Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

Final post of the year!

Wishing all my loyal readers a very happy New Year and all the best for 2007. 2006 was a good year for me, and I'm really looking forward to what 2007 holds.

We're spending a quiet-ish New Year with just a few of Nick's close friends. We've got all the supplies for a traditional Greek New Year...vasilopita(cake with a coin baked into it), good steaks to make on New Year's Day, and pink champagne(ok, that's not so much Greek...but it's damn good).

I hope that you all have a wonderful and safe New Year's celebration with your loved ones.

A Very Lyday Christmas

This is why I miss these people.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Part 3: The American takes a road trip.

I hope everyone's holidays were very merry! Things have been busy busy busy for me over here on this side of the Atlantic. Until yesterday, Nick and I were sharing the house with Grandma and Aunt Aphrodite, which meant there was no end to my amusement. Imagine two Greek women in their eighties, one sassy and one a little out of it, neither of whom you can understand a single word that comes out of their mouth. No matter, their tone of voice told me everything I needed to know. One morning I heard Grandma yelling at Aprhodite in the kitchen; apparently she'd gotten in her way -- and there's NO getting in Grandma's way in the kitchen. Another example of Grandma: Nick's sister was making a salad with red leaf lettuce, and Grandma told her that it must be rotten and she should throw it out. Nick's sister tried to explain that it was a different kind of lettuce, but Grandma was having none of it, and finally said, "Fine, if you want to eat rotten lettuce, eat rotten lettuce."
Christmas day was spent at Nick's sisters', playing with kids and having a lovely meal. The day after Christmas we had a night out on the town, taking in an opera concert at the Greek National Opera and dinner at a fancy bistro in Kolonaki, the posh district of Athens. The singers were rather underwhelming; the soprano was quite good, but the tenor and mezzo were struggling. The orchestra was fantastic though, and they ended with a very funny "Symphony of the Toys" by Leopold Mozart that had unusual instruments such as bird flute and triangle, which was very holiday appropriate.
Wednesday we took Grandma back to the village and then took a road trip to Nafplio, a darling little town on the sea about 120 kilometers south of Athens. We booked a room at this quaint pension:

There was lots to explore in this little town. It reminded me a a bit of Italy: narrow cobblestone streets, flower boxes in the windows, and...GELATO! We found not one, but TWO amazing gelato places:

The nippy weather did not stop me. The peanut butter gelato at this place was to DIE for.

The main attraction of Nafplio was the gigantic 18th century Venetian castle perched on a mountain that looks over the city. We spent nearly two hours exploring the castle and taking in the magnificent views:

It was a great little road trip. Now we are back in Athens, and last night I had the best souvlaki in town at this place called Three Pigs. Stay tuned for my next post on Greek junk food...

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Photo Essay

I am feeling too lazy to write anything today, so I will just post some pics from the last couple of days.

We bought Nick's sister a bottle of champagne as a present for finishing her degree, and it came with two champagne flutes. Angelo wanted to drink some water out of one of the glasses, which I found hysterical:

Nick's nephews love the camera:

me and the little guy:

shopping on Ermou leading to Syntagma Square:

ruins in Ancient Corinth:

view of the Aegean sea (from the drive to get Grandma from the village)

some octopus (taken during our three hour trip to the ginormous Walmart-esque store Carrefour today)

Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Part 2: The American learns everything she ever wanted to know (and more) about Greek people

My initial awe at the beauty of Athens has not disappeared, but the past few days have been an interesting, non-touristy learning experience about the people of Greece and the way the country works (or doesn't work, according to Nick).

My second day in Greece began with many taxi rides about town to collect necessary paperwork for Nick to put his mother in her final resting place. The traffic in Athens is pretty horrendous -- and I thought Chicago was bad! Everyone in Europe drives like a maniac, this I know already, but I guess I'd conveniently forgotten. Once we had accomplished Nick's tasks for the day, we headed to a suburb near his sister's called Glyfada, where I experienced the Greek fast food chain Goody's. It is fascinating to me that this Greek chain does better than McDonalds in this country. I had a club sandwich, which is apparently all the rage here right now (not really sure why).

After lunch, we hung around Glyfada and shopped. I went to Zara and dropped some cash -- it was a favorite when I lived in Vienna, and I needed a fix. Later, we headed to his sister's house in Voula, which is south of Athens near the sea. I got to meet her adorable children, George and Angelo, who are six and one and a half. The occasion for our visit was George's school Christmas play, in which he had one line and was dressed like a wrapped present. Of course, I didn't understand a word of the play, but it was quite amusing. After the play, we went for a souvlaki (now I've eaten two in two days mmmmmmm) in Glyfada. It was a fun evening, and I was so happy to meet the rest of Nick's family.

Other Greek things I've learned about since my arrival: gypsies, these crazy people who accost you while you're sitting in a cafe and try to sell you various useless things. I didn't understand the difference between these people and homeless people, but apparently these people have homes. I don't know, I still don't really get it. Greek government offices apparently all close at 2:30 pm, so you have to get your business done early. The Mall
(it's actual name) is the first Greek shopping mall and would make any American feel right at home -- they even have Hooters! Which is where I am now, at an internet cafe surrounded by teenage boys playing video games, so I think it's 'bout that time...must go find Christmas presents for Grandma and Aunt Aphrodite...but more about them later...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

An American in Athens part 1: Arrival and First Day

Well kids, I made it to Athens in one piece and with all my luggage in tact! As anyone who has made an overseas plane trip can attest, there is always a good story that comes out of the 15+ hours of travel. Lucky for me, I made my journey with Swiss Air, which I must say is the best airline I've ever flown. I was seated next to a very nice Swiss engineer named Cyril, so I had a chance to practice my German a bit. When the flight attendants came on the intercom and I heard the words "Guten Tag, meine Damen und Herren", I had major flashbacks of my previous two European plane trips.
I only managed to sleep about 3 hours on the flight, but when I arrived at my connection in Zurich, I felt fresh and energetic. Sitting next to me in the waiting area was an adorable little woman holding a Greek passport. She smiled at me, and I decided to try out one of my newly learned Greek phrases on her -- "Milate Anglika?", I asked her (Do you speak English?). "Ohi", she replied (No), : "Yermanika, Elenkia" (German and Greek). Jackpot! So I had my second set of German conversations of the trip. I don't know why speaking German gives me such great pleasure -- but it does.
After what seemed like an interminably long flight to Athens, I finally arrived, gathered my 75 pounds of baggage, and rushed out into to the arms of my Nick. Although I'm not one for public displays of affection, the other people in the aiport disappeared for several minutes while I kissed and hugged the man I love.

My first night in Athens was incredible. A delicious dinner of dishes from Crete, white wine, raki (sort of like ouzo); then drinks in the Plaka neighborhood backlit by the Acropolis in the distance.

Today we hiked up the Acropolis to take in the ancient ruins. It was an experience that I will never forget. I'm pretty speechless, so I'll just include these pics:

Ancient Theater of Dionysus:


Friday, December 15, 2006

my apartment and building management is trying to kill me: part deux

A continuation of the saga from the previous evening...

Around 2:00 am I finally fell fast asleep (assisted by Xanax). I was awakened at 8:00 am by persistent hammering, banging, sawing, and drilling coming from my neighbor to the left. To my dismay, today was the appointed day for installing new windows in my neighbor's apartment. I had received a notice that mine would be changed on Monday, after which I promptly called the managemant company to persuade them to do it some other time. I know how these worker men do business -- they trample all over the apartment and leave a filthy mess for me to clean up. Zumi over at Oak I Evanston LLC (God love her--I terrorize the woman on a bi-weekly basis) assured me that they would clean up after themselves. Riiiiight, I thought to myself, invisioning the filth I'd come home to in three weeks time.

Fast forward to this morning, circa 11:30. After finally managing to fall back to sleep, cotton stuffed in my ears to drown out the pounding, I was awakened by another banging, this one a bit nearer. Once I finally realized it was my door being banged on, I threw on my bathrobe (due to the heat I was sleeping in near nothing) and sleepily opened the door to find three worker men staring back at me. "Oh, ju are steel sleeping", one of the men said. Apparently, they wanted to come in and change my windows immediately. I sighed, giving up the thought of any more sleep, and allowed them to enter.

After getting dressed and heading out for a latte and a muffin, I returned to the apartment to find...a GIGANTIC mess. They had covered my bed in plastic, but that was about it. The rest of the apartment was covered in a layer of filth, which I knew these men were not going to clean up. I sighed again, waited for them to finish, then went out and spent $30 on cleaning supplies and set to work. I figured as long as things were a huge mess, I may as well clean up right. Luckily I bought one of these:

perhaps the greatest thing ever invented and the best $20 I've spent in a long time.

Things are far from clean yet, since I spent a delightful evening having drinks and dinner and seeing Die Fledermaus with my girl Emmy. But with the Swiffer Wet Jet, I feel in control once more...

Please let this be the end of the apartment surprises. I'm not sure I can handle much more!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

we're havin' a heat wave

I am lying in bed right now, sweating through my sheets...and not in the good way. I came home from another night of singing to the jewels to find the radiator spewing heat as though it were -30 degrees outside. I called the management's 24 hour hotline, but of course they can't do anything about it til morning. Not that I really wanted a strange Polish man coming into my apartment to check the radiator at 2:00 am I'm combatting it myself. I've turned on the A/C to 60 degrees, dusted and turned on the ceiling fan, and am lying here waiting for it all to start cooling the place down.

Have I mentioned that I'm sick of living in absurdly expensive apartments that resemble a box, with mice running amok and out-of-control- radiators? That other "I" state to my right--you know, the one in which I was born and reared--is starting to look better and better.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

T-minus 4 days...

Until I am here.

And with my boyfriend, whom I haven't seen in over 2 weeks! I'm simply giddy.

Monday, December 11, 2006

home for the holidays

Dear readers, I am writing to you from Fort Wayne, Indiana, where it was a balmy 50 degrees today! I finally made it to my parents' house yesterday around 5:00 pm, where I was greeted with open arms and Mexican food night. My sister and future brother-in-law Jerod came over for dinner, and Jerod made his famous guacamole. After dinner I got to open some of my Christmas of which was a new digital camera!!!! I've never owned one before, so I'm very excited. I am getting some practice with it this week before my big trip over the ocean next Sunday. Here are some pics from our dinner at Trolley Bar tonight:

Jerod and his giant Bloody Mary with a shrimp in it:

the lovebirds:

me and mom:

In other news from the homefront, tomorrow is Mom's work Christmas party, and she is hosting Dad and I are going to sneak away to Muncie and visit my brother at school so that we can avoid the 20+ female pre-school teachers who will be taking the house by storm tomorrow night. Mom has entered the final phase of party planning, which my dad, brother and sister and I fondly refer to as "guest panic". Here is the face of guest panic:

But in all seriousness, the house has never looked better. Way to go, Mom!

Today I made the trek out to my sister's house on the east side of town to meet her two children...I mean dogs. They are precious, and they really took to their Auntie Emily:

Starburst (the Jack Russell terrier) and Lilly (the labradoodle) are simply adorable. Star actually likes wearing her sweater! They are definitely high-energy animals; they were jumping all over me when I got there. Maybe I'm not ready for that dog quite yet...

Life is good here with my loved ones. And just 6 more days until I get to see my honey! My heart is happy.

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Me vs. head cold is not going so well. I'm sure you all *love* reading about the progression of my illness, so I'll spare you the details. Let's just say that there is heavy chest congestion and some coughing up of lovely things. I finally went to the doc today and got an antibiotic, so hopefully I will kick this thing soon. I don't like coughing; it's basically the worst thing you can do to your vocal cords, but when your lungs are full of phlegm, there seems to be no alternative.
Unfortunately, I had an audition today for Utah Opera Apprentice Program. I sang anyway, but I really have no idea how it sounded because my ears and head were so clogged with mucuous. Oddly, my cords seem to be functioning fairly well, so as long as I didn't cough in the middle of an aria (which I didn't) things were pretty much ok. I decided to change things up and start with Marzelline's aria from Fidelio instead of my usual Juliette's Waltz, and then he asked for Deh we'll see. I'm proud of the three auditions I did this fall, and each one is a step in the right direction (I keep telling myself).
Only one Christmas in the Southwest oratorio stands between me and my trip home tomorrow. Yes, that's right, it's Christmas in the Southwest at Trinity church tomorrow. It sounds absurd, but it's actually quite lovely--accompanied by harp, marimba, and guitar. I only have one very minor solo in it, so I'm not stressing. Then it is off to Fort Wayne for a few lovely days at my parents'. I plan to sleep in, do a little shopping with Mom, hang my ornament (they always save one ornament for me to hang on the tree when I get home), FINALLY see my sister's house and dogs, have my laundry done by my mommy (yes, I'm spoiled), and spend some time on on our comfy couch next to a roaring fire in the fireplace. I really need this trip--I've been a bit depressed with everything that is going on lately--illness, missing Nick, stressful auditions and audition outcomes. It will be a real treat to be surrounded by people that love me and want to take care of me, even if it's only for a few days. Also--I have a feeling that I might be getting a digital something or other that rhymes with schamera for Christmas, so I may be having a picture posting heyday pretty soon here!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

me vs. head cold

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Romeo et Juliette at Lyric Opera, and it was absolutely delightful. The leads were spectacular; it was some of the best live singing I've heard in ages. Not only were their voices amazing, but their characters were so delightful to watch. They had a frolicky bedroom scene that was just too precious for brought back wonderful memories of those first throes of love, when everything is exhilarating and new. The sets and costumes were beautiful as well, and I had a terrific seat. Definitely one of my favorite perks of being a student -- twenty dollar opera tickets!
Today I am back in officeland. Since I didn't have anything going on today or tomorrow, I agreed to take an assignment from my temp agency. I'd forgotten how truly miserable it is! I left home at 8:04, but apparently one hour is not enough to get from Evanston to downtown on our city's miserable excuse for a public transit system. I was fifteen minutes late, which isn't too big of a deal, except for the fact that the only requirement of the job is being a warm body that shows up on time. To make matters a bit worse, I have developed quite a nasty head cold. I'm trying not to freak out, because I have a rehearsal tonight, an audition Saturday, and a Christmas cantata to sing on Sunday morn. Since I just had a cold in October, I'm rather annoyed, but I did atleast have at home all the necessary items for waging war on the virus. Cold Eeze lozenges, Ricola, Sudafed, Mucinex, Tylonel, Throat Coat tea with ecchinacea, Chicken soup, steamy showers, humidifier on full blast, soft Kleenex. I spent the entire day yesterday in bed, drinking a gallon of juice and sleeping it off. It's a bitter fight between my immune system and the virus, and I will win!
Now, I must go disinfect this desk area with rubbing alcohol. Germs are lurking in every corner, and I will not let them defeat me!

Monday, December 04, 2006

singing to the jewels

My gig last night consisted of what can only be referred to as "singing to the jewels." Once upon a time, during my sophomore year of undergrad, the DePauw choir went on tour to Hawaii. It wasn't so much a "tour" as it was a gorgeous beach vacation where we laid about on the beach all day, came in at around 4:45, rinsed the sand off our feet, donned our choir dresses, and went down to the lobby of the Sheraton Waikiki and sang for our lodging for 45 minutes. During the rehearsal process, Dr. Irwin told us that we needed to "sing to the jewels", which has now become a legendary catch phrase.

And last night, sing to the jewels I did. The gig was at a fancy club in Vernon Hills, a posh northwest suburb, for the Rolls Royce Club of America's holiday party. Unfortuntely, the inclement weather meant the members did not bring their Rolls' to the party, but they were dressed to the nines, and the alcohol was flowing freely. I arrived at quarter of seven, dressed in one of my best gowns and a wrap, and was greeted at the door by the valets, who held the door open for me. On my way in, I met one of the other tenors who would be part of the trio of singers performing that night. He had been doing this gig for a few years, and gave me the heads up. Apparently, we would be singing a few sets of Christmas carols, show tunes, and possibly a few "opera's greatest hits" arias (re: O mio babbino caro), then I could expect a delicious meal and possibly some wine or scotch. Now, I'm not a scotch drinker, but after seeing the "wall of scotch" at this place, I might become a convert. One entire glass wall cabinet held atleast 500 bottles of scotch, some of which I was told run a hundred bucks a SHOT. It was quite a spectacle.

In total, we probably sang about thirty minutes tops. We did a set of Christmas carols in parts (thank God I'm the soprano, so I get to sing melody all the time), then did a set of popular show tunes: I Could Have Danced All Night, some Rodgers and Hammerstein, and the like. Between sets I chatted up the other two singers, both tenors, who work quite a bit in the Chicago area. It's always great to meet other singers and swap stories and ideas.

After we finished our second set, the management and kitchen staff sat us down at a table and proceeded to serve us the best meal I've had in a while: prime rib, potatoes, broccoli, salad, bread. While we were eating, one of the women from the party came up to gush about our singing and asked if we would lead a Silent Night singalong. So, we headed up a rousing Silent Night, after which one of the old women pointed her finger at me and said, simply "O Holy Night." So I launched into O Holy Night in the highest key I could muster and let a high Bflat (the money note) rip through the party room. Afterward, we were led back to our table where one of the chefs had prepared us bananas foster for dessert. "Singing for your supper" was a literal term at this party.

As an opera singer, singing to the jewels is a vital part of your career. Opera ain't cheap, and it is sononomous with big money, which means wooing the Rolls Royce Club with high B flats and singing God Bless America to guests at the Sheraton Waikiki. Which means freebies like delicious prime rib dinners and free lodging at a five star hotel. I didn't become an opera singer for nothin' folks!