Page 1

August 2013

Too HOT to Bake?

We’ve got recipes


Galore! An insider’s guide to

Car Buying

Check out our new DIY column! page 38

Back to the Land … one man’s story

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Contents Home


In Every Issue 10 12 14 20

Talk Back On the Web Editor’s Note Window Shopping

In This Issue 24 Strawberry Fields Forever

An Amsterdam man imagines a world where nature is protected

40 Elements of Style

How to make any space look amazing

42 Anything but Run of the Mill

Millwork can take a room from bland to beautiful

52 Keeper of the Land A natural escape in Niskayuna

Features August 2013

August 2013

38 DIY Diva  new

34 Design Defined

46 Living Green

36 Problem Solved

48 Refurnished Living

Goodwill hunting

Life@Home | Ideas and Inspiration for Living

Too HoT to Bake?

Making a perfect window

We’ve got recipes


Galore! An insider’s guide to

Car Buying

Check out our new DIY column! page 38

A neat solution to a cluttered fridge­

Making a wine-cork board What’s in your sunscreen? DIY is easy!

50 Down the Garden Path The power of perennials

Back to the Land … one man’s story


18 Home Life

57 10 Ways to Use ... ... sugar!

58 Dollars & Sense An insider’s guide to buying a car

60 Tech Tips

Which tablet is best for you?

On the cover: Photo by Phillip Kamrass   |  7

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Contents Life

In This Issue 66 Catty Behavior

Tips to help your kitty behave purr-fectly

82 Oven-off

Summertime treats that require no baking



Features 65 Help Me ...

Paint my room

69 Kitchen Crumbs

Tasty tidbits to brighten up your cooking

70 Dish

At home with Tim Howland

77 Table@Home

Recreating a vacation salad at home

80 The Vineyard

Drinking in Cadiz

85 My Space

Marci Natale Goldstein’s favorite place

86 Photo Finish

Pretty in pink and peach


85  |  9

 Talk Back

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

The Garden Path

Tech Tips

Colleen Plimpton I’m astonished at just how many reliably re-blooming shrubs are available nowadays. Lilac, weigela, spirea, rose, and hydrangea to name just a few. Accompany them with extended-season perennials and there’s no longer any excuse for not having a colorful garden from April to October! See Colleen’s story on page 50.

(Not So) Run of the Mill Cari Scribner I always thought custom finishing came with an enormous price tag because the results can be so dramatic. Not so! Small touches to finish corners and edges of a room, or adding wainscoting, are quick and affordable ways to transform rooms. See Cari’s story on page 42.

Brianna Snyder

Sweet Cherry It   John Adamian Biggest thing I learned: If you have a jar of good cherries in the fridge, you will find a way to eat them, practically every day. See John’s story online at

Purrfect Kitty Behavior Elizabeth Floyd Mair I was not aware that declawing — which I would never do to an animal — involves more than just removal of the claws; it’s an amputation of the last joint of each toe. Pretty gory stuff. See Elizabeth’s story on page 66.

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

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

Wheelin’ and Dealin’ Laurie Lynn Fischer Should you lease or purchase a car? New or used? Gas or hybrid? When’s best to buy and what’s a good strategy to use? I learned answers to these questions and more during conversations with a new automobile dealer, a former car salesman and a credit union vehicle financing expert. See Lauries’s story on page 58.

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

• How old were you when you bought your first house? Did you love it? Hate it? Still have it?

Karyn: 1st house w/X-hubby @ age 27, burned down. 2nd house w/ him age 36, sold after big D. 3rd house bought on my own 2 years ago @ age 44. Love it most days, hate it some and yes still have it!

Stephanie: I just did at 29. I love it, but it’s been more difficult to get settled in than it ever was moving into an apartment! Extra pressure to make it feel like “home” since it’s more permanent.

Bichi: I’m 37 and going to get pre-qualified in 15 minutes! Wish me luck!

Kristi: 25, best financial move I could have made, sold it two years ago (only because I got married). 10  | Life@Home

When I first got a tablet, I wasn’t totally sure how to make the most of it. But I found that the relationship between me and my tablet had to grow; you get used to it and it gets used to you. So making sure you pick the right kind of tablet for you is important. You want to bond with that thing! See Brianna’s story on page 60.

Sonja: 1st house at 28 and liked it. Although I wasn’t in love with the house it was an excellent financial decision. We sold it three years later for 2.5 times more than what we paid for it and then purchased our dream home.

Amanda: first house two weeks ago at age 30. I agree with Stephanie; it’s way more stressful to get unpacked than ever with an apartment. Slowly but surely it’s starting to look like I live there and I love having a yard! Marilyn: First and only house, the one we live in, was bought when I was 43. We plan to pay it off early. The odds are I, like most women, will be widowed later in life. Would prefer something smaller if single, This house works, but I don’t like the area that well.



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

VIDEO Watch Chef Tim Howland make a Portobelloand Blue-Cheese-Stuffed Cowboy Steak!

PHOTOS Check out more photos online from this lovely Niskayuna garden (left, and page 52) and more from this Amsterdam nature haven (right, and page 24).

STORIES Flowers! Cherries! Photo: Tempura/GettyImages.

Advice and tips for making the flowers you cut last as long as possible; plus: make your own maraschino cherries!

RECIPES Want more recipe ideas? Go online for Scarlet Rose and Berry Pudding with Whipped Cream from our “Bakeless Sweets” story (page 82), plus Chef Tim Howland’s recipes for Port Wine with Shallot Compound Butter, Lemon-Pepper Asparagus and Balsamic Grilled Pears.

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

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

Life@Home Blogs

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

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

 Editor’s Note

Do You DIY? S

ome days about the only activity I’m good for after work is Words with Friends or Candy Crush, followed by an episode or two of Arrested Development. Yup, my brain is completely fried. It’s not a particularly satisfying way to end a day — at least not for someone like me who likes to Get Things Done. Which is why I love to craft. I’m an avid knitter and always have at least four projects going at once. Of those, at least one is mindless, i.e., requiring no pattern, so I can pick it up when I’m feeling spent. (See paragraph one.) I’m also getting into beading. In the warmer months, I like to garden. I have mixed success, which I’ve shared with readers here, but I like it nonetheless and make enough progress to keep me moving forward, ever hopeful. To date most of my DIY activities have

involved a paintbrush — transforming a piece of furniture, for instance. I did have one successful project reupholstering my dining room chairs. But mostly I just think how great it would be to do more DIY projects, how satisfying it would be to do more DIY — and then leave it at that. So I was excited when Megan Willis approached us about doing a monthly DIY column. Here’s my chance for someone else to figure out all the details of a project! All I’ve got to do is get the products and put aside the time! I hope you like DIY Diva (page 38) and that you’re inspired to try her suggestions or some others you think of yourself. We’d love to see your creations, too. Check out our DIY Pinterest board or share with us on Facebook. Happy DIY! 

Janet Reynolds Executive Editor


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Letting the plants take over. Photo by Colleen Ingerto. Read more on page 52.   |  17

 Home Life

Goodwill Hunting A s a child, I would sink low in the front seat of our car as my mother hunted through dumpsters in the back of stores and through people’s garbage sitting outside on the curb. I grew up in a town of 1,500 people, and everyone knew everyone. But my mom didn’t care. She was creative and made stuff out of these “treasures” that just happened to be someone else’s junk. She didn’t know exactly what she was looking for, but she did manage to find some great furniture pieces and antiques despite my immense embarrassment. Now, dumpster diving has become a passion — profession even — of people across the country. For me, I take the subtle genetics of my mother and love finding a good bargain. However, I don’t go in back alleys or stalk neighborhoods the night before garbage pickup. Instead I sift through racks and shelves of junk to find that diamond (or maybe rhinestones) in the rough at actual establishments. I started doing it when I was in my 20s because the paycheck of a journalist didn’t cover the finer things in life such as a table and chairs or a couch. I began going to thrift stores before they were cool. I headed to auctions, flea markets, going-out-of-business sales and the clearance aisles of big department stores. My first one-bedroom place had a shabby-

18  | Life@Home

chic look with a foldable Duncan Phyfe table and chairs that I picked up for $10 at a garage sale. I used it well into my 40s as an accent piece in my living room. I furnished my quaint dwelling with paintings, lamps, end tables, quilts and baskets bought with a few bucks. My eye for a bargain and a great piece of home goods or even clothing and accessories has continued beyond that small first home. One of my more amazing treasures was a gorgeous pink Guess purse at a Salvation Army thrift store. I got it for 88 cents. It retailed for $110. It was brand new with the tag inside. Sometimes these stores have special days when their low prices go even lower — some even have $1-a-bag days. I also once found a Princess House crystal chip and dip bowl for $2 at the Goodwill store that I had seen on Amazon for $40. My home office is equipped with three beautiful Longaberger baskets to organize my magazines and papers, and the trio cost only $25. If you purchased them at a home party or online, they would have cost over $200. Just last week, I needed to spruce up my front porch area with something fun and new. I walked into a second-hand store and fell in love with a white, wooden bistro set for $20. It looked as if no one had ever used it, and it was foldable so if fit in my SUV. When I got home, I went online to check

out the price of the bistro set and saw someone was selling the exact same thing on Ebay for $150. Yea for me. Yea for anyone who can find that special piece at a really low price. I rarely visit these stores with an idea of what I want. I just go. I don’t go when I would feel rushed either — which would be weekends when everyone else is there. My open mind allows me to find those gems when I least expect it. In our living room three old suitcases are piled on top of each other and act as an end table. They have class, sophistication and whimsy at the same time. Their dark espresso color and three different sizes just give them a modern but antique look. I paid $10 for all three at a Goodwill store. I don’t just frequent the same stores all the time. I branch out to different towns once in awhile to see what they offer. You’d be amazed. I once found a rusted, ornate end table for $5 at the flower and garden store that I bought for all my summer plantings. It’s perfect on our deck holding a big planter of overflowing petunias. Through the years, I have no idea how much I have saved on the many items I have purchased. But I do know I have used them all. It’s the ultimate recycling. My best advice is just be patient, bring a bottle of water, and have fun. 

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 Window Shopping

Shop Smart Shop Local In each issue, Window Shopping highlights interesting and unique items available at area stores. This month we visit two of Saratoga’s finest. Photos by Krishna Hill

Side Tables These unique tables come in many different colors, shapes and textures. Playful! Contemporary! Red Tini Table iv (16"x 20"), $395; Green Oomph Tini Table ii (18" x 8" x 20"), $375. Available at 23rd and Fourth.

Helena Chair Who couldn’t use an extra chair? This one’s made of iron and leather, and measures 32" x 33" x 26". $1,995.95 at 23rd and Fourth.

Yesteryear’s Technology Go old-school technology with this reproduction wood abacus. Measures 28" x 23". $175 at Silverwood.

20  | Life@Home

Featured stores 23rd and Fourth


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Nambé Cradle Salt and Pepper Shaker $79 at 23rd and Fourth.

Nambé Trio Condiment Set $185 at 23rd and Fourth. Nambé is a handcrafted alloy metal from New Mexico that will not peel, chip or tarnish; can retain hot or cold; and is freezer-, oven- and grill-safe. You’ll find it in both of these unique items.

Dunes and Duchess Custom Candelabra Lamp Dunes and Duchess are the alter-egos of photographer Michael Partenio and stylist/writer Stacy Kunstel, who love to dream up wildly romantic products for the home. Handfinished and made in the USA, this elegant piece is shown with a white drum shade. 35" tall. $899 at 23rd and Fourth.

Three-Birch Table Get woodsy with this birch-tree table. Features acrylic sides and wood top and measures 79" x 29" x 30". $3,500 at Silverwood.

continued on 22  |  21

 Window Shopping continued from 21

Our Bloggers Shop



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

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

House Things By Brianna Snyder

This hanger’s unusual shape is inspired by the mobius strip — that infinity loop that looks pulled from an M.C. Escher painting. Useful for scarves, ties, belts and other accessories, the designer hanger ­— conceived by UK designer

22  | Life@Home

Dan Hoolahan and called the Mobe — is made with bent plywood and powder-coated steel. Arty and elegant, this is the best solution we’ve seen for managing all those loose, flowy outfit add-ons. $18.43 on Etsy (look up dhoolahan) or danhoolahan. 

Home Décor@518 By Valerie DeLacruz

Lively. Radiant. Lush. A color of elegance and beauty that enhances our sense of well-being, balance and harmony, emerald green is 2013’s color of the year. That’s according to Pantone, the company best known for its Pantone Matching System (PMS) used in a variety of industries including printing, paint and fabrics.

Plum & Crimson Fine Interior Design in Saratoga has a full palette of luscious fabrics in several textures such as toile, embroidered linen and lustrous velvets for upholstery, window treatments and bedding. They masterfully create coordinated pattern mixes and have the designer trade resources to put it all together. 5 Spring St., Saratoga Springs (518) 306-5283


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Strawberry Fields Forever

An Amsterdam man imagines a world where nature is protected By Janet Reynolds  |  Photos by Philip Kamrass


he land was here thousands of years before Jeff Leon first set foot on it in 1968. And his land, a 120-acre farm and preserve in Amsterdam, will be here long after Leon is gone, thanks to a conservation easement he is creating with the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy. continued on 26

24  | Life@Home  |  25

With four children and nine grandchildren, the Leons needed more space. Answer? Transforming an unfinished attic into a bunk/playroom. continued from 24

Called Strawberry Fields Farm and Nature Preserve, the land’s history links glaciers and Native Americans and the area’s first settlers, the Groat family. The house was built in 1890, “plus or minus,” says Leon. Leon’s family, which includes wife Judy and four now-adult children and nine grandchildren, joined the long history of property owners in 1968 when his father, a Spanish Civil War refugee, responded to an ad he saw in the New York Times. The house and land was listed at $10,000. “He talked them down to $9,500 and bought it,” Leon says. A few years later, his father left it to Leon as an asset to reimburse him for paying for his own graduate education. “He bought it on a whim,” Leon 26  | Life@Home

says, adding that his father said it reminded him of Spain. Originally an uninsulated tenant farmhouse, the house itself is modest and was in need of some serious renovation when Leon, in his 20s when his father deeded it to him, and his family began to call it their second home. They started in the unfinished attic, which was accessible only by ladder and whose main resident at the time was a red-tailed hawk. “We started at the top [in the renovation] because the dust falls,” Leon says. Also on the priority list was opening up the ground floor, which was originally a warren of five small rooms. Today the kitchen, eating and living area flow seam-

With 42 windows, a piece of nature is always just an inspirational glance away.

lessly into each other, thanks to creative design by an architect friend from New York City and their local contractor of choice since 1978, Schrader and Company of Burnt Hills. The renovation took 15 years altogether, although, as Leon notes, renovation in an older home is never really done. Throughout the renovation, nature served as the Leons’ muse in their renovation and decoration decisions. “I think of the house I love as an outside-in house,” Leon says. “The outside is always available wherever you are.” Each of the 42 windows, he says, “frames a large piece of art. My peripheral vision is always active here.” As is always the case with renovations in older homes, historical surprises can crop up in the oddest places. The original house was built using the plaster and lath method. During the renovation, workers

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An architect friend came up with the idea for the semi-circular island. “Judy and I said that’s perfect,” Leon says of the first time they saw the design. 28  | Life@Home

discovered a note scratched in the wall, probably by the lather, the person to close up the wall. “Sell my tools and old shoes. Take care of my widow. Yours, Barney.” Next to this was a photo of a woman pinned to the wood with a lathing nail. “The widow was the afterthought,” Leon laughs, “and probably not his wife.” Rather than cover up this bit of history, Leon asked Schrader and Company to frame it and leave it open for viewing.


eaving things as is — or restoring them to a more natural state — is how Leon has been restoring the land as well. And he’s been busy. Since moving to the farm full time in 2000 after retiring as a corporate executive, Leon has created 2,000 square-feet of garden beds. He may have spent his work life behind a desk, but it’s clear walking the land that he’s just as comfortable behind the wheel of his tractor or backhoe. Circling part of the house is a bed created entirely of native plants, as well as a few of what he calls “well-behaved immigrants.” Among the perennials are St. John’s Wort, turtlehead, three kinds of phlox, coreopsis, twin leaf and harebell. continued on 30  |  29

After 45 years of ownership, Strawberry Fields is still a work in progress. At left below, the remains that will one day be a walled garden. continued from 29

Another garden started as three plugs of monarda (bee balm) donated by a neighbor. “Before you know it, it was 20 feet across,” Leon says. The many rock walls and pathways are thanks to rocks he’s found on the property. In the works — because Leon is clearly a man who does not spend a lot of time in a hammock — is what he calls a rain garden. In other words, a spot where most people might just see annoying sitting water after a lot of rain, Leon sees a wetlands garden in the making. Last year he roughed out a shallow pool in the area where water naturally gathered and began adding some native wetlands plants. This year he’ll make that pool more formal, with its overflow 30  | Life@Home

capacity nurturing other plants he’ll add. Dry season? Not to worry, Leon will use one of his several rain barrels to feed the burgeoning rain garden through a clever hose system. Working with — rather than against — nature helps Leon achieve the other part of his conservation dream for Strawberry Fields: to achieve the lowest carbon footprint possible. He already has solar panels — which provide electricity for his electric car and electric ATV as well as everything else in his house. And this summer he will add geo-thermal heating and cooling to his land, perhaps rendering his woodstove to the status of decorative rather than functional. The result? A near net-zero — or better — lifestyle. Leon speaks clearly about why this conservation easement, which will protect the land for generations to come, and living an  |  31

I think of the house I love as an outside-in house. The outside is always available wherever you are.” — Jeff Leon eco-friendly life are so important to him. “It starts with my feelings about what we’ve done as a species to the environment,” he says. “I want to set an example that it’s possible not to do that.” He also wants to repay the natural world that has given him so much. “Spending time up here has taught me so much about life and death,” he says. “I want to give my own family that same opportunity.” “Most see the land as part of their retirement fund,” he adds. “That’s not my philosophy. I’m a steward of the land, a temporary owner.”  To learn more about native plants that might be appropriate for your property, Leon recommends Project Native in Housatonic, Mass., as well as Fiddlehead Creek in Hartford, N.Y., and Earth Tones in Waterbury, Conn. Bloomfields Florist provided the floral arrangements in the house and Chrissy’s Greenhouse provided the annuals in the yard, both in Amsterdam.



For more photos, go to

32  | Life@Home

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 Design Defined

Hang Time F

By Lucianna Samu  |  Photo by Mark Samu

riends and clients e-mail me some of the best ideas I have for Design Defined topics. Scrolling through the subject line of a batch of answered mail filed in my newly minted Design Defined Idea Dropbox(!), the subject lines shaped up like this: “Need help with curtains,” “Help!!! I’m hanging drapes,” “Where do I find good curtain rods.” So here we go, on what amounts to little more than part 1 of a very challenging design essential. I should begin by disclosing that whenever I respond to subjects titled “I need help with my window treatments,” I respond, “So do I!” Most of the windows in my house stand bare — and thankfully tall. I get some help from lovely moldings and interesting views as well. But bare windows pose their own set of problems, and can make an otherwise gracious and extraordinary room feel unfinished. Naked windows need to be kept super clean, too, or this casual look will fast take on a neglectful quality, while the sun, rain or the winter winds contribute their own special set of challenges to consider. In the end the thought that maybe there really is something to be said for this window treatment thing takes hold. The question of where to begin has only two answers. Think this over carefully, because every other decision you’ll make about how to have beautiful windows rests on your decision to either, a) buy readymade, or b) have them custom made. And, it is the deceptively simple allure of the ready-made drape that I believe causes all the trouble. The online world has almost

34  | Life@Home

unlimited sources for lovely drapes, and an equal variety of fabrics, lengths, and methods for hanging. Add to this the allure of easy options available from the home furnishings and department store retailers, and few but the well coached or truly experienced will not be overwhelmed.


et’s begin with the essentials. Every curtain or drape once had what is known as a “heading.” This is the part of the drape that sits just above the rod once it’s hung. The trouble begins here, because many pre-packaged curtains don’t have headings anymore. Lightweight curtains with no heading can be slipped onto a rod,

assuming the rod is small enough to fit the pocket yet sturdy enough to bear the weight of the drape. With the exception of fine custom drapery workrooms, we all have come to terms with the absence of the heading , and in fact, the options this offers can have its advantages — most notably, rings. For heavier curtains without a heading, drapery pins can be placed through the fabric and then slipped into a ring on the pole. Some terrific looks can be created using clip-on rings, too. Use at least seven rings per 54-inch panel for a straight hang from the heading. Keep in mind that clip-on rings will make a curtain hang a little lon-

August Means... “

Bare windows pose their own set of problems, and can make an otherwise gracious and extraordinary room feel unfinished. ”

ger, which may be a good thing. By gathering up the heading a little, and adding extra clips to the panel, a sort of a backward pinch pleat called the “Euro” is a tailored and reasonable representation of a pinch pleat heading without all the pins and rings. I also like to attach clip-on rings to the place on the back of any drapery, heading or not, where a pin would be. This makes the ring invisible once the drape is hung. Next are the grommets. This hanging system is the latest way to resolve how to hang a drape that lacks a suitable rod pocket or heading; you simply place the rod through the grommet and voila, all done. Certainly there are options for more well-tailored ready-made drapes. My best advice is to choose the drapes first, knowing how you will prefer them to hang; then select a suitable rod that won’t sag under the weight or operation of your finished installation. The biggest question is always where to put the rod, usually a function of the length of the drape. Here again, readymade can be limiting

with a standard 84-inch panel . This length typically places the rod at the top of the window trim or just slightly above it. The next standard length is 96 inches, followed by 108 inches and 120 inches after which it’s off to the drapery maker. It’s always better to have your drapes too long rather than too short. So the best approach is to buy them longer than you think you need and hang them higher. Ideally, drapes should hang from ceiling height, but from the top of the window trim, 2 to 4 inches above the molding or mid-way between the window and the ceiling are also acceptable. Place the drape on the rod, and figure out where it will look best. Be sure to hang it securely if you’re going to be opening and closing them often. Depending on how much drape you have left sitting on the floor, you’ve either made a “break” or a “puddle.” If you can see your base trim, you’ve made neither, in which case you can send me an e-mail, or choose option B the next time you have some drapery work to do! 

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 Problem Solved

Painting a part of the door with chalkboard paint gave these homeowners a place to leave notes and make grocery lists. 36  | Life@Home

The Art of Displaying


A neat solution to a cluttered fridge By Brianna Snyder  |  “After” Photo by Emily Jahn

Always the leader in: • Care • Technology • Results

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PROBLEM This Saratoga kitchen was looking cluttered with the kids’ artwork and miscellaneous invitations and cards stuck to the refrigerator with magnets. “I think, myself included, people have a hard time figuring out what to do with all the kids’ artwork that comes home every day,” says Erika Gallagher, an interior designer at Plum and Crimson in Saratoga Springs.

"After one year of experience, service and product have been excellent. Would recommend highly." – L.J.F., Cohoes

SOLVED! Gallagher found an old screen door at Albany Historical Salvage, which she used to replace the door to the kitchen pantry. “I happened to like the patina the door had already,” BEFORE she says. “It was white. It had some red, crackly paint coming from underneath and some red accents so it worked well with [the kitchen’s] colors.” She removed the screen and replaced it with a piece of masonite. Gallagher glued cork tiles inside and painted the outside with black chalkboard paint. The chalkboard is now used for shopping lists and reminders while the artwork and all those invitations and cards are still on display right where you need them, but “it’s not overwhelming,” she says. 

TOP TIP One practical tip if you’re going to make a cork board: “The tiles I got were from a craft shop and they come with self-adhesive little tabs, but they totally didn’t hold,” Gallagher says. “So we had to use a carpenter’s glue to keep them on.” And for your homemade chalkboard? “You definitely want a high-quality chalkboard paint,” she says. “You don’t want to be wiping off the paint when you go to wipe off the chalk. Benjamin Moore is what i always recommend. You can get [the paint] in any color, too. It doesn’t have to be black. You can get any custom color you want.”

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 DIY Diva

Wine Cork Board Pinning it old school Story and photos By Megan Willis

I love to be surrounded and inspired by a variety of tear-outs, photos, postcards and other novelties. Having pondered the idea of a wine-cork cork board for a long while, I finally gave it a whirl, and here’s how it went down.

You’ll need: • A medium- to large-sized frame; I used 27” x 21”. Repaint or not to suit your fancy. • A mat board if you choose or fake a border to surround your corks using paint or tape. • Corks — lots of them. Ask a restaurant for theirs; otherwise, you are looking at drinking a ridiculous amount of wine. I found a BYOB restaurant that gave me grocery bags of corks every few weeks. • E-6000 glue. It’s flexible and heavy-duty to stand up to pinning and repinning.








Gather your pieces and decide If you’ll use a mat frame to border your corks. My frame had a mat and I flipped over the cardboard that came inside it and glued the mat directly to the cardboard. Separate the cork from the plastic. Plastic corks aren’t as pretty, and they are much more rigid than cork ones. Also, I thought the red-stained corks were kind of cool, so I kept them in the mix. Lay out your design before you glue. Depending on your pattern, mark your center with the same reasoning as when you lay tile so it’s centered.


Glue down, tape or paint your mat in place. That way you can cover any gaps with corks (rather than trying to lay down a mat after the corks are glued in). Glue your corks in place. E-6000 glue is pretty toxic, so I did sections at a time with the windows open. Provided you have air circulation, this is a great kid project. Apply the glue in a line along the back of the cork (I wanted the labels to show face-up) and then press into place. After drying for at least a day, hang with a wire and screws on the back of frame or just nail to the wall. 



Megan Willis has a life-long passion for turning trash into treasure. Her blog, The Davenport Chronicles, can be found at

38  | Life@Home

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Spectacular views of the Hudson River from this majestic, four bedroom, three bath Italianate Victorian home. Truly a rare opportunity to own one of the grandest historic properties along the river near Albany. Abounding with original architectural detail, this very special residence offers the finest in gracious living. Tranquil, 2.8+-acre setting with nearly 600 feet of shoreline. ~ Agent: Steven Girvin (518) 852-1315 ~ Agent: Steven Girvin (518) 852-1315

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Elements of



How to make any space look amazing By Brianna Snyder  |  Photos by Brandon Barré


ost of us have lived in a place that was oddly shaped or awkwardly laid out. And for most of us, that situation is more terrifying than inspirational. We just stick furniture wherever and hope it works. If you’re like Candice Olson, however, inelegant spaces are exciting — and she’s decided to help the rest of us learn how to get excited as well. Olson’s new book, Favorite Design Challenges, takes on rooms and homes of all different shapes, sizes and heights, manipulating the eye with smart, savvy furniture placement, colors, accessories, shelves, window treatments and lights. A Canadian interior designer, Olson is the host of Toronto-based home-makeover shows, such as Divine Design and Candice Tells All, which you can catch on HGTV (if

40  | Life@Home

you haven’t already). We were able to swap questions with the busy designer via e-mail recently. Here’s what she had to say. Life@Home: One of the things I find impressive about your book is your ability to see a space for its potential. For people without your talents, a long, narrow room is fairly intimidating. What advice can you offer for those who are terrified by a big empty room? Candice Olson: Every room design starts with a focal point — that one element in a room that attracts your attention like a fireplace or a beautiful view; once established, it grounds the purpose of the room and the design and layout falls into place around it. If a room has a focal point, I say, “flaunt

it;” if it doesn’t, then we have to create it and there are lots of tricks to doing that depending on the room. In a bedroom it might be a dramatic, oversized headboard that brings focus to the bed. In a big boring living room, an accent wall created by a deep intense wall color or graphic wallpaper anchors the room. Similarly, a beautiful wall of mosaic tile backing the tub in a bathroom is the perfect place for the eye to land and start the journey around the room. What are some dos and don’ts for decorating small spaces? Large spaces? [With small spaces,] editing is key. When you have very little space, make sure that every last element in that space is important and has meaning. Clutter is a small space’s worst enemy!

 Adding a wall of storage, a bigger TV (that’s disguisable behind bambooand-reed panel doors) and stylish furniture make this room cozy and inviting.

… In a large space it is important to make sure that a common visual language is spoken throughout the room so that the space feels unified. Color is the easiest way to accomplish this; a color in an area carpet might relate to the color of the walls as well as a pillow on the sofa, creating a connection throughout the entire space.

Texture, along with pattern, color, scale, proportion, is simply another tool in a designer’s toolbox. Texture is particularly powerful in bringing interest and excitement to quiet or monochromatic color schemes as well as helping to bring visual and physical comfort to very contemporary rooms.

What’s one mistake you see people making over and over again?

What’s the biggest room challenge you’ve ever had to overcome?

I think that people underestimate the value and power of lighting. I tell my clients that it doesn’t matter how much time, energy or money that we spend on a space, if the lighting is not good it’s all a waste. Lighting is the essential tool to bring life, drama and excitement to rooms.

I have done plenty of very emotional projects over the past 25 years, but speaking purely from a design perspective, renovating an old fraternity house for a couple with a teeny-weeny budget stretched my design muscles to the max.

In your book, you have breakouts with sketched-out designs and also an interesting alternative to flat color palettes: your palettes include textures and shapes, too. That’s a great idea! Is that something you put together as you were brainstorming room concepts or is it just illustrative for the benefit of us readers?

I look to fashion for very current trends, but Mother Nature is my biggest inspiration for color, texture and pattern: If it works in nature, it will work in the home. 

Where do you go for design inspiration?

Favorite Design Challenges, by Candice Olson. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $19.99, 224 pages.

AFTER  This room has “quirky” angles, Olson says, which “can be charming, but this space was falling short of its potential.”

BEFORE  To make it over, Olson broke up the long, awkward space into zones, organized by function -- a TV space on one end and a home office on the other.  |  41

Door casing

Crown molding

Anything but

Run of the Mill

Millwork can take a room from bland to beautiful Chair rail

Panel molding Baseboard


illwork is a broad term for any building-material interior finishing components produced using a sawmill. The heavy-duty work can be done using wood from older beams repurposed for new use. Processing the wood includes cleaning it, removing nails and tar, straightening the pieces and then carving them into various grooves to match — or define — any architectural style. Millwork can also be done commercially and is available in cherry, white oak,

42  | Life@Home

walnut or other woods. Millwork can be as simple as the trim work around doors and windows, called casing and base, ceiling trim or crown molding. Also popular are wall trim and chair rails. In essence, millwork details transform flat, boring walls into something with depth and character — all without major additional construction. Mark A. Anderson is owner of Trevett Millworks in Greenwich. The business is named after his grandfather, Chauncey

Hagedorn Trevett, a well-known chairmaker from Sacandaga Lake. Anderson says business is booming, with clients ranging from restaurateurs to major builders to single homeowners, all wanting to create distinctive touches to their interior design. “Millwork isn’t structural, so there’s no pre-set rule for how and where it can be placed,” Anderson says. “It’s typically just for design, which opens up all kinds of possibilities.” Anderson likes working with reclaimed

Photo: Steven Miric/GettyImages.

By Cari Scribner

chosen to run beadboard horizontally. Because it’s built and installed as one solid sheet of wood, beadboard can be a quick and easy weekend project. Trim molding usually runs along the top of an installation of beadboard, creating a clean dividing line between the wainscoting and the painted or papered wall on the space above. Anderson cautions people to be careful measuring where to place beadboard. “You don’t want to try to cut space in half,” Anderson says. “You want the beadboard to end 36 to 42 inches off the floor. I’ve also seen it installed 5.5 inches high, which is an alternative look.” Once in place, the beadboard can be painted or left in its natural state. “I love the look of natural wood,” Anderson says. “It’s distinctive and, honestly, it’s easier to maintain.”


wood because of its distinctive appearance and because it harkens back to days gone by. Because each wood has unique qualities, the materials alone keep homes from having a cookie-cutter similarity. Anderson works with new homeowners looking to add style as well as homeowners of older houses who want to complement the already existing historic architecture. One of the most requested millwork projects is panel wainscoting, called beadboard by millworkers. This is a decorative style

of wood paneling that has evenly spaced grooves on the surface. When beadboard made its first appearance in the 1800s, its purpose was to protect walls, since it is made of stained, sealed wood that was easier to clean than painted walls. It also lasts longer than wallpaper and paint because it is made of a more solid material. Beadboard has retained its popularity because it defines space and adds depth. Classically installed, the grooves run vertically, although some homeowners have

imitrios Gialli, of Gialli Interiors in Albany, loves the effects custom millwork adds to a room. “We’ve done every single room in the house, each one varied and unique,” Gialli says. “You take a space with nothing on the walls, add something and voila! You’ve defined the scope of the room. I consider it makeup for a room.” Gialli works with crown moldings, installed where the top of a wall meets the ceiling, chair rails, placed midway between the floor and ceiling around the entire room, and baseboards along the floor. “Moldings separate the horizontal from the vertical,” Gialli says. “These can be designed any way you want; they’re all custom jobs. Some people want contemporary, some want traditional.” Trimwork and molding can also benefit a home by protecting it from drafts and minor structural damage. Trim molding is a way to hide drywall joints and conceal the bottom of floorboards, which can become uneven or unsightly over time. “We’ve done million-dollar homes [for] people with $200 to $300 for the entire project,” Anderson says. “Fancy trim packages aren’t big right now, but adding woodwork to any room is a great trend because it gives the room true character.”   |  43

 Living Green

What’s In Your Sunscreen?

Skip the sprays and the powders! Plus some other tips on choosing the healthiest, safest sunscreens

By Cari Scribner

• Look for formulas that don’t contain oxybenzone. Nearly half of all beach and sport sunscreens contain the chemical oxybenzone, which penetrates the skin, gets into the bloodstream and acts like estrogen in the body. Data is preliminary, but studies have found a link between higher concentrations of oxybenzone and health hazards. One study has linked oxybenzone to endometriosis in older women; another found that women with higher levels of oxybenzone during pregnancy had lower-birthweight daughters. Oxybenzone can also trigger allergic reactions. • Avoid retinyl palmitate. The sunscreen industry adds this form of vitamin A to nearly one-quarter of all sunscreens. Retinyl palmitate vitamin A is often used in night creams for anti-aging effects. But federal studies indicate that this 46  | Life@Home

? antioxidant may actually speed the development of skin tumors and lesions when applied to skin in the presence of sunlight. The Food and Drug Administration has yet to rule on the safety of retinyl palmitate, often called “retinol,” in skin care products, but the EWG recommends that consumers avoid sunscreens containing this chemical. • Don’t rely on loose powder sunscreens. Loose powder sunscreens are designed to be used on the face and scalp. They typically contain tiny particles of zinc and titanium that can potentially offer strong UV protection if enough sticks to the skin. But they can end up in the lungs and cause damage after being inhaled from a cloud of airborne particles each

? ? ? time they’re applied. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies inhaled titanium dioxide as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” Tiny zinc particles also irritate the lungs and could pass through skin into the body. The FDA’s current over-the-counter rules no longer allow loose powders, including loose powder makeup, to advertise an SPF or make claims of sun protection. But it granted small companies an extra year to remove their powders from the market. • Skip products that combine bug repellent with sunscreen. For one thing, bugs are typically not a problem during the hours when UV exposure peaks (from about noon to 2 p.m. in the Northeast). Also, sunscreen usually needs to be

Photos: sunscreen on towel, Gary Ombler and Andy Crawford/GettyImages; Products, Photos courtesy Amazon.


f you’re like many families, you’ve planned an August vacation to celebrate the culmination of another memorable summer season. Whether you’re headed to the mountains, lakeside, campground or beach, health-conscious consumers know their vacation suitcase should have sunscreen right on the top. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is the nation’s leading environmental health research and advocacy organization. The group is on a mission to serve as a watchdog to ensure people get straight facts, unbiased, so they can make healthier choices and enjoy a cleaner environment. The EWG’s new 2013 Guide to Sunscreens shines light on ingredients and formulas and proves that not all sunscreens are alike. Most of us have looked for labels marked “gentle,” or those with higher Sun Protection Factors (SPFs), but you need to know more before you select products for your family. Here are recommendations from the EWG 2013 Guide to Sunscreens:

Some of EWG’s 2013 Best Sunscreens

reapplied more frequently than repellent. The EWG recommends that you do not use repellents on your face. But there’s more: studies indicate that combining sunscreens and repellents leads to increased skin absorption of the repellent ingredients.

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• Don’t rely on sunscreen towelettes. The FDA called for the removal of sunscreen wipes and towelettes, but small companies have been granted another year to remove them from their product lines. One key question is whether you get enough sunscreen on your skin to ensure sun protection. As you know, you should apply about a shot glass full of sunscreen to your body and follow re-application instructions. EWG has found the on-the-go towelette packets are not worth the risk. • No tanning oils. If you haven’t stopped using them already, be aware that although some tanning oils contain sunscreen ingredients, the levels are always very low and offer little, if any, protection from the sun’s rays. Tanning oils are also associated with an increased danger of sunburn. • Be aware of shortcomings of high SPF products. One in seven sunscreens in the EWG’s sunscreen guide this year boasts SPFs higher than SPF 50+. These high-SPF products may tempt people to stay in the sun too long, and while they may help fend off sunburn, there’s still the risk of other kinds of skin damage. The FDA is considering limiting SPF claims to 50+, as is done in other countries. Capping SPF ratings would cut down on the false sense of security that higher numbers can give to consumers.

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• Use lotion, rather than spray sunscreens. Aerosolized sunscreens may be faster and easier to apply to kids as they run toward the surf. But the FDA has expressed unease about the safety and efficacy of spray sunscreens, even as companies continue to produce them. There’s growing concern that these sprays pose serious inhalation risks. They also make it too easy to apply too little or to miss a spot, leaving bare skin exposed to harmful rays.   |  47

 Refurnished Living

DIY is Easy as 1-2-3

By Alison Grieveson

Who doesn’t like the sense of accomplishment that comes from doing, making or creating something? Some companies have cleverly created fun DIY kits that are worth checking out!

  Remember as a kid putting the

w  Personalize your iPhone case

seeds from your eaten apple into the ground and hoping for the best? With this kit, you might actually get a tree!, $22

with this darling needlepoint kit. The best part is you can change the design whenever your heart desires! etsy. com/shop/notsomodernmillie, $12

  Artisan jewelry maker Susan

x  OK, perhaps the plans for this

Ashelford has taken three of her most popular necklaces and turned them into sweet DIY kits with step-by-step directions. You can choose from “Easy P’easy” to the more challenging, “Not-so-P’easy.” etsy. com/shop/giventogauche, $36-$58

bamboo bungalow might not be for everyone — but when I saw these photos, I knew I had to include it in this list. C’mon, how great would this structure be in your backyard? You can get just the plans for $500, or the plans and the materials for $6,500.  

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y  You had me at cheese! These cheese craft DIY Kits for goat/chèvre, mozzarella/ ricotta and queso fresco each include step-by-step instructions to guide you through the cheese-making process., $25.95 - 29.95 

Make your own pattern!

A Polynesian paradise in your yard!

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

48  | Life@Home

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 Down the Garden Path

The Power of


How to keep your garden colorful all summer long Bleeding heart   Story and photos by Colleen Plimpton


hen I was a girl, bedding plants were deemed just the ticket to give the ornamental garden heft and color. Gardeners outdid themselves to position annuals in elaborate formations, often in what would today be considered garish combinations. In the 1970s, when the rest of the world changed, so did horticulture. Perennials came to the fore. I recall thinking how complex they seemed and questioning if I could master the production of a colorful, season-long garden full of plants that only bloomed for a few weeks each. Well, yes, I could. And so can you. The trick lies in selection. Choose long-blooming perennials and your garden will be full 50  | Life@Home

of color from March to November. In addition, your pocketbook won’t feel the pinch of purchasing all those annuals! Lead the garden off in early spring with a vibrant splash by sticking in oodles of critter-resistant bulbs. I favor chionodoxa, scilla and old-fashioned, naturalizing daffodils. These provide razzle-dazzle blue, purple and yellow for six week to eight weeks. They are inexpensive to purchase and perennialize well. Next up on the hit parade are the herbaceous perennials, commencing with Lenten roses. These arrive in March and flower for two months in shades of ivory, purple, pink, splotched, burgundy, green and more. They’ll even self-sow if they’re happy in

their preferred shady, moist location. By the time the Lenten roses are fading, in come the bleeding hearts. These old-fashioned plants bloom in pink or white and stay in flower for at least three weeks. They will take a great deal more sun than is generally surmised, especially if given plentiful moisture. Even more floriferous is the smaller fringed form of bleeding heart, which will bloom for months, given its favorite shady spot. Accompany bleeding hearts with phlox divaricata, that sweetsmelling, native woodland phlox. It, too, will self-sow if given half a chance, and its blue or white cascade of flowers are a showstopper. Heuchera will have fully arisen by mid-

spring. Though their dainty flowers are a hummingbird magnet, gardeners grow these shade-loving, deer-proof plants for their astounding foliage. Try Caramel with its apricot leaves and light pink flowers, or Midnight Rose, renowned for its pinksplashed ruffled wine-colored foliage. And then there’s Snow Angel, which sports white-and-green marbled leaves and deep pink flowers. The variety of heuchera is almost inexhaustible. Give them semi-shade. Emerging hosta foliage exhibits a plethora of leaf size, color and shape. Get them in frosty blue, vibrant chartreuse, shiny green, variegated and so much more. While we think of hosta as shade plants, they do quite well in sunshine. Hosta flowers in summer and the funnel-shaped blooms borne on slender tall stems are often fragrant. The flowers come in colors from milk-white, lavender, to amethyst purple and attract hummingbirds. Peonies arrive next, showing off their fragrant, billowy blooms in every color except blue. Called the “century plant” because they will outlive us all, they are easy and hardy in a sunny garden. Be sure to choose early, middle and late blooming cultivars to extend the show. Feed them well. For even more bloom, cut peonies just as the buds break color. Wrap in damp paper toweling and place in refrigerator for up to a month then display and enjoy. Daylilies are the backbone of many a summer garden, but they must be protected from the darn deer. Easy to grow and drought resistant, they come in every color of the rainbow and in size from petite to gigantic. Again, choose early, middle and late cultivars. Though each blossom lasts only a day (thus the name), the plants send up many stems, extending the flowering. It’s possible to have daylilies in bloom from May until October. For ideas, check the catalogs such as Bluestone Perennials ( or Roots & Rhizomes ( Tall garden phlox adds immeasurably to

the summer flower garden. Beware of mildew, however, which disfigures the lower leaves but doesn’t harm the flowers. To avoid this scourge, pinch out some emerging stems in early spring to give the plant better air circulation. To delay bloom and shorten stems, cut back the plants by one third in mid-June. Flowering ground cover ornamental oregano commences its plum-colored celebration in August and doesn’t stop until October. Nope, it’s not edible, except to bees, which really need our help. Its spreading stems make a hardy ground cover for a large, sunny area. And it tolerates poor soil. Next are the sedums. Choose wisely and you’ll have bloom from August until November, but select also for leaf color. Prostrate sedum Vera Jamison and October daphne have glaucous-blue leaves outlined in pink, with profuse, pink star-shaped blossoms. Choose a sunny dryish site, and admire the show! Tall sedums such as the venerable Autumn Joy give generous blooms late in the season, but for more intriguing leaf color from spring to fall choose cultivars such as Frosty Morn with its icy white-edged leaves and Autumn Charm known for its cream-colored variegation. Both bloom splendidly. Feel free to supplement your long-blooming perennials with flowering shrubs, especially the new reblooming types: Bloomerang lilac, Knockout rose, Sonic Bloom weigela, Magic Carpet spirea and Endless Summer hydrangea. Life’s too short to be intimidated by persnickety, expensive annuals. For an up-todate garden, choose long blooming perennials, and not only will you instantly leap into the realm of sophisticated gardeners, but your purse will tender you its thanks.  Garden communicator Colleen Plimpton writes about, lectures on, teaches and coaches gardening. Visit her website at

‘Midnight Rose’ heuchera

‘Palace Purple’ heuchera

‘Frosty Morn’ sedum

Lenten rose  |  51

When planning a walkway, draw the eye down the path with color and texture.



Want a few tips for making your cut flowers last a little longer? Go to


of the Land A natural escape in Niskayuna By Janet Reynolds  |  Photos by Colleen Ingerto


hen Jude and Steve Pagano moved to their home in Niskayuna 12 years ago, many of the gardens were well established, thanks to the former owner of 35 years. “I almost feel like a keeper,” Jude says. That approach worked for a while, she says, as she focused on career and family. After all, having grown up on a dairy farm, Pagano says, “I can tell you I had no interest in gardening.” “But you can’t live on a property like this and not get involved,” she says. “The farm girl finally came out.” Pagano started putting her personal touches on the bed and is responsible for all the landscaping around the pool. “I wanted it to look natural,” she says of her approach. She describes her gardening strategy as trial and error. “I learned the hard way, the right plant in the right place.” Her favorite bed is the one in the front of the house because it’s the first one she created herself. “I’m happy with it and when you’re happy with it, it just helps you do more,” she says. “You’re always tweaking.” Just like her gardens, Pagano has learned good gardens take time — and patience. “It took me a while to learn,” she says. “You can’t get to it all at once.” “I do for pleasure. If it’s not fun and tedious, I put the tool down and go inside,” Pagano says. “It’s a passion.” see more garden tips on 54

“I work on having color every season. I like a mix of colors,” Pagano says,   “and the mix of texture, a full-leafed plant next to a feathery one.”  |  53

WHO NEEDS SUN? While some gardeners are frustrated by a yard without full sun, Pagano has learned to appreciate the options that shade brings. “Now I love the shade plants more than the sun plants,” she says. “There’s so much more you can do with leaf shape and texture.”

54  | Life@Home



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10 Ways To Use … Sugar

Got the hiccups? One of the many cures we’ve heard: Swallow a teaspoon of dry sugar. We’ll let you decide if you want to give that a try!

By Melissa Fiorenza


or this month’s list, we just assumed that there was more to sugar than being an essential ingredient in our favorite desserts. And, naturally, with a little help from you and the Web, we were proved right. Check out these sweet ideas for what you can do with sugar:


Clean grimy hands


Keep desserts fresher for longer

In the airtight container where you’re displaying your just-baked cake, toss in a few sugar cubes to extend the shelf life.


Feed your flowers


Tend to wounds


Remove grass stains


Set your lipstick

We found this tip on Mother Nature Network ( “Add three teaspoons of sugar and two tablespoons of white vinegar per quart of warm water for fresh-cut flowers. The sugar feeds the stems and the vinegar restricts the growth of bacteria.”

Photo: Lauren Burke/GettyImages.

body scrub” to find a recipe you like.

Grease, grime, dirt or paint all over your hands can more easily be washed off with the help of sugar. Before you rinse, put some sugar and olive oil into one palm and rub your hands together. That’s all there is to it!

Kids brought a little bit of the park home with them? Use sugar to wipe out grass stains. Here’s how: Soak the stain in water, add a sprinkling of the sweet stuff, let it stand for an hour or two, then wash.


Treat your skin

Rachel on Facebook suggests using sugar as a “body scrub.” Good call on that one; you can make plenty of scrubs at home using sugar. Do a quick Google search for “homemade

According to, “While honey is more effective for its antimicrobial effects, you can use sugar to help stop bleeding wounds, especially those on a joint or a particularly difficult area prone to prolonged bleeding.” Just sprinkle some sugar into the wound, it says, and continue compression.

“I use sugar to set my lipstick and make it last longer,” says Joanie Demer of “After applying my favorite shade, I sprinkle a bit of sugar over my lips, let it sit for a few minutes and then carefully lick it off. Forget those chemical-laden makeup-setting sprays — sugar works great and tastes a lot better!”


Soothe a mouth burn “It seems like it happens every

single morning — I impatiently take a gulp of my coffee while it’s still as hot as lava and burn my tongue,” says Heather Wheeler, also from thekrazycouponlady. com. “To ease the sting, I sprinkle a little sugar onto the burn or suck on a sugar cube. Believe it or not, the sugar makes the pain dissipate quickly!”


Create magazine-worthy muffins

OK, so this is a kitchen use, but it’s one you might not have heard of! Jackie Keller, health expert and founding director of Nutrifit, told us: “One way we use sugar is to create even rising of muffins and cupcakes. We sprinkle a very small amount of sugar over the top of each muffin, which prevents ‘elephant trunk’ tops and unusual shapes, and promotes nicely formed and more uniform muffin tops.” Genius!


Get rid of roaches

Cover the infested area ASAP with sugar and baking power — the sugar will attract them, the latter will exterminate them.  Want to join in the 10 Ways fun? Stay tuned to our Facebook page for upcoming questions:  |  57

 Dollars & Sense

Wheeling and Dealing An insider’s guide to buying a car

By Laurie Lynn Fischer

1. THINK AHEAD “Advance planning prevents you from having to buy a replacement vehicle sooner than you need to and saves you money in the long run,” says Dave Pearson, a car buying expert with CAP COM Federal Credit Union. Some questions to consider: Could your commute change in coming years? Is your family growing? “Try to get the right vehicle for your situation,” Pearson says. “Balance your wants with your needs. If you have a large four-wheel-drive vehicle that can hold the whole family, the second car might be a smaller vehicle and save a little money. If you’re using the capability of the truck two days a year, it might be cheaper to rent or borrow a truck to tow that boat.” 58  | Life@Home

2. CONSIDER LEASING Leasing generally means lower monthly payments than buying new, says Erik Cooley, dealer principal at Cooley Volkswagen and Mazda in North Greenbush. “Leasing might allow you to afford a better equipped vehicle,” he says. “You only are, in a sense, leasing a portion of the vehicle that’s new. It’s designed for people with a history of every three years or so getting a different vehicle. You’re staying in a newer vehicle all the time. With that, you generally have factory warranty coverage. It’s really for people who know how many miles they drive per year. If you’re driving more than 15,000 miles a year, purchasing might be a better option.”

3. ASSESS YOUR BUDGET Calculate the cost of obtaining, fueling and insuring the vehicle, Pearson says. “When you’re taking a loan out, the financial institution requires you to get full coverage,” says Pearson. “I talk to people who buy a new car and find out they have to get

comprehensive coverage, and all of a sudden that payment is no longer affordable, especially if before they only had liability.”

4. HYBRID HYPE? Hybrids generally cost more than gasolinepowered automobiles, Pearson says, suggesting a visit to “You can see how much your yearly savings would be, compare the cost of hybrid versus non-hybrid, and see if you’ll make up the difference,” he says. “If the website says you’ll save $1,000 on gas over the course of a year, but the hybrid costs $5,000 more, it may not be worth the cost of a hybrid if you generally don’t keep cars for five years.”

5. PRIVATE MATTER Need an inexpensive car? Consider purchasing privately, but beware — it’s as-is, says Bill Baker of Averill Park, who sold cars locally for 16 years. “You want to know everything about that car you can possibly find,” he says, “so request maintenance

Photo: GettyImages/Hybrid Images.


f you’re like me, you’d rather not drive without your GPS. If you want to be a savvy shopper, these professional car buying tips can help guide you along the road to a good deal:

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and repair records and have a mechanic look it over.”

them you’re shopping between different makes and models.”



Perform a background check on your desired used vehicle with a CARFAX search — either online or through a dealership — to learn DMV, insurance and factory recall data, Baker recommends.

A warranty is worthwhile if your new car has lots of computerized bells and whistles, but bargain, Baker says, suggesting, “Ask the price; then offer half.”



Spring is the best time to lease a vehicle, while late month is the best time to buy new because monthly sales dictate dealer bonuses, says Baker. “They’ll lose money if they have to,” he says. “They’ll put more into your trade or take a lesser deal on those last couple Camrys.” The best time of year to purchase a new car is between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Baker says. “I used to send out my famous Santa Sucks letter to all my customers,” he recalls. “Believe me, not too many people buy cars for Christmas presents. There are a lot of people sitting around the showrooms.”

“Negotiate the price of the vehicle you’re buying. Then negotiate the trade,” Pearson says. “Otherwise, you’d never know how much you’re getting for your car or paying for theirs.” A trade provides leverage and can save you money on sales tax, Baker says. “Ask three dealerships the cash trade difference [taxed amount] on your trade,” he says. “Eliminate the high bidder and ask the middle bidder if they can do better than the low bidder.” Once the haggling is through, he says. “Act immediately. Put $100 on your credit card, say I’ll be right in, write it all down, and get it all done.”



“Most people don’t marry their first boyfriend,” Baker says. “You don’t want to fall in love with anything right away or you’re in trouble. Most people don’t want to get in a dealership and be pressured. You have to be very objective and methodical.” Gather information from dealer and manufacturer websites, zero in on one car and test drive it, Baker says. “The key part here is to not make a purchase at all,” he says. “Tell

At bargaining time, Baker deals directly with the manager. So can you. “[The contract] gets signed by the manager, who is there to do one thing – make money,” Baker says.

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12. FINANCING Ask a bank or credit union to calculate your loan payments rather than the dealer, says Baker. “You want to know when you walk in the amount you’re going to finance, altogether with the tax,” he says. 

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 Tech Tips

Toggle Time

Interested in a tablet but not sure which one to get? Here’s a starting point.


hen we were first introduced to the iPad in 2010, it seemed as if we’d begun riding a new wave of the future. It seemed exclusive and elite, almost magical. The few people who had them were like gods among us. And then things accelerated — fast. Apple may have been the first serious player in the tablet game, but today the field is well populated. And they’re all pretty good. Cliff Rohde, a tech enthusiast and owner of GoatCloud Communications, an SEO and Internet-marketing company based in Albany, says tablets are headed the way of laptops — about 33 percent of U.S. consumers own one, he says, and with keyboard docks and an increased use of cloud computing, tablets could start to edge out hard drive-heavy computers. “They’re tremendously convenient,” Rohde says of tablets. “Even the laptop is too much of a bother sometimes. I’ve got my phone or my tablet. You can do everything on it: you can check your e-mail, watch a TV show. It does everything.”

APPLE iPAD 60  | Life@Home

Each of the following tablets includes a camera and a microphone. Here’s a rundown of the various types, and how they’re different:


Starts at $499 According to, a gadget-review and tech-news website, the Surface has many advantages over the iPad. For one — and this may be the Surface’s best feature — this tablet’s detachable cover is also a keyboard. Seasoned tablet users will tell you that typing on a smartphone-like touchscreen can be frustrating and leave thick-fingered people doing a lot of backspacing. Though iPad keyboards are sold separately, they’re clumsy to carry and they can get expensive. Surface’s attachable cover-keyboard is neither. Microsoft Surface runs Windows’ most recent operating system, Windows 8. If you’re a PC person and Microsoft is familiar to you, you’ll feel at home with the Surface interface. Plus, unlike its Apple rival, this tablet runs Adobe Flash. iPad us-



ers know already that the absence of Flash inhibits Web browsing; without it, many websites won’t load. And only certain videos will play without Flash. The Surface also comes with USB ports so that it can be connected externally to play video or music or even connect to a monitor. (iPad can do this only with expensive add-ons.) But Microsoft doesn’t play ball with iTunes and the tablet doesn’t have apps. It wants you to run Microsoft programs and so you’re stuck with them, unless you do a little bit of hacking.


Starts at $399 The iPad is light, it’s simple, it’s intuitive, it’s charming. According to, iTunes, Apple’s smartphone/device megashop, features about 900,000 apps. So one big advantage of the iPad is access to some of the mostpopular applications ever invented. In other words, you’ll be connected to Apple culture, which is a big part of just regular


Photos: Circuits, © valesevic; ipad, courtesy Apple; Surface, courtesy Microsoft; Kindle, courtesy Amazon; Nexus, courtesy Google.

By Brianna Snyder

Store who gives wholesale pricing to


Wholesale pricing on Prime Rib. culture. (Though some say things are starting to shift in favor of Google devices.) The iPad is famous for its high-resolution screen, making it one of the greatest adult toys ever invented. Movie-watching, game-playing and picture-seeing are superior here. One much-lamented drawback to the iPad, however, is that multitasking is difficult. Your app envelops your screen and switching between it and other apps can be clunky and inefficient.


Starts at $199 Google’s Android operating system has become increasingly popular since its 2007 release on Google’s version of a smartphone. Android is open-source, which means users have access to codes and can manipulate, tweak, build and otherwise play with the way the software works. For programming wonks, that’s a big deal. Rohde chose a Droid because he’s already a Google man: “I am substantially Googled,” he says. “I use just about every single service that Google has and so I like the fact that the operating system is Android. [It’s] made by a company that provides the services I have a certain faith are going to work well.” The Google Nexus is less expensive than its competitors, though many complain that Android/Google apps are inferior to those in the Apple store. But

that’s a myth! This year, in June, according to the tech-review site, Google Play matched iTunes, reaching over 1 million apps.


Starts at $159 What began as a readingonly device — the Amazon Kindle with limited Internetbrowsing functionality and a black-and-white color palette — has evolved into the Kindle Fire, a full-on tablet. Ultimately, the Kindle’s strengths are for its e-reading capabilities. Kindle is famous for its “e-ink,” which simulates the look and feel of ink on paper. One initial complaint, however, was that it wasn’t backlit -- you had to buy a separate booklight for reading in the dark. As much as Amazon was holding onto its skeuomorphic design, its lack of a backlight was counterintuitive for device-users today: backlighting is something we’re used to it — indeed feel entitled to — thanks to our phones, laptops, iPods, etc. So, complaints about the Kindle Fire on the tech-review site CNET? You’re stuck using Amazon’s app store (which is less populated than Google and iTunes) and you’re also encouraged to use Amazon’s browser, Silk, which users almost universally despise. However, you can “sideload” browsers such as Chrome and Dolphin, which, once loaded onto the Fire, CNET users say run at lightning speed. 

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Life 63 – 86

Steak for cowboys (and cowgirls). Photo by Paul Barrett. Read more on page 70.   |  63

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Help Me …

Paint My Room

By Jennifer Gish


ou can’t tell the difference between “Golden Yellow Sand” and “Harvested New Squash,” let alone know which one will look best in your dining room. And even if you finally select the right color, there are just as many rollers and brushes to choose from to get it on the wall. Don’t sweat it. You’ll be wrapped in fresh walls in no time if you just follow some painting tips from the pros.

WASN’T THIS GREEN AT THE PAINT SHOP?: “When you look at a color swatch in the store it’s under florescent lighting. It’s not your home,” says Maria Bortugno, owner of B Designs, an interior-design business based in Latham. “A paint color is always one shade darker on the wall than it is on the swatch. … Choose a color you like and then go one shade lighter.”

BUT DON’T TRUST THE SWATCH: “Get samples and try them on the wall,” Bortugno says. “Try them on every wall. The color is going to look completely different from wall to wall, and you also want to look at it at night. You want to make sure it looks good in all the light.”

Photo: Juanpablo San Martín/GettyImages.

TO PRIME OR NOT TO PRIME: “We still recommend a separate primer when you’re changing colors. A lot is being made about paint and primer in one,” says Rich Marriner, sales and administration for Passonno Paints, which has five locations in the Capital Region. But Marriner says if you look closely at those primer-paint combos, the directions don’t guarantee one-coat success. So you can end up using multiple coats (and cans) of the primer-paint combos, which is just as much work and sometimes more expensive.


DON’T OVERDO IT: The ridges in the

bathrooms and children’s rooms, which tend to get messy, beg for a wipeable semi-gloss finish, Bortugno says. Living rooms, bedrooms and other common areas can take a flat or eggshell finish.

bottom of a paint tray are there to rid the roller of excess paint before you apply it to the wall, says Bob LaPointe, assistant manager at Pfeil Hardware in Troy. “[Otherwise] you’re going to get drops from the paint tray to the wall before it gets there, and it will drip down the roller.” And don’t feel you need to put too much force behind the roller, either, LaPointe says. Easy strokes make for a nice, even coat.

NOW THAT YOU HAVE A COLOR, GET SUPPLIES: “I always suggest using a professionalgrade brush and a good roller cover,” Marriner says. “People will say, ‘You just want to sell me a $12 brush rather than a $4 brush.’ You’re going to wash out the good brush and hang it on a nail in your cellar, and that brush is going to be good for a long, long time.” When it comes to roller covers, look for a phenolic core, which means the interior of the fuzzy cylinder you slide onto your roller is made of plastic. Cheaper versions have a cardboard-like core, which can get moist and break down. That roller cover won’t hold its shape, and it affects how evenly and well you can apply paint, Marriner says.

DO THE PREP WORK: “One of the things that’s always good when you’re patching older walls is to take your time to smooth and sand down those spots because once you paint over it, especially with a higher sheen paint, those things can really pop out at you,” Marriner says.

CLEAN IT UP: Before you start rolling on the paint, Marriner says, you should wash the walls with soap and water and then go over them once more with water to eliminate soap residue. “You probably dust mop your floors once a week, but you don’t dust mop your walls ever, and that precludes the paint you’re using from sticking,” he says.

MAY I CUT IN?: Some people like to use edgers (a flat pad with a handle) or small rollers along the ceiling line and around windows and door frames. Others prefer a brush. And still others like to use painters’ tape to protect surfaces and create sharp lines. “I personally don’t use tape because I can cut in good,” Marriner says. “If you’re using a good brush, you can trim right alongside trim without tape. It kind of depends on how the person’s talents are.”

GIVE ME A “V”: When using a roller to apply paint, LaPointe says, “We tell everybody to make a ‘V’ or a ‘W.’ It’s just to give it a smooth, more even stroke approach.”

LEAVE SOME THINGS TO THE PROS: “Do-ityourself regular painting, fine,” Bortugno says. “Where I see atrocities is when people try and do faux painting. They see it on HGTV, and they say, ‘Gee, it looks so easy.’ … Hire a professional. At the very least go take a class. There’s a reason why people get paid to do their jobs.” Jennifer Gish is features editor at the Times Union.  |  65

Catty Behavior Tips to help your kitty behave purr-fectly


hen you brought her home, she fit easily into the palm of your hand. Her eyes were still blue. She mewed plaintively and ate only soft food. You never imagined a future in which she would prefer to poo on your bed than in her litter box, or keep you up at night yowling and hissing at the old blind dog you’ve had forever. You wonder if maybe it’s time to take the kitty back to the shelter. Surely someone else would want it? Dr. Susan Sikule, owner of Just Cats in Guilderland, says that cats — despite their reputation for doing whatever they please — can “absolutely” be trained. Many people just give up too early, says Dr. Holly Cheever, cofounder of the Village Animal Clinic in Voorheesville. The word “shelter” may give owners the impression that Fluffy will be fine there. But, in fact, the Humane Society of the United States estimates that half the animals that enter shelters each year in this country are euthanized. We asked Cheever and Sikule for practi66  | Life@Home

cal tips on handling cats’ most challenging behavioral issues. In an upcoming issue, we’ll look at dog behavior.

1: “OUT OF BOX EXPERIENCES” If your cat is eliminating outside the litter box, see your vet first to rule out a bladder infection, Cheever says, which can cause a cat to urinate in many different locations, especially if it’s a small amount each time rather than the one or two larger volumes a healthy cat produces in a typical day. Next, make sure the box is clean. Many cats are so fastidious, Cheever says, that they won’t use a box already containing stool or urine. Sikule recommends scooping out the box at least once a day, and preferably twice. Choose a secure location. Cats feel vulnerable in the box and in the awkward positions they must adopt there, Cheever suggests. If you have dogs, Sikule says, try installing a baby gate at the door of the room, to keep dogs away. Sikule advises against hooded litter boxes. They can be confining, and the hood

amplifies smells. Offer multiple boxes in different locations, she says, with litter of varying depth. Unscented is least likely to offend cats’ sensitive noses. Finally, Cheever says, the problem could just be “substrate preference.” Some healthy and stress-free cats simply prefer the feel of soft, clean laundry beneath their paws when they urinate. Cheever once heard a story about a client who took a creative approach to her cat’s substrate preference. The client took a large, shallow under-the-bed storage container, filled it with old shredded towels, and set it out for the cat. She would dump any solid waste down the toilet as needed and wash the toweling every couple of days. Soon the cat was perfectly trained to its unique box.

2: FURNITURE SCRATCHING Scratching is a form of communication, Sikule tells clients. Scratching activates scent glands in the paws and leaves a trace of scent behind. To save your couch or chair, Sikule sug-

Photos Getty Images. cats fighting, spxChrome; scratching post, Jane Burton.

By Elizabeth Floyd Mair

Cats — despite their reputation for doing whatever they please — can absolutely be trained. Many people just give up too early.” wintergreen. Regular nail trims can help. Cheever calls the decision to declaw — removal of the last joint of each toe, along with the claw — an “old-fashioned and totally repellent approach.” She says it’s illegal because it’s considered a form of animal cruelty in the U.K., the European Union, Scandinavia, Australia and New Zealand. “It involves 10 amputations, with all the potential for phantom pain in those 10 extremities,” she says of the operation, which her office will not perform. Cheever will sometimes, however, perform tendonectomies. This involves cutting just the tendon that is necessary for a cat to extend its claws, and Cheever says that it is not painful for the cat.

3: SPRAYING AND FIGHTING gests offering your cat a variety of scratching posts, horizontal and vertical. Choose from materials including carpet, sisal, corrugated cardboard, and wood. Tempt your cat toward them — and away from furniture — by sprinkling on some catnip. Praise the cats when they use them. Several products are available that may help deter scratching, Cheever says. Sticky Paws are large sheets of transparent double-sided adhesive — billed as easy to apply and remove — that can be placed at, for instance, the corner of the armchair or on your wainscoting. Scat Mats are clear sheets you can place on a flat surface such as a counter or couch. They contain a nine-volt battery and three settings; even the high setting won’t hurt your cat, Cheever says. But the tingly shock will discourage him from setting foot on that particular surface again. Sikule recommends spraying furniture with scents that cats dislike, such as citrus, pine, or

According to Sikule, stressed-out male cats may resort to behaviors such as spraying — which involves backing up to a surface and releasing a small amount of pungent urine — or fighting. Neutering is said to prevent spraying, but in some cases anxious cats can start to spray even

after neutering. First of all, anticipate stress. Sikule says that if you’re planning a lifestyle change such as adding a new person or dog to the household, expect some wariness. Get another cat tower, if possible, or make an impromptu bed at the top of a shelf. Add shelving along walls to enrich the cats’ environment and provide escape routes. Play with each cat every day, at separate times and in separate locations. Offer each at least two areas for eating and drinking, playing, resting, scratching, and using the box. Hide bits of dry food or treats in egg cartons or plastic feeding balls to mimic searching for food. Pheromone diffusers, sprays and collars containing synthetic copies of a cat’s natural pheromones are available and can sometimes have a calming effect. A prescription treat called Composure contains the amino acid and natural relaxant L-tryptophan (it’s also found in turkey, and we all know how relaxed we feel after a turkey dinner); it also has L-theanine, the medication that is in Anxitane, a human anti-anxiety drug. Vets can also prescribe Prozac or other medications; Sikule suggests that clients try these short-term while also making environmental changes, in hopes that the meds can be discontinued. Giving cats a taste of the outdoors can help, Sikule says. In a well-fitted harness an indoor cat can visit a quiet area outside for brief periods (always with you, of course). As a last resort, Sikule recommends letting your indoor cat gradually become an indooroutdoor cat, if you live in an area that’s safe. Letting cats take their chances with outside dangers such as cars and predators is better, she believes, than euthanizing them or dropping them off at a shelter.   |  67

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Kitchen Garden Cookbook: Celebrating the Homegrown & Homemade, by Jeanne Kelly A gorgeous book on how to harvest fruits, vegetables, eggs and honey from your own backyard. Beautiful photos, honest advice, easy recipes. This book is the “go-to guide for anyone looking to connect the virtues of the homegrown and homemade to your everyday table.”

Kitchen tip Do you ever notice grime on the sprayer at your kitchen sink? Clean it easily this way: Fill a glass with white vinegar. Let soak overnight; then gently wipe it clean.

Freezing summer’s goodness The sweet, fresh berries of summer will soon be gone, so capture them now. To freeze berries, wash gently and dry on a kitchen towel. Arrange on a baking sheet in a single layer. Freeze for a few hours; then slide into freezer-safe resealable bags. You’ll love the sweet taste of summer on a cold winter afternoon. Great for smoothies and baking.

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 Go with the grain Need something for a summer picnic, potluck or barbecue? Put together this easy, delicious grain salad.

3 cups cooked quinoa 1 cup chopped basil 4 ounces crumbled soft goat cheese 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar 1/4 cup olive oil 1 cup chopped arugula sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste Gently stir together the quinoa with the basil and goat cheese. Pour the vinegar and drizzle olive oil over all, and stir to combine. Spread the arugula on a serving plate, mound the quinoa salad in the center, and serve.

When to shop? Show up to the farmers market just as it opens for the best choice in berries, tender greens and vegetables. Or, wait until the very end, and just maybe make a deal on a box of tomatoes or corn.

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 We’re #1 Love a bowl of yogurt with granola and berries in the morning? Then you’re in the right place. New York is the numberone producer of yogurt in the country. Last year our state produced 692 million pounds of yogurt. Chobani and Fage are the state’s biggest producers.  |  69



70  | Life@Home

For more recipes, including Port Wine and Shallot Compound Butter, Lemon-Pepper Asparagus and Balsamic Grilled Pears, go to

Tim Howland

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By Steve Barnes  |  Photos by Paul Barrett


he key to cooking a thick steak is to take it out of the fridge well in advance,” says Tim Howland, general manager of The Meat House specialty butcher in Clifton Park. Beyond the thinnest cuts, any piece of meat that goes directly from a 38-degree refrigerator to a blazing-hot grill will end up with dismaying concentric circles of doneness, from burned on the outside to raw in the middle. This is especially true with the 2-inch-thick, bone-in

2-pounders known as the cowboy steak that The Meat House sells. At $12.99 a pound for a choice cut to $20.99 a pound for prime grade, that’s a $25 to $45 steak — not one you want to risk ruining by miscooking. So go ahead and take it out of the refrigerator 90 minutes in advance. Don’t fret about food safety; as long as you keep the steak covered on a clean plate while it warms and follow basic hand-washing and hygiene guidelines, the steak, and you and your guests, will be fine. continued on 73 timesunionmags TimesUnionMagazines

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Another tip that Howland often gives customers seeking a perfect steak — medium-rare all the way through — is to sear it on half of the grill set on high, then move it to the other side of the grill, where the flame is off or there are no coals. (A similar effect can be achieved by searing on the stovetop in a cast-iron pan and finishing in a low oven.) Cooking with indirect or low heat

Portobello- and Blue-Cheese-Stuffed Cowboy Steak 1 (2-pound) cowboy steak, Frenched (see note) 1/2 cup blue cheese of choice 1 cup chopped baby portobellos 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt 1 tablespoon coarse black pepper 1 tablespoon garlic powder 1 tablespoon olive oil Method Pull the cowboy steak from the refrigerator 90 minutes before desired cook time to allow the meat to come to a warmer, even temperature throughout. If you don’t, you will be left with a raw middle. Just before cooking, cut a 2-inch incision in the center of the fat cap. Then, using a thin knife, form a pocket inside the steak without enlarging the incision, and keep the edges of the pocket about an inch from the circumference of your steak. Using a small incision eliminates the need to tie or skewer your steak closed after stuffing. Mix the chopped mushrooms and blue cheese together and stuff into your pocket evenly, making sure not to overstuff. Press down to evenly distribute the filling throughout the pocket. Lightly coat the cowboy steak with olive oil and season all sides evenly

takes longer than sustained high flame; the stuffed cowboy steak in this recipe requires about an hour on the grill. But the meat stays moist, and the temperature is consistent throughout. This means your guests, who will be impressed at your ability to handle a large, deluxe steak with such professionalism, won’t have to squabble over who gets the few rare pieces from the very middle.



with your sea salt, coarse black pepper and garlic powder. Remember not to forget to season the fat cap.

One final tip: Stuff the steak using a small incision, through which, much like laparoscopic surgery, you’ve opened a larger pocket inside the whole steak. A bigger cut, or especially a steak that’s been butterflied, stuffed and then trussed or pinned closed, is more likely to leak its stuffing or juices during the long cooking process. 

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

Heat one side of the grill at a medium high while leaving the opposite side in the off position. Once the grill is heated to approximately 500 to 600 degrees, place the cowboy steak directly on the rack on the heated side. Sear the steak for 6 minutes a side, giving it a quarter turn at 3 minutes to produce grill marks. After searing, transfer the steak to the cooler side of the grill. Close the cover and let cook for 20 to 25 minutes per side. This indirect cooking can be used with any thick cut of meat. Remove the steak from your grill after the internal temp has reached about 130 degrees for medium rare. Slice coins of port wine-shallot compound butter and place on top of the steak to begin melting. Let steak rest for 7 to 10 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the steak before slicing. Serve with asparagus and balsamic-grilled pears. Note: A Frenched steak means the exposed sides of the bone have been scraped clean of meat, fat and connective tissue. Ask your butcher to do this if you’re unsure how to.  |  73

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Table@Home 

California Dreamin’ Recreating a vacation salad at home By Caroline Barrett  |  Photos by Paul Barrett


hen my sister earned her master’s degree this May, she invited me to California to celebrate and spend a few days with her. Yes, I told her. Yes. Yes. Yes. We agreed it would be just me. No husband, no kids. We get together a few times each year, but it’s always busy. There are three children, vying for her attention. Our conversations are interrupted, there is rarely peace and the time together is busy. This trip, though, would be different. We planned walks, sunsets on the beach and lots of good food. The weekend turned out to be just what we wanted. I sat among the breezy palm trees and felt a rush of pride when she walked across the stage in cap and gown. We watched the sunset, sipped champagne and talked as we haven’t in 25 years. One afternoon we walked through art galleries. On another we went to a baseball game. We enjoyed plenty of good Mexican food and long walks through her neighborhood. I couldn’t believe the lemon tree grove just blocks from her house and the lazy, trailing vines of flowers everywhere I looked. It sounds tranquil and serene, right? It was. Well, almost all of it was. In between those blissful moments of sea breezes and sister bonding, there was this: driving in her car. And in Southern California, it seems people spend a lot of time driving. We would leave her flower-strewn neighborhood, heading for the beach in six lanes of packed traffic. My sister expertly switched lanes and stepped on the brakes. continued on 78  |  77

 Table@Home continued from 77

Then the gas. Brakes. Gas. I held on, hoping and praying that I wouldn’t die on an L.A. freeway. It just isn’t the way I want to go. By the second day, I had a plan. I lean over, gently place my hand on her arm and say, “It’s your weekend. You should have another glass of wine. I’ll drive.” And it worked. Really, I did want her to celebrate. But I also didn’t want to fear for my life each time I buckled up. So she drank a second glass of wine and I drove in my easy, upstate New York driving kind of way. I took the 405 and didn’t pass any cars. Didn’t hit the brakes or ride very close to another car. It was almost pleasant. On the day of graduation, after brunch overlooking a Malibu beach, we drove down Highway 1 toward Santa Monica. And just because I could, I turned the car and headed toward a place I’ve always wanted to go: the Santa Monica farmers market. My sister didn’t protest — the second glass of wine was working its magic and she was up for anything. We parked and I walked fast through the crowd, similar in style to how she drove in traffic: I wove in and out and tried to pass people when I could. I just couldn’t wait to see the bright California fruit and veg-

California Dreaming Salad (adapted from the Santa Monica farmers market) a light dinner for four sesame oil 4 pieces of ahi tuna (about 24 ounces) black pepper and sea salt 3 radishes, trimmed and sliced thinly and then into matchsticks 2 avocados, cut into cubes 2 handfuls sugar snap peas, trimmed and chopped 4 cups young arugula leaves 1 cup pea shoots For the dressing: slice 2 lemons in half and place directly on the grill. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until lightly 78  | Life@Home

charred. Squeeze the juice, whisk in 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate any unused dressing. It will keep for a week in a sealed container. method Brush the tuna with sesame oil and season with salt and pepper. Heat a grill to medium. Cook the tuna for 2 minutes, flip and cook for another minute. Remove from heat and slice diagonally into ¼-inch thick pieces. To plate the salad: Arrange arugula, radishes, avocados and peas on each plate. Place 4-5 slices of tuna on each and top with a small handful of pea shoots. Drizzle the lemon dressing over each and serve.

American Handcrafts etables. The market delivered all I wanted and more. A band played on a small stage. Incredible food was everywhere. Best of all were the colors. There were the rich colors of all the gorgeous foods we have here: raspberries and peaches and lettuce. But then there were crates of green avocados! Yellow lemons! And even fresh fish, taken right from the nearby sea. Yeah, it was pretty heavenly. We sat and ate a salad together, drank iced coffees and then shared a big, flaky pastry. I bought a small bag of lemons and a few avocados to bring home. We bought the ingredients to duplicate the salad that was unbelievably good. It was bright green, with soft pieces of grilled tuna, sugar snap peas, arugula and avocado. It was like California but in a bowl. In a brilliant move, the lemons for the dressing had been grilled and then squeezed. The result was super lemony, smoky and sweet. This salad, I thought as I ate it, I will eat again. And again. It’s true that you won’t find bins full of locally grown avocados or lemons here in the Northeast.

But you can find plenty of fresh radishes, peas and arugula. By the time we returned to the car, I was dreaming of making the salad at home and my sister’s wine had worn off. She was ready to get behind the wheel again. We drove back to her house in the late afternoon sun, weaving and braking. I clutched my bag of avocados, trying hard not to squeeze too tight. That was my last night in California, and we stayed up late, looking at pictures and talking. The next morning, we were up early and back in the car, rushing toward the airport. Yes, there was traffic at 4:45 a.m. I held onto my fruit and closed my eyes tightly. At the airport, we hugged, hard. It’s always tough to say goodbye. As she climbed back into her car, I held up my avocados and thanked her one more time. “See you at Christmas,” I said. “I love you.” She smiled and started to go but I stopped her. “Wait!” I called. “One more thing.” She waited. “Please, please, drive carefully.” We both laughed, and then she was off. 

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Drinking in Cadiz

White wine, and Cazon en Adobo

Story and photo by Alistair Highet


t the bottom of Spain, in Andalusia, and jutting into the Atlantic on a long spit of sand, is the ancient and enchanting city of Cadiz. Here, the ocean coils beneath your view and slams against the ancient battlement walls and the red sand of the beaches. If you stand under the lighthouse at the Castillo de Santa Catalina at the very tip of the harbor, and you look out over the sea, you get a grasp of just how easily this little city could become the center of the world. From here, if you wanted to get to the New World, all you’d need to do is take your ship out of the bay and set your sails on a beam reach, and the wind would take you across the ocean, as it did for Christopher Columbus who sailed from here on his second and fourth voyages. But you could sail anywhere from here. Africa is on the wind to the south. England is off to the northwest, and if you wished to launch an Armada to bring England to its knees, this is the place you’d put to sea. But that’s to get ahead of the story, because Cadiz is one of the oldest inhabited places in Europe. The Phoenicians were here in 1100 B.C. The Greeks came next and then the Carthaginians. Then came the Romans, who loved the place, building theaters and baths and aqueducts and all the trappings of a civilization. The Visigoths would later destroy the city when Rome fell, but the Moors rebuilt it, and on and on it was captured and embraced — captured by Francis Drake and sacked during the reign of Elizabeth I. It was the home to the Spanish fleet in the Napoleonic War, and in fact, in the second war with Napoleon — the Peninsular War in 1808 — it held out against the French, since the only way to get to it by land is a very narrow, very long strip of sand that was easily defended by Spanish forces. So this is a city where you feel that any80  | Life@Home

thing is possible, and where anything could happen, might happen. What you eat here is seafood. The fish glistens. I walked about the old city quite a bit but the best restaurante tipico that I found was El Faro, which has a formal dining room but a much more enjoyable tapas bar. Here, you elbow your way in and find a spot. In front of you is an iced barrel, with fresh squid, small salmon, chunks of hake, sea anemones. When a friendly barman comes your way, you order. He scoops the fish you want out of the barrel and takes it round the corner to the cook, who fries it immediately. It’s just wonderful. The dish I fell in love with is Cazon en Adobo — basically dogfish or shark, cut into chunks, marinated in adobo, and then fried in olive oil. Jose, the waiter, said, “This is from the Phoenicians, and it is the most typical dish of Cadiz.” To preserve fish in the ancient world, it was pickled in vinegar. Paprika is added — it is antibacterial and it has qualities that allow it to penetrate deeply into the meat; add oregano, salt, and garlic and you have your marinade. The fish, breaded and fried, is fresh and aromatic, and you can smell the perfumes of the desert and the slight, vibrant tang of vinegar. In the three days I was there, I went to El Faro four times for Cazon en Adobo and I still dream of it. What do you drink with it? The white wine of Cadiz: The 2012 Bodegas Paez Morilla Tierra Blanca was recommended and was perfect. Made with Palomino Fino — the grape used in sherry, which originates here — and Riesling and harvested in the planes of Cadiz, the wine is left on the lees for three months and then filtered. Clean and bright, pale yellow and green, this is a fresh, austere wine, with lemon, the Riesling exhilaration on the nose, but a dry pleasant bitterness on the end. Could not get enough of it. Found it in the supermarket for 3.50 Euros and brought some home. 

OvenOff Summertime treats that require no baking

By Janet Reynolds  |  Photos by Stacey Newgent


ust because it’s hot and humid does not mean your desire for something sweet evaporates. And while ice cream is delightful in the summer, no one — OK almost no one — can eat it every day. Enter Faith Durand’s newest cookbook, Bakeless Sweets, guaranteed to satisfy any sweet tooth without stepping near your oven. The cookbook, filled with mouthwatering photos by photographer Stacey Newgent, is divided into categories of nobake desserts: puddings, real fruit jellies, mousse and blending puddings, whipped cream desserts and more. Durand, who is executive editor of The Kitchn (thekitchn. com), the popular sister site to Apartment Therapy, also has a lovely index of puddings for every occasion to help you whip through the book more easily and find what you want: 10 quickest recipes, 10 recipes for a big crowd, 10 egg-free recipes are just a few examples. Durand, who is also the author of Not Your Mother’s Casseroles — if you don’t have it, get it; it’s seriously one of the most family-friendly cookbooks ever — wanted

82  | Life@Home



Get the recipe for Scarlet Rose and Berry Pudding with Whipped Cream at

to do this cookbook for one simple reason. She loves puddings. “I love no-bake desserts,” she says. “It feels easy, it feels fresh, and it feeds a lot of people.” And Durand thought she wasn’t the only person who feels this way. “I was looking through baking cookbooks and realized there was no favorite no-bake cookbook,” she says. “I also saw that there was a lot of interest in it.” Her no-bake strawberry icebox cake recipe on The Kitchn, for instance, is at over 1 million views — and counting.

Bakeless Sweets, Pudding, Panna Cotta, Fluff, Icebox Cake and More No-Bake Desserts, by Faith Durand, Stewart Tabori & Chang, 224 pages, $29.95

Here are Durand’s thoughts on some other recipes in the book: Panna cotta: “Panna cotta is in some ways the perfect dessert. It can be vegan, it can be dairy-free, gluten-free. You can use different amounts of sugar. I can take ingredients out of the fridge and put them back [made] in five minutes flat. It’s really easy. I’m a big ambassador for panna cotta in the summers. It’s one of my favorites.” Fruit jellies: “Kids love jello. You can make a healthier jello with plain gelatin and fruit juice. It’s an awesome snack for kids without any of that artificial gunkiness. People will be surprised by how easy it is.” Cornstarch puddings: “I love the malted-milk flavor. It’s very old-school, almost like a soda shop old-fashioned flavor with hot sauce.” In addition to fabulous desserts, the book chapters are designed to be how-tos for different techniques. “Working with gelatin often freaks people out, which it shouldn’t,” Durand says. “Each [chapter] starts with notes on the methods so people have a basic sense of how to go about it.” While part of the allure of no-bake desserts is obviously the ease, Durand also appreciates how they allow the full flavors of food to shine through. Take elderflower, for instance. “Jellies are one of the best ways to enjoy a flavor like that,” she says. “You get a pure taste of it as opposed to baking with it.” “These desserts really show off the best of seasonal flavors,” she adds. “When you can use the fresh juices in the jellies, you enjoy them in a very pure way.” 

Peach and Buttermilk Panna Cotta Makes 6 1/2-cup servings



Divide the peaches among the six cups or glasses that hold at least 6 ounces each. Chill the glasses.

Ingredients 12 ounces fresh peaches (2 large), peeled and finely chopped 1 ½ cups cultured buttermilk, well shaken, divided 2 ¼ teaspoons powdered gelatin ¼ cup sugar or to taste 1 ½ cups cream 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves pinch salt

Pour ½ cup of the buttermilk into a 2-quart saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin over the top. Set aside for 5 minutes to allow the gelatin to soften. Warm gently over medium heat and stir the sugar in. Heat gently until the gelatin and sugar have both fully dissolved. Then turn off the heat.

Whisk in the remaining buttermilk and the cream, vanilla, cloves and salt. Taste to check sweetness; add more sugar if desired. Divide this mixture among the chilled cups, pouring it over the peaches. Cover the glasses lightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the panna cotta and let it set for at least 2 hours — but preferably overnight. The panna cotta can be made up to 3 days ahead and left in the refrigerator, covered.  |  83

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My Space 


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

WHO: Marci Natale Goldstein — Former TV news reporter

FAVORITE SPACE: The baking corner WHY: Though Marci Natale Goldstein doesn’t really enjoy cooking, she does love to bake. She says she likes the precision required with baking recipes. “As long as you follow the recipe, it will come out [the way you want]. Where [with] cooking, you throw a little of this or a little of that.” Following a bad breakup several years ago, Goldstein needed something to take her mind off things. She picked up Melissa Gray’s All Cakes Considered and, like the book’s author, began baking one cake a week pretty much every week for six months. “I got through a lot of cake!,” she says, laughing. Goldstein has tapered off a bit; she doesn’t bake a cake a week anymore. But when she needs some alone time, she loves trying new cakes. She got married about a year ago and when she lugged all her cake pans and machinery to her husband’s place, she adopted a big, unused section and devoted it to her baking: she calls it her Baking Corner. The corner is a comfort to her, and reminds her of why she became interested in baking. “It sounds silly; it’s just baking,” she says. “But it’s a release for me.”   |  85

 Photo Finish

Pretty in pink and peach. Photo by Colleen Ingerto. Read more on page 52.   86  | Life@Home

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