Tag Archive | fun

The 20th Anniversary Edition

20th-anniversary20 years. I moved to the DC area 20 years ago. How amazing and crazy that life has passed by so fast. Today is the anniversary of my first day at my good government job. I moved to the area a few days prior. I never remember the exact day but I always remember the circumstances. I waited 7 months for the background check to be completed for my job. By the time it was completed and I picked a start date, I accomplished nothing I wanted to prepare for my big move. It was an interesting time. Any time I say interesting, it means I am protecting some party from a potentially incriminating story. I hoped to do an apartment hunting trip, buy furniture and schedule movers in anticipation of my start date. I did none of this. All I did was look up potential spots online and realize I know nothing about D.C.. My girlfriend offered to look for places for me as she was near the area but I nixed that because she has expensive taste and I was worried she would select a spot I couldn’t afford. I came up with the brilliant idea in my 22 year-old mind to just drive to D.C. the weekend before my start date with a few suitcases, book a hotel and look for apartments that weekend. As a full-blown adult now looking back this idea sounds terrible but God looks after babies and fools. So it actually worked out.

I found a simple, clean, and cheap hotel to serve as my base. And looked around. Overwhelmed, I discovered I could rent a room in a group house. I decided to do that until I could better understand the area and pick the best apartment. This seems like the weirdest idea ever to anyone who doesn’t live in an expensive area, but this arrangement was very popular in the D.C. area. I had a room furnished with a bed, chair and dressers, shared bathroom, a parking spot (more on that later) and two random other people living there. The landlord ran a “Christian” house, meaning no members of the opposite sex there without the door open and no overnight guests. I really didn’t care as I didn’t know anyone anyway. I was so excited to start my new adult life that I couldn’t even process all of my mother’s constant complaining, which is miraculous in hindsight. I conducted a test run to my new office which turned out to be in a terrible neighborhood, a neighborhood that even looked terrible on a Sunday afternoon. I kept getting lost. This was pre-GPS and I relied mainly on actual maps and printing out instructions from Mapquest. I completely confused 295 and 395 but knew my job was off of one of them. I didn’t understand quadrants and first went to the same address in the wrong quadrant only to find a restaurant. Upon finally finding it, my mother remarked that this cannot possibly be where they let government workers come and she actually asked the guard if there was a nicer building I could work. This was my first instance of DC customer service when all questions from the public are just ignored.

But surprisingly, in three days, I secured a place to stay already with furniture, practiced driving routes to my job and found a Wal-Mart to buy sheets and towels after being told there was no Target nearby. Lies! There was a Target! For some reason, my landlord wanted me to have sheets that fell apart after two washes. I drove my first day but could not find out employee parking lot, which was not adjacent to the building. A nice guard let me park in the parking lot for another government building. This never happens but I must have looked young and clueless. Started my adult life and was well on my way to success.

Oddly that first week, it snowed. Not real snow to a Michigander but enough snow where everything was closed: my job, the stores. I had no food. I relied on my housemate’s okay spaghetti and boring conversation. Thankfully, the next day conditions improved (well for them). But my car wouldn’t start (I left my lights on all night). My kind neighbor actually recommended that I take the Metro to work and gave me detailed instructions. I hopped on the bus, got on the Metro and walked across the street from my job to work. Easy peasy. Unfortunately on my way home, I quickly realized Maryland was full of communities that all looked alike and I got off in the wrong neighborhood. I walked around aimlessly, slipped in the snow and lost my mitten. Which was hilarious (again in hindsignt). My solution: go back to the bus stop, get back on the bus, and figure out where the hell I lived.

After a few months, I found an apartment, not my first choice as it had no vacancies. Bought a bunch of economical furniture in Michigan. Had the government ship it back (turns out I had a 90-day window for moves, thank goodness). Had a huge fight with my landlord at my rooming house. She wanted to charge me for parking but our townhouse community only designated 2 spots per unit and I frequently had nowhere to park nearby. Funny enough, she still hates me to this day. I found this out the hard way a few years ago. But my apartment. My own little apartment. I felt so grown-up at 22. The mover (yep, just one) arrived and had me help him move my furniture to my apartment. That’s when I learned that the lowest bidder wins these contracts. So much education! But I didn’t care as it was all so new and exciting.

Thankfully, my job had a 4-month internal training program for my work role which was full of people like me – young, new to the area, and excited for no reason. The Agency, to stem the mass exodus of retiring govies, embarked on the largest hiring program in their history. Because of this, I developed a little social network via classmates and Agency employees including meeting my best friend on the shuttle bus. We discovered the power of D.C. happy hour. That was my Friday routine: happy hour after work. I attempted to explain this phenomenon to friends back in Michigan and so many thought it was so weird to drink in afternoons. Ha!

My social life consisted of Friday happy hours with coworkers and biweekly Sunday matinees and chain restaurant lunches with my college friend and her adorable toddler. I was so happy. And I wasn’t even busy. I would go on little solo outings around the city on Saturdays. D.C. is full of activities I would see in the newspaper. I met a woman at some free DC summer festival and she invited me to join her book club (this was quite hot back then). However, the book club was terrible with spotty attendance. I ended up great friends with a woman after the two of us attended a meeting alone. Yep, just the two of us. She introduced me to other friends, Howard Homecoming, Republic Gardens and U Street, CBC weekend, road trips. Man, D.C. was the place to be in the early 2000’s. City life almost kicked my butt. I even interviewed for another government position in another region which I got and turned down. After meeting potential colleagues, I didn’t like any of them. Decided to keep my talents right here.

Eventually some of those friendships petered out due to marriage and babies. But I survived. These 20 years have been nothing I could have imagined as that eager, silly 22 year old. Right now, I smile thinking of my great circle of friends – including that amazing woman I met on the shuttle bus – and the love of my life. Despite my career restlessness, I still got a good government job. I wonder where I will be in 30…

The Hot Dame Summer Edition

So we are one month into fall and the leaves are steadily changing, I forgot that I planned to recap my Hot Girl* Summer (*more like grown woman with a 401K. So what is that? A Dame?). So I entered the summer, not in the best of moods. In fact, I truly wasn’t feeling anything. But I thought the best way to shake the blues was to actually overschedule myself. Did it work? Maybe.

First, I kicked off the summer – since most consider Memorial Day as the unofficial start – at Linganore for the Reggae Wine Festival. My husband had never been and I thought it would be an easy outing. It truly was and he had fun. We then attended Capital Jazz Festival, which had perfect weather. I repeat. Perfect weather. What did we do to earn such amazing weather – warm, breezy, adequately sunny? Well, the acts were ho hum. No one was really excited for any of the acts, even the headliners for the stages: Brian McKnight and Gregory Porter didn’t elicit any great fanfare. BTW, I adore Gregory Porter, so I don’t count.

Capital Jazz Festival logo

For some reason I couldn’t find my Cap Jazz photos

Hobbies

Another decision I made was to return to golf. I joined another league. They didn’t meet as much as I would have liked but they were way more pleasant than my previous group. I didn’t achieve my goal to improve my handicap, but I realized how much I liked playing, despite the fact I am nowhere near good. This is a revelation for me that I can have a hobby where I don’t excel and it’s okay.

I returned to my paint and sip classes, which soothe me so. I came up with the brilliant idea to create a gallery wall and strategically planned my color schemes to coordinate. I am really proud of the result.

Wall of paintings

My gallery wall. Isn’t it great?

Concerts

I booked a bunch of concerts at City Winery. I can say I see steady improvement. Initially the service was slow and easily confused. I once received three glasses of the same wine from three different servers who didn’t notice they all gave me the same thing but were cognizant enough to charge me for all three. Who did I see? Yahzarah (fun). Christian Scott (late and too chatty). Tortured Soul (so cool). Van Hunt. Omar. In addition, we made it to see Lizzo for only $25. That was the bargain of the year. We traveled up to Baltimore to attend the Nas| MJB concert celebrating the 25th anniversary of their classic albums. We were so overdressed for the evening that we looked like we should be on stage too. Such a true culture clash.

My hubby turned 40 and I was kind enough to throw him a party. Hold your applause. Plus he wanted a birthday trip (see in a bit). He tapped me out. Luckily the DC / Baltimore area is great for something free to do. We wore these out in August and September. First we journeyed to Afram with the main headliner as Rick Rozay or Rick Ross (did he pay for this name yet?). Plus all of Puffy’s kids performed a bunch of mediocre songs. The Fort Dupont Summer Concert season was great this year. We went to see Deborah Bond and Raheem DeVaughan. We also saw Stokely and someone else I am not googling. Both shows were amazing and free.99. I hope they keep the same booking agent next year. We saw the really cool REACH festival at the new venue at the Kennedy Center. While I didn’t make it in to see Robert Glasper, I did spend a great day at the Hip Hop day which ended with a free performance by DeLaSoul. I also was treated to a Don’t Mute DC concert with Backyard Band at my favorite place in DC: National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Picture of Lizzo

Lizzo for $25

Randomness

I also did some typical and out of the box activities. We visited the highly popular but oh so nice new Top Golf. My hubby is terrible at golf. He would not like me to point this out. I went to an HBCU kickball tournament. Sure. It’s a thing. A really silly, fun thing.  I made a pilgrimage to a winery out in VA. You have to do at least one winery day a summer. I  went to northern Virginia more this summer than I have since I stopped working there in 2014. We attended so many of these planned activities that have become the norm over the years: A rose festival. An all you can eat Oyster festival (umm…turns out I do have a limit). The Beer, Wine and Crab festival. There is an entire industry now cultivating events for people who want to leave the house with predefined fun. This doesn’t feel like it was a thing 10 years ago. I attend a game of the WNBA champion Mystics. I always forget how much fun their games are and think: I should go more, then do not. I will fix this next year. Finally, we went to a 70’s themed birthday party. Without irony, I found my costume with ease at a major retailer selling the jumpsuit as an actual outfit they thought people should wear.

Shalina and Omar in 70's gear

70’s costumes

Chicago

As I mentioned earlier, my hubby wanted to visit Chicago for his birthday. I have been in more than 10 years and he hadn’t been since high school. What a great city to visit. We ate so much. Visited the largest rooftop bar in the world. Took a river cruise. Threw axes. Went to a beach party.

Picture of a Chicago skyscraper.

Chicago Architecture River Tour

Conclusion

And by 23 September, summer concludes and it’s all over. It wasn’t bad. Thanks Megan.  To quote my hubby, “it is time to sit your butt down.”

 

The 2018 Recap Edition

It dawned on me that my 2018 recap which had been roaming around in my head for a month was never put to paper. So how would I sum up 2018, in the immortal words of Dave Chappelle – I’m broke, [word I don’t say]. I’m broke! Wow the hits kept coming.

  1. I got a new car. I worked so hard to keep my beloved Smokey alive at great expense. In the end, my car had this annoying oil leak that three dealerships and several mechanics couldn’t identify. The accelerator pump died which meant I went from 0 to 8 after any complete and total stop for about 30 seconds until it decided to sorta go 50. But I couldn’t let go. But once it got the shimmy shakes when idling I had to let it go at 200,8XX miles. Love live Pearlie Sue.
  2. Black Panther. As an apathetic Hampton grad, the highlight of my first quarter was meeting Ruth Carter – a fellow alum whose career I have been following for 20 years. Being from Hampton really feels like a cult sometimes though. I will see folks I went to school with and the first question I get asked is when is the last time I was on campus. Ummm..what about important issues like is this woman and children next to you your family or what? However, Black Panther had the entire community hype. I still have a Lesotho blanket in my Amazon cart but broke. Wakanda Forever. Peep my General Okoye painting.
  3. Despite my lack of funds, I did a lot of long weekend and day trips.
    1. Went to Dover Downs for my birthday. I really only like to do one thing for my birthday – watch March Madness and eat chicken wings. We discovered that though Dover allows sports betting on football, which is not true for basketball. So watching and no gambling for us.
    2. We traveled to Ocean City for the first time since the first year I moved here. We stayed in a brand new hotel at a discount but truly why does it cost $300 a night to visit there?
    3. We went to New York for Pinknic. Wow was it hot. So really, really hot. I already own cute pink clothes, so I was good to go. It was ridiculously expensive. $70 for a bottle of rose or $12 for a frose. And it was all house music (Yay for me. Boo for other people who wrongly don’t love house music).
    4. I went to Detroit for Labor Day for the Jazz Festival. I made it to tv apparently since we were sitting right by the camera. Thank goodness I love Esperanza and could easily look entertained.
    5. Finally we went Austin for Austin City Limits. I had a bit of an incident the first day of the vacay with an evil scooter. Austin is such a drink and walk around town. We completely wasted money on that city tour as we saw nothing we didn’t see just walking around normally. ACL was great though they swapped Childish Gambino for Travis Scott and I am old and he makes songs I don’t know. Camilla C. (I ain’t googling the spelling) was so cute but her catalog is short. We really were there for Janelle.
  4. I recall counselling my baby cousin (waves if she is reading) that you can go out regularly with ever even thinking of a club or bar. That was certainly true for me. Summer of 2018 was marked by continuous rain, so many of my typical summer activities didn’t happen.
    1. Attended a movie screening. You have to see the movie to understand the earrings.
    2. Painted and sipped. Thank goodness I found a spot that outlines the work because you don’t want to see my previous experience attempting to draw a pumpkin.
    3. I went to fun cooking classes, learning how to make pasta and fry chicken. Honest to heaven, the very first time I made fried chicken, it was absolutely perfect – well seasoned, crispy and juicy. I peaked. I never made chicken that amazing again. But hoping I can try again with confidence.
    4. I took a graffiti and DJ class. Don’t worry all my DJ friends are safe.
    5. I took a poker class and won nothing. Someone gave me a trinket though as she won twice, and I happily took it.
  5. Without trying, I visited three Black-owned hotels. First, I went to Salamander Resort. Smaller than I thought it would be. So ages ago I stayed at the Biltmore in Coral Gables, same problem. It appears to be this sprawling resort and it is amazing, but not truly as huge as I thought. We spent the weekend at Akwaaba Inn in D.C. It’s been there for 14 years and yet never made it there. Plus I have never been to a bed and breakfast in my life. This was so cool. I definitely plan to go to more. Finally, I have been obsessed with the Ivy Hotel in Baltimore since I saw it in a magazine. Happily I found a spa deal and had a lovely spa day and tour of this highly exclusive hotel. I may never afford to stay there, but I can get a massage.
  6. I went to Spain.
  7. I became a boss. It’s much harder than it appears on television. I am no Michael Scott, but I definitely had some odd, exhausting days that felt like weeks that would make it a very funny episode on my version of The Government Office. And good bosses get no glory. It’s all about developing people to be their best or some such nonsense. I did sit down with a really useful executive coach who provided practical advice to ease some interactions.
  8. I started and didn’t finish a lot of television. I started so much and yet finished so little. I don’t even know what I was doing with my nights. Maybe I was overwhelmed. There is so much television. I literally finished a bunch of started television over the Christmas holidays. And am still nowhere near finished. And my book reading suffered. I only read 7 books this year and the only thing that got me that far was some long plane rides.
  9. Did I have a favorite movie this year (Black Panther withstanding)? I cannot say. I didn’t see a lot of the popular and critical darlings. I loved Widows but some people did not (I guess).
  10. Music was good, yet social media makes it so difficult to like certain artists. There were lots of soft, crooning female singers to like this year – Ari Lennox, H.E.R., Ella Mai. I’m old and current hip hop mostly annoys me. I continued my consistent concert tradition independent of those I mentioned earlier with, reverse order:
    1. Anita Baker
    2. Bilal
    3. Zo!
    4. Big Freedia / Tank and the Bangas (saw them twice)
    5. Elton John (Goodbye Yellow Brick Road)
    6. Raphael Saadiq
    7. Hamilton (second time is the charm!)
    8. Capital Jazz Festival (In the rain as always. But a tent this time)
    9. Shabazz Palaces (this was obviously free)
    10. Black Alley
  11. Went to some out there parties.
    1. Attended the Fresh Ball courtesy of a friend and got dress up and listen to good hip hop There is a difference.
    2. NMAAHC held the most fun Derby Day party. We learned about the history of Black jockeys, wore amazing hats and nibbled traditional treats from each of the races. Which meant crabcakes for Preakness; hot browns for Kentucky Derby; pretzels for Belmont.
    3. Went to the worst mud ball of Preakness ever. Some attendees slipped, fell and were covered head to toe in mud. I’m taking a year off.
    4. Diner en Blanc was at Nats stadium, which was extremely unpopular due to the length of time to process in through security, sitting in the rafters and not being able to step onto the field. Dah well. Great parties can’t last forever.
    5. The National Portrait Gallery threw an anniversary party. Sadly the full space wasn’t open to partygoers. So the Michelle Obama portrait continues to elude me. But Amy Sherald was there.
    6. I threw axes at a Christmas Party.
  12. My tribe and I recreated my amazing bridal shower by hiring a driver to visit wineries along the Frederick Wine Trail. These elevated excursions we plan for ourselves are the best.
  13. Let me tell you. This diet from the wedding completely fell off. First of all, weddings are exhausting enterprises so you naturally lose weight with nervous energy and not eating. But that drinking green smoothies and popping mints as snack replacements couldn’t last long. I tried my best with exercise but I went to lamb festivals, and high end steakhouses and cooking classes. It was all so delicious. But at this age, I really need to concentrate all my efforts on dry salad.
  14. I continued my fitness outings. I danced to Afrobeat, Soca, Bellydance and Zumba. So many classes are devoted to dancing. Dancing isn’t the best workout for me because I spend too much time concentrating on if I got the moves right and forget the exercise part. I pounded. This was my favorite. Such a release of aggression. I took a kettlebell class. I didn’t do badly due to my semi-commitment to boot camp. However, this boot camp is ruining me for my preferred exercise – yoga. I truly love yoga, everything else I do is make sure my cute clothes fit. There I was in aerial yoga doing a backflip when my right shoulder gave out and I tumbled right onto my head. My muscles are so tired and achy that my practice is regressing.
  15. I barely golfed this year. I think I let those bitter bitties convince me into not coming back. But the end of the season once the rained cleared, I truly regretted my decision. I am not the best golfer by any stretch of the imagination, but I really liked the challenge it gave me. It took consistent effort and concentration, which isn’t my strong suit and a growth area for me.
  16. I realized that my hobbies weren’t strong. It’s important to have hobbies as I realized after having a pre-adolescent pen pal who constantly asked me what I liked to do. “I am a grown-up, kid! I don’t do anything but start television I don’t finish!” Anyhoo, I attempted to write and stuck to it an entire two months. Someday soon I need to start reciting these story ideas to myself (before my husband thinks I am crazy) and write them down. What is my blockage?
  17. So I mentioned that I was broke. Well, being a landlord sucks on ice. I went two months without a tenant after finally ridding myself of the tenant from hell in late 2017. Plus we had an unfortunate incident with a pipe bursting and damaging the basement. So we got all new pipes and walls. I didn’t want all new pipes and walls. But here we are.
  18. For 2018, I didn’t set resolutions. I didn’t even make a vision board. So there was nothing to judge against by the end of the year. I truly was in a grumpy funk at the beginning of the year, because I felt under water with finances. I made strong ones this year. (Hope I don’t fail).

That was my 2018. Here’s to 2019 (two months in)! Check the gallery.

 

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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.

Food

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.

Nightlife

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).

Summary

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.

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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!