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,

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About Eliza Cross

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

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.


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About Eliza Cross

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

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

About Eliza Cross

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

How to Embrace Slow Living

Dear readers,

Today I’m excited to introduce you to one of my blogging friends from the U.K., Eleanor from Creative Countryside. She is a kindred spirit who writes wonderfully about the concept of slowing down, being present, practicing gratitude, and appreciating the rhythms and seasons of nature. Her posts are accompanied by lovely photos from around her home and the British countryside. Eleanor generously agreed to share some of her thoughts about slow living, which I know you will enjoy.

~ Eliza

How to Embrace Slow Living

Daisy at Happy Simple Living blog

You’ve probably heard of simple living, of conscious living and of mindful living, but what remains less well known is the concept of slow living. Shifting the focus from quantity and speed to quality of life remains at its core, and its effects have been transformative for me. Over at Creative Countryside I blog and teach others about this lifestyle, and today I’m so happy to be writing about slow living for Eliza here at Happy Simple Living.

Let’s get one thing straight before going any further. Slow living doesn’t literally mean doing everything at a slower speed. Don’t get me wrong, this might apply for some activities, but on the whole slow living is more concerned with prioritising your time in order to appreciate simple pleasures.

It’s a process of reconnection: with the world around you, with the seasons, but most of all with the things you love to do, that somehow get so easily lost in the chaos of modern life. Slow living embraces a simple lifestyle full of home-cooked meals, traditional celebrations and rituals and time spent wisely. There will never be enough hours in the day, but we can shape and mould the time we have according to our wishes and desires, and once we can do that, we’re able to live more slowly, mindfully and with care.

Daisy at Happy Simple Living blog

So how can you embrace slow living and all it entails? Well firstly I want to say upfront that my own experience with lifestyle change has taught me that nothing happens overnight. You’re not going to read this article and change everything by tomorrow evening, so patience (something I’m really not very good at!) is key. If (like me) you like to get started straight away here are some simple tips for embracing slow living that you can implement right now:

  1. Tonight, decide to cook a meal from scratch. Try to buy local and seasonal ingredients and take your time to enjoy the cooking process. Just before eating pause for a minute and be gracious for the simple pleasure of a delicious dinner.
  2. If you’re feeling a little disconnected with nature and the world around you, take a few moments to get grounded by standing outside barefoot. Scrunch your toes and feel the blades of grass tickling the underside of your feet. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining or cold – stand for however long feels natural and take a few deep breaths, embracing the weather that surrounds you.
  3. Bring nature into your home by picking a few stems from the garden, or to keep it simple bring in some greenery to display on your mantelpiece. For just a few minutes of activity you’ll have a week or so of pleasure.
  4. Pick out a seasonal celebration that’s on the horizon and make plans to celebrate. In the UK Lammas – signifying the first day of harvest – is on the horizon (1st August) so we’ll be making corn dollies and baking Lammas bread. Invite friends and family and plan to cook up a feast to celebrate.
  5. Tomorrow, set your alarm for 10 minutes earlier than usual, grab your camera or notebook and get outside. It doesn’t matter if you’re still in your pyjamas, bleary eyed and a little off balance – the whole point is to rebalance your awareness as the day begins. Depending on where you live you’ll be privy to the sunrise if you’re up early enough, and observing this primitive ritual is a stark reminder of a greater existence.


While these tips can really make a difference right now, changing your lifestyle to live more slowly does – rather aptly – take time. Often we become so used to hurtling through our to-do lists at speed that we don’t realise that there could be any other way, and that life doesn’t have to be quite so chaotic. Changing that mind-set is a process that has to be worked through like any other, but I can guarantee you it’s worth it.

If you like the sound of slow living, I’ve got a free 7 day email course that would be perfect for you – it guides you through 7 simple steps to slow things down and includes free resources and templates to help you design a lifestyle you love – just click here to sign up and start embracing positive change.

Thank you Eliza for allowing me to share my passion with your readers!

About Eliza Cross

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

A Mini Money Diet to Begin the Second Half of 2015

Lettuce coming up in the garden

Today begins the seventh month of 2015, a fact that amazes me. For those of you who participated in the January Money Diet, it’s been 181 days since we first decided to begin the new year with 31 days of no spending.

I caught up with a few January Money Diet participants to see how things were going, and thought you might enjoy some of their comments.

“The gains we made with the January Money Diet jump-started our emergency fund.  We’ve been able to keep it growing because of the habit of thinking before spending, which we established in January. Thanks so much for your encouragement to start 2015 off with a more mindful use of our resources.” – Annie

I have really committed to not buying new items unless the old one wears out, or they offer a significant value and improve our lives. I have not purchased any clothing, instead culling my wardrobe down to those things I really like. This way I don’t feel like I need anything new. Goodwill received multiple bags from me! Cutting extra purchases now leaves some money at the end of the month for a vacation fund. I am finally starting to realize the value of experiences over things.” – Lisa

“I think about that January challenge a lot. I don’t spend nearly as much as I use to on clothing and have toned down a lot of the other “useless” shopping. I don’t even go to the stores that much anymore.” – Lynn

A number of you expressed interest in doing a Mini Money Diet this month, and I am with you! With the year half over, I’ve been reevaluating my goals and savings plans to try and finish the year strong. I think it’s actually easier to spend less during the summer, and these are some things you might like to do during the month of July:

1. Figure Your Net Worth

If you haven’t done this exercise since January, I suggest you calculate your net worth now to see where you stand. With six months left in 2015, you still have plenty of time to get your net worth headed UP, UP, UP!

2. Enjoy Seasonal Produce and Find Alternatives to Restaurant Meals

Homemade pizza

Take-out, pizza delivery and restaurant meals can quickly derail a budget. With so much good produce in the stores and farmer’s markets right now, vow to cook easy meals from home in July and save big. Cook on the grill, enjoy garden foods and try easy stir-fries, salads or wraps loaded fresh veggies.

If you make a batch of dough ahead of time and freeze it, you can make a homemade pizza in less time than it takes to wait for delivery–for a fraction of the cost. Here’s my easy homemade pizza recipe. You can also find easy dinner ideas on my Happy Simple Suppers Pinterest board.

3. Make Adjustments to Your Savings Goals

Life happens, and you may not have saved as much as you wanted to in the first half of the year. Why not set a monthly goal to set aside in the remaining six months? If you can scrape up just $38 a week to divert to savings, you’ll have a $1000 nest egg at the end of the year.

4. Plan to Eliminate or Drastically Reduce a Debt by Year-End

Could you pay extra on your lowest debt and completely eliminate it by the end of the year? Do a little calculation, dividing the total by 6 and adding back the monthly interest payment. Could you set up an automatic payment for this amount and enjoy the peace of paying off a debt by the end of December?

5. Hold a Garage Sale While the Weather is Nice

Garage sale

If you sell items you no longer need, you’ll enjoy more space in the areas you declutter and earn extra cash to apply to debt or savings. Maybe you’ll do as well as our 2015 January Money Diet participant, Lynn:

“We had an extremely profitable garage sale and made over $600. Even better, I got rid of so many unneeded items and organized the storage area. It was a proud moment.”

I’d love to hear how your year is going, what you’re doing to save money, and whether you’ve changed any habits as a result of participating in the January Money Diet.

Here’s to a prosperous, happy 2015 for each one of you.

Hugs and happy July,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

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

A Remarkable Rose from a Sweet Grandma


Grandma C. had 17 grandchildren and 31 great-grandchildren.

Sylvia Crosslen became my step-grandmother when her son Howard married my mom Betty, some forty years ago. If you are fortunate enough to have a special relative through marriage, then you’ll understand when I say that it didn’t take long for me to not even think about the “step” part and just call her Grandma.



Sylvia and Orville Crosslen on their wedding day in 1933

Born in 1908, Sylvia traveled to Colorado on a covered wagon from Paris, Texas when she was eight years old and married Orville when she was 25. Grandma and Grandpa raised seven kids in a simple cabin in the Black Forest of Colorado Springs; my Pop was the youngest, and only boy. We’ve heard many stories about the family’s challenges and Grandma didn’t have luxuries, but she grew a fragrant, old-fashioned pink rose in her garden. In her later years–before she moved to the apartment–she gave a slip of the rose to my Mom and Pop, who carefully carried it back to Denver and planted it in their garden. When their rose became established, they in turn gave my sister and me a slip, and we each planted the roses in our gardens, too.


old fashioned rose

The tiny stalks take a while to get established, but soon they grow into a wild cascade of canes and leaves. Once a year, for just a week or so in June, the plant blooms with the most fragrant, extravagant pink roses you’ve ever seen.


Old fashioned rose

The roses are impossibly fat and packed with pink petals, and you can smell their sweet aroma across the yard in the morning.


Old fashioned rose bush

The blossoms last only for a day or two, and then they litter the grass with pink petals.


old fashioned roses fading

Grandma Sylvia “Jean” Crosslen passed in 2001 at the age of 93, but I’m thinking of her this week because her rose is blooming once again and putting on its extravagant show in the garden. I am grateful to have the offshoot of her rose bush here with me to remind me of her gentle spirit.


Old fashioned rose

We sure do miss you, Grandma.

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

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