Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Christmas Surprise and the Roots of My Big House Envy

Rue, one of my favorite visitors and bloggers, reminded me that I had yet to start posting again. Her exact words "tapping foot.... it's mid-November Genevieve ;)"

Well, I'm over a month late on my promised return to Jewel Box®, but I'm finally back. And as a Christmas surprise I'm adding a new member to the Jewel Box® team who will be helping me with the blog and Jewel Box Living newsletter. She also created the new look on the blog which I love! Tune in Thursday to meet my new partner and read her first post. I am thrilled to have her join Jewel Box® and heaven knows I need the help!

Those of you who follow Jewel Box® know that I struggle with big-house envy. Even though I love my smaller home and will never 'go big', there is still part of me that longs for a larger house. Why? I spent part of my childhood in a big house and I loved it.

When I was four, my family moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil where we lived in a house with maid's quarters over the garages, gardeners and a play house bigger than my kitchen. Twenty-five people could easily sit at our dinner table and my mother regularly entertained with cocktail parties where a maitre-de was brought in to make things run smoothly. As a young child, I thought the whole world lived this way.

My brother, sister and me on the landing
of the marble stairs in our Sao Paulo home.
I used to love sliding down this bannister.

Me at riding lessons on my horse Boneca,
which means 'doll' in Portuguese.

My parents at a party. My father is on the left
and my mother is in the center.
Very 'Mad Men' isn't it.

To make a long story short, after Brazil, we moved to Des Moines, Iowa where I spent my teen and college years. But I never forgot the house in Sao Paulo and how much I loved living there. And part of me, even at this stage of my life, longs for a big house to recreate at least a small piece of that life.

Still, I realize how much my memories are skewed by the fact that I was a small child and everything seemed bigger then. Also, I did not know until much later the protective measures my parents were forced to take to shield us from the realities of a living in high-crime country. And although larger houses here do not come with 10 foot tall gates spiked with glass to keep out intruders, going bigger has it's own set of problems - more maintenance, higher property taxes, less family intimacy - and does not come cheap.

Don't forget to come back Thursday and meet the new Jewel Box® team member!



  1. Delighted to hear from you!

    I think I have "old house" envy not necessarily "big house" envy. I love all the details and nooks from the old house that I grew up in. But I love a smaller size - larger just doesn't make sense to me any more.

  2. I love your story of your childhood home. But I love your beautiful Jewel Box Home proving that bigger is not necessarily bigger. I, too, have big house envy at times. But when I start cleaning the one I have, I'm glad it isn't bigger. And for the other reasons you mention. I think when I visit my relatives with their larger homes, I get a little envious. But then I realize that I am thankful they have their homes that I can visit and enjoy with them but never have to clean or maintain. And I will never have to downsize. I'm already there. So I won't miss a bigger home that I never had. And even though we are going to remodel this home, it won't cost nearly as much as remodeling a home twice the size of this one. And most of all, when I see the homes of some very small homes of friends in New York or some Europeans, or those in third world countries who have no homes but live in crude shelters and are very happy as they are, I wonder why we in this country are sometimes never satisfied with what we have. We are so very blessed to live in this country where there is freedom to live the way we do.

    So glad you are back!

  3. hehehe.... you are too funny! I AM glad you are posting again though :)

    I grew up a lot like you did, except in California and not in Brazil. Maids, big brick and iron fence... the works. I was always trying to find that life again too, but as I grew older I realized that cozy meant closer family. Besides, we always spent the most time in the smallest room in that huge house or the kitchen anyway. I wouldn't trade this little house for a huge one for all the tea in China :)