Wednesday night I was at work later than anyone, but it didn’t matter as I still got home before Jill. I grilled chicken for fajitas, then brined the turkey in cider after dinner. I thought it would fit in a pot, but it was too big and I had to put it in a cooler. Of course the cooler didn’t fit in the fridge, so I put it out on the porch, but it was cold enough the ice I put in hadn’t melted the next morning.

Thursday I got up, drained the turkey and patted it dry, then put it in the fridge. I started cooking it around noon, then started adding the glaze every time I checked on it, and added the stuffing halfway through. Jill made mashed potatoes and turnips and gravy before everything was done. We were actually ready for my mom to show up with my sister and her dog. Illa was overjoyed to see Tati, and they played all afternoon.

Illa and Tati

Sharon brought rolls and cranberry sauces, and Dad brought a green bean casserole, and soon everyone sat down for dinner. Everything was great, and the turkey turned out nice and juicy. By the time the folks headed out and we cleaned up it was pretty late and we zoned out watching concerts until we went to sleep.


Black Friday I slept in while Jill went shopping, I read newspapers and started listening to CDs for my annual compilation. We had a full spread of leftovers for dinner, then Jill was on the phone later and I went back to the CDs.

Saturday was movie day. First up was Hamlet 2 (started slow, then ended hilarious), then RocknRolla (finishing the Guy Ritchie UK crime films and getting me ready for Sherlock Holmes). For dinner we had talked about going up to Frederick to see a band and get dinner, but decided against it. I was still in the mood to go out, so we used one of the gift certificates I’d given Jill and went over to the Russia House restaurant in downtown Herndon. We had some vodka cocktails and both had the Moldavian salad, then I had the duck breast with sour cherries and Jill had the Beef Stroganov. After that I made a fire and we watched Hairspray (the musical) (really good cast, and John Waters’ cameo was so appropriate).

Today we both slept in and I watched the football game in the afternoon (another close loss), then went back to CD listening. For dinner I made an Asian turkey salad, then we watched Simpsons and the MacFarlane shows as well as Surviving the Holidays with Lewis Black, lots of comedians riffing on the subject.

Mostly home plus a Pan-Celtic show.

Friday I came home and roasted spare ribs and potatoes and made a nice thick sauce to go with them, went great with a Yuengling Light. We watched some TV later, but were both pretty wiped out.

Saturday Jill was out early, and I slept in a bit, then headed over to the Chaamp fundraiser in Arlington to give some money and confer with their leader, Lezlie, about some other fundraising. When I got back I fixed some of the window grids and repainted trim while Jill raked the leaves in front, then we cleared out the back deck. We had Indian for dinner, a prepared meal from Trader Joe’s as well as a pork dish I made. More TV later, we finished off the Prisoner remake, but it was disappointing,

Today we gathered firewood in the early afternoon and I recycled a bunch of beer bottles in the woods, then Jill headed out and I watched a close football game (but a loss to the Cowboys) before making chicken tender sandwiches and sweet potato fries as well as trying out a new Thanksgiving recipe: Squash and Apple Puree. Then we headed over to Old Brogue to see Beth Patterson sit in with IONA. It was a good show, and I taped the second set with my new camera (didn’t get there in time to get permission for the first). More TV now, then bed.

Another concert double header

Last night I warmed some baked ziti Jill had made earlier in the week so we could eat quickly after she got off work, then headed over to the Barns at Wolf Trap. We did not get there early enough to see all of Lucy Wainwright Roche, but we caught several songs, then got to chat with Shelly and the Jewells (Stuart and Olivia) at intermission.

Robbie Schaefer was playing his first solo headlining gig, and for the third time in a year we saw him joined by John Jennings on stage, along with Danny Schwartz who was a talented multi-instrumentalist. Robbie played a number of tracks off his recent album, as well as some brand new ones (I’m particularly fond of “No More Words And No More Goodbyes”). I ducked out at the encore break (Jill was getting a ride home with the Jewells) and made the quick drive over to the State Theatre (less than fifteen minutes).

The Nervous Cabaret had opened, but I missed them, Amanda Palmer was performing solo when I walked in. She soon brought them up, and they played some of her solo songs, some Dresden Dolls songs, and the highlight of the evening: a cover of The Ting Tings “That’s Not My Name”:

Home and football

Friday night neither of us really felt like cooking, so I picked up some Tortilla Factory goodness on the way home, chicken enchiladas for Jill and shredded beef enchiladas for me, as well as some black bean soup. After dinner we didn’t have any mutual TV to watch, so I started watching Changeling while Jill knitted. She was disturbed by the storyline, and horrified after I told her it was based on a true story. After a quick Wikipedia check, she decided she only wanted to watch the end of the movie, so we stopped that and watched Hellboy II instead. Good Friday night movie, she’d never seen the first but you don’t really need to. I never really got into the comics (not a big fan of Mignola’s art), but Guillermo del Toro sure makes nice movies.

Saturday we cleaned before we had a staging lady over to analyze what we need to do to sell the house. I’d had a home inspector over when I was off on Wednesday, and as soon as we get her report we’ll decide what we want to with the time and money we want to spend. Jill went shopping and ran errands in the afternoon while I read and surfed. For dinner I got fancy, served grilled pork chops with a chipotle mustard, roasted asparagus and cranberry glazed butternut squash. The squash was a test run for Thanksgiving and came out well, so that’s a keeper.

After hearing what Sunday’s weather would be like, I’d called Dad on Saturday to see if he wanted to go to the Skins game. I’m not very happy with the owner these days or their performance, but I’m still a die hard fan and Dad and I try to go to at least one game together during the season (I’d previously gone to a game with Jill). Dad called me back shortly before dinner and indicated it was the best date for him, so I hopped on Craigslist and found someone in Ashburn with great seats and a parking pass. I headed over there in the fog, completed the transaction and headed straight home. I’d watched most of Changeling during the day, and we watched the end after that as well as some TV including the first half of SNL (I could have stopped there).

Sunday I headed out, making my train by seconds and arrived right on time. I met dad at Largo and we headed over to FedEx, parking in the Orange Lot. We headed in to our great seats, fifteen rows back from the corner the team comes out from with beers and food (dog for me). The game was great, and we got the win I was hoping for with plenty of action. We left after the last touchdown, and I got back to where I’d parked in Falls Church by 5. I hit my favorite CD shop and stocked up on some 2009 releases in the clearance bin to help me build my annual sampler, then headed home. I grilled a steak and made a salad, then we watched the remake of The Prisoner (I’d made Jill watch the original a few years back, so she remembered it). I liked it, not quite like the original but definitely in the spirit of it (like the new BSG).

Skins vs. Broncos

Packed concert weekend: Ellis Paul, Dar Williams, Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs

Friday I picked up Jill from the Vienna Metro. She was finishing her travel from Hartford and had her luggage with her. It was better that way, as we were close to Jammin’ Java where Ellis Paul was playing. We got our usual meal (cup of the pork ‘n tomatillo chili, half roast beef sandwich and a side of the house salad) and sat down. I knew Michael Clem would be performing with him, but he also brought Robbie Schaefer on stage and kept him for the rest of the set, he and Mike had some great harmonies. Ellis started out the second set solo, but brought Mike back for “Let It Be” through the rest of the set. We left right before the end as Jill had a headache – I brought my video camera but it refused to work (could be a new purchase very very soon).

Ellis Paul & Michael Clem

Saturday we slept in, then I whiled away the afternoon reading newspapers and watching TV. We headed over to RT’s Restaurant for a quick dinner before the show. I wanted something different, so I had the Alligator Stew and the Spicy Crawfish Red Beans & Rice (the crawfish was very good, the stew was ok) while Jill had the She Crab Soup, salad and shrimp in a Jack Daniels sauce (tasty). Then we headed over to the Birchmere, got some drinks and watched The Rhythm Angels (ok) and Dar Williams (yay!). She was joined by pianist Bryn Roberts for most of her set, really added some nice texture (I love that keyboard riff during “Buzzer”).

Sunday we didn’t sleep quite as late, but I had a busy day planned. First we went to some open houses in Reston, then I watched the Redskins lose another one (though if they’d played the first half like they played the second they would have won) and grilled some brats for dinner with some oven baked sweet potato fries. After dinner it was back to the Birchmere (solo, Jill wasn’t interested) to see Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs (from the Bangles).

Matthew & Susanna had first performed together as Ming Tea in Austin Powers. I’d love to hear them write songs together, but their record company decided to capitalize on a trend and paid them to do a covers album as Sid ‘n Susie. Their first one was ’60s songs, and that was successful enough they released a second one hitting the ’70s. And most importantly now they’re touring together. Needless to say I really like the way their voices work together and was eager to see how it would be live.

It was an all acoustic set, with two additional guitarists to lend a hand. They were very low key, flubbing verses and ending songs prematurely, but I found it charming (especially Matthew commenting on wearing his Vibram FiveFingers shoes on stage). Standouts of the set included “I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere”. But the real treat was the first encore. “Here Comes The Sun” just killed, and the fact they had to start over at the bridge just meant more harmonies. Even better was ending some Bangles and Sweet songs, Susanna taking “In Your Room” into “Manic Monday” and Matthew breaking out the rare (for this tour) “Sick Of Myself” and “I’ve Been Waiting”, all with great harmonies.

Sid 'n Susie

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Night Two

I’m a big fan of multi-artist shows and festivals, and love collaborations. So when the shows at Madison Square Garden went on sale, I knew I wanted to go (especially since there have been many of the induction ceremonies I would have loved to attend). They were moderately expensive, so I decided to go to just one, and since Jill had picked the next week to go on vacation, going to the Friday show made everything easier. I thought it also had the edge on the best lineup of the two nights, but that changed somewhat a week before the show when Eric Clapton dropped out due to imminent surgery, and they got Jeff Beck to sub in (although it does make sense since he replaced Clapton in The Yardbirds). After reading reviews of the first night, I was hoping for something really special.

We got to the show with a little extra time, as they were advertising it to start right on time. And it did, though that meant fifteen minutes of videos first. But soon Tom Hanks gave a nice speech and then introduced Jerry Lee Lewis to play “Great Balls Of Fire.” He’s not so young anymore, but still played and sounded pretty good. They lowered the video screen while they got Aretha’s set ready, then the band was lit up and played her on. She started out with some of her early singles and a song from Ragtime before bringing on Annie Lennox to duet on “Chain Of Fools”. She played to the hometown crowd with “New York, New York” before Lenny Kravitz joined her for Think. She sounded great, and was brought back for an encore (a little “Respect”, of course).

Metallica had been billed second, but they had more star power then Jeff Beck, so he went on next. He smartly started with his cover of “Drown In My Own Tears” (a Ray Charles classic), then brought out the big guns as Sting joined him to sing People Get Ready (happier to see him than original singer Rod Stewart). I didn’t know “Freeway Jam”, but I was familiar with his bluesy take on Stevie Wonder’s “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers”. The blues continued as Buddy Guy joined him on “Let Me Love You”, then we reached a lull with “Big Block” and “Rice Pudding” (though bassist Tal Wilkenfeld was a joy to watch). ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons joined him next and surprisingly did his own band’s “Rough Boy” (not a big hit but a good song), then they had a smokin’ take on Hendrix’s Foxy Lady. Beck saved his best cover for last, an instrumental version of the Beatles’ A Day In The Life, earning a standing ovation.

With a simple “We are Metallica and this is what we do”, James and the boys tore into “For Whom The Bell Tolls” and “One”. They were the only band of the night where people stood for most of their set, although some folks sat down as they let their foot off the gas a bit to do their cover of Bob Seger’s “Turn The Page”. But everyone was up again and the Garden was resounding with howls of “Louuuuuu” as Lou Reed joined them on fiery versions of the Velvet Underground’s Sweet Jane and “White Light/White Heat”. The crowd got even louder as Ozzy came out for Black Sabbath’s Iron Man and “Paranoid” (I was hoping for “War Pigs”, but those choices can’t be denied). I thought it might slow down a bit after that but Ray Davies of the Kinks proved he still was a superb frontman on his You Really Got Me and All Day And All Of The Night. Were they done – heck no! Then they pulled out my favorite cover they do, Queen’s “Stone Cold Crazy” and finished with “Enter Sandman”. I haven’t seen them live in fifteen years, but that set made me realize I shouldn’t wait that long until I see them again.

After that I was expecting U2 to bring it all home, but they didn’t, something was off with them that night. It started with “Vertigo” when we couldn’t hear Bono’s vocals until a minute in, but it was their choice to play new song “Magnificent”, which really slowed things down (as far as I could tell it was the only new song performed both nights). Bringing out Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen and Roy Bittan got the crowd pumped again, but there were problems as they did Springsteen’s “Because The Night”, and a first take was deemed insufficient, so they gave it another go. Springsteen stayed on stage for a good version of I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, then the energy did pick up as a performance of “Mysterious Ways” segued into Where Is The Love and The Black Eyed Peas joined them. Fergie and remained as it sounded like the band was beginning “Gimme Shelter”. It was and Mick Jagger bounded on stage for the loudest cheers of the night. I can’t say I’m the strongest fan of Fergie’s solo stuff, but she held her own with Mick, best performance of the set. Mick hung around for Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of which was ok, then everyone left before U2 returned with a quick encore of “Beautiful Day”.

I was a little disappointed we didn’t get the six hour epic show of the night before, but more so that U2 was sluggish. I couldn’t help but wonder if having a giant teleprompter in his face was throwing Bono off his game – it was odd that all his between song patter was scripted. Bruce actually cut one bit of patter short and the best joke was unexpected – after Mick was done he mentioned what “a great house band U2 have been,” and Bono cracked “We do weddings, funerals and Bar Mitzvahs too.” Overall I’d have to award best set honors to Metallica, brought their A game all night. There are lots of reviews out there, but I like the NY Times because I can’t help smirking at “Mr. Jagger” and “Mr. Osbourne”.

New York and Holyoke

It was a weekend that started a day early. Since we were both taking Friday off, it was easier to say yes to a happy hour with Jill’s coworkers Thursday night (the fact that it was held at the Dogfish Head Alehouse had nothing to do with it). Jill wanted to do dinner there, and I didn’t disagree. I had the burger my coworkers had raved about (it was pretty tasty) while Jill had a pizza (good), but there was some disappointment – they were out of their Punkin Ale. So Jill had the Pangea and I had the Chicory Stout, both fine choices.

Friday morning we took Illa to the kennel, then drove into the city and parked at Union Station. We got breakfast from Au Bon Pain, then got on the train. A dependable 3 hour trip later, we were at Penn Station in NYC. The weather was nice, I even regretted wearing my jacket (it would be required later). We checked into the Carlton (got a great deal) then relaxed for a while.

We headed out early as the show was early, got to Craftbar right on time for our 4:30 reservation. And before you ask, yes it is one of the places owned by the chef who’s on Top Chef, but I didn’t know that before Jill informed, just liked the reviews and needed something in walking distance. But it was a good choice.

Jill had the Pecorino-Stuffed Risotto Balls to start, basically the best cheese sticks ever. I also enjoyed my Confit Chicken Wings, a very different (but tasty) take on Buffalo Wings. We shared the Wild Arugula, Lemon Vinaigrette, Grana Padano, and Pine Nuts salad, the vinaigrette nicely offsetting the bitterness of the greens, then Jill had the Confit Pork Shoulder, Tomato Molasses, Turnip Slaw, a spin on an Asian lettuce wrap that I will be stealing for a recipe soon. My pan-fried Organic Chicken, Collard Greens, and pickled Watermelon wasn’t quite as good, but the chicken was very juicy. I had just enough room for some caramel ice cream for dessert, hit the spot.

I had told Jill we could cab or take the subway to Madison Square Garden, but she’d seen some vendors next to Madison Square Park on our walk to the restaurant, so we walked up to check them out (ironically the park is nowhere close to the current location of Madison Square Garden). Jill didn’t find anything she wanted there, but further up the street at Cheap Jack’s as the hipsters were searching for Halloween costumes she found a clutch purse she liked, for much less than she thought.

We got to MSG with plenty of time, looked around the nearby Borders before heading in. I think I’ll give the show it’s own entry, so look for that tomorrow, but the Twitter length review is it was a good concert, but not as good as the first night and maybe out of contention for the top 5 concerts of the year (it will make the top 10 without a problem, though). Afterwards we had a nightcap at Seven, then headed back to the room.

Saturday morning we were up bright and early for our train north. We got into Springfield, CT a little later than planned (I hadn’t realized that switching trains meant the time on my email receipt was only for the first train), but got to Holyoke in the early afternoon. Jill’s sister Melissa took her kids off to lunch, then Jill and I and her other sister Robin headed over to Northampton to do the same. Robin wanted to try a pizza place, so we parked and put money in the meter only to discover the place wasn’t open yet. We walked down the street and settled on a return trip to the Northampton Brewery. I had a pizza and Jill had a Reuben, and she finally got her pumpkin beer (I went with a sampler again, never a bad decision there).

After we got back, the nephews and the older niece got dressed in costumes and went out trick or treating, we stayed behind with Robin and Jill’s mom and grandmom to hand out candy and otherwise amuse ourselves. After the kids came back they went home to do some more looking for candy near their house. We went inside and watched some of the Food Network’s spooky cake challenges and Jill’s mom made tuna salad sandwiches (a grilled cheese for me). I was interested in going to Easthampton for the We’re About 9 show there, but Jill was exhausted and I had to admit to being pretty tired myself, not up to heading over there myself, so we called it a night (I think we went to bed before they would have went on anyway).

Turning the clock back couldn’t have come at a better time, I slept like a rock for quite a while, and still got up at 7. We needed to as we were on the road shortly after 8 to Melissa’s place in CT for breakfast. And we got the works, scrambled eggs, pancakes, sausage, bacon, hash browns and cinnamon rolls. I immediately had to work that off as my nephew Jake took me on a long bike ride around the neighborhood. We barely had time for pictures before it was time for me to leave for the airport.

The flight was fine, no problems. The reason we’d parked at Union Station was so it would be easier for me to get there from BWI and pick up Illa from the kennel before it closed at 4. But looking at the schedules at the airport it looked like making the connections wouldn’t be easy. I took a middle seat by choice (in the front row), and thanks to a slightly early arrival was able to get the earlier bus to the Metro, got to Union Station by 3 and picked up Illa right before they closed.

He was happy to be home, had some runaround and a walk in the woods, then zonked out. I sauteed spinach and made mashed potatoes with blue cheese to accompany some leftover rotisserie chicken, then cleaned up the dining room and caught up on some TV before going online.