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Any advice about DC suburbs?

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lovelylulu

Ideal_Rock
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I know there are heaps of DC area PSers.

My DH & I have been renting in a really great part of DC -- Cleveland Park. We love it there for so many reasons, but we''re strongly considering moving out to either MD or VA to make our first home purchase. Over the past couple of weekends we''ve been taking mini trips to different neighborhoods to try to get a feel for them, see the offerings, etc. At first, we both felt drawn to Maryland, but after last sundays jaunt to Northern VA, specifically the Del Ray community we might be changing our minds. Both of us are big craftsman bungalow fans!!

Does anyone have any opinions, advice, first hand experience?

We''re weighing things like:
Space for our $$
Commuting (we''ll both be working long hours and do we really want a hefty commute)
Taxes
Neighborhood feel
Townhouse vs. SFH
Schools (though kids are a few years down the line)


We''ve also been looking around more transitional parts of DC, such as Logan Circle, but staying in the city might be too expensive.
 

winternight

Brilliant_Rock
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Well I think the DC market is going down still, so perhaps you want to keep an eye on prices for awhile? My fiance and I are sort of waiting the market out. Personally I wouldn''t want to live too close to Logan Circle - I used to live in the U Street area and now live in Cleveland Park (we''re neighbors) - very different neighborhoods. Logan Circle is still rough and I don''t see it improving much more with the market headed downwards.
 

yellowsparkles

Shiny_Rock
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I am a former logan circle house owner and there were good and bad things. We lived border line logan/shaw U street Cordoza area. I LOVED being able to walk to work, gym, restaurants, etc. It was a transitional area and there were still lots of problems. We had two murders and three shootings during our two year stay there. I had been threatened while I was walking to the gym. Cleveland Park is fantastic. It seems that the house prices in DC are holding steady whereas Fairfax County is still expecting another 13% decreast this year (something like that). We sold the house in 2002 and bought a townhouse in Oakton, VA. We didn''t like that at all (but it was a good rental property for us). We didn''t like townhouse living (too vertical) and we didn''t like the traffiic and not being able to walk to places such as getting a coffee or paper. I took metro to work but didn''t like the commute. Property taxes were higher in Fairfax county, but income tax lower than DC. One thing, you do get more for your money in VA in terms of services for the taxes you pay.

I am sure you know all this. Del Rey is nice. Have you looked at Takoma Park Md. Kinda Berkeley feeling. Also, how about a condo in the Penn coridor (MCI center area). We almost bought a condo in the Mather building. Really regret not doing so.

Good luck. Best thing to do is look at everything.
 

elsie

Shiny_Rock
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Hey lovelylulu!

I have some first-hand experience -- went to middle/high school in Northern Virginia and currently live in a suburb of Baltimore (maybe ~30 min from DC). I would say that both Maryland and Virginia are lovely places to live, but get more and more crowded the closer you are to DC.

Real Estate -- In Maryland, you definitely get more bang for your buck in terms of real estate when you get past Montgomery County (for the price of our townhouse in Howard County, we couldn''t find much comparable in Montgomery). I''m not certain of this, but I suspect that No. Va. is more expensive than the area where I live (just to give you an idea of prices).

Of course, SFH if you can afford it, but there are some nice townhouse communities around the area as well. IMO, any home you buy around here will probably appreciate enough in the next few years that it will be considered a reasonable investment.

Commute -- Grrr... you do not want to have to take the Beltway to work every morning! If you have to drive and hate the drivers/traffic around here, it might not be too fun. However, if you are in No. Va. or in MD close to a Metro station or Metro bus stop, the commute might not be too bad. Otherwise, I wouldn''t suggest living elsewhere if you work in DC.

Schools -- Well, I''m a bit biased towards No. Va. since I went to a great magnet school there. I would say No. Va. schools (Fairfax County) are top-notch, but can''t really comment on Maryland (although I''ve heard Howard County schools are good too).

I don''t really know any of the communities you mentioned, but feel free to ask if you have any more questions!
 

eleguin

Shiny_Rock
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Lulu, I lived in DC (in the city) for 3 years and would have loved to stay and move to the DC suburbs if it hadn''t been for my fiance being so insistant on staying in NYC (for finance and wall st). We went to a lot of neighborhoods in DC to visit friends, go to restaurants and just hang out. I personally like areas that are metro-accessible and have good restaurants close by. As you know, DC traffic during rush hour can be horrendous, so having a metro would be an added convenience. I actually loved Cleveland Park (where u are now) and Woodley Park. Those neighborhoods are really nice residentially and they''ve got some nice restaurants and areas to walk around to as well. Bethesda is good too if you want more of a bustling area. Some of our friends lived further down Wisconsin Ave along the red metro line. You''d need a car more up there, but it is still close enough to the action. As for VA, have you considered the Tyson''s area? We also went to the Falls Church area a lot. I feel like there are so many pleasant places to live in the DC suburbs, you''d just have to drive out there to get a feel for the area.

Good luck!
 

lovelylulu

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Thanks for the input so far.

Basically, I'll be starting a new job this summer, so we won't be seriously ready to place an offer until at least 6-8 months from now. However, I want to use this time to start researching and learning about the various options.

We both love CP, but when our 750 sq. ft apartment goes for $360K, we just don't think we can afford to buy here. I'm aware that Logan is transitional, but I was definately wondering how transitional. I haven't really spent that much time over there, but I have a friend that lives right near the wholefoods there and likes it quite a lot.

our first trip was to takoma park, but honestly, i think my expectations were too high. we just did not love it. maybe another trip is in order...

del ray seemed wonderful. i loved the setbacks, mt. vernon ave., the proximity to king st. but, hey, i'm quite a sucker for porches with swings


a townhouse would not be our first choice, but we both have student loans, so even with a great double income, we don't want to take on more debt than would be wise...so maybe a TH is a smart way to get into the neighborhood we love and then grow into a SFH as our student debts disappear?

It'll be interesting to watch the spring housing market and see how the prices react.

ETA: METRO ACCESSIBILITY is a huge factor for both of us.
 

yellowsparkles

Shiny_Rock
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That is great you have lots of time to look. get the paper and go to open houses. You get a good feel for what you like and don''t like.
Another option is south of Alexandria. I had a couple of co wokers who lived there and they liked it. It was close to old town alexandria and the house prices were a lot lower than other parts of No. Va. Kinda undescovered. I never went there, so I can''t give you first hand experience. I too like Del Rey and the houses - love porches.
 

lovelylulu

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Thanks yellowsparkles, elsie, eleguin and winternight,

we have a lot of investigating to do.

DH and I went to around 6 open houses on sunday. we weren''t planning on any
but there were just so many going on. We clearly couldn''t afford most of the places, nor are we immediately needing an agent, but it was very informative. just from that brief survey we could sort of tell if a place was seriously overpriced, etc. we came clean to all the real estate agents and they were more than willing to talk to us about neighborhoods, options, etc...
 

sumbride

Ideal_Rock
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Del Ray is truly fabulous, but it''s a pretty expensive area too, isn''t it? It lost the "hidden" part of hidden treasure several years ago. It definitely fits all your criteria but be sure you can afford it before you start judging everything else by it!


Takoma Park/Silver Spring are great areas too, with Takoma being a wee bit more affordable. I do think Maryland is cheaper than VA, having lived in both. The cost of living just feels lower and taxes seem to be too, but that could all be a trade-off in commuting time for you if you get too far out.

I''m no expert on "close-in" though, since I moved to Baltimore, but I decided that places like Odenton and Laurel weren''t for me at this point in my life, so city-living won out... I just picked Baltimore over DC for affordability. Tradeoff is the commute. I like my house more than my job though so I''ll be job hunting at the end of the year.
 

landarchsailor

Rough_Rock
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Lulu...I can''t help you much but I happen to be moving to Del Ray from the Midwest in February, so I''d love to hear your and anyone else''s take on the neighborhood....so far I''ve heard nothing but great things. Don''t want to hijack your thread...!
 

lovelylulu

Ideal_Rock
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Sum: can you recommend any good baltimore neighborhoods? do you take the marc into DC?
 

lovelylulu

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Date: 1/9/2007 12:04:03 PM
Author: landarchsailor
Lulu...I can''t help you much but I happen to be moving to Del Ray from the Midwest in February, so I''d love to hear your and anyone else''s take on the neighborhood....so far I''ve heard nothing but great things. Don''t want to hijack your thread...!
no worries about thread jacking! the more imput, the better. how did you come to decide on Del Ray
 

onedrop

Ideal_Rock
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Hi Lovelylulu: I can give my take, I was born and raised in the DC area. I grew up mostly in MD, in Silver Spring, MontCo. Loved the fact that there was so much diversity and this was 10-15 years ago. Close in Silver Spring is very nice and there are several quaint neighborhoods with the cottage style houses you are interested in. You might want to check out the Woodmont area for that. Also, and forgive me I don't know the names of the neighborhoods, but there are areas off of Dale Drive and in the Sligo Creek neighborhoods (also in Silver Spring) that are also hidden gems.

I work in Virginia in the Old Town area (and before that Crystal City) and that is pretty nice. I am very familiar with Del Ray and it is really very nice. Most of the people I know that live there are really happy with the neighborhood. You also might want to check out Arlington (and again I don't know the exact name of the neighborhood), but a co-worker bought a really nice little cottage/craftsman style home there. And it's in a good location.

Hope that helps...if I could afford it...I'd be back in MontCo myself! My parents still live there, in Kensington. Also a nice area but these days kind of pricey!
 

landarchsailor

Rough_Rock
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Lulu...the guys in my new firm-to-be were talking up the neighborhood. They said its kind of like the local''s Old Town...charming, great architecture, great shops/restaurants/bars, walkable, etc, but not over-run with tourists and more affordable. Although coming from the Midwest, "affordable" means something else entirely! To me its still pricey! But its worth it to me to be in a neighborhood vs a more suburban development where you have to drive everywhere.
 

lovelylulu

Ideal_Rock
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landarchsailor: did you buy a home? your avatar is really sweet -- one great thing about del ray (apparently alexandria in general) is that it''s apparently very dog-friendly!
 

decodelighted

Super_Ideal_Rock
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Date: 1/9/2007 11:06:43 AM
Author:lovelylulu
We''re weighing things like:
Schools (though kids are a few years down the line)
I love Del Ray. But I know the one thing stopping my sister from buying there is the school situation. It''s kinda iffy there now ... but I say it might change a lot by the time her kids are ready.

I live in NY but three of my siblings live in the No Va area ... all in Alexandria. Two in Downtown (the young singles) and my sis/bro-in-law & their two babies live in a townhouse community just outside Downtown. They ALMOST bought a nice home in Del Ray but decided to stay put & see where the market goes. They were factoring in private school if they moved to Del Ray.

Del Ray seems like the "Brooklyn" of No Va to me. Awesome food, walkable "city" area ... kind of funky/hip vibe but family & dog oriented. Not as pre-fab as the townhouse communities. AND TREES! Old growth TREES!!!
 

lovelylulu

Ideal_Rock
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Del Ray seems like the ''Brooklyn'' of No Va to me. Awesome food, walkable ''city'' area ... kind of funky/hip vibe but family & dog oriented. Not as pre-fab as the townhouse communities. AND TREES! Old growth TREES!!!
Thanks for the info on the schools deco. that''s definately something we haven''t looked into and certainly something that needs a lot of thought. we wouldn''t even be having kids for the next few years, so by the time they''d be in school it''d be about 8-10 years. hard to extrapolate that far out...

and your characterization of del ray as "brooklyn" is spot on and maybe why i fell so hard for it. i never thought i''d yearn to live in the suburbs, but i do
trees and green space.

damn those housing prices.

do your siblings work in DC?
 

landarchsailor

Rough_Rock
Joined
Nov 8, 2005
Messages
13
Lulu....no, I''m renting for the first year (at least!!).

Thanks....thats Ella! She''s my baby! I hope she likes it out there too!

Old growth trees....music to my ears!!! I''m a landscape architect!
 

decodelighted

Super_Ideal_Rock
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Date: 1/9/2007 1:40:59 PM
Author: lovelylulu
do your siblings work in DC?
My sister & bro-in-law both used to work in DC at big law firms ... they lived in Alexandria & worked in DC for at least five years ... their apt then townhouse are RIGHT over the bridge so the commute was easy. Then my sis switched to a firm with Alexandria offices & the bro-in-law went corporate in an out of DC location as well. They also bought investment property in Alexandria so they do believe in the area.

My other sis & brother both work near Old Town Alex. Both rent ... first jobs out of college really.

My mom & her sister both grew up & went to public school in Arlington .. so our family has always visted the area a lot, especially when our grandparents were alive. It''s funny to realize how much of our Southern VA brood has drifted there in the past few years! But, heck, better for me -- much closer to get to DC than Norfolk/Va Beach!!
And I get to go to Del Ray & have fish tacos at cafe tables on the street & eat custard ice cream sandwiches between visits to antique stores and dog-watching.
 

sumbride

Ideal_Rock
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Date: 1/9/2007 12:06:02 PM
Author: lovelylulu
Sum: can you recommend any good baltimore neighborhoods? do you take the marc into DC?
I live in Patterson Park, which I love, but we have a concrete back patio and no front yard. Not even a blade of grass to be found. The park, however, is HUGE and just 2 blocks away. Prices are still pretty reasonable here and we have a lot of new rehab projects going on. We were able to get a fully rehabbed row house, originally built in 1918, for just under $275k. There are some great new restaurants, plus coffee shops, and much more commercial development going on, and we are pretty close to Canton, which is one of the hottest neigborhoods (and one of the most expensive) inside the city. As for places with yards, Bolton Hill and Lauraville totally rock. Live Baltimore is a good resource on city neighborhoods.

I''m not going to lie to you though... the commute is NOT fun. I work at Farragut North, so my commute consists of driving to the Marc Station, Marc to Union Station, then metro to Farragut, then a 4 block walk to my office. In the morning, it''s about an hour and a half. I take an express train in the evening, but that''s an early train (5:25) and I can only take it because my office closes at 4:45. The seats are full by 5:10. My evening commute, thanks to being there early enough for a seat, is about 1 hour, 45 minutes. I''m throughly wiped out by a 3, almost 4, hour round trip commute. And I only do it 4 days a week, and my work week is only 35 hours. If you work long hours and can''t ever telecommute, this may not be a good option for you.

There are always tradeoffs, but a commute like this is a serious endeavor. There are people, though, who have done it for years. The trains are generally reliable, definitely less stressful than driving. I read, listen to my ipod, sleep sometimes, and occasionally talk to those around me. There are a lot of social groups on the train too, but I''m not usually awake enough for that. And the MARC actually allows alcohol on board, so there are usually a few happy hour groups too. I took the Camden line once and watched people playing drinking games with shots! (I assume they were walking home??)

There are days when I really miss living in Arlington and Silver Spring, where my commute topped out at 30 minutes, but I also really love coming home to my HOUSE.
 

Efe

Brilliant_Rock
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773
Check out homesdatabase.com. They have all listings by zip code. Can''t remember if you have to register for a password or not. Del Ray is a wonderful neighborhood for young couples but I wouldn''t want to live there with school age kids. The best schools in No. Virginia IMO are in Fairfax County. What most people do is live closer in before kids and then move to the burbs when their kids get older, for the schools, big yards, etc. I would take a look at the area around the Eisenhower Avenue station (yellow line) in Alexandria. This area is seeing a building boom, condos and townhouses only, but it might be good as a starter place. All of the new construction hit the market right after the housing slump. I would also look at Farlington Village in Arlington, right off of 395 at King Street. A great neighborhood feel, again townhouse living, not single family, but within walking distance to grocery, coffee house, etc. I love Rosemont but the prices are out of the realm of reason. Sad to say, $360,000 is nothing in this area. Hope this helps.
 

lovelylulu

Ideal_Rock
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Then my sis switched to a firm with Alexandria offices
hmmm. somthing to investigate. i briefly considered trying to arrange the same sort of situation out in annapolis (i
water as well as trees) but decided that we wanted to be closer to DC. plus, i''m really not yet in the position to be demanding a more convenient placement. not at all.


And I get to go to Del Ray & have fish tacos at cafe tables on the street & eat custard ice cream sandwiches between visits to antique stores and dog-watching.
you really know how to sell a place
all resonating strongly. especially the custard
 

lovelylulu

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Date: 1/9/2007 2:06:39 PM
Author: BizouMom
Check out homesdatabase.com. They have all listings by zip code. Can''t remember if you have to register for a password or not. Del Ray is a wonderful neighborhood for young couples but I wouldn''t want to live there with school age kids. The best schools in No. Virginia IMO are in Fairfax County. What most people do is live closer in before kids and then move to the burbs when their kids get older, for the schools, big yards, etc. I would take a look at the area around the Eisenhower Avenue station (yellow line) in Alexandria. This area is seeing a building boom, condos and townhouses only, but it might be good as a starter place. All of the new construction hit the market right after the housing slump. I would also look at Farlington Village in Arlington, right off of 395 at King Street. A great neighborhood feel, again townhouse living, not single family, but within walking distance to grocery, coffee house, etc. I love Rosemont but the prices are out of the realm of reason. Sad to say, $360,000 is nothing in this area. Hope this helps.
thanks for the advice! i''ll have to sort out some zip codes. i''ve been doing that with the few area''s i''ve mentioned, but i really want to keep an open mind to a number of different areas.

also, good to know about the schools.
 

Goldie

Rough_Rock
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Sep 3, 2006
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I used to live in North Arlington, and think it is one of the best places to live in the DC Metro area.

A few areas in Arlington that I recommend are:


Ballston
Crystal City
Pentagon City
Claredon
Rosslyn
Courthouse









 

lovelylulu

Ideal_Rock
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Date: 1/9/2007 1:45:28 PM
Author: landarchsailor
Lulu....no, I''m renting for the first year (at least!!).

Thanks....thats Ella! She''s my baby! I hope she likes it out there too!

Old growth trees....music to my ears!!! I''m a landscape architect!
How did you find your rental? was it fairly easy with a big dog? we have a dog, gracie, who is 5.5
she''s mostly a golden with a touch of irish setter. super sweet. we''re considering perhaps renting in the area to see how we like it...
 

landarchsailor

Rough_Rock
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I found my place on craigslist.com. I got the leasing agent to send me tons of pictures of the exact apartment and did the rest via fax. Pretty painless except for the rent! Yikes!

When I was looking I found that many many places take big dogs. Wasn''t a problem at all. It was really different from trying to find a rental around here that will take a big dog.
 

njc

Brilliant_Rock
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Date: 1/9/2007 11:33:27 AM
Author: yellowsparkles
Another option is south of Alexandria. I had a couple of co wokers who lived there and they liked it. It was close to old town alexandria and the house prices were a lot lower than other parts of No. Va. Kinda undescovered. I never went there, so I can't give you first hand experience.
We live a little south of Olde Town and really enjoy it. The area we live in is called Kingstowne (more specifically, we are in Hayfield) and is actually the north eastern section of Fairfax County, but we get a Alexandria mailing address (22315). Its at the end of Van Dorn Street... we are in the little wedge created by 395 and 495. Olde Town/495 is a 10 min trip up Telegraph Road and 395/95 is a 10 min trip in the other direction. Compared to where we used to live, I feel like I am in the country! Several parks close by, lots of trees, walking paths. The view off our back deck is nothing but trees thanks to the coast guard, Army Corps of Engineers and Ft. Belvoir. Tons of shopping right up the street too. They just put in a movie theatre last winter.

We used to rent in Alexandria on Van Dorn at Seminary Road, but they converted them into condos... they wanted $280K for our 800sqft 1BR apartment, and that was our "deal" for living there. We bought our 1800 sqft TH in April 05 for $400K. And while the market has slowed down, prices really havent dropped that much around us. We are ~2 miles away from Ft. Belvoir, so there is always being coming and going, esp with BRAC coming up. Thats the thing about DC... there are always people coming and going, so I dont really see things dropping too much, just less competative!

The little I know about Del Ray is that its nice... our agents assistant had a GORGEOUS TH there that im sure was well over $600K.

Agree with the others, drive around and get a feel for the areas... its how we knew we liked (and could afford) Kingstowne. HTH!

ETA: the whole area is very dog friendly! There are several doggie shops in Olde Towne and the Holiday Inn (they are changing the name of it currently) across from City Hall has doggie happy hours in the summer, which I saw they will be continuine once renovations are complete!
 

njc

Brilliant_Rock
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Also forgot that we are at the end of the Blue Line (Franconia/Springfield). I take the metro every day to work in Crystal City. DH drops me off on his way to work and about 20-30 minutes later, I am at my desk. If I were to drive... I dont even want to know how long that would take, but if metro increases their fares, I may have to!
Cost is about equal a the moment.
 

Kit

Brilliant_Rock
Joined
Sep 7, 2005
Messages
501
Okay, I must jump in bc I used to live in Del Ray (rented) and I miss it. It is very expensive to own! But for those of you moving there or thinking about it, you must try:

Cheesetique: fantastic cheese shop run by a cheese expert, she puts out a newsletter and does education classes.
Del Ray Dreamery: frozen custard to DIE FOR. So good.
Taqueria Poblano: really tasty and affordable Cal-Mex place.
Caboose: Bakery, I recommend the bread.
Monroe''s: Italian American place, get the pastas but don''t do the meat dishes, it''s a nice atmosphere in there.
the Italian joint right by the Braddock metro (can''t remember name): they aren''t open all the time, but you must get their sub sandwiches-great eggplant parm. They don''t do pizza.
 

AGBF

Super_Ideal_Rock
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Date: 1/9/2007 1:40:59 PM
Author: lovelylulu
and your characterization of del ray as ''brooklyn'' is spot on and maybe why i fell so hard for it. i never thought i''d yearn to live in the suburbs, but i do
trees and green space.

I live in northern Virginia and work in Montgomery County, Maryland, but from my familiarity with the places mentioned in this thread I might as well be living on the moon! I never even heard of Del Ray! I would have guessed it was in California! I live in a parallel northern Virginia and Montgomery County. I think mine must be for older people (with older children) who drive everywhere. I don''t think we have as much fun, somehow. I love the descriptions of your communities. There seem to be a lot of food places where you live. There are a lot of dry cleaners where I live. ;-)


Deb
 
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