Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Eight Ways to Save Energy in the Summer

Conserving energy is good for the environment, and also an easy way to keep money in your wallet. Summer is a great time to focus on conserving natural energy- and we’re not talking about afternoon siestas, although naps sound like a good idea too! Here are several ways to reduce your energy consumption this summer:

1. Ditch the dryer and hang your clothes outside to dry. Turn dark clothes inside out to keep them from fading in the sunlight. Your clothes will smell summer fresh and your electricity bill will take a nosedive.

2. Focus on eating locally. Check out the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market, or give your green thumb a run for its money by planting a small garden in the backyard of your Ann Arbor home. Not a lot of yard room? Grow vegetables and herbs in small planters on the balcony of your Ann Arbor condominium. Eating locally grown and produced food reduces fuel consumption used when transporting products across the country.

3. Become a bike commuter. The warm summer months are the ideal time of year to use your own pedal power to get you back and forth from work. Don’t forget to pack a bike lock, and throw a plastic bag over your bike seat in case an unexpected shower pops up.

4. Take a “stay-cation.” Enjoy a summer Michigan vacation in the Great Lake State. Staying close to home will give you more time to enjoy your vacation, rather than traveling to get to your destination. You’ll also cut down on the amount of gas you use, not to mention the cost of a plane ticket.

5. Cook multiple meals at once and reduce the time your oven is on. You’ll keep your house cooler and save on power at the same time. Cook a bit more than you normally would, and use the leftovers for a second meal. If you’re roasting a chicken, have one meal of chicken, potato salad and corn on the cob, and use the leftover chicken for a chicken Caesar salad the next day. Utilize a toaster oven or a grill for cooking when possible, as these generally use less power than a full-size oven.

6. Scout garage sales for back-to-school clothes and school supplies. Freecycle yahoo groups and the free section of Craiglist.com are also good places to find recycled treasures. Using new-to-you goods reduces the energy and packaging required to make new products.

7. Enjoy local summer fairs and festivals instead of the TV. Power down the television and get outside to enjoy the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, Top of the Park, Art Fair, and the many events in the Washtenaw County area. Bonus points if you bike or take a bus to get there!

8. Turn off the lights and open the curtains. Keep your shades closed if the sun is pouring in the windows, in order to reduce the heat inside your home. But, when the sun moves, throw open the shades to let natural light in.

Use these easy tips to reduce your energy consumption and feel good, knowing you’re doing your part to help the environment. And now, about that siesta…

Image courtesy Flickr: Professor Bop

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A2 Biker Talks about Riding on Two Wheels

Andrew Yapp is a 27 year old Ann Arbor native who gave up his car eight years ago in favor of using a bike as his sole form of transportation. And by bike, I mean the kind powered with his own two legs. Andrew gave up his car, an older model Honda, in favor of biking- to work from his Ann Arbor home, to the store, to visit his friends, to travel- basically, everywhere. He’s currently on a cross-country bike trip that has taken him from San Francisco to Mexico to Florida, to Washington, D.C and back to the west coast, with a stop in Ann Arbor. This major jaunt is his fourth cross-county bike trip. I caught up with Andrew recently to talk about what it’s like to be a bike commuter in Ann Arbor and around the country.

How long have you been a bike commuter?
I've been commuting on my bike since 2001.

Why do you bike instead of driving a car?

Lots of reasons. I never go to the gym because I get my workout on the bicycle. It's environmentally friendly and saves me tons of money. The League of American Cyclists states that the average bike commuter saves around $1,200 per year just by choosing the bike instead of a car. Also, riding a bike is great for peace of mind. It makes you slow down a bit and take quiet roads to avoid the frustration of traffic congestion.

Do you own a car? If not, how long have you been car-less?
No, I don't own a car, and have not since 2001.

How do you bike in bad weather?
I weatherize the bike and myself with fenders, raingear, warm cloths, and sometimes different tires.

Have you ever run into a problem while biking?
I have gotten a few flat tires and other mechanical issues, but nothing as bad or expensive to repair as a car. Unfortunately, lack of bike paths and reckless drivers are a concern in some areas.

Do you commute to work, ride for fun, or both?
Everything by bicycle!

To continue reading, click here.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Mayor's Green Fair Ann Arbor MI - Photos

Photos from the Mayor's Green Fair in Downtown Ann Arbor MI - The Green Fair in Downtown Ann Arbor was packed! What a blast. If you are into alternative transportation ideas, bicycling, electric vehicles, the Green Fair had a lot to offer. Many of the local Ann Arbor bicycle shops were in attendance showing off some interesting products. Bicycle touring groups were well represented too. Not nearly enough electric assist bikes though. Hope to see more of these in the future. Take a look at the photos, with more at Andy Piper's Flickr page:

Lots of bikes flying around - right on Main Street!

Models of bullet trains around the world. I want my bullet train! Models by Largebeat Rail Lines, Ann Arbor, MI. Is high speed rail coming to Michigan? Obama's stimulus package includes $30 billion for rail and mass transit projects including $850 for Amtrak and $2 billion for high -speed rail.
Retro Dutch bike. Wood chain guard, leather handlebar grips. Loaded up with Shimano Deore components. Most unique bike I have seen in a while.

The Guys from Sic Transit Cycles. Check out their new shop at 1933 Broadway, Ann Arbor MI. Specializing in repair and slaes of used and reconditioned vintage bicycles. They will gladly upgrade your old school bike inot a hot fixed gear or updated multi gear bike. For those of you who remember the bike boom days of the 1970's these guys have your number.

Add ImageDetroit Electric Car beautifully restored - from 1916

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ann Arbor Art Center Celebrates 100 Years at Friday’s Centennial Celebration

The Ann Arbor Art Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to making art accessible to everyone, is holding an open house Friday to celebrate their 100 year anniversary. This centennial celebration will be held Friday, June 12, from 6:30-10 p.m., and will kick off the Art Center’s 100th year celebration.

Explore the Art Center’s newly remodeled building as you enjoy games, contests, creating art, wheel-throwing clay demonstrations, refreshments and dancing to live music by the Harris Basement Jazz Collective band. The celebration will include the unveiling of the Art Center’s commemorative bike hoops located throughout downtown Ann Arbor.

The Art Center’s mission is to be a dynamic organization engaging the community in education, exhibition and exploration of the visual arts, and their vision is to be energized by the diversity of participants, the quality and depth of programs and an informal atmosphere that welcomes everyone.

The center offers art creation and appreciation courses, for both beginners and serious students, in art mediums like clay, paint, pencil, pastel, metal, fiber, paper and canvas. They also feature monthly public exhibits, and a gallery shop promoting regional artists. Classes are open to all ages, and last year over 200 children enjoyed free art classes for a year, courtesy of the Art Center’s Art for Kids Scholarship campaign.

Enjoy browsing through the Ann Arbor Art Gallery on Friday evening. You might find a gorgeous piece of artwork for your Ann Arbor home, who knows, it might even be something you create yourself!

The art center has posted the following disclaimer on their website:
The Ann Arbor Art Center is not responsible if one minute of browsing turns into one hour of salivating over all the choices, which in turn, prevents an individual from completing their daily tasks and inspires said individual to quit their job and take art classes all day. It could happen. Consider yourself warned.

Photo courtesy Flickr:Voxphoto

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mayor’s Green Fair is Friday in Ann Arbor

Enjoy an evening in downtown Ann Arbor this Friday, at the ninth annual Mayor’s Green Fair on Main Street. This annual event will take place Friday, June 12, from 6 to 9 p.m.

Enjoy entertainment from country rock band “Corndaddy,” and the funky world beat of “Muruga and the Rainforest Band.” Kids will have fun with earth-friendly kids songs by Joe Reilly and the tunes of alternative pop and punk music by “My Biography.” Browse through over 100 exhibits with information on the environment, clean energy, green construction, and transportation options. Hands-on activities will keep youth engaged.

More than 50 environmental nonprofit organizations will be represented at the Green Fair, with information on the environment and “Waste Knot.” The Clean Energy Coalition will feature displays on saving energy in your Ann Arbor home, alternative fuel vehicles, green building materials, and solar energy.

BikeFest 2009 will take place during the event, offering free bike skills demonstrations, maintenance clinics, and information from local bike shops and area biking and walking organizations. Information on sustainable transportation options will be available, and walking tours of the area will be offered. For more information on the Mayor’s Green Fair, call 734-794-6161, extension 41602.

Friday is also the start of Ann Arbor’s Restaurant Week, making it the perfect day to enjoy some sweet eats at one of the city’s premier restaurants. Work up an appetite browsing through the Mayor’s Green Fair, and enjoy a sumptuous dinner and people watching as you dine on the patio of one of Main Street’s many restaurants.

Photo courtesy Flickr: Chasqui

Finding the Best Ice Cream in Ann Arbor

There’s no shortage of ice cream shops in Ann Arbor, and we’ve done the hard work of tasting ice cream, frozen yogurt, and gelato from all over the city, to help you separate the cream from the crème de la crème. Here, in no particular order, are our favorite ice cream shops, dairies, and restaurants that keep us coming back again and again, screaming for more ice cream.

Coldstone Creamery-
Sure, it’s a chain, but this is the go-to place if you crave “stuff” in your ice cream. Their signature is combining premium ice cream with mix-in fixins such as cookies, brownies, candy bars, nuts, and other delish toppings. The ice cream is scooped out of the cooler, then spread on a slab of cold marble, sprinkled with toppings, then blended together by hand. Your best bang for your buck is to buy a larger size- even a pint- and split it. My favorite? Cinnamon ice cream with heath bar toppings. Sign up online to get a free ice cream on your birthday.

This Ann Arbor-based company also serves up hand-mixed toppings. Their ice cream is top of the line, the staff is friendly, and the toppings are sweet. What else could you want? Ask for the cookies and cream ice cream, even if you don’t see it out front, they might just have a secret stash in the back. Stucchis claims their gourmet frozen yogurt tastes as good as ice cream. Try a taste test and find out for yourself!

Ben and Jerry’s-
This chain, which opened in Vermont in 1978 serving scoops out of a renovated gas station, is known for their creative flavors and funky named concoctions. Chunky monkey, anyone? Their storefront outlet on State Street street serves up a heavenly coconut seven layer bar. Trust us.

The aroma of freshly-made waffle cones entices you into this popular ice cream parlor, which opened in northern Michigan in 1947. Kilwins has expanded into twelve states, but is still based in the Great Lake State. Not limited to just ice cream, Kilwins also offers chocolates, candy, and little gift items. The perfect stop for a last minute birthday gift, enjoy a cone as you browse through the shop.

Dairy Queen-
The nostalgia of Dairy Queen, along with the perfectly-shaped cone with chocolate topping draws customers in. Sure, they serve up a great blizzard, but you know you really want that cone with the little loop of ice cream on top.

Washtenaw Dairy-
This Ann Arbor parlor probably hasn’t changed a bit since it was founded 75 years ago. You’ll find families gathered around the outside of the store, which is on the corner of Madison and South Ashley, enjoying their cones on hot summer nights. A true neighborhood ice cream hot spot, this is a great destination for a summer bike ride from your Ann Arbor home. The scoops are big, and the selection is vast. Try the ice cream floats and shakes for a real treat!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ann Arbor's Traverwood Library featured in documentary

Ann Arbor's New Traverwood Library located in Northeast Ann Arbor neighborhood featured in documentary.
While visitors can literally see and feel what went into the building of Ann Arbor's Traverwood Branch Library, viewers of "Up From Ashes," can relive how the building came to existence. Developers took a unique approach by harvesting hundreds of ash trees that were devastated by the Emerald Ash borer and reused the trees in the building.

The "Up From Ashes" story was researched and chronicled in a documentary produced by KDN Films Inc., in Madison Heights, Michigan. The hour-long documentary will be broadcast on Detroit Public Television on Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 8 p.m. (source)

Photo Flickr Andypiper

Monday, June 8, 2009

Planning a Perfect Garage Sale

Garage sales are a great way to clean out your house of things you aren’t using, and make a bit of money in the process. Garage sales are an earth-friendly form of recycling, and fulfill the mantra “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” They are an easy way to move things you no longer need out of your house, while offering them at a great price to someone who can use them.

If you’re preparing your Ann Arbor home for sale, once you’ve booked your Ann Arbor realtor, take a day or two to de-clutter and simplify your living quarters. Having sleek, open spaces makes your house look roomier and more appealing to potential buyers. You’ll be thankful you took time to de-clutter your home, giving you less things to pack and unpack after you sell your home.

Planning is key for a smooth garage sale. Here are some tips to make your garage sale a success:

1. Find out if your town or neighborhood is having a community garage sale, and plan your sale for the same day. The more sales being held one centralized area, the more likely you are to attract a large crowd. Plus, community garage sales are usually well-advertised, saving you from having to do all the advertising on your own.

2. If your community isn’t holding sale, team up with some friends to hold your garage sales together. Choose the house that has the greatest street traffic. Buy colored stickers to use as price tags- each person has one color sticker. Peel the price tags off the items and save them as items are sold. You’ll be able to easily calculate the proceeds at the end of the day.

3. Advertise your sale for free on Craiglist and Facebook. See if your community newspaper has a “notices” section where you can place a small notice. Create signs to post near your sale directing motorists to your home. Recycled political yard signs work well for this. Remember - more signs = more traffic.

4. Organize the sale items by category- all house wares together, all clothes together, all children’s toys together, etc. Grouping like items together will make your sale look tidy, and will help buyers quickly find things they’re interested in.

5. Understand that buyers may want to negotiate prices, so think about whether you’re willing to bargain, and what your bottom line price is for big-ticket items.

6. Be ready before your advertised start time. Professional antiquers and garage sale hunters always arrive early to scope out the best deals. Don’t be surprised if you advertise a starting time of 8 a.m., and have potential buyers hanging around at 7 a.m.

7. Be sure to stock up on small currency- have lots of one dollar bills and change on hand.

8. Recruit your friends and family to help you on the day of the sale. You’ll want at least two people helping “man” the event- that way, if one needs to run into the house for a break, the other person can keep on eye on things.

Have a great time at your garage sale, and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing you’re helping keep things out of landfills, while beautifying your home and simplifying your life.
Photo courtesy Flickr: John Beagle

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Ann Arbor Restaurant Week offers Special Dining Deals

Enjoy Flavors from Around the World at Downtown Ann Arbor Eateries

Make reservations now for Ann Arbor’s Restaurant Week, which begins Friday. Modeled after Restaurant Week in New York City, Restaurant Week is a great chance to try the cuisine at restaurants you haven’t been to before and to enjoy the menus at your favorite eaters. The event features prix-fixe menus, with lunch prices set at $12 and a three course dinner for $25. Some restaurants are offering two meals for the price of one, to help your dining dollar stretch further. The set menu pricing allows you to enjoy restaurants you haven’t been to before, at a great price.

Restaurant week starts Friday, June 12, and runs through Friday, June 19, offering a full week of decadent dining at some of Ann Arbor’s finest restaurants. More than twenty downtown restaurants are participating in this event, which is sure to draw people from all over the area. From vegetarian to Indian to fondue to seafood, Restaurant week has cuisine to tempt every taste bud. Browse through the menus posted online from each participating restaurant. Several eateries are offering wine and drink specials, as well as special pricing on wine flights.

Ann Arbor has a diverse assortment of restaurants offering cuisine from around the world. Treat Restaurant Week as a mini-vacation, and experience the flavors of exotic lands. Only a short drive from your Ann Arbor home, the flavors of the world await you. Experience the best of Ann Arbor dining during Restaurant Week.

Image courtesy Flickr: Voxphoto

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Update-Ann Arbor Condos for Rent or Lease

Looking for an Ann Arbor condo for rent in Ann Arbor? If you are getting a little panic stricken about finding a NICE place to live in Ann Arbor for the upcoming University of Michigan school year we can help. We have seem most of the MLS listed inventory and if you tell us what you are looking for, chances are we can make short work of finding you a clean, reasonably priced home or condo for rent.

Take a look at current Ann Arbor lease listings here:

houses for rent/lease $,000 - $1,000 per month
houses for rent/lease $1,000 - $2,000 per month
houses for rent/lease $2,000 - $3,000 per month
houses for rent/lease $3,000 - $5,000 per month

condos for rent/lease $000 - $10000 per month,

condos for rent/lease $1,000 - $1,500 per month

condos for rent/lease $1,500 - $2,000 per month

condos for rent/lease $2,000 - no maximum

Many people contact us about downtown Ann Arbor condos for sale or lease. Downtown Ann Arbor inventory is low, with very few offerings presently available in Ashley Terrace, Liberty Lofts, Lofts 322, or Sloan Plaza. Prices for these developments start at about $1,700 for 1 bedroom condos 2 bedroom condos in downtwon Ann Arbor start around $2,200 and go up from there.

You might want to consider Plymouth Green Crossings, located three miles north-east of downtown at Plymouth and Green roads. These are new luxury loft style condos, 2 bedroom 2 bath units with detached garages. Plymouth Green offers the best value right now for an in-town Ann Arbor condo development. Prices for leases in Plymouth Green run about 1/3 less than in downtown Ann Arbor. The models are beautifully decorated and the location is excellent - contact Andy Piper for a tour.

Many people come to us after looking at A LOT of inappropriate listings on their own, and we often can identify a good match while showing only a few places. We know the inventory and have sorted out most of the bad stuff. If you are in a hurry to find the right place we can solve your problems. We have even helped people find a place in Ann Arbor when they can't make a visit. Se can identify a few choices and send you location info and custom photos tours to help you make the right choice on an Ann Arbor condo or home rental.

If you are looking for an Ann Arbor area condo for lease - Call Andy Piper directly at 734-604-8242

Photowalk - Capture The Beauty of Ann Arbor!

If you like to capture images of Ann Arbor and post them on photos sharing sites such as Flickr, then you won't want to miss this event. (from Ann Arbor District Library)

Saturday June 27, 2009: 10:00 am to 11:30 am -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

Bring your camera and explore Ann Arbor! Photowalk is a fun way to capture photos of the beauty of Ann Arbor and then post them online for all to see. Our first Photowalk is held in conjunction with the Library’s summer reading program, Local Motion - which encourages the use of local Ann Arbor neighborhoods, gyms, recreational facilities and outdoor areas to explore Ann Arbor and get fit. We will begin with presentations by several local photography experts, including: Myra Klarman, professional photographer specializing in studio and lifestyle portraits, Michael C. Myers, local photographer and a founding member of the Ann Arbor Crappy Camera Club, and Leisa Thompson, Ann Arbor News Staff Photographer. Following the lecture, at 11:30 am, we will go out in small groups to photograph Ann Arbor. The results will be an online exhibit of your photos in the aadl.org pictureAnnArbor collection.

Image: Flickr numstead

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ann Arbor Historic Movie Theaters

Enjoy a Modern Movie in a Historic Theater

A movie is a great way to pass a rainy afternoon or a hot weekend evening. Downtown Ann Arbor has two beautiful historic theaters that show indie films and new releases. These beautiful structures are great examples of historical Ann Arbor real estate.

The Ann Arbor State Theater is a landmark on the eastern side of town. Located on busy State Street in an area frequented by students and tourists alike, the theater draws a diverse audience for its equally diverse films.

The historic venue was built in 1942, and was the last commercial building to be completed in Ann Arbor after the start of World War II. Architect C. Howard Crane, who also designed Detroit’s Fox Theater, designed the two-story building, whose construction was slowed due to the rationing of construction materials during the war. The lower level of converted to retail space twenty years ago. The State Theater plays independent and creative films, and offers discounts for matinee shows, as well as students, seniors and children.

The Michigan Theater opened to the public in 1928, and featured a pipe organ and orchestra pit, to provide accompaniment music for silent films. In the summer of 1928, the Michigan Theater introduced Ann Arbor to “talkie” movies. Residents enjoyed opera and theatre shows, but the talkie movies were the biggest draw.

Restored in the late 1980s, the theater now features both a historic auditorium and a newer screening room. The historic auditorium is home to the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, and also features a state-of-the-art movie sound system. The screening Room is a venue for showing contemporary foreign, independent American and documentary films.

Enjoy spending a few hours where the past meets the present, at one of Ann Arbor’s historic movie theaters.

Image courtesy Flickr: fabi_k

Monday, June 1, 2009

GM Bad News and Tough Times

Mark Ijlal who publishes the Michigan Foreclosure Report blog published a great post this morning about keeping a good attitude and focusing on sustaining and growing your business in an environment filled with bad news. The GM bankruptcy will be annouced this morning and with it a ton of negative news about the Detroit metro area. DON'T let it drag you down. From Mark's blog:

"The unthinkable is happening. GM is bankrupt. Under government ownership with four brands (Hummer, Saab, Pontiac, Saturn) on the chopping block.

With this you and I are about to be hit by a massive wave of negative news both from the Internet, TV, talk radio, newspapers and every conversation that you will have in the coming week.

Yeah I understand - it is pretty depressing. My brother-in-law, my neighbor, several dozen of my friends all work for GM in one capacity or another.

But sinking in a sea of bad news for the next two weeks is not going to do them, you or me any good." Read the rest of the post here.

My wife and I both from the Metro Detroit Area and have lived through serious recessions in the 80's and 90's. When we moved to Ann Arbor in 1996, we bought a house in a great community and determined that are here for the long haul. We are raising our kids here and making a living self employed as an Ann Arbor real estate agent in one of the toughest economies in generations.

How does one succeed in times like this? Here is my advise -
  1. Stay Positive: It all starts with a positive attitude and thinking. Big things are possible in yours and my business, in some ways even more possible now than before.
  2. Cut expenses. Rethink everything. Reduce, eliminate or defer expenses.
  3. Find new business niches - Shift your business focus. Traditional real estate sales are accounting for a much smaller portion of our business than in the past. Many families are looking to lease an Ann Arbor home or condo rather than buy. So we have gotten very good at leasing properties. we are placing several families and University of Michigan students a week in lease properties. We're focused on helping first time home buyers take advantage of the $8000 tax credit for first time home buyers and great deals on distressed properties - foreclosure homes and short sales - and have identified the areas that offer the best deals and values for these buyers. We have also gotten even more aggressive with our Internet marketing for sellers so that every qualified buyer sees our listings.
We will all get through all of ths and come out stronger because of it!
Photo credit: Flickr Heidigoseek