recycled crayons – frugal living win!

September 25, 2010 at 6:35 am (Other Artsy Fun) (, , , , , , )

So, thanks to Ravelry, I relearned how to make chunky, multicolored crayons for kids to play with.  Since I’m nannying, I took one of the kids (only kid I had today) to the thrift store and there we found two large bags of used crayons and a mini muffin tin.  Total cost? One whole dollar!

The most annoying part is peeling the paper off of the crayons – after a bit, it started to hurt under my thumbnail – right about the time my teenaged son came through, got his knife, and helped to peel some of the crayons.  Preschoolers job was to break the crayons and put them in the tins.  We filled each cup to the top with crayon bits, and when that was done,  we put the tray in the oven, preheated to 275 degrees.

It only took a few minutes for the crayons to start to melt, and we kept a close eye on them so that the crayons would melt, but not bubble and mix so much they all became mud colored.  So after about 5 minutes, I pulled the tray out of the oven, careful not to jostle it.  We let it cool on the stovetop for about 20 minutes, and then i stuck the tray into the fridge.

At the end of the hour, we got these:

Another awesome thing was that in the bags, there were some glittery, sparkly crayons.  If you look closely, you can see the ones with the sparkly crayons. The really nice thing is that when they get cool, they pop right out of the pan, so no special preparation is needed!

So for about 24 crayons, we got 12 new chunky funky crayons.  And we still have this quart zippie bag full of other crayons to make more fun ones with!

We haven’t used them yet, since this was an evening project, right before bedtime – but they will be here for tomorrow!

This project was a serious frugal living win.

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Pissed about the Census Bureau’s meeting? Blame the media instead

September 21, 2010 at 4:11 pm (The Serious Stuff) (, , , , , , )

Lets throw a fit about the Census Bureau, because they had a mandatory meeting in Vegas.  Oh no, Vegas! And you know what? I almost fell for the media hype myself.

Then my husband made a good point – Vegas is the perfect place, because rooms there are CHEAP! They want rooms to be cheap, because then people will have money to spend on shows, gambling, tourist stuff.  The Census Bureau managed a business meeting for 140 people, for four days  for under $100k- a meeting that was a neccessity for the job. That’s $178 per person for rooms for the whole four days – name me anywhere else you get the rates that cheap. That’s $44.50 a day for the room! Same amount for food per person, and only $250 for airfare? A steal!

People are going on and on about video conferencing – well, first you’d have to make sure that every one of those 140 had the equipment and program to do a video conference – and technology not being cheap, that could have cost $200-$300K. And that’s me guessing. I went out on the web and looked up all sorts of equipment, and conferencing services, even looked at Skype, which is free – IF you have a computer that can do it.  If we look at that end of things alone, using Skype,  you could be spending about $140K alone making sure these folks had the computers to do this conferencing.  Then add internet service.  And for some folks, for some areas, add a hotel room, because where they live, there is no internet.  Amazing, isn’t it? But up here in the mountains where I live, just an hour from Downtown Denver, there are plenty of areas when people cannot get internet – or only get satellite internet – that’s $90 a month.  This is the low end – I found video conferencing packages into the millions, especially for several days.

Yet these guys got their conference done for around $85k.  So which was more cost effective?

It’s a diversion, folks – let’s throw our arms up in the air about this money, when taking the president from one state to another for a few hours costs so much more.  The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform estimates the cost of running Air Force One at $56,518 per HOUR.  Last I checked, even on a private plane, it takes several hours to get from Washington, DC to Iowa, Colorado, Utah, California.  And those trips are just as necessary as a debriefing meeting for the Census.  The Census Bureau managed a four DAY meeting on less than it costs the president to fly about for an hour and a half.

Now let’s come home – I’ll pick on Colorado, because I live here.  I was able to find expense reports for 2008-2009 – http://www.colorado.gov/dpa/dfp/sco/travel.htm

Let’s go look at  it.  The report is dated January 22, 2010.  Total travel expenses for the year by state employees was – hold on to your seat, don’t fall over – $67, 724,987 – up $726,173 from the last fiscal year. So how many employees was that?  Let’s see if we can find out.  We’ll start with the breakdown. In state travel – $24.5 million. Out of state travel – $33.6 Million.  Out of country – $9.6 million.  The PDF breaks it down further; I’m going to let you go look at that yourself.

Actually, our Governor needs to be commended – his travel costs for the year was only $104,o29 for the whole year, and his lieutentant was even less.  But then you get into the other offices under the governor and the money starts to add up.

Awful lot of money just to travel about, go to mandatory meetings, have dinner out, have hotel rooms – and you and I both know that none of these government officials are staying in hotels that cost less than $80 a night.  You won’t find any state officials at the Big Bunny Hotel on Colfax, even if it IS close to the government buildings and does offer free HBO.  No, the rep from Grand Junction is more than likely staying  in the downtown Marriot.  I checked that rate – only $259 per night, single occupancy.  Only.

Now this could well be something to be pissed about, but how exactly do you expect it to be done differently?  Can you come up with better ways?  If these are good and decent government reps, as most are in this state, they are using that room at the Marriot as a spare office.  You bet the Big Bunny Hotel is cheaper – it also has a reputation for… let’s just say, illegal activity.  Think how the media would run with that, if the Grand Junction rep was seen there.  Not exactly the best idea for saving money, is it?  (Sorry Grand Junction, not picking on you, but your rep is the most likely to need a hotel room for several day’s business in the capital. Thanks for being my example.)

This state report was just government expenses. What about those corporations we happily bailed out? Even on “budgets”, they spend more per meeting per person.  (BTW, I never did find the numbers on number of people who traveled on the state dime.)

We rely on the media far too much, and apparently, so does our president, who didn’t even bother to get someone to run the numbers.  Thanks to the media, we never focused on the actual expense, we focused on Vegas – Vegas, who happily advertises itself as the country’s capital for debauchery, free spending and wild sex.  The president focused on Vegas, like these people were not holed up in a conference room with breaks for lunch – which may well have been brought in – and then a break in the evening.  Now, what these census folk did on their own time, with their own money is just plain none of our business.  During the day, they worked.  And if you’ve ever been stuck in a conference room eight to ten hours a day, for four days, you know that no matter how pretty the surroundings, how expensively decorated the room may be, after five hours, you don’t care.  You want fresh air, you want to get out of your seat, you want people to just shut up. You want to go home, plain and simple.

We’re all media victims in this – all the way to the top. Yet no one is going to pay attention to the actual costs, the actual job done, the POINT of the census. Instead, the director of the Census Bureau will be censured, the media will have another field day blowing it out of proportion.

Get off the census’s back- they did their job in an amazingly cost effective manner.

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Well, I wrote a lot half of this year

September 16, 2010 at 5:10 am (Random Thoughts)

I just went through and printed out all my articles and all my blog posts (and now I’m out color ink again) and it’s about half a ream of paper.  That’s a good thing, right?

Now, as we go into November, I’m up for the NaNoWriMo challenge – I have to write 50,000 words in one month.

Can I do it?  We’ll see.

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