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

Vinnie Vlog #3 – Choosing the Floor for the Skoolie

Welcome back everyone, today I’m talking about the choice we made for the floor of the Skoolie. We ended up with Kronotex USA American made laminate flooring, the color name is “Wilson Pine” that we purchased from The Habitat Store in Charlottesville, Virginia. Plus, Xaver takes over the camera while I give the tour of the space as I’ve imagined it – even a sneak peek at the kitchen! One of his favorite cars even makes an appearance. lol!  We’re having great February weather here in Virginia, so we’ve been able to work outside very comfortably to get the seats taken out and the flooring down.  It looks great so far!

Next, I’ll rattle-can the “baseboard” that came on the bus and the wheel covers, then those can go back in.  I’ll also give the antique a fresh new look to prepare it for it’s next life as the kitchen cabinet in our Skoolie.  I’ll take the camera with me each step of the way so stick around for more stories from our world.  I’m Carmen Shenk reminding you that we can live tiny, embrace simplicity, and still eat really well.

Where are you in your tiny journey?  Looking, building, living?  Have you chosen a floor?  If so, let me know what you chose.  Thanks for following along, I really appreciate it! 29c45-1a2bcarmen

Vinnie Vlog #2 Another NEW BUS?!

It’s true, we bought another bus! We happened upon another one that we liked better because it’s longer, therefore it will be a more spacious home for us.  Plus, it’s also in great shape mechanically, and in even better shape cosmetically.  Yep, we’ve got a bus for sale!  lol!

Thomas Jefferson's tiny HouseOur new (older) bus used to be a shuttle bus at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.  This is fitting because one of my favorite folks in the tiny house movement is Thomas Jefferson!  lol!  I’ll bet you didn’t know he was one of us tiny house folks, did you?!  He bought land, and built a tiny one-room house that was 18 x 18 feet, and moved right in.  This little home became known as “The Honeymoon Cottage” when Jefferson married Martha Wayles Skelton. They lived so happily there that they soon welcomed their daughter Martha to the family.  Enjoying the perks of tiny house life, they worked on another house on the property – Monticello – a project that would be in progress for the rest of Jefferson’s life.

Stay tuned!  We’ve got the ceiling hatches sealed and we’ll be getting those seats out and putting down a new floor soon, it’ll be great!  I’ll bring you all the gritty details, so stick around!

I’m Carmen Shenk reminding you that we can go tiny, embrace simplicity, and still eat really well.  Thanks for watching, I appreciate it! 29c45-1a2bcarmen

 

Happy Birthday Bekki!

A birthday message for my friend Bekki that is an excerpt from chapter four of my new forthcoming book, Kitchen Simplicity.  In the video I mention visiting a lovely yarn shop, Baa Baa Sheep in Norfolk, Virginia… and I mention a skein of Embrace yarn from Raywa Fibers which is 100% yak down and is amazing – for a number of reasons.

I’m Carmen Shenk reminding you that we can live tiny, embrace simplicity, and still eat really well.  Thanks so much for watching, I really appreciate it!29c45-1a2bcarmen

Vinnie Vlog #1: Introducing Vinnie #3, our new Bus that wants to be a Skoolie!

1 Van Dwelling

Interior of Vinnie 1

I’m starting a video log for our Skoolie project so here is an introduction to Vinnie 3.  Vinnie #1 was a van that I made into an RV back in 2010 or 2011 or so.  I fully intended to be a van-dweller and quietly live in plain sight but along came a handsome gentlemen and that was that.  I named that van “Vincent, my Van that Goghs” because I thought it was funny and artsy, but in time he became simply “Vinnie”.  Vinnie and I had many wonderful adventures together and I was sad to sell him, but he went to a traveling band of young musicians in spandex and big colorful hair.  So I know he is happy with his new family.

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A cup of tea in Vinnie 2

Our tiny house of 125 square feet became Vinnie #2, and we’ve been enjoying that one since the fall of 2014. We’ve been parked in various places around the area and have really loved our little haven home.  We’ve been though a lot in the last three years, but no matter what happened in a day, when we turned our car toward home, we were always glad to be back together in our haven home.

Thursday I decided I really wanted to consider the idea of a Skoolie a little more, so I took a look around Craigslist.  I texted a guy and made a plan to visit him the following morning.  I mentioned it to Xaver and away we went the next morning to meet Vinnie #3.  It was love at first sight for me, but Xaver walked around it complaining that it needed new tires and it was going to cost a fortune to put six good new tires on it.  The gentlemen lowered the price.  Xaver complained some more, and the price went down some more.  It was all I could do to keep from squeeling “SOLD!” but I kept my mouth shut tight with heroic effort.  Naturally we bought it.

IMG_20180118_171653038_HDR (2)I’ll keep a video blog of the process so be sure to swing by YouTube and subscribe so that you don’t miss a single episode.  Thousands of ideas, two artists, and one bus.  It’s going to be a real adventure!

I’m Carmen Shenk, the Tiny House Foodie, reminding you that we can live tiny, embrace simplicity, and still eat really well.  And we’re building a Skoolie where we can do just that.  Stick around, it’ll be fun.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

Christmas Layered Mints

I make a number of Christmas treats each year, and this one is so simple and fun, and it’s always so fun to see how people respond.  This year I really stepped it up a notch using a transfer sheet to leave a design on the chocolate, and I’ve also upgraded to Young Living’s Vitality line of essential oils – spearmint and peppermint – and the flavor is fresh, complex, and wonderful.  This is such a fun quick project for the holidays and I hope you try it and let me know how it goes for you.  And as always, thanks for watching, I really appreciate it!29c45-1a2bcarmen

Refrigeration in a Tiny House

I’m back with a video on refrigeration in a tiny house – or in any dwelling that happens to have wheels.  Any time you can unplug your house, that includes unplugging your fridge.  So it may require just a little extra consideration when moving your tiny haven-home around the county or the country.

There’s a little sneak peek of me and the Tiny House Foodie kitchen a few months back before we removed the big monster energy-suck fridge and gave the place a much needed makeover.  It looks better now, don’t you agree?  And the color of my hair is always changing, so you will always be able to tell when I mix up new and old footage!  lol!

fdcd503e4785febee7dee3a6e1bc3d95Keeping foods out of the danger zone in your tiny house is really important so that you don’t get sick.  This applies to cooked foods and proteins such as meat, eggs, and dairy products.  Most other things (aside from a thousand and one plastic salad dressing bottles) don’t require refrigeration – aside from beer and white wine, obvs.

Have you noticed how many tiny house folks are vegan or vegetarian?  I have.  It really is so much easier when traveling especially, to keep those things to a minimum so that you don’t end up throwing away expensive products when you don’t know how long they’ve been in the danger zone, and also so that your health isn’t at risk.  Have you ever looked at a piece of meat and wondered if it is ok or not?  Chances are, it’s fine.  But nobody wants to be wrong about that!

And when you are… that’s when my little friend Digize comes to the rescue!  There have been a number of times when I could tell I was eating something that was not cooked properly, but I didn’t want to offend the host and hostess.  Sometimes you can tell when you bite into a nut or seed that they’ve gone off and the oils are rancid – stop eating immediately!  I’ve even been served some fish that had an ever-so-slight smell… you know the one.  And again… I knew it wasn’t going to sit well, but I did what you do when you love the cook and his or her good intentions.  Sometimes the food doesn’t have to be off for my stomach to freak out over it, just a different cook in a different kitchen with a different set of bacteria.  So I keep a bottle of Digize with me, ESPECIALLY when I’m traveling!  It’s a blend of essential oils formulated for digestive support for those moments when something you ate just wasn’t… right.  More info on the Digize blend of essential oils at Anoint-Ed.com.

In addition, while we are on the topic of cold storage and happy digestion, here’s a handy little chart for cooking various proteins so you get it “done” without turning it into something slightly more flavorful than the neighbor’s driveway. Meat-Temperature-GuideAs always – rules are made to be broken.  Sushi is our very favorite thing and there is a place we love to visit where the Sushi chef has become a friend of ours and he always makes something special and sends it over to our table.  I never know exactly what every component is, I just know the colors, flavors, and textures are divine!  It’s so much fun to see someone who enjoys making food for the flavor and the art of it.IMG_20170312_123415130 I hope you learned something today that will help you as you transition into tiny house living.  Thanks for visiting my blog, I appreciate it.  Stay safe out there and know which risks are worth taking, and keep a bottle of Digize close wherever you roam. 29c45-1a2bcarmen

 

Creativity & Adaptability in Tiny House Living

larger cake photoWelcome to this week’s video on creating great food in small kitchens, I’m delighted that you’ve joined me again!  This week I faced an interesting challenge.  I wanted to make a wedding cake as I have so many times in the past… only I downsized my cake pans and no longer have the professional kitchen to work in!  So how do I make a great cake without all the stuff I think I “NEED!”?  The truth is, what we think we need is often determined by what we are used to having – not on some authentic understanding of NEED.  As soon as you change what you’re used to, that will change what you need.  So going tiny is one of the best ways to find the liberation of not needing so much stuff!

IMG_20171105_122533692Then you get in the middle of a potentially frustrating situation when you no longer have the STUFF… what then?  I no longer have cake pans, so I could either borrow some (which I did) or rent some (it’s an option for some things) or I could find a different and creative approach.  In this case, I baked thin layers of cake on large sheet pans and then trimmed them to the sizes I wanted.  It was lots easier and there are no big pans to store in my Tiny House Foodie kitchen (or my actual 125 square foot tiny house for that matter).  This is just an example of how you can find creative solutions to whatever situations come up in your tiny haven home.  Simply get intentional about being creative and adaptable, and you’ll be fine.

Where there’s a will… there’s a way.

I promise.

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Oh, did you happen to notice in the video where I used Lemon Vitality Essential Oil from Young Living to flavor the icing?  Seriously, that lemon buttercream was the BEST PART of the cake!  If you’re interested in learning more about that and the other Young Living products I use in my tiny home and in the Tiny House Foodie kitchen check out one of my other projects: Anoint-Ed.com.  Good things are happening over there and if you love simplicity, wellness, and value like I do… then you should pop on over and have a look around!  XOXO

Tiny House & Simple Living Jamboree

I’m back from the Tiny House & Simple Living Jamboree in Arlington, Texas, and I had a great time!  I met so many interesting people and I think my speech went ok.  It was such a great adventure and now I want to go to ALL the tiny house festivals!  lol!  Ok, maybe not all of them (yes, all of them).  I am very happy to be back home and do a little introverting!  lol!

Derek DiedricksenI made it to the hotel without any problems and got on the elevator and there was Derek Diedricksen standing there, and he was very charming and funny.  He’s the author of Microshelters: 59 Creative Cabins, Tiny Houses, Tree Houses, and other small structures and I’m sure it’s as witty as he is.

Later I met Jay Shafer, and that was pretty amazing.Jay Shafer  He’s a gentle soul and is the father of the Tiny House movement.  His book, The Small House Book really rocked my world when I read it back in 2011 (it came out in 2010) and I loved his focus on beauty, simplicity, and quality.  All of that totally resonated with me and clearly it resonated with a lot of other folks as well – because look around – the tiny house movement is HERE!  (And it rocks!)

Then I stumbled across Susan Schaefer Bernardo (poet) and Courtney Fletcher (artist) who created The Big Adventures of Tiny House which is the most charming children’s book ever created (except for the other ones they’ve created) and these women were also just as lovely as you’d expect them to be given all the wonder and charm of the books they create.  PLUS they introduced me to the couple who own the tiny haven-home that the tiny house in the book is based on (visually).  What a pleasure it was to meet all of them!  And why didn’t I get a photo?!

Dee Williams

Don’t you love the face she made?  Hilarious!

I was getting pretty bummed by Sunday when it appeared that I was going to catch my flight home without meeting Dee Williams.  I read her book The Big Tiny: A Built-it-Myself Memoir and let me tell you, this woman is fierce!  I reviewed her book on my other blog a while back.  Let’s just say I am a fan!  (I am!)  I knew I would be at the airport when she and Jay Shafer were on the main stage, but that morning when I was wondering around hoping to soak up the last bit of tiny house goodness, I stumbled into her session in one of the smaller side rooms and let me tell you… and that quickly became one of the highlights of the event for me.  Hearing her speak and watching her engage with the audience was such a respectful and life affirming time, I HATED having to scoot out early to go catch my plane.  Still, I was so glad I had been there to catch some of it.  She asked the questions: 1) who/what do you love? 2) how do you want to spend your time? 3) what do you want to have in your hands as you die? (People/stuff) and then I watched as the audience participated with her by telling their own stories.  There was sacred space in that room.

It was also great fun to visit the tiny houses, skoolies, vans, and other creative dwellings around the property, especially the DIY homes, and ask the home owners how their food habits have changed since they started to live tiny.  It was fun to hear that their answers are the same as ours so I think my book is very much on target to help other folks walk through this transition.

If there is going to be a tiny house festival near you – GO! Even if you have to make a real trip out of it.  It was so much fun and I’d do it again in a heartbeat!