Home Ec 101: an interview (and giveaway!) with Heather Solos

This giveaway is now closed. Check here for the winners!

I don’t remember when I first bumped in to Home Ec 101, Heather Solos’ blog about everyday life skills for the home, but I was smitten by its no-nonsense approach to getting things done around the house in a practical format. Home Ec 101 is practical, to the point, and retro in both its look and its content. Who among us actually took Home Ec in school? Not many, I’d wager. But goodness, those life skills would have been practical as I started my grown-up life, that’s for sure.

Heather’s book, Home Ec 101: Skills for Everyday Living, just hit bookstores this spring (and it shares my book’s publisher, funnily enough). I chatted with Heather a bit at Blissdom this year, and knew her book would be a hit with Simple Mom readers. (It’s available on Kindle, too!)

Here, Heather shares some about her book, her blog’s tagline, and why it’s rewarding to plunge your own toilet. At the end, you can enter for a chance to win a copy of her book!

An Interview with Heather Solos

1. What’s the main message of your book? If readers finished it with just one big idea, what would be their big take-away?

Life is messier than it is portrayed in mainstream media -well, except for that show Hoarders, but that’s whole other story. I believe that many of us quit trying because our homes never, no matter how hard we work, look like they do in the glossies. It’s not fun to live in a state of embarrassment and apology; I want people to know there is a middle ground. Home-Ec 101 gives readers to the tools to pull their households together. Life usually exists somewhere between the neglected bachelor pad and the showcase floor.

2. I love the kitschy, retro layout of your book. Does it speak a bit into the book’s topic — getting back to the basics, learning what our mothers and grandmothers learned about basic homekeeping?

When the website was first launched, I wanted a specific connotation that covered the site’s focus, and the term Home Ec just fit. Home Ec also carries a mental image of retro dresses, old public service ads, and line drawings. I thought it would be fun to mix it up.

I like to play off the traditional ideal and add a bit of modern expectations, wit, and science. Hopefully the 101 is a bit obvious, the site and the book are written for those just starting out. It is an introductory course. I’ve been told that Home Ec classes — where you can still find them — are now called Family and Consumer Science, I find that a bit sterile.

The tagline of the site used to be “What you wish your mama taught you,” which helped illustrate that the scope of the site covered what we should have learned growing up. However, I always felt a bit too silly saying that outloud. My editor and marketing team helped come up with “Skills for Everyday Living.” This is something I can say with confidence, and also lets readers know that goal isn’t unobtainable.

3. Your book covers a lot of topics — fixing appliances, translating recipes, dusting, and the like. What part of home management comes naturally to you? What’s a bit more challenging; out of your comfort zone?

Years ago I was a chef, so I can usually tackle anything in the kitchen with enthusiasm. Cook dinner for 20? No problem!

Home repair has immediate payoff. As gross as it is, I don’t mind unclogging a sink or plunging a toilet. First of all, not paying a plumber is fantastic incentive; secondly, I find a huge sense of accomplishment in solving a problem.

Self-discipline is my white whale. Put the empty can in the recycling bin instead of on the counter? Hang the keys on the hook by the door? Sort the mail as I bring it in? Impossible! Well, not really, but I always find myself dragging my feet and having to talk myself through the effort. It’s not anything that comes naturally and I really have to work at it.

4. Give us one non-obvious housekeeping tip you share in your book.

Oh man, that’s a hard one.

Don’t over-dry your clothing. Not only does this waste electricity and time, it weakens the fibers, which causes premature wear.


Heather would like to give 10 Simple Mom readers a copy of Home Ec 101: Skills for Everyday Living!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this post, answering this question: What’s your most challenging area of home economics: cooking, cleaning, or fixing?

If you’re reading this in an email, you must come over to the blog to comment.

That’s it! But if you’d like three additional ways to enter the giveaway, here’s how:

Additional entries

1. Mention this giveaway on Twitter, including @simplemom, @HomeEc101, and the URL of this post — http://bit.ly/gSiOlH. Then come back and leave an additional comment on this post, telling me about your tweet.

2. ‘Like’ Simple Mom on Facebook and Home Ec 101 on Facebook.
Then come back here again and leave a comment, telling me you did so.

3. Sign up for Heather’s mailing list, then come back here again and leave a comment, telling me you did so.

This giveaway will end on 11:59 p.m. this Saturday, April 16, and I’ll announce the winners this weekend. I hope you win!

Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. Cleaning, especially floors. I can keep the house somewhat put away on a daily basis but it seems like my kitchen and bathroom floors never shine. I just HATE to deal with those, so usually I just don’t.

  2. Fixing things. I usually just hire it done. Hubby isn’t a handy man either.

  3. Stephanie P says:

    What’s your most challenging area of home economics: cooking, cleaning, or fixing?

    Mine is definitely fixing. I’m not very handy and sadly, neither is my dh. I’d love to get better at this aspect of my household duties.

  4. Stephanie P says:

    I like both Simple Mom and Home Ec 101 on Facebook.

  5. Cooking! If I’m not in the mood and don’t have lots of time, I would just rather skip it.

  6. I’d have to say fixing — I have the desire, but usually not the know-how!

  7. Jennifer says:

    It seems rather humorous now, but I actually won the home ec award in school!

    As far as my biggest challenge in home economics, I would have to say cleaning, specifically staying on task, which is my biggest struggle. I start a cleaning project, even a small one, but then feel the pull to do another and find myself juggling multiple things at once, ultimately getting overwhelmed. I work from home as well, so oftentimes I am trying to do a hundred things at the same time.

    Second on the list would be meal planning. I try to plan ahead as often as possible, but just run out of ideas.

    PS: I signed up for the mailing list!

  8. fixing I guess, but truly its the self-discipline I struggle with too…doing things consistently and keeping things neat.

  9. Mine would be cooking. I am not afraid to tackle things that need to be repaired, and I actually enjoy to hang out clothes and the smell of a freshly topped floor, but putting together good meals and cooking them that is where I struggle.

  10. I’ve liked Simple Mom and Home Ec 101 on Facebook

  11. Fixing is by far my hardest Home Ec challenge, oh how I long to learn how to snake a drain!

  12. Definitely cooking. Know I need to menu plan to help out with this but just haven’t got into the groove yet. I get too distracted doing the fun things like fixing!

  13. Cleaning, especially vacuuming the floors.

  14. I am loving this idea! Currently, I am a Family & Consumer Science teacher (the new name for home economics) and I’m always encouraging my students to learn these practical skills.

  15. My most challenging is being consistent with cleaning. Whenever it looks decent, I don’t bother picking up the few things that are strewn about. Instead, I let it pile up then wonder why I feel overwhelmed with cleaning. *sigh*

    A little goes a long way!

  16. Gretchen says:

    Fixing is the area where I need more confidence.

  17. I tweeted (and re-tweeted)! 🙂 @joyfulmothering

  18. I “liked” Simple Mom and Home Ec 101 on Facebook (under my name and my blogs page). 🙂

  19. Hands down – cleaning.

  20. I gladly signed up for Heather’s mailing list! 🙂

  21. Mary Mom says:

    Love to cook, am the OCD cleaner in this household, but fixing is my real challenge.

  22. My challenge here at home is getting the laundry folded and put away within the same day. It’s not my favorite chore so I’m easily distracted by other projects.

  23. Cleaning!! Simply put – I hate it.

  24. Jamie Woodbury says:

    I struggle most with cooking. I enjoy baking, but not cooking, if that makes sense. Especially dinner-time! Seems to be a chore.

  25. I liked Home Ec 101 on Facebook.

  26. Wow, the book sounds fabulous. My biggest struggle would probably be fixing things. I’d love to save my hubby some time and do things myself but I just never usually attempt it. Not sure why.
    Thanks for the chance to win.

  27. I would have to say cooking. I can tackle repairing things, my Dad was always on the road in a semi-truck so my mom had to repair most of everything, so we kids just jumped in and learned how to do it. I love the smell of freshly mopped floors, and hanging clothes on the line, so cleaning is not too hard to keep up with, but putting a meal together and cooking it, that is my problem area.

  28. Cleaning for sure! This book sounds great!

  29. All 3? I can pass at cooking and cleaning, and my husband is great a fixing, so we get by, but could definitely use improvement in all areas!!

  30. I like both of you on FB.

  31. Cooking!! Or, rather THINKING of WHAT to cook. Every.single.day. Blech.

  32. “Liked” both on FB!

  33. Cleaning. 🙂

  34. I Like’ Simple Mom on Facebook and Home Ec 101 on Facebook.

  35. Cleaning- having time to get it done is the problem!

  36. Signed up for Heather’s mailing list

  37. Cleaning is the thing that is hardest for me. I never know what the right product is and how to do basics.

  38. Ah– fixing– I lack the confidence to know I am improving the problem and not creating another one!

  39. My White Whale is cleaning! It’s monotonous and tedious and the house never seems to stay looking nice.

  40. I “liked” both Simple Mom and Home Ec 101 on Facebook.

  41. Shelby Cranneu says:

    My most challenging area is cleaning! Thanks for the giveaway.

  42. I signed up for Heather’s mailing list.

  43. I always seem to stall right about the time I get to the fixing on my list!

  44. Shelby Cranneu says:

    I ” Liked” Home Ec on Facebook.

  45. Deanne Robertson says:

    Cleaning is the hardest one for me. I never learned how. I’m excited to find Home Ec 101!

  46. Shelby Cranneu says:

    I signed up for Heather’s email listing. Thanks

  47. Deanne Robertson says:

    I just liked you and Home Ec 101 on Facebook!

  48. Ashley F says:

    Fixing! I have so much trouble figuring out this part of homemaking and always leave my husband long lists of things that I should be able to learn to fix on my own.

  49. Deanne Robertson says:

    I’m now signed up on Heather’s mailing list as well.

  50. Defiantley the fixing…especially when it comes to appliances.

  51. Leigh F. says:

    Cleaning – just hard to find time and there are a million other things I would rather be doing!

  52. Jennifer Dana says:

    My mother was in the generation of women that were made to feel that college and careers are the way to go. She did not stay home with us and she did not teach me anything about being a keeper of the home. This is something I have struggled with the almost 11 years I have been married. I have learned most Home Ec things from my grandma who is still alive. I believe strongly in being a keeper of the home and have read many books trying to learn and I would love to add this one to my collection!

  53. My biggest struggle with homemaking is clutter and schedule. For me, those two things go together. I can put the house on a cleaning schedule but then it would be clean but cluttered. I can keep on top of the clutter, but with several dogs, 10 people living here, more people coming and going, and a farm, the clean slides. Most of the time it’s just dirty AND cluttered. And, I am married to a man who loves museum-clean. So, yeah, it’s a struggle!

  54. Gosh, I’m only 35 but I’m feeling real old with this home ec thing. Where I grew up (rural prairie farming town) I had to take home ec in grades 5 &6 at least. Where I learned to cook foods I never eat and sewed an apron I never wore (but I kept anyways, and now my 8 yr old wears it).

    Later, in junior high I also took “shop” where I melted acrylic into the ugliest napkin holder known to man but I also got to work with photography and in the dark room.

    My most challenging area is probably fixing. I am not very mechanical and like to just “wing it” and that sometimes doesn’t work well with plumbing, holes in the wall and such. I leave those jobs to my engineer husband who is much better at methodically approaching problems.

  55. Definitely cleaning! I grew up in an all or nothing home. When the house looked a little messy or cluttered, we were deemed slobs. So, I have such a difficult time, with 3 boys, finding the balance of clean and lived-in.

  56. I “liked” Home Ec 101 on Facebook!

  57. Cooking. Definitely the cooking. Not that I really lack the skills, but definitely the focus and organization. Would love to win!

  58. Cooking. I can follow a recipe but can’t alter one.

  59. Hands down hardest homemaking chore – Cooking. It might be easier if I didn’t have 11 children – but I do (which gives me many hands for cleanup help, but still..)

  60. I liked Home Ec 101 on FB. And I ‘like’ getting a 2nd chance to win the book 🙂

  61. Liked Home-Ec 101 on Facebook. I’m old enough to remember “Home Ec” in Jr. High School. Wish they still taught it in public schools! I think it’s a much needed subject!

  62. And now I am on the Home Ec 101 newsletter list. Third times a charm? 🙂

  63. My most challenging area is definitely cleaning. How do I clean the grout between the ancient tiles in my rental bathroom? Why in the world did they install cabinets with a little ledge that catches any food that falls off the counter and how do I fix the mess? Why is my oven floor perpetually covered in gunk? I feel I’ll never get it down.

  64. Definitely cooking! I keep my house pretty clean, but cooking nutritious meals for my family of four has always been challenging for me! Thanks for the giveaway- this book looks wonderful!

  65. I canNOT keep the floor clean…as soon as it is clean, a little boy runs through….

  66. Signed up for her mailing list. I love that you can find all this useful stuff for us to read. And it makes me wish that I could start something like what you and Heather are doing and have a readership.

    Good job and many thanks!

  67. I would say fixing, and anything related to sewing!!

  68. Fixing, totally intimidates me. But my husband usually handles that. Now that I have a baby crawling keeping the house clean is the biggest challenge.

  69. Jennifer Daniel says:

    Cleaning…I can never have the whole house done at once.

  70. I signed up for heather’s mailing list.

  71. I’d have to say its the fixing – with hubby only home for days at a time, there’s not much time for fixing up things on my ever-growing list. I have to learn to do more of these things myself and get away from the out-dated idea that women can’t fix things!


  72. just the book I need

  73. Definitely cleaning! With two young daughters, a part-time job, an etsy business & just life in general, I feel like my house is always a mess! I try to always tidy the living room and dining room before bed, but there are usually dishes in the sink, a pile of laundry ready to be folded and floors needing to be mopped! My daughters and I love to cook together so I think that’s the easiest job to tackle!

  74. I enjoyed your interview and would love to win a copy of Heather’s new book! Thanks!

  75. I just dont have any luck fixing anything- this is the biggest challenge- but I am still a big believer in duct tape- would love some extra know-how!

  76. Katherine says:

    Definitely the fixing!

  77. Cleaning, definitely cleaning.

  78. I “liked” both Simple Mom and Home Ec 101 on Facebook. Heather’s new book looks great!

  79. Cleaning is my most challenging area. I homeschool so we spend a lot of time at home. It seems like we clean then it gets messy again in no time.

  80. I already am on Heather’s mailing list and would love to win a copy of her new book! Thanks for the opportunity!

  81. I love to cook and clean, but fixing things isn’t always my strongest point! This book sounds great!

  82. I loved home-ec in school, and cooking & Fixing – check. The piling up of the mail, and then just move it here, then let’s just put it in a bag….that is my biggest issue. I’m getting better, though, but it takes a lot of effort. Cleaning like vacuming, etc. not a problem. But that clutter gets me every time! Love your site!

  83. Cleaning, especially “deep” cleaning is my biggest problem area! I am really excited for this book!

  84. Biggest challenge is cleaning…must learn DO IT NOW (and finish it) principal.

  85. I “like” both Simple Mom and Home-Ec 101 on Facebook.

  86. I am also now signed up for Heather’s email list.

  87. Motivation, and having a place for everything. I think I would put things away more if I had better/any places for things.

  88. I would definitely say ‘fixing’. I just sort of excuse myself from that entire part of my job and hand it off to husband 🙂

    Sarah M

  89. Fixing! Still have a bathroom that needs some plaster work and painting!

  90. Even though I did take home ec and my mama did teach me a lot, I still have challenges. My most challenging area is carpet cleaning and menu planning.

  91. Oh, and I already subscribe to Home Ec 101.

  92. cleaning! It seems like i get it done then have to start all over :/

  93. fixing definitely does not come naturally, but thankfully, it does for my husband! second in line would be cleaning. Just not in my nature to enjoy it! Just the results 🙂

  94. Chabree Grove says:

    My mom taught me the importance of spending a few minutes a day picking up the house and putting things in their place, so my house is mostly picked up throughout the day, kids toys aside. But keeping my desk organized and the mail & to do stacks sorted and in manageable piles is my huge hang up. And sadly my desk is currently in our living area so we are all affected by my messy piles.

  95. I Like simple mom on Facebook

  96. Cooking because it involves making decisions about what to cook – I need a plan!! I waste time rethinking dinner every night and looking at recipes.

  97. I’d LOVE to win this book! I struggle with the cooking AND cleaning. I’m pretty good at baking because my Mom involved us in that aspect of home making. That’s about it, though. I wish I had more things modeled/taught to me when I was younger. I feel clueless, sometimes, lol!

  98. Oh my. Am I allowed to have two areas I struggle in? So often I feel completely brain dead when it comes to cooking. And certainly don’t love to clean. There are just too many other things I love to do!!

  99. Fixing is the hardest thing for me, and my sweet guy is no handyman either! Hooray for the internet!