6 Tips to Make Your Life a Bit Better (Illustration Friday: New)

© 2012 Sylvia Liu

One of my many New Year's resolutions is to learn something new every day. Some of the best information I've picked up over the years are life tips from family and friends: big ones and small ones, which have all made my life a little easier.

Here are some that come to mind, in no particular order (and in parentheses, the person who taught me the tip).

1. How to Maneuver Through a Crowd to Funnel into a Small Opening (my dad)

Say you're in a crowded theater lobby trying to get through the doors and there is no discernible line. Or you're in a similar crowd at an airport trying to get on an escalator to catch your next plane. The best place to get to the opening the quickest is to stick to the edges of the crowd, which will flow faster than the center.

2. How to Keep Ginger and Garlic Fresh (my mom)

If you like having chopped ginger and garlic handy for cooking, pre-chop them and save ginger in a glass jar covered with cooking wine, and garlic covered with olive oil (or just buy the jars of chopped garlic). These will keep for months in the refrigerator. You can keep fresh ginger root for weeks in the pantry by wrapping it snugly in tin foil.

3. How to Roll a Perfect Piecrust (my sister)

Don't be daunted by the idea of rolling a pie crust and having it stick to the rolling pin or worrying about too much flour. Roll the pie crust between sheets of plastic kitchen wrap and you'll keep your counter and rolling pin clean. Transferring the crust to the pan is a cinch as you peel off the top layer of plastic, carry the crust by holding the bottom layer, invert and mold it onto the pan or top of the pie, and peel off the plastic.

4. How to Tell if You Have a Good Friend (my friend Andrea)

This is advice my friend gives to her kids which I have passed along to my own. A good friend will always treat you well. Someone who doesn't treat you well all the time is not a true friend.

5. How to Rinse out a Container Most Efficiently (my mom)

Most people figure this out intuitively, but I've found it helpful to point out to my kids. When rinsing out a large pot or container, don't fill it all the way up with water, or even half way up. At most you need an inch or two of water, which you swirl around to rinse off the rest of the container. It saves water and is more efficient.

6. How to Breathe Deeply for Relaxation (my dad)

I don't remember when I first picked up this tip (probably in yoga class), but my dad, who practices Qigong (a meditative practice similar to Taichi), also reminds me to do it. Normally, people tend to breathe shallowly to their lungs. But if you need some immediate de-stressification or relaxation, breathe in slowly with your nose all the way to your diaphragm (count to 5 or 8) and then breathe out through your mouth (to the same beat). Your stomach should extend when you have taken your full breath (babies do this naturally, by the way).

What good tips do you have for living well? I wish you all a Happy 2013 and remember, breathe.