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Archive for June, 2011

The Fourth of July in Northern Virginia 2011 – Where to Go and What to Do

With the Fourth of July rapidly approaching it’s time to start making plans for the weekend, especially if out-of-town guests are on hand.

Of course the concert and fireworks on the Mall is the big attraction but if you are looking for other venues in Northern Virginia, here is a check list of where to go and what to do:

Culpeper – A 5K race; historical reenactments; a battle of the bands; a parade and fireworks start at 9:15pm. (FREE)

McLean Langley High School is the site for food, field games and blues/roots band “Last Train Home”. Fireworks at 9:15pm. (FREE)

Mount Vernon – Revolutionary War reenactments, a reading of the Declaration of Independence and daytime fireworks (12:45pm).  Events run from 8am – 5pm.  Admission $13, $6 for ages 6-11, free for ages 5 and under.

And now for the big one – the Fourth of July on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Start your day with the Independence Day Parade at 11:45am, then take in the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival, and special Fourth of July activities at the National Archives and the White House Visitors Center.  Public access to the Mall begins at 10:00am with all visitors required to enter via a security checkpoint.

Choose one of two locations for your evening concert –

The U.S. Navy Band performs on the grounds of the Washington Monument starting at 6pm.  The concert will feature the U.S. Navy Concert Band, the Sea Chanters chorus, and the Cruisers, a rock and top-40 ensemble.  The Navy Band Commodores Jazz Ensemble takes the stage at 8pm and concludes at 9:10pm for the fireworks display.

The National Symphony Orchestra and several pop artists will perform patriotic music on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building starting at 8:00pm, (Admittance begins at 3:00pm)

Fireworks at approximately 9:15pm.  Not sure you want to travel into the District for the fireworks?

Check out these local spots for viewing from the Virginia side:

So there you have it, The Fourth of July in Northern Virginia 2011 – Where to Go and What to Do.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 2 Comments »

Homeownership is Still a Priority According to New Poll

Despite continued bad news about foreclosures and the job market, homeownership is still a priority according to a new poll commissioned by the New York Times/CBS News.

Here are some of the highlights of the poll:

Nearly nine in 10 Americans say homeownership is an important part of the American dream, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. And they are keen on making sure it stays that way, for themselves and everyone else.

Support for helping people in financial distress over housing is higher than support for helping those without a job for many months.

Forty-five percent of the respondents say the government should be doing more to improve the housing market, while 16 percent say it should be doing less. On the politically contentious issue of direct financial assistance to those having trouble paying their mortgages, slightly more than half of those polled, 53 percent, say the government should help.

Happy homeowners

Happy homeowners

And almost no one favors discontinuing the mortgage tax deduction, a prized middle-class benefit that has been featured on some budget-cutting proposals.”

To read the complete article, click here.

To start looking for your new home, call me at 703.927.4554.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

Squirrel Proof Tomatoes or Urban Gardening in Del Ray

Last year we proudly purchased three tomato plants, pots, stakes, soil, etc.   Each morning we stepped eagerly out the back door to check on the progress of our plants.

At first everything was fine – they grew rapidly, blossoms formed and then the first tiny tomatoes appeared.  The tomatoes got bigger and the anticipation almost unbearable – until one morning there were no tomatoes – at all.  SQUIRRELS!!!!!!!!!

Enter neighbors Michael and Brian whose houses, one on Windsor and one on Custis, share a garden.  They too were plagued by tomato eating renegade squirrels.  But rather than simply give into the inevitable, they took action.  Call it the new urban gardening if you will, but at least these two Del Ray residents will have home grown tomatoes this summer.

Squirrel Proof Tomatoes or Urban Gardening in Del Ray

Squirrel Proof Tomatoes or Urban Gardening in Del Ray

The first, not very serious plan, was to fence in the entire garden plot but with plenty of room for Winston, a squirrel loving Jack Russell Terrier.  That idea abandoned, Michael and Brian came up with a squirrel proof cage for their tomatoes.  Literally.  It’s amazing what you can do with chicken wire and two by fours.

Early Days

Early Days

Taking it one step further, these urban gardeners planted so that vertical plants, like green beans, would grow on the outside of the cage, creating a more appealing aesthetic for the neighborhood.

The Cage in all it's glory!

The Cage in all it's glory!

Add in zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, purple cabbage and cucumbers and these two families have their own personal Farmer’s Market.

Ummmmmm, wonder if Michael and Brian hire out?

Looking for your own garden plot in Del Ray.  Give me a call at 703.927.4554 and let’s go house hunting.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 4 Comments »

Old Fashioned Swimming Holes in Northern Virginia

This is a “rerun” from last July but with the Fourth rapidly approaching and summer weekends in full swing, it seemed like a good time to offer this information again:

I don’t know about you but with these 100 degree days, I’m ready for a good old fashioned swimming hole.  Clear, cold water,  not many folks around, maybe even a waterfall or a few rapids and no chlorine.  Doesn’t that sound good?

We did a bit of scouting around and came up with a great site for swimming holes created by someone right here in Alexandria, Virginia  – Tom Hillegass.

Tom and his Website partner, Dave Hajdasz of Connecticut, focus on fresh water spots with moving water – creeks, rivers, springs and waterfalls. We’re happy to say that there are 80 swimming holes right here in Virginia.

There are also selected hot springs and lakes, quarries or bays with unique features that make them especially beautiful or fun for swimming.

I talked to Tom about how he got started on this project.  After a childhood in Philadelphia where there were no ‘natural’ places to swim, Tom moved to Oregon and fell in love with swimming in local rivers.  A final move brought him to Alexandria and it was then that he began collecting information about swimming holes in Virginia.

YouTube Preview Image

Sugar Hollow, VA

He and his daughter built the Web site in 1996 and listed 35 swimming holes.  Now he has hundreds of listings, many of which have been sent by faithful fans of the site.

Tom tells me, “I get lots of emails . . . and the ones I especially like are from parents who took their kids (to a swimming hole) and opened them to a whole new/old world of delight. People used to know where the local swimming holes were, but today we travel all over the world yet don’t know what’s in our back yard.  Young people, especially, have no idea but are discovering them as a result of my site.”

Tom’s site is utilitarian but includes important tips around water temperature, currents, underwater rocks and in some cases, very detailed instructions on how to find some of the more out of the way swimming holes.

Safety tips are another big part of Tom’s site and they are well worth reading.

There’s still some traveling time, and plenty of hot weather, before school starts so pull out your map and plan your next adventure – to a swimming hole in Virginia.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 3 Comments »

Real Estate Word of the Day – Energy Efficient Mortgage

Real Estate Word of the Day*

Pointing fingerEnergy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) – Mortgage loan that allows a homeowner to finance the cost of improvements that will reduce the future cost of utilities.

Example: The FHA has an energy efficient mortgage program that insures loans used to purchase energy-saving features in a house.*


*Dictionary of Real Estate Terms

Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 3 Comments »

Del Ray Music Festival 2011

Looking for something to do on a beautiful summer day? Specifically on Saturday, June 25th?

Feeling groovy . . .

Feeling groovy . . .

Join the denizens of Del Ray for the 5th Annual Del Ray Music Festival on the grounds of the Mt. Vernon Recreation Center between Commonwealth and Mt. Vernon Avenues.

Scheduled from 10:00am to 10:00pm, the festival includes a wide variety of music and games for the little ones.

Food is available on site or in any of the dozens of restaurants on “the Avenue”.

Dogs and babies equally welcome!


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

What If Your Dream Home is Overpriced?

It’s not unusual in the course of house hunting to find that perfect, everything you have ever wanted house that is both over priced and out of your price range.  What to do?

You can’t get it out of your mind, nothing else compares, it haunts your dreams at night.  What to do?

MansionYou don’t want to look at more houses, you want the the overpriced dream house.  What to do?

Here are three things you might try:

Now it’s not a guarantee that any of these approaches will get you your overpriced dream house but it’s always worth a try.  Talk with your real estate agent and see if one of these options works for you.

Don’t have a real estate agent?  Call me at 703.927.4554, I’m here.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 1 Comment »

Real Estate Market Report for Alexandria and Northern Virginia May 2011

The recent Case-Shiller report noted that, “In the midst of all these falling prices and record lows, [the metro] Washington DC was the only city where home prices increased on both a monthly (+1.1%) and annual (+4.3%) basis.”

That is GREAT news for our market.

The Case-Shiller Home Price Indicies tracks 20 cities in the United States, including New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and many others. This report is highly regarded as the most influential report published about the nation’s real estate market.

Take a look for yourself:



Fairfax Country

Faquier County

Loudoun County

Prince William

Washington, DC

And for a free comparative market analysis of your neighborhood, give me a call at 703.927.4554.

It’s a great time to buy a home!


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently No Comments »

Ah Love Oil and Vinegar Opens in the Village at Shirlington

Ever confused by all the different olive oils and vinegars on the shelf of your favorite grocery?  Intrigued by flavors such as truffle or blood orange or even chocolate – but without a clue on how to use them and not willing to buy a large bottle?

Have we got just the store for you – Ah Love Oil and Vinegar in the Village at Shirlington.

X Front of Store

Ah Love Oil and Vinegar is a boutique purveyor of artisanal olive oils and vinegars that can be sampled and then purchased individually in small or medium sizes.

Housed in gleaming stainless steel containers, the some 35 vats hold flavors like sharp chili oil, smooth basil, flavorful roasted garlic; aged balsamics; and classic Greek, Spanish and Italian olive oils.

X Oil Vats

The brain child of former leadership coach and association executive Cary Kelly, Ah Love Oil and Vinegar is one of a very small number of boutique oil and vinegar purveyors in the country.

Like all good entrepreneurs, Cary ‘caught the fever’ while visiting a similar store in South Carolina and knew immediately what her next career move would be.

X Cary

In addition to the oils and vinegars, Cary offers a small selection of olive oil soaps and lotions, crackers, sauces and tortas, books on olive oil and antique oil and vinegar cruets.

For me though, the main attraction is the 4 or 6 pack “samplers”.  Come into the store, sample every flavor you have never heard of and then pick out four or six flavors to take home.  The oil and/or vinegar is decanted into 4 oz bottles, sealed and labeled and you’re on your way.  It is the perfect way to experiment with new flavors and new recipes.

So far we have tried the Dark Chocolate Balsamic, the Greek Karomeiki Olive Oil, the Roasted Chili Olive Oil, the Roasted Garlic Olive Oil and the Basil Olive Oil.  Our goal of course is to work our way through all the flavors before settling on our favorites.

X Samples

In fact, these 4oz delights are so popular that Cary sold over a 1,000 bottles in her opening weekend!  Recipes, pairings of oil and vinegar and information about the artisanal products are also available online at Ah Love Oil and Vinegar.

We just can’t say enough good things about this new shop – Ah Love Oil and Vinegar in the Village at Shirlington.  Treat yourself to something very special.  You’ll be glad you did.

And if you need a kitchen to go with all your new oils and vinegars, give me a call at 703.927.4554 and we’ll go house hunting – what a great combination!


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 3 Comments »

East Braddock Road Renovation

We love to chronicle changes in the neighborhood, especially houses that are getting a face lift.

Front view, East Braddock Road

Front view, East Braddock Road

This renovation on East Braddock Road between Mt. Vernon and Commonwealth Avenue caught our eye just the other day.

Concrete Stoop

Concrete Stoop

A small two story brick home with a small concrete front stoop, the renovation seems to include an addition to the side as well as a front porch.

A new front porch?

A new front porch?

Local architect Lori Quill tells us that a front porch can make a huge difference both in looks and in the value of the home.

Porches are welcoming, encourage neighborly interaction and, like a well done garden and patio, literally create another “living space”.

Side addition

Side addition

We’ll come back in a few weeks to check on the progress on this East Braddock Road renovation.


Posted by Michael Bergin | Currently 1 Comment »

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