Friday, August 26, 2011

Make your own Stress Ball

My DH loves having a stress ball on his desk at work and I like them because they are great toys for fidgety people (I should know ;D). It also makes a good father's day present or stocking stuffer.
When my fingers are bored I destroy small objects, tap annoyingly on the table, subconsciously doodle on things that should not be drawn upon, or use them to eat despite not being hungry (If only I could subconsciously type this blog!).
Commercially produced stress balls are ridiculously expensive so I found a few easy tutorials on making your own. All you need to do to make this project truly crafty is knit, felt, or sew your own cover for it!

Before proceeding to the tutorial links below I have a few notes on my own experience with creating stress balls.

  • Use balloons at least 12 inches in size or larger. I tried 9" balloons first and they broke every time.
  • When layering dough stress balls use cooking oil to slick the inside of your balloons. This makes inserting your ball into each balloon layer easier.
  • Making dough stress balls is a 2 person job! You need one person to hold the balloons open while another stuffs them with dough or stuffs one balloon layer into the next.
  • This is, thankfully a short project! Your fingers will be tired after making just a couple of balls.
  • The recipe for dough stress balls in the first link makes enough dough for 2-3 balls.
    Here is a good YouTube video on the subject from tikigod1974. I like how they use the empty water bottle to fill the balloons with powder.
  •  CURIOUS ANIMAL WARNING!!: Some pets find balls of any kind fun to play with. Unless you want flour and corn starch all over your home, keep your homemade stress balls away from curious animals (as well as small children)! Once destroyed the remaining parts can also pose a choking hazard.

Here is a simple explanation on How To Make a Stress Ball; without pictures. It's so simple you don't need them.

Here is a neat video I found on YouTube showing how to use a water bottle to fill a stress ball.

Lastly, if you are good at crochet or knitting you may want to make a wide mesh cover for your ball. This will make the balloon bulge out of the mesh in interesting ways; or you could recycle some wide netting of some sort.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Taking up the summer slack......

Since school is in session again things are going back to 'normal' around here. I'm making an attempt to remedy my summer procrastination.

I have a slew of projects to finish, hopefully I can get to them. I will be working on my leather leaf bracelet the next few days.....It should be the next finished project I will post here.
Until all my stray projects are done I won't be posting any tutorials. But I will try to give links to other tutorials that I like.

Secondly, I gained 10 lbs over the summer so this week I've gone back to SparkPeople to count calories. Spark People is a free web based community where you can track your food and exercise, and can discuss and read about other health and healthy lifestyle topics. It has been invaluable to helping me slowly lose weight. I must admit I don't use it to it's full potential. I stay out of the forms and challenges.....Ive never liked forums of any kind; and I don't think I can stick to a challenge because I get bored of repetitious exercise schedules easily. I do use the 10 minute workout videos, nutrition tracker, and read the articles.
Beware, the Spark website does not work well with FireFox and ad-blocker software. Sometimes I have to reload a page several times before it will show up. It's my only complaint about SparkPeople.
As a final note; I recently stumbled upon a really great article about Calorie-Burning Myths from Yahoo. Usually I read myth articles and determine they are a waste of my time and wonder why they even write about such obvious things to begin with. This one actually contains useful information.
It even has me wondering if I should return my fancy training watch to the store. If only I could program it for interval training!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Most decadantly evil banana bread ever!!

I recently made banana bread for my DD's back to snack. I have grown tired of my usual recipe; America's Test Kitchen Banana Bread (the old version; not the newer one). Don't get me wrong. It's a great recipe; moist, flavorful and my DH's favorite. I wanted something more decadent and closer to desert than snack bread. So I did some quick research and tweaked my recipe.
The results were awesome! My DH has named the new recipe his favorite. Unfortunately, it's also seriously high in carbs and calories so I won't be making it often.

The really bad cell phone pictures below are my attempt at the new recipe minus the optional ingredients (banana slices and walnuts). DH is allergic to nuts and I didn't have a non-mushy banana that would slice nicely. The banana slices on top of the bread should work though as I have seen a few recipes that layer them on top of the loaf.

4 Bowl Banana Bread

1st Bowl (small)- Cinnamon sugar dust; blend thoroughly
½ cup light brown sugar (best) or regular sugar will do
1 tsp cinnamon

2nd Bowl (medium)- banana mixture; mix together
2 ripe bananas mashed; be sure the bananas are turning black….excessively ripe.
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup milk

3rd Bowl (medium)- dry ingredients; sift together
1 ½ cups flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon

4th Bowl (large)- wet ingredients; cool butter then mix in 1 ingredient at a time in order
½ cup melted butter; cooled
1 cup light brown sugar (best) or white sugar will do
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs

 Optional: ½ cup crushed walnuts or pecans; one slightly ripe banana cut into thin slices

  1. Grease loaf pan with 2 tbsp butter covering sides and bottom completely. Then dust pan with cinnamon sugar dust (1st bowl). Reserve left over sugar dust and set loaf pan aside.

  2. Mix 3rd bowl (wet ingredients) with 4th bowl (dry ingredients). Use bowl 4 to combine them.
  3. Fold 2nd bowl ingredients into bowl 4. Fold in optional nuts at this time as well.
  4. Carefully pour or spoon batter into loaf pan. Be careful not to disturb sugar dust on the sides of the pan.
  5. Lay optional banana slices on top of the loaf batter fanned out like a deck of cards along the longest sides of the pan. Leave the center free of bananas so the loaf will rise evenly. Sprinkle top of the loaf with leftover sugar dust.
  6. Bake at 325 F for 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted into top of loaf comes out clean.

The only thing that would make this loaf of banana bread better is somehow folding in caramelized banana bits.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to make banana bits perfectly to do this. They need to be only slightly chewy on the outside and still rather soft on their inside so they can be folded in without falling apart.
But I just had the idea of flash freezing the bits. Maybe that would work. I will have to try it next time.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My mother makes the Earth move!

My mother is visiting my big sister Sharon in Maryland. She lives close to DC. I received a text message from her about the recent earthquake there. I couldn't help but point out the recent quake in Grand Prairie, TX; near my mother's house.

Sharon: "Mom and i are okay our movie seats shook but that's it"

My Reply: "Was there an earth quake or was it IMax?"

Sharon: "Lol earthquak"

Me: "Just saw the news. Blame mom. She brought it with her. There was one in Grand Prairie a few weeks ago (4 RS). The lady makes the earth"

Sharon: "Mom says you are a little shit."

Me: "I know..... ;P"

But really, what is it with these North American Quakes lately? Is the media just reporting it more often? Is it the new connectedness of the world due to enhanced communication? Or are quake occurrences really increasing in number? I don't remember it happening as often as a kid....perhaps I was just more oblivious then.

Embarrassingly...I may have to admit the latter, or blame mass communication advances. Here is a link to Earthquake Facts and Statistics that explains it all.