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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Q&A With Author Lisa Quinn - Life is Too Short to Fold Fitted Sheets - win a copy!

When it comes to domestic life, I'm all about the snark. Sure, I like to make pumpkin cakes and caramel apples with the kids, but while I'm doing so, I'm usually cursing them for spilling the flour or dropping  sprinkles on the floor.

So becoming Martha Stewart in my house just isn't something I'm gong to buy into. I got a copy of Life's Too Short to Fold Fitted Sheets: Your Ultimate Guide to Domestic Liberation by Bay Area author Lisa Quinn,.from her publicist. As an aside, I suck at folding fitted sheets.

The book's title is misleading. It sounds like it's all about cleaning and housework. Don't let that scare you (because it scared me). Cleaning - even tips on how to do it quickly - aren't that interesting to me (though I'll read about anything while I'm on the Stairmaster at the gym). But the rest of the tome is about home decorating and entertaining on the fly (and on the cheap). The message of the book is that you don't have to live up the mom's group standards or push yourself to be perfect. You can just get by, and that's good enough. Plus Lisa is quite funny.

How funny? Find out for yourself. Win a copy of the book by reading her Q&A below, and entering a comment. What kind of comment? How about your quick and dirty secret for making your kid's birthday party special, but EASY. Or any party for that matter. Enter your comment by 11/3/10 (Wednesday) midnight and be sure to leave me your email address so I can contact you if you win. If you don't want to leave your email address on the blog post, email it to me at blog (at) friscokids (dot) net and tell me which comment is yours.

So I asked Lisa some questions about her book and her life, and she'll introduce herself here too.

Q: Who are you and why did you write Life’s Too Short To Fold Fitted Sheets?

Lisa Quinn: I am a recovering Martha Stewart impersonator. During my decade-long journey to be exactly like her, I built a career as a “Home & Garden Expert.” I worked for HGTV, wrote a decorating book, contributed to Better Homes and Gardens, PARADE, Good Morning America, The Early show, and even taught Oprah a thing or two about shopping for knock-off upholstery. Housekeeping, decorating, gardening, child-rearing—I had it covered. But I had a dirty little secret; I was living a lie.

While I was the picture of domestic bliss at work, I could never quite pull it off in my own home. The daily grind left no time for forcing bulbs, alphabetizing my pantry, scrapbooking, origami napkin folding, or even keeping the house very clean for that matter. I was no domestic diva, I was an overwhelmed working mother of two and I felt like a total fraud, perpetuating this myth of the Supermom. I decided it was time to make a change.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that the real key to happiness is releasing your inner Joan Crawford, redefining what’s real and worthy, and then lowering your standards for everything else.

Q: How do you balance that need for everything to be “Martha Stewart” and the need for sanity and personal time?

A: There is no such thing as balance. That is a term they came up with to sell magazines and organizational supplies. It’s a total sham and you shouldn’t believe it for one second. In my life, I grab what I can get, when I can get it.  I don’t sweat the rest. It’s all about lowering the unrealistic standards you set for yourself and being okay with it. Embrace the chaos. That’s how you get sanity and personal time.

Q: How has your “no present/no goody bag” party approach worked for you? I’ve tried the “no present party” several times, and the other parents think I’m nuts and bring presents anyway.

A: We get our children one very nice gift for their birthday. We also make it clear on the party invitation that while there will be cake, ice cream, and lots of fun, there will be no goodie bags. My kids respectfully request that any gifts be sent in the form of a donation to The Humane Shelter of Oakland.

I was very open and honest with the other parents when we started this. It’s a simple conversation, really. In our home, we believe that it’s bad for the parents, the kids, and the environment to be constantly running out and buying a bunch of worthless crap that no one appreciates anyway. The kids get so wrapped up in “WHERE’S MY STUFF???”  It’s a shallow pursuit, and just stresses everyone out. Most parents love the idea once they’ve had a chance to think about it. If someone chooses to bring a present, we send a thank you note.

And for any of you that think this concept is akin to child abuse, let me assure you that my kids are doing just fine. It’s all about spin. I focused on the positive and they got on board.

Q: Give me a few tips for making kids’ birthday parties easy, cheap, fun and still the talk of the mom’s group.

A: I quit trying to be the talk of the mother’s group years ago. It’s too much pressure and I’ve got nothing to prove anymore. We keep kids’ parties very low key: delivery pizza, movies, and maybe some very time-consuming (preferably outdoor) crafts that will keep them busy. I buy a plain birthday cake from Costco and let the kids decorate it themselves with icing in tubes, sprinkles, small plastic bugs, dinosaurs, and army men. (Sometimes, that’s also the craft).

I’m not a believer in huge birthday parties for kids. Once you’ve hired videographers, ponies, pirate magicians, and rented climbing walls and chocolate fountains, you’ve inadvertently set your child up for a lifetime of disappointment.

Q: I like the philosophy of being a “good enough” mother. Tell us why we won’t go to Mommy Hell if we strive for mediocrity.

A: When did mediocrity become such an offensive term? Perfectionism is not a good thing. Back when I was in the depths of my own perfectionism, people would marvel at my efficiency and attention to detail. That’s the thing about this type of obsessive behavior: you build a façade of productivity. I appeared to have it all together. HOW COULD THAT BE WRONG? What people couldn’t see is that I was doing it for all the wrong reasons, and I was starting to come apart at the seams.

The Mommy Competition is a huge waste of energy, and think about what you’re modeling to your kids: that you have to kill yourself to prove to others that you’ve made it, that you have to blow people away to make them like you, and that work is more important than fun. I’m a pretty good mom, most of the time. And for that I’m proud.

Q: What are your favorite Bay Area stores for decorating, and for kids’ stuff that doesn’t cost a fortune.

A: I’ve always been a big fan of IKEA. I love that they have modern, very kid-friendly designs that don’t cost a fortune. Kids are fickle. You don’t want to invest too much in their décor until they’re older.

The Alameda Flea Market is fun for little, one-of-a kind accessories and conversation pieces. Go early for the best selection. Go late for the best deals.

Q: What are your kids doing for Halloween this year, and what are you giving away at your house?

A: My 10 yr old daughter will be a Harajuku Girl, and my 7 yr old son is some sort of phantom; we haven’t quite decided yet. My husband and I will be what we’ve been for the past 8 years; She-Devil and Handsome Devil.

As a rule, we only give out candy that my husband and I don’t like. Our birthdays are all in October, so between four birthday cakes and Thanksgiving around the corner, we have to watch our figures. So, it’s looking like Sweet Tarts, Starbursts, and Swedish Fish this year.

Back in the day, I used to throw these incredibly labor-intensive parties for Halloween. I would invite 150 people and the decorations would rival a theme park. It took a fairly serious party-preparation injury to convince me to take it down several notches. This year it’s a small, Sunday afternoon pot luck with treat-or-treating to follow. I’ve learned to actively participate in my life instead of just catering it from the sidelines. I couldn’t be happier.

--Meet Lisa in person! She's doing a book signing and speaking about Taking Perfectionism out of the Perfect Holiday, in San Carlos at the Reading Bug on November 4th at 6:30 p.m. Stop by and tell her you read the Q&A on Frisco Kids-----  

Don't forget to enter the contest to win Lisa Quinn's book, Life's Too Short to Fold Fitted Sheets.



  1. I Loved this debbie! I went to see her speak at the Reading Bug a few months ago and thought she was awesome. I think my funniest mediocre mom moment was when I packed Tali's lunch and put her sandwich in a washed out Earth Balance container. When I picked her up at her friend's house after work at 6pm I discovered that I had actually grabbed the container that still had Earth Balance in it instead of the sandwich. So my daughter's main source of protein that day was essentially a tube of butter which by the way, she did not eat! xo Danielle (Beres)

  2. I love the phrase "Embrace the chaos"! I am making it my new mantra :)

    I still haven't figured out how to do things on the cheap and easy, but for our last birthday party, we went to a pick-your-own farm that did birthday parties - it included pony rides, a bouncy house, a picnic area, tractor rides and the chance for us to give "gift certificates" for our guests to pick some fruits/veggies as the party favor. In general, I'm not a fan of party favors, but I thought this was a fun way to extend the party. And it was educational too.
    Neveen Acero (

  3. this spoke to me as a "play-at -home" mom to a 4 year old and step mom to 16 yo. so much to do, so many hats to wear and not enough night hours to watch my tivo'd shows. I have stopped GIVING birthday gifts to my wide variety of nieces and nephews. For a couple of years, now, I ask each b-day child WHERE they want to go for their birthday. For the younger ones, I am able to persuade a destination that has a membership in my wallet. For the older ones, they can choose a nice restaurant and solo time with me. Last year, my 14 yo niece asked to go to Alcatraz. Bonus... she got to bring a friend. The experience will last longer than any gift that can be wrapped up. And I don't mind the expectations... "auntie, where can we go this year for my birthday?"

  4. Love Lisa Quinn! I have followed her for a long time and miss her Ikea Challenges!! I love that she says there is no thing as balance! I agree! Life tips in so many directions! Would love to win her book!