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THESE WHIMSICAL — OK, kitschy — mailboxes were photographed by my wasband (wubby?) in upstate New York.

I like to express my individuality indoors, but when it comes to something right out on the road for all passersby to see, I keep a low profile. My own mailbox is brown, to match the house, and that’s that. Though I suppose it would be convenient to say, “It’s the driveway with the rooster.”

If I were to do something creative, mailbox-wise, I think it would be funny to have one in the shape of a snail.

Photos: Jeff Greenberg

JUST SPENT TWO DAYS in Albany, N.Y., underrated capital of the Empire State, enjoying its fanciful row house architecture and the unexpected beauty of Washington Park. I was there to visit my cousin Susan, who’s just moved there for a job. Her new apartment is huge and sunny, in a pre-war building right on that park. We spent a good part of our time together painting an Art Deco bar/bookcase whose brownness was depressing. Now it’s an infinitely more pleasing robin’s egg blue (the bottom photo shows it before its final coat and new gray trim).

The late 19th century Washington Park, an 81-acre landscape in the romantic style of Frederick Law Olmsted, is considered one of the finest urban parks in the country. It’s meticulously maintained, with Victorian-style bedding plants in abundance, and an extraordinary Mediterranean Revival lake house. The footbridge over the 5-acre lake, below, dates from 1875.

The 1929 brick and terracotta lake house faces the lake on one side and a 900-seat outdoor amphitheater on the other.

It replaced the original stick-style structure below.

Of the numerous statues in the park, the 1893 bronze figure of Moses on Mt. Horeb, below, is the most surprising, at least to me.

And the display of annual flowers, below, is the most extravagant I’ve seen in a public place outside of Paris or London.

There’s enormous variety in the cornices, lintels, and other woodwork on Albany’s row houses. I barely scratched the surface in my documentation. These are on Lark Street, a row of cafes, restaurants, and shops, in the Washington Park Historic District.

We managed to spend a little time hitting up antique stores. There aren’t many (most area dealers have removed themselves to Hudson, N.Y.), but they seem to have potential.

A lot remains for future visits: more antiquing, historic house museums, whole other neighborhoods (not to mention nearby Troy, a whole other city).

A FRIEND ALERTED ME to these two Catskills listings, about 7 miles apart in Ulster County, near the historic Mohonk Mountain House. They both seem astoundingly inexpensive, or perhaps I’m just used to Long Island prices.

Both are 19th century farmhouses that have been degraded over the years (while their well-meaning owners thought they were improving, of course). Lots of brown paneling and linoleum. But there’s nothing easier or cheaper than ripping out paneling and linoleum (it’s what you may have to patch and repair underneath that’s the problem).

The first house, above, asking $130,000, has 2BR, 2 baths. It’s on half an acre in quiet Alligerville, near Accord, NY. The wraparound screened porch, right, looks lovely, and there’s a detached garage with workshop area.

For a whole lot more photos, including the interior, go here.

In High Falls, there’s this circa 1800 (take that with a grain of salt) farmhouse, below, on a 3-acre property with mature trees and old stone walls. Though it, too, has just two bedrooms, it measures 1,800 square feet. Asking price is 125K.

I’m not very familiar with the area, but I used to work with someone who lived in High Falls and commuted daily to Manhattan (not recommended).

You can see the full listing, with more photos, right here.

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LIVING IN THE HAMPTONS, as I do part-time, I’m often floored by the low prices of real estate in breathtakingly beautiful upstate New York. Around here, mean little ’70s houses are often priced at upwards of half a mil (they may not sell, but that doesn’t stop their owners from trying).

The Catskills and Hudson Valley abound with opportunities to buy a vintage country place cheap. I mean cheap. Real cheap. Did I say cheap?

For $400/month, give or take, you can have a place to garden. A place to commune with nature. Hell, a place to go. And quite possibly a good investment.

The 1930s year-round cabin, top, is in a lake community near Bethel (the real Woodstock, so described when it was was featured recently on the ingenious blog Reclaimed Home). The price tag is a mere $54,900. I see nothing bad about it, inside or out. Go here for a dozen more pictures. You will be impressed.

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Meanwhile, the blog Upstater has been getting down, with a new feature called “Five Figure Fridays.” Yep — every Friday, a selection of houses under the 100K mark.

Last week’s installment featured the c. 1900 Pine Hill house above, and a front-porch Victorian in Wurtsboro of similar vintage, below.

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Today’s bottom-fishing expedition spotlights Sullivan County, with five properties starting at 39K. Most of them look quite workable to my see-potential-in-almost-anything eye.

We’re heading into the best house-hunting time of year: dead of winter, when the dilettantes stay in the city with a good book. That’s when prices go even lower, and negotiating with sellers is doing them a big favor.

Another thing you can be sure of: what looks unpromising under wintry skies, surrounded by bare trees, is going to be resplendent in June.

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1838 Thornton M. Niven House, Newburgh, N.Y., 399K

ONCE AGAIN <the blogger said sheepishly> I apologize for the infrequency of my posts of late. Not to worry — I am about to embark on a new, Brooklyn-based gig that has the potential to energize and enliven casaCARA as well. Meanwhile, I’m going to call your attention to a new-this-year blog doing more or less what I set out to do some 2-1/2 years ago, but more comprehensively — and with more resources in the form of contributors, and all the fresh enthusiasm that comes with initiating a new project (two or more posts a day, wowza!)

It’s called Upstater, and it’s spearheaded by a professional journalist, Lisa Selin Davis, who is enamored not only of Dutchess and Columbia Counties, the portion of the mid-Hudson Valley I know and love; they also spread up, down, and around from there. In other words, they cover the riverfront, east and west, and venture into the Catskill Mountains, too.

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Sullivan County lakefront cottage, 199K

The Upstaters are perennial house-hunters wanting to share picks and finds, and though much of their legwork is mouse-work, they do spotlight interesting, inexpensive properties, and provide overviews of upstate towns that are useful to serious prospective buyers as well as buy-curious visitors and vacationers.

This week, the kleigs are turned on Newburgh, N.Y., which has the second-most historic properties in New York State (second to the Apple, of course, and that’s damned impressive). Coverage is provided by Cher Vick of the blog Newburgh Restoration, another able reporter who’s pulled together some extraordinary listings and makes a strong case for investigating the town.

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Margaretville, N.Y. oldie, “make an offer”

So while I lay a little lower than usual, get thee right over to Upstater to find out what’s happening, real-estate-wise, in Newburgh and points north.

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