Musings on m
y life as a busy opera singer, voice teacher, photographer and mom - not necessarily in that order! I consider myself immensely fortunate to have carved out a way of doing all of these things which mean so much to me - it may sometimes get a little crazy, but it's always worth it. Welcome to the madhouse!

Saturday, May 31, 2008


1.the act or the state of expecting: to wait in expectation.
2.the act or state of looking forward or anticipating.
3.an expectant mental attitude: a high pitch of expectation.
4.something expected; a thing looked forward to.
5.Often, expectations. a prospect of future good or profit: to have great expectations.
6.the degree of probability that something will occur: There is little expectation that he will come.
8.the state of being expected: a large sum of money in expectation.

I would add

9. The high level of consistent achievement assumed the minimum base line after a great opening and lavish reviews.

Once the glow had worn off after Sunday afternoon, I realised that we were faced with an interesting challenge for our our second (and final) performance nearly a week later: how to recreate the magic which had happened, even though I think we all knew that the "something" which had made it so exceptional was one of those alchemic concoctions over which we didn't entirely have control. Sunday had most assuredly been one of those performances where the whole really was greater than the sum of the parts (considerable though those individual elements are), and that kind of spontaneous electricity can't really be machinated at will. You do your best and hope that it leads to inspiration, but there are so many variables and intangibles that you can't necessarily guarantee that it will take that leap from "very good" to "extraordinary".

Now, before anybody thinks that our 2nd performance somehow didn't go well, nothing could be further from the truth - it was another evening of music-making at the highest level, and we were again rewarded by an audience reaction of lavish and exceptional enthusiasm which made it abundantly clear that the evening was a huge success even if we onstage didn't feel it had quite the same "life of its own".

But what I learned this past week is that a successful opening and the subsequent reactions and rave reviews don't, in fact, make things easier. Expectations are high, and all one can think is, "How did we do that? How do we do it again?! " It's a different kind of pressure than I've experienced before, particularly in a concert-performance context (when it's staged, there's not only more visual interest for the audience, but also the "physical memory" of the movement and character interactions which adds a level of consistency and security, in its own way - without that, it's ONLY about the performances, meaning more responsibility rests on each individual singer)

The point here is that I think as performers once we have "achieved" something, it's all too easy to jump to the end and want the RESULT without necessarily remembering to recreate the PROCESS. I don't think we do it consciously, but it's human nature, and something to be watchdogged. It's always about the process. Never allowing ourselves to over-focus on WHAT we achieved, but instead focus on HOW we achieved it. I think we all went into our second performance aware of this conundrum.

All that's really left to say is that everything about this gig has been artistically and professionally expanding, awe-inspiring, and affirming; there's truly no turning back after an experience like this, but only motivation to continue to do more, and achieve more, knowing that we will hold ourselves to even higher standards in the light of realising just how much we can achieve. It raises our OWN expectations of ourselves which can only be a good thing.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Because it makes me happy

New Dawn
(planted in the autumn and thus a baby, but seemingly happy in its first spring)

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Concert Performance

Yesterday's concert was the kind of experience we all dream of having onstage: it was one of those occasions where everything just took off. The chemistry was there not only among the singers, but between stage and pit (in this case, stage and stage since it was an operatic concert performance with the orchestra behind the singers!), and between audience and stage too. It was an honour beyond measure to share the stage with colleagues - ARTISTS - such as these, and to know that I was part of the small moment of musical history being made.

The minute-long ovation in the middle of the performance was indescribable - I feel like a rank n00bie all over again admitting being intoxicated by an audience reaction, but I think this was pretty special, and certainly like nothing I've ever experienced before! Cheering, screaming, stamping, thunderous applause.... Even our leading lady said she was taken slightly by surprise by the spontaneous passion the audience returned to us at that moment; it was really something, almost more overwhelming than the electrifying standing ovation at the final curtain.

And, most importantly - because it really isn't about the cheers and kudos, but the music itself - everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, exploded into artistic flame yesterday with a white-hot-brilliance, turning the notes on the page into a musical and dramatic experience that transported us all, I think.

It seems almost banal to relate some of the behind-the-scenes stuff, but there's so much to tell!

....the roses waiting in my dressing room when I arrived

...the last-minute request to come up with a different gown since my original choice was much lighter than the other two ladies, and it caused problems trying to light us all appropriately (fortunately, I had a backup plan, but it needed altering so I spent the night before the gig at the sewing machine taking it in! Obviously I must have Weird Gown Karma this month!).

....the motorcycle convention that closed all the main routes into the city, wreaking havoc on my trip to the venue (thankfully, I always give myself WAY too much extra time "just in case" - I was delayed by about an hour, but because I had built in a 45 minute "cushion" it meant I still had enough time. And I will say that the new GPS system paid for itself and THEN some yesterday, because the diverted route left me lost and without a clue how to get to the theatre on my own!).

...the great fun the makeup department had doing my hair for the occasion (I looked a bit like Anne Bancroft in The Graduate in the end!).

... the extraordinarily gracious intimate dinner party to which the principals were treated following the performance, an evening of exquisite food and stimulating conversation in beautiful surroundings.

Truly, how lucky can one person be?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Arthur Dent was right

"I never could get the hang of Thursdays", says Arthur Dent in Douglas Adams's Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

This past Thursday was a perfect example.

While working on this production is a complete, utter and absolute thrill and joy, Thursday was THAT rehearsal (hereafter known as TR). I have noticed over the years that EVERY production seems to have one rehearsal where nothing feels right: it can be something vocal, it can be memory, it can be a piece of staging that won't work the way it needs to, or perhaps some kind of tension on the set (not even necessarily involving me) that makes the day uncomfortable.

While this is never fun, I find I'm always slightly relieved when TR hits, because I've learned over the years it's an invevitable part of the process and is actually a very positive thing in the long run. TR almost always prompts everybody to go home and think about how things can work better; I know for me personally it's usually the point where I identify some very specific things I need to do to improve my own performance and, as in most things, once problems have been identified, solutions can be found. So, despite that it can make for a difficult day, it's ultimately a good thing and while I can't say I "enjoy" it, I know that it's "normal" (!?) and just work with it and through it as necessary.

In any case, this past Thursday was that day.

It was also the day that Tragedy struck at home in the life of our Junior Drama Queen (I admit it - she comes by it honestly!): her new and beloved Flip camera disappeared. I arrived home distracted and tired after aforementioned TR to find full-blown panic in sway as she realised it wasn't where she thought it was. We're still looking for the camera but so far, nothing (there's a good chance it's "somewhere" in her room - never tidy at the best of times! - and my best guess is that it's been put into or fallen inside something else so we're turning the space upside down to see if we can find it).

But I never know quite how to respond to these things. As a parent, how far does one press "it's your own fault - look after your things" when a much-loved - if highly disorganised - child is beyond miserable? We've all lost things of value in our lives - how much does one comfort and offer sympathy, and how much does one hold the line and use it as a teaching moment? I just hope she can find the camera - she's been taking such pleasure from it, and it's definitely hard on the parental heart to know how upset she is and not really be able to do anything about it.

Then again, maybe this is the real-life version of That Rehearsal; maybe she needs to go through this process of identifying the problem - for HERSELF - to find a solution. In any case, I'm impressed with her growing maturity as she continues to look for it, and makes her own sensible suggestions as to how to proceed. I hope that her attitude - wise beyond her years, really - is rewarded by a triumphant discovery of the camera in an unlikely corner!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Busy few days

in rehearsal for my next performances, thus not much time to write. But I can say I'm a very lucky person indeed to be able to sing in a great house with artists of the highest calibre AND come home - to my own home and family - every night. This week is pretty much as good as it gets on the "having it all" front!

Monday, May 19, 2008

All kinds of growth

I read the most wonderful quote yesterday: "One of the supposed virtues of gardening is that it teaches humility. The plants are going to do what they are going to do."

I've recently discovered a passion for growing things. The elderly previous owner of this house had obviously neglected it in latter years, and when we moved in it was essentially a jungle of overgrown weeds; we had made some modest efforts to keep the nameless - and aggressive - vine which grows in these parts in check, but doing the full job was on the "eventually" list. Last year, since I was going to be at home for the entire summer, I decided "eventually" had arrived and it was time to come to grips with the project.

Well, what started out as "getting the weeds cleared" turned into "wouldn't it be nice to plant that area for real?" and before I knew it I had borrowed a friend's rototiller, was poring over catalogs, learning all I could about the plants that are reliable growers in this climate, and generally trying to learn how to do this gardening thing.

And I'm smitten. It's the most glorious antidote to the emotional intensity of opera and a music career (and a busy life) - so SIMPLE - and I've missed my "outdoor self" in recent years.

But now? It's too compelling to stay inside when I can be out there digging particularly as the weather hasn't yet soared to the uncomfortable and humid highs we usually get. Despite the spring allergies which plague me (particularly bad this year due to a very odd set of weather patterns - everybody in the area seems to be suffering) I've been leaping out of bed each morning to see how the plants are doing and get the most absurd thrill out of each new shoot, bud and flower. And really, what have I done? I've simply set up scenarios, and left it up to nature to do its thing - other than making the initial choices of what to plant, I've done nothing at all and yet I still get to reap the benefits.

Humbling indeed.

Top left: alba "Maiden's Blush" (this one was the first rose I acquired last year. I thought it had died because it didn't get planted in time and overwintered in a pot; when I went to put it in the ground 6 weeks ago there was nothing left but a rather sad twig. I figured it couldn't hurt to give it a try, but was convinced it was a goner. Apparently - and happily! - I was very wrong!)

Middle right: Yellow shrub rose "Radsunny"

Bottom left: Peony (can't remember the name. I actually thought this one was going to be that deep red, but it must have been mislabelled because this is what came up and I can't say I'm complaining!)

Well who'd'a'thunk?

Gig tonight.

The soprano and I turned up with THE SAME CONCERT GOWN (well, nearly - very slight differences, but not many!) .

Solution: we wore the same gown for our (comic) duet and worked it to the max, and then I swapped into my alternate choice for the remainder of the program.

But still... what are the chances?!

Friday, May 16, 2008


Now that I've jumped into this blog thing with both feet and am spending some time link-chasing and reading more sites, I'm noticing a trend: there are a lot of singers and musicians out there who are also shutterbugs! I had no idea this was such a sideline for so many.

I first began taking pictures as a teenager when I was horseback riding - I was DETERMINED to learn how to take pictures of my friends jumping at shows, so I saved and invested in a Pentax ME Super and a Tokina 70-210 lens and started snapping away. I never DID learn to use the camera on manual, instead preferring to rely on its automatic aperture-priority opinion on exposure, but it did start a lifelong love affair with taking pictures.

Alas, that camera was stolen in an apartment burglary when I was at conservatory, and for too long after that I made do with a hand-me-down point-and-shoot. It was ok, but one day I woke up and thought, "I need a real camera again". I was dirt poor at the time, but scraped together the money for a 35mm SLR with which I spent many happy hours. My husband treated me to a digital upgrade last year following a windfall - it seemed obvious to stick with Canon since I had the lenses, so I now shoot on a Rebel XT.

Recently I decided never to be without a camera by my side ALL the time, particularly when travelling. Not only is it nice to know I can "capture a moment", I find it MAKES me look at wherever I am in a different way, and to find something interesting even in places and situations which could easily be dismissed as boring. The SLR is too big to have with me all the time, but I now carry a digital Elph in my purse (not a perfect camera, but small and light, and thus infinitely portable). The SLR is still my favorite format, however.

Interestingly, while my daughter isn't that into still cameras, two weeks on she is still completely smitten with her birthday present, the Flip videocam we got for her; she would take it with her everywhere given half a chance! Maybe I'm starting more of a family tradition than I realise....

So, without further ado a few of my recent favourites. I'll never be a great photographer, but I have a lot of fun with it! (And yes, there is a certain monotony to the subject matter in these! One thing about the under-13s is that you almost always have a willing subject to pose for you!)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

True confessions

I love rehearsing.

Performing is wonderful too, of course, with its different kind of energy and buzz and that genuine excitement of being in front of an audience. And practicing of course has its place and satisfactions: when it's on track and going well it can be an almost meditative experience but, when things get frustrating, it can also lead to near-penitential acts of self-obsession, self-analysis and self-criticism! Kidding aside, that process is important since the analysis and critical faculty are vital to continued improvement and just plain "problem-solving" when working out the kinks in particular passages, but it's so solitary that it can sometimes lead to tunnel vision....

But rehearsal combines the best of both worlds: the "roll up your sleeves and get to work" aspect of practicing combined with the same kind of stimulation from other singers and musicians as performance, made even better by both the opportunity and encouragement to explore - and, let's face it, the knowledge that we get to do it again if necessary! It is truly one of the great joys of doing this singing thing for a living.

Singing through some of my favorite repertoire in preparation for a gala concert this weekend it was all I could do not to stand there with a silly grin on my face. I get to sing this stuff! With other great musicians! For money! Ok, sure, I have my snoop tape and tomorrow will take myself into the practice room to deconstruct and tweak all the things that didn't quite line up or that I didn't like, but this afternoon was just pure, musical pleasure.



In other news, could somebody tell me why children around the world seem to be incapable of handing their parents in a timely manner the assorted pieces of paper they are given at school, most of which have important dates and events on them?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Where it all starts

Today was A's Children's Choir performance, and watching these children and young adults singing at a high standard with excellent choral technique, all I could think was: this is where I came from; this is how I started. I admit it, I sat through most of the concert crying my eyes out both moved and nostalgic. How could I have known in my choir days that performing would eventually become my LIFE (and for how many of them may this be the beginning of something bigger than they can currently imagine)?

In high school, I was fortunate to work with prominent US choral conductor Linda Allen Anderson, quite possibly one of the most extraordinary musicians and people I have ever encountered. Demanding, dynamic, and passionately committed both to the music and her students, she seemed capable of creating musical excellence out of rawest materials and against all the administrative odds (looking back with adult eyes and knowing what challenges she faced I still wonder how on earth she did it!)

Even though I only had one year with her at the helm (although she remained a much-valued mentor), that year quite literally changed my life. Sure, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by classical music at home, and I appreciated and enjoyed it, but it was nothing like this. This was being an active part of it all in a different way, and was something I hadn't experienced before: not only having to raise my own expectations and demands since Mrs A refused to accept anything other than the highest standards REGARDLESS of circumstances, but also experiencing firsthand the jolt of energy of a disparate group of musicians focused into a unified and complete whole which for sure exceeded the sum of the parts. The Choral Experience, with which I had previously been unfamiliar beyond a jr high school show choir, and singing the occasional round with friends or family, hit me harder than anything one could imagine.

Granted, the standard that year WAS extraordinary: we performed not only some rather challenging pieces by Hugo Distler and Randall Thompson, but the final concert of the year showcased Bach Cantata BWV4, "Christ Lag in Todesbanden" - complete, in German, with orchestra, performed to an extraordinary standard! I had NO IDEA until then that any musical experience could be that all-encompassing, that INTOXICATING.

I was hooked. My prior thoughts of a degree in French went out the window and it seemed inevitable to me that I would pursue music (at that point assuming it would be choral education - I had no operatic aspirations until much later!).

Watching these children today it was impossible not to wonder which of them might have such an experience in their own lives. The musical (and vocal) standard was high and they were a pleasure and a delight to watch and hear. I only wish them the same impetus and joy from their choral experiences that I have carried with me since then.

My focus on choral music may have migrated to an operatic solo career and my vocal technique may have changed in the process, but I'm not sure my response to the music or commitment to making every musical experience with which I'm involved the highest standard it can be - a work ethic and desire to "raise the bar" that was instilled in me during that year - has wavered one jot since those days.

Long may it reign, and thanks Mrs A - you can count me among the many students whose lives you not only enriched but quite literally changed forever just by being who you are and doing what you do so very, very well. It was a greater gift than you can ever know.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Bringing it to the party

My cast was interviewed by the local paper last week, and I was surprised to find myself answering the question, "What are some of your favorite roles?" by describing with great enthusiasm my previous role, a role which at best could be called secondary (and at worst - and in a different kind of production- a complete throwaway). But, to my surprise, this small supporting role which before we started rehearsals I had expected be a "paycheck" gig (and little more) turned out to be a genuine inspiration artistically and, in some ways, a personal turning point.

Since this show was uniformly good with excellent singers and an easy camraderie among the entire team it seems almost unfair to single anybody out, but one of my colleagues in particular demonstrated how important it is to go beyond "good enough"; to say it was a powerful reminder of just how important it can be is an understatement.

This is a singer who plays leading roles just as often as not and, while this smaller "featured" part offered much less scope for vocalism than those leads, the performance - despite the limitations of the role itself - was riveting (consistently singled out in all the reviews and recognised by the audience with a deserved applause surge at every curtain call). Every gesture, every sound was delivered with the same gravitas and energy as if it had been a title role and I was fascinated to see this singer bring it on ALL the time: onstage, offstage, in rehearsal, in performance, and always with humility, humour and dignity. It was definitely not about "how much there is to sing" but about "how to perform what there is with commitment"... and the considerable strength brought to the role (and the strength added to the production overall) was more than inspiring.

I'm proud and honoured to have shared the stage with the kind of performer who not only motivated me to raise the bar, but will also be forever grateful to have been reminded how very important it is to play to one's full strength without apology or censoring (tacit or otherwise), and in a very real way to have seen this demonstrated throughout:

TRUE star quality is not only having that kind of presence and command of the stage, but "bringing it to the party" all the time.

No hanging back and waiting until something or somebody else has triggered our imagination and excitement. Not waiting for "permission"to go above and beyond (or, for that matter, validation from [director/maestro/colleagues/teacher/spouse/friends/audience response/insert person of choice]), but instead sustaining a commitment to dramatic and musical intention from within. All the time.

I suspect if the singer in question sees this the response will be, "But ... I just did what I always do!". Which is actually kind of the point: that attitude as a matter of course is the difference between "good enough" and true excellence, and no role is too small to benefit from that.

Bring it on.

Just a brief update

Home again. Hit the ground running since yesterday was A's birthday (10 years old -when did THAT happen?!) and I also have the final week of college commitments to fulfil, including final lessons, student recital, juries and scholarship auditions.

I did, however, find time to make A's cake (something I try to do every year):

She had a lovely birthday despite it being a school/work day, and is certainly enjoying her new Flip video camera (thank you eBay! Gotta love less-than-half-price New In Box items that ship exactly as described!). It's a pretty cool little camera, actually - super easy to use straight out of the box (it even comes with batteries preinstalled!) and she is having a BALL with it.

In the meantime, today I start preparing my next two gigs, so there's still plenty to keep me busy singingwise as well. If I'm honest, I actually prefer being busy, and the calendar this spring actually lined up very nicely to give me just enough time between gigs (it can be hard to dovetail one into another with no break at all). I'm not complaining!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

THESE are the kinds of days

that make Opera-Mommy-ing tricky.

12 noon, just as I was getting in the car to drive to the theater for a 2pm matinee, my phone rings.

"Mama? Mary [the lady she was staying with last night] needs to talk to you for a minute".

Turns out that Mary had to take her two young nieces to the airport and A wanted to go along to say goodbye (she's good friends with the two girls, who visit their aunt regularly). So far so good, but because A wasn't ticketed, she wouldn't be able to go through security with them. Mary couldn't reach my husband (who was playing the organ at his church gig) so the only thing left was to call me. In a city 600 miles away.


I was most assuredly NOT ok with the possibility of leaving A sitting at the airport waiting on the other side of the gate while the other three went through security, so we had to come up with something. (She's a sensible child, but airports are just too fraught, and there's no doubt we live in a world where erring on the side of caution is always preferable...)

Fortunately, my husband - somewhat notorious for being hard to reach by cellphone (sorry, dear, but it's true!) - answered the message I left him within 15 minutes, and we were able to come up with a plan (in the event, he went down to the airport with everybody else, thus one adult on each side of security). Bullet dodged!

MEANWHILE... I get word that the flood in my parents' basement is not rain breaching an old window frame, but some kind of a catastrophic plumbing problem and they woke up to a foot of water this morning (good thing I didn't need to call them to solve the airport crisis - they've been tremendous helping out in my absence, but that really WOULD have been the straw to break the camel's back!).

And all this on the way to the theater...

So, fellow Mommies, I offer this advice: get seriously used to multitasking ("quiet time" before a show? Obviously not!) and be prepared to rely on spouses and friends even more than the "average" mom!!! If it is possible for stage and home to erupt in rival dramas simultaneously it is almost certain to happen, so get used to the idea!

In the event, the last performance this afternoon was just fine. And now... homeward bound! I've enjoyed this gig, but I'm definitely ready to go home in the morning and can't WAIT to see my girl!

Ah, hotel life....

If only I'd received this email from my colleague BEFORE going downstairs!

I just came back upstairs from breakfast. It seems I caught them in the middle of a rush. I was early enough to get some food though. At the end of the line, there were about 4 people waiting for coffee; it seems the pot had run dry. Not wanting to be in the way, I went on to my table. On the way, I said to the waitress, “I think you’re out of coffee over there.” She said, “It’s still frozen.” With a giggle in my voice, I asked the next stupid question: “How can the coffee be frozen?” “They didn’t leave it out to thaw last night,” said she.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Home stretch

So, last night was the opening. Really, it couldn't have gone any better, and the audience seemed to enjoy it.

But it was a very curious experience as a performer, if only because the evening was so SHORT. This opera is usually paired with a companion and, without a "second act", it felt uncommonly truncated; I felt like I was leaving the theater after the first intermission rather than at the end of the show! Also, my (small) role does most of her stuff just before the curtain falls - this means that I put out my biggest surge of energy and dramatic angst at the END and then have nowhere for it all to go! It's definitely a different experience than tracing a dramatic and vocal arc across an entire evening's "emotional journey" onstage.

But it all went fine and we now just have to keep our concentration and energy together for two more performances. Three in a row isn't so bad for my role, but I know it's hard for the tenor and soprano, since their parts are emotionally as well as vocally "big". Additionally, illness is sweeping through the cast, so we're just working very hard at keeping everybody vocally healthy through the run. No late night dinners and hilarity this weekend!

It was great having my husband here last night; I wish he could have stayed through the weekend and travelled back with me on Monday, but it just wasn't practical and he headed back home this morning.

And home is, if I'm honest, where my thoughts are headed too. It is of course VITAL that I keep my concentration focused on the job I have to finish up here, but it's definitely time to go home and I find myself missing it desperately.

And this is, of course, the curious duality of this silly operatic life: the stimulation of creating a new production, meeting new people, turning notes on the page into a living, breathing musical experience - and getting PAID to do it! - is satisfying beyond anything most of us could ever dream of. But nothing - NOTHING - beats going home. It's the eternal conundrum, and I don't know a singer out there who doesn't feel the same way. When we're at home, we're champing at the bit to get out there and do the job (or, worse, feeling marginalised that somebody ELSE is doing a job that we would quite have liked to do!); when the job is done (or nearly done) nothing is more attractive than the lure of home. I've never been able to decide if it's the perversity of human nature or something more to do with the kinds of personalities that become singers but... it's a consistent theme in my life and that of many of my colleagues.

So, two more shows; two more chances to create and let the hard work of the last 3 weeks become that living breathing musical and dramatic experience. And then? Back to my girl and my garden. I can hardly wait.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Bright! Shiny! Toys!

I admit it: I'm a closet geek. Ok, maybe not even a CLOSET geek - I loves me my technology and make no bones about it! Most gigs I give myself a little "treat" in that regard, and this one appears to be no exception :)

So yesterday, when preparing to pick my husband up from a neighbouring city airport (he's flown in for a day to come and see the opening), I decided it was time to indulge in something I've been considering for months now (and even more so after my first week here where I spent much of the time getting lost): a simple GPS system.

A bit of internet research and I decided on this.

I can't BELIEVE that I have waited this long to jump on the GPS bandwagon - it's an amazing device, and has already justified the (modest) splurge by getting me safely to and from said neigbhouring city without so much as a single moment of "Aaack! I'm lost! What do I do NOW?" panic). And I will never again have to rely on ask my husband to navigate!

On the way to the airport, I decided to take a short detour and visit Ann Arbor, MI. It's a cute little college town with some charming boutiques (ok, ok, I admit it: I like girly goodies too - the handmade silver earrings set with a citrine were impossible to ignore and yes, they did come home with me!) and I spent a happy hour or so wandering around. It reminded me of Westwood Village, CA as it used to be... but with a midwestern twist on the deco buildings.

I found the local domestic style fascinating, too: in some ways so similar to the Victorian and1920s homes and buildings of our own neighbourhood in the Mid-Atlantic, but yet with definite regional variations - you would never mistake this for another part of the country.

And so.... tonight we open! I'm happy to say my husband is here to join me for the occasion and, while the domestic logistics at home for our daughter are just this side of a military operation, it DOES seem that everything has worked out beautifully in the end (touch and go there for a while but kudos my husband for figuring out a way for her to get to her dance recital AND a birthday party AND a friend's performance!)