Category: Good Company

The Science of Smiles

By smatt on September 21st 2020

The “smiley face”…you know, that big yellow smiling ideogram that has become a worldwide pop culture reference used in daily (more likely every minute) communication to express how we feel? It actually has lots of meaning behind it, and when delivered in person as a “true smile” it has even greater benefits (than in a text, snap, post or email).

Ron Gutman did a great 7 minute TED Talk where he shares nuggets from many different studies on the science of smiling. It’s a quick watch but if you’re really pressed for time the short of it is, we should all smile more and here’s why:

  • • A famous yearbook study by Matthew Hertenstein reveals a correlation between yearbook smiles and better marital relationships as well as overall life happiness.
  • • Ernest Abel and Michael Kruger’s Baseball Card Study found those players who smiled in their pictures turned out to live on average seven years longer than those who didn’t.
  • • The good news is we’re born smiling. Babies smile in the womb and once born continue to smile, even when sleeping.
  • • Regardless of race and culture, smiling is a biological expression of all humans used to express joy.
  • • More than 1/3 of humans smile more than 20 times a day.
  • • Children smile as many as 400 times per day, which is why being around children makes us smile more.
  • • Darwin’s Facial Feedback Response Theory, the idea that smiling can make you happier and frowning can make you sadder or angrier — that changing your facial expression can intensify or even transform your mood.
  • • One smile can generate the same level of brain stimulation as up to 2K bars of chocolate or receiving up to £16,000 / $20,000.
  • • Smiling can reduce stress enhancing hormones and increase mood enhancing endorphins.
  • • Smiling makes you appear more likable and more competent.

Based on all of this, it would seem pretty obvious that smiling is good for you. But beyond just you, smiling is also good for those around you.
We have something called mirror neurons which are brain cells that code the actions of other people and also our own actions, essential brain cells for reading social interactions. Mirror neurons act as an inner imitation to the actions of others that in turn lead us to simulate the emotion. So, when you smile at someone their mirror neurons trigger them to smile. That smile then triggers the positive feeling we associate with a smile, and all the benefits that go along with it. Basically you can think of the whole chain of events as a neurological cascade of good vibes…for everyone involved in the exchange.
So now to the question of in today’s world where we walk around in masks, how do we continue to spread happiness? It’s simple, keep smiling, even behind the mask.
Psychologist Paul Ekman, who studies facial expressions, described a “true enjoyment smile” as showing up in the crow’s feet or laugh lines area of the face, with the eyes narrowing and crinkling. A genuine smile — also known as the Duchenne smile — engages the orbicularis oculi muscle around the eye; a fake smile does not. As further proof of being able to see a smile even when partially covered, Janine Driver, a world-renowned body language expert, pointed out that when a baby smiles you still know it even when his or her mouth is covered by a pacifier. Net net, it’s all in the eyes.
So whether digitally or in person, smile more.

9 Podcasts to Listen To

By dweb247 on September 14th 2020

Something that continues to bring us together – WFH be damned! – is swapping Netflix recs, must-read books, new album reviews, and of course, podcasts. Since September 30th is National Podcast Day, here’s our list of the best podcasts to listen to this fall… or you know, forever.

Song Exploder

Music lovers, rejoice! Song Exploder is a podcast where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made. Produced and edited by host Hrishikesh Hirway, this podcast is a love letter to music. Each episode is a deep dive into the creative process that went into crafting a great song, straight from the artists themselves. Episode 150, Fleetwood Mac’s Go Your Own Way is a classic, but you really can’t go wrong.

The NYT Daily

20 minute episodes that dig into one topic that’s dominating the headlines. Produced by The New York Times and told by journalists and subject matter experts (and excellent host, Michael Barbaro whom we’d love to get a slice of pizza with). Knowledge is power, so stay in the know. New episodes Monday – Friday, ready by 6am EST.


Stuck inside or just yearning for wide open spaces, this podcast focuses on the natural word and how we use it. With solid reporting and long-form storytelling, host Sam Evans-Brown draws you in from the first words (he’s a former environmental reporter). You don’t have to be a whitewater kayaker, an obsessive composter, or a conservation biologist to love Outside/In.

You Must Remember This

Miss heading to the movies? Listen to this podcast about the first century of Hollywood filmmaking. It’s a fascinating take on the glamor, glitz, and grit that built the silver screen scene over the decades.


This short podcast series is a must listen for all. This 2019 audio series from The New York Times was produced for the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. The 6-episode series, hosted Nikole Hannah-Jones, examines the long shadow of that first salve cargo that landed in Virginia in 1619 – and examines how historical oppression and systemic racism has affected the Black experience in America since.


If you love food, history, and science, you’ll love Gastropod. Recommended by Helena – our resident Podcast Queen – she loves Gastropod for its “cool food facts.” Ever wonder about the underbelly of the lobster industry? Or the real origins of pizza? Or what the most dangerous fruit in America is? (It’s the watermelon, FYI). Grab a snack and take a listen – “Dinner plate invasion” is Helena’s fave.

Code Switch

Named after the phenomenon of mixing languages and dialects depending on the context, the Code Switch podcast cranks out informative episodes about race, ethnicity, culture, and how they play out in our lives and communities. New episodes are updated weekly and hosted by Gene Demby and Shereen Marisol Maraji. It’s a great way to listen to various perspectives on current events.

Pre-Loved Podcast

We love anything about the circular economy. This podcast is a weekly interview about rad vintage style with guests you’ll want to go thrifting with. Hosted by Emily Stochl, episodes cover style, running a fashion business, sustainability, slow fashion, the stories behind incredible vintage pieces, and why second-hand is the best hand.

Bear Brook

We couldn’t write a podcast recommendation list without a binge-worthy true crime podcast. This one comes from New Hampshire Public Radio and it’s a decades-long mystery that follows the twists and turns of a serial killer. It’s a cold case that calls into question human nature and criminal justice system. Someone call Olivia Benson!

Girls’ Night in 2020

By dweb247 on September 14th 2020

From Black Lives Matter to COVID pandemic to hurricanes and heatwaves, 2020 has us rethinking everything – birthday parties, office culture, grocery shopping, book clubs – and the latest change up is Girls’ Night. September 22 is National Girls’ Night (who knew?), so here’s our take on girls’ night – 2020 style.

Virtual Book Club

Diversity of thought is part of what makes humans (and women!) such a unique species. And when it comes to books, there’s no shortage of different perspectivse. So bring together your book worms and pick books that purposefully offer a different perspective. Read books by women from other countries, or books by women with different upbringings and backgrounds. If books are too much of a commitment, round-table a recent article that you all read. You’ll be surprised – even in conversation with your closest friends – just how much you didn’t know.

Socially Distant Happy Hours

If you’re in town – BYOB, bundle up, and get back to the days of picnicking. Parks, beaches, backyards, bonfires, campsites… there’s no limit (other than the general 6 foot distance).

Recipe Exchange

Part of what makes us unique are the traditions we get passed down from generation to generation, so share that with your friends. Host a Zoom cooking night each month where someone else is a “host” – they’ll walk everyone through a recipe that takes 30 mins or less to prepare. Everyone is in their own kitchen, with their own ingredients following along. Now’s your chance to let your inner Samin Nosrat shine! (Bonus: when you’re at home, no need for a DD).

Yes, It’s Okay to Talk Politics

Dialogue is where progress happens. If you are passionate about a cause or a candidate, gather your girlfriends and give them a rundown on why this is important to you. Let them know succinctly (in 5 mins or less) why you are passionate about a particular cause, then give them the floor to ask questions and offer counter opinions. Pro-tip when it comes to talking about politics and policy: Let people know how the issue personally affects YOU or your community. Be realistic – you can’t be passionate about everything, so don’t come out hearts a ‘blazing for every issue and every candidate. Stick to the things you are truly passionate about, 1 or 2 issues max (schedule another Girl’s night if there are more). It will be easier for others to see your perspective if you can keep it focused, keep your cool, and be open to hearing others. Dialogue, FTW!

Phone Banking & Letter Writing

Let’s say you and your friends support the same candidate or cause; you can skip the discussion and go right to grassroots campaigning. Give your girls’ night an activism twist and organize a letter writing night or an afternoon of phone banking (yes, wine is a fine accompaniment to both). It might feel awkward at first (and definitely uncommon for a girls’ night) but helping a cause will make you feel like a million bucks.

Food or Toy Drive

With shorter days and the holidays just around the corner, it’s a perfect time to start planning a food or toy drive with your friends. Spend your next girls night talking about logistics and get a goal and a plan together for how you can pool your resources and make a positive impact on your community. Pro Tip: Have your friends reach out to their co-workers to multiply the impact!

Plan a Girl’s Trip for 2021

2020 was the year of canceled plans. So get a girls’ trip on the calendar for next year. It can be the trip of your dreams (sailing around Greece, anyone?), a 3-day backpacking trip in your local mountains, or just a staycation at your place (or whomever has a dishwasher). Either way, when it’s safe to hug and laugh and lounge and play in close proximity again, grab the chance and soak it all in.

What To Read This Fall

By dweb247 on September 5th 2020

September 6th is Read a Book Day, so if you’re in the market for a new read, here’s what the Toads are whipping through for our unofficial fall book club.

The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyonby Kevin Fedarko

Part history lesson, part epic adventure novel, a story about a boat has never been so gripping (no offense to Moby Dick). In 1983 during the legendary El Niño floods of the Colorado river, a small crew set out to chart the fastest dory ride down the grand canyon — 277 miles against the odds. It’s a book about the triumph of the human spirit, the sheer awesomeness of nature, and a history of the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon, the Glen Canyon Dam. Makes you want to white water raft… or not.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

To be fair, anything by Coates is worthy of your time, but if you haven’t read any of his books, this is our favorite place to start. Written as a letter to his son, this book is the story of Coates’ awakening to the truth about Black belonging in the world through a series of experiences — from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, the South Side of Chicago to Paris – he drops you into a world that is clear and vivid. It’s a beautiful wake up call for all and a welcome confrontation of our present with a hopeful vision for the future could (will?) hold.

Phantom Tollboothby Norton Juster and illustrations by Jules Feiffer

Simply put, this classic is a blast to read. Milo, our young protagonist, is sitting at home bored out of his mind (familiar?) when a tollbooth appears to whisk him off to the Lands Beyond… so why not? Give the COVID headlines and election updates a rest and just get in the tollbooth. It’s world building at its best – fantastical but tangible, childlike but oh-so-poignant. Pure delight.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Runningby Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami is a distance runner. And his beautiful memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk about Running, is a unique contemplation on the crafts of writing and distance running, especially as one ages. Well-worth a perusal – even if you’re not a runner at all.

Madame President: The Extraordinary Journey of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf by Helene Cooper

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was Liberia’s first democratically-elected female president. In an election driven by the grassroots mobilization of female street vendors and traders, Sirleaf’s “rise to power” is a beautiful case study in community building. If you want perspective on female leadership, the power of passion, and a dollop of African history, this book is the ticket.

Born Standing Upby Steve Martin (strongly recommend audio!)

From stand-up to slap-stick to grammy winning musician (and the BANJO no less!), Steve Martin is a national treasure. Sure this is a memoir about a great comedic genius (so, yes, it’s quite funny), but Born Standing Up is a tale of grit. Because anything worth doing is not just about the passion — it takes lots of work, even when you’re not sure of the road ahead.

Still at Home: Quarantine Crafts

By dweb247 on August 8th 2020
Anyone else starting to fee like Tom Hanks in Castaway, but in the best way? This summer of work from home and cancelled plans has forced us to find new DIY projects and joy in the simple things like sprinkles and onion peels (keep reading, it’ll make sense). Here’s what some of the Toads have been up to in recent weeks. Who knows what next month will bring…
Guin, Head of Women’s Design
I’m customizing a bed for the back of the Forester! ☺ I’m starting on it tonight. Hopefully going to give it a go this weekend up in Big Sur. The back has about a 3” bump that I’m leveling out with gym floor puzzle pieces, and I bought a 3” foam mattress that I’m going to cut to size to maximize sleep space in the back – it’s tight for two adults and two dogs! We plan to just keep the dogs in the back on the mattress when we’re cruising, pack the floor of the back seats, toss the Yeti cooler out at night and utilize the rest of the cargo in the rocket box on the roof. Pandemic summer continues!
Sam, Toad&Co Freeport Associate
I’ve been cooking up a storm and I recently made homemade Pop Tarts! I didn’t have food coloring for the sprinkles so they’re all dyed with natural colors from stuff you’d find in the pantry. Delish.
Natalie, Sustainable Materials Manager
Does dying old grungy white clothes with food scraps and spices count?
*Editor’s note: Yes, yes it does. Here’s a step by step guide for how to tie-dye naturally.
Sarah, Toad Culture Queen
I started making my own candles – but not just scented candles. I reuse old glass pasta jars, or almond butter jars to make them, and I put dried flower petals to decorate the top. I top them off with a few gems throughout that “appear” as the wax melts. And, as a geologist, my rock collection is out of control. I have rocks that I have collected from all around the world, purchased at trade shows, and tumbled myself. My rocks, minerals and crystals are displayed on every surface of my house as well as on designated shelving. I decided I wanted to put together an Excel log categorizing and identifying each rock and then creating labels and lighting units for all of my displays. The displays are indoors (for the top tier rocks) and outdoors (for the second tier rocks). I am hoping by the end of the pandemic basically have a minerology exhibit in my house.