One last Christmas-related post

Ok. It’s January 3rd. 2012 has officially begun. And I have one more thing to say about Christmas.

Sooooo. You might have noticed my absence the last few weeks, Dear Internet, which was due to my overwhelming schedule. Especially my overwhelming baking schedule. So Imma gonna talk at you about my heaps o cookies!!!

I decided to take the bulk of the week before x-mas off in order to do all that x-mas baking. Cause I wasn’t going to not do my massive x-mas bake-a-thon. No sirree!!

The three days before Christmas I baked 10 kinds of baked good. Ten batches of sweets. !!!!!!!! Cause I’m nuts. I was even planning on down-sizing my baking this year. Apparently not. Also, though I have no photographic evidence currently, I made Christmas cakes with my mom this year. But, like, weeks before Christmas. So for some reason I keep forgetting about them. . .

Let’s get to the crazy then, shall we?

In no particular order:

1) Gingerbread!

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A traditional and perennial favourite!

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2) Traditional shortbread

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With a twist, of course. I used dark brown sugar in this one. Cause it tastes even more awesome. And I used the shortbread mold my dad picked up (sooooooo much easier than rolling out and cutting cookies). Though next time I won’t make such huge bricks of shortbread

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3) Nutmeg Maple Butter cookies (from, where else?, Smitten Kitchen – a new favourite)

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Like, a week before I start my baking I have to come across this post on my most favouritest of blogs. AND I HAD TO HAVE IT!! The Christmas cookie fever was officially upon me. And damn, but these are stupidly tasty cookies. I know everyone hearts the pants off the apple pie cookies from the same (AWESOME) blog, but these are my absolute favourites!!

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4) Toblerone shortbread

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Do I need to justify this for you, Dear Internet? Or can we all just agree that this is necessary?

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Awwwwwww yiiiiiiissssssssssss.

5) Ginger shortbread

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Cause I lurve the ginger. Also, it’s a stupidly simple recipe (from this book) from Donna Hay, the Australian answer to Martha. Definitely recommend this one. And you can flavour it whichever way you like best.

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6) Apple pie cookies

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These were such a hit from my fearless leader’s birthday party, that they had to make a near-immediate reprise. Super-fiddly to make, but oh so worth it!!

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7) Honey Lavender shortbread

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I don’t remember exactly where I got the idea for honey shortbread, but I just had to have some for x-mas! And let me tell you, substituting honey for sugar makes shortbread mighty fine. And lavender? Why not?? It’s floral fragrance works very well with honey. Definitely adding this to the repertoire!

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8) Spitzbuben

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These are straight from my childhood. My mom used to make them, before I stopped letting her do the baking. . . And they’re from her childhood in Germany. It means, from what I understand, “naughty boys”, and they’re delicious sandwich cookies made with lemony shortbready dough and raspberry jam. And you poke out three holes on top to make a screaming face-looking arrangement. Like only the Germans would come up with. Though, what do you expect from a culture that came up with “schadenfreude”?? More awesomeness, that’s what!!

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<eeeeeeeeekkkkkk!!!!!!> and soooooo tasty!

9) Rugalach

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These are from Bonnie Stern‘s Cuisinart cookbook, sadly out of print (or maybe her second Cuisinart cookbook? I forget which. Are there even two of them???). If you’re not Canadian, you probably don’t know who she is, but she was pretty big in the Toronto food scene at least. These have a flaky cream cheese-based dough, tart jam, and a cinnamon/hazelnut/cocoa/brown sugar filling that literally makes the best cinnamon toast EVAR. Cause there are always leftovers. . . And only partly because I make too much in the first place in order to ensure leftovers. Only partly.

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And last, but not least,
10) Mincemeat Tarts

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I make my own mincemeat (of course), from a recipe handed down through my paternal grandmother’s family (I think. It’s definitely from the English side of my family tree), full of raisins, and currents (which technically are just a different kind of raisin. Weird), apple, spices, and, well, beef suet. Not my favourite, but it gets the job done. I make a pâte brisée for the dough (with butter, of course), which is easy to make and work with. And they is tasty. I ran out of mincemeat this Christmas, so next time around I have to make a new batch :D. Some of which I’ve promised to a friend of mine. Can’t wait! I love using the meat grinder!!

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Aside from the massive amount of tasty treats, it was a lovely lovely Christmas this year (despite some minor issues I won’t discuss here) full of family and friends and goodwill towards my fellow man, some of which was contributed to a last-minute getaway to a cottage nicely north of the city. And I hope you had a lovely time too, Dear Internet. Happy New Year!!

Let’s see what 2012 has to dump on our heads. . .

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Bow ties are cool

On my way home from a lovely swim, and in between the vast numbers of knitting projects, I’m going to take a minute to tell you about my AWESOME Saturday. Completely aside from the joy that is returning to Standard Time, this was a weekend to kick other weekends in the ass. Hard.

It became known to me recently that a friend of mine had never seen Doctor Who. Shock, horror!! So her sister and I conspired (along with herself, of course) to make a super-fantastic Doctor Who marathon indoctrination party!! Yay!!

I made myself a fez (cause fezzes are cool), and dressed up as a mashup of the eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond. Cause I’m a redhead. . . I baked a TARDIS cake:

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It’s an applesauce spice cake with cinnamon cream cheese icing (dyed incredibly blue. . . There were many blue tongues), from do-I-need-to-tell-you-where-I-got-the-recipe??

My friend and her sister baked Doctor Who-themed cookies (it was strangely satisfying to eat Daleks), concocted Sonic Screwdrivers (veeeeeeery tasty!), and made a little TARDIS hideout for the cats:

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Super cute!!! And if you loomed over the cat with your arms in the air and hands all clawed threateningly, she’d go hide in the TARDIS. Which was awesome 😀

We also watched a boatload of Doctor Who. Oddly enough. A bit of the 9th, a few of the 10th, and almost all of the 11th’s first season when it was suddenly after 1AM and I had to get going before transit stopped for the night. About 14 hours of Who. I’m still blitzed on the happy from Saturday.

Ever since (all two work days. . .), we’ve been e-mailing each other at work, sending pictures of the Doctors, Doctor memes, amusing pictures of (the amazing) David Tennant with kittens. Good times.

Life is good 🙂

Now all I have to do is make every day that awesome. Doable? I don’t know, but it’d sure be worth the effort.

The rest of the weekend went well too – singing Sunday morning went well (shock, surprise!!) and the boyfriend came over for dinner and we played through the rest of Portal 2. Well, he played, I watched and gave suggestions and helped figure out some of the tough ones. Can’t wait to play through it myself!! Have to finish Portal. . . Wheeee!!!!

Aside from the insane list of things I need to do in the next couple of months, I’m feeling really content about a lot of things. There are things I might be changing in my life in the nearish future, but for right now, things are pretty good.

How’re you feeling about the run-up to the holidays, Dear Internet?

 

Close to burning out here

Ok. I know I’ve been doing the mope mopey mope mope about having no job after next week, but after a week of sleeping very poorly (all told, less than 5 hours a night, and averaging under 3), terrible transit issues making the evil commute eviler, and having too much to do in the time I do have, I am totally about to implode.

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I know it’s very “First World Issues” of me, but I’m thinking I’m getting close to a mental break. Maybe if I sleep as much as possible this weekend? Sad as it is, I’m looking forward to going to bed early tonight. . . But I’ll exercise this weekend, which will hopefully help in the energy collapse problem I’m dealing with currently – I’m helping my dad tomorrow with fitting our ditches with river rock so we don’t have to mow the evil steepity of the ditches anymore. He’s had a heart health scare and I don’t want him to do _all_ the work himself. Plus, squats are good for the glutes and quads. And Sunday, the boyfriend and I are going to hike a new trail for us (look out for photos!!) before a yummy backyard BBQ! So that’ll be nice and relaxing.

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It feels kind of like I’m tearing in two right now. Part of me really needs to find a job, get working, start earning/saving/moving out of my parents’ place/growing up. But another part is feeling so stressed out right now that I’m pretty sure my immune system has gone completely haywire. And maybe excessive office air-conditioning isn’t helping out, but my internal body climate control is seriously on the fritz and I cannot sleep even if it’s mildly warm and slightly humid anymore. Which, thank you circularity, means that on top of everything it’s harder to sleep, and getting harder all the time. Thus making me even more twitchy and stressed out.

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It’s like this morning, while waiting for the subway, I hit a metaphorical wall. A mental roadblock, if you will. Waiting an extra 8 minutes for the subway due to a disabled train further back on the line became the one more thing that I couldn’t take. The piece of straw that the camel swore lustily at for all the back surgeries. It’s not a big deal really, nothing I haven’t gone through before (thanks, woefully underfunded transit system! You rock). But today it’s like part of me said, “You know what? No. No more.” and then went on vacation. Leaving the rest of my over-stressed self to take up the slack. But that rest of me is about to need back surgery too. It probably doesn’t help that I’m waiting to hear that I won’t get a second interview, that I have some horrible disease, and that my credit card will be hacked again. You know, something crappy. On edge would be one way to describe it. . .

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So here I am. Teetering at the edge of space. And I don’t know if I’d change a thing. Well, maybe I’d change my paycheque to a nicer, more useful number. But, as my mom wisely says, you can’t have everything.

At this juncture, if I were a doctor, I think I’d prescribe sitting on a patio on a balmy summer evening with a tall glass of refreshing malt (or liquor/mixed) beverage condensating on the table beside me while attempting to write the Great Canadian Novel. Though, I should probably stick to poetry to start . . .

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Though who knows how the muse will take me 😉

Yet another last-minute insane Katie project. . . Brought to you by – Insomnia!

Hey there!

This post, as previously indicated, will not be about food. Or music. Instead, I will show you some pictures of my most recent insane project spurred on by sleeplessness. Wheeee. . .

sewing it up, using the "whatever thin papper I had around" transfer methodthe finished purse. sorry no precess shots - too busy making the damn thing

close up of finished embroiderywith stitched border

the "bead" I made from a bunch of semi-precious stone I had lying aroundthe bead on the bag

ironing the patch in preparationpinning it into place

sewing!close-up of the finished product

the clutch! and it hold a fair amount of stuff

I needed something to put all my stuffs into at the super-shnazzy wedding I attended this past weekend. So last week, I made and embroidered a bag. I cannot justify this insanity, but I did end up with a super-awesome clutch! I used the fabric from the dress I’m going to be making, and lined it in scraps from the dress I had made for the super-shnazzy wedding. I embroidered a patch with Aimee Ray’s Circle of Mermaids pattern, which I fell in love with on Feeling Stitchy, which is a great resource for those wanting to get into/look for inspiration in/find like-minded sewists who love embroidery and other stitchery arts. I’m sorry you can’t really tell what the colour of the main fabric is from these photos – it’s an almost electric teal, and really gorgeous.

I guess I should also show you that super awesome dress I had made for said shnazzy wedding.

Here’s the inspiration dress (I found photos on my desktop! how organized am I. . .)

see Dear Golden Vintage's Etsy page for more beautiful clothing

so gorgeous!

It was so gorgeous, that I had to have it – but it was a size small, and I am not a size small. . . So I found a dressmaker who could recreate the gorgeousness. And here’s the version she made for me:

sorry about the burry :(me and the boyfriend, looking like a total nerd. so cute :)

You’ll notice, Dear Internet, that I went with a much darker titanium-silver fabric. I think I works better than the pale silver would have, with my hair and skin tone. Also, I couldn’t find a fabric that matched the original. And hey, I fell in love with the fabric I found, so it all worked out in the end.

I also made the jewelry that went with the dress – I used a bunch of different shades of dark pearls (5 strands for 20$ at the best bead store on Queen Street!) that played off the dark silk tones in the fabric. Learning to string pearls was a bit of a learning curve, let me tell you. . .

Here’s a close up of me and the boyfriend, you can see the jewelry better in this one

jewelry close-up!

It was a beautiful ceremony, in a beautiful venue. The food was astounding, and we had loads of fun dancing the night away. Not to mention the copious quantities of alcohol.

Now I get to look forward to making my own dress (we’ll see how that goes. . .) for the next wedding I’m attending this year. As well as a second attempt at that Circle of mermaids pattern. . . soooo many ideas of where to go with that one. . . I can’t wait to go raid the sewing store for more embroidery floss 😉

What are you looking forward to, Dear Internet?

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On a more unpleasant note – I’ve spent most of the afternoon in pretty excruciating pain, which has luckily subsided into the only occasional stabby badness. You might or might not be able to tell from these photos, but I have a lovely skin condition that, until I got a new dermatologist a few years ago, had me basically in chronic pain territory.

So strapless dresses, v-necks, deep scoop necks, etc. all make me a bit leery, cause it’s not to fun to have people staring at your chest (possibly disgusted). It’s taken me a while to accept these damn scars (a product of sun damage from not one, but count them two! reeeeeeeeeaaaaaallllllyyyyyy bad sunburns growing up, and a bout of bad skin in teenage land, thanks to dad’s genetic code) and I generally now prefer to keep them covered to protect them, but I’m happy that I’m at least starting to push myself outside my comfort zone and show some more skin every so often. The only problem being that they occasionally flare up with painy and I have to get more injections. Which equals a half a day of total badness.

So, if you please, when I have more pictures that may show my scars, just don’t stare at them unnecessarily, I’ll be able to tell 😉

Lovely Long August Weekend

A couple of weekends ago was Canada’s Simcoe/Civic holiday long weekend. And, boy, was I looking forward to it. I spent the entire week before aching for it to be Friday, 3 pm. I went up to my friend’s cottage (our Wednesday night Baritone), and stayed for three glorious days.

It was serene. I got to sleep in until after 9 am (very exciting). We ate lovely food (loooooots of spinach) and spent hours in the lake. It was a little slice of heaven. I even got a bit of colour – very surprising since I’ve pretty much never tanned in my life, ever. Though it’s mostly sunburn and freckles. Us pale people have to take what we can get, I guess.

I only wish the boyfriend could have come too, but he was at a bachelor party white water rafting experience thing (with spa treatments, of course). Ah well, there’s always next time.

The bride’s bachelorette was this past Friday night, as previously discussed (soooooo much fun! and the food went over pretty well, though my tasty cupcakes went uneaten 😦   well, I enjoyed them at least), and in just a week, they’ll be married!! Soooooo exciting! And you’ll get to see the dress I had made.

Aren’t long weekends the best, Dear Internet?

Newfoundland, part 2 – The Wind

I had a nice swim after work this afternoon (cough. two weeks ago now. cough), and a good browse session at the Gap (to avoid rush hour traffic. . .), so I’m definitely in a better mood today! Which hopefully will translate into being less of a whiny bitch. I can’t guarantee I won’t be a total sarcastabitch, cause that’s my default setting. At least the whine will be dialed waaaay down?

Onwards and upwards!! The first full day of my Newfoundland adventure will be the subject of this post. The day of the wind. We woke up (most of us from the most uncomfortable beds we had ever had the displeasure to sleep in . . .) the next morning to doors that would not stay shut from the drafts, and whistling winds, ominous groaning noises from the house, and trees that threatened to become horizontal (Mr. Dunn, our nigh-unto-incomprehensible neighbour, said that it was nothing. Only 130 km/h. I’m glad I didn’t see real wind then.) But we had a nice lazy Sunday, with big breakfast and some Arrested Development. We eventually decided to brave the wind (I had to get a few ingredients for a baking project I wanted to attempt. how surprising), and visit the nearest largeish village (with the closest Foodland), called Ferryland.

Ok. So, I’ve tried to upload the photos twice. . . I will take a wee break (read: two weeks and several other blog posts. . .).

And now that I’ve moved to WordPress, maybe this will go a bit easier. . .

Still some kinks to work out, but they’re all there, with a minimum of fuss – yay!!!

Next time I might even try to caption them.

But, the gist of it is – we went to the Colony of Avalon, in Ferryland. It’s one of the oldest and best preserved 17th century (or was it 16th. . .) sites in North America. In the mass o photos above, you can see some artifacts from the digs, pretty views of the archeological site, some photos of the 17th century kitchen where they do demonstrations, as well as from the little hike up the hill to the lighthouse. There’s also a photo of a windfarm we passed on the way back to our cottage. And some lupins that I went to pick with one of the guys. All in all a great day. Or so we thought. . . Dun dun Duuuuuunnnnn!!!!

We’d stopped at the Ferryland Foodland on our way to the Colony of Avalon, so I had every thing I needed to make my tasty baked goods. So after dinner (and some drinking. . .), I started preparing the dough and fillings. Partway through this very fun time, one of the guys came downstairs saying that the water in the washroom wasn’t running. At all.We took turns filling pots and bowls and going upstairs to fill the tub (so that we could have a semi-functional toilet at least).

There was much moping and gnashing of teeth. And a certain amount of desire to jump ship. But the next morning, Mr. Dunn came by and fixed the water pump and everything was hunky dorey from then on 🙂 yay!!!

Stay tuned for the next fun installment of My Trip to Newfoundland!!! I hope you’re enjoying the hijinks, Dear Internet.

MUSIC!!

Ok, The Internet, I know this blog has been rather more heavily slanted toward the food end of the blogging spectrum that I originally proposed.And this post won’t fully rectify that discrepancy, but I’d like to actually start talking about the music in my life. Shock!


Last night A couple nights ago (ooops. . . forgot to finish this post yesterday. . .), I went over to a friend’s house for a Settlers of Catan games night (awesome game, by the way – if you at all like board games, check it out!). There was too much food, too much alcohol (if that’s even possible), and some lovely music. Which reminded me that I’ve been super derelict in my duty to make this a blog about music, as well as baking. Though, I should take a moment to tell you that part of that too much food I just mentioned was a cake that I baked, from the archives of the lovely Smitten Kitchen. Which everyone enjoyed (yay!) and there will be a new blog post on the making-of that delightful confection to come in the near future. Keep your eyes peeled for that one!!


But back to music – after the game (where the person who’d never played or seen the game before was the winner. . . we were soft on him. That’s right we let him win to make him like the game more. Next time it’ll be different), we all congregated in the living room and listened to a recording of the piece of music our fearless leader wanted to look at. (This of course is for the quintet I sing with, not the Sunday choir.)

We might have finished singing for the season, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start preparing for the next one. We’ve been having soprano issues for a while now – our first (and the closest to our hearts) ended up not being able to sing on Wednesdays (the day we sing) because of work (and then eventually ended up moving back east to be closer to her family this past December.) Then was the month of trying to figure out not having a soprano (while awesome, four (or more)-part harmony is the best so we ran through a few until we found a great singer with whom we had a really good blend (and, incidentally, helped me to become more confident in my own voice, which also helped the blend). But her work was making it harder and harder to justify taking a whole evening out of her schedule, and at the end of the year she decided that, though she’ll help out when we need her, she can’t come back full-time in the fall. Our fearless leader has gotten in touch with one of the sopranos we’ve had sing with us as a sub before, but she’s not sure yet if she can do it. She has a sister who might be able to, and another sub we’ve had might work out. But it’s all up in the air right now. Sigh 😦

That’s a really long-winded way of saying “We practiced a piece for 4-part lower voices” – specifically, Vicotria’s Duo Seraphim, arranged for TTBB, in case we need to have a few weeks of soprano-free services. Luckily I am an alto with a pretty decent three-octave range, and the first tenor part doesn’t really challenge the lower end at all. And after listening to the piece, we actually ran through it (sight-singing 101) a couple of times. And I felt like I had finally come home. It’s only been a few weekes since singing wrapped up for the season, so I hadn’t realized how much I really missed it.

We weren’t perfect, and I don’t think the large amount of alcohol I consumed was too helpful here either. . . But it was still heavenly. I’ll have to start carving out a chunk of time each week to keep in practice, as well as to learn some new music we’ll be adding to our repertoire in the fall.

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I hope you’ll bear with me for a moment, but I have something I need to get off my chest about the singing I do. As I said in one of my first posts, I have been singing since I was 6 or so. Somehow I ended up in the junior choir at my church – my Dad’s been big into music his whole life and his parents before him, so it’s not too surprising I ended up singing. So I grew up in a choir, and absorbed a love of choral music by osmosis. I might not have had any classical training, but “singing my whole life, pretty much” is nothing to sneeze at in terms of experience.

That being said, we have a choir master/organist (CM/O) who doesn’t trust us. Over the last few years, I have begun to really notice this problem, especially since I also now sing in a very small group where we literally have to trust each other or it’ll just fall to little bitty pieces. We also sing everything a capella, so we occasionally go flat or sharp – but we go flat or sharp together because we’re actually blending with the voices we’re singing with. On Sundays, our CM/O plays the organ (unfortunately very loudly) while we sing (even ahem especially for pieces that are supposed to be a capella), and plays the piano very loudly during rehearsals. We can’t hear each other, how can we blend? If we go flat (which we occasionally do, cause hey! we’re actually human. Surprise surprise), the sections of the choir can’t hear each other, can’t blend with each other, so we end up singing in different keys (on the most spectacular failures). And then CM/O gets frustrated with us and plays the right chord at us really loudly right after we’re finished singing. Might as well just scream “Hey!! You guys sound like shit!” And the more she plays loudly with us, the less confident we are in our blend, and more problems crop up. . . It’s been really hard to go from one group that sings with trust and challenges us to try new (and sometimes scary hard) music, to one where our CM/O will tell us how rests work. . . I know you want consistency, but thanks so much for the patronizing, it really makes me feel great.

Another issue is the kind of voices she prefers: Operatic voices. And this is a choir, apparently. So, having a nice little choral voice in this choir has given me a really big problem of trusting my own voice – for a long time I thought my voice was crap, because of this CM/O. Insecurity issues. But, do you know how hard it is to sing, and sing your best, in a choir where you know your sklls aren’t really appreciated? If I hadn’t started singing on Wednesdays, I’d still be under the impression that I was a useless member of the choir. In addition to giving me an inferiority complex, the kind of singers our CM/O prefers make it really hard to have a choir that blends – operatic singers don’t blend (some just can’t), and in many cases they have voices that are massively huge, which is another barrier to good blending.

And I like our CM/O – she’s quite a good keyboardist and composer. She’s a really interesting person to talk to. I’m just getting to the point where I don’t know if I can actually stay in this choir for much longer. I’ve been saying this for a while now (and the boyfriend will just sigh and shake his head since he’s heard it a bunch of times before), but I might soon be leaving the choir I’ve been singing with for the past 22-or-so years. And that’s really very scary – what if I can’t find a new choir with people I like as much (especially since I have such a hard time warming to people anyway) and who sing as much great music (even if we do fairly often sing the same things over and over again)?

What if I can’t find a choir that would like to have me??

I have the summer to think about these things, and maybe look into finding a voice teacher (if I have a reliable source of income at some point) to help me potentially get into a more professional choir. I don’t know what I’ll do, but I’m already sad at the idea that maybe this is the end of something that’s been such a huge part of my life.

Any thoughts, Dear Internet?