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

Friday, January 30, 2015

Ugh, I need all new shoes. Arrrrgh!!!

My feet have grown. I've never had good feet -- they are absurdly wide, so even though my length was a 6.5, I'd have to wear a 7.5-8 in order to find shoes that didn't squeeze my little toe to death. I used to daydream about having absurd elective surgery that would chop off my little toe, so I'd have normal-sized feet. Anyway, since I got pregnant with the Wee Boy and birthed him, I can officially say that I now straight up wear an 8. Sometimes even an 8.5. No, my size 7EEEE (that's quadE) shoes are still too narrow for my boxy feet.

I don't have a shoe fetish. In fact, I was pretty pleased that I already owned most of the shoes I ever really needed. But now ... sigh. I am going to have to start collecting not just sneakers and fancy shoes, but new cowboy boots. I see a trip to Nashville in my future. Or at least Zappos. 

Babies. Sheesh. 

Next week I promise some more deep and thoughtful blogs. Or at least, I'll give you a wrap-up of my Burns Supper menu. I finally found a delicious vegetarian haggis recipe, and I can't wait to share it with you. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A secret I have been withholding.

I have a confession to make. You know that one time when Madonna moved to London and developed this bizarro quasi-British accent? I have done something similarly annoying (except far fewer people will care about my quirk).

I now eat Continental-style. Worse than that: I eat left-handed Continental. I kid you not.

I don't even remember when it happened. Occasionally when I was abroad and with Duchal company (okay, I've never dined with a Duke, but I wanted to use the word "duchal" and really, just sub it for "posh," I suppose) and didn't want to call attention to my barbaric American ways, I would attempt this style of holding the knife and fork. Oddly, the right-handed way never felt comfortable. But I have apparently grown very comfortable with my knife in my left hand, and I didn't notice until recently that I've been eating this way for some time now, without giving it a second thought. 

If you don't know what this style of knife-and-fork-holding looks like, please refer to any dining scene in Downton Abbey, or to this video:

Anyway, I know I am already the irksome woman who talks about Scotland far too much, but now I am full-blown eats-like-an-outsider. This morning I tried going back to American dining while eating my crepe (oh! how annoying I am! a crepe?!?!), but it felt sloppy and awkward. I am a lost cause. An unAmerican fool. Forgive me!

*I'm not actually left-handed, but my mother is. I do most things with my right hand, but am ambidextrous in many ways (and many times prefer my left to my right -- either because of ambidexterity or because I copied my sinister mother).

Monday, January 26, 2015

UK Tour Dates Announcement - Brigid w/ Diana de Cabarrus.

Our Burns Supper with a few friends was magnificent fun, and I woke up this morning thinking how excited I am to get back to the United Kingdom in T-minus four weeks! I'll be touring with the one and only Diana de Cabarrus (amazing name), who is a splendiloquent performer, guitarist, cellist, singer, string-instrument-player, and all-round nice person.

Today I bring you our tour dates:

That means shows in Filey, Whitby, Bournemouth, Bristol, London, Perth, and Edinburgh. We have potential shows on the 4th and 5th, but they aren't confirmed yet ... and I'm contemplating leaving those dates blank instead and hitting every castle possible on the drive from London to Perth (it's a looooooong drive).

If there is a house concert in your area, please contact me for details that I can message you privately. House Concerts are my absolute favorite shows to play, but because they are people's private homes, one mustn't publicize names or addresses. Happy to share them with you if you are interested in attending though. Just shoot me or Diana a message, and we will fill you in.

Cheerio, my friends! I'm off to make a cuppa. Mmmmmm.

Friday, January 23, 2015

My simple Burns Supper menu.

I need to set an alarm for around 2p every day to remind me that dinner will, yet again, be happening. It's a flipping surprise to me every day after work, and I swear I am of above average intelligence. In related news, it's apparently the weekend already, and I could have sworn it was only Tuesday. ALSO, IT'S BURNS SUPPER WEEKEND!!!

I'm still not wealthy enough to hire a bagpiper to march through my living room, but I am going to have my annual Burns Supper. One of these days, I'll have single barrel Scotch whisky and a caterer. Until then, I will continue to scour the internet in search of the perfect vegetarian haggis recipe. It exists; I have not found it.

I'll be sticking to a simple menu this year:

Vegetarian haggis w/ neeps & tatties
Roasted Brussels sprouts
Sticky toffee pudding

My heart lies with Laphroaig, but I'm a sucker
for any single malt that tastes like dirt.

Unless any of you blog readers are also volunteer bagpipers (I wouldn't dare ask you to play for free, but if you're a starving piper with a hankering for some Laphroaig, please come address the haggis!), I will be sticking with pre-fab Scottish music. In the spirit of the poet, we'll have some Robert Burns tunes, like this new recording from my friend Adam Holmes. If I ever get off my bum and record an RB song, I'll perhaps throw that link up here too ... until then, stick with Adam. He's the one with the Scottish accent. I'll also report back next week with our playlist for the evening -- David is in charge of that, so maybe he'll guest blog.

I wish I had the patience to prepare a clootie dumpling tomorrow. If you have a few hours to spare for an authentic Scottish dessert, here's the best recipe.

I leave ye with a poem:

Address to a Haggis

FAIR fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the pudding-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’a grace
As lang’s my arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin was help to mend a mill
In time o’need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An’ cut you up wi’ ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin’, rich!
Then, horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Bethankit! hums.
Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad make her spew
Wi’ perfect sconner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckles as wither’d rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
His nieve a nit;
Thro’ blody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll mak it whissle;
An’ legs an’ arms, an’ hands will sned,
Like taps o’ trissle.

Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer
Gie her a haggis!

Robert Burns

Monday, January 19, 2015

Explaining time to a 2-year-old -- and work trips.

I've spent plenty of time daydreaming about castles and teacups, but don't think I haven't also been feeling guilty about leaving my two-year-old for almost two weeks. My head knows he will be fine. He's a very sensitive boy, however, and feels all the feels all the time. I've been racking my brain trying to figure out things I can do to help him cope -- or at least help him understand time and when I'll be home again.

He understands concepts like "yesterday" and "tomorrow" and even correctly uses phrases like "last year" or "next week" -- about fifty percent of the time. I know he understands when things have already happened or when things will happen eventually. But sometimes he says things like, "Daddy is at a hotel for work. He's coming home in two years, like he always does."

We have been using a wall calendar (remember those?) to mark an "X" every morning and talk about days. I drew pictures on various days, so he would have some small things to look forward to -- an attempt to help with patience and an understanding of how long a day or two days or a week is. When David left town last week, I drew a picture of him coming home on Friday, along with a picture of the ice cream that we decided we would get as a treat. This only mildly backfired, as it then meant that the Wee Boy asked, "Is it time for ice cream right now," pretty much fifty times a day. So I'm not really sure whether it was the calendar that helped him understand time, or if he just learned that asking for something 400 times means he will eventually get it.

I think maybe when I'm actually gone, I'll leave behind some paper chains that he can tear off day by day as a countdown until Mommy is home!

I'm totally open to hearing about methods anyone out there has used to help explain a long work trip to a 2-year-old. We watched the Daniel Tiger episode about "Grownups come back," this morning, but it was more about a child having a babysitter for a night rather than for two weeks. Are there any good books I could read to him about it? (I obviously did a Google search, but I'd prefer first-hand accounts.)

Friday, January 16, 2015

13 Things You Must Do/See in the United Kingdom

I am starting to get super super excited about my upcoming tour. Work permit secured and official dates to be announced next week, but feel free to email me if you're in the United Kingdom and are curious about which dates to hold. While I am trying to wrap my head around being away from the Wee Boy for two weeks (the thoughts in my head scream horrible mother! how dare you!), I am also trying to focus on the idea that for two straight weeks, I will be performing original music for people who are paying to hear it.

And also, castles!

And so many other things that I'll get to see, do and consume while on that small island. Here are a few of the things I'm more-than-I-should-be excited to encounter while I'm traveling. They are in no particular order. Mostly I just started with chocolate because I am pretty much always thinking about chocolate.

1. Cadbury
It's not the best chocolate I've ever had in my life, and, honestly, I prefer dark chocolate. Still, there is magic within a milk chocolate sugary Cadbury, free of high fructose corn syrup. The magic, I think, lies within the massive amounts of choice one encounters at a random gas station.

2. Petrol station, aka "Services"
There is a song that David and I sang when we approached "Services" (It goes SER-vi-ces!! Sing it loudly, a descending Perfect 4th: dotted quarter, eighth, then half note. You're welcome!). Services essentially means, like, a truck stop. Except it's somehow clean and pleasant, and I've only occasionally seen a truck (I mean, lorry). There is usually a Marks & Spencer, filled with delicious and healthful road snack options. Also, even the low-end service stations have thousands of Cadbury options.

3. Tea sets.
It's not just grabbing a cuppa that I miss. It's that even when you just pop in for a cuppa, it comes with a lot of dishes. At home, I do everything I can to avoid having to wash extra plates, spoons, etc. Somehow, even in a country where most people do not have dishwashers, there is no dish spared when it comes to the serving of tea. Sugar bowls. Sugar spoons. Personal-sized teapots. Saucer. Plate for used teabags. Such luxury!

4. Cheese.
I could go on for years about the amount of cheese available at at 1/10th of the cost. I will likely buy a huge wedge of Brie at the Services for $1.50. Then give myself a bellyache, but it'll be worth it because BARGAIN.

Inveraray Castle, Scotland.
5. Castles
I said it already, but CASTLES. Everywhere. Ruined ones, inhabited ones, ghosts of where surely a castle once was. Places where Bonnie Prince Charlie hid, places where princes were entombed alive, and places where dragons once roamed freely! It's way more fun to play Castle Collecting than Cows-in-the-Graveyard.

6. Whisky choices.
I spent the majority of time living in Scotland pregnant and then nursing round-the-clock, so I didn't get to enjoy the mindblowing selection of whiskies available everywhere. I had great plans to try a new one every week -- even started this defunct blog, wherein I got one drink in before getting knocked up.  (Have just revisited that blog, and I now want to restart it. YUM YUM YUM.) I know I'm a Kentucky girl at heart, but I am also a single-malt convert. To order a Laphroaig Cask Strength for $5 ... oh my goodness oh my goodness.

Macaroni & Cheese with
pub chips.
7. Pub chips.
French fries/steak fries/whatever you call them. They taste more delicious when consumed in dark, basement pub. Also, they come with everything. They accompany deep-fried veggie burgers, curry, etc. I especially love it when "macaroni & cheese & chips" is the vegetarian option. CC: +Dan Canon .

8. Baked Potatoes as a meal.
My first meal in Edinburgh almost 20 years ago was at the Baked Potato Shop. I only have a day to spend in this fair city, but you better believe I will have a baked potato with vegetarian haggis.

9. Vegetarian Haggis.
Vegetarian haggis at the
Scotch Malt Whisky Society.
Roll your eyes if you must (meateaters have not yet gotten tired of the vegetarian jokes, which is super annoying, and old, and I don't understand why you don't pick on people who have actual weird eating habits, but whatever, grow up already, that's another blog, piping down now, sorry ...), but vegetarian haggis is divine! Delicious. Perfect. I like it served on a baked tattie with shredded cheese. I also love it served in a dish with neeps and tatties, like a personal casserole.

10. Fry-ups.
I want to call this "Scottish Breakfast," but my English friends will revolt. And vice versa. We shall stick with "fry-up." A plate-full of grease is good for the whisky-soaked soul. But I won't feel guilty because of that old adage: Breakfast like a king. Lunch like a prince. Dinner like a pauper. I tend to forget that rule by noon, but it's a good justification for fried eggs.

11. Cream tea.
Americans will think this means "put half and half in your tea." It does not. It means you get tea, but it's not the tea that is the star. It's the scone. And the clotted cream. The jam is good too, but oh, the cream! Savor. Or savour, if you are really feeling it.

12. Old graveyards
Maybe I'm a weirdo, but I love kirkyards. I think it goes back to just a love of history and respect for the past, but I love reading the dates on the tombstones -- and thinking about how many other people have stood on that same hallowed ground, saw the same mountains ... oh, I get all weepy just thinking about it. The graveyards in the UK are beautiful, even with the ghost stories. I love the Edinburgh ghost tours that take you through graveyards.

13. Stone Circles
I don't think I'm susceptible to time travel, so I wasn't worried. There are stone circles everywhere, so I can't wait to find one and frolic. The one pictured is just hanging out on a golf course in the Hebrides Islands (Islay).

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Pausing and reflecting and my fancy electric kettle.

This morning: quiet. There are strips of packaging paper -- leftover from an enthusiastic boy opening the mail -- strewn all about my living room, with trails of it leading toward the refrigerator and the toy room, but there is quiet. And there is tea.

Cleaning? No. Tea first.
The wee boy has returned to preschool after a bout with the stomach bug that rendered him the most adorable little thing in the history of the universe. "Mommy, mommy, my belly hurts. Mommy, I neeeeeeeed you. I really need to cuddle with you riiiiiight now." My personal favorite was, "Mommy, may I have nursies, please? I need to rehydrate." I have spent a week cuddling the sweet, sick boy. He is happily playing at preschool today, however, all symptoms long gone. Hence, the quiet and the tea.

Back to tea.

I love it. I really don't love coffee. I feel like coffee is like cornbread: it's not actually very good, but lots of people say they love it. We all nod and agree, and no one wants to be the one to admit that it's merely okay, and only actually yummy with lots of sugar and buttermilk. But tea?


I have taken to sipping my English Breakfast tea in vintage porcelain teacups that somehow ended up in my mom's basement. The cups are wee, which makes for extra strong tea. I even have an electric kettle -- the staple of a British home -- that goes from cold to boiling in 2 minutes. David bought me this one for my birthday, and it lives on the counter, making immediate hot water for me multiple times a day. It has settings for both green and black teas. One mustn't put too-hot water in green tea, you know? (Read that last sentence out loud in your most proper aristocratic finishing school voice.)

I have much to catch up on -- songs to learn, accordion parts to record (for someone else's album; don't get too excited!), one thousand emails to respond to, packaging paper to clean up.

But first: tea. See? That's why I love tea. Pause, boil, pour, steep, sip. Mmmmmmmm. Tea.


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