Ask AOA

You asked. They answered.

A good endocrinologist?

Thumbnail image for stethoscope and ophthalmoscopeBecky emails:

I'm hoping some readers can help me out here. I see a doctor at the Endocrine Group on Washington Ave in Albany (I would rather not say which one) for my hypothyroid condition and am really unhappy with his care. He's really brief with me and working with some outdated information. I hope this isn't a long-shot -- can anyone recommend a really good endocrinologist who is especially good at dealing with thyroid issues?

We get doctor questions fairly often, and it's notable how much personality/bedside manner/whatever you call it matters. It makes total sense -- the last thing you want when you're feeling sick or uncertain is to deal with someone who doesn't appear to be listening or just isn't friendly.

So, got a doctor to suggest to Becky? Please share! And if you do, please include a line or two about why you like that doctor or practice.

photo: Flickr user a.drian (CC BY-ND 2.0)

What to do with old chinaware?

china saucer in paperPack Rat emails:

I'm currently in the process of un-stuffing my house, and some of that stuff is old china that found its way to me from various family members. I can't imagine ever using it, but I'm not sure what exactly to do with it. I looked online and it appears that at least some of the stuff has some value. But really I'd just be happy for it to go someplace where it's used and appreciated.
Any suggestion on places in the Capital Region where it could be sold or donated?

There is probably so much stuff like this in so many attics and basements.

Got a suggestion for PR? Please share!

Where to rent a passenger van?

car steering wheelEva emails:

I'm looking to rent a 7+ passenger van for 24 hours. Everything I'm looking at is too fancy - it just needs to be functional for short-distance transportation, not the newest Dodge SUV. Ideally I would like this to be a recurring rental (once or twice a month), so I'm hoping to find someone reliable. Any leads?

We're curious if there are options beyond the typical rental companies.

Got a suggestion for Eva? Please share!

Good thrift stores?

Salvation Army clothing racksAmanda asks via Twitter:

It's getting cooler & all my warm shirts have holes. What are some good area thrift stores?

After seeing Amanda's question, we went digging through the archive for stuff about thrift stores and it's been surprisingly long since we've done something. It looks like we're overdue.

So, got a suggestion for Amanda (and us)? Please share! Bonus points for a line or two about why you like that store.

Suggestions for dealing with lead abatement?

wall and baseboardSandra emails:

We just bought a house, and discovered that there is very badly chipping lead paint on a couple of radiators in our house. Could some of your readers recommend a good lead abatement specialist to come and paint this for us? We had also considered sandblasting and powder coating them, but that is looking like a lot to organize: A plumber to uninstall and reinstall, someone to move very heavy objects, the sandblaster, plus it is getting cold and we don't want to be without heat for the next month. It just got overwhelming. We have a nine-month-old baby in the house so we want to make sure that it is done well. The house is almost all wallpaper and finished wood, so lead isn't a huge concern in the house otherwise. Thanks!

There are a lot of old houses in this area, so there are certainly people who have also encountered this issue.

Got a suggestion for Sandra? Please share!

Help with kitchen renovation design?

kitchen tools in holderM. messages:

We are thinking about doing a kitchen renovation. Got the contractor, got a "look" picked out, but kind of clueless about the actual design process. Has anyone had a good experience with a designer, either through one of those kitchen renovation one stop shops, or an independent person?

We're always a little amazed by how talented designers can look at a situation and see solutions/angles/ideas non-designers might miss. And, sure, hiring one will probably be more expensive. But when you think about how much a kitchen gets used -- and how frustrating a design flaw can be over the years -- it can be worth the extra money.

So, got a suggestion for M.? Please share!

A good roofing company?

albany rowhouse roofsThis one comes from AOA Mary. We'll blockquote. Because tradition.

We're looking for someone to replace our roof. It's a flat, rubber roof on an historic home. Anyone have suggestions for roofing companies?

There are a lot of roofing companies out there. But we're curious if there are companies that specialize in non-shingle roofing.

Have a suggestion for Mary? Please share!

A good plastic surgeon?

Thumbnail image for stethoscope and ophthalmoscopeAnonymous emails:

I am beginning to do research into breast reduction surgery, and am wondering whether anyone in AOAland has had this or a similarly invasive plastic surgery and has any recommendations about which local surgeons to talk to and which to stay away from.

Have a suggestion? Please share. And please include a sentence or two about why you're recommending that doctor or practice.

photo: Flickr user a.drian (CC BY-ND 2.0)

What to do with used books?

books stacked on desk

Kaitlin asks via Twitter:

Any ideas on what to do with books I no longer need? I've got piles, of various genres/kinds, with no home!
I could just thrift store them but those always seem inundated w/books.

We're guessing there are a lot of people like Kaitlin, looking for new homes for old books.

So, got a suggestion? Please share!

Recommendations for hardwood floor refinishing?

hardwood floor sectionCourtney emails:

We've recently purchased a Victorian home approaching it's 150th birthday! We'd like to have the original hardwood floors refinished and restored to the beauty underneath years of use - can readers recommend someone for the job that is knowledgeable about homes built in the 1800s or specializes in restoration?

We're curious if there's a difference between refinishing 150-year-old hardwood floors and, say, 50-year-old hardwood floors (or younger). You know, are there a lot of quirks of very old floors that make them different to work on?

Got a suggestion for Courtney? Please share! And non-redeemable bonus points for a quick line or two about why you're suggesting that company or person.

Where to get stickers made?

aoa small box logoThis question comes from... us. But we'll block quote it for the sake of tradition:

Where's a good place to get stickers made? And is there a place that might be able to turn around an order in a few days?

We ask because of a fun, little thing we're trying to get together for the end of the week. It's sort of a last-minute thing. Details soon.

Got a suggestion for us? Please share! Thanks!

(there's more)

Moving help for hire?

moving boxJason emails:

I see that you have a few old Ask AOA posts on moving companies (from 2011 and 2010) which may be helpful to me, but was wondering if you'd consider opening that topic up again?
[W]e have some friends who will be moving to Niskayuna from Brooklyn. They're packing up their stuff there and will be driving it up in a truck they've rented. What they're looking for is to hire a few movers to unload the truck for a few hours on a Sunday morning. Based on what they have to unload, and the help of a few friends already lined up, they're figuring to hire two movers for two hours.
So I'd be interested to hear referrals to reliable companies that would do something like this, or maybe trustworthy freelancers. I also would be curious to know roughly what one could/should expect to pay for such a service?

Like most things, experience can make a big difference. We're always kind of amazed to see how experienced movers can maneuver some huge, heavy piece of furniture or appliance with relative ease.

So, got a suggestion for Jason and his friends? Please share!

Where to get good peaches?

Thumbnail image for peach sliceJulie emails:

Hey AOA, is there anywhere to go pick your own peaches around the capital region?

For whatever reason, PYO peaches appear to be a rarity around here. Maybe because the fruit is relatively fragile and growers want to make sure their trees are picked with care. Maybe just because peaches aren't as plentiful around here as, say, apples.

That said, there are some places to score good peaches. We have had some really nice peaches from Golden Harvest in Valatie this year. And in the past we've gotten different types of good peaches from Maynard Farms, which sells at the Schenectady Greenmarket.

Know of PYO place for Julie? Or even just a good local farm or farm stand for buying peaches? Please share!

Eateries that allow or accomodate dogs?

otto through dunkin doorM emails:

I am wondering if there is a casual eatery around where dogs are at least allowed, but I hope they are welcome. This place would ideally be anywhere at all between Albany and Gloversville. The casual [category] would necessarily include those places that only sell hot dogs and hamburgers, I guess, since we'll be eating outdoors. But I'm open.

Non-service animals are prohibited in restaurants by state regulation. But we've seen a bunch of places that (perhaps informally) allow dogs on (just off) patios. And it would seem seasonal outdoor places will have much more leeway.

Have a spot to suggest to M? Please share!

Adapters for olds sinks with hot and cold faucets?

old habitat restore sinksNicole emails:

I have a very specific question that I hope you can post for your readers. I am renting an apartment that has a period sink with separate hot and cold water faucets. Although it is nice to have the antique sink and it fits with the feel of the 19th century building, warm water to wash my face would be nicer. Does anyone (maybe those who own/have renovated old brownstones) know if there is a temporary solution to this problem? I'm hoping to find a place that sells an adapter piece to bridge between the two faucets? (I've seen such a thing online, but have been unable to find any place that sells it, online or otherwise).
I'd even be interested in reaching out to a local business that would be willing to craft an adapter. Any suggestions for that? As I am renting, replacing the sink or faucets unfortunately is not an option.

This area has a bunch of older houses and apartments -- many that include old fixtures -- so Nicole can't be the first person to want to do something like this.

Got a suggestion? Please share!

Easy trips to warm destinations during winter/spring?

beach palm branchCarolyn emails:

My fiance and I are getting hitched in Albany this spring and looking for ideas for our honeymoon. We want to head somewhere tropical to relax and reflect on what I expect will be a manic but amazing time. Wondering if the AOA crowd-sourced think-tank has any suggestions for easy flights to tropical locales out of the Albany airport.We'd love to leave Albany in the morning and be having dinner and drinks on the beach.

In our somewhat silly "most degrees for your airfare dollar" post this year, south Florida fared (ha) well. And there could be a bit more airline competition by then.

Got a suggestion for Carolyn and her fiance? Please share!

A good real estate agent for Center Square?

Google Map of 42.654297,-73.764425

Center Square Resident emails:

I am looking for suggestions about a realtor for Center Square in Albany. I am looking into possibly selling my house. There are lots of realtors, however I would like to get some suggestions from people who have had a realtor sell their house in Center Square.

CSR's question touches on a topic we've been kind of curious about: Are certain real estate agents better/worse at selling/helping to buy in specific neighborhoods? Or, to put it another way, can a real estate agent's experience with a neighborhood help you sell your house faster, or find the right house, or get a better deal there?

For a neighborhood such as Center Square -- which is is a bit unusual for the Capital Region, given the neighborhood's housing stock and density -- it seems plausible that agent experience could theoretically make a difference.

So, got a suggestion for CSR? Please share! And if you have thoughts about the specific agents/specific neighborhoods topic, we'd be interested to hear them.

Earlier on AOA: A good real estate agent for selling a house?

Recommendations for a complicated/big plumbing job?

albany sewer hole coverAshley emails with what sounds like a tough situation involving a possibly broken sewer line, an improperly installed sump pump, and a flooded basement (yikes). Her full situation/question has a bunch of details and is after the jump, but here's a clip:

[The plumbing company] was happy to tell me they would have a technician come out to take a look and that we should focus on the "pipe being broken" and nothing else. All red flags rise. Do I trust a company that happily installed a sump pump to violate the city's code and WORSEN problems for homeowners like me that are suffering with overwhelming amounts of storm water in the city sew systems? No. Do I trust a company that happily wants to dig trenches in the front yard before diagnosing the issue? No. ...
Of course, we have a lot of research to do - were repairs ever made in 2007, gather estimates, weigh our options.
Here's where I need help. This is a big job. The city's website is a shell of a site and offers NO information on who to call or where to start. We tried calling an information number but there was no answer.
What have other residents done in this situation? Who do they recommend?

As mentioned, her whole message is post jump and includes some important details.

Ashley says she's only owned her house for about a month and this sounds like a stressful situation. So suggestions or recommendations could be a big help.

Got advice? Please share!

(there's more)

Where to celebrate National Tequila Day

Thumbnail image for Bombers Birthday Margarita .jpgSo it turns out today is National Tequila Day. Yep, that's a thing. And Alisa wrote with a question:

National Tequila Day is Thursday July 24. Does anyone have some good suggestions as to where to celebrate after work?

Anybody have thoughts about where to get a good Margarita, Mule or Texas Two Step -- or just some straight tequila in the Capital Region?


Photo: Kim D.

Where to buy speciality wood for craft/restoration/construction projects?

wood panels closeupEric asks via the Facebook:

Where in the capitol district can I find some fine wood for a restoration project? More specifically I need a few flat pieces of walnut, about a half inch thick. The craft stores don't have anything but pine, and there is nothing at Home Depot.

It seems like there have to be at least a few places to buy this kind of stuffy -- it's just a matter of knowing where to look.

So... do you know where to look? Please share!

A shop for quality stationery and pens?

Paper Dolls wall of paperEric asks via the Facebook:

Are there any places in the district where you can find quality stationery, pens and ink?

One of the things about the modern world: Because almost no one writes an actual letter and paper note any more, when someone does it carries more weight. (Getting a handwritten paper letter in the mail now feels oddly thrilling and special.)

Got a suggestion for Eric? Please share!

Quick thoughts on Kingston?

Kingston, New YorkR emails:

So I've found my way into a first date with this awesome lady in Kingston, a town, city or whatever that I know nothing about. And it's tonight! Can you help with any suggestions with what I can do??

Other than the fact that Kingston was the first capital of New York State, we know pretty much nothing about the place.

So, any quick suggestions/tips/thoughts about Kingston for R? Please share!

photo: Michael Miello via Wikipedia

Advice on renting out a house?

green monopoly house flickr woodleywonderworks ccChris emails:

We're thinking about moving out of state and renting our house in the town of Bethlehem. Can any of your readers recommend a property manager who can be trusted to select good renters and generally do a good job of managing?

Just to expand a bit on the question from Chris, we're curious if people have thoughts/advice on renting out a house in general: property management company vs. no property management company, selecting tenants yourself vs. leaving that to a manager, and so on.

Got a suggestion for Chris? Please share!

photo: Flickr user woodleywonderworks (CC BY 2.0)

Restaurants with good vegetarian options?

vegan seitan dishCD asks via Twitter:

Can anybody recommend Albany area restaurants that use local ingredients and have a veggie friendly menu?

We checked to clarify that CD was looking for vegetarian options. Or as CD responded:

Vegetarian options from local sources. #NoBagSalads

It seems more restaurants are offering vegetarian options, though the choices aren't always engaging. That said, some spots have given it a surprising shot. 677 Prime, the fancy pants steakhouse, recently had a vegetarian tasting menu -- we tried it, and while not every course was a hit, there were some interesting dishes. (The best dish involved carrots prepared a few different ways -- it was really good.)

And that points to one of the reasons to be curious about vegetarian options, even if you're not a vegetarian: going meat free often prompts a different, more interesting take on food.

So we're curious to hear about people's vegetarian favorites. Got a suggestion for CD? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ Vegan dishes worth trying -- even if you're not a vegan
+ Hungry for Shades of Green

Residential rooftop solar options?

rooftop solar panels

Mary messages:

I am thinking of going solar on my home... do you have any information on which company, or companies, offer the best deals and have proven most reliable in the Albany area?

We're very curious to hear people's thoughts and suggestions on this question. The rooftop solar industry has been booming recently thanks in large part to a steep drop in the price solar panels. And just anecdotally, we've noticed panels showing up on a bunch of local houses and businesses.

There seem to be roughly two models for getting panels on a house: buy the panels outright and have the installed -- or pay little or nothing upfront for installation, and then buy the power from the panels at a fixed rate from the installing company.

So, experiences or thoughts for Mary? Please share!

Experience with home radon mitigation?

foundation brickCarl asks via Twitter:

Hey @alloveralbany, know you just did an ask, but can you ask about [experience] with radon mitigators? #askingforafriend #justincase

Quick background: Radon is a radioactive gas that's released from rock and soil, and in some cases, it can get trapped by a house, especially the basement. Sometimes the levels are high enough that it's a health threat (radon exposure can cause lung cancer). Here's an EPA page with radon info.

There are test kits for radon, and you can get one for under $10 from New York State. In cases where radon might be collecting at dangerous levels in a house, modifications can be made to mitigate the problem. Here's a state Department of Health checklist for questions to ask contractors.

So, all that said, anyone have a suggestion or experience to share with Carl? Please share!

Where to shop for maternity bras?

black bras displayed on a chairAnonymous messages:

I'm looking for a good place to get fitted for and buy maternity bras (hopefully without breaking the bank.) I know you must have plenty of moms as readers... maybe they could help?

As with any question like this, a sentence or two explaining your suggestion can be a big help.

Got advice for Anonymous? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: Getting the girls the support they deserve (2008)

A good jewelry repair shop?

ring in palmDan asks via Twitter:

Can anyone personally recommend a good place to get jewelry repair done around?

We followed up with Dan and he's looking to get a gold chain repaired.

Got a suggestion? Please share! And, as always with these sorts of questions, non-redeemable bonus points for a sentence or two about why you're suggesting that place.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Where to get a ring re-sized? (2010)
+ Ask AOA: A good watch repair place? (2010)

A good trainer for people with medical issues?

Albany Strength gym.jpgAmelia emails:

My friend is looking for a personal trainer in the capital region that deals with individuals with training people with medical issues like insulin resistance or other medical conditions. Anyone know of a personal trainer in the area who is holistic and understanding? Thanks.

Got suggestion for Amelia and her friend? Please share.

Where to take dance lessons?

disco ball club lightsMatt emails (updated after the question about type of dance):

I'm looking to get dance lessons for my girlfriend as an anniversary gift. We're both total beginners. What is a good place in the capital region to purchase a package of beginner's lessons for a couple?
I'm not sure what type of dancing, but with some Youtube help, maybe something like waltz and foxtrot to begin with and move up to swing and tango.

Non-redeemable bonus points for a line or two about why the classes are good at certain place or with a certain instructor.

Got a suggestion for Matt? Please share!

photo: Flickr user dichohecho (CC BY 2.0)

A good allergist?

stethoscope and ophthalmoscopeAnonymous writes:

I have allergies, to dust and maybe something seasonal as well. And I've managed to get by with over-the-counter medication. But in recent years, it seems like my symptoms have gotten worse. So I'm thinking about seeing an allergist in order to get tested and figure out better treatment. Any suggestion for good allergists in the area?

Got a suggestion for Anonymous? Please share. And, as with any question like this, non-redeemable bonus points for a sentence or two about why you like that doctor -- good listener, figured out a tough case, smooth-running office, or whatever.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Ask AOA: A good dermatologist?
+ Ask AOA: A good ENT doctor?
+ Ask AOA: A good sleep doctor?
+ Ask AOA: A good doctor to treat Lyme disease?
+ Ask AOA: Suggestion of a doctor for migraines?
+ Ask AOA: A good doctor, preferably female?

photo: Flickr user a.drian (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Suggestions for a fun company picnic?

summer2008_otto_picnic.jpgEmily emails:

I'm on the committee planning this summer's retreat for my division (25-30 people) and we're trying to drum up some new ideas. For the past several years we've spent the morning at the Holiday Inn in Saratoga for a meeting, guest speaker, and team building exercises (*groan*). Then, we all head to the track to watch the races from a clubhouse area and have lunch.
We're really hoping to come up with something different this year because that plan is getting a little tired and there are some people on the team who strongly dislike the track.
Our office is in Troy and we're open to anything in the Capital Region where we can have a meeting-ish space and also do something fun.
If the AOA readers can come up with a good suggestion I'll be the office hero :)

These sorts of events are usually a bit tricky because the it's-work-but-hey-we're-supposed-to-be-having-fun aspect of them. But it doesn't sound like Emily's office is looking for anything too unusual.

So, got a suggestion that could make Emily the office hero? Please share!

Renting vs. buying?

green monopoly house flickr woodleywonderworks cc

Jessica sends us a message:

I'd be curious to see what people thought of renting vs buying in Albany. Which one is cheaper, maybe a poll of how many rent vs buy?

The renting vs. buying question is complicated, in large part because each person and situation is different. And while it isn't necessarily a local question, local factors do play a big role: housing prices, rents, taxes, and so on.

There are a lot of savvy people here -- so, got some advice or ways to think about this question for Jessica? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ Best Capital Region small town, village, or suburb for settling down?
+ Capital Region median home prices 2013
+ A good real estate agent for selling a house?
+ A good real estate agent?

photo: Flickr user woodleywonderworks (CC BY 2.0)

A landscape designer for a backyard makeover?

generic landscaped yard areaChuckD emails:

It's time we did something about the backyard. But we're not interested in some HGTV thing with all parts sourced from a Big Box DIY store. We're looking for a creative designer/contractor who will design and build a natural backyard space to include replacement of a ratty deck, a rattier wood fence, inclusion of an existing inground pool, two existing happy doggies, and most importantly, an awareness and interest in those gray areas between indoors and out and work it into our passive solar house. Can anyone recommend someone who will think outside The Box and help us realize our ideas? Cuz we're clueless.

Even on a small project there can be a big difference between what the typical person can scratch out on the back of an envelope and what a professional designer can put together. And a landscape designer might be able to lend some helpful expertise on the sort of plants and other features that will make the new backyard easier to maintain over the long run.

So, got a suggestion for Chuck? Please share!

A good stylist for Asian hair?

asian woman playing with her hairV. emails:

I desperately need a new hair cut, and I was hoping your reader can help. The problem was it is hard to find a good hair stylist for an Asian hair. Would you mind asking your readers to see if they have a suggestion?

We've had a few questions before about finding a good hair stylist (linked below), but this is a new twist on the question.

Got a suggestion for V.? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+
+ A good stylist for a pixie cut?
+ A good hair colorist
+ A good haircut for the curly headed?
+ Stylist for long hair?

photo: Flickr user Harsh Patel (CC BY 2.0)

Botanical gardens in the region?

Thumbnail image for Berkshire Garden -Pond.jpgKatie asks via Twitter:

I'm looking for botanical floral gardens both public and private in the capital region area. any leads?

The one that sprang to our mind immediately was the Berkshire Botanical Garden just over the border in Western Massachusetts.

Got other ideas? Maybe even places that aren't botanical gardens exactly, but do have excellent floral gardens? Please share!

Catering for a big outdoor party?

barbecue ribs buffetSarah emails:

I was wondering if your readers could help with this: I'm looking into catering companies for a graduation party in July and want to know which ones have provided excellent service, great food- a great value. I'll need food for 150 people- preferably BBQ style, pig roast even, tents, table and chairs. Price isn't too big an issue- but I'm not looking to drop money like its a wedding. Thanks for the help!

It sounds like Sarah realizes this isn't necessarily going to be cheap -- feeding 150 people almost never is. But we hear what she's saying about not wanting to go over the top like some people might for a wedding.

So, got a suggestion for Sarah? Please share!

Wild edibles foraging tours or classes?

wild ramps by Flickr user Danielle Scott ccWith ramps and fiddleheads in season, Burnt My Fingers emails:

Could you ask your readers to recommend foraging strategies and likely spots? Also, does anyone do foraging tours that I could join in on? (Morels would also be interesting.)

Apparently there's a whole world of wild edibles out there, but it's the kind of thing where you definitely want to learn from someone who knows what their doing. And you want to really get it right, because getting it wrong could have serious consequences.

So, suggestion for foraging tours or classes? Please share!

Good flea markets?

empty frame against wallKatie asks via Twitter:

[D]o you guys or your readers have any suggestions on area flea markets? One time or weekly/monthly ones? Thx!

We get the feeling there are a handful around this region -- especially if you're willing to drive a bit.

Got a suggestion for Katie? Please share! And non-redeemable bonus points for a sentence or two about why that market is good, or a tip for visiting it.

A good contractor for installing gutters?

gutter downspoutTerence asked via Twitter:

Any chance you could post a question to your blog for recs on local residential seamless gutter installers?

Gutters are one of those things that might seem like kind of a boring thing for your house. And, you know, they're not exactly a "wow" kind of home improvement. But they can make a difference in keeping water out of your basement or away from your foundation.

So... got a suggestion for Terence? Please share!

A good driving instructor?

car steering wheelBaby Boomer emails:

Could you ask your readers if they could recommend a driving instructor, specifically in Albany, who could teach an older person who is very nervous when learning to drive? I took a few lessons years ago and was very stressed out. I still want to learn before I get too old.

A bunch of years ago we had a question about driving schools, but it was in reference to teens. Things change. And also, we're curious if there are any driving instructors who specialize in -- or just happen to be really good with -- adults who are taking up driving.

Got a suggestion for Baby Boomer? Please share!

A company for installing house insulation?

spray foam insulation installationAnon emails:

I'm looking for a competent, reasonably-priced spray foam insulation contractor for my home. I need to have old cellulose insulation removed from parts of my basement, and spray foam installed throughout the basement. Thank you

Based on what we've seen on, um, HGTV and a little bit of what we've read, spray foam insulation is said to do the job very well, better than other types of insulation. It also looks like it's a whole process, with installers wearing ventilated suits and whatnot.

Got a suggestion for Anon? Please share!

photo: Flickr user dunktanktechnician (cc)

A good contractor for tile?

tile backsplashLaura emails:

I am planning on selecting and installing a custom backsplash in my kitchen this spring. Can the readers suggest a company or a contractor we should consider working with?

It's been a while since we've had a kitchen/bathroom contractor question.

So, got a company to suggest? Please share. Non-redeemable bonus points for a quick sentence about why you're suggesting that company.

(And we're guessing someone might suggest Laura try doing it herself -- which is great, but please include where/how Laura might get some help in learning how to do so.)

A good cleaning service?

dust panLauren emails:

Do you think you could do another post on cleaning services around here? I am looking for someone to do a really good deep cleaning job on my parents' kitchen. I saw a post from 2010, with lots of good feedback about the Ecomaids, but it looks like they don't exist anymore! Even Yelp only gives you two or three options -- any help appreciated.

It's our understanding also that Ecomaids is no longer operating here.

Got a suggestion for Lauren? Please share. And as always, a quick sentence about why you're suggesting a certain company can be very helpful.

A good house exterior painter?

peeling house paintChuck emails:

We wonder if you could ask your readers for recommendations on a good house painter for the exterior of brownstone-type row houses. Someone who can also do minor repairs on the wooden cornices. Summer painting season will be here before long and we'd like to line up the job now.

Getting the jump on this sort of stuff now is a good idea because sometimes the schedules of contractors fill up fast during the spring and summer.

So... got a suggestion for Chuck and his house? Please share!

Where to go for golf lessons?

Thumbnail image for golf club head in grassDeanna asks:

My five year old daughter has recently taken a huge interest in golf. She insists on watching it on TV, chiding the players with vigorous, "Ah, you almost had it buddy," and, "just get the ball in the hole!" Needless to say, she is inquiring about lessons. I'm quite happy with this, and in classic horse-before-the-cart fashion, we bought some kid-sized clubs for her last year in hopes she would express a desire to chase the little white ball. Does anyone have a suggestion for children's golf lessons? Preferably a group lesson in the Albany or Schenectady area? Thanks AOA readers!

Deanna's asking about kids lessons, and if you have a place to suggest, great. But if you know a good place/person for lessons generally, we're interested in hearing about that, too -- because they might also offer kids lessons, or be able to recommend someone good.

So, have a suggestion? Please share!

Advice on buying a car?

Thumbnail image for used car windshieldWhen is that low, low price not the price that you can actually get?

That question was at the center of a state attorney general's office announcement today that it's reached settlements with six Albany-area car dealerships on what the AG's office say were deceptive advertising practices. From the press release: "The dealerships widely promoted sale and lease prices that were illusory because they reflected discounts or rebates that were not available to most consumers, and thus, were not the actual sale or lease price."

The link above includes the dealerships named and some of the promoted discounts the AG's office took issue with. The short story: It pays to read the fine print -- twice -- and to be skeptical.

The AG's office says the dealerships have agreed to pay fines and reform their practices. A seventh dealership is getting a notice about the AG's office intent to sue over the issue.

This situation got us thinking about the car buying process, which -- in our experience at least -- always seems a bit... opaque. Maybe that's not exactly the right word, but the process often seems less than straightforward. And there's always that sense some sort of some smoke and mirrors are involved. (You're really going to talk to your manager?)

So, given the savvy of the AOA crowd, we're curious: What's your advice for the car buying process? Tips for trying to get the best price (or, at least, not being taken advantage of)? Local dealerships you can recommend after having solid experiences there?

Please share!

Earlier on AOA: A good place to buy a used car?

Where to get a dress altered?

generic dress midsectionJulie emails:

I was wondering if you know where to get a dress altered for a good price in the area. Thanks.

It's been a long time since we've had a question about a seamstress or tailor. We're curious if there's someone who's especially good for dress alterations.

Got a suggestion for Julie? Please share!

Contractor for a historic home?

staircase from sideJune asks via Twitter:

Hi guys at @alloveralbany. Looking to repair inside stairs in downtown Albany brick row house. Built c. 1890s. Any suggestions?
Contractors pls. Definitely more than I can do. Would prefer to repair rather than replace depending on cost. Tks!

We've had handyman and contractor questions before, but it's been a few years. And we're curious if maybe there's someone with specific experience doing repairs/renovations in older homes. Example: Maybe someone who would be better at restoring something that's true the house's original design, if that's what June is after.

There a bunch of century-old (or older) homes in this area, so we're guessing there are people with this sort of experience.

Got a suggestion? Please share!

A good dermatologist?

dry winter skin knucklesAlison asks:

Any recommendations on a local dermatologist?

We hear that, in addition to trying to find a good dermatologist, Alison is also looking for one who might do well with kids.

So, got a suggestion? Please share! As usual for these types of questions, non-redeemable bonus points for a quick explanation about why that doctor is good -- thorough, good listener, whatever.

Good local postcards?

vintage_Albany_postcards_greetings_from_Albany

An old-school Albany postcard.

Wesley emails:

I moved here recently for school and was wondering where I could find cheap Albany postcards for the people back home. Thanks in advance!

We'll adjust Wesley's question a bit to cover any sort of local postcard. Less expensive is better, but we're curious about finding good postcards for this area in general. (And let's hope even the good once aren't all that expensive.)

It's been a while since we've browsed a rack of Albany postcards, but we don't remember many as being kind of cool or interesting. Maybe things have changed. Or maybe this is an opportunity for someone to make some good cards.

So... got a suggestion for Wesley? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ Albany Postcard Project
+ Postcards from the past: Albany
+ Postcards from the past: Troy

image: Boston Public Library collection (cc)

A spot for a post-wedding meal that won't break the bank?

fork on tableT asks via the Facebook:

I am having a City Hall wedding in August and I am looking for a nice place to have a decent meal afterward for about 20 people that won't break the bank. I would like it to be an Albany restaurant. I have researched several options and they are just too much. I would like to do something that would work out to be $20 or less per person. Can you throw this out to your readers for suggestions? Thanks.

Sometimes it seems like there's almost no ceiling on how much can be spent on a wedding. But trying to keep the cost down -- that can take some creativity and flexibility.

So... got a suggestion for T? Please share! We're especially curious if maybe there's some sort of non-traditional option that might work.

Earlier on AOA: Planning a Capital Region wedding: catering

New to the area, how to meet people and find activities?

crowd at an AOA partyBrian emails:

I recently moved to Albany from Manhattan and I am looking to get involved in the area and meet new people. Do you have any suggestions on local groups, leagues, clubs, events, etc? I am open to almost anything - sports (softball, dodgeball..), classes (cooking, painting, sewing, music..), outdoor (running, fishing, hiking...), bar leagues (corn hole, darts..), art shows, wine/food events, etc. Is there a good resource that aggregates info on this (other than AOA of course)?

We suspect moving here from a really big metro area -- especially one like NYC or San Francisco or Seattle -- takes a bit of an adjustment in terms of finding the sort of stuff Brian's looking for. Sure, there's a smaller number of total options and the range is maybe not as wide. But there is plenty of stuff to do around here -- it's just that, unlike one of those big metros, you maybe have to put a bit more effort into finding them.

It sounds like Brian's looking for some specific suggestions, and if you have some, great. But we're also curious about more general strategies you might have. Maybe you can share a little bit about your own experiences finding your niche or crowd here. It could be a big help to Brian and other people who move here. Please share!

photo: Andy Kainz Photography

Best Capital Region small town, village, or suburb for settling down?

chatham clock towerAmelia emails:

We are looking at starting the home search and wanted input from AOA. Where is the best small towns, villages and quaint and charming suburbs in the capital region to settle down and start a family? We are looking at staying approximately 20 minutes around Albany and want a more liberal town with low taxes. Is there such a thing?

Having a detailed wish list is a good idea, but the thing about picking a place to live is that you'll almost always end up having to make trade-offs. Want charming? That often means paying more. Want small? Maybe that means living farther out. And so on.

We've come to think that having a wish list is a good way of prioritizing what you want -- and what you're willing to compromise on. Because there will be compromises.

So... got a suggestion for Amelia? Please share! Non-redeemable bonus points for a short explanation for your suggestions. And even if you don't have a specific place in mind, suggestions on how to go about figuring out the right place can be helpful.

An electronics repair shop?

DVD player tray openMartin emails:

Our 5-disc DVD player / stereo system just stopped working one morning. It's chock full of borrowed DVDs of course...
Do your readers have a recommendation on electronics repair places?

We've had similar questions in the past, and the answer that often popped up was Lake Electronics on Central Ave -- and with good results, apparently. Unfortunately, Lake closed last year after 60 years in business.

So... anyone got a new suggestion for Martin? Please share!

Shared workspaces or workshops?

tech valley center of gravity toolsKara emails:

Does anyone know of a shared workspace or workshop in the area?
I need the use of a table saw and don't have one and have heard that these kinds of places exist kinda like a co-op system on the west coast.

The place that immediately jumped to mind is Tech Valley Center of Gravity in Troy. But maybe there are other spots or situations -- workspaces, tool libraries, or whatever.

Got a suggestion for Kara? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: Tech Valley Center of Gravity

Groups for writers to discuss and workshop?

laptop keyboardJoe emails:

Do you know any fiction writers groups in the Capital Region, who meet to discuss their work and workshop?

Outside perspective can be a help when working on some sort of creative effort. And there are certainly communities of writers in this area, so we wouldn't be surprised to hear if there are groups -- ranging from the formal to the less so.

Have a suggestion for Joe? Please share!

Where to take friends visiting from out of town?

empire state plaza ice skating 2012 state libraryPau asks via Twitter:

hey guys, I need your help! Some friends from Mexico are visiting me this weekend; since I'm not local either, I've no idea what is typical here, or where should I take them?! Any suggestions from you and your readers will be welcome.

This is a fun question. Because we get the impression Pau isn't just looking for something to do with her friends, she's also looking for something that will give them a sense of this place.

So, got a suggestion or two? Please share!

A good place for boarding a dog?

otto puppy earsAlex asks via Twitter:

Hey @alloveralbany: any Albany locals have any dog kennel recommendations for a weekend in the capital district?

We had a similar question in the past, but it was almost four years ago and things change. So new suggestion could be very helpful.

Got a place at which you feel good about placing your pup for the weekend (or longer)? Please share! Non-redeemable bonus points for a few words about why you like that place?

(there's more)

A good real estate agent for selling a house?

Thumbnail image for real estate sign porchVal emails (emphasis added):

A couple of years ago you did an Ask AoA about real estate agents. The majority of responses were from buyers - I'd love to see Ask AoA recommendations of realtors representing sellers, preferably ones familiar with Albany.

Real estate agents are just like any other profession, and some agents have different skills or strengths compared to other agents. And we get the feeling, anecdotally, that some agents are a bit more aggressive in strategy and pricing for selling a house.

So, got an agent to suggest to Val? Please share! And non-redeemable bonus points for a quick explanation about why that agent is good for sellers.

A good Capital Region spa, as a gift for a friend?

generic massage rosesAJW asks via Twitter:

Spas in the Capital Region? (Pref. near Albany, but I know Saratoga has more, and that's ok too.)
Here's the ? i got: "let her get a little spoiled so I thought a massage, manicured etc" as a gift from one friend to another

Or, to frame AJW's question a bit differently, if you were giving a friend a gift certificate to a spa in the Capital Region, which one would you pick?

Got a suggestion? Please share!

photo: Flickr user thomaswanhoff (cc)

Good spinning classes?

spinning class bikes by Flickr USAG-HumphreysCaitlin emails:

I'm trying to find reliably good spin classes here in the Capital Region, and I find it's hard to search for lots of this stuff. Where do AOAers go to spin?

A straightforward question, and it's a good time of year for this sort of thing -- what with ongoing icy grip of winter making exercising outside less than enjoyable.

So... got a suggestion for Caitlin? Please share!

photo: Flickr user USAG- Humphreys (cc), cropped

Where to shop for a wedding dress?

wedding veil brideSiobhan asks via Twitter:

518ers, any recommendations for where to buy a wedding dress in the Capital Region? Not for me, for a marriage-minded friend!

In a follow up, she mentioned that the first thing she did was check if there had already been an "Ask AOA" about this topic. So it sounds like she knows she can rely on you for good suggestions.

Non-redeemable bonus points for a short explanation of why the shop you're recommending is good -- service, price, selection, whatever.

Got a suggestion? Please share!

photo: Flickr user billaday (cc)

Suggestions for furniture repair?

wood table top cornerAndrea asks via Twitter:

(+) Inherited antique chairs from grandmother. (-) One leg broke off in transit. Recommendations for repair services welcome!

A lot stuff these days is either not well made to begin with, or just so cheap, that it doesn't end up getting repaired. But it's worth it for something like this -- even if it might be hard to find a shop.

So, got a suggestion for Andrea and her chair? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ A place to get furniture re-finished?
+ A local Adirondack chair maker?

A good boxing gym?

Sarah Kuhn at the bagSunny asks via Twitter:

Anyone have recommendations for a #boxing gym in the Capital Region?

We asked if Sunny was looking for boxing that was more fitness oriented, or for actual competitive boxing:

It's for serious fitness I guess--not looking for a foo-foo gym with boxing classes, but not to compete nec. either.

There seem to be a fair a number of gyms that offer some sort of boxing program, but we're guessing they include a wide range -- from the "foo-foo" (as Sunny puts it) all the way up to yep-we're-going-to-hit-someone-in-the-face programs.

So, got a suggestion for Sunny? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: A few years back we talked with pro boxer Sarah Kuhn (that's her in the pic), who had gotten into the sport because she was looking for a better way to get in shape.

A good couples therapist?

female and male cardinals by flickr user noshaKathy emails:

I was wondering if readers of your blog had any recommendations for couples/marriage counselors. My husband and I would like to work out some major communication issues. I have trusted AOA reader recommendations for so many things, and this is one of those areas where I'd like a solid recommendation. I looked and didn't see any posts on AOA about this. Thanks so much for the help.

Know of a good therapist or counselor you can suggest to Kathy? Please share.

photo: Flickr user nosha (cc)

Where to get a smoothie in Albany?

green smoothie by flickr user joyosityJanae asked on Twitter today:

Where can I get a smoothie in Albany? Recommendations?

We retweeted, and there were a bunch of suggestions. Apparently people have many opinions about smoothies!

So, with Janae's blessing, we plucked her question from the ephemeral stream of Twitter and gathered the answers here (after the jump). Smoothie seekers of the future, thank Janae.

And if you have a suggestion to add, please do!

(there's more)

How do you shake off the winter gloom?

blue sky sun in corner

The sun will come out (literally and figuratively). Eventually.

Comment's been drawn, and the person emailed!

It's January. The holidays are over. Spring is a solid 2-3 months away. It's just... so... gray.

We're setting this up as an Ask AOA question, but it's from the Editors -- who both agreed today they could use some new ways to shake off January blah. So...

How do you shake off the winter gloom?

Maybe you have some suggestions -- things you do around this time of year, maybe local places or activities that help cheer you up. Suggestions are appreciated.

And because one of the things that cheers us up is giving stuff away, we'll give one person who offers a suggestion a $25 gift card to Crisan in Albany. We'll just a draw a person at random from the suggestions.

Important: To be in the pool for the gift card, you have to submit your suggestion by noon on Thursday, January 16. Please use an email address that you check regularly so that we can contact you. The commenter drawn at random will be contacted by noon on Friday, and must respond by noon on the following Monday, January 20.

Your preferred dry cleaner?

dry cleaned shirts on rackWill emails:

As the legislative session is cranking up again, I was wondering if you guys have ever done something similar to your grocery shopping comparison to dry cleaning? With all of us here at the capitol mostly only in suits and tie for 6 months of the year, could be something very helpful.

We did something kind of like that a long, long time ago (and it's now very much out of date). But we hear from Will that he's most interested in price (which that thing didn't address). That's something we might be able to explore, but it will take a little while. So, in the meantime:

Which dry cleaner is is your favorite? Why?

Your suggestions could not only help out Will (and everyone else), but we might also be able to feed the suggestions into a price comparison.

So, got a suggestion? Please share!

Best way to a NYC airport -- with luggage and a kid?

Thumbnail image for amtrak engine closerSean emails with a travel question:

It's no secret that Albany has a small airport, and that finding reasonably priced, direct flights to big cities can often be a bit challenging. I've just booked a cross-country flight out of NYC and was hoping your readers could help me settle on the best option for getting from here to there before lift-off (and then back again a week later).
The current options (as I see them) involve driving + paying to park our car for a week, trains (whether from Albany or Poughkeepsie) or a one-way car-rental each way. We'll have lots of suitcases and a small child in tow.

We did the math on a similar Albany-to-NYC question in the past -- and while the numbers surely aren't still the same, some of the general conclusions probably still hold true. But Sean's question is different because he's headed to one of the NYC airports (presumably JFK or LaGuardia, not Newark). And the "lots of suitcases and a small child in tow" adds a degree of difficulty.

So... thoughts for Sean on the best option for his trip? Please share!

Where to get gingerbread cookies?

rows of gingerbread men Flickr user FlareRuthie asked a timely holiday question via Twitter:

Would you happen to know which bakery has gingerbread cookies in the Capital District?

We retweeted Ruthie's question over the weekend, and there were a handful of responses. They're after the jump.

Got a suggestion for Ruthie? Please share!

photo: Flickr user Flare (cc)

(there's more)

Where to find appetizings?

bagel smoked salmon flickr stu_spivackDaniel Nester asks via the Facebook:

Is there no place to get appetizing in the Capital Region? Anyone?

In this case he's referring to an "appetizing store." From a definition on the website for Russ & Daughters, a century-old appetizing store in Manhattan:

"Appetizing," as a noun, is a Jewish food tradition that is most typical among American Jews, and it is particularly local to New York and New Yorkers. The word "appetizer" is derived from the Latin "appete," meaning "to desire, covet, or long for." Used as a noun, "appetizing" is most easily understood as "the foods one eats with bagels." Its primary components are a variety of smoked and cured salmon, homemade salads, and cream cheeses.

The plural of these foods is "appetizings" rather than appetizers. Here's a Gothamist article about appetizing stores from a few years back about how the stores were once very common in NYC, but have slowly disappeared -- and the ones remaining have evolved.

So, we suspect there isn't an appetizing store, exactly, in the Capital Region. But we bet you can gather many similar items if you know where to look.

Got a suggestion for Daniel and others looking to nosh? Please share!

photo: Flickr user stu_spivack (cc)

A good painter, especially for spaces with high ceilings?

Thumbnail image for generic used paintbrushJona asks via Twitter:

Hey @alloveralbany! know of any local painters in the Troy area?
Brownstone = high ceilings, looking for references, available in January, insured (this is all new to us).

We had a similar question last year, but things change. And maybe there are some suggestions for Troy-area painters, or painters with particular expertise in working on spaces with high ceilings.

Got a suggestion for Jona? Please share!

Digital photography classes?

DSLR cross sectionKayla emails:

I'm looking to purchase beginner DSLR photography classes (or class) for someone as a gift. Saratoga area preferred, but can stretch a little farther to Albany or Glens Falls if needed. My Google searches aren't turning up much. Help?

If you have local class to suggest, great. Also, we've heard that sometimes there are local photography groups that get together to take photos -- which sounds like a good way to learn in an informal way. If you can suggest one of those groups, that could be helpful, too.

Got suggestions for Kayla? Please share!

photo: Wikipedia user Hanabi123 (cc)

Where to get boots fixed up?

Thumbnail image for boots with snow on themKobe asks via Facebook:

Does anyone know a good place to take leather boots that are scuffed/scraped and need to be fixed up? I don't trust myself on this one.

We had a related question -- about getting boots re-soled -- a few years back. The answers there might be helpful. But we're guessing the number of places that can give a pair of boots a good fixup exceeds the number of places that could do a whole re-soling. (Or maybe not. That's why it's good to ask.)

Boot season is here. So, got a suggestion for Kobe? Please share!

What is a reasonable price for a cab ride from ALB to downtown Albany?

generic light up taxi signCarolyn emails with a holiday travel question:

Wondering if you can do a thread on what to expect if you're flying into Albany and trying to get to downtown Albany by taxi. In the past I have had to some strange experiences. I.E. having to share cabs with strangers and then been price gouged for the pleasure.
This year I'm going to try and set a price before leaving the airport but I'm not even sure what's normal here. What is a reasonable amount to pay for a cab from the airport to Albany? Thanks and happy holidays!

Let's just put this way: We don't think Carolyn is alone in having odd Capital Region experiences. We're guessing plenty of people have their own similar stories.

So, got an answer to Carolyn's question -- or even just some local taxi negotiation strategies? Please share!

photo: Flickr user Ben Fredericson (xjrlokix) (cc)

Where to buy a real Christmas tree?

Thumbnail image for blue spruce branch needlesHeather emails:

I would love to know the best place to buy a real christmas tree. It doesn't have to be cut your own but I rather buy from an independent seller then a chain. Thank for the help.

We've had a similar question before, but, it mostly ended up in a discussion about whether live/real Christmas trees were environmentally friendly. Which is a fine discussion to have, it just didn't really address the question at hand.

So if you have a suggestion for Heather, please share!

By the way: Here's last year's list of cut-your-own-tree places -- it is not updated for this year, but it's a good place to start if you want to head out into the cold with a saw. (Wait, that doesn't sound right...)

A company for air duct cleaning?

heating cooling ventElisabeth asks via Twitter:

Hey @alloveralbany -- can your readers recommend a good company that cleans heating / AC ducts? Thanks!

We were kind of skeptical of these services, but then we saw ducts get cleaned on one of those home renovation shows on HGTV and... there was a lot of stuff in there, which makes sense -- why wouldn't air ducts accumulate dust and dirt. (That said, it wasn't enough to prompt us to actually pick up the phone and schedule someone to do it. Oh, inertia.)

So, got a suggestion for Elisabeth? Please share!

Must-do winter activities in the Capital Region?

Thumbnail image for empire state plaza ice skating 2012Mik emails:

I moved to Albany in September and am looking for some suggestions of must-do winter activities in the capital region (art, cultural events, outdoor activities, etc). Very broad ask, I know, but I don't even know what the options are!

First off: Welcome!

Second: You might be surprised by how much there is to do during the winter here, especially if you're willing to layer up and head outside.

We'll start with one suggestion: You should go ice skating at the Empire State Plaza (tentative opening date this year is November 29). Sure, it gets kind of crowded, but it's fun to be outside in a public space during the winter with a bunch of other people also having fun. And if you can swing by after work, it's a nice end to the workday -- somehow the stress of all those TPS reports starts to fade after a few turns on the ice.

That's just one suggestion. There's a bunch of other stuff. So, got a suggestion for Mik? Please share!

Indoor tracks for running?

indoor track meet runningEllie asks via Twitter:

Hey @alloveralbany do you know of any cheap indoor tracks for running? Free would better, or no contact if paid membership needed.

It can be hard to stay active during the winter. And while running on a treadmill can be OK, it's not the same as actually running and getting somewhere -- even if you're just running in circles.

So, got a suggestion for Ellie? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: Owning Winter: Running in the cold

Martial arts classes for adults?

karate classKristin emails:

I was wondering if any of your readers could offer suggestions for adult martial arts classes. I'm particularly looking for a good Tae Kwon Do school in the area, but am open to other martial art styles.
So far all of the schools I've looked in to start their adult classes at 12 or 13 years old and don't have many students over 16 or 17. I'm not opposed to training with children, I'd just like there to be some other adults in the class as well.

This is pretty straightforward. Got a suggestion for Kristin? Please share!

photo: Flickr user Kai Schreiber (Genista) (cc)

Where to get eye glasses?

eye glasses on a table closeupJames asks via a comment:

Where is a good place to get eye glasses & eye tests & the whole shabang? New to the Clifton Park area & need to find a reasonable priced option.

On one hand, glasses can be very expensive. On the other, you're probably going to get a lot of use out of them and they become a core feature of your appearance. However you look at it (ha, walked right into that one), it's worth seeking out a place that has frames that you can afford and like.

So even though James is in Clifton Park, it could be worth it for him to go wherever in the immediate Capital Region -- even if that means getting his eyes checked one place, and taking the prescription for glasses somewhere else.

So... got a suggestion for James? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: Ask AOA: A good eye doctor?

A good attorney for writing a will?

accounting ledgerKate emails:

Could anyone recommend a good, reasonable lawyer to prepare a simple will?

A will is one of those things most people, especially younger people, are probably like, "Me? I don't need a will."

But you might surprised, even for the non-Warren Buffets of the world -- a will can help can help smooth the way a bit for your loved ones after you die. And while there are online services that now offer to help with preparing a will, an actual attorney might be able to ask you better questions for writing a more helpful will.

So, suggestions for Kate? Bonus points for explaining why you're suggesting that attorney. And extra bonus points for mentioning roughly how it much it cost, so Kate and everyone else has a good idea of what they might expect to pay.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Ask AOA: A good divorce attorney?
+ Ask AOA: Attorneys for small businesses?

photo: Flickr user Edinburgh City of Print (cc)

Help making wedding rings?

wedding ring on tableAn Engaged Person emails:

My fiance and I are interested in making our own wedding bands. We aren't sure how to approach this though and I'm wondering if you or your readers might have some recommendations regarding how on earth we would go about doing this. Are there jewelers or metal workers in the area that do this kind of thing?
And just to clarify, I mean *make* them - not just *design* them!

Well, there are definitely at jewelers and metal workers in this area who could probably assist with the process. We guess it really just comes down to how involved EP and fiance want to be on the spectrum of actually making the rings -- with design and sourcing materials at one end, to working some of the materials, all the way up to climbing a volcano to forge the metal in lava. (OK, that far end is a little crazy -- they'd obviously take a helicopter to the top of the volcano. Who actually makes that climb anymore?)

So... got a suggestion for this Engaged Person, either for a local jewelry maker and/or how to go about finding out more about the possibilities? Please share.

Earlier on AOA: The artist as metalsmith: John De Rosier's jewelry

Musical instrument repair?

saxophone closeupChuckD emails:

I'm the owner of a nice, but well-used alto saxophone that's in need of some professional TLC. Is there anyone in the area who I could entrust this to? Big bonus points for fast turnaround!

Got a suggestion for a place where Chuck's saxophone can get a tune up? Please share!

photo: Flickr user wakalani (cc)

Where to rent a log splitter?

Thumbnail image for fire wood pile by flickr haria vorlanSean emails:

I live in Albany. Do you or your readers know any places where I can rent a wood splitter locally? Bonus points for contact info to go along with the name!

Or, if not that, maybe there's a rent-a-lumberjack service? We hear they're O-K. (Haha ... Respect the flannel.)

Got a suggestion for Sean? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: Ask AOA: Where to buy firewood?

photo: Flickr user Horia Varlan (cc)

What sort of winter coat(s) should I buy? And where?

old winter coats

The world have never seen a dorkier coat than that parka. But it did the job.

A question from AOA Greg. Let us now self-blockquote:

It is time to bid farewell to my winter coats. My beloved 3/4 length corduroy coat is frayed and falling apart (fail wale). And my LL Bean parka -- which has protected me against many a winter, much lake effect snow, and frequent blustery dog walks -- has finally succumbed to catastrophic zipper failure and other indignities of old age. Also: it makes me look like (even more of) an enormous dork.
So I'm looking for a new coat. Or coats. I'd like to get away with just buying one. But I suspect I should probably replace both types. I need a coat for work around town, but also long walks with the dog and other winter outside activities (I don't ski).
If you have suggestions of where I should shop for a coat, great. But I'm also looking for suggestions of what type or brand of coats. Do you have a favorite winter coat type? What about brand? Should I re-submit myself to the warm, reliable dorkiness of another LL Bean model? Or is there something better? (Please say there is.)

So, got a suggestion? Please share. Greg will think warm thoughts about you this winter.

Prenatal classes?

baby bottleReader emails:

I'm writing in search of prenatal classes - yoga, dance, workout, etc - held in the evening or on the weekend. I'm in downtown Albany, but could travel to other nearby locales. Do your readers have any good ones to recommend?

It sounds Reader's looking for prenatal movement/exercise classes. But we'll expand Reader's question just a bit to also include prenatal classes on topics such as newborn care or breastfeeding.

Got a suggestion? Please share! Non-redeemable bonus points for a sentence or two about why you liked the class you're suggestion.

Earlier on AOA: Ask AOA: A good obstetrician?

photo: Flickr user nerissa's ring (cc)

Advice for buying local art?

framed tulip photoHiggs emails:

Do you know of local stores/galleries from which one can buy art? I'm thinking mostly along the lines of paintings created by local artists, but anything else is great, too.

There are a lot of galleries around the Capital Region, especially if you draw the circle wide enough to include a place such as Hudson. And if you have a favorite local gallery or local artist, please share.

But we're also hoping people will have some advice for Higgs (and everyone else) about the process of buying art. Where to look? What to look for? Buy directly from an artist? Advantages/disadvantages of buying through a gallery? Maybe tips about how to figure out what you like and how to make it work in your house/office/wherever?

So, got a suggestion on any of that... please share!

A company for chimney sweeping and repair?

chimneys silhouetted by Flickr jayneanddVal asks via Twitter:

Ok, so thinking ahead, I don't see an Ask AOA on chimney sweeps. I'd love a name of someone in Alb who cleans & does masonry.

This may sound like one of those jobs from 1890 or something (and, you know, it was... and it wasn't also chim chim cher-ee). But it can be important for a modern chimney that still gets used. Residue builds up over time and it can be a safety issue.

So... got a suggestion for Val? Please share.

photo: Flickr user jayneandd (cc)

Where to take continuing education classes?

chalk on chalk board ledgeChris asks via Twitter:

"Do you [know] where would I find continuing education programs in Albany County?"

The first place that jumped to mind: the Albany school district, which offers a slate of continuing ed classes. Here's the current schedule of classes.

But we're certain there are other options out there. Have a suggestion for Chris? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ A sampling of cooking classes, fall 2013
+ Where to take foreign language classes (2009)

photo: Flickr user Kyle McCluer (cc)

Where to get bubble tea?

bubble tea croppedAndrea asked this morning on Twitter:

I want bubble tea. Does @alloveralbany know where I can get some?

Our first thought was the Hong Kong Bakery on Wolf Road. But people on Twitter had a few other suggestions -- they're after the jump.

Got a suggestion for a local spot for bubble tea? Please share.

(there's more)

A company to remove asbestos?

house mechanicals pipes ductEmily emails with follow-up -- and a question (emphasis added):

A few weeks ago, someone asked for recommendations for a reputable home inspector who specialized in old homes (they specified farmhouses). As luck would have it, a few weeks later my husband and I found ourselves needing a reputable home inspector with experience looking at old homes.
Your readers' recommendations were unbelievably spot-on. The inspector we chose (Peter Shaming of Excelsior Home Inspections if I may be specific) was incredibly thorough, knowledgable and professional. He found things that had been missed on a previous inspection and even managed to impress the two engineer team of my husband and father-in-law which is not an easy task.
Well, with all that- one of the things he found was a small amount of old asbestos wrap around some ductwork in the basement. We would like to get it professionally removed and are looking for recommendations. Your readers gave us awesome guidance the first time, does anyone have any reputable and licensed asbestos abatement contractors they would recommend?

First off, it's great to hear those earlier answers were helpful. +1 to everyone who offered a suggestion.

Now, onto Emily's question: Have a suggestion for a good company to handle this asbestos issue? Or maybe your house also had a similar asbestos situation and you found away to address it without removal? Please share.

A good dentist for people afraid of going to the dentist?

woman at the dentistA asks via Twitter:

I have real, severe, serious fear of the dentist. But I have to go. Recommendations [for] who will treat me accordingly?

It's been a few years since we've had a question about dentists. And A is looking for someone who can help ease her anxiety about being in the dental chair. (Sometimes the right person and a little bedside manner can make all the difference.)

So... know of good dentist for A? Please share. Non-redeemable bonus points will be awarded for answers that include a bit of explanation about what makes that dentist/dental office good.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Ask AOA: A good dentist? (2010)
+ Ask AOA: A good oral surgeon? (2010)

photo: Flickr user Betsssssy (cc)

Web developer for an online business?

code editor html screengrabAnonymous emails:

I am looking for an experienced web developer to help me launch an online business, someone who is highly proficient in HTML to hit the ground running on my site.

It sounds like Anonymous is maybe looking for a developer who has experience setting up an online shop or e-commerce system, so that might narrow the range a bit.

And, of course, a developer doesn't necessarily have to be local -- but it's nice to be able to meet up and talk to face-to-face. (We do get the sense Anon is looking for someone in the area.)

Have a web developer or firm to suggest? Please share.

Halloween parties/costume contests?

great pumpkin charlie brown stillChristine emails:

My partner and I are wondering if you've gotten word of any hip, non 20-year-old slutty-version of Halloween costume contests and/or parties (charitable or otherwise) in the Albany area? Any help is greatly appreciated!

There's usually a Halloween party at the Washington Park Lakehouse, though we haven't seen any details about that this year (if you know what's up, please share).

Have a suggestion or idea for Christine? Please share!

Update: Details about this year's Washington Park Lakehouse Halloween party floated our way after we posted this question. The party is October 26 from 9 pm-1 am. Tickets are $25 ahead, $50 at the door -- advance tickets available at the Pearl Street Pub and the Barrel Saloon. The party is open bar (as well as 21+) and "costumes mandatory."

still from It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Suggestions for a 1920s-themed local wedding?

1920s wedding portraitAllison emails with a fun question:

I'm recently engaged and am overwhelmed with all the potential wedding venues in our area. To help narrow the choices down, I've decided on a 1920's era themed wedding (secretly hoping Hemingway crashes my party, drunk).
Can you guys help a girl out with some vintage-y and spacious venues? And if you have any other dope ideas for center pieces, signature drinks, etc. please do not hold back.

This area has no shortage of wedding venues -- and some of them even date back to the 1920s (or thereabout).

So, got a suggestion for Allison? Please share!

photo: State Library of Queensland Flickr

Where to get pepper spray? And maybe tips for staying safe while jogging?

woman spraying pepper spraySean emails:

I like to go out jogging after work with my kid in the jogging stroller. Unfortunately, sunsets are creeping up earlier and earlier leaving me finishing my runs on trails alone and in the dark. In an effort to keep running, but to do-so more safely, I wanted pick up a bottle of mace / pepper-spray to help ward off any potential predators. Do any of your readers know where can I buy some in the area?

As it happens, New York State has a law about who can have pepper spray, where it can be bought, and how it can be used. (The state legalized its possession and use for self defense in 1996, the last state to do so. It was controversial at the time -- apparently Rudy Giuliani was a vocal opponent.) The rules are, basically:

+ Only people age 18 and older can have "self-defense sprays." A no one who's been convicted of a felony or assault.

+ It can only be sold by a licensed dealer, either a firearms dealer or pharmacy or a vendor approved by the State Police.

+ Using the spray in any way other than self defense is a crime.

So, suggestions for Sean? And if you have additional ideas about jogging safety or maybe self-defense classes, please share.

photo: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Flickr (cc)

Where to go horse riding?

horse in stable head closeupTracy asks via Twitter:

Albany, I just want to ride the horses. ... I found one place online, not sure how updated the info is, for Renegade Farms. They offer instructions, but also have a "work to ride" program where you can volunteer time to learn about & help care for the horses in exchange for extra ride time. I like the idea behind that because it's a more immersive learning experience (plus it benefits the stable).

It sounds like Tracy is interested in more than, say, just riding horses one afternoon -- she maybe also wants to get some riding lessons and learn about caring for the animals, too.

So, got suggestion for her? Please share!

Contractor to fix a wet basement?

house foundation brickAnonymous emails:

I'm looking for competent, reliable contractors to fix a moisture problem in our basement. I'm aware of two companies in our area: Adirondack Basement Solutions and Kinetic Basement Solutions.
Can you post a request on the web for readers to share their experiences with these companies, as well as any recommendations for others to contact?

There seem to be a lot of companies that advertise services to address this problem, but we get the sense that wet basements can be tricky. And sometimes fixing the problem goes beyond the basement itself -- to things like gutters.

So, got a suggestion for Anonymous? Please share.

Bartending classes?

Thumbnail image for pint of beerNate emails:

I'm looking for some information on any local bartending programs. I know there is at least one thats been around for years in the Clifton Park area. I've heard mixed reviews on the class and even if it's necessary..ie - many people just recommend just starting at a local bar as a barback shadowing someone and working your way up. I was hoping you or the readers could shed some light on this topic.

Suggestions? Ideas? A little bit of insight? Please share.

Flickr user mfajardo (cc)

Donating hair for charity?

curly hair statueChrisck emails:

My question is about donating hair for charity (for wigs for cancer patients). My hair has gotten quite long and I want to cut it, but would donate it if I knew where to go to donate it. Also, I'd like to talk to someone about exactly how long they need the hair to be because I might be willing to wait a while longer for the cut if my hair needs to be longer to be useful. Anybody know anything about donating hair?

As we understand it, there a few charities that collect hair for this purpose (and some criticism of at least one).

So, anyone have the scoop for chrisck? Suggestions about a local place to go to have the hair cut properly for this purpose? Please share.

photo: Flickr user quinn.anya (cc)

A good home inspector?

chipped foundation brickCheryl emails:

My husband and I are looking for a good home inspector: someone who walks you through everything and explains things thoroughly. Specifically if anyone has experience with old farm houses, that would be preferable.

The specific "old farm house" part might be a little hard to find, but there are certainly home inspectors in this area that have plenty of experience inspecting old (and sometimes really old) houses.

So, got a suggestion for Cheryl and her husband? Please share. You'll win our respect and admiration if you're specific about what you're recommending a certain home inspector.

A good ENT doctor?

stethoscope and ophthalmoscopeErin asks via Twitter:

Can any of you recommend a good ENT specialist in the area? ... I need to see someone soon ish

As you probably know, ENT = ear, nose, and throat.

Know of a good doctor for Erin? Please share! Bonus points for being specific about why you like that doctor.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Ask AOA: A good sleep doctor?
+ Ask AOA: A good doctor to treat Lyme disease?
+ Ask AOA: Suggestion of a doctor for migraines?
+ Ask AOA: A good doctor, preferably female?

photo: Flickr user a.drian (cc)

Where to rent a wheelchair?

wheelchair wheels closeupW emails:

Wondering if I can rent a wheelchair somewhere for the weekend. A friend is coming to visit, and she suffered a big knee injury in a car crash, so walking a lot won't work for her. If I can wheel her around here and there, it will expand the activities we can do.

A wheelchair rental doesn't seem like something that should be too hard to find.

Got a suggestion for W? Please share.

photo: Flickr user Yahoo! Accessibility Lab (cc)

Fix or replace an antique lock?

corbin antique door locksOtis emails:

Our house was built in 1880 and has a Corbin lock on the front door. The cast iron box that fits inside the door has some broken sections so it's no longer functional. Our locksmith says that there were many different Corbin locks and it's almost impossible to find a match in a working lock... but the alternative is to get rid of all our antique hardware and replace it with a modern lockset. So naturally I want to try finding a replacement.

We weren't familiar with Corbin locks, so we did a little poking around on Flickr -- and some of the examples that turned up are beauties. We can understand the desire to either fix or replace it with something similar, especially on a Victorian-style or other older home.

So, have a suggestion for where Otis can find someone to either fix this lock -- or, more likely, a place that might sell a similar replacement? Maybe someplace that specializes in working on older homes? Please share.

image via Wikipedia

A field of sunflowers?

sunflower blooms closeupKristen emails:

Do you know of any fields of in-bloom sunflowers in the area? I got the idea last year to photograph my daughter in a field of sunflowers when I passed by an awesome one on Rt. 9H by Kinderhook, but I never made it down there before they died off.

We gotta admit we're posting Kristen's question because we really like sunflowers and the thought of a whole field of them makes us smile. So we'd kind of like to know, too.

Got the scoop on some sunflowers? Please share.

A good stylist for a pixie cut?

unspeakable visions christine pixie cutSarah asks via the Facebook:

Hey, can anyone recommend a good stylist for a pixie cut? It can be so hard to find someone really good with short cuts for women...Thanks!

Our first thought when seeing Sarah's question was Christine over at Unspeakable Visions and her super cute pixie cut -- she chronicled her switch to the pixie in a fun series for the "pixie curious." That's Christine on the right.

But going short can feel like a jump. So... have a good stylist to suggest for Sarah? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: Ask AOA: A salon for very (insert color) hair?

Where to find something cronut-like?

cronut by flickr klwattsSpencer asks via Facebook:

Are there any bakeries in the capital region making cronut knockoffs? I would love to try.

You might be wondering: What the @#$% is a cronut?

It's essentially a donut made from croissant dough. The "pastry hybrid" is said to have sprung to life from the head of Dominique Ansel, a chef in Manhattan. (It's unclear if the cronut sprang forth from Ansel's head fully grown.) And since taking shape in May, the cronut has prompted a lot of people in NYC to stand in line. The craze -- like some zombie apocalypse virus, no doubt taking advantage of air travel and our interconnected world -- has since spread to other large cities. (Though none of those are officially "cronuts," because the term was trademarked by Ansel.)

So... about finding something like that here in the Capital Region? We haven't heard of any place making them. But maybe there's something like it. Or, perhaps, some local place will see this as an opportunity. (Cider cronut, anyone?)

Have a suggestion for Spencer? Please share.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Trying the glazed donut breakfast sandwich at Dunkin' Donuts
+ Eat This: Boston cream donuts at Bella Napoli
+ Eat This: Glazed donuts at the Cookie Factory
+ A short tour of Capital Region doughnuts

photo: Flickr user klwatts (cc)

Volunteer or mentoring opportunities for science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics?

slide ruleElizabeth emails:

Are there any local organizations that need volunteers to mentor or tutor K-12 students interested in science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics? I am interested in volunteering, but having trouble finding a reputable organization where I can have an impact. I am especially interested volunteering for an organization that encourages high school aged girls to pursue a degree in a STEM related field. And while I've got your attention, are there other organizations (any type) you would recommend volunteering for?

Sometimes having someone there to lend a hand now and then, and tell you "I did this and you can, too" can be a powerful thing.

So, got a suggestion for Elizabeth? Please share!

photo: Flickr user s58y (cc)

How to find a weekend camp in the Adirondacks?

adventures in adirondacks wilderness illustration cropSean emails (emphasis added):

I'm looking for recommendations for a weekend camp/cabin rental somewhere up in the Adirondacks. My desires are simple - on a body of water. I'm not looking for anything fancy or expensive - simpler is MUCH preferred. We like to swim, kayak, hike, have campfires, grill and just relax. My wife and I are looking to begin what we hope to become a yearly tradition for our new family. Where have you, your families or your friends gone that you might recommend?
Do you have any tips for searching for something like this, whether through realtors, any site that's specific to this kind of search, etc? Three years of NY living don't provide me with the strong base of relatives / schoolmates / neighbors who I can mine for recommendations. Any thoughts / help would be greatly appreciated!

If have a specific suggestion, by all means please share. But what we really like about Sean's question is that he's asking how to go about finding a place like this. Sometimes that's the best way to help someone.

So, suggestions for how Sean should start looking into? This summer is nearing an end, but it could help him (and others) get a jump on next summer.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Ask AOA: Weekend trips in the Adirondacks?
+ How to hike the High Peaks and not be That Guy
+ "The birthplace of the American vacation"

illustration from Adventures in the wilderness, or, Camp-life in the Adirondacks (1869) via archive.org

Good place to shop for appliances?

kitchen stove dialsAnnie asks via Facebook:

I was wondering if you guys (or your readers) could recommend the best place to find deals on kitchen appliances as well as any good contractors in the area. My fiance and I just bought our first house so we'd love a good point in the right direction!

We've had a handful of contractor questions in the past. But we don't think we've ever had a question about where to buy appliances.

A lot of people might default to one of the big box stores -- but the Capital Region also has a handful of local appliance stores. So, there's some choice.

Have a suggestion for Annie about where to shop -- or even just suggestions about what to look for? Please share!

Good venue for a medium-sized, indoor wedding reception?

wedding veil brideJoanna emails:

My sister is planning her wedding for this December and is looking for a venue for the reception that is on the smaller side, where she can entertain approximately 80 guests. She is not bound by area -- we've been looking for places in Saratoga, Troy, Albany, Schenectady, etc. I didn't know if you've posted about this topic in the past or maybe if your readers might have some suggestions.

We've had a question before about finding a place for a small wedding. That was a few years back, though, and many of those spots were outside.

Of course, there aren't any shortages of places to hold receptions. But we're curious about places that are maybe unexpected, or non-traditional. You know, the sort of place that makes you say, "That wouldn't have occurred to me, but it could be cool." (Or, this case, warm, for December.)

So, have a suggestion Joanna and her sister? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ Ask AOA: Where to get a wedding dress cleaned, preserved?
+ Ask AOA: Interesting wedding spot in downtown Albany?
+ Ask AOA: Where to have a small wedding?

photo: Flickr user billaday (cc)

A good sleep doctor?

pillow on bedMolly asks via Twitter:

anyone know of a good sleep specialist in #albany? I've already done a sleep study, just need a doctor for check ups/treatment

Not sleeping well can really mess up your health and the way you feel. (We know people who've gotten treatment for a sleep disorder and it's made a big difference for them.)

So, know of a good sleep doctor in the area? Please share.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Ask AOA: A good doctor to treat Lyme disease?
+ Ask AOA: Suggestion of a doctor for migraines?
+ Ask AOA: A good doctor, preferably female?

How to deal with cat calling?

lark street sidewalk smoothedAfter being cat called on Lark Street -- again -- Colleen writes:

I had had it. I was tired of being catcalled on the street because I happened to be guilty of being a Woman While Walking. In sweats, in jeans, in a slouchy dress in 90+ degree heat, they sidle up to you, just too close for comfort and insinuate themselves into your errand. I was tired of having to keep my eyes locked forward in my own neighborhood. I was tired of fixing my face into a haughty mask any time I walked without Mike by my side. I was sick of it.
And he happened to be there. And I happened to be ready to ovary up and be a woman.

You can read what happened next.

The experience prompted Colleen to ask us via Twitter:

I'm done w/ just ignoring catcallers around Lark. How do other ladies handle the #harassment?

This is an ongoing problem. And if you're a guy, you might not realize how big a problem it is -- ask some of your lady friends, you might be surprised how often it happens.

So. What's the best way to handle these situations? Experiences, suggestions or encouragement to share with Colleen and other women? Please share.

A good cat groomer?

staring catJennifer emails:

At the risk of sounding like a crazy cat lady, I need help finding a groomer for my cat. Newborn baby + slightly neglected long haired cat = a total mess. We had a not so good experience with the vet recommended groomer. I appreciate the help!

We know there are a bunch of places for dog grooming. But cat grooming seems like it's probably harder to find. And it's our understanding that cats can sometimes be challenging when it comes to stuff like this. (Let's not even talk about trying to herd them.)

So, anyone have a suggestion for Jennifer and her cat? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: Ask AOA: Veterinarian care for cats?

photo: Flickr user Tambako The Jaguar (cc)

Where to get a bike fixed?

bike pedal mediumSuper Girl asks via Twitter:

just searched @alloveralbany for recommendations on bike repair shops in the area, but got no results. please help! have no clue where 2 go!

We checked, too, and it doesn't look like we've had this question before.

So, where should Super Girl go to get her bike fixed?

Earlier on AOA:
+ Summer school: Buying a bicycle
+ 2010: Ask AOA: Where to buy a bike

A good doctor to treat Lyme disease?

deer tick closeup cdcLaura asks via Facebook:

My husband was just diagnosed with Lyme disease after the ER doctor who saw him last week (when his temp reached nearly 105!!) spotted a tick bite that neither of us or his primary care physician noticed. We weren't such great fans of his PCP to begin with, but now we really want to find a better one. Not looking for infectious disease specialists, but a really good primary care or internal medicine physician who is especially Lyme literate would be a dream. ...
Anyone with Lyme have a doctor they really love?

This is an important question -- not only for Laura and her husband, but also because this region is part of zone along the East Coast where Lyme is particularly prevalent. And Lyme can be tricky to treat. (Chris Gibson is part of a group of elected officials pushing for increased federal funding for research and better testing for Lyme disease.)

Have a suggestion for Laura and her husband? Please share.

Earlier on AOA: The spread of Lyme disease

photo: CDC/Anna Perez

Help with financial planning?

accounting ledgerEAW emails:

I just had a baby in May and have made it a goal to get my financial plans together while on maternity leave - saving up for retirement, my son's college education, figuring out how much life insurance I need, etc. I've been trying to read up online and do it on my own, but it's getting too complicated now and I need some help. I'd really like to find an intelligent and trustworthy financial planner to work with and would love to get some recommendations from people in the capital region. Thanks for your help!

We've had a similar question before, but it's been a while and maybe we can round up some new suggestions. And although EAW is looking for a financial planner, we're also curious about other resources that could help -- organizations, books, websites, whatever that's helped you get organized and move ahead with a plan.

So, got a suggestions for EAW? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: Ask AOA: Tips for tracking spending?

photo: Flickr user edinburghcityofprint (Edinburgh City of Print) (cc)

Help with window repair?

window lock closeupChristina asks via Facebook:

i'm trying to find someone who does window repairs in Schenectady. There seem to be plenty of companies willing to replace your windows - but none that I can find that do repairs. Anyone know of any awesome handyman service or window repair specialist they are willing to recommend? We have some casement windows that need repair - leaking water (in this torrential downpour rain we've been having). Thanks.

We've had a question before about fixing really old windows -- like, almost a century old. But Christina's question is a bit different. And it'd be great to help her find a way to fix rather than replace.

Have some insight? Please share!

Tips for tracking spending?

accounting ledgerChrisck emails:

Can anyone recommend software for tracking expenses? I've never in my life made a budget for myself because I always innately lived within my means, whether as a poor student or working stiff. Now I'm a "pensioner" on a fixed/reduced income and I think I should track my spending for a year just to (hopefully) affirm that I'm solvent. I'm looking for simple, free software, maybe something where I can customize the categories to track some of my quirkier spending habits.

This might not be a local question, per se. But we're guessing a bunch of people here have some good insights on this topic.

Got a suggestion for Chris? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ Ask AOA: A good accountant for small businesses?
+ Ask AOA: A good accountant?
+ Ask AOA: A good financial adviser?

photo: Flickr user edinburghcityofprint (Edinburgh City of Print) (cc)

Transportation options for a group day trip?

little yellow school bus noseJeff, from the American Outlaws Albany Chapter -- the fan group for the US Men's National Soccer Team -- emails:

July 16th the US Men's Soccer Team has a Gold Cup game at Rentschler Field in Hartford. We have plenty of members (Albany AO chapter) planning to go and many have said they're bringing friends. Originally we were just going to carpool but some beer and prodding led to me agreeing to research transit options.
Realistically we would leave around 2 to 3pm and return soon after the game which would end at 10pm.
Freedom to have some "fun" (music/noise and adult beverages) on board is a huge plus, but value is first concern. I have heard good things about a new company recently but can't find them - I believe they ran a bus from Olde English or Barrel Saloon to SPAC for a concert?

Jeff says they're looking at a group of 20-40 (or more).

Got a transportation suggestion for the group? Please share!

A good career coach?

lego man with megaphone flickr hazzat ccLiz emails:

I'm in the midst of exploring brand new career paths and I'm looking to work, ideally in person, with a career coach. I was wondering if there are any great career coaches, life coaches, or career consulting firms in the area that perhaps you or the AOA community could recommend.

It seems to us that this sort of thing could a few different ways. One way, the good way, would be finding a person who can help you work through figuring out what you really want to do, whether there's actually a job doing that, and how to get there. The other, less good way, would be someone who just tells you to follow your synergies while leveraging your enterprise solutions to find your cheese. Or something to that effect.

So, have a suggestion for Liz? Please share!

photo: Flickr user Hazzat (cc)

Something different for an anniversary day?

art omi arcsJenn asks via Twitter:

Hey @alloveralbany, I'm planning a date on 6/28 (or 6/30) for my boyfriend's and my 2nd anniversary. Any ideas of something fun and unique?
My goal would be an activity we've never done before or something hands on, but open to any out of the box suggestions!
We live in Colonie, so anywhere within day-trip distance. Otherwise, anything other than dinner and a movie is great! Thanks!

We get the impression Jenn is in some competition with her manfriend to see who can come up with the best anniversary date, so obviously we want to help her win.

The specific dates make this a bit hard to pick things like classes, but we've come up with three ideas -- two easy day trips, and one class -- after the jump.

Have something in mind? Please share!

(there's more)

Recommendations for car transmission repair?

car engine under hoodStephanie emails:

The clutch in my 2001 Corolla recently celebrated its 170k milestone and has decided that it's time to retire. I was wondering if any of your readers had a recommendation for a good transmission shop in the area. I'm located in Troy, so the closer the better, but I'll go wherever I need to for the right service with the right price.

First, Stephanie, let us congratulate you on getting your car to the 170k mark. And, second, let us offer our condolences for its clutch.Transmission repair/replacement can be an expensive job.

Got a suggestion for Stephanie? Please share.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Ask AOA: Where to get a "check engine" light read?
+ Capital Region Recommended Mechanics

Where to buy essential oils?

essential oil bottle flickr AbdillahAbi ccKerry emails:

Can you please tell me where I could find a local shop that sells Essential Oils?

The first place that popped into our head (because of a previous post): Honest Weight -- and the co-op lists essential oils among the product lineup in its wellness department.

But there are probably other options around the area, too.

So, have a suggestion for Kerry? Please share!

photo: Flickr user AbdillahAbi (cc)

Where to get a "check engine" light read?

check engine light flickr runrockprincess ccA. asks via Twitter:

Where can I find out what my check engine light is about, without paying through the nose?

This is a good thing to know because:

1) The check engine light can indicate a whole range of problems, some of them serious.

2) Sometimes the problem is a simple as the gas cap not being on tight enough. So if you can get someone to read the problem for a few bucks, you can fix the problem without spending a bunch of money.

Got a suggestion for A.? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: Capital Region Recommended Mechanics

photo: Flickr user @RunRockPrincess (cc)

Plans for severe weather?

tornado noaa archive photoErin emails:

After hearing about the 2 tornadoes that touched down this week and of course Irene, I was wondering if there were any local storm shelters available for use in a bad situation, especially an underground one for tornadoes? I live in 2nd floor apartment in a building with no basement, so if really bad storm were to come through my area I'd be in a bit of a dangerous situation.
With the storms getting worse each year (or so it would seem) I like having a plan in place even if I never need to use it!

Erin is on the right path here in being proactive about planning. With some types of storms -- like a hurricane/tropical storm -- there's usually some advance notice, often days. Other types -- like a tornado -- the notice could be just a few minutes. So knowing what to do ahead of time is important.

Here are a few guides on making a plan/emergency kit: ready.gov | New York State | Red Cross. And here are National Weather Service guides to thunderstorms, tornadoes, and lightning and how to take shelter in various types of buildings during a tornado. (In a building without a basement, it's get to the lowest floor and find a room in the middle of the building, preferably without windows.) Also: a NWS tornado FAQ.

Another resource: NY-Alert, where you can sign up for text alerts for stuff like tornado warnings.

Got local suggestions? Please share.

Earlier on AOA: Watch vs. warning

archive photo: NOAA Photo Library, NOAA Central Library; OAR/ERL/National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL)

Consignment shops for kids clothes?

Pass It On Sale clothesSean emails:

My wife and I just had a baby and would love to dress the kid in all kinds of ridiculous outfits. However, they grow so dang fast that it just doesn't make sense to spend the cash on something new if they're only going to wear it once or twice. Do you or your readers know of any good consignment shops in the area specifically for kids clothing?

This isn't a shop exactly, but it's something Sean and his wife should definitely check out: the big Pass It On consignment sale for kids stuff, which if tradition holds, will be back in August. There are a handful of other similar sales throughout the year (see the comments on that post).

So, got a suggestion for Sean and his wife? Please share!

Companies for foundation repair?

foundation brickJason emails:

Yesterday's friendly almost-tornado helped loosen a hole in my home's foundation, which is now leaking. I wonder if you or the AOA community have any recommendations for people/companies that can do foundation repair work. Since it's work on the foundation, I'm more interested in the repairs being done correctly, rather than cheaply.

Whenever contractor-type questions come up here, Bennett often gets mentioned. But there are plenty of options out there, and we're curious if there are companies that specialize in fixing this sort of problem. (Basements/foundations seem like they could be hard problems to fix.)

So, got a suggestion for Jason? Please share.

Spots for an outdoor party?

aoa cookout wideWendy emails:

A question for the AOA crowd: My husband and I are celebrating our 25th anniversary this summer, and are planning an outdoor party/picnic for early August. Saratoga State Park was our first choice location, but nothing suitable is available (our bad for waiting.) We are going to check out Grafton Lakes and Thatcher -- but what are some other options? It doesn't have to be a state park. We'd prefer within 30-45 minutes of Troy, with a pool (or swimming) and a field for other outdoor activities.

It sounds like Wendy is already focused on state parks or similar places -- and if you have a suggestion for one, great. But, as she said, it doesn't have to be one -- and we're also curious if there are maybe some alternatives. The pool might be a complicating factor.

Got a suggestion? Please share!

Ideas for a bachelor party?

pint of beerMatt emails:

I'm trying to plan a bachelor party that is nutty or unexpected, but not crude. "Suggestive" is okay, but that's not my priority ... wackiness is. In the Capital Region in September. This has not been easy!
Groom is 36, a roller derby player and mild gun enthusiast ... but otherwise generally "button-down."
Any ideas?!

So it sounds like coke-snorting donkeys are probably out. Tigers, too. But "nutty" includes a wide range.

Got a suggestion for Matt? Please share.

photo: Flickr user mfajardo (cc)

Swim lessons for adults?

indoor pool bw flickr Thomas R StegelmannSays Jona on Twitter:

it's official, I need to learn how to swim #swim. ... I know how to swim to save my life, but not compete. thanks!

There are two types of answers for a "swimming lessons for adults" question:
+ Lessons for basic swimming.
+ Lessons for people who already know how to swim a bit, but want to get better/faster for exercise or so they can compete in events like triathlons. (Sounds like what Jona's looking for.)

Either type of lesson can be hard to find if you're an adult. (Swimming lessons often seem to be geared toward kids.)

So... have a suggestion on either account? Please share!

Swimming season will be here soon.

photo: Flickr user Thomas R. Stegelmann (cc)

Where to get a good steak?

filet steak closeup by flickr quinn.anyaCollins asks via Twitter:

Good Albany steak/filet recommendation? Other than Prime

The "other than Prime" part is a little like asking "What are some traditionally successful baseball teams -- other than the Yankees?" But it's good to get some suggestions beyond the places that get mentioned all the time.

And our quick take on steak: Considering steak is one of those things we don't order often, we tend to avoid filet. You know, if you're going to order a steak, order something with a lot of flavor -- a ribeye, hanger, something like that.

Got a suggestion? Please share.

Earlier on AOA: Ask AOA: The best burgers in the Capital Region? (2010)

photo: Flickr user quinn.anya (cc)

How to get a garden plot tilled?

shovel in garden dirtLaura emails with a timely question:

Can anyone recommend a reliable, reasonable service for rototilling a vegetable garden plot?

If you know of a service, great. But even if you don't, maybe you have some alternate ideas that could help Laura get her garden plot in shape.

Got a suggestion? Please share!

Where to enjoy a beverage on a covered patio?

covered outdoor patioLucas emails with a specific outdoor dining/drinking question:

I'm looking for places in Albany where I can enjoy a beverage on a patio; however, because of the inconsistencies of the weather here, I'm looking for places in particular where the patios are covered. What places around town do you suggest?

This reminds us that we really need to update the outdoor dining map. (Like, really.) So your suggestions will help not only Lucas (and others), but also help us update the map.

Got a suggestion? Please share!

Good brunch spots in/near Troy?

Bloody MaryAfter running into a brunch predicament Sunday, Andrew emails:

Do you guys know where to get a good brunch and bloody Mary on a Sunday in Troy?

Just thinking about some of our go-to brunch spots now, we gotta admit that none of them were on the east side of the Hudson.

So, got a suggestion for Andrew? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: A boozy brunch spot? (2010)

Quintessential Albany items?

Thumbnail image for albany skyline obstructed smallSamantha messages:

Hi, I've only lived in the Albany area for a couple of years, so I'm not too familiar as to what screams "Albany"! But I need to know!
See, my husband (retired Army), myself and our daughter were based out of Ft. Hood TX, back in '07. While there, my husband and many others deployed. I was fortunate to have a small support group of other medic wives. Among them was a girl named Jay. Jay has a son named Max who is about the same age as my daughter (they were 3 back then). We spent 15 months supporting each other while our husbands were gone. Really she supported me, she was, and definitely is the strongest woman I've ever known.
This is why she is so strong.
It is also why I need to know what amazing Albany swag consists of?
Any suggestion would be greatly appreciated!

Here's the short story from that link: Samantha's friend's son, Max, has a brain tumor. He'd like to visit France, but as you might understand, that's difficult considering the circumstances. So friends of the family are trying to bring Max the world via mail -- postcards and other items.

So Samantha's looking for some fun and very-Albany items she could send Max.

Got a suggestion? Please share!

Driveway sealing/paving recommendation?

cracked driveway pavementGary emails:

Our driveway is in need of some attention this spring, can you recommend a good sealcoat/paving co. in Albany?

At some point during the summer crews starting moving through neighborhoods, knocking on doors pitching driveway fixing/re-sealing. We gotta admit we're skeptical of the "hey, we just did your neighbor's driveway" pitch (maybe unfairly). So some solid suggestions could be a help to Gary and others.

Got someone you can recommend? Please share!

A quiet restaurant for dinner with parents?

forkAndrew emails (emphasis added):

My fiancee is moving in with me this weekend and her parents will be meeting my parents for the first time. We're looking to go out to dinner somewhere nice, but noise level is a big concern. My mom is partially deaf so it's really hard for her to hear in a normal restaurant. Any suggestions?

So, this is a big dinner for Andrew and his fiancee.

Got a quiet spot to suggest? Please share!

Weekend trips in the Adirondacks?

high peaks Mt. Marcy summitAndrea asks via Twitter:

Thinking of a weekend in the Adirondacks for some relaxation and day hikes with the dog. Recs for trails or places to stay?

She's looking to stay overnight, but not outside. And she's also open to the Catskills.

Got a suggestion? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ How to hike the High Peaks and not be That Guy
+ The Wild Center
+ "The birthplace of the American vacation"

BYOB restaurants in the Capital Region?

wine bottle top against tableThe Fuj asks via Twitter:

What's the best BYOB restaurant in the Capital Region?

We retweeted last night, and netted a few suggestions. They're after the jump. If you a good place in mind, please share!

(And if you have info about corkage fees, even better.)

(there's more)

Where to get top soil, mulch, gravel?

gravel and sand on tarpMike emails:

Can you ask your readers where is a good place to find good top soil in the Troy, NY area.

You can get stuff like top soil, mulch, and gravel from a garden center or one of the big hardware stores, but you're usually going to be buying it by the bag. If you have a bigger project, often the best way is to have it delivered to your house -- it can be both cheaper and easier. The truck comes to you and dumps the dirt/mulch/gravel in a a big pile.

So, we'll extend Mike's question a little bit to include mulch, gravel, sand, rock, all that sort of stuff. Suggestions for either garden centers or delivery? Please share. Bonus points if you can provide details about price or ease of setting up delivery.

Low-cost healthcare options?

stethoscope and ophthalmoscopeFloyd emails:

Making barely enough to pay the rent, and having no health insurance, I don't have any money to go to see a doctor about some health issues. Are there any cheap or low cost doctors or clinics for us working poor living in the Capital District? I would appreciate it if maybe somebody had some suggestion.

This is an important question. For Floyd, of course -- but there are roughly 60,000 people in the Albany metro area who don't have health insurance, according to Census Bureau estimates. And the large majority of those people are adults (often younger adults) in the workforce who don't get health coverage through their job and/or can't afford it.

Provisions of the Affordable Care Act (AKA, Obamacare) aim to address this issue by extending the eligibility of Medicaid and using a sliding scale based on income that caps insurance premiums. Those provisions don't kick in until 2014.

That doesn't help Floyd now. So we've gathered together a few resources after the jump. We're hoping that you'll also have some suggestions and ideas, because this topic is complicated -- too complicated -- and it's important.

So, have some insight? Please share.

(there's more)

Where to play pinball?

pinball machine closeupTom (and Josh) ask via Twitter:

Anyone know of a place to play pinball in the capital region?

Keepin' it simple.

Got a favorite spot (or just any spot)? Please share!

photo: Flickr user Chase N. (cc)

Restaurant for a large birthday dinner?

forkBrianna emails:

I am looking for a restaurant to throw a 60th birthday party for my mother this August. I would like a nicer place that can either do a sit down dinner or cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. It would need to be a private space that could accommodate between 20-40 people on preferably a Saturday night. I would appreciate any suggestions or leads you might have on a place.
We are looking for Albany/Latham area and are open to any cuisine.

Got a suggestion for Brianna? Please share.

Places with photo booths?

amelie photo booth zorroJayme emails:

[M]ight you know of photo booths in the capital district? I'm not looking for a rental but an honest to goodness take my quarters (or dollars) and snap my photo photo booth.
Any hints would be welcome.
I think there's on in the theater in Crossgates & maybe Colonie Mall but I'm wondering about others?

We're pretty sure we've seen them at the malls, but we can't think of other places. Have a suggestion for Jayme? Please share!

(And be sure to say hello to Nino Quincampoix.)

still from Amelie - France 3 Cinéma, Canal+

Getting a basement egress/exit installed?

basement window installation flickr m.giffordZach emails:

We are looking to make the most of our house and would like to fully use the finished basement. In order to do so, we need to add an egress. Has anyone had this done recently, and if so, any recommendations on who to use?

Basically, an egress is a way to get out the basement in case of a fire. It's often a code requirement, especially if there's a bedroom.

So, have you done something like this? Is this a general contractor job, or does Zach need to find someone who specializes in doors/windows/basements? Please share.

photo: Flickr user m.gifford (cc)

Where to go for corned beef and cabbage?

corned beef and cabbage on table flickr justgrimesXina emails:

I'm interested in the best place to get corned beef and cabbage in the Capital District - preferably in or close to Schenectady would be a bonus since that's where I live.
Also - somewhere where one can eat corned beef and cabbage without having to deal with people who have been drinking green beer since the early A.M.

There are a more than a few options this time of year. So if you have a favorite, please share!

By the way: St. Patrick's Day or not, cabbage is very New York State.

photo: Flickr user justgrimes (cc)

A good place to buy men's dress shoes?

scuffed mens dress shoesEd asks via Twitter:

Where is the best place to buy men's dress shoes in the Capital Region? Shoes are just too personal to buy online.

As with any question like this, you earn bonus points* for explaining makes a place good.

So, got a suggestion for Ed and the other dress shoe-shopping gentlemen of the Capital Region? Please share!

Dosas for a party?

dosa and sauceSujatha emails (link added):

Looking for a good dosa maker for parties. This is a service springing up in many high-density Indian communities (esp NJ/NYC areas). Professional makers of the south indian thin-crispy potato filled pancake called dosas bring their several large griddles to your cookout and make them individually for guests. It's quite popular (esp at graduation parties, engagement/pre-wedding parties). Wondering if there is anyone w any such experience in the capital district.
I am hesitant to just walk into local Indian restaurants & inquire; I predict owners will respond enthusiastically that they can do this despite no experience with large parties or equipment (travel-friendly large griddles are required) and disaster will ensue.

Sujatha acknowledged this might be a long shot. But you never know -- all it takes is one person with an answer.

Also: A dosa party sounds like a lot of fun. We'd very much like this to be possible here.

So, got a suggestion -- even just a place to start looking or asking? Please share!

photo: Flickr user SanFranAnnie (cc)

Good daycare near Albany?

kid crawling with blocksSean emails:

My wife is pregnant (yay!). We both love our jobs and plan on continuing to work after the baby is born. However, we don't know anyone in the area with young kids that could recommend a reputable daycare near where we work (Latham). The commute is from Albany, so anywhere between Albany and Latham would be right in our wheelhouse. Any daycare recommendations?

This question has come up before, but it was more than two years ago -- and focused on Saratoga County.

So, got a suggestion for Sean and his wife? Please share!

photo: D Sharon Pruitt (cc)

Good open mic nights?

microphone closeupTerrence emails:

Does anyone know of any good Open Mic's in the Capital District?

A lot of stuff goes into a good open mic: venue, organizer, who shows up -- both performers and crowd.

So, got a suggestion for Terrence? Please share!

photo: Flickr derekGavey (cc)

Suggestion of a doctor for migraines?

stethoscope and ophthalmoscopeAnonymous asks:

Over the last few years I've been getting recurring migraines. My primary care doctor gave me some basic advice (stay away from red wine, for example), but that hasn't really helped. Can anyone recommend a good neurologist, or other type of doctor, in the Albany area for migraines or headaches?

Got a suggestion for Anonymous? Please share.

photo: Flickr user a.drian (cc)

New Year's Eve parties?

Thumbnail image for champagne glass closeupKate emails:

Every year I search for fun awesome New Years Eve events and every year I wind up bored! Any suggestions on a fun night out for 20 somethings? Thanks!

And Mindy asks via Twitter:

Are there any good countdown-to-midnight parties going on around here for New Year's, since First Night won't have one?

Update: The Saratoga First Night fireworks are back on. [Saratogian]

As he does every year, Steve has been collecting New Year's Eve specials. And if you know of some good parties/events -- please share!

Here's the thing, though: the promise of New Year's Eve out somewhere often does not live up to the expectation. In our experience, the best times have been getting together with some friends for good food and drinks. And it's easy to put together a nice selection of stuff. A few stops at places like the Cheese Traveler, the co-op, the TJ's frozen section, Cheesecake Machismo -- and you can have quite the feast of party food. Have everyone bring a bottle of something, and you're good to go.

photo: Flickr user _FXR (cc)

A good doctor, preferably female?

Thumbnail image for stethoscope and ophthalmoscopeJen asks via email:

I'm a fairly new transplant to the Albany area and am looking for a primary care doctor. Can your readers recommend a smart, compassionate, preferably female doctor in the Albany or Troy area?

We've had a similar question before, but it came up more than 2.5 years ago. Things change. And Jen's preference narrows the field a bit. (Also: we heard from Jen that she called a few of the doctors from that old post and they weren't taking new patients.)

So, have a suggestion for Jen? Please share! And, as always, bonus points for explaining why you like that doctor.

photo: Flickr user a.drian (cc)

Good local charities for donations?

Thumbnail image for flower in handsEric asks via Twitter:

Any suggestions for local holiday charities with high ratio of money donated/good deeds performed? Esp. food or kid-related?

We're guessing you have suggestions for Eric. Please share! We're looking forward to them.

Our quick suggestion: the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York. Its director has said they can turn $1 in donated money into $10 worth of food.

photo: Flickr user Hamed Saber (cc)

Golf during the winter?

golf club head in grassLucas emails:

This is my first winter as a golfer in the northeast. I know all of the golf courses are shut down for the season, but are there any driving ranges anyone can recommend that are amicable to the elements and allow me to work on refining my game?

Got a suggestion for Lucas? Maybe one those indoor virtual golf places? Please share.

A place to take indoor family photos?

library window sunlightA place for indoor family photos?

Laura emails:

Hello, maybe your readers can help me out. I'm looking for an indoor space (within a 20 min radius of Albany) to take photographs of my family. In warmer weather, we like to go to The Crossings, Pruyn House, etc. but with those places won't work!! An indoor setting, with plenty of natural light would be ideal. Thank you so much!!

There can be a few snags for taking photos in such an indoor location: the light, as Laura mentions, but also in some cases there's also the issue of permission.

So, got a suggestion for Laura? Please share!

Favorite local holiday traditions?

empire state plaza ice skating 2012Colleen asks via Twitter:

I just moved to Albany. Other than the park lights and skating, what are your favorite Albany holiday traditions?

So, got some local holiday traditions you'd like to suggest to Colleen? Please share! You can help her feel more at home in her new town.

A fancy schmancy place for an anniversary?

champagne glass closeupAnonymous emails:

This weekend is [our] anniversary and I know I don't take [my girlfriend] out enough. I'm looking for a pretty fancy schmancy place and any suggestions for a nice dessert or drinks place afterwards would be great too. I prefer places with easy parking because I hate on-street parking, but if not oh well. Just looking to make this a really special night for her.

Got some suggestions for how Anon can show his ladyfriend a good time for their anniversary? Please share!

photo: Flickr user _FXR

A good Christmas tree lot, and spray-free trees?

blue spruce branch needlesTwo Christmas tree questions, the first from Jennifer:

For years my husband and I bought a Christmas Tree in Lincoln Park (near the corner of Delaware and Morton Avenues). The Christmas Tree sales supported the Albany Little League or Boy Scouts. Last year they were gone so I am wondering what happened to them? It was always a good operation with nice people for a good cause. Can you recommend any other local places for Christmas Trees?

And the second from Sarah:

I was wondering if anyone knows of any Christmas tree farms in the area that are pesticide-free.

Last week we posted an updated listing for places to cut your own Christmas tree this year. But for people not up for taking the saw into their own hands, any suggestions for where to buy? And, for Sarah, know of any pesticide-free trees places?

Please share!

Where to buy firewood?

fire wood pile by flickr haria vorlanSean emails:

I have a house with a fireplace, but I'm not a lumberjack and we don't back-up to any forests. I wince at the sight of $5 for 3 twigs of firewood being sold at local grocery stores. Does anyone know where I could buy decent firewood in bulk and have it delivered for a reasonable price?

Sean's not a lumberjack and he's OK. So, got a suggestion for him? Please share!

Good puppy classes?

Thumbnail image for otto puppy earsZach emails:

I'm desperately looking for a Puppy Kindergarten class. I've been searching the "internets" and found a couple of places, but I was hoping that maybe AOA might be able to assist and ask about good, quality puppy classes? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Here's the thing about puppies: yep, they're cute and fun, but if you're doing it the right way, they're also a lot of work -- training, socializing, no-don't-eat-that!-ing. But it's worth it. Because all that effort in the beginning pays off as they get older. A trained, well-socialized puppy usually results in a well-mannered, calm adult dog.

So, got a suggestion for Zach and his pup? Please share! And a little bit of explanation/detail about your suggestion is always appreciated.

Earlier on AOA: Ask AOA: A good veterinarian for dogs?

Where to buy tires?

generic tire closeupB emails:

I usually get my tires online but picking them up at the UPS facility in Latham is a pain and I'm happy to spend a few extra dollars to support local businesses. Any suggestions for good local tire shops? Selection and customer service are a plus, but evening/weekend hours are the dealbreaker since I have a 9-5 and dropoff/pickup is extremely inconvenient. Proximity to Albany proper a plus.

Got a suggestion for B? Please share! And, as always, bonus points for a little bit of explanation for why you're suggesting the place.

While we're on the subject: A lot of people are probably thinking about snow tires right now, so if you have a suggestion about where to buy them / get them put back on -- this is a good thread for it.

A good painter?

generic used paintbrushAmy emails:

We built a house and need a lot of painting done and you were the first place I went to for painter recommendations. You had a post about general contractors, but nothing about painters. Could you post a request for good interior painters?

Know of a good paint to suggest to Amy? Please share! And please explain a little bit about why that person is good -- attention to detail, fair price, whatever.

Clubs that are 18+?

disco ball club lightsChris emails:

When looking for events and things to do in downtown Albany, its been hard to if there are any nightclubs that are 18+ instead of 21+. being a college student and new to the region, I was wondering if you guys knew of any 18+ clubs in downtown albany?

We suspect there might not be a lot of options. But maybe you have a good suggestion for Chris -- even if it's not downtown Albany. If so, please share!

Earlier on AOA: Ask AOA: Where to shake it?

photo: Flickr user dichohecho (cc)

Shopping for clothes, but not at chains?

Truly Rhe exteriorJennifer asks via Facebook:

Can you guys recommend clothing stores in the area that aren't part of big national chains? I'm trying to shop local as much as possible these days, and that seems especially hard to do with clothes.

There are options -- places such as downtown Troy and downtown Saratoga include a handful of local clothing stores.

So, any suggestions for Jennifer about which shops to hit up? Or maybe tips about how to shop local stores for clothes?

Couples cooking classes?

knife cutting board peppers flickr bhamsandwichAnonymous emails:

I'd love to do a couples cooking class but don't know who might offer classes, and especially for couples? Let me know if you or your readers have any tips!

There are a lot of cooking classes around the Capital Region -- more than you can shake a whisk at. We haven't noticed any recently that were couples classes, per se -- but maybe some could work that way.

Also: places that offer cooking classes -- hey, maybe this is an idea for you.

So... got a suggestion for Anonymous? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: A sampling of cooking classes, fall 2012

photo: Flickr user bhamsandwich (cc)

A salon for very (insert color) hair?

platinum blond hairDebbie asks via Twitter:

I'm new to the area and need a salon that does awesome platinum blonde. I'm nervous. Help?

Understandably nervous -- taking a hair color to one extreme or the other can go... very wrong.

So, got a suggestion for Debbie? Maybe any local salon experiences involving extreme hair color -- whether it's platinum blond or Run Lola Run red or whatever. Please share!

photo: Flicker user Chloë Rae (cc)

Recreational hockey leagues, or pick up games?

puck hockey sticks outdoor rink flickr TAZphotosSamantha emails:

I am new to the Capital Region and I was looking for Women's Club Hockey in the area. ... And if not Women's Club are there intramural teams, Men's Leagues or Club, drop in games, or beer leagues?

Know some games for which Samantha can lace up her skates? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: Indoor sports leagues (2011)

photo: Flickr user TAZphotos (cc)

Where to shake it?

disco ball club lightsVA emails:

I love to dance. And it seems the dance options are limited in Albany... unless I play juke boxes and dance by myself in the middle of a local dive bar (which I have done many, many times). But really, the only places I'm aware of are Waterworks/Rocks (sometimes), the Fuze Box which plays 80's music (not my thing) and the college scene on Pearl Street...
So I'm hoping that you guys can shed some light on where a, ahem, late 20 something girl could go to get her groove on with people at least close to her age?... I'll take hip hop, techno, dup step or whatever else the kids are listening to these days, I just wanna shake it!
I guess I'm thinking of something for adults. Places in NY and DC that are lounge-ish with a dance floor in the back to accommodate those that wanna get off the couch and shake it for a bit. I suppose I also mean a place where single adults can go in groups or alone and dance with other single adults. I sense I'm looking for something in Albany that may not exist. The best I can come up with is a college hole in the wall or those horrendous parties at the armory. Also for college kids as it turns out.

Got a suggestion for VA? Please share!

photo: Flickr user dichohecho (cc)

A good place to buy a used car?

used car windshieldKatie asks via Twitter:

Any recommendations on good, honest, and reliable used car or new car dealerships in the capital region?

There are (at least) two parts to buying a car: the actual car (Is it an OK car for the price?) and the experience of buying it (Lots of pressure? Are they helpful?).

So, any suggestions for Katie -- about where to go in the Capital Region, or even just tips on what to look for?

If you have a suggestion for a specific place, please include why you like that place.

Where to find modern furniture?

IKEA Effektiv bookcaseKen asks via Twitter:

Hey AOA, are there any modern furniture stores in the capital region? I mean modern, like DWR, or MOMA design store quality.

We suspect the answer to this question is "no."

But maybe you know of something -- or, at least, a place that tends to carry stuff that's a bit more modern. (It seems like almost every furniture store in this area carries the same five couch (or whatever) designs -- many of them apparently circa 1995.) Or, failing that -- strategies for getting modern furniture from some out-of-town place.

Have a suggestion for Ken? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: Which way to IKEA?

A place to get furniture re-finished?

wood table top cornerHeidi emails:

I have three small pieces of furniture that I am looking to have refinished. I have not lived in the Capital Region that long and don't know where to start looking for some place in the local area that comes recommended. ... Perhaps your readers might be able to recommend someone they have used in the past. One of the pieces also needs to be reupholstered eventually too...so any recommendations for reupholsters would be great too!

We had a re-upholstering question about a year ago -- and there were a few suggestions then. But this is the first time someone's asked about re-finishing.

So, have a suggestion for either one (or both) of Heidi's questions? Please share! (With details about why the place is good!)

A good snow removal service?

snow plow closeupThinking ahead, Valerie asks via Twitter:

Have you guys done a piece on snow removal services on Ask AOA? I'd love to contract someone for the winter.
I'm actually wondering if anyone does a pay-upfront service where they come as much or as little for a single, flat rate.

This is probably a good time to start getting something like this lined up. Because if you wait until it snows (which, let's face it, could be next week), it will probably be a lot harder.

So, have a snow removal service suggestion for Valerie? Please share! And please include details about the arrangement, if you can -- you know, ballpark price, flat fee, per-visit, whatever.

Where to get a wedding dress cleaned, preserved?

wedding veil brideMindy asks via Twitter:

Can anyone recommend a good place to get a wedding dress (and veil? and shoes?) preserved?

We've seen a handful of places advertise this service... but it's an important item, so we can see how you wouldn't want to take it just any place.

So, anyone have a suggestion for Mindy? Please share!

photo: Flickr user billaday (cc)

Where to find a steam room?

steamy winter windowLooking ahead to winter, Kara emails:

Is there a place in the Capital District where one can visit a steam room? There was an unfortunate leak in my building that requires the 24/7 running of a de-humidifier. It is helpful in drying the water in the walls, but it also has resulted in early onset dry winter skin. I shudder at the idea of the long cold months ahead where this is a constant battle. I can't help but to think how great it would be to have some epidermal therapy in a steam room if there is such a place one could visit from time to time...

Got a suggestion for Kara? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ How you helped me stop my hands from getting all dry and cracked this winter
+ The Roosevelt Baths: Saratoga at its most effervescent

photo: Flickr user canadianfamily (cc)

A good obstetrician?

baby bottleAnonymous Soon-to-Be Father emails:

My wife and I just found out that she was pregnant. So recent, in fact, that it's too soon to tell our friends + family (shh!). We were hoping some of your readers could help us find a reputable doctor to catch our first baby. We're not daring enough for a home-birth and we like the idea of avoiding c-sections as much as possible.
Doula recommendations are also welcome! We're probably [not looking for] midwives, under the assumption that their services are more geared towards home-births. However, I've heard of midwives that will operate (no pun intended) out of hospitals sometimes...
In any event, we're looking to have the baby in a hospital (including or between Albany + Schenectady), have someone more knowledgeable than I in the room with us, and continue down the road toward natural child-birth (avoiding c-section) as long as possible.

Congrats! And important question! Maybe everyone can help Soon-to-Be Father and his wife sort out some of the local options.

Got a suggestion, or just a tip on how to go about finding the right provider? Please share! And please explain why you like that person, or why you chose that option.

photo: Flickr user nerissa's ring (cc)

Where to go sailing?

small sailboatGreg emails:

I'm fighting the good fight here, raging against the end of summer... I'm not a country club / yacht club member locally, but I'm wondering where a recovering small boat sailor might be able to rent a Sunfish or a Laser to get an end of summer sailing fix? Bonus points given for smaller lakes.

Got a suggestion for Greg? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ Where to go kayaking?
+ Where to go paddleboarding?

photo: Flickr user sailorbill (cc)

Where to buy kids shoes?

kids shoesWith growing kids -- with growing feet -- Amarit emails:

I recently learned that Junior Shoe Port is closing their Albany and Latham locations, meaning that the only Capital Region children's shoe store is in Clifton Park. For those of us in Albany, that's quite a hike to get shoes for our kids, especially since they don't all grow at the same rate or need shoes at the same time. ... I know it seems minor, but as a parent of three kids with weird feet (and not all the same kinds of weird), I need a place with knowledgable sales people who can properly fit my kid for shoes. Ordering online for them is very challenging. Since learning about this closing earlier today from an equally dismayed friend, a number of other parents have expressed their concerns as well.

The Times Union reported recently that, in addition to the Stuyvesant Plaza store closing, the Clifton Park Stride Rite is also headed for closure. So there will be even fewer options.

Got any ideas for Amarit and her kids? Please share!

photo: Flickr user tamakisono (cc)

How to find a nanny?

baby bottleNew parents S and J reached out to us looking for some suggestions on finding childcare. They're having a tough time getting into their daycare programs of choice, so they're looking for a nanny. Eventually they may also be needing sitters. So...

How do you find a nanny -- or baby sitter -- in the Capital Region?

They'd welcome specific names (of course), but also suggestions about where to look.

Got a suggestion? Please share!

photo: Flickr user nerissa's ring (cc)

Creative birthday celebration ideas?

happy birthday candle cakeChrissy emails:

I'm turning 30 in a month! I want to do something special with my friends but throwing a party is too much stress and I'm not a drinker (there goes the Albany birthday tour de alcohol). Can you ask the AOA crowd for creative ways they've celebrated their special days? Thanks!

Got a suggestion for Chrissy? Please share! You only turn 30 once. (Actually, now that we think about it, we know some people who have turned 30 a few times.)

Earlier on AOA: Capital Region birthday freebies (2009)

photo: Flickr user Will Clayton (cc)

A good used bookstore?

Tattered Pages interiorLooking for something to read, Dianne asks via Twitter:

Best used bookstores in the capital region?

Got a suggestion? Please share!

And if you do have a place to suggest, please explain why it's worth a stop -- wide selection, interesting finds, cheap prices, good trade-in policy, whatever.

Where to go paddleboarding?

paddleboardingElisabeth emails:

I want to paddleboard! Where can i do it in the capital region?

Here's a little more about paddleboarding -- as the name implies, it basically involves standing on something like a surfboard and paddling. We get impression it's become more popular over the last few years.

Got a suggestion for Elisabeth? Please share!

photo: Flickr user free4lance2 (cc)

A good general contractor?

hammer headValerie asks via Twitter:

I have a few projects I need help with. Removal/replacement of deck, shoring up a porch, basement windows, kitchen counters. Also maybe wood window restoration and an indoor painter who can deal with removing lots and lots of nightmarish wallpaper.
If anyone is or knows a good general contractor please share. PLEASE.

This is a question that comes up all the time. And it's definitely worth asking around for referrals and talking with people about their experiences. A lot of contractors do a good job, but there are definitely some out there to avoid.

So, anyone have suggestions for Valerie? Please share!

What's an appropriate gift for a bar mitzvah?

reading the torah at a bar mitzvahJennifer asks via Twitter:

Help! What gift does one get for a bar mitzvah?

Sometimes the gifts for celebrations like this -- weddings, graduations, confirmations -- can vary by what part of the country you're in. For example: at a lot of weddings in the Midwest, people show up with presents (blenders, toasters, and so on). On the East Coast, the go-to gift is usually money. (And at Midwest/East Coast weddings, worlds collide! Thank goodness there's cake.)

So, what's an appropriate gift for a bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah in the Capital Region? Please share! And if money is a typical gift, please include a range. (It can be hard to guess these things.)

photo: Flickr user n0nick (cc) via Wikipedia

Where to get an egg cream?

egg cream in glassLissa emails:

Do you or your readers know any place in the Capital Region to get a real old fashioned egg cream? I have a co-worker with a birthday coming up and I'd love to treat her. She grew up with Brooklyn egg creams.

For those who have yet to enjoy an egg cream, it's a drink made from chocolate syrup, milk, and seltzer water. (Yeah, it sounds a little weird, but it works. And there's no egg in it.)

We've had egg creams at Emack & Bolio's in Albany -- the "Albany Egg Cream" -- and they're pretty good there. We suspect there are other places you can get them, too.

Got an egg cream suggestion for Lissa and her friend? Please share!

photo: Jason Perlow via Wikipedia

Adult soccer leagues or games?

soccer ball grassSean emails:

With Euro 2012 going on now and the Olympics just around the corner, there's plenty of great soccer (football?) in our midst. All of the excitement has made me want to get outside and join up with a semi-competitive league or even just play some pick-up soccer. However, I can't seem to find ANY information about either. A reader asked a similar question back in 2009, but I'm sure a lot has changed and there's more updated info out there. Any tips? I'd prefer to play outdoors (i.e. not @ Afrim's) somewhere near Albany.

Know of an adult soccer league for Sean (or anyone) to play the beautiful game? Please share!

photo: Flickr user Katie@! (cc)

A local Adirondack chair maker?

adirondack chairs under a pergolaPerhaps while enjoying a drink on his deck, Ewan emails (link added):

We just finished a deck, which is giving huge enjoyment. What it needs to be complete, though, is a really good Adirondack chair. I'd like to find one made locally, ideally by a craftsperson; ideally from ipe but I could live with other woods (not pine or cedar!). Anyone have suggestions? Thanks!

Got a suggestion for Ewan? Please share!

Where to hunt for fossils?

New York State fossil sea scorpion fossil

The official New York State fossil: Eurypterus remipes (sea scorpion)

Terence asks via Twitter:

Any reader suggestions for a local destination to look for (not buy) fossils? My son is dying to find a fossil this weekend.

Old quarries, road cuts, and natural cliffs are often good places to find fossils (you'll need to get permission in some cases). [State Museum]

Got a suggestion for Terence and his son? Please share!

photo: H. Zell via Wikipedia (cc)

Party space in Troy?

troy monument squareWill emails:

My father is trying to throw my fiance and I an engagement party, wedding is next year so we have time, and we're looking at Oct. So with the weather being uncertain we're trying to find a venue in Troy or nearby where we might rent a room or have it catered for less than a million bucks! Was hoping you could do one of your posts where you ask people for help? Any help is greatly appreciated.

For less than a million bucks, we're guessing Will has some options.

Got a suggestion? Please share! Bonus points for a few details about why the place could work.

Where to buy cuff links?

ebay albany flag cuff linksNed asks via Twitter:

Do you have any idea where I could find vintage (and whimsical) cuff links in Albany? I like to hold things before buying.

Our first guess: estate sales -- or vintage shops that collect from them.

Got a suggestion for Ned? Please share!

Albany cuff links: While poking around for this post, we came across this listing for city of Albany flag cuff links on eBay (photo on the right). They're listed by seller family-crests out of the UK. The price: about US $15.37.

photo: eBay listing "Albany Flag Mens Gift Cufflinks US USA New York"

How to move a piano?

piano keyboardHaving successfully submitted his property tax assessment grievance with your help, Sean is back for more:

My wife and I just moved, but the one item that we couldn't manage was our piano. We're not related to any football players or bodybuilders, and there are more than one flight of stairs to contend with, so none of our moving posse felt comfortable taking on this challenge. So, that leaves us searching for an alternative solution. Do you or your readers have any tips for not only getting this thing out of our former residence, but into our new one as well?

Are there still piano moving services? Or any advice for Sean (aside from lift with your legs)?

Please share!

photo: Flickr user readephotography (Jimmy and Sasha Reade)

Tips and advice for contesting a property tax assessment?

monopoly houseSean emails:

As a new homeowner, I've been hearing rumors about a certain day / week in May where folks can go downtown and challenge their property tax amount. Would the editors or other AOA readers have any knowledge about this upcoming event, any tips for when to go (I imagine it's a zoo...) and what to come prepared with for the best possible outcome (i.e. lower taxes!)?

We're guessing the day Sean is referring to is Grievance Day, typically the fourth Tuesday of May in cities and towns in New York State (May 22 this year). You can submit the forms necessary to "grieve" the assessment of your home before that day (probably the best course). The day in question is when it's possible to make an oral argument before the board of assessment review, if you decide to do so.

OK, so let's use the city of Albany as an example. It recently posted the official notice that's it's completed its tentative assessment roll for property tax purposes. The assessment information is online -- it's as simple to look up as plugging in your address. From the city's website:

Complaint forms and a publication containing procedures for contesting an assessment are available at the Office of Assessment & Taxation Room 302 in City Hall. It is a prerequisite to review an assessment that the official complaint forms be used and that said forms be filed with the undersigned or the Board of Assessment Review on or before May 22nd, 2012.

The board of assessment review will be hearing grievances May 22 from 9 am-1 pm and 6-8 pm in city hall.

Of course, some details will vary from one municipality to another. Here's a NYS website with info on how to contest your assessment.

So... Have you ever contested an assessment? If so, got any tips or advice for Sean? Please share!

photo: Flickr user woodleywonderworks

Where to go skydiving?

two people skydivingVeronica emails:

My birthday is coming up at the end of the month and what better way to celebrate than to skydive on my birthday?! Know of any good places around here that offer skydiving at a reasonable price?

Know of a good place for Veronica to take the leap? Please share!

photo: Flickr user flawedartist

Where to go for sports massage?

face through massage tableGraham asks via Twitter:

I'm looking to find a good place in the capital district to get a sports massage... maybe a slight preference to the east side of the Hudson (Troy, Greenbushes)

We were curious what separates sports massage from non-sports massage -- it appears it just means there's a specific emphasis on improving athletic performance and injury rehab.

Got a suggestion for Graham? Please share!

photo: Flickr user alaina.buzas

Where to watch the Kentucky Derby (preferably with a mint julep)?

kentucky derby from crowdNick emails:

[A]re there any bars or restaurants around here doing anything special for the Kentucky Derby this weekend? I haven't really heard anything and can't find anything out there already.

The derby is this Saturday. We'll adjust Nick's question a bit to cover local places that are generally good for watching the Kentucky Derby -- because of atmosphere, drinks, the crowd, whatever.

Bonus question: mint juleps: Hollie asked on Twitter for a good place to get a mint julep. Daniel B said Hattie's or dp -- suggestions with which we concur. Dominick Purnomo responded: "We make our juleps with spearmint, Blanton's Bourbon, CRUSHED Ice & serve in silver julep cups." Sounds like a plan.

Got a suggestion for Nick and/or Hollie? Please share!

photo: Flickr user boboroshi

Where to go for happy hour?

martiniJoey asks via Twitter:

I'm searching for some good happy hour specials. So hard to find. Perhaps a post on local places w/happy hour specials?

A similar topic, Albany-specific, came up about a year and a half ago. We're curious any good happy hour spot around the Capital Region.

Got a suggestion for Joey and other thirsty people? Please share!

photo: Flickr user Dana Moos

Where to find Indian-style clothing?

indian bridal lehengaMichelle emails:

An Indian friend of mine is getting married downstate in a month, and I've procrastinated on buying my outfit. She's asked me to wear a lehenga (lenga, lengha) - essentially a long skirt, a top, and a scarf/wrap. There are some fun and/or gorgeous looking things available online from India, but two other women in the wedding had bad experiences with that. I can sew, but I'm at the top of their size spectrum, and don't want to be stuck without enough fabric.
When this friend was in Albany last Saturday, we found www.albanyfashions.com - but there was no answer by phone, and no answer at the address, which turned out to be an apartment in a large complex.
I'm wondering if your readers might have an insight - is there anywhere in the Albany area that I can shop for an affordable (under $200) version of this outfit, before I head to NYC or Edison, NJ?

Michelle acknowledged in her email this could be a tough question. It was our first thought, too. But we're pleasantly surprised how often an answer surfaces for what seems like a difficult question.

So, anyone have a suggestion for Michelle? Please share!

photo: Bollywood Hungama via Wikipedia

Good online media consultant for a small or medium-sized business?

twitter bird PascuzzoJohn asks:

I am looking for a media consultant. Someone to help our organization here in Albany with about 60 employees, with website redesign, and social media: facebook, twitter, etc. etc. We just don't l have the time to do it ourselves. Any leads on good local people?

There are a lot of people pitching this sort of service these days. We're not convinced all of them actually know what they're doing.

So, know of a local consultant or agency that would be good for a small or medium sized business? Please share.

Update: If you mention your own company or agency, please clearly state that you're affiliated with that organization.

Good lunch spots in Rensselaer/East Greenbush?

albany skyline from RensselaerMelissa asks via Twitter:

In serious need of good lunch take-out suggestions in Rensselaer/East Greenbush. I was spoiled working down the street from the Iron Gate [in Albany]! I'd love a place with soups and salads and interesting sandwiches.

We are reasonably certain people in East Greenbush eat lunch. So there have to be at least few spots Melissa should try.

Got a suggestion? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ Where to have lunch in downtown Troy?
+ Good lunch spots in downtown Albany?

Aside from Craigslist, where to find a roommate?

key opening doorLaura asks via Twitter:

Any ideas on where to search for a roommate other than Craigslist? Coming up blank for 1st time.

We can understand understand not wanting to dip into the Craigslist pool (really). But it's pretty much become the place for this sort of thing.

So, other ideas for Laura? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: Short term housing rentals?

photo: Flickr user Menage a Moi

Where to get a lawn mower, or other small engine, fixed?

lawnmower grass closeupWatching the grass grow, Dave emails:

With all the nice weather I now have to mow my lawn far too early this year and my lawn mower won't start! Any recommendations for a shop that fixes a small engine in the capital region??

Upside: Dave won't have to mow the grass during this early spring until the mower's fixed. Downside: the grass will keep growing in the interim.

Got a suggestion for Dave? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: A place that fixes small appliances?

photo: Flickr user aperature_lag (Andrew Butitta)

A good real estate agent?

real estate sign porchIn the market for a house, Kelly emails:

My husband and I are hoping to buy a house in Albany this summer. We are looking for recommendations for a good real estate agent, particularly one who specializes in working with first-time home buyers. I'm hoping AOA's readers can help us out. Thanks for your consideration.

There are a lot of real estate agents out there. And from our experience, some are definitely better than others.

So, know of a good agent? Please share! And if you do, please include why you like that agent.

The best tacos in the Capital Region?

la mexicana tacos overheadMatthew just gets right to it on a very important topic, via Twitter:

Best tacos in Albany?

A recently as just a few years ago, there wasn't much competition. But the taco scene (if that's the word) in the Capital Region has expanded.

So, what's your favorite? (And don't be constrained just by places that are taquerias or Mexican.) Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ Tacos at La Mexicana Grocery & Restaurant
+ Tortillaville in Hudson
+ Mexican Market in Albany
+ The Bros Pork Taco

Good lunch spots in downtown Albany?

downtown albany lower state streetPerhaps feeling left out during last week's discussion about good lunch spots in Troy, Rebecca asked in the comments:

[B]eing that this isn't "All Over Troy" I think it's only fair and right that AOA rebuts with "good places for lunch in downtown ALBANY"!!

Our lunch time experiences in downtown Albany have included an unfortunate number of misses. But we're guessing people who work there all the time have the scoop.

So, what are the good lunch spots in downtown Albany? Please share!

Short term housing rentals?

key opening doorOn his way out, Will emails:

I am selling my house and I will soon be without a place to live. I will be leaving the capital district in 5 months or so, so until then I'm looking for a decent place with a month to month lease. Can the readers offer any suggestions?

The Capital Region doesn't appear to have a thriving sublet market -- but it seems like there should be something out there for this type of situation.

Got a suggestion for Will? Please share!

photo: Flickr user Menage a Moi

A good pool service?

summer2008_otto_swimming.jpgAlex emails:

I always read the ask aoa articles and just bought a home with an in ground pool. I know nothing about pools, could you recommend someone local for service? I'm in Albany if that helps.

Or, if not a pool service, maybe a place where he can get some help learning about the stuff that needs to be taken care of.

Got a suggestion of Alex? Please share!

A good landscape/hardscape company?

terraced yardJim emails:

I am looking for a hard scape company that can terrace a hill for my parents. Any good leads on people that do that?

Any suggestions for Jim and his parents? Please share!

photo: Flickr user sleepyneko

Where to have lunch in downtown Troy?

troy monument squareJay asks via Facebook:

Hey AOA. Do you guys have any tips for eating lunch in downtown Troy?

Troy has been described as "some kind of lunch time mecca" -- and with good reason. You're certainly not lacking for choices.

So, what's your favorite spot? Or maybe a tip about some place that more people should know about? Please share!

A good place for a memorial service?

memorial flowersJules emails:

I am looking for a good venue to hold a memorial service that is not a funeral home or a church. I have already contacted the West Albany Fire House, but they are booked on the preferred day for the service. Got any advice?

With the early spring, an outdoor spot could be nice.

Have a suggestion for Jules? Please share.

photo: Flickr user bsabarnowl

Help for fixing old windows?

window weight pulleyMaisie emails:

I am looking for someone to repair old windows (weight and pulley, 1920s type.) I know this is a good "do it yourself"-er, but I am not at all handy. Anyone out there have a recommendation?

There are a lot of houses/apartments in this area that still have these types of windows. And, speaking from experience, when they get stuck or broken, it is frustrating.

Got a suggestion for Maisie? Please share!

A good taxi service?

generic light up taxi signA Loyal Reader emails:

I need to have a medical procedure done and can't drive myself so I want to take a cab. Every single cab company in Albany has terrible reviews. Any idea which one will show up on time? I'm going from downtown Albany to Latham.

We hope there's an answer for LR -- but we have to admit we've never heard a "I had a great cab experience" story in the Capital Region. Usually, it's just the opposite.

Got a suggestion? Please share!

photo: Flickr user Ben Fredericson (xjrlokix)

Where to get car windows untinted?

tinted car windowMike emails with an unusual question:

Is there a good place in the area to have car window tint *removed*? I bought a car with tinted windows a few months ago from someone in Brooklyn. I was recently informed on the side of the Northway by a friendly State Trooper that the tint is much darker than the law allows. I never particularly liked it, anyway, but I'm not sure either a) how to remove it myself or b) where in the area is a good place to have it removed.
Suggestions on either would be appreciated.

Fun fact: State Police actually have an instrument they use to measure window tint. Windows that allow less than 70 percent of outside light to pass through are illegal.

We're guessing this is a fact that Mike would have rather not learned first hand. And we do hope he can avoid any more roadside discussions with the State Police.

So, have a suggestion for Mike? Please share!

photo: Flickr user dno1967b

A good pedicure near Albany?

pedicure toes flip flopsJen (@JenIsGreen) asked via Twitter:

Any albany peeps know of a nice (and affordable) place to get a pedicure?

Got a suggestion for Jen (and her toes)? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ Haircuts at Paul Mitchell School in Schenectady
+ A good hair colorist
+ A good manicure and pedicure near Troy?
+ Mirror Images: spa and salon on a budget

photo: Flickr user jenniferlstoddart

A good auto body shop?

damaged car bumperKaitlin asks via Twitter:

I am in need of good auto body places in Albany. ... I just need to get my bumper repaired/replaced, rather than something mechanical, I suppose?

Got a suggestion for Kaitlin? Please share!

By the way: Here's our Capital Region Recommended Auto Mechanics list, if you haven't seen it before.

Where to get churros?

churrosAsking for a friend, Katherine emails:

A friend of mine is in dire need of churros but we don't know where to find any. Can you please help?

Oh, sure -- a "friend" is in dire need of churros. Well, we also have a "friend" who enjoys eating churros dipped in chocolate sauce (really the only way churros should be eaten).

Got a suggestion for Katherine's friend? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ Eat this: Boston cream donuts at Bella Napoli
+ Eat this: Glazed donuts at the Cookie Factory
+ A short tour of Capital Region doughnuts

photo: Flicker user Sirsnapsalot

A good hardwood floor installer?

hardwood floor sectionDoug asks on Twitter:

I need the best hardwood floor installer in the 518.

We'll expand Doug's question a little bit to include hardwood floor refinishing -- often companies do both installation and refinishing.

Got a suggestion? Please share!

A good accountant for small businesses?

accounting ledgerRebecca emails:

Just wondering if you could ask readers if they have any suggestions for tax preparers/accountants who are familiar with small businesses/sole proprietors? Thanks!

We've had a question before about accountants, but that was for personal taxes. Things can get a bit more (or a lot) more complicated when you have a small business.

Got a suggestion for Rebecca? Please share!

photo: Edinburgh City of Print (Flickr user edinburghcityofprint)

Where to take candy-making lessons?

fudge closeupEric asks via Facebook:

Is there any place around to take candy making lessons? I'd like to learn how to make a proper fudge, or Opera Cream.

Got a suggestion for Eric? Share, please!

Earlier on AOA: A sampling of cooking classes

photo: Flickr user Chocolate Reviews

A good travel agent (or travel planning tips)?

airplane aisleWith what sounds like quite a trip ahead of her, Wendy emails:

We are planning a family vacation later this year that will include one-way plane trips and one-way car rentals. I've started poking around on the various travel planning sites, but I'm wonder if the brilliant and resourceful readers of AOA have suggestions for either a good travel agent, or for a site that has worked especially well for them. (The trip is Albany-San Diego-Phoenix-Albany).

Having planned a trip like that a few times, lining up everything up -- and checking prices against each other -- can take a while. We're curious if a travel agent could score Wendy a deal and save her some work.

So, got a suggestion for Wendy? Please share!

photo: Flickr user irishflyguy

Where to go for gardening classes?

tomatoes on vineLooking to green her thumb, Julie emails:

Do you guys know where I can get the scoop on some vegetable gardening classes?

A few ideas that occurred to us: Capital District Community Gardens has offered classes in the past. And we've also seen classes listed from the local branches of the Cornell Cooperative Extension. But we haven't seen specific classes listed for this year, yet.

Got a suggestion for Julie? Please share!

Locally-made beauty products?

Menges and Curtis hand creamDeirdre emails:

I'm wondering if there are any locally made beauty products, specifically moisturizers and/or chapsticks, that you know of? I they exist, I'd like to give them as gifts to some people coming in from out of town.

The first thing that springs to mind is the moisturizer made by Saratoga's Menges & Curtis. But we suspect there are at least a few others.

Know of any locally-made products that can help Deirdre's guests stay moisturized? Please share!

Internet service options that are not TWC?

cable modemFrustrated, Andy asks via Twitter:

So @alloveralbany as I watch my Hulu stutter and stop, I wonder if you all know how to escape TWCs Internet hegemony... :)

For a while there, it looked like Verizon FiOS might provide some competition. But the roll out of the fiber service beyond a few spots in this area seems to have slowed to a halt.

Any ideas for Andy?

A good lunch in Saratoga

esperanto_doughboy.jpgNick is heading to lunch in the Spa City and asked via Twitter

"What's the best lunch spot in Saratoga?"

There's a lot to choose from, depending on what kind of food/atmosphere you're looking for, but Nick's request immediately set off our craving for an Esperanto doughboy. Ravenous is also a good stop for crepes and pomme frites.

Got another favorite Saratoga lunch spot? Help Nick out.

Where to get good tortillas?

tortillas stacked on plateAaron (@WashUffize) asks via Twitter:

Recommendations on where near Albany to get good tortillas, preferably corn and/or "home made"?

The unfortunate fact is that most of us are accustomed to not-fresh -- or just plain bad -- tortillas. The good ones are worth seeking out.

So, got a suggestion for Aaron? Please share!

Update: Aaron says he had success at Mexican Market on Central Ave in Albany.

photo: Flickr user cbertel

A good handyman or contractor for stuff around the house?

hammer headGretchen emails:

My husband and I are getting ready to move and need some small handyperson type jobs done around the house like fixing a small hole in the detached garage roof, putting some trim on our laminate floors (a DIY project which got waylaid), and small painting projects.

Know of a good handyperson or contractor who might be able to help Gretchen and her husband? Please share!

An unpopular place for Valentine's Day?

champagne flutesLooking for something different this Valentine's Day, Katie asks via Twitter:

Any suggestions of nice places to go (other than the obvious Jacks, 677, Brown Derby, Yonos) in Albany for Valentines Day?
AOA: Are you looking for someplace out of the way -- or just sort of off the radar?
Off the radar I guess... don't want to fight for parking & don't want to pay $30 an entree. That possible? :)

A burger and a milkshake can be fun and/or romantic if you're with the right person.

So, suggestions for Katie? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: Local Valentine's Day gifts?

photo: Flickr user _FXR

Local Valentine's Day gifts

Thumbnail image for candy hearts closeupWith Valentine's Day a week away, a secret valentine asks:

What's a good local Valentine's Day gift? I'd like to stay away from the typical chocolate and flowers, but if I could find an interesting twist on those, that would be great too.

So, we get to play cupid. Our favorite romantic gift is time -- so one of the first things we thought of is a skating trip to the Empire Plaza rink -- which is fun and free. As an alternative to candy and flowers, candy apples from Sticky Fingersmight be fun. Or anything from Crisan.

How about it AOA romantics? Can you help a valentine out?

Where to get a birthday cake?

happy birthday candle cakeJessica asked via Twitter:

Where can I get a good, non-grocery store birthday cake? Bakery in Renss has let me down for the last time.

The first place that springs to mind is Crisan in Albany, which makes beautiful cakes, birthday or otherwise. Daniel and Jen have evidence.

But there are many places to get a birthday cake in the Capital Region. Got a favorite? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: A good local bakery for cookies?

photo: Flickr user Will Clayton

Where to have a tea party?

tea sandwichesCassie emails:

I've been tasked with planning a bridal shower for my friend. Her sister is the MOH but, she's not near the area to plan it so she's given me her ideas and now I need some help. She wants to have a tea party - think "ladies that lunch" more than "Victorian tea." We're looking for a venue that is unique/unusual with a view other than a parking lot and within 45 minutes of Albany.
I know bridal shower locations have been discussed before but, I looked through the comments and didn't see anything that fit the bill. Any ideas?

Maybe you have some ideas that will help Cassie find those ladies some lunch (and tea). If so, please share!

photo: Flickr user halahmoon

A romantic winter weekend getaway?

cozy fire in fireplaceWith an eye toward next month, Robert emails:

So I want to plan a nice Northeast winter weekend getaway for me a my beautiful lady. Something real romantical for Valentine's Day. Unfortunately, I've never been skiing so I don't even know where to start. I basically want to eat good, peep some beautiful scenery, bundle up in front of a warm fireplace with a bear skin rug and love my lady. Can you and your all knowing readers help me out on this one?

One of the good things about this is region is that there are a lot of small hotels/inns/bed-and-breakfasts in scenic places that are not too far: the Berkshires, Vermont, the Hudson Valley, and so on.

If you're willing to go a bit farther, there's Montreal and Quebec generally. It's like a whole different country up there.

Got a suggestion for Robert and his lady? Please share!

Elsewhere: A similar question came up recently from one of Kristi's readers.

photo: Flickr user Max Wolfe

Where to have an indoor dart tag party?

nerf dart gunRichard emails:

My son loves NERF Dart Tag. He will be turning 13 in March and my wife and would love to throw him a NERF Birthday Blast Party with all his friends. We just found out that for the past few years - there has been a NERF DART Tag Championship (still wondering how people get selected for this championship tournament - cash prize is $25,000) - Wow. ...
We are looking for a local place that offers this kind of cool blow up dome with obstacles etc (featured in video) or a safe indoor place to hold a NERF Dart Tag party. We thought about asking Laser Tag facilities to accommodate us if possible (and may ultimately go in that direction) - but would love to find something a bit more soft like the inflatable dome.

That does sound like it could approach best-birthday-ever territory (for a 13-year-old). Got a suggestion for Richard? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: Where to take the kids when they're bouncing off the walls during the winter

photo: Hasbro

Good places to play pool?

UClub Billiards B4.jpgJames emails:

I find some of the posts about great places to do various things incredibly helpful. For example: there was an article on the best places for trivia recently. I was hoping you could investigate places to play pool (billiards).

James didn't necessarily rack this one up as an Ask AOA question, but that seemed like the shortest path to finding him an answer.

So, got a suggestion? Please share!

A good laundromat?

generic laundromatJeff emails:

I would like to know if somebody can recommend a good, clean laundromat in the Latham- Troy area where we can wash a large, white comforter?

If have a suggestion for Jeff, great, please share. And if you happen to have a favorite laundromat outside the Latham-Troy area, we'd love to hear about that, too.

photo: Flickr user AlishaV

Where to go for seafood?

crab legs genericBarbara asks via Twitter:

Where can I get some yummy crab legs? I moved here a few months ago and I am craving some good crab and seafood!

We'll modify Barbara's question a bit: If you were to recommend one restaurant in the Capital Region for seafood, which place would it be?

Got a place in mind? Please share!

photo: Flickr user Chrysaora

Where to rent chairs?

one red foldup chairEarlier this week Mindy asked on Twitter:

Can anyone recommend a place to rent chairs near Albany?

We retweeted. There were a handful of helpful suggestions. So we've collected them for the next person with that question.

The suggestions after the jump. And, of course, if know of a good place, please share!

(there's more)

A good electrician?

power outletMichael asks via Twitter:

Does anyone have any reco's for a residential electrician in Albany?

Got a suggestion for Michael? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ Ask AOA: A good plumber?
+ Ask AOA: Contractors for an energy audit?
+ Ask AOA: Furnace cleaning and tune-ups?

A good financial adviser?

accounting ledgerFred asks:

Any recommendations for a good financial adviser in the Capital Region?

Of course, you want to find someone who's good at the financial side of things (otherwise, what's the point) -- but it's also important that you feel like you can communicate effectively with that person.

So, got a suggestion for Fred? Please share! And please include why you like the financial adviser you're suggesting.

Earlier on AOA: A good accountant?

photo: Edinburgh City of Print (Flickr user edinburghcityofprint)

Where to get ice skates sharpened?

ice skate blade heelNancy emails:

Now that the ESP rink is open, where can I get my figure skates sharpened?

If you can't remember the last time you had your skates sharpened -- and you've been skating on them -- it might be time.

Got a suggestion for Nancy? Please share!

Which gym do you go to?

running on treadmillAlex emails with question that a lot people seem to have around the first of the year:

Could you do one of those things where you post a question, and then people comment on what gyms they've been to? [I'm looking for a new gym to join.]

So, which gym do you go to? And what do you like/dislike about it?

Please share!

photo: Flickr user eccampbell

Where to buy a whole fish?

deep fried branzinoBarry emails:

My family and friends are having a traditional Italian "Feast of the Seven Fishes" on Christmas Eve. One fish dish must be a whole fish - I am trying to find a good source for a sea bass called branzino. I have heard nothing but negative things about Two Cousins, and wondered if there was another fish market worth visiting. Thanks.

That has not been our experience with Two Cousins -- on the contrary, they've been helpful on the few times we've dealt with them. If you have thoughts on that account, please share.

And got a suggestion about where Barry should look for a whole fish? Please share!

photo: Flickr user takaokun

Volunteering around Christmas?

Thumbnail image for flower in handsLooking to help, Anonymous emails:

I know a few AOA readers are involved in charitable work, so I was wondering if you could ask ... how one could volunteer to help on Christmas night? I'm staying in the US this year for the holidays, my buddies are out of town, maybe I can make myself useful. THANKS!

We'll expand Anonymous' question to include all the time around the holidays -- not just Christmas.

And if you can think of some way to just do something nice for other people, that would be great, too. Someone once shoveled our driveway while we were away for a few days over Christmas break, and it was just about the best thing ever.

Got a suggestion for Anonymous? Please share!

photo: Flickr user Hamed Saber

Shopping for fresh vegetables in/around downtown Troy?

troy food coop produceHungry for something healthy, Donna emails:

Finding fresh vegetables in downtown Troy is no big deal on a Saturday with the farmer's market, but now that the Pioneer Food Market is closed, I can't think of a single place within walking distance of RPI, other than the Sav-A-Lot on Hoosick Street. Does anyone know of an alternative?

There was a lot of drama around the Troy co-op, but it did provide an outlet for healthy food in area that otherwise doesn't have a lot of options.

Got a suggestion for Donna? Please share!

Where to get t-shirts made?

question mark t-shirtLeigh asks via Twitter:

A friend has a digital picture he wants to have professionally applied to a t-shirt. He may need more than 1 but it won't be a huge order. What's the best place in Albany to have it done?

We'll expand Leigh's question a bit to include custom t-shirts in general, not just ones with photos applied to them.

Got a suggestion for Leigh? Please share!

blank t-shirt image from Flickr user Erika Hall

What are your car radio preset stations?

generic car radio buttonsCapitol to Capital asks via Twitter:

New (to us) car doesn't have satellite radio like the other. What should our presets be??

Or, to ask Cap2Cap's question a little differently: What are the preset stations on your car radio?

Please share!

photo: Flickr user nedrichards

Bakeries that sell yule logs/Bûche de Noël for Christmas?

buche de noelKim asks a seasonally-appropriate question via Twitter:

Are there any bakeries in the cap region that sell yule logs/ buche de Noel for Christmas?

If you don't know Bûche de Noël from a bush, it's a traditional French Christmas dessert -- a sponge cake that's been frosted, rolled up, and then frosted and decorated to look like a yule log. [Wikipedia] [Serious Eats]

We had some vague memory that Mrs. London's in Saratoga makes Bûche de Noël (probably thanks to Ellen). So we gave them a call (581-1652 x303) -- and they do! Mrs. London's makes three types of Bûche, and each serves 10-12 people. They're $65 and must be pre-ordered and prepaid. Orders should be in at least a week before Christmas. And Mrs. London's is open until 4 pm on Christmas Eve if you want to pick up at the last moment.

Has anyone had the Bûche from Mrs. London's? We'd love to hear how it is.

And if you have a suggestion about other places for Bûche de Noël/yule logs, please share!

photo: Andrew Pendleton via Wikipedia

A good veterinarian for dogs?

otto puppy earsBrian asks via Twitter:

Help! I need a vet in Albany / Troy area! My pup needs to see the doctor. Please recommend a good veterinarian.

This question has come up before for cats, but not dogs -- which is a little surprising given how many people seem to have dogs.

Got a suggestion? Please share! And please include why you like going to that vet.

Good holiday and New Year's stuff to do?

champagne flutesBen emails:

My wife and I are new to Albany, don't know anyone (losers, I know), and are looking for some good holiday and new year's stuff to do. Not so much the 'get wasted at Jillian's after paying $100 cover for a free glass of Cristalino,' but maybe something a bit more unique. Any ideas?

Or, to phrase Ben's question a little bit differently, if were talking with someone who's new to the Capital Region, what holiday traditions or stuff to do would you tell them about?

Got a suggestion for Ben and his wife? Please share!

photo: Flickr user _FXR

How to avoid the mall for holiday shopping?

tightknit market troy atriumWith holiday shopping in mind, Chrissy emails:

I'm trying to shop local and eco-friendly this year for Christmas gifts but am getting tempted by the one-stop shop appeal of the mall. Does anyone know of an area around here where there are a lot of local shops close together that sell stuff for kids and adults? I've tried Etsy but to be honest, I like to see the stuff in person especially with baby toys. All the stores I know of are pretty spread out so I thought you guys could help. Thanks!

If you're looking for a more in-person experience than Etsy, one local option is the TightKnit market in Troy on Saturdays (a little bit like Etsy in real life).

But that's just one spot -- we're sure there are a bunch of others around the Capital Region. Got a suggestion for Chrissy? Please share!

photo: TightKnit

Contractors for an energy audit?

energy audit door fanMartin emails:

I'm going to schedule a home energy audit in the near future. I contacted NYSERDA and I was approved an audit award. Now I'm looking over the list of NYSRDA approved contractors. The Capital Region's list is long, and I don't want someone who's only goal is to pressure me into buying services and products I don't really need.
Does anyone out there have recommendation this area' listing?

Got a suggestion for Martin? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ Ask AOA: Furnace cleaning and tune-ups?
+ Keep up with the Joneses? Pfft. Beat 'em.

photo: Flickr user ActiveSteve

Where to get a side of pork?

side of porkLooking beyond turkey, JB emails:

Where can I get a reasonably priced side of pork? I want to butcher one, and would prefer that it lived a humane and natural life. Also, it should be within 60 miles of Troy, because local food is better food.

The first placed that popped into our mind was Flying Pigs Farm in Washington County. By all accounts, they raise excellent heritage breed pigs under good conditions. But: they might not qualify as "reasonably priced."

So, anyone have a suggestion for JB? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ A good local butcher?
+ Grass fed beef shares
+ Buying the whole cow

photo: Flickr user MMChicago

Favorite local spots for music/acoustic snobs?

troy savings bank music hall

The Troy Savings Bank Music Hall is renowned for its acoustics.

Kate emails (link added):

Every since Rev Hall closed, I've been on the hunt to find a comparable music venue with the excellent acoustics that Rev Hall provided. Besides the Egg (which Jon McLaughlin recently told his audience that the sound was so good, he didn't want to stop playing), I've yet to find one that impresses me. Northern Lights, Red Square, and Jillians bring in the bands, but offer terrible acoustics. I fear this may turn off bands from coming to Albany, even though we have an amazing music scene and even more amazing music lovers here. I was hoping your readers had some suggestions.
I just love going to see live shows in the Capital District (all kinds of music). I follow some local bands, but I also love discovering new music too. Maybe some local musicians can share their favorite venues to play at. I hope I'm not the only one in Albany who is an acoustics snob.

Got a favorite place to see music/play music? Maybe a spot that wouldn't immediately spring to mind for people? Please share!

A bank with online banking you won't totally hate?

40 centsChristopher asked via Twitter yesterday:

hey all over albany, HSBC just screwed me. What banks in the area have the best web interfaces?

We re-tweeted, and the handful of responses are after the jump.

We're hoping you might have a few suggestions, too.

(there's more)

Best place for a massage?

generic massage rosesMindy asked via Twitter over the weekend:

Where's the best place for a first-timer to get a massage (preferably not too far/hard to find from Clifton Park)?

We re-tweeted her question and got a handful of responses -- they're after the jump.

And, of course, if you have a suggestion for Mindy, please share!

(there's more)

Good spots for photographing sunsets?

susnset albany nanotech 2011-11

We snapped this pic at Albany NanoTech this week. It was kind of beautiful watching the just-setting sun reflect off all that glass.

MariaG asks via a comment:

Hi, I recently moved back to Albany and I love photographing sunsets...where are some good spots in the area? Thanks so much in advance.

Have a suggestion for Maria? Please share!

Contractors to fix a broken or warped walkway?

sunken sidewalk

Watch your step.

Mark asks via Twitter:

I've got a sidewalk that looks like this in two places. It's my front walk, not a city sidewalk. Any suggestions on who to call to repair it?

That looks like it could be a trip-and-fall waiting to happen -- especially as things get icy.

Got a suggestion for Mark? Please share.

The best sushi places in the Capital Region?

mr fuji sushiNick and Erin email (emphasis added):

At some point in the past 3 months, both the sushi chef and the waiter/helper at Sushi house changed, and unfortunately the sushi is just not the same (It was arguably the best sushi we had ever had). I was wondering if you guys could find out if they just moved to another restaurant in the area, or if they are no longer making sushi Albany. If not, can we get a post about the best sushi places in the capital region?

Heh. We know there are one or two people who like sushi around here.

So, what's your favorite local place?

Earlier on AOA:
+ How much sushi is too much?
+ The best burgers in the Capital Region?

photo: Matthew Loiacono

A good family gift -- not just for kids?

mass moca lewitt black squiggle

One suggestion: MASS MoCA. Big indoor spaces. Art that kids might groove on (Sol LeWitt made instructions for people to draw on the walls!). And, of course, something to keep the adults interested.

Abby emails from afar:

For Christmas I wanted to give [my sister, who lives in the Albany area] a family pass to somewhere cool in your area. I was thinking something the whole family would enjoy, not just an indoor playroom. Could you make New York suggestions?
Anything from Six Flags type stuff, museums that are kid friendly (but not necessarily just for kids), science museums, or anything else that's fun to do.

So, Abby's getting an early start on the season. But she's working from out of town, so give her credit for getting a jump on it.

It sounds like she's open to a lot of ideas -- not just "family" stuff (sometimes it seems like the "family" label is license to be completely boring for adults). Got a suggestion? Please share!

Capital Region income distribution

washington dollar bill green shadeWith all the talk about 99 percents and 1 percents, we were curious about the income distribution in the Capital Region.

So, we looked up the data. Let's go to the charts, graphs, and discussion...

(You know you want to see where you rank.)

(there's more)

Furnace cleaning and tune-ups?

oil furnaceWith an eye toward the change of season, Jen asks:

How about a cheap furnace cleaner person (besides the big companies like DA Bennet) &/or who does home energy audits?

We'll tag general furnace tuneup/maintenance onto Jen's question (that reminds us, we need to get someone to do that...).

Got a suggestion? Please share!

photo: Flickr user C Jill Reed

Where to get good carving pumpkins?

Spooky Pumpkins.jpgWith only a ten days left until Halloween, Chad asks:

Other than apple orchards, where are some good places to get/pick pumpkins for carving ?

Chad is particularly looking for pumpkin patches near Schenectady, but if you know of a good one in another part of the Capital Region, it may help someone else find the perfect pumpkin.

So, anyone have thoughts on where Chad can start his 2011 jack o'lantern?

photo: Flickr user YAXZONE

Where to find Victorian clothing?

troy victorian stroll 2006Mary emails:

Now that the leaves are turning its time to think about Troy's Victorian Stroll (This year it is Sunday, December 4, noon to five pm). Do you or your readers have any tips on where to locate a Victorian style bonnet?

This might be a tough one. Our first thought was costume shops -- but we're not sure how popular the Victorian look is right now for costumes (you know, unless it's "sexy Victorian"). And a bonnet like this probably goes way beyond "vintage."

Anyone have suggestions? Please share!

photo: Sebastien B

Where to get a coat relined, and boots resoled?

boots with snow on themJen from Hounds on the Hudson emails:

I'm gearing up for another long winter outdoors and need to get my wool coat relined and boots resoled. Can anyone recommend a good dry cleaners and/or cobbler in the area?

If there's anyone who needs to make sure their coats and boots are in shape for winter, it's the people at a dog walking company.

So, anyone have suggestions for Jen? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: Suggestions for a good seamstress?

Ukulele lessons?

ukelele closeupLaura emails:

I am really interested in learning how to play the ukulele and have tried my best from online sources but it's just not enough to learn from a video. Can you ask your readers if they know of a local (Albany/Latham) person or place who teaches ukulele lessons to beginners? Thanks!

YouTube is full of uke clips. And we know there are a handful of local musicians who play the uke. It appears the ukelele's time is now (once again).

Got a suggestion for Laura? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ The Electric City Ukulele Club
+ Troy Music Academy

photo: Flickr user indigodeath

A good pediatrician?

stethoscope and ophthalmoscopeSara emails:

I have two boys, ages 2.5 & 6. We all currently visit a very popular family practice in Slingerlands, and while we like a couple of the practitioners there, it's a hike for us to get there, we wait forever once we are there, they don't answer the phones between 11:30AM-12:30PM, etc.
We'd like to hear about some good practices or specific doctors, whether they are pediatricians, internists, and/or general practitioners. We live in Wynantskill, and our preference is within 15-20 minutes drive. Pleasant office staff, realistic scheduling, thorough doctors (NP's or PA's are also fine)...
Thank you! I really appreciate the input of AOA readers.

Showing up at the doctor's office on time and having to wait seemingly forever is frustrating. Having to do it with a sick kid? Eek.

Got a suggestion for Sara? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ A good doctor near Saratoga?
+ Know of a good doctor near Albany?
+ A good eye doctor?
+ A good dentist?
+ A good oral surgeon?

photo: Flickr user a.drian

Where to go for sewing classes?

sewing machine closeupFeeling crafty, Julianne emails:

Recently I've been on a DIY streak, and I realized I lack skills needed to do it myself. I was wondering if anyone knew where I could find a sewing class in the Capital Region.

Got a suggestion for Julianne? Please share!

photo: Flickr user d3b...*

A good acupuncture place?

acupuncture needles in backRight to the point, Nina emails:

I'm thinking of trying acupuncture. Any recommendations for practitioners?

While we can't vouch for quality, there's a place in Troy that has a most appropriate url: stuckintroy.com.

Clever domain names aside, anyone have suggestions for Nina? Please share!

photo: Flickr user marniejoyce

A good exterminator?

yellow jacketMiriam emails:

I know you covered mice issues a while back but we have a wasp nest we can't reach with death spray and we're trying to find a good exterminator to come and destroy the little yellow jacketed ninjas who keep creeping into our house. Any suggestions?

A ninja infestation? Could be tricky.

Got a suggestion for Miriam? Please share!

photo: Flickr user DGriebeling



What to do with a junk car?

tan corolla hoodA question from AOA Greg:

We have a 1996 Corolla for which we're trying to find a final home. It's been a great car, but it's finally reached that point where the repairs would cost more than it's worth. (Steve at Larry's Foreign Auto advised us it was time to find a new car. Yep, his advice probably cost him work. Yet another reason why Steve is the best.)
So we're thinking there are three possibilities here:
1. Try to the sell the car on Craigslist. Maybe there's someone who'd want it. Might be tough, because it needs significant repair and it's old. Not the option we'd prefer.
2. Sell the car to a junk car service.
3. Donate the car to a charity.
Our preference is to donate the car -- sure, we'd like the money, but the sum would probably not be large. If we can help out a charity, great.
So, suggestions for local junk car services or charities looking for car donations?

Got a suggestion for Greg and Mrs. Greg? Please share!

A good hair colorist

BrideofFrankenstein001.jpgThis just in from Amber:

My hair is a hot mess. I was in very capable hands until I moved back to the area a few years ago. Since then I've had a lot (LOT) of trouble finding a decent colorist. I've endured disasters (green hair, falling out hair) and a whole lot of meh (boring loring zoring color). I have resorted to DIY thinking surely I could do better than what I've been paying to have done to me. Yeah, not so much. I'm looking for someone who is good with blondes and who can do color correction. Somebody who can give me that zing - like have it look natural but with an extra oomph. What say you, capital region? Who have you got to recommend? I'd love to hear stories of their expertise. For reference I live in Saratoga but will travel for the right colorist.

Green hair? Hair falling out? Yikes! Can anyone help Amber out?

How to help the Irene flood response?

Thumbnail image for irene_flooding_schenectady_0225.jpgUpdated September 7 at noon

Julie emailed this morning:

I just made a donation to the American Red Cross, but was wondering if there were other ways that I can help the victims of flooding.

We've collected a few ways after the jump. We're sure there are others -- so, if you know of way to help, please share it.

(there's more)

Where to find pecan roll candy?

pecan roll candyNate emails:

One of my favorite childhood treats is a southern tradition: the pecan roll. It's a simple thing--some kind of sugary white stuff rolled in chopped pecans. For years, these could be found near the checkout at most area CVSs. But they stopped carrying them a few years ago. Anyone have any idea where one can purchase a pecan roll in the Albany area these days?

We were not familiar with this particular delicacy, so we did some checking online. From a description at the online Kimball's Candy Shoppe:

Enjoy fresh southern goodness in a sweet-and-salty classic. This nut-loving treat features a fluffy nougat center, wrapped in creamy caramel and plump, premier Georgia pecans. Like the roadside souvenirs you loved as a child, each bite is sweet, crunchy bliss!

Mmm, bliss of the sweet, crunchy variety.

For any sort of retro-type candy our first spot to check is usually the old-school candy section in the back of Saratoga Coffee Traders. After that, maybe of some of the local candy shops -- Krause's, Uncle Sam's, Saratoga Sweets -- might make them.

Got a suggestion for Nate? Please share!

photo: Flickr user revraikes

Where to buy outdoor furniture?

deck furnitureJonathan (@MrDraper63) asks via Twitter:

Almost finished with new deck and looking for outdoor furniture with @elisdraper. Any suggestions for good local deals?

Now that we're at the end of the season, maybe Jonathan and Elisabeth can score a deal.

So... got a suggestion about where to look, which place has good selection, or where to find good prices? Please share!

photo: CrinkleCrankle via Flickr

Finding a high school football team to root for?

Friday Night Lights Coach TaylorWith football season coming up, @ajw93 asks:

I need to find HS football (alma mater sorta far in Dutchess) good, supportive crowd that's NOT all unruly teens?
No srsly, the Titans of Remember The [Titans] fame were previous n'hood team. Also my baby sisters'school. Now I got nothin'! Help!
Yes, i know it's not the local religion, but I do so enjoy HS games esp. I'd love a poll to see if I'm alone there.

Hmm... it might be hard to find exactly what ajw93 is looking for -- the Capital Region isn't Dillon, Texas. But maybe you can recommend a spot in the bleachers.

Got a suggestion? Please share!

image: NBC

Tub and tile re-glazing?

bathroom tile closeupJen (@albanyjen) asks via Twitter:

Perhaps @alloveralbany can help me find someone who reglazes tubs & tiles in the Cap District? or some DIY guidance?

We're guessing that companies/skilled tradespeople who do tile might also do some re-glazing (basically) -- or, at least, be able to offer a good referral.

Got a suggestion for Jen? Please share!

A good bat removal service?

cluster of brown batsGoing a little batty, Kim (@kimmieoftroy) asks via Twitter:

Anyone in the capital region have any recommendations for bat removal/bat-proofing?

Eek. Bats serve an important role in the ecosystem (and help humans) by eating insects. And bats in the greater Capital Region have been hit hard by White Nose Syndrome. But, still... it's probably better that they not use your house as a home office.

Got a suggestion for Kim? Please share!

photo: Flickr user GregTheBusker

Where to get shawarma?

shawarmaAmanda (@ALLCAPSDOOM) asks via Twitter:

Hey Albanians and others in CapitalLand? Where are some good places to get shawarma?

We've relied on Al-Baraki for all our shawarma needs (get the fries inside the shawarma), but there are probably some other good options.

Know of a good shawarma place? Please share!

photo: Flickr user avlxyz

A good place for furniture upholstery?

worn couch cushion cornerJoJo (@TheyCallMeJoJo) asks via Twitter:

I'm looking to get some cushions reupholstered. Any reccomendations for places to go?

Got a suggestion for JoJo? Please share!

Capital Region or Capital District?

albany skyline obstructed smallAbby emails:

Riddle me this: when is it proper to say Capital Region? And when should we call it the Capital District?

We've never heard a great answer to this question. And, to extend Abby's question a bit, where does this region/district stop? Does is it include Amsterdam? Glens Falls? Catskill?

If you have some insight -- or can just make a good case -- please share!

A good spot for star gazing?

night sky adirondacks lakeVia Twitter, @KTdilello asks:

Any suggestions on places to stargaze (away from city lights)....

The moon will be waning over the next few weeks (good for seeing stars), and the forecast is calling for warm nights and somewhat clear skies, so there could be some good stargazing. Also: the Perseid meteor shower is coming up in August.

So, got a suggestion? Please share!

photo: Flickr user stillwellmike (it's a beautiful photo)

Where to go kayaking?

kayaking adirondack pondCap2Cap asks via Twitter:

Where can I kayak and/or swim within an hour's drive? Need to rent the boat.

Got a suggestions for Cap2Cap? Please share!

photo: Flickr user dwstucke

Networks for engineers and other nerds in the Capital Region?

slide ruleBridget emails:

My husband is looking for a job in Albany as a mechanical engineer. Do you or your readers have any tips or suggestions as to what companies to hit up?

If you have a tip for Bridget, great -- please share.

But we want to broaden her question a bit, too. There are a lot of nerd-type* professionals in the AOA crowd -- and more every day as people move here for various industries, both tiny and large. So... if you're an engineer/scientist/software developer/awesome nerd new to the Capital Region, how do you get plugged into the scene here? Are there good groups or orgs to join? Networking opportunities? Please share!

* AOA loves nerds. Obviously.

photo: Flickr user s58y

A fruit/vegetable picking charity?

peach sliceJennifer emails:

I recently heard about a program in Toronto called Not Far From The Tree. It seems like an awesome idea, and I was wondering if you guys had heard about anything like it here in the Albany area.

The first thing that came to our mind was the Capital District Community Gardens' Squash Hunger Program, which collects surplus produce. But we wouldn't be surprised if there are others.

Know of local program like this? Please share!

A low-cost health clinic?

stethoscope and ophthalmoscopeLooking to help a friend, Steph emails:

I have a friend who is headed back to school in the fall for the first time in a while. The problem is, the school requires a physical for enrollment, and said friend doesn't have health insurance. Are there any Capital District clinics that provide lower-cost physicals, or any similar resources?

Got a suggestion for Steph's friend? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ A good doctor near Saratoga?
+ A good eye doctor?
+ Know of a good doctor?

photo: Flickr user a.drian

Good evening yoga classes?

people doing yoga@sozepiggytails asks via the Twitter:

Say, can I get a recommendation for best yoga? Live in Albany, work in Schdy, has to be after 5pm. Gracias!

A similar question came up about a year ago, but things change.

Got a suggestion? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: Hot yoga: Feeling the burn, and loving it

photo: Flickr user enfad

Where to watch July 4th fireworks with kids?

july 4th fireworks 2009Planning for the Fourth of July, CVAA emails:

I am trying to find a perfect spot to watch the 4th of July firework. It has to be kid-friendly. A place where very active toddlers can walk around and is not too crowded would be ideal. Although I won't let the kids roaming around wildly, I don't expect them to sit still while waiting for the show to start either. If your readers have any suggestion, I would really appreciate it. Just a background. We live near Siena collage but would be willing to drive 15 minutes or so. I love fireworks and really hope to find a good spot to enjoy one this year.

We bet there are at least a few spots CVAA and her kids could watch the ESP fireworks, all while having a bit of room to roam.

Got a suggestion? Please share!

photo: Sebastien B

A good eye doctor?

eye doctor phoropterDaniel B. emails:

Mrs. Fussy needs to be fitted for contact lenses and could probably use a new pair of glasses too. She's looking for an eye doctor, and was hoping to get some recommendations. Given the bespectacled nature of the AOA staff and readership, I thought you all would be good people to ask.

It's a well established fact that the most beautiful women wear glasses, so Mrs. Fussy is in good company.

Know of a good eye doctor? Please share!

photo: Flickr user schrierc

Where to learn web design/development?

coda screenshotBrett emails:

What I want to know is, where is the best place in the capital region to take computer classes? Specifically, where is a good college/trade-school/company in the area to learn about web design, coding, programming and graphic design? I am looking for a career change and I have really great computer skills and I want to take my knowledge to the next level and try to secure a good job. I know I could do most of the learning online, but I'm really looking for a place to go and learn from a teacher for a reasonable price.

Got a suggestion for Brett? Please share!

Good spot for a bridal shower?

bridesmaids stillDeirdre emails:

I'm hosting a bridal shower for about 35 women- do you have any suggestions for a location? We're looking for great food and hopefully a private room option, but that's not crucial. Thanks!

There would seem to be a lot of choices. If you've had a good experience at a similar kind of event somewhere around town, maybe you can help Deirdre narrow down the choices.

Got a suggestion? Please share!

film still: Bridesmaids

A good local bakery for cookies?

chocolate chip cookiesThis is a question from AOA Mary:

Any thoughts on where to get really good cookies?
It's all someone asked for for his birthday and I'm not the kind of girl who can make good cookies... even if I had time, which I don't.
I can tell you cakes, cupcakes, food -- but I'm stumped for cookies.

Let's not get into a situation where Mary has to bake. Everyone will be happier.

So, if you have a suggestion -- please share!

photo: Flickr user jayneandd

Spots for Indonesian food?

indonesian mealHungry for more, Chad emails:

My girlfriend and I attended an Indonesian Cuisine and Culture class at Harmony House in Cohoes last week and the food was wonderful. The only problem is that Yono's (the restaurant that the presenter/chef owns) is the only Indonesian restaurant in the area that I can find. Supposedly the food is great but it isn't exactly affordable at ~$50 a person. Do any of the AOA readers know of any more affordable restaurants that serve Indonesian dishes in the area? (not interested in Thai or Vietnamese etc.)

Indonesia is a huge country, so there are probably many different types of food that could fit into the category "Indonesian."

Got a suggestion for Chad? Please share!

photo: Flickr user zul.rosle via Wikipedia

Looking for presentation space

747 Madison community office conferenceTechyDad emails:

I was wondering if you or your readers could help me. I've been working on a freelance project that is winding to a close. The final piece is a presentation that I need to give showing how to use the system I built for them. My problem is, I don't know where to give it. I can't do it at my office since this is a side project and doing it at my home seems too unprofessional. This would only be three or four people involved in this so I wouldn't need much space. I would, however, need Internet access.

We've touched on the the lack of co-working space in the Capital Region before. Any businesses with conference room space that TD that might rent for a few hours? (If you don't feel comfortable posting in the comments, email us and we'll connect you.)

Got a suggestion for TechyDad? Please share!

Where to rent a bike?

bike pedal mediumMaya emails:

I wanted to know where I can rent bikes in the capital district region. I live in a small apartment with no balcony. Although I want to buy a bike, there is no space to keep it in my house.

Got a suggestion for Maya -- either for where to rent, or maybe how she might find space to store a bike? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: Where to buy a bike?

Summer stuff to do with a teen sibling?

ice cream coneCamilo emails:

I would like to know AOA suggestions for activities for a teenager this summer, with a twist. I am an international student at RPI and my brother is gonna come visit me for a long month, so there are a few extra things to consider: I'm not in his legal custody, and he is not a resident/citizen, he does have a turist visa, tho. Also, I'm a student, so price may be a restriction.

We wouldn't want Camilo's brother to come here this summer and have a bad time. So, got a suggestion for them? Please share!

Where to a buy a suit?

suit tie collar closeupMatthew emails:

Wedding season is approaching, and I need to buy a slick navy suit by the end of June. I'm new to the area, and can't find a shop I'm happy with. Men's Wearhouse is my usual favorite, but I'm not pleased with the Wolf Rd edition. Don't get me started.
Also, I'm not looking to break the bank. So where to go for a nice modern look (no pleats!) for a decent price?

We hear you on the pleats. Just say no to pleats.

So, got a suggestion for Matthew? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ Erik went shopping for a suit last year
+ Kaitlin tracked down a few local options for getting a custom-tailored dress shirt

photo: Flicker user O'hAodha

A good yard service?

overgrown grass

Possible option: hire a flock of sheep.

In a recent comment, Leah asks:

Does anyone know a lawn service willing to tackle the insanity that is my lawn after this week of rain (that ideally won't cost an arm and a leg)? My eco friendly reel mower is just not going to cut it after all this - pun intended.

We've seen some lawns around town that are approaching a jungle-like appearance. We wouldn't look forward trying to push any sort of regular mower through that kind of growth.

So, anyone have suggestions for Leah? Please share!

Where to buy a house in Albany?

spanish-style house in AlbanyStephanie emails:

I just moved to the area for the next few years, and I am looking to buy a house. However, I do not know what the good areas are around in Albany!
I am looking for something that is equidistant from SUNY Uptown campus and downtown Albany. I would love a safe area, that is nice or up and coming. I would want to sell in a few years, so the market value would need to stay the same (or preferably!) improve. Additionally, any advice on where to begin looking for houses would be great. Can anyone help me? Please?

Have a suggestion for Stephanie? Please share!

A clock repair shop?

old clockAmy emails, hoping to help a friend:

Do you know of a good clock repair business in Albany? A good friend in Syracuse has a clock with lots of sentimental value that needs repaired, but she can't find any place in Syracuse to take it. She was hoping there is one in Albany. Thanks.

Have a suggestion for Amy and her friend? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: A good watch repair place?

photo: Flickr user Eddi 07- Free Stock

A good doctor near Saratoga?

stethoscope and ophthalmoscopeLooking to help her mom, Sara emails:

One of my favorite AOA tags is "good to know". I need to tap into the collective brains of AOA readers to find a new primary care doctor for my mom. She's in her 50's, lives east of Saratoga, and for various reasons, requires the care of medical professionals more than the average patient. It seems too obvious to say that the doc (must be an MD or DO, not a PA or NP) should not be patronizing, or in the habit of scolding their patients, but that is the problem that leads to this question in the first place!

It's hard enough navigating the medical system without having a doctor who's not a good communicator or condescending or just a wrong fit personality-wise.

Know a good doctor who might be right for Sara's mom? Please share! And if you do, please include a comment or two about why you like that doctor.

Earlier on AOA: Know of a good doctor near Albany?

photo: Flickr user a.drian

Finding a hobbying or something or anything?

peter gibbons office space

"I did absolutely nothing and it was everything that I thought it could be." And then what?

Jeff emails:

Wondering if you could help me out with a question... I'm at home full time now and as much as I'm enjoying not having a job... I'm going slowly INSANE.
I'm looking for a fun hobby to take up in the area and I'm really drawing blanks. Was thinking of taking golf lessons, guitar lessons and volunteering but I'm wondering what the AOA community would recommend.

Got a local suggestion for Jeff? Please share!

screengrab from Office Space

A good tree removal service?

tree service guy in treeMiriam emails:

I'd love to find out if your readers have dealt with a tree removal service they felt did a good job for the right price. We have a half dead tree in our front lawn that's going to come down one way or another.

A few years back, we were happy with the service we got from a company out of Schenectady called TreeCo. They worked remarkably fast (while hanging from a tree, using a chain saw), cleaned up nicely, and all for what seemed like a fair price.

TreeCo doesn't appear to have a website.* Its number is 356-4177.

One thing to note: not all tree services offer stump grinding. Be sure to ask about it if you want the stump taken out, too.

We're guessing there are at least a handful of other local tree service options. Know of a good one? Please share!

* Small businesses of the Capital Region: please get a website -- even just a single page with your contact info. It will help everyone, most importantly you.

A good long-distance moving company?

moving boxCarrie emails:

I know you all have covered movers locally before, but I'm curious if anyone has tips for cross-country movers.

Got a suggestion for Carrie? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: Local moving company suggestions?

A good manicure and pedicure?

manicured nailsRue asks via Twitter:

Where are the good places to get a manicure/pedicure in Troy?

If you have a suggestion for Rue, please share! And even if it's not a suggestion in Troy, share that, too! Cuticles of the Capital Region will thank you.

photo: Flickr user Bex.Walton

A good fence installer?

backyard wood fenceElisabeth asks via Twitter:

Anyone in the Albany area have recommendations for fence suppliers/ installers? Many thanks!

Got a suggestion for Elisabeth? Please share!

Renting a house?

monopoly houseCrystal asks via Twitter:

Dear @alloveralbany, any tips on where one can find HOUSES for rent in the #518? I'm so over apartment living. xoxo, @CAPowCAPow

Mike followed up Crystal's question with a response that was basically "Why rent, when you can buy?" -- she says they're still saving up a down payment.

So, any suggestions for Crystal? Please share!

photo: Flickr user woodleywonderworks

Where to find poutine?

poutine

French fries. Fresh cheese curds. Gravy.

Amanda and Danielle asked via the Twitter recently:

[D]o you know anywhere around here that has poutine?

We've spotted what's touted as poutine a few times in the Capital Region -- but it usually just ends up being fries with gravy and cheese (not a bad thing, just not poutine exactly). We've yet to come across poutine in its full cheese-curdy, Quebecois glory.

So, anyone know where Amanda and Danielle can score poutine around here? Please share!

Bonus bit: there's a Montreal website kind of like AOA called Midnight Poutine, which gives you a sense of when the poutine craving often hits. Also, the famed Montreal restaurant Au Pied de Cochon has poutine made with foie gras.

photo: Flickr user Pierre LaScott

Where/how to find sublets?

apartment door peepholeBrad emails:

I'm interning in Albany this summer and was wondering if you had any tips on to where to look for 1br sublets. I've been browsing craigslist for a few weeks now but really don't know of any other options.
I would like an area thats safe but I'm not too worried about how quite it is. It would be nice to be near bars and places to eat. I'm interning with the Devils hockey team (June through August) so you have an idea as to where I'll be everyday.
I've browsed craigslist but with not much luck. Do you know of any other sites to use to look for sublets?

The local Craigslist is kind of thin on sublets. And, you know, these days -- if not Craigslist, then where?

Got a suggestion for Brad? Please share!

photo: Flickr user Genista

Day hikes near Albany?

ask aoa hiking art Theresa asks via Twitter:

What is your favorite place to go for a scenic day hike around Albany?

A few places immediately came to mind: Peebles Island, the Papscanee Preserve, the Plotter Kill. But one of the great things about the Capital Region is that there are plenty of ways to get hip-deep in nature without having to drive too far.

We all have a favorite place; what's yours?

Photo: Flickr user dvs

A good place to camp?

camping tentsDan from Albany emails:

Hey, I was wondering if you guys could put up a post that could help me find camping spots in the area (adirondacks, catskills, western mass and vt) for a group of adults without kids. It seems like every place caters to families.

Got a suggestion for Dan? Please share!

photo: Flickr user Mike Burns

A good church?

church windows pewsStephanie, who's moving here from Ohio, asks via the Twitter:

Starting my church search! Looking for a great church in the Albany, NY area - any recommendations?
[Looking for] contemporary, community involvement, non-denominational would be cool, progressive...

Any suggestions for Stephanie? Please share!

A deli that delivers?

Ask AOA deli sandwich When Akum got her hair cut yesterday, her stylist said, "Hey, I have a question for AOA. What are the downtown delis that deliver at lunchtime?"

We thought of the Mealeo service, but want to hear your suggestions. When you Must. Have. A. Sandwich. and can't escape the office, who do you call?

Image: Flikr user VirtualErn

A good eyebrow person?

groucho marx eyebrowsPerhaps with stars in her eyes, E emails:

I would like to go to a great eyebrow waxer. The type that makes you look like a movie star! Do you have recommendations?

Know of a good eyebrow person -- for a star turn, or just to look a little better? Please share!

photo: Ralph F. Stitt via Wikipedia

A good haircut for the curly headed?

curly hair statueHannah emails:

This is a question in line with Akum's from [last] Wednesday. I recently moved to the area and am in need of a trim. I have curls that I am rather fastidious about, and have had enough bad haircuts to be rather paranoid about any ol' pair of scissors.
Any suggestions? I live in Troy and work on Central Avenue in Colonie, so bonus points for stylists in those areas. Thanks a bunch!

Got a suggestion about who can give Hannah's curls the care and attention they deserve? Please share!

photo: Flickr user quinn.anya

Where to find Irish soda bread?

irish soda bread in pansIrisira emails with timely question:

My boss thought it would be fun for those of us of Irish descent to share some goodies with the rest of the office on March 17. I volunteered to bring in soda bread (because I love it and wanted to see it represented), but I'm not sure where the best place to buy it is!
I figured you guys would be good to ask, especially since I'm not going to be the only one jonesing for soda bread on 3/17.

Got a suggestion for Irisira? Please share!

photo: Flickr user J Wynia

Stylist for long hair?

rapunzel This question comes straight from AOA's own Akum.

I have long hair. Not Crystal Gayle long; it's just down to the small of my back. But it's been about two years since my last haircut. (Okay, I have a complicated relationship with my hair. And with scissors.) In short, my hair needs some attention. The AOA birthday party is coming up soon, after all. ...

So my question for the AOA community: Can you recommend a local stylist who enjoys working with long hair? I could really use some inspiration.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

A good stationery shop?

Paper Dolls birthday cardsLisa emails:

I'm trying to find a store in the area that sells handmade or specialty papers/stationery, like Paper Source (various locations in major cities). Major plus if they have things made by local artists. Know of anywhere like that?

Our favorite local store of that type might be Paper Dolls in Saratoga. But if you're looking for stationery by local artists, Etsy might be your best bet (you can do searches by location).

Have a suggestion for Lisa? Please share!

Earlier on AOA
+ Local Etsy valentines
+ Local Etsy holiday 2010
+ Paper Dolls

Albany drink specials?

fancy drinkM emails:

Have you guys ever done a post about the best drink specials in Albany? I am poor and like to drink.

So, AOA readers, spill: Where do you go to raise a glass without shelling out too much cash?

Photo: Flikr user Dana Moos

Where to find fresh pasta?

fresh pastaHungry for something from home, Erin emails:

I grew up right outside of the Bronx and was spoiled by the amazing Italian food markets. I've been living in the Capital District for almost 5 years now but have been unable to find a place that does fresh-cut pasta (like this great place in the Bronx).
Maybe I just haven't been looking hard enough or missed something, but is there anywhere that does that around here?

We've enjoyed the fresh pasta from DeFazio's in Troy (they have a small market next to the pizza shop). And we're sure there are other options around the Capital Region.

Got a suggestion for Erin? Please share!

photo: Flickr user klwatts

Places to shop for fresh fruit and vegetables?

peach sliceFeeling the drag of winter, ChuckD emails:

Something that would really help me make it through would be access to a nice assortment of fresh fruit (and not apples, pears, oranges of any kind, or bananas please. They're played out).
In this the Golden Age of Shipping, is it possible to find some peaches or apricots, or other tasty summery tidbits that don't taste like, well, my unsweetened oatmeal, cuz that's getting played out too!
Schenectady area would be great but at this point we'll travel (within reason).

This could be a tough one. And while we sympathize with Chuck's desire for tasty produce, on some level this may be a case where we all just have to learn to deal -- this is the Northeast and it is winter. A little winter longing for fruit will make that first strawberry of the season taste even better.

So... any suggestions for Chuck? Please share!

Contractors for roof snow removal?

snow hanging from roofJames asks a timely question via the Twitter:

You guys have been very helpful with plumbers, electricians and mechanics. Ideas on good contractors for roof snow removal?

Got a suggestion for James? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ A good plumber?
+ Capital Region Recommended Mechanics

Japanese translation services?

japanese in japaneseJesse emails:

My grandfather returned home from WWII with various pieces that he'd traded for, one of them being a Japanese flag with various messages written on it. We have always wondered what the messages read. I was wondering if AOA or its readers had any ideas where I could get a good Japanese to English translation done locally.

From what we understand, a few of the local colleges have Japanese departments (or, at least, instructors who teach Japanese) -- they might be a place to start. But we're kind of curious if there are local businesses that provide these sorts of services.

Anyone have suggestions for Jesse? Please share!

image via Wikipedia

Interesting wedding spot in downtown Albany?

champagne flutesLooking for an interesting wedding spot in Albany, Annie emails:

We aren't getting married until December of 2012, but we wanted to start browsing around for a ceremony site. We aren't religious, but if we could get married in a beautiful, old church by a Justice or something like that, that would also be ok. We are shooting for the reception to be at Jack's, so I'd ideally like to be in down town Albany.

Any suggestions for Annie? Please share! As we understand it, she's looking for something a little different, so she'd probably love creative or unusual ideas.

photo: Flickr user _FXR

Good spots for karaoke?

microphone closeupCatherine emails with a simple tune:

I'm looking for places nearby that do karaoke.

We know you have some good suggestions for Catherine. Please share!

Earlier on AOA: Good spots for trivia night?

photo: Flickr derekGavey

Where to get a remote car starter installed?

snow buried carOut in the cold, Kelly emails:

I am looking to get a remote car starter installed and I was wondering if AOA or its readers had suggestions for shops they've had experience with. I can't find much in the way of reviews online. Thank you!

Got a suggestion for Kelly? Please share!

Can my landlord do that?

key opening doorAnonymous emails:

Help AOA! I received a letter today from the property manager of my apartment building [regarding upcoming apartment inspections to review the condition of units] that rubbed me the wrong way. This in particular, "we will note any cleanliness or excess clutter issues that need to be addressed."
It gave me the feeling they are going to snoop around my unit looking for things they don't approve of. I have already had a few issues with privacy; such as entering my unit without notice. Is this legal or even reasonable according to the Right to Privacy Public Service Law § 228?

Well, we are not lawyers. We don't even play one on TV. But here's a tenants' rights guide published by the state attorney general's office.

Anyone have suggestions for Anonymous about how to proceed? Please share.

photo: Flickr user Menage a Moi

Indoor pool for a day?

indoor pool black and whiteJK emails:

I have a friend coming to visit on Saturday, 2/5, and we'd like to find an indoor pool where we could swim for the day. Anyone know of any schools/gyms/hotels with an arrangement like this?

We're guessing there are probably a handful of places around the area. Got a suggestion for JK? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: Winter getaway: Great Escape's indoor water park

photo: Flickr user Thomas R. Stegelmann

How to get rid of a Christmas tree?

christmas tree on sidewalkShadi emails:

Now that Christmas is over and all the festivities have come to an end... I was wondering if All Over Albany had suggestions as to how to dispose or re-use the no longer needed christmas tree.

Does the city come and pick up your un-wanted tree to use for composting? Do we need to call the city to schedule a pick up? If so, who do we call? Or are there other clever ways to re-use the trees that don't require it to be thrown on the sidewalk?

Shadi isn't the only one who has this question. We've heard a few people lately wonder about it.

Well, here's the answer for the City of Albany. If you put out your Christmas tree on your regular trash day (the tree should not be wrapped in anything), DGS will pick it up and compost it.

If you're not in Albany, give your town or trash hauler a call. They should be able to answer your question right away -- it's sort of the trash question of the moment.

photo: Flickr user julio.garciah

A good plumber?

plumbing drain trapWith what we can only guess is the sound of running water in the background, Chrissy emails:

Does anyone know a good/trustworthy plumber in the Schenectady area or one is Albany that will travel a bit?
I have 2 toilets that are running constantly, a broken faucet, and a crappy old sink that needs replacing. After a crazy high water bill I am finally going to stop procrastinating about it but I don't really want to just pick a name from the yellow pages. The last time I did that I got a drunk Jerry Garcia look-alike that told me the reason my water suddenly smelled like rotting garbage was because I live in Scotia. Not entirely untrue, but I need someone with a more scientific? approach to plumbing problems. Any recommendations?

We called Crisafulli for an acute plumbing problem (broken pipe) awhile back. They responded promptly and fixed the problem, at what seemed like a fair price.

But there are a lot of plumbers out there. Know of a good one for Chrissy? Please share!

photo: spierzchala

The spiciest foods in the Capital Region?

chili peppers at marketKathleen emails:

I recently discovered what I think is the spiciest meal in the Capital Region while dining with my Indian boyfriend Arun in Albany.
Parivar, the new Indian grocery store on Central Avenue, has a little food counter in back which sells the spiciest dosa I have ever eaten! They call it Spring Dosa. I asked Arun to try it, thinking it would be light and vegetable based, like a spring roll. Oh No! It was stick-to-your-ribs potato based, with plenty of spicy chilies.
I got to wondering, maybe we could make a list of the spiciest foods in the Capital Region so I could share more spicy food finds with Arun.

We've heard a lot of good things about Parivar, so we don't doubt it is authentically spicy.

Anyone have suggestions for Kathleen about other spicy local dishes? Please share!

photo: Flickr user Sugar Sweet Sunshine

Caroling and midnight mass?

advent wreath angelTim emails with two questions:

Back home in LA every year I go around with a group of musicians who sing Christmas Carols in hospitals and nursing homes. I was wondering if you might point me in the right direction as to where I could do some Christmas Caroling this season.
If not that, how about a good candlelight/midnight mass? Does this stuff exist in Albany???

Anyone have suggestions for Tim? Please share!

photo: Flickr user msormann

Advice for fighting mice?

brown mouseSebastien emails:

My tenant downstairs is victimized by one very persistent mouse. We have tried poison traps, glue traps, good old fashioned spring-loaded-*smash*-in-your-face mousetraps, to no avail. Either this mouse is a mensa-certified mutant, or I'm doing something wrong.
In any case, it has to go (please). Besides carefully storing food away, I'm considering an exterminator or letting my tenant adopt a cat; pets are a responsibility, but she would like to have one and found a feline online that could be a non-carpet-destructing mouser.
Any recommendations on exterminators? Or "exterminator vs. cat, the smackdown"?

The Capital Region has a lot of old buildings. And old buildings very often have mice. There's gotta some serious collective wisdom out there for dealing with the critters.

So, any tips or suggestions for Sebastien? Please share!

photo: Flickr user coxy

A good computer repair place?

blank computerCarrie emails:

My laptop got hit with a fake anti-virus. I can't get rid of it myself, but I don't know who to call for repairs in Albany.
Do the AOA readers have any recommendations?

A similar question came up last year -- though it was more of "my hard drive died, who can help?" situation.

Got a suggestion for Carrie? Please share!

A good place to volunteer?

flower in handsLooking to help, Camilo emails:

With the upcoming season of holidays, I was wondering if you guys know of a good place to volunteer in, where I could spend a couple of hours a week. I am not affiliated with any church (neither am I interested in), but any place where I could feel like i'm being useful for the community would be cool. I checked online and I cant find anything really worth. Most of the volunteering positions I find around are more like office-assistant-of-the-church kinda work, but not really community oriented.

This question has come up a few times in the past. And people had some good suggestions -- some of them probably still apply.

There's also a site called VolunteerMatch that allows you to search for volunteer opportunities as if they were job listings. You just tell it the location and what you're interested in. Here are the results for "everything" within a 20 mile radius of 12203.

One more interesting option: The Stakeholders group is starting up a network to match non-profits with volunteers. It looks like they're currently taking applications for January matches.

Know of good place to volunteer? Please share!

photo: Flickr user Hamed Saber

A good dentist?

woman at the dentistJulie emails:

I'm one of many people in this area who don't have dental insurance and i just paid $221 for my 6 month cleaning and bitewing xrays. My previous dentist, who recently retired, was significantly less expensive, so I'm wondering if any of your readers know of a dentist in this area who isn't quite so expensive and isn't retiring soon?
Or do I need to just start saving now for my next cleaning in 6 months?

Julie's in the Saratoga area, so she's interested in dentists there. We'll also open this up to (good/affordable/combo of both) dentists around the Capital Region (we've had a few people ask this question).

So, know of good dentist? Please share?

Earlier on AOA: Ask AOA: A good oral surgeon?

photo: Flickr user Betsssssy

A good tattoo place?

stack of pancakes tattooVia the Twitter, @tigrerosa asks:

Hey, you crazy kids. Any recs on a good tattoo place in Albany? Looking to get a small tattoo.

There seem like there are a lot tattoo places around the Capital Region. Know of a good one? Please share!

photo: Flickr user ramsey everydaypants

Help for bedbugs?

bedbugA bit freaked out, Anonymous emails:

I'd like to ask readers about local resources for getting rid of bedbugs.
Mostly looking for companies who will diagnose and get rid of them once you've identified that you have them. For example, are any bedbug sniffing dogs in the area? (That is the most absurd sounding question I've asked in awhile!)
Wondering, too, how anyone locally has dealt with the experience of having them, how they approached getting rid of them, and what they wish they had done differently.

We had a feeling this question might pop up eventually. And, frankly, it kind of gives us the willies.

In October, the Times Union declared that "bedbugs have officially infiltrated the Capital Region." The article mentioned a business in North Greenbush -- Northeast Pest Control -- that has used a bedbug-sniffing dog. (Just recently, the New York Times reported that people are starting to doubt the effectiveness of some of these bug finders.)

So, anyone have suggestions for Anonymous? Please share.

photo: Piotr Naskrecki via CDC Public Health Image Library/Harvard University via Wikipedia

A good turkey burger?

generic turkey burgerHungrily, Aaron emails:

I love a good turkey burger, but have had a hell of a time trying to find any in the Capital region. Any ideas on where to feed my craving??

We've had decent turkey burgers at the Pump Station, Brown's Brewing and -- gasp -- The Cheesecake Factory.

Got a suggestion for Aaron? Please share!

photo: Flickr user mastermaq

Good neighborhood Christmas light displays?

bokeh christmas lightsJudy emails:

My kids LOVE Christmas lights. The oohs and ahhs from the backseat this time of year makes driving at night a fun adventure, but there's just one problem - we're getting used to our usual streets! Do your readers know of any local neighborhoods that really put on a show (and don't mind a little extra traffic, of course)?

We also got this question from @touchofgr3y.

The first place that springs to mind is Apple Blossom Lane in Colonie -- here's video by Christen Gowan from last year's decorations.

There have to be others. Know of one (or more)? Please share!

(And thanks to Katie at Capital District Fun for doing a little asking around on this one!)

photo: Flickr user George Deputee

Treatments for dry winter skin?

dry winter skin knucklesThis question comes directly from AOA Greg:

Every winter the skin on my hands gets really dry, and often cracks. It's uncomfortable, unsightly and generally unpleasant.

I figured this was just an unfortunate quirk of the skin on my hands, but a few people have mentioned recently that the same thing also happens to them each winter.

So, any suggestions for soothing dry winter skin, especially hands? I've tried the general purpose moisturizing lotions like Vaseline Intensive Care -- they don't seem to be up to task.

Good Albany skyline photos?

albany skyline obstructed smallLucas emails:

I'm just curious if you could direct me to some good photos of the Albany skyline/cityscape?
I go to school down in the city, and being back home for Thanksgiving gave me a new appreciation for the Albany skyline as I looked across the Hudson on my way to the train station -- an appreciation that has me yearning for a nice photo of the skyline to hang in my room for all to see (and naturally admire.)

The one that popped into our heads was Carl Heilman's Albany skyline panorama. But there have to be a bunch out there.

Any suggestions for Lucas? Please share!

A place that fixes small appliances?

shiny unplugged toasterEric asks via the Facebook:

I'm looking for a good small appliance repair place in the district. I've got a couple of 40's-50's Mixmasters that are in fine working order except for bad cords. In this throwaway society is there a place to go get something fixed?

We we first saw his question, we pass along an earlier Ask AOA question about appliance repair shops for items such washers

Semi-helpful, but it's easy to find repairmen for "Major Appliances"- what ever happened to the little shop around the corner with an old guy who'd repair your pop up toaster? No such place- these days most appliances cost less that $100 and if they break they're disposable.

We fear that the modern world -- for better or for worse -- has made this service hard to find. If it costs $25 to fix a $30 toaster, most people are just going to buy a new toaster.

But we hope there are still places like this. Any suggestions? Please share!

Good spot for a long business meeting?

soup at paneraJim emails:

Looking to find a buisness meeting-friendly restaurant in Albany. A place where we can linger for 2 hours in semi-privacy in the afternoon. Type of food is not really a concern. I know Panera is popular, but was thinking some place maybe a step up. Any ideas?

This is a bit of a challenge. Places such as Panera are made for meetings and lingering (the CEO says as much). But a non-cafe probably won't be too hot on having someone monopolize a table for a few hours. Time of day is also important -- lingering is more acceptable after the lunch rush.

Any suggestions for Jim? Please share!

A boozy brunch spot?

Bloody Mary at Cafe Madison in AlbanyLooking to the weekend, Cait emails:

Some friends and I have been searching for a good boozy brunch spot in the Capital Region. Recommendations on a stellar bloody mary or mimosa? Are there any places in the area that offer the elusive bottomless booze brunch special? It's so popular down in the city - but hasn't seemed to make its way to Albany yet.
PS - We're not lushes. I swear.

We (and many others) have enjoyed a few Bloody Marys at Cafe Madison.

Any suggestions for Cait and her friends? Please share!

Attorneys for small businesses?

accounting ledgerJeff emails:

I know a few weeks ago you had a post about where to find an accountant in the Albany area but I was wondering where the best place to set up an LLC locally was. Any suggestions? I'm totally lost!!

An attorney who specializes in commercial law could definitely smooth the way here.

So, any suggestions for Jeff -- either for a good attorney to help him, or some other resource? Please share!

Earlier on AOA:
+ A good oral surgeon?
+ A good accountant?
+ A good divorce attorney?

photo: Edinburgh City of Print (Flickr user edinburghcityofprint)

The best burgers in the Capital Region?

burger and fries five guys

A little cheeseburger and fries from Five Guys

Ryan emails:

My girlfriend (not an Albany native) has recently asked me where to find the best burger in Albany. I had a few ideas, but I'd love to open the question to the community so we can make our own "Tour de Burger".

We don't know Ryan and his girlfriend, but we already like them.

So, suggestions for stops on a Capital Region burger tour? If we're including fast food burgers, Five Guys has to be on the list.

What about other stops?

Earlier on AOA: Eating the $25 burger at dp Brasserie

Good places to get a dirty car clean?

dirty car wash meMartin emails:

With two dogs, a LOT of travelling, and a summer of sand, mud, and yard work, my car is just too filthy to do myself. I'm looking for someone else to handle the dirty work.
I've so far come across expensive dealership "clean it to sell it" operations and sketchy garages that offer the service but are also littered with discarded cough medicine bottles.
Anything in between with recommendations?

A similar question came up a while back, but as Martin points out, most of the answers were (helpful) suggestions about how to do it yourself. And Martin is looking for something non-DYI.

We'll also expand this question to include good car washes (especially since winter is almost upon us).

So, any suggestions for Martin and his filthy car? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: Dawn got the scoop on Colonial Car Wash's salad bar

photo: Flickr user badjonni

Consignment shops for professional clothes?

banana republic labelJessica R emails:

I'm looking for a local consignment shop to sell some clothes I've grown out of. I know that Plato's closet targets teenagers, but I was wondering if there is a better option that targets professional women. I have some clothes from J.Crew, Banana Republic, etc, that I'm hoping I could get a better price for at the right consignment shop.

Any suggestions for Jessica? Please share!

Where to find a vintage suit?

Dianne asks via the Twitter:

Looking for a 40's era men's suit. Recommendations on where to shop in Cap Reg?
[The suit is] initially as part of a costume but want something that can be worn anytime.

She mentioned that she tried Metropolis, but didn't have success.

Any suggestions for Dianne? Please share!

Earlier this year, Kaitlin ran through a bunch of places to shop for vintage clothes in the Capital Region.

Earlier on AOA: A good antiques dealer?

A good antiques dealer?

antique clock faceAJ emails:

A friend of mine wants to sell some antiques she inherited from her father. She hasn't compiled the whole list yet, but wants to know the best place in the Capital Region to sell to. Neither she nor I are from here originally, so we don't have the faintest idea where to start. Any help would be appreciated!

We're guessing it might depend on what you're selling -- but we bet a good dealer will know other dealers for referrals.

So, any suggestions for AJ and her friend? Please share!

photo: Flickr user stockerre

A local wedding spot for 1-1-11?

champagne flutesWithout a lot of time, Amanda emails:

We are looking to get married on January 1, 2011 somewhere in the Capital District - the closer to Saratoga, the better. We are trying to find somewhere interesting but not obscenely expensive for about 100 or so people. Does anyone have any ideas of somewhere cool and interesting we could have our wedding and/or reception?

Admittedly, this could be tough. The short timeline probably means Amanda and her husband-to-be will have to find someplace non-traditional. Of course, that could it make that much more fun.

So, suggestions for Amanda? Please share!

photo: Flickr user _FXR

A good oral surgeon?

woman at the dentistShannon emails:

I need to look into having my wisdom teeth removed but know nothing about area oral surgeons. My dentist gave me a list of recommended surgeons, but a list of names doesn't mean much to me. I've visited some websites searching for feedback with little luck.
I'm hoping readers may be able to suggest some surgeons for wisdom teeth removal (or let me know which ones to avoid!). This is not really a minor thing so I'd like to not go into this blindly.

Totally understand the desire to go into this eyes open (well, and mouth, too).

Got a suggestion for Shannon? Please share!

photo: Flickr user Betsssssy

A good place to watch NFL games?

nfl logo footballLooking forward to Sunday, Fred emails:

My brother is coming to town for the weekend and he wants to watch the Dolphins game on Sunday (we grew up in Florida). What's a good place to catch NFL games? We're hoping for good food, too.

It seems like every pub, bar and neighborhood joint now has multiple TVs for showing the NFL.

Any suggestions for Fred and and his brother? Please share!

The games being shown this weekend on broadcast TV here are Detroit at Giants and Jets at Denver.

Earlier on AOA:
+ A question last year asked about the best sports bars
+ The Steelers' success started in... Saratoga?

photo: Flickr user Eric Kilby

A good place to get a passport photo?

passport stampsAbby emails:

My mother is need of a new passport photo that fulfills the rules and regs of the British Embassy. This sounds fairly straight forward, but in fact there's a 12 page PDF of how to do it properly.
Can any of the readers suggest a person/studio that will be able to help her?

We're guessing that any place that does a lot of passport photos could probably handle the requirements of the UK. (Then again, we sometimes have to turn on the subtitles during films with heavy British accents.)

Any suggestions for Abby? Please share!

photo: Flickr user hjl

A good accountant?

accounting ledgerWith an eye to the future, Ewan emails:

We're thinking that it might be good for at least one year to get some professional tax advice. Has anyone had a good experience with a local tax-oriented CPA?

photo: Edinburgh City of Print (Flickr user edinburghcityofprint)

Any suggestions for Ewan? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: A good divorce attorney?

A good divorce attorney?

road splitLooking for some help in a difficult situation, Sue emails:

I hate to bring negativity to your awesome blog, but I am in need of a good and responsive divorce attorney in the Albany area. Any tips from readers are greatly appreciated!

Anyone have suggestions for Sue? (For a good attorney -- and maybe a good bottle of wine, too.) Please share.

photo: Flickr user gyverchangphotos

Local book printing?

tomb by eric colossalEric, looking for some insight, emails:

My girlfriend Jess and I draw comics in our spare time and now we need to print them and some posters. There are online options but they are very slow and when color is involved prices get kind of ridiculous! So we were wondering if there are any local places that could print and bind/staple comic books.

Our first thought was The Troy Book Makers, a local print-on-demand service that will produce small batches. Jessica wrote about them last year.

Anyone have ideas for Eric? Please share!

image: Eric Colossal

Good corn mazes?

corn maze pathWith an eye to the season, MattW emails:

Where are the area's best corn mazes?
I'm looking for a challenging, elaborate, whimsical, no child's play corn maze in the area.

Got a suggestion for MattW? Please share!

photo: Flickr user Art Institute of Portland

A good watch repair place?

pocket_watch_gears.jpgJim asks via The Twitter:

Might you or any of your readers know where a gentleman can have a pocketwatch restored?
Rather than go to the corner jeweler, I'd prefer someone who has experience with watches, as it's an antique. Thanks!

We're drawing a blank here. It probably doesn't help that we haven't worn a watch (wrist or otherwise) since... well... we can't really remember the last time we wore a watch (a mobile phone is kind of like the modern version of a pocket watch).

Anyone have a suggestion for Jim? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: Where to get a ring re-sized?

(not Jim's watch) photo: Flickr user timlewisnm

Hospice care for pets?

catFacing a tough situation, Terry emails:

I have a cat that is 18 years old. He's been with me since right after I moved to the Capital District. He's been a lively, healthy guy, 18 years is well past the typical feline expiration date already, but now his clock is reaching its final ticks, and as much as I wish I didn't have to, I know that sooner rather than later I will have to do my final job as a loving, responsible caretaker for him and have him put down.
My question is this: do any of your readers know of a vet that will makes "final house calls" and come to my home? I would like to give my little guy as much security and comfort as possible on his final day, vs. putting him into a plastic crate and driving him to a vet's office and a chrome examination table.
Thank you in advance - while I grew up with pets, this is the first time I've ever "owned" this responsibility, and it just feels awful.

We haven't heard about any clinics that offer this service -- but we had a question not too long about veterinarian care for cats, and a few places got multiple recommendations (Bloomingrove, Parkside). They might be a good place to start inquiring about an in-home visit.

We hope you have suggestions for Terry.

photo: Flickr user Tambako the Jaguar

Good places to donate furniture, clothing?

generic couchJudi emails:

An older pair of friends of the family are doing some serious downsizing to live in a pretty impressive independent living community in the area. They have quite a bit of furniture, clothing, etc that they need to find good homes for and they've expressed an interest in donating most of their things, but don't really know where to start.
I want to help them as much as I can, so I've been trying to do a little research on all the places they can donate ... Do you know of any good places to donate in the Capital Region? Would any of these places be willing to pickup the donations?

Judi says she's considered a few of the places that probably first come to mind -- Goodwill and Salvation Army. She's wondering if there might be some good places she's missing.

Last year, Naomi donated some used furniture to Troy Area United Ministries and got the scoop on how it all worked. And while it wouldn't necessarily be a donation, the local Freecycle network could be useful (more scoop from Naomi).

Anyone have suggestions for Judi? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: If you're looking for the inverse situation, Slacker asked about good places to buy a couch.

Good places to eat on Sunday?

forkSkye emails:

Sunday's the day my husband & I have a meal with his dad, and whenever I run through the checklist in my head of places I would love to go, I find most of them are closed (esp. in Troy, it seems).

So Skye's looking for some suggestions about good places to eat on Sunday -- and, we'll add, dinner especially (a lot of places are open for brunch).

One suggestion to start things off: we've had some nice Sunday evening meals at Chez Mike in East Greenbush -- it's open 5-9 pm on Sundays.

Have suggestions for Skye? Please share!

Where to get whole sardines?

sardines

Apparently there's a bit of a neo-sardine movement because the fish are considered both healthy and sustainable.

Shadi and Jason:

"Where can we find fresh, whole sardines?"

Our first thought was to check with The Original Two Cousins fish market. So we called up the Newton Plaza location in Latham this morning. The helpful people there said they don't have fresh sardines -- but they do have frozen. A two pound bag is $7.95.

Anyone have other suggestions for Shadi and Jason? Maybe you've seen whole sardines in one of the supermarket seafood sections. Please share!

photo: Flickr user FotoosVonRobin

Good mortgage brokers, real estate attorneys, etc?

a houseFollowing up our mention of this being a good time to think about refinancing your mortgage (seriously you could potentially end up saving many tens of thousands of dollars), -S asked:

My case. If somebody has experience with that process, or pointers, I'd really would like to hear about it. Thanks.

This is a good question because it's the sort of situation where some people might have a hard time getting started. Who do you call? What do you ask? And even on a refinance, there are a lot of separate costs (attorneys, appraisers, and so on).

So... know of a good local mortgage broker or bank? Have a good experience with a local real estate attorney? Please share! You could help -S -- and a lot of other people -- save a lot of money.

Good local fishing spots?

fishing pole reelBill emails, fishing pole in hand (OK, we're assuming that part):

I have lived in the area for almost 15 years, and my fishing gear has been in the area for 12 (after leaving SUNY Albany). I don't have a boat here, but I love fishing for bass, walleye, northern pike, etc.
Can anyone recommend any good local spots to fish from shore, or any local lakes/rivers that have inexpensive canoe/boat rentals? I would love to take my 4 year old out for a day, or grab a couple of friends and a 12 pack. Suggestions are needed!

Anyone have tips for Bill? Please share!

photo: Trevor Manternach

A good place for photo printing?

row of photo albumsMartin emails:

My wife and I took a TON of photos on our honeymoon last year. So many that 1,176 made it to the "let's keep folder" (there were many, many more to begin with).
Now we'd like to print about a 1,000 of them as 5x7s and put them into albums.
My question is what service has the best deal for a bulk job for this? There's a 1000 services out there!

We suspect the best option might be an online service. But a local place could certainly have its advantages -- especially if you can stop by and talk with the people about exactly what you're looking for.

Any suggestions for Martin and his wife?

photo: Flickr user awshots

Self defense classes?

self defense classAfter seeing the recent string of crime stories, MattW emailed this week:

Can anyone recommend self-defense classes?

Any suggestions? Please share.

photo: Adam Jackson (Flickr user adamjackson1984)

Recommended auto mechanics

auto mechanic map grabWe got email from Ashleigh this week looking for an auto mechanic recommendation. She's new to town and needs a place to take her Volkswagen.

The auto mechanic question has come up before on AOA -- we got so many responses that we compiled them in one easy-to-scan list/map. That was more than a year ago, so we figured now was a good time to mention it again (especially since a lot of people are new to AOA since then).

We really need to put together some place to index all this kind of stuff...

Where to propose?

engagement ring proposalA guy emails:

So I intend on proposing to my girlfriend soon. I have the ring and everything. The thing I am stuck on is where I should do it.
Do your readers have any suggestions for a romantic place in the area (up to a 4 hour drive is fine) for me to pop the question?

This is an important question! We hope you have some good suggestions for this guy!

photo: Will Powell (Flickr user Powellizer)

A good cleaning service?

dust panLou emails:

Living on a busy street in downtown Troy, a certain amount of grime drifts through the windows. Though I'm a reasonably tidy divorced dad who was taught how to do cleaning chores as a kid, it'd be worth X dollars to bring in some pros a few times per year and pick up my slack. Folks who do this for a living and can catch everything up in a couple hours.
I know they're out there, but don't know how to find a good one or what it should cost. Natch there are mass-market franchise providers ("The Maids," others), and maybe they're fine. But I'll bet there are truly local, honest providers doing the same thing in Troy. I'd prefer that.
AOA-ers: What occasional maid service do you use in Troy? I'm not fussy and don't care so much about bonding, theft-safeguards, etc. (I'd stick around), just want good value for money. We're talking a ~1100 sq. ft. apartment.

Got a suggestion for Lou? Please share!

Martial arts classes for kids?

karate classCharley emails:

I'm interested in taking my girls, at least the 4 year old, to start learning a martial art. I'd heard about daddy-daughter martial arts in other towns, and am wondering if there's anything like that around here.
Some stuff I'm eager to drop kids off and let the teachers do their thing, but it seems like it would be really fun to do this and I can't believe I'm the only dad who wants to help his daughter become a blackbelt. Love your input.

Anyone have suggestions for Charley and his daughter? Please share!

photo: Kai Schreiber (Flickr user Genista)

Driving schools?

sideview car mirrorCarl asks:

I wonder if anyone has any good experiences to share with Albany / Troy area driving schools. Because the do-it-yourself model is not working with my daughter.

We've always thought having your parent teach you how to drive is maybe not the best idea. There's just so much... baggage. (Red light! You don't have to use that tone with me. Brake! I am braking!!)

So, a suggestion here could really smooth the road. Please share!

photo: Naimi Grondin (Flickr user Naimi&virg)

Fun activities with co-workers?

the office beach gamesErinn emails:

My company does a summer team building activity every year. This year, the company has split it up so that each work team does their own activity, instead of a unit-wide activity.
Our team is looking for something fun to do that fits our budget and time allowances. There are seven of us on the team. We have a budget of $36 per person ($252 overall). We can leave work by 11, and would like to be done with whatever activity by around 4 or 4:30, including travel time back to the office. (Our office is in downtown Albany.)

Anyone have suggestions for Erinn and her co-workers?

Still from The Office

Pick-your-own vegetables?

Thumbnail image for tomatoes on vineBrian emails:

Any suggestions on pick your own veggies? My garden sort of pooped out this year and I want tomatoes, cukes, zukes, beans...

Hmm... there are a bunch a pick-your-own fruit places, but we're not sure about PYO vegetables.

Your best bet is probably to just hit up a farmers' market or a farm stand. Of course, that doesn't give you twisting-off-the-vine experience.

So, anyone have suggestions for Brian? We'll expand this a bit to include good farm stands (quality, selection). Please share!

Is Jiminy Peak's Aerial Adventure fun?

jiminy peak aerial adventureShannon emails:

I was wondering if any of you or the AOA readers have been to the Aerial Adventure Park at Jiminy Peak. If so, was it fun? I can't really tell if it'd be fun for a group of 20-somethings to do for the day, or if it's more aimed at kids. It looks like it could be fun, but I don't want to pay for something if I'll just be disappointed.

We have not been. But we agree, it does look fun (you know, if you're not acrophobic). Though, at about $40/person, it'd be nice to have a better sense before heading out to Western Mass.

So, has anyone tried it? Please share!

photo: Jiminy Peak

A good appliance repair place?

wall of old dryersFred emails:

My dryer just died. Any suggestions for a good appliance repair place?

Anyone have a suggestion for Fred? Please share!

Update: Fred emails again:

Went with Bob's, as it was the only one with any web presence. $55 to diagnose, and they'll be here tomorrow, no extra charge. YaaaayOA
.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Capital Region Recommended Mechanics
+ The blue screen of death? Where to now?

photo: Charles Henry (Flickr user Amarillo Chuck)

Where to train for the Warrior Dash?

warrior dash logoJulie emails:

I had a momentary lapse of sanity and signed up for the Warrior Dash down at Windham Mountain in September.
Where in the Capital Region could I train for such an event? The obstacle I'm particularly worried about is the one where I have to climb over a wall. Other obstacles include jumping over fire and crawling under barbed wire.
Any help would be much appreciated!

The "jumping over fire and crawling under barbed wire" bit made us curious about what exactly Julie had gotten herself into. The Warrior Dash site bills the race as "the ultimate event for thrill-seeking athletes," where "where 13 obstacles from hell await this 3.23 mile course." Also: the race is "more about mental toughness than being in great shape." And it looks like people wear costumes.

The event has been held in other parts of country in years past -- this is the first time in the Northeast. It's September 18 and 19. Registration is $65 and closes on September 7.

So, anyone have suggestions for Julie? Please share!

Veterinarian care for cats?

staring catEmails Ryan this morning:

I found an injured stray kitten last night, but it needs medical attention and unfortunately, I cannot afford it. Do you know of any services or organizations that could help me foot the bill (or even a vet that would be willing to offer his/her services for a reduced rate)?
The one thing I'm sure about is that I don't want the kitten to be put down if it has a real chance.

The Mohawk & Hudson River Humane Society may be able to point you in the right direction, or at least give you a sense of the options. The number is 434-8128.

Anyone have suggestions for Ryan? We'll expand his question a little bit to include good vets for cats. Please share!

photo: Flickr user Tambako the Jaguar

Where to find fried pickles?

fried pickles

Sure, why not.

Stephanie asks via the Twitter:

Is there a place in Albany that has deep fried pickles on the menu? Some bbq places in NYC do. I love them.

If you had to take a guess, we'd look to Capital Q. They've been known to experiment with the fryalator arts. Or maybe one of the local fairs (fried pickles + food on a stick = fun).

We hope someone has an answer. Our week will probably not be complete without some fried pickles.

Bonus fact: Though there's some dispute over the origins, the fried pickle is said to have been first conjured during a moment of inspiration in 1960 at the Duchess Drive In in Atkins, Arkansas -- a joint that sat across the street from a pickle factory. [Serious Eats]

photo: Flickr user Ron Diggity

A good car detailer?

otto and daisy in backseatSue emails:

I bought a used car from a friend who had a dog, and the car smells like dog...which isn't too great when it's hot and the windows are up because the AC is on.
Two different friends of mine have said I should get the car detailed, which I guess is an extra thorough washing, but I have no idea how to find a place...I am willing to throw down a few dollars to make the car fresh again, but would like to make sure that my money is well spent.
So maybe some of the AOA readers have some experience with this? Also, if they think a vacuum and some baking powder is the way to go, I welcome any DIY tips (although this is definitely one of those things that I would rather pay for).

Oof. We hope you have some suggestions for places Sue can get her car de-dogged. The Otto-mobile has also been kind of doggy lately -- so we could also use the tips.

Got a suggestion? Please share!

Fun softball leagues?

softball closeupSummer emails:

A friend of mine would really like to get involved with a softball league that's fun and not too competitive. He's not a bad player but he's afraid he's not good enough to be welcomed by some of the more competitive leagues out there. Also, he's gotten the impression that without an "in," he won't be able to find an opening.
Any ideas?

We fear that Summer's friend may have missed his chance for this season, but maybe there are some mid-summer leagues that are starting up. If anything, tips on good leagues will help out for next summer.

Got a suggestion? Please share!

photo: Glenn Tremblett (Flickr user ragingtornado)

Who can install central air?

Egg on sidewalk.jpgOK, we're on stay-cation, but we have hearts. So when S. sent us this sweltering distress call, we had to put it out there in hopes that someone in the crowd can help him:

He asks:

I've no AC at my place and I'm really cooking right now. I have ducts and pipes all over the house to install central air conditioning, but I'm looking for a contractor to put the system itself, e.g. a condenser and compressor to run cold air all around the house. Was wondering if AOA reader had somebody to recommend

Anybody have any thoughts?

Photo: flickr user Lori Greig

Where to learn parkour or other unusual sports?

There was a fun article in the Saratogian today about a commercial being shot by Empire State College that features a parkour expert bounding through -- and above -- downtown Saratoga (check out the photos).

What's parkour? The Wikipedia entry describes it as an activity in which "participants jump, vault, and climb over obstacles in a fluid manner." The video embedded above shows a bunch of (crazy) examples. And here's more from a a How Stuff Works article.

This all prompted Steve to email:

[Are there] any parkour/freerunning gyms or groups in the area? It's something I've wanted to get involved in for years now, but I've never had much luck finding anything locally other than a few Facebook groups that don't seem that active. Plus, health care costs being what they are, I'd rather learn from someone that knows what they're doing and not someone that learned some basics on the Internet.

This seems like it could be a tough one. So, we'll widen it a bit to include groups or gyms that do training for any sort of odd or unusual sport.

Any ideas or suggestions? Please share.

Earlier on AOA: In 2008, Jess checked out a gym in Albany where people work out by doing stuff like flipping huge tires and dragging heavy chains

Best view of the fireworks?

Fireworks small.jpgSo yesterday we we ran into an AOA reader who asked us a questions we weren't sure we could answer.

Bianca told us she's going to check out the fireworks at the Empire State Plaza on Sunday. She's never been before and she's looking for the best place to hang out and watch.

We've only ever watched from the steps of the NYS Museum -- and while it's been fun, it's kind of crowded and you need to score a seat pretty early.

Anyone have other ideas?

Where to find good empanadas?

empanadasErinn asked a while back:

Any idea where in the Albany area a girl can get a good empanada?

Salsa Latina in Albany has them on the menu -- though we've yet to try them.

We seem to remember Carmen's in Troy having empanadas -- but we haven't been since its rebirth late last year.

You might also be able to score empanadas -- frozen, at least -- at La Marqueta.

Any one have suggestions for Erinn? Please share!

photo: Flickr user soyculto

Know of a good pet sitter or boarding?

otto puppy earsKristin emails:

I know you've done posts in the past asking for reader suggestions about good haircuts, doctors, etc, and since travel season is coming up, I was wondering if you could do a post about pet sitters?
I definitely don't want to hand the keys to my apartment and the care of my cats over to someone I've randomly picked without recommendation.

We totally understand where Kristin is coming from -- knowing the office dog is well cared for makes one less thing to worry about when traveling.

This might not help Kristin's exact situation because she has cats, but Otto has vacationed at Happy Tails in Altamont. The facilities are nice and the owners were very friendly. They even got one of Otto's favorite toys back to us after we left it behind. As far as we can tell, they don't have a website, but here's a pdf brochure with contact and other info.

From what we understand, the Hounds on Hudson people, who do dog walking, also do cat visits. They seem really nice and cool. (Here's an AOA piece about them.)

Anyone have suggestions for Kristin? Or even some good boarding, pet sitting, or walking experiences that might help other people? Please share!

Where to get good tofu?

plain tofu block

It is a bit of a blank canvas.

Leigh tweeted on Friday:

Recommendations for decent tofu in the area? I'm thinking maybe One of a Kind Tea House might be my best bet.
I'm looking for tofu that isn't oil-logged or heavy and is well-seasoned, not just heavily sauced.
The typical Chinese restaurant bean curd is usually just deep-fried into submission & sauced up.

Rochelle seemed to enjoy the tofu she got at One of a Kind last month, so that sounds like a good place to start.

Anyone have recommendations for Leigh? Please share!

Earlier on AOA: The teas at One of A Kind Teahouse

photo: Flickr user FotoosVanRobin

Where to find shampoo bars?

liggetts shampoo barToni emails:

I am trying to find a local place where I can buy organic shampoo bars? Have any suggestions?

Our first thought was the Honest Weight Food Co-op. So we called 'em up -- and they said they carry a product called J.R. Liggett's Old-Fashioned Bar Shampoo. The product's website doesn't say it's organic, but it does use the word "natural" (of course, that could mean a bunch of things). HWFC sells the bars for $5.99.

Anyone have other suggestions for Toni? Maybe some local shops of Etsy sellers? Share, please!

Earlier on AOA: Jess tried out a locally-made shampoo bar from Serpentine Hair. Last we heard, the line had been sold -- and its website is no longer up.

Disclosure: Yep, HWFC does advertise on AOA. But it would have been the first place we would have thought of after hearing the words "organic shampoo bar" even it didn't.

Where to find French macarons?

french macaronsUpdate: CAPow! found them at the Placid Baker in Troy. Thanks to Ginny for the suggestion!

CAPow! emails:

Has anyone ever had a successful Capital District hunt for French macarons? I've heard rumors that they may be found in Saratoga, do you have any info that could help my quest?

Mrs. London's in Saratoga would be a good spot to check first -- they make a whole bunch of French pastries.

Anyone have other macaron suggestions for CAPow? (That don't involve a plane ticket to Paris.) Share, please!

By the way: The word "macaroon" comes from the French "macaron" -- but they're different cookies. Over at Serious Eats, Robyn Lee has a good backgrounder on the "dainty French cream-filled sandwich cookie which, in its best form, will fill your soul with warm, fuzzy happiness after one bite."

Earlier on AOA: Where to find "fancy pants" tarts?

photo: Flickr user law_keven

Good spots for trivia night?

generic trivia nightLisa emails:

Do you know which bars have pub trivia during the week? Every time I ask someone, all they say is "Bombers on Tuesday, but it's always too crowded to go."

It seems like every other bar or pub has some sort of trivia night now. If you know of a fun spot, please share!

Bonus points for additional comments about what makes it fun (example: good drink specials).

photo: Flickr user elvissa

Where to find "fancy pants" tarts?

dutch desserts peach tartKate emails:

Could you tell me about where I can purchase scrumptious fruit tarts?
I'm talking fancy pants style tarts. Like French people make.

Any tour of fancy pants tarts in the Capital Region should make a stop at Mrs. London's in Saratoga. And Crisan in Albany makes really great European-style desserts.

While the pants of the tarts from Dutch Desserts are probably not exactly of the fancy variety, we love 'em. They're available from a bunch of local outlets, including many of the farmers' markets.

Any other tart suggestions for Kate? Share, please!

Where to go for good theater?

comedy:tragedy.jpg

Chris emailed this week:

I moved here from NYC less than a year ago. I was deeply involved in off-off-broadway theater, but haven't seen/done any theater since the move. I know about Capital Rep and Proctors, but they're not what I'm looking for. Can you tell me where the fringe/experimental/black box performers and performances are here in Albany or nearby, like in Troy or Schenectady?

OK, here's what we know.

If you're interested in doing theater in the Capital Region, try putting yourself on the Capital District Audition List-Serve. Most theater and film companies will list their auditions there. It won't be all the experimental stuff you're looking for, but you can pick and choose.

There are a lot of theater companies in the Capital Region, and they do a pretty wide range of work. After the jump are a few that stand out for us.

We're sure there are others, so if you see something missing, add it to the list.

(there's more)

Know of a good doctor?

stethoscope and ophthalmoscopeLaura asks via Facebook:

I'm still somewhat new to the Albany area and having a difficult time finding a really good doctor. I'm looking for a general practitioner or even better, an internist. ...
Anyone have any thoughts? Any doctors they love and would recommend? Thank you!

This has always seemed like a hard question to us. Obviously, you want a doctor who's skilled -- but it also helps to find a physician with whom you feel comfortable.

So, anyone have suggestions for Laura? Please share! And if you could include a little bit about what makes the doctor good, that would be helpful (example: "good listener").

Also: here's New York State's doctor profile database, which includes info about all licensed doctors who are registered to practice in the state. And the state's Office of Professional Medical Conduct also has an online database of all physicians, physician assistants and specialist assistants who have been disciplined since 1990.

photo: Flickr user a.drian

Suggestions for a good seamstress?

sewing machine closeupMeg emails:

I need to have some tricky alterations made to a bridesmaid dress. I saw your posts on shirt and suit tailors in the area, and am hoping you and your readers can hook me up with a talented seamstress. Any ideas?

We wonder if maybe there are seamstresses (or tailors) who specialize in dresses. We know next to nothing about sewing, but we suspect that altering a dress is more complicated (and perhaps more of an art) than hemming a pair of pants.

Anyone have suggestions or experiences to share with Meg?

Earlier on AOA: Where to find suit tailoring?

Elsewhere: Kristi recently got a question about where to get pants hemmed.

photo: Flickr user d3b...*

Misconceptions about Albany?

san francisco to albany

San Francisco to Albany

Matthew S emails:

I'm contemplating a move to Albany from San Francisco this summer to start a graduate program. I was wondering if there are any common misconceptions that people from outside the area hold when they move to the Albany area and how they lose 'em.
Also, what are some good resources for transplants to get to know their community? What should I be looking out for?

Hmm, where to start.

While it's not a misconception exactly, one thing that kind of bugs us about the way people describe this area is the "It's so close to other stuff!" line (Boston, NYC, Montreal). It's a true statement, but leading with that implies that you have to leave this place to do anything interesting (not a true statement).

One way to get the know the community: get a dog. It's hard to not meet people when you're out walking the neighborhood all the time.

We're guessing you have a bunch of thoughts for Matthew. Please share.

Earlier on AOA: Adjusting to Upstate (thanks, AP)

Golden Gate photo: Flickr user Rodefeld

Good daycare or preschool?

kid crawling with blocksVia Twitter, Bliss writes:

Jax's daycare closing in 3 weeks. Need to find a fulltime placement asap!
Looking for full time, state licensed care beginning May 31.
is for a 3 year old, so somewhere with a preschool program would be particularly good. Ballston Spa/Saratoga.

Anyone have ideas for Bliss? Let's open to this good daycare/preschool programs in the wider Capital Region, too. Share, please!

photo: D Sharon Pruitt

Dance collaborators for Sea of Trees

Dylan from local band Sea of Trees emails:

We recently played a show with our friends in Wobble Dance Co down in Brooklyn, NY. It was the first time we played a show like that, providing the music for a live dance show and it was a great experience! [video is embedded above]
We had so much fun doing this that we are hoping to put together a similar show in Albany. We're currently looking for both a venue and a local dance company that might be interested in putting something together. It occurred to us that it might make a good 'ask aoa' post, since we're not sure where to start looking. We might get some good suggestions. Who knows?

Maybe the who in this case is you. If you have suggestions, please share.

Sea of Trees is a great band. We bet they'd be fun collaboration partners.

Where to get foie gras

Foie Gras.jpg@HealthyDelish asked via Twitter

Thoughts on where to get foie gras in the 518? (Not @ a resto... need it for a recipe)

@reneemca suggested Adventure in Food in Menands. We followed up on that and it turns out they carry several types:

Pre sliced foie gras from the Hudson Valley goes for $38.95 per lb.
Flash Frozen grade is $44 per lb.
Flash Frozen Grade B is $36.20 per lb.
Cubes (great for stuffing or rissotto) go for 20.75 per lb.

We also checked in with Putnam Market in Saratoga. You can get it there during the holidays and racing season, but it's not in stock right now.

Anyone have other thoughts?

Photo: Flickr user SimonDoggett

Where to buy a bike?

Troy Bike Rescue

The Troy Bike Rescue

@MindyKB asked via Twitter:

Know any good places for a beginner to buy a bike, preferably a relatively simple, cheap one?

One option might be to start at the Troy Bike Rescue. They often have bikes for "adoption" -- and they can help you learn how to maintain it.

We're betting you have good suggestions for Mindy. Please share!

Bonus Troy Bike Rescue item: TBR has Bike! Bike! Northeast, "a meeting of the minds on all things bicycle culture in the Northeast US," coming up this weekend.

photo: Troy Bike Rescue

Keeping squirrels from tulips

single small tulipEmailed StickFigureMan today:

How do people keep the squirrels from shredding their tulips?
Every year it's the same: The squirrels wait till the buds are plump and ready to bloom, giving me hope that maybe I'll get to see my flowers this year. Then they destroy them. They don't even eat them. They shred them with their little claws and leave the petals scattered about to mock me.
I've made them sacrificial offerings of bird seed. But squirrels don't honor treaties. Last year I made habanero tea and sprayed all the tulips. Mmm, spicy, said the squirrels, as they ravaged on.
I am consumed by jealousy when I see yards bursting with tulip color. What do they know that I don't?

We suggest renting a fisher and giving those smug, treaty-breaking squirrels a run for their lives.

Perhaps you have some less radical suggestions for StickFigureMan?

Ask AOA: stuff to do with mom and dad

marge and homer simpsonLiz emails:

I have been in the area for less than a year. As a graduate student, I haven't done too much exploring. My parents are visiting this weekend. I'd like to show them a good time, but I don't know what to include. They visited once before and we went to the NYS Museum and New World Bistro and Bar, both of which they liked.
Any suggestions?

A similar question came up last September, but a lot of the suggestions were fall-oriented.

Off the top of our heads, a day trip to MASS MoCA or Hudson could fun. An afternoon in Saratoga might be nice -- be sure to catch the Beekman Street Arts District.

We're guessing you have suggestions for Liz and her parents. Share, please!

Where does the Easter Bunny shop?

Saratoga Sweets Jelly Beans

What's an Easter basket without jelly beans?

Mary Beth wrote us recently with a question about where to pick up Easter treats in the Capital Region.

For some, the best part about Easter is the basket delivered by the Easter Bunny. Might you consider a post where the Easter Bunny shops in the Capital District?

While we can't say we've ever met the Easter Bunny in person, we were happy to take one for the team and go candy shopping.

Mary Beth had some pretty good suggestions of her own, like Patty the Peppermint Bunny from Red Thread Confections (based in Slingerlands) and the bunnies at Krauses on Central Ave in Colonie. But she was looking for a few other ideas.

Here's what we found. We know there's a lot more, so let us know about your favorites.

(there's more)

A good store for house plants?

house plant leaves closeupAaron emails:

I am relatively new to Albany and have not been able to locate a good house plant and house plant supply store. I know Lowe's and Home Depot have a small selection, but nothing impressive. Are there any such stores in the Capital District? Greenhouses that offer a selection, but only in the summer? Any help will be appreciated.

Off the top of our heads, you might try Faddegon's in Latham.

Have a suggestion for Aaron? Share, please!

photo: Flickr user Jude Doyland

A good local butcher?

raw steak

In case you're in the market for something like this.

After yesterday's quick post about Fun in Saratoga Dan's trip to Meat House in Wilton, Kim D asked:

This brings up a topic that's been on my mind for quite some time: AOA readers' suggestions for good, local butchers? (has this topic been covered before? if so, i missed it. if not, suggestions?)

As it happens, we have not had that question, yet.

So... suggestions? And, in your experience, what's the difference buying from a butcher shop compared to, say, the local Chopper?

Earlier on AOA:
+ Rolf's Pork Store
+ Two years ago Amy BA went looking to buy a whole cow.

photo: Flicker user VirtualErn

Where to have a small wedding?

rose garden schenectady

The rose garden in Schenectady's Central Park.

A crowd member approached us -- in real life! -- recently with a question about places to hold a small wedding ceremony in the Capital Region. She's looking for a pretty place to gather about eight or ten people for a small, quiet ceremony.

A few places that came to mind are after the jump. We're hoping you'll have some suggestions, too.

(there's more)

Ask AOA: local podcasts

podcast logoJessica R emailed recently:

I was wondering if AOA readers could recommend any locally-themed or locally-produced podcasts.

Here are a few to start:

Know of others? Please share!

Where to go sledding?

Erin emailed this afternoon with a very timely question:

As the snow continued to fall this afternoon, a few of us were discussing sledding. No one seems to have any idea of where to go sledding in the area (aside from the capitol-building-steps-to-state-street fantasy that a lot of people seem to have). Any recommendations??

Off the top of our heads, we'd suggest Capital Hills golf course in Albany. There are some good hills there -- and not too many trees. We've also heard there's some good sledding in Lincoln Park.

But we're guessing you have a bunch of other suggestions -- both for Albany and other locales. Share, please!

Local moving company suggestions?

moving boxTori emailed us this morning:

I am moving apartments yet again, and am thinking of having movers carry my stuff instead of me this time. Do you have any recommendations for the best/cheapest moving company in the area?
I don't want them to pack up my things, just to carry them from my current apartment to the truck, drive them to the new place, and carry all the furniture and boxes up the stairs.

Anyone have suggestions for Tori? We're hoping she doesn't have to move in the snow.

Sports leagues for adults?

volleyball setAsks Andrew via email:

I went to school at RPI and while there I was I was active in intramural sports. I graduated last year and since then have been working in CT. Due to the way my job works I can move every 6 months and now I am coming back up to the Albany and I am trying to find adult sports leagues that I could join.
I am particularly interested in volleyball and not necessarily in super competitive leagues, but I am really interested in any adult sports that I could look into. I plan on looking in the YMCA when I get up there but was curious if anyone on the site had some recommendations on adult sports since a google search hasn't show much?

There have to be leagues out there. Anyone know of any? Share, please!

Where to buy a couch?

couch and carpet

Slacker's in the market for a new couch:

The hand-me-down sleeper sofa we've got now is on her last legs, and we're starting to look around for a new one. But where to start? There are so many furniture stores in the area, I wouldn't even begin to know where to look first.
We're looking for a full-sized couch, and we're on a tight budget (isn't everyone?). We'd be willing to shop places that specialize in leftovers and (very lightly) damaged couches in order to find a good deal, but we're open to just about any suggestions.

Anyone have ideas for Slacker? Please share.

We've had good experiences at Old Brick.

photo: Flickr user emdot

Toy donations?

toy earthmoverChuck emailed this morning about trying to find a place to donate gently used toys:

As the only child, and worse, the only grandchild, our now 7 year old has several (clean) garbage bags and RubberMaid storage bins full of (also clean) plush toys, and other assorted kid paraphernalia. An embarrassing amount for one child actually. We'd love to see that these go to other kids as they are all in great condition, but it seems toy donations always need to be new toys.
I'm tempted to just leave them on some church steps or push them into one of those used clothing bins, but I'd rather like to see that they go to the right place.
Can you help!

Anyone have ideas?

Dyeing for a new color

fabric dyeJulie emails:

I recently purchased a house in Albany that came with custom drapes. I like drapes and plan to use them, but I'm not too fond of the color. My plan was to roll up my sleeves, and give it the old girl scout try, and dye them.
After doing a little research, it quickly became painfully obvious to me that this would be a job way outside of the scope of anything I was prepared for or capable of. What my research basically turned up is that I'd be better off buying new drapes than trying to recolor the old ones myself with all of the stuff I would have to buy. But, I would still like to try and get them dyed.
My question is this: Does anybody know of anyone who I could take these drapes to, to be dyed for a small fee?

We're stumped. Got any ideas? Please share.

photo: Flickr user Dominic's pics

The best place to get a fresh-cut Christmas tree?

christmas tree lotMattW emails:

I am planning on getting my first real Christmas tree since moving to Albany area. Could the people at AOA or it's readers recommend places for tree's of the cut and self-cut type?

Random New York Christmas tree fact: Fraser Firs and Balsam Firs are the most popular Christmas tree varieties in New York State, according to the state Department of Agriculture & Markets.

photo: Flickr user Ralph Hockens

Where to volunteer during the holidays?

flower in hands

Maybe you have something to offer a local non-profit.

Updated: Jess provided a little more detail in a comment.

Tweeted Jess this morning:

Looking for ideas of where to volunteer on Christmas. Wondering if any readers might have some tips.
Okay, so here's the deal: I'm kinda trying to get out of Christmas. Yes folks, I'm just not that into Christmas - not in a Scrooge way, more like Charlie Brown in the "Peanuts" holiday special way.
My brother will away this year and I'd really like to find some sort of other meaningful activity for my parents and I to engage in on the 25th.

A handful of people have asked us this question in some form recently, so we'll expand this a bit: know of a good place to volunteer during the holidays?

Our suggestion: the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York. Demand at food pantries in the Capital Region is up -- and it looks like the Regional Food Bank has a bunch of volunteer slots open over the next month.

As it happens, this question came up around this time last year, too.

photo: Flickr user Hamed Saber

AOA Greg needs a haircut

greg hairAOA Greg got his haircut by the same person for what seems like forever. But a combination of maternity leave and shop intrigue now have him in the market for someone new.

So -- where should he go (and why)?

His mom will thank you when he shows up for Thanksgiving not looking like a mop head.

Ask AOA: The Tompkins 300

paul f tompkinsRyan emails with, well, not a question exactly -- more like a request:

So, professional comedian Paul F. Tompkins (of Best Week Ever fame) is saying that if any city can get 300 people to promise to attend, he will perform a show there.
Obviously, people have been gathering through Facebook groups. He's already done a "Tompkins 300" show in Toronto. Dallas and Nova Scotia have reached 300 and Paul is looking to book shows there. I say, if Nova Scotia can do it, Albany can, too! We rarely get high quality comics in the area, but now is our chance. I started a Facebook group where people can promise to attend.

Ask AOA: what's with the plastic bags?

JF, who recently moved to Albany, emails with an observation:

I've repeatedly noticed small, black plastic bags floating about in the streets and skies of Albany. I probably see these bags two to three times a week. They're about the size of a plastic grocery bag, but they appear to have no print on them. They're just plain black. And ubiquitous! I never saw anything like this in Seattle.
It's always sad to see litter, even sadder to see plastic bag litter (we can all help the environment and its critters by not using plastic bags), and downright mysterious that these same bags are everywhere. Is there some store in Albany that packages goods only in smallish black plastic bags? If I knew where these dang bags were coming from, I'd talk to the folks handing them out and try to convince them to sell reusable bags, give discounts for reusing bags, etc.

JF has spotted the bags in the Henry Johnson/Washington Park area and also in Troy.

Anyone know the scoop?

Ask AOA: best bars to watch sports

hockey night in canadaE.J. emails:

My Canadian friend and I are interested in watching the season opener Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Montreal Canadiens game Thursday night, but we can't figure out what sports bars actually show hockey in the Albany area. Before I go ahead and call every sports bar in Albany is there anyone who knows of a hockey-friendly bar in the area?

We hope someone has ideas for E.J.'s hockey question -- but we're also going to widen this one a bit and ask about the best bars/restaurants to catch a game.

A suggestion to start: While we're not exactly a fan of the food, the Recovery Room in Albany has an absurd number of TVs.

Ask AOA: Fun stuff to do with mom

marge simpsonChristina emails:

I'm a (semi) recent transplant to Albany from Buffalo, and am expecting a visit from my mom this upcoming Sunday-Tuesday. I've already booked her a room at the State House, and have tickets for an Aqua Duck Tour, but other than that I'm drawing a blank!
Do you, or any of the AOA readers, have any suggestions for mom friendly/appropriate activities?

A few quick suggestions:

+ A swing through Saratoga and Ballston Spa could be fun. If you hit up Ballston Spa, you might try the Whistling Kettle.

+ Hudson has a bunch of interesting shops/antiques stores/restaurants. (Sunday through Tuesday might complicate things a bit there.)

+ If you're looking for a dinner place, try New World Bistro Bar . You could also walk just down the street to catch a movie at The Spectrum.

We're guessing you probably have a lot of ideas for Christina and her mom.

Ask AOA: local factory tours

Thumbnail image for bilinskis_sausage_packing.jpgEmails Terry:

Thanks to the Science Channel's "How It's Made" TV show, my 4 year old son is completely obsessed with manufacturing assembly lines, conveyors belts, robotic tools, etc.
When I was a kid, the bottle processing lines and fermentation tanks (and free draft root beer) at the F.X. Matt Brewery tours in Utica always filled the bill, but I'm at a loss of similar places to watch manufacturinig lines in action in the Capital District. My wife took him to the Town of Colonie landfill to watch the large pickers grab and crush household and construction debris, but my boy is particular in his tastes and wasn't impressed.

Anyone have ideas about where Terry and his son might be able to check out some cool manufacturing or construction action?

Off the top of our heads, we can think of the tours at Olde Saratoga Brewing Co. and Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown.

This stuff is fun even if you're not a four year old. AOA got a tour of the Bilinski's sausage factory in Cohoes (which, alas, is not open to the public) last year and it was really interesting.

Ask AOA: crumpets

crumpets

Also good with a spot of tea.

Emails Alison:

I'm interested in cooking some pesto eggs, and pairing it with some delicious bacon, all on top of a yummy crumpet. Green eggs and ham...all local of course.
Between DeFazio's in Troy, and the Troy Farmers market, I know just where to get most of the ingredients, but I'm having a little trouble thinking of a place in the Cap. Region to get crumpets. The bakeries I frequent don't offer these.
If anyone would be able to send me in the right direction, it would be you and your readers!

We gotta admit that we're a little stumped about where to get crumpets in bulk. But Albany Jane (Albany John, actually) has gotten crumpets at the Miss Albany -- so maybe MAD can help.

Anyone know where Alison can score some crumpets?

photo: Flickr user redcherryhill

Ask AOA: plums and cherries

sour cherries

These cherries need a pie.

Emails Erin:

I'm having trouble locating a few favorite produce items from my childhood. Damson plums make the best jam you can imagine, and a homemade sour cherry pie with vanilla ice cream can't be beat.
However, I'm having a terrible time finding the two key ingredients around here (I grew up in Ohio). In all your poking around local markets and such, have you encountered either the plums or the cherries? If so, I'd love to know where to get them!

We've had some great sour cherry pies made with fruit from Columbia County, but the same of the orchard escapes us now. Anyone have tips for Erin?

Ask AOA: Know of a good contractor?

tape measureEmails Ari:

I'm in the process of buying my first house (woo!) and need to do some cosmetic updates before I move in. I've only been here about a year and have been renting during that time, so I have no idea where I can find good contractors. I turn to the wisdom of the masses at AOA- where can I find reliable and reasonably-priced painters and carpet/tile guys (or gals)?

We'll extend Ari's question to include people who do bathroom/kitchen remodels and other similar projects.

Have a good experience with someone? Please share.

Earlier on AOA: Ask AOA: car mechanics

Photo: Flickr user redjar

Ask AOA: Parking in Center Square

smart cars

A necessary Center Square parking accessory?

Tweeted @daveyrich yesterday: "@alloveralbany I just rented an apartment in center square. How bad is parking, really? Am I gonna need to sell my truck and get a car?"

We re-tweeted and a handful of people responded. Their thoughts -- and maybe yours -- after the jump.

(there's more)

Ask AOA: car mechanics

car engineUpdate: We collected all the recommendations people posted into a list and map.

Emails Alex:

I've recently started to experience some car trouble. I'm relatively new to the area and none of my friends have been here long enough to recommend a good, independent mechanic. I've overpaid at chain shops for too long and I don't want to go to a dealer--can AOA recommend an honest mechanic!?

Anyone have suggestions?

photo: Flickr user Mess of Pottage

Ask AOA: art classes

mona lisaEmailed Stephanie this week:

I work full time, but my work doesn't challenge my creative, artistic side, so I've decided to try to find some art classes. I'm not having much luck looking on my own. Do you happen to know if any of the local schools offer some evening or weekend art classes for people in the community? Maybe some of the art galleries or museums do? Thanks for any help!

We immediately thought of the Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy. It has a bunch of classes on everything from painting to textile design to photography.

But we're guessing you probably have a bunch of good ideas, too. Please share in the comments.

Ask AOA: Mother's Day

mrs bradyLaura R emailed this week:

I'm looking for suggestions for Mother's Day breakfast/brunch places in the area. I'm guessing the reservations fill up quick. Got any? Thanks!

Our short answer: yep, a lot of places are probably already booked or close to it. And places that don't take reservations will probably have long lines.

But, hey, it's worth a shot. The new New World Bistro Bar on Delaware is starting brunch service up this Sunday (!) -- we called this afternoon and they still have a few reservation slots available (694-0520). We also checked with the Gideon Putnam in Saratoga -- they have "a handful of tables" left later in the afternoon (584-3000).

Here's a compilation of all the Mother's Day specials over at Table Hopping.

If you have any suggestions for Laura, we'd love to hear them. We're also hoping you might have alternative ideas -- maybe a great place to have a picnic, take a walk, or do something else that 1) your mom would love and 2) doesn't involve a reservation.

Earlier on AOA: Ric Orlando's New World Bistro Bar

Ask AOA: pickup soccer?

soccer ball grass

There have gotta be some evening pickup games somewhere.

Asks John via the interweb mail:

Where in Albany do people gather for pick up football/soccer? It must exist. I can't find anywhere, even the interweb has no clues. Outdoor mind you, free of charge, jumpers for goalposts etc...

We poked around a bit and found this relatively new Meetup group in Saratoga. The description sounds like it might be promising:

Whether you call it football, fútbol, futebol, futboll or soccer, this group is for you. All we ask is for fair-play, good spirits and for you to play your heart out.

We'll be playing at Gavin Park as soon as the field isn't too soggy. Pick up games were already happening on Mondays and Wednesdays so we'll try to match up with those and hopefully we can add a weekend game too.

We know there are a few people in the AOA crowd who are fans of the beautiful game. Anyone have ideas for John?

photo: Flickr user Katie@!

Ask AOA: wine for Passover

Empire-Kosher wine 1.jpg

Kosher wines -- there are a lot more than you might think.

So Abby asks:

Passover is later this week and I'm in need of a good bottle of wine to bring to a seder. Can we get some leads on where to find something that tastes better than cough syrup aka Mogen David wine?

Well, there's always Manischewitz... kidding. Ahem.

We checked out a few of the local wine shops and liquor stores to get recommendations. Got any other ideas? We'd love for you to share.

Here's what we found:


(there's more)

Ask AOA: internet service providers

cable modem

We got an email from Meg this week with a question:

I'm moving to Albany next week from [way out West], and have been reading your blog since March to learn about my new city. I thought you guys would know of other internet providers in the area besides Time Warner/ATT/Verizon. Any suggestions??

We were kind of stumped, but we thought you might have some ideas. Does anyone know of any options for Meg? Good/bad experiences?

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Among the topics in this most recent spin around the Capital Region's online neighborhood: the 46th peak, autumnal scenes, paddling, Rensselaer, red light cameras, Tournament... (more)

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The insane amount of lakes we have. When I left this area for a bit I was so confused that I couldn't just drive for 10-15 minutes and find a lake.

A good endocrinologist?

...has 3 comments, most recently from CAOD

The Hawk Street Viaduct

...has 1 comment, most recently from Chuck Miller

Arbor Hill named one of the country's great neighborhoods

...has 7 comments, most recently from Sean

TOP2014: RD1: Mario's vs. Marino's

...has 2 comments, most recently from mg

Drawing: A bag of items from the Honest Weight Local Harvest Festival

...has 166 comments, most recently from mg