Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House

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9780684814650: Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House

Home Comforts is something new. For the first time in nearly a century, a sole author has written a comprehensive book about housekeeping. This is not a dry how-to manual, nor a collection of odd tips and hints, a cleaning book, a history book, or an arid encyclopedia compiled by a committee or an institute. Home Comforts is a readable explanation for both beginners and experts of all the domestic arts -- choosing fabrics, keeping the piano in tune, caring for books, making a good fire in the fireplace and avoiding chimney fires, ironing and folding, setting up a good reading light, keeping surfaces free of food pathogens, and everything else that modern people might want to do for themselves in their homes. But this reliable and thorough book on the practicalities of housekeeping is also an argument for the importance of private life and the comforts offered by housekeeping.

Cheryl Mendelson is a philosopher, lawyer, sometime professor, and a homemaker, wife, and mother. Home Comforts is based on her domestic education, which she acquired while growing up on a farm in the hills of Greene County, in southwestern Pennsylvania, from her grandmothers, aunts, and mother. Learning from the distinct domestic styles of her native Appalachian relatives and her Italian immigrant relatives, she appreciated early on how important domestic customs are to a sense of comfort and identity in life. She writes out of love and respect for her subject, and hopes to inspire others to develop the affection and respect for home life and housework she was fortunate to have learned.

Mendelson addresses the meanings as well as the methods of housekeeping with a keen sense of the history and values involved. The result is a warm, good-humored, engagingly written book with a message and a point of view, one that is overflowing with useful reflections and information. The clarity, breadth, and depth of the information collected here are unparalleled. You can read Home Comforts for thoughtful entertainment or use its ample index to help you find the answers to practical domestic questions. There is nothing quite like it.

Among this book's unique features:

· A skeptical discussion of the excessive use of disinfectants in the home. · How to iron a dress shirt and how to fold sheets. · How to make up a bed with hospital corners. · How to do all basic sewing stitches. · How to choose proper sizes for sheets, tablecloths, and other household linens. · How to set the table for informal and formal meals. · Expert recommendations for safe food storage. · The most exhaustive and reliable information on fabrics, textile fibers, and their laundering, drying, and other care that exists for nonprofessionals. · A thorough explanation of care labels and why and how you should often (carefully) disregard them. · Housekeeping guidelines for people with pets or with allergies. · What to do about dust mites. · How to clean and care for wood, china and crystal, jewelry, ceramic tile, metals, and more. · Guides to stain and spot removal. · Extensive recommendations for improving home safety. · A summary of laws applicable to the home, including privacy, accident liability, contracts, and domestic employees.·

· 200 Elegant, Clear Drawings ·

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Review:

Virtually everyone enjoys a crisply ironed dress shirt, clean sheets on a well-made bed, and a savory home-cooked meal. Yet housekeeping today stands as a somewhat neglected, if not maligned, job. But as author Cheryl Mendelson points out in Home Comforts, keeping house well can be a rewarding position--it allows you to provide for the physical and emotional comfort of loved ones. It's also not an easy job--there's much to be learned about properly managing a home, and Mendelson has set out to provide a guide to doing just that.

Mendelson, a homemaker, lawyer, and mother, learned about housekeeping from an early age from her grandmothers, one Appalachian, the other Italian. The two grandmothers taught her that although different ways of keeping house can be appropriate, there are generally smarter, faster, and more creative ways of housekeeping that make it less of a chore and more of an art. In a practical, authoritative tone, Mendelson discusses the ins and outs of homemaking, such as washing dishes, recommended cleaning methods for various surfaces, housekeeping for those with pets or allergies, and emergency preparedness and safety procedures.

Mendelson's well-researched book includes meticulous sections on food (for example, which foods belong in the fridge versus the pantry, food storage times, picking the freshest fruits and vegetables, and keeping your kitchen and food sanitary) as well as laundry (caring for various fabrics, how to read--and read between the lines of--clothing care labels, and removing stains). Mendelson covers a lot of ground, and as she herself points out, readers shouldn't feel required to do everything mentioned in the book--simply pick the activities that seem appropriate for your particular home. This is a comprehensive reference book that should serve homemakers well and induce a greater appreciation for the effort and specialized knowledge that go into keeping house. --Kris Law

About the Author:

Cheryl Mendelson received her Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Rochester and her J.D. from Harvard Law School. She has practiced law in New York City and has taught philosophy at Purdue and Columbia Universities. She lives in New York City with her husband and son.

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