May

On Sunday, the 1st, we went over to the Norwoods and had a nice walk along Lake Anne over to Cafe Montmartre. We had a lovely brunch there, Jill and I both got eggs benedict, and helpful pregnancy tips and gifts from the Norwoods, who just had their second.

Sue and Dave came down for the week on Thursday the 5th and I grilled some steaks I’d picked up from the farmer’s market the day before. The next day we headed to Alexandria (after Jill and Sue went baby registry shopping), had some cajun appetizers at RT’s before heading over to the Birchmere and introducing them to Paul and Storm opening for Jonathan Coulton. We were in the mood for dessert afterwards and went to Old Town for cones at Scoop Grill.

Saturday the 7th we returned to Old Town where we had drinks at the Chart House in Old Town. Then Sue and Dave took the Washington by Water Monuments Cruise. We needed to end up in Georgetown, so they took the cruise one way and we drove over and met them at the dock. We had a huge dinner at 1789, and were too full to even consider dessert.

Mother’s Day Sue was not well and was out of commission for several days. I made Eggs Benedict and artichokes for us, Mom and Dad and Dave, then we Skyped my sister in Boston while she was babysitting an energetic 5 year old. During the week, Sue recovered and Dave fished, I went and saw My Chemical Romance at the 9:30 Club on Tuesday the 10th.

MCR

On Friday the 13th, we all went out for a giant breakfast at Eggspectation before Sue and Dave headed home.

Saturday the 14th I headed to Merriweather Post Pavilion for the M3 Rock Festival with a lot of 80s bands. Got to see the first ever performance from Gary Cherone’s Hurtsmile, Mr. Big for the first time in over 20 years, and knocked Joe Lynn Turner, Lita Ford and Whitesnake off the concert bucket list.

Hurtsmile

The next day Jill was supposed to join me to see Mom (with the Reston Chorale) and the FSO perform Mahler’s 2nd Symphony in Manassas, but was feeling under the weather. So I went, and they were pretty good (I’m a Mahler fan). Later she still wasn’t better, so I picked up some pho for dinner at Pho 99.

Wednesday the 18th I was back at the 9:30 Club to see Blackfield, always nice to see Steven Wilson from Porcupine Tree. Not as fond of their third album as their second, but any chance to see Once live is worth it.

Blackfield

Friday the 20th I went to the Nebula Awards book signing in DC – got books signed by John Scalzi (met him for the first time) and Chris Claremont (the second time, but the first time was 25 years ago at the only Comic-Con I’ve been to – he said “I had more hair then”). I then headed straight to Herndon for Friday Night Live with Fools And Horses, had dinner at the Jimmy’s Old Tavern booth (Jambalaya and a hot dog).

Sunday the 22nd I was at Merriweather Post Pavilion again. Matt Nathanson was opening so of course Linda and Sue showed up, and after he finished I met them at the merch booth and we talked to his guitarist. Sue had to get up incredibly early the next day and needed to leave, but before they did Linda gave me her pass to the pit and walked me up to her spot in the front row. I like Little Big Town a lot and enjoyed the rest of their set, but the real revelation was Sugarland, they really put on a great show (and I could see how much they sweat to do it).

Sugarland

Monday the 23rd I crossed a big band off the concert bucket list as The Cars had reunited, and were playing the 9:30 Club (my third show there, and my fifth IMP one in three weeks). Stuart joined me, and the new songs were good, but the old ones were classics. I had my first meal at BGR before the show – damn good burgers.

Cars

The Thursday and Friday before Memorial Day we had painters in to strip the rest of the wallpaper from the dining room and mid-level bathroom, then paint them and the nursery. They did a good job, but the primer smell after the first day was intense. Memorial Day weekend was pretty hot, we mostly stayed inside except to visit the Norwoods as they had a cookout with their new baby.

April

I left off my March roundup our dinner at Ceiba on the 31st with Suzanne (who we met on the BNL/Great Big Sea cruise), who was visiting DC with her folks. Great house made guacamole, plus I had some ceviche and slow roasted pork shank.

April started with my Christmas gift on Saturday the 2nd – a trip to Frederick, MD. We normally just take 15 to get there, but Jill wanted to check out Great Beginnings, a baby store in Gaithersburg where we’re doing our registry, so we stopped there (and had ice cream for lunch at Bruster’s). We got to Frederick and shopped for a bit (and I really enjoyed the clearance CDs at CD/Game Exchange).

We popped in early to Volt to grab seats at the bar. The drinks were great and so was the food, but Jill only ordered two snacks and a salad, so we ended up at another bar where we got her a chili cheese dog. Next up was The Wailin’ Jennys at The Weinberg Center, doing their down home bluegrass thing very well.

It was a big home improvement month for me, starting on the 3rd when I patched some areas of the deck that were coming off and I painted about a quarter of the deck and stairs the next day. That continued the next weekend as I finished hanging posters and pictures downstairs – too bad that also coincided with the FiOS HD DVR biting the dust. We also had dinner at Mom’s on Sunday the 10th to celebrate Dad’s birthday.

I’ve already written about my big trip to Cleveland here.

On Thursday the 21st I went to see John Popper & The Duskray Troubadours at the State Theatre. Known for being the frontman of Blues Traveler, this was his third solo album and my favorite, and I didn’t want to miss him in such an intimate venue. He didn’t want to miss it either, but his voice wasn’t cooperating and he’d gotten a steroid injection. It held up well during the show – as he pointed out, he had with him three other lead singers, and they all got to sing one. He broke out several Blues Traveler songs, but I was most happy about “Hurdy Gurdy Fandango” from Frogwings.

Popper

Rush was playing in Baltimore on the 22nd, but I ended up skipping them (decided there was no way they could top seeing them the previous week). We did go out the next night to see Todd Wright at a house concert in Leesburg (actually a community pool house), and it was fun to see Linda, Cathi and Jolene there. It was more in the round then we’d thought, but still pretty fun.

Todder

April ended with Jill’s Christmas gift – we went to L’Auberge Chez Francois for a cooking demonstration and lunch. Never had Alsatian cuisine before, fish paired with sauerkraut was odd but good, and the raspberry Napoleon ended the meal on a high note.

Hello Cleveland

Sometimes you think things have gone horribly wrong, but then you find out everything’s worked out for the best. I had one of those experiences this past weekend. I’d found out Rush was recording their performance in Cleveland for a new DVD/Blu-ray, and after I got shut out of good seats in Baltimore the following week, tried for a good seat in Cleveland – and got one in the fourth row, best I’ve gotten without an auction. So I made my plans, used airline miles to book a hotel, made hotel and dinner reservations, and was looking forwards to it.

The night before the trip, I stayed up very late (as I often do before trips), puttering around, finishing taxes, etc. But Jill was not going with me and waking up at the same time, and I was awoken not by my alarm, but by Jill asking me when my flight was. I sat up, looked at the clock, and realized my flight was in twenty minutes – not enough time to get to the airport, let alone get through security. I dashed downstairs, and got on the computer and the phone, trying to see what options I had. But all direct flights were full, and a transfer might put me there too late.

The last option was driving – it was almost seven hours according to Google. But I didn’t want to miss it, and packed the car with lots of music and hit the road. I’m not a huge fan of long drives, but the drive up through Maryland and Pennsylvania was pretty nice. I only stopped twice, but didn’t get to my hotel until a little after 4PM, a little over six hour drive. By the time I checked in and got to my room, it was 4:45, and I had a dinner reservation at 5.

Luckily Crop Bistro was only a five minute walk away, and I got there early enough to read the reviews and get an idea of what I wanted. The Old Figgy cocktail was fig and bacon infused bourbon, which paired perfectly with the Cherry Bomb, a wonton-wrapped tomato stuffed with pepper jack cheese and chorizo sausage. The chicken and waffles were amazing, and I finished with the Pretzel Un-Logic, a chocolate cream pie with a pretzel crust and malted whipped cream on top. A fabulous way to relax after a long drive, then a short break at the hotel before heading over to the arena.

I wasn’t the only one to travel, I heard of a number of people who flew over from Europe. The mood was pretty excited, but when the lights went out, it got crazy loud. I thought when I saw Rush in Canada that would have been the most excited audience, but I was surrounded by diehards.

The show itself was great. Rush often plays the same set for an entire tour, and there were no changes Saturday night, but every song was greeted with cheers, and wild applause at the finish. The cameras seem mostly pointed at the stage, I only noticed some pointing our way during “Vital Signs” and “2112”. The energy may have sagged slightly during the first set, but playing the entire Moving Pictures album during the second kept things energetic the rest of the night, and when Geddy told us “Best. Audience. Ever.” at the end, we couldn’t disagree. It marked my 20th Rush show and my favorite yet.

Rush

The next day I slept in, both to catch up on sleep and avoid the severe storms expected to sweep towards the east coast. I was happy to find that the breakfast buffet was included with whatever package I’d bought. I celebrated Record Store Day at the best indie music shop, stopped by the best comics shop, then hit the road. There were some intense storms right after I left Cleveland, but subsided and I saw a mixture of sun and clouds for a while.

I stopped at Primanti Bros. near Pittsburgh for a Pitts-Burger Cheese Steak (kind of a meatloaf sandwich stuffed with fries and coleslaw), then kept going. It was only when I neared Maryland on 70 that I caught up to the storms, just missing the tornado watches in the area and getting steady rain the rest of the way home. My car did really well on mileage, averaging about 44MPG (and a high of 48), and was fairly comfortable for its first road trip.

The next day I looked it up and found out my flight home I would have taken got canceled, so didn’t feel quite as bad about missing my flight there, plus I got to do things I couldn’t have done otherwise. And I had a good time on what is undoubtedly my last solo trip for some time.

Concert Bucket List

I’ve seen a lot of concerts over the years (click this link for details). I’ll likely be reducing my 100+ bands a year pace, but there’s still some bands left I haven’t seen and want to. The following I’d like to try and see this year (even though the timing on some may be unrealistic), so they won’t make the main list.

1. The Cars (9:30 Club 5/23)  I like them so much I almost went to the New Cars show (where Todd Rundgren replaced Ric Ocasek), but having all surviving members back makes this a must (plus the new songs sound just like the old ones).
2. Whitesnake (Merriweather Post Pavilion 5/14)
3. Journey (Jiffy Lube Live 8/28)
4. Mötley Crüe (Frederick Fairgrounds 7/30)  The three big bands from the 80s I haven’t seen and still want to.
5. Glee (Verizon Center 6/9)  We’re Gleeks, and I think this will be quite a fun show.
6. My Chemical Romance (9:30 Club 5/10)  They write catchy pop/punk songs like Green Day.
7. Miranda Lambert (Merriweather Post Pavilion 7/15)
8. Sugarland (Merriweather Post Pavilion 5/22)  I like a little country, usually from females.
9. Katy Perry (Merriweather Post Pavilion 6/15)  And I’m a sucker for some sugary pop.
10. Steve Miller Band (Wolf Trap 8/9)  A classic I never got around to.

So who’s left? Glad you asked.

1. Jeff Lynne/ELO/Traveling Wilburys  Any form of Jeff would be acceptable.
2. Prince  I actually was outside a sold out show of his a couple years back, but the scalpers were asking for the sky.
3. Temple of the Dog  Yep, I like the 90s too.
4. Cry Cry Cry  If you’re not familiar, made up of Richard Shindell, Lucy Kaplansky, and Dar Williams. Seen them all separately, but they had incredible harmonies together.
5. Killing Heidi/Verses  Australian groups with the same songwriters, tried to see them both times I was down under.
6. 10000 Maniacs  Only the Natalie fronted version.
7. Mark Knopfler/Dire Straits  Prefer the latter.
8. Swell Season  Just haven’t made one of their shows yet.
9. Belly  I saw Tanya Donelly, but she doesn’t have the edge anymore she had with this band.
10. T-Ride  I know no one else knows this band, but they’re real and had a Joe Satriani student who was amazing.
Bonus. David Bowie  But only if he’s playing at least 4 songs from Let’s Dance.

Now even with that, there’s a couple more special cases:
1. Queen  I’ve seen Brian and Roger play with Paul, but if they ever got John back out on the road, that’d be awesome.
2. Led Zeppelin  And I’ve seen Jimmy and Robert together, and John Paul playing with Dave Grohl, but if all three got together again, I’d love to be there.
3. Pink Floyd  I saw the Roger-less Floyd, and some great solo shows from Roger and David, but if I had the chance to see Roger and David together, I’d be there in a heartbeat.

March

Monday, March 1st we took Illa to the vet for his biannual visit, he was as well-behaved as usual (that was delivered with a dollop of sarcasm). Thursday March 3rd was one of favorite shows so far this year, the Killer B’s (Jim Boggia, Tracy Bonham and Bleu) as they played my requests and then played for hours. I didn’t mind not getting a Jim Boggia appearance in a couple years after that.

Sunday March 6th my dad and his girlfriend Patricia were in the area, so I made Jill’s favorite Cajun recipe (four pepper cheesy chicken). It’s one of the most labor intensive recipes I make, and I was pleased it got a good reception. Then on Sunday March 13th we had my mom over for an early St. Patrick’s Day dinner. I cooked corned beef and potatoes and cabbage, she brought the jello salad and her famous shamrock cake.

Thursday the 17th, Stuart and I had dinner at the Chutzpah Deli (I had a split sandwich of spicy turkey and roast beef), then headed over to the Patriot Center and met Pete and his friends, then went inside to see Furthur (featuring two folks from the Grateful Dead). Bobby and Phil were in great form on the second side from Terrapin Station, John K. pulled out a great Dire Wolf, and Stuart rocked the kilt all night long.

Pete and Stuart

The weekends were fairly uneventful in March as we were spending a lot of time finishing unpacking and putting stuff away, as well as decorating. The bedroom furniture arrived on March 19th. Next fun thing was Thursday March 24th, Mark Erelli and Lucy Kaplansky at the Barns At Wolf Trap. Another busy weekend around the house was halted on Saturday the 26th as Illa went crazy to try and get to this groundhog, then on March 29th we found out we’re going to have a baby girl.

Groundhog

February

February started off very strong. I headed over to Falls Church early on the 1st to enjoy shopping for bargain CDs at CD Cellar and dinner at Mad Fox (again, this time at the bar). Then I went into DC to see the legendary Robert Plant ably backed by Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller. As much as I enjoyed the new songs and the Zep classics, the thrill was finally seeing him do “Tall Cool One” live (my fifth time seeing him, but never seeing him solo).

Plant and Patty

On the 6th we were invited to the Jewell’s annual Super Bowl party. I made tortilla encrusted wings and we got there a little before kickoff. A good game, decent commercials, great food and friends – what more could you ask for?

Wednesday the 9th we saw The Greencards at the Barns. We’d seen them at the Austin City Limits festival and Jill really liked them, and it was their first Barns appearance. They’re now a four piece, and had a tight, fun show with tunes from all their CDs, including one about to be released.

Saturday the 12th was Jill’s company party, decidedly lower key than last year. But the Hilton Garden Inn was very nice, and the food was decent, and the folks we sat with were fun. And Jill brought home decorations from the white elephant swap.

The next day I went to a comic book show for the first time in at least a decade. I had two reasons to go, a) I missed ordering a number of comic books during the move, and b) I might rent a table at one soon to try and get rid of the ones I don’t want faster (selling on eBay is very time intensive). What I didn’t expect was the deals they have on graphic novels and collections – next time I’ll have a list of what I need.

We hadn’t made plans for Valentine’s Day because of Jill’s schedule, but she ended up being free that night. She wanted Indian food, so we went to Angeethi for dinner. They had a very tasty 5 course special, I really enjoyed the tandoori lamb.

Friday the 18th it actually got above 70 and Lake Thoreau finished thawing. I planned for it and went to work early so I could get home by 4:30 and sit out on the deck with the paper and the dog. I really missed being able to sit outside during the winter, can’t wait for springtime.

I had a LivingSocial deal for Eventide that was about to expire, so we ran some errands in Falls Church and ended up in Clarendon for dinner on Saturday. We were early and sat at the bar first, then went upstairs. We started off with salads, then split the lobster risotto fritters. I had the pork tenderloin and Jill had the stuffed chicken, then split the fabulous apple pie for dessert.

Thursday the 24th we took the Jewell’s daughter Olivia out as an early graduation present. We had tapas at La Tasca in DC, then went across the street to the Verizon Center to see Lady Gaga. She puts on an intriguing mix of a Broadway show and a concert, but it was a lot of fun (and the ladies enjoyed it).

Gaga

Saturday the 26th was Josh’s birthday party, and the first non-murder mystery. This year he opted for a game night instead, and it went over so well almost no one left until midnight. We played Trivial Pursuit, Apples To Apples and Cranium, and it was so much fun we’ll probably host another one soon.

On Sunday the 27th we closed out the month with a concert double header. First we went over to the Old Brogue were we enjoyed fish and chips while catching Beth Patterson‘s early show (very funny as usual, plus front row seats). Then back the other way to Jammin’ Java to see Natalia Zukerman perform with Garrison Starr (even better when Jay Nash joined them on guitar).

Beth

The rest of January

I don’t know if another cruise is in our future anytime soon (now that I’ve announced on Facebook I can confirm we’re expecting in August), but it was nice to escape the cold weather for a while. Returning to Virginia was a bit of a shock, daytime highs rarely made it out of the 30s for the remainder of the month.

On Wednesday the 12th, we had the Cannons over to dinner. They were down visiting for a week, and they hadn’t seen our new house yet. We ordered dinner from Lakeside Asia Cafe and chatted as their girls watched movies.

That Friday I headed into DC with some coworkers. Jill was working, and the new corporate suite was available, so we had dinner at Capital Q, then beers at RFD (Breckinridge Agave Wheat yum) and then headed over to the Verizon Center to see the Caps take on the Canucks. They ended up losing a close one, but it was a fun evening.

Caps

Saturday the 15th we headed to the Birchmere. We try not to miss Eddie From Ohio‘s annual 3 night stand there, and this time we had a big group: us, the Cannons, the Jewells, and the Shonerds. The Fretful Porcupine (Jake Armerding’s new group) opened the show and they were decent, but I think I prefer Jake by himself. Eddie From Ohio was great as usual – less banter than I’d like, but Joe got the biggest response I’d ever seen.

We’d been having our contractor Curt do some work on the house, but the outside was slow going with the cold weather. The Reston Association had noticed and we’d been summoned before a committee to explain. Luckily he finished that weekend and by the time the meeting happened later in the week, all charges were dismissed.

Jill had to work on MLK day, and I did as well, so we both could take off Friday the 21st and head up to NYC. We checked into Le Parker Meridien, then headed down to their lobby to try the celebrated Burger Joint. The burger we split was only ok, plus it caused us both some gastrointestinal distress – I don’t think we’ll be returning.

We had planned going to a fried chicken place for dinner, but overslept (as we both weren’t feeling that great) and headed straight to Webster Hall. There was a long line of folks waiting to get in, so we went across the street to the Village Pourhouse to have a drink, then headed in.

My timing was a bit off as The Jayhawks had just started. The classic 1995 lineup reunited last year, and while I love them I hadn’t wanted to travel just to see them (especially since I did see them in 1995). But this night they were playing the entire Tomorrow The Green Grass album, which would probably be in my top ten period (and also out in a fantastic new 2CD reissue), and I didn’t want to miss it. Too bad the venue is like Rams Head in Baltimore (poor sightlines and incredibly hard to move around when sold out) – otherwise the show was fantastic.

Jayhawks

During the show Jill looked up nearby restaurants and decided on The Redhead as they had buttermilk fried chicken. It was an excellent choice, I had the bacon peanut brittle to start with the crispy tater tots, and also the roasted duck gumbo. Everything was fabulous, the tater tots were the best I ever had and the fried chicken was great. I barely touched the bacon peanut brittle and finished it off at home a couple days later paired with a Sam Adams Cranberry Lambic (now I’m getting hungry thinking about it).

We stopped at Momofuku Milk Bar on the way back to the hotel. We were too full for dessert, but got some to go. The next day we were up early for breakfast at Norma’s in the hotel. Jill wasn’t very hungry and had the grapefruit, but I enjoyed the chestnut pancakes. Before we left we had the slices of crack pie and candy bar pie we’d gotten from Momofuku; they were ok, the real winner was the compost cookie.

We went maternity clothes shopping at Destination Maternity (or Jill shopped while I read and watched our stuff), then headed over to Times Square. The reason Jill wanted to come was Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong was currently playing the role of St. Jimmy in American Idiot. A cheer went up from the audience when he was announced, and we settled in for an afternoon of Green Day tunes. The show itself isn’t uplifting, but the music is great and Billie Joe was perfect.

We decided to get pizza after the performance and ended up at Tramonti. It wasn’t until we were seated I saw it was after 4, and we had tickets for a train that left at 5PM. So we told the waiter and skipped a salad, just having a couple of slices each (very good). We got out quickly and eventually flagged a cab down, getting to Penn Station with 5 minutes to spare. I really prefer the train as the way to get to and from NYC these days, it’s so easy (plus they have power outlets). On the way home we were just a bit peckish, so we got some soup from Lakeside Asia right before they closed.

I had bought a Capitol Dish (Groupon-like one day deal) for PS 7’s last year, thinking it would be easy to use it. But it expired at the end of January and they weren’t open on the Sunday I thought we could use it, so we ended up going on Jill’s next day off, which was Tuesday. We drove in and parked at their garage, and were the second couple seated for dinner. They’re known for their cocktails, so I enjoyed some (the best was the Sav U’r Cereal, made with milk that had Captain Crunch in it) and we both had salads (Sarah’s and the warm spinach). Both of us liked the look of the appetizers, so that’s what we had for the main course: the house made hot dogs, the tuna (tartare) sliders and the Banh minis (my favorite). Excellent choice, we shouldn’t have waited.

The next day (Wednesday) was the most snow we’ve gotten this year, and since it transitioned to snow just when the federal government let their workers out and the road crews weren’t able to replace the road salt that had been washed away, the worst commute ever for some folks. I know someone who took 10 hours to get home, and heard of people taking 13 hours. Our dog walker called to see if he could stay at our place to give his dogs a break, but didn’t when he saw the roads were clear of traffic near us. I left for the day before the snow started and was working from home (and seeing the most ominous traffic on Google Maps ever); Jill was scheduled to leave work at 7PM but I had her wait until 9, which worked well as the plow just beat her into our parking lot.

Saturday the 29th was my company party, held at Lansdowne Country Club (the usual spot). We dressed up and headed out, met up with my coworkers and had a nice dinner. We don’t get to see everyone socially much, so it’s fun to catch up.

The next night we had a concert and tried another place I’d been dying to try, the Mad Fox Brewing Company. Jill wanted the dumpling soup but it had too much rosemary, so she sent it back in favor of the house made pretzels, while I had the roasted chicken. I also had beer on a stick, Diabolik was my favorite so I filled a growler with it. Jill was a big fan of the root beer, so we filled the other growler with that.

Then we headed over to Artisphere in Rosslyn. Dar Williams was performing with IBIS, a chamber music ensemble. Other than some poor planning to let us in to the auditorium, the concert was excellent, the songs wisely chosen and the arrangements superb (plus we got some rarely played songs).

Dar

JoCo Cruise Crazy

We had been considering a couple cruises, but the choice was made easy when one of them became free. So I bought plane tickets, and we flew down to Miami Sunday, January 2nd. So nice to be hot in jeans again, and the transit was not too bad to Ft. Lauderdale. I’d managed to not pack shorts, so we actually did a bit of shopping, then got on the ship. We joined our fellow geeks on deck as we left, then there was a cocktail party, then dinner (the food on ship wasn’t that great, except for the places you paid a premium for). No events Sunday night, which was fine as we were wiped and headed for bed.

Monday we stopped at Half Moon Cay. It’s a private island for Carnival/HAL so it’s an extension of the ship – we tendered over and had some of the BBQ lunch, then laid out on the beach for a while. That afternoon was the first concert (they generally ran from 5 to 7:30). Up first was Wil Wheaton reading several stories, then Paul and Storm came out and did their usual thing, ending of course with Wil on stage and an epic The Captain’s Wife’s Lament. That night was the Paul F. Tompkins Memorial Mustache Formal (memorial because he was supposed to be on the cruise and wasn’t), and everyone had on false mustaches.

Jill and Wil

Tuesday we were at sea, but didn’t do too much, other than JoCo’s Q&A. That afternoon was the Jonathan Coulton and John Hodgman show, that started with JoCo (bringing up Paul and Storm), then Hodgman joined him. Hodgman did his judge thing, then JoCo came back to finish up. He played so much, I wondered how Friday was going to go.

Wednesday we went to a place I never want to return to: Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Jill and decided to check out the shopping, but didn’t have much of an appetite for it after running the “Do you need a taxi?” gauntlet (still picked up a sculpture and a hat). We went quickly back to the mostly deserted ship and found good spots up on deck. That afternoon’s show was RiffTrax (ex MST3K), Molly Lewis and Mike Phirman. The RiffTrax guys were just as fun as the other ex MST3K guys, and Mike Phirman is hilarious, both as a stand up comic and musician. That night we had dinner at one of the “restaurants” that you pay extra for, “Le Cirque”. Better food than the dining room, but we wouldn’t do it again.

Thursday was our favorite stop: George Town, Cayman Islands. It was like night and day compared with Jamaica, plus we got our best meal of the trip. Last cruise we had stayed in Miami the night before it started, and had an amazing meal at Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink. I discovered they’d since opened a location in the Cayman Islands, and it was close by, so I made a reservation for lunch. It was located in Camana Bay, a new upscale shopping area. We were early and we did some shopping (including a great Charlie Brown Christmas decoration on clearance) before heading over to lunch.

I started with the chile chicken wings and Jill had the house greens. She had the pulled pork sandwich and liked it, but loved the thick cut potato chips with pan fried onion dip, and I enjoyed my pork chop. I was deprived for beers since the cruise had a lousy selection, and they delivered, but the best part was the bourbon ice cream for dessert. After that we relaxed for a while and used their WiFi (the WiFi aboard ship was like trying to suck a golf ball through a straw), then walked across the main road to the Royal Palms and used their beach (where all the cruise ship passengers are dropped).

That afternoon’s show was Peter Sagal, Stephen “Stepto” Toulouse and John Roderick. Jill was looking forward to Peter Sagal, who read several of his short pieces; Stepto was funny, but the revelation was John Roderick, entertaining and soulful.

Friday we were at sea, still got up somewhat early to catch some of the quiz show. That afternoon was the JoCo request show, a great selection of old and new songs and eventually all the performers showed up to cover Sloop John B. Dinner that night was at Tamarind, the Asian styled restaurant, and my favorite on ship (never had a duck or lobster spring roll before, very good). Finally after dinner we had an unplanned gathering where we got autographs and pictures.

JoCo and Jill

Saturday morning the 8th it was time to leave the boat. We got breakfast right before they shut down, then left, picked up our luggage, and caught a cab to the airport. Too bad we couldn’t leave – we got there at 10 and our first flight didn’t leave until after 4. Good thing I had a lot of internet catch up to do. We had lunch at the Chili’s there right before we could check in – I must admit my jalapeno burger was very good (and Jill loved her fajitas). I think that tells you something about the quality of the cruise ship food right there.

When we checked in and got to the gate, I looked for a place to charge my phone. There were exactly two outlets in that wing, and you had to sit on the floor to use them (and folks already were). I still needed a fix, and sat there until close to boarding time. The flight was ok, and we soon got to Charlotte, where we had an hour layover (and another lack of outlets). We landed in Dulles a little after 9, and were home by 10.

New Year’s

Wednesday Jill’s dad and his wife came to stay with us. She went into DC with them, then she made Caesar salad for dinner and I grilled some steaks. They were on their own Thursday as Jill was working late and I was pretty late, got home at 8:30. They were fine with that, went to Cheesecake Factory (their favorite). On Friday, both Jill and I were off, so we went into DC with them, went to the Ellipse to see the National Christmas Tree and all the state trees. We had made dinner reservations at the new Rustico location in Ballston, and had a very nice dinner there. Everyone got pizza but me, and I had the cheeseburger (it sounded great and it was), plus we got some free beer (ordered something on the menu they were out of).

We stopped at Harris Teeter on the way home for cupcakes and ice cream, then went home and watched Toy Story 3 (and now I’ve watched two of the movies on the top ten lists). We flipped between annoying New Year’s shows at 11:30, then all headed to bed once the ball dropped. Today they hit the road before we got up, and we were up pretty early for us (around 9). We had to drop Illa at the kennel, and then Jill suggested Eggspectation for breakfast. I was surprised by the lack of crowd, but didn’t have a problem digging into my crepes with egg and ham (Jill had Eggs Benedict). I spent most of the day organizing the library and laundry room and listening to the complete Jayhawks discography. I jazzed up the fettucine alfredo that had been left behind for dinner, then we watched some of Being Human (Season 2 has been sitting on the DVR for a while).

Artists To Watch 2011

Band Song Next area appearance Why them
01. The New Pornographers Crash Years I’m a sucker for harmonies, and as soon as I heard this for the first time, said “I must see them live” (and it was great).
02. John Butler Trio One Way Road I knew they’d be performing at the Arias, and this groove is just killer.
03. Todd Wright With You 2/3/11 Jammin’ Java The end of 40×40 (40 songs in 40 weeks by his 40th birthday, all proceeds go to The American Diabetes Association) and still going strong.
04. Josh Ritter Change Of Time 2/14/11 9:30 Club What a gorgeous chorus.
05. Birds Of Tokyo Plans Another Australian band, good rock anthem.
06. Court Yard Hounds The Coast 2 of 3 Dixie Chicks, no Natalie, but not a problem with a song as good as this.
07. Luke Brindley We Go Together His new album is quiet, but powerful.
08. Dala Levi Blues Female duo from Canada, great voices.
09. Mumford & Sons Little Lion Man English folk group with a lot of buzz. Language warning on this, though.
10. US Rails Rainwater 4 of the 5 guys from 4 Way Street reunite with Tom Gillam with rootsy harmonies.
11. Jukebox The Ghost Empire The piano pop phenoms return with a new song that’s just as catchy as the last couple.
12. Shiny Toy Guns You Are The One Best ’80s throwback (think Animotion).
13. Slash Beautiful Dangerous I would not have thought Slash would go well with Fergie until I heard this.
14. The Blackjacks Queen Of The Night Local blues rock roughnecks.
15. Grace Potter & The Nocturnals Paris 3/12/11 9:30 Club If you haven’t heard this on the radio, you probably will soon.
16. The Rescues Break Me Out They got a lot of attention with their cover of Teenage Dream, but this song shows why the could be around for a while.
17. Middle Distance Runner The Sun & Earth Local faves and Herndon Festival vets. The best song on their new one.
18. The Verses Running Away Yet another Australian band, from the brother and sister that brought you Killing Heidi.
19. Gandalf Murphy & The Slambovian Circus Of Dreams Trans-Slambovian Bi-Polar Express The prog-rock-jam-band-hippie-good-time extravaganza returns.
20. Gaelic Storm Rum Runners 3/21-22/11 Ram’s Head For all you Great Big Sea fans.

Leftovers (in no particular order):
Alain Johannes – Return To You
Angus and Julia Stone – Big Jet Plane
Barenaked Ladies – You Run Away
Blitzen Trapper – Heaven And Earth
Coheed And Cambria – World Of Lines
Crooked Still – The Golden Vanity
Dum Dum Girls – Jail La La
Exit Clov – Kindest Creatures
Fistful Of Mercy – Fistful Of Mercy
Foxy Shazam – Bye Bye Symphony
Gomez – Little Pieces
Great Big Sea – Wandering Ways
Justin Jones – Little Fox
Lissie – Everywhere I Go
Liz Phair – Miss September
Local Natives – World News
Muse – Uprising
My Chemical Romance – Na Na Na
Red Molly – The Last Call
Robert Plant – Harm’s Swift Way
Rodrigo y Gabriela – Hanuman
Sara Bareilles – King Of Anything
Shawn Mullins – No Blue Sky
She & Him – Thieves
Steven Page – Indecision
The Decemberists – Down By The Water
The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang
The Mynabirds – Numbers Don’t Lie
The Smashing Pumpkins – Freak
The Sword – How Heavy This Axe
These United States – Great Rivers
Visqueen – Hand Me Down