Blog Posts by Emily Hsieh, Shine staff

  • Simple ways to save money on your holiday shopping

    Christmas will be here in precisely 45 days, which means despite the fact that we haven't even gotten through Thanksgiving, the holiday shopping bonanza is officially underway. Don't panic: it's not like you need to run out and buy all your presents right this minute, but if you keep this deadline in the back of your head over the next few weeks, and employ some of the following deal-hunting guidelines, you can cross everyone off your list with minimal stress (and cash output).

    Comparison Shop. Once you narrow in on what you want, devote a couple minutes to scouting out pricing for said item online, before spending the time, effort, gas, etc. heading to a bricks-and-mortar store to buy it. You may be able to find it at a discount on the internet, with the added convenience of having it delivered to your doorstep.

    Sign Up And Save. To get a heads-up on sales and promotions your favorite stores are offering, go to their websites and sign up for their email mailing lists (if

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  • A dozen pretty-but-practical items for your Thanksgiving table—all under $10!

    After all the time and effort you're about to pour into cooking up a delicious Thanksgiving meal, you should also give some consideration into what you're going to use to serve it all up with. Having a well dressed table makes the holiday feel that much more special for both you and your guests, and following all that food shopping, menu planning, slaving over a hot stove, and scrubbing down the house to get it company-ready, etc. etc. etc. there's something so satisfying about seeing all the different components of your dinner beautifully presented. Getting your table to look stylish and polished doesn't have to be a fussy, stressful affair, and nor should it cost a fortune, either-here, I've gathered twelve entertaining staples that are sure to come in handy on T-Day and beyond, and none top $10.

    Relate: Thanksgiving tips from moms across the country to help you save money on the year's biggest meal

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  • Tips to get your home prepped and ready for Thanksgiving

    It's less than three weeks until Thanksgiving, and if you're hosting this year, now would be a prudent time to start surveying the scene at home to make sure it's guest-ready, so when the big day comes, the only thing you really have to think about is the food. There's plenty you can do in advance, and if you start now and dedicate just a few minutes every day, or even every other day, to sprucing up your surroundings, you'll have things spic-and-span in no time.

    The key here is to work systematically. Make a list of the rooms that need attention (i.e. dining room, living room, kitchen, bathroom, and a guest room if you'll have company staying with you), and note anything that needs to be replaced or repaired. Now is the time to tackle those chores you might have been lagging on: swap out your burned-out light bulbs, fix leaky faucets, spot-clean the stain that's been lingering on your sofa, and so on.

    Prioritize the public, high-traffic areas of your home first. Your guests

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  • How to winterize your home—and save some cash in the process

    With winter fast approaching, our thermostats are about to go into overdrive-and now is the time to start strategizing on what you can do to keep your utility bills to a minimum (without sacrificing your family's comfort or coziness!). "The biggest thing to watch out for is energy loss, which happens when your home isn't insulated well," says Timothy Dahl, founder of home improvement blog Charles & Hudson. Here, a few simple tips to keep your house-and your wallet-sealed up tight.

    "You can lose a ton of energy through doors and windows," says Dahl, "and even if you can't feel a draft when standing in front of a window, doesn't mean it's not there." To suss out drafts, the best thing to do is to crouch down low and run your fingers along your baseboards to catch wind of any cool air seeping through, and also feel the areas around the edges of your doors and windows too. "Small leaks can be hard to detect," cautions Dahl, who also suggests using this candle trick: light a candle (making

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  • Tips for washing your cold weather gear

    Yesterday, after a period of time too embarrassingly long to pinpoint, I was suddenly compelled to wash a couple of the wool shawls I tend to cocoon myself in year-round. Despite the fact that the other apparel in my rotation gets laundered with regularity, for whatever reason my standards for hygiene slip drastically when it comes to cold weather accessories and outerwear. And now, motivated by how easy it was to hand-wash and rack-dry my scarves (which I swear are now softer than before, not to mention laced with the pretty floral scent of my delicates wash), I got to wondering what else in my fall wardrobe could use refreshing, and how to go about laundering things like down vests and fleece jackets. And on realsimple.com just now, I found out exactly how to do just that-and more. Here's a re-cap of what I learned:

    Down jackets and vests should ideally be washed twice per season. You can toss your puffies in the washing machine, using cold water. Skip the detergent, which can

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  • 8 simple, last-minute Halloween decorating ideas

    Martha StewartMartha StewartHalloween is just about upon us, and even if you haven't given much-or any-thought to getting your home in the creepy spirit, it's definitely not too late. There are a plenty of really easy things you can do to make your place prepped and festive for all the little trick-or-treaters who are about to start lining up on your doorstep, and none of them require a significant investment of time or money. Here, eight of my favorite spooky DIY Halloween decorating ideas.

    If you don't feel like dealing with the mess of carving your own pumpkin, get a bunch of orange balloons, blow them up, and draw on a series of jack-o-lantern faces on them with permanent marker.

    Give your place a Wizard of Oz twist: stuff striped stockings with newspaper, then add some pointy shoes. Place them somewhere at the base of your house, or tucked underneath your sofa, to look like a witch is trapped underneath.

    Draw a template of a cat (don't forget to arch its back!) on black construction paper,

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  • Getting rid of fruit flies—the cheap, fast, and non-toxic way

    Thankfully, the flies I've been contending with in my kitchen, pesky and gross as they are, are no where near as big as this guy.Thankfully, the flies I've been contending with in my kitchen, pesky and gross as they are, are no where near as big as this guy.I mentioned this last week, but recently I've noticed a small-but-incredibly-annoying barrage (or at least, something like 2-3 flies per day buzzing around my kitchen) of fruit flies at home. They're minuscule, and appear pretty benign, but seeing them leaves me with the unpleasant feeling that my kitchen is dirty and unsanitary-despite the fact that I'm cleaning up constantly and, especially in light of this mini-infestation, am particularly careful to wipe away crumbs and not leave food out.

    So, after a few weeks of this, I came home from running errands this weekend to my gloating husband, who had had enough and decided to take action. After researching various methodologies for getting rid of them, he made a concoction consisting of 1 part water to 1 part apple cider vinegar, plus 2-3 drops of dish soap, and left the mixture sitting out on the countertop in a little bowl.

    The cider vinegar apparently lures the flies in, while the dish soap works to sink them. I was a

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  • 5 awesomely autumnal simmer pot recipes to get you in the mood for fall

    Last weekend I stopped in to visit a friend who was brewing hot apple cider, which was spreading the coziest, loveliest scent all over her apartment. The perfect blend of spicy and sweet, it made her house feel so warm and festive, and instantly made me excited about the season ahead and holing up indoors with good friends and family.

    And much as I'm a big fan of scented candles, I've found the cinnamon-y, fall-ish ones tend to be cloying or overly fragranced-and don't compare at all to the all-natural, heady smell of actual fruits and seasonings bubbling away on your stove (which also have the added benefit of being a lot less expensive than candles, plus the steam acts as a humidifier too!). So here, via re-nest.com, five good old-fashioned simmer pot recipes to celebrate fall:

    One thing to note: It's a good idea to hold onto your apple, pear and citrus peels these next few weeks (just freeze them in a plastic container until you're ready to simmer)-they'll really come in

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  • A non-stinky, no-mess, no cost way to get your food scraps compost-ready

    Composting is one of those things that always sounded like a cool, virtuous thing to do, but wasn't applicable to my life over the past decade in New York City, where I lived in a very small apartment with zero outdoor space. Since moving to San Francisco though, where I've upgraded to having a (tiny) backyard, am trying to tap into my inner green thumb, and the city offers specially designated garbage bins for collecting compostable waste, I've had no excuse not to jump on the bandwagon-well, if only I weren't so put-off by fruit flies.


    Despite being genuinely excited about the prospect of making use of the food scraps that had previously gone right into the trash can, even before I started collecting leftovers I noticed miniature flies buzzing around my kitchen. I have no idea where they come from, though given I usually have a bowl of oranges out on my countertop, I can only assume they're tagging along with the citrus I get at the market. And though the critters seem

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  • 30 easy DIY Halloween costume ideas

    While putting together a Halloween costume can be tons of fun, it can also be creatively challenging and tough on your wallet, especially if you're trying to outfit multiple family members for the holiday. So, to take the stress out of trick-or-treat planning, read on for a re-cap of 30 easy-to-assemble ideas, many of which are comprised entirely of goods that you probably already have lurking around the house. And if you've any thoughts to add to this list, by all means chime in here!

    1. Baby: PJs, pacifier, teddy bear

    2. Fall: Brown sweatshirt, safety pins, autumnal-looking leaves

    3. Biker: Black leather, white tee, bandana, sunglasses

    4. Candy Cane: white clothes, red (and/or green) duct tape

    5. Charlie Brown: yellow tee, black marker or fabric paint (for zig zag stripes on the tee), black pants

    6. Present: Cardboard box (that's big enough for you to fit into!), wrapping paper, ribbons/bows

    7. Where's Waldo: Red and white striped tee, beanie, eye

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