7/31/2015: Management guest blog: “So…How was it for you?”

Everyone’s been asking me this, so I figured a little kitchen renovation round-up was in order for you guys.  If you bore witness to our basement renovation, you may remember that I was in my third trimester with the littlest monster and then home on maternity leave for the duration of the project, and it was Not Good.  I may or may not have threatened to kill the plumber when he woke up the baby a few times.  But this project was different.  This project was Not So Bad, probably because now that I’ve raised toddlers, my level of tolerance for mess and noise is much higher.  In fact, if you’ve ever raised or lived with toddlers, well, then, you are totally ready for a kitchen renovation, because it’s basically the same thing:

  1. Loud, destructive monsters that get up too early will invade your house. Every day.  And they won’t go away.  And they’re constantly banging on things and hollering at each other and dropping stuff so suddenly that you develop PTSD while the situation is in progress.  As with toddlers, you need to find a good hiding place, or get out of the house as early as possible.
  1. They will make a huge mess, always, everywhere. Muddy boot footprints appear, even when it hasn’t rained in weeks.  The other day, I found plaster inside a sealed box of Triscuits.  The trash situation at our house got so nasty that we’ve actually started to name the raccoons that come to visit.  (Say hi to Albert the next time you walk by!)  As with toddlers, you will try desperately to contain the mess in certain zones, but probably fail and just have to throw a bunch of stuff out.
  1. So. Many. Questions. Except instead of, “Who invented air?  Why is blue?  Is Abraham Lincoln older than Grandpa?  Can I drink beer when I’m an adult, too?,” it’s “Where do you want this electrical outlet?  Do you prefer the Arctic White or the Polar White paint?  Do you want this hook at 4 feet or 4 feet, .2 inches high?”  As with toddlers, keep it simple and don’t overthink it.  The devil is not in the details – the devil is the person in the house asking you unending questions, so just answer a few and then head back to that hiding place and hope they get distracted.
  1. Well-balanced, family dinners are out of the question. It’s too messy and loud and disorganized.  So, everyone eats too many hotdogs for a few months.  Guess what?  Nobody ever died from eating too many hot dogs.  I mean, that Black Widow woman was like our family mascot for a while there.  As with toddlers, rely on your village to throw some nutritious meals at you out of sympathy every once in a while (shout out, generous neighbors, you know who you are!!!), and otherwise, embrace the takeout.
  1. 4 o’clock is the new 5 o’clock. Or 3:30… or 3:15…  We don’t judge on upper Randlett, and it doesn’t take a kitchen to serve up cheese and crackers and booze. As with toddlers, a little of Silver Lake Liquors’ finest offerings flowing at the end of the day sure makes the mess and noise and questions a lot more tolerable.  Administer as needed.

Kristen Wig

All in all, a little patience and acceptance of the circumstances goes a long when you’re dealing with any renovation.  This project was better than expected, and I have to credit Pete and his crew for that.  They were reliable and considerate and hooked us up with a great kitchen on time and on budget.  So, if you’re thinking about having some work done, give them a call for a quote.  If you’re thinking about adding some toddlers to your household, well…good luck to you…and feel free to stop by my kitchen any time after 3 for a drink.


7/31/2015: 2nd summer using All Green for lawn care

Our first few years in the house, I thought I knew everything. Had internet access and a Home Depot credit card. Was reckless with lawn care. Some fertilizer here, seed there. It’ll look nice I told Management.

Then I got crabgrass.

dead grass

Everyone was telling me to get help. But I didn’t. And that’s when I got grubs.

Don’t know if you guys have ever hit rock bottom.  Well I did in 2014 when I got grubs. Grubs are nasty little bastards that eat away the root system of your lawn. They make a healthy lawn/lifestyle impossible.

That’s when I called All Green and told them I had crabgrass and grubs and god knows what else. Told them I had been reckless with my lawn and possibly my body. They didn’t need to know the last part but said it was ok. All Green is a lawn care company in West Roxbury that specializes in troubled lawns like mine.

They started by aerating my lawn. Then applied lime, fertilizer, crabgrass preventer and grub control — for $40/month. Grass perked up right away. I did too.

This is our 2nd summer with All Green. Best our grass has ever looked. Like we’re finally on the path to recovery.

If you have crabgrass or grubs or know someone who does, please get help.

7/29/2015: Kitchen renovation — final cost

Talked to Pete today and got the final tally. Our original estimate was $112k — not including appliances or light fixtures. This estimate was for a 21 x 8′ addition that included a new kitchen, mudroom & half bath. Final cost is $120k you guys.

We had some extra work done that added to our cost overrun. Most of the overrun was because we spent $19k on cabinets (budget was $15k).  Also dropped $5,200 on marble counters. Only the best for Management.

There were no surprises which helped. During demo it appeared we had asbestos shingles but Pete had them tested and they were asphalt. Remediation would have been a couple thousand. We also planned to have the drain pipe for the upstairs bath replaced, since it ran right through the kitchen to the basement. But Pete said it was cast iron and in good shape. That would have been another few thousand.

Pete kept us on budget. Anytime we asked for something he hadn’t planned on, he let us know and told us how much it would cost. He would say that’s gonna be expensive, then tell us it was $500. Which I appreciated. Cause at the end of the project, all those $500 extras add up.

Probably gonna be the last blog about the kitchen you guys. Management may do a guest blog in the next few days. Overall, love the new kitchen and my TV above the fridge. Very pleased with Pete as well. Highly recommend him.




7/28/2015: Reminder — today is the last day to pay less for 277 Waltham

If you want to pay less than $998,888 for 277 Waltham — then you have until exactly midnight. Seller put you guys on the clock last Tuesday. Gave you 1 week to pay less than $998,888 and do your own renovations.

277 Waltham

In 11 hours, this option is off the table. In 11 hours, you’re getting a renovated kitchen & 1 new bath. You’re gonna pay $998,888 in guess what?  11 hours.

Tick tock you guys.









7/25/2015: RandlettPark.com gets a facelift

The site was looking a little tired you guys so I gave it a facelift.  New theme, new header.  No big deal.  Just another reason we are superior in absolutely every way to Eliot Street.

Was gonna use the pic of the whole gang at the block party as the new header.  Just a great shot.

Then I noticed my daughter’s face.  Scared the living shit out of me.  Like something out of a horror movie. I mean normally a cute kid but my god.


7/24/2015: Don’t forget to order firewood this summer

Firewood is cheaper in the summer.  It needs a few months to season.  So why wouldn’t you order now?

Let’s be real.  If you have people over and can’t get a fire going — there’s gonna be gossip.  Like Chaz can’t get it started.  Or Bunny said it’s too wet. No Clayton’s wood is the problem.  Next thing you know your party is an erectile dysfunction commercial.

Don’t be that guy.  Be the guy that lights a match with his stubble, tosses it into the fire then walks off for more bourbon.

All you gotta do is call Bruce at Beech Hill Firewood.  Cord is $450.  Half cord is $275. For an extra cost, Bruce will stack it for you. He also delivers kiln dried wood and wood for pizza ovens.  Mine was delivered today so basically my Christmas party is already better than yours.

If you really want to step up your fire game, order some fatwood from LL Bean.  Pine fatwood sticks have a natural resin that make starting fires a cinch.  Almost don’t even need newspaper when you have fatwood.

Firewood pile

7/22/2015: 277 Waltham for rent at $4,988/month; now for sale at $998,888

Posted last week about 277 Waltham being listed for rent at $4,988/month.  Well it was just listed this morning for sale at $998,888.

277 Waltham

But it gets weird.  $998,888 is the price but you can get the house for less if you make an offer in the next 7 days.  You see the seller is planning to renovate the kitchen and 1 bathroom.  If you want renovated, you gotta pay $998,888 and the seller will do the work. If you want unrenovated, you can pay less but it’s gotta be in the next 7 days.

Oh yeah, City says the house is 2,603 sq/ft but broker says 3,500 sq/ft.

So lemme get this straight.  The house is for rent and sale.  The kitchen and 1 of the 2.5 baths will be/will not be renovated.  It’s somewhere between 2,603 – 3,500 sq/ft.  It can be rented renovated for $4,988/month.  It can be sold renovated without permits for $998,888. It can be sold unrenovated for less than $998,888 but only in the next 7 days. After 7 days, you can only buy the house renovated.

You guys clear on this?  Good.

277 Waltham1

277 Waltham2


7/21/2015: The cheapest place in West Newton

Everybody knows how strong the West Newton real estate market is this year.  But what if you have pretty much no USDs and still want to be an 02465er?

You could rent 211 Derby #3 for $1,100 per month.

211 Derby

Sweet house right?  Yeah — well your apartment is the attic.  All 510 sq/ft of it.  If you are over 5’4 I suggest you purchase a helmet.

211 Derby3

Bedroom — negative.  Any type of AC — nope.  105 degrees today — check. Kinda place you wind up renting then spend night 1 in a folding chair looking around like what the fuck happened with my life?

Don’t get too down though.  This place has a bathroom.  And a fridge.

211 Derby1

Wondering why there’s no kitchen?  Read the sign below.  It is what it is.

211 Derby2

Couldn’t be more perfect.  You sitting up there having your little pity party and the landlord and Bilichick reminding you to shut up.

7/20/2015: Guest blog from Ken — solar panels

We decided to get solar panels installed on our house.  These are the PV (Photo-Voltaic) panels which generate electricity, as opposed to another type of solar panel which uses sunlight on black panels to just directly heat up water in pipes.

The next decision was whether to purchase the panels, or to lease them.  Leased panels might be an attractive option because the company offering them would install them for next-to-nothing, they own the panels, you get the benefit of buying fewer kilowatt-hours from the electric company, and the company gets the SREC (Solar Renewable Energy Credits) from the electric company.  We decided to purchase our panels because A) We get the SREC credits, in addition to the lower cost (since we’re purchasing fewer kilowatt-hours) and B) they become an asset for the house when it comes time to sell the property. (Those who lease might be able to take the solar panels to their next residence).

It took a couple of visits for folks to get all the measurements they needed, take photographs of the roof, the electrical service panel, etc, etc. Basically gather all the data they needed to put forth an educated estimate.  Drawings were made back in April, and since a bunch of weight was going to be added to our roof, a professional engineer needed to sign off on the drawings to say that our roof wasn’t going to collapse under the weight of panels, gadgets, wiring, in addition to the typical snow and ice.  (The company took care of all this.)  Originally, there was quite a backlog of installations to be done, and we were initially told July, then August.  Fortunately, sometime in June we got word that there was some time available for a crew from North of Boston to do the work, so it was scheduled for July 2.

Installation typically would take about two days.  Our install started on the Thursday before July 4th weekend.  No one worked on that Friday, so they returned on the following Monday to continue work.  I say ‘typically’ because: Our house, on the South-facing rear roof has a dormer over a 3rd floor bathroom.  The roof over this bathroom has a very shallow slope.  When the roofing was recently redone, the surface of this roof was done as a rubber roof, instead of shingle.  (We’d found out in February that shingles on this shallow slope had helped ice dams form and water enter our home uninvited.)  The Solar Panel Company can and does install panels on rubber roofs – but for whatever reason, they didn’t get some part(s) in time before starting our installation, so they needed to return on a third day to finish mounting panels on this middle-dormer-shallow-sloped roof.  Nothing had been left exposed or at-risk during the interim.  I don’t know whether it could have been completed in only 2 days, had the necessary parts been on-site.

I think of the installation as two halves that met in the middle.  As a crew of roughly 3 people worked on the roof of the house mounting rails and related hardware on which to mount the panels, an electrician worked in the basement mounting the inverter and related accessories, and running wires which eventually met up with the first team.


The gadgets-and-gizmos-a-plenty:

Let’s start at the top and work our way down.  We have 16 panels on the roof: 4 on the middle dormer, and 6 on each side.  Each pair of panels has an ‘optimizer’ connecting them. The job of the optimizer is to keep a panel(s) which might be covered by shade or otherwise not being very productive, from negatively affecting the productivity of the entire set of panels. I.e. if 3 or 4 panels are covered with shade or snow, or got broken by a falling pterodactyl, the other panels can still provide useful amounts of current. So: 8 Optimizers (all mounted on the roof, under the panels). Also on the roof is a ‘Gateway’, which talks to the optimizers, and receives commands wirelessly from a control panel on the corner of the house.

The current that comes from the optimizers is all joined together (well actually, in two halves.  I’ve got a + and – for the 1st eight panels, and a + and – for the 2nd eight panels), but all this current comes through one hole in the roof (probably about an inch in diameter) into my 3rd floor closet.  From there (inside appropriate conduit) it goes to a decent size breaker box on the wall of the closet, perhaps a little less than a foot square, maybe 3” deep.  This is so that if ever a worker needs to trouble shoot the system, they don’t have to climb on the roof to de-energize the rest of the system.  The generated electricity can be safely shut off from the comfort of the third floor closet.

Behind this junction box is a hole in the wall, where high-voltage DC wires start their route (again, within appropriate flexible metal conduit) following a plumbing vent pipe, down three floors to our basement, where it then goes across the ceiling to the inverter.

The inverter is a fairly sizable box which must be mounted at least 3′ above the floor (for flood-paranoia reasons) on it’s own portion of wall space. It can’t be mounted under a basement window (for other moisture-related-paranoia reasons*).  Connected to it are two smaller boxes.  One is a meter, which will show how much power the panels have generated over the lifespan of the system.  The other is a pretty simple shut-off. I’ll describe more about shut-offs later.  The large inverter box also has a small screen on which I can check the status of various parts of the system.


Hanging below the DC Disconnect is what looks like a shiny soda can.  Think of this as a mondo surge suppressor.  In case the panels on the roof get hit by a bolt of lightening, this will keep that from damaging anything else in the system – or the house.

Now we finally get to some useful stuff.  From the inverter, power (now Alternating Current, matching the rest of the electrical service in the house) now runs to the breaker panel in the corner of the basement.  Get that? “TO the panel”! That’s the good and exciting part!  I now have a double-sized breaker in the panel which connects (or not) the generated power to the rest of the service. “A-Ha,” you say, “Another shut-off?” Yup – get over it. There’s more to come.  Also at the bottom of my breaker  panel is another new shiny-soda-can/lightning arrester; so lightning that hits the AC side of this system doesn’t feed back into the inverter and damage it that way.

In addition to all this, I now have two more small boxes mounted on the outside of the house, in the corner by the electrical service.  One is a simple, grey service disconnect box, similar to the one by your typical air-conditioner condenser outside your own house. The other is a small panel for monitoring and controlling the stuff on the roof. Most importantly, this control box can be used to remotely turn off the panels on the roof. (Yep, I know… wait for it. There’s more.)


Alright, so just how many ways can all this new technology be kept from being productive? Or in simpler terms, how to turn it on?  Well, I can’t really. Not yet. I’m still waiting for N-Star / EverSource to come and replace my current (pun not intended) meter with a “Net” meter.  Not ‘net’ as in the ‘internet’.  But ‘net’ as in “accounts for all the pluses and minuses.”  The meter I have now (like any meter that any house without solar panels would have) is only smart enough to account for power being supplied to the house.  Not only does my meter not understand if I provide power back to the grid, but I would actually get charged for it! I.e. If I generate more power than I need at any given moment, not only would I not get credit for supplying it to the grid, but my meter would mistakenly think it’s going in the other direction and the electrical company would think I’m using their power, and charge me for it.  Hence I haven’t ‘turned on’ my system yet, since I’m waiting for a meter that can tell the difference between power I’m buying and power I’m supplying.

When I do, I’m told can turn on all these switches in any order, but here’s the list I’ve come up with:

1)  Third-floor closet DC Junction box – This is already connected and will stay that way unless/until service personnel deems it necessary to disconnect the power generated by the panels from the wires leading to the basement.

2)  Inverter switch – rotates a quarter-turn to let the DC power from the roof supply lines into the inverter.

3)  Breaker in my breaker panel – needs to be ON to allow the AC power from the inverter to connect to the rest of my house (and the grid).

4)  Disconnect mounted outside the house needs to be ON, just like #3. The difference here is that this disconnect is readily available to the fire department or other first responders if they deem it necessary to use.

5) The Control box outside the house (next to the Disconnect) needs to remotely tell the optimizers to start letting through the power made by the panels.  This box is important because even if the first responders use the adjacent disconnect to turn off the inverter, there can still be dangerous voltages on the roof, and in the wires leading to the basement!  If firefighters are heading up to my roof to save my life, limb or property, nobody wants them getting a fatal shock.  This control box is capable of a “Rapid shutdown” where the control box sends a wireless signal to the ‘Gateway’ on the roof, which in turn tells the optimizers to stop energizing the DC side of this system (between the roof and the inverter in the basement).

Other tidbits:

– If there’s a power outage, guess what?  I lose power.  “It takes power to make power” said one of the installers. “Um, I uh… ok.” said I (I’m paraphrasing, but not by much.)  I think there are electronics inside the inverter that need – ironically – to be plugged in to the supplied service.

– I’m not storing any power in batteries.  If I make less power than I’m using then I buy what I need from the electrical company to supplement it.  If I make more than I need, then the excess goes to the grid, and I get credit for it.  Effectively, the electrical company acts like my batteries; I take from it when I need to.

– Soon I should get pointers to a website(s) where I can monitor my production, broken down panel by panel.  It uses data from the new meter in the basement, and I think it might be possible to engage and disengage the system from that interface.  It’ll generate pretty graphs for me and show me what credits I’ll be getting from the electrical company.

– The fact that our panels aren’t visible from the street is a fortunate coincidence. The rear of our house faces south – the direction facing the sun most often.  If our house had been on the other side of the street (or I suppose, located in the southern hemisphere) then the panels would be a permanent part of the aesthetic of the front of our house.

– We got our roof redone prior to installing the solar panels.  The original impetus for this was the ice dam damage cause back in February. However, if the panels went on while we still had a few years of life in the roof shingles, then at some point the panels would have to be removed (for the roofers) and then re-installed.  Since we’d purchased the panels that would be an added expense.  Those who lease panels can probably get their company to remove & reinstall panels for free for re-roofing purposes.

– When the roof was done, we had 3 skylights removed, including one on the 3rd floor.  We found the skylights to be great at letting heat out in the wintertime, almost as good as they were at letting solar energy heat up our rooms in the summertime to make our air conditioning work harder.  This wasn’t the type of solar power we wanted. By getting rid of the skylight on the 3rd floor, they were able to fit 2 more solar panels on the roof.  (Also: no more skylight-related leaks in the kitchen!)

– The control panel mounted on the outside of the house needed to be (wait for it…) plugged in.  I now have the exterior power outlet that I’d been intending to install for the past 5 years.

– In between the installation and the replacement ‘Net’ meter, we got a visit from the City electrical inspector. Everything passed.  Scheduling such visits is usually a bit of a nuisance, but it worked out well this time.

– The new meter in the basement and the Disconnect outside the house each have a small padlock to protect curious people from harmful voltages.

– Red stickers abound, warning all who approach about dangerous voltages, letting electricians know that some conduit contains DC instead of AC, and that there is potentially more power at the service panel than one might think.

– If you like numbers, the solar company that installed everything estimates that the system will produce roughly 4500 kilowatt-hours per year.

– If you want to know more, find me at the next block party; I’ll be happy to chat.

* I say ‘paranoia’ with tongue-in-cheek. Obviously, if the National Electrical Code deems such things necessary, I’m sure there were plenty of examples of scary experiences leading up to the rules.  Since I don’t claim to know more about electricity (in this context) than the folks who wrote that book, I’ll be abiding by all their suggestions.

7/16/2015: Judith’s Kitchen kind of open but no food

In a surprise move, Juidth’s Kitchen is kind of open but has no food.  The renovation is done.  You can walk in there.  But there is no food.

I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t see this one coming.  I just always thought like oh Judith’s Kitchen will have food.  Now I’m not so sure.  Maybe it is just Judith’s kitchen.  Or maybe this is what they call a soft opening.  Where you’re open and closed at the same time.

Tell you what I do know.  With all my blogging on Judith’s Kitchen, she may never serve me food — if in fact there is any food to be served at all.


7/10/2015: My mortgage guy

Everybody likes to have a guy for something.  Like a guy to fix your gutters.  Or a guy to clean your chimney.  Well George Rodgers is my guy for mortgages.

George & I played ball together at Northeastern.  We refer to each other as the old gang from college.  Sometimes just gang for short.

One time gang tried to get the whole team pumped up.  We were losing to JMU in the 4th quarter.  In the huddle George says we’re gonna march down the field and score!  Was like a scene from Rudy or something — except we played for Northeastern.  Next play the guy he was supposed to block sacked our quarterback for a safety.  Not gonna say he lost us the game but he lost us the game. #79 below

George put that play behind him and now works for GMH Mortgage.  Has done about 10 loans for Management & I. Lots of loans for my family & friends too.  When we’re buying something or need to refi, we call gang.  Totally trust my guy and he lays out all the options so it’s easy to understand. Even for a simple caveman like me.

I hate to harp on that play at JMU but gang really showed me something that day.  He could have packed it in after that.  Become an alcoholic.  Or like a recluse that lives in a camper and makes bombs.  NOBODY would have blamed him.  But he didn’t. Got married and got into the mortgage game.  I just want to say this to you guys: he has never and I mean never screwed up one of my mortgages as bad as he screwed up that JMU game.

So if you have mortgage needs, talk to George.  If you need to block someone in 4th quarter of a close game, call someone else.

Oh yeah – don’t call George this week.  He’s in Disney World with his 3 kids.  Must be having a great time.  In Orlando.  In July.  With 3 kids. grodgers@gmhmortgage.com

7/9/2015: 49 Eliot just sold for $950k

I saw this price on the registry’s website. Went to the fridge to get a Coors Light. Came back, looked at the price again THEN spit out my Coors Light.

I mean $950k is Randlett money. To live on Eliot?  Street doesn’t have sidewalks. Possibly running water or FIOs.

Upside here is everyone’s home on Randlett is now worth a million USDs. Congrats you guys.

49 Eliot

7/8/2015: Going big at 825 Watertown St

Remember 825 Watertown St?  Was listed for $614k in April and sold for $651k in May. Bought by a developer.  On the showing the listing broker was probably like this is a well-kept ranch built in 1959!  Developer was like yeah I’m gonna drive a backhoe through it.

825 Watertown

Permits show a new single family home will be constructed on the nearly 14,000 sq/ft lot. According to Newton’s FAR (floor area ratio) calculator, this home can be 5,300 sq/ft.  Not into square footage?  Well I am and that’s like big you guys.  Keep you posted.