A Gratitude Journal Exercise You Might Enjoy

Blue Jay

Photo by Kathy

The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu wrote:

“Be content with what you have;

rejoice in the way things are.

When you realize there is nothing lacking

the whole world belongs to you.”

Gratitude journal at Happy Simple Living blog
A few years ago, I started writing in a gratitude journal. In the beginning, I tried to write five things each morning for which I was grateful. The practice encouraged me to look back on the past 24 hours and recall all the good aspects of the day, and I also discovered I was more aware of special moments and simple blessings as they occurred. I soon filled the little book, and began another. Now I keep the journal by the chair where I sit each morning to drink my coffee, pray and meditate, and I write it in often.

Too easily, I can slip into being critical and focusing on things that aren’t happening according to my expectations. What I’ve learned is that if I instead try to see my life through the eyes of a grateful heart, I’m more accepting and content.

This week, for some reason I’ve been especially aware of the sweet sounds around me. On Tuesday morning I wrote:

“I am grateful for the sounds that add so much richness to our world. While I was waking up this morning I heard a distant train, which always reminds me of our dad. A brief rain shower moved through at 5:30, with just the softest drum of raindrops on the roof. Just outside the living room window right now, crickets are calling a soothing refrain.”

Today I’m sitting at the kitchen table writing this post, and two gangs of birds have just started some sort of skirmish in the neighbor’s maple trees. With my heightened awareness of sounds this week, I have to pause and take in the drama. The magpies appear to be moving in on the bluejays’ turf, but I’m not sure. It’s a noisy, glorious commotion, and I am glad we have so many beautiful birds in our trees—both the small, quiet ones and the big, squawky ones.

How about you? Do you write in a gratitude journal? If so, perhaps you’d like to join me in focusing on sounds this week. Or would you like to start a practice of writing thankful thoughts? Maybe you have your own way of finding contentment in the sweet, simple moments of daily life. As always, I’d love to hear your comments.

Poet Kahil Gibran wrote:

“Wake at dawn with winged heart and

give thanks for another day of loving.”

 

May you find grace and wonder in your daily journey,

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.

5 Simple Ways To Better Manage Your Time Online

Organize your online time

Photo: Danijel Grabovac

For all the wonderful ways the internet has made our lives easier, most people would agree that its vast expanse of competing applications and expectations has created even more time management and communication challenges. While I’ll probably be wrestling with better time management forever, these are some tips and tricks that have worked for me:

1. Save it for later.

I often find websites and articles I want to explore further, but I don’t happen to have time at the moment. In the past I’d end up with a dozen windows open on my browser, but now I use Instapaper to save sites and pages for reading later. Once you download the application you’ll have a little “Read Later” button on your toolbar that you can simply click to save the page. Review the contents of your folder later, on any device, when it’s convenient for you.

2. Ruthlessly guard and cull incoming e-mails.

Use a spam filter to eliminate most of the junk mail, and check the file once a week to make sure you haven’t missed any legitimate e-mails. Unsubscribe to newsletters and promotions that no longer interest you. Don’t, however, click the “unsubscribe” button for e-mails you never signed up for; unscrupulous marketers will recognize an active e-mail address and use it again. Instead, stop unwanted senders by marking their e-mails as junk and blocking their e-mail addresses. Delete unnecessary e-mails right away so they don’t build up in your inbox. Here’s a challenge for today: Go through your inbox and see if you can find 5 incoming e-mails to stop receiving. Continue weeding out nonessential e-mails on a regular basis.

3. Stay focused on your priorities.

Have you ever had a day where it felt like all you accomplished was responding to others’ e-mails? An incoming e-mail can often cause us to stop working on our own priorities and get sidetracked into responding to someone else’s priorities. Turn off any sound or pop-up that alerts you to new e-mails. You may wish to set aside two times a day to review and answer e-mails—perhaps mid-morning and later in the afternoon. Keep your replies short and sweet. I also remind myself that sometimes it’s more efficient to simply pick up the telephone and have a quick conversation about a complex topic.

4. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

Set up an e-mail address just for social media, newsletters, advertising and less-pressing matters. I like Google’s Gmail for this purpose, because the interface automatically sorts the incoming e-mails into “Primary,” “Social” and “Promotions.” This is a great address to give those dear folks who like to send jokes and chain letters, too. Don’t share your primary e-mail address with companies that ask for it on a form unless you absolutely have to.

5. Mind your minutes.

I love Design Sponge, Houzz and David Lebovitz’s food blog, but if I’m not careful I can discover that I’ve whiled away too much time exploring dreamy kitchens and French recipes. To limit the time you spend on a particular website, try Minutes Please. It’s a simple application that lets you set a specific time allotment for surfing a site, and then gives you a friendly little pop-up window when you have one minute left.

How about you? Do you sometimes feel like the internet is a huge, sucking time magnet, or do you generally manage your online activities well? Have you learned any tricks you’d like to share? I always love hearing your thoughts and ideas.

Hugs and have a happy weekend,

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.

Win An Assortment of Bob’s Red Mill Organic Quinoa

Bob's Red Mill Quinoa

I rarely feature products on Happy Simple Living, and when I do it’s for something I’m truly crazy about. You may know that I’m a big quinoa fan, and not just because it’s incredibly nutritious. I love quinoa’s nutty taste and fluffy texture, but since since this lovable little seed gets relegated to so many bland, diet, low-fat, low-cal recipes, I thought quinoa deserved its own cookbook showcasing its wonderful flavor and versatility.

In the back of The Quinoa Quookbook, I list a handful of top organic quinoa sources—including Bob’s Red Mill. Unlike some corporate brand names, there really is a Bob at the helm of this employee-owned company, Bob Moore. Bob’s quinoa is a very high quality, organically grown product that’s positively delicious. I’m also an enthusiastic fan of the company’s blog, which features wonderful recipes and helpful information about grains and cooking techniques.

Just in time for back to school and autumn cooking, the nice folks at Bob’s Red Mill will generously give away an assortment of three full-sized packages of quinoa to one lucky Happy Simple Living reader in the U.S. or Canada. If you win, you’ll receive a pound each of their white quinoa, red quinoa and pretty tri-color quinoa.

White quinoa is the most common variety, and I use it in baked goods, appetizers, salads, dinners and soups. With its pretty color I like to use red quinoa for recipes like carrot cake and meatballs, and the tri-color variety is fun when you want the quinoa to really star in a dish.

To enter the giveaway, simply answer this question:

What are you looking forward to this autumn?

Whether it’s the return of football season or putting on your favorite flannel shirt, just dash off a quick response in the comments below and you’ll be automatically entered. The giveaway is open to readers in the U.S. and Canada through next next Tuesday, September 2 at midnight MST. I’ll draw one random name from everyone who comments, and announce the winner next week.

Thanks so much to our friends at Bob’s Red Mill for sponsoring this giveaway, and good luck!

UPDATE: This giveaway is now closed, and congratulations to our lucky winner Laurel C.!

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

The Quinoa QuookbookP.S. If you’d like your very own copy of The Quinoa Quookbook, the Kindle version is on sale this week only for just 99 cents. (You don’t have to own a Kindle; just use the Kindle reading app to enjoy on virtually any computer or device.) The paperback version is also on sale at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. This book contains 100 tried-and-true recipes featuring nutty, nutritious, delicious quinoa, and once you try it you might find you add it to just about everything.

P.P.S. I wasn’t compensated in any way for this giveaway—it’s just for fun!

 

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.

Confessions of a Type A Personality

Sunshine in the trees

 

When you’re at home relaxing, what do you really see? I’ve been thinking about this question all week, after I had something of an epiphany about myself.

I had let our dog Maddie outside, during a quiet work day at my home office.

Black dog on green grass

 

Impulsively, I followed her out and sat down on the grass under the shade of a maple tree. Ahhhh…

Enjoying a summer day

 

The day was glorious as only a late-summer day in Colorado can be, and after I’d closed my eyes for a minute I opened them to take in the blue skies, lazy clouds, bees buzzing the flowers, and ripe tomatoes ready to be picked.

Black-eyed susans

 

cherry tomatoes

 

Feet against the sky

 

I would love to write here that I remained truly present, in a Zen way… that I simply appreciated the moment, soaked up the sunshine and fresh air, and experienced the surrounding beauty with a heart full of gratitude.

I experienced those fleeting feelings for a few moments, but then something shifted and my eyes settled on different things.

I began to notice the flaws.

My eyes slid down from those gorgeous blue skies to a hole in the chimney siding that a flicker drilled this spring. No! Add another home repair to our never-ending list.

Flicker hole in siding

 

I saw that the summer sun had caused the paint around the window trim to peel, too.

Peeling paint

 

The side garden has tendrils of bindweed climbing everywhere.

Bindweed

 

I saw dead tree branches that need to be trimmed, and I noticed that the hinges on the back gate have come loose again. The kids must have knocked over the brick edging I so carefully placed this spring.

Problems.

Whether I’m inside or outside our home, just about anywhere I look I can see something that needs to be fixed, or a chore that needs to be done. I realize I’ve developed a bad habit of focusing on these flaws and adding the tasks to my mental ‘To Do’ list, a habit which clouds my ability to see our home with grateful eyes.

Yet I am so very, very thankful for our home. In her book A Million Little Ways, Emily Freeman writes of being “addicted to measurable productivity.” How I recognize myself in her wise words.

Being a serial do-er isn’t necessarily bad, of course, but when my Type A tendencies mean that I can’t even sit under a tree for fifteen minutes without critically eyeing all the things that need to be done, something is out of balance. So my prayers and meditations this week have been these:

Let me be truly present.

Let me simply breathe in all that is precious and imperfectly perfect.

Let me always see our home through the eyes of a grateful heart.

Enjoy these lovely late summer days, my friends,

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.

Tomato Countdown and a Garden Update

Holy cow, how did it get to be August already? Summer is speeding along, but the good news is that it’s almost time for garden tomatoes. This year I tried mulching the tomato plants with pine needles, and despite five hail storms and not a lot of attention from me, the plants seem quite happy.

cherry tomatoes

The cherry tomatoes are almost ripe!

 

Early girl tomato

Some of the Early Girls have just begun to change color. We should be enjoying this one in a matter of days!

 

green tomatoes

The Better Boys are looking fat and happy.

 

Green roma tomatoes

The Romas should be red in about ten days. Pasta time!

 

Baby leeks

I thinned the leeks last week, so that they can have room to grow. (Just ignore those little weeds.)

 

Tomato garden

The tomatoes have started to look a little wild, and they haven’t stayed tucked in their cages at all. Where in the world did they learn those rebellious tendencies, I wonder?

 

Black-eyed Susan

Just when some of the other flowers start to fade from the heat, the Black-Eyed Susans open their faces to the sun. So pretty.

How about you? Have you harvested tomatoes yet, or other produce? I’d love to hear what’s happening in your garden. Meanwhile, let’s savor these glorious summer days of August while we can…

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.

How To Remove a Sticky Label or Stubborn Price Sticker

Use this trick to remove a sticky price sticker

Pity the poor security people who work at places like Ross, Marshall’s and T.J. Maxx. They must have had to deal with an epidemic of people switching price stickers on already-discounted stuff. Why else would they affix such impossible-to-remove price stickers to their merchandise? The adhesive sticks fast on even the slipperiest nonstick surfaces, and to further deter easy removal the stickers are perforated in about sixteen places. This is all fine and well as a security measure, but what about us honest citizens who purchase something and do not care to enjoy said item with its price sticker forever affixed?

I’ve wrecked fingernails and tried razor blades, soaking in hot water, and solvents like Goo Gone and rubbing alcohol to remove stubborn stickers. These methods all have the unfortunate side effect of sometimes ruining the very thing you’re trying to preserve. When I finally discovered the magic trick to remove the stickers, I knew I had to share it with you.

First heat your iron to its lowest setting. You’ll also need a little scrap of fabric or a thin cotton dishtowel to protect the item while you get the sticker off. I used a small scrap of paper towel. Very gently and being careful not to touch the item with your iron, run the pointed part of the iron over the fabric or paper towel covering the sticker.

Remove a stubborn sticky price sticker with this trick from Happy Simple Living.

Test the sticker and see if it will cooperate now. If it doesn’t peel right off, hit it a couple more times with the iron. You may need to raise the temperature a notch or experiment a little bit. Just go slowly and err on the side of caution so you don’t melt anything except the stubborn glue on the sticker.

How to easily remove a price sticker, from Happy Simple Living.

As you can see, after about ten seconds with the tip of the iron this sticker came right off of a cellophane-covered package.

Remove stubborn price stickers with this tip from Happy Simple Living.

You readers are so smart you’ve probably been happily ironing off your price stickers for decades, but for me this discovery was life changing. How about you? Have you ever tried this tip?

Keep calm and carry on! Hugs and happy Monday,

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.