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Showing posts with label simple living.
Showing posts with label simple living.

20 October 2014

Summer is for living, fall is for reflecting, that is the lesson I learned in the past months. I spent the summer traveling, meeting people, running on hot sands and jumping over waves.

The feeling of guilt for not blogging was following me everywhere I went and the more time passed by, the less inclined I felt to write. Have you felt the same too?

Don't resist
On some days, my head was exploding by the thought that I could not collect myself and write a single post, on others I blamed myself for not taking pictures to update my , but I refused to give in to the guilt. Instead, I chose not to resist.

You see, I believe in not resisting; if a creative urge comes, I succumb and try to live it as fully as possible. So, in this case, the urge was to live in the moment. For the first time in three years I stopped blogging and for the first time in more than ten years I left my camera at home. If you are a blogger you will understand what an effort that was. If you are a photographer, maybe you will be appalled.

But has never led anyone to good decisions. Actually, being guilt prone is only ruining your life. Psychologist Guy Winch to try to define if the signal of guilt is real or not, then to identify if you are really doing something wrong and if the message is false to ignore it.

With my feeling of guilt identified as faulty, I simply decided to trust the rhythm.

Trust the rhythm
Trusting the rhythm of my emotions is very much connected to trusting the rhythm of the seasons. I believe that every creative person is influenced by the natural world, and the changing of seasons. So, instead of trying to follow a strict regime of creating – be it writing, painting, photographing or sculpting – you might want to listen to your urges, stop feeling guilty and enjoy a detour on the your creative path.

Summer is a vibrant season. Instead of shutting yourself off from the world, go outside and be part of it. Even if that means you have to stop what you're doing.

Feeling guilty is so out of the question in this situation because even when you are not literally crafting or creating, the impressions and the change in activities will charge you up for your next endeavors.

Trying to follow a routine regardless of season will only make you feel stuck and sooner or later your creativity will perish because of the pressure you put on yourself.

So, you know how everything in nature evolves and follows an up-and-down curve? It's quite the same with us, our emotions and our creativity.

If we accept that summer is the season for living outside, then fall is the perfect season for reflecting on all that we lived through and employing it in our creative process. Then comes winter, when held indoor by cooler temperatures our reflections deepen and we have enough time to create an to live in the virtual world of our thoughts, followed by an awakening in spring and new creative juices.

Don't push yourself, follow the natural rhythm of the seasons and breathe.

Breathe in – breathe out;
work – rest;
create – collect impressions;
day – night...

It's as simple as that. Don't push yourself. Try to understand and respect your rhythm instead, as you do the rhythm of nature. Allow yourself time to rest and time to be active. Keep this dynamic balance alive and your creativity will flourish.

Now it's your turn: Have you gone through long periods of burn-out and how have you dealt with them? Leave your reply in the comments below.

28 May 2014

They were moving so fast across the deep blue sky. The air currents up high were pushing the white fluffy clouds with the deliberation of a shepherd hurrying to get his flock away from a rain storm.

On a hot afternoon 30 years ago today I sat in front of our house, facing the sky, mesmerized by the transformations and the speed of clouds. I think I sat there for hours. The clouds were beautiful and they let me fantasize about what it was to sit up there.

And I can do that still. How about you?

I can lie down on the warm grass and look at the sky, follow the clouds' routes and imagine what it is to walk on them. I am even more delighted when I'm in an airplane and have the chance to peek "behind the scenes" of the life of clouds.

But looking is not the only thing I do, I photograph them. Although I have little knowledge about their types and names, clouds have been an inspiration for my artworks for a good 5 years now.

The following cloud image was selected as one of the TOP TEN altered images according to Smithsonian Mag for 2013.


Although they get some really bad publicity, clouds can be an invaluable source of inspiration for the people who are willing to see.

"Clouds are so commonplace that their beauty is often overlooked. They are for dreamers and their contemplation benefits the soul. Indeed, all who consider the shapes they see in them will save on psychoanalysis bills." .

If you are still not sure that you can enjoy clouds the following 7 steps might be of help.

1. Learn to look up often.

How many times a day do you look up into the sky? My sister recently shared with me her surprise at how just a few people ever looked up. I think there is a common belief that only dreamers have the time for it but why not be one? Why not take your life one day at a time and find time to actually stop and stare high up into the sky. You will see a different universe above that will amaze you - you know - birds, trees, clouds that are always different... If you are persistent you will notice that you develop the ability for dreaming. And this is a good thing for sure.

2. Wait for the sunset.
The clouds are most beautiful at sunset. Not only do they get romantic shades and warm colors but because the sunlight is low, it gives them a totally different, other-worldly dimension.

Now turn your back to the setting sun and look to the east. Do you notice how the colors change? They are more into the blues and violets, and purples. Do you realize that all this parade of colors and fluffy cloud shapes is there just for you?

3. Designate cloud watching time.
Make sure you spend at least 5 minutes a day looking at clouds. It could be in your lunch break, or when your kids are taking their afternoon nap. You can find 5 minutes for quiet, peaceful observation of the clouds in the sky, be they soft and white or grey, stormy ones.

In the beginning you might feel ridiculous spending time for cloud watching but if you manage to keep that routine for 10 days you will realize that it has become part of your YOU time, and you feel calm and relaxed and are actually looking forward to these 5 minutes.

4. Become a member of The Cloud Appreciation Society.
When I heard of in 2012 I was ecstatic. I could hardly imagine a more appropriate society to be a member of! So, why don't you try it yourself? The Cloud Appreciation Society currently has 35,301 members from all over the world, so you can connect to many interesting people, who are interested by clouds.

It is easy to love clouds when you have company. The members of the society photograph and post cloud photos daily and you will truly be blown away at the visual display on the sky all over the world.

5. Challenge yourself.
Challenge yourself to find something special even in the most boring clouds you see. This is an exercise in imagination and you will soon feel its effect on you. You'll thank me later.

6. Photograph clouds. 
I've noticed that using photography as an excuse to do anything can make me more responsible. You can start a visual project by photographing clouds each day in your designated 5 minutes. That will help your creativity, which in turn will clear your head, help you overcome any mild depression or simply bad mood. Life seems brighter when you have a purpose.

It is worth noting that you don't need fancy equipment and you need not question the quality of your photographs. You can use your phone, simple as that. If you are more adventurous, why not upload your photos to flickr, instagram, or any social media. By the way, Twitter has been hailed as the newest place for photos.

7. Use cloud spotting as a digital detox.
As Gavin Pretor-Pinney, the founder of The Cloud Appreciation Society ,
"Finding shapes in the clouds is an aimless, carefree pastime that we adults should also do more of. The digital age conspires to make us feel busier than ever. Cloudspotting, by contrast, is an activity that legitimizes doing nothing.

These days, we need excuses to do nothing. Happiness comes not from a desperate search for stimulation elsewhere but from finding what is intriguing, surprising and "exotic" in the everyday stuff around us. You don't need to cross the world to be amazed. You just need to step outside and look up, every now and then, as if you are seeing the sky for the first time."
Take a step back and allow yourself a daydream. The clouds above you are waiting for you to discover them and use them to your own creativity.

04 April 2014

This is a step by step guide to finding a way to notice and love nature this spring. Why, you'd ask... because by noticing nature, even for a couple of minutes each day helps you hear your inner voice and little by little, as each day goes by you become a more real you.This, on the other hand will help you live a more authentic life, to be more productive, more creative and calm.

So, why don't you start this spring?

Open your window. Listen to the noises outside. Even if you're in the busiest of cities you will hear a nature sound - birds chirping dogs barking, the wind, even waves if you're lucky.

Nothing? Play a YouTube video with nature sounds on your headset. I did a quick search for you, .  That will even help you work better after the designated couple of minutes. You will instantly be transferred to the forest, a meadow, or the fields, depending on your choice.

Stop thinking about anything except for what you're hearing. Exclude your worries, shut down your eyes and absorb the sounds. It will be hard at first because city life may have turned you numb for nature and overly sensitive to achievement and competition but with time you will manage to go back to loving nature.

Whether you're driving or walking, don't hurry. Move slowly and try to notice all little nature details. Look down to the ground and kneel next to the flower you see. Smell it. touch it gently, feel the ground, last year's leaves that are covering it, the fresh new grass. Be quiet and observing. 

Stop by a tree, look at its blooming branches and tiny green leaves, touch it. Hold your hand on the bark and forget your worries. You will feel some resistance at first. You will probably find it stupid or childish but ignore those thoughts. Try to do this every day for a week and you will find yourself in a better shape.

Look up to the crown of the tree, you will hear and see a whole universe, a colony of bees, flies and butterflies having a feast on the tree's blooms. Hush... Listen to the buzz. There is a different life than going to and from work. There is a slow life, in tune with nature and you can live it. If you want to.

Those of you who feel brave enough and are willing to expand their communication with nature and converse with the trees, please read by  who taught me that you can communicate not just with the bees but with the trees as well.

Spring is the best time to sparkle a new love to nature. Try it, you don't know where it will lead you but I promise it's a good place. 

02 April 2014

Forrest Espinoza is an artist, mother, and the founder of .  The Artterro brand is all about creativity, with a line of Eco Art Kits—open-ended art projects with natural materials, for kids and adults alike.  Along with nurturing her business, Forrest also blogs about family and creativity at Artterro’s . 

One of the goals I have for my business is to inspire people to explore their own natural creativity.  At Artterro we believe everyone is born creative! But sometimes the pace of our modern lives gets in the way of that impulse to create, and arts and crafts project can seem like one more item on your endless to-do list!  So my hope is with this post, it will become a little easier to incorporate arts and crafts into your family's daily rhythm, no matter how short on time and space you may be. It really can be easy! You don't need a gorgeous family art studio right out of Dwell Magazine, or a walk-in closet full of high-end materials. Just a couple of shelves or drawers, a place to sit, and a few essential, affordable supplies.

Here are some simple steps to get started:

1. A Simple Art Supply List for Kids
Kids really don't need fancy art materials when they are first learning to draw, color, and create, just child-sized tools that work well.  Here's a shopping list to use as a guide (and you can also “shop” in your own home—you might have a lot of this tucked away already!).
  • plain paper
  • colorful paper
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  • kids scissors (with rounded edge) for younger kids and quality scissors for older kids (make sure they are the right size)
  • storage container for paper and tools (folders, shoe boxes, jars, etc. can work great!)
  • recycled materials from around the house (magazines, newspaper, empty plastic containers, ribbons, wrapping paper, etc.)

2. Family Art Supply Storage
Set up a small family art station at or near a convenient table. I find that most kids like to be near adults or other family members when they create, so the kitchen is a great central location. I use a combination of baskets, magazine holders and cups in my art cabinet at home--feel free to be creative when you look for containers. And don't worry too much about being perfectly organized. They're art supplies, not library books!

3. Make Art Happen!
Have the station where your child can easily reach it, and teach him or her how to get materials and how to put stuff away. Young kids love being independent, and it's great to build on that skill at an early age. Drawing can be a fun and relaxing thing for kids to do in the evening when they are waiting for dinner. It's also a great time to spend together at the end of a long day. And any time you can sit down and do a family art project with an older child or tween, it's such a great opportunity to talk.

Let me know in the comments if you have questions about what materials to buy or how to organize your family art station!

More resources:
Check out all the recycled containers utilized in this , from The Art of Simple blog.
Last year on the Spark blog we talked about the convenience of having a  (for kids or adults).
 to jazz up your stock of basic essentials, on the Design Mom blog.
Check out our selection of —sometimes a kit is just what you need to jumpstart your family’s creativity!

14 February 2014

If you love to cook from scratch you sure have invented some kitchen hacks to save you time and effort. For example, I have my own special way of arranging the spice jars, so I can pick them without looking, and I peel the onions after I've soaked them in water for faster and easier results.

But one thing I've always had trouble with is deseeding a pomegranate. I do love to eat pomegranate when possible but the effort it takes to open and deseed it often reduces my appetite for it.

That is why I was super-excited to find a great way to deseed a pomegranate in just a couple of minutes. Take a look:

If you are a fan of kiwi but don't know how to peel it without loosing too much of it, here is another video for you.

If you are a potato lover like me, you have spent countless hours peeling potatoes, here is a quick tip to peel potatoes with your bare hands.

I am sure that most of you already know that the easiest way to peel a garlic clove is to squash it with the knife and then it comes right out of its papery peel but what if you need to peel more cloves? Here is a great way to peel 20 garlic cloves in 20 seconds.

And now, here is the coolest way to peel hard boiled eggs perfectly.

Now it's your turn. Share the kitchen hacks that have made your life easier!

13 January 2014

Did I have the chance to wish you a Happy New Year? Thank you for following the Kanelstrand blog in the past year. I wish each of you a lot of inspiration and happiness in 2014!

As you have probably heard, . Instead, I decided to focus on being mindfully present and not to procrastinate in 2014.

That is why, the Kanelstrand blog is branching out! Where, when and how will remain a secret for now  but while I am working on the expansion, I am also thinking about you. I want to make the Kanelstrand blog even better for you this year but you have to help me with it.

What would help you live a better life in 2014?

Reply in the comments and let me know what would help you live a healthier, simpler life in 2014.

Here are some topics for you to consider:
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  • Homemade bath and beauty products
  • Herbal remedies
  • DIY cleaning
  • Healthy cooking from scratch
  • Something else
Think about it well and be honest, let me know how I can help you achieve the life you want.

It became a tradition for me to make a survey each year and learn from you which aspects of simple and healthy living you need help with. I am very interested in what issues you are facing in your daily attempts to live a better, slower and more mindful life.

The thoughts you share will hopefully form a plan for solving a lot of issues and Kanelstrand will continue to be a place where we grow together and learn from each other.

I am going to choose the most helpful comment and send you a little surprise for leaving your thoughts, so when commenting make sure I have a way to contact you.

Thank you!

22 November 2013

Anabel Bouza insists there's powerful magic in the action of creating something out of a vague vision, a chill of inspiration. She is an illustrator with a passion for nature, paper manipulation, and pointing her camera at everything. Her appreciation for simplicity dates back to a former life in Cuba where she refined the ability to see the alternative uses of common objects, and the enchanting side of things. You can find her blogging as , hard at work in her sunny studio, or staring at things as if looking at them for the first time. Connect to Anabel via  and . 

18 October 2013

We didn't plan it but our Trans-European Expedition started in the heat of autumn, our favorite season. From a mild young autumn in Bulgaria we landed to a Scandinavian autumn at its best - bright blue sky, fresh air and trees with burning colors.

I must remind you that this expedition is not about sightseeing or noticing nature. On the contrary, we have a lot to settle, stuff to organize and get rid of because well, you know that we like to keep our life uncluttered. Plus, we cannot move everything we own to each country we decide to spend in, right? 

, the Doctor and I, and true to ourselves we always sneak some delightful moments into the whole organizing, selecting, and going-crazy-with-documents procedure. 

In other words, I feel the urge to tell you: Don't forget that however busy you think you are, you always have time to notice nature and to recharge. You can choose to be positive and in control of your inner peace. Just go outside and surrender to the magic of Nature.

The walks we take in-between our tasks are so uplifting and inspiring and help us glide through the supposedly stressful days excited and full with energy. 

Do you want to see the colors of autumn in Norway through our delighted eyes (that are going to burst with color any time soon)? I promise, you will be stunned, just as we are every time we step outside. The trees are screaming with color and yet they remain gracefully mysterious, wearing their autumn dresses with dignity and poise. 

I wish I can have a whole year of quiet autumn.

No post-processing has been done on these photos, they come straight from the camera.

27 September 2013

It has happened: it is okay to wear tights and boots again!
Already, mums and gourds are being promoted in all the surrounding farms, and the stores are inundated with offerings of faux pumpkins and gingham bows.
I'm also feeling the urge to stockpile yarn and knit for hours...

That's how I know Fall is here.

Fall is one of my favorite things, and I always worry that it will end too soon, or that I'm not celebrating it extravagantly enough. Isn't that a weird thing to worry about? In any case, my tendency is to mark the season in a more subtle way, to embrace the small changes and shift gears.

I've been trying to resist the allure of the cinnamon-scented craft stores, where harvest and halloween decorations lie in wait, commingled. Instead of buying my seasonal decor, this year I will be making it from the stuff I have laying around... and keeping it very simple otherwise.

Is your home ready for Fall?
If not, these 5 simple tricks can get you into the spirit of the season!

Let Nature Decide
Keep your eyes open for cool-looking branches and strange organic shapes. Bring home colorful leaves and acorns; repurpose vases and bowls to display Nature's bounty on mantles and tabletops. As the season progresses, a centerpiece made of Fall branches can be stripped of its old leaves and rearranged for a more wintery look. 
I'm definitely looking forward to adding tiny pumpkins to my year 'round decor!

Once you have your natural materials, get in the DIY spirit! Pinterest has enough to get you through a thousand Autumns.

Better by Candlelight
While I don't have a fireplace, I get to enjoy the flicker of fire all the same. Just wrap or "dress up" your votives and candle jars to add . 

Let the Crisp Air in!
One of my favorite things about this time of the year is that for a few precious weeks we get to open the windows and let our home be acclimatized by the cool fresh air. We are lulled at night by the sounds of crickets and the rustling of the trees outside, and our energy bills go down.

Tickle Your Senses
I don't think it would truly be Fall without the warm embrace of spices.
I've fallen in love with the simplicity and resourcefulness of . They're a natural, healthier alternative to scented candles and store-bought air fresheners. It also allows you to use ingredients that already exist in your pantry, and you get to feel like an alchemist while doing it!

This Fall, I am determined not to rush through the season, but to let my senses indulge in it. To celebrate it with the creative work of my hands and appreciation for the small things: the twinkle of a light in the windowsill, the occasional rain of acorns.

How are you celebrating this Fall? Do you find that this time of the year fosters reflection?

Anabel Bouza insists there's powerful magic in the action of creating something out of a vague vision, a chill of inspiration. She is an illustrator with a passion for nature, paper manipulation, and pointing her camera at things. Her appreciation for simplicity dates back to a former life in Cuba where she refined the ability to see the alternative uses of common objects, and the enchanting side of things. 
You can find her blogging as , hard at work in her sunny studio, or staring at things as if looking at them for the first time. 
Connect to Anabel via  and . 

10 September 2013

Have you been surprised to feel that you are completely stressed out when you are supposed to be having fun? Sometimes we lose ourselves even though we think we are having a great time.

I've been traveling in the past 4 months. Yes, that's quite a vacation, and fabulous at that. Apart from meeting lots of friends and relatives and going to places I haven't been for ages, breathing in the air of distant countries and touching the trees and the sand of my childhood I have been doing a lot of thinking.

Actually I thought so much that I got lost and could barely write a post on the Kanelstrand blog. My mind was swamped with so many brilliant ideas, I felt so inspired by all the new attitudes to life I witnessed and yet I couldn't type a decent post. To be more precise, I couldn't come up with a single sentence.


Until I saw that book.

Throughout my life I've always resorted to books in times of stress. You see, I grew up on books and it is understandable to look for their soothing comfort when I feel under pressure. But it's not for floating off to a distant land. What I do is open the book arbitrarily and read. It is a quick and simple fixture to a bad mood, or when I feel lost.

I always find the advice I need for that moment.

What are your first thoughts when you open up your eyes to greet the morning?, Dr. Diana Joy Ostroff was asking me from the pages of her book, half wigs bobby pins.

I didn't really want to answer this question because I had already guiltily admitted to myself that although I was having the time of my life and I was trying to live in the moment and to be grateful I wasn't doing it wholeheartedly. I was letting fear of the unknown future capture my heart and subsequently block my happiness.

I kept on reading, Are you grateful for the opportunity to spend another joyful day contributing your best self to the world? Yes, I am grateful but I don't always have the time to think about that.

Starting your day slowly in quiet thought, gratitude and with love in your heart, not for any one in particular, just for your life, might be a gentler way of being that just springing out of bed... [B]efore you take on the business of the day's tasks, reflect on your "being". Think about how you want to "be" rather than what you need to do. When you come from a place of Being, everything you do is a reflection of who you are.

My being at the moment was miserable despite of the fact that I was spending the happiest summer of my life. What a waste!

But those sentences reminded me that there was a way to find my center and to get myself out of stress.

Happiness is my own responsibility and I have to nurture it consciously. What it takes is a slow start of the day and gratitude.

How do you cope in unexpectedly stressful situations?

This post contains affiliate links.

30 July 2013

Most disorganization in our lives comes from a lack of . We have all used the excuse that we are too busy and do not have enough time to maintain organization systems. But being disorganized wastes so much time. How often have you been late for a meeting or appointment because you cannot find your keys or forgot important papers at home? Taking time to initially set up a landing spot where you can place your keys, purse or bag near the door to your house or office can shed wasted minutes from your day. Giving yourself time to practice a new habit can make your life much easier and less stressful.

Making your life more organized also positively affects the lives of others around you. Not only do your bad habits often make your family and friends late and irritated, these behaviors are often copied and repeated and the wicked spiral of disorganization is created. Stress is easily transferable. Who wants to have anymore, unnecessary stress?

Let's start again with . What bad habits have you created that have made your life and the lives of others more difficult? I would always misplace my keys at home until I bought a cute vintage bowl and put it on a little table near my front door. After every use, I now put my keys in the bowl. Is there something or some space in your home that is making it difficult for you to break your bad habit? Pin point that area that surrounds your bad habit and make a list of things that you could do to improve that space. It could be a super messy purse or wallet (guilty here too!) that needs to be cleaned once a day or weekly. Choose an effective time to do this. Perhaps it is right after you get home in the evening after work or while you wait for the bus in the morning.

Try to stick to this new habit for a few weeks. You will struggle in the first several days but I am of the belief that a simple habit (I am not speaking of diet, cigarette or exercise habits) can be created in just two weeks. that we can use to our advantage. Try not to get to frustrated! At the end of everyday, check in to see how you feel after a day of Do you feel less stressed? Was your morning commute so much easier? Note these good, healthy emotions and use these effective emotions as fuel.

After a few weeks, check in again. Are these new habits effective? If not, what other small changes can you make to help this process. You are a strong person and you can gain control over your bad habits once and for all. It just takes time and patience but the rewards are great.

Shelly is the founder of the program  – motivating and inspiring people to run their businesses more efficiently. She helps others look at their personal and professional lives and explore what is and isn’t working. As a jewelry designer she has spent many years testing and honing the skills and discipline needed to run your own creative business while still having time for friends, family and fun. She puts her wealth of experience to use in the Creating Space service – healthy living advice to help keep you motivated and make the most out of your already busy schedule. She will help you find both the physical and emotional space so you can pursue your dreams and she’ll always insist there’s time for yourself. You can also find Creating Space on  or contact [email protected]creatingspacemindfulliving.comhalf wigs bobby pins

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11 July 2013

By Vanessa Williams

While many of us in the United States spend our summers eating ice cream and lounging in a pool, there are two things that we Pennsylvanians cannot let summer pass us by without doing - visiting an amusement park and going to a drive-in.

There are at least ten amusement parks that call Pennsylvania home (at one time there were more than 50!). You may recognize Kennywood Park out near Pittsburgh, or Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania (aka the sweetest place on Earth). I grew up going to Hersheypark, so naturally I looked forward to sharing that experience with my daughter.

She is still only nine months, so an amusement park visit, along with its heavy price tag, seemed a bit of a waste. Then I remembered Knoebels Grove. Knoebels is an old style amusement park with free admission, and free parking. You pay as you go with tickets. For this reason it gets high marks for multi-generational families and grandparents who don’t have to pay for rides they aren’t going to go on. It’s also home to the famous Phoenix wooden roller coaster that ranks as one of the top coasters in the country year after year.

So I found myself there on the Fourth of July with my husband and daughter, picnic basket in hand. We rode a variety of things from boats to trains, but the highlight was the carousel. Nothing brings up childhood more like a carousel. Its simple merry go round feature, and cheerful horses appeal to all of us. This particular carousel was celebrating it’s 100th birthday this year and there was a modest celebration to mark the occasion which included cake. My daughter absolutely loved going around and around - her face lit up like the fireworks that went off that evening.

But the surprise hit was a player piano tucked away in a coal museum on the grounds. It’s not often you see a player piano, so I plunked the fifty cents in the machine and watched it come to life. My daughter, who loves just about anything that makes music, was completely entranced. Her eyes got wide as she intently watched the keys move up and down playing an upbeat toon.

She was so fixated a stranger even commented on it. “Who needs video games?” she said. Who indeed? As we ate our lunch in one of the many picnic pavilions I marvelled at how much the place hasn’t changed. In the nearly ninety year history, rides have come and gone, but families still flocked here by the droves to enjoy a day out with their loved ones among the shady trees. It was like summer encapsulated in one magical place. Barbeques and pools, cotton candy and camping.
Drive-ins are experiencing a resurgence, and in my region we have not one, but two drive-ins including the oldest continually operating in the United States. Like the amusement park, they offer outstanding value - a double feature! You can pack snacks too. And drive-ins have the added bonus of being baby-friendly in that you can take your little one along and just have them sleep. Watching a movie under the stars with a sleeping baby on your chest is a wonderful way to spend a summer evening.
I share these stories because I know I will look back at this first summer as a family together fondly. Don’t let summer, or time, pass you by. Make the most of every season. Make new memories, cherish old ones, and slow down a bit. That’s what summer is all about anyway, isn’t it?

28 May 2013

This is the letter to my traveling self. I am writing it before I hit the road, while my head is still cool and I am not yet taken by the sights and sounds of distant lands.

I am on my way to my mother's home, a few-hours journey will take me back to relatives, friends and the streets of my childhood. The differences in weather, culture and relationships tend to blur my mind and distract me from my simple outlook on life.

That is why I am caringly preparing these words of advice, like a mother to her young daughter.

1. Talk less
There are so many people who want to meet you and talk to you but don't be fooled into talking too much. They all have their own worries and joys they cannot wait to share with so, so give them a chance and let them talk. You will learn more.

2. Don't compare
Comparison is the killer of all joys. When you're on vacation you view the world through your pink glasses and it is way too easy to judge wrongly. Be calm and open minded. Enjoy everything that comes to you and leave dreaming for later.

3. Be mindful
Be actively present at all times. Make sure you are not foregoing anything and invest your whole being into being the perfect vacationer. Put your non-vacation life on hold and immerse in the new place.

4. Be yourself
Don't be afraid to revert to your old self or new one, for that matter. Be who you want to be. People will always have expectations but you cannot make all of them happy all the time. So be who your conscience tells you and make sure YOU like yourself in the end.

5. Relax
Whatever you do, make sure you are relaxing. This is the time to refresh your mind and nourish your creativity. Don't let yourself be lured by petty problems, rise above them, open your heart and enjoy the change in scenery.

And that's it. A simple list of advice for a simplifier on the road.

Let me know what advices you give yourself before hitting the road.

25 May 2013

I like to keep it simple.

The apps I use to get through my day came with my phone: a calendar and a checklist.
I rely on my calendar completely, utilizing it frees up my mind for better things. I enjoy deleting the completed tasks from my checklist – rather than just ticking the box – because it makes me feel like I have obliterated a foe. 

I have tried a few productivity and time management apps: Pomodoro, Evernote… Some people swear by them, but – I only felt I was giving these apps unnecessary time and attention, dealing with one more interface, one new set of alerts.

I am no Luddite. I'm not against trying a new, promising app. It's just that I often get the suspicion that many of them are trying to sell something back to me that I already possess: concentration and willpower.

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Simplicity is at the root of carving free time for the things that are important. To us, living in a hyper-connected world, this means we must find new ways to streamline not only our physical routines, but our digital habits as well.

These are my four basic magic tricks. They make for a quieter day, I promise:

Postpone checking your email.
Remember how it was before the Internet, when you would have time to wake up before carrying on with your life? You were not expected to compose and send out letters immediately. Some things came first: getting ready for your day, or having breakfast. 

will immediately change how you approach your day. It presents you with chains of tasks that push back your original plans.
Worse still, if you do your best work in the mornings. I believe those with this particular superpower are called morning people. 

You should be using your peak performance time getting the important work done – creating, not wading through your inbox.

Unsubscribe from pesky marketing emails.
Reevaluate which promotions you want to hear about. Discovering that one of your favorite stores is having a sale will probably send you down the rabbit hole of virtual window-shopping. Don't give up your precious morning energy so easily! I bet you don't even need what's on sale. 

Not ready to unsubscribe completely? Modify your subscription preferences to hear from marketers less often. 

Streamline your online reading.
If you are like me, the list of blogs and sites you follow is pretty extensive. At some point my list became so monumental that reading through the feeds felt like a chore. Feelings of guilt ensued: all that lovingly crafted content, shared with an open heart by fellow bloggers, and no time – or the disposition – to read it...!

Make sure you're keeping your blogs, news, style and inspiration sites all in one place.
If you use Google Reader, you probably know by now that it is scheduled to be discontinued. People are flocking to other feed aggregators (Bloglovin, Feedly, Flipboard, Google Currents for instance) and you should too: Google Reader is going away on July 1st!

I have already migrated my feed subscriptions over to , and I'm in love with it. Its minimalist look and crystal clear navigation have turned my daily reading into a relaxing experience once more. 

Minimize alerts and notifications. 
Do you really need to be informed whenever an email lands on your inbox, or every time something happens on Facebook? Modify your notifications so that you're not being jolted by them all day long. Your focus suffers every time you react to a chiming desktop or buzzing phone.

Worried about time sensitive emails? Create priority levels and be alerted about incoming messages from specific senders.

Hope these tricks help you reclaim some quiet and free time. Give them a go, and share some tricks of your own!

Anabel Bouza insists there's powerful magic in the action of creating something out of a vague vision, a chill of inspiration. She is an illustrator with a passion for nature, paper manipulation, and pointing her camera at things.

Her appreciation for simplicity dates back to a former life in Cuba - her strange homeland - where she refined the ability to see the alternative uses of common objects, and the enchanting side of things. She's often found blogging as
, hard at work in her sunny studio, or staring at things as if looking at them for the first time. Her tiny family is comprised of husband & a turtle. Connect to Anabel via and .

23 May 2013

Summer is almost here and there is at least one exciting journey ahead each of us.

I know how daunting packing luggage may seem to some of you and that is why I decided to share my way of doing this.

Efficient packing is the result of only one thing -- good organization.

Here is what I mean by good organization.
  • Consider the weather at your destination, so that you can take the right clothes.
  • How many days are you staying and will you need to switch outfits during the course of a single day?
  • What is your agenda? Is it just a trip for fun? Will you need formal clothes?
After answering these questions it gets even easier.
  • Pick a pair or two of pants (and probably a skirt) and several tops that fit the pants as well as the skirt, so you can always come up with fresh combinations without bringing too much clothes.
  • Remember to get a cardigan or jacket if you need one. Rain jacket is always a good idea.
  • Maybe a formal dress?
  • Decide on the number and types of shoes you need and don't forget fliplops. You will rarely need more than 3 pairs.
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Now think of your intellectual well-being.
  • Are you taking your computer? The tablet? Or just the phone? Don't forget the chargers for each.
  • A book and pen and paper.
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Now pack all these and you are all set!

I think that was just under 30 minutes or at least that's how much it took me to pack my bags. Easy, isn't it! A big plus of this method is that you don't even need to make a list because you are packing so fast!

Another good thing to do is pack a few days ahead of your journey, so you have time to rethink.

What approach do you use to pack your bags? Do you love or dread it?

20 May 2013

It has been a little over 2 months since I entered the smart world. I am still using my simple mobile phone, a Nokia that has a good 10 days battery life but I bought a Google Nexus 7 - exactly the size of a book.

It is a good replacement of my trusty Lenovo L520 on creative outings when I need to read or write. I have my audio- and e-books uploaded and the whole digital world of simplifying and green information.

I have made a commitment to stick to as little apps as possible, because I know how distracting and time-consuming they can become.

Today, while cleaning one of my RSS readers I realized that the best app for simplifying your life cannot be downloaded. It is YOU.

Want simple life?
Stop looking for apps that only clutter your screens and drain your creativity. Go out there and live a simple life. No device will help you organize, declutter and clean your home or your thoughts.

Leave that smartphone/tablet/computer on the table and go do something. Be it just a slow solitary stroll. Talk to a friend, help a relative, make your loved ones happy.

The best simplifying app is you.

16 May 2013

When I was younger I wasn't a big fan of daily routines. I found them boring, monotonous and disconnecting.   I couldn't feel more different now. I welcome their disruptions and the lovely feeling that comes from simple accomplishments. I get way too excited by checking off easy everyday tasks from my to do list.

There are definitely ways to help you enjoy what seems like boring, meaningless tasks.

First, we need to remind ourselves the benefits of completing them. I personally still really dislike doing dishes. I blame it on my small kitchen, single sink and constantly leaky faucet. I could come up with a million excuses but the fact is I cannot focus well when I know the sink is full. I find myself spending way too much time thinking about having to do the dishes instead of just doing them. It's so silly when I really think about it! I also love love love a clean space so this habit of making excuses doesn't serve me one bit.

The next step is to create solutions that will make doing the dishes easier and more enjoyable. I think a little music break in the kitchen is in order.

Creating ways to make any cleaning project easier is key. Buy beautiful smelling cleaners or get crafty and make your own. I love my homemade orange infused vinegar solution. Fill a small handled storage container with everything you need to clean the bathroom under the sink so time isn't wasted looking for everything you need. Also instead of leaving one day a month for all day cleaning fests, do a little everyday. Several times a day I clean the bathroom sink. It takes less than 20 seconds and more thorough cleanings only have to happen every so often.

Currently, I live alone but I can imagine using everyday tasks as a great time to spend alone. Ahhh.... that sounds quite lovely. I use my errand time as a reprieve from emails, writing and social media. I add an element of exercise too. I stop by the store, mailbox or make a phone call on the way to the gym. If I need to go to a out of the way store, I walk there instead of taking an exercise or yoga class that day. Combining things that you don't want to do with things that make you happy can make the boring tasks less daunting.

If you love lists like I do, don't forget to add your simple everyday tasks too. Most people love checking things off of to do lists. Create a habit of reflecting on how awesome you feel after the check off. Attaching good feelings to things you don't always want to do instead of focusing on the negative is half of the battle.

Shelly is the founder of the program – motivating and inspiring people to run their businesses more efficiently. She helps others look at their personal and professional lives and explore what is and isn’t working. As a jewelry designer she has spent many years testing and honing the skills and discipline needed to run your own creative business while still having time for friends, family and fun. She puts her wealth of experience to use in the Creating Space service – healthy living advice to help keep you motivated and make the most out of your already busy schedule. She will help you find both the physical and emotional space so you can pursue your dreams and she’ll always insist there’s time for yourself. You can also find Creating Space on or contact [email protected]creatingspacemindfulliving.comgemstress wigslace closure sew in near 33323what celebrity was arrested for wearing a wighuman hair wigs us

15 May 2013

I am not a shopping kind of person. My mother never instilled in me the craving for shopping (thanks, Mom) and I often find myself one topic short when I converse with ladies.

Nevertheless, I too have my moments of wanting, contemplating, considering and deliberating between needs and wants.

I try not to buy the thing I like straight away. I prefer thinking about it first and the simpler my lifestyle becomes, the more I deliberate. I am aiming for a moment when there will be less thinking of buying. Then I will know in my heart that I have truly simplified my life.

Until then, I have decided to show you objects that have been tickling  my fancy but yet I have decided I could live without them.

Living in the forest was easy. I didn't have many shops around and so deciding whether I needed those red flats was absolutely off the list.

But the challenge of simple living cannot be confronted while  hiding in the wilds where there is no temptation.

True simplification can be achieved right in the midst of the shopping center, in front of the sixty-first pair of shoes you crave, next to the lady who just bought that ridiculously expensive clutch...

So, back to civilized life.

From the forest I found myself in a walking distance to the largest shopping center in Scandinavia. I don't like its 190 shops. But it's there. I avoid it because I hate the artificial air along its almost 1 mile of corridors and 8 floors. The amount of people is unbearable and yet, simply because of its proximity I happen to walk in it from time to time.

And so today, here is what I could have bought but I didn't.

NB. This is not a shopping fast. I am not even challenging you to buy nothing for a month or a year. I am simply sharing with you the way I live and my thoughts, hoping that I might encourage you to think twice before you spend your money next time on something that will never be used.

The first thing I saw today is that extra travel bag from Lucky Duck I can easily slide on the handle of my suitcase. It looks so lovely and it's orange (my favorite color), plus I am traveling in less than 10 days. Why not travel in style!

Do I really need it? Actually no. I have enough bags and rucksacks to fit all my hand luggage for the flight.

Well, the shoes. Touchy topic. ECCO is an outstanding Scandinavian company that produces some of the most comfortable shoes ever. They are also actively reducing their environmental impact and are employing the principles of reducing, reusing and recycling in their production process.

I've had an eye on exactly 3 pairs on this table for a very. long. time. I look at them every time I pass by the shop, just like today. But I still haven't bought a pair. The price confirms my belief that the shoes I have on my feet are good enough. At least for now.

Healthy bread rich in fibers. It is on offer but the plastic bag spoils the health effect for me. Blatant juxtaposition. Plus, all the E additives and colorings listed on the back destroy the effect of the spelt sourdough, rye flour, flax seed, oat bran, sunflower seeds. Not really healthy, if you ask me.

Finally, cherries! My favorite fruit. I can eat nothing but pounds of cherries the whole summer. These particular ones come all the way from Fresno, California. The number on the front of the plastic bag tells me that at least they are not GMO. Numbers on fruits starting with 4 means they are conventionally grown, i.e. sprayed with weed killers and chemical pesticides.

The amount of cherries in this plastic baggie would cost me about  $10. I'd rather wait for the season of Norwegian fjord cherries. They will be cheaper and I will know for sure where they come from and how they were raised.

Did I just save $191.60? You could certainly say so. But I don't view it from that perspective. I don't beat myself for wanting things either. I try to be objective and weigh my opportunities and decide how to spend my money so that it makes me feel best. Sometimes it takes a lot of deliberating.

How about you? What are your shopping habits? How often do you stop yourself from buying on a fling?

09 May 2013

Music has always been a significant part of my life. I began playing flute in fourth grade and played all the way through college. I sang in chorus just as long, and even though I was never a lead singer, I was a solid ensemble leader and held my own. So when my daughter was born, I knew that music would play a big role in what my definition of motherhood meant. What I didn’t anticipate was what a large part of our everyday routine would include music, or how well my daughter would respond to it.

Singing is one of the first things we do in the morning and one of the last things we do at night. There is no better way to guarantee a smile on my daughter’s face than a song. She dances and even now at seven months old “sings” (yes, it’s a monotone “ah” but it is a distinct and different sound than anything else she does). It has helped me entertain her in a screen-free environment. It’s also in my arsenal to survive all those meltdown moments we all have in the car or otherwise.

Psychologists, neuroscientists and early childhood experts agree benefits to music in early childhood are numerous. Reading and math skills can improve with the use of reasoning and comprehension skills. Music helps with phonological processing and language, as well as social skills. Moving to the music and using simple instruments help with gross and fine motor skills. Music also encourages creativity. These early years are very critical to lifetime learning, as this is when brains make connections and essentially learn how to learn. This is why early childhood education is so important, in school and at home.

When I talk to people about singing many say, “Well, my voice isn’t very good.” Let me tell you, you will never have a better or more captive audience. Your child or grandchild doesn’t care what you sound like, to them your voice alone is music to their ears. The second excuse I get is “I don’t know any songs.” We all have songs we like. There is no rule out there that says that we need to sing kids songs to our children. I would shy away from hard metal and rap (which have shown to do more harm than good) but other than that the sky’s the limit. Cora enjoys the Beatles, Frank Sinatra and The Drifters, just as much as Raffi and other classic preschool tunes.

I’ll give you a sample of our daily song routine to get you started:
  • Wake Up Songs – Mr. Sun and an edited version of Good Mornin’ from the show Singin’ in the Rain 
  • Lunchtime Songs – Apples and Bananas 
  • Good Night Songs/Lullabies – Hush Little Baby, Baby Mine from Dumbo, and Lullaby from the show Pajanimals.

During the day we cycle through any number of tunes. Some of her favorites include: Do Re Mi, My Favorite Things, Chim Chim Cher-ee, White Coral Bells, Bare Necessities, She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain, I’ve Been Working on the Railroad, Five Little Speckled Frogs, Six Little Ducks, Zip A Dee Do Dah.

If you need even more ideas follow my .

I think the most surprising thing to me is how much I missed music and singing in my everyday life. Even if I’m just singing for my daughter and myself, it brings a smile to my face and joy to my life not to mention my daughter’s.

So sing a song.

Vanessa Williams is the author of where she explores how lower standard of living doesn’t mean lower quality of life. After her decision to  get off the beaten track and forge new paths she has found that living with less actually means living with more. Vanessa explores the luring and dangerous grounds of the consumerism trap and offers a solemn and wise account of her real life experiences on the quest to finding what truly matters in life. Connect to Vanessa via and .

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06 May 2013

Simple living is a process involving all aspects of life. Once I felt the need to simplify I was able to take a step back and re-evaluate my actions, needs and wants and I saw clearly how many things I could change to become a better person.

Then, after months of shedding burdens off my shoulders, I felt relieved and more focused on creativity. I made room for spending more time and ; I to an extent that was acceptable and freeing enough; I was able to through the forest and not hurry.

But simplifying continues. In the beginning of the 20th Century, Antoine de Saint-Exupery said:
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

Simplifying has not only increased my appreciation to the small but has also re-installed my ability to , and to hear my thoughts. This is something we all can do as children before the rules of civilized life banish it.

Forget the money, a phrase I read today took me years back, to a childhood of utopias. It was a time when kids asked one another "What do you want to become when you grow up?", instead of "What do you want to work?", as it is now.

We grew up with ideals, morals and motivation well beyond the visible and the obvious. The material world interested us only to the extent of being the arena of our adventures. All else was in our heads. Money was a word that did not concern us because all we needed was around us – friends, books, imagination, the great outdoors.

We were not focused on the money. Instead we developed our creativity and we were happy.

Our parents knew how to make do with what they had because they were taught to live according to their means. Loans, mortgages and credits were just terms.

But let's face it, all is lost today and we need to learn once more the hard way.

Don't focus on the money.

The greatest risk of all is to spend your life not doing what you love hoping that some day you can buy the freedom to do it.

You always have the chance to start doing what you really love. And if you love what you do you will eventually become a master of it. And then you will be able to get a good fee for whatever it is.

Focus on what your heart desires, and you will be self-sufficient and ready to meet any challenge.
gemstress wigsSo, what do you desire? What have you been postponing to start because you "know" there is no money in it?