Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Take a Break: Do It Yourself As Seen At the Fair Items

This is the time of year that there are loads and loads of fairs, be they fall or harvest festivals or something else. The state and county fairs will generally have “better living” exhibit halls, where you can see lots of demos for “as seen on TV” items or actually see something new and unique.

This past Sunday, I went to the Big E,  because my husband’s band was performing for the Vermont House-each of the New England states has a “house” or exposition center.  I saw a few things that caught my interest, or outright made laugh, so I decided to go online and see if I could replicate them, or at the very least, find them on line. I had a lot of fun writing this week's "take a break" and I might just have to go back to the fair to see what else can be easily replicated or debunked. 

Infinity Lights: They are actually Universal Lamp Shade Polygons. Dan Goldwater, who is co-founder of Instructables has deconstructed the lampshade and includes the shape you can download and copy. I tried paper and found it too flimsy. Cover stock worked, but the website provides various suggestions for materials. However, for assembling, use the Infinity Lights  website. Once you get the hand of it, don’t be afraid to make bigger or smaller sizes. Really tiny ones could make very interesting Christmas tree ornaments.

Slushy Magic: This is a product very heavily advertised on the Cartoon Network and other kid programming. The kids at the Big E were glued to repeated and repeated again sales pitches. The much advertised product is plastic ice cubes (that’s the magic part) filled with salt water, frozen and then placed in a cup with something liquid that would taste great as a slushy. It’s basic science –salt water freezes at a lower temperature than water. Once it’s frozen, juice, soda etc., that comes in contact with it will rapidly freeze. It’s the same principal for making ice cream in a bag. Since this product was selling for $29 on TV-but only $20 at the Big E- the Coupon Maven figured out a very low cost alternative. 

Scrape-A-Round: When you live in rural Vermont, people take their windshield scrapers pretty seriously. I had to laugh at this product, as it’s basically a plastic funnel (they refer to it as a cone-shaped design). It’s suppose to scrape windows cleaner in half the time. I particularly like this aspect of their marketing, “by removing the cap, the Scrape-A-Round doubles as the ideal shaped funnel for adding antifreeze and windshield washing solution.” Get a grip! It’s a funnel, that you can pick up at your local Dollar Store for a buck versus the $15 for three they are asking for on-line. If it really works the way they advertise, I’ll probably purchase a few plastic funnels from the Dollar Store and paint something on them as Holiday gifts.

ShamWow!: I’ve watched this guy hawk his wears for years at the Big E. Ten years ago, you’d see people gathered around the stall and many bought them. This year, I didn’t see anyone walking around the fair grounds with ShamWow. Microfiber products, which abound at the local Dollar Store, have saturated the market and work quite well. Besides they don’t have a funny smell. You can read more about product comparisons at A Dumbass Investigates the ShamWow.

Dip Mixes: These vendors are very popular, with their array of dip and soup samples and loads of tiny stick pretzels. In truth, you can open a packet of dried Knorr’s vegetable soup, onion soup or ranch dressing and mix with yogurt, mayonnaise and/or sour cream, which tastes just as good or better than most of these dips and costs a lot less. Want something different? Just Google it.

Instant Heat/Cold packs: There were a variety of products that would provide instant heat or cold. The simplest and most environmentally friendly way to handle the need for instant heat is to take two pieces of cloth and sew together and fill with uncooked rice, beans, flax seed, wheat, feed corn, buckwheat hulls, or barley. Don’t sew? Take a sock (preferably clean), knot and fill with any of the items above, and knot again. Place in the freezer for cold and put in the microwave for a minute or so for warmth.

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