Sunday, September 30, 2007


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'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.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Well, turns out even as a teacher I can get paid to sit around on the computer. I'm subbing for my friend Sarah in Palatine, and the last three kids haven't shown up. I get paid even when the kids don't show, but it can be pretty boring if you don't bring anything to do. Luckily I brought my computer, so I've been obsessively listening to the arias I recorded yesterday, deciding which ones to send to the various YAPS. Some require two arias, some three, and some absolutely ridiculous ones require four. I'd like to know what artistic director is going to sit around and listen to me sing four arias, but that's neither here nor there. Although the recording doesn't sound entirely professional (I used my voice teacher's CD recorder in the recital hall), it isn't bad, and I didn't shell out $150 bucks to make it. If it doesn't get me auditions this year, I'll know that I have to make a very professional one next year. I hope that isn't the case, however. I am also a GENIUS because I figured out ALL BY MYSELF how to edit a track on Garage Band. I spent an hour on the phone with my brother this morning trying to do it, but I kept f-ing it up. But this evening I figured it out! I was proud. See, my church records everything we do there, but in one big chunk, so the recital I did there last year with two other women was one forty-eight minute track, from which I needed to extract one aria. Garage Band is totally awesome -- GO MAC!

So, I'm busy being a voice teacher and singer these days. It really is a lovely life. Despite my headache and PMS, I am happy to be here teaching today. I forgot how funny and weird children can be. Some of the things that come out of their mouths really amuse me. Yesterday a girl, probably 10 or 11, told me that her friend was being "melodramatic" at school today because she spilled milk all over herself. I'm thinking, "did I know the word melodramatic"at age 10"? Some kids are like miniature adults I guess. I'm starting to get the hang of the piano teaching. I felt a little intimidated at first, since it's been like five years since I've had a piano lesson. All those lessons with Dr. Claudia Bossard at DePauw are coming back to me as I sit here correcting the kids' hand and wrist positions. Most of the kids are really young and just starting so it's basically just teaching them theory and how to read music.

The weekend is going to be another crazy one. Music of the Baroque rehearsal all day Saturday with concerts on Sunday and Monday night, plus my friend Allison's bachelorette party on Saturday night. Her wedding is just about a month away! I do hope I fit into the bridesmaids dress...I fear I've gained a bit of poundage since those measurements were taken three months ago. I better step up my workouts a little.

I'm off to teach one more lesson. Do something that makes you happy today!

Monday, September 10, 2007


Whew! That was a crazy weekend. Fun, but crazy. My sister was visiting from Fort Wayne, and we had a great time. Friday night she got in around 7:30 and we proceeded out to the Hop Leaf for Belgian beers and the best damn fries with garlic aioli this side of the Atlantic. Saturday morning I had to get up for a loooong rehearsal from 10-1:30. I have Hadyn on the brain now. In the afternoon we went out to lunch and shopped and walked around in the beautiful fall-ish weather. I took her to a gem of a store called Pocket Puppies in Lincoln Park, where they sell teacup and miniature breed dogs and all the things that go along wih them (Luis Vuitton carrying cases, little outfits, collars, etc.). Elaine is a dog lover, so I knew she'd get a kick out of holing the little fur balls. I can never get Nick to go in with me; he hates that store with a passion. I think it's because of his size: at 6'5'' he's afraid he'll just squash one of those things without even realizing it. Saturday night we went out for small plates and wine in Wicker Park at bin wine cafe. I know small plates are supposedly on the "out", but I think it's a great way to taste a lot of delicious food.

Sunday I had to get up (again) for church. First Sunday of the church choir season. I got a big raise at church this year, which makes it an even more wonderful job. I thank the Lord every Sunday for my wonderful church job -- the volunteers are precious (and not bad singers and readers to boot!), and I enjoy my fellow paid colleagues as well, in fact, some of them are dear friends. Our director is a fantastic musician and person with an enviable career as a conductor, educator, and singer. And she has one of the cutest babies ever. She's a great contact and is always looking out for us soloists, providing opportunities to sing with orchestras and passing along gigs whenever she can. I'm doing the Messiah in December with a chamber orchestra she's put together, so I'm really excited about that. It'll be my first full Christmas portion Messiah -- a must-have for the rep of any singer, as you can usually count on doing it every year.

After church, Elaine and I went for a quick brunch at The Bongo Room South Loop before I had to rush off to another rehearsal. It was our first rehearsal with Jane Glover, the conductor for the Haydn oratorio I'm doing. In three rehearsals with the chorus master, we had put together a pretty damn good piece to give to Ms. Glover. I was a little starstruck when she came up to me and introduced herself (I'm one of the only newbies this year). It was an amazing rehearsal -- everyone was on top of their game, giving their all for her. Now I know why she's in demand and receives such terrific reviews. She is a FANTASTIC conductor. It felt so good to sing with her and make such high-quality music with these people. I'm so excited to rehearse with the orchestra next week! What a great experience -- and I get to do another concert with them in February/March, hooray!

When I'd finished singing, I hurried off to meet Elaine at the Folk Festival, the primary reason for her visit. I didn't get to hear much, but what I did hear was great. The band she came to see, Girlyman, was really good. Going from one awesome musical experience to another was really uplifiting for me and made me feel good about life. We left the Festival a bit early so Elaine could get on the road. She is doing a long term substitute teaching job at our old high school, so she had to be up at 5:30 am on Monday. It was great to spend time with her, as we don't get to do nearly enough of that.

So, after all that singing and entertaining, I'm exhausted. By some act of God, my voice held up pretty well through it all, despite singing notes above the staff for a collected amount of eight hours over the course of the weekend (go technique!). I'm granting myself a lazy morning today and probably not singing all day. I have to teach two lessons a little later on, but that's all. I need to go to the post office to mail some YAPS. Those God damn YAPS. It's like I apply to college every year, sending recommendation letters and applications and screening CDs and checks (grrrr) and letters about why I want to be an opera singer. I know that they need a rigorous screening and weeding out process, but sometimes it gets really depressing, not to mention breaks the bank. I'll stop now, because on any given singer's blog you'll find them bitching about this, and I don't intend to be part of the masses. I'm going to suck it up and get myself to the post office.

Hope you all had a delightful weekend. Back to watching The View -- Whoopi's getting fitted for a bra!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


Well, I survived the high schoolers! It was a little terrifying -- the school where I will be teaching is mostly blue collar, and myself and the choir director were definitely the minorities in the room. I presented to three class periods of choir, probably about 120 kids in total. There were lots of interesting questions, such as "How high can you sing?", "Don't you lose your voice a lot, singing like that?", and "Do you have lots of pressure in your life?" (HA! If you only knew, kid). One girl was taking pictures of me with her camera phone while I was singing, There do seem to be a few gems though, so I'm looking forward to helping some talented kids prepare for college music careers. I ended up singing an excerpt of Je veux vivre for them to show off some high stuff, and Can't Help Loving 'Dat Man from Showboat (while I was singing the second one, I realized that it is written in "black language", and I was a white person singing for a room of black kids -- I tried to play down that dialect a bit). I think it will be a good experience, and fairly lucrative to the budget for just one day of work per week. I'm not charging as much as I do for private lessons, but almost. Regardless, it's more than twice as much as I ever made temping.

Now I will post a feast for your eyes: pictures of Traverse City.

Lighthouse at the 45th parallel -- it kind of felt like we drove to the end of the Earth.

wine grapes! We went to three wineries.

mmmmmm Emily likey wine.

barrells of fun!

Ok I ran out of time to upload any more now. I'll leave you in suspense!


Don't worry everyone, I didn't fall off a dune into the Grand Traverse Bay. Nor did I decide to stay in Traverse City forever, eschewing computers and technology. Although it was lovely not to open my Macbook for three whole days. Beautiful as upper Michigan turned out to be, I would have to be heavily medicated in order to live there. My sinuses were going crazy all weekend. It didn't ruin the trip, but it did severely annoy me. I thought my allergies were getting less severe as I aged, but apparently it's just living in the city where there isn't as much pollen to be inhaled that has fooled me. I've gotten away with using only herbal remedies (ie: neti pot) to cure some minor sinus blockage along with the occasional Benedryl, but I realized this weekend that if I'm ever to move out of the city, I'll probably need to go back on something a little heavier. And that could be sooner rather than later -- Nick was so taken with the beauty and green and peace and tranquility that was upper Michigan. I hadn't seen him that happy and content and excited in awhile. He scaled some ridiculous 90 degree angle dunes in order to take photos. At one point he vanished from my sight, and I seriously thought he had plummeted into the bay. But no, he was fine. It was truly beautiful; I've seen a lot of these United States (thanks Mom and Dad!), and it was definitely one of the most gorgeous panoramas I'd seen on this continent. The B&B where we stayed was delightful, sparkling clean and cozy, and our host was super nice and cooked us three delicious breakfasts. Our only disappointment was with the food. We found it a little over-priced and not spectacular for a resort town that boasts fantastic restaurants. I'll post some pics later on. Right now I'm trembling in my sensible Nine West black pumps, because I'm due to give a "presentation" to sixty high schoolers in about two hours. I found a job teaching private lessons at a north suburban high school, so I'm going in today to hand out info and talk about voice lessons and sing something for kids. Now, it hasn't been that long since I was in high school myself, but for some reason I'm feeling a little terrified. High schoolers are a tough crowd. I'm still going back and forth about what to sing (musical theater - opera aria??). I know there are already many kids who are interested, and it's going to be a lucrative part of my income this year, so...I need to do a good job. Time to put on my teacher outfit and make copies!

More later kiddos. Ciao.