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In The News - Austin American-Statesman


October 2008

Texas Book Fest authors offer tips for slob-proof and posh living

By Melanie Spencer
Thursday, October 30, 2008

When it comes to shopping, entertaining, decorating and housekeeping, I'm always in the market for tips and ideas. As I've said before, I devour design magazines, Web sites, catalogs and blogs, frequent the home stores and read what seems like just about every design, entertaining and organizing book published in a given year (and don't even get me started on all of the beauty tips I have tucked into every corner of my brain).

Hello, my name is Melanie, and I'm addicted to tips.

That said, earlier in the summer when "Practically Posh: The Smart Girls' Guide to a Glam Life" by San Antonio native Robyn Moreno ($18.95, HarperCollins) came across my desk, I took it to a quiet corner and read it all in one sitting. The book is colorful and sassy and offers gobs of advice on how to create a fabulous lifestyle on a budget.

So, when the Texas Book Festival organizers asked me to moderate Moreno's session at the Lifestyle tent from 3 to 3:45 p.m. Saturday, I jumped. Later, they asked me to moderate the 1 to 1:45 p.m. session of Debbie Wiener, designer and author of "Slob Proof! Real-Life Home Decorating Solutions" ($19.95, Penguin), also in the Lifestyle tent, so now I'll have the chance to get twice as many firsthand tips.

I recently caught up with both authors to chat about their books and this weekend's festival (and get a head start on those tips, naturally).

Wiener, a Boston native, owns Designing Solutions, a design firm in Silver Springs, Md. With a husband and two children, ages 12 and 17, Wiener knows a thing or two about slob-proofing a home. Her design tips have been featured in Good Housekeeping and The New York Times, and she is a regular contributor to Martha Stewart Living Radio.

The book is for the "cleaning-impaired" and the "decorating-challenged." I don't consider myself either, but I still found a lot of great design secrets in the book such as avoiding neutral-colored flooring because those gorgeous beiges, taupes and antique creams show every spill and speck of dirt in favor of darker, patterned and textured options.

I asked Wiener if readers take away only one thing from the book, what would she want it to be?

"Enjoy your family, enjoy your home be prepared for whatever your family throws at or on your furniture," Wiener says.

She is looking forward to her session at the festival because she says it is her first opportunity to address her audience as both a writer and a designer. So if you go, be sure to bring a lot of great design questions for Wiener.

Moreno is coming to Austin from New York, where she has lived for nine years. Moreno says her family is coming up from San Antonio for the weekend, too, and she is looking forward to a lot of real Tex-Mex and barbecue. This is Moreno's second stint at the festival. The first was two years ago for her last book, "Border-Line Personalities: A New Generation of Latinas Dish on Sex, Sass, and Cultural Shifting," which she co-edited with Michelle Herrera Mulligan.

Moreno's recent book has just as much sass as the first, but is a departure regarding the subject matter, so I asked her how the book came to be.

"I've always been practically posh," Moreno says. "I scoured thrift stores with my mom in San Antonio when I was a teen, and living on a journalist's salary in New York City really honed my skills on how to live large on less. The budget advice I would dispense to friends and co-workers soon found its way into magazine articles and TV segments, and eventually I was approached by my publisher, who thought all these clever ideas should be a book.

"I have to say they were quite visionary. Given the economy, this book is more of-the-moment than ever."

Moreno says she hopes that people realize they can live the life they want with the money and resources they have now.

"People tend to overthink and overstress things. 'I can't go shopping unless I lose 10 pounds; I can't entertain until I buy a new dining room table; I can't take a vacation until I can afford to go to Paris.' Those are all fair goals, but why put off looking good, having fun and living a posh, rich and rewarding life now?" Moreno says. "'Practically Posh' is all about being resourceful and hopeful. Is your body really that bad? Do your friends really care about your old table? All they want is good company and free wine."

So many good tips, so little time.

Wiener and Moreno are sure to drop a lot more slob-proof and practically posh advice during their sessions this weekend, so if, like me, you just can't get enough, we'll see you at the festival.

Click here to see the article on the Austin American-Statesman website.

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