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Mad skills
Mad skills. Napoleon Dynamiteís Pedro has them. You can, too. Just follow these simple rules to do anything better. Sweet.


July 2009

Make a Fail-safe Dessert

The quickest way to make a fail-safe dessert is to put that recipe book away and instead head over to your favorite market. At least thatís the way chef and restaurateur Sandy DíAmato does it.

"Go there first and see whatís fresh and in season," says DíAmato, owner of Milwaukeeís Sanford, Harlequin Bakery and Coquette Cafe. "If you look at a fail-safe recipe, thereís usually something inherently good about it ó like a fresh apple pie ó and what you want to do is find ingredients that are inherently good."

His suggestion for this summerís fail-safe recipe: Capitalize on freshness. "Go to the market and pick up the best looking fruit or berries," he says. "Toss the berries with a little sugar; if you want to make things interesting, add a little vanilla and make it vanilla sugar."

He suggests pairing the berries with a nice pound cake or scones and then topping them with a quintessential dollop of fresh whipped cream. "With a pinch of sugar, of course," he says.

Find Your Zen

The first step in finding your zen is knowing what it is. According to Trish Washburn, owner of Soleli Lune Yoga Center, zen is a place, a state of being and a goal.

"Zen is a direct, experiential realization through meditation and dharma practice Ö in essence, it is taking what we have experienced and learning from it so we become a better person; a kinder, more compassionate individual full of thanksgiving and graciousness," she says. "It is the process of self-excavation to discover or uncover who we authentically are and were made to be."

Not any easy concept for an American mind to grasp. So start with this: "We are to take our life symbolically and think of each moment as a learning experience," says Washburn. "It is an understanding of our habitual patterns and reactions and learning to stop them, change direction, and expose the falsehoods so that we are able to see the truth of ourself, our life and the world we live in.  It is seeing the world in a different, nonreactive and more loving way."

Certain spiritual and physical practices can help you achieve this. "There are specific practices that one might employ such as certain meditation disciplines: walking meditation, vipassana meditation, walking a labyrinth or the like," she says. "We may choose to sit quietly and meditate or take up a yoga class. Each of us will find certain ways work better than others."

Make Fido Stop Barking

Your dog has become a private and public irritant. How to stop the incessant woofs? Give him a little more direction, says Amy Ammen of Amiable Dog Training, Milwaukee.

"Most people are stymied when the dog misbehaves," Ammen says, and the pup picks up on that confusion. What you need is an action plan.

Hereís the drill: Briskly point the pooch in the opposite direction of whatever heís barking at and enforce the "sit" command. Do it again. Do it again. Do it again. Do it again. Do it again. Redo. Youíre refocusing his attention on you, exactly where it needs to be.

Skate Like a Roller Girl

Think you can roll with the big girls? Itís all about balance and positioning, says The Mechanic, No. 600cc with the Crazy Eights, an all-girl roller girl team in Milwaukee.

"If you stand up straight, youíre giving yourself an avenue to be annihilated and trounced by the other team," she says. "You never stand up straight as a blocker either."

The key is to think like a boxer, with a hunched-over posture and bent knees. "Youíre much more stable that way," says The Mechanic. "It gives you a much better sense of balance for your entire body.

Feeling confident yet? Itís time for a body block. "First of all, youíll want to keep your arms in because the use of an elbow is a foul, and you donít want that," she says. "When youíre ready to block, get in your roller girl pose, use your legs as a spring and use your entire body for a good, hard hit ó you really want to block Ďthroughí the other person."

Tell a Joke

Thereís a reason itís called a "punch line." Itís supposed to be a surprise.

If your joke isnít working, start playing with the setup, says Bob Orvis, player/coach/dad at Milwaukeeís ComedySportz. Most jokes are about seven sentences, he notes, so try rearranging the sentences leading up to the laugh.

Or use a standard format, such as:

One-hundred-eighty-five (blanks) walk into a bar. Bartender says, "Sorry, we donít serve (blanks.) (Blanks) say, "(punch line!)"

Hereís how it works: 185 bras walk into a bar. Bartender says, "Sorry, we donít serve bras." Bras say, "But we brought our own cups!"

Get to the punch line quickly, Orvis says, and remember, if your audience is looking for a laugh, youíre halfway there.

Live Forever

At 78, George Jaeger believes heís got this one figured out.

"The only way to live forever is to live one day at a time and enjoy it," says Jaeger, who lives at the Village at Manor Park in West Allis. "I just keep myself busy."

After retiring from Allen-Bradley, where he worked as a laboratory technician operating an electron microscope, Jaeger took up a few hobbies. Among them ó photography, rock polishing, collecting pocket knives, painting, carving, playing Wii games with his 7-year-old twin grandsons and his favorite pastime, "chasing my wife" of 50 years. "In order to live 100 years, live one day at a time," Jaeger says. "Donít mess with tomorrow, because tomorrow may not happen."

Put Your Best Chest Forward

With not a single good reason to be walking around with a poorly fitting bra ó though an estimated 90 percent of women out there do ó Amy Zuelsdorf, director of sales and marketing for Allure Intimate Apparel in Mequon, can give two reasons for putting your best chest forward.

"A properly fitted bra will help your clothing fit better," she says. "Itís also more slimming and can sometimes help women who have back pain by providing more breast support."

So how do you find a properly fitting bra? Zuelsdorf and the Allure staff do start with a standard measurement, but only as a starting point. From there, they go to the style and shape of each bra. "They fit differently on every woman," she notes. "Sizes do vary from bra to bra and from manufacturer to manufacturer. Itís good to work with a fitter who knows what is out there."

As a final tip: Never get attached to one bra size. "It changes throughout your lifetime," she notes.

Pack Smart

When youíre not traveling alone, pack some of your underwear in your companionís bags, advises Mary Ryan of East Town Travel, Milwaukee. A change of clothes as well. If your luggage is lost or delayed, at least youíll have something to wear. Ryanís rule of thumb: Take twice as much money as you think youíll need and half as many clothes. Finally, invest in a large bag. Stuff it with your camera, medications ó anything you canít survive without ó and something to do when your plane is stuck on the tarmac.

Survive a Tornado

Storm chasers aside, the average person encountering a tornado has one goal in mind: Getting out of the way safely.

According to Mike Westendorf, meteorologist/director of operations for Innovative Weather at UW-Milwaukee, public warnings about impending bad weather would hopefully drive you toward a safe place. "But if you were outside, you would probably hear and feel the winds pick up significantly," he says. "Many tornado survivors talk about tornadoes sounding like a fleet of trucks or a train, but by the time you hear that sound, you had better be under cover."

As for cover, Westendorf suggests a basement, if possible under a staircase or work bench should the upper levels of the house cave in. "Being below ground is important so that the winds blow over the top of you, not through you," he says. "If you donít have a basement, getting into an interior room or closet on the lowest level of the home is the next best place." If youíre outside, seek out a low-lying culvert or ditch.

Places to avoid? Cars, mobile homes, shopping malls and big-box retailer buildings. "Bridge overpasses are NOT good places to be," he says.

Grow a Rose

Even if your green thumb looks a little brown around the edges, one of natureís sweetest-smelling flowers can grace your yard this summer.

"Shrub roses are a good choice for beginners because they make it through our winters with minimal winter protection," says Maggie Barr, president of the Milwaukee Rose Society.

She suggests starting with a trip to a local, reputable nursery to select a rose bush. Not only do the plants tend to be healthier, the staff will offer their expertise gratis. "Plant in a spot with at least six hours of sunlight, preferably in the morning," says Barr. "Dig your planting hole at least twice as big the pot in width and depth. Plant the graft 2 inches below soil level."

Amend the soil with coarse sand and organic matter, like compost or aged manure. With that, the most difficult part is complete. Barr suggests fertilizing on the three major summer holidays and giving your new roses a healthy drink of water on a regular basis.

Perfect the Art of Text Messaging

Even if you donít LOL on a regular basis, text messaging is the way to communicate, says Caroline Radaj, a Hartland resident and sophomore at UW-Madison.

"Itís how I connect with people," she says, estimating that she sends about 100 text messages a day. "Thereís a huge generation gap about text messaging, but thatís the way people my age communicate."

She says the act of texting has come a long way since she sent her first message in sixth grade with a limit of 160 characters per message. "Itís much different now," she says. "But itís still not fun to text a novel."

Ironically, her advice could fit in a text message: Keep it short and sweet. Abbreviations and acronyms are still acceptable, though the technology in some phones will try to correct them. "I have an iPhone, and if I try to use an acronym, it will Ďfixí it on me," she says.

As for speed, the best way to become an adept texter is simple. "Just keep texting," she says. "Youíll get better and faster with the more text messages you send."

And youíll also impress the younger people in your life, who will find your abilities 2G2BT, KWIM?

Decipher a Wine List

Donít be afraid to ask for help, says Jessica Bell, owner of the Midwest Wine School and contributor to the "Wisconsin Foodie" TV show.

"Nobody knows it all and anyone who acts like they do is just trying to cover up some insecurities," Bell says.

If asking for help is out of the question, develop a strategy. Decide what kind of grape you like, from what region, such as a pinot noir from New Zealand. Have an idea of what youíre willing to pay. Now, Bell says, you can look at any wine list and narrow it down to the bottles that fit your description.


Win a Marathon

While some things might not actually help you win a marathon, they certainly canít hurt. Two-time Lakefront Marathon winner Corina Canitz has a long history of running recreationally, and during the last few years has followed a training schedule to prepare herself.

But beyond that, sometimes itís just a random color that carries her over the finish line. "One of the things that Iíll do is pick a color ó say blue ó and keep running toward something that color," she says of the mind games she uses during a marathon. "Once I get there, Iíll find something new and run toward that."

Often itís your mass of gray matter that decides how well youíll do. "If mentally your headís not in it, it doesnít matter how much training youíve done," says Canitz.

And once youíre in the marathon ó itís not over until itís over. The first time Canitz won the Lakefront Marathon, it was in the middle of an autumn heat wave. Last year, sheíd spent most of the race in third. "Two girls passed me at about mile seven," she remembers. "They were about 20 years younger than me, and I made the decision not to join them. As it turned out, I caught up to them around mile 21 and they were both walking at that point. Theyíd raced each other out, and I ended up winning."

Land a Promotion/Get Fired Gracefully

Whatís the first thing you can do to set yourself up for a promotion? "You need to have the mindset that you really want it," says Staci Eggert-Dziedzic, marketing manager for WOW Workforce Development Centers. "There are a lot of people who are content to just go to work and do what they do, and thatís fine, but those arenít the kind of workers who normally get promoted. You need to be able to show a history of doing extra things, of taking on extra projects," she says.

On the flip side, what happens if the organizationís future doesnít include you? Get your ducks in order, including written confirmation of any noncompete agreements, contracts and severance. "And donít talk down the company ... That company could end up giving you another chance or rehiring you as a consultant down the road."

Tie a Bowtie

Tim Ryan, owner of Harleys: The Store for Men in Shorewood, says itís "literally the same knot as tying your shoe." The challenge is to do it on a manís neck and, looking in a mirror, do it in reverse.

Start with one side a little longer than the other. Cross the longer end across the shorter end to make a loop. The secret: Make sure the loop fits snugly against your neck.

Double up the shorter end and place it across the collar points. Hold the front loop and drop the long end down over the front. Holding the loop, pull the hanging end behind the loop. Push the resulting loop through the knot in the channel behind the front loop. Tweak by pulling the doubled ends, just like a shoelace. "Real men know how to tie a bow tie," Ryan says.

Take a Punch

Oscar Medina, owner of Medina Boxing Club, which will soon be moving from Waukesha to Miller Park Way in Milwaukee, says youíve got to know how to fade.

"You lean back; they call it fading out," Medina says. "It takes the full front of the blow away from the punch. And if itís coming wide, gloves go to the side."

Use those gloves to block the oncoming blow. They act like a cushion between you and your opponent. The best position, according to Medina, is to block and then fade.

Most boxers are conditioned to take hits and take some punishment by going to the gym and building up a tolerance during "give and take" exercises.

If this doesnít work, he notes, an ice pack will take down the swelling.

Hit a Curve Ball

The best advice about curve balls, says Milwaukee Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum, is to just lay off it.

But if you canít resist temptation, take it from the pro ó get under that thing.

"Hit the bottom of it, not the top of it," Sveum says.

Easier said than done. The steeper your swing, the harder itís going to be to slam the ball on the sweet spot.

If the curve ball pitcherís a righty, bat lefty. And vice versa.

The best curve ball hitters in the league, Sveum says, are two guys named Ramirez ó Aramis Ramirez of the Chicago Cubs and Manny Ramirez of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Watch íem and learn.


This story ran in the July 2009 issue of: