I have a confession to make. I've become a technology junkie. Until very recently, I was content with my giant 2000 Dell desktop computer (that served me well for 6 long years), my old camera that took film (film, what's that?) and made a hideous sound when it would rewind, my twelve inch television that's been a constant companion on my various moves througout the past 6 years, my sporty radio that velcroed around my arm when I ran. Last Chrismtas, I got an iPod nano, rendering the sporty radio obsolete, although I do miss listening to WXRT as I jog. Things really began to change this summer with the acquisition of my Macbook. Slowly, the Macbook began to change my life. I was no longer chained to my desk chair, but could now do all sorts of things while constantly connected to the internet. This Christmas, I received a digital camera, completeing the trifecta of digital equipment. (The twelve inch television remains, although I rarely watch it because I watch everything on my computer). Lately, I've been wondering where all my time goes. I calculated yesterday that I spend, on average each day, 3.5 hours in class, lessons, rehearsals or teaching. Where on earth, I asked myself, do the other 10 hours of the day go? Occasionally I have to write a paper, and I spend about an hour a day practicing, but there remains many, many hours unaccounted for. When I was working, I spent eight hours a day in an office, atleast an hour commuting, and still managed to practice and make dinner and put together application and do auditions and all that. There was no time to spare, but I still got everything done and made it everywhere on time. These days, I find myself doing everything at the last minute and running to class, usually arriving five minutes late because I just had to stop at Dunkin Donuts to grab a coffee. I haven't been to bed before 1 am all week, which means I usually require atleast an hour nap in the afternoon. What happened???
Technology happened. I was joking to Nick the other day that in his absence, my Macbook has become a substitute boyfriend. It lies in bed with me, sometimes sleeps in bed with me when I am too lazy to put it away before falling asleep, and is my constant companion throughout the day. I've become obsessed with downloading episodes of The Office from iTunes (also due in part to a generous iTunes gift card I got for Christmas) and watching them over and over again (why Pam, WHY can't you just get with Jim? I love him, we all love him, GET WITH IT!). I've recently developed an addiction to YouTube, due mostly in part to my friend from school introducing me to the vast array of operatic YouTube clips (this could potentially qualify as career buidling, but I'm not sure watching Sherrill Milnes croon "Maria" from West Side Story helped much). Add to this the newest development of "video-chatting" with my boyfriend for atleast an hour a day on Skype, and you've got one addicted gal.
Today, I decided that I must do something about it. While everything in my life is fine (despite my boyfriend being on the other side of the ocean, but that's an entirely different story), I'm singing well, and I've pretty much got my shit together, I feel that the copious amount of time I spend in front of the computer is probably unhealthy. I read once in a magazine about "technodespair" -- a depression that can develop from too much exposure to technology. So, I'm going to try to limit my "computer time" to two hours per day, including TV watching. This is not going to be easy, but I'm determind. I will do yoga, spend more time thinking about my music, read actual books...things I used to do more of before I was sucked into this technotrap.
On the bright side, I was just rationalizing with one of my singer friends about singers' "downtime". Unlike other musicans, our voices can only hold out for about an hour or two of practicing, tops, per day. So the time we spend on IM or watching television is actually time well spent -- resting our voices and rejuvenating for the stressful life that we lead. Ok, maybe I'll up that to three hours computer time per day...
Most of you are aware that I am in love with food--cooking it, eating it, reading and watching tv shows about it. I like to think that I'm a "foodie", so I decided to test my knowledge with a lttile foodie quiz. Check it out and let me know how you do. I scored 31/38, which means I was just one point shy of the top tier of foodie guru-ness. So I guess I have a few things left to learn.
Nevertheless, this week I've been on a cooking binge. Here are some photos from the past two night's dinners:
Spicy Basil and Garlic Thai Chicken with Asian rice noodles...this might be one of the best things I've ever made. I got the recipe from Rach's February issue (we're tight, me and Rach), and damn. After last week's fried ravioli disaster (her recipe SUCKED), she had lost points with me, but now she's back up there thanks to the absolute yumminess that was this recipe. Go here for the recipe.
Red Rice with Chorizo. Another big winner. I have been eating it for lunches this week, and it's quite tasty cold or hot. Recipe here.
Also, I've been meaning to post this pic since I got back from Greece:
We ordered this monstrosity on Nick's 30th birthday at Zithos bar in Marousi. It was called the "Roman Orgy" and contained three glorious feet of various meats, potatoes, breads, veggies...and God knows what else. There were eight of us at the party, and we were all stuffed by the end and couldn't finish it. I stood on a chair to take this photo of it.
So that's what I've been up to, friends. Cooking and eating...oh yeah, and I sing sometimes too.
My camera cable and iPod cord arrived yesterday after a slightly belated trip across the Atlantic. Now that I have a working internet connection and camera with cable, I intend to post pics like crrraaazy! It's just so amusing to be able to snap something and immediately upload it to my computer. Ah, technology.
So, here ya go--my new sassy haircut: This was taken immediately post cut n' style, so of course I cannot reproduce my brilliant hair dresser's work. Her name is Bette, she's at Art and Science in Evanston, and she's FABULOUS. She's also Greek, so I told her all about my recent trip. And she does a killer eyebrow wax. Now that I gave her a free plug on the 'blog, maybe she'll give me my next wax free!
Last night, circa 2:30 am, the mystery of "why the tiny lobby of my building smells like a homeless person has been camping out at night" was solved. A homeless person has been camping out at night. Let me explain how I came to find this out:
After a fantastic audition for the spring opera (results pending), I celebrated with dinner and drinks with some school friends at Davis Street Fishmarket here in E-town. They made a fantastic dirty martini, the food was delicious, and the company was even better. Afterward, some of us girls headed to Lincoln Park for some craziness at Duffy's --a real meat market of a bar that I haven't set foot in since 2004 (the height of my party girl phase). Although I wasn't crazy about the scene, it was great to let loose on the dancefloor with the girls (despite the constant warding off of unwanted grinding immigrant men). We closed down the place (along with about a bajillion other people) and stumbled into a cab around 2 am.
Twenty minutes later, we pulled up next to my apartment. My friend Katie lives just across the street, so she got out as well. I opened the door to my building and there he was: the culprit of the stench, camped out in the lobby of my building. The events that followed are a bit blurry, but I do recall freaking out, yelling to Katie to come back and make sure I got in, the homeless man apologizing profusely, and me saying over and over again to him "but I live here!" I also heard him say to Katie, "has she been drinking?", which in retrospect is hilarious -- as though my being drunk has any bearing on my reaction to finding a random stinky person squatting in my building entrance! To be honest, I probably would have freaked out more had I been sober! What amuses me the most is my Nancy Drew-like way of sniffing out the culprit and solving the mystery.
It's really the icing on the cake with this place. I've had roaches, mice, crazy overactive radiators, possums on the back porch, and now -- sharing the lobby with the homeless. Once again, suburbia seems to be calling my name...
One of my favorite holiday pastimes, along with my mother and sister, is reading the hordes of Christmas cards and pictures my parents receive -- and the inevitable "form letters" that come with them. This year, I wasn't home to read the majority of the cards, so Mom sent me a fat package with all the cards and pictures she thought would interest me, along with a note that read "call me after you read these." You see, we don't just read the cards and letters, we like to laugh at the absolutely ridiculous things people feel the need to share with family and friends. Maybe it's just my family who receives cards like this, but I have a feeling it's not. And yes, maybe the three of us are going to hell, but hey -- if you're going to share intimate details of your dog's surgeries and ailments over the past twelve months, you deserve to be made fun of a little bit. There are always the ones we expect: Mom's saintly aunt and uncle who are singlehandedly attempting to change the world in their retirement; the cousin's wife who one year sent a sonogram picture in her card; the childhood friend of Mom's who, although single, sends an oddly unflattering picture-card of just herself each year. And the form letters -- I swear, every year they get better and better. Not only do I get to learn about who's engaged, who's pregnant, who's moved, and who's graduated, I am fortunate enough to be informed of the specifics of varous human and pet illnesses, the adoption process of a baby from China, minute details of a toddler's mental progression over the past year, and many, many other unique tidbits of information that make the reading of the Christmas cards a highly enjoyable, if not hilarious, experience. Add to that the pleasure of reading them with my mom and sister, and the fun never ends! So last night, I sat down with a cup of tea and the cards and went through them, chuckling all the way. Then I called Mom, and we spent an hour laughing on the phone and discussing whose cards were the most ridiculous this year. Once when we were teenagers, my sister (always the comedian) wrote a "fake" Christmas form letter about our family, which made family history as one of the funniest things ever written. My mom pulls it out from time to time and we all read it and have a good laugh. I asked my mom to send it to me, so if she ever does, I'll reprint it here. Does your family have any odd Christmas pastimes? Do you have any hilarious Christmas card stories? If so, please share!
It took a few nights of 10+ hours of sleep, but I'm somewhat back to "normal" and have resumed life here in E-town. Yesterday I returned (begrudgingly) to school -- although it was nice to see my school friends, I can't say that I'm thrilled to be back. I am looking forward to putting my recital together, and I am genuinely interested in most of my classes this quarter, so I should perk up pretty soon as things get moving. I've got to pull my shit together for spring opera auditions at the end of this week. If I want any sort of chance at a part, I've got to sing as though my heart were in it and not on the other side of the Atlantic.
But alas, I promised a recap of my trip, and a recap you shall get. I always marvel at the beautiful parts of the world that I've been lucky enough to see already in my short life -- I'll never forget my trip to Lucerne, Switzerland where I saw the sun coming up over the Alps, or the first time I laid eyes on the Eiffel Tower. Likewise, I felt such awe at the beautiful parts of Greece. It never gets old or commonplace for me, seeing new things and experiencing life in a different way. This trip was extra special because I got to learn about a part of Nick's life that was previously unfamiliar to me. Nick has been to my hometown, and although he marveled at the vast amount of cornfields, I don't think he needed much imagination to picture what my life might have been like growing up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Although I've seen many parts of Europe and even lived with a family in Austria, I had no idea what to expect of Greece or what his house might look like or how his family might act. Each time I would call him while he was there, I would hear a stranger answer the phone in a language I couldn't understand. It felt odd, and I was ready to come face-to-face with the strangeness and learn about it firsthand.
And oh how much I learned! In addition to all the lovely tourist sights, I went to Greek government offices and graveyards, Grandma's farmhouse in the village (don't tell Border Control I was on a farm, they'll come get me). I had odd and endearing conversations with Nick's eighty-three year old aunt and bonded with some Greek toddlers. I learned all the swear words from listening to the grubby teenagers in the internet cafes. It was a trip unlike any other I've ever been on, and I won't forget it for as long as I live.
How do you come home, by yourself, from all that and not get depressed? I'm allowing myself three days of semi-moping, and then I've got to come out of it and start making dates with friends and stop laying at home under my down comforter, watching crappy movies and pretending to be jetlagged. I went to the store last night and bought all the items on Rachael Ray's 7 meals for 7 days list for this month (my mom bought me a subscription to her magazine this year), and later discovered that all the meals make enough to feed 4 people. So, I'm inviting friends over for dinner this entire week. Last night I made chicken and wild rice stuffed tomatoes, which were scrumptious, and tonight I'm making Baja fish tacos. Nothing like cooking to brighten my spirits! If you're in the area and want a free meal, come knock on my door!
I'm home, safe and sound, and with all luggage in tow (miracle of miracles!). Once I get some rest and feel like a normal person again, I'll do some recapping of my trip. Somehow, I have to pull my shit together and start class on Monday (only three days behind everyone else, but who's counting?). I'm rapidly plunging into that post-trip depression, not to mention the fact that I had to say goodbye to my love for who knows how long. I'm rallying all the strength I've got and trying not to be a blubbering idiot. Peace out kids, I've got some serious sleeping to do.
I must devote an entire post to the delectable junk foods produced in Greece. During my times in Austria, I discovered a broad range of delectable treats, however, the Greeks (specifically, my Greek) have introduced me to some amazing new junk I didn't know existed. Here is my top ten list of Greek/European junk:
10. Kinder Bueno Kinder has a line of delicious chocolate treats, which I am now learning you can find in the States, if you look hard enough. Kinder Bueno is my absolute favorite: Crunchy chocolatey goodness with a creamy hazelnut filling.
9. Gemista cookies These yummy little cookies are a bit like the chocolate-covered Oreos...but better.
8. Peanut butter Kit Kat bars. Enough said.
7. Ion chocolate with Hazelnuts Basically, I love anything with hazelnuts. This is a delectable brand of Greek chocolate, very milky and rich.
6. Chocofreta bars These bars remind me a little of Li'l Debbie's Nutty Bars. They are layered wafers and chocolate, and some of them have nuts. Super delish, and Nick's favorite.
5. Clusters chocolate cereal The Greeks have a wide variety of chocolate cereals, but Nick and I became partial to Clusters. The cereal consists of chocolatey flakes, granola bits, and some of the flakes are covered in milk chocolate, which is amazing. How I'm going to go back to my Kashi Go Lean, I do not know.
4. Molto Way chocolate-filled croissants I only ate half of one of these one morning, because they are too large and fatty even for me to handle. For what it is (a packaged croissant), it's pretty damn good. Nick loves these a lot.
3. Oregano flavored potato chips. I first had these a few months ago when Nick brought them home from a trip over here, and I fell immediately in love. None of the American flavored potato chips can compete.
2. Merenda (Greece's version of Nutella) Nutella has always been a guilty pleasure for me, and although I know you can get it in the States, I only eat it while abroad. Greece's version, Merenda, is just as wonderful, and makes for a delightful breakfast or dessert when spread on fresh bread.
Annnnnd the number 1 Greek junk food is.......
1. Dracoulinia I cannot even explain to you how good these things are. I learned a little history of Dracoulinia from Nick. Apparently, they were not owned by Cheetos until a few years ago, but had their own seperate identity known to the Greek people as Dracoulina. Although Cheeto-like in texture, Dracoulina taste SO MUCH BETTER than Cheetos. They are oddly shaped like Dracula teeth. The taste is so different from American junk food...the flavor is cheesy and tomato-ey and...delicious. I'm going to bring back several bags and ration them---then have Nick bring me back some more.
And there you have it kids, my top 10 Greek junk foods. Greek isn't the fattest nation in Europe for nothin'! They've got something to show for it!