Friday, October 30, 2015

Just a cute kid in a costume.

Friday!! You get a cute kid-in-a-costume photo today because I can't follow my own time-management advice enough to actually blog something interesting. But don't we all prefer cute kid pictures to deep thoughts or whinges about not being in Paris anyway?

I've been putting together a video montage of The Birdies tunes, but it's not ready yet. We have a few upcoming public gigs in December, plus a few private holiday parties that you cannot come to. Wouldn't you just love to book an Andrews Sisters-type group to come sing a few old tunes and, you know, dress up all vintage and make an appearance at your event? Get in touch!

Monday, October 26, 2015

11 Time Management Tips for the Self-Employed

When David and I were both self-employed a few years ago, I offered him all kinds of time management advice. It was pretty good stuff, I thought, but I'm having quite a time adhering to my own advice. In the interest of completely procrastinating on actually doing work today, I'm going to make a new list of all the tips that I know help. Voila!

1. Make a list on Sunday night of what you need to accomplish that week. But don't do it right before bed because that can just stress you out. Just know that it's on the list, so it will get done. Then go about enjoying your weekend.

1a. List your to-dos by category

My business and daily life get mixed up, so when I remember I have to pay some bills, I keep a separate "home" list. I also keep an "email/communication" subcategory, along with Bookkeeping, Writing, Home, The Wee Boy, etc.

2. Slim that list down on Monday morning of what you absolutely need to accomplish that day. 

It's too easy to flip out looking at a massive To Do list. There's actually a pre-printed planner, called the Planner Pad, if you're the ink-to-paper type, that organizes your week like this. I have trouble keeping up with both paper and Google calendar, but they have an e-version as well.

3. Identify tasks that can wait until other days and assign them throughout the week.

4. Set a timer for tedious tasks, and stick to it. 

If you know you're only going to be spending 15 minutes on something, you'll know it won't be so bad. Also, it helps you stay focused -- no straying from the task until the timer sounds.

5. Only check email a few times a day

This saves time and stops you from doing that thing where you read the email, think 'I'll respond to that in just a bit because I'm doing something else now,' and then you completely forget about that old email because it's no longer bold-faced in your inbox.

6. Leave the house.

If your house is in a state of disarray, you aren't going to get as much accomplished as you could. It's too easy to say "Oh, but laundry, but organization, but dishes, but etc etc etc." I'm sure it would be lovely to hire a professional organizer to come in and makeover your home so you feel all zen and able to work at your dining room table (or even home office if you are so lucky!), but for now: go to the coffee shop. While you are there, remember to set a timer to make the most of your time

7. Work when you are most productive

This one is super-hard when you have kids, or at least it has been for me. My childcare starts at 9am, but I am not a morning person. I am most productive and creative beginning at around 2p, basically just before I have to pick up the Wee Boy. If you don't have such restrictions, enjoy the freedom and make the most of it. You can set your own hours, so set them to when you can be efficient. 

8. Schedule your social media posts. 

You can use "schedule" feature on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc. so you can post at optimum hours without being tethered to your laptop or phone at those exact moments. This ties in well with #7 -- if you write best at midnight, then write then. But schedule your post for a more prominent social media time. 

9. Give yourself a break.

This one is hard for me. I am the meanest boss around. But every employee needs a break. Take a walk around the block, do a 20 minute yoga video, sit down for a cuppa, whatever will re-energize you. Just again: Set a timer, so it doesn't turn into a Netflix marathon.

10. Learn your limits. 

Don't be too hard on yourself. Self-employed workers are doing the work of at least five (and probably more) employees. Understand that you are taking on a lot, and be good to yourself. 

11. Remember that your job is important.

I struggle with this one, especially because so many of my friends just do not understand self-employment. Most either think I am a stay-at-home-mom or that I am available to have lunch or coffee on a moment's notice if my kiddo is in childcare. I shouldn't care what they think, but it's rough when the same friend calls every day right during the time my clients start arriving (and when they have known your schedule for 10+ years!). It's easy to be dismissive of your own career, but do your best to remember that your job is important.

Now, to follow my own advice! Singing that song from Alice in Wonderland ... "I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it." Sigh. 
What are your time management tips?? I'd love to hear them.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The best student-budget meal we had. And a free download.

In my Europe daydreams, I keep going back to our favorite student-budget meal. We did not live the life of luxury while we were there, but this meal still feels like the be-all-end-all of what-would-you-eat-if-you-had-a-million-dollars to me. It's probably because real (unpasteurized) camembert is both legal and incredibly inexpensive over there. And because we were so close to France, the cheap red wine is a quarter of the cost of American liquor stores.

A baguette,
a wheel of camembert,
broccoli florets and garlic cloves,
all roasted for 10 minutes
a bottle of red.

£5 for all.

So good. Considering how pricy cheese is here, this is not exactly student-friendly in Kentucky. But you know I'm in a daydreamy mood.

I may try to replicate that tonight, minus the unpasteurized cheese, of course.

Why can I not find a photo of this most delicious meal ever??? What, was I too busy enjoying my time and company and not stopping to Instagram it?! Fool. I'll hunt through my old iPhoto when I get home and update this if I find something. Check back? Instead, here is a picture of something dreamy: chocolatissimo from a cobblestoned sidewalk cafe. Because dreams do come true.

In the mean time, how about a wistful rainy-day-song? It's a little more serious than I like to share, but I do so love the combination of me on piano and Peter Searcy on cello. Free download if you like. Or it's on Spotify, if that's your thing.

And: what I've been reading: this week, it's Elvis Costello's memoir, which I am enjoying so very very much. I've actually been listening to the audiobook while walking from here to there, which is so very pleasant because I've spoken to him in person so many times, which is surreal still. Anyway, I recommend it. He is one of the smartest people I've ever met -- both in book knowledge and street smarts. His writing supports this.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A woman, alone, in a French cafe. (Daydreams of Paris - unending.)

Thirty minutes to myself this morning before my music class begins. The wee boy is fighting a bug that seems to mostly be gone. It was just a short-lived fever that left him less energetic than usual and gave us a bit of a rough night ("I'm hot! I'm cold! I'm hot! I'm freezing!"). I've left him at home (with company!) today, which made him a little sad -- he absolutely loves coming to Family Music Jam at Mama's Hip. 

I thought I would be disciplined and self-therapeutic in my alone time and write away some crazy in my lovely red Moleskin™. Being the prepared writer that I am, however, I have forgotten a pen. That's what I get for following one tiny suggestion by that fool who clearly has no children, Marie Kondo, and taking everything out of my purse. (Another blog about that. Very little need to purge your stuff if you've moved TransAtlantic recently. But I like to read the water-cooler books. Or Moms-Groups books, I should say more accurately.)

Anyway, instead I'm catching up on long-unanswered emails and messages, sitting with a half-caff espresso in a tiny cup, a blank page on my iPad, and yes I will admit this the September 2015 Anthropologie catalog that I can't seem to throw away because: Paris.

It is Paris.

It is laughing, confident women with a glass of wine strolling down a Rue de MyLifeIsBetterThanYours with dangly earrings and a manicure. 

It doesn't make me sad or envious. It doesn't make me wish I could be those woman; I have been those women. Occasionally, I still am those women. 

But I want to me those women again sooner rather than later. 

And then I look around at other people in this coffeeshop and imagine what they think of me: a woman, alone, sipping an espresso, nibbling on a crepe, writing, daydreaming, a guitar case at my side. Overall, it's pretty good to me.

I shall now pin these on my "Things that make me happy" Pinterest page and move forward.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Finally: the Chip and PIN in the US ... sort of.

In today's chapter of Brigid Remains Completely Culture Shocked by America...

Businesses around America (my own included) have been warned that, by the beginning of this month, we could be held liable for any transactions we do via magnetic swipe cards. By October 1, we were supposed to be set up to take the new EMV aka "chip" credit cards.

My faithful readers in Europe (about 30% of you) may spit out your tea or whisky at the thought that America -- yes, America -- is only just now, in October of 2015, switching to the Chip readers.

You see, it's been at least 15 years since Europe made the switch to those credit cards, while America has continued to swipe and sign. When travelling abroad, you'll even find that some places don't accept the swipe cards at all (generally because the shopkeeper has no idea how to complete such a transaction). If you do figure out how, you have to sign the slip. You had better have signed the back of your credit card and have your passport with you as ID, or prepare to have your card cut up and receive dirty looks as if you might be a criminal. (Personal experience.)

The chip & PIN cards are, indeed, more secure than the magenetic swipe & sign. When you "pop in" your chip card in Europe, you are prompted to then enter your PIN. Only then will the transaction complete. With the old swipe card, you can sign "Elvis" on the screen, and you can still completely your purchase (Again: personal experience.)

Anyway, the switch should be a good thing, overall, considering if someone steals your wallet, they theoretically wouldn't be able to go buy $700 worth of junk at Target because they wouldn't know your PIN!

Except here's the insane thing: the Chip card readers in America (at the four different establishments where I've used my new card) haven't actually asked for my PIN at all!

I have asked the store clerk, "Where do I enter my PIN?"

They either have looked at me blankly or replied, "You don't have to enter or sign anything."

I am generally a huge proponent for change, but ?!?!?!?!?

In happier times, I stopped doing my Saturday classes at Mama's Hip because I need my weekends back. But I'm still there on Wednesdays ... bring your littles in for some egg shaking and dancing:

Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday links: Birth TED talk, Vegetarians & protein, and GEOGUESSR!

Some links! Because ... FRIDAY.

Nicola Goodall's TEDx Talk: Reframing Birth. 
We had one of those posh things called a doula when we were in Scotland, even though the entire birthing process is a thousand times more humane than it is in America. Her name is Nicola, and she is brilliant. Here she is giving a TED talk that I just adore:

Just for fun, here she is chillaxing on the couch, quietly knitting a cap, while I'm in the birthing tub, you know, birthing and stuff:

But where do you get your protein?
In light of yesterday's blog about my vegetarian child, I actually get this question twice. It still annoys me, mostly because doesn't everyone know how to Google things? And so, if you ask me this, it seems like you are choosing not to Google and instead to poke and prod at my lifestyle choices ... but then my head tells me that's my defensiveness, which I am working on, talking and not necessarily the intent of my inquisitors. Anyway, Google away. I found this one right away, from Harvard. They know stuff at Harvard.   And another one. 

GeoGuessr - my favorite thing on the internet.

I spent a week this summer completely obsessed with this game. It somewhat satiates my travel needs, though when it shows me a castle in Scotland, I melt with longing. Seriously, this game shows you a Google street view of ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD and you have to guess where it is by dropping the pin on the map. The closer you guess, the more points you get. I think my top score was, like, 13,000 or something this summer. It can be very tough, but it's fun to explore.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

What happens when you feed a vegetarian meat?

The wee boy has had a rough few weeks. He's okay, but we had a scary ER visit because of a bad head wound caused by another child hitting him with a toy. Most recently, someone unwittingly gave him a hot dog (I'm sure this person feels guilty enough; this post isn't meant to shame anyone -- just inform others).

Now, I know it's common knowledge among vegetarians that you'll likely get sick if you haven't eaten meat in a while and you revert. I also know there are some people with magical intestines who aren't phased by meat at all, no matter how long it's been. I also know that most of the non-vegetarians of the world think this illness is completely psychosomatic.
Wee boy walking the Labyrinth to do a little
soul-searching after a rough week.

If that's your thinking, let me tell you that you are WRONG. 

My poor boy -- who has never had any kind of meat (nor did I ever eat meat during pregnancy, and he's still on the high end of the growth curve, so hush your judgmental mouth about if he's getting enough protein) -- had just a few bites of a beef hot dog last week, before noticing it "tasted different than my vegetarian hot dogs, so I threw it away." And I have never seen him so sick. So sick. Both ends. Off and on for hours. Ugh, I get angry and weepy just thinking about it.

I've been giving him probiotics to help out his poor little gut, and some of the rage has left me (I was on fire with anger, even though I know it was an accident). Mostly, the wee boy feels sad and guilty because "a cow died for me" (my main reasons for being a veggie are environmental, but the wee boy's are a mixture of "what's good for the earth and for the 'aminals'") Ugh.

In good news, his reaction seems to confirm that no one else has given him meat sneakily before. And it also warns future meat-givers that any attempts will be busted.

A little deep thinking now, extrapolating from this teeny incident: it irritates me to no end that people still brush off vegetarianism. Gluten-free people get more of a pass these days, at least in America (I mean, there's a gluten-free cafe at Churchill Downs, but no vegetarian one). Maybe you're thinking that gluten is an allergy, and vegetarianism is not. But tell me -- would you feed a rabbi's child bacon, or a Hindu a cow? brushing it aside as a preference rather than an allergy? And also, vegetarians can get very ill indeed from eating meat, which might as well be an allergic reaction.

Grrrrrr. Anyway, he's fine now. I am getting over it. I know it won't happen again, at least not from this person. And before you jump down my throat, yes, if the wee boy chooses to eat meat on his own one day, that's totally fine. He can do anything he like when he's older. For now, our family doesn't eat meat.

Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

Maybe I'll watch this video I made of Scotland to remind me of simpler times.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Wanderlust and ER visits are mutually exclusive.

I have The Wanderlust again. As usual, I don't want to go just anywhere. I want to go to Europe. You see, I'd rather hibernate for months at a time, cooking dinners at home, hoarding my pennies, taking public transportation rather than spend the money on a car payment & insurance, all for the benefit of Europe at least once a year. I don't need professional haircuts or Thai takeout. I don't need the dollar aisle at Target or weekly date nights. I don't need a yoga studio or Halloween decorations or the Anthropologie bedding that I drool over. 

I don't even need a business class ticket. I don't need a fancy hotel. I just need a plane ticket and a couch. A wander around some cobblestones. A view of a castle. Enough local currency for a crepe and some wifi. 

Yes, I totally get how entitled it still sounds. But... consider a plane ticket my therapy. It's cheaper than therapy, for sure, considering our shameful health care system.

Anyway, no Europe for me anytime soon. We've got some road trip travel plans, but nothing to satiate my castle cravings. It also INFURIATES me that I have spent enough on emergency room visits in the past month to buy three round trip tickets to Europe. No surgeries -- nothing beyond IV antibiotics and close monitoring. Still: thousands. Dollars, not pennies.

Then, and rightly so, I get to feeling all guilty because my trips to the ER mean that I don't get to go to Europe. Many people's trips to the ER mean they don't get to eat. 

And then I get the urge to buy a one-way ticket instead.


Friday, October 9, 2015

Radio debut of the Birdies and other fun stuff.

I was live on the radio this morning with my friends Laura and Su and Duke and Dennis! You can hear us chat and sing two old-timey tunes in 3-part harmony here:
I'm itching to plan a Europe tour so badly ...  maybe we should take The Birdies on the road instead of my cheeky solo stuff? Book us, and we will come.

It's a weekend of music in my world:

Brigid Kaelin Band 
Saturday, October 10
6:15pm sharp at the Douglass Loop outdoor stage
Belknap Fall Festival
Free, all ages, outdoors.

The Birdies
Sunday, October 11
Sunday 9:20pm (sharp, I hope!) at Art Sanctuary
Louisville Outskirts Festival

I'm working on a few other projects here and there ... in fact, I'm going to sign off from here right now, so I will stop stalling on editing this podcast I've put together. I swear, I thought podcasts were so 2006, until I realized that apparently they are so 2014. I should really stop being so dismissive. Anyway -- cheerio, friends!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Shout-out to others: Some Links I Love

Rather than complaining about how far behind I am in everything (including email, text, basically all forms of communication with everyone I have ever met, not to mention business things AAAAACK!), I am instead going to focus on some links I like today. You know -- direct your attention elsewhere.

Article: "The Secret to Making Your Life a Hundred Times Better"
I could have written this myself. But of course I didn't because I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHERE THE DAYS GO ANYMORE. I loved this though. It's about giving in to little conveniences, like online grocery delivery, but -- and this is the hard part -- not letting the guilt take hold. 

How many earths would it take to sustain lifestyle if everyone on the planet lived like you?
This is one of my very favorite online calculators. Take this test, and try to tell me I'm crazy for not using paper towels.

The Mama's Hip Online Community
Basically, the only sane internet moms' group that I have ever been a part of. It's a paid thing. That keeps away the trolls. Because trolling should be free, you know? Anyway, if you're new to Louisville, or new to parenting in Louisville, and you are tolerant of people different from you, then hop on over.

And now, a selfish link:

The Birdies
"Like" our Facebook page, won't you? Then people will know we're legit. Catch us live on WFPK just past 8:00am Eastern this Friday. Anyway, please like that page ... it seems like it doesn't make a difference, but it's one of those small ways you can support indie artists. You know, since music is free these days and all.