Happy Labor Day weekend!

What's on the docket for the long weekend, friends? Are you going out of town or staying home and grilling? I, as I may have mentioned a few times or a hundred, am going home for the weekend! I fly out after rehearsal tomorrow night and stay until Tuesday afternoon. I'm so ready to be there.

I'll be back to posting on Tuesday (a new Home on the Road is coming next week!), but in the meantime, some links:

Being a huge fan of Ira Glass (maybe more so now that I attended a Q & A in which he was mercilessly mean to everyone who asked questions), I loved this article. Also this one. Do you listen to This American Life? I subscribe to the free podcast. My favorite episode ever is this one.

I'm trying to lay off the sweets, but surely a little 70% dark chocolate never hurt anyone, right? This one is winning at the moment (I found it at Whole Foods).

This made me cry (although not as much as this, obvs, or, you know, this).

Have you seen this infographic (apparently now a real word)? Fascinating.

Mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong is doing a 365 project, taking one picture a day for the year. She posts her lovely pictures to her blog. It's a wonderful window into the traveling life of an opera singer.

Expect cat pictures next week(!), but for now, how about a picture from my lunch break yesterday? The NYC weather is really gorgeous these days, and the lawn overlooking Lincoln Center was open!

Hope your weekend is filled with safe travels, happy reunions, and chilled rosé! xoxo LMB

Museum Brandhorst, Munich

We spent a week in Munich seeing the Ring cycle, and we fell a bit in love with the city, in that kind of "Wow, we could really be happy here" kind of way that demands to be taken seriously. We're planning to stay put for a while, but Munich has definitely moved onto a short list of places we'd like to live.

One of the best things we did while we were there was visit the Museum Brandhorst, a contemporary art museum that opened in 2009. We were lucky enough to be staying with a Munich resident who told us about it; otherwise we probably would have missed it! Munich has several great museums in a big complex, all called Pinakothek this or that, and this lovely museum is tucked away behind them.

The most stunning part of the museum is the exterior.

Can you spot CM in this one?

The interior, in contrast, is very simple, just white walls and light wood. All the art housed here is given plenty of space to breathe. The museum uses all kinds of new "green" technologies to heat and cool it and to filter natural light into the space. It's a peaceful place to be.

It's not a huge collection, but it's deep in certain areas. My favorite was Cy Twombly's Lepanto series, created for the 2001 Venice Biennial. The Brandhorst has the largest collection of Twombly outside of (amazingly enough) The Menil Collection in Houston, and a special room was designed specifically for the Lepanto paintings. It's incredible, the closest thing I've found to the Water Lilies rooms in Paris.

Photo from here

We visit a lot of museums when we travel, and we particularly love museums whose architecture is as much of a draw as the art itself. Which museums do you love to visit?

All photos by LMB except the last one.

The final frontier

At some point earlier this year, I set a new goal. It didn't go on the Bossy List, or even get spoken out loud much, but I decided to become…a person who eats everything. Of course there are some foods I like better than others; I'm sure that will always be true. But I aspire to be someone who will happily eat anything set in front of her. I was a mildly picky eater as a child, and certain childhood dislikes got carried into adulthood. Namely mushrooms, olives, coffee, and pickles.

My aversions to mushrooms and coffee were eradicated in Vienna, and I am now an eager consumer of both.

I ate olives a few times in the UK this summer and decided they might be one of my favorite foods. Now I always have some on hand to snack on.

I was holding out on pickles, though. I nibbled a very tiny cornichon in Bayreuth this summer and conceded it maybe wasn't the worst thing I'd ever tasted, but certainly nothing I needed to make a habit of.

Then last week I went to a great German restaurant in the city and the waitress recommended the "Dr. Atkins Diet Platter" as I'm staying away from most processed carbs (trying to lose the pastry weight I gained in Europe this summer—the downfall of being someone who eats everything).

First of all, should you ever find yourself at Hallo Berlin, this is DEFINITELY what you should order, despite the ridiculous name. But look what's in the upper left corner? Pickles!

I ate them both, and liked it. So there you go.

Does this mean I'm a grown-up now?

Long-distance marriage: how we make it work

Long-distance relationships are such a fact of life in our business that I sometimes forget that not everybody lives like this. Lots of married couples get to wake up together every day, eat dinner together after work, and fall asleep watching late night TV. Together. That's not really our life.

We had 2 amazing uninterrupted months together this summer, and I think I got spoiled. Now here I am staring down the barrel of a CRAZY year (no fewer than 3 separate friends have told me they felt tired when I told them my schedule for the season), and I'm trying to remember how to do this long-distance thing again.

I certainly wouldn't claim to be any expert on the subject. We've been spending roughly half the year apart for almost 4 years now, and it's still really difficult to navigate. At the moment I'm having a hard time transitioning, so I thought it might help to write down how we make it work during the best of times.

We keep in contact A LOT.
I know couples who talk once a day or once every few days when they're apart. That would NEVER work for us. We talk in the morning, sometimes on a lunch break, after work, usually another time in the evening, and before bed. We text during the day and email lots. We send pictures of what we're doing when it's something fun. We Skype, and FaceTime, and Gchat. All of the above. On days we can't talk to each other much, I go mildly crazy missing him (and completely irrationally, I assume he's not thinking about me). And because we talk so often…

We make sure to share the little stuff.
It can be tempting when you're not together to skip over the minutiae of your day and focus on the headlines, but I find that doing that leads to a not-so-great cycle. You haven't told one story, so then another one doesn't make sense so you don't tell that one, either, and before you know it you're not bothering to tell something important because you'd have to lead with so much backstory. We have been known to repeat entire conversations and read emails out loud to each other, which sounds boring but is key to feeling like we're in each other's lives. We're also lucky that we're in the same field, because there are all kinds of weird opera things that we don't have to explain, not to mention the enormous pool of colleagues we have in common.

We see each other absolutely every chance we get.
I've come to realize that for us, the total amount of time we spend together is far less important than the length of time we go without being together. So, if I'm looking at being gone for 8 weeks, even a long weekend in the middle of that makes it much, much better (like next weekend!). We used to always weigh pros and cons of buying a plane ticket (and it was especially difficult when he was on another continent), but now whenever we can get a couple days together we buy the ticket and make it happen.

When we're together, we make it special AND normal.
If we wanted to, every long weekend we spent together could be incredibly romantic, all wining and dining and breakfast in bed. We could table all hut talks and errand runs and just focus on having a good time. We've had weekends like that. They make transitioning back to being together for a longer period really hard, because we forget how to live our day-to-day together. I like a mix: one date night, and the rest of the time we pretend we're a "normal" couple—coffee in the morning, laundry, work, TV in bed, the occasional argument, all of it. When I'm away and missing him, it's usually those small moments that I miss the most.

We make the most of our time apart.
Obviously, being apart sucks, and I've been on gigs where I've spent the entire time a miserable, complainy hermit, just counting down the days until I get to go home. Surprise surprise, that doesn't seem to make me any happier. So I try to force myself to take advantage of being on my own. I read. I study for upcoming projects. I go to the movies alone. I have as many girls' nights as I want. I go to bed freakishly early. I keep the apartment warmer than he would like. I do Rosetta Stone in the mornings. I cook fried eggs for breakfast (CM only likes scrambled). When I'm gone, CM watches TV shows and movies I don't love and is much more productive than when I'm home. I know we would both give up any and all of these superficial things to be together, but it helps to remember the upside of this life. Plus, I think absence really does make the heart grow fonder, don't you?

We constantly re-evaluate.
We've made the choice to pursue work that keeps us geographically apart for a lot of the time. Some days it feels like it's worth it, and other days I can't remember why I would have ever chosen that. Being together is great, and infinitely better than being apart. So we talk about it a lot—what our next steps will be, what we want our life to look like, what choices we could make that would keep us together more of the time. Right now this is where we are, and here is not a bad place to be. But we'll keep talking, and when it's no longer the right choice, we'll make a different one.

What are you doing to survive your long-distance relationship? Any tips to share? We're always open to advice!

Sundays in New York: The Cloisters

In what's turning into a tour of New York's most peaceful spots, I spent the afternoon yesterday at The Cloisters. It's a bit of a trek to get there, about 35–40 minutes on the A train from Columbus Circle, but completely worth it. Instead of getting off the subway at the closest station, 190 St, I went one station further to Dyckman St so that I could walk through more of Fort Tryon Park.

It's an uphill climb to the museum, but as a reward you're afforded some absolutely gorgeous views of the Hudson (and Pacific Palisades Park across the way in New Jersey).

The museum itself is a completely gorgeous building, built in the 1930s partly out of reassembled bits of medieval abbeys.

Because it's part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (or the "other Met," as I like to call it), admission to The Cloisters is included in your Met Museum ticket. If you don't feel like doing both in one day, however (I didn't), the museum admission price of $25 is a recommended donation, so you can pay what you'd like.

If medieval religious art is your bag, this is the museum for you. That's not really my thing, but you know what is? Gardens.

A beautiful, peaceful garden surrounded by cool stone walls might be the absolute perfect place to sit with your Kindle (Shame!) and while away a summer afternoon.

And on your way home, go South through the park for stunning views of the George Washington Bridge (done no justice with this iPhone pic).

I'm loving my Sundays in New York. Although I'm thinking next Sunday, when I'm hanging out in Houston with CM(!), might just be even better.

Happy weekend!

What do y'all have planned for the weekend, friends? Something relaxing? I'm taking what I like to call a "Louisa Day" on Sunday, meaning I'll spend the day alone doing exactly what I want to do. I'm leaving the plans flexible so I can see what I'm in the mood for (potentially absolutely nothing).

Forthwith, links!

I know I just got back from vacation, but can I take this one?

Speaking of the Dîner en Blanc, check out this awesome time-lapse video. I love seeing the fountain go up and down!

My friend Anthony participated in this fascinating NPR conversation on the state of opera today. It's worth taking the time to read. Maybe my favorite thing he said is this: I often think of an aria that's in da capo form (meaning there's an A then a B then an A) as if you have a thought, and then your mother calls, which is the B section. And then you go back to that original thought and then you go, 'Oh no, she's right.'

Thinking of making my next Negroni with Aperol.

I love this Australian online home magazine. (It's where I discovered ixxi!)

Last night I walked a few blocks to watch the sunset over the river after work. It was so peaceful and beautiful. This city keeps surprising me.

Hope your weekend is filled with beauty, phone dates, and alone time! xoxo LMB

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Sleepwalk with me

I'm a huge fan of the comedian Mike Birbiglia. I first heard him on This American Life, or maybe it was The Moth. CM and I have seen both his one-man shows in New York, and I also saw him in a secret This American Life live Christmas show a couple years ago. We love him, and for a while there not everyone knew about him, so we would talk about how great he was and people would just sort of nod and smile while their eyes glazed over, because trying to explain someone else's comedy never really works. We felt like we had discovered him or something, when in fact it turns out he's a big star, and at this point many, many people have heard of him and love him as fiercely as we do.

He's made a film that opens this weekend: Sleepwalk With Me. I could not be more excited about it. Here's the trailer so you can get excited, too.

If you're in NYC, go see the film this weekend! Mike Birbiglia and Ira Glass are doing a Q & A after every screening Friday and Saturday. If you're somewhere else, sit tight for a week and THEN see the movie when it opens in your town.

My happy place

I'm in a bit of a funk this week, having trouble remembering why I've chosen to do my work all the way over here in New York (a city that has a lot of things going for it, but a distinct lack of CameraMan). Transitions are never smooth for me, and 3 weeks in I'm still having some difficulty transitioning into Work Mode.

CM knows I've been a Grumpypants since he left, so he sent me some pictures of our time in Italy this summer. These will be my happy place for a good long while.

For best results, click any photo—you'll be taken into a slideshow (although for some reason you won't see my captions).

We took the overnight Vienna-Florence train again. And guess what I'm wearing?

The Arno

Waiting for our favorite coffee shop to open.
I didn't even realize this was me when I first looked at it. I'm a brunette!

Arms-length self portrait—our fave photography method

The view from our Montalcino hotel room

Watching the old Montalcinesi navigating the steep alleys of the city made us feel like wusses.

I'd like a vacation apartment right…there.

Friendly Montalcino street cat

Or maybe there.

View of the Tuscan countryside

The bottom of a Negroni

Santa Margherita di Ligure, the overnight stop on our road trip
along the Riviera from Montalcino to Aix-en-Provence

Beach changing rooms in Santa Margherita di Ligure

He ain't called CameraMan for nothing, folks.

Dîner en blanc

Last night I walked out of work as usual…except it wasn't usual, because I found myself completely surrounded by a sea of people dressed in white. They were all toting folding tables and chairs, and I knew immediately what it must be: Dîner en blanc! The ultimate, original pop-up dinner party, it started in Paris and is now all over the world.

I, of course, was dressed in turquoise jeans, but that didn't stop me from following to see where they were going.

Turns out, they were going to the Lincoln Center Plaza! None of the guests knew where they were going until right before it started. They met in groups of 250 at various locations around the city and were coordinated by leaders to bring them to the spot. Last year (the first year in NYC) it took place on the World Financial Center Plaza. I'm so happy that this year it was in my 'hood so I could see it!

I watched them setting up for a bit:

Then I went away to run errands and get some dinner. On my way home, I decided to stop by again to see the party in full swing. It was gorgeous.

The Dîner en Blanc prides itself on being somewhat swanky. Guests are encouraged to dress elegantly (and in white, obvs), and no paper plates or plastic cups are allowed. I saw lots of people in hats and fascinators, and so many lovely white dresses it made me want to get married again, just for an excuse to wear one.

My favorite photo of the night:

You better believe I've already added my name to the waiting list for next year's dinner. Care to join me?

Party strawberries

Yesterday I went to a great housewarming party thrown by My Gay Husband and My Gay Husband's Boyfriend. They recently moved into a place in Midtown, right in the middle of everything. They're on the 12th floor with lots of windows, so their views are gorgeous (including directly into the windows of the Intercontinental Hotel—apparently lots of hotel guests don't close their curtains, whoops!). It was one of those fun parties that really bring people together (MGH is like that, too).

There was tons of good food on hand, but everyone was buzzing about one particular snack: cheesecake-stuffed strawberries. Once one person tried them, everyone was trying them, and the hosts had to bring out more platters of them. Obviously when I got home I googled how to make them, and it sounds really easy. I will definitely be making them for the next party we throw.

Photo via Pinterest

You take strawberries, cut off the top, and dig out a little hole in the center. To make the filling, you mix cream cheese with powdered sugar and vanilla to taste (I think I might try using maple syrup instead) and fill the strawberries with a piping bag (or Ziploc bag with a corner cut off in a pinch). As a final (crucial!) step, you dip the tops in graham cracker crumbs. Et voilà! Impress your friends with your fanciness. I've seen it work.

What are your go-to party snacks? Another favorite of mine is caprese on sticks: thread cocktail tomatoes (in fun heirloom colors if you've got 'em), little balls of fresh mozzarella, and a leaf of basil onto sticks. Drizzle with olive oil, balsamic, salt, and pepper and put them in the fridge to marinate a bit until you're ready to serve them. Delicious in the summer! I also always have a platter of sliced English cucumbers and sliced salami (thanks to a tip from the Barefoot Contessa)—the perfect combo.

Happy weekend!

What's up this weekend for you guys? Soaking up those last few weekends of the summer? My dear friend Ingrid is in town for a visit, so when I'm not at work I'll be fitting in fun things. We might try to see this show on Sunday. Doesn't it look fun (and nerdy)?

A few weekend links:

Writer Paul Miller is going a year without internet. He's three months in. Could you do it?

I can't wait to get back to Houston so I can use my brand new bike basket. Isn't it adorable?

Everything you ever wanted to know about Paul Ryan.

I've pre-ordered this and this. I'll be cooking up a storm this fall!

Such a sweet article. And a fascinating glimpse into the future.

Want to be friends?

I took this shot of the Brooklyn Bridge the other night after dinner. City lights at night make me happy.

Wishing you lots of fresh guacamole, laughter, and heart-to-heart talks this lovely weekend! xoxo LMB

Cure for the common jet lag

A colleague of mine got back recently from a long trip in Australia. Sydney is 14 hours ahead of New York, so he was looking pretty bleary-eyed for a few days. He absolutely swears by the Argonne Anti-Jet Lag Diet, though, and I think I might try it for my next trip. Have you heard of it? It gives you a strict regimen of feast and fast days beginning 4 days before you fly, and limits caffeine consumption to certain times of day. I'm intrigued.

Also by this iPhone app, which prompts you to apply pressure to certain points on your body to reset your inner clock. I'm a skeptic, but for $2.99 I would try it.

I certainly haven't found any magic bullet for avoiding jet lag, but here's what tends to help me (not that I always follow my own instructions).

  • Drink LOTS of water on the plane, and only water. Bring a bottle and ask the flight attendant to fill it. Take a cup of water every time they offer one.
  • Don't feel the need to eat absolutely every meal they bring around, especially things that you know just by looking will probably wreak havoc with your digestion. Better to be a bit hungry when you arrive.
  • Try to sleep on the plane, but only if it's nighttime at your destination. If not, stay awake.
  • Once you arrive, go outside! Sunlight is so important to let your body know what time it is. Physical activity outdoors is a good thing, too.
  • Resist all urges to nap when you arrive. I always forget this one on purpose because I'm so tired—don't be like me.
  • Stay up as late as you can. We usually aim for 9pm bedtime after a long trip.
  • Have something planned for the morning after you arrive (or the day of, if you're ambitious), preferably a business meeting of some kind. The best jet lag cure I know is not having the option to laze around the house.
What works for you? Any special jet lag tips to share? I'm collecting them.

Sundays in New York: the UWS

My sister-in-law Rachel is in town for a few days, so we've had a great excuse to get out and enjoy the city. Last night we saw Mary Poppins (her first Broadway show) and went to the midtown Shake Shack. The day before she and CM rented bikes in Central Park and then walked over the Brooklyn Bridge and explored Brooklyn. We met for dinner at Jack the Horse, one of our favorite spots. After dinner we walked along the Promenade and gawked at the lights of Manhattan. Having someone in from out of town (and CM for good measure) is a surefire way to fall in love with this city all over again.

Sunday we took it easy with some light exploration of the Upper West Side, with the help of City Walks cards (thanks for the tip, Laura!). First we swung by the Seinfeld restaurant—Rachel is a big fan. Have you ever been to Tom's? You'll recognize the exterior right away, but the interior looks nothing like the set from the show.

Then we explored the Columbia University campus a bit. It's so pretty and peaceful there! It must feel like a real oasis from the city to the students there.

Next we went inside the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. I had never been! We lit candles for loved ones who recently passed away, and sat quietly for a minute. Don't you love those grand old cathedrals?

Right next door to the cathedral is the Children's Sculpture Garden, a small sweet space that apparently sometimes has peacocks wandering around but on this particular day had none.

We finished off our time on the UWS with a long walk through Riverside Park. I hadn't been there since my very first summer in New York TWELVE years ago. The park features wide paths and a plethora of benches looking out over the Hudson. On a Sunday afternoon it was filled with people reading, families on bikes, and couples strolling hand in hand.

The more time I spend in cities, the more I feel the need to find pockets of respite from the unrelenting pace of city life. Discovering peaceful spots in New York seems like the perfect way to spend my precious Sundays.

Where's your favorite place to relax in the city?

The most relaxing place in the world (for us)

Here's what I know (so far) about traveling together. We're not beach people; we're pool people. Road trips in foreign countries can be dicey. Rent the GPS unit. Bring Pringles and gummy bears. Have a restaurant in mind before we get there. We will probably like anything that describes itself as a 4-star design hotel. All suitcases should have 4 wheels, not 2. Train travel is far superior to plane travel. Strong wifi is non-negotiable. Sometimes 30 minutes alone with our cameras is all we need to cure grumpiness. These other things.

And Montalcino, Italy is the most relaxing place in the world (for us).

During our honeymoon, we went to Montalcino three times while staying at the Bossy Castle near Siena. First, for dinner at Taverna Grappolo Blu on a tip from Rick Steves. Charmed, we went back for an overnight stay (and dinner again at Taverna Grappolo Blu). Then back the next day when a certain newly-married CM realized he'd left his wedding ring on the bedside table in the hotel.

This year, we went on purpose. Three nights at the Hotel Dei Capitani, and next time I think we'll make it a week.

Here's what we do in Montalcino. Eat delicious breakfast at our hotel, outside overlooking the Tuscan countryside. Take walks meandering through tiny village streets, knowing we can't possibly get lost. Pet street cats and talk to them. Drink cappuccini at the Caffé Fiaschetteria Italiana. Take a dip in the pool. Read on lounge chairs under a giant umbrella. Eat hot pecorino cheese. Taste Brunellos. Nap. Emerge from the hotel when the light is just getting pretty. Take pictures. Drink Negronis and snack on potato chips. Eat pici at Taverna Grappolo Blu. Look at the moon. Sleep.

It's heaven, truly.

Here's proof. Click on any picture, and you can see them as a pretty slideshow on a black background. All photos by LMB.

Rabbithole of the Week: Elizabeth Gilbert

Sometimes the Internet leads me down delightful paths of inspiration and loveliness that can almost make me forget about all the hours I've wasted looking at IMDB and parterre.com and photos of celebrities' babies.

Via swissmiss I found some videos of Elizabeth Gilbert, author of, most famously, Eat Pray Love, but also one of my favorite marriage books, Committed, which I recommend for anyone married, thinking about getting married, opposed to marriage, or just curious. Watching these videos I was struck by wise and articulate she is. She is unapologetic about the live she has lived thus far and incredibly adept at identifying what she needs and making sure she gets it. If you have a bit of time, listen to her speak in these videos. Inspiring, right?

If you have 6 minutes:

"Later in your life, whatever you decide today, that subsequently information may arise that makes you realize you made the wrong decision, but please do not abuse yourself for the choice that you made, when all you knew was what you know today."

If you have 20 minutes:

"It seems obvious that there comes a period in your life when you have to learn to say no to things that you don't want to do, but I think the biggest, trickiest lesson in holding onto the stalwart commitment to your creativity is learning how to say no to things you do want to do."

If you have another 20 minutes:

"I'm a mule, and the way that I have to work is I have to get up at the same time every day, and sweat and labor through it really awkwardly. But even I, in my mulishness, even I have brushed up against that thing, at times. You know, even I have had work or ideas come through me from a source that I honestly cannot identify. And what is that thing? And how are we to relate to it in a way that will not make us lose our minds, but, in fact, might actually keep us sane?"

Happy weekend!

My dears, what's on the docket for you this weekend? Any exciting plans? My sister-in-law is flying in from Vegas to hang out for a few days, which will be lots of fun and also a very good excuse to actually unpack my suitcases and get settled here. Tonight I'm having a night in to study and work on various things I have coming up—I'm hoping this will be the season I finally break my procrastination habit!

In case you need to procrastinate, some links:

Speaking of Governors Island, wouldn't it be fun to go to the Jazz Age Lawn Party? Check out these gorgeous pictures from last year by Jamie Beck!

We saw One Man, Two Guvnors on Broadway this week (CM got us half-price tickets at the TKTS booth's "Plays Only" line). I haven't laughed so hard in a long time—you should see it if you can! I loved this article about the star, James Corden.

Looking through these photos of the Olympic athletes is so inspiring.

The best performance we saw during our Summer o' Opera was the world premiere of George Benjamin's Written on Skin at the Aix-en-Provence Festival. If you're interested, you can stream the performance we saw online. It's not to be missed (and it's in English).

Our friend Simon takes the MOST beautiful photos. His portraits are gorgeous, but I especially love his travel shots. Check out his USA pics!

I'm feeling a bit Houston homesick. Here's a pic I took last week at David Adickes's studio:

Hope your weekend is full of park lounging, BLTs, and girl time! xoxo LMB


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