Friday the 1st Nina and the Panther chorus were busy. First they performed at the Holiday Open House at the Governmental Center, then I got to create a fundraising account and website to sell popcorn for their planned spring trip. I shared “Want to send Nina to Broadway? No, just for the day. Grab yourself some popcorn, or donate some to essential workers.” We held our annual holiday party on Saturday (again with adults in the kitchen and kids everywhere else), then on Sunday I went to see Emmylou Harris at The Hamilton with Rodney Crowell as part of her annual fundraiser for Bonaparte’s Retreat. I went with the VIP tickets because it guaranteed me a seat down front, it was for a good cause, and who doesn’t want their picture with Emmylou? The concert was great, too.
Monday the 4th I saw this video, and my first reaction was “Holy f*ck”. Tuesday I went to see the Allman Betts Family Revival at Capital One Hall. The Allman Betts Band was formed by three sons of members of the Allman Brothers Band, which was kinda interesting, but this show was them doing all Allman Brothers Band songs along with a lot of start from the jam band scene. Standouts were Ghalia Volt and Tal Wilkenfeld (the latter whom I’d seen play when she was in Jeff Beck’s band). Thursday I didn’t read the Post as the writers were on strike. I also thought this video was interesting – Sinead O’Connor doing the Kirsty MacColl part on “Fairytale Of New York”. R.I.P. both her and Shane.
We had a quiet weekend starting Friday, getting takeout from Pista House as the next several weeks would be busy. Nina went to her first school dance on Wednesday the 13th. Then her advanced chorus was invited to South Lakes High School for their Tis the Season for Jazz winter concert, and Jill and I went to see her do that on Thursday.
Friday the 15th we got Nina out of school an hour early and started driving north at 1:30, listening to holiday music all the way. We stopped for dinner at Wawa and arrived at 10 at Robin’s house. Saturday we drove out to Ski Butternut. Nina joined her cousins for tubing while I had brought my skis to go skiing. But there was a problem with my ticket I needed to wait in line to fix, then when I finally got my skis on my boots wouldn’t stay in the bindings. I found the repair shop and they told me my bindings had blown. So I rented skis and terrible boots, and I was finally on the lift when I texted Jill to tell her what was going on and she said they were done tubing. Nina had complained on the trip over that she didn’t get to ski, so we told her she could now, and she did.
After I’d made two runs, she was ready. But it had been 3 years since she’d skied, and she was unsure of herself, so we went over to the bunny slope and I attempted to reteach her. After a number of runs, we took the lift up and the green trail down – she was doing really well until the bottom of the green, which was steeper and she fell a couple times. After another run, she was done, and I did one more run for myself. It was a fun afternoon as I don’t think we talked that much in one day all year. That evening Jill and her sisters, spouses, plus her mom and Dave met up for dinner at Donovan’s (the former Slainte) in Holyoke. It took a while to seat all of us, but we had some drinks, and the food was decent.
Sunday Jill and Nina went to church with Robin and Finn. They had a cookie sale that Robin had made cookies for and came home with a selection of tasty ones. We got takeout from Elm Pizza for lunch (I had the roast beef), then went to Old Sturbridge Village with most of the Bradys. The threatened rain soon started to fall, and it wasn’t as fun walking around. Nina asked for food and we went over to the Bullard Tavern where we waited in line for food. We ate upstairs where Dominic, Maddy & Tiernan had also camped out, and were treated to a string duo performing in front of the fireplace. Nina wanted to do some present shopping for Jill so we spent some time in the gift shop. At some point my glasses slipped out of pocket when we were walking around, and calls back later were never answered. I heated up some of Nina’s leftover Wawa pizza and decided they’d stolen the recipe from Domino’s.
Monday the 18th the rain was intense all day, so of course that was the day we drove to Framingham to meet my sister and her son Josh. We met at Burtons Grill for lunch (where we were lucky to get our orders in before the 2 huge tables of companies having holiday lunches), then went over to Fun and Games. It was like a tiny Dave & Busters, but unlike them they had pinball. Jill was out for dinner with her mom and sisters, so Nina had the spaghetti that Mike made, while I had bought lamb and grilled that.
I slept in most days we were up there, but Tuesday really slept in past noon. Nina was getting a cold that Jill also ended up getting (I remembered to bring the zinc lozenges and pounded them). After Finn got home from school, Bob & Sue came for a visit and we got takeout from Alessio’s Pizza for dinner. There was lots of speculation on the estimated total of this that night.
Wednesday Jill was with Missy who had a procedure done. After she came home, we got fajitas ingredients at Stop & Shop, then I made them. Jake, Sue & Dave came over to eat as well. That night I thought “Why did I never think to do this?” Thursday we went to visit Gram, where we picked up Jake and went on to Northampton. Sue met us there and everyone else went to Webs while I went to Turn It Up. Sue took Jake home after that while we went back to Robin’s house where Mike made us burgers.
Friday Nina wasn’t feeling great, but roused herself in the morning for a haircut with Jill and Maddy. In the evening we went over to the Bradys for an early Christmas dinner, with ham, roast beef, and some very good Yorkshire Pudding. Gifts were exchanged and ugly sweaters were worn (over great objection from me). Saturday we left at 6am with a quick Starbucks start, taking 87 for an almost guaranteed traffic free day. I slept in New Jersey. Nina asked for seafood for lunch, and there was a Phillips at the next rest stop. She got the crispy shrimp and I got the hush puppies, astounded that they reminded me of the ones from the long gone Chesapeake Bay Seafood House. Since both Jill and Nina weren’t feeling good by that point with a cold, I went out and picked up pho from Tea Break.
The Cannons came down for the week again, and brought a bunch of store pizzas over for dinner on Christmas Eve while I made my own pizza and a salad (I used up my bad luck for the year by smashing the jar of leftover pizza sauce just as I was putting it away downstairs). My dad didn’t want to meet for Christmas as he was taking care of Patricia, so Christmas Day was just us and Lillah, who was very happy to have us home (she had warmed up to the neighbors catsitting and allowed them to pet her after 5 days). We had plenty of time to open and enjoy our gifts, and I made a rotisserie duck for Christmas dinner.
My mom was scheduled to fly in on Tuesday the 26th in the afternoon, but her flight was delayed over 7 hours and she finally arrived at 10PM, and Nina and I picked her up. Mom was delighted to meet Lillah, and we mostly hung out and talked. No one had a preference for dinner, so I made peanut noodles figuring everyone would like it, and I was right. Thursday we’d planned on having a joint dinner with the Cannons at Peter Chang in McLean, but Nina had fallen asleep in the afternoon and didn’t feel great after that, and neither did Jess, so it was just me and Mom with Chris and his kids. But it was a great meal (their Peking duck is worth it) and we made new orders for the homebound before we left.
Friday the 29th I dropped Mom off the airport in the morning, then we had an early New Year’s Eve party again (this time on New Year’s Eve Eve Eve) as the Cannons were leaving early the next day. Again the Larsens and Norwood-Hochradels were able to join us, this time with all family members. Saturday we picked up Nina’s friend Avery and drove to the Wharf where we had lunch at Del Mar and again had the enormous paella. Next we went to the nearby Arena Stage to see Swept Away, based on The Avett Brothers’ album Mignonette, but featuring songs from their whole catalog. Jill and I really enjoyed it, and Nina thought it was a bit cringe.
Sunday the 31st was New Year’s Eve, and we felt very lucky that one of Nina’s friends invited her over, as we’d already made plans. After we dropped her off and hung out a little, we drove to DC and managed to drive around an accident scene and park. We got to The Atlantis just as ebo was ending, and had obtained drinks and a good spot by the time emmet swimming went onstage. I wouldn’t have minded staying, but since we hadn’t made a plan for Nina, needed to be back by shortly after midnight to pick up Nina. So we left at 11:15 as traffic was still gnarly, and arrived at 11:50, plenty of time to do the countdown, then head home.