My friend Tony is a pinball fanatic – bought a brand new Iron Maiden game and is currently restoring an older one. Late in 2021, he let me know that the next big game Stern was making would be a Rush one. I preordered the premium version (middle option of the 3 offered) because it had my favorite art, and waited. And waited, as many were out there, but I wanted to wait for mine before playing. Then on Thursday the 5th the delivery truck came. I got it on my dolley and the driver and I wrestled all 350 pounds to the backyard (my arms hurt and I got a gigantic bruise on my triceps where it dug in on the hill).
I was working that day, but rain was possible, so I’d come out between cloud deployments to do the basic assembly. 4 chairs and my 2 ton jack lift later, I got the legs on. When Jill got home, we could barely lift one end. When the dads were out around dinnertime while the kids were playing, I was able to grab 3 of them to get it inside. I didn’t finish it until the next day, but I had a lot of fun with it (Nina and Jill enjoyed it as well). Besides the awesome music, they got Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson from the band to record voices for the game.
Friday I was outraged about the latest Covid numbers, because “outbreaks in schools, primarily the elementary grades, have increased rapidly. Last week, there were 74 classrooms that reported outbreaks of COVID-19 cases and this week there were 139.” So I ranted that we got rid of the governor who was a doctor and instead got a partisan hedge fund manager who promised his base he’d get rid of masks in the name of parents’ rights. Where’s my right not to have my kid get sick? We got takeout that night from Panda House and Nina decided she couldn’t go to Tae Kwon Do that night because she was “having a mid-life crisis”.
Saturday Nina went to a birthday party while I went to Merriweather Post Pavilion for the annual M3 Rock Festival. It was the smallest crowd I’d ever seen there thanks to rainy, cool weather, just a sprinkling of die hards on the lawn. Thanks to Covid Extreme pulled out the day before, but as I said at the time “It may be 45 degrees out and I’m wearing my winter jacket at a concert, plus the band I bought the tix for canceled (Extreme), but damn if Blue Öyster Cult isn’t bringing the rock hard here at. And the band just turned 50!” The earlier performance of Stephen Pearcy from Ratt wasn’t bad, but I left after Blue Öyster Cult as I was starving (the protein bar I’d packed was moldy) and I’d seen the new The Food Market on the way in and wanted to eat before they closed (and the lamb was delicious too).
Sunday the 8th was Mother’s Day and we had the day planned. In midafternoon we drove to Old Town Alexandria and Jill got a surprise shopping spree at her favorite yarn store while Nina and I went down the block to Fleurir Chocolates. Jill had asked for Mexican food, and the fancy places in Old Town were booked, so we ended up at Dos Amigos, which was perfectly fine (felt like Don Pablos). We went over to National Harbor and Nina had some Thai ice cream at Panda Tea House (she was bummed the place at Hunter Woods had closed) and Jill and I found goodies at Savannah’s Candy Kitchen (a gopher and a caramel apple). Then we parked at MGM National Harbor and walked to the theater. Companion was a good opening act (reminded us of First Aid Kit), then Tori Amos came out (with a band!). Great show, but still a school night so we left halfway through.
Monday Nina started having an asthma attack as the tree pollen peaked, needing her nebulizer for the first time in months. We had to keep her home for a couple days before Jill was able to get her to the allergist and increase her medication. Friday the 13th I saw this and said goodbye to Landmark Mall. I didn’t shop there much, even when I lived nearby, but I definitely bought some concert tickets at the Tower Records there. We had takeout from Mehak, but Nina didn’t like their butter chicken (her usual).
Saturday the 21st we went over to our next door neighbor’s for a surprise birthday party, and ended up staying until it was dark as his oldest granddaughter (who is Nina’s age) was there to play and Jill and I drank brandy and chatted with neighbors.
Wednesday the FedEx freight hauler was very happy, as all he had to do with Nina’s new bed was take it off the truck and drop the pallet in my parking space (rain was expected). After dinner I went to the Kennedy Center to see Love: A Joni Mitchell Songbook. I figured it was just a selection of her hits with an orchestra, but it turned out to a more meticulously planned than that. Conductor and arranger of the evening Vince Mendoza was also the conductor and arranger of Joni’s albums Both Sides Now (classic covers) and Travelogue (her hits) and the evening consisted of songs from those two albums. I had bought the tix just for Aoife O’Donovan alone, but we also got Jimmie Herrod, Lalah Hathaway, Renée Fleming & Raul Midón as vocalists. A really nice show.
Thursday the 26th Jill’s mom Sue and her cousin Bets were coming to visit, and Jill was off, so in the afternoon we brought in the bed pieces from the parking lot. After dinner we got the basic bed assembled and Nina was able to sleep on it. Friday it was Sue’s choice for takeout, and after consultation with Nina, settled on Big Buns. Later I said I was always glad when people keep their word.
For Memorial Day weekend, I grilled and took our guests out on the boat every day. Saturday Sue and Bets took Nina back to the Van Gogh exhibit. Sunday I slept in while everyone else went to Great Falls, then Jill took Nina and friends to the pool. Monday we had the traditional dogs & burgers, plus Sue made her delicious potato salad. Tuesday I took my Civic to Tysons Corner to get it inspected and have maintenance done, dropping Sue and Bets at the Metro there and driving Sue’s car back home. My car wasn’t ready until late and Sue and Bets headed to Maryland to see friends for dinner, so I had to walk to get Nina, and our first CSA produce pickup wilted some in the heat before Jill picked it up around 8.
Friday the 1st was April Fools Day, but although it seemed like a prank, we left in the afternoon for spring break in Spain. We did have to get a Covid test, which turned out to be at a drive through shipping container at a strip mall in Sterling. After a quick Lyft to Dulles, we had a late departure on KLM. I’d asked for the low sodium meal and had a spinach saag that was the best airplane meal of my life. Unfortunately it was a red-eye and all of us had little sleep by the time we arrived in Amsterdam. We discovered that Nina had left behind the Timekettle earbuds I’d just given her, and found a lost and found next to the baggage storage we left our carryons at, but they hadn’t gotten any.
We waited outside Schiphol airport for bus 397 that dropped us right outside our first destination, the Van Gogh Museum. We were a little late for our timed ticket, but the lady let us in. We rented audio devices and chose the highlights tour. When Nina and Jill went to the Van Gogh in DC, Nina had really liked Van Gogh’s “Sunflower” painting, and she enjoyed seeing the real thing (and the gift shop of course). After we were done, Nina and Jill took a tram one way and I took one another to go shopping. I went to Velvet Music where they had a great bargain bin while they went to Stephen & Penelope. We both saw the canals as we walked, then met up at the Amsterdam Centraal train station to take a train back to the airport.
We got to the airport with 2 hours before our flight, but waited in the longest security line of our trip to get back in for nearly an hour. We made it to our gate at end of C gates where there was Cafe Communal, a small restaurant with mostly premade food. There wasn’t much I could eat, so I had Pringles, a banana and beer while Nina had pizza. I went back as they had a small bar and asked for a Jameson’s on the rocks. The bartender asked if I wanted a double and I wisely said yes. Nina and I fell asleep before takeoff and slept the whole flight (Jill slept some) and we were somewhat refreshed when we arrived in Málaga.
We didn’t have a gate, so the airplane parked in the middle and they sent buses. Nina and Jill just got on the first one, then I got on the next one and we went through health screening/customs. We were waiting for our luggage a while, when we noticed everyone who was waiting was leaving. We followed them to find our luggage was already off the carousel. We went downstairs to the car rental and waited a long time to get our car, but finally got our Volkswagen Golf Life and got on the highway.
The reason for the almost impromptu trip was that our neighbors here, Ursula and Kevin, had decided when Fairfax Country schools were going all virtual in the fall of 2020 to move the whole family to Spain temporarily so their kids could go to school there (their oldest is in fifth grade like Nina). It was already dark when we got to the house they’d rented in Torre de Benagalbón. The kids played Mario Kart and we shared pizza.
Nina had a bit of a cold Thursday night before we left, and by Saturday night she was coughing enough that Jill thought she needed her nebulizer. I’d planned to bring an adapter for our plugs, but had completely forgotten about the voltage conversion. That meant her nebulizer ran for about 30 seconds before acrid smoke came pouring out of it. She was banned into our room while I tried to get the smell out of ours. We managed to get her to sleep with just her inhaler.
After both Nina and I slept for 12 hours, Sunday looked up. Kevin made me eggs and toast, and I had a shower. In the afternoon, we piled into their minivan and drove to Nerja. We visited the Balcony of Europe, but it was very windy and couldn’t see too far across the Mediterranean Sea. We retreated and had an early dinner on the patio of Mediterraneo. I had lamb and beer. On the way back Ursula had helped Jill find a drugstore with a nebulizer, and they picked it up.
That night Ursula and their daughter took us to Málaga to see flamenco. We were late as the police had set up roadblocks to the old city. We didn’t know why until we’d parked and walked in, and saw there was a parade for La Semana Santa. We finally made it to Centro de Arte Flamenco to see Kelipe. There was a guitarist and 3 singers – except one of the singers was also the dancer, which was surprising. There was also a serve yourself bar – I had a beer and Nina had OJ.
On Monday the 4th we woke to the news that Kevin’s flight home had been cancelled and now he was leaving Wednesday (he split work remote vs. US). We had stayed up late enough the night before that the couple terrible timed tickets available for the Alhambra palace had switched to full availability, and we left midmorning to drive there over bridges and through tunnels. I had managed to catch Nina’s cold, so I had a runny nose all day (at least it’s hard to give to people when you’re wearing a mask). The palace was very cool, but afterwards we had a snack break and decided to leave. I wanted to stop at Discos Bora-Bora, a record store nearby, so we found a garage. Jill and Nina liked the look of El Cambalache Restaurant, so we ate there, with probably the most translation trouble of our trip, but we still had a delicious meal. After we got back, the kids were out of school and Nina played with them while Jill and I shopped at Mercadona, then had a shared dinner with everyone.
I was sleeping in what was supposed to be Nina’s room, but Jill thought something was triggering her asthma in there, so Nina slept with her. I woke after 11 hours of sleep on Tuesday to find it raining and damp plus now Jill had caught the cold. Ursula took Jill and me to lunch at Café Terranova where I decided to try an eggs with shrimp dish (revuelto de champiñones y langostinos), but when it came out it looked like it was sprinkled with eels. Jill gave me a look but I ate what I could. It wasn’t until we got home I felt safe looking up what it was: mushrooms (almost as bad).
In the afternoon Nina took a motorized scooter to pickup the kids at school. Meanwhile, I picked up tickets for Dead & Company since I figured out the time difference to the US. That night Ursula urged Jill and I to have a date night. First we went to Restaurante Antonio where we got a weird vibe. I had a Mediterranean lobster and Jill had some fish, then we left, only to find that they were closing early. We were still hungry, so stopped at La Calma Playa where I had a tomato burrata salad and a beef poke bowl, both delicious.
Wednesday the 6th I slept in again, and was starting to feel better. We drove into Málaga and had lunch at D’Platos where I had salad and a lamb burger while the girls had paella. Next we visited the Picasso Museum Málaga which had his works laid out chronologically so you could really get a sense of his evolution as an artist. Next to D’Platos we had seen Martonela and Nina wanted that, so we got ice cream there, then onto the Interactive Music Museum where half of it was given over to instruments everyone could play (drums were easy, but I’d never tried playing a cello before). The other museum we wanted to go to was closed that day, so we headed back where we did beach, reading & TV. We shared pizza we got from Telepizza we got delivered for dinner.
Thursday I slept in again. I made myself crepes with eggs, cheese & tomato sauce for breakfast and Nina and I went to the beach before we returned to Málaga and went to the Museum of the Imagination, where the last room is selfie heaven. We drove to the old city and parked, then enjoyed one of our favorite things from our last trip to Spain in 2006: chocolate and churros at Casa Aranda. Then we went shopping; I went to Discos Candilejas and Sleazy Records for CDs (only picked up 1 though) and Pull & Bear for a shirt and belt since they were also clothes shopping, then we met for dinner at La Barra de Zapata. Jill knew someone who had been to Málaga recently and recommended this University of Maryland alumni’s restaurant, and it was definitely our best meal in Spain. We had a variety of tapas (Nina’s favorite was momo dumplings) and Jill really enjoyed her tinto de verano. That night I was surprised as I never thought we’d hear another Pink Floyd song, but they released one in support of Ukraine.
Friday afternoon Ursula and the kids left for their spring break. We had packed, and went to the beach one more time to eat at Chiringuito Marina Playa as the breeze whipped around (the windsurfer enjoyed it). The girls had fish while I had squid, then we said goodbye to Málaga and went to the airport. We got our Covid test done, then went through security. I had a burger and the girls had pizza and pasta, then when I got a snack for the plane at the gate I noticed they were selling cans of beer so got one of those too.
We got to Amsterdam and somewhere between the plane and the exit Jill lost her phone. We tried a couple things with no luck, but it was already midnight and we were tired. The in airport hotel had been booked, but happily the Hilton was a quick walk through a building away. Saturday Jill got up early to try and find her phone without success, then joined us for a very nice breakfast buffet at the Hilton. There was a much shorter line at security this time, and we had time to have a snack at a café we’d seen before that looked like it came from Alice in Wonderland.
We found out as we tried to board we didn’t have the correct boarding passes and forms, so we had to go through all that. Luckily I had snagged the forms from the Covid test and had already downloaded the pdfs as Jill no longer had access to her Gmail without her phone (next time we’ll make sure we can sign in on each other’s phones before we leave). I’d forgotten to order ahead the low sodium meal and skipped the airplane meal (Indian again), but had packed snacks anyway. I read comics (actually finished all the digital ones I brought) while they watched movies. When we got to Dulles, there was a very long customs line, but we only spent an hour in it thanks to noticing some people were switching to a shorter line if they filled out their customs information online. We got a Lyft home, got Reston Kabob and Popeyes and that was it. The next day I posted this: Sooooo… we just got back from spring break. In Spain. We didn’t want to say anything to jinx it before we left (the Covid rules are ever changing), but it was a great time. More details to come.
Monday the 11th my mom and her husband were also headed to Europe, taking a river cruise that ironically ended in Amsterdam. Unfortunately they’d taken their Covid tests too early, and I scrambled to schedule some for them in Logan, where they had a long layover and got to see my sister and her family before they flew again. Wednesday night the school had a fundraiser at Honeygrow where I got a nice salad. Thursday and Friday Nina had an elevated temperature and was coughing frequently. I took her to the doctor and kept her home both days – thankfully her teacher emailed us things she could do on her laptop. She was feeling better by Friday night and we got Flippin’ Pizza for takeout.
Saturday the 16th I found out I’d won tickets to see Suz Slezak (from David Wax Museum) with Anthony da Costa for a WNRN private concert at the brand new David Wax Museum studio barn. Jill wasn’t interested, so I made a day of it: stops for shopping at Plan 9 Music and Sidetracks Music, early dinner at Citizen Burger Bar downtown, beer run at Three Chopt, and then a fun show in a small space. If only c wasn’t so far away. To make up for my time away, I spent all day Sunday working on the yard. We’d had Miles come and remove all the weed and put in plants and mulch. I went to Reston Farm Garden Market and picked up a couple more plants as I discovered 2 of the plants they’d left were cherry trees, and I wanted to try my hand at a vegetable garden for the first time. I also mowed, trimmed, and we moved the mulch I removed to the front where there was a bare patch.
Tuesday Sue and Ava came to visit us for a couple days during Ava’s spring break. They mostly were visiting DC, but we had dinner together in the evenings (Nina convinced them to try Big Buns to much acclaim). Thursday I had to get Wacker plumbing to fix the outside faucet again, and I realized we’d gotten the wrong message last time: it’s not turning the water off inside that matters, but disconnecting the hose. Hopefully we won’t forget.
Friday the 22nd Nina had her first class field trip since 2019, this time to the Baltimore Aquarium. Jill got her from school, and then dropped her off at her Girl Scout troop leader, as they were doing a 2 night camp out at Camp May Flather. Sue and Ava left that night. Saturday Jill and I went out to pick up some pinball glass in Purcellville for Tony, and since Catoctin Creek Distilling Company was nearby, picked up a bottle there. Since we had no plans that night, I had made reservations at Roberto’s Ristorante Italiano in Vienna. In all the time I’d been going to fancy restaurants in DC, I had never made it to one of Chef Roberto Donna’s restaurants, and now he was close by. The dinner was delicious (especially the lamb and the cocktails), and next time we’ll know to ask which dish he’s preparing tableside.
Nina was back from camp the next night, but we were out as I’d snagged tickets to see Jon Stewart get the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center. First we had a delicious dinner outside at Imperfecto (since awarded a Michelin Star), then walked over to Foggy Bottom and caught the shuttle. A warm up comedian came out first, then music from musical director Gary Clark Jr. who surprised us with an unannounced guest: Bruce Springsteen, and they did a duet on The Beatles’ “Come Together”. Bruce was pretty good by himself, too. We got to see standup (mostly roasts) from Jimmy Kimmel, Pete Davidson, Olivia Munn, Steve Carell, Samantha Bee, Bassem Youssef, Ed Helms (replacing Stephen Colbert, who was out with Covid) & Dave Chappelle before Jon himself took the stage for a long set.
We had also started working on Nina switching bedrooms that weekend but soon realized there was way too much work. So Jill got on TaskRabbit and on Monday and Tuesday a painter came to repaint Nina’s new room; also Tuesday we had Nina’s loft bed disassembled and the sofabed moved into the kitchen. Thursday Belfort Furniture came and delivered the new queen bed for the guest room. Thursday night I was supposed to go see Lindsey Buckingham, but he cancelled due to Covid; we also got our first goslings of the year on our lawn. Friday we got takeout from Senor Ramon.
Saturday the 30th was a very busy day. While Jill took Nina over to Jammin’ Java for rehearsals, I went to Reston Hospital to drop off expired medicine, then joined them as Nina sang with the school house band for their school open mic. Then we went over to Frying Pan Park for their Horse Expo as Nina’s interested in riding. Finally Michael Clem came over for the first Lake Thoreau Concerts of the year, and the weather really cooperated (I was unsure about an April date when he scheduled it).
On Wednesday the 2nd we took Nina and a friend into DC for concert #8: Dua Lipa. We had dinner at Nandoâ€™s as we often do for shows at Capital One Arena, then headed in. DC had just dropped their vaccine mandate, but the show had been advertised as vaccine required until 2 days earlier, so we felt safe wearing our masks. Openers Lolo ZouaÃ¯ and Caroline Polachek (ex indie rocker from Chairlift) were good, but the audience audibly groaned about a second opener. But Dua Lipa got the appropriate welcome for churning out pop bangers during a pandemic. It was quite a show, and Nina loved every minute (except for leaving during the encore).
Friday Jill was off and took Nina to Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience. Afterwards they got takeout from Taco Zocalo. Saturday Nina had her first non-family sleepover as Jill relented and let her have one with her best friend. Sunday the 2nd rescheduling of the Snow Patrol show for the Lincoln Theater actually happened, but Jill could no longer attend. No one wanted a free ticket, so I went solo for concert #9. Iain Archer was the unannounced opener, but I after I looked him up and found he was a former member of Snow Patrol, I paid close attention. As I suspected, he showed up again playing keys for their set. Lead singer Gary Lightbody was very relaxed, joking with the audience and laughing off flubs for what turned out to be a fun, mostly acoustic show.
Thursday the 9th Jill flew up to help her mom pack for her move (evicted by her mom’s mom, but thatâ€™s a long story). The school days were fairly uneventful, but Friday night after Tae Kwon Do, Nina wanted to eat outside at the South Lakes Village shopping center at a table whose benches were swings. We got takeout from Cafesano and we got to watch some police officers argue with a very upset guy (about what we never discovered). Then we went to Safeway as Nina wanted to make a special dinner the next day. That turned out to be unicorn rolls (crescent rolls with ham, cheese & butter cooked in), fairy punch (Sprite with lime juice, lemon juice, honey & frozen blueberries) and fairy popcorn (with added raisins, craisins, pretzels & M&Ms). The latter was shared with her friend Celina, who came over later to watch Turning Red with us (what a great movie, and perfect timing to have the audience for it). Sunday Nina had a Girl Scout meeting (where I had to submit her outfit to Jill for approval).
Monday I said if you’re an Encanto fan, Nina told me about this: an original song set in the movie. She can’t stop singing it too. Friday the 18th we went out for a real dinner, at Blend 111 in Vienna. Iâ€™d read this fantastic review, and it was good practice for Nina as they had their menus in Spanish. Very tasty, I especially liked the tiradito de palmito, and Jill liked the pabellÃ³n criollo.
Tuesday the 22nd it was Ninaâ€™s last day of drama club and the parents were invited for the performance of 2 plays, the second of which featured her as one of the hairdressers who have a bunch of fairytale characters as clients. Later I was reminded it was Stuart’s birthday and of course I hit “Bri” that day on my journey through my music collection, and this came up.
Friday the 25th Nina had her first camp out at Camp Crowell‘s High Top Treehouses. Jill and I dropped her off, then went over to Vienna to eat outside at Bear Branch Tavern (good burger), then came out early the next morning to help clean up and do pick up. Nina’s troop leader said “Our first troop camp out was amazing! Yes, we were a bit chilly and learned that we need to bring warmer clothes and squishier sleeping pads but every Girl Scout had a huge smile at pickup. I was really impressed at their constant, positive attitudes and watching how well they all supported each other and took ownership of their camp out. I can’t wait to go camping with them again!” This seemed like a good time to share some of my pandemic archival work. Here I synched up a video with poor audio from several years back to a then just released audio version of the Foo Fighters at the 2005 HFStival. R.I.P. Taylor.
Sunday Nina and Jill got pedicures. Wednesday the 31st was the Terraset basketball challenge Nina had been preparing for. She sang withe the choir to start the game and performed with the cheerleaders. That night we packed as spring break started the next day, and I finished the taxes, which I’d been working on all week thanks to the new 3rd party payment rules on my eBay sales (thanks to filing them under Schedule D as collectibles meant I didn’t owe any tax on them).
Nina continued her rehearsals for Broadway Night, culminating in her first performance on Friday the 4th. Jillâ€™s mom came down for the weekend, and we saw the first show (show #3) while Jill was a chaperone. For the second show Saturday afternoon I was an usher, then I brought over some Wendyâ€™s for her lunch. We all got Big Buns for dinner, then the three of us all watched her evening show (show #4).
Sunday morning we all went over to Jammin’ Java as the performances werenâ€™t over â€“ she still had Open Mic for her voice classes. Rehearsing and performing on stage seemed to help any remaining stagefright (even recovered when she started late) as she sang Ava Maxâ€™s â€œSo Am Iâ€ (and that was concert #5, with lots of nice cover choices). That night I went to see Beth Patterson at The Old Brogue for concert #6. This time she had SeÃ¡n Heely performing with her for more traditional songs. I wished sheâ€™d done more of her own songs as she didnâ€™t even get the chance to sing much. That week Nina started her Curex drops for immunotherapy to hopefully build up her tolerance for her allergies.
Friday the 11th I went to the Strathmore for concert #7: Bonny Light Horseman and AnaÃ¯s Mitchell. Since AnaÃ¯s Mitchell is a member of Bonny Light Horseman, it was the same musicians in different configurations for each set. I really enjoyed the harmonies of Bonny Light Horseman. Saturday Nina shopped at Safeway with several Girl Scouts to get ingredients to prepare for a badge. She also had a cookie booth outside Ledo’s.
Sunday marked a year since I made my low sodium red miso paste, so it was time to stop fermenting. I also made gochujang with it so now I can make a low sodium version of Bon Chon chicken. This was in addition to making Louisiana hot sauce and blue cheese dressing for wings for the Super Bowl. Valentineâ€™s Day was Tuesday and Nina redecorated the table.
Tuesday the 15th I said â€œWowâ€ as the full Daily Show from the night before was only a conversation with India.Arie. They had interesting thoughts on how to respond to racism.
Thursday the 17th Jill and I followed Ninaâ€™s suggestion and had lunch together on Jillâ€™s day off. We thought Founding Farmerâ€™s would be good as it wasnâ€™t too cold, but it was windy and we ate inside as it wasnâ€™t busy at 2PM. Saturday the 19th was Eric’s funeral, at a church off 29 between Bristow and Warrenton. It was sad to bid him farewell, but nice to see his wife, daughters, brother and mother. I went to a nearby Panera afterwards to hang with college friends I hadnâ€™t seen in 15-20 years. I finally left at 5 â€“ I needed to pick up some additional Switch controllers in Tysonâ€™s and Ledos Pizza before we had game night with the Hocrodels and Larsens. The 5 kids ate first, then played Switch downstairs while the grownups played Cards Against Humanity upstairs.
Monday Nina and I were off for Presidentâ€™s Day. It was a beautiful day, and in the afternoon she ran a cookie booth right outside the house on the trail. When the Grunspans were done with their friends, they joined her before Nina had to go to Tae Kwon Do to earn her last stripe. They did so well both households nearly sold out of their stash. Nina had hives that night â€“ they may have been from a dog that licked her, but we werenâ€™t sure, so we paused her drops for a day.
Friday the 25th I had to LOL at Butt-centric literary star Chuck Tingle buys GovernorAbbott.com. That evening we watched Ninaâ€™s Tae Kwon Do graduation as she made it to her bo-black belt (second to last belt, black is last). Then we went out for dinner at Clydeâ€™s in Reston as theyâ€™ll be closing soon. Unfortunately it was too windy to eat outside, but the booths had plexiglass barriers and felt fairly safe. Saturday Nina made some #flowerfood.
Saturday the 1st was New Year’s Day and we were still in Boston, so we slept in a bit, then drove home (with a stop at White Castle, naturally). Sunday Jill kicked off cookie sales with this note: “Nina is going camping for the first time this year as a girl scout and is super excited! Her troop is also raising funds to try for a bronze award; so far their community projects have included making blankets for the shelter and decorating memorial rocks for our community memory garden for those we have lost through Covid at the senior living community. Thanks for your support”. Monday Nina was scheduled to be back at school, but Mother Nature had other ideas and we got a lot of snow. In fact, she was off all that week with another storm on Thursday. Friday we got Bollywood Bistro (Jill’s favorite) and worked on Jill’s Christmas gift, Lego Winnie the Pooh.
Saturday the 9th Jill and I had debated going to see Fortune Feimster at the new Capital One Hall, especially with the neighbors at the next 3 houses all positive and everyone back at school and work, but this graphic sealed the deal for me, and so we went to show #1 (also with Caitlin Peluffo). Glad we did, everyone was well masked in the theatre and she was hilarious.
Saturday the 15th we had tickets for concert #2: Eddie From Ohio at the Birchmere. But vaccinated without masks required and still in the middle of the Omicron surge meant that Jill didnâ€™t feel safe bringing Nina, so I went by myself. I loved that Julie changed the lyrics of “Old Dominion” again to “Baseball season’s over, and our football team is crap, so wintertime means Washington and rootin’ for the Caps”. They finally stopped burning CDs of the show that night, and instead started offering a download card for sale. Tuesday the misheard lyric of the day was: “I ate the sharpest tool in the shed”.
The new governor in Virginia had decided to lean into his far-right politics, and decided to issue an executive order prohibiting mask mandates in schools as soon as he got into office. So on Wednesday I shared a petition for Fairfax County parents to make their voices heard. I also shared a link to help fund a lawsuit against the executive order. Then on Thursday I seconded this.
Friday the 21st we got takeout from the final of the three open restaurants in Reston Station, Big Buns. And apparently saved the best for last, as we were all raving about our meals, especially Nina who got the Unicorn Shake (all the shakes were good). Sunday Nina made her own breakfast for a Girl Scout badge (fruit smoothie, scrambled eggs, and a frozen waffle). Tuesday we got takeout from On The Border for a PTO fundraiser.
Friday the 28th Nina had her school picture taken and we got takeout from Cooperâ€™s Hawk and Nandoâ€™s (I ended up getting Nandoâ€™s because Cooperâ€™s Hawk has no low sodium entrees – or to be more accurate has only high sodium entrees). That night I shared the Peacemaker opening sequence to my buddy Eric. His wife had called me saying he was back in the hospital with pneumonia and might go on a ventilator that night, and he asked me if Iâ€™d seen the new Spider-Man and I told him he needed to get better soon so we could chat about this hilarious show and its extensive use of hair metal (5 minutes on Hanoi Rocks alone in the previous episode).
Unfortunately she called me the next day that he hadnâ€™t made it through the night, so I shared â€œRIP Eric Kader. Friend, brother, roommate, record store co-owner, concert buddy. Gone too soon.â€ Sunday I had mentioned that when Eric and I went to Woodstock ’94 we had a four hour wait for a shuttle. Someone in line had a bottle of Goldschlager and we shared it while we waited. I got a nip of Goldschlager when we opened Jill’s birthday piÃ±ata in 2020, and I figured that night was the perfect time to drink it.
That day also marked the end of Wizards Unite, the Pokemon Go style mobile app set in the Harry Potter universe. We finally finished the Harry Potter film series, which we started in August 2018 by listening to the audiobook first and then watching the movie. Then we watched the 20th anniversary of the movies special on HBO. I think we’ll have a conversation in the future of separating art and the problematic artist, but I think for now we’re done with that universe.
Throughout January, Nina had been preparing for Broadway Night, a selection of jukebox musicals presented by the South Lakes High School Chorus. They invite all the South Lakes Pyramid schools, and all the elementary students were singing the Go-Go’s “Vacation” as well as appearing in the “On Your Feet” finale. Nina started the month with twice a week rehearsals, but with one week to go, she was rehearsing every day and some days going straight from school to school. We felt we were getting a taste of high school and things to come. Also in January, Jill and I both joined the Wordle viral craze.
Saturday the 4th we went to Lost Rhino as our friends Tony and Charissa came down from Philly with our friend Bill. Janice was hosting and Lorna & Dave came along too. Tony loves pinball, and Nina and I joined him for that. Her favorite game was Guardians of the Galaxy while I preferred The Mandalorian. I enjoyed the beer and Nina had Sâ€™mores with the propane fire pit outside. I had rewatched the 4 previous Daniel Craig Bond movies the last 4 nights, then that night my dad came over to watch the newest one, a tradition he started by taking me to see Octopussy. A great ending for a great Bond.
Sunday Nina had a Girl Scouts cookie rally and Jill said “this Jingle Bell kitty is happy to be back in the holiday spirit after an overenthusiastic play session! Inspired by The Knitmore Girls stuffie mending and although it’s #NotAPerfectMend it’ll do just fine. Kiddo is just happy to have her holiday playmate back!”. Monday I was in DC for concert #20: Brandi Carlile at Sixth & I. A fantastic solo show that mixed together her new album, Joni Mitchell covers, and holiday songs, plus duets with her wife and the first ever singing appearance of her daughter.
Saturday the 11th we went to the Herndon Winter Market where we unexpectedly met up with Janice and Lorna & Dave again. We enjoyed German food from a food truck, then watched some traditional dancers.
Monday I started 3 weeks off â€“ I was convinced with Jill working at a hospital and Nina back in school that one of us would catch Covid. I was delighted to be wrong, but my vacation time was use it or lose it, so I used it. Tuesday I took Nina and a friend to concert #21: Dixie D’Amelio, MONSTA X, Tai Verdes, Bazzi, Saweetie, Black Eyed Peas, Tate McRae, Megan thee Stallion & Jonas Brothers for HOT 99.5’s Jingle Ball at Capital One Arena, and they had a great time. They were disappointed that Doja Cat & AJR dropped out due to Covid, but both got to see their first K-pop band and they’re big fans of the genre (canâ€™t tell you how much Blackpink Iâ€™ve heard lately). Jill got a haircut and said “Gotta love an amazing new cut and style! Natalya at Alya Salon cut about 10 inches off and I’m so thrilled! She knows how to give a great Deva/curly hair cut ðŸ™ŒðŸ™Œ”
Wednesday it was my turn for a haircut from Roosters, and Thursday I watched this great tribute to the other movie series that had itâ€™s 20th anniversary this year (and tagged it on social media with #Colbert #LordOfTheRings #LOTR #1Trilly). Jill was surprised that she would come home from work and find me still on the computer, but I had a lot of non-work computer tasks to catch up on. Friday I had lunch with John on the deck, then our neighbors were back from Spain and all the girls got together for dinner and a movie (Shang-Chi). Jill and I got takeout from Chengs. Saturday we had another outdoor holiday party. This time there were slightly less people, so we brought our food, drinks and heater over to our neighbor Johnâ€™s house. As always, there was caroling at his house.
Sunday the 19th Nina had a Girl Scouts troop party, then I went to a house concert in Herndon for concert #22: Michael Clem. Good to hear his new songs live, and see my friend. Later Nina and her friends decorated gingerbread houses.
Wednesday we packed for our trip, but I made sure to watch the new Matrix (I thought it was fantastic). I had also watched the first 3 Matrix movies the previous 3 nights, and I could say what I would never say about the Star Wars prequels – those sequels are seriously underrated.
Thursday we were all negative for Covid, so off we went to Massachusetts, with a fairly uneventful drive, stopping at Sonic for lunch. Christmas Eve we went over to Jillâ€™s momâ€™s and most of the immediate family came. All plans for takeout had to go out the window as just about every place was closed, and we finally found Blue Asian Cuisine in Chicopee that was a good place. It snowed that night and the rain held off on Christmas long enough for Nina to have her 2nd White Christmas. Later we had dinner at the Bradys and a gift card swap, where both Nina and I watched Home Alone for the first time (what can I say â€“ it was a kids movie that came out when I was in college).
On Sunday the 27th Pepe & Meme came over to celebrate with their grandkids (Nina & Finn) and we had appetizers. That night Jill and I went to concert #23: Dar Williams with Crys Matthews at The Stationery Factory in Dalton. Nice show to finish 2021 on – although it was a white knuckle ride home for Jill because of the snow. Wednesday we went to Northampton for lunch (Familiars Coffee & Tea for Jill and me, Yokohama Ramen for Nina) and shopping. Thursday I rented out the last 4 rows at the South Hadley’s Tower Theaters so we could sit in the last 2 rows and watch Sing 2 semi-safely, then we visited with Gram.
We capped off the week by heading out on New Year’s Eve and visiting with my sister and her family , then went to the Cannons. Later the older kids watched the younger ones while Jill and I reenacted our 1st date from 20 years ago: sushi on NYE with the Cannons. We went to Fuki, early enough that we were the only ones there. It was delicious. Later we went back to there house and found random music videos to watch while we chatted before the kids came upstairs for the ball drop.
The 1st and 2nd Nina was off due to student holidays (the 2nd was Election Day). Jill took off to take care of Nina, who ended up wanting to go to SACC on the 1st. So Tuesday was the get stuff done day, including a passport appointment for all of us because Ninaâ€™s passport expired that day and a dentist appointment for Jill and Nina (mine was the next Tuesday). Later I wondered how did I not hear this mashup before now? This is legendary!
Wednesday we celebrated as vaccinations for ages 5-11 in Fairfax County were live. Friday we got takeout from Pista House. Jill and Nina went on Saturday to Tysons Corner Center. Jill said â€œCovid shots at the mall meant wandering around for a bit, checking out the massage chair after mom found a random dollar in her purse, then sporting a new fashion headband to create art. Here’s to a fully vaccinated household for the holiday season!â€
Nina had a 2 hour early release on the 11th for Veterans Day, but I didnâ€™t pick her up as her Girl Scout troop picked her up and took her to a troop campfire. Friday Jill was out to dinner with coworkers and it was Ninaâ€™s turn to choose takeout, so we went to Ariake, ordered, then sat in my car watching Saturday Night Live videos on YouTube until the order was ready. Saturday Nina didnâ€™t get much exercise during the day, as she asked to go outside after dinner and ended up climbing trees.
Tuesday the 16th we had a ramp installed. A couple months earlier, Iâ€™d invited my mom and her husband David to join us for Thanksgiving, and sheâ€™d agreed but told me that he was having trouble walking. Iâ€™d tried a number of local places that rent medical equipment, but had no luck until I reached out to Freedom Mobility in Maryland. They needed to install it earlier than we needed it and their minimum rental time was a month, but it was just what we needed.
Thursday Nina had been having some asthma running around in cold weather, so I got her early so we could have a teleconference with her pulmonologist (she wasnâ€™t happy about leaving early and missing art). Saturday was an Open mic at Jammin’ Java for the music students. Nina was scheduled to perform, but when she realized it was on a stage in front of a bunch of people this time, got some stage fright. We still watched the talented Jammin’ Java school house band for concert #18. Her teacher brought her up later so she could see what it was like. That night the neighbor girls came over to help decorate the tree while I went out to see Joan Osborne at The Barns at Wolf Trap for concert #19. She had a nice mix of her recent album, her Dylan covers album before that, and the hits from Relish. Sunday Nina had Girl Scouts.
Tuesday the 23rd my mom came by. We thought she was coming for dinner but she was just dropping off the pies as she and David were staying at Lynn House. Nina was off Wednesday but they had plans with friends, so we just did our own thing. Thursday we were up early to cook while Mom and David went to church, then came over. We had made a little nook near the kitchen fireplace they could sit at, then we had the classic meal, and later 4 pies (Mom and Jill both made apple plus Mom made a pecan and picked up a pumpkin on her way down). I realized while making turkey broth later that that day was the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving and we had three generations of descendants of one of the attendees here thanks to my mom joining us. They joined us again Friday, I made Eggs Benedict and artichokes for brunch as Nina and my mom both love artichokes, then we ordered takeout from Mama Chang (Mom had read about it in the Post) and had more pie (Nina surprised us with a love for pumpkin for the first time). Only Jill went shopping on Black Friday for yarn and provisions at Red Apron, although I LOLâ€™d at this.
Saturday the 28th Mom and David headed home in the morning. Later I got my booster and Nina got her 2nd shot, then we shopped at Dulles Town Center. Today I had some fever and fatigue, but the 3.5 hour nap seemed to take care of it. But if I had to do it all over again, I’d skip the mall. Nina had a Spanish project to create a community and label it with the Spanish words. Saturday she tried CAD and LegoCAD programs and wasnâ€™t a big fan, so Sunday she worked all day on a Lego version (with just a little help from us).
On the 30th we got takeout from Pupatella to benefit Nina’s school. Jill said “My friend Patty posted this on her Facebook page and it speaks very loud and clear to me, especially what is going on in our crafting community. We cannot be silent when others are being exploited and harmed. I personally was never a fan but I know what it means to struggle with the ugly truth and bring in out into the light. We can hold grace for each other but grace is not a pass for accountability and inward reflection and growth. Let’s shine a light into the dark places.”
The 1st was a Friday and we went to watch Raya and the Last Dragon sponsored by Terrasetâ€™s PTO. We got food from the food trucks and watched the movie for the first time. We were glad we brought blankets and sleeping bags as it was chilly and damp by the end. Saturday we brought Nina to Terraset so she could figure out how to climb on top of the monkey bars, but decided she wasnâ€™t ready. That night was concert #15: Damien Jurado & Okkervil River (solo) at The Barns at Wolf Trap. I came for Okkervil River, but Damien Jurado wasn’t bad either. Sunday Nina had Girl Scouts and Monday was off for 2 days but Jill took off and took her to her pulmonologist.
Friday the 8th we got takeout from Tea Break Pho & Boba. Tuesday I had to take Nina to her pediatrician as we hadnâ€™t paid attention to her running out of a medicine. Friday I took Nina and a friend to the the homecoming parade and walked with them. Jill met us at the end. Saturday Nina and Jill made gluten free cookies while I went to concert #16: girl in red, Lauv, St. Vincent, Charli XCX & Haim at Merriweather Post Pavilion for the All Things Go Music Festival. Very well run, despite the rain, and I love all the infrastructure improvements to Merriweather. Too bad the only thing I could eat was a sad looking cheeseburger. Sunday Nina and Jill went up to Frederick as Ninaâ€™s voice teacher owns a wig shop there, then Nina went to Girl Scouts.
Jill said about their trip: â€œWe made a trip to visit Nina’s voice teacher at her new amazing business, the Frederick Wig Company! Rachel is a bespoke wig maker on top of all her other talents and has just opened this storefront in Downtown Frederick. N had so much fun trying on wigs and came home with a mermaid wig and fairy hair tied into her real hair. We had a great time; thanks for the wonderful visit! For those who are local, Rachel has appointments available for you to shop safely and get a consultation for a wig or topper for any cosmetic or medical reason -she’s a gem.â€
â€œIn honor of Rhinebeck Weekend, N and I visited a yarn shop in Frederick; the Knot House. I’m glad I got a chance to poke around; so many lovely things! I visited magpie fibers last time I was there so now I feel complete. With this purchase I decided to halt further yarn or fiber purchases until next year’s Rhinebeck weekend with a couple of planned exceptions. I’m just getting my crafting mojo back and my stash has gotten overwhelming. I have carefully curated it but it’s time to start using it in earnest.â€
Monday the 18th I was disappointed that my favorite new show had been canceled. They had definitely changed some of the storylines, but I enjoyed making the protagonistâ€™s mother President instead of Congressperson. Thursday I said â€œHuhâ€ after reading this:
“The 13% of Americans who are anti-vax are equal to the percentage who donâ€™t own a smartphone. Itâ€™s barely half the number who believe Bigfoot is real (26%) and nearly 50% smaller than the number who donâ€™t believe in God (19%). Itâ€™s less common than brushing your teeth in the shower (17%) or not putting a top sheet on your bed at all (16%).
If you subtract the people who have legitimate health reasons for not getting vaccinated, the number of conscientious anti-vaxxers dips below the percentage of Americans who donâ€™t wear deodorant (11%). ”
Friday was my birthday. After Jill informed me parking was slim, I walked over to the shopping center where we got to see Nina graduate to her second-from-last belt in Tae Kwon Do, then we had a late dinner outside at Founding Farmers followed by homemade carrot cake and gifts. Finally, I watched the excellent adaption of Dune (I loved the 4 hour version of Lynch’s Dune, but I can’t wait for part 2 of this). I said â€œTomorrow night is emmet swimming in Leesburg and I just can’t imagine a better weekend.â€
And concert #17 was great: emmet swimming, with short opening sets from Hana Eid, Erik Wenberg, Smartbomb & Quitter UK at Tally Ho Theater. That may have been Quitter UK’s first shows since 2006. Sunday Nina had Girl Scouts. Jill said: â€œMy new favorite baby gift; buy an outfit and make a sweater to match! This is kiddy vertebrae and I was supposed to drop it off this morning to the recipient but it turns out she went into labor last night! So it’ll keep for a little longer…â€
Friday the 29th we got takeout from Makers Union, then Sunday was Halloween and Nina got invited to a neighborhood party with a friend (she dressed up as Coraline), so Jill and I handed out candy and ate dinner by ourselves.
On the 1st was concert #8: Eagles at Capital One Arena. My first masked and vaxxed show (and now the only way I’ll go). The crowd was mostly compliant, so I double masked. The show was great (and long), started off with the entire Hotel California album played with a string orchestra (Sorry to Jay, who I was going to see the show with in L.A. pre-pandemic). The next day was Ninaâ€™s birthday, and she got ice cream on her waffle for breakfast. She had requested Indian food, and Jill wanted to try a place in Ashburn as she was working late, so we met up at Celebration. Unfortunately their â€œoutside seatingâ€ was 2 tiny tables, plus they couldnâ€™t serve alcohol there, but we made the most of it, plus their food was pretty tasty. We went to the nearby Brusters for dessert where Nina got an enormous sundae. Jill said â€œTo my girl on her 10th birthday: you are amazing. You are the bright spot of each of my days since we met. I love your fierce tenacity, your kindness, and your independence. I look forward to continue watching you as you blossom, because you are the type of person that blooms where planted. Love always, your proud mama.â€
We hired a new cleaning lady who Jill knew from work, and she came Saturday morning at 9am to clean, not leaving until 7pm. Sue and Dave came to stay with us that day, luckily it was nice to hang out on the deck for hours. We also got a giant ice cream cake Nina got to share with her neighborhood friends. Sunday Nina went to the pool with friends, then played ping pong with 2 friends in a neighborhood tournament. Later I took Dave out on the boat and he did some fishing (and sunburning).
On Labor Day we went out to visit my dad when my sister and her family were staying with him. They werenâ€™t vaccinated, so we stopped in Old Town Alexandria on the way back and ate at Virtue Feed & Grain. Jill took Thursday and Friday off to hang out with Sue and Dave. Thursday I joined them for lunch at Jacques’ Brasserie at L’Auberge Chez Francois and that night we got takeout from Mazadar. Friday I enjoyed this comic.
Saturday the 11th Sue, Nina and Jill went apple picking then got delayed because Jill went to help a worker who fainted. So I met them at Olney Park for concert #9: Stephen Kellogg at his Family BBQ. Then later was concert #10: Close Enough on the lake, and the first time we tied up to another boat – the girls couldn’t get enough of walking between boats. Monday I saw the best Bell Biv DeVoe parody about the news I’ve seen that day.
Friday we got takeout from Taco Zocalo. Sunday Nina & Jill knitted together. Later Jill said â€œCouldn’t be prouder of Nina’s elementary school and all the fantastic educators. This Time article recognizes her librarian, Mrs. Dueno, who personally delivered books to many houses (including ours!) during the school year so kids could keep reading.â€
Wednesday Jill and I were heading to Wolf Trap, but Nina had been congested and spiked a fever, so we cancelled the babysitter and Jill stayed home, trying to get a Covid test while I went to concert #12: Ani DiFranco & Indigo Girls. Emily’s voice was a little off, but they had Lucy Wainwright Roche join them for the full set so that made up for that. Plus everyone played during the encore. The next morning I took Nina to get her swab since Jill hadnâ€™t gotten in the previous night, and it was negative so with the fever gone she was back to school on Friday, when we got this lovely school aged Shantytowne picture.
Saturday was concert #13: The Avett Brothers at the Wolf Trap Gala. I was curious if after 2 sold out shows they’d slow it down for a smaller crowd, but apparently they only know one speed. Plus they gained a new fan in Jill. This cover didn’t hurt matters at all. The speeches were meh, but Governor North was funny. After we got home, Nina had an asthma attack thanks to lingering congestion, so she went back on the nebulizer for the next couple of days.
Wednesday the 29th was concert #14: Primus with The Sword at MECU Pavilion (aka Pier Six). Mostly there for Primus covering all of Rush’s “A Farewell to Kings” in their second set. Amazing job, double necked guitars, Rickenbackers and Gibsons. First time hearing live versions of “A Farewell To Kings”, “Cinderella Man” & “Madrigal”. I hate going to Baltimore on a weeknight, but that was worth it. I cam home to everyone sleeping in our bed.