Monday, June 30, 2008

thoughts on NW Indiana

What a fantastic weekend, and what a way to kick off my vacation week! Yesterday was an absolutely wonderful day, spent at my best friend Andrea's parents' house in Ogden Dunes, Indiana. I took the ten a.m. train out -- what a lovely ride it is on the South Shore -- where Andrea met me and we immediately put on bathing suits and headed down to the beach. After lathering up with sunscreen, we spent the next several hours lounging on the beach, chatting, looking at bridal magazines, playing with her adorable niece, enjoying a few afternoon adult beverages, and having a fantastic time. We even got to go on an (extremely fast) boat ride with her neighbors. I can't remember the last time I've been on a boat! It was great. Andrea is the kind of friend who, no matter how much time has passed since our last visit, we just pick up where we left off. She's one of the best listeners I know, and she's gotten me through more difficult times than I can count. I'm constantly (selfishly) trying to persuade her to move back to Chicago, but I'm so proud of what she's done in New York; she has built a great life there. Hopefully it won't be another six months before I see her again!

I kind of fell in love with Ogden Dunes yesterday. I've always known it was a great place to live, but now that Nick and I are seriously thinking about where we want to settle, I saw it in a new light. Andrea's parents' were (are) both high school teachers (her mother is retired, her father is retired from public school but teaches at a private school), and have lived in OD for nearly thirty years. It's a wonderful, friendly community, which was made evident by the giant party on the beach yesterday -- everybody who was there was a friend or neighbor. The houses are adorable and unique (Andrea's parents' home was built by a pupil of Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1920's), and it is about as far from a cookie cutter suburb as you can imagine. It's not a cheap place to live, but it's cheaper than many of the nicer Chicago suburbs. Plus the sales tax and property taxes in Indiana are much lower. My only concern would be the OD school district, which isn't stellar, but there are a few nearby school districts that are better (Chesterton, Valpo). And it's a one hour ride on the South Shore train into the city. So my new pastime (besides looking at wedding stuff online) is looking at Northwest Indiana real estate online.

Tomorrow I make my second journey in two days on the South Shore, this time to South Bend, where my mom will pick me up and bring me to Fort Wayne (it's the only civilized way of getting to FW via train -- Amtrak is a hot mess). Besides my three hours of teaching today, I am on "vacation"!!! Woot! Nick will join me in FW on Thursday for the wedding festivities, and then we will come back together on Sunday. But between now and Sunday, I will be doing a lot of the following: lounging by the pool at my parents' country club, partaking in adult beverages, visiting a few bridal shops with my mom and sister, hanging out with the fam at home, eating yummy food, and of course all the wedding festivities. My only goal is not to get a sunburn and get rid of my bathing suit tan lines before the wedding on Friday (the dresses are strapless and I've got quite the strap marks from yesterday). Lofty goals, I know. It's going to be a great week.

I'm sure I'll be posting intermittently over the next few days, but if you're on vacation like me this week, enjoy yourself! And Happy Independence Day.

Friday, June 27, 2008

temp central

This is where I'm temping today. Trust me, it's not as cool as it looks. I am just sitting at the reception desk, answering the phone and signing for packages and such, but I'm keeping busy looking at wedding stuff online, texting my sister, and trying to finish a novel. The office culture is so foreign to me nowadays, but sometimes it's nice to have mundane tasks and a simple day. I'm reminded of how much I do NOT belong in an office. Give me a stage, a rehearsal room, a teaching studio, even a church, anything but a stuffy office. Thank God I only have to do this for a little while this summer.

Luckily I have a scrumptious lunch packed today, since they informed me I would not get a lunch break because there is nobody to cover the phones (what is that?). Fine with me, I'd rather get paid for the extra hour rather than wander aimlessly around downtown by myself and spend too much money on lunch. I've got leftover pastitsio, which is like Greek lasagna, that we made earlier this week, a leftover cupcake (last one! they went fast) a peach, and a diet coke. Delicious!

Weekend plans include: seeing some reception sites tomorrow and an audition in the afternoon, then on Sunday I'm heading to northwest Indiana to visit my best friend Andrea at her parents' house. Andrea lives in NYC, and I hardly ever get to see her, so thankfully it works out that she will be in town when I have time to spend an entire day with her! It will be great to see her family too, and I'm really hoping to get to meet her 1 and a half year old nice, Ione. Ione has her very own blog, so I'm certain we will become fast friends.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

quick ENT update

My cords are beautiful and healthy, according to one Dr. Robert Bastian (best voice ENT ever, in my opinion). I was thinking of scanning the photos and posting them on here, but Nick thought that was gross, so I'll spare you all. You can go to Bastian's website to check out some gross pics if you want! Warning: Pictures of vocal cords look a lot like vaginas.

We even managed to get in a quick Walmart trip and a gas tank fill up while we were out in the 'burbs! I love multi-tasking suburban trips, especially ones that save me money! Much as I hate and try to avoid Walmart, they do have darn cheap toilet paper and toiletry items. And the gas in the suburbs is about thirty to forty cents cheaper a gallon, so SCORE.

That's all. Just wanted to make sure you weren't hanging on a limb with worry about my doc appointment. :)

ENT, wedding crap, vacay

Today I have the unpleasant chore of visiting my ENT. Unfortunately, it's a necessary thing for singers to get their cords checked out every year or so, just to make sure everything is a-ok. I had a fantastic voice lesson yesterday and sang a high E flat (basically the tip top of my range), so I'm not too concerned about it. But considering most of my past visits to my ENT's office were rather traumatizing, I am understandably a little anxious (ok, a lot anxious) about the visit. Also, it's not terribly pleasant to have the little camera stuck through your nose and down your throat. I'm trying to focus on the sense of relief I will feel when it's over (similar to the gyno, ladies) and I head home knowing I won't have to return for at least another year. And Nick is going with me, so that makes it better.

In wedding planning news, we have finally settled on Chicago for our wedding city. Now comes the task of finding a reception site and coordinating with the church. Everyone tells me once those two things are nailed down, it gets a lot easier, but I'm feeling uber overwhelmed right now. We have two appointments on Saturday to look at a couple of different places, and then a couple more appointments when I get back from "vacation." I'm having some really good feelings about one of the places we are seeing on Saturday, as I spent a half an hour on the phone with their on-site wedding coordinator yesterday. I want to get as much done this summer as I can, because once fall hits and my schedule gets insane again, I know I will have no time or desire to add wedding planning to my schedule.

Speaking of my "vacation", it's almost here, and I can hardly contain my excitement! Who would have thought a trip to Fort Wayne, Indiana could elicit such glee! I guess I'm just excited to spend six days relaxing with no responsibility whatsoever (except bridesmaid stuff, but that's fun). I don't have to do laundry or keep the house tidy or cook anything, and I'm not going to practice or think (worry) about my career or teach any lessons -- in other words, I'm going to do NOTHING but relax and spend time with family and friends. It's not often that I allow myself these sorts of mental and physical vacations from singing and life, but the opportunity has presented itself, and I'm taking it! Plus my friend Stasi's wedding is going to be extremely fun. I'm slightly nervous about how I'm going to hold it together to sing her down the aisle (I'm singing Ave Maria as she comes down the aisle). I have a tendency to bawl when the bride comes in with her father...I cried yesterday watching the Today Show throws a wedding when a perfect stranger came down the aisle on television! I think if I just visualize the situation a few times while practicing the piece, that should do the trick. If I can make myself lose it while practicing, it won't happen in the real situation. (Stas, I know you're probably reading this and freaking out right now, but don't worry -- I got through the Lord's Prayer at my sister's wedding, so I know I can do it!) It's Stas's mom we really have to worry about -- Stas is an only child and her mother is a bit emotional...

Alright, time to go take some deep breaths before the doc visit. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

happy birthday to me

I am one lucky girl. I have the greatest fiance, family, and friends a girl could ask for. It becomes even more apparent to me how great these people are when I get to talk to them or see them all in one day! Yesterday was my 26th birthday, and even though my sister says I'm not in my mid-twenties anymore ("You're in your LATE twenties now, Emily!") I still feel like every year gets better and better. The day was beautiful and not too warm.

Foster Beach

I spent a leisurely morning doing one of my favorite things: baking! I made these amazing chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting, courtesy of one if my food idols, Ina Garten:

recipe here

Later I set out to Plainfield to do my Monday teaching with a few cupcakes in tow for my students. One of my students brought me a present with the sweetest card! Being a teacher is so rewarding sometimes. And in honor of my birthday, the traffic on the expressway was not even that bad!

When I got home, Nick surprised me with a cake in which he had put (and lit) twenty six candles. It looked like a fire hazard, but I loved it. And to aid in my pursuit of all things food snobbery, he got me a top of the line coffee grinder that I had been wanting. Then we headed out to Charlie's to meet up with some of my friends for drinks. I have some terrific friends.

It was a terrific day, and thanks to everyone who made it special.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Chicago or Greece?

Not much to report here in happy-couple land. I was just reading a very popular blogger's blog tips, and they said that in order for your blog to remain popular, you need to update every three days. Not that my blog has ever been the big hotspot on the internets, but I've started commenting on a few other blogs so I think my readership is starting to grow. So if you've found this site by accident or you are a dear friend or family, Welcome. :)

The big topic of conversation lately has been where to have our wedding. Or rather, the topic of an ongoing disagreement. Before we got engaged, we talked a lot about doing it in Greece, where Nick is from, possibly on an island. We always knew we wanted a very small, intimate celebration, so a "destination" wedding seemed like a great idea. And it wouldn't really be like a destination wedding since one of us is from there. It sounded beautiful and magical, until I started to consider the details...and the cost. I've complained ad nauseum about the amount of money I've had to spend on other people's weddings, and I certainly do not want people to feel that way about mine. I'm not planning to have a bridal party or many of the other traditional "American" wedding details, but the cost for guests of flying to Greece, staying in a hotel, etc, would be quite a lot, especially with the weak dollar. Which means that many of the people who are dearest to me would not be able to come to my wedding. And that started to make me sad.

Plus the logistics of planning a celebration over there would be a bit of a nightmare. I would have to hire someone to take care of most of the details, and at this point I don't know anyone who has gotten married on a Greek Island who could recommend a wedding planner or resort. I would have to make many decisions about the wedding sight unseen, which would make me very nervous.

And then there's the problem of picking a date that works for all of mine and Nick's immediate family, who have to be at the wedding.

It just seems like....a lot of problems. Nick seems to have had his heart set on doing it there, but it's just starting to sound so complicated. And expensive. And a Chicago wedding would be so lovely, and most of my family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins) and our close friends would be able to make it. And the majority of Nick's family who would come to the wedding are here anyway. His grandmother refuses to leave her house in a village on the Pelopennese, so it's unlikely we'd get her on a boat to an island.

So I'm in a quandary. Greece or Chicago? Chicago or Greece? There's going to have to be some sort of compromise, and I'm just not sure what it is at the moment. But that's what marriage is all about, right? Compromise. Guess I'd better get started...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

big news!

This gal is officially off the market:

Nick proposed on Saturday!!!!! Rewind to Friday evening, we went to the Hop Leaf for dinner, which is where we went for drinks on our first date. The Hop Leaf is a beer place in our neighborhood that just happens to have the BEST french fries with garlic aioli and a bajillion delicious Belgian beers to choose from. It's a favorite of both of us for sure. So we get there and they seat us at the EXACT same table where we sat on our first date! Nick did not plan that part, but he said when they sat us there he knew for sure it was the perfect time to propose, except for one thing: it was Friday the 13th. And who in their right mind would propose to a girl on Friday the 13th? So we drank some beers, had some delicious food, and came home and went to bed.

The next morning I was busy getting ready for my friend Stasi's shower/bachelorette party in the 'burbs that afternoon. I was rummaging around in my closet when I heard Nick's voice behind me. "I think you need something else to wear to the shower today", he said. I turned around, and he was down on his knee, and asked me to marry him! I was totally surprised, and of course I said yes! He said he had wanted to ask me the night before, but thought it was bad luck to ask on Friday the 13th.

So now I'm engaged! And I have to say, everything is better with a diamond ring on your finger. :)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

good things

I've learned this week that even when I'm not working a lot I can still find plenty to do. My latest job descriptions include: Nick's personal assistant (the pay is great, let me tell you); bugging the temp agency incessantly to find me some work, and as always, diva of my living room (singing arias to the walls and possibly the annoyed neighbors). Seriously though, I've been making a lot of progress with practicing and learning new stuff for audition season AND I had the most fantastic lesson yesterday. Terry B. is the greatest -- I'm so lucky to have such a fantastic and supportive teacher.

I am still teaching lessons here and there, and I'm teaching a class at the school in Plainfield on Monday nights in addition to my private students there. It's a middle school vocal techniques class, and I have to say, middle school girls can be a little scary. Monday was the first class, and the four girls in the class are very nice, if a bit giggly. So I've got to come up with some lesson plans for the next classes. I'm going to be teaching the class again in the fall, in addition to an elementary class and a class with five to eight year olds. Eegads! So this will good practice for that, I guess.

Thankfully, I'm starting to relax a bit and enjoy this down time. Meeting up with friends I haven't seen in ages, singing what I want to be singing (which is usually very different than what I get paid to sing) even if it is just in my living room and teacher's studio, working out (although not as much as I should - I have no excuse now!), and the best thing - spending evenings with Nick and cooking dinner for him, something I've hardly gotten to do at all this year. It's wonderful to be present in the lives of my friends and loved ones for a change. I'm planning to spend a week in Ft. Wayne at my parents' house before my friend Stasi's wedding on Fourth of July -- I'm already dreaming about spending a day at the country club pool with my sister, barbequeing, catching up with my mom and dad, relaxing in the peace and quiet. Then Nick and I are planning a trip to Indianapolis for a long weekend to visit my grandmother. I want to make a side trip to Greencastle and show Nick the DePauw campus. I haven't set foot there since I graduated, and I'm dying to see the brand new music building and eat a garlic cheeseburger at Marvin's, of course.

Good things. I heart summer.

Monday, June 09, 2008

A Musical Feast

As I mentioned earlier, this past weekend we attended the annual Music of the Baroque benefit gala at the Four Seasons. I was donating my services as a musician in return for attending the event for free with a guest! MOB has been very good to me this year, and it is a truly wonderful organization, so I was more than happy to do so.

The evening began with a short concert of mostly Italian baroque music (I had a solo in a Vivaldi piece!), followed by a cocktail reception with delicious h'ors devours while they turned the ballroom from concert hall to dinner party. The dinner was amazing, followed by a delicious dessert of baked Alaska:

After dinner there was a raffle (we bid on one "foodie" prize but didn't win, booooo) and dancing with a very fun band. The whole evening was a fantastic time. Unfortunately both our cameras were sicky and in the shop, so we only managed to get a couple of crappy cell phone photos. Here's the best one from the evening:

I could get used to this whole fancy benefit attending stuff. :) Perhaps we'll make it a yearly event?

Saturday, June 07, 2008

more wedding pics

my brother, cousin's boyfriend, cousin, sister, and brother-in-law at the ceremony

slow dance with my honey

the lovely bride with our grandparents

Nick and Dave looking incredibly excited about the garter toss

Getting ready for the bouquet toss (I believe my exact words were "this better be the last f--ing time I have to do this")

For more pics check out my sister's blog! She definitely has a "best of" the ceremony/reception there -- saves me the time and pain of uploading! Thanks Elaine!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

greetings from the unemployed

It's amazing what gets done around here when mama's not working! Not only is the house spic and span, laundry done, healthy meals cooked, receipts for taxes filed and put away (the pile had grown enormous), dry cleaning dropped off and picked up, bridal shower and wedding gifts bought, hardworkouts accomplished, but yesterday I had time to make this beaut:

Our pile of computer print-out recipes and copies of Nick's mother's recipes had grown out of control as well, so I organized them all in this lovely little binder with plastic sheet protecters and made this beautiful cover. I'm so Martha. Next project: staining or painting my old dresser and buying house plants.

I've also had time to become very eco-friendly. For a few months now, I've been using this Sigg bottle instead of buying plastic bottles. As a singer, I drink a ton of water, and although I used to refill the plastic bottles numerous times before discarding, it's so nice to always have this one handy to fill up at a sink or drinking fountain wherever I may be.

It has saved me quite a bit of money in plastic bottles and reduced my carbon footprint at the same time! Win-win! This week, I was shopping at Target with the giftcard my cousin gave me for singing in her wedding, and I came across this:

An adorable, made-from-organic-materials bag that is perfect for greener grocery shopping! I've been contemplating cloth grocery bags for some time now, and this was my answer.

Now, it doesn't hold a ton so I may need to pick up another one at some point, but it's perfect for those midweek shorter grocery trips where you just need to pick up a few things. I figure whatever I can do to keep those annoying plastic bags out of my home, the better! (Although a few are useful as bathroom trashbags).

So that is what I've been up to these days. I'm hoping for a little work from my temp agency at some point -- so I don't go completely bonkers -- but I've been keeping myself busy. And tomorrow Nick and I will be attending (and I will be singing at) this event (for free, mind you, one of the best perks of being a singer) which we are really excited about. Nick had to rent a tux -- his first time wearing a tux!-- and I am trying to decide on a gown. Thankfully I've got a closetful, one of the other perks of being a singer. I'll hopefully have some good pics of us in our fancy digs at the Four Seasons, hobnobbing with the rich folks who keep our arts organizations in business! Bless you people!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Ah, back to the singer life.

I just spent six hours traveling to Milwaukee and back for an audition that can only be described as lackluster. Have I lost my mojo? Possibly. Do I need a new starter aria? Definitely. Nothing a few lessons and coachings can't fix. I forgot what a "joy" it is to spend an entire day traveling only to sing for five minutes and feel completely unappreciated by the panel. Kind of a kick in the pants after a wonderful weekend of family wedding fun. Friday after Nick finished working and I finished singing a funeral mass, we hit the road and traveled to Kalamazoo for the wedding of my cousin Katy. A terrific time was had by all! The wedding was outdoors on Gull Lake near Kalamazoo, Michigan, and despite a little wind, the weather held up beautifully. I'll have some more pics to share soon, but here a few my Mom sent me today:

Nick enjoyed a stogie and some brews...
(I sang at the wedding, hence the corsage)

my cousin Ang and my sister Elaine

the whole fam

The wedding was held at the gorgeous W.K. Kellogg Manor House, which was once used as a summer home for the Kellogg family. We got to walk around the whole house and peek in all the different rooms, which have been restored to look like they did in the 1920s. The actual ceremony took place by the lake, and the reception took place inside the house and on the patios surrounding it. Very cool venue. More pics forthcoming!