It's all about priorities

Let me paint a picture of loveliness for you.

Imagine, if you can, a tall woman with long, brownish-blondish hair.  Her weight is undetermined at this time, due to her inability to actually face the number on the scale.  She lives a good life, and does not want for food.  While she currently reminds one of a slightly chubbier version of her best self, she manages to still be attractive to her husband.  (Or so he says).

She resembles a fairly functional member of society during the hours of 10 a.m. and 10 p.m.  She showers, suffers under the blow dryer for 20 minutes, wears lipstick, and tries her best to put outfits together that do not include the words "yoga" or "stretchy pants."

But the first time each day that she ventures out of the house is a completely different story.

She. is. one. hot. mess.

Here is an artist's rendering of this anonymous woman:


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She leaves the house each day at 5:40 in the a.m. to drive her son to his early morning religion class.  She literally rolls out of bed at 5:39, slips on her Uggs, grabs a coat and her glasses, and heads out the door.

In her mind, she sort of likes to imagine that she looks a little like these ladies:

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Tragically, in her heart of hearts, she knows that she does not.  She owns this look and is not swayed when her children mock or laugh.  This is a perfectly acceptable look for the unholy crack of dawn, peek-a-boo pudge, notwithstanding.

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She is at peace with her fine self.

The sight that greets this hottie outside of her bedroom door has recently morphed from a tired, grumbly teenager, to this:

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A happy little ball of sunshine and energy that is shaking keys in her face and begging to drive her vehicle.

THAT experience is a whole blog post unto itself.  But let's just say that two words sum up the palpable emotions in the car:  JOY and TERROR.

You can guess who experiences which.

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On a particularly average morning, like today, for instance, this woman finds herself in a wee bit of a predicament. For, when her son exits the vehicle on the driver's side, she is faced with two choices: Get out in the freezing cold air and walk around to the driver's side, or climb over the console in the middle and stay warm.

She opted on this fine morning to choose the latter.  And as she was maneuvering her chubby not-so-slim-self over the console, her boot got caught on something and she tumbled rather quickly, ending with a very ungraceful face plant against the glass of the window.

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Gathering herself together as best she could, the thought crossed her mind that, "Phew.  Thank goodness nobody saw THAT."

Well.

Clearly, the universe does have the best sense of humor.  This poor tangle of a mess looked out her window to see the eager, and frighteningly made-up faces of Malibu Barbie and her sister, Skipper, as they were out for their morning run.

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Embarrassed, she waved off their lipsticked offers of help, and pulled herself together as best she could.  And instead of feeling bad about herself for not looking that good, let alone being out jogging at five-freaking-thirty in the morning with full make-up on, she took her bruised face dignifiedly home, and crawled back into bed.

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Like any normal human being should.

How-To Tuesday: How to save your hair from utter destruction



My hair dresser has been telling - nay - begging me for years to stop washing my hair every day. The very idea of that grossed me out beyond belief and I always smiled, promised, and left the salon with no intention of changing my ways.

My newest stylist finally got through to me. Her persuasion was much more effective with the idea of a dry shampoo. One that would help remove dirt, sweat, and oil, making my hair actually feel clean, even when it wasn't. Just think -- not washing your hair every day saves you at least 182 blow dries, flat irons, and wear and tear per year. (How sad is it that I had to get a calculator for that number? Math be not my strong suit. English either, from the looks of that last sentence.)

ANYway. Here's what you do: First, get this product. It is not cheap, but well worth the price. (And goes a lot further if your boys don't mistaken it for hairspray and slather it all over their mohawks. Bad boys.)

Second, pull all your hair up and out of the way. Take a picture of your unmade-up face and quickly put it on the internet before you change your mind.

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Next, shower as usual, washing all your body parts with the exception of your hair. Keep that dry and unwashed.

Then, get dressed (properly. Not like this.) and let your hair down. Lean over and spray dry shampoo at the roots all over. Run your fingers through your hair to work the product in.

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Lastly, style as desired. Voila! Non-greasy, non-grimy, clean feeling, soft hair without the damage of a blow dryer, flat iron, and shampoo.

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I am telling you, I was a very big skeptic on this concept. But really? My hair actually looks cuter on days that I don't wash it. What they have been saying to us for years is true. Don't do it every day. Save your hair. I have noticed a huge difference with less damage and breakage. It really works, and with a good dry shampoo, you will never notice the difference.

Your turn. Teach me.

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How-To Tuesday: Organizational behavior, Stie style



Before I got married, I made all sorts of promises to the Husband. Promises that the now me rolls on the floor laughing at. Promises that, if made today, the Husband would double over with laughter and say, "I'm sorry, have we met?"

Yes, as a soon-to-be-newlywed, I naively said things like:

I am going to be dressed and ready every day before you leave for work.
I am going to make sure you always have ironed shirts waiting in the closet.
I am going to have a hot meal on the table when you come home every day.
I am going to devote hours of my life to keeping a clean home.

Bwaaahhhaaa, right?

Okay. So maybe I kind of do the last one. But the others? Took me less than two weeks to pretty much abandon the lot of them. Unapologetically, at that.

But one thing I did embrace was my inner OCD, and our home has been (for the most part) neat and organized ever since.

Keep in mind, short of laundry days, I probably only spend 30-45 minutes cleaning each day. Believe me, there are bigger fish to fry in my life. But with a little bit of planning and organization, you can stay on top of your work and enjoy a clean house, too. Here's how:

Number one: I do laundry twice a week, and only twice a week: Mondays and Thursdays. Laundry must be finished to completion. No loads are allowed to be left undone for the next day. Otherwise, you'll NEVER get caught up. Stay on top of it and fold each load as soon as the dryer is done.

Lucky for me, my dryer finishes a load about 12-13 minutes before the washer is done washing. (I know. It's awesome). I grab the dry load and have it folded before the wash cycle is done. Then it's a quick switch and I'm off to read blogs the next task on my list.

Number two: I clean two bathrooms on Tuesdays and two bathrooms on Fridays (we currently have four of them, so it means they get a thorough scrubbing once a week). I loathe cleaning the bathrooms, but it is a necessary evil. I have two boys whose aim defies the laws of physics. It is not pretty in there. But until I can convince the Husband to pay someone else to do it, the dirty job has got to be done.

Number three: I pick a problem area (be it closet, drawer, cupboard, desk or occasionally even a child's room) and clean it on Wednesdays. When I have more time, I tackle the bigger projects. But sometimes just cleaning out a drawer or cupboard in the kitchen makes all the difference for my sanity, and it takes very little time. I feel like I've accomplished something and it motivates me to keep going.

Number four: Multi-task. Key to this is speed and constancy. Don't let any one area get out of hand. Hurry and throw those breakfast dishes in the dishwasher right after breakfast. Dust while you're on a phone call. Sweep/vacuum quickly while the kids are doing homework. Wipe down a glass door while dinner is cooking. We are all busy. We all have no time. But ten minutes here or there can make a huge difference. You'll be surprised how much you can get done in a short amount of time.

Number five: Be organized. Everything has a place, and every member of the family must know where that place is. If you find you are constantly clearing the mail pile off the kitchen counter, then you need a designated spot for it. Get a cute basket or mail sorter and find a home for the wayward bills. If your kids are constantly leaving their shoes in a pile by the door, get a shoe cubby. It takes time to train your family to be organized, but I am living proof that it can be done. If there is a mess in the same place all the time, then it means you don't have a place for that mess. Find a place, train your people, and sit back and watch your house clean itself.

Well, almost.

Your turn. What have you got for us today?

P.S. A reader sent me a great suggestion: Leave what you're teaching in the linky rather than your name. Makes it easy to go back and search for a particular link without having to dig through piles and piles of posts, you know?

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How to be the hostess with the mostess

I have made no secret amongst my family and friends how much I love having visitors. Maybe it's the excitement of showing off my city to visitors who've never been here. Or reconnecting with loved ones that we haven't seen in a while.

Quite possibly it's the week-long manic cleaning fest I engage in when I know guests are coming.

Whatever the reason, it's something we all look forward to.

And because I am bored awesome, I am going to share some of my hosting secrets with you.

I know. Try to contain your excitement.

In our current home, we are fortunate enough to have two extra bedrooms that we use as guest rooms. We've not always been so lucky (I'm talking to you, tiny townhouse in San Diego! And you, two-bedroom apartment in Boston!) but we are thrilled to be able to offer guests their own bedroom and bathroom now.

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When we've not had lodgings to spare, we've kicked children out of their rooms, scoured every surface in bleach, and put guests in there. A key for happy visitors is not having to share a bunk bed with your three-year-old who is having night terrors. Privacy is a must. If you simply can't spare the space, offer to sleep on the hideaway in the living room, and put the guests in YOUR room.

Remember, they've come a long way and likely spent a pretty penny to get there. Make them feel welcome and comfortable.

Extra towels are a MUST. I always stock the guest bathroom with fresh towels, and put a stack of extras at the foot of the bed. I can't think of anything that grosses me out more than using a towel after someone else - be it my own husband, children, or otherwise. Towels cost only a few dollars at Wal-Mart or Target. Plus? When your guests leave, you have new towels to add to your own rotation, as well.

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One trick I learned on my first visit to Casa de Gabi was the guest basket. I loved having one of my own at her place, and have never let a guest sleep in my home without one since.

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The contents vary by visitor and my anticipation of their likes/needs, but the gist is the same. Magazines, snacks, water bottles, and spare toiletry items. You know never what you'll forget at home on a trip, and it's nice to have it on hand.

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I also call each visitor a few days before their arrival and ask if there are any drinks/foods/snacks that they'd like me to pick up. My mother-in-law's drink of choice is far different from my own, and I know it makes her happy to find it waiting oh-so-cold in the fridge. If there are kids coming, what do they like for breakfast? What passes for a morning meal around here may not work for someone else's kids. Everyone is most comfortable when familiar foods abound.

Another thing I like to do is have a stack of recently-read books on the nightstand. I am not necessarily a book saver - if I've read it and liked it, I am happy to pass it on to the next person.

Plus? Maybe your guests are speed readers and have plowed through their 18 books on the plane or in the car. (No, Daniel, I'm not talking to you. I realize you're barely literate). But it's always a nice treat to have a new book to read or put on your list to be read next.

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Lastly, be prepared with fun ideas in various price ranges for sight-seeing. Your guests have not likely prepared an itinerary of every local spot they want to hit. They are relying on you to know the best restaurants and sights to see in YOUR city. Have ideas ready so you're not spending half a day trying to decide what to do.

So, now I just have to ask, who is going to come visit next? Your room is all ready...