Tag Archives: simple

Looking Out

5 Apr

I like to look out the window. I don’t always know what I am looking for, but it gives me a specific perspective. Taking photos is the same. I find a perspective in it. The world looks different when viewed through the frame of through a window or a camera lens than it does when I see it all at once. It can be too much to take in. I like a small piece of world to focus on.

A patch of sky with silver clouds. A blowing branch with red buds on it. Peeling paint. Someone dropped a piece of paper on the grass. One of my lovely starlings has landed, its beak yellow and its feathers turning black for the warm months, but still speckled. The nails embedded in the weathered wood. A drab Honda nearby, parked alone.

My starling is gone. I wanted to film it for you. They always fly off. They don’t like the camera. I have learned something from a bird watcher. The glass reflects light and it can startle birds, just as movement can. Maybe it even blinds them momentarily. They don’t know what it is.

I need to make better use of the zoom feature, keep my distance. I might need to step into the big world to get the starling’s perspective. It is a lot to take in.


“Montreal” Spicy Potatoes and Onions

3 Aug

I like short recipes with very few ingredients. I own a cookbook called “The Best Ever Three & Four Ingredient Cookbook” but I rarely use it, because I often make up my own recipes.

One of my simplest personal recipes is a potato and onion dish. It has four ingredients.

Before it cooks, it looks like this:

“Montreal” Spicy Potatoes and Onions

potatoes (unpeeled)

onions (any color)

olive oil

Spicy Montreal Steak seasoning (by McCormick ‘Grill Mates’)


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Cut the potatoes and onions in slices or chunks. (Thickness of the potatoes will determine the cooking time. Leave the onions thicker than the potatoes because they cook faster and you don’t want them to burn.) I like a mix of approximately 3/4 potatoes and 1/4 onion. Use a baking dish large enough to allow for stirring without overflow.

Mix the potatoes and onions in the baking dish with enough olive oil to coat them. Sprinkle generously with the Spicy Montreal Steak seasoning and mix well.

Bake, stirring every 10 or 15 minutes. The time depends on the thickness of the potato pieces and the size of the baking dish. I have found that a convection oven works well and takes about 40 minutes, but the potatoes are less browned than they would be in a traditional oven.

Dear Corporations: Think Simple

29 Jun

I like small, clean stores with employees who don’t hate their jobs.  I like websites that answer my questions.  I like well constructed products that make sense and do what they are meant to do, all without straining my muscles, wasting my time, or using unnecessary space in my home.

Low on storage space in the bathroom? This product can help solve the problem.

Have you ever felt confused or frustrated by the counter-intuitive design or poor functioning of a product?  Of course you have.

Happy customers are the best advertisements…so why do businesses make us unhappy?

Why not inspire loyalty and referrals through simple design and clear communication?  Is that so hard to do?

Who wants a product that looks impressive but turns out to be heavy, slow, complicated, or just flat out annoying?  Customers want products that make life easier, not more difficult!

Dear corporations and engineers:  If you make it simple, customers will come.


This post was partially inspired by the fine blog posts shown below.

The Elegance of Simplicity | Laurie Foley

Fifty-eight (!) Buttons. Not remote(ly) Sane.  > Snoring Dog Studio

This Vacuum Cleaner Sucks. And Not in a Good Way > Snoring Dog Studio

Skipping Through Life (quick potato soup)

4 May

I have set a new goal for myself.

Each week, I want to find at least one way to simplify my life — by skipping something.

I might skip an entire task, or just one step from a complicated one.  I might skip an ingredient in a recipe, if I don’t have it and I don’t feel like driving to the store.  Frankly, sometimes I find that a recipe is better without the missing ingredient!

I already thought of something to skip this week, but I promptly forgot it again.  Forgetfulness doesn’t count as simplification, in case you were wondering.  Now I need to think of something else to skip…

In the meantime, I will share an example from the past.

I love potato soup; my mother made some great soups, and that was one of her specialties.

Please note:  My mother is alive and well, but she doesn’t cook as much these days, which is why I am speaking of her in the past tense in this particular context.

My mother used a fairly long process to make her potato soup, including using an old hand cranked food mill to break down the potato pieces.  This food mill was some kind of antique; as an adult I combed antique stores until I found one like hers.  I believed that this device was somehow key to the potato soup making process.

In recent years, it occurred to me that my food mill took too long to use, and far too long to clean.  I got rid of the food mill.  First, I switched to my modern electric food processor… now I use only a spoon! 

What could be easier to clean than a spoon?

I skip a step in the potato soup making process, thus making a spoon as useful as a food processor.  I cook the potatoes directly in the chicken stock, instead of combining the two after cooking the potatoes, as my mother did.

I slice the potatoes, chop some onions, and dump them all into a pot with some chicken broth, salt, pepper, and whatever other seasoning I may be craving on that day.  Then I boil until the potatoes are just soft enough to crush and crumble with a wooden stirring spoon.  I add a little bit of half-and-half  for creaminess (if this ingredient is not handy, I might skip it!  Who needs the fat?) and serve the soup with a topping of cut chives.  Sometimes, I substitute green onions for chives, but chives are really the best for potato soup.

My methods can alter the texture of the soup, leaving it a little starchier, but it tastes just as good.

By skipping steps, I can make a quick batch of soup for one or two people, in only one small pot, using only a vegetable peeler, a knife, a cutting board, and a wooden spoon.  The clean up is a breeze.

The cold, hard truth is that if I had to make the soup the way my mother made it, I probably would not make it at all. 

I would skip it.

No wonder my mother doesn’t cook as much as she once did…she’s skipping it, too.

On the Subject of Simple Communication

17 Mar

Is communication ever simple?

When we communicate with our fellow humans, so many things can go wrong.  We may say too much or too little.  We may use the wrong tone of voice or make incorrect assumptions about the listener.  We may thoughtlessly spread casual gossip.  We may unintentionally hurt, offend, confuse, mislead, deceive, interrupt, baffle, insult, ignore, irritate, or simply bore our audience.  When it comes to blogging and social media, mindful communication becomes even more of a concern.

I came across this verse in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little Town on the Prairie, and I think it speaks for itself in any century.

If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek,
Five things observe with care,
To whom you speak,
Of whom you speak,
And how, and when, and where.
~Your loving mother, C. L. Ingalls, De Smet, November 15th, 1881

Even in the days of covered wagons, communication was complicated and had to be handled with care.

While considering the complexity and perils of modern communication, I discovered some other interesting advice. (The quotations below are from thinkexist.com)

Good communication does not mean that you have to speak in perfectly formed sentences and paragraphs. It isn’t about slickness. Simple and clear go a long way.  ~John Kotter

To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.  ~ Anthony Robbins

The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.  ~Anthony Robbins

I especially like the Anthony Robbins quote about communication and differences in perception, because I find that some people respond poorly to my verbal communication style, which is more straight forward than my writing style.  I believe that honesty is the simplest policy, in most cases.  Much fuss has been made about the differences in communication styles between men and women, but I find as much difficulty – if not more – between the communication styles of different generations and different cultures, and also with a number of individuals who plainly do not share my direct approach.

When have you had trouble communicating because of differences in communication style?

Have you attributed the difficulty to sex, age, culture, or individual perspectives?

A Peek at a Blog Called “Life With Lindsay”

7 Mar

In times of chaos, looking at images of organization, simplicity, and beauty can help inspire us to find these qualities in our own lives.

I recently came across photographs of the home of a blogger named Lindsay Meyer.  What impressed me is that Lindsay’s home appears very organized, open, and simple, but it still has a personal and comfortable look to it.  The link below will take you to Lindsay’s post, so you can be impressed, too!

sneak peek: my little marina studio «.

Looking around at the chaos of moving boxes recently, I found a fragment of beauty and simplicity, a spot still untouched by moving preparations.  Instead of looking at all the boxes, I chose to look at this

The cymbidium orchids are from my mother’s garden.  They last quite a long time, so I expect to be able to take them along when we move.  I won’t have a mantle available to me anymore, but there will be a place for flowers no matter where I go.

My last blog post, Lessons From a Life on the Move, was unexpectedly featured on Freshly Pressed, and I received a large number of views, comments, and also new subscribers as a result.  I want to give a very warm welcome and thank you to all of my readers for visiting, commenting, and subscribing.  I appreciate the community and the support, right now more than ever.

Branching Out

3 Feb

A free table arrangement.

While walking on my block last week, I noticed some cut branches piled at the curb.

This not unusual.

In our city, yard waste is picked up from the street with a mechanical scoop, something like a forklift, but with a spoon instead of a fork.  The spoonlift deposits the leaves, sticks, and grass clippings into a larger second vehicle.  Some cities have bins and only one machine, which seems more efficient from my point of view, but I will admit that the spoonlift is fun to watch.

These particular branches caught my attention because they had buds on them.

I worked at a florist shop for several years, where we sometimes used branches in our arrangements.  Cuts of bright yellow Forsythia and flexible, curly willow would blossom or sprout leaves when left in water, adding structure and a touch of Spring to any arrangement.

I had found a free centerpiece, lying in the street!  It was my lucky day.

I had just passed by an hour before, and the branches had not been there, so I knew they were fresh.  I took the smaller branches home and cut them for use in a vase.  The remaining branches were soon collected from the street, and I counted the blessing of my good timing in finding some to take home before they were scooped away.

I have had the pleasure of seeing the branches bloom and sprout this week, and would like to share my pleasure with you.

Have you ever wondered how Navel Oranges got their name?

Day two. A cluster of buds.

The oranges came from our dwarf orange tree.  Our recent weeks of frost have made the fruit bitter, but they still look good in a bowl.

Day five. Blossoms are starting to show.

Day five. The same cluster of buds.

The buds started white, turned pink, and then whitened again as the flowers opened.  I suspect they are apple blossoms, or maybe pear.

Some people do not have the patience to wait for flowers to open slowly.  At the florist shop, we sometimes sent out budded Cymbidium orchid plants, staked with willow branches, tied with a ribbon and nestled in moss.

We received calls from irate gift senders, demanding to know why their money had paid for only “sticks in a pot”.

We might try in vain to explain that the orchid plant would hold its elegant blooms for three months, and that it would only take the flowers a few days to open, but the explanation usually didn’t satisfy them…even when we told them the plant was worth more than they had paid and they had gotten a deal.

Some customers would rather give older flowers, those that have already reached their peak and will soon be past it.  They want instant (short-lived) gratification.

Day six. Starting to open.

I have tried to educate friends and family about choosing flowers with an expectation of their future potential.

A bundle of small, green, stubby tulips will not remain so.  It will grow and change with each day, with stems lengthening, buds changing color, expanding, and twisting toward the nearest light source.

This process, to me, is infinitely more interesting than a bundle of fully colored, fully open tulips that will fade and drop their petals in a day or two.

I appreciate the surprise of not knowing for certain what the color of the blooms will be.

Day six. Afternoon, fully open.

The stages of growth in a flower are like the stages of growth in a child.  I am not attached to a single stage; I find them all intriguing.

The next time you purchase flowers, let them be a little bit green, a little bit tight.

Day seven. Spring has arrived.

When you look at the trees or shrubs in your yard, keep in mind that most clippings will look good in a vase, or even a jelly jar.

Any Fall leaves, Spring growth, flowering branches, and even dry twigs can be beautiful — especially mixed together in varied textures and colors.

Day eight. Gorgeous.

And you can’t beat the price:  free.