Page 1

February 2013

7 pieces of furniture

EVERY home needs

Stovetop Trends Cabin Fever Projects



y anniversar issue!

Island Life Taking down walls in Guilderland

Official Great Northeast Home Show Guide inside!

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Publisher George Hearst III Editorial Janet Reynolds, Executive Editor Brianna Snyder, Associate Editor Design Tony Pallone, Design Director Colleen Ingerto, Emily Jahn, Designers Contributing Writers John Adamian, Steve Barnes, Caroline Barrett, Betsy Bitner, Valerie DeLaCruz, Melissa Fiorenza, Anne Fullam Goeke, Jennifer Gish, Alison Grieveson, Alistair Highet, Ann Hughes, Suzanne Kawola, Colleen Plimpton, Lucianna Samu, Cari Scribner Contributing Photographers Paul Barrett, Alistair Highet, Krishna Hill, Emily Jahn, Suzanne Kawola, Mark Samu Sales Kurt Vantosky, Sr. Vice President, Sales & Marketing Kathleen Hallion, Vice President, Advertising Tom Eason, Manager, Display Advertising Craig Eustace, Retail Sales Manager Jeff Kiley, Magazine Advertising Manager


Circulation Mark Vinciguerra, Director of Circulation Dan Denault, Home Delivery Manager Business Ray Koupal, Chief Financial Officer Paul Block, Executive Producer Life@Home is published monthly. If you are interested in receiving home delivery of Life@Home magazine, please call (518) 454-5768 or e-mail For advertising information, please call (518) 454-5358. Life@Home is published by Capital Newspapers and Times Union 645 Albany Shaker Rd, Albany, NY 12212 518.454.5694


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The entire contents of this magazine are copyright 2013 by Capital Newspapers. No portion may be reproduced in any means without written permission of the publisher. Capital Newspapers is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Hearst Corporation.

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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 25 Island Life

A home in Guilderland opens up

39 Any Way You Cook It What’s new with stoves and ovens

42 A Fish Tale

What you need to know to get your aquarium up and running

47 Great Northeast Home Show Guide 53 Just the Essentials, Ma’am

The 7 key pieces of furniture you only need to purchase once

Features February 2013

46 10 Ways to Use ...

60 Down the Garden Path

34 Design Defined

56 Living Green

62 Dollars & Sense

59 Refurnished Living

64 Tech Tips

Cat scratch fever


pieces of furniture EVERY home needs

Stovetop Trends Cabin Fever Projects

19 @Home

Love for well-worn tables


anniversary issue!

36 Problem Solved

A Niskayuna kitchen gets a makeover

Island Life


Where to recycle your old cell phone Eco-friendly goodies we’re loving this month

Lovely, luscious lilacs

lumn! new co

Preventing headaches at tax time

lumn! new co

Are your passwords secure?

Taking down walls in Guilderland

Official Great Northeast Home Show Guide inside!

  On the cover: Photo by Mark Samu  |  7

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Contents Life

In This Issue 68 Taking It Up a Notch



Knitting projects for your home

70 Bored to Death

Got a bad case of cabin fever? Why not do some house projects?

82 Pressure Drop

The case for buying and learning to use a pressure cooker

Features 67 Help Me ...

new lots of s! column

Write a love letter

73 Kitchen Crumbs

Tasty tidbits for your cooking life

74 Dish

@Home with Chef Alex Ursprung

79 The Vineyard

A look at Brouilly and Beaujolais

80 Table@Home

A fire, a book and a pot of sauce bubbling on the stove

85 My Space

Philip Morris’ favorite place

86 Photo Finish

Flights of fancy

68  |  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.

Password Protected

Feeling Pressure

Brianna Snyder

John Adamian

The other day I got an e-mail warning me someone from Germany had tried to log into my account and that I should change my password immediately. And you know what? It’s hard to just come up with a new password. So I did what Cliff Rohde at GoatCloud Communications suggested: I looked around and basically constructed an entire password from what I saw in my living room. Hopefully that’ll keep the Germans out! See Brianna’s story on page 64.

Tax Time Blues Ann Hughes Document everything, and start doing it now. I never made a log of cash donations or miles I had driven to and from volunteering my time to charitable organizations. They all add up, but not unless I write them down as the year goes on. See Ann’s story on page 62.

Luscious Lilacs  Colleen Plimpton For an all-around flowering shrub, not much beats the lilac. It possesses beauty, fragrance, critter resistance, food for butterflies, structure in the garden, and if cultivars are chosen wisely, six weeks of color. See Colleen’s story on page 60.

Love Life Jennifer Gish

Stovetop Trends Cari Scribner I can’t look at my kitchen range now without thinking “clunky.” I also re-learned a bit of high school chemistry lingo about the meaning of the word “ferrous.” See Cari’s story on page 39.

We asked ... you answered

Pressure cookers are amazing. Anybody who’s spent any time preparing food in the kitchen has probably spent minutes and hours fretting over the fact that things aren’t cooking fast enough — you’ve got some ribs and you’ve got a dinner party, but you don’t have time to get everything cooked in time. Pressure cookers don’t necessarily solve all of those problems, but they’re a great way of speeding up the cooking process. And if you eat a diet that’s heavy on the legumes and the whole grains, then you really want to have a pressure cooker. See John’s story on page 82.

Want to write a good love letter? Skip the “I love you.” Like any good piece of writing, poets say you’ll need to look for sense-tickling descriptions and run from cliches. See Jennifer’s story on page 67.

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

Join the conversation!

• My least-favorite thing to clean is …

Linda: All the hype preceding the storm!

Susan: I second Rachel. Wholeheartedly. lifeathomemagazine

Julie: The litter box and refrigerator. Shelley: Toilet.

• If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Brianna: Yeah I think a lot about Mary Poppins’ similar superpower. I wish there was a superpower that would just make dinner appear out of nowhere, too, for nights when I’d rather kill myself than cook anything.

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

10  | Life@Home

Linda: Oven & refrigerator.

• The worst part about a big snowstorm is ... Sue: The cleanup after.

Rachel: Remember when Samantha Stephens would wiggle her nose and then watch her house clean itself? That power. Big time.

Merci: The power to make people love themselves.


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

VIDEOS Not sure how to cook a goose breast? Chef Alex Ursprung shows you how.

STORIES Pillow Pop


Want to give your bedroom an instant update? Get some tips on easy fixes with pillows and shams. (Online only!)

Check out more photos online from this month's @home feature (page 25); our aquarium story (page 42) and the delicious dish from Chef Alex Ursprung (story on page 74).

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

lifeathome 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 lateststories and news.


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 Editor’s Note

Let’s Celebrate! Welcome to the redesigned Life@Home

F Janet Reynolds Executive Editor

A blast from our past! Look how far we’ve come! ’08

ive years ago, when I was hired to come to the Capital Region, Life@Home was just the tiniest seed of an idea. The magazine did not even have a name. Fast-forward to today. With this issue, Life@Home celebrates the beginning of its sixth year. The magazine, which distributes 408,000 copies annually, is now part of a stable of five different magazines: HealthyLife, EXPLORE, Vow: Your Wedding. Your Way. and Capital Region Women@Work. All told, the Times Union magazine division distributes 1.1 million magazines annually. Not bad for something that began as a hunch and was launched at the beginning of one of our country’s most significant recessions. This anniversary milestone seemed like the perfect time to celebrate by redesigning Life@Home. While the original will always have a special place in our


’10 seco n d a n n ive rs a r y i s s u e & g reat n o r t h ea st h o m e s h ow g u id e i n s id e!

february february2009 2009

february 2010

Walls of Wonder

Erin Lonergan works magic with her paintbrush

PLUS: • What’s new at Isn’t It Sweet? • Organize your closet — now! • Discover the best bulbs to make your garden shine • The best energy-saving window treatments AND MORE!

Farmhouse Transformed in Gansevoort Plus check out the Great Northeast Home Show guide inside

’11 14  | Life@Home

PLUS: painting tips galore! • how to build a terrarium • behind the scenes at Perrotta’s Bakery • what’s cooking with Chef Brian Mollino • and MORE!


hearts, we’ve learned a lot as we’ve launched new titles over the past few years. We’ve got a new design team with terrific ideas. Why not tweak the magazine and take it to the next level? The magazine you see is the result of these efforts. As with all of our magazines, the content remains local. That will never change. Making sure that you can actually go to the advertisers who are in our pages and that Capital Region residents have a chance to show off their expertise is vital to our company’s mission. We’ve tweaked some of the magazine’s editorial content, though, adding some new local columnists and features. Ann Hughes from Fox23 News, for instance, will be doing a monthly column on finances and money-saving strategies. Times Union Features Editor Jennifer Gish will be writing a monthly column helping readers figure out the best ways to do a particular task. First up? Writing a love letter. We’re adding more content to the lifestyle part of the magazine, too. With crafting and hobbies playing increasingly important roles in people’s lives, we’ll regularly cover the latest trends here. With our redesign comes additional ways to connect with you, our readers. We are using Facebook more and more to get reader suggestions for how to live their best lives in their homes. We hope you like the changes and look forward to hearing from you. Send along your ideas for homes or features. Because Life@Home is, after all, your magazine. 

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The backs of these shelves were painted black to create depth and tie together the   furniture in the room. Photo by Mark Samu. Read more on page 25.  |  17





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@Home 

Cat Scratch Fever T

There’s a new boss in town

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By Betsy Bitner

he Animal Shelter Annex at Clifton Park Center seemed harmless enough — a storefront filled with cages containing cats and kittens in need of a home. I’d made it clear before we went inside we weren’t adopting one. We were just going to take a quick look to see if any cute cats were inside. Of course, that’s like saying I’m just going to try crack cocaine to see if it’s as addicting as everyone says. Either I was naïve or an idiot. Quite possibly I was both. No one, with the exception of me, was surprised when we ended up signing the adoption papers for an orange tabby. My family, apparently having used up our originality quota for the year, decided to name him Tiger. Of course, we couldn’t take him home right away. We needed to buy some supplies first because our house wasn’t ready for a cat. After all, when I woke up that morning, adopting a cat was the very last thing on my to-do list — right after sending all my personal information to that nice man in Nigeria who e-mailed me about sharing his billion dollar fortune. Still, taking care of a cat didn’t seem as if it would be too hard. Unlike a dog, you don’t have to take cats for a walk or play endless games of fetch. And cats can clean themselves and arrive knowing how to use a litter box. That’s a lot more than I can say for any of my kids. One stop at the pet store was all it took to add hundreds of dollars to the cost of our free cat. My purchases included a cat condo so spacious I was disappointed to discover it didn’t come with its own washer/dryer hookup. Tiger took one look at it, though, and made it clear he would have preferred a timeshare in Orlando. Nevertheless, I remained convinced that one cat would be simpler than three children. OK, so we’d needed a zoning variance to install the aforementioned condo.

But there were no childproof locks on cabinet doors, no covers on electrical outlets. Compared to a baby, getting ready for a cat seemed easy. It wasn’t long, however, before Tiger let me know my efforts were inadequate.


he houseplants were the first to go. Initially I thought it was an accident and perhaps cats aren’t as nimble as I’d been led to believe. But then I realized the plants had been sent crashing to the floor on purpose. Apparently I’d thoughtlessly placed my African violets on the sunny windowsill without realizing Tiger had called hi-hosey on it as his napping spot. When Tiger wasn’t napping, he supplemented his diet by grazing on my larger houseplants until they were nothing more than pots of dirt and twigs. With “watering the plants” no longer on my chore list, I credited Tiger with simplifying my life. I further streamlined my décor once Tiger showed me that throw rugs were a mistake. When not napping or destroying my plants, he scratched the rugs into a heap where I could trip over them. The floors became hazardous in other ways, too, once I realized

Tiger viewed the litter box as optional. Finding a little “present” on the living room floor didn’t mean Tiger forgot to use the litter box. It was just his way of letting me know I’d done something that annoyed him. Like vacuuming without his permission. Or breathing. Once he’d shown me the value of keeping every horizontal surface in my home bare, he convinced me stairs were hazardous to my health. Either Tiger was playing some twisted game in which his score was based on the number of bones I’d break or else he was under the impression he’s a beneficiary of my will. I told myself not having to clean the second floor of my house more than made up for not having access to little things such as my clothes and my bed. Eventually I’ll get used to life confined to the first floor. To make the transition easier, though, I’ve decided to come down with Stockholm Syndrome. That’s when you have positive feelings toward your captor. At least I think it’s called Stockholm Syndrome. I’d verify it but, since Tiger’s arrival, I no longer have access to the Internet. Every time I approach the computer, he drapes his body across the keyboard. Come to think of it, the mouse is missing, too. As a result, I’ve had to barricade myself in the bathroom in order to write this; it’s the one place Tiger has yet to claim as part of his domain. Yet, as he thrusts his small orange paw underneath the door, I know those days are numbered. I’m glad we adopted this adorable addition to our family. But looking back, I think it would have been less trouble to just try crack.   |  19

 Window Shopping

Plantation Desk Walnut Victorian drop front plantation desk measures 65" x 30" x 17". $795 at Black Sheep Antique Center.

“3 in 1” Talk about multi-use: This piece is a booster seat, a child’s desk, and a rocking horse all in one. Shown in maple, also available in oak. Measures 32" x 16". $205 at Blue Hen.

Shop Smart Shop Local In each issue, Window Shopping highlights interesting and unique items available at area stores. This month we present two great spots to find antique and handcrafted wooden furnishings. Photos by Krishna Hill

20  | Life@Home

Rocking Chair 1820s New England country rocker, $125. Find it at Black Sheep Antique Center.

Vintage Sleigh Vintage “Davos Germania” snow sled/ sleigh, wood with metal runner guides and braces. Measures 32" x 10" x 14". $85 at Black Sheep Antique Center.

360˚ Rotating Bedroom Storage This unique elm wood storage system rotates on its base. Features a mirror on one side, clothes hooks on two sides and a storage cabinet around back with adjustable shelves and small accessory hooks inside the door. 72" tall, 15" square. $695. Find it at Blue Hen.

Featuring Blue Hen 4608 State Highway 30 Amsterdam 518-843-2705 All furniture is handcrafted solid wood furniture made by the Amish in Penn. and Ohio

Black Sheep Antique Center 7608 Western Turnpike Duanesburg 518-895-2983

continued on 22  |  21

 Window Shopping continued from 21

Our Bloggers Shop 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

STACK ’EMS: Our homes are complex and easily-cluttered spaces, which puts extra value on furniture that can function in multiple ways. The Kartell Modular Bookshelf is one example of highfunctioning furniture: Easily augmented and moved around, the bookshelf comes in 14-inch blocks that lock together and can be stacked any way you want them to be. You can also purchase “cubic containers” to turn modules into drawers or cubbies. Blocks come in black and white; bins come in several different colors. $32-$148. Visit

Home Décor@518 By Valerie DeLaCruz

SWAN SONG: Add a touch of country warmth to your home with this carved wooden swan, fashioned after a hunter’s decoy and painted to look aged with a white antique finish. Bird decoys are one of America’s original forms of folk art. This medium-sized swan replica is about 15" long and costs $34.99 at Kugler’s Red Barn in Schenectady. The store is located in a real barn and features country-themed décor and furniture. Visit at 425 Consaul Road or online at



To stay in our bloggers’ design loop 24/7, go to timesunion. com/lifeathome.

22  | Life@Home

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Island Life W A home in Guilderland opens up

By Brianna Snyder Photos by Mark Samu

hen the Stutos moved into their Guilderland house in 2003, everything was new. The previous owners had only been in the house a year before the Stutos bought it. “They really hadn’t done anything with it,” Anne Stuto says. “No window treatments, no paint. It was brand-new: white walls, no window treatments. So we’ve done everything in here.” continued on 26  |  25

continued from 25

That everything includes quite a lot. The living room — cozy, sunken and nestled next to the kitchen — initially reached only to the wall of what was once a closed-off 26  | Life@Home

office. Now, the walls are gone and the former office is now a TV room elevated a few steps above this cozy social space. “I had been thinking of taking out that

back wall,” Stuto says. “It was supposed to be a study with the option of being a bedroom. (But) I wanted a more open feel. We wanted it to flow a little better; I like

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

homes where you can see from end to end.” Stuto faced a number of obstacles when she started this ambitious project, which a

few contractors she consulted insisted wouldn’t work. “I got some negative responses,” she says. “(They said) it’s too open; it won’t be good for noise.” continued on 28


continued from 27

This crown molding was painted a shimmery black, referencing the banisters and bookshelves.

28  | Life@Home

“Big and bulky” columns closing in the living room and separating it from the kitchen were another concern. “I had a few people say, ‘Those are load-bearing columns. You can’t take those out,’” but, says Stuto, she did, and “it was no big deal at all.”

Stuto says the result has been, paradoxically, more privacy. Those watching TV in the TV room are far enough away that they’re not forced to listen to kitchen conversations; also, anyone in the kitchen has a clear view of the TV. continued on 31

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continued from 28


ll of these big changes are fairly recent. It wasn’t until last year that Stuto consulted interior designer Paula McCormick of PMY Interiors in Loudonville. The kitchen had flooded and Stuto decided it was an opportunity to change a few things. “I had to refinish all the wood floors,” she says. “I wanted to change the color.” The living room had been carpeted, but Stuto and McCormick replaced the flooring with black bamboo. The kitchen island — once a horseshoe shape — was converted to a longer, broader shape. The former office has been moved, too, to the front room of the house. McCormick took the built-in bookshelves from the office and moved them to the front room, painting them black in the back, referencing the gorgeous black molding in the  |  31

d : Instea a e d i t Nea color, d li o s e n of o ll with a w a t pain stripes! l a t n o z i hor foyer, which Stuto says was done by Polito Homes in Albany. “It was nice that we could salvage those shelves,” Stuto says. “Originally, that room was a formal living room that we never went into.” Stuto, an accountant who works regularly from home, says this space is perfect for her. (Tim Stuto, her husband, also runs his own business.) “My goal was to try to use more of the house,” Stuto says. “Before, it seemed like all we did was use the kitchen area. Nobody ever used the study except for me.” The family — comprising Victoria, 22 (who’s usually off at college), John, 17, and Samantha, 13, and the two family dogs, Cru and Cody — eat dinner around the island now, which Stuto likes. The dining table has been relocated to a formal dining room and the kitchen is a livelier communal space. “We never sat at the table,” Stuto says. “Now we all stand around the island.” 



32  | Life@Home

For more photos, go to

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 Design Defined

34  | Life@Home

For the Love of

WellWorn Tables I By Lucianna Samu  |  Photo by Mark Samu

hope to end 2013 with one successful resolution to my credit. Inspired by a message embroidered onto a well -worn throw pillow I recently passed over at an antique shop, I mean to dedicate myself to the deceptively simple inspirational message the pillow proclaimed: Don’t complain; don’t explain. Finishing the year with one new working philosophy feels do-able right now. Still, I’m as much a realist as I am an optimist. In order to have this end well, both for me and for the pile of furniture I regularly liberate from antique dealers, I’ll need to squeeze some new words onto the vocabulary list when describing the merits and the imperfections of my furniture finds. Making my way around antique shops with my phone set to video is my way of capturing the possibilities of the day. Shopkeepers smile their approval. In the end, the sheer volume of potential purchases I’m able to collect mitigates the poor production value of my hastily gathered videos. Two indisputable facts come to light when I audit my personal archive of antique-shop video. First, I’m near useless with a camera, whether still or rolling, and second, the world is filled with an awful

lot of well-priced and seemingly unwanted drop-leaf and gate-leg tables. Thinking I’d missed something and that drop-leaf tables were now considered déclassé, I did some research. To my relief, tastemakers and trendsetters agree these ingenious classics remain a design basic. So was it only the gate-leg table, with its interesting cacophony of legs and spindles and articulation, that had fallen from favor? Wrong again. In every corner of the High Point, N.C., furniture show, and on the pages of freshly printed home-furnishing catalogues, there they are — all of them — the Pembroke, the Butterfly, the drop-leaf and the gate-leg. So why are there so many of these tables in the antique shops?


ost antique drop-leaf or gate-leg tables wobble, either a little or a lot, and sag, also a little or a lot. To test one theory — that all of the tables captured on my video adventures were inferior to those considered high-quality — I checked out the auction sites. There were early walnut and maple drop-leaf tables for less than 200 dollars. One particular beauty I happened upon — a well-worn, bleached pine Country French gate-leg table — had me wishing I had one more corner in the house needing a little something special. Everywhere I searched I found the darling of them all — the 19tu-century mahogany Pembroke occasional table, with two demilune sides that drop effortlessly out of the way from their solid brass hardware. Yes indeed, plenty around, and by far the most reasonably priced of the lot. Mahogany anything can be had for less than the price of any table with a painted finish, old or new. I am sorry to discover this and, in fact, I can’t explain it even if I were still in the explaining business. Following the pricing indications for what’s hot and what’s not, it appears, too, that oak is not in the hearts or minds of those currently hunting around for an old table. I’m reminiscing now, about an unusually deep, square-topped drop-leaf table, with sides so long they nearly touched the floor. The complexity of the color, made possible only when high-quality maple is subjected to years of painstaking waxing,

still haunts me. I recognize my finger in the camera work, pointing to the tag that clearly states $150 in my video. Why did I leave it there? How many gate-leg tables can or should I buy? It could be that table wobbled a bit or it might be that it sagged. Possibly the narrow stature, some 20 inches deep if not less, is a challenge for some to place. In practice, its narrowness makes it perfectly suitable as a nightstand or sofa table. Deep enough for a lamp, a few books and/or accessories, the merits of turning such a table into a place to write, have a cup of tea, or dare I say sit with a laptop, is worthy of note with or without the wobbles. The common width and shorter 28-inch height too is often considered less than desirable. But balanced by a simple chair, even its shorter height would prove an ergonomically pleasing discovery. The most troubling observation is that dastardly little sag these tables often have when both sides are brought to the open position. This is a function of the wearing away of the wood, at the top of the leg, from years and years of loyal service as the legs were moved from open to closed, then from closed to open, for, oh, let’s say 75 years. Some sagging is hardly a reason to leave such a table behind, when the placement of a shim, or filler strip tucked under the leaf, could easily straighten things out. As part of my loyalty to those who follow my musings here, I believe I must be honest with those who may not have the time or desire to walk the floors at night worried that antique shops are littered with sagging and wobbly drop-leaf tables. And, as part of my determination not to complain or explain in 2013, it’s proving a bit harder for me to make the case that we should all go out today and buy an old gate-leg table. Hopefully you’ll repeat my cheerful disclaimer, that the shortcomings any of these beautiful tables exhibit as they get on in age is, in fact, the very thing that makes them so desirable. One thing I know for sure — they are easy enough to find.  Lucianna Samu is an interior designer and project expert for Aubuchon Hardware. For more of Lu’s musings, go to  |  35

 Problem Solved

Making Spaces A Niskayuna kitchen gets a makeover … and a lot of cabinet space By Brianna Snyder  |  ‘After’ photo by Randall Perry

PROBLEM: This Niskayuna kitchen was 15 years old and the client wasn’t happy with its cabinets. “There were cabinet structural issues and inefficient uses of space,” says interior designer Andrea Langford of Andrea Langford Designs, LLC inc.

SOLUTION: “We designed the cabinetry to minimize the stacked contents within some of the cabinets, thereby protecting dishes, pots and pans and glassware,” Langford 36  | Life@Home

says. The cabinets were found in Toronto and the stone for the countertops was found at a shop in New Jersey. The backsplash is made of tiles from Modena, Italy. They also installed drawers for storage containers, shelving in the pantry with glass sides (so you can see what’s on the shelves), cookbook storage and spice shelves. “There is no need to bend over and hunt for lost items in this kitchen with everything pulling out, rolling out or turn-

ing out,” she says. Another striking change is the modification of the windows, which went from a three-panel series to a picture window. “The layout was driven by the use of the space and its orientation,” Langford says. “Improvements were made to the lighting. We increased the natural daylight and gorgeous view by removing multiple windows and replacing with one large expanse of glass.”


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TOP TIP: “Homeowners need to examine their likes and dislikes of their current kitchen,” Langford says. Make a list of items you want and don’t want to include. See if what you want will match your investment of time and money, she suggests. “If it

doesn’t, then compromises will have to be made.” Also, start an idea book. “Now with websites like Houzz. com, it’s even easier,” Langford says. “(You) can create (your) own project folder of images and likes and dislikes.” 

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Any Way You Cook It What’s new with stoves and ovens

Photos courtesy Sub-Zero and Wolf.


econd only to the refrigerator, a kitchen range is the largest of the major appliances in the room. The traditional range is a combined oven and stovetop unit, sturdy, serviceable and — until recently — somewhat boring as a design element. Enter the age of aesthetics and functionality, when the traditional kitchen floor plan has been cast aside for a layout with more visually appealing, smart use of available space. The clunky range can be replaced by a separate oven — sometimes built into walls like popular pizza places — while stovetops can be on counters or freestanding islands that can be moved

By Cari Scribner

when needed. At the same time, the way food is cooked is changing. While cooks often have definitive feelings about cooking with gas versus electricity, today’s cooks can now add another form of cooking to the mix: magnetic induction, a method that, while not new, is gaining in popularity as the prices drop. “Gas burners make it easy to control the exact temperature by the size of the flame,” says Dana Gordon, sales associate at Cocca’s Appliances and Home Electronics in Albany. “They’re preferred by professional and aspiring gourmet chefs who want to adjust temperatures instantly with the touch of a button.” continued on 41

Photos: (Top) Wolf 30" Induction Cooktop (Bottom) Wolf 36" Gas Range with Griddle  |  39

Photos: (facing page) GE Cafe 30" Free-Standing Gas Double Oven with Convection Range; (top left) GE Profile 30" Built-In CleanDesign Electric Cooktop; (top right) induction burner illustration (note that only the pot is warm; that’s ice on the cool side); (bottom) Wolf 30" Built-In Double Oven

Photos: Gas range, electric cooktop and induction burner courtesy GE Appliances; wall oven courtesy Sub-Zero and Wolf.

continued from 39

Drawbacks to gas stoves are that they must be professionally installed to connect with a gas line, and adults must keep an eye on children around the flame. Depending on your energy provider, gas may be pricier than electricity. Electric stoves are easier to clean than gas stoves. There are fewer places for oil and cooking ingredients to collect, so you can typically clean the surface of an electric stove quickly. The heat of an electric stove is distributed more evenly than that of a comparable gas stove, which can make it easier to cook foods like omelets and crepes. Electric stoves also have lower installation costs, since they plug into an electrical outlet. Magnetic induction stovetops are similar in appearance to stovetops with ceramic glass burners, offering smooth surfaces that are easy to clean and are attractive. But the similarities between these two types of stovetops end there. Induction elements use electricity to produce a magnetic field that reacts with the iron in metal cookware. Magnetic induction stovetops only work with ferrous pots and pans, which are any pans that will attract and hold a magnet. The result? Only the pot and its contents heat up, allowing the rest of the surface unit to remain cool at all times. Local appliance dealers are singing this technology’s praises. “It’s amazing,” Gordon says. “Reaction time is faster than gas,

and there’s no open flame. You can pick up the pot and the burner is still safely cool.” Guy Jordan, sales associate at Earl B. Feiden Appliance in Latham, is similarly impressed with the technology. “These stovetops are safer and more efficient than electric and gas stoves,” says Jordan. “They’re fast. They can boil water faster than any other fuel source. They’re also precise. They can melt chocolate, simmer, or keep food warm without cooking it more.” The stovetops are sleek, in black with stainless-steel trim or mirrored for a light-reflecting effect. Digital controls in the cooktop offer added style, control and convenience.

The more powerful magnetic induction stovetops with wattages upward of 3,500 watts can generate instantaneous heat in as many as 20 different cooking settings. While overall prices have dropped in the last decade since its inception, magnetic induction stoves remain more expensive than other stovetops. Additionally, if you’re making the switch, you’ll need to consider whether or not the pots and pans you currently own will work with this type of appliance. You may need to replace them with cooking vessels with magnetic properties.


long with a stovetop for pan searing, frying, boiling, sautéing, browning and poaching, no kitchen is complete without an oven for baking, broiling and, of course, warming up leftover pizza. Today’s ovens are often found in places other than below a stovetop in a traditional range. “It’s a popular option to have a separate oven and build it into a wall or cabinet space,” Gordon says. “You can cut a space in a countertop for the oven, but you will still need a ventilation system to protect the cabinets. Still, the flexibility is incredible.” Cooks can opt for a compact oven or more than one baking chamber. “You don’t need an entire wall; you can have a very efficient 24-inch oven,” Jordan says. “Or you can put double ovens in the wall.”   |  41

A Fish Tale What you need to know to get your aquarium up and running By Anne Fullam Goeke  |  Photos by Emily Jahn


hen a clownfish grabs your heart, what are you going to do? Slow down and look around, advises Kate Veitch, director of marketing and sales at Eddie’s Aquarium in Menands, the local go-to store for all things aquarium. “Avoid rushing,” says Veitch. “You must have patience when setting up any aquarium. Do your homework and always ask an expert if you have a question.” So where does the homework lead for most folks? “As for saltwater, the ocellaris clownfish made popular by the movie Finding Nemo are by far our best seller,” says Veitch. “They are easy to care for and can be kept in small tanks. We have a huge selection of marine fish, invertebrates and corals.” Finding Nemo, the computer-animated comedy-drama adventure film released by Walt Disney Pictures on May 30, 2003, tells the story of the over-protective clownfish named Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks) who, along with a regal tang fish named Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), searches for his abducted son Nemo (Alexander Gould) in 42  | Life@Home

Sydney Harbour. Wildly popular, Finding Nemo is the best-selling DVD of all time. “That movie started the biggest trend in aquariums,” says Steve Colletti, owner of All Bright Aquariums, a company that installs and maintains large aquariums across the country and has clients overseas. “It’s huge.” “There are companies that do nothing but raise clownfish and seahorses,” Colletti says. “The animals are easier to keep, the coral and vertebrae are more adaptable, and the new technology makes it real easy.” Colletti, a New Jersey native and house builder by trade, started installing fish tanks in new homes back in the 1990s. He sold that business and, in 2002, he moved his family to the Capital Region, where he concentrated on installing and maintaining large aquariums, in residences, businesses and universities. “The trend toward big tanks started about 30 years ago,” says Colletti. “It’s slowed recently due to the economy, but there’s still nothing like a 1,000-gallon tank. It’s another environment, and once people have it, they want it.”


ost people want saltwater reefs in their aquariums, and Colletti builds and installs acrylic tanks with all the latest gadgetry, pumps, filters, motors and lights, and he fills them with creatures and water. The salt water used in the tanks is created from water treated by reverse osmosis and mixed with dried sea salt. Colletti’s tanks range from 1,000 gallons and upward to 5,000 gallons. Cost averages around $30,000, depending on how the aquarium is stocked. A few of Colletti’s tanks cost $100,000 to install. A more typical set-up — a 55-gallon tank — will cost about $400, according to a saleswoman at Davey Jones Locker in Albany. Once installed, aquariums need to be maintained. Colletti charges a $65 hourly service fee to maintain the pumps, filters, lights and change the water. Saltwater reef water needs to be changed every month. Residential clients who buy a 4,000-gallon tank can expect to pay $2,500 a month to have All Bright Aquariums maintain it. Most of the tanks Colletti has installed in the Capital Region are 1,000 gallons and clients pay $110 per month.

FISH FACTS A more traditional approach to stocking aquariums is to use freshwater and fish that live in it. “The popular trend in freshwater is community fish. Community fish are tropical, colorful and very active. They also breed in captivity which is always fun! Community fish are also a great way for kids to learn about biology, chemistry and geography,” says Kate Veitch, director of marketing and sales at Eddie’s Aquarium. “My 8-year-old son takes care of three tanks in my home. It has taught him so much and provided the whole family hours of fun.” If you want to go the saltwater route, the good news is clownfish are easy to feed. An omnivore, it will accept most foods, including marine flake food complemented with different types of frozen and live food. Algae in the aquarium provides


Far right photo courtesy All Bright Aquariums.


grazing when the fish get hungry between feedings, which should be done three to four times a day. Breeding ocellaris clownfish is easy (for a saltwater fish) and can be done without the presence of an anemone in the aquarium. Sexing clownfish can be done by noting that males are smaller and less aggressive than females. All clownfish are born as males. When they pair off, the dominant fish turns into a female. The eggs are laid on a flat surface, such as a rock. The fry are small and more sensitive than the adult fish. They need very small food and should be fed every two to three hours. Besides fish, freshwater tanks can be stocked with colorful critters, such as freshwater shrimp. “The cherry shrimp are also a cool little critter for planted tanks,” Veitch says. “They are small, active and bright red. We also sell freshwater clams and snails.”

For more photos of unusual fish tanks and stylish beginner tanks, go to

Clients who want to pay less for maintenance can be trained to care for their reefs. Colletti offers a training course for $2,000. Afterward, he’s available by phone to talk over emergencies. He also makes house calls. “Ecosystem emergencies can mean the pump, the filters, the pH or salinity is off,” says Colletti. Catching maintenance problems right away saves fish and money, he says. An alarm system is attached to each of Colletti’s aquariums, and he’s alerted by phone to problems. With three employees, Colletti maintains aquariums from one end of New York State to the other. With 113 tanks to care for in the Capital Region alone, Colletti says he’s dubbed it “the clownfish capital.” For those who can’t make up their minds between saltwater

and freshwater aquariums, there’s a solution. Combination tanks, the most popular being a 55-gallon model split in two. Customers do saltwater setups on one side and freshwater on the other side or plant both sides in the same environment but they put aggressive fish in one tank and passive fish in the other. Combination tanks require two filters but use only one light. Perhaps the biggest trend at the moment is saltwater reef tanks with live corals. Mostly rimless, the banks have built-in filters and LED strip light fixtures, also wildly popular. “The tanks are very modern, very easy to maintain,” says Veitch, citing factors such as quality of light, lower power consumption, low heat and long life. “They’re environmentally friendly.”   |  43

10 Ways to Use …

Chopsticks By Melissa Fiorenza


ind yourself with leftover chopsticks from last night’s Chinese

takeout? Don’t toss ’em — these wooden utensils are actually quite handy around the house. As always, we took to Facebook to ask for your suggestions, and then piled them in with ours. Here’s what we came up with.





to get a real one out) cocktail-stirrers,” says Althea.

  REACH SMALL PLACES   We got this idea from

“Use the end of a chopstick to maneuver a cloth around inside a dirty baby jar, bottle, or vase to clean it.” Genius!


  START A SKEWER STASH   If you start collecting leftover chop-

sticks now, you won’t have to spend a dime on bamboo skewers come summer. When you’re ready to whip up meat and vegetable kebabs on the grill, soak the chopsticks in water for 10 minutes, then slide the food on.


  GET WARM AND COZY   “Use them as kindling,” says Olga.

She’s right — chopsticks are great as fire starters. (Use the paper they’re wrapped in as tinder, too!)


  LABEL YOUR HERBS   Write down on index cards what herbs

and plants you’ve got growing on your windowsill. Then tape the cards to chopsticks and insert in the soil so you know exactly what’s basil and what’s parsley.

  ACCESSORIZE YOUR HAIR   “We use them to part hair and twist

hair in them to make a cute, messy bun,” says Alayne Curtiss, owner of Make Me Fabulous.

  BRING OUT YOUR INNER KID   Got a good amount on hand? Use

them for “a good game of pick-up sticks,” suggests Brendan. Why not?


  MAKE A DOORSTOP   We give credit to for

this one. Visit now and search for “30 second chopstick doorstops” for directions.



  Freezing a bag of meat? Press down on the bag with a chopstick to make clear divisions you can break apart when you’re ready to cook.


  AND OF COURSE …   “Buy more takeout!”

says Adrienne. Got a go-to local spot for sushi, Thai, Chinese or other? Tell us on Facebook! 

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

46  | Life@Home

Did you know? The word “chopsticks” is derived from kuai-tzu, the Chinese word for “quick ones.”

Photo: © Schlax.

  STIR THINGS UP   Drinks, that is. “They are my (too lazy



FEBRUARY 8-10, 2013 Empire State Plaza And Times Union Center Explore Two Buildings Of Ideas To Renew, Refresh And Redo Your Home Seminar Speakers On Latest Trends Talk To The Experts

Visit the Earl B. Feiden Culinary Stage in the Times Union Center featuring

Mazzone Hospitality sponsored by

for the full schedule of events, visit

Earl B. Feiden invites you to experience a culinary showcase and see the latest in specialty cooking products designed for your home. Visit the website for the complete culinary stage schedule.

home show: exhibitors by category Alternative Energy, HVAC and Plumbing Aztech Geothermal, LLC Ballston Spa, NY Comfort Temp Voorheesville, NY Family Danz Heating & Cooling Albany, NY Hoosick Distributors Inc Hoosick Falls, NY Kool-Temp Heating & Cooling Inc. Coxsackie, NY Solar Mobile Troy, NY Suburban Services Group Inc Burnt Hills, NY Sun Dog Solar Chatham, NY Veridian“Power with Purpose” Clifton Park , NY

518-885-5383 518-857-3547 518-427-8685 12090 518-731-6878 518-209-6727 518-399-6808 518-813-8341 914-475-3219

Associations, Government and Non-Profits New York State Energy Research and Development Authority Albany, NY 518-474-1788 NYS Public Service Commission Awnings, Gazebo, Sheds, Sunrooms Patio Enclosures Albany, NY Banking, Finance and Insurance Ameriprise Financial Inc Albany, NY First Investors Coporation Albany, NY SEFCU Latham, NY Sunmark Federal Credit Union Plattsburgh, NY TD Bank Glenville, NY Trustco Bank ★ Exhibitors with three or more booths.


518-464-5231 518-452-8118 518-347-3114 518-563-7715 518-381-3662

As of 12/20/12

home show: exhibitors by category Basements, Foundations, Insulation and Siding Adirondack Basement Systems Rome, NY 315-336-4951 Basement Waterproofing Inc Albany, NY 518-623-7010 North East Building Performance Advisors New Windsor, NY 845-561-9000

Building Contractors, Material Suppliers and Remodelers Accessible Home Solutions Guilderland, NY 518-869-9372 Adam Ross Cut Stone Co. Inc Albany, NY 518-463-6674 Amvic Building Systems Toronto, ON Arxx ICF Alexandria Bay, NY 315-482-5253 ★ Bennett Contracting Albany, NY 518-857-3943 ★ Curtis Lumber Ballston Spa, NY 518-490-1307 GNH Lumber, Inc Greenville, NY 518-966-5333 Habitat Post + Beam South Deerfield, MA 413-665-4006 Harvest Homes Inc Delanson, NY 518-895-2341 Koppenhafer Construction Ballston Spa, NY Lajeunesse Builder and Remodeler, LLC Hoosick Falls, NY 518-588-2136 Linwood Custom Homes Milton, WA 800-451-4888 Logix ICF Sprakers, NY 518-857-9983 MacMillen Construction & Design Services Chestertown, NY 518-494-3616 Otterbeck Builders Inc Castleton, NY 518-477-1438 SD Atelier Architecture, LLC Saratoga Springs, NY 518-587-3385 Season’s Best Painting and Contracting Caslteton, NY 518-729-2445 StoriedBoards Albany, NY 518-227-0899 Suburban Construction Corp. Albany, NY 518-456-5149 Valente Lumber Averill Park, NY 518-322-5225 ★ Westchester Modular Homes Wingdale, NY 845-832-9400 ★ Exhibitors with three or more booths.

As of 12/20/12

home show: exhibitors by category Decks, Fences, Patios and Paving Bruce Fence Co., Inc Cohoes, NY Concrete Creations Schenectady, NY George Brothers Inc, Increte of Albany Albany, NY Invisible Fence Capital District Wilton, NY Invisible Fence of the Tri Cities and Hudson Valley Galway, NY Top Dog Pet Fence Latham, NY

518-783-8792 518-356-4364 518-489-1489 518-376-4939

518-859-8254 518-783-5678

Albany, NY Syracuse, NY Rensselaer, NY Albany, NY

518-337-0281 315-579-3957 518-858-2376 518-368-4703

Albany, NY Schenectady, NY Cobleskill, NY Spencertown, NY Clifton Park, NY Burnt Hills, NY Colonie, NY

518-437-0016 518-356-3026 518-231-3108 518-392-3883 518-348-0444 518-384-7362 757-439-5465

Latham, NY Utica, NY Saratoga, NY

518-782-9999 315-797-4802

Doors and Windows ★ Champion Window &

Sunroom Co. of Albany

★ Comfort Windows ★ Crawford Door & Window Giuffre Contracting LLC ★ Harbrook Fine Windows, Doors & Hardware ★ Huff‘n Puff Kepple Glass Block LLC Madsen Overhead Doors Inc Overhead Door Company of Albany, Inc. ★ R.M. Pena Inc ★ Window World

Furniture Direct Buy The Furniture House Lifetime Cedar Products

Gardening, Landscaping and Lawn Services American Design & Contracting, LLC Altamont, NY 518-365-3341 ★ Emerich Sales & Services Ballston Lake, NY 518-399-8574 Saratoga SOD Stillwater, NY 518-664-5038 Zappala Block Co. Rensselaer, NY 518-573-8907

Gutters and Roofing Apple Home Improvements, Inc Seamless Gutter & Supply Co.

Schenectady, NY Endwell, NY

518-374-0160 607-754-8595

Home and Food Products Aerus Electrolux Cutco Cutlery Guido’s Frozen Desserts Juice + and the Virtual Franchise Lifetime Cookware Lustre Craft My Pillow Inc.

Colonie, NY Olean, NY Albany, NY Wynantskill, NY Victor, NY Mt. Dora, FL Shakopee, MN

518-221-9347 716-790-7181 518-436-4237 518-283-5763 585-924-9393 352-483-7600 x508 612-210-5520

★ Exhibitors with three or more booths.

As of 12/20/12

home show: exhibitors by category Home Services and Repair Advanced Water Systems Arket Electric, Inc. Culligan Water Energy Construction Fridholm Painting & Remodeling LLC Keys To Fun ★ Matchless Stove & Chimney Sears Home Services Stone Industries, LLC Upstate Rehabilitation Products Waste Management

Berlin, NY Schenectady, NY Troy, NY Glenmont, NY Schenectady, NY Guilderland, NY Glenmont. NY Longwood, FL Saratoga Springs, NY Guilderland, NY Albany, NY

Home Technology Hear for You Symmetry Audio Video Time Warner Cable

Albany, NY Slingerlands, NY Schenectady, NY

Interior Design and Lighting Bio-Fusion Designs Clifton Park, NY California Closets Latham, NY Monkey Bar Storage Solution Latham, NY ★ Exhibitors with three or more booths.

518-533-9879 518-381-8818 518-272-1111 518-527-7355 518-860-0041 518-463-2085 407-551-5508 518-584-1048 518-869-9372

800-942-4327 518-369-6850 518-646-8662

518-527-0426 518-785-5723 518-257-2818

As of 12/20/12

home show: exhibitors by category

See us at the Home Show

Kitchen and Bath ★ Bath Fitter Cabinet Doctor The Cabinet Shop Casey Custom Kitchens ★ Creative Kitchens Custom Crafters NY INC Elegant Kitchen Design Geovanny Marble & Granite LLC. KBC Design Studio Kitchen and Bath World, Inc. Klassic Stone ★ MKS Industries, Inc. ★ Rebath of Albany RMG Stone Products

Albany, NY Mechanicville, NY Ballston Lake, NY East Greenbush, NY Glenmont, NY Albany, NY Hoosic Falls, NY Albany, NY Colonie, NY Albany, NY Albany, NY Syracuse, NY Clifton Park, NY Castleton, VT

518-862-9901 518-664-6949 518-383-0962 518-477-7340 518-432-1320 5189-459-0037 518-701-7520 518-358-9351 518-464-0660 518-482-4066 315-437-1511 518-371-0400 802-468-5636

Pools and Spas Caribbean Pools ★ Concord Pools & Spas ★ Islander Pools & Spas Softub Express

Schenectady, NY Latham, NY Albany, NY E. Rochester, NY

518-356-4364 518-783-8976 518-456-5862 585-641-0450

Real Estate Agency The Capital Team of Realty USA Silverleaf Resorts Vacation Village Resorts

Albany, NY 518-320-8008 Latham, NY 518-785-4083 Fort Lauderdale, FL

★ Exhibitors with three or more booths.

As of 12/20/12

1771 Route 9, Clifton Park 785 Route 9, Latham 661 Broadway, Kingston 518-383-2215 518-785-8555 845-331-2230 W W W. E A R L B F E I D E N . C O M

Just the Essentials, Ma’am The seven key pieces you need to purchase only once   Not just for the bedroom, a dresser like the   one here can add an interesting touch to a dining room. Plus you get instant storage for linens. By Janet Reynolds  |  Photos by Lucas Allen


uzanne and Lauren McGrath, the mother/daughter interior design/ blogging/book author team, have one overarching belief. “For us,” they write in their new book, Good Bones, Great Pieces, “decorating is not about the quick fix or about chasing the latest trend. It’s about following one simple rule: Almost every piece you purchase should have the ability to take on more than one role in your current or future home.” And that, in a nutshell, is the driving force behind the popular, practical design duo. While our human inclination may be to assume that every time we move we need to start from scratch, in reality purchasing the

right furniture from the beginning will save us a lot of time and money. The right pieces — the seven essential pieces the McGraths have helpfully honed down for us — can move from a weathered Victorian to a modern home and back again. The key, they write later in their helpful book, is realizing that “furniture pigeonholing,” as they call it, is a “creative buzzkill.” In other words, a dresser does not, in fact, only belong in the bedroom. “The concept of the book is really all about flexibility but also practicality,” says Suzanne, a former style editor and producer at Martha Stewart Television. Her family moved often when she was growing up, as

did she when she was a young mother. Living on a budget was an economic reality. “But every time we moved, I’d move our love seat to a different room,” Suzanne says, “and people would say, ‘Is that new?’” She began talking to her interior design clients about this concept. “Don’t focus so much on the accessories and the color. You just need to get the right pieces,” she would tell them. “Those pieces should be flexible enough so they can move from room to room and from home to home wherever you go.” The seven essential pieces that were left standing after a much longer furniture list are, Suzanne says, the most flexible. They’re  |  53

The many lives of a bench: This weathered farm bench had its first life on an Ohio farm. The McGraths discovered it at an antiques show in New York. In the winter months, it’s a perfect focal point in the living room; in the warmer months, move it outside to create a cozy nook on the porch.

also, not coincidentally, the ones people often find the hardest to pick themselves. “Everyone can pick their kitchen table,” Suzanne says, “But these pieces make the house a home, a comfortable or more interesting place.” Nor do the McGraths stop at merely stating that slipper chair is an essential. For each of the seven pieces, they offer a helpful glossary complete with pictures of various types and styles of each of the essential pieces in their book. In other words, teaching people how to choose quality goods is another part of the McGraths’ raison d’etre. “The biggest 54  | Life@Home

question people ask us is what to get and what does it look like. What does a good occasional chair look like?,” Suzanne says. “So we put a few pages in the back (of each chapter) that said if you see one like this, get it. It has legs, no pun intended.” Each glossary features actual types of a slipper chair, for instance, that can be easily tracked down. “I didn’t want to put an antique in a glossary,” Suzanne says. “If you want this, you can get this at each one of (the retailers listed). They’re all classic and you won’t be sorry.” “That’s why the book is meant to be a guide,” Suzanne adds. “It’s not meant to

just have pretty pictures but it’s meant to be a guide to demystify a bit.”


hile Suzanne and Lauren have only “officially” been working together since they started their blog almost three years ago, in some ways they’ve been working together forever. In the preface, Suzanne writes about bringing Lauren with her to a client’s home as a newly-single working mom. As she was trying to decide between three shades of yellow for a wall, she heard Lauren pipe up behind her, “Number two. It’s the palest and shines like the sun.” Number two it was.

So you’ve decided to get a bench. Here’s what the McGraths suggest keeping in mind: • The

most versatile benches don’t have a back.

That will give you maximum flexibility. • Get one that’s upholstered. “For a couple of yards of fabric you can re-cover repeatedly,” says Suzanne. “That’s a great opportunity to make a statement and change things up a bit when you need a little something. It’s not like reupholstering a sofa, which can really break the bank.”

“I’ve been doing this with my mom her whole life,” says Lauren, now 27. “I watched her and I was always a big part of when she was redecorating our house. I was always interested in it.” Part of the duo’s appeal is that they write from two perspectives, making their blog popular with 20-somethings and emptynesters alike. As an apartment dweller, Lauren, a former fashion features writer at Teen Vogue before she teamed up with her mother fulltime, is a big fan of the love seat in part because of its size. “That’s the first piece I bought,” she says, noting it was also the only piece that

they bought in a retail store when outfitting her post-college apartment. “Everything else handed down and we repurposed (it) or it was something from our basement.” It was important to get something wellmade and upholstered, Lauren says. “For me I understand why people my age buy things at IKEA. I would rather have less furniture and less stuff and have things that were well made and I’ll have forever than have a lot of stuff I will have to throw away in a few years.”  To follow the McGraths’ design tips, check out their blog:

Good Bones, Great Pieces: The Seven Essential Pieces That Will Carry You through a Lifetime, by Suzanne and Lauren McGrath, Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 205 pages, $29.95  |  55

Photos: Trash, © Bakaleev Aleksey; phone illustration, © Dave Hopkins.

 Living Green

Cell Service Disposing of your old cell phone

56  | Life@Home

By Cari Scribner


took a count: My two teenage sons and I have four unused cell phones lying in dresser drawers. My kids upgrade to a newer model every birthday; I have my trusty cell from a few years ago that I like because it’s simple and efficient. But I have a duplicate of it on my own nightstand, albeit with a couple broken keys from years of use. One reason we hold onto our old cell phones is we know we can’t just toss them in the trash. Sure, they’re small, and who would know if we slipped them beneath some orange peels in the kitchen trashcan? The Earth — and our consciences — would know. Here are some of the materials commonly found in cell phones that are dangerous to landfills:

 Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene polycarbonate  Copper  Aluminum  Iron  Silicon dioxide  Epoxy  Polycarbonate  Silicon  Polyoxymethelyne  Polystyrene  Nickel  Liquid crystal polymer According to Phones4Charity, over 800 million retired cell phones sit unused in U.S. homes. Worse still, more than 140 million enter the waste stream each year after being thrown away. This pattern seems particularly useless given that an easy — and gratifying — way to offload that old cell phone in an eco-friendly way is just a phone call or mouse-click away. Nonprofit organizations all over the region and country are always interested in receiving unused cell phones. Some provide printable mailing labels online at their websites,

while others are at a drop-off site near you. The following is a sampling of places to donate. If you have your own favorite charity, check with them directly to see if they accept used cell phones. ● Even without cell phone service, used cell phones can be used to dial 911 in emergencies. Equinox, Inc., is Albany County’s primary provider of services for victims of domestic violence. All services are confidential, free of charge, and available to all, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Equinox collects and distributes used cell phones to victims. Any donated cell phones that can’t be used are recycled by a company that works with shelters, with proceeds going directly to the program. Contact Equinox, Inc., at (518) 434-6135, or log onto ● Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services of Saratoga County (DVRC) has been providing services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in Saratoga County for over two decades. To donate cell phones, contact DVRC at (518) 5830280, or log onto ● Cell Phones for Soldiers Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing cost-free communication services to active duty military members and veterans. Since its inception, the program has provided more than 168 million minutes of free talk time. Donated cell phones are sold to a recycling partner, ReCellular. The money received from recycling cell phones is used to purchase calling cards

and other communication tools for the U.S. military. For information, log onto ● Phones4Charity partners with many charitable organizations whose work has benefited hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. They work with charities including the National Wildlife Federation, American Cancer Society and Feed the Children, just to name a few. However, they also let you decide directly where your money will do the most good. Send your favorite charity’s name and information, and they will contact it about the cell phone fundraiser program so that they can start benefitting as well. Log onto, or call (888) 846-0818. Donated phones are tax-deductible as an in-kind donation. Also, consider launching a cell phone drive to collect unused phones from your friends and neighbors. Before you donate, make sure that the service on your phone has been disconnected and that any personal information you may need has been copied and then erased. Be sure to remove the following data: phone book, any lists of calls (received and made), voicemails, sent and received e-mail and text messages, organizer folders, Web search history and photos. Deleting data usually requires several steps. You can remove the memory or subscriber identity module (SIM) card from the phone yourself, but you may need to do more to erase all the personal data on your device. Check your owner’s manual or wireless provider’s website, or the manufacturer can provide information on how to permanently delete information, and how to save or transfer information to a new device if needed.   |  57

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By Alison Grieveson

For the month that celebrates love, I thought I’d share a few items I’ve recently discovered that I think are pretty swell. Coincidentally, they would also make great gifts for that special treehugger in your life!

 Stanford engineer Debbie Sterling wanted to create a game that would cultivate an interest in engineering among girls. Call it the anti-Barbie: This game requires its players to follow basic engineering principles in order to get ahead. You can pre-order it (with an expected ship date of April 2013) and by doing so, help support a small company doing great things.

cadmium- and heavy metal-free. They have a variety of adorable necklaces and bracelets that your little one will also appreciate!

 The green techie in your life will love this Bluetooth bamboo keyboard. You can even get a matching iPad or iPhone case!

 Chic mommies with infants

 For the literature buff in your

rejoice! Chewbeads has come out with a line of chewable jewelry that is BPA-, PVC-, phthalates-, lead-,

life, this scalloped lantern made from vintage books could be a hit. Suspend three of these above a long

dining room table for a splendid look that’s a real conversation-starter.

 Potting Shed Creations has created these genius, beautifullydesigned planters made from recycled wine bottles. Check their website for other super-clever designs. 

Alison Grieveson is a graphic designer who enjoys exploring the greener side of the design and decorating industries. For more green tips, check out  |  59

 Down the Garden Path

Lovely, Luscious

  ‘Bloomerang’ from Proven Winners

Lilacs Something to look forward to come spring By Colleen Plimpton Photo courtesy Proven Winners


irectly below my bedroom window in the ramshackle farmhouse in which I grew up stood a stately purple lilac. My grandparents, who owned the home in rural Livingston County, had no idea who’d planted it or how long it’d been there, but in the 1950s and ’60s, it was mine. Each May its deep violet blossoms unfurled, casting perfume into the air and providing armloads of bouquets for my mother. And often, a nesting home for Robin Redbreast. I loved that overgrown old shrub so much that I papered my bedroom walls in lilac print; I asked for and was given a lavender bedspread one Christmas, and I routinely doused myself in lilac cologne (probably Avon). And from that day to this, wherever I’ve lived, I have never been without America’s favorite flowering bush. I’ve had tall lilacs and small ones, white ones and pink ones, doubles and singles, and even rebloomers. Along the way I’ve learned quite a bit about these woody plants belonging to the olive family. Native from southeastern Europe to eastern Asia in woodland and scrub areas, they date back to the mid1750s in America. They were grown in our first botanical gardens. Both Thomas Jefferson and George Washington raised them at their estates, and they were especially popular in the Northeast. The late 1890s saw a European renaissance in lilacs. French flower breeder Victor Lemoine and

60  | Life@Home

his family developed over 200 different types of lilacs. Breeding has continued; to date, over a thousand varieties are known around the world. But despite their heritage, lilacs aren’t prima donnas. Whichever ones you choose for your own garden, give them as much sun as possible and good garden dirt. Drought tolerant, these powerhouses need no supplemental water after their first year. They appreciate an alkaline soil, so toss on an annual dusting of lime. Pruning should take place right after flowering so as to not sacrifice next year’s blooms. If your lilac gets too big for its britches, an overgrown shrub whose flowers are out of reach can be rejuvenated by taking out one third of the oldest, thickest canes each year for three successive years. Depending on size, lilacs can be used for hedging, as a specimen, a flowering privacy

barrier or included in the perennial border. Hardy to zone 3, they vary in height from 3 to 30 feet. They resent wet feet, though, and therefore perform best on hillsides or flatlands with good drainage.


n my current garden I grow seven different varieties, all of them fragrant. (Though nonfragrant lilacs exist, for me that’s a nonstarter. Why grow lilacs if not to enjoy their scent?) The oldest shrub in our yard, referred to as “Grandma’s lilac” was taken from the Midwestern farm where my husband was born. Originally planted by his greatgrandmother in the 1930s, it flourished by the fence next to the apple orchard. We transported a rooted sprig to our former home in New Jersey decades ago, and it has traveled with us to subsequent abodes. A fragrant pale lavender, it’s a flo-

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ral remembrance of lives and times long gone. Established alongside an arbor is the deep purple, intensely fragrant Ludvig von Spathe. This venerable shrub resembles the lilac of my childhood and I cherish its blossoms. Nearby is early bloomer Pocahontas, and behind that, a nameless old French white variety. For season extension I have Miss Kim, a soft lavender, exquisitely scented cultivar that blooms weeks after the usual specimens. Even later is Paladin, a very dense dwarf Korean cultivar. For the last few years I’ve enjoyed the new, re-blooming lilac from Proven Winners, Bloomerang Purple. Skeptical at first that such a creature existed, I am now convinced. This little guy commences bloom at lilac time in May, but continues to re-bloom at regular intervals right up until frost. Amazing! Lilacs are enchanting in the vase, but often don’t last very long. Here’s how to remedy that. Snip them in the evening, when the stems are full of moisture. Make a clean cut; don’t crush the wood. Immediately strip off all the leaves and plunge the cuttings into lukewarm water. Now, here’s the real secret. Take the container and place it, chock full of your lilacs, into a cool, dark place, where it’ll stay overnight. (I employ my bedroom closet.) The next morning, remove the whole kit

and caboodle and enjoy the floral flaunt for days. One of the many attributes of lilacs is that the shrub is still lovely once bloom is over. Think of them as one of the “bones” of your garden. And remember, they provide early nectar for butterflies. All in all, lilacs are a good bet. They’re deer resistant, most are fragrant, all are cold-tolerant, and they come in fabulous colors. Are there any negatives? Only one worth mentioning: Powdery mildew can sometimes disfigure the leaves in midsummer. It doesn’t harm the plant. I ignore it. Nowadays most lilacs are purchased in containers, but the home gardener may multiply her favorites by stem cuttings or layering. Or simply remove a rooted sucker in early spring and plant in its new home. What could be simpler? For new cultivars, the catalogs are full of opulent choices, and local nurseries will soon have their own selections. If you wish to visit a sumptuous assembly of lilacs, Rochester has the largest collection in the world and their Lilac Festival has been held each May since 1898. The annual festival at the Arnold Arboretum near Boston is a good runner-up. I have no idea if that lovely purple lilac outside my bedroom window still graces my childhood home. But its beauty, grace and fragrance will linger in my memory forever. 

Garden communicator Colleen Plimpton lectures on, writes about, coaches and teaches gardening. Visit her website at


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 Dollars & Sense

Tax Time

A little preparation can save you headaches AND money


ou may have a folder clearly labeled with every possible document inside. Or you may be scrambling around at the last minute for those W2s, 1099s and documentation of the clothing you gave to Goodwill last year. Either way, it’s tax time. We turned to local tax experts for five things to keep in mind before your taxes are filed. Their tips may even save you money this year.

1. DON’T BE IN A HURRY TO GET YOUR TAXES DONE. Government tax documents are still being mailed out mid-February. If you’re chomping at the bit to do something, make sure 62  | Life@Home

everything else is in order — information on deductions, proof of charitable donations and other unreimbursed expenses. “You’re going to want solid proof in as many cases as possible,” says Kristen Berdar, CPA, CMA of BST Financial and Management Consultants. “If you can go through your bank statements and find your cancelled checks for donations, ask for receipts for things and stop donating in cash so you have a trail, it’s going to be that much easier.”

2. MAKE SURE YOU AREN’T OVERLOOKING ANY DEDUCTIONS. We hear a lot about deductions for items such as charitable donations, home mort-

gage interest and medical expenses, but how about money you spend when you volunteer? Michael Lurie, CPA, president of Lurie & Co. Certified Public Accountants, says that includes mileage. “If you’re driving to events on weekends to help volunteer, those are miles you can deduct. It’s not as generous a deduction as a business mile, but it’s still a deduction.” The rate is 14 cents per mile. He suggests creating a mileage log to document your travel. Also, New York State offers a 20 percent credit for long-term care insurance premiums. “If something costs you $5,000, you’re going to get $1,000 right back on your returns,” he says.

Photo: © Wijaya.

By Ann Hughes

Challenge your game. ame.

3. CONTRIBUTE TO AN IRA. Even though the tax year has ended, contributing to an IRA can still save you money up until the due date of your tax return. Contributing as much as $6,000 if you’re 50 or older or $5,000 if you’re under 50 is a way to defer taxes. “It’s basically a way to say I have $6,000. I don’t want to pay taxes on it today, so I’m going to put it in this vehicle for retirement and then I don’t have to pay the taxes until I take the money out upon retirement,” Lurie says. There are rules on income limits, so be sure to check first to see if you qualify.

4. REMEMBER, THE GOAL ISN’T TO GET A BIG REFUND. “That’s not the best use of your money,” Berdar says. “You’re giving the government an interest-free loan. They’ve had use of your money all year and now you’re waiting to get it back.” While you’re waiting for your refund, she also recommends not taking a refund anticipation loan. “The charge on that can be extremely high,” she says. “If you have your refund directly

deposited from the IRS and NYS, it typically happens within three weeks.”

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It’s Getting



If you can pay it, then pay it, but Lurie says if you can’t, get an extension. “An extension does not give you an extension for time to pay. You’re going to incur some interest and penalties, but if you can wrap that up within six months, that’s not usually a time where they’re going to be coming to you to put a lien on you or anything like that.” Adjusting your withholdings so more tax is taken out of your paycheck may make a difference at tax time next year. Both experts agree that if your tax return is straightforward, you can probably do it yourself. There are good software programs that help, and the IRS even has a program on its website called freefile. But Berdar has a reminder about one thing: double check your work. The IRS lists math errors as the most common tax mistake that Americans make. 


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Do this now to save money next year: Our experts agree the most important thing you can do is be organized, and that’s a year-long process. Kristen Berdar recommends having a designated envelope or folder somewhere in your home where everyone can put receipts and other tax-

related documents. Michael Lurie says now is a good time to commit to documenting potential deductions, too. “A lot of things that you do every day, like donating to a charitable organization, are going to create deductions,” he says. “There’s noth-

ing wrong with doing things like that in a more formal manner and getting an acceptance letter and using it as a deduction.” By the way, if you paid property taxes in January, a copy of the real estate tax bill should already be in your folder.

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Ann Hughes anchors FOX23 News at 10 and 11. She has been covering the Capital Region for more than 14 years. |

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 Tech Tips

Password Protected

How to pick a secure, hard-to-crack password


e all know someone who’s been hacked. You get a kooky e-mail from a friend that’s formatted strangely, contains odd misspellings and usually invites you to open a link or an attachment. Many of us have learned what a “phishing” e-mail looks like — a bogus message that pretends to be from a friend, a social-media site or a bank — but even the savviest of us have been fooled. What’s the smartest thing you can do to ensure the security of your e-mail, social media and bank accounts? Be vigilant with your passwording. We did some research and talked to Cliff Rohde, of GoatCloud Communications in Albany, for some tips on managing passwords. The fundamental rule of passwords, though, is this: Use different passwords for every site. This is an annoying but necessary must-do. The question is how to do it when we have to make passwords for everything and trying to remember 20 separate logins is not only a nuisance but nearly impossible. But using one password for everything is what gets a lot of people in trouble: Once your Gmail password is discovered, now your hijacker can access your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and, heaven forbid, your bank account, too. Here are some suggestions:

1. AVOID WORDS “If your password can be found in a dictionary, you might as well not have one,” according to the New York Times. Hackers are in possession of fairly sophisticated programs that, in seconds, run through popular or likely words or terms you may have used in your password. They 64  | Life@Home

don’t even break into the system to see your password; they actually just guess. If your password is a mix of letters, numbers and characters, your chances of your password getting guessed are significantly lower.

2. IF YOU HAVE TO USE WORDS, USE A LOT OF THEM. When picking a password, think deep. Think abstract. But also tie it to an off-line thing that’s memorable. “Say, for instance, that this morning a squirrel stuck his head in a tin can on top of your garbage can,” says Cliff Rohde. “Make a password that is something like ‘squirrelonthegarbagecanwithatincanonhishead.’” That password is many characters but you’ll also be able to remember it fairly easily.

3. MAKE A MNEMONIC Farhad Manjoo writes in Slate that the phrase approach to password-making can be taken one step closer to tight security. “Turn your phrase into an acronym,” he writes. “Be sure to use some numbers and symbols and capital letters, too. I like to eat bagels at the airport becomes Ilteb@ta, and My first Cadillac was a real lemon so I bought a Toyota is M1stCwarlsIbaT.” This approach is a good one if you’re trying to manage several passwords across various sites. Manjoo continues: “You can even create pass phrases for specific sites that are coded with a hint about their purpose. A sentence like It’s 20 degrees in February, so I use Gmail lets you set a new Gmail password every month and still never forget it:i90diSsIuG for September, i30diMsIuG for March, etc.”

4. GET A PASSWORD MANAGER Certain subscription services and free services will automatically generate passwords not even you know for all of your sites. You just remember the one master password to access the rest. Rohde uses Last Pass, which is free for desktop use but costs just $12 a year for mobile security, too. “It’s a very slick little piece of software,” Rohde says. “What you do is you remember one password to log into Last Pass and then you kinda let Last Pass take over for you in terms of remembering passwords and password generation.”

5. NEVER, EVER, EVER USE THE PASSWORD “PASSWORD.” “Never use the word ‘password’ as your password,” Rohde says, “or never use 1-2-3-4 or something as simple as that because that’s just the easiest thing. It doesn’t take any computing power or brain power to try that.” 

Top 10 Most-Used Passwords (to be avoided) 10. “Baseball” 9. “111111” 8. “dragon” 7. “letmein” 6. “monkey” 5. “qwerty” 4. “abc123” 3. “12345678” 2. “123456” 1. “Password” source:

Photo: © velasevic.

By Brianna Snyder

Family  Food  Wine

Life 65 – 86

Mmmm, fried potato salad with arugula and lemon. Photo by Paul Barrett.   Get the recipe and the story behind it on page 80.  |  65


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Help Me …

Write a Love Letter By Jennifer Gish


truggling to put your devotion to your sweetheart into words? A couple of poets and a relationship expert will help you channel your inner Cyrano.

LET IT FLOW. “The way that I would advise starting is with free writing,” says Barbara Ungar, an English professor at The College of Saint Rose and author of three books of poetry, including Charlotte Bronte, You Ruined My Life. “Give yourself a set amount of time and once the pen touches the paper, you can’t stop writing. You try to be as brave as you can and write all the things you are afraid of saying or think are inappropriate.” Then, go back and edit yourself, she says. Expect that you’ll scrap 90 percent of what you wrote, leaving only the sweetest of sweet nothings.

Photo: © Neumann.

BE ORIGINAL. “Throw out everything that is clichéd — things that sound like Hallmark, things that sound like any pop song,” Ungar says. And try to avoid abstract terms, such as … yes … love.

BE BOLD. “Love is a gamble, but it’s worth it. I’ve never had a love letter written — many dirty e-mails — but never a love letter,” says Mary Panza, vice president of Albany Poets. “And it’s something that if I ever got, I would hold very dear. Love’s always a risk worth taking.”

BE YOURSELF. “Your partner loves you for yourself,” says Larry Wilson, founder and CEO of the Delmar-based, an online dating site with 80,000 active members. “Don’t try to be something else. They know you don’t wax poetically like Shakespeare. They know you don’t talk like Spider-Man. Just be yourself.” (Upsidedown kisses, though, totally welcome.)

USE YOUR SENSES. Good writing includes vivid imagery and evokes all senses. “This is how poetry works: You feel things in your limbic system,” Ungar says. “We don’t want to awaken the brain. We want to awaken the feelings and emotions.” So share what you love about how your partner sounds, smells or even — send the kids to the babysitter — tastes. Song of Solomon is a great example of a body-part-by-body-part breakdown, she says, with lines like “nose like the tower of Lebanon” and “teeth like a flock of sheep.” OK, compliments were different in Bible times.

PLAY IT STRAIGHT. “Don’t try to be funny,” Panza says. “No woman in her right mind wants a funny love letter.”

LESS IS MORE. “Make it short. It’s got to be sweet, and there’s a lot of romance in desperation. So act a little desperate,” Panza says.

Time it right. “Do not send love letters to make up for an argument or a disagreement. Those issues are only really solved faceto-face,” Wilson says. “The best love letters are ones sent spontaneously without an anniversary or without a milestone. They’re written on a Wednesday afternoon sitting at work and your mate or your lover is on your mind.”

THINK AESTHETICS. In the Japanese tradition, the whole letter has to touch the senses, Ungar says. Write it by hand. Use nice paper, maybe with a scent on it. Attach a flower when you deliver it.

DON’T GO ALL DR. SEUSS. “For most people I’d say avoid rhyme,” Ungar says. “Unless you’re really skillful, in which case you won’t be reading this article because you won’t need help.”  Jennifer Gish is features editor at the Times Union.  |  67

Taking It Up a Notch Knitting projects for your home

Learn to make mitered squares and make someone in your life happy with a hat.

Step It Up Knits, Take Your Skills to the Next Level with 25 Quick and Stylish Projects, by Vickie Howell, photography by Jody Horton, Chronicle Books, 144 pages, $22.95

By Janet Reynolds Photos by Jody Horton/Chronicle Books


f you’re a beginning knitter or a so-so knitter, Step It Up Knits can help take your knitting to the next level — and give you some killer items for your home or wardrobe. The book by Vickie Howell, who is the host of the DIY Network show Knitty Gritty and who, ironically, knits from Texas, a land not exactly known for cold weather, is aimed at the busy woman (or man gutsy enough to admit he knits). “I assume everybody is as crazy busy as I am,” she says. “I’m a working mom but I also want to be creative and you can get in a creative rut when it comes to your skill level. I wanted to help people raise their skills without a huge time commitment. “If you start another thing that you can’t finish because of time, there’s another thing that piles up,” she says. “Nobody wins that way.”

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 Want to learn to lace but afraid of starting something too big? This lacy iPad sleeve is a safe place to begin.

The book is generally aimed at people ready to be intermediate knitters -- people, Howell says, who have a few projects under their belt. The book is also perfect, however, for more expert knitters who want a quick gift that isn’t boring to make. Step It Up Knits offers projects for the home as well as the body. “When people are making gifts, they love to have something they don’t have to worry about size or taste,” Howell says of the projects like the iPad cover. “These are a little safer.” Knitting something like a pillow is also a way to bring a trend into your home without making a major commitment. “Maybe buying a couch in hot coral is not the best choice for everyone, but you can make a vase with a great flower arrangement,” Howell says. “You’ve got your trend and you haven’t made a big financial commitment.”  Want to check out other Vickie Howell projects? Look for her at

A good bag is hard to find but not necessarily hard to make.   |  69

Got a bad case of cabin fever? Why not do some house projects?

BEFORE By Brianna Snyder


he weather is disgusting. It’s icy and slushy and the wind is painfully cold. Everyone in the house is antsy. Every game has been played four times over. We’ve all got cabin fever. So what better time to tweak some old furniture, modify a bedroom or change the look of your kitchen? We rounded up some project suggestions from local designers and a little help from Pinterest.

1. REFURBISH AN OLD COFFEETABLE  “Find a great piece that you want (look at


70  | Life@Home

area junk shops or used furniture places),” Michele Conti of Designs by Michele in Niskayuna, writes in her blog. “Pieces vary in price, but a little work and you can create a treasure!” Conti started by sanding this coffeetable with 220 grit sandpaper, “just quick to clean off any dirt or build-up of old wax,” she writes. “I really like to use Zinsser Bulls Eye 123 primer sealer latex. It doesn’t smell as strong as the oil-based product and cleanup is easy, with warm water and soap.”

It also “eliminates the need for sanding,” Conti adds. “If you don’t want to sand, this is the product you should use. I still recommend making sure the surface is clear of any debris or dirt, so wipe down your surface before you apply the primer. It should be clean and dry.” Conti says to let the primer set for 24 hours before painting; she gave the table three coats of paint using Rust-Oleum spray paint. “Now this was certainly an easy project,” Conti says. “Just a couple of hours and some paint!”

Photos: Coffeetable, window treatments courtesy Michele Conti; chair courtesy C.R.A.F.T.

Bored to Death?



Painting is “the best thing you can do to update your home and make yourself happy,” says M.J. Bortugno of B. Designs in Latham. “That is something that is a quick fixup to your space and completely transform it.” Not up to painting the whole room? Painting one accent wall is enough to brighten any space. Remember 2013’s color is emerald green, which might not be a color to make a lifetime commitment to but one wall in wintertime? Why not?

“Windows come in all sizes, and there’s a drapery or shade for every situation,” Conti says. “Long draperies generally create a formal effect, while short curtains or shades look more casual. Curtains can create an illusion, altering the look of the window dimensions.” For this project, Conti made a small window look like a bigger one. Using layering

treatments, Conti was able to build this illusion. Rather than hanging curtains along the line of the window, Conti layered the window, flanking it with long panels. This creates width and length and goes a long way in brightening the room. “The features and functions of window treatments are many,” Conti says. “They create a sense of style, visual interest, softness and warmth.” 



But don’t stop with the wall. Rearrange the furniture, Bortugno says. “Get some fresh pillows and throws, add some bright color to your space, change the pictures on your wall!”


PINTEREST FIND!  Jamie Dorobek, at, details this great approach to reupholstering an old chair. The chair Dorobek worked on had springs in the cushion. Ripping out all the material surrounding the springs was the first step. Then came prying out the hundreds of staples and nails, Dorobek writes. “Gut the entire thing before painting, and don’t try to keep the springs,” she says. After it’s gutted, paint it. Once it’s painted and dry, create

the chair’s seat with a piece of foam and a piece of plywood. Cut the foam to fit in the seat of your chair. Then use it as a template — and later as the seat cushion. Place it over a piece of plywood and cut the shape of the seat out from there. “Once the board is cut, you’re almost done! It’s time to actually upholster. You’re going to lay everything out nice and pretty. ... It’s an upholstery sandwich. Lay fabric, batting, foam, and then board on a flat surface. Use the staple gun to staple the batting to the board. Then use the staple gun to attach the fabric to the board. Pull the fabric as you go, and


don’t just do one side at a time.” Cut off the excess fabric and nestle your new seat in!  |  71



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Kitchen Crumbs 

Tasty Tidbits By Caroline Barrett  |  Photo by Paul Barrett

Foodie Flick Is there anything better on a wintry night than a blanket and a good movie? Soul Food (2007), starring Vanessa Williams, is the story of how a family comes together over good, homecooked meals. Warming for the heart — and perhaps it will inspire you to gather your family around the table for a rich, warm bowl of black-eyed peas.

Kitchen Thing An immersion blender is a kitchen must in any season. Use an immersion blender for light and fluffy scrambled eggs, quick fruit smoothies and sauces pureed right in the pan. Our favorite use this time of year? Silky, delicious pureed soup, made with potatoes, onions and plenty of garlic.

Have you ever wondered ... What farmers do in the winter? The off-season gives farmers the opportunity to fix equipment and repair buildings. The off-season is also used for planning next year’s crops.

I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage.”  – Erma Bombeck Wellington’s Island Tea

Recipe February is a great month for curling up with a really good movie — and a bowl of popcorn. Tired of the same old butter and salt? Try these different takes on your freshly popped bowl

to brighten up your cooking

of popcorn:

 Combine olive oil and butter, drizzle over top and shake a bit of sea salt over top. A richer — and healthier — take on buttered popcorn.

 Add Parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper.

 Toss in curry powder and sea salt.

Not planning a winter getaway to a warm and sunny white sand beach this year? Try just one sip of Carolyn and Frederick Wellington’s Island Tea, and you will be transported to an island where the breezes are warm and the sun shines all day long. Find the sweet, coconut-y and mildly spiced tea at area markets and retailers. Find more info on their website:

 Mix together cinnamon and sugar, and shake over lightly buttered popcorn.

Candy makes up 45 percent of the gifts given on Valentine’s Day and is the number-one gift given to sweethearts in the U.S.  |  73

 Dish

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At Home with

Alex Ursprung

Saratoga Olive Oil Co. was just named 1 of 5 stores with the best selection of olive oils worldwide. _ The Olive Oil Times By Steve Barnes  |  Photos by Suzanne Kawola


lthough Alex Ursprung has no formal culinary training, by age 25 he has risen to supervise nightly operations in the kitchen at Yono’s restaurant and its casual sibling, DP: An American Brasserie, in downtown Albany. A native of the Coxsackie-Athens area just south of Albany, Ursprung moved with his brother to the capital city after high school. He soon found a job at Marché at 74 State, where he worked with the chef Brian Molino, himself then a 25-year-old running the kitchen of a high-end downtown restaurant. Ursprung followed Molino to The Brown Derby, then transferred two blocks south after finding a position at Yono’s, where he’s grown into the slot of top lieutenant to chef-owner Yono Purnomo. continued on 77

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Dish  continued from 75

Ursprung shares an apartment overlooking Albany’s Washington Park with a high school buddy who’s tangentially involved in the hospitality industry — he works for a beer distributor. Located on a middle floor in a big old brick building, their two-bedroom space is an under-furnished, under-equipped, mismatched and utterly endearing bachelor pad. A much-sat-upon couch faces a TV, and a coffee table holds both video-game controllers and glossy food tomes including Thomas Keller’s instant classic The French Laundry Cookbook. A poster on the wall celebrates the rude, low-brow wisdom of Al Bundy in the 1990s



Roasted Goose Breast 2 16-ounce goose breasts (duck breast may be substituted) 2 sprigs thyme 1 tablespoon salt 2 ounces cold butter Method  Heat oven to 400 degrees. Score skin of goose breasts in a crosshatch pattern, cutting deeply enough to go through the fat but not into the meat. Season with salt and sear in hot sauté pan, skin side down, until fat starts to render, about 5 minutes. Do not turn over. Put in oven and roast for 12 minutes. Check doneness. If using a meat thermometer, breast should be no more than 120 degrees; like duck breast, goose is a red meat that many people prefer cooked no more than medium, and the temperature will continue to rise as the goose is basted and then rests.

 If breast is at desired temperature, put pan back on stove at medium heat and add butter and thyme

TV series Married … with Children, a Fox sitcom that debuted its 11-season run the year Ursprung was born but has remained in heavy rerun rotation ever since. Ursprung likes goose breast because it’s a hearty red meat that’s sort of like beef sirloin with the thick, fat-capped skin of duck breast. He sears it on the stovetop, roasts it in a hot oven and then brings it back to the stove for a quick baste in butter and herbs. The result is crispy, seasoned crust that gives way to a rosy interior of lean, slightly gamey meat. Served with a ragout of beans and root vegetables, it’s an easy, bones-warming winter dish. 

For a video demonstrating how to cook a goose breast, go to Have a smartphone? Scan the QR code at left to link directly to our Life@Home videos on YouTube.

to pan. Tilting the pan to pool the melted butter, spoon foaming butter over goose for 1 minute. Remove from pan and let rest, skin side up, for 5 minutes. Slice and serve over winter vegetable ragout.

Winter Vegetable Ragout 1 cup diced onion 1 cup diced carrot 1 cup diced parsnip 2 cups diced Hubbard squash 2 cups diced celeriac 2 sprigs rosemary, leaves stripped and chopped 1 quart cooked flageolet beans 1 tablespoon kosher salt Method  In large saucepot or Dutch oven, sweat all vegetables till tender, about 15 minutes on medium heat. Add rosemary, beans and salt, and stir to mix well. Cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve with goose breast.  |  77

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The Vineyard 

The Only White Wine that Happens to be Red A look at Brouilly and Beaujolais Story and photo by Alistair Highet


he “nouveau Beaujolais” craze was already passing out of fashion when my friend Tim and I drove across the English Channel in a rainy and gray November — well, we took the ferry — in his mufflerless Mini Cooper and returned with a case of the fresh, fruity wine from the Beaujolais region in the southern end of Burgundy and the northern tip of the Rhone. You see, Beaujolais is the weirdest red wine in the world, and despite being truly a bizarre beverage — with a largely concocted reputation — there is also no wine that can lay claim to being so essentially French. Let me explain. The wines that come from this granite-y soil have served as the bistro wines of France for generations. Order a pot of house wine with your lunch in a brasserie and it is likely to come from here —thin, tangy, purple, but undeniably drinkable. This is the region that makes the workaday plonk. Because it was cheap and plentiful and served young, right after bottling, a bit of an excitement arose when the new vintage became available. This was briefly turned into what was called the “Beaujolais run,” as Brits, in particular, would race to see who could be first to bring a case back to the sceptered Isle (again, Britain). The Japanese went for this as well, and I understand the tradition still has some traction there. So can you actually drink this stuff? Well, it depends. Because of the hype and the volume, and the fact that the Gamay grape is probably the sourest damn grape on the planet, there has been a traditional tendency to include sugar in fermentation, and quality is variable. But there is an effort now to create a more serious image and make better wines, and I dove in recently — and I’m mostly glad I did. The Gamay grape is definitely not to everyone’s taste. It is thought to have appeared first in the village of Gamay in France in the 1360s — in the wake of the Black Death — and its principal virtue was

that it ripened early and was abundant in fruit and low-maintenance. Obviously, with most people dead, low maintenance was a good thing. The post-plague Beaujolais rage incensed the Duke of Burgundy, who banned the grape from his region, which is why it became concentrated to the south. A variety of factors contribute to the grapes’ high acidity, so to preserve fruit and freshness, it has been the tradition to use carbonic maceration in fermentation — traditionally, this means the grapes are thrown into the tank uncrushed and fermented inside the skins, as the grapes at the bottom send up carbon monoxide to inhibit rot. Easy, is what you’d call it. Other methods exist now, but the idea is that the wine has fewer tannins from the skins this way and the fruitiness is thus preserved. Despite some variations across the zone, the best description comes from wine writer Karen MacNeil, who has described it as the “only white wine that happens to be red.” These wines are light, translucent, purply, with strawberry and blueberry fruit, zest, lemon peel and steel. They are real tongue strippers. I was sick of heavy Rhones and deep Spanish reds, and these wines really turned my head. I’ve never tasted so much pleasant bitterness and tartness in red wines, but they have captured my imagination for now. 

Wine Tasting Chateau de la Chaize, Brouilly AOC, 2009, $19 Brouilly is one of the Crus in Beaujolais that encircles the extinct volcano of Brouilly. This is one strange but intoxicating sucker with strawberry and white pepper, leaving a burn on the lips. There are dark flavors of bark and charred wood, but racy acidity and a bitter stony flavor that resolved like silk. Fascinating.

Trenel Fils Cote De Brouilly, 2010, $17 On the foothills of the mountain, this was softer with sour cherry, red currants, tart Macintosh apple, but also steely and sleek. Trenel Fils “Cuvee Rochebonne,” Beaujolais, 2010, $17 Tart, sleek, with the strawberry and blueberry notes, fresh lemon, granite, thirst quenching.

Henry Fessy, MoulinAu-Vent Crus Du Beaujolais, 2008, $18 Another Crus in the Beaujolais with high manganese in the soil. This was softer, and I even wondered if there was merlot, so a much fuller, with blackberry fruit and a flannelly mouth feel. This is a richer take on Gamay and worth returning to.  |  79

 Table@Home

There’s No Place Like

Home A fire, a book and a pot of sauce bubbling on the stove By Caroline Barrett  |  Photos by Paul Barrett


magine this: it’s 22 degrees outside. The afternoon sun is almost gone and the black, leafless tree limbs bend against the fierce wind. Inside, it’s a different scene. The cat is curled up tight in his favorite chair. Stretched out blissfully in front of the fire is Agnes, our black lab. I’ve chosen the sound of the wind and crackling fire over any TV or music. Paul is snoozing on the couch after a long day of work. Elliot sits with us, limbs draped over our big chair. The girls are squirreled away in rooms. I don’t call them down. A pot of tomatoes, onions and garlic simmers on the stove. I’ve pulled out a box of pasta and a good chunk of Parmesan cheese. This is life as it should be. And then, shattering the peace: Lucy. My oldest comes bounding down the stairs in the way that only she can do. Sometimes I tell her that she sounds like the Russian army passing through. Other times it’s a herd of elephants. Either way, it’s loud. Especially if she’s excited. “Mom?” she says in a super-sweet voice. “Can I go to the movies tonight?” I looked up from my book. Sure, I thought. Of course you can go to the movies. But the mother in me knew. Something was up. This wasn’t just a plea to see a flick with friends. She wanted more. “None of the other parents can drive,” she continues. I waited. “Either way,” she finishes.

80  | Life@Home

I go back to reading my book, trying to pretend she isn’t there. Perhaps, I think, she will go away. But she doesn’t. Instead, she smiles and cuddles up a little. “Will you drive us both ways? Please?” Lucy knows I like my fire, my pot of bubbly warm sauce and my book on a cold night. I don’t want to go out. Going out means leaving my warm paradise. Boots, hat, gloves. Starting the car. Navigating icy roads. Yuck. She blinks her beautiful green eyes and waits. No, she isn’t going away. “Yes,” is all I say. I’m a sucker for those pretty green eyes.


n cold February evenings, it’s not just Lucy’s social engagements I don’t want to leave the house for. It’s anything. A really good band playing? I’ll catch them the next time they’re in town. Friends meeting at a coffee shop? They know I love them, but I pass on the invite. The dark and bitter cold nights make it hard to leave the house. Some evenings I do shake off my cabin fever and go out. Occasionally we go out to dinner or see friends. It’s almost as good as the fire. Not too long ago, a friend invited us to an intimate dinner party. Three couples, candles, a warm fire and good food. It

sounded like my kind of February evening. I was forced to take off the pajamas, trade my slippers for my good boots and paint on cheery lipstick. All six of us are food lovers, so we ate very well. Someone brought a cheese tray and olives. We ate crusty bread with pesto, pulled from the freezer. It reminded us of summer and tasted so good. I brought this salad, made with little potatoes purchased at the farmers market. I boiled the potatoes in plenty of salt, pressed each slightly flat and fried them in a bit oil. The last part we did just before serving, so each plate had a small circle of greens, and then crispy, piping hot potato bites on top. It was indulgent, all of it. For dessert, we poured glasses of port. Our hostess carried out a cutting board with nothing more than big chunk of dark chocolate and a mini butcher’s knife. We cut off chunks for ourselves, savoring the rich chocolate and sweet wine. Even I had to admit, it was good to be out of the house. The week before, though? The night Lucy begged me to drive her to the movies? After dinner, I kicked off my blanket, pulled on the warmest clothes I own and started the car. We picked up her friends and delivered them to the theater for the 7:20 movie. I hung around, ran an errand, and was there when the movie let out.

Back home, Lucy was very grateful. She looked at me with her big green eyes and thanked me, sincerely. I was happy to unite her with friends. Deep down, though, I knew there’s no place like home.  Caroline Barrett is the author of the Table for 5 blog. Visit

Fried Potato Salad with Arugula and Lemon serves 6, with leftovers 1 pound small potatoes, rinsed 1/4 cup sea salt canola oil 1/2 pound arugula for the dressing (with enough for leftovers) 1/2 cup olive oil juice of 1 lemon 1 small shallot, minced pinch of sea salt, plenty of black pepper Method  Boil potatoes and the sea salt with enough water to cover by an inch or so. Cook until just barely tender, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Can be prepared a day ahead.

 Combine the dressing ingredients in a glass jar and shake well. Keep leftover dressing refrigerated for two weeks.

 Dress the arugula with desired amount of dressing, toss and separate onto 6 small plates.

 Heat a large skillet over a medium flame. Gently press the potatoes on a cutting board, until about ½ inch thick. When the oil is hot, slide the potatoes in, without crowding. Cook for 2 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels for a minute or so, then place on salad. Best when piping hot and crisp.  |  81

Pressure Drop

By John Adamian


ressure cookers freak people out. In a kitchen filled with sharp knives, open flames, mixers that can make a mess of a misplaced finger, and other potentially dangerous tools, somehow the mysterious — and generally benign — hiss of the pressure cooker is enough to intimidate even seasoned

82  | Life@Home

grill-scarred cooks. I’ve seen people hunch and duck at the sound of a pressure cooker emitting its steady whistling steam, as if they’d spotted a grenade on a stove. But cutting cook time in half for preparing tasty stew, braised short ribs, or cooking dry beans is enough to make most strapped-for-time cooks learn to master the

pressure cooker and get over any hang-ups. Quick stocks, bread puddings or risottos are also possible with a pressure cooker. It’s the only way you’ll make braised oxtail in 45 minutes. It might be the black-box element of using a pressure cooker that makes some cooks get a little squeamish: you put the

Photo: © steidl.

The case for buying and learning to use a pressure cooker

stuff in there, get the contraption up to but who’s not pressed for time these good excuse to not make canned beans a steam and pressurized, and you basidays? And who wouldn’t want to be able regular part of your diet. cally leave whatever you’re cooking in the to make their cooking water 35 degrees For vegetarians, the pressure cooker is cooker until it’s done. Pressure cooking hotter? (If I could make my oven go up to almost a must-have kitchen utensil. We speeds up otherwise time-consuming tasks, 535 degrees, I’d be happy, and I think my all know we’re supposed to be consuming so you sort of undermine the whole point pizzas would show it.) more whole grains in our diets. But, for if you keep reducing the pressure on your vegetarians, that recommendation bepot of beans to see if they’re finished. It’s he pressure cooker was invented in comes something close to an imperative. that speeding up of normally slow processthe 17th century by a French physiAnd if you’re making brown rice or barley es that makes pressure cookers so cool. cian, but the general principles of increasor wheat berries regularly, you’ll be wantBut in the age of the slow cooker or the ing pressure to speed up cooking times had ing a pressure cooker. Brown rice made Crock-Pot, pressure cookers have a hard been known probably since people started in a pressure cooker can sometimes seem time competing. There remains a publicboiling things over an open fire. Most to have a nuttier flavor, as if the grain has relations gap. people know that putting a tight lid on a cooked without soaking up as much water Today’s pressure cookers have release pot of water will make it boil faster. And as it does in a regular pot. valves, so concerns If you already have about uncontrolled a pressure cooker build-up — and and you use it on an potential explosions electric stovetop, The main reason to resort to the pressure cooker — are unnecessary. may want to inmay be because you’re pressed for time, but who’s not you Modern pressure vest in a flame deflecpressed for time these days? cookers are also tor. (If you’ve noticed designed so that it’s that sometimes the impossible to open bottom of your pots them while the contents are under presmany of us have experienced how cooking of brown rice get a little overcooked and sure, so you can feel pretty comfortable at high altitudes just takes longer — less stuck to the cooker, it’s because your stove delving into the world of the pressure pressure, water boils away at a lower temp, top’s lowest setting is not low enough for cooker without fear. But you will need to etc. The Japanese have understood this the ideal low heat pressure cookers use for recalibrate some of your methods. for centuries. Rice cooking there routinely grains; the flame deflector, which is sort Cooks need and want to taste, to smell, involved heavy stones placed on top of the of a like a little piece of layered metal with to see what they’re making. Pressure cookpot lid. holes punched in it, serves to absorb some ers largely thwart those crucial senses. You A pressure cooker isn’t as versatile as of that heat just at the point of contact with mostly hear. (That steady hiss.) That’s the a skillet or a roasting pan. It’s more like your pressure cooker.) main way of gauging your progress with a microwave. There are certain things For meat eaters, a meal of braised a pressure cooker. You can smell things, you’ll use it for that — once you get short ribs is probably exhibit A in the too. The only problem with that is that comfortable with the pressure cooker — case for owning a pressure cooker. Short sometimes you only begin to really smell you’ll wonder what you ever did without ribs can be very tough, and they take a an overcooked batch of pressure-cooked out it. Minus a pressure cooker, many long time to get right. Try this, though: brown rice when it starts to get slightly of us don’t ever just think of throwing Brown some short ribs in a little oil. Then burnt on the bottom. together a dish made from dry beans. It’s saute some onion and garlic and a little Pressure cookers work by allowing us not an option, because pintos or black tomato paste, throw in a bottle of beer, to raise the temperature of boiling water beans or chick peas are going to take half a little chicken stock and maybe some to above the normal 212 degrees F/100 the afternoon to cook on the stove. The thyme and throw that all into the presdegrees C (at sea level) by trapping steam reasons to avoid canned beans are many: sure cooker for 45 minutes. and increasing pressure. In a pressure The selection is limited (good luck findWith the time you’ve saved, you can cooker you can get things up to around ing canned adzuki beans, for instance), either figure you’ve squirreled away 250 degrees F/120 degrees C. The main and canned beans are often overcooked enough extra minutes to clean the dishes, reason to resort to the pressure cooker and/or oversalted. And concerns over or maybe you’ll want to tackle one of those may be because you’re pressed for time, things such as BPAs in can linings are a bread puddings for dessert. 

T  |  83

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body. mind. spirit.

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: Philip Morris - CEO, Proctors

FAVORITE SPACE: Schenectady Greenmarket, Winter Market at Proctors. Claiming to be one of the only performing arts centers in the world with an indoor market, the Schenectady Greenmarket, Winter Market at Proctors, is a community — not farmers — market run by an all-volunteer community board. The original seasonal outdoor event became a year-round affair when Philip Morris offered Proctors as its November-April home. Morris has no official role in the market other then his self-titled role as “co-conspirator.”

WHY: “This market represents to me what we do ... there’s music, there’s food, there’s quality, there’s local, there’s community, there’s neighbors, there’s people of means, there’s people of not means — this is who we are. We are the community’s living room. We’re a cultural center and that’s manifest when the community comes to eat, buy food, good food from their neighbors. I love it, I love it!”   |  85

 Photo Finish

Birdy long-legs. Read more about the home that houses this little statue on page 25. 86  | Life@Home

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Life@Home February 2013  

Life@Home magazine is packed with inspiration to help you make your house a home.

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