Category Archives: Homebody

Life in the time of COVID

Maxine Eleanor, August 1, 2020

I didn’t intend to take a year away from writing. Once upon a time, more than a decade ago, I had to keep myself from posting updates more than once a day. For a year to pass without giving this space any attention feels strange.

I have been writing, just not here. I’m working through the final edits of my fourth novel, “Desert Divide.” This is my least favorite part of the writing process. I’ve written and edited for the last several years and now am left with a stack of edits from friends and colleagues. Some of these edits are exceptionally helpful, namely those of the typo and grammar variety. Others are more complicated. Those edits that deal with pacing, tone, character aren’t simple to address. If you change a detail in the first chapter that is key to chapter 12, you’d better remember to connect all the dots.

And in writing novels, making sure to weave in all the necessary ends while leaving some to the audience’s imagination is tricky, magical, daunting work. That’s where I’m at — sitting and staring at a huge stack of edits. It feels like mile 20 of the marathon. There is still so much work to do before the celebration can begin.

This year of working from home during the pandemic has had some bright lights worth noting:

My niece Maxine was born in August, bringing the first grandbaby to the family. Watching my brother become a father is hard to describe. He is this amazing man, father, and husband. He’s also still my knucklehead little brother, but watching this transformation has been remarkable. I am so proud of him, my sister-in-law, and the beautiful family they’ve created. Max is one of the happiest babies I’ve ever been around. She’s just a doll, and I can’t wait to be a constant source of spoiling her rotten. My parents are over the moon, too.

Hello Dolly Parton, “Dolly”

We adopted Hello Dolly Parton in October. Dolly is a terrier/terror mix and is a constant source of amusement. She’s also in part responsible for a bit of weight loss, thanks to the daily distance we must walk to keep her from bouncing off the walls. We have walked every inch of this neighborhood and she would be happy to go again, right now. She’s a great source of love.

Our home has thrived with additional attention. We’ve committed to eating at home except for once a week. We’ve made many new recipes. The vegetable garden is thriving. I’ve made nearly weekly trips to Goodwill to drop off items we did not need. Things feel organized and simplified. (May this please carry forward as our post-pandemic life begins.)

I’m looking forward to returning to a regular writing routine here and otherwise. Many of my routines that I’d honed in the last two decades have fallen away during marriage, and certainly during a pandemic. I’m excited to get back to church, running, swimming distance, and reading actual books in lieu of leaning on podcasts.

If you’re here, you’re likely family or a dear friend. Thank you for continuing to be interested in my updates.



Master Bedroom Update

This took several months, but boy are we glad it is done. When Jason moved into this home, we knew the master bedroom would need some help. The woman who lived here before was obsessed with greek themes. (You may remember the column in the bathroom.) Hence the drapey olive green curtains, lots of wallpaper, and the throne.

A throne. But I knew that if we were going to add our personal touches to the room, using these resources were going to make all the difference to the bedroom once it was complete.

Master bedroom update: I mean, seriously. Look at that throne.

Master bedroom update

So, we took it all down and started with some fresh paint, including bright green beneath the chair rail. I think we just needed a break away from the wallpaper, hence why we decided to go with paint instead. When we redecorate again in the future, I’ve already thought about the type of wallpaper that I want. I’ve recently come across some different types of marble wallpaper, and I have to say that they look really good and I would love to see that sort of style in my home. But for now, we’ve decided to go with some fresh paint instead. And by “we,” I mean Jason. I picked out the colors and helped remove a bit of the wallpaper, but he did the vast majority of the work. Although, I did give the carpet a quick clean using the vacuum we found online at Bissell which was very easy to use.


Master bedroom update: I do not miss the throne.

Master bedroom update: new art. These are the lyrics from our wedding song

We bought some blue drapes to replace the others, and I splurged on a piece of art from House of Belonging. Those lyrics are from Hillsong’s “Ocean,” which is our wedding song. Decorating a master bedroom is always hard work, but if you want to give it a try, there are a lot of places you can check out, for example, if you’re looking for a place to get the best mattress, there are websites for you to check out.


Master bedroom update


Master bedroom update

I love the crazy mix of colors, the homemade quilt from my mom on the bed and on Nelson’s bed, and how happy this room is now. We are sleeping better with the heavier curtains, and we managed to clean up some clutter in the process. It was a simple update, but one much needed.

I love our home!


The Little Things

This weekend I planted a vegetable garden. One of the perks of returning to my little home in Tempe: space to garden. I’d done a good bit of work over the years to clear areas for gardening and no surprise — they were empty and ready for some attention.
Back to Tempe


Tomatoes and leeks and peppers and zucchini and in a few months, we will have more vegetables than we know what to do with. Thankfully we also have more Ball and Mason jars than I know what to do with. (I may be a bit of a jar junky.) I see a tomato canning party early summer.

Back to Tempe


Otherwise, I scratched the itch to have everything spotless and organized this weekend.

Back to Tempe

New drip pans for an old stove  — with a bit of elbow grease and Magic Erasers (which, my God really are magic and possibly produced by Unicorns) and voila — a much nicer looking, sparkly clean stove:

Back to Tempe


My other cleaning hack worthy of sharing: my little home has OLD cabinets. They could use to be replaced, along with just about every other fixture in the joint. My mom suggested cleaning them with Simply Orange and my goodness if that didn’t make a big difference.


Back to Tempe



Back to Tempe


You wouldn’t believe the ick that stuff removed. Are they brand new? No. Are they clean and ready for more use? Yep.

So, while this place isn’t palatial, it will be clean and tidy as we take our time moving in. I’m pleasantly surprised by how much it feels like home. A garden always helps with that.

Back to Tempe

This week: painting, bathroom updates and new carpeting. And lots of watering the little garden that could (and will).

My home in Denver was the Heirloom Homestead. Any votes if I keep the name or spice it up? I’d love your suggestion.


Thanksgiving Day Planning


This year, I’m adding the following to our table of friends and family for Thanksgiving day celebrations (friends are bringing the bird, gravy and mashed potatoes):


Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon rolls I like to surprise friends with the delivery first thing Thanksgiving morning. They can be picked at all day, or enjoyed first thing with a big mug of coffee. They are warm and gooey and wonderful and a great kick off to a day of excess.


The feast:

Cheese platter

Parsnip carrot soup — served in tiny glasses, to be sipped before dinner

Brussels sprout hash — because, yes. I just love these and I don’t care if I have to take the remainder of the dish home with me. YUM.

Cranberry and ginger relish from Orangette — I’ve made this in the past and it is making me drooly just thinking about it.

Sweet potato casserole, family recipe

Big, fluffy rolls. I may get adventurous and try this recipe. I may buy them.

{Fluffy roll + turkey + cranberry + sweet potato casserole = heaven. Like, I’m pretty sure that is what is served in heaven any time you want it.}

The recovery:

Ice cream, dark chocolate sampler — pie is for the birds.


This is the first year without my Grandma Max, who loved this holiday. I plan on having a bowl of giant black olives and tiny pickles on the table too, in her honor. (I wish I’d thought to ask for her pilgrim salt and pepper shakers.) Off to make a market list and pulling out dishes.

My favorite large-meal hack: the day before, I line up platters and dishes with post it notes labeling the recipe and the order for cooking, along with non-refrigerated ingredients. It helps me keep everything in order and warm when ready to be served.

What is your Thanksgiving tradition?





Make It Work

I am slowly turning our third floor into a sewing room and office. The room started as our catch-all for boxes we didn’t know where to unpack, rolled rugs — purchased for our New Jersey home — with its gorgeous hardwood floors, and stacks of books that didn’t make it to the haphazard piles on bookshelves downstairs.

I wanted a space to iron, cut and sew fabric. I also wanted things to be organized in a way that allowed me to access them. If I have to move a dozen boxes to get to the one I need for that one additional element to any project, it simply won’t happen. After a few weeks, it is starting to come together. Far from perfect, but better than where we started.

First find: a chair and cushion at Goodwill — purchased for $5:

The making of an arts + crafts loft

The making of an arts + crafts loft

Second find: a small farm table to replace the one I loved in Golden. This one is smaller, but it will work for my sewing machine. (Or a laptop, if we want to work up here as the weather cools.) Carpets unrolled, chair pulled in and this little table works like a charm.

The making of an arts + crafts loft

But dang it, if that doesn’t still look messy. Baskets of sewing books and that printer were driving me crazy. Also, I don’t have anywhere to cut my fabric, which was sitting with the ironing board in a corner:

The making of an arts + crafts loft

And those little windows needed some attention. Curtains. Some funky curtains. Another cheapy Goodwill find, a good washing and ironing and voila:

Creating a sewing room

Perfect? No. Functional and better than staring at tiny venetian blinds? Yes.

A trip to Ikea with a gift card later — two more bookshelves were added upstairs and that clutter took a much better turn:

The making of an arts + crafts loft

Creating a sewing room

Creating a sewing room

As for cutting the fabric, for now, I’ll have to share the sewing table and make the best of it until I find another sturdy table that will work.

Creating a sewing room

A pretty and functional space.  A minimal investment in new things. A focus on using what we have.


Before + After Week: Office

Growing up in Phoenix, I was spoiled by real estate. I grew up in a home with a walk-in closet in my bedroom. Our house had two nicely sized bathrooms and a double garage.

As an adult in the Denver area, I realize how much younger of a city Phoenix is. Homes here in the same socio-economic range often come with one bathroom, zero closets and a nice parking spot on the street. My new home does have a few closets but nothing significant. When organising my office, I realised how much paperwork I have. It’s crazy! Time to go paperless and use something like I think. Another thing that I did not like was my many tubs of art supplies hanging out for everyone to see. With this being said, I don’t help myself. Pretty much anytime I go to the store, if there are deals on stationary, I’m there. Who doesn’t like having office supplies for home? You can never have enough. I still need to organise everything in a better way though, so I can justify spending more money on supplies.

Before + After: Office

Hi! We previously lived in a closet where no one could see us, in all our plastic glory.

Before + After: Office

Nor the green drapes — although they did provide awesome shade. This space needed some organizational love, including sewing up some panels to hide the junk:

Before + After: Office

Two yards of heavy canvas and 30 minutes of sewing later — voila. Hidden junk.

Before + After: Office

Before + After: Office

Also — Sue sent a lovely housewarming gift this week that she embroidered. I couldn’t bring myself to use the dishcloth in the kitchen, but it looks sweet here — along with the African chicken my friend Tina sent.

Before + After: Office

And my favorite Japanese print curtains in place. It’s starting to feel like home.




Brunch for the gang

Brunch for the gang

Brunch for the gang

Brunch for the gang

Brunch for the gang

Dear friends came into town this weekend for a certain football game; I welcomed the chance to cook for their paleo palates by starting their visit off with brunch. (This egg casserole and this pancake recipe are entirely worth adding new ingredients to the grocery basket. The pancake was actually so good — hefty, filling, satisfying and healthy — I’d consider making it a new Saturday morning routine. No syrup or other nonsense required.)

I’ve come to believe brunch at home, where the coffee, music, temperature and timing are just as you like it, is the perfect way to catch up with those you love.













Secret Vegetables


sauteed onions and garlic make life better

My brother and his girlfriend came over for my first Heirloom Homestead dinner party this week. We celebrated Jess’ 23rd birthday. (Yeah. Not only is she pretty, but she’s young too.)

Mmm... brains! (okay, cauliflower)

Her favorite meal, per Cody is “alfredo with white wine and snickerdoodles.” The cookies didn’t happen, but the rest did. And because I’m trying to do this paleo way of eating, I knew I’d need more than just sauce. So, I steamed some cauliflower and blended it into the sauce, along with sauteed garlic and onions, to both make the pasta sauce thicker and more substantive. With chicken and a big spinach salad, it wasn’t a bad meal.

Cauliflower puree

(Yeah. I didn’t make the alfredo sauce. I don’t normally eat this way, but I was out of time and this was handy.)

Chicken, cauliflower alfredo

I nearly got away with sneaking the vegetables into the sauce without Cody knowing; alas, they showed up 15 minutes early and the hungry bear paced in the kitchen watching my every move. Thankfully, they were both too hungry to complain and seemed to like the dinner. I know they liked the mint chocolate chip for dessert.

I’m still dreaming of a big picnic table under that giant tree in the backyard for some summer BBQs. Soon.


Building a Homestead

Feed me!

Other than my lame attempts at poetry and my very public screaming about the weather for the last week (see: Twitter) — I’ve been thinking about this new little home I’m building. Technically, I’m renting. But let me get carried away, will you?

The creation of a home is something that requires magic, and often some help from loans to get it off the ground. How many have visited a house that felt homey? Or maybe you better remember those that didn’t? It is strange to be in a house that is so perfect it resembles a Stepford scene/Pottery Barn catalog. On the contrary, my favorite homes are interesting for the same reasons my friends are — quirks, flaws and wild senses of both humor and creativity.

giant home that looks like a doll house

Not my childhood home

The home I grew up in was immaculate. Homemade quilts on the backs of couches and tucked in tidy linen closets, rows of homemade preserves and pickled vegetables in the pantry, a riot of roses in deep planters overlooking the living room window. My mother was a domestic queen who thoroughly enjoyed keeping house, including a penny-perfect budget.

My mother, I’m sadly not. I think if I was in any way like my mother, I would’ve invested in a beautiful home in the perfect family community by now, but I just simply do not have her knack for keeping everything spick and span. However, she did provide great encouragement for her children to be artsy dreamers. The house of my dreams is similar in design to that of Frida’s childhood home in Mexico. Adobe walled bedrooms, with French doors leading to a central courtyard — where giant, old trees are wrapped in tiny white lights, and a kitchen full of pottery and a warm meal awaits any visitor. I was closer to recreating this vision living in the desert southwest. And by “closer,” I mean a long-shot.

used to be homes

Also, not my childhood home

Although I’ve spent some time looking at prefab cabins for sale, I’d like to live somewhere a little less remote. A cabin would be lovely to vacation to, but my social heart would die a sad, lonely death up in the hills. Instead, my Colorado homestead blueprints include:

  • A rustic farm table with benches for the kitchen — rumor has it my carpenter grandfather is working on this for me. Spoiled? Slightly. I hope to host many community dinners and eventually feed a family at this table. I am so very, very thankful my grandfather is creating this heirloom for my new home.
  • A kitchen window where I can hang the Japanese curtain panel I purchased and tucked away years ago, knowing the day would eventually come when, indeed, I could look out over my
  • kitchen garden. Have you heard of a potager? Frida and Diego had one of these too. In theory, you should be no farther than arm’s length from the kitchen to harvest herbs. For this home, this garden will be one of pots. While I timed my escape of Arizona’s heat just right, I underestimated the time it would take to get settled to plant my own garden in time. A few potted tomatoes, basil and other herbs will be just outside of that window, next to the compost bin — also handy to have near the kitchen sink. Grandpa already built the compost bin. I know. A carpenter and a quilter in the family? I’m lucky.
  • My own pantry lined with Mason jars full of food I’ve grown and preserved
  • A proper guest room with plenty of clean linens for the many visitors I’ve have scheduled for summer get-aways
  • A stack of board games and a wine fridge; I’d rather entertain with these than a television
  • A large dog bed in the living room, a large coop full of fowl in the yard, and a porch with a bench, pots of flowers and a wind chime
  • Framed photos of the many I love
  • A basket over-flowing with yarn, needles and projects to share with visitors
  • Another basket for cards and correspondence — what a treat to have the postman come to my door!
  • A chalk board where I can list my prayer for the week

dreamy kitchen table and setting

shutters, stars, dress form, white and soft blue

blue and white quilts

I'm going to find this table for my living room

This is all coming together; it really is such a dream to be in the mountains, at this phase of life. I wish more than anything I could be surrounded by those I love from Toronto. I have my blueprints, know which areas of Toronto that I would like to live in and even know the best Custom Home Builder in Toronto. And yet, right now, it remains a dream rather than reality. Until then, here I will be an urban homesteader — a title I will take with pride.