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.


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


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 Curiously, we typed in to see if, by chance, the name was already taken.


we found this.


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


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!