Friday, February 26, 2010

Oops! I Apologize for Kicking You

I cannot miss an opportunity to practice my Clever skills. Last night I was in Austin at a lovely restaurant called Eddie V’s. The place was teaming with men- MY FAVORITE. Stools at the bar were sparse and I was lucky enough to get one. There was a date next to me- married man with a random female- NOT his wife. She was thoroughly annoying to me, so I can not imagine how bored he was. She spoke incessantly about all the famous people she knows and how invaluable her friendship is to them. I couldn’t help watching his interest fade- the risk-reward assessment was actively leaning toward NOT worth it. His attention waned and finally settled on the TV. The fact he was now watching Olympic women’s hockey was a testament to how bored he was with her. As I could have predicted, she needed no audience to continue her prattling on about how freaking fantastic she is.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth

I warned you yesterday I was pissed off. I’ve touched on this subject before, but it’s time to go deep. Put on your parachute and prepare to pull the rip cord if it gets uncomfortable.

I was talking to a friend who is So Very Clever and he posed a question (I’m not clear on the actual source of this question, but know it is neither he nor I).

“What is the most dangerous place on earth?” I sat in my car and pondered for far too long, thinking of all of the things I consider dangerous. I was shocked the list was so long and disturbing- I had no answer. So, I gave up.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Potpourri

Ok, Clever Tribe, this post is called potpourri for a reason- my thoughts are racing today. I’ve had some interesting conversations lately regarding marriage- but I’m not quite ready to undertake the subject. It will require more ruminating.

So, that leaves me to touch on a few items we’ve been neglecting. Tiger Woods’ speech. Was it a speech? I don’t know- it was more like a reading. A reading of something someone else wrote. It has likely taken this long for his team of handlers to construct an “apology” that would begin to restore the public and private faith in him.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

More Clever Gifts for Clever Guys

OK, Clever Girls, I've decided to do a monthly post regarding Clever Gifts for your Clever Guy and some tips as to how to let your new guy know he is not only welcome to stay over, but spend the weekend.

Also this month will be Clever gifts for Clever Girls and I will do this monthly, because frankly, I don't know a dude who is going to buy a gift further than one month out. I'll always put the hyperlinks in so they don't have to wear themselves out shopping.

If you're satisfied with his skin and hair care products, purchase them along with a toothbrush and a nice razor. If you’d like him to try some newer, healthier products check out Jack Black, Kiehl’s, Molton Brown, Dr. Copeland skincare and Aveda.

All f the above lines specialize in men’s skin and hair health, most include oft overlooked exfoliators, sunblock and lip care. I am a huge fan of Kiehl’s as I’ve said before- their simple and prescriptive packaging just makes me feel like I am doing something good for my body and hair- even though I truly am.

Steer clear of anti-aging items unless he has specifically asked you for advice in this arena- as well as you should not stock your cabinets with Rogaine for men.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Clever Girls are Always Prepared

Hello, Clever Tribe- I am finally getting over my sickness and am ready to get back to it. In my travels to Pennsylvania, I decided to do some experimenting. I traditionally avoid conversing with others on planes- as I really don’t enjoy chit-chat or small talk and generally have far too much to do to engage in light and pointless banter. That said, I picked up a few magazines at the bookstore prior to my flight- research material.

Once I boarded the plane and got settled in, I began my post on blogging and soon became lost in thought. The gentleman next to me quickly cycled through the SkyMall magazine and I could tell he was gearing up to engage me in conversation. I was nose to the grindstone so I reached into my bag and offered him my magazines.

“Would you like to read any of these?”

He was tentative, assuming I was offering him Cosmopolitan and Vogue, so he reached out slowly. I then flipped them over to reveal Road & Track, Guns & Ammo and Men’s Fitness.

“Where did you get these?”

“At the bookstore.”

“Are they yours?”

“Yes.”

“You carry them with you?”

“For when my battery dies.”

He eyed me circumspectly, looking for an Adam’s apple and upon finding no evidence I was actually a man he debated continuing our exchange or reading. I knew I was in control of the situation. If I turned back to my computer and legal pad, he’d abandon thoughts of talking to me. If I met his curious gaze, we’d talk until we got to Pittsburgh. I decided to get to work because I had neglected you all for so very long due to my illness.

He settled in and couldn’t help looking at the screen, but I refused to give him an opportunity to speak. It was then I realized this was a fantastic way for Clever Girls to practice their new conversational skills. Keeping in mind, we are not trying to parlay this little instance into marriage, simply to see how much we have learned and how interesting we have become to men.

So, my advice is to keep a couple “men’s” magazines in your briefcase or computer bag- try not to let them become over a couple months old. If you are on a plane next to a man and are without work to do, test drive your skills. Do as I did and ignite a conversation, but please make sure you have read at least a portion of the magazines so you can justify why you have them.

“I am looking to buy a handgun and wanted to do some research. Do you have one?”

“I am thinking of beginning a new training routine and noticed there was an article in Men’s Fitness on kettlebells.”

“My brother is suffering from fatigue and I wanted to read up on some new high energy foods in Men’s Health."

Whatever you have to say, if it's in the male realm and you invite him to speak, it will likely lead to a good conversation. Don’t forget to circumnavigate back to him with questions if you are stuck. “What do you think about …” is a great way to avoid being cornered or being exposed as a greenhorn.

In a different situation, waiting for a friend, or associate, being eyed reading Road & Track is a great way to get attention.

Now, on the second leg of my travels I had an entirely different experience. I was seated next to a 30-something woman who was totally put together. Suit, fantastic matching heels and attache, French manicure, freshly trimmed hair and expertly applied make-up. She was frantically texting up until the minute she was chastised and then her leg began to bounce furiously. I could see her gazing longingly at her computer, which she would not be allowed to use for at least a half hour, as we were “in line” for take off.

I reached into my bag and pulled out the magazines.

“Would you like to read one of these?”

She perused my offerings and I could see her vacillate between being polite and total disinterest in the subject matters in my hand.

“Where did you get these?”

“From my bag?”

“I mean, why do you have them?”

“I needed them to do some research, but have some stuff to do before I jump in.”

She took the magazines and gazed at them wondering what in the world I could be “researching” and why. I evaluated the situation and realized you’d all understand if my blogging post was late. This was going to get interesting.

“Research for what?”

“Oh, I’m a writer.”

“What do you write? I mean, why do you need these?” She said it as if I’d handed her a box of used Band-Aids.” A little repelled and a lot confused.

“I am working on a series of books and have a blog that is helping to establish a platform for the concept.”

“Oh, really? My friend has a blog about parenting.” Of course she does- who doesn’t? “I haven’t really read it- I don’t have kids and, well, might never get around to it.”

“No interest?”

“Oh, plenty of interest- just don’t feel like visiting a sperm bank. I guess I’m old-fashioned. Thought I might meet someone.”

“What’s the problem? With meeting someone?”

“Mmm. I can’t seem to find anyone I’m compatible with.”

“Really? What was your last date like?”

“A disaster. I was fixed up by my sister-in-law. I guess because she's married to my brother she thinks she knows me, so she set me up with a close friend.”

“And?”

“Eek. We were completely opposed politically, he's a detective and I'm a defense attorney- can’t really be a worse combination. He seemed offended by me from the get-go.”

“Really? Why’s that?”

“He thought I was too uptight, made some jokes about me being the only woman in work attire at 8 p.m. As soon as I told him what I did for a living, things got heated. Oh, and he asked me why I’d never been married- as if I had Ebola.”

I laughed. She was funny but really upset.

“So, he’s a cop, he probably carries a gun.”

“What?”

“A gun. Did you know what he did for a living before you met?”

“Of course.”

“Were you interested in meeting him- I mean before he arrived?”

“Yes, very. I’d seen a picture and he was so handsome- great smile, divorced with no children.”

“Hmm. You were politically opposed?”

“Not really now that I think about it. I said I was in my Sarah Palin outfit for court- and he seemed offended. I got offended and, well, it was unpleasant after that. As a matter of fact, I think he faked a phone call so he could skip dinner.”

“I wonder what kind of gun he carries.” I took the Guns & Ammo from her and began to leaf through it. “Ever fire a handgun?”

“No. I live alone, near St. Louis, I’ve been thinking about it for a long time.”

“Hmm. Seems like you could have read through a magazine like this and then asked him what he used for work and if he had any advice.”

I could actually see the light bulb above her head when she smiled at me.

“Why didn’t I think of that? Come to think of it- I don’t think we talked about him at all. I felt like he was attacking me.” She sat back for a few long moments and I returned to my computer. After awhile, I noticed her reading over my shoulder- normally I detest this but knew she was curious. I brought up the Clever site I had in my dock and began to read a previous post.

“Hey, that’s you,” she said with a smile, pointing at the sketch on the screen.

“Yes, well, a reasonable representation I hope.”

“Is that your blog?” I nodded.

“I just saw something in that magazine that made me want to fact check my post on handguns.”

“You did a post on handguns? What do you write?” I explained the Clever initiative to her and she sat, mouth agape.

“None of this ever occurred to me. My gosh, I'm self-centered and boring,” she exclaimed.

“Not at all, maybe you need to be more Clever.” I smiled and returned to my writing, and she settled in to devour all three magazines. I was like a proud parent when she pulled out a legal pad of her own and made some notes. I looked over at one point and this is what I saw in her notes.

Look into- kettlebell training, hot yoga and green tea.

Find- firing range and a good sports bar close to home (make it your new favorite place to grab a BEER).

Rent- "Shawshank Redemption," "Behind Enemy Lines" and "The Longest Yard" (guest appearance by Dan Patrick- formerly of ESPN SportsCenter).

I have really high hopes for her. She latched onto the Clever concept like a drowning man to a floatation device. This girl is So Very Clever- she GETS it. She is shifting her entire paradigm and getting to work. Her world is about to get So Very Exciting.

OK- a number of you have asked me about Tiger’s speech. I am still thinking- give me a few days to ruminate. There is some really interesting scandal about to happen with USC- I’ll let you Clever Girls know what you NEED to know to broach a conversation with a college football devotee (we are in a college football drought so I will continue to feed you items to look up and create opinions about).

We need to check in with the NHL, and the one thing I am sure of is that I am tired of seeing Wayne Gretzky’s face at the Olympics. Don’t get me wrong- he’s one of the best to put a stick to ice- but I wonder how the scandal regarding his wife was swept under the table. I’ll give you some insight into that. I looked all over Pittsburgh and could NOT locate Mario Lemieux. Forgot to let him know I was coming- Not CLEVER.

Ann Marie, one of the most Clever and beautiful women I know, engaged me in a fascinating discussion about marriage. More on that later.

If you are actively planning a wedding, check out articles here and here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Blah Blah Blogging

I must apologize for my absence and want to say thank you so much to everyone for the kind well wishes I received via Twitter (I really need to figure that out- or make sense of it or ... someone HELP me- not CLEVER, I am aware) and via e-mail.

I cannot say I am well, but after hovering at the precipice of pneumonia for a week- I have managed to outrun it. I had to go all the way to Pennsylvania to do so, and it will probably find me here, but in the meantime ...

Here's a hint- just because you can read does not mean you can write. Oh, and just because you are capable of writing- doesn’t mean you are a writer. Don’t get me wrong- I understand the compulsion to issue thoughts forth- a blank sheet of paper anticipating your brilliance, but frankly- it’s really not necessary for EVERYONE to have a blog.

They used to be called diaries- and there were locks on them- for a reason, to keep your thoughts safe. Then there were journals- a more relaxed and conversational version of the diary. Usually no lock, often just meandering thoughts, a method by which to purge frustration or simply ruminate via the written word. Some people journal for posterity or so they can look back at the landscape of their lives and see how far they have come- how they have evolved- changed, grown and matured.

A blog is something else entirely- this is a PUBLIC domain. ANYONE can read what you have written. Many of you might be thinking- “Well, you have a blog.” This is in fact true- while I might not be one of the most gifted writers in the literary community (actually, of that I am certain)- I do have a degree in writing from a Big 10 university (not that this means ANYTHING- especially not from a football perspective- and I have no idea what it means from an academic standpoint anymore) and this blog is somewhat a proving ground for the concept of my books.

The series is called So Very Clever – and the books are creative initiatives for a great many things- cooking, travel, being a guy’s girl, sports, interpersonal relationships and intrapersonal communication. As with most guides, the books are simply a collection of my opinions- thoughts, what not- some of which might give rise to your interest in something new.

Now, back to this blogging thing. I stumbled onto a blog by a friend from college and was shocked by what was on it. Rather deep, emotional musings- updates on relationships (sadly, our aborted romance was chronicled vividly- I didn’t fare well- insert deep sigh)- reviews of travel … I sat, stunned. He was a FINANCE major, and while the writing was fine- I couldn’t believe the intimacy he shared with readers (especially MY intimacy- at this point I am simply relieved he didn't use my name). Further, he had about 1,000 people as “fans.” What in the world would possess someone to purge details of their lives like that- and I knew, because I know him, most of it was true and real.

So, that lead me to search for other blogs to see what is going on (mind you, this is long before I had a blog of my very own). OMG. Blogs are proof of many things- we don’t pay teachers enough (it is clear many have lost their zeal for teaching), education is not a priority with young people (maybe it wasn’t in my generation either and I didn’t know it), psychotherapy must be at an all time low, as it appears people are doing everything from venting, ranting, raving, offering helpful hints, guidelines, hawking their wares, attacking their assumed enemies, blaspheming the government, religion, the establishment etc. …

If we are only as good as our word- what does that say about what we are becoming- who we are becoming? There is no regard for the beauty of the English language for the written word- as well evidenced by the fact we are plugging in and no longer reading unless we need to know how long to cook our food in a microwave.

I suggested to someone the other day they should read the label on the food they are buying (not that I advocate buying food with a list of ingredients- but if you must) and they said- "I don’t really like to read." If there was ever a time to snort when you laughed, it was this moment. Instead, I just coughed out a laugh and then covered it neatly with another cough. Nothing like a cough to cover up an involuntary utterance.

“I don’t like to read.” I SO don’t like to read I won’t read the label on the package of food I am buying to consume. Really? I would have to assume what he really meant was- "I don’t know how to read," because how can you not care about what you are putting into your body. I mean, if some foods we ingested did to our faces what they are doing to our insides- I guarantee people would be reading the labels. We can talk about that later.

Another favorite phrase, “I had to read in high school and college- I don’t do it anymore." Fantastic. Hmmm. I have a feeling very little reading went on in high school OR college. As if there is a list somewhere of required reading and once you complete it- you don’t have to read anymore. If that were the case, I am pretty sure I’d have completed my required reading list when I was a junior in high school.

Oh, and “I only read, you know, technical manuals.” (Oh, and Playboy- for the articles)- that’s something at least. This person at least understands it's difficult to learn without reading. Beyond that, it’s difficult to read without writing- so why are writers valued so little?

I know what you are thinking- what? There are tons of bookstores- writers must bank. Mmmm. No. Ninety percent of the revenue generated by professional writers is made by five percent of published writers (Oh, and about statistics? At least 50 percent of them are inaccurate). The average number of books a published writer sells is 500- which means they are not even covering the cost of the printing or cutting it dangerously close.

So, why write? Mmm. Good question- because there are people who are inspired, moved, stirred and even aroused (not Penthouse forum) by and enthralled with words, not so much that they are made up of letters or that you can string a few together to create a sentence, but that you can entertain, teach, edify, enlighten, instruct, provoke, incite and preach with the written word. I could go on- the things you can accomplish by learning how to use the English language are stunning and evocative.

What was my point? Oh yeah, if you write- write with purpose- whatever it is- and do it right. This blogging thing is blowing my mind. Stumbled upon one the other day that was a high school “gossip” page- really? Because we need another way to invade the privacy of others during the most awkward and tumultuous time of our lives? Gross.

The movie "Julie and Julia," which I did not see, started as a blog- I’m amazed. Number one- who cares. Number two- who cares and number three- who cares. If I had a dollar for every book or blog written by a whiny, sniveling woman who got dumped and is now baking, making chocolate, cooking, eating, praying or f*&%ing her way through a traumatic break up, I wouldn’t need to be a writer or do anything other than collect my bounty. It’s getting boring ladies.

Another problem with blogs is the basic piracy (a notion I bogarted from a Very Clever Guy named Kevin)- repopulated ideas, theories and even information. A common theme is to take from other sources and pass the information off as your own- thereby making you seem 1) smarter 2) more insightful and informed 3) la source. I’ve seen few blogs out there dealing with original content that is relevant or interesting to a wide range of people. I am not saying Clever is, but what it isn’t is a collection of someone else’s thoughts, notions or ideas- so, in that- it amounts to my opinion and my perspective.

I know there are good blogs out there- so please don’t deluge me with your favorite ones because frankly, I write too much to read- haha. That’s a little writing humor (Not funny? Try it in a Dudley-Moore-as-Arthur-Bach accent. Still not funny? You aren’t a writer)- the fact is, you must read to write- it’s how we learn. I’m not stipulating you need to be an avid reader to be a good writer- and I’m not even saying you need to be an educated or degreed writer to be an amazing writer. Some of the most gifted writers I know are engineers, journalists, attorneys and doctors- but one thing WE all have in common- the love of writing with purpose.

Take novels, for example. What are they? Stories. Do you have a friend who holds all rapt while he unfurls yet another episode of his life? Listeners on the edge of their seats, drinks poised- he is the master of the pregnant pause- adding to it his Hitchcockian mimicry and it’s a on like the break of dawn. Imagine if he put his thoughts to paper? A good story teller can tell stories- an editor can clean up his punctuation and, depending on the voice of character, he might not even need any grammatical help. Fact is- have purpose- be CLEVER and not too many people care what you had for breakfast. I say that and there is some chick in Idaho with a book deal launched by her blog on life in what must be the most boring state on record.

You can tell I’m sick- I get so bitchy when I’m sick.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Clever Girl is So Very Ill

If I don't end up with pneumonia- you will hear from me by Wednesday.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Five for Fighting- It's Not Just a Band


OK, a request has been made by a Clever Guy to finish my NHL section by summarizing the penalties. Seems he’s taking in his first NHL game tonight- on a date and wants not to look like a moron. The good news is she has no interest (yet) in hockey either, so they are in it together. As much as I have supported women in doing their research prior to watching a game or opening their mouths- the same is advised for men. So, thank you, Clever Guy, for inquiring. Again, it is not necessary for me to get into the minutia- some of the penalties are self-explanatory. And, don’t worry- there will be a host of loud-mouthed dudes on their 14th Budweiser around to tell you EXACTLY what is going on. If you are in Dallas, however- it is likely to be Bud Light or Miller Light and please, try not to gawk- Dallas Stars games are more like Hollywood premiers.

Minor penalty- you know it’s wrong, but you do it anyway and hope you don’t get caught. When you do get caught, you take your lumps and know all will be forgotten in about two minutes (during which you will be cooling your blades in the penalty box)- unless your team is scored against because you are so careless- then you might have to take some heat in the locker room. This is similar to forgetting to pick up something on the way home, or getting yourself another beer without getting her one.

If I define with a snarky comment only- it’s been discussed in the vocabulary post.

Boarding- already discussed

Broken stick- he must throw it down and can continue play

Charging- not with your Neiman Marcus card

Clipping- not coupons

Closing hand on puck- other than the goalie

Delay of game- same as any other sport- screwing around intentionally to upset the other team’s momentum

Elbowing- not as harmless as rubbing elbows

Face of infraction- premature movement

Goalie interference- an attacking players position should not ALONE determine whether or not the puck goes in

Goalie leaving the crease- during an altercation- though some of the most fantastic fights have been elevated when you see the goaltender slide down the ice- intrepid like a great white. Vernon vs. Roy (Avalanche vs. Wings) is one of the most spectacular goalie fights in history- YouTube if you can find it. Worth it. Potvin vs. Hextall- classic. Love it.

High-sticking- the stick should not go above shoulder level

Holding- can’t impede another player

Holding the stick- no can do

Hooking- don’t use the stick to impede

Instigating- Hmmm. Distance traveled to whip someone’s ass, first to drop the gloves, first to throw a punch, retribution for a previous infraction- the list goes on.

Interference- I could but will not write a novelette about this. The criterion and conditions are specific- so keep your mouth shut about this unless you are certain. Even then, someone else in the arena will be happy to challenge you on this and EVERY other call.

Kneeing- See, ladies? It's not even cool in hockey.

Leaving the penalty bench too early- they might also call you stupid

Roughing- unless it's consensual

Slashing- again, hockey stick, not weapon

Throwing the puck- we discussed this

Tripping- stick- weapon- bad

Unsportsmanlike conduct- this is minor- believe me- when a game misconduct is thrown out for unsportmanlike conduct, you can guarantee blood has been spilled.

Bench minors are also two minutes- but the coach can name any player to serve the penalty. Many of these are assessed for being an asshole or an idiot- generally.

Delay of game- again, interrupting momentum- generally

Deliberate illegal substitution- hmmm

Illegal substitution- mmm, so many places I could go here and usually they are- yup, deliberate

Too many men on the ice- Can there ever be too many men anywhere? Oh, sci-fi convention- never mind.

Throwing objects onto the ice- and, yes, the team can be penalized for the fans throwing objects onto the ice- especially dead sea creatures

Coach coming onto the ice during the period- nothing like a good slip and fall to remedy that

Don’t forget- anytime a team has a player in the penalty box, they are shorthanded and the other team is on a power play.

A coincidental penalty is when a player from each team gets a matching penalty. This results in neither team being shorthanded, but there sure is a lot of open ice out there.

A double minor penalty gets you four minutes.

Butt-ending- using the shaft of the stick to jab an opponent

Head-butting

High-sticking

Spearing- the opposite of butt ending as you are stabbing with the opposing end of the stick

A major penalty buys you five minutes and three of these gets you an automatic game misconduct- kicked out of the game and the arena for the balance of the game- but after five minutes a player may be substituted into play. If one or more of these are assessed, you are likely watching a pretty chippy game- which is exciting but potentially violent.

Fighting

Major slashing

Major head-butting

Major high-sticking

Major spearing

Match penalties are reserved for a player who intentionally tries to injure another player. The offending player is ordered to the locker room for the balance of the game.

In a misconduct penalty- the offending player is ordered off the ice for 10 minutes- and can be immediately substituted with another player.

Penalty shot - A penalty shot is offered to a team when a scoring opportunity was lost as a result of a foul being committed by the other team.

Ok, I guess that's it for me. Clever Girls, going into the weekend, this is what you should know. Stay the hell away from downtown Dallas- NBA All-Star game- geez. P. Diddy (puffy sean daddy do hickey, whatever the hell his name is) is rumored to be having a party at Sting or the Paladium and Ashton Kutcher sans Demi at the 300 in Addison (bowling?). Good luck if you are the stalker type. I am sure Ashton will keep everyone informed via Twitter.

The Sharks and the Caps are nearly 10 points ahead of the next closest team in their conferences. My Wings are depressing me. I was barely over the Cup lost last year. Dude, I am like a sports curse. I even lost the over on Kim Kardashian.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fiesta or Siesta? Siesta First- then Fiesta and Fajitas

As promised- here are a few recipes for the weekend. As I've noted before- I prefer to use whole wheat tortillas- from Central Market if possible, Whole Foods if not. I also enjoy freshly made corn tortillas. Whatever your tortilla preference- enjoy.

I hope Geoff doesn't give me a hard time about these recipes- but I am sure he will. So you know, I was challenged to a Guac Off by one of the most Clever Guys I know- and I won (though the runner up's guacamole was fantastic as well).


Fabulous Fajitas

Before you leave for work you can get this marinating in the fridge and it will be perfect by the time you build that fire. The number of people you are cooking for will determine the the amount of each needed.

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Skirt steak or sirloin fajita beef

Shrimp (peeled and deveined) is an added option

1 to 2 light beers, depending on the amount of meat

Salt, pepper, garlic powder and ground cumin

Worchestershire sauce

Trim excess fat off meat (but not too lean on beef - the fat helps tenderize and flavor the meat). If you do use shrimp, place them on wood or metal skewers. Season liberally with the above dry seasonings. Place in a deep container or pan. Apply a generous amount of Worchestershire sauce and then slowly pour the beer (s) into the corner of container (so it doesn’t wash the seasonings off the meat). Meat should be close to submerged and refrigerated. As soon as you get home from work, flip the meat and let it continue to marinate.

If you want to add veggies, use green or red peppers and sweet onion, cut into chunks, skewer them on any form of skewer and add to the grill just before you flip the beef. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side.

Grill over direct heat for 3-4 minutes each side for beef and 6-15 minutes each side for the chicken, depending on the thickness. Slice into long strips and serve with fresh, warmed tortillas.

Greatest Guacamole

2 large, ripe avocados (should be slightly soft to the squeeze- not hard and not squishy)

Cilantro - wash and coarsely chop half a bunch

Juice of 1 large lime

Sea salt - to taste

Ground cumin - ½ teaspoon

Red onion - half of medium - coarsely chopped

Fresh garlic - 2 cloves, finely chopped

Fresh jalapeno - optional, coarsely chopped

I like to add a tablespoon of Mrs. Renfro’s salsa verde (most any green salsa will suffice), but it is not necessary. Do not use roasted salsas unless you enjoy a smoky flavor.

Take a knife and cut avocado to the pit all the way around, twist each side and pull one side off, exposing the pit. Holding avocado half in hand, take the knife and gently but forcefully chop into the pit short ways. Leaving the knife lodged in the pit gently turn knife handle until the pit dislodges from the fruit. Take knife and cut slices into avocado (while still in the shell) from top to bottom and then the other direction in a crisscross pattern. Take a large spoon and remove pre-cut fruit from shell into a large bowl.

Place all of the above ingredients into the bowl of avocado and stir until the desired consistency has been achieved.

Add one coarsely chopped tomato last so it is not destroyed during the mashing.

I prefer to double this recipe and have it available with a great baked chip when my guest(s) arrive. The remaining guacamole should be served with the fajitas along with sour cream, mixed grated cheese and salsa (fresh or purchased)

Quick Salsa


1 can of diced tomatoes, drained for thicker salsa

½ bunch of cilantro

1or 2 fresh jalapenos

¼ onion (red, white or yellow)

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. garlic powder or two cloves fresh

Juice of ½ to 1 lime

Salt - to taste

Place all of the above ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Serve as an appetizer with chips and guacamole and also with dinner.

NOTE: Skip the food processor and coarse chop ingredients and use fresh tomatoes instead of canned for a fresh and fabulous pico de gallo.

Enjoy, Clever Tribe- I know I will. x

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Gross

I burst out laughing (which I LOVE to do) last night when I happened to over hear Jamie Foxx on "Extra." I was bedridden with yet another respiratory infection- I’m not sure which is worse- being so bored I watched TV or having a respiratory infection. It soon became apparent- if my options were watching TV or having this infection, I’d take the infection and read a book. I won't make the same mistake tonight.

Jamie Foxx’s advice to Tiger Woods had been solicited by "Extra." His response was – “Tiger's not a celebrity- he’s a golfer- so keep doin’ what you're doin,’ man.” Fantastically absurd advice for a few key reasons. Tiger Woods is one of the most well-known and widely recognized people in the entire world (one reason I have a hard time believing Elin was unaware of his indiscretions)- which does, by definition make him a celebrity. “Keep doin’ what you’re (and to be fair to Jamie Foxx it was “yer”) doin’, man.” So, I guess Jamie means keep hiding. OK, great advice- glad Extra was able to track down Jamie Foxx for his stellar counsel. “Keep doin’ what yer doin’, man.” Fantastic. So, if Tiger Woods is not a celebrity- how could Jamie Foxx possibly be one? If Tiger Woods in not considered a celebrity- who would Jamie Foxx consider a celebrity? Undoubtedly himself- but who else?

Jamie raises a good question, actually. Celebrity, famous, notorious, illustrious, distinguished- they all are different words that sadly are used randomly and interchanged often. I attribute this mostly to the fact most people are not very smart or Clever and use words of which they don’t understand let alone know the basic meaning.

Here are some definitions

Celebrity- a well-known person

Famous- widely known (often briefly)

Notorious- widely and unfavorably known

Illustrious- notably or brilliantly outstanding due to dignity or achievement

Distinguished- implies acknowledged excellence or superiority

So actually- Tiger Woods could have been referred to as each of the above in the span of three months. There is no doubt he is a celebrity, famous, his character has been distinguished his play illustrious and now … he is notorious as well. Heavy is the head that wears the crown.

I am not going to criticize Tiger, his father or his handlers for the creation of his “image”- Tiger will have to endure the collapse and he will be refined by this experience. Undoubtedly, the man who emerges will be a more authentic Tiger than any of us have ever seen. That is if he chooses to emerge to life as a public figure. After all, he’s not a celebrity- he can just go on with his life as if nothing ever happened.

Don’t get me wrong- Hollywood seems to have a few persons of noble character- but I can’t say for certain because I don’t KNOW them. Otherwise- the whole Hollywood thing seems, well, gross. The arrogance, the expectation, the entitlement, the aggrandizement, fortunes made and spent, the fact people are now famous because their dads were lawyers for celebrity murderers, famous for partying and being scandalous in general, famous because their parents were famous before them, famous for being, well, GROSS.

The point was driven home last night when yet another comment on Extra caught my ear. Teen singing sensation/moron (insert any name here) was asked if he thought it was an honor to meet Bill Clinton. Granted this kid is about 11 and hasn’t a command of the English language- “Nah (shake of the head to make sure it is falling square in his face), I mean it’s cool, but Rhianna is so hot.” Fantastic. This kid is going places. Rehab by 13 and jail by 16 when he robs a liquor store so he can keep up appearances after his brief CELEBRITY faded.

Then, the promise of world exclusive interview with Rachel Uchitel (alleged mistress of Tiger Woods)- who Mario Lopez announced as the most sought after woman in the country. What are you talking about, Mario? I know he was just reading his script, but seriously. She likely garnered some sympathy from the women out there who feel contempt. After all, she lost her “fiancé” in the Twin Towers, she is a “home body” who loves to travel- hmmm. Weird. The entire interview- yes, I just watched it online, was gross. The fact she is now a CELEBRITY because she had SEX with a "celebrity" is gross. It is kind of like being a writer. You can’t get a book deal unless you’ve killed someone, had sex with someone who killed someone, are related to someone who killed someone or are having sex with someone who is GROSS.

The only thing that wasn’t GROSS about the interview was Mario Lopez. I can say this because I have met him- twice- and he was truly one of the most humble, shy, genuine, kind and sweet people I have ever met.

Abraham Maslow (I initially discussed him when we covered the hierarchy of needs) studied what he called exemplary people such as Albert Einstein, Jane Addams, Eleanor Roosevelt and Frederick Douglass rather than mentally ill or neurotic people, writing that "the study of crippled, stunted, immature and unhealthy specimens can yield only a cripple psychology and a cripple philosophy."

So, to extend this thought- if we are held rapt by the idiotic, morally bankrupt, scandalous, immature and uneducated we hold up as our CELEBRITIES- what do we become as a society? Idiotic, morally bankrupt, scandalous, immature and STUPID.

GROSS. NOT CLEVER. Read a book- oh, and not Jackie Collins. Even Danielle Steele offers more in content.

So the point to this is, I need never to watch TV again beyond "Dexter" or "24."

Monday, February 8, 2010

Save It for the Locker Room? What if You Can't?

Wow, I cannot catch a break this football season. My team (University of Michigan) couldn’t vanquish a middle school team- especially one with David Sills at the helm (13-year-old prodigy from Bear, Del.), Colt didn’t win the Heisman Trophy, the Patriots were derailed and now the Colts dropped the Big One. Oh, and I can’t forget Colt being injured in the first freaking drive of the National Championship game and the Longhorns subsequently losing the game. Well, a Flint boy brought glory to a sad town by winning the Heisman- but was it necessary to laud his imprisoned father? Last I checked money laundering was not a noble crime (and no, this is not an oxymoron). Geez. So, I have some observations from a Super Bowl party I attended yesterday.

A commercial came on featuring Tim Tebow and his mom- I'm not sure the message in the commercial because suddenly Tim was being assailed for crying on TV when Florida lost the SEC Championship game. I was shocked. I am shocked.

It has been my experience many men can be reduced to tears watching classic sports movies- now, how about losing one of the biggest games of your career? Do you know how many players have shed tears on the sideline? What if you are the leader of one of the best teams in the nation, already a Heisman winner, heralded for your character on and off the field, a magnet for the camera- and you lost. Consider the magnitude of the situation for this young kid- it is unreasonable to suggest he not get emotional. Sure, he wanted to “save it for the locker room”- but are any of us capable of reeling in inconvenient emotion? I know I’m not.

Actually, Pam (grandfathered Clever Girl) and I discussed this on the heels of my own emotional response to the criticism. She had a “moment” during the holidays, due to stress and it was decidedly inconvenient, but she was unable to mitigate her response. I myself am very uncomfortable with emotional displays especially if I'm the one being emotional- and I've had a few blips in the past year. Inconvenient? Absolutely. Manageable? Absolutely NOT. So, given the context of Tim’s tears- I can’t say I wouldn’t have been bawling my eyes out. Convenient or not.

I braced myself and hoped NO ONE would mention Colt’s teary-eyed interview following the National Championship. And there it was. No one inside the perimeter of friends acknowledged my defense of Tim- so I decided not to bother defending Colt. It was clear my commentary was not welcome. Could be because I am a “girl”- could be because I was an outsider- either way … So, of all the disgusting and egregious behavior from athletes and THIS is what is being criticized?

Made me wonder (and as you all know- I'm a big fan of men, so this isn’t criticism nor is my commentary ever directed at ALL women or ALL men) about the schism that exists regarding acceptable behavior. Traditionally, men are not likely to show emotion, so doing so goes against the Bro Code (from a very funny book by Barney Stinson). However, we have grown to expect bad behavior from athletes so it’s not even worthy of comment anymore? I'd say, the person who finds it shameful to cry before you get in the locker room, but finds nothing wrong with Tiger Woods rampant philandering might be of questionable character. There are certain absolutes where character is concerned and frankly, the only thing I truly question regarding Tiger’s, uh, indiscretions is the character of the, uh, “ladies” he decided to, uh- entertain. I had no intention of discussing Tiger today, but here we are.

It's my honest belief Tiger and Elin were engaged in an “agreement” masquerading as a marriage. I believe I stipulated this in “Wood you or Woodn’t you?” I think Tiger Woods is very different from Tiger Woods Inc. (did I speculate this prior to the debacle? No, i bought it just like everyone else). Elin was a Clever disguise for the image he wanted to maintain. I think this was tacit- I am not sure there was much discussion of it in the home. Perhaps along the way, Elin “fell in love” with Tiger, her violent actions outside their home certainly seemed more the “spurned” lover than the wronged partner. As a matter of fact, if not for her actions- his, uh, infidelities might not have come to light. OR- the story was about to blow wide open and she was angry the charade might be exposed. We likely will never know the answer or the real truth. I’ve been watching though- for proof of the farce they called a marriage.

I said in the beginning, if she didn’t leave him- she was more interested in being Mrs. Tiger Woods than she was in self-respect. She has not left him. He is vowing to change- but change into what? Tiger Woods Inc.? Tiger Woods Inc. is over- the image has been exposed for exactly that- an image. Tiger Woods the man is almost antithetical to the image. I say almost because I do not believe Tiger is a cruel, hateful, flawless man and his prowess as a golfer is genuine- antithetical, however, is his massive dishonesty and how that pervaded all his actions. Was he dishonest with his wife? I don’t know. Was he dishonest with people who invested in Tiger Woods Inc.? Yes.

Oh my gosh, I had planned to talk about so many things today and none of this was on the list. William had a little girl and he’s already exhausted. I knew he’d have a girl- though I didn’t want to say so because he was already freaking out. I’ll tell you how I knew. This man has issues with women, as the women in his life growing up were never very kind or nurturing. I think this played a huge part in his fear of becoming a parent. He didn’t learn to be nurturing by being nurtured- he didn’t KNOW the unconditional love a parent has for a child- so, this little girl is going to heal fractures he didn’t know existed. He is going to love her so deeply and honestly he will continuously surprise himself as he wonders where that love is coming from- I have a pretty good idea. Agape from the modern Greek.

Let me know what you want to talk about this week. Wedding planning is a must- it’s that time of year. I’m making fajitas for one of my favorite Clever Guys, Marcus- so I will pass along my secret recipe for marinade- as well as my guacamole recipe, which until now has been so jealously guarded I have NEVER written it down.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Do We HAVE to Invite Her? Depends on Who is Paying

Ok, Clever Couples, we have managed the proposal, acquired a "yes," hired a consultant, selected a date, picked a city- and now you are struggling with the guest list.

This is no easy task. A great many factors come into play- most notably budget. As I suggested before, you need to schedule an appointment with your consultant. Once a budget has been established and an amount of money allocated to your food and beverage- the location needs to be determined. Does your budget fall in line with the food and beverage minimum for the date you have selected at the venue you have picked?

In case I am not being clear- lets set up a scenario. You have selected June 6, a Saturday evening for your wedding. As I’ve stated, June and October Saturday evenings will come with a premium or high minimum for services for all of your vendors. You have your heart set on Hotel XYZ. Once you have set your budget you find you have $50,000 for food and beverage. However, the Saturday evening in June minimum food and beverage price for Hotel XYZ is $75,000. Your options at this point are to select another hotel for the reception, switch your month or day of the week and see if this will fit in line with your budget or increase your budget.

Or, anticipating the food and beverage minimum for Hotel XYZ, you allocated $75,000 from your budget for food and beverage and plan to spend less on décor and entertainment. However, when you are done compiling the guest list you find you have more than 500 guests and Hotel XYZ can only accommodate 450. Start cutting guests.

Or, if you realize that at 500 guests, $75,000 only allots $150 per person for dinner and in order to get the appetizers, seated dinner and alcohol package you desire- it will cost $250 per head. You either cut guests or increase the budget.

This is principally how these three aspects of the wedding work in tandem. It’s at this point the term “something’s got to give” comes into play.

All parties who are going to invite guests need to draw up their list prior to the meeting. It needs to be as comprehensive as possible. The good news here, your respective parents lists will likely have some duplicate names on it so don’t panic until you’ve scratched all the duplicate names off.

Now- parents are going to want to invite people you may or may not know, and if they are paying the bill, it is their right. If, however, you and your fiancé have determined you will be paying for your own wedding, in theory you can limit each parent to the number of guests you are willing to pay for or you can tell them you’ve decided to keep it to family ONLY.

I’ve seen the budget managed very creatively. You can have an intimate ceremony and lovely dinner for immediate family and the next night has a huge party somewhere fun and drastically less expensive. Having your wedding on a Friday night, Saturday afternoon or Sunday will drastically decrease the minimums for everything from photography to reception venue. Even having a wedding in September is a completely different price point than October or June. Be Clever. There is no reason to WASTE money to have your dream wedding. EVERYONE wants to get married on a Saturday evening in June. Isn’t that the whole premise of the movie “Bride Wars?”- boring. Let’s get creative and CLEVER and throw one hell of a party without all the superfluous expense.

OK- enough about weddings- let’s talk Super Bowl! I talked to Erin Hogan and it seems we are diametrically opposed. He called Saints early in the season and is sticking with it. Regardless, he says of the fact Peyton Manning has redefined the role of quarterback. Peyton has elevated the play of the position and turned it into an art form not unlike that of Mario Lemeiux at the role of center for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Erin actually cited Wayne Gretzky, but I’m not sure why, and he followed it with this acronym G.O.A.T- which I understood as Greatest of all Time- so I knew he must mean Mario- silly Erin.

So, he is taking the Saints and I am taking the Colts. Erin's taking the over on 4.5 camera shots of Kim Kardashian and I am going to take the wayyyy over on that. He is taking the over on 5 shots of Archie Manning and I am with him on that- but wondering if that is every quarter? Surely.

I’ve been giving some thought to a few things- What is sexy? Oh, and how to tell your friend they are dating the wrong person.

Spring is coming and I am hoping upon hope we are done with the Gladiator sandal concept- first of all, it looks ridiculous, second of all, I have yet to see one pair that looks good on anyone. The Gladiator look is something that evolved. Slowly and gradually we added more leather and created shoes and boots- and took away leather to create cute sandals- but we were never meant to return to the Gladiator “boot” or “shoe” or “sandal.”

This is surely an instance of designers sitting around laughing their asses off as they see people walking around looking absurd in these silly foot ornaments. Right behind this is the jean mini-skirt/UGG combo. When Britney Spears is the pioneer of a fashion movement- move in the opposite direction. Most likely she was drunk when she got dressed or forgot her meds.

OK- count on radio silence from me until Monday. I am attending Super Bowl parties, so I'll be full of commentary first of the week. For more Clever wedding planning articles- check with Clever Couples Wedding Planning Tips on this blog or go here.

X

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Clever Soon-to-be-Daddy is Freaking Out

OK, we are going to have to postpone the wedding planning post- but if you are anxious, you can find some good articles here. I got a message from a very old friend who happens to be one of the most Clever Guys I know. He is close to becoming unhinged because he is about to BECOME a father. If you are about to become a parent- this could speak to you.

William (this is a made-up name), Don’t Freak Out. This is one of my anthems and I find it works really well. You are beyond the point freaking out would help matters at all. Actually, once you got married you had tacitly agreed to becoming a father.

What I know about William is that he’s never wanted children. I’ve known him most of my life and never once has he expressed a desire to be a father. When he got married, I questioned him about parenthood. He shrugged it off. I’ve been worried ever since. Not only was he opposed to being a parent, given his own upbringing, I worried he worried he wouldn’t be a good parent.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about William since I learned his wife was pregnant. I pondered all things I know of him, his character, his family, his capacity to love and nurture, and I found comfort. Now I would like to extend this comfort to him.

Your capacity to love was not defined by your childhood. You are not a child anymore- who and how you love is not to be dictated anymore by anyone but you. Just because you are related to someone does not mean you have to love or even like them. Those you have invited into your life, with whom you share no blood, can and likely are those closest to you- until that baby is born.

I advise you to read the post "Clever to Clueless in Ten Minutes." It might help to quell some of the post-birth anxiety, but in your final weeks, I know your fear and apprehension is strong.

While it’s possible for a parent to not bond with a child- it is not possible for YOU. You will never see more pure and unadulterated love and vulnerability than that you observe in your child’s eyes. This child can put to rest any hurt, pain or anguish you might be holding onto. It is impossible to regret a moment of your life the first time you hold that little baby and realize she/he is a part of you- a living, breathing legacy.

Nothing on earth is more precious or deserving of love and protection. You are fierce in your love and focused on the objects of your affection. Let this tiny person become your person- YOUR person.

I am not saying you won’t be tired- you will likely be delirious at times. I am not suggesting you won’t be afraid, fearful and anxiety ridden- it’s normal, part of the process and you are not alone- you have a partner in this. Don’t forget you are a team and you committed to sharing the responsibilities.

You’re not the first person to fear the unknown- the CHANGE. It’s inevitable at this point. I can only recommend you continue to evaluate your “life” and determine what is and what isn’t dispensable. If you can NOT give up work travel- make sure your wife is aware, and if it is economically feasible, hire some help so she can have some time “off” or just the chance to urinate. If exercise is critical to your emotional well-being- do not give it up, just make sure there is a trade off- allow her to get out and take some time for herself.

Of course you are worried she will never get back in shape- but if it was important to her before the baby, it will likely remain important. Encourage her subtly- remind her how valuable the exercise has always been to her emotional health. Offer to take over with the baby so she doesn’t feel she can’t find the time. Offer her a financial incentive- I’m kidding- NO I’M NOT. Whatever it takes- because believe me, no matter how miserable you are about her weight- she is four times more upset, so don’t add to it- be supportive.

I know it seems like there is a lot of stuff- that is because there is a LOT of STUFF. Don’t freak out. It’s all necessary to make your life easier. As the baby gets older, you will have less stuff and more toys- so you are in it- get used to it.

A great defense here is to manage your expectations by knowing what to expect. Here are some hints-

It’s about that time- maybe you should throw some things into a bag in case the little bundle of joy comes early. But, what should you bring?

For the BABY

A preemie outfit (doctors have been known to be wrong about body weight- and babies tend to lose weight between birth and the time you leave the hospital)

A regular outfit

Nail clippers for newborns

Gentle nail file

For Mommy

Outfit for traveling home (keeping in mind you will not be exactly the same size you were before you got pregnant- so something roomy and comfy)

Toiletries

Hair dryer and other small appliances you traditionally use

A large bag for lugging home all the above

The Hospital will Provide (make sure you take all of this home with you, as you are being charged a FORTUNE for it)

Formula

Small bottles

Blankets

Diapers

Diaper creme

Storage containers for breast milk

Post-birth meshy/gauzy panties

Feminine pads/ panty liners

Large container for water

Diaper Bag

Diapers (five)

Deodorized bags for used diapers

Bottles

Formula and baby water

Wipes- wipes- wipes

Socks

Diaper cream

A clean onesie (this can serve as an outfit until you can get to the car)

Mylicon

Stain wipes

Large baggies for dirty clothing

Blanket

Pacifier if the baby uses one

As they get older- snacks and treats

Auxiliary Diaper Bag

In the back of each car, keep the following items in a plastic bin. This will save your booty at least once a week when you have failed to replenish the diaper bag due to exhaustion or simply being in a hurry.

Diapers

Deodorized bags for used diapers

Bottles

Formula

Baby water

Wipes

Socks

Two clean outfits (yes, it’s possible for them to go through two in one short outing)

Mylicon

Diaper cream

Baby lotion

Large baggies for used and dirty clothing

Blanket

Stain wipes or stick to pretreat formula-stained clothing

Several pacifiers

Try to make sure this auxiliary bin is kept replenished at all times.


Don’t forget to have the newborn car seat installed and inspected.

One thing to note, everything you were sure you’d do is likely to change four minutes after your baby is born. You read "Babywise"? You will want to burn the book as soon as your little one lets out his first cry. I have pretty strong opinions about children and affection- people say- “Don’t hold the baby while she sleeps- you are going to spoil her.” It is my experience the only things that spoil are those left on the shelf untouched. How much you hold your child, where she sleeps, and what your emotional response is to her cry are highly personal and you needn’t feel “bad” or “wrong” if you let him nap on your chest (every time) or pick him up every time he cries.

You will have the option to let the baby sleep in the nursery while you are in the hospital- be prepared for your wife not wanting this, but needing this. She needs to rest, but it is difficult to allow someone else take your child from you and care for it. Your wife will fear the baby misses her or needs her. The baby needs only to sleep and rest and be warm. You both need to sleep and rest so make it about her (she is the one who gave birth) or she will be pissed.

Just what you don’t want to talk about- breastfeeding. While it is “the most natural thing in the world”- it doesn’t work out for every woman. Some women just decide they don’t like it- whatever she decides or however her body responds, be supportive. Most people in my generation were not breastfed and the world is still turning- in this country it is not a matter of life and death. Likely they are supplementing in the hospital with formula so don’t be afraid to use it if it takes some of the pressure off of your wife.

Do NOT make any life-altering decisions in the first few months of the baby’s life- you both are in the middle of an emotional upheaval and trying to gain footing. Rely on each other. Love each other. Love that baby. This is your life. It might be scary- but it is about to become more vibrant than you’ve ever imagined.

Ok, William. Don’t Freak Out. Sleep as much as you can before the blessed event …

Tomorrow my words regarding Peyton and the Saints. Erin Hogan (ESPN Austin) and I are opposed. It might be the first time.

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