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Wednesday Advice Smackdown

But First, Necessary Life Updates, Because You Care:

22-week prenatal appointment this morning. Learned I now weigh 139 pounds. Sweet merciful crap. There may also have been some baby stuff discussed.

Interview this evening. No, not a job interview. An interview of me by an Actual Media Professional. Who plans to write a story about me in an Actual Media Publication, provided I am not stupid and boring at the interview. Have been walking around making intelligent-sounding observations about blogging to myself all week in preparation. Regardless, am sure I will be a total idiot at interview, but at least it gave me an excuse to buy a new dress.

And now, on to the always-thrilling Wednesday Advice Smackdown! Remember, questions for the Smackdown should be sent to advice@amalah.com, and feel free to ask me all about my new dress.


Hello Amalah,

I would really like your advice on a pair of shoes I recently bought from Zappos.com. I have received them but haven't worn them out of the house yet becuase my husband HATES them and I still have the option of returning them. Here they are. What do you think?


They get a thumbs-up from me, because I like the funkified slip-on sneaker look, although this particular pair does sort of resemble cleats or crampons with all that extra tread. But I'd just affectionately refer to them as my "spelunking shoes" and everybody would think that's funny and charming and then would run out and buy spelunking shoes of their very own. Because I am just that much of a trendsetter.

(Note to self: do not refer to self as trendsetter in tonight's interview, as Actual Media Publication is local and all local readers would be all, "Trendsetter? Her? Who?" and I would totally get called on my bullshit in a Letter to the Editor.)


Dearest Amalah and Squishy,

I know male quandaries are not normally included in The Smackdown, but I think this issue is of a suitably unisex nature. The subject: shoes.

Two weeks ago I bought a fancy shmancy new pair of Nike basketball shoes and they are, to coin a phrase, the cat's ass. They're white leather with those cool Nike shocks under the heel and little metal things on the tips of the laces. One of the reasons I bought them is that they are so purty and stylish that they seem to distract people from the fact that I am among the shittiest basketball players ever to have double-dribbled his way into the gym.

I love these shoes. They're who I am.

Sadly, I am developing a nasty blister on the outside of my left big toe because the shoes are a little too narrow at the top. It's causing my game to suffer a bit, but because my game was so crummy to begin with, the difference is practically imperceptible. I really don't want to have to give up my new shoes just because they're hurting me, but I've never before been confronted with a scenario that would require me to be a slave to fashion. What do I do? Do I keep the shoes and deal with the pain? What's a desperate nerd with no jump shot to do?

Help me, Amalah. You're my only hope.

Shooting an airball especially for you,
Dr. Johnny Fever
Size 13

First, a counter-question: When was the last time I was actually aware of the comfort level of my own feet?

Answer: 1994.

Washington, D.C. is not a super-high-fashion town. Very few women dash around in Manolo Blahniks -- we're more of a tennis-shoes-and-pantry-hose-with-some-pumps-tossed-in-a-knock-off-duffle kind of city. So whenever I show up to work in my pointy stilettos, I'm kind of the oddball.

People ask, "How can you walk in those? Don't they hurt?"

And I say, "Hurt? That would imply I still have functional nerve endings in my toes, which I don't, and I can walk in these because they are pretty and they make things in life worth walking to."

So basically, you suffer for your fashion, girly-man, and we women don't want to hear you bitching about your blister. Try walking around on four-inch heels until your calves ache and your toes swell through the metallic strappy straps that are the only things keeping you attached to your shoes besides your own sheer will.

(Note to the Assvice Club: Yes, I gave up my super-high heels during my pregnancy and am only wearing comfortable flats or sensible pumps with solid, non-teetery heels. AND I HAVE NEVER BEEN MORE MISERABLE IN MY LIFE.)

Anyway, if you insist on being wussy about it, or are worried about corns and bunions, there are a couple things you could try.

1) Wear tighter socks. If possible, wear socks that feel about a size too small. (Like for skiing or snowboarding -- you wear socks that are as thin and as tight as possible to prevent killer blisters from your boots.) Thicker and looser socks will rub and shift and actually aggravate your feet. Check out Smartwool's line of athletic socks.

2) Buy an expandable shoe tree. If your sneakers are leather, they will naturally break in and feel better after time. You can speed this process up by using an shoe tree like this one.

3) Buy a half-size bigger. Shoe sizes? Are crazy. I own everything from a size 6.5 to an 8. You may have misjudged this pair and actually require a size up. Your left foot might be a 13 and your right foot might be a 13.5. Or somebody just could have had a bad day at the sweatshop. But if you love these shoes, it's worth a trip back to the store and trying the next size up.

Or, you know, you could just quit your damn bitching.


And now, two questions about the same thing, but I'm posting both lest I hurt somebody's feelings about playing favorites or something:

Amalah, Here is a question I'm sure you would never have to deal with personally, because you are so much smarter than me, but hopefully, you will know the answer by pulling it from the ether, in your omniscient way: I am very fair. VERY fair. To prove it, I got a bad burn in New Hampshire. New Hampshire. Watching a minor league baseball game from wearing a tanktop (with wide straps, before little ones were popular). And I did sin, Queen Amalah. I confess to using no sunscreen at all. And I got majorly freckled on my back and shoulders. No big deal. Except for the dress I'm going to be wearing at my wedding. With my hair up? Can you help me, please, even though I did sin against my skin?

Repentant Sinner

And also...

OK - last week you addressed the issue of lip liner and the need for it to match your natural skin and lip color. Here is my problem - I have "natural" lip liner. I have freckles. Lots and lots of freckles. Not just the cute ones that are smatter sweetly across someones nose and cheeks. I have freckles that cover my entire body. In the summer my ears freckle, my lips freckle, I swear that sometimes my fingernails freckle too. I don't tan. My freckles eventually run together to make it appear as though I'm tan, but if you look closely, there are spots of Fish-Belly White between the freckles. These cursed freckles gather together around my lips and make it appear as though I'm wearing lip liner. Friends have pointed out to me that my lipstick has worn off and I look funny with just lip liner. Jerks - they know I rarely wear lipstick. My own mother has tried to wipe it off of me. What should I do? Do I have to wear lipstick every day? Can it be bleached? I've tried wearing sun block to reduce the freckling, but there they are, every summer, big ol' Lip Liner Lips. L3 for short. What can I do?

Crazy Ride Lady

First of all, y'all, freckles are not a curse. The only people who really think that are people with freckles, and I know you never believe it when non-freckled people tell you that freckles are cute.

But honestly: freckles are cute. Whether it's a smattering on your shoulders or a full-body covering, freckles. Are. Cute. And freckles are much, much better than moles, and guess what kind of beauty mark Amalah develops after too much time in the sun?

Cute flat freckles? No. Dark ugly moles that regularly alarm her dermatologist? Pffft.

But seriously, it's best to come to terms with your freckles, because there really isn't a way to get rid of them. The old-school tactics of lemon juice or buttermilk work just as well as the fancy expensive bleaching creams out there. Which is to say, not very well. You may see some temporary lightening, (so it might be worth trying for say, a wedding), but all of those products will leave your skin MORE vulnerable to the sun, and thus, MORE freckling.

The only way to prevent freckles is to wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. And to wear it ALL THE TIME, EVERY DAY, NO MATTER WHAT. Cloudy? Wear it. Just going outside for a few minutes? Slather up, baby.

And Crazy Ride Lady? This stuff is your friend. And if you're still self-conscious this summer, try to find a tinted lip treatment you can live with reapplying a few times a day to draw attention away from the L3. Perhaps this one in a neutral shade would work for you.


Dearest Amalah Who Knows And Sees All And Is So Very Pretty:

I know that you are unable to imbibe, due to the impending birth of teeny, cute, and squishy Babalah, and I don't want to rub it in that you cannot partake of yummy, yummy alcohol but I desperately need your help and that of your food and wine savvy husband. I looooove food and I loooove wine, but I don't know what to pair with what. I am planning a hoity toity dinner party in a few weeks and if you could give me some tips on pairing food and wine I would be most appreciative. I am thinking of rack of lamb with dijon mustard, rosemary and breadcrumbs along with roasted new potatoes, grilled asparagus with olive oil and garlic, a salad of mixed baby greens and for dessert a tart with lemon curd and fruit. Please save me from ruining a perfectly good coq au vin with yet another cheap screw top wine or worse yet, a light beer.

Embarrasedly Yours,

At the most basic of basic levels, the Rules of Wine Pairing are as follows: Red wines with red meat, white wines with poultry and fish, pink wines with a derisive laugh as you pour them directly down the drain.

But of course, there are four frillion exceptions to the basic rule. (Except for the pink wine part. White Zinfandel must be stopped.) And for the love of God, there are other reds besides Merlot and there are other whites besides Chardonnay.

(Did y'all see Sideways? Jason and I have a new motto in life, and that motto is that we are NOT DRINKING ANY FUCKING MERLOT.)

(We never drank Merlots before, either, but everything is more fun if you have a motto, and bonus points if said motto includes the f-word.)

For your main course, which is fairly simple yet rich, I'd suggest serving a Pinot Noir. (I know, I know. Trendy Sideways wine. But oh, so good.) A French Pinot is generally the best bet, especially if it's from the Côte d'Or (Slope of Gold) region in Bourgogne (Burgandy). But California and Oregon vineyards also produce very nice ones, provided you aren't buying the cheapest bottle on the shelf. (And cheap wine will give your lovely guests hangovers, so don't do it.)  For $25 you can get a really nice bottle; for $45 you can get a mind-blowingly amazing bottle.

You may want to serve something lighter during appetizers or have a white on-hand for anyone who just doesn't like red wines. (Although most people who complain about headaches from reds or who classify all reds as "too dry" would also enjoy the Pinot Noir, if you can convince them to taste it. Both complaints come from cheap reds with high sulfite contents or that are just basically, crap wines.)

An Italian Pinot Grigio is always a nice wine for a summer party, and unlike Chardonnays, it's never oaky or easily ruined by overchilling. (Because who has time to monitor exactly how long the wine has been in the fridge while you're cooking and fussing and greeting your guests?) Certain whites, after an hour or so in the fridge, get a nasty "bite" to them. You can get a good Italian Pinot for about $10 or $15.

Is it okay to serve white wine with one course and then switch to red? Absolutely, provided they aren't some $4.99 Sutter Home domestic. It's not like a "beer before liquor, never sicker" kind of rule. If the wine is quality, your guests can bounce between varietal and vintage to their hearts' content, get really good and loaded, and wake up feeling pretty darn okay the next morning.

What to do if your guests arrive bearing wine that you really don't want to serve? Like a (horrors) White Zinfandel? Have both of YOUR wines open before people show up. Have the white open and in an ice bucket, and have the red open on the table to "breathe" before dinner. (Or in a decanter, but that's a whole other level of wine snobbery that we don't need to get into here.)

That way, you look like the good hostess who gets a glass of wine into a guest's hands within minutes of his arrival, without having to drink any of that fucking Merlot he brought.


That's all I have time for today, chickies. I have just a couple questions saved up for next week, though, so feel free to fatten the queue back up by emailing advice@amalah.com with anything you require my supreme know-it-all-ism for.



Dear Amy, I know it's kind of off-the-subject, but I happened to read through your February post just today about keeping your pregnancy test slip.

I also have saved them for my children. Now they are 8 and 5. I still have the devices with two lines on both.
I keep them, because they are the first communication of my kids - kind of "hello Mum, I'm in there".


My first of-age winery experience made me SO terrified to screw up that I didn't taste ONE THING and bought wines based on what had the prettiest label. But I ACTED like I knew EXACTLY what I was shopping for and just didn't need to TASTE because I was just THAT FAMILIAR with their product.

suzanna danna

me = moley mcfreckle


An excellent Italian Pinto Grigio is Santa Margarita. It usually goes for anywhere from $16.99 to $22.99 depending on the store. It tastes delcious & does not give a hang over at all (even if you drink two whole bottles by yourself)>


Sweet! TV! Interviewness! Hope both your footies are dry when you get interviewed. ;)


Dear Amalah - Thanks so much for the advice. Both items have been purchased and are on their way to me right now! Yeah!!

BTW, I agree with gailey, Santa Margarita Pinot Grigio is the BEST! Had it first in Italy and found it at home. I ALWAYS have a bottle on hand.


OK, I'm totally going to debunk the "Miles doesn't drink Merlot because it's crap" theory. The reason he doesn't want to drink Merlot is because his most treasured bottle of wine (the one he drinks at the end) is a Chateau Cheval Blanc, which is, you guessed it, a Merlot. It was given to he and his ex-wife on their wedding day, so he's reminded of the ugliness of his divorce by Merlot. Also? Merlot sales have dropped 30% since Sideways came out. Funny, huh? (Um, yeah, I'm totally a wine geek. Sorry bout that). Props to your pinot suggestion, though!


Dr. Johnny Fever can also put some moleskin over the blister while he waits for his shoe horn to expand his leather sneakers. Mole skin will make a huge difference in your life.


The older I get (27!) the more freckles I aquire. I don't have a lot but I do have a spattering across my nose and some on my shoulders. I HATE them but my BF thinks "they are just adorable", his exact words.

He loves MAC foundation because it doesn't hide my freckles. *sigh*

Freckles suck.


Freckles? Cute? Try "dead sexy."

'Cuz they are, ya know...


I love pinots (both grigio and noir) and have been very happy with New Zealand pinot noirs, especially from the Marlborough region. Just my $.02 on wine. And totally with you on the evil of blush wine. It's just so wrong.


Heather - Yes, you're very right about the Merlot thing of Sideways. Sorry I didn't make it clearer that we adopted that line to suit our own preferences, not because it validated them.

I was mostly trying to make a point that for some people, red wine begins and ends with Merlots -- and crappy ones at that.

Hence, I'm not drinking any fucking Merlot. A Chateau Cheval Blanc sure, but not just any fucking Merlot.


Good recommendations on the wine...Also to your wine-questioner - a lot of the better quality vinyards out there are starting to put out screw-top bottles on the good quality wines. Why? Because cork stoppers can sometimes mean that your wine will be spoiled by a bad cork. And good natural cork supplies are becoming harder and harder to come by. Check out http://blog.wineeducation.com/2005/01/unscrew-bottle-of-your-favorite-wine.html for more background...


You know, I read that about screw-top bottles but I have trouble getting past them.

Another red I've been loving recently is Sangiovese. But I'll have to look at the wine rack to suggest a vineyard. There aren't a ton of them to be found.


Amalah, you really ARE the queen of everything. Just look at the variety of subjects that got smacked today!

Also... I'd love to see a pic of the dress.
And perhaps a link to (or scan of) the print article when it is written by the Big Important Media Person.

Rock on with your know-it-all-ish self!


Amalah, can you give some information to the locals as to where and when we can read about your interview in the Actual Media Publication? Thanks!


On behalf of girls with cute be-freckled cheeks and shoulders; THANK YOU! Let's embrace the frecklage!


could not read without posting my own wine-snobbery assvice.
My favorite cabernet would go very nicely with the proposed menu - Rosemount "Hill of Gold" Cabernet, 2001 OH.MY.SWEET.JESUS...this wine is so lovely. You might also consider a zinfandel. NO - not Kool Aid, wine cooler crap. RED Zin. Ravenswood, my friends.
I definitely like pinot grigio as well for the whites and there are some nice fume blancs out there as well.

Lady Bug

Question: why do you all hate pink wine so much? Is American pink wine nasty? We have 2 major label pinks over here (Australia) and both are really popular, with critics AND drinkers

One is Yellowglen Pink and it's about $12.00 (and kind of trendy) and the other is Killawarra Dusk (which smells and tastes like crushed strawberries) for about $10.00

I've heard that the most awful Australian wine is still pretty good by comparison with the rest of the world. Can I get snobby and say don't drink your pink wines but drink ours?


ktbug...I second that Ravenswood Red Zin. That one is just heavenly!!


Amalah and readers, thank you so much for the wine advice. I shall start "experimenting" immediately. I am feeling decidedly less nervous about the dinner party now and I will be sure to let you know what I chose and how it goes over.


I never thought that I would be commenting about wine on this site... but here is my two cents. I agree that Pinot Noir is a good red to serve, though my experience with Oregon/California pinots are that they have a peppery aftertaste. I am not particularly fond of red wine and I tend to gravitate towards Pinots or Zins with a lot of fruit taste.

There are lots of good Roses (there is supposed to be some sort of crazy accent on the e to stress that I am not writing about the flower but the "pink" wine) like Roshambo, who makes an EXCELLENT rose. I admit that they are harder to get to the right temperature and might not suit your needs.

And as far as whites go - Sav Blancs are also tasty, as long as the maker didn't treat it like a chardonnay and oak them. I hate when they do that!


I have to agree with the Aussie Ladybug and Michie and say that some of the pink stuff is okay-- and I say this from the standpoint of being a shocking snob about EVERYTHING, especially wine, and from being raised (by equally snobbish parents) with a disdain of Vintage Kool-Aid that knows no bounds. However-- Do not take this as a recommendation to rush out and buy the next magnum of candy-piss Gallo or Beringer White Zin you see. If you do, I take no responsibility for your wasted life.
Not living in the States I can't necessarily give a recommendation of a great bottle you can easily access, but in the UK if you can get your hands on some pretty decent Spanish pinkies. (For those lucky enough to have one nearby, you can get a great bottle of Marques de Caceres at Trader Joe's for about $12.99, I think)
But, don't serve it at a dinner party, unless you are a known wine-nerd or a very good actress who can pull off a lengthy diatribe on wine-bigotry and your personal experience with Spanish wines. Because invariably someone will get drunk and ask which gas-station vending machine the wine came from, and you will go into the bathroom and sob quietly on your pretty guest towels. On the verandah, on a hot summer afternoon, nicely chilled with some beautiful tapas or a summery chicken salad, though? Then you will see what I mean.
Oh, this was so long. Sorry.

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