The Best of Bayport, MN – Food

Bayport, MN is a small town on the banks of the St. Croix River with big charm. Little did you know, it used to be named Stillwater South, and was considered a part of Stillwater until 1922. Many people were confused by the names, and so the towns separated and it was dubbed Bayport instead.

Many Minnesotans consider Stillwater a summer vacation destination with all of it’s shops, restaurants and scenic views. It’s also quickly becoming a winter getaway with their cozy B&B’s, the completion of the ice castles, and with Hockey Day Minnesota putting up a rink next to the river this year. Unless you are in the know, Stillwater’s neighbor, Bayport, sometimes gets overlooked. It’s a hidden gem and is worth a visit every time you are in the East metro. It may be less touristy because it doesn’t boast many specialty shops, but the views are just as beautiful, and the food can rival anything you will find in the North Loop or on Eat Street in Minneapolis. Next time you are in the area, pop over to Bayport for one of the best meals you can find in the metro!

 

The best European inspired Restaurant:

L’Etoile Du Nord

This is a Belgian restaurant opened by a true Belgian. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It has a focus on high quality ingredients, and serves some of the best waffles in the Twin Cities. The waffles are TRUE Belgian style (I promise…. we visited Belgium two summers ago and the waffles there are vastly different than American Belgian waffles) unlike all of the other waffle joints in the Twin Cities. Try their take on Eggs Benedict. You won’t regret it. http://letoiledunordcafe.com/

The Best Cafe:

Not Justa Cafe

This cafe has been in Bayport for many years and is considered a staple. They have done so well that they even have locations in Somerset and New Richmond, WI. In the not so distant past, they even opened Not Justa Bar if you are looking for a vibe that’s a little bit less family style. http://www.notjustacafeandbar.com/

 

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The Best BBQ Joint:

Bayport BBQ

This is not a “swimming in sauce” kind of joint, and I like it. Bayport BBQ does some of the best dry rubbed BBQ in the state. They cook everything to perfection, and their seasonings are the kind that could win a competition. They’ve even been featured on TV! Check them out if you are wanting a true southern experience right here in Minnesota. Make sure you check out their records and CDs if you are a blues fan as well. Good BBQ is necessary for that southern experience, but great music is too! http://www.bayportbbq.com/

bayport-bbq

 

The Best Bakery:

Bread Art

This bakery always leaves me wanting more. ALWAYS. I’ve seen a lot of the bakeries and donut shops pop up over the last few years and make a killing solely because it’s trendy, not necessarily because they are really good (the right vibe, the right location, and voila, money maker). Bread Art has been in the business longer, and they remain a staple because they are great at what they do. What initially drew me in was a simple sugar cookie. They carry them at the locally owned grocery store in my town and I splurged by buying a bundle of them once. Well, let me tell you, that one time splurge turned into a weekly necessity. No cookie I’ve eaten since then has rivaled them. You can taste the quality ingredients in their baked goods and honestly, there is nothing better than a chewy, heavy cookie to curb a sweet tooth. Don’t just read my post and believe it, go taste anything in their bakery to see what I mean. http://breadart.biz/

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Love your Small Businesses. Shop Local.

Imagine with me. You’re feeling fabulous in your brand new outfit as you walk into the first day of school. Then it happens… You look up, and standing across the atrium is your best friend in THE EXACT SAME OUTFIT. The heat creeps up your face as you freeze and think, “I’m not original at all!” You duck your head in embarassment and try to dodge away. Right at that moment your other friends point and call out, “look, they’re matching!” They gather you together as you both pretend like you think it’s funny, pose for a photo, and secretly vow to yourself that you will never wear that outfit again!

I grew up in rural Minnesota. It was a great experience, but when it came to shopping, my only options were chain stores. I still burn with embarrassment when I think back on the moments when I was dressed in the same outfit as my friends. We all shopped at the same few stores in town. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate small business as an alternative to chain. One of the things I love about small business is that it returns a sense of individualism to the shopper. Each store only has so many products, therefore they are sifting through their inventory quicker, and only so many people have each item. The products in each shop are also hand picked with passion. Most small business owners opened their shop because of a love for what they are selling.

I decided to write this blog post because J. Arthur’s Coffee of Roseville, MN recently announced that they might be closing their doors. They opened in 2008 as a private coffee shop meant to serve adults with disabilities through the company ACR Homes. In 2011 they opened their doors to the public and put an emphasis on artisan coffee with high quality products. They quickly became “the spot” for professionals who work remotely, and students from nearby Universities who want a great place to study.

It was announced to the public they would be closing in June of 2016. A few days later they let us know that they would try and last through the summer instead. I feel an immense responsibility to help save this coffee shop, as well as the other potential small businesses on the verge of closing. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Starbucks, but I can’t imagine losing this staple in the community. By supporting them, you aren’t just keeping one business afloat, but businesses from all over the Twin Cities. They source their beans from local roasters Dogwood, UP, and Roastery 7, and their tea from Tea Source. I encourage you, if you’ve been meaning to stop by J. Arthur’s, do it now to show them that you want them to stick around!
Nobody wants these beloved local businesses to close, but we see it happen everyday! So, what’s the deal?

We live in a culture based on convenience. Since it’s built into the culture around us, you don’t notice it until, well, you notice it. Now that I have “seen the light”, I’ve been challenging myself to live differently. In relation to shopping, this culture of convenience means that the businesses with the best locations and bargains win. That unfortunately means that unless we change our mindset, the chain retailers will win every time. A local business owner doesn’t have the funds to purchase the most convenient location. They don’t have the budget for buyers who can research the best products to put in the stores. They certainly can’t afford giant marketing campaigns, and they can’t and won’t start producing their products in mass quantity to keep the cost per item down.

What the locally owned shops have is far greater; quality, passion, ambiance, friendliness, and individualism.

Just this morning we went out for breakfast at an amazing local restaurant (shout out to L’Etoile Du Nord). The waitress took the time to ask us if we lived in town and went on ask and memorize each of our names. After we paid the bill, she said that she looked forward to seeing us the next time we came in, and she actually meant it. There was no rushing us out the door to fill another seat. There was no strange “pay at the table with an electronic device” option. We had great food and genuine human interaction. We loved it.

So what I want to ask is this: Do we want convenience to dictate our lives? Especially so, when it comes to supporting the local businesses in our towns?

I say no! So here’s my challenge: Choose a local store over a chain store for at least one purchase per month and see what happens. We not only have a responsibility to keep them going, but the more we shop at the locally owned stores, the more we will all realize what they actually have to offer us.

Start thinking about the places in your town where you can shop local and enjoy!

 

 

 

5 Twin Cities Dates to go on this Summer

So you found that special someone did ya? I bet you want to take them out on some great dates too! Not to worry, I’ve done all of the creative thinking for you. All you have to do is follow the instructions below and enjoy your date. Oh, and by the way, I will expect an invite to the wedding since I am helping you out after all ;).

1. Longfellow Neighborhood Date:

Start the evening around 5pm with a stroll by Minnehaha falls, and then take a swing into Sea Salt Eatery for some great food. When you are finished eating their scrumptious sea food, drive a few miles to the Riverview Theater to catch a movie. I’m a lover of all things vintage, and this is my favorite theater in the metro because walking in is like taking a step back in time. When we took my mom there for the first time, she said that it reminded her of the theaters she grew up going to. Another reason I like it is because it’s easy on the wallet. Instead of showing the most current films, it plays the most popular movies that just exited the regular theaters. So go ahead, get your special someone some popcorn AND a soda… You can afford it ;)! Finish out the evening across the street at the charming Riverview Cafe to grab a late coffee, tea, or wine at their wine bar. You might even be able to catch some live music before or after the movie! Check Riverview’s schedule to see who is playing when you are planning to go.

2. Downtown Minneapolis Date:

I can’t get enough of the beautiful weather in the summer, so take a walk across the Stone Arch Bridge. If you have the time, consider setting up a tour of the Mill City Museum as well. When you are ready to go inside, head over to The Dakota Jazz club for an amazing dinner and to listen to some tunes. You will need to reserve your table and tickets in advance. Do this by clicking here. This will be a fun & classy evening that anyone would enjoy.

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3. Uptown Minneapolis Date:

This is a great date to have on a Saturday afternoon. Head over to Surdyk’s in North East sometime before lunch. Take a look around their their deli and cheese shop to pick out the perfect picnic spread (including at least 1 or 2 of their amazing cheeses). I recently went here with a friend and accidentally spent over $20 on cheese alone. It’s all just soooo good. Take your food to go and drive over to lake Calhoun. Rent a canoe, enjoy a paddle around the lakes, and eat your lunch together on one of the more secluded lakes for a bit of romance.

4. Stillwater, MN Date:

Take the half hour drive east to Historic Stillwater. Wander down historic Main Street together and look in all of the shops. At your scheduled departure time, head south on main street to where the riverboats are docked. Have a great dinner and enjoy the sights as you boat down the river. Surprisingly, you can get both the boat ride and dinner for only $30 a person! Book your tickets here.

 

5. Edina, MN Date:

Centennial Lakes in Edina may be man made, but it has a certain charm to it. Walk hand-in hand around the lakes, play some mini golf, and then head up the stairs to Pinstripes for dinner. To extend your evening, schedule a game of indoor bocce or bowling at Pinstripes, or relax by either one of their 2 outdoor fire pits.

 

A Response to the Act of Terrorism in Brussels

Waking up this morning felt the same as any other day. The sun is finally starting to shine in Minnesota, and so it slipped through the slats of my bedroom blinds as I opened my eyes. I got out of bed, took a shower, dressed, and then sat down for breakfast. While eating, I pulled up the news on my phone and read the first headline, “Breaking – at least 28 dead, hundreds injured in Brussels terror attacks”. As what I was reading sunk in, my heart broke. The seemingly monotonous day changed.

After processing through the attacks that happened in Paris last year, I was surprised to find that not everyone in my circle of friends was as profoundly moved as I was. Their reasoning for not being shaken was because it happened overseas. Of course they cared, but they didn’t feel it as deeply as I did. Terrorism is not just an attack on a place, but an attack on mankind, and the unspoken community that we all share. That’s why it hits so close to home for me.

  
Our minds were built to problem solve. We are subconsciously doing it all of the time.  If a car is speeding by you as you’re trying to cross the street, you jump back on the sidewalk, and the problem is solved. If you are feeling unwell, you go to the doctor for medication. While conversing, you listen to what the other is saying, process, and then respond based on the signals that they are putting out. It is simple, and therefore comforting. When I hear about things like the act of terrorism on Brussels, my mind hits a road block. I freeze up and don’t know how to process. What fills that space is fear. There is no sane reasoning why terrorists do what they do, and so there isn’t a clear cut path for solving the problem. In fear, I throw my hands in the air and shout “How could this happen again? How can we stop this?”

What comes to me after the moments of fear and frustration is the thought that we can’t get stuck in trying to figure it out. Truthfully, we could get stuck there forever. Friedrich Nietzsche, a German philosopher said, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how”. That is why we can’t necessarily approach these situations with only rationalism. It plays a part in it, but we have to focus not on the “how”, but let the “why” be our driving force.

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The fear that we all initially feel is what the terrorists count on. It might even be what feeds their insane pursuit. But what they don’t realize, and what they don’t count on is that fear is not the most powerful motivator. The most powerful motivator is hope. We find hope when we ask the question “why” rather than “how”, and that is where I force myself to focus. The details are too hard otherwise. Hope may not be seen in the tangible details of a horrific scenario, because what we see with our eyes can sometimes overpower what we feel with our hearts. You won’t find your “why” in the photos of the burning Brussels airport. You won’t find it in the videos of the people running and screaming. It will not be found in the photos of the wounded. It will be found in all of our hearts, and that’s something that terrorists can never take.

When you look past the tangible details, hope weaves its way around from person to person, slowly but surely pulling everyone together. You find hope in the stories of the victims who helped each other during the tragedy. You find it in a first responder providing medical cares to those who were hurt. You even find it in the thousands of Instagram photos that go up in support of the victims. Of course we don’t want terrible things to happen, but we are stronger because of them. Where once we were all separate, we are now all together.

The terrorists who committed this horrible act against mankind may have stolen many very valuable things from us, but they cannot steal our hope. Do not let them.

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So I encourage you, as I am encouraged, with the words of a worship song by Hillsong: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness”. I keep my eyes fixed heavenward, knowing that someday there won’t be pain anymore.

Fall Feelings

Every year the summer sizzle comes to an end, and the cool breeze of fall makes its way into our hearts & lives. This weather change triggers a tug in me for scarves, lattes, and crunching leaves beneath my feet – all things that bring a grin to my face. Because I am instinctively nostalgic about life, it also triggers me to think about the changing seasons of life. Go ahead and read the passage below to understand what I mean.

Ecclesiastes 3

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Here is what I find interesting about this passage. Each stanza highlights both a positive and a negative season, signaling both a promised beginning and end to each. Lately I haven’t been in my favorite season. Don’t get me wrong, I know that I am infinitely blessed by God, and have had some really positive things happening in my life, but the overarching feel of this season is hardship.

If you are like me, you have experienced scenarios that make you feel like you are changed forever. They cause you to look back and realize that there is a clear difference between who you were before the scenario happened, and who you turned into after. Luckily, not all of those scenarios are bad. One example of a positive life moment was meeting my husband. He changed the course of my life in the best way. When I’m trying to be sweet to him I say that my life didn’t start getting really good until he entered it. Although that shows that maybe I’m thinking too negatively about all that happened before him (I am only human after all), I really do mean it. There are more good days than bad ones with him. Also, I think about the first missions trip that I went on. Experiencing another culture and letting God break my heart for it changed me in an irreversible way. Every time I go on a trip my dad says, “haven’t you gotten that out of your system yet?” Sorry Dad, I haven’t, and truthfully never will. Seeing the beautiful world that God created is an incredible experience that leaves you wanting more. And again, if you are like me (and the scripture verses above point to this being inevitable), you have experienced those tough scenarios that I referenced before. Thinking back on some of those experiences makes my heart physically hurt. Those experiences are hard to get past. They take pieces of you with them, and they feel like they will go on forever. I know that right now you are probably thinking of your own tough scenarios. Well I’m here to remind you, as well as myself, the seasons change.

It’s human nature to put your focus on the negative things in life. That innate desire to let your mind swirl in negativity came with the fall… no, not fall as in autumn… I’m talkin’ the fall of humanity here ;). Why do I know that, you ask? Because God is only good. Had Adam and Eve not sinned, life would only be filled with the joy of The Lord. Thankfully, that joy will be made complete when we get to heaven.

If we aren’t careful, focusing on all the negativity can give us a little bit of tunnel vision. In my worst moments of negativity I feel powerless to my surroundings, to people, to the universe, or to my thoughts… etc. It’s a very difficult place to be, and you feel like the hope of Jesus is sucked away from you. In those powerless times, you feel like it’s you against the world. Thats where the power of God’s truth comes in. My bible says “He has made everything beautiful in its time…” (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). These words are power to the “powerless”. Now, if you were listening to me say all of this rather than reading it, I would have been doing air quotes right there. The reason for the air quote action is because if we are rooted in Christ, we are the winners all along. Negative mindsets just keep us from knowing that we are winners. In the thick of it we may think that we are on our own, abandoned to drown, but we never are. That brings me to one of the greatest lessons that I’m constantly relearning. Fighting the battle of a negative season calls for us all to widen our lens. God’s word helps me do that. Instead of focusing on the negative thoughts that harass your mind, leaving you seeing and feeling only bad things, fill yourself with the truth of The Lord. When you do this you will see that there is an end to a bad season. You will see that the next season can, and most likely will be good. You will see that God has control over your life, and because he works everything together for good, you are going to be OKAY! Whew! The devil wants nothing more than to make you feel powerless during your struggles. Again, filling you with truth, it says in the bible to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. God has given us power, so do that starting today.

So here are some things to remember:

  1. The seasons change. You won’t be stuck in a difficult one forever.
  2. The devil wants to make you feel powerless. Guess what, you’re not though… he just wants to make you think you are.
  3. We may not be able to change what happens in life, but God’s word brings the life that we need to fight the battle of a difficult season.
  4. No matter what, if you acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, you win.

Open your heart and breathe a sigh of relief because God’s truth is greater than the devil’s tricks.

A Minnesotan’s Guide to the Best Antique Shops

I’ve been told time and again that I’m an old soul. My obsession with antiques started as far back as I can remember. From the vintage books that I preferred reading as a child, to my awe over beautiful tea cups that belonged to a grandmother who died before my time; my soul has always longed for the things that came before me. One of my favorite childhood memories was when my dad decided to pull out his old record player and vinyl collection. I remember filing through the box of records, oohing and awing over the covers, and picking out the ones that I found beautiful. I lined them up in a big circle on the floor around the room, and danced round and round to the classics.

Now as an adult I fill my house with beautiful antiques, and my soul feels at home while I’m listening to the likes of Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra. When it comes to antiques, anything with beauty, history, and a story belongs in my home – even if the story isn’t directly connected to me. I love imagining the people that owned the antiques before me, and how they too treasured what I now have.  On a deeper level, everyone wants to feel connected to something or someone, and buying antiques is one of the ways I do it. With each unique item I fill my house with, I’m becoming part of a story that will live past even my time.

Because of this love, I find it only necessary to share with you some of the best places in our state to find antiques. Each of these stores has great finds at great prices!

1. Annabella’s Antique Mall & Cafe – 407 2nd St, Bovey, MN 55790
(218) 245-2055
Annabella’s is in a small iron range town in northern MN. This shop is quite innovate for its location with a great coffee shop, a speakeasy they rent for parties, and chalk painting classes. They have two levels worth of antiques ranging from statement pieces, to refurbished furniture, and little inexpensive finds. The store itself is adorable and everything is in fabulous condition. I have a beautiful old scale from them in my kitchen that I get compliments on all of the time. What did it cost me? A whopping $15. I looked up the cost of something like that online after I purchased it and it’s typically $40 – $70! I was so happy I scored that crazy deal. When you shop at Annabella’s make sure you get a chai tea latte from their coffee shop because it tastes IDENTICAL to a chai that has won awards at a coffee shop in Uptown, Minneapolis.

2. Second Time Around – 18581 MN-371, Brainerd, MN 56401
(218) 829-1224

This second (or third or even fourth) hand shop is near my childhood home. I have spent many hours getting lost in their shop. I love it and find KILLER deals here. Let me warn you of one thing though… It’s not beautiful, and you have to be willing to get dirty and dig a little bit. I still remember the first time I brought my husband there after raving about it for years. He walked in, took one wide eyed look around and said “THIS is where you shop? It’s definitely not what I expected.” I just had to laugh, because yes it isn’t pretty, but yes you can find awesome stuff there! I turned my Mom onto it several years ago, and she now has several of their items in her home. I have a collection of clear glass apple shaped plates and bowls from the 1960’s that I started from this shop. In my search to complete the collection, I realized how much everyone else charges for what I found there. Three of the apple bowls typically sell for $20 or $30 at other shops. I bought my plates for a whole twenty five cents a piece at Second Time Around! Truthfully, it’s really great as a customer, because sometimes they don’t realize what they have there. I have beautiful tea cups, a night stand, a vintage side chair, and a wicker side table from them. I don’t think I paid more than $25 for each item. Some of those things were a bit worn, but some were nearly perfect! If you are up for the adventure of this place, I dare you not to “judge the book by its cover”. You will see exactly what I mean when you pull into their gravel parking lot and wonder why there are white tents all around the building. Trust me…. you want to dig in those tents. You can find some treasures hiding in there!

3. Staples Mill Antiques – 410 Main St N, Stillwater, MN 55082
(651) 430-1816

This antique of a building dating back to 1850 holds some treasures as well. Being the second mill to ever be built in Stillwater, this building should be seen and explored for it’s beauty if nothing else. Over time it has been used as a sawmill, flour mill, and manufacturing company among other things. Search through this multi-level beauty and their vast collection of antiques to find the piece you have been desiring for your home. Here you will find anything from fine antique furniture, to rare glass pieces, to vintage clothing. Stillwater is a wealthier area, so you can even find high quality antiques here. Although their prices are a little bit steep for my taste (I’m a cheapo), this place is filled with gems.

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4. Brass Bed Antiques – 102 E Superior St, Duluth, MN 55802

(218) 722-1347

This is hands down my FAVORITE antique shop on the planet. They have fabulous prices and unique finds. Two of my favorite pieces I have in my home (a Japanese cherry blossom wall hanging and a large metal vintage MN lard tin) are from this store. I go here once a year and leave with my arms full. I encourage you to take your time and spend at least an hour here. There is nothing spectacular about the building, but their inventory is fabulous. You can find dishes, old sporting equipment, vintage clothing, and furniture all at extremely fair prices. They even let you barter – usually 10% will be taken off the item if you just ask. Push a little harder if you think the price is unfair, and have them call the owner of the booth you found the item in. If you are in to finding rare antiques, here is a story you will enjoy. I had family members in there who fell in love with a pair of pale blue glass candle sticks. When they got home, they looked them up, and there are very few left in existence today. This shop clearly has very good things.

Know of an antique shop that deserves to be in a future post? Comment below or e-mail madaboutminnesota@gmail.com

Guest Blog: What can you do to sell your home this Spring?

Winter is gone and spring has begun!

Spring starts the cycle of seasons, prompting our desires for something fresh and new. Sometimes  that new  thing can be a hair style or wardrobe, but other times it can be something bigger, like selling your home and starting over somewhere new.

You always hear that it’s difficult to sell your home in the winter — No kidding, who want’s to move in 3 feet of snow? — but selling in the spring brings steep competition. I am seeing for sale signs pop up left and right all around my community. Luckily for you, I have an expert available with some tips on how to get your home to stand out from the pack. I am not a home owner myself yet, although I do have an unhealthy obsession with real estate. Seriously, ask me how many homes are for sale in my community and I can not only rattle it off, but I will tell you the price, how much the property taxes are, and what street each house is on. I LOVE architecture and I love houses. When I go for walks each evening with my husband, we pick out our favorite details on the homes we pass, and store them in our memories for when we own one. Don’t feel bad for me though. I may not own a house yet, but I live in my dream historic apartment, which makes me as happy as a clam.

Well, enough of my yammering — Let’s let the expert do his job.

Tips from Spencer Hutton, Realtor with CommonWealth Real Estate Group and TheMLSonline.com, on how to sell your home this Spring!

SPENCER HUTTON | REALTOR®, Lead Agent CommonWealth Real Estate Group Direct: 612-868-4738 shutton@themlsonline.com

Selling in the spring time can be a double edged sword in Minnesota. Buyer’s have been pent up all winter and are excited to get out and look at new inventory of homes, which is a huge win for sellers! However, the curb appeal on our homes can take a huge hit over our harsh winters! So what are the best steps to take to set yourself apart from the competition?

 
1)  Pick Up Trash – You’d be amazed at how much trash gets buried under the snow and pushed into your yard/curbs over the winter months by the plows. Take some extra time to walk around your yard, and even the curbs of your street to pick up leaves, debris and trash. Even if it is out on the streets in the front of the house, it can make your home look shabby. But, if you have taken the time to do this extra step and your neighbors (or competition) have not, your house will stand out!
 
2)  Power Wash/Paint Exterior – Often times, a lot of dirt and grime builds up on the exterior of a home during the winter months. Have someone come power wash the siding or stucco of your home (I recommend a professional to ensure the siding isn’t damaged). Also, if your home needs a fresh paint job, don’t hesitate to invest in this easy way to add instant curb appeal, which is critical area to spruce up before listing your home on the market. You only get one chance at a first impression!
 
3)  New Mulch and Flowers – Spending a little bit of money on mulch and fresh spring flowers will go a long way. In the spring, the streets and lawns of Minnesota can blend into a drab brown color. Set yourself apart by getting fresh natural colored mulch and planting some hardy spring flowers. You can plant the following flowers/shrubs as soon as the ground thaws and they will bloom right around Mother’s Day in May:
  • Lilacs
  • Magnolias
  • Pansies

4)  Replace the Front Door – This is where potential buyers will walk into your home for the first time. It is also where the realtor may fumble with the lockbox for a few moments and the buyers will be glancing at your exterior landscaping, paint job and front door. A beat up and shabby front door will plant in the buyers minds that the rest of the home was not well cared for. On the flip side, a new and stylish front door can sell a home (It’s happened!). Again, you only get one chance at a first impression. Make it count!
 
 
5)  Professional Photography – Make sure your real estate agent is using a professional photographer for your listing. I have a photographer I use on all of my listings. 91% of people start their home shopping journey online (that number continues to rise) and your photos will make or break your listing. You want all of your hard work to jump off the screen for your buyers and a professional photographer with have the right skills and equipment to capture your house at its best. It’s an investment that will pay itself back for you and your real estate agent!
To sum it all up, YOU ONLY GET ONE CHANCE AT A FIRST IMPRESSION (Did I say that yet?) and in today’s quick click culture, you have to capture your home at its best just to get buyers to the front of your home. When they get there you don’t want to leave them feeling disappointed. A little work will go a long way!
 For more advice or to get started on the home buying or selling process, contact me and my team, CommonWealth Real Estate Group of TheMLSonline.com

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Where YOU can find the BEST pizza in the Twin Cities

My love affair with pizza started in college. You move into your first apartment, don’t know how to cook, and suddenly you meet Jack. You love him instantly but wonder if there is something out there better. What are you thinking? Of course there is, because unfortunately Jack is cheap, and was found in the frozen pizza section. That’s all you could afford and that’s all you had time for at that point.

Luckily I have upgraded my tastes as I have upgraded my budget (although you will still see my freezer stocked with Jack’s Pizza at all times), and I’m on a never ending journey to find the best pizzas around.

The Twin Cities has an amazing food scene where you can find almost anything. I’m so thankful that gourmet pizza is included on that list. For me, ambiance is just as important as taste , and so listed below  are the restaurants I have thoroughly enjoyed in the metro that serve up a great atmosphere and a great pizza. The list is not in any particular order and I highly recommend you hit each place. Comment below if you think I could add to this list! We could add a part 2 to this blog if you give me more inspiration! Like I said, I am always on the hunt for the best pizza, so if it really wows me I will blog some more.

1. Roma

460 Stillwater Rd

Willernie, MN 55090

First of all, I love that this place is off the beaten track a little bit. It feels a little mom and pop-ish but classy at the same time. That is what makes it so charming in my opinion. The ambiance is made up of warm lighting, Italian decor, a beautiful bar, and a cute little deli off the dining room. They are perfect for a quiet date that shows you want to have a meaningful time without being pretentious. Our good friends introduced us to this place a couple of years back and I find myself thinking of Roma often.

They are a family run Italian place, but they also do wood-fired personal pizzas. The crust is thin and bubbles beautifully. You can get something standard if you would like, but go out on a limb and you won’t regret it. My favorite pizza there has blue cheese, prosciutto, figs, and fresh greens on top. The combination of the sweet fig and the savory prosciutto is what brings me back for more. One can rarely go wrong mixing meat (especially salty cured meat) and fruit together in the same dish. As far as price goes, you can spend a little there with pizza prices from $10-$18, or a bit more for an Italian dish.

2. Burch 

1933 Colfax Ave. S 

Minneapolis, MN 55403

  

Everyone is raving about Burch right now, and I’m raving right along with them. Their chef Isaac Becker won the James Beard Best Chef: Midwest award, and highly deserves it. Apart from Burch, he also owns 112  Eatery and Bar Lagrassa, both of which have served me some great eats. 112 was created to give the chefs of Minneapolis a place to go, so obviously the menu is fabulous and the atmosphere is understated. Their owner and head chef claims to hate concept restaurants but now owns 3. Thank goodness for that, because each serves some of the best food in our state.

When you walk into Burch it instantly feels high class. You have to valet your car because it’s Uptown and they have no parking, but that just adds to the experience. Burch reminds me of a restaurant you would find in NYC. Everything is chic and elegant but simple. Although the waiters look as if they would be cold and indifferent (because of how cool and hipster they are – it is Uptown after all) they wait your table with kindness and a vast knowledge of the menu. I can tell they really care about the food they serve.

The staples at Burch are steak, dumplings, and woodfired pizza. All of which I’ve had, and all of which were made with quality ingedients and creativity. You can obviously spend a pretty penny on their steaks, but their pizzas are reasonably priced at $12-$25 each. So don’t shy away thinking you can’t afford it. The object of my desire there is called the Coppa Cotta pizza. It has hazelnuts, smoked pork shoulder, roasted red peppers, and mozzarella balls. I mean seriously, who thinks to put hazelnuts on pizza?! They are fantastic and compliment the smokey pork shoulder well. I have yet to try their Tonno Diavolo with raw ahi tuna but in my opinion, that’s the stuff that dreams are made of. Raw fish + pizza = obsession. Your tastebuds will be amazed at the combination of flavors piled high on their soft fluffy crusts.

3. The Copper Hen Cakery & Kitchen

 2515 Nicollet Ave. S

Minneapolis, MN 55404

    

Opened in the spring of 2014 on Eat street (aka Nicollet Ave.), they focus on home grown flavor and well sourced products. A catchphrase they have adopted is farm-to-table. They serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, baked goods, and coffee. They even hold wedding receptions in their restaurant! They were partially funded by a Kickstarter campaign, and so you know the locals wanted this in the community. It did so well that they raised over $12,000 to be exact. I think it’s great to see the citizens rally around some people that have a great idea for a restaurant.

Upon opening, they did not disappoint. I am writing about them having only visited the restaurant once. That means I am very impressed. I have a lot more to try on their menu, but during my visit I ordered a lavender lemonade and the Chicken Coop pizza. I know this article is about pizza, but lavender lemonade is my new official favorite drink. They make it so the lavender doesn’t overpower, and really comes out as more of an aftertaste. Okay, now back to the pizza – The Chicken Coop features prosciutto, spinach, ricotta (REALLY good ricotta I might add), pecorino bechamel sauce, and two sunny side up eggs. I didn’t ever think of eggs on pizza, and after I had  this, I wondered why more people aren’t doing it! It’s great! The yoke and the bechamel sauce combine so well that it makes you feel like you are eating at grandma’s house. Their crusts are similar to Burch’s in the fact that they are fluffy, but there is a denseness to these that make them feel more like home. Their prices come in on the low end at $12-$16. Grab dessert at the end of your pizza dinner too, they are a cakery after all.

4. Broders’ Cucina Italiana

2308 W 50th St.

Minneapolis, MN 55410   

    

Take one step in the door and you’ll feel like you have crossed the Atlantic and landed in Italy. This restaurant has charm galore. When you first walk in, you can peruse the shelves filled with specialty Italian cooking items. Around the corner from the shop is their quaint dining room and deli. All food is ordered at the deli and you can get meats, cheese, pasta, salads, desserts, side dishes, and pizza to stay or to go. Of course, everything is fresh and hand made.

Since this article is specifically about good pizza, I will tell you why Broders’ Cucina is at the top of my list. It’s all about the meat. My favorite there is a good ole’ pepperoni and sausage. Their pizza is thin crust, with a light amount of sauce  (I hate too much sauce), piled with cheese, and topped with the best meat I have ever had on a pizza in my life. Their sausage is made in-house with high quality herbs and spices. Even though you can take your pizza to go, try and find a spot in their quaint dining room with the mural painted ceiling. Sit and enjoy your little Italy and savor their authentic flavor. The products on their shelves and the food from their kitchen is imported from Italy. You don’t get much more authentic than that.

Get their pizza by the slice for just a few dollars or order a medium or large to share. Prices for full pizzas range from $10-$20 and are shareable.

How Minnesotans Handle the Spring

It’s all relative. How we handle different experiences has to do with what we’ve already done. Sometimes you know how to navigate a situation like the back of your hand, and others leave you wondering how it will turn out. One thing I know for sure is that as Minnesotans we understand the cold. But something happens year after year leaving us unsure of what to do and how to act. It is spring! Spring isn’t a definitive time in Minnesota and it throws us all out of whack. Yes, all of us. How can I know that we ALL go through this strange and confusing range of emotions in the spring?  Social media. You can learn a lot about human nature from it ;)! So how confused are we? Scroll down to read about our varying actions and emotions regarding this confusing season.

1. We wear inappropriate clothing

One day it’s 50 degrees, so we throw on our Daisy Dukes and a pair of flip flops. Let’s be real here, in warmer climates 50 degrees is not shorts weather. The next day we assume it will be just the same and we look like a fool wearing those same shorts and flip flops in 20 degree weather. You reason with yourself, “but it looked sunny when I peaked out my window this morning!” Don’t worry Minnesotans, it’s not your fault, it’s the erratic weather’s. We’ve all been there and take pity on you.

2. We measure our snow. 

It starts to warm up just a bit and all the snow slowly goes away, but leave it to spring to pile it on us again. In the dead of winter the steady dumping of that white stuff aint no thang. It feels like an injustice in the spring though. To cope with it, we pull our rulers out and measure, post it on social media, and voice our opinions about the unwanted snowfall. It shouldn’t surprise us that it happened, because it happens every year, but this measuring thing is just one of the many ways we can feel like we have control about what’s going on.

3. We get nostalgic

winter wonderland
Winter Wonderland – You have to admit that it’s beautiful

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas comes back onto the playlist, and in between the rants and pictures of the snowfall totals, we see the overly romantic folks talking about the fluffy snow that’s hung lightly on the branches. When they wake up the next morning and realize the snow is still there, they pull out their rulers and post photos of that instead.

4. The Weather Nazi’s terrorize us into putting the flannel sheets on again

AKA the morning news anchors. They get us excited about our warm days and then use phrases like “it won’t stay long” or “beware of plummeting temperatures.” In reality it only goes back down to 20-40 degrees, but they have you so nervous about the plummet that you pull out the flannel sheets again. 35 degree temperatures and a  1″-3″ snowfall in the dead of winter would feel amazing, but they’ve got to build it up come spring time. Why not add on a winter weather advisory for the drama of it all?

5. We take spring break trips to make it through winter forgetting that Minnesota starts to warm up at the same time.

fl temp mn temp

We want to rub it in the faces of our friends that we are basking in the sun. We leave for our trips to Florida and then see pictures of people back home in Minnesota out on walks proclaiming the glory of 60 degrees. In reality, we probably booked that warm weather trip in January when we thought we couldn’t survive the cold temps a day longer. At that point we fail to realize that Minnesota DOES get some warm days by the time spring break hits. It may be warmer where you are, Spring Breakers, but not THAT much warmer. You only get small bragging rights.

6. Minnesotans who have moved away to warmer climates mock us.

IMG_3177

The abuse of winter haunts us years after we have moved away. If you have lived in Minnesota, you will never forget how cold it gets (no matter how many times your therapist tells you that you must). When you make the move, and experience 75 degrees and sunny in March, the sunshine feels like a victors prize that you can’t help but gloat about. You all know you would do the exact same thing if you moved away, so don’t condemn them too much ;).

7. We post TBT pictures to remind us of warmer times.

IMG_3176

We are all guilty of it… We open the shades the morning after a 60 degree day and see the snow falling again. We throw ourselves into a state of depression, snuggle under our electric blankets, and post TBT pictures of our vacations to remind ourselves that it won’t last forever. It can’t, right? RIGHT?

8. Ultimately we get over it, forget that time of year that we were so confused, and then do it all over again the next spring.

Good luck Minnesotans.