Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Review: Home-Ec 101 Skills For Everyday Living

I am a perfectionist - or at least I have those tendencies. I don't know everything I need to know to maintain a perfect house, but I have my routines. I'm not always one hundred percent happy with them, but they work for me - most of the time.

That said, I love to learn. And my plumbing and DIY skills? Well, let's just say that the limited things my husband can do are great, but everything else gets a call to a professional. While I successfully sanded and repainted (beautifully, I might add) my mailbox last summer, most things just don't get done by me, which is why I sit in a dusty house at the moment as an electrician is installing overhead lights in the homework room - after almost five years of living here (not that I have grand aspirations to install lighting at any point).

There is a lot I'd like to do, and I'm all about finding ways to save time and money doing so. My aunt gave me a book for Christmas one year shortly after I graduated college entitled Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House. It is a 884 page book of everything I "need" to know. While I'm sure it has lots of useful information, I was offended to receive it (what, Auntie, you think my house is a sty and I need this?), and I merely looked at a few entries. They were dry and full of facts, but I've yet to use it in the decade plus that I've has the book.

That said, when I had an opportunity from One2One Network to review Heather Solos's new book Home-Ec 101: Skills for Everyday Living, I jumped at the chance. I've read Heather's blog before (and met her at Blissdom - she's a sweetie!), and I like the way she writes. She's full of info, but she's light-hearted about it and doesn't take herself too seriously.

Her new book is 240 pages (phew - that I can deal with) chock full of information presented in a much more palatable style. She covers cleaning, laundry, DIY, and cooking. All of it is presented without judgement towards your own personal style and in a way that isn't intimidating - which I appreciate, especially on the DIY stuff.

Her appendices are great, with recipes for homemade cleaning solutions (I'm 80% of the way there and working towards getting 100% off any chemicals for cleaning), though most are ones I'm already using (the lemon juice and vinegar applications). I do appreciate that she also gives the warnings about how not to use them - e.g., don't use vinegar and water on marble or mix up your hydrogen peroxide mold remover new each time to ensure effectiveness. I really appreciate the dangerous chemical combinations listing that shows what not to combine (read your cleaning labels!) and - more importantly - why you shouldn't combine them (fortunately, not an issue for me).

Throughout her book, she has cute little pullouts with relevant quotes, reminders, conversion charts, and the like for each section - making it handy and easy to find what you need in a given section, and making the book a pleasant reading experience. This is not a textbook in the least!

Heather also incorporates a lot of sidenotes/footnotes at the bottom where she interjects her point of view or bit of levity into the section. For example, when talking about a "wacky cake" recipe a friend gave her, her foot note comments that "This is not to be confused with your uncle's special brownies." - cute and fun, adding a bit of levity to subjects of baking and cleaning that many people view with dread. The majority are fun and not derogatory, but there was one quote that turned me off. When discussing disinfecting and sanitizing, she throws in that "It’s controversial as “some”*** believe our hyperclean environments may be part of our population’s growing problem with asthma and allergies." Reading that, I raised my eyebrows at the some in quotation marks. The footnote? "Note 'some' also believe in tinfoil hats, magnetic bracelets, and 'The Force.'” Really? And if "some" of those reading your books are part of that group that is following the research showing that our hyperclean environments are actually contributing to our immune systems turning on themselves since they don't have enough to fight? That sentence I found somewhat offensive and unnecessarily belittling.

The remainder of the book is filled with great tips that I plan to use - and the whys and hows behind everything from what's included in different types of cleaners to how to organize weekly (and monthly and seasonal) chores so they aren't so overwhelming to how to remove various stains (you don't want to see the wee ones' clothes at the end of the day!) and more. My favorite tip is to run a pencil along a sticky zipper to lubricate it. We have that issue all the time with the wee ones. Voila!

While I have only a digital copy of the book, I am pretty sure I'm going to buy a hard copy of it, as this is a great reference tool. It's available at Barnes & Noble for $19.99, or as an ebook for $9.99. I'd have a hard time giving this as a book - given my own experience, but for the wee ones, I'll be referencing it for them as they grow, and maybe it will be their high school graduation present - not something for six years after they've graduated college.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was provided with a digital copy of this book by the One2One Network for review purposes only. There was no compensation involved, and all opinions expressed are my own.

1 comment:

  1. Actually I am one of those who believe that our hyperclean environments contribute to our allergies. I will happily be first in line when/if the hookworm therapies for allergies shows up here in the US. (My allergist is big on the parasite hypothesis -basically allergies are a first world problem due to our lack of parasites) I only meant that you should do your own research before subscribing to an opinion in a book with 101 in the title. :)

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read and review the book. I appreciate your time and effort


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