Monthly Archives: June 2013

Zebra cake

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The most popular thing I have ever posted was the zebra cake I made for Sam’s birthday…
zebra cake

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But I wish I had done zebra cake on the inside too! It is really easy and looks pretty cool! Also, the rainbow cake that is all over Pinterest is made with the same technique…maybe I will make us a rainbow cake for gay pride week….Sorry, back to the zebra cake.
After years and years of trying many different cake recipes, I have come to the conclusion that Betty Crocker and Duncan Heinz are just better cooks than me. I know they might not be the healthiest options, but come on, we’re talking about cake here! Who cares if it’s healthy, it just has to taste good, and it saves you time so you can focus on the fun stuff like the icing…or making a zebra pattern. I don’t think there is anyway I would have the time and effort to make this from scratch…But, if making it from scratch works for you, hey, you go girl…or boy…don’t want be stereotypical here, right? Men can make cakes too, right?
So….start by mixing up two batches of cake mix, one chocolate, and one vanilla.

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To scoop out the cake mix, you will need two different half cup measuring cups, as long as you put an even amount of each, and you use a different cup for each mix. Get your cake pans ready by spraying them with a little oil. Then start scooping. Gently pour 1/2 cup of the vanilla,

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Then, chocolate…

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Then keep pouring, alternating chocolate and vanilla until you are out of mix…

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Yup, that’s it. Bake in the oven according to the instructions. I have also learned that actually following the recipe and baking times on the box generally works pretty well…who would have thought??
It will look something like this when it comes out of the oven…

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Here’s the cool part, check out what it looks like on the inside!!!

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I forgot to take a picture when it is actually iced. It looks great with icing!
I really want to try this with different colours of cake…maybe I’ll make John a rainbow cake for his birthday!
By the way, here’s what our backyard looks like right now…it’s a disaster! We are still in the demolition stage of the reno.

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Only four more days of school….CAN’T WAIT UNTIL SUMMER!!! I love being a teacher!

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How to change an outlet to a GFCI

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As I wrote about a few days ago, we are having work done to our backyard. Already we are almost a week behind schedule because of the rain, according to our landscaper/contractor, and we have barely started…Anyways, the drama on Friday was the electricity.
I got a call at work from John because the pool guys were in the backyard using a jackhammer to start on the concrete, and our fuse blew. Of course, the outside outlets in our house are not up to code and are not GFCI outlets, and don’t have the reset button. So I had to leave work to drive all of the way home to flip the fuse in the basement.
On my way home I was thinking that this problem could be a big one…how many times is our fuse going to blow while they are working? So, I stopped off at Rona to see how hard it would be to replace the outlet. I picked up a new outlet for about $20.00, and a new cover for about $6.00. To call in an electrician would about $200, and it needed to be done right away, so I decided to try it myself. What could possibly go wrong right??? **Please note that I am not trained, licensed, nor do I claim to have any sort of electrical knowledge, I am simply (maybe stupidly) brave enough to try. For any trained electrician, I am going to apologize for my lack of knowledge, vocabulary, and the fact that I didn’t hire you! If you are going to try this yourself, then I suggest you do some research yourself…
Here is what the outlet looked like before…

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First thing…and MOST important…TURN OFF THE POWER…make sure you have turned off the power to the area you are working on.
Then, the challenge for this plug was to get it off. Someone had used what seemed like construction adhesive to seal it to the wall, so I had to use an exacto knife to cut it out and pick it off. Then there was one screw to remove in order to get the face plate off.

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Once the face plate is off, there are two screws holding the outlet in place. Unscrew both of them and you will be able too pull out the entire assembly like this…

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Now here comes the hard part… (*Note: when I read that part out loud in my head, I have a very sarcastic tone… this is not hard!) Loosen the screws for the white, black and grounding wires, and attach them to your new outlet. The back of the new outlet will be labelled clearly. There were arrows pointing to one side saying, “white wire”. The grounding wire is the wire with no plastic covering and that is attached to the screw at top of your new outlet.

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There were a couple of extra screws on the back of the outlet, but as you can see, they had a strip of yellow tape over them, so it was pretty easy to decide what wire goes where.
Then, after connecting the three wires, gently push the wires back into the box and screw the new outlet in place.

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After everything is in place, at this point you could try to turn on the power and try plugging something in to see if it works. Then, do a little happy dance because you just saved yourself $200, and screw on your new face plate. I had to drill two new holes in the plastic face plate because there were no holes. Also, a piece of foam for insulation, came with the new faceplate to slip in between the faceplate and wall.

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The faceplate I bought has a spring in it so it closes itself.
The last step is to caulk around all of the edges. You don’t want to skimp on calking because obviously, it’s important to keep the water out!
Anyways, it took about 15 minutes total…easy. I was thankful it worked, because the pool guys looked at me like I was crazy when I said I was going to fix it…I would have felt pretty dumb if they couldn’t work for the rest of the afternoon and we had to call in an electrician…lol

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Busy lately…

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Hi everyone.
I am tired. John and I have finally made the decision to have our backyard redone. So, I really haven’t had time to do much else. Every day after work, we have spent all our time digging and lifting stuff in the backyard. It all started with a small crack in the cement in the pool deck…

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This was causing the water to get in under the stairs, washing away the sand that was supporting the stairs, and the stairs were cracking. So, we decided to get it fixed this year, before someone ended up putting their foot through the stairs. Sounds easy right? Well, to replace the stairs, they have to replace the liner because our liner is so old and faded. Then they have to cut the cement to get the stairs out, so while they were replacing the cement we were going to expand the deck a foot around the stairs…and since they are expanding the deck they have to replace a section of retaining wall, and since they are doing that, they might as well replace the whole retaining wall….since they have to replace the retaining wall, they might as well rip up the deck…and so on….
The end result is they are coming tomorrow (hopefully) to move our shed and take down the neighbours retaining wall so they can fit their vehicles in our backyard… We are digging down a couple feet to expand our pool deck by a couple hundred feet, replacing the retaining wall around the whole perimeter of our pool. We are having our current deck ripped up, and everything is going to be covered in an interlock stone. as well as having the stairs and liner replaced.
To prepare for this, we have had to go through every garden in the backyard, and dig out the plants we want to save. Keep in mind that our back yard is 60 feet wide and about 75 feet long…So, every piece of furniture and every plant in our back yard is now shoved to one side…

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We also had to rip up the pathway at the side of our house and move every rock and the pile of interlock that has sat at the side of our house for years…lots of lifting. I feel like an old woman. (I am complaining, but really John has done most of the lifting and never complains…love you honey!)
Here is what our backyard looks like now… this picture is looking at the side that we are having dug up. Everything past the wall to the house will be dug up and will be level with the pool deck.

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Here is the deck now…

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and here is the other side of the backyard, beside the pool…

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So, as I said, I haven’t had time for much else. June is a crazy time for our family, and adding this to the mix, has made it a little crazier! So if I am not posting as often, this is my excuse!
But, I do have a new project in the works…I bought a wicker patio set from our neighbours yesterday, and it needs fixing up…so I am going to spray paint the wicker and sew new chair covers for the six chairs, love seat and table.

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Stay tuned…

Coffee or tea….candies?

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Two of my favourite things in the world are coffee and candy! So, why not put them together? I have made quite a few different varieties of candy over the past year. This winter, I made cough drops, that I really like using the same recipe, and I have also made a few different batches using the candy flavouring.

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I had a bowl of candy on my desk at work, but lately, I swear that people are coming by to “ask a quick question”, but really, they are just coming for the candy…that’s right, I am on to you! Anyways, my candy bowl is almost empty, so I thought I would make a couple more batches. Once you have everything out and set up, it doesn’t take that much longer to make another batch…
After a few batches of perfectly crunchy candy, cooked perfectly to the hard crack stage, I started getting a little cocky and started experimenting…which can turn out good, or bad…my first idea was to make a batch of candies using juice crystals instead of sugar, makes perfect sense, right? Well, I wouldn’t advise it, I tried twice and something in the powder burns before the sugar can reach a high enough temperature…doesn’t work.
But then I started thinking…this winter I made cough drops using really strong herbal tea…so really strong coffee should make fantastic candy! I figured it’s worth a shot.
I started with a pot of expresso (I used 1/3 of a cup), a cup of sugar, and 1/2 cup of corn syrup.

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Dump everything into a small pot, and put on medium heat.

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While you are waiting for it to boil, dump a bag of icing sugar onto a cookie sheet, smooth it out, and use the back of a 1/4 tsp measuring spoon to make grooves in the sugar. This will be the mold for the candies. Wait until you see how amazing it works!

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By this time, the sugar should be boiling away. To make hard candy, the sugar has to reach a temperature over 300 degrees, which is called the hard crack stage. I have a couple candy thermometers, but honestly, I don’t even use them anymore. Here’s the best way to make sure the sugar reaches the hard crack stage…fill a shallow bowl with cold water and an ice cube. Add a drop of the boiling sugar into the bowl, then fish it out of the bowl, and take a bite. If your teeth get stuck, its not ready, but if your teeth can crack the candy, it’s done.

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Here is my favourite part…pouring it into the moulds. I have a candy funnel, so I pour the liquid candy into the funnel, and then fill the moulds.

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The cool part is how the candy beads off the icing sugar, and rolls into the divets made with the measuring spoon.
After the candy has cooled, I like to use waxed paper to wrap it. II cut the waxed paper into squares, wrap the candy…

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Then twist the ends…

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And repeat about a hundred times! Each batch makes on average about 90 candies.

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So, this week I got a little carried away and made over a dozen batches (I know, I know…) I made a bunch of fruity blends, and a bunch of coffee and tea blends… Anyways, I needed a way to label them so you could tell what flavour it is. I only used a drop or two of food colouring, if any, and the waxed paper makes it almost impossible to tell which flavour is which. So, I dug out some mailing labels, and printed 4 lines on each label, then wrapped the sticker around each candy.

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Now I need a cute little jar or bags to package them in….