House museum holiday

Time-travel to the 1870s to experience a Victorian Christmas at the Alexander Ramsey House in St. Paul. The opulent mansion was built by Ramsey, Minnesota’s first territorial governor, in the fashionable Irvine Park neighborhood. The 11,000-square-foot home was equipped with the latest technology, including hot and cold running water, gas lighting and steam-heated radiators.

Today the rooms are filled with thousands of original items, including ornaments and Christmas gifts. During the Minnesota Historical Society-guided tours, guests can sample cookies fresh from the wood-burning stove, listen to popular holiday music played on the family’s Steinway piano and find out how the Ramsey family and servants prepared for and celebrated the Christmas season.

“A Victorian Christmas” tours are 60 minutes long and start every half-hour, Wed.-Sun. through Jan. 1, except Dec. 25, at 265 Exchange St., St. Paul. Cost is $11 for adults; $9 for seniors and college students; $7 for ages 5-17, with a $3 discount for Historical Society members. Go to or call 651-296-8760.

Fairy garden how-to

Learn how to design a miniature fairy landscape using tiny plants and accessories at a free Holiday Fairy Garden Workshop, 2:30 p.m. Dec. 4 at Gertens, 5500 Blaine Av., Inver Grove Heights. Fairy gardens are ideal for easy-care indoor containers. All ages are welcome. Register at



Kitchen, bath trends

Kitchens and bathrooms remain top selling features when it comes to real estate. How does one stay on trend without being trendy?

The key is to incorporate elements that are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also highly functional. Not sure what may be worth your hard-earned renovation dollars? Here are 10 trends in kitchens and bathrooms that should help keep you on the right path.


1. Lacquer cabinets. Lacquer cabinets are more popular than wood. Sleek and minimal, a lot of homeowners love the low maintenance and modern edge.

2. Two-tone cabinets. From mixing materials to mixing finishes and colors, cabinets that don’t necessarily match are en vogue. The application is typically executed with an upper cabinet in one finish contrasted with a different finish or material on lower cabinets.

3. Highly functioning kitchens, with niche items such as steam ovens and pot fillers. Not long ago, kitchens that were attractive but not necessarily functional were on the forefront of design. Now, postrecession, homeowners demand the most for their money, and this includes sturdy, long-lasting appliances.

4. Paneled appliances. It remains a trend to have appliances that are unseen. Paneled appliances, from dishwashers to refrigerators, are the desired choice.

5. Dark floors. Roughly a decade ago, when it came to flooring, the lighter the better. These days the trend is toward darker, deeper tones.


1. Wallpaper. It was insanely popular in the ’70s, on walls and even ceilings. Wallpaper made a comeback years ago, and remains red hot. The bolder the better.

2. Deep soaking tubs. Spas are highly desirable to potential buyers and homeowners.

3. Separate showers and bathtubs. If space is available, creating a separate shower, preferably with rain-shower features, is the way to go.

4. Walk-in showers. The luxuriousness of a walk-in shower promotes feelings of serenity, calm and luxury.

5. Sculptural faucets and fixtures. Utilitarian is out, and sculptural statement pieces are in.

CATHY HOBBS, Tribune News Service