Welcome to Homegirls. You'll find a sassy sampling of décor and design tips, frank conversation about everything from holidays and homekeeping to home improvement and our picks and pans of new products, stores and events.

Contributors: Kim Palmer, Lynn Underwood, Connie Nelson, Kim Ode and Nicole Hvidsten.

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Posts about Improvement and repair

Conquering the world, one plunger at a time

Posted by: Nicole Hvidsten Updated: April 17, 2013 - 9:09 AM

With thoughts of spring cleaning delayed with spring itself, it's been the perfect weather to curl up and start whittling away at the stack of magazines that have been accumulating. After recycling anything related to the holidays (what can I say, life is busy), I was left with a manageable pile of inspirational articles beckoning me to improve my life, home and everything in it.

The May issue of HGTV magazine highlighted 10 things everyone should know how to fix, and gave a short primer on how to do them. I was feeling good that I knew how to do the majority of them, and even better that my two teenage daughters are starting to chip away at the list, too:

Unclogging a toilet. Nothing causes more arguments in our house than a clogged toilet. We have a strict "you clog, you fix" rule, which comes with a fair amount of finger-pointing and is often i

gnored. One year we put toilet plungers alongside the candy canes in the Christmas stockings. I found it amusing and practical. Teenage daughters? Not so much. But even if it's not a Christmas gift, a good plunger is a must-have.

Snaking a shower drain. Three females in our house, all with long hair. A necessary -- and sometimes disgusting -- evil. You won't be sorry to have a small plumbing snake around the house. But you might want to keep it in a safe place -- little boys have a field day.

Installing a dimmer switch. Thanks to a poorly lit house, I have little need for dimmer switches. But if you know how to install one of these, a new light fixture isn't far behind. Nor are the automatic sensors that shut off lights when your children fail to do so. (The sensors are currently on my to-do list; lightbulbs are not cheap.) Fresh light fixtures can have a big impact on a room or the outside of a house. And now you can do it yourself!

Patching holes in the wall. Spackle can be a gal's best friend when you're just filling nail holes, but bigger holes require a little more effort. This article used wooden matches (not the end you light) to fill holes; I've also read that glue-soaked paper towels can do the trick. Mastering one of these will help fill the gaps left by those annoying yet necessary wall anchors.

Switching out a showerhead. Sounds easy, and it is. But did you know that wrapping plumber's tape around the threads will help get a better seal and prevent leaks? You're welcome.

Removing a broken key from a lock. If part of the key is still sticking out and you have a needle-nose pliers, you're in luck. Key buried inside the lock? Take a deep breath and call a locksmith.

Repairing a stripped screw hole and removing a stripped screw head.  After more than a couple of misfires with the electric screwdriver, you'd think I'd be a pro at dealing with stripped screws. Will definitely go back to this one.

Caulking around the tub. Three kids, all love water and long baths and showers. I should have mastered this years ago.

Using a fire extinguisher. I hate to even admit this, but I don't even have one. But I do have a birthday coming up ...

What are some fix-it tips you think everyone should know? Share your best tips with us.

Color us ready for spring!

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: April 2, 2013 - 11:12 AM


We're all starving for a little color after this exceedingly long gray winter.

I'm already dreaming of the palette for this year's containers flanking my front door. Will I go dramatic, with orange-red blooms and some black foliage to set them off? Or more fresh and springy, with bright pink and lime green?

Maybe I'll even paint my boring brown door a fun new color. I tried that once on my first house, after admiring a taupe-and-mulberry color scheme on another house in the neighborhood. But the color that looked mulberry on the little paint chip ended up looking bright purple once it covered my whole door. I grew to like my purple door, but the next owner painted over it immediately. Back to boring brown.

If you're curious how a bold color might look on your front door, check out this gallery at Curbly, the St. Paul-based DIY website  (http://www.curbly.com/users/diy-maven/posts/10559-eye-candy-6-colorful-front-doors)



Color can do a lot to perk up and unify a landscape, as well as the house itself. One of last year's Beautiful Gardens contest winners used bright cobalt-blue containers to create a unifying color scheme in her garden. Even a vintage clothesline pole, used as a trellis, got a coat of cobalt spray paint. 

If you could use some help with your exterior color scheme, considering entering the "Shake It Up" Exterior Color Contest now underway via DaVinci Roofscapes, a Kansas City-based roofing company. The winner will receive a $5,000 cash grand prize to help add color to the home exterior.

To enter, you can "Like" the DaVinci Facebook page  and submit a digital photo of your home's exterior, along with a brief description (250 words or less) of how you want to "shake up" the exterior of your home with color. (Deadline is April 21). A color expert will  choose five finalists, then work with an artist to create renderings and product lists showing how the five finalists could transform their home exteriors. Then the five photos and artist renderings will be posted on the contest site from May 13-26 for online public voting, with the cash going to the home with the most votes.

What color are you craving this spring? And how do you plan to use it on the home front? 




Fixing stuff in Ramsey County

Posted by: Kim Ode Updated: February 25, 2013 - 1:25 PM


 The success of Hennepin County's Fixit-It clinics has prompted a company east of the Mississippi to do likewise.


Fixity is a small St. Paul business founded in 2011 for the purpose of giving people a place where they can bring many household items that are on the fritz. At best, they can be repaired. At worst, recycled. The whole Idea is to keep landfills from being loaded up with old toasters and lamps.

Fixity's cool company image is at right.

The repairers on Fixity's staff usually charge a nominal hourly fee for their expertise. But on Saturday, March 2, they're opening their shop for their first-ever F.R.E.E -- Fix and Repair Everything Event -- from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Linwood Recreational Center, 860 St. Clair Av., in St. Paul.

Volunteer handy-people wil be at your service, helping you learn how to repair zippers, small appliances, VCRs, lamps -- or at the least, give them their best shot.

According to a news release, Fixity "hopes to strengthen and generate more community aware in 'the art of fixing.' " Katherine Hayes, Fixity's founder and owner, said she wants people to see the value in repairing something for likely less than its replacement cost. Plus, it's cool to learn skills, right?

For more information about the event, visit Fixity at www.gofixity.com.



You're never too old to learn

Posted by: Nicole Hvidsten Updated: February 20, 2013 - 7:44 AM

A recent school project for my oldest asked for my advice to her. In addition to the typical "work hard, fight for what you believe" nuggets, I told her that learning was a lifetime experience, and to never, ever, feel bad about needing her parents. Even when she's 40. The good thing? I practice what I preach.

Home-improvement projects bring out the best and worst of a person, and also have a funny way of pointing out exactly how much you have yet to learn.

What's that smell? I had no idea that painting and staining in the lower level could have such an effect on the upper level laundry room. The burning off of the fumes took me by surprise, and filled my house with a smell that made me paranoid that the house would catch fire. It didn't, but I called the repairmen to check it out anyway. Once you've convinced yourself the house will burn down, you need a pro to tell you otherwise.

Sometimes the best-laid plans ... Much to our disappointment, our basement floors were too bowed to put the laminate in that our daughters desperately wanted.  This, of course, ruined all of their hopes and dreams for what their rooms were to become. I told them I would settle for them to become clean.

Stick to your gut. People questioned the wisdom of painting the basement purple, but I absolutely love it. Ditto with the (very) bright blue bathroom. Everyone knows that if mom's happy ...

There's never enough time. It is difficult to put an extra coat of poly on baseboards, or

There's never enough time for projects.

There's never enough time for projects.

another coat of paint, etc. when you're in the middle of three winter sports schedules and a particularly busy time at work. This is when you thank a higher power for retired parents.

Plumbing is more difficult than it looks. I've taken apart toilets several times, but have yet to successfully put one back together. Although I've not learned to put a toilet back together, I have learned to have a ready supply of towels and buckets as I try. And I WILL try again.

No one likes the grunt work. My kids always want to help paint, but the washing of the walls, hole patching and sanding don't have the same allure. Painting is the ultimate payoff, I tell them. If you want to have the fun, you need to put in the prep time.

Mr. Clean's Magic Erasers are miracle workers. I'm a longtime fan of these cleaning powerhouses, but have a newfound love for them after they removed Sharpie from walls.

Don't be afraid to ask for help. And bonus points if you do it before the nervous breakdown. For me, this is more difficult than putting a toilet back together. I'm fiercely independent (with some control issues), and want to be able to stand back and say "I did this." But I'm learning that it's OK, even at 40-plus, to say "I did this with the help of my parents."

What are some lessons you've learned? Please share!

Guy-friendly design

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: February 5, 2013 - 11:56 AM


Man caves are so last century! Today, manly style influences are inching up from the basement and making themselves comfortable all over the house.


As a reporter who talks to a lot of homeowners about their new homes and makeover projects, I've noticed that I'm talking to more men than I used to. Some guys still delegate "decorating" to their wives and girlfriends, but more men appear to have informed opinions about design and how it can make a home feel like home.

Increasingly, guys are expressing those opinions to influence the design process, and often taking the lead on design projects -- such as a Twin Cities man who hired a designer to put a masculine spin on his formerly feminine interiors (www.startribune.com/lifestyle/homegarden/146480965.html).

"In 2013, interior design will begin to mirror male preferences like never before," declared Freshome, a design and architecture blog that last week published its "Top 10 Most Talked About Interior Design Trends." (http://freshome.com/2013/01/29/top-10-interior-design-trends-for-2013/)

No. 1 on Freshome's top 10 trend list: "A New Relationship Between Men and Interior Design." Men in developed countries are spending more time at home than in the past, sharing childrearing and household chores, according to the blog, with the result that they're exerting more influence on their surroundings.

The proliferation of design-oriented TV shows, magazines and web content also has to be a factor, in my opinion. More guys are being exposed to design principles and conversation -- even if they're just accidentally seeing or hearing the shows that someone else turned on. With more exposure comes more opinion and insight.

How will male influence play out in home decor? Expect to see more "functionality over 'cuteness,' less-flashy colors and sober furniture details," according to Freshome. And this is good news, from an aesthetic standpoint, because it creates "visual  balance" that makes both sexes feel at ease.

What do you think? Are guys as a group getting more comfortable with -- and more opinionated about -- home decor? What does guy-friendly design look like at your house? And does male-female balance make for better design? 




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