A Night at the Opera: La Traviata

Last night was a very special evening; I had the pleasure of taking my good friend Trina to her very first opera! I was hoping she would enjoy it. Let’s see how the night went 🙂

(I should mention that Maurice was sick and unable to go, but graciously encouraged me to still go and enjoy my evening – thank you B!)

First there was the wine. After the last few days at work, we could’ve used a bottle or two (!!) but we each enjoyed a glass of red and then went to find our seats. I had already let Trina know that we would be in the nose bleed section, so we hiked our way up the grand staircase and prepared to take our seats in a near-the-back row of the balcony. When we reached the balcony level, however, we were given the offer to sit somewhere else, in much better (and much more expensive!) seats:

upgraded seats

Then there were the sets & costumes:

gorgeous stage (photo courtesy of the Houston Grand Opera)

The sets and costumes were very grand and lush last night! This was the second time I’ve seen “La Traviata,” the first being at the State Opera in Prague. That first performance was beautiful but in a totally different way; the sets were minimalistic in color (white and red) and props (only one extremely large half-moon white leather sofa), and the costumes were not memorable. That being said, I think it was a fabulous performance and I’m thankful I got to see it 🙂 HGO’s take on “La Traviata” was very classic and was reflected in the lavish atmosphere they created on stage.

And then, there was the singing. Oh my goodness the singing. I know I know it’s an opera for heaven’s sake, the singing is supposed to be great. But as an aside, I generally find HGO productions to be very clean, tidy, and…. uninspired. While they are always enjoyable they don’t always feel passionate. Last night was passionate!

Violetta & Alfredo (photo courtesy of the Houston Grand Opera)

And I credit that to the stellar performance by Ms. Albina Shagimuratova who sang the role of Violetta. The 2nd best performance should be credited to Giovanni Meoni, who played “Giorgio Germont” – Alfredo’s father. Everyone was great but I would love to see Shagimuratova in more productions, she has amazing control of her voice and sings clear as a bell whether she’s “whispering” or fortissimo!

passion! (photo courtesy of the Houston Grand Opera)

It was an wonderful evening and I’m so happy that Trina was able to share the experience with me! When I asked her what she thought, she said that she loved it and would definitely go again!! So Maurice, maybe you are off the hook 😉


Merry Christmas!

To all of our friends & family – Merry Christmas!

May you have the gift of faith, hope, and love this Christmas season and always.

With Love,
Nikki, Maurice, & Hazel Belleville

Happy Hanukkah!

Or as my dad might say, מזל כאַנעקע!

One thing I have always loved about my family is its diversity. We have people from a smorgasbord of culture, colors, & backgrounds. “Tradition” means “variety” in our family. We do Italian, we do German, we do Native American, we do Mexican, we do Ukrainian… there is a little bit of everything mixed in and I love it because I grew up learning about so many different cultures from the various characters in my own family! Maybe that helps to explain, in part, my love for travel? Hmm…

Anyway, it’s no secret that this is my favorite time of year. It’s a season of celebration, togetherness, dreams of snow, and drinking hot chocolate in my warm jammies. I look forward to it every year, and doubt I will ever grow too old to enjoy the simple joys of the season.

My dad used to teach us about his Jewish roots at this time of year, too. What is more fun for a kid than celebrating Christmas AND Hanukkah?! (Um, not much!!) Mom & Dad always made it fun for us; they’d hide a small gift for us on each of the 8 nights of Hanukkah and Dustin and I would dig through the house until we each found our gift. Then we’d light all get together at the fireplace and light a candle on the menorah. Afterwards Mom would make us a treat – hot chocolate, cider, a snack, something delicious! – and we’d all lounge around in our pajamas enjoying the glow of the Christmas tree (ne, Hanukkah bush!) and the menorah.

Today is the first day of Hanukkah for 2011. To my dad, who shared his traditions and opened our eyes to so many ways of life, to my Grandma B. who embodies the idea of “Jewish grandmother”, to my Uncles Greg & Guy, and of course my Jewish bestie – Shalom!

Wurstfest 2011

We met up with Kaylee, Steve, and my folks at New Braunfels’ Wurstfest this year… Some were more festive than others:

wurstfest 2011

…but we all had a great time! Mom and Dad went on the ferris wheel, then Mom and I did a few rides and won a stuffed toy for the dogs. We all had some schnitzel and wurst and beer, a funnel cake or two, then went home for the night. This year there were too many drunk people – drunk beer-spilling people!! – and so it was either an off year, or we’re becoming old people.



We all have one.

Some are farther away than others.

Deutsche Fruenden


You can depend on them in happy times and in bad.

BFF's for life!


Best friends are always willing to share.

Hazel & Casey go together like peanut butter 'n jelly


And they’re always there when you  need them!

Have a seat. I'm here to listen.


Everybody needs a BFF!! xoxo

Breckenridge 2009

Let me just start by saying, I had an AWESOME time in Breckenridge with my BFF Kaylee, Amy and Boo, and Maurice.

We got into Denver around 10pm and met up with Kaylee at baggage claim. Then we went to the car rental place…oh my gosh what a fiasco. We started off in a Camry with a broken ski rack, and after a lot of finagleing (sp?) ended up in a Prius with a ski rack that didn’t lock. We chucked our things in the Prius and set off for Georgetown. We got to the Georgetown Mountain Inn (which I no longer recommend) around 12:40am and went to sleep. I woke up the next morning to some new jewels!!! Yes, Maurice surprised me with beautiful citrine earrings 🙂 Thank you honey.

Checking out of the GMI…oh my gosh. Drama. “You pay for two night, not one”. Yeah whatever lady we’re out!!! We were soon on our way to Breckenridge for 1/2 day skiing. After that we went to our awesome condo that our awesome friends were waiting in and found Amy & Boo and their delicious roast!!!! Heavenly dinner that evening, lots of wine, lots of laughs.

The next day we went back to Breckenridge and skied.our.asses.off. It was great 🙂 Later that evening went back to the condo and watched fireworks from our front porch!!

Fireworks from our condo porch

I don’t think any of us actually made it to midnight that evening but we all woke up bright and early to a fresh 2010!!! We skied at Copper Mountain on Saturday and I have to say, I don’t understand the hype. Short lift lines, cool. But the skiing itself? Not so great. Lots of rocks and peeking through. Poorly groomed. And there isn’t shit to do in the base village.

Anyway, overall was a great time!!! Sorry for the short post. To make up for it, here are some of my faves from the trip:

besties on the slopes of Breck

don't feed the animals!

on the gondola

Time to get our ski on!

My BFF and I do our best to perpetuate the annual ski trip tradition, and thankfully, this year is no different! I’ll take a full order of Breckenridge with a side order of Copper Mountain, please!

It all began in 2004…

Besties at the IHOP in Silverthorne, CO

Phillip before the fit

to Phillip in bed, after the fit…

After the fit

to Kaylee’s triumph on Dercum Mountain…

and her early-morning “let’s catch the first lift” motivation

The first lift of the day is at.... 11AM?

Our ski trips have led us down beautiful snowy paths…

a wee stroll

and who can forget the impromptu sexy photo sessions…

...ahem, Phillip...

 and snow-bound dance parties!

Shake it girl!

Sadly, no ski trips 2005-2006, but 2007 came with a big ‘ol heap of snow in Crested Butte and 2008 was a mellower time in Santa Fe. I am so excited to see what this year brings!!! Breckenridge, here we come!!!


I sold Ms. PNK today. PNK gave me 7 years of totally awesome service but alas, it was time to move onto bigger and better (?) things.

PNK and I were tight. She shuttled me faithfully and frugally back and forth to San Marcos for 3 years of college after my first Civic bought the farm. She shuttled me faithfully and frugally to and from Colorado at least 6 different times.

One of those times was in 2007 with Kaylee. We started our day in Austin at 3am, headed for a week of free skiing in Crested Butte. We filled PNK with fuel every chance we got, unsure of what each small town would have in the way of facilities. Kaylee managed to talk herself out of a speeding ticket as PNK “sped” through Childress (in which I’ve had 2 other speeding tickets….I remember exclaiming “YES!!!!!!” just as we were about to get through Childress because we managed to avoid the cops. Yeah, spoke too soon!) The trip continued and we drove north past Santa Fe, not too much further to our destination. Right before the final pass it started to snow. No, it started to BLIZZARD outside…. everything was closing down and visibility was crap… we kept going. PNK chugged right up that mountain, over the pass, and back down the mountain as it was blanketed with 5′ of fresh snow. She never missed a beat. She got us to Gunnison safe and sound without hesitating.

Kaylee learned how to shovel snow off a car the next morning.

PNK has been my BFF on 150+ trips (no joke) back and forth between Cypress and Austin, helping me “cope” with the crappiness of living in Houston.

But today PNK went to a new family. A new family with two young kids who will no doubt put their dirty feet all over PNKs meticulous seats. She’ll take it in stride because PNK is a champ.

I’ll miss you PNK! Thank you, merci, gracias, grazie, and danke schoene for your faithful service!!!