Living Large In Our Little House

If You’re Fridge is Running, You’d Better Catch it!

You remember the old crank phone call gag when silly kids called people and asked, “Is your refrigerator running?” When the person on the other line said, “Well, yes,” the response was, “You better catch it before it gets away!” Click.

I know, it was funnier when we were 12 at slumber parties.

If we had gotten that call this past weekend or two other times in the 11 years since we built Our Little House, our answer could have been, “No!” maybe with an explicative thrown in because I personally think having to buy 3 refrigerators in 11 years is a bit excessive.

When we rented our first duplex in 1985, we bought a store brand from Montgomery Wards, along with a 2 year extended warranty. Sometime in the spring of 1988, just after the warranty expired, we went on a weekend camping trip only to come home and find the refrigerator completely warm and all of our food ruined.

I called our local “Monkey Wards” (as my mom used to call the store) to complain and chided myself for going with my husband’s family’s preferred department store instead of sticking with Sears Kenmore, as my parents always had.

Since the warranty had only been expired for a couple of months and the manager agreed that an appliance should last more than 2 years anyway (besides probably feeling a little sorry for a young, newly married couple who just lost their entire refrigerator full of food), he sent out a repairman who replaced the entire compressor for nothing.


Summer of Fun

I awoke with a song in my head one day a few weeks ago, a song from my childhood, “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” and haven’t been able to get it out of my head since.

Remember those summer days as a child, running and playing in freshly mowed grass or riding your bike on your block until the street lights came on or the mothers stepped onto the stoop and called us home?

As we got older, being allowed to go to the community pool with our friends, or maybe down to the creek for a swim?

That feeling when you are tired (in a good way) at the end of a carefree day from too much play and sun?

Of course, we all have to grow up and those carefree, sun-kissed days are gone.

When we moved down to Our Little House, I longed for the “lake life,” an adult version of those days with easier access to boating and fishing, hiking, kayaking, swimming and all things outdoors.

We jumped in, literally, by renting a canoe on the Buffalo River that only took me minutes to overturn.

The recession then hit, which limited us in time (we were working more hours for less through two layoffs and a steep decline in my business) and money.

We eventually became stuck in a rut.


A Lesson Learned in Construction and Homeownership

This shows the wall color in the studio

Do you know how you keep some things thinking you might need it again someday and then the thing you don’t keep is what you need?

This past week, we started getting Campbell Town in “company ready” shape – you know, sprucing up things you can live with as a homeowner, but you don’t want guests to see?

We have friends coming down for the holiday weekend, so it was time to hit the home maintenance “to do” list hard.

My husband and I have the classic man vs. woman argument about hanging things on the walls.

He doesn’t like nail holes, so I compromised and went with those sticky picture holders.

Although I used several heavy duty ones to hang a printer’s drawer in The Belle Writer’s Studio, after six years it decided to fall off the wall this past winter.

In addition to my knowledge that I was right about those stupid sticky things  (hate them) I now had an uneven spot on the wall where it also ripped the drywall.


Work is Done Time to Party on the Deck

I’ve written often about how much we enjoy our outdoor spaces on the covered front porch and the party deck.

For us, outdoor spaces are a very important part of our lives, we would love to have a fully tricked-out outdoor kitchen, but that will have to wait awhile.

Another benefit of living in a small house is that it doesn’t require much maintenance, not as much as our bigger home did in the city, anyway.

We have smaller spaces to care for routinely and smaller spaces to paint and with most of our yard being left to the natural beauty of the woods, not a lot of lawn care.

There is some maintenance, however. Last year, we had to stain the house (we have to do this about once every 10 years) and the west side of The Belle Writer’s Studio, which takes a beating from the afternoon sun.


Comfy Chair Transforms Small Space

The Belle Writer's Studio Before. The chair is now in the far left corner where the futon was.


One of the things we did right in designing The Belle Writer’s Studio is making sure I had enough room for both office space and sitting space, in case I wanted to relax while reading for research or even work from my laptop in a more comfortable chair.

Until now, we only had the futon in the studio. I’ve felt for a long time that it was missing a nice, comfy chair, but I hadn’t found one that wasn’t both small and comfortable.

That was, until a couple of years ago when we visited the lake home of a friend of ours in Kansas.

They had a smaller brown chair that as vinyl, was functional for a lake style home (it just needs to be wiped down and if someone sits on it while wet, it really doesn’t hurt anything) and didn’t overpower their small space.

I fell in love with the chair at first sit, but they couldn’t remember where they had gotten it.


My Letter to Trader Joe’s Would be that I Never Felt you From the Start


When we visited Kansas City during one of our trips home last year, I was so excited to shop at the city’s new addition: Trader Joe’s.

For years, I had heard about what a fantastic store this was, especially if you are eating healthy. I had even received some fair trade Trader Joe’s coffee one year for a gift.

We brought coolers and I was prepared to fill my cart with fresh organic produce and shop for healthy alternatives that our rural, locally owned natural food stores don’t carry.

When I lived in the city, we did have a Whole Foods, but I had long boycotted them for a myriad of social infractions, including how they treat their workers and the fact that they (at the time) would not support labeling GMOs or inform people when their products carried them.

Our Trader Joe’s stop was our last errand on our way out of town – I wanted all of those good foods to remain as fresh as possible – and so I entered the store with great expectations.

(Insert fail buzzer here).


Produce Dirty Dozen

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released its 2014 list of The Dirty Dozen today.

What does this have to do with Living Large? For us, living as sustainable as possible goes hand in hand with our lifestyle.

We buy organic when we can. Sometimes, that isn’t possible, either due to availability or price. That’s when I refer to my Dirty Dozen list to see if we want the produce bad enough to risk the extra pesticide intake.

For example, I will never buy a head of lettuce or apples that are not organic, but I buy avocadoes that are conventionally grown, because they are part of the Clean 15.

“The EPA has not complied in full with the Congressional mandate, for more than a decade EWG has stepped in to fill the void by publishing its Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.  EWG aims to help people eat healthy and reduce their exposure to pesticides in produce.”

“EWG’s Shopper’s Guide helps people find conventional fruits and vegetables with low concentrations of pesticide residues,” said Sonya Lunder, EWG’s senior analyst and principle author of the report.  “If a particular item is likely to be high in pesticides, people can go for organic.”


Basement or Tornado Shelter a Must in a Little House

Photo from the University of Minnesota


Sunday was one of those days that those of us familiar with the threat of tornadoes dread.

For days, the weather people had dire predictions that severe thunderstorms were likely, some of them bringing damaging hail and tornadoes that could stay on the ground for miles.

Ask any person who grew up in or lived in “Tornado Alley” and they will tell you days like this bring jittery nerves.

When I was growing up, we lived in a small bungalow until my teen years. The house was built without a basement, but even after my parents had one added, we always went up to my Godparent’s house when the sirens started wailing.

On one such run up the street when I was a baby, my dad, who could literally sleep through anything, slept right through the tornado, which twisted an oak tree in the front yard.

The tree survived, but the oddly twisted trunk in our front yard was always a reminder to take these storms seriously.