May 14, 2013

Fund Raising With Fun

A friend of mine, Elektra Q-Tion, recently wrote an awesome blog entry about fund raising, roller derby, and Jello wrestling that inspired me to write a new entry of my own about ways to be more family friendly in what your league/team chooses to do for fund raising. I'm a retired roller derby ref (due to injuries) but have watched some local leagues change how they raise money to support their leagues. The days of Jello/mud wrestling, bikini car washes, and wet T-shirt contest have to end.

The roller derby league host and coordinate the events I list below. It is the skaters/refs that are wearing a league jersey, do the judging, present the awards, and benefit from your support. Visiting their merchandise table and getting a memento wouldn't be a bad idea either. Sometimes they offer discounted tickets to the next bout.

Chili Cook-off
Coordinate with a local county park for space. All competitors get a 10 x 10 area to set up a table and have electric outlets to prepare their chili. They pay a $20-$30 entrance fee and must give samples to all participants (especially the judges). Spectators are only charged $1-$5 admission to walk around and sample all of the chili available. The winner is awarded a $50-$100 gift card, recognition in the league program, and season tickets to all roller derby bouts. I recently placed 5th of 80 entries in one.

BBQ Pitmaster
Same info as the chili cook-off, but is about ribs or burgers instead of chili. BYOG (Bring Your Own Grill).

Hot Dog Eating
Coordinate with a place to host the competition. Find a local hot dog restaurant to help sponsor it (they might sponsor the league too). Competitors pay $5-$10 to enter the contest and have to eat as many hot dogs in one minute as possible. Winner gets a T-shirt, recognition in the next bout program, and 2 complimentary tickets. Our last local winner ate 31 hot dogs in 1 minute.

Pie Eating Contest
Similar to hot dog eating one, but is about pies instead of weiners.

Pet Wash
People pay an admission (under$5) or make a donation, and the skaters wash their pets (dogs, cats, hedgehog, etc).

Coloring Contest
Children under the age of 12 participate. They donate $1 per entry and get to color (with Crayons or markers) a picture with the most inspired theme that they can dream. The winner gets their image scanned, posted on the league website, 3 complimentary tickets to the next bout, and recognition at half-time.

That is all I'm going to say for now. I have more events that I could share but I don't want you to scroll down too much. Bottom line, support your local roller derby league.

Apr 1, 2013

Old Bay® Seasoning

Spending Easter at my aunt's house with my family and a lot of friends, meant that there was going to be a LOT of foods cooked. I spent most of the time in the kitchen while the cooking was going on, when asked for what spices, herbs, and seasonings to use on things (a large beef roast, a lamb roast, salads, steamed asparagus, steamed mussels, chip dip, roasted potatoes), I kept pushing Old Bay® Seasoning. They all looked at me like I was nearly insane, but that is because most people only think it is used on seafood and shrimp. Nope. I use it on darn near everything.

Read the can. It suggests seafood, poultry, salads, and meats. Why? Read the ingredients: celery salt, (salt, celery seed), spices (including red pepper and black pepper), and paprika. How many times do you already add all of those things to what you are making?

Click over to the Old Bay Seasoning website and do some exploring if you are interested in learning a LOT more ways to use it, and all of the other flavors of it they have. If you don't want to click over, start using it in your own cooking. Like my grandma always said "recipes are a guideline, make it taste the way YOU want."

 To summarize the quote on the Old Bay site:
Sprinkle lovingly on all seafood, all shellfish, french fries & fried chicken, hamburgers & sandwiches, popcorn, pizza, hors d'oeuvres, dips & cheese platters, baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, steamed veggies, macaroni, meats & poultry, deviled eggs, scrabbled eggs, egg, tuna or chicken salad, casseroles, stir-frys, soups, stews and gumbo, Bloody Marys
 Go to the Old Bay Nation link to read some amazing ways people use it. Or even just search the internet for "old bay seasoning recipes." You'll get a TON of them. In other words, never cook without a little of it in or on everything. Happy tasting...

Mar 18, 2013

Be Prepared

How many of you can identify what is pictured at the right? I first encountered one in my grandfather's kitchen. He couldn't find the utensil in the drawer that he needed, so he took out his key chain and opened a can of soup with it. Yes, that is right, it is a can opener. It is a P-38.

In 1942, the P-38 was designed, tested, and actually went into production in less than 30 days. It was originally made for K-rations in World War II, but was used for many years in Korea and Viet Nam for C-rations too. I ran into it again in the mid to late 1970s when I was in Boy Scouts. Nearly all of the adults coming on the camping trips carried them as they have MANY uses (listed below). While not as predominantly used/dispersed because of MREs, I've always carried one or had it handy since then. In fact, that is the only thing I still use in my kitchen.

The Army called it an "US ARMY POCKET CAN OPENER" and "OPENER, CAN, HAND, FOLDING, TYPE I." But, there are several theories on where the designation of P-38 came from. Yes, there is a P-38 fighter plane, and a gun. The US Army sources indicate that it took 38 punctures to open a ration can (like a soup can top). But another theory is because it is 38 mm in size (approximately 1.5 inches). US Marines tend to call it a "John Wayne" because reportedly they watched a training film he was in (before becoming a famous actor) showing how to use it. Does it really matter where the name came from? No, just know what it is called. 

Using a P-38
These are really easy to use. Unfold the cutting edge (pics at right), hook the notch in the middle of the handle against the rim of the can, use a thumb to press the blade into the can. Continue the motion until you have punctured all the way around the can. Easy peasy.  Other reasons I'm rarely without one, there are more, but this is a summary.

  • can/bottle opener                                                                             
  • screwdriver, especially for glasses with the small point
  • when fishing to cut the line, gut and scale a fish
  • clean sole of boot/shoe, cut a stray string from your clothes
  • pick teeth, clean under your fingernails 
  • box cutter, letter opener
  1. Order them online, but check a local Army-Navy or Surplus store. The store here sells them for 38 cents each or 3 for $1. 
  2. Do not keep one on a key chain if trying to go through security at the airport. A lot of the younger security officers don't know what they are, and are confiscating them. Pack it in your checked bag, or simply leave it home.
  3. To make it easier for you, get a P-51 because it is slightly larger (2 inches long) and easier to use. This typically went to the mess hall since they had to open larger containers.
  4. Buy more than 1. I've given so many of these away over the years, I tend to buy 10 at a time.
Overall, they are the lightest multi-tool that you can, and serve a lot of uses. There are so many other things I have used one for, just didn't want to cause you to scroll too much.

Mar 17, 2013

Airport Security Suggestions

Traveling a few times lately inspired some recommendations when someone gets to the airport and has to get through security. They following breaks down the basics of how to get to the gate as efficiently as possible and reduce anxiety.

Arrive about 2 hours before the flight is departing. Monday morning and Friday afternoon is when most business travelers are flying, so there are more people there. The more travelers, the longer all lines will be.

Have your ID ready, you will be asked for it when you get to the desk. Having to dig in a purse or wallet wastes your time and mine if I am standing behind you. Don't bury it back in the wallet or purse, because it will be needed again. There are several more efficient ways to check in:
  • Most airlines allow online check in 24 hours before the flight (on the internet), how many bags you are checking, and print out the boarding pass. When you get to the airport, they may have a special lane for that, and it is the quickest.
  • Most airlines have a "self check-in" where you can use a kiosk to print a boarding pass and then they call you forward to check the luggage.
  • Because of smartphones, check in using it to speed up both of the above points. Make sure the battery is charged, it sucks when you get halfway to security and it can't scan the code. Start over.
  • Do not put a lock on the zippers of checked bags. You will be asked to unlock them, or they will be cut off when going through security.
Security Screening
The most hated part of getting to the gate is the security line. Feels like cattle in a corral on the the way to slaughter. The longest wait, like waiting in line for a roller coaster.  This is why you show up early, especially on busy days.
  • Keep your ID handy, you need to show it again.
  • Be prepared to take off your shoes, you have to do that. Knee high, laced boots? Not a good idea. I use a pair of slip on shoes as my "air travel" shoes to make it easy.
  • Don't wear a belt or a lot of jewelry. You will have to remove all of that too. The least amount of metal on you, the quicker you'll get through security and not set off the alarms.
  • Remove your laptop BEFORE you get to the conveyer, it does have to come out of the carry on bag.
  • Once you retrieve your items from the conveyer, move to the area a little farther away to get redressed and put your things back in your bag/purse/etc. Doing it at the end of the conveyer holds up everyone behind you.
Once through and all ready to go, proceed to the gate. Check the monitors for your flight, it might have changed from what is actually printed on your boarding pass. And listen to the PA system for your flight.

Based on these simple suggestions, I have my check in time down to under 5 minutes and the longest I've waited in the security line was 25 minutes. So, it takes me about a half an hour to get to my gate. Keeping in mind that you typically board 20 minutes before flight time, that takes away almost an hour of my 2 hour wait. I find a cup of coffee and a place to sit, and enjoy people watching. Oh yeah, a final recommendation is to go to the restroom BEFORE you board since it will be quite a bit of time until you can go to the water closet on the plane. Happy traveling.

Mar 5, 2013

Cost of Car Gas Expenses Comparison

Everyone pays attention to what the local gas stations/convenience stores are charging in their area, would be foolish NOT to do that. I ended up in a conversation with a friend about it, but had to use a spreadsheet to explain it as one of darn "math word problems." Here it is (and my results).

Math Problem
Bob drives a company car that gets 30 miles per gallon. He drives 36 miles per day Monday through Friday, to and from work. He passes a station on the way both ways, that is currently charging $3.75 per gallon. He heard about another station that is 2 miles past his office that is charging $3.72 per gallon. He decides on his lunch hour, to go there and fill up. How much did he save?

He didn't, it cost him $0.21 more. WHAT?!? HOW?!? Using the same 30 MPG car at each station it breaks down like this:
  • Stopping at the station on the way home from work, that day he drove 36 miles
    • Cost of gas per gallon is $3.75, cost per mile is $0.125 ($ per gallon / 30 mpg)
    • Cost of the daily drive (cost per mile X miles) = $4.50
  • Going to the station that was farther from work, that day he drove 38 miles
    • 2 miles back, plus the 36 to and from work
      • Only added 2 miles to get back from the station because he used his existing gas to get there in the first place. 
    • Cost per gallon of gas is $3.72, cost per mile is $0.124 ($ per gallon / 30 mpg)
    • Cost of the daily drive (cost per mile X miles) = $4.71
    • Savings? Loss of $0.21
So, financially he lost $0.21 that day, but expand it to a monthly comparison. Same company car, same stations, Monday through Friday mileage, same cost per gallon.
  • Stopping at the station on the way home from work, that month he drove 720 miles
    • 36 miles per day X 5 days per week X 4 weeks in the month
    • Cost of gas per gallon is $3.75, cost per mile is $0.125 ($ per gallon / 30 mpg)
    • Cost of the monthly drive (cost per mile X miles) = $90.00
  • Going to the station that was farther from work, that month he drove 800 miles
    • Cost per gallon of gas is $3.72, cost per mile is $0.124 ($ per gallon / 30 mpg)
    • Cost of the monthly drive (cost per mile X miles) = $99.20
    • Savings? Loss of $9.20
So, if that continued for 12 months, loss of $110.40. All because Bob went an extra 4 miles per fill up each week. The additional miles driven would require more fill ups, so it offsets the "savings" by being 3 cents less expensive. If Bob has to fill up more often, the station sells more gas, which means they better the bottom line (profit). Plus you are likely to run into the station to grab an item that you want (a coffee, pop/soda, smokes, etc.) So they DOUBLE profit from you. But that is another blog entry related to this.

I admire business managers for figuring out how to better the bottom line by combining several profit revenues together, and blending it with marketing. Shows that business people are finally waking up on how to better the ROI.

I'm just trying to share with everyone what you need to "consider" on where you go to purchase what you need and better your wallet...