November 29, 2011

Solar Pizza Oven

Check this out! You may remember that over the summer I was trying to make a usable solar oven, but nothing really did the trick. This solar pizza oven is killer!

November 24, 2011

Thankgiving "Post"

The Saturday Evening Post is as American as... well... Thanksgiving. Tonight, on this day of Turkey and thanking I thought it was appropriate to see some Thanksgiving traditions as they appear through the years.

Yesterday afternoon I drove the three hours from school to New Hampshire. I get to see some friends, have some food, and I even got to see part of the Macy's Day parade, which is really my favorite part of this holiday.

Having bee fully indoctrinated into Massachusetts culture over the past three years of residency, the first thing I did when I the the boarder was stop at the Liqueur store. Mass has a wicked liquor tax and NH is tax free. The Granite state has taken full advantage by setting up barn sized state liqueur stores on either side of the main highways. I picked up a handle of rum (my host's favorite) and a bottle of decent Cabernet (my favorite). When the girl at the register carded me she saw that my driver's licence had expired about a month ago. Who knew? Well not me. That's one more thing I'll have to get done while I'm up here. So, License tomorrow, kid's basket ball game on Saturday, Five year old's birthday party on Sunday, then back to Mass. Somewhere in there I have to get a couple of essays done, but for now I'm going to snuggle under an electric blanket and watch the Great Pumpkin.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

November 21, 2011

Learn A Language

One of the most asked questions is what I do with my spare time. No dishes to wash, floors to vacuum, or lawn to mow means that I have a ton of free hours in the day and people just starting out sometimes find they are board with no couch to veg on. Every once in a  while I post about crafts or outings but another great use of your time is to learn a language.

It's a global world so why not invest some of that excess time in learning Russian, Spanish, Gaelic, or Korean? Gone are the days of private language tutors or courses you could only take in a  classroom. In 2011 there are literally hundreds of sites with lesson plans, audio, flash cards, games, and even peer discussions. These are perfect for the vehicle dweller on the go (or even the busy sticks and bricks dweller). Here are a few that either I use or have been recommended to me
These are just some free sites but there is, of course, software out there ranging from $20 to a few hundred. There are also many different language sites so jump on Google and start looking for Swahili or Finnish or whatever you have an interest in. You have the time: use some of it to expand your mind!

November 20, 2011

DIY Curtains

life is a do-it-yourself project.
-Napoleon Hill

It took me a few tries to get the perfect curtains for my living space, and who knows what I'll think of them in a few months. Because I change my mind so often I try to find super cheap curtains at Salvation Army or Target's clearance shelf, but that's really hit or miss. I would make my own but I didn't feel that a sewing machine was a necessary use of my limited space but it turns out that I don't need one. Here are some great sites if you need custom curtains but have limited resources.

How To:
    Get Creative:
    So get creative! There are all sorts of ways to make cool curtains that also give you privacy and display a bit better than a bed sheet tacked to the roof. Try fabric paint, use an eyelet tool (like the one we made the DIY laundry bag with), or full on dye them for the effect you want. It's all doable and easier than you might think.

    Don't stop there! Check out these other Tuckerbag projects:
    Black-Out Shades
    Laundry Bag
    Envelope Organizer

        November 19, 2011

        Book Review: The Zincali

        While I've always been very interested by travel in general it wasn't until I became mobile that I became interested in travelers themselves. Maybe it's a sense of belonging, maybe I'm just trying to justify my own behavior by pointing at others who have done the same. Whatever the answer I've been reading a lot about gypsies over the past few months. I stumbled on this book simply because it was free on my Kindle (Click here to download it) but I was surprised by it's content.

        The Zincali: An account of the gypsies of Spain was first published in 1908 by George Borrow. Borrow was a kind of wondering bible pusher who traveled the world spreading the gospel and seems to have had a great respect for the gypsy lifestyle. He goes into all kinds of detail about customs, origins, and language. There are stories about gypsies from countries he passed through and some really interesting comparisons of gypsies from different areas (ie: England vs. Hungary vs. Russia, etc). He also shares some inside knowledge about gypsy signs and habits. It was a great read which I highly recommend if you have an interest in the Romany/Travelers/Gypsies that share our inability to stay put.

        November 18, 2011

        Tony and My Missing Phone

        What a morning! I studied in the English building last night and by the time I get back to my car I couldn’t find my phone. I charged it in one of the rooms but I have no idea where it went after that. That means I didn’t have an alarm to wake up to (I still woke up at 7am) and I spent the morning retracing my steps. This phone is seven years old and has been lost more times than a tourist in Thailand so I’m hoping it will turn up someplace obvious.

        Because I woke up later than usual Tony, the local solicitor that I mentioned in the coffee fixes everything post, was at his usual intersection. I got him a coffee and we chatted for a while about our plans for the approaching winter. Tony lives in the donation bin at Salvation Army. He says that there are always a ton of comforters in there and he’s planning on getting a space heater. He sets his alarm for 5am so he’s out of there before people show up and start dumping clothes on him, but the metal walls keep the night wind out which is half the battle. He knows there’s a shelter just down the road that he can stay in, but there’s something about having a space all your own that gives a feeling of independence and control in an otherwise chaotic life.

        In other news the date for Rubber Tramp Rendezvous has been set for January 10-24 (See the Cheap Living site for more details). I’m super bummed that I’m not going to make it down due to the unreliability of the go-go gadget red car, but I really want to have a New England get together for those who can’t make the trip. What say you, vehicle dweller community? Those interested but not quite dwellers would of course be welcome also but shoot me an email if you’re in the area and want to meet up for a weekend.

        It’s Friday, so enjoy the last of the week and November’s half way point.

        November 17, 2011

        My Gypsy Wagon: A Tour

        I was talking to my sister the other day and it occurred to us that she has never seen pictures of the Tuckerbag. She's heard a lot about it (and remains skeptical) but as a Montana dweller with no need for internet, she knows less about how I live than you readers do. In order to remedy that I took a bunch of pictures. As you know it is always changing and adapting to be better and cozier, especially with winter coming on. So here it goes: another tour.

        First we have the mudroom off the front door. Usually I park at night and climb over the emergency brake to go to bed. Taking out that front seat gave me tons of extra room for storage but mainly I keep it open so that the space feels bigger.

        You may have noticed that I got new curtains. They're red, so they blend better with the car that their ivory predecessor. They are also thicker, which lets less light in at night, and closer to the ceiling. All these factors gave me an added bonus: They keep the heat in really well. When I push them aside in the morning there is a noticeable temperature difference between the front and back of the car. I've also found that I get less condensation over night.

        Next up is the bedroom. Three pillows and lots of blankets to keep extra cozy on those chilly New England nights. I was at Goodwill yesterday and found a great Pottery Barn throw blanket that I'm very excited about. During the day I cram my blankets behind the pillows and get this nice day bed. Prying eyes don't normally suspect that it's a bed back there, just a super funky back seat.

        Up top there, above the bed, you'll see a lime green curtain. I still have the black out shades on the rear window (which I just replaced) but now all that storage on the back sill is out of sight. It's kind of turned into my closet: messy and hidden. Let's be honest though: in this tiny space it looks messy if I forget to put away my PJs in the morning.

        There are other little things that I've changed or adapted to. Now that I have a mudroom I make sure to stop by the car wash and vacuum the floors every week or so. I found a hanging storage... thing that has worked great for holding last minute jewelry or my phone; all that stuff that you don't know where to stash. You might notice in the picture below that the small back windows are red. Nope, that wasn't a trick of the light. I used red duck tape to cover the windows on the outside and now have the inside glass to attach suction-cup gadgets to. Right now I have a thermometer and a small dish for loose change.

        So there you have it; my little slice of heaven. It's bright (yeah, too bright for some) and snug. I had big plans to live and volunteer at a shelter this winter, but I'm kind of interested to see if my hard work and nesting habits have created a year round home. We've already had 20 degree nights and I was surprisingly comfortable, so what if I could go the next four months? That would be a full year of back seat living in New England.


        November 16, 2011

        DIY Pocket Sax

        Because I don't have a couch to watch soap operas on I love a good craft project. Unfortunetly I have to curb my pack rat insticts and only make things I could actualy use in my car... and wow does that narrow my options.

        I use to play saxophone (I didn't say I played it well) and now I have a collection of flutes and whistles. The other day I was reading the blog of my favorite busking saxophonist (Glenn of To Simplify) and started getting nostalgic for that deep jazzy sound that can't be duplicated with a whistle; or can it? Check out this video on how to make your own pocket saxophone. Fun to make and fun to play, so I'm going to say the space it will occupy in my car is completely justified. Not quite the real thing but, until I have Glenn's spiffy rig, it'll have to do.

        November 15, 2011

        Max Weber

        Want to read some interesting theories? Try Max Weber. I'll bet that most of you vehicle dwellers based your housing decision on some of his ideas, though you may not have known it at the time. Reality is, he kind of justifies us. Here's one of my favorite excerpts from The Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism highlighting Weber's theory of the Iron cage. .

        The Puritan wanted to work in a calling; we are forced to do so. For when asceticism was carried out of monastic cells into everyday life, and began to dominate worldly morality, it did its part in building the tremendous cosmos of the modern economic order. This order is now bound to the technical and economic conditions of machine production which today determine the lives of all the individuals who are born into this mechanism, not only those directly concerned with economic acquisition, with irresistible force. Perhaps it will so determine them until the last ton of fossilized coal is burnt. In Baxter's view the care for external goods should only lie on the shoulders of the "saint like a light cloak, which can be thrown aside at any moment". But fate decreed that the cloak should become an iron cage.

        Since asceticism undertook to remodel the world and to work out its ideals in the world, material goods have gained an increasing and finally an inexorable power over the lives of men as at no previous period in history. Today the spirit of religious asceticism – whether finally, who knows? – has escaped from the cage. But victorious capitalism, since it rests on mechanical foundations, needs its support no longer. The rosy blush of its laughing heir, the Enlightenment, seems also to be irretrievably fading, and the idea of duty in one's calling prowls about in our lives like the ghost of dead religious beliefs. Where the fulfillment of the calling cannot directly be related to the highest spiritual and cultural values, or when, on the other hand, it need not be felt simply as economic compulsion, the individual generally abandons the attempt to justify it at all. In the field of its highest development, in the United States, the pursuit of wealth, stripped of its religious and ethical meaning, tends to become associated with purely mundane passions, which often actually give it the character of sport.

        No one knows who will live in this cage in the future, or whether at the end of this tremendous development entirely new prophets will arise, or there will be a great rebirth of old ideas and ideals, or, if neither, mechanized petrification, embellished with a sort of convulsive self-importance. For of the last stage of this cultural development, it might well be truly said: "Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved."

        So the next time someone (ie: parents, friends, etc) gets on you about the way you live, hand them a copy of this book.

        November 12, 2011

        Coffee Fixes Everything

        I got a late start this morning thanks to an impromptu coffee date with an elderly vet. He was standing at the intersection with the generic cardboard sign
        Veteran Fallen On Hard Times
        Anything Helps
        God Bless
        Old brown jacket, wool hat, jeans, well worn work boots, very few teeth. He didn’t make eye contact with the drivers as they sat next to him in their heated vehicles. I only had a buck on me so I told him I was going to get myself a coffee and he looked like he could use one. His face lit right up. “That would be wonderful, dear” and off I went to get a large Dunkin Donuts with cream and sugar. 

        When I got back we stood at the intersection and chatted for a bit about the weather and the music we could hear coming from nearby cars. Nothing profound, just the idle small talk you might have with an acquaintance you run into at the grocery store. I didn’t stay long. I am very aware whenever I stop to chat with one of the local solicitors that my presents allows passers by to ignore their better intentions and drive past without offering assistance. 

        I was reading an article a few weeks back by a journalist lamenting the fact that we, as Americans, don't properly care for our elderly. You got a mouse in your pocket? Who's we? I’d bet that 2/3 of the people who drove past us this morning would agree, but none of them stopped to lend a few bucks. If the system isn't working maybe we shouldn't bother trying to change it. Maybe we should just make a new system all together.

        You may remember that over the summer I was having Sunday tea with one of the tent dwellers in town, but I haven't seen her in months. The reality is that she didn't owe me an explanation and probably just moved onto the warmer climates as the temps dropped.

        I'm reading a great book right now that I'll tell you all about tomorrow. Stay warm!!

        November 5, 2011

        Privacy: How To

        This is white blackout fabric on the roll
        Hey all! I've been getting some questions lately about my black out curtains from some first timers looking for incognito privacy. I'm not sure that I ever did a full post on my latest privacy methods so it might be helpful to those still outfitting their vehicles.

        First off, a car is tough to privatize.
        1. The whole thing is pretty much windows
        2. Tinting can work but many states have laws about how much tint can be on windows
        3. It needs to still look like a car so you won't be spotted
        My solution was found at a craft store where they have rolls of blackout fabric which they will cut to size (tip: Overhang is fine, get the pieces cut larger than the windows you're covering). I spent about $15 on material for the two back passenger windows and the rear window.

        Also pick up a package of black Velcro squares so that your shades will be removable. This is good for a few reasons.
        1. If the popo call you out for having stuff on your windows you can remove it in a few seconds
        2. You can take it off in the morning and put it up at night if you're someone who uses your car for commuting during the day
        It's an old pic but see: dark back windows.
        So from here the process is pretty self explanatory (ie: stick the black out material to your windows using the Velcro). At night your car will look like just another dark vehicle in the parking lot. Honestly, I leave mine up all the time because a) my commute is so short and b) no one's ever called me out on it. Just keep in mind that backing up is a process when you can't see anything behind you. Not only can no one see in but it blocks a lot of the light from street lamps and other cars while letting in very soft light in the morning.

        I also have a tension rod and curtains to divide my sleeping space from the front of the car. The whole idea is to hide in plain sight so try to look as "normal" as possible:) Good luck to all and let me know if you have other tips for privacy.

        November 1, 2011

        The Day After

        I met a gentleman at the bus stop today who was such a grouchy old man that he could have been a sitcom character. He wore a New York Yankees jacket and hat (which in Massachusetts boarders on heresy) and passed the time complaining about the stupidity of college kids. There was a lot of "when I was that age" and melodramatic horror stories about working at a liquor store in the 80's. How old do I look that I am a potential companion to crotchitiness?

        Thanks to everyone for checking on me this weekend, I like it that there are people out there who would notice if I disappeared. 40% of the town has power today and the college is open (no classes yesterday). It's getting pretty chilly at night (high 20's) but the shelter opens tonight and I might check in for the evening. I've discovered that while I can deal with extreme cold my electronics cannot. I grew up in a house heated by wood and constantly in a state of sweltering heat or freezing cold. My mother and I were talking yesterday about when I was a kid and we use to take the toothpaste to bed with us so it would be thawed when we brushed our teeth in the morning. One thing I can say for my folks is that they taught us to live through anything.

        Good luck to all you New Englanders who are still digging out.