The 2015 Recap Edition

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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!

The Love Edition

Valentine's DayHello long dormant blog. I decided to use the long holiday weekend to try to shake off some of my writers’ block that having a blog was supposed to avoid. I started this blog as an excuse to write weekly but have been plagued by an inability to write a basic summary paragraph.

So I didn’t write about the astounding Songs in the Key of Life concert event of a lifetime in November. I missed the opportunity to write about the Mint Condition anniversary surprise, also in November. And, I didn’t capture my chance to see Five Guys Named Moe through a Living Social Deal in December. So I will attempt to reignite my fabulous blog, I swear.

So this past weekend was Valentine’s Day. Amazingly one of my most memorable Valentine’s Days was actually a Galentine’s Day. It was another time when Valentine’s Day fell on a Saturday, which turns quickly into Single Awareness Day. The host planned a series of activities starting with brunch and ending with dinner to visit unique museums away from the typical Smithsonian ones. So for my honey’s Valentine’s Day surprise, I decided to create an alcohol adventure with different stops along the way.

First, we stopped at Signature Blue Events grand opening party. I will admit I had no clue what Signature Blue Events is and what they are opening and still don’t since the tour they provided wasn’t actually informative. However, it was free and suggested to me by Eventbrite, so why not. The event sported a wine tasting (alcohol adventure #1), a band, a weird barbecue buffet and spa treatments. The wine tasting was fun because the ladies pouring the tastings were a hoot.

Second, we stopped at New Columbia Distilling for a gin tasting. We were running behind, so we couldn’t take the full tour. One thing I realized is that I never drink gin and gin is really strong. Because I usually drink mixed cocktails, I realized that I am not a person who knows what many liquors actually taste like.

Next, we scurried off to One Eight Distilling for a tour and tasting before it closed. There I learned the difference between making gin, whiskey and vodka. Then I wondered if I could run a distillery because I need me a business, lol. Of course, we were treated to three full sized shot tastings and I wondered why they are so generous with the free alcohol… Since they were so nice and maybe because I was liquored up, we bought a bottle.

We were supposed to go to Atlas Brew Works, but stopped at Union Market because I wanted this chocolate hazelnut spread that was sold out *sad face*. Then we went to get something to eat because three all the tasting were catching up to me and I needed food.

Finally, we went to Jack Rose for the Capital Standard party which offered a new brand of Whiskey tastings for $15. In lieu of that, my honey and I opted for craft whiskey cocktails by the master mixologist. We left just in time for a mini ice storm.

On Sunday, my Valentine’s Day surprise was tickets to see the Old School New Jack Swing concert. This event continues my rant that we really need a medium sized concert venue in the D.C. area—smaller than Verizon Center but larger than Constitution Hall. And Showplace Arena is not it unless they invest serious money into a better sound system. The concert was okay. After 7 were great. SWV sang well but without a band, which is one of my pet peeves. Toni Tone was okay, but hilariously I think a lot of people were confused by the lack of Raphael Saadiq as if he didn’t leave the band 15 plus years ago. BBD can work the hell out of a 5 song show. Damn are they great showmen. If only they had the catalog to support a full show. Finally HollisterStreet came on. Unfortunately, they cannot be called BlackStreet without Chauncey, but they put on a decent show.

Whew. That was so hard. Writing is so hard, but I have to do it. Hopefully, I can restore this blog to some kind of consistency.

The New Job Edition

your careerSo this month, I embark on my next career journey and begin a new job. I am extremely excited and can honestly say that my last gig wasn’t a good fit. I am sickly, they insist you make up leave. I am a control freak and management directs your assignments. I prefer to speak plainly and bluntly and any semblance of possible back talk is not allowed. I hate commuting and this job was far. When I was finally allowed to tell people I was leaving—this didn’t happen soon for a variety of reasons—we joked that there are key indicators that it is time to leave a job.

You go to mediation! There you are at your job hating life in general when you are forced to sit next to some annoying individual who irks every ounce of your spirit. This person can be smelly, listen to terrible music loudly, always ask for help with work, or have a smart mouth. Anyway, one day after enduring just too much, you snap. A loud argument ensues and your boss has the perfect solution: mediation. You don’t want to go to mediation. You barely want to come to work. Mediation isn’t going to make this person your best friend and the issue is actually greater than loud music. Once this happens, there’s nothing left to do but depart the office.

You pack up your stuff! This was courtesy of a colleague, who told me that she hated one job so much that she packed up her stuff from her office over the weekend and took it home. She didn’t have another job but she didn’t want to have her stuff in a place she hated. I had a teammate, who also did this. He packed all of his belongings in a box to be ready at any time to get away quickly. This was after a lazy, midde-aged person filed an ageism complaint against him. When you are concerned with the speed of which you can leave your office, it’s time to go.

You hide from your boss/coworkers! At my last job I was swamped and I worked on a team full of extroverted analyzers. They could discuss an issue for 90 minutes and still not develop a reasonable solution. Turns out, I didn’t have time for this. I would watch the clock tick away in a meeting as my To-Do List languished. This is a great practice for college, think tanks, book clubs, but not for the deadline-driven life of an event planner. So I came up with a brilliant solution. I would book a conference room and literally hide from my coworkers in another part of the building. I couldn’t get sucked into some philosophical discussion on what is customer service. Once you actively decide to deceive your coworkers, you should move on.

You create a crazy personal life! You could have a boring home life consisting of feeding your maltese if you are a Black woman or developing nanobrews in the garage, but no one can know that. Otherwise, bosses will try to make you work weekends, go on exhausting business trips to Sioux Falls, or cancel vacation because of a so-called emergency. So you create a demanding husband, an old cat with a bad bladder and an allergy to cat pee, or feminine problems. No one ever asks about feminine problems as men don’t understand it and women don’t want to catch it. When you need to have index cards to remember your lies, look for new opportunities.

You announce you’re leaving! My favorite moment in the history of my crappy jobs during college is this one. I worked at an outbound call center, which is one of the most demoralizing jobs in history. People hate you and through the joy of anonymity they tell you. It didn’t matter that we worked for a national charity. No one wants to be called at home. These places are often lead by a really chipper recent college grad who hugs homeless people and dances in the moonlight. Anyway, the boss came to visit an employee because her numbers were low. She wished to offer some creative strategies to get hostile folks to donate money. The employee mentioned that the job was difficult and she was doing the best she could. But Chippy Mc Chipper wanted to run through some exercises and role play. So after some back and forth, the employee announced she was leaving several times to be ignored by our boss. Finally, she proceeded to gather her belongings and walk out while the boss was still talking. Chippy and the entire floor were dumbfounded. So if you announce you are leaving, well you will leave.

The Budget Edition

SavingsHello beautiful long neglected blog. I swear I thoroughly enjoyed writing you but this has been a crazy summer. I know I said that about spring, but this has been truly crazy and I can give more enlightenment on that in the near future.

So July turned out to be “look at all these surprise bills” month. So I vowed to save money by limiting outings to twice a week at a max of $30 for a cumulative $200 for the month. This went okay. Fine I failed. Turns out my biggest issues are purchasing gas, eating out and dating. I didn’t realize that my kindness of treating my boyfriend ever so often would be so expensive.

Planned Week One

  • Birthday happy hour at El Centro. My theory is I can have 2 happy hour margaritas and a plate of tacos = $25 with tax and tip.
  • Golf with the ladies = $27.50
  • Bikram = $12

What Had Happened

  • The World Cup made the roof top deck impenetrable and I was starving. So we went to dinner. Then I had a drink with dinner. I finally made happy hour and was convinced by my little spendthrift to buy a round of drink. Actual = $49.47
  • I forgot I promised a bottle of wine for a friend’s cookout = $12
  • Golf with the ladies = $27.50. I skipped lunch to continue on my path
  • I go to $12 Bikram at 12p on my flex Fridays off. However, it was a holiday weekend and thus full price = $20

Planned Week Two

  • Happy Hour at my favorite cheapo spot – McCormick and Schmick’s at Nat’l Harbor which will need to include parking. I prepared for mussels ($5), fries ($3), a cocktail ($7), and parking ($9) = $28
  • Then I planned to attend the Lake Arbor Jazz Festival = $15 and possible food truck purchase $10

What Had Happened

  • The happy hour area was packed so I ended up with real dinner. Then I got on the new shiny Capital Wheel and parking = $53.90
  • My friend suggested buying door tickets as it might rain = $20. Then I didn’t like any of the food truck stuff and got real dinner at a restaurant but stuck to a complex salad = $19
  • Dinner that I forgot I was going to pay for…

Planned Week Three

  • Artscape to see Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. We were taking the train $12 and possible snacks $10
  • Fort Dupont for the DC Emerging Artists concert = $Free
  • The Hip Hop Bar Crawl – $11 for a ticket and $20 for drinks and snacks

What Had Happened

  • So amazingly, I spent $18 for drinks and my friend spend $24 on train tickets
  • Fort Dupont = free
  • I paid $22 for two tickets to the crawl and $9 on snacks. Drinks were purchased for me

Planned Week Four

  • Going away happy hour – $4 for parking (food and drink provided by host)
  • Birthday happy hour – food, a happy hour ½ price wine and parking = $20
  • Fancy dinner – comped as a result of winning a bet

 What Had Happened

  • Perfect
  • Food, wine, tax and tip $21. Parking = $4. Evil Parking Ticket because I forgot to hit start on the app until 30 minutes later = $25
  • Yay!

I also had to abandon my preferred paid yoga due to the fact that I was failing for either sub-par gym yoga or community yoga, which is actually pretty good but too crowded.