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County Fairs Are Summer Fun!

August 11, 2016 7:07 pm

While we all LOVE the Minnesota State Fair, there are also smaller and more intimate versions in almost every county in Minnesota. Check out one close to you or make a day trip and see a new part of the state.

Get a list of all them here!

The Ultimate 4th of July Hot Dog!

July 1, 2016 12:33 pm

We thought it was a little crazy when we tried this one out to be honest. However, never underestimate the genius over at Good Housekeeping because combining the amazingness of a Reuben really works!

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Get the recipe here!

Mummies At The Science Museum

June 25, 2016 2:30 pm

For the first time, The Field Museum in Chicago has allowed their collection of both Peruvian and Egyptian mummies to travel – and you are in luck! The mummies will be exhibited all summer at the Science Museum in St. Paul. It is great fun for both the kids and grown ups to learn more about these ancient artifacts.

Get your tickets and find out more here!

Photo credit: Star Tribune

Photo credit: Star Tribune

Money Matters: Living with Roommates

June 2, 2016 2:43 pm

Living on your own can be a very expensive and daunting experience for an individual. Finding a roommate to share a living environment can help relieve some of the stress and make bill payments more manageable. However, there are some things you and your roommate should discuss prior to moving in so that unpleasant situations can be avoided, which include:

Rent

In most cases, it would be ideal if all of the people living under the same room can split any housing payments equally. However, if bedrooms are different sizes or there is one parking space for multiple vehicles, then changes in individual payments should be discussed. In most cases, if a fair tradeoff cannot be negotiated, such as a person with a larger bedroom agreeing to let another individual claim the only available parking space, then the difference should be reflected fairly in housing payments.

Utilities

For utilities, again, it is best if everyone can split the payment equally, provided that no one abuses one utility to an extreme. You will have to ensure that everyone agrees to the same services so that there will be no conflict if one person does not wish to have cable but others do, for instance. There will also have to be the discussion of how each person will intend to pay for their portion and when all the money will be pooled together to pay off a bill. You will also need to consider if the bill should be placed under one name or multiple.

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Food

This is always tricky because everyone may have a different diet. Be sure to discuss eating habits with any and all members living in the household so that money can be budgeted accordingly. You will need to speak about how the cost will be split, especially for shared items. It may be better for most to pay for their own groceries, but you must take in account the amount of space available for storage as well, which is why it is important to discuss eating habits with your roommates.

When all things have been considered and openly discussed, then you will find living with roommates to be a more positive experience. No matter what, you must always remember to respect others in the household so that everyone can coexist in peace.

Tips for Living with a Roommate

April 21, 2016 3:05 pm

Most of us have been there. At one point or another, you may find yourself left in a position where it would make more sense financially to get a roommate. Either your friend has agreed to move in with you, or you have placed an ad in the paper for someone who is also desperately looking. You’ve found your new roommate. But now what?

Roommates Studying in Dormitory

Roommates Studying in Dormitory

Getting a roommate can be a big change for some. However, with the right amount of planning, you can ensure that you have a pleasant experience.

Plan, Plan, Plan

Living with anyone can be difficult, especially in a limited space such as an apartment or shared room. The most important thing and the key to success in having a roommate are to make sure that you’re both on the same page before you move in together. This will prevent MANY problems down the road. Here are some things to consider:

Payment

Whose name will be on the lease? How will payment be arranged? Will you both be paying your landlord separately, or will one of you be paying the other? Making sure that rent is paid can be the most stressful thing about living with someone, especially if they’re a stranger.
Sit down and discuss beforehand how payment will be made each month. Talk openly to each other, and find a way that works well for both of you. Remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry, and talking beforehand is about the safest route you could go.

Furniture

What kind of furniture will each person be bringing? How much is there? Will it all fit? These are very important questions that need to be addressed, so there aren’t any arguments or scrambling when moving day comes.

Chores

While it is not necessary to divvy out chores beforehand, it is smart to decide HOW you will be splitting up the chores. Agree on a strategy, and let that play out for a few weeks to see how it works. If you or your roommates aren’t fully satisfied, it can always be amended.
There are a few different ways to go about chores. A chore wheel is a helpful device that rotates the responsibilities. This may work for you, or you may wish to just see what you both don’t mind doing, and stick to that. Either way, discussing how chores will be split up will definitely prevent many arguments.

Guests

There is nothing worse than having an extended guest stay at your place when you don’t want them there. It is especially trying if they are not paying rent or if they are leeching off of your supplies. It makes for a very uncomfortable living situation.
To prevent this, make some rules beforehand that deal with guests. How long can a guest stay? How late can they stay? What kind of notification should there be if someone wants to have a guest? Again, discussing these things beforehand will prevent conflict from arising in the future.

Pet Peeves

A great way to find out what your roommate likes is by finding out what they don’t like! Discussing your pet peeves before you move in will help to understand each other better. Imagine that you absolutely HATE it when there are dirty dishes in the sink. When your roommate knows this, they will most likely avoid doing it. By keeping in mind what each other’s dislikes are, you can ensure that you will get along.

Contract

Finally, it may be a good idea to write out a contract, independent of the lease, that states some of these things. Although it may not be legal tender, you could still use it to say that your roommate violated the contract and must amend what they did wrong. It can be a helpful tool and could help assist you with making sure that things run smoothly between you and your roommate.

The most important thing to remember when you have a roommate is to understand each other. You will most likely be cramped into a small space together for an extended period of time. Plan it out right, and you can avoid much of the conflict that usually arises in such living situations.

Easy Mid-Week Meals

April 10, 2016 5:30 am

We know how challenging it can be  – working full time and making dinner when you get home. We found this great YouTube channel that helps you put together quick, healthy dinners with little in the way of time, ingredients or equipment!

Feel free to share your favorite recipes here with us!

Watch more on the  Easy Mid-Week Meals YouTube Channel!

Apartment Hunting: Finding The Right Size For You

April 6, 2016 8:58 am

When looking for a new space to call home, sometimes you can feel like Goldilocks trying to find the “just right” size. How can you get the right apartment for you? A little basic space planning…

First up:  How many bedrooms do you need? The rule of thumb is one bedroom per occupant, but obviously couples and children can share a room. College students tend to try to save money by doubling up in a bedroom, but we’ve found that generally that it makes for an unhappy living situation with not enough space.

Next:  How many bathrooms do you really need? Yes, it is nice to have a guest bathroom, but is that practical in your budget. However, you also want to consider the “two-person” rule in bathrooms – you need one bath per every two occupants.

Lastly:  Is the living space big enough? You don’t need to have tons of extra space, but do you have large items that need to be accommodated? A pool table? A piano? Don’t be afraid to bring your measuring tape to your showings to get accurate room dimensions

Of course, there are the intangibles…great kitchens, loft space, cozy living rooms – but if you do basic space planning before you move in chances are that you’ll be much happier in your new home!

 

Renting Your First Apartment: Tips For Success!

March 31, 2016 3:44 pm

Renting your first apartment is a major milestone in your life. Once you have graduated from high school or college and landed your first real job, it is time to move out on your own and see what the wider world is all about.

You may be excited to rent your first apartment, but that does not mean you have to approach the process with blinders on. It is important to research your options carefully, from where you want to live to what you can afford to pay. Many first-time renters make costly mistakes that can wreck their finances and make life more difficult than it has to be. If you are renting your first apartment, you need to avoid these common first-timer mistakes.

Underestimating Your Startup Costs
The cost of your monthly rent payment is not the only expense you will face when getting started in your new apartment. Many first-time renters underestimate the adjunct costs of apartment rental, and that can leave them behind the financial eight ball right from the start.

You will probably need to put down a security deposit equal to at least one months’ rent. You may also be required to pay a separate apartment deposit or fee, which could be $50 to $100 or more. In addition to those costs, you may need to put down a deposit to start your electric service and other utilities. Be sure to research those costs carefully, and build them into your housing budget.

Not Checking Out the Neighborhood
If rents in a particular neighborhood are much lower than average, there may be a reason for that. Those cheaper neighborhoods might suffer from high crime, poorly performing schools and a plethora of other problems.

You owe it to yourself to check out the neighborhood before you move in. That means walking around both during the daytime and at night, exploring local stores and amenities and talking to current residents. In some cases it might make more sense to live in a better (and therefore more expensive) neighborhood, even if it means living with a roommate or two.

Failing to Thoroughly Inspect the Apartment
Do not assume that everything in the apartment works perfectly. Use your walkthrough inspection to make sure the utilities work and that everything is as it should be. Turn on the kitchen tap and shower and make sure you have plenty of hot water. Flush the toilet to make sure everything is working properly. Turn on the stove and make sure it heats up. The more you know before you move in the better.

Also be sure to check for any damage in the apartment and document what you find. If preexisting problems are not properly documented, your landlord could take the cost of repairs out of your security deposit when you move out.

Not Reading the Lease
The lease you sign on your first apartment is a legally binding document, and that means you are responsible for knowing what is in it. Your eyes may glaze over at all the legalese and confusing language, but it is important to read the document carefully.

Every lease will include some basic information about the property, including its mailing address, the due date for the rent and the length of the agreement. In addition to that basic information, the lease may include clauses that pertain to roommates, pets and other important information. Be sure you understand all the stipulations; you do not want any unpleasant surprises after you move in.

Not Getting Insurance
Many first-time renters assume that the landlord carries insurance on the property, and that is true, but only to a point. The owner of the house or apartment should indeed have insurance, but that insurance covers the property — not your personal possessions.

If you are renting a house or apartment, you need renter’s insurance to protect your personal belongings from theft or loss. Renter’s insurance is typically inexpensive and easy to buy, so there is no reason to go without it.

Avoiding these common mistakes will get you off to a great start in your new apartment. Signing the lease on your very first apartment is a momentous event in the life of every young person. Doing the homework ahead of time and researching everything properly can help make those first apartment memories good ones.

Spice Up Your Meals With An Indoor Herb Garden

March 12, 2016 4:13 pm

If you are looking for an easy and inexpensive way to spice up your cooking, look no further than the closest windowsill. With a bit of planning and preparation, you can transform any windowsill in your home into a thriving herb garden. Growing your own fresh herbs can cut your food budget substantially, while providing your family with more flavorful and nutritious meals.

Three Pots of Herbs in a Kitchen Window

The cost difference between store bought herbs and fresh grown ones can be enormous. Those store bought herbs, which are often dried out and tasteless, can cost up to 10 times as much as their fresh grown counterparts. In addition to the cheaper price, those fresh grown herbs often taste better, and they often pack a more powerful nutritional punch as well.

 

Starting your own fresh herb garden is not as difficult as you might think. There are a number of ways to get started, but one of the simplest is to purchase an herb garden kit. These kits are available at most garden centers, and often at discount retailers as well. These kits include everything you need to get started, from the seeds you need to grow those herbs to the soil you need to grow them in. You can start with a ready made kit for convenience, then add new herbs to the selection as you go.

 

You can also build your own herb growing kit from scratch, using a few simple materials and supplies. All you need to grow fresh herbs are a few small pots, some quality soil and an assortment of seeds. Once you have all those materials, all you need to do is follow the planting instructions, place the pots in a sunny location and wait for the plants to grow.

 

It can take a few weeks for your newly planted herb garden to start growing, but once it does you may be surprised at just how well those plants do in your kitchen. You do not have to have a lot of space to grow a great herb garden. If you have one or two sunny windowsills, you have all the space you need to get started. And once you have tasted those fresh herbs from your own garden, you will never want to go back to the store bought varieties again.

Making Your Apartment Move Easy – 4 Tips!

March 2, 2016 3:48 pm

Moving into a new apartment can be a very stressful situation for both novices and people more experienced with moving. If you do not have a solid plan heading into the big move, you can become confused and important things may be overlooked. Whether you’re leaving your childhood home for the first time to live on your own or you’re looking to upgrade and move to a new apartment, here are four tips that will help minimize the stress and confusion of moving.

Moving Day

Moving Day

It is a real estate cliché but, “Location, location, location,” is immensely important when choosing a new apartment. It is imperative to figure out your needs and see if the area of your new apartment fits those needs. Do you have kids? If so, a neighborhood with good schools is important. Do you need to use public transportation? An area near buses and trains would be optimal for those without a car. Where you choose to live has a major impact on your future, so be sure it is somewhere you are comfortable living and can suit your living needs.

 

The second tip is to test everything in the apartment. When you finally find an apartment you are interested in and get to have a look around, there are a few things you should remember to try before making any decisions. Flip all of the light switches and bring a portable phone charger to make sure the electrical outlets are in working order. Flush the toilet, light the stove and check inside the oven. Leave no stone unturned. If this is the apartment where you will be living, you do not want to be surprised later to find out something isn’t working properly.

 

Once you decide on an apartment and know this is where you want to live, the next tip is to make sure you measure everything. Measure where your couch will go. Measure your bed frame and all dressers and bookshelves. Other important measurements that often go overlooked are the hallways, doorframes and window frames. Measuring all of these places will help avoid any mix-ups in fitting furniture into your new place. You don’t want to buy a new piece of furniture just to get it back to your apartment and find out that it doesn’t fit in the space you allotted for it.

 

The most important tip to know when moving into a new apartment is to properly budget yourself. There is no worse feeling than finally getting your new place up and running, and then not being able to afford the essentials. Make a list of all your income for one month. Make a separate list of all expenses you have during that same month, then subtract the expenses from the incomes to make sure you have enough money to pay your bills and some extra left over to live on.

 

Remembering these tips will help turn your move from a confusing and hectic time, to a more organized and easy one. The more you plan ahead the better off you will be.

Four Tips To Jumpstart Your Spring Cleaning!

February 24, 2016 2:59 pm

Spring is almost here and it may be time to give your apartment a little refresh. Here are some easy tips that have immediate impact!

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Kitchen

Make an appointment to go through your refrigerator regularly — at least once a week — and throw out expired or rotten. Foods, like mayonnaise, should be tossed two months after opening. Others, like boxed chicken broth and almond milk, should be tossed within a week of opening. Give leftovers the three-day rule. All food is best fresh.

Bathroom

More than two to three towels per person can be overwhelming. Avoid unnecessary storage by donating the older ones to a local animal shelter.

Bedroom

The only items you need on your table are a lamp and a glass of water at night. The drawer should be tidy, too, having only the necessities such as hand lotion and an eye mask. You want to keep this area as clean and neat as possible. It’s important to go to sleep in that fashion and not wake up in a clutter.

Living Room

Using furniture that serves double duty definitely keeps a room looking better organized. Ottomans with a lid that can provide storage inside or can be turned over to act as a tray table, or a coffee table that will transition into a dining table are key.

Simple and Chic Room Dividers

February 17, 2016 2:03 pm

Often the best way to deal with space-planning challenges is to divide and conquer. Room dividers can make all the difference when it comes to providing privacy, concealing a cluttered work space, or separating living and sleeping areas. Room dividers can make two spaces out of one, such as when used to set off an entryway or dining nook from the living room.
To carry out these looks, you need a way to visually separate the spaces. Instead of resorting to the old standby of plants stacked on top of a bookcase, why not make something that’s personalized and tailored to your space. There’s a wealth of ways to make your own room divider, and some of them are even portable. Here are several creative ideas:
Hang and Drape

Curtains offer light and airy visual screening, and as room dividers they can be sized up or down to meet your needs. For example, you can make an easy, portable divider for privacy in a dorm room or studio apartment by hanging a curtain panel on a wheeled garment rack. Larger curtain panels can be hung from the ceiling with hooks spaced at intervals along the curtain’s top edge; make loops from ribbon, twill tape, or bead chain to suspend the panel at the desired height. Another option is to run the curtain on a wire strung across the space to be divided. You can purchase one of the kits that are commercially available, or do it yourself with picture wire, turnbuckles, and eyelet screws. Make sure the ends of the wire are firmly attached to the wall studs or anchors suitable for the wall surface. Bedsheets and drop cloths are thrifty fabric sources for any of these options, and you can decorate the plain curtains using fabric paint with stencils or rubber stamps.

 

Assemble and Connect

 

Slices of PVC pipe, turned on their sides and adhered together; old vinyl phonograph albums, joined through holes drilled into their edges; or the flower-shaped bases of plastic soda bottles might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to room dividers. But when decorated and assembled into a panel, as many inventive DIY’ers have done, these assorted materials divide the space stylishly. Other examples of this nearly limitless concept include room dividers assembled from crocheted doilies, hearts or other shapes cut from colorful cardstock, curtains made from lengths of ribbon, or ropes tied in plain or fancy knots. Most of these assemblage dividers will need to be suspended from the ceiling, so include the installation of sturdy ceiling hooks in your divider plans.

 

 

Salvage and Repurpose

 

 

A folding screen is a time-honored way to divide a room, so why not make your own screen by hinging together salvaged materials such as old doors, garden gates, or pallets? You can add storage options with shelves and hanging hooks, or hinge together bookshelves for your screen panels. Other salvaged materials can be permanently installed. For example, consider a floor-mounted screen made from peeled and cleaned tree branches, or a ceiling-hung garage door. You can even mount a repurposed barn or garage door with appropriate hardware to slide it out of the way or roll it up or down as needed. To successfully pull off a salvaged room divider, you need a source of materials as well as reasonably adequate know-how with refinishing and installation techniques.

 

 

Room dividers don’t have to be expensive to be unique and exciting. With basic DIY knowledge and an eye for inviting combinations of materials, you can divide and conquer your space in a creative way that enhances the room while expressing your personal style.