Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy hogmanay and such.

Ah, resolutions. I've never been a fan of them and never really make them. I always sort of vaguely attempt to, come January, be better at my tax filing system, do more meal planning, and get to Europe more often. Actually writing things down and declaring them just seems like setting myself up for disappointment.

So don't look for resolutions from me.

Rather than make up resolutions, here's a video I made of Hogmanay in Edinburgh, set to Auld Lang Syne on the musical saw.

And here's a free download of the tune if you need to freak people out at your New Year's Eve party:

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Pressure of New Year's Eve. And some live music events!

I don't like New Year's Eve. Too much pressure, amateur night, etc, etc, of course, but also because all it signifies is a 2-3 month stretch of dismal weather, dark nights, and cold. Awful, bone-tingling cold. Rosh Hashanah is a much better-placed New Year, when crisp school supplies are on sale and new school years begin. And, of course, as a musician, New Year's Eve has generally meant a looooooooong gig.
A snowman mocha for your viewing pleasure.

I haven't worked New Year's Eve in a few years, however, and I'm kind of loving it. Besides, midnight is a tough goal for the childed, especially the childed whose child is a bad sleeper. I am tempted to put on the Netflix anytime-you-choose countdown to midnight intended to fool children and just go to bed at 9pm myself.

I don't want to go to any of the fabulous concerts around town (though the lineups are very tempting). I'm much more interested in the New Year's Day brunch invites than the NYE cocktail parties. And yet ... I am going out this year. Not for a long while, as babysitters are hard to come by on NYE, but enough to put on some sequins and have a fancy cocktail with a wonderful friend whom I don't see often enough.

I think, however, I shall pretend that it is just a fun Wednesday, rather than a special event celebrating the turnover of the clocks. January is a depressing place.

FYI, I'm teaching three music classes this week: 
Wednesday, Dec 31: 10:30am at Mama's Hip
Friday, Jan 2: 10:30am at Mama's Hip
Saturday, Jan 3: 10:30am at Mama's Hip

They are all drop-in classes; no signup required. $10/family.

And if you want to hear me sing non-kid-music:
Wednesday, Jan 7: 7:00-9:00 at Great Flood Brewing Co (all ages, even kids, free, doors at 4p)

Friday, Jan 9: 8:00pm Brigid Kaelin Band plays at the New Vintage (the old Uncle Pleasant's) doors earlier, as my band starts at 8:00!  $10 or $5student tickets. Appalatin and Alex Wright are headlining.
My band is awesome and features: Peter Searcy, Steve Cooley, +Dan Canon , and Donnie Arbuckle.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Sigh. Motherhood, having it all, and not making it onto the show ad.

I took a little break from the ol' blog last week, as you may have noticed. Mostly, I was trapped in a car driving through Oklahoma and Texas, neither of which has any business being so LONG. I mean, if the Carolinas had the decency to break up, then Texas of all states should be kind and divide itself already. But anyway ...

I'm playing a show in January - a full band show at the New Vintage in Louisville. Alex Wright, savior of my  sanity (when it comes to music business, anyway) asked me to join the bill and, knowing that I prefer the early time slot, asked if I wanted to play first. YES, I do! Then the New Vintage created this Facebook event, which is awesome because every event requires a Facebook presence, but they didn't include me on the nice graphic that says who is playing -- perhaps because I'm maybe considered "just the opener," perhaps because they just forgot, or the graphic had too much text already ... or maybe because of all the other reasons I fear.

The fab poster made my the promoter ...
I made the cut on this one! :)
At first I wasn't bothered by that at all, and Alex was awesome enough to immediately add my name to the Event name and apologize, even though he didn't make the even or the graphic.

The more I think about it, as with anything, I'm growing bothered by it. Not bothered at anyone in particular, but just sort of shocked that -- well, I knew that having a child was bad for my career, but has it been so bad that I don't even register on the radar as someone who might draw a crowd anymore??? I mean, I've sold, like, four thousand records, and been on A Prairie Home Companion, and played with Elvis Costello three times, and used to be a l'il darling of WFPK (I know, I know, "used to be") ... and, well, it appears that the last few years of pregnancy and raising a kiddo has, yup, hurt my career.

Not surprising. Not shocking. Not bitter -- just contemplative and sad. Women, by now, know that we cannot actually "have it all," etc etc. And I'm not complaining about not being the star that I once was. I guess I'm just kind of sad about having this proof of what I suspected all along.

I was talking to Steve Cooley just yesterday about how I need a new record. Not for my career (although that is obviously true considering the impetus for the this blog), but for my soul. I need a product. I need something physical -- some evidence that the last ten years of my life, my heart and soul, my efforts as an artist, have not been, well, for naught. Any kind of small business owner/ artist (for they are the same thing) knows that you must stay in the spotlight to keep your business alive. But as an artist, I need something out there, whether it's in the spotlight or not, to justify what I've done with my life.

I know, rather than blogging my heart out so you remember my name, I should be in the studio recording. But do you know how difficult it is to get musicians in one place at the same time ... at the same time that there is someone available to set up a mic and push record ... at the same time that there is someone available to watch my kid? Believe me, I've been trying for years. Guys in my band ... are you reading this? Do you have any time this week? Can we just go for it?

Here's a video from last January's show at the New Vintage with my full band. Check out +Dan Canon on the back up vocals and guitar.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

My quest to become Big Brigid.

We always rent our house out and go to Lubbock, Texas, to visit family for the holidays. This year we made a detour and drove directly to Austin, Texas, to visit my BFF and her three-week-old baby (and her husband and her 4-year-old too, of course ... but let's be ). If you read my blog, you know that the new baby is named Brigid -- still mindblowing to me. 

Of course even a new baby couldn't stop us from first rolling into Torchy's Tacos and Kerbey Lane for some of that Kerbey queso (queso blanco with a scoop of guacamole) and delivering lunch to Lyzz and her fam as we took over her brand new house. 

Speaking of gorging on Tex-mex... After some confusion about which Brigid was which (totally new to me!!), someone referred to me as "Big Brigid." Now you may think that as a 36-year-old woman, I would not enjoy being called "Big" anything. You would be wrong.

I have decided to completely embrace the moniker ... In fact, I doubled my taco order at breakfast the next morning and decided to even have a Coke for lunch and M&Ms for snack. It's on, people. I shall enjoy every minute of growing into my new nickname.

Here are some fun photos at a fire station. Auntie Lyzz is actually Lieutenant Lyzz, so the wee boy got to see some pretty cool fire engines during our visit:

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mazel Tonk video! Happy Hanukkah, y'all.

I have a couple amazing former students who volunteered as tributes and made a video for everyone's favorite interfaith hanukkah country song: Mazel Tonk!

Enjoy. It makes me laugh. Dreidel goes line-dancing!! Can't. Take. It.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Playing catchup: Gift Guide, Cloth Napkins, and Potty Training Updates.

I was so pleased with myself for pulling off that YouTube video at the last minute yesterday. And now I'm just a discombobulated mess of To Do Lists. And To Blog Lists. It's clear that I cannot get my act together enough to pull off the fancy Toddler Gift Guide blog that I was working on  ... or the Cloth Napkin Tutorial blog that I was working on ... or the Story of How My Red Accordion Was Misplaced or Pawned or Give Away by a Friend and then the Subject was Basically Ignored Every Time I Asked About It blog that I was working on ... or the Updates on my Kid's Potty Training blog that I was working on...

That brings me to today's blog: merely a List. Not a Listacle because, let's face it, I clearly can't even get my act together enough to pull that off.

Louisville-made Child Baby Carriers

These are SO cute. I wish I hadn't bought a wee Boba back on the wee Boy's 2nd birthday. Love all the fabrics and designs and just so so ridiculous. Amber Wait from Worth the Wait Alterations (she also, like, hems trousers and stuff!) makes them. I know she sold a bunch a the Mama's Hip craft fair this weekend, but check out her Facebook page if you are still looking for a gift for a kiddo who likes dolls. The carriers are $25. Bargain.

Louisville-made puppets

Another local mom, Sarah Walther, makes these adorable felt puppets for only around $6. My wee boy bought the puppy one at a local art fair, and we play with it often.Check out her Etsy shop here.

Lots of other local gift guides, but let's remember: I can't get my act together to complete any list. So you're going to have to settle for TWO suggestions.

Cloth Napkin tutorial:
For months I've been meaning to put together a simple cloth napkin tutorial for you. Instead, just have a photo of some of the cute napkins I've made for our collection.

Other things to discuss:
The Wee Boy is still a grownup when it comes to the potty. In fact his daycare has even stopped putting pullups on him at nap. No, he still hasn't slept through the night (though we have had a few nights of only waking 1-2x lately, which is miraculous), but he has probably pooped in more restaurants than you have. It's underwear-central at our house.

Now if I play my cards right, I might, just MIGHT, have a fun new video for you for Hanukkah tomorrow. I've also got to read 13 more books to complete my Goodread Challenge by the end of the year. And drive 1000 miles on Thursday. And get the house ready for the holiday renters. Egads.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Saw gigs and a little Christmas carol on the Musical Saw (video)

I played an event at Craft Gallery on South 4th Street in Louisville last weekend, where Scott Scarboro curated an exhibit based on the idea of the saw as a canvas (it's very cool -- go see it, and get your holiday shopping done whilre you're there). Not surprisingl it was entirely a saw gig. It was a fun evening, filled with me basically doing karaoke on the saw and also giving saw lessons to random people coming through the gallery. 

Now I've taught piano lessons for, like, twenty years, but I always refuse to teach saw lessons. It's not a magician-giving-away-her-secrets thing that keeps me from teaching saw. It's that it's really difficult for most people to even manage a squeak on the thing. When someone tries it and they can't make a sound, there's very little I can do to help them. I can tell you how to hold it, how to make the S-curve, and approximately where to bow on the steel, but I cannot help you with the "feel." 

Basically, it's a lot trickier than it looks.

But feel free to give it a try. I play Stanley saws, and my favorite is the 26". When I'm abroad I settle for the 22" Stanley Fat Max because it's the longest I've ever been able to find (I only ever travel with a carry-on, and you can't carry-on a saw.) 

Anyway, for your holiday pleasure, here's a little video I shot yesterday of me and the Great Steve Cooley playing "O Holy Night" on the banjo and saw. I always loved this melody, and when you're playing saw, it's all about the melody (not the bass -- sorry, couldn't resist).

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Importance of Platinum Status. And also, of Togetherness.

Ahh, champagne before take-off!
Here is how spoiled I have become. My husband just found out that he doesn't have to travel for work the rest of the year. I am sad about this because he was only three trips away from platinum status on Delta. I mean, obviously I am happy I get to see David every single day for the rest of the year. But but but...

Seriously, though, platinum status means a huge chance of upgrades. And upgrades for David mean upgrades for companion travelers ... which would be me. So basically I'm mildly bummed about a potential upgrade for a trip sometime next year that isn't even planned yet.

But, people! Have you ever flown first class international? Here's a funny little travelogue from my very first UK tour, when Peter Searcy and I got upgraded on our transatlantic flight.

I swear I'm super super excited to have my husband all to myself the rest of the year though. He's traveled a gazillion days this year, and I always miss him madly (except that first night when I stretch out like a starfish in the bed). Also, apparently on his work trips, he eats sushi every Monday night, so I suppose I can support him in continuing that tradition. Provided, of course, that he gets behind my Monday night tradition of emptying the dishwasher ...

Anyway, if you don't hear from me in a while, it's because I'm snuggled up beside my sweetheart sipping mulled cider and singing Christmas carols.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

More hilarious things the wee boy has said. Also, cookies.

Some of my friends have kept glorious leather-bound journals full of letters to their children while they were in the womb, actual printed photographs (not just hopefully stored on The Cloud), and a long list of hilarious things their kiddos have said. I am not so organized, so I am using this blog for that purpose.
Today I bring you some hilarious things the Wee Boy has said lately. He just turned two.

Nov. 9, 2014
"I love you so much, mommy. I need you to stay here, so I can cuddle with your armpit."

Nov.11, 2014
Doctor (in super baby-talk voice): I'm going to listen to your heart. Do you know where your heart is?
Wee Boy: (blank stare)
Doctor: (points to the boy's knee) Is this your heart?
Wee Boy: No, silly, that's my patella.
Nov 19, 2014
Wee Boy: Oh, mommy, you're sick. Your voice is very bad. You need a hot toddy. 

Dec 3, 2014
By the way, come to this show tonight! This little cutie
will be there. It's free. And I'm bringing cookies. Wear
your ugly sweaters if you like:)
"I'm sick." (Fake cough, fake cough) "I'm too sick to go to preschool. I have to stay in my Spider-man pajamas all day. Without socks. I will not wear socks. I'm too sick to wear socks." (Fake cough fake cough)

Also, in general, he is really into fake snoring, which, if you know me, I think is the world's most hilarious thing even when it's not my wee boy doing it. But when it is ... oh my goodness, it slays me!

My belly hurts because i just baked 75 amazing chocolate chip cookies, all of which I'm bringing to my free show tonight at Great Flood Brewing Company. Come hear me sing with my good friends Dan Canon and Steve Cooley.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A wee lass named Brigid!

Here's a picture of my little one. It's not a
newborn baby, but I don't think it's nice to
post pics of other people's babies online.
I'm having one of those days where nothing goes right, and everything is frustrating. But I'm alive and healthy, and I know lots of people aren't. Perspective is important, but then again, sometimes it's just okay to have a grumpy day.

One thing is keeping me smiling, however, and that is the knowledge that there is a little girl in Austin, Texas, who was born on Sunday to two of my favorite people in the entire world. And her name is Brigid. Can you believe that? This brand new, beautiful baby girl is named Brigid. She will have a life of spelling her name out for everyone she meets, but she will also never have to be known as Brigid D. Because there can be only one! I am still in shock, mind-blown, can't fathom, etc, etc. I get to meet this beautiful little lass in less than three weeks, and I can't get to Austin soon enough.

In the spirit of love and all that's good, I wrote this song for my own little baby, and now I give it to you (for free, if you want to download it). It's an unmastered demo, but will eventually be on the new full-length album.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Our Rose Apple Pie

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! We didn't have any plans, and then all of a sudden we were invited to my uncle's house. It was a super low-key holiday, and I loved it. My husband was even home for 10 days in a row, which is fantastic, since we are that annoying type of couple who prefers to be completely attached and together all the time. (Seriously, he's the only person who never gets sick of me. Besides the Wee Boy, who prefers to be on my lap at all times.)

Business first: Louisvillians, get out your iphones now and ask Siri to remind you to go to Great Flood Brewing Company (by the Douglass Loop) this Wednesday around 6:30. I'm singing there from 7-9 with my good friends Dan Canon and Steve Cooley. It's also doubling as my annual Chrismakkuh party, where I make cookies. Cookies and craft beer and Cooley and Canon and Kaelin ... sounds alliteratively delicious, yes? See you there. It's all-ages, and it's free.

Cooking second: LOOK AT THIS APPLE PIE THAT DAVID AND I MADE! Seriously, we were inspired by Pinterest, but ended up doing a combination of a few designs we saw on the internet.


1. Make pie crust. (Google a recipe).
2. Slice apples thinly, leaving the peels on them. Red apples will suggest a red rose, so using a variety of pinks to reds could be very cool.
3. Toss them in apple pie spices and a little lemon juice.
4. Arrange them like the first picture, but go around and around and around.
5. Use super-thin slices for the center.
6. My first layer was too short, so I added a second layer, less carefully, supplementing the "petals" with extra apple slices.
6. Bake at 350 for an hour.

It's beautiful. It tastes delicious. But, you know, I think I prefer apple pies that have a top layer of crust on them. The rose design is impressive, but it's hard to cut slices of it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

New song debut: "Once I Had" or maybe "Ballad of Nick Keir."

I know my posts about potty training get a hundred times more views than my posts about music, but today I just don't care. I'm a singer-songwriter-type, and I'm going to show you a new song. I used to really not like those lo-fi videos of people singing new songs in their basements. But guess what? I've changed my mind. I've been daydreaming of Scotland so much lately, and this new song is for an old friend: Nick Keir. For now the song is called "Once I Had."

Slainte, cheers!

P.S. Meant to have this up sooner, but my internet was crazy slow today! Sorry.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Holiday Party for the Self-Employed!

Last week I lamented about being sick while being self-employed. Today I shall whinge-first, then take action, regarding one more terrible plight of the solo entrepreneur: NO COMPANY CHRISTMAS PARTIES!

Of course, I of all people should be saying "Holiday" rather than Christmas, but "Company Christmas Party" just flows better. A few years back, I started throwing a little Christmakuh Party where I played music. It was super fun, so we are doing it again this year.

So, self-employed people of all ages, I invite you to the Self-Employed Holiday Party!

Wednesday, December 3
Great Flood Brewing Company
live music from me, @dancanon, and #stevecooley from 7p-9p

Of course, your company is responsible for buying drinks and snacks for its own employees. Sorry, my business is just Brigid Kaelin LLC, and that means hello-I-sing-and-write-for-a-living-aka-CASH-BAR! But the entertainment will be fierce and fun, and I shall bring cookies. You can bring your families.

Allow me to drift down memory lane to the three year period where I attended CBS company Christmas Parties. They never gave me health insurance, but they had open bar for a few hours once a year, which just meant that we young Assistant and Associate producers drank too much and then asked Mike Wallace to take group photos with us. He must have hated those parties. Ah, youth!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The worst thing about self-employment.

I've been sick this week. It's not been a debilitating illness though. To be honest, I've felt pretty good all week. The unfortunate part (for me, anyway) is that I've lost my voice. For a teacher and a singer, this is kind the worst. As a self-employed person, it is traumatic.

(Digression: Have I ever mentioned that in Scotland a self-employed mother gets paid maternity leave? As a self-employed woman in the US, I don't even get a paid sick day.)

So, yeah, this week has been killer on my income, as I've had to cancel over 20 music classes/lessons. 

Somebody set up a gofundme account, please! (Totally kidding totally kidding ... I'll be fine ... We don't need Christmas anyway ... KIDDING CHRISTMAS ISN'T CANCELED!)

I hate canceling lessons though, and not just because of the lost income. I feel like a weakling ... and like I'm not going to get invited to the Perfect Attendance Pizza Party. Harrumph.

Voice is coming back slowly, though, enough that I can teach this afternoon. I better be able to sing by tomorrow afternoon, though, because I'm up to shenanigans with Laura and Su. Check back to see what I'm talking about. 

Also: UK friends, please email me about setting up a show in your town for early March. I don't want anyone taking a taxi 300 miles in order to find me (looking at you Aneil!).

See? Things aren't so bad. I'll keep daydreaming of my upcoming business trip to the UK. Also, I just ran into @benkeeton and blabbed his ear off in my croaky hoarse voice. He always cheers me up. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My favorite new medical office (outside of Scotland).

My new favorite place: The Little Clinic at Kroger.

I love it because it's cheap, easy, quick, convenient, and effective. But I also love it because it reminds me of life in Scotland.

Ah, Scotland's NHS... The house calls! midwives on bicycles! same-day service! free to all! I think my favorite part of all, however, was the sense of community. You see, I was free to register with any doctor I chose, so I, obviously, chose the doctors in my neighborhood. I would pop up the street when I was ill, wandering through the cobblestone streets by India Place and Circus Place (see photo!). So charming.

The Little Clinic isn't quite so charming, but it's just as effective. And isn't that what we want in a medical visit anyway? Outcomes? Health? We don't need to see the world's most preeminent ear canal researcher in order to prescribe antibiotics for a bad ear infection. We need someone with enough training to diagnose. It helps when said person is also kind and a fast-worker.

I, someone who rarely ever goes to the doctor, actually went to the Little Clinic on Sunday (they are open on Sundays!). Part of me regrets it because the diagnosis was "pharyngitis," which 1) I already knew I had, and 2) there's nothing to be done about it besides rest and hydration. But I'm also super glad I actually went to a medical office for myself -- I'm pretty sure I've only done that one other time in my adult life because it's so hard to get a same-day appointment if you're sick, not to mention how long you have to wait here, etc, etc. I'm going to stop talking now because I'm just getting all uptight about our wonky medical system in the US.

Anyway, long live the Little Clinic in Kroger! I'm glad you're there. I feel like I live in a real community when I can walk to the doctor/nurse practitioner's office. Also, I'm glad you're not a Starbucks (except now I want one of those red holiday cups).

Monday, November 17, 2014

Snow Ice Cream Recipe.

It's a snow day here in Louisville! Ergo, I am searching David's company's job postings in Scotland, where there weather is better. In the mean time, I thought I'd re-print my favorite snow day activity for the little ones. I'd never heard of it until last winter, but it's pretty yummy.

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.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Packing for a month for you and a toddler -- in one carry-on suitcase. Part 1 of 2.

I took my 18-month-old to Europe for a month, and all we took was one carry-on suitcase.

I don't have a lot of useful skills, but I can pack like nobody's business. Travel is my forte, particularly airline travel. Road trips mean you can toss anything in at the last minute, no matter how lightly you are traveling -- a roll of paper towels, a huge bag of snacks, a few extra sweaters. Airline travel is different, and I love its limitations.

Remember that I am a professional musician, and I have traveled for months at a time, staying in everywhere from tour vans to couches to swanky hotels. I have picked up a lot of tips from my adventures, and lots of it is easy applicable to traveling with a toddler. I'm also not a zillionaire. I love public transportation, and I don't like pre-planned-vacation-packages. I plan out only what is necessary (plane tickets) and keep my options open. This means things usually go as planned because, well, there isn't much of a plan in the first place. 

Truthfully, all you really need is your passport and a credit card, right?

I'm working on another blog about sightseeing and other travel tips, but for today, I'm going to focus on packing.

A few bits of background info:

  • We traveled from mid-March to mid-April in France and the United Kingdom.
  • My kiddo was 18-months on the day we left Louisville.
  • The weather averaged from mid-50s to mid-60s (a few days colder), so cool but mild.


Our Ergo was the best thing I packed.
  1. Think different when it comes to diaper bag. From a thrift store, I brought a turquoise hobobag with three large compartments. It doesn't look like a standard diaper bag, so it felt less frumpy on the streets of Paris (where everything can feel a bit frumpy compared to French women). It looks more like a purse than anything.
  2. A small nylon backpack bag. You know what I'm talking about -- those little bags that are given away at fundraisers and such? I packed two of them, folded flat, for when I wanted a backpack or didn't want to carry the whole hobobag.
  3. A baby carrier. When he was little, we loved the Moby, but we've been an Ergo family since he turned one. He can ride on the front or the back, and he sleeps in it. I wore him most of the trip, even though I had brought along a stroller too.
  4. Ditch the stroller. I brought a stroller, and this was my big mistake. I did use it a few times, but I think in the end it was more trouble than it was worth. It was just a small umbrella stroller, but those wheels are horrible on the ancient and busy streets of Europe. The days where I just strapped him on my back were a lot easier for me -- even though he was 27lbs at the time. The Paris Metro is not stroller-friendly, having sometimes over 60 steps (yes, we counted them because every moment is a learning moment). We climbed Sacre Coeur with him in the Ergo, and it was spectacular. It was nice for talking and bonding because he was at eye level with me rather than facing the opposite direction in a stroller. Anyway, next time I might consider buying a cheap stroller once I arrived to a place I would be for a while. But I value my one free hand more than I value the stroller.
  5. Lace underwear. Obviously, this was not a romantic trip, but lace underwear nonetheless. For you, not your kiddo:) I brought 5 pair, which is 2 more than my suggested minimum. Why? Lace underwear is easy to wash in a sink and dries very quickly.
  6. Disposable diapers. We use mostly cloth diapers at home, but I tried not to think about the pile of garbage three times the size of Texas in the Pacific ocean and went disposable for this trip.
  7. Only pack diapers for the first day. I only brought 10 diapers with me for flight. There are babies all over the world, so obviously you can buy diapers when you arrive at your destination.
  8. Reusable stickers we bought at the airport.
  9. Rent an apartment, not a hotel. Use Airbnb or VRBO or a similar site to find an apartment. Odds are it'll be cheaper, better located, and more equipped (read: a washing machine!) than any hotel.
  10. Don't bring many toys. We brought two small toy cars (he was really into playing "WRECK!" at the time). At the airport, we bought a pack of reusable stickers. The newness of the stickers held his attention, and it didn't take up much room. You'll want to buy souvenirs on your trip anyway. Speaking of...
  11. Check a bag on the way home. We bought a dufflebag from a thrift store, so we weren't worried about collecting souvenirs. We actually ended up bringing an entire Thomas the Tank Engine train set home that we bought used from the 7-year-old boy who lived in the apartment next door. (He also loaned us LOADS of great toys while we were there.)
  12. Black or brown. More on packing clothes later, but choose black or brown. Stick to that color scheme when you are packing, and everything will match.
  13. Wear your biggest clothes on the plane. I brought some knee-high boots. They would have taken up half my carry-on. Wear them on the plane. Yes, you have to take them off at security, but it's not a big deal. You're already the one with a toddler, so you're not in the Expert Travel line. I also wore my coat on the plane, which was good to use as a pillow/blanket while trying to catch some sleep.
  14. Extra shoulder luggage strap. My hobobag didn't have a large across-your-chest strap, so I brought a detachable one. This meant I could strap my toddler in the Ergo, roll the suitcase behind me, place the purse/diaper-bag across my chest, and still have one hand free to roll the stroller (that I wish I had never brought). There is probably a way to strap the stroller to the carry-on without using duct tape, but we weren't able to figure it out (despite several attempts).
So these are my broad tips, but I'm also going to tell you exactly what I packed in our carryon and some tips on the actual folding, etc. Apparently people out there don't believe it's possible to travel for a month for themselves in just a carry-on, much less a toddler's things too. This blog is long enough though. When I finish the What We Packed blog, I'll post a link here. Now, start daydreaming about taking your next vacation.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fine Dining Vegetarian Style in Louisville. Marketplace rules!

Nice meals out can be, um, not really worth it if you are vegetarian. At the same time, David and I love, like love love love, sitting down to a luxurious and special meal. We still daydream about our hours-long evenings enjoying the tasting menus at The Number One in the Balmoral and The Kitchn in Leith.

I never understand why some restaurants put crap vegetarian options on their menus. The vegetarian of the group is the trump card! Your place only has a portobello sandwich? The group isn't going to eat there, even if the rest of the group is pure carnivore. 

Anyway, that's all to say that David and I rarely treat ourselves to a nice meal out in Louisville because most Louisville chefs don't pay much attention to vegetarians. For our date night, however, we went to Marketplace down on South 4th Street (it's behind the Brown Hotel, just steps from the Palace Theatre). I'm friends with the Dallas McGarity's (aka the Executive Chef at Marketplace) wife. I happen to know that she is a vegetarian. She also loves fine dining, so I would imagine the chef has gotten an earful a time or two about lack of veggie options at most nice restaurants.

We managed to squeeze into a 6:15 reservation, which was perfect for our 8:00 date with Loretta Lynn. (Sidenote: David's co-workers had not heard of her. If you haven't either, please read this and then come back.) Our server knew that we were vegetarians -- it was notated on our reservations -- which saved that awkward moment where the server rattles off the long list of very meaty specials only to be followed by, "We're vegetarians." He went straight to pointing out the lengthy list of vegetarian appetizers on the menu, as well as the two main dishes: one pasta and one entree.
At some point we settled into the exciting idea that we didn't have our toddler with us and we'd taken an Uber downtown, ergo: we could order a bottle of wine. Party! I went with Prosecco because I wanted some bubbly but didn't feel like blowing $100 on champagne. It was totally affordable ($27), and totally delicious. 

Once we toasted our night out, we were surprised with a little treat from the kitchen: the chef sent out some Brussels sprouts. I adore Brussels sprouts, as does David, so this wasn't a stretch for us. BUT these were hands down the best Brussels sprouts I have ever eaten (and yes, I've done that Pinterest recipe before). I'm making this photo super large because I want to live inside of it:
" cranberries, bourbon-sorghum hoisin, almond brussels sprouts" from Marketplace in Louisville
Seriously, I could stop here and talk of nothing else besides these Brussels sprouts. I want them for lunch right now. I want them for dinner tonight. Et cetera. They are so good.

But you're here to read about what else we ate, so I'll move on. We ordered the two vegetarian main dishes that were on the menu. I got the feeling that the Chef would have prepared us something else if we hadn't been okay with those options (most nice restaurants will work with your food restrictions). But they seemed right on target for us -- one creamy pasta dish, and one that was either dairy-free or light-on-the-dairy (we aren't vegan, so we didn't ask).
We ordered the Ricotta Gnocchi (tomato cream, local mushrooms, parmesan  $21) and it was divine. Seriously, so so so yummy. I'm at a short for adjectives because I have mommy brain, but doesn't yummy explain enough? We also had a Black Bean dish (with "polenta & greens, chipotle honey sauce, red cabbage 'slaw'  for $21). It was solid enough to be like a black bean burger, but much thicker and tastier. It reminded me of how they serve the vegetarian haggis with neeps and tatties in Scotland -- a thick bean patty in a moat of polenta. David and I kept trading our entrees back and forth all night, and we were totally happy with our meals. Again -- the vegetarian options didn't seem like an after-thought here, which was so refreshing.

And dessert! Bad blogger here -- I don't remember what it was called, but do yourselves a favor and take this photo with you when you go and order it IMMEDIATELY. It's a chocolate mousse with fresh whipped cream and some sort of little balls of white chocolate and a nut that I can't remember because we INHALED this dessert:

We had a great time and can't wait to go again. The trio that played and sang jazz standards was a lovely touch (tip your musicians, folks!), and we left Marketplace in that perfectly blissed-out combination of wine and the perfect about of food.

Anyway, restaurants, pay attention: there are vegetarians in this world with disposable income who might like a date night. David and I will definitely be back to Marketplace the next time we get a night out. Maybe you'll join us?

Here's what was happening at home while we ate fancy food and heard a living legend sing. It has nothing to do with this blog, but it's very cute:

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

StitchFix review - in which I feel like a lazy rock star with a personal stylist.

It's no secret that I hate shopping. It's also no secret that my "style" has always been: jeans + t-shirt+  boots. If I'm on-stage, change to dress + boots. I can't stand the magazines, and I'm just honestly not interested in fashion.

That said, I've felt like a slob lately. I teach preschool and toddler music classes and piano lessons, and I walk everywhere. That combination makes yoga pants or leggings so comfortably acceptable that, unless I'm onstage, that's all I wear anymore. I know it's unhealthy to compare myself to the moms who show up to my classes, but they really truly all look like they are so put together. I mean, they even have accessories on!

Recently my friend and favorite blogger, Joy, wrote about a personal shopping service on her blog. I loved the clothes they chose for her so much that I decided to try out StitchFix for myself. I'd heard about it before, but I wasn't ready.

You see, I don't spend money on clothes. I just don't. My clothes all come from Goodwill or my fashionable friend's hand-me-down bags. I've always felt that new clothes are wasteful for the environment and also for my budget. I've got "friends" who tell me it must be nice that I go to Europe every year I wish I had that kind of money. And I bite my lip and don't say what I'm thinking, which is: you spend more on clothes every year than I do on plane tickets. (Or substitute "clothes" for all the other things I go without: a car, haircuts, hair color, random Target trips, etc) Anyway, the point is that I've always made a conscious choice not to buy new clothes, so this StitchFix thing is a real leap for me.

My review? It was super fun, and my stylist did a great job. I don't think I would have picked out any of the pieces that "Grace" chose for me, but her choices weren't off-the-wall or anything. She browsed my Pinterest style board, which consists mostly of dresses I long for and a few boots and sweaters images I threw on there to show her that I sometimes wear things besides dresses. She also paid attention to my career -- the fact that I need nice clothing to wear both on stage (meaning I can get away with some sparkle or flash) and in the classroom setting or on a date night. She also worked in my request for comfort above all.

The box arrived on a Friday afternoon, when both my husband and I were working from home. This meant drop everything and have an immediate dress-up party! Between the two of us, he is the stylish one. He pulled each piece out of the box and had me try it on while he scratched his chin, nodding, and deciding which items I would keep and which would go back. (Not everyday is like a 7th grade sleepover at our house, I assure you.)

My favorite piece was a pink and navy shirt dress with some funky geometric designs. Had you said those exact words to me, I would never have believed I would like it. But a shirt dress? Perfect combination of slightly dressy, but super comfortable. I wore it on Friday night with some cowboy boots to the Loretta Lynn concert with my husband.

Black pants: These are the pants I have been looking for my whole life. I live in jeans or leggings. These are casual enough to wear anytime, but they have just enough design/interesting cut to make them look waaaaay nicer than leggings. It'll be an easy way to dress up my go-to casual outfits, and help me out of my leggings rut. KEPT.

Thicker than leggings, but servers similar purpose.
This detail is what differentiates them from leggings.

Burgundy shirt: I would not have noticed this shirt at all in a store. It's dull, to be honest. But it's both casual and nice enough to wear out with the right accessories. The color is neutral, so it goes with everything. And the fit is super flattering -- it hides my cookie stomach, which is probably a good thing. Out of the box, it was my least favorite thing, but having owned it a week now, I've already worn it twice. So I guess I like it.

Paisley kimono: I love that it goes with the burgundy shirt and the trousers. I love that it's lightweight and has a pretty pattern that is just spicy enough to spruce up my otherwise boring outfit choices. I'm still experimenting with how to wear it (do I let it drape and keep it open? do I put a belt around it? I just don't know!), but it's a winner.

Brown tunic: I'm going to have to fight hard to keep this from becoming my new uniform. The color choice is great (despite my lifelong desire to be a "winter," I am most definitely an "autumn.") and it goes with everything. It's long enough to wear with leggings if I really wanted to, but also looks great over jeans. I also really like that the front is slightly shorter than the back. That detail keeps it from looking like a frumpy 1980s bad knitting job.

When asked about my budget for clothes, I definitely said that I would prefer "the cheaper, the better," so I'm assuming they could have sent me much more expensive items. Still, the five pieces were a total of $214 (I got a 25% discount because I kept all the pieces.), which is so much more money than I ever spend on clothes that I am shuddering and having major buyer's remorse as I sit here and type those numbers to you. But I also know that I am 36 years old, and maybe I should actually own some clothes that were chosen just for me and didn't come from my friend's closet. I have put my StitchFix on hold because there is just no way I can justify spending that much on clothes several times a year. I may be a once-or-twice-at-the-most-a-year customer because, again, I'd rather buy a plane ticket... But it is a really useful, helpful, and good service. I'm hard to shop for, so I was pretty impressed.

Anyway, you are under no obligation to keep any of the clothes they send you -- they even include a self-addressed stamped package envelope to mail anything back that you don't want. David said they all looked great on me, so I kept it all. I'm not sure what I would have done had he not been there to prod me towards buying something nice for myself. I think the guilt would have won over, and I would have sent it all back. Well, I might have kept that shirt-dress. But anyway, it's a cool service, and I will likely use it again.

For the record, StitchFix didn't ask me to write about this, and I didn't get anything for free, I assure you. I do get a referral perk, however, if you click on my StitchFix link. So maybe if enough of you sign up, I'd get enough of a discount to try another box ... and next time I might actually put pictures of me in the clothes rather than just hanging on the door. But, hey, I don't own a full-length mirror, and I'm terrible at selfies. Next time?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Halloween pics and daydreams of living inside this anthro catalog.

Oh dear sweet eight pound six ounce baby Jesus, the November Anthropologie catalog has an accordion player on the cover and the entire look book is set in the Hebridean Islands, specifically Islay and Jura, and now I want to live inside of it. I want to live in this sweater and this coat, while drinking this whisky. Just look. Just look. Just LOOK:

Anthropologie: Away We Go - Islay & Jura from Anthropologie on Vimeo.

I know, I know, Anthropologie is just Urban Outfitters for women with health insurance, but STILL. I am completely mesmerized and sucked in, and November's catalog is just too much for me to handle.

I must now distract YOU with cute pictures from Halloween before you get sucked in and start buying sweaters (all sweaters are 20% now which makes them almost reasonably priced! look away, look away!):

David and I went to a party as Jess and Nick from "New Girl," which was hilarious to us because we recently binge-watched it on Netflix. No one else knew who we were, however. One person did guess Zooey Deschanel correctly -- I think it was the false eyelashes that clued them in. Most people just didn't recognize me and thought I was a random hipster girl who didn't wear a costume. Anyway, it was easy enough to get a brown wig, and I already have a propensity for Anthropologie dresses and cardigans:

The Wee Boy went as an elephant -- a costume we found in a box of hand-me-downs while digging through looking for a coat. It was pretty much immediately his favorite thing ever. Check out how cute the Scottish elephant wrangler is:

Our amazing neighbor, Rebecca, surprised the Wee Boy with a Dragon costume which he also adored (though you can't tell that from this photo, oops). He wore this costume to the preschool parade. It has a tail. Ridiculous:

I made the mistake of letting the Wee Boy browse Pinterest for jack-o-lantern ideas, and then I had to draw this cat or the world was going to end. Turns out I'm pretty good at drawing cats on pumpkins though, so I was pretty pleased:

Monday, November 3, 2014

Change is good. Mama's Hip has a great, new, online community.

I think the most annoying thing about Facebook is how many people whine and whine whenever Facebook makes a change. Remember when they shifted to the "Timeline" and you couldn't scroll through a feed without someone (maybe you) screaming, "I HATE TIMELINE! DELETING MY PROFILE!!" 

Goodness, people, relax. Change is what moves us into the future. I know, I know, it's not always good, but we have to try to improve our lives. You don't have to be an early adopter, but maybe try something before you freak out?

Here's what's up: The Mama's Hip Facebook Groups are closing and being removed from Facebook, by choice. They are making a move to a private online community, away from not-so-private Facebook, to a private, safe online place with an easier search function and an easier way for the admins to moderate. They are also suggesting you pay for this better service (although no mama will be turned away because she can't afford it) because it's really, really expensive to design and maintain a website as sophisticated as this one one they've created.

I tell you this not because I happen to teach classes at Mama's Hip. (I'm not actually an employee there, and I don't want to speak for anyone who is.) I tell you this because you might be a new mom out there who is too introverted or too tired to leave the house. And you need community. You really, really do.

The choice to move, as I understand it, is not about making anyone rich. Even if all 3000 members from the Facebook group pay (they won't), I suspect the admins would still not even be making minimum wage. The admins of the current Facebook groups have volunteered thousands of woman-hours to moderate and extinguish the fires when they started. Volunteered. For years.

This isn't about a business owner trying to exploit anything or anyone. It's not a get-rich-quick scheme. It's about buying local and supporting each other and the community that one mom created from nothing. Facebook doesn't need to make money off us (we are the product, remember?), but it might be nice to help pay for the electricity bill at Mama's Hip.

You know what? I hope it takes off. I hope everyone pays twice what she's asking ($3/month or $25/year SO CHEAP), and I hope the actual employees can maybe afford to take a paid vacation or something crazy like that.*

As a business owner who gets asked to donate her services for free all the times (three times in the past seven days, in fact), I understand that people don't always value the time and energy we have put into our services. But if you're whining because you have used the Facebook group for years, and you love it, and you can't believe this change is happening, please think about what you're supporting before you start defaming the staff and its grand vision. It's about community, not profit. But, also, it's nice to have heat in the winter. (Trying really hard not to digress into diatribe about musicians constantly being told, "It's about the art, and you should do it for free." Yes, and again, it's also nice to have heat in the winter.)

I, for one, am really looking forward to exploring this forum. It takes much less time out of my day because I'm not on Facebook, ergo I don't get distracted by Facebook. The layout and search functions are the new site are better, you can create an anonymous profile if you are worried about privacy, and the moderators don't have to deal with Facebook trolling drama.

*If you can't afford the forum, there will be a free option available in a few weeks. No one will be turned away. Also, if you're borderline should-I-pay, maybe think about what value you get from the Mama's Hip Forum the next time you are in the Target dollar aisle, and consider if it's worth more than that chicken hat.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A spot of vintage, charming, floral tea. The perfect teacup.

In all my music tours of the UK, my favorite part is always sitting down with my host (sometimes an overworked venue promoter and sometimes just a nice family who hosts a few house concerts a year) after a long drive and sharing "a cuppa." Usually I begin my UK trip wishing I'd asked for decaf, and I end each tour blissfully addicted. It's not just the tea itself. It's the ceremony, the tradition, the wait-patiently-and-ponder-while-it-steeps, and: the cups.

I won't pretend they were all charming, floral and vintage. Plenty were the classic white IKEA mugs.
Somehow, even those IKEA cups have a little more oomph to them when served in an English (or Scottish or Welsh!) Cottage Garden. Lately I have yearned to share a proper Clippers Earl Grey (shout out to my aristo friends!) in a perfectly trimmed garden by a stone cottage with a thatched roof with a murder mystery surrounding me (okay, maybe not that last part -- my imagination runs rampant).

Seeing as how my house has vinyl siding, and my hedge maze is still in infancy stages, I decided to create my own magic. My cups needed improving me. I love my Thing 1 and Thing 2 mugs, but they do not scream aristocracy -- or even peasant, really. They scream AMERICAN!.

A few weeks ago, I broke my don't-buy-anything-material-only-buy-dinner-and-plane-tickets rule, and I bought a teacup from Anthropologie. Granted, I talked myself out of the $288 dresses, but still, I bought a $6.95 (50%off!) teacup. I felt guilty immediately. Also, I cannot describe the immense pleasure it has brought me -- to slow down and pop a sugar cube and mix it with my tea with a tiny spoon.

Then it occurred to me that somewhere between my house and my mom's house, I actually had several vintage floral teacups -- the kind that no one is allowed to use because they used to be great-grandmother's or something. And I thought: what is the point? The point should be to slow down and drink tea, not to trap them in newspaper in a box in the basement. I haven't found the majority of the collection, but I was able to liberate a few. And don't they look wonderful??

Now excuse me while I put the kettle on...

Monday, October 27, 2014

DIY Sew Your Own Cloth Training Pants / Pullups Tutorial.

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We cloth diapered. I loved it. When it came time for potty training, we looked into pullups. Cloth pullups or training pants are crazy expensive, particularly for something that (we hoped) we wouldn't be using for very long. A $20 cloth diaper? No biggie, as you'll use it for 2-4 years, and it holds value for resale purposes. But paying that much (or more) for training pants? It seemed insane.

So I made some.
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I am not crafty. But I made DIY cloth training pants for my toddler.

I repeat: I am not crafty.

I hate details. I hate pre-washing or ironing hems. I hate measuring.

But there's something fabulous about sewing your kid's UNDERWEAR because, well, IT'S UNDERWEAR. Who cares if the seam is uneven? Who cares if you can see all the layers? Your kid is just going to pee in them anyway, so as long as they are functional, you've done well.


Target 7-pack boys underwear for $11.99+tax. That is about $1.82 each.

PUL fabric was on sale for $7.79/yard at Joann's. I bought half a yard for $4.

The rest of the fabric was scraps. You can use old sweatshirts, blankets, t-shirts, flannel shirts, etc, if you're into upcycling. You can also scour the remnant selection of the store for difference fabrics. I used a mix of flannel and fleece and straight up cotton.

Sewing machine and thread.

Wax paper


 1. Make a pattern using the wax paper and a marker. Place some wax paper on top of the underwear and trace the shape of both the front and the back. Cut out your pattern -- label which is the front and which is the back of the underwear. Mine wasn't totally symmetrical because the boys' underwear has that weird flap in the front.


2. Use your pattern to cut out what will be your padding -- the absorbent material. I cut two layers, but you can use less or more. I didn't want mine to be too absorbent because otherwise my kiddo just thinks it's a diaper

 3. This bit is optional. I cut two more layers (four total) that were slightly bigger than the pattern, thinking I would make a pocket to put all the layers in. It makes it look neater in the end, but I think it's totally unnecessary. If you are the type who prefers clean lines, then take the extra bit of time and sew a pocket (instructions to follow). If you don't care about a few layers of color in your kid's underwear, than just cut 4+ layers true-to-size of the pattern.

3a. To make the pocket: cut two layers of fabric slightly bigger than the pattern, and sew them around three edges (you'll stuff them, so leave room to insert):

4. Next cut out one layer of PUL fabric -- cut it slightly larger than the pattern. Again, you can use more to make it even more waterproof, but I was going for a pullup that would absorb some, but not as much as a plastic pullup. I traced the pattern because I didn't want to put any pins in the PUL and create unnecessary holes in the waterproof fabric. You don't need to go out and buy a fabric marker -- remember this is underwear, not a wedding dress.

5. If you made the pocket, sew up that 4th side. If you didn't, move on to step 6.

6. Stack your layers up, with the PUL fabric on top. I had white PUL, but if you bought PUL with cute li'l froggies on it or something, then put that pattern side up. You want the white plastic-feeling side closest to where the urine will start to seep through.

7. Sew it into the underwear, with the PUL fabric closest to the underwear. If you cut the PUL larger than the other layers, you should be able to see the PUL making a little border around the other layers -- good for water barriers.

All finished! Good job. Trim your threads and make a few more. GOOD LUCK!

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