Tschüß, 2010!

My New Year's Eve mood is leaning more toward nostalgic than celebratory. I'm actually feeling a bit sad to let go of this glorious year. It sounds absurdly hyperbolic to say that 2010 has been the best year of my life, so let's just say that 2011 has some big shoes to fill.


Highlights from the life of LMB in 2010:

I survived Tosca, Hamlet, Tosca again, Life is a Dream, Madame Butterfly, and La Fanciulla del West (hope I'm not jinxing anything—we've got 9 days left of this one). I was in a video on the New York Times website. For about 5 seconds, but still.

CameraMan got the most exciting email ever.

We got rid of most of our belongings in The Great Purge of 2010, first because we wanted to, and then because we had to.

We solidified incredible friendships and made a rich life in Houston. Then we moved. To another continent.

I started the Home on the Road feature. Then I neglected it. More to come in 2011, I promise.

We got engaged. It's a good story.

I crossed NINE items off my Bossy List: #67, #30, #42, #99, #21, #86, #84, #51, and #15. Thinking about topping that next year.

I spent a total of 165 days in the same city as CM. Definitely will be topping THAT next year.

I continued to write here, sometimes regularly, sometimes not. I even wrote several things that didn't make me cringe upon rereading them, including this, this, this, and this.


2011, you're going to have to work hard to top 2010, but I've got a good feeling about you.

Happy New Year, y'all.


Addio, 2009
Adieu, 2008

On the next episode of Cheaters

My Gay Husband is featured in the latest issue of Martha Stewart Weddings magazine (pgs. 294-5). Apparently he has a new Straight Wife.

Here they are playing croquet together (of course).


And here they are snuggling on a picnic blanket. They look happy, don't they?


I'm fine. Who cares? Whatever. I'm fine.

There's one of my disgusting habits gone

I can't remember when I started biting my nails, but I imagine it was right around the time I grew teeth. I was a nail biter for all of my childhood (also a precocious spotlight hog and a spoiled brat, but you knew that already, didn't you?), and the only way I was able to stop was to pick at and bite my cuticles instead, often to the point of bleeding. Lovely, I know.

I've always associated well groomed nails with an unattainable ideal of adulthood. There's something about being able to reach out your beautifully manicured right hand to be shaken that just reeks of chic and grown up. The trouble with manicures, of course, is they don't last very long, and I've never seen myself as the acrylic nails type. And home manicures are completely beyond my skill set; I can make a brave attempt on the left hand, but once I move to the right everything goes to hell. And the obvious solution, to just NOT do it anymore, has only ever been successful for a day or two at a time.

This summer I decided maybe the only thing for it, to truly break the habit, was to throw money at the problem. I invested in numerous schmancy cuticle creams (my faves are this and this), and started getting manicures every couple weeks or so. The creams help prevent hangnails and the manicures serve two purposes: to clean up my cuticles so there's very little to pick at, and to make me feel guilty when I ruin what I've just bought.

It's worked like a charm. I haven't bitten or picked in several months, and I seem to have mostly lost the compulsion to do so. It's an expensive solution, I'll grant you that, but for now it's worth it. It's nice not to feel self-conscious when I shake hands with someone new. And however irrational, looking down and seeing my beautifully manicured nails makes me feel like I may have finally reached adulthood for real.

51. Stop picking at my cuticles. It's a disgusting habit.

It's about time.

These boots were made for walkin'

I'm just now coming down off the high created by one of the most romantic, Christmasy weeks on record, followed by a giant snowstorm complete with thunder and lightning (truly—is that normal?). Sadly, the storm came about 24 hours too late to keep CM in New York, but the week we had was just perfect, all hot drinks and lazy mornings and Christmas music and chilly weather. Perfection.

The end of the year is fast approaching, and I have just enough days left to tell you about the three (that's right, THREE) Bossy List items I've crossed off in 2010 and not yet written about.

First off...

I bought Frankie in the fall of 2003, when I was just starting grad school. She was a gorgeous, dark blue New Beetle, calling to me from across the dealership parking lot. In the 7 years we were together we drove about 65,000 miles together, which doesn't seem like much, considering how many cross-country road trips we took. I asked a lot from her, often folding down the back seats to fill her to bursting with a summer's worth of belongings (and the cat), even attaching a tow hitch and towing a U-Haul trailer once (and only once).

Before I left Houston in November, I tuned her up, got her all shiny, and brought her to Carmax, where they offered me an embarrassingly low price to take her off my hands. Of course I took it, because I was leaving in 2 days, even though I knew in my heart that she was worth more. I thought I would be just fine, but as I handed my keys over I'll admit I got a little emotional.

And now, I'm living without a car and planning to do so for the foreseeable future. I'm taking public transportation, but mostly I'm walking. I'm walking in my beloved Wellies (especially necessary now that the sidewalks are a slushy disgusting mess) and my brand new Christmas Uggs all through this city, and I'll continue to do so in the other city (check out CM's blog for some seriously gorgeous pictures) in less than 2 weeks!

I've done it. I don't expect it to last forever, but for now I'm enjoying the ride walk.

84. Sell my car and live without one.

 

Thanks for the memories, Frankie.

Meanwhile...

I've been in a decidedly unbloggy mood of late, quick to snap when asked about it (sorry, Mama) and uninspired to write anything. I wrote several posts in my head but never took the next step to put fingers to keyboard. Generally when I'm searching for writing motivation I can go to the blog and something comes into my head, but I had to stop doing that because the MONDAY, NOVEMBER 8 was staring me in the face and making me depressed. People, that was over a month ago. Why on earth have I waited so long to write?

Reader's Digest version of my life right now:

I'm in New York, putting on Puccini's opera of cowboys and Indians. It's been a bit of a roller coaster, actually, one of the most challenging experiences of my career to date, but ultimately incredibly rewarding.

It's cold.

CameraMan is coming for Christmas in exactly two days. It's been far too long. I CAN'T WAIT!

I'm in the midst of figuring out what next season will look like, making decisions about where and how much to work. I'm excited AND scared.

We set a wedding date: July 9, 2011. Wedding planning hasn't gone much beyond that.

The Santa Mix is on shuffle at all times. Currently: Diana Krall, "I'll be Home for Christmas."

My sublet is ridiculously awesome, right across from the Museum of Natural History.  It's cozy, and the number of restaurants that deliver is making it far too easy for me to be a hermit.

Thank goodness for My Gay Husband, The Wise Soprano, and The Banker—New York would be so lonely without them.

I have 3 List items to cross off. Looking forward to telling you all about them.

I visited the Bossy Homestead in Oregon for a perfect 3 days with Mama and Papa Bossy. I would have gladly stayed longer.

If I weren't saving up for a wedding, I would be saving up for a Tempurpedic mattress.

I miss this.

I blame Clooney

My whole life I never heard the word Nespresso, and then all of a sudden everyone was talking about it, gushing superlatives and telling us we just HAD to try it. Well, we are nothing if not susceptible to peer pressure, so we'd been chic and European (and engaged!) only about a week before we realized that what we needed to be even more chic and even more European was to BE those people talking and gushing about it. So we did a little bit of research, visited the Nespresso store, and brought home our very own machine (the CitiZ Slim in Titanium Grey, if you're wondering).

Don't know what the hell I'm talking about? Go here. Or watch this.

I am not a coffee drinker. I have always hated the taste of coffee, except in tiramisu form. The summer I was 14 I went through a brief misguided coffee-drinking period, in which (here's the peer pressure again) a girl I admired convinced me that drinking coffee was cooler. That was also the summer I became a vegetarian (that lasted 2 whole years!) and boycotted Gillette (that lasted only until I needed more shaving cream). I was not myself. Since then I have abstained completely from coffee, instead ordering hot chocolate or chai from Starbucks, relatively firm in my conviction that coffee tastes disgusting. Even though CameraMan is very much a coffee drinker, in that "can't get going in the morning without it, in fact don't even bother attempting a normal conversation with him before he's had it" kind of way,  I couldn't do it.

And then the Nespresso machine came into our home, and changed everything. A shot of freshly brewed espresso at a low Intensität, mixed with a generous pour of frothy milk and a spoonful or two of sugar, is a revelation. CM and I quickly developed our morning routine, standing together companionably in the kitchen, with him in charge of coffee and me in charge of milk…heaven. I'm working up to more intense espresso, less milk, and less sugar, but for now I could not be happier to have suddenly developed into a coffee drinker.

WienerLover had a few friends over yesterday for homemade pumpkin pie and Nespresso drinks (see, now everyone is doing it). His apartment was just about the coziest thing ever, with the smell of pie wafting through the air and the heat from the oven making us warm and toasty. And then there was my espresso with milk and sugar, which I haven't had since I left Vienna. I was suddenly blindsided by an intense wave of homesickness, for CM, for Vienna, for our life together, which we were just starting to figure out when I had to leave. I'm so ready to get back to all of it—only 2 more months to go...

On the bright side, I can now (belatedly) definitely cross this off my list:

86. Learn to like coffee.

In other news, after a lifelong aversion to mushrooms I just discovered I love them. I'm a whole new girl.

But don't get your hopes up, pickles. Your time may never come. Blech.

Video amazingness

I thought everyone had seen this, but apparently not, so just in case you haven't....





This Saturday brought to you by peppermint hot chocolate, smoked meats, massages, and friendship.

Happy extra hour weekend!

Dearest readers, what are you up to this weekend? Will you be putting that extra hour to good use? I have a jam-packed weekend planned (around 2 Butterfly performances). I'm taking suggestions for what to see on a movie date with CaliBoy Sunday night—seen anything great lately?

In the meantime, it's been a long time since I've shared links...

I heart Ira Glass.

This is one of the most delicious things I have made, ever. It might convert even the most vehement brussels sprouts naysayers. This wasn't half bad either.

I found a NYC sublet! Yay!!! Thanks to this.

WANT.

I'm on the hunt for the perfect grey boots for winter. These are pretty close, but the blue zipper weirds me out (right?). What are you hunting for these days?

Hope your weekend is filled with crisp weather, lazy mornings, and peppermint hot chocolate! xoxo LMB

In which I live to procrastinate another day

Readers, I'm going to let you in on a shameful/disgusting secret: I have not been to the dentist in (mumble mumble) years, since way back when I could still be claimed as a dependent on my parents' insurance. No checkups, no teeth cleaning, no nothing since then. I know: ewwwwwwwww.

And the irony of that is, I've been paying for dental insurance this WHOLE time, and I still didn't go. I don't have a pathological fear of the dentist or anything, though I definitely wouldn't say I enjoy it particularly, except for that one time when they gave me the really good drugs. It's just one of those things that slipped through the cracks once I became an adult and wasn't being regularly reminded by my mother, like writing thank you notes and eating vegetables.

So today was the big day, the day I finally bit the bullet and worked up the courage to walk into a dentist's office, sit in that chair, hang my head in shame, and let a stranger put his hands in my mouth.

I had pictured this moment many times, in which the dentist snapped his latex gloves menacingly and threw around phrases like "root canal" and "gum disease," all while shaking his head in disgust.

What he actually said was: "Well, it's not as bad as it could be. No cavities, so you'll just need a good cleaning."

Umm...

I'm not sure what message the Universe is sending me here, but I'm pretty sure it's not FLOSS REGULARLY AND HAVE YOUR TEETH PROFESSIONALLY CLEANED TWICE A YEAR.

I guess the wake up call will have to wait for another day.

Puppy love

I'm having cat withdrawal something fierce. Oh, there are the occasional adorable pictures (although whatever happened to Caturday, am I right?) and Skype sightings of the Bossy Cat, but none of it is enough to fill the cat-shaped void in my heart.

So I'm transferring all my love and affection to friends' dogs. Turns out, although I am by no means a "dog person," when the dog is cat-sized or smaller, it'll do in a pinch.

Enter Millie.

Isn't she just the cutest thing you've ever seen (since the Bossy cat, obvs)?!? She is the new puppy of two of my friends, and let me tell you, she is ready for her close-up.


She's lovey, playful, she has the best ears I've seen, and she will sleep on anyone and everyone.

She even dressed up for Halloween, as Suzuki. Her friend Oscar (pictured here with WienerLover) was Cio-Cio San, of course.

 

What? We never claimed we weren't opera nerds.

Race against the clock

Panic set in today for real. I am leaving in Houston in one week, and not coming back until May. Ack! And in my remaining week here, I have to sell my car, ship clothing to Vienna and Christmas supplies to New York, visit dentists and doctors (since my "in-network providers" will soon be far far away), clean up my Butterfly score and my desk, pack, and visit with all my favorite Houstonians. Oh, and find a place to live in Manhattan for when I get there (DID I MENTION THAT'S IN ONE WEEK?!?).

Sometimes in the face of that kind of pressure I buckle down, crossing off entire to-do lists in one fell swoop, becoming a super-productive version of myself, all with a beaming smile on my face.

This is not one of those times.

In fact, my response to the mounting panic has thus far been to do absolutely nothing. It has become vitally important, for example, to watch every last item in my Hulu queue. And did you know that Better Off Ted is now streaming on Netflix? Neither did I, but now that I do, in my spare time I will be watching every single episode, while doing my best slug impression.

I can't get off the couch, people. It's a problem. Thank goodness this week I have 5 performances and numerous social engagements, because otherwise I might never even sum up the energy to shower. (And lord knows I'm not making the effort to do my hair - ponytails for all!)

It might be time for an intervention. Consider this my official, undisguised cry for help.

Magic Monday

At CameraMan's new job, they put shows on seemingly by magic, sometimes with a total of THREE rehearsals, none of which take place on the stage or include the orchestra. Somehow, it works. Here in the world of mere mortals, I'm used to three weeks in the room, followed by a generous serving of onstage technical and orchestra rehearsals. Of course even with bags of time, a successful opening night often feels like a miracle, but that's another story.

I'm in the midst of a magic miracle of my own at the moment. Tomorrow morning at 10am, the second cast of Butterfly takes the stage for the first student matinee, joining the orchestra for the first time. Their one onstage rehearsal was today, and it has to be said… they kicked some serious a**. Despite a complicated stage deck with lots of steps and a big ramp, despite being responsible for moving a wall at the right time and bringing multiple props on and offstage, despite a lighting plot without followspots (so they HAVE to be in the right place onstage all the time, no fudging), they pulled it off with ease like the pros they are.

And tomorrow morning, in front of a couple thousand children, they'll do it again (knock on wood). We dabble in a little magic over here, too, you see.

Suck it, Europe.

I fly. Frequently.

In 2010:
Houston to New York
New York to Houston
Houston to New York
New York to Houston
Houston to San Francisco
San Francisco to Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara to Los Angeles
Los Angeles to Houston
Washington DC to Houston
Albuquerque to Denver
Denver to Washington DC
Washington DC to Denver
Denver to Albuquerque
Houston to Washington DC
Washington DC to Vienna
Vienna to Zurich
Zurich to New York
New York to Zurich
Zurich to Vienna
Vienna to Frankfurt
Frankfurt to Houston

21. Get Elite status on my frequent flier miles program.

Prodigal blogger

I've been struggling with what to write here, trying to seek out inspiration that's neither detaily work description (verboten) nor mopey CameraMan love letter (gag). I'm not finding it easy (obvs).

Monday was my birthday, my 29th. Most years I make a big fuss about my birthday, reminding everyone within earshot that it's coming up the minute the calendar page flips to October, treating myself to a present, and throwing a shindig of some sort. This year felt different, and not just because I knew I'd be spending 12+ hours at work on the day. Frankly, I had a bad attitude, about my birthday and about my life. I've developed an unattractive whine in the past month, I can hear it, and with it apparently comes the tendency to burst into tears over nothing (thankfully not at work yet, although I suppose I could always blame it on Puccini).

I'm not looking for sympathy, I promise, because I'm actually the happiest I've ever been in my life. My career is going swimmingly, I get to marry the love of my life and the best friend I could imagine, and on top of that, I live in VIENNA! I have absolutely nothing about which to whine or weep, I know, just 64 days until I next see CM in 3-D, and 87 days until I'm back home in my favorite city, snuggling on the couch with the Bossy Cat.

Sadly, it seems that perspective is no match for my bad attitude, so October 11 dawned with only a hint of that familiar birthday excitement. Somehow, though, throughout the day my attitude changed. It probably helped that I kept my expectations extremely low, but the day was so much better than I thought it would be. I woke up to digital gifts in my inbox (the people who love me remember the Great Purge of '10), squeezed in a quick Anthropologie trip before I had to go to work (my new birthday top—you like?), and when I got to work at 11 there were gorgeous flowers from CM, a daisy plant and a cake from Little Ms. Hardcore, and lots of hugs, cards, and "Happy birthdays" from my friends and colleagues. I got taken out to lunch and to dinner, and as a special surprise, the entire cast and chorus of Butterfly sang to me onstage. It probably won't go down in history as the best birthday of all time, but it was lovely and loving. If I couldn't be with CM, I'm so glad I got to be in Houston, surrounded by great friends and glorious opera.

I woke up Tuesday feeling better than I have in a while. A dose of perspective hadn't worked, but I guess a dose of birthday did. Which is not to say the whine has disappeared completely, but it does seem to be on its way out (thank goodness).

And with my new attitude comes new blog inspiration (I hope!). I realized I actually have a backlog of things to write about: 3(!) list items crossed off without telling you, Vienna pictures languishing on my camera, and the return of Home on the Road. I need to get back on the horse, and I'm starting today.

Sorry it's been forever. Work has been crazy.

Hey, remember that one time, when I redesigned my blog to be exactly what I wanted, wrote two micro-posts, and was never heard from again?

Yeah, about that.

I called up the Best Friend last night for a long overdue catch-up session, and I started out with, "Sorry it's been forever. Work has been crazy."

"Isn't it always?" she asked.

She's absolutely right. I have probably said the phrase "Work has been crazy" dozens of times over the past few years, to her and to all the other friends and family members I neglect the minute I start rehearsals for a new show. It's the worst thing about my job: the necessity for completely single-minded focus for intense periods of time. It's also one of my favorite things, actually, and I'm particularly thankful for it at the moment.

You know those dreams you have where different eras of your life are all jumbled together? You're at a cookout in the backyard of the house you lived in as a child, and with you are people from college you barely knew, and your high school boyfriend, and your great-uncle who died when you were a baby, and you're all discussing global warming, and then you go inside the house and you're actually in that apartment you lived in during grad school. Or something. You know what I mean.

Life is feeling surreal like that to me. I'm in Houston, but instead of living with CameraMan and the Bossy Cat in our cozy apartment, I've traveled back in time a couple years and I'm living in corporate housing again. I'm driving the same car, and seeing the same friends, and going to the same gym, and shopping in the same grocery stores, but I'm doing all those things alone instead of with CM. It's bizarre. Work is the same, barring a few new faces, but everything else seems just a little bit off.

So I'm focusing on work. And since I'm only at work 8-10 hours a day, with the balance of my time I'm trying to go to the gym and cook myself healthy meals on a regular basis. It all seems to be working pretty well. CM and I have settled into a routine: I call him when I wake up (he's on his afternoon break) and on my lunch break (he's home for the night), and we both write chatty good night emails at the end of our respective days.

It's almost enough to distract me from the fact that I'm not in Vienna. Almost.

Thank god the new season of TV has started.

In my Houston apartment

Bedrooms  2
Bathrooms   2
Closets  4
TVs  3
Sinks  4
Giant fruit baskets  1
Kitties  0
Fiancés  0

Long day's journey into night

I have arrived in Houston, safe and sound and so very tired. My day began at 3:45am Vienna time when my alarm went off, and it will be ending quite soon in bed in my corporate apartment, 24 hours later. There are stories to be told of tearful goodbyes, huggy reunions, and all that travel in between, but not tonight. Tonight I will be sleeping deeply and dreaming of Vienna.

Makeover

It's fall, my favorite time of year. Fall brings with it the promise of fresh starts and clean slates, and it seemed like the right time for a blog redesign. What do you think?

Papa Bossy was incredibly helpful, as always, and I cannot thank him enough. He's responsible for the gorgeous new header, the buttons in the sidebar, and for introducing me to Kuler, an amazing tool for creating color themes (careful, it's easy to get sucked in). I'm so lucky to have talented people in my life.

Besides the overall look, a few little things have changed. I've taken the Bossy List out of the sidebar, which was getting too cluttered, and given it its own space here. I've also added a Projects page, which I'll be updating fairly regularly. And although you can still find me on Blogspot, the official address of this site is now www.littlemsbossy.com.

3 years and 400+ posts in, writing this blog still gives me immense pleasure and satisfaction. Thank you so much for reading.

19 hours in Bratislava

Ever since I learned that there's a hydrofoil that traverses the Danube between Vienna and Bratislava, I've been talking about going, mostly because it's intriguing that a little more than an hour's boat ride away is the capital of an entirely different country. You'd be hard-pressed to travel an hour from anywhere in the States and wind up somewhere that truly felt foreign. We kept planning to go, but hadn't found the right moment.

This weekend CM was lucky enough to have an entire 2-day weekend like normal people, so we decided to head to Bratislava for dinner Saturday night. It wasn't until 20 minutes before we left that we had the idea to stay overnight, so we quickly packed a bag. When we arrived in the city, we walked into the first hotel we saw (the Radisson, not too shabby) and got a very reasonably priced room.

And herein lies the biggest thing Bratislava has going for it, besides proximity to Vienna: it's CHEAP. And they use the Euro, which is quite convenient. Sadly, word's getting out, apparently primarily to the British stag night industry. By the time we arrived around 7pm Saturday, there were already plenty of oddly-costumed British men roaming in packs, leering at the Slovakian women and shouting in the streets. These same men could be found Sunday afternoon sitting in pubs nursing their hangovers and drinking pint after pint of beer. We decided that Bratislava is the New Orleans of Eastern Europe (although a friend of ours pointed that maybe Eastern Europe is the New Orleans of Europe…food for thought).

Bachelor parties aside, though, it's a charming city, full of all those old-world details we love: winding cobble-stoned streets, airy outdoor cafés, a town square, and (of course) a hilltop castle. It also has some delicious food. I did a little internet research before we went, and decided to have dinner at the Pressburg Restaurant, which specializes in traditional Bratislavan cuisine. Fast fact—Pressburg is the German name for the city; it wasn't actually called Bratislava until 1919.

On my quest to eat a meal in every country in Europe, I'm planning to try typical dishes from each place. Sure, pizza in Prague doesn't really count, but I made up for it in Bratislava. I had Bryndzové halušky, described as "the national dish of Slovakia." It's gnocchi in a sheep cheese sauce with bacon sprinkled on the top. Ummm...YES, PLEASE. Doesn't it look delicious?



CameraMan, of course, ordered "Skewer from 3 meats on gallows." You're going to have to use your imagination on that one, at least until he posts his pictures from the trip. We also consumed a platter of Slovak cheeses (no surprise there), a bottle of Slovakian red wine, and a couple glasses of Borovička, which I highly recommend if you like the taste of burning.

It was such a short trip that we didn't get to see all that the city has to offer, but we managed to walk all through the old town, hike up to the castle, watch most of the Federer-Djokovic match, and eat 2 other meals while we were there (neither of which were nearly as good as Saturday's dinner—it pays to do a bit of research before you go). We had a lovely time, although I don't know that we'll need to go back any time soon.

Not until BACHELOR/BACHELORETTE EXTRAVAGANZA 2011, that is.

In the meantime, you can see my Bratislava photos here.

Like a log

My body's having an interesting reaction to the jet lag this time around. It's not that I'm sleeping at the wrong times; I'm sleeping all the time. No insomnia for me, no sir. I sleep through the night like a champ. Also the day. Sounds lovely and vacationy, doesn't it? Yes, it would be, if only it weren't so disorienting and groggy-making.

When I got to New York, I had hardly any symptoms at all: a slightly earlier wake-up time, a hint of early evening sleepiness. This is more like rehab in the movies, where we all shuffle in a line to get our meds fed to us at regular intervals. In that movie, I am definitely NOT the girl who pretends to take the pills but is actually hiding them in the side of her mouth so that she can feel more lucid and alive. I am everyone else.

The only thing that's dragging me out of bed every day is some sort of pathological need to cook and shop for food to cook. CM's schedule here is totally new and different: rehearsal 10a-1p, then a mandatory 4-HOUR break in the afternoon, and then either rehearsal 5p-8p or performance duty. It's a whole new world over here in Yurp. Since 5-8 is an awkward time range around which to schedule dinner, we've been having our big meal for lunch instead. I have taken on the preparation of lunch as my own personal mission, and I've actually been enjoying it. This week I've made the aforementioned potato salad, spaghetti with that delicious tomato sauce, roasted mustard chicken legs, mac and cheese (which involved an exciting trip to Cheese Land), and tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches. Dinners are generally smaller: platters of cheese and crackers, leftovers, or our new favorite Viennese specialty, Berner Würstel, which is WURST wrapped in BACON and injected with Emmenthaler CHEESE.

So, mostly, we're eating cheese and cheese-related products.

Besides the excessive sleeping (as you all roll your eyes and demonstrate the world's smallest violin with your fingers), the domestic life is suiting me just fine, and I'm none too eager to get on another plane and fly away in less than a week. Perhaps I need to contemplate a career change.

Is Stay-at-Home Fiancée a thing?

Heimreise

I'm sitting at our kitchen table, listening to the new Weepies album, waiting for the potatoes to cook so I can have this ready for CM when he gets home from his first opening night in Vienna. The down comforters have replaced the blankets on our bed, and I'm cozy in a fleece—it's fall here! Since I last wrote, I've been to New York and back (8610 frequent flier miles…ka-ching!). I worked all week with the ragazzi of Fanciulla, which was highly entertaining. I did all my New York things: meeting up with friends, drinking too much Starbucks, taking myself to the movies, and eating breakfast alone at Le Pain Quotidien (with bridal magazines to keep me company this time). It was a good week, actually. The work was great, and for the first time it felt familiar. And despite the 95-degree weather AND hurricane, it was lovely to be in the city. Can all my gigs be just a week long, please? Enough time for me to hit up my faves, but not so much that I tally up every minute spent waiting on a subway platform.

Is it possible to be homesick for somewhere I've only lived a month? Because if I didn't know better, I would say that all week I was missing Vienna something fierce, and not only because CM and the Bossy Cat live there. Little things would remind me how much I love Vienna, like the way in Manhattan you never know when your train is going to come, so everybody has to stare down the tunnel without blinking so that they don't miss the very moment the lights of the train first appear in the distance. In Vienna, see, there's a prominent digital display that lists how many minutes until your train arrives, and the train after that. There's no guessing, there's no anxiety. Simply put, it's BETTER. And while it was refreshing to hear my first language all around me (except for all the times I was straining to speak Italian at work), I found my ears perking up when I heard snippets of German passing me on the street. One of my favorite interactions of the whole week was with a tiny red-haired German girl I met on the subway, whose day was made by my speaking just a few phrases of her own language to her.

However brief the time that we've been here, when I found out that the rehearsal schedule had been rearranged and I could fly back to Vienna early, there was no question in my mind that I was flying home. And now that I'm here, I'm sure of it.

Of course, it didn't hurt that I came home to this:



Taken right before he left for the show. He's so dreamy.

Happy Friday!

We're trying to keep things upbeat over here, even though the sad truth is that this weekend is the weekend when I leave Vienna (but only for 10 days this time!), on Sunday morning, to be exact. So we'll be having as much fun as possible for the next 2 days. Tonight we're celebrating our Fairy Godmother's birthday. Tomorrow, we'll head back to the Naschmarkt for breakfast (yum!), and we're contemplating taking a hydrofoil down the Danube to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. We are jet-setters. What are you up to, lovely readers?

Besides clicking on these links, that is:


Currently providing me with a laugh out loud moment every single day: Catalog Living. Enjoy.


This is the bike I would like to ride around Vienna. Of course, it costs approximately 1 million dollars. I have expensive tastes.


I'm planning to make this some time very soon. But first, we're trying Kaiserschmarrn in a bag. I heart Dr. Oetker.


Jan Benzel, an editor at the Times who's just about to move to Paris, is using her last few weeks in NYC to try all the things she's never done and writing about it here. Most recently, she wrote about the Shake Shack, which I will definitely be visiting next week. I'm suggestible like that.


We're talking about honeymooning in Scandinavia next summer. I'm campaigning to do this. Like I said before about the expensive tastes.


Hope your weekend is filled with fresh berries, bike rides, and sunshine! xoxo LMB

Lofty goals

I don't know if you've noticed, but I added a few new items to the Bossy List this summer, so that it's now 103 items long. And actually, now that I'm over here in Europe, the list might need to expand more. I want to cruise through the Norwegian fjords! And stay in an Ice Hotel! And climb around on Greek ruins! And gawk at celebrities in Cannes! And sing "The Hills are Alive" on the top of an Alp! And drink vodka in Moscow while wearing a furry hat! And that doesn't even include all the things I want to do right here in Vienna. Who knows, maybe I'll throw the 10-year deadline out the window and turn this thing into a Life List instead.

But for the meantime, let's continue on as if we're still aiming for April 22, 2018, shall we? I'm currently beginning to tackle #103: Eat a meal in every country in Europe. People, I don't know if you knew this, but there are 45 countries in Europe (50 by some counts, but the list I like has 45, so there.)? I've got a lot of eating to do. But I get incredibly excited just thinking about planning trips to exotic locations like Cyprus, and Portugal, and Moldova.

I've arbitrarily decided that airport meals don't count, which is too bad, since I'll be visiting 2 Swiss airports in the next 2 weeks. Oh, well. The fondue will have to wait. So far, I've eaten in 2 countries (because I'm starting now, rather than counting meals I've eaten in the past 28 years since I started traveling internationally).

Austria (obvs). Many meals have already been consumed here, but I'm choosing the one at the Wurst stand behind the Staatsoper. So delicious. In other news, since we arrived I have become mildly obsessed with mustard. You would, too.




Czech Republic. I was going to order a roast suckling pig on a spit, just so I could take an awesome picture of it and post it here, but instead our best meal in Prague ended up being Italian food. Go figure. This restaurant opened exactly 12 days before we went there. I saw it sitting majestically right on the river as we trammed it over a bridge, and I fell in love with it even before reading the brilliant reviews (and the very affordable prices). So we forewent the meat and potatoes for a night and instead sat on the deck of the restaurant, eating Italian food and watching the sun go down over Prague Castle. Not a bad way to spend an evening.



Pictures, as ever, by CameraMan

At the bus stop

She's doing all the talking, and she's not talking much. He's giving nothing away. There's an air of desperation in the way she leans into him, pleading. He stands poker-faced with his arms crossed. She steps in and starts to put his arms around his waist, one last attempt. In an immediate, instinctual reaction, he blocks her arms with his hands, preserving the distance between them.

And she's off. She's walking away from him fast, her face dissolving into tears as soon as her back is turned. She keeps her head up, though, and she covers with a hair toss when her hand comes up to wipe her eyes. She makes it halfway down the street before she turns to see if he's following her.

But he's not. He hasn't moved a muscle since she left him at the bus stop. He's standing poker-faced with his arms crossed, giving nothing away.

If I'd been driving, I wouldn't have seen it, but I wasn't, so I did.

Weekend in Vienna

Surely there's no better place to sip wine and nibble schnitzel on a Friday night than the Weingut am Reisenberg. Seated high above Vienna, it takes a subway, a bus, and an uphill climb of 300 meters (whatever that means—we're too busy learning German to learn the metric system, too) to get to your table, which just means you'll feel you deserve every bite of Rösti you devour. Austrians sit around casual picnic tables with friends or strangers. Sounds of laughter fill the air as the sun sets over the city. The waiter speaks with an unintelligible Viennese accent, but it turns out all he's asking is whether you like your food. Ja! Es hat sehr gut geschmeckt! A dog wanders over from a neighboring table, and all of a sudden you're making friends and getting recommendations for where to live. You'll probably drink too much wine, just so you can prolong the night, gazing over this incredible town that already feels like home. Then you'll stumble down the hill to the bus stop, laughing all the way, and kiss in the street like teenagers.

***

And why would you spend a Saturday morning anywhere else but the Naschmarkt? Already bursting with produce and international flavors on weekdays, on Saturdays the market explodes with stands selling everything you can think of. Also with tourists. Why not sit for a while and eat breakfast? No need for a restaurant recommendation—just wander down the aisles until you see plates full of delicious things. It shouldn't take long, and in the meantime you can gawk at people eating sushi and/or drinking beer at 10am. Then you'll sit at high stools, eating something revelatory involving feta and the freshest eggs you've eaten, people watching, and trying to figure out the difference between a mélange and a cappuccino. Once you're full of breakfast, you can wander through the market without wanting to buy up every gram of hummus, giant ravioli, and cheese...almost.

***

And certainly there's no better way to explore the city on a sunny afternoon in August than by bicycle. You can walk down the hill from your apartment to the closest CityBike station, and after a quick swipe of your credit card (even an American one!) you'll have a bike, and the city is yours! Whip down dozens of paths and lanes designated just for you, the Viennese cyclist, merrily ringing your bell at the pedestrians dawdling in the bike lane. You'll find your way to the Danube Canal (Donaukanal), where you'll ride right next to the river, past boats, past little fake beaches complete with sand and lounge chairs and tropical cocktails, past locals with fishing poles and hoodlums with spray paint. One quick hill to get you to street level, and you can find the Ringstrasse, planning picnics in every park and pilgrimages to every ancient building.

***

These days, these weeks, these precious few moments, these firsts, you know that these are the ones that will stay with you forever, once you've moved away and moved on. So you'll hold them fast, cramming them full but finding room to breathe. And you'll happily end your weekend curled up in bed with your love, watching a classic and surrendering to sleep accompanied by the comfortable sound of his laughter.

Postcard from Prague

We went to Prague for the weekend. Why? Because we're hip Europeans. Obvs.

And the moral of the story is... I will climb almost any number of stairs for a great panoramic view (or, as they say in Czech translated into English, panoramatic). This time, 287. Worth it.


That's my handsome fiancé. In Prague. On vacation. Boy, I love our life.


I also love me a gothic cathedral.


Please. Like I was going to pass a giant baby statue and NOT climb on it to have my picture taken. Have we met?


The real reason we went to Prague. I'm just saying.

Back to school

You know those movies where an adult gets to go back and relive high school? Either their teenage years were terrible (à la Never Been Kissed), or their adult years are terrible (à la 17 Again); either way, they go back to high school looking for a do-over. Along the way, they generally make a fool of themselves, become super popular, and learn some valuable lessons.

I am currently living one of those movies, and as of today I have definitely not moved beyond the "make a fool of yourself" stage. I started German class Monday. I am by FAR the oldest person in my class. I don't know exactly the age of the other students (from now on I'll refer to them as "the other kids"), but to give you a rough idea I will tell you that a) the boy next to me is currently, ACTIVELY going through his voice change; and b) another boy is wearing braces (there's only one, not because he's younger than the other kids, but because he's the only American). Much as it was in high school, most of the kids are clearly there only because somebody is making them, so there's a lot of scrambling to finish last night's homework in the five minutes before class starts, snickering at the teacher behind her back, and other assorted tomfoolery. I feel old.

My back to school movie is not going as well as I might hope. I'm not one of those people who long for their high school years, reminiscing about their popularity or their dress size or their innocence. Frankly, my life has only changed for the better since I graduated. But the one thing I definitely had going for me as an awkward teenager? I was good at school. I was no goody two-shoes Hermione look-alike (well, not EXACTLY), but I did well, and teachers liked me. None of this holds true in German class. In fact, I think it's safe to say that I am worse at German than any of the other kids. Even the one who's just now going through puberty. I'm soldiering through, spending hours on my Hausaufgaben and concentrating extra hard in class, but it's embarrassing. Of course, it's only the 3rd day—I'm holding out hope that I'll make some kind of breakthrough.

Also that some really stupid old ladies join the class next week.

Wiener Wohnung

Way back in February, when CameraMan had just been offered the Vienna job and we were still keeping up the fiction that there might be another option besides taking it, he had drinks with a tenor friend of ours. When CM (in strictest confidence, of course) told our friend about the opportunity, his first reaction was to tell CM he had to take it (as everybody did), and his second reaction was, Oh, you know my wife (one of our favorite sopranos) keeps an apartment in Vienna, and sometimes she sublets it.

Fast forward to now, and we're settling in nicely to her beautiful apartment, which is fully furnished and cat-friendly. The location is perfection: a couple blocks off the best shopping street in town, and an easy 15-20 minute walk from the opera house, our German class, and the IKEA bus (yes, that's a real thing). Best of all, we didn't ever have to stress about finding an apartment, or find a realtor who spoke English, or any of those other annoying things most expats have to deal with. Like so many things about this opportunity and this move, it seems completely serendipitous that we were able to stumble into the perfect living situation.

We thought it might be fun to make a little video showing you our apartment. We're still learning how to do this—cut us some slack. And whatever you do, be kind and don't count how many times I use the word "awesome" in 5 minutes. Embarrassing.

Das Geheimnis

The German Wort of the day is Geheimnis, meaning secret. Its gender is neuter (das Geheimnis), because generally men and women are both equally secretive and sneaky. The story I'm about to relay, however, is a story of the sneakiness of men, specifically one man, named CameraMan.

A couple weeks ago, CM mentioned casually that he thought we should plan a nice dinner out once we got to Vienna, to celebrate the journey and reward ourselves for all the work that went into moving. He would research restaurants and we would dress up and have a night on the town, and did I think that might be fun? As it so happens, dressing up and going out to dinner with CM is pretty much my favorite way to spend a Saturday night, especially when I'm not in charge of deciding where we go. I told him I was excited that he was taking me on a romantic date, and he said, "Well, it's a date. I didn't say it would be romantic." The evening was henceforth referred to (by me, at least) as our "nonromantic date."

We spent Saturday running endless errands (knowing that all the stores would be closed Sunday). We got home from all of that, I blogged, we chatted briefly with our parents on Skype, and then we primped for our nonromantic date. CM was making this big Geheimnis of where we were having dinner, which I thought was kind of ridiculous; I had never eaten a fancy dinner in Vienna, so why would I care where we were going? I brattily informed him that he could keep it from me all he wanted, but of course I would know at least what neighborhood we were going to when he told our cab driver the address.

Dressed to the nines (I had on my latest opening night dress and my hot pink Barbie shoes, and he was wearing a suit!), we took this picture before going out. (CM looks kind of freaked out, doesn't he? But I didn't notice that at the time.)



And here's where he got really sneaky. He wrote down the address on a slip of paper, and when we got in the cab, he handed it to the driver and told him in perfect German that we were going to this address, but it was a Geheimnis for his girlfriend. The cab driver got a big kick out of this and promised not to say anything.

We drove through Vienna for a while admiring the incredible architecture that fills every neighborhood I've seen, and then we arrived at the Prater, which is an amusement park where nobody was dressed like us. I, of course, assumed that there must be a nice restaurant hidden somewhere inside. And I was right…sort of.

Okay, here's where sneaky turns into the most romantic thing EVER. One of the most famous landmarks in Vienna is the Riesenrad (it amuses me greatly that everywhere it gets translated into English they write GIANT FERRIS WHEEL). I've been on there before, with The Best Friend. You buy a ticket, stand in line, and slowly ride around once in a large enclosed cabin with about 10 or 12 other people, all jostling to look out the windows at the gorgeous view of the Prater and all of Vienna. It's nice.

Turns out, there's another way to ride the Riesenrad, which is in a private cabin for 2, over 2+ hours, while eating a delicious 3-course meal (with champagne before and coffee/hot chocolate after). And that's what we did.

Here's a view of our cabin:



Each course was served while our cabin was stopped at the bottom of the wheel, so during the actual rotations we were alone in there. We started with champagne, and almost as soon as the cabin began to move we were up and out of our chairs, staring out the windows, pinching ourselves at our good fortune.

We were right at the top when he got down on one knee.

Sneaky bastard.

I've pretty much been crying from happiness ever since.

In which we switch continents

Here I am, coming to you live from Wien! So much has happened, it feels like a year has passed since we left the Trap Wednesday afternoon. We're close to being settled into our beautiful apartment (pictures or maybe video(!) to come), and we've mostly beaten the jet lag (we don't have an awake in the middle of the night problem, but we I still have an asleep in the middle of the day problem). We've already been very productive: CM is officially a resident, he has a bank account, and he's discovered his visa application was incomplete (wah wah). We've eaten Eis every day and sipped Kaffee in cafés. We've shopped in 2 different grocery stores, and I think we're ready to move into one of them. We're attempting to speak German whenever possible—it's going pretty well so far, but we're not getting cocky just yet.

One more post about the Bossy Cat and I think this blog will be veering dangerously into Mommyblog territory, so I promise that this will be it for at least a little while, but I know you want to hear how she did on the transatlantic crossing, right? Yeah, I thought so.

We had grand plans to sedate her, after the craziness at the vet, but by the time we got close to leaving, she was so freaked out that she had absolutely no interest in eating the wet food with the pill crushed up in it. After much coaxing, she ate about half of it, and then she actually got into her carrier by herself, which all boded well for the trip, I thought. We were a little worried because we'd seen online that our flight to Copenhagen was delayed 2 hours—we were going to be cutting it extremely close to make our connection to Vienna. We got to Dulles with 5 suitcases, 2 bags, and a frightened cat, gladly paid for Skycap service, and then stood in a long ridiculous line. On domestic flights, people know what they're doing—lines run smoothly, people have already checked in online, everyone has their ID—it's civilized. I don't know why, but it's always mayhem in the international terminal. Nobody knows what line they're supposed to be in, 9 family members have come to see them off and insist on standing in line with the people traveling, people are repacking their giant suitcases in the middle of the floor…it's chaos.

By the time we got to the front of the line, my heart was pounding in my throat and I was having the kind of anxiety I've rarely experienced since I stopped singing. I was SO nervous about the cat. What if we hadn't gotten the right documentation? What if she leaped out of my arms as I walked her through security? What if they wouldn't let her into Austria, or there was a problem in Copenhagen? I was a wreck. But the minute we got to the ticket counter, everything turned around. They didn't check her papers. They didn't charge us for our seriously heavy suitcases. And best of all, they asked if we would "volunteer" to be rerouted…on a direct flight to Vienna that would arrive 4 hours earlier than our other flight. Ummm…YES.

Going through security was completely fine. Turns out, the Bossy Cat was not that interested in running through the airport, like she had been in all my nightmares. We waited tensely for about an hour, and then our names were called and we were put right on the direct flight. Oh, and to repay us for the "inconvenience" of being rerouted, they gave us 600 euros of travel vouchers. Thanks, SAS, you rock! We're already planning our Copenhagen vacation.

All was well. We were ensconced in our seats, eating snacks and drinking wine, and we had individual TVs with a choice of movies! I watched Date Night in German. Every once in a while, I would unzip the top of the BC's carrier to pet her head, and she seemed to be okay, just a little bit in shock. She was sleeping a lot with her head buried in the corner of her carrier…until she WASN'T. Half asleep in the darkened plane, I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye, and then all of a sudden she was climbing up into my lap, clearly very much awake. Apparently I had been a little lax with closing her carrier—oops.

We fed her another sedative, and this time she was so hungry that she gobbled it right up. Its only visible effect was to make her eyes weird and glassy. She stayed wide awake, and meowed pretty much constantly for the remaining 3 hours of the flight, taking 10 minute breaks every once in a while, during which we would almost fall asleep, only to be immediately awakened by more crying. It was rough.

Luckily, this (extremely long) story has a happy ending. After we landed, went through passport control (where we were asked not a single question), picked up our luggage (which had miraculously made it onto the new flight), went through customs (where I forced someone to look at our hard-won cat documentation, just for fun), took a taxi to the apartment, waited 30 minutes for the housekeeper to let us in, and climbed 2 flights of stairs with all our heavy suitcases…we were here!!! And the Bossy Cat has never been happier. She loves this apartment, she loves her Austrian cat food, she loves our bed. She is a loving, snuggly version of herself—no sign of the Devil Cat.

Actually, all 3 of us are pretty happy. It's good to be home(!).

At last it's come

The day we knew would come at last has come at last. See you on the other side. xoxo LMB

The Bossy Cat & Mr. Hyde

Okay, first of all, let's just get this out of the way…I haven't blogged in an epically long time. Plenty of time, in fact, for all loyal readers to either find a suitable LMB replacement or just lie around pining for a post. Well, pine no longer (and COME BACK!!), for I have returned. The thing is (and isn't this always the way?), just as my life was getting really blogworthy, I had absolutely no time to blog. It's been an exciting couple of weeks. We opened our incredible show (I am planning more on this in the future, but in the meantime, do read our kick-ass review in the Times. I'm proud.) Also, the Bossy Folks came to visit me in Santa Fe, saw the show twice(!), learned the difference between red and green chile, and gawked at the gorgeous sunsets. That was fun. And then I made almost the entire drive to Houston in one long day, caught up with friends, and tried not to die from the fatal combination of heat AND humidity. Yesterday I flew back to DC and reunited with CameraMan, and that pretty much brings us to the here and now. Phew.

The here and now is a wild and crazy place, I have to tell you. We are in full on FREAK OUT PANIC mode, all because we are leaving WEDNESDAY. For VIENNA. I'm sorry, but we are in an all caps world right now, people. Also in a multiple exclamation points world. !!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm feeling it, CM is most definitely feeling it, and although it wasn't immediately clear to the naked eye, evidently Bossy Cat is feeling it too. How do I know? Because during a routine check of her vital signs at the vet's office this morning, she transformed into what can only be described as a Devil Cat. What? you ask incredulously. How is that possible? This Bossy Cat? Umm…YES. That sweet beautiful face is hiding a monstrous demon who has lain dormant for 4 long years, just waiting for the right moment to emerge and scare the sh*t out of her mother. It started with hissing, moved on to growling, followed by unholy banshee screaming and the grand finale of biting me hard on the hand. After muttering "She frickin' hates me" and calling in an assistant who shall henceforth be known as the Cat Whisperer, the vet wrapped up the examination as quickly as possible. Was it my imagination, or did he seem relieved, even EAGER to sign the documentation allowing Bossy Cat to leave the country? Also, he gave us extra cat tranquilizers, "just in case."

On the bright side, having to speak German on a daily basis is no longer the most stressful thing about this move.

Happy weekend!

What do you all have going on this weekend, friends? Mine is stuffed to the gills with work-related adventures, but I'm making a little time for a The Wall viewing party this evening and brunch with T Squared from H-town on Sunday. We open a week from Saturday, and at the moment it seems like we're hurtling toward the finish line.

In case you're bored...


You know I'm a sucker for the Modern Love column. I loved this one.

I've been eating my body weight in quinoa lately, so I'm excited to try this recipe.

Our whole field is mourning the loss of a great man this week. I loved reading about his life.

This is completely fascinating, and worth the time commitment. Also, I heart Jason Robert Brown.

And finally, a favor. Obviously I have too much time on my hands, and far too many neuroses, but can you help me out? I have had visits to this blog from EVERY state in the U.S. of A except one: South Dakota. Can you please write to all your South Dakotan friends and tell them about this here weblog? Pretty please?


Hope your weekend is full of margaritas, movies, and air conditioning! xoxo LMB

Modal shifts

It's so easy for me, on these stints away from home, to hibernate in Antisocial Hermit Mode, reading dozens of books and burning through my Netflix queue like there's no tomorrow. It's not always by choice; sometimes it's really the only option. What Joyce said is so true: "If you're not good at being on your own, it will be a very, very difficult road." As an only child, I've got a head start on figuring out how to be alone, but it's something I continually have to work on. It's still hard for me to eat out by myself unless I've got my iPod or Kindle as armor, and it wasn't very long ago that I discovered I actually love going to the movies alone.

I've been resisting the urge to retreat into my shell while I'm here in the 'Fe, instead making a conscious effort to accept invitations when they're extended and to spend as much time as possible with my amazing colleagues here. After all, I'm here for only 5 weeks, in this gorgeous place, at this incredible company, doing work I love with people I admire. So I'm in Social Butterfly Mode, and apparently I'm adding Live for Danger Mode to the mix as well. At a 4th of July party, I lit fireworks, ACTUAL FIREWORKS, in a display that would have made the Washington Mall proud. What did I use to light them? Sparklers. Pretty bad-ass, am I right? I've been coasting on that one ever since.

Until today, when I totally topped it. Not so much in the I Could Have Burned My Hand Off kind of danger, but in the I Could Have Fallen Many Feet to My Death kind.


This may or may not be a picture of me on top of the Opera House, depending on how much trouble I would be in if it was.

Live for Danger Mode pretty much rocks my world.

Home on the Road: Joyce DiDonato

For my second installment of Home on the Road, I'm so excited to host mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato. Joyce's passion for life is evident in everything she does: in her blog, in her photography, and most especially in her incredible singing. It is no exaggeration to say that she is one of the most important artists of our time, and exactly the kind of singer that is changing our field for the better, but none of that expresses just what a lovely, sunny person she is. Quite simply, to know her is to love her, and I'm so happy for you to get to know her a bit here.

Joyce has been on the road for the past 13 years, ever since she graduated from the Houston Opera Studio in 1998. During 2009, she spent a total of 33 days at home (in Kansas City), with never more than 6 consecutive days at home. She did, however, get to be with her husband (conductor Leo Vordoni) for about 2/3 of the year, which she counts as a very good year.

LMB: Do you have any stuff that you always bring with you when you travel to make your temporary home feel more like a real one?

JD: It sounds stupid, but every time Leo and I enter a new apartment, we say "Welcome home." It's a mind set—a total mind set. In the beginning I used to travel with picture frames and candles and all these things to try and make me feel more "at home," but that just got—well, heavy! I prefer to travel lightly when possible, or keep more space for dresses and books! But essentially if I have a working high-speed internet, this is what keeps me in touch with my loved ones and friends, and so I do feel that I can set up "home" just about anywhere. (And I'm writing this from Milan which is probably the MOST challenging city to set up a "homey feel"!!!) I do travel with my yoga mat which I try to use on a regular basis, but essentially that's it. I've learned that I'd rather spend a bit of money to stay in a nice place, because if I'm 11 months on the road, the road is truly my home, and it's important to feel safe and comfortable and be able to REST wherever I am. So a few years back I stopped trying to save $500 on housing and bumped myself up into nicer accommodations—and I have never once regretted it!


LMB: You sing a lot in Europe. How much do you try to immerse yourself in the culture of wherever you are? Are there any American things, or foods, or traditions that you can't live without, no matter where you are?

JD: I will often arrive in Europe with some peanut butter and Thomas's Whole Grain Bagels! But I do think it's very important to take advantage of learning the culture where you are and to make the best of the opportunities to try the different foods, take up the afternoon siesta routine (which is pretty fabulous!), and just get inside how a different culture functions. It was NOT easy at all for me at the beginning—I REALLY missed my creature comforts. But with time and a few repeat visits, I've learned how the markets function and that ultimately I can find anything I REALLY need. So I sort of jump into it full steam. I WILL say, however, that the thing I crave most if I've been in Europe for an extended period? MEXICAN FOOD! So the first thing I'll do in the States is get a REAL Margarita (sorry, Europe—you do many things well, but mixing a REAL margarita is NOT one of them!), and a big burrito!!!


LMB: I have not yet figured out how to pack light for a trip of several months, and I'm getting tired of shipping boxes back and forth all the time. Any advice from a seasoned traveler?

JD: Well, I know now the different cities where I'll be going, and if I can find the toiletries I like to use, or ones I can try in the different countries, I will shop for my toiletries when I get there, as those weigh a lot. I've learned that as long as I have my music, the under-garments I need (because those can be nearly impossible for me to find on the road, especially in Europe!), and the shoes I need, anything else I can find on the road, so I don't stress the little things. Any medications you may need are imperative to bring along—for us singer types, it's important that you bring all the preventative things, and a good stash of Emergen-C. I think I've over-packed for every single trip I've ever made. There is ALWAYS the shirt or dress that I never ever wear on the road, but I still pack it thinking, "you never know...." I always end up wearing the same clothes and leaving 4 or 5 pieces completely untouched, but then I'll STILL pack those unworn numbers the next time. I guess I'll never learn!


LMB: You and Leo spend so much time apart. I'll take any tips you've got on how to do that whole long-distance thing!

JD: Well, the one advantage we have is that when we met, our relationship started with us being apart, so that was how our relationship dynamic was established from the beginning. To us, it's normality. But that doesn't mean it's easy. Communication is absolutely, completely and utterly the key. Skype is a God-send. Period. It is an unbelievable gift. We make sure that when we are on the road we are in touch at LEAST once a day via Skype/telephone, but there are also the constant text messages, emails, little "thinking of you" notes that just keep us connected over the miles.

We try very hard not to be apart more than 3 weeks. Longer than 3 weeks, you've each gotten into a very independent routine, and then to come back together and have to share your space again can sometimes lead to stress or conflict. We had that a bit in the beginning, and just being able to identify that this is what is happening makes the transition back together much easier.

But I think the other immensely important factor is that you have to feel that you can thrive on your own. If you spend so much time apart, it's vital that you still grow and learn and thrive and feed your interests, so that the time apart doesn't feel like dead time while you're waiting for your partner to come home. I think both Leo and I have an ability to use the time apart productively and fruitfully so that when we reunite we have lots to share and learn from each other. So feeding yourself while you're on your own, instead of only seeing how lonely you are, I think is a big key.


LMB: In order to have the career that you have, you have to be willing to be away from home most of the time. How have you made peace with that? What makes it worthwhile for you?

JD: For me, it is something I have had to learn. I was rather miserable in the first years of my career. Not only was I in places where I didn't know anyone, or certainly didn't speak the language of the country, but the more poisonous thing was that I was only focusing on the things I was MISSING. All I saw was that I was away from my family, missing birthdays, missing Mexican food, craving my own bed, missing my friends—and so because my vision was full of everything I WASN'T doing, I was missing out on all the things in front of me: new friends, new cities, new languages, new cuisines, new opportunities. I started trying to switch my focus to what was in front of me, and this world began to open up. I still missed my family, yes, but I didn't spend all my waking hours thinking about that—I went about the business of living my life where I was with what was around me. This was a huge change for me—and it happened strictly in the confines of my attitude! I still struggle with missing my husband, yes—but I acknowledge it and then get my butt off the couch and go take my camera out to photograph an astonishing sculpture or monument, and then I feel productive for the day!


LMB: Any other advice you wish someone had given you when you were first starting out? Or advice that you did get that has been helpful to you?

JD: I think something people need to think about in this business is how good you have to be at being alone. It's a funny paradox, because we have to know how to function among a HUGE team of people putting together a show—and it's an extremely social, hectic, vibrant atmosphere. For singers, we have to stand on the stage and "speak" with 3,000+ people a night, and at the end of the night take all of their applause and bathe in it, but then we go home and we are alone. Mightily alone. This was, for me, the most challenging aspect of handling the career. It is the alone time that is the most difficult—and if you're not good at being on your own, it will be a very, very difficult road. So somehow you have to find a balance between the HIGH of the applause and social buzz, to the seemingly LOW of the isolation of your hotel room. I try to march a middle line—realizing that the reality of my life lies somewhere between the high and the low—because neither of those extremes is exactly real. I think if we can learn to handle those two extremes, it can be a very rewarding life!



Thanks again to Joyce for all her insights! You can find out more about Joyce at www.joycedidonato.com. And if you haven't seen it yet, be sure to check out my first Home on the Road feature with Kelly Kaduce.


*Photo by Sheila Rock, courtesy of Virgin Classics

Pants on fire

I am not a frequent liar, not because I am morally opposed to lying per se, but because I don't like to spend a lot of time doing things I'm not good at. And I am not at all good at lying. I get caught up in the details and end up tying myself in knots over minutiae. Also, I have a very expressive face.

I lie so rarely, in fact, that I have almost total recall of lies I've told in the past. Like in high school when I told my parents I was going with my boyfriend to see Jurassic Park: The Lost World and instead went to his dad's law office to make out on the couch. I thought I was safe because it was a movie my parents wouldn't dream of seeing, but for some reason it came up in conversation for weeks afterward, and of course I had nothing to say about it except something vague about how it was just like the first Jurassic Park, except, you know, set in Manhattan. I ended up confessing the lie to my parents years later—they, needless to say, had completely forgotten the whole incident.

The inability to lie is generally seen as a virtue, I know, but every once in a while it would be convenient to be able to do it convincingly, if only to maintain the element of surprise. All last week I was so busy lying and thinking up more lies that I couldn't even blog. Not once. I was so full of secrets that I wouldn't have known how to write without them all spilling out.

See, CameraMan is conducting this show, and I wasn't going to be able to see it (because I am on the other side of the country), and I was just sick about it. So, I secretly begged for a release and GOT one, secretly offered up our hypothetical first-born child to United Airlines for a last-minute plane ticket, and secretly planned a trip to see his Sunday matinee and spend two whole nights with him (and the Bossy Cat, obvs). All week long I played the sad long-distance girlfriend, throwing in little extras for verisimilitude (Do you think anyone will video it so I can watch it later?). I even invented a whole rehearsal schedule and cocktail party for Saturday to cover the time I would be traveling, all the while plotting with a friend at the Trap to meet CM at Clyde's that night.

I think I did pretty well. I lied my face off all week, and he had no idea. Until about an hour before I arrived, when he called my phone 3 times and all 3 times it went straight to voicemail. He's pretty smart, that CameraMan, and he figured out the only reason my phone would do that is if I was on a plane. And he was right. So when I walked into Clyde's he wasn't as surprised as I might have hoped, but it was still a pretty great moment. I'd say the surprise was a success.

99. Fly across the country (or the world) to surprise someone.

What's so bad about lying, anyway?

Happy 4th of July weekend!

I'm having a hard time believing it's already 4th of July weekend—how is it possible that 2010 is halfway over?!? The next-door neighbors have already helped me to get in a patriotic mood by celebrating last night at midnight with a private fireworks display. It sounded like we were being bombed. Happy holidays. How are you all spending your weekend? It's opening weekend here in Santa Fe, so I'll be seeing tomorrow night's performance of Magic Flute and going to the after-party. Sunday I'm getting together with friends for a low-key barbecue.

For you weekend enjoyment:


I'm intrigued by Hulu Plus, mainly because you can get all the content on your iPhone! I think it would help me log more hours at the gym.


Here's a cool feature on our opera! You even get to see costume renderings and a photo of the model. Check it out.


I'm mildly obsessed with making schmancy simple syrups for cocktails. This one is my next project.


This interview with Peter Gelb is fascinating. (via Nico Muhly)


Everyone in Santa Fe goes here for a little splurge. Doesn't it look amazing? I'm planning my trip.


Hope your weekend is filled with burgers, and strawberry shortcake, and sparklers! xoxo LMB

Nature vs. nurture

In Santa Fe there's a city ordinance from all the way back in 1958 that all new buildings have to look like the rest of Santa Fe, with flat roofs and adobe walls (or "faux-dobe," as most of the newer buildings are). I'm wondering if there's an ordinance I don't know about, requiring the use of batik wall hangings, dream catchers, and Navajo blankets in all interior design. I'm guessing not.

Which brings to my philosophical question of the day: Do people who move here naturally have an affinity for combining silver and turquoise, and hanging drums as wall art, and handcrafted pottery? Or is it not until they are already here and have been wooed by the siren song of green chiles that they find themselves drawn to wrought iron door handles, and wall paint the color of egg yolks, and terracotta tiles? Is it nature, or is it nurture?

A friend of mine who has worked here for many years gave me only one piece of advice about summering in Santa Fe. "Resist the urge to buy home furnishings here," he told me, "because they ONLY look good in Santa Fe. I guarantee, whatever it is, it will not look good in your house."

I've only been here a week, but I seem to be resisting the urge quite easily. It all looks right here, like it's supposed to be here, but Santa Fe style is just not my thing.

I think I'm leaning toward nature.

Home on the Road: Kelly Kaduce

Lately it's felt like I'm in a constant dilemma about what I want to do with my life, and it's not because I don't enjoy my work. I find so much pleasure and satisfaction in it, and there are even aspects of the lifestyle that suit me very well. I haven't yet, however, quite figured out how to be happy on the road, especially when I'm away from my CameraMan and my Bossy Cat. I thought it might be illuminating to me (and maybe to you, too) to ask some people who have been doing this longer than I have: How in the world do you do it?

I'm so pleased that soprano Kelly Kaduce agreed to be my first guinea pig. First off, she's kind of a rock star (come visit me in Santa Fe, and you can see her sing the title role of Madame Butterfly!) Not only that, but she is one of the loveliest, most down-to-earth (and FUN) people I know. I think you'll enjoy her thoughtful answers. And while you're at it, you can become a fan of her on Facebook!

Kelly has been on the road singing for about 10 years. In the past 12 months, she has been at home (in Houston) for exactly 96 days, and in the same place as her husband for 137 days (which includes their time spent singing two operas together).

Forthwith, the interview:

LMB: Do you have any stuff that you always bring with you when you travel to make you feel more at home on the road?

KK: Besides the obvious singer things, the three constants I always bring with me are my yoga mat, my running shoes, and my Ugg slippers!


LMB: Do you have any special routines to help you acclimate quickly in a new place?

KK: I do have a routine when I arrive to a new place. I always try to arrive in the afternoon so I can take the time to unpack fully and go grocery shopping. Sometimes I find myself re-arranging so the place feels like my own or doing some cleaning. I also like to arrange my exercise routine immediately. I find if I don't set up a regimen in the first week, I won't do it at all for the duration of my stay.


LMB: I'm just about to take my cat on a plane for the first time. You travel with your adorable dog Lulu quite a bit—any advice on traveling with a pet?

KK: I have a GREAT travel bag for Lulu that is a backpack from Celltei. She has come to love it and just curls up to sleep for the duration of the travel. She also has her own little travel pack with everything she needs (Heartgard, 2 toys, brush, etc). Anything big, like her dog food, I buy when I arrive. If we have the luxury of driving to the gig, I take more things like her dog bed. I try to take her for a long walk shortly after our arrival so she can "get to know" the neighborhood. It seems like that long walk sets her at ease and we can begin the new routine for the next month or so.

One last tip...if you are flying with your pet for the first time and are unsure of how they will react, make sure you pick up some Children's Benadryl in the dye-free liquid with a dropper measurement for kids. If they start acting up and you cannot control them, you can give them half of the recommended dose for kids. This is a harmless way to encourage them to sleep during the travel.


LMB: You and your husband (baritone Lee Gregory) spend so much time apart, but you two seem to have figured out how to make it work. What's your secret?

KK: Ok, I have been asked this question a lot lately. I am not sure there is a secret key. It has certainly not always been easy nor have we been without hardships. After about 11 years together, ultimately what has worked for us is to keep no secrets. We have a little joke: if you don't want to tell your spouse something, it means you MUST. I think the difficult part of this is learning to listen without becoming defensive.


LMB: I always struggle with keeping to a workout routine when I'm away from home. You are in amazing shape—how do you maintain it?

KK: Try to find something you like enough to keep you coming back to it. I prefer Yoga and long distance running. Sometimes I throw other things in there just to get my rear end off the couch and to keep me diverted. I love yoga because it is a great de-stressor and seems to compliment the singing process. I love running because you can explore a city and it gives you a great "high". Since I know what I like to do for exercise, I look up a yoga studio before I arrive in the city.

As for running, I try to do it outside. I use a website called MapMyRun to find good paths. I also have a GPS watch that tracks my distance. If the weather is going to be cold, I bring appropriate outdoor gear (more junk in the suitcase), or try to find a treadmill somewhere. I tell you, running is my FAVORITE! I have learned the majority of my roles while running. When you are limited to the treadmill, you can do all sorts of things! I have done research on YouTube while running, worked on memorization, and I even occasionally watch movies! Basically, I have turned exercising into a hobby to do while on the road.


LMB: In order to have the kind of career you have, you have to be willing to be on the road a lot of the time. What makes it worthwhile for you?

KK: I guess what makes it worthwhile for me is the community of musicians that you get to work with. I LOVE the people in the opera business. They are intelligent, interesting, bizarre, intriguing, generous, inspiring, funny....and so on. I also find great joy in putting on an opera. I love the rehearsal process and the challenges and joys that it brings. The challenge of trying to reach a perfection that is unattainable really speaks to me. Kind of like a dog chasing its own tail!

Not everything I do is great or worth mentioning, but every now and then I get a comment or a message from a person about how a performance touched them in a very personal way and then it all seems worthwhile!


LMB: And finally, give us KELLY KADUCE'S TIPS FOR SINGERS.

KK:
1. You should tip your make up artist and dresser.
2. Ladies, when you are in your big gowns with trains and need to go to the bathroom, sit down FACING the flusher!
3. Try to find out ASAP what your costume is and ask if you can get those pieces for rehearsal. (I find this very helpful if you have to sing in a corset or in some crazy shoes!)
4. Don't be defensive when you are receiving music notes or directorial notes. They aren't personal attacks. You want to be your best and everyone wants your best. It's always a collaboration.
5. When in doubt, use the Scotto defense. When given a note that you don't agree with, try this. "Ok, I try....(then do it exactly the same way)...Oh yes! This is much better!"

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