The Hippo


Dec 5, 2019








For your wardrobe

If your closet has you feeling uninspired, there’s no better time than the start of a new year to spruce it up.
Alana Burr, Concord fashion blogger and creator of  “Sassy Fashionista” (, recommends upgrading your wardrobe at least annually.
“You don’t need an entirely new wardrobe,” she said. “Find out what you’re missing, [whether it’s] evening wear, business attire or even some casual clothing that isn’t just … jeans you’ve had for over 10 years, and focus on that first.”
If you’re shopping on a limited budget, go for classic pieces. For women, Burr suggests a pair of bootcut or straight-leg dark-wash jeans, a little black dress in a timeless cut and some flats in a neutral hue; for men, a full suit that can be worn as separates and a nice button-down shirt.
If you aren’t looking to spend any money, there’s still ways to take your style up a notch.
“Set aside a few hours and just play with what you've got in your closet already,” Burr said. “You might be really surprised at the looks you can create with different combinations.”
For example, ladies can pair a black dress with pearls, a shimmery wrap and high-heels for a classy evening look, or with some bold patterned tights, funky earrings and flats for a fun daytime look. Guys can play around with suit pieces to create more casual yet polished looks. A suit jacket paired with a graphic T-shirt and dark-wash jeans is an easy combo that’s appropriate for a variety of occasions.
But the must-have quick-fix accessory, according to Burr?
“Every woman should own at least a few scarves,” she said. “My mind is blown by how much more stylish, intentional and complete an outfit can look with just the simple addition of a scarf.” — Angie Sykeny 
For your hair


Don’t chop off six inches or reach for the bleach blonde highlights just yet. Creative Color & Cuts master stylist Tiffany Deschenes said the first thing you need to do before updating your style is consider the maintenance it will require. 
“It depends how much work they’re really looking to put into it,” she said. “If they don’t blow or style it’s tough to give them a short or trendy hairstyle, but if willing to take the time to style it you have more freedom with what you’re going to do.” 
If you don’t want regular upkeep appointments, go less dramatic for color, like ombre or balayage (hand-painted highlights). 
“It’s more forgiving when you grow out and can go longer between appointments,” she said. 
One misconception Deschenes comes across is people thinking shorter hair means less effort, when in fact, “It’s a lot more work,” she said. “You can’t just put it up when you want to.” 
Try layering and angling, which is true for longer styles as well. While completely changing up your hairstyle is great, Deschenes recommends doing it in steps because it can be shocking to do all at once and sometimes one small adjustment does the trick. 
“One lady … came in and she wanted something different and we just … made her base color a bit deeper and richer and [made the] highlights … the softer-looking color. Even though it wasn’t an insane difference it looked so much better.”
For a quick fix add some volume to blow-dried hair. Once you’ve dried your hair, wrap a section around a round brush and hold it at the base of the head for 20 to 30 seconds. 
“[It] would leave more volume in the hair rather than flat or weighted down,” she said. “Metal brushes work like a hot roller so it sets the hair.” 
Also, make sure to protect your hair from heat, whether blow-drying or straightening. Use heat spray or straightening balm to keep your hair healthy. 
— Allie Ginwala

Awesome Fixes
Year of Awesome 2016

By Ryan Lessard, Kelly Sennott, Angie Sykeny, Allie Ginwala

For your relationship
Couples therapist Evan Sorensen from the New England Institute for Marriage and Family Therapy says the best way to keep the foundation of a relationship from eroding is preventive maintenance. 
He advises a few key steps.
Pay attention. Sorensen says in studies observing troubled marriages, individuals fail to notice about 50 percent of all the positive interactions.
“Essentially, we know that in marriages that are struggling, there’s often a kind of focus on what’s not working or what we don’t have instead of being grateful and focused on what we do have,” Sorensen said. “We know it’s absolutely critical for marriages to survive to look for places with honor and respect within one another.”
Studies show that 94 percent of the time, when couples put a positive spin on their history, they end up with a positive future, according to Sorensen. And he says it’s imperative to keep noting all the little things your partner does for you along the way.
“It’s almost like it creates an emotional bank account in a relationship, so when you run into difficult periods as any relationship will, being able to draw on these reactions that are good and positive helps us get through the difficult times,” Sorensen said.
Go to J-school. It may be unexpected, but the same skills that go into being a good journalist can be critical in being a good partner in a relationship. Sorensen calls it “listening non-defensively.” He says this includes being curious, suspending your agenda to understand your partner’s and taking direction from one another. 
“Imagine that you’re a news reporter on the scene and when the news reporter shows up to listen to the person’s story, they don’t interrupt or talk over or cut them off. They show genuine interest and curiosity in hearing this other person’s perspective,” Sorensen said.
He says these communication and listening skills are not always learned when people are growing up, but a lack of them can cause a lot of problems.
“People need to learn how to communicate effectively,” Sorensen said. “[Communication is] one of the biggest reasons why people call for counseling. 
Hang out. Finally, while absence may make the heart grow fonder, spending time together regularly is just as important. Sorensen suggests creating a joint ritual activity to help create a bond. This can be anything from playing in a rec league sports team together to hiking or keeping a regular date night. 
“Try to find new and invigorating things to create a little adventure in the relationship,” Sorensen said.
Ultimately, Sorensen says if you’re having troubles in the relationship, it’s important to seek professional help sooner rather than later. It’s a common misconception that couples counseling is a last-resort thing and an admission that things are worse than they are, he said. If issues are caught early they can prevent difficulties from destroying the relationship.
“We have to see it more as preventive maintenance rather than reactive care,” Sorensen said. 
— Ryan Lessard 
For your social life
If you’re tired of spending your Friday nights cuddling with your cat and watching reruns of your favorite show, it may be time to give your social life a boost.
Kate Luczko, president and CEO of Stay Work Play NH, says the key to meeting new people is stepping outside your comfort zone.
“New Hampshire people especially tend to stay in their own little part of the state, and that can be a challenge,” she said. “You have to take a chance, whether that’s going somewhere you don’t know anyone or trying something new.”
Not sure where to start? Events, classes and workshops, hobby clubs and volunteer organizations are all breeding grounds for forming new friendships.
The Internet can be a useful tool as well. Luczko recommends as a great resource to meet likeminded people in your area. It lists thousands of different interest groups, from book clubs to beer-tasting clubs. You can also recruit the help of your Facebook or Twitter circle.    
“Social media is great for crowdsourcing,” Luczko said. “Say you really want to learn how to snowshoe. If you ask on social media there may be someone who knows of a snowshoeing class or event.”
For recent grads struggling to establish a social circle after college, New Hampshire currently has 13 regional young professionals networks which host social and business events geared towards young adults.
And for older adults looking to enhance their social life after retirement, the local senior centers can be a hub of activity.
“There’s some that have yoga, language classes, dances, almost like a Boys & Girls Club,”  Luczko said. “It’s a great place for retired folks to meet others in a similar place in life.” — Angie Sykeny 
For your work life
Too much to do and too little time? It’s a common problem in the workplace, said Lorraine Falcone, owner of New Hampshire-based Naturally Organized.
One of the best ways to become more efficient at work is to avoid interruptions. 
“It’s been proven that it takes several minutes to get back into the same level of focus prior to the interruption,” Falcone said. 
One of those most notorious interruptions is email. Try turning off notifications and checking your inbox just a few times a day at a set time. (Whether you’re able to do this depends on your job and company, so let coworkers and your boss know this plan.)
To keep your inbox manageable, delete emails after you’ve read them. If you want to save or review them again later, place them in appropriately named files that will enable you to quickly retrieve them. You’ll find you get less email when you send less.
“Make all your directions clear and concise so the person has everything [he needs] to proceed and not have to go back with additional emails. Hopefully that should save some time,” Falcone said. 
Another way to clean your inbox is to get off lists you don’t need to be on, and not just newsletters.
“I don’t believe in ‘Reply All.’ It’s a big waste of time if only one individual needs the reply,” Falcone said. 
Interruptions that occur outside your inbox can be trickier to manage.
“People don’t like to be confrontational. They may be hesitant to send someone away, but it’s vital for your productivity to say to someone, ‘I’m in the middle of something. Can we make an appointment at 2 p.m. to talk?’” Falcone said.
To stay focused, she suggested you make a list of what you want to accomplish that week and break it down to each individual day.
“That way, you’re not left liable for whatever grabs your attention. If you come in with the idea you have to get A, B and C accomplished, you can at least get started on them,” Falcone said. “Once you’ve got the ball rolling, and you’ve begun to produce something, then you can check email. Don’t let other people’s priorities trump yours.”
Distractions can also include desk clutter.
“Many people find physical clutter to be overwhelming, and to cause mental clutter. So they tend to be less creative and less productive when there’s clutter on the desk,” Falcone said. “So give [your items] a home so you can retrieve them when you need them, but don’t use the top of your desk as storage space.”
To shorten the never-ending meeting, Falcone suggested holding a standing meeting. Stick to the agenda, don’t invite people who don’t need to be there, and make sure that, by the meeting’s end, you know who will be responsible for acting on each item, plus the date they need to report on whatever they’re supposed to be doing. — Kelly Sennott 
For your cooking
Whether you’re learning how to cook or are a seasoned chef, the most important thing to know is how to use a sharp knife. 
“If you can have a basic understanding of how to use a knife, that will take you very far,” said Liz Barbour, chef and owner of The Creative Feast. “If you’re using a dull knife you’re going to mangle your food. It can be very frustrating and that will turn you right off.” 
Knowing how to sear a basic chicken breast is another key. 
“We way overcook our meat thinking we’re going to get E. coli but the thing is, if you just understand the concept of cooking not just on the stovetop [you can] utilize your oven,” she said. 
Not sure how to get started holding a knife or cooking chicken? Google it. 
“There are plenty of YouTube videos that will show you and just invest some time,” Barbour said. 
But don’t just watch one. Check out an amateur and a professional, then “find your happy place in between the two.”
Making easy dishes,  like Barbour’s gremolata over chicken and rice, will help you hone the essential skills. Practice your knife technique chopping the herbs for the sauce before finding that perfect balance cooking the chicken. You can even take your leftovers to the next level by bypassing the microwave.
 For example, “if you have a steamer and put leftover lamb to steam for three minutes, you’re infusing it with moisture [so] it’s going to wake up the herbs you put in previously,” Barbour said. “If you add any herb to anything it’s going to wake up the flavor.” 
Or take leftovers like chicken and vegetables and turn them into soup, chili or stew for an entirely new meal. 
— Allie Ginwala 
For your health
As you leave the gym at Concord’s Get Fit New Hampshire, you’ll see a sign above the door that reads “The Other 165.”
This sign, coach and gym co-owner Dean Carlson said via phone, represents the other 165 hours a week, when you’re not working out. It’s where people really succeed or fail. 
Small routine changes can make an enormous difference; Carlson, for example, is a big believer in what he calls the “table push-away.” When faced with a heaping plate of fried food (or sugar or fatty meat), all you need to do is put your hands on the table, push back on your chair and step away.
“It’s important to create an awareness of what you’re eating and how much you’re eating. You can’t out-train poor nutrition. That’s a reasonably common misconception,” Carlson said.
When it comes to healthy eating, all fad diets focus on calorie intake, lean protein, vegetables and plenty of water. What and how much you eat of certain foods will make a bigger difference than your workouts, Carlson said.
But, of course, there are other things you can physically do that can affect your health. He mentioned a term they use, NEAT — non-exercise activity thermogenesis — which Carlson said is a fancy way of saying take the stairs, park at the end of the parking lot, get a standing desk or walk frequently throughout your day.
“It all makes a big difference in how many calories you’re burning a day,” Carlson said. “It really does all count.”
In terms of working out, Carlson said there are two major things people often get wrong: intensity and proper exercise movement. The first you can fix by monitoring your heart rate, either at intervals throughout your workout or with a device. (Deconditioned people will get their heart rate up faster and with less effort than those in better shape.) People who perform the full range of movement in something, like a squat, pull-up or yoga position, will get more benefits than those who don’t, so get a coach or watch yourself perform these exercises in a mirror for better results. 
— Kelly Sennott 
For your home aesthetic
A blah home tends to make you feel blah, but there are a handful of easy ways to fix that. It may involve a bit of work, but you can do it without major reconstructions.
The first step is to de-clutter.
“If you walk into a room and there’s too much going on — too many knick-knacks, too many different styles — it can be very distracting. Your eye bounces from one place to another and doesn’t know where to settle,” said Kelly Murphy, designer and owner of Decor & You, based in Brookline, via phone.
The next step is to add color. One way to decide what hues to go for is to determine how you want the room to make you feel. Murphy says to go bold — and make sure you get a few choices and try them out on your walls before committing. 
“Take a big swipe, and I mean big ones, not just a snippet or piece of the cardboard … and keep it up to look at under different lights … and at different times of the day,” Murphy said.
If you want your room to feel warm and cozy, go for colors like red, orange, yellow and brown. (Though red, she said, is also associated with being active and inducing appetite, which is why many restaurants opt for red. Family rooms and kitchens are often good places for red.)
“On the opposite side, if you want calming and serene, I’d go toward blues and greens,” Murphy said, which often works in living rooms or bedrooms.
Figuring out how to fit colors and items together can be difficult, which is why many people hire designers, Murphy said. She provided a couple other rules and methods to work by.
“Usually when you decorate a room, you’ve got only one primary color you really want to work around. Then there’s at least one accent, if not two accent colors,” Murphy said. 
You might want to tap into some color theory to determine what these accent colors are — hues across from one another on the color wheel are complementary and usually go well together. Another way to determine your scheme is to pick out one item, like a rug or a painting, and work your color design around that.
To make it all come together, add the accessories, the jewelry of the room, using these colors.
“When we get dressed up, it’s that jewelry that makes a difference and what people tend to notice a lot. It can be really simple things. Pillows can make such a big difference on a neutral sofa and chairs,” Murphy said. — Kelly Sennott 
For a good night's sleep
The trick to improving your sleep is really quite simple: make it a priority. Dr. David Picard, medical director at the Concord Hospital Sleep Center, said one of the most common ways people negatively impact their sleep is by not allowing the adequate time on a nightly basis. 
“I tell people that when they're short of sleep we call it having sleep debt and it’s like money debt; it accumulates if you don't pay it back,” he said. “Our brains like consistency, and trying to have a structured pattern to when you sleep is really important.” 
Start settling into a routine by winding down 30 minutes to an hour before bed, turning off the TV and video games to let your body know it’s time to rest. Avoid eating within two to three hours of bedtime and try to make exercise part of your daily routine. 
“Exercise is one of the best things we can do,” Picard said. “[It] improves the amount of deep sleep...not many medicines can improve deep wave sleep.”
Though it varies by person, aim for seven and a half to eight and a half hours per night in a 68- to 72-degree room.
You should also make the bedroom a no-electronics, sleep-only zone, starting tonight. 
“Bed is for sleep,” he said. “And we’re creatures of habit and if we're in the habit of lying in bed reading, playing with the cell phone, watching TV, then our brain loses the association between bed and sleep.”
He tells his patients that the only device with an on and off switch in the bedroom should be the light on the wall.  
— Allie Ginwala
For your tech devices
Vince Kasem, the owner of Ace Computer in Manchester, says that perhaps the most common issue that afflicts modern computers is malware, viruses and spyware that infect one’s hard drive.
“It could be a ransom virus, some form of a scam asking you for a ransom of money so it can make the problem go away. Or it’s ‘phishing’ for some information, credit card, bank accounts and other identifiers of the sort,” Kasem said. 
To prevent this sort of thing, Kasem says to invest in good spyware and up-to-date anti-virus programs and do weekly scans to make sure you catch things early. 
Once a computer is infected you can take it to a place like Ace to clean out the viruses. 
“What we do is save the information that you have in there: documents, pictures, music, any information that you have in there. .... We scan it on our server to make sure it’s not contaminated with any viruses and we wipe out the system clean. We reset the entire operating system, format the hard drive, and we reinstall the Windows back again,” Kasem said.
While somewhat less common, Kasem still sees computers come in with hardware problems.
“Power issues, memory resets, sometimes the computer will not turn on because it needs to be reset,” Kasem said. 
One of the more common hardware problems affects hard drives. Hard drive repair and replacement can cost anywhere from $150 to $300 depending on the capacity, speed and type of hard drive, according to Kasem.
He also replaces cracked screens for $130 and up and fixes power ports on laptops for $130.
“Most companies are not too excited about taking on such repairs because you have to know how to use a soldering iron, and you have to have some electronic background versus just a computer background,” Kasem said.
And then there are phone problems. If your new smartphone just fell in the sink (or worse) or you dropped it on the granite sidewalk curb, chances are you’re in need of some emergency repairs. Phone repair shops will try to fix water damage, cracked screens, broken housing, broken hinges (for flip phones) and charging ports and can even replace missing keys from a keypad.
While some places are less transparent about their pricing, you can see what it would cost for each contingency for each model of phone at the website of Manchester’s Cellular-Freedom repair shop. A new screen on an iPhone 6? $110. For a Samsung Galaxy S6? $210. They also repair iPads and Android tablets. 
— Ryan Lessard 
For your credit
Getting your credit score up is a two-sided coin, says David Gelinas, who’s been in the credit counseling business since 1988 and  is currently the director of the National Legal Center at the law offices of Fox, Kohler and Associates in Candia. 
The first side of the coin is your present obligations.
“The current accounts that you owe, if you’re going to work on credit, obviously have to be in check. Your mortgage payment, your car payment, your current credit cards,” Gelinas said.
The other side is unpaid debts.
“Usually credit is being affected by charge-offs, accounts that may not have been paid in the past. Older accounts,” Gelinas said.
He says the first step is to pull a free credit report from, the only government-backed site. 
“The negative items usually come up first, so they can see what’s holding their credit score down,” Gelinas said.
The credit score (which Gelinas says should be above 700) is based on credit versus use of credit. With this in mind, Gelinas advises credit card owners to avoid maxing out cards and keep card balances as far from the credit limit as possible. 
“Keep far away from the ceiling, because that is an indicator that someone is potentially having a problem,” Gelinas said. 
To that end, he suggests spreading expenses over several cards. 
Several myths abound regarding the management of credit. For instance, Gelinas says paying a little more than the minimum amount due won’t affect your credit.
“It’s just going to report your account as current, whether you paid double the amount or just paid on time,” Gelinas said.
Secondly, paying off a charged-off balance doesn’t improve the score.
“What it does is it removes the legal obligation from the debt,” Gelinas said.
And finally, he says, you don’t have to wait for the seven-year limit before a derogatory account is removed from the credit report. You can ask the bureau to challenge the creditors to prove the accounts are verifiable.
At the end of the day, Gelinas says, the best way to fix your credit is to keep paying your bills and just wait.
“What improves the credit, whether you have the balance on it or not, is time,” Gelinas said. — Ryan Lessard
For your resume
If the new year has you looking for a new job, you might want to give your resume a refresh. Take it from Linda Sayer, a resume-writer and owner of Tailored Resumes in Londonderry. 
“A resume is your walking billboard and personal marketing brochure of yourself,” Sayer said. “[It’s] often the first document an employer sees, and [they] will spend about 10 to 15 seconds determining reasons not to interview you, so leave [them] no reasons.”
When an employer looks at a resume, they’re looking for the answers to two big questions: “What can this applicant offer the company?” and “What can this applicant offer the company that other applicants can’t?”
To survive those first critical seconds, your resume needs to clearly and boldly answer those questions.
“[Make it] a flawless, compelling document… by creating action-driven statements with strong action [and] power words to grab your reader’s attention,” Sayer said.
Wherever possible, state your accomplishments using numbers. Dollar amounts, percentages, time spans and any other numerical data you can include give the employer a tangible measurement of your potential value to the company.
“Which is important since most companies value employees who increase profits, improve services and enhance efficiencies, saving that company time and money,” Sayer said.
Finally, remember that less is more. It’s a common misconception that listing all of your job experiences, volunteer work, organization affiliations and skill sets will make you appear more ambitious and well-rounded, but including things that aren’t directly related to the job you’re applying for can actually detract from your applicable qualifications. That also means omitting any personal information like marital status, age, race, family or hobbies.    
“Your resume should emphasize [your relevant skills] with one thought in mind,” Sayer said. “If your reader sees you have many different focuses, they are lost in what you are trying to achieve.” 
— Angie Sykeny 

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