Ellen: At Home, At Ease

Ellen: At Home, At Ease
“I’ve learned from all the horrible things that happened to me that it only makes the good things better,” says DeGeneres (at home).
Guy Aroch/Corbis Outline

11/03/2005 AT 06:00 PM EST

There are times when Ellen DeGeneres just has to dance. And then there are times when she actually, y’know, just wants to buy some bread. “I’m at the grocery store and people will go, ‘You’re not dancing!’ I’m like, ‘That’s because I’m shopping for groceries!’” says the comedian, who has made her feel-good footwork the hallmark of her daytime talk show.

On this warm autumn afternoon, DeGeneres is in weekend mode, relaxing on the patio of the two-bedroom Los Angeles home she shares with her girlfriend of nearly one year, actress Portia de Rossi. With de Rossi out horseback riding, DeGeneres hangs with the couple’s rescue cats Charlie, George Jackson and Chairman Meow Tse-Tung. “This is my priority,” she tells PEOPLE, surveying her tranquil two-acre estate. “If everything else went away, as long as I’ve saved enough money that I can live with trees and animals around, that’s the most important thing to me.”

Suddenly, with a burst of energy, Charlie – the newest of the brood – takes a flying leap. DeGeneres laughs. “From a milk crate to this,” she says to the cat. “It’s a good life.”

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