Dual citizenship

A couple weeks ago I went to the German consulate, armed with originals and copies of my birth certificate, my U.S. passport, my German passport, 2 recent non-smiley photos, and my divorce decree. I also had copies of my dad's German passport, his green card, and my parents' marriage license, just in case. The goal: renew my German passport. Last time, it did not go so smoothly. This time, I was prepared and totally confident that I had everything required, nay, MORE than required. What I needed, obvs, was just to be more GERMAN about the whole thing. Unsurprisingly, it totally worked. Not only that, but the consulate worker insisted on speaking German to me the whole time. No matter how many times I responded in English, she persisted auf Deutsch. And after I calmed my heart palpitations and rubbed a little ointment on my hives, it turned out I was fine. I understood! I gave her the right documents! I appeared competent! I even worked up the courage for a couple responses of my own—you've never heard such a perfectly accented "Auf wiedersehen." That, combined with the near constant discussion of the German language that's been going on in the Bossy-Melear household, has been making me feel especially German of late.

Today we had lunch with The Soprano from Wisconsin and her German boyfriend, who's visiting the States for the first time in his life. He is so excited to be here, and especially to try all the foods he's never had. We chose our fave bbq joint, where he had his first beef short rib, his first grits, his first mac and cheese, and his SECOND queso (only because he went to Mama Ninfa's last night—and it's his new favorite food). We ended up talking culture shock for quite a while. His perspective on American TV is one of the funniest things I've heard: in one evening of watching, he was highly entertained by pretty much every commercial he saw, endlessly amused by Cheaters, and convinced that he needed to go to Red Lobster for dinner. He's completely wowed by American customer service and the friendliness of strangers, and isn't sure how to respond when people say "How are you doing?". I suddenly realized how much I'm going to miss all those things I take for granted.

And then tonight CM and I took in a baseball game, that most American of activities. We root root rooted for the home team, although it didn't seem to make a difference. We ate pretzels dipped in cheese sauce (the amount of cheese we consumed today must be some kind of record) and drank wildly overpriced beer. We sang "Take me out to the ballgame" and clapped along to "Deep in the heart of Texas" during the 7th-inning stretch. And we stared at the amazing people sitting in front of us. There was the woman who danced like a maniac at the slightest provocation and yelled ridiculous instructions to the players, while her stoic husband barely cracked a smile the entire evening. There was the girl who had brought her own fuzzy beer cozy to wrap around her oversized novelty bottle of Miller Lite (see below). When she wasn't drinking, she was having her split ends snapped off by her sister next to her. They looked like monkeys grooming each other. Only in America (she said, crossing her fingers that it was true).

I've rarely felt much real nationalistic pride, with a notable exception being November 4, 2008. I don't get excited about flags or the 4th of July, and I don't know the lyrics to "Proud to be an American." Honestly, I've always felt that in a lot of ways that count, European countries are superior to this one, and I've been wanting to move "across the pond" for years.

For some reason, though, it really hit me today: I am 100%, without a doubt, can't pretend to be anything other than American. And no matter which passport I'll be traveling on (whichever gets me into the shortest customs line, that's which), that's never going to change. And I can't wait to sit in a restaurant in Vienna, eating schnitzel and telling the Austrians how crazy and hilarious their country is.

Or maybe I'll just tell you.

Scenes from The Great Purge of 2010, Take 3

Scotch tape


Lint rollers

And I can't even talk about the number of Post-its, binder clips, push pins, and recordings of La Bohème we have. It's shocking, I tell you. Shocking.

Princess Lucy

The Bossy Cat has a new pillow/throne. Of course, when I say "new" I actually mean recently sprung from a box in storage, where it's been languishing for the past several years. It came out of the box and landed on the floor next to the front door on Sunday, and since then it has been occupied pretty much 24/7. The first night, she actually didn't come to bed because she wanted to sleep on it. There's almost nothing I love more than waking up to a sweet sleepy cat curled up at my feet, so now we're putting the cat pillow on the bench at the foot of our bed at night. Works like a charm.

This morning, the Bossy Cat was lounging and I was having my a** handed to me by Jillian, when all of a sudden Lucy bolted up off the pillow and pressed her face against the glass of the front door, tail wagging like crazy. I paused my workout and looked out the window to see what all the fuss was about.

There's this stray cat that hangs out in our courtyard a lot. She's purry and sweet as can be, and about a week ago (we think) she had kittens. Only nobody could find them. We've been out of the neighborhood loop on this one, what with being out of town all the time and hardly ever using our front door, so the first I heard about this was a few days ago. One of our neighbors is organizing to get the Mama Cat spayed and find a foster home for her and her litter, should they ever turn up. I've been worrying about those kittens ever since I heard about them.

Lo and behold, what did I see when I looked out the window, the thing that finally got the Bossy Cat to move off her precious pillow for a few minutes? I saw Mama Cat running down the path with a mewing kitten dangling from her mouth. I was so excited that I lost all sense of decency and darted outside in my shorts and sports bra (I'm usually SO not that girl). Apparently, the Mama has been periodically going into our neighbor's apartment, and today when she went in she scoped out the place and found a good spot to keep her babies: inside a big armoire full of clothes. Then she went and got them from the bush they were in, one by one, and brought them inside. The kittens are so little their eyes haven't even opened yet and they have those teeny pink kitten paws. CM and I invited ourselves inside the neighbor's apartment so we could look at them and pet their silky bellies.

I'm not sure exactly what's going to happen to these kitties, but I do know that a trip to Vienna with us is sadly not in their future. I'm just so relieved that they're all safe and happy.

The Bossy Cat seems to have finally recovered from the adventure. And the pillow has already been added to the "To Bring" list.

I'm a winner (wiener)

I have an imperfect memory of winning an Easter coloring contest when I was little. I want to say it was sponsored by the local grocery store, and it was a picture of the Easter Bunny with a basket of eggs. I colored the whole picture in rainbow stripes, staying within the lines, of course. When I won, the prize was tickets to a magic show, which I have no memory of actually attending. What I do remember is seeing the rest of the contest entries, and everyone else's pictures were colored in realistic rabbit shades of gray and brown. I felt a little silly about mine, but kind of proud of it at the same time.

In 6th grade, I won a D.A.R.E. poster contest, which was mostly remarkable for the fact that I could not draw. At all. Still can't. In fact, on the occasion that minimal drawing is actually part of my job (while taking blocking), even my stick figures embarrass me. Luckily, Mama Bossy, being a graphic artist, had all these great books of clip art and pictures. She also had a scanner and color printer before anyone I knew did, so despite my severe lack of artistic skill, I was actually able to turn in some pretty cool assignments. For the poster, I drew a huge line drawing of a slot machine, using a model in one of her books. The line of pictures that had been brought up consisted of 3 skulls and crossbones, and over the coin slot I wrote "1 Life." The text on the poster said "You're gambling with your life when you take drugs." Pretty clever, right? I won a watch. I think it's still in my old bedroom at my parents' house.

I have a new trophy to keep in the case along with the magic show tickets and the D.A.R.E. watch: Rahree has given me the Honest Scrap award, for (I presume) being honest. And scrappy. I'm super flattered, and not only because I get to display the awesome Honest Scrap logo on here. I get to send you to some of my favorite bloggers, and then post 10 honest things about me. Fun, no?

So, first the bloggers.

  1. Pithy & Cleaver: Adorable name aside, this has become the first food blog I go to when I want to find a new, delicious, feasible recipe. In fact, the other day when they posted this, I went directly to the grocery store, bought the ingredients, and made it that night. We're still eating the leftovers, now mixed with some orzo. Yum.

  2. Mädchen Blogt: Especially good for those of us who are improving our German (ahem). Once I decipher it all, I always end up really loving the way she thinks.

  3. Max Wanger: For completely drool-worthy pictures. Also, I bought one of his shirts a few months ago, and I adore it.

  4. Missed Connections: This completely brilliant artist makes artistic renderings of Missed Connections posts on Craigslist. It's amazing how beautiful lots of them turn out.

Be sure to check out all those lovely people!

And now for the honest facts about me. Hmmm...
  1. On my last flight to Houston, I upgraded myself to First Class. I had never done that before. It was decadent and completely worth it.

  2. I am completely Baby Krazy at the moment. Emphasis on the Krazy.

  3. CM and I have been bringing back cocktail hour with a vengeance. Our current obsession: Aviations.

  4. My new haircut is exactly what I asked for. Now I just want it to grow long. Typical.

  5. The sum total of my accomplishments today: 2.5 hours of Shelbysitting (see #2), 1 easy treadmill workout, 3 discs of Gilmore Girls Season 3, lots of music copied to the Muller Melear Media Library, massive a**-shaped dip developed in couch.

  6. I only recycle when I'm not in Houston. But I do buy those cool swirly lightbulbs.

  7. I have already made decisions about everything I will eat at the Astros game I'm attending Thursday night. Hot dog(s), beer(s), soft pretzel(s), ice cream in a plastic baseball hat, if you're wondering.

  8. I don't wish I was working right now.

  9. I still have my wedding rings. I think I'm supposed to sell them or something, but I haven't.

  10. This winter I bought Groupons for 4 Pilates classes and 6 Yoga classes, all of which I need to take in the next 3 weeks. I should probably get started.

Thanks again, Rahree! And thank you to all who have been reading—I can't tell you how much it means to me that you're all out there.

Happy weekend!

I'm not feeling especially weekendy on this Friday afternoon, mostly because CM has to spend far too much time at work in the next few days for my liking. I will, of course, attempt to live it up without him. Tonight I'm heading over to the WienerLover's house for homemade cheesecake (I knew I gave up those mini springform pans for a reason). Tomorrow CM and I are going shopping to get him new clothes, which is very exciting, although I am forced to swallow my snobbery and go to an outlet mall, his preferred shopping venue. Maybe it will be good for me. In the evening I'm going to a Basque-themed dinner party (how fancy is that?!). Sunday I'll be back to the Great Purge—can't take too much time off from that. What do you all have planned?

Some linky goodness to take the edge off until Monday:

Want to make your friends happy? I highly recommend baking them these cookies and these ones. Oh, and while you're at it, let them take home a bunch of your stuff for free.

I am loving Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. It's inspiring and eye-opening and frustrating, all at the same time. You can watch all the episodes so far at Hulu.com.

The WienerLover posted a link to this article on his FB page. Isn't it incredible?

I'm feeling almost smug about this news. CM is not so sure, since he'll be earning his salary in euros.

I have been living in this dress (in black) for as much of the time as I can get away with it. I'm wishing I liked the other colors it came in—I wouldn't need anything else for the summer.

I hope you all have the best weekend!

LMB's treatise on booing

Last weekend I saw an incredible opening night performance of Pique Dame (Queen of Spades) in Houston. The singing was glorious, and the production was innovative and stylized, with several moments that took my breath away. It's not a production that will please everyone—it pushes boundaries and challenges the performers and the audience, but it certainly pleased me. It was the kind of performance that made me want to go back several times, because I was sure I would get more out of it with each repeat viewing. And even though I wouldn't have necessarily made the same choices this director made, it was such a joy to see someone making strong, bold choices and following them through in unexpected ways.

When the curtain fell on the end of the opera, the applause was tumultuous, as it inevitably is on an opening night. The singers got their customary "Bravo" and "Brava" shout-outs, and by the time the tenor bowed, most of the audience were on their feet. Then the director and designer (both of whom, I should mention, were remounting someone else's original work) came out on stage, and a smattering of boos could be heard through the applause. Not unanimous by any means, but nonetheless audible. I immediately countered with my own "Bravo," but I've been feeling unsettled about those boos ever since. In the 5 years I've been sitting in this particular opera house, I have never heard a single boo, and this is hardly the only nontraditional production I've seen.

Booing in the opera house has a long (I'm talking centuries-long) history; at La Scala it's practically a sport (very much in the present tense—for the most sensational recent(ish) booing incident, see here). Here in the States, however, it's much less common, but it seems to be making a resurgence. Last year, standing backstage for my Big House debut, a stagehand told me that in his 25 years of working there he had never heard such strong booing. True as that may be, less than a year later it had already been topped. Booing seems to be primarily reserved for directors and designers; you don't hear many stories of singers or conductors being booed in the US. Maybe booing someone you've just watched onstage for 3 hours, even if they biffed their high C or schmacted their way through it, seems too personal. Much easier to focus on the production team, whom you've never seen before and can blame for any aspect of the show you didn't like.

I, for one (and I'm fully cognizant of my bias here), am against booing in just about any situation I can think of. At the most fundamental level, I find it disrespectful. Just as the singers have offered up part of themselves to the audience, so has the director, and regardless of whether it's to your liking or not, it is an act of bravery to put your work on the stage and then bow to claim it as your own. Some productions make you think or make you uncomfortable or upset you, and some productions are truly terrible, I'll be the first to admit. But every time you go to a cultural event, be it a movie, a play, an opera, or even an art exhibition, you are taking a risk. Maybe you will love it, maybe you will hate it, maybe you will forget it the second it's over—there is absolutely no guarantee that you will enjoy yourself. And isn't that one of the joys of seeing something new? Isn't that what makes the times you love what you see really mean something?

Of course people should be allowed to express their feelings, positive or negative, and certainly booing is the easiest, most immediate way to do that. Terry Teachout, in a fascinating article he wrote after the Sonnambula opening (I particularly like what he says about standing ovations), proposes that opera houses instate a "Silent Boo" system, in which people drop their programs after the show into a "Cheers" bin or a "Jeers" bin in order to communicate what they thought of the performance. I say we can go even simpler than that. For me, nothing speaks louder than a dip in the applause, the palpable lack of cheers and "Bravos." Because let's face it, the most egregious directors are crossing their fingers they'll get booed, so they can talk about how controversial and important they are. Rather than being inspired to put something different on the stage, the booing is only going to push them to create even stranger and less traditional experiments. Simply not clapping is so much more powerful. Or, if you really hate what you're seeing, just leave at intermission. Trust me, companies take notice when that happens.

And if that fails, there's always that old standby: the sternly worded complaint letter.

Scenes from The Great Purge of 2010, Take 2

Specialty dessert/cheese plates

Curling ribbon

Cookie cutters

This plus 6 loads of laundry was my day today. I think unemployment agrees with me.

Home sweet Houston

I've been back in town for a week, and I am totally feeling the Houston love. Sunday evening we had a few friends over. I baked cookies, CM made blargaritas, and we sent everyone home with bags and crates full of our stuff. It was a great (and productive!) night, and when we closed the door on the last of our guests, I think we both realized at the same time just how much we are going to miss living here.

It took a long time for me to feel at home in Houston. My first year was rough beyond belief, and nothing but the job brought me back for the second. But as the years went by, I have come to truly love this city, and that's mostly because of CameraMan and the incredible circle of friends we have built here. I've been here since 2005; that's the longest I've lived anywhere since I graduated high school. For all intents and purposes, Houston is my home, a home I will be leaving in a little over a month. And although I'll return for the fall, it won't be the same. We will have already made the big move, I'll be back to living in a generic corporate apartment—I think it's going to feel like I'm visiting.

So, in the meantime, we're trying to make the most of the time we have left in Houston, and trying not to get so overwhelmed by our to-do list that we miss out on the good things. We've started a list, dominated of course by all the things we want to eat one more time: fried chicken at The Daily Review, churros at Hugo's, frozen lemonade from Bambolino's, happy hour at T'afia. We're visiting all our favorite H-town haunts: the Zoo (of course), Discovery Green, the Menil, and more. Mostly, though, we're trying to spend as much time with our friends as we can. Meals with colleagues are being organized, impromptu dinner invitations are highly encouraged, and I'm spending lots of quality time with Shelby (she's almost 1, can you believe it!).

After a year like this one, with so much time apart, we're also just reveling in the two of us being in one place. For me, Houston will always be OUR city, even though I lived here for several years before we got together, and he lived here for several more before that. I feel like I discovered the city for the first time with him, and when we move away we'll be leaving behind part of the history of us. Luckily, if "home is where the storage unit is," then Houston will be our home for a while longer.

Besides all the fun stuff, there are practical perks to finally being home together. We've been talking about taking new head shots of me for months now, and we finally made the time to actually go out and do it. I generally hate having my picture taken, because for every decent shot there are dozens of me looking awkward, bug-eyed, or just plain ugly. Thank goodness for my incredible CameraMan, who finds the best light, keeps up the encouraging pep talk, and knows all the ins and outs of photo editing. I'm so happy with the pictures we ended up with, are you?

The sweet smell of failure

I recently read The Happiness Project and was completely inspired by it. The author, Gretchen Rubin, dedicated 1 year to being happier, not by traveling the world or uprooting her life, but rather by making small daily changes. She read up on happiness theories both academic and popular, did a bunch of soul searching, and came up with her 1-year plan, which involved dedicating each month to a different aspect of her life, such as Energy, Marriage, Work, and Parenthood. For each category she made a series of specific goals and tried to achieve them throughout the month.

For me, the greatest thing about the book is that becoming mindful and making all those little changes actually made Rubin happier. I love the idea that we are masters of our own happiness, that we have the power to be happier simply by willing it so and taking steps to make our own happiness a higher priority. So, being the extremely suggestible person I am, of course I decided to start a project of my own. I knew that for me it wasn't realistic to set goals a full year in advance, but I thought going month by month was definitely doable. I decided April should be HEALTH & FITNESS month, and I made some specific goals to help me through it:

1) Exercise 6 days a week.
2) Eat fruit and/or vegetables at every meal.
3) Cook 1 new recipe per week.
4) Schedule all overdue doctor and dentist appointments.
5) Spend some time outside every day the weather is nice.
6) Try 1 new exercise class or routine per week.

These seem like reachable, realistic goals, don't they? Nothing hugely drastic, no deprivation-style diets or boot camp workouts. Just simple steps to improve my health and fitness. Still, I had a feeling that if I wasn't accountable to anyone, I might fall off the wagon, so I enlisted Mama Bossy to do the project with me, with her own specific goals. We agreed to email each other every day with a report on how the day had gone as far as our goals were concerned.

If I'm being generous, I would say we made it 10 days. That's how long we kept emailing each other, anyway. I won't speak for Mama Bossy, but as for me, I completely failed at this project. I'm trying not to beat myself up about it, but I'm disappointed that even after setting myself up for success in every way I could think of, I still didn't have the willpower or the sticktoitiveness or whatever you want to call it to plan something and then actually follow through. If you were to look back through the archives of this blog, you will find countless times that I've outlined grand ambitions, especially in the arena of eating well and exercising, only to fail miserably after a few days. And there are many more examples that I've never even written about.

I wish this trait was restricted to exercise and eating right—surely everyone has trouble with those, right? But if I'm honest with myself, I know that the lack of follow-through is a pattern that pervades the rest of my life, too. I don't send out my résumé to new companies, or return phone calls and emails from friends, or stick to my budget. Half a dozen unfinished knitting projects are sitting in my closet. The corners of dozens of Cooking Light pages have been folded down and then never looked at again. I've owned a domain name for over a year and never done anything with it. And when I went through my books for the Great Purge, I realized there were 15 or 20 I had bought but never read.

On the other hand, today I went to the gym. And ate vegetables at lunch. And blogged.

So that's something.

Happy weekend!

It's hard to believe it's already Friday again—this week has flown by! What do you all have planned for the weekend? We're in the midst of primping for opening night of Pique Dame, after which there's a schmancy party to attend, of course. Tomorrow CM has a free day, so we're going to hit the Great Purge hard, with a little time off for lunch with The Soprano from Wisconsin. CM counted and realized he has hardly any free evenings until we leave town, so we're going to make the most of tomorrow night by cooking dinner together and having a little date. Sunday we'll attempt to be productive again—I'll let you know how that goes.

For your weekend, a few links:

Have you heard about this? Disgusting! I enjoyed this reaction.

I'm mildly obsessed with the Modern Love column in the NY Times. I actually tear up almost every time I read it. I loved the latest one. Have a tissue handy.

Two links about fast food! That is strange, but nonetheless I giggled at this new ad campaign for cupcakes at McDonald's Germany.

Speaking of Germany, I've been meaning to link to this post for a while. Doesn't it make you want to pick up and move to Europe? Yeah, me too. If you don't already read The Wednesday Chef you should—she writes beautifully (from Berlin!) and cooks the most amazing things.

CameraMan got me a necklace from Minoux for Valentine's Day, and I've worn it every single day since (it's this one, if you want to copy). The company's based in Portland, which makes it all the better, and when my necklace arrived it came with a little handwritten note thanking me for shopping with an independent jeweler. Isn't that lovely?

Have a wonderful weekend!

Delightful, delicious, delovely

CameraMan and I are self-admitted gadget geeks. We are laden down with laptops, DSLR cameras, iPods, Kindles, and iPhones wherever we go. We ARE Steve Jobs's target market—if he thinks it up, we will buy it. (We don't have iPads yet, but that's mostly because we're waiting for the 2nd generation to come out. Maybe by that time we'll have figured out what they're for. And in the meantime we're petting them whenever we get the chance.) We have our fingers on the pulse of Mac rumors and new product announcements. We TiVo, we Netflix, we Wii.

So it should come as no surprise that we have managed to geekify further, even as we purge all our worldly possessions (including far too many of the items listed above). Introducing... Delicious Library, the tool that will make packing everything you own into boxes almost FUN! Basically, it's a catalog of all your books, music, movies, and anything else you want to add. I'm using it to inventory what is in each box that goes into storage (5 book boxes packed so far!), so we remember what we own and can find it if we need to. The best part of the program is that it used the built-in iSight camera on your computer to scan the bar codes of your stuff. Holding up a book in front of your laptop, hearing the bing of recognition, and watching the image appear on your virtual bookshelf is highly satisfying.

This program is the software equivalent of a sexy librarian, all pencil skirt and wire-rimmed glasses and hair in a tight bun that can be shaken out with the removal of one strategically placed bobby pin. You know what I'm talking about.

And it's so shiny and sexy and new that it's almost distracting me from the growing pile of books that I'm NOT cataloging, the ones that didn't make the cut. I've amassed a huge number of books in my life, and as I lugged them from place to place I comforted myself with the picture of the big house full of books I would live in someday. I've always dreamed of a bookshelf-lined library, complete with leather armchairs and a fireplace, and while it's a lovely idea, I think it's time for that dream to move aside to make room for others. So the books have got to go, with the exception of the reference books we need and the life-changing books we don't want to forget.

And if I get too sad about it, I'll just open up my new library software and let it work its sexy magic.

Scenes from The Great Purge of 2010

Grapefruit spoons

Wooden spoons


Other items we seem to be swimming in: foreign language dictionaries, drying racks, lint rollers, broken pencils, plastic hangers, blank CDs, IKEA Billy bookshelves.

Es war einmal im Wilden Westen...

I think I can safely speak for both of us when I say that the scariest thing about moving to Vienna is the prospect of being forced to speak German all the time. It's a much bigger deal for CameraMan, of course, since right away he will have to speak German AT WORK. For a little while at least, I should be able to coast along comfortably saying little more than "Grüß Gott" and the names of fruit involved in ordering ice cream. I'm lucky, too; because Papa Bossy is a real live German it's by far my best language. Still, we've both been studying the language pretty rigorously so that we'll have a good head start when we get there. It's amazing how much easier it is to motivate yourself to study when a deadline is looming over your head.

We've been experimenting with various methods. As far as CDs go, I love love love Michel Thomas. He's quite the taskmaster, but I find his lessons helpful and thorough. Sometimes I wish his other students (the ones on the CD) were a little quicker, but their slow pace gives me ample time to practice. We also upgraded from my old clunky Rosetta Stone to the new, improved, sleek version, and it is so much better! Both CM and I get highly frustrated with the speaking exercises, however. The computer never recognizes his "u" vowels, and every time I start a sentence with "Entschuldigen Sie, bitte" (which is A LOT), the program refuses to recognize it as German. Be both end up yelling at our computers.

When we need a break from the challenges of the formal programs, sometimes it's necessary to think outside der Kiste. I had a lovely afternoon reading Deutsch Vogue in Barnes & Noble one day (with a dictionary by my side, of course). And yesterday when I began the Great Purge of 2010 (yes! it's already started!), I discovered that I own Das Lied der Prärie (Song of the Prairie), a Donald Duck comic book auf Deutsch. The Purge was paused while I started reading. So far, the plot is as follows: Donald and his nephews are coming to the Wild West to visit Uncle Scrooge (ahem, Onkel Dago). On the way, they have to elude a band of Indians who, naturally, want to scalp them. (I'm hoping that I'll be able to use my new vocab word skalpieren in as many conversations as possible when we get to Vienna.) Luckily, Huey, Duey, and Louie (in German called Tick, Trick, and Track—be sure to use lots of uvular r when you say these out loud) give them a sleeping tonic disguised as Feuerwasser, which is the Indians' favorite drink (no, really, I'm not making this up). Oh, the Wilden Westen—what a crazy place.

It's nice to read something in German that doesn't send me poring through the dictionary every other word. True, that's because it's written for children, but it's still helping to make me feel like it might actually be possible to clamber over that language barrier. And, on the practical side, I will know exactly what to yell if I see a Klapperschlange ("HIIIIILFE!"), or what sounds to make when I spit out something I don't like ("Huch! Würg! Spuck!"), or how to laugh and sound German ("Hihihi" or "Hugh hugh hugh," apparently).

And, should the situation arise, if I'm about to be scalped, I will totally pull that old Feuerwasser hoax. Danke, Tick, Trick, and Track!

There's no place like home

To be honest, I didn't have that great of a time in New York. I can tell you this now, because at the moment I'm cozily ensconced in the most comfortable couch in the world, snuggling under the softest blanket in the world, with the cutest cat in the world. I don't think I even realized how much I needed to be home until the plane took off. At the exact moment those wheels lifted off the ground, I felt a palpable whoosh! of relief, and every muscle I didn't know was tensed suddenly relaxed. It was a heady sensation, and it still hasn't abated. I'm HOME! And it doesn't even matter that home is temporary, and will soon be packed in boxes and sold, stored, or shipped across the world. I am so very happy to be here.

The past couple months have been hard. Work was stressful and difficult, the city and the weather wore me out, and I was more lonely than I liked to admit. It wasn't all bad, of course—the show got better and better with every performance, the spring finally arrived and was glorious, and I loved the quality time I had with my dear NYC friends. Best of all, CameraMan and I navigated the long-distance factor much more gracefully than we ever had before. Still, the whole time I was there, I couldn't shake the feeling that New York wasn't really where I was supposed to be. Almost as soon as I got there, we made our big Vienna decision, and more than anything I wanted us to be together to figure out the logistics and practicalities. And now we can—nothing's on hold anymore. We've hit the Play button, and the realities of our big move have been brought into much sharper focus.

There's a lot to do. There are, undoubtedly, frustrations and funks and breakdowns in my future as we tackle the seemingly insurmountable to-do list ahead of us. But at least I'll have CameraMan by my side and The Bossy Cat underfoot. I'm right where I belong.

Happy weekend!

Can you believe it's already Friday again, dear readers? What do you have going on this weekend? It's my last couple days in New York, so I'm trying to make the most of it. Tonight is the last Hamlet, and then I will officially be unemployed for the next glorious month. I'm so ready! Tomorrow My Gay Husband and I are going to be tourists. We wanted to climb the Statue of Liberty, but we didn't get our tickets early enough, so instead I think we're going to take a Circle Line cruise. On Sunday I'm going to the Whitney Biennial with The Banker, and then it'll be time to leave—back to Houston Monday afternoon.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. Here's some linky goodness for the next couple days:

I know I'm coming late to this, but I just started reading Julia Child's My Life in France and I'm loving it so much. She had such a love of life and all its pleasures. I'd like to be more like that.

Did you hear about Scrabble's rule change? I'm outraged. No, seriously.

I enjoyed this article in the NY Times about people who post photos online of everything they eat. If you are one of those people, you should also read the interview with Andrew Scrivani here and here about how to photograph food well.

If you're in Houston, check out today's Groupon, which is $99 for $225 worth of services at White Salon. If you end up going, ask for Caroline. I've been going to her for about 4 years, and she's amazing!

If you're NOT in Houston, you should subscribe to Groupon in your city. They'll email you a coupon for something different every day. I've bought restaurant coupons, and yoga and pilates classes. I also bought a facial here in NYC, and when the salon couldn't fit me in before I left town, Groupon gave me my money back. How's that for service?

And something a little extra: I came across this photo from a couple months ago when I was uploading pics from my camera the other day.

The Bossy Cat loves doing score work.

Not just a game

I leave New York to go home to Houston, my CameraMan, and my beautiful Bossy Cat on Monday (that's only 4 days away!). I am more than ready to be there. I'm so looking forward to being home—catching up with my friends, eating on the patios of our favorite restaurants, spending some quality time on the couch, and rediscovering all that I love about Houston.

I get really excited when I focus on those aspects of my time at home, but I get completely overwhelmed when I remember the other bit: getting ready for the big move. To VIENNA (have I mentioned?). Even before we knew we were moving, we were planning the Great Purge of 2010, but now it's all become much more urgent. When I get home we will have exactly 6 weeks until we move out of our apartment, and 1 of those weeks will be devoted to the craziness of Miller Tosca, and we're both traveling to see our families for a few days at the beginning of May, so let's just call it a month. ONE MONTH. In that time, we have to go through all our stuff, deciding what to bring, what to store, and what to get rid of, and then we have to actually pack, sell, throw out, or give away everything we own.

Do you read the Unclutterer blog? I read it every day, and I find it so inspirational—little ways to lose the clutter in our lives. She has a game she calls the "I'm moving overseas" game, which is, in a nutshell, to pretend you are moving overseas and go through your home deciding what you really need and what you can do without. It's a brilliant idea, really, except that for us it is not just a game. We're moving overseas! Everything has to go!

I was chatting with a lighting guy here the other night during one of the Hamlet entr'actes, and he was telling me about moving to London for a few years and then moving back again. He said that after making the overseas move not once but twice, he and his wife both felt much less need for stuff in general in their lives. I'm hoping for this to be the silver lining of the hassle of moving (besides ending up with a great life in Europe, obvs). It's always shocking to me how much stuff I manage to accumulate, even in a short 2-month stint away from home. Our apartment is cluttered with the detritus of the lives we led separately, and the stuff we don't care much about is all mixed up with the things we love dearly. I'm scared to sift through everything, but I can't wait for the freedom I know we'll feel when we're down to the essentials. We have too much of everything—clothes we never wear, dishes we never use, games we never play, books we never read.

What's going to be more difficult is getting rid of things we adore but can't hold onto because of space and other considerations. We're planning to keep a very small storage unit for the boxes of things we're keeping, but very few pieces of furniture will fit in there.

In other news, does anyone want to buy the most comfortable couch in the world? Seriously.

Lessons from the zoo

CameraMan and I are the only childless adults we know who go to the zoo on a regular basis. Today, I went to the Central Park Zoo on my own and got a very strange look at the ticket counter when I said, "1 adult, please." The cashier waited for me to complete my order, and I had to add, "That's all" before he proceeded.

I guess most grown-ups don't get reintroduced to the joys of the zoo until they have kids. And if you haven't gone to the zoo much lately, you might not be familiar with every type of animal on display there. Still, I am constantly amazed at the things I hear parents saying to their children. At the CP Zoo, which is very small, there are a pretty limited selection of animals. The only primates they have are snow monkeys, and there have got to be at least a dozen signs around their habitat proclaiming that they are snow monkeys. However, I heard the following conversation next to me:

Child: Look! Monkeys!
Mom: Oh, there they are. Those are baboons, honey.
Child: There's a baby monkey!
Mom: You're right. It's a baby baboon. Isn't that baboon funny? What is the baboon doing?

And 10 minutes later, I heard another mother explaining to her child that it was almost time for the walruses to be fed. She was, of course, referring to the sea lions.

But nothing tops what CM and I heard in Houston a few months ago: 2 parents talking to their kids about "meekrats." MEEKRATS. At first I thought I had misheard, but no, they repeated it several times. Meekrats. CM and I spent the rest of our zoo visit pointing out the "ephelants," the "gifarres," and the "melurs."

So maybe right now we're a little weird for loving the zoo so much. But someday? Someday we're going to be the cool, in the know parents, the ones teaching our kids to roll their eyes when their friends or their friends' parents confuse a wallaby with a kangaroo.

Mama Bossy's Easter Braided Loaf

Is there anything in the world more satisfying and comforting than baking bread? It's so basic. Of course I enjoy the sense of accomplishment I feel after cooking something with 50 steps or baking something incredibly fussy, but I love everything about making bread. For me, it's especially the moment when you're kneading the dough with your hands, and it's a little crumbly or shaggy, and then all of a sudden it isn't: it's stretchy and shiny and smooth. You've transformed it with your hands. And then the anticipation, the slight panic that maybe this time it won't rise, the relief when it inevitably doubles in size like it's supposed to. And the smell! The aroma of baking bread wafting through the apartment feels like home to me.

At the Bossy homestead it's mostly Papa Bossy who does the cooking these days, but in my childhood Mama Bossy was a baker extraordinaire. It was she who taught me how to make a braided loaf for Easter. I have such strong memories of baking this bread together. She taught me how to knead the dough, how to grease the bowl for the dough and cover it with a wet towel to help it rise, how to tap on the loaf to listen for the hollow sound that means it's done. I still make it just how she taught me.

Mama Bossy's Braided Loaf
Makes 1 big loaf or 2 small loaves

1 packet dry yeast (MB used cake yeast, but I can never find it)
1/4 cup warm water
2/3 cup milk (we used whole milk when I was little—I use skim now and it works just fine)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, melted, plus extra for greasing the bowl and pan
4 eggs
4 1/2 cups flour, plus extra for flouring the board
sliced almonds

Scald (bring almost to a boil) the milk on the stove. Take it off the heat and allow it to cool.

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Put the sugar, salt, and melted butter in a big bowl and pour the cooled milk over it. Add the yeast mixture, 2 eggs, and 2 egg yolks. Save at least 1 egg white for later—I always forget and end up on a grocery run to get more eggs. Add 2 1/2 cups of flour and beat thoroughly. I have successfully made this with a KitchenAid mixer, a hand mixer, and a wooden spoon, so you don't need any special tools. And 2 more cups of flour.

Turn out the dough onto a floured board and knead it until it comes together nicely. Form it into a large ball.

Grease a large bowl and put the dough in it, turning it over so it has butter on all sides. Cover the bowl with a wet dishtowel. Place in a warm place until it has doubled in size. You might as well walk away for a couple hours—it takes a while.

Grease a cookie sheet. Divide the dough into 6 parts (4 big, 2 small) for 1 loaf or 12 parts (8 big, 4 small) for 2 loaves. Roll out each part into a rope. Braid the 4 big pieces, and twist the 2 small pieces and lay them on top of the braid.

Mix an egg white with a little water to thin it and brush the top of the bread. This is what will give it a beautiful golden crust. Sprinkle sliced almonds on top. I like to press them in a little so they don't all fall off when they're baked. Let it rise again while you preheat the oven.

Bake the bread in a 350° oven for 45-50 minutes (a little less if you make 2 smaller loaves). Tap it—it will make a hollow sound when it's done. It's better to underbake it than to overbake it, so don't obsess too much about what sound it's making.

Saying goodbye (again)

I try to stay upbeat when CameraMan and I are saying goodbye, even though my instinct is to grab onto him and hug him with all my might so that he has only 2 options: stay here or take me with him. I ration out my "I'm going to miss yous" and my "Why don't you just stay heres" and my "Don't leaves" and instead focus on the "I've had such a great time with yous" and "This was the best weekends" and "Thanks for a fun times." This goodbye (the one that happened 30 minutes ago) should have been easier. I'm going home 1 week from today, and we'll be together for a solid 2 months. Still, I'm feeling weepy. At work. Good thing I have a no exceptions allowed "no crying at work" policy.

So, to focus on the positive: This was the best weekend. Perfect weather, delicious food, and romance. We brunched on the UWS with My Gay Husband. We petted iPads at the Apple Store. We saw Red on Broadway, which was amazing, and restrained ourselves from strangling the audience members around us (note to self: no more Sunday matinees EVER). We kissed on the Brooklyn Bridge. We had the best meal I've had in a very long time. We got upgraded to a hotel room with a luxurious king-sized bed and a gorgeous view over Broadway. We slept in, thanks to soundproof windows and blackout shades. We ate muffins in bed. We got hungry and grumpy and survived. We met a friend of CM's for lunch. We dodged hustlers in the Diamond District. We strolled through Central Park.

And then we said goodbye. But only for a week. So there's absolutely no reason to cry. None at all.

Who's crying? Not me.

Happy Easter weekend!

What do you all have planned for the weekend, lovely readers? Easter egg hunts? Special brunches? Massive consumption of chocolate? I'm so looking forward to the weekend, because CameraMan is coming to visit! Tonight I have a performance of Hamlet (#6, can you believe it?), tomorrow I have rehearsal, and then CM arrives tomorrow night! I think we're going to have pizza delivered and laze around gazing at each other. I might make a braided loaf, an Easter tradition I inherited from Mama Bossy.

Sunday we have a great day planned. I can't tell you all the details, because I'm surprising CM with some of them. I've been sharing about one detail a day the past few days, so that he'll be really excited to visit me. Brunch with My Gay Husband, tickets to see Red on Broadway, assorted outdoor activities, dinner, and a night in a swanky NYC hotel. It's our last hurrah before I head back to Houston and we get down to the very serious business of MOVING. To VIENNA.

A few links to tide you over until Monday:

CameraMan is such a rockstar. Everyone's talking about it.

My friend Melissa is massively talented, and she just launched her new website. Check it out. Be sure to listen to the duet with her partner Brian-you'll hear Scarlett the Amazing Baby joining in near the end.

Mama Bossy sent this me this hilarious video. How can you help smiling at that?

The Apple iPad (or iMaxi, as I like to refer to it) is coming out tomorrow, and I guess there's a lot of buzz about it. I don't get it. Is it just me?

But I did LOVE this week's episode of Modern Family about the iPad. That show is genius. You should be watching it.

And, in honor of Easter, a ridiculous picture of a bunny. And a kitten. Papa Bossy sent me an email with SEVENTEEN of these. I have chosen the best one.

Spring is in the air

Spring sprang for real today here in New York. I wore yellow to celebrate. And for once, I didn't have to spend the entire day in a windowless rehearsal room, only to emerge into the chilly air after the sun has gone down. No, today we got out of rehearsal early. 3 HOURS early. I brought my sandwich outside and ate it on the Plaza in the sunshine. And then I took a long walk through Central Park (along with every other person in the entire city), and sat on a park bench to read my Kindle. Just as evening fell and a chill settled into the air, I met The Fashionista for moules frites and Stellas on the Upper West Side in one of those restaurants that opens its entire front wall when the weather's nice. Simply put, it was a great day—even the obscene amount of time it took me to travel from 86th Street to my apartment couldn't get me down.

Two years ago today I went to the courthouse in downtown Houston to finalize my divorce. Then I wrote about it here. It's amazing for me to re-read that post and see that, even when it was all so fresh and painful, I already had a glimmer of hope. I already knew that I was going to be okay. And I was right. I am okay. I'm more than okay. I haven't cried today. In fact, I hardly ever cry anymore about my divorce, what might have been or what should have been. Which isn't to say that I don't regret it. I think I always will, on some level. But I have, for the most part, accepted that this is part of the story of my life. It's not the story I thought I would be telling, not by a long shot, but every good story needs conflict, right?

Today my story goes like this: I thought it would be a hard day for me, like it was last year. I expected to brood, or weep, or both. But then the sun came out, and instead of this being a day all about the end of my marriage, today became a day all about the beginning of Spring.

Back to the grind

My days of lazing in bed until noon, puttering around the apartment, reading for hours, watching movies, and generally being a SLUG are over for the moment. This morning I had to set an alarm, get up, shower, and actually go to work. I know, I know: it's a terribly rough life I'm leading.

We're back in Ophelia rehearsals, of course. This one has 4 days of rehearsal before her first performance, which seems like an incredible luxury of time after the last one. We started off with a musical work-through of her scenes and then a quick and dirty staging of everything she does in Act I. Her first couple rehearsals are mostly going to be about blocking: where she goes, when, and why. The rest of the cast (who have all been doing this for weeks) won't join her until later in the week, so for now it's up to me and the other AD to walk all the parts, with assorted music staff singing (sometimes 3 or 4 in unison).

This is a part of my job I just cannot do gracefully. It's awkward—do I mouth the words or not, how much "acting" should I attempt, is eye contact a help or a hindrance? I never know. You would think, after so many years of performing, that I would be a total pro at this, but I'm a mess. Also, after weeks of watching the staging from the audience's perspective, it's shockingly easy to get turned around when you're actually up there doing it yourself. I find myself mixing up stage left and right, concepts I'm pretty sure I nailed at age 7. Go figure.

Thankfully, I've had a good bit of practice on all the Ophelia scenes by now. My Hamlet/Ophelia love duet will bring tears to your eyes, and my Queen Gertrude is truly hair-raising.

It's too bad the role I'd really like to play isn't even in the opera. And no, I'm not referring to Fortinbras. I'm talking about Ophelia's sassy gay friend, of course:

P.S. This is the best your hair has ever looked.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...