Sometimes experts do know what they are talking about

November 13, 2005|By SUSAN REIMER

Everybody is an expert. Especially the experts. And Samantha Ettus has brought them together in one place - between the covers of a new book, The Experts' Guide to Life at Home (Clarkson Potter, $19.95).

It is an eclectic mix of experts. There is instruction from an associate professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology on how to fold a fitted sheet and advice from Alexandra Stoddard, author of Choosing Happiness (Collins, 2002, $22.95) on how to live a happy life.

Ettus is the author of a previous book, The Experts' Guide to 100 Things Everyone Should Know How to Do, and she writes a syndicated column in which she offers advice from celebrities.

But she has clearly put her Rolodex through its paces to come up 100 experts in living well and living happily. This isn't just a book of household hints, although there are plenty of those, including how to hang a shelf and how to carve a pumpkin.

Ettus also shares advice on increasing energy, meditating, having patience and how to compromise.

There is advice on securing a mortgage, negotiating with a contractor and unclogging a toilet, but she also has an essay on how to build a snowman from Jim Sysko, the engineer who led the team that built the world's tallest snowman (113 feet, 7 1/2 inches).

He describes how that remarkable feat was accomplished, but he adds this about snowmen in general: "Dress him up, and if you have the time and ambitions, make a whole family to keep him company. Remember that snowmen usually don't last long in this world, except in our memories, so treat them well. Snowmen have a way of paying us back by making us all a little younger."

There is advice from the president and CEO of California Closets on how to organize yours: "Organization is both an art and a science. The art is in creating a space that allows you to feel at ease within it as a haven to store all of the things that are meaningful to you. The science of organization is in knowing how to bring the art to life."

The advice in this book is practical, but thoughtful. Helpful, but lively. Each of the essays is not more than two or three pages, so it is easy to dip into this book.

It is the kind of book that might make a nice gift for a young person starting out because there are chapters on how to stock a medicine cabinet as well as a tool box, and a particularly helpful essay on how to maintain a healthy refrigerator - both in terms of what you buy to put in it and how long you keep it there.

But it has something for everyone. My toilet isn't clogged and I don't have a squeaky floor, but I could use some advice on how to be patient and how to compromise.

And I loved the advice from Laura Hittleman, director of beauty services at Canyon Ranch health resorts, on the difference between taking a bath and drawing a bath. "If you're going to bother getting in the bathtub, you might as well take full advantage of the chance to immerse yourself in a full-out pamper fest," she writes.

Don't stay in longer than 14 to 18 minutes, she warns, or you'll dehydrate, defeating the purpose of the therapeutic, nourishing bath.

This is a very different book of advice, not only because Ettus' goal is happy living, but because many of the experts she has gathered here have a point of view to go along with their expertise.

They don't just know what works. They believe in what works.

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

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