Thursday, November 20, 2014

Local man makes bedding for education

Kevin Gatlin is uncomfortable when he sees his two children parked in front of the television. The south Charlotte man would rather see them playing with their sheets and pillowcases.
Gatlin created a four-piece twin bedding set that has a board game for checkers or chess printed on a fitted sheet.
The children can also draw and color on their flat sheets using Crayola Washable Crayons, which come with each set.
Now Gatlin is selling his Playtime Edventures sheet sets ($40), hopeful that other parents might want sheets that are colorful and useful.
“I watched my wife interact with my sons,” Gatlin said this week from his display at the Southern Christmas Show. “They always used his bed for homework, arts and crafts or board games.”

Gatlin, son of a retired grade-school teacher, says his 10- and 2-year-old have adjusted to his way of thinking, which includes limiting their use of technology. He now works full-time with the business, which offers 30 games and Playtime activities, developed by local teachers, at the company’s website (
The children may not know it, but they are probably learning school curricula and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) as they play.
At least that’s what Gatlin hopes for.

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Class starts in January to train next master gardeners

If you are a gardener and interested in community service, there is an opportunity ahead.
Twenty-four seats are available for Mecklenburg County residents who want to train to become master gardeners. Twice-weekly classes start in January and continue through March. Tuition is $160.
Volunteers give 40 hours the first year and 30 after that. Working initially with a mentor, master gardeners share what they know on the master gardener hotline and at events and speaking engagements. They also create gardens, such as the veggie patches near Independence Park that's shown here.
“They have to be a lifelong learner, and they should be interested in research-based gardening information,” said Cathe Hawley, president of Mecklenburg Extension Master Gardener Volunteers, an association that now has 110 certified volunteers.
Hawley’s description of an ideal candidate might sound lofty, but being a master gardener is mostly connecting with other gardeners in the organization and the community. I still see members of my class (1998) at events all over town.
It is important to be interested in learning, as Hawley said. There’s always so much more to discover about the world of plants and what we can do to help it grow.
Apply by Nov. 24. Visit to download an application or call 704-336-4011.

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Charlotte pop-up market to bring handmade and vintage decor

There are dozens of micro-business owners who sell interesting handmade and vintage furniture and accessories right here in the Charlotte area.
But finding these local businesses can be tricky. Many don’t have a showroom or public space. They may sell through online markets such as Etsy and promote their brands through social media.
Here’s a chance to visit some of these operations. Vintage Charlotte’s winter pop-up market returns to The Fillmore at the NC Music Factory on Nov. 15. Sixty-three local and regional vendors will exhibit, and three to four times as many applied.
“I don’t think you can find this type of variety ... anywhere else in Charlotte,” said Amy Herman, one of the organizers. “It’s a very unique mix.”
At least half of the vendors sell home decor. Jewelry, clothing, stationery and other items also will be available. Luce Antica will sell lighting made from recycled industrial pieces, such as the ones above. About 2,500 people are expected, and vendors are always eager to meet local shoppers face-to-face.
“There’s kind of a new model of business where you start online because it’s easier and it’s smaller and there is less startup,” Herman said. “But it’s lonely out there.”

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Friday, October 31, 2014

Use that extra hour to get prepared for the holidays

That extra hour you'll get from turning back the clocks before you go to bed Saturday night is not an invitation to stay in bed longer, the way Anna Osborne sees it.
Precious time like that can be used to take care of jobs you've neglected, said Osborne, office manager for The Maids in Concord, which also serves north Charlotte.
“This is the time of year when we recommend deep cleaning,” Osborne said.
With the holidays right around the corner, you could get the hardwood floors polished, shampoo the carpet, or clean the oven and refrigerator. Better now than when guests are days away from arriving.
Some of the items on The Maids' semiannual cleaning checklist also might help you keep a healthier home. Wiping dust from heat registers and ceiling fans is among those jobs. See The Maids' list at
Design event
Hughes Kitchen & Bath Collection will host a Lunch and Learn event featuring Kallista products, as well as inspiration from designers sucUse that extra hour to do a little cleaningh as Barbara Barry and Michael S. Smith, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Nov. 6, 16235 Northcross Drive, Huntersville. RSVP by Nov. 4 to Cassie Abernethy, or 704-309-0725.
Share your renovation story
Tell us in 500 words or less what problems you've had at home, how a building or renovation project addressed those problems, and what advice you have for others who may be considering a similar project. Send your story and pictures to We'll choose one of those stories and send the brave survivor a $25 gift card.
Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Your renovation story could help someone

Maybe you've seen home-construction crews in your neighborhood, building bigger homes where older, smaller ones once stood.
We know many of you are investing time and money to rebuild or renovate homes in our area, or to do smaller, meaningful upgrades. And we know you're often better off once the old tub is gone, the windows enlarged or the kitchen gutted and opened up to the surrounding rooms.
What did you learn along the way? Now that you’re wiser, share what you've learned with us. We want to publish your renovation story and pictures on our website under a banner called Problem Solved.
You made all sorts of checklists, found the right fixtures and finishes, negotiated with contractors and maybe even corrected a misstep or two along the way. How did you keep it moving and get through it?
Three-course dinners made with a toaster oven while your kitchen was out of order? Did you wade through an inch or two of water before the roof went on? And how did the pets make out? We’ve heard all sorts of stories, but not yours.
Tell us in 500 words or less what problems you had at home, how your building or renovation project addressed those problems and what advice you have for others who may be considering a similar project. Send your story and pictures to
We’ll choose one of those stories and send the brave survivor a $25 gift card.

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Riverkeeper has tips for controlling soil erosion

Sam Perkins was driving along Park Road in south Charlotte when he spotted a stretch of red clay opened up in someone’s yard. It was a fall landscaping project, a common thing at this time of year.
Perkins, Riverkeeper for the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, was concerned. The Riverkeeper’s job is to protect our waterways. Uncovering earth creates a vulnerability.
“If it rains, there is going to be an awful lot of sediment making its way to Little Sugar Creek,” he said of the unfinished project.
Sediment is tough on the fish, turtles and other wildlife living in creeks and streams. Nutrients and chemicals travel into waterways with soil, boosting algae growth and pollution.
Perkins understands the importance of tackling landscaping jobs while the temperatures are cooling. He’s thinking about what he can do to renew the landscape at his home in Madison Park, where plants have to compete with decades-old trees that gobble nutrients and moisture.
Here’s what he suggests if you’re planning a landscape overhaul this fall:

  • Design your landscape so it keeps rainwater on the property as much as possible. Slopes, planting beds and other barriers on and at the edges of a property can accomplish that. A temporary sediment fence is also an option. The fence is made of fabric that is dug into the soil at the bottom end to filter out sediment as water passes through.
  • Finish the job as quickly as possible once the soil is exposed, especially when rain is expected. Plants and mulch can help control erosion.

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Eco-friendly home decor is trend to watch

I'm already getting a sense of what designers and others in the trade will see when they arrive for the fall furniture market in High Point next week.
A folder in my email account is stacked with announcements and images that are a preview for what's ahead.
It's so easy to focus on the visual brilliance in the home decor industry, but breathtaking design may come at a price to the environment.
I was reminded of that this week when talking with Fernanda Vergara at Tronk Design, a fairly new boutique furniture company that will bring its designs to the trade show for the first time.
Tronk uses solid walnut for many of its designs, which combine an industrial look with influences of midcentury modern style. But Tronk's new Williams dining table is not solid walnut. It’s made with walnut plywood, an alternative that has LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
“Walnut is everywhere right now,” Vergara said, explaining that its popularity is causing Tronk’s suppliers to be concerned about availability in the future.
Meanwhile, some of Tronk's clients are asking for ecology-friendly furniture. The Williams dining table is a step toward answering both concerns.
So now I've got a better sense of what to look for next week when I visit showrooms to get a sense of trends that are coming for spring. Environmentally thoughtful design is on the list.

Karen’s blog:; on Twitter @sullivan_kms