Thursday, May 29, 2008

Learn to Make your own watercolors

Here's a recipe to make your own watercolor paints. These vivid, non-toxic paints can be used wet or allowed to dry and used like regular watercolor paints. We had great fun making and using them!


3 Tbs. baking soda
3 Tbs. corn starch
3 Tbs. white vinegar
1-1/2 tsp. light corn syrup
food coloring


1. Mix vinegar, baking soda, corn starch and corn syrup together in a small bowl.

2. Divide the mixture into several small plastic tubs or jar lids.

3. Add six to eight drops of food coloring to each tub or lid then mix.

4. Use Wacky Watercolors as they are or let them dry into hard cakes of paint. If you use them while they're dry, be sure to wet the paintbrush before painting.
(Original author unknown)


Use paste food coloring if you want especially vivid colors and lots of color choices. Some oil based food coloring will not stir in well, but it will blend perfectly by the time it's dry.

Take the opportunity to teach little ones about color mixing. We made purple, green and orange and then went a step further to make mixtures like red-violet and blue-green by adding one part of one primary color to two parts of another. Mix all three primary colors to make brown.

You can make a larger batch and make the paints in an old ice cube tray. Other possible containers are empty watercolor kits and pill boxes (the kind with a compartment for each day of the week).

The more food coloring you add, the more vivid the paints will be.

These take a long time to dry! Ours were in small lids and took about 24 hours.

If you make them in bottlecaps, you can store the dry paints in a plastic baggie or even tie a few of them in a small cloth with a ribbon as a sweet gift.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Why absolute real estate auctions are big deals

On the way home from town this past weekend, we passed a farm that was going to be sold at auction. My wife saw that the sale was an absolute auction. She asked me what was so great about an absolute auction. When she said that, my ears perked up.

An absolute auction implies that a sale will occur as long as at least one person bids any amount on the item for sale. So if I were the only person to show up for that auction and I bid a dollar, I’d get the whole farm for a dollar. Neither the seller nor the auctioneer could rescind their offer.

Auctions, unless otherwise specified, may have a reserve price, meaning that the auctioneer can refuse to sell an item if the bid price isn’t high enough. Sometimes the auctioneer will state that a particular item has a reserve, but they don’t have to do this.

If the auctioneer has advertised the sale as an absolute auction, though, his hands are tied. He cannot refuse any bids. Now the flip side is that an absolute auction is likely to draw more bidders than an auction that isn’t absolute (that is, one that can have a reserve price), because the bidders know that they won’t be wasting their time by going to an absolute auction. (Basically, I’m not going to be able to get the farm for a dollar. Someone else will outbid me.)

I don’t know what the reason for the sale of the farm is, but the seller is taking a risk by selling it at absolute auction. The farm could go for peanuts. But the seller may not have a choice. There are some reports of foreclosure auctions failing to get any bids because the minimum bid, or else the reserve, is too high. The fact that the seller is giving up the right to refuse low bids is a really big deal.

I suspect that as this housing crisis wears on there will be more absolute auctions: sellers getting whatever they can.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Fully working, manual record player made entirely of paper. To play the record the
handle needs to be turned in a clockwise direction at a steady 331/3rpm. The paper cone
then acts as a pickup, amplifying the sound enough to make it audible. (Record shown,
'The Sound of Music' 1965).

Monday, May 19, 2008

How to Make Your Own Toothpaste

Whether you don't like the flavor of commercial toothpaste or are looking for little ways to cut expenses, making toothpaste can be a fun project for anyone who's into making their own stuff. Plus, you can avoid many of the artificial ingredients contained in commercial toothpaste, such as sweeteners (usually saccharin), emulsifiers, preservatives, and artificial flavors.[1]This can be an especially enjoyable activity for children, who are at risk for developing fluorosis and symptoms of toxicity if they swallow fluoride toothpaste on a regular basis.[2][3] Your homemade toothpaste will be fluoride-free, and children might be more enthusiastic about brushing their teeth with toothpaste that they made themselves. Pour a half of a cup of baking soda into the mixing bowl . Baking soda has a natural cleansing ability and can even be found in some commercial toothpaste. It's non-toxic and will help polish your teeth. Some recipes call for table salt, in which case you should mix three parts of baking soda with one part of table salt. Add three teaspoons of glycerine for every 1/4 cup of dry mixture. This is optional; it acts as a sweetener. An alternative is stevia. Add 1/4 cup of hydrogen peroxide and one drop of peppermint oil. Hydrogen peroxide naturally disinfects your mouth and will also help whiten your teeth. If you don't have it around, use water. The drop of peppermint oil will leave your mouth feeling fresh. If you're not into the peppermint flavor, some alternatives are ground cinnamon, vanilla extract, fennel, ginger, lemon or lime juice (see Warnings), and almond extract. Whatever it is, make sure it doesn't have sugar added. Mix the hydrogen peroxide and baking soda until it is a paste . If you need to, mix in more hydrogen peroxide until you get the right consistency. Store the toothpaste in a small plastic container where it won't dry out. You can also purchase a small, empty lotion bottle so that you can squeeze out the toothpaste onto the toothbrush more easily, rather than dip it.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Atlanta's Crissy Thompson is the queen of coupon-clipping

Atlanta's Crissy Thompson is the queen of coupon-clipping -- she's so skilled at it that she's cut her weekly grocery bill to $10 for a family of five:

She buys two copies of the AJC's daily double Sunday paper, getting four papers, four sets of coupons, for $5. She also goes to her favorite coupon websites (see links).

On the day we're with Crissy, we tell her we just want a sampling of what she does. She tells us we're going to CVS and Publix, two of her favorite stores.

I do coupons every week myself so I was very curious to see how she did it.

At the Publix, Crissy got her best deals with the buy 1, get 1 free items.

Most local grocery stores will let you buy only one item and get it 50% off. If you pair a coupon with that (most grocery stores double coupons up to 50 cents) you can sometimes get the item for free or next to nothing.

What I learned from Crissy is that you can use one coupon per item.

All this time I had misunderstood what it says on each coupon, only one coupon per purchase. I took "purchase" to mean "transaction." It's not.

For example, Crissy grabbed two boxes of cereal that were buy 1, get 1 free. The cereal was $3.79 a box. Crissy had a three dollar coupon for each box of cereal. She made over $2.00 when she pulled those boxes off the shelves. I thought I could only use one coupon, no matter how many boxes or cans or whatever I'd bought. So that's good for me to know.

She didn't buy any produce or meat when we were with her. The best deals that week were elsewhere and she told us she often gets her produce from local farmers at a nearby market where prices are very inexpensive. When we got to checkout her bill was $15.38 and she saved $36.22. Basically she saved two thirds of the bill.

Friday, May 2, 2008

How To Stop Paying for Gas and Run on Free Vegetable Oil in 8 Easy Steps

Converting your vehicle to run on veggie oil is a good move economically and environmentally. And here’s what BP and Exxon don’t want you to know: it’s not hard to do.

Wouldn’t it be great to pack-up the car or the SUV for a weekend excursion without fretting over the cost of fuel? Or take that road trip you and your friends keep talking about? All with no concern about pumping all of your hard-earned cash into the gas tank. Heck, it would be great just to drive around town without that concern. Here’s how you can do it.

1. Commitment

This will not happen overnight. Nor will it work if you just want something for nothing. There are some up-front costs, but more importantly, it’s the dedication of your time and energy that puts the money back in your pocket. You’re going to give up the quick convenience of the express station, so you have to truly believe in the value of what you’re doing. But once you make this determination, the hardest part is already done.

2. The technology

The technology has existed for almost 100 years. Rudolf Diesel designed his engine to run on corn oil that he had collected on his Iowa farm. He wanted a more efficient way to run his farm machinery because gasoline had reached a staggering $0.05 per gallon! Look it up yourself - the diesel engine was intentionally designed to operate on vegetable oil, not toxic petroleum byproducts. And that’s all you’re going to do.

3. Sourcing your vegetable oil.
Every restaurant and probably most bars in your community are currently paying somebody else to come and haul away their waste vegetable oil from the fry-o-laters.

In your local supermarket, vegetable oil retails for about $10/gallon, almost three times as expensive as regular unleaded gasoline these days. You want free vegetable oil. Well, every restaurant and probably most bars in your community are currently paying somebody else to come and haul away their waste vegetable oil from the fry-o-laters.

That’s your source. Develop a relationship with the manager or owner of local establishments. Tell him or her that you’re interested in collecting their waste vegetable oil. Offer to do it for free.

Make sure they use NON-HYDROGENATED oil. You do not want that creamy based oil. You may have to supply them with a collection barrel, and you want to make sure the manager can depend on you to collect at regular intervals so he doesn’t have to worry about it.

4. Processing the oil.

The oil that you collect is not ready to burn. It must be heated and filtered. You will need a couple of barrels’ worth of space in a garage or basement where you can set-up your little processing station. If you don’t have the space, consider getting a co-op going with friends or other people in your community who do.

In any case, the system is not complicated, it just requires a little bit of money to set-up and then a regular bit of attention to generate usable oil. There are many different methods for this process, but they all essentially involve heating the oil in one tank, then pumping it through some filtration device to a second tank.

The whole point is to remove any water and particles that have collected in the oil during use. Lots of people have posted their processing plants on YouTube or other veggie forums such as Fryer to Fuel. There is not ONE way to do it, and you will have to devise the best way for you to do it with regard to your space, time, and budget.

5. Lining up your vehicle.

Now you need the vehicle to utilize all of this wonderful, free oil. Hopefully you aren’t terribly attached to whatever it is that you’re driving now. The decision to run on veggie oil limits the type of vehicle you can drive because only certain models are produced with a diesel engine.
Maybe you’ll decide that, since you’re going to be driving for free anyway, you might as well drive the biggest, baddest rig you can find.

The good news is that these models are quite nice. Volkswagen has offered diesel versions of the Golf and the Jetta for years, and the list now includes the Passat. And Mercedes has several sedan models and even a wagon with the available diesel. And fortunately for the checkbook, you don’t want a new one anyway. The older models make better conversion candidates because the engine is less complicated. A little bit of research (check greasecar)will turn-up a car you like that fits your budget.

Maybe you’ll decide that, since you’re going to be driving for free anyway, you might as well drive the biggest, baddest rig you can find. The Big 3 American auto manufacturers produce diesel powered trucks and SUVs that also make excellent conversion candidates. Again, the slightly older models offer a little more ease of conversion. The bottom line is, you should be able to find a ride that makes you happy.

6. Conversion
Conversion kit. Photo by Cody Simms.

Now you have to tweak the fuel system to accommodate your veggie oil. The major issue is temperature. There are all kinds of conversion kits for sale from different companies on the internet. They can cost as much as $4000.00. And they all insist that if you can read instructions you can install the kit yourself.

Or you can go to one of their authorized installers and drop another G for them to do it for you. The money saves you the hassle of doing it yourself and buys you peace of mind and presumably customer service, should a problem arise.

The truth is that most of these kits are just a compilation of parts and pieces - hoses, gauges, valves - that you can buy cheaper from a direct source. And if you or someone you know has any degree of comfort around an engine, then yes, you can convert your car yourself. Just research. Again, there are lots of community forums about converting to veggie oil, and even a bunch of videos on uTube. It’s the commitment issue again. Understanding how the process works will give you the ability to address it.

7. Notes on cost

Nothing is truly free. Assuming that you trade your current vehicle for one of equal value, the start-up cost for your alternative fuel program, including your processing plant and the conversion, will likely top $3000.00 even if you do it all yourself.

Again, a co-op is a good idea: you can gather people you trust to help curb the initial cost of the plant and to share collection duties and split time actually processing the oil.
If you spend $50/week on fuel, it will take one year and two months for your program to pay for itself.

If you spend $50/week on fuel, it will take one year and two months for your program to pay for itself. And of course there’s your time to collect and process the oil, plus the bit of energy needed to operate the plant. Be sure to find out if your state has an alternative fuel road tax provision on the books too, so you can jump that hurdle.

And thereafter you’re driving for free! And in the meantime that’s 50 bucks each week to take your girl out to dinner or contribute to your IRA or whatever. Plus it’s better for the environment, recycling oil and no carbon emissions. And when you want to take that trip, the WVO Network, a nationwide community of veg-heads, will propel you around the country.

8. Drive!

This might all seem like too big a deal. Well, putting several thousand dollars a year back in your pocket is a big deal. Forgetting the major cost of road travel is a big deal. Conserving resources and protecting the environment is a big deal.

Converting to veg allows you to contribute to softening a global crisis and improves your personal bottom line significantly over the long term. The first time you flip that switch and you’re running on straight veg, the headaches and expense of converting blow right out the tailpipe!