Giving Back to the Cambridge Community

by c21commonweath_ldowling 8. January 2020 13:30

 

Cambridge, Massachusetts is most famous for its prestigious universities, including Harvard, MIT, and others. Since life in Cambridge is so inextricably tied to college culture, driven by thousands of young people who are active in community engagement, it’s no wonder there are so many volunteer opportunities in this particular Boston suburb.

Of course, you don’t need to be a college student to give back to your community—there are countless ways for Cambridge residents of all ages to get involved. Here are some excellent places to lend your time and talents for the good of your friends and neighbors.

The Cambridge Public Library

Made up of both historic buildings and modern facilities, the Cambridge Public Library System has much more to offer than books: computer access, conference rooms, an interlibrary loan system, and many cultural and educational events throughout the year. If you’d like to help the library plan, run, and advertise its various programs, join the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library. Past volunteers have assisted with clerical work, office administration, and social media outreach.

Charles River Conservancy

The Charles River serves as the border between Cambridge and Boston proper, offering a slice of the outdoors in the middle of the sprawling cityscape. Bostonians and visitors both enjoy swimming, sailing, and kayaking in the water, riding along the Charles River Bike Path, and relaxing in one of the several nearby parks. If you volunteer with the Conservancy, you can do your part to keep the river area clean, inviting, and eco-friendly.

Harvard Square Homeless Shelter

Getting involved with the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter, which operates November through April, is an excellent chance to help less fortunate members of your community persevere through Boston’s harsh winters while they try to get back on their feet. As a volunteer, you’ll join Harvard students in welcoming guests to the shelter, preparing their dinner and breakfast, and helping them do laundry.

It’s not all hard work, however—you’ll also have the chance to converse with guests, watch movies with them, read to them, and engage in other friendly activities they might not get to experience often. It’s one of the most important and rewarding things you can do with your evenings.

CitySprouts

CitySprouts promotes growth in two ways: by literally cultivating urban gardens around Cambridge and by helping children with limited access to nature learn more about gardening, nutrition, and their environment. CitySprouts volunteers can help tend gardens in the spring, press apple cider in autumn, and perform other basic tasks essential to keeping their various programs running year-round.

A Hundred Ways to Help

If the organizations we’ve mentioned don’t inspire you, there are plenty of other groups that would gladly welcome your time and effort. If you live in Cambridge, or if you’re planning to move here, you’ll agree the strong community makes this wonderful city what it is.

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Make a Home Office Work for You

by c21commonweath_ldowling 6. January 2020 12:15

Even if you love your job, you probably don’t enjoy traveling there and back five times a week. It’s not hard to understand why most people prefer sleeping in, working in comfortable clothes, and being six steps from their couch at the end of the day over spending a lot of time getting ready and commuting. On top of the convenience, many workers are more productive in their own environments, too.

In a lot of industries, it’s no longer necessary for people to go to a jobsite to get their work done, and employees are well aware of that—according to one 2019 poll, 99% of workers surveyed said they wanted to work remotely at least part of the week, and more employers are obliging to stay competitive.

Now that working from home is such a big part of our culture, a great home office setup is key. While you still live in your house, you’ll benefit from having a designated place to get tasks done, and when it comes time to sell, you’ll have a better chance of appealing to millennial buyers who are accustomed to working remotely. Here’s what you can do to get the most out of your home office before and during your sale.

A Room with a View

Nothing’s more counterproductive than feeling cooped up. Set up your office in a room with a window so you can take in the natural light, enjoy a breeze in nice weather, and look upon nice scenery when your eyes need a break from the computer. When prospective buyers come by, make sure your window is open and the lawn or garden outside has been tended to—they’ll be happier to imagine themselves working in a scenic atmosphere.

Use Your Wall Space

Your home office hopefully won’t be as sterile as the average workspace, but having some of the same accessories will make it more effective. Save room on your wall for a whiteboard or corkboard, a calendar, Post-it notes, etc. Even though you’ll probably take these things with you when you move, showing them to a buyer will prove that your office is a productive environment.

Stick to Business

The point of a home office is to eliminate distractions—otherwise, you’d just work in your living room. A little decoration is okay, but keep television, dishes, your kids’ toys, and other nonwork items out of your dedicated office space. You’ll get more done, and potential buyers will be better able to envision themselves working there without your personal touches.

Ultimately, you should establish your home office in whatever way works best for you personally, but these rules of thumb should serve most remote employees well. Say goodbye to long commutes and hello to a faster sale.

 

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6 Places to Eat in Somerville

by c21commonweath_ldowling 2. January 2020 17:44

three girlfriends dining out

Boston may be internationally famous for its baked beans and clam chowder, but those classics are just scratching the surface of the cuisine New England has to offer. Somerville, in particular, has become a dining hotspot in recent years—some of the region’s most highly rated restaurants, according to Boston magazine and Yelp users alike, call Somerville home.

If you’re a Boston resident looking for new places to try, or if a thriving food scene is an important factor in where you’d like to move, check out these six Somerville establishments.

Sarma

Let Sarma introduce you to meze, the Middle East’s answer to tapas. Your party can choose from a variety of small bites inspired mostly by Turkish cuisine, giving you the chance to sample quite a few items. Crowd favorites include seven-layer hummus, brisket shawarma, and harissa BBQ duck, but one of the nightly specials carried from table to table by the servers may catch your eye too.

Highland Kitchen

Highland Kitchen is a bar and restaurant that specializes in inventive takes on American staples. Grab a cocktail and enjoy a gourmet burger, sandwich, or stew for dinner (the spicy coconut curried goat stew is a highlight), or enjoy Sunday brunch, where fried chicken and shrimp and grits steal the show. Come for the food and drinks, stay for the eclectic jukebox.

Tasting Counter

Tasting Counter isn’t just a trendy name for a restaurant but a hint at what you’ll find inside: one shared counter space, facing the kitchen, where guests can interact with both the chefs and each other while enjoying a nine-course New American tasting menu. Self-described as “a complete sensory experience,” Tasting Counter is as much about performance as it is pleasing your palate, encouraging guests to immerse themselves in a communal culinary event.

Dakzen

Bringing authentic Thai street food to Somerville, Dakzen prides itself on having a smaller menu than most other Asian restaurants, holding to the philosophy that concentrating on a set amount of specialties leads to better meals than going too broad. The khao soi and yen ta fo noodles are not to be missed.

Field & Vine

Field & Vine, located in Somerville’s Union Square, offers simple small plate dishes using natural, sustainably sourced ingredients. Fans of seafood should pick from the raw bar, which includes oysters, fluke ceviche, and Maine yellowfin tuna crudo. If fish aren’t your favorite, try the Long Island duck breast or one of the many delicately prepared vegetable plates.

Celeste

Another Union Square establishment, Celeste serves homemade Peruvian fare in a unique environment designed by one of the restaurant’s cofounders, who’s also an architect. They have an extensive beer and wine menu, and their pisco drinks pair excellently with the seco de cordero (lamb stew).

This is only a small sample of the Somerville restaurants that Greater Boston gourmands have been excited about lately. If you’d like more recommendations, ask a realtor—as experts in what makes Somerville such a great place to live, they’re sure to have an opinion on the best food in the area.

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Can You Find the Right House Online?

by c21commonweath_ldowling 26. December 2019 08:56

 

In today’s world, anyone with a smartphone has an enormous amount of information at their fingertips. This gives modern home buyers a major advantage over those of past generations. Instead of driving around neighborhoods to see what’s for sale or counting on a realtor to know all of their preferences from the get-go, they can look at houses online to narrow down their search before bringing in professional help.

Using online resources is essential to finding your ideal home and neighborhood quickly. Here are some tips that will make your online search more effective.

First Things First

Before you start shopping for houses, take a few preliminary steps to set your search up for success.

  1. Know What You Can Afford
    Few things are more frustrating than finding the perfect house, then realizing you can't afford it. Before you start your search, take a thorough account of your income and expenses to set realistic expectations.
  2. Start Saving for Your Down Payment
    For most people, buying a house means having a mortgage. You can usually get better terms on a loan if you have a larger down payment, so start saving now.
  3. Get Preapproved
    Getting approved for a loan before you need it is the sensible thing to do. If you ever find yourself in a multiple offer situation, preapproval can make the difference between you and another potential buyer.
 

Starting Your Search

While you can find a lot of good info online by yourself, working with a realtor is still well worth it. Real estate professionals have access to multiple listing services that typically have the most current and accurate information. If you’d still like to go it alone for a while before bringing in a realtor, websites like Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com have the best information available to consumers.
 
For the most effective search:
 
  1. Be Specific
    How many bedrooms do you want? How many bathrooms? What is your price range? All the real estate websites give you the option to limit your search so you only see the houses that meet your criteria. Narrowing your search keeps you from being overwhelmed.
  2. Learn the History
    Before you commit to a home, look into its history. How long has it been on the market? Is it a foreclosure? How many foreclosures are in the area? What comparable houses have sold recently? The answers to these questions will give you valuable information that can help you when it comes time to negotiate.
  3. Know the Neighborhood
    Do you have kids, or do you plan to have them? It’s worth looking for a place with good schools, parks, and other family-friendly amenities nearby. Want to use public transit? You'll want a property within walking distance of a stop.
  4. Closing the Deal
    If you haven’t brought in a realtor by the time you’re ready to make an offer, make sure to do so now. A knowledgeable agent will have insight into each house's potential and the experience to help you negotiate a great deal.
If you’re looking for a home in the Greater Boston area, use our Property Search tool and follow our suggestions above. Let us know when you’ve found a few options that interest you—one of our agents will be happy to help you on the next leg of the journey.

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Hire a Mover or Do it Yourself?

by c21commonweath_ldowling 23. December 2019 08:41

Whether you’re moving down the street or across the country, the process of packing your belongings into a truck, driving them to your new place, and unloading them all can be overwhelming. It’s tiring enough just to read about it. There is a solution that will help you carry some of the load: You can hire professional movers.

 

Is it better to get professional assistance or move everything yourself? It depends on your situation. If you’re living in a one-bedroom apartment and have plenty of friends to help out, DIY moving could be easy. On the other hand, if you've got a three-bedroom house and two kids’ worth of stuff to take, doing it all alone may be more than you can handle.

 

Having trouble deciding? Let’s look at the pros and cons of managing the move on your own.

 

Pros

  • DIY Moving is Cheap
    If your budget is tight, moving everything yourself is probably the better option. As long as you have some friends willing to help with the heavy lifting, and you can handle driving a moving van, the DIY route is doable.
  • You Are in Total Control
    When you move yourself, you’re in complete control of everything: The boxing, the packing, the driving, and the schedule are all up to you. If you always like to be in command of your situation, DIY moving is definitely the way to go.

 

Cons

  • There’s a Lot of Heavy Lifting
    The worst part about a DIY move is picking up and packing all of your stuff into the truck—especially the bulky items and heavy furniture. If you and your friends aren’t quite muscular enough to hold everything steady, you could lose your security deposit or lower your property value by scratching up the walls. Professional movers come prepared to pick up and drop off everything for you, no matter how huge it is.
  • Logistics Are Harder Than They Look
    There is a lot of planning and coordinating that goes into a move. Professional movers know the best way to load your belongings so everything will be safe during the trip and convenient to take out of the truck. Moving companies are also better at predicting how long the trip will take.
  • The Problems Are All Yours
    When unexpected problems arise, and they will, it's up to you to figure them out. It could be something simple, like getting your couch through the door, or something a bit tougher, like your moving truck breaking down on the interstate. When you pay for professional movers, they take on some of those responsibilities for you.

Moving to a new home is always exciting regardless of what it takes to get there, but the less hassle the better. Now that you know the pros and cons of DIY moving, will you try it yourself or bring in the pros?

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Staying Active in Arlington

by c21commonweath_ldowling 19. December 2019 13:18

 

In February 2019, Boston magazine rated Arlington, Massachusetts one of the best places to live in the area. It's easy to see why. Arlington has the feeling of a small town, with its shops and restaurants, but it's just a few miles from downtown Boston. Its highly rated public schools make it a natural fit for young families, and it’s an excellent place to maintain an active lifestyle. Arlington offers plenty of opportunities to move around and enjoy the outdoors. Here are some of the suburb’s most popular sites for fresh air and exercise:

Reservoir Beach

Whether you come for a day of swimming in the summer, a barbecue in the springtime, or a stroll down the walking trail in the fall, Reservoir Beach should be on your list. It's perfect for an impromptu visit, but you can also make a reservation and host a party.

Robbins Farm Park

This iconic park started out as a family farm. With its playground, ball fields, and incredible view of the Boston skyline, it’s popular with kids and parents alike. Take a ride down the 60-foot twin slides, and don’t forget to take a picture with the famous dog statue.

The Minuteman Bikeway

This bike trail follows an unused railroad right-of-way through several Arlington neighborhoods. It’s perfect for biking, jogging, running, and walking. It's also the best way to reach the Great Meadow.

The Great Meadow

When early settlers found this marshy area, it was too soft to support buildings. Over the years since, it’s been used as a grazing area, a drainage area, and a reservoir. Today, the Great Meadow is a natural habitat for wildlife. Take the Minuteman Bikeway to get there and then spend the day exploring the trails.

Menotomy Rocks Park

At this 35-acre park in the heart of Arlington, you'll find walking paths, open fields for unstructured play, and a three-acre pond. Even though it's in the middle of one of the most densely populated areas in the country, Menotomy Rocks Park remains in its natural state—you’ll experience the area just as the early colonists did.

Spy Pond Park

If you’re looking for something different, how about a day of kayaking and canoeing? Spy Pond is a wonderful place to slow down and enjoy the natural beauty of one of the country’s most scenic areas. If you want to hit the water, be sure to reserve your spot ahead of time. Even if you don't care for boating, come to enjoy the walking trails. Whether you’re a dedicated athlete or you just enjoy quietly ambling around, Arlington’s parks, beaches, and trails will keep you occupied for months.

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The Best Holiday Events in Greater Boston

by c21commonweath_ldowling 16. December 2019 08:00

Since the 17th century, Boston has been home to people and celebrations of every description. If you love the holidays, Boston is arguably the best place to experience the season.

Beacon Hill Holiday Stroll

In a historic city like Boston, there is always a lot to see. Sometimes, you just have to slow down. Beacon Hill invites people of all ages to experience the holidays in Boston the way it was 200 years ago. Charles Street will be temporarily closed to cars and open for a brass quintet, horse and buggy rides, and Victorian carolers.

Boston Blink! Light and Sound Show

Imagine the greatest holiday-themed light show you’ve ever seen and you’ll get an idea of what Blink! is all about. This show runs every half hour from 4:30 – 10:00 pm, every day, from December 3rd through January 1st. The show features over 350,000 LED lights synchronized with traditional holiday music. This event is especially great for kids or anyone still young at heart.

Img Source: https://faneuilhallmarketplace.com/

Boston Tea Party Annual Reenactment

On December 16th, history buffs can relive a pivotal moment in America’s formation. First, you'll gather at the Old South Meeting House. Next, a fife and drum corps will lead a march to Griffin's Wharf. The event is free and open to the public, but ticket holders have access to a few extra perks. You can get all the information here.

First Night New Year’s Eve Celebration

After all the festivities of the Christmas season, Boston still has one more treat in store. Join over 1 million partygoers in Copley Square to ring in the new year in style. Events include a parade, plenty of live music, ice sculptures by local artists, and two fabulous firework shows. If you’re anywhere near Boston for New Year’s Eve, this is a can’t-miss event.

Frog Pond Ice Skating

Nothing says “winter wonderland” like an afternoon of ice skating. The Boston Common Frog Pond is in a prime location, making it easy to add ice skating to a day of shopping, a trip to the movie theater, or even a romantic night out. Visit the Frog Pond website to get more information.

Photo by Mark Hunt, markhuntart.com Img Source: https://bostonfrogpond.com/

Holiday Pops

The Boston Pops Orchestra is famous around the world. Every year, they run a special holiday show. There are four shows every weekend, along with several Holiday Pops matinees perfect for the kids, who can have their picture taken with Santa after the show. The Holiday Pops show is an experience you'll remember forever, and it’s the perfect gift for the music lovers in your life. There is no better place than Boston to enjoy the holidays. Whether you are looking for the oldest traditions or the most modern experience, you'll find them here.

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Get Your Home Ready for the Holidays

by c21commonweath_ldowling 12. December 2019 11:51

The holidays are here again, which probably means you’ve got a long list of things to do before your guests come over to celebrate. If you’re planning a dinner or holiday party and you’re feeling short on time, don’t worry. Now might not be the best time for major upgrades, but there are a few simple things you can do to make your home a more comfortable and welcoming environment this winter.

Clean Up

Make sure all the communal spaces in your house are clean, if not spotless. You can brighten up the bathroom by spraying hydrogen peroxide on top of countertops to get rid of stains. Place flowers or festive decorations on counters and shelves to add some flair.

Since you’ll likely spend a lot of time in the kitchen this season, check your appliances to make sure they’re all in good working order. Test all your stove burners, clean out the refrigerator, and make sure the dishwasher can get all the grime off your plates. Now is also a good time to sharpen your kitchen knives so they’ll be ready when you cook the holiday feast.

Kid-Proof the Place

If you’re hosting the holiday gathering this year, you might have more young children in your house than you’re used to. Think about making some temporary rearrangements so the kids have a safe space to be their rambunctious selves.

If your guests are bringing a baby, turn your spare bedroom or office into a nursing room. For toddlers and young children, set up a play area in the corner of the living room with toys, books, pillows, and maybe a TV. Older kids might get a kick out of helping in the kitchen—invite them to stir the pot or set the table. For dessert, prepare a batch of cookie dough ahead of time so the kids can have fun with baking and decorating cookies.

Last but not least, remember to put away any expensive items that could be damaged by children running around.

Light Up the Exterior

Nothing makes a home feel inviting like a well-lit entryway, and the holidays are a great opportunity to get creative with your display. If you celebrate Christmas, traditional green and red lights always look good around windows or lining a walkway. Hanukkah-themed lights tend to be blue and white, and you may find a pretty display in the shape of a menorah or Star of David.

No matter what holiday you celebrate, classic winter white is always a solid lighting option—glowing “icicles” hanging from your eave will look nice well into January. Once you’ve taken care of all the holiday lighting, check up on your everyday lights too. Make sure your porch light and any others lighting the driveway have fresh bulbs.

The holidays are stressful for some, but the feeling of being with family in a clean and cozy home is always worth a little legwork. Good luck with your holiday housekeeping—we hope you have a wonderful time celebrating.

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Natick’s Colonial Homes

by c21commonweath_ldowling 9. December 2019 13:39

First settled in 1651 by John Eliot, Natick was one of the many colonies governed by Britain before the United States achieved independence. Today, the town’s architecture reflects these moments in time with details and features representative of American colonialism.

Features of American Colonial Homes

Traditional American colonial-style homes look like the homes early colonists lived in before they left England. They’re simple, rectangular, and symmetrical. Most of these houses have two stories, steep roofs, and a centered front door with an equal number of windows above and on each side of the entryway. There are usually fireplaces at both ends of the home, an architectural detail that speaks to the style’s practical form.

While traditional American colonial homes fell out of favor around the time of the American Revolution, architects continued to incorporate some of their key elements into later designs. Many modern homes in Natick include beautiful colonial details that represent an important part of New England culture.

Modern Colonial Homes in Natick

Prospective buyers will be pleased to find modern colonial homes on the market in Natick and throughout the Greater Boston area. Their common architectural details include:

  • Front entrances supported by columns or pilasters 
  • Large porches
  • Central doorways with the same number of windows placed on each side
  • Gambrel or gabled roofs
  • Open floor plans

 If you’re searching for a home with these recognizable features, you’re in luck. Here are just a few of the colonial houses currently for sale in Natick.

217 Bacon Street 
This newly built home includes four bedrooms, three and a half baths, a gourmet kitchen, a finished basement, and tons of closet space. Its exterior is painted white with a black front door and finishing touches, adding a touch of sophistication to a traditional design.

31 Pleasant Street

This custom-built modern colonial home includes five bedrooms, four and a half baths, a high-end chef’s kitchen, three fireplaces, and a beautiful entryway framed with columns. If you want a large space, either for your family or to entertain guests, this could be the home for you.

112 Glen Street
This modern colonial home is situated on two acres of land, with spectacular views of scenic South Natick. The inside includes high ceilings, coffered and beam detailing, and raised panel woodwork. Five bedrooms and six bathrooms provide ample space for you and your family.

Search for Modern Colonial Homes in Natick

The Greater Boston area is known for its American-colonial architecture. If you’re searching for a colonial home in Natick, use our property search tool to find where you deserve to be.

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Biking in the Bay State

by c21commonweath_ldowling 5. December 2019 13:33

Massachusetts is known for its academic institutions, burgeoning tech scene, and rich sense of history, but did you know it’s also one of the most cycling-friendly states in the country?

According to the League of American Bicyclists, Massachusetts excels in adopting programs and policies that promote safe biking and walking, and the state provides the funding and infrastructure needed for safer biking paths.  

If you want to bike to work, the grocery store, or the local farmer’s market, you’ll be pleased to find designated bike paths throughout Boston (and the state at large), making your commute safer and more fun.

Biking Stats

Massachusetts residents and visitors are lucky to be in communities that provide the space and infrastructure necessary for everyday biking, where most biking routes aren’t that long. The National Household Travel Survey estimates that 52% of all trips taken are only three miles or less—the perfect cycling distance (or at least a short one)!

In fact, many of the state’s residents claim they’d prefer biking to specific places, like work or the grocery store, over other methods of transportation. After surveying 2,246 residents, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation found: 

  • 56% of rural respondents want to bike to work and 55% want to bike to nearby parks.
  • 59% of those surveyed in suburban areas want to bike to work and 48% want to bike to shopping centers.
  • 78% of urban respondents want to bike to work and 48% want to bike to shopping centers.

To create even more convenient, safe, and accessible bike paths, The League of American Bicyclists recommends that the state adopts certain laws to ensure biker safety, including:

  • A safe passing law that requires drivers to leave at least three feet of space between their vehicles and cyclists when passing them on the road.
  • A law that allows municipalities to enforce a speed limit of 20 miles per hour on streets with advisory bike lanes.

By making small changes like these, the state will continue to lead the way in investing in safer bikeways and walkways. Massachusetts already ranks fifth out of all 50 states for infrastructure and funding, with hundreds of millions of dollars recently spent on developing and maintaining safer shared paths, trails, and bikeways. For this reason, Massachusetts has seen fewer bicycling-related fatalities compared to years past.

Explore Boston’s Trails and Bike Paths

Massachusetts is home to many bikeways and walkways that guide locals and visitors alike to their final destinations—Boston alone boasts a 50-mile bike lane network. Click here for an overview of popular bike paths and trails throughout Boston and the surrounding areas.

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