August

Sunday the 1st we had just started our vacation the day before. For the first time since Nina was born, we were taking off 2 weeks in a row. The first week we rented a house in Stowe with the Cannons. We drove up in the afternoon and stopped in Northhampton at River Valley Co-op (where our friend Nate does IT) and at Sandy’s Drive-In for fish and chips and burgers. We got the keys to the house and got to the house and waited for the Cannons. After they got there Chris, V and I went down to the big Shaws near the highway to get groceries. After I found Lucerne milk and O Organics raisins I realized they were a sister store to Safeway, and shopping got a lot easier. Meanwhile Jess and Jill had figured out the Wi-Fi and ordered dinner for everyone from Piecasso. The pizza was very good, and it wasn’t a secret, as the only day their parking lot wasn’t full to the brim was the day they were closed.

Nina

Monday Jill went over the mountain to buy an air purifier as Nina was coughing some the night before and her room was musty. That afternoon we walked along the trail and stopped for Red Barn ice cream (Ben & Jerry’s factory tour was closed for construction and they just had the scoop shop open). That night we grilled burgers and were able to use the refilled hot tub (the house had some issues, including water seeping up through one of the master bathrooms).

Nina Penny

Tuesday we drove into Burlington, where I had to ask what could be a better post Falcon Ridge lunch than The Skinny Pancake? Others got bagels, and we shopped before meeting Jill’s childhood friend Erica and her daughter Mira at the Burlington Bay Café for creamies (soft serve ice cream) and we wandered down to the Science Center. I stopped at the Smugglers’ Notch Distillery before we left to pick up a sampler, and the adults had a taste test after we made pasta for dinner (the winner was the whiskey brewed with maple syrup for me).

Penny C Nina

Wednesday I made waffles with the remaining yeast (after I made a loaf of low sodium bread for myself) and bacon, then we took the gondola up to the top of Stowe Resort. That evening we had Piecasso again as Jill’s cousins Greg & Cathy came over and asked for pizza.

Jill Nina Kerry

Thursday I lazed around and read comics as Jill wanted to take the kids to All Things Bright and Beautiful, which her mother had taken her & her sisters to when she was young. Some had lunch at The Mad Taco, and they considered going to Ben & Jerry’s but the line for the scoop shop was 40 minutes long, so they bought pints for everyone. The girls got their energy out with a giant blow up spray unicorn. Jill didn’t want a pint, so we went into Stowe and stopped at Stowe Sweets for cones, and I picked up a bottle of Barr Hill Gin (made with honey) at a market. Jill, C and I hiked behind the house to see if it was possible to get to the next day’s trail before we were greeted with a steep drop, then we made fajitas for dinner.

Penny Nina C

Friday we drove to entrance of the Mill Trail and hiked past Bingham Falls. We later learned most people come in the other side and go down slippery stairs to a wide pool at the end, but we found a very cold part of the stream before the falls and everyone went in as long as they could take it. For lunch we had made reservations at the Trapp Family Lodge and good thing as they were booked solid. There was a funny incident when we were waiting for the host and a lady why she couldn’t sit at an empty table. He told her that he didn’t have enough servers for those tables then told her if she’d fill out a job application he’d hire her on the spot. I doubt we’d have noticed other than that, the service and food was great. We stopped at the bakery afterwards and had leftovers for dinner.

Nina Jill

Saturday some folks went shopping in Stowe, then we took the kids to the corn maze they’d been begging to do – after 15 minutes in the hot sun, they were begging to leave, but we got out in about 40 minutes and went to Red Barn again. That night we had the older kids babysit the younger ones and we made pasta for them, then the adults went to Lost Nation for burgers, brisket & beer (they handled staffing shortages by having everyone bus there table into a container at the end of the table). We also finished the deadly jigsaw puzzle of just Lego minifig heads.

Nina

Sunday we had more waffles then packed up and left. I decided I wanted to stop by Mt. Holly where my family had owned a cottage when I was growing up. It was redone but still there, along with 2 new houses on the land we’d owned. Jill and I had come to an informal agreement to retire to Vermont since we’d both spent parts of our summers there when young, and we checked out the houses on Amherst Lake, Echo Lake and Lake Rescue as we passed on the way to The Vermont Country Store in Rockingham. Jill found candy, I found jam, and Nina’s favorite purchase of the trip was a mood ring. We thought we’d stop at The Marina in Brattleboro for a late lunch, but they had closed their kitchen because they were shortstaffed. We went into downtown Brattleboro figuring that a pizza place would be open, but Echo was closed for several days due to staffing. But I saw they had a Turn It Up! and I went in there while Jill and Nina went in Boomerang for some vintage clothes. And good idea, as they recommended nearby Whetstone. They had addressed their staffing by having you order and pay from the app, then they delivered the food and we bussed when we were done. But the food was fantastic and they literally sat on the edge of the Vermont/New Hampshire state line with a great view of the Connecticut River. Nina and I also got to see the Amtrak train stop in town and tie up traffic. It turned out to be an early dinner, which was fine as when we arrived Jill’s sister Robin wasn’t going to be up much longer.

Nina

Monday the 9th I had cereal in the morning, while Nina had ramen, toast & raspberries (she saw the ramen when we packed up the Vermont house and demanded it pretty much every day of the week). We went out to take a walk in Robinson Park, vacant of people because the riverside was closed, and only lasted 5 minutes as the mosquitoes literally chased us out. Nina was happy as they had installed a pool since our last visit, and we had to pull her out before we went over to the Bradys for pasta (and I got to hear about Ava’s brush with bald faced hornets).

Nina Finn

Tuesday Nina and I had bacon & cereal for breakfast then we all went to Northampton. Jill went to Webs while Nina and I walked down to Turn It Up! She wasn’t in love with it, but crossing the street to Newbury Comics was a big hit – between the Avatar merch, Harry Potter merch and squishies (she got Nana to buy her a big squishy). We went to Osaka where we had Japanese food for lunch, then Robin’s husband Mike and son Finn got home for their trip to Maine and we got takeout from Golden Peacock and soft serve from Northside Creamery.

Nina

Wednesday I hadn’t slept well, plus I had a headache and my blood pressure was up (and it had already been up since my doctor had changed my meds), so I stayed in bed during the day. Nina had cereal & ramen to eat, then Jill and Robin’s dad and his wife came over and we got pizza.

Finn Nina Bob

Thursday I got up late and had a BLT. Jill and Nina were out and I stayed home with Mike and Finn. Finn can memorize numbers, and I thought it would be fun to call our home number since it had has a fun message. At least until he called it for the 30th time (and left a message I had to delete each time). After that I took a nap, then we had burgers & corn for dinner. A storm blew in and Mike and I had to run out to stop the patio tent from tearing itself apart with wind (the nearby airport measured gusts of 68 mph). Later I posted in things I never thought I’d say: “I really appreciate the former Skid Row frontman’s take on current events”.

Finn Jill Nina

Friday I had bacon & a donut, then Mike, Finn, Nina and I went to the Holyoke Children’s Museum. For dinner we got takeout from the Maple Leaf Pub and went out to Northside Creamery for dessert.

Nina

Saturday we headed out after packing. We made it more of a Falcon Ridge trip by taking 84 past the usual exit, then 87 into New Jersey. We’d been talking for years about stopping in Red Bank, and we finally did it this trip. We had to stop at the iconic Quick Stop (no sign of Kevin Smith, who was in town filming Clerks 3), then went to Jay & Silent Bob’s Secret Stash, and on Free Comic Book Day. We stopped in Oceanport at The Marina for a nice waterfront lunch. When we finally got home, Jill found I’d left the freezer door in the downstairs fridge open a crack, so everything was spoiled. That was fun to clean up.

Kerry Nina

Thursday the 19th was concert #6: Vertical Horizon and Train at Wolf Trap, nice to be in the pit with Linda. Full capacity and sold out – and so humid the first time I’ve only worn my mask for 2 hours and it came home damp. Friday we got takeout from Ozzies. Saturday we had tickets to go to Awesome Con, but it was inside and unsafe, no vaccination required and masks “encouraged”, so we took the loss and stayed home.

Train

Monday was Nina’s first day of school. I was pleased later that day when Wolf Trap joined most of the other local venues in requiring vaccination to attend shows. The next day I shared an image of “No shoes, no shirt, no mask, no vax, no service” and said “Now it’s time. I want to see this sign everywhere I go.” Friday I had Southern Electrical Service over to fix the post light, which turned out to be a burned out darkness sensor, later we ate takeout from BGR.

Nina

Saturday the 28th was concert #7: Eddie From Ohio at Arrowbrook Park. Back for a third try after canceling in past years due to weather and Covid – got 40 minutes in before the skies opened up. But good to see Bob, Susan, Lorna & David beforehand. Nina was just happy there was a playground and an ice cream truck (and when did cones hit $6?). Sunday was Nina’s birthday party at The Water Mine. Unlike the last 2 pool based parties, the weather cooperated and Nina and her friends had a great time. I spent most of the time getting pizza and 14 sundaes (Baskin Robbins was selling dolphin themed cups, which was the party theme). She got to have some of her friends over to the house as they had an hour to kill before their Girl Scouts meeting.

Nina & friends

Monday was Labor Day. Nina played the ping pong matches for a tournament a neighbor had created (I’d played the previous month). I gave money to The Mutual Aid Response Network (a group of Louisiana residents, led by Imagine Water Works, that activates during floods, storms, and other natural and manmade disasters) after Hurricane Ida.

Nina Jack

My music collection listening continued this month – highlight was an entire week of Tori Amos.

July

Thursday the 1st it was Jill’s birthday and her mom, older sister Melissa and nephew Tiernan came to visit. We had Chinese food for dinner and Jill got a cake and gifts. Nina was still in skateboarding camp and went to a skate park during the day Friday, then we ate at Amphora that night (in an empty dining room since outdoor seating was in the sun). Saturday Melissa, Tiernan, Nina & I went to Dave & Busters in Fairfax, then we all had a late lunch at Ford’s Fish Shack in South Riding. The outside seating was nice and the crab legs delicious – I just needed to walk over to the nearby grocery store to pick up some unsalted butter before the food arrived. Later Jill, Sue and I went to concert #2: Dar Williams at the Strathmore Patio Stage (they put a tent over the patio behind the concert hall). A very Falcon Ridge show as it rained heavily right before the show and some during, a cool breeze blew and kids fell asleep on their parents’ laps.

Nina
second from right, with two of her besties

Sunday was the 4th of July and everyone else went to the Baltimore Aquarium. I’d planned my day by starting yard work, but got a rude surprise as I got stung as I started on the Magnolia bush by what turned out to be a bald faced hornet. I did some first aid on the sting, then did the rest of the yard. I didn’t feel too bad after a shower, but the sting site was red and inflamed for a week. That night I grilled and everyone but Sue went out on the boat to watch the fireworks extravaganza. Monday was my holiday and Jill, Sue, Tiernan and I went to the Spy Museum in DC (Nina started art camp). Everyone but Sue went home Thursday.

Nina

Friday I had Veteran Pest come and remove the giant hornet nest (the guy calmly dressed in a beekeeper suit, went out and sprayed and scraped). He said they should be gone in a day. After work, Jill and I left for the weekend as Sue had offered to watch Nina. We hadn’t made dinner plans, and stopped at Parrando’s in Ashburn for Mexican. It wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t expecting my tacos to be so salty. We headed west and realized we would have no access to alcohol at the remote place we were staying in, so found Tri-State Liquors not too far away in Brunswick. It was a hidden gem, with dusty bottles up to the ceiling in every nook and cranny – I had to stop myself after a while. We kept going and were soon at the Inn at Stone Manor.

Jill Nina

Since we were near Catoctin Creek, Saturday we planned on going to the Catoctin Creek Distillery. Then when we mapped it, saw it was in Purcellville VA (and a closer drive to home). But we had bought tix for a tasting tour, so hit the road (and it was a nice drive). We drove through Hillsboro and it was a bit weird to see the short stretch of redone roads until I read this article. Purcelville was nice and we had burgers from Market Burger Fries & Shakes before the distillery. I had the cocktail sampler and bought some more liquor to add to the stash. We stopped by Re-Love It then headed back to the inn.

Kerry

Jill had thought about taking Lyft to and from Frederick, but I told her I wasn’t going to drink much. We drove to Frederick and I went to The Rock and Roll Graveyard and Record Exchange while Jill went to Magpie Fibers. Then I joined her at Brewers Alley for a pint before our reservation at Thacher & Rye. When we’d eaten there before, it was called Volt, but it was still run by Bryan Volltagio. We both had a delicious three course meal (the pork chop was outstanding). We decided to walk down to South Mountain Creamery to get ice cream, which was a little disappointing for coming from a creamery.

Kerry Jill

Sunday we checked out and drove to Middletown to have breakfast at The Main Cup, then went to Frederick to explore the treasures at Wonder Book & Video. Nina had sniffles on Friday that developed into a cold, but Sue took care of her, even going to Glory Days for a favorite meal. She had to get a Covid test just in case, but it was negative.

Nina

Monday the 12th Nina started Camp Goodtimes on The Road with the Grunspans. She got to go to Paddle Boating, Bowling/Cavalier Family Skating, the Science Museum of Virginia & Splashdown Waterpark. The only problem was their bus broke down on Wednesday and they were 2 hours late getting back. Friday we got takeout from Santinis. Saturday Jill took Nina over to Bards Alley where she met author Megan Wagner Lloyd. Sunday morning I got up at sunrise. I had found more bald faced hornets in a small nest in our bush, and I’d bought spray after the last nest. I dressed in ski clothes and a fish net over my hat (and looked ridiculous, Jill was bummed I didn’t take a picture) but when I went outside I didn’t have a clean shot without cutting branches, so went back to bed and called Veteran Pest the next day. Also my massive summer playlist served up “Hungry Heart” followed by “Hungry Eyes”. Randomized, my ass.

Nina Megan Wagner Lloyd

Wednesday the 21st Veteran Pest returned – the same guy in fact. He took one look, muttered that he should have come back an hour later the first time, and put on the suit, sprayed and scraped again (this time they did not come back). Nina had Aquatics Camp that week and got sunburned on her face before we started sending her with a sun hat, then Friday she had a picnic dinner with her friends in our backyard. Saturday was concert #3: Chris Thile at Wolf Trap, with a lovely dinner buffet (the volunteers served us each type of food like a cafeteria) on the Associates deck before. Lovely night for a concert, and so glad to be back at Wolf Trap. We had 2 tickets for Encore Circle that night, and Nina and Jill spent about half the show there and I didn’t have to leave early. Nina had her friend Bailey over on Sunday.

Nina

Wednesday the 28th was concert #4: Aoife O’Donovan at Wolf Trap by myself. It was a warm night with a slight breeze, makes it really feel like Falcon Ridge season. Having The Knights for her new “America, Come” song cycle and special guest Yasmin Williams made up for her show being my first Covid cancellation back in March 2020. Saturday we were up early to start vacation. They cancelled in 2020, but the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival was back for a one day event at the Goshen Fairgrounds and we got there to see Susan Werner, Vance Gilbert & The Slambovian Circus of Dreams for concert #5. We also saw Andrea, Jim & Chris from Shantytowne, then got takeout from Grey Area Tavern and ate at Andrea & Jim’s house. It was nice to catch up, but a wasp outside made Nina want to go inside, and with the 5 cats that live there, it wasn’t long until she had her first asthma attack in quite a while (also March 2020). Then we spent the night at Jill’s mom’s house.

Nina Kerry

During work, since I’d stopped listening to live shows, I had just been listening to random music, but in July decided to listen to my whole collection in order from the start. This month’s music collection note: I have all the AC/DC hits (mostly from Who Made Who and the Iron Man 2 soundtrack), but at some point I acquired 1983’s Flick Of The Switch and 1988’s Blow Up Your Video. They were entirely unnecessary (besides the hits).

June

Tuesday the 1st our CSA from Potomac Vegetable Farms started – got lots of leafy greens and garlic scapes. Friday we got takeout from Mehak Indian. Saturday Jill had her fiber friends over to watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail since they were working on a project related to the movie, and Nina and Celina got to watch. Apparently too much time has passed, as we’d forgotten portions of that movie are very much NSFW. Parents of the year, us.

Nina

Friday the 11th was Nina’s last day of school. Sunday Nina and I invented a new game called plushieball, then Jill said “When your pool date with your kiddo gets canceled you settle down with a nice cuppa and Izzy’s Koala World on Netflix. My mug is a favorite from AlexCreates.” Monday Nina was back in Day Camp after it was cancelled last year – first time she’d been out of the house 5 days in a row since the pandemic started (and it was weird to eat lunch by myself all week).

Nina Jill

Friday the 18th I took the day off to run errands – finally found a good place I could get a good haircut (since my hairstylist of 16 years retired last year) at Roosters. Nina came home from camp that day with sunburn so bad on her shoulders they blistered. Jill wrote a blistering email to the camp director and they were better at reminding the campers to reapply after that. Nina had her Tae Kwon Do graduation to brown belt that night, and got through it without a single complaint.

Nina

Saturday I had to go back to work again – the day before I’d gotten my PC, but missed the fact that the video output was DisplayPort and I didn’t have an adapter for my monitor, so I got my monitors. Meanwhile, Jill took Nina to a coworker’s party, where there were kids and a playground and I didn’t see them for hours. We celebrated Juneteenth that night with sausages and chow-chow, green beans, corn & red velvet cupcakes.

dinner

Sunday we went to my dad’s house for Father’s Day and brought Bojangles for us, him and Patricia. Jill said “Happy Father’s Day to the man that takes care of our family in the best possible way! We love you, Kerry Frey!”

Nina

Friday the 25th we got takeout from Saao Thai. Later I had to LOL at this. Saturday Nina and I had a photo hashtag war and went shopping for Jill’s birthday (she budgeted her money and got some toys for herself too).

Kerry

Monday the 28th Nina started Camp on Wheels (skateboarding) and of course got a bad scrape on her knee the first day. Tuesday I said Wait, what!?! about this. Wednesday we had the maids in as we were about to have visitors.

Nina

May

Saturday the 1st was concert #1: the first time we’ve gotten in a car to see a show since last February, to see Chyrsalis, featuring Jody Marshall and Jim Queen (Iona) at an outside, socially distanced show at Walker Nature Center. They even had a dancer! Monday Nina had her 1st in person SOL assessments in 2 years with the reading one.

Kerry Nina

Friday I heard about a kids book based on GnR lyrics and thought they can make maybe 3 more before they run out if G rated ones. We had Tonys pizza for dinner – that weekend was taxes. Tuesday the 11th I posted that you can hear the full song from the episode of The Simpsons that ripped Moz a new one (and had me laughing more than any episode in recent years).

Nina

Friday the 14th Jill’s mom, older sister, and her brother in law came down for her niece’s commencement, but we had to cancel our plans to meet up for dinner on Saturday after the neighbor who is mom of 2 of Nina’s close friends came down with Covid. She was fully vaccinated, but the whole family got it, so we had to isolate for a week. Sunday we got to get tested and all of us were negative – Jill took Nina out to get Cold Stone that afternoon.

Nina

Since the diagnosis was negative, Jill’s mom Sue stayed with us the next week, taking Nina to her 4th grade Math SOL assessments and her orthodontics appointment on Monday and other appointments the rest of the week and really helping us out. Friday I’ve been on a Great Big Sea kick that week, and this was the topper.

Nina

Saturday the 22nd Nina went with her Girl Scout troop and earned her Junior Horsemanship badge and apparently awakened the standard girl love of horses. That night Sue watched Nina overnight (with dinner at Glory Days, natch) while Jill and I stayed in Mosaic at Hyatt House. We had dinner at B Side (pork chop was amazing), whiskey tasting at MacMillan Whisky Room and some Wizards Unite action until they closed down Strawberry Park. Jill said “1st kid free overnight trip in, well, quite a while. It’s not far but we enjoyed every minute.”

Jill Kerry

In the morning we had brunch at Ted’s Bulletin before Sue and Nina swung by and got Jill where they went to church and participated in a new Bible ceremony (and I hit CD Cellar). Later they all got pedicures before Nina’s friend Bailey came over and they created their submission for the Terraset Virtual Talent Show, followed by us on the boat with Celina.

Nina

Friday the 28th we got takeout from True Food Kitchen. I saw The Weeknd do an excellent duet with Ariana Grande of “Save Your Tears” at the iHeartRadio Awards, but this version from the Billboard Music Awards the week before is the best socially distant video ever.

Nina

Sunday it wasn’t great weather, so Nina and I finally opened the bonus box from Lego Brick Fest Live we’d ordered together (she convinced me to split the cost). Monday was Memorial Day and nice. Nina made a cicada friend (funny because she’s not a fan of any other bug species), then she went swimming off the boat with Celina & Carly. I grilled hot dogs (found one kind that’s only 15% RDA of sodium and made my own buns) while Jill made us a strawberry rhubarb crisp for dessert.

Nina

Nina’s new expression of the month was “Yeet!” – with the same meaning as “Yeesh!”

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