Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving morning



It is the day after the celebration of the year.  I am basking in the warm glow of a very successful day.

I'm really proud of what I pulled off.  Everyone had a good time, we ate like Kings of several different countries who got together to have a banquet, we danced, we played games.  And we really did share cultures.

People began arriving around 4.15, of course I was still cooking from 9am that morning and hadn't had time to shower so answered the door half-dressed with a towel on my head.  But that's ok, I have brilliant friends who arrive and immediately ask what they can do, and it is a testament to how much I trust them that I feel comfortable relinquishing a little control for just long enough to finish dressing and do hair and makeup.  Like, truly.  This whole thing has been my baby, it's hard to delegate.

Except for of course the food aspect, where the whole idea was that everybody bring dishes.  And bring them they did - wow oh wow.  The term 'tables groaning with food' applied to every available surface of the apartment.  And what food.  I wrote a menu that people added to as they arrived.
Argentina - empanadas with ham and cheese/beef, chocotorta (an amazing cake with dulce de leche and chocolate biscuits), Frenet which is a mint liquer.
Mexico - chilaquiles (corn chips layered and baked with salsa and cheese) guacamole
Spain - tortilla de patata
Luxembourg - potato salad, dumplings (amazing and veeery fattening - doughballs baked in a huge dish of cheese and bacon)
The Netherlands - Indonesian peanut sauce, chicken
Hong Kong - rice balls in broth
Czech Republic - Christmas bread and Christmas cookies
USA - mashed potatoes
UK - Cottage pie, roasted veggies, apple crumble, Eton mess (light - made with low-fat yogurt instead of cream), and when Sam and Hayley showed up late they brought tea and biscuits - Jaffa Cakes, Hob Nobs and to my and Lauren's intense joy, Minstrels!
PLUS because it was Thanksgiving somewhere in the country - turkey hors d'ouevres: roasted shredded turkey, toast squares, cranberry sauce, stuffing and gravy.
And pumpkin caramel sauce with ice cream.  And pumpkin cookies coated in spiced dark chocolate ganache.  If I say so myself, I am good.

And so we ate, we ate ate ate until we were all full and complaining that we were too full but we just had to keep eating.  It was really fun trying all the new things - for example I have never eaten anything from Luxembourg, nor tried the traditional Czech Christmas bread or Charles' rice balls.  And I received lovely compliments on my own dishes which I'm really happy about cos I've never made cottage pie before and while it is a simple concept, I spent a lot of time and effort on mine cos I wanted the flavours to be awesome.  I still have leftover empanadas (they were piled high, it was pretty spectacular), Spanish tortilla, dumplings and chilaquiles...uh oh.

We ate (and drank, natch) and then we played naming States - I printed out blank US maps and everyone had a go at labelling them all.  Errr...yeah we don't know where any States are.  Except Texas and Florida, and those are the easy ones.  Jacob as the lone US citizen was in charge of grading our attempts but he said because we were working at a beginner level he wouldn't give real grades just comments and smiley faces.  Fair enough.  Charles made all of his States into funny faces and then made a really aerodynamic paper plane out of the map.  Nati coloured her entire map in green with a different pattern for each State.  Carmen cheated and looked it up on her phone.
We also went around the room and said what we were thankful for, which was very heartwarming and appropriate, and then for some reason we all sang our national anthems - all of them at the same time.  It was a cacaphony of national pride and Maite has to just sing lalalas because the Spanish one has no lyrics.  And the Dutch one pays tribute to the Spanish King, confusingly.  But then we also sang them individually which was a nice learning experience.  I learnt that the Argentinian one is pretty much a symphony, it's very long and has a lot of changes, I will learn one day what it means, it seems like a saga.  The Mexican one is fun and brassy, the Czech and Lux ones are very pretty and like folk songs, the Hong Kong one is awesome I think it's my favourite.
Further entertainment included the traditional 2C game of charades - any time we've ever had a party, we've played.  It's always hilarious.  Mostly because every time Lauren got up someone shouted 'Braveheart!' before she'd even begun, which is very funny in anyone's book.  Actually she did one turn where she had got as far as establishing that it was a movie, and I shouted 'Trainspotting!' half-joking - and her jaw dropped and she sat back down saying 'how'd you get that???' pahahaha.

Oh and then Lauren organised an impromptu Ceili and we Gay Gordoned around our living room which seems huge when we are all just sitting and eating but becomes a lot smaller when we are trying to gallop in pairs in circles around it.  Inspired idea though and a lot of fun.

Of course I had to maintain a cleaning circuit the whole time so I didn't have a huge pile of dishes this morning.  But again, helpful willing volunteer guests are easy to come by.  Sam and Hayley were the latecomers and made tea for everyone while we were playing charades, and then we pretty much went into nostalgia land with a lot of 90s music and sing alongs...and attempted dance routines...oh dear.  Our guests were gone by 2 and I fell asleep in a chair around 3, having done as much clean up as I could.  I transferred to my bed at 8 where I slept upside down still in my Rolling Stones tshirt.

And since then I have made myself a (thoroughly vegan) brunch, drank a huge mug of Earl Grey and contemplated getting dressed.  I will do something fun later - what's the point of a 4 day weekend if you don't do something fun with it???

And Monday I begin panto rehearsals, which I can't quite believe! Marvellous!

More tea I thinkxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Team GB


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Oh yes she did!

I will be playing Buttons in Cinderella at The Secret Theatre this December! This is going to be so much fun! And imagine what I might get to wear - the male character costumes are always better than the female, they get jackets and boots and what have you.

My first panto without the reassuring presence of West Meon's stalwarts around me, whatever will I do.

Hmm this is going to involve a lot of travelling to Queens.

YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY! *happy dance happy dance* *celebrate by stewing apple and pear for my crumble*

Saturday, November 23, 2013

..........., .............., what a thrill, what a time!

Fill in the missing word...that's right, it's PANTOMIME!

I auditioned for one today! In Queens New York.  It was such a fun audition! Panto is like riding a bike, once learned never forgotten - and anyone who was in one as a kid knows exactly what is required.  I read for Cinderella, Prince Charming and Buttons who is the chief proponent of audience interaction, fourth wall breaking, 'oh no they didn't' etc.  And it's very specific, being the comedy sidekick element of a panto you talk to the audience in a certain way that of course I know very well having seen and experienced it plenty.  I would have liked to see how any Americans auditioning had handled that, because it's just a completely alien form of theatre here.  A girl asked the audition monitor 'so how is this production of Cinderella going to be different, given that it's on Broadway right now?' It's true, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Cinderella is currently playing.  I never even knew that existed until I came to AMDA - I hear Cinderella, I think panto and then I think Disney.  So it was interesting to hear the monitor explaining to the girl that it was a pantomime version, 'very British, commedia del arte' - also true.  And how does one explain it, truly, the essence of the pantomime? Answers on a postcard.

I read for Buttons and had lots of fun, 'hi, I'm Buttons! If you see those Ugly Sisters around, make sure you tell me - what? What did you say? Behind me? Nooo, you're having me on you didn't see them.  Oh no you didn't!'

Fingers crossed.  Since I could definitely say that panto is what set me on the path that landed me here, be nice to be able to do one!

On it goes, so sublime, it's entertainments greatest show soooo long live pantomiiiiiiiiiiiime!
(I will never forget the words to that song)


That is a jar of cranberry sauce the size of my head.  Happy Thanksgiving preparations!

Next stop wine shop

Friday, November 22, 2013


Long time no blog, you know, busy busy the usual.

Well not quite the usual actually.  On Wednesday I sang at The Duplex in the Village.  It is a stalwart of the New York piano bar scene and the West Village bar scene.  There is live music every night, a dance floor upstairs and a cabaret theatre in the back.

There are many singers' showcases at The Duplex so I got in on one last week.  It's a really good thing to do because you have a short time to prepare - well I did anyway - and you really have to feel the fear and do it anyway.
I chose three very different songs as is wise in these situations.  The whole point of a singer showcase is to be like 'this is me - this is how I sing, this is who I am' which is great because you're not confined to one genre or voice type.  Fab for me as I like to switch it up.  You're also expected to talk a little in between songs, the content of what you say is entirely up to you.  I did not rehearse this and I'm glad I made that choice - I don't have a problem inventing it as I go along and I'm definitely more me when I'm doing so.  I personally prefer people who are more spontaneous than those who are meticulously rehearsed.  It's also a tough gig because you could rehearse by yourself all the live long day for weeks but you still don't know until the night how it's going to feel on the stage, with the lights, with a mic you've never used etc.
Plus you are required to sell a certain number of tickets so you round up all your mates and shake them down for $12 each for the pleasure of hearing you sing.  I'm lucky in this respect - most of my friends here have for whatever reason actually never heard me sing so there was actually a good reason for them to come (we get asked to go to these things a LOT - its understandable when people are just over it).  Also they're just good friends so they came out in force to support.  One thing about that: I generally find it much harder to sing in front of people that I know - unless I am backed by a full band.  So while the week between my audition and the show was a breeze and I felt sublimely confident, the hour before we started I suddenly thought 'oh blimey, some of my nearest and dearest are out there and I am going to KNOW if they are lying about how good it was afterwards' and also 'where are the 80 guitars I'm used to having around me? argh!'

However it went great, I was the opener which is a wonderful thing because there just isn't time to get all that nervous.  I would like to commend myself for pulling off this whole thing with about 4 hours of sleep and a full day of babysitting - at one point I had 6 kids aged between 9 months and 9 years.  I RAN from the Even's where I had Itamar, Bella, Ruby, Yahli, Louisa and Ari in different combinations from noon until 7.30 because my call time was 8.30 and I had not had time to figure out what to wear, my face looked exactly how you'd expect it to look after that day, hair dragged through a hedge backwards...the works.  So I had to get down there, pull off a magical transformation and sing a couple of bars of each song in hopes of getting the hang of the extremely sensitive mic in 2 minutes...well, I didn't manage that last part.  It was unfortunately set too low for me to begin with (for some reason, hmph) and the technician had been so vehement that we not get too close to it that it was hard to know if I should adjust it or if it was actually fine where it was.  I adjusted.  I also held the mic itself (verboten) moved around a lot (verboten) and generally broke all the rules she'd given us but as I said...two minutes, half an hour before going on.  BUT I did pull off the Cinderella of the Century and was little black dressed, curled, coiffed, made up and unrecogniseable from the disaster that initally walked in.  And who needs a vocal warm up? Not me.  Actually funnily enough I really don't - I have never, never been more successful with a warm up than without.  The opposite.  Warming up makes me psyche myself out and I often accidentally end up with my voice in a place that I don't trust.  If I had to sing a classical piece or very soprano-y yes but in general I've so far found that I'm better straight out of the cannon.

So that's my big news of the week...of course my main preoccupation has been THANKSGIVING
WAAAAAH there's a tiny, teeny chance that I've bitten off more than I can chew by hosting 17 people in our apartment.

I am nonetheless super excited about all my ideas and preparation.  I have to make

  • A cottage pie
  • An apple crumble
  • Chocolate pumpkin cookies
  • Pumpkin caramel sauce
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Stuffing
  • Roasted veggies
I have to clean the apartment, finish cutting out leaves for my leaf garlands, hang decorations, make a trip to the Trader Joes's wine shop on 14th St, obtain a baking sheet and casserole dish, find out some Spanish, Dutch, Argentinian, Luxembourgian (!!!), Chinese and Czech bands and singers to make a playlist, decorate flags and probably a lot more things.  Oh yeah well sleep, eat, work, audition, launder, socialise, pay bills and probably go to the moon, why not.  But I love it, I'm high on being swamped!


Friday, November 8, 2013

Contentment: Part II

I will have to do a real post soon and not just these little cheating ones but it has been a ridiculously busy week and Lauren's coming round in a bit and I've GOT to clean up the kitchen after the cooking marathon I just had.

I just made:
Parsnip and carrot soup
Lentil tomato kale soup
Kale, beetroot, broccoli, pea and butternut squash salad with brown rice and lemon tahini dressing (thank you Starbucks for the idea)
Coconut, banana, chocolate, oat and almond butter freezer bars
Apricot, raisin, cranberry, almond butter and flaxseed fridge bars

And a big mess.

I have watched several episodes of Vicar of Dibley whilst enjoying the culinary hurricane...I can't decide if I'm delighted or alarmed that that program really does make me feel at home...because it is just like at, really really way too similar...female vicar (at W. Meon) dotty old chaps, dotty village lass (not sure who that corresponds too, worrying feeling it could be me) very blunt farmer, local moneyed Tory, dogs everywhere...the only difference is that in the villages of the stretch of Hants between Petersfield and Winch...we have multiples of each of those characters.  Multiples.  I never need to try and explain home life again.

Cooking + Dibley is the reason for contentment #2 in case that wasn't clear.

Happy days!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Remember, remember

In lieu of being able to celebrate Bonfire Night with all the things I love - hats, scarves, sparklers, familiar faces, hot dogs, hot chocolate, soup and fireworks - I have surrounded myself with home comforts: a good book, cup of tea, Bounty bar, my dressing gown and Stereophonics.  If someone took a picture of me it would be the picture of contentment!