Blog Posts by Emily Hsieh, Shine staff

  • What’s in your car?

    I'm reading Slow Love by Dominique Browning, who was the editor-in-chief of the sadly defunct House & Garden (the book is definitely worth the read btw-it's a bittersweet story of how she lost her job, sank into an unemployed abyss, and eventually found happiness, but it's also funny and poignant and beautifully written), and one of the many passages I was struck by was the part where she describes all the stuff she stashes in her car. It's a really long list, and as someone who really only keeps insurance papers in my glove compartment, plus a book of CDs and some loose change for parking meters, I got to wondering if the rest of you have the same just-in-case Girl Scout-esque tendencies that Browning does.

    Here's are re-cap of what Browning has in her station wagon:


    Patching Spray for tires


    Magnifying Glass (for reading the aforementioned maps)

    String Bags for the grocery store

    Trowel and Garden Clippers (Browning, a passionate gardener,

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  • A simple, stylish solution for displaying family photographs

    Photo: T Magazine / The New York TimesPhoto: T Magazine / The New York Times

    One of the things that instantly makes any home more homey is personal photographs. Displaying them isn't always that simple though, since frames are an investment, and generally need to coordinate in some way if you're arranging them in a group. Which is why I love the charming, no hassle, no cost method that interior designer Rita Konig wrote about in her T Magazine blog.

    There's basically no technique involved: just tape photos directly to your walls (or use sticky putty if you've got some lying around, or push pins if you don't mind the little holes). It couldn't be easier to do, and the look is informal and upbeat in a way that a bunch of matching frames just isn't. Some further benefits, as Konig explains:

    "Unlike framed photos, pictures stuck on the wall have a much more playful feeling, and the people in them seem so much friendlier. I also feel much less committed to them that way, so they end up being a more varied group, often including people I don't know that

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  • How to clean hard-to-clean vases

    If you've ever tried to clean a vase with a narrow opening at the top you know it's not actually that easy, since most hands/sponges/brushes are all too big to fit through the hole to scrub down the interior. My favorite vessel for displaying fresh flowers has a bulbous base that culminates in a skinny neck, and lately I've been noticing a film of mildew-y plant residue stuck to the bottom of the vase. I tried rinsing it several times with soapy water to no avail, and had all but given up until I read about the following trick in the comments section of

    Take a couple ice cubes and throw them in the vase along with some coarse salt (I used about a tablespoon of kosher salt). Swirl it around for a minute or two, then rinse. I just tried it and it worked brilliantly. The same commenter also wrote that the tip actually originated from an old diner waitress, who said the technique is great for getting the stains out of coffee pots that have been sitting on

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  • Meg Ryan's super-sophisticated, surprisingly un-perky beach house

    Meg Ryan's beach house in Martha's Vineyard is featured in June's Elle Decor, and it's not at all the kind of sunny, feminine, somewhat preppy place you'd expect, considering the sweetly quirky girl-next-door characters she so deftly plays in movies.

    Instead what you see is a stripped-down, majorly sophisticated, Zen-like sanctuary that's all clean lines and barely there colors. It's soothing and luxurious but decidedly non-flashy, and exudes a certain kind of aesthetic confidence that, come to think of it, makes total sense for a 48-year-old single mother who's adopted a child on her own, starred in scores of blockbusters, and made her own fortune.

    It probably also helps that Ryan has had ample experience in decorating, since her acting career has had her moving around like a gypsy for pretty much the past 30-or-so years, buying and redoing homes everywhere she goes:

    "I feel like I've been renovating houses my whole life," Ryan says. "I've renovated apartments, lofts, a

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  • A peek at Jenna Lyons of J. Crew's unorthodox—and utterly enviable—closet

    Elle Decor/Rebecca GreenfieldElle Decor/Rebecca GreenfieldLately it seems like J. Crew's creative director and resident it-girl Jenna Lyons is just about everywhere I turn-not just in the clothing brand's steady stream of catalogs, but on Oprah, and now Elle Décor's new June issue too. In the magazine, she's featured along with her twelve favorite things, several of which gave me all new reasons to envy her (beyond her killer job, adorable family, gorgeous Brooklyn brownstone, and impossibly long legs, I mean).

    For starters, have you seen her wall of shoes (of which Lyons says, "My son, Beckett, picks my shoes every morning. He always goes for the sparkly ones")? The range of options is pretty breathtaking (and they're even color-coded!). I love the idea of having all my footwear so easily accessible-though I think this out-in-the-open organizational technique only works when you have shoes as display-worthy as Lyons'. Check out the rest of her favorite items-from the groovy vintage Lucite chair she keeps in her office to her mint

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  • 20 ways to use Mason jars

    Even if you've never attempted canning your own foods, and never plan to, it probably still makes sense to stock up on Mason jars by the dozen (or, as a free alternative, saving old metal-lidded glass jars of tomato sauce or peanut butter after you're through eating their contents to reuse them later!). Not only do these kinds of containers, also known as Ball jars, have a charmingly old-school appeal, but they're incredibly handy when it comes to storing and organizing a myriad of goods throughout your house. Here, 20 ideas for making the most of mason jars. Do you have anything to add to this list?

    For making salad dressing (instead of using a whisk, just screw on the cap and give the ingredients a good shake)
    Storing pantry items like oats, pasta shells, beans, or rice
    As vases
    For loose change
    For making a terrarium
    Brewing iced tea
    For pens and pencils
    As a drinking glass
    Storing baking supplies like flour and sugar
    Cookie jar
    As gift wrap
    For balls of twine or yarn

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  • How one man’s trash is another plant’s super-food

    A friend just tipped me off to one of her favorite gardening tricks, which rather brilliantly requires pretty much zero effort and doesn't cost a thing.

    Turns out some of your kitchen castoffs-specifically, eggshells and coffee grinds-are packed with soil-enriching nutrients. The eggshells are loaded with calcium that stimulates plant growth-as plants mature, they suck up calcium from the soil, and it's a good idea to replenish their supply of it to keep them healthy and happy. Meanwhile, coffee grinds contain nitrogen and other minerals that have similar plant-boosting effects, especially for acid-loving varieties like blueberries, roses, azaleas, and tomatoes.

    To get your eggshells garden-ready, just give them a rinse, crush them by hand, and either mix them into your soil or scatter them around the base of your plants. Doing the latter also has an added bonus: keeping slugs and snails at bay, since they're likely to retreat once they try to cross a jagged path. You can

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  • The easiest trick ever for removing scuff marks from patent leather

    Last night I discovered white streaks on the back of a beloved pair of black patent leather sandals-such a drag. Or at least it was a drag until I remembered a random and bizarre-sounding trick a friend had told me about that she swore was an instant miracle cure for these kinds of smudges. And skeptical as I was, she was right.

    I had already tried buffing the white marks with a clean soft cloth to no avail, when I thought of my friend's tip about using nail polish remover to transform scuffed patent leather. I splashed a little bit onto a cotton pad, and rubbed gently against the spots, which vanished about a second later leaving my shoes bright, shiny, and good as new.

    PS: There are different kinds of patent leather, so if you're attempting this for the first time, try testing the remover trick on a small area at first to make sure there aren't any adverse chemical reactions.

    PPS: I also read on that mineral oil is also excellent for cleaning patent

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  • Tips to a better organized (and sanitary) fridge

    My refrigerator is starting to look like a scary epicurean abyss (kind of like Bonnie's entire house, come to think of it, before Carolina's intervention). This morning when an apple rolled out onto the kitchen floor as I opened the fridge door, I realized it's time to take action. Should you find yourself in a similar predicament, I gathered a slew of pointers on how to whip your fridge into tip-top, ultra-organized shape.

    For starters, take everything out that's in there currently and give the shelves, drawers, and interior walls a good cleaning using a mild, non-toxic cleaner like vinegar (the last thing you want is a bunch of harsh chemicals touching your food).

    Separate the contents into groups: produce, meats, leftovers, condiments, and dairy. Chuck the stuff that's expired.

    Keep food safety in mind before you throw everything back in the fridge. According to, professional chefs store foods in restaurant fridges in the following order: "From top to

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  • How often do you change your sheets?

    This morning as I was stripping my bed to do a load of laundry I realized it had been a full two weeks since I'd last washed them-which had me wondering if there were adverse side effects to changing them at that rate. This also got me curious as to whether or not, relative to the rest of you out there, washing sheets every two weeks is considered slacking or standard.

    According to and, the scientific consensus is it's best to wash sheets weekly to ward of dust mites. Icky as it is to think about, we're all shedding skin cells while in bed-which is apparently dust mites' favorite snack food. Laundering bedding once every week, in hot water, helps avoid allergy issues.

    Washing sheets every week is a fair amount of work though, especially once you start counting multiple beds/family members, so it's no wonder a poll on AOL Health last year showed that only 40% of Americans are washing their bedding weekly, which makes me feel slightly better about my own

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