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New 'How to Sew a Button' book offers grandmotherly advice and household tips

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Spend some time with her, or just open Bried's book, and you'll see that Neidorf is more than a seamstress. In the chapter about cleaning, she gives this advice: "Vinegar is like a miracle cleaner." In the section on thriving, no matter how little you have, she says: "Good posture is very important. . . . Look straight out at the world and say, 'Here I am!' " On the topic of parenting, she offers: "Reading your kids bedtime stories is a wonderful thing and so intimate. Do the voices." And on married life, she cautions: "for a happy marriage, don't think of yourself."

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Neidorf recognizes that modern life leaves little time for some of the time-consuming skills that, for her, were just "part of your routine of being a homemaker." She also wonders whether young people are interested in learning them. She is quick to note, however, that she and other grandmothers weren't born knowing how to do everything. She still remembers the first real dinner she cooked as a newlywed: steak, baked potatoes, string beans and gingerbread with whipped cream. She also remembers her husband's reaction: "Oh, this is so good!"

"How to Sew a Button" is a handy guide to running your household and, in many ways, your life. Each how-to is doable, but homemaking isn't always easy. Maybe for fear of scaring off readers, Bried tries to buck you up ("Put on some good music. Remember, the word mop doesn't end with an e," she writes in explaining how to mop). And she prods you along before you give up ("Get over yourself," she writes, explaining how to remove a chicken's innards).

Any questions, about anything? Find a grandmother.

In the presence of such a knowledgeable one, I couldn't resist asking Neidorf how she makes her pies. After some hesitation, she confessed that she doesn't fully agree with the section in the book titled "Find a Slice of Heaven: How to Make a Pie." After browning the crust at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, she reduces the oven temperature to 350 degrees, a step not included in Bried's recipe. At first Neidorf didn't want to tell Bried, whom she adores, but she decided to speak out on behalf of a greater cause: "I don't want everybody to burn up their pies!"

I couldn't help but think that it is only right for the book to be imperfect, at least according to Neidorf. Just as it was only right that the first Thanksgiving pies I made after my grandmother died were terrible. As my mother said, she probably would have been secretly pleased: It just goes to show how much grandmothers know.


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