My Favorite Things

No, this is not one of the Oprah-esque lists where I tell you about A Few Things I Love, which turn out to be $400 slippers and a box of 22k gold toothpicks. Like this.

The My Favorite Things of the title is in reference to a book written by the late Dorothy Rodgers, wife of the late Richard Rodgers (of Rodgers and Hammerstein fame). I picked up this book at our town transfer station (which we call The Dump), where locals drop off trash and recycling, including unwanted books. These books go into a pleasant little shed called the Book Barn.

The Book Barn at the dump is the source of many, many great finds. The advantage of picking up books at the dump (besides the fact that they are free) is that so many are out of print. I would otherwise never come across a book like Dorothy Rodgers’ My Favorite Things. Published in 1964, it is so of its moment that it could never be recreated now. The book’s very appeal—its era-specific trendiness (a selling point at the time of publication) means that it seemingly stopped being relevant long ago. But this book is more than the sum of its Mad Men-era parts. It’s clear from reading it that Dorothy Rodgers was one of those sorts of women who, in any civilization, is a class act. The tips and tools she utilized for decorating and entertaining may belong to an time long since past (thanks for breaking America, hippies!), but they are really never out of style.

Part I is called “The Things That Go Into a House” and Part II is called “Entertaining at Home”.  Literally everything you need to know about leading a civilized domestic life is contained in Parts I & II.

 

 

Another recent dump find was the Meals with a Foreign Flair cookbook, published by Better Homes & Gardens in 1963. I probably will send it back to the dump from whence it came. The food styling and photography is fascinatingly grotesque, the title faintly offensive in a PC sort of way. Also, it stinks.  I’m actually wheezing as I type this, due to the mold spores emanating from the book. I am very likely the first person to crack open its pages in approximately six decades and am paying the price.

 

Still, it was worth a look, so I picked it up from the Book Barn, taking a swift tour around the world through the culinary lens of mid-century home cooks, who were interested in moving beyond hot dogs and towards foreign foods such as cappuccino. An admirable impulse.

After a few Meals with a Foreign Flair I ended up back in Dorothy Rodgers’ well-appointed living room. Mrs. Rodger’s home is a place to which I will return again and again, perusing My Favorite Things while enjoying Menus with a Sense of Balance.

 

 

 

Introducing Ask Abigail: A New Feature

My period of mourning for the death of Downton Abbey has finally concluded (my mourning attire went from black to mauve to colors of sherbet, in honor of the gowns of the widow Iron Mary, before returning back to black since I think people can’t see me if I wear it). I have now moved on to other bloggery things, like writing a new, irregular column for this space I’m calling “Ask Abigail”.

Who is Abigail? I hear you asking. It’s a popular name, it could be any number of people. In this case, however, the Abigail of the title is long dead, so it’s safe to say it’s no one you know. Or me, for that matter. I never met the Abigail of “Ask Abigail” in person, though I feel like I know her, because I have read her mail.

I recently finished reading the book My Dearest Friend: the Letters of Abigail and John Adams, so I’m now mildly obsessed with the Adams family, and, by extension, the historian David McCullough, who wrote John Adams and 1776. In both tomes, the Adamses come off looking like prescient, courageous geniuses, a description they would both most likely object to, but can’t, since they passed away rough 200 years ago.

Abigail Adams may be gone, but her wisdom remains. Due to personal experience, she can answer questions regarding the following:

  1. 51qxriq-slErrant and disappointing children
  2. Dealing with grief after a smallpox epidemic (or after an untimely death in general)
  3. Church polity
  4. Lending libraries
  5. Rotating crops
  6. Buying and selling imported hairpins
  7. Buying and selling horses
  8. Coping with an absent husband
  9. Racism
  10. Handling the noise of cannon-fire within a 10-mile radius
  11. Thorny legal problems
  12. Buying and selling land remotely
  13. Hiring and keeping servants in a employees’ market
  14. House Renovation
  15. Sewing, mending, spinning, weaving and other skills related to handcraft
  16. Taking care of livestock
  17. Taking in relatives
  18. Caring for an aging mother-in-law
  19. Educating your child in the absence of a local school
  20. Revolution

Please send all inquires and questions for Abigail to therovinghome@gmail.com and she will respond via proxy. Please don’t expect a personal response, as some things are even beyond the power of Abigail Adams. If your question is selected, it will be answered in this space.

A Book Party!

Book Project cover

Book cover

Not too long ago (June, to be exact), my friend Mary Faino and I released a book through her small press, Paper Mermaid Press.

It’s called A Day in Rockport, and highlights some of the gems, hidden and otherwise, of this coastal New England village. Mary illustrated the book and I wrote the text. It was a bit of a backwards process — usually the text comes first in children’s books. But in this case, I think it works, as the illustrations are so lush they practically speak for themselves.

Mary and I have been meeting together over the last few years, partly to work on the book and partly to drink tea and talk about Rockport, and even beyond, if we’re feeling cosmopolitan.

We would love to have you join us this weekend at Mary’s shop, The Paper Mermaid, 57 Main Street in Rockport, for a Book Party! Lots of treats, framed prints from the book, a Scavenger Hunt, and a book reading (don’t worry, the book is a short one) will be part of the fun.

Hope to see you there!

Poster

Reading Material

Another snowstorm is predicted for this weekend and along with bread, milk and eggs (french toast for everyone!), these are just some of the books I wish I had stacked up on my library table while the wind howls outside:

1. The Way Home by Jeffrey Bilhuber 2. The Invention of the Past: The Interior Design and Architecture of Studio Peregalli 3. The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death by Corinne May Boltz 4. American Modern by Thomas O’Brien 5. Wabi Inspirations by Axel Vervoordt 6. Irving Harper: Works in Paper

And Now for Something Different: Friday Book Chat

The books in our online store are all vintage of course, so they vary in quality and condition. I thought if I explained a bit about the books it might give you more insight into not only their condition, but what makes them compelling enough to deserve a spot on The Roving Home’s bookshelf. And, by extension, your bookshelf. So here it is: the first (extremely casual) Book Chat featuring four selections…