Urban Suburban

by Louise

This article talks about mixed use, denser development in the suburbs. It is definitely a trend in my city. Apartments and town homes are being built at a rapid pace in suburban centers and construction cranes fill the skyline. No large lot is left unbuilt.

What do you think of this tend ? Did you start off or still live in a dense setting ? Discuss.

Suburbs Trying to Attract Millennials Diverge on Development Patterns

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172 thoughts on “Urban Suburban

  1. I can’t quite tell from that picture but are those home’s not attached? That seems like the worst of all possible worlds.

  2. Can’t see article. However, our town is somewhere between urban and suburban. Only recently we didn’t have very many tall buildings downtown, but this is a trend throughout town. Personally, I don’t mind it in theory, but the fact that we have terrible public transportation and the density pushes out the parking it makes it hard to get to the places you want to in any timely fashion.

    We are still seeing that singles/dinks/empty nesters and those with infants/toddlers are the major inhabitants. Those with school age (K-8 anyway) are more likely to want houses with yards. I realize people live in large urban areas and in high rises all their lives, just not seeing that one demographic yet wanting that lifestyle here.

  3. Austin,

    If you cut and paste:

    “In the northern Dallas suburb of Frisco, Texas, developers are planning to build as many as 6,000 new condominiums and apartments, 10 hotels and 2 million square feet of office space along”

    into google and click on the link you can read the article.

  4. What’s wrong with the homes not being attached? I would think that would help in cutting down sounds from your neighbors. However, I do get claustrophobia just looking at some narrow alleys between buildings.

  5. “but are those homes not attached?”

    Correct. Single-family homes that you have to turn sideways to walk between.

    When I was interviewing in Charlotte, I was attracted to a mixed development community like they mention with Rockwellian single-family Craftsmans and farm houses (and this place also had their version of old Charleston homes) and everyone had front porches with driveways and garages in the back, there was a little town center with restaurants, a pool center, etc.

    The problem with the driveways in the back is that, while it appears picturesque for Trick-or-Treating, cars and garages are a necessity of modern life, so all you’re really doing from what I’ve seen is totally paving over any chance you might have had at a real backyard with some privacy. It seems pointless, like here’s the side where we come and go, where the kids ride their bikes, where we let the dog out, where we grill outdoors, and then around the “front,” that’s where we’re supposed to sit on the porch with Opie and Aunt Bea while Andy Griffith is strumming his banjo.

    All that said, if, in our 50s DW and I are spending weeks or months at a time on a boat, and the kids aren’t back living in our house to save money or something, then I could see us downgrading to a condo or townhouse for the sake of simplicity.

  6. What’s wrong with the homes not being attached? I would think that would help in cutting down sounds from your neighbors.

    That’s entirely a build quality issue – if it’s built right there should be no noise. With that thin alley, you’d lose a lot of the HVAC savings by having a shared wall.

    I assume they do it so it can be sold as a single family home not a townhouse?

  7. I live in one of the densest municipalities in our county, so I usually oppose more multifamily building because of the traffic and parking issues. We recently had a luxury rental building go up in our village amid much citizenry opposition, but I guess the village couldn’t turn down the additional revenues. It’s studio and one-bedroom, so aimed at millennials and maybe empty nesters. But I’d rather have that than some of the Section 8 housing we already have. (Go ahead and put me in your basket of deplorables).

  8. I once lived in a townhouse development with garages out back that you entered via an alley. I liked it. Trash was picked up from the alley. There was a small yard between the garage and the townhouse. It was really ideal for a low-maintenance lifestyle.

  9. They are building condos/townhomes like gangbusters near the new Braves Stadium in Cobb County, just to the northwest of Atlanta. Plus a million fast casual places, hotels, etc. But it’s still not really walkable or quaint, so it just seems like a lot of traffic because people still need to use their cars to go everywhere. That’s why I really prefer either small towns or living in the city down here (although where we are is really more suburban in feel). You can still get around but are close to city restaurants/amenities. If I was in my 20s, I’d want to be living in the actual city, not a faux city in a suburb.

  10. “With that thin alley, you’d lose a lot of the HVAC savings by having a shared wall.”

    My August electric bill was $160. HVAC savings is just not an issue for people.

  11. There’s been a lot of construction of apartments/townhomes/mixed-use in the inner part of my city. Greatly increased parking and traffic problems. That said, I get why people want to live here.

  12. Greatly increased parking and traffic problems

    A lot of the appeal for me is lost if you still need a car.

  13. I see young professionals and empty nesters renting these types of apartments. The empty nesters I think tend more to be condo buyers as they downsize from their large homes. Some complexes may be walkable to most daily necessities, others may be a short ride away. People with kids K-8 are in single family homes surrounding these town centers.
    Another feature I see is very small developments of 10 homes or so in a walled compound. The builders build these on small lots. The homes are fine but it feels closed in and cut off in your compound.

  14. When we discussed moving to the suburbs, we only looked at walkable communities (e.g., restaurants and groceries walkable from our house) near the commuter train. But they were mostly older suburbs with old downtowns, not this type of newer development. At the time, we were commuting in opposite directions, so it made sense to live in the middle. We chose to stay downtown, but I can see the appeal if it is truly walkable. We were willing to buy a smaller, older house with a smaller yard to be in a walkable community vs. a newer cul de sac development.

  15. The “transit-oriented developments” are a big thing in Denver now as they are expanding light rail. But I’m still not seeing the value in the higher-density development other than to make more money for the developers by having more units to sell. The transit system in Denver is still primarily designed to get people from the outlying areas to downtown. Even if you live close to a light rail station and work downtown, it’s still not feasible to not have a car because getting anywhere else by public transit is very difficult. So all the development is doing is increasing density in neighborhoods that don’t particularly want it.

  16. “A lot of the appeal for me is lost if you still need a car.”

    Right. Exactly. Or at least if you still need multiple cars. We weren’t going to move anywhere that all adults needed a car just to get a mile down the street, but we will probably always own a family car for trips and errands like Costco.

  17. The problem with the driveways in the back is that, while it appears picturesque for Trick-or-Treating, cars and garages are a necessity of modern life, so all you’re really doing from what I’ve seen is totally paving over any chance you might have had at a real backyard with some privacy. It seems pointless, like here’s the side where we come and go, where the kids ride their bikes, where we let the dog out, where we grill outdoors, and then around the “front,” that’s where we’re supposed to sit on the porch with Opie and Aunt Bea while Andy Griffith is strumming his banjo.

    Exactly. All of the activity ends up in the back and the front ends up being deserted. But it looks great.

  18. How is it possible that your electric bill was so low in August? I think that is Con Ed’s minimum charge just to provide electricity in the summer.

    So, this type of urban suburban development is a hot topic across Westchester county. A few of the cities are being transformed by all sorts of new housing, and it does seem to be a good thing in some cases such as Yonkers and White Plains.

    Several villages and towns that are part of my larger “Town” fought a development earlier this year and they won. I have to admit that I was surprised that the developer backed down, but there are already three large developments in process and there are lots of apartments, condos and lofts style homes going up on the sides of parkways. They are not close to downtown, trains or shops like a Yonkers or White Plains. They offer little except modern homes in good school districts, but the surrounding roads are tiny so people thought it was starting to be too much for the traffic, schools and access to trains.

    I am curious to see what happens when all of these new rentals start to come on line in the next 12 months. Most are rentals, and that is new too. The craziness of Westchester allowed one village to approve one huge complex on the west side of the highway, and another village to approve 100s of loft style apartments on the other side of the highway. The craziness of zoning is that three different village governments approved three different developments in three different zip codes, but they’re all in my school district.

  19. My parents lived in a “community”…of zero property line houses that were individually gated with a shared pool, patio/bbq area and small basketball court, maybe a quarter of a full sized. The “community” targeted empty nesters and actually limted the amount of time children under 18 could stay with you.

    The road was technically “private” and it had a homeowners board. The houses were all built to one edge of the lot and the walkway into the house was on the other side, about 8 feet wide at most. This gave each house a small patio and each one usually had a small grassy area (width of lot and again, maybe 8 feet deep) mainly to accomodate pets not using the common areas for their “business”. The “community” fees paid for all the landscaping/yard work outside your fence and the shared ammenities. They paid the landscaping guy a few bucks on the side to run the mower through their small fenced in area.

    This worked really well for them, but I didn’t like the limited windows, though you had them on 3 sides. If the houses had been connected the best would have been two sides.

  20. “How is it possible that your electric bill was so low in August?”

    Modern windows and casings, modern insulation, and a lot of summer shade. I also had attic exhaust fans installed a couple years ago that I believe knocked the summer time energy use down, but I should look up the history.

  21. DD,

    Is the development all residential? Around here every 2-4 streets is a street full of shops, restaurants, doctors, barbers, dentists, schools, offices, etc. so you don’t need to drive to do +98% of your daily activities.

  22. “70 during the day 65 at night in August?”

    WTF??? I wouldn’t set it to 65 in January! 69 is the winter setting.

    In summer, 76 during the day, 75 at night. I love ceiling fans. Temperature is only one of the variables that affect heat transfer from your body, which is what actually determines how you feel.

  23. “The problem with the driveways in the back is that, while it appears picturesque for Trick-or-Treating, cars and garages are a necessity of modern life, so all you’re really doing from what I’ve seen is totally paving over any chance you might have had at a real backyard with some privacy. It seems pointless, like here’s the side where we come and go, where the kids ride their bikes, where we let the dog out, where we grill outdoors, and then around the “front,” that’s where we’re supposed to sit on the porch with Opie and Aunt Bea while Andy Griffith is strumming his banjo.”

    We have a single-car garage in the back with alley access. The garage is unattached. We park a lot of the time in the street in front of our house. We still have a yard, but it is pretty small. We spend a lot of time at the park 2 blocks from our house (playground, wading pool, open field space) or various parks throughout the city. Our park system is amazing. We aren’t yard people at all – not interested in all the maintenance, so I’d rather have a smaller yard and use the park system. My family members who live in the suburbs with larger lots don’t use their backyards that much at all.

    We live in the city, but our neighborhood is probably more typical of suburbs in older towns on the east coast. We can walk to quite a few things, but we still need cars for driving to work and getting groceries.

    I post infrequently, but I decided to change my handle.

  24. Mini – A detached garage in the back, even with alley access, is somewhat different than what I was referring to. What I’m thinking of are houses, almost as close to one another as in that picture, with attached garages in the rear of the house. There’s a second set of streets (for some reason, they make these concrete) that lead into the garages, and given those constraints, there’s basically no way that what would be your back yard is anything but concrete, and fully open to all the neighbors.

  25. Rhett, it’s “mixed use”. But the reality is the retail ends up being mostly restaurants, and usually there isn’t a supermarket. These are in neighborhoods that are already built up, so they aren’t master planned communities. They are more like a group of apartments/condos with retail in the ground level. And again, with how transit works, if you don’t work downtown, it will be extremely inconvenient to get to work on public transit.

    To give an example on the transit issues, DS’ high school is about 2 miles from us. We live just off a major road, and the HS is just off the same major road. There is a bus route that goes down the major road. However, school ends at 2:45. The next bus on that route doesn’t come until after 3:30. There is another bus route that stops by the school at about 2:55 and goes about halfway towards our house and then turns off. So on the days that he has to take the bus, he’ll do the halfway route and walk the rest of the way. Those are the kinds of issues you have to deal with here.

  26. And also, most of these developments are in neighborhoods that aren’t very pedestrian friendly once you get outside of the development itself.

  27. Rhett – Part of the purpose of A/C is to lower the temperature, but an equally important part is to remove the humidity. So it depends on what the outside temperature is; in one way, you’re not necessarily looking for a specific temperature as much as you’re looking for a sufficient differential from the outside that, in order to achieve, will ensure that the humidity is removed.

    But anyway, that’s what’s comfortable for us. 70/65 would just be ridiculous.

  28. We keep our A/C at 76 during the day and we fight over 74 vs. 75 at night (I’m for the 74). Our electric bill was still almost $400 this month, but I suspect the original first floor does not have insulation in the walls (like most old houses down here). We actually redid the second floor HVAC last summer and went to a zoned system but it’s just been so so hot down here that our electric bills are still significantly hotter than last year. It’s 90 today (again). I can’t even envision going apple picking in this weather.

  29. We have 2 AC units and live in an insanely hot part of the country in a single family home. Temp is set for 77-79 in summer and 74 in winter. Our electricity+gas bill is about $140-180 per month.

  30. Lordy. We set the air at 80 during the day, but 65 at night for us, 68 for the kids. And that’s with ceiling fans and floor fans going. We definitely need it cold to sleep.

    You know Rhett’s question re: what did you swear as a kid you wouldn’t tolerate as an adult? For DH it is being hot at night.

  31. We lived in zero lot line townhome for several years when we had our first. It was terrible. It was honestly the most isolated place I’ve ever lived. The places were built with a garage on the ground floor and then to living florist about that. I like the density, and it was only a mile to the center of the city. It turned out it was a steep walk through a crime ridden area to get to downtown, and walking on the streets was unusual. Unusual to the point that it felt uncomfortable.

    However, everybody entered and left their homes through their garage. Every. Single. Time. There was no reason to use the front door. And what that meant, was that we lived there for almost 4 years and did not know the names or faces of the people whose walls we shared. It was well-built and we had very low heating and cooling expenses, and no sound transmission. I like neighborhoods, and I would never return to such a place.

  32. We keep our A/C at 76 during the day and we fight over 74 vs. 75 at night

    Shudder – nothing like curling up under a thick down comforter on a sultry summer night with the AC cranked so high you can almost see your breath.

  33. “You know Rhett’s question re: what did you swear as a kid you wouldn’t tolerate as an adult? For DH it is being hot at night.”

    ME TOO. I grew up without AC or with window units that didn’t really reach into my room . I swore never again once I graduated from college. We set it for 72 during the day if we are home (workdays it is at 75, programmed to come back down to 72 by the time we get home). 70 at night. Our peak electric bill is around $100 in August, but we share floors/ceilings (not walls).

  34. Oh I agree, I would love 70 at night but compromise and all. I hate being hot at night, the 74 is only tolerable with a ceiling fan directly over us.

  35. I would love 70 at night but compromise and all.

    Because he’d be too cold or he doesn’t want to spend the money?

  36. “However, everybody entered and left their homes through their garage. Every. Single. Time. There was no reason to use the front door. And what that meant, was that we lived there for almost 4 years and did not know the names or faces of the people whose walls we shared. It was well-built and we had very low heating and cooling expenses, and no sound transmission.”

    +1

    This was our life when we had our townhouse in SoCal. Lived there 2.5 yrs and never met any neighbors. We didn’t really care since we had lots of friends from work and prior lives in the immediate area, but it was kind of weird.

  37. Many of these mixed use complexes here have space and some “woods” so that residents can walk their dogs. Many younger people have one or even two dogs so common space is important. It is dense but not urban in a big city sort of way.

  38. The Lakeside development in Flower Mound is not appealing to me at all. Still need a car. Houses right on top of each other. It does not have the advantages of the suburbs or the city. bleh. Office space, residences and hotels? Where are the grocery stores, schools, doctors offices, mom and pop shops?

    I’d prefer some of the closer in, older suburbs of Miami (for example), which have more character and outdoor public space, to the Lakeside development, but there you still need a car. (Is there even a lake?)

  39. I’m with Rhett 72 day here 65 night. Winter 64 day/56 night! Love it! Can’t wait for fall!

    I will always own a car even if I lived in a “walkable” community. Not being able to go somewhere at the last minute or Costco or Bed Bath and Beyond.

  40. Rhett – it’s both. DH likes to save money with heating/cooling but buys quite expensive wine. It’s completely irrational, as I’d rather drink less expensive wine and be comfortable.

  41. I will always own a car even if I lived in a “walkable” community. Not being able to go somewhere at the last minute or Costco or Bed Bath and Beyond.

    You could just use zipcar.

  42. In the home country, residents of apartment buildings in dense walkable big cities have discovered home delivery. Where once they had to walk to the shops, they now have all the mom and pop shops, restaurants on speed dial. Within a half hour a delivery guy appears on your doorstep. The biggest issue has been security as so many delivery people are let into the buildings going to various apartments.

  43. Zipcar or regular car rentals are not as convenient as having a car always ready at your beck and call. Why deprive yourself if you can afford a car? Half a cookie?

    I prefer warmer settings all year round, which pits me against other members of my family.

  44. Zipcar or regular car rentals are not as convenient as having a car always ready at your beck and call.

    It’s more convenient. Many buildings around here have zipcars in their underground garages so you just click on the app take the elevator down and you’re off. You don’t have to worry about insurance or repairs or inspections or anything. Just get in and go.

  45. I just checked our Con Ed bills for the summer, and it was much lower than I expected. I spoke to DH, and I didn’t realize how much the cost dropped since natural gas and other energy prices have fallen in the markets.

    We keep our house at 77 during the day and 75 at night in the summer. We have two zones, and the main floor and basement never seem to get hot. The negative is that I dread going to the basement in the winter when it is really cold. Our basement is not below ground because it is the same level as the garage, but in the back of the house but it doesn’t get a lot of sun in the PM hours.

  46. We keep our house at 77 during the day and 75 at night in the summer.

    Is that what you’d keep it at if it was free?

  47. In the cooling season we set our thermostat at a pretty stable 72 or 73 all the time, maybe even 74 rarely. Which is great for the 1st floor and basement. The upstairs is warmer by 3-5 degrees, so we also use fans. I wish our builder had given us the option of a 2-zone HVAC setup and explained it. I definitely would have done that, but alas…

    In the heating season days are at 68 and nights are ~63. The temp variation between floors is not as much during the winter.

  48. I like it 72 year round. My dad is always setting it to 68 when he is at our house and I freeze and shiver until I notice what he has done.

  49. “It’s more convenient. Many buildings around here have zipcars in their underground garages so you just click on the app take the elevator down and you’re off. ”

    Not the case everywhere, and definitely not the case here. It could take an hour or so to get on the road with a zipcar.

    I like 72 in the winter and 76 (or higher) in the summer. In warm weather my H typically has to turn down the thermostat when he comes home. We have a running joke that I only iron clothes to get warm. :)

  50. Rhett, I am here a lot more than I used to be during the day, and I definitely push that down arrow if I am hot in the summer. I am home right now and the thing says 80 because the upstairs zone is off right now. I feel fine right now, but I am just sitting and doing some work at a computer. I do tend to get hot if I am going between floors doing housework etc, and then I lower it. When it is really humid, we lower it on a summer night too. If I lower it when I am really hot to 74, it cools down pretty quickly.

  51. I live in a classic “train suburb”, one of those developments that went up in the 20’s, all centered on being able to walk to the train station. So it is pretty dense, comparable to much of Queens, for example. I really like that. I like having space for a small yard and a garden, but also knowing I can walk to the grocery store. I like that my kids can walk all around town. For example, this evening we have a complicated schedule of violin lessons, library club meetings, and cross country practice. The reason it works and doesn’t make me go crazy ferrying kids is simply that the two older kids walk to all of their things (and honestly it is time that DD, who is 10, starts walking herself to her things too)

  52. I know the luxury development CoC is talking about, and honestly, I did not see much opposition. Now that hotel they want to put up a couple of streets away – man, does that have the bus stop mom’s panties in a twist. One of them is a main organizer of the protest meetings that have been going on.

  53. Rhett, I have a friend in Chicago who doesn’t have a car – and it is just like you describe. There are zipcars in the parking garage in the basement. They also keep bikes there – an entire huge room of bicycles. They mainly bike around the loop, and grab a zipcar if they want to go to Costco. My friend says that selling her car (she used to live in a burb) was wonderful

  54. I’m a fan of the “warehouse district” type neighborhoods where dilapidated former industrial buildings are turned into lofts, apartments and offices. Though it can take a while for businesses that support those kind of developments to move in, so it’s not always possible to live in them without a car even though they tend to be close to downtown. The one I lived in was a bit of a food desert. There were restaurants that were mainly open for lunch and dinner, but no groceries. I think that area has evolved since I moved away many years ago. I have mixed feelings about the faux urban developments that are popping up in the far flung suburbs of southern California. I like that they give these area some semblance of a town center when they would otherwise have none. But they seem sort of contrived. Maybe they won’t seem that way once they’ve been there for a while and start to feel “lived in.”

  55. The closest zip cars to me are a smidge over a mile away. That’s too much of a pain if I just want to run to Costco.

  56. Those zip cars are tiny death traps.

    A Honda Civic is hardly a tiny death trap. They also have Mercedes and BMW SUVs, Honda CR-Vs, big Ford vans for your Ikea and Home Depot runs.

  57. “Those zip cars are tiny death traps”. But if you are driving less overall, it may not matter for your overall chances of dying in a car accident

  58. A/C definitely runs 24 hours a day here. Daytime is 76 if we are at work, 73 at home and for sleeping. And if I’m cooking or doing something and I get hot, it’s however %#{#^* cold I want it. I’m a woman of a certain age, and you do not want to be around me if it’s hot. My DH is frequently in a sweatshirt and wool socks. My kids crank the upstairs down to 72 at night. Our highest bill has been $206.

  59. I remember grocery delivery has come up on here before as a service available in many regulars’ areas. It looks like it’s finally coming here, as Safeway’s been advertising the rollout of delivery.

    If they start offering Costco home delivery I will be seriously tempted.

  60. Grammar hijack question for Finn or anyone else. Don’t leave any books “laying” around. Or “lying” around. Which is it? Someone initially lay down the book, but now is it lying around?Autocorrect says it should be “lying”. I’m so confused!

    MM, there were petitions and organized groups attended planning board meetings in opposition to the apartments. School board members attended these meetings because it potentially increased student population in already crowded buildings. You probably didn’t see all this because it was happening mainly in the village.

  61. If high density mixed use areas are done right, they are thought to be very good for the environment. They can incorporate ways to trap storm water and use it for other purposes than just running off into the nearest body of water. Also, wastewater is consolidated and usually treated very locally.

    Many local cities are looking into these models – one as a way to attract people back to the cities, but to also deal with storm water and nuisance flooding and in places near the coast, sea level and nuisance flooding.

  62. CoC, lie is done by the subject without needing an object, whereas lay is done by the subject to an object. So I can lay the book down on the table, and then the book lies on the table for the next day.

  63. You lay the book down on the table. Transitive. The book is now lying on the table. Intransitive.

    Now I lay me down to sleep. Transitive. I am lying on the cat. Intransitive.

  64. And there’s more, of course, because they’re irregular verbs.

    http://www.chompchomp.com/handouts/irregularrules02.pdf

    “Kugelmass, unaware of this catastrophe, had his own problems. He had not been thrust into Portnoy’s Complaint, or into any other novel, for that matter. He had been projected into an old textbook, Remedial Spanish, and was running for his life over a barren, rocky terrain as the word tener (“to have”) – a large and hairy irregular verb – raced after him on its spindly legs.”

    — Woody Allen

  65. CoC, the hotel has attracted widespread opppostion in both town and village, and the PTAs are highly involved. Part of it has to do with environmental concern.. Evidently the site was a dump, and the town has a poor track record of dealing with toxic landfills in a safe manner.

    My big question – why on earth would anyone WANT to put a hotel on that desolate, industrial stretch of road?

  66. Oh, I really screwed that up. My mother would be so ashamed! Oh, and fuck off, Finn.

  67. The grocery stores in urban/suburban areas are ramped. In the stores here, there is always a breakfast/lunch/dinner hot buffet, beverage counter/ice cream station and a mandatory wine bar. Outdoor seating is also provided.
    It is like the town square of old.

  68. “With that thin alley, you’d lose a lot of the HVAC savings by having a shared wall.”

    Besides the HVAC savings, I would think there would be maintenance savings as well. I imagine it would be a pain to paint the walls along those alleys, and they would also need to be kept clean to keep unwanted critters from taking up residence.

  69. “the town has a poor track record of dealing with toxic landfills in a safe manner.”

    The only instances I can remember are when the town and the school used free toxic dirt on the playing fields. Not their finest moment. I’m suspicious of the opposition to the hotel since it’s mostly funded by local businesses and they’ve been secretive about their funding. That industrial area could be ripe for other types of development once a hotel goes up. The village stands to gain more tax revenue from a hotel since that new special “hotel tax” legislation went through. It’s all shady imo.

  70. There are not a lot of hotels in that area, so I can see that someone might want to open one if they sense there is demand. They keep putting up hotels on those strips because people really fight them when it is in a good location unless it is a city such as Yonkers or WP.

    I am very happy that you posted the link about the Americans. I have spent TOO much time trying to google certain locations because I can spot places I know from Long Island or the city. Since I’ve lived in the metro area for so long, it is obvious that most of the scenes are filmed in NY metro vs. DC/Virginia. It is easy to pick out the street signs and park benches that are NY markers. Same for some of the scenes that were shot in the burbs of Long Island. I did not know about their home being in WP, and I am definitely going to do a drive by because it is near a doctor that I have to visit next week.

  71. “Our electric bill was still almost $400 this month”

    Would PV make sense for you? Our bills were about half that, and it penciled out for us. Now we’re down to less than $20/month.

    However, financial viability of PV depends heavily on the availability of net metering and the details of that. In an area with limited PV penetration, net metering terms might still be favorable.

  72. Oops, I forgot, Bill needs an object to lay.

    Lying is what Hillary does. Laying women characterized by Colin Powell as bimbos is what Bill does.

  73. CoC, I am not really for or against the project – mainly, I am just puzzled. The opposition seems to have to do with concerns that toxic dust could reach the relatively nearby public kindergarten. Given the history with those other landfills, I can understand why parents are concerned. And they are. The PTA is blasting non stop about it, and the bus stop moms are hopping mad. I dared mention that I am somewhat friendly with the village mayor (actually mainly his wife), and the comment was “I feel sorry for you”. Ooooh. That particular mom already hated me because I was perfectly fine with having my kids take the state tests last year, and now I am a total pariah.

    BTW, this is off topic and highly braggy (but that is what this site is for): the state tests were very very good to my kids this time around. My kids are doing well by the Common Core. DS2 scored almost perfect scores in both math and ELA, and DD had a DRAMATIC improvement from the year before.

  74. Every time they show the exterior of the family home in The Americans, I think that it is so not Falls Church. Not even close. No place even remotely looking like that for miles. And then the interior wall colors are a lovely deep blue that I don’t recall being a thing in the early 1980s. But we were students then and living in apartment beige.

  75. DH and I just started the Americans and are totally obsessed. I have a close friend from college that is from WP (and she and her family live there now as well) and she lived in an older house but I do remember a shared driveway even in the older neighborhoods.

  76. Zipcar would not suit me. Even when we travel to a city for a weekend and have no intention of driving anywhere, I feel a loss of independence not having access to my car. Renting is not the same.

  77. “If they start offering Costco home delivery I will be seriously tempted.”

    Costco delivers a limited selection to our area via Google Express. I’ve never used it though. I enjoy going to Costco (exception: at 2pm on Saturday or Sunday).

    The house on the Americans has always confused me with the shared driveway. There are two entrances and the two garages, so it never quite looked like a SFH, but it didn’t really look like a typical duplex either.

    The most jarring thing for me, being neither a NYC-area or DC-area resident, but living in both, was when they were supposedly at “Rock Creek Park”. They were looking for Martha, and there was some massive cliff/bridge and a really wide river. I was thinking “that is NOT Rock Creek Park” — they aren’t even trying to make it look like DC.

  78. @Scarlett – I remember that country blue color being really big in my childhood, but it was probably later in the 80’s.

  79. I think it is impressive how many scenes are shot outside vs. inside a studio, but many of the streets are so obviously NY. If you watch Madam Secretary, that is also shot almost exclusively in NYC, but they do a slightly better job of making it look like DC. I appreciate that the Americans makes such an effort with the accuracy of the cars, clothing, music and other products. I jut wish they could try a little more with the street scenes.

  80. We have Instacart here which will deliver from Costco/Whole Foods/Publix/Kroger. They seem to be in most major areas.

  81. Milo,

    But you drive almost 25k miles a year. If you lived in a place where you found the car not moving for weeks at a time, despite doing everything you do now, I think that would change.

  82. I can see that, but I don’t think I would be as happy in a place where I wasn’t driving for weeks at a time. It would be like some form of island fever.

  83. Lauren, I think that The Americans might have filmed a few scenes in the Mall area of DC but perhaps I am confusing it with 24, where the writers ocassionally had the characters referring to “the” 495. And the X-Files was the best of the “clearly not filmed in DC” shows because the mountains in Vancouver would sometimes be visible in the background of the DC shots.

    DS and I watched the original episodes of The Fugitive, which had Richard Kimball wandering around places like Indiana filled with brown dusty mountains.

  84. But I’m sure if they operate in your city, it feels ubiquitous.

    That goes for any service or business.

  85. We live in a suburb type detached home. Honestly, the grass is a waste of time. I would much rather let it return to prairie status.

  86. Lauren & Scarlett,

    The only thing that bothers me about The Americans is the FBI secretary is too attractive for the role. To be believable, she’d need to be much heavier and/or more homely.

  87. My grandmother died today. At nearly 96, this did not come unexpectedly. Dementia was setting in, but not to the point where she didn’t know the basics, so not a bad way to go, overall.

    I feel like I should feel more than I do, but I don’t. It just is.

    Don’t feel obligated to write a bunch of “so sorry’s.” I just figured I’d share that.

  88. Dammit. I appear to be like 3 miles from the Instacart boundary.

    We are first-ring suburb and I love it. Largely comprehensible grid pattern, my kids can walk most everywhere, but we still have over 3/4 acre. Only downside is no walkable grocery store. Or, apparently, Instacart.

    That picture in the article looked like my version of hell — all of the ugly, none of the convenience. Either give me a real yard or give me a full-out condo or townhome where I don’t have to do jack.

  89. Yeah, sorry, Milo, but I am going to say I’m sorry to hear that. But I will also say to give yourself time — you may feel differently tomorrow. Or not, and that’s ok too. There are no rules.

  90. Milo, I am sorry about your grandmother. My grandmother is 98 so I can relate to everything you wrote.

    I do not think Martha is attractive on the show and I can see her working for the FBI. I saw Alison Wright in an interview, and I think she is better looking IRL. Did you know that she is British? I didn’t know that Matthew Rhys wasn’t American until I saw him in Burnt.

  91. I only use Instacart once in a while when I’m feeling particularly lazy – or like last winter when it was cold and we were hosting a dinner with friends, but it is a great service.:)

    I tend to use Postmates a decent amount for take out and they’re in a lot of cities now too. They’ll also deliver drug store stuff (although I’ve never used that particular feature).

  92. Congrats to the Mooshikids! I’m glad they scored well.
    Milo, I hope it is one of those very pleasant funerals where everyone stands around and laughs and honors a long life well lived. We need more of those in this world.

  93. @Milo – passing away of old age with minimal suffering is a gift really and the best that could happen.

  94. Milo, I’ve been there with grandparents who slowly faded away. As with you, it didn’t hit very hard, because we knew what was happening and we had all had a chance to deal with what we knew was inevitable. Their dementia also meant that we’d lost them well before their bodies stopped functioning, and we’d all had chances to tell them what we wanted to say in their moments of lucidity.

  95. I am sorry to hear that, Milo. I was at church tonight when I read this, so I lit a candle for her. Almost 96 is a heck of a run!

  96. Milo, you may not be feeling much but your mom or dad surely is. No matter how old or feeble they were, losing a parent is a shock and your support over the next weeks and months will be much appreciated.

  97. What Finn said. When you know it’s coming, you’ve already done a lot of the grieving process. When my grandmother died, it was relief more than anything because she was fading for so long.

    And I’ll say it as well – I’m very sorry for your loss.

  98. Thanks, guys, for the thoughts and perspectives.

    I was reading PassageMaker cover to cover the other night and when I got to the classified listings at the end, I recognized the name of one of the boats from a blog that I had shared on here.

    threeatsea.tumblr.com

    They’re the ones with one daughter who gave up everything to travel for eight years doing (in a very general listing) the Loop, the Canadian seaways, Prince Edward Island, Bahamas, Panama Canal, Alaska.

    I’m commenting on it here because they homeschooled (boatschooled) for six years and the daughter ended up at Yale. I figured that would perk Finn’s ears up. It must have been an interesting essay.

  99. RMS – the buildings in the city center sustained damage. But the city is suburban/urban so the neighborhoods are fine and were quiet. Most people who can work from home are doing that. Schools are open but due to the uncertainty didn’t send the kids. As when we get snow, we are hunkered down.
    Protesting is different from rioting and looting.

  100. @Atl — Just saw your appliance posting on the other thread. My two cents FWIW:

    1. You will very likely not notice different brands. The only things that have an obvious “look” are the pulls, so if you pick versions with similar looks, you won’t notice at all. Then again, my fridge/DW came with curved pulls, while oven/mini-fridge came with a straight bar, and I totally don’t notice even that.

    2. You will never, ever regret buying too much fridge space. You may well regret buying too little. But you may not need a huge and $$$ counter-depth fridge to get it. Depending on your space, you may be able to use a full-depth fridge (e.g., sometimes you can recess them, or build them into a pantry wall that is deeper, etc.; ours is at the end of the counter run next to the breakfast nook, so it works fine). Or get a regular-width fridge and a separate mini-fridge elsewhere for drinks/kid snacks (we also did that).

    3. Pay up for an awesome commercially-rated vent hood. If you have space, extend it 3″ past each side of the range for better capture. We compromised with a hood that seemed good enough (got the biggest/highest-capacity non-commercial version), and making stir-fry requires sending a kiddo to stand under the smoke detector with a magazine.

    4. Since this is all for layout planning, think about the way you cook and what you most want to devote space to. It’s more important that you get a layout that works for you than optimal appliances.

    4.a. Thinking through what you really need tends to open up a lot of options beyond Giant Commercial-Name Version. For ex., I have lusted after the 8-burner Viking range since I was 18, but $10K and 48″ was a huge hit to both available space and budget. And, really, was I ever going to use that built-in griddle? I hate cleaning those things to the point I’d probably avoid using it (empty grease trap, pour boiling water on griddle and scrub, empty grease trap now full of hot scummy water. Ugh). OTOH, my 2-burner stovetop griddle/grill pan seems to magically clean itself when I place it in the sink. :-) So I ended up compromising on a 36″ Blue Star gas range + an extra Dacor convection oven, which gives me killer ovens (range holds a full commercial-sized sheet pan, Dacors are awesome for baking) + more burners than I can actually use at the same time, all for about $3K less than the Viking. This is also how we ended up with the regular-sized fridge + mini fridge — the counter-depth ones seemed like a ton of $ for skimpy storage (I think the 48″ Subzero was also like $10K+ — not to mention that 48″ range + 48″ fridge would eat all the counter space). We got more storage for thousands less by breaking it up into two standard-sized appliances.

    YMMV — the details don’t matter, these are just my examples. Point is to think it through until you are clear on what matters most so you end up with what you actually need. Everything is just so damn pretty in the store!

  101. Louise, so are you staying home from work? Are the kids staying home from school?

  102. RMS – yes we are. I can work from home.
    Debated whether to send the kids but they start early, so though schools are open, didn’t send them. Majority of city center offices are closed. Other than that, I am unsure what state of emergency means for non weather related events.

  103. Milo – that’s nice for her and all of you that it was a peaceful ending, not to mention a long life. It’s the end of an era for you and your family though, and I’m sure that is/will be sad for all of you.

    I love that Kate lit a candle for her! This group is very special.

    I’m glad I held off on pestering you last night, as I considered doing, about the lack of Counting On summaries. DD and I watched last night and I found myself imagining how you would describe certain scenes. You may have missed it, but there was a day on here when many of us were clamouring for more.

    And bringing this full circle, I haven’t seen Grandma Dugger this season.

  104. Do hot celebrities have a higher-than-average divorce rate, or does it just seem that way? And maybe a better way to ask that question would be do they have a higher-than-average divorce rate when compared to similarly college-educated people married at similar ages?

    I think the answer to the first question might be maybe, but the second answer is almost surely yes.

    The only thing I can think of is that among people, most likely the guys, whose lives thus far have been so exceptional and exciting, many are simply not able or not willing to accept that a relationship in which the sex starts to feel routine is something to be accepted.

  105. In the case of Brad/Angelina, I like her, but she’s got a lot of crazy in there. And he looks like he doesn’t shower. And second marriages for both of them.

  106. @Milo: maybe this is the risk of having too much: that you learn to constantly look for the next/new/great/exciting thing, so when something starts to feel less-exciting, you move on to the next. That can be another car (think Leno/Seinfeld), another spouse, another home (Nicolas Cage, I’m looking at you). drugs/alcohol to heighten the feelings day-to-day, etc. And of course when you’re surrounded by people who are telling you you’re awesome and throwing every opportunity at you, what’s your incentive to say no and learn how to be happy with what you already have? The problem is, as noted in “Buckaroo Banzai”: no matter where you go, there you are. 5 years later, new spouse, boom, the bloom has faded and you’re back to being unhappy and wondering why.

    I also wonder if there is a disproportionate number of “seekers” who go to Hollywood. It seems to me that there has to be some huge unfulfilled need inside for someone to put up with years of struggle and financial hardship in an industry where 99%+ of people crap out. The number of folks who make it really big while still appearing to be “normal” and well-adjusted seems from the outside to be really small (I can basically come up with Tom Hanks and Paul Newman). If you have that kind of drive, maybe part of that is demonstrating your success by your surroundings — you have the best house, the best car, the best wife, etc. And there’s always a newer/younger model around (I was going to say “prettier,” but, come on).

    Or to put it the other way around, maybe it’s selection bias. Maybe people who really value being married and having a stable family aren’t likely to make it in Hollywood (or as CEO, or as a big-time politician, or whatever), because even if they have the talent, they aren’t willing to make the tradeoffs necessary to succeed.

  107. Third marriage for Angelina, actually. And she seems to like luring the boys away from their committed relationships.

  108. Milo,

    I wonder what the rate is for similarly attractive non-celebrities. I also wonder what the divorce rate is for non-celebrities at the same income level.

  109. The first reports of Brad’s alleged child abuse were along the lines of, “He got drunk and yelled at the kids”. And I thought, CPS is going to need a LOT more staff if that’s criminal.

  110. In the old studio star system of Hollywood, rumors of marriage, actual marriages, and quick divorces were part of the publicity machine. Since a number of leading men were actually gay, they also served as camouflage. Brangelina, Kimye, Mr and Mrs Carter and other supercouples are the modern equivalent, but the big change is that the public faces of the relationships are all carefully managed by the strong and publicity savvy women, even though the men are big stars, businessmen and very wealthy in their own right. In all of these relationships, long term fidelity, especially male fidelity, is not a given.

    As the old saying goes, When a man marries his mistress, it creates a job opening.

  111. Rocky- ooh! I forgot about her first one. She is only a little older than I am. 3 husbands and 6 kids! That sounds exhausting.

  112. Risley – There were certainly plenty of great Ben moments last night. The taco was our favorite.

    I’ll just take a really quick stab at it.

    To recap last week, Jinger’s boyfriend, Jeremy, the ex-minor-pro-soccer-player-turned-pastor in Laredo, TX, hosted his parents, his girlfriend Jinger, and Jinger’s parents Michelle and JB for a weekend-long sextuple date touring his little apartment and “amazing” Laredo. The Mexican food looked good to me, but Jim Bob was not the least bit impressed with the “whole enchilada,” as they say, that Jeremy is offering his daughter for a lifestyle. On camera and in front of the young man’s parents over lunch, JB pointed out that Jeremy’s salary as a “pastor” [quotes because it’s a *tiny* church] was pretty meager, and someone like him should have a second job. In nearly the same breath, he asked if he’d consider moving to Northwest Arkansas, presumably where he could tap into Duggar Industries of random small businesses like the house flipping renting, tow trucks, excavators, used cars, etc. Jeremy’s mom looked pissed; Michelle just stared with her lobotomized smile. There was no resolution.

    And that brings us to this week when, only (two days?) after that weekend visit wrapped up, Jeremy decided to fly to Arkansas to “surprise” Jinger. (Maybe he really does need a second job.) He enlisted Jessa and Ben to help with the ruse. This was wise because they revealed that Ben is only working part-time, himself, while he’s “continuing his education.” So, as usual, they had nothing else going on.

    While Ben picked up Jeremy from the airport, Jessa took Jinger out to a fast-casual taco restaurant where they could discuss just how amazing and awesome it is to be in love with Jeremy. Jeremy, however, had a detour in mind since he’s decided that three weeks of official courtship is plenty of time to know that he’s ready to visit the Duggars’ favorite White’s Jewelers to look at engagement rings. He called Jim Bob to meet him there to shop, and he called his Mom, who sounded genuinely surprised and maybe a little apprehensive, because he wanted to text her a picture of the ring for final approval. It was a half-carat princess-cut solitaire in white gold that everyone agreed was EXACTLY LIKE JINGER. I don’t really get that part, either. Something about they’re both elegant yet simple. Fair enough.

    Back to the tacos. Clued into the plan, the restaurant staff was letting the girls keep their nacho appetizer far longer than normal so that Ben and the Surprise Boy Jeremy could make their big appearance delivering the entrees. Jeremy went first, of course, and Jinger was definitely surprised and overjoyed. As they embraced in a dramatic celebration, Ben’s hunger got the better of him and he started munching on the tacos that he was still waiting to deliver to his wife. Still, there was no marriage proposal, as they seem to be saving that for next week.

    Ben and Jessa again met with their friends, Christian R&B artist “Flame” and his wife, this time hosting them at their house for dinner. Neither of the guys had ever lit a charcoal grill, but they figured it out. And Ben shared that his plan for Football/Jesus Camp to help at-risk youth is coming together nicely.

    We were watching in bed, and I fell asleep after that.

  113. The number of folks who make it really big while still appearing to be “normal” and well-adjusted seems from the outside to be really small (I can basically come up with Tom Hanks and Paul Newman).

    No one has ever had a bad word to say about Paul McCartney. He remained married to his original wife for almost 30 years until her passing.

  114. Hey, Boston people, help me out. I am suggesting that DH and the kids and I all take one of those hop-on, hop-off trolley tours of the city, because even though they’re cheesy and touristy they’re still kind of fun and it’s so easy to get around that way. The kids are suggesting that we could just walk to all the points of interest. What do you think? Is it really that easy to walk? Here’s the map:

    https://www.trolleytours.com/boston/map

  115. What do you think? Is it really that easy to walk?

    It’s fair amount of walking but you could easily do it. As an example, I walk fast so I could probably do sport 12 on your list to spot 2 in 45 min.

  116. Rocky,
    I am not a Boston person, but having walked a lot, certainly not all, of what’s included I would recommend doing the trolley. It’s pretty far e.g. Faneuil Hall to USS Constitution. I think we ended up cabbing back. Caveat is if you end up having to wait till the next trolley comes along because the first one fills up and you’re still stuck in line. Then a lot of your time gets spent waiting at trolley stops instead of seeing stuff.

  117. And I’m not sure why they have stops at the convention center and the cruise ship terminal (18 and 18a.) There is really nothing to see down there.

  118. Rocky – I say just get a bus/trolley ticket. What’s the harm?

    Are you going to the Constitution?

  119. Milo, we haven’t decided. We’re still trying to figure out which sights to see.

  120. Rhett — interesting. I have the attention span of a gnat, though, so I’m a little afraid I’d be all, “Yeah, uh huh, historical. That’s great. Where’s the beer?”

  121. Mooshi, you’re in a train suburb; you probably know that Lexington; like many US cities; has little nodes that were built up around streetcar stops. Not big enough to be entire suburbs, but noticeable if you look.

    Lauren and Milo, how wonderful to have your grandparents there for such long portions of your adult life! I hope you’ve been able to visit with them over the years. Milo, wishing you and your family peace & happy memories.

    I don’t think we have grocery delivery (other than water and frozen dinners) but Costco is opening up less than two miles away–biking distance!

    Louise, the suburban/urban difference is nice for you, but you do realize the role it plays, right?

  122. if the cost is not an issue there is no downside to the bus tour. You can walk as much as you want, and it’s nice to get an overview of the area before deciding where to focus.

  123. S&M – Thanks.

    This is a nearly pointless comment, but when we went on the Constitution a couple years ago, the tour guide was really funny, and he told us to stick around afterward for an extra behind-the-scenes tour.

    I’d also like to do one of those high-speed boat rides out of the harbor, but I haven’t yet.

  124. People who have gone to Disney with small children – should I rent a double stroller so that the 2 older kids (4 and 6) can have a break? They have both been out of strollers for years, but will Disney World tire them out? I am renting a stroller regardless, so the question is just single or double. Please advise.

  125. Hell, I want a stroller at Disney World. Are they easily overstimulated? I find Disney World exhausting when I’m just standing there.

  126. RMS – it depends on what you want to see. You can walk or take the T to all that stuff, but getting a bus tour would make it easier to get from the Constitution to the Pru to the Aquarium, for instance. I also like the duck tours – they are expensive but fun.

  127. Kate – when we went to Disney last year, our then-5yo was clamoring to get a stroller, and the 3yo DEFINITELY needed one. I would get the double.

  128. No, they are pretty calm, especially for boys. For a trip somewhere like the zoo, they are fine, but DW will be all day for multiple days. I haven’t been there since the 80s, so I don’t remember much about DW.

  129. Kate – Are the doubles side-by-side ones? They always looked reasonably maneuverable to me, so I’d say go with that.

    My preference is a cheap umbrella stroller that costs about $20 because it can be lifted and thrown around easily, into and out of the “Stroller Parking” areas, folded and easily carried when not in use, etc…

  130. Side-by-side. City-mini. Has a basket, too, which would be nice. This DW trip is the most complicated trip ever.

  131. Kate, it probably depends on your kids and how much they walk normally, and also on your plans. I look at Disney as a park to go enjoy what appeals to us. Some people look at it as a challenge to get through everything in one day.

    RMS, we did the duckboat tour when Isaac was four & he loved it. There is also a “Freedom Trail” walking tour, or else there used to be.

  132. I wanted to stay at Animal Kingdom Lodge, but the travel agent convinced me that the monorail location was better.

  133. Kate – they are right. We stayed at Animal Kingdom and it was more of a PITA to get the bus than if you are on the monorail, esp for Magic Kingdom and Epcot.

  134. AKL looks so cool. A lot of the hotels look really cool. My boys would love the Wilderness Lodge. I see how people get kind of enamored with DW.

  135. Milo, sorry to hear about your grandmother, but it’s a blessing she has passed before dementia really hit her. My 92 year old grandma has succumbed completely over the last 10 years. Amazingly, her body keeps up the fight. Must have strong consitution. Having said that, everyone is ready for her to pass as she is not longer a mom or grand mom or the person she was before, just a body. It’s very sad.

  136. Milo – wonderful summary! Love that the focus was on the taco. That really was weird.

    I wonder how much he could possibly earn at that church. Yet, he seems determined to stay. You’d think he’d be itching for a different/bigger assignment.

  137. Referring to Jeremy in the last paragraph there, though as Finn will point out, I wrote it badly enough it implies I was referring to Ben.

    As for Ben, I wonder whose idea it was for him to get a degree. On one hand, the family doesn’t seem all that high on education for their own kids. OTOH, I had the sense that maybe this is part of the Ben Improvement Plan they have for him, to upgrade him to someone better able to support Jessa.

  138. Kate, at 7 years and 1 month, my twins walked open to close at Disneyland, but they are described as energetic. (One concerned teacher-friend observed volatile twin might be ADHD. It wouldn’t surprise me if she’s right.) I would still get the twin stroller because you can always use the second seat for storage.

  139. I forgot to include in my quick summary that there was the graduation celebration for Joy, Jer, and Jed. Joy had actually graduated a year or so earlier, but since they don’t want to invite hundreds of people to the compound every year, they kind of lump a bunch of them together. This is not meant as a slight toward any of the other children, but the three of them seem like really nice people. It was a week ago, and I forget the wording, but there was an awkward point in the interview when one of the boys, either Jer or Jed, made a comment about what’s next for them after graduation, and his shrug seemed to show an awareness and acknowledgement of the strange fact that they really don’t have much to do between now and getting married.

    I don’t know that there’s any historical precedent for that. In the old days, it seems a young man in their situation, if not going to college, would have something ahead of him to achieve first, whether it’s a stint in the military, or setting up a homestead, or apprenticing for a specific trade. Or maybe I’m wrong, because plenty of farmers’ sons probably stayed home and helped on the farm until they got married (and even then they may not have left).

    At one point long ago, they mentioned that Ben was interested in some sort of ministry, so I’m guessing that’s the focus of his studies. I suppose if you can get even two or three people to listen to you, you can call yourself a minister.

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