April

Thursday the 1st we were still on spring break at Disney World. Another early morning as this day we headed to Animal Kingdom. We got some pictures and headed over to Pandora to ride the Na’vi River Journey, then off to DinoLand U.S.A. where Ava rode Expedition Everest, then joined me and Sue on Dinosaur while Nina rode TriceraTop Spin and she and Jill played carnival games. Next we had lunch at Restaurantosaurus before we walked to the Wildlife Express Train and took the train to Conservation Station, where Ava, Nina and I did The Animation Experience. After the train back, we waited in line (and got drinks), then rode Kilimanjaro Safaris.

Nina

The wait was down somewhat, so it was time to ride Avatar Flight of Passage, Nina’s favorite ride from our previous visit. Jill had stopped to get coffee, and barely made it back into line before we were in the part of line that went inside. Inexplicably, right before we were about to ride, Nina said she didn’t want to do it – first time that happened (she had misgivings at Tower of Terror, but still went on). But she was old enough to wait outside, so she did. We got some pictures and shopping done afterwards, then left.

Jill Nina Kerry Sue

We dropped Jill and Sue at Disney Springs to shop (at Goofy’s Cando Co and The Spice & Tea Exchange) while the rest of us went to the hotel. I picked them up later and we drove south with a quick stop at Wawa for my meal as we were meeting Aunt Kelley and her paramour at their house and they were getting Subway and Popeye’s for dinner. We stayed on their porch as we didn’t realize they had 2 cats, but Nina did well.

Kerry Jill Kelley Jake Nina

Friday we returned to Hollywood Studios. Jill and I had gotten up early again and both got on a boarding group on Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. We didn’t want to take any chance, so we headed back to the park. We got guest services to make sure both parties were merged into the same group, then walked over and soon were in line. Once again Nina decided once we got to the ride itself she didn’t want to go on, but this time we went through the first part after a cast member convinced her it was tame (it was). She didn’t want to do the 2nd part, so Jill and her mom waited with her while Ava and I rode, then we waited outside with her while they rode. It’s a shame, because that was an outstanding ride and experience. Next we waited in line for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. Once again, Nina wanted out at ride time, and Jill went with her. We decided that was a wise decision as Jill was getting weary of the violent motion simulators.

Nina Kerry Jill Sue

We took some pictures next to the Falcon, Nina and I wandering around Star Wars Land (aka Black Spire Outpost) while the others rode the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. When Nina and I wanted a break, I got her popcorn mixed with candy, then we went over to BaseLine Tap House where I got a beer flight and Nina had a strawberry lemonade. We went back to Star Wars Land for a bit, then met with Sue and rode Toy Story Mania! while Jill took Ava back to the hotel so she could catch up schoolwork.

Jill Ava Sue

Jill brought us McDonald’s for lunch, then she, Nina and her mom went to ride Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway and watch Muppets 4-D while I got to explore Star Wars Land by myself in person and virtually (you can interact with characters through the Play Disney app). I bought a Porg which Nina immediately confiscated. Later we had reservations at Oga’s Cantina and we all got funky drinks: I got a Bespin Fizz and Nina got Oga’s Obsession, then Nina and I had an appointment at Droid Depot and built droids: she choose an R2 unit and I got a BB one. Meanwhile Sue rode Slinky Dog Dash.

Nina

Jill choose takeout from Kobé Japanese Steakhouse without realizing it was in Orlando, so we drove up to get it (it was delicious). The next morning was Saturday and we checked out and going. Not too quickly as we’d already decided to take our time and split the trip back into 2 parts. We stopped at the new Buc-ees north of and stopped for lunch at a Sonic in Savannah. We ran into a lot of traffic, getting to our planned takeout at Pier 41 Seafood just minutes before they closed at 9PM, then it was still 30 minutes before we got to the Hampton Inn Fayetteville Fort Bragg. The drive was shorter on Sunday and we did run into some traffic (including seeing an accident in progress just before Fredericksburg), but were home by early afternoon. We had an Easter dinner and all the girls (Maddie had come over too) played games while I cleaned up.

Nina Maddie Sue Ava Jill

Jill took the next 2 days off. The relatives left Tuesday morning, then we got back to our schedule, with one change that week: the second dose of my vaccine. This time it was at the Government Center, and with long lines that wound around and made me think I was back at Disney World. It was still fairly quick though.

Nina

Not too much went on the rest of the month. Nina had her regular routine of in person Tae Kwon Do Monday and Thursday, plus virtual voice lessons on Wednesday. We had takeout on Fridays (Maggianos, Flower Child, Sweet Frog & Pista House) and family night on Saturday. Nina had a belt graduation on Friday the 23rd and finished her Saturday morning virtual drama class on the 24th. Sunday the 25th we went to visit my dad to celebrate his birthday belatedly. Jill said “An almost normal busy weekend. N made it to Level 3 in TaeKwonDo and got a trophy in addition to her new belt for her achievement. We made a trip to MD to visit K’s dad and his SO since we (adults anyway) are all fully vaccinated. I’m so profoundly grateful that so far, we’ve made it through.”

Patricia Bryce Nina Kerry

Friday the 30th I’d signed Nina up for the virtual Lego Brick Fest Live. A package of Legos had arrived beforehand so she could build during the show. She liked it – too bad Jill got home from work after it started so we had a late dinner.

Nina

March

Friday the 5th I remembered Saturday night at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in 2005, I went to see GrooveLily and Jim Infantino at the Budgiedome and when I got back Mike from efo had stopped by with bandmates, then returned with friends, Randy, Mark and Rhonda, two guitarists and a mandolin player. They and about 30 other people (and Stuart on guitar) were out in the middle of the road singing cover songs. I finally asked Mike permission to post it my recording, and he said yes. Later that evening Nina’s school was hosting another drive in movie at Wolf Trap, but last minute Jill’s car wouldn’t start. Nina went with friends to pick up ours and theirs food from The Sandwich Shop while Jill and I transferred everything to my car and met them there. The movie was Sing, which I’ve seen several times so I didn’t need to pay full attention as I tested out using our big power bank in the wild for the first time – radio worked fine, crockpot with the hot chocolate (it was a cold night) was quite a power drain.

Celina Leila Nina Pearl

Saturday I ran errands with Nina including stopping at Duck Donuts and Flippin’ Pizza. That night Jill and had our postponed Valentine’s Day date at Le Diplomate. They had really taken pandemic dining to a new level with their “Streetside Chateus”, partioned stalls with tables and chairs as well as a vent with heat (so hot in fact I took off my jacket and sat near the outside edge). The food was wonderful, I went with the lobster frites as they made the fries unsalted. We maxed out our time, and Jill got creme brulee and I got a bottle of port to go (Nina got to play with her friends).

Jill Kerry

Saturday the 13th was nice enough the girls wanted to kayak after starting to build a cardboard boat. Tuesday was Nina’s return to school as she was back on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Unfortunately her teacher did not return to school, so she used headphones and a laptop on a classroom with other students whose teacher was still virtual, but getting do Specials (like Spanish and gym), playing on the playground with friends and going to the library made up for some of that. I thought it was very strange to drop my daughter at school for the first time in a year. But it felt right. What felt wrong was making her lunch in the morning. So used to making it at lunchtime now.

For Saint Patrick’s Day on Wednesday the 17th, I brined the corned beef, made pumpernickel bread and what I thought was my mom’s chocolate cake, cut into the traditional clover. Turns out it’s her mom’s recipe, and great-grandma’s dad immigrated from Ireland, so that was traditional as we can make it. That weekend we had a European tour of seafood: paella on Saturday, mussels for lunch Sunday, and fish and chips for dinner that night. The good news: Nina ate them all. I got my first shot of Pfizer on Saturday morning at EagleBank Arena (aka Patriot Center) and it was weird to be there for something other than a show, but I was in and out fairly quickly. Tuesday the 23rd I took advantage of Nina in school to get the maids in for the first time in over a year, then went out to get a haircut. When I took a walk on Thursday, I realized that the cicadas don’t feel like waiting any longer to go outside. I feel ya, fellas.

dinner

When the pandemic started, we had been planning a trip during Spring Break to Orlando with Jill’s mom and Nina’s cousin. We had moved it to the fall, and when it was clear that wouldn’t work, moved to this Spring Break (the Disney World tickets would expire soon after, and were not cheap). There was disturbing news as in Miami people weren’t masking or observing social distancing, but Disney World and Universal Orlando had enforced the restrictions strongly since reopening. Nina’s pulmonologist told us he was ok with her going, but she shouldn’t fly. So we decided to rent a minivan. Jill decided to go with Dollar, and after all the extra fees they added on, then didn’t have the minivan she’d reserved. But they had a Chevy Traverse that had Florida license plates, which made it a winner. Sue and Ava drove down that Friday, so we were able to leave early morning on Saturday the 27th.

We had decided to try and do the whole thing in 1 day because we had a packed week. Besides Jill driving, most people slept after our 4:30am start. We made our first stop at Anne’s Donuts in NC where they had the most delicious cream cheese donut. We also stopped at a Sonic for drinks. Nina loves White Castle, and one is opening up in Orlando soon. We had heard Krystal was their equivalent in the South, so decided to stop at one past Savannah in Georgia for lunch. Of course thanks to many backups, it was late afternoon when we got there, and that and the Starbucks were drive thru only. We made the best of it, sitting at a Starbucks table, but the food just wasn’t that good. We didn’t make it to our hotel, the accurately titled DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel at the Entrance to Universal Orlando until 9:30pm and didn’t manage to do much besides fall asleep.

Kerry Nina Jill

Sunday we were up early because while Universal Orlando didn’t require park reservations like Disney World, they did stop letting people in when the parks reached current capacity. It was the easiest park to get to that week with a 15 minute walk to CityWalk, but then we had a wait as the Universal Orlando tickets had expired. I had set up an exchange with someone at their Twitter account, but still needed to go stand in line at guest services and then find the original pdf of the tickets from my email. But after that we were good to go inside Universal Studios Florida and soon got on the Transformers ride. Ava really wanted to do The Simpsons ride, so we went there next (Jill and will skip that in the future), then went over to what we’d been waiting for a decade, Diagon Alley.

Diagon Alley was as real as we’d hoped it would be. After wandering around Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes (astonishing how close the Wizards Unite version was to it) and around, we noticed there was a long line for Ollivander’s Wand Shop, so I got in it. It was 90 minutes long, so Sue and Ava left so Ava could ride the rollercoaster, and Jill and Nina went to the Leaky Cauldron to get lunch. I did get to see the 2 shows there while I waited, plus we tried the Gillywater from the Eternelle’s Elixir of Refreshment stand (I had the Fire Protection Potion). As the line got closer to the front, Jill switched with me and I had lunch as Nina finished up. Then we went inside and Nina got to choose her wand with Ollivander (very well done) before we did some videos with Sue and Ava who had finished. Nina got to play with her wand as there’s a number of places to interact with it there, and as we were about to get in line for Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts, the ride broke down.

We went over and rode Men In Black (shooting fine, 720 degree spins not fine), then Ava went to ride the rollercoaster again and we got drinks. I had managed to get a virtual line pass for Revenge of the Mummy, and Jill and Ava rode that. We decided we were done, but then saw there was a photo op with Optimus Prime in 30 minutes. Jill and I waited while Sue, Nina and Ava did the Transformers ride again. We stopped on the way out to take pictures at a studio (we had purchased the photo pass, so no additional cost), then walked back to the hotel. We still had to get our luggage and put it in the SUV, then take a short drive over to Universal’s Endless Summer – Dockside Inn & Suites. Even though I’d checked in online, I still had to wait through a long line of guests to get the room keys. In the meantime Jill decide we’d just get dinner there at Pier 8 Market and got orders for what was essentially a cafeteria. I got the room keys and parked the SUV and we all met for dinner (mostly burgers), then got the luggage and went to the room (it was nice with 3 beds – Jill and I got the separate room).

Jill Sue Nina Kerry

Monday morning we got the benefit of staying at a Universal resort as we got into the park an hour early. Most of the girls got food and drinks from the Starbucks in the hotel before we got on the bus. Jill had the genius idea of doing Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringotts first, so we did that and then took the Hogwarts Express over to Hogsmeade in Universal’s Islands of Adventure (we had the 2 park pass), then explored Hogsmeade. Unfortunately Hogsmeade was very crowded and there wasn’t as much room to move around as Diagon Alley which was in an area by itself. We stood in line for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Nina and I got off right before the ride started. Then we all had a snack and headed down to Jurassic Park which Ava wanted to see (Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure was virtual line pass only, and I hadn’t gotten one yet). Jill was trying to fix Ava’s unlimited soda cup, so the rest of us took a picture with the raptor, then had a drink break. Nina and Ava saw prizes at the carnival games they wanted, so they played the games and won (Nina’s prize was a sloth).

Kerry Jill Nina

I finally got a pass for Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, so while Ava went to ride the Hulk rollercoaster, the rest of us waited in line for that. However, the line was very long even with a pass, plus the ride broke down for 20 minutes. By time we were close to the front, Nina needed to use the restroom (and we weren’t going to ride anyway), so we went to Honeydukes where Ava was. I hadn’t had anything to eat and was exhausted, so I decided to leave. Ava decided to join me (after we got her a Ravenclaw hoodie) and we took the bus back. At that point the exhaustion took over, so I napped while Jill and Nina rode Pteranodon Flyers and Sue rode The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, then stopped for pizza. When they got back Ava went down to Pier 8 Market for another burger and I went to Del Taco for tacos (gotta love chains that give you sodium counts) and Walgreens for a beer and wine. Jill, Nina and Sue meanwhile had found the pool.

Kerry Ava Sue Nina

Tuesday morning I checked out virtually, then we got on the road to Hollywood Studios. Jill and I had gotten up early to try and get on a boarding group on Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, but failed. We parked, then again I had to find the pdf of my tickets, then walked over to the Tower of Terror. Everyone rode but me, so I hung out with the stuff and surfed on my phone or people watched. Next we got in line for a new ride: Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. Again quite a wait, but the ride was a classic, all ages ride. We had lunch at Backlot Express (burgers again, but Ava loves them and they’re usually low sodium for me) and Jill and I failed again to get a boarding group. Nina wanted to see Vacation Fun – An Original Animated Short with Mickey & Minnie so we watched that. Ava went to ride the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster while the rest of us did Toy Story Mania!, then walked through Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Knowing ahead of time getting onto the Star Wars rides would be difficult we’d already planned a 2nd day there, but I still wanted to see the layout before we left.

We still had to check into DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Orlando – Disney Springs™ Area, so we did that. Thankfully it was the first hotel we could fully check in using the app on my phone as a key at first. We got to relax for a while, then ordered takeout from Miller’s Ale House. Nina got to check out the pool with Jill before Sue and I picked up the food.

Nina

Wednesday we were off to the Magic Kingdom. The hotel we’d picked had allowed early access into the parks and transportation, but the early access was on hold and the transportation was a chartered bus that didn’t run often, so we decided to just drive and park each day. We paid for preferred parking and were pretty close to the Ticket and Transportation Center. Due to long lines, I decided to ask whether the monorail or the ferry was faster, and got directed to the buses, and 10 minutes later we were in the park. Fantasyland was our first destination, and soon we were riding The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan’s Flight. The line for it’s a small world was pretty long, but moved quickly. We shopped for ears next, then lunch for most at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe (I found that Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant carried a lobster roll).

Kerry Nina Jill Sue Ava

Next, Sue and Nina did Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid while Ava, Jill and I rode The Haunted Mansion (which broke down just like the last time we rode it). Ava, Nina and Sue took a spin on the Mad Tea Party while Jill and I waited in line for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train; when we got to the front Ava, Jill and Sue rode while Nina and I headed to the front where we had a Capture Your Moment scheduled. We took photos in front of the castle, of course.

Sue Kerry Jill Nina

Then it was off to Tomorrowland where Nina and Ava rode Tomorrowland Speedway, then Nina joined me in line for Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, then we did Prince Charming Regal Carousel. The others did Space Mountain, then we met up. I’d read this genius idea to take a boat to Fort Wilderness and eat at P & J’s Southern Takeout, so that’s what we did. It was a relaxing ride over, and we were able to mobile order ahead of time. We sat picnic tables on the patio – the ribs were ok and the chicken was delicious. I only wish I’d known about the open bar so I wouldn’t have gotten a can of beer (I made up for it with the Smoky Mountain Apple cocktail from Crockett’s Tavern, the bar in the front). We took the boat back to the Magic Kingdom and then Nina had requested to ride the monorail back to the car.

Nina Sue

September

Tuesday the 1st we were still on vacation in Bethany Beach. It was another beach day and I brought lunch to the beach. That night it was the Grunspans’ turn to take the girls and they took Nina for pizza and Captain Jack’s Pirate Golf while Jill and I walked over to 14 Global and explored their tapas (the Blood and Smoke was a spicy strawberry cocktail and the shishito peppers were excellent).

Nina

Wednesday morning I went to get a haircut at Cut Above. The Grunspans had left and Jill and Nina went to a big pool in the condo complex. I brought them lunch there. Later in the afternoon, we drove up to Dogfish Head where we picked up a order from the brewery. Then we parked in Rehoboth Beach and shopped a bit, then spent some time in the arcade off the boardwalk. Then it was time for Nina’s birthday dinner on the roof at the Cultured Pearl (sushi is her current favorite) where she enjoyed feeding the koi. Jill said “Today we celebrated this girl’s annual trip around the sun. She’s fierce, feisty, has BIG dreams and is not afraid to chase them! Her confidence grows each year and I’m so proud to know and love her. You will always be my Sunshine Girl.”

Jill Nina Kerry

Thursday we packed up and headed out, stopping to pick up the paddleboard. We stopped in Annapolis to have lunch outside at Blackwall Hitch with Dad and Patricia. Nina got to open the rest of her presents after we got home. Friday it was our wedding anniversary. We only have the live music from our wedding, but I unearthed the proposal and put it on Facebook. That evening we had Catherine the babysitter over and had dinner at Clarity in their parking lot. I had a choose your own cocktail called the “Builders Permit” where I elected to have the Lagavulin 16 Year Old Whisky in honor of it being our 16th anniversary (the tasting menu was excellent as well, especially the Wagyu steak). Saturday Jill drove to Ikea to get a bookcase just for Nina’s Legos (she had a lot). That night we had pork porterhouse chops from Sylvanaqua Farms crowned with sautéed skillet apples and green beans. Jill said “It feels like Fall!” That night I pulled a bottle of 30 year old port out of the wine rack to drink. Upon closer inspection, it was bottled in 2008, making it 42 years old. So I posted “In honor of that auspicious number, a toast to you and yours – may the rest of this godforsaken year be better than what’s occurred so far.”

Kerry Jill

Tuesday the 8th was Nina’s first day of school and it went a lot smoother than the virtual learning in the spring (the new laptop also helped). She got and hour for lunch and recess, and as soon as she finished eating, she would go outside to play with her friends. Thursday I observed that the British Avengers are gone with the passing of Diana Rigg. Saturday we went out on the boat for lake concert from Irresponsible. During the weekend, a wire came loose from Nina’s braces, so Tuesday I took her to Northern VA Orthodontics for a fix, picking up some Nando’s next door for lunch as a treat. The next day Jill’s mom arrived for a visit (the only possible time with Jill about to start a job in a hospital).

Nina

Nina’s first visit to Jammin’ Java was at 3 weeks old to see Séan McCann (from Great Big Sea). 9 years later she was there on Thursday the 17th to perform “Tomorrow” at the Open Mic for The Music School (she’s been taking virtual lessons there since last month). Friday we started having Catherine the babysitter over after school so the girls got to play at least one guaranteed afternoon a week as virtual and in person activities started filling up the time (Tae Kwon Do, voice lessons, tutoring, etc.). Saturday Nina and Sue made breakfast, then in the afternoon my mom and sister and their families joined us on a Zoom call. Later we walked around the lake and went out on the boat for the last lake concert with The Nighthawks (after a power scare that later turned out one off the batteries in parallel was bad).

Nina

Wednesday the 23rd I had to share this video because we’re briefly in it. I also got an email received today: “I’m writing in regards to some music of mine that you are selling via Amazon. I am no longer playing music professionally, and would like to remove these albums from the Internet. I was wondering if you would be so kind as to take down these albums from your site. I’d really appreciate it.”
My response: “I would be happy to remove those albums. Just add them to your cart and pay for them and they will be gone from the Internet”. Thursday it was back to Northern VA Orthodontics again for a loose wire (unfortunately the Reston location is closed on Thursdays so we had to go to Brambleton). Friday we had the girls over for a pizza party and a planned backyard screening of the premiere of “Miraculous World: New York – United HeroeZ” with our new projector, but the rain had other ideas and the girls sat socially distanced inside to watch the movie.

Kerry Nina Jill

Saturday the 26th Jill and Sue went yarn shopping in Old Town, then in the evening Jill and I went to H Street in DC where we had a lovely dinner at Maketto including some dim sum favorites. Jill had spotted the Pie Shop on the way in, so we got some sweet slices for dessert to take home and share and some savory slices for lunch the next day. We also took the boat out on Sunday.

Kerry Jill

Tuesday Nina managed to sprain her left wrist at her desk (not at the gymnastics routine she’s been doing at recess minutes earlier), so after school got a bandage wrap after a doctor visit. I also asked Facebook that since I had received my absentee ballot and dropped it at the polling place, I had now voted, so please stop giving me ads asking me to register and/or vote. Wednesday Nina and Sue turned their bedtime routine into a show they performed us (Sue was leaving the next morning).

Sue Nina

August

On the 1st we should have been at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, but we still had a virtual meeting and family picture with our Shantytowne peeps. And we still got to see a concert, another boat concert, this time great to have Tommy Gann for concert #6 (so now I’ve been to 6 concerts this year, when I normally would have hit about 50 by now and I’ve produced half of them. 2020 is so strange). I also got requests by text from a neighbor during the show (Jack Johnson was a success, but she also requested Hall and Oates while he was playing one).

Nina’s musical theatre camps had come to an end, so we made our own plans for August. Our friend Seth taught ukulele to her on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in the morning and she started voice lessons with Rachel through Jammin’ Java on Wednesday afternoons. She also worked on 2 pages of a 3rd to 4th grade workbook each day. In the afternoons, she joined the “Girl Squad”: her and 3 other neighborhood girls, who played together (all masked) under the watchful eye of Julia, our babysitter (that continued from June and July, but more officially with the other girls this month). On Tuesday the 4th I was so glad my state is part of this. Also, this came and looks great to display the alcohol. Wednesday Nina left soap in the tub, then I found she was watching unauthorized videos, plus Seth had a migraine and couldn’t teach. So she practiced ukulele in my office, then went upstairs to do her workbook. When I went upstairs after 30 minutes, she was playing and told me she couldn’t find the workbook. FML. Thursday’s out of context quote: “Dad, how do you clean Gatorade off a skateboard?” Also we found out contact tracing will have to be automated for now.

Nina

Saturday the 8th we took the boat out and Jill and Nina went swimming. Tuesday Nina started Wet N Wild, a twice weekly social distanced pool playtime from RA Camps that she loved. Friday, if you wanted to hear Margo Price cover WAP, here ya go. NSFW if you’re still in an office or have small children nearby. Also, They Might Be Giants made a Schoolhouse Rocks song. Later I took the Girl Squad out on the boat, but swimming was done for a while.

Jill Nina

Saturday the 15th Nina asked for a special breakfast and got a waffle with ice cream toppings and strawberries and peaches with whipped cream. Sunday I wondered if anyone else’s child was cosplaying as all The Loud House children? Just mine? Alrighty then. Also, this was powerful. Thursday we got lobster rolls from Mason’s. Friday was Nina’s last day with her babysitter Julia, so we made a video for friends and family to commemorate the occasion. Saturday we were singing this so had to introduce Nina to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Sunday Nina had an early birthday party as 2 of the neighborhood kids were moving to Spain for the year, so we brought out the slip ‘n slide, juice boxes and cupcakes for all the neighborhood kids.

Nina

Monday the 24th we found new babysitter Catherine, who a long while ago lived next to us. That worked well for our last regular week of summer, then we’d found a good way to have a socially distanced vacation: rent a condo in Bethany Beach for 5 nights (leaving before Labor Day craziness). We left Saturday morning and then stopped at the shopping center. The paddleboard Jill had purchased several years earlier had been shedding fiberglass, and no surf shops around us would repair it, but she had found a place near Bethany that would fix it. Getting the paddleboard tightly tied to our portable roof rack took some doing, but we were soon on out way again without any problems. We stopped for smoothies at Smoothie King in Bowie and lunch at Sonic in Bridgeville, then went to Dollar Book Shuffle in Laurel, DE. They say they have “over 40,000 quality used books and 15,000 DVDs & CDs” and I don’t doubt it, but the CDs are completely unorganized and it I spent a good long while sorting through them. We then ended at Bethany Beach and checked in to our condo. After we unpacked, we checked out the beach, then walked to the downtown area (masks required everywhere) where we had made a reservation at Ropewalk. Unfortunately as were walking there I’d taken my glasses off to wipe the sweat from my face, and felt a hot pain in my right eye, and blinking didn’t help. I went to the restroom in the restaurant and couldn’t see anything, but the pain had lessened. I had crab legs and we all had crushes (Nina’s in a fish bowl). After dinner they left early and stopped at Candy Kitchen, then we had candy for dessert in the condo.

Nina Jill

Sunday we stopped at the nearby Dunkin’ to get donuts for breakfast, then dropped off the paddleboard. I dropped off Jill and Nina, then spent a couple hours shopping at Giant. It turned out one of the neighborhood families, the Grunspans, also decided to spend some time in Bethany Beach and Nina was delighted to go to the beach with her friends, while I spent the afternoon in the condo (my eye had not gotten better, so I got to research eye doctors). I made ribs for dinner, then we went to Ba Roos Ice Cream for dessert. Monday we got to Sussex Eye Center, where my cornea was diagnosed as scratched, and I got a prescription to fix that. We went to DB’s Seafood Co to get takeout for lunch (good lobster roll). For dinner, we’d decide to trade off with the Grunspans and we’d host all the girls while they went out to dinner, then switch the next night. I made grilled chicken and spaghetti for everyone, then we took them to Shipwrecked for mini golf & ice cream.

Nina

January

Saturday the 4th might have been our most epic Wizards Unite day ever. I wanted to do something different than a walk, plus it was raining. We ended up at Lake Anne and walked over to the fortress and did a challenge under umbrellas. Then we went into the Lake Anne Brew House for beer, kombucha, and soda and started 3 dark detectors in both of the inns we could see. Then we discovered we could see the fortress from there and Jill and I finally finished Dark III for the first time. We went to the used book store, then got dinner at the Greek restaurant. While waiting for dessert, we started another 6 dark detectors, and did even better: 2 Dumbledores, Hermione, 2 unicorns, Fred, George, Grawp, Quidditch Harry, 2 Percival Graves and I think 1 other. Plus a Tom Riddle as we were leaving, and a Veil when I went out for groceries later. Sunday Dad came over for lunch and I gave him his Christmas present – a new laptop (so I didn’t have to deal with upgrading Windows 7 on his old one).

Nina

Monday after an epic bedtime tantrum had Nina not going to sleep until 10:45, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go out and walk in the freezing weather. At 11:40 I decided to, started Wizards Unite, did the inn across the street twice and hustled to the nearest fortress. I completed the challenge with 30 seconds to go until midnight, but when I tried to click the last collect button got the restart popup, and that took too long so failed to collect my daily task money. Plus on the way back I was catching a foundable and my phone died. Plugged it in when I got home and it was at 47%. WTF?

Nina

Friday the 10th was a rough one for me, as it was announced that Neil Peart, the drummer/lyricist of Rush, had passed away after a battle with cancer. I said “Dammit 2020. R.I.P. Professor.”

My favorite “Closer To The Heart” video – Rush Through Time (loved that cassette). I saw this online then did it – donate $21.12 to the American Cancer Society in Neil’s memory. And here’s a good read from someone very important to the band.

Neil

Saturday we went to see Nina perform her songs from Frozen at her last theatre class; later I took Nina to see a rehearsal of The Little Mermaid Jr. also from Lopez, then in the evening we took advantage of Jill’s mom coming down and went to DC to use one of Jill’s Christmas gifts to me: PubPass, where you get a free beer at participating bars. We went to Georgetown and started at The Berliner where we had deviled eggs and a pretzel with our beers, then hung outside and played Wizards Unite at a fortress because it was close to 60 degrees. Then we went to Pizzeria Paradiso Georgetown for more beers and dinner.

Nina

Sunday I made a tribute to my favorite band, as we lost one of the holy trinity this week. This one’s for you, Professor.

Tony Reed – Garden Road
Skid Row – What You’re Doing
Sloan – In The Mood
Audioslave – Working Man
Mark Slaughter, George Lynch, Deen Castronovo & Stu Hamm – Anthem
Spearfish – Making Memories
Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins & Nick Raskulinecz – 2112 I. Overture
Steven Wilson – The Twilight Zone
Alice in Chains – Tears
Dream Theater – Xanadu
Alain Johannes – Madrigal
Steve Morse, Mike Portnoy & Billy Sheehan – La Villa Strangiato
Rachel Barton Pine – The Spirit Of Radio
Tyler Warren – Entre Nous
Beth Patterson – Tom Sawyer (with Josh Paxton)
Rik Emmett – Red Barchetta
Mike Portnoy, Philip Bynoe & Pete Thorn – YYZ
The Smashing Pumpkins – Limelight
Jacob Moon – Subdivisions
Jack Russell, Mike Portnoy & Billy Sheehan – Analog Kid
Eric Martin, Brad Kaiser & Robert Berry – Mission
SPiN – Time Stand Still
Fleesh – The Pass
Rage – Bravado
Allegaeon – Animate

Tuesday the 15th I thought it was an odd week, as the loss of an icon I first encountered in the ’80s (Neil) is now balanced by the adaption of another series from the ’80s: Crisis on Infinite Earths. I would have never thought they could have pulled it off but they did, with nods and winks to every DC adaption on small and big screens.

As The Magicians returns for their 5th season, let’s appreciate the masterful Season 4 episode synopses:
1. Brian takes a friend out for ice cream; Sam is one week away from retirement.
2. Dean Fogg gets a new suit.
3. Kady gets a puppy. Quentin meets a snake.
4. Josh gives Margo a muffin. Julia drinks schnapps.
5. Alice and Quentin confront a dog. There are some flashbacks.
6. Quentin and Julia play Pictionary. Margo drinks some weird milk.
7. Kady goes to the flea market. What’s Zelda has been up to? This one’s all about Fen, you guys.
8. Penny licks an egg. Alice gets jealous of a flower.
9. Quentin eats a quesadilla. Kady and Zelda share a smoke.
10. Margo hits her step count.
11. The gang talks to a book. Tick threatens to drink some water.
12. Quentin yells at a plant. Margo stares at a fish.
13. Quentin and Josh get cake. Quentin reflects on his actions.

Nina

Friday the 17th, Jill and I got another night out thanks to her mom. We once again got a free beer, this time at Valor Brewpub as they were literally steps away from Rose’s Luxury, where we had a reservation. The kitchen view was perfect, as was the tasting menu (the Cacio e Pepe was amazing). Saturday we all went out for concert #1: Eddie From Ohio at The Birchmere. An unusual show by just the core four with no opener, unexpected covers (Warren Zevon just after I’d been listening to the tribute CD that week) and blasts from the past (“Blue Jeans” and “Loitering In The Lobby”). We also grabbed dinner before the show at Northside 10. Sunday we had brunch at Red’s Table, then everyone but me went to see Little Women in the afternoon.

Jill Kerry

Monday Nina got her orange belt at Tae Kwon Do. Wednesday I hadn’t bought any Wolf Trap tix for the first set of shows, but for the 3 shows on sale that week, bought all 3: Steely Dan/Steve Winwood, Barenaked Ladies/Gin Blossoms/Toad the Wet Sprocket & Brandi Carlile + NSO.

Nina

Saturday the 25th it was road trip time. After a stop in Front Royal for lunch at McAlister’s Deli, we drove to Bryce Resort where we stayed at Chalet High. It was late afternoon by the time we checked in, so we only did tubing that night. Sunday it was skiing time, with lessons for Jill and Nina. Jill said “Well, after 3 years off the mountain my body still (sort of) knew what to do!” Nina and I skiied some more after lessons, then we called it a day. We brought our Amazon Fire stick but not the remote. The 2nd hack listed here (have Amazon Fire, but not at home) works perfectly. Genius. Nina was not into watching Doctor Who, so we watched Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (we were listening to Goblet of Fire in the car).

Jill Kerry Nina

Monday Nina had another lesson while I signed her up for summer camps, then we skied most of the mountain with another 8 year old we picked up on the lift while Jill stayed home, spun and watched Netflix. We drove down to New Market and had lunch at Jalisco. Tuesday we drove back home, while Wednesday Jill picked up the Girl Scout cookies at Wolf Trap as she was cookie mom again.

Kerry Nina

One thing that took the sting away from Neil’s passing: receiving a signed copy of Far and Near from publisher ECW Press after they ran a contest on Facebook to “Please share your favourite fact about Neil, your favourite lyric or prose he wrote, the thing you’ll miss most about him — anything about Neil Peart that brought you joy or connection.” I had written this:

Neil’s lyrics were a big part of surviving high school, but as I grew up and had a family of my own, his words never stopped being relevant.

I always come back to “Afterimage” when someone I care about passes:
“Suddenly, you were gone
From all the lives you left your mark upon”

November

Friday the 1st Nina got her braces; Jill said “Getting braces apparently means going to Target, getting a toy, and playing hooky for the rest of the day instead of going back to school! Who knew?”. Saturday we went into DC to see the Nats Parade. We first went to Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken so we could get chicken and doughnuts for lunch (had to try the Baby Shark doughnut). Then we walked over to the parade on the other side of the street from Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. We didn’t stay for the speeches, got back so Nina could enjoy the sunshine at a park near East Fall Metro (which was so packed we had parked on a side street). Jill said “We pulled out our swag from previous games and headed downtown for the World Series Victory festivities. We ate at the ironically named Astro Donuts and Chicken then headed to Constitution Ave where we got as best a view one could from 250 feet away. We still had fun and everyone was in a celebratory mood! We didn’t stay for the rally but stopped at a playground on the way home to enjoy the day.”

Kerry Nina

Tuesday I went to concert #43: Emmylou Harris, Jackson Browne, Patty Griffin, Steve Earle & Thao Nguyen at the Warner Theatre on the Lantern Tour II for The Women’s Refugee Commission. I’d seen everyone but Thao before, and she was great. But there’s nothing like Patty singing “Mary” with Emmylou on backing vocals. Wednesday Jill said “N and I went to the polls yesterday (as is our tradition; I vote and she watches and asks lots of questions 😊) and helped flip the state legislature for the first time in almost 25 years. For an off-off election year, what a voter turnout! [Today I] Got one of the best cuts of my life thanks to Second Life Salon and the DevaCurl curly girl method!”

Lantern

Saturday the 9th we got fancy and headed over to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens to get our pictures taken. We needed a holiday card photo, plus we hadn’t done family pictures in a while. Jill said “We had family portraits taken at one of our favorite places, Meadowlark Botanical Gardens by Dion Seneca Photography who was super patient and made it fun for everyone! We wandered around afterwards and explored the park during the day where the Winter Walk of Lights is already set up! N especially liked the metal bench shaped like a tree and enjoyed waving to adoring crowds in her horse drawn sleigh”. Nina enjoyed watching the live action Little Mermaid that night.

Kerry Jill Nina

Sunday was show #44: Jay And Silent Bob Reboot at the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse. Ordinarily a movie wouldn’t make the list, but it does if stars Kevin Smith & Jason Mewes are there to host and do a q&a afterwards. Funny movie and aftershow. Bonus was the slow ordering and food delivery had us waiting for dinner until afterwords (good thing we chose the early show) and we got to try The Renegade. It’s owned by a friend, but we hadn’t been and it was delish (the lamb lollipops were great). Jill said “we stopped for dinner afterwards and so glad we did! We had an amazing meal and everyone was really nice and attentive. A great spot; we’ll be back!”

Jay & Silent Bob

After a long morning on a field trip at the National Museum of Natural History on Thursday the 14th, Dominion Wine and Beer in Falls Church was a great find. Nice store, and I wouldn’t have know they had a bar with food upstairs without Yelp. Delicious and affordable, I’ll be back (yes, I made it to CD Cellar too).

Nina

Saturday was a packed day with a Girl Scout Expo (Jill said “Had a great morning at the Girl Scout Expo! Unfortunately we had to leave early which was hard, there were so many great things to do and see!”) and drama class. It was parents night out at Tae Kwon Do, so we ran errands, tried out Urban Plates in Tyson’s II, then hung out at the bar in Barrel & Bushel while we finished off the latest Wizards Unite challenge. I’d taken Nina to McDonald’s for lunch when she asked for lunch out instead of takeout before her night out and she was very disappointed when the shake machine was broken. So for dessert we all had shakes from Shake Shack after we picked her up. Pretty much a perfect evening. Sunday was show #45: Roald Dahl’s Matilda at the NextStop Theatre. Great cast, and Nina’s still singing the songs.

Nina

Tuesday the 19th was concert #46: Letters to Cleo at Union Stage. It probably wasn’t the wisest decision to go to 2 shows that week with Jill working 7am to 7pm 3 days, but after being home all day with a sick kid, it was nice to hear some loud rock music (and I’m not kidding about the loud – in the 2 years I’ve been recording every show on my phone, this was the loudest one). The band was great, the venue was nice (my 1st time) and someone even started a discussion with me because of my shirt (the band Belly), which never happens. And their new album is Christmas music, so that was nice timing. Thursday was a concert, then Thanksgiving lunch at Nina’s school, then that night was concert #47: The Low Anthem and Futur Primitif at Jammin’ Java. I went from the loudest concert of the year to the softest as The Low Anthem celebrated the 10th anniversary of Oh My God, Charlie Darwin by playing the full album. But oddly, not in order, and with other songs in the middle. But a fine show nonetheless.

Nina

Saturday the 24th we started vacation after drama class by driving up to Philly. The annual Friendsgiving was a lot of fun, and for the first time we stayed in the city afterwards (Homewood Suites by Hilton, very nice). That meant we got fresh NYC bagels for breakfast the next morning, then went to Reading Terminal Market where we bought some delectables and booze, and had lunch (I had a delicious roast pork sandwich at DiNic’s). It was a shorter trip to Massachusetts after starting in Philly even with predictable slowdowns due to rain, and we arrived not much after dark. Jill wanted food from Mel’s, but I’m not a fan and got a sub from Pizza D’Action.

Nina

Monday we visited Jill’s dad’s mom, then had a bunch of family over at Jill’s mom’s house for takeout Chinese food from North Garden. Tuesday we drove over to my sister’s house south of Boston, where my mom and her husband had been visiting since Sunday. We went out for dinner at The Quarry Restaurant, where I had a pork belly bun, lobster sliders & roasted broccoli rabe. The next afternoon we had a catered Thanksgiving lunch, before trying to leave before traffic got bad. We were partly successful by heading through Rhode Island and running errands there, then angling back northwest. We arrived at Jill’s sister’s house in time for a spaghetti dinner and a white elephant exchange (since we wouldn’t be up for Christmas this year).

family

Thursday was Thanksgiving at Jill’s other sister’s house. Black Friday was my favorite day, as I got to go CD shopping and eat at The Green Bean while Jill had Nina and the younger cousins at the parade in Springfield. That night was concert #48: Stephen Kellogg with Casey at the Iron Horse. We thanked Jill’s mom for being kind and generous by watching Nina and letting us do the VIP before the show and getting a cocktail at The Green Room and hot tubs at East Heaven afterwards. We also finally got a Nields sighting in Northampton as Katryna joined him for the encore. Saturday morning we met Jill’s dad and his wife at Stir the Pot for brunch. We also picked up Jill’s niece Maddie there as a storm was coming that would eventually cancel her flight back to school. We hit a White Castle in a sketchy part of town for a drive thru lunch in Jersey; traffic soon diverted us through Pennsylvania. We stopped at Pistarro’s in Frederick because they were vegetarian friendly (and tasty). By the time we were done, all traffic had died down and we were able to take Maddie directly to school via 270, then home.

family

September

Sunday the 1st was Nina’s birthday party. She finally had a small scale party – this one was at our house. First she and her guests did pet themed crafts, then they had pizza. After water balloons and sprinkler fun in the backyard, it was time for cake, and then the girls played until their parents came.

Nina

Monday Jill hadn’t gotten sleep while working during the night, so Sue joined Nina and I on a trip to my dad’s house after we realized we hadn’t gone and visited him at his house all summer. We got there and headed to the beach and buried Nina in the sand before having lunch with Dad. Later Jill was up and we all went over to Glory Days Grill for dinner and celebrated Nina’s birthday with dessert at Baskin Robbins. Tuesday Jill and Sue explored Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens before Sue went home the next day. Friday Nina started Tae Kwon Do lessons, continuing on from the after school classes she’d taken in the spring.

Nina Sue

Saturday the 7th was Family Day at my work, and Nina did everything, from pony rides to face painting to temporary tattoos. We were supposed to go to the opening festival of the Reach at the Kennedy Center, but bailed after getting home later than planned (plus there were dragons to catch in Wizards Unite). Jill went out that night to catch the Legwarmers at a winery. We planned to meet Lorna & Dave at Taco Zocalo for dinner on Sunday but they were closed for some reason, so we went to Cafesano instead.

Nina Jill

Saturday the 14th Jill and I saw What the Constitution Means to Me at the Kennedy Center (Show #36). Great, even though we came in late because dinner ran long at Rasika West End (but totally worth it). Sunday we took Nina and my dad to see the Nats not get swept by the Braves. I was especially happy that my second choice for the previous night’s dinner, ChiKo, had an outpost there (too bad only the tots lived up to their reputation). I also had a Coke Icee with bourbon, which caused a weird nostalgia mash up of going to 7-11 as a teenager and college parties.

Jill Nina Kerry Bryce

Monday I was sad over the passing of Ric Ocasek (from The Cars) and tumbled down a covers rabbithole, including this great one:

Thursday the 19th Jill was off to Tennessee for her Into The Wool Retreat. It was business as usual during the week, then on Saturday Nina and I went to the REACH Opening Festival at the Kennedy Center (for Show #37). Debbie Allen hosted as the emcee for the first performance as students from the Debbie Allen Dance Academy performed, then New York City Ballet star Tiler Peck taught the crowd moves from her appearance in Charlotte OC’s “Medicine Man” music video (Nina wanted to meet her after that). We had lunch from the food trucks next, then explored the new area (anyplace you can you can get your feet wet is fine with her). She also participated in the Floor Barre conditioning master class taught by Renee Robinson. Finally we caught the sound check for Fela! The Concert while she and other kids built a fort with the boxes used for seating, then we got ice cream. Sunday we picked up Jill from the airport and missed the retirement of our favorite clerk from Safeway (we’d said farewell the week before).

Nina Tiler Peck

Wednesday the 25th was school picture day, then Saturday after drama class we returned to Queen City Mischief & Magic. It was a bit surreal to play Wizards Unite while so many people were dressed up, but cool. Nina got her picture taken with lots of characters, got treasure from a mermaid, and finally got to watch a Quidditch game. We’d stopped in Front Royal for lunch and were getting hungry by dark, but Nina voted for not eating there. So we returned to the parking lot with the shuttle and found Brother’s Pizza, which had something for everyone. Then we got to the Best Western, which seemed fine until the train rumbled by 20 feet away as we were going to bed, but it only came by once more during the night and everyone managed to sleep through it.

Kerry Nina Jill

After a nice hotel breakfast, we returned to Queen City for a couple hours. Nina had a Lego Hogwarts Express appointment and did a chalk drawing and henna, she and Jill got slices of pizza from Emilio’s while I got a Bánh Mì at Laughing Bird Pho then headed north and dropped Jill at the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival. Nina and I went to downtown Winchester and she played on the splash pad there, then we hit Sonic and picked up drinks before getting Jill and heading home.

Nina

August

We woke up on the 1st in Edison, having left for vacation the night before and stopping halfway to our destination. We were staying at Home2 Suites by Hilton, most remarkable for being only a couple of months old, and everything was fantastic. After a complimentary hot breakfast, we got on the road (minus Nina’s pillow). Jill got some of her favorites at Nathan’s for lunch, then we got back on the road. When we were close to Hillsdale, we went grocery shopping, first at Taconic Orchards for produce and cider donuts, then Hannaford Supermarket for everything else. We were soon at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival and got everything set up and collapsed. The Cannons had arrived soon after us, and we got dinner together. I wasn’t feeling up to it and skipped music that night. I’d brought a glow in the dark capture the flag type game, but the girls skipped the game to have impromptu lightsaber battles with the pieces.

Nina

Friday Nina had a new friend (daughter of an old friend) and tried some of her hard cookies. A week earlier she’d had an expander (precursor to braces put in), and one of the cookies knocked it out of one side. We just needed to get it out at that point, and Jill spent hours on the phone trying to find someplace that could do it that day. Finally Adirondack Orthodontics was able to fit us in. It was about an hour away, but we didn’t have much of a choice, so we headed northwest past Albany. They were even able to take us earlier once we were up there, and so pleasant and quick. Jill saw a Friendly’s on the way out and we stopped there for lunch. We headed straight back to Copake Falls as the Cannons were swimming there. When we got back to camp we made food for the taco night potluck dinner, then I started assembling the jellyfish umbrellas (Nina’s number one request from last year). Soon we were ready for concert #28: Gandalf Murphy & The Slambovian Circus Of Dreams at the Dance Tent, and all the girls marched in the jellyfish parade.

Nina

Saturday Jill once again had to trek into civilization to wash some sheets. At midday we went over to the Workshop Stage (and met up with AJ) and caught the end of Our Roots Are Showing with Carolann Solebello, Low Lily & Mid-City Aces for concert #29, then concert #30 was also there: The Songwriting Process with Stephen Kellogg, Kerri Powers & Beth Nielsen Chapman (and a whole lot of talking). We made leftovers for dinner, and Jay made some ridiculously good Korean barbecue as well, so I enjoyed that. Later I went out solo to see concert #31: BoDeans at main stage.

Jill Nina Matt

Sunday the 4th we packed up and headed out. Jill was hungry and we stopped at Betty’s Pizza Shack in Lenox for some delicious pizza. Jill said “Nina said ‘it’s so nice to be able to flush the toilet!’ Yep, got that right. Nothing like a little gratefulness training.” Later we went to Jill’s mom’s house – I thought about trying to go see Queen with Nina that night near Boston, but they were sold out and it would have been a lot of work. Monday Nina and Jill ran errands and I walked over to Stop & Shop, enjoying some uninterrupted Wizards Unite time (Jill and I were getting competitive, and she was 2 levels ahead of me). That night we met the Bradys at Joe’s Spaghetti & Pizza in Northampton, then after dinner, Jill and I played Wizards Unite while Sue accompanied Tiernan while he played Pokemon Go (the others went back to the house).

Nina

Tuesday morning we met Jill’s dad and Sue at Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens. Nina was scared of the butterflies, but liked the turtles getting fed. We had lunch at The People’s Pint in Greenfield, then some ice cream at Ice Cream Alley. Then we all drove over to Hadley to visit with Jill’s dad’s mom. We packed up in the afternoon and went over to Robin and Mike’s house, where we stayed the remainder of our visit. Wednesday Jill and her sisters planned a beach day (but weather meant they ended up in Old Sturbridge Village). Meanwhile I took Nina to Half Mile Falls Park and the Tavern Restaurant for lunch. In the afternoon, I made it over to Turn It up before we had dinner at Sue’s.

Connie Jill Nina

Thursday Jill and Melissa took Nina and Ava to Six Flags while I hung out with Mike and Finn, going to Stanley Park. That evening Sue and Dave brought dinner over. Friday we headed home, and traffic was not terrible, which was a nice surprise. Saturday we ran some errands and played Wizards Unite at Reston Town Center – Nina tried Pokemon Go on her Kindle, but it kept crashing. Sunday, Nina and I went to concert #32: Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band at Wolf Trap. Nina’s second Beatle, although the song she was most excited to hear that night was Africa (thanks, Weezer). She also lost another tooth (good timing as her expander went back in the next day).

Kerry Jill Nina

Friday the 16th Sue and Tiernan arrived for a visit. Saturday we celebrated our anniversary early (Sue took the kids to Glory Days and the Air & Space museum). Jill started first, “I treated myself to a boudoir photo session as a 40th birthday present to myself. I wanted to celebrate this body I’m in, and have some fun. It exceeded my wildest expectations. Makeup by @chellzdidit, hair by @jasminepalmaartistry, photography by @ahiddenexposure. It was an amazing experience; if you feel the slightest inclination about doing something like this for yourself, I Highly Recommend it! Kerry and I also got some anniversary pictures taken. @ahiddenexposure put us at ease and got some great shots of us goofing around!“. She’d booked a room at the Kimpton Lorien Hotel & Spa, and after the photos, we went downstairs to Brabo for an excellent meal.

Kerry Jill

In the morning we had bagels across the street (only ok). Jill headed home and I went to Hole in the Wall books to stop by for the last time as the owners were retiring and closing down at the end of the month. my best friend Chris and I started getting into comics around 1981 by riding our bikes across 236 to the 7-Eleven and buying them there. Hole In The Wall was the first actual comic book shop I started going to. It was tiny and cluttered but it was awesome. Later we discovered Burke Center Used Books & Comics which was closer and I had a subscription for comics there for the longest time until I moved to Herndon and went mail order (they closed not long after that). That night I was out solo for concert #33: Mark Knopfler (from Dire Straits) at Wolf Trap. Amazingly he was still on my concert bucket list, and happily still sprinkling in the Dire Straits songs. He also had a 10-piece band for a very full sound. It was a hot night, and a cool breeze during the show had me worried until I saw on radar the storm was heading up through Maryland. This is a pretty spot on review.

Sue Nina

Wednesday the 21st I went over to Mosaic and had dinner at Caboose before going to see the Rush: Cinema Strangiato at Angelika, but the combination of salt and heat had me feeling poorly and I left halfway through. Thursday Nina skipped camp so Jill and Sue could take her and Tiernan to the National Zoo. Friday Jill was working but I was planning on taking everyone else to The Pietasters at Royal Lake Park, but it was canceled due to rain. I took Nina to Target after her last day of camp and got her the new Taylor Swift CD, plus put things on her birthday wishlist. And we ended up going to Popeyes as everyone but Sue was into that (big lines even though they were out of their new sandwich). That night it had taken a while (I started last year), but due to recent events (our band director passed away), I got working a little harder. Here are just about all the W.T. Woodson Band tapes I have, now digitized and free to stream or download. Saturday Nina had a cold and we tried to sell the tickets we had for Aladdin without luck. Melissa and Maddie were down so Maddie could move in, so we all went to visit the new apartment, then had dinner at Alto Fumo Pizza & Pasta Bar in Clarendon. Sunday Sue went to the Fairfax Comic Con solo to meet the teacher from “Stranger Things” before Melissa and Tiernan headed home.

Nina Jill Sue

Monday Nina recovered just in time for her first day of school. Tuesday we got takeout from Hunan East and I guess it had been too long since ER visits, as I got another one that night. Apparently I just got my first food allergy, so no more sushi for me for a while. Wednesday the 29th Jill and Sue visited the National Cathedral during the day. That night we did end up going to the Kennedy Center for show #34: Aladdin. Contacting member services proved helpful, as we were able to use our tickets from Saturday, plus bring Sue. Nina loved it of course – we were thinking about leaving after intermission, but we were outvoted. And Major Attaway has a wonderful performance as the genie (I just found he’s headed to the Broadway version now). Thursday I went to Jammin’ Java for concert #35: SHEL with Wild Harbors. SHEL is a band of all sisters with great harmonies, and I’d helped crowdfund a CD of theirs a while back but hadn’t gotten around to seeing them live. Worth the wait, and they do a smokin’ cover of “The Battle Of Evermore”. Friday school was closed and Sue took Nina to Clemyjontri. Saturday we got ready for Nina’s birthday party.

Nina

25 years since Woodstock ’94

In the summer of 1994 I had just left my first software developer job after two years as the company was sold. Burned out by 80 hour weeks of working on tax software and nursing a case of carpal tunnel, I took advantage of a deal to stay on and write a data exporter for the new company and walked away with some nice compensation, most of which I sunk into Digital Exchange, a used CD store in Springfield, VA. It had been started the previous year by three of my fraternity brothers from Sigma Phi Epsilon at Randolph Macon College. John (aka Rusty) wanted to get back to the corporate world full time, so I bought him out.

instructions

I was a long time fan of music, but I hadn’t gone to a lot of concerts yet. My first show was in 1984, but I’d only seen a couple of shows a year after that. I started getting more into it in 1993, but with my exit from the 9 to 5 world, came a new goal: I would see 100 bands in 1994. I was making good progress by summer, especially going to my first two festivals: HFStival and Lollapalooza. But the announcement of Woodstock ’94 had me salivating: amazing lineups and the connection with the legendary original. By that time I was at the store full time, and my buddy Eric was interested in going as well, so we bought tickets when they went on sale in June. We convinced John to come back that weekend in August and help out Steve, and got on the road Friday morning August the 12th (after seeing Nine Inch Nails at the Patriot Center the night before).

parking pass front parking pass back

With 250,000 people expected, the festival organizers had us drive to a parking lot to take a shuttle bus to the festival. While things had gone well for us, this is where the problems started as we had at least a four hour wait for an orange bus (and I had my one and only experience with Goldschlager). By the time we actually got to Woodstock ’94, it was dark and Sheryl Crow was playing. We caught some of her set, but it was late and we needed to set up camp. We could see tents all around, so we kept going past the North Stage where she was playing, then the South Stage, still not finding any empty space. We ended up setting up our tent on a hillside past there.

map

We were woken Saturday morning to light rain starting to fall, but our tent was partly shielded by the trees. We got food and walked over to the North Stage where Joe Cocker kicked things off. He was followed by Blind Melon, Cypress Hill and Rollins Band before we took a break (and missed Melissa Etheridge covering Janis Joplin as well as Crosby, Stills & Nash).

We were back at the South Stage in time to see The Band featuring Hot Tuna, Bruce Hornsby, Roger McGuinn, Rob Wasserman, and Bob Weir (and that turned out to be the one and only time I saw them) as well as Primus before the main event. Sure, we’d seen Nine Inch Nails two days earlier, but they embraced the mud to put on a legendary performance.

Metallica was up next and took on the challenge. As the only act there with pyrotechnics, they had an added fuel to their ferocious show.

Aerosmith was more than willing to top that at their show, which started after midnight. It was epic, and ended with a fireworks display at 3:30am (and one of our neighbors offering me a hit from a Coke Can bong was the perfect last time I had any).

Saturday was epic, but it was a festival that was later nicknamed Mudstock for a reason. It got harder and harder to walk around, the porta potties couldn’t get serviced, and they started to run out of food. Knowing that the later we waited the harder it would be to get back to the car, we only caught Traffic that day before heading for the buses and home (I loved the two bootleg t-shirts I got there to death). Oh, and I hit my goal: 127 bands just in 1994.

wristband

scrip

July

Monday July 1st was Jill’s birthday and we were still in Rochester, and after some quick birthday wishes and farewells to Mom and David, we got on the highway. We checked the border crossing times at a rest area before Buffalo, and kept the original plan to cross into Canada at the Lewiston–Queenston Bridge. After a 10 minute wait, we were north of the border. We stopped at Dillon’s Distillery and tasted and bought some spirits (I knew the official alcohol stores were closed for Canada Day). We had a quick stop at a Panera later for a bathroom break, but soon pulled up to the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto. I was happy to leave the car there, and we checked in and relaxed.

Jill

We got hungry for lunch and went across the street to the Union Summer market popup. Nina had guacamole and chips from El Catrin and a fried chicken sandwich from Union Chicken, while Jill and I got sausages from Wvrst. We even got concert #21 with our great lunch: Jordan Hart & Emily Schultz.

Jordan Hart & Emily Schultz

When we found out we couldn’t see the fireworks from the nearby waterfront, we decided to go to the Toronto Islands. We bought ferry tickets and headed over, getting there around 4. What we did not know before going was the Toronto Islands had been flooding. It didn’t affect us too much – Nina got to ride some rides at the Centreville Amusement Park, then we walked over to Toronto Island BBQ & Beer Co. for dinner. It was the best option for eating on the island and was pretty crowded, but we got our food and drinks without too many issues.

Nina Jill Kerry

We had been told we could see the fireworks from the beach at Ward’s Island, so we started the hike (at least a mile, with a small child complaining for the entire second half). Unfortunately when we got there, 3/4 of the beach was flooded and the mosquitoes were everywhere, so we gave up and went over to the ferry there, where we could see some of the fireworks far off in the distance. My original plan had been to see both the fireworks and the free concert by Broken Social Scene at Harbourfront Centre. I realized we got back in time to see some, so the girls went to BeaverTails while I hurried over to catch the last 1.5 songs, so it counted as concert #22.

Nina Jill

Tuesday we slept in, then walked over to SOCO Kitchen + Bar for a nice early lunch, then went across the street to Ripley’s Aquarium. It was super crowded but we took our time and went through all the exhibits. Later we took the streetcar up to Kensington Market. Jill’s must was Yarns Untangled, and Nina and I went next door to a coffee shop while she browsed. We’d planned on eating tacos at Seven Lives as they were recommended, but they didn’t have anything Nina would eat so ended up at El Trompo Taco Bar, which was a nice sit down place with great tacos.

Jill Nina Kerry

I was planning on going to Sonic Boom Records, and had checked their website that morning to see it said “We’re open 364 days a year”. Apparently I was supposed to check their social media as well, as they closed for the day to film a TV show. The day was saved by our trip to Cool N2 Ice Cream. Nina got Mr. Brownie which comes with two scoops of chocolate ice cream with brownie bits, two roasted marshmallows on a stick, a syringe with chocolate syrup and half of a Two Bite Brownie, while I got Dragon’s Breath: Cheese curls are placed in a cup and then liquid nitrogen is poured on top, then smoke comes out with each bite. We got off the streetcar near Rogers Centre and let Nina run around for a while outside of the Toronto Railway Museum.

Kerry Nina

We got back to the hotel around 8 and were planning bedtime, but found out Nina’s friend who lived there (granddaughter of our next door neighbors) was possibly only available that night. So we too the subway to Yorkville and the girls got to run around on the Yorkville Rock. We were told that nearby Summer’s Ice Cream had the best ice cream in Toronto, so we made the great sacrifice to have a second dessert. We were also told we had to see the Casa Loma castle, so we drove over there and took the subway back after.

Casa Loma

Wednesday we slept in a bit, then checked out. We managed to stop for breakfast at the very same Panera we’d stopped at Monday, then were soon at the African Lion Safari. It turned out Nina’s friend was heading there as well, so we toured the safari in our car, then met up at the waterpark. They played there for a while, then went to an Elephants & Friends presentation. It was hot, so the girls got Dippin’ Dots to cool down. Next we drove into Hamilton and stopped at The Coop for chicken, then I got my record store make up at Dr. Disc that had 3 CDs for a dollar in the basement. We’d been hearing good things about Tim Hortons, so we stopped so I could get an iced tea and Jill could get a latte – that was a mistake, they had no idea what an iced tea was (gave me a giant cup of hot tea and small cup of ice) and Jill took one drink of hers and tossed it in the trash.

lions

Soon we were in Niagara Falls, where the rest of Jill’s family had arrived and checked in at the Best Western. We drove over to Clifton Hill and parked, then walked over to the Hard Rock Cafe (it was Tiernan’s birthday choice). Unfortunately Jill noticed Nina getting hives on her face and we didn’t pack Benadryl, so I walked over to the nearest drug store and back (she had them again a bit the next day, but we washed her all over and her shoes and it was gone after that). We all went down to check out the falls after dinner and watch the fireworks, then called it a night.

Wadases Bradys Freys

Thursday the 4th we all gathered at The Flying Saucer for breakfast, then slowly made our way to parking near the Table Rock Welcome Centre. We couldn’t get tickets for the Journey Behind the Falls until eveyone was got there, so we explored the gift shops and went outside to check out the falls. We went down in an elevator, and found the ponchos they had passed out were very necessary.

Kerry Jill Nina

We took Tiernan back with us, and he wanted Popeyes for lunch, which Nina was definitely down for. Jill had been interested in a hot dog at Table Rock but we were leaving, so she looked them up and found the best was next door at The Flying Saucer. We ate our bounty by the pool in the hotel, then Nina went in the pool for a while. Melissa watched Nina while Sue, Dave, Maddy, Jill and I took a tour of the Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery & Distillery, where we got wine, beer and liquor. We got the family together again for dinner at Napoli Ristorante, where everyone had a delicious Italian meal (antipasto for me). Later Dominic, Melissa, Maddy, Jake and Tiernan joined Jill and I on the Falls Fireworks Cruise. They took two boats out and we got good looks at all the falls lit up before the fireworks went off above us. Meanwhile Sue and Dave took Nina and Ava to Clifton Hill to do what Nina really wanted to do, take selfies with Taylor Swift at Movieland.

Sue Dave Dominic Maddy Jill Kerry

Friday we got a late start and managed to show up at Niagara Helicopters with two tour groups in front of us. But soon they went from 2 helicopters to 4 and the wait wasn’t too bad. Nina sat in the front with me and gripped my leg tightly for the whole ride, but she enjoyed it. For lunch Nina wanted McDonalds (right next to the hotel), while Jill wanted poutine from Potato Heads – I got regular fries and very good fish sandwich.

Nina Kerry Tiernan Jill

In the afternoon, I dropped off Jill, Melissa and the girls at the waterpark and found a UPS Store I could rent a PC to reprint my car registration (left it at home) and back up all my photos. Realizing I had nothing I needed to do, I went record store searching. The nearest good one was Mindbomb in St Catharines, but while they had a nice vinyl selection, the CDs were sparse. Then I went to the nearby Sunrise Records which I didn’t realized until I got there was in the Pen Centre mall. No used stuff there, but they did have a David’s Tea so I was able to have a real iced tea. Plus on the way out I spied a Goodwill store, went in and totally scored. I got back to the hotel just in time to leave again to pick up the ladies.

Ava Nina

We got back and everyone got ready for dinner, this time at The Blind Pig, a gastropub in walking distance (I had the small plates of pork belly and Korean fried chicken). After talking up BeaverTails, everyone wanted some so Jill, Melissa, Maddy, and Ava went to get those while I played with Nina in the arcade area at the hotel. After bedtime I went down to Doc Magilligan’s, the hotel restaurant and bar and enjoyed a 7 year old Irish whiskey. Apparently I missed the band “Widow Maker”, but I wasn’t torn up about it.

Jill Sue

The bad thing about coming home on Saturday was the long line at the border crossing (45 minutes at the Peace Bridge) and the showers and storms that followed us home literally all day. At least we got delicious meals at two great out of the way places, Ashford Junction Diner (in Ellicottville, NY) and Dolce Pizza Gourmet & Eastern European Restaurant (in Hagerstown, MD).

Nina

Monday the 8th Nina started art camp. Thursday Jill picked her up and she once again had hives, but gave her a Benadryl. She was soon better, and that meant we didn’t have to cancel our plans. We all went to East Falls Church Metro, but Jill left us at Rosslyn to head to La Fromagerie in Old Town Alexandria for a wine tasting & dinner with Franklin Habit. Nina and I went to Gallery Place to again have dinner at Nando’s, spend some time at IT’SUGAR before heading into the Capital One Arena for concert #23: Jeff Lynne’s Electric Light Orchestra with Dhani Harrison. It was Nina’s mandatory classic rock show for the year, but she enjoyed herself. Her favorite song was “Last Train To London”, but mine was a fantastic version of The Traveling Wilburys “Handle With Care” as Dhani joined them to sing George’s part.

Nina ELO

Saturday we went over to Barnes & Noble as they were giving away Lego Golden Snitchs (and since I bought the Night Bus, I think they came out ok). Then we drove over to Cactus Cantina for a late lunch/early dinner before going to the the Kennedy Center for show #24: Mo Willems & the Storytime All-Stars present: Don’t Let the Pigeon Do Storytime! Anthony Anderson, Yvette Nicole Brown, Tony Hale, Tom Lennon & Natalie Morales were all hilarious. Plus we got to see Rachel Dratch before the show looking for directions (“No, I’m in the show!”) and Nina got a picture with director Bobcat Goldthwait.

Nina Bobcat Goldthwait

Sunday the 14th Jill had worked the night before so I took Nina over to the Springfield Dave & Busters because I got a Groupon for all day video games. We had a great time and a good lunch at Chuy’s, but after I showed Nina where my record store used to be, I felt my blood pressure go up – and stay up. We got home and we did chores and I was making dinner, but sat down and told Jill it was up and felt high. We had a blood pressure cuff and I was at 210/110. So off we went to the hospital. They admitted me and ruled out anything really scary but kept me for observation overnight. I got to sleep at home Monday and was feeling better Tuesday, but didn’t go back to work until Wednesday.

I was cleared for concert duty after a 2.5km walk Tuesday morning, so took Nina to concert #25: “Weird Al” Yankovic with the National Symphony Orchestra at Wolf Trap. Nina had a blast, and loved the videos she hadn’t seen (“Word Crimes” and “Weasel Stomping Day”) and got her current favorite: “The Biggest Ball Of Twine In Minnesota”. Plus we got to see Lorna! This review is spot on.

Weird Al

Friday as we’re leaving the house: “I’m not hot because I don’t have underwear on.” Follow up: “It’s a long story. I lost them at the pool.” (spoiler alert: we turned around and corrected matters). Friday was way too hot (heat index over 100), but it was a good choice to use our Encore Circle pass for their fans and ice water. We were hot at concert #26: JoJo Siwa with The Belles at Wolf Trap, but the folks on stage gave it their all. Not the worst show (though everything except vocals were prerecorded) but Nina loved it. Plus she got to play tag afterwards, thanks to seeing our friend Monica and her daughter. We also made the smart move to give up the Dave Matthews Band tickets we had for Saturday when it was even hotter (we hid indoors and packed for vacation while Nina played with neighbors just back from vacation on Saturday, while we built Legos on Sunday). We did get to see the new art on the lake.

JoJo Nina

Wednesday the 24th I was off to DC for concert #27: Our Native Daughters at the National Museum of African American History & Culture. The unforecasted rain meant I got soaked walking over, but light refreshments (popcorn and lemonade) were nice after I finished drying my hair with the hand dryer. The show was good, and I’d been wanting to see Rhiannon Giddens for a while. At home, Jill had a “Baby great blue heron sighting in the backyard”. Thursday I was amazed when the seemingly canceled Woodstock 50 festival was now suggested to happen at Merriweather.

Our Native Daughters

Saturday the 27th I took Nina an hour away to a mall in Waldorf, MD, so she could do Descendants crafts. She was one of only two cosplayers, but she didn’t mind. Afterwards I got to go to Justice for the first time, and it being her favorite store made perfect sense. Meanwhile Jill was “Done! My first handspun laceweight shawl. This was such a rewarding project.” Sunday Jill started working at 3, so we worked on vacation playlists, making dancing and lip syncing videos, and building a hotel.

Nina

Tuesday Queen + Adam Lambert wasn’t a must earlier, but “One Vision” is one of my favorite songs and they haven’t done it on an American tour before. Plus a full “’39”! Then they dropped “One Vision” and I was still excited, but an ultrasound on Monday revealed a blood clot in my left calf. My doctor wasn’t super worried, but Jill wasn’t comfortable with just Nina and I going, so I didn’t get tickets (and I’m now on blood thinners). But I knew it must be getting close to Falcon Ridge time if I’m making jellyfish umbrellas at night. The next night a centipede crawled out of the camping gear and on to my shirt. I don’t think I’ve ever moved that fast. After work and camp Wednesday, we left on vacation, staying in Edison, NJ for the night (someone had to get her White Castle on).

Nina