All in a day’s work.

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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.

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.

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!

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:

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!  🙂

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!

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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Music City, revisited.

After brunch today we said our goodbyes to everyone and dropped Gene at the airport on the way back into the city.   We ended up staying an extra day, so we’ve decided to spend some of it getting more acquainted with Nashville.

We stopped by the original home of the Grand Ole’ Opry, the Ryman Auditorium.

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The 5th Avenue side of the Ryman Auditorium.

We took the tour and got to see the stage up close:

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And a view from backstage: 1306232

It’s a beautiful venue.  Amazing to think about all the stars that spent so much time here…1306233

One more shot from the balcony: 1306234

Then we wandered off to the nearby bars on Broadway.   We ended up at Jack’s BBQ for some brisket and pork shoulder – and it was delicious.1306235

Nashville is the “Athens of the South,” and in 1897 they built an exact replica of the Parthenon for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition.  So, of course, we had to see it.  Unfortunately, by the time we made it to Centennial Park, the landmark was closed for tours, so we did not get a chance to see the statue of Athena.  But we did get a great view of all 4 sides.

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We made it to the Bluebird Cafe, but didn’t get a photo (!)

We ended up a great day at the Pla Mor Lanes.  Monte kicked my butt 2-1 … even with the badminton injury   🙂

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Looking forward to a leisurely morning tomorrow and (especially) spending the weekend on the boat.   More exploring tomorrow, before heading to the airport for our flight home.

Good ‘night!

Steel drums.

Yay Friday. We went to a party at friends’ home tonight. They designed and built this house themselves and moved in 2 years ago. This week they put it on the market and it sold in about 5 days. So in 3 weeks they move out and will do it all over again on a new lot in town. An amazingly beautiful place.
They had friends come in and play steel drums for entertainment. A great sound. I have only a picture to share.

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Are you going to San Francisco?

Image source: google maps

Why, yes I am.

I’m on my way to San Fran for a week of meetings.  Before I left the house today Monte sang a verse or two of “Are You Going to San Francisco?” (youtube link here).   You know it,  i’m sure…

If you’re going to San Francisco…
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair….

If you’re going to San Francisco…
You’re going to meet some gentle people there…

For those who come to San Francisco…
Summertime will be a love-in there…

Checking my email during the flight I got a note from Monte telling me that the guy that sang that song, Scott McKenzie had died.   R.I.P. Scott.

Kind of a coincidence, i suppose.   Anyway, that song is in my head now for a while.  So, i thought I’d spread it around.

I’m pretty sure I will not run across the summertime love-in on this trip.  Maybe next time.  But I definitely will try to find some flowers to put in my hair.  🙂

Cousins’ pizza party.

Toppings.

My cousin, once removed (i had to look this up…my cousin’s daughter) is visiting Austin this week.  Alison and her boyfriend Zac came over for dinner tonight.  Monte slung several doughs and we made a bunch of pizzas.  My cousin, Devitt, also joined us.  We had a really nice visit.  What great kids!

Alison and Zac are both amazing musicians.  They were playing Rachmaninoff – from memory!  Our own house concert.   🙂

Making music together.