Gas isn't a good seasoning

Martha Stewart /


Published Dec 25, 2012 at 04:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

Q: Is the food I keep in the extra freezer in my garage absorbing gasoline toxins?

A: If you can smell gasoline in your garage, first make sure you don't have a leak or a storage problem, which is a fire hazard.

Once you've ruled that out, check if the gasket around the freezer door is sealing properly, by placing a flashlight inside and shutting the door, recommends Patrick Schnurbusch, the president of HVAC and Refrigeration Experts, in Garner, N.C. If there is any light shining through, the gasket is not airtight, and you should call a refrigerator repairman.

You might also consider moving the refrigerator to another location, such as a basement.

“It's not good practice to store food in a place where you also have volatile chemicals like gasoline and solvents,” says John Caporaso, a food packaging expert from the CECON Group. If you plan on storing hazardous substances in your garage, it's safer to keep your spare refrigerator elsewhere. Making over lampshades

Q: I would like to update my lampshades but can't afford a new set. Do you have any suggestions for how to refresh them without spending a fortune?

A: If your shades are in relatively good condition, you can spruce them up yourself.

One easy makeover is coating the insides with metallic paint. This simple technique creates a subtle, modern effect; when lighted from within, the gilded lining brings warmth to any room.

The beauty of this method is that it will work on any paper-lined shade. Minimal supplies and space are needed, and the project can be completed in an hour or two.

Begin by choosing a craft paint in a metallic hue that complements the exterior of your shade and lamp base. For example, use silver on a light blue shade. Gold looks best on warm-colored shades.

To ensure straight edges, line the top and bottom rims of the shade with masking tape. Use a paintbrush to apply two or three thin, even coats of paint to the interior of the shade. (Light-colored shades may require more coats.) Paint with brushstrokes moving in one direction of the smoothest application, and let paint dry between each layer. Continue until you've reached a desired sheen.

When the final coat is dry, gently remove the tape. Touch up as needed.

A host of thank-yous

Q: I recently hosted a party, and I received many hostess gifts. Is it necessary to send thank-you notes for the presents?

A: Unlike a gift given in honor of a special occasion — say, a wedding or a birthday — a gift for the host or hostess is meant to be a sort of thank-you in itself. It tends to be a token — a bottle of wine, some flowers or chocolates.

A host is often able to thank the guest when receiving the gift, so no further expression of gratitude is necessary.

But occasionally, guests might bring a wrapped gift, and a host — busy attending to the party — can't open it in the giver's presence. (In any case, it's best not to make a fuss over a gift you receive — you don't want to make any guest who didn't bring a gift uncomfortable.)

In this situation, say a quick thank-you at the time, and then follow up later once you have opened the gift. A phone call or an in-person thanks is appropriate, but a handwritten note is best, especially for a very thoughtful or handmade present.