Blog Posts by Emily Hsieh, Shine staff

  • Cupcake liners and Christmas lights = easy, cheap, DIY decorating idea

    Country LivingCountry Living

    On Country Living's site I stumbled on an ingenious, couldn't-be-simpler idea for making any patio look way, way more fun and festive, using just two really basic household items-paper cupcake liners and Christmas lights.

    All you do is puncture one cupcake liner to slide over each of the bulbs in the strand. I'm a big fan of the soft twinkle you get from Christmas lights, and with the addition of cupcake liners, they transform into summery flowering vines that look great winding around a back porch or fence. It's an excellent trick to keep in mind next time you do any outdoor entertaining. Any muffin cups you have lying around the house will work just fine, though if you want to amp up the concept there are also scores of really cute patterned liners (from pinstripes to checks to graphic swirls) available on that you can load up on for just a couple dollars each.

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  • Artificial grass: yay or nay?

    The other day I ended up on a hike that took me through a very ritzy neighborhood and couldn't help but admire an immaculate, bright green lawn in front of one of the sprawling homes in the area. "I guess shelling out for an expert gardener really makes a difference," I thought as I walked closer. It wasn't until I leaned down to touch it though that I realized it actually was too good to be true. Much to my surprise, the lawn was made entirely of plastic!

    Until then I hadn't really thought of synthetic grass in any context outside of miniature golf courses and football stadiums. Clearly AstroTurf and the like have come a long way, and now the stuff truly looks way more realistic than ever. The lawn I saw was an especially clever fake, given there even were blades of grass in variegated colors to simulate the real thing.

    There are obvious upsides to going the artificial route, the lack of maintenance (no more mowing, no more reseeding, no more fertilizing and no more pesky

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  • Reality star Whitney Port of "The City" gives a tour of her downtown Manhattan bachelorette pad

    At just 25, Whitney Port already has it made, both as the star of her own show (MTV's "The City") and as a fashion designer at the helm of her own label (Whitney Eve). The leggy blonde also has a plush duplex in trendy downtown Manhattan, on display in the new issue of In Touch Weekly, though doesn'

  • 10 all-natural tips and tricks for repelling mosquitoes

    One of the big (and only) drags of summer is dealing with mosquitoes. They're everywhere this time of year, and most repellents out there leave skin coated with a film of icky chemicals that not only seem questionably safe for kids but smell awful too. Though most of us have heard of using citronella to ward off bugs, turns out that's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of natural deterrents. Here, an array of pointers to keep mosquitoes away:

    Get rid of standing water sources (which is where female critters like to lay their eggs)-birdbaths, wading pools, and pet bowls should be changed a couple times a week.

    There are certain plants that mosquitoes can't stand the scent of. The list includes catnip, rosemary, citronella grass, lavender, cinnamon, and peppermint-all good things to keep in mind as you're landscaping your backyard.

    Like vampires, mosquitoes are said to be garlic-phobes. Slice a clove in half and rub the cut side on your skin, or mix one part garlic juice

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  • The do’s and don’ts of disinfecting your keyboard

    My husband came down with a cold this weekend-one that involves a runny nose and a hacking cough, unfortunately-and I fear our apartment is turning into a germ fest. This morning as I listened to him cough and simultaneously bang away at the very computer I'm typing at now, I realized I really ought to disinfect the keyboard to try and stave off getting sick myself.

    While cleaning your keyboard is one thing, there are slightly different tactics for sanitizing it. I ended up on Apple's website just now, where they outlined some simple but helpful pointers on the subject of the latter (PC users fear not: the advice isn't specific to Macs). You're going to want some Lysol Wipes or Clorox Kitchen Disinfecting Wipes handy. Besides those, here's a re-cap of things to know before you dig in:


    Power off your computer. If you've got a wireless keyboard or mouse, remove the batteries.

    If the wipe feels heavily saturated with liquid, wring it out so it's not excessively

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  • A stylish, of-the-moment DIY project that anyone can pull off: rope lamp

    Martha StewartMartha StewartOne of the coolest, most foolproof, deeply satisfying DIY projects you can possibly undertake is making you own rope-covered table lamp. Even those of us with utterly minimal crafting capabilities can handle the task (I say this from experience having made one myself a few years ago!). And it's a particularly relevant undertaking now, as rope accents are a huge design trend at the moment, and have a beachy, breezy feel that's just right for the summer.

    Start with a bulbous lamp base. You might even have one lying around that you're sick of looking at in its current state. If not, shop for an inexpensive lamp in a curvy silhouette that appeals to you. Don't worry if you hate the color or pattern-you're going to cover it up.

    The only other tools you need are a hot glue gun and some rope. You'll want to get rope that's fairly thick, since it'll be easier to work with. Choose one in a natural, goes-with-anything fiber like jute or sisal.

    Working your way up from the bottom,

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  • Take a tour of Cher’s gorgeous new Buddhist-inspired home

    Cher is a master of reinvention. After all, who else can boast winning an Oscar, Grammy, Emmy, and three Golden Globes, rock a fishnet bodysuit past the age of 40 (her video for "If I Could Turn Back Time" was so risqué even MTV banned it!), and churn out one of the world's best-selling dance singles ever, "Believe," in her 50's? And now, at the age of 64, she's switching tracks again: "I am a Buddhist," she declares in the July issue of Architectural Digest, which features her new, stunning, Zen-like Los Angeles apartment. But lest you think she's lost her edge, she adds, "who should always be in after-school detention."

    Her just-renovated digs reflect her search for serenity. To create a sense of airiness, she gutted the apartment's 12 rooms in favor of an open floor plan: "I always wanted an apartment that was one big bedroom," the star reveals, "because that's really where I live, starting from the days when Sonny and I could only afford one bedroom."

    The space also

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  • Cleaning tricks to make appliances last

    As it turns out, the secret to keeping appliances running smoothly is cleanliness-or at least that's what Kirby Mills, owner of At Your Service Appliance Repair in Kansas City, Missouri, tells The New York Times, having seen hundreds of appliances malfunction due to "goo, dust, and gunk" every year. I learned this the hard way a couple months ago when my dishwasher stopped working, only to discover later (following a very expensive visit from a repairman) that the problem was simply a filter that needed to be rinsed. It really doesn't take much time or effort to clean appliances, and doing so can extend their lifespan by years. Here's a re-cap of how to best go about this:

    Dishwasher: Take out the racks. Check the corners and the rubber lining around the door for cracks and food residue. Clean out both with a sponge and plastic-bristled brush (don't use metal as it can damage the machine). Consult the owner's manual and remove the spray arms and wash them with soap and water. If

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  • Easy, fun, family-friendly crafting: potato printing

    Rowenta USARowenta USA

    On Design Sponge just now I saw a video made by iron purveyor Rowenta starring Lotta Jansdotter, an artist and textile designer based in Brooklyn. In it, she offers a tutorial on an incredibly simple method for printing cloth right at home-which would actually make an excellent DIY project to tackle with your kids.

    All you need is a potato or two, some ink, cloth, and an iron. Halve the potatoes, which you'll later use as stamps. Run your iron over the fabric to create a smooth surface-you want it to be nice and even before you start printing. Next, apply ink onto the cut side of the potato, and press firmly onto the cloth. Repeat as many times as you like, and don't worry at all about making things symmetrical. Little ones are great for executing this step, as Jansdotter's adorable 3 year-old son August demonstrates in the video. Later, once the fabric has had a chance to dry, iron it again-the heat helps set the dye. You can use the material to stitch a basic a shopping tote,

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  • Outdoor entertaining essentials under $10

    With Memorial Day weekend looming so close, the summer entertaining season is about to get into full swing. Here, I've assembled ten handy accessories-from an unusual ice cube tray (I'm planning on taking Carolina's advice from earlier in the week and filling it with lemonade to drop into ice tea or cocktails) to an exotic-looking food tent-to help get you prepped and ready to go into hostess mode. And best yet, it's all under $10.

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