Sunday, June 19, 2016

Catching Up…

Before life gets really hectic for the next five weeks, I thought I would catch up on the things that have been going on around here.

I don't often get a photo of my oldest son but since he was headed to his girlfriend's prom, I was afforded that opportunity. So here he is looking handsome with his beautiful girlfriend and prom-date, Madysen.

 Dylan has been festival-hopping and recording a CD with his band Poor Man's Gambit and in his spare time, gigging with Haley or Haley and Keegan. They did a house concert to help fundraise for our trip to Ireland in a couple months. It was a "double-header" house concert with the Kane Sisters playing a set, followed by a delicious gourmet dinner, then Haley, Dylan, and Keegan for a set, ending with a session.

Haley did her first ever Scottish ceili…

During a local film festival, she played at a screening of a short documentary film she was interviewed for by a friend's son who is a very talented young film maker headed off to college in the fall…

This past weekend, she and I headed up to New York. Friday we shopped 'til we dropped. Haley always likes to save up her money for a few months then do a NYC shopping trip for her "birthday." We also had an appointment to meet with someone at NYU to learn about the Mick Moloney Irish Collection housed there. Unfortunately the floor housing the collection is currently under construction but Haley received some tips for researching online and we will go back to view some items later this summer.

Haley searching for the best place to eat lunch.
Saturday she had a fiddle lesson then a house party/session at her fiddle teacher's home. She said it was most fun she's had in awhile. She played until late into the evening. She and her accordion buddy, John Whelan, were the last ones playing….

Sunday we drove back south to Philly to see Riverdance. Haley knew a number of the dancers and the fiddler and had a lot of fun watching them do their thing. We met them at the stage door after the show.

Haley with Pat and Natia Mangan and the other Russion dancers.
After the show, we walked back to Old City for dinner and a session at The Plough and the Stars. Pat and Natia joined us for some tunes for awhile, the entire McGillian family was in attendance, and my friend Maria and her sons stopped by to listen and talk so it was great fun!!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Healthy Zucchini Bread Recipe

I know…months of no new posts and I chose to post a recipe??!?

There has been so much going on in our lives, I simply haven't had time to even think about blogging. We've traveled to different places, made new friends, gotten together with old friends, and lived life mostly on the road. The kids have had some awesome gigs in places like Northeast PA and Augusta, GA in neat smaller venues with great, appreciative audiences. I posted some videos on my youtube page of them playing recently. Here's one but you can go to youtube to find a few more.

Dylan has barely been living at home. He comes home only for a few days during the week but spends most of his weekends in Allentown doing gigs with his band, Poor Man's Gambit. He is loving life and playing the ends of his fingers off!

Haley and I have been trying to eat healthier (except for dark chocolate which I cannot turn down) and I love zucchini bread and had some at my friend, Lynette's house yesterday morning which reminded me of zucchini sitting in my refrigerator. So I took a recipe I had and substituted most of the things that weren't so great for me. It came out moist and delicious so I am going to share.

Healthy Zucchini Bread
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease bottoms only of two loaf pans (I used coconut oil).
Mix together:
3 1/2 cups shredded zucchini (leave on the skin)
1 cup shredded carrots
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup honey
2 Tbsp coconut oil
4 large eggs

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup coconut flour
1 Tbsp chia seeds
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder

Pour into prepared loaf pans. Can top with...
Topping: 1/2 cup oats, 1/4 cup turbinado sugar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon   (Press lightly into top of each.)

Cook 60-65 min or until top feel springy to touch not mushy.

I may mess around with different flours like almond flour to see if I can get a nice texture of gluten-free zucchini bread for my friends. I will also add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts to the mix…just didn't have any today. You can try adding some raisins, craisins, or other types of nuts as well.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

March Madness 2016

March is the best month to be an Irish musician! St. Patrick's Day brings out the Irish in everyone. This year, both Haley and Dylan had a full calendar of events with everything from small performances at a school or nursing home to huge concerts with well over 1200 people attending.

Here's a quick summary of our March fun!

The first weekend of March, Dylan headed off for a weekend long festival in West Virginia with his band, Poor Man's Gambit. They played five shows and Dylan taught a Irish guitar workshop. It was his first group teaching experience and he received a nice note afterward from one of his "students" saying how much he enjoyed the class and that he learned a lot.

A few weeks before Dylan's trip, I had to do some quick thinking and juggling because he was supposed to perform with Haley that Saturday night at the local community college. I remembered Haley's buddy, John Whelan, was performing close to us the night before so asked if he'd mind staying over and helping Haley out with the performance. He agreed!  The concert was an "onstage" concert where they had the musicians with the audience onstage sitting on chairs in bleachers around them with a house concert-like vibe. The two of them had a blast working out a set list Saturday afternoon then performing it that night. They always sound great together!

Afterward Haley went out to meet the audience and autograph CDs. The little guy below was so enthusiastic throughout the concert, clapping and dancing in his seat!

That Sunday, Haley was part of a recording project with other Philadelphia area Irish musician then we made a mad dash back across the bridge where she performed for an area nursing home. The next two days were spent working on completing a recording of Miss Kathy's second audiobook project Bugaboo Bee's Bop with Haley doing the music and sound effects on her fiddle. The book and audiobook will be released on April 4th.

On Wednesday March 9th, we all piled in a stuffed full car with Keegan and his mom, Lynette, for the drive to Long Island to begin a mini-tour. Méara Meara had four gigs in two days out on the end of Long Island all arranged by our friend, Kira McLaughlin, who was also kind enough to put us up and feed us.

We were up bright and early Thursday morning for a gig at the middle school where Kira is librarian, Pierson Middle School in Sag Harbor, NY. Haley worked with the school strings students on a tune she had sent them previously to help them make the tune sound "Irish." (They will be performing the tune as part of their spring concert.) Afterward we took a walk around Sag Harbor then later went back to the school where the band performed a concert and answered questions for all the middle school students.

That night they joined more musicians to perform for the residents of beautiful Peconic Landing. 

Friday morning, Haley, Dylan, and Keegan were part of a group performing for the workers at  Southampton Hospital. They performed during lunch in the cafeteria. After the hospital, Haley and I took a walk with Kira on the beach looking for sea glass while Lynette and the boys stayed back at the house to rest and catch up on school work.

Then we took the ferry over to Shelter Island where they performed for a full house at Shelter Island Presbyterian Church. 

Saturday morning Haley, Dylan, and I were up very early to catch the 7am ferry over to Connecticut then we drove up to Burlington, VT for the next leg of the tour in VT. Haley and Dylan had been looking forward to going to Burlington, VT because they were teaming up with Studio2Stage vocalist Gerlisa for the gig and they hadn't seen her since last summer! We met with Gerlisa shortly after arriving and they worked out their set, mixing songs and tune sets with a little dancing by Gerlisa. We checked into our hotel and settled our luggage then it was time to head over to the venue. The concert was a fundraiser to send the Young Traditions Vermont group to Ireland next month. Haley, Dylan, and Gerlisa performed in the first half then the Young Traditions Vermont Performance group performed. Everyone did a great job and it was an enjoyable concert.

The next morning we took a walk around Burlington to see the shops and Lake Champlain then had some lunch at The Skinny Pancake where they had a Bluegrass band playing live. We then drove to Montpelier where Haley and Dylan performed a house concert hosted by Donna and John, two wonderful people with the cutest pups! There was a nice crowd with a number of young people attending. We had fun talking to and meeting people after the concert then we went to the small cottage in their backyard for the night. (Dylan wants one.)

Monday was an early morning followed by a meet-up with Mark from Young Traditions Vermont then a drive to do two different school programs. The first was at Randolph Elementary School where they played and talked to a gym full of kids and the other at Braintree Elementary, a much smaller school, where after the concert, Haley sat with the 5th and 6th grade girls and Dylan sat with the boys for interviews. They students came up with some great questions and follow-ups and they had some nice discussion…the students will write up their interviews for a class assignment.

After the school programs, we drove through snow to Boston…if you've read about any of our other trips to Vermont, you would know we have not yet been to Vermont without snow involved. We drove straight to the North End, looking forward to home-made pasta at our favorite Italian restaurant. We were not disappointed!  After dinner we drove to Haley and my "home" for the next week with the Coyne family. They are an awesome family of musicians and it was nice to spend some time with them and get to know them better. There were tunes before bed.

Tuesday we sent Dylan on an Uber to the airport where he flew home for five days of gigs with his band Poor Man's Gambit. Haley and I hung out for the day…did a little shopping and spent some time at the Boston Science Museum where we enjoyed the butterfly garden, a talk about astronauts, and a movie about dinosaurs in the huge theater.

Butterfly photos courtesy of Haley…

Wednesday was a very long day of rehearsals for the show A St. Patrick's Day Celtic Sojourn. Haley loved every minute of it. They started at 10am and, I think, we left some time after 5pm. They worked out the show order, multiple different collaborations, and ran through everything until it was ready for tomorrow's performance.

The show ran Thursday night in Worcester, Friday night in New Bedford, two shows on Saturday in Cambridge, and the final show Sunday afternoon in Cambridge. We had a blast! The show was awesome! There were little surprises (the dancer in the green dress for instance), lots of silliness, and instant friendships! The show host and his wife were amazing, the music director was on top of everything, the musicians were all wonderful, and the dancers were fabulous! I never get tired of seeing Haley collaborating with other musicians and sharing her music with an audience. She is completely at ease and her love of the music and fun she is having are so evident! She amazes me!

The photos below are from sound checks...

Haley starting the show.

Irish traditional music…session band.

It will be an experience Haley will never forget!!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Catching Up Post...

Wow! I cannot believe I have neglected my blog for so long! I had a couple posts started then got busy and never got back to them. Life has been a roller coaster ride for the past few months. I feel like I have taken on a second full time job trying to manage the kids' schedules. 

Here is a bit of what we've been up to the last few months…

Around the time Haley and I went to Ireland last fall, Dylan was invited to become the guitarist for a new-ish Irish band/trio called Poor Man's Gambit. They are based about 90 minutes from our house in the Bethlehem/Allentown region and many of their gigs are up that way so Dylan has been doing a lot of traveling back and forth for gigs and rehearsals and the other band members have spent a few weekends in our basement recording tracks for their website and a demo CD.

It has been a wonderful opportunity for Dylan to hone his backing and recording skills. He's started singing a bit and playing more of his other instruments (banjo and bouzouki). It is nice for him interact musically with other young musicians besides Haley, though sometimes keeping schedules straight is like walking a tightrope…this is also complicated by the fact that he's an 18 year old male who doesn't always make his schedule known until the last minute.

They have a lot of gigs booked so looking forward to watching the band grow!

Poor Man's Gambit.
Poor Man's Gambit

Among other things in November, Haley helped out with a fundraising concert at the New York Irish Center with Mick Moloney, Donie Carroll, James Keane, and Gerry O'Sullivan for the Mercy Centre in Bangkok, Thailand. We made a long weekend trip to North Carolina to visit family for Thanksgiving. It was wonderfully warm and we rented a house at the beach so we enjoyed long walks to watch the sunrise and sunsets.

Mercy Centre fundraiser.
In December, Haley was invited by Mick Moloney to perform in his An Irish Christmas shows at Symphony Space in NYC. She has done these shows for the past few years and enjoys the variety of music and the guests. Mick always has performers from other cultural traditions perform. 

Haley and Mick before the show.

One of Haley's favorite parts of performing with bands like this is the pre-show preparation and hanging out with other musicians. She worked with the other fiddle players to come up with a "fiddle" set for the show, learned a couple new tunes from Billy McComisky, the accordion player, and had a great time.

Haley with the fiddlers, Athena, Donna, and Liz.

She got to meet Bill Whelan, the man who composed the music for Riverdance, and hear him play a beautiful composition, on piano with Athena playing fiddle which I think they collaborated on.

Haley with Bill Whelan.
The Irish Christmas Show from backstage. This photo looks like a watercolor painting.
We had a wonderful, quiet Christmas at home. Our family was alone for the holidays so invited some other people spending the holiday alone...our friend, Kira, from Long Island and our neighbors down the street who Dylan helps out now and then. It was a perfect Christmas with food, family, and friends!

Haley and Kira
Between rehearsals, sessions, performances as a duo, Poor Man's Gambit performances, and the holidays, the kids' band, Méara Meara had a number of performances including the one below at Swarthmore Library. The place was packed with over 100 people in a not very large area.

Méara Meara at Swarthmore Library.
They also donated their time and talents to help raise money for the Heart of Camden project. Some other musicians were unable to perform so we invited sisters, Emily and Livia so play and at the end all the kids played a set together.

Celtic Spring at Sacred Heart Church.
The last two nights have been the best. Our friends, Altan, were in the area (kind of) so we were able to   be at two of the concerts on their current tour. Friday night they performed at Longwood Gardens. Haley's friend and bandmate, Keegan, lives close so we went to his house for dinner, went to the concert, then stayed over. What a gorgeous venue!! Haley was able to play a few sets with them and at the end of the concert, they invited Keegan and another wonderful flute player from our area, Paddy, onstage as well.

Haley with Altan

Paddy, Keegan, and Haley with Altan.
Martin having a powwow with Haley onstage…telling her how the song she happened to be onstage for went.
Keegan and Haley with Mairead
That was going to be our only chance to see them. Mairead invited Haley to come to their Saturday night show but it was two hours away and we had a lot to do…the next few weeks are going to be crazy busy so Haley and I went home from Keegan's, stopped at the gym to workout, but on our way to the car after, Haley received a message from her friend from Studio2Stage, Mackenzie, asking if she could come up because Mackenzie was dancing for Altan that night. Haley really wanted a chance to see Mairead's daughter, Nia, who would be at the show, and Mackenzie so we decided to make the two hour drive.

What a great night! We stayed backstage with the band after soundcheck. Sat around talking and eating…I am constantly questioning different musicians about life "on the road" to try to get an idea of what this life my daughter is determined to have is like…good, bad, and ugly. Haley was able to interview Mairead for her blog ( and she got to see Nia and her dancer friends.

Ciaran told Haley this would be his signal for her to take her solo during the finale set.

Altan finale

Haley and Nia after the show.

Haley with her Studio2Stage friends.

March Madness begins next weekend…it's the busiest month for Irish musicians. Haley and Dylan have so many really neat opportunities for performances coming in the next few months! I feel like I need a secretary to keep track of everything and talk to all the people we need to talk to to make arrangements and do publicity but it's all worth it. I am so grateful for the people we've met who have taken an interest in spending time with Haley and Dylan and helping them. We have an awesome musical family!!

I love seeing my kids having so much fun doing the things they love to do most! They are getting to the point where they only need me to be the secretary, for Haley the chauffeur, and occasionally as a sounding board when they want help with certain decisions. It is amazing to watch them mature and take control over their musical journeys, discuss and arrange music with other musicians, advocate for themselves, and make decisions on where they want their lives to go.

Stay tuned!!