Jazz it up.

One of my unofficial new year’s resolutions was to dedicate some time to learning.  Have you heard of MOOCs – massive open online classes?  Well, there are MANY online courses on every subject imaginable, hosted from many different institutions and web portals.   They are free – if audited, and are taken online from the comfort of your couch.  Ten weeks ago I enrolled in a MOOC on Jazz Appreciation on edx.org, along with 11,000(!) other students.  I love all kinds of music, but I really didn’t know much about Jazz, and I thought if I learned a bit more about it, its eras and artists, that I might enjoy it even more.

Today I finished the course.   I highly recommend it.   I now know a bit more about early jazz, swing, bebop, cool, hard bop, modal, free jazz, fusion, and neo-classical eras.  I know that Coltrane was THE MAN on tenor sax.  I know that Miles varied his music on trumpet to influence many eras.  I found out that I really like the pianist Bill Evans and will seek out some of his albums.  I understand why Charles Mingus and Thelonius Monk transcend a specific Jazz era.  I decided that I don’t care as much for bebop – no offense to Dizzy and the Bird.  I enjoy early jazz and modal and hard bop and cool.   I can distinguish blues form from AABA form.   I can listen for the bass and drums to try to pick out swing from even-8th rhythm.   I heard many snippets of a variety of performances from artists that I was already aware of, whetting my interest to hear more by them.  And I learned about some of the newest artists to appear on the Jazz stage.  Professor Hellmer was great.

All and all, a great class!  Aaaaaand, I got an A.  :)

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openculture.com maintains a list of over a thousand MOOCs here.  Take a look, pick one out that sounds interesting, and enroll!

Be happy. 

Today is the International Day of Happiness.  Get out there and make a happy moment.  :)   Here are a few happy moments from my day. 

Friday!  Nuff said.

It’s raining over the lake. 

The vernal equinox will occur at 5:45 PM in Austin today.  

Julie is coming back to Austin tonight for a visit.   It’ll be nice to catch up with her at dinner. 

Aaaaaand we’re going to make pizza!



And *poof* … 5 years gone by.

Sunday was the 5 year blogoversary for sheila365!  I meant to draft a post ahead of time, and post it bright and early on March 8th.   But I just looked at the calendar and time has snuck by on me once again.

That’s ok.  In these 5 years sheila365 has evolved, and I think I have a bit, too.  My blog started as a post-a-day 365 project during the first year or two, which had me snapping photos during the day to make sure I had something that I judged “share-worthy;”  and now it has become more of a leisurely, post-every-week-or-so project, which I have to say has been much easier, though less artistic in terms of trying to capture beautiful photos, but rather just moments from my day that struck me as special or interesting in one way or another.

So happy blogoversary to me!  :)    I thought I’d go back through my posts from year 5 and pick a photo from one post from each month that especially makes me smile.  I have to say it was very hard to pick just one picutre from each month. 

 March 2014:  Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.   A visit to the walled El Morro.  Beautiful Caribbean views.

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April 2014:  British Virgin Islands sailing trip – this was taken while snorkeling off Cooper Island.

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Turtle dude surfacing – 2

May 2014 – A trip home to Seattle.  One of several last year.   It is a beautiful, special place for me.IMG_4009

June 2014 – Back in Austin for fun on the lake with some of my crazy sailor friends.IMG_4863

July 2014 – An amazing trip to Panama City Beach to celebrate a very special anniversary with a very special family.

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August 2014 – A roadtrip to the Texas Gulf Coast.  One of my favorite places to relax.IMG_5697

September 2014 – A lovely anniversary trip through the Texas Wine Country.IMG_5876

October 2014 – A fun girls’ trip to Washington, D.C.  Lots of laughs, lots of wine, and lots of walking.  :)

The residential streets are lined with historic townhouses.

The residential streets are lined with historic townhouses.

November 2014 – An oh so special birthday.IMG_6994

December 2014 – Family visiting means showing off Austin and the Hill Country.  Never gets old.IMG_7297

January 2015 – Hiking as many trails as I can before I had to go back to work after taking a few months off.IMG_7688

February 2015 – Yep, more tulips.IMG_7780

What an amazing lap around the sun!

Thanks for coming along for the ride. :)

Stained glass trilogy.

I’ve enjoyed playing with the iPhone app called Brushstroke. It’s a pretty versatile app for adding water-color / oil painting effect to photos.

These are three shots I took in different cathedrals on my birthday trip to France, with a little post-processing with Brushstroke.

Notre Dame. Paris:

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Cathedral Notre-Dame de Chartres. Chartres:

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Sainte-Chapelle. Paris:

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A hill (and a thrill) with a view.

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One of many familiar images of Austin is of the Pennybacker Bridge at Loop 360, overlooking a stretch of beautiful Lake Austin.   The 360 Loop drive and its Hill Country views are one of my favorite parts of Austin.  I crossed off one of my must-do’s by hiking up the cliff overlooking the bridge to take in the view for myself.   In the panorama above, you can just see the downtown skyline peeking over the hill on the left of the image.   I’m not afraid of heights, but I have to say my heart skipped a beat or two as I stood on the rock on the edge of the cliff.

For reference (from google streetview):

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I think I like this shot better.  It’s taken from a vantage point slightly farther west, down the trail along the top of the cliff.

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Just another gorgeous day in my little corner of paradise.

Sunpocolypse.

I know that my friends in the Northeast have been hit by a snowstorm today.  But what a BEAUTIFUL day here in Austin!  The Butler hike and bike trail around Town Lake (oops, i mean Ladybird Lake) is always a nice destination, with loops of varying distances depending on which bridges you choose.  Last year the boardwalk on the southeast side of the lake was completed.  I set out today to walk the Mopac / I35 loop.  The Butler Hike and Bike Trail maps say that loop is 6.9 miles, but I must have dilly-dallied, because I logged a bit more.

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It was a simply lovely day.  I leave you with a few pics from my lap:

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Start/finish at Zilker.

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A view from the new Boardwalk.

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Congress Avenue bridge.

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Looking south towards the Zach Theater from the Pfluger bridge.

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A rower making way.

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A peek inside one of the boathouses on the north side of the lake.

I would love to be able to come down here every day.

Land lubbin’.

This weekend has been a glorious January one for the books.   Yesterday we kind of got rat-holed by what should have been a 30 minute project at the house, but it ended up consuming the day.

Today, however, i was determined to get outside.   The level of Lake Travis continues to remain woefully low at 624′ above mean sea level.   Happily, though, the rain from last week raised the level about 9 inches.   We just have another 684 inches to go before the lake is full!

One of the features of the land that surrounded the original river that the drought has uncovered is the piece of land referred to by locals as “Sometimes Islands.”  When the lake basin is flooded, the peaks of this piece of land sometimes stick up; sometimes they are covered by water.  Well, for the last 3 or 4 years, Sometimes Islands has become For-the-Foreseeable-Future Peninsula.

We set out today to walk the length of the peninsula.   So we packed a few snacks for lunch, brought our GPSes, and tossed my Christmas present from Monte – a metal detector – in the trunk for its maiden voyage.

We stopped briefly at the historic site for the original Anderson Mill – the mill that operated near Cypress Creek in the 1800s – a NW Austin neighborhood and road still bear its name.  They have a museum here as well, but it is only open for a few hours on the 4th Sunday of every month between March and October.   We’ll have to come back for the tour.

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Then we headed for Mansfield Dam Park and started our trek.

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This is the old highway that used to cross over the top of the dam.  It is closed to ordinary folks these days, and Highway 620 is the throroughfare now.  I’d love to get a chance to stroll across the old road now, though.

I walked the length of the peninsula – about 2.5 miles out from the park – and found all the geocaches that didn’t require scuba gear.  Monte marked a couple of points on his GPS that will hopefully be boating hazards and/or navigable cuts once again at some time in the future.  This was the view from the park looking out over Sometimes Islands…the structure on the top of the hill in the center of the picture is the Oasis.

IMG_7587We also tried out the metal detector for the first time.  And I have to say:  “Pretty nice!”   We were able to detect and reliably find nearly every piece of metal (aluminum, lead, iron, steel, …) that it sounded on, even if we had to dig 6″ or more to get to it.  I’m looking forward to bringing it along on some of our cove-explorations when the weather gets warmer.  No treasure this time.   But it was fun.

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I go back to work a week from tomorrow.  This weekend was a nice adventure.  I’m hoping to squeeze in few more next week.

Bull Creek flowing.

I took another trip to St Edwards Park the other day to explore some of the trails I didn’t get to on my last visit.   It was the MLK holiday, and a beautiful January Austin day – and everyone else had the same idea.  The parking lot was PACKED.

It’s nice to see a bit of water in the creek.  It is supposed to rain again tomorrow, thankfully.

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Looking upstream from a point along the red trail north of the park.

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Standing in the middle of the creek bed on dry rocks – not a good place to be after a rain!

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Winter creek-scape looking upstream, taken from the concrete wall/dam on the southside of the park.

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A view of concrete wall/dam taken from the south bank.

I’ll be back.

Simply. Amazing. (you’re welcome)

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Football fans are superstitious.  Especially this Seahawks fan, who has experienced heartwrenching, emotional ups and downs over a lifetime of football seasons:  the emptiness of too many vacuous losing seasons, then the joy of making and winning playoff games, then the devastation of playoff games lost in the final seconds, then a Superbowl disappointment that strikes at the very heart, then FINALLY an intoxicating Superbowl victory.

So it is that over all these years, I have come to believe that something as simple as my decision to either watch or not watch a game can, and has, affected the outcome.  It’s just a superstition that I must live with.  It’s a burden.

I have a friend who sits in the same blue recliner to watch every game, and if he’s not able to do that, he carries a picture of the blue recliner with him… all because once when he didn’t the Seahawks lost.

So, this morning when I found that my mylar Seahawks balloon, which I bought for Superbowl XL and have reinflated since then, had lost its helium and was dragging on the ground, I felt the first twinge of superstition:   if i don’t refill it and we lose, it could be my fault.  Sooo, we refilled it before the game.

Then, after experiencing those 55 tortuous minutes of highs and lows during the NFC championship game and the Hawks down 19-7, my emotions took me back to that helpless, superstitious place….   I couldn’t take it anymore.  They could lose, and it would be my fault! 

So with a little over 3 minutes left in the game, I left.  I went for a walk.  I took my iphone/earbuds and listened to the NFL.com audiocast of the game instead.  And then magic happened.  I was less than a football field’s length away from the house when we scored.   And i kept walking.  Then the beautiful onside kick happened.  And i kept walking.  Then we scored again to take the lead!  ohmigod.  I started running.   Then we made the 2 point conversion to force a tie if we could hold Greenbay to only a fieldgoal – and we did.  I kept running.  Then we won the coin toss in overtime.  Then the TOUCHDOWN for the win!  OHMIGOD!  I ran all the way back to the house and celebrated with Monte.

I’m so happy for my team.  And I can’t help thinking, just a little, that this 12th man in Austin made it all happen :)

GO HAWKS!

How sweet it is.

It’s a beautiful Saturday. Temps in the high 60s for a change. We are anchoring out in our cove.
We have the place to ourselves.

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Tutti a tavola e mangiare!

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And for dessert: HOT BUTTERED RUM!
Cheers!

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We tried Emeril’s recipe and it was just right!