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Mrs. Dunwoody's Excellent Instructions for Homekeeping: Timeless Wisdom and Practical Advice    by Miriam Lukken order for
Mrs. Dunwoody's Excellent Instructions for Homekeeping
by Miriam Lukken
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2003 (2003)

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

'What was an evening at home like, one hundred years ago? A simple homemade dinner enjoyed by the entire family at the kitchen table, where stories were told, lives were shared, and everyone listened to each other intently. This was followed by adjournment to the living room for games or study or reading by the firelight and then early to bed, for the candle had faded and day had turned to night.'

So begins a lovely new book on homekeeping. In the nineteenth century, Caroline Dunwoody penned in her receipt book all she knew and thought was meaningful in the running of a home, as did many women in that period of time. The advice and information she provides is timeless - still very applicable today. Caroline Dunwoody started her receipt book in 1866 and it took her fifty years to complete. She expounds virtues as well as tips for homecleaning (she espoused the word homecleaning because that is what she wrote of - a home), directions for laundering, cooking, entertaining, gardening, ettiquette and myriad other topics that she felt homemakers should consider.

Small ideas like 'Never place a clock in the dining room - time is no issue when you entertain' are side by side with such large cares as health and beauty, marriage and family. Pithy asides like: 'They say such lovely things about people at their funerals that it makes me quite sad to realize that I will miss mine by a few days' light up the margins of the book. I especially like this one, 'Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't come to yours.' One chapter includes a few recipes. There are also directions for whitewashing the kitchen each year.

Miss Sallie Anne's Splendid Directions for Laundry intrigued me with its tips for doing specific pieces of clothing: 'To whiten laces, wash them in sour milk'; 'Boil dingy whites (underwear or socks) in a pan with lemon slices'; 'Soak colored cottons overnight in strong salt water and they will not fade.' I remember my mother following that last one. Whatever the occasion, Mrs. Dunwoody always had the right advice for the right outcome. Some of her tips might be slightly outdated, but could be adapted for today's living. It's a delightful book, one to keep handy, and to see become dog-eared from use - also a wonderful gift for a bride-to-be.

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