Monday, December 9, 2019

DARK WATERS! My son is in it. Go See It!


Maybe you've been following this blog for years (since 2006, omg?!?!!), but guess what ... my 7-year-old son has officially surpassed me in fame and I LOVE IT SO MUCH! I will never stop making art and writing and singing and playing, but right now my son is part of telling maybe the most important message of the millennium.

I won't spoil the movie, but little Graham (www.imdb.me/GrahamCaldwell i think it helps if you click on that link for some reason, but i don't really understand IMDb) plays the son of Mark Ruffalo and Anne Hathaway. He looks more like them than he does like us. He's got two lines, and they are both funny. The movie, however, is a drama, a thriller, and so so so so important, and will give you so many different feels, ranging from ha ha to ewwww to omg to no fucking way to i'm so fired up!

Go see it. Then check back and tell me (or tell GRAHAM) how you're going to help him change the world. He's ready, he's motivated, and he told me he wants to be an actor-vist  ha ha ha ha.

Wanna be our best friends?? Follow Graham in Instagram because he LOVES that media and also it's apparently how casting directors actually find young actors these days, who knew? He's also on Twitter, which is pretty funny because he writes his own tweets (i obviously supervise). And he has a Facebook page, though i don't really let him look at Facebook unless someone sends him a nice comment because Facebook is scary.

 

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Best sugar cookies ever, seriously!

I'm terrified of the impending holidays. My dad's 75th birthday is in a few weeks. Hanukkah is in a few weeks. Christmas is in a few weeks. They are all the same week, and I will not be home for any of them.** I will be with my boys and my in-laws and they are all kind and thoughtful and beautiful people, but I am afraid of how I will just want to retreat to my room because I will not be good company.

I'm also afraid that if for some reason the grief ball doesn't hit its target (have you seen that analogy)  then I will just look like an unfeeling freak. Grief is weird, y'all. It's especially weird to go from two-parent holiday season to zero-parent holiday season within a year.

You know what makes me feel better? Comfort food. It's called that for a reason. Brigid's 90-Proof Kitchen here for the rescue!

Since I'm on a recipe kick, I'm gonna share my favorite awesome sugar-cookie recipe. I've had a sugar-cookie craving (but am on a doctor-ordered gluten-free trial for a few weeks for my arthritis: LAME), so rather than baking them I will just write about them. I like this one because it tastes amazing, but also because you only have to chill the dough for an hour, so you don't have to plan in advance to make them:

2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp bourbon
2 tsp baking powder
5 cups flour
1 tsp salt 
Cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and bourbon. Stir in flour, baking powder, salt. Cover and chill for an hour.
Preheat oven to 400*. Roll out dough (I like to make it thick, like 1/2"!) and cut into fun shapes. Add sprinkles if you want. Bake for 6 minutes (They'll look undercooked, but when they cool, they'll be soft not crispy.) Cool and decorate even more!
Go ahead and print this out because someone will ask you for the recipe, I promise!

Also, here are some badass Hanukkah cookie cutters that I love*:


**Robbers: all travel bloggers hire multiple house-sitters, so don't even think about trying to break into steal all those shitty old Derby glasses my mom left behind. I'll actually just leave them on the porch for you if you can take them to Goodwill for me, 'mkay thanks)

Also, it's Giving Tuesday. Give to an artist who makes you smile or to an organization that does magical things or share a post on the internets if you don't have the actual dollars to help!


Enjoy my blog? Here’s how you can show your love:
www.patreon.com/brigidkaelin
(i've been putting backstage photos with Elvis, Damaris, and more on that site)









* it's some sort of Amazon affiliate link? I don't really know what that means, but I think I'm required by law to tell you that or something.

Monday, December 2, 2019

My dad's famous Mac N Cheese Recipe.


David, digging into the MAC N CHEESE!
Hope everyone had a merry Thanksgiving! For my readers abroad, Thanksgiving is just a random Thursday where Americans cook too much food, try to manage their time attending 2-8 family functions (depending on how many grandparents are still alive), and eat a lot of comfort food. My family never had the beautiful tablescapes that I see on Pinterest, but I've now seen plenty of people who do. 

Thanksgiving was pretty difficult this year, particularly because, while Graham located my dad's special mac-n-cheese recipe on his left-behind iPad, the mac-n-cheese I cooked did not deliver. I assumed his secret ingredient was extra butter, but I think it's extra-sharp cheddar and extra salt. In the mean time, I'm waaaaaaay too cheesy-noodled out to even think about a do-over, so I'll wait until next Thanksgiving.

I had some pretty overwhelming moments of grief, some heaving sobs, and some sweet hugs and kisses from my little guys who have seen too much.

Thought I'd share my dad's mac-n-cheese recipe today, since SO many of you have asked for it:

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1 tsp salt (pretty sure he used a lot more than this)
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar (i think he included extra-sharp!)
2 cups (7 oz) elbow macaroni, cooked, drained 
Make a sauce with butter, flour, milk, salt. Stir in 1-1/2 cups cheese until melted. Layer the cheese sauce with the cooked macaroni in a 1-1/2 quart casserole. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on the top. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Serves 6-8, or one Brigid.



Pretty pretty tablescaping by 7-year-old Eleanor.

- Graham's movie comes out in theatres across America on Friday December 6! 
- I'm working on sorting out management and coastal representation for Graham while trying to manage my own art (apparently, if i don't make art, i become a crazy person!!!). Graham is begging to audition and work more.
- I love you. If you're reading this, I probably really do love you.
Enjoy my blog? Here’s how you can show your love:
www.patreon.com/brigidkaelin
(i've been putting backstage photos with Elvis, Damaris, and more on that site)

Monday, November 25, 2019

100DaysofPracticeChallenge



I've been playing the piano! I used to play hours a day. Looking back I recognize that I was an above-average child pianist. I could play Mozart upside down with crossed arms when I was 8. (I'm too old to be a prodigy now, but I can still play Mozart upside down.) I also have realized just how much the don't-say-nice-things-about-yourself mentality has affected my life and career, and, while I recognize that bragging isn't cool, I also see that it's okay to, like, not hide your skills from the world just because middle schoolers are terribly mean. And because boys-in-bands can be big jerks.

With children came less time for me, and with dying parents came even less. I have played loads of music, but only professionally and typically only on the gigs -- gotta pay the bills. Practice, even just at-home playing (playing is different from practicing), has suffered tremendously.

Sometimes it's hard to practice piano.
I'm being good to myself and not feeling guilty if I only play one page of Mozart at day. Three minutes of practice is better than zero minutes. I'm also forgiving during my travels when I'm not able to find an instrument.

I started a 100 Days of Practice Challenge on my Instagram 54 days ago. I have missed at least 10-20 days, and my progress on Mozart Sonata 2 is very weak, considering 10 years ago I could have sight-read the whole thing in a concert hall without issue. I can feel that my brain doesn't work the way it used to (which makes me partly just assume there is a tumor up there; isn't living with anxiety fun!!), but I can also feel my fingers loosening up. The cold affects my joints, so when my furnace broke 2 days ago my playing time suffered.

Anyway: anyone out there want to join me in a 100 Days of Practice Challenge? Be kind to yourself? Know that in 100 Days, you will have accomplished a feat? Anyone out there have epic graphic design skills and want to offer up some sort of printable for an adult 100 Days of Practice? Or maybe you, as an adult, can encourage your child who is taking music lessons to join you and you'll join them and everyone will have fun and grow as a person?

Again: 30 seconds of practice is better than nothing. It's the habit that is useful.

I'm going to start making more time for this, so that I can memorize the second Mozart sonata and perform it for anyone who cares to hear. Actually maybe I'll host a special live concert of country musicians performing classical pieces. Or maybe I'll just do a live-stream video that's only for my Patreon people!! (For y'all who like namedropping, I posted some backstage photos from the Elvis Costello concert and tour bus and stage and stuff, but you can only see them if you're a Patreon because I'm trying to figure out a new business plan and how to just chillax and make art in a world where albums no longer pays the bills! Can you believe i once bought two houses without family help just based on stated income of being a musician?!? Ahhhhh the turn of the century sure was fun.)

Random question for my sweet 7-year-old: will you just click on this website? I'm doing an algorithm experiment with his IMDb page.


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Friday, November 22, 2019

Dominican dreams and deaths and dads. And John Prine.

I've had a crazy year, so here I am backtracking slowly, trying to catch you up on my adventures:

Less than two weeks after my mom's funeral, and while recovering from his own cancer surgery, my dad bought tickets to John Prine's All the Best Fest. The festival was still 14 months away, and Dad had a Stage 4 diagnosis.

"That's rather optimistic, Dad, don't you think?" I said.

"Should I buy three tickets or four?" was his response.

"Are you planning on bringing a date?!" was mine.

We bought three tickets.

He died eight months later.

For a long time I wasn't sure what to do with the festival tickets. I knew that my parents would have wanted us to take the trip -- for ash-scattering purposes and dream vacation reasons. 

John Prine was their favorite. They never missed a Louisville show, dating back far into the early 1970s back when he would play small clubs in the Highlands. The first real concert I ever attended was John Prine & Arlo Guthrie at Memorial Gardens (the one where I got an orange Tic Tac stuck up my nose) In their retirement, my parents traveled to see Prine at the Ryman and the Cayamo cruise. We always had a drink with kind Jason Wilber (JP's guitarist) after the Louisville show, and some of those drinks were particularly special. The day of my mom's diagnosis, November 17, 2016, we saw Prine in Louisville. Eighteen months later we were at another John Prine concert in Louisville when we learned Mickey Clark had entered hospice -- and Mom had decided to make the first contact with Hospice for herself. 

I didn't really want to go, but last week David and I made the emotional trek to the Dominican Republic for a 4-day music festival. The lineup, in addition to John Prine, included Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, Brandi Carlisle, Todd Snider, Steve Earle, Ruby Amanfu, Lori McKenna, and so many more great performers. Here's where people start to roll their eyes and say you poor thing, sarcastically. Believe me, I appreciated the free vacation, but wow, was it emotional.

The hardest part for me wasn't actually scattering and toasting my parents. It was detaching from work. Music festivals are not relaxing for me because I am self-employed and should have been networking the hell out of that festival. I actually ended up staying away from most of the performances because I couldn't relax during them. Fortunately, aside from coordinating childcare most days, as we'd left the kids at home with a variety of overnight babysitters, I was able to at least force myself to lie down near water -- be it the warm Carribbean or the warm pool water -- and think, write, tweet, be not completely detached, but be, at least, mindful of the present a bit.

All-inclusive beach vacations are not my first-choice, but I accepted and loved it while I was there, despite missing my kids and missing my parents and sobbing everytime he played "Hello In There" (I mean, is there A SADDER SONG OUT THERE???). 

The festival team did a great job with organizing it, and I'm so glad I went on the trip. Even if David got cut by my musical saw at customs when the immigration official was highly suspicious of the saw being an instrument and forced me to play it for him in the airport before letting us in the country. The lengths I go to for my parents and for John Prine! :)

Highlights: 
- the buffets!! So many vegan/veggie options.
- having a "private island" at the pool, which meant we got champagne and a place to lounge with private pool access all day long! I skipped all the shows so i could read a romance novel by the pool.
- getting totally caught up and swirled around by the fierce turquoise waves. The exhilaration of being flipped around in that water was totally worth the fact that I'm still picking sand out of my hair.
- John Prine playing his first record all the way through ... with an encore of "Souvenirs," my mom's favorite song and the one she requested that I sing at her funeral (I SOBBED)
- unlimited virgin piƱa coladas (unlimited alcoholic ones too, but i wasn't really in the mood to drink)
- abundant shade for this redhead! It was 86 and not a cloud in the sky, but I wore a swim shirt and sunscreen and umbrella-d it up!
- Meeting nice new friends from South Dakota while having hibachi one night!
- being upgraded on the flight at the last minute, even though that meant that I was no longer sitting right next to Emmylou Harris (shoutout to Emmylou for flying coach with her band!)
- Watermelon juice!!

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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Inspiration and Joy from the most unlikely of places!

Me! Happy!! And
off to a gig last night.
In 2009 I challenged myself to blog everyday. My page views soared to thousands per day, and many more people knew me as a blogger than a musician. I refused to pre-write and schedule, which was ultimately the source of my failure. I mean, sometimes you are just swamped ... and I didn't even have kids then.

I won't put such strict DAILY rules on my blog re-discovery, but I am already feeling energized to write more. That is 100% because of SIX Patreon patrons who have pledged in the past week. 

I only know two of them personally, and I'm not related to any of them. I've seen the page-view stats on my blog before, so I obviously know that people in Australia read it. But having full-on Patrons pledge a few dollars a month to ME is giving me such a sense of validation, renewal, and desire to CREATE. I had NO idea the effect it would have on me, and I wish I'd done it years ago when I first claimed a Patreon page. I've already shared some exclusive content with my six patrons (behind-the-scenes photos of me filming a cooking show with Chef Damaris Phillips!), and I can't wait to create more.

It's a lot more encouraging than the $1.85 I got from Spotify for last quarter.

Now: what comes next?? I'm terrified of winter. These are my first holidays without my parents. We will be doing a neighbor Thanksgiving, which I'm pretty excited about ... the community I'm working on creating over there is blossoming, thanks to several other neighbors who've experienced loss and fear recently.

I'm hoping this blog and new songs and new essays and new books and new photographs and such will be a mental health savior.

I'm working on editing a few photographs (I'll share them with my patrons first!) and then I'm going to write some great blogs on my travels for the past year. All travels have been for work or for funeral, but they have all been fulfulling in their own way. So look for photos from: Scotland, Switzerland, France, the Dominican Republic and Ohio. #oneofthesethingsisnotliketheother

JOY.
LOVE.
HUGS.
ART.

Thank you for the support -- you have no idea just how much it has inspired me.

Enjoy my blog? Here’s how you can show your love:

If you can't be a patron, then maybe just:
Buy me one cuppa tea: www.ko-fi.com/brigidkaelin 

OR these clicks are free, but they seriously help an indie artist:
Follow my instagram: www.instagram.com/BrigidKaelin 
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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Welcome to my midlife crisis!

FRIENDS! I'm here. I'm caffeinated. I'm having a midlife crisis.

A friend of mine whom I don't see very often gave me some great advice last weekend. His initials are E.C. and his name rhymes with pelvis poshdello. Despite being a massively famous rock star, he somehow takes time to talk and listen and, like, therapize me. I caught up with him this weekend, introduced him to Graham, and he shared some good advice. This man is incredibly smart, which pleases me to no end and also explains his thousand endeavours and brilliant art.

Anyway, enough namedropping.

The weekend was good enough to make me want to hit reset and meet this midlife crisis full-on, eyes-on-the-road, full-focus, intentional life, etc.

I'm sort of wrestling with the whole I'm 41 with terrible genes, and there's not time to do all the things I want to do. I've got a TON of songs left in me, several romance novels, maybe one literary novel, and thousands of blogs. I also have a family to feed and support and love and snuggle and electricity bills to play, so my self-employment requires a re-boot.

I'm going to buckle down and focus on the Patreon template of art and hope that enough people out there find my music/blogs/photography/videos compelling enough to pledge $1 a month (or $5 a month?) which is basically like buying me two lattes a year.

My first album came out almost 15 years ago. I sold almost 4000 copies from stage and record stores. That income stream is just no longer available because of Spotify, etc, and that is okay with me. I acutally LOVE technology, and I LOVE the accessibility of music to all. I mean, how many kids now know about the Federalist Papers because Hamilton was readily available to the world? It's great. Music on demand is INCREDIBLE. Technology is AMAZING. I'm here for it.

I challenge anyone who has the means -- or anyone who used to, like, buy CDs on occasion, even if that was from Columbia House paste-a-penny-to-the-advert-and-mail-it-in -- to choose a few musicians on Patreon and pledge $1/month to them. Feel good about it. You are directly supporting ART.

To my own Patrons on PATREON, I'm going to be putting out some special info about various things that I'm not putting in my own blog (i mean, i have to have some incentive, right? even if it's just juicy gossip?!). And THANK YOU to the two wonderful people who jumped right on to offer support. It made me all weepy, like, legit tears and stuff, to know that there are two people out there who believe in supporting artists. It also makes me realize that if I have some sort of steady income, then I can finish these novels and these songs and also pay bills while I try to make the world a better place.




Enjoy my writing/music? Here’s how you can show your love:
If you can't be a patron, then maybe one of these??
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Thursday, November 7, 2019

Favorite meals from around the world!

I unapologetically take food photos while I'm traveling. I also unapologetically have an iPhone and Alexas in several rooms of my house. I love being able to walk inside and announce to my thermostat to make it warm, and I love being able to look back through my iCloud for a geotagged photo to remember JUST what that pizza place was called in Florence where our Couchsurfing host Antonio took us for a late-night bite after we watched that amazing trio, The Three Harmonicas, with that delightful American fiddler we'd met on the streets. Don't talk to me about privacy. I'm smart. I know the risks. I just don't care about that anymore because my parents died this year, and I don't care about anything. The GeoTag function is AMAZING for recalling restaurants and villages.

My food photos remind me of the amazing adventures I've had, whether it was that miso restaurant where I had breakfast on the top of Mount Fuji after watching the sun rise from above the clouds or that Earl Grey gelato I had at some back alley shop in Italy.

Today, I'm bringing you photos of some of my favorite treats from around the world. Unfortunately the Japan trip was pre-iPhone, so it may as well never have happened.

Spam me with your food photos!!

Enjoy my writing/music? Here’s how you can show your love:
If you can't be a patron, then maybe one of these??
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Chocolate waffle: Amsterdam 
Curry chips: Glasgow, Scotland


Full Scottish Breakfast: Isle of Skye

Spiced cider: Christmas market in Stockholm

Italian restaurant: Gamla Stan, Sweden

World's best pizza: Campo del Fiori, Rome, Italy

Also the world's best pizza: GustoPizza, Florence, Italy


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

New career choices and dirty romance novels and Mozart

Anyone out there doing NaNoWriMo?? I'm not officially because I know better than to limit my writing to November. I tried to do it in 2011, failed because I was overcome with pregnancy depression, and then I guess I just thought I couldn't do it anymore. Now I know that November 30 is not a hard deadline, and I'm gonna schedule in writing time.

I've also decided not to try to overachieve and attempt a brilliant, literary novel. I've decided that since I'm obsessed with reading light, mindless novels, then I need to write some like that instead. Also, since I unintentionally read all of that erotica trilogy a few weeks ago, then maybe I should try my hand at writing dirty romance novels. Because my parents are dead, so what have I to be embarrassed about?

(Hi, kids!! Love you! Don't be embarrassed by your mother! Maybe I'll publish a series of erotica books and you'll be able pay for college.)

Scheduling, in general, is helping me have a little bit of control over a life that I'm quite certain (finally) is completely out of my hands. It's nice to have a coffee date or a novel-writing-hour on my calendar, between gigs and emails and recording sessions.

I'm truly hoping to be productive this winter rather than just re-reading Wuthering Heights in yet another fit of seasonal depression.

So tell me ... are you writing? WHAT are you writing? Are you making other art? Tell me about it!

Oh yeah, I just deposited a whopping $1.85 from Spotify, so I'm not going to be afraid to post a do you enjoy my writing and would you perhaps feel happier today if you gave some actual, obvious, dollar-signed support to an artist link to my ko-fi.com/brigidkaelin page. I've had a Patreon in draft (edited to add: omg i just hit publish so now it's not in draft anymore!!!) for years (literally YEARS) so tell me if you're super hip to the Patreon and perhaps that will nudge me to finally get my admin crap together and plan an entire Patreon mission. It's just so much admin when all I really want to do is provide delightful art, in the form of blogs and songs and live shows and PDFs of my music and #100daysofMozart (have you been following that on my Instagram??) and such. Turns out that a lot of you didn't know that I actually play the piano REALLY FREAKING WELL. #fooledya

LOVE YOU ALL.

Here’s how YOU can show your love:
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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Waffles and savasana all day long.

Welcome to my midlife crisis! It's probably more like a three-quarter life crisis, given the genes in my family, but 'midlife' rolls off the tongue more easily. Yesterday afternoon I played a piano cocktail hour and decided that I would end the job with a bunch of green chili wontons, go home, play with children, and start doing all kinds of fun midlife crisis things in the morning. There were no green chili wontons at the event, alas, so I ate crackers and a gin & tonic.

My 3-year-old took this photo.
This morning, I awoke at 6am because children. We all went downstairs, and I immediately decided to be self-indulgent and also kind. We all had waffles for breakfast -- frozen, processed, Trader Joe's waffles. We all read books. The boys read books to each other. I walked Graham to the bus stop and made him wear this ridiculous Budweiser umbrella hat from the 1970s because I couldn't find the box that held actual umbrellas. I got some work done. I had a meeting.

I went to yoga -- that was the big thing ... I'm committed to going back to yoga, mostly because I need something to manage my anxiety and irritability. After going through a couple of sun salutations, I decided that I actually wanted to just lie in savasana the entire class. Being that it's my midlife crisis, I did just that. I was in the back row, so every time the rest of the class did down-dog, they surely noticed me still lying on my back, but whatever. I paid a lot of money to lie down on that mat, and it was really nice.

My midlife crisis is going to be some sort of balance between doing all the things I want to do before I die AND not destroying the environment in the process (because guilt about the planet has followed me ever since my enviro-conscientious 8th grade science teacher told us not to flush if it's just pee).

So ... what are the kinds of things people do during midlife crises?? Do they join a gym? (yoga -- CHECK) Take a ridiculous vacation? (in-the-works!!) Buy a car? (MAYBE?!). Totally change careers? (COULD BE!) Stay tuned and check back what antics I'm up for.


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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Settling into the next chaos

Thanks for all the love on my last blog. I haven't slipped out quietly (nor done the hair-flip departure), but I'm having trouble settling. Sitting still lets the grief pour in, and quitting breastfeeding is messing with my mental stability, and generally, there's a lot going on. Adulting seems to be getting used to the fact that things will never settle down.

You know how it goes ... we constantly tell ourselves, "Once ______ is over, things will calm down." It turns out there is always something around the corner. I am just trying my hardest to not stress out over what that something will be.

For now we are settling into our new, old house. It has great bones, and I think it is the best lot in the entire city of Louisville (not joking; location is everything to me). The interior, however, needs around $200k worth of work to bring it up to a standard of living that most people would like. I, however, am ok with holes in the walls, I guess.

Our next priority is building an actual kitchen. I'm even going to have a DISHWASHER, folks!! There's one wall that needs to come down, and David, in an attempt to give my emotions an outlet, has told me where he keeps the sledgehammer. I started with a tiny metal hitting device, but I'm feeling the sledgehammer soon...

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People keep telling me how awesome it is that I've got my parents' house.
Gratitude that I own this amazing house, but... it's a project:) How do you like this kitchen?

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Building community or slipping out quietly?!

I am surrounded by the ghosts of my family, but am raising my children in a place without family. It's a little exciting as it offers freedom to move anywhere in the world, but it's also hard: there's no one I can call at 2am. We are doing our best to establish a family-like neighborhood in the surrounding blocks, and truthfully it is a community like no other.

Last family photo. 2018.
It's weird, as I spent the last many years either raising a newborn or caring for a dying parent (or both -- not recommended). One of the things my mother apologized for on her deathbed was for not helping out as much as I needed when Graham was an infant. In his infancy, my mother and I had our biggest arguments: me begging for help, telling her how hopelessly depressed I was, and her telling me to "get over it" and that "life is hard," and me shouting back that "I'm 34, not 16, and you sh
ould be a grandmother and help me and hold this baby," and her saying essentially "you got yourself into this mess." Tears and shouts and arguments and eventual apologies (from both of us -- from me expecting the help, and her just not really being a baby person, which I totally get. She did a 180 when Angus was born and was the only person he'd go to sleep easily for.)

Anyway, we'd finally come to a sweet little grandmother-hangs-out-with-grandchildren beautiful arrangement when she got her stage 4 pancreatic diagnosis. Shit luck, eh?

Now I'm torn between throwing myself fiercely into the neighborhood by hosting sleepovers and potlucks and outdoor movie nights and serving on committees at Lakeside ... and the opposite: extracting myself completely. We could homeschool. We could travel and worldschool. We could liquidate and buy a forest in Scotland. We could buy an RV and start a new blog about traveling families. We could move to LA, like Graham is begging to do, and let him just audition all day long. We could move to the woods, and I could write romance novels.

But the community where we live, while only half a mile away, has so much more of a commune feel already that I don't really want to leave. There are so many kids, and they are all brilliant and kind. Last week a 5-year-old I didn't know knocked on the door (alone!) and asked of my boys could play. It made me smile so much and reminded me that this street is a really fun place to grow up. So maybe we'll stay?


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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Faux-pair dreams

I spent a glorious week in Telluride, playing music for smart people, soaking in new ideas, brainstorming, laughing and meeting so many smart new friends. It was peak week in that part of the mountains, so the aspens were golden sparkles everywhere. Riding above them in a private gondola was pure magic.

I first visited Telluride three weeks after my mom died. This visit was three months after my dad died. More than just escape that drew me to the mountains both times, the trip was family-seeking. Technically there's no family in Telluride, but some of my absolutely favorite people in the world live there: the family I used to nanny for.

"Nanny" is the wrong word because it was less an employee/employer situation (and also, I worked a full-time job at CBS News while I lived there, so I wasn't babysitting 40 hours a week or anything) and more of an au pair -- or faux pair! -- situation.

Twenty years later, I fell right back into my role, not in Brooklyn, but at their mountain home. I walked dogs, lent a hand, hung out with the kids (who are all grown up now and so smart and delightful and fabulous that I want to boast on them as if they were my own sweet ones!) and had coffee and got book recommendations from my ... host mom? Friend? Chosen family?!
Morning walk with sweet pups.
It was really nice. It was nice to remember that there are people in the world you can go years with out seeing, but you can fall back into place as friends or family as if not a day had passed. You can have real talks and share real feelings with people who are just, well, real.

Seeing my fauxpair family made me realize what a special connection I had and how much I wish for my kids to have someone they can visit with as they grow.

I'll be looking for new childcare come March (our wonderful au pair's visa will be up, and she'll be off to new adventures), and I wish I could have a clone of what I was to my Telluride family. Someone to live with us, to co-parent and to love on the kids, but who also has a life of their own. Someone who wants to be part of our family and who will pick pumpkins with us and hang out just because.

I keep thinking that surely there is some Bellarmine student who wants to live close to the university, but can't afford a room. A Lakeside staffer who wants to move our of their parents' home, but can't afford an apartment yet?

The barter system is a beautiful thing! I had a free room in NYC in exchange for babysitting. It was win-win-win: for me, the parents and the kids, too! I'm back to daydreaming of that kind of magic.

Louisville: SHOW ON SUNDAY, October 20. Early show, with Luke Powers. at OdeonDoors at 5pm
Music 6 to 8pm
Tickets $10 at the Door Food truck will be outside, and you can bring your food in and SIT DOWN in the listening room and eat and enjoy the show.

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Aaron Burr, SIR! I cheesed a little asking for
a selfie with Brandon Victor Dixon. #hamilton

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Cast iron and home cookin'

I have gone a little crazy and am throwing away anything resembling non-stick or Teflon or waterproof or basic disgusting carcinogenic chemicals in our house. I know, I know -- we've all known about it for years, but it apparently takes seeing your dad's eye turn inside out and spontaneously bleed before you decide maybe teflon isn't the best idea.

I'm slowly replacing everything with Le Creuset and Staub, but here's my exception:

I can't find the exact online like, but it's similar to this one. Just cook it on LOW HEAT AND IT WON'T STICK!



Have y'all seen the trailer for this movie? Because I suspect it's gonna make ALL of y'all throw out your Teflon:

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Wherein I accidentally read 3 pornos this week

Thing I just googled: porn vs erotica vs romance.

My kindle suggested this free novel to me a couple of weeks ago, and I thought, "Sure, that looks cool. I need a nice escapist book. This one is called The Scotch King, and the cover has a crown on it. Must be some historical fiction about whisky and royalty."

I opened it and wow did I get a surprise because the book is total, like, Fifty Shades fan fiction (maybe? I don't really know my fan fiction terminology) and is just a lot of sex scenes with a story woven through. I have nothing against sex scenes, but these were definitely the most saucy and graphic ones I've ever read. I was a little embarrassed, so of course rather than stopping reading it (I mean, I really need fast-reads so I can beat my dad in our GoodReads Challenge this year, and I have a leg up on him now that he's dead), I just decided to tweet to the universe that I was reading porn.

Then I felt kind of guilty because porn has a negative connotation (though I don't think it should -- but I'm also not up on the ideology and academic arguments that support it), so I wondered if it was erotica instead. I'm still really confused, but trying not to think about it.

I never made it through Fifty Shades (i read the first, but not the others), but I did manage to finish all three of the Scotch Series, actually not even realizing it was a trilogy until I got to the third book. My Kindle had sent me the whole series as a group.

Anyway, that was my first experience reading really graphic, um, romance novels? And I had some observations.

1. I am a total sucker for plot. I really somehow needed to know what happened to these characters.
2. I didn't actually enjoy the sex scenes and kinda skimmed them for a while.
3. I went back and re-read them because I wondered if, now that both my parents are dead, maybe I could have a future writing really dirty romance novels? It seems like they are pretty thin on plot and maybe don't take a lot of time to write.
4. I will, in fact, read anything that is set in Scotland. Anything.
5. I have now, for sure, screwed up my targeted Kindle advertising, but ...
6. I am going to DESTROY my GoodReads Challenge this year, even though I started very far behind.

What are you reading this week?

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

My favorite tip for traveling with kids in Europe


https://amzn.to/2mTKScI
Angus napping in our Toddler Tula.
Click photo for amazon affiliate link.
We all know "Are we there yet?" as the classic road-trip backseat question, but you're just as likely to hear it when your vacation plans are more urban. I'm not a beach vacation kind of person. I love cities, and in particular I love European cities. I love how walkable they are and how much more you can discover while on foot.

But what about when your city walks involve tiny feet?

I spent the summer traveling around Europe with my 6-year-old and 3-year-old. We did not bring a stroller because we traveled light. The 3-year-old still napped, so a stroller could have been useful. Instead we brought a toddler tula, easy enough to wear like a belt until needed. As you can see from the dreamy photo to the right, Angus just loved smuggling up and snoozing on Daddy while we strolled through Bordeaux. Le sigh!

Our favorite purchase was the kids' pedometer we bought for our 6-year-old. He's competitive and responds well to rewards, so the minute he asked to be carried or to stop walking, we'd ask him how many steps he had. Then we'd tell him we were gonna win if we carried him, and the complaints ceased.

We (and by we I mean David) did a lot of research about what device to buy, and we settled on the VivoFit Jr. 2. It's a Garmin device, and it links to an app on my phone. It's waterproof, and it's also a sleep tracker ... so I can check how he's sleeping and what time he generally wakes up (early. very early).



My favorite part is the rewards and chores you can create.

In Europe we had a scavenger hunt and he could earn "coins" if he, for example, saw a Swiss flag or a street musician, or whatever else I decided to add to the list.

Now that we are home, I keep a list of chores. Some are daily (brush teeth, practice piano) and he gets little alerts on the watch to go do them. Others are just on his own. If he wants to save 100 gold coins, he can do things like ... dust the baseboards, read for an hour, rake leaves, scratch David's back for 5 minutes, or basically anything you want to invent as a parent. Graham is very rewards-based, so he'll save up his gold coins for the various rewards we've listed: buy a new game/app, trip to the ice cream store, go to the movies, solo dinner date with Mom, etc.

I have to say, I thought the newness would wear off after our trip, but it's been 4 months of the device and he's still really into it. The best part for me is that he's become a surprisingly good piano player -- purely because at 6:37 every night, his watch buzzes and reminds him to practice piano.



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Monday, September 23, 2019

What I Read on my European Vacation

This summer I spent a month in Europe with my family. We moved around too much for me to officially use summer as a verb, but it still felt luxurious and escapist to the nth degree. The trip originally began as a music tour, the first and last dates booked almost a year in advance (that's how you have to do it when you tour abroad). I knew I had a month of shows to fill between a starting festival in Scotland and an ending festival in Switzerland ... and I started working (I do all this myself!) to fill in the dates.

That's when it became clear that my dad would not survive the year.

I stopped booking shows. I left the two bookend dates both because I had contracts and because I had hope, but I didn't fill in the rest of the dates. When Dad died in June, I still had these shows on the calendar, but I didn't have much of a good reason to leave the family for a month and go to Europe alone for only two shows.

So we cashed in five years of Delta and Amex points and brought the entire family along for the adventure. We even paid-it-forward a bit by buying a plane ticket for my cousin, who had posted about her longing to see Europe. I figured my dad would have wanted an adventure for his niece as well, and I really needed to feel some connection to the rest of my family at a time when this only child had just lost both her parents.

I miss that time in Europe.

It's a weird and wonderful thing -- when you have everyone you love within inches of you. You can turn off your phone. You can completely disconnect. My previous three years of panic attacks whenever the phone rang were over. I'd already received the two awful calls. The diagnoses, the long illnesses, the nasty ends and the exhalation of relief when it was over. Any phone call or email I missed this time merely meant that I'd missed a job or audition (I did -- I missed many, but oh well), and not a family emergency.

There was so much quiet. There were so many castles. I read nine novels and multiple travel books. Because we traveled with the kids, and because we walked all day, we were home early and tired. Rather than scrolling the ol' social media, I opted to get out my Kindle (Kindle paperwhite for travel is everything -- any book you want in an instant) and I read. I didn't read anything deep. My favorite genre is anything with the Eiffel Tower on the cover, no matter how dumb or difficult it looks. I will read it.

Wee Graham also read a ton. We subscribed to Epic! while we were there (and still do because I haven't canceled my free trial)so he had loads of books downloaded to his tablet as well. He read books ranging from Raucous Royals to Loch Ness Mysteries and shared all his acquired tidbits of trivia on our tourist travels. 

So here's the list of books I read while on my escapist trip abroad, not counting the typical Rick Steves Paris, etc. I'm in a 2019 kind of mood where basically all I want to read are books written by women, but I do make occasional exceptions as you can see.

P.S. from Paris by Marc Levy
Ghosted by Rosie Walsh
Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson
Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Reid Jenkins
I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella
Bizarre London by David Long
One Day in December by Josie Silver
Rosie's Traveling Tea Shop by Rebecca Raisin
The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms

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