Jan 12, 2010

More on "How to Sew A Button"

The book I mentioned in the last post, "How to Sew A Button..." by Erin Bried has quickly become one of my top ten books to recommend to a friend. I love this book. It is charming and intuitive and so very true. We young women were brought up in a world of convenience. Most of us to not know how to do a lot for our own house... much less how to properly fold a fitted sheet! This book is full of interesting how to's. I made my very first loaf of bread yesterday after reading that chapter of the book... I used yeast and kneaded and then felt amazingly accomplished when my husband came in the door and said how good it smelled baking. The Dallas Morning News published an article this week on the book along with interviews of real local grandma's. I am so excited that this book is gaining popularity. I would love for it to be the "hip" thing to take care of yourself, your house

Old-fashioned housekeeping tips from Dallas-Fort Worth grandmothers

03:39 PM CST on Friday, January 8, 2010
By JAMIE KNODEL / The Dallas Morning News

Grandmothers are masters of handing out hugs and kisses. They're also masters in the kitchen, with a needle and thread, in the laundry room, and at handing out advice. They know how to make a home and keep it in running order. And more often than not, they know how to do it without spending much money.

Younger generations seem to have missed out on some of the lessons that their grandmothers knew so well. Those everyday, practical skills – sewing a missing button on a cuff, roasting a chicken, getting a garden to grow – can help stretch today's household budgets as well.

Author Erin Bried got tired of not knowing these skills, so she went straight to the experts: grandmothers. She cataloged household tips and practical advice from 10 grandmothers across the U.S. in How to Sew a Button: And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew (Ballantine Books, $15).

We wondered what lessons North Texas grandmothers had to share. Here are their tips for making a house a home, and a home that can stick to a budget.

Lila Brooks, 81, of South Dallas

Her family tree: 4 grandchildren, 4 great-grandchildren

What her family calls her: Big Mama

Get a routine and stick to it: In Brooks' home, Saturday was cleaning day – the bed linens were changed; the laundry was washed, ironed and ready to go for the next week; the floors were scrubbed; windows were washed; and all the work was done before the family went out to have fun. They didn't have to worry about heavy-duty chores for another week.

Get familiar with your sewing kit: Save your clothes and extend their lives by knowing how to patch jeans, sew on buttons and repair busted zippers.

Forget about dilly-dallying: Get up and get busy. "Get your house straightened right away. Start off by making your bed first thing," Brooks says.

Expect the unexpected: Brooks is always ready for whoever might drop by, something she learned from her own grandmother. The house is kept tidy so when guests pop in, there's no need to scurry around, straightening the house.

Frances Beckwith, 92, of Fort Worth

Her family tree: 6 grandchildren, 7 great-grandchildren

What her family calls her: Mimo

Above all else, have some respect: Whether it's for people or for things, treat things properly.

Love your linens: "It's a shame that today people don't use linens the way they used to." Dress a table before having company to a dinner or party, Beckwith says. Retire place mats and cloths when years of use and laundering start to show.

Quality counts: Save to buy the nicest pieces of furniture you can afford, then care for them. Keep furniture dusted and protected from sharp-edged decorations.

Good day, sunshine: Hang your clothes to dry on a clothesline, "so they'll smell sweet like the sunshine."

Use the good stuff: If you've got china, use it when entertaining. Paper is almost never OK in Beckwith's book.

Bea Kassees, 79, of East Dallas

Her family tree: 14 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren

What her family calls her: Grandma Bea

Don't be afraid to accept help: Kassees' mother-in-law lived with her when her children where young. "She loved to cook, and I loved to let her cook." Kassees appreciated the help as well as the skills she learned from her husband's mother. To this day, her mother-in-law's Middle Eastern recipes are the ones her grandchildren request most often.

Ground hamburger is your friend: Kassees says to help her grocery dollar go further, she came up with "10,000 ways of cooking hamburger."

Utilize the oil of the gods: Kassees used olive oil to help ward off everything from stomach trouble to complexion issues. She's been known to apply it directly to superdry skin to provide relief.

Be a teacher: Parents need to get their children started with chores early. Teach them skills as you're doing the tasks. Let kids help make the beds, wash the dishes, put away the laundry. There's no need to wait until they're a certain age; teach them bit by bit. Before you know it, they'll be better than their teacher.

Norma Field, 86, of North Dallas

Her family tree: 2 granddaughters, 2 great-grandchildren

What her family calls her: Mimi

Eat leftovers: Don't let foods go to waste. If your husband doesn't like them, train him to by serving them until he eats them.

Simple is best: Keep clutter and knickknacks to a minimum; there's less to clean around that way.

Jump into new challenges: When she got married at 29, Field had never cooked a meal in her life. That didn't stop her from learning.

Don't try to do it all yourself: Field's husband helped around the house. They split the household chores – he cleaned the bathrooms, she did the cooking – and took a team approach to housekeeping and child-rearing.

A fresh start: Always start the day by making your bed, and never go to bed with dirty dishes in the sink.

How to Sew a Button

Author Erin Bried decided to collect tips and tricks from grandmothers when she realized she had forgotten or missed out on many of them from her own grandmother. She shares them in How to Sew a Button: And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew, and several video demonstrations, including how to make pie or fold a fitted sheet, can be viewed at howtosewabutton.com.

Bried thinks every adult should know how to:

• Roast a chicken.

• Garden and grow food – even if it's just a window garden or patio tomato plant.

• Know the power of baking soda and vinegar. When it comes to cleaning house, there's little else you need to make things sparkle.

• Find and identify quality clothes that will last.

• Be a good neighbor and friend.

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