Monday, October 23, 2006

Turned Pens, Bottle Stoppers, and Keychains

Here is another of the "What's he cooking up....??" type posts.

This past summer I was introduced to wood turning of the pen and bottle stopper variety. Since then, I've been making all kinds of pens, bottle stoppers, and most recently keychains. I put together a small website showing off the stuff that I have made and some suggested prices. This site only shows the pieces that I have made, I may update it soon with pictures of my Dad's pieces.

This all started when I visited the Rockler store with plans to buy a gift card for my father. They had a demo for the wood turning so I tried it out and made bottle stopper. Here is my first bottle stopper.

I then went back the next weekend and made a pen. I don't have a photo of that one to share, but I keep it on my desk at work. The following weekend I got my Dad to come up and try out turning too. He also had a great time with it.

My Dad had been talking about getting a lathe for a while now and after he made a few pens he was convinced that he should get one. For Father's Day, my Mom, brother and I went together and got him a lathe and lots of accessories.

We started turning all kinds of pens and stoppers out of wood of different types. There are endless varieties and they all look different when finished. Sometime this summer, I found of a local source for pen kits and such, Berea Hardwoods. It was there, where I found all kinds of interesting acrylic blocks for turning.

Each time I went to the Hardwoods store I found more interesting things to try. Recently, I picked up some keychains. They have regular keychains and also ones that have a whistle in them. I've only made a few keychains, but here is what they look like. One interesting note, the chrome key chain in the top middle is made out of a baked polymer clay that I mixed together. It is a black and orange swirl.

If you want to see the other pens and bottle stoppers that I've made, check out my website.

I hope this diversion from food posts was alright with my readers. I wanted to let those who know me personally see what I've really been up to when I say that I've been making pens.


Friday, October 20, 2006

50th Birthday Cake (Take 2)

Yesterday another coworker of mine turned 50. To celebrate, I was asked to make another cake. Since he is a chemist, I thought a "beaker" type cake would be appropriate. And as you can see in the image, the beaker is filled up to 50.

For simplicity (and lack of time) I used a box cake mix. And as usual, I added pudding powder to the batter. The cake itself is a vanilla cake. To make the beaker shape, I used an oval cake pan and made 4 cakes. I cut the cakes in half along the longest side of the oval and stacked them against each other on the board. To help hold them together, I put a chocolate mousse between the layers. The mousse was a "just-add-milk" mix but to make it thicker, I made it with heavy cream.

The icing was my typical butter cream. If you want more info on that, check out my previous cake posts.

The green "liquid" in the beaker is decorating sugar that I poured over the icing. It set in place once the cake was put into the fridge and the icing set.

To make the numbers and the information box on the beaker, I used melted chocolate. So that I would get everything even and written out nicely, I first got a piece of wax paper and cut it to the size of the cake. I then drew the numbers and the box on the wax paper. I flipped the wax paper over and wrote out everything in chocolate backwards (well, I traced over what I wrote on the other side). Once it was starting to set, I laid the wax paper over the cake (chocolate side down) and pressed the writing into the icing. Then when the paper was peeled off, the chocolate writing remained. The lines for the beaker were done by hand on the cake, so they are not as straight as they should be.

To finish it off and cover up the edges, I put some Mike & Ike candies around the cake. I thought they kind of looked like molecules or something. Actually, they remind me of the pills from Dr. Mario but that's not important here.

As usual, the cake went over well (even if it was confused for a football field for a little while). Pretty much everyone cleaned their plates off and birthday guy took the rest home to his family. He said this morning that they really liked it.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Showdown: Coffemate Pumpkin Spice Creamer vs. International Delight Pumpkin Pie Spice Creamer

While walking towards the dairy section at the grocery store I was happily surprised to see the Coffee-mate Pumpkin Spice Creamer on an aisle end cooler. It was there along with other seasonal favorites like eggnog, peppermint, and gingerbread. I wasn't concerned about those other flavors (at least not until after Halloween is over), all that mattered was that there was one single pumpkin spice creamer left. I quickly snagged it. I then wandered over towards where the rest of the coffee creamers are and I saw that International Delight also had a pumpkin creamer. So as not to infringe on the Coffee-mate name, International Delight has named their creamer Pumpkin Pie Spice.

Since I'm a sucker for all things pumpkin, I bought them both. Then I decided a comparison between the two would be a great addition to the blog.

The best way to begin the comparison is to take a look at the nutritional values:
Both bottles are 16oz. and have a serving size of 1 tablespoon.
The International Delight creamer has 45 calories per serving, Coffee-mate has 35.
The International Delight creamer has 2 grams of fat per serving, Coffee-mate has 1.5.
The International Delight creamer has 7 carbs per serving, Coffee-mate has 5.
On a nutritional value standpoint, Coffee-mate wins out.

Now, I'll take a look at taste: I did my best to make my cup of coffee be the same for each serving (same type of coffee, same concentration, same amount of sugar, same amount of creamer, you get the point) because I wanted to be able to make a clear comparison. In the end, I found both to very good and fulfilling my taste for pumpkin coffee; however, I found that I preferred the Coffee-mate brand more so. The Coffee-mate creamer had a "spicy-er" bite than the International Delight creamer. I brought the creamers into work to get the opinion of my coworkers and they agreed that the Coffee-mate creamer had a stronger spice flavor. One reviewer found that the Coffee-mate creamer had too much spice and would prefer the International Delight.

As for price, the two were approximately the same, but at the time of purchase the Coffee-mate brand was on sale. I paid $1.97 for the International Delight creamer and $1.50 for the Coffee-mate creamer.

In the end, Coffee-mate Pumpkin Spice was my clear winner. It had the spicey bite I was looking for and its a little better nutritionally. The International Delight Pumpkin Pie Spice is good and if you couldn't find the Coffee-mate variety I would definitely recommend that you pick it up.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Beast Wars Axalon: Botcon 2006 Art Contest Entry

I am branching out a bit here and am presenting a segment called “What’s He Cooking Up Now…” For the past few months, I’ve been working on a project to be presented at the annual Transformers Convention, BOTCON. Since this year’s theme and exclusive set was to be the cast of the Beast Wars, I set out to make a playset of their spaceship, the Axalon.

I knew going into this that I would not be able to make a “true” spaceship playset since the ship would have to be huge, so instead I planned to hit a few key elements and go for an overall feel to the display.

To begin, I started hitting up thrift shops, hoping to find enough bits and pieces that I thought would be usable. I ended up stumbling upon a plastic sled/snowmobile for $3 and a Power Rangers semi-truck for $1. These two pieces would make up the majority of the ship.

The snowmobile had its front “feet” removed and was cut in half along its circumference. The “feet” were also cut in half and they were attached to each side of the ship (as engines). The semi-truck was dismantled and luckily when two sides of the trailer were glued together, they were the exact size of the opening in the back of the snowmobile.

I wanted to add some more details to the front so I found some older Star Trek figures and scavenged 2 seats and a console. For the console, I scanned the original sticker into the computer and made a custom Transformers Beast Wars sticker instead. It had many elements that were present on the convention box set.

Now that the “bones” of the ship were in place, I started on the details and the paint. Landing gear was added to the front and back with some bolts and pvc pipe. Wing pieces were painted and added to the front (these came from a space ship toy that I found at the flea market for $3). A grab claw was added, it also came from the flea market space ship. On the floor portion of the back there was a raised circular portion that I thought looked like it could be the “holo” table from the show so I came up with a way to get the “Darksyde” ship to look like it was floating above the table. By the way, Darksyde is the name that the collectors club decided to call the ship of the Beast Wars Predacons.

By this point, everything was painted and I started playing around with the figures that would be used for the convention set. These figures were given different paint schemes for the set. Once I got to the convention, I opened up my set and placed those figures on the ship. When I saw the official figures on the Axalon, I was very happy with the final result.

Unfortunately, the Axalon did not win in the diorama category at the convention, but it did get many positive reactions from fans. I’m still puzzled by the pieces that did win, but alas, it was fun to build and seeing people’s reaction to the ship made it worthwhile.

Now that the convention is over, I should get back to cooking.