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  • June 01, 2023 1:31 PM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    C. Lee Cawley

    Recently scams have affected people I know well. My dear Mother-in-Law lost nearly $300, while a good friend's father was scammed out of $69,000!  Both of them are highly intelligent people but it shows how clever scammers can be with their deceptive tactics!

    The FBI reports more than $10 Billion in losses from online scams n 2022. Don’t let this happen to YOU!  Here are some suggestions from the FTC:

    1 – To block telemarketing calls, register your number on the “Do Not Call List which protects landline and wireless phone numbers. You can register at no cost by calling 1-888-382-1222. You must call from the phone number you wish to register. You can also register at

      Learn how to BLOCK and LABEL other unwanted calls to your cell phone, VOIP line, or landline HERE. Scroll down to find your service provider.

    3 – Register with a free service for VOIP landlines like NoMoRoBo to prevent the scammers' calls from getting through. (A paid version is available for cell phones)

    4 – Recognize, remove, and avoid malware on your computer. Learn how to HERE.

    5 – If you receive ANY calls or emails from the IRS that are suspicious, DO NOT click on them! Instead, forward them to

    6 – If you have received suspicious emails claiming to be from your bank, Apple, Amazon, or anyone else the FBI also wants to know about it at the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Your report will help them catch criminals and protect others.

    7 – And The FTC wants to hear from you about ANY kind of fraud! Fraudulent calls, emails, texts, businesses, and identity theft are all things they will help with.

    Your homework: Take 10 minutes today to stop or block unwanted calls and check for malware. When you get suspicious spam or calls, take a few minutes to report them to the authorities above. Can you share any scams that you have been exposed to? Share your observations in my FB Group to help protect us all!

    For more information, contact C Lee Cawley.

  • May 18, 2023 11:10 AM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    Jeanne Fox Alston

    Your Space Made to Order


    I’m a professional organizer, not an interior designer. But whenever I see new ways to refresh and enliven one’s living space, I take note. 

    Earlier this year, I flew into the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport on a bitterly cold and snowy day. A long-time family friend was being honored by the University of Minnesota for her years of leadership and service. I was looking forward to helping to celebrate her accomplishments while reconnecting with her and her family. 

    I had booked a room at Graduate Minnesota, the closest hotel I could find to the venue for the event. As I walked into Graduate Minnesota, I took note of the comfy and worn leather arm chairs, the long tables of students working on their computers and, on the front of the check-in counter, wood rounds cut from tree trunks. This was no generic, cookie-cutter hotel. Instead, the vibe was that of a cozy lodge.

    I had planned to explore the campus after checking into my room. But, as I observed the swirling snow outside, I chickened out, deciding instead to have a leisurely lunch at the restaurant just off the lobby. Then, as I began walking back to the main lobby, I saw a long, curved wall.

    Along the base of the wall was a row of tall armchairs upholstered in black and white Native American-inspired blankets. But the showstopper was what was above the chairs, a gallery wall unlike any I had ever seen: landscape paintings of all different sizes, and so many (two hundred? more?) that not a single inch of bare wall was visible.  They were simply framed and, true to Minnesota’s reputation as “the land of 10,000 lakes,” just about every painting featured a beautiful lake. 

    Questions sprang to mind. Who was the inspired genius behind this amazing display? Were these all paintings of Minnesota landscapes? Did it matter? How and where were these paintings found. Thrift stores? And how was it possible to hang all these canvases so neatly and beautifully on a curved wall?

    But those thoughts fell away as I continued to stare at the wall. I was transported from a busy and noisy lobby to a serene and remote venue, quietly absorbing the beauty and magnificence of the trees, the water, the rocks and the mountains. Those modest paintings created a transcendent experience.

    Weeks later, I keep seeing that gallery wall in my mind’s eye. I was moved by it. I’ve since learned that the 20-some Graduate Hotels all are located on or near large college campuses and each has its own unique décor that reflects and pays homage to its surroundings.

    I love gallery walls. Indeed, I’ve helped many clients to create them as a way to personalize their spaces and showcase family photos or favorite pieces of art.  The gallery wall at Graduate Minnesota showed a different approach (at least to me), namely assembling a wall of art or photos around a central theme. 

    But here’s why I study interesting interiors and encourage my clients to personalize their homes. First, I’m a visual person and I enjoy seeing anything that's new and different. But my theory is that when we refresh our living spaces, via a new paint color, piece of art or even fresh flowers, doing so increases our enjoyment of our homes. And that, in turn, gives us the motivation to continue to stay organized.

    For more information, contact Jeanne Fox Alston.

  • May 16, 2023 5:28 PM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    Janet Schiesl

    Basic Organization

    You can get organized without spending a lot of money. Actually, you don’t have to spend any money. This might seem unreal if you have been watching The HOME Edit on Netflix. They spend a lot of money on products that make everything look wonderful, but is it more organized? Can it be maintained? There are many small things you can do to be more organized without shelling out cash and they don’t take much time at all.

    Try these tips below:

    • Plan Meals. Have a plan. Use your calendar to schedule easy-to-make meals on the days you don’t have a lot of time.
    • Turn your hangers around to identify the items you never wear. This is a great exercise to do with the change of seasons, in Spring and Fall.
    • Note everything down in your calendar. I mean everything! Then look at your calendar every morning.
    • Make a grocery list. This goes along with planning meals. Once you get into the habit, writing a list will only take a few minutes.
    • Organize your pantry. Knowing what you have and making it easy to find will save you time and money.
    • Sort piles into groups of like-items. Doing this exercise will help you identify good homes for these groups of items.
    • Reuse empty containers to store things. You can organize without spending money by using what you already have.
    • Organize your loose photos in chronological order. This is a big one! If you own a lot of physical photos (digital too!) it can be overwhelming.
    • Write down family routines and post them for all to see. Sharing schedules is a great way to communicate with your busy family.
    • Live with less. YES! Limiting what you own will bring you more space and less stress.
    For more information, contact Janet Schiesl.

  • April 17, 2023 11:10 PM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    Janet Schiesl

    Basic Organization

    You want your kids to be organized. But you need it to be easy and fast and fun! It’s important for children to manage their own things. By giving them responsibility for their toys, clothes, and rooms you teach them essential life skills. You can use these tips to make your life easier and your kids more organized.

    Here are ten tips to organize your kid’s bedroom.

    1. Every child should have their own hamper and a wastebasket.
    2. Provide a place for homework by having a workspace with good lighting, supplies, and storage for books.
    3. Provide each child with a place for special things they want to keep, like a memory box.
    4. Only keep clothing that fits right now hung in the closet and housed in the drawers.
    5. Separate types of clothes into drawers for easy put-away.
    6. Label and call those drawers by name to build communication.
    7. Place a donation or hand-me-down box on the floor of the closet for the clothing that no longer fits.
    8. Hang clothes at their level so they can reach them or hang hooks for easier hanging.
    9. Cull kids’ clothing (and toys) regularly.
    10. Build a sense of ownership by giving children their own space and the responsibility to maintain it.
    For more information, contact Janet Schiesl.

  • April 17, 2023 11:03 PM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    Janet Schiesl

    Basic Organization

    A morning routine can get the day off to a good start. Although every morning routine will look different, it’s important to have one. Here are some tips from the Basic Organization team, about how they organize their mornings.

    Janet empties the dishwasher as her coffee brews. That way everyone in the house knows that the dishwasher is ready for dirty dishes all day long. Communication and rules are important amongst household members to maintain order.

    Sue puts on her workout gear first thing and then starts a load of wash when she gets up in the morning. She stays on top of the regular chore of laundry and gets her exercise in. A win, win.

    Patti has a calming meditation session to begin her morning followed by feeding her cherished pets.  Walking her dog in the morning is one of her favorite things to do. Taking care of yourself helps you take care of others.

    Denene makes her bed as soon as she wakes up.  It feels good to start her day off right, and it sets the tone for a very organized day ahead.  Having routines will help you maintain organization throughout your home.

    Lori starts the night before by getting her clothes ready for that early a.m. appointment.  No need for her to worry about looking for something to wear at the last minute.  Forward-thinking at its best!

    Sandy is early to bed and then early to rise.  She gets most of her household chores done before the rest of us open our eyes.  Her schedule puts her one step ahead of everyone else.

    Candy checks her emails and calendar first thing so she is on task for the day.  Being mindful of your daily to-do’s is a great start.

    Michelle tidies up her bedroom by making the bed, throwing open the blinds, putting clothes in the hamper, etc. It takes her only 5 minutes and helps her accomplish more small tasks like this throughout the day. Great setup for more success later!

    Rouba’s routine also starts the night before, with a clean and spotless kitchen. In the morning, she relaxes with her coffee while catching up with the news and weather.  How many of you enjoy starting the day with a nice warm cup of coffee?

    Jennifer packs lunches, snacks, and water bottles for school and work. All three of her kids are responsible for packing their lunches while she and her husband are there to assist if needed.  Horray to teaching the youngsters responsibility!

    Stephanie makes a note of what specific things she’s grateful for every morning. She keeps her phone far from her bed and uses her watch as her alarm. This way, she doesn’t look at her notifications until she’s ready. Way to start the day on her terms! Not reacting to the incoming messages and demands of the world, helps her stay grounded and keeps her on task with her priorities for that day.

    These are the ways we organize our mornings and maintain organization in our homes.  How about you?

    For more information, contact Janet Schiesl.

  • December 27, 2022 1:42 PM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    Janet Schiesl

    Basic Organization

    If your to-do list is overwhelming or ineffective let’s check it. If you feel as though you never cross anything off your list, here are three strategies that may help you turn your to-do list into “done”.

    1. Make sure you only put tasks on your list that will take less than an hour. If it will take longer, break it down into several steps. Accomplishing one step at a time will get you to the same final goal.
    2. Take emotion off the list. If there is a task that has been lingering on your list because you are agonizing over it, just DO IT. Tackle a hated task first thing in the morning and get it over with. Accomplishing your least favorite chore first will make the rest of the day flow.
    3. Be clear on how long something will take you and schedule a time to do it. If you don’t make time to do each task, it simply won’t get done. Scheduling will help you to be realistic about how much you can accomplish on any given day.
    For more information, contact Janet Schiesl.

  • December 27, 2022 1:07 PM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    Samara Goodman

    Samara Interiors

    Warmest wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season! What better way to stay warm during the holiday season and all winter long than by cozying up to the warmth of a fireplace? This issue looks at numerous client fireplaces that Samara Interiors has updated over the years. So grab some hot cocoa and enjoy these fireplace transformations – we hope they will spark delight in you on these long dark winter days!


    Many clients ask us to refresh their homes from a traditional style to a transitional one. There are many ways to do this, including replacing some furnishings, switching out accessories, and, as these clients have done, renovating their fireplaces. 

    TRANSITIONAL design is a blend of traditional and contemporary styles that, when done well, evokes a curated-over-time yet up-to-date aesthetic. 

    In these three homes, we updated the fireplaces by designing and incorporating contemporary finishes. Below are the zoomed-in before & after photos, along with a zoomed-out whole room view to see how the new streamlined fireplaces are still cohesive alongside the clients' traditional furnishings.


    Have you ever wondered about the step-by-step process of a complete fireplace renovation? Here is a peek behind the scenes during a fireplace transformation. The 'before and after' photos can be seen below.


    This client asked us to update all of the fireplaces in their home with clean lines in order to coordinate with a broader home refresh. We designed minimalist mantels and updated the surrounds & hearths with granite slabs for the matching living room and den fireplaces. Before, after, and zoomed-out pictures below. The faux log GAS INSERTS were replaced with modern glass stones. Bonus: new gas insert technology offers more heat output options than ever.

    For more information, contact Samara Goodman.

  • December 27, 2022 1:01 PM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    Janet Schiesl

    Basic Organization

    At this time of year, we are all inundated with catalogs. Everyone is trying to make their pitch and sell you that special something for that special someone. I, myself, receive several catalogs that feature kid’s toys and my children are past the toy stage. I also receive multiple catalogs from L.L. Bean and J. Crew and there isn’t a preppie person in my family. By ordering items on the internet, I know that I get my name on mailing lists that eventually will fill my mailbox with all this paper that I am not interested in.

    Well, here’s what I do to counteract these mailings. I deposit all the catalogs in a pile, as they enter my home. As soon as the holidays are over (and the catalogs slow down) I visit a great website Catalog Choice. Here you can opt out of mailings and stop solicitors from contacting you. You will need the contact information on the back of each company’s catalog to opt out. Catalog Choice makes it simple and secure to opt out of unwanted advertising material and protect your privacy.

    It’s great! You will see your mail pile reduce in size and do something small for the environment all at the same time.

    For more information, contact Janet Schiesl.

  • October 16, 2022 3:41 PM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    Janet Schiesl

    Basic Organization

    Did you know you can responsibly dispose of expired medicine?

    When you throw unused or expired medicine in the trash or flush it down the toilet it ends up in our rivers and streams. Don’t do this! Protect our environment.

    Contact your local pharmacy and ask if they will safely dispose of your old medication. Or gather all your old medication and visit an American Medicine Chest Challenge location near you.

    The FDA website asks “Is your medicine cabinet full of expired drugs or medications you no longer use? Your medicine is for you. What’s safe for you might be harmful to someone else. The best way to dispose of your expired, unwanted, or unused medicines is through a drug take-back program.”

    “The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) sponsors National Prescription Drug Take Back Day in communities nationwide. Many communities also have their own drug take-back programs. Check with your local law enforcement officials to find a location near you or with the DEA to find a DEA-authorized collector in your community.”

    For more information about how the FDA suggests you dispose of expired medicine read this article.

    If you must dispose of expired medicine then the American Pharmacists Association recommends these steps for safely disposing of medication.

    • Keep the medication in its original container to identify the contents.
    • Cross out your name and prescription number for safety.
    • For pills, add salt water to dissolve them.
    • For liquids, add cat litter or dirt.
    • Seal the container and secure it with duct tape.

    Every little bit helps in protecting our environment.

    For more information, contact Janet Schiesl.

  • October 16, 2022 3:25 PM | Jeanne Fox Alston (Administrator)

    Samara Goodman

    Samara Interiors

    This glamorous pink powder room was a topic of conversation at a client's recent party. 

    A younger guest remarked that she aspired to have a STATEMENT BATHROOM like this one day. Which got me thinking, why wait for someday? Below are photos of some Samara Interiors statement bathroom projects and our thoughts on why we love to make a splash in the bath. We hope this article inspires you to take the plunge too!


    A favorite room to decorate in clients' homes is the powder room. I often tell clients that this is a perfect place to create a JEWEL BOX of a room for all to enjoy. This small space can be a place to express your creativity in a more adventurous way than you would elsewhere in your home. We commend these courageous clients that defied convention. The statement bathrooms below are admired and enjoyed by the homeowners and their guests alike.


    In these two bathrooms, we chose bold window treatments to complement the wall color and further the fearless fun! Whether you select a PATTERNED fabric for a Roman shade, a solid colored honeycomb, or some other wonderful window covering, it is sure to wow.


    Paint and wallpaper are not a requirement for creating a captivating bathroom. These three bathrooms started out neutral and we used bright art and ACCESSORIES to make a striking statement. Art is always a fantastic place to find the color inspiration to go bold.

    For more information, contact Samara Interiors.

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