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The Hipster Housewife The Irony of Conventional Wisdom Mon, 23 Aug 2010 19:25:35 +0000 en hourly 1 Summertime Cool Mon, 23 Aug 2010 19:25:35 +0000 hipsterhousewife Ok. It’s summer and it’s hot. Everywhere, apparently. With hot weather, our bills seem to go up. Especially our electric bills. Now is probably a good time to try to reduce some of our energy consumption by replacing older appliances with new EnergyStar® ones and incandescent light bulbs with CFLs. Here are some other tips for keeping cool this summer…

  1. Adjust the temperature on your central AC. Most utility companies recommend 78° when you’re home, 85° when you’re away. Most thermostats have an “automatic” setting where it will automatically shut off your AC when the desired temperature is reached. Many even can be programmed to set specific day time and night time temperatures on their own.
  2. Implement ceiling fans. Ceilings fans use a lot less energy than AC’s and will help cycle air throughout the house. It’s a great way to help make your AC more efficient.
  3. If you primarily hang out in just one or two rooms, consider EnergyStar window AC units. They use very little electricity and can be left off in rooms you won’t be in. Afterall, what’s the point of cooling down a room just for the dust bunnies?
  4. Sun-blocking or solar shades. There are a lot of window shades and curtains that block sunlight. They can really help keep a room much cooler and are starting to come in much better designs.
  5. DRINK LOTS OF WATER. Sodas, coffee, and tea can dehydrate you even more. Especially if they have sugar and/or caffeine in them. Carry a reusable stainless steel water bottle with you wherever you go.
  6. Enjoy a popsicle or two. Especially the kind made from 100% fruit juice. It’s amazing how much cooler your body will feel after a nice cold treat. You can even easily make them yourself with an inexpensive reusable mold, available at most stores that sell cooking supplies.
  7. Give your pets a popsicle or at least some ice cubes in their water. They’ll really appreciate it.
  8. Take advantage of city services. Public pools, libraries, and community centers are great ways to stay cool for free or at least very inexpensively. Our local community pool is free for children and $2 for adults with a library card.
  9. Use your time wisely. If you’re going shopping at the mall or to the movies, do it in the daytime (especially the afternoon) and take advantage of the air conditioning these facilities provide.  You’ll even get to take advantage of the matinee price at the movies. If you need to run errands that won’t require a lot of indoor AC time, stick to mornings and evenings when it’s cooler.
  10. Dab cold water on your pulse points… inside of wrists, back of knees… This really does help you feel cooler.
  11. Avoid fabric blends with synthetic fibers. Synthetic fabrics do not breathe and you’ll just end up more hot and sweaty. Stick with cottons and other lightweight natural blends.
Book Booth Thu, 19 Aug 2010 18:45:46 +0000 hipsterhousewife My husband recently discovered the neatest thing in our neighborhood. One of our local art galleries took an old, empty phone booth that was on the corner near a fairly busy intersection and public bus stop and turned it into a “book booth.” It’s sort of like the take a penny, leave a penny trays some stores have at their counters. The idea is to leave magazines and books you’ve read so that they can be shared within the community and if you see something you’re interested in reading, take it with you. With the economy doing so poorly lately and many pubic libraries closing or cutting hours, this is an amazing way to promote literacy, for free. We’ve been leaving novels, educational books, and magazines for both children and adults. It would be amazing to see something like this spread throughout the country as a grassroots movement.

The Art of Negotiations at Corporate-owned Chains Fri, 13 Aug 2010 23:55:07 +0000 hipsterhousewife My husband and I recently discovered while shopping for a much-needed new refrigerator at a large corporate-owned chain store that we were able to negotiate a much lower price on the item we wanted. We knew we would be able to do it on floor models. We had done it before at other stores, but had no clue it would be possible on a regular item. We ended up getting 20% off the price of the fridge and free delivery and removal of our old fridge. Here are some tips for trying to bargain down the price:

  1. Know first and foremost going into the negotiation that all you are entitled to is getting the item at the advertised price. Anything more is a bonus. You, nor anyone else, is entitled to an additional discount just “because.”
  2. Research the item online first. Know what you are looking for, what you want, what you don’t want, and how much the asking price is at that store and at it’s competitors.
  3. Have a set spending limit in mind before you go in and be fully prepared to buy an alternate item that is within your budget or leave the store empty handed if they aren’t willing to negotiate. Make sure you let the sales person know your specific needs up front and look at everything that meets those needs in all price ranges and then when the time comes, let them know the amount you are willing to spend (saying an amount a bit less than you want to spend sometimes helps, that way they think they’ve won if you spend more).
  4. Know that if a sales person thinks they are going to lose the sale or you are going to buy a less expensive item, they are more willing to negotiate EVEN IF THEY DON’T WORK ON COMMISSION. Too many people buying lower priced items or buying from competitors reflects poorly on the store’s sales metrics.
  5. Be prepared to work your way up the chain and spend a lot of time at the store. First, you’ll talk with a sales clerk, then a department manager, then, often, the store manager to get the deal.
  6. Get to know your sales people and let them get to know you. People are more willing to help out someone they feel like they are bonding with than someone they don’t.
  7. Don’t try negotiating right off the bat. Spend some time looking at all the options available and thinking about them. Ask the sales clerk if they have any printed literature you can look over. Don’t just look at your options and act like you are thinking them over. Really do think them over. The more time a sales person invests into you as a customer, the easier the negotiation process will go.
  8. Don’t be obvious about getting a deal. Stores don’t want every customer that goes in to try to bargain them down.
  9. If you shop at the store regularly and use some sort of a store rewards card, let them know. They can look up your information and your purchases. If you tend to spend a lot of money at the store and are a loyal customer, they are much more willing to give you a nice discount.
  10. Be grateful no matter what kind of discount you get… Whether it’s a big chunk off the top, no sales tax, free delivery, free extended warranty, etc. be truly happy that you got it. Refer to tip #1 if you have any questions.
  11. At the end, ask the various people that helped you get the discount if there is a way you can let corporate headquarters know what a wonderful job they did. Show them you appreciate their efforts and you’re willing to put in a good word for  them.
Budgeting for Baby Gear Fri, 06 Aug 2010 18:11:45 +0000 hipsterhousewife It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, but I’ve been a bit distracted… My husband and I are about 6 weeks away from expecting a new baby. With a nearly 9 year age gap between children, it’s like being pregnant for the first time, all over again. So much has changed from prenatal tests, to do’s and don’ts, to available baby gear. One thing has stayed the same, though, babies can be very expensive before they even get here. Here are some money-saving things I’ve learned over the last few months and continue to exploring…

  1. Babies never need as much as you think they do. Write a list of your needs and wants and work on editing it for at least a month or two before telling anyone about it. Be sure to read online customer reviews, too (on at least two websites). Although that $60 baby bathtub sounds really neat, but $20 basic one may actually have much better reviews from people who have actually used it.
  2. No matter how active you are right now, your activity level will change dramatically when you have a baby. In some ways you will be busier, some ways not as busy. One thing that is certain, you will not be able to just get up and go do things for quite awhile. Every time you leave your home, a lot of planning and preparation is needed. All parents eventually get the hang of it, but assess your needs based on you being home more than you are now.
  3. If it’s your first baby, a first baby of a different sex, or the first baby after a long gap, it’s completely socially acceptable to register for gifts. Just make sure to refer to tip #1 before sending out the baby shower invites. Also, be sure to register for items in a variety of prices. Guests tend to get discouraged if everything seems pricey or superficial.
  4. Really THINK about things your buying or registering for as far as long-term usage. While that expensive European bathtub might get good reviews, it’s still just a big bucket and your baby won’t fit in it that long. And you know that adorable $200 bassinet? If you’re lucky, your baby will fit in it for a whole three months!
  5. Breastfeeding is free, formula is not. Just using regular formula (not specialized) can easily cost over $1,200 per year. Sometimes you may have to work with a lactation consultant to  help you relax and get the hang of nursing, but it can be an amazing bonding experience with your baby. No matter what anyone tells you, almost all women can make enough milk for their babies. It’s one of those things that really does follow the laws of supply and demand and you can boost your milk production by pumping between feedings, if you really want. If you do need to or choose to go with formula, the powdered kind you mix with water is much more cost effective than the liquid or liquid concentrate. If you are going back to work, an expensive double electric pump is necessary. If not, a hand pump will get you through occasional pumping needs.
  6. Diapers. Diapers are an expensive necessity. Your looking to spend at least $800 in the first year if you go with a basic design of a disposable name brand diaper. Generic brands will absorb the pee, but they sometimes don’t fit as well and leak. Be sure to try out several brands to find the one that works for your baby. Cloth diapers will cost more up front, but less down the road. Just bigger covers and the occasional new pack of cloth diapers. We decided this time around to go with disposables for the first week or two then switch to cloth with covers after that (I will be washing them at home). Six dozen cloth diapers cost us about $35, plus $11 each for 10 adjustable size (6 - 18 lbs) diaper wraps. The alternative would  have been a diaper service whose pricing was on par with purchasing disposables.
  7. Baby food. Jarred baby food is very expensive, has very little variety in texture, and somewhat bland/overcooked flavors. There are wonderful (and expensive!) gadgets out there that will steam and puree veggies for you to make your own. These are a waste of money. Babies only eat pureed baby food for a few months. You are better off setting aside an unseasoned portion of whatever you are making for yourself and investing in a hand immersion blender for pureeing. The immersion blender is something you will be able to use for years to come and costs about half as much as one of those baby food maker things. Another good alternative is to use a fork. Many steamed veggies, banana, and avocado all mash wonderfully with just a basic dinner fork.
  8. Baby wipes. Wipes are a necessity but not all sensitive, delicate baby bottoms like wipes. A damp wash cloth works wonders (and can be reused). Another alternative I discovered with my older son, was buying rolls of the softest paper towels on the market (at the time it was Kleenex brand) and using one damp sheet of paper towel. While I’m talking about wipes, wipe warmers are a waste of money. Crumple a wipe in  your hand for a few seconds before using and it will warm up just fine.
  9. Strollers. Most parents end up needing a stroller. Be sure to get one with real rubber tires and not one with cheap plastic wheels if you plan on using it more than a rare while. The cheap plastic wheels wear out quickly and need to be replaced.
  10. Baby Carriers/Backpacks. These don’t work for everyone’s needs but when they do, they can be a lifesaver. Be sure to invest in one that can be carried on the front or back, is adjustable, allows for newborns through toddler years, and has a strap that sits on your hips. This can save your back from a lot of trouble. Ask other parents and read reviews to find the one that might work best for you.
  11. Diaper bags are a necessity. Well, something to carry diapers and other baby gear are. Backpacks work wonders, hold more, and cost less than most diaper bags. Most backpacks now days seem to have a million pockets for water bottles, laptops, and all kinds of other things, just like diaper bags. Whatever you do, be sure to get something that’s sturdy and washable and you can imagine yourself (and your spouse) carrying around with you everywhere you go for the next two years. While those pink flowers are really cute right now, they can get old very fast.
  12. Babies don’t need most bedding. All you need as far as bedding goes are two waterproof mattress pads (one is a back up for when there is an accident) and 2-3 fitted sheets (which will also most likely be used in preschool and daycare on the mats they use for nap time). Baby bumpers are not necessary at all and, in fact, scare me a bit. Babies like to snuggle up to things and will press their little faces against those bumpers. Flat sheets, blankets (for the crib only), and quilts also shouldn’t be used because they are smothering hazards. However, receiving blankets, blankets that can tuck in around them in car seats and strollers, and quilts that can be used on floor for playing come in very handy.
  13. Babies need clothes. Never as many full outfits as  you think, but more t-shirts and onesies than you think you need. Until their umbilical cords fall off, it’s usually just easiest to put a t-shirt and a diaper on them and leave them like that. You’re not going anywhere with them anyway. Fortunately t-shirts are inexpensive. Reach out to your friends to see if anyone has any hand-me-downs. Even childless friends might have a sister who is trying to unload a pile of stuff. NEVER register for clothing unless it is really something you just can’t live without.
  14. Be sure to have at least a couple of safe places to set the baby down. A crib or bassinet is great, but portable things like bouncy chairs, swings, and playpens can be really helpful if you want to keep the baby close when you need your hands free. Honestly assess your personal needs before choosing one.
  15. Hand-me-downs are a Godsend. Most hand-me-downs are wonderful, but never use a hand-me-down carseat. Use with caution (and look for recalls on): cribs and bassinets. Breastpumps can be borrowed or hand-me-downed but the manufacturers will often void any warranty if that happens. Be sure to buy all new plastic parts for breastpumps: tubes, bottles, the cone things, etc.
  16. Changing tables are nice but absolutely not necessary. Most of the time you end up changing your baby on a receiving blanket on the bed or couch. Once they are mobile, the floor is great so you can pin them down. If you get a changing table, a dresser with a removable lip and changing pad will last you much longer.
  17. High chairs are great when the baby is learning to eat but they get outgrown very fast and take up a lot of room in your house. They can also be pretty expensive. Inexpensive, adjustable, high chair/booster seat combos that strap to a regular chair work really well and are easily portable. The trays are usually removable and they can be used until preschool (sometimes longer).
  18. Baby hygiene gear. Some things are necessary some is not. Several wash clothes, two hooded towels (don’t get the robes, eventhough they’re cute, infants don’t fit in them properly), baby nail clippers or an emery board, a bottle of mild baby wash (one bottle lasts FOREVER), a bottle of mild baby lotion, and diaper rash ointment (Burt’s Bees and Dr. Boudreaux’s Butt Paste seem to have the highest customer satisfaction ratings) are the only real necessities. The nasal aspirators at the store are terrible. Just use the one they give you at the hospital. Baby oil is NOT necessary, baby powder rarely is. A small jar of petroleum jelly is needed to help with healing circumcisions. Doctors and other professionals are split on using rubbing alcohol to clean an umbilical stump. It seems like most are going away from that now.
  19. When you have a baby, you do a lot more laundry. Stuff is always coming out of them one end or the other and diapers, burp rags, and bibs don’t contain all the mess. Baby Oxiclean can help remove a lot of the stains. Just be sure to use the version made for BABIES. There are special laundry detergents made for baby clothes, but any mild, dye- and perfume-free, laundry detergent WITHOUT phosphates should be fine. Most people use to much detergent in general, so err on the side of less. Plain white vinegar can be used during the final rinse to help eliminate soap traces. NEVER use fabric softener or dryer sheets on their clothes. At least not until they are mobile.
  20. Babies don’t need many toys and none for the first couple of months. After that, a couple of developmental floor toys like an activity or water mat are great for enabling tummy time, a couple of teething/chewing toys, and a couple of smaller soft toys that make noise are about all they’ll need. Once they can sit up (around 6 months), you can introduce new toys slowly.
  21. Diaper pail. A diaper pail is not necessary if you are using disposables. Plastic bags and your outside garbage can usually work the best. They are great for storing needing to be washed cloth diapers, though. If you are going to get a diaper pail, skip the dozens of diaper pail “systems” out there that require you to use their bags and try to find one that any trashcan liner can fit into. It will save you a lot of time and hassle in the future. They also tend to be easier to clear and less expensive.
  22. Hit up discounts stores. You can find really great brand name baby stuff for good prices at stores like Marshalls, Ross, Kohls, and Big Lots for half the price as Babies ‘R Us is carrying the same item.
  23. An extra carrier car seat base is really helpful if you will be switching cars regularly. The extra $30 can save you a lot of time and trouble. When you have your arms full of baby and baby gear, the last thing you want to be doing is struggling with a LATCH system and moving something else around. A second stationary car seat when the baby is bigger is usually worth it in this situation, too.
  24. Bottle sterilizers are NOT necessary for most people. Usually, you only need to sterilize before the first time you use it. Throw all the pieces (including nipples) in a pot of boiling water for 3-5 minutes then let air dry. After that, a good washing with hot water and dish soap or a run through the dishwasher is more than enough.
Decorating on a Dime Sun, 14 Mar 2010 17:23:49 +0000 hipsterhousewife Since it’s been asked, here are some of my tips for decorating on a dime.

Saving money when you must spend:

  1. Paint, paint, paint! It’s amazing what paint can do. Obviously, if you’re renting, check with your landlord first, but paint can make any room feel much more put together than standard white walls. If you’re going with a dark or bold color (especially red), I’d suggest investing in a more expensive paint with a built-in primer like Behr’s Premium Plus Ultra. You won’t need a separate primer and can get away with few coats, which ends up saving you money in the end. I did my home office in a beautiful deep red shade and only needed two coats. If you need to prime over a dark color at some point, Kilz primer is the best.
  2. Invest in quality where necessary. Some furniture pieces are worth saving up and spending more money on. Nothing can beat a really great, well-made sofa that will last you 20+ years with only some possible reupholstery at some point.
  3. Mix it up. This is sort of a part B to the previous item. Don’t invest a lot in pieces that won’t matter as much. That one really nice piece in a room can also help improve the perceived quality of the less expensive pieces.
  4. Don’t turn your  nose up at Ikea. Stores like Ikea and Plummers have started offering better quality pieces for bargain prices over the last few years. Ikea also sells replicas of a lot of high-end designer pieces.
  5. Be a web surfer. Craig’s List is an excellent place to find furniture and accessories for good prices. Because of the economy, a lot of people are moving to other states, down-sizing, or just getting rid of the excess. Just be sure to check out all items in person before agreeing to pay for anything. When buying used, never buy mattresses, bedding, pillows, etc. and always check out the pieces from all angles. Look at furniture legs, undersides of tables and chairs, and remove and examine closely (and smell) sofa cushions.
  6. Online stores offer so much more (and customer reviews too!). Online Stores such as and sell much more than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. and Amazon are also excellent places to find new home decór items for less. Be sure to read customer reviews. In general, there will always be reviewers who are just complainers, figure out what the general consensus of an item is before purchasing. I like to check out the Clearance and Sale items first before browsing the regularly priced items.
  7. Discount stores. Marshalls, Ross, Homegoods, SteinMart, and TJ Maxx have wonderful home décor and kitchen items for a lot less. They even carry a lot of high-end brands for half the price. Just like anything, examine items carefully for scratches, tears, stains, etc.

FREE tips:

  1. Curtains: To make a bold statement with your curtains, buy long ones or sew a strip of contrasting fabric along the bottom of shorter ones and hang the curtain rod on the wall just below the ceiling. The long vertical strip of fabric makes a huge impact and feels more “designer” than shorter curtains hung lower. It even helps spruce up white walls if you can’t paint.
  2. Knickknacks: Go with a theme and group similar items together in one area so they feel like a true collection. Don’t spread collections around the house (or even around a room) in order to make a bold impact. Don’t keep multiple collections in the same room. It takes away from the impact of them.
  3. Mix it up: Just because you own something, doesn’t mean it needs to be out. Swap out accessories with others you already own whenever you need a change. If you don’t have other items to switch out, it’s very easy to make slip covers for sofa cushions or throw pillows to make them feel a bit newer and different.
  4. Clean and clear: Leave visual clear space for the eye to rest. It will make a room feel more designed and high end.
  5. Hang your pictures and art properly: I’m always amazed by how many people don’t know how to hang a picture properly. Everyone seems to hang them too high or not use space properly! For most pictures/artwork, the center should be placed at eye level of an average-height person (58″ from the floor). If a picture is small, place it on a narrower wall or group it with other artwork to take  up more space on a larger wall. The size of your artwork should also directly relate in proportion to the nearest piece of furniture. It should never be wider or significantly smaller unless it’s a large statement piece. If it’s larger than the furniture, it must be MUCH larger (i.e. 5′x7′ painting behind a chair). If you have a smaller piece of art you want to showcase, hang a larger, empty frame around it to make it a focal point and make it feel bigger.
  6. Use your books as design elements. Hide the romance novels and John Grisham books in a bookcase with solid doors or in a closet and showcase antique books, art books, hobby books, etc. in open shelves. They are usually larger, more visually interesting, and something you wouldn’t be embarrassed about if a guest pulling out and flipped through.
  7. Use color or pattern. Even if you are pattern- or color-shy, it’s important to use them at least a bit to help give energy to a room. Throw pillows or blankets, area rugs, placemats, flowers, etc. can really help a room have more life. Nothing is more cold than a room that is black, white and grey.
  8. A place for everything and everything in it’s place. Make sure everything has a specific place. If it doesn’t, then it’s probably not important enough to keep.
  9. Color schemes: Stick with a common main color scheme throughout all public rooms of a small home. It makes the home feel bigger and more in sync. Switch up accessory colors and types to make things feel more unique.
  10. Don’t forget the secondary rooms: Make sure you put some focus on the bathroom and the kitchen. Don’t leave them as an afterthought. They’re important rooms, too.
Online Surveys Can Pay Off Fri, 19 Feb 2010 21:22:16 +0000 hipsterhousewife A few months ago, I posted about various online survey sites, and word-of-mouth marketing sites and how you can earn cash, prizes, gift cards, etc. by participating. Soon after, I decided that I was going to save up to buy a $550 Dyson vacuum using only credit earned through these sites. After talking with my husband, we agreed that it would be financially reasonable to spend up to $150 out-of-pocket if I couldn’t wait much longer, since that’s what would end up spending on a new lower-end vacuum.

The other day, my plan came true. In just over three months, I had saved $300 in Amazon credit by filling out surveys on,, and, trading in points earned through, and participating in a Communispace focus group. I was still a ways away from the $400 I would need to meet my agreement with my husband but, fortunately, the model I wanted went on sale for $100 off and I was able to buy it. It arrived yesterday and I’m already in love, wondering how I ever lived without it.

Earning this credit didn’t take significant time out of my day and it was very easy. I’m currently trying to figure out what I’m going to save up for next.

Article: Clean Your Bathroom in 5 Minutes Fri, 19 Feb 2010 21:13:24 +0000 hipsterhousewife This is one of the most useful household tip articles I’ve read recently. It was featured on the website of one of my favorite magazines, Real Simple:

Read the “Speed Clean Your Bathroom” Article

Download the instructions

Time-Saving Tips for the Holidays Sun, 20 Dec 2009 22:18:22 +0000 hipsterhousewife Although it seems like money is the biggest thing in short supply during the holidays, time is right up there. Here are some of the time-saving tips I’ve discovered to help make the holiday less-stressful. Things might not be as “from scratch,” but your family will probably feel much more loved without any Christmas time meltdowns.

Food Tips:

  • Prep as much food as possible in advance
  • Make holiday meals potluck and take a lot of the pressure off yourself
  • Au Gratin Potatoes feel fancier than mashed potatoes but take a lot less time and energy. This Emmeril Lagasse recipe is delicious and you can even boil the potatoes the night before, shortening prep time on the big day.
  • If you like cornbread stuffing or dressing, you can use a pre-made store-bought cornbread or make cornbread from a mix. By the time you add the celery, stock, seasonings, etc. no one can tell it’s not homemade. Day-old cornbread works much better than fresh, too.
  • Frozen veggies (especially peas) taste just as good as fresh and only take a few minutes to heat up
  • Eventhough it costs a bit more per ounce, pre-shredded cheese can greatly reduce your prep time for many dishes. I’ve noticed that mac ‘n cheese made with pre-grated cheese of different varieties, makes for a tasty, easy to make homemade mac.
  • Baby carrots are another great time saver. They’re already washed and peeled and unless you need them diced, cut for you. Same with the ready made salad bags. Just add some custom ingredients
  • Most people can’t tell the difference between a homemade pie crust and a store-bought refrigerated one.
  • Homemade frosting is the key to a cakemix cake tasting more like homemade. The same goes with homemade whipped cream on store-bought pies and dressing on pre-bagged salads. All only take a few minutes to make but are well worth it.

Shopping Tips:

  • Take Santa’s cue and make a list and check it twice before you go shopping. Stores can be crowded and it helps to have a game plan before you head out.
  • Be willing to park a little further away. The time it takes to walk to the store will probably be less than the amount of time you can waste circling around for a spot up front.
  • Online shopping can save a lot of time. No crowds, no lines, no parking. I’ve even noticed it helps reduce a lot of my spontaneous purchases because I can see right away what my cart’s total is and easily remove items before purchasing.
  • Hit up the grocery stores mid-morning on weekdays, if possible. Afternoons and evenings always seem to be the worst times around the holidays. Also, bring a list, grouping items by aisle, if possible.
  • Run as many errands at the same time as possible. Holiday traffic is terrible, at least in L.A., the fewer times you have to head out, the more time you save.
  • As much as we all love our children, shopping without them saves a ton of time during the holidays where everything in sight moves, sparkles, plays music or tastes sweet, begging for children to go look, touch, and beg for. The less you have to stop and say “no,” the quicker the trip will become.

Friends and Family:

  • Offer your house for a holiday meal and see if friends or family members would like to help provide the side dishes and dessert if you provide the entree. You may spend more time cleaning than if you weren’t hosting, but you don’t have to prepare as much food or spend time driving all over the place.
  • See if friends and family want to participate in out-of-the-house winter activities such as ice skating, seeing a holiday film, etc. instead of having another holiday meal or party. You can have fun doing something special, but there is no cooking or cleaning and little prep-time involved.


  • Sometimes the simplest decorations have the biggest impact. They also take the least amount of time to get ready. Holiday throws and pillows are quick and easy to set out, but make a living room feel more special. Instead of lights all over the house, focus on a beautiful and special-feeling front porch. A basket-full of pinecones feels very wintery and beautiful with a bow on the handle. Holiday-themed towels in a guest bathroom with a cinnamon-scented candle are easy quick fixes as well.
  • Focus on really cleaning the rooms people will be spending the most time in: the kitchen, bathrooms, dining room, and living room. A quick tidying up is usually enough for the rest. Close doors of rooms you don’t want guests to go into.
Tips for Holiday Gift Giving Mon, 14 Dec 2009 16:04:35 +0000 hipsterhousewife It’s that time of year again, where everyone gets a bit too crazy trying to find the perfect gifts without losing sight of the spirit of the holidays. Here are some things I’ve learned over the years that help me not feel as stressed (and have saved me some embarrassment). Some of these tips might be a little bit late, but they will apply for years to come.

  • Black Friday doesn’t always have the greatest deals. Read the circulars carefully, often there are only a couple of each item available at the sale price or they’re only available for a very short period of time.
  • There are great sales all the way up to Christmas Eve. Many of the department stores will have their best sales on weekday mornings leading up to Christmas.
  • There are great deals online and most retailers will let you know what date you can order items by and still receive them via regular shipping
  • Instead of shopping on Black Friday, use that day to have a household “Fall Cleaning.” Go through your closets and find old clothing and toys that are still in good condition to donate to charity.
  • Be sure to ask Santa what your child asked for Christmas. Sometimes you miss things that seem small.
  • Buy three or four “emergency gifts” for those occasions when someone you didn’t plan on buys you something and you feel like you must reciprocate. Never spend more than $20 on these items (I usually spend less than $10) and either make sure it is something that will last indefinitely if you don’t end up giving it away or it is something you will enjoy using yourself. Homemade cookies also work well in this situation. Wrap the emergency gifts but keep them somewhere (with a pen) so you can discretely add a name to the gift tag at the last minute.
  • For large extended families, discuss prior to the holidays whether it would be OK if everyone only gave gifts to the children. Between all the aunts and uncles and cousins in many families, you can spend a small fortune buying gifts. In our family, the adults buy gifts for their children and their parents. The only sibling that gets a gift is my husband’s pre-teen half-brother. We all stick with a $15-$20 range per child as well.
  • Think about the people you are buying the gifts for. A donation to charity is the best gift in the world to some people, but the worst for others. Buying a gift that you know someone would love but would never buy for themselves usually works well, too.
  • Encourage older children to get in on the fun of the game of Santa and not to spoil it for little children. Remember, just because your 5 year old doesn’t believe, doesn’t mean mine doesn’t. One kid with a cynical older sibling can destroy an entire kindergarten class.
  • Be thoughtful of friends who don’t celebrate the same holiday traditions (or holidays) as you and try to find ways to incorporate their traditions in your life. You don’t need to go crazy, but giving a Jewish friend a plate of cookies (not Christmas trees or Santas!) at the start of Hanukkah, shows you care and are thinking about them.
  • You really don’t need to go all-out for most children under 2. They don’t understand and they don’t care.
Unusual Uses for Things: Silicone Muffin Pan as an Ice Cube Tray Mon, 24 Aug 2009 15:33:48 +0000 hipsterhousewife During these hot summer months, we like to put ice cubes in our dog’s water bowl to make it a bit more refreshing. Regular-sized ice cubes weren’t really cutting it. They melted way too fast and the larger ice cubes I was making using different types of glass or ceramic bowls, were really hard to take out without thawing a bit first, defeating the purpose because it made them smaller. Finally, a good solution occurred to me: silicone muffin pans. I would never use one for baking because they don’t transfer heat very well, but as an ice cube tray, they’re perfect. They have large cups to make large cubes and since silicone is naturally non-stick and the trays are flexible, the cubes easily pop out. A six-muffin version is great for making a batch of cubes (they can be stored in a freezer bag indefinitely once frozen) and there are pans available for making extra-large-sized muffins ice cubes.

As an alternative to freezing plain water for the dog’s water bowl, you can also make your dog some popsicles. Just freeze cubes of sodium-free beef or chicken broth. Just serve the broth ice cubes in a bowl by themselves (don’t use a popsicle stick or put them in your dog’s water dish). For these, I recommend either making very tiny ice cubes or very large ones so they aren’t a choking hazard.

Silicone muffin pans are available in stores and online for $10-$25 each. Don’t spend $25 on one. The least expensive ones I’ve seen are at Target, Walmart, Marshalls, and Ross. Just be sure whichever one you get is actually made of silicone and it is FLEXIBLE.