1SED 2014

Here’s one second for (almost) every day of 2014. What a year! Concerts, travel, completion and delivery of Big Ds Cobra, and what looks like way too much BBQing (I wonder what my Cholesterol looks like!?)

And here’s a little Instagram recap (can you tell I’m surfing on the couch all day today?)

Thanks for the memories and Happy New Year!

The Concert for Valor

Staged to boost awareness of veterans’ support groups, raise funds for veterans charities and salute the troops, HBO’s Concert for Valor drew hundreds of thousands of fans to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Veterans Day. HBO, Starbucks, and Chase were the main sponsors, and thanks to a fellow music loving friend, who works at Starbucks HQ, we were lucky to have two “Honored Guest” tickets – landing us in front of the massive crowd.

We arrived at about 2:30, set up camp on our blanket, and started playing cards to pass the time when rehearsals began. A woman walked out, the crowd buzzed and I said, “Should we know who that is?” when I realized the woman was Meryl Streep! Holy cow! We knew we were in for a great night. Meryl Streep

The Black Keys ran trough their entire set! The Black Keys

After a few celebs came out to read their lines and get used to the set up, we figured out how things wold work: A band would perform, a celeb would introduce a video about a military member, the member would be recognized, and the celeb would introduce the next act. Things were slow during the afternoon, but zipped right along at night since while everyone was watching each video, the lazy susan style stage was spinning around to reveal the next act’s set. The technical aspects of the evening were fascinating. And speaking of technical and fascinating: hows about the scaffolding on the Capitol dome? US Capitol Jennifer Hudson

Jennifer Hudson sang the National Anthem and later joined Jessie J for Titanium. Jennifer Hudson & Jessie J

Thanks to the sneak peek in the afternoon, we knew when we saw Meryl that it was time for Dave Grohl. Dave Grohl

My mind was officially blown when The Boss himself joined Dave and The Zac Brown Band for Fortunate Son.

The Boss, Dave Growl, Zac Brown

Big D and I are big John Oliver fans. True Fact: His wife is an Iraq War veteran who was an Army Medic with 1st Cav. And as the saying goes, “If you ain’t Cav, you ain’t sh*t !” (which was fun to yell along with him and the crowd!)

John Oliver Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood does not phone it in.

Jack Black had the crowd chant to introduce Metallica. Metallica. Metallica. Metallica! I was surprised they were such the crowd favorite – they were impossible to photograph since arms were flying everywhere.

Jack Black Metallica

From the NY Daily News regarding Springsteen: “…Nuance came from Springsteen’s solo set. Accompanied by just an acoustic guitar, he didn’t flinch from alluding to the more controversial or gritty elements of war. He offered a stripped and slow version of “Promised Land,” the better to savor lyrics which address America’s possibilities, not necessarily its realities. He went further with a desolate and wounded take on “Born In The U.S.A.,” which critiques the military presence in Viet Nam in the ’60s. Likewise, his somber take on “Dancing In The Dark” emphasized the sadness behind its passion.” Bruce Springsteen

Bryan Cranston used a Heisenberg threat to encourage folks to support the troops saying “There’s still a lot of room in Belize for people…” and mentioned both of his parents who served before he introduced Rihanna.

Bryan Cranston Rihanna

Eminem joined RiRi for Monster and then opened his solo set by shouting “Happy Motherf—ing Veterans Day!” Just as our forefathers intended. Eminem

There are tons more photos over on Flickr including folks I’ve omitted here like Bob Woodruff and Jamie Foxx. Thanks again to my pal AK who helped us with tickets! Finally, here’s a little video recap I put together a few days after the show: 

The People’s Marathon

Holy Guacamole, I’ve been neglecting our little blog! Fear not: The Nicoli have had plenty of adventures – I hope to post about the big ones and be caught up before the end of the year.

Marathon training is a pain in the neck. And legs. And calendar. It’s expensive. I’m a complainer. I promised Big D after last year’s race that I would not go the distance again.

And then: I watched this year’s Boston Marathon. I cried like a baby when Meb won, walked from the TV to my computer to join Team Fisher House, and laced up my shoes…

I trained the same as usual: inconsistently. And thanks to encouragement from a friend, I set a lofty fundraising goal: $2,620 – one hundred dollars per mile. No pressure!

My year in a nutshell:
– Procrastinate
– Run
– Sweat
– Hydrate
– Beg friends for fundraising donations
– Rinse and repeat.

Time sped by when it came to fundraising efforts and draaaaaaaged when it came to awaiting race day.

October eventually arrived, and during the team dinner the evening before the race, I got an e-mail notification that I reached my fundraising goal! Chances are if you’re taking the time to read this, you are one of my many supporters – so, once again: THANK YOU!

I stuck to my usual race routine, like laying out my outfit and writing the names of my donors on my pace chart.
all ready for tomorrow

#Teamfisherhouse #runwiththemarines
The early morning view from Charity Village was beautiful.

I had some problems on the course: though well-rested and properly hydrated, I had a headache. I washed a giant Motrin down with too much water and the sloshing made me sick in the stomach, so ate something, which made me more thirsty…you can see where this is going. I started walking at mile 18. My legs were wobbly, I felt weak overall, and just when I was doubting myself: the best cheering squad ever gave me a snack, the gulp of Diet Coke I was craving, and our pal Jym set out to run miles 19 to 23 with me, even though he was hurting since he conquered a Tough Mudder himself just the day before. Good grief, I really owe him!!

Cutest cheering squad!

Jym joined me for a few miles
Pretty sure I’m explaining that I just want to finish, and there’s no need to run – walking is just fine.

thanks, Jym!
My hands were so swollen – check out those sausage fingers!

at mile 23
I was able to run a bit here and there. (Folks in a FaceBook training group I belong to used that Thumbs Up you can see on my back to identify each other. Those “friends” were a such a source of encouragement and help to me throughout the year, even though we’d never met.)

#Teamfisherhouse #runwiththemarines I *think* I can...

And after 26 miles, just .2 remained: up hill. That distance and the incline doesn’t seem like much if you’re just out for a stroll, but man, oh man… Thankfully, Team Fisher House has coaches on the course and one (that I do not know) was helping me along when Team Coach Stacy spotted me and took over. She’s fantastic, tireless, and was so calm as she ran and talked me through it. I was out of juice and air – I can still hear her saying, “Breathe. just breathe. you’ve got it…” My lungs were heaving. I was ecstatic. And crying.

I thought of all of the people – some are friends of friends that I don’t personally know! – who donated to my fundraising efforts. I thought of the military families that would benefit from the Team – we raised more than $500,000! I thought of my sweet husband who put up with so much throughout the year (what’s new!?) and of my friends who drove for hours so they could crisscross the city a bunch of times to cheer me on. I am one lucky gal.

And: I was proud. I didn’t participate in sports when I was a kid. I’m not particularly athletic, I’m really uncoordinated, and I didn’t train properly (which isn’t anything new.) Yet somehow, I made it to the finish line, through the chute, and to a Marine, who hung a medal around my neck and saluted me.

2014 MCM 2014 MCM

Best Support Crew EVER
I couldn’t have done it without them!

not too shabby
Pretty consistent, considering.

It took a few days until I was really ready to celebrate, and we had a little retirement party:
retirement party

I’ll keep running (I’ve already registered for another half.) But no more marathons for me. I will be back at the Marine Corps Marathon in 2015: as a volunteer.

More photos from MCM2014 are over on Flickr.

Semper Fi!

Foo Fighters RVA

A few months ago, some (awesome) Foo Fighters fans in Richmond, Virginia organized a crowd funded effort aimed at bringing the Foo back to RVA – a city they haven’t played since 1998. Foo Fighters RVA Fans bought $50 tickets for a show that didn’t yet exist. But oh, did we hope… A day or so before the deadline, local businesses Sugar Shack Donuts and Brown’s Volkswagen donated the amounts required to meet the fundraising goal, and then, we all waited…

And soon enough, those that bought into the scheme lost their collective shizz when this appeared in our Twitter feeds:

It worked! Four dudes with a plan, 1,000+ fans, and some local businesses did it! If you pay for it, they will come!

And now, for a blog post that is not like my usual. But I’ve been sitting on this for a week and am about to head out on another adventure. So, please enjoy this bullet list style recap that I jotted on my iPad a day or two after one of the most fantastic concerts I’ve attended (and that’s really saying something.) My BFF Carey joined me (via train from Raleigh, NC!) for a whirlwind, and man. It rocked.

– We paid at box office, my name was highlighted on the donor list, we were shuffled inside the theater lobby to get wristbands (adorned with Pearl Jam looking space creatures) and we were off to lunch at an adorable place called Pasture followed by a tour of the Jefferson Hotel.



– Chillaxed and had a tiny bday celebration w/ Bellini’s and 9:30 Club cupcakes back at the hotel. In a reverse birthday move: Carey gave me a gift! And I love my new bracelet.

Pre @foofighters show / @careyjym birthday celebration! Mmmmm. 9:30 Club Cupcakes (imported from @buzzbakery)

– Carey rocked 9:30 T-shirt like nobody’s business.

– We walked to venue again, checked out the line, got a cool poster, and moved on to Marriott bar.

– I hid the poster in a Marriott lobby bathroom so it wasn’t wrecked during the show.

– Back to club. We didn’t even check the floor and went right to balcony. Found seats in 3rd row, next to the VIP area. My Twitter pal Brian (who tipped me off to the whole show) was in the same row, opposite end.

– Avers opened. They had four (5?) guitarists, and their female musician was great – I was a bit jealous. [note to self: look into Avers!]

– The crowdsourcing guys made an appearance! And the crowd went wild. (Thanks, Dudes!)

Foo Fighters RVA

– I chatted with the guy in front of us who was sporting a VW dealer / Foo winners shirt. He won his tickets by answering trivia: What Guinness Record does Dave Grohl hold?

– The show shirts are decent quality, only $20, and come w/ free download code for new CD. I high fived Brian on my way back to my seat after buying Ts and a hoodie

– And finally: show time! It seemed like the crowd cheered a very long time at the open, which was All My Life.

Foo Fighters RVA

– Dave said, “we’ve played a lot of shows over a lot of years, but never one like this…”

– Later, he thanked the crowd for paying for a show before it was actually booked “Because seriously, thank you!” and he mentioned that it’s expensive for him to pay “the pool boy back at the mansion.”

– Dave gave a brief, sweet explanation that the Virginia mentioned in Arlandria isn’t a reference to his home, but rather, his mom, who he pointed to and introduced.

One of These Days always makes me think of my sister Kara, who I miss so much, every day.

– Overdue bathroom break during Weenie Beenie (I KNOW!) When I heard Monkey Wrench starting I sprinted back, and our whole section was sitting down. WTF!?

– And I realized I was standing at start of the ONE LAST THING BEFORE I QUIT breakdown part, and thought “screw the people behind me!” Because who comes to a show like this and sits down!? I shouted to the (self-proclaimed hard core, yet seated) guy in front of us “Don’t let these f’ers make you sit down!” and he promptly left before the encore. I worried he misheard me and I somehow offended him, but his wife was totally uninterested, so I gave myself a pass.

– Dave asked for house lights two or three times to see crowd singing along.

– And told a story about tiny Richmond venues and seeing Gwar.

– Pat Smear was smiling for just about the entire show.

Foo Fighters RVA

– Taylor followed Dave on stage for what was to be a solo Times Like These. Dave had him stay, so Taylor laid down on his stool with his feet up on the snares and (I hope) took it all in. Dave explained their friendship and explained that after 20 years, if three vans come to an airport to pick them all up, they still just cram into one. And my heart melted a bit.

– The Skin and Bones accordion sections seemed longer than usual to me. I love Rami. Also during S&B, Dave nodded towards his mom while he sang the line “Tell my mom I’m doin’ fine” then shrugged and giggled.

– At end of Hey, Johnny Park, Dave was alone on guitar and asked for house lights off. I was surprised that we were all suddenly in the very dark while Dave jammed a few minutes in an awesome Pearl Jam / Dave Matthews-esque style. I kelt clutching my chest, trying to feel / memorize everything.

-Two and a half hours FLEW by. I felt like there should be a second encore and then realized I was being greedy.

– Just like that, it was over. And I was floating.

– We retrieved the poster from Marriott bathroom. Perfect!


– And the next morning, we went to Sugar Shack, as I felt like I should somehow say thank you. And when we did? They gave us super cool posters! And stickers!

thanks,  Sugar Shack

– Less than 24 short hours later, I dropped Carey off at the train station and drove back to Alexandria. And it all felt like a (super fantastic, hard rocking!) dream.

A few other photos are over on my Flickr page.

Vacation? Or Weekend?

We love our friends and our adventures, but Big D and I were excited to have a few days with no guests, plans, or obligations. Our weekend To Do List: replace a burned out kitchen lightbulb, give Fletch a bath, and re-arrange living room furniture.

We spent Friday night on our tiny balcony, and later on the couch, with some wine.

Saturday afternoon we toured Port City Brewing with friends, and then took a nap. Then we spent time on our tiny balcony, and later on the couch, with some wine.

There are worse ways to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Yesterday we kayaked at National Harbor, ate a late brunch, and cruised around in the Cobra. We walked over to the Dangerfield Marina to watch the sun set. And then, we spent time on our tiny balcony, and later on the couch, with some wine.


Kayking at National Harbor

Kayak view.

Sure, there’s work, and Army stuff, and blah, blah, blah. And there are tough things going on when it comes to the health of our aging family members. But most of the time: I’m ridiculously lucky, and know it. That’s not bragging, because I realize what a charmed life I lead and am SO VERY thankful. Other than going for a run, Big D and I were together more than 48 hours. We were both sad when it was time to head in separate directions this morning. And after 20 years together, I think that’s really saying something.

And now, we really need to get to that To Do List. Right after we spend time on our tiny balcony, and later on the couch, with some wine.

so much for getting a Christmas card photo
So much for trying to snap a Christmas Card photo.

One Crazy Summer

Good grief, what a summer! We had a lot planned, and fit most of it in with a few twists.

My elderly mom, who lives in Arizona, was hospitalized and eventually transitioned into an Assisted Living Facility. So far, I’ve made two unexpected (both very stressful) week-long trips to the surface of the sun.

She's shrinking, and I'm exhausted. But here's a snap before we said farewell this morning.

One more.

Big Ds cousin and his wife visited for a long weekend:

Big Ds brother dropped in for a fast overnight visit:
And away they go...

There was BIG excitement here when Germany won the World Cup.

Here we go!!

Big D’s sister and our niece visited for a long weekend – we had a blast hitting some tourist sites I hadn’t yet explored, including Madame Tussaud’s:
We tried to warn Abe...

Jen, my BFF from Germany, made two visits. During the first, we ran a fun 5K, and toured around (so if you’re keeping track, I visited the Lincoln Memorial every Sunday for a month!)

We're ready to run!


Somehow, I squished in a trip to Raleigh, NC to see a Matt Nathanson and Gavin DeGraw concert with our other BFFs (and even managed to stay an extra day.)
pre-show selfie

And we got to meet Matt after the show:
Carey, Matt, Jym & me

I was lucky enough to spend a few minutes with Matt in Frankfurt a few years ago, and he was just as kind and hilarious when Carey, Jym and I met up with him this time around.

Last weekend our whole Germany gang and our constant travel companion Angie were reunited for the first time in years. Thanks to the Army, our time together was far too brief, but it was great to be together!
the whole gang

Big D is talking, not frowning. But this is the only non-blurry photo snapped at Bryan HQ.

Jen, me, Tricia & Angie

And to cap it all off: Jen, Tricia, and I trekked to Baltimore where more fun (and many beers) were had. Yes, this was my third concert in a week.

Gavin DeGraw

Tricia, Matt & me
Tricia finally got to meet Matt, too!

And now, our house is so quiet that its eerie. I’m looking forward to our first weekend in ages (nine weeks?) without a single plan.  As always, tons more pictures than you’ll probably care to see from everything I mentioned are over on my Flickr page.

I need a nap.

Nonstop giggles

Big D and I have been great friends with Jym & Carey since we met at Fort Rucker in 1996. We’ve been lucky enough to live near (and occasionally with) each other in Korea and back in good ol’ lower Alabama a few times throughout the years. Watching them parent and knowing their increasingly adorable and hilarious children is a constant privilege. And oh, those kids… there aren’t enough adjectives.

I trekked to their home in North Carolina last weekend:

dinner at Effie's Dos

We watched Jym & his unit depart for annual training –
'belle watches Papa depart

Here’s the hangar that hosted Big D’s redeployment ceremony ten (!) years ago:

We visited Yates Mill County Park, where the kids were good sports and posed for some fun pictures:
Yates Mill County Park

Yates Mill County Park

And James impressed us with his photography skills:
Photo Credit: James

We laughed our way through the weekend thanks to things like this:

James: “Our neighbor had to have a mouth operation.”
Isabelle: “And he woke up during the amnesia!”

while discussing the next school year…
Isabelle: “She’s changing schools. Next year, she’s going to Saint Mary Macadamia.”

and on the topic of Vacation Bible School:
Mama: “But you had such a great time. Please explain why you don’t want to go again?”
James: “Because! I went last year! I learned it all!”

Can’t wait to see them again in less than a month!


This week’s calendar is a blank slate – something I haven’t seen in quite a while. The last two weeks have been full of really exciting adventures!

After three long years, Big Ds project is complete and his 1965 Shelby Cobra replica was delivered from his extraordinary cousin’s garage in Oklahoma to our doorstep.

That same night, I rocked out at a secret Foo Fighters show at the legendary 9:30 Club.
9:30 Club

I spent a fantastic weekend at “home” in Jacksonville Beach, FL where I visited great friends, ate at some favorite spots, attended three days of the PGA Players Championship, and hit the beach.
me, Shelley & Cheryl at North Beach Fish Camp

Did we win!?


just before massive sunburn

If you’re an NPR listener (and/or big nerd) you’ll know what a treat it was to attend Carl Kassell’s final recording of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me at the Warner Theater.

Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me

Carl & Peter

Friday, we attended the Evening Parade at the Marine Barracks. Established in 1801, it’s the oldest continuously operating Corps post.

Oldest Post of the Corps - founded 1801.

Silent Drill Team

And yesterday, I ran the Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon in Fredericksburg, VA. This is by far the most challenging course of the 12 Half Marathons I’ve done. Everyone hears about Hospital Hill (and dreads it) but there are a LOT of other hills too. A lot.

But I survived, and celebrated at home last night.

glad that's done


And now back to that work calendar…

Tons more photos from these and other fun adventures are over on Flickr.

Zum Wohl!

Considering Big D and I have resided at 16 addresses in 19 years, its no wonder Wiesbaden feels like “home.” We’ve lived there longer than anywhere else. Our three years in Germany were one long vacation with a whole lot of real life mixed in. And our actual vacation there recently was great – I shouldn’t have worried it wouldn’t live up to my memories and expectations.

Our visit was cram-packed with delicious food and wine, beautiful sights, and most importantly: fantastic friends.

We made a beeline for our favorite bar, the Bäckerbrunnen, and spent lots of quality time there throughout the week with the owner, our good friend Chris.
One of my very, very favorite places anywhere.


Despite the calendar, it snowed here in Virginia while we were away. Thankfully: the German Spring was in full swing:
Hotel Nassauer Hof

My dear friend Barbara adjusted her schedule, juggled her family responsibilities, hauled me all over the place, and opened her home to us throughout the week. She and equally dear Kirsten hosted a Wine Tasting Luncheon for me which was just lovely!

That was one tasty afternoon!
We enjoyed selections from Winegut Bieber (no relation) – and yes, the wines named Beast and Xanadu are inspired by Iron Maiden and Rush!

There’s nothing quite like having a friend you can spend time with from breakfast, luncheon, sunset, dinner, through to couch time with the family, and then ask for a pair of socks before getting a ride home!

Evening on the Rhein.
The Rhein view from Barbara’s balcony is as beautiful as she is.

We did some wacky things like blending in with a football crowd in the city of Mainz, and for the first time in ages: we were out past 2am dancing at a club!

blending into Mainz HbF football crowd
Go team!

at Park Café
The Rays, Slys, and Nicoli during a very late night at Park Café

It felt great to wander through the market, parks, and wine stands I know so well.

Wiesbaden Market
Wiesbaden Market

Jam on it.

Kurhaus Wiesbaden
Kurhaus Wiesbaden

Kurhaus park
Kurhaus park

Zum Wohl, indeed! Loving this evening on the Rhein.
Hattenheim Wine Stand

Wiesbadener Marktkirche
Wiesbadener Marktkirche – for perspective, look for the person in a red jacket at lower left.

The adventures of the upcoming week on the European road were the only thing that made departing Wiesbaden bearable. Stay tuned!

Zum Wohl from the Wine Stand!
Zum Wohl!

Hometown tourists

We were lounging on the couch with big cups of coffee this morning when I turned off the television and declared today was the day we’d finally see the US Constitution at the National Archives – our attempt last summer was thwarted by a HUGE crowd and a mile-long line in the sun on a blistering day.

Today’s first stop was the Air Force Memorial:
Air Force Memorial

Air Force Memorial

Who knew the District’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade was this afternoon? All of the participants and crowds making their way to the parade route, that’s who. The detour took us past Union Station. I snapped this from the car window:

Union Station

We changed our plan (will we ever see the Constitution? Hopefully, the third time will be the charm?) and spent the afternoon at the Newseum

Berlin Wall
Berlin Wall section

Flight 105 engine
9/11 United Flight 175 engine

Richard Reid's passport
Richard Reid’s passport

On notice!
Indecision 2004!

Tim Russert's office
Tim Russert’s desk – a real highlight of the day for me. If it’s Sunday, it’s Meet the Press!

Stay Classy!
Ron Burgandy and Big D – You stay classy, DC!

We stopped by the Maine Street Fish Market on our way home. And now: time for dinner!


Tonight's dinner.