Archive for the 'Living Here' Category

New Trader Joes at Fresh Pond in Cambridge – Open Now

new-stores-at-fresh-pond-cambridgeUpdate:  Trader Joe’s at Fresh Pond is open! I’ve yet to drop by but they’ve hung up a huge banner with the hours – they’re open 8 am to 10 pm.  Their phone number is 617-498-3201.

There’s a lot of commercial real estate reshuffling going on at the shopping plaza by the rotary at Fresh Pond in Cambridge.  Several existing stores are moving and leases have been signed for some of the store fronts in the new building that replaced the old Ground Round (formerly a HoJo’s I think).

Newbury Comics has moved across the street to the Whole Foods plaza.  Part of their former building at the back of the lot has been taken down and is being rebuilt.  Kappy’s Liquors will be moving from the back building to a space in the new building.

A new Trader Joe’s will be joining CVS in the refurbished back building.  That’s happy news for those of us at this end of Cambridge. Makes you wonder though – since the store is bound to be popular – where on earth is everyone going to park? 

Update – October 27, 2009:  We drove by the new store today to check things out.  The Trader Joe’s signs are up at the rotary and on the newly refurbished building next door to CVS. The store hasn’t been filled yet and there’s no notice posted regarding an opening date. Ominously, the front parking area was half full even so.  

ugly-signs-at-fresh-pond-cambridgeOther commercial tenants planned for the new building on the site include a bank, a T-Mobile store, a Chipotle restaurant, and a Sleepy’s mattress store.  Since there’s already a Sleepy’s near Whole Foods I’m guessing the store is moving across the street.

I have to say it’s a bit suburban-strip-mall and not what you like to see at one of the gateways to the city of Cambridge.  Compounding the modern day ugliness of it all is the horrific assortment of huge signs – topped by the massive CVS truck-stop-style sign.  Cambridge does a fairly good job regulating signage around the city but it seems to be anything goes for this particular stretch.


If you’re interested in the living here as well as shopping here, here’s some info about condo projects near Fresh Pond and Alewife.

Categories: Living Here

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Furniture Corner In Cambridge

Crate and Barrel at Furniture Corner in CambridgeBusy real estate buyers in Cambridge have always had easy,  one-stop shopping options for furniture for their new Cambridge home.  Just outside Harvard Square, on Mass Ave heading towards Central Square, the intersection dubbed “Furniture Corner” has provided a number of shopping venues for Cambridge homeowners.

Located at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue, Trowbridge Street, and Putnam Avenue, Furniture Corner seems to be in transition.  Even before the rough patch in the economy, several furniture stores had closed shop.  I can’t remember what furniture store occupied the highly visible storefront at the corner of Putnam Ave. but the space now houses an architectural firm. The Cambridge Pottery Barn and Hold Everything are long gone. Home Design’s storefront is empty and for lease.  Longtime favorite Bowl and Board has left Furniture Corner Store ClosingCambridge for Davis Square leaving a large hole in the retail landscape on Mass Ave. 

Other stores are capitalizing on the opportunity to move into new space across or down the street from their current locations.  Heartwood has moved across the street to its new digs at 1008 Mass Ave.  Sleep-a-Rama has moved down the street.

Though the huge 50% off sale signs posted at City Schemes recently gave me pause, there are still a good number of furniture stores at the corner.  Crate and Barrel may have left Harvard Square but Crate and Barrel Furniture is still at the corner of Trowbridge Street.  Looking for modern furniture and accessories? Design Within Reach is ensconced at Furniture Corner. One of my favorites – and a great source for custom desktops and tables – the Door Store is going strong, just up Mass Ave towards Central Square. Several other furniture stores add to the mix at Furniture Corner.

Just moved into your new place in Cambridge?  Furniture Corner may be just the ticket.

Categories: Living Here
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Adult Ed in Cambridge – Adult Education Classes In and Near Cambridge

Cambridge Center for Adult Ed

Cambridge Center for Adult Ed

I’ve always loved to take classes and the myriad of excellent adult education opportunities in Cambridge and nearby towns is one of the reasons I love living in Massachusetts.  Whatever your interest you’re likely to find a course to take.  Classes are typically open to all, regardless of town or city of residence.  Many of the programs also have classes for kids or teens.

All of these programs publish printed catalogs each season and it’s worth picking up copies or asking for a copy to be mailed to you.  I’ve included the links to the organizations’ websites below but the printed catalogs are superior – you’ll find yourself highlighting classes, turning over page corners, and repeatedly discovering new intriguing choices as you flip through the pages.  Copies of the Cambridge, Boston, and Brookline adult ed catalogs can be often be found about town, sometimes in newspaper boxes, in local shops, and in libraries.  The Concord Public Library usually has a good collection of suburban adult ed catalogs for the taking.

Here are some of the best adult ed programs in the Cambridge / Boston area:

In Cambridge MA

The Cambridge Center for Adult Ed (CCAE) has been part of Cambridge for over 130 years, first as the Cambridge Social Union which was founded in 1876, and as the Cambridge Center for Adult Education since 1938. 

CCAE has a wide variety of course offerings – some that meet for a single session, others that run for weeks.  Need-based scholarships are available. Some of the course topics include:

  • Languages
  • Writing
  • Business
  • Film
  • Photography & Video
  • History & Contemporary Issues
  • Homes and Gardens
  • Food
  • Work Life

Here’s a video about the Cambridge Center for Adult Ed:


In Boston MA

One of the best Adult Ed organizations, the Boston Center for Adult Education, recently moved its headquarters to 122 Arlington Street in downtown Boston from its old home by the Public Garden.  A rich variety of courses are offered with topics including:

  • Creative Arts
  • Performing Arts
  • Professional Growth
  • Real Estate & Finance
  • Humanities & Science
  • Foreign Languages & ESL

Adult Ed in Other Massachusetts Communities

Brookline Adult & Community Education is another superb local option for classes. Courses are offered in a wide variety of subjects including:

  • Arts
  • Health and Well Being
  • Investment and Business
  • Dance & Exercise
  • Writing
  • Music, Performance and Production

There’s also an excellent selection of lectures on Tuesday and Thursday evenings for $5 per lecture. Upcoming topics include:

  • The Plight of the Butterfly
  • Discovering the Boston Harbor Islands
  • The Uncluttered Family
  • A Glimpse Into the Current Housing Market

Concord-Carlisle Community Education offers a diverse selection of classes in Concord MA.  A sampling of courses from the spring catalog include:

  • Meal Planning Without Tears
  • Small Scale Agriculture – Raising Chickens
  • Papermaking Workshop
  • Organic Lawn Care
  • Introduction to Kayaking
  • Instant Piano for Busy People

Lexington Community Education has been offering excellent courses for years in Lexington, MA.  I took furniture refinishing there years ago and have been meaning to take their Furniture Upholstery class.  Other upcoming courses include:

  • Coping With the Stress of Tough Economic Times
  • In the Bin – Household Recycling Know How
  • Probating Your Parents’ Estate
  • Summertime Pilates
  • Intro to Web Design

Newton Community Education has a wide variety of reasonably priced adult ed classes.  Some of the spring classes that caught my eye include:

  • How to Be a Private Eye
  • Totally Green Organic Bodycare
  • How to Be a Landlord
  • If Your Home is a Castle, Why Does Your Office Feel Like a Dungeon?
  • Whitewater Kayaking

Learn a new skill, explore a new interest, discover more about your community. If you live in Cambridge or nearby there are endless opportunities in Massachusetts adult ed.

Categories: Living Here
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Where To Buy Furniture For Your New Home in and Near Cambridge

Your real estate search is over.  You’ve found your new home in Cambridge or nearby and now you’re wondering how to furnish it.  Company’s coming and Mom and Dad aren’t going to be keen about sleeping on the couch – if you have a couch.  Buying a house or condo is expensive so you’re probably on a budget (who isn’t nowadays?) and looking for bargains.

Organic Furniture Cellar Cambridge MA

Furniture Stores in Cambridge MA

For new furniture in Cambridge you can head to Furniture Corner on Mass Ave at Putnam where you’ll find a number of furniture stores or to Circle Furniture near Fresh Pond.  Reside on Concord Ave near Huron Village is great for the modernist end of vintage furniture.  But if you’re searching for bargains you may need to look further afield.  Ikea has yet to come to Assembly Square in Somerville and a long time favorite haunt for vintage furniture lovers in Cambridge, the Organic Furniture Cellar in Cambridgeport, has closed its doors.  I took the photo above since I’m not sure how long the mural at the corner of Putnam Ave. and Pearl Street will last.   

Brimfield Antique Show is Close to Cambridge

Do you want that special antique piece to grace your new living room?  The first Brimfield Antique Market of the season is coming up – and it’s not much more than an hour away out the Pike.  If you’ve never been to the Brimfield flea market it’s not to be missed.  The main street through this small town (it’s actually Route 20) becomes one enormous antique show. People come from around the country and fill up their trucks with finds from the fields.  Brimfield is held three times a year – in May, July and September.  I’ve always thought that the May show is the one to go to since dealers have stockpiled great finds over the winter.  New England spring weather can be problematic but it’s nothing compared to the blazing heat in the fields during July.  2009 dates for Brimfield are May 12-17, July 14-19, and September 8-13. New fields open each day.  I’ll be hitting the postcard barn ( a whole barn filled with postcards!) in May for new old images like the one you see at the top of the page.

Antique furniture bought on craigslist in Cambridge MA

Craigslist for Furniture

Another great source for vintage or barely used new furniture is Craigslist.  It pays to peruse the categories regularly throughout the day since the great stuff or great bargains will go quickly. One of my favorite acquisitions is the antique secretary at right.  I think I paid $200 after finding it on craigslist.

Garage and Estate Sales Near Cambridge

Garage sales are another excellent source for newer and vintage items.  Just last weekend I came across a sign advertising a house sale in North Cambridge.  I picked up a couple of vintage bamboo tables or plant stands for $3 and $5 and a wonderful brass reading lamp for $5.  Watch for garage sale ads in Thursday’s Cambridge Chronicle and in the Boston Globe.  Craigslist has garage sale ads too but unfortunately has a high percentage of ads from over ambitious slackers who fail to get out of bed in time to start the sale at the advertised hour.  You also might want to try some suburban towns for garage sales since the quality of the merchandise can be significantly better.  I grew up in Concord and my old garage sale haunts of Concord, Acton, Lexington and Lincoln yielded many a great buy.  The Thursday Concord Journal is the newspaper to pick up for the sales in this area.  And remember – the early bird does get the worm at garage sales.

Estate sales are a secret source for the best in vintage and antique furniture at wholesale prices. If you’re at the front of the line at an estate sale your competition will be local dealers or scouts who supply area antique shops.  Typically, a local company has been hired by the sellers to price the merchandise, advertise, and staff a two-day sale that often includes most of the furniture, collectibles, and household items.  Two of my favorite estate sale companies are the Pink Ladies and Diana Sherman – both have been in the business a long time.  When you attend one of their sales you’ll be able to get on their mailing lists for notifications of upcoming sales. Estate sales in the towns around Cambridge are typically held on Fridays and Saturdays.   Plan to go on Friday for the best selection and Saturdays for some bargains if any remain. Sales are advertised in the classified section of the Boston Globe – usually on Sundays and on Wednesday or Thursday for Friday’s sales. Estate sales can be a super way to outfit your new home with quality pieces and bargain household items.

Hope to see you on the trail!

Categories: Living Here
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Street Cleaning in Cambridge Will Sweep Away More Than Dirt

Money In the Streets of CambridgeIf it’s spring it must be street sweeping season.  Thank goodness!  Cambridge is a dirty mess with flotsam and jetsam lining the curbs.  The snow covered up months of accumulated debris. Now that the snow’s gone – finally! – it’s time for a good cleaning.

People also dropped money in the snow over the long winter months.  When the ice and snow melted I started to find change as I walked along the streets in Cambridge.  I love to find money – even pennies.  I save it in a tin so I can keep track of how much I’ve found.  When the piles along the curbs were first uncovered it seemed I was finding money every day.  My best score by far is shown in the photo above.  Yes – that’s a dirty, rumpled $20 bill that spent many weeks buried in the snow and debris.  Resisting the urge to pull that $20 from my tin in a pinch will be a true test of self control.

There’s more money out there!  Quick – before it’s swept away – poke at the piles along the curb.  I’ve got everybody I know looking down as they walk, kicking aside the refuse in the hopes of finding some cash.

Street sweeping in Cambridge MA runs from April 1st through December.  Streets are cleaned monthly – opposite sides on different days.  The Cambridge DPW has a map and schedule online.  Miss the day and your car will be towed.  Watch the signs – even blocks with parking meters are subject to towing on street cleaning day.

Happy hunting!


When she’s not picking up money in the streets, Elizabeth Bolton is a real estate agent in Cambridge, MA.  Actually she does both at once – since she found the bill pictured above while on the way to show a house for sale in Cambridge.

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Cambridge Comes Out On Top

Today’s Sunday Boston Globe was chock-a-block full of real estate related articles.  If you didn’t get your copy there’s still time to hit the corner store.  There’s loads to read for the real estate obsessed.

The Boston Globe Magazine was all about real estate with the cover article titled “Top Spots To Live: The Best Communities in 15 Categories”.  The Globe polled realtors for their votes.  I’m a realtor but I don’t remember voting.  But even without my admittedly biased vote, I’m happy to report that Cambridge placed more times than any other Massachusetts city or town

And the winners are….

Cambridge MA Takes Top PrizeCambridge was anointed “Top for Singles-Friendly Activities and Night Life

Cambridge also won Honorable Mentions for:

  • Fitness Minded Folks
  • Foodies
  • Arts Lovers
  • Hipsters
  • Public Transit Fans

Somerville was the winner in the “Top for Hipsters” category and won Honorable Mention in the Singles-Friendly Activities and Night Life category. I remember years ago when Utne Reader magazine called Somerville one of the hippest places in the US.  At the time I thought it was a stretch but Somerville has been trending in that direction ever since.  With a vibrant arts community, rejuvenated Davis Square (not to mention Ball Square and Union Square), and a forward-thinking local government, Somerville deserves the kudos.

Arlington received Honorable Mention in the Foodies category. Arlington has become a hot bed of restaurants since the blue laws regulating the serving of alcohol were relaxed.

Melrose received Honorable Mentions in both the Car Commuters and Public-Transit Fans categories due to its easy access to commuter routes and to the three train stations in town.

Brookline won in the category “Top for Great Schools and Kid-Friendly Activities” and received Honorable Mentions in the Retirement Lifestyle and Public-Transit Fans categories

I’d say we did alright – no wonder we love living here! 

And if you’d like to live here too and want some help with your search – I’m just a phone call or email away!

Categories: Buyer Info, Living Here
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Cut Your Property Taxes in Cambridge, Somerville and Watertown – the Residential Exemption

Residential Exemption for Property TaxesI’m dismayed every time I find out that a homeowner  – who’s usually a home seller at that point – hasn’t received the residential exemption that he or she was qualified to receive.   If you’ve failed to apply for the exemption by the deadline you are not able to get that money back – no matter how many years you missed out. It’s a lot of money to let slip away.

What’s the Value of the Residential Exemption?

For Cambridge homeowners who qualify for the 2010 residential exemption, $198,423 is deducted from the property assessment.  This amounts to a reduction in the 2010 tax bill of $1,531.83.

Here’s more information about the residential exemption in Cambridge.

For Watertown residents, for the 2009 tax year, the 2009 residential exemption reduces the assessed value of the homeowner’s property by $88,733, which translates to a savings of $1,086 for qualifying Watertown homeowners.  The value of the exemption in 2008 was $1,063.

The Somerville residential exemption for 2010 reduces the assessed value of a qualifying homeowner’s residence by $138,011 resulting in a tax savings of $1,697.54.  The application form for the exemption is online and questions should be directed to the Assessor’s office at 617-625-6600 ext. 3100.

Categories: Buyer Info, Living Here
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Get Your Keys In Cambridge

Keys Made In CambridgeIf you recently bought a new house or condo chances are you’re going to be getting some new keys made.  It’s always a good idea to change the locks when you buy a house.  You just don’t know who has keys to your new home – many copies may have been passed about over the years.

If you bought your new home in Cambridge or Somerville the place to go is Commonwealth Lock Co. on Mass Ave. in Porter Square, Cambridge.  As a Cambridge real estate agent, I get a *lot* of keys made and can attest to the quality of Commonwealth Lock’s keys. Nothing’s more frustrating than repeated trips to the key counter but Commonwealth almost always gets it right the first time.  These guys are experienced and they are good.

Commonwealth Lock Co., or “CoLoCo”, has been making keys in Porter Square since 1936.  Originally a hardware store, the lock and key operation eventually became a bigger part of the business and has been the sole focus since the 1980s.  The store caters to locksmiths who stream in and out of the store all day.

In addition to making plenty of keys at a constantly busy counter, Commonwealth Lock sells all sorts of locks, keys, and related merchandise including:

  • Bike locks
  • Window locks
  • Lockboxes – great for storing a spare set of house keys
  • Padlocks
  • Safes
  • House numbers
  • Key rings
  • Dog and cat tags
  • and assorted nifty plastic doohickies to add to your keys to make your house key stand out in the bunch

Commonwealth Lock Company is located at 1853 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusettts and is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm.

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