July 31, 2011

Mess Kit

When you are broke and houseless your day becomes focused around procuring the basic necessities of shelter and food. This sounds melodramatic even to me, after all: I'm not wandering the high country dressed in bear skin. Despite my relative comfort the bare necessities become very important when you don't have refrigeration and meals are reliant on fire and clear weather. This is my round about explanation for why this weeks posts have been so heavily centered around cooking, and today's continues in the same vein.

My tin can stove has been working well for heating water and cooking easily stirred food, but I wanted more versatility, especially on weekends when it becomes by only method of heating meals. While in Wal-Mart this morning I came across this mess kit which is the perfect size for my stove. It was $5.50 (can't beat that) and, while the frying pan handle is pretty flimsy, the whole thing works great. I had to raise the pot on two bolts to give more air flow to the kerosene, but my veggies in cream of chicken cooked evenly and without burning to the bottom. Everything fits together like a Chinese puzzle (but less confusing), so it's compact, light, and easy to store.

Every time I buy a cool gadget or useful item, I think about where I'm going to put it. Each inch that these things take up is an inch of sleeping space that I loose. Something like this can easily fit into my kitchen bag, and I think it will be worth both the space and the money I forfeit.

July 30, 2011

Hard Boiled Eggs

Fired up the tin can stove today for lunch and dinner. An hour and a half gave me six hard boiled eggs and a can of rice pilaf. Not bad, though it did take me a few tries to get the eggs right. Another benefit was that it allowed me some time sitting at the picnic table in the sunshine reading.

The Jehovah Witnesses are holding some sort of a shindig here this weekend, which makes for great people watching. A cup of coffee (also curtsey of the tin can stove) and I had hours of entertainment. I also watched Mindhunter,with Van Kilmer and Christian Slater (who tied for awesomeness), and Snatch, because you can't beat Vinnie Jones (or that other guy. Brad something or other...).

So if we ignore the ice coffee and bagel breakfast (and the mint chocolate cookies... oh, come on!) lunch and dinner cost $1.20. Not bad for two hot meals.

Improving Weather

It is a beautiful day in the neighborhood! 70 degrees, low humidity, and some Traveling Wilbury's on the radio. 

$3 Goodwill - My latest find
I treated myself to a garlic bagel and ice coffee from Dunkin' Donuts this morning, and walked around campus in search of an open building. The English Department was unlocked so that's where I set up shop. A few maintenance guys recognized me from other buildings and ribbed me about having no life. If they only knew that this is my down time.

I finished Call of the Herald last night (nothing special) and am searching for a new book. Most of my weekends are spent reading or doing classwork and I'd like to find something really fun do do today. Unfortunately, fun things cost money, and I'm just getting caught back up after the last car repairs. Maybe I'll find a coffee shop for at least a change of scenery. They always give me dirty looks as I nurse a $1.50 coffee for three hours.

One last thing before I go: I see that the Tuckerbag has more than 50 followers now! Welcome to you newbies, and to you seasoned readers: thanks for all the great advice over the past few months.

July 29, 2011

Welfare and the Weather

A dark and cloudy day that keeps threatening rain but never delivers. Having left my umbrella in New Hampshire during the last trip, I bought a new one first thing this morning. Instead of the classic black and white I chose in the spring, I went with large smiley faces, easily spotable from across campus. I made another sweep of downtown (still no sign of the bike) before parking and walking the fifteen minutes to campus.

I bought a shirt and two cheap canvas bags at Goodwill last night before settling in to My Favorite Blonde, staring Bob Hope and Madeleine Carol. I also brought out the yellow dress and did some more alterations. See, I mentioned it!

After writing a three page paper on the evils of eugenics as a form of poverty control, I feel completely drained and generally disgusted in humanity. I had a professor last semester who said that the danger of education is that once you know the facts, you are forced to act upon them, or acknowledge that you are willingly ignoring them. He was speaking to future social workers in the context of the welfare system, claiming that knowing the system is broken should force us to rage against it, or at least not work within it. I’m now engaged in a heated debate with my fellow classmates about selective middle class morality being imposed in the lower classes without sufficient proof of benefit. I feel bad that I seem to have hijacked a sociology course on family relations to rant about the welfare system, and I have a feeling I’ll be getting an email from the professor pretty quick.

We’re over the heat hump in the northeast and getting ready for the warm days and cool nights of August. Hope your neck of the woods is equally cool.

July 28, 2011

Bike Thief

Do you ever have those days where the world refuses to cooperate?

Last night I house sat for California Clare, who took a trip with her husband up to Maine for a much needed oceanside get away. I got a six pack of Sam Summer and some pasta on my way to the house, and spent the evening watching lots and lots of television. I even got to sleep in a very comfy bed, which made it super hard to get up this morning. So I fed the cats, fed the ducks, fed the chickens, filled their water, got dressed, and drove the hour to work.
Everyday I get up, drive downtown, park the car, lock the car, unchain my bike, ride to campus, and chain my bike to the raining in my building. This morning I drove downtown, parked the car, locked the car... no bike. Some little twerp stole my bike! I just stood there for a few minutes. You know when you have a routine down and suddenly one of the usual steps is removed? It takes a minute to come out of automatic. I like to think that some homeless dude is tootling down the Pike on a red walmart bicycle, but it was probably some drunk 20 something with bolt cutters and no conscience. Whoever has it better watch themselves, I'm libel to tackle them if I see it in town.

So this is fate's way of telling me to walk more. Well screw you fate! I like biking better! No money for a new one, but bus service starts up in a month and it would take that long to order a new one anyway. At time like these I start listing all the good things, like the fact that it was 70 this morning and very comfortable. I also talked to the English Department yesterday and they are accepting extra courses, so my major will require the same number of classes as the minor would have. hmmm... Maybe it's just time for angry music.

July 26, 2011

Fall Classes

I just signed up for my last fall class! Because I was approved to take extra credits (20 instead of 18), I had to wait until today to sign up for that last class, in order to give the other students first pick. Of the four courses I wanted to a take the only one still open was Contemporary African American Literature, which I have no experience with but looks kind of fun.
  • Foundations of Education – Education minor
  • Intensive Literary Study – English Major
  • Contemporary African American Lit – English Major
  • Victorian Monstrosity – English Major
  • Theories and Perspectives – Sociology Major (Finishes BA #1!)
  • Elementary Spanish – Global Education Requirement
I’m looking forward to most of these, but I’m really excited about Victorian Monstrosities. We get to read Frankenstein and Mr. Hyde, classic Victorian monster lit. These classes are also heavy on classic reading and most of my course books are on Kindle for free. So, after this fall my Sociology BA will be done and I’ll have to take:
  • Biology - Gen Ed (Winter 2011 - Online)
  • Film and Literature - English (Winter 2011 - Online)
  • British Writers - English (Spring 2012)
  • Shakespeare - English (Spring 2012)
  • American Identities - English (Spring 2012)
  • Medicinal Herbs - Global Ed (Spring 2012)
  • Upper level English - Gen Ed (Spring 2012)
  • Spanish II - Global Ed (Spring 2012)
If I don’t keel over, then by June 2012 I will have two BA (English and Sociology) and a minor in Education. After that I'll be a real adult again and have to walk boldly into the world, this time with a better map. I've already started applying to jobs, or at least requesting info, but I have a long way to go.

Night At The Opera

After work yesterday I went searching for a cool place to hide and found a huge auditorium on campus with a big stage and very comfy seats. I put my laptop on a chair in the center of the stage, loaded my opera playlist, and cranked the volume. Sitting in the fourth row back for almost an hour basking in the high notes has motivated me to find cheap tickets for Symphony Hall in Boston this fall.If you've never been, it's amazing and one of the only reasons I venture into cities at all.

When I emerged from my private concert, it had begun to rain and all the mugginess and heat had been sifted right out of the air. It wasn't pouring, just a nice warm summer drizzle that I happily stood in before heading back to my concert hall for supper. All the fixings for french bread pizza were on sale this week so I stocked up on pepperoni and pre-shredded cheese. I was also craving something sweet and found a four pack of fresh biscuits at the bakery for $1.99 and a can of cherry pie filling for $1.50.

On my way to my evening parking space, the Go-Go Gadget Red Car hit 193,000 miles. The heat of the past week has done a number on the Velcro supporting my window blinds, so I'm planning to replace some of it this coming weekend. I'm also looking for good ways to attach hooks inside the car for my numerous "room bags" (I'll explain those later). Enjoy the beautiful weather.

July 24, 2011

Tin Can Stove

Tin Can Stove
I found my phone (again) in a pocket I swear I already looked in. For years I blamed my missing possessions and their unexplained relocation on the mutant french fry people who lived under my driver's seat. When I removed the front seats from the car (and later replaced the driver's seat) I eradicated the clan, so I'm going to start blaming gremlins.

Anywho, I took a break from child related crafts today in favor of something more practical. I first started thinking about making a stove after reading a post on Mungo Says Bah where he makes one from a coke can (totally cool, check it out). After browsing the web I decided on a tin can stove powered by Sterno, something close to the one on Instructables.com.

At Work!
  • Large Can (I feel kind of sick after eating that many peaches)
  • Sterno ($2 at walmart)
  • Two Long Bolts
  • Can Opener
  • Knife
  • Screwdriver (to make the holes)
This was so easy to make that I really should have done it earlier. The stove is small, the gel Sterno burns clean (no smoke), and it doesn't look like a stove. A few people walked by while I was cooking lunch and reading under a tree, and no one looked twice. That being said, there are a few drawbacks, the first being that there is no way to regulate the heat. This means that while the stove is great for heating water and making pasta, something like, say, Spagetios (hypothetically) burn to the bottom of the can if not stirred constantly. At some point I'm going to try using a skillet, but for now my tin can cup matches the decor. This is, of course, not the only way to make a stove. Check out this video of other awesome designs and shoot me a message if you have any tips.

July 23, 2011

Air Conditioned Shopping

I love shopping for my nephews, I just think of all the things I enjoyed when I was a kid and that gets me pretty close. One thing I haven't had to do in a very long time is shop for a little girl. It's actually really fun! The crafts stores were having weekend sales today and I found all sorts of great stuff. Like a butterfly mood necklace for $1.99 and a velvet flower journal for $1. They even discounted silk flowers and I got a really nice bouquet for $1.20.

Honestly, half the reason I spent so much time window shopping today was because it is hot as blue blazes outdoors and the optimal shopping temperature is 63 degrees. We just hit 96 degrees here in Massachusetts, which is down from yesterday's 101 degrees, but still super uncomfortable. The classroom wasn't cold enough so I found myself a nice basement auditorium and hunkered down with a few Bob Hope films. After going through all my juice I went in search of a cold soda and found that every vending machine on campus was sold out.

So there it is, I'm hiding from the heat with a pad of construction paper and plan to litter the campus with monster bookmarks. Unfortunately I'll have to leave at some point for food... Hope you're all lucky enough to have cool place to camp until the next ice age.

July 22, 2011

Fairy Wands

Tonight I made these fairy wands for the second grader. She likes dress up and use to love fairies. I got enough material for two (figuring I might screw one up) so I have an extra wand for another little girl I know. I went to Micheal's for the supplies.
  • Felt: .20 cents
  • Dowl: .28 cents
  • Ribbon: .50 cents
A little tacky glue to hold it all together and vuala! So the grand total for two fairy wands was a little under $1.00. Not bad for crafting on a budget and I think they're kind of cute.

Monster Bookmarks

With so many birthdays and showers coming up I’ve been combing the internet for fun and inexpensive DIY gift ideas. I don’t have room to store leftover supplies so I need to get exactly as much as I need and either beg, borrow, or steal the smaller quantities. I also don't have money, so I'm talking dirt cheap. Today I started making the gifts for birthday #1, the third grade boy who loves to read, and I thought I'd post the projects as I do them.So here we go!

Monster Bookmarks from I Could Make That

Go to the website for directions, but these are so easy I had four of them done in about ten minutes. They even have an easier version that just uses the corner of an envelope! Supplies are: scissors, a glue stick, envelopes, and colored paper. Easy, fun, and cheap!

July 21, 2011

Do I snore?

That is going to be the question that makes or breaks my winter accommodations. I would ask that those of you who still see me as semi legitimate not judge this plan until you've heard me out. Those of you who already think I'm nuts, judge away.

I live in my car, that should give everyone an idea of how much room I actually need in order to function. I don't hang out in there, I simply use my vehicle as a good size tent on wheels. Keeping this in mind, it stands to reason that my winter home does not need to be very large. So here it is.

One of the buildings has a little used concrete staircase that goes up six floors. I was walking from the second to the third floor yesterday and realized that there is a space between the wall and the staircase just large enough to squeeze through. Under the stairs is a 5 X 10 room connecting to a 4 X 8 room, neather of which are accessible from anywhere except that small space. So... A blow up mattress and a few drawers? Nothing I couldn't stand to loose should the spot be discovered. You can't see back there and I'm not sure it would occur to anyone to shimmy behind the concrete stair case (unless they dropped their keys and went looking for them). So the question now becomes, do I snore? Will I inadvertently give away my location with snarfaling?

Pros: Free, warm, dry, convinient
Cons: Potentially illegal, kind of weird

I would feel more up for this if I had awesome dreds and some kind of alternative name, like rainbow sunflower. I did just get my summer grades back and have a 3.89 GPA, so I can always play the smart and eccentric card... I'm 27 and in college; if I can't do stuff like this now, when can I? 

Thoughts? Suggestions? Medication recommendations?

July 20, 2011

The Yellow Dress

I have a new project born of my inability to walk away from a deal. I wandered into Good Will today and found this very cool yellow dress. I love it! Totally vintage, 100% cotton, and it fits. Well, it sort of fits. The bust is way too small. I actually had a moment of panic in the dressing room when I was forced to contemplate calling a sales associate in to pry me out of it. So I did what my mother taught me to do: I took the dress for a walk.

When we were kids mum would take all sorts of things for walks around the store. Food. Kitchen appliances. It’s kind of like a first date so you can see if the other is worth the cost. If they’re not then the lamp goes back on the shelf, the steak goes back to the cooler, and you don’t call them. Mum always made two trips through each isle; one to get to know the item and one to break up with it.

So I took the dress for a walk and examined the ridiculousness of spending $5 on a garment that didn’t fit. So what did I do? I bought the dress AND a $3 skirt of similar material so that I can alter the bust. Do me a favor; if I never mention this outfit again, don’t bring it up.

Mushroom Hummus Pizza

Make the lemon garlic hummus from Road Recipes and spread it on a big tortilla. Pick out some funky mushrooms at the store, the kind you can buy one of, and top the pizza however you like. I added onion and some artichoke heart then drizzled a little olive oil over the top. Awesome, filling, good for you, no waste, and no refrigeration required.

Today’s Tucker
2 Burritos*
Mushroom Hummus Pizza

White Tortillas

Chick Peas

Baby Bella Mushrooms
.84 ($5.99/lb)

Shitake Mushrooms
.18 ($5.99/lb)

White Button Mushrooms
.99 (Sale)

Vidalia Onion
.46 ($1.49/lb)

Artichoke Heart
.60 ($7.00/lb)


*In the frozen food section at 5 for $3
**I had a hankering for mozzarella so I did buy one ball off the Mediterranean bar for 7 cents…

July 19, 2011

Penny Pinching

As you’ve probably guessed from my last post, next month is going to be pretty pricey. Between gifts (3 birthdays and a baby shower), travel (gas is $3.73 here), and text books (classes start 9/6) I need to pinch some serious pennies. Technically my financial aid comes in September, but until then anything school or housing related is going to come out of pocket. I'll be cutting it close, so fingers crossed that the go go gadget red car hangs in there. Here we go:

1. I got the course book list for my Victorian English class and saved a bunch, further justifying my Kindle
  • Frankenstein
    • Regular: $8
    • Cool Nameplate!
    • Kindle: $0
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
    • Regular: $6
    • Kindle: $0
  • Dracula
    • Regular: $5
    • Kindle: $0
      • Total Regular Price: $19
      • Total Kindle Price: $0
 2. I love to shop for kids and should be able to find some good deals. Here’s what I’m thinking, and keep in mind that these gift bags might change.
  • Boy – Third Grade
    • Book of Ghost stories - $5 at Amazon
    • Bookmarks – I’ll make them from .69 cent card stock from Micheal's
    • Nameplates – My Home Library has name plates that you can print for free. I got some sheets of labels and can make him some really cool stickers to personalize his books.
      • Total : $6
3. I'm not going to go into detail about the baby shower because she might be reading this and I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise. I'm also not going into Mum's present for the same reason.

So, let's see how this goes and how close to these budgets I can stick. 

Bracing For August

There is a point in your life when you look around and the vast majority of your friends seem to be married and having children. It’s July 19th, horrifically close to the end of the month, and my calendar for August is crammed full of birthdays, baby showers and friends coming to town.

August 5thDrive to New Hampshire after work
August 6thA Birthday party for S and L, a second and third grader
  • I’m still looking into presents. The second grade girl like dress up and the third grade boy likes books
August 7thA day with the nephews, M and C
  • C and I are having a few hours of window shopping for flowers and we are making dinner
August 8thLeave NH early for Breakfast/Brunch in Mass with Victoria, a friend from my second college who I haven’t seen in over 8 years
August 8thDinner and Salvation Army with Rose and Jo
August 13th Dinner with Susanna
August 16thMum’s Birthday
August 21stEm’s Baby Shower

Add to this that I'm trying to visit two friends before school starts and in between all of this is work, class, and a few pay days (thank goodness). I’m going to take advantage of the 40 hour work week because, after next week, things are going to get crazy.

July 18, 2011

Mood Architecture

It was a beautifully sunny day today. The forecast called for thunder storms, and for a while there it felt like they were coming. You know when the air gets so dense with water that just walking through it feels like hiking through surf? The air starts to take on the taste of the flowers or grass around it? That's the kind of weather that makes me plead for rain. No such luck though, after a few dark patches, the blue sky came back into view.

I spent the afternoon sitting on a bench reading Call of the Herald, by Brian Rathbone (Sounds like a fake name, right?). Not bad so far (I'm on chapter five) but kind of a teenagy fantasy sort of book, which isn't normally my thing. I had to take some pictures of the architecture for you. Reading a good book can transport you, but being in an interesting place can only add to the experience. It's kind of like drinking wine from a crystal goblet versus a glass one; There's no concrete proof that the taste is enhanced, but psychologically it certainly doesn't hurt.

The pants I bought at Salvation Army a few days ago are literally falling off after wearing them all day (I hate that!), so I'll probably be breaking out the needle and thread to try taking them in a bit. How is it Monday? What happened to my weekend?

Stay In Touch

I love writing letters, the snail mail kind, and go out of my way to find the coolest cards and stationary. Heaven help me when there's a sale on because I have a bad tendency to stock up and now can't (shouldn't) because of my slightly cramped living situation. I've met so many cool people in my travels and jobs and schools that I don't want to loose touch, so here are my solutions.

  1. I found these really cool "believe" cards for $1 the other day and bought them (see? no self control). There were six and I immediately sat down and wrote six letters. That way they're not being stashed someplace and forgotten or stored and ruined.
  2. There are some really awesome online options for sending letters right from your computer. Check out Cardstore.com, Hallmark.com, and the usps.com. You can write the card and upload photos. Best of all they will mail the cards for you and keep your address book on file for the future. There's no extra charge for mailing, just the 45 cent stamp and often they have free mailing on major holidays.
  3. Walgreens.com has an online photo center where you can upload and store your photos. This works great as a backup album and you can turn those photos into post cards with two clicks.
  4. If you just can't find the time to sit down and write a snail mail letter, jot a quick email. Notice that I'm not saying to post an update on twitter or Facebook. I have a Facebook account because it helps me keep in touch with people I might otherwise loose track of, but a status update is not the same as a "hey, how are ya". 
So take advantage of the great connections you make on your travels. Get addresses and write down all the important info about them so you'll remember it all later. Don't let people become out of sight and out of mind.

July 17, 2011

Leather Rose Anklet

I really wanted to do some beading but am so not coordinated enough to sit with 200 tiny beads and thread them onto a needle. After wandering around Micheal's Craft Store for a good 45 minutes, I decided that leather was more up my ally. This anklet is the result.

I folded the leather in half and stitched the side then turned the whole thing inside out (or right side out...). I'm not going to give you any more hints because, however you choose to make this, it will probably look more professional and take less time than mine did. It was fun though and the total cost was... $3.50! Best of all I feel like I did something productive with my day, though not very practical.
  • Leather: $2
  • Roses: $1
  • Robbin: $.50