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december 2012

It’s a Wrap

plus… • 10 ways to use wine corks • creating festive table settings • the best kitchen gifts

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Janet Reynolds, Executive Editor Brianna Snyder, Associate Editor Rebecca Haynes, Contributing Editor Design

Tony Pallone, Design Director Colleen Ingerto, Emily Jahn, Designers Krista Hicks Benson, Rebecca Isenhart, Contributing Designers Contributing Writers

John Adamian, Steve Barnes, Caroline Barrett, Melissa Fiorenza, Alison Grieveson, Alistair Highet, Suzanne Kawola, Larissa Lytwyn, Kim Messenger, Merci Miglino, Lee Nelson, Wendy Page, Colleen Plimpton, Lucianna Samu, Cari Scribner Contributing Photographers

Paul Barrett, Nancy Bruno, Krishna Hill, Colleen Ingerto, Emily Jahn, Suzanne Kawola, Tyler Murphy, Colleen Plimpton, Mark Samu Sales

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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 email 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 2012 by Capital Newspapers. No portion may be reproduced in any means without written permission of the publisher.

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Making time for family and friends

21 WINDOW SHOPPING Must-have goodies for the home, plus our bloggers’ favorites


Settling down in North Greenbush

34 PROBLEM SOLVED Transforming a sunroom


The emotional zing of aromatherapy

41 10 WAYS TO USE ... Wine corks uncorked

43 A WINTER WONDERLAND Setting a festive holiday table


Snazzy ways to make your gifts look great!


Giving tired furniture new life


The benefits of geo-thermal heating

59 REFURNISHED LIVING Who needs a live Christmas tree with these clever options?

60 FAIRY GARDENS FOR ALL Mini is in, inside and out

62 DESIGN CLASSICS The Noguchi “Tribeca” table TRANSFORMATION starts with a coat of paint. Read the story on page 53. Photo by Tyler Murphy. Cover photo by Colleen Ingerto.


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content 65 HOUSE BLEND Home for the holidays

66 GET COOKIN’! Holiday kitchen gifts for just about everyone

72 HOME SWEET HOME Chef Zach Welton returns to the family homestead

77 THE VINEYARD Wines that rock!


Spice up your life with Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen


A fruit wonderful to behold and eat


Bruno Tostes’ favorite things

86 PHOTO FINISH Getting a second life

“The ornaments of your home will be the guests who frequent it.” — Author Unknown

DID A LITTLE BIRD tell Mrs. Claus how to make her spice mixes? Read the story on page 78. Photo by Paul Barrett.


talk back

The story behind the story from our contributors Pairs of Pears Caroline Barrett  With the recipe for Pear Tarts with Bourbon Cream Sauce, I was reminded how it is a good thing to indulge in butter and cream and sugar. It’s a once-a-year event, and I always spoon extra bourbon sauce on my tart! See Caroline’s story on page 81.

Fairy Gardens Colleen Plimpton 

As a long-time large-scale suburban outdoor gardener, I was astonished to discover how enticing these miniature worlds can be. The array of tiny furniture, itty-bitty plants, and diminutive decor snatched me back to the world of my childhood dollhouses in an instant. See Colleen’s story on page 60.

join the conversation!

! n i w s for a Like u to win e chanc ds of all kin uff! free st lifeathomemagazine

Kitchen Gifts for All

“Everyone likes nice things for their kitchen.” Lee Nelson  I love to cook, bake and create in the kitchen. But even for those who don’t, everyone has to eat, and everyone likes nice things for their kitchen. Just walking into a specialty kitchen store can be an amazing adventure. Companies are coming up with fun, funky and functional gadgets, appliances and dishes. I want one of each. Read Lee’s story on page 66.

10 Ways to Use ... Melissa Fiorenza  Before working on this ‘10 ways’ list, my husband and I would toss out wine corks whenever we finished a bottle of wine. But it turns out, there are a lot of reasons to keep them on hand — and even in my jewelry box. See Melissa’s story on page 41.


Cari Scribner  I had no idea that beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows could help heat the home by bringing in sun. The family I interviewed has an awesome home that’s lovely and ecofriendly! See Cari’s story on page 56.

The Mostest for the Hostess Brianna Snyder  I never know what to bring to parties so usually, at the last second, I panic and just buy lame supermarket flowers. It was great to talk to local vendors and party planners about really great gifts to bring to a party’s host. Flowers are OK, but gift certificates or a nice tea set are way better. Read this story online at timesunion. com/lifeathome.

We asked, you answered!  What are some of your design challenges? Richard: After my son puts together LEGO play sets and models, where do we now display or store these creations? Solution we are working on this season: Build shelving in closet under clothing rack. This area will be for his LEGO creations. (Until we build an addition on the house just for his LEGO bricks) Julie: 2-bedroom apartment. It was mine, fiance moved in, 1 closet in


Smart Home Heating

total. Space saving ideas are desperately needed!

 What’s your clutter solution? (Ed. Note: Ours

is to stuff all the magazines and newspapers under the coffee table — there’s got to be a better way!) “Minding Your Manor”: If you haven’t read the newspaper with 2 days of delivery, let it go. If you haven’t read your magazines with a month of delivery, let them go. If you’re having trouble

finding time to read your newspapers and magazines maybe it’s time to reevaluate your subscriptions! “HeatTrak”: I got this idea from Real Simple: Use an empty tissue box to store plastic shopping bags. It helps a lot!

 Anyone planning to have a holiday party this year? Jill: Every year on Christmas Eve! It’s a holiday open house ... we really deck the halls every year!

on the web

check us out online @ more of




House Things Read all about filling your house with the right things in our blog by Times Union Magazines editors Janet Reynolds and Brianna Snyder.

GET MORE recipes from Chef Welton (story page 72), like Smoked Trout with Red Quinoa, Baby Grape Mostarda and Sunny-Side-Up Quail Eggs.

Refurnished Living


Explore the “greener” side of the design and decorating industries with Refurnished Living columnist Alison Grieveson.


READ MORE: Larry Rutland tells us about making glass pendants. Pick the perfect gift for your host. And don’t miss our story on the wonders of miso. Mmmm.



We want to hear from you! Join us on Facebook to add your two cents to our discussions, give us your ideas for inclusion in upcoming stories, and enter to win contests.

learn more with our exclusive video on making the perfect bow, featuring interior designer Denise Maurer. And get more gift wrapping ideas on page 49! Got a smartphone?  Scan the QR code at right to link directly to our Life@Home videos page on YouTube.

Computer mouse illustration © Irina Iglina/ Glass blowing photo by Tyler Murphy, Hostess gift photo by Krishna Hill, Miso soup photo © lifeathomemagazine

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editor’s note

Home for the



ast Christmas our family celebrated a very 21st-century Christmas. My husband, youngest son and I opened our Christmas presents while our son in Spain and daughter in California watched us via Skype. It was better than nothing — but not much. So I vowed as soon as the laptop was closed that we were never going to do that again. Come Christmas 2012, more of our family was going to be gathered in one room on Christmas Day. As I write this, I’m working hard on this concept. Airfare is ridiculously high and I’m searching inexpensive places to stay, but I am cautiously optimistic that by the time you’re reading this, the Reynolds clan will be setting up our Christmas shop at our daughter and son-in-law’s home in California. The allure — beyond the obvious one of being together — is generational on two levels. One — and this is a major force in just about everything I do — is our 2-and-a-half-year-old Maxine. If you’re a grandparent, you know exactly what I mean. If you’re not, some day you’ll get it and the fierce depth of this love will hit you in a way you could never imagine. The other is a force on the other side of life. This past year has been one of loss in our family and in the families of several good friends. Once you reach a certain age, death becomes an unwelcome part of existence, and this year proved that point in spades. My husband lost his father, and I saw six of my very 14


good friends lose a parent. While I try to be present in my daily life and appreciate both the small and the large moments every day, these trying events have been a reminder that we are none of us guaranteed a moment. The time to grasp the family moments and create new memories is now. And so this holiday season, here’s hoping you are surrounded by all those you love — and that you can give them all an inperson squeeze rather than a virtual one. @




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furnishings | gadgets | décor pages 17 - 62


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Gathering Power by wendy page

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y the time the last cookie has crumbled and we wake up New Year’s Day feeling as if we’ve been visiting people every day for six weeks, it’s easy to vow to make 2013 the Year of the Introvert. Who can possibly want to see anyone — ever? But to make that choice is to make a mistake, because casually gathering with those you love is food for the soul. I came to this conclusion recently when we hosted a casual gathering for our younger son’s 13th birthday. We invited our immediate family and some close friends — about 30 in all — with ages ranging from 18-month-old twins to my almost-80-year-old father. Except for one moment of doubt that I had have enough food — at which point my father, bless this fabulous man, drove to the supermarket and bought me another flank steak — no one could believe how laid-back my husband and I were. I prepared half the dishes the day before, but I was still cooking when the guests arrived — and that was fine. My guests, all people who love me, offered to help, and when I needed it, I didn’t hesitate to ask. Nothing big, since they were my guests. No one judged me because a pot or pan was still in the sink, unwashed. No one waited at the front door to be invited in. Everyone was happy to be there, getting fed, seeing each other, enjoying themselves. It made me wonder why people put so much pressure on themselves to make an event perfect when casual works so well. I am a fan of the casual gathering, with an emphasis on the casual part. It’s a great way to hang out with family, friends, neighbors, strangers, or any combination therein, and it honestly can be pulled off with relative ease. Unfortunately, years ago when Martha Stewart became the measuring stick, the art of the gathering wasn’t just taken up a notch — it escalated into the stratosphere. I tried (as did many others) to have mismatched tableware that somehow fit together perfectly, and to have place cards made of twigs, and to plate our delicious homemade food in such a way that it was ready for its magazine close-ups. But I was not terribly successful, and it was so much work. Thankfully — mercifully! — expectations have become more reasonable, and paper plates (or inexpensive plastic reusable ones, for the ecologically minded) are wonderfully back in fashion.


he tradition of breaking bread probably dates back to the first caveman. You share some food, some drink, some con-

versation. I’ve never left a get-together caring about the decoration or how the food was plated, and I make sure to remember that when I’m hosting. It’s never about those insignificant things, and it shouldn’t be. It’s just nice at the end of a day, at the end of a week, to be able to relax with people we care about and who care about us. Sometimes last-minute gatherings are the best; we send an e-mail to see who can come over the following night. We also use gatherings as a get-to-know-you-better option with families from our sons’ athletic teams. If I don’t know my company very well, it’s easy enough to make a simple pasta, chicken and veggies. Really, the homemade food is a perk; even if it’s pizza, the gathering is worth it for the opportunity to connect with others. I’ve learned a thing or two over the years, the most important of which is not to organize gatherings and expect quid pro quo on return invitations. I gather people because I enjoy it. I never expect anyone to help pay for or supply food. If I change my mind, I’ll ask them to bring something small. For those who really hate coming to my house empty-handed, I’ll tell them something small, such as ice, salad, dessert, or wine to share. (I always say share since I don’t expect anyone to supply wine for me to put in my cellar and enjoy later with someone else. That’s just rude.) Our vibe is welcoming, and it’s the highest of compliments that everyone feels comfortable in our home. My mini-“aha” moment at the birthday gathering screamed, “This is what life’s about”: Groups of people talking, laughing, eating, drinking, all spread around our house, with no cell phones visible. The white lights we’d strung around the railing of our deck a few Christmases ago (and just never took down) glowed in the dusk. Music played, inside and out (outside speakers are underrated). The kids ran about, laughing. The setting was lovely, the company was delightful, and a good time was had by all. Our gatherings are rejuvenating, and often end in a game of cards or Sequence. I highly recommend collecting your family and friends and throwing a gathering rather than an official soiree. Yes, you’re busy, but you have to eat regardless. Just clear your kitchen table, buy some thick paper plates, put on some fun music, and gather with friends, with neighbors, with family. Just gather, and let the magic happen. @


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window shopping photos by krishna hill


smart, shop local! Each month, Window Shopping highlights interesting and unique items available at area stores. In this issue, we've got your holiday shopping needs covered.

 Set up a custom home theater like this one on display at Hippo's

Home Entertainment Center, which features an LG flat screen TV ($1,099), Bowers & Wilkens Panorama Sound Bar ($2,199), plus a Denon "mini system" with tuner, iPod holder and dual speakers ($399) sitting on top of a Salamander Designs console ($899). continued on page 22 


window shopping continued from page 21

1. Sonos Play3 wireless speakers ($299.98) available at Hippo's can turn your entire home into a music arena, allowing you to stream music from online or from your computer. 2. Whip up a unique gift basket at Saratoga Olive Oil Company, like 22


this one which features 375-ml bottles of olive oil ($16.95) and balsamic vinegar ($18.95), truffle sea salt (4 oz., $20), ceramic Saratoga Olive Oil cruet ($27.95), and a festive oil/vinegar cruet set ($50). Also included is a serving board with single dipping dish ($24.95). Many

varieties available, starting at $50. 3. If you're a fan of earth tones (and who isn't?), you'll love this vase ($169) at Saratoga Signature Interiors. 4. Santa may travel the globe in one

Shops featured: Hippo's Home Entertainment Center Stuyvesant Plaza 1475 Western Avenue, Albany Saratoga Olive Oil Company 484 Broadway, Saratoga Springs   Saratoga Signature Interiors 82 Church Street, Saratoga Springs

night, but he couldn't do it without the support of his reindeer friends. This whimsical globe decoration with deer ($59) is available at Saratoga Signature Interiors. 5. Bowers & Wilkins foldable P3 Headphones ($199.99)

available at Hippo's are covered in acoustic fabric for a great listening experience. 6. Take a walk — or have a seat — on the wild side with striking animal print furniture like this chair ($1,450) and

ottoman ($859). Find them at Saratoga Signature Interiors. 7. Iconic, hand-painted horse jockeys like this one ($800) can be custom-ordered at Saratoga Signature Interiors. continued on page 24 


window shopping continued from page 23


bloggers shop

Check out this months’s favorite picks from our local and national bloggers. Then head online to to satisfy your design and décor itch 24/7. Who knows what you’ll find!

House Things by janet reynolds

An area rug can really help give a room a pop of distinction, something made patently clear in this lovely rug from Aura Home. A contemporary play of the traditional Suzani icons, patterns and colors overlaid with a spicy tomato hue, this floor piece is sure to make a red-hot impression in any room. It's available in three sizes, ranging in price from $395-$995. Check out this and other rugs and home goods at

Home Décor@518 by valerie delacruz

When is jewelry not really jewelry? When it’s actually a napkin ring. Add these Asian-bangleinspired napkin holders to your table to create some drama and festive accent. Finished in an antique gold tone and studded with faux gems, these rings, 2.5" in diameter, add richness with their ornate styling. The set of four is $39.50 at Pottery Barn, and comes in a lovely wrapped box that could make this a holiday hostess gift as well. Visit the Pottery Barn locally at Crossgates Mall in Albany, or call (518) 218-0579.



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Switching It Up settling down in north greenbush by brianna snyder  |  photos by mark samu story begins on page 29 


@home with



continued from page 27


efore moving into their newest home, John and Kathy Bourdeau got rid of everything they had. “We bought all new furniture,” Kathy says. “We hadn’t done anything (with our things) in 18 years.” John is retired, and Kathy, who retires at the end of this year, works for the state of New York (John did too, in fact; that’s where they met). With Kathy’s pending retirement, “I figured my shopping is going to be limited,” she says. “I went to Pottery Barn and I met with their consultants. Two women came and did an in-home assessment with me and they helped me pick things out.” The Bourdeaus moved into their brand-new townhome in February. The couple had lived for four years in a house nearby this North Greenbush complex called The Pastures, but decided to move when John hurt his back. The hard labor of homeownership had fallen to Kathy, who was doing all the raking and shoveling and mowing by herself. continued on page 30 


@home with

continued from page 29

“Kathy was coming home from work and she was shoveling the driveway and mowing the grass and picking up leaves,” says John. “That’s what kind of prompted us to start looking for a new place to live.” They came across The Pastures and met with builder Mark Van Vleck, who showed them around the small community. One of the things that really appealed to the Bourdeaus about these townhomes was that they’re maintenance-free — they don’t have to shovel, mow, rake or do any other landscaping. That convenience aside, today the couple love their modest30


size place “because it was so bright,” Kathy says. “I like the open concept of it.” The space has three bedrooms, which they use as a guest room, a sewing room for Kathy, and a master bedroom for the couple. Walking into the Bourdeaus’ home, you’re met with a huge kitchen space and large, tall windows overlooking a well-manicured lawn. The kitchen flows right into the living room, which is perfect, Kathy says, since so many people tend to linger in the kitchen during parties. An extended counter provides extra stool seating, too, so, “Everyone can hang out in the kitchen and

“I went more with neutrals so you can change the pillows, the flowers, the slipcovers and it can look totally different.” — Kathy Bourdeau


@home with



“When my car needs any service or repair, there’s only one place I trust.”

still see the TV,” says Kathy. Their beloved shih-tzu — bouncy, happy, 1-year-old Murphy — hangs out there too, along with the family cat, Cali. John and Kathy, both from the Capital Region, have been married 18 years, and pictures of their six grandkids (the two have four boys between them) hang in proud view on the dining-area wall. While the Bourdeaus seriously downsized when moving to this last home — they hope! — one piece that survived the furniture purge is a handsome grandfather clock. Tinged with flecks of silver and gold, it complements the bright, light living room beautifully. “The grandfather clock has made it from all the houses we’ve lived in,” Kathy says. But they’re staying here, they say. “We wanted this home to be comfortable,” Kathy says. “I went more with neutrals so you can change the pillows, the flowers, the slipcovers and it can look totally different.” Kathy laughs. “I like to change things,” she says. @

For more photos, visit


problem: solved

Sunny Days


creating a bright, inviting place to hang out

by brianna snyder  |  “after” photo by emily jahn

Problem This sunroom in Loudonville wasn’t being used and so it became a junk and storage space. Solution The homeowner wanted this to be a room the whole family could hang out in. Designer Joanne H. Chmura of A Perfect Placement sat down with the owner and made a plan. They brought in big cozy couches (with washable slipcovers; there are toddlers in the house!) and repurposed old coffee- and sidetables the owner wanted to keep. “I said, ‘Let’s paint (the tables) a fun color and let’s do a lot of pattern,’” Chmura says. They played with textures and colors and prints to give the room brightness and pop. “A lot of people don’t think that they can mix pattern,” Chmura says. ”We have a ton of pattern going on in this room: curtains, vases, couches … and it works.” Now the room is a cozy, bright area for the whole family to watch TV, hang out, entertain friends, read or anything else.




Top tip “Make your wishlist,” says Chmura. “What do you want out of your room?” Make a floor plan and stick to it. “The floor plan is key,” she says. It keeps you on track, focused and organized. @

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design: defined

A Fragrant & Festive by lucianna samu  |  photo by mark samu


his month, my column comes to you by way of a series of small serendipities. It all began on a buying trip for a client who asked me to source a new dining table. The size, wood species, or style of the table I was to find were of no particular concern or importance; I should deliver what “I thought” was right for the room. Check. The only criteria the client thought worthy of mention, she offered with a sheepish grin, and animated, seemingly circular, gesture: “Find me something I can wax.” An unusual request but still, easy enough. Soon after my table-shopping adventures began, a list of specifications for a new house being built appeared in my inbox. The subject line read, “please finalize selections for 3+10.” The accompanying list lacked any detail or descriptions, and simply noted item 3: no-wax vinyl flooring and item 10: factory finished hardwood flooring. Hmmmm … Shaping up as an otherwise difficult week for the purveyor of Design: Defined, I found comfort in all the usual places I choose to roam when I need to get creative or clear my mind — antique shops. Traveling up and down the Northway, to Hudson and Saugerties, then a bit farther south to reconnect with the more distant shops of rural Connecticut before the return to shop Ballston Spa, a small stack of finds began to mount up in the back seat of my car.

Of all the elements that make a home, none rival the emotional jolt our sense of smell can deliver. And then my revelation took shape. The following Monday morning, while waiting for the car to warm and sipping my morning coffee, an aromatherapy-meets-cognitive olfactory memory “moment” happened. My car was full of the sweet, nostalgic, clean and opulent scent of good furniture wax — high-quality beeswax and lemon oil, with just a tinge perhaps of Old English polish. A fragrance so distinct only a hardcore antique lover might long for it? Not exactly. Of all the elements that come together to make a wonderful home, none rival the emotional jolt our sense of smell can deliver. For my client in need of a dining table, the definitive delicious smell of a well-loved home for her is — you guessed it — paste wax.


he power of aromatherapy is well documented, and it’s an industry that is well supported by the makers of highquality scented candles, incense, essential oils and all the paraphernalia necessary to deliver to us an easily enjoyable sensory experience. Some scents claim to be calming: peppermint, eucalyptus and citrus. Other scents are considered uplifting, and are said to even have mood-enhancing properties, such as lavender, chamomile and geranium. Particularly in the air-tight winter months, the presence of even a single candle can make its way up and around to the far corners of our fragrance-starved sanctuary. Frankincense and myrrh are popular holiday fragrances, and only a little less Old World than incense, which has also stood the test of time. At holiday time, the smell of pine or cedar or balsam fir can reliably transport us to a single, perhaps unforgettable, tree-cutting adventure just as surely as the smell of hot cider and mulling spices may cause us to reminisce about stealing Aunt Millie’s Christmas cookies with the sprinkles on top as a child. Filling our homes with comforting aromas is easier than ever. The advent of electric diffusers, decorative oil burners, and everyone’s latest favorite low-tech and attractive-scented delivery gadget — the reed diffuser — look as lovely as the fragrance they deliver. Many modern improvements eliminate the scents we may have once enjoyed. My own kitchen ventilation system can eradicate any evidence of a day spent baking cookies in five minutes or less. A good pot of stew simmering on the stove is only a little less exciting a smell (to me) than a loaf of homemade bread in the oven. Who knew it doesn’t smell quite the same when the smell is coming from a covered Crock-Pot or a bread maker? The list of fragrant and festive pleasantries we may or may not miss discovering is at least worthy of mention, and probably worth some effort to enhance. Since it’s holiday time, why not put a few drops of bayberry or mistletoe oil into a glass decanter? Make a roaring fire more special with a few twigs from the sweet-smelling apple tree, or keep the house smelling “holiday” with a simmering pot of mulling spices, ginger, orange slices and cloves? Purists like me, and my client who loves the smell of her freshly waxed cherry dining table, will have plenty of time to get the house smelling of french polish once the fresh greens and trees dry out. @


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household tips 10 ways to use ...

Wine Corks by melissa fiorenza

Post-popping, the cap to your Cabernet should go anywhere but the trash can.

When we asked around for creative uses, the suggestions flowed in fast — from practical to simply pretty. Here are some of our favorite ways — and yours, thanks to Facebook! — to get crafty with leftover wine corks.

1. Set your wine glass on them

“Make coasters! The cork absorbs the moisture from the drink so it doesn’t pool on top of the coaster and it doesn’t get warped,” says Michelle.

2. Keep an earring on

Stash a cork in your jewelry box. Next time you can’t find an earring back, snip a small piece off the cork and slide your earring through. It’ll stay put all day.

3. Get festive

Incorporate your love of wine into your holiday décor. “I’m saving mine to eventually make a Christmas tree garland,” shares Alicia.

4. Fashion a trivet

Wine corks make great trivets that can protect any surface from cooking. Find out how to make a wine cork trivet online, or buy a wine cork trivet kit. (Try Amazon or Bed Bath & Beyond.)

Photo: ©

5. Make-over windows

“For now I just save corks from special bottles or celebrations,” says Denise Maurer of Denise Maurer Interiors in Troy. “However, I’m looking forward to proposing to a client one day using corks for a window treatment. I would drill through the corks and then thread them onto ball and chain lengths. Perfect for a wine cellar or wet bar.”

6. Protect your walls

Never again let a hanging picture ruin the wall behind it. “Cut corks in halves (round in shape) and glue them behind hanging frames, so the frame doesn’t hit the wall on the bottom,” says Donna.

7. Create instant décor … Amy suggests: “Put them in a nice vase and use it as a centerpiece!” Another idea we’ve seen: Place a glass votive in the center of a larger glass hurricane. Fill the space between the two with wine corks, then light the candle in the votive and enjoy the glow.

8. … Or a memory vase

Here’s a sweet touch for tossing them in a vase: “Write the date on them and/ or who you drank with and store in a vase,” says Ann.

9. Make mulch

Chop up your leftover corks into tiny pieces and use them as mulch for potted plants. calls it “Merlot mulch.” We like that!

10. Bring out your inner DIY bride

“I used them for table-number holders at my wedding,” says Jacquie. Want to do the same? Make slits with a sharp knife and insert the card. (Good idea for place cards at the dinner parties, too!)  @

There’s more! Find out online how to make a … • serving tray ( • mirror frame ( • piece of art ( • bulletin board (

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



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table décor

A Winter Wonderland setting a fresh, fun holiday table

by larissa lytwyn  |  photos by colleen ingerto


osting Christmas this year and not sure where to begin? Worry not, our experts agree. If you maximize what you have and stay true to a vision of who you are, your holiday tablescape will be downright fun to create — and beautiful to behold! continued on page 46 



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table décor

continued from page 43


ynde London-McCoy of Decorum Home in Latham wants people to know that Christmas doesn’t have to mean red-and-green. “I wanted to create something vibrant and a little edgy, not traditional,” she says.

TABLESCAPING TIPS: Thank your guests for coming in the form of name-cards enclosed in silver ornaments. Remember to vary heights to create interest, such as the contrast of the blue finials with taller candlesticks. Bunch white carnations together and adorn with pearls; the result is a floral snowball, crisp and uniquely elegant.



Use metallic elements for a subtle hint of holiday sparkle. London-McCoy always recommends starting your tablescape with a runner. Her Christmas runner features white polyester batting that came from a local craft shop. “It reminded me of snow,� she says. Fill an unused fireplace with birch logs, adding a warm, rustic touch.@


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holiday gifts

Bright Idea!

A pop of contrasting color adds spice.

The Art of the Wrap making holiday gifts stand out!


ure, you can cover a box with some holiday paper, stick on a bow, maybe some ribbon and call it a day. Or with just a little extra time and ingenuity you can create something that has recipients feeling special before the box is even open. We asked interior designer Denise Maurer, of Maurer Interiors

by janet reynolds  |  photos by colleen ingerto

in Troy, aided by interior designer Michele Conti, of Designs by Michele in Niskayuna, along with a secret elf who wants to remain nameless, for their best wrapping tips. Here are just a few of their wonderful ideas. continued on page 50 


holiday gifts continued from page 49

Bright Idea!

Save wallpaper scraps and you’ve always got gift wrap on hand.

Just about anything can take on a second life as a gift decoration. Among the goodies Maurer and Conti used for these natural-looking wraps are wallpaper, brown paper bags, retired drapery tassles, older Christmas tree ornaments and, of course, pine cones. Maurer’s top tip: Wrap first; embellish later. “You can focus on how it all goes together that way,” she says. Maurer saves bits of everything. “I’m always looking at something and thinking what could I do with this?”

Who says red and green are the only holiday gift wrapping colors? Both Maurer and Conti try to colorcoordinate their wrapping. Here, peacock feathers and bits of former ornaments help make these packages pop. Why take the time? “It’s a lot of fun putting it together,” Maurer says. “And it’s nice to unwrap something you don’t want to unwrap.” Adds Conti, “It’s part of the gift.” @

Bright Idea!

Stick-on letters make perfect cards. 50


Visit for our exclusive video on making the perfect bow! Got a smartphone?  Scan the QR code at right to link directly to our Life@Home videos page on YouTube.

Bright Idea!

Use a mini picture-frame instead of a card.

What every wrapper should have on-hand • • • • •

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giving tired furniture new life by cari scribner  |  photos by tyler murphy


arah Trop sees treasures in other people’s trash. Gathered from tag and yard sales, and even friends ready to send items to the junk lot, Trop recycles older wooden furniture into functional works of art. The artist, who hails from Troy, is owner of Funcycled, a furniture refinishing business she and her husband, John, launched in January. Their two children, Joshua, 4, and Harmony, 2, are accustomed to family outings scouring for well-aged furniture. continued on page 54 


artisan continued from page 53

“Harmony’s birthday was coming up and I asked her what kind of party she wanted, and she said she wanted a ‘yard sale’ party,” Trop says, laughing. Using paint, sand paper, matte furniture wax and more than a little inspiration, Trop repurposes furniture — everything from hutches, desks and bed frames to tables and chairs — into shabby-chic pieces that look vintage with unexpected color combinations. Some examples: a child’s dresser done in light blue and chocolate brown, with a hand-painted tree branch occupied by an owl. A mid-century beehive-style dresser painted smoky aqua, with the top drawer removed and a tangerinecolored suitcase tucked on one side, a white wooden crate on the other. A row of four school-size wooden chairs, all painted different pastels, from butter cream to cotton-candy pink. A formal buffet table with spindle legs made to look well-worn with deep persimmon paint that’s sanded off here and there, creating an old-fashioned look that makes it centerpiece-worthy in any room of the house. Before she starts revamping a piece, Trop learns a little of its history. “There’s a story behind every piece I paint,” she says. “I find out about the era in which it was built, who owned it, where it has been. It’s a privilege to be redoing a dresser that belonged to someone’s great grandmother.” Trop grew up in Saratoga and Austerlitz and took painting lessons as a young girl, but has no formal training in art or design. When Sarah and John were married in 2003, they each



For more photos, visit

had fast-paced, stressful full-time jobs, even after the arrival of their two children. John left a job that required extensive travel for a job closer to home. Sarah worked for nine years at a computer software company. At her husband’s urging, Sarah started Funcycled. “It was a leap of faith,” Trop says. “I was so nervous about making enough money to pay the mortgage. My family was very supportive. I couldn’t have done it without them.”


ohn has an extensive carpentry background, so his business role is to fix the furniture that’s tossed out, sold for a few dollars, or given away. Four months after starting Funcycled, Sarah left her day job. Today, although profits have been offset by costs of some necessary tools — such as spray painters and a trailer for pick-ups and deliveries — Sarah, who eschews using stencils, has about six weeks of back orders, and clients across New York State and New England. Some of her finished pieces are available for sale, but the lion’s share of her work is custom jobs, in which she suggests colors and patterns with the client, who typically tells her to go ahead with her inspirations. “A year ago I wasn’t even doing this, but it’s our whole world now,” Trop says. “We love to be upcycling, taking older items and making them usable again with a whole different look that people love. We’re really at a crossroad in our life.” Sarah and John work on the furniture from their charming Troy home. A storage shed allows customers to look through

John and Sarah Trop say opening an upcycledfurniture shop “was a leap of faith.” finished pieces for sale, while an enormous barn out back is filled with works in process. They also use their basement for repairing, painting, sanding and waxing. Laundry baskets with tiny kids’ socks and T-shirts line up beside benches and tables in the process of being renovated. The couple has created the pictureperfect setting for raising children, running a small business, and using their innate talents to produce unique, eclectic art. Sarah works while the kids nap, then in the evening after tucking them in for the night. She gets scant sleep, like most working moms, since her youngsters rise and shine around 6 a.m. Along with making due with little sleep, Sarah and John handle the heavy lifting that comes along with furniture restoration. “We don’t have a delivery truck or someone to haul furniture,” Trop says. “We delivered 13 pieces to Hartford, Ct., in pouring rain. You have to have muscles to do that!” Prices are set on the finished furniture that’s for sale; costs for custom pieces are negotiated with the client. Funcycled furniture is also featured at Anchor No 5 Boutique in Troy, and is slated to be carried at a second Troy shop in coming months. You can also check out the Trops’ work at Sarah plans to study interior design once her children are in kindergarten, but she already has a knack for knowing what colors and patterns will bring furniture to life. “Part of what clients pay me for is my eye on a piece, and we won’t produce a piece that’s not attractive,” Trop says. “Sometimes people will tell us what they want, and we tell them politely that it won’t turn out how they envision it. We have to be happy with what we produce. All they have to do is trust us.” @


living green

Keeping Warm geo-thermal heating offers a clean-energy alternative by cari scribner  |  photos by krishna hill


hen Loraine and Alan Robichaud were building their home on the rolling hills in Hoosick Falls, they were determined to make it both lovely and eco-friendly. For starters, they had enormous 19-foot-high windows built where some homes would have solid walls. The result is both stunning and efficient. The windows maximize the sun’s rays in the living area, harnessing its natural warmth and light. The windows also block potentially harmful UV rays for everyone’s health. The couple also fitted their house with another major fueland cost-saving system that, unlike the large windows, is not visible. It’s an underground geo-thermal heating and cooling system, fueled by the earth’s internal temperature rather than by conventional heating oil and propane. “We were determined to have a heating and cooling system that was cleaner and allowed us to break our reliance on combustible fuel,” Loraine Robichaud says. “Oil prices are going through the roof, and when we looked at the cost savings longterm, it was well worth the investment.” 56


Geoff Hoffer, co-owner of Aztech Geo-thermal in Ballston Spa, installed the Robichauds’ system. Aztech’s customers include people building a new home, and those retrofitting homes by removing their existing system and installing geo-thermal piping beneath the house. Once installed, the system becomes a powerhouse, supplying the home with more than enough natural energy.


eo-thermal heating and cooling has been around since the 1950s, but during that time, people had a ready source of fuel, and weren’t as concerned about alternative energy sources, Hoffer says. “Now people across the board are becoming more aware. I’ve seen a definite increase in interest that’s growing every year,” he says. “As the price of oil and propane continue to rise, I expect to see more people looking for geo-thermal.” Hoffer says he has a 50/50 split between new home construction and retrofitting existing homes with the Earth-friendly heating and cooling system.

geothermal heat pump hot water tank

ground loops

Geo-thermal system illustration by Emily Jahn.

Here’s how it works: The installer drills into the earth and lays down piping. The depth of the drill varies. In the Robichauds’ case, they dug down 450 feet. This upper crust of the earth absorbs and holds the heat from the sun, while maintaining a stable temperature of 50 degrees all year. This stored energy from the sun is enough to fuel a home’s heating and cooling system without any reliance on heating oil. “It’s like a big battery of solar energy that’s always available,” Hoffer says. “When the energy is drawn out of the area where the pipes are laid, more energy naturally flows into that space, constantly replenishing it.” As a result, the Robichauds only pay for the electricity they use: They have no costs for heating and cooling. Geo-thermal systems have other advantages as well, including a 30 percent federal tax credit for the installation, lower homeowner insurance premiums because combustible fuel isn’t being piped into the home, and an increase in the value of the home for resale. The Robichauds’ geo-thermal system cost about $21,000, compared to a conventional heating system installation of about $12,000. But they received a $7,000 federal tax credit, and, thanks to their heating and cooling savings, they should recoup that investment within a couple years of utility costs. And, as the cold winds blow, the Robichauds are sitting pretty in their lovely home, with indoor temperatures they say are ideal. “It’s extremely comfortable in here, and it’s a clean system. … I definitely notice a difference in the amount of dust and particles in the air,” Loraine says. “I’ve actually had to turn the heat down because our house holds the warm air so well.” @



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refurnished living

Green Your Tree by alison grieveson


dollars is spent on 25 million pine trees (which take an average 9 to 11 years to grow) each holiday season. This year, save the planet and your pocketbook by considering other options in place of a traditional Christmas tree. @


ou might think that with all the glut and waste that can overtake the holiday season that your pine Christmas tree is the perfect sustainable option. Think again. Over $800 million

 If you love the ocean or just love the time-worn look of driftwood, this is the tree for you. Most driftwood artists can create this to your specifications.

 Ingrid Jansen, who makes a line of home accessories from recycled and sustainable materials created this simple tree from recycled scraps of wood for her own home.

 With storm season approaching, you’re bound to have plenty of downed branches in your yard. How about this darling take on a Christmas tree? If your branches still have berries on them — all the better!

 How about forgoing a tree all together and creating a mobile of suspended ornaments? Your kids will love this as it allows room for more gifts underneath. DIY instructions at

Alison Grieveson is a graphic designer who enjoys exploring the greener side of the design and decorating industries. For more green tips, check out


down the garden path

Fairy Gardens for All mini is in, inside and out


story and photos by colleen plimpton

ashion, automobile and kitchen styles change with the times, and so do gardening trends. Gazing balls wax and wane in popularity. Formal hybrid tea roses give way to more casual groundcover types. Invasives are out and natives are in. Organic gardening is de rigueur. A current fresh face on the horticulture scene is miniature, or fairy gardens. They’re found from the New York Botanical Garden to nurseries, from tabletop terrariums to a wedge of the outdoor garden. They’re the bee’s knees these days, and a fine way to draw us into the captivating, fulfilling pastime of tilling the soil. What is a fairy garden? A tiny plot of land, wherever it resides, replete with miniature houses, furniture and accessories such as birdhouses, arbors, wheelbarrows and actual living plants. It creates the impression of a wee world, the sort that fairies might inhabit. The garden can be rustic or sophisticated, 60


hidden or on display. It can hold fairy statues or be left uninhabited, in the hopes that a fairy, entranced by the setting, will take up housekeeping. All provide an intriguing outlet for the gardening aspirations of the imaginative child and adult alike. Common Celtic belief is that fairies were driven away by humans to live in another world. However, many fairies have chosen to remain among us. They wear flowers for clothes, which makes them hard to find. They are said to have magical powers, are very shy, and tend to be a little mischievous. Fairies like to play tricks; they move things around in the garden and hide objects for their own amusement. They love to dance and if you look closely, you may see them waltzing in the dark with the fireflies. While they generally make their homes in tree crevices, fallen logs, and mossy hillsides, they are never loath to turn down a ready-made home. As fairies would rather play than work, a fairy house and garden are always appreciated.

Books, toys, figurines, jewelry, movies and all manner of associated cultural ephemera are associated with fairies nowadays. So high is the interest that many local nurseries market furnishings, accessories and plants for their gardens. Additional resources may be found online: miniaturegardenshoppe. com and are a couple of options.

Celtic belief says humans drove away fairies to live elsewhere.


f you wish to indulge in this fascinating hobby, the sky’s the limit. Simply think delicate and light (as we imagine fairies to be) when constructing, planting and furnishing your new tiny garden, be it a tabletop display or a teeny patch tucked into the corner of your garden. For further inspiration, visit the Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Garden ( This amazing annual construction uses nuts, bark, leaves and other natural substances to depict familiar New York City landmarks. Consider where your personal Lilliputian garden is to reside. If for indoor display, arrange the creation in an open-topped box or other container, or on a board for ease of carrying. A surrounding fence renders the enchanted scene suitable for a tabletop. If outdoors, clear a space to start with a clean slate. To plant, as with any garden, begin with good soil, and then place the largest material, the “trees.” Annual geraniums can be used, or try small rosemary standards or dwarf conifers. For shrubs, think creeping savory, Greek sage, polka-dot plant or curly chives. Ground covers may include miniature sedums, Kenilworth ivy, or maidenhair spleenwort. For color consider corydalis lutea, dianthus tiny rubies or pint-size columbine. Cute “vegetables” may be constructed from rosettes of saxifrage or tiny sprigs of parsley. For plans, ideas, and lists of merchants carrying supplies, see Now comes the fun part — decorating. Use dollhouse furniture and pocket-size garden accessories. Employ sea-glass bits, colored stones or marbles for water features. A thimble can pass as a flowerpot, twigs can be fences, and pea gravel makes a terrific path. Shop ’til you drop or use what you have on-hand to furnish your fairy garden so that it pleases you as well as any visiting pixies. Finish the décor with moss mulch, and perhaps a mirror pond. And consider seasonal interest. For autumn, try tiny pumpkins, acorn houses, mini black cats and enchanted groves. Winter comes alive with Christmas trees and frozen ponds sporting itty-bitty skating figures. For spring,

search out teeny tools, mini-mushrooms, bags of potting soil, flower pots and sprightly flowers. Summer brings on wheelbarrows, gazing balls and croquet sets. Sometimes age or lack of time renders the large garden a bit difficult to manage. Here’s your chance to continue to enjoy America’s favorite pastime by going small. Let your imagination run wild; be a child again in the garden.  @ Garden communicator Colleen Plimpton lectures on, writes about, coaches and teaches gardening. Visit her website at


design classics

The Zen of

Furniture the noguchi “tribeca” coffee table

by kim messenger  |  photo courtesy control brand


ow, it stands to reason that if you grew up, say, on the Serengeti plain between Kenya and Tanzania, you would assume that everybody lived in domed huts covered with grasses. You’d assume that such structures occurred naturally — that’s how you make houses, simple as that. OK, so let’s assume you were born in this country between 1950 and 1980. You would probably assume that cities were naturally made of rectangular blocks of concrete. You would take it for granted that certain shapes were just there — squarish black leather sofas, ashtrays on stands, and abstract metal sculptures on rolling grass. That’s just the way we make cities and office parks. Well, it isn’t true. The look and feel of the postwar era came about because of the vision of designers. The glass and concrete skyscraper is the vision of the modernists, particularly Le Corbusier and the Bauhaus School — all of whom thought that industrial simplicity would result in perfect living spaces. OK, great idea. Nothing more beautiful than a glass tower surrounded by trees. But that’s not what we do. We stick them side-by-side, and while we are at it, let’s make public housing that way because it is cheap. That’s the modern city: visionary design meets the lowest common denominator. That’s one influence. The other major influence on the look and feel of the contemporary era is the magnificent and visionary Japanese-American designer and sculptor Isamu Noguchi. So often, when you see one of those glass rectangles, you’ll see some attempt at “art” nearby — usually awful. Those are poor attempts to achieve what Noguchi achieved, which was to bring Japanese Zen-like contemplative design to the modernist project. I’m going to go further: Pier One is unthinkable without Noguchi. All of those simple but expressive objects that decorate the home — the vases, the bowls, the big floor jugs filled with dried grasses — owe something of their parentage to Noguchi’s humanizing but restrained inspiration.


oguchi was born in Los Angeles in 1904, the illegitimate son of a Japanese poet and an American writer. The boy



and his mother went to Japan to follow the poet and ended up moving around, soaking up the beauty and the influences. In 1918, the boy was sent back to America for schooling. He enrolled in medical school, but, inspired by his poetic mother, he started to take art classes at night. He was immediately successful as a sculptor and dropped out of med school. He went to Paris, hung out with Constantin Brancusi and Alexander Calder — both huge influences. He went to Japan and China to study brush painting. Then he headed back to the States to work for the Works Progress Administration. When the war broke out — and the U.S. government interned Japanese Americans — Noguchi voluntarily interned himself for a while and then furloughed himself back to Greenwich Village. The rest of his life is similarly fascinating, full of increasingly important work and love affairs with beautiful women. For now, we’ll stick with a fateful meeting in 1947 with Herman Miller and his company of furniture designers. Noguchi put a little bit of his talent into designing furniture and the result is some of the iconic works of mid-century design, including the IN50 Coffee Table, shown here. Look carefully. Can you see how modernist simplicity is married to a Japanese appreciation for careful balance? The base of the table consists of two identical shapes, one inverted and glued to the other. They are the same, but they are opposites. Together, these questioning sculptural forms create a solid platform for a triangular table, but one that is glass — like a still pond — and rounded — like a pebble or a stone. So in the midst of the boxes and grids, we have an object of contemplation, of stillness — which is also a damn fine coffee table. Herman Miller still makes these —16 inches high with a 2-centimeters-thick glass top, with the option for black, maple, walnut, or cherry base — and they sell for $1,500. You can buy one at However there are many reproductions, and I like, where the “Tribeca” table can be had for $350. @

A LOAF OF BREAD,a cup of wine and thou. Read the story on page 72. Photo by Suzanne Kawola.

family | food | wine pages 63 - 86


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Home for the Holidays by merci miglino


ne holiday season a decade or so ago, my daughter and I became bracelet-making fools. We’d rushed through homework and chores so we could sit on the big couch, TV tables positioned in front, and make bracelet after bracelet. We gave them to friends and family. We gave them to the next door neighbors, the teachers, the holiday party hosts, and our favorite supermarket cashiers. We left them for our faithful mail carrier, our librarian, and our fabulous go-to baristas. We had so much fun that year in our own living room — minus trips to get more supplies — that it gave a whole new meaning to “home for the holidays.” So this year why not have your own home-for-the-holidays craft? Avoid the noise-noise-noise of the crowds, the lines, the bills, and the gas prices, and enjoy the home you never get enough time to enjoy. At a loss for what you might do? Not that crafty? Hogwash! Everyone is an artist. All you need is the right muse and the right media. I worked in beads and elastic fishing line, but there are a million ways to run smack into your inner artist. Here are just a few:

Photo: ©

Homemade Truffles. You have no idea how easy these are to make! You can cover them with an assortment of crushed nuts and sprinkles. Then you can package them up in little boxes and tie a ribbon around them. Bonus: You get to taste them for, uh, quality-control purposes, of course. Made-From-Scratch Cookie Kits. All you need is your favorite cookie recipe, the dry ingredients, a note card, and some ribbon. Layer all the dry ingredients in the Mason jar, screw on the lid and print the recipe on the note card. Tie a ribbon or be creative by attaching a small pine cone or jingle bell. You can also create your own logo and label if you’re feeling graphically inclined. Secret Hollowed Books. Perfect for spending more time in your home library or favorite reading nook. Find cheap or free — preferably musty and old — classics at the local Goodwill or used bookstore. Glue the pages together, then use an X-ACTO or mat knife to hollow out the center of the book. It’s the perfect place for the recipient to store his treasures (and you’ll know how to find them, if needed). Homemade Hand Warmers. Give your friends the gift of warmth with a handmade hand warmer. Use wool, cashmere or felt bags, and fill them with beans or ceramic pie weights. To use these toasty treasures, simply microwave them for a couple of minutes and slip them in your pockets.

Memory Drawings. If you can do a simple line drawing, consider drawing a very simple black-and-white picture of a memory you share with someone (e.g. my daughter and me making beaded bracelets while the snow falls outside). Now frame it, if you like, and give it away. The great thing about this (besides being inexpensive) is that you can give this gift multiple times to the same person. They will have a growing collection of “memory drawings” from you. Personalized Affirmation Mirrors. Start by picking up inexpensive, smallish mirrors. Or look around your house for some. Select some one-word affirmations, such as “fabulous” and “gorgeous,” and search through different fonts — magazines are a good place to look — for one that fits the word you’re going to use for the receiver of the mirror. You can cut them out and slap them on the mirror with some glue, or, if you’re feeling a bit daring, print out the words to make stencils and cut them out on contact paper. Use some glass-etching glaze to etch the words onto the mirrors. Add some cheap rhinestones to glitz them up for the girls or add a masculine touch for the boys. Finish by attaching ribbon and twine so that they can be hung easily. What a great way to give someone a reason to smile at themselves everyday! Make Your Own Cards. Great money-saver with that personal touch but also a great way to use old holiday cards, scraps of wrapping-paper ribbons and bows, as well as photos, magazines and other paper. You can use colored markers, crayons, or printed text. And you can buy boxes of 50 assorted blank cards for around $7 and get gluing. The Family Cookbook. This is my favorite. Some years ago, my mother, who has since passed, put together a recipe book of all our family recipes. We all loved it, as evidenced by the food spills and other damage on each page of the typed-byhand book. Now my siblings and I have family we’d like to share recipes with, as there’s not one in the bunch that doesn’t cook (and eat heartily). This would be a good project for a big family, even one as spread out geographically as mine. You’ll need a project coordinator (boss of the project) and an editor (detailed pain-in-the-butt) to get everyone to submit a few recipes and then print and bind the book for all to have. Hopefully some members of my family are working on this right now. As for me, I’m not sure what I’ll be making but I do know I’ll be enjoying my home when I do. That’s my idea of do-it-yourself holiday cheer. @


gift giving

➋ ➌


Rocking Whiskey Glasses feature round bottoms impossible to tip over.


The Corkcicle drink cooler works like an icicle inside your wine bottle.


Wine aerators like this one from Vinturi mix in air to improve bouquet and flavor.




The wand on this tea strainer allows tea steeping without a spoon — or your fingers. Just unscrew the wand to insert tea.

5/6. Buddha plates and Buddha bowls feature loops for holding your meals in one hand. Your hands stay warm, and you can even eat standing up.

Get Cookin’!

holiday kitchen gifts for just about anyone

by lee nelson  |  photos by krishna hill


t doesn’t matter if it’s your teenage niece, your grandfather or your best friend. Everyone eats; everyone drinks. Which is why a gift for the kitchen can be one of the most treasured. And you’d be surprised at how many cool new items are available to delight even the hardest person on your holiday list. We asked some area experts for their suggestions on the most popular culinary gifts this holiday season. Barware and beverage gadgets get two thumbs up Cheryl Zinni, owner of Spoon & Whisk in Clifton Park, says whiskey stones are the hottest new items in her store for the Christmas buying season. Made of soapstone in Vermont, they get placed in drinks after spending some time in the freezer. “You use them like ice cubes, but they don’t water down your drink,” she says. “The soapstone isn’t porous, so when you are done, you just rinse them off and freeze them again.” The cloth bag is filled with nine cubes for $19.95. Those whiskey stones would fit nicely into the eye-catching Rocking Whiskey Glasses sold at Homessence in Saratoga Springs. “I can’t even keep these in,” says owner Kristy Ringler. “A set of 6 sells for $25. The bottoms are rounded. They roll but are impossible to tip over. They are a great hostess gift instead of bringing a bottle of wine.” But if you do bring the wine, you might also purchase your host a new drink cooler called the Corkcicle for $24.95. The long icicle-looking contraption is frozen and placed where your cork usually goes in the wine bottle. Like whiskey stones, it chills it without diluting, Zinni says. Vinturi makes a variety of wine aerators that claim to create a better bouquet and improve the flavor of wines by mixing in air as you pour it. “It sits in the glass and you just pour the wine through it,” says Michele Weiser, manager of Different Drummer’s Kitchen in Albany. “It brings out all the fruitiness. You can reuse it over and over again. It’s huge in restaurants, too.” For tea lovers, Ringler suggests a new tea strainer. A wand is attached that allows you to seep the tea bag easily instead of with your fingers or a spoon. “The bottom screws off. You put the loose tea inside. These are very popular,” she says.

Gifts to make anyone happy Ringler is selling loads of Buddha bowls in green, aqua and white. The 18-ounce bowls are unique because they fit in one hand with a big handle. They cost $27 each. The Buddha plates also have a loop for your thumb. This enables you to eat while standing or holding it on your lap. They only come in white and are $29 each. “They were on Oprah’s favorite list,” she says. “They are great for entertaining and great for yourself if you are lounging. The bowls cradle in your hand. “The designer developed the bowls to warm her mother’s arthritic hands.” Susan Hatalsky has been cooking professionally since 1972. She says you can’t go wrong giving a cook a quality cooking pan such as All Clad or Le Creuset. “Cooking should be fun and joyful, not stressful,” she says. She is a certified executive chef and faculty member in the School of Hotel, Culinary Arts & Tourism at Schenectady County Community College. Weiser agrees about the cooking power of a Le Creuset pot. “I couldn’t live without my 5 1/2 quart Dutch oven. I fry food in it. I bake bread in it. I make stews and bake chicken in it. It’s on my countertop,” she says. “I have all the colors. But the flame red is the traditional color. They clean up so well. And you can’t hurt it.” The Dutch oven costs about $265, but Weiser says that it is indestructible, i.e. the recipient will likely have it forever. For the hostess on your list, Zinni suggests silicone coasters and trivets that are colorful replicas of antique Mediterranean tiles. “You can use cold or hot on them and they range in price from $7.95 to $29.95. It’s a great hostess gift,” she says. “Since I brought them into the store, I have reordered them at least four times. They keep flying out the door. Everyone loves them.” Homessence has purchased a number of serving pieces made of reclaimed wood from Europe. They come in all different shapes and sizes. They are all food-safe and are handfinished with bees wax and mineral oil. “They are beautiful to sit on a counter or to present food in. They look like cutting boards but are more for presentation,” Ringler says. continued on page 68 


gift giving continued from page 67

For those wanting to cook in something a little more exotic than just a casserole dish, Different Drummer’s Kitchen Co. offers a Moroccan tagine. “It’s this crazy funnel-looking thing. As it heats up, the steam drips down into the food. It saves all the nutrients,” Weiser says. “It’s made of clay and has a very shallow dish.” The 2 1/2 quart dish costs $135. Weiser says pizza stones in square and round shapes are a good gift for anyone who’s a pizza fan. The ones by Emile Henry are about $50.

Small is big The Nespresso machine that makes individual cups of espresso or cappuccino is a popular choice, according to Weiser. “This has been the biggest thing in the last two years. It comes in different colors. It is delicious, and you can use different kinds of coffee. It’s a very tiny machine and hardly takes any space on your counter,” Weiser says. Prices range from $250-$300. Just about any level cook would love receiving a food proessor from Breville, says Zinni. “It has the versatility of having just a little 2-cup bowl or a 16-cup bowl on the same machine. It has a slicing blade in it that is adjustable to the thickness you want,” she says. “With other brands, you are a slave to what thickness they decided on with the blade. This is a nice item and has won a lot of awards.” Price is $399. “Everyone needs electric appliances,” Hatalsky says. “A stick blender is a must-have. You can blitz up anything in a flash.”

1. As this Moroccan tagine heats up, steam drips down into your food, preserving all the nutrients. 2. Move over, K-Cups: the Nespresso machine’s individual cups of espresso and cappuccino are the supersophisticated choice. 3. These silicone coasters and trivets are colorful replicas of antique Mediterranean tiles, and can handle both hot and cold temperatures. 68


Deck the halls, in style. Cooking books for all tastes and expertise As a cook, cookbooks are Hatalsky’s passion and “perhaps an obsession,” she says. “I have hundreds of cookbooks on my shelves between home and school. I love them.” If you want to give a cookbook to a beginner, she suggested any of Ina Garten’s cookbooks — she goes by the Barefoot Contessa — along with a good quality French knife. For those who like to bake, Hatalsky recommends Tartine by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson; Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman; and Baking Handbook by Martha Stewart. For savory cooking, she enjoys Urban Italian by Andrew Carmellini and Gwen Hyman, and Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi. “I believe deeply that everyone should cook and involve their children and family in the process,” Hatalsky says. “It brings families together to nourish not only the body but the soul. Cook to your level of expertise and venture into the more complicated slowly when you have time. Above all, don’t be fearful.” @

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◀ Interested in having your holiday more homemade but not sure where to start? Holiday Food Gifts to Make! can help, from mouthwatering recipes to clever wrapping ideas. Check out the details online at timesunion. com/lifeathome.

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How Science Helps Back Pain The lower back is a series of bones separated by shock absorbers called “discs”. When these discs go bad because of age or injury you can have pain. For some the pain is just annoying, but for others it can be life changing...and not in a good way. It has long been thought that if these discs could be helped in a natural and noninvasive way, lots of people with back and leg pain could lower the amount of pain medication they take, be given fewer epidural injections for the pain and have less surgery.

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Through the work of a specialized team of physicians and medical engineers, a medical manufacturing company, now offers this space age technology in its incredible DRX 9000 Spinal Decompression equipment.

The DRX 9000 is FDA cleared to use with the pain and symptoms associated with herniated and/or bulging discs. . . even after failed surgery. What Conditions Has The DRX 9000 Successfully Treated And Will It Help YOU? The main conditions the DRX 9000 has success with are: • • • •

Back pain Sciatica Spinal Stenosis Herniated and/or bulging discs (single or multiple) • Degenerative disc disease • A relapse or failure following surgery • Facet syndromes A very important note: The DRX 9000 has been successful even when NOTHING else has worked. Even after failed surgery. What Are Treatments On The DRX 9000 Like?

After being fitted with an automatic shoulder support system, you simply lie face up on the DRX 9000’s comfortable bed and the advanced computer system does the rest. Patients describe the treatment as a gentle, soothing, intermittent pulling of your back. Many patients actually fall asleep during treatment. The really good news IS... this is not something you have to continue to do for the rest of your life. So it is not a big commitment. Since offering the DRX 9000 in my Colonie office, I have seen nothing short of miracles for back pain sufferers who had tried everything else. . . with little or no result. Many had lost all hope. Had herniated disk operation 8 years ago another disc became herniated. Doctor wanted to operate have arthritis from 1st one (did not want to go under knife again) very grateful to DRX9000 (thank you Dr. Claude D. Guerra, DC) Very happy camper. Raymond F Niskayuna, NY Age 55 This treatment was a miracle for my cervical disk herniations. Only other alternative was surgery, which I no longer have to face. William I Schenectady, NY Age 63

I was told by a doctor I wouldn’t be able to work. I cannot afford to not work so I tried Dr. Claude D. Guerra, DC, and not only did the pain go away but I never missed a day at work. Rick S Clifton Park, NY Age 42 I would love to shake the hand of the person who invented this machine. It was a life saver for me and a lot better than going under the knife. I HIGHLY recommend this to anyone with chronic back pain. Dawn H Colonie, NY Age 49 Before the DRX 9000 treatment. I had no quality of life. Couldn’t do anything for myself. Thank God for Dr. and the DRX machine. I can live again. Yvette K Schenectady, NY Age 47 I suffered for three years, before I received treatment on the DRX 9000. Today, I can sleep and get out of bed like a normal human being. Before, I couldn’t even drive my car because the pain in my hips, legs and feet were so bad from the sciatica nerve being pinched by my Herniated Disc L4 and L5, which also prevented me from sitting in a chair or even using my computer lap top at any time. Today things have changed due to advance technology therapy on the DRX 9000. They always try

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Dr. Claude D. Guerra, DC demonstrates the DRX 9000 to a patient

to regulate the treatments that work. What is up with this taught process???? The world is changing and so have I. Frank A Troy, NY Age 52 Before receiving the DRX treatments, my quality of life was very poor. I could hardly do anything other than going to work and going to bed. After the DRX treatments my quality of life has improved 90% which has resulted in me being able to go for long walks without a cane and go shopping. Anne P Burnt Hills, NY Age 70 I am so appreciative of this method of therapy because when I came to the office I had to use a cane and had muscle pain in walking. After 2nd treatment sciatica nerve pain was gone in my left leg. Judith W Albany, NY Age 64 Prior to this treatment my only options appeared to be invasive pain management, or surgery. After receiving 24 sessions on the DRX, I am markedly improved, relatively pain free and am able to function as I had in previous years. Highly recommend to anyone with disc issues. Alan P Scotia, NY Age 53 I would choose this therapy again! Painless treatment that gets your life back to

normal. Stick with it-it works! Linda G Broadalben, NY Age 53 I am so happy I came to Dr. Guerra. I was in a lot of pain and after being on the DRX I tell you I do not have pain. I feel wonderful and the staff are very nice. Dr. Claude D. Guerra, DC is wonderful. If you are in pain try the DRX it really helps. Edith C Schenectady, NY Age 71 I think more people should know about this procedure before considering any surgery. Medications help the pain but they don’t cure the cause. I am back to my old self again. Lorraine B Scotia, NY Age 78 I highly recommend this machine. I had my doubts but it really and truly works. Dr. Claude D. Guerra, DC is a wonderful doctor and his staff is great too. Linda D Clifton Park, NY Age 46 I was extremely skeptical at the beginning of treatments - Progress was slow in coming - But... then it worked! What a relief!!! Joan K Delmar, NY Age 71 I had no where else to go with this problem. The DRX 9000 was just what I needed. Many thanks! Burton S Mechanicville, NY Age 50

I’m able to go on long walks and get all night sleep (I’ve had 3 surgeries since 2006) Without the DRX I would be in for a 4th back surgery. I’m getting back to doing activities with my 10 year old son. Lisa V Catskill, NY Age 45 I wish to thank you very much for all the help I received with the spinal decompression therapy. Your entire office was very helpful and compassionate. No longer do I sit at night with my heating pads, moving them from sore spot to sore spot. My knees are no longer on fire and I’m able to go up and down the stairs much easier than before. Mable D Ballston Lake, NY Age 68

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Home Sweet Home chef zach welton returns to the family homestead by steve barnes  |  photos by suzanne kawola


he young chef Zach Welton is the fourth generation of his family to live in the Voorheesville house built by his great-grandparents in 1954. It was the childhood home of his maternal grandmother, Barbara Vink and his mom, Lauren Welton, lived there while growing up, then returned with Zach and his brothers for Zach’s teen years. And now Zach is back, moving in this past fall and bringing along a roommate, because, according to the joking family narrative, “(The roommate) goes wherever Zach does so he doesn’t have to find his own place.” The home has neighbors on either side, but out back the land slopes down to a pond and a woodsy, 10-acre spread. “I’m just not a downtown kind of guy,” says Welton. “I tried it, and I tried the (suburban) apartment thing, and it’s just not me. I need to escape after work.” Welton, now 23, had an itinerant few years after graduating from high school in Voorheesville. He knew he wanted to cook and thought a culinary education in California was the route to a career in restaurant kitchens. “That lasted for about five days,” he says. Believing he was learning more at his restaurant job than cooking school, Welton quit the culinary academy and worked for several more months in San Francisco eateries before returning to the Capital Region. He bounced around local fine-dining kitchens, decamped to Colorado to help a friend launch, then close, a food truck in Denver, and came home for a job at New World Bistro Bar in Albany. Welton’s talents impressed the restaurant’s celebrated executive chef, Ric Orlando, who groomed his young protege until promoting him to chef de cuisine, the No. 2 slot in the busy kitchen. “They’ve given me the amazing opportunity to grow at New World,” Welton says. “I didn’t consider myself a chef until after I started working there.” Says his mother: “But he was always a really good cook.” Having settled in at New World, where his interest in unusual ingredients was embraced — “I’ve had bulls’ testicles in the freezer for a while as I 72


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h o l i d a y party, baby shower, bridal shower, figure out what to do with them,” he says — Welton sought domestic semi-permanence as well. He found it when Grandma announced that she and Tony Gies, her companion on and off for 35 yeas, were moving to Florida but wanted to keep the Voorheesville home. Welton volunteered to live there. “She asked me to come back and I was like, ‘Who wouldn’t?’” he says. “I like hunting, fishing, being outside — this place is perfect.” It’s an eclectic, well-loved home, with Vink’s eccentric art on the walls, an electric stove with one dead burner, furniture that Vink and Gies collected over the years, a dorm-size fridge in the living room for beer, and an unreliable dining table. Says Welton’s mother of the table, “The (extension) leaves come out, but they don’t always stay up. That’s not good when you have company.” Also in residence in the home: a cat and a little dog so cherished by Grandma that he merits his own plaque on the wall: “A spoiled rotten Havanese lives here.” The dog is definitely going to Florida. The cat’s future is less certain. Vink is advocating for it to stay in the Voorheesville home. “I’d rather not keep the cat,” says Welton. “I’m really not a cat person.” “You’re going to end up keeping the cat,” says his mother. Lauren is delighted her middle son is returning to the family home, and his long interest in cooking made his career choice unsurprising. Invoking a PBS show her son loved as a child, Lauren says, “He’d watch Zoom and copy the recipes off the TV.” A longtime waitress, she often brought her sons to work. “Zach always had fun talking to the chef,” she says. (Zach’s most vivid memory from those visits is riding on rolling garbage cans.) continued on page 74 

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continued from page 73

“Thinking about him being a chef is like when a rock star gets asked whether they want their children to follow them in the business,” Lauren says. “It’s demanding and it’s hard, even when you’re young. He’ll call me every once in a while and say, ‘Thanks for the bad back, Mom!’” However, she continues, “When you have that passion, you have to do it. You could always get another job, but the feeling for food is not going to go away. He loves everything about it, from beginning to end.”


om and Grandma are joined for dinner tonight by Welton’s brothers, 26-year-old Air Force reservist Josh and highschooler Tristan, 16, and Welton’s girlfriend of five years, Gabrielle Lansburg, an accounting major at Siena College. The young couple’s dream is for Welton, some day, to open a restaurant of his own. Lansburg will manage the books. “I like numbers,” she says. Welton shakes his head. “You like money,” he says. “You don’t really like numbers.” Lansburg nods and says, “I like money.” After college, she says, “I’m going to make money for a while so he can open his restaurant.” Among the advantages of dating a chef is a continuing ex74


pansion of her palate, says Lansburg, adding, “He’s introduced me to so many things I probably wouldn’t have had a chance to try yet at my age.” The menu includes venison osso bucco from a farm-raised deer, because, alas, Welton has been unsuccessful in recent hunting efforts. “I just wanted to get one. I probably went five or six times last year — nothing,” he says. Osso bucco, cooked low and slow with wine, broth and vegetables, is made with one of Welton’s favorite techniques. “I really like braising, but it’s a little scary: You put it in and three hours later come back to see if it came out right.” As the family and guests dine, talk turns to famous people Welton has cooked for. “Didn’t J-Lo come in?” he says. Lansburg’s giggle grows to a full laugh. “It was Eva Mendes,” she says, explaining that the actress visited New World Bistro when she was in Schenectady shooting a film. Josh Welton says, “Really, man? Eva Mendes doesn’t even sing.” Lansburg: “Zach’s not really into celebrities, but he’s an amazing cook.” @ For more recipes from Chef Welton, like Smoked Trout with Red Quinoa, Baby Grape Mostarda and SunnySide-Up Quail Eggs, visit

Venison or Lamb Osso Bucco with Gnocchi and Pot Veggies for the osso bucco ingredients 8 (8- to10-ounce) meaty venison or lamb shanks 6 ounces pancetta, cut in 1/4-inch dice) 1 tablespoon kosher salt 3 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper 3/4 cup flour 2 tablespoons olive oil 8 small boiling onions, cut in half 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped 2 stalks of celery, roughly chopped 1 sprig fresh rosemary 3 sprig fresh thyme 1 bay leaf 2 big garlic cloves, minced 3 cups beef stock 1 cup dry red wine method Heat oven to 325 degrees. Rinse shanks and pat dry with paper towel. Season flour with the kosher salt and black pepper and dredge the

shanks in the flour mixture. In a medium Dutch oven, render the diced pancetta on medium heat until it is lightly browned and crispy. Transfer pancetta from pan with slotted spoon to a small bowl lined with paper towel, reserving fat from pancetta in the pan. Once pan has cooled, add olive oil and bring pan to a fairly high temperature. As soon as you see the first wisp of smoke, carefully place the shanks in one by one, shaking off any excess flour before they reach the pan. Brown shanks on all sides, this should take about 10-15 minutes. Remove shanks and set aside for the time being. Add all vegetables to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat, scraping the bottom of the pan as you go to get the fond from the pan. Once

 for the gnocchi ingredients 6 large russet potatoes 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling 1 egg 1 teaspoons salt 1 teaspoon garlic paste

method Wash potatoes then place in a large pot covered with water, salt the water and bring to a low boil. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain potatoes and let cool until they are easy to handle. Peel potatoes and run to flesh through a food mill or potato ricer. In a large bowl, incorporate

vegetables become aromatic, add the herbs, garlic, bay leaf and wine. Cook the wine for another minute, then add

the shanks and beef stock. Cover pot and transfer to a oven and braise shanks until fork-tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

 the flour, egg, salt and garlic until a dough starts to form. Transfer to a well-floured work space and knead for a couple of minutes.

 Cut into chunks that can be rolled into the form of a rope about 1/2-inch thick.

 Cut dough rope into

pieces about the width of

 your thumb and transfer to a well-floured sheet tray. Bring a large pot of water to a low boil and boil gnocchi for about 2 minutes or until they start to float.

 After being boiled the

gnocchi can go right into a sauce to be served or browned in a sauté pan with some butter with fresh herbs.


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We Are Not Worthy

hello cleveland! here come the wines that rock!

by alistair highet  |  photo courtesy wines that rock


o you know that if you play Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd and sync it up with The Wizard of Oz movie and lie on your back in a dark room, that the music is perfectly synchronized to the movie? OK, you may need some assistance to be blown away by this — assistance by way of encouragement. Now that that ’70s are over and, well, you know, the law is the law … would you settle for a bottle or two of Cabernet Sauvignon? I don’t know if a Cab will take you there — pardon the pun. But, hey, listen people. It’s time to bring on the Wines that Rock! What can I say? I’m a total sucker for this, frankly put, gimmick. But there are good gimmicks and bad gimmicks and the Wines that Rock, a new series of five wines produced in Mendocino California and packaged with classic album labels by iconic rock bands is pretty cool. And it doesn’t hurt that the wines I tried — three of them — were very good. According to the promotional literature, each one of these wines were crafted in the cellar by winemaker Mark Beaman, who “immerses himself with the sounds and visuals of the legendary bands, striving to absorb the vibe of the music and contemplating how to translate it all into a bottle of wine. Each wine created is a reflection and interpretation of the music itself.” Sure, man, whatever you say. I mean, it could happen like that couldn’t it? If they say the wines are inspired by the music I’ll keep an open mind. Whatever, the whole thing just works. There are five: The Police “Synchronicity,” 2008 Red Wine Blend; the Rolling Stones “Forty Licks,” 2010 Merlot; the Grateful Dead “Steal Your Face,” 2010 Red Wine Blend; Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon,” 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon; and the Woodstock, 2010 Chardonnay. Full disclosure, a case of three was sent to me by the distributor. I don’t usually do that, but I was intrigued enough by the concept to accept the offer. Perhaps it is encroaching middle-age, but I just found it so oddly comforting to lift the wines out of the case — the moody “Dark Side of the Moon” label staring at me, bringing me back to my miserable youth like Proust’s madeleine. I could practically hear the scrapes and crackles of the LP and the green glow of the power light on the turntable. If nothing else, the idea is a blast. And branding is everything in the wine world these days. A few years ago, Olivia Newton-John launched a slew of wines. The gimmick in that case was that the bottle was blue — blue!

Blue is the color of things drained of life. It was pretty dreadful. Then there was the Marilyn Merlot, with Marilyn Monroe spread out on the label. I found that tacky. This concept works, I think. So the wines: I tried three, I thought they were all accessible, fruity, well-balanced, and perfectly suited to the kind of gathering where they are likely to be appreciated. They are priced about $15 each. Party on! “Woodstock Chardonnay,” 2010 Man, don’t you love the Woodstock poster, with that bird perched on the fret of the guitar. I love that. The wine is very fresh, dominated with pear, hints of peach and sweet apple, and soft vanilla. Very laid back. Drink it with the Woodstock soundtrack and see if it catches the vibe. Grateful Dead “Steal Your Face,” red wine blend, 2009 I’m not a Deadhead so I’m not sure if I get the connection here. This has the character of a Rhone blend, dominated by Syrah, with Zinfandel and Grenache. Vibrant red berry fruit, sweet dark cherry, chocolate, leather, with a caramel and vanilla softness. I flat-out liked it, but you can keep the Dead, man. Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon,” Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 So I gave myself the full immersion on this one. I played the album while drinking it. Hey, whatever. Currants, black and red, dark cherry, wood notes from the 24 months cooperage in oak. It had that lovely cedar aroma and wood smoke in the background, but the fruit was paramount. Really a great wine, and if it brings you back to the album it will have been worth it. @



Savor the Flavor spice up your life with mrs. claus’ kitchen by cari scribner  |  photos by paul barrett


arbara Devlin of Ballston Spa wants people to “just say no” to boring chicken dinners. And she’s ready to supply the unique spice blends to make that chicken anything but unexciting. Devlin launched her business, Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen, seven years ago after realizing the average spice shelf in American kitchens contained just the bare essentials, such as cinnamon, pepper and salt. She set out to improve the flavor and boost the nutrition of meals, starting with her own kitchen. “I wanted something healthy that I could cook quickly for my family,” Devlin says. “If you use store-bought spices that aren’t pure spices, they’re full of salt, preservatives and other fillers, 78


and they don’t even taste good.” Devlin gave her company its unique name to complement the craft business she has with her mother, called Santa’s Attic. “We use old items you’d find in someone’s attic and paint them to create new decorations for the kitchen,” Devlin says. “It’s exciting to recycle and repurpose things that people think have little value.” Devlin learned the ropes of selling wares at local farmers markets and craft fairs from Santa’s Attic. But she was still itching to start another business, and was inspired by her own childhood, during which her father prepared fantastic dinners for the family.

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Museum’s Holiday Shoppe in Ballston Spa, and at the Shaker Heritage Society Christmas Craft Fair in Albany. Devlin admits the packaging and mailing can be tedious, but her joy comes from talking to her customers about recipes and what they love. “People will tell me how they’ve experimented with the spices, things I never thought of,” Devlin says. “Some of my customers buy the same spice blends every month. Others branch out and try a little of everything.” What does the future hold for the self-starter intent on spicing up family dinners? “I have a million recipes in my head,” Devlin says. “I started writing a cookbook years ago, and I’d love to finish it one day. I believe that when people eat, they should have something different and unexpected on their plate.” @ “My father made these one-pot meals, cooking with spices that made it all taste so good,” Devlin says. “I became intrigued with different types of spices, like cardamom, coriander, hot pepper and basil. I know most people cook with chicken or fish, so I wracked my brain, ‘What can you do with it to make it great?’” Devlin began taste-testing and mixing various blends of spices in unusual combinations, all ready to be sprinkled on dinner foods or even used as dips. Her concoctions include Caribbean jerk seasoning, a blend of authentic Jamaican herbs and spices including thyme, cinnamon, and jalapeno; a Mediterranean citrus rub, an infusion of citrus and Mediterranean herbs including fennel and oregano; and a Cajun rub, a Creole blend of paprika, cayenne, onion, garlic, cumin, spices and citrus. To ensure their high quality, Devlin keeps a close eye on the origin of her ingredients. “I know where everything I buy came from,” Devlin says. “Mediterranean spices are wonderful. Saigon cinnamon is the best in the world.”


oday, Devlin works out of the Battenkill Kitchen in Salem, N.Y., where she spends about one day each month handmixing batches of spices into 1-ounce packages in resealable plastic bags. She also packages the spices in small tins. “People love the plastic bags, because you don’t use much for any recipe. You close the bags back up and save it for next time,” Devlin says. Devlin puts her business background, including her MBA, to good use running her own business. “It’s a big challenge to grow a business,” Devlin says. “There’s merchandising, packaging, and I log in batch numbers and date codes for everything I buy and make. I go above and beyond New York State standards. There’s other work, too. Right now I’m redoing our logo and website design.” Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen products now include a wide variety of spice blends, and she’s created a line of soup mixes. This holiday season, she’ll box up gift-worthy selections of her most popular spices. She sells her items at local farmers markets, through her website, at Brookside


Life@Home is packed with inspiration to help you make your house a home. HealthyLife magazine brings you stories and advice geared at living a balanced life, and nourishment of your mind, body, and spirit. Capital Region Women@Work is the in-print component of an innovative network of local women in managerial and executive positions. VOW: Your Wedding. Your Way. is the secret to creating your fairytale wedding using local resources. If you are interested in receiving free home delivery of any of our magazines, please (518) 454-5768 or email

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Pairs of Pears

a fruit wonderful to behold — and eat by caroline barrett  |  photos by paul barrett


ears have great personality. Each has its own look: leaning this way or that, bright green, pale yellow or deep scarlet red. No matter the color or size, however, they also have one trait in common: frump. Pears are slightly lumpy and always have a big bottom. Pear-shaped is what they call it. It’s not flattery for anyone or any thing. But I think this fruit is beautiful, in all its frumpiness. Eating pears is a special treat and I have a lovely memory of Lucy, at 14 months, sitting on a blanket one fall afternoon. I gave her a pear to eat and she slobbered and juiced and gobbled while we lay back to watch the clouds pass over the blue fall sky. This was in the days of no siblings, and we were able to spend afternoons eating pears and lying about. It was a peaceful and sweet time.

continued on page 82 



continued from page 81

All these years later, no matter the weather or how quiet it is around here, I love and crave pears. There’s the exact moment when a pear is just perfectly ripe, and we all scramble for the fruit bowl. “Please,” I beg my children. “Save me a pear. Just one.” Greedy hands take each and every pear, often leaving none for me and my salad. I’m lucky every now and then if a lone, ripe pear is left for me in the bottom of the fruit bowl. I slice it over field greens, throwing in a few bits of bold kale. A crumble of goat cheese, a handful of pecans, and I don’t even bother to serve it on a plate. I eat this salad, fork in hand, directly from the salad bowl. Every bite is part sweet, part salt, with buttery pecans sending it over the top. Sometimes Zoe and Lucy see me and cuddle up with their own forks, mooching from my salad. I happily oblige. Though it’s short, I savor the moment. Even with all this juiciness and yumminess, I’m still torn between form and function with our beloved pears. Do I love pears for their beauty and art? Or their sweet flesh? A pear sits alone on my windowsill and no matter how juicy and sweet it may be on the inside, I want to savor it, only for its aesthetic.


t Christmastime, we line our fireplace mantel with big, Red Anjou pears, twinkly white lights and pine boughs keeping them company. I tie gauzy ribbons around the top of miniature Bartlett pear stems, and hang them from our Christmas tree. 82


I also use the pears, any size or color, on our holiday table. They sit in a straight line, among the candles. Or I dress them up with a bit of wire and pretty paper for a simple place setting. My kids are always happy to decorate at Christmas, and they will sit quietly with scissors in hand, making beautiful adornments. Little hands can easily wrap copper wire around a pear stem. They are happy and proud to place these markers out for our guests and family. Happily, you can find these tasty fruits through the end of December, and sometimes beyond, at farmers markets. Yes, they are singularly delicious. Pears are good for you, too. Eating a pear will fill you with sweetness, but also fiber, vitamin A and vitamin C. Aside from salads and tree ornaments and table decorations, we also bake our pears. It’s a special Christmas treat to set sweet pears in puff pastry, bake them until a golden crust appears, and then drown the confection in a buttery cream and bourbon sauce. It is completely appropriate, and even a nod to the pears, to eat this dessert heartily. Slurping and gobbling are encouraged. After the holiday season is over, we’ll be back to eating pears the healthy way on salad. I enjoy pears out of hand, sliced in salad and baked into sweet, decadent desserts. Hey, I even like to admire them for their imperfect and rather dumpy looks. But ask my family, and they stand together in this: eating pears is best.  @

Blue Hen Baked Pears with Bourbon Cream Sauce serves 8 ingredients 4 Bosc pears, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, and cored 1 sheet puff pastry, cut into 8 rectangles 2 tablespoons butter, melted 1/3 cup granulated sugar 3 tablespoons cinnamon Bourbon Cream Sauce (recipe follows) method Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large baking sheet. Place the puff pastry rectangles evenly on the sheet, leaving space between. Fold up the edges of the rectangles, creating a small lip all the way around. Brush the pastries with a little melted butter; then

place a pear, face down, on each. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl, and sprinkle evenly over the pears. Bake for 12 minutes, or until golden and bubbly. Cool. Remove from pan, place on serving plates and spoon Bourbon Cream Sauce over each.

Bourbon Cream Sauce

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ingredients 1 cup heavy cream 1 cup brown sugar 1 stick butter 2 teaspoons vanilla 1 teaspoon sea salt 4 ounces bourbon method Heat the cream and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Add the vanilla, sugar and butter. Whisk until the butter is completely melted. Stir in the bourbon, cook for another 2-3 minutes on low heat, and serve.

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five things story and photos by suzanne kawola

Tostes’ Five Things: 1. My gi “When I moved here, I had $500 in my pocket (and) my backpack. I was 18 years old, but I had a big dream. Inside this backpack, I had my gi. I wear it to teach, I wear it to train, I wear it to compete. I knew (back then) that jiu-jitsu and my gi would help me put myself where I needed to be.”

five things i can’t live without Bruno Tostes Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt and Trainer


hen Brazil native Bruno Tostes arrived in New York City in 2001, he only expected to be here for three months. “I came with the intention to study English and learn a little bit of the American culture,” Tostes says. But, he admits, he knew that NYC is the home of Renzo Gracie Academy, a world-renowned school for Brazilian jiu-jitsu. “When I got there, (Gracie) gave me such a warm welcome that I never wanted to leave. He became my second family,” he says. Still a beginner, Bruno started at the academy cleaning mats and doing other chores around the gym. “I made sure I was giving back to my professor everything that he provided for me. I believe in good karma. You do good things, good things come back to you,” Tostes says. Jiu-jitsu is considered a gentle martial art. “You find a way to surrender your opponent without creating strikes or hitting. The emphasis is learning about the human body,” says Tostes. Opponents try to get each other to surrender without actually hurting one another. In 2005, Tostes was drawn to the Capital Region after falling in love. “I love the energy that the city provides,” he says. When he arrived, he offered his services as a jiujitsu teacher to a local martial arts academy and, in 2010, he opened a Renzo Gracie Academy in Latham, one of 38 schools worldwide. “We have good success,” he says.

2. My iPad “The other thing that is a big part of my life is communication with my family,” Tostes says. He communicates with family by text, Facetime and Skype. While he tries to visit his family in Brazil once a year, he did have a six-year stretch when he did not see them. “In 2001, we didn’t have this technology. Once we started working with this, it became a very important tool for me to keep the reference alive … to keep in close contact now. So, this, I love it!” 3. Mixed-martial-arts equipment Mixed martial arts is a different sport than jiu-jitsu. It involves gloves, headgear, chin guards and mouth guards. “It’s not to prove to anybody, but I need that challenge. I need to motivate myself,” Tostes says of studying MMA. He has competed and won many high-level competitions. “I feel like, to me, to proceed, to be able to better myself I need to … challenge my attributes, my knowledge, my physical abilities, so I began to study MMA.” 4. Books and magazines “I am able to keep myself updated … how to coach, how to do jiu-jitsu and how to improve myself.” 5. espresso “I can’t live without my espresso,” he says. In the morning he makes traditional coffee, but in the afternoon, he says, “To keep up on my day, around 3, 3:30, I need to have (a) double shot. I sip it and it feels so good.” @

photo finish

SECOND LIFE: Recycling goods is part of Mrs. Claus’ work. Read the story on page 78. Photo by Paul Barrett.



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Life@Home December 2012  

Read about... How to make your holiday gifts stand out, 10 ways to use wine corks, creating festive table settings, the best kitchen gifts.....

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