Friday, December 20, 2013

Getting in Step with Smaller Living

The last of 35,000 steps
Photo by Letty DiLeo

Having trouble walking can sure make your world tiny.

I went to crazy town a few weeks ago and ran my first half marathon on the spur of the moment. It turns out there’s a reason people train so hard to run 13.1 miles. It’s not just about how fast you finish, it’s about finishing at all. Which I did, thank you, in three-and-a-half hours. I even beat a few folks. OK, eight to be exact.

Our house from the side, 
the only vantage point 
to see the addition
But what I did not beat are the laws of nature. If your body isn’t used to pounding for 35,000 steps, including four trips over bridges, you are going to pay the price. It cost me not only moving in comfort for a few days, but the ability to walk. It’s unclear if I have a stress fracture in my foot or a soft tissue injury (ugh, sounds gooey). I haven’t had it looked at yet in hopes it just resolves itself. At day four, I was hobbling around on a crutch and the surgery shoe my daughter used when she fractured her foot in a dance performance. I staked out a little corner of our living room to do my work on a laptop, because the stairs up to the office are not my friends.

I’m happy to have done the race, and even more happy that my cane is a temporary tool. But it’s made me think about stairs of the future. I’m not saying that I’m too old for stairs, or that I don’t expect to be able to climb stairs in retirement. And people say stairs are good for you.  
But I hope to continue to be an active person who seeks out exercise and doesn’t have to rely on having a second story to keep me fit. This race reminded me that there are events and injuries that make a house without stairs a lifesaver.

Our house from the back, 1991
Our house from the back, 2013
I’ve always liked one-story houses because they tend to be smaller and cuter than their taller cousins. Our current house is a 1920s bungalow that was a 1,300-square-foot, two-bedroom, one-story when we bought it. Once we had a child, we wanted a third bedroom for an office and guests. Tucked onto a small downtown lot, we had nowhere to go but up. We are also in the historic district with strict guidelines. We discovered the “airplane” bungalows of the past, and were approved for a one-room upstairs addition that blended into the design of the house. From the front, cute little bungalow. From the back, stately two-story. Kind of like the mullet haircut of houses. It’s the best of both worlds.

Our house from the front, 1991

Our house from the front, 2013 
You can't see the addition in the back
But as I’ve blogged before, it’s just more house than we are going to need soon. We’d been looking at smaller places, even condos. But we’d focused more on square footage than access. There are plenty of second-floor condos and duplexes here in our waterfront town, perfect for rising seawaters, and some small two-story houses. But now I’m leaning toward keeping my feet, and my house, on the ground. At least until I take up skydiving at 70.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pump Your Ride for Halloween

Classic vintage VW bug pumpkin, 
as cool as my cousin's • Source
In the sixties my cousin had a bright orange VW bug, and every Halloween she put a big pumpkin stem on the top and drove all over Long Island.

In high school, every morning my bus passed an orange Honda 600, the tiniest car wed ever seen, and it made me smile each time.

When I met my husband, he drove a 1975 fiesta orange Datsun B210. Even without a stem, it looked like a zippy pumpkin.

There’s just something about cars that are small and orange. So for a tiny Halloween treat, here are some little cars that want to be pumpkins.

The great pumpkin • Buy photo here
1955 Nash Metropolitan • Source
A Crosley Super Roadster, part of a small fleet of the cars owned by Frank Lloyd Wright
in the 1950s, painted in his signature Taliesin Orange. • 50 mpg! • Source 
1977 Datsun B210, much like my husband's 1975 model • Source
Honda 600 Coupe • Source 
1971 Honda 600 Sedan, the car I coveted on the way to high school • Source 
Chevy Spark Concept Car • Source
Tata Nano from India, may come to US by 2015 • Source
Smart Car • Source
Cinderella's ultimate pumpkin vehicle • Source

Happy Halloween!


Friday, October 11, 2013

Morris Minor Has Major Charm

I’m not quite over my auto obsession, so when I spotted this little gem for sale I almost drove off the road.

It’s a 1971 Morris Minor, a British icon made in England from 1948 to 1972. The tiny panel van has got it all: retro styling, room for a shrimp like me to sleep in the back and a green to rival the Fiat 500 I crave. (Morris calls it Almond Green and Fiat calls theirs Verde Chiaro – Italian for light green. I call it Dath Fearr Riamh – Irish for best color ever.) I love the flat rich colors you find on autos of a certain vintage. Enjoy them here.

What intrigued me about this particular Morris Minor was its potential to become a tiny house on wheels. The cargo area was wide open and just waiting for someone to put in a bed, shelving and a little kitchen. The closest thing you could find these days probably would be a Ford Transit Connect: 40 years newer, with safety features and easy-to-find service. They make great tiny conversion vans. I found this 2010 locally for $12,000 at Bozard Ford. 

But if you want charm and nostalgia in a tiny camper, find yourself a Morris Minor van for about the same price and get to work.

All photos of the same vehicle in St. Augustine, FL,
by Dawn Langton,
except the interior shot
of one in England courtesy
Charles Ware's Morris Minor Centre Ltd. 
The Ford Transit Connect,
the Morris Minor's thoroughly modern US cousin

PS to my post on tiny towing...
If you’re looking for a small car rated for towing that isn’t an SUV, crossover or sedan, there is an option. The Toyota Matrix hatchback is built on the Corolla body, and tows up to 1,500 pounds. Mileage is good at 26 city, 32 highway. The car has mixed reviews, but its tow rating and AWD make it unique as a tiny tower. The 2013 is the last model year, so they are getting harder to find. They are a good alternative to tow a teardrop camper or a slightly larger trailer. 
The Toyota Matrix is rated to tow tiny