Moving Resources for Older Adults

Do you have an older adult in your life who is having hard time keeping up with the responsibilities of living in their single-family home?

An older adult’s decision to move can carry with it an entire range of emotion. No matter how one comes to the decision to move, the factors and issues related to each older adult’s transition are unique. But at some point, inevitably, moving involves a feeling of being overwhelmed.

“The Old Neighborhood” by Jim Williams

There are a number of aspects that make an older adult’s transition difficult which include sifting through a home of many years, deciding what to do with possessions that are not going to the new residence (e.g. estate sale, consignment, charity, kids, online selling options, etc.), some health challenges that did not exist in the early years making the physical aspect daunting, plus the emotional aspect of leaving “the old neighborhood”, lifelong memories and the comfort of familiar turf.

Senior Move Management

Enter a fairly new but growing industry, senior move management. Due to the rising numbers of older adults and the increase of senior housing options, senior move management is a emergent field that meets the needs of this clientele and softens stress by lifting the details of their move and providing expertise and valuable resources to accommodate each stage of the transition. Sorting, getting rid of unwanted items, packing, unpacking and resettling are the primary options that can make a daunting move much more seamless.

Twin Cities based Gentle Transitions is the longest operating senior move management firm in the country. They have served thousands of individuals and helped them navigate their personal “move journey”. Senior Move Managers typically choose to work in this profession because of their passion for the older adult client they serve. Within a short period of time, senior move managers help create a lovely metamorphosis, making a new residence feel comfortable and inviting and allowing the client to focus on the important things like starting to live their new life, meet new friends and build a new sense of community.

When you or your loved ones know it is time to move, but you don’t know where to begin, Gentle Transitions is a great place to start. They partner with and are preferred providers for several senior communities like Cherrywood Pointe, Applewood Pointe, and others. You can request a complimentary no-obligation consultation by calling (952) 944-1028.

Click here for more information about Senior Move Managers >>> National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM)

Click here for more information about >>> Gentle Transitions

Click here for more information about >>> Seniors Real Estate Specialists

Carol Hunt has a heart for seniors. After more than 20 years in corporate Human Resources, Marketing, and Business Analyst roles, Carol now spends her time at Gentle Transitions in Edina. She serves as a packer, helping lift burdens and provide peace of mind to seniors who are transitioning. She is a proud employee of and has seen first hand the care given to clients in the move process. Carol and her husband Doug also volunteer at Bibles for Missions Thrift Center in Crystal. She can be reached at

Carol submitted this article on behalf of Diane Bjorkman and Bill Lehman. They are co-owners of Gentle Transitions.

The Home Buyer’s Road Map

A major priority in my business is to be organized. I view this discipline as being essential to not only serving existing and attracting new clients, but it essential to maintaining control of my time and having any sense of work-life balance. Structure and process are part of my brand and I believe it serves my clients well.

To that end, I find it useful to make task lists and outlines while conducting my business. Not only will this keep me on track, it will help guide clients to stay focused and be obedient to timelines. This type of transparency helps clients understand and anticipate what happens next and ultimately enjoy a satisfying purchase experience.

I have developed methods and processes for working with clients that are organized in such a way that it will truly benefit anyone who is seeking to find and purchase a new home.

I call this process The Home Buyer’s Road Map. I will be unpacking each of the 12 STEPS toward buying a home in greater detail in a series of future articles. For now, I want to provide an overview of how it all flows.

Buying your first home can be an exciting time, and it’s likely the biggest purchase you’ll ever make. Don’t jump into it without being ready and doing your homework. Ask yourself, “What happens next? Do I understand the process? Am I prepared for each step along the way?”

What’s the FIRST thing you should do before you even start looking? Before you begin, first and foremost, you need to ask yourself, “am I ready to buy? Read more about this process in the article, “Are Your Ready to Buy?

Now that you’ve determined that you’re ready. Let’s begin.

1. Hire an agent. Selecting the correct real estate agent may be the most important decision you make in this process.

2. Get financing. Obtain financial pre-approval. Get in touch with a lender. I’d be happy to connect you with the right individual.

3. Game plan. Allow your agent to analyze the specific needs of you and your family with an in-depth buyer consultation. Where do we want to live? What style of house do we like? How many bedrooms, bathrooms, garage stalls, etc?  What style of house do we like? What school district do we want our kids enrolled?

4. Start shopping. After getting a full understanding of your wants and needs, let your agent get to work and start identifying an inventory of properties on the market.

5. Tour. Work with your agent to schedule showings.

6. Make an offer. You’ve found a house you like. Now it’s time to go after it by writing an intelligent, competitive, and winning offer to purchase.

7. Negotiate. The seller may or may not accept your offer as you have presented it. Have you agent negotiate terms that are satisfactory to you and the seller.

8. Acceptance. Accept the negotiated contract, begin the pre-closing process.

10. Contingencies. If your agent has structured your offer correctly, you will have certain protections to allow you to cancel the agreement if certain conditions aren’t met. The seller is obligated to remove contingencies that you have established. The common contingencies are financing, homeowner association covenants, and home inspections.

11. Close. After you have been guided through each step of the buying process it’s time to close on the property. All parties meet and sign the final paperwork.

12. Move in! Take possession of the home.

Buying or selling a home is statistically one of the most stressful events in a person’s life. This is the roadmap to buying a home. Just like driving a car from point A to point B there will be bumps in the road and unexpected hazards along the way. However, with the professional assistance of a skilled realtor, if you are prepared, organized, have reasonable expectations, and are willing to adapt and “flex” on the path toward home ownership, the buying process can be a satisfying experience!

If you want to be sure that you are working with an agent who understands you, listens to you, and truly puts your best interests first please get in touch with me!

January Giveaway

Enter to Win a $50 Fandango Gift Card

Welcome to our monthly client appreciation program! Each month we give away free tickets, passes or gift cards!  This month, one lucky winner will receive a $50 Fandango gift card. The winner will randomly be selected by noon on Friday, January 26th and contacted via email.  ENTER TO WIN below.

What is Fandango?

Fandango is an American ticketing company that sells movie tickets via the internet as well as through their mobile app. Fandango helps movie fans discover, buy tickets and share their passion for movies in a more engaging and interactive way.

Fandango entertains, informs and guides film fans with must-see trailers and movie clips, exclusive and original content, insider news and expert commentary. We make it easy to find and buy the right movie at the right time, with showtimes and ticketing to more than 26,000 screens nationwide. Fandango is available online, and through our award-winning mobile and connected television apps with over 46 million downloads and counting.

Learn More About Fandango  >>>

One winner will randomly be selected by noon on Monday, January 26th and contacted via email.

Congrats to Sharon H. of Andover who was December’s winner of a $50 gift card to Blue Plate Restaurants.

Click below to enter. Good luck!

Are you ready to buy?

Sure, all your friends are doing it. Geez, even your parents did it! Why can’t you? You watch HGTV. You’ve browsed It’s easy. You’re ready. Let’s do this! Let’s buy a house!

Not so fast, professor.

Just because you THINK you can doesn’t mean you should. Buying your first home can be an exciting time, and it’s likely the biggest purchase you’ll ever make. Don’t jump into it without being ready and doing your homework. So, you want to buy a house? What’s the FIRST thing you should do before you even start looking? Let’s examine the important topics and questions you should ask yourself to find out if you’re ready to take the plunge into home ownership.

Examine your money situation. The single most important factor with home ownership is your budget. Having a household budget is your top priority. You need to know where you are financially to know exactly how much you can afford to spend on a new home. It’s important to have ALL your financial ducks in a row. Lenders look at your debt-to-income ratio. Generally, they want to make sure your monthly housing costs — including principal, interest, taxes, and insurance — will consume no more than one-third of your monthly gross income.


When you’re applying for a mortgage, what do lenders care about most?

• Income
• Down payment
• Credit score

Income. Is Your Job Secure? Financial stability is one of the biggest motivating factors when it comes to purchasing your first home. If you’ve had a stable income for two or more years, have achieved success in your career and expect more growth in your future, purchasing a home is also a wise decision.

Evaluating how long you plan to live in the house to make it financially worthwhile is wise. In overheated markets, you may have been able to flip a house for profit in less time. But with the upfront costs you’ll have to pay to buy a home, it’s smarter to put stick to the 5-to-7-year rule of thumb, especially in uncertain times. Consider any imminent life changes — such as switching careers, going back to school, or getting married — that could throw a wrench into your plan.

Does your current city feel like home? Ask yourself if you love your hometown and have no desire to live anywhere else. If you’re uncertain whether you’ll be in the same city for more than a year or two it might not be in your best interest to buy something in that market. However, if you love your city, purchasing a home there is a great idea!

Down Payment. Do you have enough money for a down payment? What is generally considered a reasonable monthly payment for a house? Your housing costs shouldn’t eat up too large of a slice of your income.

The 20%-down-payment rule of thumb is outdated. Putting that much down is excessive and unnecessary. A 10% down payment is the minimum smart buyers should aim for, but 20% is even better — and not at all excessive. That will save you the $50 to $100 per month you would otherwise pay for private mortgage insurance. It’ll also help you get a lower interest rate on your mortgage. Plus, in a slow housing market, putting down 20% will give you some equity in case you have to move sooner than expected. That equity also serves as an extra cushion of cash in an emergency.

What about closing costs? You’ll need to budget an extra 3% to 6% of the purchase price to cover costs at settlement. We all like to get paid for our work. Real estate professionals are no different. The professionals who are involved with the home purchase transaction need to be paid. These usually include the loan origination fee, any loan discounts or “points,” title insurance, attorney’s fees, property taxes as well as survey, state recording and transfer taxes, and other costs.

Credit Score. Do you know your credit score? What’s the minimum FICO credit score you need to get the best rate on a mortgage? You should be able to snag the best rates with a score of 760 or higher. Making sure your score is in good shape will not only help you get a loan, but also it could save you a lot of money. There are specific things you can do right now to affect your score in a positive way. Talk to your lender or give me a call. I’d be glad to guide you.

Home Improvement Projects. Ahh, yes! A place of your own. Home ownership will make your life so much easier. Owning a home takes a lot of time and energy. If something breaks, you must fix it, or pay someone else to fix it. You’re also responsible for upkeep, including yard work and shoveling snow (unless, of course, you buy a condominium without a yard). Will you have emergency cash if something goes wrong? You’ll need that cushion available for home-related emergencies, such as hiring the occasional plumber.

Do you get excited at the prospect of home improvement projects? One of the best parts about being a homeowner is getting to take the blank canvas of an empty house and make it your home. If you have an abundance of ideas for your future space and the energy to bring them to fruition, then you should get excited about the opportunity to own your first home. After all, home improvement only exists when you have a home of your own!

Rent vs. Purchase. Are you tired of renting? Most people start renting because they don’t have any savings, don’t have a steady job, don’t know how long they’ll be in a city, or don’t know which area they want to live in. For whatever reason they haven’t had their “moment” yet, time goes on, months to turn to years and life just gets too busy to worry about purchasing a home. If you looked back and calculated the amount of rent you had spent and put it into a mortgage calculator you would soon realize you could be sitting on thousands of dollars in equity in a home instead of just handing money over to the landlord. Living under rental conditions can be exhausting and expensive or liberating and time-freeing. Which is it for you?

Even if you can afford a house, don’t buy simply because you can. You’ve got to be prepared to live the lifestyle. Talk to friends and family about your options. Get advice from professionals. Connect with me. I am happy to help you examine your situation to see if home ownership is a wise decision for you.



Evde Hissetmek

Emily Bettenga is a freelance Media Makeup Artist based out of Minneapolis. In November, Emily took the opportunity to travel overseas with a group from her church. Discover what she learned about living a life with radical love, faith, generosity, and encouragement. Read about her nine-day journey experiencing the “radical hospitality” of the people of Turkey and the sense of feeling at home in a foreign land.

If you were to ask me where it is that I feel the most at home, I don’t think that I can honestly say that “home” for me is one specific place. There are many people and places around the world, near and far away, where I have felt at home and felt close to God. I think at the end of the day that’s really what it is for me… home is where I feel Him the most. Travel always seems to bring a microphone to His voice and a heightened awareness of the senses He’s given me, so to say that I felt at home in Turkey should be no surprise to anyone.


I knew before I left that going there would be an incredible experience, but to land in Istanbul and feel instant peace is a pretty indescribable feeling. It wasn’t just me who felt this way either. It was a peace felt by my entire ten-person team. Ten friends who are now family. Evde hissetmek… “to feel at home” – it’s the best way I can describe my 9-day experience.

River Valley Church located in Minneapolis, MN, is where I have been serving  and attending for the last three years. Almost every week we are sending out teams to different locations, in and out of country, and on November 13, 2017, it was my turn to board a plane and see what God had for me to learn 5,500 miles away. We were heading directly into the zero zone, meaning that there are .1% of Christians in a total of 80 million people, so we could bet that pretty much everyone we were going to encounter had not met a Christian before, or heard the truth about who Jesus is. (We had a point of contact while we were there, but for the protection of the people and organization we are associated with, I am not allowed to give their information). Everything was so divinely put together from the beginning of this adventure. I couldn’t help but step through the airplane doors with a confidence that this was going to be amazing.

I wholeheartedly believe that global trips like this should be entered into with the mindset of, “Okay God, how do you want ME to change? Show me a new perspective. Teach me what I need to learn so that I can love others better, and know your heart better than I do right now.” Yes, we were there to make an impact in any way we could and to “plant seeds” (as we call it in Christianese). At the end of the day, this trip, just like any “mission trip”, was more about God refining our hearts and showing us a deeper glimpse of who he is through the incommunicable love that he has for every person created. The world is so much bigger and more beautiful than we can comprehend. When we choose to step out of our own worldview and see other ways of how people live, you can’t help but come back with a broader understanding of who God is. Get out and see the world, people!

Jesus’ ministry was all about people, so that’s what we wanted this trip to reflect. A global experience with the focus on building relationships with locals and immerse into the culture as much as we could. Just like anywhere you are, when you understand the culture that you are in, you can better relate to the people you are trying to connect with. Turkey is filled with rich culture, history, and hospitality!


We got to experience so much of what makes Turkey incredible – from the AMAZING food and the Grand Bizarre to the ferries that connect Asia to Europe. We experienced everything from progressive pockets of cities that buzzed with chai houses and college students to all of the cats and dogs that roam the street. (Side note – they are so kind to animals there. Dogs and cats are wandering everywhere and they’re all spayed, neutered and taken care of by people in the city.

As an animal lover, this was incredible to see! You can check out the cat’s of Turkey documentary, “Kedi” to see what I mean!) This place is something special and joy was the main emotion we experienced while being here! This trip was a blast!

We not only traveled to Istanbul but also to the cities of Izmir and Trabzon. Eight flights in 9 days, folks! We were on the go. Everywhere we went was an opportunity to connect with people, learn about their lives and build friendships. Thank goodness for Google Translate! From planes, trains and subway rides, we seized the moments to make connections, encourage people through any means we could, even if it was just a smile and played worship music in cafes, subways, and parks. People were so open to us not only as Americans but as people. I am constantly being reminded that the human connection, especially through the Holy Spirit, is stronger than any prejudices the media, terrorism and political walls try to force upon us. We have so much more in common than you could even realize!

Being home from my trip, a common question to me has been, “what’s been the biggest impact for you”? I can without any hesitation say that the radical hospitality that the people of Turkey and our new friends showed us was unlike anything I have experienced before. They gave their time, possessions, food and love to us. Just when you think they couldn’t be more generous, they throw a birthday party for a girl on our team, or show up to the airport and skip class just to send us off. That’s the kind of person I want to be. The incredible thing is that I don’t have to be in the middle east, or far away to experience this and live it out in my life. I can extend generosity to anyone and everyone I meet. Everyday we encounter someone who needs to feel seen and loved. How many times have I missed opportunities to encourage someone, listen to their story, or learn something from others because I’m choosing to be self-focused?

I’m forever grateful for my Time in Turkey and would encourage anyone to go visit this amazing country, filled with beautiful people. The media and political sides may be putting barriers up, but let’s break those down with love, compassion, and personal connection. My prayer is that I begin to live my life with radical love, faith, generosity, and encouragement. I pray that my mindset would be one that is for people before rather than myself. Jesus lived his life in this kind of way, loving people with no conditions. I understand His character a bit more now. I will forever have a home in Turkey because God is there.

River Valley Church – Minneapolis campus currently meets at Muse Event Center in Downtown Minneapolis (107 3rd Ave N., Minneapolis, MN). Inspiring worship and teaching is a core value at River Valley. They are a multi-site church with eight locations across the Twin Cities. Although their campuses meet in different places, They are all a part of the same church community. They say it this way— “one church, multiple locations.” Service times are Sunday – 9, 10:15, 11:30 am, & 5 pm.

Emily Bettenga is a freelance Media Makeup Artist based out of Minneapolis. She has been in the industry since 2012 and is extremely passionate about creativity and influencing the world through beauty. She has working experience with local and national fashion designers and photographers, commercial, film, runway, bridal and special events. Whatever the job is, she puts her whole heart into it. It is her desire that anyone who sits in her chair leaves feeling happier and more beautiful inside and out!

March Giveaway

Enter to Win a $50 Gift Card to Bite Squad!

Welcome to our monthly client appreciation program! Each month we give away free tickets, passes or gift cards!  This month, one lucky winner will receive a $50 gift card to Bite Squad! ENTER TO WIN below.

Who/What is Bite Squad?

Bite Squad is the (legitimate) lovechild of 2 friends with a passion for entrepreneurship and…food! They saw a need in our hometown community of Minneapolis for an easy, fast, and affordable way to order all the wonderful cuisine around here without shuffling through a mess of menus, making endless phone calls, or trying to navigate a great restaurant’s not-so-great website. So, with years of restaurant experience under their woefully well-fitting belts, they decided to do something about it and create Bite Squad.

Bite Squad is the last place you’ll ever have to go online to order delicious cuisine for delivery or take-out. They’ve partnered with local restaurants, hand-picked their food lovin’ customer support squad, and wrangled up a fleet of environmentally friendly vehicles to get fresh food from the restaurant straight to your door, quickly and hassle free!

Learn More About Bite Squad  >>>

One winner will randomly be selected by noon on Friday, March 30th and contacted via email.

Congrats to Mary M. of Edina who was our last winner of a $50 Target gift card.

Click below to enter. Good luck!

The Top Eleven Songs of the Season

One of the great delights of my life is finding and enjoying wide varieties of lyric and melody. However, in the midst of my unquenchable hunt of the latest and great music on the market there comes a moment for an annual and welcome interruption. It’s a pause, a rest, a moment of serious thought and consideration. Put away the normal pursuit and consumption of music, industry news, artist commentary, critical reviews, etc.

At least, …for now.

It’s the morning after Thanksgiving. The family bundles up – scarves and mittens in hand. We fuel up at a local eatery. We head out on our way to seek that imperfect “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree. The family rejoices as we spot the halo-like glow beaming off the perfectly imperfect tree ahead in the distance. We rush to capture it before others might beat us to it. We found it! The Speich family Christmas tree!

As we mount the tree atop the Jeep and begin our journey back home one tradition returns. Thanksgiving is over. It’s Christmas time! And, with that, it is officially Christmas music season! We get 30 days to redirect our musical affections toward Christmas songs that directly or indirectly honor and adore Emmanuel Jesus. Yes!

What is it about Christmas music that accelerates you into the Christmas spirit? Afterall, there are only about a dozen songs that are original. Most Christmas music is a variation, cover, or rendition of a handful of songs. That’s okay. I still get excited about this annual musical pause, sort of a musical “Selah.”

Selah is thought to come from the Hebrew word salah, “to pause.” From salah comes the belief that Selah is a musical notation signifying a rest to the singers and/or instrumentalists who performed the psalms. If this is true, then each time selah appears in a psalm, the musicians paused, perhaps to take a breath or to sing a cappella or let the instruments play alone. Perhaps they were pausing to praise the One about whom the song was speaking, perhaps even lifting their hands in worship. This theory would encompass all these meanings—“praise,” “lift up,” and “pause.” Christmas music inspires the listener to pause and praise God for His mercy, power, sustaining grace, and sufficiency. Ultimately, Christmas music inspires us to praise Him for sending His son Jesus. When we enjoy music this holiday season, we should pause to carefully weigh the meaning of what we have just heard, lifting up our hearts in praise to God.

Through the years, I have found my favorites. We all have our favorites…to be sure. And, I’m certain that we all don’t agree. I decided it’s time to compile my “go-to” list of all-time christmas songs.

How did I compile this list? As you can imagine, this is a difficult task. Narrowing down the list was painful. There is such an abundance of amazing recordings. There are many genres that can, and do, fall into the “holiday music” sector. And, I suppose many of you will have your own favorites and think mine are crazy. Plus, I think a person’s music taste is allowed to evolve over time. Some of us may have even dipped into years of the ridiculous…a sort of lapse away from reasonable thinking. Can you say, Wham! Last Christmas,” or Cheetah Girls “Cheetah-licious Christmas“? Each season of life brings new favorites. I tried to avoid including brand new releases. The true “best” need to marinate and endure the test of time. They also need to have wide appeal. There are so many songs I like that lean toward obscure – even bizarre (Mistletoe Mambo). I’ve excluded those selections.

Nevertheless, here we go, my top eleven, in no particular order…

Top Eleven Christmas Songs

Be sure to click on the song name to sample the song on YouTube.

Josh GarrelsHosanna

On his 2016 holiday album, The Light Came Down, Garrels marries both for a wide sonic expanse for both original and classic Christmas songs. “Gloria” is Light’s spirited centerpiece, bolstered by choirs and brass, destined to become a crowd favorite. Classics like “O Holy Night” and “Silent Night” are given new life through Garrels’ thoughtful, beautiful arrangements. Let’s face it, The Light Came Down is awesome. But, the winning cut off this album is “Hosanna.” The piece forces you to honor Jesus – making him the focus of our affection. Be sure you turn the volume up high and prepare to worship.

Michael Bublé Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

“Your voice is like chocolate,” said one. “This song makes me happy,” said another. The song is too “poppy.” Maybe. So what? No one can deny the pipes on Mr. Buble. He is in the Sinatra league of the best crooners of all time. From the 2011 release of Christmas, this is a must have in your holiday collection and this song takes the blue ribbon, or green & red ribbon, as it were.

Vince Guaraldi TrioChristmas Time is Here

Selecting a single song from this album was tough. All are fantastic. I love “Tannebaum.” However, the winner goes to “Christmas Time is Here.” This song has two versions. The instrumental version is superior. The vocal version leans too cartoonish. One of the most groundbreaking things about the first peanuts TV special is Vince Caroli‘s dazzling score. The San Francisco pianist was a key part of the west coast cool jazz scene, and his grace for piano trio arrangements sound as hip today as they did in 1965. Throughout the album, Guaraldi captures the mixed emotions at the heart of Charles Schultz’s characters.

Jars of ClayWonderful Christmastime

Yes, we are all familiar with Paul McCartney’s version of this song. I do like that version, but the raspy, almost pubescent vocals of Dan Haseltine are so endearing. From the Christmas Songs CD came out in 2007 and I immediately loved it. I haven’t always loved everything Jars of Clay has done, but this album is really different from your standard Christmas CD. They have put a “Jars” twist on the music, and then some. The whole album has a haunting, ethereal quality to it and puts me in a very specific mood as soon as the first few seconds play. Almost all of the songs are either originals or lesser-known Christmas songs. Standout tracks: “Wonderful Christmastime” (a cover of Paul McCartney’s classic song that is actually better than the original), ” Love Came Down at Christmas,” “Evergreen” (a haunting instrumental), and an interesting cover of the classic “Christmastime is Here.” Be sure to check out the live video version of this song here as they performed at the Gospel Music Channel’s Christmas at Union Station. 

George WinstonThanksgiving

Not all great Christmas recordings are by the old crooners. On the 1981 album December, Pianist George Winston captures the stillness of snowy nights with soulful chords and chilled-out melodies. The cut that quickly presses me into the Christmas mood is “Thanksgiving.” I offer one caution, save yourself some money, don’t go see him live. He is dreadful as a live performer. He is brilliant pianist, but has no stage presence whatsoever. In a similar genre, I give honorable mention to the album Majesty and Wonder by Phil Keaggy recorded back in 1999 with the London Festival Orchestra featuring Keaggy’s incredible guitar artistry.

Amy Grant – Breath of Heaven

Amy’s second Christmas album, Home for Christmas, came out around 1992 and somehow sounds incredibly timeless even today. What makes this album so good are the song choices and the arrangements, which are at times sort of orchestral, and other times stripped down.  Standout tracks: “Breath of Heaven,” “Grown Up Christmas List,” “The Night Before Christmas,” ” Emmanuel, God with Us.” The last song, an acoustic/celtic arrangement of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” is also fantastic. Most surprising are Grant’s two contributions (cowritten with Chris Eaton and Robert Marshal, respectively,) “Breath of Heaven/Mary’s Song” and the powerful and humbling “Emmanuel, God with Us.” Exquisitely produced and arranged, Home for Christmas is a highly rewarding mainstream Christmas masterpiece without flaw or pretense.

Michael W. Smith Christmastime

Backed by the American Boy Choir, this song is magical. Christmastime, the 1998 holiday album release, Michael W. Smith plays more the role of a classic orchestral arranger in a movie soundtrack than Christian pop artist. The release’s finest moments come in more contemporary style with the Chris Rice-penned “Welcome to Our World,” Smitty’s title track, and the Phil Keaggy-enriched instrumental duet “O Christmas Tree.”

Leon Redbone & Zooey DeschanelBaby It’s Cold Outside

This is probably one of the most painfully overdone holiday remakes of all time. However, Zooey Deschanel is great in this version. The song becomes a classic with the accompaniment of the gravelly baritone, neo-vaudeville crooner Leon Redbone. If you’ve seen the movie Elf you can’t help but giggle when Buddy (Will Farrell) surprises Jovie (Zooey Deschanel) while in the employee shower. The song has a close second place with Dean Martin and Martina McBride  appearing on the album White Christmas (1998). Any list that doesn’t have Dean Martin on it is an incomplete list.

Nat “King” Cole The Christmas Song

If Christmas were a country, “The Christmas Song” would be the national anthem. When his crooning lays out the song’s vivid yuletide imagery, the hardest heart will feel a sentimental twinge. The Magic of Christmas is a 1960 album by Nat King Cole, arranged and conducted by Ralph Carmichael. This was Cole’s only full album of Christmas songs, although he had recorded several holiday singles earlier in his career. One of these, “The Christmas Song”, written by Mel Torme and originally recorded in 1946, was re-recorded for the 1961 album The Nat King Cole Story. In 1963, The Magic of Christmas was reissued under the title The Christmas Song.

Justin Bieber Under the Mistletoe

Keep in mind, I live in a household of all females. Cut me some slack. At the peak of his success as one of the top teen pop stars, Justin Bieber released a Christmas album titled “Under the Mistletoe.” It debuted at #1 on the album chart and became a smash hit. The song peaked at #2 on the adult contemporary chart, and in a rare occurrence for Christmas music, climbed into the top 40 at mainstream pop radio. Think what you want about J-Biebs, this song is catchy and fun. I have only one thing to say to you…”shotty with you.”

PentatonixLittle Drummer Boy

The a cappella vocal group Pentatonix released their version of the classic Christmas tune “Little Drummer Boy” in 2013 and it become a smash hit.  It is safe to say that Pentatonix can sound good on anything they sing. This is one of the best versions of the Christmas classic “Little Drummer Boy” that I have heard. Their beat-box backed harmonies blend fluidly making this cover true artform. “That’s Christmas to Me” is also a solid contender.

Dawn breaks on day 26 of December…pack up the holiday CD’s, the Spotify playlists, and the iTunes curations…it’s time to resume our musical journey. Good night Christmas music. We’ll see you again next year.

December Giveaway

Enter to Win a $50 Gift Card to Blue Plate Restaurants!

Welcome to our monthly client appreciation program! Each month we give away free tickets, passes or gift cards!  This month, one lucky winner will receive a $50 gift card to Blue Plate Restaurants! ENTER TO WIN below.

Who/What is Blue Plate Restaurants?

Passionate hospitality and flavors fuel Blue Plate Restaurants. The company continues to provide the Twin Cities with community-inspired, guest-intimate concepts and continually invigorate their stores to enhance the guest experience. They serve from scratch, approachable food with a twist, and offer a wide range of local high-quality craft beers, wines, and creative cocktails. They create spaces for neighbors to gather and call their own while building and sustaining their raving local fan base.

Blue Plate was formed in 1993 by David Burley and Stephanie Shimp with the opening of Highland Grill. Over the years Blue Plate has grown to include the Freehouse, the Lowry, Scusi, 3 Squares Restaurant, Longfellow Grill, Edina Grill, Groveland Tap and Blue Barn during the MN State Fair. Blue Plate is privately owned.

Learn More About Blue Plate Restaurants  >>>

One winner will randomly be selected by noon on Friday, December 22nd and contacted via email.

Congrats to Kat G. of Eden Prairie who was November’s winner of a $50 gift card to Love That Olive in Maple Grove.

Click below to enter. Good luck!

Get Greater Joy From Your Home! The Real Impact of your Remodeling Dollars

Remodeling Impact 2017

Homeowners and renters remodel, redesign, and restructure their home for a variety of reasons. This report takes a deep dive into the reasons for remodeling, the success of taking on projects, and the increased happiness found in the home once a project is completed.

The 2017 Remodeling Impact Report, the second of its kind from NAR, surveyed Realtors®, consumers who have completed remodeling projects, and members of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

Here’s what’s in this report:

→ The typical cost of 20 remodeling and replacement projects, as estimated by members of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI).
→ How much appeal each project is likely to have for buyers, according to REALTORS®.
→ How much REALTORS® estimate that homeowners can recover on the cost of the projects if they sell the home.

Homeowners who take on remodeling projects gain not only equity and more resale value in their home, they are also more likely to find satisfaction and enjoyment from their home, according to a new report from the National Association of Realtors®, with insights from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

Read the report here :

What does the report say?

Homeowners Who Remodel Gain Equity and Enjoyment

The report reveals the top remodeling projects, as well as well as the increased value – both financially and emotionally – that specific projects bring to homeowners once completed. After completing a remodeling project, 75 percent of owners have a greater desire to be in their home, 65 percent say they have increased enjoyment in their home, and 77 percent feel a major sense of accomplishment when thinking of their completed project. Fifty-six percent felt happy when they see their completed projects, and 39 percent say they feel satisfied.

“Realtors® understand which remodeling projects and home upgrades will bring the most value to homeowners, whether they are remodeling with the hope of impressing potential buyers, bringing in higher offers or gaining more equity in the home,” said NAR President William E. Brown, a Realtor® from Alamo, California and founder of Investment Properties. “Realtors® also understand that many of these projects are undertaken solely to get more enjoyment from spending time at home. No matter the objectives, Realtors® have unique and invaluable insights into how renovations and remodeling will bring the most benefit to homeowners.”

Interior projects. For owners looking to sell their home, Realtors® named complete kitchen renovations, kitchen upgrades, bathroom renovations and new wood flooring as the interior projects that most appeal to potential buyers. When asked which interior projects yield the largest financial return upon resale, Realtors® named:

♦ Hardwood floor refinishing (recovers 100 percent of project costs upon resale)
♦ New wood flooring (91 percent of costs recovered)
♦ Insulation upgrades (76 percent of costs recovered)
♦ Bathroom renovations and adding a new bathroom yielded the smallest financial return upon resale, recouping approximately 50 percent of project costs.

Exterior projects. When it comes to exterior projects, Realtors® said new roofing will recover 109 percent of costs upon resale, more than any other project in the report. New roofing was also named the exterior project that most appeals to buyers, followed by new vinyl windows, a new garage door and new vinyl siding.

Brown also reminds consumers that exterior projects are just as, if not more, important than interior projects when it comes time to sell. “A home’s exterior is its first impression to potential buyers, so any project that improves curb appeal will yield plenty of bang for the buck,” he said.

Satisfaction from projects. When it comes to the enjoyment homeowners get from projects, several projects received a perfect Joy Score of 10; Joy Scores range from 1 and 10, and higher figures indicate greater joy from the project. Projects with a perfect Joy Score of 10 included both interior and exterior project of all price ranges, such as a new master/owner’s suite, with an estimated cost of $125,000 for a fully makeover, and new steel front doors, with an estimated cost of $2,000.

While Americans spent $340 billion on home remodeling in 20151, many homeowners find the idea of attempting a remodeling project too overwhelming to take on. Thirty-five percent of homeowners in the U.S. said they would rather move than remodel their current home. Owners in urban areas are the least likely to take on a project, with only 52 percent saying they would be willing to remodel their home, compared to 55 percent in suburban areas and 70 percent for owners in rural areas.

“Even though a remodeling project may seem overwhelming at the onset, working with a professional, qualified remodeler who has the required experience and training can make a big difference,” said Tom Miller, president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. “This year’s report confirms how remodeling can increase home value and day-to-day enjoyment. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to work with a contractor you can trust who adheres to a strict code of ethics and can help define a realistic budget. Get the project done right with a NARI member contractor.”

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry is the medium for business development, a platform for advocacy and the principal source for industry intelligence. NAR connects homeowners with its professional members and provides tips and tricks so that the consumer has the positive experience of remodeling done right.

1 Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University 2017 Remodeling Report


Love That Olive

Experience the taste of Italy at home

Love That Olive in Maple Grove is the place to find inspiration for all your cooking needs. Whether for your own family dinner table or the big holiday bash, we can help. We’ve been the source of fabulous gourmet extra virgin olive oils and balsamic vinegars for great cooks and newbies alike since 2010. Our wonderful producer in Italy delivers to us the gift of true full flavored olive oils. The balsamics are so delicious and versatile, from salads to marinades to desserts, you’ll soon have your very own favorite can’t live without it private stash. We find many of our customers have shared their love of our products in their own homes, at pot-lucks and even in our store while shopping. Our community of great food lover’s reach all groups.

Throughout the year Love That Olive hosts many Tasting Events. Booking a private event for your special group is easy. We are currently accepting new bookings for January. We also hold Open Tasting Events for those times you can’t get everyone on the same schedule. During the holiday season and typically around other special holidays we have Tasting Weekends to sample new products, give you ideas for gift-giving or highlight new products. There is always something good happening here!

Love That Olive is the year-round Gift Giving Headquarters! Our Mini Boxed Set is extremely popular. Unique Holiday Gifts include Olive Oil skin care, kitchenware, Italian Pastas, flavorful sea salts and seasonings, gluten-free and salt free soup mixes, serving vessels, custom gift baskets and so much more. Need a quick Thank You gift for a special teacher or a Secret Santa gift? You’ll find it here. Who doesn’t love great food or a fun kitchen gadget? And when you just can’t decide, a Love That Olive Gift Card is a perfect choice.


Here at Love That Olive we understand, life is busy! We aim to educate on how easy it is to drizzle your way to a great, quick, delicious meal. Tips, recipes and classes will assist you in your fear of “I can’t cook!”. Be sure to check our website at for recipes, pairing suggestions, and gift ideas. Follow us on Facebook for current events, recipes and fun ideas in your cooking adventures. Our Facebook community is always coming up with delicious ideas for our wide assortment of products. Especially within our Weekly Feature Product post.


Enroll in our Email Club for even more ideas, tips and event announcements. Do you have a birthday? We a have a Club for that as well! Enroll on our website for a special treat from us in your birthday month.

Are you always looking for great recipes? Check in-store for featured recipes, on our website (with a search feature) or our brand new cookbook, The Art of the Olive, filled with tasty dishes for any occasion. Pre-orders are being accepted, with expected delivery right before Christmas.
We hope you will visit us in person or online and experience the taste of Italy and all thing good from Love That Olive. We make food fun!

Learn about the health benefits of:

Terri Chaffer has a passion for olives. She also has a passion for her community. She and her husband, Ron, own and operate Love That Olive in Maple Grove. Their business has grown exponentially by providing products and services around the lifestyle, baking, skin, nutritional, and health benefits of olive, balsamic, and nut oils.  Find their store at 13551 Grove Drive in Maple Grove across from JC Penny.

If you want to learn a ton more listen to the podcast Still Growing with Jennifer Ebling by clicking the audio below. Jennifer sits down with Terri to talk about her experience as an “Oil Bar” owner and her passion for introducing quality oils and balsamics into our everyday cooking. They cover the noble history of the olive tree, how olive oil is processed and marketed, as well as the many varieties Terri sells in her shop.