Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Year in Review: 2008

I thought this year I would take a different turn and do a pictorial review of 2008. Here goes!

In January, I began my adventures working for Opera for the Young, a touring opera company based in Madison, Wisconsin. It was my first real "opera" job, and I felt it really helped me grow as a musician and colleague.

In February, it continued to snow...and snow...and snow. I thought winter might never end.

In March, I sang my third concert with Music of the Baroque, the St. Matthew Passion, which was an amazing and moving experience. Nick went to Greece for two weeks without me to do business, so my mom came up to spend five days with me over Easter. We spent Easter at my church choir director's house with the other paid musicians from our church. It was my third Easter as soprano soloist at Trinity, and some of my colleagues there have become my best friends:

In April, I spent nearly the entire month touring with OFY. It was pretty exhausting, and I would be happy not to see another Super 8 for the rest of my life, but I made some lasting friendships with colleagues and had many funny stories to tell!
And I made my debut at the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison!

May brought a more relaxed time for me work-wise, but at home we welcomed Nick's sister and nephew, Chrysanthe and Angelo, from Greece, who came for the wedding of Nick's brother Chris. It was very different for us to have a three-year old in the house, and I think we both learned that we're not quite ready for a child just yet! We also traveled to Kalamazoo for the wedding of my cousin Katy.

We always have a great time at family weddings...

June was a very exciting month...Nick proposed! I had known that he was shopping for the ring, but the day he proposed I wasn't expecting it at all! We started planning our August 2009 nuptials pretty soon after that.

In July, we traveled to Fort Wayne for the wedding of my good friend from high school, Stasi. I've known Stasi and Adam as a couple since the beginning of their relationship, so I was very excited and honored to be a bridesmaid and sing Ave Maria as Stasi walked down the aisle. The trip also gave us a chance to celebrate our engagement with my family.

with fellow bridesmaids and best friends from high school Allison and Brooke

Browns get hitched!

with the lovely bride

August brought two trips to Indianapolis to celebrate birthdays with each of my grandmothers. It was a very special birthday for Grandma Hofmockel-80th!-and our whole family surprised her with a party over Labor Day weekend (and my mom made her wear that tiara).

September saw my return to a more rigorous working schedule, with my teaching jobs starting back up, Music of the Baroque concert, church job, and High Holidays temple job. Once again, I was so thankful for the amount of singing work coming my way. I am constantly amazed that I managed to pay the better part of my bills this year with singing and teaching and can only hope that the New Year brings more exciting work my way.

In October, my mother and sister came to Chicago for a short visit filled with shopping for bridesmaid and mother of the bride gowns. We also attended a bridal show at Navy Pier. Wedding plans continued and the ceremony and reception locations were secured, DJ and photographer hired, my gown purchased and many other details worked out. I decided then to take a break until after the holidays!

At the end of October/early November, I spent another two weeks on the road with OFY, which took me as far north as Aurora, Minnesota (2 hours north of Duluth!). And I had another exciting career milestone when I was selected for the Central Region Finals of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions! I sang two pieces for the judges and a live audience in a concert/competition format in Nichols Hall in Evanston on Sunday, November 2nd. The concert was broadcast on WFMT, the classical station in Chicago, and so my parents were able to listen via live streaming on the internet! I didn't win, but I felt so great about my singing and received some terrific feedback. Once again, I felt encouraged to continue my pursuit of a singing career!

And finally, we come to December. A great month for musicians, and I was lucky enough to have lots of work keeping me busy. We threw another great holiday party, which is quickly becoming a tradition for us.

It was a very, very good year. Certainly there were ups and downs, what with the crumbling economy and feelings of uncertainty about the future. I continue to be the eternal optimist and have great hope that 2009 will be a better year for those who struggled in 2008. I will continue to pray for those that are without jobs, those that are lonely, those that feel hopeless or without a clear path of "what next?" I have certainly been there, and continue to find myself there at times. Have faith that things will get better, because they will. And if your 2008 was blessed and happy, have faith that good things will continue to come your way. Happy New Year, my friends.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas 2008

'Twas a fantastic Christmas at the Lyday house, albeit far too short. Delicious food was eaten, many presents given and received, several naps taken, and a much-needed four days of relaxation had. It seems to be an ongoing tradition that our drive to Fort Wayne is filled with snowy danger, but we returned to a warm city and no more snow! Sadly, Nick and I returned to work today, but I'm off for the rest of the week and Nick has half day Wednesday and all day Thursday off. We are continuing a tradition begun last year and spending New Year's Eve in Aurora with our friends Allison and Ryan.

Many blessings in the New Year from my family to yours!

Monday, December 22, 2008

done and done

Well, kids, I did it. I survived another December as a musician. There were times, like yesterday morning circa 9:00 am whilst attempting to ice-pick my car out of a parking spot, when I wasn't sure if I would make it, but I persevered through two snow storms, an ice storm, and Arctic winds in order to sing five lovely concerts this past weekend. A lot of elderly folks in festive Christmas sweaters are extremely happy. And I will be too come December 30th when that paycheck lands in my bank account!

Some action shots courtesy of one Mr. Nick :

my big solo!

Mom and Dad made it up to hear me!

In all seriousness, it was a fun concert, and I continued to strengthen my relationships with my colleagues in this group. So many of my current jobs have stemmed from my connections in this group, and for that I am very thankful.

And now I am off for two weeks! After the exhausting run of concerts, I've spent today mostly in pajamas (although I did just shower and am about to bake some ginger cookies). Tomorrow I get to see my Andrea, my best friend who lives in NYC whom I NEVER get to see! We're going to paint the town red (as much as that is possible in this weather and during the hours of 10:30 am - 2:30 pm) before Nick and I head out to Fort Wayne tomorrow afternoon for family Christmas festivities.

Wishing you and yours the warmest and happiest of holidays. Stay tuned for the annual A Year in Review update.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Caroling at the Drake, or Why It's So Fun to be a Singer at the Holidays

As I mentioned in an earlier post, this past Saturday I was hired to sing Christmas carols with a quartet at the Drake Hotel. Easy enough, decent pay, and at least it isn't outdoors, I said to myself. But the catch: I had to wear a costume. Behold, the costume:

It was actually kind of cute, but the hoop skirt kept getting stuck between chairs and tables as we went around the tea room and Drake Bros. restaurant singing. The three other singers were lovely people whom I had never previously met, and it's always nice to meet new singers. And of course we all had so many friends and colleagues in common -- the classical singing world is so small, it's more like 1 or 2 degrees of separation.

The most difficult part of the day, by far, was watching all the guests indulge in the amazing looking buffet in the restaurant. For our lunch, we were sent down to the employee cafeteria....let's just say that was certainly an experience I won't forget. Usually, we singers are treated a bit better than that...we're not the maids and busboys for crying out loud! But for one day, I can handle it, and we got a good laugh and a great story out of it.

After my day of caroling, Nick came and met me and we spent a lovely evening on Michigan Avenue doing a little shopping and having a nice dinner. Unfortunately, I didn't get any Christmas gifts purchased, but I have some free days this week for that. Thank God I'm able to shop mid-week, the weekend around here are just insane.

This week is busy, with five Music of the Baroque Holiday concerts in four days. Tonight is our first dress rehearsal, and tomorrow is our second, then we get Wednesday off before the madness ensues. Truthfully, I'm really looking forward to them, and it's amazingly luxurious not to have to do anything but sing this week. If you're interested in tickets, head over to But hurry, because they will sell out this week -- one performance has already!

Hope you are enjoying the holiday season. I know it can be busy and crazy (and cold), but it really is a wonderful time of year. And if you need some cheering up, go get a Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate from Starbucks. Good LORD is that drink amazing...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Engagement Photo Shoot

Last month, Nick and I decided to take our own engagement photos. Photography is one of Nick's hobbies (as evidenced by the nearly 4,000 photos on my Mac and even more on his computer), and since we are bringing in our wedding photographer from Fort Wayne, we didn't want to hire a Chicago photographer to do the engagement. Plus, we thought it would be a lot of fun to do it ourselves, and it gave Nick a reason to buy the tripod he's been coveting for quite some time.

So, one Friday evening we headed over to the Adler Planetarium, where there is a terrific view of the skyline (and, incidentally, where we had our first kiss!). Here are some of my faves (and some silly ones!) from the shoot:

this is my fave, and the one we'll likely frame and use for our save the dates:

testing the angle:

It was a lot of fun and we got some great shots out of it! I'm really looking forward to making our save the dates and sending them out mid-February!

One singing-related thing I have to share: I found out yesterday that I am cast as a soloist in the Music of the Baroque Christmas concerts!!! Not only am I thrilled at the opportunity, it will nearly double my pay for this concert. Looks like people will be getting good Christmas gifts this year! And the credit card will receive a happy gift as well.

We're off to Indianapolis this afternoon for Thanksgiving with the Lyday clan. Should be a great trip, and a much-needed break for me and Nick. The calm before the storm, shall we say.....

Happy Turkey Day!

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Well kids, I know, it's been awhile. The ol' Mac has been having some trouble these days and for that I blame my lack of posting. That and the fact that I've been non-stop go go go these days. With no end in sight. Yes, it's that time of year again, the time when we musicians make our money and sell out as much as possible for cash. In years past I've sung to the jewels, and this year I will be making my debut at the Drake Hotel as a caroler in Dickens costume. Gotta make the cash, and it ain't a bad way to do it. In addition, I'll have the MOB Christmas concert, which is always a lot of fun, and possibly a Messiah solo gig. Then a blissful two weeks off for Christmas and New Years.

Highlights of the past few weeks: OFY tour was a blast. It was great to catch up with my colleagues, and we got to stay in some pretty cool places, including a villa in the forest (somebody's GORGEOUS vacation home 2 hours north of Duluth), and the Madison Hampton Inn, which after Super 8's for two weeks feels like the Ritz Carlton. It was tough to come back to my teaching jobs here, since I haven't been enjoying them much lately, but I made an appointment with my shrink this week to talk it over. I haven't seen her in ages due to budgetary reasons, but I really feel like I need to hash out how I'm feeling about career stuff lately.

Anyways, here's some fun pics from tour:

a somewhat blurry shot of me cooking spaghetti in the villa

my first tour week castmates

at Fitger's Brewery in Duluth

Kristin and I backstage before a show

Other highlights: The Met auditions were fantastic and so much fun. I've never been treated so well at a contest or audition before. We all had our own dressing rooms for the finals! The level of singing and competition was intense: there was a girl from the Chicago Lyric Young Artist Program, a girl who is an Adler Fellow at San Francisco Opera, and lots of other terrific singers. I didn't place, but I was so pleased with how I sang that it didn't even matter. My friend Ryan, who is a countertenor (kind of like a male alto, sings in a female range) won -- he totally deserved it and I was so glad. And how can I compete with a countertenor? :) I won some money for advancing from districts and got some great feedback from judges and audience members, so altogether it was a huge confidence boost when I really needed it.

One not so hot highlight from the past few weeks: My dad has been having some heart problems and has been in the hospital and had a surgery to implant a cardiac defibulator (I have no clue how to spell that). He was born with a hole in his heart and had two surgeries as a child, and while they were checking up on some things they found some problems and had a scary moment where his heart stopped. That was when they decided to implant the defibulator. Anyways, long story short, he was having some blood clots resulting from surgery that landed him in the hospital again. He had to be put on blood thinners for six months. Thankfully, he is doing well now and is recuperating at home. I was able to go there this week to help out and spend some time. So SO glad that my schedule allowed for it. He is doing well but of course prayers are appreciated.

That's all from me! Take time to breathe and enjoy the season. :)

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Sorry no tour posts this week guys. It's been a spotty internet week and my precious Macbook has been acting annoying.

The amazing news I have to share is that one of my auditions turned out really splendidly last week -- I am a finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Regional auditions on Sunday!!! Go here if you want to learn more about these auditions. Basically, it's a huge honor to even make it to the regional finals, and if you win at the regionals you get to go to NYC to compete in the national finals. Chicago is a tough region and a lot of my friends have traveled to other, less singer-populous regions in order to try and win (you can audition anywhere, doesn't matter where you live). I thought, what the heck, I'll give it a try in Chicago! I just saw the list of finalists and one of the other sopranos is currently a young artist at Chicago yeah, I'm pretty happy to just be on a list with her! :) I really needed this boost, and I'm super excited for Sunday's's like a concert, there is an audience, we wear formal attire and it's being broadcast on WFMT, the classical station in Chicago!!

Since I've been on tour this week, I haven't practiced at all besides singing our show, but luckily the aria I'm starting with is Ach ich fuhls, which is Pamina's aria from Magic Flute, which I sing (albeit in English) in this touring show. So I've gotten five cracks at it in front of a very tough crowd -- elementary school kids. :) Tonight I started to feel a bit like I was coming down with something (quel horreur!) so I took three Zicam, drank a thing of airborne (I know it doesn't really work), took several vitamins and have been attempting to drown my internal organs with water (kidding, but I heard that someone actually did that and I wondered if they were a singer). Now I've taken two Nyquil and am planning to conk out for eight hours before heading back to Chi tomorrow. Oh the stress of singer life.

But now I'm back in it. Someone (the met auditions!) has told me, "yes, you have potential", and I am feeling hopeful and inspired again. I hope that I can ride on this feeling for some time. I want to be a singer, and I want to have a good career. I also want to have a family. I don't think this is asking too much. On Sunday, I'm going to go out there and sing my heart out. And then I'm going to go back on the road for another week, singing for kids and spreading the love of opera to children. Aren't I lucky and blessed to get to do that for a living?

I'll let you know how it goes on Sunday. I'm pumped. Nyquil is taking over now...signing out.

Friday, October 24, 2008

So, I wrote this long rambly post yesterday and then my stupid computer lost its internet connection (as it is wont to do these days) and BOOM, post gone. Sadness. Mostly for me, because it was not at all entertaining or fun to read. Maybe the universe was telling me that it was a cathartic exercise only and not meant for other people to read.

To sum things up, I've been having emotional/career crisis number 23093094834 this week, which seems to be pretty normal at this time of year, if my previous two years of blogging are any indication. I have two fairly major auditions this weekend (one is in four hours), for neither of which I feel very prepared, nor do I have an excuse for being unprepared. I'm going to keep that last great audition in mind as I head downtown today. If I can just pull that off again, I'll feel good. Lately I've just been realizing how much I WANT to be performing, not teaching. I've just gotten so jaded about the business, so convinced that hard work doesn't necessarily equal success, that I've forgotten how much I love it. To perform music at a very high level with amazing colleagues and friends -- that is what I love. So I guess I'm going to try to do more of that, whatever it takes.

And thank HEAVEN, I get to do just that for the next two weeks!!! I leave for OFY Fall tour on Sunday!!!! While I'll be very sad to be away from Nick for a week (I miss him when we're apart for 8 hrs, cheesy, I know), I'm thrilled to be back on tour. I was going through the show in my living room yesterday with my iPod (if anyone was looking in the windows they probably thought I was insane) and I found I'm REALLY really excited to do it again. I love (almost all) of the OFY cast, so I can't wait to reunite. The only downside -- the tour is in northern Wisconsin/Duluth area. It might snow. So I bought a really cute Columbia insulated fleece at Nordstrom Rack this week, because I just don't think giant down comforter coat is ready to make an appearance yet. Duluth Super 8, here I come!

So that's my life these days. Life is so confusing sometimes. Thank God for the people that love me, even through my craziness and mental breakdowns and uncertainty. Those people are what are most important, as I remind myself continuously every day.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


I'm feeling like total crap today. Is it the weather? Maybe. I just tried to warm up and my voice sounds like ass. Last week I was feeling all on top of it and now I can barely force myself to vocalize a little bit. Urgh. That's the way it always goes. I went to the gym this morning in hopes of stirring up some energy, but it did nothing but create more phlegm. I think I need to buy some more Zyrtec. I ran out this weekend, and allergies are ridic right now.

I'm doing a gig in Gary, Indiana this week. Oh, the things I'll do for a little bit of money. No, in all seriousness, it's a good gig. It's Faure Requiem, which is delightful, mostly pro choristers (extra delightful), and the conductor is good -- and hilarious, to boot. The rehearsals are downtown, but tomorrow and Friday I have to haul ass to Gary. Nick will go with me on Friday so that it's not so scary.

Still no word on Opera Santa Barbara. I don't even want to talk about it, it's been making me so edgy thinking about how much I want it. I'm so sick of teaching already, I would do anything to get away from it for a little while. Luckily my leg of OFY fall tour is in just a week and half! Which means I'll get a nice break from all my students, and I'll hopefully return refreshed and happy to see them. I really really wish I liked it more. Maybe once I get my own studio (in my house), it'll be better? Because truthfully, it's great, steady money and it's really not that hard. I have good ears, and I believe I'm a good teacher, but I just DREAD my long teaching days so much. Maybe it's carry-over laziness from not having to work all summer? I don't know, I just wish I didn't have that sense of dread. Maybe I just don't like being in charge? I don't know.

How 'bout some pics of my fabu weekend? Mom and Dad were in town for a wedding, and we all went out to dinner and to a show (Dirty Dancing!) on Friday night:

me and Nick at dinner

Then on Sunday we all went to church together (well, I was doing my job) and my great Aunt and Uncle joined us from the 'burbs. Here we are at brunch in Evanston.

This weekend will be equally fabulous -- Mom and my sister Elaine are coming to town to do some wedding stuff and attend a Bridal Show at Navy Pier! Saturday we are going to do some shopping for bridesmaid and mother of the bride gowns. We'll do a fantastic dinner somewhere, and then Sunday is the bridal show. Lots of fun!

Now, I just need to motivate myself to do some singing and not hate teaching. How do I do it? Bribing myself with sweets usually helps.....

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Gameface 2008

Most of you will remember me writing about audition season 2007, which Robert named: Nothing to Lose 2007. NTL 2007 went fairly well, and although I didn't get any gigs out of it, I got lots of good feedback and got my feet wet. Robert had a successful run of it, spending the summer as a young artist at New Jersey Opera Theater and being wait listed at several companies. So, when the time came to name this audition season, I waited with baited breath for Robert's proclamation. And then it came, in the form of a Nike t-shirt worn by one of his students on which read the following slogan: "When the gameface goes on, the beatdowns will commence shortly thereafter". And so, Gameface 2008 was born.

I kicked off Gameface 2008 this week with a stellar audition for Opera Santa Barbara young artist program. They heard all three arias, which is unheard of these days. Usually you they'll hear one, maybe one and a half if you're lucky, and two if you're REALLY lucky. I sang my first two arias, then they made me go in the hall for a moment, and then they brought me back in to sing my last aria. Very good sign, but I'm trying not to get my hopes up too much. That's the thing about these auditions. I've said it a hundred times and I'll say it again -- audition outcomes are dependent on so many factors beyond my control. The best thing to do is go in there looking your very best, sing the shit out of your arias, and then forget about it immediately. And so that's what I'm trying to do. I received an email that said I would hear by the end of next week, so I'm basically crapping my pants until then. It's that time of year again -- when every refresh of the email, every phone call, sends my stomach into knots, hoping and praying it's THE call.

My next audition is in two weeks for Des Moines Metro Opera yap. I was pleasantly surprised to receive the audition, since the past two years I've applied they've not heard me. The program dates would work out really well (ends in mid July, giving me plenty of time to get ready for the wedding) so I'm really glad they are hearing me. I'm not applying for nearly as many auditions this year, so it's great that I'm actually getting the few auditions for which I've applied. And that they are actually within my grasp -- I know several colleagues who have sung at both Opera SB and DMMO -- you don't have to be a superstar to get in.

So I'm feeling really good about the career stuff. I don't have quite as much time to practice as I'd like, since much of my singing energy is taken up by teaching and chorus gigs, but hey, gotsta pay the bills, and paying them with money from singing/teaching is waaaay better than the alternative (spending 8 hrs a day in an office and coming home exhausted from doing nothing and having no time to practice). Now that the high holidays are over, I should have some more singing energy for getting some new arias up and running. The next two weeks are going to fly by, however, and then I will be on whirlwind OFY fall tour for two weeks and then it will be almost the holidays. GEEZ where is the time going?

Well, this is getting long and rambly, per usual when I get going about singing crap. Tonight we are going to hear Natalie Dessay in Manon at the Lyric, and I'm extremely pumped. I need to go get Nick's reading materials compiled so that he can learn the plot and listen to a couple excerpts before tonight. It's very important to know something about the opera you're seeing -- otherwise it gets very boring and often confusing.

I'm off! Happy Weekend!

Friday, October 03, 2008

politics schmolitics

Ok, maybe I said I wouldn't go into politics on this here blog. And maybe I've been updating so infrequently that nobody reads it anymore. But I need to reprint something from Robert's blog that rings true for me (and I hope many others). I don't really think I can handle another four years of conservative Republican bullshit. What I REALLY can't handle is women, women just like me, voting for Sarah Palin -- because they don't know any better and think having a woman Vice-President would be pretty neat. IT WOULD NOT BE NEAT. Read this article and this article and then give me ONE GOOD REASON I would even consider voting for McCain/Palin. Then read Robert's words below.

beyond that, it just makes me worry. i know who i’m voting for (ron paul 2008!) and i have since before he got the official nod from his party. as i’ve always said, i goddamned had to vote for john kerry in 2004, so whether i was voting for Hillary (my primary choice) or Barack (no schlep of a second choice) was irrelevant. at least i had a good candidate to choose this time. but since my mind has been made up for so long, i don’t need to hear all of the idiosyncrasies of the road to the white house, all of the he-said/he-said’s and 10-second CNN soundbites. i don’t follow the polls day to day. i just hope beyond hope that america doesn’t vote a rich, old, racist homophobe puppet and his vapid, pandering choice of a running mate into office. if he does, all my friends joke that we’ll all have to expatriate. but, as i’ve said on this blog before, i refuse to leave my country just so that i can have the same rights as everyone else. plus, as i told elspeth yesterday, i can’t afford to live in the united states, much less canada. and it’s so damned cold.

when i got home last night, though, phong was watching the VP debate and i didn’t want to make him change the channel so i sat there watching it with him. we were all hoping that palin would fall on her ass, that america would see what a blundering fool she really is. what actually happened, though, is that she did an incredible impression of fucking george w. bush, her aw-shucks demeanor and rapid-fire tongue wagging (completely content-free as it may have been) mesmerizing the legions of midwesterners and southerners and white people afraid of a black person and fat housewives who have never registered to vote before they had the chance to vote “one of themselves” into office.

george w. bush pulled the wool over all of these fools’ eyes in 2000 and 2004, somehow convincing them that he was just like them, dumbing down his speech, assuring them all that he was a good ol’ boy. my greatest fear is that people who don’t pay attention, people who are so easily bought, will vote for mccain because they want to see a twit like palin in office. because she is “one of them.”

you know what? i don’t want somebody like me in office. i want somebody smarter than me in office. i want someone to lead this country who actually has experience and a clear idea of what their policy will be. if i led the country, god only knows what would happen. but, as usual, i’m preaching to the choir here. i just don’t know what else to do.

We cannot screw it up again, people.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


You know what's great? When your fiance calls you in the middle of the day to say he's coming home early and taking you out to lunch! I have the best fiance.

You know what else is great? FINALLY getting an audition for a company after much rigamarole with postal addresses, audition materials returned by the post office, emails, applications, etc. And a company that I actually have a prayer of being hired by, which would put me in Santa Barbara during February and March. Please God, let it be in my masterplan to work for this company.

You know what's really really great? FINALLY getting paid by all the companies that owe me money. And then sighing with relief as I pay my bills and do a leeeetle shopping (hellooo brown boots and pants that fit).

I'm in a great mood today, if you can't tell. :)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

It's been a good week. First of all, it's premier week on TV! Did anyone catch the premier of Lipstick Jungle last night? I started watching the episodes on from my laptop during tour last spring, and I got hooked. I thought it was a pretty good start, and it left me speculating all kinds of ways things could go. Tonight, sadly, I will be at church during The Office premier, but Nick has strict instructions for taping and not watching til I get home. I told him if I get home and that show is not on tape, he's out on the street. :) Kidding. Sort of.

In other news, the Handel Hercules concerts with MOB went really well. I'm so thankful for that job; it is definitely the highlight of my performing life at this point. The soloists, as usual, were incredible, and really inspired me to keep plugging away at my solo career as well. Now it is on to the High Holidays for the next two weeks. And the money is going to start rolling in, thank heavens. I've already picked out an amazing pair of brown boots that are going to be my comeuppance from this summer of retail starvation.

Wedding plans continue to come together! I hired our photographer this week. We are using Judy Gaulden out of Fort Wayne who did my sister's June 2007 wedding. Chicago photographers are pretty ridiculous price-wise, and Judy's packages are so reasonable that even with adding her travel expenses we're going to save quite a bit of money than if we'd hired a Chicago photog. Plus, I was totally overwhelmed by the hordes of Chicago photogs to choose from, and I was getting so many mixed reviews from various people, that going with Judy was the easiest and most secure choice for us. Elaine's pictures were gorgeous, so I'm really excited about our decision. I've gotten in touch with the DJ recommended by the Hotel Monaco, and she is available, so I'm going to meet up with (and hopefully hire) her next week. Then all I really have to do is hire a florist, and I can take a few months off and not really worry about anything until after the holidays! September has already flown by, and I just know the rest of the year is going to whoosh past before I know it.

So that's the news! Ankle is healing ok, but I haven't been able to work out for the past two weeks, which has been driving me all sorts of crazy. I forgot how addicting exercise can be. Hopefully by next week I can manage the Elliptical machine or bike or something. I don't want to mess things up even more, so I'm trying to take it slow, but I just really want to work up a good sweat!

We're hosting a little dinner party this weekend for my gal pals Stasi and Allison and their husbands. I haven't seen my girls since our bridal gown shopping adventure in July, so I'm excited! Should be a great time. I've got to get cleaning and making a shopping list. It makes me feel oh so grown up and domesticated to host dinner parties. :) Hopefully I'll have some pics to post of the evening.

Have a great weekend, everybody!
All you ever wanted to know about.....Nick, my fiance. Taken from my sis's blog.

1. He is sitting in front of the TV, what is he watching? Sci-fi channel, Ice Road Truckers, or CNN

2. You are out to eat, what kind of dressing does he get on his salad? balsamic vinagrette

3. Whats one food he doesn't like? you know, he is not a picky eater at all. i honestly can't think of anything!

4. You go out to a bar, what does he order? a Leffe (beer)

5. Where did he go to High School? American Community Schools of Athens (??? I think that's what it's called)

6. What size shoe does he wear? huge. 14. he can only buy shoes at Nordstrom.

7. If he were to collect anything, what would it be? he's a big collector. watches, cameras and camera equipment

8. What is his favorite sandwich? patty melt

9. What would he eat every day if he could? probably a burger or a steak

10. What is his favorite cereal? raisin bran crunch, or the chocolatey stuff we can only find in Europe

11. What would he never wear? anything pink, yellow, or orange (believe me, i've tried)

12. What is his favorite sports team? probably Cubs. we're not huge into sports around here.

13. Who will he vote for? tough call. i know who i WANT him to vote for!

14. Who is his best friend? Aki

15. What is something you do that he wishes you wouldn't do? cry about my finances/career; be really hard on myself

16. How many states has he lived in? well states, one. countries, two.

17. What is his heritage? i'm pretty sure it's Greek ;)

18. You bake him a cake for his birthday, what kind of cake is it? chocolate cake, chocolate frosting

19. Did he play sports in High School? track

20. What could he spend hours doing? surf his online watch forum, walk around taking pictures, bake something

That's Nick, in a nutshell!

Monday, September 15, 2008

help, i've fallen and i can't get up

So, last week I fell down some stairs at one of my students' house. This will come as no surprise to many of you who know me, as I am wont to trip and stumble. Once, while backpacking in Spain, I slipped with a giant backpack and ended up like a turtle on the sidewalk, frantically waving my arms and legs trying to get back up. But I digress. This particular fall was bad, and now I have an ankle the size of a tennis ball. I finally wised up and went for an x-ray last Thursday, just in case, and thankfully it isn't broken. But I can't do yoga or run, nor can I walk in a shoe with any sort of heel. Which leaves me one pair of wearable shoes at the moment (I'm a big fan of heels). So that's kind of annoying.

But work is getting better. Things picked up quite a bit with my return to the CPS school (where I teach through MOB's outreach program) and my classes in Plainfield starting up. Time is once again flying, and I can look forward to a fat bank account in the very near future (well, by my standards, anyway). Our first MOB concerts are Sunday/Monday, which is always a good time. It's really a feast and famine type deal with freelancing. Thank God I'm heading into feast phase again. I need some new clothes like whoa. I purged my closet of several pairs of pants that I don't have a prayer of fitting into ever again. Sadly, I'm no longer 22 and have dinners of cottage cheese and beer. Or just beer. Side note, cottage cheese is a great pre-drinking meal. ;)

Anyways, things are back to somewhat normal for me. I've been seriously considering getting my teaching license though. I really enjoy my days at the public high school, and the benefits and stability are highly attractive. Nick and I have been discussing it -- it would be very helpful for us to have good insurance benefits, since at the moment both of us are independent contractors and will be paying out the wazoo once we have kids. I would still be able to do lots of the professional singing I'm doing now since rehearsals are usually in the evenings, and I would have the summers open for singing gigs as well.'s just an idea right now, but one that sounds more and more promising and exciting to me the more I think about it. A paycheck every two weeks? Good heavens, I can't remember what that's like.

So yeah. Good stuff. Wedding plans are coming along. Besides my swollen ankle, I'm feelin' good. And it's FALL in Chicago. The best season of all. How could I not be totally blissful?! :)

Friday, September 05, 2008

Sorry folks, I've just been feeling a little...unbloggy...lately. I'm a little down in the dumps about work right now, and I just don't have a lot of interesting things to write about.

I thought this week was going to feel different, since I was back to MOB rehearsals and church. But it feels pretty much the same as summer, except that when Nick comes home from work, I leave and go to a rehearsal. I'm bored all day by myself at home, and then when I want to be home spending time with him, I have to leave. It sucks. Most of my friends are back to working day jobs, so I have nobody to hang out with during the day, and I can't hang out with them in the evenings either. Whine whine whine, I know.

You are probably thinking, here's a solution, get a day job. Well, here's the thing. I don't have to have a day job. Why in the world would I want to work at a horrible, low paying, zero satisfaction job that isn't in my field if I don't have to? And yet I can't continue my current schedule forever, nor do I want to. If I could think of ANY nine to five job that was fulfilling and enough money to make getting up early and spending forty hours a week doing it worth it, I'd be there. As of now, I can't think of anything. I've thought about going back for my teaching license, but I feel like that's selling myself out a little. I went for a Masters degree so that I could someday be a voice professor at a college. Unfortunately, these days you need either a doctorate or ten years of experience. So I'm going to have to wait on that one a little. I'm always on the lookout for a small adjunct voice position, but those are hard to come by around here.

So at the moment I'm just trying to get more students on the North Shore. And sort through the mess of possible auditions for this year. I did have a great coaching yesterday with my favorite Scot, Alan D, so that perked me up quite a bit. He gave me some really terrific audition advice and some new ways of practicing that I think are really going to help. It looks like I'm going to have an audition next week for Sarasota Opera young artist program, which would mean three months in Florida in the middle of winter. That sounds pretty freakin' awesome.

Oh, here's a bit of fun news: This week I was elected to the Yelp 2008 Elite Squad! I was thinking about applying after I reached fifty reviews, but I didn't even have to apply! The Yelp community manager emailed me this week that I had been chosen! Check out my nifty new Elite badge on my profile. So, yeah, I'm pretty much a guru on what's hip and happenin' in Chicago. :) The best part is, I am now eligible for Elite events, which often mean free food and booze! And I get a free Yelp hoodie. :)

So that's it from here. This weekend will be hardly a weekend, since I've got a rehearsal tonight, Nick's working tomorrow, and I've got church AND a rehearsal on Sunday. We're going to try to fit in a trip to the Windy City Wine Festival somewhere in there, and hopefully a good meal or two.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ok, I keep writing posts and then deleting them because they sound like a huge pile of crazy. I'll stop that now. One thing is certain: I need to get the hell out of this house and back to work!

I'll let you know how glad I am to be back when I'm sitting in rehearsals every night for the next two weeks. Say goodbye to cooking and seeing Nick during waking hours! :(

Have a great Labor Day weekend, y'all.

Friday, August 15, 2008

on the edge of my seat.

Ok, I'll admit it, I'm a bit Olympics obsessed this year. Four years ago, I don't think I watched a single second of the Games. Thinking back on it, I don't think Andrea and I had television in the summer of '04. We were too busy carousing Southport bars and going to Cubs games, I suppose.

But I remember watching it as a child with my family, begging my parents to stay up later and later to watch the gymnastics or ice skating finals (all little girls' favorite Olympic sports to watch). I remember tuning in to the Games in 1996 while on a church mission trip in West Virgina, all of us huddled around the little television, watching Kerri Strug brave a bum ankle on the vault to bring home gold for the American team.

You can't help but tear up at watching Bela Karoyli carry her to the medal podium.

Despite having a temp job this morning, thus having to rise early, I stayed up 'til 12:30 to watch Nastia Liukin bring home the gold. It was great to see this eighteen year old beat the pants off those Chinese children. For some reason, the Chinese athletes scare me to death. When they screw up, I see them thinking....banishment to a one room shack six hundred miles outside Beijing living off only $33 a month in welfare. That country seriously scares the crap out of me. Proud to be an American, I am indeed.

Watching Michael Phelps is nearly as enthralling. I'm convinced he's half-fish or merman or something. But watching history in the making is fascinating, and I've been glued to the television all week. Not to mention that most of the U.S. men's swim team members aren't half bad to look at. ;)

I guess part of the reason I've gotten so excited about these Games is that I identify (somewhat) with the athletes. Call me crazy (you won't be the first), but opera is pretty much the Olympics of singing. It takes the same sort of rigorous training, natural skill and talent, and narrow focus as training for a sport. Often in our OFY tours, when the kids would ask "how we sing like that", we would tell them that training your voice is like training for a sport. And it really is. It's all about muscle memory and stamina and training certain muscle groups to perform certain tasks. I know what it's like to be on the "disabled list" and the fear and determination that comes along with returning from an injury.

So though I'll never stand on a podium and have a medal put around my neck for my "sport", I feel a connection to these athletes. Sure, there are differences -- the main one being I'd like my career to last past my 30th birthday. But seeing their hard work and success materialize onscreen has given me new hope for my career. The main message being: keep on truckin'.

If you need a little inspiration in your day (life), just watch that Kerri Strug video a few times. See if you can get through it without tearing up.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Indy recap

'Twas a wonderful weekend in Indy, visiting my Gram for her birthday. I had not been to Indy since Thanksgiving 2006 -- I had forgotten how many childhood memories are contained in that city and my grandma's house. Just the smell of her house takes me back to summers as a kid where each of us would get our own "special visit" with grandma. We'd go by ourselves for four or five days, and grandma would spoil us rotten -- taking us to museums, out to dinner, and as I got older, shopping. Oh boy can Gram and I do some damage shopping. :) I remember shopping with her once for something like nine hours.

Her house also reminds me of many Christmases spent with the whole family together, all of my dad's siblings and spouses and our cousins. For some reason lately, I've been trying to recall memories of my childhood and find myself at a loss -- I feel like I really can't remember much anymore. I guess I just have to be in the right environment -- over the weekend I was flooded with memories. Nice, warm, happy memories. I hope I can give my kids those same type of memories someday.

Quick recap of weekend, sans pictures (Nick still needs to upload them). Friday evening we got into town around 8:00 pm and headed out to a Greek restaurant near my Gram's house. Check out my review of the place on Yelp. Saturday my Gram fixed us breakfast and then Nick and I headed out to do some exploring. We tooled around downtown for awhile and then I took him over to Broadripple, the "trendy" district of Indy. We had a drink and a light meal on the patio of a wine bar and stopped in a few shops, then headed back to Gram's to get ready for her birthday dinner. My aunt met us at Macaroni Grill and we had a lovely time catching up and celebrating Gram's 71st birthday. And damn does that woman look good for 71. She dresses better than I do, for goodness sake! I can only pray I look that good in forty some years.

Sunday I went with Gram to church, and then we went to her country club for brunch, where we met my aunt and cousin. Sunday afternoon we chilled in Gram's awesome neighborhood pool for awhile, then went to dinner at Rick's Boatyard. Again, check out my Yelp review. This place was great. Monday morning we packed up and headed home, stopping in Crown Point for a quick diner lunch. It was the perfect long-weekend trip, and I think Nick really relaxed and enjoyed himself. I know I did.

This week is uneventful. Today I am playing housewife, cleaning and doing what I lovingly refer to as the "bitch chores". Picking up dry cleaning, buying things at Target, making dinner, etc. I have a good feeling I'm going to be missing doing these things in a few weeks, especially the making dinner part. As it stands, I've got rehearsals/teaching til about 9 pm or later just about every day of the week starting after Labor Day. Nick does not like this aspect of my job, and neither do I. If I could do everything during the day I would, but it just doesn't work that way. We've been spoiled this summer with my lax schedule, so it's going to take some getting used to.

Pics of Indy trip to follow! Enjoy the fleeting days of summer, my friends.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

stuff (mostly boring)

You know what European tradition should be embraced by Americans? Taking the whole month of August off work. Somehow, I feel less guilty about not working this month knowing that an entire continent to my right is on vacation. I tried to convince Nick that we should take off for Greece for the month, but he didn't go for it. Too many things like bills and savings for down payments on houses and the bad economy getting in the way...

My summer of leisure is about to end, unfortunately. I've been putting my fall schedule together, and it looks to be about as crazy as last spring, if not crazier. I've added a gig -- I'm singing the High Holidays at a synagogue in Evanston -- and I've added a day in Plainfield teaching three voice classes for different age groups, plus more private students. Plus I've got MOB gigs and outreach teaching for them. I'm hoping to add a few more students on the North Shore to round out a couple of afternoons up there, but basically -- I'm booked. I'm not quite sure how I'm going to fit audition season into all this, but I'll find a way.

Audition season...something that's been on my mind lately. Last year I sort of went balls-out and just auditioned for everything I could. I didn't get any jobs out of it, but I got some good feedback and got my feet wet. This year, I'm going to be a little pickier in choosing which auditions to take. The wedding next year will undoubtedly rule out several programs, and I'm not even sure I'd want to do a summer program at all -- being out of town for the two months prior to the wedding doesn't seem like the best idea. I've got a pretty darn good career going here in Chicago that can only grow and get better, and I'm going to be a married woman -- A year-long young artist program that would require a move to another city and renting an apartment, or worse yet, living in some sort of dorm setting, sounds as about as appealing as...I don't know, something icky. So here's my plan: audition for every damn thing I can here in Chicago and nearby cities (such as Milwaukee, Madison, etc.), and try to get some auditions for programs that are one to three months long (preferably in a warm climate during the Chicago winter). Sure, it may seem like I'm limiting my options, but...I think it's more a matter of growing up and realizing what will make me happy and fulfilled. Being with Nick in Chicago makes me extremely happy, and I don't really see that changing. Ever.

Blech, audition rants already! You've probably stopped reading. Nick and I are off to Indianapolis tomorrow for a little three day weekend. It's my grandma's birthday, so we are taking her out on Saturday night. Nick hasn't seen much of Indy, so I'm going to show him around a bit. Not that I'm the Indy-expert (I've been on Yelp all week scoping out the scene), but I did spend a good amount of time there growing up and in college. I'll also get to see my aunt, uncle, and cousin whom I have not seen since my sister's wedding last year! Usually I see my extended family atleast twice a year but we missed them at Christmas. So I'm really looking forward to the weekend!

Have a good one, everybody!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

a bit of wedding news

So, the wedding plans are back on track. I'll let you in on a little secret...I might be a little dramatic. Shocker! I get paid to be dramatic, mmmmkay? But when it comes to wedding planning, drama is no good. So I'm vowing (haha, vow, get it) to keep the drama out of it from now on. And now that the church and reception venue are booked, things should calm down for quite a while. Update: Apparently, the excitement is never ending -- the Greek church called me yesterday to tell me that we could not be married on the date we chose (the date they told us we could have a week ago) because it's some sort of religious fast day and they will perform no marriages. So the date is moved yet again...I'm starting to think it will never be final.

But the biggest news is....I bought my gown!!! Now, I cannot reveal too much but I will say it is a Melissa Sweet gown, and it is absolutely GORGEOUS! I fell in love with it the moment I put it on. My dear friends Allison and Stasi were great shopping companions, especially since they've both been through the gown shopping recently. I purchased the dress at Vanessa's Modern Bride in Arlington Heights, which I would highly recommend--the service was friendly and helpful and HONEST (none of this "oh that looks so fabulous on you" about EVERY SINGLE dress). After we were finished, we headed across the street to a great little Mexican restaurant for a round of margaritas and lunch to celebrate the finding of the gown!

And I am happy to announce....

The 2nd Birthday of The Midwest Princess II!!!!!!

Some of you (not many) may remember the original Midwest Princess, which I began in January 2005 and ended in October 2005. Sadly, she was deleted (an action I will always regret), but her spirit lives on in this here blog. So Happy 2nd Birthday, dear blog, and wishing you many more birthdays to come.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

a l'il trip to the Indiana Dunes

what a lovely way to spend a Sunday...

Friday, July 25, 2008

yelping about yelp, via blog

Last night's Yelp Event was super fun...I mean, what's not to love about free food and alchohol? The sweets were definitely the highlight of the event. We tasted some amazing chocolate -- one was a basil chocolate that I couldn't quite wrap my mind around, it was that good. I may seek it out and purchase some for my next party; it's quite the conversation starter. There were some very tasty cupcakes and a chocolate fountain from the Melting Pot, too! It was a bit overwhelming.

The savory items were not quite as plentiful or inspired, but good nonetheless. There was a pizza/pasta station, small plates from a restaurant called Dine! that included a fresh tuna and watermelon salad and some scallops with a delicious smoky apple sauce. They were also handing out mini red velvet martinis which were amazing. Sadly, the Thai food had run out before we arrived, so we didn't get to sample any. There were some mussels that we deemed too difficult to eat whilst standing up and holding a drink, but I heard they were good. Venus, a Greek restaurant, had some rather dry tasteless meatballs, which saddened me because I love Greek food and had heard great things about the restaurant.

There was wine and beer and vodka o'plenty, but lucky for me I only had two glasses of Merlot, because I got called in for a last minute reception job today and had to get my butt out of bed earrrrly (well, for me anything before 8:00 am is early).

Weekend plans include some bridal gown shopping tomorrow with Allison and Stasi. I'll be honest, wedding planning isn't going well for me. Nick and I have had more disagreements about the stupid wedding than we've had in our whole relationship, and I'm about ready to throw in the towel and elope. I was ready to cancel the day of gown shopping, but Nick convinced me to go, and I really want to see my gals. We are usually so good at compromising, and we have many of the same views about things and what we want in life, but a wedding is not one of them. I've worked really hard to create what I thought was a great compromise, but it doesn't seem to be enough. So I'm kind of stuck at the moment and thinking that eloping sounds like a lot more fun than fighting for the next year. We'll see...

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Yelp Event.

After a bit of a hiatus, I've gotten back to writing Yelp reviews. It is a really entertaining site, if you've never been there, and chances are, there are tons of reviews of everything from nail salons to fine dining restaurants in your neck of the woods.

Tonight, we are attending a Yelp event! See, I knew eventually all my eating and talking about eating and writing about eating would pay the form of an evening filled with free food, drink, sweets, and entertainment. Yelp Around the World, Chicago Yelp's biggest event yet, goes down tonight at the German Cultural Center in Lincoln Square, and Nick and I will be in attendance! Expect a full report tomorrow.

For now, head over to my yelp profile and check out my recent reviews and my yelp friends' reviews. I thought I'd been to a lot of restaurants...some of these people put me to shame! Maybe you want to start yelping too? Join in the fun!

Monday, July 21, 2008

The T-Shirt Deli

Over the weekend, I ventured out for a stroll along the Andersonville "strip" (as I like to call it), and happened upon a new shop that recently opened its doors. The T-Shirt Deli's flagship store in Wicker Park has been around for several years, but in the past month they have opened a second shop in Andersonville. The concept is a simple one, they put logos on t-shirts, but the way they present it is the fun part. The whole shop is decorated like a deli, with ketchup and mustard bottles lining the shelves and traditional red and white checkered tablecloths on every available surface. Binders and binders full of different logos take up a table in the center of the shop. There are political logos, pop culture logos, logos for kids, or you can just make up your own and choose from a variety of fonts and colors. All of the t-shirts are American Apparel, and they have many different styles and every color you can imagine. After spending a good thirty minutes leafing through the binders, I decided to order my very own t-shirt.

It came wrapped up like a sandwich in deli paper

and was served with a bag of chips!

Click to enlarge and get a better view of the logo. I got so many great ideas for fun gifts while leafing through the binders at T-Shirt Deli. Don't be surprised if your next gift from me is an amusing and unique tee!

Monday, July 14, 2008

An Evening at Wrigley

Last week we spent a lovely evening at Wrigley Field, courtesy of my parents. My dad gets tickets every year, but my cousin's boyfriend offered them some better seats (right behind Cubs dugout!) so Nick and I got the cast off tickets. We happily took them and had a great night -- and cheered the Cubs to victory!!

me and my cousin Angela

Aunt Lynn bought a Fukudome headband on the street

getting the field ready for play

the infamous Wrigley bleachers, aka The Friendly Confines

It was a great time had by all. Nothing like a warm summer evening at Wrigley!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Updated 7.14.08
It was an amazing "vacation" week spent in Fort Wayne, and I have to say, I was not ready for it to end. I guess I needed that time away more than I thought. It is taking me a couple of days to get motivated and get back to working diligently at my career, but I think the break was just what I needed. We had lots of relaxing pool time, lots of good meals with even better company, and a fantastic time at the wedding of a dear friend. It was great to get to spend lots of quality time with my sister, mom, and dad; and I even got to see my brother and his girlfriend for a short time on Sunday afternoon.

Here are some pics from the week/weekend.

bridesmaids entering the sanctuary

the browns getting hitched!

giant cupcake tower

my handsome fiance!

I'm having a lot of trouble loading pictures right now (hence the week back dating on this post). Does anybody know a better way to load pics? Maybe it's my Mac...

Anyways, I'm way behind on posting, but I have lots of fun summer activities to report. Trip to Wrigley last week (Go Cubbies!), wedding planning news, trips to the's turning out to be a fabulous summer. Stay tuned...