Monday July 1st was Jill’s birthday and we were still in Rochester, and after some quick birthday wishes and farewells to Mom and David, we got on the highway. We checked the border crossing times at a rest area before Buffalo, and kept the original plan to cross into Canada at the Lewiston–Queenston Bridge. After a 10 minute wait, we were north of the border. We stopped at Dillon’s Distillery and tasted and bought some spirits (I knew the official alcohol stores were closed for Canada Day). We had a quick stop at a Panera later for a bathroom break, but soon pulled up to the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto. I was happy to leave the car there, and we checked in and relaxed.


We got hungry for lunch and went across the street to the Union Summer market popup. Nina had guacamole and chips from El Catrin and a fried chicken sandwich from Union Chicken, while Jill and I got sausages from Wvrst. We even got concert #21 with our great lunch: Jordan Hart & Emily Schultz.

Jordan Hart & Emily Schultz

When we found out we couldn’t see the fireworks from the nearby waterfront, we decided to go to the Toronto Islands. We bought ferry tickets and headed over, getting there around 4. What we did not know before going was the Toronto Islands had been flooding. It didn’t affect us too much – Nina got to ride some rides at the Centreville Amusement Park, then we walked over to Toronto Island BBQ & Beer Co. for dinner. It was the best option for eating on the island and was pretty crowded, but we got our food and drinks without too many issues.

Nina Jill Kerry

We had been told we could see the fireworks from the beach at Ward’s Island, so we started the hike (at least a mile, with a small child complaining for the entire second half). Unfortunately when we got there, 3/4 of the beach was flooded and the mosquitoes were everywhere, so we gave up and went over to the ferry there, where we could see some of the fireworks far off in the distance. My original plan had been to see both the fireworks and the free concert by Broken Social Scene at Harbourfront Centre. I realized we got back in time to see some, so the girls went to BeaverTails while I hurried over to catch the last 1.5 songs, so it counted as concert #22.

Nina Jill

Tuesday we slept in, then walked over to SOCO Kitchen + Bar for a nice early lunch, then went across the street to Ripley’s Aquarium. It was super crowded but we took our time and went through all the exhibits. Later we took the streetcar up to Kensington Market. Jill’s must was Yarns Untangled, and Nina and I went next door to a coffee shop while she browsed. We’d planned on eating tacos at Seven Lives as they were recommended, but they didn’t have anything Nina would eat so ended up at El Trompo Taco Bar, which was a nice sit down place with great tacos.

Jill Nina Kerry

I was planning on going to Sonic Boom Records, and had checked their website that morning to see it said “We’re open 364 days a year”. Apparently I was supposed to check their social media as well, as they closed for the day to film a TV show. The day was saved by our trip to Cool N2 Ice Cream. Nina got Mr. Brownie which comes with two scoops of chocolate ice cream with brownie bits, two roasted marshmallows on a stick, a syringe with chocolate syrup and half of a Two Bite Brownie, while I got Dragon’s Breath: Cheese curls are placed in a cup and then liquid nitrogen is poured on top, then smoke comes out with each bite. We got off the streetcar near Rogers Centre and let Nina run around for a while outside of the Toronto Railway Museum.

Kerry Nina

We got back to the hotel around 8 and were planning bedtime, but found out Nina’s friend who lived there (granddaughter of our next door neighbors) was possibly only available that night. So we too the subway to Yorkville and the girls got to run around on the Yorkville Rock. We were told that nearby Summer’s Ice Cream had the best ice cream in Toronto, so we made the great sacrifice to have a second dessert. We were also told we had to see the Casa Loma castle, so we drove over there and took the subway back after.

Casa Loma

Wednesday we slept in a bit, then checked out. We managed to stop for breakfast at the very same Panera we’d stopped at Monday, then were soon at the African Lion Safari. It turned out Nina’s friend was heading there as well, so we toured the safari in our car, then met up at the waterpark. They played there for a while, then went to an Elephants & Friends presentation. It was hot, so the girls got Dippin’ Dots to cool down. Next we drove into Hamilton and stopped at The Coop for chicken, then I got my record store make up at Dr. Disc that had 3 CDs for a dollar in the basement. We’d been hearing good things about Tim Hortons, so we stopped so I could get an iced tea and Jill could get a latte – that was a mistake, they had no idea what an iced tea was (gave me a giant cup of hot tea and small cup of ice) and Jill took one drink of hers and tossed it in the trash.


Soon we were in Niagara Falls, where the rest of Jill’s family had arrived and checked in at the Best Western. We drove over to Clifton Hill and parked, then walked over to the Hard Rock Cafe (it was Tiernan’s birthday choice). Unfortunately Jill noticed Nina getting hives on her face and we didn’t pack Benadryl, so I walked over to the nearest drug store and back (she had them again a bit the next day, but we washed her all over and her shoes and it was gone after that). We all went down to check out the falls after dinner and watch the fireworks, then called it a night.

Wadases Bradys Freys

Thursday the 4th we all gathered at The Flying Saucer for breakfast, then slowly made our way to parking near the Table Rock Welcome Centre. We couldn’t get tickets for the Journey Behind the Falls until eveyone was got there, so we explored the gift shops and went outside to check out the falls. We went down in an elevator, and found the ponchos they had passed out were very necessary.

Kerry Jill Nina

We took Tiernan back with us, and he wanted Popeyes for lunch, which Nina was definitely down for. Jill had been interested in a hot dog at Table Rock but we were leaving, so she looked them up and found the best was next door at The Flying Saucer. We ate our bounty by the pool in the hotel, then Nina went in the pool for a while. Melissa watched Nina while Sue, Dave, Maddy, Jill and I took a tour of the Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery & Distillery, where we got wine, beer and liquor. We got the family together again for dinner at Napoli Ristorante, where everyone had a delicious Italian meal (antipasto for me). Later Dominic, Melissa, Maddy, Jake and Tiernan joined Jill and I on the Falls Fireworks Cruise. They took two boats out and we got good looks at all the falls lit up before the fireworks went off above us. Meanwhile Sue and Dave took Nina and Ava to Clifton Hill to do what Nina really wanted to do, take selfies with Taylor Swift at Movieland.

Sue Dave Dominic Maddy Jill Kerry

Friday we got a late start and managed to show up at Niagara Helicopters with two tour groups in front of us. But soon they went from 2 helicopters to 4 and the wait wasn’t too bad. Nina sat in the front with me and gripped my leg tightly for the whole ride, but she enjoyed it. For lunch Nina wanted McDonalds (right next to the hotel), while Jill wanted poutine from Potato Heads – I got regular fries and very good fish sandwich.

Nina Kerry Tiernan Jill

In the afternoon, I dropped off Jill, Melissa and the girls at the waterpark and found a UPS Store I could rent a PC to reprint my car registration (left it at home) and back up all my photos. Realizing I had nothing I needed to do, I went record store searching. The nearest good one was Mindbomb in St Catharines, but while they had a nice vinyl selection, the CDs were sparse. Then I went to the nearby Sunrise Records which I didn’t realized until I got there was in the Pen Centre mall. No used stuff there, but they did have a David’s Tea so I was able to have a real iced tea. Plus on the way out I spied a Goodwill store, went in and totally scored. I got back to the hotel just in time to leave again to pick up the ladies.

Ava Nina

We got back and everyone got ready for dinner, this time at The Blind Pig, a gastropub in walking distance (I had the small plates of pork belly and Korean fried chicken). After talking up BeaverTails, everyone wanted some so Jill, Melissa, Maddy, and Ava went to get those while I played with Nina in the arcade area at the hotel. After bedtime I went down to Doc Magilligan’s, the hotel restaurant and bar and enjoyed a 7 year old Irish whiskey. Apparently I missed the band “Widow Maker”, but I wasn’t torn up about it.

Jill Sue

The bad thing about coming home on Saturday was the long line at the border crossing (45 minutes at the Peace Bridge) and the showers and storms that followed us home literally all day. At least we got delicious meals at two great out of the way places, Ashford Junction Diner (in Ellicottville, NY) and Dolce Pizza Gourmet & Eastern European Restaurant (in Hagerstown, MD).


Monday the 8th Nina started art camp. Thursday Jill picked her up and she once again had hives, but gave her a Benadryl. She was soon better, and that meant we didn’t have to cancel our plans. We all went to East Falls Church Metro, but Jill left us at Rosslyn to head to La Fromagerie in Old Town Alexandria for a wine tasting & dinner with Franklin Habit. Nina and I went to Gallery Place to again have dinner at Nando’s, spend some time at IT’SUGAR before heading into the Capital One Arena for concert #23: Jeff Lynne’s Electric Light Orchestra with Dhani Harrison. It was Nina’s mandatory classic rock show for the year, but she enjoyed herself. Her favorite song was “Last Train To London”, but mine was a fantastic version of The Traveling Wilburys “Handle With Care” as Dhani joined them to sing George’s part.

Nina ELO

Saturday we went over to Barnes & Noble as they were giving away Lego Golden Snitchs (and since I bought the Night Bus, I think they came out ok). Then we drove over to Cactus Cantina for a late lunch/early dinner before going to the the Kennedy Center for show #24: Mo Willems & the Storytime All-Stars present: Don’t Let the Pigeon Do Storytime! Anthony Anderson, Yvette Nicole Brown, Tony Hale, Tom Lennon & Natalie Morales were all hilarious. Plus we got to see Rachel Dratch before the show looking for directions (“No, I’m in the show!”) and Nina got a picture with director Bobcat Goldthwait.

Nina Bobcat Goldthwait

Sunday the 14th Jill had worked the night before so I took Nina over to the Springfield Dave & Busters because I got a Groupon for all day video games. We had a great time and a good lunch at Chuy’s, but after I showed Nina where my record store used to be, I felt my blood pressure go up – and stay up. We got home and we did chores and I was making dinner, but sat down and told Jill it was up and felt high. We had a blood pressure cuff and I was at 210/110. So off we went to the hospital. They admitted me and ruled out anything really scary but kept me for observation overnight. I got to sleep at home Monday and was feeling better Tuesday, but didn’t go back to work until Wednesday.

I was cleared for concert duty after a 2.5km walk Tuesday morning, so took Nina to concert #25: “Weird Al” Yankovic with the National Symphony Orchestra at Wolf Trap. Nina had a blast, and loved the videos she hadn’t seen (“Word Crimes” and “Weasel Stomping Day”) and got her current favorite: “The Biggest Ball Of Twine In Minnesota”. Plus we got to see Lorna! This review is spot on.

Weird Al

Friday as we’re leaving the house: “I’m not hot because I don’t have underwear on.” Follow up: “It’s a long story. I lost them at the pool.” (spoiler alert: we turned around and corrected matters). Friday was way too hot (heat index over 100), but it was a good choice to use our Encore Circle pass for their fans and ice water. We were hot at concert #26: JoJo Siwa with The Belles at Wolf Trap, but the folks on stage gave it their all. Not the worst show (though everything except vocals were prerecorded) but Nina loved it. Plus she got to play tag afterwards, thanks to seeing our friend Monica and her daughter. We also made the smart move to give up the Dave Matthews Band tickets we had for Saturday when it was even hotter (we hid indoors and packed for vacation while Nina played with neighbors just back from vacation on Saturday, while we built Legos on Sunday). We did get to see the new art on the lake.

JoJo Nina

Wednesday the 24th I was off to DC for concert #27: Our Native Daughters at the National Museum of African American History & Culture. The unforecasted rain meant I got soaked walking over, but light refreshments (popcorn and lemonade) were nice after I finished drying my hair with the hand dryer. The show was good, and I’d been wanting to see Rhiannon Giddens for a while. At home, Jill had a “Baby great blue heron sighting in the backyard”. Thursday I was amazed when the seemingly canceled Woodstock 50 festival was now suggested to happen at Merriweather.

Our Native Daughters

Saturday the 27th I took Nina an hour away to a mall in Waldorf, MD, so she could do Descendants crafts. She was one of only two cosplayers, but she didn’t mind. Afterwards I got to go to Justice for the first time, and it being her favorite store made perfect sense. Meanwhile Jill was “Done! My first handspun laceweight shawl. This was such a rewarding project.” Sunday Jill started working at 3, so we worked on vacation playlists, making dancing and lip syncing videos, and building a hotel.


Tuesday Queen + Adam Lambert wasn’t a must earlier, but “One Vision” is one of my favorite songs and they haven’t done it on an American tour before. Plus a full “’39”! Then they dropped “One Vision” and I was still excited, but an ultrasound on Monday revealed a blood clot in my left calf. My doctor wasn’t super worried, but Jill wasn’t comfortable with just Nina and I going, so I didn’t get tickets (and I’m now on blood thinners). But I knew it must be getting close to Falcon Ridge time if I’m making jellyfish umbrellas at night. The next night a centipede crawled out of the camping gear and on to my shirt. I don’t think I’ve ever moved that fast. After work and camp Wednesday, we left on vacation, staying in Edison, NJ for the night (someone had to get her White Castle on).



Saturday the 1st the rest of the family was still in Massachusetts so I took advantage of a full day off by going over to CD Cellar then having an early dinner at Donburi in Tysons Galleria (Sakedon bowl FTW). Then it was concert #15: Guster, Adia Victoria, Matt Braunger, Chris Thile, Madison Cunningham & Brittany Haas at Wolf Trap as part of Live from Here. The show was great, including yet another Led Zeppelin cover to honor John Bonham’s birthday (listen here at 1:29:48). And one fantastic part that didn’t even make it to air was soundcheck with Madison Cunningham covering Radiohead’s “No Surprises”.

Chris Thile covers No Surprises during a taping of Live from Here from r/radiohead

I also had a fast exit over to Herndon for concert #16: Farewell Angelina at the Herndon Festival where they whipped out a fine version of “Free Fallin'” and I got to visit with Linda. Sunday Lowe’s delivered a washer to my Mom’s old house in Annandale that was now on the market. They gave me a delivery window so I cooled my heels at the beginning of it by having lunch in Annandale at The Block. Balo Kitchen was my choice – twice, once for lamb tacos, then again for loaded fries. Then I got the call and it turned out there was an open house at Mom’s and got to meet her agent. I got home with time to unload the trunk (renters had left stuff in the house) and make it to a very crowded Dulles where the family had landed (they’d also gone to the Asparagus Festival and seen concerts from Oshima Brothers and Samirah Evans & the Joe Belmont Experience).


Friday the 7th was concert #17: Rodrigo y Gabriela at Wolf Trap. We saw them there back in 2010, but Jill wasn’t interested that night, and I have to admit I went mostly because they’re covering Pink Floyd’s Echoes on the album and tour. But it was magnificent, and a glorious night for watching a show. Tuesday I voted for Laurie Dodd for Hunter Mill District Supervisor in the primary, but honestly anyone would be a better choice than Comstock spokeswoman Maggie Parker, busy trying to erode our First Amendment rights and bring unrelenting gridlock to Reston. Wednesday Nina’s class danced in the school talent show. That night I found this to be so true.


Wednesday the 12th Nina got her hair tinted for the 1st time while Thursday was her last day of school, and Friday Jill took her to the pool and Tacos & More with friends. Saturday we celebrated Father’s Day a day early at Taste of Reston and Ben & Jerry’s, then Jill was working Saturday night and sleeping Sunday so I took Nina to get toys at Walmart and 2nd & Charles, then we ended up at Crafthouse in Fairfax Corner for brunch.

Nina Kerry

The next was the start of camp season, first week at Emmaus Church. Thursday I got dinner from Mason’s Lobster (got to admire them having whoopie pie from LaBree’s Bakery) for concert #18: Trampled by Turtles with Deer Tick and Maggie Rose at Wolf Trap. Perfect weather, great sets. Could have used a little more Deer Tick. Row 7 was a great place to be – we weren’t that close for the next night’s show, concert #19: Ariana Grande with Normani at Capital One Arena. Nina’s first big pop star show, and undoubtedly not her last – she loved the whole thing (also loved Nando’s for dinner beforehand).

Jill Nina

Thursday the 27th was concert #20: Robbie Schaefer and Ines Nassara at Signature Theatre for a mostly covers show called Blowin’ in the Wind: Folk-Rock in America (plus some Robbie songs). Ines Nassara has a voice that was a mixture of Tracy Chapman and Dionne Warwick, and did an amazing version of “Baltimore”. My favorite surprise was a take on “Go Your Own Way”. Lopez Broadway Bootcamp was next on the camp agenda that week:

We both took the day off Friday to get ready (and a haircut), then picked Nina up from camp and started vacation by driving up to Rochester. Best thing about that day was a stop at Bullfrog Brewery with delicious beer infused food and a wheel of beer sampler. The next morning we took a walk with Mom and her dog Tati, then went to the Strong Museum of Play, which we visited for 5 hours and still didn’t get to everything (we stopped at the Bill Gray’s diner inside for lunch). Mom and David hosted us for dinner in the private dining room at Cloverwood Senior Living where they live (I had some tasty lamb chops and my first raw oysters).


Sunday we had breakfast at Char Broil Restaurant, then I had to go to Best Buy to get some equipment as I was upgrading Mom’s computer, then I went over to Record Archive, where you can sip a beer while you browse the vinyl and CDs. Later we took a cruise on the Erie Canal through a lock and back again, then stopped at the nearby Pittsford Farms Dairy for ice cream. We finally met David’s daughter and two of her sons when we all had dinner together that night at Hong Wah Chinese Restaurant.

Kerry Jill Nina


Thursday the 2nd I finally found an epic #TBT I’d been looking for. In 1991 I was in LA with my family on Spring Break, and we got tickets to the Tonight Show, hoping to get Johnny, but we got Jay. I remember the Pet Shop Boys covering U2, but I didn’t realize that one of them had walked off stage in the middle of the song, and I didn’t remember Jim Carrey being there until I saw the clip (and how awkward it was to watch what Shelley Winters was saying next to my mom). From Literaly (Pet Shop Boys Fan club magazine): “During the first song (“Where The Streets …”) Chris noticed -watching a monitor showing the broadcast -that he hadn’t appeared on camera once and, understandably miffed, walked off during the song. The people from the TV show refused to re-shoot the song and so the Pet Shop Boys refused to play their second song.”

Jim Carrey Jay Leno

Saturday Jill joined friends at the Maryland sheep and wool festival, while I took Nina to tumbling, then Free Comic Book Day at Comic Logic Books & Artwork where Nina marveled at the staff member dressed as Black Widow and peppered me with questions. She loved her Disney Descendants comic and couldn’t wait to read it, then we ate lunch at Frito Chicken. Sunday we had an ER visit after we thought Nina might be having a reaction to new medication (likely heartburn, thank goodness) then had dinner at Mod Pizza. Nina asked for Oreos for dessert as this was her jam of the moment. I continued exploring the 4 pack of Game of Thrones beer with #gameofbeers part 2. This week was King of the North, a barrel aged stout. Heavy, but decent. B


Monday I thought this is just all kinds of awesome. Maybe we’ll make a return sometime. Thursday the 9th was concert #12: Neil Gaiman at the Weinberg Center for the Arts. On a night where traffic was so bad Google had me go west around Leesburg, we still got some quick seafood for dinner at the Shuckin’ Shack and managed to make it to our seats 5 minutes late, when he hadn’t gone on yet. Plus he read “Chivalry” (first time I’ve heard him do it in 20 years) and answered my question in the first group of questions and answers.
Q: I’ve seen the first episode of Good Omens, [well done] and while I’ve seen people discuss its influences, I felt it owed a debt to the television adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Was that intentional?
A: Absolutely. The first three minutes, more or less, of Good Omens is an absolute hat tip to the late Douglas Adams and to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy TV series. Tried to do it as if it was now. I loved Hitchhiker’s. When I was 25, 26 years old, I got to write The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy companion and worked with Douglas Adams. He was an inspiration and wonderful, ridiculously tall man. And so my brief to our wonderful graphics people was go wild, do what the Hitchhiker’s television show would have done for one of those early sequences where the voice of the book talks to you about something – if they could do it now, if they had our resources, if they had real computers rather than a very sweet man named Kevin Davis very slowly making it look like things were done with them. So yeah, absolutely intentional.


Saturday Dad and Patricia came over again for computer help – this time we had an early Mother’s Day brunch of french toast and bacon. Sunday was #gameofbeers part 3: Mother of Dragons, a smoked porter and kriek blend. Expected more smokiness, but a good mix to pair with grilled chicken and pasta that night (one of Jill’s favorites). B+


Thursday Jill’s car repairs cost more than her car so she got the Subaru Outback she’d been eyeing. Saturday the 18th was Nina’s tryouts for the new cheer year (some lovely new tastes at Old Ox while I waited), then by request I picked up Popeyes chicken for a neighbor’s pot luck party. We left Nina there so she could play with the kids after her babysitter arrived, then we went to concert #13: Eddie Izzard at Warner for his Wunderbar show, which ended with a very funny Lord of the Rings bit. Afterwards Jill and I had drinks at Proper 21 (and how could I say no to a drink called “Benny & The Jets” and made with rum & rhubarb?). Sunday we went to the Fine Arts festival then broke in the two seater inflatable kayak, then that evening was #gameofbeers part 4 and the series finale. Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. A sour blonde ale, kinda goes with my feelings. B

Eddie Izzard

Friday the 24th was Nina’s “graduation” from Tae Kwon Do as she’d been taking afterschool classes. She and I had dinner at Flippin’ Pizza before and I signed her up for some more classes. We also realized we weren’t as good friends with people as we thought we were when we were blindsided to see pictures of friends at a wedding that weekend we thought we would have been invited to. We did finish watching Good Omens as eBay is a wonderful place to find what you want. And yes, the show is as good as I had hoped.


Wednesday I saw this. If you’re a fan of the Dark Tower by Stephen King, there are some fascinating tidbits. Also from Warren Ellis’ weekly newsletter, 100% true for me:
“Also, a continuing personal rejection of Music As A Service. I purchase all my downloads. And if something for sale is offered for free on a streaming site, I try to track the thing down and buy it if I love it. (Hence I now own the Brian Eno “New Space Music” I put here a couple weeks back, thanks to EnoShop.) Sampling is fine. That’s what radio was/is for. I use YouTube and other services to sample things, and I think – I hope – it can help artists. But renting a music collection is bullshit and bad for everybody.
(As is, of course, acting as if music is free like air. That only works if you don’t let all the trees die.)
(But, I reiterate, personal. Not trying to make you feel bad for streaming here. This is just what works for me, and I am well aware of my personal privilege of having an amount of disposable income for music.)”


Friday the 31st what else would I do on a bachelor weekend but drop off the girls at Dulles (it was Jake’s graduation) at 6:30am so I could leave work by 3 to go to George Mason University and go to Fenwick Library for the first time since I was taking grad school classes there 25 years ago? I had an appointment at the Special Collections Research Center I made after seeing this article. I wanted to see if they had any of the articles I’d written for Expulsion then that I didn’t have. Unfortunately they didn’t have many of the papers I was missing. Then I stopped at Crazy Crab for some delicious seafood, loved how the gloves and the bib had me walking away unstained for once. Then it was time for concert #14: Sammy Hagar with Night Ranger at Wolf Trap. 4th time seeing Sammy (1 solo, 2 with VH), but 1st time seeing Night Ranger, and they were great. But Sammy (with Michael Anthony and Jason Bonham) just knocked it out of the park, especially on a cover of Rock And Roll (on John Bonham’s birthday no less).


Monday the 1st I was glad that finally there was a well done April Fool’s joke. Wednesday we took Nina to the Kennedy Center as Idina Menzel was headlining the Kennedy Center Gala. Unfortunately our plan to eat at the Kennedy Center was blown because the restaurants were closed for the gala. And the one restaurant close by ran out of food – I ordered pizza from &pizza a half mile away and it was ready when I got there. Concert #9 was still worth the trouble. Nina’s second Broadway related concert in a month, with songs from Frozen, Rent & Wicked, as well as stunning covers of “Dear Prudence”, “I Melt With You” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.

Kerry Nina Jill

Friday we again headed to Richmond for a cheer competition. A new hotel every time, this time the Four Points by Sheraton Richmond. Nina voted for sushi for dinner, so we ate at the nearby Hiro Sushi. They had a kid’s meal of Chicken & Vegetable Tempura, 4pcs California Roll, Edamame and Miso Soup – she tried everything but the Miso Soup (and bonus points for another girl of the same age there).


The next morning, after brunch at the hotel, I dropped them at the Arthur Ashe Athletic Center then checked out of the hotel. It was the third time that season in Richmond, but the first time I had time to make it to a record store like Eric Kader and I used to do in college. This was pretty decent. Jill said “Nina’s team rounded out their season with a huge WIN! As always, so proud of these girls.”


I picked an Italian restaurant, Arianna’s, that was on the way out of town, and we got there first, ordered a cheese pizza and drinks to start, and waited. And waited. Then Jill reached out to the cheer moms, who were wondering where we were – because there was ANOTHER Arianna’s, closer to Richmond, but also closer to the Ashe Center. So we drained our drinks and packed our pizza to go, only to be told by the asshat manager of the Sheppard St location that we couldn’t bring in “outside food”. So we ordered again (and snuck Nina a slice of that pizza). Food was only ok.


The next day Dad and Patricia came over for computer help, but it was also his birthday so I made eggs benedict with steamed artichokes to also dip in the hollandaise sauce (an old family tradition). Tuesday Nina went to a STEAM night at school. Wednesday the 10th Jill said “Nina wanted to know if astronauts could sleep in a rocket ship. So now we know how they do, and we both want to experience something so cool!!”

Patricia Nina Bryce

Saturday April 13th was the start of Shanty Spring Break, as we’d decided to vacation with the Cannons since our spring break coincided for the first time ever. We decided to meet halfway and rented a house in the Poconos for a week. We stopped at Arbys for lunch because neither Nina or Jill had eaten there and they were curious (it was a win/win). We arrived at the house only minutes before the Cannons and the girls explored while Chris and I went grocery shopping at the nearby Wal Mart.

Nina P

Sunday we drove 2+ hours to Hersheypark because it was the only day it was open when we were up there. Nina was delighted to have someone with her in the back seat. The girls all had a fabulous time on the rides. After lunch they admired one guy with 2 giant bears he’d won, and he gave them the bears. We let them lug them around a while before explaining they wouldn’t fit in our cars and they’d have to give them away to other kids. We stopped at La Casita De Familia for some delicious authentic Mexican food. Unfortunately road construction and a storm made for a tough trip after that, although figuring out how to stream the first episode of Game of Thrones made up for that.

V Nina

Monday was continued yucky weather; Jess and Jill did some more shopping while Chris and I took the girls to a local playground during a break. But they’d brought their Nintendo Switch and an extra Kindle (we managed to leave Nina’s charging at home) so they were all pretty happy. Tuesday we walked over to the lake, then after lunch went to Pocono Rocks! so the girls could use the climbing wall, bounce houses, and ninja course. We also checked out Ye Old Village Trader next door. After we were done, we went across the street to the Casino Theatre & Village Malt Shoppe to get ice cream and watch a movie. Or at least that was the intention – after 15 minutes of Missing Link, Nina was done and we played games in the arcade until the movie was done.

Nina Kerry

Wednesday we went to the Aquatopia Indoor Waterpark at Camelback Lodge. We started in the wave pool, then went on to the play structure and hot tub. Only the oldest girl was interested in the slides, but after we endured a long wait to get lunch (they’ve never heard of calling numbers, apparently), we took Nina up to ride the Venus Slydetrap (and waited out a closure when we were just about to ride it). After that, she was all in on the slides and more wave pool. Jess, Jill and I started watching Umbrella Academy.

Chris Jess P Nina Jill

Thursday I wanted to go to a CD store and Jill wanted to go to a yarn store, so we all drove to Wilkes-Barre to Gosh Yarn It!, then Chris and I went over to Gallery of Sound while they finished up and got some Italian ice. We traveled to Dickson City Laser Tag next where we all played an epic pirate themed game, then played games in their arcade. The girls had mostly played Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, but after they went to bed I was curious about Super Mario Odyssey and played into the wee hours.

C Kerry Nina P

Saturday the 19th it was time to leave, we cleaned up and packed up and got going. Jill said “I adopted a BFL sheep this year from Fluffy U Fiber Farm and got to pick up my fleece today! We met the sheep, goats, and sheepdogs and of course, their wonderful shepherd Katrina. It is a really gorgeous fleece! We drove down to Sweitzer’s Countryside Fiber Mill to drop it off in Heather’s capable hands and I will be seeing it again as pin drafted roving at Shenandoah Fiber Fest. I was so grateful to educate myself and my family about the local fiber industry here!” And due to road closures went the last mile to the fiber mill down a narrow gravel road in the rain, it felt very unsafe. The traffic everywhere was terrible and we took back roads and ended up at Maggie’s in Westminster for a late lunch of soup and sandwiches, then by the time we got to the Beltway the traffic was pretty good. That night a tornado touched down just 4 miles north of us. Sunday was Easter and Jill said Nina had a “prep curl selfie! N insisted”. I made a pecan crusted pork loin for dinner.


Monday the 22nd after a lousy start with a visit to urgent care for a tetanus shot after getting the deck boat ready for disposal, I went to Concert #10: Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets at Constitution Hall. I don’t love all the old Pink Floyd, but I do love Meddle, and “Fearless” live was wonderful. Of course “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun” and “One Of These Days” were great as well. In a nice flashback, there was even a guy selling bootleg t-shirts after the show (can’t remember last time that happened). Tuesday Nina’s cheer gym had rebranded to Stingray Allstars and they were letting all the old trophies and awards go so as Jill said “The Delta Sportmanship trophy has a new home now… from N’s first team last year”.


Wednesday was Concert #11: Alan Cumming at Strathmore. Very funny, plus some great covers including P!nk’s “Just Give Me a Reason” and Moana’s “How Far I’ll Go”. Jill said “We saw Alan Cumming tonight on his Legal Immigrant show tour -absolutely incredible! I had a goofy smile on my face pretty much the whole time he was onstage. One of my favorite evenings out, for sure.”

Alan Cumming

Friday was Nina’s spring school picture. Saturday the 27th Nina went to a birthday party in Warrenton and I was pretty happy when I found out that Old Bust Head was nearby. I brought a growler and enjoyed some loaded Garlic Tots from Two Smooth Dudes. Later, this was relevant to my interests; also, I love this gif they made.

hall of fame

Sunday Jill’s sisters were here for Maddie’s birthday and we went to Cheesecake Factory for brunch (Jill and them had gone to Georgetown on Saturday). Later I went to the GameStop in the other mall to get a working nunchuck and I wanted to finish Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii. That night it was time for #gameofbeers. Jill bought me a 4 pack of Game of Thrones beer for Christmas and with 4 episodes left it was time. 1st up was Hand of the Queen barleywine. Don’t drink too many, but smooth with a nice 10.7% ABV to get you through a 90 minute episode. B

Old Bust Head


On Saturday the 2nd we drove up to Whitetail for an afternoon of skiing. Or to be more accurate I skied, Nina went to ski school, and Jill knit. It was our first time in two years, so I didn’t last too long on my first pass, and Nina didn’t remember much from her week in school last time. But we had fun, and stopped at Popeyes and Sonic for dinner before driving home.

Kerry Nina

Tuesday I ate dinner at Pi before heading over to Capital One Arena for concert #5: Fleetwood Mac. I will argue with anyone that Lindsey Buckingham is the all time MVP of the Mac (when Christine McVie isn’t there, they skip her songs; when he isn’t there they hire a guitarist AND singer to replace him). But I was intensely curious to see what would happen as they’d brought on world class replacements this time: Neil Finn (of Crowded House) and Mike Campbell (of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers). I’d waited until the last minute to score a ticket and got a floor ticket 3 hours before the show for $100, and got in with minutes to spare.


It was a hits filled show, kicking off with “The Chain”. Neil had good strong vocals and Mike ably performed the solo (without Lindsey’s finger plucking style). “Little Lies” was back in the lineup (as it had been since Christine McVie returned in 2014), then “Dreams”, “Second Hand News”, and “Say You Love Me”. Next was the first time for me hearing “Black Magic Woman” performed by the Mac – with Stevie on lead vocals and Mike tearing it up on guitar it sounded great (ironically one of the reasons Lindsey wasn’t there was he’d wanted to do more deep cuts). “Everywhere” and “Rhiannon” followed, and then the evening’s only embarrassment: “World Turning” and Mick Fleetwood’s way too long drum solo. The mandatory “Gypsy” was next, and then another throwback: “Oh Well” with Mike taking a turn on vocals (the last time I heard him play that song was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers show in 2006, which also featured Stevie).

Fleetwood Mac

One of the highlights was Neil starting solo on “Don’t Dream It’s Over” and Stevie joining in halfway through, and “Landslide” had a different vibe with Neil on guitar. Straight hits all the way through to end the set (“Hold Me“, “Monday Morning“ “You Make Loving Fun“ “Gold Dust Woman“ and “Go Your Own Way”), then the encore started with a moving tribute to Tom Petty with “Free Fallin’” (and a slideshow on the video screens of Tom, Stevie and Mike), followed by “Don’t Stop” and the left field finale of “All Over Again” (from Time [1995] – I was curious if “Freedom”, from Behind the Mask [1990], the only Mac cowrite by Stevie and Mike, would make it on the setlist but no).


Sunday the 10th was concert #6: Laura Benanti at the Barns At Wolf Trap. A Saturday matinee was a good opportunity to introduce Nina to the other venue at Wolf Trap, plus she got a taste of Broadway and an outstanding Tori Amos cover. My first time sitting in the balcony too. Thursday Jill said “we live on a popular walking path and someone left this in our front yard at the crux of the tree roots as they passed. Made me smile. Sooo…someone else noticed it, picked it up and turns out it’s a pretty rad thing!” Friday Nina had a wacky school day.


Saturday the 16th we went down to the Hirshhorn and saw the Pulse exhibit, then saw concert #7 as Baba Ras D performed as part of their Maker Mornings. It reminded me of the Wolf Trap Artsplay classes I used to take Nina to. We also had a cold picnic lunch next to the food trucks outside, then walked over to the National Museum of American History where Nina liked the activities in the Spark!Lab and seeing Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers (she used her money to buy Toto in a picnic basket).


Thursday I laughed and laughed to see them dealing what we have to deal with every day. Also, this is relevant to my interests. Friday the 22nd we endured some crazy weather (including coating the road sleet) to get to the Wingate by Wyndham Atlantic City West just outside Atlantic City (because all the reviews of hotels in Atlantic City proper were terrible). We got dinner at Tacos El Tio, a cute Mexican place nearby with possibly the best veggie side ever (sautéed zucchini, bell peppers, onions,& asparagus with a little chipotle).


The next day I thought Monopoly was all made up, but here we were in Atlantic City and I had just turned from Indiana onto Baltic. It was a decent day enlivened for me with a walk over to the White House Sub Shop for some oversized subs for Jill and I. Jill said “We had a whirlwind trip to Atlantic City where the Diamonds hit a no deduction routine once again!! 2nd place in the biggest competition of the season -Diamonds shining bright in the city! We had to stop at an Italian bakery on our way home for some celebratory treats”.

Jill Nina

Sunday this was the result “…when you have a daughter who wants to practice her make up skills and you realize it’s only fair… not bad for a 7 year old, eh?”

Jill Nina

Monday the 35th I didn’t know why this exists, but Elton John shows up halfway through like the Wizard of Oz and I wasn’t expecting that. Tuesday I grabbed a quick sandwich at Wawa because I was late leaving for concert #8: Experience Hendrix at the Warner Theatre (got there with 5 minutes to spare). I last saw the tribute show in 2007, and it had to be an amazing lineup to drag me out on a night Jill was working. So they got Dave Mustaine (from Megadeth) and Joe Satriani, and I was in. Great show, hadn’t seen Dweezil Zappa, Eric Johnson or Jonny Lang before. The first 2/3 of the show was fun with everyone swapping in and out, including Taj Mahal and Hendrix’s own Billy Cox on bass. But the highlight for me was the end where Joe Satriani came out with Doug Pinnick (from King’s X) & Kenny Aronoff – they had obviously rehearsed a lot together and blew everyone away. Thursday Jill chaperoned Nina’s trip to the American Indian Museum (and got thank you cards from the kids afterwards) while Saturday she finished an epic sweater.



On Saturday the 1st we were up super early and on the road. We were trying to get to the Metropark transit center in New Jersey by 9AM. Miraculously, we got there at 8:40. We took a NJ Transit train to New York Penn Station, where we met Jill’s mom Sue and her niece Ava, then went upstairs so Nina could get her first look at New York City.

Nina Kerry

First stop was Macy’s, where we checked out the shop windows on the west and south, then went upstairs to look around and Nina wrote a letter to Santa. We went back outside and saw the windows on the east side, then walked over to the Empire State Building. Several hours later, we’d been to the top and the gift shop, and were running a bit behind. Luckily we got a free ride on the subway as the lines for the fare machines were very long and soon got to Radio City Music Hall where we joined the long lines waiting to get in. My mom joined us as her train had arrived and she’d taken a cab over.

Jill Nina Kerry

We got inside just in time and rushed the girls upstairs to see the Christmas Spectacular Starring The Radio City Rockettes while the rest of us dealt with lines for food, drinks, souvenirs and bathrooms. The show was pretty good (although more explicitly Christmas-sy than I realized). After the show we made the mistake of trying to get a picture of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, along with about 10,000 other people (the first Saturday after it’s lit is a very bad idea). Mom got lost looking for a bathroom and ended up in a church – in the meantime Jill and her mom took the girls to FAO Schwartz. We had wanted to get dinner together, but by the time we’d all found each other it was time for Mom to go. Nina and I helped her hail a taxi, then the rest of us made our way back to Penn Station. We had time for dinner there and I went upstairs to Pennsy to get sandwiches for Jill and I from Pat LaFrieda.


We all left for our respective trains, and then started driving. I’d decided that 9:30 was a little late to drive all the way home since we’d gotten up so early, so we stopped for the night at the Hampton Inn Bordentown. In the morning Nina was in the pool again (more energy burn off), then we drove home.

Nancy Nina Jill Ava Sue

Monday night I drove up to Strathmore to see concert #52: Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman with Marty Stuart. I missed out seeing The Byrds, but I couldn’t miss this tour to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Sweetheart of the Rodeo album. With Marty Stuart sitting in for Gram Parsons as they performed the entire album and other Byrds classics, they managed to surpass themselves with a tribute to collaborator Tom Petty during the encore. And totally worth it, the vocals, the jingle jangle of Roger’s Rickenbacker, it was all there (plus Marty Stuart owns Clarence White’s guitar). Have to remember to find a better parking place next time, as getting out of the garage was a real mess. Interesting side note that in the last month, I’ve seen 5 acts for the first time – an oddity when you’ve seen more than 3000 concerts.

Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman

Thursday the 6th Jill said “Not sure whether Nina is more excited for the start of competition season or Christmas… it’s a toss up!”. Friday Nina had a ice skating birthday party she attended. Saturday we drove down to Richmond for a cheer competition and we stopped in Ashland at my alma mater on the way down so Nina could see it. I’m glad we did – looks like they’re about to knock down the Holiday Inn I spent my freshman year at. Nina got to swim at the pool with her team and they all did their hair while I had dinner at the Secret Sandwich Society. Early the next morning Jill woke me up with the news that the competition had been canceled as a dusting of snow had changed to a serious snowstorm, and we were on our way home as the flakes started coming down. That night I wondered what did parents do before superglue?


Monday after Nina’s nightly compulsory reading was done she chose to read her new Descendants graphic novel. On the 12th I wasn’t expecting to have to take Nina to a concert I didn’t want to go to so soon. Now we’re heading to JoJo Siwa 7/19 at Wolf Trap. Jill said “Ever since we need to do curls for cheer competitions this girl has been asking for curls to wear to school for ages. I finally obliged – fingers crossed!”, and the next morning “and after! This girl loves those curls!” Nina also got to share what she loves about her school with friends in an official video that day.


Saturday the 15th we went to National Harbor for the next cheer competition. With a couple hours to kill, I went over to the Brass Tap and had tater tots with beer cheese, chicken sliders and a beer sampler, then went over to the thunderously loud ballroom where we’d spend the next several hours, and came up with 3 rules to survive cheer competitions:

  1. Alcohol
  2. Caffeine
  3. Repeat

Happily Nina’s team won their category – her first time getting first place in cheer (and her first cheer medal). Our friends Meg and Toby stayed with us because they had an overnight layover at Dulles, so of course we took them to the holiday party hosted by our neighbor John. The next day we had our holiday party in the afternoon (because there was literally no other time in December that would work) and had a nice turnout as we had cookie decorating for everyone. That night I didn’t know why some places are banning “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” when “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” is so problematic. She started asking questions about it that night. Luckily the worst one was “How does he stay warm?” I also saw they did a Doctor Who Christmas Special after all!


Saturday the 22nd was concert #53: Todd Wright’s Annual Santa Clauster-f@%! at Jammin’ Java. Unfortunately Nina was under the weather with asthma so I was solo – on the plus side I got to see the whole 3 hour plus extravaganza and got to see my first live performance of one of my favorite songs, Tom Petty’s “Christmas All Over Again” by Anthony Fiacco. Meanwhile Jill and Nina had a Christmas movie marathon. Jill said “I love that she chooses the Tulle shawl I made for her to help comfort her while she’s sick”. The next afternoon was concert #54: Trans-Siberian Orchestra at Capital One Arena. With lunch at Nandos beforehand, Nina had a fun day, only complaining because we left early. Later was the church Christmas Pageant, representing the “kings and queens”.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra

On Christmas Nina was delighted with her big gift of a Barbie Dreamhouse and lots of LOL dolls, then Jill had a 3 hour nap. Dad and Patricia joined us for lunch and we had ham with all the trimmings, then I got a nap before Jill left for work that night. The next day Nina and I built the Lego Hogwarts Express she’d received from my mom. Jill took Nina back to National Harbor for ICE! on Thursday, saying “we had a fun filled day at the Gaylord National Harbor Hotel to experience ICE! It was pretty cool (see what I did there?) . We also walked around the National Harbor, then dropped into Fibre Space on the way home (and shockingly just browsed!)”


Friday the 28th we endured all day rain on our drive up to Boston, stopping at Nina’s new favorite restaurant, White Castle. We arrived at my sister’s house in time for Nina to have dessert and go to bed. Saturday we had a belated Christmas with them and my mom and David who’d driven over as well. That night we had Chris and Jess over as Jill and I made fajitas, then Chris, Jess, Sharon, Tom, Jill and I went to concert #55: Enter the Haggis at Spire in Plymouth, MA. Because in the season of friends and family you go to your last concert of the year with friends and family. Great gift, sis! Too bad they shut down Plymouth for an event making it tricky to park.


Sunday we drove over to Jill’s sister in western Massachusetts and stopped for lunch at Stone’s Public House for a delicious brunch. Delighted to see the Ashland in Massachusetts also has train tracks running through town. Melissa made spaghetti for us for dinner. New Year’s Eve Jill’s younger sister Robin came over with her family and we opened gifts from Jill and Robin’s dad who was sick. We and the Bradys went out to see Mary Poppins Returns in the afternoon (practically perfect), then Jill and I sent Nina back with them and got drinks while we waited to get takeout from North Garden (totally slammed). After dinner, we opened crackers. Nina had campaigned hard to stay up for the New Year. Her youngest cousin was, so we let her (her first intentional one), then everyone went to bed.



Friday the 2nd was concert #46: Regina Spektor with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center. Plus bonus Ben Folds during an encore of “Dear Theodosia”. I was late getting there and missed dinner, and ended up stopping for dim sum at Hong Kong Pearl in Seven Corners after the show. Saturday morning I took Jill and Nina to National Airport for their weekend in Massachusetts, then back to bed. Once I got up again, it was off to CD Cellar, then over to my dad. We had a light lunch, then drove over to the Eastern Shore. It was a lovely day with beers at Eastern Shore Brewing, then seafood on the water at Capsize. Finally it was time for concert #47: Don McLean at the Avalon Theatre (I’d offered Dad him or Brian Wilson), a great show by a classic act.

Don McLean

Monday I don’t watch Family Guy anymore, but this is pretty good. Tuesday I voted, then picked Jill and Nina up from East Falls Church (they had a lot of fun with Jill’s family), then went to work. That night I stayed up late watching the live shows until the blue wave was confirmed.

Ava Nina

Thursday the 8th was concert #48: Toto at Warner Theatre. The last two concerts were the first time seeing acts, and both of them stretched their biggest hit out for more than 10 minutes. Good career spanning show, though. Saturday Jill was out at a baby shower and after Nina’s tumbling I took her to Chick-fil-A for lunch and then Monster Mini Golf.


November was a good month for comics about Jill, with this, that, and of course this (also mustaches, as I decided to grow one for Movember). Saturday night we dropped Nina at the gym and saw Bohemian Rhapsody, which was outstanding. History may have been twisted in favor of drama in spots, but a fun look at how many classics were created. Bummed they didn’t cast our friend Dave at Live Aid though. Tuesday some nights were just about playing Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest.


Friday the 16th we picked up Nina from school and attempted to drive north. Traffic was so bad on the Beltway Google said 15 was a better option, but that was a crawl until Maryland. We stopped for dinner at Franco’s Italian Bistro in Catonsville and had a lovely dinner and by the time we were done traffic had died down and we were soon at the Renaissance Philadelphia Airport Hotel. It was late and soon we were in bed.


The next morning we were in the pool first thing (the reason for choosing the hotel so Nina could burn off some energy), then had breakfast at the restaurant (we’d been comped for some reason) before heading into Philadelphia. We stopped at a bakery near the University of Pennsylvania where Nina picked out a delicious and expensive chocolate cake, then we went over to Tony and Charissa’s house where they were hosting Friendsgiving again. This was the longest we’d stayed, but we vowed to stay 2 nights next year as we hadn’t visited with all the Shantytowners before it was getting dark and time to drive home.


Sunday was concert #49: Alan Parsons Live Project at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. My favorite moment was when he directed us on a chorus and said “Now you’ve all been produced by Alan Parsons”. I had a quick dinner first at Carpaccio. Thursday we had a nice Thanksgiving at home with my favorite new discovery: Popeye’s Cajun Turkey. The only problem was the juices were a bit too spicy to make gravy for Nina, so we had to use chicken broth, but otherwise perfect.


Friday the 23rd we went over to Reston Town Center for the holiday parade, with one big change: Nina was marching in the parade with her fellow Brownies. It was a crisp cold morning, but we were bundled up well and survived waiting until it was our turn. Nina had a lot of fun marching and seeing friends, plus we got to wait at the end and still see Santa. We stopped by Scrawl Books for a reading and buying some books, then lunch at Ted’s Bulletin. The next day was super rainy, but we still made it over for lunch and visit with my dad and Patricia, for the first time at her house.


Tuesday I was laughing so hard I can’t breathe at this. That week was a bit busier than normal as Jill picked up one of Nina’s cheer team from school before the Tuesday and Thursday practices, plus Nina had a private lesson from Coach Kyle after Girl Scouts on Wednesday. But we got everything done and on Friday they did open gym while I went to concert #50: Crash Test Dummies with Todd Wright at The Hamilton. Honestly, this concert was a maybe, trending to no because we had an early start the next day. But then Todd announced he was opening, and I took a listen to “God Shuffled His Feet” (25th anniversary tour) and knew every song, and suddenly it was a must. I got to DC late, but had a backup plan of tacos at the bar at MXDC next door, still in a seat by showtime.


I’ve seen Todd a lot, but this may have been his finest lineup yet, playing to the crowd with Ethan Mentzer, Emma Rowley, and Tommy Gann. I had some sushi and sake after I talked to them and picked up their new Christmas CD then the main event. Brad Roberts and Ellen Reid’s voices were unchanged by time, and the songs sounded great (especially Ellen’s cover of an XTC song). Worth the sleep deprivation.


On Tuesday the 2nd Nina had fun at school making guacamole. Saturday we went to Joe Gibbs’ Youth for Tomorrow for the first cheer performance of the season. Nina had sun with the rides, and we got concert #41: Wesley Spangler, because sometimes you go to a festival and run across a decent country act. That night was concert #42: Shag at the Recording Industry Association of America for my 30th high school reunion. Decent covers and voice, and appropriate for a reunion (where it was good to catch up with folks).

Nina Kerry

Monday the 8th we took Nina to Cox Farms for the Fall Festival, where we met up with one friend and found some neighbors. Weird to be there when it’s blazing hot and walk out with pumpkins. The next day I went down a rabbit hole I had no idea existed with this very long read. Wednesday was Walk/Bike to School Day, and the only time besides the 1st day of school we’ve walked to school so far this year.

Jill Nina Kerry

Thursday I posted this video. Watch the bottom right corner for Jill, Jolene, and a special guest enjoying her first Herndon Festival. Friday was concert (show) #43: Mystery Science Theater 3000 at Lisner. Good to see Jonah and Joel together, and they picked an excellently terrible movie to riff on. Afterwards we had dinner at Burger, Tap & Shake, so good.

Kerry Jill

Wednesday the 17th I found out that Joe Satriani and Dave Mustaine (from Megadeth) were at next year’s Experience Hendrix tour and bought tix. Also, I and my fellow fraternity members got called out.


This was a fascinating read Friday on the way to concert #44: Lindsey Buckingham with J.S. Ondora at Warner Theatre. Nice overview of his solo career, with several Mac classics thrown in. And J.S. Ondora is one to watch, great voice. The next night was concert (show) #45: Beetlejuice at The National Theatre. Perfect pre-Halloween timing for a funny musical with some good songs. I predict great things for Sophia Anne Caruso (Lydia). Pre show dinner at upscale Mexican restaurant Poca Madre was fantastic (the cocktails should have been served at the Harry Potter event in September).


Monday was my birthday and we had a nice dinner with some Bonchon chicken, with neighbors over for the homemade carrot cake. Saturday the 27th Nina started her new YouTube channel. Sunday she had a Pep Rally at her gym showing off all the groups and their routines. Later we introduced her to Jill’s favorite holiday movie: The Nightmare Before Christmas. Jill said “verdict: she liked it. Maybe didn’t love it, but didn’t hate it, either!”


Wednesday the 31st was Halloween. Nina was Hermoine Granger again and got to trick or treat with the usual neighborhood bunch.



We began the month as we always do, with Nina’s birthday party on Saturday the 1st. We had it at the nearby Ridge Heights Pool after it closed, and the first hour was fine. The second hour with thunder and lightning and eating cake huddled near the entrance wasn’t as fun. Jill said “It was a rainy, crazy, outdoor evening pool party. Most folks showed up which I am eternally grateful for; and also stepped up to make it N’s ‘best birthday party ever!!!’ We have built such a great community around us; we are lucky to call it home.” She also said later “It’s a 2 beer while in the bath kind of night”.


Jill’s mom Sue came down the next day with her husband Dave – they’d spend the next week on vacation, mostly with us. We had more cake for Nina then. Jill said “Happy 7th to my favorite girl! You’re brave, kind, a great friend, and loving daughter. You have your own sense of style and loads of confidence and sass. Your favorite food is Daddy’s ramen, your favorite dessert is ice cream, your favorite colors are pink, blue, and rainbow. My wish is for you to keep your sparkle always. Love always, Mama.” On Monday, Jill, Nina and Sue went apple picking. Tuesday Sue and and Dave babysat and we celebrated our anniversary at Maple Ave – the lamb was excellent.

Kerry Jill

Bonus points if you can spot Nina in this video.

Thursday the 6th was concert #35: Alanis Morissette at Wolf Trap. Rainy, and we ate our dinner from The Sandwich Shop (which replaced Chase the Submarine) after the show because traffic was terrible, but a great show. Apparently I’m on a see her once each decade schedule.


Saturday it was rainy but Nina insisted we had to go to the South Lakes Village Center Playtime on the Plaza we’d seen earlier in the week when going out for dinner with Dave (and Flippin’ Pizza had been closed, so Nina got her first Subway visit). So after tumbling class we stopped by and she made art and slime in the rain (thankfully they had popup tents). Later she finally got to go fishing with Pop Pop before he left. That night we were out again for concert #36: For U: A Symphonic Celebration of Prince at Wolf Trap. Hands down worst concert of the year for the decision to not use any vocalists. Prince’s music without the lyrics is only half the reason he was so great. I don’t need an oboe doing the melody during “1999”. Basically a too expensive karaoke experience. At least the evening was saved with drinks at Clarity.

Dave Nina

Sunday the 9th we visited the new Founding Farmers in Reston for the first time to have brunch with Sue and Dave before they headed home. Tuesday I thought of course Ben Folds wrote a song about Rod Rosenstein. I think he’s been hanging around DC too long now. Also his new Declassified show with Regina Spektor on November 2nd was now on sale. Thursday I agreed with this article that you don’t trust things in the cloud will stay there unless you put them there and are paying for the storage.


Thursday the 20th I agreed with an article on re-reading the first Harry Potter book. We’d gotten about a third through the second one by then. I also agreed with Krebs about credit freezes – the bad guys have my info at least 15 times and counting.


Friday the 21st I had an early flight out from Dulles, stopping in Denver and ending in Las Vegas. The flights were not ideal, but the record store crawl in the morning and afternoon with Norm was a lot of fun (the first location of Zia Records was my favorite). We stopped for some Vietnamese at the end, then I checked into my room at the Tropicana. I’d forgotten to pick up sunscreen or a comb on my travels, and the hotel was happy to oblige for $20. Later I caught a bus downtown to concert #37: The Weeknd, Death Cab For Cutie, Justice, CHVRCHES, Slyvan Esso, The Neighbourhood, What So Not & Elohim, plus comedians Brandon Wardell, Jimmy O. Yang, & Rory Scovel at Life is Beautiful. I wasn’t sure what to expect with a festival in the middle of the city, but it was well done (couldn’t hear any bleed over from different stages) and they never ran out of food and drink (especially the hot Cheeto dusted grilled cheese sandwich from Stripchezze and fries from Fukuburger). I was most looking forward to CHVRCHES and they did not disappoint. My only complaint about the festival was nowhere did I see that tickets were required for the comedy shows – but they let me in on standby, so I can’t complain too much.

Life is Beautiful

Saturday I read in the hotel room for a while, then went out to concert #38: Greta Van Fleet at the Daytime Stage at the 2018 iHeartRadio Music Festival. While I’m not a gambler, I did take a chance on a very cheap ticket and lost. But I’d seen the day before you could see the stage from the street, and my bus pass was good for 24 hours. I got there right as they were going on and found a covered bus stop that had a bench I could stand on and see over the fence. Great Led Zep sound (the word is correct – that singer can howl like Plant), but it was still 100 degrees out, and left as soon as they were done to get my Pho’rench Dip at Lardo (French dip with a Banh Mi and Pho, delectable).

Greta Van Fleet

Later it was time for the main reason for returning to Vegas: concert #39: Queen + Adam Lambert at Park Theater. It’s been 15 years since my only previous Vegas trip and 25 years since I first saw Brian May at Hammerjacks (and got to shake his hand thanks to Katie from Expulsion chatting up the merch guy). I’ve seen him in Queen with Roger Taylor 5 times since, but that night was truly epic. A 5000 seat venue would have been amazing no matter what, but I ponied up for a seat on stage. As much as their show is great in an arena, it was overpowering in there. The songs, the lights – all the spectacle was more intense. Yes, Freddie’s gone, but Adam’s voice and showmanship has skyrocketed since he’s been playing with them. And there’s no mistaking those drums and that guitar during songs like “Don’t Stop Me Now”, “Bohemian Rhapsody”, and “We Will Rock You”. Having long time Queen keyboardist Spike Edney turn around and urge us to clap was great, and Roger flashed me a peace sign after I flashed one to him. And while Brian only smiled at me, I did get to shake Adam’s hand. The only WTF moment was Carrot Top coming into our section about 30 minutes before the end and just watching the show (and the band saying hi to him as they passed). This was a very nice picture a lady in my section took.


Afterwards I had a late dinner at Bruxie, a delicious couple of fried chicken & waffle sliders, then quick to bed and yet another early morning flight, unfortunately this time on Frontier. Between the extra fees (fees for carry ons) and the delayed flight (where it was marked as departed on time officially), I won’t be using them again. But at least I still got back in the late afternoon. Nina won her first Apple award in second grade on Friday and got a nice afternoon and evening with old friends Saturday before a brief trip to urgent care while I was away.


Monday the 24th I saw cardsagainsthumanityhackstheelection.com and read “Q: Why don’t you stick to making games and keep out of politics? A: Why don’t you stick to sliding marbles up your urethra?” and nearly snorked iced tea all over my monitor. Friday Nina asked for ramen at a sitdown restaurant (we often go out or get takeout the nights Jill works). We ended up at Red Kimono in Herndon (pretty good ramen, but Nina was not a sushi fan). I wasn’t expecting to see a band that night, but we heard a music when we left, and ended up at concert #40: Nah. at Jambrew. Sounded nice, but Nina was more interested in playing “hiding from Professor Snape”.


Saturday the 29th we got on the road quickly and headed down to Staunton, which was celebrating Queen City Mischief & Magic, a festival of all things Harry Potter. We’d gotten about 3/4 through Chamber of Secrets when we arrived, and we got Nina into her new Hogwarts robes. Right off we met Dumbledore and Hagrid, posed as the other Weasleys, then waited as Nina got her wish to be sorted into Gryffindor. We got some lunch from nearby food trucks and stands (BBQ for Jill and I, PB&J for her), then went on to see a glass blowing demonstration and Platform 9 3/4. We waited to go in Pufferbellies (the toy store) where she picked out Lego minifigures, then went to a potions class by Redwood & Co (or make your own bath lotion, but nicely tailored for the occasion). We also got to meet the Four Founders and Nina got to visit 2 cupboards under the stairs. Finally it was getting late and we went to Shenandoah Pizza & Tap House where we demolished a large pizza. We also stopped for ice cream at Kline’s Dairy Bar before finally getting to our room at the Econo Lodge – not the nicest, but all we needed was a place to sleep.


The next morning we had a hearty breakfast at Kathy’s Restaurant (with giant pancakes the size of Nina’s head), then got on the road. We made a last minute decision to stop at Luray Caverns and that was fun – neither Jill or Nina had been before, and it was a nice walk. We didn’t have time for any other attractions, as Jill wanted to visit the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival. So we drove up there and Nina and I walked around, visited the sheep and goats and shared fries while Jill shopped.

Nina Jill


We were still in Massachusetts on Wednesday the 1st. Nina and Ava were with Jill’s mom and two other cousins, so we took the remaining kids to Cheesecake Factory for lunch, then Dave & Busters (I like the Star Wars Battle Pod a lot, played it 3 times). Jill and I did some camp shopping before heading back to East Longmeadow, where a family barbeque brought lots of folks over (and me on burger duty). Later I went grocery shopping at Big Y.


Thursday we packed the car super full and got on the road towards the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. They had closed the roads due to rain the day before, but happily everything was clear by the time we got there and soon we had our tent up. Nina has happiest when the Cannons arrived so soon there was lots of screaming and running around. Jill and I made fajitas, then that night was concert #25: Ryanhood, Abbie Gardner & Dan Navarro at Lounge Stage (really felt Stuart’s spirit at that one, don’t think I’ve ever seen Abbie and Dan together), followed later by concert #26: Seth Morgan at the Budgiedome.


Friday it rained a lot early and took most of the day to dry out. A number of us had to supplement security and shut down the muddy roads. Nina got to yell “Ice!” from the ice truck. The Cannons made dinner, and later we took the girls to concert #27: Gandalf Murphy & The Slambovian Circus Of Dreams at the Dance Tent (they all want to be jellyfish next year after seeing the umbrella parade). After bedtime was concert #28: a singalong at Shantytowne (with new favorite original composition by Seth: “Don’t Put Fireworks (Up Your Butt)”).

Jill Kerry Nina

Saturday was much nicer weather, but not much excitement on the music front. We made corn for the potluck dinner (this year Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy themed) and posed for the family picture (Nina had to have Patty’s dolphin mask). Later a bunch of folks went over for concert #29: Jason Spooner and Dar Williams at Main Stage, then a final concert #30: another singalong at Shantytowne.


Sunday the 5th was the usual fun of packing up and getting on the road. As we do so often these days, we detoured through Pennsylvania rather than face New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland gridlock. Monday Nina started skateboarding camp but wanted to go swimming afterwards so Jill took her to Lifetime. She ran into a friend there, so they had dinner and since power was out at home I was forced to go eat at the bar at Red’s Table (poor me – meat and cheese plate and onion rings). After a week of skateboarding camp, she’d learned to ride pretty good. I got fun questions at bedtime that night though: “Do you put all the presents under the tree? The other kids say Santa’s not real and parents put out presents. Can I go to Antarctica and see if Santa’s there?”


That Sunday I’d found one concert I wanted to use free lawn seats for thanks to a Ticketmaster settlement, and that was concert #31: Pentatonix and Echosmith at Jiffy Lube Live. I knew I liked Echosmith, and I was curious to see how Pentatonix would fare at a shed. They turned into a boy band (choreography, outfits, etc.) and did quite well. Most kids I’ve seen at a show all year.


Thursday the 16th I’d been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack in the car, which had sparked some interesting conversations and knowledge (I didn’t remember all these candidates). But that morning the soundtrack ended and I had Hamildrops next in the playlist. I was expecting some of the songs to be NSFW, but not The Decemberists’ one. I thought I hit the volume down fast, before I heard from the back seat “Do you know who the funk I am?”. Sigh. Later I found out Aretha Franklin had passed. This was my Twitter feed that day. Respect.


Friday was the end of Nina’s week in art camp, so the parents were invited to watch performances by each of the five groups they’d sorted themselves into. Unfortunately they were all non-verbal with no explanations. Nina’s group was “Girls’ Club”, and she was a mermaid. Saturday Jill and I went out to eat at Honeysuckle (luckily it was Restaurant Week – a delicious lamb tartare and confit duck leg for me) before seeing concert #32: Hamilton at the Kennedy Center. Worth the wait.

Jill Kerry

Monday it was back to Lifetime camp, more of a problem as a boy she calls her bully was there (he looks at her at lunch and teases her). She was ok since he wasn’t in her group but she wasn’t looking forward to camp that week. Wednesday the 22nd Nina and I went to Wolf Trap for a buffet for members, then concert #33: Peter Cetera. 13 year old me would have been very happy. 47 year old me was escorting around an almost 7 year old, which probably would have surprised 13 year old me more than the music. Nina got to meet her teacher, Mrs. Gregston, at a back to school event the next day, then that night was concert #34: Joseph, Shovels & Rope and Dawes, also at Wolf Trap. Nice indie combo, and all bands I’d been wanting to see. I even glimpsed Mrs. Cannon riding up in a cart. I stayed late but it was too chilly for me in short sleeves as Dawes neared the end.


Saturday Jill took Nina to a birthday party, then her sister, niece, and mother arrived and we had dinner from Hunan East. Sunday they were all helping the niece move in and I took Nina to the inaugural Fairfax Comic Con (in Chantilly, of course). She had a blast, making masks and capes with other kids, seeing Star Wars cosplay, doing archery and participating in the costume contest. My sister texted me while I was there and asked about getting Nina a birthday present, and I responded that I was getting pressure to buy her things there, so that worked out. Plus I got to meet John Cassaday. The next day Jill’s mom took Nina to the National Zoo.


Tuesday the 28th was Nina’s first day of second grade, and she got to walk over with a friend from class. Scrolling through social media, the internet was won for the day with this:
We went to Glory Days Grill for the second time in 5 days as Nina was determined to take advantage of the face painting on Wednesday (the food isn’t bad and I enjoy the new Impossible burger there).


Friday the 31st we’d been remiss in introducing Nina to Harry Potter fandom, so we’d been listening to the first book in the car and tonight went to see the first movie in a theatre with Jill’s mom after dinner at Uncle Julio’s and splashing at Fairfax Corner (they were reshowing them all for the 20th anniversary of the first book). Afterwards I gave her a Hermione wand and Hogwarts letter I bought for her when she was 3 months old, and heard “Wingardium Leviosa” from the back seat all the way home (the next day the Barbies went to Hogwarts – Ken is Harry, 2 Barbies are Hermione and Professor McGonagall).