The Amazing Bliss of 10 More Minutes

crowded parking lot

I had to report for jury duty last week. I find jury service interesting and don’t view it as a chore, but I did have to do some careful organizing on Wednesday because my son’s school had a late start and I had to check in at 8 a.m.

Since Denver’s morning rush hour is unpredictable, I built an extra ten minutes in my tightly-planned schedule to drive to the courthouse, park, and go through security. Traffic was pretty typical that morning, but because I had extra time I wasn’t annoyed by the heavy volume or stoplights.

I arrived early to the courthouse, and instead of frantically circling the crowded lot looking for a parking space I had time to find a nice, shady spot under a tree.

I had a few moments to sit in my car and send up a prayer for the people in the courthouse with their various concerns and heartbreaks and problems, and for the judges and lawyers and staff to perform their best, and for us jurors to listen well and do a good job of carrying out our responsibilities.

I had a nice walk from my outlying parking spot to the courthouse, and didn’t feel stressed when I saw the long security line because I still had extra time. I arrived a few minutes early to the jury room.

The rest of the day was filled with many hours of “hurry up and wait,” as I sat through jury selection for two trials. My number was never called, and I was eventually excused mid-afternoon.

Driving home, it occurred to me that the relaxed beginning to my morning had stayed with me throughout the day. Wednesday at the courthouse turned out to be a very pleasant day.

I realized that too often, I don’t build in much extra time in my schedule. I frequently find myself trying to squeeze in a few more tasks before I rush off somewhere. How might my days improve if I gave myself the gift of an extra ten minutes now and then?

How about you? Could you build in a little extra time to your comings and goings this week, and see how that affects you? Or do you already do a good job of building in breathing room to your daily schedule?

Have a good week—and may you enjoy the bliss of some unhurried moments,

The signature for Eliza Cross

Photo: Dean Hochman

What is Your Most Important Thing Today?

Sunrise | photo by Bryce Bradford | Happy Simple Living blog

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien

 

A new day dawns, ripe with possibilities.

Yet the sheer number of priorities and responsibilities most of us juggle each day can sometimes be overwhelming. When I do have unstructured time, I often don’t know where to best focus my energy. Should I write 500 words for my next book? Take a nap? Answer e-mails? Go for a bike ride? Sweep the garage? Call a friend? Create a masterpiece?

Too often, I arrive at the end of the day feeling like I’ve soldiered through the hours and tasks without accomplishing any of the things I really wanted to.

“Pay yourself first,” is a popular bit of financial advice, suggesting that we tuck some money in savings before we pay our bills. So here’s a challenge, my friends:  what if we paid ourselves first from the well of our precious time? Could we try to carve out some moments during this new day to pursue our truest priorities?

What is one thing you could do today, to support your dreams or goals?

Could you figure out a way to pay yourself first today?

If you do, I’d love to hear from you.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

Photo:  Bryce Bradford

Chewy and Sweet Butterscotch Toffee Bars

Butterscotch Toffee Brownies

For years our mom has made the most delicious butterscotch brownies, using the classic recipe from The Joy of Cooking cookbook. Her bars are thin and chewy with a hint of salt, and they’re so, so good.

This is my version of the recipe, combining a slightly thicker butterscotch brownie base with a layer of (my favorite!) chocolate toffee candy bars chopped and scattered on top. They couldn’t be easier to make, and they’re perfect to take on a picnic or potluck.

Butterscotch Toffee Brownies

2 cups lightly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
6 Heath or Skor bars (1.4 ounces each), coarsely chopped (about 1 generous cup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a 9- by 13-inch cake pan.

In a large bowl, mix together the butter, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and stir until blended. Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Sprinkle the toffee pieces evenly over the top and press lightly.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until dry on top and almost firm to the touch. Let cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then cut in rectangles with a sharp knife. Makes 36 bars.

Enjoy this beautiful summer weekend,

The signature for Eliza Cross

My “I Should Be Doing More” Monkey Mindset

Trying to relax | Happy Simple Living blog

Lately I’ve been aware of how often I walk around this beautiful world with a vague shadow that no matter what I am doing or how much I am doing, it’s not right and it’s not enough.

I seem to be accompanied by a little monkey whose mission is to provide ongoing feedback throughout the day, like:

 

You should be blogging more.

You should be writing more.

You should be reading more.

You should be exercising more.

You should be volunteering more.

You should be calling your friends more.

You should be going out more.

You should be vacuuming more.

You should be organizing your photos better.

You should be eating more fiber.

You should be building your social media platform.

You should be answering your emails faster.

You should be pulling more weeds.

You should be meditating more.

You should be growing more of your own food.

You should be earning more money.

You should be cooking more foods from scratch.

You should be giving your son more educational experiences.

You should be living greener.

You should be getting more involved in the political process.

You should be learning Spanish.

You should be giving more.

You should be doing more.

 

Last week a dear friend told me that she feels much the same way. She’s an amazing wife and mother to four children, and she said, “I feel like I spend the entirety of every day letting someone or something down.”

Perhaps many of us walk around with this vague sense that we’re never doing enough. “Live in the moment” is a popular quote, but how do we balance that ideal with the external and internal pressures that surround us?

So this morning I seek to quiet my monkey brain. My prayer and meditation is simply this: Help me today to have a more balanced day. Help me to do my best, let my heart be open, and give me insight about what truly matters so that I can let go of all my “shoulds” and feel more at peace.

Do you ever feel this way? For those of you who do, may you experience true purpose and peace today — and may you know just how amazing you are.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

A Funny Little Toilet Paper Tip

Dear friends,

Have you ever faced this dilemma?

Almost empty toilet paper roll

It’s the almost-empty toilet paper roll. Does it have 13 squares left or 5? Will it be sufficient for the next visitor? It’s hard to tell, but basic tenets of thrift suggest that we not waste it.

On our last hotel stay, our kind cleaning staff handled the dilemma in a clever way I’d not previously seen:

How to use up toilet paper

The near-empty roll tucks right above the new roll and stays nicely in place. Isn’t that nifty?

How about you – did you already learn this trick years ago? Or do you have a different system for managing your dwindling rolls? Inquiring minds would love to hear your thoughts. (If you’d like to flush out this topic further, you may wish to read “Let’s Talk About Toilet Paper – Part 1” or “In Search of Good Toilet Paper – Part 2.”)

Hugs and have a wonderful week,

The signature for Eliza Cross

20 Ways to Cultivate Charm

Arlene Francis

Arlene Francis, always charming

When I was ten, my mom signed me up for Charm School classes at the Boulder YWCA. Unlike the tennis lessons where I felt gangly and uncoordinated, I took to charm school with a passion. We learned about cultivating nice manners, good grooming, the art of conversation, and how to set a pretty table.

Cultivate Charm bookCharm School and Home Economics classes have gone the way of the rotary-dial telephone, but I was reminded of my early love for these ideas when I stumbled across the book That Certain Something: The Magic of Charm, written by actress and TV personality Arlene Francis in 1960. Arlene was a regular on the game show “What’s My Line?” where she was always impeccably dressed and revered for her witty, thoughtful questions and remarks.

Fifty-five years ago Arlene shared her list of 20 shortcuts to charm, which I think are still wonderful concepts for today. See what you think:

Arlene Francis’s 20 Shortcuts to Charm

Arlene Francis

1. Get up happy.
2. Get organized.
3. Make sure you are well groomed.
4. Face the day without fear.
5. Forget past recriminations.
6. Do one special thing for someone else as a surprise.
7. Be a Sunday specialist – in just one subject.
8. Break down your work into small bits.
9. Do one thing a day to make your home more pleasant.
10. Wipe out one prejudice a day.
11. Force yourself to do one thing you have been embarrassed to do in the past.
12. Read something worthwhile for at least fifteen minutes each day.
13. Think about someone you dislike and wish him well even if it kills you.
14. Practice looking at a person directly in the eye, and concentrate wholly on what he is saying.
15. Spend five minutes analyzing your guilt and fears and check them for reality.
16. Clean up one job that you’ve been putting off doing for a long time.
17. Have faith in a power beyond yourself.
18. Resolve to hold your temper completely for just one day only.
19. Practice laughing at your own mistakes.
20. Practice forgetting yourself completely.

How about you?

Did you ever attend Charm School? Is charm an outdated idea, or does it have a place in today’s society? What do you think of Arlene’s list?

Here’s to your day, and may it be filled with charm and other good things,

The signature for Eliza Cross