A Week at a Time: Evening clean-up

My television-free week went quite well, although that might have been mostly because I was hardly home in the evenings to miss it. The nights I did stay in, I was more productive and spent lots more time reading, writing, and going through pictures. I tend to be exhausted by the time I get home, even if it's only 7:30pm, and not having the option to simply turn on a show (or four!) made me far more mindful of how I was spending my time. I think I slept better, too, although I did miss my man Jon Stewart.

This week I'm challenging myself to clean up my apartment every evening. It's such a small space (with no dishwasher, I might add) that clothes on the floor and dishes in the sink can lead to energy-sucking clutter in a matter of hours. Conversely, just 10-15 minutes of clean-up can make a huge difference, so this week I'll be doing the dishes and straightening up before bed. Oh, and I think I'll make my bed in the mornings, too, just for good measure.

It would have been useful for me to thoroughly clean the place on this, my free day. That way, I would be inspired to keep it neat and tidy, and my nightly sweep would be light and manageable.

I did no such thing, of course. I was too busy today enjoying the weather, finding my perfect wedding dress (check!), buying adorable pink things for my brand-new, born today niece(!!!!), and rolling my eyes at the Oscars.

The cleaning shall begin…tomorrow!

Are you in?

Happy weekend!

Lordy, this week has taken its toll on me, and I still have a day of rehearsal left before the Free Day Holy Grail. I think I can, I think I can... Luckily, there's lots to look forward to on Sunday, including my first wedding dress shopping excursion (according to the experts I'm approximately 5 months late on this one—cross your fingers for me, won't you) with The Wise Soprano in tow, and watching the Oscars with My Gay Husband and new friends. Will you be watching?

Some weekendy linky goodness:

Have you checked out Matchbook yet? The second issue comes out next week!

I've been drinking this tea just about every moment I'm at home. Like right now, for example.

I loved this article Nigella Lawson wrote about her kitchen. "If a kitchen is not comfortable nor will you be."

I have babies on the brain even more than usual (hard to imagine, I know), because CM's sister is getting ready to pop (which will make me an AUNT any day now)! My friend Hannah's getting close, too—look at her beautiful belly!

How are you doing according to this marital rating scale? I think I have a pretty good sense of humor (wouldn't you call me "jolly and gay"?), but I'm definitely falling down in the button-sewing and sock-darning departments. And I rarely dress for breakfast.

I love this picture, Models in Windows by Ormond Gigli from 1960, don't you?

Sorry, it's already sold.

Hope your weekend is full of fresh flowers, buttermilk scones, and Oscar night excitement! xoxo LMB

39 Hours in Florence: What We Ate

I know, it was practically a lifetime ago that we were in Florence, but I can't let that stop me from telling you all the particulars of what we ate, drank, and swooned over while we were there.

First of all, there was the coffee. Last time I was in Italy (2002, that would be) I was not yet a coffee drinker, and I cannot stress enough how much better my experience was this time, for that reason alone. How could an Italian morning possibly be complete without a gorgeous, foamy cappuccino, along with some kind of fluffy, cream-filled pastry? It couldn't, and that's the truth. Where to go? You couldn't do much better than Coronas Cafe, on the Via del Corso between the Duomo and the Piazza della Signoria. We found it by accident, and ended up going back the next day. If you're feeling schmancy and in the mood for animal prints, you could also try the Caffè Giacosa next to the Roberto Cavalli. Just make sure to take your coffee standing up at the bar instead of sitting, to avoid being charged double just for the privilege of a seat.

And then there were the Negronis, mixed to perfection at Sei Divino, conveniently located a block from Arno, on the way home to The New Oregonian's apartment from the middle of town. It's never a good idea to drink on an empty stomach, so you might as well order a platter of cheese and meats that you'll devour greedily because it's all so very good. Is it any surprise that, in our two day there, we became regulars?

Obviously, there was gelato too, perfect (even in February) from Grom. And maybe the best sandwich in recent memory, at 'ino, where every sandwich comes with a glass of wine (just as it should be).

But if I had to pick one meal, the one to remember, it would be dinner at La Giostra, picked by TNO well before we arrived. It's rare that I have felt quite so taken care of at a restaurant. We were greeted with champagne, brought an antipasti plate full of amazing delicacies I would have never known to order, and patiently talked through the finer points of the menu, with translation help from multiple waiters. There was also this amazing ritual with the wine, where it was decanted and swirled within an inch of its life, complete with flourishes only an Italian could pull off successfully.

We started with asparagus soup, velvety and flavorful, with the perfect contrast of crunch croutons.

As ambitious as I am, I can never handle both a primo piatto (first course—usually pasta) AND a secondo piatto (second course—meat), so CM and I decided to share one of each.

First, penne with pears and a gorgonzola cream sauce. Those are pistachios crumbled on top.

Then, osso bucco, so tender we barely needed a knife.

 I'm pretty sure I can go ahead and cross Italy off my LMB eats/Europe list, no?

All pictures by CM, obvs.

New Bossy Feature: A Week at a Time

This past week I did a detoxy cleanse kind of thing and abstained from alcohol, caffeine, and sugar. After a month of all three in excess, I felt like I needed a break, and a week (well, Monday-Saturday) was a nice manageable amount of time (if you ignore the frozen custard I ate last night—just blame it on peer pressure, won't you?). It went well. I learned things.

It gave me an idea: to create a project in which I set a new goal every week and commit to it for six days. It could be an easy way to instill new habits and break old ones, and a way for the seven weeks between now and the next time I see CM to go by more quickly. So, I'll write a post each Sunday, reflecting on the past week's project and announcing the next week's goal. You're invited to join me in any project that sounds interesting and useful to you, or if not, just to encourage and support me from the sidelines. What do you say? Are you in?

I had a revelation this week, as I walked to work past three Starbucks locations (hot chocolate!), Magnolia Bakery (cupcakes!), Alice's Tea Cup (scones!), and Levain (cookies!). My revelation was this: There is a big difference between a craving and a temptation. Despite a month of having cookies and coffee with sugar every single day (seriously), I don't think I experienced a single sugar craving last week. That was a shock, given my well-documented sweet tooth. I was, however, tempted many times, often on my walk to or from work, and sometimes even at work, where coworkers were constantly offering me chocolates, or cupcakes, or donuts. Those temptations quickly passed once I could no longer see the treat, and there was no lingering craving left behind in its place. The moral of this story is, of course, to not keep cookies in the house (and maybe find a different route to get to work). Out of sight, out of mind apparently works for me when it comes to sweets.

I guess this is obvious, but it was a huge realization for me. A craving has always seemed to me to be an innate need that cannot be denied, a monster that, left unfed, will inevitably break out of its cage and binge itself on whatever sweets are nearby. When I reframe that feeling as a temptation, however, it seems fleeting and unimportant, even easy to dismiss.

This might change my life. For a lot longer than six days.

The other big thing I learned in my detox week is that I am not addicted to either caffeine or alcohol, not even a little bit. I never got a caffeine withdrawal headache or uttered the words "I need a drink." And while I certainly saved cash and calories by not drinking, abstaining didn't make me feel significantly better or worse, just a little boring at happy hour. Cutting down on sugar consumption is a change I'd like to make on a more permanent basis, but I think my caffeine and alcohol habits are just fine.

So, for the upcoming week... I'm giving up watching TV and movies at home. I don't watch actual TV, but sites like Hulu and Fastpass make it all too easy to zone out every evening catching up on TV shows on my computer. Often I fritter away my whole night that way. This week I'm going to reclaim my evenings and see what happens.

Care to join me?

Happy weekend!

So apparently Monday is some kind of holiday? I hope that means you're planning lovely three-day weekends! If only holidays were observed in the opera world. Sigh. I'm working all day tomorrow, having dinner with The Banker, and spending my Sunday off doing fun things like brunching and movie-watching (I'm hoping to see this—it looks awesome). What about you?

The week sort of got away from me, and I didn't do hardly any of the things I had planned, like going through my Florence pictures, and telling you all about our trip, and…umm…posting. I promise to be better next week. Maybe.

Can I make it up to you in link love?

I think we may have picked our honeymoon destination. I'm not giving away the details just yet, but I will tell you that I hope to be driving one of these while we're there. Or maybe one of these.

My friend Erin from college is an amazing photographer. I loved this post where she gave away all her secrets for those incredible newborn shots.

My favorite part of wedding planning so far is trolling ebay and Etsy for special things we need (and many we don't). Some fabulous Etsy shops that have recently caught my eye: Cosas Minimas, Go Jump in the Lake, and Hannah Nunn. What are your favorites?

I saw Jessica Walter in the 59th St subway station yesterday. I took a surreptitious iPhone picture of her and then went home to watch some Arrested Development. Then I found this. Hilarious.

While I'm in New York, if you're missing daily pictures of Wien (and CM's aren't enough for you), I highly recommend Vienna for Beginners.

A big shout-out to Mama and Papa Bossy, who are celebrating their 37th wedding anniversary today! You're an inspiration!

Here's a classic pic of the whole family in younger days:

Hope your weekends are filled with spring-like weather, outdoor cafés, and colorful scarves! xoxo LMB

Home on the Road: Elise Sandell

Home on the Road is a series in which I interview opera professionals about how they survive their nomadic lives. You can find previous interviews here.

Photo by Johnny Knight
It's my great pleasure to present to you Elise Sandell, stage director, better known in these pages as The New Oregonian. Elise is an incredibly creative, brave director and the person who taught me how to be a good assistant director back when I didn't really know what one did. She is unfailingly positive and sunny, brilliant, and universally loved. It is no surprise that in this interview alone she manages to fit in at least three profound, thought-provoking truths.

Elise has been on the road for nine years straight, and is currently (temporarily) a true homeless nomad, living out of a storage space and suitcases. She has directed and assisted all over the country, and right now she's in the midst of her first international gig, in Florence, Italy (where we were lucky enough to visit her and hear her speaking Italian, which she does frighteningly well).

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? Or any special routines to help you acclimate quickly in a new place?

ES: I like to bring photos of my friends and family and a few treasured knickknacks to make my place more cozy. Sadly, I didn't bring any of these things to Florence, because there wasn't room in the suitcase. I would be lost without my computer. The first thing I like to do when I arrive in a new place is to take a nap, and then go grocery shopping. It always feels much more like home if I know I have cereal and coffee ready for breakfast tomorrow. I really prefer to arrive in a new place around noon, so that I have time to "set up house" and get unpacked in a leisurely manner before I go to bed on the first night. To get to know a new city, I love to get lost in it. One learns much finding one's way back from being lost.

LMB: Since you fly to each job, you're forced to pack light. This is an art I am far from mastering. Any advice from a seasoned traveler?

ES: I used to carry two large suitcases everywhere, and then they started charging for luggage, so I don't do that any more. Here's my system: I have a roll-aboard that is carry-on size. In there go all the shoes, denim, jewelry, books, and anything else heavy that I can think of. Then the lighter clothing can go in the larger checked suitcase. My "personal item" is really a carry-on shoulder bag large enough to fit my laptop, two opera scores, and several books. It's a little bit of a stretch, but no airline has complained yet. (I find that an airline will let you get away with a lot if you ask with a smile on your face.) I always get completely packed, and then force myself to "jettison" five items…I'm fairly skilled at knowing what a 48-pound suitcase feels like.  If it's a longer gig, I usually ship a box as well…I should buy stock in UPS, considering how many hundreds I spend every year in shipping.

I'm also often a bike commuter, and once even brought my bike from home to Houston with me.  I don't recommend traveling with your bike on the airplane; it's so expensive, and then you have to wrestle it along with your luggage.  You'll do much better shipping it through UPS, or, better yet, renting a bike once you arrive.

LMB: You're currently in the midst of your first European gig, working in Florence. How is settling into a temporary home in a foreign country different than what you've experienced before? Are you particularly homesick for any American things or foods?

ES: Settling in here in Florence has felt a little different, for sure. I'm still working hard to be proficient in the language, so even errands like the grocery store and the post office take a little more effort. That said, it's also FUN to get to know a new country and to realize I CAN communicate in another language, even if I'm not always perfect at it. The food is great here in Florence, of course, but I would give anything for a big ol' 20 oz. coffee to take to rehearsal with me. I would probably even buy an American coffee maker, if I could find one. Don't judge. In the meantime, I drink 3 Italian coffees before I show up to rehearsal.

LMB: You first got nicknamed The New Oregonian because you had recently moved to Portland, Oregon, after a long time of having no home base at all. What brought you there, and how has it worked for you as a home base? Is it true you're moving to Chicago soon? What prompted that decision?

ES: Portland, Oregon is an amazing city, and I'm horribly homesick for them, and heartbroken to be moving away. At the time I moved there, I was assisting on two shows a year at Portland Opera, so it looked at the the time like I would get to "work at home" plenty. Additionally, I have many friends in the city, so it was a perfect fit. It works beautifully as a home base when I'm doing shorter engagements. At this time, however, I've taken another full season of work as an assistant at Lyric Opera of Chicago, so I'll be there for many months. I guess you could say I'm making the choice to "settle down" a little bit. I'm 36 years old, and I have never owned a couch, and I would like to own one. I am also hoping not to remain single for the rest of my life, and all the moving around doesn't seem to be helping in that department, either. So I'm moving to Chicago to try living and working in the same place. It's sort of an experiment.

LMB: In order to have the career that you have, you have to be willing to be away from home a lot of the time. What makes it worthwhile for you?

ES: I love making opera. There's VERY little I'd rather be doing. For me, all the traveling is wrapped up with the opera making. (I don't know what this means for my "moving to Chicago" experiment…I guess we'll see.) When the traveling gets tough, I try to remind myself to think of it as an adventure. And when I miss my friends and family, I remind myself to use the resources at hand: phone, e-mail, Skype, and Facebook. The truth is that I'm always far away from someone I love and miss, no matter where I am. I guess I'm lucky to have this many people to love.

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?

ES: I'm always glad when someone reminds me: "It's not all about you."

Many thanks to Elise! You can find out lots more about her on her website.


My new favorite romantic Valentine's Day activity is looking through CameraMan's Florence photos. I highly recommend it.

I don't hold much truck with this particular holiday, but all the same, I sure do miss my valentine.



Happy weekend!

What are all you lovely people doing this weekend? Something romantic? My weekend is filling up fast: a preview for a Broadway show tomorrow (no, not that one), a German-speaking coffee date with my friend OperaDaddy on Sunday, followed by a proper catch-up with My Gay Husband. I'll also be attempting to sleep in later than 5am, the time at which I have snapped awake the past 2 mornings, and moving back into my sweet UWS sublet (a good thing considering my Met ID and office keys are still there—oops). Oh, and fondly remembering last year's kick-ass V-Day weekend (Red on Broadway, Brooklyn Bridge at sunset, dinner at Jack the Horse, night at the Empire) and wishing for another.

Next week I'll be back with pictures and stories from Florence as well as a new Home on the Road interview!

In the meantime, some links for your weekend:

Yes, please. I will have 10.

I'm trying not to get too excited about the new Anthropologie wedding line that's launching Monday. It's not working. I'M SO EXCITED!!!

Amen, sister.

I've been following this series about how couples manage their money with great interest. Coupled readers, what do you do? I'm fascinated.

I am a recent convert to the glories of Aperol, so I loved this post over at Orangette.

Here's a picture of my blinky Bossy Cat on the bed. I'm missing her like crazy.

Hope your weekend is filled with romance, peppermint hot chocolate, and cozy sweaters! xoxo LMB

On locks and love and boots

It all started with the red boots. Or rather, ended with them. On the whirlwind day that was yesterday, after we had gotten off the overnight train from Florence, taken the subway, walked several blocks and up two flights of stairs to our apartment, showered, and finished packing for New York, my red boots gave up the ghost.

In the two years since I bought them, I have worn them nearly every fall, winter, or slightly overcast day. I have dressed them up or down for all occasions, and when it came to picking a pair of shoes in which to walk all over Florence for a couple days, there was no question which I would choose, even though the right zipper had been sticking and a chunk of the left sole was falling off. We tromped all over that fair city, up and down the Duomo, through museums and churches and curly alleyways. My boots made no complaint. No, they waited until I was getting ready to leave for the airport, and then that zipper went from sticking to stuck, and there was no fixing it.

Naturally, I had a nervous breakdown. The hot-faced, hiccupy, sobbing kind.

I haven't gotten used to the goodbyes yet. I'd like to take it all in stride, get perspective, absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that crap, but I never can. On a day when everything goes smoothly I can sort of, almost hold it together, but the slightest problem derails me completely. Halfway through my flight to New York I realized that my favorite black button-up shirt was still among CM's dry cleaning instead of in my suitcase. I teared up.

I don't think this is a story about shirts and shoes.

Monday morning as we rediscovered beautiful Florence, we came across these love padlocks by the Arno. I had seen and photographed some when we went to Prague, without knowing what they were, and a friend explained this lovely custom to me: couples write their names or a message on the locks and place them there to seal their love.

Isn't that beautiful? Ever since I found out what they were, I've been wishing we had locked one in Prague, and stumbling upon the ones in Florence seemed like a sign. So we kept our eye out for a store that might sell a lock, and on Tuesday we found one, and also a store selling permanent markers, and we went back to the river. We locked our lock and then we threw the keys off the Ponte Vecchio into the Arno below.

I didn't expect it to mean something, not really, but it did. It felt like a promise.

And as I was sitting in the plane yesterday, on the verge of tears, I thought of our lock, our promise to each other, and it helped. It's helping now writing about it, too.

I think we might have to start bringing a lock and a Sharpie wherever we go. Just in case.

Catch you on the flip side

The internet situation in Florence was, how you say, a bit sketchy. A friend of the New Oregonian advised her before she arrived that living in Italy was a lot like camping, and when it comes to the availability of wifi, it's kind of true. I cannot WAIT to tell you all about everything we saw, did, and ATE, not to mention everything you ever wanted to know about overnight trains.

But first I have to catch a plane to New York, so I'm going to log off so I can do that.

I'll be back tomorrow, friends, in some time zone or another.

Monday morning, 6:18am

Our train arrived in Florence this morning as scheduled, at precisely 6:18am. The sky was still completely dark and the city was just beginning to wake up. We wandered through streets and piazzi, alone but for street sweepers and the occasional biker. It was cold; we could see our breath in the air. We took pictures of closed landmarks and empty squares. We followed the smell of delicious things baking and the sound of locals laughing to a bar where we ordered sweet pastries and frothy cappuccini, which we consumed at a tall table surrounded by Italians stopping in on their way to work. The sky slowly grew light, but the hazy fog remained. There wasn’t a tourist to be found. Except for us, of course.

It was magical. Surely any city can be discovered anew in the early morning hours, but this city in particular, previously seen only through summer crowds, seemed ours alone this morning. As we walked through those same streets and piazzi later in the long-awaited sunlight, we felt privy to a secret, to the real Florence.

We’ve been here less than 24 hours, but we already have our favorite coffee place, our favorite restaurant, our favorite bar. And isn’t that the way to travel: finding corners of an unfamiliar city, staking your claim, and planting your flag in the ground? This morning before the sun came up, all of Florence was ours for the taking.

And so we did.

Frohes Wochenende!

We just got home, and I'm still on a high from the incredible concert we just saw. It was truly one for the books: Dudamel on the podium, the LA Phil rocking the hell out of some Mahler, in the Musikverein, which has got to have one of the best acoustics anywhere in the world (and…just Googled that…I was right). Also, my date was super hot.

What are you up to this weekend? Fun plans? I will be packing and getting ready, because we leave for Florence on Sunday(!) and when we get back I'll have about an hour at home before I leave for the airport to go to NYC (ack!).

Some links for your weekend:

I fell down a Google rabbit hole and ended up at A Creative Mint. Oh, I love it so. Pretty things make me happy.

Lemon meringue ice cream pie?!? Yes, please. Yes.

Kristen Schaal, can we be best friends? Call me.

I've had this for breakfast every day this week. With walnuts on top instead of sugar. Highly recommend.

On my wish list.

My 365 Project continues on apace. I made this little video to celebrate making it through the first month.

Hope your weekend is full of donuts, outdoor markets, and adventures! xoxo LMB


My Facebook News Feed has been chock-full of winter weather updates these past few days: from New York, from Chicago, even from Houston (what is the world coming to?)! My friends' photo albums all have names like SNOMG, and Snowpocalypse, and Thundersnow, and their status updates are all stories of snow days and rolling blackouts and canceled flights.

Not so here in Wien, where the weather has been bitterly cold but staunchly anti-precipitation. Or so I've heard. I'm officially in Hibernation Mode, savoring these last few days on the couch with my laptop, my kitty, and a blanket. It's become a running maybe not-so-funny joke that CM can't get me to leave the apartment no matter how hard he tries, so tonight I'm going to let him take me out to dinner (isn't that nice of me?), and then tomorrow we're going to see Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Phil (SO EXCITED!!), Saturday is CM's Billy Budd opening night, and Sunday we leave for Florence.

All worthy reasons to leave my cave, I guess.

But it's so nice and warm under this blanket...

Wedding Wednesday (Hochzeit Mittwoch?)

I am writing this here so that I can remember where I put it, and refer to it often in times of bridal insanity (such as…erm…today):

From the ever-practical A Practical Wedding:
Our priority list…was:
  1. By the end of the day, we should be married...TO EACH OTHER.
  2. No casualties.

Can you remind me of this often, please? I'm looking at you, CameraMan.

On the bright side, the trams here have heated seats

The Viennese are a hardy bunch, particularly when it comes to the weather. On more than one occasion I have walked through the rain and been the ONLY person using an umbrella, as the natives stroll at their usual pace, the raindrops falling on their heads seeming to go completely unnoticed. It's been bitterly cold here for a few days, enough to make me want to stay huddled inside eating soup where it's warm, but the Viennese are unfazed. They're out and about, maybe slightly more bundled up than usual, walking (very slowly) everywhere and enjoying the outdoors.

I am no Wiener. Yet, in the interest of making new friends, I braved the cold with CM Sunday morning to go to a Flickr meetup at the Zoo, of all places.

I do not recommend going to the Zoo in January, by the way. I recommend staying in your pjs all day, snuggling, and catching up on Boardwalk Empire while sipping hot cocoa mit Schlag. Just for the record.

Which is not to say I didn't have a good time. It was exciting to meet some new people (although we both suddenly turned very shy and very inarticulate, and not only when we were speaking German), and I always love the Zoo. Only a select few of the animals were outside, though, and any time we went indoors our camera lenses fogged up so much that it was impossible to take any pictures, so we'd have to head back outside.

Polar bear on a rare break from guzzling Coke products.

This sleepy tiger didn't mind snuggling in the snow.

My favorite animal of the day was a cat. Not a big cat—a HOUSE CAT. (What, is that weird?) There was this orange house cat hanging out in the elephant enclosure (in the aforementioned foggy indoors, which is why I don't have a picture to show you). At first he was in the observing area, getting petted by people and sharpening his claws on some shrubbery, and then all of a sudden he was walking INTO the elephant cage and wandering around. Then he wandered back out, went outside, and came right back in to have snacks. It was surreal. And amazing. I don't think the Bossy Cat would make a very good Zoo Cat, but I could be wrong.

Scruffy bird giving itself a much-needed bath.

Another highlight involved three peacocks wandering freely along the paths, dragging their long tails behind them.

Friendly peacock and child.

By that point, I could barely feel the lower half of my body, so it was time to say Auf wiedersehen to our new friends and head home.

I think we might wait until Spring to go back to the Zoo.

Or maybe in the meantime we'll become Viennese.

30/365: Even the penguins looked cold. But maybe that was just me.


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