Elisa Huang, Mark Lasswell, and Elizabeth Schatz
1 of 8James Merrell
With its unfamiliar smell and dated stenciling in the kitchen, a new house can seem haunted by its previous owners. To exorcise the ghosts and make it feel like your own, decorate with art and family photos as soon as you move in, recommends H. Don Bowden, president of Bowden Architecture, in Mobile, Alabama. "Your home will instantly feel more familiar," he says. Or pick a room and attack it. "Even if it's just the bathroom, totally customize it to reflect the way you live. It's a way to claim your territory." Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, an interior designer and the host of Changing Rooms on BBC America, suggests painting a room in an adventurous shade. "You might end up with a dining room that's poisonous green," he says, "but paint is cheap, it's easy to change, and it makes a personal statement."
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Husband or Boyfriend
Among other things, a husband or live-in boyfriend is essentially a roommate who shares the bed, too. Enforce the lessons you learned with siblings and college roommates: Respect personal space and do your share of the dishes, says Carolyn Hax, a syndicated advice columnist for the Washington Post. "With a new boyfriend (who's not yet live-in), it's easy to see what you want to see. Be open to other people's opinions of him, and be curious," says Martha Edwards, Ph.D., director of the Center for the Developing Child and Family at the Ackerman Institute for the Family, in New York City. "If he didn't call when he said he would, ask why―but not in a paranoid or accusatory fashion. If the person is interested in being your boyfriend, he won't bail on you for asking." Address conflict directly: Don't let annoyances fester. And recognize when a troublesome trait is immutable. "If it continually requires effort," Hax says, "just ask yourself if you're ready to make that effort for the rest of your life."
3 of 8James Merrell
The first few times you wash a new pair, remove them from the dryer when they're still damp and wear them for a couple of hours. As your body temperature warms the fabric, it takes the shape of your body, says Caroline Calvin, vice president and creative director of the Levi's Brand.
For really stiff jeans, skip the wash and just put them through a dryer cycle, turned inside-out, with three or four pairs of clean sneakers. The tumbling of the shoes breaks down starch that's added to the fabric during manufacturing and softens the jeans, says Calvin.
If it's a washed-out, faded hue you're going for, add extra soap in the wash cycle (just make sure it's not color-safe detergent). Or use the cowgirl tack: "I take my Wranglers to the dry cleaner and ask for heavy starch," says two-time world champion barrel racer Sherry Cervi. "In the rodeo world, that's the look. Starch also keeps them clean, especially around a rodeo, because the dirt brushes off easier."
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Gerilyn Bielakiewicz, cofounder of Canine University, a dog-training center in Malden, Massachusetts, shares her technique.
Walk the puppy every hour, on a leash, in one spot in the yard. Stay one to three minutes tops. Use a chart to record if she went, or if she didn't.
After a week or so, look at the chart to see when the puppy is going, then eliminate any unproductive walks.
If your puppy has an accident, write it on the chart. If she has accidents around the same time each day, add a trip outside. And as for pesky habits, such as chewing shoes or chair legs? "Puppies are destructive if they're given too much freedom too soon," says Bielakiewicz. "Prevention is the cure." Watch the puppy when she's loose in the house, confine her to a crate when you're not around, and make sure she has a healthy supply of chew toys.
Others believe that "the easiest way to break in a new puppy is not to get one," says Sam Stall, coauthor of The Dog Owner's Manual: Operating Instructions, Troubleshooting Tips, and Advice on Lifetime Maintenance (Quirk Books, $16, amazon.com). "An older dog usually only needs to be refreshed on the rules of the house. It's like buying a computer with the software already installed."
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Eve Felder, associate dean of culinary arts at the Culinary Institute of America, in Hyde Park, New York, recommends introducing your new knives to a steel (a round metal rod, shown at left, that's sold at housewares stores for about $25 to $45), and making sure the two stay acquainted. "Every time you make a cut, the blade splays microscopically," she says. After a dinner's worth of chopping and slicing, run both sides of the blade along a steel at the same angle as the blade's bevel. This will hone it, or pull it back in. Felder warns against using electric knife sharpeners, since they don't adhere to each knife's unique angle and blade shape.
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Normally, you just uncork it and let it pour, but with that special bottle of red wine you got from those fancy friends, you may need to decant. (White wines are generally good to go right out of the bottle.) With an older bottle (about 10 years old or more), you want to make sure that bits of grape skin and other unfiltered solids that accumulate in the bottle over time stay there, rather than ending up in your glass. If you want to impress guests, use the sommelier's trick of holding the bottle a few inches above a candle while you pour into the decanter. The light from the candle makes it easy to see when you get to the solids floating at the bottom of the bottle. That's when you stop pouring. "You may give up 10 percent of the bottle to have 90 percent of it clean," says David Feldstein of Atherton Wine Imports, in Atherton, California. The wine should be good to drink right away. When decanting a younger wine, though, let it breathe at a comfortable room temperature for about 30 minutes so it can become fuller, fruitier, and more balanced.
7 of 8James Merrell
To keep the wood from drying out and the surface smooth and even, condition a new block or cutting board about once a month. Put a few drops of mineral oil directly on the board and, using a paper towel, gently go over the board in small, concentric circles. (If you want to steer clear of petroleum, Renee Underkoffler, a raw-food chef in Maui, Hawaii, recommends olive or grape-seed oil.) "The wood needs time to acclimate to your kitchen's atmosphere," says Pam Beam, a national sales manager for John Boos & Co., the Effingham, Illinois-based butcher-block company. "After about six months, it will become seasoned, and you won't need to oil it as often." One last board-saving solution: Keep it away from standing water, since moisture can warp the wood.
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There's no changing the watercolor sailboats bolted to the wall, but you can make a hotel room feel more like home. When you make your reservations, ask about options that can give your bed a more familiar feel. For example, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts' Wyndham ByRequest program allows you to choose between foam or feather pillows. If you travel to one city a lot, try to stay at the same hotel every time. The hotel staff will value your business and offer you upgrades if they can, says Cheryl Rosner, president of Hotels.com. She also suggests packing travel candles to light in your room. Gordon Elliott, host of the Fine Living Network's The Genuine Article and a frequent traveler, says to bring your own alarm clock. "Hotel clocks are always hard to work, and you never know if the guy before you set it for 4:30 A.M.," he says. And download some of your favorite music onto your laptop so you can play that instead of the radio, says Elliott.