Belated birthday brilliance

My 30th birthday has really been the birthday that keeps on giving. In the last couple of weeks I’ve acquired two birthday gifts that are quintessentially me – I have excellent friends.

The first of these was actually a bonus birthday/moving house gift from the lovely Annabelle. Ordered months ago, it had arrived late so she’d given me a lovely baking themed present instead. But the tardy present was (is) genius…

What are things I like? Well, jewellery would definitely be up there, especially earrings. What else am I passionate about? Punctuation. Can you combine the two? Why yes, it seems you can:

If you’d like your own punctuation, you can buy them from Nerd Goddess on Etsy.

Those, my friends, are mix and match punctuation earrings – semi-colon, question mark, speech mark, exclamation mark and…the all important apostrophe. Now whenever I have the urge to correct someone’s apostrophe usage, all I have to do is place my earring in the correct location. Marvellous.

The second gift arrived on Sunday, when my favourite Gloucestrians paid me a flying visit en route to helping their eldest move house. For weeks we’d been trying to fix up a meeting as they were very keen to give me my present, which intriguingly couldn’t be posted. When I was handed the parcel it was soon clear why – it was large and picture frame shaped, so presumably cumbersome and delicate. Unwrapping it, I discovered this:

In case you can’t read it, it says:

Lizzie likes… [Yes, they count as family, thus I’m “Lizzie”.]
Singing with the choir. [That’s a given.]
Yummy cupcakes. [Ditto.]
Chalet School books. [But of course.]
Travelling. [Hell yes.]
Flip Flops. [True, but now they kill my ankles.]
Church on Sunday. [And any other day.]
Glee. [Well duh!]
Paris in July. [Paris whenever really.]
The Greenwoods. [Like is an understatement.]
Ben Fogle. [Ahhhhh….]
Wishing she could still be a Brownie, even though she’s 30. [Running in-joke.]
How impressive! Turns out they’d only had to consult family on two items – favourite food and favourite celebrity crush. (My sister apparently suggested Colin Firth initially, which is odd as I don’t think I’ve ever professed an ardent liking of him – not that I’d say no, obviously. Ben Fogle is genius and true, the only alternative would’ve been Alan Rickman.) They really are the best gift givers on special birthdays – on my 21st I received a film poster style painting of my life (‘The girl from Tonga’…) – and they put a lot of thought and effort into it. Bless them.
So, once I finally get some special picture hooks later this week I’ll be able to adorn my new room with my new art. This and my specially commissioned Dave Walker cartoon will obviously have pride of place. 

Gleefully Gleeky

It seems that my love of Glee really knows no bounds…
Mid-way through my hot date with Mr Schue I was seized with a brilliant idea – something that could make our night at Glee Live truly memorable.

Ever since we’d acquired the tickets back in November, we’d been talking about doing something all together (we were a posse of 5 Gleeks), something that would truly capture the joy of the evening. For several months our thoughts went along the lines of custom made t-shirts with some form of Glee logo on the front and our favourite Glee quote on the back. [Mine would have read: “I’m like Tinkerbell, I need applause to live.” – with thanks to Rachel Berry.] But while watching Matthew Morrison strutting his stuff, a different plan began to form…

I’m not quite sure how it happened – maybe it was the hormones racing through me at the sight of a beautiful singing man – but by the end of the show I’d decided (with Annabelle’s input) that we should go dressed in an outfit that New Directions (aka the Glee Club) had worn for one of their numbers. [For the uninitiated, every song – particularly those performed at a competition – there is a coordinating outfit.] Prom dresses with sashes were contemplated, but deemed impractical; Lady Gaga outfits were pondered – but there was no way I could get enough Beanie Babies (or staples) to emulate Rachel’s costume; and cheerleader uniforms would be just plain wrong. Ultimately, I hit upon a classic that would also be easy to recreate: the red top/blue jeans/Converse combo from Don’t Stop Believing, in the very first episode.

Exhibit A: the beautiful members of New Directions
Exhibit B: the beautiful collection of Gleeks

See, the similarity is uncanny! Sadly no one possessed a red ruffled shirt in which to emulate Kurt, but I channelled a bit of Tina and Mercedes’ style. Was it worth it? Hell yes! Sure, Jenni may have been a bit apprehensive [her response to my tweet re: outfit on Saturday afternoon: “I don’t think I want to come anymore!”]. Yes, we had to explain to our Pizza Express waitress why we looked similar. (At least we weren’t dressed as Smurfs like many other O2 visitors…)

But our moment of glory came on the escalator up to our seats when a gay couple spotted us and called out “Wow, you guys match!” – to which we smiled and nodded. Then the penny dropped and one of them followed up with “Oooooh, I see what you’ve done there – very clever! Love it!”. Ok, so they were the only ones who directly commented on our outfits, but we did bump into them twice after the show and they were always very happy to see us (in fact, one of them took the above photo) and that made it – in my opinion – definitely worth it. Last seen, they were contemplating buying tickets to the rest of the week’s run, so for all I know, they could be back at the O2 right at this minute.

And what of the show?
Well, when making our way slowly out of the arena, the girls asked what I’d blog about it. I said that there wasn’t really a lot to say – “It was AMAZING!” only takes up so much space and isn’t particularly erudite. But, given time to process it all (and share the joy with various friends over the last 24 hours), there were a number of highlights:

Blaine Warbler – and the fact that his surname has apparently become ‘Warbler’. The Warblers were hands-down the highlight of season 2 and their album is a favourite – their set was utterly fabulous and Blaine, well, he’s hot, looks dashing in a blazer and can sing… Combine that with cute Kurt and ditsy Britney and you have a fabulous skit – I adored this moment.

Non auto-tuned, live singing. The Glee cast get a lot of criticism for being auto-tuned, but Glee Live was indeed Glee live and they have some stunning voices. (I knew it was definitely live when Kurt was unfortunately sharp on I Wanna Hold Your Hand, bless him.) Mercedes? Wow. Oh to have her vocal chords and lung capacity…

Dancing – despite fearing that I’d fall off the edge of the gods (we were very, very high up) – with gleeful abandon. Especially when the encore included Single Ladies, possibly one of my all-time favourite Glee moments. Oh, and Valerie – though it turns out it’s rather tricky to lindy hop in a restricted space.

Puckerman. Finn. Blaine. Puckerman. Finn. Blaine…enough said.

Oh, and before I wrap this up, the most gleeful Gleek award actually doesn’t go to one of my comrades, but to my friend Steph who was at Sunday’s matinee. No, she didn’t dress up; nor did she attempt to meet the cast – she did something far more impressive. Her second child was due this week (in fact, I suggested she go dressed as Quinn in the season 1 finale owing to her fabulous bump) but appeared on Thursday evening. Despite still being rather fragile and having a 3 day old baby in tow, Steph made it to the show (with a cushion to make sitting a bit more comfortable) and was upgraded from the gods to stage-side as a reward! That is what I call dedication. [As an aside, the new arrival’s called Annabelle or ‘Belle’, holding true to her Dad’s desire to name their children after musicals – their son’s called Joseph. Where does one find a man like that?!]

The night I spent the evening with Mr Schue

That’s Mr Schuester to be precise – or Matthew Morrison if you’re living in the real world and not an episode of Glee. Last night he kicked off a world tour by playing to a couple of thousand women and gay men at the Hammersmith Apollo [ok, so it’s now officially the ‘HMV Apollo’ but I prefer the old name]. Annabelle and I procured half-price seats courtesy of Groupon on Friday and willingly sacrificed watching the Glee season finale with the rest of our friends so that instead, we could spend a couple of hours in the same room as our favourite teacher – Mr Schue. Bliss.

Honestly, I wasn’t that expecting much. I knew the man can sing – heck, Glee cast tracks account for a not insignificant proportion of the music I listen to – and that he could dance, so I had no doubt that I’d be entertained. He’s officially what’s referred to as a ‘triple threat’, i.e. that he can sing, dance and act [you know, like Gene Kelly and Zac Efron…], however I like to think of him as a quadruple threat – throwing in the added quality of an excellent posterior. But really, the evening was an opportunity to hang out with a favourite friend, giggle like the giggly girls we both are, and it nicely complemented our visit to Glee Live! (the exclamation mark is part of the title) a week on Saturday.

This is what we were greeted with – a classic Jane Lynch/Matthew Morrison skit which includes the most fantastic rendition of Circle of Life I’ve heard in a long while:

Sadly, the video’s missing its best moment – Jane Lynch in full Sue Sylvester mode declaring: “Enjoy the show, losers!”

It got off to a good start, a smart suit, some shiny shoes and some smooth moves – but then came the point where he sang his own material and even though he was clutching a ukulele, my heart sank a little. It sank even further when he uttered the words: “this song’s about the duality of being me and Mr Schuester” – really? Were things going to get that deep and meaningful? However, as soon as the word “ookooleilei” [his adorable, genuinely Polynesian pronunciation of the teeny instrument] came out of his mouth and he began to sing, all was forgiven – our hearts melted and we got terribly girly.

Ironically, it’s quite possible that two of my highlights weren’t thanks to him at all. Well, they kind of were – one was him letting one of his friends propose to his girlfriend on stage, so cute! (I think this might be the first proposal I’ve ever witnessed – this is what it looked like.) Then, allowing his friend JC Chavez (who, utterly unbeknownst to me was once a member of NSync – it pleases me that I needed to be told that) to perform, once in a duet and then in a dancing-in-the-aisles rendition of Glee staple Don’t Stop Believin’.

One of my fears in attending gigs like these (and something I fear greatly about Glee Live!) is the quantity of screaming that takes place – girlish, frenzied and inappropriate. Why the need to yell “I love you Matthew” at random moments? However, there wasn’t a huge amount and our section of the crowd deeply appreciated a manly growl of the same phrase at a very appropriate moment – I hope Matthew appreciated it too. At this point I may need to confess that on Tuesday morning I was rather husky in voice, which can only mean that perhaps I had whooped a little too energetically the night before…

The show was Grobanesque [incidentally, who wants to join me in watching Josh Groban at the Apollo in October? Think it’ll be a good ‘un…] in terms of it’s comedic content. Time for costume changes was provided by informative film segments chronicling Morrison’s career – including interviews with fellow cast members of his pre-Glee jobs in Plea, Flee and Flea. Hilarious. Can I mention that each segment began with a moody black and white shot of the star (with a beard) without sounding too shallow? Maybe not…

Who could possibly resist a man who sings, dances, acts, is not at all unattractive – and can play the ukelele?? (And yes, I did try to find the aforementioned black & white shot, but failed.) 

Oh, and before I start plummeting in your estimations, I was in excellent company. Not only was the wonderful Annabelle with me, but so was the wife of our former PM (Sarah, not Cherie), the good people of Grazia magazine and my favourite London-based American cupcake blogger. See? An audience of mature, responsible women who appreciate some quality musical entertainment… 

I should probably stop rambling. Suffice to say that it was the funnest musical experience I’ve had in a while and kicks off a season of cheesy music in style – this weekend involves not only West End Live, but also a truly nerdy trip to watch the male lead of Legally Blonde’s final show; next weekend’s Glee Live!; the following is Take That – June/July is quite the month of musical fun-ness. Consider yourselves duly warned!

Making noise (and cake) on a Friday

As I am back at work, there is no escaping the fact that today should be the first Friday Fun day of 2011. My Friday revolves around two things (ok, three – if you include work) – firstly, that this weekend’s the London A Cappella Festival and I’m off to see the Office Choirs of the Year (including my singing chum Annabelle) perform with the fabulous Swingle Singers tonight. Secondly, Friday is cake eating day.

So, the first bit of fun is something to watch, listen to and try out for yourself. It could become a bit of a new year’s project for you. In the previously mentioned T Mobile ‘Welcome Home’ advert, the Swingles (and other similarly talented a cappella people) demonstrated a variety of their skills. Subsequently, the producers of the ad decided to produce a few videos showing these skilled people trying to pass on their talent to (of all people) The Hoff.

First up, we have Jo demonstrating a vocal violin:

Then we have Tobi teaching The Hoff how to sound like a muted trumpet:

There are a few other (non Swingle) lessons, including ‘gorilla bass’, and beatboxing. There’s got to be one of those that captures your attention – surely?

If you’re really not interested in making weird noises with your vocal chords, could I interest you in some cake? Over the holidays I discovered a considerable number of new blogs (it’s amazing what you’ll read when lying in bed with only your laptop for company). One that’s proved to be a mouth watering hit is The Caked Crusader, a blog of recipes for all levels and palettes. Its most recent post tickled me so much that I figured it could count as fun enough for Friday.

Yes, the recipe in question is for a prune cake, but I was less interested in the cake and more intrigued by the recipe book it had been found in. Entitled What’s Cookin’?: A Teen Age Cookery Book, it appears to be something of a 1940s gem, combining Enid Blyton escapades with Mrs Beeton and etiquette lessons. The photo below gives something of an indication of the book’s content, but do check out the original post to hear more gems from its pages.

One final cake tip, faithful friend the Hummingbird Bakery launched a new daily specials range last week – reviving some old favourites. As I’ve been on a post-flu recovery diet I felt entitled to two cupcakes in five days, and can therefore recommend both Friday’s Pumpkin Spice and Tuesday’s Nutella – especially the latter, as it has a gooey Nutella centre. Yum.

A paradigm shift in the world of pizza

This, people is no normal pizza; this is a dessert pizza. Don’t be fooled by its apparent similarity to its savoury brother, there is nothing savoury about this creation. 
The red stuff? Jam. The things that look like cherry tomatoes? Glacé cherries. The slices of banana? Ok, they would be slices of banana, and you wouldn’t usually see them on a pizza – but you get my point. Also amongst the toppings are marshmallows (like mozarella, they go on in large blobs and then melt to nothingness), white chocolate and marzipan (yum). It’s basically death by dessert. 
It was yummy – though difficult to do justice after exceedingly excellent made from scratch normal pizza – but messed with my head somewhat. I’m not sure if it was residual flu food issues (my appetite’s a little unpredictable) or simply my unique attitude to food, but I couldn’t get my head around this object that masqueraded as something else, especially something that I really like. 
Kudos to Libby for her creation and props to Annabelle and Phil for getting so stuck into it – I’d mention the noises that A made while eating it, but that would be mean. I enjoyed it, but even as I left the house I was still trying to come to terms with it!