12.31.09 making indirect resolutions

I don't remember if it's a family tradition or just something I picked up after moving out of the house, but I do believe that my actions on New Years Day serve as a kind of template for the coming year. Waking up totally hungover after a night of revelry isn't so much on my radar anymore...been there, done that. My 2010 is going to be different.

I've spent this week preparing...the house is organized and clean - well, as clean as it gets around here. The menu for 1.1.2010 is something new - it might be a flop, but it's a step out of our usual repertoire. I have a workout planned, as well as quality time with hubs and the animals. And there's some time with my buds on the schedule for the weekend. But lest you think I've planned myself into a corner, I have oodles of time for daydreaming, for making big plans, for deciding which windmills are worth tilting at this year.

While it's not a resolution by any means, I have decided to do less navel-gazing and more giving in 2010. Favors, good vibes, blood, my last $20...all are fair game, so be brave enough to ask. (For my part,  I'll try to be aware enough that you don't have to.) To kick it off, you can find my first mix tape of 2010 here . Lots of the tunes are new to me, as are many of the groups. It's equal parts positive, ruminatory and a wee bit melancholy...just like I like it.

 I saw this on someone's FB page, and am co-opting it for my own gain.

2010 is at the door…

Life is short, break the rules.
Forgive quickly,
Love truly,
Laugh uncontrollably,
Never regret anything that made you smile.

As far as my five, well, you are my five, my friends. I hope that the best parts of your life thus far have been only preparation for the good things that await you in 2010!

with love,


12.28.09 change of plan

So, I didn't really stick to plan today. I did get the basement all gussied up and organized and pretty, but to be honest I did that right after posting last night. I woke up this morning with the purest of intentions and a long list of plans.

Plans that were, happily, thwarted.

I had a big workout at the gym, and found out that they started carrying this brand of soap/shampoo/lotions in the locker room. Yes! (I'll happily pay that gajillion dollars for selected physical abuse if I get the lotion for freeeeee!) I left the gym, chatted with a colleague, and met a friend at Silver Diner. Now, normally I wouldn't head for an omelet right after a workout...because I have no self control and the double-helping of hash-browns would negate all my hard work. BUT we were heading to the Red Cross for 2pm donation appointments. All food - especially a spinach-mushroom omelet - is fair game.

(Have I mentioned that I tend to feel faint at the sight of blood? I haven't actually ever fainted, but the times I've been closest there's been blood in the vicinity.)

As prompt, thoughtful girls, we arrived early. We read the materials. "In the last year have you slept with a Libyan prostitute? Have you ever been a Libyan prostitute?" (Hey! Who called my mom? I'll never admit it! NEVAAAAH!) We waited for our numbers to be called. My friend's number was up first: she did this sci-fi blood swap thing where you get some of your blood back. (I guess it's cleaner than before they take it, as her hangover was totally gone by the time they were done.)

I was still waiting for them to call my number, and my girlfriend was eating cookies. In the words of Seinfeld, they knew how to take appointments, just not how to hold appointments.

Three hours after we walked in I got my cookies. Without fainting. And they were good cookies, too.

One of the bonuses to giving blood before year's end is that they'll make a donation on my behalf to  Susan G. Komen for the Cure. A friend just got confirmation of her own impending struggle, so the news was both timely and welcome.

And in addition to having a sense of well-being at having given something necessary to the community,  I've been jotting ideas of the written and musical varieties down for the last two hours! While I'm not ready to judge any of them I'm happy that they're in a form that I can revisit.

Hot damn.

(Do I really have to wait six weeks to donate again?)

In all seriousness, if you've not donated for a while, please consider making an appointment and paying it forward...start 2010 with some good karma in your bank!

My five:
  1. Health.
  2. Being in a position to help, and following through.
  3. Spending quality time with friends. (Even if most of it's in a waiting room.)
  4. Unexpected bursts of creativity.
  5. Blowing off plans for something better.


12.27.09 christmas and beyooooooooooond!

Wow, what a fab Christmas!

Last year's was a mixed bag of memories and mourning, topped by my father-in-law's emergency trip to the hospital for surgery. So granted, the bar for this year was fairly low. But we had a great time - a small gathering with my family for the first Pokego Meatatarian Christmas Eve (we've always had fish - meat's always been forbidden. Until now!) and some great time with my super-fab niece and nephew. I have more fun with those two each year. And next year? I'll be kicking some serious Wii fanny...y'all better start practicing!

Christmas day we spent with hubby's family at Aunt Vi and Uncle Joe's house, where we're relegated (willingly!) to the Kids' Table for dinner. Still. Even though the youngest "kid" is 18 and the oldest "kid" was born in 1950-something. It's awesome. Conversation ran the gamut from soap operas to sailing, and was interrupted only by occasional dramatic readings from a large volume of dirty jokes. That's my kind of crowd!

We drove home this morning in beautiful sunlight, and made it in a little over 3 hours. And now I'm making plans for the next few days...plans to organize and purge, to get my house in order for 2010. If I'm successful it'll be a busy few days...and extremely satisfying, to boot. Plus I'm hoping that some of our unused items will be useful to a shelter or agency...I feel like we have way more than we can even keep track of, and am hoping some of these things find good homes. I'm going to post my progress here, to make myself a little more accountable, and to keep myself from stalling out on the couch. Here's my plan:

Basement: Toss out everything we've not used in the last year-and-a-half, including the seventeen opened tubes of caulk the previous owners left behind. Set up an electronics station with chargers so that I can use the drill when I need it. Organize the decorations and kitchen stuff. Clean up the laundry area.

1st floor: Tackle the den closet. Pack up rarely-used coats for Goodwill. Organize the orphan electronic cable collection. Clean out the fridge and the cupboards. Shop for new spices, tea, and pantry supplies in a thoughtful manner.

2nd floor: Organize my closet. Clothes to the dry cleaners. Clothes and shoes to Goodwill. Reorganize the linen closet, and throw out all the expired cosmetics and medicines. (I may have nothing left afterwards!)

Whew! It's a big list...especially for a pack rat like yours truly. Tuesday is garbage day...here's hoping that the purge portion of the plan is finished by then!

My five:
  1. Time spent with family...it always goes by too quickly.
  2. Getting organized.
  3. Being fortunate enough to have too much.
  4. Streamlining.
  5. Gratitude.
Here's hoping that your Christmas was wonderful in just the way you needed it to be, and that 2010 is your best year yet!



  • I made a bit of a boo-boo with my nephew's gift, and found myself running to Tysons Corner (aka the third ring of Hell) at 4pm this evening. By 5:15pm I was home. The catch? I didn't even make it into the mall...not even into a parking lot. GAH! There were police at ever intersection, waving people through - or not waving people through - in a thoroughly random fashion. But getting frustrated with the police? Not cool, especially at this love-your-neighbor time of year. Actually, I think love is driving around a shopping mall on one of the busiest days of the year at rush hour. Even if you don't make it in. 
  • (I am thanking my stars for amazon.com right about now!)
  • Hubby gave me the best present - a piano keyboard that hooks up to my laptop via usb. I had one when I was teaching, and have wanted that accessibility back since I left the job. I love noodling around on garage band, but it's so much easier with this new tool. And he got it for me because he noticed how happy I was when I was doing something musical...looks like I wasn't the only one who noticed that something was missing. Yay hubs!
  • I broke myself. My right hip is killing me, and a workout (including a good stretch) didn't really help. Hoping it's just the aftermath from some vigorous snow-shoveling.
Heading to the great white north tomorrow for some family time. Wishing you all a happy holiday!

My five:
  1. Feeling prepared.
  2. Seeing great gifts for my dad all around me.
  3. Godiva liqueur. Yum!
  4. Wired ribbon.
  5. Family.



12.21 is a good day. There's a symmetry to it. It feels lucky. Likewise, if I happen to see a clock that reads 12:21, I hold my breath and make a wish...always have.

(I will not be trying to hold my breath for the entire day, though. If I succeeded, well, I'd be dead. )

Today is holding to that same lucky pattern...our office is closed, which means that my holiday break actually started at about 4:30pm on Friday. Sweeeeet! I'm hoping to get out of the house for a bit today, as well...the car has been dug out, and the gym and the mall are both calling my name. I have loved having a nature-made excuse for staying close to home, but I'm getting a wee bit stir crazy! Plus I should get some Christmas presents or I'll be in some serious hot water in a few days.

Speaking of luck, did you know that New Year's Eve is also the night of the last blue moon of 2009? I think that's pretty cool. Here are some other things I think are cool:

  • This guy's art. Anthropomorphism is a fancy word that explains in part my need to narrate everyday situations on behalf of my dog. I think that this little Hangover Fairy is brilliant, though, as are the peanut zombies and the shaving kiwi fruit. 
  • This lady's singing. I especially like that she embraces all the things that classical training tends to wipe clean, but still has such an impressive range and flexibility. She's cool.
  • This explanation (scroll down) of Perceived Desired Tempo. Brilliant. 
  • This article. I actually saw (and heard) the one that looks like giant intestines in NYC in 2005. I could've spent hours listening.
  • I agree with this.
  • I can feel my butt getting bigger just reading this recipe. But I still wish that it would just appear in my kitchen in its warm, nutty loveliness.
  • After seeing a snip of this band from the UK's V Fest I am really wanting a Scottish accent.
  • This is my new hat. It's warm and comfy. In fact, I'm wearing it as I write this from my couch.
  • This is my default in most situations, and like the author I wish otherwise. Maybe a 2010 resolution?
My five:
  1. Dogs in snow. 
  2. Kneesocks.
  3. Hanging with my favorite people.
  4. Making travel plans.
  5. Reflecting.



    Well, we got more of the white stuff last night, and today it's beautiful! Sunny, cold, and pristine. We're contemplating a trip to the Park to do some sledding, and I'm thinking about baking some apple spice cake since a neighbor brought over a bag of Pink Lady apples from a PA orchard.

    And, even though I shouldn't, I think I'm going to wait one more day before I finish up Christmas shopping.

    Just so you see how much snow we actually got, here's the Hubster and Boo playing in the yard. Keep in mind that the human in the video is 6' 4" tall.

    It's a lotta snow for south of the Mason-Dixon line!

    My five:
    1. Pancakes and Canadian maple syrup for breakfast. Yum!
    2. Sunshine on snow.
    3. Warm socks.
    4. Tea.
    5. Nesting.


    12.19.09 snOMG!

    It's a snowpocalypse! We're up at the ass-crack of dawn (of course...that's how we roll), and there's already about 8 inches on the ground. And it's supposed to continue throughout the next 24 hours.

    This little Pennsylvania girl is psyched.

    I have to admit, I'm a little disappointed as we had RSVP'd to 3 different holiday parties over this weekend, and I was really looking forward to catching up with folks.

    But, on the other hand, SNOW! COPIOUS AMOUNTS OF SNOW!

    I'll update throughout the day with photos and maybe even some video of Boo in his glory. (It's not light out yet...that's how early we're up! But once it lightens up I'll be snapping away.) It's pretty awesome. And yes, I did get my bread and milk and toilet paper yesterday, so we're alllll set. Bring it on!


    9:18am The neighbors brought over a rawhide toy that's gotta be 3 feet long, as well as two bottles of raspberrytinis...I think we all know what we'll be doing this evening!

    4:22pmWow, this morning and afternoon just floated by! Boo and I have been outside several times, and there's enough snow (and sparse enough traffic) that we've been able to forego the leash in the neighborhood. We stopped by to see his girlfriends (the two labs on the corner) and ran with them, lost several tennis balls in the snow, and totally molested several neighbors who just happened to be outside while we were walking. (Good thing they're good sports!)

    I made blueberry muffins this morning, and let a pot of soup simmer for an hour or so this afternoon. Got some laundry done, and even shoveled out my car! (Well, kinda...I got most of the snow off the top of the car. Can't open the doors because there's too much snow blocking them, but hey! I'm not going anywhere that my feet can't carry me for a day or two.) Now I'm stuck between making an apple spice cake or figuring out what to make for supper... it's a happy conundrum, I won't lie.

    The dog is pooped! (I would be too, if the snow was up to my chest and I ran around in it naked!)The snow is over my knees in most parts of the yard, and all my lined pants are damp, as are all of my hats and every single glove in the house. 

    I call that a successful winter day!

    My five:
    1. The Snowpocalypse. I love it when Mother Nature gets all pretty and bossy.
    2. Electricity. This event would be much less fun if the power went out. (Fingers crossed that it doesn't!)
    3. Movies. I've seen Harry Potter 6 twice in less than 24 hours, and the funeral scene made me all teary both times. Unbelieveable.
    4. Quality time with hubby.
    5. Reconnecting with my neighborhood.


    12.17.09 holy crap is it early...

    ...and let's be honest, I've not caffeinated sufficiently to write anything worth reading in this little spot.

    But I suppose that's not stopped me before.

    Kid Ca$$ tagged this video, and I have to say I really like it. The song is good (what can I say? I like me a good twangy, sentimental waltz!), and at about the 3 minute mark there's a very sweet, slightly awkward dance sequence. The twinkly lights are the best...I'd like them for my house, please.

    I was also going to point you toward Citizen of the Month, as I was convinced that I was going to participate in the online holiday concert. But I chickened out...sent the tune to a friend who I knew would both like it and be gentle. But check out the other folks who are getting into the holiday spirit!

    Me? Still waiting for that holiday spirit, actually. Having a hard time getting excited about gifting, in particular...I'm excited to see people and spend time with them, but I'm not so into buying crap that I'm not sure they want or need. Maybe I'll give everyone a card as a placeholder, that says "Your Xmas present is delayed," and then wait until they need or want something, or have forgotten totally about the whole thing and Pow! Here's a present!

    Or maybe I just need to suck it up and hit the mall. Harumph.

    Let's see if I can wake up sufficiently to go for a quick jog (in the cold...eep) before getting ready for work. I get bonus points for working out early AND in the elements, right?

    My five:
    1. Coffee. The sponsor of this blog entry, and many others.
    2. Morning stars.
    3. Singing.
    4. Quiet time.
    5. New beginnings.
    Edited to add: Ok, I'm NOT a chicken. A bad recording of me channeling my inner Joni Mitchell is up at Citizen of the Month's Christmahanukwanzaakah Concert.  But there's hordes more SUPERFAB holiday goodness up. Even I'm getting into the spirit!


      12.15.09 good day

      Right before I woke up today, I had a short dream...I was in a store at the mall, Macy's maybe? Hechts? I was looking at Jerry Garcia ties, obviously searching for a present for my dad. I couldn't decide. (If you're familiar with the ties, they're pretty loud and colorful, and my dad had quite a collection in his day. It was my go-to gift for him when I was singing, as I wouldn't buy him his beloved cigars. *cough*) I looked up from the display, and he was standing there with a loving, indulgent look on his face and laughing soundlessly, shoulders shaking with glee. And I started to laugh, too...it was a "yeah, I'm ridiculous...I know." moment, but an exceedingly silly one.

      I guess that means I'm officially off the hook for his Christmas gift this year.

      But a good dream about Pops augured a good day all around. Today I:
      • walked the dog three extra blocks on a lovely, mild morning.
      • got a new, zippy computer at the office!
      • noticed there were PIEROGI in the lunchroom vending machine! (TG, the other basement Pollock, did quality control for me...he said they were great!)
      • had sushi for lunch!
      • had a great meeting with a conductor.
      • drank champagne. Before 5pm. At work. (And I still have a job! Woo-hoo!)
      • played and sang a little bit...may have even recorded some takes! (Not brave enough to listen, but that's another step.)
      • took a great balance class at the gym, and rocked it!
      • ate a Wise Man, two sheep, and the Star in the East. (I love Christmas cookies!)
      It's 10pm...I'm going to do a little reading and head to bed. Here's hoping that I'll meet Dad in the tie section again this evening.

      My five:
      1. Small challenges.
      2. Glossy magazines.
      3. Laughter.
      4. Fizzy beverages.
      5. Loving and being loved.


      12.13.09 non-traditional gifts

      I have officially started my holiday shopping. I'm not anywhere close to being done, but at least I've started.

      One of my girlfriends and I have started a new tradition...rather than buying each other gifts, we're sending each other pictures of things. It all started with a pillow shaped like a black lab. My buddy said "I was going to buy you this labrador pillow, but it was waaaaay too expensive for, well, a dog-shaped pillow." I'm not a huge fan of even the most tasteful dog-shaped pillow, so I thanked her profusely for not buying it for me. The next day I received a magazine clipping with one of the most horrific outfits I've ever seen, and the note "I did NOT get this for you for Xmas!"

      Best. Gift. Ever.

      I never know when I'll get a photo of upscale denim (really, there is NO SUCH THING. It's like the Yeti of the fashion world.) or a magazine clipping hawking ridiculous feminine hygiene products...it's always a surprise, and it's always something that I would never, ever want to own. So, in that way, it fits perfectly...it's just right! Plus it doesn't need to be wrapped, doesn't cost anything, and most importantly, shows that she's thinking of me. Which is the real point of gifts, right? To let people know that they're on your mind...that you appreciate them. That's always the part I forget...the obligations and traditions always tend to take center stage.

      I promise a little bloggy present to come before Christmas, my friends. And it may truly be something that you'd never, ever want to own. But you'll just have to wait and see....

      My five:
      1. Laughing. 
      2. Listening to this tune at the gym, turned up so loud that it kinda feels like I'm singing along.
      3. Crock pots. 
      4. Brunch.
      5. Cold, rainy weekend days...if you need me, I'll be on my couch with a book and a cup of tea.


      12.12.09 operation Grammy dress

      So, the recording has been nominated for a Grammy. And it's sold out on Amazon (temporarily, I promise. And it's cheaper here anyhoo.) And the powers that be have graciously authorized our excursion westward to take part in the ceremony.

      Holy! Crap! SERIOUSLY???

      This awesome news has thrown a total wrench into my holiday plans...my plans to ignore the gym and eat as much butter as Paula Deen allows.

      (How much butter is that, you ask? ALL OF IT.)

      I headed to the gym this morning, and as I was warming up on the elliptical, I see her. Not Paula Deen, this other girl. She's got my haircut, my hair color. But she's beautiful. And skinny in that rich-and-rarefied-air manner. Her thighs do not touch, she has no body fat and she moves like a ballerina. She's like my doppelganger, but with better genetics and more willpower and better, well, everything.


      I hop off the elliptical and into kettlebell class. As does she.

      I resolve to wipe. the. floor. with her.

      (Blessedly I forget about her when I'm struggling through the class...lifting heavy things eighteen million times will do that, I suppose.)

      After class and another half-hour on the elliptical (GRAMMY DRESS, PEOPLE!) I head to the locker room. And find out that her locker is right next to mine.

      And that she just joined the gym.

      And that she thought the class was hard, too.

      And that she and her husband live nearby.

      And that she's actually quite lovely.

      And that I'm a total bitch (I know, you knew that) for jumping to conclusions.

      The positive in all this - other than the reminder that pretty people can be nice, too - is that I now have great motivation for Operation Grammy dress. We're SO going to be twins by the time this is all over.

      AND if decide to go ahead and eat all of Paula Deen's butter? I can just send my doppelganger to the ceremony. :)

      My five:
      1. Looking forward, especially at a time of year when I traditionally focus on the past.
      2. Having my assumptions challenged.
      3. Brisket in the crock pot...my house smells like meaty goodness.
      4. Good chats with good friends.
      5. Finding motivation.



      It's time for cleaning house, in every way.

      My actual house? A muddy mess.
      My office? Cluttered to the gills.
      My mental treehouse? Stuffed with things that are unhelpful, confusing or rut-fostering.
      My google reader? Like my bloggy friend the Airstream Diva, it's always at 1000+.

      I should purge. Get rid of some of the noise. But, truth be told, I'm enjoying the clutter, the fullness, the stuffed-to-the-rafters feeling. It's no secret that the holidays are paradoxically joyous and extremely difficult for lots of us...this year I think that my holiday gift to myself, my "woobie," consists solely of being gentle with myself.

      That and a glass of wine. Of course.

      My favorite (and sickest) thing to do on New Year's Eve is to deep clean my house. I've only ever managed it two or three times in my life, but I love it...there's something about starting the new year with a sparkly clean house and a champagne hangover that really can't be beat.

      In the interest of housecleaning, here are some interesting/silly/stupid things from teh interwebs.
      • This. Every time he writes, my secret plans to become a novelist weep tiny, futile tears.
      • This has strengthened my resolve to take advantage of the billion free museums and galleries in town.
      • This gets be excited for a new project.
      • This made me laugh out loud. FB is getting creepy. And why do you keep calling me Hal?
      • I like all of these. Need? Nope. Want. Yes, indeedy.
      • These are perfect for your iPhone friendys. But they're probably sold out. Still, a good idea.
      • Cartoons and dietary weakness? Count me in.
      • I can vouch for these firsthand. Plus, add some cinnamon and oats and cut them into bigger slabs and you have scones. They're part of my all-carb diet for 2010.
      And my five:
      1. Thinsulate. It is COLD outside!
      2. These guys. I should be over them by now, but I'm totally not.
      3. Carbs. Bread and butter, wine, chocolate, potatoes, pasta, cheese... I'm so in.
      4. More music. When one of their tunes pops up on my iTunes, I'm always pleasantly surprised.
      5. Being surrounded with folks who make me happy.


      12.8.09 bodies buried at the holiday party

      Once upon a time I loved singing in front of people. I could walk into a room or onto a stage and open my mouth and be reasonably assured that the sounds that emerged would be controllable and familiar.  Even in French or Italian or German...I would do a decent job. I, well, wouldn't suck.

      And then I stopped singing in front of people...there are lots of folks who sing better than I and all that. And on the odd occasion that I'd open my mouth in public to sing, the results were less than consistent.

      Sometimes? I sucked. In public.

      Or, perhaps more charitably, I was so uncomfortable that the experience sucked.

      Sucked like a Hoover freakin' vacuum, my friends.

      Tonight was fun.
      A little Sufjan Stevens with a group of colleagues who play and sing and collaborate well and generously? Heck, Christmas came early!

      Add to that a talented colleague who suggested a last-minute addition to the program, and then said "never mind - next year"...taking the onus of performing off my plate. And then add a dear dear friend who said "C'mon....pleeease?" and another friend who said "I'll play bass!" and a well-timed glass of shiraz and well, I sang in public.

      And liked it.

      Liked. It.

      Merry Christmas! I got what I wanted. Before I even knew I wanted it.

      My five:
      1. Being pushed out of my comfort zone.
      2. Collaboration. I can't begin to tell you how important this is to me, in all aspects of my life.
      3. Comfort food. 
      4. Playing music with friends...I can't emphasize how rejuvenating, invigorating, all-things-*ing it is!
      5. Happiness.



      ...the post in which I take the easy/ADD way out and use bullet points and links.
      • I don't use FUBAR often, but it seems to accurately reflect the way I feel fairly often. I think that's probably a problem.
      • Did you know Sufjan Stevens has a whole album of Christmas tunes? Did you also know that one of the tunes will be played at my office holiday party tomorrow? IN ADDITION, did you know that yours truly will be playing (badly) vibes and bass and fa la laaaaaing along? All true.
      • Hey! Did you know that we were nominated for a GRAMMY AWARD? (You have to scroll waaaaaay down, but we're there!) Anybody need a seat filler? I promise I can get skinnier  and cuter by January 31st!
      • My taste buds are rejecting every food group except carbs. (see previous bullet point.) This is also probably a problem.
      • A Texas Avocado (that's her superhero name) turned me on to Shelfari. If you're a reader, join me! It's pretty cool. And because I only ever remember the cover art, it's terribly helpful to be able to cherrypick the edition I remember.
      • If you're on Twitter and like language? Here's someone you should follow.
      • So, if one hypothetically volunteered to bring an appetizer to a hypothetical holiday party, is it tacky (hypothetically, of course) to bring a crock-pot full of meatballs in marinara and tiny little potato rolls for tiny sandwiches? They're tasty, but not so, well, elegant. (Please weigh in before 8am tomorrow...otherwise it's toooo late and I'll crash and burn by myself.)
      • This cartoon corroborates my feeling that FB is getting a leeeeetle too personal. Is it just me?
      • I wrote a whole post this morning about being detail-oriented, and how I need to be moreso...and after the day passed? I realized that I should be more detail-oriented, but will never be a nit-picker/do-it-my-way-or-else kind of girl. I just don't have it in me, and I love seeing the creative ways people problem-solve too much to dictate methods. That blog post? Recycle. Bin. 
      • This writer echoes my recent thoughts on praying. 'Nuff said.
      • There's the cat massage lady. And then there's this.
      • Some days I wish I could write a novel. And then I read through my blog archives and realize how very little I have to say. *Sigh.*
      • My tribute to Christmas, and more specifically, Santa (aka Mom). I remember as a girl of 6 or 7, "wandering downstairs" (read: checking for presents) in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve. (Those of you who know me know my body clock skews early...as a child, it was even earlier...) I walked into the family room and saw my mom and dad still awake, having a cocktail and STUFFING OUR STOCKINGS???  And I said, lower lip a-quaver, "Uh, mom, why are you stuffing our stockings?" To which my mom had the best, most appropriate answer: "Well, we don't have a chimney, so Santa drops all the toys on the porch, and we just put them under the tree and stuff the stockings for him." It made perfect sense. And I think I slept in until 6:30a, that year (two and a half hours later than usual!) Parents, please feel free to use this little bit of gilded wisdom on Christmas Eve should you need it.
      • I'm a cotton-headed ninny-muggins. (They can't show this movie often enough during the holidays!)
      My five:

      1. Bullet points. Thank goodness.
      2. Your indulgence at my laziness. Again, thank goodness.
      3. Good, old-fashioned jam sessions.
      4. Remembering...boy, memories flow thick and fast this time of year!
      5. Carbs. Ho ho hoooooo!



      Ho ho ho! Holiday sing!

      Once a year we enter the Filene Center in the freezing cold... we hang wreaths and arrange trees and fir boughs and wear Santa caps to keep our ears warm. We welcome the Marines (for me, one in particular: their conductor, a buddy from grad school!) and hundreds of local choristers, and sneak cookies and hot chocolate from the Vienna Women's Club. All the volunteers bring their best attitudes and singing voices, and the event is a true gateway to the holiday season - no commercialism, no obligation, just thousands of folks making music together.

      It's one of my most cherished traditions.

      This year, the snow made things extra-special. While the lawn was only host to a handful of the most die-hard patrons (and their sledding kids - GREAT IDEA, by the way!), the house was packed. And seeing the candlelight from the recessional reflected in the snow was just beautiful.

      My five:

      1. Laughing with colleagues backstage - one of my favorite things, no matter the season.

      2. Gingerbread Spice Lattes. So. Good.

      3. Singing out loud in front of people (not for people...it's an important distinction.)

      4. Collaboration.

      5. Joyous adults...sometimes it's OK to let your inner child out, even in public.


      12.5.09 Part Two

      It's still snowing.


      We've had a little over 3 inches here in Vienna, and it's still coming down. After a short trip to the gym (a little slush doesn't scare this Pennsylvania girl!), I've been puttering around the house...casserole in the oven, laundry chugging away in the basement, a stream of movies and cooking shows on the tube. And a candle that smells like brown sugar. It really doesn't get any better than this.

      Except wait, it does.

      Hubby went to the grocery store for me (I hate to go on the weekend) AND brought home two pretty bouquets...white roses, foxglove, hydrangeas...all blues and purples and white. So now I have pretty posies and a stocked fridge in addition to the aforementioned good things. It's an embarrassment of riches of the best, homiest sort.

      My five:
      1. Snow day!
      2. Self-imposed house arrest.
      3. Getting lost in a story.
      4. Warm socks.
      5. Family time.

      12.5.09 part 1

      GeoTagged, [N38.91103, E77.26485]

      It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...


      12.2.09 yoikes!

      Ok, so, WOW. Office life! Back to work! Holiday shopping! Office Party! Carol Sing!

      Holy. Crap. Batman.

      There's oodles going on. I'm tempted to go back on the tour, not because I like being away from my little family, but because I liked flying under the radar...I liked that only a handful of people knew where I was at any given time...I liked not having to walk the dog in the pouring rain.

      I know. I'm a selfish, antisocial woman. A woman who doesn't deserve her loving dog, evidently.

      Lest I paint too bleak a picture, though, there's still a steady influx of good tunes in my world. As I'm cranking through some first-rate chamber music demo cds and opera dvds, I've been gifted with oodles of new music from friends. Local songwriters, mix tapes, mainstream and fringe-y albums...I have a veritable blizzard of new tunes to fall in love with! I'm sure that I'm the only person in the world wishing for a slightly longer commute and/or more time at the gym to spend with my headphones tucked in my ears and a smile on my face. If you've gifted me with tunes recently, thank you! I'm looking forward to spending some quality time with them in the days to come.

      (On a related note, even though I work in the business and see evidence of it daily, I'm still totally amazed at the power of a well-written song, a compelling performance. It's a testament to the power of the art form. That, or I have the memory of a guppy.)

      Tomorrow is going to be a mixed bag of a day...I'm starting the day trying to maek gud sentences in front of a TV camera. If you missed my appearance this spring, you have a second chance to see how many pounds the camera adds to my already chubby cheeks on channel 8 tomorrow morning. Stakes are higher, as I'm actually speaking for my organization - briefly, but it still counts (On second thought, who decided that the girl who lapses into LOLCat speak when she's tired should speak for the organization on tv? Seriously!?! ...what, I agreed to it? Oh, lawdy. I must've been high.)- and it's a live, CNN-style interview. Gah. After that I'll be changing into my grubbies and jamming evergreen branches into big chicken-wire-wrapped wreath forms. And drinking hot chocolate. And then maybe after that I'll get some work done.

      But it's not looking good.

      Warp speed, Scotty. Life is moving quickly! In its honor, I will be forsaking the 6am gym workout tomorrow morning, and will in addition be going to bed early tonight and reading in bed for, well, as long as I can muster. I am slowing life down a little, so that I can enjoy it a little more.

      My five:
      1. Doing something nice for someone. I gifted hubby with these. In a size 13. They're little plaid boats. But he loves 'em. (And, even better, he says I don't have to be seen with him when he's wearing them.)
      2. Homemade spaghetti sauce. I feel a little like an alchemist when it's going right.
      3. Early bedtimes. Necessary after an early morning.
      4. New music.
      5. Honest fatigue.


      11.30.09 reentry

      First day back in the office today, after almost a month away.

      Boy, am I tired.

      (On a related note, I think I probably have 18 posts titled "reentry." It's a theme...)

      We spent several weeks welcoming different people into a room, and listening as they sang. A new voice every 10 minutes or so, beautiful singing and piano-playing...constant stimuli of a lovely, creative kind.

      Today? No new face every 10 minutes. No opera. No more daily Pierrot for Rahree. Instead, spreadsheets and expenses and meetings, all interspersed with moments of wandering into the Boss Lady's office and whining "but people can find me now..." and "Why is this so hard today?"

      Reentry is, in fact, a bitch.

      (Or maybe that's just me.)

      I do love the tour, but I'm looking forward to getting back to my routine, and to reconnecting with the work buddies I've missed over the last month. And, being that it's holiday season, I'm looking forward to the office party, to hacking through carol arrangements at the piano, and to baking until my kitchen is coated in flour.

      Here are some good things that I found after spending WAY too much time on google reader:
      • This. Especially if your winters tend to be rainy, rather than snowy.
      • This. TASTY!
      • This. Also tasty, but in a different way. (Thanks, EM!)
      • This. It's a little trippy, but so elegant.
      • This. A little mindfulness goes a long way during the holidays, eh?
      • This. Because sometimes mindfulness is overrated, and you just need some good, old-fashioned snark.
      And here are 3 singer-songwriters that I'm digging like old soul records. (Name the song and singer I'm quoting - not one of the folks below - and I'll send you a totally random yet awesome mix cd.)
      Hmmm...evidently needing a little bit more estrogen in my music selections. Chick list soon, I promise. And here's my five:
      1. Fleece-lined shoes.
      2. Getting lost in stories.
      3. Bacon. Bibbity-bobbity-BACON!
      4. Unpacking.
      5. Slowing down.



      So, I'm dreading going back to work tomorrow...it's been a month since I've spent any real time in my office, and I have a bajillion things to do regarding the chamber music series. (Yep, that chamber music series...the one that has totally taken a back seat to the opera casting machine.) Travel and missing family notwithstanding, work was much easier as part of the Three-Headed-Opera-Monster, especially because we spent so much time together that we were on a scarily similar page all the time...nice not really even having to talk. Just knowing that I have to pick up my phone tomorrow, that people are going to be able to find me after an elusive November, is making me a wee bit anxious.

      I know. Suck it up, Rahree.

      So I'm spending this weekend indulging in all kinds of non-work-related fun. Took my first class in weeks at the gym yesterday, and will spend today either going back to loosen up or (like most days) popping advil and groaning every time I try to get up from the couch. Hubby and I grabbed a tasty dinner (and margaritas!) with friends in our old neighborhood last night, and made some tentative plans for New Years. I also put the Christmas tree up and hung lights on the porch. Productive!

      But today? Well, it's a beautiful, sunny day, which means I should get outside. But hubby took the dog to the park, Ina Garten is making a double-chocolate sheet cake on tv, and I have 3 good books (Barbery's The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Burroughs' You Better Not Cry, and the newest by A.S. Byatt...in hardback! Seems like I didn't make it past the "B" section in fiction, huh...) sitting next to me on the couch. Add a cup of spiced black tea and, well, indolence wins.

      I promise this week to list some of my favorite monologues from the audition tour. And, below my five, is one of my earliest opera memories. (I'm glad my ears are a little more discerning, although I still love those eyelashes!)

      My five:
      1. Cold pizza.
      2. Compelling stories.
      3. Organization.
      4. Brown sugar & vanilla candles.
      5. Daydreaming.


      11.27.09 the day after

      The sun is out, there's a nip in the air, and I've already eaten my weight in leftover stuffing.

      So, by all accounts, it's already been a successful day. And it's barely 9am.


      I started yesterday, but encourage any of you who tend to go a little overboard around the holidays (see my first sentence.) to join me in this. It's a much nicer version than the one that I did in October, with more yoga and less restrictive eating. And since it's well-documented that routines are good for me, I've signed up. Maybe my 2010 New Year's resolutions won't contain the words "skinny" "diet" or "weight." Or maybe I just need a plan to combat all of the holiday baking and cooking I'm hoping to do. (With all of the food porn that came in the mail while I was on tour, I'm thinking that my kitchen will be trashed all month long...so many things to try!)

      On the docket for today? A long walk with El Diablo. Battling the influx of mud and leaves that swoops in every time the door opens. Reworking my iTunes. Gym. I may get to a wee bit of work, but then again, I may not.

      My five:
      1. Sunshine.
      2. Time for reflection.
      3. Feeling sated.
      4. Moving.
      5. Creativity.


      11.26.09 happy thanksgiving!

      My house smells like cinnamon and sage, and is toasty warm. Other than a quick jaunt to the gym I am spending the day in my jammies with my hubby and the critters...taking not only a holiday but a sabbath of sorts, to hang and daydream and plan. While I miss my extended family, several weeks on the road warrant some quality turkey time at Chez Rahree.

      I started this little blog when I left teaching in 2006. And in the fall of 2007, I started a little gratitude exercise...listing five things daily for which I was thankful or grateful. The exercise has really shaped how I view my day...not in an "omg what am I going to be thankful for today?!?" manner, but in finding, discovering gratitude-inspiring things on a daily basis, both shallow and profound.

      Finding with ease, without having to look very far.

      I'm reposting two big globs o'gratitude...some from this recent audition tour, and some from November 2007. Not found in these lists are the names of the folks who read and follow up with me, via comments or emails or phone calls. Nor will you find my gratitude at having a spot to write about hubby's grad school trials, the passing of my dad, the struggle of leaving the job I thought I'd keep for my natural life, the trials of housetraining a puppy in the dead of winter, and the joy and pain of moving on my 35th birthday.

      Rather, I should say that you'll only find those things if you read between the lines...

      Here's my more-than-five. Read them. Pick the ones you like. But only take a few minutes...use your other minutes to hug/call/write the folks you love.

      And here's mine to you. *HUG*

      • Sunrise, reflected by skyscrapers.
      • An opportunity to talk about my dad with folks who knew him. Wow, the missing never goes away...
      • Premature nostalgia.
      • City lights at night.
      • People watching.
      • Music. Well done. Of all genres.
      • Reconnecting.
      • Surprises.
      • High-floor hotel rooms with views. I lucked out.
      • Feeling caught up to a degree, instead of perpetually behind.
      • Having the opportunity to visit NYC, but not needing to live here.
      • The prospect of reconnecting with friends.
      • A relaxing evening in.
      • Meeting cool new people.
      • Being surprised.
      • Inspiration.
      • Belly laughs.
      • Caffeine.
      • Happy accidents.
      • Hotel beds.
      • People watching.
      • Falling into a weird, but workable, routine.
      • Homecomings.
      • Traveling.
      • Coffee.
      • Sleeping in.
      • Sunshine.
      • Generous, heartwarming hosts.
      • Sea air.
      • Celebrity sightings.
      • Butter. (OMG I've eaten a cubic ton in two days. SO GOOD.)
      • Homecomings of every sort.
      • Cool fall evenings.
      • Candy corn.
      • Early bedtimes.
      • Comfortable shoes.
      • Gratitude.
      • Sharp cheddar cheese & red wine. Heaven.
      • Puzzles. (Damn good thing, actually.)
      • Polaroid cameras.
      • Seinfeld. Still finding reruns I've not seen.
      • Rainy fall days.
      • Family.
      • Having one person in the world who can make me shoot beverages out my nose....er, keep me humble.
      • Coffee. Being awake pre-dawn demands it.
      • A sleeping house.
      • Doing something nice for someone else. (Studies show it makes you feel better - even than retail therapy. I believe it!)
      • Clear blue skies and the smell of woodsmoke on an autumn day.
      • Almost completing the Eat. Sweat. Blog challenge! 6 more days!
      • Color.
      • Spice.
      • Preparation.
      • Autumn...boy, I love it when nature acts like a hussy! Those reds and golds are awesome!
      • Neighbors. Impromptu after-work chats are the best.
      • This + this = perfect on-the-go lunch. For me, anyway.
      • Fuzzy slippers.
      • Cloves.
      • Caffeine. I can't tell you how much better today was with one extra cup of coffee!
      • Crisp autumn weather.
      • Boots.
      • Challenge.
      • Counting down.
      • Tim Roth. Lie to Me is fabulous, and I caught (a younger) him over the weekend in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Awesome. (I could go on.)
      • Knee socks.
      • Freshwater pearls.
      • Hot tea.
      • Preparation.
      • Football and movies on the tube.
      • Puttering around the house.
      • Fleece.
      • Spiced apple cider.
      • Having an environmental excuse for staying in all day.
      • Beautiful October weather.
      • A plethora of magazines in the mail.
      • Inspiration.
      • Quiet help.
      • Daydreaming about saving the world in tiny ways.
      • Mulled cider.
      • Nesting.
      • Warm laundry.
      • Getting organized.
      • Naps.
      • Strong, fabulous female role models.
      • Comedian pets. Henny Youngman ain't got nothin on my boy.
      • October weather...it seriously doesn't get any better than this.
      • Bread and butter.
      • Reading... finally making a dent in the book.
      • Cinnamon. Nothing brings back the autumns of my childhood like a healthy dose of cinnamon. I think I'd wear it as perfume if I could.
      • My fleece jacket, aka The Woobie I Can Wear In Public.
      • A warm kitchen on a cool day...is there a better place to be?
      • Cooking off recipe. Nice to have a starting point, even nicer to try the path less traveled by.
      • Nesting with my boys on a lazy Saturday. Heaven!
      • The last sandal day of the fall...you can feel a boot-auguring edge in the breeze.
      • The sound of outside...no music, no tv, no radio...just leaves and cars and neighbors.
      • Crossing things off the to-do list.
      • An agenda-less Saturday. (Well, officially agenda-less, anyway.)
      • Feeling like there's a little bit of magic in the air...
      • Casual Friday!
      • Fuzzy slippers.
      • Hot tea.
      • Good, challenging workouts.
      • Cinnamon.
      • Reconnecting.
      • Nostalgia.
      • Thai food. Sooooo tasty!
      • Purple corduroys.
      • Absence making the heart grow fonder.
      • Compassion.
      • Ginger tea.
      • Knee socks.
      • A change of scenery.
      • Blue herons. (we woke one up this morning - must've had a 6 or 7' wingspan. Beautiful.)
      • Musical collaboration.
      • Checking items off the to-do list.
      • Solitude.
      • Coffee.
      • Evidence of the divine. Some mornings it's impossible to be without faith.
      • Open windows.
      • Toasted pignoli. You could put them on pasta or something, but you can also just shove them by the handful into your mouth. Not that I'd know firsthand...
      • Sore muscles. Evidence that I'm working. Painful evidence, but evidence.
      • Having the clicker all to myself for an evening.
      • Baths.
      • Starting something new.
      • Learning.
      • Cuddly kitty bellies. Should be a controlled substance.
      • Clean bills of health.
      • Casual Fridays...hellooooo, jeans!
      • Cinnamon.
      • BOOTS!
      • Windy days.
      • Autumn skies.
      • This song - perfect for singing on said windy autumn days.
      • Returning to routine.
      • Crisp fall air.
      • Tea season. Yum!
      • Skipjack peanuts - addictive lil' buggers.
      • Family.
      • Suffering eased.
      • Reaching out of the comfort zone.
      • Chocolate granola. (Should be illegal.)
      • Great music.
      • Memories.
      • Found objects.
      • Football season!
      • An excuse to get hubby into his tux. Mwahahahaaaaaa!
      • Celebrating.
      • Letting the breeze be my blow-dryer.
      • Guilt-free loafing.
      • Ripe tomatoes. I didn't even eat them until I was in my very late 20s. Mom, you were right; 'mater sandwiches are GOOD. (That 'poof' sound was her head exploding.)
      • Encouragement.
      • An extra day to hang with my boys.
      • September weather...there's nothing more beautiful.
      • Unwinding with a cup of tea.
      • Homemade gazpacho from a fabulous colleague.
      • The urge to create...and, more specifically, bake. With cinnamon.
      • Spending my evenings with my men, of both the human and furry persuasions.
      • Time for reflection.
      • Unbearably beautiful days.
      • My two silly four-legged comics.
      • Clean laundry.
      • Contentment.


      From November, 2007
      • The opportunity to walk to work.
      • Band-aids. (see #1).
      • Deep connections to friends.
      • Raspberry tea and rugelach.
      • Conversations that change the way I look at the world.
      • a favorite song on the alarm.
      • the sound of rain bouncing down the sides of high-rise buildings.
      • camaraderie.
      • in-room coffee.
      • the cosy feeling of a grey day.
      • The shimmering city lights from the top of the Empire State Building.
      • The new album by Griffin House.
      • Ligurian food. Who knew?
      • Freedom.
      • Spontaneity.
      • Crazy, vivid dreams.
      • Sunlight reflecting off mirrors.
      • Storypeople.
      • The wide-awake feeling (sans caffeine) of walking in brisk air.
      • Openness.
      • happily waking up before the alarm goes off.
      • new experiences, large and small.
      • beautiful architecture.
      • reunions.
      • funky colored tights.
      • honest conversation.
      • dark chocolate and caramel.
      • reconnecting.
      • Rossini and Mozart and Handel.
      • silly movies.
      • Stolzman playing Copland's Clarinet Concerto - the easiest, most pleasant way to wake up. (It practically guarantees a good day...I'm not sure why I don't wake up with it more often...)
      • An extra hour of heavy, dreamless sleep.
      • Shades of grey, both literal and figurative.
      • Autumn.
      • Good health.
      • Home. (Wherever, and whatever, that might be.)
      • Lightening up. In every way.
      • A wonderful, curiosity-filled childhood.
      • Good books.
      • Gem├╝tlichkeit.
      • Fuzzy slippers.
      • Relaxing.
      • Feeling useful.
      • HUGE piles of newpapers to catch up on - with lots of puzzles!
      • Mischief - of the benign sort, naturally. ;)
      • The incredible generosity of strangers.
      • Perspective.
      • Raking leaves on a crisp autumn day.
      • Tea.
      • Courage.
      • Crazy dreams. (I dreamt that I had been tatooed from mid-calf to toe with colorful, symbolic designs. I didn't remember actually agreeing to the ink or having it done, but I was OK with the result. Weird.)
      • Bad late-night movies.
      • Beauty.
      • Good looking buns.
      • Trivial pursuit. I totally suck at this game, but when I know an answer I feel like a million bucks.
      • Reunions.
      • A hotel room large enough to do yoga in. My back is MUCH happier!
      • Starbucks baristas who call your drink by your name. Today I think I'll be Lydia. Or Ingrid. Or Esmerelda...
      • Autumn leaves... the colors are so striking this fall.
      • Familiarity.
      • The first flurries of the year.
      • The last airplane ride of the tour.
      • Homecomings.
      • Belly laughs.
      • Eggs. Dis - ***-oriented. And all the other sayings that have made it into my personal vernacular.
      • Autumn leaves in the wind.
      • Easy companionship.
      • Good music.
      • Macaroni and cheese.
      • The light at the end of the tunnel.
      • Sunday afternoon football games.
      • Flannel jammies.
      • People who take care of me, even when I don't realize I need it.
      • Raking leaves.
      • Early bedtime.


      11.25.09 thanksgivings

      We made it.

      Thousands of miles of travel. Thousands of arias. And probably thousands of cups of coffee. But the year's odyssey is complete...two-thirds of us are safely ensconced at home with our families, and the last third is winging his way towards loved ones in the midwest this afternoon.

      The timing is excellent (it's all in the timing, isn't it?), in that we've spent so much time together that we're saying exactly the same things at the same times...finishing each others' sentences.

      We are, in effect, one teeny brain spread out between three people.


      It's time to lay claim to some individual brain cells, to reconnect with the family and friends, to re-establish happy routines. But part of me (I may totally be the only one - but I'm ok with it.) hates to say goodbye to the three-headed opera monster.

      My five:
      1. My boys.
      2. Puzzles.
      3. Uncontrollable laughter.
      4. Mind meld. In small doses.
      5. Time for reflection.


      Homeward bound

      GeoTagged, [N39.84451, E75.38927]

      On the Acela (yay complementary upgrade!), heading back to the Trap. This is dinner, and we've all vowed to chew, rather than inhale. See y'all back in Virginny!

      11.21.09 trains, trains, and automobiles

      GeoTagged, [N40.77977, E73.97820]

      We're up at the crack of dawn and ensconced in an Acela headed for Philadelphia. Auditions today at Curtis, and then we hop on another train back to DC. After a long evening work session last night, we're a little bleary...hoping some great singing will wake us up!

      My five:
      1. Opera earworms. I've been singing the same 5 arias over and over again...it's a wonder my colleagues let me live.
      2. Red Caps.
      3. Not having to ride in a New York City taxi for another year.
      4. Soy lattes.
      5. Homecomings.


      11.19.09 sunrise, reflected

      As usual, I'm awake waaaay earlier than I should be. Boy, sometimes I wish that my body clock skewed a little later! I missed connecting with a good friend last night because I couldn't keep my eyes open, and here I am at the crack of dawn, wide awake. Seul...je suis seul... indeed!This trip seems somehow busier than in previous years, and I'm having a hard time fitting in all the socializing that I'd like to do. (Shocker!) It just seems that there aren't enough hours in the day...or, more precisely enough hours in the evenings. But if you're up at 6am? You should totally call me!

      To all the alums we saw last night - Yay! So great to see you! And to those who couldn't make it, you missed a great time, but we'll hopefully see you next November.

      Ok. Coffee and then a run. As long as I'm awake, I might just as well, right? *sigh* I know...it's good for me. Two more days in New York!

      My five:
      1. This. One of my favorite bands, singing one of my favorite tunes...the harmonies at the end are worth listening for. And it's in a cab! How cool!
      2. This. It was a sweet spot to do some catching up with a friend.
      3. Sunrise, reflected by skyscrapers.
      4. An opportunity to talk about my dad with folks who knew him. Wow, the missing never goes away...
      5. Premature nostalgia.


      11.17.09 An abundance

      I am in the middle of a veritable abundance.


      Seriously, it's almost more than I can process! I slept like I was dead last night, and was still only marginally prepared for today. Needing more sleep, more caffeine, more exercise, more brain cells...my suburban brain is not used to this pace!

      Some of my favorite things from the last, oh two days? (Because really? It's only been two days in the city? Crazy!) Meetings with two lovely, articulate directors. Singing...er...screaming Billy Joel tunes in the audition room with KPW. Hearing some great singing (and some great monologues on Monday) over the past two days. Seeing my first (first? shameful!) Met performance and being simultaneously awed, overwhelmed, confused and depressed all t'once. It's a harvest festival of musical sorts!

      This evening is an early evening...I'm spending some quality time with Opera X (no spoilers here, folks! mostly because we haven't heard everyone yet, and thereby still don't know what repertoire we'll be doing next summer.), an excel spreadsheet and a soft hotel bed.

      (And a glass of wine. While the spreadsheet won't benefit, the opera listening will, most certainly.)

      My five:
      1. City lights at night.
      2. People watching.
      3. Music. Well done. Of all genres.
      4. Reconnecting.
      5. Surprises.



      GeoTagged, [N40.78213, E73.98123]

      It's a beautiful day in New York!

      My five:
      1. Rooftop gardens.
      2. Kona coffee. (Thanks, RT!)
      3. Sunshine.
      4. Bird's nest apartments. (waaay up!)
      5. A walkable commute.


      11.15.09 are you calling me fat??

      Oh, no. It's my suitcase that's fat.

      Fat and expensive. I hoisted that bad boy onto the scale at the airport, and honest-to-goodness it weighed more than the last time I got on a plane. More. Thank the heavens for our guardian angel RT, who shepherded us through this last airport gauntlet! Yes, friends... I said "last," because our mode of transport will be trains from this point forward. No long security lines, no taking my shoes off, no more paying a gazillion dollars (or getting anxious at the thought of paying a gazillion dollars) for my bag and me to end up in the same city.


      I'm happily ensconced in a lovely hotel on Broadway on the Upper West Side, about 20 floors above the crowded streets. From way up here the traffic and all the people cease to be oppressive, and are just charming...like tiny dolls and matchbox cars. And honestly, I may just stay up here. I took my life into my hands and went to the Fairway at 7:00pm on a Sunday night, and just about lost my mind because EVERYONE IN MANHATTAN WAS GROCERY SHOPPING.


      I think I'll just watch you all from my little bird's nest. Go about your business, don't mind me.

      Tomorrow we have auditions for our Studio program, and will be seeing this show in the evening. To quote EE, "Prison! Yay!"

      My five:
      1. High-floor hotel rooms with views. I lucked out.
      2. Feeling caught up to a degree, instead of perpetually behind.
      3. Having the opportunity to visit NYC, but not needing to live here.
      4. The prospect of reconnecting with friends.
      5. A relaxing evening in.
      And as a silly, silly bonus, here's a video that makes me laugh until tears well up in my eyes. You've probably seen it, but maybe not for a while. Watch at 0:26 for my favorite part. It's all of 3 seconds, but it gets me every time...

      (Don't judge.)


      11.13.09 opera week

      It's National Opera Week! The first one ever!

      So it seems only fitting that we heard opera from sun up to sun down...right?

      The morning and afternoon were filled with auditions. I'm at the point on the tour where I seriously need a thesaurus...I know that there are better words to describe what I'm hearing than the ones that find their way through my fingertips into the database. But I can't access them...crossing time zones, under-caffeination and a nagging urge to organize all of the receipts I've accrued have zapped me of all creative thought. I'll be spending some time tomorrow trying to find some new words.

      Opera was interrupted by the Airstream Diva, who I was thrilled to meet IRL! And my favorite choreographer in the whole world dropped by to say hello. His company was performing in the same building that we were in, and a great friend pulled a string or two. So he dropped in. Just stopped by. To say hi. HOW COOL IS THAT????

      After more auditions, we stowed our piles of gak in EM's office, and took our seats for the Houston Grand Opera performance of Lohengrin. I was nervous. I love Wagner's music - don't get me wrong. But my exposure has largely been excerpts and orchestral reading...no singing, no four-hours-of-my-life-I'll-never-get-back. I'm so accustomed to opera in our intimate venue, to seeing real connections rather than symbolic gestures...I thought I was going to feel trapped in the midst of four hours of park and bark.

      I was so, so wrong.

      The symbolism. The amazingly responsive orchestra. The chorus who found moments of such tenderness and subtlety between the bombast. The singing! Having last heard RMcK sing Verdi in the Barns, and then hearing him surf HUGE BRASS on his first entrance? From as far upstage as he could get? Pretty freaking amazing. And Lohengrin and Ortrud just totally rocked my world. It's a good night when you're both humbled and inspired in equal measure.

      This Wagner virgin has been deflowered....and might just fall from grace totally and become a Wagner hussy.

      As promised, here are some things that I saw and wanted to share:

      • this. love the show, and love the gov't connection!
      • this. couldn't get it to play in the audition room, but i love it.
      • this. boy, i struggle with this all the time.
      • this. for all my OCD buddies.
      • this. i'm loving this art movement (craft movement? is there a distinction?) so much.
      • this. because stormtroopers use google, too.
      And my five:
      1. Meeting cool new people.
      2. Being surprised.
      3. Inspiration.
      4. Belly laughs.
      5. Caffeine.


      11.12.09 Cincinnati, or Mutiny.

      My body has decided that 5:45am is it's new wake-up time, regardless of which time zone we're in. And it's also decided that there's a limited number of food options that it's willing to consider, but somehow the list of approved foods has not made it from my stomach to my brain.

      I think my body just hates Cincinnati.

      I'm sitting in the lobby of the Kingsgate Marriott on a lovely, sunny morning, watching a group of conference attendees mill around. I've caffeinated - insufficiently, but enough to make sentences should anyone approach me. (The sentences might not be 100% grammatically correct, but that's all I've got today.) We're catching the early shuttle to CCM (and yes, we'll be stopping for more caffeine), where we'll hear a tightly compacted day of auditions before running to the airport for a Houston-bound plane. It's going to be a scary travel afternoon, and will probably involve running through CVG at some point. (*fingers crossed* that it doesn't come to that!) We always hear interesting folks here, and the fabulous DL plays circles around this repertoire. But it's a short stop, and toting all of this gak around for less than 24 hours in a city is rough.

      All of the flying has reminded me of how much I love that short moment of weightlessness when the plane takes off...flying out of Chicago last night was beautiful, with the city lights shimmering in a messy grid and sudden blackness where the lake began. It was unexpected (not sure why...maybe just because I was in a window seat and paying attention?) and very much appreciated.

      Our trip out of Cincinnati last year was epic. Epically horrible, epically funny...probably depends on your perspective. I'm hoping that this year is epically smoooooth.

      My five:
      1. These guys. Perfect plane music.
      2. Happy accidents.
      3. Hotel beds.
      4. People watching.
      5. Falling into a weird, but workable, routine.



      Happy Veterans Day! And, because it's 11.11, you should totally make a wish!

      (Mine will have everything to do with travelling into and out of Cincinnati.)

      Here's a picture of me in my super-cute hotel room at the Allegro in Chicago. I'm with my two intrepid non-human travel companions: sure, we're all a lite heavier than we should be, but hey! More of usto love! Right?

      C'mon, guys...right??

      My five:
      1. Sparkling conversation. Especially nice when I can mostly listen.
      2. Mashed potatoes and gravy. So worth the resulting nightmares.
      3. Lucky days.
      4. Reconnecting with old friends.
      5. Good travelling buddies, of both the human and non-human sort.


      11.9.09 on the road agin'...

      GeoTagged, [N34.04574, E118.23840]

      Sitting at the gate at Dulles International Airport. Boarding will start in about 20 minutes, and shortly thereafter I'll be winging towards the Windy City to meet my colleagues for more auditions. If you're singing in Chicago, we're excited to hear you!

      Tomorrow begins a slate of Olympian days... In years past I've tried to blog daily, but I'm not sure that it'll happen this time. But you'll be psyched to know that I'm collecting ALL KIND of fun links for you...stay tuned!

      (I swear that "Ding and PingPong" were just paged over the airport intercom. Things are already a wee bit surreal...)

      My five:
      1. Remembering to fill my thermos before getting on the plane. (Next time skipping the water for vodka.)
      2. Rides to the airport.
      3. Mushy hubby. :)
      4. Sunny late fall days.
      5. Monday night football - GO STEELERS!


      11.8.09 brief hiatus/LA recap

      This morning finds me happily ensconced on my couch in Vienna, VA. While KPW is listening to more opera (the MONC southwestern regionals), I'm doing laundry, hanging with my boys, and enjoying the beautiful autumn weather. It's a welcome respite, as the next week's travel is pretty ugly; full audition days followed by travel in the evenings.

      But there's already been significant beauty on this tour, starting with the scenery. Can you believe that view?

      We've heard some great auditions already. Folks have been bringing in standard rep that suits them well, and the singers in Los Angeles as a whole were quite put together. We're seeing a bit of a purple dress trend this year, which I'm totally digging. We also heard some fabulous monologues from Studio candidates, in particular a Fannie Flagg monologue with a lovely southern accent and a cutting from the movie "Meet the Parents." Good stuff!

      Ok, on to laundry and loafing. I'll see you in Chicago, amici!

      My five:
      1. Homecomings.
      2. Traveling.
      3. Coffee.
      4. Sleeping in.
      5. Sunshine.


      11.6.09 Get ready...get set...


      We're in California. (Well, mostly...my body clock is still very much on East Coast time. 3:30am local feels like the perfect time to start my day. It's a problem.) The opera singing has started, as has the horrible eating and the travel-induced stiffness. But, lest you think it's all hardship, I've splased in the ocean, caught up with some opera-y buddies, and even exercised a skosh. (Running with the ocean in sight? Awesome.)

      Today we're hearing folks for both tiers of our program. It's more than a little bit like Christmas...who knows what voices are going to walk through the door? The possibilities are endless! Plus I'll get to see Ninochka, a fabulous pianist who just happens to be a friend and castmate from my grad school days. And if I'm not mistaken, there's a fabulous Japanese grocery just across the way for lunch - sushi anyone?

      At the crack of dawn tomorrow I'll head back east for a few welcome days with my boys before setting out again.

      My five:
      1. Generous, heartwarming hosts.
      2. Sea air.
      3. Celebrity sightings.
      4. Butter. (OMG I've eaten a cubic ton in two days. SO GOOD.)
      5. Homecomings of every sort.


      11.1.09 Halloween, pizza, and hair. In that order.

      Rainy, gloomy morning...a perfect way to ease into the day after a night of revelry!

      Our trick-or-treaters braved the rain for handfuls of pixy stix and candy bars. (And yes, I did conduct some quality-control tests...can't give out nasty candy, or we'd get a reputation!) Buzz Lightyear made an appearance, as did a tiny gangster, several princesses and the Chick-Fil-A cow.

      Our buddies J & S crossed the river to join us for dinner, and I totally lifted EM's entertaining model - make-your-own pizza. Tasty stuff, and especially good for J's very specific tastes. Waking up after Halloween with the tastes of red wine and roasted garlic in your mouth, instead of sugar? That's a sign that you're a real, card-carrying grown-up, my friends.

      In other, Rahree-gets-a-spine news, for the first time in my life I called a salon to complain. I know! Usually if I don't like a haircut or color, I either get a box of dye from the drugstore, wait for it to grow out, or start shopping around for a new stylist. My longest relationship with a hairdresser was 13 months...and that was a few years ago. I like my stylist now: she's very fast, she cuts my fine hair well (i.e. it's even and I don't have to trim it myself. ever.), and I like the color she uses. But sometimes she's a little too fast and I end up feeling shorn (but hey! hair grows! not such a big deal!), or she'll just assume that I want the same color - an assumption that, lately, has been right on the money.

      But this time? This time I asked for something different. See, when hubby and I met my hair was this deep burgundy/black cherry color. It's not a color readily found in nature, which is why I've ignored his pleas to return to my punk roots. But in a fit of separation anxiety, I decided to go back...to dye my hair a deep, rich, burgundy. My stylist's eyes got wide, but she said "sure...we'll only put a little bit of the burgundy into your regular color, and that way when we do it next time you'll see it more. It won't be such a shock."

      Sounds reasonable, right? Right! Here we go!

      It's been 5 days. 90% of my hair looks exactly the same as it did before my Wednesday appointment...dark brown with caramely streaks. The roots? Well, they're ranging from the aforementioned burgundy to a metallic mauve. MAUVE. It seems that my hair is a little too light, a little too grey, to really take this color. And I feel a little like a circus freak...I mean, Halloween is officially over.

      So I called the salon...stuttered to the receptionist "I've never complained about a hair service in my life....but I had an appointment on Wednesday, and the color's not so much working for me. Can you fit me in to fix it? Before I leave town for a month? Like, say, Tuesday?"

      I'm in. No problems...with a "Certainly. When can you come in? If you don't like it I'll happily fix it."

      Thank goodness!

      I'm going off the grid for a while - will touch base with you from the Left Coast and sunny LA in a few days, as the audition tour is about to start!

      My five:
      1. Asking and receiving.
      2. Speaking what's on my mind, in my heart.
      3. Clean, warm laundry. (WAY better than the alternative... ew.)
      4. Completing challenges.
      5. Quality couch time with my boys.


      10.28.09 spoooooky! (not really)

      Is there a better way to spend an October night than at the neighborhood Halloween parade?

      I submit that it does not.

      Lots of littles in costumes, several (okay, two) troupes of unicyclists, high school and middle school marching bands, dance troupes, floats from local businesses and, because of our proximity to Election Day, politicians by the boatload. There were motorcycles and corvettes and mustangs, and several drivers responded to our shouts of "Light 'em up!" And the crowning act? Six Shriners, wearing their bejeweled burgundy fezzes, driving stunts and weaving in the teeny-tiniest cars ever.

      I want one of those cars. And the matching fez.

      I walked the three blocks from my house, met up with my neighbors, and grabbed a VI chili dog and laughed and talked and whooooped. Met the music teacher at the local elementary school and several neighbors who I only knew by sight and the occasional wave. Even saw a neighbor walking in the parade in a Captain American costume!

      And was home safe and sound by 8:45pm, feeling lucky to live in this community, to have these neighbors. Life is good!

      My five:
      1. Cool fall evenings.
      2. Candy corn.
      3. Early bedtimes.
      4. Comfortable shoes.
      5. Gratitude.


      10.27.09 hallelujah!

      I don't know her at all, but Maggie Mason may have saved my life. If I can keep myself from A.) paying the overweight luggage fees and B.) throwing my back out, I'll be loving life come November.

      On another note, do you know how good butter is? Seriously??? No other redeeming qualities, just sheer tastiness. Either Satan holds the rights, or they're serving it on everything in Heaven. I can't decide. Sharp cheddar cheese might be in the same category.

      Haircut tomorrow, followed by the HUMONGOUS town Halloween parade. Which hubby will, again, be out-of-town for. He's two for two...let's hope he gets it together for 2010. Anyone wanna go with me? I may go in my cat burglar costume, or perhaps as a highlighter marker...

      (..or a new-wave pop star, depending on whether my hair stylist goes super-short and asymmetrical again. *sigh.*)

      My five:
      1. Sharp cheddar cheese & red wine. Heaven.
      2. Puzzles. (Damn good thing, actually.)
      3. Polaroid cameras.
      4. Seinfeld. Still finding reruns I've not seen.
      5. Rainy fall days.



      Happy Monday! (or not...but really, sometimes just by thinking it's going to be a good day, you can actually trick yourself into having a good day. At least that's what I've been told. And I'm taking this little axiom for a test-drive today.)

      And it actually has to be a happy Monday, because it's my little brother's birthday today! (That's him on the left - he's much more attractive in real life. And he can build a dam in 5.7 minutes! Who's Bucky Beaver now?!?!) He's an awesome dad, one of the funniest closet comedians in the world, and a damn fine brother. Lub you, Mo!
      And for a little comic relief, the picture at left. My colleague SW generously gave me several beautiful plants for my house...including the asparagus fern that Lucky has taken a shine to. His newest thing is to sit directly in the fern in order to more effectively survey his kingdom. He can see what's going on outside, who's cooking in the kitchen, what's on the tube...if hubby figures this out, kitty may have to fight for his throne!

      It's not even 7am yet...if I get a-movin', I may be able to walk the dog and get a little jog in before it's light enough for the commuters to make fun of my oom-pa-pa running style. Here's to having a good Monday, y'all!

      My five:
      1. Family.
      2. Having one person in the world who can make me shoot beverages out my nose....er, keep me humble.
      3. Coffee. Being awake pre-dawn demands it.
      4. A sleeping house.
      5. Doing something nice for someone else. (Studies show it makes you feel better - even than retail therapy. I believe it!)


      10.25.09 Lazy Sunday

      Steeler football, beautiful sunlight streaming through the trees, just enough bite in the air to make sure I'm awake, and a puppy curled up beside me...it's a perfect October afternoon.

      I ventured to the mall this afternoon, because I of course need things for the audition tour, but it's so much easier to shop for things rather than take a discerning look at one's own closet and see if there's already sufficient supplies. Turns out that either the day was too nice to be spent in the mall, or there were too many people milling about, or heck! I already had all of that stuff that I thought I needed!

      Rahree 1, Mega-Mall zero. I win.

      I must remark upon the 50-something woman I saw walking out of Macy's with a baby stroller...a baby stroller with a little, bug-eyed chihuahua strapped inside. Now, you all know I'm an animal lover, mere years away from being the crazy old cat lady in your neighborhood. But that? The dog in the stroller? RIDICULOUS. And more than a little bit sad. KH's comment was totally en pointe, though: "I've seen the little dog in the stroller thing before. It's completely disturbing. Then I think of a lab in a stroller & chuckle."

      (Do NOT tell my dog about the stroller. He'll totally want one for Christmas.)

      Here are some things I think you should know about:
      • These. On my docket for the afternoon. Mmmm...
      • These. Hoping I can convince my travel mates to help me collect the set.
      • This. Could be a perfect travel dress?
      • My favorite Avocado sent this link, and it's fab!
      • I forgot to enter this, so I didn't win. But I still think these are cute. As a matter of fact, I am of a certain age...thanks for the reminder.
      • I'm a little obsessed with squash. But it's not a problem, I promise. (Yet.)
      And my five:
      1. Clear blue skies and the smell of woodsmoke on an autumn day.
      2. Almost completing the Eat. Sweat. Blog challenge! 6 more days!
      3. Color.
      4. Spice.
      5. Preparation.



      Work, scheduling, walk the dog, blah blah blah...

      Things are good, but it's a bit of the same-old-same-old. I'm planning to lock myself in my office tomorrow, turn the music up and the ringer on the phone off, and schedule some auditions so I can get out of this crazy head-space. Because once all the dream-killing is done? I can turn my thoughts to other matters...like napping and shoe shopping and maybe someday finishing this darn book. Seriously, it's never taken me this long to read anything. It's like eating cheesecake for every meal - undeniably tasty, but dense as all get-out. I'm ready for some broccoli.

      In the mean time, I'm trying to squeeze in some quality time with the bffs and hubby this week and next. Will be catching this show tomorrow with SingleGirl; excited for some girl time!

      In Eat.Sweat.Blog news, I'm doing pretty well! I met my trainer yesterday after a long hiatus to craft a hotel-room friendly workout (Not that kind of workout! Get your minds out of the gutter!), and she worked me out hard...but it was fun to have someone telling me what to do, to not have to think about it. And it must've worked, because today? I am SORE. Anyway, I'm 5 workouts away from meeting the 20-workout goal for the month, and haven't eaten fast food, had a soda, or eaten anything after 8:30pm since September.



      There's enough content on the website and doable challenges to keep things interesting, and I'm feeling pretty good. And that's what it's all about anyway, right?

      Early to bed tonight: a drill/machine in the neighborhood kept me awake long enough to watch The Mummy 2 and 3 back-to-back last night. And while I heart Brendan Fraser big time, it turns out that even I can be over-Mummied.

      My five:
      1. Autumn...boy, I love it when nature acts like a hussy! Those reds and golds are awesome!
      2. Neighbors. Impromptu after-work chats are the best.
      3. This + this = perfect on-the-go lunch. For me, anyway.
      4. Fuzzy slippers.
      5. Cloves.