How to be Street Smart Like Charlie Kelly

This post is the first in a series I will start featuring called Readers’ Choice, where I write about subjects my readers have suggested.

street_smart_game

Street Smarts

Being “street smart” is a term we don’t really stop to examine. And no, it’s not just something idiots say after bombing the SAT. It’s actually a very valuable set of intellectual skills that everyone should be equipped with at least to some extent.

And yes, it’s more than just knowing the bus schedule.

crabman street smart

If you Google “street smarts” it gives the definition as, having the experience and knowledge necessary to deal with the potential difficulties or dangers of life in an urban environment.

Compare this to a person who is “book smart” and is able to learn concrete concepts and apply them. In other words, someone with book smarts can memorize and regurgitate information–which certainly has its functions.

However, a person with street smarts has honed their ability to both assess their options, and figure out how to solve or get out of a problem. More important, they can do this on the fly.

Take for example the character Charlie Kelly from one of my favorite shows It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Charlie Kelly 1

This guy is the epitome of a street smart individual. As part owner of an Irish dive bar in a rough section of Philadelphia, Charlie is the man that keeps things running.

Although he is illiterate and can only write in his made-up version of hieroglyphics, Charlie is the go-to guy when it comes to navigating through conflict.

So why is Charlie so good, and what can we learn from him?

Well…

Charlie is aware of his surroundings.

Charlie Kelly 2

Whether he’s hanging out with his bridge people (as in the structure, not the card game) or traveling through the city sewer system, Charlie is always aware of the dangers that lurk in any situation, and he comes prepared.

Like when he hears the sound of water and knows the sewer is flooding–what does he do? Strips down and holds his clothes above his head. That way when he gets back to the surface, his clothes won’t be dirty. Genius!

So, like Charlie, when you know you’re going to be somewhere if-y, do your research, know exactly where you’re going and have an escape plan if things go wrong. This could be as simple as knowing the location of a gas station you can run to or how to apply a Krav Maga style hammer fist to a dude’s face.

Charlie has people skills.

Charlie Kelly 3

Whenever Charlie encounters someone less than caliber he knows how to talk to them without getting into an altercation. Whether it’s the mob or a hostile drug dealer, he knows how to play his cards right and avoid taking a beating. Unlike his friends Mac and Cricket.

If you ever encounter someone shady and they try to talk to you, say “hi,” be polite, but don’t invite conversation. Don’t show fear, otherwise you’ll seem like an easy target.

Charlie knows how to blend in.

Charlie Kelly 5

Mainly it’s because he’s poor and never buys clothes. He prefers to patch up his old stuff with a needle and thread–another valuable skill.

But you and I can learn from this. If you’re ever going to be in a rough neighborhood, try not to stand out. Don’t wear your nice clothes. Avoid name brands and solid colors as it might be construed as gang wear.

And ladies, keep the boob-age in check.

Charlie knows how to play it cool.

Charlie Kelly 4

Bums, meth-heads, muggers. You name it, Charlie’s seen it. And probably served it a beer or two. Charlie shows no fear, and neither should you.

On the mean streets you may run into some shady people doing shady business. You may accidentally witness a drug exchange. What’s worse, the dealer might see you witness his sale (which happened to me once). What do you do in this situation? Play it cool.

Try and look like you’ve never been so bored in your life. Parading prostitutes? Don’t care. A mugging? No big deal. Car jacking? Meh. Just an everyday exchange in my neighborhood.

That’s the kind of attitude you need to have. Don’t make trouble.

If you want to be a good Samaritan then memorize the perpetrator’s features and call the police when you are in a safe area.

Having an understanding of the sort of people you’ll be encountering is essential. Obviously social norms vary from place to place and it’s up to you to gauge the area or person and act accordingly.

Based on my research, I’ve concluded that the most important aspect of street smarts is a deeply engrained set of people skills. It’s not just knowing how to get away from danger, but also knowing who to call when you need something. Need your car fixed on the cheap? I got a guy I trust. He’ll give you a deal.  Plumbing problems?  My cousin’s got a friend who’s a plumber. He’ll take care you.

Ideally it’s best to have a bit of both worlds. You need the yin and the yang. Having a combination can help you handle difficult problems, even in the workplace. By having a bookish understanding of the concepts and applying a little street smart creativity, you will probably stumble upon some “outside the box” solutions.

And it also doesn’t hurt to know the bus schedule.

 

 

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5 Chores You Can Stop Doing

cleaning-products

Some days it seems that the 24 hours given to us are just not enough. As our heads hit the pillow we find ourselves wishing we had just a little more time to get everything done, but heck, even if we did have the time, where would we find the energy?

Between cooking, cleaning and grocery shopping, time just seems to slip through our fingers. After getting sick of being weighed down by my daily to-do list, I finally sat down and brainstormed ways that I could automate some of my more time consuming chores pretty much to the point where I’m not even doing them anymore.

This has freed up my schedule tremendously, and I highly recommend you adopt these habits as well.

Here are the chores with the corresponding tools that have helped me cut some of life’s more menial tasks.

1. Cooking-Crockpot

This tip takes my #1 spot for a good reason. Crockpot cooking is one of the best things I started doing. All you do is throw in some protein, water, veggies and spices if you like, and you’re done. It’s so easy and your meat comes out fall-off-the-bone tender and juicy. I can’t believe I lived so many years eating rubbery chicken from the oven.

Tip: For added tenderness, do not freeze your meat, but instead cook it immediately. It makes a WORLD of difference.

Also, don’t be afraid to buy two or even three crockpots if you are busy and have some major cooking. This three holer is great for families. Click here.

I use this for all my weekly premade meals. And  because these meals are a huge t-saver and could be a blog all their own, I’ve listed my recipes here.

2. Chopping vegetables-Food processor

Speaking of recipes, that brings us to the veggies. Keeping chopped vegetables (think white onions, green onions, bell peppers, tomatoes) on hand is a fantastic way of saving time in so many ways. For one, it makes it easy to throw together a quick meal by taking some protein, beans and veg and tossing them in a bowl. Healthy, balanced meal=done.

Having some meat and chopped veggies ready to go also helps your kids or significant other be more independent in their personal food prep. Translation: They get off the what’s-for-dinner-train and feed themselves. If they whine tell them to pretend they’re at Chipotle.

So if you want some help with preparing your veggies, I would highly recommend investing in a food processor or any other chopping gadget.

I once timed myself to see how long it took me to chop sweet potatoes and onions for dinner. TWENTY MINUTES! Not to be dramatic, but that is a lifetime, especially since they are a staple in my family. So me being a stickler for time, I got a food processor. Big difference. Now I’m able to chop and slice like Edward Scissor hands.

One thing to note: If you are wanting to slice sweet potatoes, which are much harder than regular, white potatoes, then you are going to want to get the expensive big boy food processor (cost: ~$200). However, there is also the option of buying an industrial sweet potato slicer (cost around $65) and fastening it to your counter or wall. A good one by Tiger Chef can be purchased here. It comes with suction cups so you don’t have to drill into your wall.

3. Vacuuming and mopping-Roomba and other iRobots

Oh the eternal wrestling match between you and your home. Keeping a clean house can be a full time job—if you let it. Although this could (and will) be a another blog, I will keep the focus on vacuuming in this bullet point.

I can’t tell you how much I hate vacuuming. It’s hard. It’s heavy. It literally sucks. My mom, who must have gotten sick of the struggle too, bought herself a Roomba vacuum cleaner and loved it so much she got one for me too. Thanks, Ma!

Can I just please say that the Roomba is A-to-the-MAZING?

irobot_roomba_650_1

You set it up to clean an area (remove electronic cords and anything else that might impair it), press the Clean button and go!

The bless-ed contraption even plays chipper tones indicating it has completed the job.

And it gets everything–including pet hair.

Their website also carries other fantastic iRobot devices such as the Scooba Floor Scrubber, Braava Floor Mopper, Mirra Pool Cleaner, and Looj Gutter Cleaner. Sounds like a Swedish orgy, and I want in.

The Roomba will cost you anywhere between $400 for the lower grade up to $900 for the high end guy.

Expensive? Yes. However, think about how much time you spend cleaning your floors, daily or weekly forever and ever until you die. Is that how you want to spend your life? With this robot, you could have your floors (both hardwood and carpet) cleaned every single day with the push of a button. And maybe you could check on Amazon or Craig’s List for some cheaper or second hand robots.  I have the lowest end Roomba and it works great. To me, it’s worth the investment.

4. Dusting, scrubbing, wiping, spider killing-Maid

The iRobot not for you? You want the whole shebang? Then check out Groupon for surprisingly affordable maid services. They have some great deals out there. Plus, when you sign up to use a company for repeated visits—weekly, bi-weekly, monthly they almost always offer discounts. You can even have a team come in once a year for that heavy-duty spring cleaning.

5. Grocery Shopping-Amazon Prime, Amazon Prime Now, Amazon Pantry

I paid the $99 for a year of Amazon Prime (which comes out to $8.25/month) and have been killin’ it with the free two-day shipping. Now I wonder how I survived without it.

For one, you can find virtually ANYTHING on Amazon. I use Prime and have subscribed to automatic, reoccurring orders which makes them cheaper. What do I order? Organic baby food, diapers, wipes, dog food, shampoo/conditioner, toilet paper, paper towels, K-cups—pretty much everything I used to get at Walmart.

Amazon Pantry is the same idea except you can order food items and have it all sent for a flat fee of $5.99.

amazon pantry

Amazon Prime Now is just like regular Prime except you can pay an extra $7.99 to have the items brought to you in 1-2 hours, however it’s only available in certain areas.

Automating even a few errands can do wonders for relieving your bogged down schedule. Another benefit is that it takes items off the old mental checklist which frees up brain space.

I’m sure that if you look at your calendar or to do list you will be able to think up ways you can automate some of those items. Don’t just stop with ideas. Take the extra step and implement them! By doing so, you can take your life from being a series of tics on a check list and transform it into a well-oiled machine.

Here are a few other automating ideas that might work for your household:

Bill pay, Dog food/water dispenser, doggie door, teach your kids to do some things for themselves—up coming blog! If you want to get extreme, how about permanent, tattooed makeup. Has anyone done this? I’d love to hear about your experience!

Easy Crockpot Weekly Meal Plans

These are the ingredients you will need to prepare all three meals listed below:

baby spinach, romaine lettuce (stalks), white onion, red onion,  tomato, bell peppers, cilantro (or premade tabbouleh), 1 package of diced Portobello mushrooms

plain greek yogurt (watch out for sugar)

Italian salad dressing

2 chicken taco seasoning packets

hummus (optional, but a good idea)

olive oil, lemon juice

garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper

canned white beans

canned black beans

Preparation:

Chop or dice the following ingredients and refrigerate in separate storage containers.

white onion, tomato, bell peppers, cilantro (or premade tabbouleh)

Next you will prepare the protein which will be your base when you mix and match the meals.

Shredded Southwest Chicken

 Place 3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast into crockpot.

Add just enough water to where the breasts are half submerged.

Add 2 packets of any brand of chicken taco seasoning.

Cover pot, cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6-8.

Note: When the chicken is partially ready and you are able to break it up, use a fork to partially shred the chicken and then finish cooking. Once the chicken is fully cooked you can finish shredding. Or if you want to be really Chipotle like, cut the finished chicken into cubes.

Make it a meal:

Throw together chicken, black beans, white onions, bell peppers, salsa,  romaine lettuce, tomatoes and anything you’d like. But be mindful of carbs and sugars.

Greek Chicken

Cut 3  pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast into one inch cubes and place in crockpot.

Add just enough water to where the breasts are half submerged.

Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice

Add 2 tablespoons each of garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, thyme, rosemary

Add 1 tablespoon of salt and pepper.

Cover pot, cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6-8.

Note: Traditionally the chicken should be grilled, but I prefer mine slow cooked for tenderness.

Make it a meal:

Throw together chicken, Greek yogurt, tabbouleh, red onions, hummus, bell peppers.

Portobello Mushroom Chicken

 Place 3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast into crockpot.

Add just enough water to where the breasts are half submerged.

Add 7 ounces of Italian salad dressing.

Add mushrooms (however many you prefer).

Cover pot, cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6-8.

Note: When the chicken is partially ready and you are able to break it up, use a fork to partially shred the chicken and then finish cooking.  Once the chicken is fully cooked you can finish shredding, or  you can leave the breasts whole.

Make it a meal.

Throw together chicken, canned white beans, and baby spinach in a bowl. Yum-yum. You can even add white onions if your heart so desires.

 

So there you have it. 3 easy crockpot meals you can make for the week. Also, if you prefer beef, you can replace any of them with a roast. I’d ask your butcher for recommendations. Also, for the Southwest recipe, you can do the same thing on the stove with ground beef. Easy peezy!

If anyone else out there has some good crockpot recipes, please leave them in the comment section.