Why we Drive Vintage Vehicles

Living in a tiny house is just one of the ways we have chosen to live outside of modern systems, automobiles is another.  I thought I’d ramble on about cars a bit, if you don’t mind.  The tiny house community is full of folks who have chosen a slightly less conventional approach to life and that’s one of the reasons we love it so much.

030 (2)We buy old autos built before there were computer systems in them, which means our cars are much simpler and can be fixed with parts from Autozone.  No pricey dealership mechanic needed.  We don’t use an auto loan to purchase a car, and with the reasonable prices of antique autos – we don’t need to. This helps us avoid the costs of interest.  We have a number of cars and are able to keep antique tags on most of them, which means one tag, no stickers, and no inspections – all of which saves us money.  Did I mention the insurance was cheaper?

IMG_20161110_130507832Here’s an example: one of our cars is a 1985 Mercedes 300 CD (coupe diesel) with turbo, design #123.  It has a in-line 5 engine, which some folks consider the best engine ever made.  This engine can and has gone one million miles without rebuilding.  In fact, one of these cars passed the million mile mark not long after it was made.  Mercedes tried to buy the car back to put it on display in their show-room and the owner refused.  He was not willing to part with his car.  Mine is 33 years old and has already gone 286K miles and can reasonably be expected to go another 200K miles over the next ten years.  There is no modern car that will, as a matter of course, go 400K miles without a change of engine, or be used as a daily driver for 40 years.  In addition, it seems doubtful that any modern car made today will be worth $5k in 30 years even if it was still running.  We’ve chosen this particular make and model of Mercedes because it is an excellent car at an excellent value.  It doesn’t hurt that it’s a sedate but powerful car that is very comfortable for longer drives and high speed interstate driving.

2012-05-12 14.40.25I also have a cute little 1979 MGB British roadster that is ridiculously fun to drive.  It’s a simple 39 year old car, and it is not complex to fix.  I purchased this darling little car for about $3,500 and to this day I can pull up to a light beside someone in a very posh modern car and they will be admiring my ride.  It happens all the time.  A car doesn’t have to be valuable to be a joyful experience.  In fact, I have come to believe that driving an adorable little roadster on one of the first warm and sunny days of Spring is one of life’s simple pleasures.  This zippy little roadster is a delight on curvy back roads and tree lined avenues.  I love how it puts me in touch with the world around me in a very tactile way.  I don’t feel as if I’m in a cocoon separated from everything when I drive this car.  In fact, the experience of driving this car feels like a purposeful interaction with the sights, sounds, smell, and feel – even the temperature – of every place I pass through.  To me, this is a vibrant and wonderful experience, part of the joy of being alive.IMG_2491

Modern cars have become so ubiquitous that even a super expensive car doesn’t stand out.  Xaver asked if I noticed the Maserati that had just turned past us.  I said “you mean that Honda?” There was nothing about that car that was interesting unless you happened to notice the logo.  It just looked like every other sedan on the road that day.  If you want a car that expresses something of your originality, choose a vintage car.

2012-09-23 12.21.26The 1969 Opel Rekord is one of Xaver’s favorite cars.  This is a rather rare car, clean lines and simple systems. The body design is simple and beautiful.  It’s never been a status symbol car, but it has performed very well for nearly 50 years and shows no sign of stopping now.  In fact, one of the fun parts of going for a drive in this car is that we meet folks who remember these cars and have stories from “back in the day.”  We end up having these wonderful conversations with random strangers because of the car, and that’s a lot of fun.  Plus, he’s right – it’s a cool looking car.

Fixing a vintage car isn’t as complicated as it might seem.  Autozone has lots of parts for older cars as well as modern ones, and they lend tools if needed.  Books are available for most makes and models, and this is often a helpful tool.  If you run into a problem that you can’t figure out with the help of the good folks at Autozone or using the book, there will be a forum online or a youtube video where someone shows you how to fix this exact problem.  Often the cost of repair is very low and the biggest investment is the little bit of time spent doing the research.  I think it is empowering to be able to drive an interesting car and fix it yourself.  I love it.  I’ll admit that I’m not the one doing the fixing though, lol!   IMG_20161125_163704706

Safety is a major concern when purchasing a car, and car makers have added lots of safety features over the years.  Whatever you do, do NOT google the dangers of airbags, or the number of deaths caused by those things.  Especially in older cars as the plastic in the airbag system begins to deteriorate.  Do not look at that information if you are locked into driving a modern car, because it is absolutely horrifying.  Folks driving modern cars are lead to believe the car they drive will protect them from anything, and that is sometimes true.  We witnessed an accident earlier this year where the gentlemen at the wheel walked away, and that seems pretty miraculous considering the rather spectacular ballet moves of his truck.  After looking over the available information, we’ve come to believe that vintage cars may actually be safer than modern ones.  Airbags are one example.  There are other safety features that have been around for a very long time, even if modern companies want to recycle those features and call it innovation.  Xaver would be better at detailing all of that information than I am.

IMG_20160518_090303066_HDRPerhaps the biggest safety feature of driving a vintage car is the way we drive.  We don’t drive as if our cars are disposable, and we have noticed that a lot of other folks do.  We drive like we want our cars to last another decade. While that’s not enough to keep bad things from happening, I think it makes a difference.

A car that can be in constant use for 30 – 40 years or more is the best choice for the environment.  For every decade a car continues to run, there is no reason to manufacture a new one.  My MGB gets 35 miles per gallon, the Opel Rekord gets 28 miles per gallon, and Mercedes gets 28 miles per gallon – diesel.  The Mercedes diesel runs much cleaner than modern dirty cars (“dreckschleuder” Volkswagon and others) and is nearly indestructible.

DSC00238I could go on and on.  The computer system in your modern car doesn’t belong to you, only the hardware.  It can be hacked.  Your modern car has systems that record your every move.  I’m starting to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but this information is all out there readily available.  Insurance companies have a tremendous amount of information on where a car has been, how fast it got there, and all kinds of minutia.  I’m comforted by knowing that where I drive my car and how fast I get there is still my business, and mine alone.  I’m comforted that my car can’t be remotely hacked because there is no computer on-board (except my cell phone).

029 (2)I drove a Honda for years, and it was a good car.  It wasn’t the least bit interesting though, and I don’t miss it at all.  And if you drive a Honda and love it, I’m not here to talk you out of it.  I couldn’t even if I were inclined to try.  Cars – no matter how old they are – are a means to get from point A to point B.  It might as well be an interesting journey, and it shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg.

We love taking the back roads and driving interesting cars.  It suits us, just like living in a tiny house suits us.  We can give you all the intellectual reasons we prefer these vintage vehicles, and I’ve listed a few.  But until you get in and ride with us a while, it may be difficult to understand our passion.  No matter what you drive, if you are here reading this – you are a friend –  not a foe.  Choose the back roads, and enjoy the journey.  In the words of an old Celtic blessing: “God be a smooth way before you, a guiding star above you, a keen eye behind you, this day, this night, and forever.”IMG_20161130_125703

What’s your favorite vintage car?  The one you’d most love to drive every day if you could?  What is it about this car that speaks to you? 29c45-1a2bcarmen

The Rest of the Appliances – Day 23

1 New BeginningToday we wrap up the Right-Sizing your Kitchen video series by taking a look at the rest of the kitchen appliances.  We’ve already talked about the food processor, blender, mixer, toaster, and microwave… today we cover the rest of them.   What are your favorites that I haven’t mentioned?  I’m curious to know what other folks are using on a weekly basis that they’ll want to save space for in their tiny house.  We’re all different so our collections will be different.

In my experience, less is definitely better in a tiny house.  Ours was on the smaller side at 125 square feet, so we really kept a very minimal collection of things in our tiny house kitchen.  And there were still things we kept that we didn’t use, so we could have even gone tinier – so to speak.  And we’ve just bought a bus that is slightly smaller so we will go through the collection and weed out more things all over again.  I love cooking great food simply.  It brings me so much joy because the food is more crafted.  When I don’t need an appliance to make something it feels more like a work of my own hands, and that is very rewarding to me.  In the end the most important things in my kitchen have always been the knife and cutting board, the dutch oven, and a few favorite plates and glasses.  Having fresh fruit and vegetables close at hand – usually right on the kitchen counter – is always very satisfying.  We keep less around, so we eat fresher food, and that’s one of many reasons why tiny house living has been such a lovely adventure for us.

I’m Carmen Shenk, the Tiny House Foodie, reminding you that we can #LiveTiny, #EmbraceSimplicity and still #EatWell.  You may not think that you can go tiny, but I know you can.  Thanks so much for watching,  I really appreciate it! 29c45-1a2bcarmen

 

Herbs, Spices, and Essential Oils – Day 16

Today we tackle the spice cabinet.  Take everything out, clean the cabinet or spice rack thoroughly.  Then go through the herbs and spices and remove old products that you don’t use.  Compost the product and recycle the container for items you no longer need.  Anything that has MSG in it is an automatic toss – inspect the salt & spice blends and flavor packets especially.  A good rule of thumb is to get rid of anything you have not used in the past year.

Shrimp Rohini

Shrimp Rohini by Chef Carmen

This is an excellent time to transfer all the bottles over to uniform glass or take advantage of a new space saving spice storage system.  Store spices away from heat and sunlight which will damage the quality of the product.  Then put everything back as you like it and step back to admire the transformation.  Well done!

If you are intrigued by the idea of using essential oils for their remarkable fresh flavors, and aren’t sure where to begin – allow me to suggest Young Living as my brand of choice.  They are the best in the business and I have enjoyed using essential oils in my food very much.  See how I made layered mints here, and if you’d like to learn more about essential oils in general – I have a wealth of information over here and when you begin a wholesale membership and become a member of my “oily” family, you’ll quickly see why everyone is talking about essential oils these days.  Essential oils are one of the secrets to tiny house living to me, these little space saving potions are useful in so many ways.

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Shrimp Rohini

No matter what your favorite flavors, today is your day to get them out, clean them up, and put them in order.  This is another rewarding task and bravo to each of you who have continued through this process to simplify your kitchen and prepare for living tiny.

BTW, here is a recipe I created that features some of my favorite spices: Shrimp Rohini.  I recently heard from a reader who switched out the shrimp for chicken and she loved it – so there’s a variation you might also enjoy.

I’m Carmen Shenk, the Tiny House Foodie, reminding you that we can #LiveTiny #EmbraceSimplicity and still #EatWell.  Thanks for watching, I really appreciate it!29c45-1a2bcarmen

Food Storage Containers – Day 14

13 mixing bowls lidsToday is the day we tackle food storage options!  Go ahead and pull out all your food storage containers and clean out the cabinet where they were stored.  Then let’s talk about these containers.  The best and safest way to store food is in glass.  There are also excellent stainless steel options.  The worst food storage is plastic which has some serious health risks, and causes a lot of environmental damage.  Plastic food storage items may go directly to recycling.

It’s taken me some time to make this transition in my own home and I would encourage you to keep in mind that all of this is a process and wherever you are in the process is fine.  None of these changes need to happen overnight.  Do what is right for you and your family and often that means making small steps over the course of time to your goal – rather than incurring the expense of making a big change all at one time.  Embrace your creativity and your adaptability to store leftovers, and work to keep those foods for a very short time so that you are consistently eating fresh food.

Have you been following along with this series?  If so – Well Done!  You’ve passed the half-way mark and are well into the home stretch.  How are you doing?  Is this a good time to revisit your “Why?” to remind yourself why you are doing this?  Perspective is a valuable thing.  If and when you start to feel overwhelmed – take a break and revisit your “Why” and look again at your favorite things.  Remember that it is not a sacrifice to have all your favorite things around you.  You gain so much by going through this process.  You can do it, I know you can!

I love the transformation of cleaning out the old things and making way for new memories and adventures.  I find it exciting and invigorating.  Small kitchens are efficient because everything is right there at hand and that’s part of the fun of this process.

Does your kitchen look different than it did?  Share a photograph with me by using the #KitchenSimplicity hashtag, I can’t wait to see your photos.  Thanks so much for watching, I really appreciate it! 29c45-1a2bcarmen

Right-Sizing Cutting Boards & Knives – Day 9

10 knivesToday we tackle your collection of knives and cutting boards to choose our favorites and downsize the rest.  I’m a retired chef and restaurant owner, so you know I appreciate a fine knife… however… my recommendations on this may surprise you.

Take out all your knives, clean and sharpen them all, and put back only the ones you will use on a regular basis.  Package the rest carefully and add them to the donation box, marking them carefully so the volunteers unpacking the box don’t hurt themselves.

Thanks for watching, I really appreciate it! 29c45-1a2bcarmen

Right-Sizing Flatware – Day 8

9 flatwareGood morning, it’s time to take a look at your flatware and choose your favorites, then add the rest to the donation box, and clean out the drawer or containers.  Again, don’t allow marketing to lock you into ideas of formal and casual, or make you feel that you have to keep sets or pieces you don’t use just for the sake of some notion about “value”.  If you have grandmother’s silver, take that out and access the situation.  Choose the pieces you appreciate and enjoy, choose the pieces that feel somehow special and allow the rest to go to the donation box or give to family or friends.  You’ll end up setting a table where each element has meaning and function, and that will be a delight for the senses.

I choose miss-matched silver pieces, some from my family, and some I happened upon at a lovely antique mall where Xaver and I had a great time exploring all the different patterns and choosing the individual items we liked the best.  Using these beautiful knives, forks, and spoons is so special because they are each beautiful, and because of the memories we have of picking them out and enjoying them together in our tiny house.  These beautiful details remind us that living in a tiny house is a purposeful choice, and not a sacrifice.  We are very blessed.

How are you doing on these challenges so far?  Leave me a comment and let me know your favorite parts of the series so far.  And as always, thanks for watching, I really appreciate it! 29c45-1a2bcarmen

Right-Sizing Glassware – Day 7

9 bowlGone are the days of having a special glass for every kind of drink served in your home.  Wow, the marketers really got us on that one, didn’t they?  lol!  In tiny house living we are much more creative and flexible.  Never mind the “right” glass… what’s your favorite glass?  Automatically donate any plastic drink ware and recycle any cracked or chipped glasses and choose your favorite travel mug instead of keeping a cabinet full of them.  Watch the video and then make your selections, moving the rest to the donate box.  Then clean out the kitchen cabinet and return only the ones you intend to keep.  And as always, thanks so much for watching, I really appreciate it.29c45-1a2bcarmen

Taming Trash – Day 5

One thing we quickly learned living in our tiny house of 125 square feet was that TRASH is a BIG deal!  Even a little bit of trash can feel like a lot in a tiny space.  I picked up a book on Zero Waste living (Zero Waste Home) that helped me find strategies to A) keep trashing from entering our home to begin with and B) manage trash more efficiently once it did.

Zero Waste living is based on the usual “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” ideas, but also adds “Rot” (compost) and “Refuse” to the list… meaning that we shop in a way that brings less trash in the house and refuse freebies, etc.  Using cloth bags instead of allowing more plastic shopping bags in the house is another example.  Avoiding products that are packaged in plastic, especially single use plastics, and instead choosing recycle-able packaging.  Glass is the best way to store food, so we collected canning jars instead of plastic storage containers.

What are ways you deal with trash effectively?29c45-1a2bcarmen