Page 1

November 2013

Small Room?

We’ve got solutions

Home for the Holidays • what every bar should have • recipes for appetizers and more! • how to make guests feel at home

Let There Be


Festive Fare Inside a bright, airy Stockade home

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Visit our State-of-the-Art location! 950 Route 146, Clifton Park Michael Salzman, M.D., P.C. Paul Block, Executive Producer Life@Home is published monthly. If you are interested in receiving home delivery of Life@Home magazine, please call (518) 454-5768 or e-mail For advertising information, please call (518) 454-5358. Life@Home is published by Capital Newspapers and Times Union 645 Albany Shaker Rd, Albany, NY 12212 518.454.5694 The entire contents of this magazine are copyright 2013 by Capital Newspapers. No portion may be reproduced in any means without written permission of the publisher. Capital Newspapers is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Hearst Corporation.

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Contents Home


In Every Issue 10 12 14 20

Talk Back On the Web Editor’s Note Window Shopping

In This Issue 24 Let There Be Light

This Stockade home is bright, colorful and fun

32 Think Big

Ways to make a small room look larger

36 You Can Hack It

Tips and tricks for making life around the house a little easier

38 Filling the Space

A fireplace doesn’t need to function to be fabulous

Features November 2013

November 2013

18 Home Life

Surviving a kitchen redo

Life@Home | Ideas and Inspiration for Living

Small Room?

42 Design Defined

We’ve got solutions

Home for the Holidays • what every bar should have • recipes for appetizers and more! • how to make guests feel at home

Let There Be


Wallpaper adds a playful or charming feeling to a house

44 Problem Solved

Cabinet quandaries

Gift Ideas

Inside a bright, airy Stockade home

for everyone on your list!

46 DIY Diva

Quick come-ups for holiday sprucing

49 10 ways to ...

... make extra cash fast

50 Dollars & Sense Gifts to tickle the sensibilities

52 Living Green

Make your bathroom green

54 Gathering ’Round Holiday gifts for your favorite gardener

58 Tech Tips

Thanksgiving can be chaotic, but these apps can help ease the pain

On the cover: Photo by Manolo Munoz   |  7

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Contents Life

In This Issue




Make Yourself at Home How to be a gracious host for holiday houseguests

74 Holiday Spirits

How to perfectly stock your liquor cabinet for the holidays (or whenever)

Features 61 Help Me ...

... choose a pet

63 Kitchen Crumbs Tasty tidbits

64 Dish

Cooking with Chef Elliot Cunniff

68 Table@Home

An ad hoc Thanksgiving

70 The Vineyard

Williamette Pinot can be too subtle, or just the right thing

77 My Space

Brian Fruscio’s favorite spot

78 Photo Finish Happy Ernie

63  |  9

 Talk Back

The story behind the story ...  from our contributors Read below about how our contributors learned new things while working on this month’s edition of Life@Home.

Holiday Spirits

Casing the Sausage

Brianna Snyder

John Adamian

Not sure what booze you should have on-hand for a perfect party? It’s pretty simple: stick to the basics. But make the basics the best basics. We talked to experts in the area; everyone’s going to want to drink at our houses this year (which could be a good or bad thing). See Brianna’s story on page 74.

Think Big  Kristi Barlette

Gardening Goodies Colleen Plimpton Even the most creative among us sometimes flounders at gift-giving time. Luckily, gardeners appreciate a plethora of items, but I discovered that I covet most of the objects I reviewed! See Colleen’s story on page 54.

Color is key and neutrals work well to open up a room. Also, think minimalism and multipurpose. Don’t jam a bunch of small furniture in the room, but rather a larger piece or two that can serve two purposes (ex: a storage ottoman). As for wall space, built-ins are a big help and a goodsized mirror and good lighting can make your small space feel larger. See Kristi’s story on page 32.

Pet Peeves Jennifer Gish The right pet isn’t just the cute puppy-eyed thing that steals your heart. There’s much to consider when choosing, including the veterinary bills that are soon to come. See Jennifer’s story on page 61.

We asked ... you answered Join the conversation! lifeathomemagazine

There’s always something happening on Facebook. Click to add your two cents and enter contests.

10  | Life@Home

I was surprised to learn that sausage-making — like bread, cheese and wine — is, aside from being delicious, just another ancient way preserving something, in this case meat, for the lean months. The idea that we’ve been making sausage since the time of Homer seemed to add a degree of classical class to the whole process. See John’s story online at

Eco-Bathrooms Cari Scriber For years, I replaced my shower curtain liner every few months so it didn’t grow the dreaded bathroom mold. Now I realize the “new” smell of a plastic liner is actually dangerous chemicals being emitted. I switched to a water-resistant curtain that I can throw in the wash to keep clean. See Cari’s story on page 52.

Here’s what our readers said this month on Facebook.

• If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where it be? Anika: Greece island of Santorini and the Oia coast Brigid: I’m right where I’m supposed to be...but a warm beach with a cabana boy would be fine too!

Debreen: With my children and grandchildren.

Linda: Hazelnut, but pear sounds good, too.

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Kathleen: Hmmmmm everything! My favs from Bath and Body Works are “black proper bergamot” and “sandalwood citrus.” Hubba hubba!



Find more at Explore more content — photos, stories, recipes, videos and companion blogs — all in once place.

PHOTOS Check out more photos online from this month's @home feature (page 24).

STORIES Making Your Own Sausage Finally find out how sausage is made. Literally.

Pinterest Boards Fireplaces and Lifehacks: Check out our Pinterest boards for more ideas after reading the stories on pages 36 and 38.

RECIPE & VIDEO Watch our tutorial on making Braised Wannabea Rabbit with Creamed Corn, then check the website for more recipes: Ricotta Gnocci with Fried Rabbit Livers and more!

LIFE@HOME ONLINE Pinterest timesunionmags Like our photos? Follow us on Pinterest where we pin original photography and more. 12  | Life@Home

Facebook YouTube TimesUnionMagazines Want to go beyond the pictures in the magazine? Check out our behind-the-scenes videos.

Life@Home Blogs

Follow our 518 blog for great local finds and our House Things blog for gems dug up around the Web. lifeathomemagazine

Like us! Join in our conversations! Win free stuff! And stay on top of all our latest stories and news.



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 Editor’s Note

Family Time


or the last few years, this time of year marked a time of family frustration for me. Two years ago, our daughter and her family were 3,000 miles away in California, and our oldest son was in Spain. Then, last year, the son from Spain was home but the youngest son was in Prague — and my daughter and her family were still in California. Additionally, my father-in-law, the last of the grandparents, had died in October. Cooking for a crowd was not exactly on the agenda. In the need of something very different to fill the obvious void, we ate Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant. My husband, son and I joined friends there. The food was tasty, the company enjoyable, and the hole a little bit smaller.

But it was there nonetheless. Fast forward to this coming holiday season. My daughter has moved east. Both our sons are in the States. The family can gather once again. I’m not sure we’ll necessarily be together on Thanksgiving Day itself — or on Christmas Day for that matter. Our daughter has her own family to create special holiday memories for, and of course has to juggle the desires of her spouse’s family too. But the option, the possibility, of being together exists — all within a drive rather than a flight — and that somehow makes it all seem better. Here’s hoping you and yours find time this holiday season for sharing food, fun and festivities. Let’s all make room for a family timeout. 

Janet Reynolds Executive Editor



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Furnishings   Gadgets  Décor

Home 17 – 58

Fireplaces don’t need to be functional to be fancy. Photo by Helynn Ospina. Read more on page 38.   |  17

 Home Life

Surviving a

Kitchen Redo Story and photos by Wendy Page


t began when our appliances simultaneously mutinied. One burner on the range died. The compressor in our freezer broke. The piece of the microwave covering the fan broke. And the dishwasher ran away with the spoon. We decide to buy a cadre of Maytag appliances. However, upgrading our floor last year to hardwood made it necessary to lift the counter to replace the washer —and the proverbial snowball begins its descent down the hill. If we’re replacing the countertops, why not the backsplash? And with that looking shiny and new, let’s throw in the towel and resurface the cabinets and install new hardware. And paint the walls to get rid of the red that I still love but that won’t match our new color scheme. Choosing the granite and backsplash are more time-consuming than we imagine, as the granite graveyard houses about 10,000 slabs of stone. The backsplash is easier; we kind of let our contractor lead us to the one he likes. Choosing the paint color is fun. Since the kitchen attaches to the family room, obviously we need to repaint the family room, too. We thus arduously remove every single item off countertops, walls and windowsills in both rooms, and put everything in another room so the painters have space to maneuver. Our living/dining rooms now resemble an episode of Hoarders.


usical contractors begin. Man A removes our counters. We blink, he’s gone, and Men B and C measure the space. Man A returns hours later, reattaches our counters and sink, and says he’ll see us next week. One week later, Man A returns, removes our counters for good. Men B and C bring Man D to install our new counters. Man A returns hours later to install our new sink and faucet, and poof! We have new

18  | Life@Home

granite countertops and a stainlesssteel sink. Then the real work starts. Now, I enjoy classic rock music, but did I mention that I work from home? I close the double doors to my office and pray that when my phone rings, the song blasting down my hallway isn’t “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” The sanding of the cabinets is another noise I cannot compete with, and, by the way, when they say dust will be everywhere, dust will be everywhere. If you do not have a physical place to escape to and/or a mantra that calms you and/or a hobby you enjoy, find one before the work kicks in. I repeat, “This will be over soon. My kitchen will look amazing,” all day. In contrast to the counter guys, the painter’s music is so mellow that it’s sleepinducing. Finally he’s done, and the family room paint-job looks great. The furniture can be moved back into place. Our kitchen cabinets are removed, making the kitchen resemble a museum exhibit: We can see everything but touch nothing. We need to eat out, which I thought would be a nice break. Instead, it’s costly, gets old really fast, and makes it impossible to eat healthy and not gain weight. Lots of weight. Our cabinets turn out to be a different color than the sample, because we apparently chose a different base color. Our options are to leave the base color without

adding the glaze, or add the glaze that no longer matches anything. Really, there’s no option. We instead debate the knobs with great intensity. One week stretches to two. Note to contractor: Informing me you need to work at another house for a few days makes for an unhappy client. See also: Arriving before 8 a.m., and cleaning your brushes and tools in my very new sink. We have a heart-to-heart. We love what he’s done so far, but some things need fixing, and leaving us hanging is not OK. I do have the ace in my pocket: He must finish to get the rest of his payment. He responds honestly, apologizes, and sets a date to finish the work. No big confrontation. Exactly 30 days from Day 1, and the final piece, a bookcase, is in. We’re done! The rooms look even better than we’d imagined. Like childbirth, the end product makes us immediately forget the labor pains — at least until the next renovation. 

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 Window Shopping

Shop Smart Shop Local In each issue, Window Shopping highlights interesting and unique items available at area stores. This month we visit two local decorating businesses that delight in turning trash into treasure. Photos by Krishna Hill

Magazine Rack Love wine? Love magazines? Love scribbling? This rack with wine cork enhancements and chalk board top suits all your needs. $20. Available at Artique.

Chandelier Good thing this is a light, because you’ll want to get a good look at this turquoise and crystal chandelier. Custom designed, $585. Available at Silver Fox Salvage.

20  | Life@Home

Side Table Need a place for your phone, your magazine and your drink? How about this restored, two-tier, solid wood table? $35. Available at Artique.

Kitchen Island Play like Julia Child with this French country-style handmade custom kitchen island, made from repurposed wood from a torn-down building in Rotterdam Industrial Park. $2,400. Available at Silver Fox Salvage.

Child’s Desk Go really, really old-school with this wooden child’s desk from 1890. $145. Available at Silver Fox Salvage.

Restored Lamp Pretty up your bedroom with this decorative lamp, restored and embellished with a gem-studded flower. $50. Available at Artique.

Featured shops Silver Fox Salvage 20 Learned St., Albany (518) 256-3955

Artique 1536 Crescent Rd., Clifton Park (518) 724-0750 All pieces shown are repurposed furniture created by Dísigned of Halfmoon, (518) 256-3955 continued on 22  |  21

 Window Shopping continued from 21

Our Bloggers Shop



To stay in our bloggers’ design loop 24/7, go to

Are you a design and décor junkie? We’ve got your fix at And check out this month’s picks from our local and national bloggers. There’s more where these came from!

House Things Home Décor@518 By Valerie DeLaCruz

If you want to update your kitchen, nothing says sleek and contemporary like a stainless steel range hood. Available at Earl B. Feiden, this 36" wide canopy hood from Whirlpool features a curved glass shield and halogen bulbs for crispy bright accent 22  | Life@Home

By Brianna Snyder

light. With a 400 CFM centrifugal blower, it has three fan-speed settings. It’s made to mount over a kitchen island, and can also be used over conventional stoves. When remodeling and replacing a microwave/vent hood combo, check to see if you have enough space between cabinets

to accommodate the overall width of the hood. There’s a 30" wide model for standard stove sizes. Earl B. Feiden has locations in Latham (785 Route 9) and Clifton Park (1771 Route 9). You can reach them at (518) 785-8555, or visit online at

This inverted tulip Murano glass pendant light is vintage 1960s and originated in Italy. If you look closely, you’ll see tiny air bubbles injected into the glass, making a petal-like design. It’s been newly rewired for use and measures 8 inches wide by 24 inches high. $649,

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Let There Be

Light 24  | Life@Home

This Stockade home is bright, colorful and fun

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By Brianna Snyder  |  Photos by Manolo Munoz


ew things are more exquisite than the rich, bold colors and textures that draw — maybe seduce is the better word — you into the beautiful Stockade home of Rob Gavel and Dave Lowry. “We spent 10 minutes in the house before we bought it,” Gavel says. This was in 2005. “What really sold it to us was the windows — and the price, too.” The couple got a good deal on the house in a neighbor-

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hood of homes that rarely go on sale, thanks to a private sale brokered by a colleague. The windows speak for themselves. Ceiling-high, plentiful and sun-loving, the many windows help make light its own distinct feature in this 1905 brownstone. Gavel and Lowry enhance this natural light with custom overhead lighting — called “full spectrum” — that’s designed to simulate the look and feel of sunlight. “It replicates sunlight perfectly,” Gavel says. “It really does make a difference.” The home, though more than 100 years old, is relatively new in this neighborhood. (The house next door is about 300 years old.) Gavel, a chef, ran a popular restaurant nearby so the location was perfect. “I had the world’s shortest commute,” he says. (The restaurant is no longer there, but Gavel still chefs at Athos Restaurant in Guilderland.) The two say they wanted their home to invoke the feeling of a Hamptons beach house. Pieces of coral line the mantel 26  | Life@Home

Gavel and Lowry love to travel; their mantel displays souvenirs from the places they’ve been. Below, a collection of colorful vases is alluring enough that strangers knock on the couple’s door to compliment them. in the front living room; colorful vases of every height and shape are displayed in the window; books on every subject — from The Simpsons and beer to hockey, Matisse and Picasso, Gavel says — are stacked high on the coffee table. Unlike some homes, however, these books are not just for effect. The men have read them all. The books “reflect who we are,” Gavel says. “It’s not a décor thing.” The effect is decorative nonetheless, in a casually sophisticated way. Sophisticated is a good term for Lowry and Gavel’s approach to decorating: intelligent, interesting pieces of art hang on the walls and color schemes reveal naturally good taste and sensibility. It doesn’t hurt that Gavel is an artist as  |  27

well as a chef and that Lowry is a historian; they’re both interested in this house’s historical architecture and its status as a kind of artifact. “We wanted to have a modern home but still maintain the history and integrity of the house,” Lowry says. It took a lot of work to get to this point. For one, the walls had never ever been painted, only wallpapered. “David got up and started pulling wallpaper off the wall,” Gavel says, “and that really started five years of renovations.” Much of the furniture in the home has been restored and refurbished or found at places such as Vintage Chic in Schenectady. Much of the art came from places such

This dining room, referred to lovingly as “the Greek room,” was painted “a hot color” — a reddish hue — to “stimulate hunger,” Gavel says.   28  | Life@Home

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Above, one of Rob Gavel’s original artworks. Below, Gavel (left) and Lowry (right) with Ernie, whom they’ve had for years; Ernie is often famously posed for pictures in various spots around the region — he even has his own Facebook page.

as the Stockade Show and Vintage Art Antiques in Schenectady — all interspersed with Gavel’s original art. The kitchen was redone, the house was wired for cable, lighting was installed, among various restorations. “That kitchen was nonexistent,” says Gavel. Lowry called it the “London Blitzkrieg kitchen.” “You were hoping a bomb would hit the house,” Gavel says, laughing. Though the rooms of the house are painted boldly, the master bedroom is a quiet



30  | Life@Home

space, a calming place. It is completely white. “It’s soft white, not pure white,” Gavel clarifies. “It works. It’s restful. It’s an oasis away from the color” in the rest of the house. One of the home’s striking rooms is the third-floor office space, which is almost all windows and light. Lowry and Gavel installed a French door leading out to the roof, where they hope to build a deck in the near future. “That would really be the cherry on the cake,” Gavel says, “to put on a roof deck.” 

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Big Ways to make small rooms look larger


o one ever says, “Oh, this room is so nice and small” when checking out your house. Because, well, most of us favor open floor plans, lots of light and space — endless space. The reality, though, is often a far stretch from our desires. Most of us have a small room in our house. Or, perhaps, all the rooms are a little tight. The good news is that the eye is easy to fool, and with just a few alterations — and even additions — you can make a closet-size space look spacious. First of all, don’t be afraid of color, says Ashley Spath Labib, a freelance interior designer and design specialist at Bassett furniture in Albany. “Just try and use one color and layer it in a monochromatic color

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scheme,” she says. While light hues are best (dark walls absorb light), she advises staying away from white. “Do not leave your walls white,

Light can completely change a space. Using layers of light can help a space look larger.” — Megan Hogan

unless you plan to layer whites throughout the room,” says Labib. “Nothing says boring and small than a white room with dark colored furniture.”

If moving away from white makes you uncomfortable, consider a few of these tricks. Layer white walls with an off-white sofa, winter white window treatments and a glass coffee table. Also, be sure to layer textures when you’re using white, experts advise. Experts also advocate for mirrors — even putting two opposite one another — and lighting to make a small room look instantly bigger. The lighter and brighter a room, they say, the larger it will feel. “Light can completely change a space. When working with a smaller space, using layers of light can help a space look larger,” says Megan Hogan, interior designer with Phinney Design Group in Saratoga Springs. “Ceiling fixtures, wall sconces and table lamps can achieve this.”

continued on 34

Photo: GettyImages/Ann Marie Kurtz.

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MJ Bortugno, owner of B Designs in Latham, favors floor lamps. They add light and height without contributing to that evil, seven-letter word: clutter. Designers also favor reflective pieces — and we’re not talking the aforementioned mirrors, but rather glass tables or accessories and vases, bowls or other accents made of mercury glass. And don’t forget the window treatments. They can really help open the space. Raise curtain rods so they’re near the ceiling (making the ceilings look taller) and stick with draperies a shade or two lighter or darker than the walls. Also, avoid horizontal window treatments — such as a valance or cornice — because they shorten the room’s perceived height. All the designers advocate using texture (more so than excessive patterns) and list window treatments as one of the many places to work in texture and various fabrics. “Texture adds value to the eye,” says Bortugno. “Silk, velvet, suede, all in ivory, are a lovely way to incorporate texture.” 

DO • Use fabrics that are lightweight. Furniture companies are making linen lookalikes in 100 percent polyester to be more durable for families. This would be a great way to go for your upholstered pieces. • Light expands any space, so find ways to incorporate more light into your home. Lighting is one of the most important elements of interior design. • Mix in glass when you can. You can warm up glass with rich accessories. 34  | Life@Home

The do’s and don’ts of making a small room look larger DO Invest in larger windows, if you can spring for the cost. They’ll be an investment for which you will certainly get the return.

Use reflective accents and décor. Reflecting the space can make the most significant difference when working to create the look of a larger space.

Choose furniture pieces that have exposed legs. They lift the furniture off the floor. NO skirts. Accent chairs that have open wooden arms will feel lighter than a fully upholstered chair.

• Invest in important architectural details. Molding adds detail and will elongate the natural lines of the room. Recessed lighting also helps. Use furniture for as many purposes as possible. An ottoman doubles as a filing cabinet or toy chest. The dining room sideboard doubles as craft storage for the kids. Under the sofa you can have a slim bin that stores extra blankets for chilly nights. • Clean-up, organize and de-clutter. A lot of stuff makes a room appear smaller. Your floor is valuable real estate in a small room. Get as much as you can off the floor.

DON’T • Leave your walls white. Unless you plan to layer whites throughout the room. Nothing says boring and small than a white room with dark-colored furniture. • Use horizontal window treatments (cornice or valance). They will make your room look short. • Put too many small items in the room. Sometimes a few big pieces (carefully chosen) are better than a lot of small pieces. Lots of small furniture pieces touching the floor = clutter, which = small space

• Add too much to a space. Don’t over accessorize, overfurnish or use oversized furniture. This can make a space appear cluttered, small and uncomfortable. • Use dark and bold colors. This has a tendency to make it feel as though the space is closing in. Source: Megan Hogan, interior designer with Phinney Design Group in Saratoga Springs; Ashley Spath Labib, a freelance interior designer and design specialist at Bassett furniture in Albany.

Dining room photo: GettyImages/Jo-Ann Richards.

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Size Matters Tips to make any room look larger Living room


• If your room is rectangular, try doing two small-scale sofas (70-82”) across from each other. Do this instead of a perpendicular sofa/loveseat. It will make the room look nice and long instead of walking. • This would work well with a fireplace at the end of the room. Use rhythm and repetition above the sofas by using four small mirrors above each sofa Then do a glass coffee table in the middle to keep it open. • Moving your furniture away from the wall helps open up the space.

• Invest in built-ins. The back wall is where you want to put the bookshelves. • Do all open bookshelves on top with the wall behind it exposed (so you can have it painted the same color as the rest of the room). The bottom of the built-in should be storage, and filing cabinets. If you can, also put a built-in desk in the corner or float a small-scale, simple leg desk in front of bookshelves.

Dining Room • Don’t use a rug that is too small for your table — it will make your room look incredibly small. All of your chairs should be able to be pulled out and still be on the rug.

Housee plans photo: GettyImages/Design Pics / LJM Photo.

Bedroom • If you’re purchasing a new bedroom set, don’t buy a matching one. It will feel heavy. Choose a fabric headboard vs. a wooden headboard. A poster bed would be softer than a panel or sleigh bed. • Use mirrored accent pieces as the nightstands to reflect light. It will look eclectic and also help open up the space. • Use a simple, light color pallet in a neutral scheme. • Put a huge leaning mirror on a focal wall — useful for getting dressed and making your space look bigger.

Bathroom • Try painting vertical stripes. The stripes shouldn’t be larger than 10-12” wide. Look online for how-to videos. (It’s easier than you think!) Use the same color for the stripes but paint one in a flat paint and the other in a gloss. It’s a soft yet gorgeous tone-ontone look. It surely will be a little jewel in your home and the stripes will make the room appear taller and larger. This technique also doesn’t show mistakes as much as two different color paints. • Floor-to-ceiling tiles are another option. Reflective fixtures, such as polished nickel, will also open a space. • Opt for a glass shower door, when possible, as a shower curtain adds an extra “wall,” shrinking the space. Sources: MJ Bortugno, owner of B Designs in Latham; Megan Hogan, interior designer with Phinney Design Group in Saratoga Springs; Ashley Spath Labib, a freelance interior designer and design specialist at Bassett furniture in Albany.




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You Can Hack It H By Brianna Snyder  |  Illustrations by Emily Jahn

Tips and tricks for making life around the house a little easier

acking is a term we usually associate with computers and programming. It’s a way of getting what you want from a program or operating system — whether it’s running Flash on an iPad or getting around security walls and barriers. Hacking is a shortcut to getting what you want.

Lifehacks, or repurposing various household items to fix problems of organization or inelegance, is another shortcut to get what you want. Call it DIY engineering for the home. Check out our own Lifehacks Pinterest board on, or visit for ideas galore. In the meantime, here are a few of our favorites to get your creative juices flowing.


Also from DumpADay: Cut the legs off an old dresser and add a long cushion to the top. Use as a window seat or other lounger.


Once a year, hang all your clothes in the closet backward, so the open side of the hanger is facing you. As you take items out to wear, put them back on the bar the right way. At the end of the year, whatever’s still facing backward is probably disposable — so do it! And keep your closet maintained, too. (Courtesy

1 offers this great idea: Use a garden trellis or arch as a bed canopy. Wood slabs balanced between the ironwork make for handy bookshelves and night table. Upcycling!

36  | Life@Home


Bucket too big, sink too short to comfortably fill the container? offers this solution: Set a dustpan under the faucet, letting the dustpan’s handle funnel the water over the edge of the sink and into the bucket. You’ll fill it up in no time, plus, hey, clean dustpan.



For more of our and Betsy Mattice’s favorite lifehacks go to, and check out our Pinterest board at



You know that horrid sucking pullback you get when you try to take the garbage bag out of the can? suggests drilling a hole in either side of the bottom of the garbage barrel to let air in and stop the suctioning. No sweat!


Betsy Mattice, of Elizabeth Rae Interiors in Bethlehem, says her mother is “the original lifehacker.” She offers this tip: “Free up your fridge door space by using lazy susans in the fridge to easily see and get at all those condiments.”

Let us help you hear for the holidays Have you (or a loved one) noticed any of the CLASSIC symptoms of a hearing problem? • AVOIDING SOCIAL SITUATIONS DUE TO HEARING PROBLEMS IN NOISY OR CROWDED AREAS • HEARING BUT DON’T UNDERSTAND CLEARLY • THINKING PEOPLE MUMBLE • ASKING OTHERS TO REPEAT Whether it has been considered a “nuisance” problem, or one so severe it has interfered with daily communication and simple conversations with friends and family … hearing problems affect everyone. Take this opportunity to find out if help is available. Using state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment, you can now see (and HEAR) the difference for yourself!

There’s no reason to “suffer in silence” this holiday season. NOTHING compares to the lifestyle change from hearing clearly again! * This is not a medical test and only for the purpose of amplification.



Flip a shelf over and install it on the wall upside-down. This way, you can keep laundry baskets mounted over the washer and dryer, instead of crowded on the floor. Also, assign each family member

his or her own basket, so that everyone’s responsible for fetching, folding and cleaning their own clothes. (Thanks to and holdontoyourhatsblog. 

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Filling the

Space ■

A fireplace doesn’t need to function to be fabulous


nonfunctioning fireplace can be an eyesore or an eye-pleaser. It all depends on what you do with that hollowed space. And guess what? You can do plenty. “A fireplace has the ability of creating a warm, cozy room if it is utilized to do so and not treated like an unwanted stepchild,” says John Murray of Creations by JD, based in the Capital Region. “Today, there are a lot of things that can bring that fireplace to life.” For instance, Murray says, “They sell logs that create a realistic-looking flame and even bring it to life with a crackling sound of a real burning one. There are insets that use 38  | Life@Home

By Brianna Snyder

ethanol or gels that burn which are smokeless and vent free.” (See our sidebar on the benefits of a faux fireplace.) The options for this hole in the wall go far beyond faux fires, however. Played the right way, a non-functioning fireplace can be a focal point that changes the entire tenor of a room. “If you have a non-working fireplace, the first thing I would do is paint the interior black, navy, gray or any color that would match the scheme of your room,” says Joanne H. Chmura, of A Perfect Placement in Mechanicville. “This acts as a foundation for numerous ways to decorate.” Both Murray and Chmura recommend

stacked wood for decor in that spot, even if it’ll never be lit. “Stack some white birch logs and illuminate them with a light beneath the logs,” suggests Murray. Or: “Stack uniform pieces of wood that are the depth of the fireplace and fill the whole interior,” says Chmura. That can be “very sculptural,” she says. Jennifer Gargano, of Jennifer Gargano Interiors in Saratoga, says wood can be visually interesting stacked “either as if there could be a fire in there or sideways so you can see the actual cut.” That can give “an interesting texture without looking out of place,” she says. She adds that a piece of art or sculpture could work here

To Faux, or Not to Faux “A faux fireplace is just as welcoming [as a real fireplace], as long is it doesn’t look cheap,” says Joanne H. Chmura of A Perfect Placement in Mechanicville. “An electric fireplace can cozy up a room instantly.” Not only do faux fireplaces comes in a variety of styles and sizes, but they also can function efficiently as a heater for a drafty room. They can be mounted on walls, built into a floor, plugged in, freestanding, weird contemporary, or dramaticmantel classical. They emit warmth, can look grand, and save you the hassle of buying wood, cleaning up ashes and worrying about burning the house down. “A fireplace, be it faux or nonworking, is an attractive addition to any room,” Chmura says. “It is an architectural focal point and there are many ways to dress these beauties.”    Photos by Helynn Ospina Design by Betz Design Studio

Photo courtesy  

too, as well as a nice firescreen. Murray has another idea for art in the fireplace: “Have a spotlight mounted within the fireplace which shines down on a fabulous piece of art that sets within the firebox.” “I think even if it doesn’t function as a fireplace, it still can function as a focal point,” Gargano says. “So add accessories to the mantel to draw your eye up and create an inviting asset to the room.” The designers we spoke to all recommended pillar candles in this empty fireplace space, too. “Put a number of large-size pillar candles at different heights or use a number of difmore ferent candle holders with pillars ONLINE

atop them,” Murray says. Gargano says you can do pillar candlescapes “with or without a decorative candle holder.” She also likes LED candles because they have timers and “there is no worry about pets and/or children getting hurt.” Or consider a mirror: “Cover the firebox with a mirror to enlarge your room and to hide an empty, cold-looking firebox.” But with all these suggestions, it doesn’t seem like that empty fireplace has any reason to stay cold.  From books to bouquets, empty fireplaces can turn a room from bland to beautiful. Check out our Pinterest board of some of our favorite fireplaces:  |  39

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 Designed Defined

Let’s Get Wallpaper! By Lucianna Samu  |  Photo by Mark Samu


hanks to the Internet, it’s easy to figure out when a trend is taking hold. Bloggers with posts entitled: “On a roll,” “Wallpaper is back,” and “Pattern-pattern on the wall” were the first to signal that I was not alone in my yearning to wallpaper something. But the arrival of my favorite home furnishings magazine, featuring a cover shot of a model standing in front of a pink striped wallpaper with arms overflowing with wallpaper, sent me straight for the measuring tape. That the model was also dressed in a skirt and leggings fashioned from wallpaper was further proof that whimsical design elements elevate serious design strategies with ease. Wallpaper is still a tough sell to anyone who has had to remove old, improperly hung or just plain stubborn wallpaper. Those of us who actually own a paper gator, or have endured days up to our elbows in hot water wielding this promising little tool, can’t help but reflect on the drudgery of it all. It’s most definitely true that modern wallpaper, when properly applied, can be removed without a steamer, or some crazy chemical concoction to soften stubborn paste without yanking down half the sheetrock. But, if this fact is not enough to quell fresh memories of hot water steamers, this blade, that blade, and the peeling more peeling and praying, the prints and colors and textures of the wallpaper that’s seemingly everywhere now just may win your heart. It’s unfortunate, really, that wallpaper can strike fear in the hearts and minds of so many. Prestigious wallpaper manufacturers,

42  | Life@Home

such as Zuber, or Gracie, a French wallpaper company founded in the late 1700s and a favorite go-to source of Jackie Kennedy, and American wallpaper company making some of the finest wallpapers in the entire world, would surely take exception to such thinking. Putting aside the getting-it-removed thing of days past, there’s really little to deter the pattern and color lover in all of us anymore. Although, I wouldn’t personally recommend you go running off to Zuber &

Cie or Gracie Studios for your first try. Best to start simply, and there’s no shortage of places to shop for wallpaper. Similar to buying fabrics, the cost of wallpaper will vary in kind to the intricacy of the pattern, popularity of the manufacturer, and overall quality. The product lines you can choose from — be it a heavy vinyl, texture, metallic or paintable wallpaper — will each have some pros and cons; let your project be your guide, and take the time to do your

homework. Some wallpapers come prepasted, while others will need to be pasted as you go. Either option is best applied to a wall surface that’s expertly prepared for wallpaper. You should apply two coats of high-quality primer to walls before wallpapering them to ensure the wall surface will remain sound if the paper is removed. Do-ityourselfers of old didn’t have the benefit of a modern product known as wall size. Applying wall sizing is a definitive step, which will ensure the paper can be removed in the future effortlessly, so don’t skip over this all-important part if you’re hanging your own wallpaper.

order. Sometimes wallpapers are produced in lots, and the color may vary slightly from lot to lot, so accounting for the waste of a drop match or complex pattern should be part of the planning phase for your given space. Owing to modern printing methods, classic designs such as stripes, lattice and understated geometrics are all available now in color combinations that are more vibrant than those drab old-style wallpapers. Borders are somewhat dated right now, so if you want to start small, try a more visually stimulating paper in easy places: the back of a bookcase, stair treads, or a single feature wall, for instance.

Wallpaper is the single best means to add a playful or charming feeling to a house.” Picking a design and color is the exciting part. Wallpaper is the single best means to add a playful or charming feeling to a house, and to that end, nothing can compete with wallpapers made specifically for kids. Imaginative renditions of playful animals, surreal prints, and highly stylized and colorful combinations are the signatures of cheery kid-inspired designs, many of which can make an adult space, such as the laundry or powder room, take on a whole new personality in short order. Animal prints, too, are a classic theme in wallpaper designs, which feel timeless and sophisticated in any design style. For patterns big and small, be sure you figure the match and repeat of the design into your calculations before you

I recently stumbled upon a create-your-own wallpaper source, an idea that is sure to grow into a personal obsession. Manufacturers capable of duplicating fabric designs, your personal art achievements, or personal photography are now ready to turn any imagery into a perfectly matched set of wallpaper rolls, 50 square feet at a time. I’m considering digging out my now grown children’s artwork, and having it made into wallpaper. Maybe I’ll liberate the vintage family photographs left to languish in the attic too, and transform my family room into a true family affair featuring a new-age family tree. I’ve set out to measure every room in the house, so it’s just a matter of time before something, or possibly everything, gets wallpapered. 

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 Problem Solved

Facelift This kitchen gets new cabinets, quick and easy BEFORE

By Brianna Snyder  |  Photos courtesy American Kitchen and Bath Renewal



This home’s original cabinets were around 15 years old. “The cabinets were still mostly functional, maybe a loose handle, a couple hinges that didn’t work quite right. [It was] just kinda tired,” says Tim Chapman of American Kitchen and Bath Renewal in Glens Falls. “The traditional white kitchen was just too dated.”

Chapman and the homeowner liked the idea of “a beautiful maple kitchen with a honey finish.” That would give the kitchen a “new, rich, feel,” Chapman says. The homeowners were wary of a complete kitchen renovation, which can take weeks, is messy and, of course, expensive. The lower-cost solution? Reface the cabinets. “Since the cabinet boxes were in fine shape, we would replace the doors and the

44  | Life@Home


drawer fronts, replace the hardware and drawer boxes, and apply new wood veneer to the outside and faces of the cabinets,” Chapman says. The brand-new look was installed in four days. Along with new drawers and doors, Chapman adds, they installed new pulls and knobs. “And we added some large pull-out sliding drawers for large pots and pans.” 

Top Tip Don’t want to spend a bunch of money, but want a whole new look for your kitchen? “Refacing recoups up to 85 percent of costs versus a 45 percent to 50 percent return on many total renovations,” Chapman says. “Refacing can be accomplished with a beer budget or a champagne budget.” Refacing can be done in plastic laminate or real woods such as oak, maple or cherry.

 DIY Diva

Mini-Makeovers T

Quick come-ups for holiday sprucing

Story and photos by Megan Willis

he promise of both cabin fever and visitors gets me making things over like Martha Stewart’s stepchild elf. With holidays (compounded by my kids’ birthdays) making this a nonstop, three-month spendathon, I’m always looking for cheap transformations I can do in a day. Or an hour. Make that a half hour. Here are three such mini-makeovers.

  FLAT SHEETS AS BED SKIRTS Bed skirts are another one of those things that are priced with a crazy stick. Then one day I was admiring my sister Robin’s bed linens when she replied, “Flat sheets. Clearance bin. Ten bucks.” Say what? Yes indeed. Mine were derived from that forgotten pile of old sheets in the linen closet so they cost me nothing. My favorite price of all.

TABLECLOTHS AS CURTAINS   Do people buy curtains? I am not a fan of the curtain so I am even less a fan of buying them. But with a picture window in my living room the size of a drivein movie screen, draperies are a must.

Many times I’ve used sheets for curtains but that wasn’t going to work for me this time. Solution? Two tablecloths on sale at Kohl’s. Add curtain ring clips and those windows are dressed. I’ve also used painted wood dowels for curtain rods. You can buy finials (or not) to finish the ends.

  GLASS DOORKNOBS Knobs. You grab them a thousand times a year. My mid-century crib came with those hollow, fake brass knobs that always make me sad. If I was mechanical I might go to a salvage store and piece some vintage ones together but I’m not, so I can’t. Instead I laid down some scratch for a few beautiful, solid, glimmer glass knobs. I love them every time I turn them and am gradually converting every knob in the house.  Megan Willis has a life-long passion for turning trash into treasure. Her blog, The Davenport Chronicles, can be found at

46  | Life@Home


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Get the Facts on Eating Disorders Eating disorders are disruptive, complex and potentially life-threatening conditions that impact millions of women, men, and children. Yet, despite the prevalence of eating disorders like bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating, only one in 10 people seek and receive treatment. Unfortunately, this can have serious medical consequences. But help is available. Join Albany Med experts, Dr. Sharon Alger-Mayer and Tammy Colley-Ogden for an informative seminar as they discuss the different types of eating disorders, their symptoms and the newer treatments and support available to people suffering with eating disorders today.


COME TO THE FREE SEMINAR TUESDAY, NOV. 12, 2013 | 5–7 PM THE DESMOND, 660 Albany Shaker Rd., Albany

6–7 PM EXPERT SPEAKERS: Sharon Alger-Mayer, MD Associate Professor of Medicine and Medical Director of the Northeast Comprehensive Care Center for Eating Disorders ALBANY MEDICAL CENTER

Tammy Colley-Ogden, Sr. CTRS Senior Recreation Therapist Maudsley Coach Department of Psychiatry, Eating Disorder Team ALBANY MEDICAL CENTER

5-6 PM Networking/Informational Session: Get up-to-date health information by visiting a variety of Albany Medical Center’s informational booths. Light refreshments served.



Must be present to win (value $700)

Get a preview ew of the seminar nar on NewsChannel el 13 with Benita Zahn hn 5 PM on Nov. 8

Seating is limited. Register at Questions, call 518-454-5583

10 Ways to …

Make Extra Cash Fast

By Melissa Fiorenza


hether you’re saving up for a special purchase — a new car, a mini vacation —dealing with unforeseen expenses or just trying to get ahead of bills, sometimes


Peddle your gadgets.

Got an iPhone, Mac or other electronic you no longer need or want? Answer a few quick questions at to see how much the buy-back site will pay you for it. At press time, we inquired about an iPhone 4S 16GB (AT&T) in good condition. The offer: $190. Not bad! Once you ship it (for free), you can choose from a check, Amazon gift card or PayPal.


Break out your old baubles.

Tutor students.

If you happen to be a math whiz, excellent writer or master of some other school subject, contact local schools to see if you can help tutor struggling students after class. If sharpening resumes is your expertise, check in with their career or counseling department, too.

Photos: Getty Images/Andrew Dernie.


Beckham says are always in demand.


Offer to babysit.

Let your friends know that if they ever need a sitter for their kids – or if they know of others with little ones – that you’re available for babysitting jobs, as long as it works with your schedule. Kids not your thing? Petsitting can just be as lucrative.


Sell your gently used clothes ...

“Sell your old jewelry pieces, especially if you have only one of a pair of earrings or even your old high school or college ring that you don’t wear anymore,” suggested Donna from Loudonville on Facebook.


it’d be nice to supplement your usual income with a little more cash, right? Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to make quick money right away that aren’t too time-consuming. With help from local experts, here’s our list.

Hawk your hardcovers.

On Facebook, Jeanne from Albany suggested this novel idea: “Sell books at a used bookstore.” If you just can’t part with your beloved reads, consider textbooks instead. “Current textbooks are the way to make money here,” says James Beckham, assistant manager of Mary Jane Books on Western Ave. If you’ve got newly published textbooks that your kids no longer need, bring ‘em in to make cash — especially if they’re for science courses, which

… at a consignment or resale store, like Plato’s Closet on Central Avenue. “We look for current styles for guys and girls; clothes that middle-schoolers or college kids are wearing right now,” says Kristen Frank, manager at Plato’s Closet. Like their sister store next door, Clothes Mentor – which is strictly women’s and more business casual (think designer handbags and dress pants) – they pay cash right on the spot after assessing your clothes.


Get paid for being crafty.

Love to knit beautiful scarves, make unique earrings, design cute bookmarks or print fun pillow patterns? Whatever your DIY obsession, start a boutique on It costs only 20 cents to list an item for four months or until it sells (no membership fees) and you set the price.


Cash in credit card reward points…

Log in to your online accounts of any credit cards you possess that rack up reward points on purchases. If you haven’t redeemed recently, you may have enough to swap them in for cash or credit applied to your next bill. (Just don’t be

swayed by other options in the reward catalog, like coffee makers and gift cards.)


…or sign up for a cash-back card.

Frederick Gomez, consumer market manager for Bank of America in Albany, suggests getting a cash-back credit card so you can earn cash back on purchases you make. “For example, the BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card offers cash back on everyday purchases including one percent cash back on every purchase, two percent on grocery store purchases and three percent on gas all year round,” he says.


Host a yard sale

When all else fails, you could always search your house and garage for items you no longer use, or never even opened, and hold a good old yard sale on your driveway. Just be sure to advertise it in advance using Facebook, flyers, Twitter or word-of-mouth. 

The holidays are around the corner… If you’re able to spare a good amount of time for a temporary part-time job, look for ‘help wanted’ signs at Christmas stores, tree lots and the like. Or check for seasonal ads on Craigslist.

Want to join in the 10 Ways fun? Stay tuned to our Facebook page for upcoming questions:  |  49

 Dollars & Sense

Sensational Gifts Delight the senses and tickle the sensibilities

drumsticks ($10 or less)

Don’t shop until you drop this holiday season. Start early and shop smart with these nifty, thrifty gift ideas from local merchants.

players always appreciate picks, which cost less than a buck apiece. Sheet music for one song costs about $5, says bass teacher Zac Myatt, a sales associate with Hilton Music Center in Colonie Center. Also under $5 are shaker eggs, polishing cloths and string winders, Myatt says.

clear marbles. You set the bulb in a small mason jar. Half the fun is watching the roots grow. They’ll fill all the area in among the marbles. It adds a lot of interest. They grow so fast, you can start some and start some more in a couple of weeks so there are always some coming along.”

for the chef: For $9.99, you can score a

Gifts for $10 or less: for scent lovers: Evergreens are one way

seed packs ($5 or less)

Gifts for $5 or Less: for cooks: Here’s a keen idea — a gift

to scent your interior. Paperwhites are another. With their distinctive aroma, paperwhite narcissus make great gifts, even for those without green thumbs. These tropical bulbs are easily tricked into blooming in wintertime, says Bowden. Just add water. “It’s good for your spirit having growing things around you in the winter,” says Bowden. “People get seasonal affective disorder. We need things that remind us that it doesn’t last forever.” “A little bag of five paperwhite bulbs would go about $4,” Bowden says. “I like to grow those in glass containers with

certificate to have a knife sharpened at the store. Proceeds benefit the Berkshire Humane Society, says Michele Weiser, manager of Different Drummer’s Kitchen in Stuyvesant Plaza.

for music lovers: Stringed instrument

select a clear Primula teapot from The Kitchen Collection, says Heidi Cornwell, director of marketing and business development at Lee Premium Outlets in Massachusetts. It comes with a floral pod that blossoms when immersed in hot water.

for music lovers: For less than $10, you can obtain tuning forks, drumsticks and packs of guitar strings and woodwind reeds, says Myatt. “It may seem cliché, but music is a gift that can keep on giving,” he says. “A lot of gear that I use when I play out was actually gifts that were given to me. A musical gift can be an investment.

for tea drinkers: Charles Viancin makes a lily pad tea infuser set for $14.95, Weiser says.

for bird enthusiasts: Hummingbird feeders run from $10 to $20, says Bowden. They’re filled with sugar water (one part sugar dissolved in four parts hot water) and hung outdoors in late March, he says.

lily pad tea infuser ($15 or less)

50  | Life@Home

for tea drinkers: For under $10, you could

Gifts for $15 or less:

for gardeners: “One of the most popular things people like to do is give fresh seed packs for the 2014 season,” says Peter Bowden, spokesman for Hewitt’s Garden Centers. “You could give a little assortment of flowers or what the person likes to grow.”

bottle of 12-year-old artisan balsamic vinegar, says Weiser. Refills are $7.99.

for fashion fans: Delight the eyes; acces-

Photos: Seed packets, John Block/GettyImages; Drumsticks, C Squared Studios/GettyImages; Tea Infuser, courtesy Chef Tools; Star Wars Book, courtesy Amazon; Aerator, courtesy Soiree; Birdhouse, Peter Chadwick/GettyImages; Cookies, Peter Hagiwara/GettyImages.

By Laurie Lynn Fischer

Soirée Wine Aerator ($20 or less)

sorize with scarves and jewelry from Jones NY, Ann Taylor, Chico’s or J.Crew at the Lee Premium Outlets, Cornwell says.

for music lovers: Guitar hangers cost just under $15, Myatt says.

for trivia fans: The Book House in Stuyvesant Plaza carries map items including a New York State topographical map Tshirt for $12.99 and a giant map of the U.S. or the world that serves as a mouse pad or desk pad for $14.99.

$16, says Bowden. Buy two if you don’t want tree swallows and bluebirds competing for space, he suggests. “Bluebirds like the hole facing southeast,” he explains. “The tree swallows don’t care. Mount one facing each way, so the tree swallows take up residence in one and the bluebirds in another.”

for the practical: It’s so dark at this time of year. Gift the gift of light with a battery-operated lantern from Eddie Bauer, says Cornwell.

for oenophiles: Priced at $19.99, the Soirée Wine Aerator enhances the flavors of red or white wine. “Handmade from strengthened blown glass, it heightens aroma and taste instantly,” Weiser says. “It’s fun to use, easy to clean and hard to forget.”

for music lovers: For less than Vader’s Little Princess book ($15 or less) Star Wars fans should appreciate Jeff Brown’s hardcover spoofs about Daddy Darth, says store manager Susan Taylor. Darth Vader and Son and Vader’s Little Princess are priced at $14.95 each. The Page-a-Day calendar also costs $14.95. Topics include: bacon, beer, cats, dogs, foreign countries and foreign languages. Do you know a film buff? For $10.99, Leonard Maltin’s 2014 Movie Guide is a handy go-to resource, Taylor says.

Gifts for $20 or less:

$20, you can procure a music stand, tambourine, guitar strap, instrument care kit or electronic tuner for

stringed instruments, says Myatt.

for wordsmiths: For the reader in your life, the Book House carries $20 Eco Bags adorned with titles, bibliophile slogans and literary icons such as Sherlock Holmes, Moby Dick and Mr. Darcy, says Taylor. Fridge Phrases, which are “like magnetic poetry, but snarkier,” are available for $15.95, she says. There’s a Capital Region version, with phrases like “The Egg,” “Stuyvesant Plaza,” “Uncle Sam” and “Turkey Trot,” Taylor says. Assembly is also required for jigsaw puzzles, priced at $16.95 on average, Taylor says. Subjects range from historical paintings to maps. Bethlehem native Laurie Lynn Fischer is a regular Life@Home contributor who began her investment portfolio and launched her professional journalism career as a teenager.

Really low on cash? Here are a couple of freebies that might help ... for music lovers: Music flows as freely as eggnog at holiday time. Carolers give away music. It costs nothing to share favorite YouTube links to songs and music tutorials, says Myatt.

for the chef: Share your favorite holiday cookie recipe and bestow upon the baker a chore coupon for kitchen cleanup, suggests Weiser.

for bird enthusiasts: If you want to make someone happy, consider giving them the next best thing to the bluebird of happiness — a place for bluebirds to reside. (The Eastern Bluebird is the New York State bird!) A bluebird house costs about

bluebird birdhouse ($20 or less)  |  51

 Living Green

Not Sure Where to Go Green?

Shower Heads

(How about your bathroom?)

Skin Products

Shower Liners

Bathroom Cleaning


reening up your bathroom doesn’t mean painting it lime or forest green. It means taking a look at the products you have in this hightraffic room, from shower curtains to bathmats, and switching out those that have been found harmful to your family and the environment. Here are some suggestions to get started.

SHOWER LINERS Alternate products such as hemp shower curtains eliminate the need for plastic liners made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), the third-most widely produced plastic, containing many harmful chemicals including volatile organic compounds (VOCs). PVC shower curtains are potentially toxic to the 52  | Life@Home

Bath Rugs

health of everyone within whiffing range (if you can smell it, you’re being exposed to it). Vinyl shower curtains and shower curtain liners release chemicals into the home that are most easily identified by that “new shower curtain smell” and are routinely sold at major retail outlets. A recent study found 108 different volatile organic compounds were released from shower curtains into the air over 28 days. Results of this study show that PVC shower curtains can release toxic chemicals into the air that may lead to adverse health effects including respiratory irritation, central nervous system, liver and kidney damage, nausea, headaches and loss of coordination. (SOURCE: Center for Health, Environment and Justice, has hemp shower curtains that are a natural alternative to harmful plastic shower curtains. The environmentally friendly, handcrafted hemp fabric shower curtain is made in the USA. The curtain stops water from spraying outside your shower without a plastic liner, keeping unnatural plastics out of our homes and landfills. The hemp shower curtain will get wet but won’t leak through. Another plus: It rapidly air-dries, which helps prevent mold growth associated with plastic liners. Hemp fabric is made from Romanian grown hemp that is grown without pesticides and chemical fertilizers. The hemp plants also use less water than cotton plants and give a greater fiber yield per acre. The hemp shower curtains are a good deal at

Photo: GettyImages/ Michael Edwards.

By Cari Scribner

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SHOWER HEADS Billed as a “revolutionary use of water,” the Axor Starck Organic bathroom shower jet has a new operating concept: separate regulation of temperature and water volume, as well as ergonomics that also provide an impressive spray without wasting water. Pre-adjusting the required temperature also requires less hot water and energy when mixing. Even during the product’s manufacturing stage, less material and energy are used due to the innovative hollow-body construction. Axor Starck Organic also contributes to the efficient use of resources: In the normal position, the mixer shower jet offers full function at a maximum 3.5 liters per minute, a fraction of traditional shower head water use. Want to learn more? Log onto

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 Down the Garden Path 

Gathering ’Round H

Holiday gifts for your favorite gardener

By Colleen Plimpton

eaven knows 2013 has been a challenging year in the garden. The critters were everywhere, the rains unrelenting and the weeds bodacious. I think we gardeners deserve a small something (or two or three) in recompense this holiday season, don’t you? Let’s take a peek at what gardening gifts we may not be able to live without.

Tom Mickey transports us to a time when we were seduced by the marketing efforts of 19th-century British seed and nursery catalogs. He explains why America’s love affair with the lawn is a grand example of how the British horticultural industry sold us on the must-have of a green sward. The “Featured Plant” selections tender a historical primer on such old-fashioned stalwarts as weigela, white pine and clematis. America’s Romance with the English Garden is a special book, one that will remain on your coffee table for all to learn from and admire.


Back to basics. How about special tools from Green Heron? This line of high-quality farm and garden implements out of New Tripoli, Pa., is designed especially for women. Take a look at their already assembled collection of essentials in hods, which include, pruners, weeders, gloves and more.


In the dreary months, a gorgeous book or two is always welcome. For instance, America’s Romance with the English Garden by Thomas J. Mickey (Ohio University Press, 2013). Ever wonder why gardeners seem to revere all things British? Though we have thankfully grown beyond blind emulation, the English style of gardening rightly deserves admiration. In this beautifully illustrated and thoroughly researched book

54  | Life@Home


Gardener’s Supply, in Burlington, Vt., offers an amazing array of garden gifts. I’ve ordered from them for years, and though my cupboards are full, I still drool at their catalogues. Linger over their dahlia wind spinners, pussy willow holiday lights, and the Noah’s Ark Advent calendar. Consider their tractor scoot with basket, bronze leaf birdbath, or bottle tree. They have practical items as well, such as boots, gloves, buckets and loppers.


How about helping the environment with a rain barrel? These come in a variety of sizes and shapes, set up easily and divert wasted water sheeting off the roof. It’s amazing how half an inch of rainfall can fill a good-sized barrel. This saved bounty then goes into the garden, either with a hose attachment or by filling a watering can.


Birdhouses and birdseed. Why, you may ask, are presents for the birds important for the gardener? Here are a few reasons: Not only do our feathered friends add color, sound, movement and interest to our yards, but they are also nature’s best foe of insect pests. If you provide suet and seed for birds such as woodpeckers and wrens in the depths of winter, they’ll stick around come the breezes of spring, to make their nests and raise young in your domain. And they’ll eat their weight in mosquitoes, aphids and beetles when they do. Look for practical birdhouses and an endless supply of seed at the better nurseries.

6 

Seed trays and lights. It’s difficult to believe with the days so short, but in a few months, it’ll be time to set up seed-starting equipment. Might as well be prepared. Check your supply of seedling trays, soilless mix and lights, and make a list. You might have to wait until after New Year’s to purchase, however.


Thinking of Others If your favorite gardener’s horticultural toy box is already full, consider donating in their honor to these worthy causes:

 Heifer Project, is an international organization that emphasizes sustainable agriculture and farming self-help. Donors choose agricultural gifts (and training) such as chickens, goats or bees to help families become self-sufficient. Recipients are expected to share the bounty when the cow calves and the bees swarm.

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Plant a Row for the  Hungry, sponsored by the Garden Writers of America It exists to encourage gardeners to plant an extra row of produce (or more!) each year and bestow the surplus on food banks, soup kitchens and local social service organizations. Gardeners of all skill levels and interests cherish something as a reminder that the snows will eventually cease and April will roll around again. Hope springs eternal through the endless cycle of Mother Nature.

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The best garden shoes I’ve ever worn are Muck boots ( They’re durable, attractive, waterproof and comfortable. They last for years and will happily traipse through mud, manure and yes, muck. Why ruin another pair of sneakers?


Hand soaps and lotions: Good old fashioned Lava soap —that square-packaged, red-papered pumiced soap — can’t be surpassed for getting out ingrained garden grime. Look for it at the grocery store. Bag Balm, which was invented to relieve, um, bovine udder discomfort, is matchless for repairing dried-out digits. However, if you want to get upscale and per-

snickety, try Crabtree & Evelyn Gardeners Hand Therapy cream, pricey but fabulous.


And don’t forget a Garden Journal. After the hubbub of the holidays, when the winter air is frigid and our armchairs deep and comfy, it’s time to lose ourselves in jottings of the garden to come in 2014. Which will be The Best Ever, of course. I like my journal with lots of doublelined pages, and a minimum of frippery. I also use it to keep track of my weight, remember favorite words, sorrow over how much money I’ve lost in the stock market, and so forth. Mostly my annual journals serve as a reminder of chores to be done, plants to try, and gardens to visit, as well as sowing times, weather vagaries, and my planting successes and failures. 

Visit garden communicator Colleen Plimpton’s website

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 Tech Tips

Appy Eating


t’s the most strenuous time of the year. Cooking vats of food for a bazillion people can mean hours of sweat in the kitchen, alarms going off, pots boiling over, smoke alarms raging, drunken family members getting louder as the football game builds to its climax. What kind of sadistic holiday is this, anyway? If your experience is something like the one I just described, you might be interested in a few apps we rounded up to help guide you through this crazy process with the least amount of stress. No, it’s not exactly the way the Pilgrims did it, but we’re not total masochists, right?

THANKSGIVING PLANNER 99 CENTS, GOOGLE PLAY This app has more than 160 pre-loaded Thanksgiving recipes and ingredients to help you remember everything you need. You can build and curate lists of what you’re cooking and planning, plus you can share those lists with other collaborators. You’ve got the stuffing, Aunt Sally’s got 58  | Life@Home

the green beans, Uncle Jim’s bringing the pumpkin pie. Can’t remember who volunteered to bring the waldorf salad? Check the app.

THANKSGIVING MENU MAKER FROM FINE COOKING; FREE, ITUNES Build your entire menu with Thanksgiving Menu Maker. Split into entrees, appetizers, side dishes and desserts, this easy-to-use app guides you through the overwhelming process of planning this big dinner. The app also comes with how-to videos, schedules to keep you on track with preparation, shopping lists extracted from your menus and something called “Thanksgiving 911,” a detailing of the 10 most common Thanksgiving disasters and how to deal with them.

BLACK FRIDAY APP FREE, GOOGLE PLAY AND ITUNES The aptly-named Black Friday App helps you navigate the crazy sales that start sometimes as early as 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving day. Use this program to guide you

By Brianna Snyder

through the sales at the stores closest to you, browse coupons and sales rumors (seriously), buy online at the retailer’s website (if that’s an option), and build shopping lists to help keep you organized in the chaos that is Black Friday.

KITCHENPAD TIMER $1.99, ITUNES KITCHEN TIMER FREE, ANDROID Toss your wind-up egg timer. These apps feature multiple timers with different alarms so you can keep track of your veggies, pasta, meats, pies — whatever you’ve got going — all at once.

NFL MOBILE FREE, GOOGLE PLAY AND ITUNES Football. Love it or hate it, it is a part of many Thanksgiving Day gatherings, so you might as well know what to expect. Use this app for schedules, breaking news, replays, interviews, and even fantasy football. Stay on top of the game and on top of dinner, and you will earn a spot in the Thanksgiving Day Hall of Fame, for sure. 

Illustration: © velasevic.

Thanksgiving can be chaotic, but these apps can help ease the pain

Family  Food  Wine

Life 59 – 80

Mmmm, feta and walnut scones. Photo by Paul Barrett. Read more on page 68.   |  59

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Help Me… By Jennifer Gish

Choose a Pet


Photo: TMachineHeadz/GettyImages.

ure a spouse is nice to cuddle up next to at night, and there’s nothing like sloppy toddler kisses, but sometimes you just want to plop on the couch next to a creature that will love you unconditionally and let you jabber on without trying to get a word in. That pet is a long-term commitment. In many cases, you’ll own it longer than you own your car (and maybe longer than you keep that spouse around). So before you begin fooling yourself with delusions of your children dutifully walking the family golden retriever each day, consider these pet-selecting tips from the experts: Do you have the time?: According to the most recent survey by the American Pet Products Association, most U.S. pet owners have dogs or cats (56.7 million and 45.3 million pet owners, respectively), but that doesn’t mean what’s popular is right for you. “If you have an animal that needs care every day, several times a day, you should think about what you’re doing,” says Brad Shear, executive director of the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society in Menands. “If you have an hour-long commute and you work for eight or nine hours, can this animal be alone for 10 or 11 hours? And if not, who is going to be responsible for taking care of that pet while you’re gone? If you have to pay someone, like a doggie daycare or dog walker, that’s an additional expense. Some [pets] are going to need more attention than others.” And they could be around for a while: Some large exotic birds can live 35 years or more, says Alicia Bohley, a sales associate at Healthy Pet Center, a pet store with locations in Troy and Delmar. “I know

people who have inherited their parents’ or grandparents’ birds.” A cat that’s been well cared for can live into its 20s, she says. Smaller breeds of dogs can live into their late teens, while bigger dogs typically live 10 to 12 years. And carnival goldfish, well, you know. Consider life expectancy when choosing a pet, so you’re sure you can be there for them for the long haul. Make the connection: “One of the most important things you could do is to get a pet that you really feel attached to,” Shear says. “Take the time to really see them and get attached to them and think about your lifestyle. If you are somebody who’s working long days, a puppy is probably not right for you. If you’re a runner and you want to run with your dog, you might want a younger dog that is a breed that’s going to do that with you. And if you’re someone who likes to sit on the couch, you don’t want a high-energy dog.” It will cost you: Advances in veterinary science have led to new ways to help animals, but ACL surgery or chemotherapy come with a hefty price tag. According to the APPA survey, dog owners annually spend $621 on surgical care and another $231 on routine care. “There’s financial questions you need to ask yourself. When you’re talking about veterinary care, the

larger an animal, the more expensive it is. Heartworm medications are more expensive in a big dog than they are in a small dog, and medications of other kinds require larger doses,” Shear says, adding that pet insurance, similar to health insurance for humans, has become very mainstream and is worth checking into. Goldfish food is cheaper than premium dog chow: If you’re going to welcome a dog or cat into your home, consider the cost of feeding that animal, as well. Premium pet foods — whether grain-free or holistic — are said to help preserve health, but they are more expensive than the kibble you pick up at the supermarket, Shear and Bohley say. So consider whether that is a cost you’re willing to shoulder. Experiment a little: If you are considering an exotic bird, borrow someone’s parrot for a while. If you think you want a German Shepherd, find a way to spend some time around the breed. And make sure that if you have children, they get to interact with the potential pet as well, to see how that relationship might go. “It’s always good to spend time with the animal before you decide to take it home because you never know how it’s going to be,” Bohley says. Do research, and think it through before you commit. Jennifer Gish is the Times Union’s features editor.  |  61

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Kitchen Crumbs 

Tasty Tidbits

to brighten up your cooking

By Caroline Barrett

Drink Up Hudson-Chatham Winery’s Cabernet Franc is a favorite among locals, and a great bottle to serve with food. This medium-bodied, dry red wine was rated 84 in Wine Enthusiast Magazine. It’s perfect for those who like dry wine with some fruit on the palate.

Pantry Plus Holiday Décor Make easy Thanksgiving table decorations using natural materials, such as leaves, pine cones or small

Pump up that Protein Add protein to your favorite pancake recipe by adding 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter, 1 tablespoon flax and an extra egg for every cup of flour in your mix. Mix well and add milk to thin the batter as necessary.

gourds. Place one small pine cone (or other found object from nature) at each place setting. Use a bit of ribbon to attach a name tag to the top of each.

My cooking is so bad my kids thought Thanksgiving was to commemorate Pearl Harbor.”

—comedian Phyllis Diller

Photo by Paul Barrett.

Photos by GettyImages. Wine bottle, sorendls; Table setting, Moncherie; Flax seed, Kathy Dewar.

The most common dried chile is the ancho. It is a sun-ripened and dried poblano pepper. Grind this pepper and add to soups, stews and sauces. Adds a smoky, mild heat.

The First Thanksgiving We know the early settlers didn’t eat yams, pie and stuffing. They did eat wild fowl, deer and plenty of seafood. They also had access to corn, onions and chestnuts. —  |  63

 Dish

Elliot Cunniff

It’s time to plan our y t r a P y a d i l o H already ! ! ! ??

At home with...

By Steve Barnes  |  Photos by Paul Barrett

Rabbit has long been a staple of peasant cuisines, though in this country it most reliably appeared only on the menu at rustic Italian restaurants. In the past few years, however, rabbit’s popularity has soared among chefs and diners of many stripes as the advantages and benefits of rabbit meat become more widely known. Rabbit produces six times as much meat as beef on the same amount of food and water, according to the federal Department of Agriculture. USDA figures also show that rabbit is nutritionally the most healthful regularly consumed meat. Per pound, it has slightly fewer calories than chicken, roughly half as many as beef

and lamb and slightly more than a third of pork’s calories. It also has a third less cholesterol than chicken and more protein than chicken, veal, turkey, lamb, beef and pork. All of this means that Elliot Cunniff has been cooking a lot more rabbit lately. Cunniff, who has worked as the executive chef at MezzaNotte Ristorante in Guilderland, makes a rabbit ragout for pasta and slowbraises hind legs and loins for a rabbit entrée with potato and vegetable. He uses the carcasses to add depth to house-made continued on 67

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chicken stock. “Rabbit just soaks up the flavors of the braising liquid. It’s delicious,” says Cunniff, who lives in his grandmother’s 1835 Albany house, located across the street from his childhood home, where his parents still live. Grandma, a spry octogenarian who is often out of town various parts of the year, invited him to stay in the spacious, historic home as a caretaker after he returned to his native city following college years in Buffalo, and he hasn’t found reason to leave. Being so close to family has more advantages than drawbacks, says Cunniff, but proximity leads to opportunities to share meals, and that can be awkward for a professional chef. “Sometimes your family is scared to cook for you,” he says. “That’s crazy. Make me a grilled cheese and I’m going to love it, even if you burn it.” 



Want to see how this recipe was made? Watch our exclusive video at or scan the QR code at the left to link directly to our Life@Home videos on YouTube.

Braised Wannabea Rabbit and Creamed Corn For the braised rabbit 1 (3- to 4-pound) rabbit 1/2 cup rabbit seasoning (kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder, porcini powder, cumin) 1 quart mirepoix (small-diced carrot, celery and onion, in equal amounts) Aromatics (1/2 head of garlic, peeled and crushed; 2 large shallots, quartered, 1 bunch thyme, 4 bay leaves) 1 quart chicken stock 2 cups veal demiglace 2 cups red wine 2-3 tablespoons roasted garlic olive oil Flour for dredging Method



Want more of Chef Cunniff’s recipes? Learn to make toasted ricotta gnocchi with fried rabbit livers plus cucumber honeydew gazpacho at

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Break rabbits down into 6 cuts: front legs, loins and hindquarters. Tie loins and season all meat. Dredge in flour lightly and sear in a heavy-bottomed pan or Dutch oven until golden brown. Remove meat from pan and set aside. Into hot pan add mirepoix and aromatics. Cook until the vegetable begins to sweat. Add red wine,

chicken stock and veal demiglace. Cook until reduced by 1/3. Add some rabbit seasoning. Return the rabbit meat to the pan and cover. Cook in the oven for 3 to 4 hours. When finished, the meat should be tender and juicy. Remove rabbit from the braising liquid. Strain out mirepoix and aromatics and reduce liquid to a sauce. For the creamed corn 4 ears fresh bicolor corn Garlic oil 1 pint heavy cream Seasonings: alt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, coriander, light chili powder, cayenne pepper Method Grill or roast corn to give it color and smoky flavor. Let cool and cut kernels off the cob. Make sure to scrape the cob with the back of the knife to get the sweet, moist “meat.” Simmer 2/3 of the kernels in 1 pint of heavy cream until cream begins to reduce. Add seasonings and purée until smooth. Add remaining 1/3 of roasted corn for contrasting textures.  |  67

 Table@Home

Family Style An ad hoc Thanksgiving

By Caroline Barrett  |  Photos by Paul Barrett


he door is open, we say. Paul and I agree upon this Thanksgiving call to friends and relatives. Everyone is welcome, we tell them in phone calls and e-mails. Please, come. And they do come. Sometimes just a few people fill our little house. Once, we put up every table and chair we could find. The long table was a patchwork quilt of shapes and sizes. We sat Elliot on an old wooden barrel pulled up from the basement. More than a few others were squeezed into odd spaces, between one table and the next. Still, we couldn’t fit everyone and five sat up against the kitchen counter. It was loud and fun. Another year our group was so small that no table leaves were necessary. Unoccupied chairs stood in the corner. Of course I love

68  | Life@Home

to have a big group, but that year was sweet and tender. We talked quietly, didn’t make a huge spread, and went for a long walk after dinner. Everyone in my house loves Thanksgiving for their own reasons. Paul loves to pull out his turkey smoker and fuss over the bird until it’s cooked just so with beautiful, deep golden brown skin. I hand cold beers over the deck while he pushes charcoal around, adds dripping pans but mostly just watches his turkey. Lucy and Zoe both revel in the company, pacing and waiting impatiently for cousins, grandparents and friends to arrive. For Elliot Thanksgiving comes down to one thing: pie — and not just any kind of pie. He waits all year for a big piece of apple pie. Elliot won’t mess around with the pureness of his apple pie love. His dessert plate

contains pie. Just apple pie. No pumpkin, no spice cake. He holds his hand up to prevent scoops of ice cream, whipped cream or anything that would clutter the pure, natural perfection of apples, sugar and cinnamon from landing on his piece. I love this about my son. If I had to choose one thing in particular that I love about the holiday — something aside from the family, the tradition and the general atmosphere of merriment — I would say that I love the way we cook on Thanksgiving. It’s my kind of cooking. I don’t like fussy recipes -- or food, really. I like recipes that can stand a pinch of cayenne, and extra spoonful (or two) of cinnamon or less thyme if that’s what you feel like. A dish like stuffing. With stuffing, it’s good with cornbread or sourdough. Fresh sage is nice but

so is rosemary. Feel like throwing an extra egg in there? Do it. And it will still be savory and delicious. Last year, Lucy made the pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving eve while I cut vegetables and sipped wine. She stirred the eggs, pumpkin and cream. “How much cinnamon should I put in?” she asked. “I don’t know,” I told her. “A lot.”

Feta, Walnut and Olive Oil Scones Makes 16 small scones This recipe can be easily adapted to your tastes. Switch out the walnuts for olives. Crumbly goat cheese can be substituted for feta. Rosemary or thyme can be added to the dough and anise seeds crushed and stirred into the sugar and salt mixture.

She stopped and looked up, not believing me. “Just put in a few spoonfuls. Then taste it. Then add a few more.” For this she did not hesitate, and dug in with a spoon. She tasted. Stirred, added more, then tasted again. “There it is,” she announced. “It’s perfect.” And it was. The cinnamon in her pumpkin pie was good and strong, but not too much.

2 cups white flour 1 tablespoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon sea salt 1 teaspoon black pepper 2 tablespoons cold butter, chopped 1/2 cup walnuts 2 ounces R & G Feta Cheese (available at many farmers markets) 1/4 cup olive oil 1/2 cup cream For the topping: Combine 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 teaspoon fresh chopped rosemary leaves in a small bowl.

We cook up soup and carrots and gravy the same way. We slice it, and stir it and taste it. Then add a bit more salt or cumin or garlic. We stir it again, until it tastes good. Yes, it’s unfussiness at its best.


ur Thanksgiving day is mostly a slow, lazy one. Kids are encouraged to go outside. We eat olives and cheese and nuts and linger over glasses of wine. We always put out plates of treats like these tiny scones. The beauty of these scones? You can make them your own. Switch the rosemary to thyme. Add extra black pepper. Leave the sugar topping off (but why would you want to?). My favorite cheese to use for these scones is R & G Cheese’s Feta. It’s a semi-hard, crumbly goat cheese that pairs well with the walnuts and rosemary. It’s easily found at many area farmers markets. Oh, and that’s another one of my favorite things at Thanksgiving: the farmers market. Be sure to find one of our local indoor markets the week before Thanksgiving. The market bustles with people and their stuffed-full market bags. You will find all the vegetables, eggs and cheese needed for your holiday. With this trip to the very fruitful Thanksgiving market, there is yet another thing to add to the list of our favorites. 

method Heat the oven to 400°. In a large glass bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Use your fingers to blend the butter pieces into the flour mixture. Chop the walnuts and feta until they are well combined (or use a food processor). Stir in the oil and cream. Pour the walnut-oil mixture into the flour and stir. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead a few times. Form into a log and cut into four pieces.

Form each piece into a flat circle 4 inches wide. Place the circles onto an oiled baking sheet, and cut each into 4 triangles. Brush the tops with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle the sugarrosemary evenly over all and bake for 9 minutes, or until the bottoms are brown and the sugar topping is crisp. Serve as an appetizer. The dough can be prepared a day ahead. Keep the log wrapped tightly in the refrigerator until ready to bake.  |  69

 Vineyard

Willamette Pinot It can be too subtle — or just the right thing Story and photo by Alistair HIghet


am ambivalent about Pinot Noir in general. I know, we are all supposed to gush over the wines made with this flaky, difficult grape. But I’m often underwhelmed. The great red wines of Burgundy are made with Pinot Noir, and I have been fortunate enough to attend functions where the great red wines of Burgundy have been offered to me — and indeed, I’ve been moved. But we are talking about wines well out of the price range of most of us. What we are left with, in large part, are Pinot Noirs from California, New Zealand and Oregon. Here’s what I often find with these wines — and this may be my own weirdness — but they can have odd, bubble gum and crayon qualities. Cheap candy. Grape licorice. They can veer toward flat cherry Coke. In other words, they don’t seem very grown-up, and even when they are quite good, they are fruitful but without structure, which makes them difficult to enjoy with dinner. Sometimes salmon works. Sometimes chicken. Asian food I guess. Semi-soft cheeses like a Port Salut maybe. But anything that is too robust or saucy will simply bulldoze over the wine like a fullback over a ballerina. But, I was having dinner the other night at an Italian restaurant and tried an Italian Pinot — Erste and Neue Kellerei, Pinot Nero, 2011, from the Alto Adige DOC — and was impressed by its gentle mouthfeel, gracious fruit, and poise. So I thought I’d try a few more, this time from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Outside of Burgundy, the Willamette Valley seems to be the ideal spot for growing this grape. “The gray skies of this lush pastoral country can do what California found next to impossible,” my wine atlas says, “conjure up the illusion of drinking fine red Burgundy, even if Oregon Pinots

70  | Life@Home

are in general softer, more obviously fruity, and earlier maturing than their European counterparts.” As always, it is about terroir, the unique soil, sun, wind and rain characteristics of the place where the grapes are rooted. The valley runs down from Portland, and while it is cooler than California, it is still not as a cold as the north. Moderating air blows in from the Pacific, and the cloud and rain allow the grapes to grow without ripening too quickly or simply collapsing in the sun — this is a thin- skinned grape that needs moderation in all things. Rain comes in the fall, and so the good years are characterized by moderate summers, warm enough to ripen the grapes before the fall rains. In other words, it is still an iffy business, and vintage is critical. Well, 2011 was called by some vintners “the miracle vintage,” because it was too cold in the summer to ripen, but then the autumn extended warmly into October, and the grapes were picked late and ripe, and were reported in the Wine Spectator to possess “fine color, great elegance, fantastic depth and moderate alcohol. Really, really nice wines.” I tried three from 2011. Very interesting. You might try them at Thanksgiving. I think they would work. 

Cloudline, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, 2011 ($19)

Brooke Wines, Runaway Red, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, 2011 ($20)

Montinore, Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, 2011 ($20)

This has concentrated fruit, red currant, tart cherry, with earthy notes of granite, peat, but gently blended and soft, warm mouthfeel.

Points for having a picture of Trotsky on the label. Oh those Portlandians! This was delicate, with strawberry, pleasant yeastiness, tar, cola, good tart edges and a soft finish. I’d spend more time with this.

White pepper, cranberry and raspberry fruit, tart and light and dry. This is nuanced and delicate and probably worth a second chance.

Try our NEW Local Delivery Service and take advantage of our everyday low prices on wine & liquor. Order online at or call us toll free at (877)77-WINE-1 to speak with an Empire Wine & Liquor Outlet Representative today!

Make yourself

at home…

By Melissa Fiorenza


ccording to a 2012 HomeAway. com survey, 36 percent of travelers said they enjoy staying with friends and family during the holidays, while the rest cited reasons such as lack of personal space or comfortable sleeping arrangements for why they disagreed. Imagine if your houseguests — out-of-town cousins, in-laws or friends, whoever they may be — fell into the latter group? Hopefully, you care just as much about being a top-notch host as your guests do about being polite visitors, and if that’s the case, read on. We’ve assembled a mix of easy and above-and-beyond ways you can help your guests feel right at home, landing 72  | Life@Home

How to be a gracious host for holiday houseguests you in the ultimate host hall of fame.

your guests – not in the kitchen.


 Carve out their space.

 Clean your house. An obvious but important step. “Sharing your home can be stressful, but by cleaning and organizing in advance, you can have a relaxing time visiting with those you love,” says Bonnie Joy Dewkett, certified professional organizer and founder of “Pick a room each day or a few rooms each week. Or schedule a special session with your normal cleaning service.” Get your holiday dishes washed and ready beforehand as well, adds Dewkett, so you can spend more time with

When you’re making up the guest room, try to create a spa-like atmosphere, says Neil Bindelglass, owner of Saratoga Senior Move Managers and an accredited home staging professional. In other words, make it meticulously clean and as free of your clutter as possible, and “use the highest quality sheets and pillows you have,” he says. No extra room? No problem. “Prepare a sleeping space for your guests,” says Dewkett, “and make sure your family knows that it is to be treated as a bedroom while they are there. Also give them a private place to change and wash up.”

 Prep it with amenities. Once the space is spotless, add a few essentials and thoughtful extras. “Aside from fresh towels in their room, include travel-size toiletries in case they forgot any of their own,” advises Ashley Willis, cofounder of party-planning blog The Sisters’ Soiree ( “Include a hand-written ‘Welcome to Our Home’ note on the dresser, that says ‘we’re happy to have you!’” A few other ideas from our pros: magazines, a scented candle, hand towels, mints, an alarm clock, water bottles, and — if they’ll be roaming the area by themselves – a map of your town. Another really nice touch? A gift they can keep. “A beautiful small boxwood tree in the room is something they could bring home and enjoy for months after the holiday,” says event designer David Michael Schmidt, owner of Renaissance Floral Design in Albany. Or, he suggests, you could place a decorative ornament on the nightstand with a note attached; “So glad you could join us for Christmas.”

Photo: GettyImages. Greeting, Ariel Skelley; Setting the table,Cultura/Jakob Helbig;

 Send them a note. Write to your guests in advance with a few questions. Ask if they have any dietary issues, what drinks they like or what they take with their coffee, suggests Schmidt, adding: “Send an e-mail along the lines of, ‘We’re so excited you’re coming and just want to be sure we have everything we need to make you feel comfortable.’” They’ll feel at ease knowing what they’re walking into and be grateful for your offer.

solution? “Before heading to bed, take out the breakfast items you’ll be serving,” says Willis. “If your guests wake up earlier than you, they can feel free to help themselves to the coffee, crumb cake, cereal, bagels or fresh fruit – because you’ve already set it up for them on your counter or kitchen table.” That way, your guest won’t feel strange having to go through your cabinets, or, worse, feel like they should stay in bed until you wake up.

Have WiFi? “I like to put a card with the WiFi password (if applicable) and the name of the network in the guest room,” says Dewkett.

during the chaos of the holidays.” Small enough, she adds, that they won’t feel overwhelmed, just part of the activity.  Spend time with your company. Lastly, remember to enjoy your time together. “Whenever anyone is invited to your home, they may be happy about it but feel as if they’re putting you out,” says Schmidt. “Show them that you’re actually glad to have them there, instead of saying ‘There’s your room there on the left,’ and leaving them be.” Make dinner reservations. Create an itinerary. Swap gifts. Think about it this way: the holidays are a stressful time, and your guests’ home environment could be pretty cluttered. Why not do your best to help them – and in turn, you – enjoy their time at your place?

 Let them help. 


Pop quiz: If your guests offer to help cook or clean up after a meal, should you accept? Absolutely. “It helps them feel a part of the household, rather than a bystander watching their host do all the work while they sit and wait for you to be done,” says Willis. In fact, she says, don’t be afraid to ask. “Helping prep food, pour drinks, or retrieving more napkins — these are small tasks you can ask your guests to help with

Want to really go above and beyond? A simple phone call after they leave can go a long way, says Willis. Ask if they got home safely, and reiterate that it was lovely have them in your home, showing them that you care. “Your guests will definitely appreciate the gesture ... and who knows, maybe even invite you to their home to return the gesture of your amazing hosting skills.” 


 Give them the lay of the land. While you’re showing guests where everything is, “the best thing is to simply say, ‘My house is your house,’” says Bindelglass. “Here’s the fridge, here’s the coffee machine, help yourself to anything on the bookshelf. I always tell them, ‘If you’re up in the middle of the night or before I am, my house is your house.’” Even something as simple as showing them where the lights are is another step to making them feel comfortable, adds Schmidt.

 Make a plan for breakfast. Not everyone wakes up at the same time, especially before or after a big holiday. The  |  73

Holiday Spirits How to perfectly stock your liquor cabinet for the holidays (or whenever)

“Vodka’s probably the most popular spirit,” says Tighe. But stay away from flavored vodkas — you don’t need them! “I’d rather add my own flavor,” he says. Lemon, mint, vanilla, these are ingredients you can get nice and fresh right at the store for a better and better-balanced taste. WHAT TO BUY: Ketel One and Absolut are the most popular vodkas, Tighe says. For a New York spirit, try Core, a vodka quadruple-distilled with apples. And for something farther afield, Quigley suggests New Zealand’s unique 42 Below.


“Gin is hit or miss. People either love it or hate it,” Tighe says. WHAT TO BUY: A single bottle of Beefeater should do you just fine, Tighe says. Quigley offers the fancy G’Vine, made in Cognac, France, or Half Moon, made in New York.


Rum (like tequila) is a less wintry holiday spirit so it’s less essential than the others. Major exception: eggnog. Buy one bottle of rum for the eggnog. WHAT TO BUY: Quackenbush Still House rum — an Albany-distilled spirit.

Photo: Lebazele/GettyImages; All bottle photos courtesy of their respective companies.



By Brianna Snyder


ove it or try to avoid it, alcohol is a staple of most holiday parties. Most people get caught up in the festivities — or the stress — of the season, and knock back the eggnog. We talked to Kevin Tighe, bar manager at the New World Bistro, and Kevin Quigley from Empire Wine in Albany, and they told us how to stock our liquor cabinet for the holidays. Tighe’s one main tip? “One fun thing


“Bourbon is super popular right now,” Tighe says. “Bourbon has really pushed the other brown whiskeys out of the way.” WHAT TO BUY: Maker’s Mark is popular. But Tighe says there are many boutique brands worth sampling.

that’s up and coming and a great way for a home bar to impress your guests are hand-crafted distillers,” Tighe says. Think local. Quigley suggests keeping it simple: “The basics for spirits are simply vodka, whiskey and gin. These would cover primarily any house guests’ drink request with only minor mixers needed, such as vermouth, soda and tonic water.” Here, we offer a few suggestions.


There are different kinds of whiskeys — rye, American blend and Canadian blend, etc. Tighe says rye is making a comeback. WHAT TO BUY: Hudson Manhattan Rye, made in New York, McKenzie Rye.


“Scotch can be the most dramatically different from one region to the next,” says Tighe. That means your scotch aficionados are going to likely have preferences for different regions or types (like with wine). WHAT TO BUY: “Go with a Dewar’s white label,” he says. “The most effete, erudite scotch drinker will drink it.”


With so many varietals, wine can be a tricky pick when your goal is to please a crowd. WHAT TO BUY: California Cabernets (Tighe likes Joseph Carr’s Cabernet) and Quigley says go pinot grigio: “Pinot grigio is by far the standard for a party white wine,” he says. Want some recipes? Turn to page 76  |  75

continued from 75

Mix It Up

The Guild Meeting

You’ve got the well-stocked bar. Now it’s time to become a mixology master. Creating a signature drink for your holiday gathering can help make your party memorable for reasons beyond the mistletoe. If you’re not sure where to start, Cocktails for a Crowd by Kara Newman is a good first step. Newman is spirits editor for Wine Enthusiast magazine — now there’s a gig! — and has assembled here 40 fail-safe recipes. She’ll help you figure out how to create cocktails for anywhere from eight to 40, and provides advice on setting up the bar as well as various important bartending techniques. Here’s just one recipe to wet your whistle.

Serves 8 30 ounces (3 ¾ cups) hot water 4 black tea bags (preferably chai or spiced black tea) ½ cup vanilla sugar 6 wide strips of orange peel, each about 2 inches long 10 ounces (1 ¼ cups) freshly squeezed orange juice 10 ounces (1 ¼ cups) rye whiskey (such as Rittenhouse 100 proof) 4 ounces (1/2 cup) ginger liqueur (such as Domaine de Canton) 4 ounces (1/2 cup) Drambuie 4 ounces (1/2 cup) freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 large block ice or several smaller blocks

— Janet Reynolds

In a small bowl, pour the hot water over the tea bags and let steep for about 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags, gently pressing to extract the liquid before discarding. Put the sugar and orange peel in a punch bowl and muddle lightly to release the oils from the orange peel. Pour in the steeped tea and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the orange juice, rye whisky, ginger liqueur, Drambuie and lemon juice and stir well. Add the ice. To serve, ladle into punch glasses or teacups. Note: Although vanilla sugar can be purchased from specialty stores or online, you can also make it by splitting a fresh vanilla bean and burying it in a container of sugar for several days. Or, in a pinch, just add a dash of vanilla extract to regular granulated sugar. 

THANKSGIVING FAMILY WEEKEND GETAWAY Wednesday, November 27th – Sunday, December 1st Enjoy charming accommodations, delicious holiday dining, Saturday breakfast with Santa, and many other memorable family activities during your stay.

Packages from $309 per night.* (800) 348-6222 • *Per room, per night, based on double adult occupancy and availability. Two consecutive night minimum. Additional nights available at special rates. Includes breakfast and dinner; excludes taxes. Cannot be combined with any other offer, discounts or group stays.

O v e r 1 0 0 Ye a r s o f G r a c i o u s H o s p i t a l i t y ®

Source: Cocktails for a Crowd: More Than 40 Recipes for Making Popular Drinks in Party-Pleasing Batches, by Kara Newman, photographs by Teri Lyn Fisher, Chronicle Books, 96 pages, $18.95

My Space 


e all have favorite spots, places where we feel most comfortable or at home. Sometimes it’s a favorite chair or nook in a room; other times it’s outside the house. Wherever it is, it is where we are most at home.

Story and photo by Suzanne Kawola

WHO: Brian Fruscio — Varsity Basketball Head Coach, The Albany Academy

FAVORITE SPACE: The gym. “I find peace,” says Albany Academy basketball head coach Brian Fruscio. “I find confidence. This is my space. I call it ‘my gym,’ even though I know it’s not my gym. This is my classroom.”

WHY: Right out of college, Fruscio was hired as the assistant basketball coach for The College of Saint Rose. This year, more than 20 years later, the team he coached is being inducted into the St. Rose Basketball Hall of Fame. Fruscio’s been at The Albany Academy for eight years. “I’ve really found a home,” he says. “[The gym] is the classroom where I can teach students about the game of basketball, but, more importantly, the game of life and how to persevere and how to work hard … and to help student athletes find more than they thought they had inside of them. Sometimes I believe in them more than they believe in themselves. I will be in a gym as long as I am alive.”   |  77

 Photo Finish

Happy Ernie. Photo by Manolo Munoz. Read more on page 24.   78  | Life@Home

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Life@Home November 2013  

Life@Home magazine is packed with inspiration to help you make your house a home.

Life@Home November 2013  

Life@Home magazine is packed with inspiration to help you make your house a home.