Win a Copy of the New Book 1001 Ways to Live WILD

1001 Ways to Live Wild | Happy Simple Living blog

 

This week, I’m giving away a brand new hardback copy of Barbara Ann Kipfer‘s latest book, 1,001 Ways to Live WILD. Barbara is the author of sixty books, including the mega-bestseller 14,000 Things to Be Happy About. 

1001 Ways to Live Wild pages | Happy Simple Living blogThis 384-page book ($19.95, published by National Geographic) is a feast for the senses, from its pretty cover to the colorful borders to its delicate, nature-inspired illustrations. The pages are filled with a trove of creative ideas to help us experience more adventure in our everyday lives.

I don’t know about you, but I could definitely stand to get a little more WILD.

Some of Barbara’s suggestions are fun and whimsical:

159. Tour an airplane factory.

508. Learn how to spin a basketball on your finger.

766. Hug a tree and a person today.

Some of her ideas might require a little more planning:

234. Take a ride in a vintage biplane.

451. Sleep in a castle for a night.

852. Lounge around a thermal pool under the midnight sun in Iceland.

Some of her tips are challenging and thought-provoking:

315. Leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition.

664. Live and act from the understanding that all things change.

930. Watching wildlife can reawaken senses dulled by the man-made world.

Woven among the tips are inspirational quotes (“There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing” – Scandinavian proverb) and short lists like “Natural Phenomena to Go Wild For” (Aurora borealis and volcanic lightning, for example).

If you open a random page of this book, you can’t help but be inspired to try something new and bring a little adventure into your life. This pretty volume would make a wonderful gift for just about anyone, from a newlywed couple to a recent retiree to a graduating senior.

To enter the drawing to win your own copy of 1,001 Ways to Live WILD, just answer this question in the Comments section of this post:

What’s one wild thing you’ve always wanted to do?

Whether you long to dye your hair purple or yodel from the top of the Swiss Alps or learn how to play the electric guitar, we all want to hear your wild bucket list ideas!

The drawing is open to readers in the U.S. who reply between now and Thursday, May 5 at midnight MST. I’ll do a random drawing and announce the winner the following day.

Grateful thanks to Barbara Ann Kipfer, TLC Book Tours and National Geographic Partners for providing the book for this giveaway.

As for me, I’m going to try practicing Barbara’s tip #394 today:

“Live in a simple, direct way, without cluttering your mind with hatred, judgment, worry, doubt, or want. Choose the experience of genuine happiness.”

Hugs and happy simple living,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

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

What’s On Your Victory List?

Write a victory list | Happy Simple Living blog

Could writing a victory list help you prioritize, focus, and celebrate your accomplishments? Let me explain what I mean by ‘victory list’ and why I started writing one.

As I wrote previously, my son’s father passed away unexpectedly in February. The first couple of weeks after Jose’s death, I was in a fog of grief and trying to manage what felt like a hundred moving parts. Comforting my children. Making funeral plans. Embracing visitors. Writing thank you notes. Integrating a new dog into our family. Helping sort and move things from Jose’s apartment. Going to counseling appointments. Figuring out new routines. Adjusting to 24/7 life as a single parent.

Eventually things settled down, and then we were faced with our new daily reality. If you’ve ever experienced a difficult loss, you may relate to my realization that it didn’t matter if I woke up feeling blue — life relentlessly insisted that we go on.

That’s a good thing. It’s just not always an easy thing.

The counselor told me that I had to make time to care for myself, and while I knew she was right the practical application of how to do that was less clear. In those early, foggy days, I began writing a list of small accomplishments.

“Had a nice bath.”

“Went to church.”

“Enjoyed adult conversation and watched the sun set with Leslie.”

“Finished the taxes.”

“Got my hair trimmed.”

“Turned in my article on time.”

“Took a walk around the neighborhood.”

The list was a touchstone, a way to record the small, simple things that were challenging and important at the time.

At the end of the month, I reviewed the list and felt good and hopeful. So I started a new list the following month, and felt similarly satisfied 30 days later. Now I’m on Victory List #3.

Keeping a list of victories is a way for me to quiet the little voice (the one I try to ignore) that says I don’t do enough.

My list is proof that we’re making progress, and it helps me stay hopeful about the days to come.

How about you?

I know you’re dealing with your own challenges. Could jotting down your small victories help you recognize and celebrate your accomplishments?

Aside from the typical ‘to do’ tasks we all have, what would you like to see on your victory list? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Hugs and happy weekend,

The signature for Eliza Cross

Photo: Zoë Biggs

About Eliza Cross

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

It’s So Easy to Be Critical

Colorado blizzard March 2016 | Happy Simple Living blog

This Wednesday we had a nice spring blizzard in Colorado. It snowed sideways here from about 4:00 in the morning to 5:00 in the afternoon, and the blowing snow caused Denver International Airport to close for the first time in ten years. I shot the picture above from my home office at the height of the storm’s blizzardiness. When it stopped, we had over a foot of heavy snow.

My First Mistake

Yesterday morning, just before I put on my parka and snow boots to begin the task of shoveling the driveway, I happened to read this headline from The Denver Post:

Denver Won’t Be Plowing Residential Streets After Wednesday’s Blizzard

The article was accompanied by a dramatic photo of cars buried under snow, and included a partial quote from the Denver Public Works spokesperson Nancy Kuhn that the Post put in quote marks like this:

Kuhn said the decision not to deploy residential plows came after “careful consideration.”

My Second Mistake

I don’t know what possessed me, but for some reason I clicked on the Comments section of the article and began reading the various remarks. (Is this ever a good idea? I read somewhere that you lose a minute of your life for every minute you spend reading online comments – ha!)

Here’s an example, from someone whose forum name is Tony T.:

“You’ve got to be kidding me. It’s going to snow again on Friday night, so they’re just going to shrug their shoulders and hope it gets warm!? This isn’t the first time they’ve tried to pull this crap, and it won’t be the last.”

It bears mentioning that we don’t live in Denver proper, and the main street circling our neighborhood was plowed. However, I was steamed as I tromped out and began shoveling the driveway.

My Third Mistake

I felt increasingly indignant as I shoveled. My mind latched on to this issue and filled my head with angry thoughts. How dare the city not plow and help the residents of Denver? Why don’t we have the budget for proper plowing? What about all the new tax revenue we’re supposedly generating with marijuana sales? 

The problem soon escalated to much larger-scale thoughts like: Our government is such a mess. Our infrastructure is crumbling and cities are going bankrupt. In this day and age, why is it so difficult to find good political leadership? And so on, and so on…

Does your brain ever lapse into an endless loop of negativity like this? I hate when that happens!

What Brought Me Back

The snow started melting quickly yesterday (part of the reason Denver Public Works decided not to plow) and a large, wet clump fell off the front locust tree and hit me right in the face. What a blessing! The friendly snowball made me laugh, and it also knocked some sense into me. What was I doing? Why was I in such a huff?

I re-set my mind on the glorious sunshine and glittering white landscape against a blue, blue Colorado sky. I sent thoughts of light and love to the DPW spokesperson Nancy Kuhn, who must need extra grace and a thick skin sometimes to defend the city’s actions. I vowed to stop reading anonymous online comments.

And I decided to save figuring out the world’s problems for another day.

Hugs and happy Easter,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

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

A Springtime Strawberry Tart

Strawberry tart | Happy Simple Living blog

I’m working on a new cookbook this spring that will be all about beautiful BERRIES. I’m having such a good time tasting and testing blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, and of course, luscious strawberries.

This is a simple recipe that combines a crunchy, lightly sweet, shortbread-y crust with a creamy filling and fresh strawberries. Even though it’s very easy to make, it looks spectacular — my kind of recipe! Here’s how to make it:

Springtime Strawberry Tart

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup cold salted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, divided
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 12 ounces strawberries, hulled and halved

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a food processor, pulse flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, and cornstarch until combined. Add butter and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and pulse until fine crumbs form and dough just begins to come together. Press evenly into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch round tart pan with a removable rim.

Bake until edges are golden, about 20 to 22 minutes. Let cool on a rack, then remove tart crust from pan and transfer to a serving plate.

In a bowl with a mixer on high speed, beat the cream until soft peaks form. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and beat until thick. Gently fold the sour cream in the mixture and spread in cooled crust. Arrange strawberries in circles on top. (If you want to create the same effect I did in the photo above, you can alternate the cut sides down and up.) Cover and chill the tart for 3 to 4 hours to firm up the filling. Cut in slices and serve. Makes 8 servings.

My friend and fabulous photographer Alan Hill took the beautiful image of this tart, and I am grateful for his talent.

Hugs and happy Easter,

The signature for Eliza Cross

 

About Eliza Cross

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

The You’re Not Doing Enough Club

Let go of not doing enough | Happy Simple Living blog

No matter how much I accomplish in any given day, I notice that I often carry around a vague sense of Not Doing Enough.

I might have had a pretty good work day, but I didn’t exercise. If I spent quality time with my family, fifty unanswered emails are waiting in my InBox.

I’m a sucker for articles and books about increasing productivity. A headline like “5 Timesaving Apps That Will Change Your Life!” will get me to click every time.

Because I’m a Type A but also prone to distraction, I’ve tried keeping a little chart to track daily tasks like exercising, meditating, writing, flossing, and organizing. It’s a rare, rare day when I circle every task on the chart.

I write books and articles, and the only way I can meet my deadlines is to break up the work in daily chunks. So I’m constantly setting word counts for writing and editing. When I miss my goals, which is frequently, I pay the price with increased pressure.

Like many of you, I also work full time. I’m a parent and a pet owner, with a house and yard to maintain.

The Martha complex

A recent article I read about Martha Stewart quoted her as saying that she brushes her dogs every day. Every day! I thought, and a wave of guilt swept over me. I should be brushing our dogs every day… poor mutts.

I attended my son’s parent-teacher conference last night, and his English teacher said, “His reading comprehension needs work, but we’re grateful that you’ve been doing the nightly 15 minutes of parent-student reading together.”

I know my face betrayed me.

 

Dog with tilted head | Happy Simple Living blog

“Say what?”

My friends, we are seven months into the school year and I somehow missed the directive that my son and I are supposed to be reading together for 15 minutes each night. No wonder his comprehension needs work! 

I’ve always suspected that other people had the productivity thing down. But I might be wrong. In talking with a number of my friends, I have yet to hear from anyone who does not feel, some days or many days, as if the things they accomplished are somehow lacking.

“At the end of the day, I always feel like I let someone down,” one busy mom of four told me.

What about you, dear ones? Do you belong to the You’re Not Doing Enough Club?

Searching for answers

When I prayed and meditated about this question, what came to my mind was the image of Mary choosing to sit on the floor and visit with Jesus. Remember that story? Meanwhile, Mary’s sister (named Martha, ironically) bustled around cleaning, cooking, and feeling overwhelmed.

I want to be more like Mary. I really do. At the same time, I can sort of relate to Martha in this story. As a food lover, I can imagine wanting to prepare a good meal for the great teacher. I’d be in the kitchen making fresh pita breads and pouring wine and wanting everything be just right.

Jesus died a short time later, and then the meal really didn’t matter. I can imagine poor Martha feeling such regret that she was stressed out and distracted during that final evening with her friend.

Is it possible that the vaguely unsettling cloud of Not Doing Enough is creating daily unhappiness, and that the thing we might need to do most is… to do less?

To be present?

To let some things go?

To seek that which is truly important?

It is finished.

If you have been a member of the You’re Not Doing Enough Club, I have news for you: The club has disbanded. The gig is up.

You and me — we’re not going to do this any more. Okay?

The next time we feel those clouds gathering, let’s fight back.

Pause, and think about what really matters.

Give yourself permission to slow down.

You are doing enough.

Take a deep breath.

Be easy on yourself.

You are amazing. 

You really are.

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

 

Grateful thanks to Henric Silversnö for the use of his wonderful dog image.

About Eliza Cross

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

How to Put Yourself on a Money Diet

Put yourself on a money diet | Happy Simple Living blog

If you’re in Colorado, you may have heard me talking about money diets last night and this morning during a spot on CBS-4.

The producers heard about our annual January Money Diet, and asked me to share some of the top ideas we gleaned from our 30-day spending break. You can watch the clip here:

The beautiful thing about going a money diet is that you can do it any time you need to hunker down and save some cash. Here are some easy ways to save money while you’re dieting:

  1. Cook at home. This is a big area of savings for most families. Try making homemade pizza instead of paying for delivery. Here’s my easy pizza recipe, including two types of dough, homemade sauce, and dozens of topping ideas. It’s yummy, fun to make, and inexpensive. Other saving strategies include cooking double recipes and freezing half, using leftovers in soups and casseroles, and cooking less expensive cuts of meat in a slow cooker.
  2. Go on a scavenger hunt and “shop” at home. Most of us have lots of goodies hiding in our cabinets, pantries and freezers. Use those items during a money diet, and you’ll save money and free up space.
  3. Use and maintain the things you already have. We may live in a disposable society, but we honor our possessions when we take care of them. Perhaps you could make your scuffed boots look new with shoe polish, or sew the missing button on your sweater, or clean up your gardening tools. These are joyful tasks that can bring so much satisfaction.
  4. Explore your local library. We are amazed at the cool things we can borrow from our library, from energy meters to solar light bulbs to Nooks. We can even download free, current eBooks and magazines from home on our Kindle. Plan a visit to your library during your money diet, and see what you can check out for free.
  5. Finish something. From stalled home improvement jobs to crafting projects, a money diet month is the perfect time to enjoy the benefits of completing a task.
  6. Declutter and give things away. Even though we’re on a money diet, we can still be generous. A money diet month is a perfect time to go through stuff and give things we no longer need to our favorite nonprofit. The side benefit is a more peaceful, organized home.
  7. Find ways to splurge so you don’t feel deprived. Give yourself a pedicure. Take a nap. Use the fancy shaving brush you got for Christmas. Soak in a bubble bath. Be good to yourself while you’re not spending, and you might not even notice you’re on a money diet.

Have you ever gone on a money diet? What are some of your favorite ways to save? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

If you’ve just discovered this blog and want to receive more simple living tips, you can subscribe to Happy Simple Living to have the  posts conveniently delivered to your e-mail InBox. (It’s free and we never, ever share your information.)

Hugs,

The signature for Eliza Cross

 

About Eliza Cross

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