Items tagged with 'shopping'

Not-so-wild salmon, and other supermarket fish stories as detailed by the state Attorney General

Whole Foods seafood counter

More than one-in-four fish samples from supermarket chains around the state that were collected in a state Attorney General's office investigation tested as a variety of fish different from what they were being marketed as. That's from a report that the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) released Friday titled... "Fishy Business."

(Go on, insert your own fish pun or dad joke here.)

Investigators bought fish from 29 supermarket brands (155 locations) around the state and had it DNA tested. From the findings:

While mislabeling affected virtually every tested seafood category, there was rampant mislabeling of certain species. The results suggest that consumers who buy lemon sole, red snapper, and grouper are more likely to receive an entirely different fish. Similarly, consumers who bought what was advertised as "wild" salmon often actually received farm-raised salmon instead. Such consumers had often paid more money--on average 34% more--to avoid farm raised fish.
The substitutes were typically cheaper, less desirable species than the desired species. Snappers sold as red snapper, for example, tended to sell for half as much when properly labeled as another type of snapper. Some substitutes (e.g., lane snapper), had higher mercury levels or came from less sustainable fisheries than the desired species, raising consumer safety and environmental sustainability issues.

Environmental groups and advocacy orgs have been raising this issue going back five years or more. OAG says it believes this is the "first major government investigation in the U.S. to target seafood fraud at retail supermarket chains."

The report highlights that a large majority of the samples that tested as mis-labeled were bought at supermarkets downstate. And it provides a listing of all the supermarkets from which samples were purchased.

Here in the immediate Capital Region, the investigation included 32 samples from six chains: Fresh Market, Hannaford, Price Chopper/Market 32, Price Rite, and Walmart. None of those samples tested as mis-labeled. And the report singles out Hannaford for following some of the best practices in ensuring that the fish being sold is actually the fish being sold (pdf p. 25).

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Where to buy firewood?

stacked firewood closeup

Wade asks:

I'm looking for a reliable source of high quality seasoned firewood. Does anybody have a firewood guy they would recommend? Delivery preferred but not necessary. Price per face cord? Thanks for you input, Folks!

Have to admit: We know next to nothing about buying firewood. So we're curious if people have not just a place in mind about where to buy firewood, but also maybe some thoughts or tips about what to look for.

So, got a suggestion for Wade? Please share! And a sentence or two about why you're recommending a place can be helpful.

Capital Region holiday markets 2018

basilica farm flea photo

The Basilica Farm + Flea holiday market returns the weekend after Thanksgiving. / photo via Basilica Hudson

The unofficial holiday shopping season officially starts up Friday. (Or so they say.)

If you're looking for something a little bit different -- craftier, handmade, more independent, fair trade -- there are a bunch of local holiday markets around the region.

And here's a big list for this year...

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Where to get a pair of boots altered?

winter boots with snow on themNicole emails:

I'm wondering if the AOA community can help me find a reputable cobbler in the area who does quality work beyond replacing soles, polishing, etc. I have a new pair of good quality, tall leather boots that need to be taken in a bit near the top to fit correctly. I don't want to bring them just anywhere and hope for the best, nor do I want to check a dozen shops only to find they can't do the work. I'm willing to travel a bit of a distance, if necessary.
Suggestions and experiences would be most helpful! Otherwise, I'm going to end up bringing these down to a shop in Long Island and I really don't want to wait so long. Thanks so much!!!

A bunch of years ago we got a question about fixing up some old boots and some of the suggestions to that question might be helpful. But things change -- and this question is a bit different.

Got a suggestion for Nicole? Please share! And a sentence or two about why you're recommending a shop can be helpful.

Queen Size Swap fall 2018

Queen Size Swap

The semin-annual Queen Size Swap returns to The Hangar in Troy this Sunday, October 21.

It's a clothing swap. About blurbage:

Queen Size Swap is a plus size clothing swap for folks in and around the 518. They are the perfect reason to clean out your closest and get rid of those clothes you no longer wear while going home with some great new-to-you items! QSS include sizes 10/12 and up. Clothing to swap should be clean with no rips or stains. All seasons welcome! Accessories also accepted and shoes of any size! ...
Queen Size Swaps are body and size-positive event! All genders welcome. The events are handicap friendly and 100% accessible. ...
The remaining clothing and shoes from events are donated to the Interfaith for the Homeless clothing pantry.

Here's how the swap works. It's not person to person -- items go on tables and then people take what they want, first come, first serve.

The swap is Sunday from 11 am to 2 pm. Admission is $10 ahead / $15 at the door.

photo via Queen Size Swap

Local places to buy head scarves?

pink scarf on tableChristine emails:

I'm looking for suggestions for a place to buy head scarves for a friend going through chemo. I know they have tons online but she'd love to be able to try them in first. Thanks so much!

Sometimes half the fun of buying some new clothes -- especially when you're with friends -- is the chance to try a bunch of different things on.

Got a suggestion for Christine and her friend? Please share!

At the new Zebra Bras in Troy, the measuring tape is a 3D scan

Zebra Bras Troy composite photo with owner Hannah Johnson

By Cristin Steding

If you are a bra-wearer, you already know the struggle to find the right size bra.

Standard sizing does a poor job of accommodating non-standardized bodies, and misinformation is rampant. Many women don't know what a properly-fitting bra is even supposed to feel like, and uninformed employees at mall stores often measure incorrectly.

But maybe all of that will soon be a thing of the past.

Sure, custom bras have been around for a while, if you're willing to spend enough cash. But recent innovations in 3D scanning and printing have the potential to eliminate issues with fit.

Zebra Bras is a new business in downtown Troy that uses 3D printing and scanning to create bras that are customized to your body. I talked with owner Hannah Johnson about how it works...

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An insurance broker for car insurance?

car steering wheelJ asks:

Can you recommend a good local insurance broker for auto insurance?

To go along with J's question, we're curious about people's thoughts or experiences regarding using an insurance broker generally. Do you think it's saved you time or money? Is it better that just shopping around yourself to some of the well-known companies?

Got a suggestion or thought for J? Please share! And a sentence or two about why you're suggesting a broker can be helpful.

Where to get measured for a suit?

sport jacket button detail closeupSean emails:

A friend is having some tuxedo's made for his wedding by a shop in China. He's asked that all of the groomsmen get measured so he can pass those measurements along to the tailor. Do any of your readers know of a good place to go to get measured?

We had a somewhat similar question many years ago. Then, as now, we wonder how a local shop will react to taking measurements so a tux or suit can be made somewhere else. But maybe they'll be OK just charging for the time.

Got a suggestion for Sean? Please share! And a sentence or two about why you're recommending a place can be helpful.

Where to sell old video games, tablets, tech gear?

old wii video gamesBrooks emails:

Do readers have any recommendations for any reputable pawn shops in the area or places to sell video games, tablets, other tech gear?

We suspect some of the game stores are probably the best bet for old games and game-related equipment. Old tech gear might be another story. We're curious to hear about people's experiences selling this sort of stuff.

Got a suggestion for Brooks? Please share! And a sentence or two about why you're recommending a shop / option can be helpful.

About buying a fresh-cut Christmas tree...

undecorated ESP Christmas tree 2015We got a question from Nate about locally-owned tree farms in the Capital Region. It's getting a little late in the season, but we figured we'd recycle some still-useful info:

+ Here's a handful of cut-your-own tree farms around the area. (Some of the specific details won't still apply, but the farms are still in operation.)

+ The Christmas Tree Farmers Association of New York has a good find-a-tree-farm map on its website. You can plug in a ZIP code and radius within you'd like to search. The results include contact info and links for the farms, along with a few other details.

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Upstate New York-themed shop on Threadless

upstate icons t-shirt Danielle Podeszek

If you're looking for holiday gifts (or, you know, just want a t-shirt): There's a new upstate-themed shop on Threadless, and currently includes nine designs from designers around the New York State. The shop is a collaboration with AIGA Upstate New York.

We liked the design above -- "Upstate Icons" -- by Danielle Podeszek, a designer in Buffalo. It's $20 for a t-shirt / $17 for a tote bag.

(We have to admit to Binghamton icon didn't immediately register for us. Apparently Binghamton is the "Carousel Capital of the World".)

Capital Region holiday markets 2017

babes in Troyland overhead

Babes in Troyland returns to Takk House in December.


The unofficial official holiday shopping season starts up Friday.

If you're looking for something a little bit different -- craftier, handmade, more independent, fair trade -- there are a bunch of local holiday markets around the region.

And here's a big list of 'em for this year...

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The Colonie Center Sears is closing

The Sears at Colonie Center is closing this mid-September, the company said in a statement Thursday. the store will remain open until then and a liquidation sale will start June 30. Eligible employees will receive severance and be given the opportunity to apply at other Sears and KMart stores. The full statement is below.

The Colonie Center closure was one of the 20 this week. A Sears spokesman says the stores at the Wilton Mall and Aviation Mall in Queensbury will continue operating. [Business Insider]

The move isn't surprising.

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The Fort Orange General Store is re-opening

Fort Orange General Store Broadway pre exterior

The exterior of the shop's new space on Broadway.

The Fort Orange General Store is returning, with a new owner and a new location in downtown Albany.

The new owner is Schuyler Bull. And the new location is a street-level space at 412 Broadway -- the Argus Building -- across from the SUNY administration plaza. He's aiming for a soft opening in mid May.

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Pass It On Sale spring 2017

Pass It On Sale high chairs

The popular Pass It On Sale for kids items returns to the SportsPlex of Halfmoon May 5-7.

The consignment sale -- now in its 15th year -- is a twice-yearly event. And it's big. The sale boasts that it has 80,000 "new and gently worn" children's items across 60,000 square feet. What sorts of items? Blurbage:

At Pass It On you will find clothing (sizes newborn to juniors) toys, books, videos, baby equipment (strollers, swings, etc.), sports equipment, children's furniture and more! Clothing is inspected to ensure the highest quality and our sales floor is extremely organized for the best shopping experience.

The sale is open to the public Saturday, May 6 from 8 am-8 pm and Sunday (half-price day) from 8 am-2 pm. Admission is free.

There's also an early session for new parents that Friday evening -- you have to sign-up for that specifically. (If that's full, keep an eye out for it on the Pass It On Facebook page in the fall. The new-parent registration usually opens about a month-and-a-half before the sale.)

Good place for buying spring/Easter plants?

asiatic lily closeupKristin emails:

I am looking for a local nursery that sells beautiful Spring/Easter plants, such as lillies, hyacinths, tulips, etc.With the first day of spring (almost) behind us, and the holiday approaching, I am hoping your readers can provide some good suggestions!

These sorts of plants seem to pop up in all sorts of stores around this time of year, often packaged for easy giving. But, as Kristin mentions, we suspect you're going to find the best selection and quality at a local nursery or a shop that regularly deals in flowers.

Got a favorite spot for buying these types of plants? Please share!

The "INclosed" place to shop

Colonie Center is celebrating its 50th anniversary this Saturday afternoon. It first opened in November of 1966.

The shopping center -- the Capital Region's first enclosed mall -- was built on the site of the former Colonie Country Club along Wolf Road. The mall posted the above construction photo on its Facebook page today. It's kind of amazing comparing the scene there in the mid 60s with how it looks today. (The population of the town of Colonie grew from almost 30,000 in 1950 to almost 70,000 in 1970.)

An interesting bit about the origin of Colonie Center is that it was built by a subsidiary of Sears Roebuck and Co. The ownership of the mall has since changed hands multiple times, but Sears still owns the chunk of the mall which its store occupies. (You might remember that fact came up when the Colonie Center Whole Foods was announced.)

Reading through a Schenectady Gazette article about the mall's opening, and the Sears subsidiary's involvement, this part caught our eye:

A distinctive feature of each Homart center is the attention given to meshing the center with the mood and tempo of the specific community to be served. ... At Colonie, the country-club atmosphere has been retained with much of the architectural accent upon conveying the urban mood which is inspired by the booming growth of the Great Northeast.

It's country clubby -- but, you know, with an urban mood.

The early ads played up both the country club angle and the fact that mall was fully enclosed -- er, "INclosed." Check out this grand opening ad that ran in the Gazette...

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A peek inside the new RAD Soap Co. store at Stuyvesant Plaza

RAD Soap Co. store Stuyvesant Plaza

We had a few minutes Monday to stop into the new RAD Soap Co. store at Stuyvesant Plaza.

It's the first permanent retail location for the local company, which started in Cohoes and now produces its soaps, creams, and other personal care items in Menands. Up to this point RAD products has been available local farmers' markets (such as Troy and Schenectady), in various retail locations, and online.

The Stuyvesant Plaza shop, in the storefront previously occupied by the Sorelle Gallery, opened November 18. Its hours are Monday-Friday 10 am-9 pm, Saturday 10 am-8 pm, and Sunday 11 am-6 pm.

Here's a handful of pics from the new store...

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Holiday markets 2016

basilica farm flea photo

The popular Basilica Farm + Flea is back in Hudson this year.

The unofficial official holiday shopping season starts up later this week.

And if you're looking for something a little bit different -- craftier, handmade, more independent, fair trade -- there are a handful of local holiday markets around the region.

And here's a list for 2016...

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Supermarket Showdown 2016

grocery list written in marker

New list, new stores.

It's back: Supermarket Showdown, in which check prices for a basket of 40 items across multiple supermarkets here in the Capital Region.

The showdown has taken a few years off -- the last time we did it was in 2012 -- and this year it returns with a new basket and three new stores.

Without further ado, let's get to it...

Supermarket Week 2016 CDPHP in-post ad

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Giving ALDI a try

ALDI Deanna shopping cart contents

The haul from Deanna's ALDI trip.

By Deanna Fox

I find that I am often a bit naive about how Americans truly eat at home, regardless of the fact that I make a living from writing about food. I eat out a lot and I when I cook at home, it either leans towards the clean, healthy side (to counteract all the eating out) or it turns into a production somehow related to a story.

That's not to say I live in a vacuum, but I realize that sometimes my grasp of what the typical grocery run looks like it a bit slippery.

Lately, I've noticed plenty of friends, acquaintances, and colleagues talking about ALDI, the low-priced chain of grocery stores with European roots that's rapidly expanding. (According to the US ALDI website, the supermarket will have 2,000 US-based stores by 2018.)

I remember shopping at LDI with my Aunt Laura and her kids growing up. It was the first stop on the bi-weekly shopping trip, followed by Tops, Grand Union, and Price Chopper if absolutely necessary. The generic-looking packaging under ALDI private labels, the fact that you had to bring your own bags, and the way the entire system worked always gave me the impression that ALDI was low-quality.

Now, some of my favorite food enthusiasts shop there... and they won't settle for subpar. So there's got to be something worth checking out.

So I did.

Supermarket Week 2016 CDPHP in-post ad

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Places to look for local gifts?

Kara emails:

I'm relatively new to town, having moved here over the summer. So I'm still learning my way around and getting to know the best local spots, activities and products. I'm a big fan of buying local in general and when I lived in Ann Arbor, I loved buying local coffee and treats as gifts for visiting friends or for Christmas.
I'd love to ask the All Over Albany community - what are your go-to local gifts and where can I find them?

For the last few years -- including 2015 and 2014 -- we've asked a bunch of people about the sorts of items they'd like to give as part of a "holiday gifts" series. There are some ideas in there.

Got ideas for local-themed or -sourced gifts for newcomers such as Kara? What's your go-to local gift spot? Please share!

The Empire Crate

logo for The Empire CrateFiled under potential gift ideas: The Empire Crate, a service that sends out a pre-selected box of New York State products each month. The boxes include "An assortment of 5-7 delicious hand-selected food products from cities and towns across the great state of New York." More blurbage:

The diversity of our home state is truly exceptional-- the Adirondack State Park itself is larger than the neighboring state of Massachusetts. From Niagara Falls to Wall Street and from Brooklyn to Buffalo, The Empire State is teeming with talented, motivated artisans creating a wide range of unique, high-quality products that proudly represent that diversity.
Our mission is to travel the 54,000 square miles of New York State meeting these artisans, trying their products and delivering the cream of the crop to you, our subscribers, every month. Whether you're missing "home" or want to see what else The Empire State has to offer, we welcome you to join us on this delicious journey of discovery!

The people behind Empire Crate are Brianne and Brandon Dingeman, who live in Stillwater. Over at the Daily Gazette, Stephen Williams has a profile of them and the service.

One box is $39.95 (delivery included). There are also multi-month prepay options that offer a discount.

Good used bookstores for children's books?

books stacked on deskVal emails:

I'm looking for some good used bookstores in the area - particularly ones that have a good selection of children's books.
It looks like this question was asked once before but it was 4+ years ago and it seems that a few of those places have closed since then. :(

We're especially interested in the the part of Val's question about children's books -- we're curious if there's some place that specializes in used books for kids.

Got a suggestion for Val? Please share! And a sentence or two about why you're suggesting a place can be a big help.

Google Express is now available here

google express vanGoogle expanded its Google Express delivery service to the Northeast this week, including New York State.

What is it? It's sort of like Amazon Prime, but for a specific group of retailers. And it offers delivery times ranging from end of day to two days depending on the item and location. Like Amazon Prime, there's a membership fee -- $95 per year (it's currently offering six months free). For non-members there's a $4.99 per store charge.

From the about page: "Google Express is an online marketplace that connects shoppers with popular retailers. You get fast delivery of a wide variety of essentials, from apparel and electronics to pantry staples such as bread and cereal."

Among the things it doesn't sell are perishables -- apparently it did in the past as part of a pilot program, but Google cancelled that service as part an expansion plan. So if you're looking for grocery delivery, one of the services offered by Price Chopper and ShopRite are probably a better bet.

As mentioned above, this is a pretty obvious competitor to Amazon Prime. But apparently it's not just an attempt by Google to compete with Amazon on delivery, but also on search -- Amazon's been cutting into Google's position as the place to start searching for products, and Google's trying to push back.

Anyone tried this service?

Earlier on AOA: Delivery! Comparing ShopRite from Home and Price Chopper Shops4U

photo via Google Express FB page

New York is getting updated rules for gift cards

back side of a gift cardNewly-signed state legislation is changing the rules about fees and expiration dates for gift cards sold by retailers.

The state Assembly and Senate passed the legislation in June, and the governor signed it this week. The rules:

+ The time period in which fees can be charged to unused gift card balances increases from 13 to 25 months. And monthly service fees that are applied after that period must be waived if the consumer uses the gift card within three years of the issue date.

+ No gift card can have an expiration date of earlier than five years from the date it's issued or funds were last added to it.

+ The gift card's terms and conditions must describe exactly what the procedure is to replace a missing card.

The federal government changed the rules for both retail gift cards and bank gift cards in 2010, and this state legislation appears to piggyback on that. The five-year rule was part of the federal rules change -- the two-year waiting period for fees extends the federal rule's one year period. [FTC]

One of the problems with gift cards is that people tend to forget about them, or forget about the odd balance left on them. Cumulatively, that adds up to billions of dollars. [Barrons]

The new state rules take effect for cards issued December 24 of this year and after.

A place to get a tulip in a bottle -- and an Empire State Plaza bowling set

Albany souvenir stand in Cider Belly

We're always on the lookout for locally-themed cards/souvenirs/gifts, so this caught our eye this week: Cider Belly in downtown Albany has a new display of Albany-themed items, many of them created by designer Mitchell Biernacki under his Daydream Hunter Creations brand.

The display includes postcards, posters, t-shirts, and a few whimsical items -- such as a tulip in a bottle, and an Empire State Plaza bowling set.

Yep, an ESP bowling set.

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Fort Orange General Store is closing

Fort Orange General Store 2015 Katy Smith and Caroline Corrigan

Katy Smith and Caroline Corrigan in the store last summer. / photo: Lauren Hittinger

The owners of the Fort Orange General Store in Albany -- Caroline Corrigan and Katy Smith -- announced today that they're closing the store. From the announcement:

It is a bittersweet moment today that we announce that as of mid-June, we are saying goodbye to our beloved neighborhood shop, Fort Orange General Store. Keep an eye out for an announcement of our last official day, yet to be determined. You can be assured that the decision to move on was not easy, and was not due to lack of community support. Quite the contrary, Fort Orange was a successful and warmly welcomed venture from the start. For that, we thank you all!
Among many reasons, at the beginning of the year our Katy was diagnosed with cancer. She's doing just fine, but she will continue to need to take some serious time off to heal. Since the shop's inception, we have also both kept our full-time jobs outside of the shop, and are happily looking forward to focusing solely on our primary careers (in design and healthcare, respectively).

Later in the announcement Corrigan and Smith mention that they're open to selling the business to the right person, and include info about how to make serious inquiries.

A lot of people will be sorry to see Fort Orange close. It's a beautiful shop with a delightful selection of items, many of them with a local connection. And it seemed to fit so well along that section of Delaware Ave.

Earlier on AOA: Follow up: Fort Orange General Store

Colonie Center is getting a J. Crew Mercantile... what is that?

j crew mercantile logoColonie Center announced Tuesday that a J. Crew Mercantile location is set to open there this summer. The store will be on the lower level of the mall near Sephora.

J. Crew is a well-known brand, obviously. So what is a J. Crew Mercantile. Blurbage from the company website:

J.Crew Mercantile is a brand-new way to shop the J.Crew style you love with new deals every day. Featuring a collection of original styles once only found at J.Crew Factory stores...

Or, as a headline over at Racked proclaimed last year: "J.Crew Mercantile Is Exactly Like J.Crew Factory, Except It's in Malls." [Racked]

J. Crew has been having a rough time of it recently -- its CEO called 2015 "a difficult year -- with declining sales for its main brand. Mercantile is a bid to expand into the market for cheaper clothes and compete against brands such as Nordstrom Rack (already at Colonie Center). [Fashionista] [Buzzfeed]

The first location for the new brand opened in Dallas last summer. There are now 19 locations around the country, and the company projects to open 20 new locations during the 2016 fiscal year. [Business Insider] [J. Crew press release]

Earlier on AOA: Checking out Nordstrom Rack at Colonie Center

Collar City Craft Fest 2016

Collar City Craft Festival 2016 logoThe Collar City Craft Fest is set to return to the Arts Center of the Capital Region in Troy April 29-30.

Blurbage: "The Collar City Craft Fest will be a juried, indoor showcase of original works, and will feature the Northeast's top artists and craftspeople. All proceeds of this event benefit the Arts Center of the Capital Region."

That link above includes the list of vendors (so far) -- it ranges from jewelry to ceramics to ironwork to woodwork.

The festival will be open that Friday, April 29 from noon to 9 pm (also Troy Night Out that night) and Saturday, April 30 from 10 am to 5 pm. Admission if $4.

Earlier on AOA:
+ The Half Moon Market is set to return this spring
+ Basilica Hudson 2016 season includes spring farm and flea market

A place to recycle old textiles?

blue jean fabric closeupErin emails:

I know plenty of places where I can donate clothes that are still wearable, but what can I do with the ripped, stained, ratty stuff? I know its possible to recycle textiles, but I don't know where or by whom. Any ideas? Please and thank you!

This is one of those questions that never occurred to us before, but we have heard of stuff being made from, say, old jeans. So we're curious to see if there's a place that does this.

Got a suggestion for Erin? Please share!

Where to find vintage architectural pieces?

ask aoa vintage mirror question

Stacey sent along this pic to go with her question.

Stacey emails:

We are getting our dining room painted (finally saying goodbye to terrible green) and would love to find a large vintage mirror to go over the mantle. The ceilings are about 14 feet high so the mirror should ideally be six feet or more. I've seen some reproductions online that have potential but I would prefer a mirror with a past. I keep looking on craigslist but with no luck. I would be out scouting salvage yard, antique shops etc. but for the fact that we work and have two little kids. I am hoping someone has a great mirror who needs a new owner? Or at least knows where to look? We only have about $500 to spend.

There are a handful of places (or more) around the region that collect and sell these sorts of vintage or reclaimed furniture/decor/architectural pieces. The first two that spring to mind are Silver Fox Salvage and the Historic Albany Parts Warehouse, both in Albany.

We're guessing you have more suggestions -- if not for a specific place to look, then maybe some advice about how to go about finding a piece like this, or even a DIY solution.

So, got something in mind? Please share! As always, a sentence or two about why you're recommending a place can be a big help.

Hello, operator...

nys ogs phone booth auction

The same phone booth from different angles.

Because, why not: The state Office of General Services is selling two old-school wooden phone booths via its eBay account.

The auction for one of booths ends this Thursday morning, and the current bid is $430. The auction for the other booth ends next Monday morning and the current bid is $221.

Both booths are in "good" condition, according to their auction pages. They don't include telephones, but they have seats and fans. They're for indoor use only. (They look like the sort of phone booths you might have once seen in the lobby or hallway of a building.)

The winning bidders will have to pick up the booths at the Harriman State Office Campus in Albany.

OGS routinely auctions off old or surplus equipment via eBay. The other items currently for bid that could be picked up at the state office campus include a bunch of office furniture that looks, if not fashionable, at least functional.

[via @TUCapCon]

photo: NYS OGS

The Half Moon Market is set to return this spring

the half moon market 2015-fall

The Half Moon Market is set to return to the Washington Park Lake House April 23 and 24. It touts itself as "a unique two-day marketplace event featuring some of the region's best artists and makers of handmade goods."

The first market as last fall and featured more than 30 region vendors selling art, handmade jewelry, ceramics, stationery, soaps, and other items. Here's a photo gallery. The list of vendors for the April market will be posted soon, according to the website.

April 23 and 24 are a Saturday and Sunday. The market is set to be open 11 am-6 pm both days.

photo: Half Moon Market Instagram

The Downtube's storefront is set to re-open

Downtube storefront 2016 March

Check it out: The Downtube storefront on Madison Ave in Albany is set to reopen this week.

The bike shop's building was damaged in a second-floor fire a year ago, and its first-floor retail space suffered extensive smoke and water damage. It's now been restored and renovated. There are a few pics after the jump.

The Downtube's Adam Hahn said they had been doing bike repairs out of the shop's garage last spring and summer and into the early winter. The shop has been closed the last few months for the renovations.

"We're here and ready to sell bikes, fix bikes," Hahn said to us this week during our quick peek at the space.

Hahn says The Downtube is aiming to be open this Thursday and Friday, and definitely this Saturday. (The shop had a soft open day this past weekend, too.) Hours going forward: Tuesday-Friday 11 am-6 pm, Saturdays 10 am-5 pm.

The Downtube has been operating since 1972, and at this location since 1980.

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Suggestions and advice on local CSAs?

lettuce bok choy radishes in garden

Carrie emails:

Wondering if you guys could do another post on CSA's this year...? I know you did one in 2009, I remember every time I search for updates and that comes up. And the Times Union did something in 2013. But this seems like a growing thing, and (I hope) there have been some new ones and some changes to old ones?

CSA stands for "community supported agriculture" (people also refer to them as farm shares). The way they basically work: People the farm upfront at the start of the growing season and then they get a batch of farm produce at some interval (usually weekly) throughout the season.

This is currently prime time for CSA signs-ups, and many of them fill up.

As those links above indicate, there are a bunch of CSA options in the Capital Region. So... have one you'd recommend? Any advice on picking one that's a good fit for a household? Tips on working through all that produce each week? Thoughts on sharing a share with another household?

If you have suggestions for any of those questions, please share! And as always, a sentence or two about why're suggesting something can be a big help.

The new Apple store at Crossgates

new Apple store Crossgates

We happened to be at Crossgates Saturday, which happened to be the first day the remodeled Apple store there was open. So we took a few seconds to gawk.

It's kind of striking from the outside, the way the large glass doors at the front rotate open and the light from inside streams out.

Apple has been making over its stores in a process that's now led in part by the company's famous product designer, Jonathan Ive.

Pass It On Sale spring 2016

Pass It On SaleThe popular Pass It On consignment sale for kids stuff returns to the SportsPlex of Halfmoon May 13-15 this year. Blurbage:

At Pass It On you will find clothing (sizes newborn to juniors) toys, books, videos, baby equipment (strollers, swings, etc.), sports equipment, children's furniture and more! Clothing is inspected to ensure the highest quality and our sales floor is extremely organized for the best shopping experience.

The sale is now in its 14th year. We checked it out a bunch of years ago (it was at a different venue), and there was a ton of stuff at what seemed like pretty good prices.

May is still a few months off... so why mention it now? Because the first-time parent registration starts this Sunday, February 28 at 8 pm online (see link above). Registering for one of the passes allows first-time parents -- "adopting, expecting or with a child up to 18 months of age by May 13, 2016" -- an early chance to shop on the first day of the sale. (The sooner you go, the bigger the selection.) So it's worth signing up. And the first-time parent spots always fill up -- don't wait if you're interested.

Christmas tree price answers gathered up

undecorated ESP Christmas tree 2015Prompted by a question from Hollie earlier this week we asked about where you got your real/live Christmas tree this year and how much it cost. A bunch of people answered in the comments -- thank you!

We figured it'd be useful to boil down all the answers for a few bits of info:

+ The average price people reported paying was $39.50. (That was for a range of tree sizes.)

+ The high price was $55 -- for an 8-foot precut tree Chris got at Calhoun's Farm Stand in Brunswick ("Great trees (all Frasier firs), super nice people."), and for a tree Spoon got at Olsen's in Slingerlands ("We go there because they have the set-up to drill a hole for our tree stand. And they are the only place I know that does.")

+ The low price was $15 for a tree from Bob's Trees in Galway. MaryElise reported they had "piles of trees" in different price ranges based on height, type, and fullness. "We found a 6' to 7' slender tree in the $15 section. It might not be everyone else's dream tree but we have a small apartment and wanted a tall slender tree. So yeah we got an awesome tree for $15."

Here are the local answers in a quick-scan table.

This wasn't a systematic survey, of course. So your mileage will no doubt vary. But the answers were pretty closely clustered. So it's probably fair to say you'll pay about $40. Bigger tends to cost more than smaller, as does pre-cut compared to cut-your-own. And look for oddball trees that might not appeal to everyone, but might work for you -- they could be a deal.

Where'd you get your Christmas tree? How much did it cost?

undecorated ESP Christmas tree 2015We got a question from Hollie this week via the Facebook about where to get a real/live Christmas tree and how much one typically costs. (Hollie was specifically interested in the Troy/Rensselaer area.)

This seemed like a good opportunity for a quick, informal tree survey. So...

If you've bought a real/live Christmas tree this year, where'd you get it -- and how much did it cost?

Please drop your answer in the comments. If we get enough answers, maybe we can get some sort of picture of Christmas tree prices.

Holiday markets 2015

basilica farm flea photo

Basilica Farm & Flea is one of a handful of holiday markets coming up.

The unofficial official holiday shopping season starts up this week. And if you're looking for something a little bit different -- craftier, handmade, more independent, fair trade -- there are a handful of local holiday markets around the region.

And here's a list...

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Superior Merchandise Co.

superior merchandise exterior

By Lauren Hittinger

Opening in Troy this Saturday is Superior Merchandise Co., a shop that combines a home goods boutique, a coffee bar, and a florist. While it seems like an eclectic mix, somehow everything fits together in this Fourth Street business.

It has not been an easy journey for Felicity Jones and Mike Romig, who are co-owners and partners. They have spent two years transforming a building that was slated for demolition into a comfortable and hip shop. Much of their aesthetic inspiration comes from Copenhagen, with an eye toward creating a simple, clean, and modern interior.

I was able to stop by in advance of their opening to catch a glimpse of Superior Merchandise Company and to chat with some members of their team.

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Checking out Nordstrom Rack at Colonie Center

Nordstrom Rack Colonie Center exterior

By Lauren Hittinger

I tend to be critical of the retail selection in the Capital Region, especially when it comes to women's clothes. Maybe my disdain is unwarranted, but this area is missing some of my favorite brands -- among them, the upscale department store Nordstrom.

As you've probably heard, a new Nordstrom Rack opens today at Colonie Center. It's not quite a full-fledged Nordstrom, but more like its less expensive, bargain-centered little sister. I'll take what I can get.

I had an opportunity this week to poke around Nordstrom Rack to see what shoppers can expect from this new spot.

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Downtown Albany Yard Sale

acg haf yard sale sample photo

Maybe not the typical sort of yard sale: Albany Center Gallery and Historic Albany Foundation are co-hosting a "yard sale" in downtown Albany's Tricentennial Park September 19. Blurbage:

The Albany Center Gallery will offer an eclectic mix of old and new items, all donated by supporters, ranging from clothing, tools, jewelry, furniture and more; proceeds will help to fund programming efforts. Donated pieces for the event are being accepted through August 26 and can be dropped off at the gallery, 39 Columbia Street, from Noon to 3:00 PM Tuesday through Saturday.
The proceeds collected from these items will go toward the local non-profits and their programming efforts. Any items that are not sold during the yard sale will be donated to Goodwill and Salvation Army.
At their booth, Historic Albany Foundation will sell items from their Lexington Avenue warehouse, including antique furniture, original windows, and light fixtures, at the yard sale. Proceeds from sale of these items will go toward the foundation's preservation programs.

The sale is from 8 am to 3 pm on Saturday, September 19. ACG has been posting photos of sale samples on that event page linked above.

photo via Albany Center Gallery FB

Queen Size Swap

queen size swap 2015-March

Next month at The Hangar in Troy: The Queen Size Swap, a swap for plus-size clothing (sizes 12/14 and up). Blurbage:

Swapping is not person to person. There is no buying or selling of clothing. The clothing is grouped by size: 12/14/16/18 table. 20/22/24 table. Etc. You drop off your clothes at the appropriate table then you can check out the other clothes. First come, first serve. Any new to you items you are interested in you take home. Nice and easy. Anything no one takes home will be donated. ...
What should I bring to swap?
CLOTHES - Dresses, tops, pants, jeans, skirts, jackets, shrugs, cardigans, coats, jumpers, shorts
SHOES - Heels, boots, sandals, flats, any shoes in good condition or 'new'
BAGS - Handbags, clutches, purses, wallets, satchels
ACCESSORIES - belts, scarves, hats, costume jewelry, bracelets, earrings, necklaces, rings, sunglasses, hair accessories
Stained, ripped, dirty clothing. Bras, panties or swimsuits.

The Queen Size Swap is Sunday, September 20 from 11 am-2 pm. There's free pre-registration so you can claim a swap spot -- it's then $10 at the door when you arrive. There will be door prizes from places such as Nibble Inc. and Market Block Books.

photo via Queen Size Swap FB

Where to buy sparklers?

sparklers flickr user derek key CCAR emails:

Sparklers and ground fireworks were legalized between June 1st and July 4th (and the week between Christmas and New Year's) in a bunch of counties in NY ... the only place I've found them for sale is out in Herkimer county, but they're legal in some local counties as well (Saratoga county, for example) ... web searches come up with nothing.
Any leads on where they're being sold locally?

As AR mentions, sparklers are now legal in New York State during those times of the year -- if the local county passes a law allowing them. Saratoga, Rensselaer, Schenectady, and many other counties have done so. An effort to get sparklers approved in Albany County in time for July 4 recently fell short.

We've yet to see sparklers for sale in the Capital Region -- even advertisements for them. But we're guessing there are multiple places that will be selling them.

So, got a suggestion for AR? Please share!

photo: Flickr user Derek Key (CC BY 2.0)

A small, flat-packed possibility for IKEA

IKEA paramus exteriorPerhaps a pøssibility for here: IKEA is testing out a new mini-store design in Canada. From the Toronto Star (asterisk added):

The 20,000-square-foot[*] pick-up centre will feature a limited number of items for purchase and immediate takeaway and 10 tablets on site for customers to browse and buy on It will offer services including merchandise pick-up, home delivery, assembly, planning, returns and exchanges and online sales support, according to a company release.
A regular Ikea location is about 260,000 to 340,000 square feet.

IKEA is a store that frequently pops up on the development wish list of people here in the Capital Region -- we've even heard elected officials publicly state an interest in it. But a few years back an IKEA spokesman told us firmly (and politely) that it's not going to happen because this metro falls way short** of the 2 million population mark the company uses as an initial filter for screening possible new locations.

London, Ontario -- halfway between Toronto and Detroit -- where the first test store is planned, is in a metro area with about 475,000 people.

[Thanks to Laura over at Consumerist for pointing this out.]

* For comparison: That test-store size, 20,000 square feet, is about the same size as the Fresh Market in Latham or the Price Chopper Limited in downtown Saratoga Springs.

** The Albany-Schenectady-Troy metropolitan area had an estimated population of about 871,000 in 2014, according to the Census Bureau. (It's about 1.3 million if you draw the circle a bit wider to include places such as Western Massachusetts.)

Earlier on AOA: Which way to IKEA? Paramus vs. New Haven (2011)

Pass It On Sale spring 2015

Thumbnail image for Pass It On SaleThe biannual Pass It On consignment sale for kids stuff is set to return May 1-3 at the SportsPlex in Clifton Park. Admission is free.

The sale is now in its 13th year and it's very popular. It includes tons of new or "gently used" kids stuff at good prices. Blurbage:

At Pass It On you will find clothing (sizes newborn to juniors) toys, books, videos, baby equipment (strollers, swings, etc.), sports equipment, children's furniture and more! Clothing is inspected to ensure the highest quality and our sales floor is extremely organized for the best shopping experience.

The first day of the sale is open to consignors and first-time parents. (First-time parent registration is already full -- it fills up very quickly. Keep an eye out for it for the fall sale later this summer.) The sale opens to the general public Saturday, May 2 from 8 am-8 pm. Like anything of this sort, the earlier you go, the better the selection. And then Sunday, May 3 is half-price from 8 am-2 pm.

Here's a look at the Pass It On Sale from way back in 2008 when it was at a different venue.

A handful of similar sales have popped up in recent years, and it looks like plans for some of the are up in the air.

Encore Kids
The Encore Kids consignment sale is set to open to the general public May 16-17 at the SportsPlex.

Got Kids? Sale
The Got Kids? Sale, which had been at the Frear Park ice rink in Troy, appears to be in flux -- a fall sale is in the works.

Old is New
The Old is New consignment sale for women's and men's clothing appears to be looking for a new spot.

Where to donate jewelry?

tangle of random jewelryRebecca emails:

Starting the spring purge and wondering if anyone could suggest a place to donate jewelry? It's not fancy jewelry (or anything gold or silver that could be sold) nor is it vintage costume jewelry..just trendy inexpensive stuff that looks nice. I'd hate to just toss it out if there's some place that would accept it.

We're guessing a lot of the places that clothing for re-sale, like the thrift shops, would be interested in jewelry donations.

Got a suggestion for Rebecca? Please share!

The art of gardening

hudson valley seed library cosmonaut volkov cropped

There are a handful of interesting things about the Hudson Valley Seed Library. A few of them:

+ It started at the Gardiner Public Library in Gardiner as a "lending" program for seeds -- people could check out seeds, grow the plants, and then return saved seeds.

+ It's dedicated to "growing, harvesting, and celebrating" heirloom varieties of vegetable, herbs, and flowers -- including many varieties with connections to New York.

But the first interesting thing you'll probably notice about the Hudson Valley Seed Library is that it has beautiful seed packets. The company commissions artists to design the seed packets in a range of media -- here's the page that collects all the designs (there are many) -- and the work really make the packets feel special.

Here are a few examples that caught our eye...

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Where to get a handbag repaired?

brown handbagDonna emails:

I was gifted an expensive Coach bag; unfortunately, the clasp broke. I would like to get it repaired, but I have no clue how to go about finding a company that specializes in handbag repair. I wonder if anyone in the AOA community can help me out?

We get questions about repairing stuff like shoes or small household appliances and so often the answer ends up being: Yeah, unfortunately, people just don't repair stuff like that much anymore. But we're guessing there are still a few places that do this sort of work.

So, got a suggestion for Donna? Please share.

Where to rent a PA system for an event?

microphone closeupNate emails:

I was wondering if you could help me out with some suggestions on where to rent speakers and a PA system for an upcoming wedding. I basically need a PA system that will hook up to an ipod to play music at a wedding reception. I was told that Drome Sound in Schenectady would be a good start, but I'd like some other options.
Any info would be greatly appreciated.

This is pretty straightforward, so if you have suggestion, please share. And if you can think of some sort of alternative that might help out Nate, we'd love to hear about that, too.

photo: Flickr derekGavey (CC BY 2.0)

A good jeweler/jewelry artist?

Thumbnail image for ring in palmAlison emails:

I received a lovely bracelet for Christmas, but it is a little too big. I'm looking for someone in the area who can not only shorted the bracelet, but make some nice earrings from the removed stones. Does anyone have a great jewelry artist they can recommend?

Got a suggestion for Alison? Please share! And bonus points for a sentence or two about why're recommending that place.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Ask AOA: A good jewelry repair shop?
+ Ask AOA: Where to get a ring re-sized?

Where to get a laptop computer tuned up?

section of laptop computer keyboardSandy emails:

I have a 2ish-year-old PC laptop that I'd like to get a midlife cleaning-out and checkup. I want someone who knows computers better than me to clean up the hard drive, security, and startup programs and remove bloatware. The computer also probably needs a physical cleanup to get dust and whatever out of the inside -- the fan seems to run constantly.
Does anyone have a good computer tech or store they'd recommend for this kind of service, for not too much money (I'm a student)?

We've encountered many computers like this -- still very much capable of being useful, they just need to be (literally and virtually) de-gunked.

So, got a suggestion for Sandy? Please share!

Holiday markets 2014

basilica farm and flea

The Basilica Farm + Flea

Many people will be out and about doing holiday shopping over the next few weeks. If you're looking for something a little bit different -- craftier, handmade, more independent, fair trade -- there are a handful of local holiday markets coming up that could be worth a stop.

And here's a rundown of them...

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Roosevelt Grooming Company

roosevelt grooming adam cresko vintage straight razors

By Lauren Hittinger

Before we all ran through disposable razors every month, there was a different way of shaving -- with a straight razor. And as Adam Cresko sees it, something was lost when we made the switch.

So Cresko is helping bring back the art of the straight razor through Roosevelt Grooming Company, a business he started that refinishes vintage straight razors and sells a line of grooming products.

I talked with the Cohoes-based Cresko about shaving with a century-old razor, making things by hand in a world of disposable items, and the history and art of a daily ritual.

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Converting photo slides to digital?

photo slides held up to windowJanet emails:

Would you please ask your readers about professional processors who will scan Kodak slides and produce digital versions of the photos, either on DVDs or SD cards?
I'm not finding much with a search, beyond National Geographic's recommended processor DigMyPics, located in Arizona. I'd rather hand deliver my precious slides to someone local.

We're sure there are at least one or two local places that can do this.

So, got a suggestion or advice for Janet? Please share!

Where to get tires changed to snow tires?

Thumbnail image for generic tire closeupTC emails with a timely question:

Since it is getting close to winter time, I want to go to a place to get my all season tires switched over to my snow tires. However, I have noticed that in this area and in general that it is very hard to find a good, reputable place that offers a reasonable price on tire changeovers. I recall that I could get these same tires switched over at a mechanic about 5 years ago for around 40 bucks easily. These days, I am often quoted at $90-100+ (especially at chain stores) for this same exact service completed on the same car.
I would love to hear where your readers go to get their tires changed over at a reasonable price and if they can suggest any good (especially mom and pop) establishments that do a good job at changing over tires and don't charge a fortune for it.

We're also curious to hear people's thoughts about snow tires in general -- we know some people swear by them, others seem less convinced.

Got suggestion for TC, and/or thoughts on snow tires? Please share!

Where to buy a goose?

roast goose flickr Tim Sackton ccJustin emails:

I'd really love to know where to get a decent whole goose for christmas dinner.

We're curious if you can just walk into a store and buy a goose -- or whether they require a pre-order.

Got a suggestion for Justin? Please share!

photo: Flickr user Tim Sackton (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Where to sell old gold and silver?

tangle of random jewelryCAOD emails:

Have you ever sold your old gold and silver? I have dozens of single earrings and broken chains that I need to get rid of. Where did you sell it and did you feel you got a fair price?

We see ads for this kind of thing all the time, but they often have a Crazy Louie's House of Ridiculous Deals feel about them. And a few years back News10 looked at the prices quoted at a traveling gold and silver road show -- there was quite a difference between when the camera was on and off.

So, got a suggestion for CAOD? Please share!

Checking out the new Lord & Taylor at Crossgates

Lord and Taylor Crossgates Mall

By Lauren Hittinger

I enjoy shopping. And though there are spots that I love in the Capital Region, I've been a bit underwhelmed with the overall range of options for clothes shopping here.

In my experience there's a rather lackluster diversity of styles, and what is available is often disappointing, especially for items that might skew a bit more toward younger women and men. And the few good places are spread out, so if you're shopping for something specific to wear to an event, you have have to travel to multiple different locations around the area. I usually don't have time for that, so I end up browsing at one shopping mecca and leave disappointed.

So, with all that in mind, I was excited by the announcement that Lord & Taylor was moving back to the area. A little competition and invigorated selection is always good for shoppers, right?

The store has been open for a few weeks now at Crossgates, and I figured it was a good time to check it out to see if the store matched all the hype.

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Nordstrom Rack to open at Colonie Center

nordstrom rack exterior sign

Nordstrom announced Wednesday that it's opening one of its Nordstrom Rack stores at Colonie Center in fall 2015. The company says it will be a two-level store -- roughly 35,000 square feet (roughly the same size as the new Whole Foods there) -- and it sounds like it will be in the same end of the mall as Sears.

Nordstrom Rack is the discount outlet for the upscale department store chain. The company says Rack offers "customers a wide selection of on-trend apparel, accessories and shoes at an everyday savings of 30-70 percent off regular prices."

As it happens, there are more Nordstrom Racks (162) than full Nordstroms (118). And the Colonie Center is one of 22 Nordstrom Rack locations the company has announced it plans to open in 2015.

It's interesting to us that, for whatever reason, the Capital Region appears to be getting attention from higher-end retailers over the last few years. Fresh Market has two locations in the region, Whole Foods opened earlier this year, Lord & Taylor returned at Crossgates just recently, and now (the not-quite-so-high-end-version of) Nordstrom.

We're curious if that points to something shifting in the demographics of this area. (More high-income households because of the nano/chip fab industry, maybe?) Or is it just that these upscale retailers have already expanded everywhere else and they're just getting around to the Capital Region.

Earlier on AOA: What "they" say about here

photo courtesy of Nordstrom, Inc.

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.

Pop. Pop. Pop. Shop.

Rise and Shine pop up

The Rise and Shine Company pop up is in a shipping container in the park.

We took a few minutes Wednesday afternoon to stop by the pop-up shops that are at Tricentennial Park in downtown Albany this week.

Pop-Place includes six shops set up in/around the park. It's been arranged by Capitalize Albany's Impact Downtown Albany project as way of experimenting with retail in the neighborhood. (Spurring new retail development is one of the aims of the "tactical plan" the org is developing.)

The pop-up shops will be in place through September 23 (here's the schedule). This Thursday, September 18 there's an "Experience: Pop-Place" event with food tasting and music from 5-8 pm.

A few more pics are after the jump.

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Capital Region composting services

empire zero compost bucket

By Lauren Hittinger

Composting might sound a little odd -- separating stuff like food scraps from your trash so it can be decomposed -- but think of it this way: Composting is like recycling, but for organic trash. And just like a used bottle can be recycled into something different, your leftovers from dinner can also be transformed into something new and productive.

Here's a quick look at four local services that are aiming to make composting a regular household practice, and help you do the environment a favor.

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Pop-Place in downtown Albany

Google Map of 42.651722,-73.750116

The Impact Downtown Albany project is organizing a week of pop-up shops at Albany's Tricentennial Park September 13-23. There's also an "Experience: Pop-Place" event planned for the evening of September 18, with food tastings and music.

Six shops are lined up for the run (and a seventh for the September 18 event). A list is after the jump -- it includes South End Pallet Works and the Rise and Shine Company (finalist in this year's Startup Grant competition).

Pop-Place blurbage:

The project introduces new business concepts and engages pedestrians. This effort allows people to visualize unique types of retail spaces and offers the kind of stores that serve the retail strategy recommendations emerging from the Impact Downtown initiative.

Impact Downtown is an initiative from Capitalize Albany, the development arm of the city of Albany. The initiative has hired consultants to study downtown Albany and pull together a development plan on multiple fronts, including retail. The shops will be open from 11 am-7 pm.

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Jonathan Brust

By Lauren Hittinger

Maybe it's just me, but I've noticed a distinct lack of stores for men in the Capital Region. Women get all of the fun boutiques and quaint shops, while the men are left waiting on the couch for shopping to be over.

Recently Jonathan Brust has done something to change that. He just opened Enigma.Co, a men's clothing shop. Located in downtown Troy, Brust is aiming to elevate men's style by offering interesting brands and goods.

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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!

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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!

Shopping Hudson with Jess and Kaitlin

hudson week shopping jess kaitlin composite

AOA's summer tour is headed to Hudson this weekend, so we thought it'd be fun to have Hudson Week on AOA. Each day we'll be featuring posts about things to do, see, and sample in this city on the river. Today, fashionistas and vintage aficionadas Kaitlin Resler and Jessica Bellflower take us shopping on Warren Street.

For me the draw of Hudson is the variety of vintage shops dotted around the area. Being able to hop around to several places full of treasures is a real treat (most of the time a given area has one, maybe two spots of this kind)! There is, though, a real variety of the shopping in Hudson, and that's part of what I really enjoy about it. There are a few spots that are must-go places for me on each visit, but I still find some new little shop tucked away!

And there are some neat specialty stores like a little hat shop -- the kinds of specialty shops you don't see much of in this area -- that take fashion to a different level.

I always regarded Hudson as total eye-candy, but completely unattainable (for us). But then I re-explored Hudson with Kaitlin. Since she grew up in this area, she knew where we could shop that wouldn't break the bank. We did stand outside the windows of some of the high-end antique shops on Warren St and drool... but it was refreshing to find a few shops that could fit most budgets! Here's a heads up -- Hudson shopping has some tricky hours (lots of weekday closures or handwritten signs on the front doors that simply say "be back soon" or "reopening in July") and it has some seriously valuable antiques, but don't be intimidated: there's something for everyone there and you'll gather inspiration from all those swanky window displays!

Here are a few Hudson finds from our most recent shopping adventure...

Hudson Week 2014 in-post ad Olde Hudson

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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)

Fort Orange General Store

fort orange general store composite

By Lauren Hittinger

Friends Caroline Corrigan and Katy Smith planned for years to open a business in downtown Albany. They had a couple different ideas -- including an urban grocery. But they ultimately ended up in the Delaware Ave neighborhood with a modern home goods shop: Fort Orange General Store. It's grand opening is today.

"We wanted to open something that was needed in the neighborhood it was in, and we thought about what Albany still doesn't have," Corrigan said. "Since we are connected to the art community, and both of us make stuff, this made sense."

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About retail in downtown Albany, and other local downtowns


Angela's Bridal on State Street has been touted by officials as a recent retail success in downtown Albany.

A frequent topic in conversations about the Capital Region's downtowns is retail -- or, more specifically, the lack of the sort of retail many people, including many residents and potential residents, seem to be seeking.

Downtown Albany is no exception, and retail is one of the focus areas for the downtown "tactical plan" that Capitalize Albany and a team of consultants are currently working up for the zone. That focus was the subject of another community meeting about the process, like the one about downtown residential a while back. And again, it was interesting to hear about how the people involved -- both consultants and a few downtown business owners -- framed the issues and described the challenges.

Mike Berne -- a New York City and San Francisco-based retail consultant -- was the main speaker Thursday night. He says he's spent about a month's-worth of time in the area, and he had a lot to stay about downtowns and shopping around the Capital Region.

We talked with him for a few minutes afterward -- about the state of retail in downtown Albany, how to spur retail, what downtown Troy has that downtown Albany doesn't, Lark Street, and... hipsters.

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Henry Loves Betty

Henry Loves Betty Paula Matt with Betty and Henry

Paula Matt with her dogs, Betty and Henry

By Lauren Hittinger

Paula Matt really loves animals.

Growing up she had an imaginary dog named Josie, she works as a vet tech, and she just opened a pet boutique in Troy named Henry Loves Betty. The offerings are quite posh, with dog button-ups, candles for dogs, and loads of organic treats.

I was skeptical, but Matt insists it's all worthwhile.

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Shopping around downtown Troy

shopping around Troy composite

By Lauren Hittinger

I love to shop. But whenever I'm getting ready to buy more clothes, accessories, or housewares, I always end up at the malls or a big box store. It's completely ridiculous because I enjoy supporting local businesses, and there are so many wonderful places that are independently owned in the Capital Region.

I'm going to be highlighting some of these places to shop, starting with women's clothing and housewares in Troy.

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A look at airfare prices out of Albany

united airplane landing at ALB

How high? It depends on how you measure.

The Albany airport ranked #17 in the nation for highest average domestic roundtrip airfare among the top 100 busiest airports during the fourth quarter of 2013, according to numbers recently released by the federal government. The average fare out of ALB: $434.60. The national average was $381.05.

But, like most numbers, that average airfare figure only tells one part of the story. So let's take off with a few more numbers and see if we can get a better sense of how airfare from Albany compares...

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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.

Brits R Us

brits r us colonie composite

Bangers for your mash. And other things British

By Lauren Hittinger

Anyone who appreciates candy (chocolate in particular) from across The Pond, knows there are a lot of flavors, ingredients, and brands that are tough find in the USA. Things like Flake bars, Aeros, and Crunchies are hard to come by here. And what you can find -- British brands such as Cadbury -- may not taste quite the same on the Hudson as they would on the Thames.

Which is one of the reasons ex-pats and anglophiles in the Capital District may be excited about one of Colonie's newest additions: Brits R Us.

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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 mechanic for Volkswagens?

volkswagen front grillThis question comes from Greg:

Larry's Foreign Auto is our preferred auto mechanic -- we've had very good experiences there. Unfortunately, Steve and the crew don't work on Volkswagens. And our VW needs some work. (The VW mechanic we had been using is no longer in business).
I was hoping people would have some suggestions for good mechanics for Volkswagens. And as we've found out, VWs tend to have some quirks. So we'd like to find a place that has a lot of experience with them. While we're not totally against a dealer, but we'd very much prefer an independent mechanic. Thanks!

Got a suggestion for a mechanic when das auto ist kaput? Please share! And as always for this sort of question, a quick sentence about why a place is good can be a big help.

Earlier on AOA: Capital Region Recommended Mechanics

Planning a Capital Region wedding: photographers

lauren wedding engagement photo troy sign

"All of her pictures captured our quirky personalities, and we still looked good!"

By Lauren Hittinger

Lauren and George are planning a wedding in the Capital Region, and they're chronicling the planning process here on AOA. Last time we heard from them Lauren was picking out a dress. Next up: the photographer.

When my fiancé George and I first started planning our wedding, we made a list of the few things that were most important to us. Two of the items were things we could take on ourselves: having a wedding that involved our family and friends, and being true to our fun personalities.

The other priority: to have a quality photographer who takes amazing photos. It wasn't an easy task to find someone we loved while sticking to our budget, but we eventually did it.

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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!

Good local postcards?


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 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?

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Planning a Capital Region wedding: the dress

lauren wedding dress composite

All three were candidates...

By Lauren Hittinger

Lauren and George are planning a wedding in the Capital Region, and they're chronicling the planning process here on AOA. Last time we heard from them they were checking out catering. Next up: a wedding dress.

I never imagined that wedding dress shopping would be such a long and difficult process. All those wedding shows make it seem magical -- with infinite budgets, tears of joy, and champagne.

My dress process, on the other hand, is a lesson in frustration.

In the beginning I was so excited. I had scanned Pinterest incessantly and decided I was looking for a light, romantic dress with some sort of strap, and without a train. My budget was $700. I could do this.

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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)

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)

Old is New sale spring/summer 2014

Thumbnail image for Old is new JessJamesJake stripes.jpgThe Old is New consignment sale has announced it will be back March 21-23. The location will be St. Sophia's on Whitehall Road in Albany.

The sale includes "women's, men's and junior's clothing and accessories, as well as furniture and home decor." And the note on Facebook also says it will be accepting "kids clothing and baby items," as well. Registration for consignors starts January 20.

The first Old is New sale was in 2012 -- we checked it out with some help from Kaitlin Resler and Jess of JessJamesJake. They found some good items for women, at pretty good prices.

Pass it On
The big Pass it On sale for kids stuff is scheduled to return the first week of May at the Sportsplex in Halfmoon, according to its FB page, with more info coming in February. If you're a new parent -- or soon to be a parent -- it's something to keep an eye on. Pass It On gives priority access to new parents on a limited basis -- the spots fill up fast.

photo: JessJamesJake

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!

Warm weather bang for your airfare buck 2014

united airplane landing at ALB

Next stop: someplace warm?

For obvious reasons, we've been thinking about travel to warm places. So, as we've done in years past, we figured it'd be fun to see where we could get the most degrees for our airfare dollar.

Now boarding...

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Holiday gift list: Kaitlin Resler

Kaitlin Resler Holiday Wish List photo.jpg

"I've recently discovered that adults love a good pair of socks like nothing else."

It's not about getting -- it's about giving. Everybody knows that. So instead of asking a handful of interesting people what's on their holiday wish list this year, we asked them what they'd like to give for the holidays this year.

First up: The always fashionable Kaitlin Resler shares a few items from her shopping list this year -- including pendants, whiskey... and socks.

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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!

Planning a Capital Region wedding: the venue

Lauren and George  at the Confectionery

By Lauren Hittinger

The proposal was a bit of a surprise to me.

We'd been together about a year and a half, but it came at the end of a completely terrible week last August. A car accident and subsequent surgery had forced my boyfriend and I to cancel our vacation, so we made the best of our free weekend by going to brunch in Saratoga. At the end of the meal George casually asked if I "wanted to be together forever." I responded with sass. "Sure," I said "I'm just waiting for you to ask me."

George was completely prepared! As he got down on one knee, I was in complete shock. I kept asking "Are you for real?" and "Are you sure?" No one ever said I was smooth.

I'm Lauren, by the way, an energetic non-profit marketer by day, and a crafter/DIY-er and author of The Thrifty Ginger by night. My fiancé, George, is a freelance computer programmer and all-around nice guy. Over the next few months I'm going to share my adventures in Albany-area wedding land here on AOA.

First up: Picking the venue...

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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...)

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?

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.

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Made By Hand at The Foundry

made by hand 2013 foundry posterLooking ahead to holiday gift giving, here's something you might want to mark on your calendar: Made By Hand at the Foundry in Cohoes, December 7. Blurbage:

A one day, juried indoor designer craft market featuring some of the regions most talented artisans offering fine crafted apparel, jewelry, accessories, house wares, paper goods, and more. Perfect event for seasonal gifts!

You might recognize some of the local artists who will be at the market: The Quiet Woods, Forage Restoratives, Crowell Pottery Studio, Tiger Trap Studio, The Little Raggamuffin, Katie Nare Jewelry, Cinderloop, Ali Herrmann, Tiane Novati, Troy Cloth & Paper, Dawn Dishaw Ceramics, Petra Jancovicova, ZOO - Kids Clothing.

Made by Hand is December 7 (at Saturday) from 11 am-5 pm. Admission is free.

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!

The Frear Building in Troy is again open for (retail) business

frear building ekologic composite

The clothing design and manufacturing company 'e ko logic is known in the fashion world and sells its pieces in shops from France to Japan.

And it's located right here in the Capital Region -- in Troy -- and has been for the last decade. Though that wasn't necessarily easily to tell. Why? We'll let owner/designer Kathleen Tesnakis explain:

"Before I was in a very funky old building, on the second floor, that you weren't sure you wanted to walk up into." And beyond that funkiness, 'e ko logic didn't have a retail space.

That situation changes starting today when 'e ko logic formally opens its new retail and manufacturing space in the Frear Building. The clothing company's presence there is part of an ongoing transformation of the downtown Troy landmark back towards its roots.

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Work Week: My job as a retail clothing store manager

work week retail clothing store manager

It's Work Week on AOA. We'll be talking with people about their jobs and working. Part of that includes anonymous conversations with people about what it's like to do their jobs.

First up: The Retail Clothing Store Manager.

She's worked at six retail stores during the past 16 years. And she has lots of stories -- about the good and bad of working with the public, a flesh-eating zipper, and people who have sex in the dressing room...

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For sale: rock climbing wall

state auction climbing wallNoted: The state Office of General Services is selling a portable rock climbing wall in its surplus store on eBay.

Starting bid is $7,000. Winning bidder has to pick it up (it looks like it's at Harriman office campus).

Via NDYN, which has the backstory on the climbing wall.

Also noticed while browsing state surplus on eBay: The state is also selling a lot that contains 100 Blackberries -- and three Palm Pilots. And another lot that contains some actually not-that-bad-looking office furniture.

photo: NYS OGS / eBay

Checking out the new location for Habitat ReStore on Fuller Road

habitat restore fuller road interior

It's big.

Just opened this week: a new location for the ReStore, the building supplies store run by Habitat for Humanity Capital District.

The ReStore has moved from North Pearl to a former lumber warehouse on Fuller Road. It's a big space -- double the size of the old location -- and Habitat has big plans for it.

We stopped in this week to check it out, and talk with the store's manager about what's up...

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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!

A look at the new Saratoga Northshire, and conversation about the future of bookstores

northshire saratoga exterior

Today's a notable day for Capital Region book nerds because it's the opening of the Saratoga Springs location of the Northshire Bookstore. The 9,000-square-foot store on Broadway in the heart of downtown is just the second location for the much-admired Manchester, Vermont independent.

The last decade or so has been tough on book publishers and bookstores. The big national chain stores have either fallen (Borders) or are teetering (Barnes & Noble). The rise of e-readers has cut into sales of hard-copy books. And Amazon and Apple have been engaged in various attempts to control the pricing of books.

Given all that, we were curious why -- and how -- someone would open a new bookstore. So we stopped by the Saratoga Northshire location on Friday to get a peek at the new store, and talk with co-owner Chris Morrow about why they picked Saratoga Springs, how they made it happen, e-readers, and the future of the bookstore.

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Old is New (again), Pass it On

Old is new JessJamesJake stripes.jpgTwo bits about popular local consignment sales:

Old is New
The Old Is New consignment sale -- for "women's, men's and junior's clothing and accessories, as well as furniture and home decor" -- returns this weekend, this time at the St. Sophia's in Albany. It's open to the public Friday (6-8:30 pm), Saturday (10 am-6 pm), and Sunday (half-price day, 11 am-3 pm).

Last summer we checked out Old is New some savvy shoppers.

Pass it On
The next Pass It On sale for kids stuff will be October 11-13 at the SportsPlex in Halfmoon. But good to know now: the sign up for first-time parents starts this evening (July 30) at 9 pm. Registering as a first-time parent allows you to get an early crack at the selection -- and in years past, that's meant some pretty good deals on stuff like strollers, high chairs, and clothes. There's a limited number of first-time parent slots and they fill up quickly.

Northshire Bookstore Saratoga opening date

northshire bookstore saratoga exterior pre-opening

The Northshire Bookstore announced today that its new Saratoga Springs location will open August 5. The store is in the new building at 424 Broadway right in the middle of downtown Saratoga Springs (formerly the parking lot next to Lillian's.)

Northshire -- an independent bookstore that's had one other location in Manchester, Vermont, since 1976 -- has a very good reputation. So this is a pretty big deal for bookstore nerds.* And it fills the large-bookstore void in downtown Saratoga Springs created when Borders closed its location on Broadway (the old Borders building is now the home of a marketing company).

The way Northshire ended up in Saratoga Springs has an interesting backstory. From the press release announcing the opening date:

A community petition, circulated by Saratoga Springs resident Pat Friesen was the first impetus for Northshire Bookstore to consider opening a second store in the town. By the time it was sent to Vermont in July 2012, the petition ran to four pages, with dozens of local signatures. Said Friesen "the anticipation of Northshire's Saratoga opening is a dream coming true for all of us who began the process."
The new store is also supported by nearly forty local investors, who have gathered together to provide significant community funding for the new store.

Northshire already arranged one author event for Saratoga -- Neil Gaiman at the Saratoga City Center in June. And it has a schedule of author events lined up for August and September.

* We use that term lovingly, of course.

Earlier on AOA: Nicole explored the Vermont Northshire while visiting Manchester this past winter

photo: Northshire Bookstore FB

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

Checking out the new Honest Weight location

new honest weight location wide

By Daniel B.

Maybe the problem wasn't the parking lot, but rather the drivers. Honest Weight Food Co-op's old parking lot will be fondly remembered by no one. Now they have a brand new parking lot that's much bigger than the old one, and a whole new building to go with it. But still, finding a spot might be a challenge.

The new market opened Wednesday, even though the official grand opening isn't until August, and shoppers around noon were remarking on how they had to drive around the lot a few times before they found a space.

But there are plenty of bike racks right out front and a CDTA bus stop (#125) on the corner (and a stop for the #138 a block up the street).

There has been a lot of hand wringing about this new location, but I have to admit, taking I-90 to Everett Road exit 5 makes the trip super convenient, easier to get to than the Albany ShopRite, Price Chopper or Hannaford that all compete within a very narrow radius of each other.

Parking and accessibility aside, how is the new co-op different from the old co-op? For some it may take a little getting used to -- for others it is likely a dream come true.

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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)

FarmieMarket expanding

sarah gordon farmiemarketFarmieMarket -- the local online farmers' market -- announced today that it's expanding in the Hudson and Mohawk valleys. Starting June 12 it will serve customers in Columbia, Greene, Otsego, Herkimer, Montgomery and Fulton counties.

The roots of FarmieMarket were planted in 2010 when Sarah Gordon started Heldeberg Market to connect farms in the Hilltowns of Albany county with customers in Albany County via online ordering and weekly deliveries. She expanded to all four core counties of the Capital Region in 2011 under the FarmieMarket banner. Last year FM expanded to include Dutchess and Ulster via a base in Poughkeepsie.

Gordon grew up on a farm -- her dad runs a grassfed cattle farm in Knox. The online farmers market idea grew out of thinking about how to connect the farm with new customers.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Interesting in 2011: Sarah Gordon
+ Touring the Hilltowns, a farm at a time

photo courtesy of Sarah Gordon

An IKEA? Here? Well...

IKEA paramus exterior

The IKEA in Paramus, New Jersey.

When talking about development in the Capital Region -- or just something people want -- it's not uncommon to hear: "Hey, it'd be great to get an IKEA." The topic came up during the (Re)Imagining Troy project, and we've heard elected officials bring it up in the past.

It's easy to understand the desire. IKEA is a huge international brand. It offers modern(ish) furniture and other housewares at cheap prices. The stores employ a lot of people. It'd be a big development piece in a place like North Albany or Menands. And getting an IKEA is a bit of a status symbol.

But: It's not going to happen in the Capital Region. Here's why.

(there's more)

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!

A peek at the new Honest Weight store

Honest Weight ext.jpg

The new location is a little less than a mile from the current location on Central Ave.

The long-planned new Honest Weight Food co-op location on Watervliet Ave in Albany is slated for a soft open on June 19, with a formal grand opening scheduled for August 8. Honest Weight marketing manager Jennifer Grainer says construction has been on time and is expected to come in under budget, at around $5.5 million.

With just over a month to go before the opening, we got a quick tour of the building, which includes a full commercial kitchen for catering, a station for smoking meats, and a teaching kitchen for classes.

Here's a look at how it's shaping up.

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Spa City Farmer's Market

spa city farmers market founders

From left to right: Shannon Campagna, The Peanut Principle; Sue Kerber, RAD Soap Co.; Colleen Zorbas, Zorbas Natural Foods.

By Casey Normile

What's the hardest part about starting a new farmers' market?

All the texting.

At least, that's what Sue Kerber, Colleen Zorbas and Shannon Campagna think. Together, they're the founders of the new Spa City Farmer's Market. And after three months of planning, the business owners admit 2 am texting has gotten old for them... and their husbands.

But that planning has the new Sunday market ready to launch later this month.

So why start another farmers' market?

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A short tour of Capital Region juice bars

juice bars lil buddha green juice

That is very green.

By Casey Normile

Juicing is the new (fill in the blank).

The new cleanse. The new vegetarian. The new subject of grand theft.

Jam-packing an entire day's worth of fruits and vegetables into one tasty cup appeals to both the health-conscious -- and those who don't like veggies but know they should have them.

Here's quick tour of a handful of juice bars around the Capital Region, with suggestions for both beginning and experienced juicers.

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Outside season starting for farmers' markets

troy waterfront farmers marketMagnolias. Ice cream trucks. Outdoor farmers' markets. It must really be May.

Three of the biggest farmers' markets in the Capital Region are starting their outside seasons this weekend:

Troy Waterfront Farmers' Market
Saturday, 9 am-2 pm
River and 3rd Street (Monument Square) in downtown Troy (map)
(The market's first "twilight market" is part of the Troy Night Out on Friday, May 31 in Riverfront Park.)

Saratoga Farmers' Market
Saturday, 9 am-1 pm
High Rock Park in Saratoga Springs (map)
(The Wednesday Saratoga market is back outside today (May 1), 3-6 pm.)

Schenectady Greenmarket
Sunday, 10 am-2 pm
Jay Street around Schenectady City Hall (map)

Of course, there are a bunch of other farmers' markets around the area. Some of the smaller markets -- like the Empire State Plaza market (Wednesdays, 10 am-2 pm) -- are already open. Others will be popping up through this month, and into June.

photo: Troy Waterfront Farmers' Market

Checking out the Healthy Living Market and Cafe

healthy living market exterior

At the store's opening day on Thursday.

By Daniel B.

The new Healthy Living Market and Cafe in the Wilton Mall is hard to nail down.

It's not a health food store, yet it has a section full of natural health products and supplements. It's not a specialty foods store, even though they stock some hard-to-find, high-end items that are bound to delight enthusiasts. It's certainly not a conventional grocery store, although it has everything from pet and baby food to cleaning supplies to toilet paper.

And while they will proudly carry conventionally produced strawberries in the winter -- because, as Healthy Living owner Katy Lesser explained, that's "what Americans want" -- they will never stock Coca-Cola. Not even the Mexican stuff with real sugar.

So what is this place, how does it fit into the region's supermarket scene, and is there anything there worth a drive?

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Healthy Living Market Saratoga opening

healthy living market logoUpdate: The opening has been moved to March 21.

The new Healthy Living Market and Cafe at the Wilton Mall is set to open March 18, the company has announced on its Facebook page.

This is just the second location for the Vermont-based company. It opened its first store in South Burlington in 1986. The company touts itself as "a one-stop destination for natural groceries, fresh organic and local produce, locally sourced meats and poultry, crusty artisan breads, a world of cheese, health and beauty products, a complete vitamin/supplement department, freshly prepared foods and a broad selection of microbrews and wine." (It's opening a separate wine shop -- that gets it around the state's restriction on wine in grocery stores.)

The market occupies the space left empty by the former J.C. Penney at the mall. It's about 35,000 square feet -- that's about half the size of, say, one of the new ShopRites around Albany.

Earlier on AOA: Healthy Living Market opening in Wilton (February 2012)

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!

The beer you wish you could get here -- but can't

hoosick street beverage west coast beers

Some of the West Coast beers at Hoosick Street Beverage.

By Jeff Janssens

There's no question that beer lovers of the Capital Region are blessed these days. It's easy to find good beer at a number of bars in the area, there are a handful of beer stores with great selections, and you can even fill a growler at some area supermarkets now.

"[The beer scene] is huge now," says Mike Smith of Hoosick Street Beverage Center in Troy. "You see it here through the RPI kids. On Friday nights, we used to sells kegs of Keystone. Now they're all buying the good stuff."

That doesn't mean we have access to all the good beer, though. Craft brewing is, by definition, done on a small scale. And because of limited supply and distribution, there are some beers that are either hard to find here -- or just not available.

So I stopped by Hoosick recently to talk with Mike Smith about some of the "holy grails" of beer they'd like to be able to get, but can't -- and some good, locally-available substitutes.

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Old is New is back, new location for Pass It On

Old is New JessJamesJake Accessory Table.jpg

At last summer's Old is New sale.

Quick updates on a few big consignment sales back for the spring:

Old is New
The Old is New consignment sale -- "for women's, men's and junior's clothing and accessories, as well as furniture and home decor" -- is back at the Albany Academy Field House March 16-18. (The half-price sale is on the 18th.)

The first Old is New sale was last summer -- and AOA checked with out with some help from Kaitlin Resler and Jess of JessJamesJake.

Pass It On
The bi-annual (and very popular) Pass It On sale for kids stuff has been going on for more than a decade -- it's back March 23-26. It also has a new location this new spring: Siena College's Marcelle Athletic Complex (it was in Halfmoon last year, and at Albany Academy many years before that). The sale is open to the general public March 24-26. (March 23 is the consignor and first-time parent shopping (already full). March 25-26 is the half-price sale.)

It's been a few years since we've checked out this sale, but it seemed to be full of what looked like good bargains.

Got Kids?
There's also the Got Kids? consignment sale is at the Frear Park Ice Rink in Troy May 2-4. Has anyone gone to this one? We're curious about how it compares to Pass It On.

photo: JessJamesJake

Talking about fresh fish at Fin

fin fishmonger trout

By Daniel B.

Fresh is a meaningless word, primarily because it can mean so many completely different things. Fresh is used for something that is brand new or has just arrived. In food it can differentiate a product from one that has been frozen. Or it can simply identify that something isn't spoiled quite yet.

Dora Swan and Pete Kenyon at Fin are not satisfied with just selling fresh fish. They are also committed to exclusively sourcing sustainable fish. Plus they are creating a community. And now, instead of just selling fish off the back of a truck, they have a brand new store in Guilderland.

So what does "fresh" mean to them? I asked them and was floored by the response.

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Warm weather bang for your airfare buck 2013

united airplane landing at ALB

Next stop: some place warm?

For no reason at all, we were scanning flights to warm weather locations today. And, as we have before, we figured it'd be fun to see where we could get the most degrees for our airfare dollar.

Now boarding...

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Finding Craigslist on a map

craigslist apt map screengrab

A screengrab of the apartment listings map for part of Albany.

Check it out: The Albany Craigslist is now offering the option of displaying apartment listings -- as well as a few other types of items -- on a map.

It looks like the feature could be helpful if you're trying to find listings in specific neighborhoods. Though it's a bit hard to tell how precise the mapping is -- many apartment listings on Craigslist don't include specific address info (unless it's gathered on the backend and not shared publicly). Update: Based on Albany Landlord's comment, it sounds like that's how it works.

Craigslist apparently started testing this function in San Francisco and Portland this past summer, and the started gradually rolling it out in October. We only noticed it on the Albany version this week. [TPM] [The Next Web]

A map view of listings has been conspicuously absent from Craigslist for years. And in that time, another service -- PadMapper -- filled the void. Craigslist sued PadMapper over it this past summer, alleging it and a partner company had violated Craigslist copyright by scraping its listings. [The Verge]

It's a bit of a turn for Craiglist to be the disrupted instead of the disrupter. But it appears that it's been trying to evolve lately. In addition to the maps, it also added image previews for many of its listings, which make it a lot easier to skim through, say antiques, or whatever.

screengrab: Craigslist

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.

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?

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 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!)

Checking out the new The Cheese Traveler store

The Cheese Traveler  Eric Paul

Cheesemonger Eric Paul.

As mentioned earlier, the Cheese Traveler -- the new gourmet shop on Delaware Ave in Albany -- opened this week. After hearing about the plans for the store from cheesemonger Eric Paul and his partners during their startup grant presentation, we've been curious to see it. So we stopped in Thursday to talk with Eric and see how things were shaping up during the store's soft opening.

If you have a little time, Eric's happy to tell you pretty much everything you'd ever want to know about the 80 cheeses they carry -- and the ones they're planning to carry -- and the process of making cheese, and the regulations for the amount of mold allowed on cheeses in Holland and... What we are saying here is that Eric Paul knows his cheese.

You have to really love a thing to know it as well as he does.

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andrew gregory boo tshirt wootThe kids version of Woot! -- appropriately called Kids Woot! -- is currently selling a cute Halloween t-shirt called Ghosties by local desinger Andrew Gregory.

It features three ghosts dressed up in costumes -- with a glow-in-the-dark message.

The shirt is $15. It's on sale for two more days.

Andrew lives in Rensselaer and designs under the name lunchboxbrain. One of his designs was sold by Gap earlier this year.

Road Trip: Great Barrington

great barrington composite

A day in Great Barrington.

By Casey Normile

Road trips are pretty high on the list of fun things to do with a fall day in the Capital Region. A scenic drive on an autumn weekend can take you to mountains, lakes, wineries, cities, and small towns in time to explore, enjoy and be home in time to sleep in your own bed.

Great Barrington, Massachusetts is one of those places.

Lesson number one: Barrington and Great Barrington are not the same place. This may seem as obvious to you as it did to me, but for some reason every time I told someone from the Capital Region that I was going to Great Barrington, they said things like "have a good time in Vermont."

This quaint little Massachusetts town is a pretty common destination for people fleeing NYC or Boston for the weekend. The shops are eclectic, the food is interesting, there's plenty of nature -- and good beer.

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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)

Fin opening a shop in Guilderland

fin fishmonger logoFin -- the mobile fishmonger that's been selling at local farmers' markets -- is opening a permanent shop in the Star Plaza in Guilderland (Western Ave and Route 155).

Owner Peter Kenyon says they're finalizing details and aiming for a mid-November opening.

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Checking out the Trader Joe's on Wolf Road

trader joes wolf road exterior

We stopped by for a tour earlier this week.

As you surely know by now, the new Trader Joe's on Wolf Road opens this Friday. The store is the first TJ's in this area -- the first in all of upstate New York, in fact -- and the opening will probably be jammed. There are people around here who have been anticipating this day for years.

We got inside the store this week ahead of the opening for a preview. So let's get to it...

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Lip balm at Anchor No. 5

lip balm anchor no 5 lineup

There are a bunch of things on which the "local" label easily, and familiarly, fits: local food, local beer, local music.

Lip balm is not one of those things. It's a classic commodity drugstore item -- the kind of thing you can imagine rolling off a machine at a factory thousands at a time, boxed by the dozen, later to sit quietly at the checkout counter, waiting to be a cheap impulse buy.

The Pink Lemon lip balm at the Anchor No. 5 Boutique in Troy sits in just such a spot, like any other lip balm -- except for one thing: it is local in almost every way.

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Capital Region vinyl shops

Fuzz Records Front door.jpg

Step into music's past -- and present.

By Casey Normile

If you're looking for CDs, the new Fuzz Records on Lark Street only has about six on sale.

Open since June in the basement storefront of a condo building at State and Lark in Albany, Fuzz is not interested in selling portable music. It's focused on new vinyl releases -- and getting people involved in the local music scene, with limited releases and live

Sales of vinyl records have been on the upswing nationally over the last five years -- and a majority of those sales have been at independent record stores.

Here in the Capital Region, there are a handful of vinyl shops still holding on, riding the new wave.

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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.

Picking a summer read: Susan Taylor

Book House exterior.jpg

Summer reads from The Book House.

AOA is taking a little R & R this week. While we're enjoying a little summer, we've rounded up a few experts to share their tips for making summer fun simpler. Enjoy!

Susan Taylor reads about 200 books a year. So if you need a recommendation, she's your woman.

Susan has been a bookseller since 1982, and has worked at The Book House at Stuyvesant Plaza, the Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, as a publishers' sales rep in New England, and a a book buyer at the Wellesley Booksmith. She returned to the Capital District -- and The Book House -- in 2006.

After the jump, her suggestions on picking a the perfect summer book, and her 2012 summer reading list.

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Buying a bicycle: Carl Johnson

Carl Johnson bike 2.jpg

Carl in Troy

By Carl Johnson

AOA is taking a little R & R this week. While we're enjoying a little summer, we've rounded up a few experts to share their tips for making summer fun simpler. Enjoy!

In most people's minds, summer is the time for biking.

But maybe you haven't ridden for years, and you find all the new bicycle styles and technology more than a bit daunting. Don't let that keep you from getting back on a bike and enjoying the absolutely amazing riding that the Capital District offers.

Here are some tips on how to buy a new bike.

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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!

The Old is New consignment sale

Old is New JessJamesJake Accessory Table.jpg

One person's "been there done that" is another's "that is so awesome -- and cheap!"

The first ever Old is New Consignment Sale opened to the public at 8AM today in the athletic center at Albany Academy.

The Old is New Sale is a chance for people with stuff they don't want, to sell it to people who are looking for stuff -- without having to bother with their own garage sale. And by stuff, we mean gently used clothing, accessories and housewares.

AOA previewed the sale yesterday with fashion writers and super-shoppers Kaitlin Resler and Jess of JessJamesJake to scope out the scene and see what kind of deals there were to be had.

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RAD Soap Co.

RAD soap products

Yep, the soap with hemp seed oil is called "Toke."

By Casey Normile

Sue Kerber thinks the Capital Region needs to use more soap.

More specifically, her soap.

A familiar face and vendor at local farmers markets, Cohoes-based RAD Soap Co. has grown quickly in its four years. Sue's soaps and lotions began as a natural remedy to her family's ailments, from eczema to muscle pain to sinusitis. Those home remedies eventually turned into a full line of soaps, lotions, crèmes, balms and teas made from all natural ingredients -- and shipped all over the country.

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A comparison of Albany area mobile service

Albany metro area mobile data speeds rootmetrics

One of these things is not like the other.

Check it out: a company called RootMetrics recently completed an assessment of mobile phone service reliability and speed in the Albany metro area.

Its overarching conclusion: Verizon is the best -- by a lot.

A few bits that jumped out at us:

+ Verizon dominated the data speed comparison because of its LTE network (4g), which is about 10x faster than 3g. See the chart is above. (AT&T hasn't rolled out LTE in this area, yet.) As it happens, Verizon is changing its mobile plans to focus on data service, and the ability to share data service across different devices. [AP/WSJ]

+ All the carriers did reasonably well on voice calling (Sprint was the worst). But Verizon was the only carrier to not have a single dropped call.

+ And the all the carriers were basically same for how long it took to receive text -- with one notable exception: Sprint was waaaaaay slower than the other carriers. Its average time was 68 seconds, compared 3-4 seconds for the other carriers.

How'd they measure all this? From the report's methodology section:

To evaluate the Albany area (the Albany Urbanized Area as defined by the U.S. Census), we performed 7,429 call, data, and text tests, covering all hours of the day and night. Tests were conducted using our RootScout app running from off-the-shelf, Android-based smartphones purchased from carrier stores. The phones were used as a typical consumer would use them and were not modified with any external antennas or other non-standard equipment. The data provided in this report reflect our findings in the Albany market during testing conducted from May 20 - May 24, 2012.

The company also makes an app that measures carrier performance. The results from the app are then aggregated with other users' results.

[via TU]

graph: RootMetrics

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"

TightKnit's Troy Flea opens this Saturday

tightknit logo 2012TightKnit's new market -- Troy Flea -- opens this Saturday in Troy on the River Street block south of the farmers' market. Troy Flea will include "handmade, vintage and antique art and goods."

Also new: a collaboration with Etsy, which was explained a bit in today's Metroland:

Etsy committed to being at every Saturday event to answer questions, help set up, and to just being a presence at the market. Once every month they will set up a kid's craft table where children can make an age-appropriate craft--for free. They will also do what Etsy does best: merge technology with the beautifully simple world of handcrafted goods. "There will be QR codes for each Tight Knit vendor who is also an Etsy seller. The shopper can scan the code with their smart phone and go directly to the seller's Etsy shop. You could possibly purchase something in real life at the event but with access to the online shop use your credit card and get a record of it," says [Etsy assistant site lead Branda] Maholtz.

The market runs from 9 am-2 pm on River Street between First Street and State Street.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Troy Flea
+ Inside Etsy Hudson

Supermarket Showdown V

shoprite albany exterior

Game changer?

It's Supermarket Week again on AOA. All this week we'll have posts comparing, thinking, and talking about supermarkets. Hey, we all have to eat.

Yes, that grand tradition -- the Supermarket Showdown -- has returned. As we have for the past (gulp) four years, we price checked a basket of items across the local supermarket chains.

New this year: ShopRite.

Can it unseat Walmart, the four-time defending champ? And how have the other two players reacted to its arrival?

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Annoyed in aisle 5

price chopper international aisle

This aisle may look empty. But once Wendy enters it -- or any other supermarket aisle -- someone will show up to block her from the borscht. (It's physics. Or something.)

By Wendy Voelker

It's Supermarket Week again on AOA. All this week we'll have posts comparing, thinking, and talking about supermarkets. Hey, we all have to eat.

I love grocery shopping.

I love wandering the aisles, smelling fragrant greens, deciphering nutrition labels, discovering new and exciting products, imagining possibilities for weeknight dinners, finding great coupon deals, keeping track of prices in my grocery list app.

What I don't love about grocery shopping is that there are other people involved in my experience. People just get in my way and ruin everything.

Sometimes, one of those people is me.

Not often, but sometimes.

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Delivery! Comparing ShopRite from Home and Price Chopper Shops4U


ShopRite doesn't hold back on the bagging.

By Nicole Lemperle Correia

Supermarket Week is back on AOA. All this week we'll have posts comparing, thinking, and talking about supermarkets. Hey, we all have to eat.

I've been hearing a lot lately about home grocery delivery. The new Albany ShopRite offers home delivery, and the Westgate Price Chopper recently rolled out a similar service (and made sure we knew about it -- we received Price Chopper flyers advertising the service in the mail every day for weeks).

I've been intrigued by the idea. After my daughter was born last year many things changed within our family, including my work schedule and our income. I usually do each week's shopping on my Mondays off, with my one-year-old in tow. Sometimes this is awesome. Sometimes it means rushing through the store doing everything I can to stave off a toddler meltdown ("Here, hold this bag of beans. No no, don't eat the bag. Ok, now we have to give it to the lady to scan. She'll give it back! I promise!") And then there's the part where I do a circus routine to get the baby and the groceries in the house.

The idea of having someone else do the shopping -- and deliver the goods to my door -- is very appealing. So recently I gave each service a go.

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Oh, Whole Foods, why Colonie Center?

Thumbnail image for whole foods exterior san diego

A Whole Foods -- good. In Colonie Center -- maybe not so much.

By Christine Hmiel

soapbox badgeI'm happy that Whole Foods is expanding into our area.

I'll lamely admit that the so-called "grocery store wars" are exciting to me. I shop at Honest Weight Food Co-Op, farmers' markets, and belong to both a CSA and a CSB, but like many of you, I still buy a chunk of my weekly groceries from grocery stores. Having more options for buying affordable, healthy foods along with products for specialty and food-allergic diets is good for everyone.

Competition is good. Investment in our region is good.

The Colonie Center location for Whole Foods? Not good.

Not good at all.

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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 - 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

Price Chopper changing Fuel AdvantEdge discount

fuel advantedgeUpdated

Price Chopper announced today that it's discounting its gasoline discount program (press release post jump).

Starting May 13, AdvantEdge card holders will earn a 10 cent/gallon gasoline discount for every $100 they spend. The current rate is 10 cents off per gallon at Sunoco for every $50 spent at Price Chopper. (It's been that way since PC expanded the program to this area in 2009.)

The supermarket chain is trying to frame the gas discount cut as a shift to more discounts on food. It says it's in the process of lowering prices on 10,000 products. Said Price Chopper in response to critical comments on the company's Facebook page:

We have had an overwhelming number of customers tell us that they want to save more money on food. We are lowering prices all over the store and our ads will be hotter than ever. ... We will also be offering even more ways to earn fuel rewards in our ads though the purchases of specific products...Check it out this Sunday!

It's fair to say the change wasn't going over well with people there (understatement).

The gasoline discount isn't some sort of fundamental human right. The company doesn't owe it to anyone. But it did help mitigate Price Chopper's often higher non-sale prices (though not necessarily enough to bring them in line with competitors). It'll be interesting to see if the change actually does result in lower food prices -- and in what way (sales, coupons, whatever).

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Checking out the new Albany ShopRite

albany shoprite exterior

We can safely report: it's a modern supermarket.

The new Albany ShopRite opens this Thursday. If the opening of the Niskayuna location is any indication, the scene will probably be a zoo. Such is the product of the Capital Region's apparent supermarket obsession.

We were invited to check out the new Albany store today, and went for two reasons: 1) to gawk at perfectly stocked aisles and 2) to maybe find out why ShopRite has decided to build four stores in the Albany area -- and why now.

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Was the state surplus car auction a deal?

nys surplus toyota prius

The final bid for this car: $11,505

The Cuomo admin announced today that state pulled in a little more than $1.6 million in final bids for the eBay auction of surplus 454 state vehicles. (It closed this morning.)

We stopped by the lot on the Harriman office campus earlier this week to check out the inventory. We were especially interested in the 2008 Priuses (Prii?) that were available because even though they had a lot of miles, they seemed like they were in pretty good shape. Of course, if you were to buy one, you'd have to do it "as is" -- without driving it.

So, what sort of discount might people expect for buying under that situation? And did they score a deal?

To get some sense of that we compared the final bids for the group of 2008 Priuses against the Kelley Blue Book value for the vehicles.

You know what that means -- bring on the table...

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Wegmans ranked as #1 supermarket. Again.

wegmans exteriorNot surprising: Wegmans was again the #1 ranked supermarket in Consumer Reports annual survey of its readers with a score of 88.

Number two? Trader Joe's (again) with a score of 86.

A lot of the other local chains didn't score that badly, though their ranks were a bit lower:

Hannaford ranked #19 (score 79) | Aldi #20 (79) | ShopRite #24 (78) | Price Chopper #30 (76) | Walmart #51 (69)

Fresh Market wasn't included in the rankings.

CR says the survey is a measure of "overall satisfaction" -- and differences of fewer than five points in a supermarket score are not meaningful. Also: "These findings represent the experiences of our readers, not necessarily those of the general population."

About Trader Joe's... A few people have asked if there's an opening date, yet. As of two weeks ago, the company said it still didn't have a date.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Albany ShopRite opening in April
+ Trader Joe's confirms Wolf Road location

photo: Flickr user chrstine592

The state would like to sell you a used car

nys surplus toyota prius

A 2008 Toyota Prius the state is selling on eBay.

The state's new website for selling surplus on eBay -- NYS Store -- officially launched today.

The first big sale (if that's the word) is a lot of 450 vehicles up for auction. The vehicles are currently at the Harriman State Office Campus and will be available for inspection a few days over this weekend and next week. The minimum bid is $500. The auction ends April 13.

Most of the vehicles are Chevys and Fords, the kind that just sort of say "government vehicle." But browsing the stock this morning we noticed there are a handful of Honda and Toyota hybrids, also.

The state has been selling old/surplus stuff on eBay for years. It looks like the new website is mostly a better "storefront" for those auctions.

photo: NYS OGS

Albany ShopRite opening in April

albany shoprite exterior March 31, 2012

These people were a little early.

The new Albany ShopRite will open April 26, the company announced today. The store is at 709 Central Ave, on the site of the former OTB Tele-theater (a new version of which is now next door). Full press release after the jump.

We stopped by the store this past week to peek in the windows. The store looked more or less complete -- in fact, we noticed that some of the aisles were already stocked with products.

This will be the second ShopRite in the Capital Region. The company opened a store in Niskayuna last year, is building another in Slingerlands, and just got approval for a fourth store in the village of Colonie. [TU]

If the opening of the Niskayuna ShopRite is any indication, the scene surrounding the Albany store will be a zoo initially.

It'll be interesting to see how it affects competition -- Price Chopper and Hannaford are literally just down the street.

Earlier on AOA: A first look at ShopRite Niskayuna

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Browsing the new Penzeys Spices at Crossgates

penzeys crossgates exterior

First floor, near the movie theater.

By Daniel B.

Regardless how good a catalog may be, nothing comes close to being able to see, touch, and in this case, smell the merchandise.

Last week, without much fanfare, a retail store for Penzeys Spices opened in Crossgates Mall. It's on the first floor by the movie theater, in between the Sprint store and Johnny Rockets.

For the better part of a decade I've bought herbs and spices from this purveyor through the mail, even though they have stores in 29 states. And while I cannot tell you how this location stacks up to those around the country, what awaits you at the Guilderland mall is pretty special.

Grab a hand basket when you step into the door, because you are going to need it.

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Rock on, lunchboxbrain

rock on gap threadless lunchboxbrainCheck it out: one of local designer Andrew Gregory's t-shirts is for sale at the Gap.

Andrew, who lives in Rensselaer, does design work under the name lunchboxbrain. His design ended up at the Gap through a partnership with Threadless. From his blog:

Rock On was originally designed for a community challenge - Threadless Loves Minimalism II. Most of my tee designs are fairly simple and I thought that the design was a great fit for the challenge. While it didn't win that challenge, I knew it was a strong design and had even considered printing it myself. Two months after I submitted the design, I received an email from Threadless stating that my tee was under consideration for inclusion in the Threadless + Gap line. A few months later, I got the word that Rock On had made the final cut. Needless to say, I was relieved, thrilled and humbled by the news.

He's giving one of the shirts away on his lunchboxbrain Facebook page.

Back in 2010, one of Andrew's t-shirts was featured on Woot!, the deal a day site. Here are more of his shirt designs that are currently available.

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

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!

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 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

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

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

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

The Cheese Traveler

cheese traveler eric paul helping customers

Eric Paul helping customers at the Delmar Farmers Market

By Daniel B.

A great cheese shop needs to have a few basic things:
1. A handpicked selection of amazingly delicious cheeses
2. A passionate individual to help select a cheese that's just right for you
3. The tools of the trade like knives, scales, cheese wrap, labels and such

Some might argue that you also need a building to put it all in.

When it comes to that last point, Eric Paul is proving otherwise. Eric has an amazing cheese shop -- it's just that he's missing the shop part.

He is known as The Cheese Traveler. True to the name, Eric and his cheeses can be found as they travel to events around the area. But it is worthwhile to track them down, because his cheeses are unlike any others you'll find in the region.

And it's as much about the cheeses as what he does with them, and why.

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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.

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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!

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The new H&M at Crossgates

H&M Crossgates Exterior

The new Crossgates H&M -- smaller but with more stuff.

By Kaitlin Resler

The monstrous Crossgates H&M that lived in the old Caldor space (oh yeah, I totally remember and loved Caldor) has moved. It's now divided up into three connected spaces, both upstairs and down at the mall.

I had been really excited about this renovation, mostly out of hope that the new store would include some of the H&M's higher-end lines. Also, I like shiny new stores.

It wasn't until I saw the new store that I realized that our old H&M was a bit outdated.

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Christmas in October

home depot albany pre-halloween christmas trees

Well, maybe a small Christmas tree could be used as a snow brush.

After noticing that our ice scraper had run off during the summer, we stopped by the Home Depot in Albany Friday to pick up a new one ahead of Saturday's snow.

After a search of the store with an associate's help, we found no ice scrapers. (Update: Save Pine Hills says there were ice scrapers there at some point recently.) But there was an entire section of Christmas trees and decorations. Before Halloween.

We were headed up Central Ave, so we stopped at Phillips Hardware next. Phillips had a selection of ice scrapers and snow shovels -- and, as far we could tell, no Christmas trees.

Phillips wins.

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

Nadine Medina Designs

nadine medina jewelry composite

"People love to match, and I want to encourage a more abstract sense of what it means to match."

By Emily Rippe

Troy jewelry maker Nadine Medina gets inspired by the most ordinary of objects. 

Remember those macaroni necklaces that were all the rage in 2nd grade? To a seven-year-old Nadine, the idea that you could take an everyday, household item and turn it into a work of art was a mind-blowing revelation. 

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Best Cleaners Autumn Refresh: Laura Perfetti

Laura P.jpg

Laura in her "sad black tee" with ponytail

best cleaners logoNext up in our shoptastic adventure is the lovely Laura. To say we enjoyed spending a day with Laura Perfetti is an incredible understatement. She was fun, positive and open to new ideas. And the always fashionable Kaitlin Resler had a few in mind.

Laura is the mother of a 1.5 year old boy and feared she had fallen into "frump mode." But she works in a performing arts center and wanted a look "as eclectic as the art we present." She has a high school reunion coming up soon, and she wanted a look that would wow her old classmates, but be something she could still pull off for work.

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Best Cleaners Autumn Refresh: Asa Gismervik

Asa All Dressed up -pre refresh.jpg

Asa "all dressed up" for a cruise.

best cleaners logoWell, the shopping, trimming and styling are done and it's time to unveil the results of the AOA/Best Cleaners Autumn Refresh.

We start with Asa.

First, we totally have to say what a great sport Asa was. He tried on clothes and shoes in stores all over Saratoga and Wilton and was open to whatever Erik suggested. As an IT consultant, Asa's work uniform is a red t-shirt and baggy jeans -- a look he carried over into the rest of his life. He wanted to move from his trademark t-shirt and jeans to a business casual look -- largely for the sake of his girlfriend.

We think she'll be impressed...

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Best Cleaners Autumn Refresh winners

best cleaners logoThanks to everyone who entered the AOA/Best Cleaners Autumn Refresh contest.

The winners have been selected... so, who gets the refresh?

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Best Refresh II: autumn edition

best spring refresh before after both composite

best cleaners logoLast spring fashion writers Kaitlin, Carey and Rob helped take Mike from camo to crush-worthy, and Emily from being buried in sweaters to total dish.

Well, it's a new season and we know some of you are looking in your closets and saying, "Yeah-- I have to change something up." So it's time for another refresh. If you, or someone you know, is in need of a little autumn wardrobe pick-me-up, AOA and Best Cleaners may be able to help.

The plan

Two winners -- one male, one female -- will get a shopping trip in Saratoga with style writers Kaitlin Resler (AOA, All This Happiness) and Erik Dollman. Each winner will get an outfit worth $250 courtesy of Best Cleaners. They'll also get a fresh hairstyle from Rebecca at V Salon.

So, up for a wardrobe refresh? Here's how to enter...

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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

Albany is Eggcellent once again

albany eggcellent shirtThe t-shirt company New York Old School -- which produced all those New York-themed shirts, notably the "Albany is EGGCELLENT" shirt -- says it's shipping orders again.

People ask us about these shirts every now and then. It's been a while since they were available firsthand (years?).

We got the word today via an email from the company. The full text is after the jump -- it includes details on other designs, new stuff coming up...

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For sale: lots of eclectic stuff

cohoes giant eclectic sale postcardThis could be worth a look: a "giant sale of eclectic offerings" in Cohoes this Friday and Saturday. Blurbage:

Hundreds of Estate items gathered from private residences from NYC, the Hudson Valley Region, and the Capital District.
Vintage and Used Furniture, Pottery, Industrial, Extensive Lighting- 1910-1980s, Glassware Antiques, Collectables, Outdoor Furniture, Garden and much more.

Here are what look like a few pics from the assortment. Recently added: art and "vintage medical."

The sale is at the former Cohoes Mill End Fabric building on Saratoga Street. It runs from 8 am - 3 pm each day (it's probably better to show up earlier than later -- the best stuff tends to get plucked quickly at these things). It's cash and check only.

(Thanks, Madonna!)

Pass It On Sale summer 2011

Pass It On SaleThe big Pass It On Sale for kids stuff starts today with the private pre-sale, and then throws open the doors to the general public Wednesday.

What is Pass It On? It's basically a giant exchange for parents to pass on "gently" used kids items to other parents looking for a bargain. And it's enormous. The sale takes up the 20,000 square foot field house at Albany Academy. (There's a sale each August and March.)

We checked out the sale a few years back. It looked like there were some great bargains. And be ready to shop like you mean it -- the sale can get a little intense.

The sale opens today for consignors, volunteers, and new parents (you had to register ahead of time). The sale open to the general public Wednesday (9 am - 8 pm) and Thursday (9 am - 5 pm). Friday (9 am - 5 pm) and Saturday (8 am - noon) are half price days. It's free to enter.

Where to get a record player fixed?

record player needleSusan emails:

I have a broken record player that I would like to get repaired. It is one of those old school 70s types. Not sure where to go around here.

There was a question last year about places to get small appliances fixed -- and it sounds like Eric had success at Lake Electronics.

Got a suggestion for Susan and her record player? Please share!

photo: Flickr user stevecadman

HSBC selling upstate branches: the "world's local bank" may no longer be our local bank

hsbc.jpgHSBC announced this morning that it plans to sell 195 of its branches to First Niagara Bank, including 183 branches in upstate New York, to cut back on costs and shift its focus to emerging markets like Brazil and Mexico. [AP] [HSBC]

Update: The list of local branches that are being sold is after the jump (thanks, Bill). It appears that all of HSBC's locations in the core Capital Region are included -- that would mean no more HSBC retail banking here (the company says it will continue its corporate banking operations upstate). First Niagara says it will be consolidating redundant branches after the takeover. [TU]

First Niagara is a Buffalo-based bank, and some may be happier with the idea of supporting a bank based in the state, rather than one based in London. Other bank customers might lament losing the worldwide reach of HSBC, which allowed them to do their banking or use ATMs while in other parts of the country or world.

What's funny is that this is first time we can recall an international conglomerate bank being replaced by a closer-to-home name. HSBC itself first entered the Capital Region in the early 2000s when it bought up Marine Midland bank branches. The HSBC retail brand entered the Capital Region when the parent company changed the name of Marine Midland branches in the late 1990s (HSBC had bought Marine Midland in the 80s). [Daily Gazette archive]

The switch might be a good opportunity to become a banking free agent. What's your bank -- would you recommend it to free agents? And what do you look for in a bank?

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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!

Aunt Katie's Attic

Aunt Katies Attic front desk

De-clutter? Not here.

By Hannah Walker

You won't find Aunt Katie reading up on the de-cluttering trend.

That stuff, she says, is written by "totally anal people."

Yes, the proprietor of Aunt Katie's Attic in Scotia is not your average antiques dealer.

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Which way to IKEA?

ikea paramus vs new haven

There's a lot more to consider than distance.

One thing is clear from the recent discussions about chain stores: people around here love IKEA. And AOA very often gets search referral traffic for the query "closest IKEA Albany."

There are two primary IKEA options for the Capital Region: Paramus, New Jersey and New Haven, Connecticut.

So, which IKEA should you go to? We've broken down the decision...

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What's the closest (chain store for which people have a remarkable longing)?

cabelas cougar killing deer

See what you've been missing at Cabela's.

Following up on Chuck's much-commented Soapox post about chains people would like to see come to the Capital Region, we figured it'd be fun (if that's the word) to see where the closest current locations are for some of the most-mentioned chains.

The list is after the jump, sorted from closest to farthest. Aside from IKEA, we're not sure why you'd necessarily drive all that distance for one of these places -- but, hey, to each their own (chain).

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About the Niskayuna Co-op and ShopRite...

niskayuna co-op shoprite composite

Niskayuna's grocery heart and soul -- for how much longer?

By Katie Beltramo

With the news that ShopRite is returning the Capital Region with a location at St. James Square in Niskayuna, the next thought many people seemed to have was: what about the Niskayuna Co-op?

Almost everyone who shops the Niskayuna Co-op shops somewhere else, too. But the place is widely considered to be the area's grocery heart and soul -- and inspires a fierce, fervent loyalty among its shoppers.

OK, so why? And now that a large supermarket is setting up just down the street, what now?

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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

Before we get a Wegmans or a Trader Joe's

in-n-out burger fries

A faraway object of Chuck's desire.

By Chuck Miller

soapbox badgeAll you have to do around here is mention the words "Wegman's" or "Trader Joe's" in the Capital District, and people go nuts. They want a Wegmans in this area so badly, you would think Wegmans offered six-packs of divine ambrosia on every aisle. And then they decry the "gentleman's agreement" that either exists or doesn't exist between Wegmans and Price Chopper -- the agreement (or non-agreement) that keeps the grocery store chain out of the Capital District. And of course, after that they want a Trader Joe's in the area.

Oh, why can't we get a Trader Joe's? Whaaa, I want a Trader Joe's! If I don't get a Trader Joe's in the Capital District, I'm going to hold my breath until I turn blue!!

Okay. Everybody sit down.

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The Malta Drive-in Market

malta drive-in signThe new market at the Malta Drive-in starts up this Sunday. It's scheduled to run each Sunday from now through early October.

The lineup for the market includes local artisans, antique dealers and food. It sounds kind of fun -- so we bounced a few questions to the market's organizer, Mike Thompson, about what we should expect...

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Best Cleaners spring refresh: Emily Vorce

Emily Vorce before 525.jpg

Emily in her pre-refresh winter uniform.

best cleaners logoOn day two of our shoptastic Best Cleaners spring refresh weekend we met Emily Vorce.

Emily works in the Berkshires, and has spent the better part of the last few months hiding under lots of layers. In her entry she told us:

The uniform out here is sweater on top of turtleneck, tights, skirt, boots, multiple undershirts. It's freezing and you can get buried in sweaters and never get out. I'd like to transition into some great spring dresses with florals and colors. Something cheery, less serious.

Kaitlin and Carey's task: to lighten things up a bit. They had some help from V Salon's Rebecca Taft and make-up artist Cindy Slyke.

Like Michael Walsh, Emily was a great sport -- excited and ready to try new things. And, like Michael, she looked gooooooood.

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Best Cleaners spring refresh: Michael Walsh

Best spring refresh Michael Walsh before

As Kaitlin and Carey said: "It's so funny that he wasn't even going hunting."

best cleaners logoRebecca snipped; Kaitlin, Carey and Rob shopped; and Michael -- well, Michael tried on a lot of clothes and was a very good sport.

And today we have the results of the first Best Cleaners/AOA wardrobe refresh.

That's Michael pre-refresh above. As he said with his entry:

A dirty Yankees cap, woodland camo, a hooded sweatshirt, ripped Carhartt pants and (purchased used) Bellvue combat boots. And no, I wasn't going hunting or working outside on this particular day. Considering my daily wardrobe, my friend figured it would be funny to post a picture of me holding his Macy's bag containing a brand new suit. Oh, the irony. A refresh would be good so at least I look semi-acceptable if I ever go out on the weekend.

We think it's safe to say he ended up better a lot better than "semi-acceptable."

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Best Cleaners spring refresh winners

best cleaners logoThanks to everyone who entered the AOA/Best Cleaners Spring Refresh contest.

Fashionistas Kaitlin and Carey have made their choices, and they're ready to go shopping.

So, who won?

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Upcycled Etsy: Eco-friendly, with a twist

upcycling composite

Everything old is new again.

By Akum Norder

In the trinity of reduce-reuse-recycle, there's something special about reuse.

An item used again can mean one less new item consumed. And when you've used it up, you can make it into something else. That's what our grandmothers would have done, right?

Except, of course, that that's easier said than done. Good intentions can still lead to uninspiring results. (Cue the echoes of blue jean purses, milk carton birdfeeders and nature scenes painted on cross-cut saws.)

Maybe it's my own awkward crafting moments that make me all the more impressed by people who can take old things and turn them into something beautiful.

There's a word for it that's been tossed around for the past few years: upcycling. It's defined as the process of taking something of low value and remaking it into something of higher value. It's not a new idea by any stretch: Everyone who ever made a quilt from pieces of worn-out shirts was upcycling long before the word was invented.

And yet, modern upcyclers' creativity can help us see an ordinary item in new ways. In the spirit of Earth Day, here's a look at some local Etsians who are giving new life to old items.

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Shopping the Mohawk Army Navy Store

army navy composite

Charge! Or, you know, pay cash.

By Akum Norder

When I saw the Army jeep and the ammo-draped mannequin through the window of Mohawk Army Navy, 3514 State St. in Schenectady, I thought I knew what to expect inside. Knives and camo gear. Flags and patches.

And they have all that. But the fun thing about a store like Mohawk Army Navy is that you never know what you'll find. There's more. Much more. And not all of it was quite what I expected.

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Best Cleaners spring refresh


Nice refresh.

best cleaners logoThe snow has melted, temperatures are warming up, the ice cream stands are open and tulip season is just around the corner. Time to open the closet and break out the spring wardrobe!

What's that? Last year's wardrobe just isn't working' for ya?

Maybe we can help.

AOA and Best Cleaners are going to give two people a style-refresh for the season.

The plan

Two winners -- one male, one female -- will get a shopping trip with style writers Kaitlin Resler (AOA,All This Happiness) and Carey Wodehouse (Corks and Caftans). Each winner will get an outfit worth $250 courtesy of Best Cleaners. They'll also get a fresh hairstyle from Rebecca at V Salon.

To enter

Email a photo showing why your style needs refreshing to This is about getting out of the winter rut and trying something new, so let us know a little about what you'd like to change, where you're at and where you'd like to go.

We'll select two winners to go shopping with Kaitlin and Carey and get a hair/makeup refresh at V on April 30 and May 1.

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An ode to Aldi

Aldi exterior.jpg

Think of it as your ghetto Trader Joe's.

By Albany Jane

It's Supermarket Week on AOA -- a whole week of posts about shopping for food. Because we all have to eat.

Oh Aldi, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

Aldi is one of the Capitol Region's discount grocery chains. The store has locations throughout the globe, and has owners in common with Trader Joe's. There are some similarities between the two.

Think of Aldi as your ghetto Trader Joe's.

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On being an opportunistic shopper

walmart entrance

Daniel couldn't shop at Walmart... right?

By Daniel B.

It's Supermarket Week on AOA -- a whole week of posts about shopping for food. Because we all have to eat. Today, Daniel B on his own fussy supermarket circuit.

"The best grocery store" is a mythical creature. It simply does not exist. And it doesn't matter if you are in Albany, Austin, Berkeley or Manhattan.

So forget about the best for a moment. The sad reality is that we don't really even have a great grocery store in the region. Choosing between our available options is like splitting hairs. But even if we had a Wegmans, a Whole Foods or a Trader Joe's within an hour's drive of Albany, it would still pay to shop around.

If you really want to know how to save money on your groceries, while eating healthfully and sustainably, the answers aren't found in the price of a common basket of goods shopped against the leading area markets. The answer lies in knowing where to buy your staples, and then shopping opportunistically.

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Shopping Target's new fresh-food offerings

target overview

It's like Target, only ... more.

By Akum Norder

It's Supermarket Week on AOA -- a whole week of posts about shopping for food. Because we all have to eat.

Time was, if you were stuck having to pick up something for dinner at Target, that meant grabbing some bread and some mediocre cold cuts, or maybe chicken strips and frozen veggies.

Things have changed a bit over at the Colonie Target.

Changed how?

Changed like green curry with shrimp and sugar snap peas over jasmine rice, plus a green salad with cranberries, balsamic almonds and fresh tangerine slices.

That's what I made for dinner after going to Target earlier this week.

Target's food offerings have expanded. At the end of March, the Targets in Colonie and Wilton opened what they call "PFresh departments," an expanded grocery section with produce, meat and baked goods. Targets in Latham and East Greenbush will get PFresh departments this summer.

I went over to the Northway Mall Target to check it out.

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Six things to check out at the Asian Supermarket

Asian Supermarket exterior

The Asian Supermarket -- not to be confused with the Asian Market.

By Albany Jane

It's Supermarket Week on AOA -- a whole week of posts about shopping for food. Because we all have to eat.

For years I've been shopping at the Asian Food Market on Colvin Ave in Albany, but in the last year, the Asian Supermarket -- the newbie Asian market in the Capital Region -- has become a part of my regular rotation.

The Asian Supermarket is similar to the Asian markets you'd see in major metro areas -- bright lights, clean floors, tall shelves, and a ton of selection. It's one-stop shopping for all of your Asian grocery needs.

I find myself there at least once a week. Here are a few of the reasons why...

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Greulich's Market

Greulichs Composite

By Liz Clancy Lerner

It's Supermarket Week -- all this week AOA will have posts about grocery shopping. Because we all have to eat.

If you want to understand how Greulich's, an independent market, has made it since 1953 at its current location in Guilderland -- start with the people:

+ Edna Greulich, now 84, opened the market with her husband Arthur -- and is still at the store on a daily basis.

+ Eddie Lysiak, a butcher, recently received a thank you note and package of chocolate drumsticks from a customer thanking him for serving her family for 50 years.

+ And manager Robert Van Allen takes only three days off a year.

Greulich's can't offer gas cards or the absolute lowest prices on most items, so they offer service. And after six decades in business, it's still working for them.

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Supermarket Showdown IV

jif jar still 18 oz

As the "stealth downsizing" of products continues to cover up price increases, brands are starting to point out when they haven't changed sizes.

It's Supermarket Week on AOA -- a whole week of stuff about grocery shopping. Because we all have to eat.

AOA's annual comparison of local supermarket chain prices is back. Walmart is the three-time defending champ.

Can Hannaford or Price Chopper close the gap this year?

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5 places to check out on Upper Union Street

Union Upper Union Big

By Liz Clancy Lerner

Albany's got Lark. Saratoga has Broadway. And Troy's got River. So what about Schenectady's walkable hub of shopping and dining?

With Proctors, the Greenmarket and a handful of restaurants - downtown is great. But when I'm looking to get some food, pick up gifts, and get errands done, my vote's for Upper Union Street. Thanks to efforts by local business owners and the Upper Union Street BID, the strip has grown into a lineup of unique, locally-owned stores run by passionate people.

Here are five places worth checking out...

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Shopping the Architectural Parts Warehouse

APW mantel

Perhaps it's just what your living room needs.

By Akum Norder

It's spring. It's time to renew. We open the windows, blow four months of dust off the bookshelf, and say aloud what we've all been feeling: "I'm tired of this place."

So what happens next?

A visit to the Architectural Parts Warehouse in Albany can provide inspiration for reinventing your house and garden -- and maybe in ways you don't expect.

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Adventure in Food Trading

adventures in food exterior

Non-descript on the outside -- a food adventure inside.

By Daniel B.

The first adventure is finding the place.

It wasn't too long ago that Adventure in Food Trading was conveniently located by the Pump Station in downtown Albany. Then you and your buddies could have a few beers, dare each other to eat something like rattlesnake, and pop next door to pick one up for dinner.

Now you have to go to Menands, where apparently Google Maps is completely useless. And while the warehouse's address is Broadway, it's not on Broadway at all. You have to navigate your way through a few roads that snake along a cluster of warehouses. But once you're there, parking is easy -- because you will likely have the place all to yourself.

For the most part Adventure in Food Trading exists to get chefs in upstate New York the specialty ingredients they desire. However, the business is open to the public, and you are very welcome to come in and shop the warehouse.

And, oh, what a warehouse.

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Going, going, gone

state surplus phones.

You could, you know, start a phone collection.

By Akum Norder

State government is a vast and various enterprise. If you ever need reminded of that, go browse New York state's eBay auctions.

The state, which sells surplus on eBay through its account nyssurplus-albany, often has some unexpected items among the usual filing cabinets and office equipment.

Here are some things the state has offered recently on eBay:

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The Botanic Studio

Botanic Composite

By Liz Clancy Lerner

Local brown-thumbs rejoice; a store just opened in Troy where you're urged to forget to water the plants you purchase.

The Botanic Studio offers terrariums -- "gardens under glass" -- and a variety of other nature-inspired home decor. Terrariums require very little upkeep and usually only need to be spritzed with water and trimmed back every few months.

Dawn Gagne is the owner of the store. She's an artist and gardener who has a background in management. She first started selling her terrariums at local art shows and craft shows. She did well and decided to invest her time and money into a storefront for her work.

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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

The Beekman Street Arts District: Saratoga, off Broadway

Beekman Street montage.

Saratoga Springs' Beekman Street Arts District.

By Akum Norder

Sure, you know Saratoga Springs: the track, the grand houses, and of course Broadway. But a few blocks away from that showcase street is a growing stretch of alternative Saratoga.

The Beekman Street Arts District is a group of galleries, shops and restaurants a short walk west from downtown. The small-scale streetscape gives the district a different energy than Broadway offers with its wide sidewalks and large shop windows.

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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!

Krause's Candy: The sweetest place in Colonie

Truffles truffles truffles.

Nom nom nom.

By Akum Norder

Love is great. No question there. But then there's ... chocolate.

The beauty of Valentine's Day is that it lets us indulge in both.

If you prefer your tokens of affection be coated in milk or dark chocolate, then nudge your sweetheart toward Krause's, 1609 Central Ave. in Colonie.

The local candymaker has been sweetening Capital Region life for 25 years. Recently Tom Krause, the owner, gave us a mouthwatering tour.

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Checking out Clothes Mentor

Clothes Mentor Composite
By Liz Clancy Lerner

I went hunting for some bargains recently at the Clothes Mentor in Schenectady. It's a franchise resale store* where you can shop for second-hand clothes or (attempt to) sell some of your own.

I was motivated to go after Jessica R asked the AOA crowd about where's the best place to sell professional clothes. Clothes Mentor was suggested by many.

The Schenectady store (there is also one in Albany) is nestled between a Plato's Closet and a Tuesday Morning. They're all a part of Crosstown Plaza -- a shopping center that also has an Ocean State Job Lot, PriceRite and a Discount Home Center. It's like price-saving row.

So, is Clothes Mentor worth a stop?

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Where to buy a sled?

old sled against barnAlbany Jane asked a very of-the-moment question today on Twitter:

Where can I get a sled?! (Besides W-Mart)

We've collected some of the answers after the jump -- and if you have suggestions, we'd love to hear them.

Also: Where to go sledding?

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The last-minute shopper's local gift guide


Peppermint Pigs -- a staple of Capital Region gift lists.

OK, here it is -- Christmas minus 4 days and counting. If you're not done shopping yet, you may be starting to feel a familiar holiday panic setting in.

But there's still a little time to avoid Wolf Road gridlock and still score some unique holiday gifts.

After the jump -- all in one place -- a rundown of AOA's favorite local holiday gifts from Christmases past and present. Take a quick look, then get out there and get it done!

Ready? Go!

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Local stocking stuffers

holiday gifts 2010 stocking stuffers

A little something.

By Jessica Pasko

The AOA elves are back to help you with your holiday shopping. We'll be bringing you fun, interesting, local gift ideas for the holiday season.

On this final day of gift ideas, I bring you the stocking stuffers. Most of these would also make great gifts for those people for whom you need just a little something.

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Coffee, coffee, coffee

uncommon grounds giveaway basket

Caffeine for the holidays

The AOA elves are back to help you with your holiday shopping. For the next couple of weeks we'll be bringing you fun, interesting, local gift ideas for the holiday season.

Life is too short to drink bad coffee, at least, in my humble opinion. But hey, some people don't always think they're worth the good coffee splurge.

Which is why this next installment of the AOA holiday gift guide is near and dear to my heart -- the gift of locally roasted coffee.

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Run, We Must shirts and hoodies

ben kn shirts composite

Wear, you must?

By Jessica Pasko

The AOA elves are back to help you with your holiday shopping. For the next couple of weeks we'll be bringing you fun, interesting, local gift ideas for the holiday season.

This next item just might be on my own wish list.

You might know Ben Karis-Nix for his unique blend of indie rock, but the local musician also designs a clothing line called Run, We Must.

I'm all about the feel-good gifts this year. And these shirts are a way to be fashionable and eco-friendly at the same time.

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Capital Region Etsy: other stuff

etsy holiday 2010 other stuff composite

Random. In a good way.

By Crystal Powell

All this week Crystal has been sharing local finds on Etsy.

None of these things are just like the others.

Except to say that they're really neat.

And they were made in the Capital Region.

And they can be found on Etsy.

So I guess they're a little bit like the others.

Anyway, to wrap up the Capital Region Etsy round-up, here are a few things from Capital Region Etsy shops that were fun and cool, but defied categorization.

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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

The gift of garlic

Saratoga garlic

Breath mints optional.

By Jessica Pasko

The AOA elves are back to help you with your holiday shopping. For the next couple of weeks we'll be bringing you fun, interesting, local gift ideas for the holiday season.

My love of garlic is well-documented at this point, but in my mind, you can never have enough of the spicy stuff in your life. So today in the AOA gift guide -- the gift of garlic.

Garlic aioli to be exact, from Saratoga Garlic.

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Capital Region Etsy: kid stuff

etsy holiday 2010 kids composite


By Crystal Powell

All this week Crystal is sharing local finds on Etsy.

Because I refuse to set foot into the madness that is a children's store during holiday shopping season, I've spent a lot of time on Etsy trying to find a great Christmas gift for my one-year-old nephew.

Between all the people who love this kid, he probably already owns at least one of everything in those stores, so I decided my best bet for getting him something he doesn't have would be to browse the kids shops on Etsy. In the process I came across some great local finds.

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Capital Region Etsy: clothing

etsy holiday 2010 clothing composite

A few ways to keep warm.

By Crystal Powell

All this week Crystal is sharing local finds on Etsy.

Every year when the seasons change I browse local chain stores trying to find hats or gloves similar to those my mom used to hand knit when I was a kid. Then I end up suffering through the winter with cold hands because I'm picky and can never find quite what I'm looking for.

This year I found a number of shops on Etsy who love to hand knit custom orders. So unlike that pair of gloves I saw at the mall that weren't quite the right color, I can literally get anything I want. Luckily, there are several local shops who know the pain of Upstate winters and have some unique vintage and handmade pieces.

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Capital Region Etsy: jewelry

etsy holidays 2010 jewelry composite

Made in the CR

By Crystal Powell

If you've been to Tight Knit or some of the other local craft fairs, you may already know that the Capital Region has a really awesome and diverse handmade community. Still, you usually have to wade through dozens of different vendors selling basically the same items to find that one diamond in the rough. And even if you wanted to spend your weekends combing the craft fairs, who has that kind of time?

In an effort help you navigate our local handmade community and spare you some of the holiday craziness, I've culled out some local Etsy shops that caught my eye. AOA will be posting some of my favorites throughout the week.

We start with some pretty fabulous handmade jewelry.

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Carbon Reduction Certificates

Adirondacks -B.jpg


By Jessica Pasko

The AOA elves are back to help you with your holiday shopping. For the next couple of weeks we'll be bringing you fun, interesting, local gift ideas for the holiday season.

OK, this one is for that person in your life that has absolutely everything. You know the type. It's also good for the particularly eco-conscious person.

Carbon reduction certificates from the Adirondack Council.

Because what says love more than helping preserve clean air?

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Where to cut your own Christmas tree

christmas tree farm beltramo

What other family tradition can involve small children and saws?

By Katie Beltramo

Here's updated info for 2012.

You've probably bought apples at a supermarket before, but isn't picking apples at a local orchard a much more satisfying experience? Sure, it takes more time, but you're embracing the season, getting a vastly superior product and supporting local farmers.

It's the same with cutting down your own fresh tree. It kind of turns an errand into an adventure. And we're lucky enough to live a short distance from several different Christmas tree farms.

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Hudson Valley Seed Packets

Hudson Valley Seeds - Dragon Tongue

Because winter won't last forever

By Jessica Pasko

The AOA elves are back to help you with your holiday shopping. For the next couple of weeks we'll be bringing you fun, interesting, local gift ideas for the holiday season. Today Jess kicks things off with flowers and veggies from the Hudson Valley Seed Library.

These aren't your -- excuse the pun -- garden-variety Burpee packets. Think varieties like Kaleidoscope carrots, Green Zebra Tomatoes, and Dragon's Tongue Beans.

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ShopRite for the Capital Region?

shoprite logoThe ShopRite supermarket chain is reportedly looking to build a store on Central Ave in Albany, according to Carol DeMare's story in the TU this morning about plans for the Capital OTB tele-theater site. "Sources" say as many as three ShopRites could be built in the area.

This is an interesting development because ShopRite would be the first full-scale supermarket alternative to the Price Chopper/Hannaford/Walmart trio since Grand Union dissolved. And competition is rarely a bad thing for consumers.

Also, for all the people pining for a Wegmans -- it would seem that adding yet another full-scale chain to this market wouldn't exactly make the Capttal Region a more attractive place for the W.

ShopRite ranked #22 in Consumer Reports' 2009 survey of supermarket chains, right behind Hannaford. Price Chopper was #27 -- though all three chains had roughly the same score.

We can't remember ever being in a ShopRite, though we've seen a bunch of them in New Jersey. Has anyone shopped there? What's the scoop? Would a Capital Region ShopRite prompt you to switch?

Earlier on AOA:
+ More Wegmans speculation
+ A first look at thew new Fresh Market in Latham
+ A first look at the new Troy Food Co-op
+ Supermarket Showdown III (our ongoing price comparison of local supermarkets)

Chicken sale at local online farmers' market

heldeberg market chicken saleHeldeberg Market -- the local online farmers' market -- has a sale on chicken this week. "All-natural ... anti-biotic, hormone and preservative free" whole chickens from Mountain Winds Farm are roughly $3/pound.

Sure, that's more expensive than what you'd pay for a "regular" chicken in the supermarket, but for a local "all natural" bird, that seems like not a bad price. And if you're wondering what you'd do with a whole chicken, we have one word for you: soup.

If you want a chicken this week, you have to order by the end of today (delivery is on Thursday).

Speaking of Heldeberg Market... Has anyone used this online market? How was the experience? Were the products good?

Earlier on AOA:
+ Details from Heldeberg Market's launch this past summer.
+ Changing Albany's chicken laws

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 first look at the new Troy Food Co-op

troy food coop composite

Tuesday was a soft opening.

By Daniel B

After much anticipation the Pioneer Food Market, also known as the Troy Community Food Co-op (or just the Troy Co-op), opened its doors Tuesday in downtown Troy. The area has been without a full grocery store for a long time. And having a place to buy wholesome and healthful foods downtown once again will surely improve the community.

You could feel the excitement of the people in the new store. Shoppers were going around saying things like, "This is a great thing for Troy." Upon seeing a little girl being pushed in a shopping cart, one patron wistfully said (with seemingly a sense of great hope for the future), "She won't remember a time before there was a co-op in Troy."

I have never felt this sense of civic pride emanating from within a grocery store. Ever.

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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

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

Where to get whole 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.

Paper Sparrow sold

paper sparrow artworkKate Eggleston, the owner of the fab downtown Troy shop The Paper Sparrow, has announced on her blog that she's sold the store. Her last day will be this Friday, August 27.

Writes Kate in the post:

I'll miss my customers, my neighbors, and the new friends I've made since opening these doors two and a half years ago. Troy is an amazing place, one that I'd given up on years ago, but it has come a very long way. It's so nice to be a part of such a fantastic community with great people and a friendly, welcoming environment. I hope to always be a part of it.

She says the new owner will be keeping the shop open, with a new name and look.

Earlier on AOA:
+ The Paper Sparrow: light and sweet

A first look at Fresh Market

Fresh Market Sign.jpg

Daniel B. Braved the opening day crowds at the new Fresh Market

By Daniel B.

You would have thought they were giving away shopping bags full of diamonds. Yesterday's grand opening of the region's first Fresh Market was a seething mass of humanity.

Traffic was snarled up for blocks at the intersection of routes 9 and 155, and their jumbo-sized parking lot was filled beyond capacity. There wasn't even a shopping cart to be found.

On one hand that was probably a good thing, since all of the people inside made it difficult to move around, and the checkout queues stretched all the way across the store. But on the other hand, The Fresh Market shopping carts seem to be a key part of the experience.

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Remsen Street in Cohoes

Remsen St.jpg

Remsen Street in Cohoes

By Jessica Pasko

Lately I've been into taking little sojourns to areas locally that I've never really thought to explore. This weekend I headed to Cohoes in hopes of checking out the views of the falls from Falls View Park . Unfortunately, the lower sections were closed off, making for something of a boring trip.

While deciding where to go instead, I took a stroll down Remsen Street.

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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

Felt & Wire

m-square press postcard felt and wireDespite (or, perhaps, because of) pushing pixels all day, we're total suckers for great paper products -- stationery, cards, tags, whatever.

So there was some smiling when we came across the Felt & Twine Shop recently. It's a designer-curated online shop of printed goods run by Cohoes-based Mohawk Fine Papers. There's also a blog.

It's not as expansive as Etsy (what is?), but it made from some happy browsing.

Earlier on AOA:
+ "I Love New York" by CAPow!
+ Lori Hansen's vintage letterpress
+ Paper Dolls
+ Susan Merrick

photo: M-square Press postcard

At the Warehouse is like a box of chocolates...

At the Warehouse body parts.jpg

You never know what you're gonna find

An often strange (and fun) box of chocolates.

Not everything you find there will be to your taste, but you'll marvel at the wide variety of cool ingredients. At the Warehouse is a little bit Restoration Hardware, a little bit antique shop, a little bit craft store and a little bit kitschy history museum -- with a whole lot of je ne sais quoi.

On a recent trip to find some items to complete the AOA patio-office (one of our happy places) we stumbled on a few things that struck us as weird/fun/cool/bizarre...

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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!

Beautiful -- and cheap! -- local flowers

oreshan flowersEAC emails with what sounds like a great deal on local flowers:

I commented a couple of days ago regarding pick-your-own-vegetables in the area, and mentioned the $5 bouquets at Oreshan's on Route 9.
Today I got the kid out of the house early enough to snap one up! At the stand they sit on a picnic bench in old tatty labeled large cans... I wish I had something like that at home. There were several cars there first thing this morning. Took a photo of the bouquet on the back deck.
See? Oreshan's is the best. I'm also enjoying the 40 cent gladiola stems in vases all over the house.

Oreshan's is at 1242 Loudon Road (Route 9) in Latham.

Click on the flowers for a better look.

Ahh! They took Anthony Bourdain from us!

twc discovery channel move

With the realization that there would be no more Dogs 101, there was unrest in the uptown office.

When we slumped down on the couch yesterday evening, we flipped on the TV and clicked around to the Travel Channel. Except it wasn't the Travel Channel. It was Discovery Health.

Who are these Discovery Health people and what have they done with Anthony Bourdain?

Flipping around some more, we found the screen above. Well... fine.

But here's the thing: we don't have digital cable. By choice. Yes, shocking. We have chosen to consign ourselves to 2002. We just never felt the need to pay the extra bucks to upgrade. The 70some channels that we already had seemed like plenty.

But now that means no more No Reservations. No more Dogs 101. No more random CSPAN2 wonking.

So we contacted Time Warner Cable.

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Albany Jane's guide to stocking the bar for parties

albany jane party drinks composite

Albany Jane game plan involves a few stops.

By Albany Jane

It's party time.

Say you're having anywhere from 5-25 friends, family, or moderately tolerable neighbors over for dinner.

What do you do about the bar? Wine, cocktails, aperitifs? If you can't hire a bartender for the night (and chances are you can't), you're on your own.

So here are a few stores that I enjoy patronizing for my party libations.

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"I Love New York" by CAPow!

capow I Love New York

When we look at this, we get the urge to pronounce the county names they way they're depicted.

We really like this New York State print by local artist CAPow!. We came across it in this interview she did with Jess Lyons.

The "I Love New York" print is available in CAPow!'s Etsy store -- an 8x10 is $25. She's also selling 16x20s for $50.

She also has prints in the same style for: Albany, Troy, Manhattan and Massachusetts.

Earlier on AOA: RagamuffinDesign by Jess Lyons

image: CAPow!

Barber Poll: Mensroom

barber poll mensroom exterior

On Columbia Street, around the corner from B. Lodge.

AOA Greg was in a long-term haircutting relationship for the better part of the last decade. And then he wasn't. Suddenly unattached, Greg was at a loss for where to get his hair cut. So he asked the AOA crowd -- and it had a bunch of good suggestions. Now he's playing the field, in search of a new shop.

I had heard some good things about Mensroom -- and it describes itself as "a contemporary barbershop with an 'old school' feel." So, it sounded like a good candidate and I was looking forward to checking it out.

The before/after pics and more after the jump...

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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!

What's the new $10 bus ride to New York like?

ny city bus inc logo

A cheap ride.

By Kalyn Belsha

As of today, the NY City Bus -- which runs between Albany and New York for just $10 each way -- has been up and running for a month.

So we thought now would be a good time to track down some people who've ridden the bus to give us the scoop...

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Summer essentials for men 2010

Don Draper in madras

How to pull off summer plaid, Don Draper style.

By Kaitlin Resler

Summer essentials for men are, I think, somewhat harder than for women.

There is no sun-dress to turn to with endless silhouette options, and so the summer uniform for guys turns into shorts and some variant of shirt.

Rather than attempting to find sartorial inspiration for summer that delves outside of this, I went on the search for summer's essential basic items for guys that are somehow more than just the usual.

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Union, RPI in top 20 for "return on investment"

nott memorial

Not(t) a bad deal?

An online service called PayScale has ranked colleges based on "return on investment."

Here are how the schools in the Capital Region stacked up:

Oddly, neither St. Rose nor Russell Sage Colleges were on the list of 852 schools.

Businessweek has the same rankings posted with a few more categories.

Here's the methodology, which is worth skimming. In short: the numbers were calculated using the 30 year median pay for a 2009 grad with a bachelor's degree, in a full time job.

MIT was ranked #1. The highest ranked public school was UC-Berkeley at #16.

(Thank, Fred)

Earlier on AOA:
+ Skidmore, Union, RPI among nation's most expensive
+ Capital Region college tuition

S&A West Indian Grocery

west indian grocery view of store looking back

A lot of countries are packed in there.

By Kalyn Belsha

S&A West Indian Grocery is everything you want an ethnic market to be -- not too big, and filled to the brim with tasty, yet hard-to-find items.

Tucked away off Central Avenue, the store specializes in African and Hispanic Caribbean products. It looks pretty tiny from the outside, but inside you'll find everything from Ghanian yams to Jamaican ginger beer to oxtails and cow feet.

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Summer essentials for women 2010

Breakfast-at-Tiffanys Audrey-Hepburn black-hat-sunglasses

Big hats are on the list, and they go great with sunglasses...

By Kaitlin Resler

It's officially the first week of summer.

So AOA fashionista Kaitlin Ressler did one of her favorite things. She hit the mall looking for what she considers this season's essentials.

After the jump, essentials for women. (Next week, essentials for men.)

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From here to... someplace else

kayak explore screengrab

That one at the bottom is Puerto Rico.

Check it out: the travel website Kayak has an "explore" option. You tell it where you're at, how much you'd like to spend, the season you want to go -- and it tells you where you can fly.

Here's the result for flights from ALB this summer under $400. (That's the screengrab above.) You can also sort by activity, language and weather (we're filing this away for January).

There's something about seeing all the spots mapped out like that gives us a bit of wanderlust...

[via Kottke]

Earlier on AOA: Daydreaming of a long weekend

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.

Heldeberg Market

heldeberg market logoA new local online farmers market, called Heldeberg Market, launched today. Here's the setup:

  1. On the market's website, you pick a basket of products available from farmers in the hill towns of Albany County -- everything from herbs to maple syrup to wool
  2. Pay online
  3. Orders submitted by Tuesday at midnight are delivered the Thursday of that week to either your workplace (during the day) or home (during the evening). There's free delivery for workplaces that have five or more orders.

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Swimsuit shopping (yes, it's time)

swimsuits summer 2010 composite

Everybody into the pool!

By Kaitlin Resler

Lately every day feels more and more like real-life summer than spring. Shedding our cardigans and one teeny layer after another, it becomes more and more obvious that we're eeking into bathing suit season. Whether it's for dips in the pool or weekend excursions to ponds, lakes, and oceans, the nagging want of a new suit pops up every summer, even if last year's faithful suit is just fine.

It's probably one of most people's least-favorite shopping trips, the bathing suit shop -- and it's certainly not a favorite of mine. But instead of trudging through the racks and feeling resentful of handing over my hard-earned pennies for the teeniest garment, I chose to run around as though a magnificent vacation was on the horizon -- even if it was just imaginary.

After the jump -- some of the suits I found for women and men.

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NY City Bus -- competition for the MegaBus?

ny city bus inc logo

A new bus service between Albany and NYC started up today. The aptly-named NY City Bus is selling one-way rides to/from the city for $10.

That's cheap -- even cheaper than the MegaBus in many cases. A round trip ride on the MegaBus this week will cost you $60 if you bought now. (You can get it for as little as $18 if you book the same ride for a month from now.)

We had never heard of NY City Bus until recently, so we did a little bit of poking around -- and it looks like the bus line has a lot of similarities to the DragonDeluxe line. There are so many similarities that we wonder if it's connected to the Dragon. It shares the same pick-up (91 Colvin Avenue and 102 Central Ave in Albany) and drop-off (26 Canal Street and near Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan). And the two services seem to use one of the same operators (All State). The NY City Bus corporation was registered this past March and the listed address in Chinatown in Manhattan is different from that of the company that runs Dragon Deluxe, according to the listing on file with the state.

The Dragon Deluxe fare is roundtrip fare is more expensive -- $40 vs. $20. The NY City Bus site doesn't list the $20 fare as a promotion or sale or anything like that.

The NY City Bus lists a handful of routes around the country. Has anyone ridden it before? Anyone have the scoop?

Earlier on AOA: We broke down the travel options between Albany and NYC by price, time and ease.

image: NY City Bus

Twilight Vintage in Troy

Twilight Vintage window

Twilight Vintage. The window displays are just the beginning of what's so fabulous.

By Kaitlin Resler

A while back, when I did the AOA vintage round-up, LQ suggested taking a gander at Twilight, a vintage store at 44 4th Street in Troy.

Now, generally a trip into Troy will keep me around River Street, peeking into antique stores but rarely buying. Not anymore.

Thanks to LQ, I've definitely found a new favorite just a few blocks away.

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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...*

The making of an original

Check out this totally charming video of Saratoga Springs jewelry artist Ashley Nizolek making a ring:

Ashley's line is called AN Original Jewelry -- and she has an Etsy shop.

Shopaway: a morning in Woodstock

woodstock shopaway composite

A morning (or afternoon) in Woodstock.

By Kaitlin Resler

Just in time for the weekend, with its promises of good weather, a shopaway guide for a morning in Woodstock.

It's one of the quickest day trips from the Capital Region -- even if it's just for dinner or that "get-out-of-town" feeling. And even if you don't leave with bags and bags of goodies, it's the perfect place to wander on a warm spring day.

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Madison Handbags: made in Troy

Trish Rost 2.JPG

Trish Rost, runs Madison Handbags from an old warehouse in Troy.

We're noticing them everywhere we go. They're stylish, they're custom made and, as it happens, they're sewn in Troy.

But you can't just buy one. You have to wait until you're asked.

Trish Rost was a sales rep for radio station WGNA when she dreamed up the idea for Madison Handbags. They're custom made bags you design yourself -- but can only buy at a hostess party.

AOA talked with Rost about her factory in Troy, and why she took the home party route in the age of the internet.

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Barber poll: Knockouts

knockouts interior

It's boxing gym meets bachelor pad.

AOA Greg was in a long-term haircutting relationship for the better part of the last decade. And then he wasn't. Suddenly unattached, Greg was at a loss for where to get his hair cut. So he asked the AOA crowd -- and it had a bunch of good suggestions. Now he's playing the field, in search of a new shop.

OK, let's just get this out of the way upfront -- no, I would probably never go to Knockouts on my own. But the place has gotten a certain amount of attention and the barber poll is all about trying new places. So, here we go.

The before/after pics and more after the jump...

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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

The new Forever 21 megastore

Forever 21 Entrance

It's huge!

By Kaitlin Resler

After months of construction and teasing from a sign looming over the section of Crossgates that used to be Dick's, the new Forever21 opened on Friday.

I don't mean to make this sound super epic -- it's not exactly high-fashion heaven -- but it's the largest of the chain's stores on the East Coast. And for quick, trendy pieces and four-dollar sunglasses Forever21 is certainly a place to check out. And if you've never been, or haven't set foot inside for a long time, now it's definitely worth a look.

So I took one...

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Bella Greenhouse: helping plants, and kids, grow

parsons greenhouse

Tim Nicholson helps plants and people grow at Bella Greenhouse

By Dawn Padfield

The sign for Bella Greenhouse is a small one and a little unexpected.

It's propped up at the entrance to the Parsons Child and Family Center Complex on Academy Road in Albany. Parsons is a multi-service agency that works closely with families and children offering counseling services, youth development programs, and mental health services and other programs.

So where does the greenhouse come in?

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Shopping for a women's interview suit

By Kaitlin Resler

KatherineHepburn.jpgA few weeks ago Erik investigated men's interview suits, and the many suggestions on where to find suits for women sent me on a shopping trip of my own.

For women, the classic suit is slightly different than for men. It seems standards of dressing for interviews or general office attire are more varied. Not only can cuts of jackets and pants morph into something totally different from the standard cut (cropped, peplum, pleated and high-waisted, ruffled, boxy, fitted), but the option of skirt to trousers is always there.

So I went and wandered around, checking out some of the suggestions, trying on all kinds of suits. And I found quite a lot...

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Timothy's World Market in Schenectady

Timothy's sign

Timothy's -- your one stop shop for goat and cricket bats.

By Jessica Pasko

Back when I compiled the AOA Ethnic Market Compendium a commenter pointed out that I'd missed some great Guyanese markets in Schenectady.

Schenectady has a pretty big Guyanese population, one that former Mayor Albert Jurczynski worked to help develop . The city now has a chapter of the Guyanese American Association and a whole bunch of Guyanese markets.

I took a drive out to the Electric City yesterday to check some of them out for myself. This was both a good idea and a bad idea.

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Rain gear: staying dry and stylish

singing in the rain.jpg

Does your rain gear make you this happy?

By Kaitlin Resler

Yes, yesterday was sunny and dry and lovely, but we're not out of the woods yet. It's early April, and we all know that April showers bring... raincoats, umbrellas, and makeshift rain-gear.

So that you don't end up using library books or newspapers as a shield against leaky skies, I took a quick jaunt around town last week to see if we couldn't dress a bit more like Paddington Bear while braving the waters.

After the jump, stylish rain gear for women and men.

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Supermarket Showdown III

worlds largest walmart


AOA's annual comparison of local supermarket chain prices is back. Walmart is the two-time defending champ -- and it hasn't even been close.

Can Hannaford or Price Chopper close the gap this year?

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Shopping for a men's interview suit in the Capital Region

Cary Grant 1.jpg

The suit to wear for interviewing -- or dodging international spies.

By Erik Dollman

If economists are to be believed, over the next several months we should start to see some job growth. With new jobs comes the opportunity for interviews.

Interviewing, for many people, is a mysterious science -- like alchemy or the inner workings of the iPhone.

So lets try to demystify at least one part of the process: what to wear. Oh, and where to find it.

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All aboard!

train shop composite

Model train shops keep chugging along.

By Kalyn Belsha

Every week on my way to the gym I pass Delaware Trains & Accessories on Delaware Avenue. It was never open when I drove by and I couldn't help but wonder: how does a tiny shop that just sells trains stay in business?

Turns out, there are several model train and hobby shops in the Albany area, and while many of the shop owners admit business is tough and fewer children play with trains these days, the unique subculture of modeling trains is alive and well in the Capital Region.

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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.

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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

The hunt for tuxedos in the Capital Region

Waldorf Tuxedo photo.JPG

The Waldorf on Lark Street in Albany

By Erik Dollman

I'm getting married.

I have four groomsmen, including my best man. Two of my guys are here in the Capital District, and two are out of town. One is downstate, in Rockland County. The other lives in North Carolina. And I'm here in Albany

With this in mind, I began my quest for a tuxedo rental solution that would work for my geographically disparate men.

But I'm pretty particular about tuxedos...

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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

Trends: the Boyfriend -- or 2 for 1 shopping


Diane Keaton made it famous, but the boyfriend's back.

By Kaitlin Resler

One of fashion's favorite repeating trends for women is borrowing from the boys.

Whether it's the cut of trousers, haberdashery details on blouses or shirts, masculine textiles on feminine silhouettes, tomboy elements of dress pepper women's fashion just about every season.

At the moment it's particularly popular. And hey, If the sizes are right, it's double-duty shopping, sampling the men's selections in stores to find pieces that are so neat and necessary that they'll fit both a his and hers wardrobe. The only problem is deciding who wears what garment when, or whether or not perfume or cologne lingering on blazers and sweaters prevents a second-wearing.

So, from stores in the Capital Region, here are some looks I like for guys or women.

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Liberty for Target is here

liberty for target composite

Patterns, patterns, patterns.

By Kaitlin Resler

The first time I heard the iconic British clothing brand Liberty was pairing up with Target for their GO International designers partnership, I was gleeful. Teeny-weeny floral designs (the kind Liberty is famous for) just for spring! And not just dresses, but men's shirts and ties, teapots, pillows, stationary... all kinds of stuff!

At the back of my mind was the tiniest bit of trepidation -- these collections have been disappointing in recent collaborations, but how could florals go wrong?

Thankfully, we have access to several Targets that carry the collections. I checked out the Albany and Latham locations. Here's what I found...

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Shopping all over: stripes

kaitlin spring stripes composite

Stripes for spring.

By Kaitlin Resler

Stripes get a bad rap. Makeover shows tend to harp on their unflattering aspects, citing them as the culprits that widen the figure, but a lot of that has less to do with pattern and more to do with fit.

When I think about iconic, classic clothing items, the striped shirt ranks high on the list.
The most classic version might be Coco Chanel's Saint James striped shirts, borrowed from fishermen

Just in time for spring, stripes are popping up in affordable versions all over stores. The trend toward the stripe seems to be mostly for women right now. They're definitely a spring staple to toss on with those hopeful floral pieces, and there's no shortage of them at stores in our area (in a range of prices for those of us saving our pennies).

I went on the hunt for stripes in the Capital Region, recently. Here's what I found.

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Kosher for Passover Coke sightings

kosher for Passover coke signFirst, outdoor ice cream stand openings -- now kosher for Passover Coke? It really must be spring.

We've gotten reports of sightings of the HFCS-free soda at the both the Slingerlands and Madison Ave (Albany) Price Choppers. Chances are it'll be in a store near you soon, if it isn't already (Hannaford usually carries it, too). Look in the special Passover section. Check for the tell-tale yellow cap.

So, what's the big deal? Well, normal Coke is made with high fructose corn syrup, which makes it not kosher for Passover (among other things). It also, according to soda snobs, makes Coke taste not quite right. Kosher for Passover Coke, on the other hand, is made with cane sugar (like Mexican Coke, which goes for about $1.80/bottle on Amazon) and is said to be smoother and have a cleaner finish. (Pepsi has been trying to capitalize on this with its "throwback" line.)

(Thanks, Fred and Amanda)

Where to find suit tailoring?

sewing machine closeupDan emailed today:

I saw the post on custom dress shirts on AOA, but what about suit tailoring?
Right now I'm looking at getting a suit from Indochino, but wanted to get measured and have a place to bring it to get some things tweaked, if necessary.
Last year I had a suit taken in at Hong Kong Tailors on Central, and they weren't too helpful about getting measurements done for an Indochino suit. They also weren't forthcoming on their prices for custom suits. The Indochino suits seem to be good quality, and reimburse for the cost of tailoring up to $75 (their perfect fit guarantee)

Well, we sort of understand why a local shop wouldn't be too interested in taking measurements for a custom suit shipped in from China. But maybe the measurement and alterations are better than no business at all.

So, anyone have suggestions for Dan? We'll widen this question a bit to also include local options for custom suits.

Here's one possibility: Vince Rua, the founder of the former Christoper's menswear store, has his own custom tailoring business now. Custom suits start at $695.

Also: after the custom shirt post, Wanda suggested tailoring from Amore on State in Albany and llcwine suggested Simon's Men's Wear on State St in Schenectady.

photo: Flickr user d3b...*

Where to get a ring re-sized?

ring in palmAmy tweeted last week:

I need to get my ring re-sized and my jeweler retired. Who do you like/trust around here?

She was nice enough to share the responses she got -- they're after the jump. Got one to add? Share, please!

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A new store like the old store

ultimate electronicsAs part of Tuesday's post about dead malls and empty big box stores, the former Circuit City space at Crossgates Commons came up. And as Andrew, Chris and Laura pointed out, there's a electronics chain going into the space.

Ultimate Electronics is a Colorado-based chain, in its own words, is "undergoing a rapid expansion" (100 new stores planned for the next year). As a broker told the Biz Review: the company "saw a void in the Northeast." (Funny, we hadn't really been feeling the void since Circuity City left.) The chain's site claims it shops Walmart and Best Buy everyday and then adjusts its prices so they can be lower.

Laura -- who knows a thing or 100 about this sort of stuff -- was nice enough to do little digging on the chain:

I checked Consumerist's tipline and archives, and I can't find anything *bad* about them, so that's a start. The only thing we have is that they were fined, along with pretty much every other store that sells TVs, for selling analog TVs without warnings about the DTV switch a couple of years ago.

The store is expected to open in late spring or early summer. [TU]

(Thanks, Laura!)

photo: Flickr user Dave Dugdale

Price Chopper gas discount for CDTA fares

cdta fuel advantedge

$50 at PC = $2 off a CDTA pass

Price Chopper has extended its Fuel AdvantEdge gas discount program to CDTA fares.

Here's how it works: This discount is based on 10 cents/gallon up to 20 gallon discount for gas. So for every $50 you spend at Price Chopper (while swiping your AdvantEdge card, of course), they'll knock $2 off the price of an eligible bus pass (31 day rolling, 10 day trip, Star tickets). Spend $100, save $4 on a bus pass. Spend $150, save $6. And so on. (As with the discount for gas, the credits can be used once and expire after 90 days.)

Here's a brochure that lists all the details.

The Chopper and CDTA are touting this program as maybe the first of its kind in the nation. They're running it for a 90-day trial period (now to May), "with the option to continue contingent upon its success."

photo: Price Chopper

Toyota recall service in New York

prius stock photo

The 2010 Prius is part of the recall.

The New York attorney general's office announced yesterday that it had reached an agreement with Toyota for "special accommodations" for New Yorkers whose cars are part of the massive recall.

The benefits include:

Pickup and return of the vehicle by a dealership representative or by flatbed truck
Transportation for the customer to the dealership and/or to his or her place of work
Alternate transportation, such as a rental car, a loaner vehicle, or taxi reimbursement, for the reasonable period that the customer is unable or unwilling to use his or her car
Expedited scheduling of repairs

And it's all on Toyota's tab.

A company official told Congress yesterday that it was looking to extend the benefits to all states.

photo: Toyota

The Capital Region's "good stores"

the good target in Latham.jpg

Where's the "good Target?"

By Kaitlin Resler

There are a lot of chain stores with multiple outlets here in the Capital Region. Some of them seem to have branches every three feet. While most of these outlets are very similar, often times it's pretty easy to figure out which is "the good store."

Here's a quick look of some of my picks for "the good stores" in the Capital Region, and what makes them so good.

Take a look and add your favorite "good store" to the list.

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The appliance swap out

energy starNew York State's "Great Appliance Swap Out" starts today. The program offers rebates on purchases of energy-efficient appliances.

It lasts for 10 days -- or until the funding for it runs out. There's a table on the program's web site that details how much money remains for rebates.

The are two levels of rebates, one for single appliance purchases (refrigerators, washers, freezers) and the other for buying a "bundle" -- a refrigerator, clothes washer and dishwasher. The rebates range from $50 for a single freezer to $555 for the bundle. If you recycle your old appliance, you can get a bigger rebate -- usually $25 more.

It's hard to complain about getting $105 back on the purchase of a new fridge. But we don't think we'd chuck a perfectly good appliance just for the rebate. If you've been thinking about replacing or upgrading, though, now might be the time -- especially since a lot of stores also appear to be offering sales along with the rebate.

If you do end up buying an appliance with the rebate, make sure you read all the rules and fill out the form in time. And ask the appliance store about recycling -- they might be able to help.

Bonus: If you're curious about how much a new energy-efficient fridge could save you on electricity, the Energy Star program has a "Refrigerator Retirement Savings Calculator" online.

Barber poll: B'yond Style

b'yond style exterior

It's in the strip near New Scotland and Manning in Albany.

AOA Greg was in a long-term haircutting relationship for the better part of the last decade. And then he wasn't. Suddenly unattached, Greg was at a loss for where to get his hair cut. So he asked the AOA crowd -- and it had a bunch of good suggestions. Now he's playing the field, in search of a new shop.

The shop up this time around: B'yond Style on New Scotland in Albany, across from St. Peter's. And, wow, did they have their work cut out for them -- my hair was a mess.

The before and after pics after the jump...

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Great local gifts for Valentine's Day

Dolce Biscotti Cookies

Like those Necco conversation hearts -- but better.

By Kaitlin Resler

Valentine's Day is nearly here! This means candy, lots of pink and red things, frivolous and sometimes-almost-too adorable paper goods, dinner reservations, flowers and all manner of stuffed animals propped in store windows. Oh... and, you know, letting the people in your life know that you love them.

After all the fuss of the biggest winter holidays has died down, Valentine's Day is a funny little break from the every-day. It's a little bit of warmth in the otherwise totally freezing, month of February.

Lots of Capital Region shops have their share of hearts and flowers but here are four of my favorite local ways to do something special for Valentine's Day.

What are your favorites?

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Finding the fashion: The Oxford files

Easy Spirit(lg).jpg

Classic + fun

By Kaitlin Resler

For the past couple of seasons, oxfords in various incarnations have been popping up on fashion blogs, on runways and going for extraordinarily high bids on ebay. Thankfully, it seems that local shoe retailers are finally offering these funny little sartorial legends.

I've been hankering after a pair for a while (shopping vintage doesn't seem to be helping me in this case) and since I have problems finding shoes that work for my poor feet, I've gone back to wandering the mall stores in hopes of finding some. I'd prefer a flat pair. The ones with heels are kind of cute too, but I've found lace-up heels to be pretty uncomfortable.

Oh, and today's budget is 100$--preferably less.

So here's what I found:

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Shopping vintage in the Capital Region

vintage store composite

There's good stuff out there -- you just have to know where to look.

By Kaitlin Resler

If you haven't guessed by now, I'm a vintage junkie.

I love old things, curious objects, and of course vintage clothing. Thankfully, we live in quite a good area for shopping vintage. I love perusing the racks and occasionally (okay, maybe more often than that) snatching up a find for myself.

Vintage stores can be kind of tricky -- they're doing the searching for you, and so prices are not always a bargain, but if you'd rather spend on something perhaps a bit more special, it's the way to go.

After the jump you'll find a list of places to shop vintage and some info on what you'll find. This list is by no means comprehensive -- there are dozens of funny little antique and second-hand shops tucked all around the area -- but these are my favorites of the moment (not just for vintage luck, but for set-up or general charm).

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The kimchi (and other stuff) at Kim's

kim's market composite

Kimchi and more.

By Jessica Pasko

I love almost anything that's pickled or fermented, and I especially love spicy food. So I was pretty psyched to discover the store-made kim chi at Kim's Asian Market.

If you've never had it, Kim chi is basically a mix of pickled, fermented vegetables that's pretty commonplace in Korean cuisine. It's got a funky, slight pungent taste to it with a varying level of heat.

So how was it?

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A haircut and a beer

barbershop beerWhile reading Fun in Saratoga's Dan's great post about his haircut at Swagger, the new barbershop in Saratoga, we took note of the fact that the shop offers customers a beer. As Dan wrote:

Finally, when my eventual, ummm I guess barber, Jenn (let's just say she's very different from the barbers I had when I was a kid, that's for sure), offered me a beer, I was in Caroline Street Utopia (at least Caroline Street afternoon utopia - later in the evening my Caroline Street utopia involves bars and even later it involves Esperanto, but I digress). And it's not mainstream and wimpy Bud Light or Corona they offer - nope - Swagger offers Pabst Blue Ribbon and Schlitz beer - the same blue collar cheap stuff with a bite that I used to steal from my Dad 25 years ago. Good brew, and it fits right in there.

It seems the beer with a cut has become a little bit of a trend.*

Rumors IV Men in Latham has offered customers for a cold one with their cut for a while. Adding to its rep as "the Hooters of haircuts," so does the new Knockouts on Wolf Road. And now Swagger. (We wouldn't be surprised if there are others.)

Update! B and Kim pointed out two more: the Men's Room in Albany and Executive Barber Shop in Latham.

A few shops in other cities have taken the "drink with a cut" angle even further. In Manhattan, a place on Wall Street keeps a stocked liquor cabinet. And a shop in the DC area serves martinis.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Barber poll: Jean Paul
+ Where should AOA Greg get his hair cut?

*There's old joke in journalism: if you can find three of something, it's a trend. So, uh, right.

photo: Fun in Saratoga Dan

Overcoming the mid-winter fashion blues

winter fashion composite

It's worth the effort!

By Kaitlin Resler

I'm feeling the weight of January.

Sure, we've had a few oddly warm days, but coats and boots are still required, there's slush, and it's going to be really, really cold for a long time.

These are the days when it's hard to resist dressing down and wrapping oneself in a cocoon, or, you know, caring enough to put an outfit together. Dressing well in an upstate winter is hard, especially when the holidays are over and it's just plain cold.

So I went shopping in the Capital Region and gathered a few ideas to help get over the mid-winter fashion blues:

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The ethnic market map

ethnic market map screengrab

This way to the tiramisu...

By Jessica Pasko

The Capital Region has a great number of wonderful little specialty markets that I just can't resist. From Greek to Italian, to Indian and Russian, and everything in between.

While this is by no means fully comprehensive, AOA's put together a Capital Region Ethnic Market Map of some of our favorites -- a sort of ethnic market compendium.

Know of other places we should check out? Please share!

Stacking up beer prices

beer in store

So many choices...

Ahead of last year's Super Bowl, we checked a bunch of stores to see who had the lowest beer prices.

Well, this year's Super Bowl is just a few weeks away -- and you know what, we're feeling thirsty.

So let's go beer shopping...

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Where to get a custom tailored shirt

Caruso's Custom Shirts

Do you think there's a custom shirt for that little guy hanging from the lapel?

By Kaitlin Resler

A custom shirt doesn't just fit like a glove, it fits like skin. Better than skin even, because a custom-tailored garment hides, flatters, and accentuates.

Countless magazines, style guides, and makeover shows sing the praises of having ready-to-wear garments tailored. It can be a great help for anyone who has trouble finding sizes that flatter -- and a really fun luxury for others.

There's a history in a custom-made garment. Like couture, it's special and infused with care and detail. I don't mean to be overly romantic or wax poetic about this, but custom garments are a funny kind of imprint of an individual. Because they're special they can be passed down through generations, like jewelry.

Custom shirts are also a kind of a mark of arrival, like the first suit, first little black dress, first grown-up perfume or cologne.

There are a few places in the Capital Region where you can go for custom tailored shirts. I checked out the process at Caruso's Custom Clothier in Guilderland.

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Troy co-op slated to open this summer

Troy Food Coop sketch

A sketch of what the Troy Food Cooperative could look like by this summer.

By Jessica Pasko

So, you know that proposed Troy food co-op there's been so much buzz about?

Well if everything goes according to plan, it looks like you'll be able to shop there by this summer.

Here's the scoop.

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icon flyfrom albWe've been following @flyfromALB on Twitter and it's kind of interesting. It's a feed of flight "deals" as detected by Fare Compare.

A few of the recent updates:

$196r/t Raleigh-Durham from Albany down 12%, []
$385r/t Mexico City from Albany, winter or spring down 29% []
$675r/t Honolulu from Albany down 16%, []
$937r/t Bangkok from Albany, winter or spring down 11% []

After just a quick scan, the deals seem to match up fairly well with results from Kayak.

[via @alexisgrant]

Buying a winter coat. Yes, in January.

coats big.jpg

Is it time for a new coat?

By Kaitlin Resler

Yes, it seems like a lot of mall stores are already getting their spring stuff, but here in the great Northeast, it's still winter. And it will be for a long time. And frankly, I'm feeling the winter blues or whatever you call the slump that happens when you realize that yes, you do still have to wear eighty-seven layers to make the walk to your car.

It's also the time when many of us come to realize that our old winter coat just isn't cutting it in this cold.

If your winter coat isn't working out, or you're in need of a fallback, now may be the right time to pick up a new coat. It's not just that coats that were left over from holiday shoppers are marked down, it's also that coats that didn't fit or weren't quite right have been returned to stores and some of those are also marked-down. You might just find the coat you wanted months ago but that sold out in a flurry of chilly anticipation.

I went coat shopping recently to see what was left and what kind of deals are available.

Here's a look at what I found for women & men:

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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

Who has the best egg nog?

egg nog tasting lineupSince we're right in the middle of prime egg nog season, we figured it was a good time to recycle this post about taste testing locally-available eggnogs.

We remember being a little surprised by the results. There were a lot of good comments, too.

Local holiday gift guide round-up


The Peppermint Pigs from Saratoga Sweets are still one of our favorite holiday gifts.

If you haven't finished (or -- you know -- started) your holiday shopping yet, there's a good chance you're getting a little... what's the word we're looking for? Panicky?

No worries. We've had the AOA elves out compiling a list of local holiday gifts that are fun to give and pretty easy to get.

Check out the full list after the jump. And by all means, if you have a good last-minute gift in mind that you'd like to add, pass it on.

Happy shopping.

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Saratoga Last Vestige closing

last vestige outsideThe Last Vestige record shop in Saratoga is closing soon, reports the Post-Star's Thomas Dimopoulos.

And what about the Albany location?

"We're not going anywhere."

That was the word today when we called up the Quail Street shop and talked with Chris Lawrence, who's worked there for 10 years. He told us that business at the Albany location has been "pretty decent" lately. But, mirroring the problems in the music industry, business as a whole has been down the last few years. CD sales have taken an especially hard hit -- and the Saratoga location did much of its business selling those discs. "It came time to consolidate."

Lawrence said the Albany store still sells a lot of vinyl records, especially via eBay and mail order. He says they ship vinyl all over world -- even to far-off places such as Kazakhstan.

The Saratoga location opened in 1999. The shop's manager is trying to open a new store -- and there's a benefit concert planned to help out the effort.

The Albany location has been open for 20 years.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Heather called Last Vestige Saratoga the place for "a proper browsing and cop-a-media-feel experience."
+ The records keep spinning at Blue Note

Holiday gift guide: museum shops

AIHA artblocks.jpg

From the gift shop at the Albany Institute.

By Kaitlin Resler

Sometimes, in order to find just the right "what" you've got to find the right "where."

Some of the most overlooked "best places for gift shopping" in the Capital Region aren't in the malls -- they're in the museums. Best part -- you're supporting the museum while you shop.

Here are some local museums with lovely gift shops and a few of the gifts you can find there.

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Holiday gift guide: bags at The Paper Sparrow

Paper Sparrow Bags.jpg

They're our bag, baby. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

We were Victorian Strolling through Troy last weekend when we popped into The Paper Sparrow to see what new home made goodies Kate had added to her collection.

What we saw on the wall had us digging for our wallets.

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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

Holiday gift guide: Albany Etsy

holiday etsy composite

A little something for everyone.

By Kaitlin Resler

Internet shopping makes the holidays infinitely easier to battle through, allowing us to avoid the frustrating lines in the mall and the dreaded parking wars.

On the other hand, how does one shop locally while remaining in the comfort of their pjs?

As it turns out, a whole bunch of our favorite local artists, crafters and other awesome gift-makers have shops set up on Etsy!

Here are three sellers who offer items I covet myself but will sacrifice as gifts for those who deserve fantastic local gifts:

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Hudson Under $100 2009

henry hudson maskSam Pratt has launched his "Hudson Under $100" guide for this year. As he did last year, Sam has explored Hudson many Warren Street shops for holiday gifts that cost $100 or less. He says he'll be adding items each day over the next few weeks (those are Henry Hudson masks, $5 each at MIX).

New this year: you can sort items by price and street block.

The site is great for virtual window shopping. We love gawking at all the photos of beautiful or odd objects.

photo: Sam Pratt

'E ko logic: "green" clothing from Troy

Ekologic shirts.jpg

Racks full of great shirts that used to be other stuff

By Jessica Pasko

Old sweaters and t-shirts become one-of-a-kind high-fashion items at Ekologic in Troy.

The company's been making their green-friendly sweaters, mittens and more since before "green" was trendy and they're definitely worth checking out.

Ask Brad Pitt and Catherine Keener. They're among the celebs who have been spotted wearing 'e ko logic designs.

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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

Barber poll: Jean Paul

greg hair beforeAOA Greg was in a long-term haircutting relationship for the better part of the last decade. And then he wasn't. Suddenly unattached, Greg was at a loss for where to get his hair cut. So he asked the AOA crowd -- and it had a bunch of good suggestions. Now he's playing the field, in search of a new shop.

Thanks to everyone for all the great suggestions. I'm looking forward to checking out a bunch of them (though, sorry Siobhan, there will be no weaves).

The first stylist up suggested herself: Rebecca at Jean Paul in Stuyvesant Plaza.

Update: Rebecca has since moved down the street to V Salon.

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Shopaway: Northampton, MA

kaitlin noho composite

A daytrip to NoHo

By Kaitlin Resler

It's no secret that the Albany area is located in a pretty awesome spot for day-trips. Heading out an hour or so in pretty much any direction will land you somewhere interesting. One of my favorite spots to visit is Northampton, MA. It's only an hour and a half away and is worth every second of the drive.

Especially if you like to shop.

So if you need a quirky gift, the nearest Urban Outifitters, an old-school photobooth, or just an alternative to Black Friday at the mall -- this is your destination.

Here's the inside on what not to miss:

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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.

Tight Knit's holiday market

tightknit logoTight Knit, the art/craft market in Troy, getting ready for its big Holiday Market in the Frear Building on the day after Thanksgiving. Say organizers Zhenelle Falk & Rachel Naylor via email:

We'll have 3 floors of over 50 vendors, live music and lots of good cheer. The message is "Beat the big box - buy local!" and it is sure to be a ton of fun. Better than the mall!

The market will be open 5 pm - 10 pm on November 27 (that's also Troy Night Out). Vendor registration is still open (you can sign up on the web site).

Tight Knit also started up a weekly market this past summer at the Saturday Troy Waterfront Farmers' Market. That show has moved to the Atrium for the winter, along with the farmers' market.

Corks and Caftans' Carey and Rob

carey and rob

Rob and Carey

By Kristin Campbell

"Wine lover marries fashion addict. Blog ensues."

That's Carey Wodehouse's Twitter bio. It's also the short story behind Corks and Caftans, an endearing and addictive journal-style blog written by Saratoga Springs-based newlyweds Carey Wodehouse and Rob Burden. The 20-somethings started the blog last December to document things they love: wine, fashion, Eli (their "kidun"), music and various shenanigans.

Corks and Caftans hit the big time -- in the fashion world, anyway -- a couple weeks ago when Carey was featured as a favorite blogger on's blog (definitely worth a read, especially for Carey's personal style description). And with good reason. The personality Carey and Rob bring to the site is personal and refreshing -- they primarily praise instead of pan (always harder to do than it looks). And they do it with a sense of humor.

Yet even with attention in the fashion world and thousands of readers, Corks and Caftans is still virtually unknown here in Capital Region -- a tragedy that will henceforth be rectified! As a public service, I met Carey and Rob to sample some wine and find out what the two tastemakers adore about this area.

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The search for winter boots

DSW Boots.jpg

So many boots. So much ugliness.

By Kaitlin Resler

Not to be a downer, but snow is coming.

Piles and piles of snow.

We're all thinking it -- tugging our winter coats out of closets and waiting for the gloves and scarves to go on sale. Then, there is the trickiest part of the winter ensemble: the winter boot.

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Lucia of Saratoga

By Kaitlin Resler

Lucia.jpgIf the list of things you need includes: delicate jewelry, a special dress, late-fall mittens for windy walks, a passport case (so that you can wear said dresses and jewelry to somewhere awesome), a clever postcard, or a gift for someone who is terrifically hard to shop for, I offer you Lucia in downtown Saratoga springs.

Those who remember the Saratoga shop, Mabou, can think back to the jewelry and gift selection (Lucia is owned by Lucy Strauss, the daughter of Mabou owner Mark Strauss). Lucy's shop is one of my favorite places in downtown Saratoga that doesn't involve food.

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Sweet Peas in Delmar

Sweet Peas.jpg

Sweet Peas in Delmar. Cool stuff, but no peas.

By Jessica Pasko

No, Sweet Peas is not a farm stand.

It's a place to go if you're looking for a cool antique dresser or a pair of locally made earrings.

They don't sound like things you'd shop for in the same store, but this new-ish shop in Delmar may be the place to find both.

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The "bigger, better" bottle bill begins

hannaford bottle bill largeSteven snapped this photo while shopping at the Latham Hannaford recently (there's a larger pic after the jump). It says:

"Beginning this month, soda prices here in New York reflect cost increases associated with the new bottle bill. These costs are passed from suppliers to our stores."

The bottle bill referenced in the sign is the "Bigger, Better Bottle Bill" that takes effect this week.* The first result of the bill that you'll probably notice is a five cent deposit on bottled water.

But that sign is about soda, which already carried the nickel deposit. So what sort of cost increases are we looking at? We got in touch with Hannaford for details.

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Street Style

street style composite

Kim, Erin, Ashley

By Kaitlin Resler

Sometimes it seems like the general attitude toward style in upstate New York is that there is none -- or that it's severely lacking. That the masses of would-be style mavens are toning it down or tragically bemoaning the fact that we don't have Nordstrom, Anthropologie (I cannot lie -- an Anthropologie would make me very happy), or other fantastical retail extravaganzas.

No, we don't have it easy. So we're forced to get a bit more creative with our retail options. We have to dig harder, wander into sections we wouldn't normally think twice about, decide that three sizes too big is fashionably architectural and slouchy, bargain with ourselves over the price of shipping.

But it's possible. There is plenty of style to be found in Albany.

Here's some proof.

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Necessary Objects: Five fall items for guys

men's composite

Bundle up, guys.

By Kaitlin Resler

Yesterday we looked at the five (and a half) autumn essentials for women. But what about the guys?

Nope, we didn't leave you out, boys. Here are five essential items to get you through the season.

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Necessary Objects: 5 (and a half) fall items

fall composite

For dressing up as the temperature drops.

By Kaitlin Resler

Everyone waits for fall. At least in this area, where the leaves are gorgeous and crispy, and where we bring visiting friends and relatives on day trips to get cider donuts and take car rides on to walk around leaf-strewn streets.

Even though we love summer dearly, the poor soggy thing it was, one has to admit the dressing for fall in Upstate is one of the most exciting and challenging (wind!) activities season-wise (just try not to think of the coming snow banks, apologies for the reminder).

While shopping for totally new pieces is one of the highlights, this year the necessary items for fall are mostly in the accessories category, perhaps to help us all stretch out budget and revamp the wardrobes we already have.

Here are this year's 5 fall essentials for women:

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I Love Books in Delmar

i love books exterior

So, it's... books?

By Dawn Padfield

When a shop has a name like "I Love Books" it's not hard to guess what's inside. Books... bookstore... got it.

But what if it was called something like "I Love Books, funky gifts, and toys I haven't seen since I was a kid?"

Well then, you might just want to take a closer look.

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Shopping the farmers' markets

farmers market report logoOne of the best things about weekends in the Capital Region is shopping the farmers' markets.

This week: Lots of apples, winter squash and other good stuff.

Here are a few more details from the local markets about what to expect this weekend.

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Ali Baba's Indian Spices

Ali Baba Outside.jpg

Yep, it's little. But there's lots of good stuff inside.

By Sabrina Pry

I love Indian food -- and I like to cook, so I've always wanted to try making my own. But one false move with the cumin can send your significant other/roommate/cat running from the kitchen never to return. So for years I passed by Ali Baba's Indian Spices on Fuller Road thinking it probably was probably meant for folks more skilled at Indian cooking.

Last week I threw caution to the wind and wandered inside. Now I'm wondering what took me so long.

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Diving Discovery -- in Colonie?

Discovery Diving.jpg

For your inner Cousteau

By Jessica Pasko

For years I've been driving past something called Diving Discovery Scuba Center on Central Avenue, but I've never really given it more than a passing glance. Sure I've wondered, "Scuba gear? In Colonie?" But that was about as far as it went.

But you never know when you'll want to go diving for sunken shipwrecks and stuff -- so the other day I decided to venture in and check it out.

It turns out this place is for divers and wannabees.

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The place to buy a vacuum cleaner

sears vacuums

Products that suck.

Update: So, apparently we somehow missed an absolute wonderland of vacuums. Be sure to read the comments.

It's not exactly the most fun purchase, but at some point we all need to buy a vacuum cleaner. And thanks to ample fur produced by the office dog, that point came for us last week. Oh, the excitement.

In our search for a new vacuum, we didn't end up going all over town. But we did look a few places. And we feel pretty confident that we found one of the best (if not the best) places to buy one.

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India Bazaar

bazaar composite

For all your jackfruit chip needs.

By Jessica Pasko

This week my continuing tour of the area's ethnic markets has brought me to India Bazaar in Colonie. Think curries and chutneys galore. Think at least a dozen of varieties of naan bread. Think fun snacks. Think "gripe water."

Seriously, the selection here is pretty impressive.

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Dnipro Eastern European Grocery

Russian Grocery.jpg

When you've got to have borscht, and you've got to have it now.

By Jessica Pasko

A recent thread on Table Hopping turned me on to the existence of Dnipro, an Eastern European grocery store and deli.

Now really, how could I not check that out?

So a took a ride to Cohoes and found everything from instant borscht to Czar Nicholas tea.

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A bathroom full of toiletries for $26. Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the Dollar Tree.

Dollar Tree Toiletries.jpg

All for a dollar.

By Kim Wingfield

OK, so it's a rough economy and most of us are trying to find ways to cut back on anything possible. 

Necessary?  Sure.  Sucktastic?  It doesn't have to be.

Toiletries are a good place to start. It's amazing how quickly those little items can add up and break your budget. If you're like me, and have a particular kind of product that you don't want to sacrifice (i.e. pricey makeup, special haircare products), it's a lot easier to find space in your budget for that occasional splurge when you're saving a bunch on the rest of your toiletries.

I've found a really painless way to slash the costs on these little necessary expenditures: dollar stores. 

No, really.

You can get nearly all the toiletries you need in a dollar store for $26.

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Great deals on summer essentials

otto swimming

It's pool time.

By Kim Wingfield

Yes, we got royally cheated out of the first third of summer here in the Capital District. 

However, it's now mid July, it's getting sunnier and warmer and it looks like it's going to stay this way for a while.

So if you got disgusted and threw out your summer gear last month because either a.) you couldn't fit it on the ark you were building, or b.) it got moldy, here's where you can pick up all your summer essentials for under $50.

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Southwest 30-60-90 sale

southwest jet

Up, up and away -- for cheap.

Southwest announced what looks like a pretty good fare special today: every city is on sale for the next 48 hours. One-way fares are $30, $60 or $90.

Of course, there are a handful of restrictions. You have to travel between September 9 and November 18. The sale doesn't include Friday and Sunday flights. And you have to pay fees and taxes on top of the fare.

We were curious about what kind of deals we could get out of ALB. A list -- with a few comparison prices -- is posted after the jump.

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The Menands Farmers' Market

menands market.jpg

The Capital District Farmers Market in Menands

By Jessica Pasko

Farmers' markets are definitely one of my favorite things about summer and we're pretty lucky here in the Capital Region to have so many to choose from.

And while I'm trying not to discriminate or be a hater, everybody has markets that they're more partial to. High on my list is The Capital District Farmers Market in Menands.

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Marika Charles factory sale

marika charles factory

From a previous factory sale

Marika Charles -- the fashion knitwear label based in Schenectady (really) -- is having a factory sale this weekend. Apparently there will be some deep discounts.

The label's pieces are normally sold in fashion boutiques such as Fred Segel. Hipster fashion icon Sienna Miller has even been spotted wearing one of their cardigans.

Marika Charles, the company, is an interesting story. The company is a brother and sister team -- he's a textiles expert and she's a designer. They've developed a patented process for quickly dying fabrics with patterns created in Illustrator or Photoshop.

The factory sale is this Friday 10-6, Saturday 10-5 and Sunday 11-4.

photo: Marika Charles

Consignment shops for kids

fifis interior.jpg

Consignment for kids, Fifi's and Polkadots

By Dawn Padfield

Parents are always looking for a bargain. Especially on clothes. I mean, no sooner do you get them into a new pair of jeans or shoes then it's time to go shopping again.

Sure it's great to pass clothes and shoes back and forth between family and friends, but that's never enough. So I thought I'd check out a couple of the kids consignment shops in the area.

Umm... and the kids aren't the only ones I found things for.

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Shopping the farmers' markets

farmers market report logoOne of the best things about weekends in the Capital Region is shopping the farmers' markets.

This week-- get your strawberries!!! Also, garlic scapes are here --but not for long.

Here's more info on what to expect at local markets.

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The Closet Shop in Delmar

Closet Shop sign.jpg

Cool, higher end consignment finds

By Jessica Pasko

The Closet Shop is a little more, uh -- upscale than the thrift stores I usually prefer to frequent.

Still, a trip there this week proved that if you're willing to pay just a little bit more, there are all kinds of good things to be found.

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The Deli Warehouse

Deli warehouse counter

Sure, it's cheap. But how does it taste?

By Amy Brozio-Andrews

Deli meats and cheeses aren't cheap. So when I saw a commercial for the Deli Warehouse that advertised $2.99 roast beef, I had to check it out.

I mean, roast beef? For $2.99?

Price Chopper and Hannaford charge between $7.99 and $10.99 a pound for that stuff.

So really, how good could $2.99 roast beef taste?

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Save money on gas... at Price Chopper?

fuel advantedgePrice Chopper announced a gasoline discount deal with Sunoco today. Here's how the "Fuel AdvantEdge" deal works:

  1. Every time you spend $50 at the Chopper, you become eligible for a 10 cent/gallon discount at Sunoco
  2. Those 10 cent discounts build on each other -- so if you spend $150 at the Chopper, you get a 30 cent/gallon discount on gas.
  3. The grocery totals add up over the course of 90 days -- tracked by your AdvantEdge account.
  4. You can "spend" your accumulated discount on a single gas purchase of up to 20 gallons.
  5. Go back to step 1.

At least, that's how we think this works.

It's pretty easy to spend $200 at the Chopper over the course of a month. That would lead to a 40 cent/gallon gas discount. Depending on the size of your car, that could mean a discount of $4 or more on a fill-up.

So this could be a good deal with you're already a Chopper regular. But if you're not, you'd probably save more money overall by shopping at Hannaford or Walmart.

Albany Flea / At The Warehouse

Albany Flea.jpg

Opening Sunday at Albany Flea.

By Amy Brozio-Andrews

So if you've been to At The Warehouse - the salvage/ craft / flea market behind the Miss Albany Diner, you know the place is kind of a hodge-podge of interesting finds.

If you're in the market for a giant stoplight, or some handmade jewelery, some restored old chairs, a little artisan honey, or a vintage doorknob, it's a good place to look.

But last Sunday they kicked off something new - Albany Flea. It's a weekly outdoor flea market that will be open every Sunday through October.

So,what's it like?

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Checking out the new "green" Price Chopper

green chopper

That's green as in eco-friendly. The outside is actually sort of a tan color.

The new "green" Price Chopper officially opened today in Colonie. The Golub Corporation is touting the location as "the most advanced Green Store in the entire Capital Region."

OK, consider us interested. So we checked it out.

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Shopping the farmers' markets

farmers market report logoOne of the best things about weekends in the Capital Region is shopping the farmers' markets.

This week you'll find the first strawberries of the season, plus beats and sugar snap peas.

On the way out: asparagus.

Here's more info on what to expect at markets in Troy, Saratoga, Schenectady and Albany.

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L.L. Bean walk-on adventures

LL bean adventure 1.jpg

Kayaks lined up for an L.L. Bean walk-on adventure

By Dawn Padfield

If you're not really the outdoorsy type, walking through the L.L. Bean store can make you feel like a bit of a hypocrite -- bypassing the kayaks and fishing rods in favor of the ice cream balls and monogrammed totes.

If any of this sounds a little too familiar to you, here's a way to get some real 'trail-cred' without committing yourself to the weekend warrior lifestyle.

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The Ravena Barn flea market

Leisure Time Flea Market Sign.jpg

Everything but the kitchen sink. And maybe that too.

By Jessica Pasko

At first glance the Ravena Barn sort of seems like the place where unwanted items go to die -- a kind of final resting place for chipped plates, old housecoats and an entire collection of appliance how-to manuals long-since parted with their corresponding equipment.

The flea market on Rt. 9w in Ravena is lovingly and colloquially known as "the junk store,"
but I'm pretty confident you could find pretty much anything there. Anything. At. All.

If you're willing to look.

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Spinning yarn at The Spinning Room

The Spinning Room.jpg

Where the spinning wheels spin

By Amy Brozio-Andrews

Plenty of people have taken up knitting, but if you want to create something "really" handmade here's the closest way short of shearing the sheep yourself --spinning your own yarn.

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B. Lodge on Pearl Street


Est. 1867

By Amy Brozio-Andrews

B. Lodge is old school. Really old school. 

Albany's oldest store (established in 1867, according to the sign out front) has been on my "to visit" list for years, and last week I finally made it.

What's it like?

In a word -- eclectic.

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Shopping the farmers' markets

farmers market report logo One of the best things about weekends in the capital region is shopping the farmers' markets. All the local weekend markets have moved outdoors and they're stocked with lots of yummy, seasonal goodness.

This week's bounty includes rhubarb, greens, scallions, radishes, all kinds of seedlings and fiddleheads.

Here's a breakdown of what you'll find this weekend at the farmers' markets in Troy, Schenectady and Saratoga.

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Keeping the weeds down -- for free

Mulch (lg).jpg

How does your garden grow? With free mulch and compost.

By Amy Brozio-Andrews

Sometimes being a good shopper is knowing what you can actually get for free.

So, here's a deal for the savvy gardener -- free mulch. Well, it's only free to Albany residents. For everyone else, it's still a pretty good deal.

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Frank and Giovanni's Market

La Marqueta 2.jpg

La Marqueta

By Jessica Pasko

OK, so there's this market in Albany -- it has an Italian name and sells Caribbean goods to mostly Spanish speaking shoppers.

The place is called Frank and Giovanni's Market, but it may be better known as La Marqueta. And it's stocked with all kinds of exotic and interesting foods from tubers to plantains to pigs' feet.

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The magazine selection at Friar Tuck

Magazine's at Friar Tuck.jpg

They keep going and going and going...

By Amy Brozio-Andrews

Everywhere I go, it seems like the magazine selection is shrinking, from the bookstores to the supermarket.

Everywhere except Friar Tuck in Delmar. This newsroom/cigar store/ bookshop still stocks more than 5,000 magazines -- with lots of familiar titles and plenty that the big mall stores just don't carry.

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Baby gifts at Clearly Yours

Clearly Yours blankets.jpg

Baby blankets from Clearly Yours.

By Amy Brozio-Andrews

I don't think I've ever been to a baby shower where I haven't given the same gift someone else is giving.

Which is why I was immediately ready to stock up for the half-dozen moms-to-be I know when I saw these adorable ribbon-adorned baby bodysuits, blankets, and burp cloths at Clearly Yours in Latham.

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e ko logic sale in Troy

ekologic dressTroy-based design studio `e ko logic is holding a 50 percent off sale on its winter stock of recycled cashmere mittens, scarves, hats, dresses and sweaters. The sale runs through the end of Wednesday at its River Street studio.

There are pictures of the items on their web site if you'd like to pre-shop. Even at 50 percent off, some of the stuff is still kind of pricey. And it looks like most of the dresses, skirts and sweaters are in sizes XS, S and M. But it's all one-of-a-kind and... cashmere.

Swimsuit season?

Swimsuits at Target.jpg

Yes, now.

By Aja Lownes

Cold, rainy weather or not, the time has come to think swimwear. Vacation season is on the horizon (yay!), and swim suits are an integral part of it (yikes!).

I generally avoid buying swimsuits because I find it to be an... experience. But, there are couple of things I have learned both as a shopper, fashion enthusiast, and former sales associate. If you are in need of a new suit, do not wait until like, Memorial Day to buy one. Chances are, you will be disappointed.

Because the time to actually wear swimsuits is rather limited in our chilly corner of the country, and retailers are always thinking months ahead of shoppers, stores tend not to get much replenishment of swimwear. This means, if it isn't a pretty basic cut, in a basic color... you snooze, you lose. And the stores do start to stock them when there's still snow on the ground, so in their minds, you've had your chance.

Here's a quick look at what's out there now and a few tips that might make the swimwear shopping experience a little less painful.

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And the ads would have been so much fun

American ApparelAfter seeing this "American Apparel Coming Soon" sign on a storefront at 3rd and Broadway in downtown Troy, @MStyne asked us if we knew anything about it. We didn't -- so we checked with the company.

Here's the response we got from American Apparel's Emily Nerad: "So strange - we are not sure where the signage came from or who is responsible for it, but we are not currently planning on opening a store in Troy."

Not that you have to go wanting for sweatshop-free solid color t-shirts and underthings -- Some Girls Boutque, which is just a few blocks away, carries AA products.

Earlier on AOA: Troy is the new Brooklyn?

Image: American Apparel

Wraps at Burlington Coat Factory


It's a wrap. Well, actually -- it's a lot of wraps.

By Amy Brozio-Andrews

The workhorse of winter fashion will help get you over the hump until summer comes and then protect you from overzealous air conditioning. The problem is that it's darn near impossible to make those heavier fabrics and bold colors transition for warm weather dressing.

So it's time to invest in a spring or summer wrap. I found a pretty large selection of styles (solids, jacquards, animal prints, and more) in cottons, silks, and acrylic blends at Burlington Coat Factory in Crossgates.

The prices are pretty affordable, $7.99 to $12.99. Just watch out for the ones with fringe -- they tend to get caught on everything.

Free 60 day BJ's trial pass

BJs trialIf you've ever been curious to check out BJ's, the discount membership warehouse, the chain is offering a free 60 day pass. (A membership is usually $45.) There's a BJ's in the Northway Mall in Colonie (it's behind the Target).

The store claims to offer "30% off supermarket prices on favorite brands." We've been once or twice and the prices didn't necessarily jump out at us being super low, but we've heard from some people that they have scored deals there.

Anyone have recommendations/experiences/tips to share?

(Thanks, Fred)

Mirror Images: spa and salon on a budget

Austin Beauty School Clinic.jpg

Home of beauty on a budget.

By Laura Northrup

Mirror Images is a full-service salon, barber shop, and spa located in midtown Albany, where a large percentage of the clientele are severed heads. This sounds more off-putting than it actually is.

Let me explain.

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English Retread bags at Fancy Schmancy

Rubber bag.jpg


By Amy Brozio-Andrews

Here's a way to get more mileage out of handbags and accessories.


The other day I stumbled on these cool bags and belts made from used truck inner tubes.

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EB Essentials

EB Essentials Exterior.jpg

EB Essentials on Lark St.

By Amy Brozio-Andrews

If you've strolled down Lark street after 5PM, you may have wandered into EB Essentials.

If you've strolled down Lark Street before 5PM, you may have seen some of their locally made gifts from the window, tried to get in and whimpered a little from the other side of the glass.

Yes, it's a little frustrating, but here's the deal...

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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:

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Thrift at Something Olde, Something New

penguins from Something Olde

A quirky little find from Something Olde, Something new

By Jessica Pasko

Let's face it, if you're a thrift shopper, you have to keep yourself open to possibility. Borrowing from Forest Gump's chocolate box metaphor, "you never know what you're going to get."

At Something Olde, Something New in Slingerlands, you could walk out with a unique housewarming gift --or a pair of vintage Gucci alligator heels. You just never know. And that's half the fun.

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Shopping with Emma: The Eyeglasses Edition

By Amy Brozio-Andrews

If you've never been shopping with a 6 year old fashionista --you don't know what you're missing.

A few weeks ago I thought it would be fun to take my 6 year old -- Emma --shopping with me for new eyeglasses. Now here's the thing about Emma: for a first-grader -- well, let's just say Emma's pretty sure of her own mind.

Case in point, she recently told me I should "cover up" before going to volunteer at her school, "You know, everyone will know you're pregnant if you don't."

Um, I didn't know it was a secret...

Also, Emma's quite the F.I.T. (fashionista in training) with her slim fit only jeans (nothing baggy will do), sparkly t-shirts (the more sparkle the better) and her pink and purple sneakers. She has some pretty definite ideas about what passes for style.

Anyway, my frames were about five years old. Emma desperately wants a pair of her own (so much that I bought cheap dollar store reading glasses and popped out the lenses for her) and jumped at the chance to pick out glasses "for real."

So, off to LensCrafters in Colonie Center we go.

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Crazy dollar! 99 Cent City in Northway Mall

99 Cent City.jpg

You never know what you're going to find.

By Jessica Pasko

If you ever find yourself in need of a samurai sword, a pile of small Buddha figurine, a bamboo plant and a whole bunch of stuff to outfit your pad for your next Chinese New Year party, I know just the place -- 99 Cents City at the Northway Mall Plaza.

I can't lie - I'm just a little bit obsessed with this store.


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Listen and stock up

phantogram epThe debut EP for Phantogram (nee Charlie Everywhere) is now for sale. It's $7 and available direct from the Saratoga Springs duo via their MySpace page.

There's been a bunch of local music released lately:

+ Sgt Dunbar and the Hobo Banned released its five song EP Charlie Mingus' Garbage Pile two weeks ago ($10)

+ Also two weeks ago, Eric Margan and the Red Lions released their debut album, Midnight Book ($12)

+ And Rev Records' 00shoe Troupe has released its RPM album Tamizdat for free as a download ($2.50 for the CD)

Have we missed something? Share in the comments, please.

The hats at Soave Faire

Soave Faire.jpg

Mild mannered stationary store on the outside, mad hatter on the inside.

By Amy Brozio-Andrews

Hats are not the first thing you'd expect to see at Soave Faire.

This throwback to old fashioned five and dime stores on Broadway in Saratoga is packed with the weirdest conglomeration of stuff: art supplies, toys, journals, cards, drafting supplies, museum cards and Saratoga souvenirs . And in the back, they do custom framing.

But I'm going back for the hats.

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Kosher for Passover Coke

kosher coke 2009

The price is the same as last year.

Soda snobs rejoice! Kosher for Passover Coke has started arriving in local supermarkets.

What's the big deal? Well, normal Coke is made with high fructose corn syrup, which makes it not kosher for Passover. It also, according to soda snobs, makes Coke taste not quite right. Kosher for Passover Coke, on the other hand, is made with cane sugar (like Mexican Coke) and is said to be smoother and have a cleaner finish. (Pepsi is reportedly trying to capitalize on the soda snob market by launching a product made with cane sugar.)

Here's where we've found Kosher for Passover Coke so far...

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Locally grown sweaters

yarn share sheep

Sheep are good at keeping warm.

OK, not sweaters exactly, but the um, ingredients for them.

After seeing the recent post about farm shares, Ellen sent along a link to a yarn share based in the Hudson Valley.

Yep, it's like a CSA for knitters. Emailed Ellen: "It's the coolest thing. I know there are lots of knitters, crocheters and spinners in the Capital Region who would love to buy yarn this way and support a working farm."

The farm share started with a farm on Martha's Vineyard and later expanded to the Hudson Valley. And get this: one of the people who runs the share is former Columbia County state Assemblyman Pat Manning.

Bonus yarn info: Ellen says you can also buy locally raised yarn at Saratoga Needle Arts.

(Thanks, Ellen!)

photo: Martha's Vineyard Fiber Farm and Hudson Valley Fiber Farm

Dressing for spring in the Great Northeast

By Aja Lownes

small pink trench.jpgIt's springtime in the Northeast, and our weather situation is notoriously volatile. Sure, we've just come off some nice weekend weather, but even though most of us are over winter, winter may not be through with us.

There are lots of fun spring clothes in the stores and in our closets made of lightweight fabrics in the most vibrant of hues; but it's still too cold to wear most of them "as is". The key to approaching Spring from a fashion standpoint is the mix and match.

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The blue screen of death? Where to now?

blue screen of deathDan emailed us this week asking if the AOA crowd knew of a good place in the Capital Region to take a computer that needs some help. Anyone have good experiences?

Dan has a Windows machine, but we'd love to hear about good places for Macs, too (aside from the Apple Store, of course).

photo: Flickr user KrAzY KorY

Troy is the new Brooklyn

Troy is the New Brooklyn.jpg

Who knew?

When the folks at Some Girls Boutique closed their Colvin Avenue store and consolidated in their shop on 2nd Avenue in Troy, they left this message in the window for their customers, "Troy is the new Brooklyn."

We love the Collar City, but here's what we need to know -- if Troy is the new Brooklyn, does it come with good bagels? And can Harry Tutunjian help Sandor find a decent egg cream?

(Thanks, Laura!)

Shopping the sales in Saratoga

the shoppe.jpg

Big sales in the Spa City.

Oh, Saratoga, how we love shopping your cute little boutique stores. The unique finds, the beautiful high quality clothing. But we're on a budget -- and window shopping is such a tease.

What's that you say? Sales? A lot of them? Hmmm. We're intrigued.

Yep, AOA took a little Spa City shopping trip this week and found some really good deals.

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Household Saints at Our Lady of Grace Gift Shop

Household Saints.jpg

Household Saints. Hey, you never know.

By Amy Brozio-Andrews

Because you wouldn't want your Glitter Jesus to get lonely, would you?

Okay, so maybe hearing all the terrible news about the economy has got you thinking you need a little extra help. You can have your very own box of household saints, complete with three figurines (St. Joseph, St. Clare, and St. Jude) and a book with almost two dozen saints with household-related patronages to plead your case to.

What can they do for you? I'm glad you asked.

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It's CSA sign-up time


You can get these -- and a lot of other great stuff -- from a local CSA

By Jessica Pasko

OK, yes, it's only March but it's not too early to start thinking about signing up for a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm share. In fact, now's the time the slots are filling up fast.

If you're not familiar with the CSA model, here's how it works: individuals or families sign up for a farm share through one of the many participating farms in the area. Then each week during the growing season, you'll be able to pick up a "share" of fresh produce, depending on what's in season.

Some farms focus solely on vegetables, while others include fruit, baked goods, eggs and even meat, depending on what type of program you're looking for. It's a great way to get lots of wonderful healthy food and support an area farm at the same time.

But how do you know which CSAs have what, how much they cost, and where to find them? The Web site has a thorough listing of CSA farms searchable by zip code and provides some of the basic details of what each farm provides.

Lucky for us, there are many CSA farms in the area, so AOA's put together a mini guide to several of the local CSAs to help you decide which share program would work best for you.

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The badass Hello Kitty Vespa

hello kitty vespaCheck out what Peter Caschera, the Vespa guy in Schenectady, has up for sale now: a new Vespa S150 with custom Hello Kitty paint job.

But Peter doesn't want you to get the wrong impression -- from the listing on Craigslist:

OK, let me start off by saying this Vespa is only available for purchase by the manliest of men (or women). My friend, if it was possible for a vehicle to sprout chest hair and a five o'clock shadow, this Vespa would look like Tom Selleck. It is just that manly.

It was never intended to drive to the mall so you can pick up that adorable shirt at Abercrombie & Fitch that you had your eye on. It wasn't meant to transport you to yoga class or Linens & Things. No, that's what your Prius is for. If that's the kind of Vehicle you're looking for, then just do us all a favor and stop reading right now. I mean it. Just stop.

This piece of macho machinery could be yours for $6150.

photo: Vespa Schenectady

First Impressions Boutique

first impressions before after

Before the pinup treatment -- and after

By Amy Brozio-Andrews

Say you wanted to get hair extensions, buy a cute handbag and take a pinup girl photo all in the same day. Yeah, OK -- but just say you did. There actually is one place in the Capital Region where you can go for all three.

Lorraine Murphy pursues her three passions under one roof at a little boutique she calls First Impressions.

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Albany is eggcellent everywhere

albany eggcellent shirtWe spotted a person wearing an "Albany is Eggcellent" shirt yesterday in Uncommon Grounds. The shirts are made by New York Old School and, as we heard, they were designed by local artist Michael Campion.

Get this: after we tweeted that we saw someone wearing the shirt, we heard from other people that they were wearing their "Eggcellent" shirt right at that moment. In NYC (we think). And Denmark.

(Thanks, Laura and Mike and Harith and Pete!)

Later on AOA: New York Old School is selling the shirts again (August 2011)

Supermarket Showdown II


Walmart was the champ last time.

A year ago we price-checked a "basket" of 40 items in an attempt to figure out which local supermarket chain has the lowest prices. Walmart came out on top -- it wasn't even close -- followed by Hannaford and then Price Chopper.

But, things change: prices go up, prices go down, economies go into recession.

So, this past weekend we checked the same basket again. Here's what we found...

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The Cottage Herb Shop

cottage herb shop

The Cottage Herb Shop

By Amy Brozio-Andrews

Remember the cute little shop around the corner in that movie "You've Got Mail?" The Cottage Herb Shop kind of looks like that. But it sells all kinds of wonderful gifts from finger puppets to table linens to garden tools. And in the middle of winter, it's filled with picnic mats, straw bags and other harbingers of spring.

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St. Peter's Thrift Shop

Petes Sake

Thrift-tastic deals from St. Peter's

By Jessica Pasko

Years ago to get to the thrift shop at St. Peter's Hospital you'd have to go through a winding series of hospital hallways, past doors labeled with the biohazard symbol. And the place was only open one day a week.

Fortunately, you don't have to do that anymore. The place has come a long way since then, and now it has a delightfully pun-tastic name to boot.

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RagamuffinDesign by Jess Lyons

Jess Lyons

This hat is made from recycled saris. (Sold!)

So we've reached that point in the winter where we're really ready for spring. Really, really ready for Spring. Bulking up in layers and layers of clothing has started to become kind of a drag and our old hats and scarves are looking kind of shabby.

But maybe we just need to change things up. We've been loving the scarves and hats Troy's Jess Lyons has been making (by hand!) for her Etsy shop. They're evidence that "warm" and "pretty" and "fun" don't have to be mutually exclusive.

Are they enough to make us wish for six more weeks of winter? Um, no, probably not. But they look like they could help brighten up what's left.

photo: Jess Lyons

Help this house: Experience & Creative Designs

Wall-Going .jpg

The paneling had to go.

By Kasa Wahl

A few months ago, after getting sick of looking at a wall full of paneling and our 'blue cloud" carpeting, I decided it was time to remodel.

I'm okay at interior design, if I have a place to start. This space, however, was a design disaster. I had no idea where to begin and no budget for a decorator. Any of this sound familiar?

So I went looking for help and came across Experience and Creative Designs in Schenectady.

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Deals that probably aren't deals

circuit city closeout

This is a pic from Virginia, but it's a similar scene at Crossgates Commons.

We've seen a few local people mention that the prices at the Circuit City closeout have been less than stellar. (Props to bk for being cautious from the start.)

It appears this has been true across the country. So disappointing were the deals at a store in LA that people started shouting about them. After cruising through a store in Connecticut, PC World declared "many sale items sold at Circuit City were no bargain at all."

Retail "analysts" say this isn't all that unusual for a closeout sale. And Consumer Reports has gone so far as to tell people "beware" of the "deals" at CC -- it reports that many of the items on sale there can be bought for much cheaper online.

It's something to keep in mind if the bargain part of your brain lights up at the sight of the "Closeout!" signs as you pull into the parking lot at Crossgates Commons.

photo: Flickr user F33

Thrift scores

great finds.jpg

Great finds at Great Finds.

By Jessica Pasko

Yes, thrift and secondhand stores are great for getting good deals on gently-used new clothing brands, but if you're anything like me, you're heading there for the funky stuff, and not the marked-down Target merch.

From my experience, the best stuff is usually found in the smaller thrift stores. If you're looking for some awesome thrift scores in Albany here are a couple of don't-miss shops.

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Who has the best prices on beer?

beer in store

It doesn't grow on trees you know.

Maybe you're rooting for the Steelers. Maybe you're rooting for the Cardinals. Maybe you don't so much -- you know -- care. But you will care if there's beer at the Super Bowl party.

According to the folks at the Beer Institute (yeah, there is such a thing) 3.5 percent of beer sales come from Super Bowl weekend. So how will you get the best bang for your beer buck this weekend? AOA went beer shopping to help you out. (Yay, beer shopping.)

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Teavana kettles

Pots at Teavana

By Amy Brozio-Andrews

My doc says I should relax and cut down on the caffeine, so I was especially looking forward to visiting Teavana, which just opened this weekend at Crossgates Mall.

So what exactly is "a heaven of tea"?

(there's more)

Made to measure suits at Bachrach


Bachrach in Crossgates Mall

By Amy Brozio-Andrews

Just when you thought the mall was the last place you'd find something that wasn't mass-produced, Bachrach, one of the newer men's clothing stores in Crossgates Mall, is offering men's made to measure suits starting at $498.

So what's made to measure all about and why should you care?

(there's more)

Opus Igor

opus igor composite

Some of the clothing and art at Opus Igor.

By Jessica Pasko

The new consignment shop on Lark Street sells secondhand clothes and local art, but it's also serving as a classroom of sorts.

(there's more)

The tale of the register tape

rite aid receipt

It seemed a little excessive.

So, we stopped into the Rite Aid at the University Plaza in Albany the other day to pick up one item.* We paid cash.

And that's when the cashier handed us what has got to be the most disproportionately long receipt -- maybe ever. We got out the measuring tape (because we're like that) and the thing was 15 inches long! For one item!

We now have proof of both purchase and the destruction of a small forest.

*The one item was lens wipes. We like to see clearly.

Keeping warm with a 'stache

By Jessica Pasko

mustache hatIf we have to be freezing, then we might as well do it with style right?

I'm thinking that these mustache-adorned ski caps might be the perfect way to keep warm during the frigid temps we've been having.

(there's more)

Staying warm at the Sweater Venture

sweater venture mittens

Mittens are always a good choice for staying warm.

By Amy Brozio-Andrews

The Sweater Venture in East Greenbush was a great place to visit on a day where the wind chills had me feeling like my cheeks were frozen. Just looking at the sheer array of sweaters, scarves, hats, mittens, gloves, and slippers made me feel warmer.

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Cheap fares to warm places

florida beach

We could go for some sun and sand.

With the economy tanking and the price of fuel dropping, airlines have apparently decided now is a good time to start offering some sales.

And after looking out our window at all the snow and ice, we decided that now is a good time to go someplace warm.

So, what kind of deals could we turn up?

(there's more)

Tattered Pages

Tattered Pages interior

A bunch of new (to you) books.

By Amy Brozio-Andrews

If you're a die-hard reader like I am, it can be hard to justify buying new books in a crummy economy (even though you really, really want to).

But it's a little easier when you're picking up new titles at a place like Tattered Pages Used Books in Glenmont. You can buy books there that have been discounted 25-60% off the original publishers' price. And maybe even better, you can trade your old books in for credit toward new (to you) books.

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Gifts that say Albany -- literally

By Amy Brozio-Andrews

IHEARTALBANY.jpgWhen you visit NYC, you can't throw a snow globe without hitting a Big Apple themed gift. Hats, shirts, mugs stickers, ties, postcards. But if you have friends or relatives visiting the Capital Region, have you noticed that it's nearly impossible to find the same kind of things with an Albany theme? It's the capital city, but can you find an "I heart The Egg" bumper sticker, or an "I got my tan in Albany" t-shirt? Noooooo.

Well, if you're just busting to show your A-Town pride you might find an outlet at CafePress.

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AOA's holiday gift guide


These little piggies are on the AOA holiday gift guide.

OK gang, we're down to the wire on this whole holiday shopping thing. It is officially the time of year when those who haven't finished shopping (or started) might begin to panic.

No need.

We're kind of big on thoughtful gifts here at AOA, so in case you still haven't been able to think of the right gift for someone on your list, we've been compiling a list for you. If you've missed them, after the jump you'll find a list of local gifts we think would be fun to give (or get).

Got some fun favorites that aren't on the list? Help an elf out and post your suggestions.

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Don't Bogart the Egg Nog

eggnog_cover_index.jpgJust in time for Christmas,