Looking glass

Artists To Watch 2015

Again this year my music buying was mostly online, free tracks from NoiseTrade, Google Play, and Amazon as well as preordering mp3s and CDs from Kickstarter and PledgeMusic.

This year was marked by a lot of unexpected collaborations.

Band Song Why them
01. The Family Crest Beneath The Brine Unexpected instrumentation and tempo.
02. Robbie Schaefer No More Goodbyes Collaboration #1: Robbie formed a trio for this recording with Jake Armerding and Rachael Davis.
03. Bobtown Across The River Falcon Ridge faves with fine voices melding together.
04. The Silent War We Are Broken Collaboration #2: Adrianne Gonzalez and Garrison Starr join forces officially.
05. Team Mathias A Thousand Years Collaboration #3: Todd Wright with Toby Lightman and Taylor Carson to raise funds for Team Mathias.
06. Early Winters Love Won’t Leave Me Alone Carina Round plays with Puscifer and Tears for Fears and of course formed an Americana band with harmonies.
07. Pearl and the Beard You A folk-pop trio I saw on a whim at Barns At Wolf Trap when the family was out of town.
08. Space Elevator Elevator And now it’s time for the big dumb rock with harmonies. Speaking of…
09. Hurtsmile Rock & Roll Cliché Extreme’s Gary Cherone is back with a band that tends towards the harder side.
10. The Both Milwaukee Collaboration #4: Didja know Aimee Mann and Ted Leo formed a band? And it’s good?
11. The Grownup Noise New Outsiders Catchy pop, just got a nice review here.
12. Toby Lightman Running From Love More dance oriented that her last album, but still a great chorus.
13. Coin It’s Okay Power poppers found because they toured with Jukebox the Ghost.
14. Owen Danoff Never Been Kissed Local (and son of Bill Danoff) does just fine on his own.
15. The Once We Are All Running Canadian folkies with nice harmonies.
16. Johnnyswim Diamonds Husband and wife duo with a big sound.
17. Twin Forks Back To You Collaboration #5: Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba starts an Americana band and it’s darn good.
18. Dan Wilson I Can Never Stay Mad at You And I can never stay away from the beautiful pop from the ex-Semisonic frontman.
19. The Whiskey Switch Minnesota Collaboration #6: Luke Brindley forms a trio with Taylor Swift sideman Mike Meadows on banjo and mandolin and Laura Tsaggaris.
20. Mouths of Babes River On Your Right Collaboration #7: Girlyman’s Ty Greenstein and Coyote Grace’s Ingrid Elizabeth form a band (and couple).
21. We’re About 9 A Beautiful Fear (Write It All Down) Locals still making some damn good music.


Tuesday the 4th Sterling from Sterling Portraits came over to take family pictures. He really captured the essence of Nina. I like the family one below, but you can see the whole set here.

Illa Kerry Nina Jill

After accompanying Nina and her class on a field trip to the National Museum of the American Indian as a chaperone for her and 2 other girls on Friday, I can conclude that her teachers don’t get paid nearly enough. Zandra, a woman from the Navaho Nation, shared a story from her nation about Geraldine the Goat and a rug. After story time, we visited the imagiNATIONS Activity Center – that was her favorite part.


Saturday Nina had her medal ceremony at gymnastics, and later she went to neighbor Jack’s birthday party at Life Champ Martial Arts where they had a pizza party. That night I wanted to see Winterpills, but didn’t. They were playing at Iota, and I left at Nina’s bedtime with plenty of time to get there (and fully expecting them to go on late, ’cause Iota often runs late). But they switched spots with their opener – at least The Grownup Noise was really good.


Tuesday the 11th I headed downtown around 4PM, got off at Metro Center and picked up a Chimichurri sandwich at White Apron Specialty Sandwiches before getting through the security line at the National Mall around 5:30. I was too late to get close (they’d closed off several blocks at the front) and ended up about 3 blocks away from the stage for The Concert For Valor (and with surprisingly good cell service). Dave Grohl was great solo and with the Zac Brown Band and Bruce Springsteen, and I never expected to see Metallica there (and thunderously great).


Wednesday was another solo outing at bedtime for Nina, this time to see Amanda Palmer at Sixth & I. I got there late, but still saw some of her interview with Thomas Dolby and her music set. I think I got more up close and personal with her than with any of the acts on the Mall the night before (or maybe a vintage Neil Gaiman shirt works on her like Axe body spray).

Kerry AFP

Friday my work had a party at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. One of the daughters of my coworkers and her friends offered babysitting, so we got Nina some Wendy’s takeout and dropped her off at a nearby hotel. It was a fun evening, and not surprising to us that she was still awake when we picked her up at 10:30.

Kerry Jill

Saturday the 15th I had Nina all day so Jill could take a class. We ended up over at Felix’s house with his sister and 2 other kids running around. I think I enjoyed that more than the next day when I went to the Skins game with my dad. It’s getting harder to watch these games – in the 4th quarter the place started emptying out and we got caught in some horrible traffic getting out.


Wednesday the 19th I got to Constitution Hall at the last minute (thanks to a nearly 30 minute wait between trains) for the presentation of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song to Billy Joel. Our friend Hannah does a lot of hard work behind the scenes, and she offered me her extra ticket. Little did I know until I got there she got us seats in the 2nd row. The show was great, and for once I don’t think I’ll have to look hard to see myself on TV (I’ve never been so self conscious as when a cameraman is kneeling with his camera a foot from my face).

Billy Joel

Friday Nina was sick and stayed home to the immense disappointment of her and my mom, since both were planning on attending her school’s Thanksgiving luncheon (Nina had helped make decorations and the squash soup). Saturday was my fifth time out solo in 2 weeks (it’s good to have an understanding spouse). I didn’t leave the house ’til 9:45PM, but still made it to the 9:30 Club in time to see Neko Case and the rest of the New Pornographers put on a great show. Monday I wasn’t sure if I was happier that my cold or Nina’s cold was done.


My sister Sharon flew in with her husband Tom on Tuesday the 25th. My dad wasn’t able to come on Thanksgiving, but he came over on Wednesday and Sharon and I spent the morning going through old photos with him before Jill, Nina, and Tom joined us for grilled ham and cheese sandwiches (I worked from home later, it was sleety/snowy). Later Nina made a chocolate pudding pie with Jill. On Thanksgiving we cooked in the afternoon and my mom joined us for the traditional dinner.

Bryce Sharon Kerry

Friday Nina and I dropped Sharon and Tom off at Dulles, then drove over to Chibis, where Nina ran around nearly the whole time. We got Wendy’s for lunch on the way home (she was obsessed with cheeseburgers lately). After Jill got home from work, we went over to Reston Town Center where Santa came to light the Christmas tree, then the Reston Chorale (including Mom) sang holiday songs before Nina got cold and we left.

Jill Nina Kerry

Saturday the 29th we picked up our Christmas tree and Mom came over early so she, Jill, and Nina could decorate it. In the evening Jill and I went out and had dinner at Maple Ave (duck leg confit and beer float were excellent) before seeing Stephen Kellogg at the Barns At Wolf Trap and then making a last minute decision (decided by my nearly empty gas tank) to catch the end of The Excentrics set at Jammin’ Java. Jill asked if seeing 4 songs was worth it – when 2 of them are my favorites, absolutely.



Monday the 1st I never knew what I was going to get after bathtime. That night we were the Neverland pirates looking for gold doubloons, while the night before Nina performed a concert and she took requests (I wanted to hear “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt”).


Saturday it was too bad emmet swimming didn’t play “You’re So Pretty”, because it would have been the perfect pairing of Fairfax songs with “Tank Farm Free” by opener Smartbomb at the State Theatre. Nice sets by both bands (loved the piano outro on “Motorway” and the addition of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” during “So Lonely”). Sunday we took Nina to the Fall For Fairfax where she had a fun time seeing animals and playing. Later I knew it was gonna get loud in the Frey household at Christmas because I strung my first guitar (pale pink).

emmet swimming

Monday the 6th Nina had her first field trip to Ballentine Farm to see animals and pumpkins. Wednesday Nina and I had an argument over whether socks and pants were necessary to go to school. I won it by having her go outside in nothing but a shirt to see how cold it was. I think I’m definitely in the running for parent of the year. Also, we think we know why she’s sleeping so late – she’s grown almost an inch and a half in a little over a month since her birthday. At this rate she’ll be taller than Steve Curtis.

Jill Nina

Saturday the 11th we flew up to Hartford where Dave picked us up. Robin and Mike had been convinced to have a party celebrating their wedding the following day, and Jill wanted to help get ready. We picked up hot dogs for lunch on the way in at Nick’s Nest, then I took Nina and her cousin Ava acorn hunting (for decorations) while Jill and her sisters decorated and her mom and Dave cooked. Jill and I ducked out for a quick trip to Northampton (and a beer) before we had Chinese food for dinner courtesy of Mike’s parents.

Dave Sue

The next day Jill left early with Dave to help set up while I hung out with Nina and helped Sue a bit. We drove over to Stanley Park with Gram, then helped deliver the food while Nina ran around with all her cousins. The roasted pig went fast, as did most of the food. It was cool enough for jackets, but still an enjoyable day outside. The next morning we got up early to drive to the airport and fly home (I ended up working half a day). The oddest thing was being on the same flight as my coworker Marc and his family both ways (2nd oddest was them fixing a mechanical problem on the way up by pulling a panel in the middle of the aisle while we sat there).

Melissa Robin Jill

Wednesday the 15th I gave thanks to the rain – it’s been a long time since I’ve needed a complete change of outfit (skies opened as we hit the tunnel). Luckily Nina had a change of clothes at school. Friday Nina learned she did like Snickers ice cream bars (she said she wouldn’t because she “doesn’t like peanuts”) and put the first two coins in her piggy bank. Later I made a playlist of all the music I have from 2014. Even taking out the live tracks, I had over 50 hours of music listen to to choose my favorite 20 for my annual list.


Saturday the 18th I took Nina to the Reston Community Center after lunch for their Halloween Family Fun Day. They had games with candy for prizes, a puppet show, and her favorite a bounce house. Sunday her classmate had a birthday party and yet another bounce house, but it was cold enough she had to go inside twice to warm up (there were plenty of toys as consolation). Later we met up with my dad and mom to celebrate my birthday early at Don Pablo’s, had carrot cake cupcakes my mom made for dessert, then Jill and I went to see Paula Cole at the Barns At Wolf Trap for the best show I’ve seen by her.

Paula Cole

Wednesday was my birthday. I had a massage after work, then Jill brought home Chinese takeout. The cream cheese pumpkin cupcakes Jill and Nina made were excellent; the evening ending tantrum by Nina and the poop Illa left downstairs were not as fun. But then it was time for TV and a glass of Jameson. I explained to the dog later it was better if he pooped in the kitchen or the dining room. The next morning morning I got my wish – he pooped both places. Too bad he also peed on the stairs (note to self: add gusty winds to the things he’s terrified of). I also got to argue with Nina for 20 minutes about using the toilet in the morning (I “won” because she sat on it for 5 seconds).


Friday my birthday gift to myself was a solo night out seeing The Jayhawks (v3.0 1997-2003) at the 9:30 Club then the tasty lamb dip and a beer at Right Proper. I considered lurking outside the Black Cat to try and get into the Foo Fighters show but decided going home was a better idea. Nina quite enjoyed her trip to Wendy’s with Jill.

Jill Nina

Saturday the 25th Nina had a Halloween party at school where she played games and got a balloon elephant. She got extra time playing with her friend Briar as Jill and I volunteered to help clean up. Sunday Nina and Jill decorated their pumpkins by painting them. Nina managed to get paint everywhere, even wearing a smock.

Nina Jill

On Halloween I took Nina trick or treating (she dressed as Supergirl and I as Duff Man) alongside her BFF Felix as Iron Man. My mom came over and Jill and I took the subway (her first Silver Line ride) to arrive in DC minutes before Fleetwood Mac hit the stage. Christine McVie’s long awaited return was incredible, Lindsey Buckingham is still the man. Post concert dinner at Daikaya was the best ramen I’ve ever had, then we costume watched on the Metro (I particularly enjoyed everyone at Gallery Place “finding” the Waldo on the other platform).

Kerry Nina


After the craziness of Nina’s birthday party and aftermath, it was nice to have a quiet Labor Day (and she opened more gifts) on Monday the 1st. Tuesday was her birthday and the first day of school – she thought it was ok, but was thrilled playing with her new fire station Legos at home.


Saturday the 6th she started gymnastics again, and that night my mom came over to babysit while Jill and I returned to Manassas for more Thai (the duck curry was very good) and then onto the Lube. I finally found what would make Jill tolerate Guns N’ Roses: not having Axl sing. Slash was great, and Aerosmith was pretty good too. Sunday I found out that the good thing about your favorite bands doing kids music is I can handle hearing The Jayhawks version of This Little Light of Mine 10 times in a row.


Tuesday the 8th Nina celebrated her birthday officially at school – Montessori has a little ceremony to mark the passage of time and Jill and I both came. They have a special song for the occasion and Jill made cupcakes for everyone.


Saturday the 13th Nina watched her first wedding (from our back deck), we finally tried Ted’s Bulletin (in Reston Town Center, tasty though few kids options Nina could eat) and had milkshakes at home for dessert. I could have dealt without the sleep deprived tantrums to end the day, but at least they all happened in private.


The end of Monday night the 15th (with Nina’s first fudge sundae) went better than Sunday night (with an angry hornet chasing the girls upstairs before I trapped it on the honey jar with the blender). Tuesday I discovered that screaming matches with a toddler and arriving 2 weeks early for your dental appointment is a remarkably effective way of warming up for the office.


Saturday the 20th was a very busy day. Between gymnastics, bouncy castle party and her first face painting at school, and a delicious steak dinner from the Jewells, Nina could barely stay awake for her bath and was out cold quickly. Sunday we took her to Cox Farms, where Nina had a great time on the rope swings and slides.


Nina can arrive at school between 8:30-9AM. Wednesday the 24th it was raining and I woke up first at 8:30, and it was a struggle to get to school by 9:10. And then I had to take someone else’s lunch to her. Thursday I set an alarm for 8, woke up an unresponsive toddler (just like her mother), went through two almost tantrums and one actual tantrum, and got her to school at 9:05. I just gave up.


Saturday the 27th Jill went to the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival, so I took Nina to gymnastics, then to Alexandria where my mom was having her work picnic. Later we went to Fair Lakes where they were having a fall festival and Nina got to sit in a fire truck and jump in a bounce house. After that, the following conversation took place:
Nina: Where are we going?
Me: The beer store.
Nina: Don’t you have beer at home?
Me: LOL. Yes, but I need to buy more.

Mom Nina

Sunday I slept in, then Jill and Nina dropped me off on the way to go apple picking in Purcellville at a farm (Jill’s car was wonky the day before) and I took the Silver Line all the way into DC for the first time to meet up with my Dad to finally catch a Nats game this season. And see two things I’ve never seen before: Teddy winning and a no-hitter (from Jordan Zimmerman). I thought both were good omens for the postseason (I was wrong). When I got back Nina was still sleeping, so I walked home – took about 25 minutes. They had 20 lbs of apples when I got back, so I’d call there day a success too.


Monday the 29th it took us only an hour and 45 minutes to make it to Vienna, eat dinner at Noodles & Company, watch a concert and make it back home. Thanks to Jim Boggia for a great show (and a nice Sesame Street medley just for Nina).


Still in Holyoke on vacation, the morning of Friday the 1st we packed up the car and drove off to the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. I dropped the girls off at the main gate with their tickets and drove off to find the Depot Deli. Despite reports of a new cell tower at the festival, I had no cell service whatsoever there, which made it fun without a map. I did our food and supply shopping there as well as picking up 2 of their Sin-a-Bomb pull apart cinnamon bread loaves – egg free! I drove back to the festival, got my wristband and drove up to Shantytowne. I parked and set up the tent – we were almost the last to arrive. Nina made a new friend with neighbor Delilah and played inflatable bowling.


After a potluck dinner, we headed to the main stage where we watched Aoife O’Donovan (ex Crooked Still) and then saw some of Gandalf Murphy & The Slambovian Circus Of Dreams at the Dance Tent (Nina was more mesmerized by holding a flashlight) before heading back to camp. This was a make or break year for us – the first time Nina camped with us (the previous 2 years we’d stayed at motels, then Jill’s mom came and got her on Saturday and we’d camp that night). We knew we’d have to go to bed with her and Friday it was my turn. It was fine, I was tired and so was she.

Jill Nina Kerry

Saturday morning we had breakfast (thanks to AJ and friends), then Nina and I headed over to the Workshop Stage to see Aoife and Tracy Grammar. Of course we got a late start, then someone wanted to be carried and didn’t want to go and by the time we got there the next set was about the start. Nina made it through one song by Christine Lavin before she was done, so we went over early to the children’s tent where Jill was meeting us. That was fun for Nina as she got to do crafts, plus I got back in time to see about half the set.


Nina was still happily playing when I got back (she found the inflatable pool with toys in it in the shade), so we got some lunch from the vendors, and I also caught the Most Wanted Song Swap before Nina and I headed back to camp while Jill shopped. After our family picture we had our usual singalong of “Shantytowner“. After we got dinner, Nina had her hair braided by Patty, then she and Jill went to bed and I hung out in camp until very late.

Nina Meg Kat

Sunday I packed up the tent and gave it away – our new air mattress bed was great but not built for 2 plus a squirmer and we’ll need a bigger one next year. Nina seemed to enjoy the camping experience, though. It was a long drive to Virginia – we detoured through Pennsylvania to avoid traffic, and Nina saw her first real rainbow there.

Nina Patty

Monday the 4th began a week of spills. Nina started with a whole bowl of cereal on the floor, then it was day 2 of Cereal-on-the-floor-mageddon, with no end to the crisis in sight. Wednesday it wasn’t the cereal that was being spilled, it was the milk. Fortunately the furry disposal unit was back. Thursday brought a partial spill of cereal, but it still counted before Friday brought no spills – our long national nightmare was over. Friday night Nina and I LARPed tonight for the first time – I was Jack, she was Jill and really good at tumbling after. Much better than Thursday night’s tantrum marathon (although she’s developing some impressive bedtime delaying tactics).

Nina Felix

Saturday the 9th Nina took her first Silver Line ride to Tysons Corner today with her BFF, his mom and sister. There was a nice new playground on the elevated plaza (although no direct walkway from the Metro then, and the Shake Shack there wasn’t open yet). We had lunch at the food court there (Baja Fresh for us) before everyone else but me rode the little train. Later Andy (an ex-coworker) had a goodbye party (moving out of the country) and Nina finally tried s’mores (although only ate the chocolate). Sunday night Jill and I went to see Matt Nathanson and Gavin DeGraw at Wolf Trap with our friend Linda who was thrilled with our second row seats.

Linda Kerry Jill

More spills the next week, but boring to talk about. Instead I’ll mention than Monday the 11th I introduced Nina to the Muppet Show (she’s now a Swedish Chef fan) and at bedtime we had a mini dance party where I mashed up “Jump In Line” and “Fancy”. Our friend Patty brought over takeout for us to share on Thursday, then we had a walk around the lake for frozen yogurt. Unfortunately Nina was very under the weather Saturday night and we ditched plans to get a babysitter – Jill stayed home while I went to see Tori Amos.


Nina regards picnicking as a full contact sport. In addition to sticky hands and face, Monday the 18th she had ranch dressing on her right elbow and foot, guacamole on her left foot and peach juice everywhere else. Wednesday I hoped bad things don’t come in threes, as Tuesday night I had dropped my phone – not the first time, but now I cracked the screen and broke the touchscreen. Then Wednesday morning my wedding ring fell on the ground, and when I went to stop it from rolling away, I bent it.


Thursday the 21st we got this priceless conversation:
Nina: [touching chunk of pineapple to armpit]
Jill: What are you doing?
Nina: I’m rubbing my crotch.
Parents: [muffled laughter]
Jill: Don’t put food in your armpit!
Parents: [ROTFLOL]

Jill Nina

Sunday the 24th we returned to Wolf Trap to have dinner on the Associates’ Deck and see Boston live (Tom Scholz is still a monster). Later we watched the first Doctor Who of the new season – good use of a date night. Wednesday morning my dad called me, he had recently received a call from “me”, supposedly in a detention center in Baltimore with my nose broken after a night out where I’d crashed my car and been arrested after an unregistered gun was found in the trunk. He went to the bank to get out $3000 before he decided to try and call me to verify the story. I told him it wasn’t me. I did a search online, not the first time this scam has been attempted.

Jill Kerry

Saturday the 30th was Nina’s birthday party at Kidz Plaza. We’d priced out renting bounce houses, and they were comparable (and no cleanup for us). Jill’s mom, her older sister and her 2 nieces drove down the night before while her younger sister flew down that day. Her dad also drove down with his wife. The party started at 12:15 and all the kids had a blast. After 90 minutes we moved into the party room and served snacks and cupcakes. After we packed up and came home, Nina opened some gifts before taking a nap. My dad made it over with my sister and her husband, and we went out on the deck boat after Nina woke up. I grilled hamburgers and hot dogs for everyone for dinner.

Maddy Ava Missy Nina Jill

Sunday all the girls went out for a photo shoot, which meant I got to sleep in. I met them for lunch at Nando’s Peri Peri in Ashburn, where Nina and Ava went to see the fountain before our food arrived and got completely soaked. Later Nina opened more gifts (she got a lot) and we all had Flippin’ Pizza.

Ava Nina


Since we’d celebrated Jill’s birthday early and she was working on the actual day, we didn’t go out that night but I did get up early and pick up Einstein’s bagels for everyone on Tuesday the 1st. Thursday Sue (Jill’s mom, who had come down the previous weekend) took Jill and I to Dulles, where we flew to London for the weekend as an early 10th anniversary present to ourselves. Sue’s husband Dave was supposed to fly down that night, but weather delayed him until the next morning (we had a 30 minute delay) – Nina had lots of fun with them that weekend.

Kerry Jill

A long flight later, we arrived at Heathrow in the early morning of the 4th and endured a very long line to get to Customs. After that, we caught the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station, then took the Underground to Tower Hill near the DoubleTree we were staying at. Unfortunately it took almost an hour for our room to be ready, and we nearly fell asleep in the lobby waiting (the flight hadn’t been conducive to sleeping). We both napped once we got into our room – too long as we slept through my alarm and were late for dinner. I pushed our reservation back 30 minutes, but it didn’t matter – we were the first people to be eating and not watching tennis at The Banana Store Restaurant. It was pretty good, but we ate fast as we didn’t want to miss the main event.

Kerry Jill

Monty Python was an early and deep influence on me, but a reunion seemed unlikely. So when one was announced as a live stage show last fall, I knew I wanted to go (and I was still kicking myself over missing the Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin reunions), so I bought tix. Jill wasn’t sold, but between her mom visiting and plane ticket prices dropping we made it work. We arrived at the O2 for the 4th performance of Monty Python Live (Mostly) with about 30 minutes to spare. I bought a shirt and we took our seats in the 3rd row.


The music started right on time, and they did all their greatest hits. All my favorite songs (“Every Sperm Is Sacred”, “The Lumberjack Song”, “Bruces’ Philosophers Song”, and “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”) as well as my favorite sketches (“Nudge Nudge”, “Spanish Inquisition”, “Argument Clinic”, and “Dead Parrot”) made appearances. The additional singers and dancers were used to good effect and the old video clips and new material were deftly edited together. A really great show, and they barely showed their age.

Monty Python Live

I’d bought a VIP package with “Meet and Greet” to get the good seats. I had my doubts about the aftershow, but we went anyway. Once I saw the line that wrapped around the building I knew there would be no one-on-one time. And I was right, a couple free drinks, a bag of swag, and a questions and answer session. Still, I was impressed that they all showed up and were in good spirits, but once it was over we were out of there and back to the hotel for a good night’s rest (not a bad way to spend Independence Day though).

Monty Python

The next morning we had the complimentary breakfast buffet before getting over to the London Bridge station so we could meet up with the Harry Potter walking tour, ironically enough taking us right through the Borough Market past where we’d had dinner the night before. It rained a bit at the end of the tour, but it was a nice walk through London (one tube ride in the middle). Jill went shopping and I went back to the hotel to change before we met up for a delicious late lunch at The Square (very late for me as I walked the wrong way off the tube).

Jill tourguide

We stopped at Hamleys after lunch to pick up some Peppa Pig toys for Nina (she would have loved it, but we would never have gotten her out of there) before we split up for some shopping. Later we enjoyed a fabulous Neil Gaiman reading and performance of “The Truth Is A Cave In The Black Mountains” with a string quartet and art by Eddie Campbell. He even had a Ben Folds cameo for the encore with their first ever performance of “The Problem With Saints” from 8in8 (that was twice I’d seen Ben in 2 weeks – he might be stalking me). We had a late dinner of sandwiches at the lobby bar and even later drinks in the rooftop lounge.

London Bridge

Sunday morning it was shopping time. I hit CD and book shops while Jill hit yarn shops, and we met up for a tasty late lunch at Lal Qila before walking over to the door next to Speedy’s Cafe, seen on Sherlock as 221B Baker Street. We picked up our luggage and headed out to Heathrow where we stayed the night at the Hilton there (Oscar’s was a decent lobby restaurant).

Jill Kerry

The flight the next day was long, but I got a lot of reading done. Unfortunately the heat returned – it felt like someone had left the sauna on. Nina was very excited to greet us at the airport, and to get her new Paddington bear I’d picked up in Waterstones (and we had to take a picture with it in the tube station before we left).

Jill Paddington

Sue and Dave stayed for another week (I brought home Willard’s for everyone on Thursday), and on Saturday the 12th Sue came with Nina and me to see Rocknoceros at Reston Town Center, then later we all went out on the dock boat so Nina could go fishing with Dave (also known as “Pop-Pop”).

Nina Dave

Monday the 14th I’d been playing lots of Queen for Nina to get her ready for the upcoming show, and she became obsessed with “We Will Rock You”. After our 6th listen in a row I was glad that at least it’s not The Wiggles. Wednesday I wanted the Polar Vortex to please come and visit us every summer, because the weather was so nice we had a picnic in the backyard.

Kerry Nina

Saturday the 19th we all walked around Lake Thoreau – Nina’s first time walking all by herself that far. A nice nap for her, and later that night I took in the first of three concerts in a row with emmet swimming at The Birchmere (solo, Mom the babysitter was away). Thanks to the drunk guys at the table next to me plus the mosh pit they started at the end, it felt like a TT Reynolds show. Bonus points for the first time I’ve seen them do “Gangsta” (original version of “Sunblock”).

Kerry Nina

The next night was Queen + Adam Lambert at Merriweather Post Pavilion, this time with both Jill and Nina. We drove up in the afternoon, intending to have dinner at the mall next door, not thinking they’d close at 6 like the rest of the mall. But thanks to 9:30 Club Friends with Benefits, we had access to the VIP Deck Pass (after we entered from the mall side in a long but fast moving line). A nice secluded grassy area with a special bonus that night: José Andrés’ Pepe food truck (very tasty sandwiches). The concert was great and Nina was a trooper, lasted through six songs (with ear protection) before moving from dancing on the seats to dancing at top of the stairs. Turns the best way to keep a toddler occupied is to find a broken pinball machine where she can keep putting a quarter in and getting it out. We made it 2/3s through, which was longer than I thought we’d go. The show was really good – Adam’s stage presence was ok, but his voice was incredible, totally nailed “Somebody To Love”. I could’ve dealt without her throwing up 5 minutes from home – no more Peppa Pig videos on the Beltway.

Kerry Jill Nina

The next evening Jill took a paddling class on Lake Anne I’d gotten her as a birthday present. Nina and I watched and played in the water (and she got completely soaked), then headed over to Lake Anne Plaza. My third concert in a row was Veruca Salt at The Black Cat that night. They were tight like they’d never stopped playing together. And how is it Queen had no kids shirts while they did? Ok, I know the answer – Nina and Louise from the band both have young kids.


On Friday the 25th, Nina had some milestones: a little over a month shy of her 3rd birthday she was 3 feet tall and 28.5 pounds, and could read me Blue Hat, Green Hat. The next night I was glad the Dave Matthews Band had the same relaxed attitude towards start time that we did, because after dropping Illa off at the kennel, ordering Thai takeout, fighting traffic to the Lube and eating said takeout, by the time we walked in at 7:30 they were just getting started. And it was a great show – I was considering skipping this year, but the acoustic set/electric set concept drew me back, and it was a great show – got our two favorite songs in the acoustic set (“Two Step” and “Ants Marching”) and “Minarets” in the electric set.

Nina at summer camp

Sunday the 27th we got a somewhat early start on our annual drive up north on summer vacation. We learned some important things: Jill’s sister Robin eloped that morning, Pilot has stolen Sonic’s ice making technique, and Nina can now scale a seven foot rock wall by herself (back to Lincoln Elementary School).

Kerry Nina

Monday we went to Community Field again where Nina had a blast (she’s mastered the playground disc traverse after 2 days), then had sandwiches for a picnic lunch before visiting Jill’s grandfather with her dad at the nearby Soldiers’ Home (the veterans love Nina). I went to my favorite Northampton destinations Provisions and Turn It Up while Nina napped, then Sue made us a tasty dinner of bacon wrapped chicken breast, corn on the cob, green beans, and fruit salad, plus chocolate cake from Aunt Vicky (and it was great to see Auntie Kelley).

Kerry Nina

Tuesday it was another day on the road to Old Orchard Beach in Maine, where Robin’s new husband Mike’s parents owned a pair of cottages. Nina has learned how to game the road trip – if she wants to get out of her car seat, she just tells us she needs to go potty. She also learned that waves from the Atlantic Ocean are freezing and terrifying if they go up past her ankles, while we learned Robin and Mike are excellent hosts for newlyweds (ask Mike for his surf n’ turf sandwiches for lunch). In the afternoon she played with Blake, the son of friends that were also staying there, while dinner was at Los Tapatios in Biddeford, decent Mexican (but meh service).

Nina Blake

With a day to get used to it, Nina thought that the ocean was the best thing ever Wednesday morning. We walked down to Hoss and Mary’s to get takeout for lunch (fried lobster sandwiches are delicious) and later we drove with Robin and Mike to nearby Portland, Maine (which is also kinda weird). We got a reservation at Flatbread Company and shopped in a nearby gift shop before our table was ready and we all had some delicious wood-fired pizza.


Thursday we packed up, but headed north instead of south so we could visit L.L. Bean’s flagship store. It’s ginormous (Nina quite liked it, even when she scraped up her knee in the parking lot) and we got her some winter gear. We drove over to Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster which was delicious and also meant I got to have lobster for lunch all 3 days we were in Maine (we smuggled in some McNuggets for Nina). Later we managed a short visit with the Cannons and their girls for dinner before returning to Holyoke, and Jill arranged a late night hot tub and massage for us (seriously late, we started at 11PM) that would have been more fun if I hadn’t sunburned my feet at the beach.

Kerry Nina


When I last left off, we had arrived in Portland, Oregon. Early on Sunday the 1st, we took the light rail to meet Meg. We met her at the MAX stop, then walked over to Voodoo Doughnuts where Nina enjoyed her vegan grape donut. We were happy to find out that the Saturday Market was open on Sunday as well, and Meg and Nina had fun splashing in the fountain while we took a break from shopping.

Jill Kerry Nina

I’m a fan of food carts, so to learn that Portland has permanent dedicated areas for them was fantastic. At SW Washington and 9th Nina had a quesadilla, I had a great Banh mi from Rua and Jill had Georgian (Europe) food from Kargi Gogo. After naptime, Meg came back over and we got takeout for her and Nina so we could sneak off and have a delicious Mexican fusion dinner at Taqueria Nueve. I’d backed them on Kickstarter, and the chef’s dinner we got was outstanding, lots of dishes based on corn and some of the best grilled asparagus we’ve ever had.

Meg Nina

Monday we took the light rail over to the Children’s Museum. We had a breakfast there (I had a delicious egg wrap), then lots of fun activities for Nina, including an interactive ambulance, a dam in a stream and a plant maze. Her favorite (and the one we had to drag her away from) was the stage, where she got to perform. We had popcorn for a snack, then Jill and Nina used the freezing cold pool while I went to the next door mall to buy a pillow. We had pizza delivered from Pizzicato for dinner, pretty good.


Tuesday we had Bowery Bagels for breakfast, then stopped at the same light rail stop as the day before to go to the Portland Zoo. Nina loved the polar bears, elephants, lions, hippos and giraffes. We enjoyed more food trucks for lunch (I had Hawaiian pork and grits), then met up with Meg and Mackenzie at the Deschutes Brewpub for dinner (yummy wings).

Nina Jill

Wednesday was a lazier day around Portland with stops at Powell’s and Finnegan’s Toys and more food truck goodness (Steak Your Claim was my favorite yet, Jill enjoyed some fish). Actually napped while Nina did that afternoon, then we did McMenamins (Ringlers) for dinner, again with Meg and Mackenzie (the tater tots were great).

Jill Meg Nina Mackenzie

Thursday we did OMSI in the morning (Nina loved the grocery store and sandbox area), food trucks for lunch and dinner, shopping (finally made it to a CD store, Everyday Music), and one more Voodoo Doughnuts hit. Friday was a long day of travel followed by dinner at Cafesano, and catching up on TV.


Saturday the 7th Mom came over and Jill and I drove down to Constitution Hall to see The Kids In The Hall. We’d seen Kevin McDonald & Dave Foley 5 years previously, but never the whole troupe before. They were pretty funny, even for a casual fan like me. Nina finally got to see Felix again on Sunday and had a good time running around.

Felix Nina

Nina started summer camp at school on Monday the 9th – happy her friend Felix was there, also her teacher Jenny and other friends from school were there as well. I’d seen Ringo Starr before, but not with his All-Starr band. Thursday at Wolf Trap it was an amazing show, full of hits from Ringo, Todd Rundgren, Gregg Rolie (Santana), Richard Page (Mr. Mister) and Steve Lukather (Toto). The next night Dan Wilson (ex-Semisonic, co-writer with Dixie Chicks and Adele) was at Jammin’ Java singing his perfect pop songs and great songwriting stories.


Saturday the 14th I slept in, we saw Todd Wright at Finnegan’s and had tasty burgers from BurgerFi, then I mowed the lawn while Nina napped. I made breakfast for dinner (French Toast and banana bread muffins), then I came up with a nice idea. Jill and Felix’s parents walk them over to Yogiberry in South Lakes to get frozen yogurt. Meanwhile I drive the deck boat over and pick them up to eat it on the ride back. For Father’s Day we went to my dad’s house for lunch and a nice walk on the boardwalk, then Nina played with Felix for a bit while Jill shopped. Bojangles chicken for dinner was delicious, and the Game Of Thrones season finale after a good call swapping dad stories with Chris Cannon was icing on the cake.

Jill Nina

Wednesday the 18th I had to congratulate True Detective and Fargo for coming out of nowhere and being some of the best TV shows out there. Their season finales got me as anxious as Game Of Thrones. Thursday I knew I didn’t want all my favorite musicians to be openers, but Jim Boggia was in the perfect spot for a school night, he was awesome and we left 3 songs into the headliner. Saturday we had dinner at Bungalow Lakehouse (decent lobster roll) then went to see Luke Brindley on the Leesburg Town Green.

Nina Kerry

Wednesday the 25th I decided someone at the Wolf Trap box office has a sense of humor. I was in the exact same seat for Ben Folds that I was for Ringo Starr. No Jill, once seeing Ben was sufficient for her, which I didn’t know until after I bought tix to see him again with an orchestra (sold it for a nice profit). I saw him with the Five at the Virgin Mobile Freefest in 2012, and was glad to finally see him with an orchestra (the NSO). His new Piano Concerto was quite good, second set even better (don’t think I’ve ever seen an improv jam with an orchestra before). Friday I finally got Nina down for the count at 10:42PM with no bath. I honestly don’t understand how parents can be alone with more than one child. And to top it off, I came downstairs to a phone message from my credit card company. They put me on hold listening to a Muzak version of “I Want It That Way”.


Saturday the 28th, Jill’s mom came down to visit, and we headed back to the Leesburg Town Green to picnic and watch Todd Wright. It was a nice night in Leesburg for a concert, and when he brought Mary Ann Redmond their playing together was like peanut butter and chocolate. Sunday we celebrated Jill’s and my mom’s birthdays with lunch at Ford’s Fish Shack (fried fish and lobster, so good). Later, this happened –

Nina: I want to tickle you, Mama.
Jill: You can’t, your hands are dirty.
Nina: I need a napkin.

The bonus – it was her second use of deductive reasoning that day.

Nancy Nina


Thursday the 1st Nina had an excellent first visit to the dentist with Jill. She sat in the chair all by herself and opened her mouth “wide like an alligator” for polishing/brushing, flossing, and counting of teeth with the pointy stick. Friday I took Nina to Friday Night Live! with Love Seed Mama Jump and she got to run around with all the other kids.


Saturday we saw Snakehead Run at the Farmer’s Market at Lake Anne Plaza. Felix and his mom were there, and the kids had a great time playing with the instruments that had been set out. That night she was very excited to sleep in her big girl bed. My mom gave us some doll beds her grandfather made and in a weird coincidence (since I hadn’t unpacked them ’til that night), the beds are nearly identical to the new one I built her.


Wednesday the 7th I went to Nina’s medal ceremony at gymnastics, then we had lunch at Wendy’s. Nina finally ate her first burger – guess I just have to get the patties as thin as Wendy’s does. Thursday Nina and I watched the “Pyramid of Light” art installation being assembled on the drain on Lake Thoreau.

Saturday the 10th we were at Frying Pan Park for Annabelle’s birthday party and narrowly averted the rain. Running around, playing with balloons and riding the carousel were all fun, although Nina got her first sunburn (ran low on sunscreen and she got some coloring on her shoulders). For Mother’s Day Nina had her first trip in a kayak, then my mom came over and we had dinner at Tequila Grande.


Saturday May 16th Jill headed to Tennessee for a knitting retreat. It’s the second time I’ve been the single parent for the weekend, so I thought “What’s the harm” when we went to Felix’s house for dinner and didn’t eat ’til 8. The harm was a total meltdown at bedtime, timeouts for both of us, and a final bedtime of 10:45. Sunday was a little better – we went to the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival where she did some art, we got some food and she picked out a toy for bathtime at Dawn Price Baby (a boat), but she peed in her seat on the way to the nearby playground. After I finally got her down for a nap and cleaned up her car seat, I needed to add two fingers of Jameson’s to my Coke Zero. Later she loved her new Supergirl costume, and insisted on keeping it on the rest of the afternoon.


Tuesday the 20th Nina figured out how to climb a chain link fence – hide all your valuables. Thursday night after bathtime, Nina was walking around bow legged wearing nothing but a medal stretched around her legs. I asked her what she was doing and she told me she was a dragon. I told her she was the scariest dragon I’d ever seen.

Monday the 26th we had the Larsens and Norwoods over for Memorial Day and had everyone out on the floating dock after hamburgers and hot dogs. Thursday morning I dropped off my car for service at the new Honda dealership close to my office. They sent a shuttle to pick me up when it was done, and I went downstairs when they called to tell me they were waiting. But no one was there. I called them, and it turns out they sent the driver to my house instead. I wondered if he’ll transport a 2 year old…


Friday the 30th was the only night we could make it to the Herndon Festival, but Nina and I had fun dancing to the BoDeans with friends the Jewells, Lorna and Dave and Susan. The next day was the start of our vacation, a long flight out to Portland and room service after the train to our hotel (the DoubleTree).

Kerry Nina


Tuesday April 1st I achieved the rarely seen double meltdown. Thank God for Rifftrax on National Geographic. The next night we had two big accomplishments: Nina counted to five (she recites numbers but actually connecting the numbers to physically counting objects is new), and I ripped my entire Beatles collection. On a related note, Saturday morning “Here Comes The Sun” and 95 other songs were on my George Harrison playlist we were listening to. Nina said the sitar hurts her ears, but she’ll have to get used to it. Later that night, we were at our 3rd show at Wolf Trap in 3 weeks, and all local musicians doing George Harrison’s songs. Excellent show, and notable for the first time I’ve seen Todd Wright, Michael Clem and Eddie Hartness sharing a stage together (and I’ve seen each of them at least 50 times).


Sunday it turns out you can teach an old dog a new trick – 11 years old, and Illa got his first bird that day (it bounced off the side of the house trying to get away, but rebounds still count). Monday the 7th I took Nina to her first seated concert (Molly Lewis at Jammin’ Java) and she quite liked it (and was mostly behaved and sitting as she ate potato chips). Bonus – she made it into bed only five minutes later than the night before. Lots of milestones for Nina that week: Thursday she learned to spell her name, and we measured her at 35 inches tall (growing up so fast). Then Friday she did the call and response of “Mahna Mahna” before bed.


Saturday the 12th we had a very busy morning and afternoon celebrating my dad’s birthday by taking Nina to her first circus (Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus), then lunch at Red Robin, resulted in very little productivity the rest of the day – I napped almost as long as she did. Sunday I stained Nina’s new bed, and managed to pour the stain down the side of my hand. That stuff does not come off easily. There was lots of rain (and hail – I think that’s worse than snow) on Tuesday.


Saturday and Sunday I went to Awesome Con in DC, our first major comics and pop culture con in a while. Saturday the 19th Jill and Nina accompanied me, and we accomplished my major goal: getting a picture of Billie Piper with us. We also saw Leslie Carrara-Rudolph (voice of Abby Cadabby) do a panel, then stopped for lunch at Pete’s in Clarendon. Sunday after an Easter Egg Hunt at church I went back to get an autograph with Billie Piper (we couldn’t wait around the day before) and do some shopping. I stopped at Z-Burger to pick up tasty burgers on the way home, and walked in to “Daddy’s home – time to put on your underwear.”

Billie, Nina & Kerry

Jill’s mom, Sue arrived on Sunday while Melissa, Ava and Tiernan came on Tuesday. They went to the National Zoo with Jill and Nina on Thursday and to the American Doll store on Saturday the 26th. Only 2 bands drew me to Merriweather that summer: Extreme and Queen. The rainy Friday traffic was as dreadful as anticipated on the 25th, but I still saw Lita Ford’s mini Runaways reunion in her set. Extreme’s set was short but sweet, nice to see them with a big crowd singing along. I also got a free t-shirt (and wore it, ’cause it’s cold) and ZZ Top/Jeff Beck ticket courtesy of the 9:30 Club. Hometown heroes Kix put on a nice show to close the night. I was back the next afternoon to check out Jack Russell’s Great White, Stryper and the Geoff Tate-less Queensrÿche (verdict: very good) before heading home and out again with Jill to see Robbie Schaefer at Jammin’ Java for his CD release show with Jake Armerding and Rachael Davis. Great trio, deserving of more shows together.


Nina had missed it when her playground friends moved away, but this month she started developing a strong friendship with Felix, who lives 4 houses away. He’s a year older, but they play very well together. It helps that his parents are very friendly too. The only bad thing is they ask to play together almost every day, and we have to turn them down sometimes.

Felix and Nina


Saturday the 1st we had lunch at t’Kila ’cause of a daily deal and it was delicious. That night I had been planning on going to see the Eagles (mostly ’cause Bernie was touring with them), but hadn’t bought a ticket. But I bought one off StubHub at 5PM, 90 minutes later I was finishing off my Shake Shack burger and about to go in (Good thing Jill’s mom came to visit). Excellent show – this is pretty accurate.

Sue Nina

The following day was nice (and the snow duck melted as we watched a fat little squirrel eat the carrot and raisins), but I was at work because I knew school would be closed the next day. I was right, and was home on Monday. I finally broke out the princess costume and doll (Nina loved it) and we played outside quite a bit.


Thursday the 6th Nina discovered the wonders of peanut butter and chocolate pudding – on bread. Saturday we had our 5th overnight getaway without Nina tonight (who had a vegetarian dinner with Jill’s mom and friends and my guess is lots of french fries). We had a nice dinner at a bistro in Lovettsville, saw Todd Wright play lots of new songs at a coffee shop in Leesburg, then stayed at a B&B a little bit west. If only we hadn’t lost an hour of sleep that night. Sunday Nina finally managed to stay on her bike for more than a couple seconds. was the “True Detective” season finale (unexpected, amazing show). I prepared by teaching Nina how to say “Alright, alright, alright”. It nearly gave me an anxiety attack – who knew we’d finally find a worthy successor to Twin Peaks?

Nina Jill

Monday the 10th I bought 3 tickets for Queen + Adam Lambert, 2 for Dan Wilson (ex-Semisonic) and 1 for Sting + Paul Simon. That was all my entertainment budget for a while. Jill’s mom came with her to Nina’s gymnastics class that Wednesday. The Sting + Paul Simon show was Thursday, and was an unexpected pairing that somehow just worked (points to the 14 other musicians in their bands). And 5 Graceland songs was just the cherry on top. Plus some spicy Thai for dinner before the show with Stuart and Susan was a bonus.

Nina Jill

Friday Nina learned how to get on the monkey bars by herself. Saturday Nina got her first real injury with me when she ran into a door when I was opening it, but she’s a trooper. We had an early St. Patrick’s Day lunch so Nina could have it with both grandmothers. Too bad she wasn’t interested in the corned beef. Sunday Nina had her first shower. It was because she had a bandaid on her foot, but no crying at all. Later I shoveled 5 inches of snow. I hoped it stopped so they didn’t close snow camp the next day.

Nina Nancy

Wednesday the 19th Jill and Nina drove with her Mom to Holyoke. The second night of bachelorhood I slept in and worked late, then it was time for dinner and TV – such an exciting life I lead. The third night (Friday) I switched it up a little, went to the Barns at Wolf Trap to see indie-folkers Bombadil and Pearl & the Beard. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many hipsters outside DC.


The weekend was very busy as I had a 3 home improvement projects, culminating in building a new bed for Nina. How do you describe it when a piece of lumber slides out of you car because of some numbnut cutting in front of you and slamming on the brake, then you swing back around to pick it up and it’s just fine? Victory. It only took 15 minutes to remember how much I hate sawing (and blisters). Then it was time to make like Dylan and go electric. Saturday night I finally got to see a musical Jill doesn’t want to see – Xanadu (yes I’m straight, just a huge Jeff Lynne fan). Sunday I saw my mom in a musical salute to Reston, finished Nina’s bed, and sliced my finger deep enough that I’m on my 3rd band-aid. I was looking forward to seeing my girls the next day, but the next bachelor weekend I’m going to take a day off. Nina and Jill also kept busy, visiting the Holyoke Children’s Museum and the Holyoke St. Paddy’s parade.

Jill Melissa

Monday the 24th they took the train down and I picked them up at Union Station. Thursday the 27th Jill and I went to see Red Molly with Mark Erelli opening, then Sunday the 30th we got more snow, and we were all pretty tired of it. That night we had a dance party in the kitchen with R.E.M. and Republica that devolved into a hockey game (with a broom and a Swiffer).