Friday, June 12, 2015

Stepping things up

Some days I get a reasonable amount of what I'll call exercise from my regular activities--gardening, mowing the lawn, tap dancing, whatever. Other days I sleep late, sit at the computer, read, watch television.

A couple of weeks ago I decided (again) that I need to be more deliberate about being active. Of course, I've known that forever and haven't changed my habits. So I bought a Fitbit to motivate and remind me. I bought a Charge HR, the model that tracks steps, heart rate, sleep, and stairs.

I began by letting it record my daily activities without making any special effort to step things up. In fact, the first day I wore it, I was so inactive that it thought I was sleeping all day. Then I had a few active days--walking through airports, volunteering at my dance studio's recital dress rehearsal, and the like--and without making any special effort I was logging 4-5,000 steps.

Yesterday was cold and rainy. I slept until noon, read all afternoon, and watched television in the evening. At dinner time I'd taken only 472 steps. Today, having walked to a nearby restaurant for dinner, I'm at 2,700. Now that I have a sense of what comes naturally, it's time to set specific daily goals. Most walking programs set a goal of 10,000 steps. I'm going to start somewhere lower than that and work up.

One step at a time.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Peony time

I can't believe how long it's been, again, since I last wrote here. I have been over-thinking each potential topic and I just need to jump back into it.

So, with no further ado, here is a bouquet of peonies I cut yesterday. I had just returned from a five-day trip to Sacramento, where my nephew was married Saturday, and I was happy to see that the peonies had hung on long enough for me to enjoy them.

The wedding was great, by the way, and I'm very glad I went. More on that later! 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Immersed in music

I love to travel. Peter loves to be at home. I knew it would be a challenge to plan a trip he might actually enjoy, but I really craved some time in a warmer climate, so I gave it a try. And I succeeded.

We decided I'd find a place where we could settle in and become part of a neighborhood for a week. We agreed on New Orleans, a well-loved destination we had visited several times, but not since Hurricane Katrina. We'd see how the city had recovered, but mostly we'd concentrate on music and food.

On our balcony, overlooking Frenchmen Street
With music as a focus, it made sense to stay in the Faubourg Marigny, a district just beyond the French Quarter, where a three-block section of Frenchmen Street has become the place to enjoy jazz and blues. On, my go-to travel research site, I found housing choices ranging from elegant to slightly shabby, and then I hit gold: a rental apartment with big, airy rooms, 14-foot ceilings, and the most wonderful balcony overlooking the street. The second floor of an 1870s commercial building, it's been renovated to include a modern kitchen and bathroom, air conditioning (which we never needed), and lots of electrical outlets. It even has wifi, courtesy of the bicycle shop downstairs. The only downside: a flight of 28 stairs. Happily, Peter's knees cooperated and the stairs, while difficult, were not impossible.

Some people might see another downside. Frenchmen Street is much quieter than, say, Bourbon Street, but it is not quiet. There are at least seven music clubs just on the block where we stayed. We had Snug Harbor and dba on either side of us, and The Spotted Cat directly across the street. Spotted Cat brings on a new group every two hours between 4 p.m. and 2 a.m. weekdays and from 2 p.m. and 4 a.m. on weekends (which in New Orleans can stretch from Thursday through Monday). The way the club is set up, music sashays right out the front door and into the street...and directly into our home-away-from-home.

Some people who stay there use earplugs when they want to sleep. We just let the music wash over us. Hot jazz, cool jazz, funky jazz, Dixieland, blues--it became the soundtrack for our lives. We went to other venues, too, most notably Snug Harbor where we heard two especially fine concerts. Who could have known that Dick Hyman, whom Peter and I both remember from the 50s, can play jazz with such virtuosity at age 88? He appeared with a quartet headed by Evan Christopher, my new favorite clarinetist, and the entire show was an experience in perfection. Another night we heard a jazz band led by one of the Marsalis brothers. The room is tiny--the very definition of an intimate venue--and Snug Harbor audiences are attentive and respectful, as you want them to be when you've paid a handsome cover charge to hear some of the best in the business.

After the shows at Snug Harbor, we'd walk next door, climb the stairs, and once again sit on the balcony enjoying the scenery and the perfect weather. People up and down the street were having a good time. Those in The Spotted Cat were whooping, dancing, clapping, singing along--not only enjoying music but participating in it--and the energy was contagious.

We've been back several weeks now, and still when I hear any music at all, my ear homes in, eagerly paying attention to the interaction among instrumentalists. Also, I crave hearing live music--blues, jazz, rock, whatever--in small venues, something we haven't done much lately. I've begun to watch the listings in Saint Paul and Minneapolis so we can do more, without having to pack our suitcases. Meanwhile I'm listening to Evan Christopher on YouTube and am about to order a CD, or two or three. He's a wonderful performer and a great scholar of New Orleans jazz, which shows in his work. Hope you enjoy this sample.

I'll be back soon.

Monday, March 16, 2015

On turning six-times-twelve

Wednesday was my 72nd birthday. It's tempting to complain about such a big number, and about the aches and pains and extra medical appointments that seem to be a part of aging. But mostly I can accept my ailments as minor annoyances, and when I'm on good behavior I can try to manage them with sensible things like fruits and vegetables, exercise, and sunscreen. I used to joke that aging is "better than the alternative." My 58-year-old brother's death in January makes me very aware that it's no joke. I'm grateful to be alive.

Birthday flowers
We extended the birthday celebration over several days, as usual. On Tuesday, Peter and I saw the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. It was not as good as its predecessor, but it was much better than the St. Paul Pioneer Press's review made it seem, and we enjoyed it even though we picked holes in the plot afterwards. Wednesday we had birthday treats with the grandkids (including special chocolate and butterscotch chip cookies from Abby), and all six of us went to Boca Chica, our favorite Mexican restaurant, for dinner. When we arrived the hostess asked whether we were "Peter and Nancy" and when we said yes she led us to a table with a large bouquet of flowers. This was very puzzling because we had not made a reservation! It turned out that our newly hired executive director at the carousel, who knew where we'd be, had sent them. I love that she did that, and that she is clearly a person who understands the value of "the grand gesture."

On Saturday Peter and I had lunch at our favorite special-occasion Italian restaurant, La Grolla on St. Paul's Selby Avenue. We arrived just after noon and for quite a while we were the only diners in a room designed to hold at least 40. We were glad to see the tables begin to fill later, because we'd hate to see the restaurant go out of business. As usual, we ordered enough food that we could just reheat the leftovers for dinner.

Birthday selfie
Spreading my birthday celebration over several days has a practical advantage. By the time the observances are over, I have grown accustomed to my new age. A couple of months ago, the idea of turning 72 sounded strange and harsh. Two weeks ago I still didn't like the sound of it. By now it's lost its strangeness. It's my age and I'm proud of it. And just for fun, here's a selfie I took on my birthday.


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