12.30.2008

Putting all my eggs in 2009's basket.


Oh, 2009, you and I are going to get along swimmingly...

Last year, on the cusp of 2008, Hubby and I were exploring San Francisco, buying wine we couldn't afford, getting grumpy when the kids started throwing elbows at a NYE concert, and generally wishing we were home with the cat and dog, being lame. But we didn't mention to anyone that we'd prefer to be lame because, well, that'd be super lame.

This year, on the cusp of 2009, I embrace my inner lame-ass.

I am curled up on the couch, two (two! go, me!) blankets and one cuddly kitty on my lap. The dog has already gone to bed. I have a glass of wine (number two of the evening...may get to number three) on the sill, and instead of making lobster risotto and pomegranate martinis, which would've required prep and work, we ordered pizza.

See? Laaaaame.

I will not make it up to midnight this year. I'm not going to celebrate with the neighbors, or with friends at the Naked Cougar. Not that I wouldn't really enjoy either option - but instead I'm going to bid 2008 an early adieu, and when I wake up it'll be 2009.

An icy cold, clean slate. A good thing.

The year of the Ox begins on January 26th. I'm an ox (no jokes, please), so a year devoted to me and my kind sounds pretty darn good!

And I'll turn 36 this year. Years that end in 5s have not traditionally been good to me...maybe not terrible, but I think that 36 and I will be better suited for each other.

And I'm in a good place...good hubby, comfy house, fun job, silly pets, good friends.

So think fondly of me 2009 - I'll be daydreaming of you!

12.28.2008

Taking stock

I had coffee with SingleGirl this morning, as it's been calendar years since I've seen her (OK, so maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but it felt like a loooong time). It was great to just catch up, see her well on the road to health, and compare notes over the various holiday celebrations. During our conversation she asked me what my goals, (resolutions, plans... I forget her exact word) were for the upcoming year.

Well, if 2008 has taught me anything, it's that plans go awry.

I've been incredibly blessed in 2008...reconnected with some wonderful people from my past, seen a fabulous summer season come and go, found a little strength that I didn't know I had...bought a lovely new house, trained for a 5k, made flavored vodka... taught an adult class, tried to grow my hair out, made friends. There's been a lot of good things that have happened.

But, honestly, I have to say that I'll be relieved when 2008 is history. I'm still looking forward to the possibilities of 2009 in my usual Pollyanna style... and I'm trying to let those possibilities be huge, electric, exciting, rather than letting them be tempered and by reality and loss.

So the next few days will consist of appreciating what I have, nailing down what's important, thinking about what I want, and trying to figure out how to get there. Any advice and insight is, as always, appreciated!

My five:
  1. Flip flops in December...enjoying the calm before the storm!
  2. Long walks with the pup.
  3. Company and coffee - a lurvely combination!
  4. Winter skies.
  5. Open windows.

12.27.2008

I'm a surVIvah! I'm gonna make it!


Ok, so during normal times I would probably not even admit that I like the Destiny's Child song from this post's title.

Or that I own it.

Or that I listen to it several times weekly, most often at the gym.

Or that I look forward to the cheesy opening synth riff.

But it's a new day, and I'm coming clean. I totally heart that tune!

It's a new day because I have officially survived Christmas. Without tears, without losing my mind, without harming small children or elderly people.

Go me!

Granted, it was different, and not all good, and many, many baked goods were harmed (note to self: work on finding a new coping mechanism) but here I am on the other side, having observed some miracles and some real sweetness.

But I'm really looking forward to taking the tree down, scrubbing the house, and experimenting with a slightly more ascetic January. Discipline, reflection, activity...all buzzwords.

Hoping your holidays were merry and bright, and as sparkly as my girls up there. :)

My five:
  1. Bacon. My darling mother-in-law made a metric ton over the last two days. Nothing is as lovely as waking up to that smell...
  2. Family.
  3. Emergency medical personnel...with 2 family members in the hospital over the holidays (both released on Christmas Day, thankfully), I'm reminded of how amazing these folks are, and how much I take their services for granted.
  4. A dog that travels well. Whew!
  5. Quiet homecomings.

12.21.2008

To holiday or not to holiday...is that even really a question?


...it sadly is.

This year the holidays are more complex, more difficult, and yet in some ways sweeter than in years past. I'll admit that I'm finding certain things, like hitting the mall to buy gifts, extremely difficult in more than a financial sense. And thinking about our big Christmas Eve celebration without my dad is totally heartbreaking. So I'm trying to not imagine what the days will be like, and instead am focused on trying to stay in the moment, to enjoy family and friends and the camaraderie. It's working to varying degrees... if you've called and I've not called you back, or you've tried to make plans with me and I've hedged and hedged, please know that it's simply because I'm not terribly emotionally inconsistent, and not that I don't really really want to spend time with you. Better yet, just drop by...the house will be a mess, but I'll be happy to see you!

One of the great things that has happened in the last few days is that our neighbors have stopped in to say "happy holidays"... in the five years that we lived in our townhouse, we only had two families really befriend us. But here we've been invited over for eggnog, Boo has received a rawhide chewie the size of a diplodocus thighbone, and we've sampled some truly amazing tres leches cake. And folks that we've not formally met yet have pulled over as they've been driving by to introduce themselves and apologize for not stopping by...crazy. It's so nice.

Anyway, this year I've stayed away from many of the things I usually associate with the holidays. My family are gifters...buying stuff for each other usually gets out of hand. This year I'm making a large number of foodie things, rather than heading to the dreaded mall, and I'm enjoying it quite a bit. I've made several kinds of cookies and breads, cranberry spiced vodka, hot buttered rum mix (if you like the life savers you'll LOVE this stuff!), and dog biscuits. So it's not like I've been slacking in the getting-ready-for-the-holiday department, but that I'm doing more of it from casa mia than casa di Macys.

And today is day two of the pierogi project! I made the filling yesterday, and hubby asked "So, I can't just take that big bowl of cheesy mashed potatoes and eat them now, while they're still warm?"

"No."

Full stop.

Do not mess with Polish tradition!

So today I'll be up to my elbows in homemade pasta, making little purses of cheesy mashed taters to boil, and then sautee in butter and onions on Christmas Eve. My brother is making meat pierogi...it's a HUGE departure for us, as we've not -well, legitimately- had meat on Christmas Eve for as long as I can remember. So it's a new tradition, and one that I can't wait to taste!

So I'm getting ready to start mess-making, but I have one more cup of coffee, a crossword to linger over, and Crowded House performing at Austin City Limits on PBS. And then we'll get started! Care to join in?

My five:
  1. Crowded House. I've loved these guys for forever, and still find their music beautiful, relevant, and infinitely easy to listen to.
  2. Making messes. What could be more fun?
  3. Good surprises, and the frequency at which they've been occurring.
  4. Snuggly pets.
  5. Compassion.

12.19.2008

Where grown-ups work.

This is my office, when I'm in full-on work mode.


It's a total disaster.

In fact, the word "tidy" has never been an accurate descriptor for yours truly.



But there's always music on the piano, cards from friends, pictures of loved ones, projects layered two and three deep, and quite a bit of detritus that consists solely of things-I-think-I-might-need.

Someday.

Maybe.


But today was my last day of work in 2008. And in order that I might start 2009 in a better, more organized fashion, I purged.

The set of Grove Music dictionaries and the photo slides went into the new library annex (HUZZAH for the extra space!), fiction books went into a bag to go home, classical CDs went into the library... you get the picture. (I thought about stringing up the multicolored Christmas lights up around the perimeter, and turning them on to see if anyone would notice over the holiday...but the voice of reason in the neighboring office helped me see the folly of that thought...) So now, when I return to my office in 2009, this is what it'll look like:



Yep.
It looks like it's not my office.

But at least I have room to start tarting it up again.

bullet points...again

Either I'm totally lame or there's a lot going on...probably both. Here's the skinny until this weekend, when I can write a little more thoroughly.

  • It's no longer springtime in VA, but our sump pump has been running constantly for the past week...and I have it on good authority that it has snowed in both Houston and Las Vegas. Consider this my formal complaint.

  • As I put on my dog-walking clothes this morning, I realized that my cold-weather walking outfit looks curiously like what a burglar would wear...today I'll be swapping out the black hood for a silly hat.


  • The company holiday party was yesterday evening, and I was reminded again of how much I enjoy my colleagues, even those I don't know very well. I'm lucky to have work, period; having work that I enjoy and co-workers whose company I look forward to is some very sweet icing on the cake!

  • Today is my last day of work until 2009, dahlings! WOO-HOO! But that also means that there's lots to be done today, including mucking out the office so that it's pretty when I start back next year. (NEXT! YEAR!) Will Rahree ever see the surface of her desk? Tune in next time to find out!

My five:

  1. Easy cameraderie.
  2. Rewards for a job well done. (Way to go BG and PZ!)
  3. Maple-butternut ravioli...seriously awesome.
  4. Feeling buzzed with possibilities.
  5. Pleasant surprises.

12.15.2008

It's springtime!




Well, it feels like springtime...I kicked off my boots at lunchtime, stepped into my grubby old Keds and played some serious frisbee with the dog. (Sorry that I tossed your toy onto the roof, Boo! I'll get you a new one tomorrow! And maybe I'll learn to not throw like a girl...) My childhood winters were filled with snow...snow to the rafters, in huge drifts between sidewalk and street, so in many ways my winters south of the Mason Dixon line feel totally surreal.

But I'm getting used to them. :)

I celebrated the mild weather by throwing open the windows for the afternoon, and taking a long walk with the hound after work. Lovely... it makes me want to push right past the holidays and wake up in April...preferably with longer hair and a smaller tush.

Today was a brainstorming day at work...one of the days where a big idea has to be chopped into smaller pieces and researched/turned over and about/what-if'ed to death to see what the best solutions are. I like these days...there's a creative element to the problem solving and research that I dig. And it's only the first...this process will continue into the spring months. But I'm ready for the spring...

I'm not making New Years resolutions this year, as there's something about the scope of resolutions that make them seem too big, too insurmountable. But I do have some things I've decided to work on for the next several months, in a few categories...hey, at the very least it'll keep me out of trouble, right?
  • get into a gym routine. my first real training session is tomorrow afternoon. we'll see if I can move on Wednesday! and along with that...
  • ...run a 10k or half-marathon this spring. I'm looking into races...anyone care to join in?
  • start teaching again. my spring class will be on the books soon! yay!
  • make an amateur, non-classical recording...i've found a few tunes, and am starting to scribble down some of my own. they may never see the light of day, but it's the process that's important, right?

The category that I'm still looking into is, loosely defined, giving back. There are so many ways to volunteer, but I want to find something that really resonates with me...am on the lookout!

My five:
  1. being in an unseasonable frame of mind.
  2. Hiro on Heroes...nice to see another Pollyanna, even if he's fictional.
  3. cranberry spiced vodka...have you been naughty or nice?
  4. the ocarina app for the iPhone...ingenious and totally addicting.
  5. Frey's A Million Little Pieces... totally rocked my world, regardless of whether it's fact, fiction or an amalgam of the two.

A special shout out to SingleGirl - sending good thoughts to you tomorrow!

12.13.2008

Gym Rat Rahree

So, I sadly fell off the 5k wagon just before the audition tour...I had been doing well with the training, and was enjoying it. But, well, travel happened, and now it's mid-December, complete with gift stress, office parties, post-Dad sadness and general, pervasive irritability and anxiety. I can feel myself getting b*tchy (and so can Hubby - just ask him.), but am in a rut where I don't want to do much other than eat, drink wine, watch tv and sleep.

But I belong to a swanky new gym that offers free personal training to new members. I've never had a trainer before. Sounds interesting, right? So I toss on my gym clothes this morning and roll over to the gym to meet LG, the girl who's going to get me fit by May.

She has no idea what she's in for... :)

Today was easy - just an assessment. Before our meeting I hopped on the treadmill for a nice, easy walk/jog. Easy, in case she decided to work me out for realz today. I was lucky...on some levels. No workout today, just some tests and stretching. BUT the scale, the body-fat calipers, the heart rate monitor, the tape measure...not as good. My blood pressure and heart rate are both low, which is good; but so were my dad's...maybe not so good. My VO max? Well, I'm no Lance Armstrong, that's for sure. Weight? We won't even talk about that. The one bright spot? I'm in the "good" zone as far as pushups and upper body strength! Guess I should thank Pupper for dragging me around the neighborhood...seems the resistance training is paying off!

So, on my ongoing quest to learn to love exercise and get healthy, I'm entering stage two: accountability. I am starting a food journal - that's nothing new, as I keep one off and on all year. But now I have to share it with LG. Someone else is going to see the large part of my diet that's unapologetically comprised of bread and chocolate. I'm more than a little nervous about that...there's part of me that is embarrassed about my emotional eating and lack of self-control, and another part that feels that it's my right to salve my emotional wounds with chow. We'll see how that all plays out. I'm meeting with her again on Monday, this time to get my first set of workouts. I have short-term and long-term goals, some weight-related, some skill-related. Regardless of these goals, I'm excited to have something positive to work toward this holiday season...we'll see if it helps keep the crazy at bay.

If I'm committed enough, there will be a successful 10k or half-marathon in my future. Crazy, huh?

Next goal? To take the "if" out of the previous sentence.

On another note, I met a group of fabulous women last night! I was invited to a (my first!) Book Club, and had a great time. Lots of opinions, lots of laughter, LOTS of amazing food, and a gift book swap. I was welcomed in, and felt immediately at home. Thanks for including me, ladies! Can I come back next time? (I promise I'll read the whole book! Cross my heart!)

My five:
  1. good surprises.
  2. manageable challenges.
  3. new opportunities.
  4. generosity.
  5. patience.

12.11.2008

12.11.08



So here's what I've been doing the last few weeks, the pictoral version!


Homemade cranberry sauce for our Thanksgiving staycation. With some citrus, vanilla, and garam masala...not for everyone, but it was pretty good!






Union Station in DC, one of the most civilized places from which to travel.







Rachael and I at the bar well before 5pm...old habits and all that...









Throw the frisbee, Mama! It feels like summer outside! (and indeed it did... it was over 60 degrees on December 10th in the DC area...while Houston was seeing snow. Weird.)








Makin' radio at WETA...




...and my alter ego, hanging by the research workstation.






Here's what I've been doing today...


...and, as you can see, my sous chefs are less than helpful.














Posting will be light for the next few weeks...this holiday season is totally kicking my butt on a personal level, and it's not really the time of year to share these not-so jolly feelings. So, consider my relative silence my personal gift to you. :)

12.08.2008

12.08.08


This cracked me up...not opera-related, but funny enough to share. Enjoy!



12.07.2008

12.7.08 weekend roundup

I had grand plans for the weekend, and while the weekend is turning out to be sufficiently grand, the plans that I was hoping to accomplish have come to, well, naught. Lesson 1: be flexible!

I played piano in public yesterday, a task that freaks me out a little until the first 5-6 minutes have passed...I'm always surprised that I don't forget how to play. Sure, my chops are non-existent, but I still know how to read music, can support a young singer, can improve each time through the piece. Three hours later I left the class feeling energized, and thoughtful. How do I get more of the music-making back into my every-day life? I'll be working on that one over the next few weeks.

Went to the grocery store with 5 million of my closest friends - seriously, it was MADNESS. Came home and made a vat of potato soup. A metric ton. And ate most of it. By the time Boo and I went walking it had started to snow...and there was something calming, and more than a little magical about walking through a light snow at dusk. It was pretty incredible.

This morning I'm not moving quite as quickly...it's windy and cold outside [the chimes on the porch sound lovely, though!], and I'm procrastinating on walking the hound. He's pretty insistent, though...we'll be going soon. (For a look at how other folks start their days, check this out.)Then a trip to the gym, and bundling up for an afternoon spent outside at work. If you're free, come sing with us! It'll totally put you in the holiday spirit! After that I'll run home, quickly thaw out, and head to Bethesda to a holiday party hosted by some good friends. Yay.

List? Undone. Gifts? Unmade, unpurchased...heck, largely unidentified. State of mind? Happily content. Hoping you're surfing the holiday stress.

Today's five:
  1. Thinsulate boots.
  2. Hats - they keep the cold air out, and the scary bedhead under wraps. Whew!
  3. Snow.
  4. Excuses for festivity.
  5. New traditions.

12.05.2008

12.5.08


TGIF, my friends!

It's well before 7am, and I've been awake (well, "awake" gives me a little too much credit) since 4ish. Two large cups of hazelnut coffee later - I know you coffee purists are scoffing at me, but it's SO GOOD - and some news and blog perusal later, and I'm almost feeling like a human being. Another few sips and maybe I'll gather enough courage to walk the dog...it's cold out this morning.

On the work front it's already 2009 for all intents and purposes. I've been moving virtual furniture, scheduling meetings, working on contracts, and finally reconciling all of the financials from the audition tour. Even though we travel and eat on the cheap, it adds up...and there are a million tiny receipts, hotel bills, etc. to reconcile. Try this math: each application fee that we collect, (whether you agree or disagree with the convention), is about equal to half the cab fare from any given airport to the hotel. Seven or eight of them gets one of us one night in a hotel room. Fifty of them will allow us to rent an audition space. Twenty of them will pay for one pianist for one day. So, while it seems that we make oodles of coin on applications, we actually don't. We're incredibly fortunate to be part of a larger organization who realizes the importance of doing a national tour: they realize how expensive it is for singers around the holidays to travel to us on the east coast and, as the opera industry becomes less localized in NYC, how important it is to see what's happening in conservatories and opera companies across the country. Without their support, well, let's not even think about that. I understand how difficult it is to pay the fee and not get the auditions - it happened to me more than once, I promise. But no one's getting rich - I promise that, too.

Ok, rant over. :)

So it's almost Christmas, and I'm having serious gifters block. It'll be a scaled back, and fairly somber holiday for my family. And I'm thinking of trying to make something, except, well, serious lack of transferable skills. (The picture above is of my last project - sequined ornaments. 'Cuz that's how I roll...shiny and more than a little tacky!) I can certainly bake, but am toying with a mix of baked goods, maybe pre-made cocoa or quickbread mixes in pretty jars, or maybe homemade liqueurs...anyone have any advice or suggestions? Seriously, I'm alllllll ears!

On today's docket? (Besides work, natch.) Buying lights for the porch - I only have multicolored strands, and hubby will break out in hives if he comes home to my pretty (shiny, tacky) colored lights rather than white ones outside. Making soup - it's the kind of day that a nice soup or stew and a load of crusty bread sounds like heaven in a bowl. Doesn't it? Mmmm...recipe browsing commencing in 3....2...1.....



My five:
  1. Warm feet.
  2. Inaugural excitement - this town is pretty jazzed, I have to say.
  3. Cuddly pets...they love me WAY more when it's cold outside. I'm not sure why... :)
  4. Scaling back on stuff & things, and stocking up on good experiences and great friends.
  5. Traditions.

12.02.2008

12.2.08

Ok, so December and I started off on the wrong foot yesterday, but things are looking up today. More sleep, no jackhammers, nice long walks with the pup, and the addition of long-lost winter clothes to my work wardrobe. I like getting enough sleep and feeling cute - it works for me!



This evening I spent with this:




The largest cat toy that Lucky has ever seen.



It's the best day of his little kitty life.


In the interest of safety, the pretty glass ornaments are still in storage in favor of cheapy plastic ones from Tarjay. And I'm sure that I'll awake to a big crash in the middle of the night. But it's still worth it.

I can haz krismis treeeee?

12.01.2008

12.1.08

Today is soooooo Monday.
CelloGirl and I went to a great show last night, and then sat up chatting way too late, especially in light of her early-morning flight back to Las Vegas this morning. We set alarms for 5:30am and tried to catch some sleep.

4:15am

Jackhammers.

JACKHAMMERS?!?!?!

Oh yes, jackhammers. A block away. 75 minutes before my way-too-early alarm.

So, not a terribly auspicious beginning to my Monday morning. Couple that with a gray, dreary day and the first day back in the office since the end of the audition tour and, well, Crabby McGrumperson is back. Just hoping to make it through today without melting or losing my mind.

In other news, NaBloPoMo is finito. Whew! Thanks for sticking with me through the last month...I'll still be posting, although probably not quite as frequently. And, perhaps, I'll actually have more content. But let's not get crazy...

Today's Five
  1. Laughing with old friends. (something that's blessed me in a particular way over the last month - it's been awesome!)
  2. Warm everything bagels.
  3. Committed, talented performers, across genres.
  4. Silly pets.
  5. Routine.