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Streamlining Domesticity

The Hartford Courant
June, 2005

by Valerie Finholm

Sometimes all it takes is a book to inspire us to take on a project at home. Whether it's cleaning, cooking or beautifying your life, you're certain to find a book with some homespun philosophy on the topic. Here are some excerpts from a few that have crossed our desk lately:

"MaryJane's Ideabook, Cookbook, Lifebook for the Farmgirl in All of Us"
By MaryJane Butters
(Clarkson Potter, $35)

Take-out cooks will find a lot to feel guilty about in Mary Jane Butter's latest book, with its glorious photographs and prose about making pies and other "farm girl" activities such as gardening, "stitching" and (in your spare time) weaving your own hammock. But just as you're about to say "Enough!" the Midwestern domesticity expert offers her philosophy on "Cleaning Up" in a chapter illustrated with pictures of crisp sheets drying from a clothesline.

First, Butters suggests we get rid of modern cleaning agents with their "poisons" and restock with distilled white vinegar, baking soda ("it's amazing stuff when hooked up with a scrub brush," she writes), Bon Ami scouring powder, Citra-Solve, big and small cleaning brushes ("old toothbrushes are indispensable"), plastic gloves, spray bottles, cotton rags and your favorite essential oils (to leave your housing smelling like an orange, rose, lavender sprig or eucalyptus tree.)"

Then, she talks about changing your attitude.

"When worry manages to work its way into my life, I've learned to clean away my troubles," she writes. "For some reason the utilitarian act of being on my knees or hanging garments on a line changes my brain chemistry. I become a better problem solver."