Wednesday, December 26, 2007

This and more

I would have to say that this particular Christmas I received the most wonderful gifts. Really.

Two gifts in particular. One, being Bach's complete works. A total of 155 CD's. The baroque period of music is my favorite, so the gift was more than just thoughtful. A total of 155 CD's should give me something to listen to for a while. (tonight it will be the Brandenburg Concerto's 1-6). I was looking to buy the Brandenburg Concertos 1-6. I did not realize I would get that and more.

The second gift came from my family in Hungary. A book written by one of my mother's childhood friends on his memoirs. A book that describes not only his life, but hers. Quite moving was the picture of the organ I played at my uncle's home which was later sold to the author of the book.

Of course, all the other gifts I received were wonderful as well. But the above two, certainly took my breath away.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tacky Christmas Decorations

Okay, enough of the tacky Christmas decorations, folks! Seriously!

Let me start off by ranting about the stuff people put on their cars. Those Christmas wreaths people put on the front of their cars? What is that supposed to mean? I was raised in a culture where wreaths symbolized death. They are used for the dead at funerals. I know that people use wreaths at Christmas time, I have gotten used to this. However, on a car, it just looks like a coroner-mobile (no offense intended for my coroner friends) or something that belongs in a funeral procession. It also looks like a green bull's eye target. To me, it looks like a message saying, "Hit my car here."

Oh, and the doofus that puts reindeer antlers on the top of a car? What is that all about? Is it supposed to be cute? I just about slid into the car in front of me gawking at its hideousness. Not only is it tacky, but it is driving hazard! Somehow, putting artificial animal parts on cars just does not seem right to me.

Now, let me rant about the decorations people put in the front of their houses. When people cover just about every square inch of their lawn in random Christmas decorations, it just looks like a rummage sale explosion. The only thing missing is a sign that says "Christmas decorations for sale, make offer". I have seen some places decorated to the hilt, but usually it centers around some theme, or is sectioned off into the various themes. As a result, even though it is in excess, it actually is enjoyable to look at. Otherwise, it is an eye sore waiting for trash pick up day.

Now, for some of the inflatable Christmas decorations. Some of them move, some of them make noise. Some of them do both. Some of them get knocked down in high winds and look like trauma victims. The giant inflatable Grinch? Please. If I was a kid, I would probably have nightmares after seeing that thing. I don't think the idea of this holiday is to try to scare little children. Since when does a giant inflatable Grinch convey "peace on Earth and goodwill towards men?" The thing that is mostly weird about the inflatable Christmas decorations is that people inflate them at night, but deflate them during the day. This looks just plain weird in daylight. Sort of like deflated corpses strewn about on a lawn.

It used to be when I was a child, I would love walking up and down the streets at night with my mom looking at the Christmas decorations. Pretty lights, a lovely nativity scene here or there, maybe a Santa, Frosty the Snowman, etc. I always wanted to go for car rides with my parents this time of year to see the decorations that were too far from the neighborhood.

Now, I have no desire look at the decorations out on the lawns. Not any more.

Seriously, what has happened?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Performance Outfit?

Part of the fun of getting back into music is shopping for a performance outfit. Although I am dragging my feet a bit on the matter. Okay, maybe not dragging feet, but just trying to find the time.

Anyhow, being a soloist, I not only need to be the Diva of the stage, but I have to look it. Tame is not going to cut it. You have to sound good and be eye candy at the same time. Besides, if I look good on the stage, people are less likely to notice if I make a mistake, right? Of course, the venue always determines what outfits I decide to wear.

Anyhow, I am thinking of the above outfit. Skirt would be black. Probably long taffeta. Paired with a silk shawl for modesty. Jewelry? Probably black crystals.

What do you think? Too much? Feedback appreciated.

Orchid Passions

Tonight is a night I look forward to. It is my orchid society's annual Christmas meeting and party. Yes, orchid societies DO exist and I belong to one. Not only do I get the chance to talk about orchids with like-minded (obsessed) people, but I get a free orchid at the Christmas party. And who knows, maybe even win a raffle plant (orchid).

I won the raffle plant one year on my birthday (still have the orchid). It made up for the fact that the boyfriend at that time was being a super jerk on my birthday. Yes, one should not have to cry on her birthday. But as I said, winning the big beautiful orchid made up for it. And eventually I got rid of the boyfriend.

This year is also the time my thoughts and actions tend towards serious preparation of my orchids for the annual show (March 2008). There is much work to be done in terms of preening, training, and overall babying. Also, if I don't see a bloom spike by the end of this month on a plant, I can pretty much assume it will not be in bloom in time for the show. Right now, I have several bloom spikes coming up and hope for more.

I always hope that one year, I will walk away with Best of Show. It is hard competition as both amateurs and professional growers compete together. But even so, I did come away with first place in 2006. The above pictures shows my orchid that took first place.

Just once, I want to walk away with the Trophy. Just once. Until then, I will not be satisfied.

(Photography by Thomas Koeck)

Opera Voice

Gosh I like this shirt. I will just have to purchase it after the holidays to amuse myself. Aside from amusement, the shirt will also remind me to allow myself to go in the directions that my voice and heart take me.

I have to confess that one of the earliest things I learned in the course of voice lessons was how to project my voice. I was taught well. Being taught by an opera singer from Europe was to my advantage. I learned that you can never be sure you will have a properly functioning microphone for your performance. Compensate you must. And I can say, I have performed at times just fine without a microphone (as long as the venue was not too large).

One of my most cherished compliments given to me after a performance was, "I never realized such a powerful voice could come out of such a small body". When it comes to opera, size does not matter, at least for me. People have the misconception that you must be "large" to sing a powerful aria. Not so. It is all in the technique.

However, I will not be wearing this shirt the next time I perform an aria. I have other attire in mind for that.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I had a discussion with my advisor today.

For various reasons, he wants to graduate me in 2008.

Can it be? Class of 2008? A Ph.D. in 2008????

I am not sure if I should jump for glee or have a nervous breakdown...

(Maybe I will first jump for glee, then go and have a nice quiet panic attack and hyperventilate...)

Making a List and checking it twice

Each year around this time I have a recurring dream. The elements in the dream sometimes vary, but the theme is always the same.

The theme is where it is either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and I have come to the realization that there is someone dear to me that I have forgotten to purchase a Christmas present due the Christmas rush or miscalculating the day of the holiday. I then frantically scramble to find some store that is open (usually a drugstore or grocery store if anything at all is open) and try to find something with their limited selections.

In the dream I feel anxious and horrible that I will disappoint someone dear to me with either a lack of gift or a gift purchased quite literally the last minute.

Every year the dream haunts me. Every year I carefully go over my list and check it over and make sure.

As of this moment, all gifts have been already purchased. Only one remains. If I am lucky, that task will be done tonight.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging


I have been medically advised to cut out all caffeine in my diet. Yes all. I blinked in disbelief, thinking that perhaps, just perhaps, it is just some cruel joke. You know, like when you are a kid and you are told that the Easter Bunny doesn't exist?

Cut out all caffeine? I need to be decaffeinated? I have taken years to get to this level. Years of intake. Caffeine got me into graduate school. How was I to abandon this friend in my darkest hour of need?

So, I came up with various strategies to deal with this problem.

Strategy #1:
Convince the MD that caffeine is not a problem. I tried and tried. But MD's are stubborn. I am stubborn. But I find out that MD's are more stubborn than I am.

Strategy #2:
This is all mind over matter. Mind over body. Follow advice right away and just go cold turkey over the weekend. Stupid stupid stupid idea. Not only did it make me feel physically horrible over the weekend, but I found myself looking longingly at my espresso machine. Finally succumbed to temptation and brewed a cup of espresso Sunday evening before going to sleep. Body won out over mind. Failed miserably at Strategy #2.

Strategy #3:
Switch to decaf.
So I buy decaf. Vile stuff. But this is for my own good. And decaf does have a small amount of caffeine in it. After brewing a cup of espresso decaf (sounds like an oxymoron) I look bleary eyed at the empty cup waiting for the buzz that never comes. This is obviously no better than Strategy #2.

Strategy #4:
Baby steps. Take baby steps. Cut out the caffeine gradually. Rome was not built in a day and my body did not get to this level overnight either. So, I mix the decaf with my caffeinated coffee. I know, this is sacrilege considering I am a bit of a coffee connoisseur. But this is the time for desperate measures. I make a mixture of of decaf with my caffeinated coffee. The mixture is almost palatable. But, I think it is best not to reveal the dilution factor of the decaf. However, at least I can say I am now drinking decaf...right?

Perhaps it is time to go back to Strategy #1?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Car Lust

The new Lamborghini has been revealed. Look here.

Back in high school and early college I had a thing for luxury sport cars. While most girls had calendars of guy hunks hanging on their wall, I had calendars of high end luxury sport cars.

The inspiration for the new Lamborghini design was the modern aircraft design.

Sigh. Drool...

Can I just have about 20 minutes of alone time with that hunk of metal? To do with it as I please...Oh please, baby....

Christmas Meme

Okay okay. I know I have been a scrooge this season. And I will continue to be a scrooge. However, in an attempt to slightly make up for that fact, here is a Christmas meme that I found over at Miz Minka:

1. Wrapping paper or gift bag? Prefer gift bags. I have cats. I would rather not mess with ribbons and paper with them around. But on rare occasions, I will wrap.

2. Real tree or artificial? I would say real. Although a nice artificial one is fine as well. I am easy to please in that regard. Although I am not putting up a tree this year. Just not in the mood. Remember the scrooge part?

3. When do you put up your tree? When time permits. Usually one or two weeks before Christmas.

4. When do you take down your tree? Ummm...some time in February. Hey, if I spent so much time and effort decorating it, I don't want to take it down anytime soon. Besides, if you saw what my decorated trees look like, you would understand. Usually laden with ornaments, lights, and chocolates (Szaloncukor).

5. Do you like eggnog? It is ok. Not a huge fan of eggnog. It also depends how it is made.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? A "Lite-Brite" set. I was wanting one for months. I was particularly ill with a stomach virus that particular Christmas eve. After throwing up most of Christmas eve, I fell asleep exhausted on the couch by the Christmas tree. When I woke up, I saw it under the tree. It made my evening. It made my Christmas.

7. Do you have a nativity scene? No. Although I have been wanting one.

8. Hardest person to buy for? My brother in law.

9. Easiest person to buy for? My niece.

10. Worst Christmas gift you've ever received? A small book purchased at a used bookstore by a guy I was in a relationship with at the time. The book only cost him five dollars (price tag still on it). Although it was a nice book and I am not a materialistic person, I was miffed because I spent ten times that amount on him with my meager student stipend. He drove a BMW, lived in an affluent part of town, had a big home filled with beautiful antiques, and employed a maid to clean his house...I was not expecting anything extravagent...but...Five bucks? I was worth only five bucks? I broke up with him two months later...

11. Mail or email Christmas cards? I am so bad on this. Ask my relatives in Hungary. I usually send Christmas cards in the mail when I do send them.

12. Favorite Christmas movie? A Christmas Story. It makes me laugh. Plus the fact it was filmed in Cleveland brings back all sorts of nostalgia from my childhood.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? Pretty much all year. I don't do the last minute rush. I put a lot of thought and effort into the presents I buy people.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Never. Unthinkable in my book.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Hungarian pastries. Stuffed cabbage. My mom used to make the best stuffed cabbage. Every Christmas it was her tradition.

16. White or colored lights? Colored lights.

17. Favorite Christmas song? Hungarian Christmas carols. Right now, they bring back too much nostalgia and I just end up crying. You know how embarrassing that is in a Hungarian Restaurant? Right now, I am listening to a CD of Christmas music of medieval Hungary that is breath-taking.

18. Traveling for Christmas or stay home? Staying home.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? I am not even going to try...

20. Angel or Star on top of tree? Neither. I do have a tree topper, but it is blown glass. But I probably would pick a star over an angel.

21. Open presents Christmas Eve or Morning? It depends. Both.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Commercialism. And the inundation of Christmas songs that start even before Thanksgiving. Can I also add the horrible tacky decorations people put on their lawns and houses? I swear, they seem to get gaudier and tackier with each passing year.

23. What I love most about Christmas? Tough one to answer right now as I am in a "Bah Humbug" sort of mood. At the moment, I would have to say the lights and food.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


"As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being."

Carl Jung, "Memories, Dreams, Reflections," 1962

Friday, December 07, 2007

Medical Rant

I am not a big fan of taking pills. Mostly if there are side effects.

However, I do as the good doctor tells me to do.

So, this week, I take my antibiotics like a good patient.

But I am a little miffed to find out that there is a discrepancy in what the pharmacist dispensed and what the doctor actually prescribed for me. I realize, after careful inspection, that I have been taking a DOUBLE dosage all this time. You see, I was prescribed 250mg pills, but was dispensed 500mg pills with the instructions for taking 250mg pills.

And I wonder why my tummy has not been feeling well???


On the upside, I probably don't have to worry about any more infection or sepsis setting in...

Friday Cat Blogging

Meet the new foster cat, Hercules:

I was asked if I could foster Hercules for a little while to give him a break from being in a cage 24/7 at the adoption center. Apparently he was getting a little stressed from being in a cage for so long.

So I agreed. I also know it is not to my advantage to say "no" to the person who runs the rescue organization. She is a prosecuting attorney for Lake County. Prosecuting attorneys are not people I want to be on their bad side.

Hercules is proving to be a wonderful cat to have around. He is sweet, mellow, and oddly enough loves other cats. I did not believe it when they told me he gets along well with other cats. Yes, my other cats did protest to him initially (hey, he has no problem with other cats). And there was a bit of a squabble on Sunday, but now all is peaceful in the cat household.

Hercules is proving to be a wonderful addition, even if only temporarily for fostering.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

St. Nicholas Day

Today is St. Nicholas Day. It holds many cherished memories for me. Even into adulthood, my mother would fill my shoes or boots with goodies. Usually fruit and chocolate were the typical goodies.

Since my mother passed away in 2006, I have to confess that this day is rather melancholy for me. My shoes will once again go empty this year.

Since I have no children of my own, I will not be filling anyone else's shoes either.

However, I do like the idea of Miz Minka in terms of giving the cats treats on this day. True, they don't wear shoes or boots, but I am sure they will enjoy the special treats regardless of its container.

Knowing that in some way I can celebrate this day, even if only with my felines seems to lessen my melancholy a bit.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Gloomy Sunday and Suicide

Gloomy Sunday is a song I tend to listen to when I get depressed.

Interestingly enough, Gloomy Sunday (Szomorú Vasárnap) was originally composed by a Hungarian Pianist and composer named Rezső Seress.

It became banned in Hungary and Europe due to the fact it was found to be too depressing. Suicides were blamed on this song. It made its way to the United States in 1936 where it became known as the "Hungarian Suicide Song". Despite its popularity, it became banned in some places in the United States for the same reason. Suicides were blamed on Gloomy Sunday.

Rezső Seress himself eventually committed suicide. Gloomy Sunday was blamed for the cause. Here is an exerpt from a newspaper article:

Budapest, January 13. Rezso Seres, whose dirge-like song hit, "Gloomy Sunday" was blamed for touching off a wave of suicides during the nineteen-thirties, has ended his own life as a suicide it was learned today.
Authorities disclosed today that Mr. Seres jumped from a window of his small apartment here last Sunday, shortly after his 69th birthday. The decade of the nineteen-thirties was marked by severe economic depression and the political upheaval that was to lead to World War II. The melancholy song written by Mr. Seres, with words by his friend, Ladislas Javor, a poet, declares at its climax, "My heart and I have decided to end it all." It was blamed for a sharp increase in suicides, and Hungarian officials finally prohibited it. In America, where Paul Robeson introduced an English version, some radio stations and nightclubs forbade its performance. Mr. Seres complained that the success of "Gloomy Sunday" actually increased his unhappiness, because he knew he would never be able to write a second hit.

- New York Times, 1968

A translation of the Hungarian Lyrics:
This is Zoé Orosz's translation of the original Hungarian:


On a sad Sunday with a hundred white flowers,
I was waiting for you my dearest with a prayer.
A Sunday morning, chasing after my dreams,
The carriage of my sorrow returned to me without you.
It is since then that my Sundays have been forever sad ...

Sad Sunday

This last Sunday, my darling please come to me
There'll be a priest, a coffin, a catafalque and a winding-sheet.
There'll be flowers for you, flowers and a coffin,
Under the blossoming trees it will be my last journey.
My eyes will be open, so that I could see you for a last time,
Don't be afraid of my eyes, I'll be blessing you in death ...

The last Sunday.

Billie Holiday added a dream component to the song which served to lessen the depressing aspect of the song. The version that I have and listen to is by Sarah Brightman.

Sarah Brightman:

Sunday is gloomy
My hours are slumberless
Dearest the shadows
I live with are numberless
Little white flowers
Will never awaken you
Not where the black coach
Of sorrow has taken you
Angels have no thought
Of ever returning you
Would they be angry
If I thought of joining you
Gloomy Sunday

Sunday is gloomy
With shadows I spend it all
My heart and I have decided
To end it all
Soon there'll be flowers and prayers
That are said I know
But let them not weep
Let them know
That I'm glad to go
Death is no dream
For in death I'm caressing you
With the last breath of my soul
I'll be blessing you
Gloomy Sunday

I was only dreaming
I wake and I find you asleep
In the deep of my heart dear
Darling I hope
That my dream never haunted you
My heart is telling you
How much I wanted you
Gloomy Sunday
Gloomy Sunday

Interestingly enough, Gloomy Sunday was made into an internationally acclaimed German-Hungarian Movie. It is set in lovely Budapest. The plot centers around a Hungarian woman named Ilona. She is in love with two men, but she cannot choose between the two. The situation becomes more complicated when a German SS officer falls in love with her and wants her hand in marriage. Below is a video of clips from the movie with Heather Nova singing:

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Beauty Tip

Audrey Hepburn sharing her beauty tips.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Foster Cats



Yesterday proved to be a very sad day in my life. My two foster cats went to their new home.

Sunlight and Twilight were two cats I rescued when they were about 3-4 months old. Being friendly and sweet cats, I knew they were adoptable and since I already had "enough" cats of my own, I put them up for adoption with a very wonderful adoption agency. They were finally adopted to a family at around 7 months of age.

Then at the age of around 2 years, they lost their family/home and once again came back into my foster care. I had them for 5 months until they found another home yesterday. However, having had them for 5 months, I got quite attached to them. Yes, love them dearly. Even started thinking about them as my cats.

My household seems emptier right now. No more squeeking (they did not meow, they squeeked), no more greeting me at the door, and no more cat toy dancing (they had a habit of tossing their toys into the air and jumping after them). They were nicknamed Sundance and Moondance for the way they played.

But, sometimes, love is like that. Sometimes, you just have to set it free and allow someone else to have that love...
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