Sunday, October 2, 2011

There it was.. gone... September that is...

For Andrew... who can't resist reading stories about those first few days of school when ... as a parent.. you are excited, terrified and some what relieved to have your kids back at school. As a staff member you have all those same feelings but for different reasons. Those first few days for me are mostly adrenaline filled, somewhat terrifying and with a hint of excitement and resentment!!!
Last years' challenges at the start of the year were mostly painful and embarrassing as we struggled through the implementation of a new computer system that allowed teachers to take more control of attendance, class lists, have access to the students demographics , etc... Sounds boring for most, but very exciting to teachers.. for sure. But the center of the nerve centre for this system was ~me~ and my coworker... with each of us holding the key to a different part of the system. With all the normal upheaval on the first few days.. we had the added stress of trying to make this system work with no experience and little training. We survived but it was painful and frustrating as mentioned before..
This year... was just as hectic, with 75 new four & five year olds starting school, plus 50 or so families new to our community and several new staff members. But the difference this year was a calmness through the staff, now far more experienced with our "new" system... a great partnership in the office, and the strongest of bonds in our administration. When you work as a team, you get so much more done... with far less effort and together we are an amazing team, with each one of us having weaknesses and strengths that compliment and offset the others.

How many people does it take to remove a splinter.... bahhaa....

Other September news....
Stephanie has a new job in Gwangju where she teaches students via video conferencing in small schools through out the city. She teachers many classes each day, in a variety of grade levels, as well as 10 minute "one on one" sessions with after-school groups each day. She has a new apartment, which she loves and coworkers who are from all corners of the world but all English speaking, dessert loving teachers. Stephanie is on video to the class, and they are on video to her.
She loves this new way of teaching for funny reasons like... she gets to bring her own lunch now... no more school cafeteria lunches of fish head stew, and kimchi.... she has her very own heater for her cubical... which... is a gift because they don't have heat in their schools.... ever! (Even when it is +5 outside ~ a Gwangju winter)
Sean is working very hard on his degree at UNB and is in his LAST semester and then will head to Korea to get back to Stephanie, their cat, his friends and his weird love of Korean food!!! His plans will be to teach once he gets back, but will have to wait for some paperwork stuff to be processed and hopefully it will all get done before the new school year begins in Gwangju, around April. I dropped in on his mom and dad's pottery display in September... at the Craft Festival.

Yet.. more September news...
Michelle is in her last 4 weeks of pregnancy and we spent early September in the baby's room getting things sorted out and arranged. She and Scott are well stocked, well read, well rested and well... ready for a baby boy to arrive.. sometime between Oct 11 (Full moon) and Oct 31 (Michelle's guess!). Our baby Jack is coming along very well, and Michelle is a real trooper with the whole pregnancy. She has enjoyed every minute of her extra large belly, the extreme mountain climbing that Jack seems to be involved in (inside of her) and her busy, fast-paced daycare job. Scott is working very hard on his PHD at UNB along with his Apple Rep stuff.... and with two cats, a nutty white dog and all his father to be chores like cooking and cleaning... he is in a non-stop whirlwind. Scott is hoping for a Thanksgiving baby but his money is on Nov 1st in our family bet on when Jack will finally arrive!

So, Andrew... September in and around a school is always hectic, and I know a part of you misses this time... but let me tell you... Some of us are envious of your retired lifestyle of self-inflicted busy as opposed to a September merry-go-round of unsolicited emergencies, problems, complaints, failures with a spattering of fun and funny moments!!!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Chocolate Cake...simple and delicious..

So I mentioned to Chantal the other day that I really would like to have a KitchenAid Stand Mixer for Xmas and could she possibly lay some hints to my family to get me one. And then two days later I saw the Canadian Tire flyer with the exact one I wanted on the front page and it was 40% off. Did I cut out the flyer and tape it to the fridge with a big blinking arrow on it for Terry to go buy... for me.. for Xmas..... no.
I went out and bought it myself and un boxed it the minute I got home! I will be hinting for slippers for Xmas instead...
Terry laughed at me and said the first thing I need to bake is a chocolate cake. I have sort of been looking for a good chocolate cake recipe for a while since it happens to be Terry's favorite cake. I am not a fan of cake which sort of takes the fun out of baking one. This summer I found a recipe I thought I would like but it was too dense, too wet, too fussy. So, off to my favorite recipe site and searched the cakes.
I found this recipe called "That" chocolate cake and it was on a funny blog (found here). Sounded simple enough and away I went (after Terry made a run to the grocery store (twice) for ingredients.).
Not thinking it was "blog" worthy quite yet, I didn't take any pictures of the making of this cake.. but it was painfully simple.

That Chocolate Cake
3 cups (600 grams) sugar
scant 3 cups (425 grams) flour
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (135 grams) cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
3 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups hot coffee

Preheat oven to 350F. I used a very large Bundt pan, but the original recipe (found here) was made using three 8" round cake pans. What ever you use, grease and flour your pan.
In a mixer bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Whisk to combine.
In a separate bowl, combine the beaten eggs, vegetable oil, and milk. Stir to mix. Then, with the mixer on low, pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix on low until evenly distributed. Pour the hot coffee into the batter and mix on medium low until smooth. The batter will be soupy.

Pour your batter in to your prepared pan (or pans). Bake for 35-50 minutes (depending on what size pan you used) When the cakes spring back when pressed lightly with a finger, or when a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out cleanly, the cakes are done. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto cooling racks to cool completely.

1 3/4 cups (350 gr) sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
7 1/2 oz unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a saucepan, bring the sugar and heavy cream to a boil over medium heat. Immediately reduce the heat to low and simmer the cream and sugar for six minutes. Be careful not to let the saucepan overflow.
Remove from heat and whisk in the chocolate and butter until they have completely melted. (At first, I just stirred it, but the chocolate refused to incorporate until I used a whisk, and then it took about two seconds.) Stir in the vanilla extract.

Let the frosting cool completely, whisking every now and then during cooling. (You can do this step in the refrigerator to speed up the process) Once completely cool at room temperature, the frosting will thicken to a spreadable consistency. Now, my frosting didn't turn out as well as the original post and I think it was because I used "Blend (10% cream) instead of heavy cream (35%). I sort of poured and spread my icing on the cake and then refrigerated it. It is still super delicious.