Let’s Do a Holiday Audit!

After Christmas

(Is that the worst headline in blog history?)

Dear friends,

I hope your holidays were very happy. While the celebrations are still fresh in your mind, would you like to join me in an exercise?

Even for those of us who try to simplify, Christmas can often consume a lot of time in preparation and planning. Taking a close look at how everything went this year may help us save time and money, and reduce stress in the future.

Would you like to join me in a short review?

Perhaps you’re like me, in that not everything went smoothly this year. One part of our festivities didn’t go like I had hoped, and I keep feeling bad about it. But let’s face it: rarely does everything go perfectly during the holidays.

So perhaps it’s good if we take a quiet moment and ask ourselves… what went right? Was there a special or unexpected moment of happiness in your holidays?

We had an impromptu dinner Saturday night with my former husband’s family. Jose passed away in 2016, after we were already divorced. Since then, I’ve been taking my son over to spend time with his Abuela and aunts and uncles. If they feel weird about having the “ex” back in the fold, they never show it; they just seem to love and accept us all. We enjoyed a cozy dinner Saturday night, and laughed and told stories and had a wonderful time. It was snowing outside, and we felt so warm and festive.  Pure joy.

How about you?

If you’re inspired to take a look back at this Christmas season, perhaps these questions will help you get started:

1. What was your favorite moment during the holidays?

2. Is there someone you feel like you blessed?

3. Whose generosity especially touched you?

4. Did you stay healthy and rested during the holidays?

5. Did you eat or drink about the amount you wanted to?

6. Did you stay within your spending budget? (Note: If not, the January Money Diet starts this Monday!)

7. What are you most thankful for this Christmas?

8. What meals, events, and plans worked well this holiday season?

9. Are there any annual traditions or gatherings that might need re-tooling?

10. Were you able to celebrate the spiritual side of Christmas to the degree you wanted?

11. Do you feel like you were able to give as your heart led you?

12. Were you able to minimize trash and waste as much as you would like?

13. What would you like to change and simplify about Christmas in the future?

Looking Ahead

Are there any steps you can take now to “pay it forward” to yourself and make next year’s holidays easier? This might mean giving away a bunch of unused decorations, or decluttering the wrapping paper stash, or updating the addresses on your Christmas card list.

You may want to jot a few notes to help you remember details a year from now. For instance, we had cheese and chocolate fondue on Christmas afternoon and all agreed that it was the perfect casual meal. So I made notes on the recipes about steps I can do ahead next time, and reduced the quantities a little bit so we won’t have as much left over.

Do you have any thoughts or suggestions to add to my list? Would you care to share your answers to any of the above questions in the Comments section of this post? I always love hearing from you.

Here’s to you, and may your new year be filled with fun and new adventures.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

Grateful thanks to Frankie Leon for use of the Christmas photo above. 

7 Ways to Finish Strong this Christmas

Peace during Christmas

 

Dear friends,

My son has finals this week, and his high school posted this message: “Finish strong.”

It’s such a good reminder–not only to stay focused on school work right up to the last day, but also to stick with holiday goals like simplifying and saving money.

If you celebrate Christmas, you know that we have just a few days remaining. Retailers will be working overtime to entice us into last-minute shopping and spending. Here are some thoughts about how to navigate these precious days:

Don’t let your budget go off the rails now. Impulse purchases can add up quickly. Make a list before you go shopping and stick to your budget.

Your gift doesn’t have to be equal to your friend’s gift. Let go of those expectations, and give what you can without worrying that it’s not enough.

Let someone bless you. A friend may give you an unexpected gift when you have nothing in return. Let that dear person experience the joy of giving. Give gracious thanks. Try to resist the urge to say, “You shouldn’t have done that,” or “I feel bad that I didn’t get you…” Just let it all go, and bask in your friend’s generosity.

Go easy on stocking stuffers. Many a budget has been derailed by last minute trinkets. Feeling stumped? This morning I posted a bunch of inexpensive and DIY stocking stuffer ideas on the January Money Diet Community Facebook Group.

Let prayers help. If you’re reading this post, I want you to know that I prayed for you this morning. I prayed that God would bless and help each one of you, and fill you with His holy peace and reassurances. I’ve heard from several of you who are fighting the blues this Christmas. You are not alone. The holidays can stir up old memories and feelings of dashed expectations. If something is going on in your life and you feel like you need extra support, please drop me a note at eliza @ elizacross.com and I promise to pray for you.

Be on the lookout for unexpected ways to give. It’s a beautiful, logic-defying paradox that when we give, we’re the ones who get blessed. Maybe it’s something as simple as giving someone a smile, or perhaps you’ll feel led to take five minutes to talk with an elderly person in the grocery store who seems lonely. Maybe you’ll feel stirred to write someone a note of encouragement, or send an e-mail to your child’s teacher expressing thanks for all they do. You may find that lending a hand to someone who needs it will get you in the Christmas spirit more than anything.

Take a breather. Dear reader, could you devote just 10 or 15 minutes each of these remaining days to soak in this advent season? Make a cup of tea, sit by the window, and look at the world. Or turn on the Christmas tree lights and sit by the tree for a bit. Or take a relaxing bath, or get in bed and read a book, or light a candle and bliss out to the flickering flames. If you’re a “doer” like me this requires focus and commitment, but if you make a little time for peace each day I can guarantee that you’ll be glad you did.

 

Peaceful Christmas

 

How about you?

Are you feeling serene this week? Or stressed? Do you have any strategies to add to my list?

I hope you have the most special Christmas, my friends. May you be surprised by joy. May you be delighted by unexpected opportunities to give. May you find moments of comfort and joy amidst the busy-ness.

May you finish strong!

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

P.S. The free January Money Diet starts in 10 days. Join us, and start the new year financially strong! You can sign up here:  JanuaryMoneyDiet.com.

Looking Back and Pressing Forward

December sunrise

 

Dear friends,

Another year winds down.

Perhaps 2017 was really tough for you. Or maybe the year feels pretty positive overall, or perhaps it’s a mix of blessings and hardships.  Isn’t it somehow freeing to have the promise of a fresh, clean slate ahead?

For me, this annual transition from ending to beginning is a time of reviewing the year and jotting some plans for 2018 in my journal. Would you like to join me?

2017 In Review

If you take a few quiet moments to look back, what are the stellar moments and events and accomplishments you feel good about?

Perhaps you finished a project, or took a family vacation, or made financial progress, or helped someone else.

Maybe your biggest accomplishment was nurturing your marriage, or raising your children and helping them grow, day in and day out, without a lot of fanfare. That’s huge! I hope you write that on your list.

What happened this year that makes you feel most grateful? What were some of the unexpected highlights?

This annual reckoning may provoke feelings of disappointment, too, of things not done or dreams that didn’t pan out.

But try not to despair too much about setting big goals that you didn’t quite reach. A good forward-looking list will be robust. It will push and challenge you! I encourage you to think BIG during the next exercise.

Looking Ahead to 2018

What would you love to do during this bright, new year? Here are some questions you may wish to consider:

  1. What are your hopes for your spiritual life in the coming year?
  2. What health issues would you like to address? How much would you like to weigh?
  3. What would you love to do with your spouse or significant other?
  4. What would you like to do with your family?
  5. Who would you like to help? What cause especially tugs at your heart?
  6. What would you love to do with your close friends?
  7. What would you like to do to relax?
  8. What are some of your professional goals?
  9. Where would you like your finances to be by the end of the year?
  10. What improvements would you like to make to your home?
  11. What is one new habit you’d like to develop?
  12. What’s a new skill you’d like to learn next year?
  13. What new thing would you like to try?

 

If you’re feeling brave, I invite you to share some of your insights on the Comments section of this post. I would love to hear about your thoughts and plans.

As this year winds down, may you have peace knowing that you’re exactly where you’re meant to be right now.

I’m so very grateful to share the journey with all of you.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

P.S. If your plans for 2018 include getting your finances in order, I hope you’ll join us for the free January Money Diet. Sign up is officially open!

Holiday Giveaway: The Apron Book

The Apron Book

 

Dear friends,

Just in time for holiday baking, I’m excited to give away a brand new copy of EllynAnne Geisel’s charming new book to one lucky reader.

The Apron Book: Making, Wearing and Sharing a Bit of Cloth and Comfortan updated edition of Geisel’s original award-winning book published by Andrews McMeel—is a heart-warming celebration of the practical, colorful apron.

The softcover book, which retails for $19.99, features 152 four-color pages of new and vintage aprons, sewing patterns and diagrams, recipes, stories, collecting tips, history and much more. Tucked in a flap at the back of the book is a surprise—a full-sized pattern to sew your own bib apron.

Woven throughout the pages are old-fashioned recipes like Coke and Cherry Jell-o Salad, Paintbrush Cookies and Chicken Olivia Casserole.

I love my small collection of aprons, which includes some hand-me-downs and vintage designs. I also have several chef’s aprons at the ready for guests who want to help with the cooking. Somehow when I tie on an apron, I feel a sense of being connected to a simpler time. Do you know what I mean?

EllynAnne GeiselAuthor EllynAnne Geisel created a traveling exhibit called the Apron Chronicles, featuring more than 100 vintage aprons from her extensive collections as well as the stories that bring the pieces to life. She’s the founder of National Tie One On Day, an annual event held every Thanksgiving Eve that promotes baking and sharing with those in need. EllynAnne was recently featured by NPR, and her apron designs have even appeared in Vogue magazine and on the television show Desperate Housewives.

The Apron Book would be a worthy addition to any food lover’s library. To enter to win your own copy, just answer this question in the Comments section on this page:

What’s your favorite home-cooked holiday treat?

The giveaway is open to anyone with a U.S. shipping address, and will run through Monday, December 11 at midnight MST. I’ll draw a random winner’s name after the giveaway closes.

BIG thanks to EllynAnne Geisel and Andrews McMeel Publishing for providing a copy of this delightful book, and good luck to all of you!

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

Make Your Own Homemade Cranberry Sauce and Other Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes

homemade cranberry sauce

Dear friends,

Happy Thanksgiving week! Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and as we count down to the big day I wanted to share a few of our favorite dishes with you.

Berries cookbookThe first is an easy-to-make cranberry sauce. You can use organic ingredients and tweak the recipe with any flavorings or spices you like. I add a little fresh lemon zest, and hint of citrus nicely compliments the sweet tartness of the cranberries. This recipe originally appeared in my Berries: Sweet and Savory Recipes cookbook (Gibbs Smith, 2017), and the lovely photo above is by Stacey Cramp; used with permission.

Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce

  • 1 cup cranberry juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 12-ounce package fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed and drained

Combine cranberry juice, sugar, honey, lemon zest, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Add cranberries and return to boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, cover and cool to room temperature. Serve or store in refrigerator, covered, for up to 3 days. Makes about 2 1/4 cups.

Here are some of our other favorite recipes:

  • These Pumpkin Maple Donut Holes are splendid on Thanksgiving morning with coffee.
  • In my family, we always have these crunchy roasted almonds as a pre-dinner snack. Our mom’s are the best, and she serves them in a pretty sterling silver dish. My grandmother always made a batch, and I suspect her mother and grandmother made them, too.
  • If you’re looking for complete directions to roast the juiciest turkey you’ve ever eaten, check out this post for Golden Crispy Juicy Roast Turkey. After brining the turkey, the bird is patted dry and coated with a mixture of flour and butter that seals the juices inside. The skin comes out divinely golden and crispy, too.
  • The Denver Post‘s Bill St. John shares his recipe and tips for perfect mashed potatoes, including several variations.
  • Here’s my favorite Bacon Green Bean Casserole recipe.
  • Finally, this is a recipe I developed for Honduras Chocolate Company for a divine layered Chocolate Praline Pumpkin Pie.

I hope you and your loved ones enjoy a very, very happy Thanksgiving.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

 

12 Ways to Have a Simpler, Happier Christmas

Christmas cat | Happy Simple Living blog

 

Dear friends,

What if this year, our holidays were a little easier?

What if we did fewer things, and enjoyed the season more?

What if we spent less, and didn’t take on even one dollar of debt?

What if we felt rested and content, instead of tired and stressed?

These are some thoughts and ideas to enjoy a more mellow Christmas. See what you think:

1. Practice the art of less

One of the most popular posts on this blog is “One Family’s Real Simple Christmas,” about my friends who decided to try a radically simple holiday. You might discover, like the McDonalds did, that letting go and simplifying will actually make your Christmas a whole lot better.

 

Peaceful church

 

2. Focus on what you truly love.

Grab a pen and paper, and spend a few minutes thinking about the traditions that are truly important to you and your family. Focus on those, and modify or let go of the rest.

I used to festoon every inch of this house for the holidays. My move toward minimizing began one year when I didn’t feel like putting out the special red Christmas towels. Guess what? Nobody cared or noticed. After that I started giving away decorations, and today we treasure our edited-down collection.

Would anyone really care if you left some things in the garage or basement this Christmas? One of my friends decided not to put out her 78-piece Snow Village last year, and she was downright giddy from all the time and effort she saved.

You might enjoy “Simplify the Holidays by Managing Expectations.”

3. Do small daily tasks.

For the next two weeks I’ll try to tackle a few holiday tasks each day, so that most of the decorating and shopping is done by the first of December.

Every little thing you do in November is a Christmas gift to yourself, so you have more time to enjoy the holiday season next month. Perhaps you’d like to address a few Christmas cards each day, or hang the outdoor lights now, or make and freeze a batch of Cinnamon Crispies for your Christmas morning brunch.

 

Beautiful deer in snowy field | Happy Simple Living

 

4. Freeze your credit cards.

I mean this literally. Take your credit cards, put them in a plastic container, fill almost to the top, and freeze solid. Put the block of ice in the furthest depths of your freezer. Then, explore ways to save and simplify without spending a lot of money.

You might enjoy “7 Debt Free Holiday Gifts to Give This Year.”

5. Cut back on gift giving.

Most people already have plenty of stuff. If you’re part of a group that traditionally exchanges gifts, why not suggest doing something fun instead? You may find that others share your desire to cut back.

Don’t get caught in the last-minute rush to buy stocking stuffers. You’ll find some good ideas in this article, “15 Inexpensive, Last Minute Stocking Stuffers.”

 

Christmas dogs at Happy Simple Living blog

 

6. Schedule fewer events.

Don’t over-commit and try to make every party. Put some fun family nights into your calendar, and block out some unstructured relaxing time, too.

7. Plan make-ahead foods.

Prepare foods in advance for things like Christmas morning brunch, dinner, parties, and gifts. You’ll find lots of ideas in this article, “Make a Holiday Food Plan.”

 

 

8. Give something away.

As we all know, it’s the giving that makes Christmas truly joyful. Even as we’re trying to be mindful about money during the holidays, we can look for opportunities to give to others… our time, our caring, our listening, and even a smile.

9. Explore sustainable choices.

Christmas tends to generate a lot of trash. For some frugal, green wrapping ideas you might enjoy the Happy Simple Holidays Pinterest board.

10. Reconnect and reflect.

During this Advent season, perhaps you might like to set aside a little extra time for prayer and meditation. Last year my mom and I both read a book called The Greatest Gift during December, and it helped me focus on the spiritual side of the Christmas season.

You might enjoy reading “7 Ways to Slow Down and Savor These Precious Days.

 

Snow and weeds

 

11. Embrace nature.

Take a walk on a frosty morning. Breathe the cold air. Collect pine cones. Put out bird seed. Look for ways to enjoy and appreciate winter’s quiet season of rest.

12. Practice Dolce Far Niente – the “sweet act of doing nothing.”

Make time to do nothing. Sit in front of the fire and watch the flames dance. Enjoy the sparkling lights of the Christmas tree. During the busy days of the holidays, make a special effort to give your soul and spirit a rest.

 

Dolce far niente

How About You?

How have you simplified the holidays? What are your hopes for this Christmas season? Have you cut back on gift-giving in favor of experiences? What are some of your favorite traditions? I always love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

Grateful thanks to Michael Cote, Forest Wander, TRF Mr. Hyde, Lottie, Alosh Bennett, and Phil Roeder for the use of photos.

Our Short, Happy Simple Vacation

Dana Point harbor

Dana Point Marina

 

Dear friends,

Last month my son and I enjoyed a three-day getaway to Dana Point, California. Even though it was quick, we packed in a lot of fun and returned feeling rested and rejuvenated.

Some of my goals when we travel are to stretch our money, stay somewhere nice, maximize relaxation, and be as eco-friendly as possible. Here are 13 ways we made the most of our mini vacation:

Before the Trip

1. Plan (and Pay) Ahead of Time for Big Savings

I purchased our tickets on Southwest five months in advance. We enjoyed convenient travel times and the lowest “Wanna Get Away” fares of just $70 each way from Denver to Orange County, along with Southwest’s free checked bags. I also booked a rental car at the same time. Surprisingly, Hertz had the best deal — providing I was willing to prepay the full fee in advance. Our total was $80, including tax, for a Hyundai Sonata with unlimited mileage for three days.

2. Read the Fine Print

I’m a fan of hotels with local character, so we stayed at the Dana Point Marina Inn. It’s a mid-range hotel in a five-star location.  Standard rooms not facing the water were $129.95 a night, but we wanted to see the ocean so we splurged on a deluxe room with two queen beds for $199.95 a night.

I appreciate that the room rate for this property includes free parking, Wi-Fi and breakfast. In today’s price-driven market, many hotels publish a basic room rate and then tack on extra charges. It pays to check the fine print on the property’s website, read TripAdvisor reviews, and call the hotel to inquire about fees so you don’t have any surprises.

Watch out for the dreaded hidden “resort fee,” which was $25 a day at one hotel I looked at for use of the pool, business center and fitness room. Sheesh! I once stayed at a property that automatically tacked on a 20% “service charge” of the entire bill for employee gratuities. If only I’d known that before I tipped everyone in cash all week.

With accommodation services like AirBnb, watch out for credit card surcharges, cleaning fees, service fees, VAT fees, and damage deposits.

If you’re staying at a chain hotel, it might be worthwhile to join the company’s free loyalty program. These programs sometimes give members discounted rates, complimentary Wi-Fi and room upgrades.

 

Eucalyptus trees in Dana Point

The pretty view from the non-water side of the hotel

 

3. It Doesn’t Hurt to Ask…

I’d read on TripAdvisor that some rooms in our hotel had better views than others, so I e-mailed the hotel manager a few days before our stay and told him we were excited to stay at the property for the first time. I mentioned that we were from land-locked Colorado and would love a quieter room with a direct view of the water. He kindly accommodated us, and we loved our room and patio overlooking the harbor.

4. Create a Master Packing List

If we remember to pack everything we need, we won’t have to run to the store for something like forgotten sunscreen. Packing right and bringing only what we need helps us pack lighter, too.

I keep a list on my mobile phone’s Notes app, but you could also use Evernote, Google Docs or any file sharing program — or even a good old analog notebook. If you realize you forgot something on your trip, add it right then to your list.

5. Check Out the Local Water

No need to buy bottled water if the local water is good, right? If you visit the Environmental Working Group’s website, you can input the zip code of the town you’re visiting to check out its tap water ratings. We brought a couple of lightweight water bottles for excursions.

 

Doheny Beach in Dana Point

 

6. Bring Your Own Staples and Cutlery

For this trip I packed a small bag of my favorite fresh-ground organic Guatemalan coffee, round coffee filters (can be cut to size to fit the hotel coffeemaker), organic coconut sugar, granola, almonds to snack on, a folding knife, a small pair of scissors, and a couple of forks and spoons.

7. Bring Your Own Pillow

A substandard mattress will be less miserable if you have your own comfy pillow. It helps to put a bright colored pillowcase on the pillow so you don’t accidentally leave it behind.

8. Pack a Pair of Good Earplugs

No matter how carefully we plan, we sometimes end up in a room by the ice machine or elevators. I like Hearos ear plugs because they are soft and expandable. They’re inexpensive and do a really good job of muffling noise.

 

Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea blooming on the foot path in Dana Point

During the Trip

9. Make Time for Dolce Far Niente

Dolce Far Niente is an Italian expression that means “sweet doing nothing.” If you’re a doer like me, you may have to consciously will yourself to set aside time to really unwind.

During this trip, I took a walk early one morning and settled on a bench overlooking the harbor. I breathed in the glorious sea air, and watched the seagulls. A breeze stirred the boats, and the gentle clanking of the metal masts sounded like wind chimes. The sun came out and warmed my back. A man and a beagle stopped and greeted me. I walked down the pier, and a barnacle-encrusted baby whale rose up out of the water just thirty feet from me. That precious hour was one of my favorite moments during the trip.

10. Be on the Lookout for Eco-Friendly Features

Our hotel didn’t have many sustainable attributes, unfortunately. In our room, we discovered a special trash can with a recycling section under the sink that we brought out and used. The hotel had a sign in the room with instructions to re-hang towels that didn’t need refreshing, which we did.

On the negative side, the breakfast area used disposable Styrofoam plates — an all-too-common practice in the hospitality industry. When you consider that Styrofoam is a petroleum-based material that can take up to 4oo years to decompose, and think of the sheer number of plates and cups thrown away by hotels, the effect is staggering.

 

11. Stock Up on Good Drinks and Snacks

Our hotel room had an in-room refrigerator, so I bought organic milk, juice, Greek yogurt, string cheese, crudites, crackers, Honeycrisp apples and fresh raspberries. We also used the refrigerator to store leftover Chinese food from our dinner Friday night. Needless to say, we were never hungry.

If your room doesn’t have a refrigerator, you can pack a soft insulated bag to fill with ice and keep snacks cold.

If you’re staying at an upscale hotel with a stocked minibar, tempting in-room snacks or bottled water, instruct your fellow travelers not to even touch the offerings or you might incur a charge.

 

Dana Point harbor

Kayaker in Dana Point Harbor

 

12. Join the Local Grocery Store’s Loyalty Program

It just takes a few minutes, and you’ll enjoy reduced prices on groceries. In a pinch, I politely ask the cashier if they have a card they might be willing to scan for the discount.

 

After the Trip

13. Provide Feedback

Because TripAdvisor’s reviews helped me plan this trip, I left a review of our experience at the hotel.  I wrote the manager a short note a few days after the trip and thanked him for our nice room. I also mentioned that we’d love to see the property use a more environmentally conscious alternative to Styrofoam plates in the breakfast room, and shared some examples including a biogradeable disposable plate made from plants and wood fibers and a compostable product made from palm leaves.

 

Eliza Cross at Dan Point

A birthday selfie!

How About You?

How do you make the most of a short vacation? Do you have any travel tips to add to my list? I always love hearing your thoughts and ideas.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

The October of my Soul

autumn leaves maple trees

The maple trees, from our kitchen window.

“I loved autumn, the one season of the year that God seemed to have put there just for the beauty of it.”- Lee Maynard

 

Oh, my friends.

October started so hard.

On October 1st, during what should have been an evening of fun and music, a gunman shot and killed 59 people and injured more than 500 others at a concert.

I was sad and worried for my friends and family in Las Vegas. Perhaps, like me, you felt the collective pain of a billion hearts breaking, and so many minds trying to process the loss of innocent souls, and the horror of a news story that made no sense.

I couldn’t mesh the dark violence and grief with the insistent, shimmering October beauty all around me.

 

red autumn leaves

 

October 5th brought the news of sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein. Soon, millions of women and men were sharing their own heartbreaking #MeToo experiences. The stories kept coming, along with the sad, eye-opening truth that far too many of us have experienced sexual harassment or abuse.

Then the butterflies arrived in Colorado.

 

Painted Lady butterfly

 

The Painted Ladies fluttered and lingered in our yards and gardens, so many migrating through Denver that a 70-mile swath appeared on the National Weather Service map in glorious color.

 

Map of painted lady butterflies

 

In typical Colorado fashion, we had record high temperatures as well as snow and a hard frost mid-month.

Then the trees began releasing their leaves in earnest. We do not lack for leaves in our yard. I try to focus on the beauty, and not the leaf-raking tasks that still lie ahead.

 

autumn leaves yard

 

On the third weekend of October my son and I left the autumn leaves behind and took a short trip to the West Coast, where we stayed in a hotel with weak, intermittent Wi-Fi. At first I was annoyed by that.

 

No wifi

 

But later? I began to feel grateful for the technology break. Early each morning while my son caught up on his sleep, I walked down by the Dana Point Harbor marina. I followed a well-worn footpath among the eucalyptus trees to the quiet beach, and put my toes in the water.

 

Doheny Beach

Doheny Beach in Dana Point, California

 

And then my birthday came, with love and gifts and cards and greetings….and a family party and my favorite chocolate pecan birthday cake, made by my dear mama.

Now October is winding down, and the #MeToo stories keep pouring in. Numerous news outlets report that many of the Las Vegas shooting victims can’t pay for their enormous medical bills. I have so many deep concerns about the state of our world right now. I never want to become complacent about violence or hatred or harming our earth.

And at the same time, as I reflect on the month I feel deeply grateful for all the goodness and blessings and love. I feel darned glad for another birthday.

There is so much beauty all around us, and at the same time things occur every day in our modern world that are unbearable. How do we begin to reconcile the extremes?

 

Eucalyptus trees

Eucalyptus trees at Doheny Beach

 

On her 61st birthday, author Anne Lamott wrote this:

“All truth is a paradox. Life is a precious unfathomably beautiful gift, and it is impossible here. It is so hard and weird that we wonder if we are being punked. And it is filled with heartbreaking sweetness and beauty, floods and babies, and acne and Mozart, all swirled together.”

 

autumn maple leaves

 

As this month of darkness and light draws to a close, may we not lose heart.

We each have missions and causes that stir our hearts. We are each equipped with different gifts and talents. In our own individual ways, each of us can be courageous and create positive change.

I’ve gotten to know many of you through this blog, and I know in my bones that in a world of both breathtaking wonders and heartbreaking evil, we will continue to send out beauty and light and love.

Hugs and gratitude,

The signature for Eliza Cross

May I Offer You Pumpkin Spice Pancakes?

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

Dear friends,

Has autumn arrived yet in your area? We had a big cool-off here in Colorado this weekend, and it was the perfect excuse to cook a batch of pumpkin spice pancakes for breakfast.

Pumpkin It Up! cookbook by Eliza CrossThese flapjacks are rich with pumpkin-y goodness, and have the comforting, homespun flavor and aroma of pumpkin spice. This recipe appears in my cookbook Pumpkin It Up!, and I won’t blame you if you feel somewhat alarmed by one of the ingredients. Who puts white vinegar in pancakes?! But don’t worry. The vinegar has a chemical reaction with the baking powder and baking soda, adding air to the batter. The pancakes come out light and fluffy, even though the recipe calls for a full cup of pumpkin puree. I promise you won’t taste even a hint of the vinegar.

 

pumpkin pancakes on the griddle

 

I serve these pancakes with butter, maple syrup, and a sprinkle of powdered sugar, but you can serve them plain, too. Or you can add another tablespoon of brown sugar to the batter for a slightly sweeter result.

 

pumpkin spice pancake recipe

 

Here’s the easy recipe. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup canned or cooked pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • maple syrup

In a large bowl, mix together the milk, pumpkin, egg, oil, and vinegar. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and stir just until combined.

Heat a lightly greased griddle or frying pan over medium-high heat. Pour 1/4 cup batter on the griddle and spread out slightly using a spatula or spoon. Brown on both sides and serve hot with maple syrup. Makes about 12 pancakes.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

P.S. If you’re a pumpkin spice lover, you might also enjoy these recipes for Pumpkin Caramel Cinnamon Rolls and Pumpkin Maple Donut Holes.