Monthly Archives: November 2011

It’s All in the Details!

November 18, 2011

For many of us, the details in interior design and architecture can be confounding, but Susan Fruit plans to make it all understandable in her upcoming class, “It’s All in the Details.”  Using pictures, examples, and descriptions of architectural, furniture, and textile detailing, along with examples of faux finishes for walls, ceilings, floors, and furniture pieces, Fruit plans to offer us a bird’s eye view into home design. What’s more, there are even fun field trips planned to visit design resources!

WIH Reporter: Tell us about your class.

Fruit: I’m delighted to be teaching my new course on interior design and architecture for Spring. Detailing is a timely topic that affects every homeowner. It is so easy to become complacent with the overall look of our home when we see it every day that we often don’t realize how tired and dated it has become. Details like changing out a dated chandelier or applying a fresh coat of paint to create a new color scheme can make all the difference. So often, a room’s appeal is not so much in what is obvious but in what is not immediately apparent. We will look at all the details that can improve a home to make it beautiful and also add to its long-term value.

WIH Reporter: What excites you most about interior design and architecture?

Fruit: In this course we discuss the essence of style and good taste and how to uplift and update your home’s details in the most cost-efficient manner. I am passionate about this subject because I believe everyone deserves to have a home that is tasteful, timeless, and personally satisfying. A well-designed, beautifully appointed home never goes out of style.

WIH Reporter: What were the strongest influences in your life?

Fruit: The strongest influences in my life were my mother and maternal grandmother. It is from them that I learned valuable life lessons, gained self-confidence, and established my moral compass. They encouraged and supported me in all of my endeavors and taught me to give unselfishly to others. This family closeness inspired my interest in genealogy, and I continue to actively work on tracing my family’s roots.

It truly is all about the details! Here is a list of some of the details covered in Susan Fruit’s upcoming class:

  • Architectural detailing homes and in the landscaped environment
  • Interior architectural elements that create distinctive design styles
  • In-depth look at dressmaker detailing on upholstered pieces
  • The world of textiles, trims, and passamenterie for custom draperies and more
  • Wood carving detailing on casement pieces
  • Stained and painted finishes on cabinetry
  • Faux finishes for walls, ceilings, floors, and furniture pieces

Wine Facts versus Fiction

November 18, 2011
There are many myths floating around about wine.  Here, we sort out the facts from the fiction.
True or False:
1. Uncorking a bottle to sit for a time period of a few minutes to a few hours before drinking lets the wine “breathe” and improves the wine.
2. Sniffing the cork can tell us information about the wine.
3. Wine “legs” or “tears” indicate high quality in wine.
4. The first winery in the U.S. was in California.
5. Chianti wines come from Tuscany.
1. FALSE – “In my 36 years of teaching wine,” says John Keating, “I have heard my share of nonsensical things about wine, particularly in its service. Any waiter who brings your bottle to the table early, for the purpose of letting it breathe lives in a fantasy world. How much air can get to a full bottle in a few minutes? Maybe it can breathe if everyone waits until tomorrow night’s dinner! Far better, particularly with reds, pour the wine and get some air. As for all the required glass sizes and aerating gadgets, try them with a grain of salt. Try blind tasting every gimmick. Make sure expectations don’t become reality. I
have found two carafes and a little back and forth sloshing work quite well”.
2. FALSE – “Cork sniffing is meaningless,” adds John. “A corked wine might be detected, but sniffing the cork yields nothing else about the quality of the wine”.
3: FALSE – “Legs” are the viscous clear streams of fluid that run down the inside of a glass after the wine has been swirled. In general more pronounced legs do indicate a greater amount of alcohol in the wine, but experts agree that “legs” or “tears” indicate nothing about the quality of the wine. According to wine blogger Fredric Koeppel, “the contention between the surface tension of the wine and the interfacial tension that acts between the wine and the inner surface of the glass draws the liquid up the inside of the glass to the point where, exposed to air, the alcohol evaporates, the surface tension of the remaining water intensifies, and the water forms a drop that clings to the glass and slowly slides back down.”
4. FALSE: “The first commercially successful winery in the United States was founded in Cincinnati, Ohio in the mid-1830s by Nicholas Longworth, who made a sparkling wine from Catawba grapes.  From the 1830s through the 1850s, Longworth’s still and sparkling Catawba were being distributed from California to Europe where it received numerous press accolades. In the 1850s, a journalist from The Illustrated London News noted that the still white Catawba compared favorably to wines of the Rhine and the sparkling Catawba “transcends the Champagnes of France”.
“The wines were also well received at home in the United States where Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published a poem dedicated to Nicholas Longworth titled Ode to Catawba Wine. So successful was he that he has been called the Father of American Grape Culture. The growing tide of German immigrants coming down the Ohio Valley to Cincinnati liked his wine. Longworth had found a lucrative market: the new German immigrants wanted an affordable, drinkable table wine to continue with the traditions of their homeland, and he enjoyed a virtual monopoly. Besides being a pioneer and leading horticultural expert in his section, he was recognized as an authority in national horticultural matters.”
“In the 1860s, vineyards in the Ohio River Valley were attacked by Black rot. This prompted several winemakers to move north to the Finger Lakes region of New York. During this time, the Missouri wine industry, centered around the German colony in Hermann, Missouri, took off and was soon second to California in wine production. In the late 19th century, the phylloxera epidemic in the West and Pierce’s disease in the East ravaged the growing American wine industry”. (Information comes from online sources and from Paul Lukas’ book “American Vintage: The Rise of American Wine”). 
5. TRUE.

Adventures in Wine with John Keating

November 18, 2011

“The discovery of a wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation. The universe is too full of stars.” Benjamin Franklin

John Keating, wine maven of 36 years, and professor of the popular class “A World of Wine”, challenges us to break through our preconceived notions to become intrepid wine adventurers. He asks us – point-blank – if we have opened our minds to a Malbec or a Torrontes from Argentina or a Chenin Blanc from South Africa. How about a Carmenere from Chile, a dry Reisling or Alsace from South Africa, a dry Rose or Monastrell from Spain, a Syrah from Walla Walla, a Pinot Noir from New Zealand?

Late one Sunday afternoon, we drop in on his last class for the semester, where everyone is in the midst of a French wine-tasting extravaganza. A total of ten French wines are on-hand, complete with water pitchers for rinsing glasses and crackers for cleansing palates. Our handouts include regional maps, wine evaluation charts, and labels for identification. With humor, Keating provides encyclopedic information about each wine’s history, vintage, supplier, price, and more. The air is filled with fellowship, geniality, and discovery. At the end of the class, we pull Keating aside for a talk.

WIH Reporter: What is the most important thing you want to get across about your wine classes?
Keating: The purpose of the classes is to demonstrate the wonderful diversity, quality, and value that is available in the world of wine today. Our recent class explored everything from overlooked high-quality southern Italian wines to red wines of Portugal and Spain to new perspectives on French wines.

WIH Reporter: Thanksgiving is almost upon us. What interesting wines would you advise us to serve for this holiday?

Keating: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It features family, comfort, and a great feast. I always enjoy the aromas that permeate the home while the turkey and its fixings are being prepared. On this day, food is “king”. The traditional meal has an abundance of flavors and tastes. For me, simple wines are best. Because it is a family gathering, I would also serve diverse wines.

WIH Reporter: Such as…?
Keating: A  Beaujolais  Villages or Pinot Noir from  California for the red. A Chateau Ste. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc from Washington and a Rosé from  Spain. I would stray from the simple theme with an older Spatlese or Auslese Riesling from the Mosel region of  Germany. It goes great with my turkey favorite: the stuffing. 
WIH Reporter: How can we increase our wine IQ and augment our wine instincts?
Keating:  Perform a blind tasting of  Texas wines against their West Coast grape counterparts. You will be surprised. Another idea is to go wine shopping and buy your color of choice but add three bottles from wine areas you never heard of before. Let the discovery begin! 

For more details on Keating’s upcoming Spring class, check the Women’s Institute website at

Financial Know-How in Turbulent Times

November 18, 2011

In our changing economic and political environment, we are impacted on many fronts, including the Euro crisis, budget deficits, expiring tax laws, and more. We visited recently with Bill Frisco, Certified Financial Planner, about his latest class, “An Investor’s Guide for These Turbulent Times.”
WIH Reporter: Tell us about your upcoming class.
Frisco: We will address all of the most important and controversial global issues that can impact investments including the European debt crises, our struggling economy, stagnant job growth, and the political issues affecting our government. The issues we will discuss are not just interesting, but are also important for financial health.

WIH Reporter: What are the most pressing issues?
Frisco: individuals are more anxious today than ever about world events.The governments of developed countries have staggering amounts of debt, economies are stagnant, and unemployment levels are significantly above the long term averages. The “so-called” emerging countres now control over 80% of the world’s reserves, have much lower debt burdens, and are growing significantly faster than the developed countries. It is obvious that today’s world is truly a different world.

WIH Reporter: What steps can the investor take when confronted with this new paradigm?
Frisco: To survive, it is essential that investors understand the changing world dynamics and adjust their investment portfolios accordingly. My seminar will examine the Euro zone debt crisis, and the likelihood that it will tip the world into a global recession. It will also address the rise of the Chinese currency, and the unsustainable budget deficits and debt burdens in the United States.It is important to understand that in today’s environment, every asset class has some risk, including cash, bonds, stocks, real estate, commodities, and precious metals.

The class will examine the risks inherent in each asset category and various investment strategies will be highlighted to help control the risk and volitility in an investment portfollio. For those investors concerned about their income, this session will review strategies to build income portfollios with enhanced yields. In addition, from a tax standpoint, 2012 is a critical year because many important tax laws will expire. The course will discuss the major tax law changes that will occur, and strategies to help reduce your tax risk.

WIH Reporter: Do we have to know a lot about finance to understand the issues in your class?
Frisco: Although the issues are complicated, my challenge is to simplify them so that anyone can appreciate their importance.  I’m a huge believer that if you cannot explain something that a sixth grader can grasp, you really do not know the material. I have a sixth grader so all the material will be tested on her prior to each class. As a result, I believe beginning investors will feel comfortable and learn a great deal of useful information.

WIH Reporter: In general, what is important for us to know about investing?

Frisco: I have been a pilot for many years and have flown many type of different planes from sea planes to gliders.  Flying is very similar to investing. In flying as in investing you will make mistakes.  The question is how quickly will you correct them.  My first flight instructor, who now flies jets for Delta airlines, told me “a mistake is not an error unless you fail to correct it.”  Down here on the ground, it is easy to procrastinate and put off decisions.  Up there, you are trained to correct things immediately before they become disasters.  It is always better to make a larger number of smaller corrections than to wait and make one big correction when sometimes it may be too late.

Subjects covered in Bill Frisco’s class include:
  • Investment planning in light of significant 2012 expiring tax laws
  • Impact of the Euro crisis, global economies, budget deficits and government indebtedness on the world markets
  • Income strategies to enhance income and control
  • Understanding how to re-balance investment portfolios on a periodic basis to minimize volatility and risk
  • How to determine which asset allocation strategy is consistent with risk tolerance
  • Investment portfolio for retirement and pre-retirement including transition strategies