Jazz in the hood.

We have some talented musicians living in our neighborhood. They have taken to doing a driveway concert every couple of weeks. Sometimes classical. Sometimes jazz. We walked over tonight with a couple of chairs and enjoyed the ambiance for a bit. Very nice.

Love thy neighbor. 🙂

All in a day’s work.

IMG_0490

During this prolonged shelter-in-place, when people ask me “what did you do today?” I usually go blank.  But I have been busy!  Aside from the household chores, cooking, and yard work, I have found contentment in these online diversions, which fill my day.

Photography

Nikon is offering their curriculum of 10 online photography classes to be streamed for free until the end of April.  How cool is that?  Link here.

Birding

High Island on the Texas Gulf Coast is one of my very favorite birding destinations during migration in April.  But not only is travel not in line with the current stay-at-home order, but the sanctuaries are also closed.  Thankfully, Houston Audubon, who owns and runs the High Island sanctuaries, is live streaming video footage from their Facebook page at 8AM and 3:30PM every Thursday through Monday.  Their Facebook link here.

Guitar

Fender is offering a 90-day free trial of their online guitar, bass, and ukelele lessons.   I’m a poorly self-taught guitar player of nearly 30 years and I’m learning new things by following their lesson progression, and more importantly, practicing again.  Link here.

Exercise

Lori recommended some beginner yoga sessions on YouTube, from “Yoga with Adriene.” I’m a yoga-newbie and am enjoying them very much.  Link here.

I use an app called “30Days” to help me to do higher and higher reps of traditional strength exercises like plank, situps, pushups, etc.  You pick the exercises, set your starting point, and for 30 days the app will gradually increase the reps, giving you days-off every few days.  I’ve used their app for years, on and off.  I’m 27 days into my latest 30-day stint and am back up to planking for 3 minutes.  🙂   The app isn’t fancy, there are prettier ones out there, but it’s free and it works for me when I use it.  Link here.

Amy recommended an app she used to train herself from couch-surfer to running a 5K over the course of 8 weeks.  They also have a 10K version which takes you from couch to 10K in 14 weeks, which is the one I’m using.  I’m on week 4 and am still enjoying it. They are both free to try for 7 days, and then you have to pay to upgrade to unlimited access.  The provider, Fitness22, actually has an entire collection of fitness apps.  Link here.

After 6 years, I am still wearing my fitbit One tracker every day.  I need to upgrade to a watch soon.  Either way, I use their app daily to track my activity and food.   Link here.

Things to listen to

Amazon Music, one of the perks of Prime membership, has a great selection of music; 2 million songs from their 50 million song library are free to listen to for Prime members.  You can search by song, album, artist, or listen to existing playlists and curated stations for something that floats your boat.  Keeto enjoys George Winston.  Link here.

Amazon Music has a channel on twitch.tv where they are hosting live-streamed webcasts.  Look for #togetherathome hashtag.  I listened to Hayes Carll play live for an hour on his patio last night.  The audio was very well done.  Link here.

I’ve gone overboard subscribing to and listening to podcasts, true crime is my addiction.  I have new content to listen to each day.  I use the Stitcher app to listen.   Link here.

Foreign Language Learning

I still use the free app Duolingo to practice my Spanish every day or so.  Link here.

Things to watch

The British National Theatre is streaming previously recorded theater performances every Thursday in April, on their YouTube channel.  We watched the first one, a comedy called One Man, Two Guvnors, last week and really enjoyed it.  Link here.

The Metropolitan Opera is streaming videos of previously recorded opera performances, a new one every day.  Link here.

Acorn.tv is offering a 30-day free trial of their British TV shows’ episodes (which we enjoy very much) for new subscribers, instead of their normal 7-day free trial.  Use the code FREE30 when signing up.  Link here.

Videochat

Ok, hands down, I’ve adopted Zoom for video chat.  The free version allows unlimited video meetings with a 40-minute time limit on each, which works for me.   Link here.

Online multiplayer games

We have spent many hours playing online games with friends and family.  I think that trickstercards.com and boardgamearena.com are both well done for this.  We combine them with a zoom video chat.

Food & Drink

Virtual wine tasting from Becker Vineyards.  What’s a virtual wine tasting?  Well, Becker is selling different 3 pack bottles of different varietals each week, which you can order to be shipped to your home.  And then a few days later, you tune into their Facebook Live sessions to participate in a group tasting of each bottle with experts from the vineyard.  I just bought the 3rd tasting pack.  It should be good!  Link here.

I posted previously about my ongoing on-line grocery shopping adventures for delivery and/or curbside pickup.  I’ve been pretty good at keeping an order scheduled a week to 10 days ahead of time, to keep fresh food in the house.  Let me say, again, HEB is awesome!  Link to my previous post here.

 

 

 

 

Friday fun.

Michael & Amber gifted us several tickets to see an Austin band with them and a bunch of their friends tonight, Extreme Heat. They are a self-described funk and soul band that’s been playing in Austin since 1977. And they are one of the Austin Music Award nominees for Hall of Fame artist this year. I really enjoyed the show. They were great! We asked Mike and Joel to join the party as well. Nice venue, great tunes, a little dancing. Very nice.

Across the years.

My high school friend, Irene, was in Austin this week.  She and a colleague and another friend were headed for San Antonio for a conference and made a side trip to Austin.  We karaoke’d, texmex’d, BBQ’d, imbibed, touristed, selfied, and enjoyed catching up.  Then I drove them all to San Antonio for the conference and stayed at their hotel on the Riverwalk.   I even squeezed in some birding while their conference was in session.

Irene and I were besties in high school.  Life happened.  We ended up on opposite coasts and fell out of touch until rekindling our connection in the last 10 years, in which I have really enjoyed our rendezvous.  The years melt away and what is left is pure friendship.

Singing and dancing…

IMG_9498

Tour of ATX…

IMG_9501

MEAT! @ the Salt Lick…

IMG_9502Pretty views along the Riverwalk boat tour…

IMG_9546

A lovely night along the Riverwalk…IMG_9598

Hotel room view of the Alamo!IMG_9601

See you again soon, Irene!

 

Transported.

We are watching the latest Ken Burns multipart documentary on PBS, Country Music. I think it’s great. I love the music, and the walk through time.

source: Wikimedia Commons

The episode on Hank Williams dusted off some cobwebs for me. I have strong memories from my childhood – including listening to my dad play Hank Williams albums on his record player at night, often with the lights in the living room turned off.

I couldn’t resist playing some of the same albums on my iPod tonight. And I just had to flick the lights off. I was immediately transported to my old home many decades ago, and memories associated with that time resurfaced.

Music sure is powerful.

A memory from that same time came to mind. I was going through my pre-teen gymnast phase. My dad, upon discovering me doing cartwheels in the living room one day, strongly suggested that I not do that anymore. Unfortunately, I had a bad case of Nadia Comaneci fever, having closely followed the 1976 Summer Olympics. So the urge to bounce about was irresistible. A few days later, on the very last indoor tumbling run of my life, my foot hit and broke the plastic cover on my dad’s record player. The very same turntable from which Hank Williams sang to me in the dark. Lesson learned.

After the much dreaded confession when my dad came home from work, I searched for, found, and purchased a replacement cover and paid for it from my babysitting money. It was not an easy thing to do back then. There was no Google search. No Amazon Prime. I only had a phone book and a Sears Roebuck catalog. But I had to make it right.

Long story short: it’s amazing how music and memories and the mind work.

Good Night Hank.

A day in the ATX.

I joined Rachel and Becky on their second day in Austin.

Monte made crepes for breakfast. Then we headed out.

Spelunking at Inner Space Caverns:

Boot shopping at Allen’s Boots:Zilker Botanical Garden:

Chillin’ at Barton Springs Pool:

Mural tour:

Boot scootin at the Broken Spoke:

Mr. Dale Watson:

Good night Austin!

Fun in the sun.

We enjoyed floating and fishing with Lori and Mike and four of his grandkids today on Nirvana, anchored in our favorite cove on Lake Travis. It was a fun time. The kids were great, and they caught 4 fish between them!

We checked out Brick Oven’s Jazz night for dinner. The patio was full, though, so we had to sit inside.

Another good day!

Better late than never.

Monte and I grabbed lunch in South Austin today at Evangeline Cafe, a long-time Austin favorite for Cajun food and live music. I cannot believe it has taken us so long to make it here! It was the first time for both of us. And it was goooood. I want to come back again soon.

The hallway is covered with music posters for performances at the cafe over the years.

Mardi Gras is only a few days away, so maybe you should check them out, too!

2018 happened.

The year was full of the usual fun times spent with Monte, our friends, as much family visits we could squeeze in, and my girl posse.  I stopped coloring my hair.  I gained too much weight.  I missed my mom often.  I was continually enchanted by Keeto.  People often ask me what I do with my oodles of free time.  On the spot, I usually can’t think of what the heck I’ve done to fill the days and weeks of this year of retirement.  So, I spent some time today scanning the photos I took this year, to jog my memory for some highlights.

January brought many birding day trips and a number of lifers.  More special were visits with 2 of my high school friends.  Pilar was in Austin for business and looked me up.  We hadn’t seen each other for … decades, not counting one brief wedding visit that happened many moons ago.  We’d reconnected on social media several years back, but it was really wonderful to get a face to face visit in.   Another friend from high school, Irene, texted me to see if I could join her in Lubbock, of all places, while she was there for her son’s sports event.  And so I took a road trip and saw some interesting things along the way.

February brought a huge leap of faith, a drive to Florida with Lori, Monte & Joe, and then a journey across the Gulf of Mexico by sailboat to bring Lori’s new-to-her sailboat home to the Texas coast.  It was an awesome and challenging trip.

March brought a really memorable road trip across Arizona and New Mexico.  We celebrated Monte, Gene and Susanne’s birthdays together.  I saw a couple dozen lifer bird species.  Tucson, with its Catalina Mountains and the Sonoran Desert, is a truly amazing birding destination.  And on the way home, we saw some glorious works of nature and man.  We spent 2 days on the south rim of the Grand Canyon, staying overnight in a cabin sitting about 50 feet away from the rim.   We marveled at a ginormous meteor crater off of I-40 on the drive to Santa Fe.   Then we spent 2 days in Santa Fe, staying at the luxurious Spa at Loretto.   We saw more new birds there, but the highlight was a visit to the Loretto Chapel, with its spiral staircase that legend says might have been constructed with divine intervention.

April brought a number of trips to the coast; one special one to visit High Island during a Spring fallout, and another girl’s trip to Kemah to officially rename Lori’s boat, S/V Trident.  But if that wasn’t enough, I joined Irene again, this time for a week in Italy.  I thoroughly enjoyed Florence, Pisa and Cinque Terra and points in between.

May brought more trips to the coast to help Lori with Trident repairs and projects.  It also marked the return of warm weather and lots of fun boat outings on Lake Travis with friends and family on Nirvana.

June and July were full of projects at the house, in the shop, and in the yard.  We popped down to the coast again, a time or two, and really enjoyed our almost full lake during the peak of the heat of summer.  We delivered a beautiful table that Monte made for Doray and Tom in their new home in Wimberly.

August brought another trip to the Texas coast – to crew for Lori and Mike on their first shake-down cruise on Trident since she arrived in Texas.  We sailed out to the Gulf of Mexico and down to Port Aransas.  We stayed for a couple nights in the municipal marina there, and enjoyed one of our favorite towns on the Texas Gulf Coast, before our return sail to Kemah.  Then we popped up to Seattle for a very overdue trip.   We stayed two weeks, encased in smoke from the nearby fires, but did enjoy immensely seeing our family, and a bonus of 2 clear days on the Pacific coast of Washington.

September brought a month of non-stop rain to Austin.  So we busied ourselves with more projects in the house.   I began to dabble with sewing canvas projects for the boat.  Monte made sawdust and honed his web site and various GPS apps.

October brought another trip to Kemah.  I became a novice diesel engine mechanic.  We also experienced historic flooding amongst the Highland Lakes.   Monte worked on shop projects for a client or two.  Autumn arrived in Texas, which I love only second to Spring in Texas.

And then it was suddenly November!  Monte made another trip down to Kemah to help with last-minute projects.  Thanksgiving happened.   Then we made one final trip to Kemah together at the end of the month to bid bon voyage to Lori and Mike, and their crew, Janet and Will, taking Trident back east to Florida.

December brought the usual whirlwind of decorating, baking, parties, Christmas shopping, visiting with friends, and eating too much.  And now, POOF, it’s the last day of the year.

Tomorrow, I will gear up to do it all again – starting a new year with an as-yet-unknown set of trips, projects, visits, fun and (hopefully only occasional) troubles that lay ahead.    I am truly blessed.

 

 

 

 

 

Very merry.

I joined some friends yesterday at Ann’s house for nibblies and libations.  Then we all walked down to Mozart’s on Lake Austin to watch their Christmas light display.  It was a beautiful night, with a clear sky and a nearly full moon.  You should check it out, too!

Screen-Shot-2018-12-22-at-4.47.45-PM-e1545520002214.png

Screen-Shot-2018-12-22-at-4.55.53-PM.png

Screen-Shot-2018-12-22-at-4.55.09-PM.png

 

 

 

B-bye BB’s.

Last night Monte and I went to our local pub for dinner and to watch Monday Night Football. Since we don’t have cable, we have to go out to watch the Seahawks play. We won! 🙂

It was bittersweet, though. Our local favorite and most awesome pub, BB Rover’s, is closing for good in 2 weeks. 😦

I’ve enjoyed lots of good times and good beers in that place over the last 23 years. Post-softball-game celebrations, after-work happy hours, St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage dinners, darts, Austin Sailing Society meet-ups, live music and open-mic night, and many games of pinochle with friends. It is very sad to see it go.

Fare thee well, BB Rover’s.

Story of an Artist.

Recently, Apple has been running a commercial with someone singing in the background as the camera flashes clips of people using a Mac.  I immediately recognized it as a song I first heard over 10 years ago when it was featured as KUT Song of the Day. The Austin radio station has since changed to KUTX but their Song of the Day feature is still a terrific place to hear new music.

The song is Story of an Artist, by Daniel Johnston.  Daniel is a visual artist, songwriter, and musician who moved to Austin in the 1980s.  He’s had a lifelong struggle with mental illness, but has found success and is fondly regarded here.  He is the artist who, in 1992, painted the frog, Jeremiah the Innocent, in the iconic Hi, How are You mural in Austin on 21st street at Guadalupe.

The version of the song I heard on KUT was a recorded-live-in-studio-1A cover of Daniel’s song, performed by M Ward in September 2006.  I liked it the first time I heard it.  But it is a sad song, in my opinion, of an artist shunned by society for being different.  And after having learned more about Daniel Johnston, I think it is autobiographical.  A 2005 documentary about him called The Devil and Daniel Johnston reveals more about the man and his struggles.

The version of the song in the Apple commercial is performed by Johnston himself, originally recorded in 1982; just him, a cassette recorder, and a piano.  In the commercial, the lyrics are chopped up and rearranged, so it comes off as a funky upbeat tune; you don’t get the whole vibe of the original song.  Here’s a link to his entire original recording, if you want to give it a listen.

I think the M Ward version I first heard on KUT Song of the Day is beautiful….but when I heard it, I didn’t know the background story of the artist.  Now I do.

Get out there and listen to some music!

Oysters!

We attended the annual Austin Oyster Festival today. This was our third time to enjoy it. It was held on the grounds of the old Seaholm power plant on the north shore of Austin’s Ladybird Lake. And we had a great time.

The venue:

Gulf oysters:

Christmas at Donn’s.

We joined friends tonight to listen to music at Donn’s Depot downtown. Chris Gage is a favorite of mine, and he played Christmas songs and welcomed other musicians to join him. It was a fun night!

Very Merry!:

Chris Gage and Jimmie Dale Gilmore playing If You Were a Bluebird: