Sunday, December 27, 2009

My Christmas Vacation

With my trip back to Oklahoma looming tomorrow afternoon I feel it is time to give the round up of my week in MN and my Christmas with my family.

Starting with "A Day in the Life of an Elf"
It's a animatronic holiday display put on by Macy's in downtown Minneapolis every year with a different theme. This theme feature elves in different stages of the day preparing for Christmas.

...Elves making candy canes...

...Elves eating chocolate...

...and a pig dancing in front of a group of animals decorating a Christmas tree were just a few of the delightful scenes.

We went as a family before, 13 years ago, and when my mum and I got there we remembered why. The line to get in was epic and comprised (obviously) of families with small children. But it was fun and worth the wait. Plus my mum is a blast to be with and we got some shopping in afterward!

Between cool new treats like honey comb on blue cheese (sounds crazy, tastes great) and yoga classes, I got a lot of practicing done, and planned my recital program for March, probably making it the most productive vacation I can remember. Here's the cheese thing, btw:
Serve it on a cracker or similar for best results

Christmas day came and went in record time as usual and we had a great time exchanging gifts
Christmas morning (and yes that is a photo of me and my adult brother in the corner)

Personally, I am coming back with so many wonderful things I can't be thankful enough. I couldn't think of very many things I wanted but I got those things and more. I feel like I have maintain an attitude of gratefulness. I find it difficult not to get caught up in the desire for more stuff (I think we all do) but my current storage space problem definitely kept my imagination in check when it came to asking for Christmas presents.

My parents, brother, and I went out to see Up in the Air the day after Christmas. It was good not great but pretty much exactly what I thought it was going to be. Overall I thought it was a sincere effort and although I wouldn't go see it a second time I would think it's worth the time even it you want to wait for the redbox release.

Right now I am sitting on the couch and watching 60 minutes next to my dozing grandmother and it really feels like the holidays.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday vacation resolutions

I started my new years resolutions early. I have started working out regularly, eating better and more consciously, and also practicing smarter and harder.

I had taken an extremely long sabbatical from regular singing. I think one of the major lessons I have learned from this year away from academia is how self-motivated one must be to continue moving forward in this career. I feel like I have always "known" this but being in school I never really had to put it into practice. There was always something to prepare for like the next show, recital, jury, or lesson. Without even the motivating power of weekly lessons (and by my last year in school I was taking two and a half hours of lessons/coaching every week, so spoiled!) it's easy to get distracted by things like food and sleep and my inner voice, whose mantra apparently is "don't worry about it, you have all day tomorrow to practice."

After a small series of auditions for summer work etc. I found myself once again feeling totally apathetic to the act of productive directed singing on a daily basis. It wasn't until I realized that just because I was done with those auditions that I wasn't done with singing for the season. I decided to give myself a real plan for my singing goals. My plan not only includes an overhaul of my aria package (tidying up all the loose ends I have been meaning to get around to) but also adding a full role to my repertoire AND performing a full recital. All of this is to be accomplished in a mere three months. Impressed? So am I. I have sketched out a calendar of mini goals and deadlines within my three month time frame and am feeling beyond confident about it. I do have a couple of recent personal discoveries to help me a long the way:

1. My new method of practicing: I record my entire practice sessions and while I am practicing I listen back to parts of the recording. It gives me an accurate representation of the sound I am making (because we all know that trying to listen to yourself while singing is a BAD idea). I also talk to myself in the recording about what I am feeling and thinking about an approach to a phrase or after I have sung something. Doing this helps me record how I approached some musical item so I can attempt to continue doing it correctly and keep improving. I seriously endorse this practicing method for anyone who is beyond the point of requiring a teacher's presence every time you open your mouth. Practicing like this has totally transformed my productivity and focus in the practice room. It's like taking a voice lesson from yourself. This was a method suggested to me by a professor at Eastman (from my visit in October). It is amazing.

2. Practicing an hour at least everyday: Even when I don't want to or don't have time or energy to practice I force myself to do some productive singing (not just sing through some things). When I don't have enough energy I only vocalize and work on technique because I know that it will force me to focus, where as i might be tempted into just singing if I work on repertoire. If I'm sick I speak through my repertoire and work on interpretation. Basically, I'm trying to follow the "just do it" philosophy. Which leads right into my next motivator.

3. Do something for my career everyday: This is a philosophy I have heard of from a variety of sources and when I feel like putting something off I just think of this sentiment and feel inspired to persevere. Honestly, I think this statement can apply to so many things including practicing and exercising, both of which can help sharpen my skills and image.

No time to waste now, back to practicing.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Life, always getting in the way of my plans!

So Saturday when I was supposed to be making my nourishing soup I was so sick and tired I slept the entire day after getting home from work (*ugh!*). I had made my stock the night before and popped it in the fridge intending to finish the next day and I didn't get around to it until now.

Ok, the stock is AWESOME! It actually tastes like chicken broth (as it should) and has totally validated my renegade cooking style. When it comes to food I lean to the fearless side. Generally I manipulate recipes or forgo them all together. When I taste something I like that I want to make (as long as it isn't a cake, but I'm getting there with baked goods as well) I say to myself, "I'm sure I could figure it out." Honestly, sometimes it works, sometimes not so much, but this time I OWNED that chicken stock.

I think next time I'm going to try the tips and tricks described in Mother Linda's Chicken Stock 101. I also cannot wait to try cooking beef and fish stock now being all inspired about broth.

I made the broth into a chicken soup with my chicken pieces I had retained and rice stick noodles. Sort of a faux phở in honor of Kasey's favorite soup.

**CONFESSION** we've been cheating on the food plan. It is working and would've completely worked if I had been able to convince my better half to have lentil soup for lunch four days straight. I as well grew weary. My note for next week is to include more variety in the meals to keep us to the plan. I will say we haven't strayed often and we've gone out way less than we normally do. I'll be making a plan for next week tomorrow.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Two days, one chicken

So after making Cornish game hens a couple of weeks ago and helping with the super delicious turkey this past Thanksgiving I thought it was time for me to try my hand at a whole chicken solo. I roasted a chicken in the oven which is more difficult than I thought it would be (it didn't cook all the way so I had to put it back in the oven after I had cut it up) but it was yummy. I served it with kale and potatoes.

Why make a whole 4lb chicken for only two people? Because, this chicken is going to get me through more than one meal. Tomorrow I'm going to try making pho for the first time... well not exactly, more like Asian style chicken noodle soup (more on that tomorrow). Tonight I will be making my very own chicken stock from the carcass and giblets.

Wish me luck, it's a lot of firsts for 24 hours.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

More bacon

Hey-o! Just finished my Thursday night shows and I'll tell you what, I am feeling full of Christmas cheer.

Today's menu was a little less exciting. I made salad with bacon and hard eggs for me with dressing made out of omega oil blend and lemon juice (it was delicious) and fried eggs, bacon, and toast with a side salad for Kasey because i didn't want to scare him with healthy dressing.

Keeping in healthy trend of the day I started a new work out routine. My friend Peyton posted an article that I found so motivating I made it my new home page.

Music news: I have been pulling my hair out trying to come up with pieces to fill out a lent recital. I think I'm halfway there. I just hope my pianist will be cool with the music I pick out.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bacon and beans

So first day of the food plan gets off to kind of a shaky start and it's my fault. This morning I woke up feeling absolutely pooped so I didn't get the breakfast/lunch parts out the way I had hoped. HOWEVER, I did make my soup that I planned on making.

Lentil, split pea soup, featuring bacon!

This was my approach:

3/4 lb of bacon chopped goes into a pot. Brown it up.

Then toss in some chopped onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Enough to make it delicious.

Throw in a pound of lentils, a pound of split peas, 12 cups of water and 4 cups of stock (I used beef stock because it was the lowest sodium kind I could find at the grocery store yesterday)

Brought it to a boil and then simmered it on low for an hour. I made a huge pot of this soup because I want us to be able to eat it for a couple of days but I could have easily made way less.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

95 cents per meal?

Can I do it? Well I'm going to try.

I bought $40 dollars worth of food today after planning a weeks worth of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for me and Kasey. The food costs break down to about $0.95 per meal per person.

Things being as they are I thought it may be a good idea to cut down on the food costs my special man and I incur. We have a history of going out for every meal (*bad*bad*) because when we're hungry we want food now! This habit means we can easily spend over $50 a day on eats. And this is in spite of the fact that I love cooking.

This week I'm gonna try to DIY everything and I have a plan. Stay tuned to see if I can feed Kasey and myself for only $40 for the whole week.