne and Rosamund Pike as Amy Elliot Dunne.  Rosamund Pike may look familiar from movies such as,Jack Reacher, Pride & Prejudice,  Die Another Day and An Education (funny, I just watched that one a couple of weeks ago), and Affleck has starred in films like Good Will Hunting, Pearl Harbor  and won an Oscar for Argo, which he also directed.


With the screenplay also written by author, Gillian Flynn, I have no doubts the movie is going to be a great representation of the novel.  However, I have heard rumors that the ending has been changed.  As much as it pains me to say it, this may be one you want to read the book before the movie is released in October 2014.

‘Til next time, Jessica

P.S. Messed. Up.

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Poetry Month Continues

Tom Hiddleston reads Shakespeare’s Sonnet #18…you’re welcome.

‘Til next time,


Smile! It’s Thursday!

Smile!  It's Thursday!

These are the best kinds of smiles. Elmosolydoni! It increases your face value. (Okay, so I stole the last part from Steel Magnolias, but it’s true!)  Now, to work on the pronunciation.

‘Til next time,


20 Words We Owe to William Shakespeare

logo_mental_floss20 Words We Owe to William Shakespeare

Thank you, Mental Floss.  I’m feeling a bit…vindicated this afternoon.  Have you ever just come across a situation that the common vernacular didn’t cover?  So did Shakespeare.  His solution…make up a word that conveyed what he wanted.  How much poorer would the English language have been if Shakespeare didn’t do the same thing. Also, it is good for people to know that my habit of creating “new” words comes from a great tradition started by The Bard himself. :)

‘Til next time,


The Bard’s Birthday

English: Title page of Shakespeare's Sonnets (...

Title page of Shakespeare’s Sonnets (1609) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is the day that is typically celebrated as Shakespeare’s birthday. He would be 450 today.  To commemorate the day, and although Sonnet 21 isn’t one of his most popular, it has always been one of my favorites.

In it, Shakespeare vows his love is true and the words he writes about his love will be as well, and truth will take the place of the forced comparisons other poets use.



Sonnet 21

So is it not with me as with that Muse,
Stirred by a painted beauty to his verse,
Who heaven itself for ornament doth use
And every fair with his fair doth rehearse,
Making a couplement of proud compare
With sun and moon, with earth and sea’s rich gems,
With April’s first-born flowers, and all things rare,
That heaven’s air in this huge rondure hems.
O! let me, true in love, but truly write,
And then believe me, my love is as fair
As any mother’s child, though not so bright
As those gold candles fixed in heaven’s air:
   Let them say more that like of hearsay well;
   I will not praise that purpose not to sell.




‘Til next time,










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What’s the problem with pink and princess? The marketing, not the moms.

Originally posted on Rebecca Hains:

This week, New York and Slate published pieces asking why so many moms have a problem with pink and with princesses.

“What’s the problem with pink, anyway?” griped Yael Kohen in New York. Then, building upon Kohen’s piece, Slate senior editor Allison Benedikt demanded: “What is it with you moms of girls? I have never met a single one of you who isn’t tortured about pink and princesses.” Her annoyance is palpable.

Both writers proceed to defend all things pink and princess. “We treat pink — and the girls who like it — with [...] condescension,” Kohen states, while Benedikt adds, “Moms of daughters need to chill out.”

Let’s take a step back, please. I am the author of a forthcoming book called The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls Through the Princess-Obsessed Years, and Kohen and Benedikt’s arguments are wrong on several levels. By pontificating on the subject without actually talking to the moms they’re criticizing, they’ve missed the point. Having interviewed…

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We’re All Mad Here

Table Decorations by Creative Elements DS

Table Decorations by Creative Elements DS

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party Bridal Shower has been accomplished (insert trumpet fanfare here!).  This was so much fun to plan that I’m going to have to do another one, because this much fun cannot be contained to one party.  To gather up grains of inspiration, I hit the original Lewis Carroll books, dredged my mind for details from every Alice in Wonderland based film I’ve ever seen, and spent many an hour on Pinterest to see what others have done.  Then I cut out about 2/3 of that because I do not have unlimited time or resources, but the ideas…the ideas are still bounding through my brain like the white rabbit.

To set the stage a bit here, my dear friend and I have an inside joke.  It loses all humor when explained to outsiders (as the best inside jokes do), but long story short, if either one of us says the words “white rabbit” we dissolve into laughter. (Apparently, I also get a bit of a giggle out of it when I type it too…white rabbit!)  What else would do except for a Mad Hatter Tea Party to celebrate her upcoming marriage?


Toadstools from fairysmallthings

Toadstools from fairysmallthings

MadHatter5The table ended up being my favorite piece.  The runner came from a craft store, and it is two rolls of moss overlapping each other in the middle.  Each roll is four feet long.  Luckily my table is only six feet long, because the ends are a little ragged looking.  To get a cleaner, but not too clean, look for the ends, I turned them under and left a heavy(ish) object on them overnight.  (Think, good-sized hard cover book.)  Instead of cutting the moss to size, I let them over lap in the middle.  This offered the perfect solution for the fairy ring of toadstools around the centerpiece.  These little cuties from Fairy Small Things’s Etsy Store are designed for terrariums, and come attached to a wire that I bent and slid through the material.  The second layer of moss underneath protected my table without requiring me to disassemble the centerpiece and put tape over the wire.

The centerpiece was created from things that I already had around my house (have I mentioned I like tea?).  It gave me an easily available list of tea party appropriate items to stack up.  Yes, these are merely stacked.  There is no glue, tape, adhesive anything holding them together, and while I would love to say I got it right on my first try, that would be a big fat lie.  I stacked and re-stacked the tower until I could repeatedly bump the table with no noticeable wobbling. (Patience, my friends, and a generous helping of stubborn…probably more stubbornness than patience).

Mad Hatter Tea Party Decorations Floating Tea Cups

Floating Tea Cups

Since I was using both a tea set that my Grandma Joye bought for us to play with and a set of china my mother received from one of her friends, there were a couple of chipped cups that gained new life as magically floating tea cups.  Since I don’t actually have magic, I had to improvise.  I tied them off to the light fixture above the table to create the “magical” look using  clear plastic line (Fishing line, stuff for making jewelry, whatever.  Just make sure it isn’t stretchy.)  Make sure your knots are good and strong, and you’re set and ready to go.

photoA Mad Hatter’s Tea Party wouldn’t be complete without tags that read “Eat Me” and “Drink Me” for the refreshments.  Fortunately, Creative Elements Design Studio has an Etsy store filled with nifty printables for a Mad Hatter Party.  Since I’m working on not over extending myself, I took her designs and added my own touch with card stock in the bride’s wedding colors and scrapbooking scissors.  The files I downloaded contained table cards, a large banner, a mini-banner, “Eat Me” and “Drink Me” tags, directional arrows, and signs with quotes from the book that I used.  There were also wonderful playing card decorations that I didn’t use (but probably will next time).

Mad Hatter Bridal Shower Buffet Table

Buffet Table

Some additional elements that I wanted to include were keys, clocks, crowns and keyholes.  Fortunately for me (and unfortunate for my budget), when I find cool things, I just buy them.  Eventually I find a use for them.  This time it came in the form of scrapbooking decorations (at least I think that’s what they were).  When I was thinking about Doctor Who and Sherlock parties I found these pieces with a steampunk kind of look.  I used twine to turn them into garland to hang from the curtain rod on the back door. (I like it so much, I think they’re going to stay there!)

I also created some Cheshire Cat grins to put in unexpected places.  That disappearing cat always ends up where he doesn’t belong, right?


Since the menu at the Sherlock party was such a hit, I decided not to mess too much with a good thing.  There were sandwiches, a veggie tray, tea, biscuits, cupcakes, and cocktails.


  • Cucumber (recipe on Sherlock Party Post)
  • Ham & Pimento
  • Ham & Cheddar
  • Turkey & Provolone


MadHatter8The cupcakes came from Not Your Grandma’s Cupcakes in Broken Arrow, OK.  They have lots of great flavors, and I could create a cupcake menu around the characters every one is familiar with from Alice in Wonderland.

  • 24 Carrot Baby for the White Rabbit –   A carrot cake cupcake that is just wonderful and topped with cream cheese icing.
  • Crazier Than A Nut was irresistible for the Mad Hatter. – A butter pecan cake with a maple frosting and candied pecans that I left me craving more.
  •  Cha-Cha-Cherry Cheesecake looked like it was tailor-made for the Queen of Hearts.  With an incredibly moist cheesecake cupcake topped with cream cheese icing and cherry pie filling.
  • Not Just Another Pretty Cupcake  was perfect for Alice.  A vanilla cupcake with vanilla icing, sprinkles and a surprising tart candy on top.
Alice, Mad Hatter and White Rabbit Tea from Adagio Teas

Themed Tea Blends


Of course, you can’t have a Mad Hatter Tea Party without tea.  This is where the amazing Adagio Teas came in handy with their

  • Alice in Wonderland White Rabbit, and Mad Hatter blends of tea.  Adagio Teas has some wonderful teas blended with specific fandoms in mind.  I bought their Sherlock Sampler for my Sherlock party, and I’ve already picked out my favorites that I’ll have to order again.  I set the tea up on a separate counter in the kitchen, complete with biscuits, milk and sugar.  Each tea-pot had the corresponding package of tea behind it so guests could find what they liked.


Themed cocktails are always fun, and I enthusiastically scoured the web to find recipes with a Mad Hatter flavor.  The resounding favorite was the White Rabbit, and my favorite was either the specialty mojito or the Mad Hatter Tea Party Cocktail (Note:  No matter what the bartender says, if you shake it hard enough, the shaker will come apart…yes, it will.)

Mad Hatter Tea Party Cocktail

  • 2 shots tea infused Gin (I used Earl Grey, and just leave a tea bag in the gin for a minimum of 30 minutes.)
  • 1/2 shot simple syrup
  • 1 1/2 shots lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp marmalade
  • Shake in cocktail shaker with ice, and strain into martini glasses rimmed with sugar

White Rabbit

  • Vanilla Vodka (I used Pearl’s Wedding Cake Vodka.  It is yummy!)
  • Vanilla Liqueur
  • Milk
  • Ice

Alice in Wonderland

  • 1 shot amaretto
  • 1 shot orange liqueur
  • 1 shot peach liqueur


  • Earl Grey
  • Gin
  • Lemon

Blueberry, Blackberry & Lavender Mojito

One of the bride’s friends is crafting a signature cocktail for the wedding that incorporates the bride’s colors. We got to be the test subjects for her thoughtful, tasty, and gorgeous drink. Wow, just…it was great. I didn’t mind being a test subject at all. I figured it would be helpful to see if she could replicate the deliciousness, so I had to “test” more than one.


Who Am I?

It’s always a little tricky to get people who don’t know each other talking at something like this.  All many of them knew about each other was that they all knew the bride, so to get things started and introduce people to each other in a…less than conventional way, I began with having everyone choose a playing card as they arrived.  Each card had a “mate” and they had to find the guest with the matching card to be their partner.  When they found their partners, I handed out sticky notes and pens.  Each person had to write a person or thing on the sticky note and stick it to their partner’s forehead.  Then everyone mingled to ask questions about who or what they were.  The first person to guess what was on their sticky note won a prize.

Mad Hatter Bridal Shower Gift Bags

Custom Decorated Gift Bags

Silly Hats

Mad Hatter Bridal Shower - Silly Hats

Silly Hats

This game had no winner.  It just got everyone relaxed, silly and feeling good.  Every time someone said one of the key words they had to wear a hat.  I didn’t expect everyone to be so enthusiastic about this game.  People worked hard to keep their favorite hats.  (If I’d known, I would have made up more rules!)

  • Date, Time, Day – White Rabbit Ears
  • Wedding, Reception – Mad Hatter Top Hat
  • Bride – Tiara
  • Groom – Propeller Cap

Love Story

Every couple has their own love story, and each person who knows them knows a slightly different version of that story.  For this game, take a large piece of paper, and have each guest write one line of the couple’s love story.  Then fold the paper so the next person can’t see what has come before.  When you’re finished, someone reads aloud the story, and the bride has a nice keepsake.  (Note:  It would be a good idea to have the guests include their names.  I didn’t do this, but a comment from the bride made me wish I had.)

Photo Scavenger Hunt

The guests were divided up into teams, and each team received a list of items found in the book to acquire pictures of.  Initially, the plan was to send the guests out into the world and the first team to report back to me with a complete picture list would all win prizes.  However, no one felt like going anywhere, so we got creative.  My house became the field for the scavenger hunt, and the teams had to get really inventive to come up with some of the clues.  Fortunately, these were smart women.  When the winning team couldn’t find it, they took to the internet for a picture, and it worked out perfectly.

Cards Against Humanity

Since my bride’s ideal bachelorette party included relaxing with cocktails, friends and playing games, I figured it was time to introduce them to Cards Against Humanity (duh, duh, dunnnnnn).  As the box says, this is a “party game for horrible people”. There are black cards and white cards.  The black cards include questions or fill-in-the-blank sentences.  The white cards are the possible choices to answer/fill-in-the-blank…all, I can say is that the more wrong it feels, the funnier it probably is, and the more likely you are to win.

That pretty much sums it up right there.  I laughed so hard my sides hurt.

The party was so much fun to plan, to host, to attend, and I’m excited to see what theme party I can come up with next.  Any ideas?  Want or need help planning your own theme party?  Just let me know!

‘Til next time,


Tasted, Devoured or Chewed and Digested Thoroughly?

Beautiful_Books“Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.”
― Sir Francis Bacon

Are there books you devour?  A genre you can’t resist tasting?  An author whose work you digest thoroughly?  Until, I get into a book, I can’t tell which one it will be.

Right now, I really want to devour Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, but I keep having to put it down to be a responsible adult…I don’t like being a responsible adult.

‘Til next time,


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Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day!

Are you doing anything to celebrate Earth Day? Planting a tree? Sharing a ride? Starting your own recycling program? Re-purposing or reusing something instead of throwing it away? Planting a garden?

My planned Earth Day project was to start my own vegetable garden. However, my allergies made that impossible this year. My lovely sister is starting hers though, and she has promised to share the bounty with me. This month also marks the opening of the local Farmers’ Markets, so I’m trading in my own garden for buying locally grown produce from the Farmers’ Market.
‘Til next time,

Tasty Goodness – Cheesecake Edition

Tasty Goodness – The Cheesecake Edition

Cheesecakewithganacheandcherries2 The time to resurrect the Tasty Goodness series has arrived. (Easter pun…I couldn’t resist.)  For Easter, I decided I wanted to try out something new.  Sunday dinners at my parents’ house are nothing new, but whether it was a need to do something special to commemorate the holiday, an intense desire for cheesecake, or just a craving for expanding my skills, I decided to make a cheesecake from scratch.

Somewhere along the line, I’d gotten it in my head that cheesecakes were really hard to make, so I’d never tried it.  My spring form pan sat empty for two years because I just didn’t know if I wanted to make an attempt only to fail miserably.

Inspired by my new “what’s the worst that can happen” attitude (I’ll talk about that more in another post), I set out on a mission for a good cheesecake recipe.  Fortunately, I work with some great people who hooked me up.

My recipe comes from a cookbook published by a local private school the year I graduated from High School, and I’m making copies of just about everything in there.  It all looks so very good!  I mixed and matched a couple of recipes to get to what I wanted (my sister requested chocolate).

  • Crust:
    2 Cups Chocolate Cookie Crumbs
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 6 T unsalted butter (melted)
  • 1 Cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325.  Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and press into the bottom and sides of a 10 in spring form pan.  Bake for 7-10 minutes.

Jessica’s Notes:

  • I used chocolate graham crackers to avoid the creamy filling of a cookie like Oreo s.  Don’t ask why, I just decided this was important when I was at the grocery store.  It had absolutely nothing to do with the “Avengers” Chocolate Grahams…

When it came time to decimate the “Avengers” into usable crumbs, I started out with my hand powered food processor…15 minutes later I had chunks that were still too big to use and a very tired arm.  I dumped everything into a large plastic zippered back, and took my grandmother’s rolling pin to it.  This was much more effective.  (Also, you can release some frustration if you want to.)

  • I would like to say that I used mini-chips instead of regular size because of some well thought out…thing.  Truthfully, that’s what I had on hand.  However, if you aren’t a fan of a thick crust, then mini-chips are the way to go.
  • My pan is 9 inches instead of the 10 inch pan called for in the recipe, and I had no idea how I was going to get this stuff to stick to the sides of the thing long enough to cook.   Therefore, I didn’t do that part.  My crust was on the bottom only, and there was a bunch of crust mixture left over.  At least enough for the bottom of another cheesecake.
  • If you’re going to use a water bath (recommended) to cook your cheesecake, go ahead and wrap your pan tightly in foil now.  Otherwise your fingers will get a bit warm and you will curse your lack of forethought when the pan hasn’t cooled enough and you’re ready to back the cheesecake…not that I learned that the hard way or anything.


  • 5 8oz packages of cream cheese (no, that isn’t a typo)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 T pure vanilla extract

In a food processor, combine the eggs and sugar until smooth.  Add vanilla and set aside in a mixing bowl.  Cube cream cheese into 1 inch cubes and process half the cream cheese until smooth.  Add the sugar mixture until smooth, before adding second half of cream cheese cubes.  Process until smooth and pour onto crust.  Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes.  Cheesecake is done when firm to the touch but jiggles in the middle.  Allow to cool on a wire rack, and then wrap tightly and refrigerate over night.

Jessica’s Notes

  • I don’t have an electric food processor.  I have a small 3 cup processor with a handle you press down to make the blade spin, so when I first read these directions it was not just a “nope” but a “hell, no”.  I’d still be trying to process cream cheese.  Fortunately, I could see from margin notes that my recipe-source had made this before.  No food processor is necessary, a good mixer is a definitely requirement though.
  • Cube your cream cheese smaller than 1 inch if you don’t have a food processor.  That will help with the creaminess.  It will also keep you from overworking the batter.  I don’t know what happens if you overwork the batter, but lots of recipes online made it sound like a bad thing.
  • Don’t worry about adding the ingredients in batches.  I processed the eggs, sugar and vanilla and set it aside until the cream cheese was nice and smooth, then poured the whole lot in the bowl.
  • Make sure you don’t over mix the eggs and sugar…you’ll end up with meringue.    Also, make sure you scrape the bottom of the bowl to get all the sugar that settled while you were waiting for the cream cheese to become creamy.
  • Drop the cheesecake gently on the counter/table a couple of times to make sure all the large air bubbles pop.
  • Use a water bath to avoid the cheesecake from cracking on top (also don’t over cook it).  Make sure your pan is wrapped tightly with foil, and place a large baking pan (I used a cake pan) filled ¾ of the way with water in the oven while it preheats.  Be very careful when you lower and remove the cheesecake.  The water is boiling!
  • These guys must have been using a super oven powered by the Human Torch to get it to bake in 30-45 minutes.  It took a little more than an hour for this to bake.  I started checking every 10 minutes and then every 5 minutes until I thought it was done.  It was done probably 5-10 minutes before I thought it was…my cheesecake top cracked.  Oh well.  That’s what the chocolate ganache was for!


  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 oz Germans Sweet Baking Chocolate (shaved/curled)

Add the chocolate curls to boiling cream.  Stir until the chocolate is completely melted.  Refrigerate for several hours.  Whip until light and fluffy.

Jessica’s Notes

  • Shave/curl all of your chocolate ahead of time.  It does not take cream as long to boil as you think it will…or as long as I thought it would.
  • Keep the paper on the chocolate bar as you shave it to use as a handle.  This may be obvious to everyone else, but chocolate melts when it encounters warm objects.  My hands are not as cold as my ex says they are.  They do melt chocolate.
  • Use a flexible cutting board to do this.  Shaved/curled chocolate melts a lot faster than you think it will…not that licking some of the melted chocolate off your fingers isn’t tasty, but…really.  Flexible. Cutting. Board.
  • I have no idea how to “curl” chocolate.  All of my attempts ended in shaved shards.  I was bothered by this until I realized it was going to be melted and no one would see it.  This epiphany took much longer to come about than it should have.
  • Stir this stuff constantly…make sure your cream doesn’t scorch.  These were also palm to forehead moments.  Mine came out with a texture that isn’t as smooth as I would have liked, but when I asked my mom about it she told me that it didn’t stay on her tongue long enough to worry about the texture.  She was too busy eating it.


  • I piped the ganache around the edges of the cheesecake until all the ganache was gone.  (It really did taste divine).  The decorated edge also had the added benefit of corralling the cherries that I put in the center.
  • I used the canned cherries that I also used in my Cherry Cheesecake Pie recipe.
  • Removing the spring form ring from around the cake wasn’t bad.  I just ran a thin paring knife around the edge to make sure it detached.  However, if you’re trying not to mess up your decorating during moving, just leave it on there.  (trust me)
  • The cherries will move during transport.  Maybe you should put them on once you arrive at your destination.

There is no need to fear the cheesecake (well, unless you are unable to eat this goodness in moderation…in which case you should definitely fear homemade cheesecake!)  This really wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it would be, and it was really light and fluffy and creamy. Two bites in and my mother requested this for her birthday (I’m not allowed to make any changes or “improvements”).  The leftovers were coveted, and disappeared quickly.  Luckily for me, my family is kind and generous, and they left me enough for two small pieces … as a matter of fact, there is one leftover piece waiting for me at home … maybe I’ll go home for lunch.

‘Til next time,


P.S. Now I’ve immersed myself in cheesecake recipes.  I found a Irish Cream Cheesecake…using my homemade Irish Cream?  Yes, please!

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