Country Living

The cover of Country Living features a porch chair for $59. If I had a porch, I wouldn't put out extra chairs. That would invite others to sit down. And talk. And spoil what every urbanite thinks the country offers: peace.

 Conversely, according to Woody Allen in "Annie Hall," the country is a frightfully noisy place: "You got crickets and screens with the dead moths and the Manson family." CL would disagree, concealing its alarm at such effrontery behind a gentle smile. In its friendly, crafts-filled world, the country is where you celebrate American cheddars, house-train a rabbit and give old rakes new life.

Editor Sarah Gray Miller addresses readers as "y'all," a Southern affectation I've only heard on TV Land reruns of "Andy Griffith," conveniently shot in Hollywood. But I get her drift: This is a magazine that salutes a slower pace. The emphasis is homey and practical; what my mother, a longtime subscriber, calls "warm and cozy."

I've always favored sardonic and arty, so a tumble into Americana is, in part, like a field trip to Amish country. The Amish, known as The Plain People, prefer simplicity and self-sufficiency. So does Country Living. (Of course, they part company at bright colors, technology and zippers, but share a commitment to family and a calm, orderly life.)

The CL categories are cooking, gardening, decorating, collecting. Some of the suggestions are aesthetically pleasing and affordable -- like the glories of gingham, the alpha dog of patterns. Who doesn't find gingham cheery? However, the fireplace covered in oyster shells was creepy.

Accidentally rest your hands on this crustacean nightmare while stoking the fire and learn how cruel the sea can be! Since when did beach debris become indoor style? The same page touts the "5 things we learned from books." No. 2: In the 1960s, A&W became the first fast-food chain to add bacon to a cheeseburger. Here's the line that kills me: "What took them so long?" A better question: How many cardiologists can thank A&W for their lucrative careers?

Should you survive the aforementioned meat and greet, we turn to "The Good Life" section.

This month: buying a historic house for less than $100,000. The catch is twofold. First, all are located in tiny towns. One is in Comstock, Nebraska, population 110. 110! Where do they get their Chinese food? Another, in New Albany, Indiana, needs "plumbing, wiring and appliances." The exterior has been renovated, but revamping the interior, alongside trying to wire an 1875 Italianate, isn't cheap. Often, the humble term "fixer-upper" is a euphemism for "money pit."

For those untouched by our recent nostalgic visit to the Great Depression, don't miss the 70-year-old chair reupholstered in a 1906 feedbag. It sells for $1,150, a reminder that Country Living caters to all classes. (And explains why so many of the experts are from Manhattan.) It's also why the collecting section, like "Antiques Roadshow," has legions of fans.

The mag's professional appraiser evaluates your antiques and collectibles, be it a wacky tin squirrel cage, bought for $15 in Mississippi in the 1970s and valued at $1,500, or the Pucci-labeled sun hat a buyer grabbed for $200, swayed by the name, only to discover it's worth $75. Next time, stick with the utilitarian -- and add a red gingham trim. And while you're at it, try the banana pudding pie recipe on page 154. The only impressive moniker is the one that reads Vanilla Wafers for the crust.

Country Living salutes home and hearth -- and that's always comforting. The pub positions itself as a friend sharing information at an ice cream social. If the Baileys in "It's a Wonderful Life" had a coffee table, Country Living would be on it.


Publisher: Hearst

Frequency: Monthly


1 comment about "Country Living".
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  1. Nancy Swanson, April 16, 2009 at 2:19 p.m.

    After a long career in the media biz in NY and LA, I'm happy to be semi-retired in a small town. Don't knock it so much, Fern! I now compost, grow tomatoes, start flowers from seeds I've harvested and search the countryside for recyclable porch furniture. County Living is one of my staple titles. It does a magnificent job addressing the interests and lifestyle of its target audience. Don't knock it just because you're not one of us! Maybe, if you're lucky, you'll join us someday.

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