Hey 2012, what’s up?

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(Source: Nerd Boyfriend)

So. Do I have your attention now?

No? How about now??

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(Source: Who Is Matt Smith? )

Well, now that sexy men have gotten your attention, Dear Internet, I’ll get to my post. Which doesn’t actually have a whole lot to do with those images. Sexy as they are. . . Though, to be fair, I should probably even things out with some sexy woman action too. Just to be fair.

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(Source: Karen Gillan’s InStyle photoshoot

It’s a new year, and everyone’s getting all revved up about making resolutions and turning over a new leaf. Cause, you know, an arbitrary date management cycle has recommenced? Usually my resolution is that I won’t make any resolutions, cause it’s kind of a sham and hooey and they never get kept cause nobody ever makes really realistic goals for themselves. And then there are the tears and recriminations and apathy, and why start that vicious cycle when I only just jumped off the last one? Not that I’m a cynic or anything. But this year, something’s different. I’m at the cusp of making some changes in my life, and it just so happens that I want to start these changes now, at the turn of a new year. New Year’s Resolutions Bandwagon, you are being jumped upon by me, finally.

Grouped into a few areas, here are my goals for this new year:
1) Manage Money Like an Adult, dumbface
– don’t use the credit card as a crutch, if you can’t afford it, don’t go for it
– pay off the little bit of debt I’ve accumulated
– start actually saving money
– develop a proper budget

I’m planning on finally moving out sometime this year, so I really think I should buckle down and become an adult about money. Like now.

2) Get Healthy.
– start the process to diagnose a potential health issue I’ve been dealing with for the past six months
– develop a regular exercise schedule
– plan on changing some food habits, develop a healthy diet plan (where “diet” = the food I eat, not fad self-denial/starvation plan. Cause that shit won’t work for me)
– hike more. Lots more. And try to be more active in general

As I say above, I’ve been having some minor health issues since I finally got a job last spring. I guess the release of all the pent up stress of the two years previous messed up my system even more than I’d thought. And, having spoken with my doctor briefly about what’s going on, she agreed that we should definitely do some (wheeee. . .) testing and get to the bottom of things. And part of the treatment for the condition I might have developed include diet changes and increased activity. Which I wanted to do anyway. So. Win-win?

Now, what does this mean about my baking obsession?? Well, I’ll probably not change a whole lot, cause the things I bake, I bake them for other people. I’ll just have to pretty much not eat most things. And, I’ll probably start playing with new recipes, to test substitution options, and test the Healthy Baking Waters. But let me reassure you all now, there will still be pounds of butter. Cause, sorry margarine enthusiasts, it’s just better.

3) Make Decisions About Things That Have Been Pissing Me Off (finally)
– specifically, decide what I’m going to do about my choir issues. So there will be much research on choirs going on in the next few months
– find a decent paying Sunday choir gig, if possible. Cause I’m sick and tired of feeling like my opinion is invalid because I’m just-a-volunteer
– think about singing lessons, when I have more money at my disposal

4) Plan the Next Step, Career-wise
– start résumé revisions, cover letter writing, etc. well ahead of my contract ending
– start trolling job listings and job boards soonish
– think about where I really want to end up, and how each job I do apply to will help me achieve my goals in my career

5) Take the Time to Art
– use some of my cherished me-time to go back to sketching and painting
– play with new media, and mixing medias
– work on getting my technique back up to snuff, cause I’m feeling a bit rusty
– think about art classes, when I have some income to burn
– play with my craft obsessions and see how far I can push them into my art. Specifically, work on developing my own knitting patterns

During my vacation after Christmas, I worked on my first actual art project in YEARS. A friend of mine, with whom I have been lamenting letting our passion for our arts go in the name of practicality, challenged me to make something for her for Christmas. Well, being one effing-super-busy lady, I couldn’t do it in time for Christmas, so it became a post-Christmas project. And it felt good to be painting again. No, let me rephrase: it felt GREAT!! I’m about half done, so there’s more to do, but I’ve been putting off working on it a little because I don’t want it to be over. I guess I’m starting to realize just how big a whole I’d dug out of my heart when I decided to give all this up. So it’s time to start patching up that gaping hole, I guess.

I wish I could say I know it’ll all work out great. But I’m a confirmed pessimist and I’m not naive. But I can say right now that I am going to put everything into this, which is something I’ve avoided almost my whole life, and that’s both daunting and exhilarating. There are things at stake now!! I guess this is what it feels like to not be depressed? If so, I think I like it!!

I just read a great article about the physiological issues that might be at play in problems with maintaining weight loss. A lot of which makes good sense to me, especially since I watched my mom go through the whole crash-diet-massive-weight-loss-then-incremental-weight-gain thing my whole life. And I guess I could be discouraged since I’m likely to have to work hard at maintaining any weight loss I do accomplish, but it’s really nice to know that at least part of my overweight-ness can potentially be attributable to forces not entirely under my control. It’s kind of freeing, really. I’m also looking at the Mediterranean diet as inspiration for my new food resolutions.

Well. Anyroad, I think I’ve yammered long enough about this. Time to get back to work, Dear Internet!!

Any new resolutions this year for you, Dear Internet??

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One reason why spinach is AWESOME

In the midst of all the knitting, singing, and preparing for Christmas, I had a cooking (is making a dip cooking??) project: this week it was the Quintet’s turn to provide tasty treats for our after-service wine and cheese shindig. Yay!! We always have fun bringing tasty snacks for everyone to eat 😀

Now, before all you spinach-haters go “Why did you do something with spinach?????” I have to let you know – spinach, it is awesome. It Is super-tasty AND highly nutritious! Both things make my taste buds (and thighs) happy. I know spinach can be a contentious issue, so I just want you to know, Dear Internet, that you’d be crazy to hate spinach. That is all.

Now to my spinach dip!! Ok, so you should know that as much as I lurve the spinach, I usually quite dislike the usual spinach dips you find. You know, the ones that are mostly mayonnaise and effing water chestnuts?? (just so you know, I think water chestnuts are among the most disgusting food items you could stick in your mouth and chew on. . . But I digress) They’re heavy, rich, bland, and above all boring. Also, in about 90% of the recipes I looked at when planning my version, the flavouring consisted of powdered onion or leek soup mix. Powdered. Soup. Mix.

Blech 😛

Now. Back when spinach dip became popular, in the 70s?? maybe??, I’m thinking that these soup mixes might have actually been made of food, originally, before the powdering process. Have you tried one of these things lately??? Cause they gross now. Maybe they always were, don’t really know. It’s nothing but chemically saltiness now. And two things I dislike in my foodstuffs are chemicalliness and saltiness. Just saying. . . So it wasn’t until I found this recipe that I was actually inspired and started really thinking about what I’d like to do for my version.

I don’t mind creaminess, in fact it can be amazing, but it needs a balance. For me, food can’t just be creamy, I like some flavour in there too. So aside from creaminess and spinach, what makes a good spinach dip, you ask? Well, there’s a reason they tell you to use those onion soup mixes, you know. So, Wednesday afternoon after I got home from work, I whipped up a batch of some of the tastiest spinach dip I’ve had in ages. And everyone told me how tasty they thought it was, so I think that’s a success for Katie’s mad culinary skillz. Also, I have no photo of this tasty dip, cause it got all eated up, and I didn’t think to snap a few pics while putting it together. Sad face.

So here’s the first recipe I made up to go up here. So excite!!

Katie’s Tasty Tasty Spinach Dip

ingredients
2 packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed, excess water removed (squeeze the spinach in a towel over your sink after it’s been thawed!!)
1 medium avocado, peel and seed removed
1/2 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 or 5 green onions, whites and greens, chopped as finely as you desire
1 clove garlic, minced as finely as possible
3/4 cup light sour cream
3/4 cup Greek-style plain yoghurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise (olive oil mayo works nicely here)
1 package light cream cheese, softened (don’t get the fat free stuff, cause it’s just gross)
Spices and seasoning to taste: Cayenne, smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, freshly ground black pepper, garlic powder. Don’t be stingy here – this dip can deal with a LOT of flavour. Start with small amounts and build them up until you have a good balance.
1 large round loaf of either pumpernickel or sour dough, hollowed out into a bowl and the insides cubed
A variety of fresh veggies, for dipping

procedure
Get a nice big bowl and dump your chickpeas and avocado in it. Get a potato masher or fork and go to town until you have a fairly smooth paste. Don’t worry if you think the colour is funny, this gets hidden forthwith. A splash of lemon or lime juice now would work really nicely as well as reduce browning, if you care about that a lot. Next, break up the cream cheese into the bowl and mix it in thoroughly. The mashers does this quite well. If you like a thinner dip, feel free to add only half the package. Add the yoghurt, cream cheese, and mayo and mix all that in. Next go in the onion and garlic and mix this all in well. Add the first wave of spices, and taste how things are going. Adjust balance to your tastes. Now add the spinach and mix it all together. Taste again and add spices until you get a good balance of flavours. I added probably (at least) 2 teaspoons of cayenne (because I wasn’t sure of everyone’s spice tolerances, feel free to add as much as you like!), 3 of the smoked paprika, 2 each of cumin and coriander, and 1-2 of garlic powder. I forget how much freshly cracked black pepper I put in, probably at least a teaspoon.

An now you have a tasty spinach dip to share!!

I hope you enjoy my tasty spinach dip, Dear Internet!!

Opera, and other stuffs

Ok. So. . . That was an AMAZING opera production. AMAZING!

I must admit to preferring early opera to Romantic or Classical opera. I just like the music better. Don’t get me wrong, I do ocasionally lurve the Mozart, it’s just that well. . . He never really hits my heart the way earlier music does.

That being said – if you’re in Toronto, I HIGHLY!! recommend going to see Opera Atelier’s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Guest conductor, Italian Stefano Montanari, is charismatic, expressive and a great leader for the exceptional Tafelmusik Orchestra. He didn’t even let smacking his stand light off at the Concertmaster phase him. Did I mention that he was expressive? Veeeeeeerrrryyyyy expressive. My fearless leader and I could imagine that Mozart would have conducted very similarly to him, which did add quite a lot to our viewing pleasure. I’m only sad that I don’t have several sets of eyes so that I could have watched him throughout the opera as well as the action on stage.

And boy, was there some action on stage, let me tell you.

They definitely played on the Opera Buffa aspects of the piece – there was a certain amount of Ham Acting going on. But it was never too much. They played with that line (between hilarious and tedious) and never crossed it. There was a freshness to the performance that maintained its buoyancy throughout the show. No miscasting either – the stars were definitely suited to their roles.

The sopranos were effervescent, in this soprano-heavy opera. Carla Hutanen as Zerlina, Peggy Kriha Dye as Donna Elvira, and Meghan Lindsay as Donna Anna were all superb. The different colours of their voices suited them particularly well to their respective parts and they are all fabulous singers. Donna Elvira was my favourite, but then I’ve enjoyed Dye’s singing for several seasons of Opera Atelier productions now, and she always delivers the goods. And then some.

On to the basses: Leporello, played by Vasil Garvanliev (who, oddly enough, I have actually sung with. If briefly – he was a member of my Sunday choir for a few months, before he got all famous and stuff) was both buffoonish and endearing. And damn, but he can sing. He is also able to act with his singing voice, which isn’t something everyone can do well. Opera Atelier mainstay Curtis Sullivan (playing both Masetto and the Commendatore) was great as usual. Though, to be frank, he’s got a better baritone range than bass range and for some reason he keeps getting bass-y parts. He can sing the lowest notes, he just doesn’t have the same power on them. Though this was less evident in this performance than in his turn as Sarastro a few years ago (Sarastro’s solos are one of my favourite things, ever, so I must admit to some disappointment there. . .). And finally, Phillip Addis as Don Giovanni himself. Hoo Boy. I’d let him seduce me too. He has a beuatiful, supple bass voice – it just flows over you like silk and cashmere and some smooth alcohol that i can’t think of right now. I definitely came close to jumping out of my seat to jump into his arms. . .

The cast is intentionally young and fresh which adds a believability to the insanity of the story-line: only young people are that dumb about stuff. Also, the chorus and dancers were great. Not to mention the tight pants on the men – Opera Atelier is definitely known for their busts and bulges and this performance was no exception.

And, in the tradition of saving the best for last, the tenor. You thought I’d forgotten about Don Ottavio, didn’t you?! Well, how could I with Lawrence Wiliford playing the part?? I’d seen him previously as Damon in the Opera Atelier production of Acis and Galatea last season. And, forgive me basses (you are my one and only true love, never fear), but holy hells can this man sing. Don Ottavio’s solo brought me to tears. Wiliford, in contrast with the majority of opera singers, has very little vibrato, and sings with a pure tone. And what a pure tone. He also has incredible power and supreme control over his voice that is simply a treat to hear. This guy could sing the highway code at me and I’d swoon. I’m not kidding.

All in all, I’m going to have to say that Opera Aetlier’s Don Giovanni is a masterful production that marries beauty for the eyes and beauty for the ears in one sumptuous spectacle that is not to be missed.

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Now for some life stuffs. . .

I can’t wait for work to be done so I can go for a lovely swim. I might be having some sinus troubles that are spreading to my ear canals, but hopefully the Otrivin will offset the water in the ears. I should really invest in some ear plugs for swimming, what with my being prone to ear infections and all . . . But regardless, I’m going to love my swim – it’s been a little bit of an indulgent week so far – Hallowe’en, opera and a lovely meal out, no exercise. . . – that I really need to get back on that horse.

Though, I did do a little hike yesterday afternoon, so my week isn’t a total loss exercise-wise. I had an appointment with my ophthalmologist yesterday for a routine check up. Well, I was supposed to have my check-up, but a lateitude of buses made that unpossible. So I’m going again next week, and this time before work, so I won’t have to deal with afternoon rush hour that somehow starts at 2?? When did that happen??? Well, anyway, I walked home from there – From Weston and Eglinton to Dundas and Islington. If you know that part of the city, you’ll know it’s a bit of a hike – about one and a half hours or so, walking pretty fast. I listened to the Sixteen’s recording of the Missa Papae Marcelli, so I didn’t really notice the time. At all.

And then, after a very satisfying nap (thanks Otrivin!) we sang some beautiful music for the Samhain/All Souls service – which went swimmingly 😀  And there was booze and food after the service (with stupidly tastsy pierogies. mmmmmm pierogies. . .).

To wrap up, I’m just going to let you know, Dear Internet, that my posts will become rather more infrequent in the next little while, as my plate, it is full – I’m almost finished my Christmas shopping, but I’m waiting for my yarn to arrive to start the immensely long to knit list (it’s like externally-enforced procrastination, I prefer internally-enforced myself. . .), I have two belated X-mas present dinners to plan and execute, music to learn for Wednesdays as well as a Carol Concert I’m doing with some friends, baking, preparing a TARDIS cake for a friend’s Dr. Who Indoctrination Marathon this weekend, a cake and a tasty present to bake for my dad’s birthday, more baking, buttloads of knitting, etc. ad infinitum. Not to mention working full time and being desirous of exercising regularly (to offset the extreme amount of eating that will be happening in the next couple of months. . .). I’m tired just thinking about it. . .

Well, I’m really looking forward to the recipe I’m going to be trying out for the TARDIS cake! That’s going to be fun 😉

I hope your holiday-season lead up isn’t super stressful, Dear Internet. I know I’m only doing this to myself, but it isn’t Christmas without several nervous breakdowns, I always say.

p.s. There will be a separate post of some photos regarding Hallowe’en coming your way soonish. . . so stay tuned!!

Let’s hear it for the arts!!

I should be on my way for a lovely swim right now. Tuesday is my swimming day now (and maybe Saturday and/or Sunday if I ever get my act together. . .). But, instead. . . I’m going to meet up with a good friend (my fearless leader, actually) for a lovely dinner and Don Giovanni.

With my good luck for being born in Toronto, I have access to some awesome stuff – Opera Atelier being one of my favourites. Mostly due to the amazing operas they put on. Though, the tights pants worn by the dancers (and stars too. . .) shouldn’t be overlooked. In the spring we’re seeing Lully’s Armide, which I am sooooooooo looking forward to.

Also on the topic of the arts, I went with a couple good friends to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s performance of The Wizard of Oz (with the mobile playing on the big screen). Which was amazing!!!!! We got to dress up in costume (I’ll show a picture of my crazy costume as soon as my friend uploads photos!). And see other people in cool costumes, some of which didn’t have a whole lot to do with the show (pikachu??). Even some of the players in the orchestra dressed up. Which was awesome. My favourite was a bassoonist who dressed up as Dorothy, but kept his beard 😉

Well, I’ll keep it short – I’m almost at the station, and my phone is acting up again. Stupid phone.

Talk to you later, Dear Internet. I’ll let you know how the night went!

Blarg. I was in the middle of an x-mas- themed addendum when my mom called and so the stupid iPhone application thingy deleted everything I’d just written. So I’m too annoyed to rewrite it. I’ll fill you in when I post about the opera in more depth.

Sooo annoyed. Stupid phone.