Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Turkey cake

With Thanksgiving coming up, I though I would share a turkey cake we made a couple years ago.

  • Two hemi-spherical cake pans were used for the body.
  • Two sugar cones were used for the drumsticks.
  • White paper was used to make the frilly things on the end of the drumsticks.
We used a pound cake recipe for the body to give it some heft. The sugar cones had to be trimmed at an angle to lay nicely along the body. This was tricky as they break rather easily. But hey, that's what the bond-o, I mean frosting is for.

The entire 'bird' (include drumsticks) was frosted with white frosting. Brown sugar was used to give it that golden-brown, pitcure-perfect 'Butterball' look.

Post links to pictures of your bird in the comments...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bike light battery

Here is a very well documented project, right up my alley...

Universal Bike Light Battery

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Fried m&m's

Yes, you read that right. Fried m&m's. Delicious.

Put them in the frying pan on low heat.

After a couple minutes, you will see and hear the candy shell crack. You can stir them gently and flip them over for even heating.

The idea is to get the chocolate to melt. After 3-4 minutes, you are left with a crunchy candy shell and melted chocolaty goodness! Yum!

Please be careful not to burn your mouth in case the chocolate gets too hot.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pretzel jar terrarium

Here are a couple terrariums we made out of pretzel jars (WD-40 works really well at getting the label/glue off).

There are instructions all over the internet for making a terrarium. Basically, put down a layer of pea gravel, some aquarium charcoal, then the dirt. Choose a small plant and add some water. Finally, close it up.

Place the terrarium out of direct sunlight. You need to monitor the moisture, and open the lid if there is too much. These are not doing that great anymore, but it has been 8 or 9 months since we made them.

Close-up of the gravel, charcoal, dirt layers

Since this one was horizontal, we also made the little stand for it. And no, the creatures are not real.

Any more ideas for old pretzel jars? Leave a comment...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fruit fly trap

A few folks I work with buy those huge jars of pretzels for all in the cube fields to enjoy. These plastic jars have nice wide mouths. A few months back, the building had a fruit fly problem. A little googling lead me to various trap designs from bowls, ziplock bags, glass jars and even your oven.

I settled on the funnel method and recycled one of the pretzel jars. Here is how you do it:
  1. Clean the salt out of the jar
  2. Cut a hole in the lid almost all the way to the edge
  3. Cut a half-circle out of a piece of paper with a radius equal to slightly larger (1/8") than the diameter of the hole in the lid
  4. Cut out a small semi-circle (quarter-sized) at the center to make the small opening for the funnel
  5. Form a funnel, the wide opening should just be larger than the hole in the lid
  6. Tape the funnel to hold it securely
  7. Hot glue the funnel inverted in the lid making sure it is completely sealed
  8. Put some fruit (banana, etc.) in and screw the lid on (I used a Styrofoam tray to put the banana on to keep the jar from getting nasty.)
  9. Set the jar out.
  10. Enjoy the satisfying feeling that you are getting rid of a pest.
Closeup of the installed funnel.

Closeup of the funnel hot glued into the lid.

Here is my trap.

I made the sign to stave off questions about what the thing is. The font is used as a warning to the flies. It worked beautifully, though building services took care of the bug problem a couple days after my trap was put up. But now I am ready for the next infestation.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Loyalty card 'zine'

I used to keep my grocery loyalty cards on my keyring. If I'd ever go to the store and didn't drive my car with my keys, I don't have my discount card which can save you a lot of money over the course of a year. There is usually a credit card sized duplicate card, but I needed a more compact solution and a way to keep then all in one place. Since I usually take my wallet, a paper solution would be just the ticket.

I came across this article to create a nice pocket sized 'zine'. There is a link on this page to a template in .doc format. http://www.knowledgeup.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/10/zine2.doc

Next, you need to get your barcodes printed. Here is a site* to generate many different formats of barcodes.
Many loyalty card barcodes start with '4' (most coupons will start with a '5'). Common formats in the US are UPC A and EAN13.

The loyalty cards usually have a number on them. In the label generator site, select a barcode symbology, type in the number and click 'Create Preview Below'. Compare the output with your actual card. If it matches, you are good to go. Click 'Create Printable PDF' and you can cut-n-paste the resulting barcode into the zine (you might want to rotate it). If it does not match, use trial and error until it does. Sometimes you can look on a printed receipt for pre-or-ap pended numbers in addition to the ones on the card. I put one barcode on each page. When you are done, follow the instructions for cutting and folding the zine.

Oh, I also put my library card barcode in here, too. It took a bit more trial and error and turned out to be a CODABAR format with a prepended 4 and an appended 2.
Some other formats:
  • Lowes Foods -- UPC A
  • CVS/pharmacy -- EAN13
  • Kroger -- UPC A
  • Harris Teeter -- UPC A
  • Ace Hardware -- EAN13 (prepend with '04')
  • Dick's Sporting Goods -- UPC A
So here it is...

If the zine wears out or gets lost, you can always print another copy. If you come up with other ways to create a nice compact storage system for retail loyalty cards, I'd love to hear your ideas.

*Note: If you have trouble accessing this site, take a look at this blog entry. I tried the suggestion in response #4. It did not work, but gave me a clue. I run a web proxy on my ClarkConnect box in the basement. The solution was simply to add a proxy bypass entry for 'posworld.us'.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Coffee pot in the dishwasher tip

I have always been annoyed by the water that collects in the dishwasher after the cycle completes. Remember, gravity is your friend and if there is no place for water to collect, it won't. I have gotten good at positioning and wedging items so water will not collect.

But the hollow handle of the coffee pot was a different story. Its impossible to position it to not collect the water and the sand-like residue along with it. (Oh, I refuse to wash a coffee pot by hand. I know someone who got cut real bad when it slipped and broke during hand-washing.)

So with a small drill, I made the modification shown below to allow the water and gunk to drain out of the handle.

It works great. The hole is small enough that the structural integrity of the handle does not appear comprised at all. You want to try to get the hole drilled right at the bottom of the hollow part so absolutely no water collects.

Its simple, yet effective. And several friends have modified their pots as well.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I call this blog the Cobble Zone. It documents my spare-time projects. They are always grander in my minds-eye, but its an outlet for me.

I try to recycle when ever possible, to avoid having to buy something. To me there is something elegant and satisfying in that.

Generally what happens is that each project takes 2-3 times as long as what I thought it would.

Of course, I like to keep up with what others are doing. My favorite blog is Make:. And of course I get some inspiration from Mythbusters.

Some of the projects currently on my list:
  • Live squirrel trap
  • Holiday cake contest entry
  • Tanned deer-skin display
More on these, later. I will document new endeavors as well as some of my past projects.