How to Build a Fire: And Other Handy Things Your Grandfather Knew by Erin Bried takes readers back to basics by championing more than 100 practical life skills. All of them are guaranteed for life, but are especially valuable during an economic recession. Divided into 11 categories, the book covers the gamut of real-life scenarios out of doors (how to tie a bowline knot), in the home (how to hang drywall), in the garage (how to change a tire), at the office (how to negotiate a raise), on the field (how to drive a golf ball), in the kitchen (how to make a good cup of coffee) and in the bedroom (how to write a love letter). With its comprehensive inventory of how-tos, How to Build a Firecould have been a dry D.I.Y. manual or a random retro wish list, but every skill was selected on the basis of a particular authority: real grandfathers. The author interviewed 10 such elders, all born before the Great Depression, and asked how they managed to craft a full and happy life. Both simple and serious, the answers add up to a kind of self-sufficiency and wisdom we can all afford.

SCRAP THE CLUTTER
Scrapbooking folks tend to accumulate things—okay, they hoard. And the more creative we are, the more we tend to collect. To cure the chaos, The Organized & Inspired Scrapbooker offers the tantalizing possibility of clutter-free desks, indexed albums, color-coded embellishments and alphabetized containers. In short: paradise. Scrapbooker Wendy Smedley and organizer Aby Garvey team up to share smart solutions for organizing and storing every conceivable component, starting with the often overlooked but crucial step of defining a goal. Chapters on photos, memorabilia, tools and products are each followed by a fun mini-quiz and checklist to keep your unique approach in the spotlight. Inspiration pops from every gorgeous layout of inventive and ultra-tidy solutions, but the chapters showcasing real-life spaces of professional designers—the apotheosis of the scrapbooker—are truly amazing.

TOP PICK
The Cleaner Plate Club: More Than 100 Recipes for Real Food Your Kids Will Love is thankfully written for Real Parents, meaning we who want the best for our families, but who are very, very tired. We just can’t summon the time and energy to figure out how to provide wholesome, organic, balanced meals every single day. Well, maybe wecan’t, but authors Beth Bader and Ali Benjamin can and do with this massive yet peppy manual. First, we learn the basics about children’s health and “food preferences” (which can explain the cult of mac and cheese) and how to shop efficiently. Oodles of veggies are introduced—each accompanied by at least one kid-friendly recipe. Then we go to recipes for main meals that can fit the parameters at hand (what’s in the fridge, how much time do I have, can I make it in advance?), followed by snacks and sweets, with the revelation that both can actually contribute to our kids’ health rather than make them fat, sick, hyper or crabby. This book is jammed with info: guidelines, pantry lists, meal-planning techniques and time-savers—yet the energetic authors make it feel as fresh as our next family dinner can be, with their plate-cleaning help. 

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