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?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Hearts full of love. Family photos swoon!

I just wanted to share some gorgeous family photos. If you are here because you like my music, then you won't care one bit about today's blog --- sorry! But the amazingly talented Sarah Reinhart took some photos a few months ago (hire her!), and I haven't properly shared them. There are too many great shots to share them all, but here are just some of them.

I know, I know ... I have some amazingly good-looking males in my life. They are smart and sweet, too, of course, but who cares about that? :)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Sold out UK show whoo hoo! And funny story about the Wee Boy.

Back to the UK tour! (But a funny story about the Wee Boy near the end ... read on!) My Bournemouth show is SOLD OUT! How cool is that? People always ask me why I stopped touring in the US and focused only on Europe ... well, that's why. That and obscenely long drives between shows in America. And how people talk non-stop through shows, when they are nice and respectful abroad ... but I digress. I have my official work permit ready to go (and am minus several hundred dollars in my pocket, but oh well), and I leave in two weeks. Yikes.

If you're in the United Kingdom, and you'd like to come to one of my shows, here are some details on a few of them. Message me if you're interested in Bristol for 2nd of March -- it's a private house concert, but I bet I can get you in:)

Filey. 27th of February. Filey Library.
Message me for tickets. Details here.

London. 3rd of March. Harrison Bar in Kings Cross.
Facebook Event:
Buy tickets here:
Come on, London ... I haven't played in you since 2008. Let's do this!

Perth. 6th of March. Cyprus Inn. Facebook event.
More details on this Facebook page, as well as RSVPs.

Edinburgh. 7th of March. House Concert. But not just any house concert -- the super cool and super secret house concert series that you may have heard about. Email me or Diana for details on it, so that we can include you on our RSVP list. The flat-owners require a list, as it's a private home with limited space. But you're invited! Please come and please RSVP:)

Make your plans now -- and please please please come? One show sold out relieves some anxiety, but I'd love to know I'll have crowds for the others!

Cheerio, my friends.

Oh wait ... super cute Wee Boy story. I took him to the movies today for the first time, and we saw one of his friends from preschool. He 1) asked to sit next to her 2) offered her some of his popcorn and 3) asked to hold her hand. She was cool with 1 & 2, but declined the hand-holding ... we had a nice "no means no" convo, and he was very understanding. But SWOON, what a sweetie. Almost as good as the time he offered to buy not one, but TWO women drinks at Dundee in the same night...

Cute wee boy photo of the day!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

On leaving the Wee Boy for 2 weeks ... and we're still nursing.

I'm going to Scotland in two weeks! Yes, I am freaking out at the thought of leaving the Wee Boy behind. He understands that "Mommy has to work," but he also incredibly emotional. He's not a crier, but he emotes. Oh, how he emotes. He'll get this thing I call "square-jaw" where he is trying to stop his lower lip from quivering, so he goes kind of rigid. Then his eyes get huge and a single tear rolls out of each eye as he says, "I'm going to be brave. But I feel sad. I'm going to miss you, Mommy. I will cry when you're gone because I will miss you so much." And seeing as I just lost it while typing that reenactment, I always lose it when he tells me this. I cannot hug him hard enough or kiss that space between his cheek and his neck enough times. 

He's going to be fine. I know that. But I don't like him to be sad, and he feels so so so deeply. He is such a sweet boy.

He's also still nursing -- albeit just 1-2x a day -- so this will be a huge change for him for me to be gone. When I was gone for 5 days in October for a wedding in the Bahamas, I wasn't sure if he'd still want to nurse when I returned. It was pretty much the first thing he asked for. Despite the fact that I'd only hand-expressed very briefly and only twice during my whole trip, he declared, "There's still milk in there. Chocolate milk. Yum!" I'm sure my supply took a hit while I was at the beach, but apparently not enough to bother him.

This time I'll be gone two weeks, and I'm not sure I'll bother to express at all. For one thing, it's awkward and it hurts my hand (and no way am I going to bring a pump with me). Also, I don't get engorged anymore -- I mean he's almost 2.5. I'm trying to prepare myself mentally for him forgetting about "nursies" while I'm gone, just in case this is, in fact, the end of our nursing adventure. (Knowing him, however, I have a feeling he's going to be all over me when I return.) I've had a don't-offer-don't-refuse-policy (except between 9p-7a, which I nixed last summer in an unsuccessful attempt to get this beast to sleep through the night). 

Anyone out there ever left your happily-nursing 2.5 year old for a couple of weeks? What happened? 

Anyway, because of the massive guilt I feel in leaving this boy, I've promised to bring him 14 presents -- one for every day I'm gone. Yes, I know. I shall spoil him. But I don't care. He's so innocent and sweet right now, and all I want to do is make sure I never see square-jaw-quiver-lip again. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

What a musician needs to tour in the UK. + Louisville & Edinburgh shows.

In general, I am a rule-follower. Like, I pay my taxes. I even pay sales tax on CDs and downloads. I think I've met, like, one other musician in my entire life who has a sales tax ID number.

Anyway, I've got another no-good-deed-goes-unpunished situation right now.

Today I'm paying once again for my law-abiding-status, and I do mean paying for it. I finally nailed down my certificate of sponsorship for my upcoming UK tour, but it cost me almost as much as my plane ticket. I'm not one to lie to immigration, however, especially in a country where I hope to live again someday. I don't want to risk getting banned from entry. But UGH!! That work visa just guarantees that there is no way I will make money on this tour.

It very much annoys me all these people who just fly through immigration under the radar and come back with riches. Grrrrrr.

Anyway, I'm very happy that it was approved. I'm thankful for many things in my life, but I do wish my career was a bit more profitable. On that note, tip jar, anyone?
Click to tip!

Artists who intend on touring in the UK, you need a Certificate of Sponsorship from a UK company. This is an involved process. But don't even think about trying to roll through immigration with a guitar on your back and telling them you're "on holiday." Do it right, people.

Now for a few items of business:

Louisville, I'm playing at Clifton's Pizza tomorrow evening (Tuesday) from 8-10. It's an in-the-round with Peter Searcy and Danny Flanigan. ITRs are laid-back evenings where you hear stripped-down versions of songs and sometimes you hear brand new material. I know Peter's been writing a lot, and I have lots of unrecorded tunes to share too.

Friends in Edinburgh, RSVP to this ... there is a piano in this flat, and I will play anything you want if you promise to attend. Either email me that you can come, or pop over to the FB event.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Crazy car-free people.

We have now been back in Louisville for over two years, and we have survived just fine without a car.
Bundled up and walking:)
This isn't to say we never drive. We very rarely drive, however, which makes has its perks, believe it or not. For example, the Wee Boy is obsessed with Hot Wheels and fire trucks and anything that goes vroooooom. So when we do borrow/rent a car, it is amazing to him -- maybe similar to your kid getting to ride in a fire engine. A rare and magical occurrence!

I bring this up today because most people I meet seem to pity us. Or think we are nuts. Or try desperately to find someone to drive us home (which I swear I appreciate, but it's just really not always necessary).

In many ways it's like living in a fishbowl. So many people tweet at me, "Hey I just saw you walking down Bardstown Road!" (which I do daily). Other friends will honk and offer me a ride -- often times it's people I barely know, which makes it extra cool. Usually I am happy to walk or I'm almost home anyway. A torrential rainstorm or single-digit (Fahrenheit) temperatures? Well, that's different, and those are the times I will attempt The Secret to hitch a ride. But most days it's fine. Plus, it's great for my Fitbit count. (David says I'm turning into a FitB#tch because of my newfound competitiveness. Actually, I take that back. He would never call anyone the B-word. I admit that it was I who did it... but I have more steps than you! (except you, Emilie, sigh)).

I wrote about our car-free lifestyle last summer. A few months later, this article came out that actually did some great math about owning a car v. taking Uber everywhere you want to go. 

Obviously, I'm well aware that not everyone lives less than three blocks from Bardstown Road, but I know a lot more people could, let's say, take the bus to work than actually do. If you're one of those people, then I challenge you to give it a try. In Louisville, the bus is $1.75 for adults and free for kids 5 and under (you need exact change, but they do accept dollar bills), and the driver gives you a ticket that's good for at least 3.5 hours ... sometimes I feel like it's 4, but that might be just an over-excited bus driver. Anyone know? I usually end up riding the bus one way and walking back because FITBIT!

Anyway, here is the TARC fares website. Try to ditch your car and see how it feels. Probably cold today, but as spring approaches ... well, just consider it?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Budgeting. Meal Planning. And moratorium on all your family!

I looked at earlier this week and determined that we bought you way too many drinks. Yep, you. I have since decided that I am no longer Scrooge from the end of the book, but Scrooge from the beginning (perhaps I am missing the moral of the story? But I'm not sure because I'm busy counting my gold). And not just a moratorium on buying rounds at the bar -- but for ourselves too.

In response to my shock at how much money we spent on "food & dining," not to mention the "alcohol & bars" budget (wasn't it supposed to be Dry January??!), I am hearby declaring that we are not going out to eat anymore this month. Nor are we going out to drink. Quite simply: we are not going out.

I'm also not going to the grocery until I've eaten that slimey bag of salad in the bottom drawer.

Yes, it's back to pioneer-living in the Kaelin household. No more Saturday morning crepes and croissants ... no lattes or muffins ... no tipping. Ugh, life feels dreary already ... 

Honestly, I figured if I didn't declare it publicly in my blog, I wouldn't stand a chance sticking to my goal. 

Tonight I will be bringing PB&Js to the Great Flood Brewing Company for my gig wtih Steve Cooley and Larry Raley. I will also not be buying you a drink. Don't tempt me by being nice to me or by being someone I haven't seen in ages. Seriously don't tempt me by being an overtired mama for whom I feel the deepest sympathy. Just bring $5 and buy yourselves a beer, okay? Larry and I will entertain you with George and Tammy duets while you sip your delicious craft beer on a leather couch.

Well, maybe if my tip jar is doing well, I'll buy you one. BUT JUST ONE! One each ...

Oh goodness, this is not going to go very well.

Sigh. Let us remember last Saturday, also known as The Last Croissant.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Burns Supper Wrap-Up. Delicious vegetarian haggis recipe and Vegetarian Haggis Shepherd's Pie.

The Wee Boy in a wee kilt (that, yes, we got in Scotland).
We had a most wonderful Burns Supper at our house last week. It was a super small affair -- just my parents, plus two couples with Scottish last names. We don't want to force our obsession with Scotland upon the un-Scottish, you see.

I spent the afternoon making vegetarian haggis, neeps, and tatties. I've been seeking a great veggie haggis recipe for years. I've never seen a quick recipe, and often it seems like a lot of work for not a great payoff. This year, however, I loved the result.

I based it off of the vegetarian haggis from Henderson's, a fantastic all-vegetarian restaurant new my old flat in Edinburgh. (And yes, there are lots of all-vegetarian restaurants in Edinburgh, so quit your mocking, you bullying carnivores!) I even got out my food scale, so as to cook according to weights and grams, but was foiled when my food scale is based on ounces, not the Metric System. Doh! But as with anything I do, I won't follow directions precisely ... creativity takes over, and I ended up making it my own.

Check out this gorgeous 2lb rutubaga.
I love buying rutubagas because the grocer
checkout person always has to ask what
it is. To be honest, I don't love
rutubagas, but I do miss Scotland
enough to eat them on Burns Night.

It was a delicious meal, even if it required the use of all of our various bowls. I prepped/chopped the veggies up in the morning while the lentils were soaking, so by the time came to just toss them in the recipe, I felt like a cooking show host. I must say, despite having lived 33 years dishwasher-free, I was ecstatic to have a dishwasher after this meal (thanks, David!).

I cooked the veggie haggis in a large saute pan, and I used a dutch oven for the neeps and tatties.

I'd planned on quadrupling the Henderson's recipe, which, again, is what I based mine on. It's naturally gluten-free if you use gluten-free oats, and easily made vegan by subbing margarine for the butter. Here's what I ended up using, which makes 16 servings:
  • 16oz mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 13oz brown lentils (soaked for 3+ hours - I soaked for 2, and it wasn't enough, which meant I had to simmer and add extra stock to the mixture later on -- not ideal. soak your lentils.)
  • 10oz steel cut oats (soaked for 1 hour)
  • 15oz can of red kidney beans (or use 5-6oz dry and soak them overnight)
  • 3/4 stick of butter (I used Kerry Gold because YUM)
  • 20oz grated carrot
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 20oz onions, finely chopped
  • 3 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 4 TBSP tamari sauce (you could use soy)
  • 4 tspn garam masala
  • Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
  • Vegetable stock or water -- optional

Can't you just smell it? Onions, garlic, tamari, and garam masala ... make that into a candle, people!


1. Saute garlic and onion in a wee bit of vegetable oil for about 5 minutes -- do not brown. Add  garam masala and tamar.
2. Add brown lentils and carrot. Here's where you want the lentils to get soft -- if they are not, then simmer until they are. My mixture looked too dry, as if there was no way the lentils could soften with that little moisture. I ended up adding about 1.5 cups of vegetable stock, stirring constantly, and cooked this mixture for about 40 minutes longer than I'd intended. I think this could have been avoided if I'd just soaked the lentils longer before starting the recipe.
3. Once the lentils are soft, add the mushrooms and cook for about 5-7 minutes.
4. Add the kidney beans, butter and salt & pepper.
5. Add oatmeal to the mixture and stir it all up! As Henderson's says, "The oatmeal should retain its texture to give body to the haggis." 

In the past, I've made haggis that was more meatloaf-like (or "nutloaf," I suppose you could say). This one was a little less solid than those. I ended up making a Shepherd's Pie out of the Potatoes and the Haggis. If it had just been us, I would have also put a thin layer of rutubaga between the tatties and the haggis, but with company, I opted to play it safe. Not everyone cares for rutubagas. But if you're into making a Shepherd's Pie, then:

6. Make mashed potatoes however you like to do it. (Boil tatties. Drain. Add butter, milk, and so much salt. Smash them up.)
7. Spread haggis into a 9x13 pan.
8. Use a spatula to spread mashed tatties on top. If you want the top to brown, make peaks with a fork. Sprinkle some cheese on it for extra yumminess. Bake at 400* for 40 minutes.

We also had roasted Brussels Sprouts -- check out that stalk!

Just try not to swoon.

Little boy Scottish dancing. I can't believe I forgot to put on his sporran!!

Rob Roys for the drink. Shepard's Pie made of veggie haggis and mashed potatoes. Various cheeses and crackers.
Mashed rutubag. That can of squirty cream in the middle is for the Sticky Toffee Pudding (my dad makes AMAZING STP).