Crystal Madrilejos

Design & Creative


We’re still plugging away at Project Homestead. It’s hard to know where to start with an update due to the amount of time that has passed since my last post and so much has happened since then.

So first off, we were a bit ambitious thinking that we’d be ready to start construction in July. Andrew’s Mom was being nice and didn’t say anything at the time, though she was thinking – “uh, yeah right.” :) Andrew’s parents built their home years ago, so they know from experience what it’s like. (more…)


Yesterday I posed a little sneak peek on Instagram and Facebook about our house plans. I’m super excited to share where we’ve finally landed with the homebuilding project. I didn’t want to say anything earlier because we still had some loose ends that needed tying up and even now there is one big blocker that we need to overcome, which I’ll talk about later. After much back and forth, we had to forgo the location we had originally settled on due to the fact that it just wasn’t going to work with our budget. We could have probably built in that spot if we waited another 20 years to save the additional money it would have cost, but it’s just not worth it to us. Opportunity costs, people! (more…)


Okay, so this is sort of a bummer post. After much going around and around and talking with too many people to even recall, it’s looking like we may not be able to build our homestead in the spot we had planned. Super sad face, I know. Let me break it down for you. (more…)


I don’t have any previous experience to compare this whole process to, but it seems like every step of the way we are encountering obstacles. Maybe that’s just par for the course, but it can be discouraging! More than once this week I’ve had to step back and take a breather because things were starting to feel heavy.

We have been going back and forth with the county building department and the local zoning board to find out about parceling the property and their requirements for a driveway. We always thought we would just share a driveway with Andrew’s parents since that seemed to make the most sense but there’s some confusion around whether this is actually allowed. Another super frustrating process. There seems to be no consensus on this and whenever Andrew talks to someone, they aren’t quite sure and have to “talk to someone else” to get any sort of answer. (more…)


Just because you find the perfect spot to build, does not mean it’s going to be the easiest spot to build on. For a long time, Andrew and I had been envisioning the spot we would build and anticipated some issues but you just can’t anticipate everything – including the cost. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that building a home is not cheap. So this is where we currently find ourselves. (more…)


It’s that time again. Recapping last year and prognosticating what’s in store for the New Year. I figured there’s no better time for a long overdue update. I have a number of posts in draft form, but haven’t had the chance to hit publish.

The ramp up to this New Year’s Eve was chaotic and so swift it knocked me off my feet, literally and figuratively. Though we usually don’t do anything to celebrate the turning of the calendar, this year was especially lackluster; spent in bed–all four of us–sick with whatever nasty bug is going around. Andrew was the first to be hit. Then both kids and I fell right in a row. Luckily, both kids escaped having to take any antibiotics but Andrew ended up with a sinus infection and myself with a killer sore throat. This is the first I’ve taken antibiotics in probably over 10 years (our kids have never had antibiotics in their short lives thus far and am hoping they don’t have to for a long time – knock on wood!)

As I was lying in bed, I would scroll through Facebook and see everyone reflecting on their year and setting intentions for 2015 with lots of motivation and high hopes. It seemed like most people had a feeling that 2015 was going to be their best year yet and that they could sense the areas of their life that were going to shine. And I wasn’t feeling it. I had no motivation, no sense of what 2015 had in store for me, and definitely did not have that feeling of a fresh start! Granted, my mind was clouded and I get super emotional when I’m sick, but I had this feeling like – Is this it? Is this lack of motivation and horrible state I’m in a foreshadowing of what this year has in store for me??

But as I’ve recovered from being sick, I’ve noticed my motivation coming back and I’m able to look back on 2014 and realize what a monumental year it was for us on many levels. I started Wild Daughters. I got an amazing new day job as Creative Director at an incredible technology company, as well as a game-changing side job, going back to my career roots, designing a magazine with a stellar team of individuals. Andrew and I are this close to being completely debt free. We hit our savings goal to finally build the house we’ve always wanted. Our little family is healthy and happy.

I’ve also been able to think more about what I want 2015 to be. The way I see it, 2014 was the year of positioning. A year of moving all the pieces in the right place to set us up for the big things we have planned for the next couple years. What can I say? We’re long-term goal type people. But what does that mean for THIS year? It means that we’re fine-tuning the mechanics of how all the pieces are working together and propelling things forward. It means making BIG moves on goals that we’ve only been inching towards for a long time, namely the house (!!!) and another project (that will remain unnamed for now) but has been 6+ years in the making. If 2014 was the year for career building, then 2015 is going to be year of The Homestead. Don’t get me wrong, both Andrew and I have big plans and ambitions, work-wise, for 2015 but I think the year is really going to shine on the home front.

I’m still feeling like I need a little bit of a kick in the pants to get this year started. I was hoping this little winter holiday break would have been the time for me to regroup and tie up loose ends, but alas, being sick derailed that plan and I have just as much stuff to do starting the New Year as I had coming out of the previous one.  So my only intention I’m making at the moment is getting through this current mile-long, to-do list and being super grateful for it all.

Happy New Year, guys.

The Design Elements of a Chicken. Illustration from “Introduction to Permaculture” by Bill Mollison.

I first learned about Permaculture when Andrew was living out west at Bohdi Creek Farm. And from the moment he started describing the things he was learning while living there, I knew it was something life-changing. Who knew that, what would turn out to be an unplanned three month stint for Andrew in the Pacific NW, would end up being so influential on our lives?

If you are unfamiliar with Permaculture, here is the general synopsis from Wikipedia:

Permaculture is a branch of ecological design, ecological engineering, and environmental design that develops sustainable architecture and self-maintained agricultural systems modeled from natural ecosystems.

Andrew and I have talked about the general principles of Permaculture before and know some aspects of it from his time out west and the modest amount of research we’ve done, but something I read recently was sort of an “ah-ha” moment for me. It made things clear as to why the whole idea of Permaculture really speaks to me, and it’s basically this: Permaculture is design. (more…)

On Being

Dream Day

The Creative Coaching sessions I’ve been doing have not only been helping me improve my approach to how I work, create and live, but they’ve also been helping me work towards big goals. One of the first homework assignments Kathleen had me do was to describe in detail my ideal dream day. She encouraged me to put in as many details as possible, down to what I was wearing and eating. I was pretty descriptive and was able to knock out two solid sheets, single spaced no less. I’ve obviously thought about this a lot.

I won’t go into every single detail, but since I was also required to make a Pinterest Board around what the day felt like, you can see some of what would look like by viewing my Dream Day board here.

The three major things that my dream day included were: A custom built house on a permaculture homestead, homeschooling our kids and somehow combining these two aspects into a sustainable business model.

So yeah, really big lofty goals! Like, huge life-changing, uncharted-territory-for-me-and-my-family type goals. Even though attaining all these would be a dream, they are in the distant future and I’m actually appreciative that I am not in a position to make these things happen right now. The nature of these goals requires a lot of learning and discovery, and for the time being I’m in a great position to do just that. There are a lot of things between me and my goals that are outside of my control that I have to just work with at the moment, but there’s a part of me that thinks the Universe is giving me this time to not only prepare, but figure out if this is the right fit for me and my family.

I’m fortunate that I currently have a great job that not only supports my family but keeps me grounded. It’s helping me grow as a designer and creative decision maker and I’m always learning new skills that will help me down whatever path my future takes me, homestead or not. It also lets me put into use the problem-solving tools I acquire and allows me to implement new approaches as I continue to find the best and most effective way for me to create.

It’s all a process and I’m learning new things everyday. Like I said earlier in the post, I won’t share my entire dream day, but here is an excerpt of what I wrote and found especially dreamy, it’s a cross between a Portlandia parody and Kinfolk Magazine, which will, in reality, probably end up looking more like Doomsday Preppers but whatever:

“We all wake up early on the homestead because there are chickens that need tending and veggies for harvesting, compost that needs turning, gardens that need watering. We all have our jobs to do. The kids start their school day early because the way we live is a huge part of their education. They learn by doing, by understanding the connection our lives have to our surroundings, to our environment, to the way we choose to live consciously.”

I’m sure there is something to be said for the fact that I didn’t portray my dream day as one where I sit on the beach all day. I’m just too practical, I guess. What does your dream day look like? Does it look like work, but work that you love doing? Does it look like a vacation? Does it look like Rivendell or The Shire (man, that’s a tough one!)?


On Habitat

The Homestead

I mentioned in one of my previous posts about how I had to create an “Ideal Dream Day” for my creative coaching session, which is basically what I’m referring to whenever I talk about mine and Andrew’s goals.

Our goal is to build a self-sufficient, sustainable, Permaculture-based homestead for our family. I’m putting this out there, which isn’t something that Andrew and I usually do. We’re both of the sort where we don’t like to voice desires/wishes/plans until we feel like there is proof of being able to follow through with it. We’re usually not ones to make superficial claims – the whole “say what we mean, and mean what we say” thing. Though this is really more descriptive of Andrew and less so of myself. I’ve been known to get dramatic and use the words “never,” “ever,” and “always” when things get heated. But, I try to be aware of it. Anyways, side-note!

For a long time, Andrew and I have wanted to build a home for ourselves. We just couldn’t ever see us living long-term in something that was not our own. Something that we didn’t get to consider every aspect of. For the amount of money it costs to own a home, we couldn’t resign ourselves to having to make compromises. Of course, we’re realistic. We will have to make compromises even if we build our own home, but they will be compromises of our own design. What Andrew and I want is nothing elaborate. We want something that is sensible and smart.

After all these years of dreaming, we’re about at the point where being able to take action is visible on the horizon. We’re still a long ways off, but it seems like a real possibility. So, in the meantime, we’re doing what we can to research and learn about what it will take to build our homestead. Getting smart, as I said in a previous post.

I’m looking forward to sharing what we learn here! Any advice or tips from those of you who are out there building your own or have built your own homestead are welcome.

Coming up, I’ll talk more about the “Ideal Dream Day” that I came up with for my coaching session. It’s, dreamy to say the least!

Above is an image our backyard at the place we currently live. Pretty dreamy to wake up to everyday. That’s our house directly to the right of the barn, slightly obscured by the tree. (Not the house on the far right.)


I’ve been doing a little bit of research into low-light houseplants.

After buying a handful of succulents over the past year, I’m realizing that we just don’t have enough light to really get them to thrive. I have a few that are doing okay, but they are stretching and getting leggy due to the lack of light, even in our south-facing window (due to two beautiful, but huge, maple trees.)

Here’s a photo of part of my current succulent collection that I moved out onto the porch for more sun. See how long and leggy that middle one is? And you can see the Echeveria at the top, how the center is stretching. Poor guys.

I came across this great post on Martha Stewart (of course) on how to measure what type of light you have and what plants are appropriate for your light levels. I don’t think I’m going to do the entire light test with the camera that they suggest, but it did give me some ideas for plants to look out for. Here are two of my favorites:

Crested Leopard Plant (Farfugium Japonicum ‘Crispatum’)

Prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura)

I don’t know what I’m going to do with all these succulents come fall – right now they are on the porch which gets a bit more sun, but come winter they will have to come back indoors. I looked into using plant grow lights, but those have a tendency to be an eyesore. We still have a grow light hanging in our kitchen from our seed starts and it just screams “illegal activity” to me. But it may be my only choice if I want to keep them.

Anyone have any low-light houseplant they like and recommend?