The Legends of the Summer Edition

Legends of the Summer setThe first 10 days of August were a blur of non-stop activity, both at work and at home. The capper of the month was finally seeing the Legends of the Summer tour. I purchased these tickets back in March when the tax refund was rolling in and I was flush with money. Needless to say, almost six months later, I wondered with my inside voice often if I foolishly spent too much money for one event. It rained pretty much all day and the concert was outside, so I was not really feeling up to it. Thankfully, it only sprinkled during the concert. Score! I needed to take the day off because the concert was in Baltimore and I work in Northern Virginia. The last few times I tried to make it from Northern Virginia to Baltimore on weekdays have been disasters and I didn’t want to risk it. Our plan was to get there early, park far away and have dinner. Well, it took two hours to travel 30 miles in the rain, so that plan never came together. We were at the stadium by 7p—early–and I bore very easily.

I hoped against all hope that the show would start promptly at 8p mainly because I was bored. Sitting in wet folding chairs watching people walk around was no fun. Honestly, I knew better. Based on twitter reaction from previous shows, the concert started around 9 and ended at 11:30p. That is precisely what happened. On a school night! After listening to an hour of a DJ travel from the excellent: Ashford and Simpson to the terrible: whichever hip hop artist is currently on the radio. I was so ready for the show.

Can I say in completely certain terms that the show as awesome? I saw an old episode of No Reservations this week and Anthony joked that coming up with adjectives to describe delicious food becomes exhausting. Finding an adjective to describe an amazing concert is pretty much the same. First, the staging was gorgeous and I happened to match because I was wearing red. I read a Rolling Stone review that stated that Jay Z’s collaboration with Justin has elevated his stage presence. It’s true. I am not exactly sure why Justin went through this “I want to act and design jeans instead of sing” phase, but he needs to stop. He belongs on a stage and he seemed almost Zen singing, dancing, and playing multiple instruments. I know people feel the need to stretch themselves, but again stop. Since he has three relatively short albums (~10 songs a piece) knowing his catalogue is rather easy. I and the audience could happily sing along. Jay Z has a ridiculously long catalogue so knowing what songs he would do became an interesting guessing game. I really hoped for more American Gangster, but oh well.

They came out to that Magna Carta Holy Grail, which I don’t like but it looked fun. Justin and Jay Z took turns performing, sometimes mashing up their songs. Justin would sing hooks for Jay Z songs replacing the original artists. For others, we were forced to hear recorded versions of the hook singers (my least favorite part of the show). Honestly are we really missing anything by having the background singers take turns being Alicia Keys or Rihanna? I like my live shows with live music, but I digress. They also had singular sets where they would do a few of their songs on stage without each other. My favorite part, other than the gorgeous set, was the band. In all red, they would dance for Jay Z songs and riff for Justin’s. Seeing the band bop to N’s in Paris was adorable, no Kanye necessary. All in all it was worth every anguished penny.

Earlier that month, I saw the second season of Liner Notes. This event gets bigger every time and I am so thrilled for the artists. To think I found this event through a Goldstar deal and now it is becoming an appointment event. The artists were able to move to the larger theater of the Atlas, another cool thing.  I hope soon, they tour. Think of the amazing possibilities. They could do a Philadelphia sound show in Philly, Motown in Detroit, Cleveland funk in you know, Cleveland. But I am sure they don’t need my suggestions. I just want more and more people to experience the greatness and cleverness of the show. And my goodness does Akua Allrich have a voice as clear as a bell!

Finally, my moment of disappointment, I spent serious coins to attend the Summer Spirit festival this year. Last year I won tickets and I really should have attempted the same thing this year. We wanted to buy tickets because it has been rainy all summer and wanted to be prepared for D’Angelo. Well, D’Angelo cancelled his concert in Brooklyn on the Thursday before and things were getting iffy. We were mentally, but of course not emotionally prepared, for his cancellation and it came true. This lineup was really not worth the coins without D’Angelo. My theory for these things is if the festival ticket costs less than seeing the artists individually, then it’s a bargain. That was not true. Hiatus Kaiyote was interesting but still in the opening act stage of their careers. I like Black Alley but I’ve seen them free at local venues and once for <$20 as part of a larger local artists festival lineup. Backyard Band is not a group I normally check for, so I am not sure. Busta was okay. The problem is that he did snippets of each of this songs. I did not like that. Can I get an entire song? And no, I don’t want to hear your guest appearance on other songs. Nobody cares about that Pussycat Dolls song. I remember seeing Busta 15 years ago in college. Granted we were both younger but he had such stage presence and this was lacking something. I know…full songs! It felt like someone said that they didn’t know who he was and he just ran quickly through all his songs to prove his existence. We know who he is and we didn’t need that.

They replaced D’Angelo with Raheem Devaughn which someone annoyingly said that he was a better choice. This person has no taste and shouldn’t be trusted. I think Raheem completely gave it his A game, but it really didn’t matter. We came for D’Angelo, despite all of his troubles, a gifted singer and musician who created two terrific albums. Plus, Raheem performed for free right down the street from my house for National Night Out, so that eliminates any bargains there back to my original theory.  Finally Erykah came out all late. I know this because I needed to go to the bathroom. The attendees at this year’s festival were a bit more coarse than previous years and the one time I went to the bathroom wasn’t an experience I wanted to replicate for a host of reasons. I saw Erykah during her remarkable Baduizm / Mama’s Gun tour this year ($40) and while I love her, she wasn’t my draw to the festival. There is usually a 30 minute set-up time between artists. This was 45 minutes. She really had to be good since D’Angelo didn’t make it and last year, she was in one of her moods. She was at her mesmerizing, odd best. I’ll admit I left early as I had to go to the bathroom and decided it was best to go to my own bathroom. In short, unless the festival radically changes its lineup next year, I probably won’t attend. There were so many local artists that only the lawn makes sense cost-wise. However, the crowd was more annoying and I can see getting irritated really quickly. We shall see as I always say.

The July Wrap-Up Edition

Photo Kindly Borrowed from SoulBounce.comSo July was an extremely busy month for me. That and August are so busy that I will be forced to delay any possibility of being sick until mid-September. Sorry cold germs for the inconvenience. The last two weeks of July were quite awesome. On Friday, 19 July I went to see one of my childhood icons. When I was younger, Jody Watley was the perfect pop star to emulate in my bedroom. I would take my mom’s slip, clip it to my head, put on a flouncy skirt and strut like her videos. The 80’s were great in that women were so prominent on the music charts and videos (though it took a minute for black artists to be featured on MTV. Remember Michael had to sue? And music videos were never the same, thank goodness.) Jody was a solid fourth in my 80’s female singers list. There was my beloved Whitney, my adored Janet, the super fun Madonna and then Jody. Madonna eventually lost luster into the 90’s for me, primarily after the Justify My Love/Sex period. She was replaced with Mariah. However, Jody created two classic albums that I played over and over again.

Jody said that it was her first time in D.C. in 25 years. After the mega success of her first two solo albums, she kind of slid off the mainstream radar. Now, she mostly releases club dance music, which explains the large number of gay men at the show.  She sang her classics along with songs from her recent album, that I surprisingly really liked. But who can hate fun dance music. I got the tickets through a Goldstar deal and was a bit irritated that the show wasn’t full. I mean Jody still dances reminiscent of her Soul Train days and had a group of dancers fanning her in a circle. Why would you miss that? The funniest part is that the couple at the table with us weren’t familiar with her music and just purchased the tickets because of the deal. They stayed amazed how excited we all were and how we could sing along to every song with absolute glee. I think they were pretty converted by the end.

Portrait at the Ambassador's ResidenceThat Saturday I went a lovely garden party (well, it was extremely hot) on the grounds of the South African ambassador’s residence in honor of Nelson Mandela’s birthday. Wouldn’t it be cool if this was an exclusive invite-only shindig? But no it was a paid event. It reminded me that I never became rich. By rich, I mean the fun kind of rich that goes to Martha’s Vineyard, the Hamptons, Nice and fabulous events with gorgeous clothes and perfectly coiffed hair. I do not desire to be the kind of rich that requires arguing with other women at galas and necessitates tons of plastic surgery like on the Real Housewives franchise. I will admit I spent much of June and July on health watch seeing if Mandiba would make it to his 95th birthday. But he endured and we celebrated with live dancing, a DJ playing Black-Eyed Peas, which seemed off, and an old fashioned barbecue. Did I mention that the DJ’s music selections seemed off? I was hoping for an opportunity to hear South African contemporary music. Otherwise it was a beautiful event.

The last weekend in July I attended a wedding. Two down and one to go. I was very concerned since I was attending alone as I only knew the couple. I always hate to bring random plus ones to what I know are quite expensive events, so I usually attend solo.  I have attended weddings like this in the past with mixed results. At one wedding, the reception was held at the banquet hall of a church, which meant no secular music. And my friend sat me at a table with septuagenarian family members. Don’t get me wrong, I find a lot of senior citizens highly interesting and entertaining. However, these people were not it. I was bored to tears with no opportunity to dance, no available libations and listening to stories about World War II. The other was an absolute blast. As the groom’s family is of Indian descent and forced me to learn (yay!) all of these wonderful dances.

This wedding turned out to be the latter. As an introvert, I devised a strategy. I found another seeming singular introvert and convinced her to be friends. Turns out her husband was a groomsman and she didn’t know many people either. I also made friends with people at my table, who were staying at the same hotel. Cab score! The reception felt like an episode of Fame as the bridal party had numerous line dances that they performed. I started to feel bad as a native metro Detroiter as I only knew a few of them. We teased my new buddy’s husband as he missed rehearsal and didn’t participate in any of the dances. Slacker. There was also a dance battle with a 40+ year old, who I discovered attended the aforementioned Jody Watley concert! See how circular this post is! He battled a teenager. This terrible idea should be featured in one of those Direct TV commercials: “Don’t get caught in a dance battle with a teenager.” The reception was great and I am so happy for the couple. They met in college and reconnected years later, so they came out to “Back Together Again.” What an inspired choice.

Stay Cute Monday – Nailed It!

All non-sheeny

All non-sheeny

I am not sure what came first, the chicken or the egg. I am not sure if I love nail polish because my nails grow long or if my nails grow long because I pay them a lot of attention. I find there is a direct correlation between keeping your nails painted and maintaining a decent length. My nails started getting rather long in the sixth grade. I figured since they were so pretty, they should be adorned. Of course, it didn’t hurt that my aunt was going to cosmetology school and frequently used me as her guinea pig. I was the only one in the family who would sit still long enough to let her practice. Thus, my love affair with nail polish began.

I have a few rules for my nails. I hate complicated designs. Remember in the 90’s when people would get airbrushed images on their nails? Yea, no. I did once allow my friend in cosmetology school to affix appliqués of animals on my nearly 3 inch nails because she begged. I of course hated it but everyone I met loved them so I kept the look for two weeks. Yes, in high school I started an experiment to see how long my nails would get. Turns out, ridiculously long.

I like unusual colors. This was harder in the 90’s when there were only a few nail polish lines and most stuck to shades of red and pink. I once discovered this gorgeous yellow at Woolworth…okay this story sounds like it’s from the 1920’s. I swear there were Woolworths in Michigan until the late 90’s. I adored that color. It complimented my brown skin perfectly and gave my nails a natural pop. That and a glittery wine became my signature colors. My aunt convinced me that we should have signature colors to stand out. Hers was a pale shimmery silver. In college after my beautiful yellow was discontinued, I moved on to a pumpkin orange. Due to a friend, I stopped filing my nails oval five or six years ago. My mom has naturally oval nails and I think they are an awesome shape. I decided to stick with my natural shape which is very rectangular. This shape doesn’t lend itself to boring reds and neutrals.

I never use nail polish that could ruin my nail bed. I saw this glorious new invention with pearls and no. This applies to a lot of textured nail polish. Finally, I shy away from variations on French. I think French manicures only look good on perfectly sculpted fake nails. My nails are real and French never works properly.

So I have my favorite brands of nail polish and as a 25 year nail polish veteran—I’m never without cover—I know of which I speak.

First, my new favorite thing is Zoya. It’s all natural, vegan and tailored for natural nails. The weirdest thing about this nail polish is that it needs only one coat, because it is so thick. It has wonderful colors and last forever. However, it is primarily available online with paid shipping. That means my $8 or $9 bottle can run up to $15 if I only buy one bottle. I usually load up when there’s a sale. This 4th of July, you got two bottles free if you got a bottle of Liberty pixie dust. The texture was cool. My only quibble is pixie dust has no sheen. Even with a high gloss top coat, it has a dull finish. I like sheen.

For sheen, I like the super cheap Wild and Crazy. Since every plaza has a dry cleaners, nail salon and beauty supply, I can always find my lovely $2 nail polish anywhere. I love the colors and the ease of application. It rarely bubbles. I hate bubbles. Of course if you wait 3 to 5 minutes between coats, you can avoid bubbles, but I apply a lot of coats: nail strengthener, base coat, 2 coats of nail polish and top coat. This coupled with an impatient Aries and there can be bubbles. The problem with Wild and Crazy is that it chips easily. It’s not shrinkage but full blown chunk of nail polish just gone. It’s good for a week max.

Finally, I like two brands for their polish capabilities though their colors are boring: Borghese and Essie. It is hard to find a stand out color. But the polish lasts forever, a good 10 days. It’s beautiful, thick and smooth. It’s usually available at Ulta or Rite Aid. So it is not too terribly difficult to procure.

I try other brands from time to time. In a pinch I will use a nail strips, though I haven’t found one with the ease of use of the originator, Avon. I absolutely detest the ever popular OPI. It cracks if you do not constantly add top coat and who has that kind of free time? But the above are my signatures.

The Take It Off Edition

This was a difficult week. A very difficult week. I had a coworker once say in reference to that infamous glass that I am not a pessimist or an optimist. I am a realist who’s had someone drink his water before. This was also a coworker who became embittered that he lived in a neighborhood that became increasingly Black and once told me that the Civil Rights movement did Black people no favors as Blacks did better under slavery. Of course this was in a workplace setting where I couldn’t respond properly.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know what sunny view of slavery he had as I surmised internally (can’t be the angry Black woman in the office when it’s only you) that he had never read a slave narrative or an African American history textbook to see how harsh that life actually was. I imagined that he would never watch the amazing film, Slavery by Another Name, which showed that southern Whites established a stereotype of criminality in Blacks in an effort to imprison and obtain free labor from Blacks after Emancipation. It is an enduring stereotype that everyone somehow bought into and we still aren’t free from. I’m sure he never read a statistic that was astonishing and inspirational to me. At the beginning of the 20th century, 90% of all Blacks were impoverished and that number dropped to 30% by the end of the 20th century. That is a lot of hard work and effort that no one trumpets. Sigh, what a week…

 

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So back to the glass, I’m a realist who gets exhausted by all this reality. My original plan for this entry was to discuss the fact that I manifest much of my stress through my overwhelming love of food. So, let me return to that plan. Food soothes a multitude of ills. I obtain this wondrous click (to reference Tennessee Williams) when I eat a perfectly sugary chocolate chip cookie. That click caused me to gain 20 pounds in the last few months. Something odd happened. None of my clothes fit. I put on a dress, sat down in my car and immediately realized that I made a terrible wardrobe decision that I was stuck with a day of extreme discomfort. I decided to finally weigh myself and voila…20 more pounds. Considering that I was already a few pounds over when I last weighed myself, I realized I had to change my approach to life.

I have friends that barely eat or barely think about eating. A lot of these people are also picky eaters, which makes any attempt to eat out an extreme challenge. I read that overweight people’s hunger sensor works more. That is totally me. Except for years, I never really gained weight, or if I gained weight I could take it off rather quickly by eliminating a snack or adding 15 minutes per workout. However, once I hit my 30’s my metabolism changed and it was over. My action plan to keep the weight off was simple. I stay away from high caloric and fast food. No tasty food at home, none in my office. However, at my new job thin people with actual willpower constantly had all kinds of delicious snacks and treats. I need tricks and schemes.

I felt overwhelmed. I would need to lose 25- 30 pounds, not the stubborn 7 extra pounds that I seem to keep. I once again attempted to do the Fat Smash. It’s a diet designed by Dr. Ian from Celebrity Boot Camp. I saw a modified version online and was successful at losing weight when I gained 15 pounds due to my reliance on fast food while I was a travel warrior. I downloaded the book and started the program in last October. I failed oh so miserably. The popular criticism of the diet is that it is hard, very very hard. It’s a detailed multi-month, layered plan. Turns out the online version of the plan I liked so much but couldn’t find is the sustainment plan that you actually don’t get to until about three months in.

The first 9 days of the plan is a complete detox. It trains your brain to not like food. Okay, according to the plan, it’s supposed to cleanse your system of all the delicious bad food you consume. I’ve taken colon cleanse pills and done juice fasts before. How terrible could it be? Well, terrible. The key to the detox is really what you can consume: fruits, veggies, one cup of oatmeal, one cup of nonfat yogurt, beans, nuts, popcorn and brown rice.  There were other items I don’t remember because I don’t like them. The food must be cooked simply. No frying, breading, etc.. Over the course of three months, you can gradually add foods back a few at a time: sweet potatoes, whole wheat pasta and bread, lean meat, dairy, cereal. Some food you can never add back. After a month last fall, I lost about 7 pounds (that I kept off), but returned to old habits.

How do I lose this weight? Back to Fat Smash. Just for a month, then switch to something sensible like Weight Watchers. I made this decision like many Aries decisions, on a whim. I wasn’t prepared. First off, this plan is quite pricey. Plant based foods are way more expensive than easy processed foods. I ran to the grocery store, purchased my list of allowed items and was ready to go. Breakfast was oatmeal and blueberries. I hate oatmeal, but really wanted some kind of carbs into my day to avoid gas, lol. I actually eat oatmeal regularly. However, it’s with brown sugar and dried apricots that mask the mushy nothingness. No sugar or dried fruit which is just sugar were allowed. Man, did that oatmeal make me sad. Lunch was hilarious because I didn’t make anything the night before. That morning I just grabbed stuff for a salad: bagged salad mix, onions, red pepper, black beans, cucumbers and tomatoes. Then I had yogurt and grapes for an afternoon snack. The key to this plan is to constantly eat. Otherwise you get hungry, Incredible Hulk hungry. So I had pistachios and strawberries for additional snacks. At home, I realized that I didn’t feel like cooking. I really should have meal planned. So I stuck with a trusty staple I love: Wegman’s brown rice steamables and added a mixed vegetable steamable (I cheated and added the smallest dab of butter ever) and some cannellini beans. On the beans I sprinkled cayenne pepper. It was the saddest dinner ever. But I was satisfied.

Over the weekend, I finally devised a menu and things came together. I made a wonderful lentil soup that was everything. I grabbed some soup recipes from the internet and combined elements of two of them. The key was cumin and red wine vinegar. I couldn’t remember if I could have vinegar but I let it go. I made fruit smoothies for breakfast and forgot about the sad oatmeal. I also gave myself a small cheat everyday to stay on track. I had coffee on two days because I was extremely sleepy at work. Another day I had tea with the slightest bit of sugar. I have this apricot peach tea that really doesn’t need sugar but realized I was out when I got to work. I had 3 to 4 Hershey’s kisses to satiate my sugar cravings on some days. One day, I went to my new office’s taco Tuesday mixer and had some soft Chicken taco. That didn’t go well by the way. The cheats helped me stay on the plan and I felt physically great after about a week. I was detoxed. The first few days I felt a bit like how a Hollywood starlet must feel: hungry, slightly loopy and off balance. I am pretty sure this is how they must eat regularly to maintain their size. Plus, you aren’t allowed to exercise more than 30 minutes a day. So I got a lot of rest.

I did well, remarkably well. Even eating out. One day, I had Chinese food: mixed vegetables and brown rice. There was this tasty orange sauce that came with it that I devoured. I am not sure what it was or if it was allowed on the plan but I ate it anyway. I also learned to increase my portions. I was eating way too little salad. I moved from a bowl full to a plate full. Every drab meal was met with extreme excitement since I was always starving. However, eventually my appetite subsided and I started to eat less. I extended the detox to two weeks and after two weeks, I lost 9 pounds. I decided to skip the incremental steps and move to the sustainment portion of the plan as I was ready to eat everything. With the 5 pounds I lost in the two weeks prior, I am up to 14 pounds. I am halfway there. I just need no triggers make me want a cookie. Looks around…nope nothing here.

 

Fourth of July Edition

bearI don’t know what I did incorrectly in my adult life. Okay, I have several clues, but I spent the Fourth of July not eating barbeque. In fact, it was a rather ho hum four-day weekend with minimal plans. Something weird has happened. I get bored. This isn’t me. I blame this on several factors. I am an introvert. An extreme introvert. Actually, I am downright shy, which in women mostly reads as cold and aloof. Being alone doesn’t usually bother me. However, here’s the problem. For two years, I had a long-term house guest that drove me batty. All I wanted was to moments of solitude. So living alone again was good. This was buffered by the fact that I worked with a bunch of chatty extroverts who satisfied my spurts of chattiness that occurred throughout the day. However, in my new office I am surrounded by IT folks who talk about IT stuff. Yea, no. I have no conversations about fun things like Mad Men, wine, Groupon or other randomness that pops into my head on a regular basis and now I get bored.

Television shows us that single people aren’t really single. You have your cadre of friends who regularly hang out in your apartment (Living Single or Friends), constantly schedule outings and events (Sex and the City or Martin), or see frequently at your local spot (Cheers). This is not in fact real life. Of course, we introverts don’t realize this due to an over reliance on television. We are a weird lot. We actually like going out, just not meeting new people or whatnot. We just like to have our sitcom troop of compatriots who are a steady and reliable presence in our lives. In hindsight, I never saw these characters at random cookouts, parties or other such events. It’s those darn extroverts that get these invitations.

So Fourth of July, I watched television. I had this wonderful idea to catch up on home projects and did none of them. I refrained from my favorite solitary pastime of shopping, which was a miraculous feat. Friday, I saw Despicable Me 2. It was cute but I wanted to see more of the girls. I really like the girls and it was too focused on Gru.

Saturday, I went to Baltimore to see The Wretched for big fun. Okay, I went to the African American Heritage Festival. The thing that amazes me about this event is how much it changes every year. I still remember the first time I went to see Erykah Badu, when I was stuck at the train station. The few constants I experience every year are somehow ending up on the freeway when attempting to park and people still wear inappropriate clothing for their body types. The changes:

  • This year it was free. For a couple years, they attempted to charge for entry, which didn’t go well.
  • No outside food allowed. This meant that I waited in line for 20 minutes for food that turned out to be sold out.
  • There was only one stage and one real headliner. Of course, there was some teen stage that I chose to ignore. Previously, there were several themed stages include national artists and underground R&B. This is how I discovered my hair role model, Deborah Bond, and others such as Ledisi, Conya Doss and Sy Smith.

This year I discovered that reality television really serves as an amazing platform. The crowd was pumped to see K Michelle, whose fame comes from being on the just awful in my opinion, Love and Hip Hop Atlanta. Even though, I don’t think many were familiar with her songs. People jumped up and were truly excited to hear songs from her latest EP. Granted the song content wasn’t my cup of tea, mostly about beef, strippers and hood rich activities. However, people loved her. The headliner was Fantasia. I really liked her on American Idol. I acknowledge that Fantasia, the singer, was overshadowed by Fantasia, the person. She was brave to admit she couldn’t read but that didn’t win her any favors with the public. She over the years became a punchline instead of a focus on her overall talent. Despite, her personal struggles, she puts on a great show. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I will admit I would never plan to see her through any other opportunity.

The Summer is Here Edition

MP900384872 (2)June is Black Music Month and usually kicks off my summer concert season. I started the month off with my favorite event: The Capital Jazz Festival. This year the event was more aggravating than in previous years. I didn’t attend last year because the line-up was ho hum. The line-up this year was stellar and that was made obvious by the fact that the event was sold out. I meant to go up to the box office the week before to obtain my tickets; however, I felt awful. Once upon a time, I could get tickets at an outlet in the next town over or at one of Merriweather Post Pavilion’s sister venues. However, that was not allowed and the online fees were expensive. The tickets were already $65 each day and there isn’t a two-day discounted package. The fees amounted to $15 each day. I just figured I would get my tickets at the venue. Wrong. It was sold out. I was Lost and Turned Out. Viva Les Whispers! I had to wait by the gate hoping someone would sell a ticket. I had my chair, tote and cooler and really struggled to make it to people yelling that they were selling tickets. I kept losing out. However, with patience (I suck at) and perseverance (I’m great at), I got into the concert.

First, the logistics were horrible. The Soul Stage, where we usually plant, was full of tents and immediately adjacent to the vendor area. There was no place to camp. We were forced to sit in the abundance of too many folding chairs all day. This was not comfortable. MPP made a huge error in two ways: placing the vendors near Soul Stage. The crowds could barely maneuver through to get from stage to stage or stage to bathroom. MPP also allowed too many tents to set up. People were extremely disheartened to discover that the uncomfortable folding chairs are the only option. You really cannot stretch your legs or easily place your cooler anywhere. They wouldn’t allow anyone to move the folding chairs.

Despite the terrible logistics, the artists were great. I was especially surprised by Babyface. He was funny, fun and in great voice. He sang his songs and a medley of songs he wrote for other people. Man, does he have a deep bench. I wish he would have sung songs from the 2000’s though, okay maybe just Face2Face. I loved that album. I’ve always loved The Whispers and wanted to see them in concert for years. Although, they are aging and not as agile as they once were, I experienced a group I adore, so I feel great about seeing them. Chaka Khan continues to elude me. Capital Jazz Fest has scheduled her twice and she has cancelled twice. Jeffrey Osborne took her place and he was okay. He actually has a song in my Top 50: We’re Going All The Way. And with my typical luck, he sang about four songs I didn’t know before hitting familiar tunes, none of which was the one song I like. Dammit. I feel like these artists plot against me. No, It Just Gets Better with Time from The Whispers either. Otherwise, the artists were awesome though I was pretty uncomfortable for two days.

Washingtonian published the 2013 free summer concert list. I was saddened to learn that my favorite venues for summer concerts – Carter Barron and Fort Dupont – have reduced schedules due to the Congress’s inability to do their jobs also known as sequestration. Carter Barron has two free concerts and no paid concerts. I am shocked about the paid concerts, I hoped that the money collected would cover the cost of an event. Granted tickets are usually around $25 but with 1,500 seats I thought we would be safe. Unfortunately, no. And the two free concerts are the Reggae and Blues nights, plus a few movies. Neither is my cup of tea. Fort Dupont serves as a showcase for the formerly successful. I have seen countless 70’s bands and the wonderful Roy Ayers at the park, all for the low, low price of free. This time Fort Dupont concerts feature local artists including the U.S. Army Band. I will admit that I am disappointed. While I hate interacting with the outdoors with such ridiculous things as hiking and canoeing, I submit to listening to music while sitting in the summer breeze. My big events this summer will be down to two—Summer Spirit Festival and, of course, the Legends of Summer Tour with Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake. Both are within a week of each other. I hope I can pepper in some more concerts this summer. Stay tuned!

Stay Cute Mondays – On Tuesday! The Outdoorsy Edition

As a disclaimer, the storm knocked out my internet yesterday, but it’s up and the post is done.

This weekend I made my annual pilgrimage to the Capital Jazz Festival (more to come). I swear getting ready for a two-day (it’s actually three but if I tried that I would pass out) outdoor music festival is a serious process. There are tons of these things: Bonarroo, Coachella, Rock the Bells. I think it is because I am a super J on the Myers Briggs scale and I put a lot of effort into preparing for this event. I wasn’t always a J. I used to be solidly in the middle of P and J but my family is comprised of mostly P’s and someone needed to create some semblance of order. Below are my tips to properly prepare for summer outdoor events.

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This year I gave in. Every year, it rains (to quote Mary J). And every year, I wear cute sandals that make my feet disgusting or cute sneakers that get ruined. I sacrificed my adorable Nike ballet slippers on Saturday and finally gave in. I wore rain boots. Boy, did my little feet feel protected from the evil elements and potential trash. I always see some ridiculous celebrity at Coachella in shorts and cowboy boots or something similar. I think, “Who wears shorts and boots?” Me that’s who.

I love a cute flirty dress. Outdoor concerts are not the place for a cute flirty dress because of sheer logistics. You are carrying chairs and coolers, sitting low to the ground and surrounded by mud and dirt. This is all negligible if you are in the premium seating. But ten hour concerts are not conducive to straight back seats, which is why I do lawn. I usually opt for a dark pair of capris or shorts (I wore white once and it did okay). I also opt for a simple shirt: either a polo or razorback tank. I see the cutest clothes at the event and think, nice but no. There are opportunities to be rain soaked, grass rubbed, food spilled and it’s best to stick to basics.

Of course, you must pack a lunch. With this I struggle. I can never figure out what to eat and am obsessed with not having my food spoil in the sun. Cooler or not. I stick with lots of snacks, fruit and salads: pasta, chicken, tuna. I really like a spicy Thai tuna salad that is available in a can. A can.  I usually raid the salad bar at Whole Foods but decided this year to make my supper. Boy did I want fried chicken. Man, I cannot make proper fried chicken. It is the quintessential picnic food. I attempted some Safeway chicken that made my stomach angry. Typically, I usually buy frozen Chicken tenders, bake them in the oven the night before and pack. Amazingly I like Safeway brand the best as it lacks that floury taste frozen tenders usually have. My mom has the palette of an eight year old, so we tried many frozen tenders before finding the perfect ones. Otherwise, don’t do as I did. Buy fried chicken from the deli in the afternoon when it is freshest and refrigerate immediately. I purchased mine in the morning and it probably sat too long.

ice blanketPro tip: I hate filling my cooler with ice because when you reach in it makes your hands cold. I buy ice blankets that can be frozen the night before. For my mom’s trick, I also freeze a couple of bottles of water and place in the bottom of the cooler. I place stay cold items on top and cover with the ice blankets. My items stay cold and by the end of the night when the water melts and the food is gone, the ice bottles turn into cold, refreshing water.

So what you take for a weekend in the sun, according to me:

  • A zippered tote. I got mine from a tradeshow as I was once a booth diva (babe is so degrading). However, the ever popular LL Bean makes ones that can be monogrammed and customized.tote_bag
  • Lots of plastic. I am talking about tablecloths, tarps, clear furniture covers. This will sit on the ground underneath your blanket for minimal cleaning and cover you in the event of rain.
  • Insect repellent arm bands. My latest discovery due to a friend’s addiction to Groupon. They sort of work and keep you from being stinky.insect repellent
  • A cute rolling cooler. I decided that I am upgrading soonest because carrying my cooler gets exhausting. So exhausting.

cooler

  • Lots of paper towels, plastic and paper utensils if you like them. I don’t care about the plates and cups but others must have them.
  • Wipes. I adore individually wrapped wipes. I usually stock up when I am in New Jersey because there’s a Bed Bath and Beyond in Menlo Park that has an entire section devoted to tiny toiletries. I have yet to see a similar set up in the D.C. area. My wipes are sanitizing wipes, Cottonelle wipes, glass lens wipes, and face wipes for sweat.
  • Miniature bottles of wine and liquor. Of course this is only if allowed in the event. Pack straws to stay classy.
  • Lots of store plastic bags. This came over time when I realized that I would stupidly stuff containers and food back into my cooler.
  • Sunscreen. I often forget it and then my skin hurts.
  • Towels. I usually use my really raggedly Wal-Mart ones. Seriously, never buy them for actual bathing. They can be used to protect your car, wipe off sweat (though I hate this usage personally) or dry off from the rain.
  • A big blanket. I scored a really durable canvas one from Target in the clearance section one fall. However, if you are cheap like me and don’t quickly find a $7 one, head to Ikea and purchase some $3 fleece throws.throw
  • An umbrella. For rain, of course.
  • A nice outdoor chair with a roof. I still remember the first year that I saw them at Capital Jazz. I was instantly jealous and needed one immediately. In fact, I headed to Sports Authority that month and copped one on sale. That chair is my outdoor everything.

chair

What I know I need next: the aforementioned roller cooler in an adorable pattern. And, a portable phone charger. After 11 hours outdoors, my iPhone is usually on 5% and that’s only by charging it until I reach the venue with no interruptions, ignoring calls, texting only, not playing games and sending a tweet an hour.

I am also considering carrying less food. I always have leftovers, which I discard. I am completely fascinated by friends who come to these events with a deli sandwich, big bottle of water, chips and a cookie. They are so unencumbered. I once attended an all day wine festival with stuff I already had in the kitchen that included: three bottles of water, a fruit cup, strawberries, grapes, chicken tenders (from frozen), chips, cheese, crackers and a chocolate chip granola bar. In fact the entire thing fit into regular lunch bag. I wonder if I could make that happen again. No trips to the grocery store, no fixing pasta salad. Just ease. But I am a J, so I am sure that won’t happen.

Memorial Day Editon – All Kinds of Late

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This post is late. I dislike being late. This does not mean, however, that I am never late. In fact, I am often late. In my vast experience with habitually tardy folks, people are late for one of three reasons:

 

 

  1. They move unbelievably slowly. Members of my family suffer from this affliction. I once watched a member of my family take close to an hour to make breakfast. This included from the time she announced that she was making breakfast. Then, deciding what to make. Next taking custom orders.  Finally chopping and cooking at the kind of glacial pace that makes you wonder if you are on some kind of prank show. These slow movers rarely account for their snail-like pace to properly plan for how long it will take to get ready. They wrongly think it will take 60 minutes when it takes 2 hours.
  2. They attempt to do too much. My coworkers often demonstrate this behavior. They think to themselves, “Hey, I have 8 minutes before my next meeting. Let me answer three emails and make one phone call before I am out of pocket for an hour.” This, of course, is a horrible idea. I sometimes do this myself. I will quickly take out the trash on my way to meet someone and then realize that trash bag has a hole, which causes a mess that needs to be mopped.
  3. This leads me to the final (and my most typical reason for lateness): They don’t account for mishaps. I typically give myself 20 -30 minutes to get everywhere. This is terrible! I have a coworker with the odd ability to get anywhere in the suggested time. If Google Maps says, 18 minutes. Well, she is there in 17 minutes. However, even if by some miracle I arrive at my destination in the allotted 20 minutes, then I cannot find parking.

I once made a new year’s resolution to be on time for every event and occasion. What a lonely, hungry year that was. With my new found timeliness, no one arrived on time. Once, I was the first person to arrive at a birthday at Chuck E Cheese. Now look, I don’t have kids and I was planning to make an appearance to be nice. There is no reason for me to be at Chuck E Cheese alone. Slowly, but surely, my timeliness slipped away.

Flags and Bunting at GraveOther than the lateness of this post, Memorial Day weekend was great. Drinks and random conversation with strangers on Friday. I went to a friend of a friend’s annual Memorial Day block party on Saturday. I adore cookouts. This is amazing because I hate the outdoors and view any reason for being outside (save a lovely concert) as a punishment. I do not hike, or canoe, or experience nature. Cookouts are different. Maybe it was my upbringing. Every Labor Day my grandfather would have a huge party with a ton of food, an old fashioned jukebox and lots of happy people. I was shocked when I discovered that two of my good friends do not like cookouts. I spend most of my summer looking for cookouts. Back in Michigan, this is easy. I kinda just walk around the neighborhood, hold a few chats and….barbecue in my belly. One year, I went to three cookouts on Memorial Day alone! I will admit I was invited to three cookouts on that Saturday including the strangers I met on Friday.

According to a nice Belgian gentleman I met at a cookout several years ago, this was a uniquely American experience (to him). I don’t have much experience with personal socializing outside of America, but that sounds interesting. Hamburgers and hot dogs (which are served too frequently at DC area cookouts in my opinion) really symbolize the core of American identity. So maybe cookouts are my form of patriotism.

Sunday, I was officially ill. I decided to go to prom anyway – the 80’s theme prom by Axel F. The outfits were awesome. I did not dress up. I mostly stood in a corner and watched the action unfold. This was definitely out of character, but I everyone else seemed to be having a ball. After that, the actual holiday was uneventful. I dragged myself on errands. Then back to my couch.

Stay Cute Mondays – Eyeliner Woes

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No matter where I am going I wear three things: lip gloss/stick (usually with a lip liner, which could make it four), mascara and eyeliner. On weekends, my look tends to be: mascara, a light glossy lip and dark, funky eyeliner or mascara, dark lip with golden, shimmery eye liner. About two years ago, something terrible happened. I got an eye infection. Well, what I thought was an eye infection. It started with reading an Essence article on the fact that a great eyeliner suggestion for Black women is royal blues and eggplant purples. I disagree about the purple because I have yet to see this executed well in real life and I don’t care what those pictures claim. But back to the blue, I went to my stand-by M.A.C., which I think makes perfect liners. All of them, lip and eye. The other make-up is on a case by case basis. I purchased the absolute perfect blue.  It gave me exactly the magazine look without needing to bother with stupid gel pots. I hate gel pots. This could me due to the fact that I refuse to pop for pricey brushes. But even when you use the brush that comes with the gel pot, it takes a tremendous amount of dipping to get enough to line an eye.

I started wearing my perfect eye liner pencil and my eye started twitching and then my eye developed this not quite awesome white gooey discharge. This happened while in San Diego and I couldn’t really figure out what was wrong. I took out my contacts and they felt better. I never wear eyeliner with glasses because why bother. I went to the doctor who pronounced an infection and I moved on. I cleaned, sanitized and threw out make-up. I let eyes heal and returned to my routine. It was then I made the discovery. I had an allergy! I was allergic to my precious new eyeliner. I stopped using it immediately. I always used MAC eyeliner pencils and Maybelline liquid eyeliner but suddenly my eyes were rejecting them both. I was forced to resort to some automatic black eyeliner pencil I got from the beauty supply.

I like precise crisp black eyeliner for everyday work wear. This is not, unless you are a professional, accomplishable from an eyeliner pencil. We already established that me and gel and powder pots do not get along. I tried, but I only put less than five minutes of effort into my face (which honestly in my work environment is more than 90% of the women I see). These things require a lot of effort and patience. I do not like effort or patience for make-up application unless I am becoming a news anchor. The hunt was on. My criteria:

  1. Available in a drug store. I hate travelling to Macy’s or the like for eyeliner since I need to buy it at least once a month.
  2. Deep, inky black. Too many of the blacks aren’t dark enough and I am a brown person.
  3. Easy Application. I like precise, clean lines and too many of the liquid eyeliner require an expert touch. This could be due to the brush that comes with it or difficulty getting it out of the case.

My beloved Maybelline was out. I first went a little too cheap. I tried E.L.F., which my eyes hated. Hated. I was scared that I would need to go back to the doctor (same thing with Rimmel, which made them all itchy). I hilariously tried Wet N Wild. I have no real clue why except that it had a felt pen I like felt tip pen applicators despite the fact that Maybelline had a brush. It was good saturated color but dried too slowly. I would need to hold my eyes still forever for it not to smudge. Maybelline didn’t need that and I moved on…

I next tried the cool Cover Girl LineExact. It is shaped like a marker and so easy to apply. The black wasn’t the depth that I prefer, but I let the applicator sway me. The problem: storage. You have to store it completely upright with the pen facing down or it would dry out in two weeks or less. It was like a temperamental Sharpie. That was too much stress considering my unhappy eye issues.

I next attempted Prestige. It looked pretty but the color was off. It created this wispy little line that I surmised is for fairer skin tones. After store brands (Ulta – too messy and Sephora – completely dried out), I finally tried L’oreal Telescopic Precision Liner. We were getting along fine. It had the nicest angled felt tip that when held correctly (this took some practice) created the perfect little line. However, it suffered from the slow to dry problem. I was always waiting for it to dry. I spent a lot of time with my q-tips removing smudges and wayward dots of liquid liner. The worst problem is that it just decides to flake with no rhyme or reason as to why. I will look in the mirror about two hours after application and see clumps of black liner stuck to my face. And no one tells you! No one says, “Hey, what is that black stuff on your cheekbones?” I finally go to the bathroom and realize it’s there. I am constantly checking myself in the mirror, which cannot be healthy. This weekend the relationship ended after having the biggest chunk yet, right underneath my eye for the longest time. Here I am thinking I look great and I have make-up stuck to my face.

I saw a commercial for the new L’oreal Infallible Super Slim and it looked awesome. But I just cannot risk it. So I think I will try Revlon products, though I am losing hope. I never in a million years imagined that I would need to replace my preferred eyeliner pencils and liquid eyeliner and that it would be so difficult. I might need to – gasp – upgrade to department store brands for the liquid liners. I did marginally successfully switch my funky eyeliner pencils to Urban Decay, though I think that it is too soft with not enough. The stick suggests more of a color family than the actual color.  However, they have completely expanded their slate of colors. So this might have improved.  Otherwise, the hunt for an everyday black continues.