Happy Memorial Day weekend!

What are you all up to this holiday weekend, readers o' mine? No matter how much I crossed my fingers for CM to have a 3-day weekend, he just has 1 day: tomorrow. Still, that won't stop us from celebrating the beginning of summer in style. We bought a little gas grill for our balcony (shhh, don't tell), and tonight we're going to make sliders with caramelized onions and blue cheese. Tomorrow we're hitting a small-town festival, aptly called Viva! Vienna! (exclamation points not mine, but they should have been—I'm especially looking forward to Funnel! Cake!). As usual, it's all about the food.

I'll be back to writing on Monday, holiday or no holiday. Until then...

How could I possibly keep from bragging about this? It's like the whole universe is saying, "Move to Vienna, move to Vienna, move to Vienna" and we're all, "Dude. We WILL. In AUGUST."


I present to you: our summer signature cocktail. I highly recommend you present it to your mouth as soon as possible.


Have I shown you this artist before? I discovered her work in Paris, and since I got back I've had 6 square postcards sitting, just waiting to be framed and hung somewhere prominent. Alas, they're a weird European size that no American frames fit. Good thing we're MOVING TO EUROPE. (Did I mention?)


We picked up some of these while we were visiting Papa Melear. I can't tell you what a relief it was to discover they're available online, because we need more! I'm still dreaming of the Salted Caramel and Chai flavors—amazing.


This book finally came out this week! I am, of course, devouring it on my Kindle. And I think I need some new book recommendations to ease the pain when it's done. What have you got for me, friends?


Have a great weekend!!

Opera Girlfriend

To get you up to date (and scroll down if you don't care about the minutiae of my schedule), I'm in Virginia keeping CameraMan company for the next month. Then I'm flying back to H-town (I know, I know, I JUST left), picking up my car and getting my hair done, and driving to Santa Fe, where I'll be spending 5 glorious weeks making a new opera and rooming with The New Oregonian. And consuming huge quantities of guacamole and margaritas, obvs. Then it's a hop, skip, and a jump back to Houston, where I'll ship some boxes to Vienna (the one in Austria—are you still with me?), fly back to my CameraMan, and we'll have 3 days before we cash in our one-way ticket to Europe. Phew. I'll save the rest of the year's schedule for another time (but, quickly, I'll be here, here, and here).

For the moment, I'm enjoying a few weeks of sweet, sweet vacation. The real kind, with no boxes to pack, no belongings to organize, no deadlines to meet. I'm prepping for my next few shows and studying a little Deutsch, but my main task is being Opera Girlfriend. CM is already hard at work—that boy never gets a vacation. So I'm busy setting up house in our corporate apartment, driving him to and from work (we're a "one-car family," as he likes to say), and cooking along with all the jobs that go with it: meal-planning, grocery shopping, etc. We have cocktail hour and appetizers after CM gets home, and then I've been making real, honest-to-goodness dinners. Last night was Toasted Pita Salad and Baked Salmon with a White Wine Marinade, with Fresh Peaches and Yogurt for dessert (everything sounds fancier with capital letters, doesn't it?). Tonight: Crispy Baked Drumsticks (we had too many appetizers to eat a salad with it—oops), with Lemon Sorbet and Berries for dessert. Who knows how long this attack of domesticity will last, but for the moment I am loving my life of leisure.

The first few days in a new place are always a flurry of activity, as we stock up on the essentials and figure out where everything is. Usually the Bossy Cat is very adaptable, sniffing every corner and quickly sussing out her favorite spot to lounge. This time, for some reason, her favorite spot was under the bed. Oh, she'd come out to eat or use her litterbox or snuggle for a few minutes, but then she would dive right back under the bed. I was starting to get worried—would she stay there all summer? Then finally this afternoon she emerged, and she's been happily exploring (and sleeping on the balcony, the armchair, and the carpet) ever since.

Yes, we're settling in quite nicely here at the Trap, thank you very much.

Oh, what a week

As usual, just when lots of blog-worthy things were happening, I had no time to blog. The past week has been one of the most jam-packed on record: we put on a show, we packed up all our belongings, we moved said belongings into storage, and we drove from Houston to Vienna... Virginia.

There's at least a week's worth of material in there. I could tell you about how a week that I dreaded for months turned out to be incredibly rewarding, exciting, and generally great (surely there's a lesson in there somewhere). About how, despite all my questions and quandaries about what I want to do with my life (or even the next few years), I was reminded that this job is something I love and something I do very well. Or about sitting on the lawn during Saturday night's Tosca performance listening to the whole audience erupt in cheers when Tosca killed Scarpia, and the woman behind me who yelled, "You GO, girl!" I could fill you in on all the details of our highly organized move, but I don't have the words to tell you about the most important detail of all: our amazing friends, who turned out (in shifts, no less) to help us pack and unpack the moving truck, bringing with them laughter, support, and (of course) muscles of steel. I could tell you about the tears that came as I stood with CM in our empty apartment, the first home we shared. Or about inadvertently dropping off our apartment keys early in our hurry to get out of town, and almost being stuck outside with the Bossy Cat stuck inside.

The road trip could provide plenty of blog fodder as well. There was the carefully researched town an hour outside of Houston where we spent our first night, only to discover it was a pizza no man's land, when pizza was all we wanted. There was the Bossy Cat, who roamed all over the car looking for a good spot and wound up on a pillow between us in the front seat. There was some quality time spent with Papa Melear, who just moved to Tennessee a week ago and is already more settled in than we ever were in a year and a half of living in our apartment, and the incredibly Southern pancake house he took us to for breakfast, which had a waitress whose accent and voice have to be heard to be believed. There was the novelty of being in the same car with CM after 2 years of making the same drive in separate cars, and the relief on arriving at our fantastic apartment in Tysons Corners.

It's too much. I'll never get through everything. How about I just show you some pictures instead?


Scarpia, Tosca, Maestro CameraMan, and me



Empty apartment



The whole family in the car



CM's Tennessee biscuits and gravy



The Melear men

Words fail me

At the moment I am having trouble stringing words together to form thoughts, let alone coherent written sentences. We packed all day and then rehearsed all evening and now I want nothing more than to sleep all night. After I have Oreos and milk, obvs.

This whole blogging 5 times a week thing has been going very well, have you noticed? But I don't know if I can maintain that schedule with all the craziness going on here.

So, in a nutshell...

Moving is hard. Tosca is awesome. You should come see it.

And... good night.

Who's the boss?

I love being an assistant director, however nebulous my job might seem at times. I love feeling necessary to the process, and helping rehearsals and performances to run smoothly, and problem-solving, and multi-tasking. The most important part of my job is to be a good communicator and disseminater of information—I'm basically a liaison between the production and the company. I also often act as another pair of eyes, and I'll happily give my 2 or 4 cents when asked, but my primary responsibility is facilitating other people's creativity, not indulging my own. The directors who are the most fun to assist use me as a collaborator; more often than not, though, my mind is consumed with schedules and blocking. And any AD will attest to the fact that we spend a lot of hours of every day consciously NOT giving our opinions. I don't mind that, not really. I use a different part of my brain as an AD—the organized, attentive to detail part—and I'm okay with turning off the creative side in order to be happy and good at my job.

Here's the thing, and it's so important that it's amazing how easily I forget it. The thing is: directing is better. In the past few days working on Tosca, I have made more decisions at work than I usually make over an entire rehearsal period (a normal one, with several weeks). And they weren't decisions about what time to call people to rehearsal, or about how to approach the soprano with a note, or about who needs to know the piece of information I've just learned. I made quite literally DOZENS of decisions about what the set and props and lighting should look like (the show is a remount, but since we're in a different space a lot of things had to change). I saw ways that the singers could more easily accomplish their staging, and rather than diplomatically leaning over to the director with a "Do you like what she's doing?" or a "I wonder if it would work if he..." or a "I liked it better when she used to...," I just walked up on the stage and changed it. It felt good. Assisting is comfortable and well-paying, and I've become very good at it, but it really just isn't the same. My idea of heaven has always been a rehearsal that I'm in charge of, and it's good to be reminded that that's still true.

They don't call me Little Ms. Bossy for nothing, you know.

It's Miller time

And...we're off! Miller Week has started in earnest. It's a strange feeling to revisit a show several months after it closes. Some of it is so familiar I might never forget it (even if I want to), and some of it has to be explained to me 5 times before I have any idea what it is. I think everyone was pleasantly surprised by how much the singers remember, especially those who never did a mainstage performance (our Tosca and Scarpia are new to the production, and only rehearsed for a week last winter). It bodes well for a good week.

It's been a long day already, and it's not even close to done yet. An hour with the chorus, children's chorus, and supers, and then to the stage to look at the set under light.

I was feeling sort of nervous and stressed and complainy about this week, even apart from the packing and moving bit, but I appear to be snapping out of it, to my great relief. This is going to be a hard, tiring week, but I think I'm going to enjoy it.

And exactly 1 week from today, it will be all over. The performances will be done, our apartment will be empty, and we'll be on our way to Virginia, breathing deeply for the first time in months.

Happy weekend!

I'm snuggled up on my couch watching the Tosca archival DVD while a thunderstorm rages outside. It seems like the right atmosphere. What are you up to this weekend? Tomorrow's my first day of staging—I'm working with the children's chorus and the supers to get a head start on Miller week. Tomorrow night we're going to a cookout with the Fat Guys, and Sunday is our last day to get some serious packing done before our entire week is consumed by Tosca. I am freaking out. A lot.


Some links, to distract you from whatever freaking out you're doing:


Several of my close friends have recently entered the blogosphere. You should check out Little Ms. Hardcore, The WienerLover, and Soulmate when you get a chance.


Also, my family is awesome. Look at what Aunt Bossy and the Bossy Cousins are up to. Also, I'm crossing my fingers for the Oregon elections coming up next week. The Bossy Folks have been extremely active on one particular issue. Mama Bossy even wrote a song.


So happy the NY Times is showing Houston some love.


My big dilemma at the moment? Who to go with to see this movie. I saw the last one with The Wise Soprano, and while I love her dearly, she was the wrong choice. This time around I'm looking for a date who will not lean over to say "REALLY?" every 5 minutes.


Don't these look ridiculously good? If only I wasn't in the process of putting my kitchen in storage, I would totally make these for Sunday brunch.

See you Monday for the beginning of Miller Week!

On the amazingness of my boyfriend

For the most part, I don't think about our age difference, which is substantial but not obscene (okay, fine, it's 8 years, if you must know). Oh, I crack the odd old man joke here and there, but just as often I forget and refer to people as being "our age" or talk about "when we were kids." In reality, though, 8 years is almost a decade—his generation even has a different letter than mine.

Dating an older man has its perks, and not just because his knowledge of 1970's pop culture references puts mine to shame. Improbably, older in this case also turns out to mean wiser. He is the grounding influence in our back and forth. He knows how to handle me (and I do need handling) better than anyone I've met. He hardly requires any training—he dresses well, and holds his own at social gatherings, and makes a mean martini, and brings flowers home for no reason. He's SuperBoyfriend.

Tonight we dressed up and went to this schmancy dinner at a restaurant we've always wanted to try. It was a patrons event for the opera, and CM had to sing for his supper (and mine) by speaking for 10 minutes about his experience here over the past 8 seasons. We sometimes joke about his storytelling skills, because often he rushes through his stories or leaves out some crucial detail. But tonight he was on: smooth, unhurried, and FUNNY. He charmed the room with what looked like hardly any effort. He was honest and insightful about his time with the company, and showed the appropriate level of gratitude and humility. It was amazing to watch. I couldn't keep the grin off my face.

Mostly I forget he's 8 years older. But some days, he navigates a situation with such aplomb that I can't help but remember... I'm dating a learned, wise man of the world.

Then I remind him that when I was born he was in 3rd grade, and that when he graduated college I was just starting high school.

That usually gets us back on equal footing. Phew.

T minus 12 days

I was so happy to be home last night, and the Bossy Cat was so purry and needy, and the Chick-fil-A was so tasty, and the TiVo was so full of awesomeness, that I sort of just didn't notice that the apartment was in a total shambles. When I woke up this morning, walked downstairs, and looked around, though, it hit me like, oh, I don't know, a GIANT MOVING TRUCK. Every room had several half-packed boxes, there were CDs stacked couch-high in the living room because we've been trying to add everything to the Muller-Melear Media Library before packing it, and upstairs every inch of floor was covered with books that have to be sold at the used bookstore, just as soon as we get some more crates and boxes to hold them. I've been feeling like we're on top of things, doing at least a little bit every day, but clearly we have got to step up our game in a big way if we are actually going to move out of this apartment in 12 days. TWELVE DAYS, people! Yikes.

Today was CM's last day in Canadia. Poor guy, his connecting flight from Detroit was delayed for ages, and the Delta website finally says he's "In flight," but not arriving until after midnight. On the bright side, I had the apartment to myself all day, so I could tackle that epic to-do list with no distractions. I uploaded CDs and packed them. I sealed and labeled boxes. I washed sheets and towels and the cat pillow. I emptied the litter box and swept the floors. I wiped down countertops and did dishes. I got more boxes and packed up my winter clothes. I took inventory of what still needs to be done. I fielded emails about next week's Tosca rehearsal schedule. It was a very productive day.

And now I'm on the couch, Bossy Cat stretched across my wrists, looking around the living room. The piles of CDs are gone, and the room is cleaner, but I'm having a hard time suppressing the panic rising in my chest. It feels like we will never finish everything in time.

Obviously, it's time to stop for the night. Time to snuggle the kitten on the couch, eat a bowl of ice cream, and see what's happening in the scandalous lives of Manhattan's elite.

Good night.

I won't grow up

When you're with your parents, do you revert to angsty teenager mode, even if you never were one? Do you find that all your worst qualities emerge from hiding: you're impatient, you're easily irritated, and snide comments fly out of your mouth before you can stop them? Are you suddenly unable to hold a civilized conversation, the kind without eye rolling or heavy sighing? Do you feel underappreciated, like nobody understands you, or listens to you, or cares what you have to say? Or do you feel a total lack of privacy, that everyone has an opinion about your life and it's nobody's business but yours and PLEASE could you just leave me alone and let me have my space YOU'RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME YOU CAN'T TELL ME WHAT TO DO!?!

No?

Yeah, me neither.

Ahem.

But this weekend felt somehow different. It's taken a long time (I'm 28 years old, after all), but it would appear that I have done some growing up. Oh, I still have my moments, have no doubt. I can be snotty and thoughtless and cruel, and my mom and I know each other's buttons so well we can play whole accordion tunes on them from memory. Over the last few days, though, I had lots and lots of normal adult conversations with my parents. I paid for meals and groceries so they didn't have to. My dad and I took charge of dinner one night, and I found a recipe for mussels, and we cooked them together. And beyond all of that, I was pleasant approximately 85% of the time.

See, some people may quantify growing up as holding down a steady job, or buying real estate, or having kids of their own. Me? I'll take it as a major milestone that I spent 4 days being nice to my parents—no yelling, hardly any crying, and no slamming of doors.

I'm shooting for 90% on the next visit.

Happy Mothers Day weekend!


Weekend greetings from sunny California, where today I've already run 2 miles, had an hour-long foot reflexology massage, and eaten my body weight in avocado. I think I can safely say it's going to be a good weekend. What are you all up to, besides celebrating the mothers in your life?

Just a bit of linky goodness for you:

Earlier this week we went to the Houston Zoo and were sad not to see the elephants out. Now we know the reason. The first sentence of this press release causes me some womanly sympathy pains, I'm not going to lie.


I know I already linked to this cake last week when I decided to make it, but it is so worth a repeat link. This might be the best thing I've ever made. Seriously amazing. Sweet and tart in equal measures, and perfect for breakfast the next day. Actually, I would not judge you if you ate it for every meal. It is that good.


I've been ogling these shoes. In all their preppy glory, I think they might be the perfect wear with everything summer shoes. The big question is, which color?


How fantastic would this be for my new life in Vienna? Sigh.


Here's a lovely article about my summer project. I'm getting really excited about it!


Have a wonderful Mothers Day!

Travel day

The alarm went off at 4am, and for once I actually got up without hitting Snooze. There was an adorable tightly wound ball of cat on the pillow at my feet, practically begging me to stay and snuggle, but I dragged myself out of bed, shuffled to the bathroom, and turned on the shower. Even hot water coursing down on me didn't do much to wake me up, and I felt sick to my stomach from being up so early. Some last-minute packing, organizing, and printing out of boarding passes, a half-a**ed attempt to style my hair, and I was out the door and on the road.

It somehow managed to be both chilly and muggy at the same time, and it was still dark by the time I arrived at the airport and parked my car. The airport was busy with passengers, but not with employees—most of the people staffing the security line had apparently gone on break, and the 3 who were still there kept yelling to each other over our heads, having full personal conversations at a volume usually reserved for cheering at sporting events. Everyone in line looked sort of shell-shocked, even the ones who probably travel the same route every week: men in their slick suits and carefully packed carry-ons, deftly removing jackets, belts, shoes, and laptops in the time it takes me to rummage around in my bag for my toiletries zip-lock.

After a packed flight to San Francisco with a neighbor whose flatulence was inexcusable in both its frequency and potency, a brief layover, and a quick flight south on a tiny plane, I arrived in Santa Barbara, or should I say Shangri-la. The sun was glistening off the red tile roofs, the temperature was a perfect 75°, and my parents were waiting for me outside. Shrimp kabobs at an outdoor table in downtown Santa Barbara, a gorgeous coastline drive on the 101, only the briefest and most light-hearted of arguments with my mother (about what I'll be feeding my hypothetical unborn children, obvs), and now I'm writing happily from the gazebo in my aunt and uncle's backyard. There's a purry cat keeping me company, and the slightest of breezes moving the curtains, and poppies in bloom, and I could be wrong, but I think I'm in heaven.

And now I'm off to primp for dinner at the Four Seasons.

Yes, you should probably be jealous.

Blergh

I never thought I would become one of those people who wait until the last minute to pack for a trip. I'm more likely to have an outfit planned for each day and occasion, utilizing separates in a color scheme, all decided in advance. But here it is, 10pm the night before a 7am flight, and I haven't even hauled out my suitcase yet. Not only that, but off the massive to-do list I created this morning, I think I've crossed off 4 items. Luckily, laundry was one of them. Also, paying bills. Good lord, I'm wracking my brain to think of what else I accomplished, but aside from a couple meetings, that might have been all. So, 2 items. Yikes.

The weather today was hot and sticky in the way only Houston knows how to be. And I was grumpy and tired and pining for my CameraMan in a completely irrational fashion, considering he only left this morning (although it was so early it should count as yesterday). I felt out of whack all day—clearly I'm ready to be on the Left Coast in the bosom of my family.

Tomorrow I'm flying out early and landing before noon. I'll be picked up by the Bossy Folks, who made the big drive down to California from Oregon today (during which Papa Bossy got the 2nd speeding ticket OF HIS LIFE—oops!), are picking me up from the airport, and then it's nothing but sunshine, and relaxing, and wine, and good food, and plenty of family for the next 4 days. I can't wait.

But for now, I suppose I should be packing.

Blergh.

The beginning of the end

Oh, the past few weeks have been delicious. Couch time and Lucy time and CameraMan time and friend time, with no pressing obligations except for the Great Purge of 2010. I've gotten a little spoiled, honestly. It's been such a luxury to be able to try new recipes, and read magazines, and watch so much Gilmore Girls it's embarrassing. Never before have I been so happy to NOT have a job.

Of course, the main reason I can enjoy my time off so shamelessly is that I know when my next job (and my next paycheck) is coming. And it's coming soon! The mainstage season is almost over, and following directly on the heels of the last performances is the beginning of Tosca. Yes, we're back to Tosca, this time with me directing and CM conducting. We're doing 2 free performances at the Miller Outdoor Theater in Hermann Park here in Houston. I actually had a meeting about it yesterday with BrandNewMiniCooperGirl (the Stage Manager) and Little Ms. Hardcore (the Assistant Director), in which I threw about 80 million questions at them and did my best impression of calm.

Miller week is always a bit crazy. Two years ago is the last time I was directly involved. Last year I got to experience it one step removed, as the Maestro's girlfriend, but this year I'm diving right in again. One day of rehearsals in a room with no props, 2 nights onstage with the piano, 1 orchestra dress rehearsal, and then we're in performances! When I look at it written down that way, I kind of want to throw up, but the lawn is always packed, and the singers always rise to the challenge, and the shows always turn out great, so I'm crossing my fingers that will happen this year, too.

And in the meantime, I'll be taking a vacation, heading to Southern California on Thursday for a nice long weekend with family. CM leaves tomorrow for a quick visit to see his own family (Papa Bossy's calling it our "Farewell Tour"). Then he comes home for a day (while I'm still in Cali) before flying to Canada for another gig. When he gets back we'll have just a couple days before we start rehearsals.

Suddenly this all just got very real.

Mac 'n cheese 'n friendship

I had big plans for tonight. Well, if not big plans exactly, plans. People were invited to our house for another (maybe the last) get-together where we ate, drank, made merry, and gave away car-loads of our stuff. I had bookmarked a fancy mac ’n cheese (my favorite thing) recipe ages ago, a recipe that serves 12(!), and I finally had an opportunity to make it.

This afternoon I went to the grocery store, bought obscene amounts of cheese, went home, and got to work. And the recipe was all it promised to be. A bechamel to die for, smooth, creamy, thickened just the right amount, not a burnt pot bottom in sight. Cups and cups of freshly grated cheddar and gruy√®re stirred in, with cayenne and nutmeg and ground mustard—I was in heaven. I assembled the whole thing, poured it into the waiting casserole dish, and put it in the refrigerator to sit until the right time.

The guests were due at 7, so at quarter 'til I pre-heated the oven. Except that when I opened the oven to check the thermometer a few minutes later, it hadn't heated AT ALL. We've had multiple problems with our gas oven, resulting in countless calls to the landlord (who keeps insisting it's a brand new oven—yeah, I don't think so), but never this particular issue. CM heroically came into the kitchen to try to fix it, armed with a candle lighter, but nothing was lighting or heating or doing any of the things that ovens are supposed to do. Then he started talking about ordering pizza, while I heroically (but unsuccessfully) staved off tears. Then suddenly, miraculously, the oven started heating up—MAGIC! The thermometer hit 375° and in went the mac 'n cheese. Our friends started arriving, and all was right with the world.

But a couple minutes later when I looked, the temperature had hit 450°. Another problem—the oven was overheating. Out came the casserole dish, I turned the oven off, took a few deep breaths, and started over.

I'm sure you know the end of the story. There was beer to take everyone's mind off the lack of mac. There was good conversation, and loud laughter, and for quite a while the promise of food was enough. And then the oven was the right temperature, and the mac 'n cheese was cooked just right, and the broccoli was steamed, and almost everyone had seconds, and there were brownies for dessert, and the whole night was fun. Of course it was.

Three weeks from today we're leaving Houston and the incredible friends we've made here. I've said it before, and I'm sure you'll hear it again, but I will miss them all so very much. Left to my own devices, I am capable of a complete meltdown when things don't go according to plan. With my friends around me I can laugh it off, make the best of it, go with the flow (sort of). I'm looking forward to our new life, in a new city, on a new continent(!), in a new apartment, with a NEW OVEN.

But this life we're leaving, it's not so bad, you know? It has its moments. In fact, it's pretty damn amazing. And (if you didn't already know) everything's better with mac 'n cheese.

Happy weekend!

I hope you all have fun plans for the weekend! CM has a rare night off tonight, so I'm cooking a super-healthy dinner, followed by this cake (it's all about the balance, right?). Tomorrow we're going to the movies to see the HD Broadcast of Armida (popcorn + Sour Patch Kids + opera = happiness), and Sunday we're going to a pool party! I can't believe it's already the end of April—we're trying to make the most of our brief time left here.

A few links for your weekend:

I'm at the tail end of Week 3 of this program. It's going pretty well so far, actually, but I'm scared of next week, when the running intervals get much much longer.


How adorable are all these dresses? Curses to the Wise Soprano who showed them to me—I want ALL of them.


In order to cross #88 off my list, I really want to go here. If only we were independently wealthy, I'd like to spend a luxurious week being served breakfast in bed, boating on the Danube, and eating lavish dinners in the 4-star restaurant.


We're researching little video cameras so that we can make our first foray into the world of vlogging. At the moment we're leaning toward this one, but all advice is appreciated. Think CM will let me get it in lavender?


I really wish I was in NYC so that I could see this. And this article made me so excited to see Eat, Pray, Love. Yay for strong women getting everything they want.

Have a great weekend!

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