Do Something Nice Today and Enjoy a Better Tomorrow

Getting the coffee ready

Are you familiar with the FlyLady? Marla Cilley, a.k.a. The FlyLady, has a wonderful system for getting your house organized, and whenever I faithfully follow her program I reap such benefits. By getting in a routine and consistently focusing my attention on one area of our house for just a few minutes every day, our home becomes tidier, less cluttered and more enjoyable.

Perhaps one of the things I love best about the FlyLady’s approach is her gentle, feel-good encouragement. For instance, one of her very first baby steps is to get in the habit of cleaning and shining your sink before you go to bed at night. In her sweet way, she tells you that in the morning when you see that sparkling sink she wants you to feel a hug from her. It’s funny, but when I do take time to clean and polish my sink at night, it always makes me feel happy the next morning.

So recently, I’ve expanded that idea of a morning blessing. I always make the coffee before I go to bed at night (and may I just say right now:  God bless the person who invented the automatic coffee maker). Now I also set out my coffee cup, my homemade healthy sweetener and a spoon on a pretty French floral dish. It’s like a little gift that I give to myself to make the morning ritual nicer, and it always makes me feel happy.

I’ve been exploring other ways to spread some love the day before for a better tomorrow.  For example, sometimes I lay out my clothes, undies, jewelry and shoes for the next day which always helps me feel a step ahead somehow. Recently I had a meeting downtown, and the night before I printed out the directions in a nice large font and taped the paper to the door so that I wouldn’t have to scramble and figure out where I was going at the last minute. I arrived at the meeting twenty minutes early, relaxed, and even found a great parking place!

How about you? Can you do something today to bless yourself tomorrow? I welcome your thoughts and comments, and hope you have a happy Friday, an even better Saturday and a really wonderful weekend.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of seven books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Save on Laundry Detergent With This Simple Tip

Measure laundry soap carefully at Happy Simple Living

Have you ever wondered why laundry detergent manufacturers provide us with such confusing measuring cups? You don’t think it’s so we’ll inadvertently use more than we need to — and thus buy more, do you? Nahh, surely they wouldn’t want us to waste their product just to make more profits.

(“They might or they might not be trying to trick us into using more detergent, but don’t call me Shirley!”)

One of these days I’m going to make my own laundry detergent, perhaps using this recipe from our friends at DIY Naturals. For now, though, I use the most eco-friendly phosphate-free detergent I can find in recyclable packaging, at the best price. “70 Loads,” the box proclaims.

Still, it comes with this confusing scoop. According to the directions, line #1 is for “medium” loads. Is a medium load a regular load of laundry? “For family size loads, fill scoop to top line.” (Who among us doesn’t wash family size loads of laundry?) But “fill scoop to top line” sounds like you’re supposed to fill the scoop, when  the top line isn’t the top of the scoop, it’s the line marked with a ‘2.’ And then, of course, you have the option to fill the scoop all the way to the top.

It takes some talent to fill the scoop to the ‘1’ line. I had to pour some out, then scoop some back in, then sprinkle a little more out. Writing this post made me wonder – how much detergent does it take fill the scoop to Line 1? In my case, it was about 1/3 cup.

Measure your detergent - Happy Simple Living

Filling the cup to Line #2 took 2/3 of a cup, and filling it to the top was almost a cup. In other words, if you fill the scoop every time you do a load of laundry, you’ll actually only get 23 or 24 loads out of that 70-load box.

You readers are so smart, you probably already pay close attention to exactly how much detergent you use. But if you’ve been a little befuddled as I have, you may want to take a moment to investigate exactly how much detergent you need to do an average load of laundry and carefully measure out just that amount from now on – or even a bit less. Small adjustments can add up over the long run, especially when many of us reduce our detergent usage a bit, load after load. We’ll all save money and help the environment. Shirley, that’s a win/win for everyone!

I also use the Cold cycle for most loads, rinse just once, and hang our laundry on the clothesline whenever possible. How do you manage the laundry operations in your household? Inquiring minds are dying to know.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of seven books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Got Vases? A Mini Decluttering Challenge

Jelly Jar Daisies at Happy Simple Living blog

I love fresh flowers on the table here at the urban homestead, and more often than not I’ll just pick a few posies and loosely arrange them in a jelly jar to brighten the table.

So the other day as I was trying to find something in the jam-packed laundry room cabinet, I suddenly saw my overflowing vase collection with new, critical eyes. Do we really need quite so many containers to hold flowers, I wondered?

Crowded cabinet at Happy Simple Living blog

To face the question truthfully I removed every vase from the depths of the cabinet and arranged them on the kitchen table, where I was somewhat astonished to discover 25 vessels.

Vase collection at Happy Simple Living blog

Faced with the vases, I was also confronted with the two opposing sides of my domestic personality. The happy simple living side of me is, most of the time, truly content to whittle down possessions, enjoy orderly spaces and keep just a few things that I really love.

But the Martha Stewart side of me loves having many, many choices of domestic goods in every color, size and shape. 25 vases? Sure, in case I want to get creative and make pretty arrangements: a red vase for Christmas and Valentine’s Day, a tiny bud vase for little flowers, a pale green vase for January days that need a dash of spring color, a large vase for those times when men arrive bearing unexpected bouquets (hmm, why is that one so dusty?), a curvy bulb vase in case I want to force hyacinth bulbs (even though I haven’t been thusly motivated in ten years), and so on, and so on….

Vase collection at Happy Simple Living blog

Twenty-five vases is too many, though, so I steeled myself and ignored my inner Martha. To thin the collection, I eliminated the duplicates, waved goodbye to the plain cheapies, and let go of the ones I never use. (I kept one large model for those unexpected bouquets, because hey, a girl’s got to be prepared.)

To some minimalists this might not seem extraordinary, but I did get rid of almost half of the collection. Thirteen vases made the final cut:

Small vase collection at Happy Simple Living blog

It only took fifteen minutes to send a dozen vases to the curb, which is a figure of speech because I actually drove to the box to the ARC drop-off center and handed it over immediately before the clever little voice of She-Who-Likes-To-Have-Infinite-Vase-Choices could dissuade my resolve.

The best part of all? When I put the remaining vases away, our laundry room cabinet had room—glorious, spacious breathing room.

Cleaner cabinet at Happy Simple Living blog

Vases, like candles and baskets, seem to multiply faster than rabbits here at the urban homestead, until they threaten to take over an entire room.

How about you? Could your vase collection use a little weeding out? Would you like to tackle the task this week, perhaps? If you do, be sure to let us know what you keep and how many vases you let go.

Sending you big, overflowing bouquets of happy simple living vibes today,

The signature for Eliza Cross

P.S. Have you entered to win a free hardback copy of the new book Good Clean Food?

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of seven books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Frugal Gardening, or How To Avoid $100 Tomatoes

heirloom tomatoes on Happy Simple Living blog

Heirloom tomatoes – photo by mrsdkrebs

Last summer was a tough year for growing tomatoes here in our Colorado garden. After buying six large tomato plants for the garden and lovingly planting them in soil I had enriched with store-bought compost, a hail storm on June 7 destroyed all the plants – along with our cedar shake roof.

After replacing all the plants (and the roof), the summer of 2012 broke all our previous records for heat, with more than 70 days of temperatures over 90 degrees. I tried mulching, drip lines and shade fabric, but all of the tomato plants in that full-sun garden were droopy and produced only a few smaller fruits. I also later learned that the commercial compost I bought was probably contaminated. We probably spent about a hundred dollars between all the plants, compost, water and more – for about a dozen garden tomatoes.

A new gardening year is upon us, and I’ve been thinking about how to maximize our output without spending so much cash. One of the best money-saving strategies, of course, is to grow your own plants from seed. Alas, I wasn’t that organized this year but here are some other thoughts:

1. Has your gardening zone changed? Climate change has caused a general warming trend, and you may want to consult the latest U.S. hardiness zones from the Arbor Day Foundation. Choosing the best plants for your particular zone is a whole lot easier than trying to force things to grow where it’s too hot, cold, dry or humid.

2. Watch for sales on less-than-perfect plants. Dig a nice deep hole, add plenty of good soil, give the plants regular water to establish them, and cut off any dead leaves or blooms. I bought a full flat of bedraggled fuchsia petunias last week for just $2.34, and they perked right up with a little TLC.

3. Got old seeds that didn’t get planted last year? Try planting ‘em now and they might just sprout. Scientists planted centuries-old Anasazi beans and – surprise! They sprouted just fine.

4. Swap plants and seeds with friends. Or ask for a slip of a plant you admire and try establishing it with rooting powder.

5. Evaluate what’s thriving and what’s not. Keep notes in a gardening notebook, so you can move plants around next spring.

6. Get creative about adding edible garden plants to your landscape. If you’re going to spend time and money on water and upkeep, the area might as well be producing food, right? We’ve got rhubarb, strawberries, herbs and currants tucked in the front yard landscaping.

7. Install rain barrels to save money on water. Or save “gray water” (like the water used to rinse dishes) to water your garden plants.

8. Make your own compost. You’ll reduce waste, save money and have complete control over the soil-enriching product.

9. Visit a botanical garden. Our beloved Denver Botanic Gardens is always a feast for the eyes and soul, and a great place to stroll around and see what native plants thrive in our particular region.

10. Explore other nearby neighborhoods and find gardens that appeal to you. See what the professional landscapers are planting. Observe the combinations of colors, textures and heights, and make notes about what you like.

11. No new plants in the budget this summer? Maximize what you have. Prune your bushes and tidy up the spaces. Perhaps you can divide some of your perennials and help them produce more. Dig out unwanted weeds. Edge the garden paths. Sketch and plan your dream garden.

What money-saving strategies are you taking in your garden this summer? I always love hearing from you. In the mean time, here’s to a happy Memorial Day. We are deeply grateful for the men and women who sacrificially serve our country.

xo,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of seven books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Free Book Giveaway – The Ultimate Guide to Permaculture

Permaculture

I’ve learned much about permaculture after reading a very interesting book. Permaculture is a method of growing food and building homes in a manner that works with nature instead of against it.

Author Nicole Faires has written a hands-on guide that takes the reader through every step of the permaculture process. The book is divided into nine sections:

  • Overview
  • Energy
  • Water
  • Homes and shelter
  • Gardens
  • Cooking and preserving
  • Zones
  • Community
  • Plants

Faires lays out a common-sense approach for sustainable living, and while some of the ideas aren’t applicable to those of us who live in urban areas (how to build an underground house or breed cattle, for example), the ideas are nonetheless fascinating and interesting to read.

Maybe because it snowed again in Colorado yesterday I’ve been in full-out garden dreaming mode, so the gardening sections in this book were especially interesting to me. Faires includes an extensive list of plants to consider for your own homestead, from perennial food crops to interesting edibles like JuJuBe and quinoa.

She also includes a very useful 16-page chart of companion planting ideas. The idea is to group plants in communities or guilds, taking advantage of their growing tendencies and the way they use nutrients, so that the plants support each other. It’s a concept that seems so simple and smart – but one which, admittedly, I’ve rarely considered other than in terms of aesthetics.

If you’re interested in learning more about self-reliance and living off the land, the book is packed with ideas, illustrations, photos and tips for topics like worm farming, designing a greenhouse, conserving water, extending the growing season, cold storage, building a chicken coop, composting, preserving food, finding your right career and much more.

The Ultimate Guide to Permaculture is 330 pages and retails for $16.95 USD. Skyhorse Publishing has generously provided a complimentary copy for one lucky HappySimpleLiving.com reader.

To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below and answer the question “What is one step you would like to take towards sustainability or self-sufficiency in the next 18 months?” The giveaway closes next Tuesday March 12 at midnight MST, and is open to US residents.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of seven books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Free Book Giveaway – Rocks, Dirt, Worms and Weeds

Rocks Dirt Worms Weeds at Happy Simple Living blog

If you love to garden and are looking for ways to share the joy with the kids in your life, you will love this book! Rocks, Dirt, Worms & Weeds by Jeff Hutton is packed with fun vegetable and flower gardening ideas for kids and adults.

Hutton is a writer and master gardener, and he clearly knows his stuff. The book has easy-to-follow directions and photos for kid-friendly projects like starting garden seeds indoors, transplanting seedlings, creating a strawberry pot, planting a sunflower maze, composting, attracting beneficial bugs, and keeping the garden free of weeds.

He also shares directions for fun crafts like pressing flowers, keeping a garden journal, creating a butterfly garden, painting ladybug rocks and making stepping stones.

Rocks, Dirt, Worms and Weeds is 136 pages and retails for $14.95. Skyhorse Publishing has generously provided a complimentary copy for one lucky HappySimpleLiving.com reader. To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment below and answer the question “What are you looking forward to growing in your garden this summer?” The giveaway will close this Wednesday evening February 27 at midnight MST, and is open to US residents.

It’s snowing here in Colorado today – a perfect day to daydream about digging in the dirt. Good luck, and I look forward to hearing your gardening plans.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of seven books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.