Blog Posts by Emily Hsieh, Shine staff

  • Must-have entertaining essentials under $25

    Seeing Carolina and her panel of chefs share their easy-but-impressive game night recipes earlier this week has left me not only hungry, but inspired about playing hostess this fall. And whether or not your next party is centered around Friday night football, there are certain things that really come in handy when you've got company. Here, eight affordable (they're all under $25!), versatile entertaining staples I guarantee you'd be glad to have next time you're hosting a get together for your friends.

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  • The best (and cheapest) step ladder ever

    A step ladder, at least for me, always fell into the category of boring, utilitarian household items, and until very recently I don't think I'd ever given one much, if any, thought. In my new house, though, I quickly realized I'm just a bit too short to easily access the upper shelves of my closet and kitchen cabinets, and bought a little $10 plastic step ladder on a lark the other day that's completely changed my life.

    There's so much to love about this thing. For starters, it's made of sturdy plastic that's dense enough so that you feel totally secure standing on it, yet is so light it hardly weighs anything at all, so it's not a burden at all to carry from room to room. It folds completely flat, and couldn't be simpler to open and close, and the overall dimensions are so lean and compact you can slide it in just about any crevice in a closet or cupboard. It gives you an extra 8.5 inches, so although that's not enough added height for me to use it for say, replacing a light

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  • Cool, affordable wall art

    Artwork is one of the most important-and intimidating-details to try to get right in your home. The right piece adds so much warmth and personality to a space, and though of course what defines "right" is completely subjective, I think most of us can relate to the challenge of even defining what feels right for them and trying to figure out where to shop for it. To add to that, wall art is often dauntingly expensive, and then there's the commitment issues that come with knowing you're going to be staring at something whenever you're home, right there more or less at eye level, and that it's going to be nailed to your wall (and therefore kind of a pain if you ever decide to move it).

    So, to at least alleviate the concern about having to spend a fortune, and to highlight some great resources for tracking down cool, affordable artwork, I've rounded up a mix of graphic, eye-catching options, all from different sites that offer a nice array of choices-and here, none top $35.

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  • The best moving advice I didn’t get until way too late

    Among the many things I wish I'd known before I moved a couple weeks ago, was a piece of belated advice a friend (who has moved a total of nine times in the past decade, so I definitely consider him something of an expert) gave me when he surveyed the mess at my new house last night: always, always have a safe room.

    He went on to explain that a safe room is the place in your new home that you set up first thing post-move: a soothing, well-organized sanctuary away from the cardboard chaos that tends to overtake the rest of your space. It's a simple but genius tactic. Moving is such a messy, herculean undertaking, and, at least for most of us, setting up camp in a new house doesn't happen overnight. And since walking around from one disheveled room to another can be stressful (especially, as I can attest, after a couple weeks!), having one spot where you can escape the madness would be a huge relief.

    Related: 10 packing tips to help preserve your sanity while moving

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  • Tricks to make an orchid last

    I've been on a real potted orchid kick lately-they're sculptural and incredibly gorgeous, adding so much life and prettiness to any room you put them in, and I've also found that they're surprisingly accessible (and affordable) at many a big box retailer. They stay in bloom for weeks, if not a couple months, which is far longer than most cut flowers, which last for about six or seven days, tops. Orchids also tend to be very low maintenance though there are a few general tips one should be aware of to help make them last:

    The most common mistake people make with orchids is over-watering. Part of the beauty of these guys is they only need to be watered every two to three weeks. Proper drainage is essential too, so you never want the orchid to stand in water, since the dampness will kill the roots. If you notice leaves are wrinkling, you're probably over or under watering your plant. To check, tip the plant over and examine the roots. If they're white, tan, or spread out all over

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  • When’s the last time you cleaned your trash can?

    I'm not proud of this, but until last week, it had been years since I'd scrubbed mine, and they'd long since turned into a foul-smelling, grimy mess. I finally realized that taking out the trash is a dreary enough chore, without the added bummer of filthy receptacles. And with the nagging concern that I was baiting ants-or worse, rats-to come after our garbage, I finally took action. In case the rest of you have been slacking on your trash can cleanliness, here's a re-cap of some easy ways to whip them into shape (and keep them from getting stinky).

    Start by putting on some rubber gloves. Take everything out of the can, plastic liner and all. Bring the can outside and hose it down. Now you've got your choice of soaps and disinfectants to choose from-I cleaned my cans out with baking soda, though you can also use a bleach-water solution, or Lysol, or even dish detergent. Give the can a vigorous scrub (a toilet brush, or some other long handled brush works well for this task)-you

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  • What to do with your leftover paint

    I'm nearly finished with repainting pretty much every room in my new house, a process that was way more labor intensive and, like almost all my other forays into home improvement, cost more than I'd initially thought. A big part of the latter was I hadn't factored in how much paint can add up ($40/gallon? Eek!) . And since I have some paint leftover, and will no doubt need it later for touch-ups, I want to make sure I'm doing what I can to protect my investment.

    After a bit of poking around, I found a handy list of suggestions on making paint last from Consumer Reports, some of it intuitive, some of it less so. Here's the rundown:

    Keep paint somewhere that's consistently room temperature, rather than in a place that gets exceptionally hot or cold, which can cause it to solidify.

    Even if you've only got a small fraction of a can left, resist the temptation to consolidate it into a smaller container.

    Make sure the label is intact and that the brand, type of paint,

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  • How to give your closet space a major boost

    You can do a lot better than this when it comes to underbed storage.You can do a lot better than this when it comes to underbed storage.Long ago, I interviewed an interior designer for a story, who gave me one of the best space-saving storage tips ever for utilizing the dead zone underneath my bed. Buy bed risers, which are essentially really sturdy plastic cones with indentations up top that cup the casters or feet of your bed frame, and literally give your bed a lift. The result of all this is you now have far more room to work with underneath.

    I've filled the area with stackable plastic drawers to accommodate overflow from my closet-or really, in lieu of a dresser, which I was reticent to spring for both because my bedroom is pretty tiny and because a well-made dresser is a big investment. All my underthings, gym clothes, sleepwear, sweats, socks, and then some fit underneath, and the space is large enough to accommodate eight generously sized drawer bins to help me organize it all. This could also be a great place to stow things like sports equipment, out of season clothes, toys, excess office

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  • How to make getting rid of your old cell phones as quick and painless as possible

    Having moved a few days ago, I'm still wading through a sea of cardboard boxes, the contents of which I feel strangely detached to. There's nothing like moving to make you realize you've been harboring way, way too much stuff. In any case, inside one of the many boxes I opened and wished would simply go away was basically every cell phone my husband and I have ever owned and long since stopped using. But as it turns out, disposing of such electronics isn't that easy.

    I'd of course heard of cell phone recycling and donation programs, but what I hadn't realized is how important it is to do even beyond just wanting to give back. Chucking your old tech gear in the trash actually has environmental repercussions. The batteries these things come equipped with are pretty toxic-and are made of the stuff that lingers in landfills, seeping into our soil and drinking water and into the air when burned in incinerators. Yikes.

    I also didn't realize how easy it is to recycle your cell

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  • How to ensure a clean, sanitary, food-safe kitchen

    As the AP reports, a new study done in Los Angeles County shows that one in seven home kitchens would flunk the health inspections that restaurants are subjected to, which begs the question: should we be more worried about food safety at home?

    Though 61% of kitchens would score an A or B grade, at least 14% would fail-not even getting a C. And if you think about it, wouldn't you be skeeved out eating in a restaurant that didn't pass a standard sanitation test? So, to mitigate the risk of you or anyone in your family getting sick with food poisoning, follow these guidelines:

    First and foremost, make sure that your fridge is set at less than 40 degrees to prevent bacteria from growing. Since temperatures fluctuate, the best way to ensure your fridge is as cool as you want it to be is to place a refrigerator thermometer on the middle shelf of your fridge and check it regularly.

    Scrub down the interior of your refrigerator (shelves, drawers, walls, and all) with warm soapy

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