December 16 Christmas Ceili

As a proud returning member of the Champagne Ceili Band, I warmly invite you to join us on Saturday, December 16 at 2 pm at the Johnson County Fairgrounds.

Christmas Ceili 2017: Christmas in Killlarney will be an afternoon of dance, music, fun, food and community.


From the Facebook event page:

Watch your favorite Irish dancers perform both traditional and contemporary Irish dance along with some seasonal favorites! Then join in for a jig yourself!
Ceili (social dance)
Pot luck
Tickets sold at the door: $16
3 and younger free (on lap please)

A day to celebrate!

This beautiful Irish landscape was created by my father-in-law Jon Dutcher as a gift for my parents.


Regardless of how you feel about green beer or the question of the snake metaphor, today is a day to celebrate the depth of beauty and humanity in Irish culture now and for centuries past.

If you’re looking for a way to celebrate without leaving home, did you know that Tomm Moore’s Song of the Sea as well as The Secret of Kells (same creator and production team) are both available to stream on Amazon? Free if you have Prime!

If you still need more selkie in your life, I refer you to our version of “Song of the Seal” from our 2005 album I Shall.

No celebration is complete without live music though so we look forward seeing you tonight at the Coralville Center for the Performing Arts! All ages are welcome. The show begins at 7:30 pm.

Please share the love!

St. Paddy’s is upon us!

Plenty of opportunities to catch some Irish music over the next several days! First, we’ll see you on Friday at 2 Dogs Pub. I recommend the black bean burger with teriyaki green beans. We’ll start playing at 8.


Then on Saturday, we’re thrilled to be opening for Dervish at the Englert.


Sunday is a day of kitchen wizardry because on Monday, St. Patrick’s Day, we’re having a potluck and music event at Uptown Bill’s called ‘Ireland to Iowa; A Living Tradition‘. The potluck begins at 6 pm. I am bringing Guinness stew (one traditional and one vegan) and soda bread (one traditional and one gluten-free). There will then be a performance at 7 pm and a session beginning at 8 pm.

The plan for the 7 pm concert is to feature original compositions written in Iowa in the Irish tradition. The concert portion of the evening will feature compositions by me, my bandmates Brad Pouleson and Keith Reins, our friends Dave Hicks, Dennis Roseman, and Guy Drollinger and more and the session following the concert is open to all.

We hope to see some friendly faces as we celebrate our eleventh St. Paddiversary with the Beggarmen!

3rd Annual Irish Christmas Ceili

3rd Annual Irish Christmas Ceili

Friends and family, I am asking a favor. This event means a lot to me, my music students, my son, and his dance school. Please consider attending, bringing your family, and telling everyone you know about it. You most definitely will not regret it.

I’m attaching a note from Tréa Champagne, Director/Instructor at Champagne Academy of Irish Dance, about ways that you can help support this wonderful community event.

Dear Friends of the Irish Arts,

Our 3rd annual Irish Christmas Céilí is coming up on Friday, December 13th, 2013 (6:30 – 9:30pm) at Old Brick in Iowa City, Iowa. We’re excited about promoting a local céilí (pronounced “kay-lee”); which is a relaxed gathering involving traditional Irish folk music and social dancing. More information about our céilí can be found on the below website.

In addition to a performance by some of the Champagne Academy of Irish Dance students, we will have a silent auction that spotlights many local artists and businesses. This special holiday event is open to the public and is the school’s only fundraiser of the year. The money raised will be used to cover the cost of the event itself (hall, band, callers, travel expenses, performance, beverages, supplies, etc..) as well as supporting both the Champagne Academy of Irish Dance and Old Brick of Iowa City.

You may not realize it, but you are a vital part of keeping the Irish arts alive in Iowa. Please consider showing your support by contributing using one of the options listed below. Please feel free to share this information to those you think would be interested in our céilí!

Thank you for your consideration, and we hope to see you at the céilí!

Tréa Champagne
Champagne Academy of Irish Dance

Will you help support the Irish arts in Iowa? Please consider one of the following options:

1. EVENT AUCTION ITEMS (due by 12/10/2013)
We are looking for items to be made available for bids during a silent auction at our 2013 holiday event. Want to provide an item, but aren’t sure what? Acceptable items from past auctions: jewelry, gift certificates, small home furnishings, children’s toys, and assorted craft items. Items that make good Christmas gifts are always popular! Please submit an auction form with every item (or smaller items packaged together as one). For more details, and to locate the auction item web form, please visit

2. EVENT SPONSORS (due by 12/10/2013)
We are seeking sponsors for our 2013 holiday event. In return for your generosity, assuming we attain enough sponsors, we will be printing shirts for the event, and will place your name (or business logo) on the back. For further information, please visit (

If you are interested in helping out in other ways with this year’s event, please let us know… new people bring new ideas. If you have any questions, please email

Advance and Retire

Atticus had his Irish step dance debut a few weeks ago for a hooley put on by the Champagne Academy of Irish Dance.

Holiday hooley

Holiday hooley

We were in the ceili band playing for the dance and I was really proud to be joined by a few of my students who really held their own playing for the dancers.

Holiday hooley

Playing for a ceili is a meditative experience because we repeat one tune many more times than we might normally if we were playing for a session or a performance. The familiarity of the tunes and the repetition lulls me into an altered state of mind.

The caller teaches the dance and then, when the dancers are ready to bring the tempo up to dance to the live music, calls out instructions to keep them on track.

I recall sitting there fiddling, watching the bouncing and twirling dancers, communicating with my band mates and students by means of winks and smiles, catching glimpses of my sons partying with their beloved babysitter.

Holiday hooley

All this set to the background sound of the music of my heart played on the pipes, the fiddle, and the drum along with the caller’s reminders to “advance, advance, retire, retire. Advance, advance, retire, retire”.

Holiday hooley

I had a rare moment of perfect clarity about the cycle of seasons, the bittersweet truth of ends and beginnings, of children growing and changing. Advance, advance, retire, retire.

Between the hooley and this moment, there has been the crush of holidays (Christmas and Liam’s birthday), the peace of retreat (our cabin in the woods New Year’s tradition), and the resumption of Regular Life. Through all this, I still hear the refrain in my mind (advance, advance, retire, retire) when I’m washing the dishes, walking the dog, anytime that my mind goes still for a moment.

It’s not a bad soundtrack to a day.

Merry and bright

Posts have been a bit scarce ’round these parts as we have all been sharing a laptop that is experiencing its last wheezes of life. The keyboard doesn’t work so we have an external keyboard plugged into it. Same with the mousepad. It doesn’t hold a charge so it has to be plugged in at all times. Basically, it’s a laptop with all of the laptop conveniences handily removed. It’s the anti-laptop.

For Christmas, I got an awesome hand-me-down laptop that…(drumroll please)…actually works! I hope that means I can be a better steward of this space.

There’s too much to catch up on so I refer you to our Flickr for that task. I leave you today with  my favorite picture from Christmas. I give you Balthasar and Gaspar, the second and third Kings.

Balthasar and Gaspar

Next up, a brand new year! Let’s make it count.


Joe has been sick for several days with some kind of nasty upper respiratory infection and Atticus also succumbed to illness for a day so our 4th of July activities were more low-key than usual.  The boys were invited to be part of the parade but since we had been battling illness and the temperature was over a hundred in the shade, we decided to opt out of going this year.

While Joe convalesced, the boys and I worked on a project that we’ve been meaning to tackle for a while now but haven’t been able to find enough time together.  One of our most fun, easiest, and cheapest projects to date: an Angry Birds felt board:

Angry Birds

Angry Birds

Angry Birds

Angry Birds

Angry Birds

I first saw this idea a few months ago on a message board and I can’t believe it’s taken us this long to try it.  It’s been all over Pinterest for some time now and there are even some patterns and tutorials out there.  We just eyeballed it using our ever-growing collection of Angry Bird paraphernalia.

Later in the day, once we thought the heat was beat (newsflash: we were wrong!), we walked down to the 4th Fest carnival to try to salvage some sort of festive holiday spirit.

4th Fest

4th Fest

4th Fest

4th Fest

4th Fest

Freedom has been on my mind, for obvious reasons.  I am so grateful to have access to so many choices and opportunities for myself and my children.  Patriotism has never been much of an outward expression of pride for me, but more of a quiet gratitude and awareness of the abundance of my privileges.  I’ve done nothing at all to deserve to be this lucky and I came across a quote yesterday by Chicago writer Barnabas Piper that speaks to this idea.

“…Contrary to the insidious song and sentiment of the day, I am not “proud to be an American.” To be precise, I am not proud because I am an American. I am not proud because pride is for those things that we accomplish, those achievements for which we deserve credit. How did I end up an American? I was born one, and I would be a fool to be proud of something for which I can take no credit. My Americanism was granted to me and is a gift, not a status.

That does not make me unpatriotic. Patriotism ought not to be a prideful touting of our country’s greatness but rather a joyful exclamation of it. My parade going and grilled-meat eating are not hypocritical. They are expressions of thankfulness. I am thankful…”

The whole article can be found here.

Sweets for my Sweets

This week has been a sugar extravaganza.  It began with Valentine’s Day.

I thought we were doing okay because the only sugary goodness that was in the Valentine mailboxes were a box of conversation hearts and a handful of Tootsie Rolls.

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day

With our family relatively far away and so many of our friends having moved from our transitory community, mail is really important to us.  I really like the idea of Valentine’s Day being a time for renewing our commitment to keeping in touch with people via snail mail.  I found some Valentine’s pens and pencils and sweet little animal erasers and mainly used that to stuff our mailboxes.  The Kung Fu Panda stickers from Joe were the overwhelming favorite.

At Sunday School last weekend, we talked about St. Valentine and made little Valentine scrolls so I had to include some of those in the mailboxes too.
Valentine's Day
Valentine's Day

Then, as if Valentine candy wasn’t enough, I had the bright idea of making rock cakes as our baking project this week. Ingredients: flour, butter, egg, milk, vanilla, powdered sugar, mini marshmallows, chocolate chips. Um, yeah.

Rock Cakes

Rock Cakes

It was quite horrendously messy.

Rock Cakes

There was more than one wardrobe change.
Rock Cakes

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for our blood sugar, the end result was quite disgusting.  I don’t know why I stray from our tried and true chocolate chip cookie recipe.  It most certainly ain’t broke.

Liam’s verdict, delivered with equal parts disappointment and apology: “The chocolate chip part is good.  And they look like they should be yummy.”

There was plenty of satisfying flour squishing so the process was sweet anyway even if the product was lacking.

Baking every week is at least as important for me as it is for them.  Just as they are getting more accomplished at stirring and manipulating the pastry cutter, I too am trying to let go a little more each time.  I continually aim for a little less screeching in horror on my part as they careen toward the wall with their butter covered fingers.  I struggle to force myself to give them more freedom to use the measuring cups and spoons in their own delightfully haphazard way (baking is a science, people!) instead of pre-measuring everything into little bowls as I am wont to do.

Yesterday was not a great day for me in that regard.  I should have known better than to start a baking project when I had to teach in an hour.  There was yelling.  It wasn’t my best work.

Parenting is as humbling as it is rewarding.  I hope they remember the squishing more than the screeching.