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 Home Improvement

Happy spring?

Posted by: Nicole Hvidsten Updated: March 20, 2013 - 8:38 AM

Spring is within reach, even though the icy roads, piles of snow and obscenely cold weather say otherwise. But there are some advantages to having spring wait just a LITTLE bit:

Hold off on spring cleaning. If the birds aren't chirping and the weather isn't conducive to hanging winter jackets, quilts, curtains and the like on the clothesline, it's too early to clean. Boots are still tracking grit through the house and carpets are looking sad after barely surviving another winter. Once we have no need for hats and scarves and snow boots are a distant memory, grab your cleaning supplies and have at it.

Stay cozy. Windchills below zero? Keep those heavy throw rugs down and don't dismiss your down comforter just yet. Give them a good shake every now and again, but wait a few weeks to wash them and tuck them away for the season. If you're itching to be out with the old, start the hunt for the spring pillows and curtains that are stored deep inside the basement in one of the many, many plastic totes.

Longer-lasting blooms. Last year my tulips were up way too early and didn't last nearly long

Later spring = longer bloom time.

Later spring = longer bloom time.

enough. Maybe this year there won't be as big of a gap between the end of tulip season and the beginning of annuals planting. Once you go green ...

Daydream while looking out the windows. But don't wash them. Plenty of time for that. Wait until there's a near zero chance of snow and sleet to brighten your view. Meantime, grab a cup of coffee and ponder all the gifts spring will bring.

No dog duty. Literally. Anyone with a pet is in no hurry to see what's left behind when the snow melts.

Leave the yard alone. Early and unseasonably warm springs bring the temptation to start raking lawns way before the lawn is ready for it. Now you have no choice. Use the extra time to finish that book -- guilt-free!

Clothing clarity. With this cold snap, at least you know where you stand. When the weather is 50 one day and 15 the next, the mudroom/entry/hallway gets crowded with everyone's ... stuff. Winter coats, spring coats, thick gloves, thin gloves, snow boots, stylish boots -- once spring hits, the coat tree loses its branches. Keep the sweaters front and center; the linen will just have to wait.

But this is Minnesota; a week from now it could be 60. But I won't be washing windows yet. Putting away my Christmas lights? Perhaps.

What are you doing -- or not doing -- to get your home ready for spring?


Get the dirt at the H&G Show

Posted by: Kim Palmer Updated: February 28, 2013 - 10:17 AM


Consider me inspired. I spent some time yesterday wandering the Home & Garden Show, always a fertile place for ideas on the home front. I had spring fever, so I lingered in the display gardens, where this year's theme is classic TV shows.


A garden inspired by "I Dream of Jeannie"? Yep. And "Miami Vice" and "Gilligan's Island." The nine TV-inspired gardens are a blast to stroll through. Don't miss 'em!

But even if you're not planning something that elaborate for your own landscape this year, you'll still find plenty of ideas and resources for beautifying your home, both inside and out. 

Greengirls, the Star Tribune's garden bloggers, will be at the show to dish the dirt.

Want to be in the know on what's new? Tonight at 6 p.m., you can learn about the hottest garden trends, from edible landscapes to the latest water features, presented by Greengirls Connie Nelson, Mary Jane Smetanka and Helen Yarmoska -- on the Lifestyle Stage.

Stick around after the presentation for free seed packets and gardening calendars, which will be handed out between 7 and 8 p.m. in the garden area.

If you can't make the show tonight, the Greengirls also will be making the show this weekend, handing out free sees and gardening calendars, and answering your toughest garden questions. On Friday, March 1, 5:30-6:30 p.m., the Greengirl of the day will be Helen Yarmoska. And on Saturday, March 2, 11 a.m.-noon, it's Martha Buns.

Come say "Hi," pick up your free seeds, and check out a garden fit for a genie -- or a  shipwrecked castaway.


Eyes on the prize

Posted by: Nicole Hvidsten Updated: February 27, 2013 - 7:46 AM

You can't miss the media blitz trumpeting this weekend's arrival of the Parade of Homes and the Home & Garden Show, both signs that spring is finally within reach.

The timing couldn't be more perfect. I'm sick of the inside of my house and am ready to focus on the outside, even though the inside is still in desperate need of my attention. I'm ready to throw open the windows, trade my painting tools for garden tools and start dreaming about making my yard into a backyard oasis. When it comes to dreams, I don't mess around. I dream big -- otherwise why bother? -- and I let the dreams stay with me through all the home shows, garden displays and magazine spreads. Reality will kick in soon enough.

Dream 1: The 12x12 cement slab is converted to a huge paved patio -- half of it covered -- that will become our outdoor "living space." Bugs are not allowed, but a fire pit is.

Dream 2: Said patio also includes a living room's worth of furniture, complete with a chair for napping. Outdoor naps are pretty hard to beat. And if my table should all of a sudden appear with legs that aren't corroded, all the better.

Dream 3: We'll say goodbye to our trusty grill to make room for an outdoor kitch

A girl can dream, right?en, complete with a permanent grill and a room for built-in insulated coolers or a refrigerator. Because really, what's the point of having such a nice outdoor area without being able to enjoy your beverage of choice?

A girl can dream, right?

Dream 4: My salsa garden is now a flower bed filled with daisies and some of my other favorite blooms because I now have a larger vegetable garden -- and time in my life to maintain it.

Dream 5: Privacy will become a reality, thanks to the line of shrubs I will plant and the fact that our trees will grow eight feet this spring. Wait, this is a dream: someone else will plant the shrubs for me.

Dream 6: Our past-its-prime siding will be replaced and I will finally paint my front door the turquoise I've been eyeing.

Dream 7: I will be able to maintain my new living space, along with the flower pots, beds, herb garden, etc. the entire summer. I will NOT give up by the end of July.

Do you have spring fever? What are some things you're looking forward to accomplishing this summer? Dream on!

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!


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