Vicki Zito – Full Interview

A mother recounts the story of her daughter’s abduction and journey into the world of human trafficking while urging individuals to educate and equip themselves on how to combat the issue of modern day slavery.

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Salted Caramel Cheesecake Bars

cheesecake bars

Courtesy of Cupcakes OMG, adapted from Made with Pink.

For the Crust

  • 2 1/4 cups ground graham crackers (about 1 and a half sleeves of grackers)
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 10 Tbsp. melted butter
Cheesecake Filling
  • 3 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, room temp
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup dulce de leche
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
Caramel Topping
  • 2/3 cup dulce de leche
  • 2-3 Tbsp. heavy whipping cream
  • 2-3 Tbsp. caramel sauce (the good stuff in a jar, not that runny syrup junk)
  • Fleur de sel
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a large rectangular pan with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Combine the crust ingredients in a medium bowl until the crust comes together, kind of like wet sand. Press crust evenly into the bottom of the pan. Bake crust for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a rack while you make the filling.
3. Beat cream cheese and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at time, beating each one until it’s incorporated before adding the next one. Add dulce de leche and vanilla extract and beat until fully incorporated. Pour batter onto crust and spread even. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until center is just set and edges are puffy and slightly cracked and golden. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely before topping with caramel.
4. Pour dulce de leche and whipping cream into a glass bowl or measuring cup. Microwave for 10 seconds at a time, stirring between each interval, until the whipping cream is well combined with the dulce de leche. Add caramel sauce and stir until well combined. The topping should be pourable, but not runny.
5. When cheesecake bars are cooled, pour caramel topping all over the bars and spread evenly. Refrigerate for a few hours to allow caramel to set well. Cut into squares and top with fleur de sel right before serving!

National Human Trafficking Awareness Day

January has been declared as as the National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month by President Barack Obama. Specifically, January 11 is designated the National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

Human Trafficking and Sex Trafficking, often believed to be an over-seas issue, is prevalent in the United States – often times preying upon domestic American children.  It is important that Americans stop ignoring such a prominent issue by turning a blind eye to a sensitive and uncomfortable issue.

Steps:

  • Prayer – for rescue and healing.
  • Awareness – gain insight of the issue, both domestically and abroad.  Share your knowledge with your family, friends and community.  Observe today – and the rest of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month – as a means of combating modern-day slavery.
  • Volunteer – find a local anti-trafficking organization to get involved in.
  • Financial Giving – make monthly or annual contributions to an anti-trafficking organization.

Shared Hope International, an organization that strives to prevent sex slavery while bringing justice to vulnerable women and children, has some amazing interactive videos that can include topics such as “Top 4 Things Every Survivor Wants America To Know” and “Top 4 Tactics to Combat Demand and What Every Man Can Do”.

Anti-Trafficking organizations include: 

The Nutcracker: A Twist on a Childhood Fairytale

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog about how my husband surprised me with tickets to go see the San Francisco Ballet perform their world-renowned The Nutcracker.  Although it has been a few weeks since we watched the spectacular performance, I cannot help but relive the breath-taking performance that we saw danced upon the stage of the ornate War Memorial Opera House.

Having performed in The Nutcracker multiple times myself, most recently with The Sacramento Ballet, I was intrigued to see how the SF Ballet would present such a classic story.  The ballet opened up with the classic scene of last minute shoppers bustling about foggy streets on a cold Christmas Eve.  Herr Drosselmeyer, an eccentric toy maker, puts finishing touches on a magical nutcracker before caravanning to the home of the Stahlbaum’s.  Choreography during this scene, as well as the following party scene, was almost identical to other companies presentations thereby offering familiarity.  Yet small changes to the choreography of the life-size dolls that are presented by Drosselymer during the party enhanced the believability of the story, drawing in the audience.

Moving into the scuffle between mice and the Nutcracker, one would have believed they were indeed transported to the base of a ginormous Christmas tree.  Mice poked their heads out from the presents and performed comical antics, provoking laughter from all the children in the audience.  Dramatic fighting shortly ensured, however, as the King Rat histrionically challenged the Nutcracker to a dual.  Aided by toy soldiers who marched out from a life-size Christmas present, the Nutcracker eventually overthrew the mighty mice – but only after a canon was fired and the Rat King’s tail was caught in a life-size mouse trap.

The Nutcracker is transformed into a handsome prince, who embarks with Clara through a wintery wonderland.  Typically, the Land of Snow scene is one of my least favorite sections of the ballet.  Yet, the SF Ballet performed an incredible, breath-taking and gorgeous rendition of dainty snowflakes falling from the sky.  The choreography, coupled with heavy paper snow which fell from the auditorium’s ceiling, was the most stellar I have ever seen, enrapturing me in an awe-inspiring spell.

Choreography in scene two was as equally wonderful.  Beautiful costumes, lively characters, energetic movements and boisterous music performed by the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra all contributed to the spectacular display of artistic flare.  Arabians withered their way out of a gigantic magic lamp, Russians popped out of canvas-covered , carriages and Madam Du Cirque revealed small circus children and a dancing bear.  The colorful yet elegant flower waltz – lead by the Sugar Plum Fairy – signaled the end of the celebratory festivities.  To end the evening, Clare was transformed into a princess to dance in the arms of her prince, who happened to be her Nutcracker.  I don’t think I enjoyed this ending to a classic story that I have grown to love so dearly.  Somehow the innocence and childlike wonder of the previous festivities seemed to disappear with the pas du deux of Clara and her prince.

Reading through the SF Ballet’s program, a fun fact drew my eyes.  The Company’s current production of The Nutcracker, featuring over 300 costumes, includes three sets of “Drosselmeyer” costumes for the different casts.  The Snow Queen’s tutu alone took 80 hours to make – and SF Ballet has created five sets total, equaling 400 hours on construction time on one character’s costume alone.