Some rip into newspapers for box scores, others for international news. Joan Fitzpatrick looks for house plans.
Today, she and her husband, James "Donald" Fitzpatrick, of West Catonsville, are settled comfortably in the sunny living room of a compact contemporary saltbox featured 10 years ago in The Sun.
"I fell in love with this," she said, pointing to the balcony overlooking the living room, which features a fireplace and vaulted ceilings. "Of all the plans I've seen in the paper, I like [architect] Gerald Axelrod's the best. He packs so much in such small places. My daughter also built a house with plans of his which I clipped from the paper."
Mrs. Fitzpatrick's main requirement for the house was that it suit her and her husband during an active retirement: When she's not writing, she's whittling; when he's not tending his roses, he's bowling.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick, 60, retired two years ago as a clerk for Baltimore City. Mr. Fitzpatrick, 66, was a buyer for the Chesapeake Paperboard Co. He retired in July 1992.
The master bedroom and bath are on the entry level, close to the kitchen/great room area. Stairs that wind around a chimney lead to the second floor, which houses two bedrooms and a bath, now living quarters for her college-age son, Peter, the only one of six children still at home.
Mrs. Fitzpatrick wanted everything in the home to be handy without feeling cluttered or cooped up. This open design with its sharply slanted roof achieves that end, she explained, by making up in air and light what it lacks in square footage.
They can also look out and reminisce about the rambling clapboard next door, which was her grandfather's place until he died in 1969.
She's glad her son, James Jr., and his family live there, because "an old house needs young people to take care of it."
She, on the other hand, wanted a home that was easy to care for. And since the house had to fit on half of her grandfather's original acre lot, it had to be small. Since it was small, the house cost under $67,000 in 1985, she said. "Plus, we can clean the whole place in a couple hours."
All the necessities of daily living are handy; even the laundry closet is just a few steps off the bedroom and equally close to the kitchen. In fact, when Mrs. Fitzpatrick stands in the middle of the kitchen, she can reach just about every appliance and see the entire downstairs -- a plus whether she's setting the breakfast bar for two or entertaining a crowd of 24 for Thanksgiving dinner.
Decorated in natural hues and woods, the living space has the feel of a cozy mountain retreat -- a ski chalet, Mrs. Fitzpatrick suggested. Yet it's convenient to shopping and the Catonsville Senior Center, where she spends a good deal of time. Better yet, it's close enough to family to encourage frequent drop-in visits by the grandkids.
"They get off the bus out front, and when it's raining, they duck in our front door and grab a cookie on their way through to go home," Mrs. Fitzpatrick said.