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 Weekend chores

Bracing for spring

Posted by: Nicole Hvidsten Updated: April 24, 2013 - 8:04 AM

Lately I've had a lot in common with my tulips. I've been hunkering down close to the house, covered with a soft white blanket, peeking out every once in a while to see if it's safe to leave my comfort zon

Will we finally  break free from the snow?

Will we finally break free from the snow?

e. And just when I thought it was safe to come out, Mother Nature strikes again and it's just too much work to bloom.

Could this weekend finally be our shining moment?

With a forecast heralding 70-plus degrees, I'm almost giddy about what the weekend holds. Here are the top spring-weather priorities in my house; let's hear yours:

Fresh air. Eager to rid the house of the stale winter smells (special thanks to our dog, Stella), I start cracking the windows in my house as soon as the weather hits 40 degrees. Come Friday, everything will be wide open which will probably lead to ...

Cleaning windows. Last year I took advantage of my kids having a bonus day off of school because they didn't use all their snow days. This year I'm not so lucky. But that won't stop me. I'll be armed with window cleaner, soapy buckets of water and old toothbrushes to wash away the last of winter's charm. With spring finally here, I want to be able to see it.

Airing our dirty laundry: Or at least our bed linens. One of the first things I did when we moved in almost 14 years ago was put in a clothesline. It's like an old friend: we've both seen better days, and even though we go months without seeing each other, once spring comes it's like we were never apart. Plus, is there anything better than crawling into bed under covers that have spent the morning basking in the sun?

Assessing the damage: How did everything fare over the winter? Do my trees all have buds on them? Are the lilacs that we had so much hope finally going to look like something besides a bunch of twigs? What shrubs will we have to replace? Will our yard always look like one of the 10,000 lakes? Will my sump pump EVER stop running?

Prioritizing the priorities: I've been wanting to move my garden for years, but I've also been wanting to plant shrubs along our property line to add privacy. Edging needs to be replaced, dirt needs to be brought in to fill around the house. Do we want to replace the rock with mulch? And what about my front door? Will I finally find time to paint it, and the trim around it? (Again, special thanks to Stella for making that necessary.) So many decisions, so little time, and even less money.

The great clean-up: Thank goodness my town still does spring clean-up, so this weekend will be spent kicking things to the curb, literally. Fair warning to the basement, garage and my children: judgment day has arrived. But then, at the end of the day, it's ...

Patio season opener: Time to sweep off the patio, wipe down the chairs and replace the legs on the table. The grill will be out, and so will the spring and summer menus. Good bye, pot roast; hello, grilled steaks. Who's with me?

What are your top priorities this spring, besides just basking in the fact that it's finally here?


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.

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?


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!

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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