Sue was still here on Tuesday the 1st so she, Jill and Nina walked around the lake. Saturday Jill, Nina and I all got our updated Covid vaccines. Monday I posted “Get that booster shot before it’s too late. And vote blue tomorrow.”
Friday the 11th Jill and Nina went camping with the Girl Scouts at Camp Coles Trip in Stafford. They painted the archery range while they were there, and according to Jill “Nina used a ton of patience and perseverance and found this sharks tooth after 30 min of looking”. Saturday night I went to Shirlington and ate at Taco and Piña. The food was good, but there weren’t many other customers when every other place was packed, mostly because they were out of half their menu. I only had a couple tacos, then went over to Big Buns for fries and a beer. Later I was just expecting a selection of covers as Robbie Schaefer and Danielle Wertz did Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell at Signature Theatre, but it was an actual show, and this review does it credit.
The next week featured two very different sold out concerts. First up on Monday the 14th was Blackpink, back at the Prudential Center in Jersey where I’d seen Iron Maiden (and the same section of seats). The K-pop dance show was in full effect, and we knew what to expect as it was always the same show. I was particularly amused by them thanking their band and their Pro Tools guy. I might not have been the target audience, but you can’t deny their earworms, and Nina had a great time. Driving up was the worst: we left at 2:15, and got there at 7:40. Driving back in the middle of the night was better, but we got back at 2:40am and I still had to get her to school by 9:20 the next day (luckily she fell asleep not long after we left around midnight).
I got back into jam bands this year, and saw that Goose and Billy Strings were two of the hot new ones. I was excited when Billy Strings was added to several of the Outlaw Music Festival shows, but saddened when ours was left out. So when I saw in October that Goose was touring with the Trey Anastasio Band and coming to Fairfax, I snagged a ticket for Thursday night. I anticipated some collaborations as both bands had been sitting in with the other all tour, so it wasn’t a surprise when Goose brought Trey Anastasio out for the end of their set. And when Trey announced a special guest that needed no introduction halfway through his set, I wasn’t surprised either. Until who I saw who it was: Billy Strings. And he stayed for the rest of the show, marking the first time he played with Goose. The jam band world had their heads blown by this (the top tier bands live stream their shows for $), and I really loved the show (even bought a shirt).
Friday the 18th Nina went on a ropes and zipline field trip that had been postponed due to rain on the previous night. As soon as she got home from school and Jill got home from work, I was driving to Jersey once again, this time for Friendsgiving. Tony had hosted from 2016-2019, and felt obligated to this year, but was unsure. Then Bill and Tassy had the wonderful idea to host a party the way Chris used to host his TinyTim parties, by renting a house at the beach during winter (and testing for Covid twice before we left). We got to Ocean City, NJ late at night, forced to get Wendy’s on the way.
Saturday morning I slept in, then went shopping for food at Acme (finding yet another in the Safeway family) and alcohol (Ocean City is dry, had to go back across the bridge to Circle Liquor). I started cooking Orange Cranberry Pork Loin Roast, then some of us went for a walk and I stopped at Jilly’s Arcade on the way back to play some pinball. We managed to squeeze all 24 of us in the downstairs level for a fabulous potluck dinner, with an after dinner reading of the pickle story. After cleanup, Tony and I went out to play more pinball. Sunday we had a bit of breakfast, then a family picture on the beach before we packed up and headed home, picking up lunch at Wawa (one of the few fast food places where I can get a low sodium sandwich).
Tuesday the 22nd I took and passed the Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals exam. A week early, the long term contract I’d been working on ended and there were no available contracts, so I figured I’d start to get certified in some of the cloud computing I’d been working on. Late that night, Jill’s sister Melissa drove down with her two oldest kids. Wednesday we got Nando’s for takeout. Thanksgiving morning I got up early to put the 18 pound bird in the oven. Jill had already made her pies, Melissa had brought one from Ava, and when my dad arrived with Patricia, he brought 2 more for a total of 7. It was timely that the quilt Dad’s mom that we had finished had just arrived, so Jill was able to show him it. We ate around 2, and we had all the classics – everyone was happy. Dad wanted to leave before dark, so he had pie right away, but the rest of us spaced it out (I didn’t have pie until 7).
Everyone but me went to the Walk of Lights at Meadowlark that night. Black Friday everyone was around, but off doing different things. The Bradys were shopping, Nina and Jill went to the parade in Reston and met one of her friends there, and I slept in. Saturday I took Nina to her flute lessons, and the Bradys left soon after we got back from that.
Tuesday the 29th the 3 Day Blinds people were here putting up the blinds on the middle level Jill wanted. That night I was at the 9:30 Club for NPR Music Celebrates 15 Years. I was also at the 10th anniversary, which had a great lineup. We got Amber Mark, Hurray for the Riff Raff and YENDRY, plus a surprise guest. I enjoyed the first three acts which all had a dance vibe. The surprise guest was Moonchild, who brought a jazz meets rock vibe, which was a nice way to end it.
Friday I was full of social media posts, as I got an unusual Wordle score:
Then I found out about Christine McVie’s passing, saying “Dammit. RIP Christine McVie. I guess I know what I’m listening to tonight. The album she made with Lindsey Buckingham in 2017 was one of my favorite of the last decade – truly a Mac album (only Stevie Nicks is absent)”. And I also posted “Vax up and mask up, folks.” Nina also got her school picture taken this month as she was out in September.
On Saturday the 1st, we went to see a matinee of Hamilton, but headed straight home afterwards as Nina finally got to have her sleepover birthday party. It was very loud, Jill and I played pinball downstairs after she helped me install a cup holder. The next day Nina put up her Girl Scouts fall product page, and Jill posted “I’m very proud that N is a Girl Scout Cadette this year! They’re making big plans to go on lots of camping trips this year and start their Silver Award project journey this year! If you feel so inclined, please help her troop this fall!”
Thursday I went to see Bobby Weir & Wolf Bros featuring The Wolfpack perform with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, an excellent integration of classical music with jam bands. That weekend Nina went camping with the Girl Scouts again, this time with an emphasis on caving. Jill and I took advantage and went to have dinner at Tail Up Goat on Saturday the 8th in DC. So delicious (and I loved the Decorative Gourd Season cocktail). Sunday I went shopping at CD Cellar, Dominion Wine & Beer, and Big Planet Comics. Monday was a holiday (Indigenous Peoples’ Day), Nina and I were off, so I let her choose a friend, and we went to Tea Break Pho & Boba, then played minigolf and went Halloween costume shopping.
With Nina gone for the weekend, the next weekend Jill was out. I found out that Owl House, Nina’s current favorite TV series, would premiere Saturday night, so I told her and she wanted to have a watch party with her friends. Too many of them already had plans, so we switched to Sunday night; Vonda, one of the moms, came over to co-host with me. Meanwhile Jill posted “Ahhh Rhinebeck. So fun, so many people I got to run into and to meet….so much. I can’t see myself going every year but I really loved spending time with my mom and one of my very best friends and her son. I didn’t go crazy with purchases but I got some nice things and I’m happy with what I purchased. The trees had they’re beautiful fall gowns on of leaves and they were stunning. Bonus I got to see my sisters as well as nieces and a nephew for lunch and dinner. My heart is full.”
Tuesday the 18th I hired Ecosteamobile to come over and detail my car – they did a great job. That night Jill took Nina to check out artistic swimming in Annandale. Wednesday I was back at the Kennedy Center, this time with the family, to see “Weird Al” Yankovic doing his non-parody songs again. Friday night Jill took Nina to the South Lakes Homecoming Parade. I usually had done it, but I was on my way to Philly for my weekend off. Traffic was terrible as expected, so as soon as I got to Tony and Charissa’s house we jumped in their car and drove to Newark. We got some dinner at Mercato Tomato Pie, then walked over to the Prudential Center where Within Temptation was already on stage. They were soon off and headliners Iron Maiden were soon on, performing all their hits. After the show we went back to their house where I slept in their guest room.
Saturday morning Charissa had to work, so Tony and I drove down to Delaware and had lunch at Dom’s NY Style Pizzeria. He had wanted to take me to the Delaware Pinball Collective while I was up there, but that day they were holding the First State Flippers pinball tournament and he convinced me to play with him. I hadn’t realized until we were discussing it the night before the tournament would run 4-5 hours. It was very anxiety inducing before it started, but pretty straightforward. For each round, I was assigned to a machine with 3 other players, and we’d play until all of us had played. During the 7 rounds, I played Tron, Rollergames, Godzilla, Space Shuttle, Star Wars, Flight 2000 & World Cup Soccer 94 (there were 43 available games to select from). Although we’d shown up an hour early to practice, during the tournament I performed much worse, happy to finish 57/60 (not dead last). Jill had posted “Happy Birthday to the guy I feel lucky enough to call my partner in life! You are a fantastic husband, father, and an awesome human being! N and I love you so much and looking forward to celebrating you this evening!”
So after another fun drive home (only 2 hours home from Delaware, but with traffic it took 3. When I got home, Nina and Jill took me out to Makers Union Pub in Reston for a tasty dinner, and we watched the Juliet Lloyd Trio perform inside while we sat outside next to a heater. Later we enjoyed the homemade carrot cake cupcakes Nina and Jill had made. Sunday night I went over to The Birchmere to see the Watkins Family Hour. No Fiona Apple this time, but they did have special guest Willie Watson from Old Crow Medicine Show. Wednesday Jill posted this picture and said ”I still wear these socks! Much less vibrant now. Loved knitting the legwarmers out of my leftovers; it would take a bit more yarn to make them for N nowadays.”
Friday the 28th Sue flew down. Jill was out for a CRNA dinner so the rest of us got takeout from Tea Break Pho & Boba. I mentioned finally getting to Minibar in August, but originally we’d planned to invite friends to celebrate my 50th birthday. When we decided to do it this year, Jill had a good idea to separate Minibar and dinner with friends, and we ended up doing it that Saturday. Sue was down to babysit as other parents were only able to attend that way. It was so much fun to rent out the whole restaurant and have it all to ourselves. Jill said “this year we finally celebrated Kerry’s 50th birthday. Friends who are like family came from near and far to celebrate my amazing guy and to have an incredible meal at Maple Ave Restaurant. It was a perfect evening full of friendship, laughter, and community. My mom came as well to take care of the kiddos so we wouldn’t worry and got to experience her first Halloween with us!”
Sunday Sue shot pictures of Jill and Nina at Meadowlark. And yes, Nina got her Halloween on. She and a friend coordinated costumes from “Owl House”, and Jill and Sue walked with them in the rain. I handed out candy while I made dinner. Jill also said “I’m also writing to let you know I’m taking a much needed social media break; I’m not sure when I’ll be back but rest assured I’ll still be crafting and doing my best to cultivate and enjoy the community I am blessed to be a part of. I wish you Serenity.”
On Friday the 2nd, the ladies took advantage of the day off from school and all got pedicures. Of course it was Nina’s birthday, and we took her to Melting Pot for the first time to celebrate. She liked all three fondues, but being able to dip fruit and brownies in s’mores and pure chocolate at the end was her favorite. Saturday the ladies went apple picking while Dave and I sat out on the deck on watched the livestream of the Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert from London. I thought it was insanely awesome. I especially liked Foo Fighters covering The Police with Stewart Copeland on drums when we were about to go see Sting that night. Originally we were going to take Nina with us, but since Sue and Dave were there, Sue stayed home with her and Dave came to the show and had a good time. Labor Day I took Dave fishing on the boat.
Friday the 9th Nina woke up very congested and didn’t want to go to school. A Covid test was negative, but Jill urged me to go to the walk in clinic for Nina’s pediatrician. They were very busy and we waited outside for an hour for a room to open. They tested her for strep and flu, and to my surprise, she had the flu. She was mostly upset that meant her birthday party (a sleepover with her friends) would be bumped to October. That night I went to Patty Griffin & Neko Case at Wolf Trap, great sets by each. Nina was taking Theraflu and mostly just sat around watching YouTube and playing Minecraft. She missed a Girl Scouts meeting, so they walked over to give her some well wishes. Jill felt she could go back to school on Tuesday.
It was a rare concert tripleheader the following weekend. Friday the 16th was Jill and I going to the Encore Circle, then enjoying Boyz II Men with SWV bringing some new jack swing to a sold out Wolf Trap. How did I not know that Shawn Stockman from Boyz II Men could shred? He did a very respectable cover of “Wonderful Tonight”. Saturday we went to The Food Market again (dinner and a show really makes me want to go to more shows at Merriweather Post Pavilion), then walked over to the Outlaw Music Festival where we saw Zach Bryan, The Avett Brothers & Willie Nelson (Nina says “how could you drag me to see country music?”). Then Sunday I went solo to Porcupine Tree at The Anthem for their first tour in 12 years (3rd row from the presale didn’t suck).
On Saturday the 24th we were up not too early to get to Dulles for a 12:30 flight to Los Angeles. The flight was uneventful. We chose a cheaper car rental company, Priceless Car Rental. That meant we took the Renaissance Hotel shuttle and went up to the top of the parking garage where there office was. It was amusing to me a guy arrived after me cut in line to be next, and then I got a Mercedes Benz C300 while he got a Kia. Once we got to our hotel, the lovely Hotel MdR Marina del Rey, we were hungry and decided to walk over to Burger Lounge, eating outside. I went to the Pavilions grocery store, which turned out to be another store in the Safeway chain, to pick up some medicine and snacks. After for relaxing a while with the Wi-Fi in the room, we were still hungry, so we walked over to Capri Gelato & Coffee for dessert. Nina still had energy later but Jill didn’t, so we went down to the pool and she swam while I watched.
Sunday morning we had breakfast at the hotel buffet, then both Jill and Nina had online meetings. We gave Jill the room and went to the empty café next to pool so she could attend her Girl Scouts meeting. I walked over to T-Mobile to get a USB-C to USB-C cable as the Benz only had those ports. After that we hopped in the car and drove to Autozone as the Benz also had funky vents and couldn’t hold my phone holder. I tried to order one online, but they were out of stock so I picked one up at the store. Then we went north to Santa Clarita where Jill’s cousin lives with her husband and son (Jill’s aunt and uncle live nearby). We hung out and chatted while the kids played outside, then we had takeout pizza from Tomato Joe’s.
We left as it was getting dark, I took Jill and Nina back to the hotel where they swam. I met up with my friend Jay (from Shantytowne) at the legendary Whisky A Go-Go. We were there for the return of Robby Krieger (from The Doors) 55 years after The Doors got their start there for a sold out show. We picked a good spot on the balcony for what turned out to be a very long show (not bad for an 76 year old).
Monday Nina wanted pho, so we went to Blossom Vietnamese when they opened and sat outside in the sun. I dropped Jill and Nina at the hotel to swim while I continued on to Soundsations, which had a lovely used CD section. We then drove up to Santa Monica where we parked in a garage, got some boba tea from Sharetea, then walked down to the Santa Monica Pier and looked around, then Nina and Jill frolicked in the ocean for a bit.
We cleaned off in the hotel, then met our friend Teresa (also from Shantytowne), her daughter Pauline and their dog Dandy at a nearby playground/dog park where all the young ones got to play. Then we went to their house where her husband Travis had come home and we got takeout from xxxxxx before heading back to the hotel.
Tuesday I’d managed to snag timed tickets at The Broad for both Kusama’s infinity room and the museum (the museum is free but the parking definitely isn’t). Nina didn’t want to go into the infinity room, but she was taken by the modern art in the museum itself. Nina wasn’t in love with the main reason for our trip (later that night), but as a budding K-pop fan, definitely wanted to go to Koreatown. We started with a lovely lunch at Yellow House, which had several open air rooms around a courtyard.
Next we went down to Koreatown Plaza, an indoor mall. We walked around and Nina really liked Music Plaza, I bought her several CDs (Twice and Jennie’s single). Next stop was a music store for me, Amoeba Music. Nina wasn’t really interested, but Jill had seen Funko Hollywood across the street, and both Nina and I were very happy with our purchases. We also had to make a stop so Nina could take a picture of the iconic Hollywood sign (who knew that the Hollywood Home Depot is a good place to stop?).
Jay was planning on coming with us that evening, but had caught something non-Covid but bad. We asked Teresa and Travis since they were local and had expressed some interest, and Travis agreed to come. So we got back as quickly as possible given the traffic (The Californians don’t exaggerate), then I walked over to Sharky’s and we ate and went outside where Travis was waiting for us. I made parking reservations for a garage about a half mile away. I’d planned on reviewing the show in this month’s entry, but that review is so long it’s getting its own entry. Travis dropped us back at the hotel afterwards, where we had only a couple hours sleep until we had to checkout and get to the airport for an early flight back on Alaska Airlines.
Monday the 1st Nina was back at RCC’s Camp Goodtimes on the Road. She was happiest about the trip to the Water Mine on Friday. We all had telehealth appointments that night as we were up early the next day to start our big, twice postponed vacation: the final Eddie From Ohio cruise to Alaska. Our travel karma was very good on the way out, as while many folks had delayed or canceled flights, we got to San Francisco without any issues. We had breakfast in the airport there: a Bacon Bacon bowl for me and Proposition Chicken wings for Nina (Jill picked up some See’s Candies for later).
We got to Vancouver and quickly got through Customs. We took the SkyTrain to downtown Vancouver and walked over to our hotel. I wasn’t sure until we got there, but the Embarc resort there is actually the top 3 floors of the Sheraton, and we were soon checking out some lovely views of the city. We were off, Jill and Nina for clothes and shoes and me to Beat Street for CDs (best haul of the trip). We went out again for dinner at The Mexican for tacos and margaritas. Amazon.ca delivered the camera memory cards I’d ordered the day before (by signing up for a Prime trial).
Sunday morning we went to check out brunch at Nero Waffles, but they were full, so we got some of their mini waffles to go (very much like donuts), then went to the aptly named Brunch. I got the ribeye hash, Nina got the Eggs Benedict and a chocolate crepe, and Jill got enchiladas. Soon it was time for us to check in for our cruise, and I was glad I’d printed out our documentation, as there were several lines to go through. But we were on the Celebrity Eclipse before sailing time, and that’s what counted. Jill and Nina used the pool and hot tub while I sat on a lounge chair, then they dried off and we went to check in at the meet and great to get our shirts and badges and hear the announcements. We went to our late dinner and met the fellow Edheads at our table before heading to bed.
Monday was all at sea as we left Canadian waters and entered USA ones. Nina tried out Camp at Sea, where it turns out she was able to check herself in and out and met new friends. In late afternoon Eddie From Ohio had their first concert with lots of classics and a couple nice covers (only my 3rd time hearing their cover of Scarlet Begonias). We got drinks from the martini bar and went to see the cruise only show Topper after that, and were pleasantly surprised it was a pop jukebox musical with Cirque like aerialists.
Sitka was our first stop in Alaska on Tuesday. We took a bus to town, stopped at the coffee shop and the bookstore. We had decided not to pay for the Wi-Fi service on ship and only had cell service in port, which meant no YouTube for Nina. As a consolation, I offered to buy her a book, and she chose the first two books in Chris Colfer’s “A Tale of Magic…” series. We picked up some kettle corn on the way back to the bus, then waited at the pier for our excursion. The Sea Otter and Wildlife Quest was exactly as described (asides from the irony of spending the first 10 minutes looking for a bald eagle when we saw one in a tree when we docked). We got fairly close to a raft of sea otters, then saw three different humpback whales and three Steller sea lions snoozing on a marker buoy. I picked up some hot sauce made with kelp from the gift shop, and that was useful for the rest of the trip. That night we paid extra to eat at Le Petite Chef, which had animation on the table for each course – it was very cute and delicious too. After dinner we watched the Production Cast cover British songs in the Sky lounge.
Wednesday was another day at sea, but this time we were going by something special: the Hubbard Glacier. After a very slow approach, Captain Leo got us within half a mile of it, then slowly turned the ship so we could get a good view (after we got soaked on deck, I preferred that). As we pulled away, we paid extra to eat at the Sushi on Five restaurant, where we had some nice views of waterfalls. The second Eddie From Ohio concert was that afternoon. Jill and Nina decided to skip in favor of swimming at the indoor pool during family hours, which worked in their favor as they both felt a little seasick in the ocean and felt fine once they got in the pool (which created natural waves). The concert was another bunch of their classic tunes with no repeats from the first one. And since I was videoing in the back row, no one recorded me when I danced like a maniac during “Eddie’s Concubine”. Later the Production Cast did a selection of Broadway songs called the Broadway Cabaret, and everyone enjoyed that (I think Nina knew half the songs).
Thursday the 11th we docked in Juneau. We left the ship and walked over to Alaskan Crepe Escape where Nina and I had crepes. It was like a parked food truck park. Jill got coffee and I also got drinks (including a draft beer) from the Beer Truck. After that we split up and they went to the Changing Tides yarn shop while I went to Downtown Disc (hard to find, but worth it). We’d planned on meeting up at Heritage Coffee Roasting Co. but they had no outside seating, so we went to the nearby Sacred Grounds (run by and for native Alaskans) and sat outside so we all could use their Wi-Fi (including Nina). Jill went shopping and came back with grilled chicken from Bernadette’s BBQ tent near the ship (she said all the people who work on the ship were waiting in line there, which was a good sign). Nina liked it so much I came back with more.
They kept shopping after that, and I went back to the ship as I’d neglected to charge my camera battery. So I read in our room, then walked over to Tracy’s Crab Shack 2. The Edhead cruise portion had an optional excursion that day: a jumbo crab leg and a concert from Eddie From Ohio as they’d rented out the whole place. We got a decent seat and some good crab (Jill had picked up some unsalted butter for me) and beers. The concert was again filled with classics, with only one repeat: “Rocky Mountain High/Old Dominion” (there were several Alaskan fans there as well). After the show Nina played in the pool with some other Edhead kids while I and other parents watched, and by the time our late dinnertime rolled around we were all hungry for which turned out to be our last dinner, too bad as our waiter was entertaining Nina (and everyone else) with his magic tricks.
The next morning I went to the band question and answer session, then watched the ship dock in Ketchikan while Nina and Jill went to breakfast. Nina had been stuffy the night before, and after breakfast announced she was going back to sleep, which is extremely unusual for her. Jill had planned to check out a yarn shop, so left the ship and had started walking when Nina woke up and was burning hot. I called Jill and had her pick up Tylenol, a thermometer, and a Covid test. Sure enough, after managing to avoid it for 2 ½ years, she finally caught it, even though we’d been masking everywhere inside the ship except in the restaurants. We called the ship and they had us come down to the medical area, where they tested her again with the same result. They escorted us back to our room and told us to isolate there. They gave us Wi-Fi and we started looking up what to do next. Jill and I both tested negative, and they offered us the chance for one of us to move to another room and not isolate and we both declined. They started by offering us room service and no alcohol off our beverage plans, and we got that changed to the regular menu. I was very glad we had a balcony and spent almost all my time for the remaining two days there.
Saturday we were at sea all day and in our room. Jill and I both tested negative again. The Wi-Fi worked well enough for Nina to watch YouTube, but was more intermittent for Jill and I. I mostly read digital comics outside on the balcony, plus Bob and Susan brought us drinks. The food was good – weird to eat lobster in your room, though. It was interesting to be forced to just look at the scenery, as we’d passed into Canada and I hadn’t seen it on the way out. We missed the last concert of course, but so did singer Robbie.
Sunday it was time to disembark. We had a choice of staying on the ship until quarantine was over (5 days) or getting off in Canada and quarantining (10 days, but the Celebrity cruise line would cover $350USD/day). After 2 days, we already knew we could not continue on the ship (although Robbie did and got off in Juneau and flew home from there). We asked them to book us a room at the Century Plaza hotel. We left our room and went up to the Sky lounge to join the other outcasts (including 2 other Edhead families) and wait for them to take us to a bus. We did a lot of waiting (close to 2 hours), but finally we got on a bus and they dropped us at the Century Plaza hotel. That’s when we found out we didn’t have a reservation. After being on hold with Celebrity for over an hour, apparently when we had no cell service we were supposed to book a room and they just wanted to know the address to drop us off. Happily the Century Plaza hotel offered us a suite even though they didn’t have any online. It had an actual kitchen where the other hotel we looked at didn’t, and some serious space – we agreed as soon as the manager showed it to us. Once we were in the room and everyone had Wi-Fi, I placed another Amazon.ca order – most important was another Fire stick. That night I had to get some takeout. Nina wanted Chipotle, but Jill and I got food from The Basil Box (spiciest meal in a week). We also ordered groceries from Fresh St. Market and beer and wine from Darby’s Liquor Store.
Monday the 15th I found getmaple.ca and got a telehealth appointment quickly and was able to get refills on my blood pressure medicine (because I was the only one who’d only packed a week’s medication). I went to Pharmasave and picked it up, then Jill went to IGA for more groceries. I made the ribs we’d bought for dinner (“Maui”, half the size of the box they came in). Jill and I felt we both had Covid, but due to Canada’s strict laws, didn’t test (it also required us to essentially isolate with Nina, which we did except for picking up stuff, and we were always masked). That Fire stick arrived, so that night I stayed up late and started watching the final season of The Expanse (since I had Prime again).
Tuesday I’d also ordered some graphic novels for Nina from Amazon.ca with the hope she wouldn’t use her devices as much. She did like them, and tore through them in 2 hours, then it was back to devices. I picked up Jollibee and Pacific Pizzeria & Ristorante for dinner (the spicy chicken from Jollibee is very good). Wednesday I went to IGA for more groceries and Freshii to pick up salads. I got some drinks at the bar at the steak restaurant in the hotel because I wanted a break from beer. I had run out of digital comics, so I pulled down the ComiXology app (Amazon has ruined the web version, but the app still works ok) to pull down a bunch of the comics I’ve bought or gotten for free, including most of Marvel’s Black Panther runs.
Thursday Nina’s isolation was over, and we were all feeling better. We walked over to Fresh St. Market, then Jill took the groceries back and Nina and I went over to Emery Barnes Park. We noticed that although the symptoms were gone, no one was 100%, so we didn’t push it. Jill was feeling good enough to stay up late, so we started watching The Sandman. Friday we went to Good Co. Granville in the afternoon and played pinball and Mario Kart, then went to The Templeton and got takeout – burgers, fish & chips, and shakes.
Saturday we wandered down to Granville to check out the Promenade but didn’t stay long as the sun was hot. Jill and Nina liked the look of Babylon Café and picked some lunch up there. I went the to the Spirit of Howe liquor store and got more beer, plus I verified I couldn’t pick up the official Rush beer (they don’t sell beer across provinces). Sunday Jill went to IGA for groceries.
Monday the 22nd Jill and I were feeling good enough to travel. She took a bus to Baaad Anna’s Yarn Store, then we all went together to Golden Age Collectables where Nina got a book, then I took the SkyTrain and a good walk to get to Red Cat Records (got a couple CDs). Meanwhile Jill and Nina went to the Indigo bookstore. We had a very early morning on Tuesday (I got 3 hours of sleep) as we got a Lyft to the airport. We went straight to security, then we discovered we were going through customs there (we must have done it in when we went to Montreal) and made it to our gate only minutes before they started boarding. That flight was fine, and we had a little time in San Francisco to get food. We got back at sundown and had a whirlwind of getting ready for the next day.
Wednesday the 24th was a very busy day. It was Nina’s first day of school, as well as the first day of work in a while for Jill and I. I was supposed to do a VIP visit with the The Decemberists (soundcheck + q & a) at Wolf Trap, but I barely made it to the merch booth before they packed up to get my stuff and see the show (and it was a great show – I even stayed through the encore). Saturday some folks on the lake host a cover band on their floating docks. We didn’t get too close, but we did tie up some of our boats so the kids could swim (and the adults could talk).
Sunday I’d seen that The John Popper Project was playing at The Bullpen after an afternoon Nationals game. I drove in around the time they were estimated to go on (it was a 4 band show), only to find the 3rd band still hadn’t gone one. So I headed down to the nearby Atlas Brewing and had a beer, a salad, and a couple slices of pizza. I still saw most of The Last Real Circus, but not many people were left by 8:45 when The John Popper Project, but the people there got something special. They put an album in 2006, and I didn’t know they toured. After some research, I found they performed songs from the album, some covers, and occasionally a Blues Traveler song. This show happened to be the 21nd birthday of John’s second cousin, so in addition to their songs, threw in her requests of Blues Traveler classics. Listen here: https://archive.org/details/jpdt2022-08-28
Wednesday the 31st Sue and Dave came to visit. I’ve long been an admirer of José Andrés’ restaurants, and we’ve been to several, from Jaleo to barmini. But minibar was always a goal of mine, and when we were talking about long term planning, I decided I wanted to go to minibar for my 50th birthday. Which was in 2020. So after they finally reopened in fall 2021, I put it back on my bucket list. After Jill said her mom was coming to visit for a week around Nina’s birthday starting on the 31st, when reservations for minibar on the 31st were available at the beginning of July, I snapped them up. Jill’s mom and Dave got down in plenty of time, and Jill and I arrived right on time. We were soon seated at the chef’s table for 12, and had to wait as the last couple was nearly 30 minutes late. They had some concern that they wouldn’t able to give me a low sodium meal, until the maître’d compared their seasoning to Jaleo, where we’d just eaten. Jill choose two of the additions to the menu, truffles added to three dishes and the non-alcoholic drink pairing, which was extremely inventive. The fancy cocktail I got was the bespoke coctail D.O.C., with pear vodka, truffle honey and Dom Perignon. Minibar is essentially a very long tasting menu, with very small bites for each course. My favorite was “Toad in the Hole”, where a tofu patty stood in for egg white. The frozen salad was very cool, and reminded me of the frozen Cheetos in Montreal – when I mentioned that, one of the chefs mentioned that they did that first. A couple of dishes were too salty for me to eat, but I just abstained from them. To recognize my birthday, as well as our anniversary, they brought us some special cocktails to wrap things up.
Wednesday the 1st Nina had two concerts at school: chorus and band. Strings were first, so while they performed in the gym, we got seats in the lunch room to watch the chorus. Once they were done, we moved to the gym to watch Nina on the bass drum with the band. Sue and Bets left to go home that night.
Saturday Nina and I got our boosters at the CVS in Fair Lakes and did some shopping, then Nina and Jill went to the Reston Pride festival while I did yard work (and had the easiest time with any of the vaccine shots, probably because I used my arms so much). Nina was busy with Girl Scouts on Sunday, making cookies with a friend, then celebrating the end of the year with a potluck pool party.
Friday the 10th was Nina’s last day of school. She was released early and as a reward for a good year got a pizza party and sleepover with the neighborhood friends. I wasn’t too helpful, as I went to see The Doobie Brothers at the Lube (twice postponed from 2020). Jill and I were out the next night in Maryland. Having guessed The Food Market would be popular, I had made reservations, so we didn’t have to wait for an hour. The drinks and dinner delicious, and we only had to walk about 2 blocks to get into Merriweather Post Pavilion where guitarist JD McPherson was pulling double duty as the opening act. We didn’t have to long to wait until Robert Plant & Alison Krauss took the stage, to add an unlikely reunion to their unlikely pairing.
Sunday we had an early Father’s Day since we’d be gone the next week. We stopped at the Lego Brick Fest on the way (or what I thought was the way – slight detour required). Nina enjoyed everything about it except not spending more than an hour there, and both she and Jill left with sets. We got to Dad’s in the midafternoon, and went over to Plaza & Mexico in North Beach where they’d added outdoor seating, and everyone but Dad had fajitas. I told Dad about my pinball machine, and he casually dropped the fact that he had one he’d never used (this comes up later in the month).
Monday the 13th Nina started her camps with skateboarding camp. Tuesday we gathered in the early evening as Nina and a number of fellow Girl Scouts had earned a Bronze Award making birthday boxes for the South Lakes Food Pantry. Nina had even made a video on Saturday with one.
Wednesday we had an appointment, than we got takeout from Big Buns. I took mine with me to Wolf Trap to see the odd bill of Japanese Breakfast and Belle & Sebastian. A friend on Facebook had tagged to help sell the ticket, but it was 3rd row, so I said I’d take out. Japanese Breakfast was a burst of energy, and I’d caught up on Belle & Sebastian, and they were a lot of fun as well (don’t recall ever seeing a band with so many musicians changing places.
The next night I whipped leftovers together quickly, and was over at Wolf Trap again, this time for Waxahatchee, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit & Sheryl Crow. Not such an odd pairing, since Sheryl’s fantastic last album had a duet with Jason, and I’ve been getting into him. The highlight of the night was Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s cover of Drivin’ N’ Cryin’s “Honeysuckle Blue”.
Saturday the 18th we packed up and headed to Rehoboth Beach. For the first time ever driving to the Eastern Shore, the Bay Bridge was so backed up it was quicker driving up past Baltimore, then down through Delaware. Still, we arrived first, and the Cannons arrived soon after and explored the very nice house. Jess got some essentials at Walmart, while Chris and I took orders and got the takeout from Iron Hill Brewing (mostly pizzas).
Sunday most people got bikes, and when I dropped off the non-walkers, I went to Safeway and Atlantic Liquors. After I got back, I relaxed and read in the backyard, then I made fajitas for dinner – Chris’s mom had showed up as well. Monday most folks went to the beach while I was in the backyard again, then we had an early dinner at the Cultured Pearl. Jill and I walked while Chris drove the kids, but he was almost 20 minutes late because he went down too far and got caught in the rush hour traffic. Jess had a work call and came barely 5 minutes after him. We ordered several rounds of dumplings, and the kids fed the koi, then we had some fabulous sushi.
The beach was a bit much, so on Tuesday a group rode bikes over to Cape Henlopen State Park while Chris drove their stuff over. Meanwhile I slept in just every other day, then I was in the backyard again. I grilled burgers and Jill cooked corn for dinner. Wednesday it was cool and rainy early, then we gathered for a late lunch at Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats, where the traditional beer on a stick was consumed. Thursday Chris and I took Nina, Penny & Cam to Funland. Cam was determined to win the ring on a bottle game and get a giant stuffed animal, and darn if he’d only sunk about $20 in and got it. He left and I took Nina & Penny around to play games and redeem tickets. Then the rides opened at 1 and I bought them both unlimited ride wristbands. They liked bumper cars and teapots, but their favorite was Gravitron. Later, Chris, Jess and I went to the Dogfish Head Brewery where I had Worldwide Stout aged in Utopia barrel on draft, then we did some shopping. That night we had leftovers.
We left Friday morning and drove home over the Bay Bridge without much of a delay. We could have stayed until Saturday, but then Nina and Jill would have missed the Girl Scouts Service Unit Encampment over Friday and Saturday nights. After I dropped them off at the scout leader’s house at 5, I made my way to CD Cellar and Victory Comics, then got lamb skewers and salad for takeout at Shinwari before heading to Mason District Park to see the Seán Heely Celtic Band (with Beth Patterson & Colin McGlynn). Once I was ready to see Beth as not lead, I enjoyed them more.
Saturday I had the whole day to myself, so of course I was at my dad’s house at 10 to meet Tony who’d rented an SUV. It didn’t take us too long to load the pinball in, and after Tony got a tour of the house, we drove back to my house. Then we loaded the glass we’d been keeping for him in the SUV, which took a while. Finally we were ready to play some Rush pinball, and after he got high score (on Nina’s account), he installed the Cliffy’s protectors that had literally just arrived in the mail. Then we played a bunch more games, and he didn’t leave until 6. At which point I scrambled to put yet another meal together to eat at Wolf Trap, this time for Steely Dan. Originally it had been a double bill with Steve Winwood, but the show was postponed due to the pandemic, and initially Aimee Mann had been added (which I was excited about). But they added a nobody, and I just wasn’t that into it, so I sat far away on the lawn. The Annandale shout out in “My Old School” got a cheer from the crowd though (I know it’s different one).
Jill and Nina got back Sunday and were exhausted from lack of sleep. Later that day I managed to find the pinballs that Tony had stored in my desktop fan case for safekeeping and then couldn’t find them again (to the point we used another set he had packed). Nina started her summer camps on Monday the 27th with Mason Community Arts Acting Camp: Hollywood Week. Getting her to Fairfax and back every day was a chore, but she really liked the camp.
I hadn’t posted to Facebook in a while – the world is on fire and I’d been avoiding a lot of social media.
But sometimes the world stops you literally in your tracks.
I’ve been walking the same route on the path outside our door since we moved in twelve years ago, but the number of fireflies I saw on Wednesday the 29th just made me stop in awe.
It’s probably hard to see with this video, but it gave me some hope.
My friend Tony is a pinball fanatic – bought a brand new Iron Maiden game and is currently restoring an older one. Late in 2021, he let me know that the next big game Stern was making would be a Rush one. I preordered the premium version (middle option of the 3 offered) because it had my favorite art, and waited. And waited, as many were out there, but I wanted to wait for mine before playing. Then on Thursday the 5th the delivery truck came. I got it on my dolley and the driver and I wrestled all 350 pounds to the backyard (my arms hurt and I got a gigantic bruise on my triceps where it dug in on the hill).
I was working that day, but rain was possible, so I’d come out between cloud deployments to do the basic assembly. 4 chairs and my 2 ton jack lift later, I got the legs on. When Jill got home, we could barely lift one end. When the dads were out around dinnertime while the kids were playing, I was able to grab 3 of them to get it inside. I didn’t finish it until the next day, but I had a lot of fun with it (Nina and Jill enjoyed it as well). Besides the awesome music, they got Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson from the band to record voices for the game.
Friday I was outraged about the latest Covid numbers, because “outbreaks in schools, primarily the elementary grades, have increased rapidly. Last week, there were 74 classrooms that reported outbreaks of COVID-19 cases and this week there were 139.” So I ranted that we got rid of the governor who was a doctor and instead got a partisan hedge fund manager who promised his base he’d get rid of masks in the name of parents’ rights. Where’s my right not to have my kid get sick? We got takeout that night from Panda House and Nina decided she couldn’t go to Tae Kwon Do that night because she was “having a mid-life crisis”.
Saturday Nina went to a birthday party while I went to Merriweather Post Pavilion for the annual M3 Rock Festival. It was the smallest crowd I’d ever seen there thanks to rainy, cool weather, just a sprinkling of die hards on the lawn. Thanks to Covid Extreme pulled out the day before, but as I said at the time “It may be 45 degrees out and I’m wearing my winter jacket at a concert, plus the band I bought the tix for canceled (Extreme), but damn if Blue Öyster Cult isn’t bringing the rock hard here at. And the band just turned 50!” The earlier performance of Stephen Pearcy from Ratt wasn’t bad, but I left after Blue Öyster Cult as I was starving (the protein bar I’d packed was moldy) and I’d seen the new The Food Market on the way in and wanted to eat before they closed (and the lamb was delicious too).
Sunday the 8th was Mother’s Day and we had the day planned. In midafternoon we drove to Old Town Alexandria and Jill got a surprise shopping spree at her favorite yarn store while Nina and I went down the block to Fleurir Chocolates. Jill had asked for Mexican food, and the fancy places in Old Town were booked, so we ended up at Dos Amigos, which was perfectly fine (felt like Don Pablos). We went over to National Harbor and Nina had some Thai ice cream at Panda Tea House (she was bummed the place at Hunter Woods had closed) and Jill and I found goodies at Savannah’s Candy Kitchen (a gopher and a caramel apple). Then we parked at MGM National Harbor and walked to the theater. Companion was a good opening act (reminded us of First Aid Kit), then Tori Amos came out (with a band!). Great show, but still a school night so we left halfway through.
Monday Nina started having an asthma attack as the tree pollen peaked, needing her nebulizer for the first time in months. We had to keep her home for a couple days before Jill was able to get her to the allergist and increase her medication. Friday the 13th I saw this and said goodbye to Landmark Mall. I didn’t shop there much, even when I lived nearby, but I definitely bought some concert tickets at the Tower Records there. We had takeout from Mehak, but Nina didn’t like their butter chicken (her usual).
Saturday the 21st we went over to our next door neighbor’s for a surprise birthday party, and ended up staying until it was dark as his oldest granddaughter (who is Nina’s age) was there to play and Jill and I drank brandy and chatted with neighbors.
Wednesday the FedEx freight hauler was very happy, as all he had to do with Nina’s new bed was take it off the truck and drop the pallet in my parking space (rain was expected). After dinner I went to the Kennedy Center to see Love: A Joni Mitchell Songbook. I figured it was just a selection of her hits with an orchestra, but it turned out to a more meticulously planned than that. Conductor and arranger of the evening Vince Mendoza was also the conductor and arranger of Joni’s albums Both Sides Now (classic covers) and Travelogue (her hits) and the evening consisted of songs from those two albums. I had bought the tix just for Aoife O’Donovan alone, but we also got Jimmie Herrod, Lalah Hathaway, Renée Fleming & Raul Midón as vocalists. A really nice show.
Thursday the 26th Jill’s mom Sue and her cousin Bets were coming to visit, and Jill was off, so in the afternoon we brought in the bed pieces from the parking lot. After dinner we got the basic bed assembled and Nina was able to sleep on it. Friday it was Sue’s choice for takeout, and after consultation with Nina, settled on Big Buns. Later I said I was always glad when people keep their word.
For Memorial Day weekend, I grilled and took our guests out on the boat every day. Saturday Sue and Bets took Nina back to the Van Gogh exhibit. Sunday I slept in while everyone else went to Great Falls, then Jill took Nina and friends to the pool. Monday we had the traditional dogs & burgers, plus Sue made her delicious potato salad. Tuesday I took my Civic to Tysons Corner to get it inspected and have maintenance done, dropping Sue and Bets at the Metro there and driving Sue’s car back home. My car wasn’t ready until late and Sue and Bets headed to Maryland to see friends for dinner, so I had to walk to get Nina, and our first CSA produce pickup wilted some in the heat before Jill picked it up around 8.
Friday the 1st was April Fools Day, but although it seemed like a prank, we left in the afternoon for spring break in Spain. We did have to get a Covid test, which turned out to be at a drive through shipping container at a strip mall in Sterling. After a quick Lyft to Dulles, we had a late departure on KLM. I’d asked for the low sodium meal and had a spinach saag that was the best airplane meal of my life. Unfortunately it was a red-eye and all of us had little sleep by the time we arrived in Amsterdam. We discovered that Nina had left behind the Timekettle earbuds I’d just given her, and found a lost and found next to the baggage storage we left our carryons at, but they hadn’t gotten any.
We waited outside Schiphol airport for bus 397 that dropped us right outside our first destination, the Van Gogh Museum. We were a little late for our timed ticket, but the lady let us in. We rented audio devices and chose the highlights tour. When Nina and Jill went to the Van Gogh in DC, Nina had really liked Van Gogh’s “Sunflower” painting, and she enjoyed seeing the real thing (and the gift shop of course). After we were done, Nina and Jill took a tram one way and I took one another to go shopping. I went to Velvet Music where they had a great bargain bin while they went to Stephen & Penelope. We both saw the canals as we walked, then met up at the Amsterdam Centraal train station to take a train back to the airport.
We got to the airport with 2 hours before our flight, but waited in the longest security line of our trip to get back in for nearly an hour. We made it to our gate at end of C gates where there was Cafe Communal, a small restaurant with mostly premade food. There wasn’t much I could eat, so I had Pringles, a banana and beer while Nina had pizza. I went back as they had a small bar and asked for a Jameson’s on the rocks. The bartender asked if I wanted a double and I wisely said yes. Nina and I fell asleep before takeoff and slept the whole flight (Jill slept some) and we were somewhat refreshed when we arrived in Málaga.
We didn’t have a gate, so the airplane parked in the middle and they sent buses. Nina and Jill just got on the first one, then I got on the next one and we went through health screening/customs. We were waiting for our luggage a while, when we noticed everyone who was waiting was leaving. We followed them to find our luggage was already off the carousel. We went downstairs to the car rental and waited a long time to get our car, but finally got our Volkswagen Golf Life and got on the highway.
The reason for the almost impromptu trip was that our neighbors here, Ursula and Kevin, had decided when Fairfax Country schools were going all virtual in the fall of 2020 to move the whole family to Spain temporarily so their kids could go to school there (their oldest is in fifth grade like Nina). It was already dark when we got to the house they’d rented in Torre de Benagalbón. The kids played Mario Kart and we shared pizza.
Nina had a bit of a cold Thursday night before we left, and by Saturday night she was coughing enough that Jill thought she needed her nebulizer. I’d planned to bring an adapter for our plugs, but had completely forgotten about the voltage conversion. That meant her nebulizer ran for about 30 seconds before acrid smoke came pouring out of it. She was banned into our room while I tried to get the smell out of ours. We managed to get her to sleep with just her inhaler.
After both Nina and I slept for 12 hours, Sunday looked up. Kevin made me eggs and toast, and I had a shower. In the afternoon, we piled into their minivan and drove to Nerja. We visited the Balcony of Europe, but it was very windy and couldn’t see too far across the Mediterranean Sea. We retreated and had an early dinner on the patio of Mediterraneo. I had lamb and beer. On the way back Ursula had helped Jill find a drugstore with a nebulizer, and they picked it up.
That night Ursula and their daughter took us to Málaga to see flamenco. We were late as the police had set up roadblocks to the old city. We didn’t know why until we’d parked and walked in, and saw there was a parade for La Semana Santa. We finally made it to Centro de Arte Flamenco to see Kelipe. There was a guitarist and 3 singers – except one of the singers was also the dancer, which was surprising. There was also a serve yourself bar – I had a beer and Nina had OJ.
On Monday the 4th we woke to the news that Kevin’s flight home had been cancelled and now he was leaving Wednesday (he split work remote vs. US). We had stayed up late enough the night before that the couple terrible timed tickets available for the Alhambra palace had switched to full availability, and we left midmorning to drive there over bridges and through tunnels. I had managed to catch Nina’s cold, so I had a runny nose all day (at least it’s hard to give to people when you’re wearing a mask). The palace was very cool, but afterwards we had a snack break and decided to leave. I wanted to stop at Discos Bora-Bora, a record store nearby, so we found a garage. Jill and Nina liked the look of El Cambalache Restaurant, so we ate there, with probably the most translation trouble of our trip, but we still had a delicious meal. After we got back, the kids were out of school and Nina played with them while Jill and I shopped at Mercadona, then had a shared dinner with everyone.
I was sleeping in what was supposed to be Nina’s room, but Jill thought something was triggering her asthma in there, so Nina slept with her. I woke after 11 hours of sleep on Tuesday to find it raining and damp plus now Jill had caught the cold. Ursula took Jill and me to lunch at Café Terranova where I decided to try an eggs with shrimp dish (revuelto de champiñones y langostinos), but when it came out it looked like it was sprinkled with eels. Jill gave me a look but I ate what I could. It wasn’t until we got home I felt safe looking up what it was: mushrooms (almost as bad).
In the afternoon Nina took a motorized scooter to pickup the kids at school. Meanwhile, I picked up tickets for Dead & Company since I figured out the time difference to the US. That night Ursula urged Jill and I to have a date night. First we went to Restaurante Antonio where we got a weird vibe. I had a Mediterranean lobster and Jill had some fish, then we left, only to find that they were closing early. We were still hungry, so stopped at La Calma Playa where I had a tomato burrata salad and a beef poke bowl, both delicious.
Wednesday the 6th I slept in again, and was starting to feel better. We drove into Málaga and had lunch at D’Platos where I had salad and a lamb burger while the girls had paella. Next we visited the Picasso Museum Málaga which had his works laid out chronologically so you could really get a sense of his evolution as an artist. Next to D’Platos we had seen Martonela and Nina wanted that, so we got ice cream there, then onto the Interactive Music Museum where half of it was given over to instruments everyone could play (drums were easy, but I’d never tried playing a cello before). The other museum we wanted to go to was closed that day, so we headed back where we did beach, reading & TV. We shared pizza we got from Telepizza we got delivered for dinner.
Thursday I slept in again. I made myself crepes with eggs, cheese & tomato sauce for breakfast and Nina and I went to the beach before we returned to Málaga and went to the Museum of the Imagination, where the last room is selfie heaven. We drove to the old city and parked, then enjoyed one of our favorite things from our last trip to Spain in 2006: chocolate and churros at Casa Aranda. Then we went shopping; I went to Discos Candilejas and Sleazy Records for CDs (only picked up 1 though) and Pull & Bear for a shirt and belt since they were also clothes shopping, then we met for dinner at La Barra de Zapata. Jill knew someone who had been to Málaga recently and recommended this University of Maryland alumni’s restaurant, and it was definitely our best meal in Spain. We had a variety of tapas (Nina’s favorite was momo dumplings) and Jill really enjoyed her tinto de verano. That night I was surprised as I never thought we’d hear another Pink Floyd song, but they released one in support of Ukraine.
Friday afternoon Ursula and the kids left for their spring break. We had packed, and went to the beach one more time to eat at Chiringuito Marina Playa as the breeze whipped around (the windsurfer enjoyed it). The girls had fish while I had squid, then we said goodbye to Málaga and went to the airport. We got our Covid test done, then went through security. I had a burger and the girls had pizza and pasta, then when I got a snack for the plane at the gate I noticed they were selling cans of beer so got one of those too.
We got to Amsterdam and somewhere between the plane and the exit Jill lost her phone. We tried a couple things with no luck, but it was already midnight and we were tired. The in airport hotel had been booked, but happily the Hilton was a quick walk through a building away. Saturday Jill got up early to try and find her phone without success, then joined us for a very nice breakfast buffet at the Hilton. There was a much shorter line at security this time, and we had time to have a snack at a café we’d seen before that looked like it came from Alice in Wonderland.
We found out as we tried to board we didn’t have the correct boarding passes and forms, so we had to go through all that. Luckily I had snagged the forms from the Covid test and had already downloaded the pdfs as Jill no longer had access to her Gmail without her phone (next time we’ll make sure we can sign in on each other’s phones before we leave). I’d forgotten to order ahead the low sodium meal and skipped the airplane meal (Indian again), but had packed snacks anyway. I read comics (actually finished all the digital ones I brought) while they watched movies. When we got to Dulles, there was a very long customs line, but we only spent an hour in it thanks to noticing some people were switching to a shorter line if they filled out their customs information online. We got a Lyft home, got Reston Kabob and Popeyes and that was it. The next day I posted this: Sooooo… we just got back from spring break. In Spain. We didn’t want to say anything to jinx it before we left (the Covid rules are ever changing), but it was a great time. More details to come.
Monday the 11th my mom and her husband were also headed to Europe, taking a river cruise that ironically ended in Amsterdam. Unfortunately they’d taken their Covid tests too early, and I scrambled to schedule some for them in Logan, where they had a long layover and got to see my sister and her family before they flew again. Wednesday night the school had a fundraiser at Honeygrow where I got a nice salad. Thursday and Friday Nina had an elevated temperature and was coughing frequently. I took her to the doctor and kept her home both days – thankfully her teacher emailed us things she could do on her laptop. She was feeling better by Friday night and we got Flippin’ Pizza for takeout.
Saturday the 16th I found out I’d won tickets to see Suz Slezak (from David Wax Museum) with Anthony da Costa for a WNRN private concert at the brand new David Wax Museum studio barn. Jill wasn’t interested, so I made a day of it: stops for shopping at Plan 9 Music and Sidetracks Music, early dinner at Citizen Burger Bar downtown, beer run at Three Chopt, and then a fun show in a small space. If only c wasn’t so far away. To make up for my time away, I spent all day Sunday working on the yard. We’d had Miles come and remove all the weed and put in plants and mulch. I went to Reston Farm Garden Market and picked up a couple more plants as I discovered 2 of the plants they’d left were cherry trees, and I wanted to try my hand at a vegetable garden for the first time. I also mowed, trimmed, and we moved the mulch I removed to the front where there was a bare patch.
Tuesday Sue and Ava came to visit us for a couple days during Ava’s spring break. They mostly were visiting DC, but we had dinner together in the evenings (Nina convinced them to try Big Buns to much acclaim). Thursday I had to get Wacker plumbing to fix the outside faucet again, and I realized we’d gotten the wrong message last time: it’s not turning the water off inside that matters, but disconnecting the hose. Hopefully we won’t forget.
Friday the 22nd Nina had her first class field trip since 2019, this time to the Baltimore Aquarium. Jill got her from school, and then dropped her off at her Girl Scout troop leader, as they were doing a 2 night camp out at Camp May Flather. Sue and Ava left that night. Saturday Jill and I went out to pick up some pinball glass in Purcellville for Tony, and since Catoctin Creek Distilling Company was nearby, picked up a bottle there. Since we had no plans that night, I had made reservations at Roberto’s Ristorante Italiano in Vienna. In all the time I’d been going to fancy restaurants in DC, I had never made it to one of Chef Roberto Donna’s restaurants, and now he was close by. The dinner was delicious (especially the lamb and the cocktails), and next time we’ll know to ask which dish he’s preparing tableside.
Nina was back from camp the next night, but we were out as I’d snagged tickets to see Jon Stewart get the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center. First we had a delicious dinner outside at Imperfecto (since awarded a Michelin Star), then walked over to Foggy Bottom and caught the shuttle. A warm up comedian came out first, then music from musical director Gary Clark Jr. who surprised us with an unannounced guest: Bruce Springsteen, and they did a duet on The Beatles’ “Come Together”. Bruce was pretty good by himself, too. We got to see standup (mostly roasts) from Jimmy Kimmel, Pete Davidson, Olivia Munn, Steve Carell, Samantha Bee, Bassem Youssef, Ed Helms (replacing Stephen Colbert, who was out with Covid) & Dave Chappelle before Jon himself took the stage for a long set.
We had also started working on Nina switching bedrooms that weekend but soon realized there was way too much work. So Jill got on TaskRabbit and on Monday and Tuesday a painter came to repaint Nina’s new room; also Tuesday we had Nina’s loft bed disassembled and the sofabed moved into the kitchen. Thursday Belfort Furniture came and delivered the new queen bed for the guest room. Thursday night I was supposed to go see Lindsey Buckingham, but he cancelled due to Covid; we also got our first goslings of the year on our lawn. Friday we got takeout from Senor Ramon.
Saturday the 30th was a very busy day. While Jill took Nina over to Jammin’ Java for rehearsals, I went to Reston Hospital to drop off expired medicine, then joined them as Nina sang with the school house band for their school open mic. Then we went over to Frying Pan Park for their Horse Expo as Nina’s interested in riding. Finally Michael Clem came over for the first Lake Thoreau Concerts of the year, and the weather really cooperated (I was unsure about an April date when he scheduled it).
Nina continued her rehearsals for Broadway Night, culminating in her first performance on Friday the 4th. Jillâ€™s mom came down for the weekend, and we saw the first show (show #3) while Jill was a chaperone. For the second show Saturday afternoon I was an usher, then I brought over some Wendyâ€™s for her lunch. We all got Big Buns for dinner, then the three of us all watched her evening show (show #4).
Sunday morning we all went over to Jammin’ Java as the performances werenâ€™t over â€“ she still had Open Mic for her voice classes. Rehearsing and performing on stage seemed to help any remaining stagefright (even recovered when she started late) as she sang Ava Maxâ€™s â€œSo Am Iâ€ (and that was concert #5, with lots of nice cover choices). That night I went to see Beth Patterson at The Old Brogue for concert #6. This time she had SeÃ¡n Heely performing with her for more traditional songs. I wished sheâ€™d done more of her own songs as she didnâ€™t even get the chance to sing much. That week Nina started her Curex drops for immunotherapy to hopefully build up her tolerance for her allergies.
Friday the 11th I went to the Strathmore for concert #7: Bonny Light Horseman and AnaÃ¯s Mitchell. Since AnaÃ¯s Mitchell is a member of Bonny Light Horseman, it was the same musicians in different configurations for each set. I really enjoyed the harmonies of Bonny Light Horseman. Saturday Nina shopped at Safeway with several Girl Scouts to get ingredients to prepare for a badge. She also had a cookie booth outside Ledo’s.
Sunday marked a year since I made my low sodium red miso paste, so it was time to stop fermenting. I also made gochujang with it so now I can make a low sodium version of Bon Chon chicken. This was in addition to making Louisiana hot sauce and blue cheese dressing for wings for the Super Bowl. Valentineâ€™s Day was Tuesday and Nina redecorated the table.
Tuesday the 15th I said â€œWowâ€ as the full Daily Show from the night before was only a conversation with India.Arie. They had interesting thoughts on how to respond to racism.
Thursday the 17th Jill and I followed Ninaâ€™s suggestion and had lunch together on Jillâ€™s day off. We thought Founding Farmerâ€™s would be good as it wasnâ€™t too cold, but it was windy and we ate inside as it wasnâ€™t busy at 2PM. Saturday the 19th was Eric’s funeral, at a church off 29 between Bristow and Warrenton. It was sad to bid him farewell, but nice to see his wife, daughters, brother and mother. I went to a nearby Panera afterwards to hang with college friends I hadnâ€™t seen in 15-20 years. I finally left at 5 â€“ I needed to pick up some additional Switch controllers in Tysonâ€™s and Ledos Pizza before we had game night with the Hocrodels and Larsens. The 5 kids ate first, then played Switch downstairs while the grownups played Cards Against Humanity upstairs.
Monday Nina and I were off for Presidentâ€™s Day. It was a beautiful day, and in the afternoon she ran a cookie booth right outside the house on the trail. When the Grunspans were done with their friends, they joined her before Nina had to go to Tae Kwon Do to earn her last stripe. They did so well both households nearly sold out of their stash. Nina had hives that night â€“ they may have been from a dog that licked her, but we werenâ€™t sure, so we paused her drops for a day.
Friday the 25th I had to LOL at Butt-centric literary star Chuck Tingle buys GovernorAbbott.com. That evening we watched Ninaâ€™s Tae Kwon Do graduation as she made it to her bo-black belt (second to last belt, black is last). Then we went out for dinner at Clydeâ€™s in Reston as theyâ€™ll be closing soon. Unfortunately it was too windy to eat outside, but the booths had plexiglass barriers and felt fairly safe. Saturday Nina made some #flowerfood.
Saturday the 1st was New Year’s Day and we were still in Boston, so we slept in a bit, then drove home (with a stop at White Castle, naturally). Sunday Jill kicked off cookie sales with this note: “Nina is going camping for the first time this year as a girl scout and is super excited! Her troop is also raising funds to try for a bronze award; so far their community projects have included making blankets for the shelter and decorating memorial rocks for our community memory garden for those we have lost through Covid at the senior living community. Thanks for your support”. Monday Nina was scheduled to be back at school, but Mother Nature had other ideas and we got a lot of snow. In fact, she was off all that week with another storm on Thursday. Friday we got Bollywood Bistro (Jill’s favorite) and worked on Jill’s Christmas gift, Lego Winnie the Pooh.
Saturday the 9th Jill and I had debated going to see Fortune Feimster at the new Capital One Hall, especially with the neighbors at the next 3 houses all positive and everyone back at school and work, but this graphic sealed the deal for me, and so we went to show #1 (also with Caitlin Peluffo). Glad we did, everyone was well masked in the theatre and she was hilarious.
Saturday the 15th we had tickets for concert #2: Eddie From Ohio at the Birchmere. But vaccinated without masks required and still in the middle of the Omicron surge meant that Jill didnâ€™t feel safe bringing Nina, so I went by myself. I loved that Julie changed the lyrics of “Old Dominion” again to “Baseball season’s over, and our football team is crap, so wintertime means Washington and rootin’ for the Caps”. They finally stopped burning CDs of the show that night, and instead started offering a download card for sale. Tuesday the misheard lyric of the day was: “I ate the sharpest tool in the shed”.
The new governor in Virginia had decided to lean into his far-right politics, and decided to issue an executive order prohibiting mask mandates in schools as soon as he got into office. So on Wednesday I shared a petition for Fairfax County parents to make their voices heard. I also shared a link to help fund a lawsuit against the executive order. Then on Thursday I seconded this.
Friday the 21st we got takeout from the final of the three open restaurants in Reston Station, Big Buns. And apparently saved the best for last, as we were all raving about our meals, especially Nina who got the Unicorn Shake (all the shakes were good). Sunday Nina made her own breakfast for a Girl Scout badge (fruit smoothie, scrambled eggs, and a frozen waffle). Tuesday we got takeout from On The Border for a PTO fundraiser.
Friday the 28th Nina had her school picture taken and we got takeout from Cooperâ€™s Hawk and Nandoâ€™s (I ended up getting Nandoâ€™s because Cooperâ€™s Hawk has no low sodium entrees – or to be more accurate has only high sodium entrees). That night I shared the Peacemaker opening sequence to my buddy Eric. His wife had called me saying he was back in the hospital with pneumonia and might go on a ventilator that night, and he asked me if Iâ€™d seen the new Spider-Man and I told him he needed to get better soon so we could chat about this hilarious show and its extensive use of hair metal (5 minutes on Hanoi Rocks alone in the previous episode).
Unfortunately she called me the next day that he hadnâ€™t made it through the night, so I shared â€œRIP Eric Kader. Friend, brother, roommate, record store co-owner, concert buddy. Gone too soon.â€ Sunday I had mentioned that when Eric and I went to Woodstock ’94 we had a four hour wait for a shuttle. Someone in line had a bottle of Goldschlager and we shared it while we waited. I got a nip of Goldschlager when we opened Jill’s birthday piÃ±ata in 2020, and I figured that night was the perfect time to drink it.
That day also marked the end of Wizards Unite, the Pokemon Go style mobile app set in the Harry Potter universe. We finally finished the Harry Potter film series, which we started in August 2018 by listening to the audiobook first and then watching the movie. Then we watched the 20th anniversary of the movies special on HBO. I think we’ll have a conversation in the future of separating art and the problematic artist, but I think for now we’re done with that universe.
Throughout January, Nina had been preparing for Broadway Night, a selection of jukebox musicals presented by the South Lakes High School Chorus. They invite all the South Lakes Pyramid schools, and all the elementary students were singing the Go-Go’s “Vacation” as well as appearing in the “On Your Feet” finale. Nina started the month with twice a week rehearsals, but with one week to go, she was rehearsing every day and some days going straight from school to school. We felt we were getting a taste of high school and things to come. Also in January, Jill and I both joined the Wordle viral craze.
Saturday the 4th we went to Lost Rhino as our friends Tony and Charissa came down from Philly with our friend Bill. Janice was hosting and Lorna & Dave came along too. Tony loves pinball, and Nina and I joined him for that. Her favorite game was Guardians of the Galaxy while I preferred The Mandalorian. I enjoyed the beer and Nina had Sâ€™mores with the propane fire pit outside. I had rewatched the 4 previous Daniel Craig Bond movies the last 4 nights, then that night my dad came over to watch the newest one, a tradition he started by taking me to see Octopussy. A great ending for a great Bond.
Sunday Nina had a Girl Scouts cookie rally and Jill said “this Jingle Bell kitty is happy to be back in the holiday spirit after an overenthusiastic play session! Inspired by The Knitmore Girls stuffie mending and although it’s #NotAPerfectMend it’ll do just fine. Kiddo is just happy to have her holiday playmate back!”. Monday I was in DC for concert #20: Brandi Carlile at Sixth & I. A fantastic solo show that mixed together her new album, Joni Mitchell covers, and holiday songs, plus duets with her wife and the first ever singing appearance of her daughter.
Saturday the 11th we went to the Herndon Winter Market where we unexpectedly met up with Janice and Lorna & Dave again. We enjoyed German food from a food truck, then watched some traditional dancers.
Monday I started 3 weeks off â€“ I was convinced with Jill working at a hospital and Nina back in school that one of us would catch Covid. I was delighted to be wrong, but my vacation time was use it or lose it, so I used it. Tuesday I took Nina and a friend to concert #21: Dixie D’Amelio, MONSTA X, Tai Verdes, Bazzi, Saweetie, Black Eyed Peas, Tate McRae, Megan thee Stallion & Jonas Brothers for HOT 99.5’s Jingle Ball at Capital One Arena, and they had a great time. They were disappointed that Doja Cat & AJR dropped out due to Covid, but both got to see their first K-pop band and they’re big fans of the genre (canâ€™t tell you how much Blackpink Iâ€™ve heard lately). Jill got a haircut and said “Gotta love an amazing new cut and style! Natalya at Alya Salon cut about 10 inches off and I’m so thrilled! She knows how to give a great Deva/curly hair cut ðŸ™ŒðŸ™Œ”
Wednesday it was my turn for a haircut from Roosters, and Thursday I watched this great tribute to the other movie series that had itâ€™s 20th anniversary this year (and tagged it on social media with #Colbert #LordOfTheRings #LOTR #1Trilly). Jill was surprised that she would come home from work and find me still on the computer, but I had a lot of non-work computer tasks to catch up on. Friday I had lunch with John on the deck, then our neighbors were back from Spain and all the girls got together for dinner and a movie (Shang-Chi). Jill and I got takeout from Chengs. Saturday we had another outdoor holiday party. This time there were slightly less people, so we brought our food, drinks and heater over to our neighbor Johnâ€™s house. As always, there was caroling at his house.
Sunday the 19th Nina had a Girl Scouts troop party, then I went to a house concert in Herndon for concert #22: Michael Clem. Good to hear his new songs live, and see my friend. Later Nina and her friends decorated gingerbread houses.
Wednesday we packed for our trip, but I made sure to watch the new Matrix (I thought it was fantastic). I had also watched the first 3 Matrix movies the previous 3 nights, and I could say what I would never say about the Star Wars prequels – those sequels are seriously underrated.
Thursday we were all negative for Covid, so off we went to Massachusetts, with a fairly uneventful drive, stopping at Sonic for lunch. Christmas Eve we went over to Jillâ€™s momâ€™s and most of the immediate family came. All plans for takeout had to go out the window as just about every place was closed, and we finally found Blue Asian Cuisine in Chicopee that was a good place. It snowed that night and the rain held off on Christmas long enough for Nina to have her 2nd White Christmas. Later we had dinner at the Bradys and a gift card swap, where both Nina and I watched Home Alone for the first time (what can I say â€“ it was a kids movie that came out when I was in college).
On Sunday the 27th Pepe & Meme came over to celebrate with their grandkids (Nina & Finn) and we had appetizers. That night Jill and I went to concert #23: Dar Williams with Crys Matthews at The Stationery Factory in Dalton. Nice show to finish 2021 on – although it was a white knuckle ride home for Jill because of the snow. Wednesday we went to Northampton for lunch (Familiars Coffee & Tea for Jill and me, Yokohama Ramen for Nina) and shopping. Thursday I rented out the last 4 rows at the South Hadley’s Tower Theaters so we could sit in the last 2 rows and watch Sing 2 semi-safely, then we visited with Gram.
We capped off the week by heading out on New Year’s Eve and visiting with my sister and her family , then went to the Cannons. Later the older kids watched the younger ones while Jill and I reenacted our 1st date from 20 years ago: sushi on NYE with the Cannons. We went to Fuki, early enough that we were the only ones there. It was delicious. Later we went back to there house and found random music videos to watch while we chatted before the kids came upstairs for the ball drop.