Monday, May 28, 2012

It's an Indian Wedding Weekend EXTRAVAGANZA!

Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone! I spent my long weekend being immersed in all things Indian wedding festivities. It seriously was one of the most fun weekends/weddings... well, ever.

So much fun, in fact, that I couldn't just cram all the festivities into one mere blog post. You better believe that I've devoted a mini-blog series to the one and only Neha and Eashwar's wedding festivities. Honestly, Indian weddings are the way to GO. It's literally three days of gluttonous happiness... endless GORGEOUS INDIAN OUTFITS (!!), endless FOOD, endless open BAR, endless dancing, endless FUN!

As much crazy fun as this wedding weekend was, I also want to point out that Neha and Eashwar's wedding is among one of the most memorable weddings I've been to thus far. They are seriously two of the kindest, most respectable people that anyone will ever meet and I can't emphasize enough the TREMENDOUS amount of respect I have for the two of them. Sooo... as light as I tend to make of a lot of the wedding weekend festivities, I just want to make sure it's clear just how meaningful the ceremonies/rituals were for me to experience as part of their (humongous) audience. At the risk of sounding completely cheesy, it was nothing short of a privilege to be part of this wedding experience.

Deep, I know. So, to bring it back to the normal lack of depth that IS the Maliyacular... without further ado, I'd like to introduce to you...

Neha and Eashwar's Wedding Extravaganza Mini-Series

Day One: Open Bar Happiness
Details the festivities of the first night's Sangeet, a celebratory night of dance performances put on by Neha and Eashwar's family and friends in honor of the lovely couple

Day Two: Henna, A Bus and a Resort Complex
Details the festivities of the second night's Mehendi- a night typically reserved for just females (Neha and Eashwar opened this to both males and females) that focuses on decorating the hands and feet with various henna tattoos. Traditionally, the bride has to "find" her groom's name in the intricate detailing of her Mehendi (henna tattoo)... it's not as easy as it sounds! This stuff gets INTRICATE.

Day Three: Neha and Eashwar's Big Day
Details the big day itself! This day included a Bharat (where the groom rides in on a horse, to the energetic dancing of his family and friends), a Sikh ceremony, a Hindu ceremony and... of course, a reception to end all receptions (let's be honest here).

Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!!

Neha and Eashwar's Big Day

Weeeeee!!!!!! THE BIG DAY WAS FINALLY HERE!!!!!! Neha and Eashwar's WEDDING DAY!!!!!!

The big day was going to be filled with two ceremonies (a Hindu ceremony and a Sikh ceremony) as well as the grand finale... excuse me, I mean the reception. With so much activity being crammed into one day, you better believe that Sunday started off bright and early. The guests were instructed to head down to the main lobby by 9 AM sharp, in order to be in time to watch the Bharat, which is where the groom rides a horse amongst throngs of his friends and family dancing around him to the main entrance of the hotel.

I have to say, the Bharat is one of my favorite events at Indian weddings. It's just so FESTIVE and I simply LOVE watching the groom's family and friends dancing their hearts's so clear everyone is just so darn EXCITED for the big day ahead.

So, right at 9 AM, you better believe I was jaunting downstairs to make sure I was able to watch every single moment of the festivities... but I quickly got distracted because... well, I guess with 600 people at a wedding (with like half the guests from Cincinnati itself, since that's where the groom is from), I was bound to run into an unexpectedly familiar face or two. But still... that thought didn't remotely temper my excitement levels when the familiar face that I ran into was...

Now, I know this may look like just another Indian aunty to the rest of you. But this aunty just happens to be one of my FAVORITE aunties in all the land. This is actually my college roommate (for all four years!)'s MOM!! Trust me... I could NOT CONTAIN MY EXCITEMENT. It had been so long since I'd seen her, and quite frankly, she makes me the happiest thing ever (especially when she calls me "Giggly"... SIGH, HAPPINESS!!!).

After literally attacking her with a hug (good thing she doesn't scare easily...), I quickly made my way outside and down the sidewalk where I was able to find my friends (thank goodness! Knowing very few people in a crowd of 600+ can get kind of overwhelming, not gonna lie!).

Despite the 90+ degree heat and humidity of the morning, the excitement was in FULL FORCE. I'm not exaggerating, "throngs of people" is an understatement of the sight to be seen outside of that hotel and lining the city block. Since shamelessness is kind of my "thing", I scooched my way to the front of the crowd in order to snag at least ONE picture of the guest of honor...

Surprisingly enough, the Bharat actually started relatively on time. Eashwar, decked OUT in his traditional Indian attire, began riding that horse down the city street to the main entrance to the hotel... all to the blasting Indian music and exuberant family and friends dancing away...

Once he'd made it safely inside the hotel, the family and friends gathered in the hotel lobby to begin some of the traditional rituals. To be honest, I couldn't exactly understand what was going on down there, but it was definitely a moving, touching moment.

Shortly thereafter, we ended up wandering up to the second floor of the hotel, where the Sikh ceremony was going to take place first. During this ceremony, everyone had to make sure that their heads were covered as they entered the sacred place, ladies sat on the left while males sat on the right, and everyone was sitting on the floor (sans shoes, which had to be left outside the big hall).

It was actually VERY interesting for me, since it was my very first Sikh ceremony. Sure, the bread pudding-y type of treat they gave us at the end of the Sikh ceremony certainly helped things along.

Even though it may not look like much in that picture, that treat was LE-GIT deliciousness. Not gonna lie... I certainly did help myself to seconds :)

Alright, so after the Sikh ceremony, we all exited the hall so that it could be revamped for the second ceremony of the day- the Hindu ceremony. After a more-than-light snack in the interim (oh, if there's one thing that can be said about this ENTIRE weekend, it's that you NEVER went hungry, that is for darn sure), we headed back up to the same hall... to a whole new world ready for the Hindu ceremony. The mandap (it's kind of like the "stage" for the bride and groom) was revamped, there were now chairs in place of where we'd been sitting on the floor, new flowers were decorating the aisles... it's amazing how much can change in the course of like 45 minutes.

I just loved the Hindu ceremony. There was even an Indian uncle who was kind of narrating each and every ritual during the Hindu ceremony, so people could truly understand what was going on. And of course... I mean, look at the happy couple. They just make me so HAPPY.

Immediately following this ceremony was... of course, lunch. Ah food... how it does epitomize all things Indian. Because I didn't want to look like a complete freak (I mean, how many aunties and uncles would really understand the concept of blogging?), I refrained from taking all too many pictures of food (it took some serious self-restraint though).

After lunch? NAPTIME!! We had a couple of hours free in the afternoon before we had to start getting ready for the grand reception and you better BELIEVE I took full advantage. I take my naps VERY seriously and it had been kind of an exhausting weekend already (I can't even imagine how Neha and Eashwar were feeling!), so I fully embraced my naptime.

Well, naptime came and went and then it was time to... get ready for the reception. The reception was the only event where I was going to be wearing a sari, since it was the "fanciest" night of the whole weekend. A couple of my other friends were also going to be wearing saris, so you better believe we had to flag down an aunty earlier on in the afternoon, so she could help us put these things on. I don't think I will ever understand how one singular piece of fabric can be so complicated to put on.

But it is. So until the day comes where there are no more aunties in all the land, you better believe I'll be latching on to any and every one of them, when it comes to helping me tie a sari.

A few of us headed down to the lobby around 7 PM- just in time for... cocktail hour!! Wahoo!!

Aren't those drinks so FUN?? I swear, me and that Lychee Martini became like BFF throughout the night... it was the epitome of tasty deliciousness.

As cocktail hour started winding down, the grand doors to the reception hall were opened and... well, so much for keeping my jaw off the floor. I can safely say it was one of the most majestic reception halls I'd seen to-date... everything was just so well DONE. I mean, just look at the flower arrangements.

And that's just the beginning of it. Unfortunately, my phone camera isn't exactly behaving itself, so the quality of these pictures could have been a little better but whatever. All I have to say about the reception is... it was one of the most emotionally taxing receptions I've ever attended. Honestly, I have to say it's in the top three wedding receptions I've been to (and, if you know me at all, you know I've been to my more than fair share of weddings over recent years), primarily because of the speeches/sentiments that were made. I couldn't stop crying! (And, to be fair, there were more than few of us who couldn't stop crying.)

At the end of it all, though, it's a wedding reception. And, God, what a wedding reception it was. And best of all- we actually got to talk with the bride for a fair amount of time!! (Seriously, trying to catch Neha this weekend was like trying to catch a celebrity!)

I know I've said this before, but I have to say it again... GOD, do Indian people know how to party. The music couldn't have been better and the dancing couldn't have been more spirited happiness.

All in all, I have to say that this wedding weekend was one of the absolute best that I've ever been to. And I know I've been making light of a lot of the weekend what with all the open bar-ing and the spectacle that only busloads of Indian aunties and uncles can provide, but in all seriousness, this wedding was one of the most touching ones that I've had the privilege of experiencing. I'm so grateful to have been able to participate in this extra-special weekend for Neha and Eashwar and it's definitely one of the weddings that will stick out for me for a long time to come.

Henna, A Bus and A Resort Complex

So days two and three of the wedding extravaganza of a weekend just continued in the same style as the first night of celebratory festivities.

Because I'm unable to sleep in, no matter how late I go to sleep the night before, I decided to take full advantage of my early morning wake up and head off to Cincinnati for the day to visit with the 'rents. It was all so very delightful (I refuse to post pictures of my family on my blog, which is why you will not be seeing many, if any, pictures posted) and quite frankly, Cincinnati just makes me so happy.

After a fleeting few hours at home, I ventured back to Louisville... you KNOW I wasn't going to be missing a single second of the Saturday night festivities, which included a grand ol' Mehendi party. Now, typically, the Mehendi parties I've been to in other Indian weddings are for the females only, but, since there were SO MANY people who had come in from out of town, Neha and Eashwar had decided to open the Mehendi party to all their guests.

Well, the Mehendi party was actually at a family friend's house, about a twenty-minute drive from the Marriott downtown where we were all staying. Because Neha and Eashwar were super thoughtful about the convenience of their guests, they'd arranged transportation to and from the family friend's house where the Mehendi party was taking place... now, how in heaven's name is one supposed to transport like 600 of one's closest family and friends?

What else? With multiple shuttle trips, of course.

I'm not gonna lie... I really was wondering what this person's neighbors were thinking as they were seeing busload after busload of Indian aunties and uncles convening in front of their house.

Oh, well. I guess when you live in something resembling a resort, things like shuttling people to and fro is just an everyday part of life. That's right... THIS is where the Mehendi party was taking place.

I know, right? That's all I have to say. I was on my best behavior all weekend long, so I made sure to keep my jaw from approaching the floor at every turn of the way.

But... well, I mean REALLY? Really.

In any event, as with the rest of the weekend, the Mehendi party was one sweet success. I didn't actually get the henna done on my hands (I've done it once or twice before), but several of the other girls that I was with did and absolutely LOVED the experience. Needless to say, the Mehendi lady had her hands MORE than full, given the sheer VOLUME of people that wanted to get their hands done up with henna.

This night turned out to be SO much fun... as people were getting their henna done, there was just so much mingling being done and... as per usual, that open bar line was out. of. control. It was all so merry and festive... so, in spite of the 90+ degree heat and sunshine, I can safely say we all had ourselves a delightful time, with our excitement only escalating further still with the events of the next day (the ACTUAL wedding day).

Open Bar Happiness

I always forget how much I love Indian weddings. They are seriously the most festive things ever... it's literally just one huge party for two to three days at a time.

After much anticipation, Neha and Eashwar's wedding extravaganza FINALLY took place this weekend. I feel like more than a few of us have been eagerly anticipating this event to end all events for weeks, if not months, and I can safely say that their wedding did NOT disappoint.

The adventure started on Friday, with the Sangeet. The Sangeet is typically an evening of dance performances, put on by family and friends to honor the couple. Now, I've been to a Sangeet or two in my lifetime, but I can safely say that this Sangeet was the most... well, different one I've been to.

Let me back up a little though. So this wedding spectacular was taking place in Louisville, about a 5.5 to 6 hour drive from Chicago. I was planning on driving down late Friday afternoon, in order to arrive just in time (and/or a little after) the start of the Sangeet festivities, scheduled for Friday evening. So, come Friday around 3:30 PM, my other coworker/friend and I began our delightful little road trip from Chicago to Louisville, eagerly anticipating the festive weekend ahead.

Welllll... who knew how long a drive from Chicago to Louisville could feel?? Thank goodness Katusha had decided to join this little road trip... there is NO DOUBT I would've gotten lost and/or fallen asleep at the wheel otherwise! Needless to say, by the time we arrived at the Louisville Marriott (where the majority of the guests were staying and a lot of the wedding festivities were taking place), we were so ready to...

Well, celebrate.

GOD, have I shared how much I love the concept of open bar? It seriously is one of my favorite things EVER (and I don't even like drinking all that much!). It's just... well, it's just so FREE. How can one resist??

In short, we couldn't. So we went a little out of control with the open bar... I can't even tell you exactly how many drinks we were having, because we were just trying to cram as many in as possible since the bar was going to be closing sooner rather than later (darn coming in late!).

But I digress. The Sangeet itself was AMAZING. It was literally like a scene out of a Bollywood movie- a huge dance floor/stage for the multitude of performances, humongous movie screen type things to project the dances (and/or excerpts from Bollywood films when there was a break in the dance performances), yummy food and... well, about 600 of Neha and Eashwar's closest family and friends. Haha. I'm actually not exactly sure what the latest headcount of their seemingly neverending guest list was, but it certainly FELT like about 600 people, that's for darn sure.

Sadly, I actually didn't snap any pictures of the Sangeet itself... I know, I know. Who am I? I can document all things open bar but I can't document the Sangeet itself? Ridiculous, I know. In any event, after the Sangeet, some of the guests decided that the night simply couldn't be over just yet... so a few of us decided to embark on the streets of Louisville. However, I still had a beer from my open bar yet to consume and, well, if you know me and open bar, you know that I have a very hard time turning away free beverages.

When in doubt... why not just take the beer with me? Now, I don't know WHAT the open container laws are like in Louisville, but quite frankly, I didn't care at that point. My Bud Light and I were not parting ways.

And I have to say... I LOVE LOUISVILLE BARS!! Not only did they let me bring my beer into not one, but TWO bars with me (we ended up leaving the first bar after like two minutes to head across the street), but the bartender at the second bar actually set my beer bottle up with a napkin-coaster type thingy! It was all so very delightful. I couldn't believe how well they were treating me and my dear Bud Light. They must've understood the bond that had formulated.

In any event, Friday night ended up... well, as you would expect any Friday night filled with some serious open bar-ing to end up. No need to divulge any real details, right? Right. All I have to say is... it was one simply delightful start to the rest of the wedding weekend.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Am I the Only Chicagoan Enjoying NATO Being Here?

As last week unfolded, the buzz around the NATO Summit happening in Chicago this week quickly escalated. You know me and these kinds of affairs...

I. Am in. My element.

THE PICTURE OF MY DREAMS at the Clinton Global Initiative, 2006

Seriously, I felt like I was one of the Clinton family.

OMG- meeting John Prendergast at the Clinton Global Initiative! He. Is one of my. Idols. (And honestly, not that bad looking for a middle-aged man! I mean, look at that smile! Look at those crinkly eyes! Sigh. Anyway. You know I'm right.... right? Hahah.)

Kofi Annan. Don't ask how I got this close to the stage. Just... don't ask.

Meeting Madeleine Albright!!! Well, okay, so by this point at the Clinton Global Initiative, I'd already met her... but I couldn't exactly have snapped a picture of us pee'ing in side-by-side restroom stalls earlier in the week... which is definitely how I did initially meet her. True story- I mean, you really think I'd make this sh*t up?!!?

That's right- hello, Prince Charles. I actually don't think I speak of seeing him speak at the UN General Assembly while I was in Geneva, but oh well. It was interesting enough, I guess. I think the above events kind of trumped this one, sadly.
In case you can't tell... I live for these kinds of events!!! Not only are celebs RIGHT at your fingertips, but you just get this sensation that there is so much GOOD happening right before your very eyes amongst some of the world's leading figures. As much slack as we give any and every public figure, you have to admit, some of these people are S-M-A-R-T. And have such motivation to drive the world in a better direction. Talk about inspiration, personified. It really is one of those things that makes me SO PROUD to be an American, not to mention a citizen of the world, if you will.

Sigh. A moment, if you will.

That's why, as the buzz began escalating last week, I was getting a little confused as I was speaking more and more about it with some fellow Chicagoans. I mean, all I could really hear was resentment and annoyance that this NATO Summit was taking place in Chicago. To be perfectly honest, I simply didn't understand what all this negativity was about.

Sure, there may be a little disruption with traffic and your daily activities, but well... it's just for a few days. And think of how much GOOD is being done in the world in these next few days as our world leaders are gathering together. I mean, there are so many issues in the world... I can't help but think that, if well run, these kinds of forums can only serve to move the world forward with positive, peaceful momentum.

And let's be honest here. With the Obamas at the helm of things, you can't expect things to be anything but well-planned. They are just so GOOD at this kind of thing... balancing a perfect amount of work and play. Even today, while all the world leaders were gathering together with Barack, Michelle was taking it upon herself to educate all the SPOUSES of the world leaders with a tour of one of Chicago's South Side youth centers.

Isn't she the absolute BEST? Seriously. This is exactly the kind of thing I would like to do if I were a world leader's spouse. Engage with others in the same position to actually take advantage of the power that we have as a world leader's spouse to educate ourselves and better the world in our own way. Wouldn't that be AMAZING?!

In short- yes. It would be. This is exactly why people like Eleanor Roosevelt, Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama are people I somewhat idolize. They just kept on raising the bar of what women in power (but not necessarily in the "official" leadership role) are capable of achieving. And I totally think I'm capable of doing this kind of thing... I mean, I already know the primary causes I would be focused on (national: the US education system; international: raising awareness and working to eliminate acts of genocide)... obviously, there are several more causes I would dabble in, but these would be my primary two.

Anyway, I clearly digress.

Back to the point- I simply think people need to just RELAX with all their animosity towards the NATO Summit being in Chicago. It'll be over before people know it and, quite frankly, the Chicago police department has their sh*t together... so all these protests going down? Honestly, no problem. The Chicago police will figure it out! I have 100% faith. No, seriously! I think they've got their system down pat!

What can I say? Everyone knows I'm a strong proponent of ACTIVELY advertising any and everything I loooooove,  and you better believe this is NO EXCEPTION. I just f'ing love Chicago SO MUCH. I think Chicago is simply the greatest city in which to live in the continental United States and deserves to be recognized at a global level.

Don't let me down, Chicago! That's all I ask.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Yoga Sculpt - Round 2... Yeah, It Really Doesn't Get Much Better the Second Time Around

Well, my friends. Here we are again. Another week... another yoga experience.

I hadn't been to yoga this whole week because of other things going on during the week. I was actually kind of craving my yoga class this evening... seriously, that detox feeling that you get after one of these classes is a-ddicting. So after one loooong week, you better believe that I was eagerly awaiting that yoga class of mine this evening.

After last week's disastrous Yoga Sculpt experience, I'd decided to just stick with the regular hot yoga classes. You know, kind of EASE my way into the whole yoga world, if you will.And thankfully, the class that I was going to make it in time for was just that (per the online schedule that had been posted)... sweet deal. Just some stretching and strengthening, but NO WEIGHTS.

Wahoo! I was totally down.

Yeah, that lasted until precisely the moment I stepped into the yoga studio and headed towards the front desk to check in... where one of the instructors was informing one of the other students who had just arrived that the 7:15 PM class got switched at the last minute to... that's right.

A Yoga Sculpt class.

I swear... sometimes, I really think God is just looking down on me and... well, having Himself a nice little chuckle, if you will.

Well, what was I supposed to do? As much as the thought of Yoga Sculpt... well, frankly, terrified me... I hated the thought of having made it all the way to the studio only to wimp out. I wanted my body cleanse/detox for the day!

Carpe diem and all that.

That's right, folks. I was going to stick it out.

Three-pound weights... I WILL conquer you today.


I swear, I don't know where my mind goes. I really think I'm warped sometimes. Because for some reason, I really get it in my head that I'm quite strong when, I mean... if you read that last blog post, you KNOW that's not the case. So the class actually started out just fine and dandy. We really eased into the session and... oh! I can't believe I've waited this long to tell you! The yoga instructor... was definitely from Ohio!! Weee!!

Now, if you know me at all... you know I love me all things Ohio! (Okay, that's an exagg. I don't love ALL things Ohio. But I do have a soft spot in my heart for Ohioans.) Granted, this girl was from the Mistake by the Lake (Cleveland), but whatever. She at least had the home state down pat.

Anyway, so that little bond really helped my motivation levels (again, I swear. Some of the things that motivate me? Not very well understood.) to start off. But... well, as the class progressed, I swear, this yoga instructor's chipper, encouraging voice just started... well, not going to lie- I was getting a little annoyed!

I mean, COME ON! How many f'ing lunges can people do with free weights in their hands? And reps? Again, come ON. How many reps do people really NEED to do? I swear, everytime I thought it was going to be the "last" set, this darn instructor would be like "Okay, guys! Just ten more... you can do it! Just ten more!" *Pauses for a few seconds while we've gone through two reps and then begins counting* "Ten, nine..." And let me tell YOU- when it comes to yoga sculpt, those extra two reps are felt in every. way. possible.

Honestly, there was one point where we were in plank position on our mats doing these push-up type things, focusing on breathing, focusing on... well, not dying, in my case. So, after like a million of these, the yoga instructor is like "Okay! Just five more... YOU can DO it!" (I swear... that voice... that TONE... sends chills down my spine even now) and well, we're all pretty much dying. I mean, I know you're supposed to focus on your breathing and all that, but honestly. That's a lot to keep track of when your primary focus is centered around not dying. Anyway, so we get through those last five just fine (well, that's another exagg but whatever) and I'm honestly ready to collapse- quite proud of myself for having really pushed through that last set.

Untillll... that damn yoga instructor immediately is like "Okay! Let's kick it up a notch! Come on, guys! You're doing great! You're almost through it! Let's do mountain climbers!" or something like that. First off- "let's kick it up a notch"?!?!?! What the f were we doing before?!? Secondly- well, I don't know about you but to me, no good can come of any activity termed "mountain climbers". I mean, if you were really interested in climbing mountains... well, go climb one. It was at this point that I literally just sat back on my knees and literally just STARED at the yoga instructor as she started going into this set of what looked like a godawful combination of lunges while in a plank pose.

To be perfectly honest, I didn't even feel guilty about just sitting there and staring (and not even attempting). I believe my exact thoughts were, "Seriously? Seriously." coupled with a few "You have GOT to be kidding me"'s... you know, just to mix it up a bit.

Sigh. Needless to say, round two of Yoga Sculpt? Not exactly a shining moment in my life. Quite the opposite in fact... a train wreck gone zen, if you will.

And yet... yet, after all that... that's right. As I was heading to the bus stop after class, I was getting all ready, set, pumped for tomorrow's yoga class.

Sometimes, I swear, I'm a masochist at heart.

Till next time...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

My (Painful) Quest for Michelle Obama Arms

So this week has been the start of my entry into the wonderful world of yoga, by way of Groupon.

I'd purchased a Groupon for an unlimited month of Corepower Yoga here in Chicago quite a few months ago, but I'd been saving it up for when I could fully take advantage of it... gotta get my money's worth, after all! Since I'm actually in Chicago for the entire month (yes, I know. It's all very exciting.), I decided no time like the present to really hop on that whole yoga bandwagon.

No time like... halfway through the year to really realize how few of my New Year's goals have come to fruition just yet. Might as well make (at LEAST) an attempt to cross off that goal of... well, becoming strong is how I framed it in my initial blog post. Getting Michelle Obama arms would be another way of putting it. (Oh, have I shared? I'm only slightly obsessed with her. And her arms. Just saying.)

Sooo... off to yoga I went. To be perfectly honest, I was quite surprised with how eager I was to get started on this endeavor. I guess it's that yoga mat that I won at the Healthy Living Summit last year... seriously, doesn't it just make you SO HAPPY to look at?!

I mean, there had to be SOME other reason for the motivation and heightened excitement levels because, let's face it, my past yoga experiences haven't exactly been the prettiest things, to say the least.

Sigh. Let's just say not much changes over time apparently.

So I looked at my local Corepower's yoga schedule and decided upon a 7:15 PM class... just enough time for me to head out of work, take the bus to yoga, and get nicely settled in (if you don't know me, I am a freak about being on time... preferably early). Yoga Sculpt was the class... doesn't that sound so grand? I was totally ready, set, PUMPED for my endeavor. I could just FEEL my Michelle Obama arms developing, just from making the decision to attend a class called Yoga Sculpt alone.

Thankfully, I make it to the yoga studio in a reasonable amount of time (God bless NO TRAFFIC!) and... well, was a little thrown off. I mean... this place was PACKED. And I'd gotten there 25 minutes ahead of time! I couldn't believe the LINE that had formed to get into the actual studio itself (I wish I could've snapped a picture, but, well, I guess shamelessness does have SOME bounds). Anyway, turns out I wasn't the only one with the bright idea to wait till the VERY last day that my Groupon was valid to redeem it... seriously, there was legit NO ROOM in that studio by the time class started. I really was a little concerned I was going to topple right onto my neighbor... after all, this was my very first yoga experience in a VERY long time... toppling over was a reasonable concern, in my personal opinion.

Anyway, I get myself nicely set up (thankfully, because I'd gotten there earlier, I was actually able to snag a spot... who knew that would be a luxury?), eagerly helping myself to a little balance block thing and some free weights. Now, initially I was a little confused. Most people in the class were helping themselves to these measly three-pound weights.

I know, I know- that's EXACTLY what I was thinking. How bad can three-pound weights be?

Well, I quickly learned.

Pretty. Darn. Bad.

I mean, my GOD! As if the studio wasn't hot enough (that's what I was expecting, and kind of looking forward to, since it WAS hot yoga), our yoga instructor wanted to start pumping iron like it was nobody's business. I mean, what the f*ck! It was like rep after rep after rep after rep. While also doing squats, lunges, and these random warrior poses... on TOP of having to do like all these push-ups (ummm, again... What. The. F.).

Oh my God. Just reliving the experience is giving me a headache

I guess that's a step up from feeling like I'm going to puke and faint... which is definitely how I felt at various points throughout that class. I guess it didn't really help that all I'd eaten today was a PBJ sandwich, a granola bar, and a fun size Snickers bar (that IS one of the more delightful surprises of today... CorePower Yoga was celebrating its 10-year anniversary and... well, they were giving away free candy! How can one resist?!?!). But whatever... lessons learned for next time, I guess.

I mean, I GUESS! I don't know what else to do! I have a full month of this Groupon to use (and you KNOW I'm going to take full advantage! I hate letting things like that go to waste!)... and, well GOD, how I so want Michelle Obama arms. The things that inspire me, really... not health, not general well-being, not a feeling of zen-ness... nope. I mean, let's just cut to the chase... Michelle Obama arms. Pure and simple.

Let's just say... a whole lot of effort is going into these Michelle Obama arms. I mean, just LOOK:

That's right, my friends. Note the extreme color contrast of my tank top... the bottom is the dry portion. The rest... well, the rest is 100%, good ol'-fashioned SWEAT. (Complete with my standard "what the f*ck" look... because, let's be honest, this face couldn't be more fitting for this occasion.)

Oh my lord. What if I can't move tomorrow? What if I wake up and legit just cannot. get out. of bed?

Oh Michelle Obama arms, do come quickly. I just don't know how much more of this I can take...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Dinner w/ (The Parents of) the US Ambassador to Israel.. No Big Deal

God, I love being staffed in town. A couple of weeks ago, my director graced me with the most delightful of news... I could work from Chicago for the entire month.

That's right... the ENTIRE month.

Yes. You heard right. E-N-T-I-R-E.

In case you can't tell, I'm still on cloud nine with the news. But I can't help it! I just love my apartment, I love Chicago, I love my life in Chicago... so you better believe I am taking FULL advantage of this month in Chicago. Who knows how long this'll last, really?

So, last night, I ended up doing one of my favorite things in Chicago, that I haven't done in MONTHS because I haven't been in town (darn travel). I'm part of Columbia's Chicago alumni group and they host an alumni dinner at a different restaurant every month or so... the host of this "dinner club" of sorts is le-git- the places he picks are always SPOT. ON.

Granted, the last few times I went (months and months ago), it was totally hit or miss what the turnout was going to be like. I mean, attendance was so skimpy for a few of the dinners that they were thinking of ending the "epicurean circle" for good. So, needless to say, when I sauntered in just a FEW minutes late (darn traffic) to our Turkish dinner at Turquoise (in Roscoe Village), I was a little blindsided with the turnout...

There were literally NO empty spots... but thankfully, one of the group's leaders offered me his chair while he... well, kind of sat in a corner. Sigh... oh well.

I figured it was going to be pretty hard to go wrong with this dinner pick- Mediterranean/Turkish cuisine is, after all, my FAVORITE type of cooking. And boy, was I right. This was one of the BEST dinners I've had in quite some time... from the appetizers to the main course(s) to dessert- you really couldn't go wrong. And boy, did we get our money's worth...

Complete with our very own speaker, guiding us through each dish and various Turkish fun facts throughout the evening...

To, of course, the food...

So. Much. Food.

And, of course, no meal would be complete without...

God bless dessert. Whoever invented the concept really does deserve a gold star.

But it wasn't JUST the food that was so delightful... with 40+ people crammed into a private dining room in the restaurant, you can be guaranteed it was surely one big family style meal. Let's just say I got to know my neighbors VERY well...

God, the Shapiros. They are only the most adorable couple... quite possibly ever. I actually lucked out, being able to sit next to them last evening. As soon as we started chitchatting, my memory just clicked and I TOTALLY remember having sat by them at another dinner over a year ago. They just have such a cool history, have such interesting travel stories, and have SUCH an interesting family. I specifically remembered them from last time, because they were telling me about how their youngest daughter had just gotten married to some guy she met because they were stuck together in a broken down vehicle during some group vacation of sorts. And now they are expecting their first baby and everything! Isn't that SUCH AN INTERESTING STORY?!?!?! Sigh. Well, it was to me. It was certainly touching enough for me to remember it over a year later... which is saying a LOT considering how bad of a memory I have. 

Anyway, as if that weren't enough... get this- their son used to work for like the Department of Defense under Obama last time I had spoken with this couple... and now?

Well, now, their son just happens to be... that's right, the US Ambassador to Israel.

You know, no big deal.

Come ON. An AMBASSADOR?? You have to admit, that's pretty awesome. (That, along with being an author and/or a news anchor and/or a talk show host, was another dream job of mine... clearly, I dream big... and random.) In any event, you better believe I snagged a picture with the Shapiros.

Shamelessness has no bounds, after all....

All in all, such a delightful evening. I love adorable people... I love meeting (parents of) famous people... I love trying new restaurants... and oh, who am I kidding?

I. Love. Chicago.