Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 recap

Preparations are being made here for New Years Eve and ringing in 2008. I made a giant vat of this soup last night, which took about two hours, but would have taken a LOT longer had I not had these:





Yes, we are now the proud owners of a set of Henckels Pro S Series Chef's Knives. Nick decided to spend his Christmas money on these puppies, which he's been coveting for a very long time. Frankly, knives scare me, especially giant ones such as these. I've always had a thing about blood, and I guess I have a thing about knives too, since they are apt to draw blood. Last night, in an attempt to show me that the knives are harmless, Nick sliced his arm open with a bread knife. Case in point. And needless to say, I was not happy or convinced at the harmlessness of the knives. We are planning to take a knife skills class at some point in the near future.

However, it did make the chopping of the veggies for this soup WAY easier and took about half the time it normally takes me to chop, which was awesome. I read somewhere that it is good luck to eat red lentils at New Years, and I had tasted this soup at a party a few weeks ago and LOVED it, so I decided to make it, despite its having about 339480342 ingredients. We had to go on a wild goose chase up Devon Ave. (for those of you non-Chicagoans, Devon is basically little India) for the garam masala, but I was thankful I did, because it really makes the dish. While the soup was cooking, we made our vasilopita, a Greek New Year's cake.



You bake a coin into the dough, and whoever gets the coin in their piece is the lucky one! I have loved learning about Nick's Greek traditions and turning them into our own traditions. We will be heading to our friends Allison and Ryan's house in Aurora for a party tonight, which should be a great time. It's going to be a giant adult sleepover since nobody wants to drive back to the city (or their respective suburbs) after midnight. So now that the preparations have all been made, it's time to think about the year 2007 -- so here goes.

I'm not much for New Year's resolutions. I feel like I give up quite a bit for my career -- financial security, time with loved ones, to name a couple -- that I really don't need to punish myself further at the start of a New Year. Maybe I've got the wrong idea about resolutions, but I feel like it means focusing on things you don't like about yourself or your life. Sure, we all need to lose weight or tone up, we all need to save more money, we all need to spend less time on our careers and more time with our families. I've got all of those same goals. If nothing else, 2007 turned me into an adult. I left the comforts of academia, began repayment on a giant amount of student loans, gained weight, started to make a home with a "significant other", and tried my damnedest to get ahead in my career. People over forty keep telling me that I should "enjoy your twenties" and that it's "the best time of your life". My guess is that those people weren't trying to make a career as a classical singer in their twenties. Yes, it's a fun time, and yes, I enjoy being childless in one of the greatest cities on earth, but I can't help but feel...well, old. No, I don't have to buy diapers or strollers or baby food, but my disposable income is pretty much non-existent thanks to student loan payments, voice lessons, coachings, audition fees, plane tickets to New York, and the slow growth of my teaching business--my primary income. Yes, complaints you've all heard a hundred times over, but it's the truth. I have a baby, and it's called my singing career.

But you know what, I'm doing it. I look back on 2007 and I don't see the increasing debt, the failed auditions, or night after night spent in rehearsals or teaching instead of with my boyfriend. I look back and see the day that I vowed to quit temping forever, and did it. I see a finished Masters degree that two years ago seemed insurmountable. I see the day that I got hired by OFY, my first real opera job (my bio is up on the website by the way, check it out!). I see a December full of lucrative holiday gigs, earning me more money as a singer than ever before. I see the fact that I am making a living as a voice teacher and performer, something I thought might never happen in my lifetime, let alone my first year out of school! Career-wise, it was a very good year.

My personal life has been good, too. In July, Nick and I moved in together, which was probably one of the best decisions I ever made. I know now, more than ever, that I want to spend the rest of my life with this man. And I think he feels the same way;) We survived a 6 month separation in 2007, while he took care of family business in Greece, and back then we dreamed about the day when we would have an apartment together and sleep next to each other every night instead of chatting on Skype. Well, that dream came true, and he's been snoring in my ear ever since. :)

Lest you think I'm a total Pollyanna, let me say this. 2008 will undoubtedly present new and unheard of challenges and obstacles. It is always interesting to figure out how I will stretch a dollar to pay all my bills, and the ever-changing existence of my singing career (basically: existent or non-existent) makes life an endless surprise. When you are a classical singer, you honestly never know what will happen next. It's terrifying and exciting all at the same time. But ever since I left undergrad, life has only gotten better. And I expect that life will only get better in 2008, as long as I keep looking forward but remembering the past in such a way that makes me thankful for every single thing that happened to me.

Cheers to a New Year, my friends and loyal readers.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas recap

I have a cold. Ugh. Cold's are the arch nemesis of the singer. Granted, it couldn't have come at a better time (no need to sing for over a week), but I have a somewhat lengthy adaptation-for-children of the Magic Flute to learn by next Saturday. I have learned some of it already, but I don't think it is anyplace near where it needs to be when I show up for rehearsal week next Saturday. It's exciting -- the first time I've ever been expected to show up knowing a role cold -- but also a little scary. Luckily the company supplied us with a very handy tutorial CD that is now on my brand new iPod nano (that's right!) and getting more plays than anything else, even that new Frou Frou album that is so good I feel like I'm dancing on rainbows when I'm listening to it.

Christmas was good this year, albeit way too short. Due to the Music of the Baroque Holiday Brass and Choral Concerts I was performing in all weekend (for which I just received the checks--let's just say the credit card is getting a huge payoff, so no complaints here), we didn't get to Fort Wayne until late Sunday night the 23rd, and then had to come back home Wednesday evening the 26th so Nick could be at work on the 27th. And I had to teach lessons at the music store in Palatine yesterday, so it wasn't a lengthy break for either of us. Nick is working this morning, but we both have Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday completely off, so that's going to be really nice. I guess this is the reality of being an adult -three days off at Christmas rather than three weeks. Perhaps I should look into a career in academia...

Nonetheless, Christmas was a wonderful time. It's certainly different than it used to be, but different in a wonderful way. When we were kids, it would be just the five of us at home on Christmas. We'd go to church on Christmas Eve (often times one of us would be singing), come home, open our Christmas Eve presents from Grandma Lyday (always pajamas), lay out cookies for Santa, hang up our stockings, and Dad would read us "Twas the Night Before Christmas". As we got older, none of this changed a bit. After my Grandpa Lyday's death, Grandma would sometimes come to spend the Eve/Day with us, and we loved having her there. As the years passed, and my sister and I found ourselves in significant relationships, things started to change. Last year I spent Christmas in Greece with Nick, who was grieving his father's death and taking care of family business. Although the circumstances were sad, we managed to have a nice Christmas together. This year we welcomed Elaine's new husband, Jerod, "officially" into the family (he's been around for many Christmases prior, but this was the first one where they were actually married). And this year we welcomed Nick to his first Lyday Christmas! It was a full house of people who love each other, and I think my sister and I both agree that we'd like to make it fuller sometime in the not so distant future. :)

And some traditions never die. Even though Elaine and Jerod were with his family on Christmas Eve, Dad still read us "Twas the Night Before Christmas". I think it will take my own progeny listening to the story to get me out of that tradition. If I never had any children, I'll bet I'd be a fifty year old woman sitting on the couch in my parents' house listening to my Dad do the voices.

And oh the presents. The giving and the getting. Christmas was always a big deal at our house, and it still is. We get spoiled. I think Nick was a little overwhelmed. But we got some very nice, very useful gifts. One of our favorites being the paper shredder. It is so therapeutic to feed junk mail though that thing. And I got the aforementioned iPod nano to replace the two year old iPod nano that I drowned accidentally in my bag a few weeks ago. The new model is SO much cooler, and you can watch videos on it, which is going to be very handy for my travels around Wisconsin during the tour. I also got a food processor, which I'm really looking forward to trying out this weekend. My mom's gift from us was the hit of the day though; an electric wine opener. It was magical.

Here are a few pics from the holiday. I hope you and yours had fantastic holidays and are looking forward to 2008. Soon to follow -- my wrap up and thoughts on 2007, a blogger tradition.

Love!


my lovely boyfriend "helping" me decorate cookies


Elaine and Jerod on Christmas morning


Elaine and I on Christmas morning

Monday, December 17, 2007

hair did

Ok, ok, I get it. You want to see my hair cut. Here it is all did up today:



In other news, I decided to make the blog public again. What's the point of having it if only five people read it? So, feel free to tag me again so that I can get the traffic going. Hello world, the Midwest Princess (Chicago branch, not to be confused with the Detroit branch) is BACK!

Pics of party are forthcoming, as soon as I get them off of Nick's camera. My camera, sadly, is still kaput, along with my iPod. Long, sad, not-so-interesting stories that I don't feel like talking about right now. Nonetheless, it was a great party, despite the snow, and I was totes Sandra Lee with a signature cocktail and tablescape.

I'm off to finish Christmas shopping. Blurghmerp. I got a little bit done yesterday, but today I must finish the brunt of it. In singing news, I will be the featured soloist in this Holiday Gala Concert with the Northwest Festival Orchestra in Arlington Heights on Wednesday. It should be fun and relatively easy, just an excerpt from Hansel and Gretel and some carols. And I'll get to wear one of my gowns I've only worn once before! Yippee!

Wish me luck with the Christmas shopping. It's a crazy world out there...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

partay

T-minus five hours until our party starts! AGGGHHHH! I've been going since 9:30 this morning, despite not getting to bed until 1:30 after the concert and a late (late) dinner and cocktail with Mom and Dad afterward. The MOB concerts these past two nights went really well, but my voice is desperate for some rest followed by some non-straight tone (re: normal) singing. Next week we have our taping for WTTW, which should be a ton of fun. They came to take some video of our dress rehearsal the other day, and we each have a "makeup call" and get a catered lunch next Saturday during the tapings. For just a bunch of geeky musicians, it's pretty funny. OH and a brief note about the after concert party on Thursday night -- apparently, one of the basses is not only an accomplished singer but has a nice side gig as a brain surgeon. Not even kidding. And lives in a mansion in Oak Park, and hosted an off the hook party on Thursday evening, complete with endless Veuve Cliquot and delicious food. It was super fun, because it wasn't like the usual hob-nob with the rich parties; it was just our choir and a few staff people and friends. Now, I just need to become a brain surgeon so I can have a house like that...

So back to today. I'm scurrying about, since I didn't have time to do much for the party this week. Being the lovely man that he is, Nick took care of all the baking and desserts this week, so we are set with homemade sweets. But as of this morning I still had to: clean, grocery shop, make all the party food, and find something fabulous to wear. The latter being the biggest concern. I tried my very best to do only "walking errands", since the grocery is in walking distance, but there is only one cute clothing store on our street, and I found NOTHING there that I liked. So, I powered up with an Einstein's bagel and coffee, and headed out to Target and the grocery, both which were mad houses. I made it out of both stores in pretty good time and stayed within budget, which was a Christmas miracle. I have to say, I love entertaining and the rush that comes along with preparing a party. I hope we have a good turnout, and the snow doesn't keep people home!

I will post some pics tomorrow or Monday. Also, I promise to post a pic of my new haircut as soon as I take one that I like! Probably tonight, as I plan to spend some quality time primping.

Back to preparing!

Monday, December 10, 2007

december survival

I survived crazy pre-holiday weekend #1. Wait, I more than survived! I sang the hell out of Rejoice Greatly yesterday and it felt so good. I thought to myself, if I can do this, and do it incredibly well, I can do just about anything. As Robert says, there is more than one way to make a singing career, and I'm beginning to think maybe early music is that other route I'm looking for. I'm going to start looking at some more Handel arias and start talking to people who do this sort of thing and just see what's out there. It's back to the top of the singing roller coaster, atleast until my rehearsal this afternoon where I will mostly likely feel like I'm murdering my vocal chords.

Saturday was also an insanely busy day. My piano students in Palatine (most under the age of 8) were giving their recital, plus I was filling in teaching a colleague's lessons who had previously filled in for me while I was in New York. The recital was so nerve wracking, I was shaking in my conservative teacher outfit! I was a bit afraid that there would be a few breakdowns, seeing as though most of the kids are reallllly little (youngest is 5!), but they all got up there and played like little pros! I was really proud of them, and a little proud of myself for helping them prepare for it. And the parents were thrilled, of course, not to mention my boss at the music store. Good times.

So today I treated myself by staying in bed until 9:30 (what am I saying, I stay in bed until 9:30 almost every day) and lazing about with coffee this morning. The craziness does not let up this week, but as you know, my days don't get crazy until 2:30 or 3 in the afternoon. But between the hours of 2:30 pm and 9:00 pm, I'm dashing all over the city and surrounding areas in my little blue Cavalier. Tonight, for instance, a rehearsal in Old Town at 3:30 and then driving like a bat out of hell to Plainfield and praying I get there in time for my student's lesson. It sounds crazy, and it is, but my schedule there is starting to fill up, so I'm hopeful that it will turn out to be a good thing for me. And hopefully I won't be killed in a traffic accident thanks to icy weather. Pray.

At some point, I need to Christmas shop and prepare for the party we're throwing on Saturday. I'm thinking of going to Woodfield on my way to Palatine tomorrow. It's right on the way, and maybe at 11 am on a Tuesday it won't be a complete madhouse. I really need to find Nick's present. OH and I almost forgot, I'm getting my hair cut! I want to get it short, like Katie Holmes.



What do you think?

Friday, December 07, 2007

we are not alone

A couple of nights ago, Nick suggested that I look into buying the domain name midwestprincess.com. Curiously, we typed in www.midwestprincess.com to see if, by chance, the name was already taken.

Well........

we found this.

Ummmmm.....yeah.

After Nick picked himself up off the floor laughing, I resigned myself to the fact that I am not the only midwest princess out there. Looks like I'm resigned to blogger until further notice.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

snowy day! and christmas crafts

When the going gets tough, the tough get....CRAFTY! I finally got around to making my wreath today, for which I bought all of the supplies a couple weekends ago. It was painless and super easy, probably took me all of about fifteen minutes, including putting the nail in the door and hanging it. Here is my beautiful creation:



All you need to make this beautiful wreath is the following:



Some pine cones, some cranberry garland, and some green bendy-wires, in addition to the plain pine tree garland wreath. i also had a very beautiful faux poinsettia flower for the corner. All you do is afix the things where you want them to go, secure with green bendy-wire, and VOILA! You have a beautiful wreath for you front door that only cost you a fraction of a store-bought wreath.

It's a snow day here in Chicago -- total snow fall nearing nine inches in some parts! I think we probably got five or six. I cancelled my students in Winnetka this afternoon. I cheated death once (yesterday, while driving from Palatine to Wilmette, and then home), and I don't intend to take my chances again today. I've got a rehearsal on the south side at seven, and that will be my only driving venture out of the house today. I pulled on my snow boots and went out to mail some letters a little bit ago and took a stroll down the street. It was lovely.


our street after the snowfall

I'm starting the Christmas shopping today, well the looking and idea-getting really. I'm pretty sure I've got my father's gift nailed down, for Tommy I'm clueless, mom's and Elaine's will be easy because I just buy them something I'd love for myself, and Nick's is tentatively set. His is going to require some looking. And those are all the people I'm buying for this year, because those are the only people I will see, and I'm far too poor to afford any more gifts. I just got the brilliant news today that my rehearsal pay for Opera for the Young should arrive mid-month, so that is going to take care of most of the gifts. The credit card thanks you, OFTY.

And now, back to watching Ellen and being a general lazybones until my rehearsal. My voice feels like ass today after that Messiah orchestra rehearsal last night, so hopefully it's not planning a coup on me this week. Seriously voice, not now.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

back

I am indeed back from New York, and not a moment too soon. We got about six inches of snow today in Chicago, and last time I looked out the window, it was still coming down. Wouldn't want to be in an airport today! I did, however, have to drive all over creation in the rapidly flowing snow today, which was not very enjoyable. I'm not a superb driver to begin with, and I don't have a ton of experience with driving in snow having lived and worked in the city for the past three years. This winter will be different, since I have to drive quite a lot each day.

As for New York, it was....disappointing. Not my performances at the auditions, just the general feeling I got from the whole thing. I sang well for Seattle on Friday, but at the back of my mind, ever since my CC audition (abbreviation used to protect myself), I've been feeling like a "dime a dozen" soprano. Back up, I don't think I talked about my CC audition on here. Well, short story is, I heard three women before me start with the exact same I aria I usually start with. So I was faced with the choice of going in there and singing it AGAIN or changing up my plan. Thing is, Norina's aria is a great starter, it shows legato and plenty of coloratura, a billion high Cs, and fun acting. So, I can understand why everyone with my voice type likes to start with it. I finally decided to go in and start with Deh vieni, which is not showy but a great piece for exposing the true beauty of the voice and legato, plus a couple of low notes in there to show the evenness of ranges. The CC people (who are known for being complete jerks) talked through my entire aria, then didn't ask for anything else. Granted, they were only hearing one piece from everyone due to time constraints, but the whole thing left me feeling cold and irritated. I took the time to come down and audition for you, atleast flipping LOOK at me while I'm singing!

So, back to New York. I couldn't shake the feeling, hard as I tried, and as much as I listened to Natasha B. I sang fine, but maybe my heart just wasn't in it enough, I don't know. I found out Saturday night that I didn't get called back for Seattle, which then threw me into another funk for Chautauqua on Sunday. Again, sang fine, but I got the idea that the auditioners were completely bored with what I was doing. I just don't know how to make myself stand out, short of taking my top off at the audition (can I do that? -- most of the people are gay men anyway, so it wouldn't do much good). I have a great voice, I'm immaculately prepared, and I have some charisma -- unfortunately there's about a billion people with that exact same resume vying for very few positions.

I came back to Chicago feeling frustrated and down. Besides spending quality time with Andrea, Robert, and an old friend from high school, I felt like I'd accomplished very little. I slept until noon on Monday, got up and moped around in my robe, then begrudgingly headed out to teach and go to rehearsal for Music of the Baroque. Today again, slept late, moped, then decided to go get a pedicure. While getting pedicure and reading Oprah magazine, I came across a very inspirational article about failure. The author was promoting the idea that failure is actually success, because trial and error is actually the best way to learn to do anything well. That was all I needed to turn my attitude around. I have four fantastic gigs coming up, I have singing work until next April, and that is a very awesome thing, more than most singers can say. I decided that for the rest of December, I'm going to concentrate on the singing work I DO have, and not think about arias and YAP auditions. I will enjoy the holidays and my holiday gigs and spending time with family and doing Chicago Christmas-y things.

So, if you'd like to hear me rock out on Rejoice Greatly (plus act as core of soprano section for all chorus parts, god help me) with chamber orchestra, here are the deets:

Handel's Messiah at Trinity United Methodist Church
1024 Lake Avenue, Wilmette
Sunday, December 9th at 10:30 am.

Come see what all those stupid f**ing opera companies are missing!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

flight delay

Oh, the joys of Chicago airports. I'm currently sitting in Midway airport, which is usually better than O'Hare, waiting for my flight, which was supposed to leave at 3:45 but is delayed until 5:00. Mrrrrrhhhhh. And I just realized I forgot my camera. Double Mrrrrrrhhhhhh. But on the upside, I had a lovely lunch at the Walnut Room at Marshall Fields (now Macy's, but we refuse to call it that) with Mom and Elaine, who are in Chi for the day on a shopping bus trip sponsored by my parents' country club. Then I got to spend a little time with my honey before hopping on the orange line to Midway. I'm going to miss him on this little trip, even though it's only three nights. We haven't been apart much since he returned from Greece, so we were acting like silly teenagers, making out in a coffee shop before I had to go.

Luckily, I have plenty to keep me busy. Not only have I found my way to the interwebs, where I can catch up with emailing and yaptracker and the like, I have a one minute monologue to memorize for my audition tomorrow. That's right kids, not only do I have to have five opera arias in four languages polished and ready to go, I have to perform a monologue. I haven't done a monologue since 2005 when I attempted a few music theater auditions. Of course, being the last minute person that I am, I realized yesterday that I needed to come up with this monologue. After searching my home library and consulting with Robert (who insisted I go with Libby Mae Brown's outttakes audition monologue), I found the Complete Plays of Gilbert and Sullivan in my collection and decided to select from there. I have no problem memorizing on short notice, it's just the "acting" part that gets me. I'm a decent actor, not brilliant, but I can say so much more with my singing than with words. But, since I have to jump through hoops of fire to get hired somewhere, this is what I'm doing. Literally, why don't they just put out hoops of fire and see who will jump through them? It's about as arbitrary as that, kids. Problem is we'd all do it. And figuratively, we are all doing it. But honestly, the fire thing might be easier. What's a little second degree burn for something you really really want?

And I really really want it. I realized last night at the Lyric, as I do many times when I go see performances: I can do this.. The soprano last night was great, but her voice wasn't ridiculously amazing. Her voice was good, but no better than mine will (hopefully) be in 5 or 6 years. And I can sing runs like a badass too. Plus I'm tall and slim and look great on stage. I'm just dying for someone to give me the chance. I'm super excited for Opera for the Young, where I'll be performing every day in front of audiences (children, mind you, but they can be the toughest audience sometimes). I know that there's a major luck factor involved, but I think that I have pretty good luck. Didn't Robert Altman once arbitrarily choose me out of thirty women to play a role in his opera? If that's not luck, I don't know what is.

So I'm waiting. Waiting for someone to notice me, for someone to take a chance on me and find out that I will work my ass off, put my heart and soul in it, and be a good colleague. As Nick always tells me, I just have to keep plugging away. I'm so lucky to have him as a supporter and number one fan. So I'm going to go in there and be the best damn Norina these peeps have every heard. And maybe I'll get lucky, and I'll jump through their hoop of fire and come out on the other side, unharmed.

NYC, here I come.

jet setting

Well kids, I'm getting ready to jet set my way to New York City for audition trip number two, or as I like to call it: "Hope and a Prayer NYC Weekend". Basically I'm just praying that these auditions go splendidly, and hoping that, by some act of God, I am the prototype of what the auditioners are looking for. I received my rejection email from Natchez yesterday, which I must admit, was quite a blow. Of all my auditions, I felt like that one had gone the very best, and I had gotten such a good vibe from the auditioners. Besides that, it's the smallest company I've auditioned for so far---most of the other ones, like Florida Grand and Seattle, I was just happy and amazed to have even gotten through the first screening and received an audition. So this weekend, I'm going to bring it. I just have to.

Luckily, after the aforementioned rejection letter was received, I had tickets to see Julio Cesare at Lyric, so my spirits were lifted by an extremely innovative, creative, and astoundingly well-sung production. I will explain it to you in one word: DANCE! And with this clip of the end of Cleopatra's aria "Da tempeste":



There were three, count them, THREE amazing countertenors in this production. The Ptolemy was extremely mean and scrappy, and in one scene he did a front flip! ACH! The Cleopatra, Danielle de Niese, was just awesome. Every one of her arias was choreographed, and she danced and flitted around the stage with such charisma. The whole production was totally delightful and it didn't seem like four and a half hours at all! The funny thing about when the operas are so long is that they sell "box dinners" during the intermissions. The lobby becomes complete mayhem as all the rich oldies camp out on the floor and the stairs, eating their box dinners and sipping champagne. Since Nick declined seeing a four and a half hour long opera (imagine that!), I took my friend Mark, and we lived it up, sitting on the floor of the Lyric Opera with our turkey sandwiches and glasses of champagne. Toward the end, I was getting a bit tired of the ABA format (do I really have to hear that A section again? I mean, let's just get on with it. We know you want vengence). It was a terrific time, and it reminded me of how much I love Baroque opera. I need to work on some Handel. I'd love to be a Handelian. Or a Mozartian. or an -ian anything, really.

I'm going to be off the radar for a couple of days but hopefully I will have some good stories and pictures when I return. I get to see Robert play young Scrooge this weekend, so I really can't think of a better way to spend the non ten minutes I'm auditioning. Hope and a Prayer NYC Weekend 2007. Keep me in your thoughts peeps.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

holidayz

Well readers, I've finally escaped from my turkey and cranberry sauce induced haze and am getting around to blogging. It was a wonderful Thanksgiving, my parents' house filled to the brim with family members, eating and drinking too much, watching football, playing cards, cooing over the baby (my cousin's four month old, the newest addition to the clan), and generally having a relaxing time. A few of us did venture out to the shops on Friday to score some good deals and to hit up Sonic. A little backstory -- Nick has been dying to go to Sonic for months now. We see constant commercials on television advertising Sonic, yet there is not a Sonic within a hundred miles of where we live. Nick's one chance to have it was to go when we were visiting Fort Wayne. During my sister's wedding, there wasn't time, and during our brief trip for Allison's wedding, there still wasn't time. This trip, Nick refused to leave Fort Wayne without having some Sonic. So Friday we made the twenty minute trek from my parents' house so that Nick could finally experience Sonic. I don't think he was disappointed...the Mac 'n Cheese bites were pretty delicious, as was the cranapple fizzy drink thingie. And now he has finally stopped whining about it every time a Sonic commercial comes on the television! Win-win situation for both of us.

And now I am back in Chi, thrown back into the crazy world of audition season and holiday gigs and teaching and holiday parties. I had an audition on Monday, and I'm flying to New York on Thursday for two more auditions over the weekend. And last night began rehearsals for the Christmas concert with Music of the Baroque. I'm always astounded by the musicianship of these people, and most of them have done this same concert many, many times, so I've got a little bit of catch-up to do. But I held my own with sight-reading, only making a few mistakes here and there. This month is sure to be nuts, but it won't kill me. And there will be plenty of fun holiday outings mixed in -- trips to the German Christmas market downtown, last minute shopping on a beautifully lit Michigan Avenue, and one fabulous Christmas party thrown by yours truly should make the season bright.

Speaking of the season, Nick and I decorated the apartment on Sunday night. We bought an inexpensive fake tree from Walmart, and I went a little crazy in Michael's buying craft supplies for my table scape and wreath. I'm still working on the wreath, but the tablescape looks divine. Check it out!







Happy Holiday season everyone!

Monday, November 19, 2007

news

I started writing a post last Thursday but never finished it, so I'm just going to start over today. My head has felt rather jumbled lately, so I'm not surprised that I completely forgot to finish and publish it. Ah, well. Here's what's going on: Saturday was mine and Nick's two year anniversary, which we celebrated with dinner at North Pond restaurant. We've been wanting to try this place for quite awhile, and we were not disappointed. We had the seasonal tasting menu, which was five courses of absolute bliss. Despite the fois gras ban in Chicago, they somehow managed to sneak it onto one of the plates, which pleased me to no end. The whole evening was wonderful, and North Pond really made us feel special by printing a special souvenir menu with "Happy Anniversary Emily and Nick" at the top, as well as writing it in chocolate on our dessert plate. I would definitely return, especially since the menu is constantly changing with the seasons.

In singing/career news, I've booked a second flight to NYC for the first weekend in December for my Seattle Opera and Chautauqua Opera auditions. My NYC friends are going to love me by the end of audition season, whatwith my constant crashing on their couches! I'm about to head out to a coaching with my favorite Scot, Alan D., whom I'm hoping will whip my ass into shape. I haven't been doing a very good job of pushing myself lately, and I need to work on that.

Tomorrow I am doing something I've wanted to do since I moved to Chicago...I'm going to see a taping of the Oprah show!!!! My friend Ashleigh got tickets for a few of us girls, so tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn, I will be heading over to Harpo studios in the West Loop. I'm not sure what the show is about yet, but I'll post a full review of the experience tomorrow. It's sure to be interesting!

Wednesday we head to Indiana for a much anticipated four and a half day weekend. Wednesday evening we will be hitting the "Fort Wayne bar scene" (I write that in parentheses because I'm not sure that's what it should even be called) with my sister, her husband, my cousin, and her boyfriend. We're sure to run into some people we went to high school with, so I'd better be looking my best. I need to exude the "I live in Chicago and have a glamorous career and a much more exciting life than you!" confidence. If only to convince myself. Thursday will mean 20 people crammed into my parents' house, eating and watching football. Most of my family cares a great deal about football. I thank my lucky stars that Nick is not into sports, thereby exempting me from having to pretend to care. There will be much eating, drinking, sleeping, and rubbing of bellies. We're both looking forward to the break from work and have some real R&R. With 20 people in the house, we'll see how much R&R actually takes place.

I may post again before the holiday, but if not -- Hope you and yours have a great Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

another one joins the fray

Well readers, the day has just gotten better (and it could only get better, trust me), because another of my nearest and dearest has joined the blogger kingdom. Head over to Sensitiva McFeelingsly's blog for a look at life through the eyes of a newlywed. As you might expect, she exudes blissful happiness on her blog, but it's not without a healthy dose of wit and humor. To honor the birth of her blog, I will continue her "Five Really Good Things", because frankly, I'm in dire need of remembering the good things in life today.

Five Really Good Things

1. Quiet evenings at home, snuggling with my sweetie -- a feeling of safety, warmth, and comfort.
2. Pedicures -- pampering at it's best.
3. A Heart-to-Heart with an old friend that you don't get to see often.
4. Christmas decorations -- festively lit streets and houses.
5. Coffee drunk out of a mug while relaxing -- not out of paper while on the train.

So those are my things...not one of them dealing with music or my career whatsoever. Because there is so much more to life than a career, and I have to keep reminding myself of that fact each day. I am blessed with an abundance of love and good friends, good health, a caring family, a great place to live, and many wonderful and supportive colleagues in my profession.

Now I really need to get to the gym, lest I sit around moping all morning. I'm back down to my desired weight, and I need to keep it that way!

Monday, November 12, 2007

funk

I've been in a bit of a funk for the past couple of weeks. I'm frustrated with my teaching jobs and the amount of commuting I'm doing; basically, the music schools where I'm working are not filling up my schedule enough to make the commute worthwhile. I keep hearing promises that it will get better and then...nothing. With my private students, I have a little more control, and I'm planning to raise my rates after the New Year. I'm not being compensated for all the driving around and...it's starting to drive me insane (pun intended). On the audition/singing front, I had a frustrating voice lesson on Friday, and I just haven't been myself singing-wise, so I'm going to try to step it up this week and do lots of practicing. I've got less than two months to memorize Pamina for Opera for the Young. I know the aria and one of the duets already, but it's a somewhat absurd translation, so I've got to get on that. AND I've got to get Rejoice Greatly up and running. I'm doing an audition this morning for another Messiah gig, and I'm afriad Rejoice is not quite up to par. Atleast it's a wakeup call that it's not something I can just pull out at the last minute and expect to be good. No, siree it is not.

I'm attending the dress rehearsal for Die Frau ohne Schatten at Lyric this afternoon, so hopefully I will be inspired. Sometimes when I go long periods without seeing a show, and my "performing life" consists of auditions and church, I tend to forget how wonderful live stage productions can be.

The weekend was fairly uneventful. Friday night we went out to Aurora to check out Allison and Ryan's new house, which is fabulous and gorgeous, and I ended up drinking waaaay too much, so most of Saturday was spent on the couch. Yesterday we got a little eager about Thanksgiving, so we went to Sam's (beverage outlet SUPERSTORE) to buy a few bottles to take to my parents' house for turkey day. Sam's overwhelms me, but it's always amusing to go with Nick because he is like a child in a toy store in that place. Nick loves his wines and is fairly educated about them, and when it comes time to decide which to purchase, he has a VERY difficult time deciding. It's funny and adorable. We made it out for under $50, which is a successful trip by our standards. Then we went to the Greek grocery store to buy some ingredients to make Nick's mother's Christmas dessert recipes. I can't read any of the recipes (they are in Greek), so I'm off the hook for most of the cooking. But I participate heartily in the eating!

It's time to go attempt Rejoice Greatly a few times before the audish. Let's hope this voice feels like moving today. Sometimes, I swear, my voice is like a bratty child. Good luck trying to convince it to do something it doesn't feel like doing.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Hiver est arrivee

Well kids, it's winter. I've officially broken out the winter coat (not the giant sub-zero temperatures winter coat, which will hopefully not make an appearance until late December/early January), and I'm seriously considering breaking out the hat and gloves. These days, I don't have to walk as much, since I drive to work, so I'm thinking that the bone chilling Chicago temps might not affect me as much as in years past. I remember in great detail the winter during which I was temping at the AMA and living in Evanston, which required a transfer from the red line to the purple line, often times necessitating a fifteen to twenty minute wait on the platform for the blessed purple express. One day, while shivering in my pea coat, I started to cry because I was so cold. I took matters in to my own hands, went out the next day and purchased the largest puffy down coat anyone has ever seen. I love it, ridiculous as it is. It needs its own chair at dinner.


Last November.

In audition news, Florida Grand on Monday was...fine. The room was pretty dead, which is always discouraging, as you push harder and harder to hear that familiar ring of your voice that is lost on carpeting and draperies. But I learned an important lesson, and that is: no matter how I feel on a given audition day, I have to go in there and sing and perform without that judgemental voice in the back of my head going "that high C sucked" or "that run went flat". When I sang for Natchez, I was totally on and just PERFORMING, not thinking about how my voice was sounding to the auditors. When I left the room after that audition my heart was pumping and my adrendaline was flowing. I need to recreate that feeling for my next audition, and now I know this. But, Florida wasn't a total bust, and they asked for Deh vieni for the second aria, which I sing very well. So, I pack up and move on to the next audition, Central City in a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, I'm enjoying some down time before the craziness of the holidays begins. This week is pretty quiet here at chez Nick et Emily. Nick is working long hours, I'm doing lots of teaching (and driving -- good heavens, I am in my car a lot) and we're both usually exhausted and in bed by 11:00 pm. Good times. Friday we've been invited to Allison and Ryan's (you'll remember them from the wedding photo in an earlier post) new home in Aurora for a little get together. I told Nick last night, I am a Chicago suburb whore. On a weekly basis, I am in no less than four to six 'burbs -- Palatine, Plainfield, Evanston, Winnetka, Wilmette...I need a car service. If I were rich, the first thing I'd do would be to hire a car service to take me around to all these places. With a driver named Rolph. A girl can dream.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Sundee night musings

It's 9:49 on a Sunday night, and yet it feels like it must be midnight. Nick is snoring on the couch, and I'm trying to keep my eyes open until atleast 11:00 pm. Does the end of Daylight Savings Time get more difficult to deal with as you get older? Because I don't remember feeling this way in the past. I stayed up late last night watching Spider Man 3, so the extra hour this morning was very nice. I guess I am getting old...increasingly, my idea of a fun Saturday night includes some tempura and spider maki rolls from the local sushi joint, followed by a little cuddling and movie watching, followed by a shared ice cream sandwich with Nick in bed before nodding off. Yes, I do still like to go out, but my party self seems to emerge less and less these days. Could have something to do with the stress of auditioning.

Speaking of auditioning, I've got my Florida Grand audition tomorrow. I haven't done much singing since I got back from NYC last Tuesday, and my voice has actually been feeling kind of crappy, so I'm not really looking forward to it. I know I'll pump up tomorrow, but for some reason I've just felt lazy and unmotivated for the past several days. I scheduled a lesson for this week, so I'll be forced to step it up a little bit. And I need to get back to the gym. I think part of my malaise has been due to not enough cardiovascular exercise.

Things I have been motivated to do lately: redecorating our living room! On Saturday, I sold the futon that I purchased in a foggy, sleep deprived haze last March in an effort to combat insomnia. It's a nice futon, but seriously people, we've moved beyond the futon days of our lives in this house. A very nice, (tiny) Asian girl has found herself a new bed for her studio apartment. Today we purchased a new chair and a large rug for the room! Lucky for us, they had the rug in stock, so we got to bring it home! I don't want to post a picture until we get the chair, so you can see the full effect of the new room. It's very exciting to have furniture that all matches and is so pretty! And not from Ikea! Don't get me wrong, I love Ikea, but sometimes a girl needs something un-Swedish that doesn't require assembly.

I'm getting excited and slightly overwhelmed thinking about the upcoming holidays. I've got a lot of good stuff coming up, but it's just...ALOT. Music of the Baroque asked me to do their Christmas concerts, which is fantastic, and the extra money is a Godsend at a time of much need. Plus I loved singing with them and am so so SO flattered they asked me back. Then I'm doing Rejoice Greatly with chamber orchestra at my church, which I've done a hundred times but will still be stressful because that aria is a biaaaaatch. I always say I need someone behind me pinching my ass to get through that thing. Any volunteers for the position? Then there's getting my students ready for their holiday recitals and starting this new job in Plainfield on Mondays (I start tomorrow -- I'm driving an hour each way to teach for an hour--yes, ridiculous, I know, but I have to get started). And now I've signed on to do another holiday concert (solo gig!) with a suburban orchestra, which is very exciting and won't be too difficult as it will just be Hansel and Gretel stuff and O Holy Night. The problem is the juggling of schedules. Theoretically, I can do all of these things, but it requires some shifting of students and getting subs for Palatine, which can be a major pain in the ass. What irks me is that I generally have the hours between 9 am and 2 pm completely free. But can anyone schedule anything during those times? No. Everything must be crammed in the hours between 3 pm and 10 pm. So get ready...come December, I will be hard pressed to find time for anything. Unless of course you'd like to have a lunch date or a 9 am coffee. Because I'm always free for those!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

for Elaine

Alright, alright Elaine, I'll fill this out.

1. What kind of SOAP is in your bathtub right now?
Dove cool moisture bar, and some fancy French body wash that I hardly ever use

2. Do you have any watermelon in your refrigerator?
no--it's not really in season right now

3. What would you change about your living room?
well, i just sold our futon today, so we are going looking for a nice comfortable chair to add to the living room! i'd also like a rug, and more things on the walls

4. Are the dishes in your dishwasher clean or dirty?
no dishwasher here. i dream of the day i have a dishwasher.

5. What is in your fridge?
lots of condiments, some phyllo dough, some beer, milk, pop, and some cheese...need to hit the grocery tomorrow.

6. White or wheat bread?
definitely 100% whole wheat

7. What is on top of your refrigerator?
a microwave, a basket of change

8. What color or design is on your shower curtain?
it is blue and green striped

9. How many plants are in your home?
none, but i'd really like some

10. Is your bed made right now?
yes. i had a guest today. :)

11. Comet or Soft Scrub?
hmmm soft scrub i guess.

12. Is your closet organized?
yes. it is very small, so in order for it to be workable, it must be organized.

13. Can you describe your flashlight?
whaaat? i don't even think i own a flashlight. if the power went out, it would have to be candles.

14. Do you drink out of glass or plastic most of the time at home?
glass

15. Do you have iced tea made in a pitcher right now?
uh no. do i look like june cleaver to you?

16. If you have a garage, is it cluttered?
i do not have a garage. another item on the wishlist.

17. Curtains or blinds?
we have blinds, the very crappy kind with slats. we do not own them, they belong to the landlord.

18. How many pillows do you sleep with?
2

19. Do you sleep with any lights on at night?
no, i like it pitch dark. i wear an eye mask.

20. How often do you vacuum?
every other day or so. when i see dust bunnies or crumbs on the floor, i vaccuum them up.

21. Standard toothbrush or electric?
regular old toothbrush. my dentist says they are best :)

22. What color is your toothbrush?
purple

23. Do you have a welcome mat on your front porch?
i don't have a front porch. i do have a front door mat though.

24. What is in your oven right now?
dirt

25. Is there anything under your bed?
yes. i live in an apartment, need all the storage i can get!

26. Chore you hate doing the most?
cleaning the bathroom and laundry

27. What retro items are in your home?
i'd say the entire kitchen is pretty retro. and not in a good way

28. Do you have a separate room that you use as an office?
yes, we have a guest bedroom/office/music room

29. How many mirrors are in your home?
two

30. Do you have any hidden emergency money around your home?
ha! no. if i did, it would have gotten used for bills and loan payments. every day is a financial emergency in my world.

31. What color are your walls?
living room is "sagey" (behr's name). it's a sage green. bedroom is a grey-blue. i love it. the rest of the apt is white.

32. Do you keep any kind of protection weapons in your home?
do knives count?

33. What does your home smell like right now?
nothing really. maybe a little like coffee.

34. Favorite candle scent?
i like pumpkin, or something fresh and clean smelling.

35. What kind of pickles (if any) are in your refrigerator right now?
no pickles in there. some pickle relish i think.

36. What color is your favorite Bible?
i don't really have a favorite bible. i own two of them. i haven't touched them in awhile.

37. Ever been on your roof?
no!

38. Do you own a stereo?
yes, it's in the guest bedroom/office/music room.

39. How many TVs do you have?
three

40. How many house phones?
one

41. Do you have a housekeeper?
her name is Emily

42. What style do you decorate in?
i like classic styles mixed with unique pieces that have sentimental value, like things collected from travels, etc.

43. Do you like solid colors in furniture or prints?
mostly solids, but i'm not opposed to prints.

44. Is there a smoke detector in your home?
weelllll...the battery was dead, and we haven't replaced it for a month or so. bad bad, i know.

45. In case of fire, what are the items in your house which you’d grab if you only could make one quick trip?
nothing is really that important to me. my laptop i guess.

Ok, I did it! Back to my Saturday ritual of lazing.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Nothing to Lose 2007

Yes, I know, I have been a very bad blogger. My life has been a whirlwind lately, and although I'm constantly thinking about blogging, somehow it just hasn't gotten done. So I apologize. BUT this post is going to be chock full of excitement and pictures! So get ready...

I returned yesterday from a whirlwind forty-eight hour trip to New York City to audition for the Natchez Opera Festival. The major bonus of this trip was getting to spend quality time with two of my best friends, whom I have seen approximately once a year since they both moved to the Big Apple. Robert lives in Astoria (sort of, see his blog for a full update on his living situation), and Andrea lives in Brooklyn. I flew in Sunday after church and arrived in Astoria around 6:00 pm, where I found Robert and Amanda (my other good friend from DePauw and Robert's roommate), putting all of their belongings into plastic bags in preparation for their second bed bug extermination. Again, check out Robert's blog if you want the full story. Andrea came to meet us, and we all went to dinner at a delicious little Italian place in Astoria called Napoli. Wine and delicious pasta was had by all, and I laughed harder than I've laughed in a long, long time. My friends are funny like that. After dinner it was off to Andrea's apartment in Brooklyn to spend the night and rest up for the audish. Her apartment is tres adorable, as is her boyfriend Cory (like me, she's also living in sin). So Monday morning came, and I was feeling in good voice. I dressed and readied for the audition, then headed out to meet Robert in Manhattan. Robert, as you may or may not know, is also a classical singer, and is going full throttle this audition season as well. He's aptly named it "Nothing to Lose Audition Season 2007", and I've happily taken up his motto as my own. Robert was also auditioning for the Natchez Festival, albeit a couple of hours earlier than me, so we met up in Manhattan and had some lunch together near Lincoln Center. Afterward, we hoofed it to the audition site...I can only describe this place as pure mayhem. Two opera companies and one musical theater company were auditioning on the same day on one tiny floor of a building in New York City: one narrow hallway packed wall to wall with agitated opera singers and musical theater actors preparing to audition. It was more than I could handle for more than twenty minutes, so after Robert sang, I headed around the corner to have a tea and chill out until my audish. I listened to my new pump up song a few times, reapplied makeup, and headed back with confidence to sing the hell out of Norina's aria. And it worked! They asked for a second aria, even though the monitor said they would only hear one, and got up to shake my hand when I was done! The two auditors seemed really excited about my audition, and I felt very good vibes from them, so no matter the outcome, I feel like I sang my very, very best. I floated out of the building on a total audition high, met up with Robert, and downed a couple of margaritas at a Mexican restaurant in the East Village. Then we headed to Brooklyn to hang at Andrea's apartment, have some more drinkies, and go to dinner at a hip Thai place in her 'hood. It was a wonderful evening spent with my best buds and their significant others (the only thing missing was MY significant other, but sadly he had to work so couldn't come with). I was reminded of how terrific and funny and intelligent and ambitious my friends are, and how much I miss having them in my daily life. But I count myself lucky that I get to visit them in one of the greatest cities on earth (and that the entire thing was a tax write-off!). Here's a shot of me and Robert pre-audition:



The trip home was a bit difficult, due to my having major motion sickness, which may or may not be related to the amount of drinks I consumed on Monday night. I didn't feel hungover at all when I woke up, but fifteen minutes into the plane ride a wave of major nausea hit me and didn't stop until we were on the ground in Chicago. Unfortunately, it didn't end there, since Nick was at work and couldn't pick me up from the airport, so I had to haul my sick self onto the orange line. I made it as far as Roosevelt and hailed a cab to Nick's office, where I laid down in the back and sipped Sprite until I felt better. Thank goodness I did, because I then had to take the Metra to Palatine to teach eight lessons. But I survived, slept for ten hours, and woke up a new woman today. Which is a good thing, because I've got much work to do to continue on the road of "Nothing to Lose Audition Season 2007".

And, backtracking a bit to two weekends ago, Allison and Ryan's wedding. It was a gorgeous weekend, full of good friends, good times, plenty o'booze, dancing, and fun. I'm having trouble uploading photos right now, so here's one to tide you over until I can post some more. The happy couple looking oh so happy in the back of the booze trolley (I think I was the only one who called it that, mostly because I packed several mini bottles of wine in my purse for the ride).



Laters!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

ode to Allison

My friend and loyal Reader of Blog, Allison, is getting married on Saturday. Allison is my oldest friend. So I thought it fitting that I write a post in honor of Allison, who is a tremendously fun gal to be around, one of the kindest people I know, one of the few great listeners left on this planet, and is about to tie the knot with a handsome young chap named Ryan! We're all making the trek back to the Heimatland, Fort Wayne, Indiana, to send these two off into married life with a bang. But let's go back a little bit....

Allison and I met at church during early elementary school days, and we bonded over a shared love of singing. When we were eight or nine, we began singing duets together in church services, many of which were captured and immortalized on home video (wow, what was I thinking with the permed bangs?). As we got older and began attending the same school, we became closer friends and ran in the same circles. We moved beyond singing at church and started singing in school talent shows and in show choir (also immortalized in home videos -- seriously, if you want to waste several days of your life, I could sit you down and show you the progression of Emily: the performer in great detail). Some of my greatest memories of high school include riding around town in Allison's Geo Prism, singing Abba at the top of our lungs, then heading to Bob Evan's, or "Bob's" as we called it, to sit for several hours, only ordering a cup of coffee and irritating the wait staff.

After high school, we went our seperate ways, but stayed connected. I visited Allison and our other two best friends, Brooke and Stasi, at Purdue on a regular basis, since the party scene was way more fun than at DePauw. Allison introduced me to my first serious boyfriend (which would later end disastrously, of absolutely no fault of hers). And we always had the summers and school breaks in Fort Wayne, all of us feeling a bit cramped and ready to get back to school and away from the parental rule. Although somtimes it had been months since we'd seen each other, it always seemed like no time at all with Allison. We would catch up and dish about our relationships and our dreams and what was bothering us. I could always, and still can, tell her exactly what's on my mind and expect honesty and kindness in return.

Luckily for us, we both ended up in Chicago, where we continue to build adult lives. Yes, we've had our share of falling outs and fights, but like any good friendship, it has stood the test of time and come to be a comforting presence in both of our lives. When you've known a person since you were eight, though every stage of life, there is a bond that is unlike other friendships. When you've been through as much as we have, you know that that person will be in your life forever.

So this weekend, I will be standing up for Allison, and singing two beautiful songs during the prelude of her ceremony. She's found a really special guy who is going to take care of her and love her forever (and keep her in stitches---he's hilarious!). It's comforting to know that as we both move into "adult life" (blech), there will always be this great reminder of my youth and a friendship that has lasted nearly twenty years. And who knows, maybe our daughters will sing duets together someday.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

star of the small screen

Many of you will remember my debut on the silver screen last year in Stranger than Fiction. Well, it was only a matter of time before I made my small screen debut, and folks, the time is nigh. Last week I got a call from the producers of Check, Please!, a notorious Chicago PBS show where regular, everyday people review different restaurants and talk about their experiences together on the show. It's moderated by this sommelier named Alpana Singh, and basically....I was dying to be on the show, being the foodie and restaurant fanatic that I am. I applied online in July and when I got the call last week I was ecstatic!!!! The only catch: They were calling me for their new extension of Check, Please airing on NBC -- which meant I didn't get any free meals (on the PBS show they pick up the tab for the places you are sent.) My job was to review a restaurant I had mentioned in my online application, Merle's BBQ in Evanston, as well as talk about Cafe Casbah, a mediterranean place in Lakeview that they wanted me to go try. So today I trekked out to the West Loop to their studio, wearing an adorable dress and my knee high brown boots, hair and makeup perfectly done (they informed me there would be no makeup on site). Once I arrived, I met the two producer dudes, Steve and Doug, who were really nice and gave me a little more info about what I would be doing. Basically, they are trying to take Check, Please! to other cities and are branching out by doing small segments on NBC. I was on camera all by myself in front of this painting of some grapes, and they asked me questions about the restaurants. For Cafe Casbah, I had to watch a tape of another reviewer's opinion and say whether I agreed or disagreed with their review and why. The producers liked me a lot, they said I had the best energy out of anybody they'd filmed so far! (Duh, it's my job as a performer to have energy). When they found out I was an opera singer, they asked if I would sing their web address for the new website launching November 1st. Of course I agreed, as all publicity is good publicity. So come November 1st, you can find me singing on www.checkplease.tv! And my restaurant review segments will air sometime in 2008. I will make a big announcement on the blog when it will air (although only my Chicagoland friends will be able to tune in). The producers are also going to put in a good word for me with the casting people of the PBS Check, Please!, so that hopefully I can get on that show too (and get some free meals out!)!! I will have a career in food and travel journalism yet!

Speaking of food, here is a yummy dish I cooked up last week:

Asian Ginger Chicken Noodle Bowls, courtesy of Rachael Ray, and my own recipe of Crab Rangoons! These were my first foray into rangoon making, and after several more tweakings, I now have it down. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients:
1 package Wonton wrappers (found in the produce area of grocery, usually by the tofu)
1 8 oz container of cream cheese
1/2 a package of imitation crab (or crab with a "K", as Nick likes to call it)
scallions (to taste)
1 clove garlic
vegetable oil (about 2 or 3 cups for frying, depending on how big your pan)

Begin to heat the oil in a deep pan or skillet. Lay out wonton wrappers on clean surface. In a small bowl, mix together cream cheese, crab meat, and chopped scallions (mostly white parts). Dollop small amounts of the mixture into the middle of the wonton wrappers, and pinch sides together to make a purse. Gently (I use tongs), place the wontons into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown.

Aaaaaaand, this weekend we added a gorgeous new piece of furniture to our home: a dining room table!!!! Here are some pics of the dining room now. I'm still needing things for the walls, but it's difficult with the way the crown molding is arranged in squares. I'd like to paint, but I don't know how long we'll be here and it is quite a bit of hassle and mess. We'll see.



As you can see, it's huge, and that's not even with the extra leaf in it! There are two more matching chairs at my parents' house that we plan to bring back as well. There's going to be some kick ass dinner parties happening here, folks!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

I got an audition with Florida Grand! Getting the audition is a victory in itself, but now I've really got to step it up and get my shit together. The last week of October and first week of November are going to be insane. But insane in a good way. Now, must ward off illness and spend all my money on coachings and lessons. It is ON, people. It's time to pump up. Which reminds me...I need a new pump up song for this audition season. Any ideas?

Monday, October 08, 2007

oper (no i didn't forget the a, that's the German word for opera)

It wasn't much of a weekend, since I subbed in Palatine all day Saturday and had my usual church gig on Sunday, but I did manage to have a few fun outings. Friday night my friend Julia invited me to see a show at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. It was a new production of Stephen Sondheim's Passion, his latest composed musical to date (1994), and one with which I was not familiar. Ana Gasteyer played the main role, with various Chicago actors in the suppporting roles. The best part was that it was in their smaller, "upstairs theater", so a very small, intimate setting (and one in which I could bring my beer into the theater, albeit in a coffee to-go cup). I found the story rather odd, but Sondheim's music is always a treat to hear, and the staging was really interesting. Plus the show opened with a topless sex scene, so there's that. I love free tickets to shows, and it had been awhile since I'd been to a live performance. Enjoyable experience had by all! My next live performance will be day after tomorrow when Nick and I have our first opera date of the year -- La Boheme!!! We splurged on season tickets this year, and we are seeing five operas, the first of which is Puccini's masterpiece. I'm trying to remember if I saw it in Vienna, and for the life of me, I can't. I saw so many operas there, only the most phenomenal ones stand out in my mind (I mean, they were all terrific, but some really blew me away, namely this insane production of Roberto Devereux that was much like watching a psychological thriller). Of course, the opera world is rocking with the news of Angela Gheorgiu's firing. Truthfully, I'm sad I won't get to hear her, as I've purchased some of her albums in the past and have admired her singing for some time now. However, her behavior sounds deplorable; truly unprofessional and disrespectful of her colleagues and everyone else who worked their asses off for her benefit. It's good that the opera world doesn't let these people get away with these things. But, as long as there is opera, there will be divas, and as long as there are divas, there will be outlandish behavior. It's the name of the game.
In the world of this diva...I had a fantastic voice lesson today, and I'm feeling more confident about the upcoming auditions. I booked my flight to NYC for the late October audition, and I'm extremely excited. The only fun part about auditioning out of town is visiting with my long lost DePauw friends! They started migrating to New York during the past couple of years, and I'm lucky if I see them once or twice a year. So I will hopefully be drinking and carousing in the Big Apple with Robert and Andrea and Amanda after a successful audition! I'm still waiting to hear from most of my other YAPs. I got an audition with Santa Fe, but I think I'm going to have to cancel it due to out-of-town obligations that weekend. Not that I had a shot in hell at that one anyway. We'll see. Kein Stress, kein Stress.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

lesson mobile

Despite my best efforts to avoid it, I make housecalls to teach many (most) of my students. Their mothers just can't muster driving their child to one more activity, I suppose. Since I'm just starting out, and since most of the students are located in the same general vicinity, I agreed to do housecalls. Once I build up my studio, however, I'm hoping I can let people know I won't be making housecalls anymore and they will have to come to my studio (which is at the church where I work, who lets me teach there for free), and hopefully by that point people will want to keep studying with me enough that they'll be willing to make the short drive. But until then, I am the lesson lady, driving around in her lesson mobile. The backseat has become a library of vocal and piano music, as most of my music ends up tossed back there as I travel from home to home. I stock plenty of healthy snacks and most days you can find a Big Gulp of Diet Coke in the driver's cup holder and the radio tuned to NPR. One of my friends (jokingly) suggested that I might like to paint a logo on the side of the car as an advertisement. I'm the lesson lady! It's a good life though, and I'm certainly not complaining. My day generally goes something like this:

9:00 am - wake up (on my own, without alarm)
9:15 am - make coffee, eat breakfast, watch morning shows, catch up on emails, check YAP tracker
10:00 am - gym
10:45 am - shower, make phone calls, work on YAP applications
12 pm - vocalize, practice audition pieces (this doesn't always happen every day as sometimes I am lazy or voice is tired)
1:30 or 2 pm - head out to teach
6:30 or 7 - finish teaching
8 pm - home, try to get dinner on table by now, eat with Nick
9 pm - watch shows, catch up on blogs (reading and writing), cuddle and chat with Nick
11:30 pm - bed (Nick has usually been asleep for over an hour by this point)

It's a pretty good schedule. I'm hoping to start teaching a bit earlier in the day with some of my NU undergrad non-majors, and will possibly be extending my schedule in Palatine until 9 pm one day per week, which would be nice, since money is certianly not flowing as I'd hoped it would. Unfortunately, the job at the high school in Waukegan fell through, due to lack of interest on the students' part. The choir teacher was really upset and surprised, but it is a blue collar area, and I guess their choir is going on a big trip this year that is costing a lot, and people just didn't think they could afford lessons. I guess I'm going to have to stick to the North Shore, where the parents don't bat an eye at my rates. In fact, one woman was like, "that's all you charge?" Which of course made me irritated that I hadn't charged more. Next year I'll raise my rates, I think. In the meantime, I need to find a job for Wednesdays. Every other day is pretty much booked, but I had kept my Wednesdays open for Waukegan, and now that that isn't happening, I need to find something else. I'm hoping to schedule some more students, but in the meantime...who will hire me to work one day a week? I'd love to work at the hipster coffee shop around the corner from my apartment, but I'm not sure they'd have me. I'd probably just consume my profits in the form of vegan cinnamon chip scones and lattes, but wouldn't it be fun to commune with the hipsters in a chill coffee shop all day? Plus, I'm starting to miss adult company...I spend most of my days alone or with children ages 5 to 13. I made a lunch date tomorrow with my friend Mark, because I was starting to feel a little crazy.

So there you go, a day in the life of the lesson lady! Maybe you'd like to spend a day riding around in the lesson mobile with me?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

soapboxes

Ok, I am now watching an episode of the Simpsons where Homer becomes an opera star. When Mr. Burns brings him flowers on opening night, he says to Homer "You're a star!", to which Homer replies "Yay!", after which Burns says "An opera star", at which point Homer's face falls and he utters a solemn "Doh". Even the creators of the Simpsons know that becoming a famous singer in the opera world means nothing to most of the population. I have to ask myself if this infiltration of the art form into popular culture is due to that menacing Paul Potts. Every time I see his stupid commercial, my fangs and claws come out and I hurry to change the channel before I have to listen to one note of that horrid rendering of Nessun Dorma. If you bought Paul Potts album, or think his singing is "nice", well then, we are not friends. Or you don't have ears. Either way, I'm sorry.

Nonetheless, it's refreshing to see that opera is making it's way into popular culture. I just wish it wasn't through an idiot like PP. People tend to get a skewed view of what things are really like in the opera world through a "phenonmenon" like him. And, honestly, I just don't think his voice is at all pleasing! Truly, it's not my highly trained ears and snobbery saying this -- I admit that Andrea Bocelli has a pleasant and lovely instrument, as do Josh Groban and Charlotte Church. Anyways, I'm going to get off that soapbox and get on another one...

Generally, I love Chicago restaurants. I've had very few bad experiences at restaurants in this fair city. But somehow, during the past three days, Nick and I managed to have three of the worst meals known to man at three different Chicago restaurants, all located within a mile of our apartment. It started out innocently enough: we ventured out for lunch on Friday at a local restaurant that we had been to before for breakfast and thought the food was pretty good. And it wasn't the food that was terrible; it was the service. I've never had such a bitchy waitress in my life. I can't honestly understand why anyone whose wage depends on being nice to people would be so rude. First, she was extremely impatient when she couldn't hear Nick (he just underwent a throat surgery and can't speak very well right now). It was his first venture out of the house since the surgery, and she made him feel bad, which infuriated me to no end. When she brought our food, she put the plates down on the table without saying a word. She never smiled once, or spoke in a nice tone of voice, and made us feel as though we had done something horribly offensive by just sitting there ordering and eating. I complained to the management and we left her no tip. It was the first time Nick or I had ever left anyone nothing. But this woman could not be compensated for that sort of behavior. They tried to cover themselves by saying it was her first day, but a first day is no excuse for that kind of rudeness. Needless to say, we won't be going back there. And I don't think you should either: Taste of Heaven, Clark and Balmoral. WORST RESTAURANT EVER. I won't even talk about the food because it's pretty good and that's beside the point.

Second bad experience came just a few hours later when we ventured out for dinner. We had heard mixed things about a relatively new Italian place that had just opened up where a really delicious tapas restauarant had once lived (I still can't understand why it closed). We decided to give them a few weeks to iron out the kinks before we tried it. The atmosphere was nice, laid back but trendy and not too loud, just what we needed for a casual post-surgical evening out. I ordered a glass of red wine from the decent wine selection; I was pleased when a generous sized carafe of wine was placed in front of me for only $7. Back in Austria we called it a viertel. Basically, it's like two glasses of wine. For an appetizer we ordered fried calamari, which was decent but not spectacular. Then came the entrees: two of the most boring, bland pasta dishes I've tasted in years. I can cook better than this, people. And I do, on a regular basis. I had a seafood linguine that was so incredibly tastless. I was like, please, you couldn't atleast make an effort with some garlic or SOMETHING? The seafood was also rather chewy and not at all fresh-tasting. I could have walked across the street to the Hopleaf, and for just $6 more, ordered their bouillabaise which is ALWAYS fresh and amazing. Nick ordered shells in a red sauce with sausage and red peppers that tasted oddly like a pizza. With sausage and red peppers on it. It wasn't really a good thing -- if he'd wanted a pizza, he'd have ordered one. We decided to skip dessert (there anyway), and went on our way, stopping at our favorite neighborhood sweets shop for a slice of cake to go, which defintely redeemed the night a little (a bite of their butter cream cheese frosting would melt the heart of Hitler, and maybe some other scary world powers). So, while we probably won't go back there, it wasn't a ruined evening, more just a minor disappointment and disbelief that a hip new restaurant in the city could put out such bland and uninspired pasta.

By now you're thinking, just stay home and cook people! But no, laziness and putting off of grocery shopping until Sunday led us out of the house once more on Saturday night, to a nearby Pan-Asian cheap eats down the street from us. The menu is GIGANTIC, and they have Thai, Chinese, and Japanese dishes, plus a sushi bar. We ordered our one of our favorite Pan-Asian appetizers, the soft shell crab. We expected the usual tempura battered crab legs, but what we got was what looked like the crab had just been jacked over the head on plopped on the plate (ok, it was cooked, but the presentation made it look this way). We are quite adventurous with food, but weren't sure whether we were supposed to eat the "skin" or just suck the meat out or what... It was difficult to get the meat out, and the taste of the skin wasn't all that pleasant, so we just kind of made a big mess of it on the plate. The entrees were tasty, I had sweet and sour chicken that was not breaded or fried, but in a delicious light sauce with lots of stir fried veggies. Nick had the tempura, which was various vegetables and shrimps fried in tempura batter, probably his favorite Asian dish. Problem was, my entree arrived about twenty minutes before his tempura. Being the people we are, we just shared my entree until his arrived, then got to work on his tempura. If we hadn't had two bad experiences they day before, we probably would have just laughed it off, but by that time I was getting rather annoyed with the restaurant industry. I'm really not that type of person who complains about everything in a restaurant; I'm just spolied by what has come to be the standard in Chicago dining: excellence. My guess: these places won't be open for long.

So this week we are eating one restaurant and one restaurant only: Emily's Kitchen. Tomorrow I'm going to tackle meatloaf for the first time ever (albeit a very shi-shi meatloaf) and on Tuesday, Asian Ginger Chicken Soup (courtesy of crackhead Rae-Ray). And after that, we'll probably only venture out to our faves until we muster up the confidence to try a new place. The restaurant industry needs to check itself and then get back to me. Which reminds me of a saying Andrea and I used to have during "Single and Fabulous Life in the City 2004-2005" as I like to call it. Whenever a prospective new guy came a-calling, we'd say (to each other only) "Check your body, check your personality, get back to us." Which in retrospect seems a little silly and shallow, but hey...I got what I was looking for (wink, wink!)

(P.S. For those of you in the "inner circle", Nick is doing really well. His surgery went great and the doc said things were looking good. Now we just wait for the swelling to go down to see what sort of improvement is there! If anyone knows where we can find mens turtlenecks size XL or XXL, I'd really appreciate it. We spent several hours looking yesterday and could only find a $200 cashmere sweater (wayyy to pricey) and a $14.99 old man blouse-y hideous cotton blend thing from Macy's that I forbid him from buying. He'd like to have something for going out that covers his 2 inch incision scar.)

Monday, September 24, 2007

and how are you?

I can feel my blog getting less popular by the minute. First I make it private, then a bout of writer's block strikes -- what has happened to make the Midwest Princess the new boring stop on the internets? All the signs point to one fact: I am happy. Blissfully, unabashedly happy. I'm the fattest I've been in several years; I'm sleeping Ambien free and sounder than I have in ages; I'm not taking any prescription medications (besides birth control), my mood is generally fantastic (besides that troublesome time of the month); and I am actually excited to get out of bed in the morning and start my day. I guess I'm the new cheerleader for "don't do something you hate" and "do what makes you happy." Because right now, I am doing EXACTLY what I want to be doing. I'm teaching music, I'm working as a singer, and I'm avidly plugging away at my career. The money situation is a little sticky, as it would be for anyone just starting their own business. Thankfully, I have a wonderful support system; people who believe in me and my ability to make this all work. And boy am I working -- teaching is exhausting! It requires an incredible amount of energy and patience, especially with the younger ones. But the outcome is extremely satisfying: when one of the kids gets excited about their progress; when I can hear the improvement and growth in one of my high schooler's voices. Each day presents new and different challenges, and I'm having a lot of fun rising to meet them.

My personal life is pretty darn fantastic, too. According to the Today Show (yes, I tuned in this morning) love makes you fat. And Nick and I are a prime example of love = fat: we are both currently the heaviest we've been in a loooong while. Since we are both quite tall and could afford to gain a few, it's not too big of a deal, but as you know, I've got a bridesmaids dress to fit into next month and neither of us wants this to escalate into a weight problem, so we're trying to eat healthier and exercise lots. It's going quite well, as both of us feel our clothes getting looser and frankly, I'm really enjoying the exercise regimen. I used to love to exercise in college (ab ball!), but lack of funds and laziness set in during the years that followed and I lost the habit. Now I'm back and swimming in endorphins and runner's high!

I do still manage to live a fantastic Chicago life -- Friday night we had a fantastic dinner at Cotes du Rhone, a new BYOB French place in the 'hood. They are trying to get their liquor license, so it probably won't be BYOB for long. It was scrumptious. Steamed mussels for the appetizer, beef tenderloin in a blue cheese reduction for me and venison in a delicious cranberry glaze for Nick. And a delectable chocolate bread pudding for dessert. After dinner, we headed to a local martini bar, a teeny tiny little place hidden away on a side street in our 'hood. Very classy joint and yummy, different martinis. Mine was a "Park Avenue" which was gin, pineapple, and blue curacao. Deeelish. Saturday we went to a baptism party for one of Nick's assistants, then met up with my friend Suzanne for all-you-can-eat sushi in Lincoln Park. I managed ot get a lot of sleep, watch plenty of HGTV (I can't get enough of House Hunters) and Flip that House on TLC (there was a marathon) AND take a long walk with my sweetie along the lakeshore. Really a perfect Chicago weekend. Now if only the heat would break and we could have some real fall weather.

So, this explains why my readership is dwindling. That and the privacy, but I can't have my eleven year old piano students googling me, reading this blog, and knowing every detail of my personal life. No, no, that wouldn't bode well. Nor do I want to censor my writing -- SO privacy was the only answer. But to all my loyal readers -- I love you! YOU are why I continue to write! Don't stop reading and commenting! I'll try to keep putting out the funny stuff. And you know me, if there's one thing I'm good at, it's putting out. See, I'd have had to censor that.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

nothing ever happens on mars

In case you were wondering (all three of you), I made it through the concert without a hitch. The Mucinex came through, once again, and my cords were free of phlegm by 5 pm. I nailed the two high B flats and managed to keep my larynx in a comfortable position for three hours of singing above the staff. It was a very rewarding concert, and I had a ton of fun singing with this group. If my check arrives on time and is for the correct amount (which I have a feeling it will), the whole thing will have been an absolute dream.

The diet (or as I like to call it, starvation station) continues to go fairly well. I went to a Pilates class at the gym today with the notorious Norris (my cousin said a session with him would change my life), and I fear that I won't be able to move tomorrow. It was HARD. He gave us these round torture devices to put between our legs while we did the exercises -- my inner thighs were trembling like a...leaf in a hurricane? I need to work on my metaphors. Anyways, I weighed myself and I lost two pounds. It's probably just water weight but whatev. I continue to eschew carbs and only eat ridiculously high fiber things, like Kashi and these Fiber One bars I found. They have nine grams of fiber per bar, and I think they're responsible for the torrential gas I've been experiencing lately. TMI?

Sore abs, flatulence...yup, life is pretty exciting. I go to the post office pretty much every day to mail out more YAAAAAAP forms (it's much more fun if you say it really fast and just how it sounds. yap. yaaaaap.) And I write checks upon checks to opera companies who may or may not give me an audition. I think i've sent out eleven so far and have gotten word from one company who gave me an audition (!). It's in NYC on October 29th, which is a Monday, so I'll probably fly out Sunday night and back again Monday night. I'm hopeful that I'll get all the auditions to which I've applied, but it probably won't happen. Meanwhile, I need to get back on track with practicing my arias. I had to take a little break for the past few days in order to rest my voice after the Hadyn concerts, but tomorrow I have a voice lesson and I'm back at it. You have to kind of detach yourself from the stress of it all and pondering your odds and bemoaning the audition fees...it's the only way to get through it, really.

This post has been incredibly boring and for that I apologize. I'm looking forward to an uneventful weekend of no rehearsals or performances or going anywhere really, except out to dinner. So you can probably look forward to some more boring posts. :)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Well, my voice chose today to finally give out on me. After a six and a half hour, larynx-crushing rehearsal on Saturday followed by driving an hour and a half each way to the 'burbs for a bachelorette soiree (at which I was very good and only had two glasses of white wine, which is basically water anyway), followed by getting up for church and singing, FOLLOWED by the first concert of the Haydn oratorio, and all of this on a pretty bad head cold, I'm amazed my voice made it this far. I felt fine after the concert last night, albeit a bit exhausted, but my voice still seemed to be in pretty good shape. HOWEVER this morning I woke up a bass. Maybe a bass-baritone. Problem is, Hadyn concert number 2 is tonight, and it's in the Harris Theater in Millenium Park, and I was really really excited for it. So as soon as I got up and realized I had no voice, I first panicked, then began the steps to voice restoration with hopes that in twelve hours I might be with voice. The steps are as follows:
1. No talking, unless ABSOLUTELY necessary. I am VERY good at this one. Once I didn't talk for eight days.
2. Tea. Lots and lots of herbal tea with honey. In this case, I chose the "Stress Reliever" Yogi Tea.
3. Steam. Run scalding hot water in bathroom and stay in it for as long as possible. OR boil a pot of water, put a towel over your head, inhale and repeat.
4. Mucinex. This drug has singlehandedly saved my life on several occasions. I'm hoping today is one of them.
5. Endless HGTV. Design on a Dime, House Hunters...I could watch it all day, really.
I just attempted some light warm ups and it seems that I can now phonate and make sounds above the staff. I'm certain that the cause of this is the mucous from the head cold moving onto my cords, as I can feel the thickness pooled in the back of my throat. Nasty. I also have a fair amount of fluid in my ears and can't hear anything. Sigh. Atleast I'm just in the chorus. This better go away quick because I have to get practicing for my upcoming YAP auditions. UGH the life of a singer.

In other news, I'm on a serious diet after weighing myself at the gym last week and positively freaking out. I haven't weighed this much in a long time. The fact was further driven home when I received my bridesmaids dress for Allison's wedding, for which I was measured three months ago, and it is VERY tight. I got into it, but just barely. So, the diet is on. Nick has taken on the role of being my calorie counter, which is very sweet but a little obnoxious at the same time. He wants to lose a few pounds as well, so it's nice to be able to do it together and hold each other accountable. But man, do I hate dieting. I'm basically cutting out most carbs, and the ones I do consume must be very high in fiber. And as soon as this cold dies down a bit I'll be back at the gym on the treadmill everyday as well. I have one month, and I figure I need to lose about five pounds for the dress to look nice. Wish me luck.

Alright, I'm off to the concert. Pray for a vocal miracle.