Thursday, November 29, 2007

Stay safe while decorating

By this point, you should be pretty much out of cold turkey. That means it's time to roll out of your food coma and get decorating for Christmas. Here are some ideas for a safe holiday.

Inspect your lights. Old strands can wear out over the years, and cables can get cut in storage. Make sure all your bulbs are in working order and that there are no exposed wires to avoid setting a yuletide blaze.

Keep hazardous decorations secure. Did you know that mistletoe makes cats sick? That chocolate kills dogs? That your 4- year-old can swallow ornament hooks? If you can't avoid using harmful decorations and foods, make sure that they stay out of reach.

Get a fake tree. Some people think it's blasphemous, but the fact is that trees and candles are the leading causes of fires during the holidays. If you must have a real tree, keep it watered, or within a few days you'll have Christmas kindling in your living room.

Go around and check everything at night. Did you unplug all the lights? Blow out the candles? Turn off the oven? Common sense doesn't get a winter break.

This article originally appeared in BostonNOW on November 29, 2007.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Invest in a clutter-free desk

Sick of your 9-to-5 job? Want to prioritize your day by what you think is important? Feel like working in your pajamas? There are endless reasons why Americans want to work from home. According to WorldatWork, a human resource company that specializes in employee retention, 12.6 million Americans work from home at least one day a week.

According to Moira Allen, editor of, workspace is the key to efficiency at home. "I found that the most important feature in my home office was a layout that gave me a sense of pleasure in 'coming to work,'" she explained. "If your office is awkward, or dark, or poorly laid out, or just plain ugly, it can be a deterrent." She recommends quality furniture and a comfortable chair.

Function is also important. If you can dedicate an entire room to working, you'll be much more able to block out the world and focus on your work. As an added bonus, you can also write a home office off on your taxes. If this isn't possible, try for a dedicated section. Make your workspace off-limits to family members, and set up a system to inform them when you are working and not to be disturbed.

Finally, have the tools of the trade readily available. "Things that you use less often can be stored in some other part of the house," Allen said. "But you don't want to have to jump up and run to a closet every time you need to load paper in the printer. Eventually you'll sort out those things that need to be close at hand, and those that don't."

This article originally appeared in Boston NOW on November 15, 2007.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Pair wine with holiday fare

The date of your holiday party has arrived, and you need to find a seating arrangment for 25 of your friends and relatives in a dining room that a realtor would call "intimate." You feel stressed, and yes, you could use a drink with dinner.

There are plenty of alcoholic offerings this holiday season that will compliment a variety of traditional holiday fare.

From the vine
Martignetti Liquor in Boston's North End offers an excellent array of wines to accompany your turkey dinner, including Chalone Vineyard's Pinot Noir. This dark red, priced reasonably at $15.99, offers a "beautiful fruit flavor," says Bob Goodwin, Martignetti's resident wine expert, with a "soft, very nice finish."

If you're serving ham, Goodwin recommends McLaren Vale's Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne. This Australian blend enjoyed a 90-out-of-100 rating from Spectator Magazine, and costing under $20, Goodwin called it "an elegant wine at a reasonable price."

Treats on tap
For those of us more partial to drinks of the grain-and-hops variety, turn to Boston's local beers. Harpoon's Winter Warmer is an excellent holiday brew. It pairs well with pies as well as poultry, and somehow manages to taste just like Christmas.

Harpoon's Munich Dark is also delicious. This Munchen Dunkel style beer has a chocolaty flavor with a slightly bitter, hoppy finish that is reminiscent of a porter, but a bit more crisp.

Don't forget the Boston Beer Company's Samuel Adams Winter Lager. This modern day classic offers a strong but manageable cinnamon and ginger taste, with an underlying citrus flavor uncommon to winter beers.

Originally published in Boston NOW on November 12, 2007.