Thursday, January 29, 2015

Weekend Happenings: January 30 - February 1, 2015

City of Lakes Loppet Ski Festival
Theodore With Park
1301 Theodore Wirth Pkwy., Mpls
Jan. 30 - Feb. 1, 2015
Cost:  Free to attend, ski race registrations $25 - $130

It’s one of the most-loved wintertime festivals in Minneapolis and it’s happening this weekend. With all the warm weather and the lack of snow, however, some changes have been made. First, all cross country skiing events will take place at Theodore Wirth Park, which has the capacity to make snow. And, the Loppet Luminary, taking place on Saturday, is a walking-only event due to the lack of snow. The good news here is that this allows for more people to participate, so registration for that has been re-opened.

And yes, the Loppet is a weekend-long event with family-fun activities on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Along with the various cross-country ski races happening all weekend long, you can also enjoy Surly beer and food trucks, free tubing at Wirth Park on Friday and Saturday, fireworks Friday night, a snow sculpture contest on Saturday and so much more.

Various Locations in St. Paul
Sat., January 31, 2015
10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Cost:  Mostly Free, Various events may have nominal cost

The St. Paul Winter Carnival has been going on for a week now and will wrap up on Saturday,  It's an action packed day with a lot going on so you won't want to miss it.  Throughout the day there will be a snowball soccer tournament with Minnesota United and 15 other teams playing outside in Minnesota's elements.  It's family day so there are lots of activities for kids including pony rides.  There will be a bean bag toss tournament, a pie eating contest, and of course the Vulcan Victory Torchlight Parade and the overthrow of Boreas.  The festivities culminate in a fireworks show launched from Raspberry Island.  Don't miss this quintessentially Minnesotan tradition!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

That's So Cool!

Today we're highlight some really cool home design ideas.  We're not saying these are affordable or even practical.  But they are cool.  So check it out and let us know what you think.

Okay, so if you live in Barra Da Tijuca, Brazil, maybe you'd be able to pull off a bathroom like this amazing one.  I love the hanging faucet and the huge mirror wall.  And of course the beautiful plants with abundant daylight pouring in.

While this is more in keeping with something we could realistically expect in Minnesota, the chances of finding something like this is next to impossible because of all the strict building codes concern lakes in our state.  But if you could find an existing boathouse and renovate it.....  Cool!

You'd have to live alone or be very comfortable with your self-image if you had this bathroom in your house.  I love how simple it is and of course the ceiling made of glass.  Very cool!

Do I even need to explain why this one is cool??!

If you've seen the Twilight movies you've probably seen a door like this in the Cullen household.  Beautiful but probably impractical on a snowy day.

This just seems so inviting!!  I'd love to just sit here with a glass of wine and listening to the birds become crickets as the night deepens.  Sigh.

Wouldn't this be the most awesome guest house ever?!  On second thought, they can have the master bedroom, and I'll head out to the guest house.

What a perfectly protected spot to be outdoors.  During the warmer months you could live out here most of the time.  Love it.

This entire set up in made of concrete with an inlaid sink.  Beautiful.  But it would be hard to clean. 

These stairs just scream cool but I have a feeling I'd be screaming every time I traversed them.  At least put in a railing on the wall side!

Would you live in a glass house?  I think it would be so cool to have unobstructed views of the outdoors at all times yet be safely ensconced within. 

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors and Pinterest.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Weekly Market Update: January 26, 2015

New Year's resolutions may have already faded out, but the housing market is just getting started. Even though it may take a while for new trends to emerge, the housing crisis that was a bear a few years ago has been making mostly positive gains as of late. The common thought is that this will be another year of recovery and further stabilization. Onward and upward it is.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending January 17:

 • New Listings increased 8.3% to 1,073
 • Pending Sales increased 14.6% to 668
 • Inventory decreased 6.8% to 12,027

For the month of December:

 • Median Sales Price increased 5.2% to $200,000
 • Days on Market increased 3.5% to 89
 • Percent of Original List Price Received decreased 0.6% to 94.1%
 • Months Supply of Inventory remained flat at 2.9

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Monday, January 26, 2015

We're Number 1! We're Number 1!


What makes a state a great one?  Well, according to at least one source, attributes like education, health and wealth of it's citizens make it good while things like crime, unemployment, and death make it not so good.

This year Minnesota worked its way to the number one spot (sharing the honor with New Hampshire) because of improvements in employment, infant mortality and the obesity rate.  And while this is not the last word on what makes a great state, it's still a reminder that here in Minnesota we always work to improve our lives in the best ways we know how.  Plus it's pretty.

Which state came in the lowest, you may be wondering?  That dubious honor falls to Mississippi which has been in this lowest spot more than once.

If you want to read all the statistics for each state and how the rankings were compiled, you can find the original article here.

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Weekend Happenings: January 23 - 25, 2015

2015 Progressive Insurance Minneapolis Boat Show
Minneapolis Convention Center
1301 2nd Ave. S, Mpls.
Jan. 22-25, 2015
Thurs:  2p-9p
Fri:  12p-9p
Sat: 10a-9p
Sun:  10a-5p
Cost:  Adults:  $12, Children 15 and under FREE

Source:  Minneapolis Convention Center

What better way to beat back the winter doldrums than to dream of summer.  And what better place to dream of summer than to go to the boat show!  Even if you aren't in the market for a new boat, there are plenty of things to do while you visit the show.

The Island Experience features a beach/marina environment, complete with real sand, boats at the dock, live music and a pirate ship for the kiddos. Get your feet wet (so to speak) at Paddlefest where people 10 years and older can try kayaking and Stand Up Paddleboarding in a real pool inside the Convention Center. Attend free seminars on all things boating. And snap a picture of a tow boat made entirely out of ice (20,000 pounds of ice, or 10 tons, to be exact).

On Friday visitors can enjoy a night of craft beer sampling at Anchors & Ales featuring eight of the country’s top microbreweries. Anchors & Ales ticket holders can taste a variety of brews while browsing exhibits featuring the newest boats and marine accessories for sale. Visitors can also grab a bite from Seven Sushi & Steakhouse and listen to boating music from Jambo Joe Bones at the Wings Financial Credit Union Island Experience inside the boat show.

Might Midway and the Coliseum
Minnesota State Fairgrounds
Jan. 24, 2015
3:30p to 7:30p
Cost:  $40 in advance, $50 at the gate ($10 for a Designated Driver). They do have a VIP option, or as they call it, Very Important Dabbler (VID) for $99, which gets you a few more perks.


We Minnesotans are hearty folk. So hearty, in fact, that our state’s largest outdoor beer festival takes place in the winter. Of course it does; it’s the Beer Dabbler Winter Carnival, and what a festival it is.

There will be over 120 breweries on hand, so you won’t go thirsty. And you won’t go hungry either as a plethora of food trucks and carts will be there to kick those hunger pangs to the curb. Along with food and drink, you can enjoy some live music, dance in the silent disco, take a ride on a snow slide, flex your knowledge in a trivia scavenger hunt and so much more.

Source:  Minneapolis Happenings Magazine

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Get Techy With Home Lighting

Home owners can control the lights in their home when ever and where ever they want to using technology.  There are a number of new DIY lighting kits on the market that allow you to control the lights in your home using an app for your tablet or smart phone.

While you can have professionals come and set up wireless lighting systems throughout your home for $1,500 to $5,000, there are some relatively low cost mini-systems out there that you can install yourself.  An added benefit of these systems is that they all use LED bulbs which give you great energy efficiency and all kinds of color and dimming options.

DIY Lighting Systems

The Hue is a $199 do-it-yourself starter kit from electronic manufacturer Philips. It includes a wireless hub that plugs into your home router, and three LED bulbs that respond to wireless signals.

Source:  Phillips

Once the hub and bulbs are installed, you control everything from your smartphone, setting up zones (called “scenes” by Hue), and choosing color combos from millions of possible hues. You can even add tricks, such as having your lights flash when one of your tweets is re-tweeted.

If you get hooked on your Hue, you can expand — additional bulbs are $60 each. And because it’s linked to your internet router, your hub can be accessed from virtually anywhere using your smart phone, tablet, or laptop. Working late? Delay your “Coming Home” mode for an hour — and save energy.

Another smart bulb on the market is the ilumi bulb.  With two strengths (100-watt and 60-watt) ranging between $84 and $94, the ilumi bulbs us your phone's Bluetooth network.  So you'll need to keep your phone within 100 feet of your bulbs in order for it to work.

Source:  ilumi

The LIFX bulb ($69) are controlled by your Wi-Fi network and can be accessed from anywhere. Wonder about the popularity of smart bulbs? LIFX started as a crowd-sourced Kickstarter project seeking $100,000 in funding; they received more than $1.3 million. That says something.


Mood lighting isn't the only thing that these bulbs can help with.  Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects around 20% of the US population and you can bet most of those are in the northern states like our good old Minnesota.  SAD is a type of depression characterized by  low energy and poor concentration and is brought about by low levels of daylight.  The therapy for this disorder is use of artificial lights that mimic the properties of natural light.

Healthy Lights

Dynamic lights vary between warm white (2600K) and cool light (5600K) so that the natural rhythms of daylight are reproduced indoors — helping keep you happy in the depths of winter. Several manufacturers make dynamic light bulbs — also called full-spectrum bulbs. A 2,800-lumen compact fluorescent bulb is about $12.

The Definity Digital Awake & Alert bulb from Lighting Science ($69.99) is touted as a “blue-enriched” LED biologically-corrected lighting solution that’s “proven to boost energy, promote alertness, and enhance performance.”

Source:  USAToday

The Withings Aura sleep monitoring device measures heartbeat and breathing patterns to adjust light levels in your bedroom, providing deeper sleep during the night and gentle alarms and raised light levels to bring you gently awake in the morning. Multi-colored LED dimming and brightening technologies help regulate the body’s melatonin — the hormone responsible for the body’s sleep/wake cycle. The system is about $300.

Withings Aura Sleep Monitoring System

Kohler’s Underscore Bathtub with Chromatherapy bathes you in underwater light as you soak. Choose from a variety of light colors to suit your mood. The tub is about $3,600.


The Future Of Lighting

There's no question that LEDs are the lights of the future.  The price on LED lighting has come down significantly in recent years and will continue  to drop.  LED lighting emits no heat and can be made really small - think the point of a pencil.  

That means the future will see a difference in the way we light out homes.  For example, hundreds of tiny LEDs can be embedded in sheets of drywall to create walls and ceilings that glow.  There are already luminous LED wallpapers on the market.

green design, eco design, sustainable design, Kvadrat Soft Cells, Philips, mood lighting, ambient light, LED wallpaper, sound absorbing wall paper, illuminated wall

Philips and carpet manufacturer Desso have already teamed up to create light-transmissive carpets. Add some motion sensors, and we’ll have hallways that light up as we approach and fade away behind us — putting light where we need it and turning it off where we don’t, saving energy.

Move over Jetsons!

Source:  Houselogic and Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Weekly Market Update: 2014 Annual Wrap Up

Strong demand and higher prices were some of the positive developments seen in 2014. Market recovery continued to take hold. Sellers were motivated by rising prices and quick market times, and so they listed more properties for sale. Closed sales activity ended the year at the second highest level since 2005. Even though the active supply of homes for sale fell to a 12-year low, home buyers had more choices during the critical spring and summer selling season. Homes sold in less time, which was great news for sellers. Absorption rates were flat and still slightly favored sellers but 2015 should see more balance. Foreclosure activity fell for a third straight year, while new construction and condo activity continued to soar in and around downtown.

2014 by the Numbers

  • Sellers listed 73,768 properties on the market, a 2.3 percent increase from 2013 and the highest level since 2010
  • Buyers closed on 49,541 homes, down 6.9 percent from 2013 yet the second highest figure since 2005
  • Inventory levels for December fell 7.2 percent from 2013 to 11,822 units, the lowest level in 12 years but May 2014 inventory was 13.4 percent higher than May 2013.
  • Months Supply of Inventory was flat at 2.9 months, tied for a 12-year low
  • The Median Sales Price rose 7.2 percent to $205,739, marking a seven-year high
    • This measure of home prices is 11.8 percent below its 2006 peak and 37.2 percent above its 2011 valley
  • Cumulative Days on Market was down 6.0 percent to 78 days, on average—an eight-year record pace
  • Lender-mediated properties made up a significantly smaller share of overall activity across multiple metrics
    • 12.2 percent of all New Listings were lender-mediated (either foreclosures or short sales), down from 21.6 percent in 2013 and 34.7 percent in 2012
    • 16.4 percent of all Inventory was lender-mediated, down from 26.1 percent in 2013 and 38.7 percent in 2012
    • 16.5 percent of all Closed Sales were lender-mediated, down from 26.3 percent in 2013 and 39.7 percent in 2012
Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors, article by Aubray Erhardt

Monday, January 19, 2015

Inspired by Men

When you're trying to decide on a direction for your home design, it helps to have a theme in mind to direct you and help all the rooms work together.  Today we've decided to highlight design elements that are inspired by masculinity.

Think pinstripe suits,  rich colors, natural textures, and architectural elements.  Masculine design elements will certainly appeal to men, but women will love it, too.  Take a look and see if you are inspired.

it's gray and navy. my favorite.

| Copy Cat Chic | chic for cheap: Williams Sonoma Home Crosby Stool, bedroom

Complementary Colors. More on Color Theory 101 -->

Modern Looking Interior Design Let me be YOUR Realtor! For more Home Decorating Designing Ideas or any Home Improvement Tips: Team Alliance Realty Visit Our Website

this space is cozy looking, chic, user-friendly and still a bit glamours at the same time.  LOVE it!

One of the most important and defining design elements is the lighting. Get tips on How To Properly Light a Living Room from Apartment Therapy and then check out the stunning selection of wallpapers for your living room at

Rustic-Chic Living Room by HGTV's Candice Olson. Beautiful!

Library love (Lonny Magazine Dec 2010 | Photography by Patrick Cline; Interior Design by Lulu Powers) #books #bookshelves #home_library



Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Weekend Happenings: January 16-18, 2015

Lake Harriet Winter Kite Festival
Lake Harriet Bandshell
4135 W. Lake Harriet Pkwy., Mpls
Sat., Jan. 17, 2015
12:00 to 4:00 pm
Cost:  Free


It’s going to be a gorgeous (by winter’s standards) Saturday afternoon in Minneapolis, and what better way to spend it than outside flying kites on a frozen lake? This year marks the 13th year the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board has hosted the Winter Kite Festival, and as in years past, it promises to provide great fun for the entire family.

You can bring your own kite, or buy an inexpensive one at the the festival. And, if you’re a bit rusty with your kite-flying abilities, no worries. Minnesota Kite Society experts will be there to provide their expertise to veteran and rookie kite-flyers, and they’ll also demonstrate their abilities at maneuvering spectacular kites throughout the day.

If you’d rather be fishing, you’re in luck. Tips Outdoors will be on hand to teach kids ice fishing skills and safety tips.

The festival is free and it runs from 12:00 pm until 4:00 pm at the north end of Lake Harriet. Just look skyward for all the kites in the air, and you’ll know you’re in the right place.  

Lake Nokomis, Mpls
Fri - Sun., Jan 16-18, 2015
8:30 am to 6:00 pm
Cost:  Free


Celebrating their 10th year in 2015, the US Pond Hockey Championships has become a Minnesota winter tradition. The tournament, which draws hockey players from all over the country, begins at 8:30 am on Friday and runs through Sunday at 6:00 pm. Throughout the three days, there will be plenty of hockey played, but also plenty of other activities and events happening, too.

You can bring the family down for family skate any time during the tourney and when they get hungry or you get thirsty, grab some grub from delicious Sandcastle and some beer from the Beer Garden.

Sunday’s the day of Championship games in all of the divisions with the awards ceremony happening at 4;30 pm. It’s going to be a great weekend of pond hockey fun.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Writing's On The Wall

Seems everywhere you look these days you can see the writing on the walls...literally.  Folks are finding it fun to add a short phrase, quote, or verse to almost any spot on their walls.   From decals, to painted stencils, to chalkboards and posters, you can't seem to get away from it. While we think it's a fun trend, that's what it remains...a trend.

Knock yourself out when it comes to using this as a decorating tool in your home.  The words we may put in our home tend to reflect who we are, but for that very reason, they need to be taken down when you go to sell your home.  Not everyone is on board with this trend, and not every word or phrase will reflect the new buyers.

But they are fun to read.  So here are some for you to enjoy.  And then let us know what you think about this trend.  We'd love to hear.


love the photo arrangement and the painting/writing on the wall.

In this house STAIRS stairway Vinyl Decal Vinyl Decal Home Decor Door Wall Lettering Words Quotes. $49.95, via Etsy.

A chapter from Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows transcribed onto a wall.  I think this is a must in my future home.

Moss Writing: {put in blender: 1.5 cups buttermilk, a few handfuls of moss, one teaspoon of sugar. paint on wall and mist daily until it grows.}

Personalized Family Name Vinyl Wall Decal  by JustTheFrosting, $28.00

'Be You' Removable Wall Decal by by Belvedere Designs on #zulily

me gusta la pared pintada color pizarra y escribir unas letras, una frase......mcga.-

Love washi tape diy wall decals!

Bring the whimsy and wisdom of words into the home with this beautiful wall decal. Pre-spaced letters on high-quality vinyl give a professional look with little effort, and add a touch of personality to any room.

I love that there are only two personal pieces on the bedside tables... But then again I love that Adam and I cover ours with books, cups of water, and my bobby pins. It just wouldn't be home without it!

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Weekly Market Update: January 12, 2015

Ye olde 2014 data will likely be retrospective analysis for the next few months, but 2015 is already stirring up rumors of potential trends as we charge into the new year. The buzzworthy hot topic, low interest rates, should keep bolstering home sales as it is speculated to become a friendlier market in the coming year for many types of buyers.

In the Twin Cities region, for the week ending January 3:

 • New Listings decreased 18.6% to 551
 • Pending Sales increased 9.1% to 553
 • Inventory decreased 4.0% to 12,821

For the month of December:

 • Median Sales Price increased 5.2% to $200,000
 • Days on Market increased 3.5% to 89
 • Percent of Original List Price Received decreased 0.6% to 94.1%
 • Months Supply of Inventory remained flat at 2.9

Source:  Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Weekend Happenings: January 9-11, 2015

Ice Castle
17970 East Miller Parkway
Eden Prairie, MN 
Fri., Jan 9, 2015 Thru March 7
2:00 pm to 10:00 pm
Cost: Adults:  $12.95 anytime, $9.95 weekdays  Children:  $8.95 anytime, $6.95 weekdays, season passes available for $25.00

Like in ‘Frozen': Ice castles lure tourists

In order to understand the ice castle, there are a couple things you need to know about Brent, the creator of the Ice Castle. You need to know that Brent is an artistic genius and an amazing, dedicated dad. The combination of these delightful traits mixed with moving his family from California to Utah combined with a dash of stir-crazy cabin fever were the ingredients that made up the the beginnings of the ice castles. When Brent moved his young family from California to Utah they wanted to do something exciting in the new found cold weather. So of course, like any dedicated father, Brent went to work on an ice rink in the back yard….but not just any old ice rink. This first-time ice rink came complete with a 20′ slide, an ice cave, and a castle like tower reaching 20° into Utah’s rocky mountain sky. His children affectionately called it the “Ice Castle.” 

Ice Blue

Each completed Ice Castle (there are others in Utah, Vermont, and New Hampshire) gives you 20,000,000 pounds of ice to explore – walk, squeeze, slide, and crawl (the squeeze, slide, and crawl are optional!)  Dunn Brothers of Eden Prairie will offer select food and beverage options inside the Ice Castle.  There will be Ice Princess appearances every day, and a high energy fire show every Friday and Saturday night.   And there will be two nights of star watching with WCCO Radio's Mike Lynch.  Come early or stick around afterwards for more cold weather activities at Miller Park.  Bring the whole family for some winter fun.

First Avenue
701 N. First Ave., Mpls
Fri, Jan 9, 2015
7:00 pm
Cost:  $20 (18 and older only)

If you are looking for something unlike many other things, than you’ll want to consider going to Wreslepalooza V. Yes, there will be real, live wrestlers on hand going toe-to-toe with each other, but there also will be burlesque entertainment and some live music and watermelon. Intrigued? Read on.

The wrestling comes to you from Minneapolis-based pro wrestling group, F1RST Wrestling, who bring their style of chair-swinging, body-slamming action with masked heroic wrestlers giving it their all. It is quite a surreal and fun site to see. The burlesque comes to you courtesy of a couple of Minneapolis favorites, Queenie Von Curves and Musette The Mistress of Mischief. And finally, special music guests Metallagher, which can be described as a Metallica cover band fronted by comedian Gallagher.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Affordable Kitchen Upgrades

Do you find yourself in the situation where you can't quite afford the next step up in housing (yet) but want the look and feel of a more expensive home?  There are several small (and affordable) things you can do to your home to give it a more luxurious, upscale look.  You'll enjoy all the benefits while you live there, and when you are ready to sell, it will look like an amazing home for the price.

Today, we're focusing on the kitchen.  Maybe you can't afford all new appliances, upgraded cabinets and granite counter tops.  But there are still a lot of things you can do to your kitchen to make it look updated, fresh, and top of the line.

Add A Back Splash:  This look instantly updates your home.  You can go the traditional route with tile and grout.  If you're lacking the DIY gene, they even have peel and stick tiles like the one shown here.


Stainless Steel Look-a-Likes:  Can't quite afford kitchen appliance upgrades? Liquid stainless steel paint and stainless steel contact paper can transform your appliances.



Hide the Outlets:  Yes, it's nice to have a lot of electrical outlets in your kitchen, but they really can ruin the look of a beautiful backsplash.  Install under cabinet outlet strips and have as many as your heart desires.


Under Cabinet Lighting:  While you're under there, install some great lighting.

Change Out the Hardware:  Sometimes the only thing tired looking cabinets need is updated hardware to look new and fresh again.


Upgrade the Counter Top:  Okay, granite is out.  However, laminates have come a long way.  They mimic the look of granite and other solid surfaces and even allow for under mount sinks.  But if you can't quite manage replacing your counters, consider painting them to look like granite or other solid surface counters.

Yes, these are laminate counter tops!  Source:

 Painted Counter.  Source:

Paint the Floor:  Got an ugly floor?  Almost any surface can be painted.  All you need is a little creativity and a few meals at a restaurant.




Spruce Up Your Cabinets:  Your cabinets may be perfectly functional but just need some sprucing up.  Sometimes a good cleaning and a new coat of poly are all they need to really shine again.  Or maybe you want to change the color with stain or paint.  There are all kinds of resufacing kits on the market that can completely change your look.  And sometimes taking out a bank of cabinets and replacing with shelving or replacing some cabinet fronts with glass will achieve an updated look.  Finally, you can add crown molding, cornices, and trim pieces to give your cabinets and upgraded feel.  There are lots of options out there.  




Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors