Darwin foraged for succulents, and I cranked up the music. A perfect weekend!

I hope you enjoyed a breathing lighter kind of weekend.

We enjoyed a slower pace and I relished being home for much of the time.

I’m not sure what goes on when I’m away from home, but I’m always surprised at what I discover when I am looking out my kitchen window. I happened  to catch a certain “character” in acts of mischief.

Caught in the act–here was a foraging Darwin munching on my plants again. In winter months his metabolism slows down and I might not see him for two to three days. Then all of a sudden he suddenly appears!

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This 50 pound tortoise is also getting a little taller. He can reach up any time he feels like a snack, and before I even know what he’s up to–three big bites and one of my succulents has vanished.

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If I catch him in the act I can do something about it.

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He has his very own  Aloe supply. I break off big pieces and feed it to him. He’s an African Sulcata, and the Aloe is native to Africa, so somewhere in his memory he is at home with this treat. He devours it in huge quantities!

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If succulents aren’t at home in your climate, you might enjoy seeing some of the unusual specimens that thrive in dry and desert climates. Click HERE to see some unique and beautiful cactus and succulents from one of our favorite nurseries, California Cactus Center.

Most succulents are hearty and do very well without a lot of fuss, but they grow slowly so can be expensive. And imagine this! Here I am cultivating a collection simply to feed Darwin! I hope he appreciates the attention he’s getting.

Darwin with succulents

I’ve also enjoyed a weekend of tuning out distractions and listening to music.

was the lucky recipient of a CD, a gift from my Charleston friend and Cootchie Mama, Andra. On Christmas Eve I was the final “contestant” to win one of Andra’s musical prizes and for the past day or so I’ve been enjoying the King of Cool, Dean Martin.

Dean Martin

Listening to the warm, warbling voice of an American classic crooner is a wonderful way to relax.

But there’s more!

Thursday I attended an “After-Christmas Party” complete with white elephant gifts. You know how that works, don’t you? Everyone has a number and chooses a gift according to their number,  but on subsequent turns, each person can open a new present or opt to “steal” another person’s unwrapped gift.

My number was one of the very last so I was poised to make my move…

Beyoncé

…and I did! I snatched Beyoncé right out from under someone who least expected me–a senior citizen– to be the thief. But haven’t I always told you my musical tastes are quite eclectic?

Dean Martin and Beyoncé in the same sentence…what can I say? I like all music.

And the musical good times just kept coming. I’ve previously mentioned how much I enjoy The Nitty Gritty Dirt Man, Kevin. 

Kevin and I frequently note how we share similar musical tastes as well as other entertainment favorites.  When I wrote about how much I loved the music in the 1980 movie “Fame,” Kevin quickly responded that “Fame” was at the top of the list of his all-time favorite films. In fact, when the movie first aired on HBO he themed a party around it going all out when he and his friends danced on a car!

Now that sounds like music appreciation–and fun!

Kevin shared the link to the song, “I Sing the Body Electric,” my favorite from the movie, and I thought you might enjoy it, too.  The young soloists at the very beginning include Irene Cara and you may recognize a very young, and at that time unknown, Paul McCrane.

I think it’s time for me to see this move again!

What soundtrack would you like to move to this week? There’s something for every mood, from Dino to Beyoncé to our favorite movies, old and new– and much, much more, of course.

A recipe for breathing lighter? Turn on the music, crank it up!

I guarantee you’ll be breathing lighter in no time!

What are YOU doing New Year’s Eve? For once, we didn’t procrastinate!

Would you like to hear about our plans for New Years Eve? I’ll be glad to share, but let me take you on the long journey to that conclusion.

I subscribe to dozens and maybe more LISTSERVs for theater and music venues, daily announcing fabulous opportunities all over Los Angeles and  vicinity. By paying close attention to last-minute specials I uncover exciting things to do and entertainment packages I might enjoy, often at a fraction of the original ticket cost.

Such was my experience today.

This morning’s email tempted me to spend the evening with Lee Ritenour and Mike Stern.

The Catalina Bar & Grill, a supper club dedicated to Nothing But the Best in Jazz, is well-known for its fabulous mid-week offerings. It’s here you might have a casual and intimate evening with jazz greats like Wynton Marsalis or Diana Krall.  This is a smaller venue, which is wonderful, but it’s not exactly in my back pocket during a busy work week. A venture into the heart of Hollywood on a weeknight (Sunset Blvd.) requires planning and enough time for the commute. But for the right conversion of artist and open calendar  I would make the effort.

Lee Ritenour is a talented award-winning guitarist I have enjoyed for decades. At a mere 16 he held a session with the Mamas and Papas and at 18 accompanied Lena Horne and Tony Bennett. Not too shabby! His versatility appeals to my eclectic musical interests. He performs with a broad cross-section of jazz, rock and Brazilian music, and when it comes to music, “Don’t fence me in.”

So I was pretty jazzed  when I heard he was here for a few nights  and thought I’d check into tickets.

Here’s the U-Turn.

It’s rare I really lament the aging process. I am deliberate in my proactive stance and I take good care of myself. I’ve been fortunate to have overall good health.

But there are realities I can’t avoid. I want so badly to turn the clock back to when it wasn’t so hard to stay up late–in this desire I’m still a little kid not wanting to go to bed! But unfortunately  my eyes do not respond to mind-over-matter and at a certain fatigue point they simply perform an involuntary shutdown. Nuts!

The Ritenour tickets are sold out EXCEPT for one timeframe. The 10:30 pm sets are available–Thursday and Friday. If it were Saturday, maybe I could take a nap first! So, with disappointment, I am going to pass on the opportunity this time. If there is a NEXT time I need to be much quicker on the draw–other people grabbed the better earlier sets.

And that brings me to our New Year’s Eve plans.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

For this occasion planning ahead paid off! We are spending New Year’s Eve with Idina Menzel (Broadway’s Wicked and the original stage production of Rent), and the good news is that we grabbed the first show at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Somehow on New Year’s Eve we didn’t have the same problem finding EARLY tickets. Perhaps other more resilient people thought  7:00 pm was too early for a New Year’s Eve. It does make dinner a little off-kilter. Well, perhaps we can still find a place to grab a small plate and a glass of champagne after our show.

Disney Concert Hall

And when did I purchase these tickets? I was smart! I got the early-bird special! I purchased them in August at a significant savings per ticket, and also chose to avoid the 10:00 performance.

Oh dear! I really do sound like a senior citizen don’t I? Well, some things seem to be unavoidable–acceptance!

More photos of the magnificent Walt Disney Concert Hall–you love it or you hate it–in my next post. I love it…so there are photos I am compelled to share.

And what are you doing New Year’s Eve? Hope you have some plans. I’m thinking many of you can probably stay awake to ring in the new year!

I will, too, I just might be in my jammies by then.

Here’s a very short clip featuring one rather lovely aspect of the Concert Hall. If you love classical  music, this is a delight.

Bossa Nova vibes for a week of cool–no exceptions!

All is back in balance! I was quite sure that once I landed at home I could change the course of the previous week…no more Sunspots! I was even able to extend my weekend by one day. Sophia and Karina spent Sunday afternoon through all day Monday at our  house and it’s always a pleasure. We’re eagerly enjoying the vestiges of easy overnights–Sophia begins Kindergarten next month and all routines are going to revolve around the intimidation of a school schedule.

But I will admit that my fight or flight responses got more workout than usual last week and it seemed incumbent that I regain some calming rest. I always know that one of the quickest reversals to internal noise is immersing in music, and that’s just what I did–all weekend long.

Did you know that according to studies conducted at the University of Maryland Medical Center (and others) listening to music is believed to be good for your cardiovascular system? Music makes you feel good and in bringing a sense of joy the tissue in the inner lining of blood vessels dilates and blood flow increases. It’s similar to the endorphin release associated with laughter. I have wide tastes in music and find it easy to match my listening options with mood or the activity in the home. One favorite playlist includes a mix of  Afro-Cuban-Latin Jazz and if you want to see me smile, stop by while I’m cleaning house with the Gypsy Kings. But most of these options are lively. I wanted to really slow down.

Inspired by a story I heard on NPR  earlier in the week  I spent the weekend listening to the rather nebulous musical genre known as Brazilian Jazz. What is that? It doesn’t really exist as a specific form, but you know it when you hear it. Think Bossa Nova.

The Wall Street Journal contributor Thomas Vinciguerra talked about the second-most recorded pop song of all time–second only to the Beatles’ “Yesterday”– can you guess? Fifty years ago we were first introduced to “The Girl From Ipanema.”

The song came to the world via Brazil, when Antonio Carlos Jobim and poet Vinicius de Moraes were looking for musical inspiration and settled in a bar in the Ipanema district of Rio. According to story there really is a specific girl, Helo Pinheiro, now 66 years of age, who simply passed by and inspired them to write the whole song on cocktail napkins.

The song was first immortalized by Astrud Gilberto who had never sung professionally and perhaps because of the simplicity of her voice the song was all the more appealing. I spent the weekend with a variety of Brazilian artists, but primarily enjoying one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time, Getz/Gilberto, a 1964 jazz album by saxophonist Stan Getz and Brazilian guitarist Joao Gilberto, who was Astrud’s husband at the time.

I think it’s impossible to listen to this very distinctive style of music and not feel tension fall away. It certainly worked for me! The good news is that wonderful recordings are available at very reasonable “used CD” prices. Fifty year old recordings don’t tend to be very costly!  I think if we all began to insert a little samba or bossa nova into our work weeks we’d smile a lot more!

We couldn’t get to a Brazilian beach, but we did have the opportunity to have dinner with friends in Dana Point Harbor, and I’ll take any opportunity to enjoy a view of the ocean. Dana Point is in southern Orange County and was named after Richard Henry Dana, Jr., author or Two Years Before the Mast. Dana described the charm of the steep cliff cove in the book, and called it “The only romantic spot on the coast.”

 I don’t yet know what this  bird is… I spend a lot of time at the ocean and have never seen one before. Anyone?

If some sort of solar activity begins to disrupt your quiet and calm this week, and that may just be heat, may I recommend a little Brazilian music to usher in a mental vacation? Really, it’s fine with me if you choose your own soundtrack, but do find time to enjoy some listening and  your autonomic nervous system will certainly thank you!

Now everybody….”tall and tan and young and lovely….”