Saturday, February 19, 2011

Living Room Makeover

Although it may not be a topic of burning interest for all of you readers out there in cyberspace, this post is about my living room.
Okay, so we're not talking about inclusion in the latest home interior design magazine, but ... there's no place like home. This is the official "before" picture.

So David's recliner was starting to sag (like our bodies ... that's how age works) and we decided to find him a new one. He spends a lot of time there and so it needed to be just right for him and super comfortable.
Wow! Here he is standing behind the new recliner. It's nice and comfy and has two reclining positions and a nice footrest. Of course, he found this chair in the first store we went to. But you know how it is, we had to go to two more stores and think about it overnight before we actually signed on the dotted line and arranged for delivery.

Nearest the kitchen, we had this swivel/glider rocker. Our friend Bob once referred to it as "that hideous chair." Well, I must admit it was not comfortable. It didn't cost much used and we needed something in that spot, but mostly it was sat in by cats (and on top of, eventually tearing the strap holding up the cushion).

Now that spot holds "my new chair" -- what a beauty! I was wandering around the furniture stores while David tried various recliners, sitting in one chair after another when I found one that fit me perfectly! Also, I love the fern pattern so much. And there is a recliner position and footrest.
Our old sofa was originally pretty comfortable and useful. But it was soft and low and deep. We both belong to the generation of people who knew how to "get down" -- but now we have a hard time getting up, especially from soft, low, and deep old sofas! So we very rarely sat on this anymore since it required a crane, forklift, or special heavy equipment to get up. Again, it was used mainly by cats and our friend Bob.
The new sofa is very comfortable (and nice looking) but also firm enough and not so deep, and the arms are sturdy. We can actually sit on it and get off it with relative ease! We chose this one partly because we wanted to harmonize the colors since the furniture (all on winter clearance) wasn't matching. So the couch has dark brown, beige, and burgundy in it. The recliner is brown, the chair we didn't replace is burgundy, and the new chair is cream with brown and grey and olive.
 I think the overall look of the room is greatly improved. Also, it's kind of a thrill for me to have a brand-new sofa for the first time in my nearly sixty-six years of sitting on sofas. We didn't really intend to buy anything but the recliner, but furniture stores have a way of making you reassess all of your present furniture!
Of course, our five feline residents were very interested in the new developments. Here is Angus Macduff checking out the new sofa.
Panther was also very curious about the sofa and decided to try it out right away.
Yang wasn't shy either; he climbed right up there and tested the sofa for comfort.

As it turned out, Panther was even more thrilled with the new fern chair!
Here's a nice shot of Sylvan's beautiful plume of a Maine Coon tail as he investigates the sofa.
Toffee's favorite is always the top of a sofa, so that was his first place to try out on the new one.
Of course, cats also enjoy furniture indirectly, sitting on the laps of the humans sitting on the furniture.
My guess is that they will enjoy all the new furniture, as will we. But the table remains a great place for cats to spread out any time of day.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

On the Baldwin

We had a chance on Sunday night to hear Lara Driscoll tickle the ivories of the Baldwin grand over at the Iron Post. Lara is quite a virtuoso. She plays jazz piano in a very wide range of styles, and she is good! She's a lovely young woman with long slender fingers and an air of relaxed and friendly elegance. There is none of that style of sullen pouts about her that is, unfortunately, rather common these days. And she likes all kinds of jazz tunes: old standards, including some corny ones, originals, contemporary jazz, slow heartbreaking ballads and hopping hot pieces alike.
We were treated to a lovely rendition of the Charles Trenet tune "Que reste-t-il de nos amours?" (English title "I Wish You Love") and the beautiful Sarah Vaughn favorite "I'm Glad There Is You." We love the old standards best, of course, because we've become sort of old standards ourselves (n.b. it can happen to you!).
Lara was playing with a bass and drum backup on Sunday, but she also appears in duets with horn players, in a quintet with Mikael Templeton, and playing solo piano as well in a number of venues about town. We've enjoyed her gigs at V. Picasso, which is, sadly, closed now. I hope the new owners (whenever they emerge) will include live music with whatever food they're offering. Downtown Urbana is a great place for music.


What's new around here? Well, a couple of things. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, my eight-year-old computer died just before Christmas and I got a new Inspiron from Dell. I'm pretty happy with it. The CPU unit fits nicely lying flat on top of the shelf, so the space underneath where I used to have the old CPU standing vertically was empty. Nothing obvious came along as a new use for the space, so I recently put a small cave-like cloth cat bed in there. Purr-fect! And now it's in use. Although Angus MacDuff is the largest (at 13 pounds) of the five longhairs, he decided to squeeze into this space. He seems to be enjoying it.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Winter Cement

The temperature here in Champaign-Urbana has finally gone above freezing and the sun is out. Hooray! We are starting to have dripping from icicles on the roof eaves and puddles forming in the middle of humongous piles of dirty frozen snow. This has seemed to me to be an endless winter!

Early in the winter a friend e-mailed me a slide show of photos taken in winter in Russia. For a long while these appalling pics kept me from whining about our local conditions. I was also humbled by how much snow Chicago got a little while back. In many ways, we were lucky not to have it worse . . .

That said, however, what we have had instead of very heavy snow is a horrid sort of conglomerate that could be called "winter cement." Just as cement is a mix of smooth material with gritty stone mixed in, we received layer upon layer of snow mixed with tiny hail that froze into solid blocks.

We've been pouring on the snow melt, using a kind that is easier on the environment and on sensitive animal paws than the ordinary salt. Sand has helped too with broad areas of ice.

One friend recently said she had to use a garden pick axe to chop pieces off of her driveway. Although my stepson has been very kind in shoveling here for us, the snow plow pushed a ton of impossible-to-shovel winter cement against the end of the drive. Then we had some sunshine during the day that was just enough to melt the topmost layer, which promptly re-froze after dark -- creating the slickest, scariest, most dangerous stuff I've tried to walk on. Of course, neither I nor my husband walk very well either, so it has been tricky indeed and we've spent a lot of time indoors.

Weekend before last, we decided to venture out on Sunday afternoon (the sun was shining a bit) to go to the concert at the Champaign library for our favorite local Brazilian band, Desafinado. So we got stuck backing out of our driveway. I eased back and forth a little tiny bit each time and finally we got out ... whew! Then I'm driving down the street when enormous chunks of ice fall off the top of the van down onto the windshield and pop the wipers straight up. Fortunately, there was no one in back and we were able to stop to clear it off.

By the way, the concert was great. Elis Artz sang a number of Brazilian samba favorites and quite a few new tunes as well. Luciano Costa played the mandolin, George Turner was on guitar, and Tom Paynter played flute and melodica. We missed Giraldo's congas, and I'm sorry to say I don't know the name of the new drummer. But we had a terrific time, and it was good to get out for live music again, despite the winter weather challenges.

Tonight we will attempt to go out (hoping that not everything that's melting now will be transformed back into an ice sheet) for the Lara Driscoll Trio. More later!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Jeweler's Blog

My Etsy shop is listed on a great jeweler's blog! Check it out!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Jazz about Town

While I'm cozily tucked into my warm house--with lots of food, cats, and library books--to wait out the aftermath of the humongous winter storm, I thought to post a bit about recent jazz gigs I've been to in the past few weeks.

Just before the really bad weather started, we'd gone to the Iron Post for a session with Kevin Hart's "Vibe Tribe." Kevin is a fantastic musician and plays some amazing jazz on the vibraphone. He used to live in Champaign-Urbana and we have enjoyed his performances for many years. Now he lives in Bloomington but still comes over to teach a class at Parkland College.

 Tonight he was playing with two of his former students from a class he taught at Knox College in Galesburg: Adam Wilhelm on keyboards and Andy Crawford on bass. Also joining him were Tony Marcos on drums (ISU jazz studies director) and local trumpet player Jeff Helgesen.

They played a nice mix of standards and original compositions. For two numbers, Donnie Heitler, jazz pianist of local and longtime fame, joined them. He and Kevin go way back.

The prior weekend we heard the group called "The Music of Django Reinhardt," led by Jordan Kaye on guitar. The group plays at the Post every month, sometimes with slightly different musicians. In the past we've enjoyed Ben Smith on violin and Chris Reyman on accordion. This time there were two horn players: Mikael Templeton on saxophone and clarinet and Nick Schroeder on trumpet (with three different very cool mutes). Josh Houchin, Jordan's "right-hand man" was there on bass as well. And we were fortunate enough for Paul Asaro, incredible stride-style jazz piano player, to be in town between national touring gigs. It was a good show as always. They did "experiment" some, as Jordan put it, with tunes I didn't know. I guess I do prefer the standards and the Django compositions best, but we had a good time and there was a good turnout.

Later in the weekend, we went to hear Mikael Templeton's excellent quintet. This weekend there are some good gigs scheduled, including Bate Calado, Bossa Nuevo, and Sandunga, but it remains to be seen whether the weather will relent enough for us oldies to dare to venture out after dark.

We are really lucky to have such as wealth of great live music in this community. In addition to jazz gigs, there are rock bands on campus, country music and blues in several local clubs, ethnic world music performances in various venues, and classical music at the university performing arts center. The university school of music is a big attraction for many talented young musicians and a lot of the jazz bands we enjoy include grad students. It's just another reason why Champaign-Urbana is a great place to live and rather atypical in east central Illinois (but we do still wish there were mountains and lakes).