Monday, December 20, 2010

So what happened....

From the age of about twelve to sixteen I used to keep a journal pretty regularly, and when (much to my chagrin) I go back and re-read them I find that a typical entry is just a retelling of the days events. Rarely did I really delve into any "deep thoughts". Instead, it was usually pretty pointed and frankly pretty boring. Sure, there are some entries in there that I would prefer to take to my grave, but for the most part my diaries are not the stuff that great literary or autobiographical magic is made on.

In fact I would often get behind in my journaling, because you know life as a seventh grader is stressful, and instead of just going with the flow and realizing that my journal was my private space to write any way I wanted to, I felt tied to the structure and expectations I set for myself about writing an entry every single day. As a result I was often playing catch up and trying to recall events from days even weeks prior. Many of my entries looked like this:

                  March 17th

                         Nothing interesting happened today


Over the years I have given myself more freedom when it comes to my journal writing, now I try to be present when I write and not feel as though my journal is a vessel to record history but rather a creative outlet for me to express myself. While this is all very freeing its also made me a very lazy writer. The journal I am currently writing in has entries from 2006, and I am only about halfway through. Half of a year will transpire between entries sometimes, and while I don't want to punish myself, I do think that there has got to be a happy medium between setting an unrealistic expectation about writing everyday, and basically not writing at all.

What that medium is remains to be seen, but in a nod to my adolescent self I will recount a few of the things that happened between July 10th and right now (give or take a few days).

-I finally got a new day job and now work for these lovely folks. It's a totally new environment for me full of really quirky interesting people and I never would have been hired had I not known someone on the inside.

-I now make my bed every single day. I never did this before but the day I moved back to Chicago I started this morning ritual and now I feel as if I cannot truly begin the day until the bed is made. Strange. But true.

-I have been on an organizing rampage since my return and frequently spend weekend evenings taking everything out of cupboards and rearranging them. This may make me old and boring, but I drink wine while I organize so I think that ups the coolness factor.

-And speaking of getting older, I turned 28 recently, but I still get called into audition for roles that 16 year olds could play so there!

-I raised money for, produced, and acted in a play that I fell in love with almost two years ago. It was a unique experience for me that was met with many different emotions and reactions from myself and others. However, I am very glad I got to see it come to life and very thankful to all who made it possible. Oh and I took my shirt off and donned a orange polka-dotted bra onstage.

-Jürgen and I have managed to see each other once a month at least. So far he has always come to me, I have yet to go back to New York. People wonder how we do this, but I have to say I think its incredibly cool that we get to be married but still pursue our dreams in the places that make the most sense to us. I recommend it highly.

-A major motion picture has been filming in Chicago and for some reason I managed to nab a day player role in it. I got to so a scene with this actor, and I wore a yellow plastic hazmat suit and very little makeup. I am certain the scene will never make it to the big screen, but a girl can dream can't she?

-I am currently in a bit of a "what am I doing with my life" phase. But I actually kind of like it. I feel as though all this questioning will only lead to great things.

-I do not miss New York at all, and it's almost as if it never even happened. Eight months of my life and it seems like a dream. A distant memory. It's so strange to me that I can feel so removed from a situation that had such a profound affect on me in so many ways, but maybe that was the point.

 And...that just about covers it. 

I am thinking a lot about this blog and what I want it to be going forward. If you have any thoughts about things you liked from past entries or things you would like to hear about please let me know, I swear I am very receptive to such opinions! In the meantime I am going to work on marrying my rigid adolescent self with my somewhat jaded older self. There can be great freedom within structure, you just have to strike the right balance.

Wow, when I write that it makes it sound so easy....

As I search for balance I do hope that everyone is having a very happy and healthy holiday season!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmastime is here...

How did it become December? Seriously, who allowed that to happen?

Even though each passing year seems to go by faster than the last, I do love the month of December. The holiday lights that flicker up and down my street. The chance to eat rich and sweet foods and feel totally justified in doing so (the calories don't count because they were consumed at a dinner party right?).  Buying loved ones gifts that you know will make them happy. I even told some friends of mine the other day "I don't mind the snow in December. Any other month it pisses me off but during December I am fine with it." It feels as if it should be snowing, it just makes the lights on the trees shine brighter and peoples homes feel warmer.

This time of year is also steeped in tradition and while I consider myself rather non-traditional in many ways, there is something about holiday time rituals which I have no desire to ever let go.  Now that I am a married lady its also fun to learn about Jürgen's family traditions and to think about ways to create our own as the years go by.

A tradition my family has kept for years has been the annual Christmas card photo. There certainly were times growing up when my brother and I protested getting our photos taken, and there have definitely been years where creative ideas evaded us, but having a yearly holiday photo card is an amazing way to document a families growth, and I am so thankful that my parents have been steadfast in their commitment to mailing them out year after year.

It was my intention to start this tradition for our new family last year, however a few things happened which made life difficult and well we just didn't get around to it. However this year I have vowed that we would get organized enough to send out holiday cards to those we know and love.

I had not yet decided how I was going to go about getting our holiday cards together "when what to my wondering eyes should appear" but this incredible deal from Shutterfly!

Being a bit of a Shutterfly novice (I am ashamed to say) I had no idea how many incredible holiday card choices they have! Any color, any theme, I assure you they've got you covered.  You could spend hours upon hours (and I am not ashamed to admit it, I did!) perusing their site to find your perfect card, not to mention all kinds of other cool photo inspired gifts (personalized calendars, beautifully bound photo books and so much more).  I am officially a Shutterfly convert!

It took me quite a while but I am down to these three holiday card layouts.

I love the simplicity of it, plus I am a fool for anything that is deep blue!

This is so festive and gives you a great opportunity to add a bunch of photos from throughout the year. It's a little "photo retrospective" all in one adorable holiday card!

They call this one "vintage snowflakes" which i just love. It's unique and offers multiple options for how many photos you want to use.

It's hard to pick just one! What do you think? Do you have a favorite? Cast your vote now!

I cannot wait to start the holiday card tradition this year and for the years to follow.  It's such a great way to spread holiday cheer to family and friends both near and far!

The holiday cards have already started hitting my mailbox this year and I am just so thankful to have so many incredible people in my life, especially during the holidays! If you are still unsure what to do for your holiday card just go to Shutterfly, it's super easy to use and they have so many incredible options!

Happy Holiday Card sending to all!

P.S- Once I get the holiday card situation under control, next project will be creating a massive wedding album. 

Dusting off the cobwebs....


Um, hi.

My name is Blair. I used to write a blog (on a semi-regular basis at least).  Some people even told me they enjoyed reading it, and I actually enjoyed writing it. But then I stopped writing for no good reason other than I just got kind of busy.

It's a lame excuse to be sure.

In all honestly it's a little scary to come back here. When I first felt inspired to write this blog I had quite the story to tell. Blogging was a bit of an escape from some unpleasant life events and a means to cope with all of the change. Now I sort of wonder what do I really want to write about? What story do I have to tell?

It would be easy to just stop and let the blog fade into the background, but I find myself at a bit of a crossroads and I think this little space of mine may just be the perfect place to regain some focus, and allow for some creative discovery.  Plus, winter has come and comfortably settled into Chicago which means I will be spending many housebound nights by my lonesome. What a perfect setting to open a bottle of wine and do a little writing? It will warm the soul I have no doubt.

So I am back. Ready to return to writing and seeing what comes. I have no idea what I plan to say but I feel ok about that for now, and I look forward to new stories unfolding along the way.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Moving Day

Well my friends, the day has come, the proverbial "light at the end of the tunnel" if you will.  Currently we are enjoying a leisurely morning in the cool of Jürgen's nicely air conditioned bedroom, but we will soon make out way outside to enjoy some final moments together before we part for an undetermined amount of time.

I feel lots of different things right now: I feel happy. I feel sad. I feel confident yet I also feel unsure. I feel like a failure but feel hopeful.  It's a bevy of emotions really.

I know that going back to Chicago is the right decision for me, right now, but that doesn't undo the fact that I am upset with myself for not trying harder since I have been out here.  Yes life threw me a curve ball and I adjusted, but if I am going to strive to be totally honest, I need to admit that I gave up. I was a quitter.  I didn't put myself out there.  I folded the hand of cards I was dealt before I even tried to hedge a bet. What's that about? This isn't a good side of me. This isn't the person who I strive to be and know I can be.  What was the point of all of this?

I am not sure I know just yet.  I do know though that I cannot continue down this road. This road of unmet goals and excuses.  If I am going to make this move, a move that will separate the two of us, then it has to be worth it.  I have to take charge of where my life is headed and what I want it to look like.  This is scary.

So I have a new challenge: to reclaim my life and make it better. I am moving back to the place I consider home, so there will be a familiar comfort, but I can't let myself get too comfortable.  This move is a change, not a fall back.  I do not intend to simply go back to "how things were" pre-NYC, because that path wasn't what I wanted either.  I want this to be new, I want this to be different.  I hope to God I do not disappoint myself again.  That's what scares me the most.

Well it's getting awfully heavy over here (you should be inside my head!).  Jokes aside, I am glad I am scared because it means I feel strongly about this, and this just may be what I need to spur me into action. It's ok to be a little afraid right? 

Good I am glad you agree.

Next time I sit down to write I will be home in Chicago.  Crazy.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Tunnel Vision

First of all let me just start by saying thank you for all of the kind and encouraging words I received via either the comments section of this blog, or facebook, or in a sweet email or in person. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your support, encouragement and belief. It feels good to share, and to be appreciated in return. Thank you my dear people.

Since the last entry life has been on hyper drive, and I have been trying my darndest to keep it all together until I reach the end of the tunnel.  This "end" of sorts will occur in one week.  I just have to make it one week.  Lots of things have happened, so I am going to tell you about them. Away we go....

If you didn't already know this, I made the definitive decision to move back to Chicago. Notice I used the term "I" and not "We."  Now to be fair, I didn't make this decision without Jurgen's help, advice and encouragement as he has been involved in every facet of the decision making process. But it will simply be me who is trekking back to the Mid-West. Jurg will be staying put, for a little while longer at least.  This wasn't an easy choice to make, but it is the right choice for now.  I haven't been thriving in New York, which invariably makes me a pretty un-fun person to be around, and Jurgen understands this. He knows that I need to go back for personal (and professional) reasons, and being the supportive and loving husband that he is, he is letting me go. Isn't he lovely? He is staying because while he too misses Chicago terribly, he feels he owes it to himself to give it a final push here in the city before he possibly makes a decision to leave.  He has made more connections here and has more momentum than I do, and I 100% understand and support his desire to stick around a bit longer.  Sometimes in a relationship you need to be selfish and unselfish at the exact same time, which is what we are doing (for the moment).

Once the big decision was made there were many more decisions that accompanied it including but not limited to "when do I move?" "what do we do about our lease?" "Where will Jurgen live?"

Being a grownup is so annoying sometimes. 

In the midst of all of these decisions, Jurgen's Grandfather passed away. He was 82, was called the "Perry Cuomo of Baltimore" and endured a (thankfully) short battle with brain cancer.  The funeral was held on June 19th and Jurgen delivered the most incredible eulogy at the service. So good in fact, that several attendants already put in their requests for Jurgen to write and give their eulogies.  Being that Jurgen and I are from different home states, and we don't live particularly close to either of them, spending time with one another's family is limited.  Sadly I didn't get to spend a lot of time with his Grandfather, but I did have the extreme pleasure of sitting with him on the balcony of his wonderful beach condo in Ocean City two years ago, seeing him cut a rug all night long at our wedding, and to speak with him over Memorial Day weekend. The final time we saw him he was nearing the end of his time here on earth, but he kept repeating "Don't feel bad for me. I am ready to go. I am so happy. I am so happy!"  If we all could be at such peace.  I hope he is singing Frank Sinatra up in the skies, dancing with his wife and giving my grandparents hi-fives for me.

Side note: With every end to a life a new life seems to emerge, as was the case for my friend Sara who gave birth to a beautiful baby boy! I cannot wait to meet this kid.

So, keeps on spinning. Earlier this week we loaded up a Dodge Mini-Van (how sexy is that?) along with our two kitties and made the 13+ hour drive to Chicago. We spent a mere twenty-four hours there before hopping a jet plane back to NYC only to immediately load a Uhaul truck with Jurg's stuff and move him into his new abode in Astoria.  The madness was capped off with a thorough deep cleaning of the old Sunnyside apartment. I'm talking Easy Off, yellow rubber gloves, on your knees while you scrub almost eight months' worth of dinners from the inside of the oven cleaning. But it is done. Now it's a matter of getting through this week while I live with Jurgen's two new roommates, and out of a suitcase. Not ideal, but we adapt.

I am interested to see where this new move takes me, takes us.  What I have learned from this whole experience is we are never stuck, we do have the ability to pick up and go. To make decisions, make changes. As much as I want to control and set things in stone, there is some comfort in knowing that life moves and shakes without consulting you first, and sometimes you simply have to trust in it.

There is more where that came from my friends! In the meantime have a very happy Fourth!,

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Seven Month Itch or Sharing Your Heart

I have been putting off writing this entry for months now. I started writing a version of this entry when I hit my three month mark, then I said I would complete it by four months, then five, and now I have been here for seven months and ten days and I am still struggling to write it.

I was told by a very wise man that I should use this blog as a space to "share my heart", an opportunity I have all but run away from since I started writing. Sure every now and then I reveal a glimmer of my inner feelings, but they are usually coupled with sarcastic comments or an attempt to be humorous. I have always been a very private person, and have never been particularly keen on talking about my feelings. Some might call this being "emotionally closed," while others (well probably just myself) may chose to call it "mysterious." Take your pick. However, it's becoming apparent to me that I need to be honest with you, with myself, about where I am right now.

I am not pleased. I am unhappy. I am not enjoying New York and I want to go home.

There I said it. I admitted it. Are you happy now?

The day I arrived in New York I was hopeful. I had suitcases full of hope. Subway cars even. Despite the news I had just received I was ready to take on the change, the challenge and the uncertain days that lay ahead. I set goals (none of which I have really accomplished...I am so terrible), I wrote blogs about positivity and being resourceful. I felt good for a bit, but slowly, little by little, the hope has begun to fade.

Life here in New york is tough, it's expensive, it's fast paced and it can feel very isolating. You are surrounded by millions of people but you only know a handful of them.  I have a good amount of friends out here, but many of them have lived here for awhile and therefore they have fully formed lives out here, lives that I don't have a regular place in. I am not resentful of this at all, it's just reality. I understand how much work it takes to create a life for yourself, and how much effort it takes to cultivate a new dimension of friendship. Everyone here has to work so hard to make ends meet, chase their dreams and all that.  It's hard to carve out time for someone new. 

I also have been spending way more time than I ever wanted to spend at my day job, better refereed to as my survival job. I know I am lucky to have it, but I didn't move to New York to work in customer service, if I wanted to do what I am doing right now I could have stayed in Chicago and lived much more comfortably. After spending several months working six days a week you find yourself wondering what you came out here to do in the first place, and even when you have a day off the last thing you want to do is wake up at 6am to go wait in line at an audition. 

Aside from the lack of time to pursue my passion, I have also felt a lack of passion when it comes to my passion. I just can't seem to generate any excitement when it comes to singing or auditioning or even seeing theatre. I feel rather numb and disinterested.  I have asked myself many times "is this really what I want to do?" "do I have what it takes?".  Just for the record these are not fun questions to ask, because the answers are not easy and they certainly are not clear.  This business of show is not a business to stay in if you aren't passionate, because passion and drive are the only things that will get your through to the other side. They are the only things that will get you out of bed in the morning, that will take you to class, that will keep you believing when you have been unemployed for a year. Passion, drive and well...hope. Without them you are lost. And that is how I have been feeling...lost.

I haven't been able to share this because writing about it frightens me. Literally in the past few weeks even coming to my blogging site has roused the beginnings of mild panic attacks. Like I don't even want to see my blog, I don't want to see how neglectful I have been or lazy I have become.  

About a month ago I was having a quick lunch with a friend and I said to him "this just isn't where I thought I would be at this point in my life."  Where I thought I would be I am not sure, but what he said to me was "isn't that just the way everyone feels right now?"  Apparently my feelings of discontent are not uncommon, but that didn't ease my pain. I don't like the idea of being one in a million of wayward, disillusioned, apathetic late twenty-somethings. That doesn't make me feel good. I don't regularly delight in the misfortune of others. I truly want great things for people, and for myself, I just don't quite know how to accomplish them at the moment.

In the meantime, I will say that I do not regret my decision to come here. I am proud of myself for taking a risk, exploring a new city, embracing challenge and change.  Above all, what I have been most thankful for during my time here in NYC has been the chance to form a true adult friendship with my brother.  He and I have not lived in the same city for almost ten years, and to finally be able to see one another on a regular basis has been such a gift. I feel that we are now not only siblings, but friends, great friends. This opportunity alone has been greater than any career opportunity I could have received, and for that I am truly thankful.

Clarity is what I am striving for and I am getting there.  Peace of mind would be nice too.  Some decisions are being made, which I will report back on very soon.  It truly is my intention to get back to blogging on a regular basis. Amidst the mire of uncertainty and doubt there have been plenty of cool things that have been happing in our life, and those stories deserve to be told too.

Thank you all for listening, for reading. I am sorry for being so neglectful, but I hope you will forgive me!  I will be back soon, and until then I hope you are all enjoying these new days of summer.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Beating the Funk...

A Funk has overtaken me for a time now. It ebbs and flows and generally pisses me off. Funks are no fun and render me lethargic, uninspired and useless.  I will expound more on this in a later post, as I am trying to collect my thoughts regarding said Funk. So for now I will give you a list of some activities that can beat the Funk, and even if they can't beat it, they can certainly give it a run for it's money.

-Buying a new pair of shoes. Yellow flats are espically funk-repellent

-Planting a herb garden in a pail and seeing the seedlings begin to sprout

-Enjoying a toasted marshmellow milkshake (with a toasted marshmellow on top even!) from The Stand (just don't eat their hamburgers)

-Organizing the CRAP out of your apartment. Like under the bathroom sink, in the shoe/coat closet, and the kitchen cabinets.  It's so cathartic.

-Enjoying Drag Queen Cocktails, while wearing Tiara's and watching the finale of RuPauls's Drag Race.

-Eating yoru first ever double cheeseburger from Shake Shack.  **Warning** deep pangs of guilt may follow this indulgence, but that is just the Funk getting to you. Life is short, eat good burgers.

-Eating an amazing salad of kale, beets, peas, wheatberries, feta cheese and other oh-so-nourishing and soul feeding healthy foods, which makes you feel like a grown up who can balance their diet after eating a double cheeseburger, cheese fries, and ice cream.

-Watching LOST (it's getting so good!) with the two main men in your life and drinking Champagne cocktails

-Lots of cuddly, kissy, lovey kitty time.

-Pre-ordering your ticktes to the midnight opening of Sex and the City: 2

-Drinking margaritta's at 2pm on a Friday with your brother while throngs of teenage girls scream outside the restaurant at Channing Tatum who is filming a movie in Astoria, and you realize you are too old and out of touch to know who he is and why people care.

 -Being asked to be an actor in a staged reading of a very cool new play, performing it for a crowd of intelligent theatre-goers and finally feeling like you are doing something creative after months of stagnation. (Thank you Brian!)

-Watching this on YouTube. Incredible.

-Knowing that as you write this blog your husband is in the process of making sauteed pork chops with musrooms, dill and sour cream along with twice baked potatoes.

What activities do you do to beat the Funk?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Great Walk

I am not entirely sure when the inspiration hit. It could have been while at work, or over dinner, or as I was drifting off to sleep. And since I don't know the true origin of my grand idea, and for the purposes of adding a little drama and flare to the story, I will say it happend while I was up in the air.  30,000 feet and descending, as I headed back to New York from Chicago on January 3rd (our one year wedding anniversary).  It was a clear night and I always find myself rather contemplative while in airplanes (does this happen to anyone else?), and as I looked out the window I could see the entire island of Manhattan illuminated. I found it amusing how you could see the pool of lights surrounded by the flat, black, glass like  river and it formed the shape that was identical to that of the subway map. As if I thought in real life it should look different and completely unlike some cartographers hard worked sketch.  Regardless, I was drawn in to this island, which from the air appears so small. Like you could skip rocks across it, or do a few cartwheels and you would end up on the other side.  I wanted to walk it. From tip to tip, and Jürgen was going to come with me.

Jürgen being the cool cat that he is was totally down with my crazy adventure idea, and we decided as soon as the weather turned pleasant we would set things in motion to traverse the island. It had seemed like a lofty idea until last Thursday when I was awoken to the dulcit tones of Jürgen saying "today is the day."  I hadn't mentally prepared myself for the journey, but I decided it was best not to fight a man decided.  It was a beautiful day, and frankly I needed a bit of adventure and challenge in my life. So we hopped the train and found ourselves all the way at 225th street. The journey began.

I am waxed poetic about my newfound love of walking recently, but this was the ultimate in walks as far as  I was concerned.  According to googlemaps the distance from 225th to Battery Gardens is 13.6 miles (give or take a bit depending on your preferred route), however we did a bit of sightseeing and zigzagging along the way, so while neither of us donned pedometers we think we logged almost fifteen miles of foot traffic.  There are many different paths you could take to complete this journey, but we tended more towards the west side of the island following Broadway and then spending a decent amount of time on 6th ave (which if we ever decided to do this again we would avoid), until we reached Battery Gardens with a view of Lady Liberty in all her glory.  It took about seven hours to complete, and I felt the effects of this half-marathon distance walk for days.

It was an awesome experience, and one that I will truly never forget.  It's amazing to see how the landscape changes, culturally and physically, as you travel through the various neighborhoods. At one point I even proclaimed "it's amazing how 'un-New York', New York feels!" and it was really true, there  were times I almost forgot I was in Manhattan.  This really is an incredible city and I am glad we took the time to really travel through it, with the sun on our faces and the wind at our backs.

We took quite a few pictures along the way, and since I recently learned how to make photo slideshows, I have another one! But first here is a list of the few sites we visited, some planned, and some happy accidents.

The Dyckman Farmhouse Museum
The Cloisters
The Morris Jumel Mansion Museum
Alexander Hamilton's Country Home
General Grant National Memorial
Riverside Church
Cathedral of St. John the Divine
The Cross at Ground Zero

(I am sure there are many more sites we could have seen, however once we hit Columbus Circle, it was less about the journey and more about the least thats what my feet were telling me!)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A "Tail" of Two Kitties...

A year ago my world changed in a way I could never have forseen. A year ago Jürgen and I became parents to two precious kittens, and life has never been the same.  The amount of joy these two long-haired beings have brought into our lives was unimaginable to me before I met them, but now that I have them I will never let them go!

I have been very lucky to grow up having animals around, and it was always in the plans for Jurg and I to adopt two kittes after we got married.  I love dogs as well, and I am proud not to have to ascribe to being either a "cat person" or a "dog person."  However, when you are a young couple, living unpredictable lives, cats are much more adaptable creatures who require less involvment in their everyday survival.  So while a puppy may be somewhere in the distant future, for now its all about cats. 

Last year Jurgen was working on a production in Milwaukee and the plan always was to adopt once he returned in Mid-May.  However, one afternoon while I stared blurry eyed at the computer screen at work, and email popped up from my good friend Jenn, informing me that a friend of a friend, had a cat who had kittens, just eight weeks old and they were looking for good homes for all of them.  She made a convincing arguement:  by adopting them from a home I would be able to get them younger (younger=smaller), they were already litterbox trained (major plus) and since the two would have been litter mates they already would have bonded (awww little fuzzy bonded kittens...). My interest was piqued! I called Jürg right away, and thus began almost a week of hemming and hawwing about if we should make a move, a little off schedule. 

Then we received some very exciting news, Jürg got a call with an offer to understudy two Broadway shows! A major achievement! A career stepping stone! Oh if only we knew...

In all of our excitment Jurgen said "Blair, you should go get those kittens."  In an effort not to be too rash, I said "how about I just go look at them?" 

Now let's be honest with ourselves for a moment, anyone who thinks they can go look at tiny, adorable, furry, hand-sized creatures and not steal away with a basketful of them is lying to themselves.  Who was I kidding? I was doomed from the start.

Jenn, being the ever supportive and animal crazed friend that she is, accompanied me that Saturday afternoon, to a basement apartment that held three adorable kittens: two little girls which were all black and one little boy with black and white spots.  I sat on the couch and a teeny black kitten crawled up onto my lap, curled her front paws underneath her chest and proceeded to fall asleep on my thighs.  I had been claimed. I was a goner.

Afraid that I wouldn't be able to tell two all black kittens apart, I naturally gravitated towards the spotted little lad with the precious face.  And with that, a family was born.

We named our little man Stanley, after the character Jürgen was to understudy on Broadway.  Our little miss? We call her Toaster. Yep, like a toaster oven.  I take no credit for this, as it has always been Jürgen's plan to have a cat named Toaster, and despite my protests, I lost that battle after a tension-filled game of Rock-Paper-Scissors.

Despite my lost battle, I am quite happy with her name, and more importantly I am thrilled to be a "proud parent" the these two precious creatures. This past year they have grown before our eyes, traveled from Chicago to New York, and provided endless hours of entertainment.  My love for them has surprised and inspired me.  I am forever grateful to have them in our lives, and as a part of our family.

I present a photo-retrospective of Stanley and Toaster's first year. The photo's aren't great, but regardless they bring a smile to my face and warm my heart. May they do the same for you!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Gotta make that cash...

So there has been a bit of silence over here in my little blog space as of late.  Admittedly I have not been doing my part in carving out blogging time, but I also embarked on a little journey out west and I have been catching up a bit since my return.  No I wasn't in search of gold, but rather fufilling my bridesmaidel duties in a Salt Lake City wedding.  2010 may be the year of the Tiger, but for me it just may have to be dubbed "The Year of Weddings."  I have seven which I will be called to attend, and I hope to make it to all, but that remains to be seen. 

Where was Jürgen you might ask? Well he was not with me, no sir he got to fly the skies to Argentina! Buenos Aires to be precise, where he got to stay in this swanky hotel, eat steak and dance upon the same soil from which my favorite grapes are grown! What's up with that?

Actually, his reasons for travel were purely professional (although he got to experience a fair amount of fun as well!), because Jürg booked himself a commercial! Can I get a what-what?? He auditioned in New York, for an Irish Celluar company commercial which filmed in South America.  If you wish to spend time making sense of that, be my guest.

It did get me thinking about how funny and wildly unpredictable life can be from time to time, espically if you choose a profession in the arts. One minute you can be serving burgers and fries at a tourist packed, time square restaurant, and the next minute you are a working actor in Buenos Aires. Well, in Jürgens case anyway.  It also reminded me of the array of various "jobs" I have had over the years in an attempt to cobble together a living.  So let's bring back the blogging with a little sharing, shall we?

-I had my first "real job" when I was 16, where I worked at a small flower shop in Louisville, KY.  I was too short to see over the counter, and was often left alone to my own devices.  The job was relativley harmless except for two incidents which are worth mentioning:

1) I had literally just received my drivers liscense and on my first day of work they sent me out to make a delivery that involved me taking the expressway-a system I was unfamilliar with at the time- and I ended up somewhere way outside of the city limits, at night with no idea where I was.  This also happened to be before the time when we really relied on cell phones (I feel old!), and "car phone" that I did have was totally dead.  Hours later I made my way home and dissolved into a puddle of tears in my kitchen, because I never was able to deliver the flowers and the arangement and been tossed all over the back of my car.  The next morning my mom and I went to a more established flower shop and had them re-do the entire thing and she drove me to the rightful recipients who were very understanding.
2) The owner of the shop was my friends mom, and while she was a lovely, fun, artsitic woman she really had no business being the owner of a business. Oftentimes there were no records of how much a given item cost, which meant during the times I was left to my own devices I was forced to make up the price of things.  Not being well versed in the expenses of horticulture I inevitably charged a very lucky lady a mere seven dollars for a beautiful hanging fern. For the record it should have been around twenty-five.

The little flower shop closed a few years later. I'm just sayin'

-During college I spent a summer working as an intern for the Lookingglass Theatre Company, which paid me nothing, but I did get to work as the assistant to David Schwimmer for a week, which involved videotaping a workshop he ran and getting him coffee. He was very nice and very humble.  However Lookingglass then proceeded to hire me off and on as a "door watcher" (I prefered the title "securty guard but what can you do) where I made a great hourly wage to sit at the front desk while performances were happing in their rehearsal space and make sure no riff-raff strolled in and made off with the office equipment. As if my tiny self could have done anything about it, but I took their money anyway. It was awesome.

- I have only onced worked in a restaurant, as a host, at a Tapas restauarant one summer in Chicago.  I ate a ton of queso de cabra and very quickly decided I never wanted to work in restaurants again, for the mere fact that I found it rather torturous to watch other people enjoying their food and I had to starve. 

-The job to have while attending Theatre School was to be hired as an usher when rental productions would use our space.  It was great pay for maybe 15 minutes of mindless work, after which you could enjoy the show, or engage in epic battles with your flashlight.  Juvenile, but fantastic.

-I have been babysitting since I was twelve, and still do every now and then. The first child I ever babysat is now an adult and on her way to being a huge star, however there is also one baby who I have sat for at least five times and still have yet to meet. Her name is Macy and she goes to sleep at 7pm, and never wakes. She is a gift from above. 

-Once I was hired through my agency to work at the NeoCon trade show at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago.  It's a huge event focusing on office furniture, and my job was to pass out pins and candy to passerby's and encourage them to find their "style ID" on the 8th floor.  Why you need to know your style when it comes to cubicles I will never know.  It was so horrible that I hid in stairways and behind model kitchen units, in an attempt to keep my sanity. Never again.

-Being hired to perform at the Chicago Auto Show is much less annoying.  I sang "Let the Sunshine In" with a group of incredibly talented Chicago actors, for the launch of a new line of KIA cars.  We each wore a different solid colored crewneck sweater from Lands End, and threw our hands in the air with great abandon.  In a word: queer. In another word: amazing.

-For two years I worked as a receptionist at a commercial photography studio that threw incredible parties and didn't mind if I drank alcohol while working. A privledge I never took full advantage of. 

-One day while working at the aformentioned phtography studio, the producer asked to see my hands, which apparently are photograph worthy and whisked me upstairs to feature my digits in a cataloge.  This gave me the courage to call up the print department in my agency to see if I could be seen as a parts model.  My agent said "its a very quick decision and is usually a no, but I will see you."  Luckily, he said yes, and every now and then I literally make money from my hands.

-After I graduated college I spent a couple years working as the front desk manager of a spa, which once I left I swore I would never revisit customer service ever again. Well "never say never" apparently, because once I decided to move to NYC I contacted the New York branch, and five minutes later I was rehired. Lesson learned: its a good thing to keep the bridges you build intact. 

-Finally, this is without a doubt the best job I have ever had (aside from special theatre gigs) only involved twenty minutes of actual work, but was oh so very cool to be a part of.

Have you had any special/scary/random/interesting jobs you have had to do to make ends meet?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Reasons why I need a new camera

Because if you find yourself strolling through Central Park on a lovely sunny Sunday, and you happen upon an ice skating competition, naturally you will want to document it for all time.

And you look at the pretty balloons swaying to the music, of course you will feel compelled to zoom in. 

But you can't. 

Of course there will be times when you peer out of your kitchen window to find the moon glistening from above and clouds hastily painted across the sky. 

But the camera on your phone fails to capture it's beauty.

Then there may come a time when you rationalize to yourself that it is ok to stop in the middle of the street before oncoming traffic to photograph the Empire State Building at dusk.

But was the outcome really worth laying down your life for?

Oh how I want a real camera!  

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Stream of Thought...

I was out of the house by 5:30 am this morning, which means I was forced to arise far earlier than anyone should ever have to. Nothing is right at 4:45 am. Nothing. 

So here I am at work, unable to fully concentrate on any one thing because the dull ache of tiredness resides behind my eyes rendering me incapable of thinking on a productive level.  However, I do seem to have a consistent stream of random thoughts, which are not necessarily connected to the other, and in an effort utilize this little blog space of mine to share my thoughts, no matter how irrelevant, I am going to list them here. In no particular order:

-I have a penchant for Moleskin journals off all sizes, and while doing some morning blog reading I came across this one which I now covet.

-I will also continue to covet an in-home inversion table.  The idea of being able to hang from my ankles and strech my spine make the knots in my shoulders relax just thinking about it.

-I find myself desiring to learn how to take pretty pictures of pretty things. I have no idea how to use a camera aisde from pointing, clicking and zooming (and I am a photographers daughter! the shame!) but should I learn on a film camera or a digital? Help...

-I think having two frisky one year old kitties is somewhat akin to having a toddler in the house. The constant need to explore, knock things over and put undesireable objects in their mouth can be trying at times. Except a toddler doesn't look at your with a furry face and no ability to understand what you are saying. But then they get all cuddly on you and you forget you had to yell at Stanley who was chewing on the metal end of a power cord.

-I recently got a burger from the NYC Buger Joint, The Stand which is supposed to have some of the Big Apples Best Burgers, and I am here to totally debunk that theory and tell you it's all lies.  My burger was totally underwhelming, chewy and not seasoned. The fact that it cost $12 only added insult to injury.

-To me, I will know I have succeeded in my life when I can end each day with a glass of good wine and a plate of some nice cheese. I think this goal is attainable.

-I wish I did a better job at keeping up with a day planner, I am sure it would help make me a better person.

-We still haven't done our taxes, crap. Although between the two of us I think we have over ten w-2 forms, which still confuse me despite the number I have had to fill out.

-We recently began making bread in our shiney, new bread machine. However it appears to be flawed in all it's shiney-newness and we have to send it back. Blast.

-The idea of making my own greek yogurt intrigues me, although I wonder if after you spend the money on yogurt and cheesecloth it really saves you any money?

And with that, my time here at work is wrapping up. Isn't being inside my mind wild and fanciful?  Clearly I spend a lot of time thinking about food, which may be something worth looking into. Also I thought I would share with you this little fun fact about my time here in NYC so far,

I have encountered a grand total of five celebrities since I moved to NYC: Goldie Hawn, Mariska Hargatay (she is super nice), Maggie Gyllenhall and Peter Saarsgard, and Emma Roberts (niece of Julia Roberts, and all she did was make out with her boyfriend the whole time. Very uncouth).  I will let you know if I ever encounter the ULTIMATE in celebrity sightings...Sara Jessica Parker. I heart her.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Spring in your Step

There are many things I miss about Chicago, however there is one thing which surprisingly I do not miss one bit: driving.  Yes, it would have been convenient during the monsoon on Saturday do be able to hop into a vehicle and save the life of an umbrella, but for the most part I am quite happy to rely on my two feet and the NY Subway System.  I do love the car that waits patiently for me back in Chi-Town, it's sleek, fuel efficient, I bought it all by myself, and heck I even knocked a brick wall down with it just to see what would happen.  It's a good car, but I am happy to be apart from it, for now anyway.

Most often as I walk through the city I am usually pretty destination focused. Which subway stop will bring me closest to my desired end point? How many avenue blocks must I walk? That kind of thing.  It's a fairly common affliction here in NYC, we are busy people with places to go and people to see.  However, last week when the gods above decided to give us a sampling of spring weather, Jürgen and I accidentally indulged ourselves in a walk with no real destination.  I say "accidentally" because our afternoon didn't start out with "wandering" on the agenda.  We happened to be in the city at Macy's so I could return something, and we suddenly found ourselves with two hours of free time before either of us needed to be at work.   So we started to wander, which I wil admit didn't come naturally to me from the onset.  "What are we doooing? Where are we goooing?" were typical statements from me as we started, but thankfully I took a self prescribed chill pill and began to enjoy the crisp fake-spring air, and vitamin-D enriched sunshine.

We walked past the empire state building, stared up at it and made ourselves dizzy. We gazed into store windows, we even stopped into the NY Public Library and took in a free exhibit on maps. Yes maps. Not thrilling, but informative, and free, can't argue with that. Plus I had not seen the inside of the library before and it really is quite beautiful.  After the library we found our way to Bryant Park, which I of course knew all about (ooohh fashion week...fancy!) but never knew quite where it was.

The trees clearly aren't ready to donn their spring green just yet, but they sure looked stunning with their branches intermingling to form a canopy above the park. We sat at a table below the trees and took in the  scene, and I realized: had we not allowed ourselves to simply walk, with no real agenda, we may not have thought to stop here.

A similar thought crossed my mind a few weeks ago when Jürgen's parents were in town, when we took the subway down to battery park and spent a few hours walking. We saw:

The Statue of Liberty in all her Glory.

We walked into St. Pauls Chapel, an Episcopal (represent!) Church which was crucial to the volunteer effort at Ground Zero.  Inside the church is decorated with all kinds of memorabilia from that time:

Letters from Children offering words of hope.

Healing paper cranes from Japan

A chausble pinned with hundres of badges in honor of those who were lost.

It was incredibly moving, and I had no idea it even existed.

We also walked to water street where we saw some majestic boats,

And finally we weaved our way through the financial district and happened upon a historic federal building which housed all kinds of information about Alexander Hamilton, and this stone:

I am not sure if you can read the inscription, but this is the very piece of stone upon which President George Washington took the oath of office.  

All of this was discovered because we simply put one foot in front of the other.  I know it seems obvious, but if you are looking for free entertainment, try taking yourself on a walk! Even if you don't live in a big city, you can always find unique neighboorhoods, or some pretty trails where you can literally stop and smell the roses. It's an activity you can do solo, if you want some personal time, or you can always find yourself some walking buddies. The possibilities are endless, and so many new expierences await you!

Any other ideas for great (and cheap!) Spring entertainment? I am all ears.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

War Torn Umbrellas

Mother Nature has declared war on New york, and her chosen weapon of mass destruction: rain.  Massive amounts of rain.  She can be so cruel sometimes, and after a few days with winks of spring weather, she pulled out all the stops in the forms of fat, cold, dense raindrops coupled with gusts of wind that rival the winds of Chicago. Those winds I was more than happy to leave behind yet they seem to have journeyed East. You see the terror on everyones face as they walk through the doors from the outside: the pink cheeks, hair plastered to the sides of their faces, droplets falling from their earlobes.  Everyone wearing the same expression of disbelief mixed with frustration. Being wet and cold is no fun. No fun at all.

Then there are the carnage lined streets.  I wasn't prepared for such a sight but everywhere you turn you see the remnants of a life cut short. A life that was meant to travel miles, to serve and protect.

It was on my walk home when I chose to capture the final moments of this young ones life. I have no idea where it had been or to whom it belonged but I swear it whispered to me "please tell the plastic polka dotted angel, with her faux-wooden handle, who I met in the coat check of The Oak Room...I never forgot about her..." 

How the mighty have fallen.

My poor umbrella also saw it's demise all too soon. It was on the way to work this morning and she just didn't have the strength against the wind, not even even her darling multi-colored poly-fiber fabric could save her.

It was a rough day.  I had plans to meet up with two dear Chicago friends, their names are Jess and Cassie, but was secretly hoping we would all decide to flake out on one another in an attempt to stay off the violent streets. However none of us wanted to be "the one who flaked", so despite the danger we convened in midtown for some inexpensive thai food.  I had to seek shelter at one point while on 45th street for fear of becoming MIA.

(I wish I had a fancy camera that could capture rain falling....)

Thankfully we all made it, despite Cassie's train being shut down halfway through her commute, and we managed to ignore the events outside and focus our attention on being three ladies living it up in New York City.  It's hard to believe that I met them almost five years ago, when were all performing in a production of The Wild Party.  We had all recently graduated and danced and sang our tails off in a tiny Chicago storefront, with no air conditioning, in the middle of August.  Oh the days of being young, sweaty and performing in your underwear (I didn't let my parents see that one).  I am so glad we are still friends.  We gabbed about Chicago, New York, theatre, the brilliance of Sex and the City, being in our late twenties, high school reunions*, and many other topics.  It was incredibly lovely and worth fighting for.  Plus we were able to pay only $15 for a prix-fix dinner menu of chicken coconut soup, thai salad, veggie spring roles, chicken pad-thai and coconut ice cream! I didn't even touch my pad-thai, I boxed it up and plan on savoring it tomorrow during my lunch break.  Victory is mine!

Go to Yum-Yum Bangkok on 9th avenue. Go now. But be kind and leave your umbrella at home.

Also, while waiting for the train I caught site of this colorful fellow:

His sign read: Let us not forget that in this great big beautiful world that there are only two things that are really worth living for and they are love and happiness. Spread Joy

You hear that Mother Nature? Make Love. Not War.

*I had a mild panic attack while at work the other day when I thought my 10 year high school reunion was approaching this fall.  However I was comforted to know I was a year off, which means I have until the fall of 2011 to become wildly famous and successful.  I will get right on that.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Simple Pleasures: Homemade goat cheese. And oven roasted tomatoes. And Crostini. And Other lovely things.

Every Tuesday (since early February) I wake up with the excitement of a kid on Christmas morning, because Tuesdays bring something no other day of the week can bring: a new episode of LOST.

I jumped on the LOST train about a year and a half ago and have never looked back, not even during this season when the writing gets a bit clunky and deliberate, no not even then, and I suggest you do the same.  It's quite a ride, I assure you. Thankfully Neill has been a passenger on the train as well, so we are a content party of three, who gather in front of our tiny  TV, mouths agape (in fascination or disappointment...) for a full hour followed by at least thirty minutes of discussion about what we just witnessed.  Good times indeed.

                                                    (Stanley is a fan too!)

Of course we can't just get together and watch TV, no no no we need to drink.  So we have decided that our drink of choice during the duration of this season will be Absolut Mango as sort of an ode to the fruits they may find while on the island.  Also, eating is helpful, and Jürg and I do our best to put some sort of food on the table.  Some nights (like last) we don't have our act together and it ends up being pasta, but other nights, like last week, we hit a home run, and we make our very own goat cheese.

Yes you read that right, we (well, I) made cheese.  It may very well be one of the most thrilling things I accomplish all year (I aim high), and I simply had to share this with all of you so you can experience the excitement for yourself.  You don't need a must see Tuesday night show to inspire you, goat cheese can be consumed any time, and in an ideal world I would have some every day. I'm serious. There are few things I love more that goat cheese in all its creamy, tangy, sometimes herby splendor.

I never realized that making my own would be so easy, until I came across this incredible blog.  I found it one Sunday evening when the blog creator made a comment on my first Sunny Side Up post, making her the first "stranger" to comment on my blog. Which was thrilling in and of itself, but find the recipe for goat cheese, and so many other delectable dishes was the real prize.  Thank you Giao!

She does an incredible job of teaching you how to bring the pleasure of homemade cheese into your kitchen, and beautifully depicts it in photographs, so I will simply provide you a link rather than recount it here.  However I will tell you that a quart of goats milk cost me $3.50, which is the same price as a typical "log size" goat cheese, and this recipe yields at least two "logs" worth.  Not only do you get the joy of becoming a novice cheese maker, but you save money in the process! Love that!

We paired the goat cheese with some homemade oven roasted tomatoes, homemade crostini, and homemade potato leek soup (not pictured).  The soup was also from the same blog, and simply wonderful.  We already had enough potato's on hand so all we needed to buy was a few leeks and some chicken stock.  Dear friends, I tell you it's possible to eat like a gourmand on a tight budget.

Oh yes! The drinks! How could I forget?  So far we have tried three different types of Mango drinks, one of which does not bear repeating, and we continue to search for more. There are ten episodes left this season, so we have plenty of time to find a favorite.

They are the Absolut Caliente and The Absolut Firefly, which certainly don't lack in either flavor or color.  You would pay $14 a pop for these in Manhattan, but here in Queens we shake and stir to our hearts (and wallets) content.  The Absolute Drinks site has all kinds of great recipes, take a gander for yourself!

Tuesdays are the new Friday's in my book, well for the next ten weeks anyway.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Breakfast of Champions

A few days ago, I had a day off, and the night before I proclaimed "tomorrow for breakfast I am going to have oatmeal, an egg and a half of a grapefruit." I don't know why I felt the need to make such a statement, but I went to bed very excited about my upcoming first meal. it was everything I hoped it could be. Easy to make, so very healthy to eat, and I didn't find myself feeling hungry until much later in the afternoon. My usual breakfast consists of greek yogurt with granola and honey, but I think this one may need to make an appearance more often.

Speaking of champions, I have been devouring the Winter Olympics with the same fervor as I did with this breakfast-I am a huge Olympics fan. Be it Summer or Winter I love seeing athletes at the top of their game, their eyes filled with dreams of standing atop a podium with the coveted Gold hanging from their necks. When the Olympics are on there is always entertainment just a remote control click away. You have all the drama, the excitement, the anticipation, the despair, and the joy you would find in a movie of the week but it's live and unscripted.  I can't get enough of it.

Perhaps my favorite moment in any Olympic event is the moment before. The brief period of time before the athlete takes off down a hill, or around a rink, or onto a beam or into a pool.  The look in the athletes eyes, the mental prep going on inside their head.  I always try to imagine what that moment must feel like, knowing that in seconds they will be chasing after a lifelong dream, but not knowing if it will be realized. How do they even handle themselves in that moment? How do they cultivate that competitive edge that keeps them in control? It's fascinating to me. It's theatrical.

Athletes and Actors have oft been thought of as totally different specimens. You have those who are sporty and strong, and those who are expressive and sensitive.  However as I have been watching these games, it has occurred to me that Actors and Athletes may not be so different after all.  Both of us must possess a competitive spirit, which keeps you going even when you don't perform to your personal best.  Oftentimes our "fate" is determined in a matter of seconds, be it 16 bars of a song or .16ths of a second at the finish line.  We train, we get judged, we size up our competition, and many people think we are crazy for putting ourselves in such a position in the first place.  No I doubt there has been an audition which has landed an actor in traction, but the emotional wounds of some auditions can seem just as painful (albeit way less dangerous thank god).

However, one thing I always envied about being an athlete is you usually know your outcome right away.  If you have the fastest time, or you attain the highest score, then you know where you stand.  As an actor you get to be a contestant in the waiting game, which is not a fun game in which to compete.  Getting cast in a show rarely comes down to "who is the most talented" but rather "who is the right height?" "who's has a certain 'energy'?" "who looks good with whom?"  Still at the heart of it, the prizes aren't always awarded to the "best" but rather who was the best on that day.

To me, it seems crazy to ski down an icy slope at over 90mph, but to many it would seem insane to sit on the floor of a crowded studio, at 7am, as you wait in line to sing for one person sitting behind a table.
Yes, I do believe that Actors and Athletes may have more in common than we think.  Perhaps we should have shared a lunch table more often back in the days of "jocks" and "theatre geeks."  We could learn a thing or two from one another.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Simple Pleasures: Snowy Days and Snuggly Kitties

It has been a long day folks, when you arise at 4:45am after a fitful night of little sleep the wrong side of the bed is the only side from which to emerge.

Apparently the word on the street is that a good half of the country is blanketed in snow, with potentially more looming in the wings.  Here in NYC we certainly saw our fair share throughout the day yesterday, but amazingly enough the damage seems to be minimal as the early trudge to work this morning was not slowed down by drifts of snow.  They move fast here in Ol' NY, and with the heat from the subways underfoot and the snow plows which appeared from every corner out of thin air, the city really only had time to take a breath before it was back to the daily grind.

However, this evening I allowed myself to take more than just a breath, and really lay still.  In a rare occurrence Jürgen and I both had some simultaneous free time and spent a good portion of it laying on the bed cuddling with our beloved feline friends.  It was so calming to just sink into the down comforter and feel the warmth and low hum of their purr, and my heart swelled a little with my love for them.  They have been such an amazing addition to our lives and they have an incredible way of centering you when the days are long and cold.

Stanley didn't allow us to photograph him for posterity, but Toaster didn't mind snuggling with me for a few extra minutes.  

It's a lovely little gift when life affords you the opportunity to take a breath and feel the love around you.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sunny Side Up: Vol 3

Well the pots are on the stove a simmerin', and things are in the oven a bakin' and bubblin', and due to the huge new number of food blogs I have been devourin' (see my growin' list to the right), I have many recipe ideas a brewin'!


I'll have to admit that while I have enjoyed making a dish and having it sustain me for days on end, basically taking the guesswork out of "what should I eat" it does begin to weigh a bit on your spirit after you have eaten the same lunch/dinner/or both after more than a few days.  My wise mother suggests I make a bunch of dishes and freeze parts of them so I can add a little variety to my life.  She has a valid point (don't you hate it when she does that?) but I am just not quite there yet when it comes to my planning and organization. So until that day comes, monotony will be my guide.  Ima tellin' you though, this following dish was a fun one to chew on each passing day.

                                                           (©Quentin Bacon-Food and Wine Magazine)

Free Form Sausage and Three Cheese Lasagne: Followed pretty much by rote from Food and Wine Magazine (January 2010)

You can tell it's winter and our household is craving stick-to-your-ribs-and-warm-you-from-the-inside dishes.  First Chili and now this.  However it makes sense to crave hearty dishes this time of year.  Still,  even I surprised myself when I found myself turning back to page 60 and slightly drooling over a lasagne dish.  I couldn't tell you the last time I ate a lasagne, as I have never been a huge fan of the family style classic.  In the past I have found so many of them to be laden with ill-flavored meat, buried in tomato sauce, with rubbery cheese (usually a chalky textured ricotta) and heavy noodles.  All converging together to create a mass that doesn't impart any individual or distinct flavors, and promptly rests itself in the pit of your stomach and overstays it's welcome.  I'll say it here first: I haven't been the biggest supporter of lasagne. Until now.

Not only did this dish pique my interest because it seemed to fit my mission of finding dishes which are affordable and lasting, but the individual components of the dish intrigued me.  I am sucker for the term "three cheese"-kill me now, along with the fresh basil and the subtle sweetness of an Italian sausage. It was definitely a reason to jump back on the lasagne bandwagon.

Honestly, I think I could be so bold as to write "this is the best lasagne I have ever eaten." I know, quite a big statement from this little blog, but I stand behind it (and I think Jürgen would agree).  The fantastic thing about this dish is while it is filling, and certainly hearty, it's also quite light.  I ate it while on a break at work many times and never returned feeling weighed down and semi-comatose.  After all,  when you are dealing with persnickity Upper East Side housewives, you need all the energy you can get.  Also, this is the first lasagne I have had the pleasure of tasting where each individual flavor was able to shine through while complementing the others.  The use of the whole tomatoes created a fabulous caramelized oven roasted tomato flavor,  the sausage was sweet and crumbly, and the cheese rounded out the dish with the fontina being the real winner.  It brought an unexpected creaminess along with a pinch of tartness to keep your tastebuds excited.  All in all, it was good enough to make a lasagne convert out of me. Never say never my friends.

                                         (source: authors personal collection-I am no food stylist so please don't judge the dish based on this photo)

When you first take the dish out of the oven it needs to rest for ten minutes, however if you eat it the night of its going to seem a bit "soupy" but do not let that worry you. All this means is you have an incredibly delicious tomatoy juice to sop (or in my case slup) up after you are done.  Trust me on this one.

The entire recipe can be found here, but again here is a breakdown of the ingredients (with a few substitution suggestions) and the total cost:

1/2 lb of lasagna noodles (we got two boxes for $3.00)
3 Tbls of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, plus more for tossing (had)
1/2 lb of Sweet Italian Sausage* (bought a package of 6 links, totaling 1lb for $3.29)
1 cup water (had)
4 large garlic gloves, thinly sliced (had)
One 28-Ounce can of Whole tomatoes, chopped and juices reserved ($1.99-we used Hunts)
Salt and Pepper (had)
Freshly Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese (we always have a block on hand, but it usually runs between $7-$8 and lasts at least a month...make it a staple in your house, I'm telling ya!)
1/2 lb Fresh Mozzarella, cut into 8 pieces ($8.15)
6 Ounces Italian Fontina**, cut into 8 pieces ($4.99)
2 Tbls unsalted butter, softened (had)
1/4 cup thinly sliced basil leaves ($3.49 for a package)

*For those of you who don't eat pork or perhaps any meat products, you could easily substitute turkey/chicken/veggie sausage in it's place.
**If your grocer of choice doesn't carry fontina, Gruyere, Emmental or Gouda came up as similar alternatives. But do everything you can to find the fontina, it's worth it.

We made this dish on a Tuesday night and it fed us (primarily me) through Sunday.

Total Cost: $32.41 which breaks down to about $5.40 a day.

However-not only did we like this dish SO much, but we only used half of the sausage we purchased, so that Friday night (we had a bit of Lasagne overlap) we made an entire second helping of this yummy treat.  The only ingredients we needed to purchase for the second go-round were:

Another ball of mozzarella
A block of fontina
A can of tomatoes

Total: $15.13

With this second serving of lasagne I was able to feed myself for another full week (Jürg got a few digs in, and Neill got a taste as well).  This means a grand total of TWELVE days of lasagne bringing the daily total down to $3.96 a day!

Lately with all this talk of snow, I canot think of a more fitting dish for a snowed in evening.  We paired it with a viewing of the Disney-Pixar Classic Monsters Inc. on a Friday night, and I am not sure if it was the yummy-ness of the dish, or the sweetness of the movie, but I was definitely left in a puddle of tears by the end of the evening.  Fuzzy monsters and cheesy lasagne...they get me every time.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Toe in the Water

There is a term used in the theatre world, and probably in the world at large, it's called the "talent pool" or sometimes referred to as the "casting pool."  I like to imagine a bunch of artists stuck in a large pool and the trouble they might cause in the process, but thankfully this "pool" is merely metaphoric.  Obviously the pool in NYC is quite large, and I would venture to say the biggest in the country, if not the world.  LA certainly runs a close second, but they are so spread out  there in the West, here in the land of Broadway everyone is crammed onto one tiny island (and a few surrounding boroughs).  New York is full of talented people, all wading in the water just waiting to be plucked out and put onstage.   I am ashamed to admit it, but I have been a mere spectator sitting in a lounge chair in the shade ever since I moved out East.  It wasn't all my fault, as I made a deliberate decision not to worry about any career stuff until the new year.  Well, that has come and surprisingly I found it harder to dive in than I anticipated.

Ok enough with the extended metaphor's already.

I have never been one to really waver when it comes to career advancement. From a young age I have been very ambitious and have had no trouble putting myself out there when it comes to auditioning, networking and even creating work for myself.  For the most part I have always been focused and driven and relatively unafraid about the whole scary world of Showbusiness. However, when you take a little break and then try to throw yourself into an unknown scene, with new faces and names to learn, it's tempting to curl up under the covers and never come out.  It surprised me, this hesitation and trepidation.  I wasn't afraid to try, I wasn't even afraid of failing.  If anything my feelings were bordering on apathetic, which is even worse in my opinion.  I felt out of sorts, and unlike myself.  Was it New York that was doing this to me? Was the city already hardening me to a point where I couldn't muster up the energy to pursue my dreams?  I shuddered at the thought.

I kept thinking about some words of wisdom my friend Jenn shared with me: "Blair, you have to just put your toe in the water. You can't look back on this experience and think that you didn't make the most of it."

Just put my toe in the water....(ok more water symbolism...forgive me)

I kept thinking about this phrase, for days on end, and I slowly realized that what was holding me back was a sense of slight discouragement.  Discouraged that I still haven't found an agent (more on that at a later date..), frustration that I have to adapt to a new system when I had grown comfortable with the old one, and even a bit doubtful about my own abilities as an artist.

Thankfully after a very affirming voice lesson, and some more encouraging words from friends and Jürgen, I decided enough was enough.  I needed to do just that, put my toe in the water.  By no means did have to dive headfirst into the deep end, no I could wade at my own pace, but I had to start somewhere, and today I am pleased to report that I took my first step into the New York City Talent Pool.

Ok I am all about the water metaphors today!!!

And I am pleased to report that I lived to blog about it! Honestly, it was quite simple.  It was for an Off-Broadway play here in the city which I new next to nothing about, and truth be told I am not totally convinced I am even right for it, but it was a way to put myself out there and stop hiding.  Thankfully they provided scenes to read at the audition, so I didn't have to perform a the much maligned monologue, and the casting director was very friendly.  After I was done, she said "I love Chicago actors, they have such a reality and intimacy about them."  I appreciated her sentiment, most definitely.

So there you have it, my feat for the day, with hopefully many more to come.

In the meantime, please ponder these words "Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming."
(which wise fish said that?)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Simple Pleasures: Pieces of a Puzzle

They say New York City never sleeps, and you can have anything delivered, something new is always opening, and when you turn the corner you will find a block full of flavors, colors and a hundred and one things to do.

I believe this to be true, and you could while away the days hopping from museum, to restaurant, to shop, to theatre, to bar, to a late night diner and do it all over again the next day, and it would probably take you years, if not a lifetime, to do it all in the Big Apple. However despite all of the happenings briming outside of my door (well to be honest my neighborhood isn't that exciting, but take the train a few stops and you get my drift) nothing beats spending time at home, on a quiet night, with someone you love, enjoying a classic jigsaw puzzle.

Yes I went from 27 to 87 in two minutes flat. No shame!

I have recently fallen back in love with the joy of puzzles, and I am bringing Jürgen down with me! Apparently he didn't spend many days growing up putting them together, which was a travesty in my opinion. My family spent many days, particulary during vacations, bent over a table finding pieces to connect to one another. We were particular fans of the murder mystery puzzles where you didn't have a picture to guide you and once the picture was complete you would use clues from the image to solve a crime. It makes for some very good times I assue you.

Brittany was also a frequent puzzle companion of mine, with our proudest achievement being a whopping 5,000 piece puzzle which took the shape of a large fish. We put in together at my family's cabin during the summer of 2000 (I think!) and it took many visits to the lake to complete, but once we did we covered that baby in some kind of shalack and hung it on the wall with pride. There are few finer joys than putting in the final puzzle piece.

So you can imagine my excitement when one of my anniversary gifts (we are one year old!) from Jürg was a good old fashioned jigsaw puzzle. Traditionally year one is "Paper" so it was a perfect fit.

I would recommend puzzles to anyone, but particularly for people who may be on a tighter budget than others, they are a perfect way to add a little entertainment to your life without spending a lot of money. I'm telling you pour yourself a glass of wine (apparently I always need to be drinking), put some music on the iPod and go to town. Depending of the size and difficulty level of the puzzel it can provide days, even weeks worth of entertainment. For us, we had a puzzle with 1,000 pieces and I would venture to say it took about a week to finish. This may be the first puzzle we completed together, but it will certainly not be the last.

I recently received a new iPhone, so in an effort to better document my life through photos, here are a few images from our puzzle adventure.

Our puzzle was titled "Greetings From America!" which was a series of stamps representing America's 50 states. Apparently Barnes and Noble's selection of jigsaws was rather grim, but I think it made for a great first time puzzle challenge, and it allowed me to figure out just how many US States I have visited (total 26 for me, 31 for Jürgen).

I love the process of starting with a pile of disconnected pieces on a table top and slowly finding their place in the big picture.

*Tip* Start by separating out all of the straight edged pieces and build the border first, then organize the pieces by color. Or in this case by the number 37

Since we had a photo to guide us we were able to get a rough layout of the picture once the border was put together.  It's helpful to create structure amid chaos.

                            The anticipation mounts when you only have a few remaining pieces

And finally, you place the final piece to complete the picture, breathe a sigh of relief and give yourself a pat on the back.

Unless, you are in our situation where magically the final piece of the puzzle has gone missing! The injustice!

Looks like California is incomplete! I hear Los Angeles has lost a bit of it's soul, perhaps our puzzle piece went out west to find it?

I just did a little browsing on this site and the great majority of the puzzles fell in the $10-$25 category.  I do declare that is a bargain if there ever was one! I am so grateful to Jürgen for giving me this gift and in turn many fun filled evenings, and I am also thankful to have been reminded that even when you live in one of the most exciting cities around that is often the simple, quiet times in life that are the most memorable.

What ways do you entertain yourself when you are on a budget?