Top Ten Christmas Gift Ideas For The Person Who Has Everything…Including More Money Than Sense!

It’s that time of year again.

When the colorful lights decorate homes and city streets, store fronts are invitingly decked out with festive cheer, the cold nights draw in tempting you to indulge in some guilt free consumption of comfort food and warming alcohol, and for some reason, it’s the time of year when people start buying the craziest of things.

People who may have been, for the previous 11 months, totally normal now make it their mission to find and purchase items for friends, family members and co-workers, spending their hard earned dollars or pounds on useless and unwanted gifts that will be relocated to a basement, utility room or dusty drawer come December 26th.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a scrooge. In fact, I am one of the biggest suckers out there for anything that seems vaguely Christmassy – my tree goes up in November! But what happened to “it’s the thought that counts”? It seems that nowadays the stores bombard us with so many items and pressure to buy that any gift is better than no gift at all, despite the fact that we probably all reached the point of not really needing anything a long time ago.

I was reminded of this fact when the Christmas Catalogues started pouring into my mail box. I started flicking through some of them and was absolutely amazed – and pretty entertained – by some of the gift ideas on offer. Here are a few of my favourites. And remember, someone somewhere was paid to go to work, sit at their desk, and invent these products in the hope of getting them under your tree this Christmas…

 

1. Snowball/ Snow Block Maker Set

Snowball maker

For only $14.95 you can take the fun completely out of snowball fights with this useful gadget.

No more frozen hands preparing your icy weapons, this handy kit also shaves valuable hours off constructing the snow blocks for your Christmas ice house. I’m currently splitting my time between Nashville and Atlanta so this would be really good for all those snowy days!

 

2. Cell Phone Sanitizer

Cell phone sanitizer

Christmas is a time for catching up with family, friends and loved ones.

Don’t let it also be a time for catching germs.

This battery-powered sanitizer is a carefree way of erasing the memory of the unimaginably unsanitary places your cell phone and bluetooth devices have been in the last 11 months.

3. Her Majesty’s Umbrella

Her Majesty's Umbrella

Want to give a gift of royal quality?

Look no further than this genuine HRH Queen Elizabeth-approved plastic umbrella.

Featuring “easy opening and closing, and black regal trim”, this gift will bring a touch of class to your festivities this year.

It’s not quite as good as Mary Poppins’ umbrella which allows you to fly, but those are out of stock!

(Please note: regal looking senior citizen not included)

 

4.  The Light Show Music Player

The Light Show Music Player

Who needs fancy stereo sound systems, or expensive firework extravaganzas, when all your party is waiting for is this state of the art music player.

Your guests will be high on party atmosphere as they experience the “dazzling light show”, and measuring in at “no larger than a box of tissues” you know you’re going to get the sound quality your Christmas event deserves.

No one gets left out at this party – The Light Show Music Player comes fully equipped with a remote control so you can DJ from the dance floor. Or just switch to the built in AM/FM function and let someone else do the work while you dance the night away.

 

5. The Hands Free Wine Aerator

The Hands Free Wine Aerator

The Holidays can be such a stressful time – people visiting day and night, and a huge pressure to be the perfect host.

The Hands Free Wine Aerator takes the hassle out of entertaining for the host that wants to get hammered with their guests while still enjoying the subtle bouquet of aerated wine.

No longer will you have to worry about being sober enough to hold your favorite bottle of wine vertically upright, this hands free decanter does all the work, leaving you more time for what’s really important at Christmas – drinking yourself horizontal.

 

6. The iPhone Controlled Ball Dropping Bomber

The iPhone Controlled Ball Dropping Bomber

Ever feel weighed down by excess bills in your wallet or get that bloated feeling in your bank account?

Get instant relief and feel $129.95 lighter when you purchase the iPhone Controlled Ball Dropping Bomber. This christmas you can drop ball bombs on your nearest and dearest.

(this does actually look like fun!)

 

7. The Direct To iPhone/iPod Scanner

The Direct To iPhone/iPod Scanner

In this digital age everyone agrees that those magical moments are best viewed on a 3 x 2 inch screen. But don’t stop at photos taken with your iPhone only – this Direct To iPhone/iPod Scanner allows you to take any picture and scan it into your phone, cleverly reducing the size and quality of the photo.

And how about all those recipes you’ve been collecting that are piling up, or the unmanageable number of business cards we all have to organize? Now those too can easily take care of all your iPhone’s spare storage. In fact, you can scan anything so long as it’s no bigger than 4×6.

This handy extra-bag-required-sized accessory is the perfect gift for the person in your life who loves those “impromptu scanning sessions” and let’s face it, it’s not a party till you scan something!

 

8. The Backpack Vacuum

The Backpack Vacuum

Surprise someone you love this Christmas with the gadget all home-makers have been waiting for.

No longer will you have to drag around the heavy and bulky plastic container of filth collected from your home, you can strap all the dirt, grime, toe nail clippings etc onto your back!

Why rely on the wheels of a regular vacuum cleaner when your own back can take the strain?

(might be quite good for playing Ghostbusters!)

 

9. The Talking 30 Language Translator

The Talking 30 Language Translator

Learning a new language can be overly time consuming. The modern global jet-setter simply doesn’t have time to be rifling through phrase books every time they’re in a new country.

Now you don’t have to with The Talking 30 Language Translator.

Unlike its $3.99 iPhone app competitors, which unhelpfully also translate photographed words, this sleek 1985-styled device can be the envy of your fellow travelers for only $249.95.

When you pull this out in some exotic location, the first question you receive may translate as ‘don’t they have the internet where you’re from?’

 

10. The Two Story Inflatable Reindeer

The Two Story Inflatable Reindeer 

No home is complete without some Christmas decoration, and what could be more impressive than this tasteful Two Story Inflatable Reindeer?

For under $400 you can make your home the talk of the street. Or surprise the recipient of this gift, and let their holiday guests enjoy literally seconds of amusement.

(I really want one of these! Or at least a house with a garden big enough to host him!)

And remember not to forget your furry friend this holiday season…

The Only Outdoor Heated Cat Shelter

The Only Outdoor Heated Cat Shelter

Make your cat feel loved this year by buying its own outdoor heated shelter. Even better than allowing ‘Fluffy’ indoors on a cold wintry day, the Outdoor Heated Cat Shelter gives your cat a feeling of independence whilst protecting it in all weather conditions.

If you enjoyed reading about these Top 10 Christmas Gift Items and would like to know where you can buy any of them from, it might be time to have a long hard think about things!

I hope you and yours have a happy, fun and wonderful Christmas!

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An American-British Feast – Pumpkin Cheesecake and Eton Mess

pumpkin cheesecake

I’ve been living in the US for 2 1/2 years and have had the pleasure of being invited to three Thanksgiving celebrations.

I have really enjoyed trying the traditional dishes of turkey with gravy, various types of dressings, sweet potatoes with marshmallows and a particular favourite of mine – pumpkin pie.

But this year the pressure was on as I was invited to prepare the dessert – the only dessert! And as an extra twist it had to be gluten free.

The world of gluten free cooking is not one I’ve ever explored, but I was determined to find a recipe that would taste fantastic to everyone and not put anyone in the Emergency Room by the end of the night – definitely the very least you want from a dinner party!

I hedged my bets and went for two different desserts. A variation of my favourite pumpkin pie – Baked Pumpkin Cheesecake, and an old tried and tested recipe from home called Eton Mess.

The only thing I needed to do to make things celiac-safe was to use gluten free ginger snaps for the base of the cheesecake. All other parts of the cheesecake, as well as everything in the Eton Mess recipe is already gluten free.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

This is from Nigella Lawson’s book – Feast. In my opinion Nigella is one of the queens of homemade puddings (the other being Delia Smith) and this recipe definitely did not disappoint. The only tip I have when making this is to try and use the food processor to mix the ingredients. If you use a kitchen aid or do it by hand you risk getting too much air in the mixture or not mixing enough and ending up with a grainy texture to your cheesecake.

FOR THE CHEESECAKE BASE

2 cups graham cracker crumbs (or gluten free ginger snaps)

1 stick butter, soft

FOR THE FILLING

1 15oz can unseasoned pumpkin puree

1 cup sugar

6 eggs

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 1/2lbs cream cheese

Place the graham cracker crumbs in a food processor and then add the butter, cut in pieces. Process until the crumb mixture starts to clump together like damp sand.

Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of a 9in springform pan to create an ven layer. Put the pan in the fridge while you make the filling. Preheat the oven to 325F.

Put the pumpkin puree and cream cheese into the processor and run the motor until the cheese blends into the pumpkin. Add the sugar and with the motor running, break the eggs one at a time down the tube of the processor. Scrape down and process again, adding the lemon juice and blitzing to make a smooth mixture.

Wrap the outside of the crumb-lined springform pan with plastic wrap. Give a good few layers to make sure everything is completely waterproof. Now sit this on a large piece of double-layered heavy-duty aluminium foil and bring it up around the edges of the pan to make a nest. Sit the foil-covered springform pan in a roasting pan.

Scrape the cheesecake filling into the springform pan, and then pur recently boiled water in the roasting pan to a level approximately halfway up the cake pan.

Bake for about 1 3/4 hours, or until the filling has set with only a small amount of wobble left at its centre; it is worth remembering that it will continue to cook as it cool down. Take the pan out of the water bath and sit on a cooling rack, removing the foil as you do so. When it is cool enough, put the cheesecake in the refrigerator overnight, before removing the sides of the pan to slice.

For my version of Eton Mess, see my previous blog: “If Heaven Was Made of Meringue, This is What it Would Taste Like!

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The Anti-Atkins Diet – The Joy of Homemade Bread

There aren’t many things more pleasing to the senses than the smell of freshly baking bread coming from the kitchen.

There is something magical, I think, about starting with such an uninspiring lineup of ingredients – flour, salt, yeast, water – and finishing with one of the most satisfying and more-ish foods on earth.

I have been into baking bread for quite a few years. When I lived in London and worked  from my apartment, I would make small loafs in my miniscule kitchen – kneading the dough on the dining room table. I have dipped my toe into the world of bread machines, and they do make some delicious bread, but they by no means deliver the satisfaction created by making it from scratch.

After reading lots of recipes and trying out different chefs’ recommendations, the recipe that worked best for me is from British chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Bread Handbook. The book takes baking bread back to its simplest form and is incredibly easy to follow.

Once you master the basic white loaf, then things get really fun with recipes like Chelsea Buns, Hot Cross Buns, Ciabatta, Pizza and Bagels (it still amazes me that one day someone decided dropping raw dough into boiling water before baking it might be interesting!).

Bagels hot from the oven

Chelsea Buns

If you’ve never tried baking a loaf of bread from scratch, I encourage you to give it a go. As long as you measure out the ingredients properly there is very little that can go wrong, and it is such a satisfying thing to create.

Here is the recipe I use for white bread. You can get the full book from amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/River-Cottage-Bread-Handbook/dp/158008186X

(Note: This recipe doesn’t use any sugar, but it still rises just fine. I have tried it with sugar and without, it’s up to you.)

Prep time
1½-2 hours (+ 45 minutes to prove)

Cook Time
40 minutes

Servings
makes 2 loaves

Ingredients

  1. 1kg strong white bread flour (or 7 cups)
  2. 10g fast-action yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  3. 15g fine salt (or 1 tablespoon)
  4. 1-2 tbsp sunflower, rapeseed or olive oil (optional), plus extra to oil the dough
  5. 600ml warm water

1. Combine the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add the oil, if using (not essential, but it makes for a slightly softer, more supple crumb), then add the water. Stir to create a rough, sticky dough. The dough really should be quite sticky at this stage – if it isn’t, add a splash more water.

2. Turn out the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, rhythmically stretching the dough away from you, then folding it back on itself. The idea is to stretch and develop the gluten within the dough, not to beat the living daylights out of it. Avoid adding more flour if you can: the dough will become less sticky and easier to handle as you knead, and a wetter dough is generally a better dough.

3. When the dough is smooth and elastic, form it into a ball, coat it very lightly with oil and place in a clean bowl. Cover with cling film or put inside a clean bin-liner and leave in a warm place until doubled in size – in the region of 1½ hours.

4. Tip the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and deflate with your fingertips. Reshape the dough into neat rounds and put on a lightly floured board to prove for around 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 250°C/gas mark 10, or its highest setting. Put a baking tray in to heat up.

5. When the loaves have almost doubled in size again, take the hot baking tray from the oven and sprinkle with a little flour. Carefully transfer the risen loaves to the tray. Slash the tops with a sharp, serrated knife and put in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 190°C/gas mark 5 and bake for about 30 minutes more, or until the crust is well-coloured, and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it sharply with your fingers. Transfer to a rack to cool completely before slicing.

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Weird And Wonderful Moments From The Road

As another leg of touring ends and I head back for some time off the road in Nashville, I thought I would share some of the moments I’ve experienced during my 2 1/2 years of touring in the US.

To date I have visited 30 states and performed in about 25. That still leaves plenty of places on my list to visit! Along the way I have met some truly wonderful people at shows, house concerts and out and about and had  so many laughs with the amazing artists I have had the good fortune to share the stage with including Shawn Mullins, Matthew Sweet, Erick Baker, Griffin House, Matthew Perrryman-Jones, and Steve Forbert.

Here are some photos which capture some favourite moments from the road, as well as some amusing or downright bizarre sights. One moment that still sticks in my mind was whilst touring with Shawn Mullins. We were all doing laundry in Dover, New Hampshire (laundry is part of the glamour of touring!) and saw a man walking his pet goat along the road, just like walking a dog! Unfortunately I couldn’t find a photo of that, but that is the beauty of touring – you never know what you’re going to see next! From sea to shining sea, over 100,000 miles, I have seen some crazy, beautiful and exciting things, here are a few of them…

At a gas station in Kentucky….
We took a photo of their restroom sign, apparently they were filming us!

This donut and coffee store in Austin TX has an open door policy for Monkeys…I waited and waited, but none came in.

This Ohio truck stop offers Boneless Bananas – suitable for vegetarians

You know your gig is in a good part of town when the store next door sells this!

Enjoying a colourful wind farm in Asheville North Carolina

On the Freeway…The new super-hyper-mega walmart has a new mega-cart

Flying back from Portland OR – quite a view!

You’ve heard of Hank’s Lost Highway? The GPS has lost this road under the ocean!

Callaghan fan- club in Atlanta GA, with amazing posters

Wild Gators near a gas station in Alabama. I didn’t realize there was any other kind!

Who needs protecting from who here…?

Down on the gulf coast…these fellas must be driving to that Coffee shop!

A local band playing on one of the islands visited by the Cayamo music cruise.

An beautiful bright sun on 30A highway, Florida – check out the 30A songwriter’s festival in January!

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What a week, what a show…Recording my first live CD

It felt good being back in Atlanta again. After so much time on the road and recently spent writing in Nashville I love the opportunity to get back to the city that has become my first American home.

A chance to drive down familiar roads, catch up with friends, and to start rehearsals for my show at The Red Clay Theatre just north of the city, in Duluth.

This was the first week of band rehearsals but preparations for the show had been going on a lot longer. For this show I wanted to push the boundaries and really see what is achievable despite being an independent artist on an independent-sized budget. I wanted the audience to feel like they had seen a big show in the intimate setting of a 250-seat theatre.

I was venturing into areas that I had never been before – designing a lighting plan, timing the set to know how much space was left in between each song, costume changes, as well as recording and filming the whole night.

Luckily I had help. Lots of help from people who I cannot thank enough, and who worked so hard putting the show together with me. I now understand why those arena shows have hundreds of people on the team!

The day of the show went by in a blur. It reminded me a bit of how on your wedding day people tell you to take a step back and enjoy the moment. There was so much going on that it was a challenge taking it all in. Because of extra time needed sound-checking for the actual show and for the recording, as well as a few issues with positioning the new grand piano and a guitar breaking, I was still on stage at 6pm, only an hour before the doors were opening.

And I still had to film backstage interviews, get dressed, go through vocal warm ups, and eat some dinner! This is so often the scene before a show though, and there was so much riding on this particular one it was hard to relax. Somehow it all got done, and I was there right on time to walk onto the stage for the first song – a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Walk The Line”.

The set list for the whole show was:

Walk The Line / Folsom Prison
Look Around
Sweet Surrender
Smile
Close My Eyes
Love Me For A While
Piece of My Heart
Get Me Through Tonight
The Edge of Love
It Was Meant To Be
Green Eyes
Alone
Lost
Over The Rainbow
The Only Thing Real
Noah’s Song
To Be Loved By You
Best Year
At Last


I’m still working out which songs will be on the final live CD which I hope to have available by the end of the year. A good idea for some Christmas presents!

I’ll be putting up some live footage soon on my Website and Facebook page, as well as some photos from the show.

I can honestly say I learnt more from this show than probably all the others I’ve done combined, and maybe there are some things I’d change next time, but that’s what performing is all about. Learning and improving. And I can’t wait for the chance to do the next one…I’m already thinking of new ways to make it even bigger!

I’d like to say a big thanks to the team who helped bring the show to life:

Kip Connor – Recording 

Shalom Aberle – House sound, Red Clay Theatre

Eddie Owen – Owner

Zach Wetzel – Lights

Steve Sherrick – Videographer

Jolene Eyre – Wardrobe/ Styling

Lisa Stephenson – Hair styling

Scott Lowden – Photography

And to my wonderful band!

Tom “Panda” Ryan – Bass, Backing Vocals, Musical Director of the band

Jon Poole – Drums

Davis Causey – Electric Guitar

Jeff Box – Keyboards

Shannon Cochran – Acoustic/ Electric guitar

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A thought for those hit by the storm…

Unfortunately the joy of the weekend was followed by Hurricane Sandy – and it was shocking to see the devastation that unfolded in towns and cities where I have enjoyed playing shows and meeting people. I hope individuals and communities who have lost possessions, homes and even loved ones, will find the strength to get through a very difficult time.

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When searching for a perfect dessert, it’s hard to beat the good British Pud

While some people are addicted to reading the latest fashion magazine or finding out the gossip on the Hollywood grapevine, there is nothing I find more relaxing than sitting down with a good cookery book and reading it cover to cover.

Although I enjoy looking at lots of food related books, it’s really the desserts that get me going. For me, combining a few simple ingredients to create the most heavenly treats is one of life’s purest pleasures.

While I don’t usually need an excuse to start flicking through the brightly illustrated pages, this time there is a definite reason. The friend who owns the house I’m currently staying in is having a dinner party and I volunteered to make dessert. And this particular friend also happens to have been a food writer in years gone by so is not easy to impress!

For our last little gathering I made a variation on the British recipe for Eton Mess, adding some caramelised peaches and spun sugar pieces, and it went down a storm. So the pressure for a repeat success is on!

When I last visited the UK I brought back a cookbook that looked like it would stand me in good stead for some culinary reminders of home – Jamie’s Great Britain. It has some fantastically British sounding recipes in it like “Bubble and Squeak”, “Wee Scotch Eggs”, “Queen Victoria Sponge”, and “Humble Pea & Ham Soup with Fluffy Dumplings”.

That last dish is so British in fact that when the Capital was at its smoggiest, Londoners used to refer to a low visibility day as a “real Pea Souper”.

And of course the book wouldn’t be complete without a recipe for the dish loved by children and adults alike, and the very first thing I ever learnt to cook myself – Jam Tarts.

But I think this dinner party might call for something slightly more sophisticated than a plate of Jam Tarts, so the search continues.

The good thing about a task of this nature is the almost mandatory sampling of many kinds of puddings. Incidentally, one of the many interesting “lost in translation” moments since moving to America was finding out that “pudding” in the US refers to a smooth custardy dish, not simply as another name for any dessert as it does in the UK.

I found a trip to the Nashville Famers‘ Market was the inspiration that I needed, and with all the fresh and tasty looking apples that were in season, I decided to go with one of my favourite British recipes, Apple Crumble.

I usually serve apple crumble with hot custard or cream, but an even more perfect accompaniment I found was a recently discovered ice-cream by Talenti, called Sea Salt Caramel. I think this particular ice-cream goes perfectly with just a spoon, but on apple crumble it’s also fantastic. It’s a pretty decadent treat.

If you like the sound of Apple Crumble, there are loads of great recipes for it online. You can’t go far wrong with Delia Smith’s though, which you can find here, and she even has a handy conversion table on her site for measuring in cups: http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/galleries/delia-waitrose-recipes/best-ever-apple-crumble.html

NB: The photo I used is not actually a picture of my apple crumble, due to it being so delicious that it all got eaten before I remembered to take a photo! So this one is borrowed from http://pincurlmag.com/tag/apple-crumble

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Ever thought about house concerts? America’s Best New Music Venue could be closer than you think…

It’s about four in the afternoon and the car is pulling up outside a lovely red brick house in North Georgia. We are welcomed inside by Jimmy and his wife Marie along with a comforting aroma of hot apple cider and pumpkin pie that drifts in from kitchen.

The living room is a medium-sized space, open plan to the kitchen, and full of every kind of chair, stool and sofa. There is just enough space at the end of the room to comfortably accommodate the equipment we begin bringing in from the car. It only takes a matter of minutes to start getting everything in place – this is a routine practiced many times over, which is kept deliberately simple.

There will be no special effects tonight, no expensive drinks or stranger on the door. There will be no tedious waiting in line for bathrooms, no noisy people at the bar, and no struggle to find a parking space. Tonight will be as close to home as it gets. This is the charm and ease of the House Concert.

It’s 7pm and guests start arriving, enjoying drinks and snacks, and having a good catch up with friends not seen for too long. Despite everyone’s busy lives filled with work, travel and family commitments, they are brought together for one evening through a shared passion for music. Everyone who can afford it puts a donation in the hat as they come in, to help keep the artist moving down the road.

By the time 8pm comes around it’s time for the music to begin. Sometimes the host of the concert will say something to welcome everyone to their home, show where artist donations can be left, and introduce the performer. But tonight Jimmy’s youngest son Patrick takes the lead and, although only 8 years old, confidently plays the part of compere.

The show is in two parts, around 45 minutes each, with a break in the middle to refresh drinks, stretch legs and perhaps wander over to check out the “pop-up music store” in the corner of room offering souvenirs of the event; posters, T-shirts, and CDs that are happily autographed at the end of the show.

And House Concert set lists are always a little different to the regular. In this relaxed environment newly written songs are tried for the first time, well known sing-along-classics get included, sometimes with an experimental twist, and time is always left between songs to talk. For a real conversation between musician and audience, including questions about how songs were created and sharing amusing stories from the road.

At the end of the evening when the music stops, the CDs are signed and the glasses are empty, for the performer there’s a warm feeling that your circle of friends has been increased by 25, or 40, or 90 or however many chairs were filled that night.

House concerts are a truly amazing way to enjoy live music, make new friends and be directly involved in helping to further the career of an independent artist. You don’t have to live in a mansion to host a house concert. They can be as small as 25 people in your front room to over a hundred spread out in your back garden.

I have toured all over the US and house concerts are so often the highlight of my travels. They have introduced me to some wonderful people who I now consider true friends. They have enabled me to have some amazing experiences; waking up overlooking the Puget Sound in Washington State, trying to waterski on a Michigan lake, and making it possible to afford to travel to Austin Texas to perform at SXSW.

If you love live music and would be interested in hosting a house concert, I urge you to go for it. All the information you’ll need, and more, can be found on my website www.callaghansongs.com/houseconcerts or on the Concerts In Your Home site, www.concertsinyourhome.com

It’s so simple, and so much fun. You’ll wonder why you never thought of it earlier.

See you at your house!

 

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East Coast Tour Journal – Part 2 – Illness, Cancelled Shows and a return to Music City

I didn’t expect to be writing the second part of my tour blog a week after returning from the tour. But I also wasn’t expecting to get ill enough to have to cancel performances, as well as nearly missing one by 5 minutes…

My last blog left off on Thursday night, the day before the Boston show. We were driving from Philadelphia to Boston. A drive that Google Maps had suggested would take about 5 hours ended up, due to unexplained traffic jams, potholes on the New Jersey Turnpike and hold ups, taking 9 hours. The romance of the road really seems a little absent on those kind of journeys.

As we finally made it into Boston the time was 7:45pm and I was due on stage at 8:00pm. There was a baseball game on so there was no where to park, I was in my travel clothes, had no makeup on, and had a truck full of music gear which had to be loaded into the venue. I knew the show couldn’t be delayed as it was being webcast live on the internet. After all those hours sitting in the car trying with all our might to get to Boston, I thought it would surely all be for nothing and the show would start without me.

But sometimes incredible things happen on tour and you surprise yourself how fast you can move. As we pulled up to the venue, and double parked, a group of people came rushing out to help load in. While the crew set up and line checked all my gear I headed to the dressing room, threw on some clothes and makeup in 8 minutes and ran onto stage right at 8:00pm. The room was heaving with people and the crowd were fantastic. After all the stress and endurance of getting there, it turned out to be one of the best shows of the tour. Thanks everyone at Cafe 939, The Red Room, Boston!

The tour continued to be a lot of fun, dueting with Matthew Perryman-Jones and Matthew Mayfield during their sets, to great audiences.

A few days later I started to get that sinking feeling that all singers get when a cold is coming on.

With each day my voice was getting weaker and the pressure in my head was increasing until I felt it was going to explode. I tried my best to keep on singing but it was incredibly frustrating willing my voice to work and feeling helpless. It’s hard to make sound vibrate through a stuffed up nose!

I tried all manner of remedies to keep me going including menthol inhalers, vitamin supplements, cold and flu potions, a family remedy of a good old Irish hot toddie – its effect was very soothing in the short-term! A kindly couple, husband and wife preachers, even offered to lay on hands and seek divine help to keep me singing – I should perhaps    have accepted their offer because the cold kept getting worse.

In the end I ended up having to pull out of two shows and spent 3 days in bed trying to get as much sleep as possible.

It was only until the very last night of the tour that I felt back to myself again. Thankfully the venue, The Altamont in Asheville NC, was a great place to finish the tour – the video above was taken there. Things really finished on a high as all three singers, band members and tour management retired to an Asheville Karaoke bar to entertainingly (to ourselves at least!) re-interpret some classic tunes.

I’m learning with each tour I go out on that you can’t control everything, and the best way to get by is to expect the unexpected.

I’m looking forward to spending this month in Nashville and getting to write lots. As much as I love being on the road, sometimes sleeping in the same bed each night feels so good.

One thing I was less happy about was the not-so-small intruder I found crawling along the corridor of the house when I returned.

Now that looks like a spider that should be hunting outside the house!

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Callaghan – East Coast Tour Journal (Week 1)

Tuesday Sep 18th – Johnson City, TN – Vienna, VA

The tour has officially begun!

What probably have been a 6 hour journey in the sunshine became an 8 hour drive in the pouring rain. It started the minute we set out from Tennessee and didn’t let up the whole day.

For anyone thinking touring might be glamourous, the reality is more often like today – hours spent in the car, a $10 lunch at Subway and visits to very questionable gas station restrooms.

But despite the delays, I made it Vienna for the show at Jammin’ Java. And the first night of the tour did not disappoint. Great show, great crowd and a lot of fun getting to hear my tour buddies Matthew Mayfield and Matthew Perryman-Jones playing live.

I’m very much looking forward to a comfortable bed in tonight’s hotel, and then it’s onto Charlottesville, VA…

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Wednesday 19th – Vienna, VA – Charlottesville, VA

What a difference a day makes. Today the rain stopped and the sun came out.

An early start this morning to get to Charlottesville in time for a radio interview and performance with 106.1 The Corner. You can hear the archive here:

http://1061thecorner.com/pages/4418003.php?contentType=33&contentId=74704

Our route took us on back roads all the way to Charlottesville through rolling hills and past farms with white picket fences. A very welcome change from the interstate.

After the interview there was some time to look round the town of Charlottesville. Sometimes it doesn’t happen like that on tour days, there is only time to get to the venue and start the unloading and soundchecking. So I love being able to get a feel for a place, and Charlottesville, with its small independent shops and pedestrianised streets was a real joy.

Tomorrow we head to the streets of Philadelphia…

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Thursday 20th – Charlottesville, VA – Philadelphia, PA

Tonight’s show started late at The World Cafe Live due to there being a Grilled Cheese and Craft Beer party in the room before us. I’d never heard of such an event, but what a great combination!

The show went really well and I loved getting to perform a song with Matthew Perryman-Jones during his set.

One of the lovely things about visiting Philadephia is getting to stay with a friend of ours who we met through the house concert circuit. We have made so many great connections through doing house concerts across the US and it makes such a big difference when traveling to stay in a house rather than a hotel and get to chat with lovely people.

Maybe one day I’ll try and do a coast to coast tour of just house concerts!

Friday’s show is at The Red Room Cafe 939 in Boston and will be webcast live from this link: http://www.concertwindow.com/shows/matthew-perryman-jones-matthew-mayfield-callaghan

Callaghan with Matthew Perryman-Jones at The World Cafe Live, Philadelphia PA

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Back to Reality…An East Coast Tour, and a Live CD show

Callaghan East Coast Tour 2012

After taking 3 weeks off to visit friends and family in London, I am re-adjusting to life back in the US and getting straight back to my job of performing and making music.

I don’t often take breaks – partly because there are constantly too many things on my list to do! – but this one I think was well earned. After countless shows over the last few months to promote my album “Life in Full Colour” I was ready for some down time.

Touring, I find, is an interesting existence. Each day is carefully planned, so you know what time you have to get up, how many miles to the next venue, what time load in is, where you need to be for soundcheck, what time I’m on stage, meeting people after the show, and then driving to the hotel. Then it all repeats the next day, exactly the same routine, different place.

Assuming everything is going to plan it can be a relatively stress-free time, and getting to do what I love each night sharing my music with an audience gives me immense enjoyment.

But you can’t be on the road all the time, and it’s good to get some breaks from constantly performing to work on my playing, my voice, and to find the time to work on new song ideas.

So, after my mini break, I am very excited to be starting an East Coast tour in a few days with two other performers; Matthew Perryman-Jones and Matthew Mayfield. We’ll be starting the tour in Vienna, VA, and heading all the way up the coast hitting places such as Philadelphia, Boston, New York, Cleveland, Charlotte and finishing up in Asheville, NC.

You can see all of the dates and ticket details on my website www.callaghansongs.com/gigs

There’s also a very special show I’m currently working on for the end of October. On Saturday October 27th I’ll be performing a full band show at The Red Clay Theater just north of Atlanta, GA. It’s a fantastic 250-seat theater and the whole show is going to be recorded for a live CD that I plan to release before Christmas.

As much as I enjoy the acoustic shows I perform, getting to play with the full band is something else. The musicians are mostly from Shawn Mullins’ Band and mind-blowingly awesome! I love getting to experiment when I perform full band shows and do different versions of my songs, as well as some very surprising covers! You can find all the details about the show and get tickets from www.eddieowenpresents.com

Maybe I’ll see some of you there!

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