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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Conquering the world, one plunger at a time

Posted by: Nicole Hvidsten under Improvement and repair, Home Improvement, Weekend chores 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 under Design + Architecture, Flowers, Decoration and design, Gardening and landscaping, Improvement and repair, Home Improvement 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? 




Where "on-trend" is trending

Posted by: Kim Ode under Decoration and design Updated: March 26, 2013 - 11:02 AM

Someday, I will be on-trend -- a phrase that has been defined by some as an oh-so-trendy way to say trendy. Right.

I was once, I think, when we painted a room Burnt Olive, a dark green risk that remains quite sophisticated. Good thing, too, because it would be a bear to paint over.

In any case, the recent International Home + Housewares Show (IHA) in Chicago provided a glimpse at what's going to be on-trend NEXT year. Color is always the big factor, and Pantone, the company that proclaimed a peculliar shade of green called Emerald this year's hot color, laid it all out in a special exhibit.

Reports from the field describe it thusly:

Hot color palette themes "include Techno Color, Physicality, Sculpted Simplicity, Tribal Threads, Moda, Eccentricities, Intimacy, Collage and Fluidity.

What does this mean? Techno colors are Dark Citron and Methyl Blue. Look for those shades in the kitchen.

Sculpted Simplicity shows up in gear such as knife sets, corkscrews and travel mugs. Trudeau, in fact, has a knife set that's completely red, blades and all.

Colors in the Tribal Thread palette  -- and I quote --include a neutral kangaroo-like color [that] balances well with Arabesque burnt orange."

The Moda palette goes for a "svelte and voluptuous" vibe with colors such as Blackberry Cordial and Wood Violet.

In short, on-trend looks like deep colors, vivid colors, big colors. In a landscape that remains both wonderfully and depressingly white, I'm vulnerable to these suggestions. Should I take the risk?

Have you taken a color risk and had it go well? Ever been surprised at how the color swatch looks different when it's a whole wall? Are there tricks to helping that transition from small to large work best?

I mean, I'm thinking Blackberry Cordial would make me very on-trend ... somewhere.


Minnesota's coziest wine cellar?

Posted by: Kim Palmer under Design + Architecture, Furniture, Construction, Decoration and design, Home Furnishing, Home Improvement Updated: March 25, 2013 - 11:25 AM


I was on my way home from church, and the time was closer to noon than to "happy hour."  But after I visited a home on the Remodelers Showcase tour, I felt like popping a cork and pulling up a chair. 


It was a wine cellar, maybe the cutest, coziest wine cellar I've ever been inside. With barrel-vault ceilings, stone walls and a granite tasting table, built-in racks, a wine-glass "chandelier" and even a stained-glass window, it was an oenophile's dream hangout.

Tucked into the corner of a walkout basement in Eden Prairie, in a former toy-storage space, the wine cellar was just one part of a much larger remodeling project by Murphy Bros. Design Build (www.mbros.com) and designer Cherie Poissant. The new kitchen, mud room and master suite were beautiful, too, but the wine celler was the spot that I most coveted. 


It wasn't climate-controlled, so it's not a cellar for a serious wine connoisseur and collector, who wants to age and preserve valuable vintages. 


But for the casual wine afficionado who just wants a fun place to sip with a few friends, it was perfect.

I've never seriously considered adding a wine cellar -- I was trolling for master-bathroom ideas -- but a spot like this is now on my home fantasy wish list.


Sneak peek at the flower show

Posted by: Kim Palmer under Flowers, Grasses, Gardening and landscaping, Shopping Updated: March 22, 2013 - 6:08 PM


Ever seen this flower before? Here's a hint: You're not likely to find one blooming in a local back yard.


It's a chocolate cherry orchid, one of the many tropical plants on display at this year's annual Macy's Flower Show.

The theme is "The Painted Garden." A team from Bachman's has spent many months planning and growing exotic plants, followed by nine full days of installation, to transform Macy's eighth-floor auditorium into a Southeast Asian-inspired garden getaway. Think of it as a passage to India without the airfare.

This year's show is a kaleidoscope of brilliant color, designed with color-block plantings that take their cue from sets painted to celebrate Indian architecture.


The centerpiece of the show is a giant Asian elephant statue covered with a blanket of dried and fresh plants and flowers and bearing a howdah (Indian carriage) filled with dozens of tropical blooms.


Bachman's designers Karen Ortiz and Leah Schmidt used 20 different kinds of plant material to create the blanket alone.

You can experience this year's flower show firsthand starting Sunday, March 24, when the  show opens for its two-week run. (For information on hours and related special events, including classes and the Bouquet of the Day, visit www.macys.com).

In the meantime, if you need your flower fix, look for a video tour of this year's show that will be posted Saturday on startribune.com.

And if you know your stuff when it comes to plants, see how many of the 20 plants you can identify in the elephant's blanket.





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