emmet, Mom, ELnoP and a lack of sleep

It’s a been several days of a lot of work and some fun. Saturday I got some work in, then we headed over to Iota to catch emmet swimming‘s first ever “fam­ily show”. The only thing that was especially kid friendly was handing out noisemakers to the kids before “Sunblock” – otherwise it was a nice rock show, with some brand new songs. We wandered around but Jill wanted pizza, so we headed over to the Italian Store. 0 for 2 there (they stop making pizza early), and we ended up at Ray’s Hell Burger for dinner. My burger was the spiciest one I’ve ever had and Jill enjoyed hers.

emmet swimming

Sunday I got a little cleaning and some more work done, then Mom came over and we took her to an early dinner at Amphora. Jill had Chicken Piccata and I had an Italian panini, both tasty. Later I headed over to the Birchmere to catch Keith Emerson and Greg Lake from Emerson, Lake and Palmer. The progressive rock icons played epic songs and put on a self indulgent show that I enjoyed, but it wasn’t for everyone (and made more enjoyable for me since I’d heard an earlier show on the tour). The encore of “Lucky Man” was just incredible, totally worth it.

Keith Emerson and Greg Lake

After I got back Sunday night I started work again. I had a deadline Monday morning, and the more I did, the more I realized there was still to do, so just kept going, and soon it was 6AM. So I just took a shower and had breakfast, then went into work, staying until almost 8. We did reward ourselves for dinner as I picked up Pad Thai (for me) and green curry chicken (for Jill) at Thai Basil, very good. Happily I did get some sleep last night and everything was in better shape today.

House hunting

The weekend was fairly low key, but we kept busy. Friday Jill was interested in going out but I’d worked late and was tired, and quickly grilled some sausages and then we watched TV.

Saturday morning we cleaned up the house as an appraiser was coming by. It didn’t take too long as we don’t have that much stuff out right now, then I ran some errands (shredding papers, book sale, Free Comic Book Day and groceries).

That afternoon we looked at houses at Lake Anne and took a walk around part of the lake. We went to Charlie Chiang’s at Worldgate for dinner – hadn’t been there in a while and they’d remodeled a bit. The food is mostly the same: buffet/Mongolian, always a very filling meal for me.

Later that night we watched Hamlet starring Patrick Stewart and David Tennant – great performances indeed, but I don’t think either of us would really enjoy seeing Shakespeare performed live, it’s as if it’s in a language you barely remember.

Sunday we continued our tour through the Reston lakes. We’d been to Lake Newport a couple weeks back to look at one place, this time we hit Lakes Thoreau and Audubon. One on Lake Thoreau we kinda dismissed immediately, then the idea of it grew on us – we may make an offer on it (it’s 7 miles away from our current house).

In the late afternoon we headed down into our nice cool basement and packed books until we finally ran out of boxes. I never get rid of boxes, and that had worked out pretty well for us, but we’ll have to get more now, at least 5-10 more for the books we have left.

We had Stuart and Olivia over for dinner – Janice was meeting friends. The thought occurred to us that it would be a shame if we didn’t host anyone with the house looking as nice as it does, and they didn’t have plans. I grilled chicken fajitas and the sides while Jill whipped up guacamole, then we had a nice dinner.

How to sell a house while vacationing in Disney World, part 2

Wednesday the 21st we went to Hollywood Studios. Madelyn, Robin, Jill, and I headed straight to the Tower Of Terror and rode it, then headed over to the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. Madelyn hadn’t realized it went upside down, and got nervous enough she didn’t want to ride. Robin was going to stay with her but I volunteered to – and was glad as both Robin and Jill thought it was more bone rattling than before. We headed over to Toy Story Mania! where the rest of the family had gone on multiple times, and went on again with us. It’s a great interactive shooting game, and the boys loved it. Next we headed over to Muppet*Vision 3-D and everyone liked that, but next was the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, a very big hit, especially with the boys. We split up after that, and Tiernan, Melissa, Ava and I took in the “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” Movie Set Adventure, good for little ones. Then we met up with everyone and most of us headed back.

Tiernan and Ava

Later in the afternoon, Jill and I headed over to Downtown Disney with Melissa, Dominic and the kids. They had lunch at McDonalds and we went to the Wolfgang Puck Express where I had a Italian panini and Jill had tortilla soup and a chicken pesto sandwich. Jill took off with Madelyn, Melissa with Ava, and Dominic and I went with the boys. Ever since I’d told them about Ridemakerz custom remote control cars, they’d been very excited to go, to the point of making sure they had enough money for it (I’d asked about prices when Robin and I scoped out the area). They were fascinated by building the cars – I joked with Dominic that we could have snuck out for a pint and they’d never notice.

Tiernan and Jake

Once the kids were out for the night, Sue came over to watch them and Melissa, Dominic, Robin, Jill, and I took the boat back over to Downtown Disney to have dinner at Paradiso 37 (37 for the countries of the Americas cuisine they have plus 37 varieties of tequila). Jill and I shared some queso and chips, then I had a salad and some seafood fritters while she had a trio of sliders. They also did a number of incredible tequila cocktails, especially the Corzinger (Habenero Lime Juice, muddled strawberries and Tequila). We had a long enjoyable evening as the dusk crept in around us.

Thursday it was finally Magic Kingdom time. After the big opening, Melissa, Robin, Jill, and Madelyn headed straight to Space Mountain while Sue, Dominic, and I took the other kids to Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, which Jill and I had really enjoyed when we were there last. The kids all loved, and we went on multiple times. When the girls had finished, Robin, Jill, Madelyn, and I went to the other side of the park and waited for it to open so we could ride the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Once done we grabbed Fastpasses for Splash Mountain for later, then I headed back to the kids. They were waiting for the Astro Orbiter. I wasn’t sure what it was (you can’t see it from underneath), but went on anyway. Not a good idea, I was queasy for a while after that. We went to Fantasyland next and the kids rode some rides, then I met up with Jill. She’d gotten both of us a Fastpass for Space Mountain so we could ride it together, but it was shut down. Instead we got a drink and did a little ornament shopping before meeting up with everyone at Splash Mountain. Everyone but Sue and Ava headed in, and it was a big hit.


Robin, Jill, and I headed back after that, Robin got lunch from The Artist’s Palette while Jill and I had all the Asian leftovers that had been piling up. We relaxed in the afternoon and I finally got the chance to do some reading. Everybody got together for an early dinner at the Rainforest Cafe in Downtown Disney. Jill and I shared a salad and the BBQ chicken wrap (ok, but sauce was way too sweet). The kids enjoyed the surroundings, and we got big family photos later without too much fuss.


Everyone was scheduled to return to the Magic Kingdom, but I wasn’t feeling so great and stayed in the room. It turned out to be a good idea, as when I finally logged in for the first time in two days I found we’d gotten 7 offers, including some way below and way above the listing price (the guy we’d countered had countered again, but below our threshold). I called Jill to check in and affirm we’d take the highest, then called our agent. The great thing about house buying and selling now is you can do everything online (although not every firm does). No hunting down a fax machine, I was able to sign the contract right from my netbook. When everyone got back, Melissa, Dominic, Robin, Jill, and I headed out to the hot tub.

Friday was our day off, no kids, so of course we slept in while they returned to Hollywood Studios. Robin, Jill, and I met up with Sue and Dave and Kelley and John for lunch at Fulton’s Crab House. I had the crab club sandwich while Jill had the shrimp po’ boy and we split a salad. After lunch Dave and I took a bus, walked some, rode the monorail and caught a van to get to the Richard Petty Driving Experience, where my birthday gift to him was riding shotgun in a NASCAR stock car for several laps while I watched. He said it was his favorite part of the vacation, and I was glad he enjoyed it so much.


For dinner Sue, Dave, Jill, and I went over to Raglan Road, where after a long wait they seated us in the bar (reservations don’t seem very helpful in Downtown Disney on a Friday night). Thankfully the food was good – I had a grilled meat sampler, and was surprised with lamb and housemade sausage to like the steak the best. Jill had a burger she really liked, and they had some good beers on tap. Melissa and Dominic had made it over and ordered food outside, but Dave and I headed out.

I’m the guy who checks to see what bands are playing, and got quite a surprise this time – a band playing I really wanted to see and they weren’t really playing near here (Richmond on a weeknight doesn’t count). So after our five minute walk to the House of Blues, we got in to see Porcupine Tree on their second song. Their new CD is their second concept album in a row, and they were opening each show with it. Dave seemed to enjoy himself, but headed out after Jill showed up during the second set. I’d bought three tickets in case Dominic wanted to go, but he wasn’t interested. And after everyone else had called it a night, Jill decided to join us. I enjoyed both sets, but the punch of Anesthetize II: The Pills I’m Taking followed by Lazarus (a great song I was hearing live for the first time) was the best part. On the walk home, we picked up some Ghiradelli ice cream, the chocolate was very good.

Saturday morning we didn’t have to get up early but did to say goodbye to everyone and help them head off (they were all on the same flight). We relaxed for a while and had breakfast before packing up and heading to the lobby. We headed to the airport on an earlier bus and despite a very long security line still were at our gate with ninety minutes to kill, so went back to the next set of gates as they had better food, including a Nathan’s. A hot dog with cheese and coleslaw was new to me, but very tasty – too bad the hush puppies they had were not. The flight back was fine, although Jill’s bag was damaged. The house feels very different now – both the way it looks and we’re starting to detach (the buyers had done a home inspection that morning). Jill wasn’t feeling great, so she had soup and I had a turkey sandwich, then we watched a lot of TV.

Sunday we picked up the dog, then I headed to the National Mall for the Earth Day Climate Rally. I got there in time to see Passion Pit, nice dance pop. Reggae legend Jimmy Cliff played all his hits, then The Roots took over (I believe they’d been scheduled two years ago, but were rained out). They started with a set of their own stuff, then my favorite set of the day with all star singers, including Mavis Staples, Patrick Stump (ex-Fall Out Boy), Joss Stone, Bob Weir and Robert Randolph with Booker T on keys. John Legend came out for another set with them, but it was from a new album coming out this year and all unfamiliar. Much better was Sting with the Roots, doing a predictable setlist that was still pretty fun to hear: Fragile/Driven To Tears/One World/Message In A Bottle. Before Sting, James Cameron gave one of the more inspired speeches of the day. Then I headed back, made another sandwich and we watched some more TV.


Also, all photos are here.

How to sell a house while vacationing in Disney World, part 1

I was up past 6AM on Saturday the 17th, packing books until I ran out of packing tape. Then I slept for a couple hours and joined Jill on final cleanup. Pictures had been taken the Monday before as Jill shadowed the photographer moving things around so he had a clean shot, then we’d continued to pack all week. The listing went up Friday night and there was an agent coming by at 11AM Saturday morning (first of seven), and we worked furiously to make the deadline. We did, and the agent arrived as we left with Illa. We dropped him at the kennel, then headed over to Manassas to trade in some books and ate lunch at China Jade – both of us had the buffet, quite decent as long as little kids don’t get their hands on them as one was doing to the desserts.

We ran some more errands, getting home around 5:30 (all the agents had left). I had just taken a shower and was relaxing and watching TV when another agent called, so we left again. When we got back I wasn’t in the mood to do much more than make dinner, while I was doing that Jill arranged the new things she’d purchased and kept packing. We finally relaxed after dinner – she packed and went to sleep while I stayed up packing, watching TV and surfing. There was a lot I wanted to get through and stayed up pretty late again.

Sunday morning we were out by 8AM for our taxi (the open house was scheduled for that afternoon) and soon we were at Dulles. We had a quick trip through security and finally got to ride the train to the gates (it’s so much better than the people movers). It was at the gates that I went by the Five Guys and made a marvelous discovery: if they’re open in the morning, they serve egg sandwiches and you can top it with a burger patty, still one of my favorite meals. Then we made our first (and likely not our last, as long as the first bag’s free) trip on JetBlue, a nice smooth flight into Orlando. After we got our bags, we waited for Disney’s Magical Express and were soon joining the rest of the family at Saratoga Springs Resort.

We plan our vacations far in advance with help of our resort club, and Jill had wanted to take her immediate family on a trip for a while. Now that everyone was living stateside, planning was easier and we decided to aim for the kids’ spring break. So besides us it was Jill’s mom Sue, her husband Dave, Jill’s younger sister Robin, older sister Melissa, her husband Dominic, and their kids Madelyn, Jake, Tiernan, and Ava. They were almost done with checking in, so we did too and were soon at our rooms in Congress Park, the section of the resort closest to Downtown Disney. Madelyn, Robin, Jill, and I were hungry and walked over to The Artist’s Palette for lunch, where I had the turkey wrap and Jill had a hot dog. I also had the only authentic Saratoga item there: a Saratoga Lager.

After lunch our lack of sleep caught up to us, and we napped for a while. Sue and Melissa were out at Wal-Mart with Aunt Kelley (who dropped by as she winters there), and they picked up some pizzas. I wish they’d gotten the name of the place, as it was truly the worst pizza I’d ever had – and everyone agreed. Thankfully, it was the only bad meal of the week. The nap was helpful, but we were still tired and had a big week, so we watched The Simpsons with Robin, then went to sleep (I even skipped a concert at Epcot but it had started raining).

Melissa and Dominic

Monday morning we headed to Animal Kingdom – we’d already purchased tickets. The last time we visited, the parks had been fairly vacant, but not this time. So we took full advantage of Extra Magic Hours and that determined the order we visited the parks. First up was Kilimanjaro Safaris and that was good as all almost all the animals were awake, then Madelyn, Robin, Jill, and I took in Expedition Everest before meeting up with everyone at Kali River Rapids where we took turns riding and getting damp (even with ponchos).

Dominic, Melissa, Jake and Kerry

We gathered again and headed over to It’s Tough To Be A Bug with the three older kids (the boys loved it), then continued to Camp Minnie-Mickey to meet Disney characters. The older two (especially Jake) wanted autographs, and they all took pictures. Jake and I stayed behind when everyone else left to continue to get autographs.

Ava and Jake

We met up with Jill and Sue in the Boneyard playground, then got in line for Finding Nemo – The Musical. It took a while to get in, but it was pretty entertaining, a mix of Lion King and Avenue Q. Jill wasn’t feeling well (hadn’t been all day) and she went back to the resort. Sue, Jake, and I went over to Yak & Yeti for lunch where I had an appetizer explosion: Thai chili wings, pork egg rolls, and wok fried green beans along with a Safari Amber (surprising to learn it was from Anheuser-Busch because it was good). Rain was threatening when we finished so we left the park.

Jill was asleep and I joined her as I was tired. We woke up for a bit, and I checked email to learn we’d gotten two offers on the house, both more than $10K less then the listing price. I called our agent and arranged to counter the higher offer, then we snacked before Jill headed back to bed and Robin and I explored Downtown Disney to get a lay of the land, find some stores and a sweatshirt for her. We took our time getting back waiting for the boat shuttle around Downtown Disney then another one back to the resort.

Tuesday was another early day, this time we headed to Epcot. Once in we headed directly to Test Track, where some folks rode it twice. We went directly from there to Soarin’, but they already had a long wait so we picked up a Fastpass for everyone, then went next door to Honey I Shrunk The Audience (still pretty fun). Jake wanted more autographs, so Dominic and I went with him to get some.

Jake and Dominic

We met up with everyone at Sunshine Seasons (the cafe next to Soarin’) where folks who hadn’t had breakfast yet did, then took on Soarin’. Jake decided last minute it wasn’t for him, so he and Dominic ducked out. It was pretty fun, but it’s not good if you’re afraid of heights. After that, Dominic, Jake, and I headed over to Innoventions to play some games. Lunch was with everyone at the Rose and Crown. Jill and I split a salad then both got fish and chips, very good choice. We met up with Alice and got some adult slushies on the way out.

Jill, Sue, Robin, and Madelyn

Once again it was nap time after we returned. Sue and Dave had stayed at Epcot, and Robin, Jill, and I joined them again for dinner at Nine Dragons. I wasn’t that hungry after a big lunch and had the cucumber salad and sliced beef appetizers while Jill enjoyed the Kung Pao chicken. They stayed to watch fireworks while I went back to the resort – it turns out Melissa is also a Lost fan and it was the only show I wanted to watch all week (good, but not as good as the Hurley ep the week before). We got to enjoy the hot tub after Robin and Jill got back.

Kerry, Jill, Robin, Sue, and Dave

Weekend fun out and not so fun in

We didn’t do too much on Friday, just relaxed and watched TV (Jill made Fettucine Alfredo for dinner). Saturday was a short period of house stuff, then an early dinner at Ted’s with Josh and Akaemi (Jill and I both had burgers), then on to the Barns at Wolf Trap to see Julie Murphy Wells be a sophisticated lady again (I enjoyed the Wicked songs the most). More house shenanigans when we got back, late to bed.

Sunday we didn’t have too long either, though I did manage to finish installing the new bathroom hardware. Then we were off to DC, first for dinner at Birch & Barley (the restaurant under very beer friendly ChurchKey). I’d been wanting to go since they opened, but this was the first chance we had to go. They do an all day brunch on Sundays, and I was ready. Jill had the chicken and waffles, and I had the corned beef hash, along with a homemade sausage patty. I had a beer brewed with coffee to start, then a very smoky one, both paired nicely.

We couldn’t resist the pecan bun and donuts. People had raved over the lemon poppy seed donut, but the real find was the toffee and bacon donut. It also paired nicely with the beer find of the evening, Paulus. They rolled us out the door after that, then we headed downtown. It was too early for the show and too late for Starbucks, so Jill got a coffee at McDonald’s, then we decided to go into Chef Geoff’s and enjoyed some Magic Hat (the fabulous new Vinyl for me, #9 for Jill).

By the time we finished it was time to head into the Warner Theatre to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. It was their first tour outside the Christmas season, playing Beethoven’s Last Night (seemed a bit odd to me since they’d just released another non seasonal album) on a tour of smaller theaters to a friendly audience made up of just fan club members. Which was a problem for me, as they were will call tix, and I couldn’t find any emails that I’d bought them. Ordinarily I’d think it was an oversight, but they went on sale when we were on vacation and I couldn’t remember buying any. So I bought another pair on Friday, and sure enough, there were two pairs for me, and no time to get rid of them, so I’m eating them.

Luckily they were much better tickets and it was a great performance, so it’s not that bad. Lots of smoke and lasers, and a merged TSO East and West. I also was happy to see Jeff Scott Soto for the first time. After the show we waited a while for Metro (the nuclear summit probably was to blame), then headed home. But that wasn’t the end of the night, we had someone coming to take pictures in the morning for the house listing, and I was up past 3AM getting things in order. I must say, the house looks pretty nice right now.

Beach and back, and family, and more house stuff

After a nice calm weekend last week, this one was full of excitement. Our friends Chris and Jess had rented a house in Rehoboth for the week, and we wanted to go see them. But it didn’t work last weekend, and because we had Saturday night plans we didn’t think it would happen. But Jill had been thinking of going to a 3 day a week schedule (2 16s and an 8), so she did which got her Friday off, and I’ll make up my hours before the end of my pay period.

Getting to Rehoboth was once again an adventure. We usually go through DC, but cherry blossom traffic made us take the Beltway. It backed up in MD and we got off on Wisconsin. We were ready to get back on at Georgia, but the minivan in front of me stopped suddenly, so did I, but the Acura behind me did not. He shoved me into the minivan, and my poor Corolla got the worst of it, damage to both bumpers. Still drivable, and after we all exchanged insurance info we got back on the road. A couple more delays, but not too bad, and it was smooth sailing after the Bay Bridge.

We decided not to stop until Sonic (perhaps a mistake as it’s only 45 minutes from Rehoboth) and had lunch, a burrito and tots for me and a burger and onion rings for Jill. We washed it down with some diet cherry limeades, and were soon at the house. Chris’s mom was there, as well as our friends Chris L. and Amy. We took a walk to the beach and wandered the boardwalk, then back Rehoboth Ave. so Jill and Amy could shop (and Jill found a top she liked).

After we got back, Tim (Chris’s brother) and Debbie showed up, then the kids had dinner (and we all had some cake and Utopias). Then we walked over to Dogfish Head (Chris’s mom was watching the girls) for dinner. Jill got a pizza and I got the fish wrap, and everyone had lots of beer (Aprihop in a cask and Life & Limb were standouts) and many ladies had moustaches. After dinner we played an increasingly sloppy game of Bohnanza that eventually deteriorated into into a dance drunk off (but no injuries worse than hangovers).

Saturday morning we had a bit of breakfast at the house, then got on the road. We stopped for a bigger breakfast at Sonic (more tots and a breakfast Toaster for me, mozzarella sticks and a Chicken Bacon Ranch sandwich for Jill) and left something very important behind – Jill’s wallet, but wouldn’t notice until we were almost home. The rest of the drive was fine until we had to stop at Michael’s for a knitting needle and found out her wallet was gone. We got home and called the Sonic, and they’d found it right away. I called Chris L. and he could pick it up when he came back the next day.

We got cleaned up, then hopped back in the car, this time with Illa. We stopped at Wegman’s and I bought five live lobsters, then popped them in the cooler. We got to Mom’s and everyone was there to celebrate Dad’s birthday. The lobsters were delicious and Illa had fun playing with Tati. Sharon was only down for 24 hours from Boston, and we took her to Dulles on the way back home, then watched TV (I think it’s the longest delay in watching Chuck yet).

Today was home improvement day. After we met up with Chris L. to get Jill’s wallet, we stopped by Home Depot and loaded up on lightbulbs, bathroom hardware and mulch. Then we went a big outdoor spree, I spent most of the afternoon painting the railing and trim front and back. I also cleaned out the closet and packed some clothes before breaking to grill some chicken for dinner. Since after we finished it was after 11, I decided to call it a night.

AC/DC Greatest Hits

As hard as it is to believe, AC/DC has never put out a collection of hits. In 1986 Who Made Who, the soundtrack to Maximum Overdrive, was all AC/DC songs, three new ones plus classics like “You Shook Me All Night Long“, “Ride On” and “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)”. I’ve hung onto mine as it’s the closest thing there’s been to a collection – until now.

The upcoming soundtrack to Iron Man 2 (out 4/20) is similar to the earlier soundtrack as it’s a collection of AC/DC songs. Some of their best, including “Back in Black“, “Thunderstruck“, “T.N.T.”, “Let There Be Rock” and “Highway to Hell”. Amazingly enough there are no repeats from Who Made Who, making the two together a two volume greatest hits. There are notable omissions – especially “Whole Lotta Rosie”, “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll)”, “Girls Got Rhythm” and “Moneytalks”.

Party, etc.

Friday night I was ready for a break, so after some TV hooked up my old NES last night and played Super Mario and other games until my thumbs hurt (got to 5-4). I was surprised about how many of the other games don’t hold up (well, Castlevania II was decent).

Saturday I slept in a long time, over 10 hours. Then I took Illa for a nice walk, our contractor came over to finish his work, and I desecrated a Reuben (by adding a fried egg). At 7, we walked over to the Jewells for Stuart’s 50th birthday party. Music was provided by Mercy Creek, and food by Patrick Crump, Janice’s brother and executive chef at The Clarendon Ballroom. Both music and food were fabulous, and a good evening held by all.

Mercy Creek

Today was more packing, cleanup outside, a little open house visiting and surfing, followed by a packaged beef and broccoli for dinner followed by Simpsons -> Family Guy. Simpsons is on a hot streak lately, some great funny stuff.

Much lazier weekend

I only left the house once all weekend (other than walking the dog), and that was only a quick trip to get groceries. We had a bit of frenzied cleanup of downstairs Saturday afternoon because I’d asked my mom to come over for dinner, and the dining room was unusable. We got it in order, then I made Reubens and a fruit salad for us when she came over, we had a nice time. We’d had dinner early, so later on I made popcorn when we watched Monsters Vs. Aliens, fun flick.

Sunday it was glorious to sleep in with the windows open and not be woken up by a yippy dog. I also got to read on the deck with Illa snoozing before heading inside to work on the office and the basement. Later on I grilled burgers for dinner with oven fries and a Caesar Salad, then we watched Fox’s Sunday night ‘toons (I think Simpsons was my fave).

3 Days in NYC: TV Shows, Musicals and Food

We started the weekend on Friday night with a mini-version of Saturday: awful transit followed by an entertaining time. Rain and Friday nights aren’t a good mix for the DMV area, it took a while to grt to the Birchmere. Once were there, we met up with our friends the Fureys, then settled in for an evening of comedy. It was the usual line up of Paul and Storm opening up for JoCo, always good and better when Paul and Storm came out to help out on JoCo’s songs. We left a bit early as it was an early morning wakeup the next day.

Stuart did us a favor Saturday morning and dropped us at the Park and Ride, then we waited for the 5A, which was running late. We gave up when we saw it going the opposite direction (meaning a good 20 minutes until it was headed back) and caught the 950, then two subway lines to Union Station. We still managed to get there on time, but the train didn’t, left about 20 minutes late. We took the train to New York 3 times last year, and each time the experience was perfect. Saturday was the exception, as the late start was just a premonition. Twice we had to stop for several minutes while they checked things, then the ceiling above Jill started leaking, and when she moved across the aisle that was leaking too. We stopped in Newark already close to an hour behind schedule, and didn’t move again. Apparently the signals were out, and they didn’t know how long it would be.

After close to 30 minutes we gave up and got on a PATH train to World Trade Center. It took a while since it was a local, but I only realized today it was a great idea: 500 people were stranded on a different train for more than five hours, and I saw tweets from people who were stuck more than seven hours. After we got into the city, the rain drenched us so fast we quickly gave up on the idea of walking (even to another a subway station) and caught a cab to the hotel. We’d planned on having several hours to relax, but we did have enough time to change before dinner.

When we were in NYC in July, we failed to get into the Daily Show, and in order to try again, Jill indicated she was interested in attending the Rachael Ray show. It’s not easy to get tix soon for that, and those are on whatever day they give you, so I did some investigating and eventually found a charity auction for two VIP tix to her show, two nights at a hotel, and dinner at Asia de Cuba. I won it at a very fair price, and Saturday we were staying at the hotel and going out to eat at the restaurant.

Asia de Cuba is just what the name implies, Cuban food with an Asian flair. We took the subway there (easier to not get wet without luggage), and got there right on time. We started with crab croquetas and asian spiced pork spare ribs (Jill’s highlight, they were scrumptious). The waiter warned us that most people split the entrees, but we had a gift certificate to use up and went with two. Jill didn’t really like her coconut mustard seed sustainable Chilean seabass (it was a huge plate with the vegetables) although I really enjoyed my tropical hoisin roasted duck. We could have skipped dessert except I realized we still had some credit to burn, so I ordered the bread pudding just so I could have some of the cheesecake ice cream (it was so worth it).

After dinner we headed up to 30 Rockefeller Plaza for Saturday Night Live. We were a bit early so we headed downstairs to sit for a bit, then joined the line when we came back upstairs. We went through security (Val Kilmer was right in front of us, but he was whisked out of line), and they brought us upstairs. A little after 11 we were seated as the house band was playing, then after everyone was seated Don Pardo said a few words, then Jason Sudeikis did some stand up and Kenan Thompson sang a song.

Soon it was 11:30 and the show got started. It was a whirlwind of activity for the next 90 minutes, if there wasn’t a sketch going on then the band was playing and they were putting together or breaking down sets. We were seated stage left and could see what was going on most of the time, but there were plenty of monitors if we couldn’t (but we saw Pearl Jam just fine, they were great as always). Things that surprised me: the small size of the studio, the clock only drops down from the ceiling for the opening and closing shots and many of the sets go up on the main stage (not to mention during the final sketch the set wasn’t stable until after it started).

After the show, we hung out to meet with the writer who’d donated the tix to the other charity auction I’d won, and we chatted for a bit (he’s one of the writers on MacGruber), then he took us and another couple on a brief tour of the studio. It was fun (and we saw Bill Hader and Jason Sudeikis), but soon we were outside, and we took a cab back to the hotel with a driver who knew the capital of every country and US state.

Sunday we slept in, it was a good thing as with the time change and the busy day we’d been pretty tired. We had brunch downstairs at Wall & Water, where I had the Eggs Benedict, Jill had a Western Omelette and “the best hotel coffee ever”. Next we headed uptown to a yarn shop, then another subway ride to the P & G Bar (with a quick yarn shop stop on the walk over from the subway), where we met up with our FRFF buds Seth and Hilary (Hilary was bartending) and spent a couple hours catching up.

We had an early reservation at Gramercy Tavern, so we said goodbye and went directly there. It was the nicest restaurant we’ve been in for a while, the food and ambience reminded us of Restaurant Eve. I started with the whole spelt spaghetti while Jill had the butternut squash custard – we each liked the other dish more and switched halfway through. For entrees she had the squab and I had the lamb, no trading there as both were superb. I had the butterscotch sundae for dessert – since it had pear sorbet in it, I paired it with a pear cider, very nice. Jill had a peanut butter semifreddo that was also very good. Afterwards we had made no plans – no show or musical act had really interested us. So we went to Times Square, and saw Alice in Wonderland in 3D. Good flick, much better than their Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We went back to the hotel afterwards, intending to hit the bar, but it was closed, so we had some wine back at Wall & Water.

Monday we slept in again, but that didn’t leave us much time as we had to checkout and change hotels. We checked in at the New York Helmsley (thankfully let us check in early) and headed out. Jill wanted a burger for lunch, and the closest good one was Good Burger (she wasn’t familiar with the film). We ordered burgers and shakes (got mine with an egg on top), and they soon came out. The burgers were good, and grilled on a actual flame, reminded me of Foster’s Grille.

We went uptown so Jill could do a little more shopping (clothes and yarn), then went over to The Daily Show. I was only able to get regular tickets for it, but I had the benefit of trying once before and we got there right before 3PM, right on target. Jill was free for at least the next hour as your guests need to join you by 4:30, so I just read my book until she returned (she found a car dealership serving coffee). They let us in a little after 5, but we still had to wait in line a while longer until they seated us. A comedian came out to warm us up, then Jon Stewart came out for a funny Q&A, then they started about 6:30. They recorded straight through (and it was fun watching Jon crack up while the Aasif Mandvi piece played), but there was audio problems during the segment with Wyatt Cenac and Mick Foley, and they had to film it again (I was happy they used the first take of Jon getting away from Mick when they aired it, it was much funnier).

We didn’t have a lot of time after the show, so we caught a cab to Times Square and wolfed down a couple slices of delicious pizza at Patzeria’s Perfect Pizza, then headed down the block and into the theater where the The Addams Family was playing. We were soon seated, and enjoying drinks in our seats due to the best theater invention ever: souvenir sippy cups. Nathan Lane was simply amazing as Gomez, and the musical was really good. Seth had recommended we stop at Junior’s for some cheesecake, so we did. We weren’t that hungry, so we just had slices of cheesecake, strawberry shortcake for Jill, carrot cake for me. They were decent, but huge and we didn’t finish either one. We went back to the hotel, but Jill wanted something to counteract the sugar. Everything in the hotel was closing, but I figured the McFadden’s up the block (near the burger place) was still open, and I was right. We nursed beers and had a good conversation with the bartender, who reminded us of Seth Meyers.

We got up early the next morning, checked out and left our luggage with a bellman, then headed a couple blocks south to Daniel’s Bagels where Jill had an everything bagel with cream cheese and I had a ham, egg and cheese on sesame. Later we went back up and got in line for the Rachael Ray Show. It turned out we didn’t need to get in line, the tix really were VIP and as soon as they started letting people in we got to skip ahead of the line. Then we waited for while inside, then they seated us (kind of a theme). We got another warm up comedian, unfortunately this one not only more obnoxious but he never left, basically serving as a cheerleader. We ended taping two separate shows (don’t know when they air yet), and the guests were surprises until they appeared.

Rachael Ray Show

Ingrid Michaelson was first (and best), singing Everybody, then Bruce Jenner (meh) and Timothy Olyphant (he was fun, and I’m a big fan of motherf’n’ Deadwood and plan on watching his new series Justified). There were two cooking segments, one a Western Omelette sandwich and the other a “bullseye” (perfectly preserved onion slice) burger. Parts were fun, but we’d been there a while when taping finished and time was running short – we had a little over an hour to catch the train, and were one of the last in line to get out.

But the hotel was two blocks away, and soon we were in a cab hurtling towards Penn Station. We made it with fifteen minutes to spare, enough time for me to get a Nathan’s dog and Jill to get a Moe’s burrito. The ride back on the train was more like our earlier trips, no problems and no delays. We almost got back home according to plan, but just missed the bus out of West Falls Church that would have connected us to the last bus going past our house, and instead we took one near to the Herndon library, I left Jill there and walked home and got the car and picked her and the luggage home, then I heated up some frozen jambalaya, then we watched Chuck and collapsed into bed.

Map of NYC locations