Monday, May 4, 2015

Adventures in Food

     It has been a long time since my last post, but to be honest, I've been a bit of a homebody for the first few months of this year. It has been a pretty financially and mentally draining start to 2015, and as a result, Andy and I have been lying low on the weekends most of the time.

     The other big factor has been the weather. It seemed like spring was going to remain a distant dream indefinitely, but now that the sunshine and warm temperatures have become more frequent, I am determined to get out and explore the city more.

     New York City has a plethora of outdoor fairs and markets, and I happened to discover the Hester Street Fair online last week which piqued my interest. I asked Andy if he wanted to check it out, and as always, he was game for any explorations.
     "Located in the heart of the Lower East Side and housed on the historic grounds of New York City's largest pushcart market at the turn of the century, the Hester Street Fair pays homage to those roots by bringing together a collection of NYC's best vendors in a bustling outdoor marketplace.  We curate the finest artisanal food, vintage clothing, jewelry, crafts, home goods and much more. " ​

     When we arrived, my first impression was, "Oh, it looked much more extensive on their website." It was definitely less square footage than expected, but they certainly packed in a wide variety of vendors in the small space.

     As always, my first priority was food! They had so many choices it was difficult to pick. They had everything from wood oven pizza to grilled corn to buttermilk biscuits, but we ended up opting for some Asian cuisine. I picked the Korean fried chicken sandwich from Red Star, and Andy chose some squid with scallion pancakes. Everything was delicious!

     I love that Andy is always willing to share food with me, and I'm happy to return the favor (although I still struggle with the concept of sharing ice cream).
Andy looks so angry that I'm taking his picture!
     My sweet tooth demanded that I round the meal out with some dessert, and while this blackberry popsicle from Mom & Popsicles was a bit seedy, it did not disappoint in flavor. I even managed to share a few bites with Andy which I shall count as a true accomplishment.

     After wandering the fair for a bit, we decided to venture up to Houston to hit up a couple more food venues, one known favorite and another that we've been curious to try. It was a lot of walking in one afternoon, but a little exercise on a beautiful day can never go amiss.

     Our first stop was Prohibition Bakery which fuels both my love of cupcakes and booze. I made sure to purchase a few cupcakes that I know I love (Pretzels & Beer is probably our favorite), but I'm always looking forward to trying more flavors. New varieties that we explored this time around included: Mint Julep, Sangria, and Blood & Smoke. I only wish the cupcakes weren't so miniature!

    Andy and I have a running list of New York restaurants and food vendors that we want to try. We're always getting recommendations from acquaintances or seeing restaurants on Food Network that look interesting, and while we've managed to cross a couple places off the list, it seems to grow faster than we can keep up! Our third and final stop of the day was one of these designated venues, and it was a truly New York experience.

Lox galore!
      I walk by Russ & Daughters on a fairly regular basis since they are located near my hair salon, but I've never actually stopped in before. After peering in the windows and seeing the shop featured on television multiple times, however, I knew we had to check it out. 

     I knew Andy would love Russ & Daughters for one key reason: smoked fish! I've never been a huge fan of smoked fish, but I was impressed by the variety housed in this one cramped shop. It was obviously a popular local spot, because we could barely find a place to stand in the narrow aisle as we waited for our number to be called. One man who was a few numbers ahead us was practically having a conniption every time they served anyone before they got to him. He must be a lox addict!

Spreadable heaven!
      One thing I was looking forward to tasting was bagels and cream cheese. They had at least 10 varieties of cream cheese, all of which looked delicious. Um...where has goat cream cheese been all my life? It was amazing! It seriously needs to be widely available in large quantities.

      Don't worry. We were not total gluttons. We didn't eat a bunch of food at the fair and then turn around and stuff our faces with cupcakes and smoked fish right away. Somehow we managed to wait until dinner before we consumed the rest of our goodies (Andy has more patience than I do), but they were worth the wait.

     Ever since some unappetizing experiences as a child, I have never given smoked fish of any variety much of a chance. Andy has a knack for making me push beyond my preconceived boundaries (something that I truly love about him), and after much pestering on his part, I reluctantly agreed to try some of his beloved smoked whitefish.

    I have to admit that I was wrong. Smoked whitefish is delicious. It was a bit salty and surprising at first, but after a few bites, I was hooked! My dad would be so proud.

      If I have learned anything from Andy, it has been to keep an open mind about food. He is always inspiring me to be more adventurous in all things, and while I like to think I'm pretty willing to expand my horizons, there are certain things I would never try on my own. I don't think I will ever be quite as fearless as Andy is (He keeps talking about how he wants to try brains...), but I am discovering so many new cuisines with him by my side.

     I'm sure we'll have more adventures to share in the coming months. I just hope that they aren't all food related for the sake of my waistline. Moderation is a struggle when I'm surrounded by so many amazing restaurants on a daily basis. New York City is never short on food options. That's for sure.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Valentine's Day Cocktail: Loko 4 U Jell-O Jigglers

     I hope everyone had a lovely Valentine's Day. Andy and I spent ours shopping for furniture at Ikea and being productive. Not the most romantic of experiences, but as long as I get to spend the day with the guy I love, I'm happy.

     I decided to make a tradition of creating a Valentine's Day cocktail for Andy each year, but I wanted to mix it up a little bit this year. Andy loves Four Loko (I'm not a fan. Too sweet!), so I thought it would be fun to use his drink of choice in a fun way. I immediately thought that it would work well in a Jell-O shot, but I really wanted the drink to convey Valentine's Day. Then it hit me: would it be possible to make Jell-O shots in the shape of a heart? The answer: Yes.

I always loved the fun shaped Jell-O Jigglers as a kid, so why not make an equally enjoyable adult version?
 Loko 4 U Jell-O Jigglers

2 boxes of cherry Jell-O (I couldn't find actual Jell-O at our local grocery store, so I used D'Gari brand gelatin instead. Either should work marvelously.)

2 cups fruit punch Four Loko (This is almost a full can, so you could probably get away with using the entire can.)

1. Cook the Jell-O according to the instructions on the box. Let cool to luke warm temperature.

2. Add the Four Loko and stir until thoroughly mixed. (Try to get all the carbonation fizzed out during this. Less bubbles equals a more solid jiggler.)

3. Pour into pans. Jello should be about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch deep.

4. Place pans in fridge and let solidify overnight.

5. The next day use a heart shaped cookie cutter to cut out the jigglers. (The cookie cutters I used were a little too big for a stable jiggler. I would suggest  a 2 inch cutter or smaller.) This recipe yielded a lot of jigglers, probably around 12-16 total.

6. Place on a platter and present them to your loved one(s). Enjoy responsibly!

     I hope you all enjoy the recipe. You could certainly alter this for other holidays. Just choose an appropriate pairing of Jello and Four Loko flavors and find the right shaped cookie cutter!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Upcoming Performance: Albert Herring

     Happy New Year to you all! I can't believe it is 2015.

     I still feel like my body is recuperating from our Christmas travels, but the fatigue was worth it to see all the people we love and care about back in the Midwest.

     I totally forgot to take lots of pictures like I intended. I was too busy enjoying the good company instead of photographing everyone. I know I'm a terrible blogger for neglecting to document my life, but it's a tough habit to break.

    My body is also still feeling fatigued in the aftermath of audition season. Those first few weeks of December kicked my butt, and while I'm currently busy preparing the role of Belinda with Sing Through Central, I am enjoying a more relaxed singing schedule as the new year dawns.

    And now let's get down to the whole point of this blog entry, the upcoming performance:

     I promised you all that I would update you as soon as I found out more details about Andy's upcoming performance in Bronx Opera's production of Albert Herring. You can find more details about the casts and locations at their website here or at the Facebook event page here.

     Andy will be singing on January 11th at Lehman College and January 17th at Hunter College, and when I find out any information about discounted tickets, I will gladly pass it along.

     It is a very fun show, and I highly recommend it to those who already adore opera or for those who are curious about the art form. I'm not in the show, so I plan on being there as Andy's resident fan girl. I just hope I don't get a massive nose bleed in the middle of Act 2 like I did when I attended a performance of Albert Herring at my undergrad. That was an awkward situation...

    I hope to see some of you at one of the performances, and I hope I shall have some upcoming performances of my own to share as 2015 progresses.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Tis the Season...(Audition Season That Is)

    As usual I've been severely neglecting the blog, but I just haven't had the time or motivation for it recently. I also haven't been taken many photos these days, unless you count pictures of the cats and I doubt any of you want another blog post dedicated to felines.

Ornamentation is half the battle.
     Now that Thanksgiving is over, I know most people are gearing up for the holiday season with shopping and Christmas music. The beginning of my December, however, will be almost entirely dedicated to opera related activities, mainly auditions!

     After weeks of submitting dozens of applications (and paying dozens of application fees...), it is a relief to finally get the chance to do some singing. I have at least four auditions within these next two weeks, and then afterwards, my least favorite part of the process: waiting to hear back. Impatience has always been more daunting to me than stage fright.

     In other singing related news, I am currently studying two operatic roles with Sing Through Central. It's nice to have a project with a concrete goal to work toward when I'm practicing. My first sing through will also be taking place in the first two weeks of December, so between that and coachings and the aforementioned auditions, I find my free time dwindling quickly.

     I'll being singing Servilia in La clemenza di Tito this month with Sing Through Central, and then I'll be kicking off the new year with a sing through as Belinda in Dido and Aeneas in January. I'm excited to be learning both these roles, and the music is sublime.

     Since I will be busy with auditions and preparing these two roles, I can't guarantee I'll be updating here regularly for the next month or so. As a peace offering, I leave you with a video of the duet between Servilia and Annio from La clemenza di Tito:

(Kate Lindsey is a pretty dreamy Annio, don't you think?)

Upcoming Performance Alert:

      There will be more details hopefully later this month, but I wanted to give you all a heads up that Andy will be singing the role of the Vicar in Bronx Opera's upcoming production of Albert Herring, so if you're in the area in January, you should definitely come see the show. I hear the music rehearsals from our neighbors' living room, and it sounds fantastic. The two casts have not been set yet, but as soon as I know which nights he is performing, I will put the details up here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Family, Friends, and Fair Food

Andy and the record setter for most Midway prizes accumulated in a day!

     I've been aching to make a trip back to the Midwest to see family and friends this summer, and last week, Andy and I finally took time off and flew back to our homeland. It was so great to reunite with loved ones we hadn't seen since Christmas, and I'm already looking forward to our next planned return in December!

     As luck would have it, our trip to Minnesota just happened to coincide with the last weekend of the State Fair. I've been to the Iowa State Fair many times (even worked there a couple summers), but I'd never made it to Minnesota edition before.

     I take great pride in my home state's fair, but I have to say that both Minnesota and Iowa are eerily similar in most ways. Lots of people.
Various foods on sticks, many of them fried. Livestock. The Midway. Humidity. So all in all, I felt right at home.

     Although I'm pretty sure no one ever wrote a musical about the Minnesota State Fair. Just sayin'...

     I have to say that we tried to tackle the fair with far too large a group. I think there were nearly 20 of us, and we probably spent most of our day standing around and saying, "Who are we waiting for? Where did they go?" It was not a sound plan of action. We should have split into smaller groups and met up later, but since it was the only chance for some of Andy's family to spend time with him while we were in town, we tried to make it work with our large herd on the busiest weekend at the fair.

Another State Fair Staple: The Giant Slide
     Apparently it was record breaking attendance at the State Fair that weekend, and the crowds were massive. Worst of all were the food lines! I love cookies more than anyone, but no way am I waiting in line for 20 minutes. Luckily our more persistent companions let me have a couple cookies from their bucket, so my craving was satisfied.

     For those of you who may be worried that I didn't get the binge eating experience that every fair goer must endure, I assure you I met the stuffing your face requirements with all of my favorites (giant lemonade, mini donuts, and pork chop on a stick) as well as some new treats (cajun fries, apple cider pops, and  frozen grapes).

     I will admit that the Minnesota State Fair had a much larger Midway than the Iowa one. They even had a Kidway as well? Minnesotans take their carnival rides and games seriously!

     We also had the luckiest kid ever with us at the Midway! I think he walked away with 5 or 6 prizes. Unheard of! We shouldn't have ditched the fair and headed to the casino to keep his winning streak going! I also felt bad for his dad having to lug all those stuffed animals around for the remainder of the day, especially the giant dragon. (It was a freaking awesome prize and surprisingly lightweight but cumbersome.) According to Andy, however, "He's a dad. That's his job." No sympathy.

      The one area of the fair that I was definitely looking forward to was the Minnesota Craft Beers area. I enjoyed living in Duluth for the plethora of local brews available, and I was looking forward to tasting some new brews.

      I felt a bit overwhelmed when I had to choose which flight of beers I wanted to try. Why couldn't I sample all of them? After much deliberation, I chose the flight of dark beers because it was the only set that contained 4 brews I had never tasted before.

     Apparently Andy's aversion to dark beers runs in the family, because everyone grimaced when I told them which flight I'd chosen. Oh well. More for me to enjoy!

Ye Old Mill: A State Fair Tradition.
Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox.
   I had a ton of fun at the fair, but by the time we started home, I was tired and bloated. After 8 hours of walking, my feet were OVER it. You'd think living in NYC where I walk quite a bit on a daily basis I would be better prepared for the physical strain of the State Fair, but my body was rebelling hardcore. Needless to say I slept soundly that night.

     Later that week, we made the trek over to Wisconsin to spend time with my family at the cabin. I would share photos of all the fun outdoor activities, rained the entire time we were there. (Stupid weather.) So I figured no one would want to see pictures of all of us playing Hearts, gorging on Top the Tater, singing musical theater, and looking sad because our bonfire got quenched by rainfall.

     I'm bummed we didn't get any sunshine so we could lounge on the dock, go swimming and kayaking, etc., but it was so great to spend time with my family and friend. I wouldn't mind, however, if our next visit to the cabin was equal parts fair weather and friendly.

     As always, our trip home felt way too short lived. We always try to fit so much into a week, because we want to see everyone and do everything. Now that we're back in NYC, I'm exhausted. Aren't vacations supposed to be relaxing?

     I have to admit that I am more homesick for the Midwest than ever upon our return to the East Coast. NYC is awesome, but it never truly feels like home.

     In the meantime, fall is fast approaching and with it the ominous audition season. Wish me luck!

     And simply because I couldn't resist...

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Run With Us

     I've always been a big soccer fan, and now that I live in NYC, I can finally attend MLS games regularly!

     Ever since Thierry Henry joined the New York Red Bulls, I've been a fan of the team, so when Andy bought us tickets to their season opener, I was thrilled. Some girls may want chocolates or jewelry for a Valentine's Day present, but he always knows how to pick the perfect gifts for me.

     Since then we've gone to at least 5 games at the Red Bull Arena as well as an away game viewing party. I think it's safe to say we are hooked. Especially with all the affordable deals we can find on tickets, a night at a soccer match has become our regular date night at this point.

    Whether Andy will admit it or not, soccer has definitely grown on him. I don't think he previously had much interest in it, but he's quickly is becoming an expert. I'm pretty sure he knows some of the rules better than I do. I'm still working on getting him a plaque or something as reward for sitting through all those world cup games with me. It was a lot of soccer to watch in a short amount of time, and he survived! (I'm also converting him into a cat person, but I don't think he'll ever agree to that title. Even if he and Sirius are BFFs...)

     Don't worry, Andy. I promise I will watch as many Vikings games as you want, even if it means trying to cram our way into Bar None with the rest of the Minnesotans who reside in NYC. Besides, we'll need a new regular date night option once the MLS season is over.

    In other news, we will be making a trip back to the Midwest to visit family and go to the cabin in less than a week, and I can't wait!!! I definitely need to get out of the city and away from the job for a little while, and it will be nice to see our families again. A week from today, we'll be at the Minnesota State Fair, chowing down on fried food on a stick. This next week can't go by fast enough!

Monday, July 14, 2014

June busted out all over and straight into July!

     I feel as if I made the mistake of blinking at the beginning of June, and all of the sudden we are halfway through July! This summer has slipped past me when I wasn't looking, and I'm not ready to give it up yet.

     I was promoted a second time at work in June, and while I am truly grateful to be so appreciated and rewarded at my job, it feels as if the new work load has eclipsed all other aspects of life for the past month and a half. I haven't had time to step back and really register how things are going these days.

     It is as if I have just recently taken the blinders off, take a look around, and realized, "Okay, I'm finally feeling less stressed at the day job, but I've neglected my passions..."

     Survival mode has gotten me through a lot of crazy times in my life, but just managing to make it through an 8 hours shift and then desperately trying to keep up with chores and laundry every week is not particularly fulfilling.

     Audition season is inching closer every week, and if I don't regain my focus, it will sneak up on me before I'm ready. The balancing act between working to survive and finding time to sing has definitely become tricky this summer, but I'm determined to do my best to get out of the daily grind mode and remember why I moved out here in the first place!

     I've also been battling with the other dilemma we singers face...waiting! Some performers fear the audition itself, but what I hate more than anything is waiting to go into the audition and even worse is waiting to hear back from the company! I understand that with so many singers auditioning for companies it is almost impossible for each of us to get a response, but it is maddening when you simply don't know. I'd much rather get the rejection email than nothing at all because at least I know where I stand.

   Obviously on a related note, the few auditions I did earlier this year are still up in the air. No responses... I'll be sure to keep you posted of course.

    All this ranting would lead one to believe that my summer has been all work and no play, but luckily I have Andy to make sure I take the time to decompress when I can on the weekends. We've been exploring NYC one parade at a time, and I promise that I will be posting about my favorite soon...