If it’s the Holidays, it must be lutefisk time!

pic of lutifisk (Small)It is the holiday season and many Minnesotans will eat lutefisk. It is one on our most infamous foods – dried cod that has been reconstitute in a bath of water and food-grade lye. It doesn’t have much of a taste and looks like a serving of gelatinous goo. But for thousands of us, it is a celebration of the tradition and heritage.

Where do Minnesotans eat it? They eat lutefisk dinners in church basements, restaurants and VFW posts across the state. Many families cherish a tradition of serving it every Christmas, along with Swedish meatballs.

The tradition of lutefisk started in Norway several hundred years ago as a way to preserve all of the cod that was caught in the spring. Folklore says it was the food of the Vikings, but lutefisk experts don’t know for sure. In the 1800’s, Minnesota Scandinavian ancestors brought the food to the Upper Midwest.

The largest producer of lutefisk in the country is right here – the Olsen Fish Company in North Minneapolis. All of their dried fish comes from Norway. The company reconstitutes it back to its original form in the plant. This process takes two weeks and involves soaking it in water and food-grade lye, or sodium hydroxide. The chemicals are used to “fluff” the fish up and to help preserve it. In 2012, they sold 450,000 pounds.

Does everyone like it? Many Minnesotans have never tried the stuff because of the look or the smell. Andrew Zimmern, of the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods, said it is one of the worst foods in the world and he eats anything!

So maybe if you haven’t tried the Minnesota tradition of lutefisk yet, this will be the year to do it!

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Minnesota Hot Dishes

Fall is here and Minnesota natives love to make and serve hearty hot dishes for their families and friends.

tater-tot-hot-dish-11 (Small) (Small)Hot dish is a casserole which typically contains a starch, a meat and a canned and/or frozen vegetable, mixed with canned soup. The hot dish is cooked in an oven and served hot in a single baking dish and commonly appears not only at family dinner tables as the main course, but at communal gatherings such as family reunions, potlucks and church suppers or funerals. When served at gatherings, they are served with potato salad, coleslaw, Jell-O salads and pan-baked desserts known as bars.

The history of the hot dish goes back to when “budget-minded farm wives needed to feed their own families, as well as congregations in the basements of the first Minnesota churches.”[1] The most typical meat for a hot dish is ground beef, and cream of mushroom remains the favorite canned soup. Pasta is the most frequently used starch, but tater tots and wild rice are very popular also.

Just how popular is the “hot dish”? It frequently appears, along with other unique Minnesotan dishes such as lutefisk, in the radio program A Prairie Home Companion and is also described in Howard Mohr’s book How to Talk Minnesotan. It is an integral element of the book Hot dish to Die For, a collection of six culinary mystery short stories in which the weapon of choice is hot dish written by Pat Dennis. Minnesota public television station, KSMQ in Austin, Minnesota, produced a 2012 documentary video entitled “Minnesota Hot dish”[2] providing a historical and humorous look at the popular dish. Hot dish is so popular Senator Al Franken holds a hot dish competition for the Minnesota congressional delegation! This year’s winner was Rep. Tim Walz for his “Turkey Trot Tater-Tot Hot dish”!

[1] Harron, Hallie. (February 1996), Vegetarian Times

[2] “Minnesota Hot dish: The Documentary,” MinnPost.com, Minneapolis, Minnesota, May 11, 2103

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When is the best time to buy or sell a house in Minnesota?

blog man (Small)I hear this question a lot: What is the best time to sell my home or to buy a different one? Let’s take a look at the retail world of clothing. Consumers get the best deal on summer clothes after July 4th or later, just as they get the best deal on winter clothes at the end of winter. So does this trend hold true for the purchase and sale of homes? Not really. There are some considerations a buyer or seller should think about that could have an impact on the transaction.

What time of the year is a better time for buyers to buy?

First off, you can’t ever time a home purchase. It is not like going out to buy a car or a cell phone. Buying a home is a journey done in your own time and after you have done the research, looked at homes and have your finances in order. At any time there are buyers coming into the market and there are other buyers who have done their research and are serious buyers. No one gets to control this ever changing flow. What is important to remember is that the inventory of homes fluctuates by the season. In spring (March-May in Minnesota), there is an increase of homes on the market and more homes means more options for buyers. It also means more buyers are looking, which means more competition to get that perfect home. While there are fewer homes listed from October-December, buyers may find the best buys during those slower selling months of the year.

When should sellers sell then?

Conventional sellers most likely would not list their home before the holidays or in the dead of winter for obvious reasons (snow and cold….brrrr). But serious buyers really don’t care about the season or timing. They are motivated when they are ready to buy. After the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s festivities are done, buyers start to think about resuming their home search or entering the marketplace as a new buyer. So what are the pros and cons to listing then? Listing January-June/July, sellers will have more competition, however there will be more buyers in the marketplace looking for homes then. If you list in the “off season” (August-December), you may be ahead because there will still be serious buyers out there and they will have fewer homes to choose from.

So as buyers and sellers strategize about when is the “BEST” time, the reality is – it is never easy, and it truly depends on your situation, what you have to buy or sell, and the market in general. Major retailers like Target can control inventory and monitor competitive activity. In real estate, there is not one buyer or seller – they are all unrelated and disconnected and there are all types of homes at all price ranges making it nearly impossible to pick the “perfect” time to buy or sell. I would be happy to help you figure out what time of the year is best for you to start your home search or put your home on the market.

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Minnesota State Parks and Trails will keep you current with Minnesota’s fall colors!

fall leaf (Small)Minnesota’s wet early summer should produce a colorful fall leaf display, but experts warn that it could come and go faster than usual. Patricia Arndt of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Park and Trails Division, says the fall color display will move across the state quickly. If you enjoy viewing the color or walking the trails at any of our state parks – don’t miss the wonderful fall scenery.

Colors typically peak mid-September to early October in the northern third of Minnesota, late September to early October in the central third and late September to mid-October in the southern third. Peak fall color typically lasts about two weeks, but that can vary widely, depending on location, elevation and weather.

The DNR has an online fall color finder map (http://www.mndnr.gov/fallcolor) that can help you find the best shows. The site is updated each Thursday with the latest fall color information.

To get into state parks and recreation areas, a $5 day permit is needed, or an annual $25 permit is accepted.

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Twin Cities Life is Healthy!

vegetable standTime and time again the Twin Cities are nominated as a top place to live and to be healthy. The Travel Channel has chosen the Twin Cities as the healthiest place to live in or travel to in the US.

Why were we chosen?

  • We are in the Midwest where farming is big but unless you actually get the fresh produce, what good does it do you? The Twin Cities has farmer’s markets all over the place, from the big Minneapolis Farmer’s Market to the Mill City Farmer’s Market to local markets in the suburbs, to markets in store parking lots. Click here to find a Farmer’s Market near you!
  • We have biking and walking trails that are used year round! We are the top biking city in the US according to Bicycling magazine and more people are biking to work during all seasons.
  • Minnesota has golf courses galore. People are out on the links at all ages and as often as they can.
  • We have playgrounds and parks in just about every neighborhood and the kids are actually out there using them.
  • Activities are planned indoors and outdoors all year to keep us residents out and about in any weather.

We like to eat healthy and we play a lot. We get out and enjoy nature all year long and all that contributes to us staying healthy!

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Facts about Minnesota

I found this fun infographic with facts about Minnesota at Maps of the World. Even for those of us that live here, you might find out something new.

MN Infographic

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End of Summer Fun

fairSummer is winding down, and with Labor Day being early this year, it seems to be coming to an end sooner than usual.

The biggest sign that summer is almost over is the Minnesota State Fair which starts tomorrow and runs through Labor Day.  It is always the twelve days before Labor Day.  Every year they add some new foods, as well as new attractions. The normal adult admission is $12, but they do have numerous promotional days that may fit your needs. For all the information on the state fair, click here for their website.

The other end of the summer event is the Renaissance Festival which started last weekend and runs weekends and Labor Day through September 29th. If you have never been it is an experience. Each weekend also has a theme, so choose the weekend you think would be most fun!  For all the information on this festival, click here.

Have fun!

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