Archive for Guest Bloggers

Ten Years On

Note: Imported from my original blog, “Whereverthere: 3 friends, one blog.” Thanks to Charity Shumway and Erika Edwards for sharing these memories with me!

KRISTIN:  For our generation 9/11 is the definitive “where were you on this day” moment.  Unforgettable, and still unfathomable.   Ten years has passed, but the memories are as vivid as smoke smell.

I was attending school at BYU and had been engaged to Shea less than a week before.  I was

The news played overhead, and our fingers froze mid-action over our keyboards as time stood still and surreal.

driving to work–I had an editing position on campus–and was listening to X96 Radio From Hell in the morning.  Not where you expect to hear serious news.  DJ Bill had just mentioned something about breaking news: a plane crashed into the world trade center.  That is about all I caught and as I walked into work, I thought perhaps some freak accident had led a small time pilot towards a tragic, but minor fate.  I logged onto my computer–one in a line of about ten computers hosting college students doing the same–when the overhead speakers came on, tuned into national news.  In full detail, with no pictures, the story unfolded.  We listened live as broadcasters tried to make sense of what was happening.  We heard, actually heard people screaming.   We heard the second plane hit.  I remember one reporter saying “things are falling from the upper floors, My God! It’s people! People are jumping!!”  I remember time stood still.  I looked briefly to my side to see my coworkers with their mouths open and their hands hovering frozen over the home row keys of their keyboards, like they stopped mid-login to listen.  Then I looked down to see my hands in the same stance.  It was surreal.

I didn’t see actual footage until much later that day.  I didn’t own a TV and caught snatches of coverage at neighboring apartments.  It was like watching a horrible movie.  Surely those were special effects.  The emotions of the day were many and muddled.  Shock. Fear. Horror.  I don’t have to go on, you all remember.  One emotion that stands out is my longing for Shea.  This may sound insignificant.  I was new to the idea that I would be with him forever.  As ecstatic as I was to be engaged (The BYU dream, right?), the Mrs. concept was a little weird to me and hard to imagine.  But as I listened to the incredible news of the Trade Centers, as I imagined moms and dads who went to work and never came home, as I felt the waves of broken hearts emanating from a city so far away, I longed to run into Shea’s arms and stay there. I wanted my family, which hadn’t even started yet, to be wrapped in a protective bubble far away from terror.  Shea was attending school up at the University of Utah, and although he was only a 40 minute drive away, it felt like he was far, far away.  9/11 planted a seed in my heart that day….I hold my loved ones tight and resolve to express my love with every coming and going, good morning and goodnight.

Three days later, on what was declared a national day of mourning, I celebrated my 23rd birthday with my sweetheart.

ERIKA:  In October 2007, my little brother joined me for a trip to New York City.  A major priority for both of us was to visit Ground Zero.  Of course, it was under heavy construction and you couldn’t really get a sense of anything at the actual site.  But I wasn’t prepared for what I would see or feel once we entered the World Trade Center Tribute Visitor’s Center, which was housed in the former NYFD fire station across the street.

The thing is, I was on my mission from 2000-2002, and during that time my access to any sort of media was intentionally limited.  While no one could really escape the tragedy and horror of that day, I had not been exposed to many of the images and stories that came out of it.  So I took in, in one afternoon, what most people had already processed over a period of months or even years.  I was overwhelmed in every way.

At the end of our visit, they gave us each a card to fill out that said,  “Share your September 11th story.  How have you been changed by the events of September 11th, or what action can you take in the spirit of Tribute to help or educate another?”

This was my response:

I was serving as an LDS (Mormon) missionary in Tallahassee, Florida at the time of the attacks.  I saw the second plane hit live on television in a doctor’s office waiting room.  That day, we didn’t go out to proselyte or visit people; but the next day, and for many days afterward we went out, knocking on people’s doors and asking if we could pray with them.

For a brief time, religious prejudices and intolerance were set aside, and we all prayed together.  We prayed for those who died.  We prayed for those who lived.  We prayed for the families of the victims and heroes.  We prayed for the leaders of nations.

We prayed for each other.

CHARITY: In 2001, I wasn’t yet living in New York. I was still in Boston, and I spent the day gathered around the television in a dorm room with friends. Most of these friends were from New Jersey, from a commuting suburb where parents took the train into the city every morning and came home every evening. The night of September 11th, late in the evening after the train station’s parking lot had mostly cleared out, one of these friend’s moms reported that there were still cars — one here, another there, two over by the light pole, another in the back. Terrible, ghostly indicators that the people who left them that morning weren’t coming back for them. That image has always stuck with me.

This weekend in New York is all about remembering. One of the memorials that strikes me as most poignant is an installation in Bryant Park: 2,753 empty chairs. It reminds me a little of that terrible parking lot.

I know how important it is to remember, and I’m grateful that we’re coming together to remember at this 10th anniversary. But I’m also grateful for something else.

I moved to New York in 2002, when September 11th was stills so fresh that there were guards armed with machine guns in all the major subway stations. I used to pass through Times Square every day, and I remember the fear. You’d get used to the machine guns and the searches, and then one day, something would jolt you out of it — like the day I could have sworn I smelled something strange and chemical — and there was that fear again, bristling and almost ungovernable. But we stayed safe day after day. And finally the armed guards left. And now, nearly a decade later, I can almost (almost but not quite) laugh at how scared I was by that smell. (People who are afraid of smells should not take New York City transit).  Almost a decade later, I am very glad there aren’t armed guards in the subway anymore. So while I’m grateful for the chance to remember, to think back and to mourn, I am also grateful that we humans are able to forget. Not to forget completely, but to forget enough to carry on.

How to Make a Goat Cheese Cake

Here is what we SHOULD be creating. Did it work? We shall see…

Note: Imported from my original blog, “Whereverthere: 3 friends, 1 blog.”  Thanks to Charity Shumway and Erika Edwards for sharing these memories with me!

Here is your mission, should you choose to accept it: Make Tyler Florence’s Goat Cheese Cake with Strawberries and Fresh Basil.

Sound good?  Click here for the recipe.

To help you on your way ErikaKristin and Charity chronicle their attempts in ten easy steps.  

1.  Erika:  Agree to make goat cheesecake in tandem with your co-bloggers.  Think this is probably a bad idea, but say yes anyway.
Kristin: As busy as I am I almost begged off but for the love of blog and cheesecake I took the challenge! Glad I did, I needed a farm break.
Charity:  Say yes to this fun activity, while secretly changing the words in your head from “fun activity” to “competition.” You’re in it to win it.

2. Erika:  Wait until the last minute the night before you are hosting a big birthday party at your house to casually look over the recipe.  Note that you have neither a roasting pan nor a springform pan.
Charity: Ditto, except yours isn’t a birthday party, it’s a Memorial Day barbecue to which you’ve invited the entire tri-state area (in it to win it!) What’s that you say? Goat cheese cheesecake seems a bit pretentious for a hamburger party? Pish posh.

3. Erika:  Use this opportunity as an excuse to run out and buy a very expensive roasting pan (because you suddenly realize that this is precisely the one thing missing in your life) and a very cheap springform pan (because you are pretty sure you are never going to use that thing again).
Kristin: How can you not have a springform? I have 3–they have so many awesome uses!! You will be glad you have one. I don’t have a roasting pan, so I improvised.
Charity: Yeah, I didn’t have a springform pan either, and of course decided that two hours before the guests arrived was the right time to take the subway into Manhattan and visit Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I failed to read the directions closely enough to realize I’d need a roasting pan, which I don’t have either.

4. Erika:  Wake up early the next morning and try and take some artistic photos of the ingredients (and your brand new, tri-ply stainless steel, overpriced roasting pan!).
Kristin:  My ingredients look about the same, except the eggs….
Charity: Mine looked about the same too, with the very notable exception of sour cream. Oops. We’ll get to that.

Kristin’s fresh egg finder, Becca!

5.  Erika:  Roll your eyes when you see they have given you the measurements for the Graham crackers in ounces.  Seriously?  Get out calculator and figure out that 10 ounces is more or less 19 Graham Crackers.  Kristin: Or two crackers less than two packages, but who’s counting?

6. Erika:  Realize you don’t have a food processor. Try to make Graham cracker crumbs in the blender.  Spray Graham cracker shrapnel into every corner of your kitchen.
Charity:  Totally winning at this point, thanks to awesome food processor I married into.

“$#!%” – Erika

7. Erika:  Realize you do have some kind of food processor attachment on your vintage-hand-me-down Bosch mixer, but that you have never used it before.  Decide, ‘how hard can it be?’ Curse under your breath as you spray Graham cracker shrapnel all over every corner of your kitchen…again.
Kristin: While Erika is cursing her grahams, I have some little helpers pressing mine into the pan.

Chef’s in training, Tayler and Becca help me. Perhaps I should loan them to Erika?

Charity: The crust is all set, the oven is preheating, and only then, thirty minutes before guests arrive do you actually read through the ingredients list. Sour cream? When did that sneak its way onto the list? Consider running down the street to the store and arriving home sweaty, but with sour cream in hand, moments before people ring your doorbell. Think the better of it. Turn off the oven. Put the crust in the fridge. Weep a little inside, because now, you’re losing. Slap some ice cream between ginger cookies and call it a day.

8.  Erika:  Start the filling and realize it calls for ONE PINT of sour cream.  Are you kidding me?  Has Tyler Florence never heard of a cup? How much is a pint, anyway? Google it and discover that a pint is 16 freaking ounces.  Realize you have a fraction of that.  Panic.  Throw in another four ounces of cream cheese and hope for the best.
Charity:  Or just decide the 8 oz. container of sour cream you eventually bought will have to do because you can’t be bothered to go back to the store for another 8 ounces. Who knew a pint was 16 ounces?

Zaida uses her knack for destruction for the greater good.

9.  Kristin:  I love the water bath technique, but I always end up getting some water in the cake.  It seeps in while baking and soggies the edge of my crust.  Anyone out there have any tips?  They should make waterproof springforms…or I could just use an entire box of foil.

Charity: Oh, man, here’s where I get my comeuppance. Finally, yesterday, when I got around to making my cake, I wrapped the springform poorly, so it wasn’t just that the edges of the crust got a little moist. Water seeped in all over, and the crust was pretty much goo.

10.  Erika:  Start on the topping.  Realize you have no Grand Marnier in your liquor cabinet.  Remember that you are a Mormon and don’t have a liquor cabinet.  Panic.  Google it and find out that it is an orange liquer.  Pick recently discarded orange peel out of the garbage and rinse it off.  Zest it and mix with two ounces of random Peach Mango juice from your fridge.  Hope for the best.

Kristin: I was tempted to pick up the Grand Marnier, but the kids are out of school and the prospect of dragging all 4 into the state liquor store stopped me cold… for the store’s sake!  So I skipped it.  I fancied how the topping looked as it simmered–all red and sparkly–so much that I stared, mesmerized, and watched until it super-thickened and turned to gel.  Oops.  I need to look into getting cable.

Kristin teaches us how to floss.

Kristin:  I held my breath as I pulled the cake out of the oven.  I was immediately impressed, it didn’t crack or brown in spots (both banes of cheesecake making!) and a little alarmed by how yellow it was.  I think it got even brighter as it baked– those eggs were potent!  Because it had a custardy texture after setting, I used my favorite serving tip for cheesecakes: slice it with floss.  Works like a charm!

 Erika:  I have no idea how a cheesecake is supposed to look coming out of the oven, but I thought mine looked pretty good.  Also, nice floss technique, but how on earth did you get it to go through the crust?  My crust was like 3/4 of an inch thick and most definitely not gooey.

Charity:  My question is how did you ladies keep your syrup so tidy? I poured mine gently on top, and it turned into this:

Charity:  Nothing like a syrup pool over a gooey crust.

Charity’s Final Verdict: Greg got home last night and saw the cake and made the face you would make if a person walked up to you and said “Would you mind putting your hand on my neck? My aorta is spraying everywhere and needs some gentle pressure!” Like, eeeeyyaaaww, what is that? He took one bite to be nice. And that was it. I took two bites to prove a point, and realized that along with using only half the recommended amount of sour cream, I had also forgotten to put in the sugar.  Maybe that’s what you get when you turn a nice cheesecake into a fight for culinary domination?

Kristin’s Final Verdict:  I am a cheesecake enthusiast. It is my favorite dessert genre.  I loved the new twist here, the strawberry and basil were awesome compadres and the goat cheese added a little tang.  My kids loved it (of course, they eat worms, so that is discrediting.)  I will definitely use the combo of those ingredients again, but probably morph it with another recipe. I am a fan of the New York style, a little firmer and taller (ah Charity, another sign I need to visit!).  This was a fun recipe and a great excuse to get cookin’ with my girls!

Erika’s first cheesecake ever. Not bad.

Erika’s Final Verdict:  Cheesecake is generally one of those things I prefer that other people make for me, but this recipe changed all that.  I’m not gonna lie, it was pretty complicated.   But honestly, it was worth it.  When I make it again (which will be very, very soon I am sure), I will try for a thinner crust and the correct amount of sour cream.  And as always, I will assume disaster but hope for the best.


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