Category Archives: Home

No Satisfaction

When I was in the pre-teen/early teen years, I could always guarantee myself the most profound feeling of satisfaction by the end of the day, simply by completely a list of certain chores:

  1. Clean out dog’s pen, water and food dish.
  2. Clean out guinea pigs cages, water bottles, line their cages with fresh grass and give them a pile of pellets.
  3. Tidy, dust and vacuum my room.
  4. Launder my sheets then make my bed up nice.
  5. Take a shower.
  6. Organize my books by author or subject, or whatever my whim happened to be.

Mind you, these days were few and far between. But when I made it happen, I would lay in bed that night feeling completely and utterly fulfilled in my existence. I had set all right with the world.

I haven’t felt that in a long, long time.

Even on a day like today, when I’ve gotten so much done already (almost 4 p.m. now), it doesn’t matter. Before I fall asleep I’ll feel like the biggest failure, slacker, my to-do list still weighing me down.

So far today I’ve:

  1. Done a load of laundry.
  2. Run a load of dishes through the dishwasher (after having put away a load of clean ones).
  3. Watered front and back garden.
  4. Done some weeding, mulching and some trimming of bushes.
  5. Harvested some zucchini and cucumbers.
  6. Snaked out our shower drain (finally.)
  7. Hemmed my new work pants (finally.)
  8. Answered a work email.
  9. Taken the dog out several times, fed and watered him.
  10. Played games and puzzles with kids.
  11. Prepared and served breakfast, lunch and a snack.
  12. Wiped down counters and dining table.
  13. Made my bed.
  14. Changed Gwen about 5 times, two of which were poopy.

And probably some other stuff I’ve forgotten. Pretty typical day. I’m certainly not a failure or a slacker.

I just feel like one all the time.

I wonder if I can ever get back to where I can feel good about my day? When enough will once again feel like enough?

Survival Lessons – Edible Plants

My husband recently bought me this book:

It makes me want to spend hours hiking around the wild spaces, looking for all these plants.

This is the perfect time of year too, with all the plants sprouting and blooming — so much to see and explore.

Reading through the book, it amazes me for some reason how much food surrounds us. Eating lots of different leaves for salad greens, making flour out of roots and seeds, making tea out of dried flowers. I’ve got quite a few edible plants in my yard (things I planted), but it’s reassuring to know that the boundary of edible wildness (what most people call “weeds” because there’s a grocery store up the street) extends infinitely.

One thing I want to commit to experimenting with this fall is acorns. We get a ton of them on the ground near our house and I’d like to read up on them, find some recipes for processing and making tasty stuff out of them.

In order to make a survival lesson out of edible plant identification for the kids, I might make a scavenger hunt of sorts. Maybe make copies of drawings to identify them and make up a little booklet for them to use as a handbook to find stuff. Whoever gets poison ivy automatically loses! 😀

Mendocino, California

I was born near Oakland and lived in that area until age 9. But then we moved to Mendocino, a little tourist town about four hours up the coast.

Recently, an aerial shot of Mendocino was shared on Facebook, which caused me to reminisce, which in turn resulted in me dragging you for a brief jaunt into my past.

Big River and Mendocino - Photo shared by Rick Hemmings and Charles Reinhart on Facebook

We’d visited the place since I was born, first in a mobile home on a piece of property my grandparents had bought in nearby Little River, then in a lovely house that was built to replace it. So it was already a home away from home. But living there made it a big part of me.

Me on Big River Beach, circa 1973

It’s hard to even describe what it was like there, the raw beauty, the isolation, the intense connection to the ocean. The bonds that form living in a small town under those conditions.

My Dad and I with Mendocino in the background, circa 1975

I haven’t been back there since 2006 when we drove through briefly, just stopped long enough to see if my senior picture is still hanging up on the high school wall with all the other graduates since the school began in the late 1800’s. I haven’t been back there and actually stayed to enjoy the place since 1994. While I was there I wrote the following poem, which I can’t figure out how to properly format here to save my life:

Return to Mendocino

You are in my veins again—

Ebb and flow of

steel cold blue,

Desert green on a

dark gray cliff,

Creeping hiss of

white lace foam.

Cliff face chills

my resting bones,

My pulse makes time

with pounding tide,

Pores absorbing

salty spray,

Familiar drug—


Not home anymore. Home is wherever I am, and Mendocino is always with me, so we will always be home together.

First Anniversary of Homeownership

It’s been a great year. I celebrated the day of (March 30) by cleaning and organizing as much of the house as I could and spending some time in the yard.

Highlights of our first year:

  • Having an excuse to get a couple of new pieces of furniture
  • Finally unpacking our lives out of the boxes that we’d been living out of for many, many years
  • Seeing my kids make friends among the neighborhood kids, watching them all play and run and just be crazy kids
  • Planning long term with a piece of property, which I’ve never done before – planting fruit trees, changing landscape features, listing and prioritizing various things we want to do
  • Getting to know neighbors and becoming involved in the Homeowner’s Group and various neighborhood gatherings

Here’s to many more years in our home.

Our Home - March 2011

Our Home - March 2012

It’s funny, but all the little changes aren’t even visible in a picture – all the plants added in the front (well, you can see the trees.) The sandbox and swings under the porch, the dirt (supposed to be grass) path beside the porch instead of rocks, the rock border on the front gardens. Looks pretty much the same from afar!

Our 1st Anniversary Present - Log Cabin furniture for the front porch

March 2011

March 2012

March 2012

Eating on $20 per day?

Before you answer, I am feeding 7 people. It just seems like if I play my cards right, I should be able to average about $20 a day for food.


I’m going to start paying attention to where I shop and how much I spend. I also want to have a list of the meals I make and how much they cost.

After an initial attempt at keeping track of food spending, I think my biggest difficulties are figuring out how to calculate leftovers, calculating condiments and other things that we buy once a month or every other month and eat a tablespoon at a time, and also just finding the time and energy to keep track.

I’ve got a shopping list, and I’m going to keep the receipt with the list and also write all the prices on the list so I can use it to calculate how much a particular meal costs.

Does anyone have a good system for keeping track of the cost of meals?

Do you know about how much you spend on food for your family per day?

Do you have the stores dialed in where you can find the cheapest price on your staple items?

Thoughts on Hand Quilting

My grandmother-in-law pays a lady to finish her quilt for her. She’s earned it — she’s been sewing and crafting forever, and there’s a point where, hey, I did the quilt top, the rest is really monkey work and why should I be bothered when I can help support the local economy and get on to the next creative project?

She’s also done so many amazing projects in her time that she is lightyears away from feeling that she has to prove her abilities.

But for me, I still feel like I have to do the whole thing myself, from picking out the pattern to presenting the final product. I’ve only done about 7 quilts (one of them was a baby quilt that I hand sewed completely, having no machine at the time) so I still want to prove to myself that I can do it all.

I was going to try machine quilting this one (which I’ve only ever done once before) but then I realized I was supposed to buy a special foot, and I was supposed to roll it and reroll it and all kinds of craziness so that it would work out okay.

So far I’ve already ripped out an entire row because it was too bunchy.

But sitting there with needle and thread, taking tiny steps along an immense path toward the destination, there is something awesome about it. Every show I watch or music I listen to or conversation I have somehow gets stitched into the blanket, and my life becomes part of the life of the recipient.

One of these days it will be done, the weight of three (four?) years of working on the project will be lifted off my shoulders, and I can start something new.

Portrait of Life

If I had to describe what life looks like, I can’t think of a better image than the bright fresh vibrant green of spring leaves shining in the sun with the immense dark promise of rain in the background.

Baby Birch in Spring

Unless maybe it’s the same scene with cherry blossoms:


There’s something seriously magical about plants volunteering in the garden. Especially when you kinda recognize them, but they could be any number of varieties, such as this little guy volunteering in the middle of my row of carrots, who looks like some kind of squash… but is he a pumpkin? A spaghetti squash? A zucchini?

Some of his pals are in my row of chard seeds.

What a delicious mystery!

Landscaping with Rocks

I started putting some rocks around my front garden beds to stop the erosion that happens when the clouds open up, as they do here in the South, and unload a heaven-sized bucket of water. It washes everything down the sidewalks, and I thought lining them with some of the big rocks the builders abandoned in the field across from my house would hold back the dirt.

Then I got a little carried away.

And the overall effect…

Good times.

More fun with gardening

Here’s one of the twiggy apple trees in the front garden:

Just beyond it you can the see decorative cherry I moved and somehow didn’t kill.

Here’s the twiggy fig:

The dude at the local nursery where we bought the trees explained that figs aren’t actually fruit, they are like the hip (as in, rose hips) of the partially opened flower, or something like that. I’ve never actually tried one as they look pretty creepy to me, but my husband loves them, and I think watching the whole process from tiny tree to harvest might inspire me to give them a try (they are just SO ugly!!!)

When I was at Home Depot getting the stakes for the apple trees, I couldn’t resist buying some flowers:

One of my best friends got me the rosemary all the way to the right, and it’s doing brilliantly, but the poor little scraggly gardenia just got stepped on too many times. I’m not sure if it will survive my small children. Maybe now that there are flowers in that bed, the kids will stay out of it (a girl can dream…)

While I was at the store I saw people buying tomato plants and such, and although I think it’s way too early for that, I figured I might gamble on starting them from seed this early…

The big containers are lettuce, and in the box are tomatoes, basil, beans and zukes.

It’s so nice to be outside getting dirty!