Monday, August 24, 2015

Dragon cake

I made a dragon birthday cake, and since I liked the final result, here are some pictures.

It's a 4-layer chocolate cake, filled with with cream cheese chocolate buttercream and covered with marzipan and chocolate ganache. I used Callebaut chocolate, yum yum. The dragon's molded marzipan, and the words are white chocolate and milk chocolate candy melts (I was tired of tempering chocolate by then). 

Here are some in-progress pictures:
Baby dragon with no head or wings

Putting the head on (supported with dowels and toothpicks), and the front legs
Finished unpainted dragon
Melted Jolly Ranchers for eyes and claws; also did this for lava flames.
Finished dragon! Luckily he fit on the cake. Next time I'll measure first.

I like this view, that shows the wings leaning on each other. By the way, he was inspired by many online pictures, especially this one of a marzipan Smaug. And a picture of our friend's dog really helped, too.
Here's the cake covered with marzipan -- it was my first time doing it, and the marzipan cracked, but I was going to cover it with ganache anyway so I didn't worry much.
I painted the cake with red food coloring (dissolved in butter flavoring), and stuck lava flames in it. 
Note to self: don't use butter flavoring if you're painting tons of stuff. I got a huge headache from the fumes. Next time I'll just use vodka. And don't put the eyes in so early -- they kinda melt. But he really needed eyes.

Cake-making time -- Day 1: Make cake and frosting, cut and stack. Day 2: Make marzipan, cover cake, paint cake. Day 3: Sculpt and paint dragon, melt Jolly Ranchers for accents, assemble cake. Worrying time, planning time, and failed experiments not included.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Scavenged 100x micro lens for smartphone

I've been having the most fun time! In addition to obsessing about playing guitar, I found a website that shows how to take apart a laser pointer to make a really spiffy micro lens for a smartphone.
That clear spot in the wood is the lens from the laser pointer
I drilled a hole in some wood and pushed the lens into it, then put it up to my iphone camera. I do have a pretty good microscope at home, but this one is portable in the extreme and cheaper than I could ever dream. I'm hoping it might be useful for TM's school, since I don't know what kind of access they have to microscopes. It should work with iPads, that the school already has...

Here are some pictures!
Jersey-knit pants

This moss was really tiny!

A very cute operculum!

When I knocked off the operculum, millions of spores flipped out

Another capsule pic

Baked Bugs (what I found in the light fixture while changing light bulbs)

I really wish I knew more about insects

But I can't even come close on these

This looks like a fly to me, but so many things do. It was tiny tiny tiny!

And these things are flying around my house! Just a few millimeters long.

I might have actually figured this one out, maybe -- a kind of flying aphid, invaded from another continent. Maybe.

This doesn't look like something that could get up that high. Weird.

Looks waspy, no?

Dead insects galore. Almost the size of dust.

Here we go, something more familiar! A hairy leaf vein (species unknown).

I tried to do an epidermal peel but this magnification is really not even close to high enough.

Closeup of a sunflower petal

The bottom of a sunflower petal (it's a flower of course)

An inner flower of that same sunflower

Cheerios! :)



Tablecloth (which reminds me I should have put up pictures of things normal size for comparison)

onion peel

Apple skin (some things work better than others...this is bland)

The cat is bored

Mold on an old apple I found 

Bird poop :)

A shell from the beach

More protective leaf spines

leaf hairs


Really bad lighting on my purple sponge...