Age of Decadence Birthday Cupcakes

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Yesterday was my brand new  minion’s respected co-worker’s birthday, and I wanted to celebrate her first month on the job (and a milestone birthday she wasn’t really looking forward to) with her favourite treat: a dark, rich chocolate cake. Cake’s a bit hard to transport around the office, however, so I went with the cupcake version instead, and I made someone else do all the hard work for me in choosing the best recipe. I picked Sally’s Baking Addiction’s tried and tested Death by Chocolate Cupcakes and doubled the recipe (as I am wont to do). An entire bar of this lovely dark chocolate went into the process and I think it was entirely worth it.

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Like all good cupcakes, you start with butter and chocolate, and melting things. In the bowl of a double boiler (or in your microwave, but I no longer own one of those), melt together 1 cup unsalted butter and 4 ounces chocolate (the recipe calls for semi-sweet but I say use whatever is your favourite).

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Once that’s all smooth and sassy, set it aside to cool a little bit. Line two muffin tins with cupcake liners and preheat your oven to 350°F.

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In a smallish bowl, whisk together 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder and 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour with 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Leave that alone and do the next thing.

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In a largish bowl, crack 4 large room temperature eggs,  then tip in 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Whisk-y, whisk-y, whisk-y.

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I kind of miss whiskey …

Pour the melted butter and chocolate into the egg/sugar stuff and mix until smooth.

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Grab yourself 1 cup buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, tip 2 teaspoons white vinegar or lemon juice into a cup and top it up with milk. Give it a stir and leave it about five minutes until it’s curdled and thick. It’s not *quite* the same, though, and the Pie likes having buttermilk for pancakes, so I am using the real deal).  Alternate pouring some buttermilk into the chocolatey goo with adding the flour mixture, and stir until just combined. You don’t want to overmix this or the batter will bake up flat.

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And this batter is going to be THICK. Sally says it’s thick like pudding. I think it’s even thicker than that.

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Thick, like dog poo thick. But in a delicious way.

Spoon the batter into your cupcake cups and bake for 18 minutes, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the centre cupcake comes out clean.

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Set those aside to cool completely and get started on your icing. Actually, before you do that, break up another couple ounces of that lovely dark chocolate and set them to melt in your double boiler. Once it’s all liquid, set it aside to cool almost to room temperature.

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Beat up about 1 cup room temperature unsalted butter in the bowl of your mixer until it’s pale and fluffy. Sift together (to avoid lumps) 5 1/2 cups icing sugar and 1 1/3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder in a separate bowl.

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Add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract to the fluffy butter and then tip in some of your icing sugar mix. Drizzle in, alternating with the icing sugar mix, 1 cup heavy cream.  Because I don’t remember where I put my mixer shield, this happened of course.

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This one’s for you, Eli.

And because none of my aprons fit me anymore, this happened as well. Baby bellies are cooking hazards, it seems.

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The Pie thought it necessary to remind me that I don’t own very many maternity clothes and should probably take better care of the ones I’ve got. I may have said a few bad words to him in reply.

But when you’re done you’ll get this lovely soft icing that’s pretty much exactly halfway between a ganâche and a buttercream. It’s very delightful. Use that and a wide tip to ice your cooled cupcakes.

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Age of Decadence Cupcakes 20And because age is just a number, I made little number signs out of that melted chocolate (poured on waxed paper and allowed to cool) and shoved them in the top.

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As I was making these, I remarked to the Pie that my youngest teammate, who is 23, was going to ask why there were “hashtags” all over the cupcakes, and he laughed. Then the next morning, the first thing she did when she walked into the room was go, “what’s with all the hashtags?” I so called it. Kids these days … :)

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Temporary Hideaway

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When we bought the house we knew that the sliding closet doors in the master bedroom were totally broken.

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So as soon as we took possession we ripped them out. But now we’re looking at the contents of our closet (or the quarter-unpacked contents) on a daily basis. While we have plans to eventually install a set of bifold doors or something similar, it’s not high on our list of priorities.

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I’m happy to see them gone. With such a narrow door frame having half of it blocked by a giant door would have made the closet so hard to access. It’s already kind of ridiculous just in the layout as it is.

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So in the interim, I’ve got our old pressure curtain rod from the bathroom at the Tower and the curtain from our old office. No need for anything go to waste. It had a bit of rust on it from the shower (because it was cheap) so I just rubbed it with some CLR and we were grand!

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A quick fix to hide our messiness, and just a quick job to hem the darned things (when I get around to it). TADA!

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Oops.

I have a post for you today. I totally do. But I got distracted last night doing other things around the house … and forgot to finish it. :(

I suspect baby brain has a bit to do with  it, so this may happen again.

But it’ll be up tonight!

Wipe it Up!

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I clean my bathroom(s) once a week, and I do a pretty good job. But it takes a while to do, and I know that in a few months I am not going to have the time and energy to do as thorough a job every time. So I’m preparing in advance for laziness. These DIY bathroom wipes are a nice quick way to tidy up your bathroom on the fly and a much cheaper version of the ones you buy in the store. Experiment with the cleaning mixtures that float your boat, because everyone’s different and everyone has different things they want to clean up in their bathroom, like hairspray or toothpaste or, in my case, dog hair (there are some links to other versions below).

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To make a handy dispenser for these lovely quick and disposable wipes, I turned to the Art of Doing Stuff for inspiration. Start with a milk or juice carton, the kind that has the little screw top in it, and a roll of shop towels. You can go with regular paper towels, but pick something like Brawny and go for the extra strong – shop towels are designed to hold together well when wet and you need these things to hold up to being wet for, like, ever. You can pick up shop towels at pretty much any hardware store.

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Clean out the juice/milk carton and measure the roll of towel so that it comes up to the part in the carton where the cardboard starts to bend. Use a serrated knife or saw to cut through the towels at that point. It’s going to take a little while so be patient.

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Now you have a roll of shop towels that has roughly a third of it cut off. Feel free to use the wee roll to clean up really tiny paint spills (which is what I plan to use it for – I only make wee paint spills when I paint).

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On the bigger roll, start working the inner cardboard tube free of the towel and pull it out.

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Once you’ve done that, pull out the corner of the towel that starts in the middle of the tube. The roll of towels will dispense much easier if you go from the centre as opposed to from the outside. There’s less resistance in the middle.

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Now shove that whole roll into your carton. Your dispenser is ready!

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As for the mix, you have a bunch of options (again, see below for different mixes, or make your own). Here I used a combination of about 2 cups warm water, 2 tablespoons baking soda, 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol, 3 tablespoons Castille soap, and then about 15 drops each tea tree, rosemary, and grapefruit essential oils.

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Give it a good stir.

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Then pour it carefully over your towels. You’ll need to let that sit for a bit to get thoroughly saturated.

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You can pull the little loose end of your paper towel through the spout of the carton and use a set of binder clips to seal the top of the carton. Don’t forget to screw the lid back on to keep things from drying out.

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It’s not super pretty but you could paint it or paper it or something. I’m keeping this in the bathroom closet so I’m not too fussed about what it looks like, but you can do with it what you will, or find a prettier container. I just liked the ease with which this one came together.

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After use, the towels can be handily dropped into my bathroom compost bin – in our city the compost handles tissue and paper towel so it makes sense to have one in the bathroom where we dispose with most of our Kleenex and Qtips and the like.

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If you would prefer a non-disposable version, then that’s easy, too. Find a nice pretty jar that you can handle having in your bathroom, maybe on the counter, and find some cheap washcloths. I picked these up at XS Cargo before they went out of business – they’re crap as washcloths but handy for wiping and dusting things. The jar is an old one I have from IKEA that is currently without a purpose.

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Roll or fold the towels (or cut up old t-shirts or rags and use those instead) and shove them in the jar.

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Make up a batch of your cleaning mixture and pour it slowly over the cloths until they’re all nicely saturated. This jar was pretty big so I doubled my previous mix and it was a goodly amount.

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The convenience of the cloths is if you flub your mixture and add too much soap (which I may have done for the cloth version), you can rinse out the cloth afterwards and rinse off your soapy surfaces. Then the cloth can be wrung out and tossed in the laundry hamper (which is conveniently located right outside the bathroom door).

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More links for inspiration:

Pop Sugar: DIY Bathroom Wipes

One Good Thing: DIY Disinfecting Bathroom Wipes

DIY Natural: Homemade Natural Cleaning Wipes that Disinfect

Live Simply: DIY Cleaning Wipes (Reusable and Disinfecting)

Fast Tip Friday: One Room at a Time

I promise we’ll be returning to regularly scheduled programming soon. I’m sure that you’re getting a little tired of seeing my messy house so I’m going to try to change things up a little bit. But in order to do that I need to do things like this. My entranceway for the past week has been the place where we drop all the random bags and boxes we’re still bringing over from the Tower, and we haven’t really had much opportunity to deal with it. So when you walk into the house your first impression is one of utter chaos.

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Organizing your home can seem overwhelming at first, especially if like me you have just moved and you’re dealing with a whole lot of extra space and no idea what to do with it all. It’s hard to know where to start, so it’s easy to get distracted: you move something into another room, realize that something in that room needs to be organized/put away/cleaned/moved elsewhere, and then it just snowballs and after a few hours you’re exhausted and you realize you’ve accomplished NOTHING.

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For instance, there is no need for a large stand mixer to sit in my front hall.

So my trick is to take it one room at a time. First, you take the things that don’t belong in that room and put them elsewhere. Not just any elsewhere, mind you: put them in the room where they belong, and, if it’s something you can do quickly, put them away where they should go. If it’s not a quick job, just stash the whatever-it-is in the room where it should be and go back to the room you’re working on. You can deal with putting the whatever-it-is away properly when you finish what you’re doing and move to a new room.

Before you know it, the room will be empty of all that does not belong and you can now find space for all the things that DO belong.

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This is not the final form for this entrance way by any means: this is our old kitchen table and I don’t know what I’m going to do with any of these things. But now the space is clear and looks a little bit more like an entranceway should. It’s still a work in progress, but now that I’ve done this room I can move on to another, and then another, until finally the whole place is done. One down, several more to go …

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From Shower to Shower

Did you know?

You can wash your vinyl shower curtain in the washing machine. I’m serious! They all get dingy and covered in soap scum and nobody wants to scrub something like that. Most of the time people just throw them out after about six months or a year. But now you don’t have to!

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Mildew and soap scum … euch!

So bung it in the wash, with a little bit of bleach to combat the mildew, and wash away. You can even put it in the dryer if it’s one of the stiffer variety to ease out the wrinkles (just make sure to take it out before it’s done so that it doesn’t melt and so that the wrinkles don’t cool in that position). Mine I just hang back on the shower to dry. Because that’s what it’s supposed to do.

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On the plus side, the bathroom has been unpacked – there is so much storage in here I don’t even know what to do with myself. The previous owners had two teenaged girls so that explains why there’s so much space to put stuff. The Pie and I use all the same toiletries between the two of us so we’ve got room to spare.

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But check it out! Next to the linen closet in the hallway is the entrance to the bathroom and just inside the entrance to the bathroom is … another closet! Just for bathroom stuff! So you can keep spare tissue, towels, and bathroom cleaners all in one spot!

Welcome to our chaos

I wish I had a better post for you guys today, but we’re totally exhausted at our new place. We kind of moved all the furniture over in a rush on Saturday so we’re still trying to figure out what is going where. We know we’re missing some essential pieces now but we’re willing to live without until we figure out what we really want.

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The kitchen is still a hot mess. I mostly just shoved things in random cupboards all weekend while directing people where to put things. The Pie and I figure we’ll wait a couple weeks until we’re less tired and actually give some thought as to where we want things to go.

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Because I was mostly directing from the kitchen, our dear moving crew, when told things were to go in the basement, basically shoved absolutely everything into my office. So it’s a little impassable at the moment, and my computer is currently set up at the dining room table.

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Things that we didn’t immediately have a place for are in the future baby’s room.

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The guest room is half-assembled because I don’t want to put it together until I’ve painted it (it’s going to be green!).

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But the living room *kind* of is useful at the moment (i.e. there’s a couch, a coffee table, and the TV is hooked up to the internet).

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Gren is settling in fine, I think. We gave him some fancy drugs our vet gave us on moving day and those helped his anxiety a whole bunch (as did a Kong full of frozen peanut butter). He’s still prone to sulking in weird spots.

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And he and I are having trouble with these super steep back stairs. We’re going to see if we can’t lessen the slope by adding an extra one at the bottom at some point soon.

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But the Pie has started to figure out where things are going to go in the room the previous owners called “The Cave” (it was on an envelope filled with paint chips).

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And I can already see myself sitting in my favourite chair with my feet up in front of this fireplace. I’m looking forward to it!

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adventures in grown-up living

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