Page 1

March 2013

Essential Tools for your home

Bedroom Wars with your teen

Lighting Tips for Every Room


ways to use Coca-Cola!

Suburban Retreat An idyllic home in Loudonville

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Holy Names students STAND STAND OUT OUT from the crowd. 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, Valerie DeLaCruz, Melissa Fiorenza, Laurie Lynn Fischer, Laurie Freehafer, Jennifer Gish, Anne Fullam Goeke, Alison Grieveson, Alistair Highet, Ann Hughes, Suzanne Kawola, Lee Nelson, Colleen Plimpton, Lucianna Samu, Cari Scribner

Confident. Accomplished. Prepared. AHN. Challenging girls and young women to excel. Empowering them to succeed.

It all starts here.

Learn more about our unique approach to educating girls PreK3 – Grade 12 at one of our Open Houses or call to schedule a personal tour. Students from Saratoga County can be served by our Northway bus.

Middle School team wins regional Future City Engineering Competition!

Contributing Photographers Paul Barrett, Alistair Highet, Krishna Hill, Philip Kamrass, Suzanne Kawola, Colleen Plimpton, 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

1075 New Scotland Road, Albany, NY 12208

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 24 How the West Home Was Won

A lovely country home in Loudonville is still new after 25 years

36 Light Up Your Life

Tips from the Capital Region illumination illuminati

42 Teenage Wasteland The battle over bedroom decor

48 Tool Time

The nuts and bolts of household tools

50 Storm Control

Advice for handling property damage

Features March 2013

March 2013

19 Home Life Essential Tools for your home

Bedroom Wars

with your teen

Life@Home | Ideas and Inspiration for Living

Lighting Tips for Every Room


ways to use Coca-Cola!

Mothers, daughters, sisters and walls

32 Design Defined

Brass is back — at least it’s on the way

34 Problem Solved

Lovely window treatments

Suburban Retreat An idyllic home in Loudonville

47 10 Ways to Use ... Coca-Cola!

53 Living Green

Green baby goods everyone can feel good about

55 Refurnished Living Eco-friendly goodies we love this month

58 Down the Garden Path Mulch: helping your garden stand out

60 Dollars & Sense

lumn! new co

Getting a grip on your debt

62 Tech Tips

lumn! new co

Best ways to stream to your TV

On the cover: Photo by Philip Kamrass   |  7

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Contents Life

In This Issue



66 Outside In

Creative crafts using gifts from Mother Nature

76 The Can-Do Condiment Making mustard is easier than you think

Features 65 Help Me ...

new lots of s! column

Host a wine tasting!

69 Kitchen Crumbs

Tasty tidbits for your cooking life

70 Dish

@Home with Chef Art Wise

75 The Vineyard

The most “instantly appealing” Bordeaux

78 Table@Home

Maple syrup: only the real thing will do

81 My Space

Brian Epstein’s favorite place

82 Photo Finish

Lounging in the foyer

66  |  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.

Tool Time

Diaper Days Laurie Freehafer

The most surprising thing I learned while interviewing tool experts is that not one of them said to invest in a high-end … anything. They almost universally said that until you know you’ll be doing a lot of tool-required tasks, a lower-end set of tools is fine. Another thing I learned was all sorts of interesting uses for power drills. It makes me want to buy one of my own just to scrub my pots and play Drill Guitar. See Laurie’s story on page 48.

Debt Check Ann Hughes I love buying things on sale, so I don’t usually pass up the chance to open a credit card account and save an extra 25 percent. I had no idea though that those storespecific cards can hurt you the most if you carry a balance. Luckily, the experts gave me some great tips for avoiding and getting out from under the dreaded credit card debt. See Ann’s story on page 60.

Cari Scribner I have 3

Poster Wars   Brianna Snyder When I was a kid, my mom wouldn’t let me put posters on the wall unless they were framed, which I thought was the dumbest/stuffiest thing ever. But she figured that if walls were going to be damaged by tacks and tape, they might as well look orderly, and so my Leonardo DiCaprio poster went into a frame. Turned out not to be so bad, and that ends up being the secret to dealing with teens and their bedrooms: you have to compromise! See Brianna’s story on page 42.

Mulch Madness Colleen Plimpton When advising folks whose gardens are to be on tour, I always advocate weeding, edging and applying a fresh coat of organic mulch. Such efforts cover a multitude of garden sins! See Colleen’s story on page 58.

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

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

Mustard Talk John Adamian Like everybody, I’ve slathered all kinds of mustards on sandwiches. But during all that time, I was never quite sure I had a clear sense of what mustard seeds really tasted like. I always associated the flavor of the condiment with the bite of vinegar and maybe the heat of horseradish. It turns out that mustard is the flavor of mustard! Stupid as that sounds. This was kind of a revelation to me. It’s fun to realize that one can make some of those kitchen essentials in one’s own home. See John’s story on page 76.

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

• What’s your favorite movie house?

understood why Kevin didn’t want to sleep in that awesome attic.

Rebecca: Diane Keaton’s character’s house in Something’s Gotta Give.

• Top of the fridge: What’s yours look like?

Brianna: Mmmm I think I remember that one. Didn’t it have like this gorgeous kitchen with a big island? Ahhhhhhh I love her Rachel: The Royal Tenenbaums house. Colleen: Home Alone! I never

10  | Life@Home

children, and although I used cloth diapers whenever I could, when I had two boys in diapers I relied on disposables. I’m aghast how many disposable diapers are piling up in landfills and applaud people who are seeking alternatives. If I had it to do over, I wouldn’t make the same choices - I’d put the environment as a higher priority over convenience. See Cari’s story on page 53.

MJ: Pretty, stacked baskets. And probably some dust too! Betsy: Mine is recessed, so there’s nuttin’ to see! Rachel: Tea and honey and my kid’s cereal. I cleaned it off yesterday!

• Anybody have laundry-organization tips to share? Laurie: Incorporate a handy place from which to grab hangers ... making sure you have more than you think you’ll ever need.

• What’s the messiest part of your house? Diane: The garage! Marci: Whatever room my family has been in!

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

PHOTOS Check out more photos online from Chef Art Wise’s kitchen (story on page 70), and from this month’s @home feature (story on page 24).

STORIES Patchwork Pursuits Want to give quilting a try? This book is the perfect starter kit.

House Plans Not sure if you should refinance your home? Our online exclusive story can help.

VIDEOS Want to know how to make Chef Art Wise’s ragu alla bolognese? Watch our video online and get the recipe on page 73.

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

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 Editor’s Note

Getting Crafty The allure of making things for your home and loved ones


Janet Reynolds Executive Editor

ple of u o c a re Here a s on my list. project on yours? What’s

 See more on page 66

lot of things excite me about our redesigned Life@Home magazine. I love the airiness that comes from changing our column widths and fonts. And I’m loving the new columns and features we’ve added. I’m particularly excited about our new focus on making things in your home, in part because I’m an occasional crafter of sorts myself but also because crafting and hobbies are big business in America. Providing our readers with information about projects they can tackle themselves is part of the mission of Life@Home. The Crafting and Hobby Association notes that, in 2010, 56 percent of U.S. households crafted at least once in the year, contributing to the $29.2 billion U.S. craft and hobby industry. The CHA also ranked the top-10 craft and hobby areas by household participation: From 1-10, they are drawing, scrapbooking and memory crafts, crocheting, woodworking/ wood crafts, jewelry making, card making, floral decorating, cross-stitch, knitting and wreath making. I’ve tried a variety of crafts over the years, starting when my mother taught me to knit when I was 10 and when she took me with her to her ceramic painting class.

 Read more about this table runner online at

14  | Life@Home

I think I still have the dachshund with the long neck whose head came off so you could place your rings on it to keep them safe. (It’s not as scary as it sounds.) I’ve also crocheted and, of course, as a woman who spent her formative college years in the early-to-mid ’70s, I did my share of macramé. But the craft to which I’ve returned with the most regularity is knitting, a hobby with which I am currently just a little obsessed. I have about six projects going simultaneously and I can barely pass a yarn store without turning in and buying something, despite the fact that I have enough yarn in my stash right now to make sweaters for 20. As all knitters know, however, you can never have enough yarn. Part of the allure is the rhythm, the soft clicking of wood against wood, at the end of a long day. It relaxes me after a long day of multi-tasking and deadlines. Here is something simple. Row by row by row I create something that is useful and often well-loved as a personal present. It is this personal touch that is at the heart of crafting, don’t you think? We buy a home and it’s a bunch of wood and steel and cinders. And somehow we give it our personal stamp. What better way than with something we’ve made? 

Spring  |  15

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Furnishings   Gadgets  Décor

Home 17 – 62

Bright spaces make for bright mealtimes. Photo by Mark Samu. Read more on page 24.   |  17

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Home Life 


Their World

By Janet Reynolds

Photo: © Vasic.


hen I was a child, we lived in a three-bedroom house. For reasons that were a mystery at the time and remain so today, my mother insisted that my sister and I share a bedroom so we could have a guest room. We didn’t actually have many overnight guests. A few times a year my aunt would come for the weekend, and maybe once a year another good family friend would come from New Hampshire. Oh, and the guest room? It was the bigger bedroom. By a lot. Sometimes the shared bedroom worked, but often it didn’t. My sister and I would fight and then we would divide the room, complete with a line down the middle with a piece of rope. Daring to cross over into the other sister’s territory usually yielded some fairly unpleasant results. I’m not sure what convinced my mother to relent and let me move into the guest bedroom — as the parent of three myself, I’m sure we just wore her down with our pleading and our ridiculous fighting — but when I was about 13, i.e. after a decadeplus of sharing, I finally moved. I was initially euphoric. Finally! A room of my own! And then I heard the rules. Since this room was still the guest bed-

room, I wasn’t actually allowed to decorate it the way I wanted. My parents installed one large corkboard for my growing collection of Monkees photos and a very large poster of Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey from Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. (Sigh.) I could also tape pages I religiously ripped out of Teen and Seventeen on the inside of my two closets. But that was it. The walls were gray. Behind my bed sat a row of chicken etchings. Yes, chicken etchings. I could do nothing to make the room my own. My sister, meanwhile, was allowed to redecorate her room exactly the way she wished! True, the final result only came about after epic battles with my mother. My sister, you see, wanted to her room to be lilac and lime green. My mother — she of the gray walls and chicken etchings — did not. They went around and around and around. It wasn’t pretty. But eventually my sister won. The walls were lilac, the furniture painted varying shades of lilac and green, the new (!) bedspreads lime green, and the new (!) shag rug purple. It sounds hideous, but it worked. (My sister was an artist and has always been a fashionista.) And I hated her.


remembered this when our children were born. When they became old enough to want to change their rooms, I gave them carte blanche. My daughter painted and decoupaged her dresser and desk so many times that they literally became thicker. Our teenaged son had all the requisite sexy babes he wanted on his walls and, yes, on the ceiling over his bed. And when our youngest wanted to get his room painted when he was about 7, I took him to the store and let him pick out whatever color he wanted. He chose a ridiculously bright, lime-ish green. (He had not heard my story about my sister’s room when he did this, either.) When I brought the can home, my husband looked at me and said, “What are you doing? Are you kidding me?” I said, “It’s only paint. Who cares?” I did, however, just put on one coat. Having just a little of the cream show through from the last color helped ensure the child could actually sleep through the night without eyeshades. Sam was thrilled. Which is, from my perspective, exactly how a child should feel about his or her room. And today, as promised to my husband, that room is a lovely shade of light brown — and ready for guests.   |  19

 Window Shopping

Shop Smart Shop Local In each issue, Window Shopping highlights interesting and unique items available at area stores. This month we present a celebration of spring colors! Photos by Krishna Hill

Storage Bench Seat? Storage? You can have both with this storage bench in Alcott Hall tree-antique white pine with rattan baskets. $349.99, found at Pier 1.

Ikat Pouf Ottoman Swingsan Chair Go for a swing in this chair with an airy, open-weave back. Side compartments hold your drinks while a canopy provides shade. Weather-proof synthetic rattan that’s been woven by hand over a sturdy, rust-resistant iron frame make this perfect for outdoors. $279.95, found at Pier 1. 20  | Life@Home

Put your feet up or take a seat on this vibrant pouf made of traditional Indian saris. $139.95, found at Pier 1.

Oversized Chair This Jonathan Louis chair will make any corner cozier. Features large floral pattern of golden ochre with heather gray background. $699. Found at Mooradians Furniture.

Square Side Table Make an accent statement with this Norwood Teal square table by Coast to Coast Imports. It features two drawers, tapered legs, an OG edge, a distressed finish and simple knobs. $179. Found at Mooradians Furniture.

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Extra seating doesn’t have to be boring. The easy-to-store director’s chair is made of natural colorcrafted, solid hardwood with hinged seat clamps and locking knife supports. Canvas covers sold separately. $69.95, found at Pier 1. continued on 22  |  21

 Window Shopping continued from 21

Our Bloggers Shop



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

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

House Things By Brianna Snyder

Home Décor@518 By Valerie DeLaCruz

Add a dash of warmth to your bedroom with this coordinated bedding set from Croscill. The Plateau collection mixes Southwestern colors with a rustic motif that would work equally well with an Adirondack theme. Inspired by nature’s 22  | Life@Home

sedimentary layering, the warm golds, rusts and browns are universally appealing, and you can use the layered set or just pick accent pieces. Faux distressed leather with bronze rivets on pillows are masculine touches that give this rustically casual set some mix and match pieces for your country, cabin or earth-toned décor. Available at Bed, Bath & Beyond, 32 Wolf Road, Albany or visit

This Jonathan Adler Acid Palm Lamp is colorful and fun, but restrained. Made from high-fired porcelain with nickel accents and a handmade paper shade, the acid palm adds a nice element of contemporary design. Adler, a potter, designer and author, draws inspiration from mid-century modern art and global pop culture. His company’s motto? “If your heirs won’t fight over it, we won’t make it.” The lamp works great as a side or nightstand table; it stands five inches wide and 31 inches high. $295,

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How the

West Home Was Won

Can spring be far behind?

A lovely country home in Loudonville is still new after 25 years

C Come iin tto see th the latest spring styles for you and your home. By Brianna Snyder



Photos by Philip Kamrass.

om West was late to meet his wife, Reneé, at a fundraiser one night. This was before cell phones, and so Tom, delayed at the office and about two hours tardy, was unreachable. Though not unremorseful. “He said, ‘I’m so sorry. What can I do?,’” Reneé remembers. “I said, ‘OK. Remember that property we saw (in Loudonville)? I think we should put an offer in on it.’ He said, ‘Do you really want me to do that?’ And I said, ‘Yes. I really, really do.’” Twenty-five years later, the Wests still live in this house, where they’ve raised two sons and now entertain grandchil-

dren. “It’s so much fun being a grandmother,” West says. “Oh, my gosh, it’s, like, the best.” Tom is an attorney practicing environmental law, and a former Olympic-level kayaker. Pictures of Tom as a young paddler hang on the walls. Reneé says she considers herself a trade consultant, doing restorations on houses and designing offices.



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continued on 27

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continued from 25

It took about nine months to build this house, West says, which was built by her cousin, Thomas DiLorenzo, who still works as a builder in the area. “This is a house we built that would work with the contour of the property,” she says. “The property has a different flow so you had to be kind of creative.” The house is a contemporary house set off in the woods and yet just minutes from the conveniences of suburban life. Big windows look out over endless trees while inside it’s cozy, roomy and warm. West recently redid the master bedroom — “I ripped up the carpeting and put in hard-

wood floors,” she says — with help from Billy Lane of Northeast Fine Finishes in South Glens Falls — and she says she’s thrilled with the results. The wood “has a beautiful, long-lasting finish that shows the grain,” she says. “(Billy Lane) is just brilliant. I love my bedroom so much.” Something else West loves is the detailed molding throughout the house. “I think moldings really add to a house,” she says. “Just the layers and layers. The mantel (in the family room) has many, many layers, so many that you don’t even know they all exist. That’s what gives it the depth. … I get too excited about it.”

continued on 28

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West is a self-taught designer — she went to school for psychology — but worked as a clothing buyer after college for 12 years. That eventually led to interior design. “I would read and read and read homebuilding magazines until they came out of my ears. I was just always reading them. That’s how I got involved,” she says. As West Associates, she’s currently consulting on several 28  | Life@Home

Photos by Mark Samu.

continued from 27

Top right photo by Mark Samu. All others by Philip Kamrass.

projects in the area when she’s not tweaking things in her own house. Next, she’s planning to install new, custom-made garage doors. But she’s not in a rush. “There’s no real rule to doing anything,” she says. “You’ve got to be you. My way of decorating makes me feel comfortable but it doesn’t necessarily have to make you feel comfortable. It’s just like when you buy clothes. … You know it’s just a matter of having confidence to make it all work.” 



For more photos, go to  |  31

 Design Defined


is Back — Or at least it’s on the way

By Lucianna Samu  |  Photos by Mark Samu


aking some measure that I’ve passed my 25-year anniversary in the interior design and home construction industry, I believe I can offer a few opinions with authority. Of all that I know for sure, one enduring axiom I’d feel confident committing to a Post-it note on my bulletin board would be this: Change happens. I’d add another just next to it for my design prediction this year: Brass is coming. It’s a resurgence that will take place over a few years time, and it will begin where all very well-rooted design trends begin — at the luxury end of the spectrum. While little more than a hunch right now, I know better than to dismiss my instincts. It would be a leap (and a hard sell) to specify brass fittings for a kitchen or bath just now, but I’m planning to mix metal finishes more than I otherwise might to be sure I’ve left my options wide open to brass. That way, I won’t need to disclose that I’m relying on the latest china patterns, haute couture runway shows and drapery rods to encourage a skeptical client along while I wait for the design community to declare its new love of brass. That the brass resurgence is happen-

32  | Life@Home

ing is obvious — if you know just where to look for hints. Brass lighting has never been entirely out of style, although for some time now it has been out of use. Unless it’s period brass, anything other than chrome or nickel or oil-rubbed bronze appears dated right now. In fact, some of the least-expensive lighting we can buy comes to us in a high-polished, very brassy, cheap-looking finish. Yet the very best lighting suppliers have devoted entire designer lines to the suggestion that brass, antique brass, and sometimes-paginated bronze, is a finish worthy of consideration.

And because it appears different, and unexpected, and downright glamorous … well, the story is slowly unfolding. The next clue that brass is making a comeback is found in the hardware offerings for doors, cabinets, hinges and the like. Premier supplier catalogues feature a page here and there of brass. Sometimes truly a bronze sporting just the perfect amount of patina, high-end hardware is being offered in antique bronze, antique brass, and, naturally, brass. Kitchen and bath designs will evolve beyond the ubiquitous call for granite coun-


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Polish Community Center Washington Ave. Ext. · Albany 11 am - 4 pm ters/stainless appliances. After all, we couldn’t expect every high-end designer would sit still for everyone having a kitchen outfitted with these go-to essentials forever. While brass is not necessarily being featured in kitchen and bath supplier advertising or catalogues, if you look carefully, you’ll notice it creeping in. Again, the truly over-the-top kitchen and bath fittings offered in brass are totally off the charts with respect to price and practicality. After all, we can’t just be installing a brass faucet here and there and everywhere, can we?


aking peace with this impending shift toward brass will be troublesome for those who prefer everything to match. If you’re in this camp, it

will be less of a stretch to add the other new finish that’s waiting in the wings to your design repertoire: black titanium, carbon black and tungsten black. Similar to the movement toward these finishes in men’s fine jewelry, some lighting manufacturers are offering lighting in various black and chrome metal combinations, all of which we would name black. My personal opinion is that this finish, which will be easier to incorporate into our existing designs than brass, will prove a passing fancy. In the meantime, try not to worry too much if you have a house splendidly fitted up in brushed nickel. There will be plenty of lovely brass lamps, knobs, light fixtures and drapery rods to keep your interior designs looking fresh. 

Lucianna Samu is an interior designer and project expert for Aubuchon Hardware. For more of Lu’s musings, go to

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Roman shades give an opportunity for layers of texture

34  | Life@Home


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The Soft Sell Window treatments can be lovely without stealing the stage By Brianna Snyder  |  “After” photo by Mark Samu

PROBLEM The window treatments in this Gansevoort country home were old and the homeowner wanted to update them without overspending.


Store who gives wholesale pricing to

BEFORE SOLVED Because the windows face the road, designer Michele Conti, of Designs by Michele in Niskayuna, recommended a casement fabric. “It’s a type of sheer fabric, so it has an opacity to it to let the light through but gives you the privacy you need,” Conti says. “It almost resembles a linen but it’s a much more luxurious fabric.” Using relaxed-Roman shades — which are fashionable and inexpensive — preserves the softness of the room and allows features such as the moldings to remain center-stage, Conti says.

TOP TIP You’ll see relaxed-Roman shades everywhere these days, and they’re trendy, Conti says, because they can be styled “traditionally or transitionally.” Think versatility, she says. Layering, too, adds texture and softness to a room. 


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A standard living room lighting setup like this one can be upgraded in a number of ways.

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Incandescent lamps

Light Up Your Life


he problem: When we watch films, we like our living room dark, like a true home theater. But often, I’m using my laptop while others are viewing, and if there’s not enough light … well, I’m not happy. My solution: An antique standing lamp. The lacy brass shade lets just enough light through so I can see the keyboard without wrecking everyone’s cinematic experience. What’s the right light for your living or family room? Versatility is vital if you want a multipurpose setting for throwing an intimate dinner party, knitting or playing Wii. Here are some illuminating tips from local lighting experts.

36  | Life@Home

Tips from Capital Region illumination illuminati By Laurie Lynn Fischer  |  Illustrations by RPI Lighting and Research Center

LAYER YOUR LIGHT Whenever you expect to be outdoors in changeable weather, your best bet is to wear layers. The same is true of indoor light, says Paul Soroko, a salesperson with Wolberg Lighting Design & Electrical Supply in Saratoga Springs. “There are all different layers of light,” he says. Accent lighting can range from a picture light mounted on framed artwork to a wall lamp highlighting your fireplace, he says. Task lighting provides more intense light within a limited area, such as a table lamp for reading, he says. General lighting could be a ceiling fix-

ture, a fan-light combination or recessed ceiling lighting that works “like an adjustable eyeball” so “you can angle it where you want the light to specifically hit,” Soroko says. Ambient lighting sets the mood with “a nice, soft glow,” he says. Ambient light also helps you navigate comfortably and safely, says Jeremy Snyder, director of energy programs at RPI’s Lighting Research Center.

BY THE BOOK Snyder has been leading a project to update the Lighting Research Center’s home lighting pattern book to include new technology and be more accessible to the

Reflective, tube-shaped fluorescent “cove light”

CFL lamps

Fluorescent circline ceiling fan

Fluorescent circline torchiere CFL lamps  |  37

By providing a number of options, you set the scene that’s appropriate for the tasks you want to do and for the things that you want to see.” — Russ Leslie, of the Lighting Research Center

BUZZ KILL Fluorescent lighting is an energyefficient, cost-effective way of providing ambient lighting, and thanks to modern technology, it’s not glary or buzzy the way fluorescent lamps used to be, says architect Russ Leslie, associate director of the Lighting Research Center. “We use this in high-end homes,” he says. “I build it into the architecture where I want to hide the light source and I don’t care about seeing the fixture. It emits light in all directions. The clients are delighted with the results. In my own living room, I have linear fluorescent tubes along a long wall. I also have two accent lights that light up wall hangings. If we have company in the evening, I’ll turn those on and one that shines on

the ceiling for a gentle glow. When my wife does sewing and fine needlework, if we don’t’ want to light the whole room and she needs a little extra, she uses a stained-glass pendant light that hangs over her chair. By providing a number of options, you set the scene that’s appropriate for the tasks you want to do and for the things that you want to see.”

CANDLE POWER If you like candlelight, make sure it’s not the only light source, Leslie says. “It’s inefficient, but it’s a nice thing to do for ambience,” he says. “I can imagine having some candles in a number of places around the room for special occasion lighting — hanging from a chandelier, mounted onto the wall or sitting on a table.”

BEST OF ALL WORLDS To adapt to changing circumstances, install a dimmer, says Darcy Scarlata, a visual merchandiser with Mooradian’s Furniture in Clifton Park. (Make sure it’s compatible with the bulbs you’ll use.) “I like light, but I want to be able to control it,” Scarlata says. “Whether you have a chandelier or an overhead ceiling light with a fan, I would always recommend that it be put on a dimmer, so the lighting can be adjusted to what you need. It can be mood lighting if you’re having a formal dinner or you can make it as bright as you want.” Scarlata offers other ways of keeping your options open. “Customers like lamps with three-way bulbs in them so they can have low, medium and high,” she says. If there are two or three bulbs in a lamp, you can turn one, two or three on to control your lighting.” Choose a paler lampshade to maximize how much light your lamp sheds, she says.

MADE IN THE SHADE There’s nothing like natural daylight to

 The LED revolution: LED bulbs are the biggest trend in modern lighting. They consume far less energy than incandescent bulbs, lasting as long as 50,000 hours, Snyder says. For warm tones closest to incandescent light, select an LED light with a temperature of 2,700 to 3,000 Kelvin, he says. 38  | Life@Home

brighten your interior and keep houseplants thriving, but the last thing you want is glare from direct sunlight on your television or computer screen. Window treatments can provide the flexibility you need, says Mary Lentini, design consultant with Comfortex Window Fashions in Latham. “You can adjust the light play with a cellular shade that’s top down, bottom up,” she says. “I like the lower half covered for the sake of privacy, and so you can adjust the amount of sun coming in. I love the view through the top and the insulating value. It has a honeycombed construction. Air gets trapped in the single or double cell. A double honeycomb is twice as energy efficient.” 



Follow these links to get more bright advice!

 For living-room light patterns:  For replacing incandescent with LED lights:  For a video on replacing incandescent with LED lights:

Photo: ©

public. This spring, it should be available through LRC’s website ( Aimed at homeowners and contractors, the NYSERDA sponsored guide offers alternatives for every room of the house. “We’re giving options based upon how much work people want to put in,” Snyder says. “Do they want to put in a new bulb or table lamp, do rewiring or hire an electrician, or are they building a new home or doing remodeling?”


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Teenage Wasteland The battle over bedroom décor

Window treatments and throw pillows are quick, inexpensive, temporary modifications you and your teen can make to her bedroom.

42  | Life@Home

Artwork can inspire the color palette. Mature colors work for even the youngest clients when filled with art that compliments the color choices. 

By Brianna Snyder  |  Photos courtesy Carey Karlan


t happens right around middle school. Your pre-teens start wanting to make their own decisions about style and decor. The outfits you used to pick out for your adorable 11-year-old no longer interest her. Your son might be ready to give up his Spider-Man bedsheets. It can be a challenge to hand over control of parts of your house to the kids. You’ve worked hard to make your house beautiful. And kids want to do messy things like write on their walls and ruin plaster with poster tacks and tape. But, our experts say, you really should just let go. “Somebody’s bedroom is their private sanctuary and if it’s something that they want to paint a color or a combination of colors they really like, they should be able to,” says Tom Burns, a partner at Blairhouse Interiors Group in Newtonville. “I think it could be turned into a shared learning experience where everyone participates with budget parameters and designs. … It becomes a bonding or a building situation rather than a confrontational one.” Ruth Geller, a family psychotherapist, works with parent-teen conflicts regularly and says the bedroom is low on the list of things families should be fighting about. “It’s definitely an issue of control,” she says. “I think that as kids age, they’re seeking more control and independence. Many parents have difficulty with that.” Geller says it’s also a question of ownership: Is it the kids’ house or is it just a room they’re staying in? Ultimately,“it’s parents’ jobs to raise kids to be functioning, independent adults, but they also want to be protective and lead them in the right direction,” Geller says. The better focus is on what kind of control you’re willing to give to your child, and what the lessons are to be learned from being responsible for, say, a space in your house. continued on 45  |  43

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continued from 43


t’s not likely your son or daughter is going to come to you with a full bedroom design plan. So this is an opportunity for you to work together on a look that suits their tastes and some of your own as well. “Let the kids pick out the color scheme,” says Lynn Ricci of Classic Interiors in Clifton Park. Ricci and Burns both stress that paint is cheap and easily changeable, so handing over decisions about color to the kids isn’t too risky, but still empowers them. Furniture is another story. Ricci suggests being more judicious about furniture and headboards — stay neutral, classic and nonobtrusive. Those are pieces that’ll have more permanent places in the home, even after the kids have flown the coop. In contrast, paint, window treatments, and throw pillows and blankets are all fast, lesspermanent, budget-friendly changes easily made to a room within a day. For kids inclined to doodle on the walls, Burns suggests chalkboard paint; Ricci says whiteboard paint is another alternative. Bulletin boards, too, are a start at solving the tacks-in-the-plaster problem, although Burns is a fan of posters on the wall. In fact, he says, “I’d almost rather see like eight or 10 of them layered partially over each other. Have fun with it. Make it like a collage.” Ricci says when it came to decorating her own kids’ rooms, she centered a lot of her attention on storage. “Try to give them great

storage solutions so the room isn’t a mess,” she says. Easy storage solutions such as baskets for laundry and shoes and other bedroom miscellany don’t require too much effort when it comes to cleaning up. Another good idea Ricci recommends is making a bulletin board out of colorful carpet tiles. They have a similar texture to cork, and can be used as a kind of blocky, modular bulletin board. They’re also are colorful and cheap. (See sidebar for instructions on how to do your own!) Our experts agree, though, that your teen’s naive decorating sensibilities should rarely be a point of contention. “You just

have to let it be their space,” Ricci says. “The rest of your house is yours. Let their space be theirs.” “I would hope that people could come to a compromise,” Geller says. “I think it’s really important to pick your battles. If you have a good kid who’s going to school every day and getting good grades and they want to put a poster on their wall or paint a wall, is it really worth fighting about? You have to prioritize what’s important.” 



To see how to make a carpet-tile bulletin board for your child’s room, go to  |  45


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10 Ways To Use …

Coca-Cola By Melissa Fiorenza


ver buy a few too many two-liter bottles of soda for the party? We hate when that happens, so we asked you on Facebook for clever uses of the classic carbonated soft drink that don’t require slurping it up or pouring it down the sink. The results? Refreshing!


  Make a healthier treat   Tena says: “Twelve ounces of soda

with a boxed cake mix, and voila, eggfree dessert.” (We tested this out with both diet and regular, and it works!)


  Or a three-ingredient dinner   “Pork, Coca-Cola and BBQ sauce

in a crock pot for eight hours … it is delicious!” Thanks for the recipe, Sharon!


  Remove stains   Turns out, Coca-Cola can help

loosen tough grease stains. According to, you just add it to load of grease-stained laundry and let the acids do their magic.


Photo: © Ortakcioglu.

  Jumpstart your jog   Are you a runner? Check this out:

“They have flat Coca-Cola on Ironman race courses during the run because it helps give you that extra boost of energy (caffeine), and sometimes settles your stomach,” Courtney tells us. “True story. For my first half-Ironman, that flat CocaCola saved me the last few miles!”


  Get rid of rust   “It’s an effective rust killer,”

says Betsy. “Thank the acid in it.” Add it to your cleaning supplies!


  Clean your hair   With another acid trick we

assume, Sydney responded with: “If you over-gel/condition your hair and just can’t get that goop out, dump a can of coke in your hair. It cuts through it all like shampoo can’t. Really makes me reconsider drinking it, actually…” Ha!


  Make pregnancy a drop easier   We’ll trust Jacquie on

this one when she says it can “cure morning sickness!”


  Add it to compost   Adding Coca-Cola to your compost

heap helps it decompose more quickly. Check out to learn what to do.


  Bring it to the garden   This one from wisebread.

com: “Kill slugs and snails; a small bowl of Coke will attract them, the acid will kill them.”


  Top ham with it   Two Facebookers,

Beth and Brianna, gave us the same tip — a ham glazed with Coca-Cola tastes great. Try it and let us know what you think! 

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

Did you know? The first appearance of Coca-Cola was in 1886 at the Jacobs’ Pharmacy soda fountain in Atlanta. The price: five cents a glass.  |  47

Tool Time The nuts and bolts of household tools

By Laurie Freehafer  |  Illustrations by Emily Jahn

CLAW HAMMER You need one to bang nails and fix nail pops, pull things out, tap on things, bend things or straighten them out, and, of course, to smash things. Curtis Lumber hardware 48  | Life@Home

manager Donald Gariepy has good advice for your basic tool kit: “Nobody really needs elaborate hammers. Any 16- or 20-ounce hammer is good enough. Nothing fancy is required.” 84 Lumber co-manager Dustin Lisak puts it more succinctly: “Buy a cheap hammer.” But do get some assurance that it’s safe.

MULTI-BIT SCREWDRIVER SET You no longer have to rifle through a drawer full of screwdrivers, only, inevitably, to choose the wrong size. These handy tools, ranging from the most basic 4-in-1 screwdriver set to a cool 41-piece set, have interchangeable heads,

both slotted (flat-head) and Phillips (crosshead), in progressive sizes that lock into a single handle. “There’s no need to buy a whole set of screwdrivers anymore,” says Gariepy. In fact, he has had the same multibit set for many years. Look for a set that, at a minimum, includes these four common sizes: ¼ inch and 3/8 inch flat head, and no. 1 and no. 2 Phillips head bits. Buying more bits won’t cost more than a few dollars.

REVERSIBLE ELECTRIC DRILL WITH ASSORTED DRILL BITS This is the only power tool on this list. Karen Shanley’s muchused power drill is cordless, lightweight

Photos: Toolbox, © William Howell; Smartphone, © serdar sipahioglu.


he late George Gobel wrote, “Alice is a strong believer in this do-it-yourself business, except she doesn’t believe in doing it herself; she believes in doing it myself.”* I hear ya, Alice. Except that my husband, who is fine and handy, is a very busy guy, so I try to keep these expectations on the low side. Sure, I can wield a hammer like nobody’s business, but I am admittedly lacking in handyman-ness. However, you could say we’re both handy with our money, so we rarely pay for help. Even those who live in a hut will face maintenance and repair tasks. For the sake of pride and money, we all should be prepared to handle some of these jobs ourselves, and pat ourselves on the backs when we do. Consider Karen Shanley of Saratoga. A homeowner, business-owner, and skilled do-it-yourselfer, she stores her tools in a zipper tool case, and she doesn’t shy away from a little sawdust. “There’s always something that needs to be taken apart or put together, or doesn’t fit right,” she says. True enough. Things break. Things need to be hung, connected, repositioned, child-proofed, unclogged, assembled, and tightened. DIY doesn’t have to be onerous; all you need is a few essential tools and off you go. We asked the pros for their advice on the essentials every home toolbox should have. Here’s what they said:

ADJUSTABLE WRENCH and is her absolute favorite tool. This versatile instrument is essential for hanging things, from artwork and curtain rods to television wall-mounts. Drills not only make holes, but they are useful for tightening (and loosening) screws and sanding. Keith Potter, Allerdice manager, has this recommendation for buying a cordless drill: “Get one that has a good battery. You don’t want it dying on you in the middle of a job.”

RETRACTABLE, LOCKING TAPE MEASURE Lengths range from 12 feet to a steroidal 300 feet. For the basics, Curtis’ Gariepy says, “I’d look for a small one. Twenty-five feet is the most common length, but 12 feet is usually enough.”

PLIERS Pliers are for gripping, crimping, bending and squeezing. A slipjoint plier, with scissor-like squeeze handles and grooved, parallel jaws, is probably the most common plier for basic use. Curtis Lumber’s John Knauber and Donald Gariepy also recommend adjustable “water pump” pliers, distinguished by their angled head and curved jaw for connecting and disconnecting pipe fittings.

LEVELS Simply put, things need to be straight. A level allows you to correct anything off-kilter and make sure a surface is flat and safe. For basic use, Dustin Lisak recommends the small torpedo level, the bubble-type level that can determine horizontal, vertical and sometimes 45-degree angles. “It’s all you really need, and it fits right in the toolbox.”

ol o t r the ht o n A mig u o y er … d i s con

You could easily overwhelm your toolbox with myriad wrenches. Nuts and bolts come in all sizes, and good-fitting wrenches are essential for tightening, loosening and removing them. Keith Potter of Allerdice says, “Wrenches come in goodbetter-best [quality]. ‘Good’ adjustable wrenches are fine to start out with.” Any 3-adjustable wrench set, he says, is perfectly adequate for common jobs.

PLUNGER AND/OR SNAKE Plumbing jobs aren’t pretty, but they sure can be expensive. In our home, when we have indelicate issues involving plumbing fixtures, we use a good plunger, with a tight-sealing, rubber bulb at one end and my husband at the other. As for quality, Knauber says, “Get a good, powerful plunger [such as] the Power Plunger. Make sure it gets a good connection to the bottom of the toilet.” Serious sink or toilet clogs require a snake. Choose one that is flexible enough to go through the trap; 15 feet is a good length.

FOR ELECTRICAL JOBS I visited Gail Beatty at Wolberg Lighting Design and Electrical Supply for this one. Her experience has taught her to strongly discourage DIY, especially for beginners. “Electricity doesn’t allow you the luxury of learning from your mistakes. Ask yourself if you honestly can do the job yourself.” If there’s any doubt whatsoever, get help from someone experienced. John Knaubner’s wise advice is “Call Dad.” Better still, learn the ropes (and wires) from an electrician; invest in a good how-to book for future reference, and most importantly, know when to hire an electrician, which might be “always.” 

One more good tool: your smartphone Though this is a luxury rather than a must-have, this is my new favorite tool for household repair jobs. Here are some practical uses for your Android or iPhone:

• Photograph the problem and show it to an expert.

• Watch DIY videos anywhere in the house.

• Budget your projects. • Organize with to-do memos, schedules, shopping lists.

• Download actual tools: levels (I use iHandyLevel), Flashlight, Plumb Bob.

• Use apps to measure anything: try Dimensions, Photo Measures or Handyman Sidekick. • Easily locate reference sources, for example the Home Handyman and This Old House apps.  |  49

Things That Go

Crash in the Night Advice for handling property damage


he wind is howling, snow is drifting. It’s the middle of the night and suddenly there’s a loud crack and a thud. Often, in the heavily treed Northeast, it’s a tree blown down onto — or, worse, through — a roof. Commonly, snow load can cause part of a roof to cave. Occasionally, a vehicle spins off an icy road and smacks into a structure. Faced with such disasters, what’s a homeowner to do? “Make a call to your insurance carrier,” says Roz Lopez, personal lines manager at SEFCU’s insurance division, which covers property — both residential and commercial — as well as equine and other recreational uses. “They can offer help with prevention methods against further damage until someone can get there.”

50  | Life@Home

Tarps are any property owner’s best friend in the event of damage. Covering open areas in a roof is a necessary first step. But if a tree is embedded in the roof, a tree remover is needed. Usually called lumberjacks or wood choppers, these are the people who arrive with dozens of chain saws, ropes, pulleys and motor driven cranks to get the tree off the building. “Where’s it located?” is the first question Charlie Zanghi, owner of A+ Trees ’R Us, a Capital Region tree removal service, asks. “Location is everything. Give me the location, and I’ll give you a price for damage to the house and what the insurance covers.” While some newer policies cover removal of storm-related debris, most homeowners carry insurance that pays for only the removal of the part of the tree that is actu-

ally on the house or sticking into it. The rest the homeowner pays out of pocket. “I do two bills,” says Zanghi, who has been doing tree removal for 56 years, mostly on Long Island and the past eight years in Albany. “One for the insurance company, one for cleaning up debris and for taking down the tree left standing.” While a tree falling on a house may seem like the most expensive part of any billing, the actual location of the remaining tree trunk can pose a problem. “It’s a question of access,” says Zanghi. “A tree in a backyard is more expensive than a tree in front. Then there’s the size of the tree. Bigger tree, bigger price. Then there’s the wood. Ninety percent of homeowners don’t want the wood. I give it away.” Homeowners who want a tree removed

Photo: © Weinik.

By A. Fullam Goeke

R o o fi ng

S i di n g

W i ndows


right away, rather than wait for an insurance adjuster, are advised to take photos before the tree is touched. “We’ll advise you to wait until we can send an adjuster out,” says Lopez, whose company holds 10,000 policies on home, auto and commercial properties, “but if you can’t wait, for whatever reason, take photos and cover everything with a tarp to prevent further damage.” Sometimes, a property owner needs to make decisions before anyone else arrives. A tree falling on a barn can end up costing life. Animals may need to be removed to a safer structure.

Hay may be damaged. Trees also can fall on fences, pools, arenas. Most of these structures are covered under any one of the three standard homeowner policies available in New York State. If a vehicle is involved in the damage, most likely the motorist’s insurance will cover any damage caused by or to the vehicle, according to Lopez. Most insurance companies gear up before a storm to add staff to handle the expected increase in claims calls, according to Lopez. SEFCU represents 25 insurance carriers. “In the last few years, companies are pretty prepared and someone is usually available.” Like Zanghi, Lopez cautions that tree location is an important factor. “Sometimes we look at causes,” says Lopez. “Maintenance issues, like is that a tree that should have been taken down?” Damage related to a fallen tree can include broken pipes, which are covered, but mudslides are not, according to Lopez. “There’s separate coverage for groundwater damage,” she says. For property owners unsure of what their current policy covers or what standard policies in New York State can offer, information is available at the New York State Department of Financial Services, a new agency combining the former state Department of Insurance and Department of Banking created Oct. 3, 2011 under Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Go to, click the consumers tab, and go down the page to insurance products. 

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Living Green   

Eco-Friendly … the Next Generation Green baby goods everyone can feel good about By Cari Scribner  |  Photo courtesy Tidy Tots Diapers


f you’re expecting a spring baby — or getting ready for a baby shower for a friend or family member — you can get everything you need and be ecofriendly using the green baby registry at Green Conscience Home & Garden in Saratoga Springs. “It’s all about essentials that are healthful,” says Karen Totino, co-owner of Green Conscience Home & Garden. “It’s a pivotal time in your life when you start having kids to start looking at organic and natural home items. A large part of my business is community education.” Totino’s products include cribs, kids’ furniture and bedding made from sustainable sources. She recently announced the store’s new green baby section, inviting Sandra Beck of Albany, creator of Tidy Tots Diapers, to give demonstrations of her product. “When I was raising my daughter 30 years ago, I wanted to give her organic food and use cloth diapers, but they were in short supply,” Beck says. Beck was inspired to create cloth diapers that were convenient, leak-free and washable. She spent five years working on her product, which included sewing samples by hand. The Tidy Tots washable diaper system includes a patented cover made of waterproof fabric durable enough to be used in the medical field. The covers come in cute baby patterns, everything from polka dots to rubber ducks. Tucked inside is the “no fold” diaper that’s naturally anti-microbial, triple-

layer organic hemp. But the real difference in Beck’s creation is the flushable liner made of natural cornstarch. When it’s time to change the baby, simply gather up the ends of the liner and safely flush it away so that waste never gets into the water system. Beck says cloth diapering is usually less expensive than disposables, a savings that only increases if you use the cloth diapers with a second child. The Tidy Tots system can be used for babies from 10 to 36 pounds. Beck says the diapering system has 32 patented features. Totino started her business as an or-

ganic lawn and gardening product supplier, but has grown it into a store for a variety of eco-friendly home improvement products for people across the Capital Region and into the Adirondacks. “In the end, what I really want is to make a difference,” Totino says. “Gift registries usually involve toys and clothing, but I want everything next to babies to be natural and organic.” 

A Few Facts From The Real Diaper Association:  27.4 billion disposable diapers are used every year in the U.S.  Over 92 percent of all single-use diapers end up in a landfill.  No one knows how long it takes for a disposable diaper to decompose, but it is estimated to be 250-500 years.  The manufacture and use of disposable diapers amounts to 2.3 times more water wasted than the amount of water used for cloth diapers.

 Disposable diapers are the third largest single consumer item in landfills, and represent about 4 percent of solid waste. In a house with a child in diapers, disposables make up 50 percent of household waste.  Disposable diapers generate 60 times more solid waste and use 20 times more raw materials, such as crude oil and wood pulp.  Over 300 pounds of wood, 50 pounds of petroleum and 20 pounds of chlorine are used to produce disposable diapers for one baby each year.  |  53





Are you living with

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There was a time when a label that read “Made in the USA” was not a mark of quality. Not anymore! Here are just a few quality, U.S.-made home products you’d be proud to own.



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 Thrive Furniture, which makes its

base topped with reclaimed wood, this coffee table had me at “Chevron.” I know the trend has peaked, but I still adore the pattern. Browse the rest of this Etsy shop for some interesting vintage finds. $670.

eco furniture in Los Angeles, Calif., created this amazing, retro-inspired piece called the “Cleveland Sofa.” It is shown here in Klein Wheatgrass, but is available in a multitude of colors. $2,499.

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Alison Grieveson is a graphic designer who enjoys exploring the greener side of the design and decorating industries. For more green tips, check out  |  55



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 Down the Garden Path

The Magic of Mulch The first step to helping your garden stand out Story and photos by Colleen Plimpton


y patient, non-gardening husband is frequently befuddled by garden doings. Early each spring, for instance, he wonders why a mountain of organic mulch appears in our driveway. True, the dark steaming heap consumes a generous corner of the drive, forcing my spouse into some fancy maneuvers as he backs his truck out of the garage. But it’s a necessary inconvenience,

58  | Life@Home

because copious quantities of fragrant, moist and useful mulch are essential to the garden. The richness feeds and beautifies the soil, protects it from the elements, regulates temperature, and allows rainfall to percolate deep into the life-giving earth. I long ago decided that with my acre of ornamentals I could no longer haul mulch in bags. Thus began the annual ritual of the rumbling dump truck unloading four or

five yards of the good stuff in my driveway, to be distributed among the gardens at my leisure. I start applying it once the soil warms. Though opinion varies, I don’t like to spread mulch while the ground is still chilled; the insulating layer would lock in the cold and delay growth. Whether you lug bags from the nursery or have a load dropped in the driveway, now is the time to order and mid-April is generally

the time to apply. At that early point the only garden interference you’re likely to encounter are plants such as daffodils, pulmonaria and Virginia bluebells, instead of huge stands of iris, peonies and other burgeoning perennials later in the season. Once the supply arrives, grab the good pitchfork and the wide snow shovel, load the wheelbarrow and get to work. My favorite mulches are Sweet Peet, Agri-mix or other proprietary blends composed of a combination of horse bedding, wood shavings, and manure. These weed-free mulches remain dark and are chock full of microbes that feed the soil as they decompose. Also beneficial (and cheap!) is mulching with one’s own leaf mold. Some beds I let Mother Nature mulch, for instance, the shade garden under a mature white pine, which layers the ground below with softly attractive pine needles and cones. Heuchera, hydrangea and azalea thrive in these conditions. Some materials should not be used as mulch. Peat moss, for example. Not only is it considered endangered, but it quickly forms an impenetrable crust, impervious to moisture. Marble chips reflect too much light, don’t feed the soil, and won’t break down in a hundred lifetimes. Landscape cloth looks artificial, tends to shred, and also doesn’t nourish the soil, from which all things grow.


or me, the satisfying work of mulching consumes several weeks off and on. I prefer to cast large handfuls (or occasionally bucketsful) onto areas between perennials and shrubs, spreading it evenly with my hands. An optimum layer is 2 inches; a lighter covering allows weeds to break through, while more tends to suffocate the soil. Never mulch over the crowns of plants, and leave the good stuff a few

inches away from tree trunks. No mulch volcanoes! And do consider applying a deeper layer of mulch on garden pathways to prevent muddy shoes. Lay down pieces of old carpeting first, to stretch the supply. Remember, though, that an application of mulch may well smother any seedlings you’re anticipating, such as spider flower or love-in-a-mist. If your garden depends on their annual appearance, it might be best to mulch after these self-sowers have emerged in May. Don’t exhaust yourself by doing too much at a time. Mulching is a wonderful excuse to be out in Mother Nature’s grand landscape, listening to birdsong and breathing in the clean fresh air, but as with any job, too much of a good thing isn’t good. The work doesn’t have to be completed all at once; doing some each day, interspersed with other spring chores such as division, fertilizing and pruning will spread out the labor. Think of mulching as a gateway chore, but when the major task is complete, brush off the remnants from the sidewalks and other paved areas, and stand back to admire your work. After my beds are mulched and marveled at, a small pile of Sweet Peet often remains in the corner of the driveway. I’ll need it to replenish a few areas subsequent

to transplant chores later in the season. I don’t leave the pile too long, though, or critters will move in; I’ve seen both toads and moles take up residence in my lingering heaps, so I’m careful as I pitchfork or shovel the remainder. If your garden has attracted meadow voles, you may need to reconsider mulching. These mouse-like, voracious vegetarians dine on plant roots and thrive under a warm covering. If you spot 1-inch, perfectly round holes among your plants, and astilbe, hosta, carex and daylily have unaccountably lost their roots, you most likely are hosting voles. Do not make your garden cozy for them! Leave affected areas bare, the better for visiting owls and hawks to find their natural prey. This spring, ignore the complaining spouse or help him tolerate the driveway clogged with your beautiful mulch. And if there are still objections, sweetly inform your mate that the sooner he or she pitches in, the sooner the garden will be dressed and the driveway returned to its original, unobstructed use.  Garden communicator Colleen Plimpton lectures on, writes about, coaches and teaches gardening. For more information, visit her website at  |  59

 Dollars & Sense

Credit Card Woes

Getting a grip on your debt


f you have credit card debt, this may be your least-favorite time of the year. The holidays have come and gone, but the bills just keep on coming. According to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, the average American household that carries a balance on at least one credit card has about $16,000 in credit card debt. The experts say you don’t have to keep carrying a balance or paying interest only, but you do have to have a plan.

TRACK YOUR SPENDING Know how much money you are bringing home each month and what your expenses are, and then come up with a budget. Laurie Foglia, a counselor with ClearPoint 60  | Life@Home

Credit Counseling Solutions in Colonie, says we all need a budget, but many people don’t even know how much money they are bringing home in their paycheck. “That’s a number you should have off the top of your head. If you don’t know what you make, how are you possibly budgeting?” She recommends making a list with your net pay and all expenses, including mortgage, insurance, utilities, food and gas, to see how much money you can afford to spend or where you need to make cuts.

DEVELOP AN ACTION PLAN TO PAY DOWN THE DEBT “A lot of clients get caught up in trying to give everybody the minimum payment

and a little bit extra,” says Foglia. “You don’t see a lot of progress when you do it that way.” She suggests making minimum payments across the board, and then applying what you can to your smallest balance, even if it doesn’t have the lowest interest rate. “Focus on your smallest balance, hammer away at that one; move on to the next one.”

HAVE A SHORT-TERM PLAN TO PAY FOR BIG-TICKET ITEMS Albany-based financial planner Robert J. McNamara says it’s not detrimental to carry a balance for a few months if you’ve made a major purchase, such as a big-screen TV. But, he says, make sure

Photo: © Barsse.

By Ann Hughes

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you have a structured plan for repayment. “Should you carry an overwhelming credit card debt to the tune of 20 to 30 percent interest and not pay any principal but interest only, carrying that debt? That’s foolish,” he says. “It’s non-deductible. If you can’t deduct it, there’s no tax incentive to carrying that debt.”

CONSOLIDATION ISN’T ALWAYS THE ANSWER Foglia says there is a tax benefit if you roll your credit card debt into a home equity line of credit, but be careful not to let history repeat itself. “We do explain to people consolidation can be very dangerous because people just do it again, and now you’ve got a nice big long payment and your credit cards are back up.”

IT NEVER HURTS TO NEGOTIATE Don’t be afraid to call a credit card company and ask for a lower interest rate. “You don’t get what you don’t ask for,” says Foglia. “I’ve had people say, ‘Well I tried that and it didn’t

work.’ And I say, ‘OK, well wait three months and try again.’”

USE CAUTION WITH STORE CREDIT CARDS “If they’re used properly, they’re great,” says Foglia, of the store-specific cards that typically lead to extra discounts, special sales and incentives. Just be careful, because those cards can affect your credit rating. “For some reason, store credit cards affect people a little differently than regular bank cards. Interest rates are typically higher,” she says. “If your balance goes beyond half of what your limit is, that’s hurting you. The potential for being over-obligated is there.”

KNOW WHEN TO GET HELP If you are using credit to pay credit or you have balances on more than three cards, the problem may be too big to tackle by yourself. Credit counselors and debt management services can help you develop a payment plan and spending strategies to keep you on the right track in the future. 

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Words to live by: CREDIT CARDS ARE NOT FOR NECESSITIES Credit counselor Laurie Foglia says relying on credit to buy gas and groceries is a red flag. “You’re headed for problems if you’re not able to support your basic living expenses without using credit.”

DON’T SPEND WHAT YOU DON’T HAVE Financial planner Robert J. McNamara encourages clients to avoid buying expensive items on impulse. He says know what you want and more importantly how to pay for it. “Do a little homework. Make sure you can afford it. If you can’t, wait.”

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

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 Tech Tips

Video Streaming

What’s the best way to get the Internet on your TV?


s we increasingly want 24/7 access to the web and whatever entertainment content we want when we want it, it’s only logical that televisions are the next place to get that content. Why watch on a laptop, phone or tablet when you can see Community on your 54-inch TV? The question is how to get that content. You could go the MacGyver route and wire your laptop to your TV using an HDMI cable or those tri-colored cords. But a better route might be to buy a device, such as a Roku box or an AppleTV, which has many popular services built into it. The DVR company TiVO includes music streaming from Pandora and movie streaming from Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. So what’s the best way to get our media — our music, movies and photos — on our boobtubes? We talked to Geoff Katt, sales manager at Hippo’s Electronics in Albany, and he gave us some tips.

TVS Probably the easiest, fastest way to get the Internet on your TV is just buy a new television — one built in the last year — according to Katt. “The majority of better 62  | Life@Home

TVs” have video-streaming services on them. The downside? TVs are expensive. And it’s not guaranteed that the TV you want to buy is going to have what you want on it. For example, if you want to be able to play Angry Birds, make sure the TV you’re going to buy allows for application-downloading. Some TVs just have straight playback, while others lean toward smartphone-like functionality, through which you can access the Web and play games.

ROKU In 2008 when Netflix introduced streaming, Roku was the go-to device for getting Netflix to your television. Today, it has many competitors, but still holds steady as a reliable streaming device. It starts as low as around $50 and climbs to about $100, depending on the picture quality you’re after and the number and quality of games you want to be able to play. It’s a relatively inexpensive and quick solution if you’re not in the market to buy a new TV.

APPLETV At about $100, the Apple TV is a little black box that hooks up to your TV —

like the Roku — fully loaded with music-, picture- and movie-streaming apps and widgets. There aren’t any games on it, though, nor is there access to Amazon Prime, Amazon’s movie- and TV-streaming service, more than likely because it wants you to buy movies from its own store: iTunes. It’s in fact the only device that allows access to iTunes. Katt points out Apple TV is a good pick for those already heavily invested in Apple products. “The Apple TV will work with other devices like an iPad or an iPhone to let you share content,” Katt says. “They’re a pretty popular product but again they really make the most sense for people who want to invest in the Apple ecosystem.”

BLU-RAY Katt recommends a Blu-ray player as another quick and fairly inexpensive solution to those looking to get Internet on their TVs without buying a whole new TV. “We would recommend usually a Blu-ray player because that gives you access to streaming, plus you can play discs on it,” he says. A decent Blu-ray player costs anywhere between $100 and $400, but can cost as much as $5,000. 

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By Brianna Snyder

Family  Food  Wine

Life 63 – 82

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Help Me … host a

wine-tasting party By Jennifer Gish


ou don’t need Robert Parker’s sensibilities to enjoy tasting wines. Rely on the expertise of your local wine seller, gather a few friends, some good food and several good bottles, and you, too, can feel like an aficionado. Sheila McNeil, owner of Wine and Spirits of Slingerlands, suggests choosing six bottles and tasting them in pairs that let guests discover something about the wines by comparing them. For instance, choose wines based on the same grape but grown in different countries, such as a Shiraz from Australia compared to a Syrah from the Rhone Valley in France. Or, pick up a favorite type of white wine from different regions of California. William Roach, of Putnam Wine in Saratoga Springs, suggests also pairing wines by how they’re made — an oaked versus an unoaked Chardonnay (meaning it either spent some time aging in an oak barrel or in a stainless steel vessel). Pairing wines at different price points so guests can taste the difference between a $10 bottle and a $30 one is another conversation starter, he says.

Photo: © Pabis.

LET YOUR GUESTS DO SOME OF THE BUYING. Setting guidelines for guests, such as asking everyone to bring a pinot noir in the $12 to $15 price range, allows them to feel part of the experience and saves the host time and money. And encourage guests to learn a little something about the wine from their local wine merchant so they can share the history of the wine at the party, McNeil says.

HAVE THE SUPPLIES. “They should definitely have a variety of wine glasses because the different shaped wine glasses will affect what part of your palate or tongue the wine hits,” says Cheryl Zinni, owner of Spoon & Whisk, a kitchen and gourmet shop in Clifton Park. “You

could get away with two or three.” Also aerators and decanters on hand.

LOOSEN UP. “I think that the first thing to do is to make sure that everybody has a good time,” Roach says. “So setting it up as fun rather than being kind of serious would be a good step. … You could even make it into a quiz if you wanted to: One of these wines comes from Europe, one comes from outside Europe, which one is it?”

THEN REALLY LOOSEN UP (AND PREP GUESTS’ PALATES). “I’d give everybody a glass of wine, maybe something dry and sparkling, as they arrive. That’s because wine is a bit like orange juice, which on the first sip can be a bit sharp, so you don’t want to bring that kind of impression to your wine tasting. Like wine, orange juice has a PH of 3.5 and your mouth has a PH of 7. It doesn’t really matter what you drink, it’s going to seem sharp.” That first glass of wine will help get the shock over with and warm up the taste buds, he says.

SET LIMITS. “Not everyone’s going to have the same amount of enthusiasm for the tasting. What I would do is say, ‘We’re going to spend half an hour and taste these wines,’” Roach says. “The most important thing is that your party is going to be a gathering of friends, and the wine tasting performs the same function as a game of charades. But you don’t want to play charades from the moment people arrive to the moment they go home.” The same goes for tasting wine, he says, as fun as that is for some of us.

MAKE SURE EVERYONE HAS A GOOD TIME BUT NOT TOO GOOD OF A TIME. At a serious wine tasting, people think nothing of spitting the wine out into a bucket after they’ve sampled it. That may seem stranger in your dining room, so consider a bucket with a cover that’s more discreet,

Roach says. McNeil suggests just limiting how much wine you pour in each glass. That will keep your wine-tasting party from developing the atmosphere of a keg party.

GIVE GUESTS THE VOCABULARY. “You might want to look at a list of categories. You could download the aroma wheel from UC Davis, and it’s going to have things like, ‘Does the wine have a fruit character? And which one is it — limes, apples, apricots, peaches?’ And then you could say things like, ‘Does it have any of those maturation flavors — vanilla, caramel? Does it have anything that reminds you of butter and dairy products?’”

SHARE A LITTLE SCIENCE. “It’s the number of sunlight hours the grapes are exposed to that makes the difference,” Roach says. “It makes a cabernet sauvignon in California taste different from one in France. Sunshine drives photosynthesis and that drives sugar accumulation in the fruit.”

SERVE FOOD. Experts recommend a plain, crusty bread, soda crackers or water to cleanse the palate between wines. But you should have some food for guests to enjoy as part of the evening, such as a cheese plate or canapés. Or, make food part of the tasting and showcase how well the wines complement certain small plates.

REMEMBER GUESTS WHO MIGHT NOT BE WINE FANS. “Make sure you have plenty of water, so if people are thirsty they’ve got something else,” Roach says. “  Jennifer Gish is features editor at the Times Union.  |  65

 Create a frame

within a frame with this easy project. You can find willow branches at your florist or perhaps in your backyard.

66  | Life@Home

Who says sconces only have to be made of metal? This simple project involves a branch, some dried flowers and a glue gun. 


To prolong the life of cut flowers, change the water daily and feed using 1 teaspoon of sugar per 1 cup water, or a small amount of natural fertilizer. Give each stem a fresh trim before re-inserting in the container.

Outside In

Creative crafts using gifts from Mother Nature

By Janet Reynolds  |  Photos by Gentl & Hyers


ost people think of adding plants and perhaps some cut flowers when they want to add a bit of nature to their home décor. Shane Powers, a stylist and designer who worked as an editor at Martha Stewart Living, has bigger ideas. In his new book, Bring the Outdoors In, Shane offers 20 projects to add a new kind of natural look to your home. Using live and dried plant materials, he creates projects that everyone from a master gardener to a black thumb can do successfully. Nor do you have to be a glue-gun pro. Powers opens the book with some basic tips about plant care and about the best plants to use indoors. (Ferns and begonias are a particular favorite of his.) He also provides a list of essentials to have on hand for most of these projects. Then he jumps into the projects. The best one for novice crafters/brown thumbs, he says on the phone from Brooklyn, is the baby tears centerpiece. This is just a cluster of simple but pretty containers featuring baby’s tears, a creeping fern that’s hard to kill. “You can use bowls or vessels around the house,” he says. “All you need is stones and some soil.”

Experienced gardeners might want to try their hand at a topiary, Powers says. “It’s no more difficult than transplanting something but it takes a little love to trail up the trellis and you have to bind the twigs,” he says. “It takes a little time to grow so you need to pay attention to it.” Powers started getting interested in using natural materials when he was working at Martha Stewart Living in the craft department. “So many projects included flowers, dried flowers and other natural materials, that I started crafting with those materials,” he says. He also used plants and other natural materials to style and accessorize rooms during photo shoots at the magazine. “So it just became integral in my process in developing stories,” he says. Powers developed his love of nature while growing up in rural Pennsylvania. His mother gardened a lot and he spent time with her puttering about. “I would cut things and she let me bring them in the house even if they were really not allowed to be cut. My mother was a big influence in growing up,” he says. “There wasn’t much else to do but play in the woods. That was the where it all sort of started.” 

Bring the Outdoors In, Garden Projects for Decorating and Styling Your Home, by Shane Powers with Jennifer Cegielski, photographs by Gentl & Hyers, Chronicle Books, 176 pages, $24.95  |  67



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Tasty Tidbits

Kitchen Crumbs  to brighten up your cooking

By Caroline Barrett  |  Photo by Paul Barrett

Cookbook of the Month A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen: Easy Seasonal Dishes for Family and Friends by Jack Bishop. Keep this exceptional book handy for great meal ideas even in a food-blah month. Look for family-friendly recipes such as Coconut Rice with Edamame and Leeks and Hearty Spring Vegetable Soup.

Easy Recipe New York’s leading crops are cabbage, sweet corn and onions.

Crunchy Cabbage Salad Combine shredded cabbage, an apple cut into slivers, 1 shredded carrot, pumpkin seeds, and a green onion with a pinch of sugar and your favorite vinaigrette dressing. Best after marinating for an hour or so. Delicious the next day on a turkey sandwich.

Cook pasta 1 minute less than the package instructions and cook it the rest of the way in the pan with the sauce.” — Mario Batali In the Kitchen

It’s never too early to …

Make your next Asian-inspired meal

Think about gardening. You can start taking care of your beds by raking up twigs and any stray debris. At the end of March, remove mulch from beds to prepare for spring planting. Trees and bushes can use tending as well; remove any dead branches or leaves.

beautiful with tiny Asian dishes. These sweet little bowls and dishes hold sauces such as soy, chili garlic or peanut. Use them for condiments like chopped onions, chiles or peanuts. Place one next to each plate with a teaspoon of soy sauce, a few drops of toasted sesame oil and a bit of chopped green onion. About $1.50 each. Found in the homewares section of any Asian grocery store.  |  69

 Dish

70  | Life@Home

Art Wise

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By Steve Barnes  |  Photos by Suzanne Kawola


large section of one wall of Art Wise’s Guilderland apartment is taken up by a CD collection, and standing sentinel on either side of his expansive TV are a pair of custom-made stereo speakers that each weigh upward of 200 pounds. Sometimes, feeling nostalgic for his younger years, when he worked with his father’s company that designed the sound systems for the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and legendary Manhattan nightclubs including Studio 54 and the Limelight, Wise will put on an old recording. Among others, he’s got Stevie Ray Vaughan, captured live through the soundboard at SPAC in 1989, the year before the blues guitarist’s death in a helicopter crash. Not that Wise is home very often to listen to his tuneful archives. The cozy and fastidiously clean basement abode is just a place to rest for a busy bachelor chef whose varied resume prompts questions like “You did what?” and “How did that come about?” continued on 73 timesunionmags TimesUnionMagazines

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Dish 

continued from 71

Ragu alla Bolognese

Wise is the regional head chef for ShopRite supermarkets, a post he’s held for about a year. Based in the Slingerlands store, where he’s got a demo kitchen, Wise supervises departments, including hot prepared foods, deli and bakery in the chain’s Albany-area stores, which continue to grow in number as part of ShopRite’s aggressive return to the region. After leaving his father’s sound company, Wise, now 55, moved into professional kitchens. He has a degree from the Culinary Institute of America, has worked in restaurants and banquet facilities in Saratoga and New York City, appeared on the Food Network in barbecue competitions, run a restaurantconsulting company in Virginia, moved back to the Capital Region care for his ailing mother and, in spring 2011, talked his way into a job at ShopRite. “They didn’t know what to do with me,” he says. After five interviews, he was named to the regional-head-chef position and given a mandate of improving ShopRite’s prepared foods to restaurant quality. Wise introduced to ShopRite customers a 150-year-old brisket recipe from his family’s Sephardic tradition, and his Bolognese sauce, also made at the stores, was brought back by his maternal grandmother, Fanny Dorenz, from a trip to Italy. He’s been making it since learning it from her more than four decades ago. 

1 cup yellow onions, chopped 1 cup carrots, chopped 1 cup celery, chopped 1 cup fennel bulb, cored and chopped 10 cloves garlic, smashed 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoon kosher salt 12 ounces ground chuck 8 ounces ground pork 1 tablespoon dried rosemary 1 tablespoon dried oregano 1 tablespoon dried basil 1 teaspoon black pepper 1 cup dry red wine (use an Italian red that you would drink) 1 cup half and half 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice 2 tablespoons tomato paste 3 bay leaves

Tips from the Chef • To better release their oils, mash the dried herbs and spices in a mortar and pestle.

• Let the sauce simmer as

long as you can. The recipes calls for 45 minutes, but turning it down low and letting it go for four and a half hours is even better.



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

Method  Pulse onion, carrot, celery, fennel and garlic in food processor until minced, then sauté in oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until liquid evaporates, about 10 minutes.

 Stir in chuck and pork, breaking up chunks with a potato masher. Add herbs and black pepper, then cook until meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

 Add wine and reduce until evaporated, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add half and half, and simmer until liquid is nearly evaporated, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes.

 Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste and bay leaves. Simmer sauce gently over medium-low heat until thick, stirring frequently, about 45 minutes. (The sauce gets better the longer it sits over low heat.) Remove bay leaves, and season sauce with salt.

 Serve over pappardelle, bucatini, fusilli or mezze rigatoni.  |  73

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body. mind. spirit.

The Vineyard 


The most “instantly appealing” Bordeaux

Story and photo by Alistair Highet


hose of you who have followed this column will remember that last year I was flying from Glasgow to Madrid. I looked out the window of the plane, not really thinking of anything, and below me in the rich sun was a broad silver river that cut into the coast of France and snaked through the low fields beneath me. “Hmm,” I thought. “That looks familiar.” The river split into two and continued to wind and uncoil underneath me. Then I put it together. “That is Bordeaux,” I said to my unimpressed seat partner. “Look, Bordeaux!” Again a polite stare. To me — to actually see it — was to grasp why it was so special and treasured. The river was the Gironde, and it split into the Garonne and the Dordogne. Spread out below me was the “world’s biggest resource of fine wine” in the world, as my wine atlas puts it. It’s all about terroir, as they say. The rivers and the position near the sea moderate the climate; the summers are sunny but not too hot. Forests on either side help to shield the region and moderate temperatures. The rainfall is sufficient. The soil is gravelly in some parts, clay in others, but is generally layered. So in some places, Cabernet Sauvignon does well, in others Merlot, in others Cabernet Franc. These grapes are combined in different ways by different vineyards to make Bordeaux wine. Now, you can spend a lot of money on this stuff, but I don’t think that’s a must to enjoy Bordeaux. Increasingly, very drinkable, relatively young Bordeaux is available. The trick is to find what you like, because the variety in quality and drinkability is rather broad, and the labels will not help you, since they only tell you the name of the Chateau and the particular designation

— Graves, Medoc, St. Emilion and so on. If you want a place to start, try Pomerol. “What grows here is the gentlest, richest, most velvety and instantly appealing form of red Bordeaux,” my fine atlas continues. Located on the right side of the region, it is flat and gravelly, pretty much one tiny vineyard after the other without much else going on and ideal for Merlot, which is the dominant grape here. Typically mixed with 20 percent Cabernet Franc, which brings fragrance and complexity, the wines are a deep purple, fruitful and lush, creamy and succulent in the mouth. They also have the advantage of being ready to drink four or five years after the vintage, and since they don’t need to age as long, you can find very reasonable prices. I tried three. All of them from 2009, and all of them drinkable, with certain distinctions.  Alistair Highet is a former editor, restaurant manager, and vinedresser, and has written about wine for over 20 years.

Chateau de Sales, Pomerol, 2009 ($40) Deep blueberry and black currant flavors, velvety mouthfeel, roast beef and mushrooms, a hint of mint and juniper and an intoxicating aroma. Chateau Haut Cloquet, Pomerol, 2009 ($26) A little muddier but not bad. Strawberry and cola, mint, fresh herbs, good acidity. Chateau Hermitages Mazeyres, 2009, ($28) Dark and inky, rosemary, red currant snap and blueberry fruit, pinewood smoke, wintergreen. Powerful, smooth oakiness.  |  75

The Can-Do

Condiment Making mustard is easier than you think

By John Adamian


ustard — the workhorse condiment, the yellow stuff, the grainy stuff, the fancy French stuff — gets its flavor from mustard seeds. No duh, you might say, but it wasn’t until I made my own mustard that I realized just how much it was these seeds that give mustard its oomph. Making your own mustard is super easy. When you do it, you’ll be surprised both at how basic it is to prepare and at what you’ll learn about the flavor of mustard seeds. What is the flavor of mustard the condiment? It’s tangy. It’s vinegary. And there’s a slight earthiness to it that is often masked or overpowered by a jolt-to-the-face vapory heat. Not the kind of heat you get from peppers. Not the kind that burns your tongue, but the kind that feels almost metallic or electric in its sinus-clearing power. It’s similar to horseradish, which some mustards have blended in them. Mustard has a venerable history. People have been using the condiment to make food tastier for thousands of years. Famous quotes about mustard seeds — to illustrate either tininess or bitterness — can be found in the Bible, the Koran, from Alexander the Great and elsewhere. Mustard shows up in Buddhist parables. Some think the Romans put it in their wine. Shakespeare gave a fairy in A Midsummer Night’s

76  | Life@Home

Dream the name Mustardseed. The Bard also had Falstaff compare someone’s wits to the thickness of mustard. Popes and queens have been so fond of the condiment that some have had posts for “official mustard makers.” The seeds come from the same plant that gives us mustard greens and mustard oil. Mustard greens are used in Chinese, Japanese, African, soul food, Korean and other cuisines from around the world, and their slightly spicy flavor makes them a nice way to get something with a little more zip, especially if you’ve already learned to love collards and kale but want to vary the palette of your greens a bit. And while we’re having one of those it’s-a-wonderplant! moments, mustard oil is emerging as a possible valuable source of biodiesel fuel. And the biproducts of mustard-oil production have been shown to make effective use as a pesticide.

Photos: Jar, © Gulcan Yasemin Sumer; Seeds, © Tokle.

MAKING MUSTARD Making mustard really couldn’t be easier. Soak mustard seeds (yellow or brown or black, or a mix) in cider vinegar for 24 hours or so — they’ll expand like crazy. Then add some salt and a little water and throw it into a food processor or a good blender, or even a mortar and pestle, if you really want to be old-school. Keep the mixture in the food processor for longer or shorter depending on how smooth or grainy you like your mustard. If you want ultra-smooth, like something you might get at the ballpark, you’ll need to press the mixture through a metal strainer.

Mustard has antibacterial properties, and that’s why you don’t need to refrigerate the condiment and it won’t grow moldy.


’ve cooked with mustard seeds for years. Some of my favorite Indian curry recipes call for throwing a tablespoon of black mustard seeds into hot oil and letting them just start to pop before piling on a coconut milk base and other seasonings. And Madhur Jaffrey has a wonderful recipe for Gujarati-style string beans cooked with black mustard seeds. We recently made an outrageously good southern-style oyster pie (sort of a chicken pot pie, only made with oysters) that called for mustard seeds. In all of those dishes there are other, more bold-flavored ingredients that may obscure the flavor and heat of those mustard seeds. My experience of cooking with mustard seeds didn’t prepare me for the surprise

Here’s where you can get fancy with your mustard, adding chopped garlic, herbs, black pepper, shallots, honey, or other ingredients to shape the flavor. If you really want yellow mustard, add some turmeric. Since mustard is used and made all over the world, many of the regional varieties just reflect the different flavors and ingredients that people like or have on hand in those particular places. Varying the liquid you use to soak the seeds will change the flavor dramatically. Cider vinegar makes for a milder mustard. Using only water will result in a hot mustard,

of really tasting it when making mustard. Thinking that the flavor of mustard seeds was kind of elusive, I got a palmful down from the spice rack and poured them into my mouth, crunching away at the little guys. At first I didn’t get much, just some hints of nuttiness and earthiness, with a touch of that rooty almost-hot horseradish flavor. Then the taste sort of blossoms and gets more concentrated, pulling a little curve-ball action on your tongue. It’s there, that flavor of mustard — the stuff you squirt on a hot dog — the sharp, biting flavor, only it tastes a little different when you’re not thinking about vinegar and garlic and horseradish and all the other things you always thought were what gave mustard its flavor. As it happens, the soaking of the mustard seeds activates the enzymes in the seeds that have the hot, stinging flavor. So cooked mustard seeds really do taste quite a bit milder. 

like what you find at Chinese restaurants. Dijon mustard is made by soaking the seeds in the juice of unripe grapes. In the American Midwest someone came up with the idea of using beer, which makes for a spicier mustard. There are mustards made with scotch, with Guinness, with sun-dried tomatoes and with countless other ingredients and variations. Obviously, it’s a little DIY thrill to have your own homemade mustards on hand for whisking up vinaigrettes, or for slathering on a hot dog

or for roasting fish. Like so many other kitchen essentials, when you know where it comes from and how to make it, mustard turns into something to experiment and play with. New ideas for far-fetched concoctions will come to you: How about making it with rice wine, or mixing in some wasabi, or plum vinegar, a spoonful of applesauce, or maybe a bit of smoked pepper? The options are almost limitless.  |  77

 Table@Home

Mmmmm, Maple Syrup

Only the real thing will do

By Caroline Barrett  |  Photos by Paul Barrett


y kids can enjoy dubiously healthy food as much as anyone. Zoe loves macaroni and cheese from a box and Elliot craves burgers from the drive-through. Lucy, our resident vegetarian and the biggest snob of all, loves crunchy and salty orange snacks just as much as the next teenager. But there are a few things they turn their little noses up at. There’s fake butter. “Eeeew!” they say in front of a tub of margarine. “Really, Mom, what is that?” I answer

them honestly: I have absolutely no idea. There’s tomatoes. Our family loves tomatoes and we eat them all summer long. My kids long for fresh pico de gallo and know that there is no substitute for the big, juicy tomatoes we eat in the summer. Period. And then there’s maple syrup. It’s another must-have-the-real-thing food in our house. Maple syrup is so central to our winter morning breakfasts that we simply do not eat pancakes or waffles if the jug is empty. Without the rich, sweet syrup to

Maple Weekends are scheduled for March 16-17 and 23-24, 10 a.m.-4.p.m. each day. Visit douse our pancakes (and we like the dark, B-grade variety) we turn to oatmeal, eggs or even a bowl of cold cereal. Once, when we were visiting family in western New York, we stopped into a homestyle diner on our way home. It was my kind of place: busy, cheap and plenty of flowing hot coffee. A big board hung on the wall among pictures of locals and newspaper articles. We were all happy to see the pancake specials: blueberry, raspberry-oat, multigrain, pumpkin, even bacon. Elliot decided on bacon pancakes before we even sat down. In our cozy booth, with coffee poured and juice before us, we all ordered pancakes. Like a little girl, I fidgeted in my seat, excited for my stack of raspberry oat pancakes. The waitress paused as she tucked the pen back in her bun, “Just want to let y’all know… we’re out of maple syrup. But we have the other syrup instead.” We paused — and then we held our hands out, reaching for the menus. No syrup, no pancakes. It was as simple as that. We were happy that morning, with eggs and toast and bacon and sausage. Just no pancakes.


nother morning proved a happier pancake and maple syrup experience. A morning with plenty of coffee and hot cocoa, pancakes, bacon and lots and lots (and lots) of maple syrup. A few years back, I discovered a well-kept secret: pancake breakfasts at area maple sugar farms. Yes, really. On a few select weekends in 78  | Life@Home

Maple-Chile Crusted Pork This is a super simple recipe that pleases everyone. Serve with mashed sweet potatoes and a green salad. 2 1-pound pork tenderloins 4 teaspoons canola oil 4 tablespoons dark maple syrup 3 tablespoons ancho chile powder (or other mild chile powder) 2 tablespoons kosher salt 1 tablespoon cumin 1 teaspoon black pepper Method  Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Heat 2 teaspoons canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sear one tenderloin on all sides and place on the foil. Repeat with the second tenderloin.

 Mix the maple syrup with the spices to create a thick paste. Rub completely over both tenderloins and bake for 15 minutes, or until pork registers 140° for medium. Slice, spoon any juices over and serve hot.

March, maple farms host pancake breakfasts. Brilliant, right? This is how it works: you drive out to a maple farm (we have a favorite, but there are many to choose from), park your car, sit in a big, warm barn at a picnic table, and eat as many pancakes as possible, with as much glorious, sweet, sticky, yummy maple syrup as you can hold. This breakfast is about much more than just a belly filled with pancakes and sugar. We were invited, even encouraged, to explore the farm’s property. And just because we are those parents, we did go for a walk before the breakfast. Sure, there was moaning. After all, they had been lured from their beds with the promise of breakfast, not a walk. But walk we did. The morning was beautiful and clear and the air was crisp and cold. Just right for build-

ing up an appetite. Walking through the forest of maples, Elliot was excited in his little-boy way to see the network of sap lines running between the trees. White tubes criss-crossed and ran the length of the path we walked. Trees stood, attached to the lines by silver taps. Even our teenager had to admit it was pretty cool to see. Finally, we made it back to the barn. The pancakes were steamy, hot and stacked high, and each one we ate came with the promise of another. Big jugs of maple syrup sat at each table. Elliot’s plate looked like a bowl of maple syrup soup with bits of pancake and sausage floating in it. If we let him, he’d eat maple syrup with a spoon and nothing else. Attached to the eating area was the processing room where the evaporator was

stationed, turning gallon after gallon of sap into maple syrup. The air was sweet with wood smoke and sugar. We left that morning stuffed full of what we had come for: maple syrup and pancakes. We wondered if Elliot had eaten his weight in the stuff. It was the perfect opportunity to stock up, so we left with a gallon of dark amber syrup. The darker variety has a more intense maple flavor, perfect for baking and cooking. We like this variety best. Our gallon of syrup cost about $60 -- well worth it. Around our house, maple isn’t just for pancakes. I sauté carrots in butter, rosemary and a touch of maple syrup. It adds a bit of sweetness to pork or chicken. I use it to sweeten my coffee. Paul pours it over oatmeal. Lucy and Zoe like to bake maplespiked cookies and scones. And Elliot, he just eats it by the spoonful.   |  79

Life@Home is packed with inspiration to help you make your house a home. HealthyLife magazine brings you stories and advice geared at living a balanced life, and nourishment of your mind, body, and spirit. Capital Region Women@Work is the in-print component of an innovative network of local women in managerial and executive positions. VOW: Your Wedding. Your Way. is the secret to creating your fairytale wedding using local resources. If you are interested in receiving free home delivery of any of our magazines, please (518) 454-5768 or email

Know what’s going on 24/7 and be part of our community, both on- and offline. Connect with us on all our social platforms, so you never miss a beat! • Get online access to exclusive content not found in print • Read our blogs • Sign up for our regular seminars and events • Learn more about selected stories with exclusive video content • View photo galleries for our top stories • Connect with other readers • Join our discussions and enter contests • Follow us for web-based content related to all our magazines

My Space 


e all have favorite spots, places where we feel most comfortable. 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: Brian Epstein — entrepreneur, president and CEO, Deep Blue Communications

FAVORITE SPACE: Lake George at Bolton Landing After working in sales right out of college in midtown Manhattan, Epstein and his wife quit their jobs to travel across the country, coast to coast. At the end of the trip, they settled in the Capital Region, away from the hustle and bustle of NYC and near all of his loves. “I love to ski, I love to sail, I love to swim, I love the seasons!,” he says. With an engineering degree and ability to sell, he started a business selling computers, networks and IT service. Now, a few businesses later, his passion for technology continues in Deep Blue Communications, a company that creates, installs and supports commercial data networks and includes clients such as Albany Airport and Saratoga Racetrack.

WHY: Lake George in Bolton Landing is Epstein’s favorite way to enjoy the lake, sailing out to one of the islands with his kids and just being away. “This is heaven out here,” he says. “When I am driving north and I hit exit 20 and I see the mountains, my blood pressure just goes down. I feel like I can relax and get grounded again.”   |  81

 Photo Finish

Lounging in the foyer. Read more about this Loudonville home on page 24. 82  | Life@Home

Life@Home March 2013  

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

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