By Romelda C. Ascutia

Contentment infuses me as I sit in our front porch sipping hot morning tea. On the breakfast table is a small aquarium with a couple of tiny fish swimming. Against the wall hangs the birdcage housing clucking lovebirds, and by my feet lies our pet dog.

Over the past few weeks I have been channeling my inner domestic goddess, engrossed in transforming our modest house into my family’s ideal hangout.

I have long wanted to decorate the interiors, but office work prevented me. To me the house felt austere—serviceable but not welcoming. And although the situation filled me with dissatisfaction, it was tolerable because I was away at work most of the time. Now that I am a freelance editor working out of the house, I want my home to be more inspiring and embracing.

So began Project: Home Sweet Home.

I went into this activity diffidently with modest ambitions. My first step was to buy a fishbowl and two goldfish. The next day, one fish was dead, and the other soon followed. I replaced the fishbowl with a small aquarium for more space to swim, and bought smaller fish (the saleslady said they were rosy barbs) and some accessories.

My second step was to go to a mall sale and buy synthetic potted flowers (buy one-take one basis), which I placed strategically in our porch, living room, and dining/kitchen area. I wanted but couldn’t afford the imitation bamboo sticks even at their discounted price. I later encountered an ambulant vendor who was selling them for 80 percent less. After a little haggling, I bought a bundle and placed it in the corner near the TV set.

My next move was to give the lovebirds a better environment. The poor things had been languishing in the laundry area in the back of the house for years, and were regularly terrorized by the neighborhood cats. I transferred them to the front porch, perched high beyond reach of their predators.

And just a couple of days ago I purchased different houseplants and arranged them by the house entrance.

Now I feel not only a domestic goddess but also an Earth Mother. I’ve rescued our lovebirds from a life of neglect and terror. The little barbs are alive and lively—so far. (I’ll probably graduate to a bigger aquarium if they don’t make it.) As for the houseplants, I’m planning to buy nice pots for them, and I’m all excited to find out whether I have a green thumb or not.