Best Year for Homes Sales Since 2006

There is no doubt 2013 was a very good year. For the McGinn Group it was the most active year we've had since 2006, so our experience is consistent with the information in this article. We are seeing lower inventory levels which, although typical to this time of year, are still a little lower than what we are accustomed to. In part it's a reflection of reduced foreclosure inventory as well as a lower number of standard sellers coming on market. Some of these sellers may still be underwater on their loans or they may just be reluctant to come back into the market. Either way, lower inventory levels will eventually push up prices. 

Weekends on Wednesday

This week the Chinese New Year
ushers in the year of the horse.

Opening Jan 29th:

The Baltimore Museum of Art
10 Art Museum Drive

More than 35 vivid paintings, drawings, prints, watercolors, and sculpture present an overview of the revolutionary art movement that flourished in Germany during the first three decades of the 20th century.

Feb 1st:

Program begins at 1PM 
Oregon Ridge Nature Center

Will spring come early or late? Find out if the groundhog is awake by searching for dens around the park. Then, see if we can spot early signs of spring. All Ages.  To register call, 410-887-1815. FREE

River & Trail Outfitters
604 Valley Road, Knoxville
11 a.m.  Cost:  $45 per participant

Simply the area's most scenic hike!  The trail begins behind the outfitters with a gradual accent through a picturesque hardwood forest to a spectacular view of two rivers and three states.  Maryland Heights towers above the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers and Harper's Ferry, West Virginia.  Here we will pause to enjoy the view and eat lunch.  The decent is on the front side of the hill with continuing views of the rivers and the town through the trees.  Along the way your guide will interpret the flora, fauna and history of the area.   A short walk beside the Potomac River ends the hike.  Afterwards relax at a local ciderworks with a hard cider tasting or a hot cup of mulled cider..

Noon - 4:00 pm, Last tour begins 3:00 pm 
Josiah Henson Park
Parking is available ONLY at:
the Kennedy Shriver Aquatic Center,
5900 Executive Blvd., North Bethesda

Retrace the footsteps of Reverend Josiah Henson from his enslavement to escape on the Underground Railroad to freedom in Canada. Walk the grounds where Henson toiled as a slave on the Isaac Riley plantation. Learn about his extraordinary life, which inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe's landmark novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin.

The Chocolate Lovers Festival, an annual two-day festival held on the first full weekend of February, features activities for all to enjoy. 
Join us for the Taste of Chocolate, the Chocolate Challenge, the ever-popular Kiwanis Chocolate Chip Pancake Breakfast, open houses at historic buildings and much more. 
Some events require a fee, and other events are free to all visitors. Please see the Events page for a complete list of events.

Feb 2nd:

11 AM
1601 Nicodemus Rd. 

Bring your dog the First SUNDAY of each month at 11 am! Hike on the grounds of our animal shelter’s forested wildlife sanctuary in Reisterstown, led by Dr. Mary Zink, Baltimore Humane Society Veterinary Medical Director of the Low Cost Spay-Neuter Wellness Center. Rain or Shine. Moderate hiking level.

Presented by Pro Musica Rara 

Bach's Oboe According to Ruiz, who recently recorded the complete oboe concertos of Bach with the Portland Baroque Orchestra, Bach and the oboe had a special relationship.

Washington DC

Ring in the Year of the Horse with the annual Chinese lunar new year parade through Chinatown. Expect dragon dances, marching bands, brightly costumed characters from Chinese mythology and fireworks beginning at 2 p.m. The parade route begins at in the intersection of Sixth and I Street NW and finishes at Seventh and H Street NW, where a Chinese street festival takes place from 4 to 6 p.m.

Last Day Feb 2nd: 

The Phillips Collection
1600 21st Street, NW
Washington, DC

An exhibition organized by the Phillips Collection and the Cleveland Museum of Art features more than 30 portraits and landscapes by the artist.

Planning for the Future:

The National Arboretum is going to post their Spring events on February 3. The Full Moon Hikes sell out quickly, so if that is something that interests you, watch for them to be posted, and then register right away! This is something Ninon and I did several years ago. It was terrific! I highly recommend it. 

Maryland Monday

After the deep freeze we've been experiencing lately, it feels positively balmy out there today, at 44°!

Here are some pictures of the fresh snow from last week.

(our dog loves the snow...)
Geese on ice...on Centennial Lake
Centennial Lake 
Centennial Lake
Centennial Lake Shadows

The Little Patuxent River - frozen!

The Little Patuxent River

Weekends on Wednesday

Jan 24-26

Hundreds of Pet Products and Services * Interactive Pet Exhibits * Free Seminars by National Experts on Pet Care and Training * DockDogs® * Johnny Peers Muttville Comix * AKC Dog Agility Trial * Petting Zoo * Parade of Breeds * ACFA Cat Show * In Depth Workshops * Pony Rides * Reptiles & More * Fish

As Mid-Atlantic families brace for frigid forecasts, the 2014 Progressive Insurance Baltimore Boat Show, celebrating its 60th anniversary,transforms the Baltimore Convention Center at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor into a boater’s paradise Thursday-Sunday, January 23-26.

LOVE LOCAL! Howard County’s top chefs are serving up savings with romantic twists on local favorites! Cozy meals at fabulous prix fixe prices from $10.14 – $40.14.

Jan 24 

Comedy doesn't have to be intellectual in order to be funny, but it's a lot more rewarding when the punchline is more than catchphrase. If "Git-R-Done!" never did anything for you, here's Tim Lee, a PhD turned comedian who has (eureka!) actually found a way to make PowerPoint presentations funny. He returns to D.C. for performances Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 6 and 8 p.m.

Jan 25 

Immortal memory presentation; Celtic music address to haggis, sit-down dinner, raffle, toast lads and lassies.

Join more than 25,000 plungers and spectators for a chill in the Chesapeake and a heated festival with vendors, live music, food and more.

the National Museum of Civil War Medicine
This book sale will feature hard-to-find titles on Civil War medicine, the history of medicine, surgeons’ memoirs and biographies, comparative religion, the rise of the scientific study of nature, military medicine, and related topics.

Presented in collaboration with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, the showcase features six to seven distinct choreographic works in a range of styles each year including modern dance, contemporary ballet, aerial choreography, world dance, hip-hop and more.

Ages 14 years and up. Join Jackie “O” of Jackie O Jewelry to discover the craft of wire-working and learn about the natural history of different stones used in jewelry-making. Create a custom-fitted, wearable masterpiece for any wrist size using sterling silver wire and natural stones. All materials for one bracelet are included. Register early to secure your spot as class size is limited. $45 per participant.

Is the winter weather keeping you indoors? Come shake off those winter doldrums by heading to Breezy Hill Farm for it’s first annual Cabin Fever Yarn Party! It will be a fun yarn filled day of spinning, weaving, knitting, or whatever your fancy. Bring your friends and yarn projects to our farm where you can relax in our heated barn – surrounded with the sights and sounds of sustainable farming.

We are excited to have our local fiber mill owners joining us to provide a how-to session on using a peg loom to weave a gorgeous rug in only a few hours. In addition, there will be spinners present who can provide guidance on how to spin roving into yarn. Complimentary hot drinks and desserts will be provided.

Description The Amelia Piano Trio, one of America’s foremost young chamber ensembles, brings their bold and charismatic style to three piano trios by Beethoven. Founded in 1999 by three students of legendary violinist Isaac Stern, the trio has won the ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, and was National Public Radio’s Young Ensemble in Residence in 2003. Violinist Anthea Kreston, cellist Jason Duckles and pianist Andrew Armstrong have also recorded several acclaimed albums, and performed at venues including Carnegie hall and Ravinia in Chicago. Adult $32; Senior $30; Student $12

The Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Chinese Embassy host a morning of family-friendly activities to celebrate the start of the Year of the Horse. The event will include puppetry from the Tianjin Arts Troupe, traditional Chinese music from the Washington Guzheng Society and a performance by the Johns Hopkins University Yong Han Lion Dance group. Guests also can check out a display about giant pandas (and send a message to Bao Bao at the National Zoo), learn calligraphy and make red paper lanterns. Skilled dough sculptors, painters and paper cutters also will demonstrate their crafts. At the Kogod Courtyard.

The Great Zucchini, Washington’s funniest and most magical preschool & kindergarten entertainer, performs a colorful magic show where every child is a star and guaranteed to laugh! For over 15 years, The Great Zucchini has been entertaining young children as a magician and preschool teacher. He performs his hands-on, interactive magic shows for more that 400 groups a year. His experience, coupled with his gentle nature and wacky facial expressions, makes kids immediately feel comfortable and ready to laugh. Washingtonian Magazine has called him “a man with a nearly magical ability to connect with children” and Fox 5 News says in the world of local kid’s entertainment, “there is no bigger name than The Great Zucchini!” The Great Zucchini will be joined by Barry the Magician for this special show. Recommended for ages 2-6. 45 minutes to 1 hour duration  Tickets: $7.50 / $6.00 for members 

Jan 26

Watch one of the longest running, touring marionette theaters in the United States perform Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio. Follow the most well-known wooden boy as he struggles with becoming human. Founded in 1967, this award-winning company specializes in adaptations of popular stories using marionettes as the performance medium. As the sons of artistic director David Syrotiak, puppeteers David and Peter Syrotiak have been building and performing with the company since they were teenagers. Dedicated to keeping the tradition of professional puppetry alive, the two brothers are sure to enthrall an audience of all ages

Peabody Opera performs an abridged version of Humperdinck's immortal classic about a brother and sister lost in the woods, a gingerbread house and a witch! This production is a fabulous introduction for young audiences to the joys of opera. The music, costumes, scenery, and kid-friendly cast of singers are bound to delight family audiences of all ages!

Taste the specialties of area chocolatiers. Enjoy fun and games for the whole family.

Through Feb 9th

Winner of the 1981 Pulitzer Prize and the NY Drama Critics Circle Award, Beth Henley's comedy brings you into the Mississippi household of the Magrath sisters. Babe has just shot her husband because she didn't like his looks. Meg is back in town after a failed attempt in the music business and a nervous breakdown. And poor Lenny - everyone has forgotten her 30th, her pet horse was just struck by lightning! Bad luck certainly runs deep among the Magrath clan. But with warm-hearted laughs and touching family moments, the sisters forgive the past, face the present, and embrace the future in this contemporary American stage classic. 

Maryland Monday

What a beautiful day, today! They say snow is arriving tomorrow, so thank goodness for today.  Ninon even walked to work because the weather was so pleasant, taking pictures all the way. 

Did you know that Columbia has a Path App for the 93.5 miles of walking paths that wander in and through Columbia? 

You can CLICK HERE for the APP

This is the trail along Lake Kittamacundi

and a bridge on the trail...

This path contains one of two par course fitness trails in Columbia...

The old Rouse building on the Lakefront
 is being
renovated and reconstructed
for a new Whole Foods store...

Market Update and Preview

I just received a great update from Tee Tillman of Colony Title  located in Columbia. To me it's an excellent summary of 2013 and a great peek at what to expect for 2014. 

From Tee, 

Welcome to 2014. With a new year comes renewed optimism on the real estate front, and 2014 is no different. But, this time there seems to be some reason for cautious optimism. During 2013 we saw the gradual stabilization of housing prices in most markets, which the experts predict will bring more sellers back into the marketplace. Sellers who previously withheld from putting their homes up for sale are now seeing that they may in fact be able to get their price. That’s good news as most realtors felt there were not enough homes on the market.

Rates will start to creep up as the Fed will gradually ease their purchase of bonds which has held the interest rates below what they should have been. But do not expect a wholesale retreat. The predictions are that the rates will fluctuate between 4.375% and 5.5% with an average just about the 5% mark. This is still well below what we had experienced just a few years ago. There will be a larger gap between the 30 year fixed and the 5/1 ARM so we may see more buyers going to the 5/1 ARM which is predicted to be in the 2.875% to 3.875% range. For first time home buyers who traditionally keep their first home less than five years, it’s a great scenario. By the time they are ready to purchase their first move up property, they will have had time to build equity in their existing home.

Congress has not as of yet acted on the extension of the tax break for those who have received the benefit of loan forgiveness on their principal residence, so look for that to be an action item on the agenda early this year. As of January 1, 2014 if you sold your home via a short sale after that date, you will have to pay taxes on the forgiven debt as “phantom income.” In an article in the Washington Post “according to the National Association of Attorneys General an estimated 7.1 million homes are still in a negative equity position.” To help the real estate recovery, it would seem reasonable for Congress to extend the tax forgiveness for another year.

Quick! Quick! There's Still Some Time!

The National Park Service opens several of their parks for FREE today!


Weekends on Wednesday

Jan 17-19

Maryland State Fairgrounds 
2200 York Road 

Seminars and Clinics, Shopping and Family Fun and Entertainment

Shen Yun 
The Lyric
110 W. Mt Royal Ave. Baltimore
Through the universal language of music and dance, Shen Yun weaves a wondrous tapestry of heavenly realms, ancient legends, and modern heroic tales, taking you on a journey through 5,000 years of Chinese culture.

Jan 17

Oregon Ridge Nature Center
13555 Beaver Dam Road
7-9 PM 
Enjoy the winter night sky with some stargazing and stories. Then, gather around the campfire to roast marshmallows. Ages 6+, $5/ $4Members.

Baltimore Arena
201 W. Baltimore Street, Baltimore

Jan 18

Baltimore Arena
201 W. Baltimore Street, Baltimore
5:30 PM 

Nickelodeon's preschool music group and stars of the hit TV series of the same name will stop by Baltimore Arena in January!

 First come, First served.

Since the August arrival of the National Zoo's giant panda cub, Bao Bao, the Panda Cam-obsessed public has been desperately waiting for its chance to visit Washington's bouncing, black-and-white bundle of joy. Bao Bao - whose name, meaning "treasure," was selected by a public vote - is finally set to make her public debut on Jan. 18. No tickets will be required; visitors can see the littlest panda on a first-come, first-served basis. Members of Friends of the National Zoo will get a chance to see her a bit earlier, with exclusive access to the panda habitat Jan. 11-Jan. 17.

Until Jan 19

Baltimore Museum of Art
10 Art Museum Drive, Baltimore
Wednesday–Friday      10 am–5 pm
Saturday–Sunday      11 am–6 pm
Monday–Tuesday      Closed
Admission is free...always!

Book your table at over 200 Washington Area Restaurants for a 3-course Lunch at $20.14 or Dinner at $35.14 or Both!

Jan 18-20

Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture
830 E. Pratt St.

Jan 20

12:00 PM
Steps off at Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and Eutaw Street, and travels south on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard

featuring Dionne Warwick
Presented by The Kennedy Center and Georgetown University
Free tickets are required


The Library of Congress
Monday to Saturday, 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM
The exhibition will be on display through Saturday, March 1, 2014, in the Graphic Arts Galleries on the ground level of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C.

"A Day Like No Other" will consist of 42 black-and-white images. These photographs—from newspaper and other media photographers, independent photojournalists and people who participated in the march—represent the cross-section of individuals who were there. Part of the collections in the Library’s Prints and Photographs Division, the images convey the immediacy of being at the march and the palpable excitement of those who were there. The exhibition will allow visitors to rediscover the context and ongoing legacy of this important event in the country’s history.
Free and open to the public.

Until Jan 26

Until Feb 23

 When a big Hollywood film crew takes over a small Irish town, the locals line up to earn their “40-quid-a-day” as extras—and maybe pursue some dreams of their own. Charlie wants to write a blockbuster screenplay, while Jake would settle for a date with the lovely leading lady. Where they and their neighbors end up ultimately surprises them all. An “uproarious, joyful evening” (New York Daily News) with two actors playing more than a dozen characters, Stones is an acting tour de force both rollicking and poignant.

Maryland Monday


One of the things I love about Maryland close to Washington DC, where I can go watch the Washington Capitals play! 

They won on Friday! Woo Hoo! 

Go Caps Go!

How's the Weather, eh?

It looks like 2014 came in like a lion! Wait, isn't that supposed to be March? 

Here's a link to a YouTube video about weather in Toronto, Canada. I think it works for the US as well. Rick Mercer might be making fun, but there's a lot of truth in it.


Either way the New Year is upon us and here is an interesting article which gives a few reasons why 2014 should be better than 2013. What do you think? 

Weekend Planning...what looks good to you?


The Blue Man Group
Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore

Through March 2nd:

The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard & Shirley Kinsey - Where Art & History Intersect is a world-class collection of art and artifacts chronicling over 400 years of African American history and culture from the 1600s to the present. Highlights include an early copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, a signed copy of Brown vs. Board of Education and rare works from early 19th century artists.

9th -12th:

Olney Theatre Center

Every Friday:

(with instruction before)
Silver Spring

Friday, Jan 10

on the Eastern Shore
(Remember The Runaway Bride? This is the town where that movie was filmed. It's charming!)
Jurassic Park
Alexandria, VA 22302 ‎ 

Viva Violins followed by an Instrument Petting Zoo
10 - 11 am
Capitol Hill, DC

The violin grows up in the spotlight in this program which tells the tale of three little violins and how their mother teaches them to “sing.” Join violinists Elisabeth Adkins, Paula Akbar, Holly Hamilton, and Jane Bowyer Stewart as they grow the musical experience from sweet lullabies like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” all the way to breathtaking Bach. Immediately following the performance, young people will enjoy the Musical Instrument “Petting Zoo,” a project of the Women’s Committee for the NSO.
Cost: Free!

Saturday, Jan 11

Star Storytelling: Our Constellations (Parent/Child) 
11 to 11:30 AM  
Ages 3-8 years with an adult. Let your little one discover the stories behind our favorite constellations through views of space, stories and song in our NatureSphere digital planetarium. The theme for this month is "There's No Place Like Space!" Tickets are $3 per person with Robinson daily admission or annual pass.
Discovery Days
11:30 AM to Noon
Introduce your child to native plants and animals through games, stories and crafts. Themes and activities vary by week. This program is for 3 to 10 year old children with an adult chaperone. Each program is available on a first-come, first-served basis to the first 15 children and their adult chaperone. Free with daily admission or Robinson annual pass. No registration necessary. 

NEW! Saturday Star Matinees 
2 to 2:30 PM
Ages 5 years and up. Under 17 not admitted without an adult. Treat your family to an afternoon full-dome movie in the NatureSphere planetarium. This program features the film "Earth, Moon & Sun". For a preview of the film, click here. Tickets are $3 per person with Robinson daily admission or annual pass. 
10 AM
Howard County Conservancy
With Ray Bosmans.  What’s so great about snakes? Ray Bosmans knows them all and loves to share his fascination about reptiles with children and adults! Come see some of his collection of live snakes - even a rare albino – many local to our back yards, others more exotic. Learn their special habits, amazing adaptations, and interesting stories. You’re sure to have a new appreciation of them in the future.  FREE

Sunday, Jan 12: 

4 PM
St John's College, Annapolis
Francis Scott Key Auditorium
No tickets or reservations are required; however, seating is limited. A reception takes place immediately after the performance. Free parking is available at the Calvert Street Garage located at Calvert and St. John’s streets. For more information, call 410-626-2536.

Maryland Monday

We got a good snow fall this week. Everything is covered in a beautiful white blanket. But if you want to see what Winter was like where I grew up, in South Porcupine (Yep. You read that right.), be sure to scroll down to the bottom and watch the video!


Weekend Fun

Absolutely done-in at days end   

Again, this isn't exactly Weekends on Wednesday, since yesterday was New Year's and all. But here are a few things you might find interesting for this weekend, all the same.

Happy 2014!



Jan 3rd

Warm up for this year's World Cup (in Brazil) by watching our local team play at the Baltimore Arena. Americans aren't generally known for their love of soccer, so maybe this is a good time to brush up your soccer IQ.
Baltimore Blasts vs. Missouri Comets

Jan 4th

Ongoing in January:

Skiing and Tubing in Pennsylvania! It's not too far!
Imagination Stage in Bethesda
Until Jan 10
Oregon Ridge Nature Center
Join us on Saturdays and Sundays in January for a Naturalist’s choice animal encounter and activity. Activities may be a story, craft or outdoor exploration. Free!

National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, Washington DC