Thursday, February 20, 2014

Add Another -ina to the Resume

     I just wanted to give you all a quick update on the opera career front. Still waiting to hear back from some auditions, but I am pleased to announce that I will be covering the role of Annina and singing in the chorus of the Bronx Opera's production of La Traviata.

     Andy will also being singing Germont in the production. (It seems like Traviata has become our show as a couple.) So if you come see the show, you'll get to see both of us!

     The performances are in May, and I'll be sure to post more details as the date approaches. For now, I'm just excited to start rehearsals soon.

More information on the performances and Bronx Opera are available at their website.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

My Honey Valentine

     Now that I am no longer working as a bartender, I rarely mix drinks anymore. I miss creating cocktails sometimes, and so as Valentine's Day approached, I thought it would be the perfect occasion to put my bartending skills to use.

     The main inspiration for this cocktail creation was Andy's new found favorite liquor, Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey. I introduced him to it not long ago, and it has swiftly become his go to booze of choice. Naturally, I thought the sweet liqueur would be the perfect base for a Valentine's Day drink, so I started brainstorming.

     The cocktail was success, and I think it would be a tasty beverage for any season. I've shared the recipe below in case any of you would like to try it for yourself.

My Honey Valentine: 

  1. Pour 2 oz Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey (or any honey whiskey liqueur that you prefer, Jim Beam and Wild Turkey both make their own version).
  2.  Add Tazo Passion Iced Tea. (It is a floral and fruity tea but not too sweet. It balances the honey nicely.)
  3. Add ginger ale. (Adds a little fizz, and the ginger compliments the honey flavor well.)
  4. Pour into sugar rimmed glass and garnish with lemon and strawberry. (Lime would also be a nice addition, and for a valentine flair, cut the strawberry into a heart shape.)
     It is a delicious drink inspired by a special guy. I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine's Day as well, and if I get a chance, I will try to share more cocktail creations with you in the future.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Bronx Bound

     After yet another hiatus, I am back and ready to blog! We are officially connected to the internet, so I no longer have that as an excuse for slacking on the entries. What better way to celebrate my return to the world wide web than to finally share the story of how I ended up in the Bronx with my beau and my black cat.

     It seems so long ago, but just a few months ago in November, Andy asked me to tag along with him while he looked at an apartment in the Bronx. His current sublet was almost up, and when a friend told him that a room might be available in the apartment, we took the train up to Bedford Park to meet the friend's father and to check it out. 

      When we arrived, the situation with the apartment was not at all what Andy had expected. I won't go into the details (our neighbor did...the story took up most of two hours while the actual tour took about 15 minutes), but it turned out that the entire three bedroom apartment was up for grabs rather than just a room.

      Before we sat down with our neighbor and began discussing the apartment, the thought that I would be looking at a potential home for myself had not crossed my mind. I was simply there to give Andy a second opinion, but as we walked through the spacious apartment (huge by NYC standards), I found myself being charmed by every room. Suddenly our neighbor starting going on and on about how wonderful it would be to have a nice couple like us living upstairs.

      I was startled at first by his assumption, but his words planted a seed in my brain. Andy and I had never discussed moving in together, and neither of us was sure how the other would feel about such a proposition at this point in our relationship. We were temporarily spared having to make that decision just a few days after our visit, however, because the original tenant who had disappeared (thus leaving the apartment up for grabs) randomly reemerged. Andy didn't particularly want a flaky, vanishing roommate, so the Bronx apartment faded from our minds.

   Cut to Thanksgiving week: Andy gets a call from our neighbor with apartment news. The original tenant had run off again, and they weren't giving him any more chances. The place was all ours (and only ours) if we wanted it. Suddenly we had to have the "do we want to move in together" talk, and we had to make a decision right away. December was fast approaching, and they wanted the place taken by the 1st of the month.

      As you can probably deduce, we decided to make the big step and moved to the Bronx. It just felt right from the start, and I am loving our new home. We were so lucky to find such a nice, affordable apartment. There are so many benefits to finally living in NYC proper as well. The money I save now that I don't have to take the Metro North every day more than makes up for the slight increase in rent. I'm also a big fan of not having to wake up at 5 am and make three transfers to get to work in the morning anymore. Yonkers was nice enough, but getting south of Westchester has made the commute much easier.

     What has astounded me most about the entire situation surrounding our move to the Bronx is the incredible generosity we encountered. New Yorkers have a reputation for being rude and inhospitable, but I have met so many people that prove this stereotype is far from accurate.

      Our neighbors went out of their way to make us feel welcome to our new home from the start. They drove us around for a tour of the neighborhood. They took us out to lunch at a local market. They even let us borrow their car to move our belongings from our separate sublets. Anyone willing to drive out to Yonkers and haul all my sweaters is the picture of generosity in my book.

      The most amazing example of the kindness of strangers was when a friend of our neighbors offered to furnish our entire apartment for free. Apparently her mother-in-law had passed away, so they had a lot of quality furniture that they just didn't have room for but didn't want to discard. She offered us enough items to fill three apartments, and almost every furniture item pictured is on loan to us from this generous acquaintance.

   The friend even paid for professional movers to bring all the furniture into our apartment. All we had to do was tell them where to put everything. It was overwhelming to experience such a gesture. Andy and I just kept wandering from room to room with baffled faces. Occasionally when we were alone we would just stare at each other and go, "Is this really happening?" It was a total "Pinch me. Am I dreaming?" kind of day.

     The best part about inheriting furniture from an elderly woman is the quality. Every piece is so unique (sometimes dated but never cheap). I've posted some exampled of my favorite pieces, including a gorgeous end table with gold trip and our hefty coffee table adorned with what I have dubbed "the Valkyrie swans." Sirius is particularly fond of nuzzling these fearsome looking birds. (I usually just end up bumping my knees on them.) Still...the beauty is definitely in the details.
     It was such a blessing to move into a fully furnished apartment. Since we both had moved out to NYC with mostly clothes and essentials, we had very little to put in our new place. Being able to walk in the front door without being greeted by stark, empty rooms really made me feel at home right away.

   Also, money is always tight living in the city, so it was great not to have to worry about making big purchases that would strain the wallet. They even gave us some kitchenware and linens! Sure we lacked a few key items, but overall we were set.

     Possibly the most unexpected and therefore most appreciated items they bestowed upon us was an upright piano. It is in great shape, and only a half step out of tune! We should probably get it tuned one of these days...practicing is always a little more difficult when I have to transpose everything up a half step. Having our piano is such a luxury though. I'm very grateful. What kind of musician wouldn't appreciate a free piano? I must have done something good in life to be this spoiled.
         We may decide to replace some pieces of furniture in the future, but for now we are quite content to enjoy the generosity shown to us in the Bronx.

      Of course, giving the apartment out own personal touches always helps make it feel like more of a home, and luckily we were able to haul some of our own belongings back to the Bronx with us on our return from the Midwest Christmas Road Trip Extravaganza. Thanks to Andy's expert packing skills we were able to fit quite a few desired items, in particular a wussy black cat in his carrier.

      My main contribution to our new home (of course) was books. I never feel truly settled until I have my favorite literature with me.We could only fit a small portion of my collection in the rental car, so I'm still missing the majority of my beloved tomes. (Apparently Andy can only fit so many sweaters and novels in the back seat and still leave room for Sirius...) I'll just have to be patient and reunite my collection gradually. Don't worry though. I have plenty to read in the meantime.

   As far as useful contributions to the apartment, I made my mark in the kitchen. Now that we have my limited selection of cuisine technology and cookbooks, the cabinets are looking a little less sparse, and our dinners have become slightly more varied. I forgot a few key kitchen items in my parents' basement, so perhaps when I'm back in Iowa for another visit, I can pick those up while I'm gathering more literature. I'm sure Andy would be much more pleased to lug pots and pans back east than my boxes of fiction.

     I'm also looking forward to making personal touches to our apartment together. Things always feel more special when they hold a shared memory. We're slowly acquiring more items that are considered "our" belonging rather than "mine" or "yours," and with them, each one solidifies the feeling that this is "our home."

      Andy's belongings probably did more to amp up the decor, since he has plenty of artwork to brighten our walls. I'm especially fond of his original photography (an example is pictured above), and I can't wait to see more of his creations displayed. 

      Well, I think I've rambled long enough for one post. I'll be sure to share more of my insights on living in the Bronx in the future, but I wanted to share the story of how Andy and I ended up in this borough. It has been a wonderful two months so far, and I'm so glad we decided to take this opportunity together.

      In true cat lady fashion, I'd like to end this post with pictures of Sirius enjoying the new apartment. Andy constructed some awesome kitty shelves in the living room, and though the fat cat was a bit nervous around them at first, he has taken a fancy to them at last.

      He has mastered going down the steps, and of course he excels at napping on them. We have some work to do when it comes to climbing UP the shelves, but for now, he seems more than content letting Andy place him on the top step and going from there.