Thursday, February 11, 2016

Podcast, gig, and stressing over silly stuff.

If you'd like to hear me babble about some crazy stories in my past (like that one time I got driven home in a motorcade), then have a listen to Adam Brodsky's excellent podcast called Rhymes Against Humanity

What else is new?

The Birdies have a gig on Sunday, February 14, singing several songs at Keneseth Israel in Louisville. It's a celebration of the American Songbook, with emphasis on songs written by Jewish Composers. It turns out that, like, all of our setlist was written by Jewish composers. Along with most of the hits of the 20th century. Tickets are available here. They've already sold over 200, so should be a good night!

My wardrobe choice is a little limited for this gig because, um, I've been eating a lot lately. I think rather than crash dieting, I'll just focus on my making my hair EXTRA VINTAGE and hope you don't notice the dress isn't as accurate as Laura's.

What else is new? I'm stressing out over the wee boy's Valentines for school. I'm trying my hardest to finish this actual, real album before Leap Day. My voice is still not back 100%, which means I haven't recorded the vocals yet. The master Steve Cooley is working some magic with a drummer.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Giving up Paper Towels for Lent.

Looking for something to give up for Lent? I've got the answer: paper towels.

Seriously. I hear you laughing. I hear your "what-ifs." I sense your eye rolls.

What if the dog pees? What if I need to wipe the counter? What if my kid spills milk?

We've been a paper-towel-free house for almost five years now. We moved to Scotland in 2011 and had a hard time finding paper towels for sale. Then we noticed our British friends rarely, if ever, used them. They certainly didn't use them as a substitute for a plate in the way that so many Americans do. At one point in my life I also didn't think much about buttering a piece of toast on a paper towel -- I mean, it saved the hassle of washing a plate later. Honestly, though, with that mentality, you'll go through multiple rolls a month, and it's just a total waste.

So, while in Scotland, we got a few tea towels and that was that. Since we came back to America over three years ago, I haven't missed paper. Everything can be cleaned up easily -- often more easily -- with a proper dish towel. Think about restaurants ... they don't clean up spills with paper towels. What you can clean up with one tea towel often takes 10-15 paper towels. Or would you wash your car or dry off after a bath with paper towels?

I understand that many people think we are nuts for our paper-towel-free-household, including my family and David's. For them, we keep a roll of paper towels on hand because it keeps the peace. It does amaze me how quickly a roll is used up when family is visiting though -- something I never would have noticed before we went on our paper towel moratorium.

Anyway, just get yourself 4-6 dish towels and try to make it 40 days.

Benefits of being Paper-Towel FREE:

  1. Save a lot of trees and thousands of gallons of water. (Various sources say it takes 17 trees and 20,000 gallons of water to produce a ton of paper towels ... and 3000 tons of paper towel waster is produced DAILY.)
  2. Paper towels are often toted as being biodegradable, but there are so many chemicals in them that they often don't. Google away to find more discussion. You also can't compost most of them, as they are bleached and loaded with chemicals. 
  3. Start a dish towel collection! It's now my go-to souvenir when I'm traveling. I don't need a t-shirt or a coffee mug. I find a cute tea towel or dish towel. My current favorite is a macaroon towel that some friends brought me from Paris last year.
  4. Brightly colored towels are an easy way to decorate the kitchen. Added benefit here, as I have zero decorating ability.
  5. There are always towels hanging on the stove and by the dishwasher, which makes it super easy for my 3-year-old to clean up a spill quickly.
  6. They are really easy to wash. Just toss in a couple whenever you're doing laundry. I don't feel like it has added to my laundry at all.
  7. Cleaning counters, floors, etc, is easier and more efficient with rags. 
  8. Eliminate the guilt of having gone through half a roll of paper towels just to clean up the kitchen a bit or dust your baseboards.
and a bonus one:
      9. Saves you a trip a Target, which, in turn, saves you hundreds of dollars a year:) 

Anyway, Lent is only 40 days. Give it a try.

What are you giving up? Do you already limit your paper towel use? 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Update on new album. Some new photos. Lots of hot tea.

I do love my Emmylou Gibson.
Hope everyone had an happy Imbolc aka St. Brigid's Day! Don't feel bad if you forgot to celebrate ... it sneaks up on me every year too. I celebrated by staying home and putting myself on voice rest. Hot tea, honey, lozenges, anything to clear up this badly-timed case of laryngitis I have acquired.

You see, I have a goal of finishing my album by the end of this month.

My last full-length album took me 4 days to record. I left town to make it, booked 8 days of studio time, used studio musicians and a producer I didn't know that well. We worked for 4 days in a row and realized we'd finished.

This time 'round has been incredibly difficult. I probably should have just left town and booked a studio, but I have zero budget (and have not been brave enough to crowdfund) and have had to rely on the kindness of friends. Even when friends are kind, the timing is still so tough. It's not just about coordinating a time for someone to push record. It's about coordinating that time with an engineer and a babysitter and time off from teaching and a sober drummer.

Playing The Black Pearl accordion because
Big Red was stolen. I'll share that story one day.
Well, I've not managed to find the sober drummer yet, but I'm close. Today I arranged studio time to finish my vocals -- a task that shouldn't have been too challenging. I canceled my morning lessons (I hate doing that because 1) guilt over my poor students missing class and 2) LOST INCOME), my engineer carved out time, and I had childcare arranged.


I know, I know. Things could be worse. But I swear, I spend enough time frustrated over my inability to blossom in my career while I'm primary parenting, and I thought I'd finally sorted this out.

What is the DEAL, tonsils? Behave!

So today, rather than gloriously finish my record (it was too late notice to find a sober drummer and studio to use the engineer's time for recording drums instead), I am chugging hot tea next to a humidifier, writing a pity-party blog about my lost day.

And now, having typed this woe-is-me blog, I'm giving myself a massive guilt trip for being so self-centered in a world of misery and looking at photos of outer space and rolling my eyes at myself because I know, I know.

I just really need this album completely recorded by the end of February. One day I'll tell you why I set this seemingly-arbitrary goal.

Looking so deep and thoughtful and curly-haired.
At least I managed to get some new promo photos* taken. I'm trying, people, I'm really trying!

Deep breaths (into steam).

*by the amazingly talented Joseph Mays

Monday, January 25, 2016

Burns Supper, Birthdays and a Boy in a Kilt.

It's my half-birthday -- a celebration dear to the hearts of those born in the depths of summer, when no one could come to your birthday parties and you didn't even get to bring cupcakes to school to celebrate. January 25 is also a spectacular day because it's Burns Night!

I did not get my act together in time to host the Burns Supper that I envisioned. I was going to haul out the good china, force people to RSVP and have a sit-down dinner. We would pour single malts from the crystal decanter on the mantle, explaining to our bourbon-loving friends that sometimes good whisky tastes like a campfire and that it's okay to like it.

But my new attitude is to not be hard on myself for not having pulled off such an event. My mind has been on other things. I'm desperately trying to finish a new album before March, so that maybe just maybe I can actually put it out before the summer. And, like, tour and stuff.

Maybe even tour in Scotland, where I can, perhaps, celebrate Half-Burns-Night on July 25.

I was going to link you to some recipes, but I just re-read my blog from last year and determined that it's all you'll ever need for a perfect Burns Supper. So just read it!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Snow Ice Cream and deep thoughts.

Snow day! Which means no childcare, which means I can't work. So I guess I had better make the best of it and make snow ice cream with my wee boy.

Remember this recipe? It's still good. Enjoy! Or tuck it away on Pinterest for the next snow day.

Here's our recipe:

1/2 gallon snow ("not yellow or dirty snow," according to David, as if I was actually going to go collect yellow or dirty snow...)
1/2 cup sugar
2-3 tsp vanilla 
a cup of milk

Mix it all together.

It's pretty good. To me it tastes like those strange milkshakes you could buy in the frozen food section back in the 1980s that you put in the microwave to prepare. Does anyone remember those? David thinks I'm making it up, but he's a few years younger than I am.

Also, from the title of this blog, I suggested I would have some deep thoughts. I thought that, maybe, by the end of this writing, I would be doing some serious philosophizing. I am not. Sorry for the false advertising.

Go read a book!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The enemy of an organized life: Little Pieces of Paper.

Little pieces of paper. They (used to) fill up my purse, my counter, my dining room table, various envelopes -- all because: TAXES.

It's January 13, which means two days until you make that big decision: pay your 4th quarter estimate taxes or buy a plane ticket to Paris. If you don't know what I'm talking about, then you are not self-employed. Which is a good thing because you likely also get benefits like, say, health insurance options, a regular paycheck (a paycheck with taxes already taken out!), a schedule, paid vacation and maternity leave.

But you also have to ask someone else permission to take a day off. For me, that is the trump card of self-employment.

If I do decide to go to Paris on Friday, that's on me.

Today's blog is for you self-employed folks who aren't quite profitable enough to afford a bookkeeper. Or for you regular folk, who are just tired of saving receipts.

I've been using an app on my iPhone called OneReceipt for the past 9 months. It isn't perfect, but it's the software I've been waiting for for 15 years. For me, it's been life-changing.

The most annoying part of tax preparation is organizing all my receipts into categories that fit neatly into the Schedule C. If it were just a matter of calculate-total-expenses, that would be easy enough. But keeping my advertising receipts separate from my supplies, separate from my travel, separate from my parking, separate from my business meals, etc., well, it's just been a headache, no matter what my system. I've done everything from shoeboxes, to accordion files, to envelopes, to QuickBooks, to an Excel spreadsheet. It's hard to be consistent when the enemy is, truly, little pieces of paper. 

I wish the Schedule C categories were pre-programmed into the app, but I can't have it all, I suppose. I have just been creating tags as I need them, snapping a photo of the receipt within the app, throwing that stupid little piece of paper away, and trusting in the cloud. (I know, I hear your hesitancy, but I'm full-in with the technology.) The wonderful thing is that right now, I just need to go to the website, sign in, check the box that says "Advertising" and I get a sum total of all the advertising receipts, without having had to keep up with a spreadsheet all year.

Anyway, I meant to have this piece of advice for you self-employed folks at the end of December. But it's still only 2 weeks into the New Year. Rid your lives of little pieces of paper! 

And, no, I'm not getting anything for endorsing this product. I just happen to really love it.

Also, I still have two days to decide between taxes or this:

Monday, January 11, 2016

Easy, amazing homemade hot chocolate recipe.

It's been three years since we moved back to America, and I still miss Scotland like crazy. One of the biggest things I miss is accessibility to the rest of Europe and the little ethnic shops run by actual immigrants ... like, the amazing Italian coffeeshop in Stockbridge run but actual, real-life Italians. In particular, I miss the Chocolatissimo!

On one level, it's just hot chocolate, but that's kind of like saying a 30-year-old Laphroaig is "just Scotch."

So, while David and the wee boy were freezing their adorable tushes off making snow angels last night, I stayed inside and attempted to re-create Chocolatissimo with whatever we happened to have in the cupboard.

The result was pretty magnificent, if I do say so myself:

I made a simplified graphic for your Pinterest pleasure, but a couple of notes:

 I used almond milk, not real milk.
I did use real Half&Half.
I also used about 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, but then I used 1/4 cup of of a broken dark chocolate bar. You could add a splash of vanilla and a dash of sugar if you like, but it's not necessary.

Boil the milk first, then stir in the chocolate. So so so so so good.
I'd also recommend a serving size of 1/2 cup. It's very rich.

Beware both the cuteness and the mess:

Also, Louisville friends, swing by Mama's Hip on Wednesday morning for Family Music Jam! 10:30am, drop-in class. $10/family.
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