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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To read Greengirls posts, go here.

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!

Fixing stuff in Ramsey County

Posted by: Kim Ode under Improvement and repair, Home Improvement 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 under Improvement and repair, Home Improvement, Weekend chores 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!

The graying of America -- 50 shades of confusion

Posted by: Kim Palmer under Design + Architecture, Furniture, Decoration and design, Home Furnishing, Shopping Updated: February 19, 2013 - 10:36 AM


I was at the paint store last night, struggling to find the right color to complement my countertops without overpowering my cabinets, when I overheard a conversation between another customer and the guy behind the counter.


The customer was stumped. He was trying to find the perfect gray for his project. He'd tried several shades already, but nothing was quite right. One gray was too cool. Another was too muddy.

I know the guy at the paint store isn't alone with this color conundrum. Gray has been the "It" neutral for several years, showing up increasingly in chic shops and magazine spreads.

Now it appears the rest of us have gotten the memo -- and fallen madly in love with gray. The latest evidence comes from the National Kitchen & Bath Association, which recently released its 2013 style report (www.nkba.org). 

"Gray color schemes have witnessed a dramatic escalation since 2010, particularly over the last year," according to the NKBA. Gray was used in 55 percent of kitchens and 56 percent of bathrooms during the last quarter of 2012, up from 9 percent of kitchens and 12 percent of bathrooms just two years earlier.

White and beige are still the top colors in both rooms, but gray is coming on strong, while browns are in decline.

Choosing colors is always tricky,  but gray is especially so. The wrong shade can make a room feel chilly and dreary. But adding undertones to warm it up sometimes pushes the gray into purple territory once it's splashed on a wall. That's a good look in some rooms, but definitely not all.

The design/decor website Houzz has some good tips on how to pick the right gray (www.houzz.com/ideabooks/454963/list/Choosing-Paint--How-To-Pick-the-Right-Gray)

How about you? Have you caught gray fever? And if you have, what gray did you choose -- and what did you pair it with?  

Everything in its place

Posted by: Kim Ode under Home Furnishing Updated: February 18, 2013 - 10:39 AM

We are creatures of habit,. whether or not those habits make sense. And nothing reveals the depth of habit like the location of commonplace objects.

I've known this for some time, ever since the vegetable peeler inexplicably got placed in the silverware drawer when we moved to a new house. It made no sense, being apart from all the other gadgets, yet inertia (and bigger fish to fry) enabled the peeler  to remain there just long enough that it cannot be moved.

I know; I tried -- once.

This knowledge of habit, however, did not keep me from removing a wall clock from its longtime location near our dinner table.The clock had been there for years, but  -- true confession time -- it was one of those bird clocks that tweeted with a different bird song every hour. Clever for the first several years, blithely ignored for the next several, and then, suddenly, quite annoying! Time for it to go.

I should have had another clock in hand as a replacement, but I rather liked changing up the space with a painting. Still, not a single day went by when I didn't glance there for the time -- even with the oven's digital clock at hand. Our son was most miffed at the change. I realized that clock had been there all his life. Hmmmm.

So, in the midst of post-holiday putting-the-house-back-together, I moved a cabinet on which our mantel clock sits into that location. Now our glances for the time are immediately satisfied -- except when we look to where this clock USED to be.

All of which has got me thinking about the degree of thought we put into where things end up in our houses. Logic guides most decisions, yet there are those wonderful options for things like clocks or lamps or coat hooks. Perhaps I should have changed things up more regularly, to keep habits from being formed. Although I suspect that may only have driven everyone a little crazy on an equally regular basis.

This came up again over the weekend when I moved my jewelry box from the shelf where it's been for 20 years. It's never fit quite right, yet remained -- 20 years, really? --because it was in the logical place. Maybe it's middle-aged "not gonna settle anymore," but I took the giant step of moving it into an adjoining room. Already, I know it's not going to work there, but I'm determined not to move it back to its old, not quite right place.

Wheels are spinning............where ELSE can I move it? What other habits can I thwart?

How about you? Have you changed the location of something for all the right reasons, and yet consternation follows? Do you reverse yourself and put things back where they were? How long before a new habit takes hold?


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