Thursday, August 25, 2011

It's My Birthday Shout "Hooray" - Installment III

Around the beginning of July I was thinking

My birthday is coming up and I'd like to have a party but I'm afraid that if I threw a party for myself no one would come. Parties are like nicknames, they kind of have to be thrown for you. Who would throw me a party? All of my girls are out of town. Maybe Nick. Has Nick ever thrown a party? I threw him a pretty amazing Star Wars birthday party for him in December. I even learned how to make an orange creamsicle cheesecake for him. It would be nice if he could return the favor.

However, knowing my amazing brother like I do, he excels in many things but emotional intuition isn't one of them. He would never put it together that because I threw him a party it would be amazing if he returned the favor. So did what any mature woman would do. I texted his girlfriend (now fiance) and explained myself and said any help she could offer in helping him understand where I was coming from would be appreciated. I couldn't have picked a better future sister-in-law because she and he came through like nothing else.

Nick has the amazing good sense to marry Amy Burch. I have been friends with the whole Burch family for the last 15 some years. They know me very well too and Amy has 3 older sisters all of whom I count among my nearest and dearest. So she circled the wagons and asked for party ideas and the amazing Hannah came up with the idea of making it have a Club 33 theme. For those of you who don't know what Club 33 is here's a link and a brief history lesson. Walt, when he built Disneyland wanted to have a place for him and his buddies so he set aside some space in New Orleans Square where he hand his boys could have a drink and a cigar. It's evolved into a very fancy exclusive restaurant and one of the best places at Disneyland. So basically it's everything I love. Disneyland, jazz, dressing up, good food, and a quite place.

This all translated very well for a birthday party. I didn't put it together that I was turning 33 and it was Club 33 for a good hour or so. I was just so thrilled at the idea of a cocktail party. Nick sent out the invite, told everyone to dress up, that the dress code will be enforced and be ready for fun. Well naturally I had the best time finding a new dress (which was lovely and on clearance!) and practicing a new smokey eye look (which turned out very well).

We had it at one of our friends' amazing house, Nick and Amy got plastic champagne glasses and bucket loads of Martinellis. Our engineer friend made an expert tower of glasses. My awesome pastry chef friend made some amazing desserts, they got a mini marzipan cake for me and yes - people showed up. I wasn't allowed to help with anything. All I was told was where to be, when, and how to dress. Nick and Amy handled the rest. I was surprised to learn that this was the first party Nick has ever planned. Some of my nearest and dearest were out of town so Nick, sweetly arranged for all of them to, too, dress up and had them join us via a Skype video conference call. This was a total surprise for me. I cried one, because I missed them all so very much and two, because how sweet is my brother?!

You can't see the whole 30+ company of people that Nick gathered into the living room to see the surprise with me but they're there and I was touched. I was on the verge of grateful tears all night.

There's all 4 my new sisters looking as pretty as ever.

We had a bunch of other rogues that came through dressed up amazingly but sadly I was having too much fun being glamorous and loved to snap a lot of pictures. Here's a sampling though.
The Todd came in an awesome plaid get up and Joe chose some formal digs from his recent jaunt to India. Nick almost didn't let him in but he eventually passed dress code.

Nick and Amy being as cute and in love as ever.

The Emily x2

There really isn't anything more envigorating to me than a room of men in suits, ladies in dresses all of whom I love and all of whom are having a good time. It was a real gift how many people came and how well they dressed up.

One of my favorite moments of the night was when Emily and Joey came. They had just come from eating at Club 33 that afternoon and between the both of them they swiped all of the gold embossed Club 33 paper towels in the bathroom there and presented them in one fell cluster out of her purse. It was an amazing moment and we were beginning to run short on napkins. Serendipity? Methinks so. Walt knew we were having a party and wanted to contribute.

I took a moment more than once to pause, look around at my favorite people, listen to the buzz of them all enjoying each other, all looking so nice and quietly soaked up as much happiness as I could. I figured it would be good to keep a little bit of that contentment close to my heart to pull out when it's a less than ideal day. And honestly, how much better does it get? Maybe if Jon Hamm was my escort...

This was a remarkable birthday. Joey, Emily's sweet husband, said "I don't say this unless I mean it but Lizzie, you get better looking every year. Some people can't say that but for you I can say that I see constant improvement." He's very good at saying all the right things. I'm also choosing to believe that hes right. He is a pastor and all. He can't lie and stuff. I think the best is yet to come and with enough belly laughs, hydration, skin care, good friends and prayer each year can improve. My 30's haven't been the easiest but I can't complain because they've also been the most fun.

Best of times worst of times and all that. If the Dickensian circumstances persevere then so be it because with friends, family and nights like this I'm pretty sure I can weather anything. If you're ever on my side of town just say the word and I'll be back in my heals and satin for a reprise.

All in all I think Walt would be proud.

It's My Birthday Shout "Hooray" - Installment II

Medieval Style!!

I'm an avid Angelino. I love LA and anyone who has ever had more than 5 minutes of conversation with me typically might understand that. However, there are a lot of landmark things here that I've never done. I've never been to the Griffith Park Observatory. I've never hiked to the Hollywood Sign. I've never been to Grauman's Chinese Theater. I've never been to Universal Studios and the worst one, up until a few weeks ago I had never been to Medieval Times.

It's a tragedy. I know. I'll own it.

BUT - to my rescue was, again, the amazing Emsy. She took a friend of hers a few weeks back and had the time of her life as you can read about here and upon learning my ignorance to the glorious silly, me adoring things like that, and it being my birthday she had me get the special super secret birthday code from the "Booking Maidens" at the "Court Circuit board" and away we went.

She gave a fabulous rundown of our night here but my experience was a bit different. Mostly because I was enjoying the armor instead of figuring out ways to get under it. I know - I'm broken but it was my first time after all.

So in preparation for the night my little sister from another motha - Lisa - sent me a darling birthday package with a purse of hers I'd been lusting after for a while and because she knew of mine and Emsy's plans there were also some Princess Party favors including 4 sparkly pink wands, 4 foam tiara kits (for ages 5 and under) and a very large sparkly hot pink conical Headdress of Princessistitude.

I was super excited about it all. One, because time with Emsy = non-stop hilarity. She gets my Disney channelified brain better than almost anyone I know and as such thinks I'm hilarious because only about 0.00001% of the population and 0.0005% of my friends get my very silly/sad/awesomely bad jokes, references, and song cues. Emsy is one of them. This will manifest itself later.

So we drive to the "castle" and I'm all a dither about what to expect. From what I could gather from Emsy's description I was diving into what would happen if Las Vegas, Rocky Horror, Monty Python, Point Break, a sequin street vendor from TJ, and a badly translated book of fairy tales and all ran at each other very fast. The stuff of dreams really.

Just knowing that this place is in Buena Vista which is a neighboring city to Anaheim which is Latin for "Disneyland" and thereby is subject to the runoff of over-themeing that a place as magical as Disnelyand can produce would be enough to get me to go. See, Buena Vista is the sparkly armpit of the Disneyland supermodel. Driving through Buena Vista always reminds me of "Lester's Possum Park" from A Goofy Movie

The city's crown jewels are the Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum and Knott's Berry (Scary/Merry) Farm. We were in for a GOOD night.

When Emsy and I were roommates we bonded instantly over our love for things that are so bad they're good. Eg: how well unicorns changed into anime women can sing about being a woman, cast commentary on DVDs from totally drunk or inept cast members, random parts of Disney movies, Smee's dance moves, the pronunciation of the word "pistachio" and how much the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland legitimately freaks me out. Seriously. It does.

I think Medieval Times was built as a monument to our friendship and it wasn't realized until now.

From the playground style cobblestones to the over-tanned and Valley affectations of our princess I was in love. You know you're either in Vegas or a comedy club when the first middle and last thing that you see at the establishment is the bar and was there a bar. I think it was 3 miles long. You'd think all of the high ceilings, random banners, vague impressions of suits of armor and a castle silhouette here and there would be enough to suspend reality but NO, apparently significant amounts of alcohol are required as well and it was busy. Every square foot of it. The place was awash with everyone wearing a crown that would make the Burger King jealous indicating the color of the section and knight they were assigned to. This fashion statement was delicious to me. One, because they all so badly clashed with everything anyone was wearing. Like, I wasn't sure there was something in the universe that wouldn't go with anyone or a single look but no. Medieval Times found it, made it theirs, mass produced it and made it the central point and chief souvenir of your experience there. Two - because it was very successful in making everyone look equally silly. That was also impressive.

When we got into the arena I was still off balance. Here we were in a hockey rink full of sawdust with the semblance of stage weaponry resting on pegs on the side and above us was a whole matrix of I would venture to say would be millions of dollars of stage lighting. I was a theater tech for a spell so I know what I'm looking at when I look up in a theater. Some theaters are drastically under lit. In fact, most are. It's uber hard to properly light a stage. It's rare to over-light a stage but I think Medieval Times came close. There was more lighting in there than I'd seen at the Staples Center during a Laker game and I thought What on earth would they need all this hardware for? They're not more than 50' from the floor, they're all antiprose gel lights, good grief are they going to perform surgery? Turns out they didn't. They just like colors.

So the night begins and there is this scene where some dude in a white tunic and too much hair gets apprehended by some baddies with whip and sparkly strobe lights and then our gymed, tanned, laundried princess comes on a-pining for her prince that is missing - moaning to her father-blah-de-blah-de-blah. And I, like any proper English major immediately start rewriting the whole show in my head. Thinking this would provide more rising action and that would be much better character development but not to the point that I didn't adore everything that was going on.

When we sat down I dispensed the wands and tiaras to Emsy and myself and our neighbors who were also celebrating their birthdays (yay Leos!) and we mucked about with our foamys and stickers and eventually made something worth putting on. I threw away the picture guide so we were a bit monkeys and a monolith about the whole project but we had fun. So once the gallantry started I had my sparkly conical Headdress of Princessistitude, my Medieval Times crown AND the tiara. I was as regal as they come or as Medieval Times would allow. Oh and my wand. It was a rare exploration of sparkles and the color pink for me. I rarely visit either much less pair the two but it was a special night and Lisa sent them all the way from Tennessee. Wearing them was the least I could do.

While we were being brought some soup and our choice of Pepsi (only Pepsi, only regular, only soda), iced tea, water, or the door there were... horses I think. Lots of them, trotting a bit in formation, much like a high school marching band running drill. That they just got. After a long competition weekend and a test. For 20 MIN! All I could think was Well - look at those horses. They're there. And they're horses. And they can trot. TALLY HO! It's my birthday!

Finally the announcer man who we were introduced to at the beginning of the night by the bar came riding in. At the first announcements Emsy and I bravely tried not to laugh but bitterly failed. He was trying to warm up the crowd, create atmosphere and organize green crowns from yellow and black ones but all he managed to do was practice what Mr Movie Phone taught him in his voice lesson that day and channel William Shatner. Between his over-elocution, Emsy trying to gloss my lips but only finding teeth, and the half-hearted trumpeters that sounded more like 1st and 2nd chair from the Boy's Club band we were in hysterics within the first 5 minutes. Yes we're 14 but that's what happens when bffs get together OK?!

So fast forward to the knights' introductions. Emsy was only looking for red and I was enjoying her in a rarely allowed abject girly moment. Lusting after boys with swords wearing tiaras, eating with our hands and sparkles EVERYWHERE - its enough to make one burst into song!

I found most of the knights to be some kind of handsome. I especially appreciated the ones with beards and not just the long locks. I really appreciate a thick, kept up, manly beard. There is an epidemic lack of testosterone in the world. I appreciate it wherever I can find it. Aside of their manliness, which is impressive any was conveyed despite the sparkly jumpsuits that were supposed to be chain mail and sequins these gents were pretty dang good. They were jumping off of their horses at full gallop, hitting the ground and rolling so fast they landed on their feet. I was blown away. The fighting was... OK. I think the best stuff that I saw was the final fight between the green dragon baddie and Emsy's Red Knight. He was the best fighter of them all and was with the handsome but luckily Emsy and I have VERY different taste in men. She's more on the Bowie/Jonathan Rhys Meyers side of the spectrum and I'm the more Karl Urban/Richard Armitage/Jon Hamm type.

Between costume changes and rough scene transitions everything but a puppet show came out. Some sparkly Arabian horse man came out with his steed doing the two step, there was a falconer too and other excuse for sparkles. The music changes were something from a fair ride too. One felt distinctly Latin to me and out of no where I started singing "I like to be in Ah-Mer-Ree-Kah!" and Emsy did a legitimate spit take and almost lost the bit of garlic bread she was working on. Once she stopped laughing she said "You will be the death of me Libs (that's her awesome nickname for me) and I considered it the crowning point of the evening.

I was not mooned over by any passing knights or thrown any flowers but I was also in a sparkly conical Headdress of Princessistitude, wearing a Wonder Woman tee shirt and by all accounts seem to be invisible to men anyway so I didn't count on that being any part of my evening. It was adorable watching Emsy be in her element though. Flirting with men in costume doesn't come easy to me.

So pretty much it was an amazing night, a thoughtful gift, a great meal, a good show and an AMAZING story. I will forever be indebted to Emsy and my life will be longer thanks to the laughs shared. I encourage all to go and participate in the crazy. There's no kind of crazy like it.

Monday, August 15, 2011

It's my Birthday Shout "Hooray" - Installment I

Happy Birthday to ME!

I'm 33! I made it. Yay me! I didn't get eaten by my psycho neighbors and their horrible dogs. I haven't contracted any unknown and aggressive diseases. I maintain all my limbs and have yet to employ any mace or hefty flashlights for protection. That's a WIN and I've decided to celebrate all month.

My birthday is a very reflective time for me and one of my goals this year is to be kinder to myself. This means forgiving myself quicker, laughing harder for the right reasons, and taking myself out for something special once in a while. I decided some pampering/shopping for things other than gas, food, and CostCo samples might be in order. I also had the questioning of the loving and indefatigable Emsy at my back asking what I was going to do, that it better be along the pamper lines, and to do it on my birthday. Challenge accepted!

The actual day was WONDERFUL. I let myself sleep in and read my VERY enjoyable shameless adolescent lit book. Then the little brother came over for a bit because he had a rough morning. An amazing friend dropped by with an incredibly thoughtful gift of poetry. Then I skipped off to a job interview to be a substitute teacher for one of the local school districts (which I got by the way thanks for asking) and THEN my friend Kim called me up asking if I had plans because she only has one car and the husband needed it but she had to run to Ikea for some stuff and she had a sitter but her ride fell through and was wondering if I could help her out. I thought Well, I love Kim and I like Ikea so the two together would be lovely on my birthday.

So I picked up Kim and off we went to Ikea and piddled about with fancy ice cube trays and lamp shades and throw pillows and third world children and lava lamps and all that lovely stuff that makes Ikea so magical. She needed storage containers and it took me moving to realize that I didn't have any dishes so I needed to get some plates and stop eating out of tupperware for bowls.

We finished up our hunting and gathering and were subsequently starving so we headed up to the cafe for necessary meatballs and lindenberry juice to cap our Swedish experience when what to my wondering eye should appear but a table full of the rest of our amazing group of friends who had gathered to surprise me. I had NO idea. Kim had concocted the whole plan. Apparently Ikea was a good idea because they have these mini marzipan princess cakes (as show in full scale above) and they are my traditional birthday cake (I've had one every year since I was 8) and the love, friendship, scheming and giggling commenced from there. I was uber touched. One, because I love surprises and two, because this was a surprise for me. We ate and giggled and opened cards and presents and I teared up looking around the table at these women who are my family and was so grateful I had to stop talking for a few moments here and there. Also, there were delicious meatballs that needed consumption and I had to comply.

The last stop of the night was Mom and Dad's. Mom decided to cook Boston Market for dinner and the cousin and his new fiance swung by with some gorgeous purple calla lilies. Mom's gift this year was also very thoughtful. See - we're cooks at our house. Mom's main creative outlets were costume design, makeup, and cooking. All of us learned at her elbow because getting a recipe out of mom is almost impossible ("fill your cupped hand to the second wrinkle with cinnamon...") and we all worked out of Mom's second edition of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by the glorious and amazing Julia Child. A moment for The Julia if you will.

OK. So when mom got sick and pretty much had to stop cooking (like 8 years ago) I asked her if I could have her copy of Julia's book. I had held off on getting a copy of my own 1) because I was hoping to get mom's with all the notes in the margins and memorable grease stains and 2) because I just felt like that was something special that needed to be given and not just bought. Like jewelry or nicknames. It only really counts if it's given - you know? Anyway - So I started asking for the book. Mom always said no, said that she's not ready to hang up her apron yet etc. SO - for Christmas last year we all got Amazon gift certificates and I finally broke down, let go of my over-sentimentality, and just bought myself a copy of the book. I missed it and I couldn't remember all of the recipes I wanted to make. Well - fast forward 9 months and what do I have before my eyes but the COMPLETE set of Mastering the Art of French Cooking which honestly touched me to the core. Yes I already had the book but this is the copy of the book that my MOM gave me. That's way better. So I gave Little Brother my copy (See! It's something that needs to be given) and now we're all amply instructed on how to consume butter and have adequate excuses to do Julia Child impressions as we do. Can life get better? I submit that it cannot.

But wait - this is the part of my birthday that has REALLY got my heart singing....

I went to a lecture by Ray Bradbury once and he said "I'm the world's greatest lover. I love EVERYTHING! I love libraries and history and food and my shoes and my wheelchair. I love it all" and I feel the same way. I love a LOT of things very loudly but of all those things there are a few that I love most. One of those things for me is perfume. I love everything about it. I love the beautiful bottles and the different smells for different occasions at different times of day. I love the little ceremony of putting it on. I love how I feel after I do. I love having all those pretty bottles on a pretty tray on my vanity. I love how feminine it makes me feel. I love how it looks and the possibilities they all hold. I just love it all.

My problem is perfume is expensive and because I love it so much it's something I don't have a problem spending money on if I have it. So naturally I buy it maybe once every 3 years and try to make it last. WELL - guess what I did for my birthday for myself?! YUP! I bought myself some perfume (thank you Grandma and Grandpa) and NOT just any kind. See - Sephora has a genius product development dept. They have perfume samplers. It's a box with 9-12 different samples of perfume that you buy for the price of one large bottle of perfume. You take it home, you try all of them out (because it takes a while to figure out which perfume you like and which one you don't) and it comes with a voucher that you take back to the store and you can get a full size of which ever perfume you decided you liked. Amazing! Usually the samples inside are the husky tubes with a little spray nozzle but they recently came out with THIS one

Glorious isn't it??! Look at all those adorable bottles of perfume (all of which I've sampled before and like a lot) AND I used the voucher at the same time to buy a full-sized bottle of the new DKNY Delicious scent "Golden Delicious" which is amazing and - well - delicious - if I do say so myself. Techinically I should have only been able to use it for the Be Delicious that was a part of the sample pack but they let me slide. Have I mentioned lately how much I love Sephora?

I'm just giddy happy right now looking at my pretty row of bottles and smelling good.

Oh - and these are what Target gave me for my birthday

They were on clearance for $7. AMAZING.

Great shoes. Great friends. Amazing family. Marzipan. Smelling good - I'm set. All I need is a good man and some Ella Fitzgerald and nirvana is mine.

Up next - my Medieval Times Birthday Adventure with Emsy. Life will never be the same.