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Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Best Laid Plans.

Got some pictures of vardo plans for everyone today! Aren't they neat? Lars drew them up for us a week or two ago.

Since the door of the vardo is going to be over the trailer tongue, a section of the railing is going to be cut out to accommodate it. Then, the plan is to have a little porch over the trailer tongue(possibly that folds upward against the front wall for travel). The advantage to this is that I won't have to try and camouflage the trailer tongue at events; it will already be hidden under the front porch step.

Thoughts on Money and Goals
One of the best things that I've learned while putting together this project is how to set a goal and budget for it. Now, I have never been very good with my money. (Weird, considering I'm an ex-head bank teller.But oddly, my money and the bank's money were two different things in my mind, and not to be treated in the same way.) I couldn't ever get a handle on it. I was constantly overdrawing myself and the bank was constantly raping me for overdraft fees.

Let me tell you how I despise banks; having worked for one in the past, I was well aware that you must always ask yourself 'how is this bank making money off of me?' Even when the checking account is 'free', even when they're giving away free toasters, credit cards, T-shirts or super fabulous car-loans, you must always remind yourself that they would NOT be doing that if they weren't making money off of you hand-over-fist somehow. Cherchez la FEE, people.

In any case, even knowing all this, I still allowed them to regularly help themselves to the money in my checking account with a big shovel due to my own stupidity and unwillingness to sort through the mess that I'd made. Well, this project changed all that.

To begin with, I realized sometime in January I could never have this vardo if I didn't bite the bullet and get my act together. And, even though Pennsic as seen from January seems forever-and-a-day away, I also knew that paychecks come and go with frightening speed and that I'd better get my act together toute suite if I wanted to do this thing. So with a motivation that was finally big enough, I finally sat down and began figuring out how much I would need for all my expenses. At the same time, I began to obsessively start paying off past-due stuff, so that I could be all caught up.

And what do you know? It worked. Not only have I been able to set aside the money necessary to realize my dream, I also have reached a point where I haven't paid an overdraft fee since the end of January. By my calculations, that means that I've saved myself somewhere in the realm of $500. (I'm NOT kidding - in fact I may even be underestimating. I was the kind of person who'd forget the latte she got 3 days ago and get hit with $25 because it overdrew my account. That means I was paying something like $28 for a friggin' cuppa coffee.)

Now, I'm addicted to KNOWING how much I have. It's so wonderful to be able to be free of worrying if I have enough for groceries or gas. I know I do. I may not have money that day for anything else, I may have to wait until payday to buy that cute blouse, but that awful uncertain worry is gone. I even hazard to say that I'll never let things get so messed up again that I have to feel that way ever again.

As an interesting side effect to this whole budgeting thing, I've been cooking a lot more (as opposed to eating out), and trying new recipes. And what do you know? They've been coming out really good. Norm feels better, digestion-wise, and Ian loves my cooking. We've also made our meals healthier, so next step for me is tweaking the cooking habit to maybe help us all lose weight and feel better too.

So, the lesson for today is, if you want to get a habit of good financial management, I say, set a goal of something you really, really want badly. It will get you the motivation you need to build the habit. Once you're used to budgeting, and it's ingrained in you good and firmly, then you can do something you should do like save for retirement. If you do it the other way round, I have to wonder if it's enough incentive to really be good. It wasn't enough for me.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Fun With Windows

Don't'cha just love Ebay? Where else could you find four (count 'em FOUR) British leaded casement windows for $300?
Mind you, I saw plenty of stained glass windows on Ebay, Craigslist, and at local antique places, but a lot of them are incredibly expensive, or else the condition is poor. But these were beautiful and the price was fantastic.
I got two each of this style:
And two each of this style:
Plus this one, which will go in the back of the vardo, over the bed. This one cost $60:
Of course, I didn't want them painted white, so we had to strip 'em. Gads, what a messy job. The interior molding had to be stripped with paint-stripping-goop. By the time I was done with that, I was hot, sweaty, and stinky with paint-thinner. Here is what the windows looked like once I'd done the chemical strip:
There were about four layers of paint on these; white, yellow, green, and white again, and underneath it all, at one time they had originally been stained.

Once I had stripped the molding on the inside, Norm was able to do the flat sides with a sander.
At this point, we realized that the old glazing was falling out in chunks. So, we decided that the glazing should be chiseled out and re-done. We decided to use a more modern material for this, the silicone putty used in modern houses. It's more flexible and would withstand moisture better. Naturally, once the windows had been removed from their frames, we saw that the leading needed repair. Norm tried to do some work on them but he didn't have the right type of equipment. Here's a picture of him working on the windows:

We were very fortunate that we have in Newton a really great stained glass studio, the kind that restores church windows and such: Northeast Stained Glass. The people there were really nice; they soldered the weak spots in the edging for $20 for each window. (We didn't have to repair every one: we got away with doing 3 out of 5.)
Interestingly, the guy at the stained glass place told me that in order to make these windows from scratch it would have cost $1000. (Not sure if he meant $1000 each or $1000 for the two that he happened to be examining at the time.) But still. A pretty damn good deal, if I do say so myself.
As I mentioned, we used a more modern silicone caulk to seal the windows once they'd been nailed in and made secure. Here's a detail picture of the caulking (it already came in brown, we don't even need to paint it):

Once we had re-glazed the windows (or rather, once Norm re-glazed them), it was time for touch up paint, then stain. The touch-up involved covering any recesses that still had white paint in them with brown paint, so that when they were stained it would blend. The painted bits (nail holes, divots and such) just end up looking like a natural blemish in the wood, which is fine if you like the antique look (which I do.)  Lemme tell you, the staining is the easy part! Dip a rag, wipe it on, and ta-da! Here's the windows all nicely stained. What a difference, yes?

All that remains is to put a coat of satin spar-urethane on them. As of this writing, they need to sit for another day or two to dry out a bit more. But I am so pleased with how they came out!
So pleased, in fact, that halfway through all of this effort (about a month's worth of effort, in fact) I realized we'd better make some shutters to put over them for traveling, winter storage, etc. I do NOT want all of our hard work to be done in by a rock from a dump truck or something. We already have an idea how we're going to do the shutters. Probably plywood with two drawer-handles on to make it easy to place them, and maybe window-sash latches to keep them secure. I'll even stain and seal them so they look nice and last awhile.

The next installment won't be so long in coming, and the subject will be:
The Best Laid Plans
Ta, all!