Home & Garden

Grandma's advice

Grandmothers are masters of handing out hugs and kisses. They're also expert in the kitchen, handy with a needle and thread and good 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 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 catalogs household tips and practical advice from 10 grandmothers across the United States in "How to Sew a Button: And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew" (Ballantine Books, $15).

Here are some tips from some Dallas and Fort Worth grandmothers for making a house a home, and a home that can stick to a budget.

Stick to a routine

Lila Brooks, 81, has four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Her family calls her Big Mama.

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. Her other tips:

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.

Don't dilly-dally: 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.

Show respect

Frances Beckwith, 92, has six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Her family calls her Mimo.

Above all else, she advises, whether it's people or things, treat them with respect. Her other tips:

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.

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

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

Don't be afraid to accept help

Bea Kassees, 79, has 14 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Her family calls her Grandma Bea.

Kassees's 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. Her other tips:

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 problems. She uses it on super-dry skin.

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.

Eat leftovers

Norma Field, 86, has two granddaughters and two great-grandchildren. Her family calls her Mimi.

Don't let food go to waste, Field admonishes. If your husband doesn't like some things, train him to by serving them until he eats them. Her other tips:

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.

Need to know

Erin Bried, author of "How to Sew a Button: And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew," 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.

* Identify high-quality clothes that will last.

* Be a good neighbor and friend.

Her Web site, howtosewabutton.com, has several video demonstrations, including how to make pie and fold a fitted sheet.

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