Sunday, January 22, 2012

2012 So Far ...

Now that January is close to finished, I realized I haven't done any blogging in 2012 so far since New Year's. I've gotten out of the habit of taking photos for the blog, and I know that some readers don't care for blogs without pics, so I'll try to remedy that next time.

It's been a weird month weather-wise in Champaign-Urbana: one day it's 50 degrees and dry and everyone is amazed what an easy time we're having of it for a winter month. But then the next day is freezing cold with huge gusts of biting wind and freezing drizzle or snow dusting or both, and then it all comes back to us why we dread winter so much in the Midwest. And for us, it's especially tough dealing with walkers and frozen van doors and slippery parking lots and so on.

On the personal front, in fact, it's been a bit tough. Since Thanksgiving or so, I've been learning firsthand about a painful condition called "sciatica" that involves a long skinny muscle, the piriformis, that is buried underneath the glutes. If it gets irritated and inflamed, it presses on the "sciatic nerve" that runs all the back down from the lower back, under the buttocks, and down the leg to the calf. As if I didn't have enough challenge with severe arthritis in both knees and back, hah!

I had a blissful week of relief on prednisolone just before Christmas, but then the sciatica returned with a vengence. So now I'm going for physical therapy, resting a lot, and trying to stretch that nasty piriformis as best I can. Too bad the therapy last week that helped a LOT caused me to pull a muscle in my right knee (opposite side) by lying on the hard table with my weight on it while having my left lower back massaged. I guess that proves you can't win when it comes to the problems of an aging body.

On the bright side, however, we managed quite a coup in getting a lift chair for David. These are upholstered recliner type chairs that plug into an electric outlet and have a motor inside that moves you all the way up for ease in getting out of the chair as well as all the way back for reclining or sleeping.

The new ones are about a thousand bucks, so I figured we'd never be able to get one. David was having trouble getting out of his prior recliner where you had to pull yourself to a sitting position and then reach down for a lever to bring the footrest door and the chair upright and then you still had to struggle to get out of it. This lift chair does it for you ... so cool. We got it on craigslist for $150 ... wow! This lady bought it ten years ago for when her dad visited her house and he had passed away and she wanted to sell it. What luck, huh?

What else is new? Well, we've been to a couple of jazz gigs. We've missed a few too between lousy weather and body pains. We did catch Desafinado at Buvons (the wine bar inside Corkscrew Wine shop) last weekend. The band has really evolved into a different sound these days with a number of new band members. It's less acoustic and laid back, but we like it anyway. It's a lively contemporary Brazilian sound with some electric instruments and a wide range of percussion and some fast-paced numbers that don't have that samba beat. They had a good crowd at Buvons and a couple of friends joined in for some numbers. As always, Elis Artz gave a wonderful performance on vocals and pulls the whole effort together beautifully.

Buvons has a deal with Mirabelle bakery: they text in handmade pizza orders and then someone brings them over by car. We tried the goat cheese and red peppers and pesto -- very tasty! My friend Frank (source of expert info on plants but also on cuisine) thinks maybe those small extra-sweet red peppers are the ones from South Africa.

Last night we made it to the Iron Post after our Saturday at the Urbana library, despite frosty weather and some frozen patches in the parking lot, to hear Del Sur. This is a new band that gave its second performance and is going to be playing the first Saturday of each month in the slot that used to be Sandunga, the Cuban band. In fact, Eduardo Herrera was a band member for Sandunga (and Bate Calado, another Brazilian band), and now heads up Del Sur along with Julian Norato (also from Sandunga), Ian Middleton, and Alex Agudelo.

Del Sur means "from the South" and Julian, Eduardo, and Alex are from Columbia. Ian is from South London. They play an amazing mix of folkloric and popular Latin American and Caribbean music, including "huaynos, cumbias, porros, zambas, and many other genres." If you're familiar with "El Condor Passa" from Paul Simon, you will recognize the distinctive sound of the pan flute, expertly played by Alex. They also play lively Columbian and Peruvian cumbias that are very danceable and the same dancers who used to come for Sandunga have obliged once again. So it's fun to watch them too. 

Eduardo gives some information about the origins of the songs (his ethnomusicology studies are showing here) and plays some incredible guitar and charanga (and melodica and bongos and vocals). Julian plays guitar and sings in his lovely melodic voice. Alex handles flutes of various kinds and percussion and sings as well. Ian was especially surprising this time. Last time, he mainly played congas, bongos, and other percussion. This time he also played a very long flute and performed some incredible vocals! He has a wonderfully authentic Spanish but speaks English with a delightful British accent (and he's really good looking). We had a lovely time listening and watching the dancers.

What's new with my Etsy business, Beaded Jewelry by Susan? The short answer is nothing. Sadly, there were no sales over the holidays at all. I'm starting to get a bit discouraged about getting people to the online shop. I have put some items on clearance, but that doesn't seem to have made any difference so far. I'm going to retire some items when they come up for renewal to make room for some new ones (if I get around to photographing the new earrings) or, at least, to keep smaller numbers of items to pay for every four months.

I'm hoping that Sara and Theresa will want to have some jewelry parties or something over the winter and start selling my wares again at Farmer's Market in May. They did a good job and had some lovely displays, but some bad luck too with hot weather this summer outside and poor lighting inside at Lincoln Square. Maybe 2012 will be better for Beaded Jewelry by Susan. Let's hope so.

In the continuing household saga of objects wearing out along with our aging bodies, we had to install new "motor mounts" in our ten-year old Honda van. We are still trying to pay off the new air conditioner and waiting for the state to reimburse us on the dental insurance. It was not fun to wrack up another giant bill, for sure. The house door is falling apart by crumbling on the inside so the screws don't hold the plate tight, so that will have to be replaced eventually at considerable expense as well. Glass broke recently in a book case, but we got that taped, thank goodness, and the batteries replaced in the smoke alarms. What's next?

I've been reading a lot (so what's new ... 60-plus years of reading a lot). Now we're looking into audio books or DVDs of various types for David because reading is getting difficult, even with the large print books. Maybe we'll consider an iPad or something like that for him at some point. Have been getting some cool smooth jazz CDs from the library based on a list I found on the Internet.

I've started getting the all-color catalogues from the perennial flower houses. Even though I can't really afford to get many and have to pay Sara to plant them for me, it brightens my day to leaf through the pages and circle my favorites. And I am looking forward to those species tulips she planted in the raised beds on the east side last fall. That will bring my camera out if nothing else will!

Actually, I have been thinking about taking some cat photos for a nice blog post about our five fabulous felines. What do you think? Is anyone interested? They never cease to amaze, inform, entertain, and delight me in all ways. But, of course, they are my (our) cats, and so there is a certain bias.

Well, that's about it for now I guess. No use discussing the wretched state of the world (or the nation, just please don't vote Republican if you have any sense), so I kept it to the small but usually fairly pleasant space of my own little world. Hope you enjoyed it, dear readers. I love comments if you feel so inclined.