Category Archives: Lifestyle


New Year’s Resolutions for New Homeowners

As 2015 comes to a close, many of us are making resolutions for the new year. To eat more healthily, exercise more often, and become more financially responsible are among the common pledges year after year. However, if you just became a first time homebuyer recently, we have a few special recommendations to put on your resolutions list this year to ensure an enjoyable experience as a new homeowner in 2016. 

Flickr Creative Commons: oddharmonic (CC BY-SA 2.0); Edited

1. Keep up with your seasonal maintenance.

In case you haven’t realized it yet, owning a home is a lot different than renting. One of the reasons is that your house will require much more maintenance (especially if you previously lived in an apartment), and now repairs and fixes are your responsibility. If you’ve only owned your home for a few weeks or months, you probably haven’t yet had the chance to deal with it in all types of weather, meaning there’s an element of the unexpected waiting for you in the new year. With the changing of seasons, there’s always something that needs to be checked on or updated to make sure it is functioning to the best of its ability. Taking care of these items in advance will save you a lot of time and money down the road. Don’t know which projects need to be completed when? Contact us to request a copy of our handy seasonal home maintenance guide.

2. Experiment with a new color scheme.

There’s a good chance that you did some painting when you first moved in, in order to personalize your home to your preferred style and that’s great! But with the new year approaching, it’s always a good idea to consider some change, and a fresh coat of paint is just like getting yourself a new haircut. Whether you’re thinking about a subtle shade change for your bedroom walls or a complete makeover for your kitchen, this is the time to go for it. And since Pantone just named their new colors of the year, perhaps these might be some options for you to consider (especially if you’re planning to welcome a new bundle of joy in 2016)? Or, if you’re not quite willing to commit to new paint, try adding some visual interest via trendy accent pieces, such as tribal print artwork and accessories

Flickr Creative Commons: Christian Bros Cabinets (CC BY 2.0)

Flickr Creative Commons: Christian Bros Cabinets (CC BY 2.0)

3. Splurge…a little.

Buying a home is probably one of the biggest investments you’ll make in your life, and right now your wallet might be feeling a bit light. But as you get used to making your mortgage payments, they won’t feel like they’re making such a big dent anymore. You’ll then realize you might want to spend a little more to make your home feel complete. Don’t get us wrong – we’re not advising you to install the most tricked out home theater system you can imagine or a fish tank the size of your old apartment bathroom. However, we are encouraging you to treat yourself to that fancy vacuum you’ve had your eye on for months or a new dining room set that will go with those gleaming hardwood floors. After all, this is your house to do whatever you want with now, and you want to make it feel like your home, which might just mean adding a few indulgent creature comforts. You’ve worked hard to be able to call yourself a homeowner, so treat yourself!

4. Stay in touch with your real estate agent or broker.

You just spent three or four months talking with your agent nearly every single day and, perhaps, seeing them on a weekly basis for showings. But after closing…well, *crickets chirping*. Believe it or not, your agent will notice your absence in his or her life! Many agents grow fond of their clients throughout the home buying process and end up missing them once the search is over. Of course, they understand that you’re busy moving in and getting settled, but most would love to have a quick conversation every so often to hear about how you’re loving your shorter commute or new neighborhood hotspots.  While many agents do their best to check in periodically after closing, it sometime gets a little hard with numerous beloved clients to stay in touch with. You can help get the convo started by sending your agent some photos of the improvements you’ve made since moving in or by asking for a referral to the best snow shoveler in town. Good agents make it their business to establish connections with trusted service providers in the area, so this should be no problem. 

Do you have any new homeowner resolutions to add to our list? If so, let us know in the comments! And Happy New Year, everybody!


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Tips on Staging Your House for Photos


Flickr Creative Commons: Wicker Paradise

There are always people who are wanting to buy a house, but with many houses on the market, it makes it difficult for sellers to stand out from the rest. A seller should seek out a professional to professionally stage their house and get a professional photographer to take listing photos, no cell phone pictures. Here are a few tips on staging your house.

Lighting can be your friend when staging a house. The angles which light can embellish will make rooms look larger and wider. If you are looking to correct symmetry and imperfections, or will the best angles of a room show, you can preview it, odds are that you have a tool in your pocket with a camera built into it. With your camera, take pre photos and this should give you an idea, as to the display or time of day you would like certain rooms photographed.

Wrinkles can be a beautiful thing on people, but, for example, on curtains and table runners, the camera will exaggerate the wrinkles to their full. Take a little time and get professional steamer of a hot iron and relieve them. Buyers want to feel refreshed when looking at a potential house, wrinkles do the opposite.

Colors, Colors, Colors. Colors can be your friend, well if done accordingly. There are neutrals and there are colors. The neutrals are black, white, grey, brown, beige, cream, silver, and at times gold. These form a good base for your room. You can add as many as you want, but there are colors like red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. These colors must be used accordingly. Then there is a color story, they might be blues or reds or colors of the peacock, or teal and yellow. Word of caution, use only one color story line per room.

Make sure to use camera filters and other editing features in moderation. You don’t want to loose a client by taking pictures that make a house look better than in reality.

All photos are used under this license.

Popular Home Styles


Flickr Creative Commons: David Sawyer

Craftsman home style became popular in the 20th century and it was inspired by two architects, Greene brothers, who were influenced by English Arts and Crafts movement.  Some characteristics of craftsman house are gabled roof, front porch, tapered columns, stone details.


Flickr Creative Commons: Anthony Easton

Colonial style homes are influenced by 18th century European colonists who brought their influence with. One of the main features is that colonial houses are square and the front door is in the middle of the home. Also, there are usually two windows on each side of the door. Some other characteristics are shutters and wood detailing.


Flickr Creative Commons: Michael Hicks

Traditional style homes are the most commonly built, they can have a ranch-style plans or two-story house plans. There are many different styles that can accommodate a broad range of buyers. They have open floor plans up to date elements.


Flickr Creative Commons: Laurie Avocado

European-style homes are inspired by the European architecture such as Tuscan, English, Spanish and French. The exterior of such a house is usually brick or stone. Another characteristic of a European house is multi-peaked rooflines and bay windows.


Flickr Creative Commons: Joe Wolf

Ranch-style houses became popular in 1950s and 1960s, their convenience and flexibility in floor plans made it very popular after the World War-II growth. The are single story, long, low rooflines, large windows, attached garage, and brick or wood exterior.

All photos use under this license.

Celebrities Who Do Not Celebrate Thanksgiving


Flickr Creative Commons: Gage Skidmore

One of the celebrities who doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving is Angelina Jolie, who is known for her charity work and helping people form other cultures. She believes that the history behind the holiday is against her beliefs.

Cher also does not celebrate for the same reasons as Jolie. She said that it is time for her family to get together and watch movies, but not to celebrate.


Flickr Creative Commons: David Caroll

Unlike first two, Zooey Deschanel is not bothered by the holiday history much, but mostly about Thanksgiving food. She doesn’t like the color of the food, according to her, it doesn’t look appetizing. But she does like the fact that it’s time for the whole family to get together.

Alicia Silverstone is not against the holiday itself, but since she is a vegan, she does not like the “turkey” part of the holiday. She has her own food website with animal-friendly recipes.

THE 2015 AMERICAN MUSIC AWARDS(r) - The “2015 American Music Awards,” which will broadcast live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Sunday, November 22 at 8:00pm ET on ABC. (Image Group LA/ABC) ALICIA SILVERSTONE

Flickr Creative Commons: ABC Television Group Photostream

Mayim Bialik, the “Big Bang Theory” star, is also a vegan, and she does like the holiday except the Black Friday shopping. She avoids going to stores until after the holiday season.

All photos used under this license.




Family Thanksgiving Traditions

While many families have their own Thanksgiving traditions, there are some that are deep rooted in American history.

So why turkey and not chicken? The first Thanksgiving dinner, back in 1621, included turkey, fish, pumpkin, and squash. Turkeys are big enough to be able to feed the whole family. At that time, chicken and cows were more valuable alive than dead.

Turkey pardon is an annual ritual. It became a tradition since George H.W. Bush decided that the presented to him turkey would not end up on a dinner table and granted a presidential pardon.

Breaking the turkey wishbone is another Thanksgiving tradition. Ancient Romans believed that chicken bones held the power of good fortune, so when pulling apart a wishbone, the good luck came upon the one who got the larger piece.

Football is also a part of Thanksgiving celebration. Back in the day the game was usually between Detroit Lions (Portsmouth Spartans) and Green Bay Packers, now there are more football games on Thanksgiving day.

Parades have been a part of Thanksgiving celebrations since the 20th century. For many people Thanksgiving is the beginning of the holiday shopping season, thus many stores started their promotions by sponsoring parades, such as Macy’s Parade and McDonald’s parade.

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Women Homebuyers

According to recent statistics, more women than men are buying homes. According to National Association of Realtors, female homebuyers account for 23% of first-time homebuyers and 16% of repeat buyers, while men account for 15% of first-time homebuyers and 8% of repeats. There were always divorced or widowed female buyers, but now we see more and more professional females who have successful careers and are making their own financial decisions. Also, many women view home ownership as a great financial investment.

So, what do women look for in a home? Of course, there are different groups of women with different needs. Some need more space and spacious backyards for their kids to play, others look for townhouses and quiet neighborhoods. There are some common things that women are looking for in a house, such as walk-in closets, separate laundry room, spacious kitchen, safe neighborhood, etc. Women, especially career oriented, prefer townhouses or condos that are low maintenance, as they do not have time for upkeep.

When working with women, it is important to include details that are important to them; they are very detail oriented and they want to understand the process and know all the facts before making a decision. For many women home buyers, relationship with a Realtor is very important, it is important to make sure to appeal to them as a wife or a partner, and as a mom; as buyers women think about their entire family.

What is your experience working with women home buyers or as a woman home buyer? Share with us!

All photos used under this license.


Interior Design Trends for 2016

The new 2016 is approaching quickly and new home trends are emerging. With rapid development of technology and innovations, many trends do not last and change every year. Although some that are modern and interesting will stay. Let’s take a look at what the next year will bring in terms of interior design.

Outdoor to Indoor. Greenery is back. Decorating homes with plants will be in trend, as well as getting furniture that can be used both inside and outside.

Colors and Materials. Bold colors will remain in trend, but the popular shades will be peach and shades of pink. Materials such as brass, copper, and wood will be a strong trends next year; it can be copper vases, coffee table trays and decor pillows with shimmer.

Organic shapes and textures.  With people becoming more and more conscious about environment, natural textures and undefined shapes are becoming more popular, from accessories, dinnerware to furniture.

Ethnic Prints. Ethnic trend became popular in 2015 and will continue to 2016. With new interpretation, tribal prints, shapes, and patterns will get a new life when combined with bold and vibrant colors. Ethnic prints will be seen not only in textiles, but artwork and accessories as well.

All photos used under this license.

Downtown Minneapolis, MN

Downtown Minneapolis is divided into two parts, Downtown East and Downtown West. Downtown West is the heart of Minneapolis, with recognizable high-rise buildings, Nicollet Mall (home to some of the city’s best restaurants and shopping), and the Warehouse district. Also, many notable buildings like the Foshay Tower, built in 1929, are located in Downtown West.

Downtown East is a mix of residential and commercial buildings. Here you will find the Mill City Museum, Guthrie Theater, and Gold Medal Park. Many of the one-time industrial properties, such as old mills and factories, are being converted into residential dwellings. For example, the former Pillsbury flour mill complex was recently transformed into the A-Mill Artist Lofts, a 251-unit affordable housing project that serves working artists.

Downtown Minneapolis Watermarked022

According to DMNA, Downtown Minneapolis was a center of many businesses and financial activity. After the Great Depression, due to businesses moving to the suburbs, the downtown area became dirty and buildings weren’t maintained well enough. It was agreed that rebuilding was needed, and, thus, many buildings were leveled and new buildings and highways were built, resulting in the beautiful city we know and love today.

Many people enjoy downtown living because of the close proximity to entertainment and dining options, parks and bike trails. Most of the homes in the downtown area are apartments, condos, and lofts. Also, there are old commercial buildings and warehouses that have been converted into lofts. According to City Data, the population of Downtown West is 6,187, the median age is between 33-35, and the median rent is $949. Downtown East’s population is 1,274 with the median age of 32-36, and the median rent price is $1,107.

Downtown Minneapolis is full of entertainment options for all ages. That is where the famous Hennepin Theater District is located, which has three historic theaters: Orpheum, State, and Pantages. Guthrie Theater, located on the Mississippi River in Downtown East, is one of the most renowned theaters in the nation. Not only can you see your favorite plays there, but you can also go on a backstage or an architecture tour. The Guthrie also offers great restaurants, a cocktail lounge area and a beautiful view of the Mississippi River (especially from the outdoor observation deck).

Downtown Minneapolis Watermarked012

In addition, Downtown Minneapolis is famous for its variety of restaurants and wonderful fine dining offerings. 112 Eatery is a very popular spot for dinner with great reviews; Butcher and the Boar is another delicious option. We’d also recommend Vincent A Restaurant, a french eatery known for its burgers with fluffy buns and savory dressings.

Downtown Minneapolis Watermarked003

If you’re looking for something a little more laid-back, check out Brit’s Pub. It has a great selection of beers to offer and a fun rooftop patio with lawn bowling. This is definitely one of Downtown’s most popular places come summer.

Downtown Minneapolis Watermarked008

For the live music lovers there is Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant, with nightly music, dining and cocktails. First Avenue is also a famous live music venue where the biggest local and national artists and bands perform. In addition, there are a number of nightclubs such as Aqua and Karma.

Nicollet Mall is a great place to shop if you love chain stores, including a two-level Target store (the behemoth retailer is based out of Minneapolis, after all) and Macy’s. There is also Gaviidae Common shopping center, which has department stores and specialty retailers.

One of the things many people like about downtown living is that many places are within walking distance. There is public transportation and many bus routes that serve downtown, and there is also Light Rail that runs through downtown.

Many might think that Downtown Minneapolis is mostly for younger people, but it is changing since many families are moving to the downtown area as it becomes more and more family-friendly.  There are more playgrounds being built and other amenities like the YMCA. There are also plenty of parks for early morning jogs or to take your pooch for a stroll: enjoy a walk along the Mississippi River, Stone Arch Bridge or explore Loring Park, just at the outskirts of the Downtown area. Some of our other favorite parks include Gateway Dog Park, Gold Medal park, Triangle park, and Mill Ruins park. And of course you can’t forget the new Vikings stadium that is currently being built! Once it is complete, it will surely be a dream destination for football fans of all ages.

Downtown Minneapolis is rapidly becoming a popular and convenient neighborhood to live in (one of the best in the country) with close proximity to entertainment options, delicious dining, and plenty of family and outdoor activities.


Neighborhood Resources

Neighborhood Schools

Faith Communities

The FAIR School  St.Olaf Catholic Church
 Emerson SILC  Gethsemane Episcopal Church
Westminster Presbyterian Church
 First Covenant Church


Local Restaurants

 Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant  112 Eatery
 Orpheum Theater  Pizza Luce
 Pantages Theater  Butcher and the Boar
 Guthrie Theater  Bar La Grassa
 Brave New Workshop Comedy Theater The Local
 The Skyway Theater Vincent A Restaurant



Celebrities with Modest Homes

Celebrities are known for having luxury and over-the-top houses, but there are some who prefer a less glamorous lifestyles and have modest homes compared to others.

You would think that Mark Zuckerberg owns a luxury mansion, but he recently moved to a new home in Palo Alto, CA that is close to Facebook headquarters and it is believed to be around 4,000 square feet. And yes, it is considered modest in celebrity world.

Hilary Swank is another one with a smaller square footage. She owns an apartment in New York that is only 1,400 square feet. She prefers practical and comfortable over luxury.

Despite her very arrogant character on Gossip Girl, Leighton Meester lives in a ranch style home that has 4 bedrooms and is around 2,900 square feet.

Scarlet Johansson is all about eco-friendly. Her 2,835 square foot house is full of solar panels. Though, she had to put it up for sale after her divorce.

Andrew Zimmern, the star of the Bizarre Foods also has a modest home and it is, actually, here in St. Paul, Minnesota.


Most Beautiful Golf Courses in America

While it seems like golf is an easy game, it is very challenging and technical. You need to have a sharp eye and to get the swing right, you have to stay calm and focused even when frustrated. It is also a good exercise since it involves a lot of walking. In addition to everything, people enjoy the beauty of golf courses, with plenty of trees and lakes. Let’s take a look at some most beautiful and popular golf courses in the US.

Pebble Beach might be the best known place with 8 public and private 18-hole golf courses and outstanding views. It is believed to be one of the most beautiful courses. It has a great view of the ocean front and many people might find themselves taking pictures more than playing golf. Yes, it is pretty spectacular.

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Flickr Creative Commons: Christina Lauren

Augusta golf is known to have the most difficult holes, that are the 11th, 12th, and 13th and they are known as “Amen Corner”.  There are no sea views here like at Pebble beach, but it is considered one of the most beautiful golf courses nevertheless. It seems like you are in a botanical garden full of azaleas of different colors, roses, and honeysuckles.


Flickr Creative Commons: Ryan Shreiber

Cypress Point is a private golf club and it is known for it’s three holes (15th, 16th, 17th) that are situated along the Pacific Ocean. In 2013, it was #2 on the list of 100 Top Courses in the World. It is a beautiful combination of coastal dunes and magnificent ocean view.


Flickr Creative Commons: Mark Doliner

Pine Valley is a private golf club that has been ranked  #1 in the World many times (Golf Magazine). It is not only one of the most difficult golf courses, but also very scenic and relaxing with its hard-to-find entrance, hidden deep in the woods.


Flickr Creative Commons: Dan Perry