You Should Know How to Do This: Be Healthy

For the last six or so weeks, I’ve been obsessed– obsessed– with my health (“to the surprise of absolutely no one,” says my roommate. “I bet you also love to read advice columns.” He’s on to me.). I’ve been thinking about it constantly. I’ve been blessed to have great health, but preventative medicine is the best medicine, or so I heard on NPR. There’s so much conflicting information out there and it makes me feel like I may as well keep doing what I’m doing, because hey, that’s not going badly, or at least not yet. I consulted with a variety of friends in the medical field about how to take care of myself– a pharmacist, someone who works in insurance, two nurses, a personal trainer, a nutritionist, a surgeon, a physical therapist, a medical journalist, and three doctors– and got a ton of information. It inspired me to take stock of my habits and practices, get my family’s complete medical records, and do some research about what options are available for me for care. It’s helping me to sleep better at night, and so I wanted to pass that along to you.

You KNOW she flosses like nine times a day.
You KNOW she flosses like nine times a day.

There’s stuff you can control, stuff you can’t control, and stuff we don’t know one way or the other, but hey, doesn’t hurt to have all the information, right? Continue reading “You Should Know How to Do This: Be Healthy”

And We’re Slow to Acknowledge the [Gaping Holes in Our Security], or Heart It Bleeds Some More

Summary of my understanding of what’s going on here. Don’t feel bad.

So if you’ve been living on the internet for the last couple days, you’ve probably heard about Heartbleed, a staggering security bug that is ravaging somewhere between 1/3 and 2/3s of the internet, depending on who you ask. Or maybe you live on the internet and haven’t heard about this– that’s okay, too. I’ve been pretty surprised that this isn’t front page news, a trending topic on Twitter, and the name of a vegan cafe in Berkeley already; it’s hugely important but flying mostly under the radar.

This isn’t a tech site, obviously, and I’m not any kind of expert on computer security, but I try to be helpful and explain stuff in layman’s terms. If this ends up getting like, three of my readers’ ish locked down, I’ll consider it worth it. I talked to a couple tech-y friends (some in security, some just more knowledgeable about systems, and a few bona fide geeks who love this stuff), took a ton of notes, asked a lot of questions, and got some info about what’s going on, how concerned you should be, and what steps you should take. If you’ve been paying attention so far, you probably saw that this is almost certainly going to touch you in some way, so maybe take some of these steps.  The right people are pretty freaked out about this– I plan to take their advice and I think you should too. The worst thing you can do is assume this is no big deal and take no action.

Continue reading “And We’re Slow to Acknowledge the [Gaping Holes in Our Security], or Heart It Bleeds Some More”

You Should Know How to Do This: Be Clean

Everyone who knows me, with the notable exception of my mother, agrees that I am a Clean Person. Staci’s house is kept at all times at hospital-grade sterility and Pottery Barn catalog levels of lovely, and she considers the Dairy Queen to be the absolute height of filth, so in recent years I decided her opinion is not one I can take into account. Sorry, Mommy! Everyone else, though– they all agree I keep a real clean house. There’s pretty much nothing worse in the whole world than staying the night with a friend, or being invited to your cousin’s for dinner and finding that everything is covered in a sticky film, or that there’s cat pee staining the rug. I’m not saying you’re that cousin, but if you are, I want to show you how to dig yourself out with a minimum of cussing and sweating.

It was not always this way. To paraphrase 1  Corinthians, when I was a college student, I swept as a college student, I laundered as a college student, I Windexed as a college student. When I became a grownup, I put the ways of college behind me. I first got my own space about four years ago. Initially, I was so pumped because any mess I made was my mess, and I was the only person I had to clean up for. I had a washer and dryer at my place for the first time ever and I had a dishwasher. After four years in dorms and keeping it as clean as I could in the wake of seven suitemates, I was in tall cotton, and I let it get filthy. I embraced dimmer switches and lived out of a series of piles.

No, of course this is not mine. That coverlet is ugly.

That worked for me for about 3 months and by September or so, I hated everything. I had always dreaded cleaning as a kid– and to be honest, it’s not like I love it now– and I didn’t want to devote my whole Saturday to Windexing baseboards and polishing silverware. I was also living on $12,000 a year, and couldn’t afford stuff like Pledge wipes, which were suddenly a luxury item. So I decided to change.

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You Should Know How to Do This: Chocolate Syrup

photo 3
I would take a bath in it, I would.

Syrup is a many-splendored thing. A two-to-one ratio of water to sugar can turn into virtually whatever sweet concoction you can imagine. When I was working in fine dining, we had ginger syrups and jalapeno syrups and hibiscus syrups and I don’t even remember what else for our highly fancy cocktails. A dash of simple makes making sweet tea much, much simpler, whatever weird syrups you care to concoct make your Sodastream a thing worth the counter space, and of course the omnipresent bottle of Hersey’s will trick small children (okay, and also me) into drinking their milk. I see pre-made syrups hanging out at the grocery store, and it makes me ultra-crazy because it takes under a minute to make and the sky’s the limit. I’m going to show you how to make chocolate syrup today, but I’ll make some notes after the jump for how to customize it. The method’s the same no matter what.

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You Should Know How to Do This: Wear a Hat

There’s no reason to be modest about this: I look spectacular in a hat.

I mean, COME. ON.
This is a 7 a.m. car selfie, even. This is the power of the right hat.

Hats occupy the uncanny valley of clothes: they have all the aspects of things one might put on one’s body (softish, cover something up, come in sizes), but a vast segment of the population feels somewhere between uneasy about and repulsed by the idea of actually integrating them into their lives.  Whenever I venture out of the house wearing a hat, someone says, “I love your outfit! I wish I could pull that off!”

I bought this last week when I had a bad day.
I bought this last week when I had a bad day.

Can I tell you a secret? There’s no such thing as “pulling it off.” You don’t have to have amazing bone structure or a certain haircut or be between 18-22 or anything at all. The reason you think I look good in a hat is that it’s novel (if you don’t know me) or you’re used to seeing me in one (if you do).

When I was 15, I was at Dot Fox, talking to my style mentor Sally Bird (I know we’ve talked about Sally), and admiring this big, black felt hat. Since I was 15, I said something like, “I love this but I couldn’t ever wear it! I’d feel so silly about how weird I’d look because I am a teenager and think everyone is looking at me all the time and actually no one cares but I think they do.”

Sally said this: “You know what the trick to pulling it off is? You put that sucker on and don’t take it off until everyone is telling you how goddamn stunning you are.”

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You Should Know How To Do This: Be a Morning Person

The entire point of being a morning person is so that you can be a complete and total jerk about it all the time.

I am a morning person. I am a complete ass about it. Like, “oh, you just got up? I went to barre class, made some scones, did all my laundry, and read six chapters of Ulysses. Also, they were not sold out of maple bacon doughnuts when I got there. I wish you’d be there! Would have saved you one! They’re super good. One day!”

This is the beach at 5:30 AM. Look, you don't have to share.
This is the beach at 5:30 AM. Look, you don’t have to share. There are no kids trying to bury you in sand, and no drunk people/gross catcallers ruining your run, swim, or lounge.

It was not always this way. Back in the day, when I was a baby Kentucky, I would sleep until noon, no problem. This might be because I was a teenager and apparently teenagers’ circadian rhythms are on like, 27 hour cycles or something. One time, my dear grandmother woke me up at like, 9:30 and I complained bitterly for about a month.

When I was in college, I needed to work in addition to taking classes, so I scheduled all my classes on Tuesday and Thursday so I could sling overpriced lipstick the other five days. This effectively means that I was in class from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on those days, which is kind of a feat for most students. It’s not ACTUALLY a feat, but if you’re in college and you tell someone you take 8 a.m. courses, they think you’re some kind of sainted freak. After that, I got a job that started at 7 a.m. where they would fire you if you were late, so I just kept the ball rolling. ANYWAY. I learned a lot about getting up early and its benefits.

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You Should Know How To Do This: Look Good On Skype

The phenomenon of the webcam girl is perhaps the most baffling of all things in the modern world. How is it possible that there are people who look so good on webcam that there are other people willing to give them actual money just to look at them on webcam? I feel like the weird lighting of your house, the graininess, and the requisite sound delay make the whole thing unsexy by default. In fact, it’s been scientifically proven that you look 87% less hot on Google Hangout than in real life.*

This is my "pre-doing all the advice" look. This is what you will look like if you do not follow my good advice.
This is my “pre-doing all the advice” look. This is what you will look like if you do not follow my good advice. I took this about 10 minutes before the “after advice” one, so do with that information what you will.

But in this, our rapidly shifting universe, there will come a time when you need to make yourself presentable via Skype or something like it: Friends and lovers move abroad, get deployed, or decide having a cell phone is a racket, you decide you want to look at your sister’s face and she’s off at college in Vermont, a company in Seattle wants to make sure you don’t have a face tattoo before they hire you sight unseen, whatever. It’s incredibly stressful, because not only do you have to look like yourself/professional/hot, you also have to give the other person your undivided attention and make eye contact, unlike phone chatting. That said, there are some steps you could take so you can feel confident and attractive.

My first, and best, suggestion is to be really good looking in real life. That will get you pretty far in this whole Skype game. Barring that, check out some ideas after the jump.

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You Should Know How to Do This: Being in a Wedding Party

It’s summer (or, more accurately, “a weekend from March through October”), so everyone and their brother is getting married. If you’re 19-35, you likely have at least three scheduled throughout the season. If you’re 19-35 and a Southerner, you’re…well, you’re probably not reading a blog because you’re at a wedding right now.

This is me as a bridesmaid, age 19.
This is me as a bridesmaid, age 19.

I’m not going to write a post about how to be a wedding guest, because if you DON’T know how to do that, you’re probably also the person writing the insane comments about how Obama is a reptilian alien sent to destroy us at the bottom of Slate articles.

If you’re actually a monster, here’s how you do it: you RSVP according to their wishes and on time. You bring a date or your children if your written invitation specifically says that your others (significant or otherwise) are invited but you don’t ask if you can otherwise, and you certainly do just wing it. You send them a gift from their registry or to the charity they’ve named or you give them cash to avoid anything like this. You show up on time to their wedding and you do not make a spectacle of yourself or complain at any time. THAT IS IT. You just arrive, act polite, send a gift, and then go home. If your girlfriend has to stay home, you can dance with available flower girls and aunties and everyone will think you’re sweet and you’ll have fun anyway. If you can’t afford to get a sitter, you can’t afford to go to the wedding. If you think everything on the registry is tacky, maybe reevaluate who your friends are because maybe they’re gonna stay tacky.

But I digress.

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You Should Know How To Do This: Writing a Thank-You Note

On Tuesday, I had one of the best mail days of my young life. I got a care package, I got an unexpected refund from my car insurance, and I got not one but THREE letters. Needless to say, I was so excited I nearly perished.

Now, three of these people probably knew they were making my day (when you send unexpected presents in the mail, that’s almost certainly your intent), and one of them was automatically generated (unless Flo is now personally sending out all the Progressive statements), but one of the notes was a little thank-you card for some minor favor I had delivered some weeks before. It was a really simple letter– maybe three sentences– but I felt like showing these people around town had been an appreciated, worthwhile task and that they liked me.


You, too, can inspire these very warm feelings in others with almost no effort at all.

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