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.

Email us with tips or questions.

To read Greengirls posts, go here.

Happy spring?

Posted by: Nicole Hvidsten under Home Improvement, Weekend chores 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?


Out of Africa, into your family room

Posted by: Kim Palmer under Design + Architecture, Furniture, Decoration and design, Home Furnishing Updated: March 12, 2013 - 11:14 AM


Move over, Tuscan. There's a new ethnic style influence emerging in fashion-forward showrooms and home interiors. Think tribal masks, zebra stripes and all things African. 


African-inspired decor was recently identified as a top trend for 2013 by Freshome, a design and architecture blog. (http://freshome.com/2013/01/29/top-10-interior-design-trends-for-2013/) The style is considered "dynamic and exotic ... bringing warm colors and animal-skin imitations back into the eclectic interiors of fashion enthusiasts." We'll be seeing more wooden furniture decorated with carvings or wrought iron, sculptures and handmade decorations in the months ahead, according to Freshome.

It makes sense. The bold graphic patterns and rustic elements we associate with African style marry well with the simple, modern aesthetic that is also trending upward.

I don't see a lot of African-influenced decor here in frozen Minnesota, but I did see a spectacular example recently: an entire house designed to reflect a local couple's love for their favorite place. Watch for a story and photo gallery in an upcoming edition of the Sunday Homes section.

In the meantime, what do you like best about African style? Were you ahead of the curve, with African influences already incorporated into your home's decor? 

Confessions of a gawker

Posted by: Kim Palmer under Design + Architecture, Construction, Decoration and design, Gardening and landscaping, Home Furnishing Updated: March 5, 2013 - 11:10 AM


I have a love-hate relationship with the Parade of Homes. As a house junkie, I love looking at gorgeously staged rooms, trophy kitchens and state-of-the-art fixtures and finishes. 


But I always come home a bit discouraged with my own humble dwelling. Everything looks a little shabbier and more outdated after gazing at all that pristine, styled perfection.

The most luxurious homes are the best -- and the worst. They offer great eye candy, but the contrast between somebody else's dream home and my reality can be pretty stark.

I know the Parade is supposed to be for people who are thinking about building a home, and are looking for ideas and resources. But I also know there are a lot of gawkers like me who just like to fantasize about living in the sorts of homes they never will. 

My own personal "Dream Home" is probably a cozy cottage or a warm Mediterranean-style home with a red-tile roof.  But that doesn't mean I can't appreciate Dream Homes with a very different aesthetic. 

I got a sneak preview of one of this year's Dream Homes last week, the day before the Parade opened. It's sleek, modern and high-tech, with state-of-the-art everything and a black, white and gray color palette. It felt cool and calm, even with people running all around arranging wine bottles in the cellar and elegant vases on the tabletops.

What would it be like to actually live in a house like that? Would such a clean, uncluttered space inspire a cleaner, less-cluttered life? Or would we soon overrun it with knick-knacks, disorganized bills, newspapers, magazines and tufts of dog fur? 

I know the answer to that question, unfortunately!

How about you? Do you check out the Parade of Homes just to gawk? What kinds of houses do you like to look at?

Get the dirt at the H&G Show

Posted by: Kim Palmer under Design + Architecture, Flowers, Furniture, Grasses, Green gardening, Decoration and design, Gardening and landscaping, Home Furnishing, Home Improvement, Minnesota newsmakers, Shopping 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 under Gardening and landscaping, Home Improvement, Weekend chores 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!


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