Wednesday, September 30, 2015

And a Happy Birthday to the Wee Boy!

While I was in Nashville working, my wee boy turned three. No guilt trips, please. I am still wrenching from having had to leave him at 9am on his birthday, don't worry.
Two cakes for the birthday boy. I baked and frosted from scratch, but had no energy left to paint ships and submarines.
Instead, we printed out some images and put them on with toothpicks. 

We didn't do a big bash, but some family came up from Texas to have a taco party. It was going to be a Dragons Love Tacos birthday party, but at some point the Wee Boy decided he needed to have another Yellow Submarine birthday cake. Then he also wanted a "Captain Ahab's Pequod Big Ship" cake, and because that is the cutest request ever, I baked him two cakes. I mean, how can you say no to a 3-year-old in a dragon costume?

The boy wore his dragon costume all the day long, just like you should when you're turning three. He played with the neighbor and opened some big gifts from grandparents. We got him two apple trees -- exactly what he asked for. I swear, this perfect little boy wants a Moby Dick cake and apple trees as a present. Could he be any cuter?

To stick with the taco party theme, I also cut out bunch of new cloth napkins with some festive Day of the Dead and Chili Peppers prints for all to use. (I absolutely despise paper napkins and paper towels for so many reasons -- another blog about that someday.) Anyway, it was a fun afternoon and kinda-sorta made up for the guilt I still feel about missing his actual birthday. Next year, NO WORK ON BIRTHDAYS!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

StitchFix Review #2 - summer tanks and a dress.

Stitchfix! I have been really bad about updating you on my fixes (and about everything on the blog. New Season's resolution: be consistent here). I've gotten three new ones since I last checked in, but one was all the way back in February before my United Kingdom tour. Another was an accidental shipment (or rather, I totally forgot it was coming, and therefore forgot to update my style profile or let my stylist know what I needed). Even though summer technically ended last week, I'm going to review my most recent summer shipment. If you'd like to sign up to try out your own personal stylist, pretty please use this link? I get a credit towards my next fix, and that would make it seem like I make money on my blog. It would also make me happy.

To remind you: I hate shopping. I'm also not really interested in style or the latest trends. I love pretty dresses and cowboy boots. I love bootcut jeans and vintage t-shirts. I don't work in an office, so I don't have to wear business casual (whatever that means). To be honest, 95% of my wardrobe for the past 15 years consists of hand-me-downs (albeit really nice hand-me-downs) or Goodwill finds. I didn't know I liked "boho" until I filled out the style profile and was apparently drawn to that stuff.


I will spoil the blog and tell you straight up that I kept everything. This was on the heels of me returning everything in a previous box, so it's not always a bullseye. I think the key is making sure you give your stylist enough feedback on previous shipments and regularly update your style profile.

For this box I was after some specific pieces, so I made sure to add a note. I decided this was the summer to upgrade my summer wardrobe. I generally rotate 3 sundresses and 3 swimsuits with a few knit tank tops. I asked my stylist to give me some tank tops appropriate for walking in the Kentucky heat that weren't Old Navy knits. This fix arrived on my birthday, so I also asked for something festive.

My stylist sent 3 sleeveless shirts, none of which I would have ever picked up off a rack in a department store. David, my trusty husband and the stylish one of the two of us, loved each of them and insisted I keep them. I wasn't sure, but my husband will be looking at them more than I will.

First was a white collared tank with black polka dots. It had a very rockabilly feel, and the knot in front was actually cute and not loud at all like I was expecting. Who knew?

Next up was a multi-colored but mainly pink tank top that flowed very nicely and had a super cute zipper in the back, not to mention blue ribbons for straps. I liked this one because I don't have to wear a bra with it, but it still seems a step or two up from my usual go-to-tanks. I paired this (I learned to use the phrase "paired with" from my stylist's postcard, which, by the way, always has too many exclamation points) with nice jeans and a necklace, and I looked like I was actually put-together.

The next shirt was another multicolored tank. I loved the turquoise straps, and David just thought it looked great. "Yep, keep it."(I'm pretty sure he was actually interested rather than just trying to get the Fashion Show over with.)

Another specific request was a "loose-fitting summer dress a step up from my usual knit strapless sundress." We walk everywhere, so I needed something that I wouldn't sweat through by the end of the block. I believe David's comment upon seeing this was, "Buy one of those in every color." It is super flattering, has nice detail, nice enough to wear to a cocktail party, but somehow unbelievably comfortable.

The fifth item surprised me: it was a purse. I recently unchecked the "don't send me handbags" option, but had forgotten I'd done it. For most of the last 37 years, I've carried a Crown Royal bag with my wallet in it. I've really been trying to get into purses since the Wee Boy was born and, you know, act like a grown up and say "paired with" and stuff. This bag is a nice addition. The color is bright enough for summer, but warm enough for autumn. I love the secret compartment on the flap -- perfect size for my Kindle or Moleskin. Purses aren't something I ever think about when I'm shopping, so it was really nice that someone else chose it for me. It was more than I would have paid (though still less than fifty bucks), but I got a 25% discount for buying all five items.

All in all, a great fix. I still love that I would never have chosen any of these items if I were picking clothes off a rack in the store. It's not always a home run, but it's fun, exciting, and totally worth it to not have to bother or waste my time at the mall. I think my favorite part of all is that I never have to hem dresses or pants -- it's in my profile that I'm a shorty.

Anyway, if you're at all interested, give it a shot. There is a $20 styling fee for each box of clothes, but it is credited towards buying the items (so you get the money back if you buy even one item). I swear one of these days I'll post photos of me in the clothes.

Tyra, if you're still reading this, then I still want to challenge you to a local StitchFix box;) I am sure you'd be better than my stylist.

Also: If anyone local to Louisville is reading, Wednesday & Saturday Morning this week means FAMILY MUSIC JAM at Mama's Hip! 1559 Bardstown Road. 10:30am. no signup required. Only $10/family. Best deal in town, and a trained teacher/musician:) 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Nashville adventures, Americana Music Association conference 2015.

Don Henley at the Ryman. This one's for my dad.
It's been a week. Some sad family things that I'm not going to write about on the blog (believe it or not, I don't actually tell you everything that is going on in my life). Some happy family things. Some things that have compelled me to be contemplative and keep to myself. It's not particularly good timing, but then when is it ever?

I'm down in Nashville for the first time in so many years. Five maybe? I can't recall. I used to come down here once a week, do session work, write songs with people, play utility man in bands, go to Loser's at 2pm and find accordion work. Nashville (and 90% of the people here) seems to have had its teeth whitened a few times since then, and I barely recognize the place. Buildings and storefronts have come and gone since the 2007 era (remember that season of Nashville Star when I was a semi-finalist? Ha ha, I had forgotten too! Hey, lookie at that list, Kacey Musgraves was a semi-finalist too that year.).

But Noshville still has challah french toast, and it's still worth the 175 mile drive from my house.
Challah french toast, a Kindle, a blank notebook. Solo time.
The Americana Music Association conference has also changed quite a bit since the days when I was a regular delegate. The enthusiasm is still there, but the music has enjoyed such mainstream success that the conference seems huge now.

I'm not one to roll my eyes at anyone or anything who has success. But popularity, combined with difficulty in flipping on the extrovert switch (I swear, I used to be able to just take that deep breath and introduce myself to strangers), has made this year's conference somewhat uncomfortable for me.

Part of me feels irrelevant. Part of me feels like I've been doing it right all along. Like, the panels are about self-releasing and how you don't need labels anymore, which is, um, what I've been saying for a hundred years? Because labels rarely do any of the work for you any more, so then why would you share the profits? Especially in an time when there ARE no profits? So unless you have a trust fund, or you're living with your girlfriend rent-free, then you kind of need to pay the bills.

Anyway, it's funny when I go to a panel that suggests doing things that aren't related to music in order to stay engaged with your audience. "Start a blog! Post pictures of your pets or breakfast on Instagram!"

I still haven't been able to answer the question I came down here with, however, which is: how does an indie artist do a self-release in 2015? I knew how to do it in 2008. I knew how to do it with small EPs designed only for small tours in Europe. But I'm working on a full-length recording that I hope to finish very, very soon. What do I do with it? Specifically, what are the steps? Do I bother hiring radio promoters? I had tons of "adds" on the last album, but none of those adds translated into sales. Do I just hire a booking agent and tour like crazy? That means hiring a tour nanny because no way can I leave my kiddo for long periods of time.

Anyway, I start babbling about the music industry on my blog, and that means my loyal blog readers flip over to their Pinterest pages ... so I shall stop here.

Houndmouth at the Ryman. 
Keb Mo at the Ryman. With Lucille, BB King's guitar.
I went to a lot of AMA UK events because I am obsessed with the UK. As you know. But this is an American band, the Wild Ponies. How do I get on the AMA UK roster???? I loved seeing this band because it was the only time at the conference I saw an unestablished woman artist who was over thirty performing. She was awesome.

A panel at the AMA conference. Singer Amy Black, on the right, offers excellent advice.  

Buffy St. Marie singing "Universal Soldier" at the Ryman.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

New TARC payment system rolling out [eventually] -- some thoughts.

I have a love/hate relationship with the bus system in Louisville. It is the worst public transportation system of any city I've lived in, BUT when it works, it works so well. I was at my destination less than two minutes after hopping on the bus this morning. Granted I was only going a mile and a half, but, still, it was quick and efficient.

Now, I have had plenty of family and friends who have worked in government, so I understand that things are not easy to change. I go back and forth between being just completely angry and grumbling things like HAS ANYONE IN METRO GOVERNMENT ACTUALLY RIDDEN ON ANY OTHER CITY'S PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION BEFORE?!?!? I get that change costs money, and I get that people in Louisville loooooooove their cars. And most of the people with the time to go to goverment meetings and public forums, well, public transportation is not at the top of their concerns list. But but but but but but but but... 

Something good that is coming is that we are FINALLY -- almost 20 years after New York -- getting a MetroCard type option: . It's called MyTarc, and the signs have been posted on the buses all summer, telling us it's coming sometime in 2015. The website now says winter or spring 2016. This gives me hope that maybe they are going to make it a little better than the website says. 

Some things I love (starting with the positive):

  • You will be able to buy them ahead of time and store money on them.
  • There are unlimited-ride options. $3.50 for a day pass and $15 for a weekly. 
  • The cost is only $1.50 a ride, while paying cash for a single ride is currently $1.75. Note that even now you can buy $1.50 single tickets in packs of ten ($15). Of course, you can't actually buy them on the bus. You can have someone at TARC mail them to you in 5-7 days, or you can go down to Union Station like David did and buy a pack in person. It turns out you can also buy them at the Main Library or any 5/3rd Bank location, which I can't believe I didn't know having lived here most of my life. The tickets are pink and sparkly, and I love them. I keep 4 in my wallet at all times, so you and I can go on a spontaneous adventure without searching for $1.75 each.
Lousiville TARC single ride tickets. 

Some things about the new system I wish they would fix:
Okay, okay, I really really don't want to be so grumbly. I'm adding this paragraph because my list of complaints, as it turns out, IS very grumbly. I know that someone downtown is working super hard and probably has had to argue to a committee or a supervisor who doesn't understand and maybe the person in charge of the system has the same gripes I have, but this compromise was the best they could do. I just really don't understand how a system that costs $5 million to update is still not as sophisticated as the MetroCard system of the late 1990s. 

  • You can add money to your card, BUT you cannot allow your friends or family members to use your card. That is, you can't swipe twice and pay for the person behind you. Not the biggest deal, but if you have family in town, they'll need to buy their own card (which you cannot buy from a bus driver).
  • Your swipe comes with 1 free transfer within two hours (they say this isn't any different from now, but every paper transfer I've ever gotten has been good for three hours), BUT once the MyTARC smart card system is in place, anyone who pays cash will NOT get a transfer. The website says this will save the drivers the time of tearing off that piece of paper that seems to actually take no time to tear off at the moment. 
  • This is the one that makes me shake my head in disbelief. You can use a credit card (not Amex, another grrrr), BUT ... "If adding value using Visa, MasterCard or Discover cards, allow 48 hours before use as fare."  So, if I'm reading this correctly, I will not be able to stand at a bus stop, use my phone to add value to my card by credit card, and then get on the bus a few minutes later. Yes, I totally realize that this sounds like I'm taking for granted the amazing future in which we live, but it's absurd that the city is spending $5million dollars on a very cool new system that won't actually allow credit card purchase in an immediately-useful way. Which means the people in my we-love-our-cars-even-though-the-bus-might-be-cheaper-and-quicker-neighborhood (Highlands/Bardstown Road) are still probably not going to take the bus
  • Where's the App????? Please, please, I hope I'm able to correct this blog entry and say, "My bad! Fully functioning app ready to roll out with the new cards." But seriously ... $5 million ... just toss in an app to let me scan and store my smart card, so I can ideally wave my phone at the new scanning system, but at the very least, not have to visit a website to add money to my card. And maybe the goal isn't to increase ridership (though shouldn't it be?), but it seems like it would make things a lot easier for Millennials and anyone who doesn't absolutely-have-to-take-the-bus if you could figure out a route and buy a ticket on your smartphone while standing at the bus stop (and not relying on Google Maps).
Anyway, I've been hesitating hitting "publish" on this blog for a while now because, again, I don't want to be so grumbly. Mostly, it's the credit card thing that seems completely insane to me. I love progress. I love change. I am all for people ditching their cars and riding the bus. I just think we can do better.
Again, I would love nothing more than to correct or edit or write a new blog saying that Louisville has got it right! How can I help?? I know this is just a blog. I thought about pitching an article to a news outlet in town, but I'm swamped these days. Maybe IL wants do more research and keep me posted?

Friday, September 4, 2015

Labor Day signature cocktail: Basil Gimlet Tonic

Beth gave me some swanky gin and even swankier tonic water for my birthday, so it was about time I busted it out. I'm going classic here with the weekend's Signature Cocktail. I'm also satiating the part of me that can't see all that bolted basil in my garden go to waste. Once the basil shoots up flowers (bolts), the leaves get a bitter flavor that just isn't good enough for pesto or caprese. But even though it's September, I can't bare to cut down the basil plants; those bees need a place to frolic!

I decided that using the late-summer basil leaves to infuse a simple syrup was a perfectly good function for them, and, truly, the syrup did not taste bitter at all.


The basil gimlet!

First: The Basil-Infused Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1.5 bunches of basil leaves (a large handful), finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup of water
Heat on stovetop or in microwave until the sugar is dissolved (about 3 minutes in microwave). Steep the leaves for at least 30 minutes, then strain.

The cocktail: 
  • 2 parts Gin
  • 2 parts simple syrup
  • 1 part fresh lime juice
  • 1 part tonic water
The classic gimlet doesn't have tonic water, but I like to add a dash to make the drink last. It also gives it a little kick of carbonation that keeps summer alive for me. I used an old-fashioned glass, but some sticklers would tell you a highball is preferred. Your choice!

Have a great Labor Day Weekend! I've decided not to work too hard. I hope you don't have to either. See you at the pool.