Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween, 2011 - A Success Story

I love Halloween!

I used to strongly dislike Halloween, because it just seems like an opportunity for people to get annoyingly crazy, creepy and/or skankified. However, over the past few years, that mentality has totally changed, because, quite frankly, I have had some F-U-N Halloweens these past few years.

Now, don't get me wrong. I still don't exactly enjoy the act of dressing up. Quite frankly, I think it's a waste of money to invest in a costume that you will be wearing approximately one time. MY approach to the Halloween costume is twofold:

1. If you can't re-wear the outfit, then it is so NOT a worthwhile investment.
2. You know, if you do "have" to dress up for Halloween, you might as well be comfortable, right? After all, it's the one night of the year that you can go out to your favorite bar/club in sweats and have it be socially acceptable.

Let's just say I have embraced these two points to the fullest extent possible.

If you read my above-referenced "Halloweens of years past" post, you'll know that, because of the minimal effort I put into my costumes, people often have a hard time figuring out what the heck I "am". For instance, the one year I was a cowgirl, people mistook me for Aunt Jemima and/or a slave. Another year, I dressed up as "ghetto" and people mistook me for an '80s workout girl.

God. I just can't take the humiliation anymore (ahh, the melodrama. Hahaha). This year, I was bound and determined to "fine-tune" my "ghetto" costume with an investment in Adidas workout pants. Now, I know this goes against my whole cheapness rule (because, MAN! Adidas pants are EX-pensive!) but hey. I heard that this was totally going to make the costume work itself out. Next, I borrowed a big ol' blingin' gold dollar-sign chain and dollar-sign ring from my friend, Jay. Jay has (successfully!) been a pimp and an early 90s rapper in his Halloweens past, so I am incredibly grateful for his help in supplementing my poor excuse for a ghetto costume.

So, there I went, Halloween night- Adidas pants, a white tank top layered with a gray tank top, and the BLING! Yesss!! I was tempted to put on a backwards baseball cap, but I didn't plan enough ahead of time to ask to borrow one (and please- you think I OWN any baseball caps?).

It turns out... I totally didn't need it! I walk into this house party and one girl was like "Are you Run DMC?" OMG, I wanted to give her a giant hug. That was all it took to make my NIGHT!! Sure, I wasn't exactly GOING for Run DMC, but it was in the same general territory as ghetto, right?? So much more in the same general territory than, say, an 80s fitness instructor...

Not only that, BUT!!! Once the drinks were a'flowing a bit, I got up the nerve to demonstrate my "ghetto walk". Now, here's the thing about the walk. Those individuals who have seen my ghetto walk in years past often just... well, laugh in my face. I simply don't understand why. I think I'm very good at the walk! I mean, what? All you have to do is limp, right?

Sigh. I guess there's a little more to it, and you would think that after people tell me that I look like I've just been SHOT, I would give up on the walk. But heck no! I still stand firm that my ghetto walk is one of the best of its kind. Quality, if you will. Whatever... in any event! My walk was actually greeted with much support (and/or a little bit of laughter, but oh well) this fine Halloween night. (Sure, the world was QUITE a merrier place after a couple of drinks, so maybe the supportive nature of my audience was all in my head, but oh well. Just go with it.)

Thank goodness the costume was such a sweet success last night! I'm not going to lie... I'd printed out the lyrics to my favorite rap song (Jay-Z's Big Pimpin') so I could spit some rhyme (hahahaha is that the right phrase?!?!?) intermittently throughout the night on an as-needed basis. Sure, I was a little disappointed that I didn't actually DO so (I don't know why I'm going to admit this, but I certainly did practice the rap earlier this week... never again can people say I don't exert enough effort into my Halloween costume), but I guess... well, for another time.

Overall... this Halloween? Another one for the books! It was so NICE to reunite with a few of my favorite girls and just make merry with the rest of the people at this fine Halloween house party... much of whom was from the grand home state, of all places!! Wahoo! I mean, let's be honest- how can you go wrong when you have a bunch of Ohioans together? Sigh. Ohio love.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pumpkin Carving Party Time!

For as much as I love, love, loooove the grandest season of alllll, Fallllll, I actually don't think I get as over-the-top festive about it as some other folks. I think I'm GETTING there, but some people have it down PAT.

Earlier in the week, one of my friends, Joyce, had invited me to a pumpkin carving party at one of her friends' places. I'm not going to lie- I hesitated before accepting the invite. I mean, I know, I know- what could be more fall perfection than a pumpkin carving party of all things? But I've never carved a pumpkin before and, quite frankly, it seemed like it was going to be HARD. WORK.

I was so wrong. Last night's party turned out to be one of the best events I've attended in QUITE some time!! It sure did add to the whole "love of the grandest season of alllll, Fallll" element, let me tell YOU.

I knew that it was going to be a great shindig when I get to the apartment and the hosts greeted me with... mulled wine/cider. Have you guys ever had this stuff? I've had it before and l-o-v-e it. It's so dangerous because it really does just taste like apple cider! And last night's mulled wine was no joke... so fresh, so tasty, so... well, deliciousness in a mug, if you will.

As folks kept on coming, the pumpkin pile kept on growing.

And that was just a portion of the pumpkins present! These hosts clearly knew what they were doing- the turnout was IM-pressive! Who would've thought? Once everyone had arrived, we got right down to business.

And by right down to business, I mean the experts in the room were quickly made clear. One girl went right to town while another person whipped out... an electric drill.

Umm. As soon as we saw THAT, Joyce and I just looked at each other with... well, not going to lie. A slight look of terror. Considering neither of us had ever carved a pumpkin in our lives, we decided to share one to... well, blame one another if it ended up looking awful, let's be honest here. Trust me, I was not holding out much hope.

It turned out to be so FUN though! We got started by cutting a hole at the pumpkin stem...

And cleaning that puppy OUT!

One of the experts at the party had offhandedly mentioned that the cleaner the insides of the pumpkin, the better it was going to look once carved. So we kind of took that to heart and proceeded to spend much longer than necessary cleaning the pumpkin out. So much longer, in fact, that by the time we were ready to copy our design template onto the pumpkin, others were already in FULL CARVING MODE.

This should have been our first clue that we were going to fall quickly behind, but... well, we had so much to catch up on! Bear in mind, Joyce is like my twin. So you can imagine how quickly we can get distracted by our gossip/catch up session when we're doing something as mindless as cleaning out that pumpkin. You know what? OH WELL- the people sitting around us were clearly entertained by our stories. And, well, it's all about the company and stuff, right? Right.

Alright, so once we had cleaned that pumpkin out so well you could eat straight off of it, we embarked on the whole tracing the template we'd picked out and starting the carving process. Dude, this was HARD! I happily delegated the tracing of the template to Joyce (after all, she'd picked the pumpkin!)... let's face it, I would have ruined it. I. Am. Not. Crafty.

Once the template was traced onto the pumpkin, I was delegated the task of carving. Lord have mercy. Since I don't have patience nor that whole attention to detail quality, I was all ready and set to just use a knife to start the carving process. It seemed like it would go a WHOLE lot faster than the miniscule little tools the pumpkin carving kit came with. But... well, using a knife was a little scary! I feel like it's HARD to carve a pumpkin with a knife- you have seemingly little control over how that knife is going to cut!

So... after just a fleeting few minutes of using the knife, I resorted back to... well, those miniscule pumpkin carving kit tools. And wow- what. a. difference. I mean, I'm not type A by any means, but there is something OH so rewarding about being able to cut at the EXACT points you've traced onto your pumpkin. It was actually quite a delightful experience!

Well... it was delightful until the experience took a turn for the stressful. I guess it turns out that Joyce and I were so busy chit-chatting during our whole pumpkin cleaning spectacle that, by the time we had started the carving process, people were already done! God, we were totally like the remedial students in pumpkin carving class.

It's amazing how quickly we can switch gears though. If we'd known each other in school, I think we would have totally been best friends. Because as SOON as we realized how behind we were, we ceased pretty much ALL forms of communication and went to TOWN carving that pumpkin- Joyce took one half, I took the other. All in the name of... well, not looking like complete failures during our first pumpkin carving experience.

It's amazing how quickly it all came together though! I guess that's what can happen when two of the chattiest girls alive just shut it and FOCUS. Hahaha. Alright, so maybe the party had to slightly delay the whole jack-o-lantern picture taking experience, because they were waiting on us to finish but hey! They didn't have to wait ALL that much longer!

And check out the result! Amaze!!

Joyce and I were SO PROUD OF OURSELVES!! Can you tell?

So proud, in fact, that we lugged that thing out to Old Town Social (a neighborhood bar) afterwards. That's right. Shameless, that we are. But look at this thing!

If it's just not the most adorable jack-o-lantern you've ever laid eyes on, I just don't know what is.

Sigh. All future pumpkin carving parties... sign me UP! Best. Idea. Ever.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ugh. Sick AND Grumpy (well, kind of).

Let me preface this post with two disclaimers:

1. This post is completely the opposite of the tone of typical Maliyacular posts. So, if you are expecting a post filled with merriment and sunshine, well I am sorry but you can just plain forget about it. Kind of!!

2. I never get sick. Ever.

Anyway! :)

So, have you heard about this weather in Chicago lately?

I know, right? Trust me, this isn't going to be some boring old weather report. No, ladies and gents. You are lucky enough to be treated to a post filled with all kinds of things anti-merriment and sunshine today.

Let me just start off with saying that I. Hate. Rain. I hate it so much, in fact, that I lost my umbrella about a month ago and refused to buy another one because I figured "how often does it ACTUALLY rain during the grandest season of allll, Fallll?" (Seriously. I actually VOICED that thought process to a few people.)

Pretty darn often, actually. Trust me, this is NOT a pleasant revelation. Let's just say that I have since reconsidered my original plan to go without an umbrella until Thanksgiving (when I go home and can steal one from my parents... yes, I am this cheap). This reconsideration began a week ago- last Thursday to be exact.

Remember last Thursday? The day a monsoon basically barreled itself right on through Chicago? WTF, right? Anyway, so although I didn't have an umbrella, I figured I'd be okay since I was wearing my hooded, down vest. This was all fine and good for my hair, but... well, forget about the rest of my body.

I. Was. Drenched.

Not to mention UN-happy.

Because I am the greatest decision-maker ever, I decided to go out Thursday night... still amidst the rain... still sans an umbrella. After proceeding to get four hours of sleep Thursday night, I was just plain exhausted come Friday. And trust me- I wasn't exactly Miss Sunshine and Smiles. I actually was thinking to myself: "Is this what it's LIKE to be GRUMPY?" (I'm very self-aware, can you tell? Hahaha)

Anyway, I cancelled my Friday plans to stay in and rest and relax. My plan was to go to sleep super early to get back on my normal, happy-go-lucky Miss Mary Sunshine way of life.

Um. Note to self: a Cosby Show marathon playing in the background is NO way to be lulled to sleep. Now, don't get me wrong! Normally, I have no problems whatsoever dozing off with the TV in the background. But... well, the Cosby Show is just so GOOD! And every episode just kept getting funnier and funnier! This is not my fault.

So much for going to sleep early on Friday. Whatever, I had the whole weekend to catch up on my rest and relaxation. And boy, did I ever rest. I feel like I slept more than a dead person. But oh well. It clearly didn't really help all that much, because come Monday, I still wasn't feeling 100%.

It certainly did NOT help that all these weather reports were forecasting some Godawful storms/monsoons. @nbcchicago tweeted: "Brace yourself, #Chicago. The next big storm of the season is headed our way"; @todayshow tweeted: "20-25 foot waves forecast for...Chicago."

Upon seeing weather reports of this kind, I decided to do the responsible thing and go on the hunt for an umbrella last night. And sweet success! I found one!

Unfortunately, I'd just hurriedly purchased it from Walgreen's and... well, I'm no brand snob, but I guess Walgreen's umbrella quality standards are pretty minimal. I mean, I literally walked out this morning, all confident to brave this Godawful weather (seriously- when did monsoons start actually happening in Chicago?). I walk out my door, open that umbrella of mine, walk about four feet when (no joke), this damn umbrella just turned itself right on inside out.

Awesome. It didn't take me long to reverse that damage and continue along... about another four feet. When the SAME thing happened. Again. I hadn't even gotten to the end of my BLOCK.

By this point, my frustration levels were peaked (I have zero patience when it comes to rain/wind/weather extremes in general). So, after all that hunting for an umbrella last night (okay, maybe I could have exerted a LITTLE more effort, but whatever), I just closed my umbrella right on up and sped-walked to my bus stop. It just wasn't worth it with all this wind nonsense.

GOD, and to top it all OFF, I could barely even breathe by the time I got to the office, because my nose was all stuffed up. And it's amazing how achy one can start to feel in the course of like a half hour.

And that, my friends, is when I just came to terms with it.

I am officially sick...

... and kind of grumpy about it! I'm not gonna lie! It's kind of an interesting experience for me, actually. A sociological experiment, if you will. ;)

Monday, October 17, 2011


I love getting my hair cut, primarily because of the glorious head massage that goes right along with it. I guess calling it a haircut would be an underexaggeration. In keeping with my natural flair for cheapness, I apparently do NOT consider maintaining my hair as a necessity in life. Although my hair grows at an alarmingly speedy rate, I apparently don't notice just how LONG (not to mention nappy (sp?)) I let my hair get until it is much, much too late.

Therefore, I typically consider my haircuts to be more along the lines of hairCHOPS.

Well, what? After about six months of growing my hair, I just get SICK of it (I mean, do you KNOW how long it takes to blowdry and STRAIGHTEN thick, long hair? Heavens). As such, I tend to get a little overly liberal at the hair salon and start off the conversation with "Just chop off as much as you think would look good for my face shape".

This lovely little conversation starter could be considered quite risky for the average individual. I, on the other hand, have no sense of general beauty knowledge, so I could not TELL you what "type" of haircut would look good for my (Charlie-brown cheeked!) face shape. And please, isn't this what these hair stylists went to beauty school and stuff for? Come on, I'm paying good money for my semi-annual hairchop!

Oh yeah. About that "paying good money" bit... I guess paying $16 for a hairchop (which includes the aforementioned head massage!) is actually a pretty good deal. I'm not going to lie- I'm actually kind of proud of this fact.

Yes, friends. My cheapness extends much further than just limiting the frequency of my hairchops per year. That's right- in order to score THIS $16 deal, I will only go to the Aveda Institute, which is filled with students using real people on whom to "practice their technique".

Again, yet another risky move. But hey, if you really think about it, students would be the ones to be MOST careful with individuals' hair, because they're so concerned about passing their classes.

Or something like that. If you don't agree... well, don't tell me! This is the justification I have been using for years and it has worked thus far! (And I shudder to think of what the alternative mindset of students "experimenting" on real people hair would be.)

And this past Saturday was another one for the books. You better believe I got my hair CHOPPED the F OFF! I'm so delighted! Sure, once I just told my hair stylist to "go to it", I had that momentary lapse of panic. And, I mean, the panic kind of lasted throughout the whole hairchop session because... quite frankly, how can one REALLY tell what one's new hairstyle is going to look like when it's dripping wet?

But I have to say! I was so pleased with the final, blow-dried result! It's so LIGHT and so EASY to MANAGE now! It took me like a mere second to wash and straighten today! (Slight exaggeration, but hey, what would the Maliyacular be without a slight exaggeration here and there?)

All in all, I must say! Yet another sweet success c/o the Aveda Institute! From elbow-length to shoulder-length... I'd have to say my hair is ready and SET until... April. You know it!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Most Expensive Groupon Experience If Ever There Was One...

I love reunions! My friend, Hiral, and I went to Ohio State together and currently both live in Chicago. I'd grown accustomed to seeing Hiral at least once every one to two weeks. However, simply due to crazy schedules, we hadn't seen each other for at least a couple of months.

It felt like eons. Seriously!

Last night, it was total reunion central, though. Hiral picked me up from my Lincoln Park apartment and we decided to venture a bit more north, to (finally!) use Hiral's $22 Groupon for Marigold - an Indian restaurant in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood. We were primarily excited to check this place out because it was so far north, so we had no doubts it would be MUCH easier to find a parking spot as compared to attempting this pretty impossible feat in my Lincoln Park neighborhood.

Lo and behold! A parking lot was ready and WAITING for us, right across the street from Marigold! It was totally meant to be.

Dinner was mediocre (the food was not NEARLY as good as I remembered it to be) but the reunion was oh so delightful! It was so great catching up with Hiral after much, MUCH too long. After dinner, we headed back out to the parking lot, BOTH of us exhausted (it was a Tuesday, after all!) and so ready to get back home.

Yeah... as we're walking through the parking lot, chit-chatting away, Hiral interrupts the conversation with "Umm... where did I park?" To which I immediately respond with: "Oh, like right over there..." (insert an image of my voice trailing off as my finger points toward an oh-so-empty parking spot).

Lord. I've never had to deal with a towed car situation so I had no idea what to do. I was a little nervous, because hello! Wouldn't YOU be pissed if your car was towed?! Well, I guess Hiral has a different take on things. Because HER reaction? "Oh NO!!... Oh well. We can just go pick it up."

Okay, it's kind of summarized, but that was the general gist. WTF, right? I never DREAMED one individual could treat the experience of getting her car towed as... well, a normal occurrence! (For the record, Hiral rarely, if ever, has experienced a towing situation.)

After calling the towing agency, and determining the location of the sadly towed vehicle, Hiral and I embarked on this seemingly never-ending sojourn. Thankfully, the towing lot wasn't all too far from where we were... only a few blocks, actually! Sure, the majority of the walk was comprised of one LONG block, that housed a cemetery, but whatever. We are brave people! Kind of. But I digress.

So, after this brief sojourn, we FINALLY spot the towing agency! Sweet success! Let's get this car and get the F outta here!!

You know, it was actually at this point in the evening, that I totally got into my blogger element, snapping away pictures (yes, I know- how Hiral didn't kill me during her time of distress, I just don't know). But come ON! Gotta embrace each situation, right?! And embrace, oh I so did...

I mean, LOOK at the towing agency's "office"!

If that just doesn't ADD to the creepy element of the night (initiated by that cemetery walk-by), I just don't know what does.

And, well, what's a night out without... some police surveillance?

At least I felt safer with them around. Because trust me. The people of Lincoln Towing were NOTHING to write home about. I understand that towing companies have to develop thick skin, dealing with complaints right and left. But these people were just plain RUDE. And it takes a lot for me to formulate that extreme of a judgment call!

Oh well. So, a whopping $200 later... Hiral FINALLY got her car back. Wahoo! (I tried to snap a picture of her reunion with her car but it came out all blurry.)

Sigh. To think... we'd started out the night excited about our plan to actually save money by using Hiral's Groupon...

Ha- PLEASE. The most expensive Groupon experience, if ever there was one...

Monday, October 10, 2011

My (CNN-Approved) Chicago Marathon iReport!

Marathon day keeps getting better and better!

I just joined the CNN iReport community a couple of weeks ago and LOVE it. It's totally giving me practice being a "rookie reporter" (so I like to think). Regardless, I must admit- it's FUN!

Yesterday, I submitted an iReport video of the Chicago Marathon. And who would have thought?! It was actually approved by CNN! Wahoo!!!

Let me back up a second. Basically, anyone and everyone can submit an iReport on any topic under the sun. However, only if it is considered "vetted and approved" by CNN, will it be potentially AIRED on CNN! So you KNOW my day was TOTALLY made yesterday, when I received an email from one of the CNN iReport producers yesterday afternoon, indicating that my iReport was CNN-approved! Wahoo (again!)!

As if that weren't enough, I just checked my "views" and my iReport is up to 6,000+ views! In a mere day! I know that isn't like earth-shattering, but for me it is! If this is how excited I get about my 6,000ish views, I can't even imagine my excitement levels if I were to ever "go viral". Hahahah. I don't think Mother Earth would be able to handle the energy levels, let's be honest...

In the meantime... I do hope you enjoy a brief tidbit of the 2011 Chicago Marathon!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Happy (Chicago) Marathon Morning!

The day of the Chicago Marathon is one of my favorite days of the year! It all starts a full week before the marathon, where you notice the sidewalks slightly swarming with runners wrapping up their MONTHS of training to accomplish this tremendous feat.

I love hearing the stories behind WHY people decide to run 26.2 miles. Some people just want to run, others are running for an organization/cause for which they are passionate, others are running for loved ones... I like to think of it as one of the greatest community-bonding experiences. Ever.

I arose bright and early this morning, hoping to hurry and get my measly 3 miler outta the way before the marathoners made their way through my neighborhood. Not only did I want to cheer them on (cheering is my middle name, after all!), I also just wanted to minimize having to deal with navigating the crowds on the sidewalk in the midst of dying through my run.

As I ventured out around 8:05 AM, I ran into some neighbors in my elevator who indicated that the first runners would be passing through my area (mile 13ish) by 8:15. Well, there was no way I was missing THAT. I headed out of my apartment building and got myself nicely planted on the sidewalk corner.

Right at 8:15, would you look at that?

Speed-ster. Central.

Check out how EMPTY the streets are except for these gold star marathoners! I can't wait to find out which one of them won!

Well, since I was out already, I just hurried and got my 3 miler over and done with. By the time I returned back to my area, I was greeted with a completely different sight. What a difference a mere half hour makes.

Runners, runners and more runners!

The crowds were in full swing as well! Talk about FESTIVE. You seriously get pumped up just standing amidst the cheering fans.

It was so touching to see marathoners locating loved ones in the throngs of cheering fans. I saw a running daughter spot her mom cheering away, and stop to give her a big ol' hug. I saw a mom running her heart out, stopping briefly to hug the daylights out of her two cheering sons. Sigh. And you KNOW that's just the tip of the iceberg.

How I love Marathon Morning. One of my favorite mornings of the year.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My Visit to CNN... Excuse Me, Atlanta

I guess when most people think of Atlanta, the first thing that would come to mind is HOTlanta.

Not me. Nah. When I think of Atlanta, I think of... CNN! Naturally, right?

This weekend, I made a trip to Atlanta to reunite with some good friends. GOD, aren't reunions only the best things EVER? The weekend seemed like it was going to be jam-PACKED with activities, so I figured there wouldn't be enough time to really explore downtown.

Until, that is, my friend (Nnenna) offhandedly mentioned her (multiple) experiences touring the CNN headquarters. I didn't mean to, but quite frankly, would you expect anything BUT a reaction filled with spirit fingers and a (slight) shortness of breath?

I. Don't. Think. So.

Needless to say, after Nnenna realized THAT was my reaction to her CNN tour experience, she arranged our Sunday activities to... voila! Conveniently end up at the CNN headquarters, ready and waiting for a Sunday afternoon tour!

Weeeee! Let the adventure begin!! Just seeing the CNN logo on the building made my heart go pitter patter... can you tell? At all?

Oh, how the CNN headquarters did NOT disappoint! The grandeur, the American flag, the big ol' globe... lskdjfdlkfjs!

I just couldn't get enough. CNN steals my heart at 4 years old, CNN steals my heart for life.

It was so interesting to learn a bit about the ongoing behind-the-scenes activities. Nowadays, there's so much TECHNOLOGY involved that it never ceases to amaze me. Two of the more interesting things I picked up along the tour:

1. CNN weather reporters use digital screens to do weather reports, etc. As compared to those (seemingly antiquated) green screens that local news stations still use, to vaguely wave in a general direction to "pinpoint" regional weather patterns. These local news stations really need to jump on this digital screen bandwagon. So much more accurate, so much less ridiculous-looking!

2. NOW I know how news anchors always look like they are looking directly into the camera, despite reading the teleprompter... it's because they ARE. I figured there was some technological component behind it that I wasn't aware of, and I was right. It was so cool to see the "dual-functioning" camera that runs a teleprompter while simultaneously holding a lens directly behind the teleprompter to provide video feed to the audience.

The tour included all kinds of behind-the-scenes stops, but my heart jumped a little when we stopped by...

Where all the magic happens, if you will.

Well, okay, my heart also jumped more than a little when we saw Don Lemon doing the Sunday afternoon broadcast, but hey. We couldn't take pictures of THAT. Sigh, the memories.

Oh, how it WAS the most delightful of days. A great day with friends, a tour of the world-renowned CNN headquarters AND an opportunity to "practice" my news anchor skills*...

I mean, if that doesn't scream "CNN natural", I simply don't know what does. Shameless, I know.

*Thanks, Kodak!