I’m writing another book! It’s called How to Build a Fire: And Other Handy Things Your Grandfather Knew (Ballantine), and it will hit stores this December.
I’ve been thinking about this book for a while now. When I was doing publicity for How to Sew a Button, almost every interviewer, including The Today Show’s Ann Curry and WNYC’s Brian Lehrer, asked me, “What about the grandfathers? What can we learn from them?” Well, the way I see it, the list is long and varied. It includes everything from the basic (how to change a flat tire), to the sweet (how to make homemade ice cream), to the serious (how to be brave), to the celebratory (how to play the harmonica). As members of The Greatest Generation, our grandfathers were not only defined by the Depression, but also by their heroic service to the country in World War II. Courageous, responsible and involved, they understand sacrifice, hard work and how to do whatever is necessary to take care of their loved ones.
I only knew one of my grandfathers, and though I loved him, I didn’t know him well enough. When my family managed to make the two-hour car trip to visit him, my older sister and I would greet him with hugs and kisses and then dash to his two-tiered electric organ, where we’d plug in the giant head phones, bang away at the keys and toy with the rumba beats until it was time to leave. When I think about my memories of him, only two really stand out: When I was little, he let me occasionally “shine” his bald head with a rag, and when I was in college, he taught me to play a few chords on his guitar. In what I now realize was an act of supreme generosity, he even let me borrow his beloved Gibson, so I could practice. I still have it. I still play it. And I still wonder what else he would’ve taught me, if only I’d asked.
The fact is, for whatever reason, many of us didn’t ask (or didn’t even think of asking) our grandfathers about their lives. And had we started these conversations, we’d all be stronger, smarter and richer for it.
So, that’s exactly what I’m going to set out to do this spring, and I need your help. Over the next few months, I’ll interview ten grandfathers nationwide to collect their practical advice, sweet stories and hard-earned wisdom that’ll help us all save money, build confidence and get back to what’s really important in life. If you have or know a sharp-minded grandfather, age 80 or up, who lives in the United States and who would be willing to share his stories with me, please shoot me an email at eebried (at) gmail (dot) com and tell me a little bit about him. All of the grandmothers I interviewed for How to Sew a Button seemed to have a good time with it, and some were featured in their local newspapers. One grandmother’s family even threw her a party, where she signed copies of the book!
I can’t wait to get started on How to Build a Fire. There are so many new things I’m excited to learn. I hope you’ll stick with me as I share some of these new adventures!
This week, the Associated Press ran a story about spring cleaning, featuring How to Sew a Button. And while spring cleaning is a necessary (and ultimately satisfying) ritual that I highly recommend to all, I must admit, it’s certainly not my favorite part of the season. You know what is? Days like today. The sun is shining. The birds are chirping. The trees are even beginning to bud. It’s a new day, a new season, a time of renewal.
You might’ve noticed that I haven’t blogged for a few weeks. I guess I was hibernating (or, more specifically, watching Season 1 and 2 of Damages). After a few months of doing interviews, readings, and television appearances for the book, I wanted to be quiet for a while (it’s my nature), and honestly, I just felt like I didn’t have anything left to say.
Now, I feel like I’m waking up again. H and I went to the park this morning for our daily 5-mile trek (run 2, walk 3) and I brought my camera along.
We stopped by the Boathouse and stood on the dock, where we tried to recall our wedding vows. We got married in that very spot almost two years ago now. (Click here to see two of the biggest smiles in the world.)
Then, we stopped and watched the swans for a while. I think they’re as happy as we are to see the ice finally melting away.
We climbed on the rocks by the waterfall, which is finally rushing again.
The Snowdrops are blooming like crazy, which means the crocuses aren’t too far behind.
Now that I’ve admired the first signs of spring outside, I guess I should start the annual ritual of cleaning inside. Key word: Should. There’s no way I’m going to do that on a day as beautiful as this. Instead, I think I’ll keep celebrating. Hope you enjoy the warm sunshine, too!
This past weekend, I watched my favorite movie, Love Actually for, oh, probably about the bazillionth time. Every time I watch it, I tear up during the opening monologue, where Hugh Grant talks about seeing love all around (but especially at the arrivals gate at Heathrow airport). I love the wedding scene, when the choir starts singing. The whole Liam Neeson story line is, of course, a heart breaker. The part where Hugh Grant finally finds Natalie? Water works.
If you haven’t figured this out yet, I’m a romantic. A sap, really. So when I was interviewing grandmothers for How to Sew a Button, in addition to asking them about cooking and entertaining, I made sure to also ask them about love. Since Valentine’s Day is only a few weeks away, I collected their best advice on how to make love last. Here’s what they told me.
Bottom line: If you’re lucky enough to find love, hold onto it. Oh, and if you have any love advice to share, please type your heart out below.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
PS. If you’d like to embed this video on your own site, please feel free! You can get the html code right here. Please just give credit to howtosewabutton.com.
*not that there’s anything wrong with that
Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited on The Today Show to talk about How to Sew a Button and demonstrate some of the simpler tips in the book, which were previously excerpted in Self magazine in a story cleverly called, “Learn to Dance and Eight Other Things Every Woman Needs to Know.” SELF’s editor-in-chief, Lucy Danziger, presented with me. In case you missed it, here’s the segment. (Notice how I’m wringing my hands in the beginning. Nope, not nervous at all.)
It all went so quickly, but I had so much fun! I even got to hang out with the lovely Ann Curry for a little while after my bit. (Also, got to say hi to the other hosts, Matt, Al and Natalie, too!) When I got back home, my Sweetie took me out for a delicious champagne brunch. (I’m so lucky!)
I had emails from old friends from high school and college, who found me on Facebook. My Twitter friends were so happy for me. And then, I noticed a few tweets that honestly sort of surprised me. They said, “GE/NBC’s @todayshow wants 1950’s gender roles – ‘9 things every woman should know.’” Wha? Really?
I guess I need to address this, even though I’m more of a learn-it-do-it-enjoy-it type, rather than a talk-about-it type. So, here goes: There are 110 tips in my book, including everything from how to make a pie to how to brew your own beer, from how to speak out at a town hall meeting to how to build a fire, from how to dance a waltz to how to defend yourself from danger. Yes, I firmly believe that women could benefit from knowing how to do all of these things. And you know what? Men could, too.
One of the grandmothers I interviewed for the book, Lucile Frisbee, told me something interesting. She said, “During the Depression, there was no men’s work or women’s work. There was just work, and anybody who was around was expected to chip in.” When the laundry needed to be done, whoever was available did it. When the fire needed to be stoked, whoever happened to be closest to the wood pile would split the logs. They knew how to do these things because their lives (or, at least, the quality of their lives) depended on it. I sensed from my interviews that the gender divide–and the subsequent devaluing of so-called “women’s work”–came a little later. And, evidently, it still persists. If there were really a sense that “women’s work” was as valuable as men’s, would we even be having this discussion?
Equality stems from having the ability to make free choices in your life. Learning a new skill, whether it’s sewing a button, unclogging a drain or learning how to negotiate a better price, can only empower you, right?
Anyway, I think I’ll leave this discussion to the theorists. I’m going to go bake a pie, or maybe hang some drywall, or go snowboarding, or whatever the heck I feel like doing. I hope you all do whatever you want to do, too!
This past weekend, The Washington Post ran a sweet story about How to Sew a Button and one of the ten grandmothers featured in the book: 94-year-old Beatrice Neidorf, who lives in the DC area. Here she is at age 26 and at present day. Love her style! Oh, that clutch!
On the morning the piece ran, my phone rang. It was Bea. Her first words to me: “You’ve made me a personality! All of my friends are calling!” She was really happy, which made me so happy, too. She, like so many other grandmothers, has lived an extraordinary life, and yet this is the first newspaper story about her. I mean, she’s been volunteering at the Kennedy Center for thirty years! Thirty years! Can you imagine?
Aside from the Washington Post, other great reviews came in, too. How to Sew a Button was reviewed in The Boston Globe, The Detroit Free Press and Library Journal and on a few blogs, too, including My Sister’s Farmhouse, Gladys Tells All, Green LA Girl, Outblush, Non-Toxic Kids, Granny Su, Atlanta Bargain Hunter, Henna’s Place, Well Preserved, To The Max, Magpie Housekeeping, Shore Chic and Umami Girl. Whew!
All of this is absolutely thrilling, of course, but the reviews I’m most proud of came in the form of handwritten notes, delivered to my mailbox. Over the holidays, I sent each of the grandmothers I interviewed a hot-off-the-presses copy of the book, and much to my delight, some have written back.
Sue Ransohoff, who just turned 90, typed her letter and said (hilariously), “I’m sometimes fed up with ‘how to’ books, as though no one could make a decision on her own. But yours is different; it’s light hearted and it doesn’t run on and on. Well done!”
Alice Loft said, “I thank you so very much for sending me your (our?) oh-so-delightful book. One is inclined to read and enjoy the chuckles, instead of cooking. What fun! Love, Alice”
And Beatrice signs her cards (I’ve gotten three of them now), “Love, Bea xoxo”
While seeing my name in print in major newspapers or on new friends’ blogs makes my heart beat faster (OMG, what did they say?), seeing my name in carefully penned cursive on an envelope makes my heart fill with joy. There is a lesson in this correspondence. As 95-year-old Ruth Rowen told me, “Sending a card makes people feel good. There is such a thing as doing something just to make someone feel good.”
So, this is my first resolution of 2010: Buy stamps. Send cards. Most importantly, do something everyday just to make someone else feel good.
This week, I appeared on three radio shows: WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show, Martha Stewart’s Living Today and The Joy Cardin Show on Wisconsin Public Radio. In case you missed them, you can tune into the public radio shows right here.
Here I am on The Brian Lehrer Show. I met him in his studio for a live interview. Can you tell I was wearing big headphones and grinning at him the entire time?
Click here to listen to me on The Joy Cardin Show. (It’ll open up a ram file, so don’t be alarmed when a new window pops up. Just click ok.) I wasn’t able to travel to Wisconsin for this interview, so we did it over the phone, and I was on for an entire hour! Talk about a hot ear! So many listeners called in to share personal stories. One of the great things about doing interviews for my book is hearing how it inspires people to remember their own grandmothers.
Unfortunately, the Martha Stewart show isn’t online, but Mario Bosquez was a great host. I felt like I was sitting at the kitchen table with him, just chatting like old friends. Only, his kitchen table has lots of buttons and lights, and it comes with big fuzzy microphones, and head phones, and a sound engineer, and a producer.
Ok, I’m finished talking for the week. Good too, since I have a million presents to wrap. Hope you’re enjoying the run up to the holidays and are steering clear of the mall madness. If you’re at home stitching or knitting or baking or just wrapping those last minute gifts, I recommend a nice red with stitching, a white with knitting, a cocoa with baking and a martini with wrapping. Or, at least, something. Cheers!
Last Wednesday, the day after a wonderful book release party in Brooklyn, we headed out to my hometown of Allentown, Pennsylvania, for my first ever reading at a Borders books. I knew my entire family would be on hand, and thanks to a nice little write-up in the local paper titled, “Parkland Grad Signs Her Book,” I knew some old friends might come out, too.
And of course, we were running late.
Just as we were about to get on the highway, I saw that traffic was at a standstill. So, I veered off the exit ramp to take “the back way” to the mall, but as we were winding around, we noticed a police car (with the lights on) blocking the exit.
So, I did what any self-respecting New-Yorker-in-a-rush would do: I tried to drive around him.
As we start to nose past him on the shoulder of the road, the officer jumps out of his car and waves us down. Having just gotten a speeding ticket a few weeks ago, I slammed on the brakes, threw it in reverse, and then sheepishly rolled down the window.
“I’m not here for decoration, sweetheart,” he says, which set us into fits of laughter. Then, he peeks at our license plate and says, “I know there are cops in New York. I’ve seen shows about them.”
So, I start to explain. “I’m so sorry, Officer. We’re late to meet my family for dinner, and then I have my first-ever book reading at Borders tonight, and I’m just a little anxious.”
He steps back, takes a good look at me, and says, “Oh, so you’re The Parkland Grad? I saw you in the paper!”
“Are you coming to the reading then?” I asked. Nope, he said. He had to work until 11. Then, he walked back to his car, and returned with further instructions. “Here’s what’s going to happen next: They’re going to tow that truck away. Then I’m going to go. Then, you’re going to go. Ok?”
“Got it,” I said, and then to make peace, I handed him a copy of my book.
“Is it signed?” he asked. “You’ve got to sign it!”
So I grabbed a pen and wrote, “Thanks for all of your hard work. xo, Erin” And off we went!
There is a lesson in this: Keep a copy of How to Sew a Button in your car. It may just come in handy one day.
Today How to Sew a Button officially hits stores, and I’m so excited! While I’d really like to stalk all the bookstores in my neighborhood to make sure they have copies front and center, I’m going to focus my attention elsewhere. Like, I dunno, here.
So here’s what’s doing.
Tonight is the book release party in Brooklyn, for which I made, oh, about a gazillion button-shaped cookies. (I used Martha Stewarts’ buttery recipe.) I’m so excited to see everyone! And be warned: No one is leaving without a pocketful of these babies. A nice bookseller will be on hand to sell books, and everyone who buys a book will get a very special free gift, while supplies last. *Cue the up and down eyebrows.*
Tomorrow, we’ll take this Button show on the road!
First stop, Borders in Whitehall, Pennsylvania, which is pretty much my hometown. I’ll be doing my first-ever reading on Wednesday, the 16th, at 7PM. Please stop by if you’re in the area! I promise I will try not to faint on you. Key word: Try.
Then, Thursday night, December 17th, I’ll be doing my second-ever reading at the Erie Bookstore at 7PM. They’ve already got about two feet of powder, so after this great event, I’m hoping to sneak in a few hours of snowboarding before we head back to Brooklyn.
Let’s see…what else? what else? Oh, I know!
I’d like to give a shoutout to my fabulous namesake at ErinCooks.com, who says Button reads “…as if your best friend suddenly morphed into a Donna Reed-Tina Fey hybrid.” *Blushing* Follow her blog, not because she’s hosting a giveaway of How to Sew a Button, but because she’s just plain great!
Ok, hope to see many of you tonight!
I was just reading a story in the New York Times called, “Fewer Gifts and Frills are Expected in a Rough Economy.” I’m definitely feeling the same way this year. Loved ones keep asking me, “What do you want for Christmas?” Beyond a new pair of slippers, I can’t really think of a single thing I want or need. So, instead of exchanging presents, My Better Half and I have agreed that we’ll take ourselves on a snowboarding trip to Powder Mountain in Utah in January. We went last year and had an amazing time! See these tracks? Those were from us!
If you’re looking for some other gift ideas, I’ve got a few for you. Well, first, maybe some people might like a book in their stocking? Ummmm, I know a pretty good one.
Or, you could make everyone aprons out of cute vintage pillowcases, like I did the other day. (Instructions are in da’ book. No sewing machine–or sewing skills–required.)
Or, you could bake everyone on your list a pie. Everybody loves pie!
Hmmm, what else? My pal, Alicia Kachmar, is crocheting ribbon candy. My friend, Jean at Renovation Therapy, is making berets. Kim at The Doe and The Mouse is making super cute coffee sleeves. (You can buy them for $10 a pop at her etsy shop.)
You could even commission a pet portrait by the one and only Nicole J Georges. She’s so cool.
Or, pick up a shirt, designed by my pal, Lucy Knisley, featuring illustrations of 25 different kinds of cheese! She’s also selling signed copies of her awesome book French Milk, which is the next best thing to being in Paris.
Or, and if there’s a baby on your list, here’s a video on how to make a Cinchy Inchy Catepillar, using stuff you already have around the house. Even if you don’t have a baby, watch this video for a laugh. For some reason, at the one-minute mark, I get really serious when I say, “Like a balloon.” It cracks me up every time.
If you have any other great gift ideas, leave them in the comments below. (Comments may take a few hours to post, but don’t worry. They’ll show up soon enough.) I’m off to make myself a cup of hot chocolate with LOTS of whipped cream. Stay warm and have a great day!
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