The Spanish Edition

Happy 6 year and one month anniversary blog! I started this blog mainly because I was in a process-oriented gig and my creative spirit started to atrophy. But now I am so tired from all the thinking that I need to to I can only spend a few minutes a day writing. I bought myself the cute writing prompt book which has helped inspire some creativity from somewhere. I realized that my blog anniversary (October 19) is one day away from my wedding anniversary (October 20). So I really should attempt to write something, anything. This was made easier by the fact that my house is a total cluster and I am currently monitoring (as much as you can) contractors repairing things as a result of a leaky pipe. And the fact that my hubby and I had a great vacation to celebrate our first anniversary. Something to recap! Truthfully I have plenty to recap as there were some really fun events this year, but lazy.

So we went to Spain! This was an inside joke between my husband and I for years and we finally traveled there. We booked this trip through Costco of all places. It was an amazing deal save for the fact that you don’t get a seating assignment on your flights. For one leg we weren’t seated together and had to withstand this annoying Veruca Salt’s little meltdown to sit together for another leg. On a bonus item of note, I plan to always travel on Saturday nights as the plane to Spain was truly empty. Notsomuch on the way back.

Spain is lovely. After going to South Africa last year, we definitely needed to remember the fact that the Euro is stronger than the dollar. We spent money left and right and had to slow down. We arrived at Barcelona first and stayed in an area that was originally run down but became Olympic village in 1992. It is now mixed use with hotels, apartments and nightclubs on the beach. It’s truly a city beach so don’t expect clear blue water and alabaster sand. We (okay I was) were very tired yet our room wasn’t ready yet. We ate on the beach and walked around our neighborhood which was very close to the cruise shipyard. I am usually an extreme planner but truly conducted minimal research for this trip (brain dead). Therefore most of the week in Barcelona and Madrid was spent strolling around the city while on the hop on and hop off tourist bus. Hubby is not a fan of museums, botanical gardens and historic sites and those excursions were quickly nixed. I should have pushed for one though in hindsight.

Life Lessons

I learned a few things. Never take Uber. Taxi drivers take their jobs very seriously there.

Experts project soon that Spain will have the longest life expectancy in the world and the lifestyle is really nowhere near ours in America. They usually pop up around 9 and head out around 10 a.m. They have late lunches, possibly a siesta, eat dinner at 9 p.m. and often stay out to 2a.m., even on weekdays. We weren’t ready! I think our failures was the lack of siestas as we would be exhausted by midnight and that is when nightlife starts. Our taxi driver joked as we ventured out midday that most people were napping and people in Spain don’t stress themselves out much. He continued: people work from 10 – 6 and then don’t work really all that hard during those hours.

Almost everyone in Barcelona speaks multiple languages and we got lazy with our Spanish. Hubby said that he remembered a little bit of Spanish, which actually meant none and we really struggled in Madrid where English wasn’t as popular. I had an unproductive argument with a server as she kept giving me the wrong menu item for lunch with my google translate Spanish and then charged me for every incorrect item that even sat on the table. That day for lunch I ended up with a bowl of garlic shrimp. Nothing else. Just garlic shrimp. Television has nothing in English except for late night American movies, so chilling in your hotel room is not an option.


Being honest, Jose Andres sets too high of an expectation. I thought that food would be in goo goo gobs abundance. Nope. Many of the bodegas (their word for quaint little restaurants) have small, similar menus so it can get repetitive. On the first night, we went to one restaurant in the center of Barcelona with gorgeous rooftop views and TGI Friday’s level food quality. As a result, Hubby swore off of paella forever. Like ever. Do you know how hard it is to eat in Spain if you don’t eat paella? I’ll admit after the debacle in Madrid with the lost in translation server, I ate Five Guys that night. I am ashamed.

We discover two cool things. First food tours. While pricey, they gave us an opportunity to discover food off the beaten path. You walk with a guide. Hear some history. Sample wine and native cuisine at a few stops (though two of them gave us the same dish). It’s all very relaxed and charming. Our other favorite thing became food halls. Spain loves a food hall and theirs are so elevated. Plus, you just sit and they bring the food from different stalls to you. Yay! Also, they provide entertainment. At La Platea in Madrid, we heard a jazz combo AND saw an aerialist. I highly recommend.

Oh and our hotel gave us this amazing anniversary gift of Cava and chocolate covered strawberries. Yum.


We did the traditional thing and saw a flamenco show. There are so many so we just went to the one recommended by the hotel. We tried clubbing, which is very popular in Barcelona, but we are old and tapped out by midnight just as everyone was arriving. I did get to ride in one of those pedicabs along the beach, nice. Madrid likes live music so we headed to two dive bars on different nights. Black American music is so extremely popular in Spain that you would think you’d see more Black people. In Barcelona a taxi driver spent our entire ride crooning to Al Green and Sam Cooke yet couldn’t speak a lick of English. In Madrid, we saw an R&B cover band who relied heavily on New Orleans-style jazz and Motown. I did spot a Colombian-American from Houston there who told me I was a bad bitch for obvious reasons. The other night we saw weird avant garde band that really reminded me of the band from Yes Man (if you have seen that movie).


To answer the question everyone poses- which city to you prefer? It depends. Barcelona is much prettier, hipper and easier to navigate with better shopping, Spanish food and wine. Madrid is more metropolitan, has better social activities (especially for more seasoned people), trendier bars, good international food, and happier, chatty people.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



The 2017 Recap Edition

I made it 2017. It was super busy, extremely expensive and quite the challenge. Here are my top 15 experiences. I wanted to be more clever and have 17 but couldn’t do it. I could go in chronological order but this year was a huge blur and I had to consult my planner to remember so much of it.

  1. Biggest accomplishment: I turned 40. 40 seems so old and sometimes my body reminds me that it is. My husband’s former mattress was awful on my back and that made me feel old. But otherwise, I still think of myself as 32 and nothing really shakes me of that until I meet other 32 year olds.
  2. I got engaged. When I was turning 30, my coworker sat me down for an honest discussion of how I was quickly becoming an old maid. Another lady in the office confessed that she married her husband at forty. I thought: “Oh no. Does that mean that I will get married at forty?” Yes, that is exactly what that reassurance meant. I would be getting married at forty. Being engaged is a huge time suck and so much of my life was devoted to site visits and vendor interviews.
  3. I had an adult birthday party! My now-husband insisted on throwing me a real birthday party when he realized that I had never had one, except when I was 1. Of course, I tried to control things and was successful with some (I picked the location and food) and not on others (budget). It was great and I am forever grateful.IMG_1327
  4. I went to a yoga retreat. People rave about retreats and I went solo to prepare for crazy year I had ahead. It was different. I think my reluctance to drive was too my detriment because it really is in the middle of nowhere. So I took the train and still had a 75 min ride to the retreat. I also realized that I like bohemian things but not bohemian people. I have this same issue with my love of geeky things but not geeks.IMG_1296 (1)
  5. I made a vow to see a show a month.
    • January – Liv Warfield, but it was really a concert of the three Prince backup singers. It was good but forgettable. Thanks planner!
    • February – Ledisi. It was yet another Nina Simone tribute concert, plus at the Kennedy Center. So she steered away from some of her sexier songs. It was lovely seeing how moved she was to be in that legendary space and with Patrice Rushen. However, I wouldn’t call it a traditional Ledisi show.
    • March – Hamilton! We got tickets by determination to see Hamilton on Broadway and it was simply amazing. It definitely lived up to the hype.
    • April – It was a twofer. The Revolution. Prince’s original band reunited to pay homage to the late singer. I now wish they would have reunited when he was alive. Leela James and Daley. I really loved Daley and that’s all I got.
    • May – Meshell N. I am too lazy to google the correct spelling of her last time. I am still mad at our Uber driver who got lost en route to the Kennedy Center and thus we had to stand. Takeaway: I was in love with her backup singer.
    • June – Gladys Knight. I am an alto and hated being an alto because everyone loves sopranos in choir. So basically I had the Alicia Keys disease, but usefully as a child. So to cure me of that, my mom made me listen to Gladys Knight. It worked. I also saw Big Daddy Kane, who was great but cannot headline a show simply because he doesn’t think he has enough material. He relies heavily on radio hits and hey, throw some album cuts in there. No one will die.
    • July- Isley Brothers. This was postponed to November. This is my husband’s favorite group, so he thinks this is the best thing that ever happened to him.
    • August – I didn’t plan anything because this is when the money started getting funny.
    • September – Dave Chappelle. I scrounged up some money to take my husband for our dating anniversary. Thankfully, it wasn’t wasted.
    • October – Solange. She was definitely on “getting my spirit right” time. I buried how much A Seat at the Table resonated with me during a particularly difficult time of being a Black woman in a dismissive White space. However, it all came rushing back in the best way.
    • November – Janet! She’s back and I still know the choreography
    • December – Chris Rock at the Barclays. It snowed and the Barclays is a bit of a cluster. So I was thrown off a lot by how dysfunctional everything was. But we did sit by Zoe Kravitz.
    • IMG_1334 (1)
  6. I went to South Africa.
  7. I wore great hats. My style for my regular traditions is getting better and better. I still wish that they would at least paint Pimlico in anticipation of Preakness. And we really had Diner en Blanc in the middle of Pennsylvania Ave which was a bit chaotic this year (shh!). Apparently, the organizing team isn’t into constructive criticism. Well, I had a great hat.
  8. I got my fitness back. I did successfully lose 15 pounds for the wedding. Yes, I’ll never be thin again. Yet, I can do jump squats and full scorpions. Plus tried trapeze, trap yoga, and pole fit classes.
  9. I made it into my birthday mate, Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors exhibit. I wanted to surprise a friend with tickets via my DoD status. But I discovered that you had to go the day that you purchased the membership. Eh, I stay ready and made it in. kusama
  10. I had the perfect bridal shower. We went on a lovely, chauffeured winery tour with lunch and two tastings. It was all I wanted.IMG_7817
  11. My Treat Yo Self day was epic this year. We went to the new spa at the Watergate. It still has some hiccups but has amazing potential.
  12. I became a pseudo-supervisor. This is harder than it looks on paper.
  13. NMAAHC. I became an Ambassador in fall of 2016 and who knew it would be the hottest place in town. Getting tickets to visit and attend events became the most competitive thing I have done in years. It was worth it though. We have a museum – for us, by us.
  14. My brain continued to rot but man, was tv awesome this year – Underground (RIP), Queen Sugar, Insecure, Master of None.
  15. I got married. It was a lot and I still have to write reviews of my vendors. Planning this wedding was one of the hardest things I have ever done for a myriad of reasons. I had some awesome vendors and great help. Some of my vision wasn’t realized but there were some eye-watering moments that I will cherish for a lifetime. And my family came to visit and some of them (ahem: granddaddy) never go anywhere. Plus, my cousins surprised me by driving 14 hours to come.Married

Now, this year wasn’t all sunshine and roses. I was in the world’s grumpiest golf league and despite the fact that the course in seven minutes from my house, I have my handicap goals to consider and cannot go back.

The season for some of my relationships are surely over. There is mourning period when you figure out that certain people won’t continue our journeys together. But it happens and you have to transition.

The Honeymoon Edition

Happy 5th Birthday blog!

So I wanted our honeymoon to be long. Since my husband (so weird to say) has a job that doesn’t like him gone and is stingy with leave, we only have 4 – 5 day vacations. I got my new passport in 2014 and it has one lonely stamp. I researched multi-day tours online and he was leaning toward a multi-day cruise of the Mediterranean (I am oddly averse to cruises, which is a story for another day). However my bucket list item is to go on safari. I won! But booking this tour turned out harder than I expected. First we were gifted a flight which meant to have to guess dates while we secured a tour. Unfortunately, no one was leaving within three days of our wedding. After two months of false starts, dropped travel agents and crazy quotes, we finally found a tour package. That was harder than finding a wedding venue, lol.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 1

I am plum exhausted but we are pumped for our long journey to Africa. So I didn’t book the flight and do like long layovers in Atlanta, since Delta is always late and I have missed connections before. But boy did I not expect an eight hour layover. But we are platinum baby. We now have access to the premium lounges. After some research we started at the B Concourse lounge and where has then been all my life? I really needed this when I was a professional traveler. I’ve only been to one okay airport lounge but this one had heavy hors d’oeuvres, complimentary beer and wine, and a spacious layout. Everyone in the lounge was so chatty (could be the complimentary beer and wine) and the bartender kept giving me premium wine pours. We then ventured to the international terminal lounges which was debated as better than B. Umm, it was not. But it does have an outdoor patio and showers. But it lacked the fancy bar and comradery of B. Then we finally boarded our 16-hour flight in common class. Sadly our seatmate was stinky and no one likes stinky. I spent the entire flight watching snatches of terrible movies provided by the airlines as I dozed off frequently. Weddings are exhausting! I somehow managed to watch all of Baywatch though which was an awful life decision. Instead of starting a new movie when a movie ended. I should have just kept watching the same one until I finally saw the entire thing. Poor Moana.

Day 2

We made it to Johannesburg. We were on our own as the tour didn’t officially start until the morning. We stayed in Sandton, which honestly was the only neighborhood the various travel agents would recommend. I just took this as gospel since Johannesburg has notorious crime statistics. Arriving at the airport, there was a huge Tambo statue (namesake of the airport) and people kept posing for pictures with it. People joked that it would fall over. Turns out it was only a week old. My first lesson and this proved true throughout the honeymoon is that South African concierges are crap. When we asked for dinner recommendations, we were told to go to KFC. Yes because we spent 24 hours traveling to eat middle of the road fast food chicken. BTW, South Africans love KFC. I don’t know what they would do if they experienced Popeye’s. We just went across the street to the massive Mandela Square mall. It’s three levels and each level reflects the price of the items of the store, i.e. level one is at Forever21 prices and level 3 is Louis Vuitton. We ended up in the Da Vinci hotel and ordered a seemingly simple seafood platter and appetizers. This year we discovered the majesty of seafood towers and this was just a flat version with twice as much food for a lower cost. We didn’t need appetizers. We worked so hard to finish our platter without success. And we stupidly ordered side dishes and the platter came with side dishes. SMH. Finally we discovered that we could order bottles of wine for less than $20 which quickly became problematic. Then off to bed.

Day 3

My husband hates hotel breakfast buffets but this one looked more like Golden Corral then Days Inn. Our tour guide was 40 minutes late and we (well me) were in full panic mode after 30 minutes. We had no contact information and our hotel staff wasn’t much help. Note to self: always call the tour company 2-3 days out to obtain contact info. He finally arrived and to his surprise, we are Black! Honestly, the tour company thought we were White Americans and it became obvious as the tour progressed. Our tour guide is an Afrikaner and couldn’t properly hide his shock. As a result of this confusion, we were given a neutered tour filled with colonist viewpoints of how great it was that the  Europeans “found” this place. Our first stop was the Lilliesleaf Memorial, which is the farm where Nelson Mandela was hiding when he was arrested. It gave a nice, tidy history of the ANC but not enough information on the oppression that they were fighting against. We were off to Soweto with comments about “these people” for lunch in the township which was fine mostly because of the most delicious creamed spinach. Then a PC, non-threatening history of the Hector Pieterson Memorial, a child who was shot by the police when students were protesting the requirement to speak Afrikaan in school. Finally, a trip to the Mandela House, where I realized that the state of Michigan requested a formal apology from the CIA for ratting out Mandela to the South African government. After more terrible restaurant recommendations (I should have done more research prior to the trip), we headed back to Mandela Square to an entire section of restaurants that we overlooked the day before. We ate at Trumps, no relation, and ate full blown steakhouse dinner for two for the cost of one entrée in the U.S. Plus free dessert which my husband turned down and ended up being a luscious milkshake with caramel drizzle. He then tried to sip mine. Nope. Sadly at dinner the klutz came out and I spilled a glass of red wine. Then this entitled Afrikaner at the table next to us screamed at the poor waitstaff forever. I was then reminded that we were in a place where total repression “ended” just 25 years ago. On the bright side, we discovered Amarula.

Day 4

Unfortunately the belief that we were white caused us to be a lengthy tour of an Afrikaan history where I quickly lost interest after about 10 minutes. I feigned interest while excitedly realizing that there were zebras and some kind of antelope (I really started to confuse all the antelope by the honeymoon’s end) on the grounds. The tour guide remarked that after apartheid ended most people don’t care about Afrikaan history. Yep. We then visited Pretoria, which is one of the three capitals and where the President lives. It kinda resembles Baltimore (random). Trivia: America has the largest embassy. We also saw the capitol grounds which has giant statue of Mandela. The tour hits Mandela hard, not that he doesn’t deserve it, but also I think for the underlying reason that he is more forgiving and kind than others. I think his generous spirit gives some absolution without the work. Our guide mentioned that growing up in the countryside, he never knew that Apartheid was so bad. Umm, okay. We then visited a diamond mine and on the way stopped for lunch for another random food that South Africans love: pancakes. Honestly, they are more like crepes than American style pancakes as they are filled and rolled. I was not impressed. Mainly because I hate crepes. The area surrounding the diamond mine seems unstable and I can’t see it being there in the next 30 years. We saw replicas of famous diamonds. The world’s largest diamond ever was found there, though most of their current diamonds are industrial. For dinner, we ventured to a new neighborhood: Melrose Arch, which resembles Reston Town Center. We ate at Moyo, a chain, but an African chain, so new to us. There were performers, face painting and fun dishes. Plus the guy painted my husband’s face whether he liked it or not.

Day 5

Off to the Pilanesburg Game Reserve, no Kruger for us as that was just too far. And yes, we received an unsolicited comment that Kruger is better. I was literally shaking with excitement as I wanted to go on Safari since I was a child. Safaris are at dusk and dawn. So our first one was at dusk. Our first spotting was a rhino. I have to learn the difference between a white and black rhino, which isn’t easy to do at dusk. Then plenty of Springbok and some other antelope that I would need to google (as Springbok is technically an antelope too). In the far distance, we saw a family of giraffes. If only we could drive closer. I couldn’t stop smiling. We next saw the largest elephant in the park, which didn’t look that big from the vehicle, but again we were already sitting high up. Then we started chasing cats. Our driver was obsessing with seeing all the cats and we zoomed various places when someone in another vehicle reported a spotting. It all got very breakneck. Someone reported a cheetah crossed the road quite far from where we were. We zoomed over to the area to see the cheetahs were gone. But I spotted one lounging under a tree and I said something but we already zoomed off because there was a lion spotting. My poor hubby didn’t get to see the pretty cheetah. Lions are the best because they like laying around in groups and don’t run as much as the other cats. We then saw the perfect picture of a hippo (which I was told were hard to spot) as it popped out of the water to give a yawn. Then someone spotted a leopard. And we zoomed over there only to be out of luck. So no leopards for us. At the equivalent of a rest stop, I saw another Black person! She was a German flight attendant of Ghanian descent and dating a U.S. Airman from Chicago. We actually discussed Homegoing, which I read on the ride over and I had so many questions about Asante. We get snacks and beers at the rest stop (samosas). And after seeing more rhinos, some gazelles and hyenas in the distance, we headed back to the lodge for a late dinner.

Day 6

Up at dawn for our next game drive. I have never made it successfully to anything before 6a if I slept the night before so I did not. 2nd game drive. En route, we saw two kinds of antelopes. Item of note: I really should have purchased the guide book with the names of all the animals. Today’s driver knew actual animal facts. This is a plus for those who care for more information (there were a lot of kids in our vehicle) but a minus you are ready to move on. For example, we spotted and watched a pair of mating lions for 20 minutes and we would stop to look at birds (sure). We saw a singular giraffe up close! Rare because giraffes are rarely alone and I hoped its buddies would mosey by but no. Zebras (pronounced like Debra by locals). Warthogs. When I was a young warthog… A jackal, so cute. It was following the lion pair hoping to get scraps of food. Baby hippos fighting. Luckily no crocodiles, though we sat waiting at their hangout. Those things scare me. Unfortunately, no cheetahs or leopards. So the leopards was a no for me totally and both no for my hubby. After a long nap, we headed to Sun City to try our luck at the casino. There my hubby had mutant oysters (his favorite food) and some great sushi, though the restaurant was empty. I promptly lost and my hubby broke even. As we waited for the shuttle which somehow left us, out walks a huge baboon. He just strolls by like it wasn’t a big deal. It was the makings of a great picture but I was too frightened as he was so close. I took a nice bath. And I got sick. So sick. I made it a long time with my sensitive stomach. I was taken under by something from dinner. So bad. But my hubby held my hair.

Day 7

As we headed to the airport we were greeted by an army of baboons. Man was the flight smooth. Without all the American rules, you can get to your gate in 20 minutes. I forgot life without taking off shoes and confusing lines. Though it was weird that everyone boards at the same time regardless of seat assignment. We successfully made it to Cape Town and I felt better. All the angry food was gone. Our driver is Malay (categorized as Colored by South Africa) and a descendant of Muslim slaves. He told us that all anyone cares about now is money and not race but that was quickly disproved. As we entered our hotel, we encountered glares and rudeness from other White guests. Cape Town is so lovely. Not a first impression of Johannesburg which is a regular work a day city. And everyone kept stressing how safe it is. Of course this is attributed to not being run by the ANC. I realized that a lot of Whites are stressed by the death of the kind Mandela and are really worried about their minority status as being only 10% of the population. For the afternoon, we walked along the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. Then for dinner headed to the way too hip Long Street at the recommendation of our terrible concierge. We were about twice as old as everyone there (the legal drinking age is 18) and the drinks were cheap and awful. I felt every ounce of my age and asked a cab driver for a good dinner recommendation. We went to the truly authentic Marco’s African with drumming, xylophones and even some splits. It was awesome.

Day 8

We are up early to hit Table Mountain and I didn’t want my hubby to see the cable car first as he is terrified of heights. I thought I could trick him. I could not. Ever since a disastrous trek up the mountains of Kyrgyzstan where I honestly thought I would die, I am petrified of driving up mountains. My sheer terror of the drive in combination with the long line and my hubby’s refusal, I decided that the Table Mountain cable car was an experience I wouldn’t have. We drove over to Signal Hill to overlook the city. We completed a not super exciting city orientation tour. This is how I discovered that South Africans are way too enamored with basic squirrels because only one park in the city has them. You can buy nuts to feed them and people were constantly photographing them. And these people have baboons. So odd. That afternoon, we took a boat ride to Robben Island to see the former leper colony turned prison. There are multiple boats to the island. We were on a fast boat over and the world’s slowest boat on the way back (I think floating kelp beat us to shore). The island is a true journey and one where White South Africans cannot gloss over their dismal treatment of the native people. Political prisoners of African descent received less food, sterilization, a simple t-shirt and shorts to wear in all weather conditions, floor mats for sleeping and only three days of hot water a week. Nelson Mandela spent 18 years there and finally got an actual cot after 15 years. They had to do hard labor and no one was allowed to talk even though you live and work so closely. Our island tour guide was a former political prisoner who entered the prison at age 17. He said that giving tours was cathartic for him and allowed him to release the anger from his imprisonment. It was beyond moving. After that we attended the Oyster and Wine Festival on the Waterfront. I was really happy to see bands playing African music after seeing so many rock cover bands along the waterfront earlier.

Day 9

Up and at it to tour an island to see a seal colony, which stank to high heaven. We then drove down the coast, which resembles Cali but prettier to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. It is the southwestern tip of Africa, not the tip–which is highly stressed—where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet. We were at the end of the world, at least one tip. We saw wild ostriches, it never dawned on me that there could be wild ostriches, and more antelope. Yea, I suck at the antelope. Then excitedly we darted over to see the African penguins which arrived in 1982. I love penguins and they are so cute. No baby penguins though. We ate a basic lunch in Simon Town. And the truly hectic pace of wedding planning and this non-stop tour weighed on me heavily. I hit a true wall. We forged ahead to the Botanical Gardens. Everything in my soul wanted to get on the tram, but elderly people trudged up the hills and slopes like it was nothing and I powered through. I just wanted to lay in the bed after our full day but Rider forced me out to dinner at this swanky African sushi fusion restaurant on the Waterfront. It was my first encounter with bland food and I barely touched it. I was so tired and we had the most inattentive waiter, which left me unenthusiastic. I should have sought a better food option but was too tired for research. Back to the room for terrible tv.

Day 10

Okay, my barely eating of dinner turned out to be a bonus. My hubby was so sick. Even sicker than I was at the lodge. Today was to be our whale watching and Stellenbosch wine country visit but that wasn’t happening. I took the opportunity to sleep while hubby ran back and forth to the bathroom. I ordered room service and finished my book. Though I was so enthused about the visit to wine country as I love wine, it wasn’t meant to be. Neither was my plans for a big departure dinner celebration.

Day 11

So hubby is still not 100%. So the final day was to be devoted to a relaxed day of shopping and sightseeing. We did none of this and just headed to the airport that afternoon to begin our long journey back to the States. All the rest I got was a curse because I was up and alert for the entire 16 hour flight back. It was so painful. So I actually watched the movies all the way through and so many are just not good. I see why the movies are struggling. I only liked Spider-man: Homecoming.  I know one thing, I am never doing this again. I can only fly this long in better seating. I thought my cattle car experience from Hawaii was bad but this was torture.

Day 12

To be ever so humble, home! And we crashed. We slept for 14 hours. True story.


  1. The public bathrooms are so miraculously clean. Even the messiest one I saw at the National Park was on par with neat ones in America. Me likey.
  2. Whew, South Africa is high up and I had trouble breathing. It’s higher up than Denver.
  3. White affluent folks all nationalities didn’t know what to make of us, staying in the same restaurants and eating in the same restaurants. I almost had to push a woman because she wouldn’t leave the check-in counter and she naturally assumed I would wait for her to move when she was ready.
  4. They love ice cream, milkshakes and American sweets. So much red velvet cake.

The 40 Edition


So I saw this ridiculous article ( about a month before my big milestone. I love first person stories in Vogue because they consist 80% of privileged Western White women telling tales about surviving deceased parents, ennui or professional struggles while summering on the Cape, riding in private jets or languishing in prep school. And the other 20% are personal testimonials of a now-famous person with melanin who overcame hardships in a war-torn country. There is no middle. This list is the former and pure nothingness. I mean it praises Lena Dunham for forcing her nakedness on us and talks about hanging out at Johnny Depp’s pool. I haven’t even been to a real pool party. Should I relate to any of this fluff despite the fact we are both 77 babies? However, can I make my own list? I am 40. I am a writer. I have been through some real stuff (not a war though). I can do it! Here goes:

40 Things I Learned Before Age 40

  1. Sum up your surroundings quickly. I was in first grade when I realized that my mom wasn’t like other moms. It was important to notice this quickly or I could have made myself crazy.
  2. Watch PBS. It made a childhood without cable a grandlearning experience.
  3. Set the goals and create steps to get it. In 9th grade, my English teacher gave my class a scholarship application with all the requirements. I kept it and pretty much fulfilled all of them. As a result, I received three scholarship offers by graduation.
  4. Got to speak to get your blessings. As a communicator, I meet every part of an organization. I cannot tell you how many times I have hooked up people with complementary needs and talents. But you have to tell me what you need first.
  5. Don’t complain. Nothing ever comes from it but pity. Do you want pity?
  6. Packing compactly is critical. My grandfather once told me that it was the important life lesson he would teach me. Team one carry-on!
  7. There are two ways to do things: Cheap and difficult or Easy and expensive. Choose wisely.
  8. Spring for a check once in a while. You won’t be homeless. Raised broke, made me Queen Divide Everything Evenly. It wasn’t always pretty.
  9. Sometimes you have to decide between time and money. I gave up a lot in my 20’s because I chose free time over earning extra money. But no money meant not doing everything I want.
  10. Learn to change a tire, change oil, replace a tail light, and jump a battery.
  11. Mean Girls is a movie not a life style. You really don’t need frenemies, no matter how many tv shows tell you otherwise.
  12. Follow the Five Vogue Rules of Attractiveness – Get a cool hairdo, Keep your eyebrows arched, Dress Well, Take good care of your teeth and skin, Smile often. It convinces people you are attractive.
  13. Stay away from unsolicited commentary. This one is controversial because people think it impends on their right to free speech. However, people already know if their car is dirty and announcing it won’t make it miraculously clean. And telling someone that you hate mushrooms while she is actively consuming mushrooms isn’t a conversation starter.
  14. Kiss the frogs. I could write a book on all my really, really horrible dates but past 30, you have to keep trying no matter what. Unfortunately the perfect mate isn’t going to knock on your door watching you are watching Netflix.
  15. Leave the house. I never fondly remember the time I watched a Lifetime movie on a Saturday night but I do remember the time I missed Stevie’s surprise appearance at Wonder-Full.
  16. Go out alone. One of the best New Year’s Eves I ever had was when my buddies abandoned me on a snowy New Year’s Eve and I went out by myself. I ended up at this amazing private party with free food, drinks and entertainment.
  17. Always choose the concert. Our legends are leaving us and there are so many I never saw live. See your faves at least once.
  18. Cherish those who answer the phone at 3a. I value those who go above and beyond and not everyone does. People tend to favor those with compliments and kind words over those who will drive you to the airport at 3a. That’s bad.
  19. Buy presents to match personalities. I once got family members different styles of purses based on individual likes and everyone talked about it for months.
  20. Have core values and know when they are violated.
  21. Be very careful of Darth Susans.
  22. There’s a moment when someone smiles at you because you compromised yourself too much and they won. Know that smile.
  23. Anticipate behavior. My family always popped by the house unannounced. I learned to be dressed and ready just in case and my mom scrambled EVERY SINGLE TIME.
  24. Move on. I move on quickly. Do I think people are irredeemably toxic? No. Do I think relationships can be? Yes.
  25. Reach out. My best and most uplifting relationship came from reaching out to a family member at the urging of my therapist.
  26. Climb the mountain. I never say I hate something unless I experienced it first. I climbed a mountain overseas and I discovered that I hate mountain climbing. But I know that for sure.
  27. Let others do something for you. My parents are quite self-centered and I constantly reject when person try to do something nice for me. This took years to get over.
  28. Things are better when I do them but okay is good too. Not everything has to be done to my specifications. Except folding towels and sweaters, there is only one way.
  29. Don’t make extra work for yourself. If your boss never reads proposals, why write them? If your chain of command constantly rewrites copy, then don’t agonize over your first draft.
  30. Conduct effective meetings. People don’t have to attend but if you need them to attend, be a good steward of their time.
  31. Wear solid underpinnings. A perfectly fitted bra works wonders. It makes you look great every time.
  32. Teeth are the key to attractiveness.
  33. Be kinder than you have to be.
  34. Always listen to the music before going to a concert. I might have been caught off guard once but never twice.
  35. Read often and always read the book before going to a book club meeting. Even 30 pages can save you from embarrassment like the author being a specially invited guest and asking pointed questions about her book.
  36. Pick a theme song a la Ally McBeal. Mine is Cleva.
  37. Know yourself, stars and warts. It informs your interactions. It’s amazing how critical people are without any self-introspection.
  38. Supervisor doesn’t always mean superior.
  39. I am the universe. I am a super organized J (on Myers Briggs). Often disorganized people say the universe will provide. The universe is me. I have band-aids at my desk. I carry toilet paper in my purse. I register online way in advance.
  40. Dance on the bar. Life can be short or long (per Chris Rock). Being a lifetime member of Ms. Pragmatic’s Sensible Guide to Practical Living may give you tangible items (money, a nice house, feet that don’t ache) but devoting yourself to a little silliness will make life short and fun.

The 2015 Recap Edition


This is my 2015 recap. I wouldn’t say that 2015 was a banner year. But I don’t have those. I think not having many major life milestones is a contributing factor. No wedding, engagement, babies or new businesses. So it was just like any other year. Two items of note:

  1. I barely blogged this year. I ended up in a very toxic, soul sucking work environment and all I want to do when I get home is collapse on the couch and work on lump status. Ironically, my last project at my previous job was conducting employee focus groups. I was so amazed at how miserable employees were. People would be near tears when we asked the simple question of “how do you get along with your boss?” Now I get it. Bad workplaces sap every ounce of energy you have.
  2. Being miserable at work caused me to reevaluate my life. I became very Shalina-focused. I decided to not spend much energy chasing behind other people. I realized that I put forth much of the effort in many of my relationships and that ceased. I didn’t call first, extend many invites or deal with much selfishness. I just didn’t have the energy. This also affected my Top Ten Life. Not as many outings to discuss.

So without much further ado, here are my Top 15 moments of 2015. This is no particular order as I am trying to be more freewheeling and doesn’t include events already discussed on the site.

  1. I was so artsy. – Crafts are a good release. I made Kente cloth, painted pottery, created jewelry, adult colored.
  2. I binge watched. – I am not a tv person despite being raised by an absolute tvaholic. I like leaving the house (hence this blog). However, as mentioned by the two items of note, I didn’t cajole people to hang out and didn’t want to be bothered, so thank you to: Jessica Jones, Orange is the New Black, Broad City, Master of None, etc. for keeping me occupied. I saw some good ones and bad ones – I won’t mention Younger. So much shame.
  3. I did lots of road trips (on my Vision Board).- New York, three times! I went to Harlem (visited many places that I later saw reality shows either good or bad) and Brooklyn. I went to Hampton’s Homecoming for the first time in 10 plus years. I am now a big fan of all the suite parties! I went to Michigan twice. To quote Murtaugh, “I am getting too old for this.” That trip is getting harder and harder to do. I went to a Delmarva beach for the first time for an extended time (4 days, not a day trip) in the 20 years I have been here. While Dewey is nice, turns out honey doesn’t like sitting in the hot sun because he works outside all day.
  4. Afro Punk.- Grace Jones topless hula hooping. Lenny Kravitz jumping into the crowd. Enough said.
  5. D’Angelo returned to form. – However, he had the ridiculous idea that his 35+ year old fan base should attend a four plus hour standing show on a work day. Unfortunately, we needed to leave early as my honey’s feet were killing him one hour into his performance (four hours into the night). Apparently he performed for two hours. Standing shows need rules! Thou shall not have opening acts. Thou shall start promptly after doors open. Thou shall only book acts whose audience is 25 years old.
  6. Prince bestowed us with his presence. – Prince came to Baltimore and all was right. Actually not really because of the reason he was there after “riots” resulting from Freddie Gray’s death. I could talk about that issue for hours but will move on. So many funny things happened at the show just in the audience! One thing, Royal Farms Arena needs screens. I never knew who any of the “special guests” were and had to rely on sneak looks at my phone (phones were banned which caused some of the audience hilarity).
  7. I was considerate. – I did stuff that I really didn’t want to because I am a good person. I gave up Trevor Noah tickets (taping his Comedy Central special!) to go to my honey’s club event. I wanted to go to a wine festival but instead went to the movies with friends. There should be prizes given out for this behavior.
  8. Carefree outings. – I joined meetups. They are such an easy way to hang out. You don’t have to call people. You don’t have to endure being stood up. If you don’t have plans, you pick a pre-arranged event and show up! Honey thinks things are weird, but I came to love them. I golfed regularly. I zip lined. I sang karaoke. I grooved at Motown the Musical. Easy peasy.
  9. Childhood dream. – I hate to admit this but I’ve never seen a full New Edition show. As equally as Jill was moody, New Edition was fun. Damn they can still dance except Johnny who is turning into Eddie LeVert. Yay guys! I saw BBD on Valentine’s Day and they can work their 6 songs hard! Then I saw the full shebang at the Holiday Jam. So happy for me.
  10. Food and libations. You know what is fun? The Bourbon and Brew Classic! Bourbon tastings combined with horse racing. What a great idea. I ate the most divine Lobster Rolls (I wrote it down) at the Baltimore Seafood Festival. I drank so much wine at the Vintage Virginia Festival while dancing to Trouble Funk. I went to a violently okay wine festival at the Navy Yard though so they aren’t all silver and gold. I like these things a little too much.
  11. So fancy. – I was invited to not one but two tea parties. I am very elegant and this is the reason why.
  12. I got some cool deals this year. – Enjoyed the Black and Brown Comedy Get Down based on a random discount code. Took honey to a cool brunch. Found an okay hotel in Brooklyn. I still want my playlist, dammit! Vegas was a great hotel special.
  13. Celebrated Detroit. – Went to D.C. Loves Dilla for the first time with special appearance by Common who did one song though Dilla produced entire albums. But I digress. Though it’s weird seeing only two people in Slum Village. I was reminded of my dark dusty days at St. Andrews in the late 90’s. Remember this, rap battles are terrible. No, they weren’t good. They are terrible.
  14. One down, two to go. – So I finally went to Preakness. I just have Belmont and the Kentucky Derby to go. Plus, I need to start on the rest of my sports bucket list: U.S. Open, the Masters, and the World Series. The sky’s the limit. Hopefully, they will have less drunk people. Preakness has so many drunk people. But I had a great hat. That’s what is most important.
  15. Diner en Blanc. Last and my favorite. I worked hard on this. After seeing that the waiting list was in the five digits I decided to be creative. While I may not be the most social being (which is the key to getting invited) but I’m Cleva (shout out to Erykah). I created a fabulous infographic as to why I should be invited and voila, I was in. On paper it seems ludicrous but in practice, awesome.Honey was dubious. My friend bailed. But what a fun time for a tremendous amount of work. Plus as a treat, honey booked a room at the Marriott Marquis which isn’t as luxurious as it could be though it has the spa water with fruit in the lobby.

The Art Edition

April was for art. Unfortunately, Vegas had my mind pre-occupied and I never completed my purchase to see Toni Morrison, which was supposed to close the month. It was in the cart and everything. Then I got distracted. Then I forgot. Then I remembered two days later. And when I returned it was sold out. So I began my month with my favorite living poet—Nikki Giovanni. I pretty much stalk Nikki so I was excited to see that she was speaking on a panel following the premiere of Being Billie, a documentary on Billie Holiday in celebration of her 100th birthday. The film aimed to move beyond the portrayal of Billie as simply a tragic drug addict. I love my Billie, so my t-shirt emblazoned with her face and I were ready. I will admit two things. First, the event should have been in a bigger space more conducive to movies (too much light). Second, the film had excellent interviews but was really repetitive and could have used a keener editorial eye.

So I have three favorite contemporary artists: Kehinde Wiley, Kara Walker and Mickelene Thomas. This month I saw two for three. We travelled up to New York to see the Kehinde Wiley and Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibits at the Brooklyn Museum. Sadly, an aversion to public transportation meant that we drove from Manhattan to Brooklyn and cabbed from the Brooklyn hotel to the museum. This took forever. This only gave us one hour to rush through both exhibits. I could philosophize on Wiley’s use of color but I am no art critic. I just like what I like. I love vivid colors and faces, so Wiley speaks to me. Basquiat was a hurried experience that just reminded me that I am not a huge Basquiat fan.

Later in the month, social media hipped me to the fact that Ava DuVernay would be at the Museum of the American Indian for a symposium called History, Rebellion and Reconciliation: Communities Mobilized for Social Change. But before that, I darted off to University of Maryland because I discovered that the David Driskell center was having a showing of Kara Walker. I adored her use of stencils and cutouts to tell and retell stories of African-American life and folklore. Sadly, most of her work was encased in glass so my photographs didn’t come out well. After rushing from College Park to The Mall and parking illegally, I made it in just in time to see Ava. I love Ava and she is gorgeous, gracious and intelligence in person, which is a huge perk. I have seen most of her limited work and she enlightened the audience on her creative process and what it means to be an artist in the 21th century. Amazingly she stayed and answered every question even the combative or rambling ones.

As mentioned, I forgot my Toni Morrison tickets. So Ava was the end of my artistic adventures. And I lost my newly purchased book of Wiley’s exhibit in some restaurant with delicious duck drumsticks.

The Aries are Awesome Edition

las-vegasSo every other year, I like to treat myself to a birthday trip. This year I wanted to return to Vegas, which I did several years back to combine my three favorite things: Vegas, my birthday and March Madness. I make a big deal of my birthday for one simple reason, my mom never threw me birthday parties. I had two birthday parties (8 and 16) growing up and both were primarily spearheaded by my aunt. We have this theory—my mom is a downright recluse with a summer birthday sired by two extreme extroverts. They used the only child of theirs with a summer birthday in Michigan as an excuse to have huge parties. So my mom sees birthdays as an annoying constant celebration. Meanwhile, her winter birthday-having siblings possess simmering resentments of these feted occasions. So she thinks birthdays are overblown.

I quickly realized that having an outstanding birthday will be the result of my own efforts. This proved to be challenging over the years as I am an introvert with extroverted tendencies who tends to attract homebodies as friends. That means I have never had a successful adult party, you know the kind full of raucous people making poor decisions. I decided around age 28 to focus my birthday efforts on travel and not relieving House Party 15: The Adult Edition.

This was my first stay in Mandalay Bay. Can I say my favorite thing about this hotel/casino? It smells amazing. Always. I just love it. The hardest part of Mandalay is it is the tip of the Strip. Which means walking, so much walking. In hindsight I made one major mistake with this trip. I wore new, unproved shoes. Naturalizer is my go-to shoe for almost fashionable comfy shoes but they failed me. I feel like our entire experience was limited because my feet hurt and for example, I didn’t want to walk to Bellagio to show my honey the water show. We confined many activities to the south strip.

I usually gamble once and party often during my Vegas trips. I checked the websites and didn’t see many events I had to attend and deferred to my honey’s love of gambling. I am still mad though that the Ice Cube / Lil Jon show at Wynn was advertised nowhere and I only saw that it occurred the day after. That mashup is something I wanted to see!

I only gamble cheaply as I like my money and set strict limits for myself. I introduced my honey to the only table game I play—roulette—after losing $80 in Blackjack in 20 minutes after being dealt several consecutive hands of 15. The worst number in Blackjack. Roulette is a game that you can play forever with $40, especially on $5 tables. It was good to us the first two days. Honey won $300 and I won $80. Betting on college basketball turned out not to be anywhere near successful because none of the teams played correctly.

Eating in Vegas is always an adventure. I loved Aria’s brunch and their unlimited drink add-on was scrumptious. Planet Hollywood’s brunch was in the basement and I really wanted to see some sunlight. Otherwise, pretty good. We ate at this terrible restaurant in Caesars because I was too hungry to think straight. I paid $20 for cheese eggs, toast (no jelly available) and hash browns. I don’t eat pork so they had no meat for me to choose. In comparison, the brunch buffet at Aria is $22 and $21 at PH. Turns out they are closing the restaurant and laying off the staff for a new concept in two weeks which is why the service was so awful. I am a firm believer for breakfast/brunch, go to a buffet. It’s cheap <$25 and you can create whatever meal you want. We ate at this beautiful fancy seafood restaurant in Encore, which was just okay for my birthday. The place we wanted to go was full with a long wait. This is exactly how we ended up at Caesars. The last day we went to Fremont Street which is so much awesome and fun fact—had the world’s oldest Tupac imposter. Seriously dude was in his late 40’s and Tupac died at 25. We ate so cheaply there that it renewed my anger at Caesar’s all over again.

As for the shows…We saw Cirque du Soleil One based on the music of Michael Jackson. It was phenomenal. I did expect more acrobatics as it focused more on dancing, but it was glorious. Plus I got to sing along. Amazingly, it primarily focused on songs from HIStory, Bad and Thriller. I mean what would be a more perfect Cirque du Soleil song than Off the Wall. I feel like that was a missed opportunity for some daredevil theatrics. We also saw the Jabbawockeez. I had never heard of them, nor do I watch America’s Best Dance Crew but I truly enjoyed the show, especially the audience participation parts.

Yay birthdays!