Despite how the headline of this post sounds, I'm not giving life advice. That would be most ridiculous case of false expertise blogging in the history of the Web (and if you read blogs you know that there are a lot of "experts" out there). I prefer to think of posts like this as tidbits about stuff I've done that you may or may not find useful. Which pretty much sums up everything on this blog.

Anyway, whether I consciously set out to do it or not, I've simplified my life a bit in the last five or so years and I'm a happier person for having done it. Here are some of the things I've done.


This is pretty weird, but every Monday we have "salad Monday." We have a salad with grilled chicken. Because neither of us are good at grocery shopping or meal planning, to have one night a week when we don't even have to have a discussion about what is for dinner is a huge relief. And with as hectic as Mondays can be, it's the perfect night for our no-brainer dinner.


Before we did our house renovation, I had a lot of stuff I didn't need laying around. I had pans to cook every possible thing you can think of. Specific pans or pots or dishes. For just about everything. And yet, 99% of the time I use the same pan every night. I would pick up all sorts of serving dishes for when we entertained. I also had about seven tongs, three potato mashers, approximately 39 spatulas and a bunch of other things. When we did the renovation and then renovated the kitchen a year or so later, I cleaned in a big way and was ruthless about getting rid of all of the extras. We hardly entertain and I've never had anyone ask me where my special serving dish for the mixed nuts is. I also have friends and family with all of that stuff so I could always borrow it if I needed to. (I pay them back by being the official family/friend/neighbor owner of a roaster oven—called a "Nesco" in Wisconsin parlance—which is the key requirement to any party for 35 or more people that also involves a sporting event being broadcast on TV.)


Yes, I create storage anywhere I can, because that's what you do in a small house, but I've also made it a point to not allow myself to create overflow areas. If the sweater drawer is too full, something has to go before any new sweaters can come in the door.


About a year ago I cleaned out two baskets of beauty samples (those little packets of moisturizer or shampoo or eye cream that you get when you buy or order similar stuff). It filled a gallon-size plastic bag to the point where I couldn't close it. I took them all to work and let everyone grab what they wanted, but now I never take the samples unless it's a product I know I'll use for traveling or something I truly want to try. The same goes for other giveaways and samples. Unless I really want it, I just don't take it.

Don't get me wrong. Life is great because it is complex (most great things are), but it's nice to simplify some things so you can make room and time for the more complex parts of life. Do you do anything to simplify your life?


In the interest of keeping it real, I sometimes feel obligated to fess up to my shortcomings here. And today I will show you what happens when I'm not thrilled with how a container turned out. The poor thing gets forgotten about.

The container plantings I did at work this year were not great. The coleus grew too well and shaded out the begonias. The 'Yeti' nasturtiums went nuts and took over whatever the coleus missed.

I have a few excuses for this container looking so horrible, beyond the one I just gave you. I'm the only one who ever waters it, even though I never see it (I come and go through a different door). So when things get busy at work it gets forgotten about and this is what happens.

That's 100% neglect that you see there. We've not had even a nip of frost so cold has nothing to do with it. Nope, this poor container, which is completely under a roof and gets no rain, was just left to die. And it's my fault. I'm sorry, little container.

I did give it some water today. We'll see if it perks up. If not, it's time to end the suffering. It's the least I can do to atone for my sins.


This is going to be so darn cool.

I have never even heard of a meal planning system, but I'm pretty sure our current method of a 4 p.m. phone call every day with a cranky conversation about what we don't want to eat and who is going to go to the store can be improved upon.

Deborah Silver did a little roundup of great Narcissus varieties. I have done nothing about bulbs yet this year, but this post is lighting the appropriate fire under my butt.

The Prudent Gardener image

I'm still in denial about fall and certainly what comes after it, but fortunately Debbie over at the Prudent Gardener isn't. She's put together an excellent round up of winter gardening tips that are worth checking out with a hot toddy in hand.

I'm a pretty good baker (or so the people who eat what I bake tell me), but this free course is interesting to me. I will say though, I don't think there is any reason to make your own puff pastry. Life is too short. My baking goal for the winter is to master bread pudding (particularly the recipe for Poogan's Porch bread pudding that I fell in love with in Charleston).

Kylee is giving away some cool Ball jars!


The garden is looking remarkably good for this time of year, but things will change quickly, so now is the time to take care of a few jobs to prepare for next year. Here are four things you can do right now to have a great garden next year.

I cleared out the half of the patio garden that I will be redoing. I incorporated a good amount of compost and raked it out and now the area is ready for planting either this fall or, more likely, next spring. Photos of the area from a variety of angles will help me plan this winter. 

They don't have to be pretty, but if you haven't been taking photos of your garden all summer, now is the time to whip out your camera or your phone and take a lot of pictures from different angles. Trust me. You think you're going remember what your garden looks like, but come February you'll be wondering what plants are lurking out there. And knowing what's out there will make it that much easier and that much more fun to do a little mid-winter garden planning.

If you have a memory better than mine, mental notes should do just fine, but otherwise write down a few notes about what you want to change or reassess next year. I've printed out pictures in the past and written right on them, but even a list in the "Notes" app on my phone has come through in a pinch.

Personal experience (and common sense) has taught me that plants that go into their winter hibernation happy instead of stressed fair much better through whatever winter can throw at them. The only thing that's less fun than dragging a hose around the garden is dragging a hose around the garden while you're wearing a parka, but it will be so worth it come spring.

Even if you don't go hog wild on the bulbs, at least plant a few. The joy they bring after a long, gray winter is immeasurable. I've gone years without planting any new bulbs and have regretted it every time.