My oldest had a snow day today. What better to do on a day off from school than to bake?! I’ve made a lot of brownies from a lot of different recipes. They always leave something to be desired. These were almost perfect!
The ingredient list is small and you probably have everything in your cabinet already. On top of that, these are incredibly chocolate-y with just one type of chocolate. We added chocolate chips, just for fun but you do not need them.
These were more cake-like than fudgey, but they were moist and delicious. We might mess with the recipe a bit to get a fudgier end, but these are great as is.
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons butter, cubed
3/4 cup baking cocoa
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups sugar
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons butter, softened
2-2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 to 1/3 cup whole milk
In a saucepan, melt butter. Remove from the heat. Stir in cocoa; cool. In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar until blended. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to egg mixture. Stir in vanilla and the cooled chocolate mixture until well blended.
Spread into a greased 13×9-in. baking pan. Bake at 350° until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25-28 minutes (do not overbake). Cool on a wire rack.
For frosting, in a large bowl, cream butter and confectioners’ sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in cocoa and vanilla. Add enough milk until the frosting achieves spreading consistency. Spread over brownies. Cut into bars.
It’s been just over 2 months since I got my first Battle Box from Battle Corals. I could not be happier! Everything has been growing, encrusting and they are starting to show their colors.
Not pictured are the ultra pink milli, fox flame and pink tabling acro. The latter two haven’t colored up yet and I forgot to take a pic of the milli 🙂
The rest of the tank has been growing pretty well too. I’m battling some cyano, which you can see in the pictures, but it is starting to die back. My nutrients have been stuck at zero and I was dosing PolypLabs Aminos to try and feed the corals. Turns out I was mostly feeding the cyano.
Here are just a few more random pics from the tank.
All pictures on this page were taken with a Nikon D5000 using a Tamron 90mm lens
It is cider time! We love making spiced cider on the weekends to sip on while watching a movie or just hanging out. I thought, “There has to be a cider pancake recipe!” I was not disappointed. These pancakes were AWESOME!
Apple Cider Pancakes – sweet and fluffy pancakes made with apple cider and topped with cinnamon sugar apples! Perfect fall weekend breakfast!
True to form, it has been a while since I came to the site to provide an update. There’s a lot I probably should talk about, but I don’t have pictures of too much and what good is a post without pictures!?
One cool update is that I got my very first Battle Box from Battle Corals. Adam (the owner of Battle Corals, not me Adam) is a super nice guy. I let him know that I wanted all branching corals, nothing encrusting, and not much green. We emailed back and forth a couple of times and I decided to place an order for the $300 Battle Box. That is supposed to come with 6-8 corals. Mine came with 10!
I was totally blown away by what I got. Take a look: (crappy cell pic)
Insane combo, right?! These corals have all since moved up to the rockwork and every single one has already shown significant encrusting. I’ll post up an update on each coral when I can get some pictures of them. Maybe today!
With the 50g Cube finally back up and running I was able to break down my two holding tanks. One was for my fish and the other was for my corals and inverts. This was a good window to finish quarantining the inverts and corals, but man the corals did not do well in holding. Only one actually died, but all of them receded back pretty severely. I’m not 100% on why since the water quality should have been great considering it was all new water to begin with. I suspect having zero nutrients was part of the problem. I did add some food to the tank each day to give it something, but nothing really helped. It was just a matter of time before either the new tank was ready and the corals could move in or they would all die. Thankfully it was the former and not the latter.
I should have taken some pictures on day 1 when they first went into the tank, but honestly I thought they were going to just fade away so I didn’t bother. To my surprise they started looking a lot better the very next day. The “before” pictures are from 6 days after going in.
You can see the zoanthids (bam bams to be specific) in this image are clearly unhappy, but they’re opening up. When they first went in, they were barely opening at all. You could just see a hint of orange. And now here they are today, just 4 days after the last picture. Yes, there is some algae but it will die back. The polyps are starting to look right again! They’ve got lashes again and they’re wide open.
Same thing goes with these acans. These were shrunken down to mostly just exposed skeleton and a bit of tissue in the middle of each section. This coral came back from looking entirely dead once before so I had hopes it would recover. The rate at which it has recovered has been awesome! Again, here we are with the day 6 “before” picture.
Already most of the polyps are back out and they have their feeding tentacles out. Wonderful! Then just another 4 days later…
They’re all totally full and starting to jockey for space.
Needless to say, I’m really happy to see things coming around. Unfortunately it isn’t all good news. There are some things that I would rather have seen die but somehow they’ve survived… Texas. Trash. Palys. These things just won’t die!
Can you see those son’s of b’s back there!? They were in an unheated tub of low salinity water in the dark for 4 months. HOW DID THEY SURVIVE!? I pulled the rock and saw these remnants and thought to myself, “Nah… they’re dead. There’s no way they lived through that…” I WAS SO WRONG! I think I’m going to pull this rock out before they have a chance to take hold. They’re damn near impossible to eradicate otherwise.
All in all this is great news. My tank is back up and running and corals are growing. Not much more than that to ask for 🙂
Out of order and as promised, here are the details on the final steps getting the stand put together. I’ve yet to finish the doors, so that will come in a subsequent post. They will be finished the same as the rest of the tank and unless I wind up doing something CRAZY, they’ll look the same as the drawing. Now then, onto the fun…
When we left off I had just finished putting the top and bottom bases on the frame. I was able to get the frame squared again after the assembly work racked it by about 1/4″. Phew! At this point the only thing to do is start the finishing.
My previous stand was made of veneered MDF. If you don’t already know, MDF and water are a BAD combination. The MDF swells pretty severely when wet and becomes very unstable. Since this stand is solid pine that shouldn’t be an issue, but it is still good practice to seal it well.
I opted for a multi-step approach. First, I sealed the edges all around the bottom of the frame with silicone. I don’t expect any water to actually collect under here, but at least this will keep it from getting trapped in a joint. Next, the entire inside of the frame got two coats of Killz Latex paint. This is a stain blocker and primer and it helps provide a good layer for the next layer of finish to stick to. Killz will keep any sap in the wood from leaching out and making a dark spot too. After the Killz came three coats of Rustoleum Appliance Epoxy Paint. Unfortunately the paint needed 24 hours to dry between coats, so this held me up for quite a while.
Expoxy Paint and Silicone Sealant for the Base and Inside of the FrameIf you’ve never used an epoxy paint there are two things to know about it: 1) it is hard as a rock when applied properly, and 2) it STINKS when you’re applying it so open a window or work outside. I went with three coats on the base just to make sure I wouldn’t damage the finish when sliding things around under there. Water beads up on the epoxy and protects the wood underneath. The frame itself only got one coat since they just need splash and humidity protection. Here’s how it came out:
Next up, it is time to stain the outside of the stand. I went with another Rustoleum product called Varethane. It is actually a surface treatment and not really a stain, but it comes in a nice antique whitewashed finish that matched the look I was looking for. I thought it would be a quick way to finish the stand, but it turned out I was in for quite a few coats. After one coat the color change was very subtle. You can see in this picture the difference between a scrap of unfinished pine and the stand with one coat of stain.
Subtle, right? There’s a balancing act between letting the stain sit longer to get a deeper finish and letting it sit too long and leaving splotches. I opted for the safer route of more coats. It took 5 coats to get to the look I wanted, but it came out awesome!
Now it is time to lock in that finish and protect it. Pine, if you don’t already know, is very soft so it very easily gets damaged from accidental bumps and scrapes. Also since the finish is actually a surface treatment, it needs to be protected so it doesn’t wear off. My initial plan was to use polyurethane as the sealant. It dries rock solid and provides great protection. I did one coat on the top and realized I made a big mistake… Polyurethane dries with a yellow tint! Crap! Luckily it was only on the top and you won’t see it once the tank is sitting there.
I switched to using polycrylic which dries completely clear. It’s actually easier to work with than polyurethane, so that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I did three coats of the polycrilic all around. I used 220 grit sand paper between coats and 400 grit on the last one. The final product is silky smooth with a rock hard protective finish. Now that the messy work was done, it was time for the stand to move upstairs!
You can really tell the difference where the polyurethane went on top versus the polycrylic that went on the rest. Glad I caught that early! One nice surprise was just how light the stand is. It is 36″ x 36″ x 30″, so it is quite big and awkward to carry, but I easily got it up the basement steps by myself.
The moment of truth is to see if everything stayed level and survey says….
NAILED IT! Woot woot! Now the last bit of construction on the frame is to fit up the electronics section. A few pieces of plywood later (and several days because I did the same epoxy paint finish on this) and voila!
The last thing I’ll touch on in this post is the ledge for the top. It is just a simple butt joint for the three pieces of pine, but it really completes the look.
And I’ll leave you with this final picture. I couldn’t help myself and I had to slide the tank onto the stand and the front door clamped on to see how it would look. GLORIOUS!
Take a look at how things turned out (minus the doors) in this post. Look for my next post soon about the aquascape and mounting the light.
Ok, let’s face it… I’m terrible at getting back here to keep things updated. It’s been just over a month since my last update and I’m proud to say that as of 3 days ago the stand (minus the doors) is finished and the tank is back up and running! Woot woot! I’ll come back and talk about the last bits of construction work in another post, but you’d rather see the finished product now, right?!
Here’s the (almost) finished product!
I love the way it came out! The color matches the built-in bookshelves and my desk, there is a TON of space under the stand and the separate space for electronics is working out great! The height is perfect for when I’m sitting at my desk, which is immediately in front of the tank. It is a little tall for me to reach the bottom of the tank, but I can just reach it if I stand on my toes and stretch.
After getting the tank filled with NSW (a process that took me almost a week because I have high CO2 and I need to degass my RO water before the DI stage) I wound up having to swap out my return pump after realizing it was probably putting out maybe 200 gallons per house. Lucky for me, so many years in the hobby means I have tons of spare equipment in the basement. There is a QuietOne 4000 in there now temporarily with flexible hose. I’ll hard plumb that at some point. The biggest issue right now is if I have to disconnect it the process is VERY unpleasant.
Anyhow, let’s move on to the electronics…
This is mostly boxed off from the wet side of the sump. I’m able to take this board out if I ever need to using just two screws. There’s a small opening at the top of about 1″ across the whole length. I’ll eventually cover it, but for now it is handy if I need to quickly drop a wire across. Currently my temperature probe runs up and over there because apparently my extension has gone bad.
I’d like to say I planned it, but as luck would have it there is just enough space for my Reef Angel’s power center to fit along the wall. It frees up a ton of space on the actual face of the electronics board so I can save it for something that I’d actually need to adjust.
This layout isn’t perfect, but I think it came out cleanly. I initially was working on the layout using some cardboard cut to size with the edges of the stand marked off (see below). There was a lot I didn’t like about it. Overall though it just felt too blocky and there was very little room for anything new to be added. The major changes are: only using one power center and it is mounted on the left side and the Avast ATO sensor is mounted on the wet side. The ATO sensor is a totally sealed system and I never have to touch it so why take up space here?
On this build I opted to add a Tripp Lite power strip with switches for each individual outlet. There are plenty of devices that don’t need to be plugged into the Reef Angel and controlled, like the Radion and the sump light, so why take up the space? The power strip has a $25,000 warranty and it is an active surge protector. The Reef Angel plugs into the “always on” outlet for obvious reasons.
The last thing to mention are the two dosers. I put them on this side and opted to go with a pair of VOSS sparking water glass containers. They’re each about 1 liter and the fit perfectly in the corner of the electronics section. I don’t use much two-part so these should last a couple of weeks between refills. The dosers aren’t hooked up yet, so excuse the hanging connection there.
I ordered some waterproof and tear-proof labels that I’m going to print out to mark each of the outlets. That’ll make it a lot easier to figure out what is what when I need to hunt something down.
That’s all for now! Look for my out of order post coming up talking about the final bits of construction and finishing for the stand.
Elbow is feeling better and it is high time to get back to work! I got most of this done before my injury, so I’m just catching up on the blog. The outer frame of the stand is just held together with glue and nails. That’s really not gonna cut it. I added a second inner frame that connects all of the pieces together more firmly. Then I put cross supports on the top and bottom to support the bases for the tank and sump.
I wanted to see how the front door would look, so I went a little bit out of order and made that next. It is made out of 1×6 and 1×2 sides. I think it came out really nice. There is an 1/8″ gap between each horizontal board to allow for some air flow.
Next up are the bases for the sump and tank to sit on. These are just made out of 3/4″ pine plywood. I decided not to do cutouts for the frame in the sump so I would have a lip for a support on the door to sit on. The frame was racked by about 1/4″ which was really annoying, but thankfully easy to fix. I nailed the front edge of the base to the top of the stand and then clamped the other end to pull it straight. Popped in a few more nails and it was back to square 🙂
From here I’m going to paint the inside of the stand and then stain the outside so I can finally get the tank back on here and cycling. Once that’s all going I can finish building the doors and stain them separately.
With plans in hand, I took a trip to ye-old Home Depot to pick up my supplies. I needed to rent their truck, so I bought more than I needed and I also picked up some supplies for other projects. No I’m not using landscaping timbers in my build! It was hard to find enough 2×1 pine boards that were straight. I went through probably 50 to get the ones I needed.
I quickly got to work cutting everything down to size, starting with the frame boards themselves. I figured if I go a section at a time it will allow me to adjust my cuts for any imperfections along the way. I bought a new blade for my miter saw and whew does that make some smooth cuts!
Once the boards were all cut, it was on to the Kreg jig for pocket screws. I put a pair on each end of the cross supports. A little clamping and a few screws later and I had four frame sections done.
Things were going along really well and I was getting an hour or so in each day to get more together. After about a week or so I got the whole frame together, glued, and nailed together. There will be an inner frame to add rigidity and to hold everything together better.
You know how when things seem to be going well something has to go wrong, right? Well….
So yeah, I broke my elbow. Not doing this! You remember those landscaping timbers from earlier in the post? Those were for a new swing set we got for our kids. I needed to level off a large space for it to be installed. I rented one of these bad boys to do the hard work…
It really worked well. Throws you around a bit, but it was a lot of fun. I rented a second bucket for it so I could move a ton of mulch around to get more bang for my rental buck. I changed out the bucket and went to get back on to start moving mulch around and….. I tripped and fell on my concrete driveway. OUCH!
Long story short, fractured my radius at the elbow and I’ll be immobilized for 2 weeks and then another 6 before I can really do anything with it. Looks like I’m gonna have to hit pause for a while.