Photo: Peter Rosa, Illustration: Julia Rothman
Make It Over
Small suggestions for big improvements.
Your Online Persona
Lately I've been plagued by a phenomenon particular to the Internet age—I call it "about me" anxiety. At a dinner party, I'll chat easily about work, hobbies, or parenting fails, but when confronted with one of those bio slots on Twitter or Pinterest, I panic. How am I supposed to sum up my essence in 160 characters?, I think—which is odd, since presenting a capsule version of ourselves is something we do every day. "Coworkers know a different you than your friends do," says Jessica Vitak, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Maryland's College of Information Studies. Vitak, who studies what she calls impression management strategies, advises thinking of a brief bio or profile as a way to start a conversation. Meg Biram, who helps bloggers and businesses create online identities, says that "your bio is just your first impression," not a summary of your whole self. Her formula for an "about me" is simple: Reveal your job, then toss in a personal throwaway about loving bacon or jazz. ("It shows you're human," she says.) And remember that online bios are malleable; both Biram and Vitak regularly tinker with theirs. On Twitter, I'm a "freelance journalist, chronic mover, road-trip lover, Parks and Rec watcher, library patron, candy addict, county fair attendee." But by the time you read this, I may be someone else entirely.
— Melody Warnick
Your Daily Commute
1. Turn your car into a rolling spa (well, sort of) with a seat massager (models start at about $40 at Sharper Image, and many serve up both heat and vibrations), an air freshener in a calm-inducing scent like lavender or chamomile, and a nice hot mug of soothing herbal tea. Enya CD optional.
2. Instead of passively listening to audiobooks, learn a language. At the iTunes store, you'll find free podcasts on mastering Italian, Spanish, French, German, Arabic, Mandarin, Russian, and many more. Next step? Plan a trip to hone your new vocab (and escape your commute for a few days).
3. Get real-time traffic updates without resorting to your local wacky radio show. Waze, a community-based traffic and navigation app, lets fellow travelers alert one another to speed traps, accidents, and shortcuts. (It speaks aloud, too, so you can use it safely behind the wheel.)
4. Set up a playlist swap with friends on the free music-streaming site Spotify. Every week, have each person in your group send songs to one other group member, swapping until each person has received everyone else's playlists. Then start the process all over again with a new group of lists.
— Emma Haak
Your Cooking, One Cool Trick at a Time
Peel an entire head of garlic in less than 30 seconds: First, loosen the cloves by pressing the heel of your hand into the top of the bulb until you feel it give. Place the cloves in a metal bowl, cover with another bowl (forming a sphere), and shake vigorously to separate the skin from the cloves.
Cook spaghetti in a frying pan under an inch or so of cold water. The cold water will keep the pasta from sticking. The pasta will absorb most of the water, and the remaining starchy liquid makes the base of a tasty pan sauce. (Butter, Parmesan, and a pinch of fresh basil will do nicely.)
Chill wine and beer in ten minutes or less. Stir salt into an ice bath, then submerge the bottles until chilled. Liquids conduct heat better than air, and the salt lowers the water's freezing temperature. (Make sure to rinse your beer before opening, unless you want to lick salt off the bottle.)
— Laura Birek
Your Home Videos
Your baby's first steps. Your daughter's home run. The dramatic lightning storm on the horizon. Life is full of moments just begging to be caught on video—but, unfortunately, life doesn't come with a pause button. Luckily, there's Precorder, an app that continuously records the previous ten seconds, so you can hit the button just after the big moment and rest assured you've still captured it forever.
— Laura Birek
Your Approach to Stress
When you're feeling frazzled, adopt an attitude of acceptance, suggests meditation expert and psychotherapist Tara Brach: "Notice what's going on inside you, and mentally whisper yes to the experience: yes to the anxiety, yes to the tension, yes to the irritation. With each yes, you give space for the experience to unfold." Letting your feelings progress to their logical conclusion helps them dissolve.
— Ashley Williams
We Hear You!