My Travel Capsule Wardrobe: Outfit 5

This was the day that got rainy AND cold.  I really tried not to be a downer, but I was also feeling a little under the weather.  But it was like the strikes just kept adding up.  Like baseball strike outs.  Not bowling strikes.  That would be awesome.  TURKEY!  Nom nom nom.

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I’ve got a Prosecco Problem (and it’s not what you think)


We had a lovely Christmas Eve.  At least in the afternoon, that is.  Lots of friends, Christmas pageant at church, amazing food.

The morning, however, was another story.  It involved a very ugly scene with me yelling at the kids to pick up their stuff, escalating to me threatening to throw everything away, and raging that they shouldn’t be getting more stuff if they couldn’t take care of their things.

Just the kind of peace, love, and joy you want for Christmas, right?

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How to Host Like a Rock Star*

*Hmm, I guess rock stars probably don’t host on their own that much.  More appropriately titled “How to host like a highly paid rock star’s assistant who is used to getting things done and putting up with unreasonable demands.”  NOT to imply in any way that any of my guests have ever made unreasonable demands.  This post is really more appropriately titled “How to atone for making our parents sleep on an air mattress when visiting for way too long.”

This spring we have all the guests.  I’m psyched.  But it can be hard to have people in your space for extended periods of time.  It is also hard for guests to be up in someone else’s space for extended periods of time.  Here is what I’m doing to try to maximize enjoyment of all of our delightful guests this spring.

4.29_venn diagram of guests

But first, let me refer to this helpful Venn diagram of guesting that I just whipped up.  (Thanks picmonkey!)  I think there are two types of guest categories, guest “camps” if you will.  Some guests want to see you, or more truthfully, your adorable children.  This camp is more family and close friends.  At the other end of the spectrum, you have guests who are generally using you as a crash pad to see your awesome city.  This camp is more casual friends, acquaintances, and people who actually took you up on your enthusiastic “you should TOTALLY come visit” offer.  Most people fall somewhere in the middle.  They want to see you, but would also like to experience the wonders of your city.  I can’t blame them at all.  I mean, my kids are cute, but I live in ROME.  You could live here for 500 years and never run out of things to see.

All of this to mean that my approach changes slightly depending on what sort of guest you are.  Here to see us?  I’ll clear our schedules (hey, don’t laugh) and make plans for some fun togetherness.  Here to see the city?  I’ll ramp up the “freedom” items I mention below and let you do your thang.

Without further adieu, these are the “gifts” I like to bestow on my guests.

The Gift of Comfort.  I want our guests to be comfortable.  We aren’t the Westin, and I do not have a Heavenly Bed, but I want people to feel at ease.  (Again, I’m really really sorry about our overly long usage of the air mattress.)

Before we left, we engaged in some delayed upgrades.  After not buying many towels since, uh, our wedding, we bought a new matching set.  (These actually.)  We have some fancier bath sheets from Frontgate, but those don’t come out as much, even for our personal use, because I can only fit like one in the washing machine at a time.  We have been obsessed with our Comphy sheets for years, and we finally got some for our guests to enjoy as well.  (If you need new sheets, you will NOT be sorry with these.)

I try to do little touches as well.  Things that you don’t really notice their presence, but you might note their absence.  The guest bedroom has its own trashcan.  There is a box of tissues.  Plenty of TP.  There are Q-tips in the bathroom.  I also have some spare toiletries in the bathroom.  I’m sure these seem like no-brainers, but I haven’t always been great on them.  (True story: in our early years of marriage I told James we didn’t need to buy tissues because we could just use toilet paper.  #minimalismgonewrong  Then I finally used tissues again and was all “This is like sneezing onto angel wings!!”  We buy tissues now.)

The Gift of Space.  Our apartment has three bedrooms.  When guests are here, someone shares so that guests have a dedicated room.  Thankfully, our guest room is a nice size so guests can have their own space.  We also have two bathrooms.  During normal life, we use them indiscriminately (although we only shower in one), but for guests, we dedicate one bathroom for their exclusive use.

In the guestroom, we’ve also made space for guests.  There are two dressers that are 90% empty.  There are hangers with plenty of empty space in the closet.  The room is not stuffed with furniture.  Guests have room to spread out and actually unpack.  Because who likes living out of a suitcase for a week?

The Gift of Freedom.  Even though I love to see people, I want them to be able to come and go as they please.  This means we have spare keys for guests.  We also try to make things like coffee and breakfast easy.  I have the coffeemaker and fixings in plain view.  I stock up the fruit basket and buy extra cereal and yogurt.

I don't always buy breakfast cereal, but when I do it has off-brand Nutella in it

I don’t always buy breakfast cereal, but when I do it has off-brand Nutella in it

I’d like to get even better about having maps to offer, lists of favorite restaurants, spare bus tickets, etc.  Right now I’d probably just be like, uh, check out the blog for recommendations.  You didn’t turn on data for overseas?  I got nothing.  For at-home interneting, I did put the wireless password in a cheapie picture frame.  It is much easier to hand someone the frame instead of writing it down.  AGAIN.

But, like so frequently happens with my Christmas shopping, I can’t get presents for others without getting myself a little something too.  These are the “gifts” I’ll be giving myself.

The Gift of Time.  I am finally mostly realizing that everything takes longer than I think it does.  This is absolutely true for guest prep.  I’m trying to give myself time to wash the towels and sheets, empty the trashcans, and actually do some cleaning.  Your bed still may not be made up by the time you get here, but I probably finished a few other things instead of leaving absolutely everything to the last minute.

The Gift of Setting Expectations.  I don’t think anyone shows up expecting me to cook all the meals and have daily itineraries planned.  But, particularly with guests who are spending more time with you, they may assume that there is some kind of master plan.  Particularly if I have lulled them into a sense of security of always having a master plan.  I’m working on clearly communicating what is what, sooner rather than later.  Picture me practicing saying: “hey, peeps, I don’t have a lunch plan, you’re on your own.”

The Gift of Asking.  I’m not talking about putting guests to work.  They are guests, after all.  But, people do usually want to help.  Better for me to ask rather than expecting someone to read my mind.  (Something you’d think I’d finally know after ten years of marriage.)  “Hey, sis, can you put together the sandwiches for our picnic?”  “Can you guys grab some plates for the food?”  “Can you detail my Maserati?”  Haha, clearly one of those is a joke.  I don’t have a sister.  (Haha, I have two sisters!  Wow, I’m punchy this evening.  This is why I should really stick to naptime blogging.  Can’t hack it right now though because I’m too busy having fun with all my guests.)

The Gift of Remembering to Wear My Bathrobe.  I would not call us a naked household.  But, like many good TV shows, there is incidental nudity.  Crap, my clean shirt is in the laundry room.  Argh, it is 4:00 am and I need to pee but I don’t feel like putting my pajama pants back on which I took off because it is crazy hot in here for May.  Definite PG-13 situations.

Enter the bathrobe!!  Just slip your arms in and you have a super fast problem fixer.  Now I can go forth and deal with that screaming child without fear of awkward moments with my guests.  I’m not really a robe person and my robe is a little too satiny to be very functional (I’m eying this as a pinch hitter), but it has been great to have on the back of my bedroom door.

Now if only the robe could remind me to shut the bathroom door . . .

Wow, it really is like Pinterest up in here, totally not gross at all.  Any tips to further up my guest game?  Sadly, eliminate all early morning screaming is not an option. #iwish

How to Keep That Toy from Getting Stale

“It looks like a day care threw up in my living room.”  ~recent quote from my sister

Yup.  I hear you.  Kids have toys.  Toys are fun.  They are good to have.

But.  Sometimes I get sick of stepping on another toy.  Or having a primary-colored explosion in the house.  Sometimes I am completely over and done with the toys.

Since we moved here, I’ve been practicing what I call Toy Rotation.  These are the toys available for play:

2.12_stale 1

In case you can’t tell from the mess, that is one shelf of books and two shelves of toys.  Not pictured:  a few freestanding things like Thomas Train, a car track, and the Exersaucer.

But where are the rest of the toys, you ask?  Come, I’ll show you.  They are tucked away in our apartment’s one walk-in closet.  Voila.

2.12_stale 2

This space used to look like this, but it was harshing my toy rotation.  I decided to move an underused bookcase into the space, and I’ve been very happy with the result.

2.12_stale 3

How my Toy Rotation works:  I just, you know, rotate the toys.  Sometimes every few days.  Sometimes once a week.  Whenever I feel the need.  Sometimes I rotate everything.  Sometimes I just swap a few things.  No fixed schedule.

Why I like the Toy Rotation:

  • This way I only have as many toys out as I can handle strewn across the living room floor.  And trust me, the toys are usually strewn across the living room floor.  I use the rotation to break up how many multi-piece toy sets are out to help on the all-over-the-floorness as well.
  • Mac has no opinions (that guy will chew on anything!), but Henry tends to quickly notice when new toys show up.  It helps him really see the toy again.  And then he actually plays with it.  It could just be him getting older, but I think he has a longer attention span with just a few toys out.  The other day, a sweat band came out of the toy closet.  Henry treated it like being reunited with an old friend.  He then spent quite a bit of time zinging the sweat band around the house.  Would said sweat band have garnered this enthusiasm if it were always in reach?  I can’t be sure, but I’m guessing not.
  • I always have something in reserve.  It’s been raining for days on end?  Ooo, look, new toys!!  I consider the toy reserve pretty sanity saving in these moments.  I also keep the coloring books, play doh, reusable stickers, and pipe cleaners tucked away to be deployed as needed, although Henry is now tall enough to reach this drawer so I may need to rethink the location.
  • It helps me see what toys to purge.  There are some toys that I haven’t rotated because they are kind of duds.  If a toy isn’t making it out of the closet, I should probably move it along.

But doesn’t Henry notice when his toys are gone?  Yes.  Sometimes.  But not as much as you’d think.  I haven’t attempted to rotate some of the most favorite toys.  Heaven forbid should the matchbox cars go on holiday.  But usually he just enjoys what is there.

When he asks about the truant toys, sometimes he is satisfied with “Dump truck isn’t out right now.”  Other times, I’ve made a rotation on the spot.  I’m hoping that is what the system will be someday.  A collaboration between us and them on having the toys they want without having toys everywhere.  I know I’m not the only one who has such a system.

I’ve had moments of hope.  The other day, Henry, unprompted by me, offered to exchange his moto for Thomas Train.  Yesssss, I thought.  This could work!  Then the next morning he raged hard that his moto was missing.  Sigh.  But at least I didn’t have to go far to retrieve the moto.

This system may not be a good fit for us forever.  But I’m definitely enjoying it for now.

Do you rotate?  Confine the toys to a certain location?  Any toy containment tips?


Midcentury awesome

Once upon a time when Henry was wee, we finally got around to seeing Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House in Virginia.  The house sits on the grounds of Woodlawn, a Georgian/Federal house designed by William Thornton, architect of the U.S. Capitol, for George Washington’s nephew.  So if you make the trip, you can get your architectural fix with two very different styles on the same day.

Of course, I knew who Frank Lloyd Wright was.  He could be the only actual architect I can name.  But I couldn’t tell you tons about his style or his work.  We toured one of his rooms at the Met, but this was my first time inside an actual Wright building.

It was certainly the first time I heard of Usonian homes.  These were homes Wright designed to be simple and affordable for all, although it didn’t really work out that way.

On our Pope-Leighey tour, I was blown away.  The home was simple, but unique.  You could tell that a lot of design went into the house.  (I’m a fan.)  All the way down to details like the kitchen cabinet doors opening a certain way so that guests couldn’t see inside.  The house features beautiful wood and other natural materials.

Wright designed all the furniture.  The result was modular furniture that could be configured in various ways.  This cut down on the amount of stuff you would need.

This was a good feature because there is no wasted space in this house.  There is limited storage.  You have built in space for clothes.  Just not a lot of clothes.  This house would force you to live intentionally.  You would have to limit yourself to things you only truly needed and loved.

I was sold.  I would have moved in immediately.  I think I had been moving that way, but this house really kicked my inclinations on minimalism and simplicity into overdrive.  The idea of living like this house was an inspiration as we pared down for the move overseas.

A few months back, I decided to watch a few episodes of Bones.  This is not a show in the regular rotation.  It is also a rare show that I watch without James.  I guess I just felt like couch potatoing.

When I saw their new house on the show, I felt it again.  I was blown away by this house.  I immediately started googling for more pics.

The house is decidedly midcentury modern.  And I love it.  I love the openness.  I love the glassed off atrium area.  I love the clean lines.  I love the texture of the wood.  I love the way they have it styled.

All images via TVLine





Part of me is surprised that I love it.  I thought I liked more traditional styles.  But then I started doing things like buying knock off Louis XVI ghost chairs.  It forced me to reconsider my previous assumptions.  I like modern.  Huh.

But that is one of the most fun things about being an adult after all.  Figuring out what you like.  And then liking what you like.

Do you have a favorite style?  Can you name two architects?  Have you visited the Pope-Leighey house?  I’d definitely recommend if you find yourself in NOVA.  I’d like to put together some more Wright pilgrimages myself.  Did you know kids under 6 can’t tour Fallingwater?


How tidy is tidy enough?

I’ve been seeing some buzz about a book:  Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and OrganizingModern Mrs. Darcy covered it; she’s a fan of the folding method.  Laura Vanderkam suggested not cleaning up can be a more useful philosophy.  Nicole and Maggie mention an earlier post questioning the wisdom of raising children to feel stressed out by clutter.

I love a good organizing book, but I haven’t read Kondo’s book yet.  I may.  We’ll see.

As I try to assimilate our lovely Christmas gifts into our home, I’ve been thinking about stuff.  And cleaning.  New year, new start, right?

For me, there are two separate issues here.  Tidying involves moving around things.  Cleaning involves removal of dirt and grime.

On the tidying front, we did a lot of “de-owning” before our move to Italy.  I read Joshua Becker’s Clutterfree with Kids an at opportune time.  He stresses de-owning possessions over organizing them.  If you are organizing things, it is just a shell game.  You are still spending energy on cleaning, maintaining, and housing the things.  It is better to just get ride of them entirely than to be beholden to your things.

I like this idea.  We really don’t need that much stuff.  I rotate toys to keep from being overwhelmed by them.  I’ve embraced minimalist dressing and should really purge my closet again.  James cut back on clothes and has expressed enjoyment at having a well curated closet full of things he likes.  We still have more stuff than we need, but I like the idea of only keeping around things you need and like.  Kondo suggests you should not keep things unless they “spark joy.”  I get that.

On the cleaning front, I’m all over the place.  We still don’t have any cleaning help.  In the early days here, I had a daily schedule together.  I cleaned about 20 minutes a day, and I felt like we were on top of things.  Then life happened.  We spent more time seeing friends and getting out of the house.  This is a good thing, but it made chores harder.  I refuse to do chores when the kids are napping.  The chore window feels limited.

I’ve also let it go.  Kitchen and bathrooms get special attention.  I find that doing a little bit daily or weekly makes a big difference.  If I clean the bathrooms once a week, I can do it in 15 minutes.  (Does not include floors.  Or mirrors.)  If I wait, the stuck on grime starts to feel insurmountable.  I really need to work on the floors more.  The baby is not yet crawling, but the kids live on the floor.  But I don’t need to vacuum every day.  My general cleaning philosophy is to be clean enough that things are sanitary and you wouldn’t shy away from an unexpected guest.

And for me, this is where tidying and cleaning intersect.  I think cleaning is easier to do if things are generally tidy.  Right now I really need to vacuum the rug, but the kids toys are all over it.  Kitchen counters are a lot easier to wipe if they are clutter free.  I think my more militant cleaning schedule worked in the early days because all of our stuff hadn’t shown up yet.

I’m still trying to find my groove.  I came across this cleaning schedule printable while reading this awesomely interesting article on following Pinterest’s most popular for a week.

So I decided to do it as well.  Without further adieu, let me present my own cleaning schedule printable for your consumption:

Cleaning Schedule-1

Nothing on here is mandatory, as you would know by the current state of my floors.  ABL – always be laundrying is an important tenet.  Our one floor dwelling has made laundry much easier.  I don’t really mind laundry except the putting clothes away part, which I suppose is sort of like saying that you don’t mind marathons except the running part.

And please don’t think I’m doing this alone.  James does 99% of the after dinner clean-up, trash/recycling removal, and more.

But as you can see, a lot doesn’t get done.  Dusting is rare.  I haven’t cleaned any ceiling blades or windows.  This is mostly working for us for now.  At least until our next change in schedule anyway!  Mac already seems to be dropping his morning nap . . .

Do you have a cleaning schedule?  I’d love to hear!  What is your mess tolerance?  Have you noticed a correlation between amount of stuff and ease of cleaning?

Red lips to the rescue!

Modern Mrs. Darcy has a post up on Simplicity, productivity, and the personal uniform.  Yup, I’ve got that.  I’m a fan.

[Hi to any MMD readers who clicked over from my comment!  Thanks for taking a look around!]

My personal uniform remains, but I’ve been feeling a little frumptastic lately.  This is because I don’t usually add the completer piece unless I’m going out.  The baby would destroy my necklaces.  Why put on a scarf or a jacket if it is just going to get covered in spitup and flung food?

Let’s just say, I feel all of those What Not to Wear contributors who scoffed at Stacy and Clinton for saying they should wear nicer blouses.  Yes, I use burp cloths.  But did you know that kids can aim past the cloth?  Or I might not have one in reach?  There is a reason that my uniform is washer-friendly.

I also need to rethink my makeup regime.  I feel like it is all wiped off by mid-morning.  I’m not loving my hair lately.  I’ve got those bald spots and wisps thanks to the postpartum hair loss.  And all of this rain and humidity does not cute hair make.

Sum it all up to say that I’m not feeling super cute most days.  And this is not the best place to not feel cute.  The women here, they know how to work it.


Enter the red lip!

I’ve been loving Boots Botanics lip gloss.  Mine is cherry, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere for a link.  It doesn’t pass the kiss test, but it adds a punch of color without getting peely, chappy, and flaky later like so many lip products I find.  (I know this is reading like a giant advertisement, but nothing sponsored here; I just like the product.)

I’ve got it right by the door and it is now a part of my going-out-the-door routine.  Shoes, strap on baby, jacket, red lip.  It’s not a salon blowout or a stain-free shirt, but it always helps me feel a little more put together.

12.8_goal 2

Yes, those are mirror smudges from a certain toddler.  And, wow, taking mirror selfies is crazy awkward.  I kind of can’t believe I’m sharing this with all of you.  Please, be gentle.

Do you have a fave lip gloss?  Any special thing you add to feel polished?