Looking Back and Pressing Forward

December sunrise


Another year winds down.

Perhaps 2017 was a really tough year for you. Or maybe the year feels pretty positive overall, or perhaps it’s a mix of blessings and hardships.  Isn’t it somehow freeing to have the promise of a fresh, clean slate ahead?

For me, this annual transition from ending to beginning is a time to review the year and jot some plans for 2018 in my journal. Would you like to join me?

2017 In Review

If you take a few quiet moments to look back, what are the stellar moments and events and accomplishments you feel good about?

Perhaps you finished a project, or took a family vacation, or made financial progress, or helped someone else.

Maybe your biggest accomplishment was nurturing your marriage, or raising your children and helping them grow, day in and day out, without a lot of fanfare. That’s huge! I hope you write that on your list.

What happened this year that makes you feel most grateful? What were some of the unexpected highlights?

This annual reckoning may provoke feelings of disappointment, too, of things not done or dreams that didn’t pan out.

But try not to despair too much about setting big goals that you didn’t quite reach. A good forward-looking list will be robust. It will push and challenge you! I encourage you to think BIG during the next exercise.

Looking Ahead to 2018

What would you love to do during this bright, new year? Here are some questions you may wish to consider:

  1. What are your hopes for your spiritual life in the coming year?
  2. What health issues would you like to address? How much would you like to weigh?
  3. What would you love to do with your spouse or significant other?
  4. What would you like to do with your family?
  5. Who would you like to help? What cause especially tugs at your heart?
  6. What would you love to do with your close friends?
  7. What would you like to do to relax?
  8. What are some of your professional goals?
  9. Where would you like your finances to be by the end of the year?
  10. What improvements would you like to make to your home?
  11. What is one new habit you’d like to develop?
  12. What’s a new skill you’d like to learn next year?
  13. What new thing would you like to try?


If you’re feeling brave, I invite you to share some of your insights on the Comments section of this post. I would love to hear about your thoughts and plans.

As this year winds down, may you have peace knowing that you’re exactly where you’re meant to be right now.

I’m so very grateful to share the journey with all of you.


The signature for Eliza Cross

P.S. If your plans for 2018 include getting your finances in order, I hope you’ll join us for the free January Money Diet. Sign up is officially open!

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.

Our Short, Happy Simple Vacation

Dana Point harbor

Dana Point Marina


Dear friends,

Last month my son and I enjoyed a three-day getaway to Dana Point, California. Even though it was quick, we packed in a lot of fun and returned feeling rested and rejuvenated.

Some of my goals when we travel are to stretch our money, stay somewhere nice, maximize relaxation, and be as eco-friendly as possible. Here are 13 ways we made the most of our mini vacation:

Before the Trip

1. Plan (and Pay) Ahead of Time for Big Savings

I purchased our tickets on Southwest five months in advance. We enjoyed convenient travel times and the lowest “Wanna Get Away” fares of just $70 each way from Denver to Orange County, along with Southwest’s free checked bags. I also booked a rental car at the same time. Surprisingly, Hertz had the best deal — providing I was willing to prepay the full fee in advance. Our total was $80, including tax, for a Hyundai Sonata with unlimited mileage for three days.

2. Read the Fine Print

I’m a fan of hotels with local character, so we stayed at the Dana Point Marina Inn. It’s a mid-range hotel in a five-star location.  Standard rooms not facing the water were $129.95 a night, but we wanted to see the ocean so we splurged on a deluxe room with two queen beds for $199.95 a night.

I appreciate that the room rate for this property includes free parking, Wi-Fi and breakfast. In today’s price-driven market, many hotels publish a basic room rate and then tack on extra charges. It pays to check the fine print on the property’s website, read TripAdvisor reviews, and call the hotel to inquire about fees so you don’t have any surprises.

Watch out for the dreaded hidden “resort fee,” which was $25 a day at one hotel I looked at for use of the pool, business center and fitness room. Sheesh! I once stayed at a property that automatically tacked on a 20% “service charge” of the entire bill for employee gratuities. If only I’d known that before I tipped everyone in cash all week.

With accommodation services like AirBnb, watch out for credit card surcharges, cleaning fees, service fees, VAT fees, and damage deposits.

If you’re staying at a chain hotel, it might be worthwhile to join the company’s free loyalty program. These programs sometimes give members discounted rates, complimentary Wi-Fi and room upgrades.


Eucalyptus trees in Dana Point

The pretty view from the non-water side of the hotel


3. It Doesn’t Hurt to Ask…

I’d read on TripAdvisor that some rooms in our hotel had better views than others, so I e-mailed the hotel manager a few days before our stay and told him we were excited to stay at the property for the first time. I mentioned that we were from land-locked Colorado and would love a quieter room with a direct view of the water. He kindly accommodated us, and we loved our room and patio overlooking the harbor.

4. Create a Master Packing List

If we remember to pack everything we need, we won’t have to run to the store for something like forgotten sunscreen. Packing right and bringing only what we need helps us pack lighter, too.

I keep a list on my mobile phone’s Notes app, but you could also use Evernote, Google Docs or any file sharing program — or even a good old analog notebook. If you realize you forgot something on your trip, add it right then to your list.

5. Check Out the Local Water

No need to buy bottled water if the local water is good, right? If you visit the Environmental Working Group’s website, you can input the zip code of the town you’re visiting to check out its tap water ratings. We brought a couple of lightweight water bottles for excursions.


Doheny Beach in Dana Point


6. Bring Your Own Staples and Cutlery

For this trip I packed a small bag of my favorite fresh-ground organic Guatemalan coffee, round coffee filters (can be cut to size to fit the hotel coffeemaker), organic coconut sugar, granola, almonds to snack on, a folding knife, a small pair of scissors, and a couple of forks and spoons.

7. Bring Your Own Pillow

A substandard mattress will be less miserable if you have your own comfy pillow. It helps to put a bright colored pillowcase on the pillow so you don’t accidentally leave it behind.

8. Pack a Pair of Good Earplugs

No matter how carefully we plan, we sometimes end up in a room by the ice machine or elevators. I like Hearos ear plugs because they are soft and expandable. They’re inexpensive and do a really good job of muffling noise.



Bougainvillea blooming on the foot path in Dana Point

During the Trip

9. Make Time for Dolce Far Niente

Dolce Far Niente is an Italian expression that means “sweet doing nothing.” If you’re a doer like me, you may have to consciously will yourself to set aside time to really unwind.

During this trip, I took a walk early one morning and settled on a bench overlooking the harbor. I breathed in the glorious sea air, and watched the seagulls. A breeze stirred the boats, and the gentle clanking of the metal masts sounded like wind chimes. The sun came out and warmed my back. A man and a beagle stopped and greeted me. I walked down the pier, and a barnacle-encrusted baby whale rose up out of the water just thirty feet from me. That precious hour was one of my favorite moments during the trip.

10. Be on the Lookout for Eco-Friendly Features

Our hotel didn’t have many sustainable attributes, unfortunately. In our room, we discovered a special trash can with a recycling section under the sink that we brought out and used. The hotel had a sign in the room with instructions to re-hang towels that didn’t need refreshing, which we did.

On the negative side, the breakfast area used disposable Styrofoam plates — an all-too-common practice in the hospitality industry. When you consider that Styrofoam is a petroleum-based material that can take up to 4oo years to decompose, and think of the sheer number of plates and cups thrown away by hotels, the effect is staggering.


11. Stock Up on Good Drinks and Snacks

Our hotel room had an in-room refrigerator, so I bought organic milk, juice, Greek yogurt, string cheese, crudites, crackers, Honeycrisp apples and fresh raspberries. We also used the refrigerator to store leftover Chinese food from our dinner Friday night. Needless to say, we were never hungry.

If your room doesn’t have a refrigerator, you can pack a soft insulated bag to fill with ice and keep snacks cold.

If you’re staying at an upscale hotel with a stocked minibar, tempting in-room snacks or bottled water, instruct your fellow travelers not to even touch the offerings or you might incur a charge.


Dana Point harbor

Kayaker in Dana Point Harbor


12. Join the Local Grocery Store’s Loyalty Program

It just takes a few minutes, and you’ll enjoy reduced prices on groceries. In a pinch, I politely ask the cashier if they have a card they might be willing to scan for the discount.


After the Trip

13. Provide Feedback

Because TripAdvisor’s reviews helped me plan this trip, I left a review of our experience at the hotel.  I wrote the manager a short note a few days after the trip and thanked him for our nice room. I also mentioned that we’d love to see the property use a more environmentally conscious alternative to Styrofoam plates in the breakfast room, and shared some examples including a biogradeable disposable plate made from plants and wood fibers and a compostable product made from palm leaves.


Eliza Cross at Dan Point

A birthday selfie!

How About You?

How do you make the most of a short vacation? Do you have any travel tips to add to my list? I always love hearing your thoughts and ideas.


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 October of my Soul

autumn leaves maple trees

The maple trees, from our kitchen window.

“I loved autumn, the one season of the year that God seemed to have put there just for the beauty of it.”- Lee Maynard


Oh, my friends.

October started so hard.

On October 1st, during what should have been an evening of fun and music, a gunman shot and killed 59 people and injured more than 500 others at a concert.

I was sad and worried for my friends and family in Las Vegas. Perhaps, like me, you felt the collective pain of a billion hearts breaking, and so many minds trying to process the loss of innocent souls, and the horror of a news story that made no sense.

I couldn’t mesh the dark violence and grief with the insistent, shimmering October beauty all around me.


red autumn leaves


October 5th brought the news of sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein. Soon, millions of women and men were sharing their own heartbreaking #MeToo experiences. The stories kept coming, along with the sad, eye-opening truth that far too many of us have experienced sexual harassment or abuse.

Then the butterflies arrived in Colorado.


Painted Lady butterfly


The Painted Ladies fluttered and lingered in our yards and gardens, so many migrating through Denver that a 70-mile swath appeared on the National Weather Service map in glorious color.


Map of painted lady butterflies


In typical Colorado fashion, we had record high temperatures as well as snow and a hard frost mid-month.

Then the trees began releasing their leaves in earnest. We do not lack for leaves in our yard. I try to focus on the beauty, and not the leaf-raking tasks that still lie ahead.


autumn leaves yard


On the third weekend of October my son and I left the autumn leaves behind and took a short trip to the West Coast, where we stayed in a hotel with weak, intermittent Wi-Fi. At first I was annoyed by that.


No wifi


But later? I began to feel grateful for the technology break. Early each morning while my son caught up on his sleep, I walked down by the Dana Point Harbor marina. I followed a well-worn footpath among the eucalyptus trees to the quiet beach, and put my toes in the water.


Doheny Beach

Doheny Beach in Dana Point, California


And then my birthday came, with love and gifts and cards and greetings….and a family party and my favorite chocolate pecan birthday cake, made by my dear mama.

Now October is winding down, and the #MeToo stories keep pouring in. Numerous news outlets report that many of the Las Vegas shooting victims can’t pay for their enormous medical bills. I have so many deep concerns about the state of our world right now. I never want to become complacent about violence or hatred or harming our earth.

And at the same time, as I reflect on the month I feel deeply grateful for all the goodness and blessings and love. I feel darned glad for another birthday.

There is so much beauty all around us, and at the same time things occur every day in our modern world that are unbearable. How do we begin to reconcile the extremes?


Eucalyptus trees

Eucalyptus trees at Doheny Beach


On her 61st birthday, author Anne Lamott wrote this:

“All truth is a paradox. Life is a precious unfathomably beautiful gift, and it is impossible here. It is so hard and weird that we wonder if we are being punked. And it is filled with heartbreaking sweetness and beauty, floods and babies, and acne and Mozart, all swirled together.”


autumn maple leaves


As this month of darkness and light draws to a close, may we not lose heart.

We each have missions and causes that stir our hearts. We are each equipped with different gifts and talents. In our own individual ways, each of us can be courageous and create positive change.

I’ve gotten to know many of you through this blog, and I know in my bones that in a world of both breathtaking wonders and heartbreaking evil, we will continue to send out beauty and light and love.

Hugs and gratitude,

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 Simple Joy of Puttering

Garden flower arrangement


Dear friends,

This morning I woke up grateful for the slower pace of a three-day weekend, and the sweet luxury of down time to do some small things around the house and garden.

Do you feel that way about unstructured time, too?

I love puttering — and isn’t it the most perfect, descriptive word? September is here, and although the days are still hot in Colorado I notice the changing morning light and the cooler evenings. Some of the leaves are starting to turn, and I no longer feel like the garden needs constant, daily tending.

I took a pleasant stroll around the yard to see what was blooming, and cut a few flowers and leaves and berries.


garden bouquet


They’re now in a little pitcher in the kitchen, shown above. Our artistic mom inspired my love of casual garden arrangements. Her dining table always has a pretty little bouquet or a flowering plant, even in winter.

My next project was a fun experiment. I love making home improvements with materials we already have on hand. The cushions on the patio chairs had faded in the sunshine, but they’re still in good shape so I decided to try and revive them.


Faded chair cushion

Homely patio chair cushion: BEFORE


I found some green acrylic paint in our paint collection, thinned it with a little water, and brushed it on in stripes freehand.


painting a chair cushion


The paint stripes perked those old cushions right up, and while time will tell whether the paint holds up it’s a good, free solution for now.


chair cushions


And then, because I’m feeling autumn-y, I baked a batch of chewy Molasses Ginger Cookies and updated the photos from the original blog post I wrote back in 2007.


Chewy molasses ginger cookies


After all that puttering, it was a treat to sit outside and enjoy the pretty sunset.


Colorado sunset


The evening sky was beautiful and sad at the same time. The setting sun appears orange because of the hazy smoke that has drifted here, and my heart aches for our friends in Montana and California who live in areas battling wildfires. Praying for rain and cooler temperatures.

How About You?

How did you spend your Labor Day weekend? Have you been puttering? I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to.

Here’s to making a little time to enjoy these precious days as fall approaches.


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.

Finding What I Lost in the Classified Ads

Me, my mom and sister at Chautauqua Park in Boulder, After.


I can divide my adolescence in two parts—Before and After.

The break happened when I was thirteen, on what began as a normal day. I was at a girlfriend’s house when my mom called and asked me to come home. Opening the front door I discovered Dad on the couch crying, a suitcase at his feet.

He explained that he was going to go live at a friend’s cabin for a while. He and Mom were having a tough time, and they had decided it would be best if he moved out. My baby sister was napping, and as he went in her room to kiss her goodbye I tried to absorb the shocking news. Crying openly, Dad pulled Mom and me into a long hug and then he was gone.

I realize now that I was probably experiencing depression in the months that followed. I tried to be good and responsible and help my mom, but I cried every night and wondered if I would ever stop feeling so sad.

A turning point came when the Johnny Nash song “I Can See Clearly Now” started playing on the radio. “Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind…”  Oh, how I longed for that feeling. I prayed for a rainbow, I really did. And soon a day went by without tears, and then two days, and eventually the ache started to lessen.


sun behind the clouds


Years later, a good counselor and a caring pastor would help me work through my angsty “After” years of high school when my main focus was hanging out with friends, partying, just getting by in school, and looking for love in all the wrong places. Once I got married and experienced my own troubles, I was able to better understand and empathize with my parents’ separation and divorce.

For all the time I spent sorting out what happened during the years After, though, I hadn’t really thought much about the girl I was Before.

Until now.

Last month, a classified ad on NextDoor.com caught my eye. A neighbor was selling a used clarinet—the instrument I had played in junior high, but quit in the months After. One phone call and twenty dollars later, the pretty clarinet in a black velvet-lined case was mine.




That night I assembled the clarinet, lifted it to my lips and tried the easiest note—an open G. I wish I could tell you that the tone was clear and true. But the truth is that the first sound I made on my new clarinet was a piercing squeak that awakened our dog Boo with a confused growl.


What the?


Unlike getting back on a bicycle, I had to relearn all the keys and retrain my mouth to form the proper embouchure. Our junior high band teacher John A. Whitehurst was right:  playing the clarinet properly requires hours and hours of practice.

Something else surprising happened in the taking up of this new-old instrument. Returning to the clarinet brought back a flood of memories about the curious, unselfconscious girl I was Before.

I’d forgotten that in the years Before, my friends and I formed a musical group and performed in a local talent show.


Stars of Tomorrow Boulder 1970


Before, I marched in a parade downtown as I played my clarinet. I was in a folk dancing group, and twirled onstage to polka songs.

Before, I bought a ten-speed bike with my babysitting money and rode it all over Boulder. I sewed my own peasant blouses, crafted chokers from grosgrain ribbon and lace, and embroidered flowers on my jeans.

Before, I stood up and sang for the residents of a nursing home. I entered speech competitions, voluntarily!

Before, I tried out for the lead in the school play and was cast instead as the grandma, which required me to draw wrinkles on my face and whiten my hair with talcum powder.


Gray hair


In the After days, all I wanted to do was fit in. I didn’t venture on a single stage during high school.

Looking back, I marvel at how fearless I was Before. I also realize that those long-dormant interests are still part of who I am, four decades later. And the courage? It must still be there somewhere, too.

So recently I joined Toastmasters, where I stand up and give speeches and enjoy the thrill of doing something that scares the heck out of me.

And every night after dinner, I take out my clarinet.


Eliza Cross playing the clarinet


The notes come slow.

The squeaks come sometimes, too.

The dog howls.

But I play, and honor the girl I was Before.

I play, and offer melodies for the girl I was After.

I play and send up an old song about a bright, bright, sun-shiny day, so grateful for the loves and losses and mistakes and mercy and dark clouds and sunny days and hills and valleys and every breathtaking moment of grace, Before and After, that shaped my life and brought me here to Right Now.

And straight ahead?

There’s nothing but blue skies, my friends.

How About You?

Was there a time in your youth when you tried something that now seems fearless? Did you enjoy an activity years ago that you would like to try again? Have you recently returned to a former hobby or sport?

Is there a song, literal or figurative, that you long to play?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and memories.


The signature for Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross and her Dad

Dancing with my Dad, Before. If you look closely, you can see my shoes on top of his.


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.

Facing My Worst Self in the Grocery Line

cow backside

Photo: Andrew Storms

Every few weeks, I drive to my local Sprouts store and buy a couple bags of organic Guatemalan coffee. They have a machine where you can grind the roasted beans on the spot, and the coffee is soooo good.

This particular Sprouts store is a rather, shall we say, relaxed establishment where long lines are part of the experience. Last Thursday at 5 p.m., three cashiers were open and the lines of people stretched all the way back to the produce department.

As I eyed the three lines to figure out which would move quickest, a man veered his cart decisively to the right so I defaulted to the center, nearly cutting off another woman. She slid her cart in close behind me, and I could feel her daggers.

The people waiting all wore similar expressions of resignation, like you might see in the faces of cows standing in a dank feed lot. I counted the people in my line: 11. Then I looked over at the speedy gentleman to the right and counted only ten people ahead of him. So unfair! I thought to myself. I was totally planning to get in that line until he cut me off.


cows in feed lot

Photo: Randy Heinitz


I stood with my two little bags of coffee and inwardly groaned at the overstuffed carts ahead of me. Who are you people, camp cooks? I wondered. Preppers stocking up for the apocalypse?

Our cashier appeared to be an affable young man who was now chatting with the customer at the front of the line. C’mon, enough with the talking!  I implored him with my strongest ESP vibes.  Scan and talk at the same time! Let’s mooooooooove!


cow trampoline


To my right, Mr. Speedy’s cashier had stopped scanning. “Price check on register eight,” he announced. Oh YES. I brightened up considerably. Now Speedy’s line is slower than mine. Na, na, na, na, NA, na! 

Suddenly I had one of those out-of-body experiences where my better consciousness intervenes and slaps me upside the head. What are you thinking? it demanded. What’s with this ugly spirit of competitiveness? Why are you feeling glee because your fellow human is delayed?


cow and horse


Before I could answer those questions, I saw movement from the corner of my eye. A green-shirted Sprouts employee had appeared and was now fiddling around at the next cash register. He didn’t look at us as he carefully straightened the bags, meticulously sprayed the conveyor belt with cleaner, and counted every bill and coin in the cash drawer. And then…yes? No? Wait for it…

He flicked on the lane light, and a mass exodus occurred. The dagger woman behind me was first in line. Dust rose in the air and the new line was ten people deep in 15 seconds. None of us patient, longsuffering cattle had been nimble enough to migrate. Even worse, our bagging clerk moved over to the new line. So unfair!

Dagger’s eyes met mine as she paid for her groceries. “Hasta la vista, sucker,” she seemed to say before waltzing out of the store.


bye felicia cow


I took a deep breath, and tried to remember all the things I’ve read about acceptance and letting go. Inhale peace, exhale stress.

I pictured Jerry Seinfeld’s dad yelling, “Serenity now!” What is it about being in a crowded grocery store that brings out my most primitive instincts? My default mode seems to be:

  • I am in a hurry. Even if I’m not on any particular schedule, I’m still in a hurry.
  • Waiting is a big waste of  valuable time.
  • Lines should be fair and democratic!
  • Cashiers should be efficient and know all the grocery codes, even for starfruit and Swiss Chard.
  • Our bagger must never defect to another line!
  • When it’s my turn, I like it when the cashier is friendly.
  • Success = making better time than my fellow shoppers.

I took more deep breaths and sent up some lame, shallow prayers. After several more minutes of jockeying, it was finally my turn.

“Your coffee smells good,” the cashier said as he scanned.

“I love Sprouts coffee.”

“It’s the best.” He smiled and nodded at me. “You need to press the green ‘Enter’ button and click ‘Yes.'”

“Oh, sorry. All of these machines are different.”

“I know, right? Why can’t they standardize card readers?”

“Exactly!” I smiled and gazed back at the dozen people scowling in line behind me. I swear to you, I could hear words like “HURRY UP, LADY” and “MOVE IT!” floating around me.


angry cow


“You still need to sign the keypad.”

“Oh, sorry.”

As I headed toward the exit I noticed Mr. Speedy still in his line, peering at the card reader trying to figure out which button to push.

Cowabunga! I thought, as I skipped to my car like a happy heifer finally let out to pasture.


content cow

May your lines be short and your patience long in the days ahead.


The signature for Eliza Cross

P.S. For more bad behavior, you might also enjoy “Why Was I Speeding Up a Mountain Road?


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.

For the Love of Good Quality

Krups coffeemaker

My coffee maker is 20 years old this week. I know this for a fact, because it was a wedding present two decades ago. I hope it doesn’t sound wrong to mention that the appliance has lasted twice as long as the marriage.

dented Krups coffee carafeBy my estimation, this Krups coffee maker has produced more than 24,000 cups of excellent coffee and it’s still going strong. I dropped and dented the stainless carafe when we moved, but it didn’t affect the performance so I kept using it.

Lasting quality is a thing to behold these days, isn’t it? When our computers need to be replaced every few years and we tear down buildings like football stadiums after just a few decades, it can begin to feel like old things don’t have much value.

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, too, but I really appreciate owning something that is classic and durable.

I write a lot about saving money, but sometimes it makes sense to invest in craftsmanship and lasting quality.

Here are some things that come to mind:

  • Cast iron skillets
  • Handcrafted furniture
  • A hand-forged knife
  • Classic clothes
  • A KitchenAid mixer
  • Well-made tools
  • A Pendleton blanket
  • Cowboy boots

Another hallmark of a well-made product is great customer service from the maker. When the inner shell of my OtterBox phone case cracked, the company promptly sent me a free replacement. No questions asked. No warranty required. I didn’t have to package up the old case and return it. They simply trusted me.

Buy Me Once is a brilliant company that sells goods like appliances, kitchenware and clothing that are made to last. They don’t yet offer coffee makers, but that’s okay. When mine wears out, I’ll probably look for another Krups.

How About You?

What do you own that is exceptionally well-crafted and long lasting? Can you recommend any brands that offer top quality products and great customer service? I always love to hear your suggestions and thoughts.


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 Photos I Didn’t Post on Instagram This Week

Instagram Eliza Cross


I love looking at everyone’s pretty pictures on Instagram. When I scroll through the feed, it’s like a little vacation for my soul. And when I look back through the collection of images I’ve posted, it’s like viewing a scrapbook of memories and lovely sights.

Instagram isn’t a reflection of my real life, though — not by a long shot. If I were posting the bad and ugly along with the good, I’d have shared this image:


kitchen drain repair

Real life.


Last week we discovered that the drain line from our kitchen sink cracked at some unknown time, and had been slowly leaking water in the basement wall. Getting it repaired wasn’t pretty… or cheap.

We couldn’t use our kitchen sink for four days. So I didn’t make homemade pizza like I’d shared on this previous Instagram post:


homemade pizza


Instead, real life led to pizza delivery because the kitchen was torn up and the plumber was here working late on Saturday night.


pizza delivery

Real life.


I love taking pictures in the garden, and occasionally I see a sight like these lovely Forget-me-nots:


forget me not


But do not be fooled into thinking that this snapshot is an accurate representation of our garden, my friends.

If I’m being real, I need to share some photos of the bug infestation I’m currently dealing with.


Black Cherry Aphid

Real life.


I believe this is Cherry Blackfly, an aphid that sucks the sap from cherry tree leaves in the spring. Ladybugs eat the aphids, so maybe next year I’ll try introducing some of the lucky bugs to the emerging leaves early in the season.

Interestingly, the wasps in our garden have also been eating the aphids. I tend to think of wasps as pests, so I’m reminded that nature has its own self-sustaining balance. At this stage of the growing season, the only remedy is to cut off and discard the damage — and who doesn’t love snipping sticky leaves covered with thousands of black bugs?

This is our dear dog Maddie. She is 16 or 17 years old, and I love this recent photo showing her sweet face and glorious white whiskers.


Australian cattle dog mix


This spry senior is starting to have a lot of accidents, though. Our wonderful vet has been running tests and trying different drugs, hoping for a miracle cure. The grass around our patio is not looking pretty, but I don’t care because she’s doing her best to get outside quickly.


Real life.


I’m reminded that the things we post on social media are usually the prettiest sights and our best selves, and not a true representation of anyone’s reality.

Did you know that Instagram has some real-life hash tags. including #bummer, #expensiverepair, #aphids, and #uglylawn?

If you want a real treat, be sure to check out #olddogsrule.


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 Reader’s Decluttering Dilemma



Occasionally you readers write and ask me for advice.

When you query me about topics like cooking, gardening, simple living, and Greek yogurt, I always feel a mixture of flattery and terror—honored to be asked, and scared to death I’ll steer you wrong.

Curiously, you never ask me for dating tips. What’s up with that?!

Anyhoo, a lovely reader named Leah wrote me about a common dilemma that can arise when trying to clear space and get organized. Here’s her letter:

Dear Wise Eliza,  (Please note: I may or may not have added the word “Wise”)

We need to declutter, and I am about to get rid of lots of things. For me, the difficulty isn’t in parting with the things (i.e., it’s not a question of sentimentality or nostalgia) – the issue is that I don’t know how to find all these things good homes without going to great lengths. Goodwill and other charity shops are great for some items, but I simply don’t know what to do with really nice things. I want the next “steward” to really love them – not keep them in storage (as I did) and then put them in landfill.

I can get rid of these things quick on Freecycle, but I’ve found that people don’t value objects or services unless they pay for them. eBay is a possibility but it involves a lot of time and hassle; yard sales are time-consuming and people generally are looking for deals (rather than things they love and need); and giving these things as gifts feels like I’m burdening my friends. Two strong, conflicting needs – to shift the stuff fast and be non-wasteful – are tough for me to reconcile, and I don’t know what to do.

What would you advise?? My husband tells me not to feel guilty or responsible for the existence of these things (especially the items that were given to me as gifts), but I find this so emotional and difficult!

Gratefully yours,

~Conscientious, but Crowded


Leah, have you considered keeping a hungry goat as a pet?


Pet goat


Sorry, I’m kidding—no pun intended.

Let me share a couple of thoughts, and then we’ll invite our astute readers to weigh in.

1. You might enjoy this post,How to Declutter Your Home,” by Maxwell Ryan. Ryan is the co-founder of Apartment Therapy, a wonderful site with inspiring photos and ideas to help people in smaller homes create beautiful, highly functioning spaces.

2. Consider selling your treasures on NextDoor.com, a site that connects people in nearby neighborhoods. It’s much less anonymous than, say, Craigslist. I’ve sold several items using the site’s free classified ads, and met some really nice people in the process.

3. Find a nonprofit that helps people transition from homelessness. A fine example here in Denver is Joshua Station, a former old Motel 6 converted into apartments refurbished by volunteers and decorated with donated goods. If you find a charitable organization where your wonderful treasures will directly be making a difference in another person’s life, you may feel more peace about letting them go.

4. Photograph your treasures before you say goodbye, and make a photo book through a service like Shutterfly. Write a few memories, so that you can remember and share your feelings about the items and what they meant to you.

How About You?

Readers, will you share your thoughts about how to mindfully declutter and let things go? I always love hearing your ideas, personal experiences—and dating tips.


The signature for Eliza Cross

P.S. Grateful thanks to Tomi Knuutila for the use of the collection image above and Rebecca Siegel for the use of her wonderful goat 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.