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Brought to you by John Sciarra, Bernard's Garage - AUTOMOTIVE INSIDER -

BERNARD'S GARAGE - John SciarraSummer's imminent arrival means your vehicle's air conditioning system will soon be under serious strain.

If your A/C isn't as frosty as it used to be, but it's still blowing cold, the system may need to be recharged.

Manufacturers used to use a type of refrigerant known as R-12, or Freon, until researchers found it caused ozone depletion. As such, it's illegal to use Freon in vehicles built after 1994. Now, manufacturers use R-134a to keep things cold in the cabin.

Working on an air conditioning system is about as much fun as sticking your hand in a blender. Twice.

Unless you are skilled in vehicle maintenance, it’s safest to take the job to a professional.

An AC compressor is usually driven by your vehicle's serpentine belt, and as it spins, it pressurizes the system's refrigerant. It's this change in pressure that cools the air coming into your cabin. The best way to keep your compressor from failing is to have your A/C system serviced once a year.

If your compressor needs replacement, most responsible shops will recommend swapping out a number of periphery components at the same time.

Why? The easy answer is working on an air conditioning system is about as fun as sticking your hand in a blender. Twice.

To avoid draining your refrigerant, removing your compressor, installing a new unit and refilling the system with new cool stuff — only to have you come back in a week and say it's still not cold enough — it makes sense to replace the necessary components.

Bernard’s Garage

2036 SE Washington St., Milwaukie



Brought to you by Mike Nielsen of Snap Fitness - FITNESS INSIDER -

SNAP FITNESS - Mike NielsenAs the inspirational saying goes, “Live less out of habit and more out of intent.”

While it’s true that starting a fitness routine can be difficult, I offer the following tips to get you in the gym door and on the road to good health.

Assessment — New SNAP Fitness clients receive a free jump-start session, including consultation with a trainer. The assessment determines the client’s baseline, helps us guide their first steps, and is an opportunity to discuss adding personal training.

Cardio — The national recommendation for exercise for all ages and fitness levels is to get to the gym at least three days per week, and to do a minimum of 30 minutes of cardio per visit. Working out with a friend will make it more fun, help you feel more accountable, help you stay at the gym for more months and achieve a higher level of success.

Strength training is key to replacing fat with muscle, becoming leaner, stronger and improving balance. Do two to three sessions of strength training per week.

Nutritional guidelines — Instead of eating three large meals per day, eat five to six small meals. This will fuel your energy throughout the day and avoid post-meal sluggishness. Also drink 96 ounces of water daily.

Online help — SNAP has a complete online nutritional program and training center. Free with membership, it provides a personalized workout plan, sample menus and a complete library of instruction videos.

Snap Fitness

Milwaukie: 4200 SE King Rd.



Oregon City: 19703 S. Hwy. 213, Ste. 170



Brought to you by Mike Nielsen - Snap Fitness - Fitness INSIDER

Mike Nielsen, Snap FitnessStrength training is an essential part of an exercise program, even for someone who hasn’t been active in a while.

Lifting weights, using weight machines and doing core work increases muscle mass and bone density.

As we age, our muscles deteriorate (called sarcopenia) and bone density decreases.

Research shows that seniors are more susceptible to bone breakage that younger adults. As people age, their metabolism slows down. We are seeing more and more seniors joining gyms.

If we take the average adult between the ages of 40 and 50 and do basic strength-training three to four times per week for 90 days, the outcome can be life-changing.

Here’s a myth-buster: Muscle does NOT weigh more than fat! A pound is a pound. 

Muscle is, however, more dense than body fat and takes up less area than fat. If you were to start an exercise program complete with strength training, you would increase your lean body mass and decrease body fat.

The body takes up less space and metabolism speeds up, resulting in a higher BMR (base metabolic rate, the amount of daily caloric intake needed to maintain LBM and weight.) This reverses sarcopenia and increases bone density.   

Not everyone walks into a gym and knows exactly what to do. Snap gives new members an opportunity to meet with a Certified Personal Trainer, who assesses their body and their goals. 

Let’s get started.

Snap Fitness

Milwaukie: 4200 SE King Rd.



Oregon City: 19703 S. Hwy. 213, Ste. 170



Brought to you by John Sciarra, Bernard's Garage - AUTO MAINTENANCE INSIDER

John Sciarra, Bernard's GarageRegular maintenance on your car is, quite simply, a good investment.

For example, when you bring your car in for a timing belt — typically needed at 90,000 to 100,000 miles— it costs in the range of $400 to $500. But if it breaks, it might be $1,800 to $2,000.

At our shop, when we do it, we do it right. With the timing belt, we also replace the timing belt tensioner, idler pulleys, camshaft seals, water pump and coolant.

Mileage interval maintenance, which is only done by shops, should be done at 30,000, 60,000 and 90,000 miles.

The ideal scenario is to get the car into the shop about three times per year for inspections, which will find things like rodent damage, which is more common than you might think. It’s mainly squirrels in this area.

An inspection will also uncover leaking coolant or oil, as well as plugged-up air filters. Once a year, you should get a brake inspection.

We do complete automotive repair, including pre-purchase inspections for $150. That’s a comprehensive inspection, which can detect unforeseen problems and save you from buying a compromised vehicle.

Our average cost for an oil change is $38; $58 for a brake inspection.

It’s a small investment. We do it properly and can save you a lot of trouble and expense down the road.

Bernard’s Garage

2036 SE Washington St., Milwaukie



Mike Nielsen - Snap Fitness - Fitness INSIDER

SNAP FITNESS - Mike Nielsen“We are a friendly, success-oriented fitness center,” says Mike Nielsen, vice president and co-owner of Snap Fitness locations in Oregon City, Milwaukie and Canby. “We’re like the ‘Cheers’ of the gym world, where everybody knows your name.”

Nielsen has been a certified fitness coach for 13 years and has been with Snap for eight years. He says being a fitness coach is all about helping individuals achieve the best version of themselves.

“It’s not just something that’s done at the gym, but it’s a lifestyle change,” he said of Snap. “We focus on not only the physical but also the mental and emotional aspects of everyday life, to make sure we are able to achieve long-term success.”

He says Snap gyms have a family feel and a personal touch.

The gyms are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with monitored access for safety. Snap has more than 1,500 locations nationwide.

The fitness centers offer cardio, personal training, weight-loss programs, a health center, strength training and Olympic lifting. An online web page for members offers nutrition counseling and an online training center.

“Our members are our greatest assets,” Nielsen added. “We do all we can to make sure they have not only the best facility and equipment, but a wonderful experience.”

Snap Fitness


Milwaukie: 4200 SE King Rd.


Oregon City: 19703 S. Hwy. 213, Ste. 170


Canby: 1109 SW 1st Ave.


Brought to you by John Sciarra - Bernard's Garage - AUTOMOTIVE INSIDER -

BERNARD'S GARAGE - John SciarraAfter nearly 100 years of providing excellent full-service automotive repair and maintenance, Bernard’s Garage is a classic Milwaukie institution trusted by generations of customers.

Founded in 1925, old timers and area residents still remember Joe Bernard Sr., who would design and build custom car parts when his customers’ vehicles needed it. Joe Bernard Jr., a former Milwaukie mayor, helped modernize Bernard’s and continued his father’s tradition of excellent customer service.

The current owner, Jim Bernard, another Milwaukie mayor and current Clackamas County commissioner, has computerized Bernard’s—turning his father’s mechanics into today’s technicians.

Besides providing free pickup and delivery, Bernard’s offers DEQ repair and adjustments, check-engine light diagnosis, manufacturer-scheduled maintenance, brakes, steering and suspension repair, timing belt tune-ups, radiator and water pump work, as well as engine, transmission and air conditioning service.

“We are straight shooters and will let you know what the problem is and what the cost is upfront,” Operations Manager John Sciarra says.

Sciarra, an 18 year veteran of Bernard’s, has attained numerous specialty vehicle class certifications. With 26 years in the industry overall, Sciarra is our INSIDER for automotive excellence.

Bernard’s Garage is a 17-year-long supporter of the Milwaukie Farmers Market, a Milwaukie First Friday participant and frequently donates to the Annie Ross House, Milwaukie Senior Center and other local schools and events.

A member of the Clackamas County Chamber of Commerce since 1955, Bernard’s has been named Business of the Year twice since 2000, and has received the BRAG award from the county for practicing responsible recycling and waste management.

Bernard's Garage 

2036 SE Washington St, Milwaukie, OR.

(503) 659-7722


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Grow your own vertical garden knowledge


Singer Hill Cafe owner Phil Yates happy to share his craft with community

by: PHOTO: DICK TRTEK - Phil Yates checks on the plants that make up the large vertical garden inside Singer Hill Cafe. He said the garden looks good year-round.Phil Yates and his wife were visiting their daughter, Betsy, in Madrid, Spain, four years ago when they saw their first vertical garden. That five-story garden, the work of Frenchman Patrick Blanc, “took my breath away; it was a life-changing moment,” he said.

by: PHOTO: DICK TRTEK - Phil Yates shows Yuna, 4, how to feed the fish in one of his wicking wells, behind Singer Hill Cafe.In spring 2009, Yates, the owner of Singer Hill Cafe on Seventh Street in Oregon City, set about transforming the back cinder block walls of the cafe into a vertical garden, experimenting with watering systems and plant choice.

“It was all learning from scratch; he taught himself a ton,” said Betsy Yates, who has worked at the cafe in the past. “And, he has no problem sharing.”

In fact, Yates is anxious to teach others how to make their own vertical gardens, because he wants to “lower the frustration level of people who want to do this but can’t find someone to tell them” how, he said.

Yates will offer four free workshops on the last Sunday in May, June, July and August, with the first one taking place from 3 to 4 p.m., May 26, at the cafe.

So, what is a vertical garden? That question is more complicated than one might think, Yates said, because there are so many different kinds.

One method he works with is a hydroponic system. He creates a carpet-pad fabric wall and fabric pockets, into which he inserts plants. He then dribbles fertilized water over the fabric, which acts as a growing medium.

He has set aside a small closetlike room in the cafe itself, which houses a “fertigation” system, which, as the name suggests, both fertilizes and irrigates.

This system allowed him to create vertical gardens copying Blanc’s method, he said.

But now, experimenting with different ways to keep things wet, Yates has created his own system that he calls a “wicking well.”

He starts with a blue, plastic 55-gallon barrel, and then makes a concrete top and bottom for it. He covers the barrel with carpet-pad fabric, fills it with water from an attached faucet, stocks the barrel with small fish and pops plants into the pockets.

“The goal is to get it so it doesn’t look like a barrel. Once you get the moss to grow, it looks like a rock face; it looks like a work of art,” he said.

The water wicks over the top of the concrete collar, down over the plants, and, “this is major,” Yates said, “the fish poop fertilizes the plants.”

Plant choice is key

by: PHOTO: DICK TRTEK - Phil Yates created the wicking well system of vertical gardening, pictured here, behind the Singer Hill Cafe. It is a living work of art, he says.Choosing the right plants for the vertical garden is important, Yates said, noting that it is best to avoid plants that droop, since they will smother the other plants.

There are plenty of design considerations when choosing plants, with special attention given to the location of the vertical garden.

“The coolest thing on a sunny wall, you can put the shade plants under the sun-loving plants” and that works very well, Yates noted.

The two indoor gardens at the cafe are planted with tropical houseplants, and some orchids even do well, Yates said. Both gardens are also are fish ponds, which attract small children, but more importantly, the fish fertilize the plants, he said.

The vertical gardens, both inside and out, are “unlike anything that people have seen before and are a huge draw” to the cafe, Betsy Yates said.

People drive by and see them, and bring in people from out of town to look at them, she noted, adding, that the indoor gardens “create a really cool atmosphere in the cafe.”

The seminars will cater to people who are curious about building a vertical garden, and attendees do not need to be avid gardeners, Phil Yates said.

And what does he like best about vertical gardening?

On a practical note, the gardens have been good for business at Singer Hill Cafe, Yates said.

But on a personal level, he loves seeing and hearing customers’ reactions to the sight of the gardens.

Yates added, “I practiced law on and off for 20 years, and in that time I hardly ever had a person tell me what a great job I was doing. Now I get kudos 10 times a day — people love it.”

Growing tall

What: Free vertical garden seminars

When: 3 to 4 p.m. May 26, June 30, July 28 and Aug. 25

Where: The Art Garden at Singer Hill Cafe, 623 Seventh St., Oregon City

More: Seminars will cover construction, installation, maintenance, drainage, plants and a Q&A session.

For more information: Visit singerhill.com or call 503-656-5252.