name='p:domain_verify'/> The Red Accordion Diaries

Saturday, February 28, 2015

UK Tour -- Manor House, Castle Gardens, Labradors and Tea. Filey.

We madrI'm in this bizarro world right now where I have more time than I've had in years, but I STILL DON'T HAVE ENOUGH TIME. Of course I better, but still ...  it's hard to keep in touch on the road. I Facetimed with the Wee Boy last night, and he didn't cry. That was good news. But on to tour updates...

Yesterday we had a long drive from Edinburgh to Yorkshire. I should say "long drive" only applies to my British readers, as it was only 200 miles. To Americans, that's just a commute. Roads are smaller and slower over here, however, so 200 miles takes about 5-6 hours of drive time. Thankfully, the countryside is breathtaking, and we broke the drive down into a couple of fabulous pit stops.

First we popped into visit a friend of Diana's, who lives in a stunning Manor House (like the Dowager's house on Downton) in the Borders (or is it "in" the Borders?). Here is a photo of the house, complete with a jolly Labrador resting on a tweed bed. Even posh Labradors enjoy a belly rub, by the way.

After a spot of tea -- well, I had cordial -- we drove to Northumberland, popping into the Alnwick Castle Gardens. Even though it's February, the gardens were completely gorgeous. It's Versailles on a much more attainable scale. Water shows, fountains, even little tractors for the wee ones.

The gardens weren't in full bloom (but snow drops and daffodils smiled at us), but we enjoyed the bamboo maze and lovely trellises anyway. Notice the SUN. It was a tropical 50 degrees. Coming from Kentucky where it was below zero F, this was spectacular.

The castle itself was closed, but Diana and I were able to catch a great view of it from the Treehouse Cafe. She pointed out the Quidditch Field from Harry Potter. Downton Abbey fans will recognize this caslte as "Brancaster Castle" from the current season finale/Christmas Special (it airs on Sunday in the US).

We eventually got to Filey, where we immediately got some chips and had a spot of tea. Then onto the gig, which was fantastic -- sold out, completely acoustic, in a library (swoon!), full of appreciative people. After the gig, which ended at 9:00 (double swoon!), we popped into the Real Ale House (pub) for a Scarborough Stout. I love playing small towns because all but 2 people in the pub had been at our gig. We walked through the pub doors and people said, "Brigid! Diana! Come in!" You know, as if we'd lived in Filey all our lives.

Sorry for the rambling ... just wanted to catch you up on the day to day before I get too behind. We made a cute video this morning on the Filey Beach as we walked along the North Sea. Fingers crossed that I ever get that edited. 
Tonight is a show in Whitby, and you should come to it! Whitby Pavilion. We play at 8, I believe.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

UK Tour Day 1 - Goodbyes, Airport Lounges, G&Ts, and Hello, Edinburgh!


Somehow I feel like my blog is dull unless I'm out hunting dragons or reading funny street signs in foregin countries. That's not to say that my life is boring. Quite the contrary, I have the most imaginative quests everyday back in my Kentucky living room. They just generally involve Lego and Hot Wheels. They also involve cuddles and kisses and warm hugs. So don't get the idea that I think less of playing trains than taking trains. I just feel like travel makes for better blogging...

Yesterday I dropped the Wee Boy off at preschool, cried a lot and then went to the airport. It's funny -- I didn't cry at all his first day of school. Leaving him in his classroom yesterday was the worst, however, and I suddenly felt a great amount of sorrow and empathy for the parents who do feel that strongly on the first day of school. Because, oh man, all the feels ... all the feels. 

I was flying with fancy Platinum status, but United doesn't do automatic upgrades on international flights. So my hopes of sitting up front for the long haul were dashed, and I drowned my sadness with free drinks from the United Lounge (Platinum travelers do, at least, get into the lounges for free when traveling internationally.) Still, only well drinks were free, so I limited myself to two. I'm not sure why anyone who isn't a business traveler would pay $50 for well-drinks and cheese and crackers, although I suppose I can appreciate the comfy lounge chairs and lack of children hanging around. I snagged an office in the business room and actually got caught up on admin stuff.

My flight was delayed an hour, but the pilot somehow "took a shortcut" to make up for the time. I don't understand why they don't just always take the shortcut, but whatever. It blows my mind that it only took 5 hours and 15 minutes to get from New York to Scotland, but we are living in the future. I was about to sleep for about 3 -3.5 hours, which is par for the course back home. Honestly, I feel pretty much the same as I always do -- foggy, tired, having trouble with word retrieval, and generally like a Mom. 

this picture is Kentucky or Indiana. .. not sure which direction we were facing as i'm pretty sure the plane did a few circles...

Or should I say "Mum" because I AM IN SCOTLAND!!! And look how glorious the day is. My super power is perfect vacation weather, and my streak continues, people.

Immigration officers were supremely kind to me this morning while processing my work visa. Then my bag was the first one off the conveyor belt, and I skipped over to the tram station. The ticket booth didn't take cash, and it only takes the fancy chipn&pin credit cards that we, in America, are 10-years-behind-the-times and still don't have (later this year, I'm told?). But because I'm in Scotland and everyone is kind, the tram man took me aside, took my five pounds, and sold me a ticket manually. 

I'm not going to get political, but I LOVED my tram ride. It's a sore subject in Edinburgh, as the trams were over-budget and over-time to build. But the ride into the city was easy, quick and beautiful. I still audibly gasped when the castle came into view. If you've ever been to Edinburgh, you know what I mean. It's just ... well, it's just the greatest.

Diana met me at the tram stop, and I went straight to Stockbridge for breakfast at Earthy -- a delicious organic grocery store/restaurant. Coffee, eggs, toast, Scottish accents. Perfection.

Other highlights: catching up with an ex-pat at an adorable coffeeshop called Meanwhile. Rehearsing with Diana. Singing and playing music for several hours in a row ... like, that just never happens at home.

Edinburgh! Sorry. I just had to pinch myself a wee bit. The thing that's killing me now is that my family isn't with me. Also, I keep seeing adorable little 2-3year-old Scottish boys speaking in the most ridiculously adorable accents ... and I feel sad that my wee boy doesn't have one. Perhaps it's time to take a school tour over here...

Monday, February 23, 2015

Packing, leaving, aaaah! Plus super fun trailer for our tour by Lady Diana.

AAAAAAH!! I am laid-back in many ways, but I am, as always, having trouble balancing being a parent with getting ready for a business trip. I thought I was doing pretty well, to be honest, but then BAM! Snow Day! And another snow day ... and another ... and suddenly, well, I have a week's worth of work that just did not get done last week. I leave in 48 hours, and I haven't even made a list.

Trying to remember that all I really need is a passport and a credit card. Right? Now my big goal for the week is: keep track of passport and credit card.

All I'm bringing with me is a ukulele and a saw. I decided to check a 26" Stanley, though I generally have a rule about never checking bags, so fingers crossed there. Fingers also crossed that a friend comes through with an accordion for me (my red one ... well, it's a sad story that makes me tear up a bit and I swear I will tell you someday).

Anyway, I have a few things to do. Also, the house is a wreck, and my in-laws will be here in 24 hours. So, yeah, things are a bit crazy over here.

The magical Diana de Cabarrus (or Lady Di, as I call her), however, is keeping it together on the Scotland end of things. She's put together a song for our tour:

The melody + the weather also reminded me of this song that Shannon Lawson and I wrote together a few years ago. It's one of my faves, so I put it on the SoundCloud. xo

Friday, February 20, 2015

A list of things I'm going to buy in Scotland.

It's freezing in my house. Like, literally 0*Celsius inside. Our furnace is busted at the moment. I took my kiddo to preschool bright and early and then took my good guitar up to Heine Brothers, where I'm currently warming my typing fingers with a latte and heat.

But don't pity me, people. Life is good. I'm going to Scotland next week! I've been making a mental list of all the things I need to collect while I'm there ... and today I'm going to write it down for myself you.

Napiers the Herbalists fancy potions and lotions.
 Napiers is a perfectly charming potions store. Go ahead and picture Diagon Alley because it might as well be. I'm going to pick up a tube of my favorite SPF face lotion (Belif brand) and some of the Napiers brand eye cream called "eyebright." I'm not sure that it does anything for the bags under my eyes, but it was always £4-5 and made me feel like I'm doing something in the way of skin preservation. I can't find it on their website -- unless they've repackaged and tripled the price == so this calls for a visit to the shop, where I'm sure I'll be lured in by essential oils and other potions. Luxury!

Clippers Earl Grey
I'm going to bring an extra suitcase to take home ALL the tea I can fit. This is the tea of the aristocracy (I have firsthand knowledge!). It's also completely amazing. My wonderful neighbor special-ordered some for me for Christmas, and it is time to restock.

Cars and trains for my kiddo
Special British hot wheels ... like black taxi cabs and double-decker buses! And special UK edition Thomas the Tank Engine trains.

A Sherlock Holmes Hat
I know, I know. It's a foolish tourist thing. But I had a hat like this that I just adored, and I lost it several years ago while out hanging up posters in Louisville,

Something from Ness
For someone who doesn't love purses or preppy styles, I sure do love this preppy store. All the tweeds made into adorable purses, wallets, coinpurses, and more. I love browsing this shop.

All the Cadbury
No explanation required.

Alexander McCall Smith novel souvenir stuff from Old Town Context
Old Town Context is one of my favorite shops in Edinburgh. This time I shall bring home touristy souvenirs like tea towels featuring drawings from 44 Scotland Street.

A new kilt for the Wee BoyHe's on the verge of outgrowing his 2T kilt ... time to get him a bigger one. A Scottish boy shall not be without a proper kilt.

Literature on Fettes College
The Wee Boy will be attending Fettes College one day, if only because he absolutely must wear those adorable uniforms and also, where else will he learn transfiguration?

Nurofen and Paracetemol (with codeine)
Over-the-counter British pain relief just works better. Also, it's only, like, 30 cents.

And of course ... Scottish whisky!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Treasures from the 1956 World Book encyclopedia.

Ahhhh, the old books. Check out the two copies
of To Kill a Mockingbird.
The wee boy and I had a slumber party at my parents' house last night. I love staying over here because it reminds me what a difference the whole takes-a-village mentality makes on my own mind. To be able to go to the bathroom by myself is equivalent to a spa day.

Last night while another grownup was playing with the wee boy, I relaxed in a recliner by a bookshelf. What did I see? The entire set of 1956 World Book encyclopedias that were the staple of every childhood report until CD-roms were invented. Granted, it made my report on JFK and the Cuban missile crisis a little tricky, but it occupied hours and hours of alone time in my youth.

Today I thought I'd share some of my favorite pages. Ahhhh, just the smell of the dusty old volumes takes me back (imagine ancient used book store -- try not to sneeze).

C:  Cell

Even by the 3rd grade, I knew three was more to a cell than this...


You might think I loved "Dress" because I'm a fashionista. If you know me at all, however, you could guess that, no, I loved "Dress" because it gave me ideas for which country I wanted to represent at Model UN. Check out the awesome hand-drawn native costumes.

"dress" from 1956 World Book encyclopedia
"dress" from 1956 World Book encyclopedia

Ha! I like the explanation of Scottish kilts, etc, too.

Love maps. Even out of date ones.

Kentucky, of course ... but also: no Kennedys!
Current events in 1956. And some not very politically-correct language.
I thought it so strange that there was a time before Kennedy. Unrelated, I've been to Kenilworth Castle. 

S: Space
I love this definition of "space ship."

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

On giving things up...

I confess that I was a "you-have-dirt-on-your-forehead" clueless person when I went to college, despite having ex-Catholic father. As an accordion player, however, I've grown rather close to Mardi Gras and thus Ash Wednesday too.

Lent, however, has always been about hitting as many Fish Fry Fridays as possible (purely for the fries, obviously). I'm not a religious person, and I don't care for the idea to give up things for the sake of giving them up -- and purely for 40 days.

I do, however, totally support the idea of attempting to do something for the next forty days.

You've probably heard how it takes 21 days to form a habit. Pushing it to 40, one would think, would mean that the last 19 days are just routine rather than effort.

As a music teacher, performer, and parent, I've got my own list of things I'd like to do for forty days in a row. I thought I'd throw some out there for you:

Ideas for what to do 40 days in a row:

1. Sing to your child. Everyone talks about the benefits of reading to your child. It's possibly the single-most important thing you can do for her -- other than providing the basics, obviously. But playing music with your child also provides brain stimulation, releases oxytocin and helps your child stay musical her whole life. Singing isn't just for bedtime routine. Try 40 days of singalongs -- even if you think you have no musical talent. 

2. Get your 10000 steps. Yes, I'm obsessed with my Fitbit (this #fitbitch says, "I have more steps than you!"). This snowstorm is putting a damper on it, but wouldn't it be just good habit to start walking to the grocery instead of driving that half-mile? Or just changing a few car-trips into walking-trips? I would love to see 10000 steps a day for the next 40 days. 

3. Home-cooked meals. Don't think of it as a moratorium on eating out; think of it as expanding your cooking repertoire. Eat real foods made in your own kitchen for 40 days in a row. (This might be the most challenging thing of all for me.)

4. Practice your instrument. If you're already taking lessons, then let these 40 days force you into a good routine. If you don't have a teacher anymore (or yet), then practice on your own. Practicing is hard -- even for a professional musician like me -- if you don't have a deadline or a goal. It is so satisfying to get a solid 30 minutes of practice a day. And so effective. My current goal: Mozart's Sonata V in G major ... just because I haven't played Mozart in ages. I should hold myself accountable by assuring you a YouTube concert after Easter. We'll see...

5. Learn a language. DuoLingo is free, and it's fantastic. 40 days in a row, and I suspect you'd be conversational. Seriously -- imagine that in just over a month, you could actually be able to speak another language. Why not do it?

Monday, February 16, 2015

The death of my e-reader. Woe is me.

My Kindle broke over Christmas. Or rather, David's Kindle, which I had taken over as my own, broke. They were both over four years old, so it wasn't unexpected. Still, I had grown completely attached and was verrrrrry sad upon its demise.

I had not expected to love e-reading as much as I do. Had it not been for my Kindle, however, I would not have read a book a day during the first few weeks of the Wee Boy's life. I remember staying up in three-hour-shifts taking turns holding the baby. Being able to hold a book and turn a page one-handed meant I could actually read and not wake him up with movement or noisy paper. Also, I get carsick when reading books, but for some reason, reading on my Kindle never caused nausea. And having a Kindle means having a thousand books with you at all times ... basically: Me + Kindle = love!

Today I am grappling with replacing it or not. I don't like reading on my phone or iPad (the backlight gives me a headache and/or keeps me awake at night). But I am not sure I am ready to spend the money. I am about to go on a two-week adventure by myself, however, and this might include time to myself ... time to read! Reading before bedtime or in a tea shop in Yorkshire before a gig. I feel like the $79 (or $119 if I splurge on paperwhite) could be better used in, say, the Wee Boy's college fund. Oh, the mama guilt ...

#firstworldproblems , I know. But let me wallow for a bit, won't you?

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