At a time when extended families may be scattered across the country and many women have abandoned the traditional homemaking roles of the 1950s, just whom do you turn to to find out how to slice an onion without crying?
Or to stop cats from scratching furniture?
Or to keep lettuce from wilting?
Or even to end bickering among your children?
We often rely on friends and peers, who may be just as clueless as we are, which can make us feel ill-equipped and isolated.
Even in London, this is how Kate Reardon was feeling when she decided to start a Web site in March, 2007, (www.toptipsforgirls.com) to collect advice from other women to address everything from how to clean suede to the best way to break up with a boyfriend.
The best of these tips are now part of a new book, Top Tips for Girls: Real Advice from Real Women for Real Life, (Three Rivers Press, $13.95).
Ms. Reardon, 39, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, said she also was inspired to create the Web site after a childless 50-year-old woman confided that one of her laments about not having children was that she had no one to whom she could pass on her mother s fabulous chocolate cake recipe.
Family recipes and the tricks we hand down through the generations are our DNA, Ms. Reardon writes.
She acknowledged that the tips haven t all been rigorously tested. This whole business is run by me alone from my sitting room. I m afraid I simply cannot test every single tip submitted, she said in an interview. That said, I end up using a huge number of them in my everyday life.
Ms. Reardon said that she received a lot of hand-me-down advice from her great-aunt Lala (Ellen Hodges), who taught her how to cook, sew, make things, and look after herself. But her friends also have been helpful.
A very valuable piece of advice I recently received from a friend is that in every situation you should assume, until proven otherwise, that others are acting with the best of intentions.
On her Web site, some queries have drawn controversy. One reader asked: How do I get a guy to leave his partner for me?
I was delighted to see that instead of any devious, catty, manipulative solutions, the universal and outraged response ran along the lines of Get a life, find your own man, don t steal other people s property.
Ms. Reardon says she doesn t yet have any children on which to pass on her DNA, but if she did, she d pass on this tip left on her Web site:
How to be happy: Always remember, we re here for a good time and not for a long time! Live every day as though it s your last, live with no regrets and try to be positive about every situation because somehow negativity has a way of reflecting itself on your entire life, career, family, friends, etc.
She s also considering launching a Web site to give tips for guys. My only worry is that many men appear to happily drive several hours in the wrong direction rather than ask directions both literally and emotionally.
The tip I would give any man is: Ask for help!
Oh, and about those issues at the top of the story. Here are the tips Ms. Reardon has received:
How to prevent crying when slicing an onion: Suck on a teaspoon while chopping. Or light a candle near where you re chopping it burns off the fumes that make you cry.
How to stop cats from scratching the furniture: Clean it with orange polish they hate the smell and won t come near it.
How to keep lettuce from wilting: Place a paper towel in the package; it will absorb moisture and keep lettuce from going slimy too soon.
How to end bickering among siblings: When they start bickering, tell them they need to sit and hold hands for 10 minutes. Just the thought of holding hands will usually stop it. If not, the actual fact of holding hands should. Tell them if either of them squeals because the other is holding hands too hard, 10 minutes are added to the punishment.
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Virginia Linn is lifestyle editor of the Post-Gazette.
Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.