Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking: Review + Contest!

My lovely friend Kate, of Hip Girl’s Home fame, has published a book: The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking: Decorating, Dining, and the Gratifying Pleasures of Self-Sufficiency – on a Budget! While the official release date is tomorrow, April 19, her publisher, HarperCollins, was kind enough to send me an advance copy to review and an extra copy to host a giveaway on the blog!

To tell you the truth, I was a little nervous about this review: obviously, I know Kate, I like her; I know how hard she worked on the book, and how hard she will be working on the book tour to promote it. I want to do everything in my power to ensure success for her and the Hip Girl’s Guide. Yet I have this pesky habit: I’m annoyingly insultingly unflinchingly honest. What if I didn’t like the book? I mean, knowing Kate and her sassy style, I’m sure I could find something good to say about it; but would I be able to give a truly glowing review? Would I hear Kate’s voice on every page, or would it be stunted by the editorial process? Would I be able, in good conscience, to tell you that it is worth shelling out your hard-earned $20 for? I should have known better.

In truth, I am in love with this book. I read the whole thing through in a matter of days, and have started dipping back into chapters where I need some help of my own: budget-friendly, non-toxic household cleaners for one (the bathroom is my nemesis), tips for the home office (mine is essentially in my kitchen – I’ve learned to do the dishes before bed regardless of how tired I am), and thrifty ideas for container gardening. I love the little illustrations, the sidebars and Hip Tricks offering up handy bits of info on the fly.

Like Kate, I don’t spend a lot of time looking through design/decor magazines, online sites or blogs. But also like Kate, I’ve spent a lot of time in small apartments, where space is at a premium: I think it forces you to get a little creative in how you arrange your space, organize your stuff, and display your treasures. I smiled as I read so many tips that I’ve put into practice in my own home: pulling grains out of the cabinet and displaying them in Mason jars; hunting for thrift store linens and tablecloths; keeping a kitchen journal (or a blog!); using bookshelves to divide a room (or to create a hidden nook for a bike, laundry hamper, climbing gear), and dressing up tired doors or cabinets with funky & gorgeous hardware.

Amidst the things at which I was nodding & smiling, there were some gems that I hadn’t heard, or that I’d heard once upon a time, but forgotten: using borax in the wash cycle for the whitest whites; letting garden can water sit overnight to allow volatile chemicals to off-gas; mimicking a vacuum seal by submerging a filled Ziploc in a bowl of tepid water.

Through it all is Kate’s voice: enthusiastic without being psychotic-cheerleader (or Rachael Ray) peppy; straightforward without being condescending; encouraging you to venture forward to a healthier, happier, hipper home without sounding the least bit holier than thou. Hip without the -ster, if you know what I mean. Really, I think most anyone can benefit from having this book on the shelf: to dip into when you need inspiration, as a handy resource (now how much green, and how much brown, goes into the compost pile?), for the straight skinny on home-preserving without terror. I think it would be especially useful for new grads, just starting out in their first apartment, new moms, or moms or dads to be, who all of a sudden have a whole lot more stuff, and a whole lot less money, or anyone who has been itching to become more self-sufficient but doesn’t quite know how to start.

Sound good? Want more? Excellent! Luckily for you, there are a wealth of options.

  • Read the blog. First, if you aren’t already familiar with it, you can get to know Kate a little better by spending some time perusing her blog. You’ll find all sorts of goodies there, from jelly recipes, to DIY dresser drawer raised garden beds, to info on food swaps across the country, all told with Kate’s inimitable style.
  • Watch the videos. Kate did a series of Hip Girl’s Guide videos, including folding a fitted sheet (see the master in action!), decorating with flowers on a budget, and introduction to water-bath canning. Check ’em out!
  • Browse the book. You can browse inside the book at the HarperCollins website.
  • Buy the book. Tomorrow is the big day! The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking will hit “brick-and-mortar” stores (check IndieBound for an independent bookstore near you) as well as online sites such as Amazon, Borders, and Barnes & Noble.
  • Meet Kate. Scope out Kate’s book tour schedule to see if she is coming to a town near you. In our neck of the woods, she will be at The Bookmark Shoppe in Brooklyn on Wednesday, April 20; at Concord Bookstore in Concord, MA on Thursday, April 21, and at a houseparty thrown by the ladies of From Scratch Club in the Albany area on Friday, April 22. Kate will be back in NYC in early May and has scheduled appearances all over the country; do check back for updates often!

And lastly? Win a free copy here! HarperCollins has generously offered a copy of The Hip Girl’s Guide to one lucky Local Kitchen reader (US and Canada residents only; sorry rest-of-the-world). Now the usual way to go about this is to leave a comment to register your entry, and then I go visit the trusty random number generator and let it pick the winner. But maybe, by now, you’ve noticed that I’m a wee bit of a control freak. And possibly you’ve noticed that “usual” is not exactly my métier. So I decided that I didn’t want some faceless computer program picking the winner: I wanted to have a say. More than that, I wanted you to have a say: without you, after all, there would be no blog to host this ‘giveaway.’ So here’s what I propose: a contest instead of a giveaway.

Tell me a story about a DIY project. It can be any project: a new recipe, a new plant, fixing your dishwasher, filling your bike tires, rearranging the living room, knitting your grandmother a hat. A comedy, a tragedy, a disaster, a triumph. You can tell it in any format: prose, epic poem, sea shanty, haiku, Instagram (a picture is worth 1000 words, no?), YouTube video. You can tell your story directly in comments, or leave a link to your own blog (or video, or epic poem) below. Submissions will close a week from now, Monday April 25th, at midnight. I will read (or view, or listen!) every one and pick the best few (3? or 5? or 7? I don’t know yet. Surprise me.) as finalists: then it’ll all be up to YOU, Gentle Readers. I’ll put up a poll on the blog of the finalists and you can vote to determine the winner! Fun, no? Clever, maybe? Dare I say… hip?

So lay ’em on me! Share your best DIY story: we’ll all be inspired, we may get a chuckle or two, and best of all, you may win a wonderful book. It’s a win-win-win!


  1. Janelle

    I do all kinds of projects and handy woman things. Most recently really into my gardening. None as creative as would be found in this book. I could surely use some creative pointers.

  2. I’ve been rescued from a couple of wedding related binds lately by the kindness of the internet. The result? I will be making and mailing gratitude jam at some point in the near future. The current plan is strawberry rhubarb.

  3. Tai is so cute. And Kate’s book looks so spiff on your blog! What a beautiful, thorough review. You know not to include me in your contest, but while I’m lurking around here I thought I’d say that my favorite DIY project this week has been scouring the hillsides while hiking to bring home perfect perches for my new pigeon aviary. I lugged home a whole tree! The pij seem to like it: http://ow.ly/4DF4X.

  4. I’m not sure that I have a great DIY story, but I’m really starting to get into DIY. I DIY my own preserves and pickles (aka canning). I also DIY’d my own wedding invites and centerpieces a couple years ago.

  5. I made vanilla bean pear butter last summer, using up a slug of pears we picked up at our local farmers’ market.

    I was chugging along, stirring the pot and feeling very Martha when a big bubble popped and splotched a huge blob of it onto my hand. I wiped it off (dumb) only to have the burn blister grow exponentially across my hand as I wiped.

    Couldn’t bring myself to eat any of it after I canned it all…but my friends said it was really good! (still have a small scar on my hand to remind me.)

    Won’t stop me from trying again this summer 😀

  6. NB

    One of my favorite childhood memories is putting up jam and pickles with my mom.. planning on buying canning equipment soon so I can carry on the tradition.

  7. Jennifer Sina

    The biggest project I’m tending to right now is all my little seedlings for my garden. Flats of future veges, from my Heirloom seeds, are lined up on shelves in the basement under lights waiting for Wisconsin spring to be warm enough to go out. Can’t wait for the fresh vgetables!!

  8. Beth

    My favorite recent DIY memory is from the day I purchased a pressure canner. I invited my mom and my best friend over for what was going to be an epic tomato sauce (some meat, some veg, hence the need for pressure over water bath) canning session.

    I always underestimate the time and effort that goes into this stuff.

    Eight hours and a few bottles of wine later, our shirts were ruined with tomato splatters and bandages had been liberally distributed due to lack of knife skills (the wine had nothing to do with it, I swear). We were huddled outside my kitchen door debating whether or not the noises coming from this pressure canner meant the end was nigh (I think I referred to the canner as the devil’s crock-pot at one point).

    Despite our tiredness and fussing, we all walked away with a bounty of delicious tomato sauce. Seven months later I am still grateful that I can crack open a jar of rich, meaty sauce on those nights when I’m too beat to put effort into cooking. I get it simmering, crack an egg into it to poach, and pour it all over some polenta. Divine and completely worth the blood, sweat, and tears.

  9. Grazia

    When I first moved in with my then fiance and his friend (to save money) I started to go crazy hanging out with 2 men. I needed some girl time and a co-worked asked me if I wanted to learn how to quilt. I said yes, and have made several quilts for family members. However, is not very transportable so I recently learned how to knit. My husband constantly says that I can’t sit still. And he is right. We are currently growing some seedling for our organic garden. I am growing tomatillos for the first time so that I can jar then for use in our favorite dish – http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/chicken-chilaquiles-10000001634740/

  10. Mimsey

    A good tip: If you dampen the inside of the dustpan under the faucet before picking up the pile of dust and dirt, the dust sticks to the pan. No sneezing!

  11. Olivia

    The bathroom is my nemesis too! Specifically the toilet. I’ve tired making my own cleaners but other than the vague smell of vinegar, I don’t think it gets clean. I’ve tried natural products but, again I don’t think it gets clean.

    I would love to get a hold of this book to try some new tricks in cleaning my home naturally and (most importantly) cheaply!

  12. Jasmine

    All of my friends are having 2nd babies. I have been knitting teeny tiny baby booties as shower gifts. Now my 3 year old daughter wants a pair! My task is to try to figure out how to adapt the pattern to fit her size 9 foot. I can barely read patters, yikes!

  13. Maryann

    My most recent DIY project is cards. I have been taking my little bits of spare time and making cards for all occasions. I use scrapbook paper and embellishments I already have on hand and make cute and lovely designs. Just last weekend I ended up making 2 cards with sympathy quotes inside, and unfortunately I needed one yesterday- the fact that I already had one on had was very helpful!

  14. Well, let’s see. What have i done myself lately? I made life and then kept it with the magical and awesome power of my own boobs. I also knit all of our family’s socks and made all of the baby food. Sometimes I garden too, but lately someone keeps trying to throw his small body on the gardening implements or wants to eat from the vermicomposter or toddles up to me bearing a bottle of toxic horticultural oil…all of which put the kibosh on my victory garden ambitions. Le sigh.

  15. Kris

    Last spring, I decided I wanted a dresser for my two-year-old to replace the tiny chest of drawers his larger clothes no longer fit in. I refuse to spend a lot money on furniture, so I started shopping Craigslist and garage sales.

    After finding many pieces of junk and several beautiful antiques that I couldn’t afford, I finally stumbled came on a solid maple dresser than looked pretty rough. It wasn’t scratched though; just a lot of water marks and the fixtures were tarnished. So, I bought it for $40.

    I used a restore a finish product ($7) and a little steel wool to remove the water marks (no stripping or restaining needed). Diluted lemon juice and fine steel wool got the fixture shiney and new looking.

    I was pretty proud of the end product. An added bonus was that it matched a night stand I already had. I wish I had the time for more projects like that.

  16. what a great post kaela! kate’s book looks wonderful! this is not an entry as I believe I have my own copy waiting for me when I finally get back home – which I am very much looking forward to.

    but, I would love to join in the fun! there is a lot of DIY goings-onz around my house, most of which are food related. one with a not so good outcome was trying to plant my own stone fruit orchard, with the smallest wisps of trees you could ever imagine. eight of ’em, just didn’t make it. 😦 one of my favorites; DIY still life – I can’t help myself, during growing season you’ll see wildflowers, herbs, fruit, squash, tomatoes, etc arranged around my home.

  17. Lila

    Because of cancer and treatment I often think of myself as weaker than I am. After waiting for four months for my son to fix my recliner that had a broken back he finally arrived and fixed it within 10 minutes. This is where I read, watch t.v. and sleep because of the mastectomy. Within a week, it was broken again. Thinking about it, I realized it had taken him such a short time to fix something that I had agonized over for four months. I had not seen what he did, but pushed the chair over and studied it for quite a while. Finally found a slipped nut and bolt and stripped section, I started working on that. I took me quite a while, but I preservered and viola, it is working again. I don’t know for how long, but that encourages me to try “doing it myself” on other projects around my home.

  18. Maura

    My DIY this week is bottling my most recent batch of red wine vinegar, picking fresh sugar snap peas from the garden and crocheting some fingerless gloves. I’m a stay at home mother of a 2 year old and 3 year old, so I don’t have much free time, but I’d love to get a copy of the book to see what else I could be doing.

  19. Last summer, paintbrushes and unfettered determination in hand, my two small kiddos and I transformed our outdoor shed into a craft room. Ah, the junk was out (thank you freecycle), the walls painted a soft blue, huge squares of chalkboard paint sit kid high on one wall. A huge door turned on its side supports my sewing machine where I sit while the kids paint, bead, draw, or climb on my lap to “sew with mommy”. For a mere 20 bucks, plus a lot of creative organizing, we created a special place where we can all be creative together. It is fabulous.

    Thanks for offering up the book. It sounds great. Congrats to Kate.

  20. I have a few D.I.Y. kitchen disasters but the one that comes to mind is last summer when I bought the last available batch of organic tomatoes from a local farm. I burnt a batch of organic slow-roasted tomatoes after falling asleep during their 6 to 10 hour roast in the 225F oven.

  21. As a “found” item enthusiast, I have recovered pillows whose covers have gone out of fashion with cool cotton/linen napkins. I have also used “scrap” fabric to recover pillows. My favorite DIY project can be found on my blog http://www.view-from-a-farmhouse-window.blogspot.com. I took old windows and made a cold frame for my seedlings. (Cold Frames! 3/26/11) It is working like a charm. I love taking “found” items and repurposing them!!!

  22. I went a little crazy this week and make cake pops. Check it out at jane-adventuresindinner.blogspot.com

    Thanks for the lovely blog and great contest. I’m glad that I found you.

  23. Once there was a girl named Lauren
    who wanted to plant her own little garden
    so she moved to a farm
    but quite to her alarm
    she realized it wasn’t her charm
    and decided that a smaller plot
    would be a better start
    so now she has plans for an allotment

  24. Pingback: {GIVEAWAY} Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking « FROM SCRATCH CLUB

  25. In addition to my DIY food growing and preserving, I was recently motivated to take on a big project – my nemesis – the hideous, inconvenient, poorly organized and poorly lighted garage laundry area. I’m painting walls and ceilings, stripping and painting various shelves and cabinets to be better organized and to make the area more attractive. I’ve decided to repurpose a few baskets and glass containers for more presentable storage, creating a useful and attractive work surface from an old, smallish cafeteria table, and installing hooks to hang clothes on. I’m also trying to figure out a way to attractively screen off the hot water heater and furnace without setting my house on fire. Suggestions?

  26. Rachael

    I’m really enjoying just a general move toward incorporating more DIY projects into my life. With each new project, I start out intimidated, thinking it will be too hard and time-consuming to keep it up. In the end, I always end up feeling empowered, even when disaster ensues (like a recent foray into homemade pasta that shall no longer be discussed…). Not only do I actually enjoy what I’m doing, but I find myself thinking, “why would I ever go back?”. With practice, the seasonal meal I make from scratch is tastier and generally healthier than the prepared version. My homemade dairy is better than store-bought and contains so much less junk. The household cleaning products I whipped up the bathroom sparkle more than any other cleaner I’ve yet encountered. Taking the plunge to try one thing just snowballs into more, and I love it. Next on my list for the summer? A container garden for my tiny patio and some basic canning, which I find unbelievably intimidating despite the fact that people have been doing it successfully forever. I’m going for it, though! Chance are, I’ll add it to the routine.

  27. I think my entire life is described as D.I.Y! A year ago I became a stay at home mom / craftaholic and have more than I can count disasters and triumphs!! I try to at least attempt doing something creative or find a way to make my little basement apartment more usable every day but most days I end up just crocheting and painting because there’s just not enough space!! My blog has tons of d.i.y examples but this one was my first! http://underestimatedmom.wordpress.com/2010/10/10/paper-flower-power/
    I realize it’s probably the easiest D.I.Y ever but the feeling I got when I completed it – I can’t even explain. It was that darn paper flower that got me where I am today and of course the help of my crafty friends.
    Personally I am a serious researcher. I love looking at what everyone else is doing, finding fun ideas, searching through books and magazines for fun tips, and coming up with some stuff on my own but I could still use all the helps and hints I can get 😀 I’d love to win this book!!
    Being an on a budget/thrifty/make it work mom, I think this book would completely fit my life.

    Thanks for the chance to win!!

    Love Always,


  28. Kate @ Snowflake Kitchen

    My favorite DIY project is the one currently in progress in my basement – seed starting! (Details here: http://snowflakekitchen.wordpress.com/2011/04/14/adventures-with-the-daylight-machine/) I had a couple of false starts (eBay heat mat didn’t work like it was supposed to, so I had to buy another one) but my tomatoes are finally starting to show true leaves. Today I drilled holes in an old drawer modeled after Kate’s dresser beds – I would love to see what other tips she has!

  29. phrodeo

    the book looks great! congrats to your friend Kate.

    My husband and I made homemade bowtie pasta one year as part of holiday gifts, in 3 different colors. I was the “pasta pincher”. I pinched the centers of hundreds of bowties that day and vowed I’d never made homemade pasta again. But it was so good, so much better than the dried kind (and I wasn’t much of a pasta fan before that) and our families liked it.

  30. Laura Z

    A few years ago, my husband and I bought a small house with a small yard in the country. It’s the first time I’ve had a place where I can really grow my own food and we’ve been sticking in a few raised beds a year. Right now we’re eating lots of Napa cabbage and lettuces, but we just planted tomatoes and peppers, too and the blackberries and strawberries are covered in fruit. My young daughter really likes to help. She snacks on herbs and veggies right out of the garden!

    We are lucky that the house came with a pear tree that fruits. Out of necessity, I learned how to can jam, but it’s so addicting that I’ve been making our own pickles, relishes, and fruit sauces, too. I really like making things ourselves, especially food items out of what we’ve grown or get from our local farmers. We treasure the seasons when we eat what’s fresh and learn how to preserve those things for winter.

    Thanks for the chance to win a book! I’m always looking to learn new things

  31. I recently moved from the country in upstate New York to Western Pennsylvania, suburbia. I was used to just walking in the woods and grabbing sticks, plants, branches, whatever I needed to craft. I also had tons of space to garden. Now I have a tiny yard and no woods. My new project is urban homesteading. Trying to get the most out of this little piece of land, it’s a good learning experience!

  32. Caroline

    aside from growing my own food, raising chickens, and canning… this week we are remodeling the barn we live in (yes, on a budget). so I am priming, painting, sanding, staining, sewing (curtains, which I have not done before), and perhaps building some new furniture.

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