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.
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I always feel a little melancholy this time of year. It’s not because of the impending blast of winter.
My outdoor pots are filled with dead plants, their beauty destroyed by frost, and I can’t bear to look at them any longer.
Either can my neighbors. So I store my cleaned-out pots in the garage over the winter. But my co-worker, and lots of other laid-back container gardeners, store their urns and vessels in the same spot where they sat all summer - on the patio, deck, and front steps. With the dead plants intact.
Last spring feels like eons ago when I was agonizing over the medley of plants that would fill my nine outdoor containers. What are my thrillers, spillers and fillers? Coleus or caladium? Should I stick with purple fountain grass or try variegated agave? Wouldn’t those mini cascading petunias look really cute in my patio planter?
But it only took a half hour to dig out the plants, toss their sad carcasses into a wheelbarrow and unceremoniously dump them in the wetlands (also known as the dried-up swamp) behind my house. I left the black dirt in the pots -- those bags of premium potting soil are pricey — ready for next spring’s garden center booty.
Then I dutifully followed the cardinal rule: store terra-cotta, ceramic and cement planters in a protected place. Freezing and thawing can cause them to crack and break. So like Hulk, I lugged and lifted the super heavy pots into the garage. New patio planters aren’t cheap.
My co-worker was likely watching an episode of “Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo” while I was cleaning and protecting my pots from Armageddon. Her home’s twenty or so planters, chock full of bedraggled begonias, drooping spikes and other expired plants, sit outdoors all frozen winter long. Their dead brown form have an organic appeal and blend with the bleak November landscape, she said. And in May, sometimes the moneywort makes a comeback and sprouts among the devastation. The neighbors must think my co-worker flew to Florida for the winter and simply forgot about her pots
Do you follow the rules? What do you do with your summer container gardens over the winter?
Easter is only a few days away, but I hadn't given much thought to Easter baskets. With two kids in college, we're not exactly flush with cash for goodies and trinkets.
You might think it odd that someone with college-age kids is thinking about Easter baskets at all, but they're a long-standing tradition in my family. My parents hid Easter baskets for me and my two sisters until we were well into our 20s.
The contents of the Easter baskets changed as we grew up, from candy and little toys to candy and makeup. But one item was in every Easter basket, year after year:
Yup. My mom bought each of us a pretty pair of pastel undies and tucked them into a basket, surrounded by jelly beans and foil-wrapped chocolate eggs. I think the original idea was that we would wear the Easter underwear to church that morning, along with all our other new Easter finery, which in those days included ribbon-trimmed hats and little white gloves.
My kids never dressed like that for Easter, but I kept up the Easter underwear tradition -- although I did update it a bit to account for modern underwear preferences. Instead of the lace-trimmed Granny panties my sisters and I received in the '60s, I always found some colorful boxers for my son and some cute bikini briefs for my daughter.
Both kids now think it's hilarious that the Easter Bunny brings underwear, and joke about it while hunting for their baskets.
I haven't bought this year's Easter underwear yet. But I've got something to go with it -- homemade sachets for the underwear drawer. I made them last night on the spur of the moment. I was cleaning out my patio pots, ripping out the dead stalks to make room for spring planting.
I was just about to rip out one plant when I remember what it was: lavender. The leaves were withered and silvery, but still amazingly fragrant. I couldn't throw away all that perfectly good lavender. I had to do something with it. But what? Then I remembered the little scented sachets that my English grandmother used to place in her dresser drawers.
There were some tiny fabric bags with drawstring tops in my gift-wrap stash, so I dug them out of storage and filled them with lavender. One for my daughter, one for my mom and one for me. (I don't think my 19-year-old son is ready for lavender-scented boxers.)
What do you put in Easter baskets? Do you have any odd family traditions?
Thanks to this weird, warm spring, my winter coat is already hanging in the storage closet. That's a very good thing! But my yard's winter coat also has disappeared prematurely, and that's not so good.
I'm still trying to do indoor spring cleaning, and already my outdoors is screaming for attention.
Walking around the house last weekend, all I could see was a multitude of chores: the leaves that fell after my last raking, the dead stalks in the garden beds, the peeling paint, the broken tree limb, the dog droppings that need to be picked up.
In a normal year, I could ignore my yard for at least another month. But now it's giving me a guilt trip every time I go outside.
Or even when I DON'T go outside.
At church last Sunday, our minister asked the congregation to greet each other by telling the person what we'd done differently the day before, because of the great weather. Hmmm. I had spent the afternoon inside, doing laundry and cleaning up the winter fur that my dogs are already shedding. Clearly, I was not properly rejoicing in the fine weather the Lord hath sent our way!
I resolved to ignore my yard yet another day and go for a walk around the lake instead. It was my Christian duty, I figured.
But my leisurely Sunday afternoon means all those outdoor chores will be screaming even louder next weekend.
How 'bout you? Have you tackled your yard yet? What's your least-favorite spring chore?
Well, that was fast! Just a few years ago, the fancy home theater was a must-have.
Every high-end Parade home had one, complete with a huge projection screen, plush seating with cupholders and dramatic mood lighting.
Now, it seems, the home theater is already a bygone fad, like poodle perms and "Flashdance" legwarmers.
We still like our home entertainment and electronics. But with flat-screen TVs all over the house and gadgets that move with us from room to room, we're more likely to want a charging station for our devices than a whole room outfitted for viewing.
The decline of the recently red-hot media room emerged from a survey by the National Association of Home Builders (www.nahb.org). Today's homebuyers are practical and value-oriented, according to an article analyzing the data, by Steve Kerch (http://finance.yahoo.com/news/kiss-these-10-once-popular-home-features-goodbye.html)
Other once-popular features that are now on the wane include:
1. Outdoor kitchens and outdoor fireplaces
3. Two-story family rooms
4. Two-story foyers.
5. Master-planned developments.
6. Luxury master bathrooms
7. Formal living rooms
8. Whirlpool tubs
What about you? Which of these home features do you already have? Do you enjoy them? Would you buy or build them again?
Outside, it’s bleak and brown.
Inside my house I’ve created a mini-version of the Minnesota Zoo’s tropics trail. My kitchen hutch holds clusters of striped green dracaena. Potted pothos trail over the edge of the coffee table. And a plant stand near a bay window holds my favorite cure for the winter blahs — the jungle-like Peace lily. It’s one of few houseplants that blooms consistently even when there’s little light. Spikes of milk white spoon-shaped flowers shoot out of the deep green glossy foliage. The Peace lily droops when it wants water, and within a few hours, perks back up.
It's a great tme to fill your home’s empty corners, shelves and tabletops with lush green plants. I was at a friend’s house and pointed to a spacious landing at the top of the stairs. “That’s the perfect spot for a Chinese evergreen on a cute little table,” I said.
Why not? Houseplants are pretty cheap and easy to find at local garden centers and even home improvement stores like Home Depot. Don’t worry about a chosen spot not having sufficient light -- many varieties thrive in low-light conditions common in many Minnesota homes in the winter. Good ones are pothos (variegated vine), philodendron (shopping mall staple with heart-shaped leaves) and zeezee plant (fleshy succulent).
These green energizers are pretty indestructible — if watered regularly. Heck, they even clean indoor air by absorbing toxins.
To help with your plant picks, the Better Homes and Gardens website (www.bhg.com) offers sumptuous slide shows — with detailed descriptions — of dozens of different houseplants.
What are your favorite houseplants? Do they help tide you over until spring?
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