Archive | December 2012

The Quest for Ice-cream Perfection

Our instructor, Lamya, told us that we had to learn something new and we were going to get marked on it. Cool assignment eh? The first thing that I thought of is how my Grandparent’s always talked about the days when they made ice-cream on their farms.

I always thought it was super cool but I was set on my dairy treats coming from the grocery store freezers. This assignment has given me the perfect chance to actually learn about a little bit about my Grandparent’s traditions and become an ice cream expert!

My Goal: To make a quality of Ice-cream that could be found on store shelves.

Image(Grandparents!)

For my first two attempts I used a friend’s soft serve ice-cream machine!

Screen Shot 2012-12-14 at 11.25.31 PM(My Gear!)

Screen Shot 2012-12-14 at 11.25.45 PM(1st Attempt for vanilla ice-cream. No flavour at all! Tasted like I was eating air, gross!)

Screen Shot 2012-12-14 at 11.25.56 PM(Second Attempt. I made an Orange Sherbet Ice-cream. Wasn’t awful but not store quality.)

I was super discouraged after my first two attempts and needed to have a breakthrough. Sometimes when a hockey player is in a slump they’ll change their stick. This was my thinking when I picked up a hard Ice-cream maker from my Uncle.

Screen Shot 2012-12-14 at 11.09.42 PM(New Gear!)

Third attempt:

Screen Shot 2012-12-14 at 11.14.06 PM(Worst product yet. Super watery.)

Then I had a breakthrough! I learned from my experts that I was using the wrong cream the whole time! I had been using a Half & Half Cream (18% fat) while I should be using whole cream (36% fat). I was informed that the thicker cream would solve the wateriness and the blandness.

Fourth and Final Attempt with instructions:

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(Two Terrified Eggs and 2/3 cup of Sugar beaten together)

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(1 3/4 Cups Cream, 1 Cup Milk and 2 Tsp. Vanilla. Beat these together with original Ingredients.)

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(Beat Until Bubbly and then pour into donvier.)

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(Stir the mixture every 3-4 minutes. These picture are taken 5 minutes apart. You can see the ice-cream forming!)Screen Shot 2012-12-14 at 11.21.54 PM(Top:Safeway    Bottom:Kevin Martin)

(The final product! My home made ice-cream is on the bottom. My goal all along was to be at store quality so I placed store bought ice-cream above mine.)

I thought my ice-cream tasted fantastic this time! To find out if I was delusional I took my treat to the testing labs. (RTA) I conducted 20 blind taste tests between my ice cream and Safeway’s. The results were shocking to say the least.

Final Tally for Kevin Martin:                           Final Tally for Safeway:

11                                                                              9

GOAL SUCCEEDED!

To my shock the majority of people liked my ice-cream more than the store bought brand!

Experts:

Big Thank-you to all the people I bugged throughout this entire process to get valuable ice-cream tips!

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(Employees at DQ and Mountain Chocolate Factory thought I was crazy but actually gave me tips about the recipe!)

Screen Shot 2012-12-14 at 11.22.48 PM (Culinary Student, Jordan Jarvis, critiqued my pictures and gave me encouragement.)

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(Thanks to all the contributors on YouTube and Ice Cream Forum!)

Wrap Up: (Awe, it’s over.)

Started off not knowing anything and produced a treat that was at store level. It wasn’t easy and I actually considered giving up and taking up a new skill at points. Favourite part of the whole thing was getting to set up an ice-cream bar on the final day of classes.

Just look at the happiness this whole experiance brought…

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Thanks Lamya for such an awesome assignment! Keep it going for the next semesters!

Kevin

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New skill..sort of

At the beginning of the semester we were assigned an objective, the objective was that we were to learn a new skill, I immediately knew that this was not going to go well, you may wonder why…the reason is because I’m at realist.

I’m pretty sure that I haven’t learnt a skill since I learnt how to roller blade in grade 4.So I asked myself, why reinvent the wheel when I could improve the wheel (contrary to popular believe you can actually improve the wheel) YUP

So, I took to improving the “wheel”. I told myself that if I was already going to be trying to do something to improve myself I may as-well do something that could actually be of some use, I mean, improving my bird calls would be pretty neat and all, but lets be real for a second, the last thing anyone needs is for me to be out yelping in the forest at some pretty frowned upon hours.

So I choose something that I think I need the most improvement on. Helping around the house, Funnily enough my parents agreed wholeheartedly.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do do thing around the house other than eat and sleep, When my pop’s needs help doing jobs I’m on it, This ranges from laying tiles to putting up drywall, I’m even pretty good at taping (which by the way is the most time consuming/meticulous job there is in construction). But put me in front of a sink full of dirty dishes and I’m outta there quicker then you can say adios. 

So, to improve on my flawed technique I decided that I was going to really put forth an effort, This new-found sense of commitment lead to me to put it on myself to be the one who does the garbage on garbage day, Little did I know that you have to put out the garbage the day before garbage day, WHICH IS A VERY MISLEADING TITLE FOR A DAY BY THE WAY. So I quickly assigned myself the task of doing dishes. Now even I could not screw up doing dishes Image

 

This was a great step in the right direction, But I was told, by a not so impressed mother that to really show that I wanted to improve I was to do more. This is the point of the story were normally the main character says “WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM ME”, which would be a fair thing to say in my opinion, but what the hell do I know, So, I started doing more and more things around the house,  this ranged from doing more dishes to full on slave labor, there’s even a picture of me working with some sort of suction device, HAHA very funny.Image  

So, throughout this semester I tried to be more actively involved in the daily workload, This resulted in me not breaking anything, which mom was happy about, to not denting anything, which dad was happy about (I was probably happier because when you dent things in our household you don’t live it down). But all in all I was able to accomplish what I had told myself I would try to do, Which is always a good thing. 

At the beginning of this assignment I told myself that I was only going to try to improve the wheel. But my reality it really does seem as tho I invented it. And that I guess that’s something to be proud of.

Merry Christmas,

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Andy learned something… maybe.

So the first project that we got this semester was to learn something new. Not only did this seem like something I was not going to want to do, it was also going to take me all semester. So I did what I always do in these situations, and procrastinated. It’s not that I didn’t want to do the project, I just couldn’t think of something to do. My first idea was to learn how to draw cartoons, but I couldn’t find a book on how to do so for the life of me.
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My next idea was to improve my typing skills. I was starting on it but eventually quit outta boardom and no commitment. Plus, why would I want to go home and type after typing all day at school!?
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After that idea officially fell through, time was running out and I really needed to find something.

Now for the longest time I’ve been trying to learn how to play the guitar but have had no luck. I can only do the basics and play a couple of songs. So I decided to pick that up and take another shot at it.
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Now one of the things that I needed to complete the project requirements was to find myself an expert. So I got a buddy of mine from a local rock band to assist me with any questions I may have. His name is Jimmy Stevens, and he plays in a local band by the name of Naked Beauty. Unfortunitly I don’t have any video of him playing, so you’re just going to have to believe me when I say he is good.
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So, my guitar book and Jim said that the most important thing to do when learning the guitar is to build up finger strenth. So I started off by just going up and down the fret board trying to push down on the strings as hard and accurately as I could while plucking each note. This was a skill that I ignored previously when trying to learn, but I basic that I needed to know.
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So time went on, for the most part I was practicing regulary. I tried to get in at least a half hour 5 days a week… I accomplished this probably once. Most of the time I only got in two or three days. I’m a busy guy what did you expect! But even though I didn’t meet my practice quota, I still saw progress. About a month in I decided to start practicing a song. I chose to do the song She F#*king Hates me by Puddle of Mud because I liked the begining riff and wanted to learn it. So I downloaded the guitar tab and went to work.
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At the end of this whole project, I gained a little more experience on the guitar. I can’t say that it’s anything worth showing off, but I still got something outta it. The best part about this assingment was probably that even though it’s over, I’m still going to try and learn this stupid instrument. I spent the money on the stupid thing, I should know how to play it by now! One thing I found out that will probably help me learn quicker is if I get an instructor. So I have decided that when I get a job in radio that has fairly regular hours, I will go take lessons somewear. Did I think this skill thing was worth it? Yes. Do I look foreward to maybe doing it next semester? I do, and I will be sure to start sooner and hopefully get more noticable results outta it.

My New Skill

When we were given this assignment, my first reaction was to take a skill I already knew, and pretend as though I was learning it for the first time, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized this was an opportunity to further myself, and get marks all at the same time.

So I decided to continue a tradition handed down throughout my family, that being making home made Pierogis. My Grandmother has been doing this for years, and let’s be honest, Grandmas are the best chefs. So who better to learn from?

The first step in the process is to make the filling. My personal favorite is cheese, although you can do pretty much any kind of pierogi imaginable.

You start by boiling six medium potatoes in water and onion soup. The onion soup gives flavor, and saves you having to dice actual onions and put them in. Once the spuds are done, you mash them and add a cup and a half of medium cheese into a bowl with three eggs and a teaspoon of salt.

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Then (this is my favorite part) you fry bacon. You then have to drain the grease from the bacon to prevent it from making the dough less sticky. Dice the bacon up and add it to the bowl and stir it all together.

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Now you need the dough to put the filling in to. For this you’ll need 2 eggs, three quarters to a cup of sour cream, half a teaspoon of salt, one teaspoon baking powder, one teaspoon baking soda, and two and a quarter to two and a half cups of flour. Mix all of this together in a bowl and then knead it. After which, you use a rolling pin to flatten the dough so that it is quite thin. The thicker the dough, the longer it takes to cook, and with these bad boys, you want to eat FAST! Once it’s all flattened out, take a pizza cutter and slice it into squares, as shown below.

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From here on out it’s pretty straight forward. You take the filling, put it in one of the dough squares and seal it.

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It is very important to make sure the dough is COMPLETELY sealed, because as I found out, if you don’t the filling will easily fall out when you put it in to boil.  This process takes a long time, and is what I struggled with the most. My fingers are not quite as delicate and patient as my Grandmother’s. A properly sealed pierogi should look like this..

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Once you’ve used up all your dough and filling, all that’s left is to boil them. The amount of time you boil for is depending on the thickness of your dough. I did mine for 5 minutes, and they probably could have used a couple more. Not to say they were bad, because it’s quite the opposite.

My original plan was to bring them in for people to taste test them, however my parents decided to taste test them first, and apparently they approved because they ate them all. So in my mind, great success!!

When I asked my Grandma for the recipe, she said if anyone wants to learn how to do it, give them my address. She insists on keeping it a secret unless you’re willing to learn it from the pro herself.

What I take away from this experience is that I’m not the most patient person. I want things done, and I want them done now. I also learned that I am a master procrastinator, simply based on the fact that I did not start my skill until last week.

With that said, I learned a new skill, and I’m proud of it. I can now add pierogis to my personal menu which includes, Kraft Dinner, grilled cheese, and that is all.

 

Warren

 

I’m a crappy cook. I learned how to cook something!

I started this “Learn A New Skill” project foolishly late. Three days before it was due, I decided I better get started on it. I decided I wanted to learn how to juggle, so I went to The Bargain Shop and bought some crappy tennis balls, that were undoubtedly made by child-laborers in an East Asian country. When I got home, I took the sweat-shop made tennis balls out of the package, fired up a “How to Juggle” YouTube video, and had at it. Three and a half hours later, after minimal progress, several dropped tennis balls, and uttering new curse words I never even knew that I knew, I gave up. I threw in the towel. I came to the conclusion that I was just way too uncoordinated to ever learn how to juggle. Maybe over a week, with an hour or two of practice a night. But I just couldn’t do it. The frustration was growing and growing, so I decided I needed to learn a new skill. To many, juggling “isn’t that hard’ to learn. I’m not one of those people.

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I wanted to make this dish because Bacon.

The next night, as I was thinking of what skill I could ACTUALLY learn, my stomach grumbled. I was hungry. Also, I’m a terrible cook. Then it hit me. COOK SOMETHING! I was motivated and checked the fridge and the pantry. My mom makes this dish, called “Spaghetti Carbonara”. I decided that was what I was going to learn how to make. Now, it’s not just your run-of-the-mill spaghetti, where you just boil it, heat up some sauce (and meat) and call it a day. There is some care required with Carbonara, because it has the unique aspect of being paired with raw eggs. Now, the theory is that the hot noodles cook the eggs (which are in a quasi sauce with parmesan cheese, cooked bacon, parsley, and other seasoning). If the noodles aren’t hot enough, you risk the chance of the sauce staying in its watery state. That’s no good, as you’ll be eating cooked pasta with raw eggs. On the other hand, if the pasta is TOO hot, then the eggs started to cook and you get some scrambled eggs going on.

I sort of half-made this dish over the summer. I was having a girl over at my house, and I wanted to impress her. But because I didn’t want to mess it up, my mom was nice enough to pre-make the sauce. So back then, all I had to do was cook the bacon and boil the spaghetti. My mom also gave me VERY clear instructions when it came to timing the the noodle-egg sauce interaction correctly. It turned out pretty damn good back then, because my mom knew what she was doing with the sauce. And I think it impressed the girl too.

Because my mother was 1200 KM away, I had to do this myself. The noodles, the bacon, the sauce, the seasoning, everything. I cut up 8 strips of bacon and started to boil the noodles. Then I fried the bacon. While the bacon and noodles were doing their thing, I cracked four eggs into a bowl, whipped them up, added some seasoning, half a cup of parmesan and whipped it up. After about 8-10 minutes, I turned down the burner that the noodles were on. The bacon was almost done, So I added some garlic for the last minute it was cooking. Again, its about timing. If you add it to early, the garlic burns and screws up the bacon (Which is never advisable to do ).

The moment of truth was upon me. I got all the water out of the pot, so just the noodles were left. I grabbed a huge bowl and dumped the sauce into it. Then, I waited around 45 seconds for the noodles to cool off a LITTLE bit, and throw the noodles in there. Then I tossed the crap outta it. I made some garlic bread, and then my room mate and I chowed down.

Overall, it was a success! I could have added 5 eggs to the sauce instead of 4, as the noodles weren’t QUITE as coated in the sauce as I wanted. But there was a lot of bacon, so that was good. My room mate and myself liked it, and we even ate it for left overs the next day.

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Probably the easiest part about the whole process

I learned to make Spaghetti Carbonara! No mom required.

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Success! (It tasted a lot better than it looked

-Kevin Alles

The New Thing I Learned This Semester

So for a school assignment we were told to learn something new. At first I thought “well the only new thing I want to know is what i’m going to school for” so I put it off, and put it off and put it off. But even when I did think about what I could possibly do I drew a blank. I had no idea what new thing I would be interested in learning. I didn’t really want to go out of my way to learn a useless skill that I never used again. I wanted to know something that I could carry with me through my life, something that would improve me not only as an individual, but possibly improve me in my carrer. Then it hit me….

 I’ve been in a metal band since last march. Music has always been a passion of mine I was in a alternative band when I was 16 and since I played my first show I knew that music was something I loved to do and spend time on. From my first band experience I learned that you A) need to be really open minded to taking different directions in music and B) when trying to record a demo, not going to someone who barely knows what they are doing. I mention this because throughout this entire semester my band has been recording our demo. We work with a friend of ours who is a producer and specializes in music and we also work with a school friend of his who is engineering our tracks. The other day when I was tracking vocals for our second recorded song I realized, I’ve been learning something new this whole time. I’ve been putting dedication to learning a whole new process and a way to be able to record high quality music. The new thing I learned this Semester is the process to recording and creating high quality sounding music.

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The process started with tracking drums. The drummer of my band banged out his track in about 6 hours.

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This process wasn’t too bad. I sadly didn’t get to sit in on the session due to work. But how the recording was done was micing almost every part of the kit to get the best sound. The studio we record in has sound absorbing “blankets” I guess you would call them. They ensure we have no echo or unwanted sound when we record.

Next was tracking a scratch track for the guitar.

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What a scratch track is, is a recorded session without any effects or layering or anything extra. This is a clean track that allows the bassist and vocalist and whoever needs to record to follow along while doing their sessions. This is also used as a base to see where the song can go.

The next session was supposed to be bass. This actually didn’t go that well… the bassist we had was lazy, and uncommited. He came and did his track…poorly…and then never returned for feedback or anything. Which was another harsh lesson during this process. We learned Kick A Guy Out Of Your Band And Have Your Guitarist Pick Up His Slack 101.

After guitar and “bass” I got in to do vocals. I’ve done two sessons, one song each. Each session took about 3 hours and killed my voice. Recording vocals is awesome, but also very tedious. You are made to re-do lines to songs over and over to get the perfect sound. Not only that but we also had ideas for layer vocals and trying out different things just to see what we could come up with. Some we used, some we didn’t. I also learned that I have a way wider range to what I can do vocally and can now apply the things i’ve learned to future productions. I wish I had photos of me tracking vocals, we have video but it was mostly warm up and I couldn’t get them from the person who had them.

Where We Are At:

As of yesterday bass guiar is finally finished for one song and the second will be tracked on Tuesday. From there we will start a process called re-amping. Re-amping is when a previously recorded track is re-recorded while being put through an amp. This allows effects and other things to be added. We have 3 guitars playing throughout most of our songs so this will be a lengthy and most likely stressful process.

Recap:

This semester I learned

– The process of tracking instruments

– The process of tracking vocals

– Different ways to improve sound and sound quality

– how to organize and create your own style.

– how to kick out a member of your band

So all in all, I learned a lot more than I thought I did for this assignment this semester and I look forward to taking these lessons to the next session I have.

This is one of our first songs we recorded. It isn’t as heavily produced as our future songs will be but we wanted to get something out.

 
You can also check us out on Facebook
 
We expect to be able to release the full tracks in early January.
 
I’m Mike Stuparyk and the process of music recording is the thing I learned this semester. \m/

What I Learned: Balloon Edition

When Lamya first told us about this “What I Learned” assignment, I thought, Perfect!  Finally, a good reason to brush up on my French!  Or learn something totally useless, like cuneiform or Esperanto!

Then it occurred to me that we’d all be better served if I learned a skill that really meant something  – something that could make a positive change in the world.

That’s when I hit on it: Balloon twisting.

So, I set out to find twisting balloons and an expert I could talk to.

The balloons proved to be fairly easy to come by – at a party store, 10 bucks for more than I’ll ever need – though I have my doubts that they’re as good as the ones the pros order off the internet.  More on that later.

The local experts were also fairly easy to find on the internet, though only one of the three I emailed actually got back to me.  He replied with the stellar news that a balloon-twisting workshop – minimum of two hours long – would run me $495.

Yowza.  The hourly rate to hire a balloon twister to work your kid’s birthday or what-have-you is $150/hr, so even if I just wanted to rent a pro and not make him teach me anything, it would still cost a pretty penny.   I love balloons, but not that much.

I approached NAITSA to see if they would pay for a workshop and hold it as a school-wide student event, perhaps as part of their How-To series.  I even offered to make all the arrangements for them, but no dice.  They didn’t have enough room in the budget or enough time to make it happen before this assignment was due.  So I was on my own.

Luckily, the internet had my back yet again: YouTube has a wealth of balloon twisting instructional videos.  My favourites are by a guy named Michael Floyd (or Mr. Floyd, as he calls himself in some of his videos).  He has a website called balloon-animals.com, and a whopping 107 videos on YouTube under the username balloonanimals (this guy’s so creative with the names…)

There are lots of other people who do balloon twisting tutorial videos, but I think this guy is a good teacher, is kinda adorably awkward and nerdy, and he really ramped up the sound & production quality in his later videos, which I appreciate.  He also has a great video that teaches basic twisting techniques and has good tips for beginners.

By following along with that video, I made my very first balloon animal:  Image

What a beaut.

That initial success stoked the fire of my ambition.  I decided to try a balloon seahorse – adorable, right?  And also, as it turns out, way too complicated for a beginner like me.  I gave up when he started throwing around completely unfamiliar balloon-twisting terms, but not before learning a neat little trick about pulling the knot end into the balloon and twisting it to make a belly-buttonesque thing.  It came in handy later on.

Being the 14-year-old-boy-at-heart that I am, I then moved on to balloon genitals.  Strangely enough, searching “balloon penis” on YouTube doesn’t uncover anything helpful, for my purposes at least, so I had to make it up as I went along.  It was a great opportunity to use the skills I’d gleaned to come up with my own original designs.  I’ll stop short of posting pictures of my final product, but I will tell you that the petal twist was instrumental.  Use your imagination.

After that, my balloon twisting skills languished for a while.  When I got back to it, though, I found it was like riding a bike.  Once you know the basic techniques and theory, you don’t really lose them.  Picking it back up after 6 weeks of balloon inactivity was a breeze, and I was ready for bigger and better things.

To illustrate just how easy it can be, I decided to record myself making a balloon animal I had never tried before.  Through the power of modern technology, I made a video of me watching a video that was walking me through making a balloon monkey for the very first time.

The results were pretty hilarious, for the number and variety of ridiculous faces that I made alone.  It ended up being 8 minutes and 22 seconds of me grimacing and occasionally cursing while rarely actually holding the balloon in the shot.  If you really want to, you can watch the whole thing.  I also edited it down to a more reasonable three-and-a-half minute version.

In the end, however, I had a very passable balloon monkey!  Here he is in my Christmas tree with his dog buddy.

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I had a few frustrating moments through this learning process, most of which were related to the same thing: balloon inflation.

First, I get the sneaking feeling that the balloons I got are qualitatively worse for twisting than the ones the pros use in the videos.  It seems like theirs are more supple or stretchy or something.  I was occasionally worried that my balloon would pop (my roommate managed to pop one while twisting, so it wasn’t an unfounded fear), and it seemed like mine didn’t always twist quite as easily.  I would like to get some professional-grade balloons, just to see if there really is a difference.

Second: I could never, no matter how hard I tried, blow up the balloons with my own lungpower.  Almost had an aneurysm trying, though.  It wasn’t a big deal – I have a bike pump that worked just fine, though it makes a horrid squeak if the end of the balloon isn’t secure (watch my 8-minute video to hear what I’m talking about).

Third: I often had problems with the level of inflation of my balloons.  Most designs require that you don’t inflate the balloon all the way, to leave some slack for the twists themselves, but it’s hard to know how full is not full enough and how full is too full.  I don’t think I ever got the inflation level bang-on for any of the balloon animals I made, and if I did, it was entirely by chance.

I feel that this is a skill that will come with practice.  It’s also helpful to remember that you usually need to squeeze the air down the balloon as you twist.  Often, the first few segments I made would be way more inflated and turgid than the last ones, because I didn’t distribute the air as I went along.

I also found that if you don’t have enough air pressure, the twists won’t stay.  If you have too much pressure, though, the twists might be difficult to do and may not sit in the way you want them to.

Many of my animals suffer from weird hip problems that make their legs twist to one side.   Making sure that segments are equal in length when you need them to be also alleviates the alignment problem.

One big tip I learned early on is that you need to make all your twists in the same direction; otherwise they’ll just come undone.  Mr. Floyd recommends always turning the untwisted part of the balloon with the same hand in the same direction to avoid that frustration.

Though it wasn’t difficult or groundbreaking, I learned something that I think will serve me well in life: who doesn’t love a balloon animal?!  I also learned a few things about the process of learning, which is cool.  And I was reminded that the technology we have access to is an incredible tool.  One day I hope to use it for something more important than learning how to twist balloon animals and sharing the results with my friends – though I maintain that fun is a massively important part of life!