Learning By Messing Around

currant close up

When I was just starting out in the business world in the 1980s, Tom Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr. wrote an international bestselling book called In Search of Excellence. One of the concepts the authors wrote about was an idea they called MBWA – Management by Wandering Around.

During their research they discovered that managers who got out from behind their desks and regularly talked to people built companies of greater openness, trust and creativity. That simple idea always resonated with me, and I think of it to this day when I get stuck. Get up! I tell myself when I’ve been at my computer too long. Get out! Wander around and explore. Stop thinking and planning, and go out and make something happen!

I’ve taken photography classes and studied my camera manual, but I’m really a student of LBMA—learning by messing around. I love to tinker and explore out in the field. The close-up photo of currants above is one I took yesterday while experimenting with macro lenses again. I was lying in the grass and the sun was already too bright, so I only snapped a few shots.

I was hoping for a pretty result because I love this currant bush. I had trouble even digging a hole for it eight years ago in our rock-hard clay soil, and then Dad died and I totally neglected it. But the bush flourished nonetheless. The currants are tart and sweet, and I eat them off the bush because I read that they’re a good source of phytochemicals. They also make delicious homemade booze. But I digress.

When I looked at the images closely later, I was disappointed because they were overexposed and slightly out of focus. Here’s how the image above looked straight out of the camera:

red currant

But part of the fun of learning, for me, is experimenting with photo editing. Using Photoshop Elements, I cropped the image, adjusted the colors and tones a bit, and increased the contrast. I experimented with the program’s Sharpen feature, and that improved my shaky hand.

While it’s not a photo that will win any awards, I was happy with it and learned a few things in the process. Because I have to shoot in “manual” mode with the camera’s macro lens, I need to make slight adjustments in the focus and shoot several versions of each image to increase my odds of getting that nice, sharp focus. I need to experiment more with the aperture settings, and a tripod would be a good idea, too. I also need to get up a little earlier in the morning if I want to capture the pretty light on this currant bush.

How about you? Could you do 15 minutes of LBMA today? Let’s go!

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

P.S. Today is the final day to enter to win full-sized bottles of organic, zinc-based sunscreen and cooling sunburn gel from Block Island Organics. Details here.

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.

Fifteen Minutes a Day – What Good Thing Will You Do Today?

Emperor Angelfish

I posted a challenge on Sunday about devoting just 15 minutes a day to something worthwhile for the next six days. A number of you are undertaking some important endeavors, and I’m excited about your goals and plans. If you’re just now reading about the idea, feel free to jump right in!

For my 15 daily minutes I committed to take photos, and I shot this one yesterday when my son and I stopped at a pet shop. This striking saltwater fish is an Emperor Angelfish, and he was very shy so I stood still and waited for several minutes until he came out of hiding. I’ve never seen a fish with such beautiful markings.

How about you? If you’d made some time for something important, I’d love to hear what you’re up to.

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 I Spent My First Fifteen Minutes

Clematis close up

In yesterday’s post, I invited you to participate with me in a six-day experiment to do something worthwhile for 15 minutes a day. I committed to taking photos each day, and thought you might like to see my first effort. I’ve recently been fooling around with some macro lenses, and the image above is the very center of a clematis blossom, taken with a 10+ macro lens. I spent about 15 minutes setting up a tripod, trying different settings, and taking a number of shots. A little sunshine came in and hit the blossom during this time, which I thought made the pistils look like a tiny sea anemone.

 

To put this weird photo in perspective, here’s the same blossom shot from a different angle a few inches back:

Clematis blossom

 

Here’s a photo I took over the weekend, of the clematis vine in the early evening sunshine:

Clematis vine

How about you? Would you like to commit to spending 15 minutes a day this week doing something worthwhile? (It’s not too late to start.) You know we all want to hear what you’re up to.

Hugs, and here’s to making good things happen in manageable increments this week,

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.

Let’s Explore the Incredible Power of Fifteen Minutes

Write every day

Photo: Rui Fernandes

 

“I’d love to write a book someday, but right now I don’t have the time.”

I hear this often when I teach writing classes. One of my favorite exercises to do with beginning writers is a timed sprint. We set a timer for 15 minutes, and everyone writes as quickly and unconsciously as they can.

When the timer goes off, these writers are often astonished that their average word count comes in at about 400 words. Then we do the math:  if we write just 400 words a day for five days a week, we can write a 60,000-word draft of a novel in about seven months—and still have weekends off.

I’ve learned that doing big things in small chunks of time can be incredibly productive. With this in mind, how would you like to join me in an experiment this week? If you’re game, let’s commit to 15 minutes of one activity for the next six days. We’ll start Monday and end Saturday. The only requirement is that we state our intentions below and check in every day for six days after we complete our activity. By Saturday we’ll have devoted an hour and a half to something meaningful, and we can share our results.

Creating art at Happy Simple Living

Photo by Stephen A. Wolfe

Here are some ideas:

  • Organize
  • Meditate
  • Practice gratitude
  • Exercise
  • Create a scrapbook page
  • Pray
  • Write in a journal
  • Beautify a space
  • Learn foreign language words or phrases
  • Read to a child
  • Create art
  • Memorize a scripture
  • Write a letter
  • Take a walk
  • Reach out to a friend or loved one
  • Take photographs
  • Work in the garden
  • Write a story or begin your novel

If you’re “in,” leave a comment below about what you’ll do for 15 minutes a day this week. Then, just reply to your own comment each day you complete the activity.  You can just write “Done,” or tell us more about what you did, or how it’s going.

The Quinoa Quookbook

Just for fun, I’ll choose a random name from those of you who participate and give away a signed copy of The Quinoa Quookbook at week’s end.

Are you game? I’ll get the party started and leave the first comment.

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 Giveaway of Block Island Organics Sunscreen

Block Island Organics

Just in time for summertime sun, the nice folks at Block Island Organics have generously offered to give away two full-sized products to one lucky Happy Simple Living reader in the U.S.

If you’re a regular reader of Happy Simple Living, you know I rarely endorse products. Although an astonishing number of companies write and want to host sponsorships and giveaways, somehow loading you up with more stuff seems counterproductive to the purpose of simple living. But Block Island Organics got in touch right after I’d read about the hidden dangers of commercial sunscreens, and I was looking for an alternative.

Block Island Organics’ sunscreens are non-toxic and mineral based, not chemical based. The company’s products are non-comedogenic, vegan formulated, paraben free, phthalate free, nano particle free, artificial fragrance free, non-eye irritating, not tested on animals, made in the USA and highly rated by the Environmental Working Group. Whew, that’s quite a list of good things! Their offerings include a Baby SPF 30, an SPF 15, SPF 30 and SPF 40 product, and a Sunburn Relief lotion.

I agreed to try a sample, with the understanding that I would only sponsor a giveaway if I personally liked the product. They sent me the Baby Block SPF 30, which is a gentle, zinc-only formula that adults can use, too. The product is a broad spectrum sunscreen, meaning it protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

I tested it on mid-day walks in hot sun, and at all times of the day working in the garden. This sunscreen really did the trick and made my skin feel nice, too. The product is creamy and it absorbs easily. I’ve been using it on my face and hands every day, and because it’s non-comedogenic it doesn’t cause breakouts.

They also sent me a bottle of Sunburn Relief, which is a light gel made with soothing ingredients like aloe, cucumber and glycerin. Since I’ve been fortunate not to have any sunburns, I tried it after a shower on my garden-ravaged hands and they instantly felt smooth and soft.

Would you like to try these products, too? If you win the giveaway, you’ll receive full-sized bottles of the Baby 30 zinc-based sunscreen and Sunburn Relief.

To enter, simply answer this question:

What simple pleasure have you been enjoying this summer?

Have you taken a picnic? Watched a sunset? Wiggled your toes in the sand? Whatever you’re doing this June, just dash off a quick response in the comments below and you’ll be automatically entered. The giveaway is open for readers living in the United States, now through Wednesday, June 25, at midnight MST.

Thanks so much to Block Island Organics for sponsoring this giveaway!

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.

Finding Joy on a Cheerios Box

Cheerios Box

If you’re one of the nine in ten Americans who favor labeling of genetically modified foods, you’ll understand my surprise and delight this morning when I poured a bowl of Cheerios.

Right there on the side label in bold type were these lovely words:

GMO-free Cheerios

I did a little research to find out what prompted this popular breakfast cereal to put the GMO-free label on its package, and learned that activist groups pressured Cheerios to stop using GMO ingredients because it’s a cereal often given to toddlers as snacks.

Other good news on the GMO front: Whole Foods will require all of its suppliers to label all products that contain genetically-modified ingredients by 2018.

These are baby steps, to be sure, but the news gives us all something to smile about on a Friday morning.

Smile about Cheerios GMO free

How about you? Are you in favor of mandatory labeling of GMO foods? Would you like to see more brands like Cheerios follow suit with voluntary labeling? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this much-debated topic.

Enjoy the 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.