New day.

I caught a glimpse of the crescent moon this morning as the sun was coming up behind it.  Only a week ago I was watching the moon rise, just past full, over the desert.  It made me think about how Time passes and Life happens.  The James Taylor song Secret o’Life popped into my head.  Give it a listen here.  Enjoy the day.

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Where two deserts meet. 

We visited Joshua Tree National Park yesterday, drove the entire length of the park, from south to north, and stopped to explore all of the varied terrain and plants.   The park is ruggedly beautiful, and marks the intersection of the Colorado Desert and the Mohave Desert.  


We had a blast.  And took a bazillion selfies.   I’ll share some photos, but also wanted to share this cool interview I found this morning…. it’s 10 minutes long… of Steve Averill, the guy that designed and photographed the album art for U2’s album The Joshua Tree, which is celebrating its 30th birthday this year.  I think this guy has my dream job.  🙂

A fine example of the namesake of the park, said to look like Dr Seuss trees:


Amazing rock horizons:


Skull Rock, spooky!


Another peek from beneath the rocks:


I love exploring new places, and I love hanging with my girlfriends.   A perfect day.  

Blues on the green.  

Tonight we made it to the last concert in this year’s Blues on the Green free concert series at Austin’s lovely Zilker Park.   Bright Light Social Hour was the headliner.   We joined Lori and Doray, who have made it to every show this year. They’re professionals; they have the parking/tailgating/setup thing down.  We got downtown early, went for a swim in Barton Springs Pool and then headed over to the Great Lawn to set up our chairs and share some nibblies before the show.  


    I enjoyed the night very much.  Temps were in the 80s!! How lucky was that?!

    Subterranean Jazz. 

    I met some girlfriends downtown last night to listen to a band at The Elephant Room –  Kris Kimura’s Wasabi Grande Big, big band.  Now, that’s a big band!

    Low-light shot of the back of the room. 

    iPod wars. 

    When rafting up with friends on Lake Travis, we invented this game to amuse ourselves – everyone takes turns playing a song from their iPod that they think is awesome.  We pass the plug from one person to the next.  You strive for a song that others will agree is awesome.  Some songs take people down their own memory lane, some are just funny, some songs everyone sings along to, some are songs other people never heard before.  It’s a great way to pass the time, under the stars, on a boat, with friends, slightly impaired, at anchor, off the grid, into the wee hours of the morning.   Here’s the typical scene.  

     

    Awesome!  🙂

    Sláinte. 

    Today we celebrated my mom,  and said goodbye.  What an emotional day.   It was a beautiful ceremony.  Lots of family and friends shared the day with us. 

    We sent her off with a graveside parting glass.   

    I’m a little exhausted.  A little sad.  And very happy to have an angel of mom’s calibre in my corner.  

    I’ll leave you with a picture from my sister’s garden, and the Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem version of The Parting Glass

     

    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!

    Girls’ trip 2014 – Destination Washington, D.C.

    Last year five of my girlfriends and I went on a trip together to San Diego and had a really great time.  We said we’d try to make it an annual thing.  And we did!  This year’s destination:  Washington D.C.

    The fall weather was beautiful.  We rented a townhouse on Capitol Hill just south of Lincoln Park – about a mile and a half walk to the Capitol buidling.  What an amazing place to live.

    The Highlights:

    We walked about a hundred miles (!), mastered the Metro, and took in some amazing sights.   We visited the Library of Congress & National Gallery of Art, and their outdoor Sculpture Garden.  We took a 3-hour Segway DC Monuments & Memorials tour with CitySegway (I highy recommend them, and our wonderful guide, Ray).  We caught a showing of the Broadway musical Evita at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  We drank a couple barrels of wine.  And danced the night away in the townhouse.  We we sure crammed alot of fun into a 4 day weekend.

    The Eats:

    – The night we arrived we ate at the highly touted Spanish tapas restaurant Jaleo (2 blocks from the Archives metro station).  This madrileña gives them a bleh and a thumbs down.  Service was ho hum, their traditional tapas like gambas al ajillo were not traditional at all… (made with red, spicy pepper sauce with no garlic!).  When we complained, the waiter said they’ve changed the way they prepare them now and we should have ordered them traditional if that’s the way we wanted them, even though that’s how they were described on the menu.  We shared a pan of lobster paella which tasted like new orleans dirty rice made with a burnt roux.   Sorry José Andrés, you let us down.

    – for breakfast the next day, Friday, we ate at the Madison Cafe atop of the Library of Congress’ James Madison Memorial Building.  What a great, unassuming breakfast stop, with reasonable prices.  Spectacular view of the Potomac, but apparantly you’re not supposed to go out on the patio unless accompanied by the Capitol Police (oopsie).

    – for lunch on Friday’s sightseeing marathon (seriously, Laura’s pedometer said we walked about 23 miles that day!), we happened upon a really wonderful farmer’s market/outdoor food court in the Federal Triangle – Capital Harvest on the Plaza.  In contrast to last night’s meal, the paella I got here on a paper plate was perfect and the real deal.  They are open Friday’s through the end October.

    – for dinner on Friday night we ate at the fabulous italian restaurant Graffiato  (a short walk from the Gallery Place/Chinatown metro stop).  Now this was a great meal!  The service was fantastic.  We tried nearly everything (watercress salad, caesar, mussels a la vodka, potato gnocchi, homemade pasta, white house pizza, and even more that I don’t recall) and came away wanting more.  Delicious!

    – Saturday morning we walked to the nearby Eastern Market – a historic indoor/outdoor food and arts market and a hub of the neighborhood on Capitol Hill.  We bought ingredients for our planned dinner-at-the-townhouse later that night.  The menu:  spinach soup, grilled salmon steaks, asparagus risotto, green beans with lemon vinagrette and goat cheese.  We outdid ourselves!

    – for brunch on our last day, we headed to Le Greniere, a fantastic french bistro on H street, about a mile walk from Union Station.  Their weekend brunch menu has a great variety of delicious choices.  My croque-monsieur could have fed 2 or 3.  🙂  excellent service and brunch menu.  We were all thankful for the walk afterwards.

    And then, *poof* it was over.   Til next year!

    Some of the sights:

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    Navy band unplugged.

    It is Armed Forces Week in this traditionally U.S. Navy home of the Puget Sound area. Mom and I caught a very nice performance by the Navy’s wind quartet and brass quintet at the local library tonight. Lots of feet were a-tappin’.

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    Go Navy! 🙂

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    And, the program:

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    Here we go again!

    I wish you a most happy, loving, and exciting 2014! I’m counting my blessings while reeling through memories from the year we just wrapped up. Here’s to the next lap ’round the sun. Cheers!

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    A most excellent Christmas Eve Eve.

    Yesterday was the first day since my vacation started that I didn’t have anything already on the todo list.  It was all my day.  So I lounged around in the AM, hit the gym, did a little bead shopping, made some shepherd’s pie (yum)…. Just relaaaaaxed.

    An extra treat was to see a couple of friends that stopped by the house:  first Rob, and then Marty.

    THEN in the evening we headed downtown to Donn’s Depot to listen to the amazingly talented Chris Gage during his weekly gracing of the stage there.  WHAT a great show.  Chris was joined onstage, as usual, by a host of other musicians in the house singing rockin’ Christmas songs til the wee hours – his wife and music partner Christine Albert, the King of Hillbilly R&R Jon Emery, newly Grammy nominated Kym Warner of The Greencards, David Carroll on upright bass, Jeff Tveraas, and the incredible Marcia Ball…   It just can’t get better than that.

    I saw my friend Winker, and I ran into my friend Kathy who I haven’t seen in at least a couple years.  It was fun to catch up with her.

    A simply perfect night.

    Albert and Gage are one of my all time favorite musicians.  Chris has a brand new instrumental christmas album out, Ornaments, which I’ve played a few hundred times already this year 🙂  And A&G have a Christmas album called One More Christmas that I bought last night which is fantastic as well.  Check out all their stuff whether solo or together, you’ll enjoy them.  By the way, A&G are playing the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar at noon today…go see ’em!

    Here are a few pics from the night…not great, since I didn’t want to use the flash, but you can see the awesomeness of the night…

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    Home.

    Touchdown ABIA.

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    It’s good to be home.  I’m very tired.  And, I’m on call this weekend for work, so I won’t be able to venture very far.  So while it’s nice to be home to recharge, there’s still lots of things to keep me busy.  Monte has dart night at the house tonight, so I’ve slipped away to putter around til i fall asleep.

    Sometimes I create playlists on iTunes just based on a word search in the title or the lyrics of the songs in my library.  Tonight, I searched for songs with “home” in the title and found many hits.   Here’s a sampling, in order of when i first remembered hearing them (sorry ’bout the goofy ads before many of each of these…hopefully you can click through).   I have a story to go with each of these, but for now I’ll just share the links.   Maybe you’ll enjoy and/or remember them, too.  As for me, i love how music is woven into my memories….

    – Carole King’s Home Again
    – Alice Cooper’s I’m Going Home
    – Tim Curry’s I’m Going Home from Rocky Horror Picture Show
    – Cecilio & Capono’s Home (and I’m staying this time)
    – Bonnie Raitt’s Home
    – Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes’ Home
    – Phillip Phillips Home