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Archive for February, 2010

Let Mysteries Take You Around the World . . .

It’s Sunday night, the hockey game is over (you know, the one between Canada and the US) and it’s time to curl up with a good mystery and let it take me around the world.

Recently I’ve deliberately set out to read mysteries set in countries that I don’t know much about or have never visited. 

For instance, I’ve just finished Hidden Moon by James Church.  Set in North Korea, Church, a former intelligence officer, has a real affection for the landscape and the people of this hidden land where nothing is as it seems.

I’m also reading Murder in the Palais Royal by Cara Black. 

Set in Paris, Black perfectly captures the nuanced workings of the French buracracy while providing a lively look at daily life – from the can’t do without morning “express” to the second hand shops that specialize in vintage couture.

Then we have A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn.   

Nunn, a nominee for this year’s Edgar Awards, takes us to South Africa in 1952.  What holds the reader is the fabric of secrets and lies, supported by the Immorality Act, which makes it a crime to have sex across the color line.

With Henning Mankell and The Man From Beijing we go from Sweden to China to the US and back, all the while unraveling a centuries old act of treachery.

And the list goes on and on.  Ready to go around the world with your own favorites?  Check out Stop You’re Killing Me! where you can search for mysteries by country, state, and genre.  It also has good reviews as does the Independent Mystery Booksellers site.

Let us know your favorites, we’d love to hear from you.


Thanks to my lovely wife for today’s post.

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 4 Comments »

Alexandria Awarded $9 Million in Grants for Transit Services

The City of Alexandria has been awarded almost $9 million in grants for major transit services.  Awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the grants will improve transit services along Rt. 1 and the Beauregard-Van Dorn Corridor.

The first grant, for $8. 5 million, is for construction of an exclusive transitway in the median of Rt. 1 between Monroe Avenue and East Glebe Road. We are particularly interested in this one because it is almost out our back door.

We endured the construction of the new Monroe Street bridge (and subsequent changes to Rt. 1) for almost two years and are still undecided about this new venture.  There are no details yet on exactly what this transitway will look like but we know it will be an on-going topic of discussion for the Del Ray Citizens Association.

A second grant for $670,000 will fund planning of new facilities to assist priority transit service in the Beauregard-Van Dorn Corridor.

Facilities could include super stops (enhanced bus stops with real time bus information, solar lighting, and other amenities) and queue-jumping lanes (dedicated lanes that buses can use to advance from a traffic signal before the rest of traffic, moving more quickly through the roadways).

More than 1,400 applications requesting nearly $60 billion in projects were submitted from across the country. The nearly $9 million in grants to the City of Alexandria represented 30 percent of the $30.4 million awarded to projects in the Commonwealth of Virginia.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 2 Comments »

Happening Now in Alexandria’s Del Ray Neighborhood

Once a month or so the Del Ray Business Association publishes an increasingly long list of discounts, events, special offers, etc.  offered by the independent retailers who make their home in Alexandria’s Del Ray Neighborhood.  And now we’re passing it on to you.

It’s a long list, with a little something for everyone, so get comfortable!

BUNGALOW HOMEWARES GALLERY – 1901A Mt. Vernon Avenue . Great new, green-friendly upholstered seating has arrived at Bungalow Homewares Gallery . Sofas, chairs, sectionals, ottomans, all constructed with sustainably harvested hardwood frames, low-impact glues and stains, part-soy foam, recycled steel sinuous springs, and over 200 fabrics, including a choice of fabrics from recycled fibers. And did we mention comfy? (703 299 8899)

EVENING STAR CAFÉ – 2000 Mt. Vernon Avenue — 2nd Annual Oyster Roast! Celebrate the last day of the Olympics with us Sunday, February 28, 12 PM to 6 PM. Escape the cabin fever and come join us to help celebrate the last day of the Olympics. We will be roasting oysters and grilling dogs. There will be wines from around the world as well as good old fashioned American beers and mulled cider. On top of all that will be some Wii tournaments (skiing anyone?) and we will close it all out with an outdoor viewing of the gold medal hockey game. The big top tent will be up and heaters galore, so bring the family and friends out for a day in the neighborhood!

ECLECTIC NATURE & GARDEN CENTER – 1503 Mt. Vernon Avenue , is pleased to announce the arrival of tons of new merchandise coming in the door every day including more and more furniture from new dealers! Spring is just around the corner and the pottery sale will be ending very soon, so take advantage of our sales while they last! We will also be giving a ‘FREE’ lecture on SPRING GARDEN PREP. at Potomac West Interiors on March 11, starting at 7:00pm. Please call to reserve your spot! 703.837.0500, Christy Beal, www.engiftandgarden.com

POTOMAC WEST ANTIQUES & NOT TOO SHABBY – 1515 & 1517 Mt. Vernon Avenue . Remember Aston Hardware? Its inventory is now at Potomac West Antiques and Not Too Shabby Consignments and Antiques, respectively. This week we are offering 10% off Aston Hardware’s large collection of knobs, pulls, shutter dogs, escutcheons, casters, and other assorted hardware. Transform your tired furniture pieces by adding new classic hardware.

DEL RAY ARTISANS – Mark your calendars for: (1) Women in Art: Body of Work which opens Friday, March 5, with a reception from 7 – 10 pm; (2) Open Life Drawing / Gestures, Wednesday March 10, 11 am – 1 pm; (3) Open Life Drawing / Poses, Wednesday March 10, 2 pm – 5 pm; (4) Felting Accessories Workshop, Wednesday, March 10, 7 – 9 pm and Sunday, March 14, 1 – 4 pm; (5) Making New Accessories from Recycled Materials, Friday March 12, 6 – 10 pm. Check http://www.thedelrayartisans.org for pre-registration info, materials list, directions and fees.

STUDIO BODY LOGIC – AUTHENTIC PILATES: Two exciting workshops coming soon — this Saturday, February 27, from 1:30 to 3 pm, we’ll focus on the Wunda Chair, a small but powerful piece of equipment that will leave you breathless ($40 per person; Strong beginning/intermediate students and above.) In March, we’ll launch “Reformer on the Mat” – a workshop that takes exercises from the Reformer’s beginning system and interprets them onto the mat. Designed for apparatus students and mat students currently at beginning/intermediate and above, but even advanced students will be challenged! Two dates at two locations: Saturday, March 6, from 1 – 2:15 pm in Arlington and Saturday, March 20, from 1:30 – 2:45 pm in Del Ray. $40 per person. To register, call 703.739.7601 or email [email protected] . Check us out at www.studiobodylogic.com and look for us on Facebook.

DO MORE WITH LES is Celebrating One Year! Help celebrate by booking for 4 hours, and paying for just 3. If you are looking for a personal assistant with pizzazz, look no further – Do More With LES is here to help YOU! Lauren Smith would love to help you and your clients. Simplifying lives one at a time, starting with yours. Call, e-mail or visit my website today. 703.963.4009 [email protected] www.domorewithles.com

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Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 4 Comments »

Be Careful What You Pray For

Our friend Joan Goehler sent us this picture and we couldn’t help but share . . . . it’s been a long winter here in Alexandria.

Please, please, be careful what you pray for.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

Is It Time to Replace Your Old Windows?

If any of the following are true then it may be time to replace your old windows according to the National Association of Realtors:

Window replacement is one of the best home remodeling projects in terms of investment return: for vinyl windows, you can recoup about 75% of the project cost in added home value, according to Remodeling Magazine’s annual cost analysis.

You’re also likely to see modest savings on your energy bill. In general, you’ll save $126 to $465 a year if single-pane windows in a 2,000-square-foot house are replaced with tax-credit-eligible windows, according to the Efficient Windows Collaborative, a coalition of government agencies, research organizations, and manufacturers that promotes efficient window technology.

Keep in mind, though, that the savings can vary widely by climate, local energy costs, and the energy efficiency of both the windows purchased and the windows being replaced. Finally, you may qualify for low-interest loans or other incentives offered by your local utility that can sweeten the deal.

Check it out, it may be time to replace your old windows and reap the rewards.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

2010 Alexandria Summer Camp Fair at Minnie Howard School

Are you looking for a summer camp for your children or grandchildren; a niece or nephew?  Maybe you want a nature camp or drama camp or even a computer technology camp.  Do you want a day camp or a sleep away camp?  Half day or full day?  Four days or four weeks?

Questions, questions, questions!  But look no further – the Alexandria PTA Council will host a Summer Camp Fair on Wednesday, Feb. 24th at Minnie Howard School that will answer all your questions.

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Seriously folks, this is a super way to take in the great variety of summer camps offered in our area for all grade levels – PreK – 12.  You’ll get to talk to camp representatives and even some campers to get that “up close and personal” view of what each camp has to offer.  It’s one stop shopping at its best.

Donna Franklin, Camp Fair Chair, tell us that 49 camps will be represented with another half dozen listed in the directory that each family will receive.

Pizza and baked goods will be available for sale so families can eat dinner while visiting the exhibit booths.  Admission is free.

For additional details contact Donna at [email protected]


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 1 Comment »

10 Hot New Home Products

The world of home improvement is vast – covering everything from paint to landscaping to a new light fixture.  But how to keep up with all the new products? 

Unfortunately weekly, if not daily, trips to the local hardware store or even the big box stores is just a dream.  1) I get lost in the maze of aisles and 2) I understand it’s grounds for divorce in Alexandria!

Lucky for us then that home improvement “what’s new” guru Don Longay , has done the leg work for us:

1) Giani Granite Countertop Paint –  the world’s first granite paint kit for countertop makeovers. Get the premium “look” of granite at a fraction of the cost. Water-based paint kits come in five realistic-looking color combinations and include everything needed to go “granite” in three easy steps in 24-hours or less. One $39.95 kit covers 35 square feet (16 running feet of 24-inch wide counter).  Available at paint and hardware stores nationwide. Visit www.GianiGranite.com or call 1-800-650-5699.

2) One2Flush Dual Flush Conversion Kit – in about 20-minutes, you can quickly and easily turn a standard water-guzzling tank-type toilet into an eco-friendly, high-efficiency, water-saving dual flush model that reduces water use by more than 38 percent and can save an average family over 10 percent on monthly water bills. Fits all standard two-piece toilets, 1.6-gallon flush and up. Starts paying for itself immediately. Available nationwide at most hardware stores (Ace, True Value, Do-It-Best). For more information visit www.one2flush.com.

3) Easy Crown Molding by EZ-A-PEEL – offers quick and easy installation and an inexpensive alternative to fancy millwork. Vacuum-formed thermoplastic design overlaps and adjusts to length without measuring. Can also be trimmed with scissors. Installs in about one hour and can be left white or painted to match décor. Offered in three popular crown molding profiles for various sized rooms with 16 inside and four outside corners included. Kits start at under $50. To order call 1-888-EZAPEEL (1-800-392-7335) or visit www.easycrownmolding.com.

4) Dead Bolt Secure Entry Lock Protection – offers a low-cost, ingenious solution that makes standard deadbolt
locks (with a lever or twist-type inside handle) virtually bump-key and pick-proof. It even blocks entry for anyone with a legitimate key. How? A simple spring-loaded device, that installs in minutes, flips down to prevent a dead bolt’s handle from turning — no matter how it is being unlocked. It only costs $9.95. Order online at www.arclink.net.

5) Aspect Peel and Stick Metal Wall Tile – three inch by five inch metal tiles adhere to any sub-surface (drywall, plaster, paneling, and old tiles) and are offered with horizontal or vertical graining. Give kitchens and baths a fresh, new look. Box of eight tiles covers 1-square-foot and costs about $20.  Available at some Lowe’s stores or order online at www.aspectideas.com.

6) Telezapper / Blocks Telemarketer Calls – this nifty little device plugs into your phone cord and only intercepts
computer-generated calls — indicating this number is disconnected — which automatically takes you off their list.  Other incoming calls are not affected. This product has actually been on the market for some time, “flying under the radar” if you will but the original and an updated model can both still be found at www.amazon.com and via online search engines at prices ranging from $40 to $10. Additional info at www.telezapper.com.

7) Liquid Stainless Steel Brush-on Paint Kit – award-winning Liquid Stainless Steel is the world’s first brush-on/roll-on “real stainless steel” finish designed to give older stoves, refrigerators and dishwashers a new lease on life. Complete kits are easy to use and update an average size refrigerator for $49 or a range and dishwasher combo for only $19.95. Works great on cabinets, table tops and in many other places too. Available at paint and hardware stores
nationwide. Order online at www.liquidstainlesssteel.com or call 1-800-650-5699.

8) Schlage Keyless Entry Locks and Wireless LiNK Option – Schlage electronic keypad entry locks and deadbolts — using four-digit access codes — are now both practical and affordable, offered in the $120 to $150 range. Company also offers Schlage LiNK, the first and only DIY wireless system allowing 24/7 remote control for keypad locks and other home management functions via the Internet. Lock or unlock doors from anywhere, add/remove access codes and control lights. Options include adjustable thermostat ($149) and cameras ($149 wired/$179 wireless) to see who is coming and going. Schlage LiNK Starter Kit ($299) offers choice of keypad lock (deadbolt or lever-handle) and everything needed to set-up a Z-Wave wireless system. Monthly subscription $12.99. Available at Lowe’s, Radio Shack, and www.amazon.com, or visit www.consumer.schlage.com for retailers.

9) Evoba Modular Wood Ceiling System – prefabricated Evoba system (that’s “Above” spelled backwards), offers the warmth and beauty of real wood without the cost of custom millwork. Pre-engineered main beams and cross-tee grid components surround 2-foot square, beautifully finished, recessed panels and offer easy installation. Available as a suspension or surface mount system, in a variety of wood species and finishes, at $12 to $30 per square foot. Available at  www.acpideas.com.

10) INVISILED Low Profile Accent Lighting Tapes – strips of miniature LED lights, spaced 1-inch apart, and placed on thin flexible strips only 1/8-inch thick and 7/16-inch wide, INVISILED by WAC Lighting offers five basic colors (white, amber, red, blue, and green). One- and 5-foot peel-and-stick or screw-mounted sections can be cut at every inch. Cost ranges $75 to $90 per foot. Plug-in drivers cost $60 to $120. Maximum spans from 25 feet to 40 feet. For information and retailers visit www.waclighting.com or call 1-800-526-2588.

I think I’m going try that Granite Countertop Paint, sounds like a great tip to pass along to my buyers  . . .


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 10 Comments »

Alexandria Real Estate Market Report for Old Town – January 2010

The January 2010 Real Estate Market Report for Old Town shows an increase of 42 percent in the number of listings from January 2009 to January 2010 but a decrease of almost 26 percent in the average sold price for the same time period.

The number of days on the market (DOM) dropped from 184 in 2009 to 106 in 2010.  One 2010 listing took almost 600 days to sell while two listings sold in a day.

Interestingly, this is almost the complete opposite of what our December 2009 Real Estate Market Report showed.  In that case, the number of listings were down but the prices were up as were the days on the market.

Overall we do not think this is cause for concern.  Of the eight properties sold in January 2009, five were over a million dollars and the lowest sold price was $479,000.  In January 2010, only five of the nineteen properties sold were over a million and the lowest sold price was $280,000.

The numbers below represent sales of single family dwellings, condominiums are not included.

For details on any of these listings or other properties in Old Town Alexandria, call me at 703.927.455.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

Bank of America Suspends All FHA Loans on Condominium Sales

Bank of America has suspended all FHA loans on condominium sales effective immediately.  Further, Bank of America will NOT close on FHA condominium loans now in progress.

It is not clear yet whether this is a temporary or a permanent move but if you are considering buying a condominium and have been pre-approved by Bank of America for a FHA loan you will need to seek another lending source.

This FHA suspension does not affect loans on single family home or town homes

For more information on what you need to do now or where you can look for FHA condo loans, call me at 703.927.4554 and we’ll work on it together.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 19 Comments »

Alexandria Real Estate Market Report for Del Ray – January 2010

The real estate market report for Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood presents some interesting figures.  With just five sales in January 2010 – compared to 3 in January 2009, it seems that the first off the year is off to a slow start.

The average house price is down 8.5 percent from $590,333 in 2009 to $506,400 in 2010.  The good news in all this?  The average days on market is down from 96 in 2009 to 19 in 2010, a decrease of almost 20 percent.

As tempting as it is to see this month’s market report as less than encouraging, I would urge you to remember that the listing prices do not readily tell us anything about the size, condition or location of the property.

If you would like those details, as well as other specific information about the market, please call me at 703.927.4554.

Check back in the next few days for real estate market reports for Old Town Alexandria and Potomac Greens.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

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