Advice From the Home(spun) Front


Twelve years ago, the women of the Pasadena Art Alliance created a little book called “All Things Wise and Wonderful.” It was a collection of quaint remedies for such household problems as how to revive lettuce or crisp celery.

Its homespun advice was interspersed with sometimes cynical aphorisms such as Cornelia Otis Skinner’s remark that women’s virtue is man’s greatest invention, and Dorothy Parker’s, “There was nothing more fun than a man.”

The book sold 150,000 copies. Now a sequel called “More Things Wise and Wonderful” sprinkles advice from how to remove stains from suede shoes (rub with white bread) to how to keep vases and urns from falling over (fill with dried beans or buckshot).


Houses that have been lived in for 10 years or more will have most of the required remedies somewhere in the backs of cupboards. For example, use hair spray to stabilize pastel and pencil drawings; to preserve a cherished newspaper clipping, dissolve a milk of magnesia tablet in a quart of club soda overnight. (It doesn’t say what to do next or whether you have to drink the mixture.)

One piece of advice that I will never try is: “Use dental floss and a darning needle to sew up a turkey.”

A slightly offbeat tip is that dill steeped in wine breaks the spell of witches and is an ancient aphrodisiac.

Here’s an easy one: “To make scrambled eggs fluffy, add a little carbonated water.”

Here’s one that sounds as if it might lead to carnage: “For red wine stain, stretch soiled area of tablecloth or napkin over sink and pour boiling water through from a height of a least two or three feet, the more force the better.”

Here’s one that sounds rather impractical, but I would certainly like to see it done: “To avoid holes in the toes of your sandal-foot pantyhose, put on carefully, step onto a paper towel, and spray the feet with hair spray.”


A bit of useful philosophy is offered by Judith Viorst: “Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces in your bare hands and then just eat one of the pieces.”


Here and there through the book are warnings against overindulging. “Many a man has gone to his sarcophagus by what he put down his esophagus”--Anonymous.

“A full belly makes a dull brain”--Ben Franklin. (Pictures of Ben seem to dispute his aphorism.)

“If you wish to grow thinner diminish your dinner”--H.S. Leigh.

Here’s an easy one I’ve never heard of: “Sharpen scissors by cutting a piece of sandpaper two or three times.” What do you do with leftover strips of sandpaper?

Here’s one I don’t understand at all: “If you have lost the cork to a partially full champagne bottle, hang a spoon upside down in the bottle. (The spoon doesn’t have to touch the liquid.)”

Then what?

My advice on losing the cork to a champagne bottle: Drink the champagne before it gets warm. A much more difficult problem is how to get the cork out of a champagne bottle.

Another cynical quote, with perhaps some truth in it: “Rembrandt painted about 700 works of art; of these 3,000 are in existence”--Wilhelm Bode.


There are numerous tips on how to preserve cut flowers: “Sprinkle gardenias with table salt and refrigerate. Don’t touch petals.”


“Rosebuds will open faster if a lump of sugar is placed in the water.”

“A piece of charcoal placed in the water of an arrangement will keep it sweet.”

An obvious truth is expressed in a quote from Samuel Johnson: “A man is in general better pleased when he has a good dinner on his table than when his wife talks Greek.”

Scratches on dark wood may be camouflaged by covering with iodine or shoe polish. For light wood, use the meat of a walnut or pecan.

I was especially pleased to read that sticky zippers will slide easily if rubbed with a lead pencil. To avoid embarrassment, one must remember to carry a lead pencil at all times.

Here’s an interesting piece of advice, but one I probably won’t use: “Do not buy more than six to eight weeks supply of snail bait. Change brand from time to time for better effect.” Oh, I’ll use part of the tip. I won’t buy more than six to eight weeks of snail bait.

Here’s one I’m sure my wife can try: ‘Water hanging pots inside house by placing a few ice cubes in pot. Melts slowly and does not drip.

“Beer, particularly ale, is excellent food for flower beds.” If I catch my wife pouring my beer on her flower beds, it won’t do her any good to “talk Greek.”


The book is $10, Visa or Mastercard OK. Send to Pasadena Art Alliance, 145 N. Raymond Avenue, Pasadena, Calif. 91103. The alliance is a nonprofit organization to promote the arts.

Meanwhile, go easy on the snail bait.

Jack Smith’s column is published Mondays.

More Jack Smith

For a collection of recent columns by Jack Smith, sign on to the TimesLink on-line service and “jump” to keyword “Jack Smith.”

Details on Times electronic services, A10