A ready command of expedients is the hall-mark of the canny housekeeper. The ability to snatch safety from apparent ruin, like a brand from the burning, is a faculty with some. It may be acquired by many, if not all. The experienced housemother is slow to believe in the possibility of irreparable disaster. There is no such word as "defeat" in her dictionary. Absolute success is not always to be had, but there are grades of success in cookery, as in political preferment. When Mrs. Faintheart sits down to weep over spilt milk, Mrs. Resolute bethinks her of something that will take the place of the milk.
She reminds herself also that milk is greasy, and the spot not easily removed if it is allowed to soak into the silk, woolen or other unwashable fabric. By the time the milky-way spreads itself over carpet or gown she has a soft brush, warm water and household ammonia in hand, sponges, scrubs and rinses - this last with warm, clear water - then rubs dry with a soft linen cloth.
In case of a broken ink-bottle, or upset inkstand upon a carpet, wash immediately with skim-milk, using a clean sponge. Soak the ink and the milk up together, squeezing the sponge hard each time. When the ink disappears, cleanse the sponge well and wash the place again with warm water and ammonia. Lastly, scrub with a clean, stiff brush dipped in warm water and ammonia, following the threads of the carpet. If these directions are obeyed faithfully the carpet will be brighter than before the accident.
In case of claret or fruit stains upon table-cloth or napkin hold the stained part tightly over a bowl and pour boiling water through it for three or four minutes, using clean water every time.
In case of mildewed linen, rub together equal parts of white soap (old Castile is best) and powdered starch. Make a soft paste of these with lemon juice, and coat the mildew on both sides of the linen thickly with the paste. Lay in the hot sun for several hours, wetting the paste well with lemon juice every hour. Wash off the coating with clear water, and if any sign of the mildew remains renew the application.
In case of ants in cupboard or refrigerator, scour the shelves well with hot water and borax. Dry in the sun if the shelves are portable, then sprinkle thickly with dry borax. It is odorless and harmless, and may be used freely.
In case of soured dough, stir an even teaspoonful of bicarbonate of soda, better known as baking-soda, into a cupful of warm water; turn the over-risen dough upon a board and work in the soda- water, gradually, until all is absorbed. If the dough is so soft that it runs, add a little sifted flour as you go on. Knead thoroughly and set for the last rising, taking care this is not in a hot place. I have seen an apparently hopeless batch of dough redeemed in this way.
In case of meat that has a "close" smell, yet is not actually tainted, wash well in soda and water, rubbing it well into every crack and line; wash off with fresh iced water; leave in salted iced water for half an hour, wash again with fresh, wipe quickly until perfectly dry, and cook at once.
In case of boiling milk more than eight hours old in summer, or twelve in winter, drop in a bit of baking-soda the size of a pea for each quart when you put the milk over the fire. I have boiled cream in this way without curdling it. Bear in mind that the first stage of decomposition is acid, and treat suspected food with soda as the most convenient and harmless of alkalies.
Nothing brings me more closely in touch with my sister housemother than the request, "Will you tell me what to do in case or - let the exigency be a shattered hope, an aching heart, a hankering after a mission, or broken china.