All posts filed under: Advice

My System: I Steam My Clothes Every Day

Marie in her unironed clothes. (Photo: TueNight) Who: Marie Robinson, celebrity hair colorist extraordinaire. System: “I steam my clothes every single morning.” Why’s that? “I have pretty nice clothes, but I usually end up messing them up with hair color. I’m in very small living quarters right now so I don’t take things out to iron them. It’s easier to just steam them.” Not that I wear couture all the time, but I was told when you have nicer clothes, steaming is actually better for the colors and the quality of the fabric than dry cleaning or washing them too much. The steam also kills any germs or whatever. Some of the stuff I’ve had from Chanel stays nicer longer because of steaming — the colors haven’t changed at all. Obviously things that need to be dry cleaned or washed I do. But dry cleaning can become time-consuming and expensive.” What inspired you to start steaming your clothes every day? “I made a lot of changes and sacrificies in my life to quickly get out of a marriage that …

My System: How to Spot a Celebrity on the Down-Low

The 2014 Star Map from Rentenna (Graphic: Rentenna.com) Living in NYC, you’re bound to spot the occasional star hunkered down over a plate of pancakes at Buttermilk Channel or walking their dog in the East Village. For New Yorkers it’s a bit of a quiet sport. To make matters easier, Rentenna.com just released its 2014 map of NY and Brooklyn celeb abodes. But heaven forbid you call attention to the fact that you actually notice them. (There you are repeatedly elbowing your husband pleading, “Look, look honey it’s…it’s that reporter from…from NY1!” Oh, the horror.) Instead, my husband and I simply say the word “Rutabaga.” For example, Susan Sarandon strolls by us in Chelsea? All I need to say is “Rutabaga” and my husband will casually glance about until he sees said celeb. Easy and no one gets hurt. Or embarrassed. This was adopted from a  system I used as a teenager. Back in the day, by using the code words “MT” (which stands for “my type”) or “YT” (“your type”), my bored sister and I could …

My System: Gretchen Rubin on Her “Power Hour”

Gretchen Rubin in NYC at her book launch party. (Photo: Leslie Fandrich) Who: Gretchen Rubin, best-selling author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home. System:  At 6 a.m. Gretchen has a “power hour” of solitude and focus where she can write, catch up on emails, tweet, before her day “officially starts.” ”At 7 a.m. I have to get my children up, get them fed, get them to school. So, I have this precious early morning hour when everything is quiet and I don’t have any distractions. It’s just for me.” What prompted the idea? “I realized that our family mornings were hectic and unpleasant, because I was racing around trying to get too much accomplished at once. It finally dawned on me that if I got up an hour early, I’d be able to get a good start on my day.” Do you consider yourself a morning person?  ”I think some people are larks and some people are owls and you really have to know where you are. And so for an owl I don’t think that would …

My System: Geeta’s Top 10 Uses for Duct Tape

Geeta strong-arms her rockin’ tape. (Photo: TueNight) Who: Geeta Simons — Philadelphia mom, radio producer, musician and instructor at Girls Rock Philly. System: “I use Duck tape for just about everything. It’s a musician’s best friend, but I also use it for baby stuff and fashion mishaps.” By the way, is it Duck tape or Duct tape? “I always thought it was ‘duct’ as in ‘I am finishing this duct work with my duct tape.’ And it is, but the brand I use is called Duck.” And originally it was made from cotton duck cloth. So it’s actually both. Geeta’s Top 10 Uses for Duck Tape: 1. Band promotion. “For taping up band flyers to a telephone poll. Works really well on brick walls.” 2. Multiple music uses. “For taping extra guitar picks to a mic stand; muting a snare drum head or cymbals; keeping the nine-volt battery in a guitar effects pedal; taping set list to monitor; taping guitar case shut (note: don’t do this if you actually like your guitar).” 3. Fashion Mishaps. “For taping a …

You Should Know: Cow vs. Goat vs. Sheep

You’re scratching your head. Of course you can tell the difference between these three barnyard animals. Heck, any five-year-old can tell them apart! But do you know the difference when it comes to one of the most fantastic foodstuffs on earth? We’re talking cheese.                               Many of us take the advice of gourmet goddesses like Ina Garten to heart when composing a cheese plate, going for a threesome that includes one “soft and fresh,” another “semi-hard or hard” and a third pick that is resolutely “blue.” (Yes, we’re still talking about cheese. Get your mind out of the gutter.) But, with a good number of cheese plates under your belt (literally and figuratively), it is time to seriously consider the provenance of your selections. Not talking country of origin — although national “cultures” do offer up distinct styles — but speaking of the animal of origin. When it comes to cow’s milk cheese, there can be a wide range of flavor …

11 Systems to Help Victims of Sandy

[photo: Aly left, aka @alywalansky and Allie aka @dearstormer during Aly’s Park Slope Beauty Bounty stoop sale] It’s 8 a.m., the hour formerly known 9 a.m., and I’m catching a taxi to Target to get blankets, batteries, flashlights. I’m attempting to meet Congregation Beth Elohim‘s  deadline of 10 a.m. – that’s when volunteers are loading up and driving out to the Rockaways, Staten Island, and other coastal spots devastated by Hurricane Sandy. The taxi driver, who seems particularly conversational, asks me what I’m up to today. I tell him that I’m shopping for supplies for folks in the Rockaways. He looks back at me, “I live in the Rockaways…” He says, “Thank you so much… “ “How are you doing?” I ask. “I haven’t been able to work until today. We haven’t seen any of the news. Our house was flooded and…” He doesn’t finish and I don’t want to press him further. I’m not a congregant at Beth Elohim, but it’s only a few blocks away in Park Slope and it’s a very organized, concerted effort. …

When 750 Words Are Enough: A Q&A with Buster Benson (Part 2)

Here’s part II of my interview with Buster Benson. It is more than 750 words, thank you very much. (Here was Part 1)   How did you get started in the habit mapping concept? Does this track back to something you did as a kid? I would write in my journal every single day as a kid. It wasn’t until I graduated from college and learned how to build websites that I got more interested in [habit tracking] though. The first web-related habit I did was back in 2002 or 2003 called Moblogging — these days that’s just called taking photos with your phone. I’d take these 640×480 tiny little pictures but there was no site to really capture the photo so I built a service that would capture tag and add it to my blog. From there I started tracking my mood.  Along with the photo, I would add a +1 or -1 and that got pulled into my “morale-o-meter” which was supposed to check whether I was interacting with things that were uplifting my mood …

Don’t Think, Act: Life According to Buster Benson

As a system-obsessed person, I am in awe of Buster Benson. A man who was once Erik Benson and then Buster McLeod and now Buster Benson. (At least that’s as of today.) He isn’t afraid to test and retest; reinvent and rename. He doesn’t worry about it, he just does it.  And if he can’t figure out how to get it done, he’ll build an app for it. “If I have an idea, I don’t do a to-do list. I just spend a couple hours building it to see if it’s interesting to me or not,” says Benson. The former Amazon.com developer and current CTO and co-founder of Habit Labs, 35.96-year-old Benson creates apps that track “habits” and, ideally, help people tackle their big lifestyle hurdles (diet, exercise, smoking etc) that have them stuck. He estimates that he’s created about 30 of these apps to date, including seasonal food-finder Locavore; the list-making 43Things.com; the health-improving game Health Month; online “morning pages” journal, 750Words; the recently launched Gonna Try; and the burgeoning Budge. His apps are marked by intuitive and …

My System: How to Find a Clean Shirt

Who: My 79-year-old Dad System: “In order to know which of my golf shirts are just pressed, and which have been worn once, I hang the newly cleaned shirts with the hook of the hanger facing away from me; if I’ve worn it once the hook of the hanger faces towards me.” And all your shirts are hanging in the same direction: ”That’s right.” Do you color code too? “Absolutely.”

My System: Changeable Chicken

Who: Diane Davis Otter System: “Just about every Sunday night I make what I call “Changeable Chicken,” preparing me for a week of healthy and quick meals ahead.  I adopted this technique from Jason Denton, founder of panini pioneer ‘Ino in New York’s Greenwich Village.” Here’s Her Step-by-Step: 1. Pre-heat a grill pan/grill press or panini press to medium-high heat. 2. Place two thin-sliced chicken breasts each on rectangles of aluminum foil. (Make as many as you want.) 3. Drizzle on some olive oil and rub in salt, pepper and any kind of seasoning spices you like. Flip chicken over and repeat. 4. Fold the foil into a packet, seam side up. (You can actually do this hours ahead and the chicken will be more flavorful for it.) 5. Cook on pan or press, seam side up for about 6 minutes. (Use a thermometer to test for temps at 165 degrees.) 6. After the chicken cools a bit, store it in your fridge in the foil packets, seam side up again. Saving the juices to use with the chicken is key! …

My System: A Buy-it-in-Brooklyn Thanksgiving

By which I mean I bought just about everything for our Turkey Day fete. With 12 family members popping over tomorrow, I’m all about keeping it easy. To wit: A deep-fried Jive Turkey. Despite buying this sucker ahead of time, we had to wait in a two-hour line for our very own. Seemed like a rite of passage. So be it. I’ve never tried a deep fried turkey, last year we purchased our pre-cooked turkey from Whole Foods. Hopefully this one will be worth the wait! [photo: Courtesy of Jive Turkey] Sides from Bklyn Larder: Yes they’re pricey, but the homemade goodness is worth it. Cheese plate, mashed potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon, cranberry sauce, herb bread stuffing, foccacia. Picking those up tomorrow morning. Flowers & apple cider from Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket: The Greenmarket is always open the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, so I hit that this morning, buying some lovely orange fleurs and fresh apple cider. Delicata squash from Whole Foods: The one thing I’m making (and not from Brooklyn), inspired by my …

System: Pin Your Inspiration

Above my desk is a messy cork board crammed with photos, doodles, postcards, reminders and general bon mots. Looking up at this smattering of inspiration every day warms me and grounds me. It reminds me where I’ve been and where I want to go. A rainbow drawn by my niece; the band of 14-year-old girls I coached; a postcard of author Eudora Welty; a scrawled love note from my husband; Stefan Sagmeister’s manifesto which includes “Complaining is silly. Either act or forget.” (The April date on the calendar proves that some of this stuff goes up and I never really look at it again.) I’ve had a wall of inspiration since I could apply scotch tape to ripped-out pages from Tiger Beat. Here’s the highschool version behind the 16-year-old me, almost exclusively music-related (and yes, that’s a cassette tape in my hand). That my parents let me affix radio bumperstickers to my wall…wow. And like everything good these days, there’s now an online version. In the last few months I’ve spent/ wasted/ enjoyed about two hours making lists and …

My System: The Perfect Pantry

Who: Don Gaile, an award-winning filmmaker, food lover and entrepreneur. He says he’s been a stickler for uniformity “ever since I wore my first clip-on-tie to kindergarten photo day.” System: To create the perfect pantry, visual uniformity was key. Don says he first had to amass the exact same containers. He found the perfect container in the ClickClack brand. “I ordered them straight from New Zealand when it appeared I bought out [all NYC stores].” says Don. How many do you now have?“83.” Wow. Ok, this system must really work for you! “It solves two problems. 1. Aesthetics: Just because it’s behind a door doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be beautiful and clean. 2. Organizational clarity: I know what I’m out of and know when to buy more rather than attempt to open a box only to find a scant of an ingredient. Also, I can fit a lot more in my pantry by eliminating oversized boxes.” Any system to your labeling? I’m assuming it’s alphabetized. Can you share your funniest label? “Of course they’re all labeled with a P-touch. Lower case lettering. …

My System: I Dress to Match My Makeup (Not the Other Way Around)

  Some people, like me, wear the same damn makeup every day. Mascara-foundation-lipstick, repeat.  And the last thing I do is slather makeup on my face before heading out for the day. This beauty expert, however, does it in reverse. Who: Elke Von Freudenberg – celeb makeup artist & eyebrow specialist, NYC System:  ”I do my makeup based on how I feel that morning and then choose my outfit based on my makeup, ” says Elke. “I’ve always gotten way more excited over my makeup look than what I am actually wearing.” And then you carefully put your clothes on? “Yes. I don’t really have a strategy for that.” How many different “looks” do you have? “I have 3 basic looks that I vary: 1. My pretty, natural, run-around-town errands look, with lipgloss, a touch of blush, mascara. 2. My business look: Foundation, a neutral lip, blush and a smoky bronzed eye 3. A more made-up look for evening or events, with a darker eye and a glossier lip.” And then how many variations on makeup? …

My System: The Crazy Songs I Make Up For My Cat

Who: Martha Sullivan Job: Designer for Hounds of Hell, clothing for dogs that rock. Hair stylist. Animal lover. System: It has come to my attention that many of us have thoroughly embarrassing pet-feeding songs we sing to our animals. Martha Sullivan, pet clothing designer extraordinaire, is no exception. Here’s her pet-feeding-song system: “I wake up. I put on the coffee, I open the can and Harry comes running. I let him sniff the food and lick it in the can while I sing a special song, which is all about his favorite flavor of Fancy Feast. It goes like this: Ocean Whitefish Tuna Feast/ Is what Harry likes to eat/ Classic. I say ‘classic’ because that’s the only one he likes.” That’s quite an advertisement for Fancy Feast! Have you always had songs for your animals? “Oh yeah. I remember hanging out under the dining room able with my brother and our dog and singing to the tune of Paradise City, “Take me down to the Paradise City where the grass is green and the Billie is Chilly.” Cause our dog’s name …

My System: How to Get More Juice From Citrus

Who: The Vamp Job: Food blogger for VittlesVamp.com System: “If I need to juice a lemon, lime or any sort of citrus fruit, I microwave the little buggers on medium for 45 seconds, so they’re warm and squishy inside, and are much more amenable to juicing.  I usually find I get more juice out of the fruit that way.” How much juice does this get me? ”One regular-sized lemon should produce about 2 tablespoons of juice, if not more.” Best use of this system? ”It’s particularly useful when you’re prepping cocktails for a large group.  It is amazing how much citrus you can go through when making a batch of drinks.” Favorite citrus-enhanced party cocktail?  Vamp’s all-time fave is the classic Gin & Tonic – served with a wedge of lime. Natch!  But she also recommends the Zombie as a great party drink. Here are Vamp’s Zombie particulars: The Zombie 1 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice 1 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice 1 oz. pineapple juice 1 oz. passionfruit nectar 1 tsp. brown sugar 1 oz. white rum 1 oz. gold …

My System: I Think of My Ideal Reader

Who: David Cole, sleepoversf Job: Web designer. Makes Tumblr templates (like this one) System:  To create great stuff (for his blog, a design or a website), Cole imagines whether or not his favorite people or heroes would dig it. Simply, he envisions creating things for his ideal reader, and that’s his filter. When have you used this system? For this post on Sleepover SF, Cole wrote about clever containers and designed his post as a clever container. He says when he wrote it, he thought about people like San Francisco writer and “media inventor” Robin Sloan. Did he read it?  Yup. Check it out. Modeled system after: This talk that Merlin Mann and John Gruber delivered at South by Southwest 2009. Mann says, “Ask yourself, who do I want to delight?’ Can you think about one face behind your monitor that you see when you’re making something?… The truth is once you figure out who those faces are it gets a lot easier to make something you’re really, really proud of.” Mann, in turn, was inspired by Stephen King’s …

My System: Bribing the Kids to Bed

Who: Robin Marshall Job: Brand Strategist, Brooklyn Mom, Zipcar enthusiast How does it work? Robin says she created this system to eliminate night-time battles. “Every night our four-and-a-half-year old has the opportunity to earn three quarters. 1) for going to sleep without a fuss, 2) for sleeping IN HIS OWN BED all night (no 3 a.m. visits), and 3) for staying in bed, or at least staying quiet until 7 a.m. Each morning he gets to put stars on his chart and mom and dad pay up. After three weeks, he’s earned 40 quarters (his self-imposed goal) to buy a book of knight stickers at the Scholastic Store.” How long have you been doing this? About three weeks. Does your son actually like it? ”He loves it.  He feels good about his accomplishments, is learning about saving and spending. We’ve only had one night where he didn’t earn any stars. You’re raising a little capitalist, in his sleep! Yes, well, he likes feeling in control and ‘choosing’ to earn his reward.