Blog Posts by Emily Hsieh, Shine staff

  • A dozen ways to stretch out a rubber band you might not have guessed

    At a dinner party this weekend, my host was wrestling with a jar of honey in the kitchen, unable to unscrew the lid. Just as she was about to fetch her boyfriend to have him finish the job, I asked her if she had a rubber band. "What for?" she asked, having never heard of the following trick:

    For stubborn tops, wrap a rubber band around the perimeter of the the lid a couple times before attempting to open it-the band acts as a grip and makes it about a thousand times easier to undo.

    This got me thinking about and researching other uses for rubber bands, which led me to a really helpful post on the subject on the blog Marc and Angel Hack Life. Here, some highlights:

    Paint can marker. If you're partially finished with a can of paint, wrap a rubber band around its exterior at the same level as the paint that's inside the can so you can tell at a glance how much you have left.

    Pencil eraser. Fold a rubber band a few times to rub off pencil doodles.

    To keep soap

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  • Things to know before you buy a new bed pillow

    Though I agree with our celebrity panelists that soft sheets (Alyssa Milano), a roomy nightstand (Jewel), and a great comforter (Lindsey Vonn) are all critical to a good night's sleep, my bedroom must-have is a fantastic, super-comfy pillow. And while what makes for a great pillow is definitely subjective, there are a few things that everyone should know before they shop to make sure they're getting the best possible option. Here's a breakdown of the key considerations:

    Down vs. Synthetic. Personally, I love a down pillow. They're definitely more expensive than synthetics, but they're supremely plush and cozy. I finally made the switch a couple years ago, and I'm never going back. There are different kinds of down but the two main options are goose and duck. Goose tends to be a little more pricey, and offers slightly better insulation. Many manufacturers mix feathers with down to cut prices-the more feathers, the cheaper the pillow since it takes a lot more down to fill a pillow. For

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  • Do you leave the lights on when you're not home?

    My friend Abby had me over for a glass of wine at her apartment last night, and as we were walking out the door to head to dinner, she switched on the lights in her hallway and living room. "I know it's really not eco of me," she confessed, "but I hate coming home to a dark house." Maybe I'm in the minority here but the thought had never occurred to me. And now I can't help but wonder: do the rest of you do this too?

    Growing up, my parents were absolutely militant about turning off lights not just before leaving the house, but before leaving every room-practices I've continued to this day. I totally get her impulse though: it's not about being afraid of the dark, but walking into a pitch-black apartment at night, especially if you happen to be by yourself, can be a little unnerving. Even if you aren't paranoid about intruders, the place just feels emptier unlit. And all environmental, safety, and financial considerations aside, entering a bright home is unequivocally more pleasant and

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  • Confessions of an email hoarder (and tips for de-cluttering your inbox)

    Right now I've got a staggering 11,616 emails in my inbox, and among those, 473 unread messages. Needless to say I've been slacking big time on cyber housekeeping, and while the idea of tackling my entire inbox in one fell swoop is far too overwhelming, I need to employ some maintenance tricks, stat, before my inbox fills up and I'm no longer able to send and receive mail (a completely horrifying, debilitating thought for someone as email addicted as I am).

    My downfall has (clearly) been my reticence to delete. I actually do reference old mail with regularity, but I know there's a ton in there that I don't need. While I started by trashing mail chronologically, working my way back from the top of my inbox, after researching the subject, I found it's much more efficient to plug in certain keywords that strike at the all the useless notifications and random email newsletters that count me on their distribution lists. To wipe out automated messages, try searching for: "donotreply,"

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  • 25 ways to clean with vinegar

    The cleaning aisle at just about any grocery store is stocked with a dizzying array of options-and when it comes down to it, there are a lot of expensive, toxic, superfluous products crowding the market. Chances are, you already have one of the best, all-purpose cleaning agents in your pantry: white vinegar. As noted earlier, vinegar actually works as a great laundry booster, stripping away the chemical build-up that detergent leaves behind (and gets rid of clingy odors in the process). And beyond that, there are tons of other applications for the stuff around your home. Here, from and, 25 ideas for making the most of vinegar:

    1. Deodorize the sink: Pour 1 cup baking soda, followed by 1 cup hot vinegar, down the drain. Let sit for at least 5 minutes, then rinse with hot water.

    2. Deodorize the garbage disposal: Make ice cubes out of vinegar. Run the disposal with a few vinegar ice cubes and cold water.

    3. Clean countertops: Wipe down

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  • 10 pretty-but-practical (and totally affordable) gardening accessories

    Earlier in the week, we learned all about how to create a backyard vegetable garden. I'm totally inspired to start one of my own, and as I started poking around for tools and accessories I found a slew of cute, functional supplies online-pretty much all of which, come to think of it, would also make

  • 5 tricks to keep towels soft and fluffy

    Being enveloped in a soft, plush bath towel after a hot shower is one of life's little luxuries. The problem, though, is that even the softest, plushest among them tend to stiffen after multiple washings-which is actually a function of the chemical detergents most of us use, which coat fabrics and build up on towels in particular (they're designed to absorb, after all), and over time, you wind up with that icky scratchy feeling. There are some tricks you can employ, however, to stave off hitting the rough patch. Here's how, courtesy of and

    Add a bit of white vinegar to your rinse cycle, which strips away past detergent build-up. Vinegar also gets rid of any lingering odors clinging to the fabric.

    Wash new towels in hot water with baking soda to remove any lingering residue from the manufacturer.

    This is counterintuitive, but don't use fabric softener.

    Throw some clean tennis balls in the dryer-they help fluff as they're bouncing around

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  • Help! What’s the most effective remedy for a red wine stain on carpet?

    Last night, a guest spilled red wine on our carpet. Another hurriedly suggested pouring salt over the stain, which is supposed to act to lift the wine off the rug. Not knowing a better alternative off the top of my head, I tried this, using the big box of kosher salt I had in my kitchen to pile on a mound of salt over the spot. We waited, figuring it was best to give time for the salt and wine to react. And 20 minutes or so later, some of the wine had been absorbed though the spill is still visible on the carpet. Now what? Anyone who knows some genius, tried-and-true red wine stain removal techniques and/or products please speak up now!

  • 10 unexpected ways to use a Post-it Note

    Post-it notes are among the simplest but most genius of inventions-it seems like there are infinite ways to use these little sticky-backed papers (which, incidentally, now come in a 100% recycled paper version, so you don't have to feel as guilty going through pad after pad). One of my all-time favorite tricks involves using the adhesive side to clean between the keys on my computer keyboard, though there are plenty more ways to maximize their utility (some of the wackiest, most creative Post-it note innovations I've ever seen are featured here on the site, anyone?). Here, a round-up of 10 unexpected ways use a Post-it. If you have anything else to add to this list, don't be shy!

    Hang art without making marks. Why muck up your walls with pencil lines to designate spots for nails when you can use one of these guys instead?

    Blot lipstick.

    To navigate in the car. For fewer distractions on the road, write down directions on a Post-it to stick on your

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  • 6 things to do during TV turnoff week

    National TV Turnoff Week kicked off a couple days ago, where we're all supposed to unplug our tubes for seven days, and despite the many, many great reasons why I should be participating, truth be told I've done nothing thus far to abstain. I just buried our remote control however and am going to attempt to round out the rest of the week sans television. Here's how I'm going to get through the next few days:

    1. Walks. I love the idea of multitasking with this one: a neighborhood stroll is a great family, couples, or solo activity, counts as exercise, and makes you feel infinitely better after a big meal. It's an especially good time of year for this, with all the gorgeous flowers and trees that have blossomed over the last few weeks.

    2. Games. Time to dust off the old Scrabble board. My husband and I have been known to pack our travel set when we're on holiday, but for some reason we haven't played in years at home-something I plan to rectify shortly.

    3. Periodicals. It has been

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