Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last Days of Christmas


The last week leading up to Christmas just FLEW by. Between getting in last minute visits with friends, family time and singing, the week disappeared so quickly that I suddenly found myself back in the car, driving across the country before I even knew what was happening!

So, here goes:

Visiting with Friends - I got to visit with so many friends, including Jessi and Steph (who were in town from Portland and South Africa respectively). It was so much fun to see them and have some quality time together!

Left to Right: Steph, me, Jess!

Sick! - One of the hard parts about having a three year old preschooler for a goddaughter is that oftentimes you end up with an awesome sickness that she picked up from some other kid. Yum. Caity's parents Nik and Solange ended up getting sick along with Jason and I with some awesome stomach funk. We're all finally feeling better, though!

Caroling! - I had a great time spending a few days caroling with Rene's quartet. We even were the quartet that will be featured in next year's Knott's Berry Farm Christmas Commercial! It was so much fun to spend a few days with my tenor from last year, Reggie, and to get to know Rene and Janell better. Thanks, guys!

All dressed up for the Knott's Tree Lighting Show! Left to Right: Rene, Janell, Me, Reggie

Christmas Day! - Caity-monkey received a big basket of dress-up jewelry from my parents. She proceeded to dress me up like her own personal doll! Check out all those mardi-gras beads! (Insert crude joke here.) It was a slightly hectic, but lovely, Christmas day! Check out how glam my sister Kelli was!

Dressed up by Caity for Christmas! The flower on my head is the final touch. Aren't I beautimous?

Kelli and I all glammed up for Christmas!

Driving to Florida! - We made the drive to Florida in three days, stopping for a while in New Orleans (my first trip to the city ever!). It was a surprisingly smooth and easy drive, although we both are still recovering from the trip. By the way, check out the gas prices we saw on the road. Jealous?

Gas somewhere in Arizona.

Sunrise over Texas!

So, that's where we're at! It's currently New Years Eve, and we're in Orlando, packing to leave on our cruise tomorrow. We're headed to Honduras, Belize and two stops in Mexico. The weather should be beautiful, and the seas calmer than our last trip. :) Tonight? We continue our lovely Christmas celebration with Jason's family, simultaneously welcoming in the New Year.

How about you? What are YOU doing New Years Eve? And incidentally, let me wish you a very Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Caity is Three!

On Sunday, my amazing goddaughter Caitlin Erin, turned three! She has grown up so fast, and is such a special girl, being raised by her awesome parents.

To celebrate the Monkey's 3rd birthday - here are some of my favorite Caity Monkey and Auntie Bears photos! (Disclaimer - it's a LOT harder to get a 2-3 year old to slow down for a picture than an infant who has no choice!)

Happy Birthday, Caity Monkey! I can't believe how quickly you've grown!

What to get for the three year old ballerina princess? A BELLE tutu OF COURSE!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Misadventures of a Sometime Christmas Caroler

Before I begin this story, here are a few things that you should know about me: I love to sing. I love to entertain. I unabashedly love Christmas. I desperately hate traffic (even more now that I've lived in Wyoming). The thought of being late to ANYTHING gives me a borderline panic attack.

I've been blessed to sing several gigs with Mixed Company this season, although I was unable to sing in a quartet due to our travel plans. It's been just the right balance of enjoying my Christmas and getting my caroling fix in. So far I've been able to see and/or sing with just about everyone in the company, and standing side by side with them in our Christmas velvet has been one of the highlights of my season!

That said, I live in the South Bay. Mixed Company works primarily in Orange County. This results in lots of drive time and too much traffic time. So, for the last three years, I have made a conscious effort to drive early - hours early if need be - to avoid traffic, and ensure that I am not late for a gig. I just wander through a mall, or sit in a coffee shop and read - anything to alleviate the incredible stress that I put myself under if I'm afraid of being late.

Last year, in the pouring rain, I got a flat tire while driving in the fast lane. OF COURSE - I had allotted only an extra half an hour of drive time, and that one night had not left for the gig hours before it was necessary. Still - thanks to the heroics of my incredible husband, I made it to the Summit House and was dressed and ready to sing 5 minutes before gig time. I almost had a heart attack trying to get there on time. After that misadventure, I was neurotically early for every gig the rest of the season.

Fast forward one year. I have been obsessively early to every gig again this season. On Thursday morning, Jason and I picked up his cousin Lara at the airport. To make sure there was space for both Lara and her luggage, I took my costume out of the car. Later that afternoon, I drove to Newport Beach for a gig at the Five Crowns. My call time for the gig was 6:30pm, and I arrived in the area at 3:30pm (SEE? Obsessively early!). At 5pm I left the mall to get something to eat, put gas in my car and touch up my hair and makeup before the gig. As I got into the Jeep, I realized that something seemed strange. My Costume was in TORRANCE!!!!!! And it was RAINING! And the 405 was basically a parking lot going both directions! I would NEVER make it home to get my costume and then back to the Five Crowns in time. Jason couldn't be my hero this time as he was in Burbank with Lara and Bob. My mom wasn't answering her phone. I called my dad and my cousin Mark (who works with Dad), and begged them to bring my costume halfway down the 405, to meet me in Seal Beach. In the meantime, other members of my quartet for the night were stuck in traffic, almost getting in accidents, or calling out sick at the last minute. It was nuts.

Mark and Dad came through for me, though and managed to navigate the traffic and get my costume to me by 6:30pm. I then jammed the rest of the way BACK to Newport, and while we weren't able to start the gig at 7pm (as scheduled), were on the floor, and singing at 7:15pm - IMPRESSIVE considering how far we had to go! And you know? For a night that started so crazily, we sure had a great time! So thank you, Mark and Dad, for being my heroes on Thursday!

As you might expect, this made me even MORE neurotic about being early. The next day, I was singing a lunchtime freebie in Downtown LA. I had also accepted a 2pm gig that I thought was in Agoura Hills (a stones throw from Downtown LA). Of course, I realized too late that it was not Agoura Hills, but the Agora Steakhouse in IRVINE. That's a 50 minute drive with absolutely NO traffic!!!! I thought I was being so helpful, and that it would be NO problem going from one to the other! Boy was I wrong! The freebie ran a little long (but it was awesome to sing with Molly, Reggie and Rene!), and the valet service took an ETERNITY to bring me my car. I hit every light on the way to the freeway, and changed routes mid-trip to avoid traffic. All the while fighting a panic attack, brought on by the fear of being late two days in a row.

I made it. Not by the 1:30pm call time, but at 1:50pm - ten minutes before the start of the gig. And I had a great time!

Still though, I NEVER want to feel panicked like that EVER again! I'm trying to avoid any extra encouragement of my neurotic obsession with being early. Early is better than late, though. And we have a saying in the business, "Fifteen minutes early is on time, on time is late, and late is fired." Apparently I've taken that to heart!

December Recap to date!

WOW!!!! Seventeen days since I've blogged! Not sure where the time has gone, but it has seriously flown!

Here's how it's flown:

-Jason was gone for sixteen days, and returned last Monday. I missed him a ton while he was gone, but it was great to be able to freely plan my days - scheduling visits and sub days and caroling gigs on a whim! However, sixteen days was just a tad too long, and I was beyond ready to have Jason home.

-Christmas party at Nik and Solange's - this was the first time I've been available for the party (and not caroling) in a few years, and it was a great time! I won the Christmas song contest (I have an unfair advantage - being that I am a professional caroler AND can generally read Spanish, Latin, French, Italian and Portuguese), plus there are some carols that can be traced to specific countries - i.e. The Carol of the Bells is often called the Ukrainian Christmas Carol - hence, I see a song title in Ukrainian and automatically know that it's the Carol of the Bells without needing to read Cyrillic. Plus, in their annual "build something cool" contest, everyone was assigned a figure from the Nativity to create out of foodstuffs. I was assigned a "Wise Man". It was really fun to see how everyone created their characters! Then, in the gift exchange, I won this amazing Flamingo Wreath. I knew that Jason would love it, too, and he DOES!

-Substitute teaching. I worked a total of 9 days subbing, and it wasn't as bad as I expected. It wasn't great, and I DID have to remind myself regularly that "when these kids are back in school in January and February, we'll be in the Caribbean, South Africa, and back to the Bahamas." With that reminder, I did just fine. I am, however, grateful that school is now out for Christmas!

-Caroling! It turns out that this was the season to be an alto sub for the caroling company. They needed someone who was available for gigs and knew the book, I've been able to be that person for them, and I have been singing QUITE a bit, while still being able to have a personal life during the Holiday season. Works for me! PLUS - I've been able to sing several times with Nate, Rovin and Reggie - my boys from my last two seasons, and it has been a BLAST!

-Disneyland! My dear friend Jen volunteered to sign me and two friends into the park for a day. Jason is Disney-ed out after a lifetime of Disneyworld, so I was able to take Solange and her sister Jenny, who in turn brought their daughters for the day. It was really fun, and amazing to see the wonder and excitement on the faces of both Caity and Brooke - who prefer to be called "Belle" and "Barbie Fairytopia" respectively. Thank you, Jen, for a special day!

Jenny and "Barbie Fairytopia" (Brooke)

Solange and "Belle" (Caity)

We're here in California for nine more days and then hit the road headed back to Orlando. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from La-La-Land!

Thursday, December 1, 2011


It is the first of December, and I'm working my heiney (I'm not really sure how to spell that!) off substitute teaching and caroling, too. With the passing of Thanksgiving, I've been reminded of how absolutely blessed I am with a wonderful life, incredible husband, generous family, and awesome friends.

Since Jason's back at the ranch until Dec 10-ish, I've been filling every moment with work and fun things - namely quality time with friends and family. And while I'm missing Jason like crazy, I'm taking full advantage of him being gone, and honestly... I'm having a blast!

Here's a quick recap of what we've been up to since we made it to California!

I finally made it to the dmv and renewed my drivers license in person, since this was OF COURSE the year that I HAD to go in in person for a new photo. After 13 years, my old photo is no longer "the one". Unfortunately, I no longer have a hilarious topic of conversation. Fortunately, I will no longer have bartenders and the like who ask for my ID laughing at me. Here's the before and after. Wish it could have been clearer, but all the security measures on the cards makes it difficult to get a clear shot!

Obviously, it was high time for a new Drivers License Photo!

I was able to attend my god-daughter Caity's preschool Thanksgiving "performance". She is at SUCH a fun age right now, and it totally warms my heart that she still knows who I am and is so excited to see me! The more of a little person she becomes, the more I realize that we must be kindred spirits. I swear, she is just like I was at that age. Always singing and dancing and being girly. Very friendly with everyone she meets and absolutely precocious. Even better? She noticed I was at her performance, and in the middle of one of their songs screamed out, "Hi Auntie Bears!". For those of you that don't know, one of my longtime nicknames as been ErBear, shortened to Bears by Caity's parents Nik and Solange. So that's what my Caity Monkey calls me! And Caity and Bears dance ballet every time we're together. We sing princess songs while we dance and it's an absolute BLAST!

Caity in her Thanksgiving performance!

Jason smoked another turkey for Thanksgiving this year, and it was just as delicious as it was last year! My cousin and his wife were down with their precious new baby who is a total sweet nugget - no pictures, sorry! And Thanksgiving was wonderful! Here are my sister Kelli and bro-in-law Jeff on Thanksgiving!

Kelli and Jeff!

My parent's Christmas gift to Jason this year is a compound bow. He and Dad already picked it out and have had it properly weighted, so the two of them have been practicing with their bows in the backyard at Dad's arrow target.

They are too cute together. And Dad's shirt is awesome, by the way!

Since Jason is back at the ranch, I've been cramming lots of friend time in - Lunches with Jen, Visiting time and dinners with Solange, making dinner and Christmas tree decorating with Kelli. It's been an absolute blast!

Decorating with my glamorous sister!

My Michigan Wolverines went 10-2 in the regular season, defeating Ohio State for the first time in 7 years! AND we have a serious shot at a BCS Bowl Bid. It's Great to Be a Michigan Wolverine!

And to top it all off, I get to sing many, many gigs as a sub for the caroling company this season. I lost the opportunity for a regular season since we've been all over the place, but they've thrown me many gigs already as a sub, and I'm hoping for a few more! Tonight, I'm off to sing with a quartet at the Five Crowns in Corona del Mar!

And mostly, I'm thankful to be "on vacation" at home. I'm really appreciating the time and making the most of it! Happy late Thanksgiving to you all!