Shared mansions

Floorplan of a divided mansion

I love walking through fancy neighborhoods.

During those walks, I often think, what if that couple shared their oversized house with other people? Do two people really need seven bedrooms and nine bathrooms?

So I came up with a solution to a question that was not asked.

Large houses could be shared.

Dividing up a house into three separate dwellings would have so many benefits:

  1. The most significant benefit could be increased mental health and social wellness. Three empty-nest couples who were good friends could band together to create one of these multiple-family homes. For their entire shared time in that building, they would have built-in friends for dinner parties, happy hours, morning coffee or just borrowing some Grey Poupon.
  2. Shared dwellings have a smaller environmental footprint than single-family dwellings. For example, one driveway in snow country takes less energy to plow than three separate driveways.
  3. Choosing such a dwelling would make a statement among your peers about the value you place on community and sharing.


  1. Zoning for a multiple-family building in many fancy neighborhoods is not currently possible. That would require a major cultural shift. “Influencer marketing” could make this possible… a famous person who catches this vision could wield enough influence to change local laws.
  2. Selling individual homes within a larger building could take longer than traditional single-family dwellings. This would also require a significant cultural shift.
  3. Scheduling a party would necessitate communicating with your neighbors about when the hot tub and swimming pool would be booked. But there are apps for that.


  1. After zoning is in place, an accomplished architect could design appropriate buildings that would ensure privacy for all occupants and good access for all to mountain or ocean views.
  2. Existing buildings could be converted. Heavy sound insulation could be added between each home. Additional three-car garages could be added and creative driveway solutions to provide access to each. Below, I grabbed a big house floor plan (top) and created a three-family building (bottom). I did a quick mockup by adding two additional garages and divided the footprint into three homes. (It’s a crude mockup – obviously, the front porch would be converted to a closet. The rear porch would become a master bedroom, etc.) And each home would have its own kitchen, porch, bathrooms, laundry rooms, wine cellars, etc.
Large home floor plan
Floor plan of a large single-family home
Floor plan of a large single-family home converted into three separate family dwellings
Floor plan of a large single-family home converted into three separate family dwellings



I realize this is not a new idea. It’s happening in different ways all over the world. But I have not seen this in very many posh neighborhoods.


A coffee love affair

Bag of Corvus Coffee

I love coffee.

My love affair has been a long one – I’ve been blogging about coffee since 2006! (Here’s my first post about coffee.)

Over the years, my tastes in coffee have changed.

I started by loving dark rich deep brews. Now I love lighter premium brews.

My local favorite coffees are from Corvus Coffee Roasters, based in Denver, Colorado.

My out-of-town favorite coffees are from Onyx Coffee Lab, based in Northwest Arkansas. (I discovered them because my daughter attended John Brown University in Siloam Springs, not far from the Onyx flagship store in Rogers.)

Both produce roasted beans that are so good that I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about how nice it will be to wake up later, when the alarm goes off.

One of their keys to success is that they don’t over-roast their beans.

A side bonus is that they are much farther along the social responsibility scale than the national chains… you can typically find out who grew the beans you’re consuming. As Corvus describes it, they produce “Relationship Coffees.”

My brewing methods have also changed. I used a coffee press for the bulk of my coffee-drinking life. In February 2023, I switched to the Simply Good Coffee brewer. I haven’t looked back. It essentially brews pour-over coffee as easily as a standard coffee maker. And it’s a lot cheaper than similar models from more well-known brands.

The resulting brewed coffee is excellent.

Bonus Material:

  1. No discussion of Denver coffee would be complete without mentioning my friends Erin and Ty, who run Flipside Coffee. Due to unforeseen circumstances, they are currently looking for a new home to serve their coffee. But when they’re back in the game, you’ll get delicious coffee – and pastries – served with a wonderful smile.
  2. If you’re in Dallas, grab some beans – or a cup – from Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters. My sister Sharon turned me on to their beans – nice.
  3. Like anything that involves taste, your experience may be different than mine. My friend Bob loves brews from Khaladi Coffee Roasters. I don’t. And he’s not fond of Corvus.
  4. Because I don’t have the budget to consume excellent coffee all the time, some days I brew and drink Trader Joe’s Light Roast Ground Coffee. (Be sure to sprinkle a few grains of salt on the grounds before brewing.) This makes good coffee taste even better – the contrast makes me appreciate delicious coffee even more.
  5. I’m too lazy to grind beans every morning. I grind the beans from a package all at once. Here’s why.

So go forth and consume some dark hot liquid.


Too many choices

Fairywill electric toothbrush showing brushing modes

Our lives are too complicated.

My electric toothbrush, a “Fairywill,” courtesy of a small Chinese manufacturer, has five brushing choices: White, Clean, Sensitive, Polish and Massage.

I try to keep it on Clean, the middle-of-the-road choice. Every once in a while, I mistakenly hold down the single button to turn it off too long and it changes the mode.


It takes messing around with the toothbrush for several minutes until I can get it back into the Clean mode again.

Of course, I threw away the little slip of paper that told me what to do a long time ago.

Like most products purchased from small Chinese manufacturers, there may or may not be an online instructions manual. (I did find these instructions which may or may not be there in a few years.)

But why did they give me so many choices to start with?

What if I want my teeth to be white and polish and massage them at the same time? That’s not an option.

Simpler would be better.

When I was a teenager, I loved choices. Now that I’m older, I appreciate a product that just does it right out of the box.


The best intentions

Christmas charity gift bag with contents shown

I was riding my bike home. I passed a bus stop and circled back.

A red cloth bag with a yellow ribbon drawstring was on the ground next to the bus stop. A bunch of stuff was scattered around the nearby bench.

I thought, “There’s a story there!”

And there was.

From the photo, you can tell that a church or charity group made Christmas gift bags for lower-income people. Among the stuff on the ground were three sheets of paper with hand-written notes.

The bus stop is a three-minute walk from a Social Security office. Apparently, the person writing the notes lives in nearby Englewood. I discovered that from their name and address on the back of one of the pieces of paper – a bank statement!

For your benefit, here’s an excerpt:

I’m A Disabled Senior. Your Driver WAs Very Rude. I will PersUE This Until I’m Spocken To By A Supervisor. Your Drivers Apparently Are Not PAid Enough …

But back to my point.

Whoever took the time and spent the money to put together that gift bag did not hit the mark with this person. The recipient took a few things from the gift bag and discarded the rest.

I propose that the giver’s time would be better spent getting to know someone who has similar challenges to the unnamed bus passenger. Then they could see what the person’s real needs are. (Apparently, a Belgian milk chocolate-covered pretzel with holiday sprinkles was not on the passenger’s Christmas list for Santa. Two were unopened on the ground.)


The value of analog

Top of homemade letterhead

Slow can be better.

Taking time to write a letter by hand adds value to communication that is just not part of an email or a text message.

Hand-written communication is much more personal than reading someone’s thoughts on a screen.

And you can personalize your letter with an additional layer of communication… using a custom letterhead. Above, you can see a simple letterhead I made by clipping the Onyx logo off one of their amazing coffee packages.

The coffee mug my daughter made is worth far more to me than the fine Starbucks mug I picked up at the Goodwill.

A watch that is hand-made in Switzerland is worth more than an Apple watch made mostly by machines in China.

More time invested in producing an object is often reflected in the final value. A Singer Porsche can cost $1,000,000 – compared to a new Porsche 911 starting at a sweet $114,000.

So write a letter. It’s an easy way to share yourself with a friend.

If you liked this, I also wrote about how slowing down can improve your life and the value of retro things.


It really adds up!

A Paulmark card - illustrating cumulative savings

I haven’t done the math, but we have saved a lot.

1. For the many years that Heather and I have been married, she has cut my hair. I’ve probably only paid a barber three times.

Admittedly, I am blessed to be married to such a talented woman. Not everyone has a partner who can cut their hair.

2. I’m old enough that I like to send greeting cards to people for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, memorials, illnesses or just to say thanks.

For most of my adult life, I have made my own greeting cards. I “publish” them (one-offs, all) under the brand “Paulmark.”

These days, a basic greeting card costs between $5 and $10. That adds up!

Each time one of our kids graduated from high school, that meant coming up with five or ten cards. Three kids… you do the math.

My point is not that you or your partner should learn to cut hair or that you should design your own greeting cards – but rather that you can come up with a small idea to save money – and do it over and over and over.

You can give the money you save away… think of someone in your life who could use a little boost!


How can I help?

finger with a bandaid strip

I was dropping off some packages for FedEx to deliver.

Kayla, the lady that helped me, noticed that my finger was bleeding… “Can I get you a bandaid?”

That was certainly above and beyond the call of normal duties… she had to go to a far corner of the store to find a first aid kit that had a bandaid.

Her smile and positive attitude conveyed her heartfelt willingness to be helpful.

And she made my day.

How can you make a positive difference in the life of someone today?


Font problems

Apple Font Book screenshot

Those of you who have met me know that the first half of my career involved graphic design.

The tool of choice for graphic designers remains a Mac computer.

I recently made a life change that means my main daily tool is once again my beloved Mac. (Yay!)

As a designer, fonts are important.

One of the pain points of most of the applications on my Mac is the list of long fonts. For some of them, to choose an appropriate font means scrolling through a long list.

Font Book is a built-in Apple app that lets users manage their fonts. It allows you to disable some of the fonts. Then they won’t appear in your font list. But many global fonts and useless obscure-styled fonts are not removable.

Life is never perfect.


No-Alcohol Beers For the Win

Three low-alcohol beers

Surprisingly tasty!

Brewdog, WellBeing & Athletic Brewing no-alcohol beersI was amazed when I first tasted a beer created by Athletic Brewing. They managed to brew a beer that’s very low in alcohol content and yet tastes like a decent microbrew.

Besides no alcohol, these beers have very low calories. Win-win!

My favorite brew by Athletic is their Free Wave Hazy. When I went to my local Whole Foods to get a refill, I discovered that Athletic Brewing has some competition…

WellBeing takes no-alcohol beer to another level by packaging their beer in pint cans bundled into four-packs. Their Intentional IPA tastes mighty fine – hoppy and refreshing. And their package design is definitely the best.

Brew Dog has several flavors and sell variety packs.

And I’m sure there are more tasty no-alcohol brews from brands that I haven’t discovered.

Warnings and caveats:

  • These are not cheap. It costs money for these breweries to work their magic.
  • These beers are for the US market. If you live in England, try Small Beer.
  • There might be a tiny amount of alcohol in these brews. So if you’re 100% against consuming any alcohol, skip to another aisle in your supermarket.
  • I avoid beers like Heineken 0.0 and Budweiser Zero. (Basic seltzer water also has no alcohol. But I like basic seltzer water.)

A diamond in the rough

Episode home theater speakers

I love shopping at the Goodwill. It’s a great way to discover diamonds in the rough.

Amidst furniture that should have been taken to a dumpster and lightly-used wedding dresses, you might find something of great value!

Over the weekend, I dropped by our local Goodwill to buy a specific-sized container. I found a small ceramic masterpiece and avoided a trip to IKEA -making less environmental impact than buying something new.

For me, a trip to the Goodwill is not complete without stopping in the electronics aisle. This time, I discovered a pair of large audiophile speakers, shown above at a 90-degree angle.

These beauties were a brand I had never heard of – Episode. Apparently, they were sold by home theater installers about ten years ago – retailing for $1,500! Goodwill was selling the pair for $80.

They were about three feet tall, very heavy and covered in a deep black gloss finish.

Alas, these speakers were not to be part of my life. Since I’m married, decisions about purchases like this are not made alone. Heather thought they would be too visually overwhelming in our living room. And we don’t fire up our stereo enough to justify that expenditure.

(I could have bought them and tried to sell them on eBay or Craigslist, but it wouldn’t have been worth the hassle.)

Any discussion of the Goodwill would not be complete without mentioning my dad and my daughter.

My dad passed away long before my daughter was born, but they are united in their love of Goodwill stores.

My father was a child of the Great Depression, and poverty was integral to his life. He learned to shop secondhand because back then, everything used was far less expensive than new. (Today, that’s not always true.)

He and my Aunt Mary spent many joy-filled days together scouring countless Goodwill aisles for treasures.

My daughter takes great delight in finding Lululemon apparel at the Goodwill for far less than retail – and reselling it on Poshmark.

Like father, like son, like granddaughter.