I think it takes about two years for roots to "take," and we've just entered our third year in Rhode Island. So, I guess I'm updating this blog as a Rhode Islander. That means a few things:
I have - and use - a snow blower in the winter. When spring arrives, I'll wear shorts and a t-shirt as soon as it hits 45 degrees. The summer is oppressively hot at a balmy 80...for three weeks. I spend the fall bracing for the winter and raking the leaves all the out-of-towners came to see. Coffee milk and stuffies are on the menu when guests come to visit. And Del's. And ice cream. Lots of ice cream. Year-round.
It also means I've grown into saying "little by slow" instead of "little by little," and if my destination is more than ten miles away, I may just...not go. If it's more than fifteen miles away, an oil change and overnight bag may be in the works.
None of the above is a complaint, however. In fact, Kenz and I continue to love it here as much as when we first relocated. The year has been busy - so busy, in fact, that I've not updated the blog since December 2015. Pardon the dust.
The year began with the premiere of season two of Ellen's Design Challenge in which Kenz was a contestant. It was quite a thrill for her to have been out to LA to film, meet lots of folks further down the road (in experience) than she, and wind up being featured on such a popular television show. We got a kick out of her being featured in a few local publications around the time of the show's airing.
|Everyone in the photograph was there for the viewing.|
After the buzz of the show had died down, it was time to bundle up and get back to work. That meant long days in the studio for Kenz and long days split between teaching and coaching for me.
|A rare shared breakfast at local spot, J.P. Spoonem's|
|Salty roads means mittened feet|
Although I'd received the snow blower for Christmas, I'd...shall we say, put off assembling it after returning to RI. It's one of those types of gifts that you're wildly excited about but don't use immediately. So, the assembly is forgotten among the day-to-day responsibilities of regular life. Well, it had been sitting in the shed for about three weeks when the first snow began. That was at about 11am. I was still at school, teaching, and didn't think much of it. Snow happens. A lot. And it's not always enough to necessitate a snow blower. Besides, I didn't want to be the guy on the block that was too eager to show off his new snow blower that he'd obviously gotten for Christmas - the neighbors would talk, don't ya know? I didn't want to look like an amateur.
Well, the snow didn't stop. It began to accumulate. And accumulate. Until - at about 4:30pm - I decided to go out back and put it together. Well, I can't do things like that on my own. Assembly required tools and reading directions. Luckily, Kenz was home so I yanked her out into the cold, snow rain mixture to "help." By the time the bickering and assembling was finished, we'd lost a flashlight, gotten completely drenched, and were on the verge of cutting each other's heads off. Well, mainly she was ready to cut mine off since this was something that should've been done weeks ago...
|The Gibson's Xmas gift to their son-in-law|
|Note how dark it is by the time we get a picture of the thing working...|
But, no matter how cold Lil Rhody gets, it's always beautiful.
Another highlight of the winter was participating in and celebrating the engagement of our friends, Kyle and Cassie. He'd invited friends and family to a waterfront restaurant in advance, created big 'ol posterboards that held his thoughts, and invited Cassie down to the beach one afternoon for "drinks." There on the beach, he proposed to her, she said "yes," and then the two of them strolled over for the party she had no idea was going to happen.
|I helped draw the posters|
|We filled the bar|
|The winter view|
My gift to Kenz for Christmas was a February trip to a warmer location. However, despite such a great idea, my execution wasn't brilliant. I'd put off booking a hotel for so long that by the time I was ready, everything was sold out (turns out lots of people like to go south during the winter). Luckily, the Manraras opened their Miami beach condo to us for the week.
|Kenz was happy to leave the snow|
|Papo opened up the condo for us...|
|...and Kenz promptly made sammies for all of us.|
|Quite a different view from what we'd grown used to|
|We spent a lot of time warming up on the beach|
|This is about as wet as she gets since she refuses to swim in the ocean|
|Over ordering takeout|
|We both still had work to do, but it was much nicer with a different view|
Our final day was spent entirely with Papo and his girlfriend, Natalie. They took us to their favorite restaurant in Miami, toured us around Wynwood, and the four of us capped the night with grilling and eating family-style on Papo's back porch.
|Papo is on a first name basis with the chef|
|I was too busy enjoying the company to take a proper photo of the four of us. Shame on me.|
|Papo was kind enough to meet us for breakfast prior to departure on Sunday morning.|
Upon returning, Kenz asked me to get the Diet Coke that she'd left in her car. For a week. In February. In New England. Each of us has made our own series of poor choices out of ignorance with respect to this region's winters. This was one of hers.
|24 cans, exploded|
|It took us an hour to clean it all|
It didn't take long to get back to normal life. Again, her in the studio from dawn to dusk and me commuting from home to school to gym and back again.
|McKenzie made that bench/shelf combo. We use it every day.|
|Grading papers on jerk blocks|
Coaching a weightlifting club in a city like Providence means that, from time to time, someone is going to leave. This year, the club had four people move away - for work or for school - and each time, the team celebrated with a dinner. I wasn't consistent with my photography, but I retain this photo for the blog as the four in the photo below were essentially the "core four." Sean, Jen, Nick, and Charice were just about the only folks in the room when I came in as an assistant at the Providence Barbell Club. It's been nearly two years now, and lots of things have changed - I'm now the head coach, we're an official club, we have over twenty club members, and we're now out in the local region, competing - and most of the credit goes to the four in the picture below. They stuck with the program through thick and thin, through changes despite how scary change may be, and they have been the heart and soul of the team. In the blue shirt is Sean and this was the final picture - in the room - of that core four together before he moved to DC to earn a postgrad degree from Georgetown. We miss him, but we've retained a photo of him (and everyone else who has moved away) up on our wall.
It's not often that I get out to play disc golf anymore, but Josh and I forced each other to brave the weather at least once every three months. He and I would both drive and hour and a half - him from Boston and me from Providence - in order to catch up on life over 36 holes in an afternoon.
|A frozen pond means lots of discs on top of the ice...just out of reach.|
|"Are we really playing in this weather?"|
|Standard CCRI cafeteria activity: turn the tables into a table tennis court|
|Bruce Bruce is the guardian of the stairs|
|Board games with friends|
|Kenz busy at work in one of her three studios|
|Barbell Club Birthdays|
This year's winter wasn't nearly as bad as 2014, but the spring was a series of false starts. We'd have a week of warm(ish) weather and then snow, rinse, repeat. We even had a five or six inch snow shower in April. Snow is welcomed in December, understood in January, tolerated in February. But snow in April is loathed.
|More barbell dinner parties...|
|...and ice cream social going away parties.|
|Since Kenz is never available during the semester, I've taken to going to movies alone|
|Bruce Bruce loves trapping the dogs in various rooms|
|Finally warming up (note the driver's amusement at me snapping the pic)|
|Kyle is a tinkerer, always trying to improve the garage gym|
|April (snow) showers bring May flowers(?)|
|Kyle and Oscar are inseparable|
|More barbell paper grading|
In April, I went down to Knoxville for my dad's retirement party. It was a massive event and, luckily, all his kids made the time to be there for him, so I got to hang with my sisters. It's rare the four of us are together at the same time.
Upon arrival, I met up with friend Brian and toured his new restaurant location. If you live in Knoxville (or the southeast), be sure to stop by next month. Here's a link to some more information on the restaurant. This is something he's been talking about doing since we were still in high school. It's tremendously exciting to see him finally pull the trigger and make a run at it. I'd wish him luck, but I don't think he needs it - I can't wait to stop in for a pie soon.
|Catching up over lunch|
|Obviously things will look different next time I'm here.|
Before the retirement party, however, I got to head over to sister-in-law Whitney's house to see their newest addition. Considering the fact that Kenz got to meet my niece Lucy and nephew Jack before I did, it was only fair that I got to meet little Sully before her! He was three. days. old!
|Michael, Whitney, Ollie, and Sully (not pictured: three dogs)|
Retirement party (I keep wanting to type graduation party for some reason).
|There were several cutouts of Dad - this was my favorite (college years)|
|Kara was a primary organizer. Here, she's conducting some timing while at the dinner table.|
|Speech! Speech! Speech!|
The rest of spring was spent acting as if it were going to get warm "any minute now."
|DeLaney drove 2+ hours down from Vermont to join us on the disc golf course.|
|Celia, Owen, and PEG!|
|More barbell goodbye parties|
|Proper resting position|
|More tabletop gaming|
|The final going away party of the spring.|
This was likely one of our busiest summers yet. Between traveling and hosting, we barely had a minute to ourselves.
We'd been looking for a good reason to get back to the UK after having been gone for two years and, as luck would have it, two reasons happened at nearly the same time: a good, good friend of mine was getting married in Scotland and Owen and Celia had their daughter, Peggy. However, it turned out that the beginning of the trip suffered due to the timing: we embarked at 5am the day after Kenz's final critique. "That seems like good timing, David," you may think. But, in reality, Kenz hadn't slept more than two or three hours at a time for about two weeks leading up to that crit. So, what did she do on the drive to the airport, waiting on the flight, the flight itself, while waiting on the rental car, while riding in the rental car, and during the entire first day in Scotland? Sleep. She was good for nothing.
Luckily, we arrived on a Friday and the wedding wasn't until Saturday afternoon. I swear, she'd've slept through the wedding if it was a day earlier.
|She was also in the "grump from exhaustion" stage.|
|3 years in London without having to actually drive on the "wrong" side of the road made for an interesting "first"|
The morning of the wedding, we decided to tour the local town next door to where the wedding would be taking place, in the region known as the Scottish Borders. As luck would have it, we ran into some friends, in town for the wedding, doing the exact same thing. The four of us investigated Jedburgh Abbey before the wedding.
The wedding itself was as fun as it was gorgeous. Zack became a friend shortly after our move to London, and I had the opportunity to watch his relationship with Mary grow over the years. The event was held outside at her family home in the Scottish Borders - luckily, it wasn't raining. But it was "cold" for a summer wedding. Kenz wound up wearing my jacket all night.
|The River Teviot|
|You can see the chairs for the ceremony on the right|
|Bride and groom|
The following day, we packed up and headed down to Willesley, which is a little town of about 60 residents (near Tetbury). That's right: 60 residents. Owen and Celia decided they'd had enough of London life and moved out here to raise their daughter, Peg. It is every bit as pastoral as you'd expect.
We arrived after Peg had already gone down for the night, so the four adults cooked dinner, caught up, and shared countless laughs before retiring for the evening.
The next day was as you'd expect with a baby: generally hanging out, watching her figure out the world, taking her on a trip, watching her figure out the world, coming back from the trip, and continuing to watch her figure out the world. It was glorious.
We went to the neighboring village to watch the Tetbury Woolsack Races, which is an activity that you'd expect to find in a village like this. Owen and I theorized that when one lives in a village with very little to do, one invents asinine competitions to pass the time. Thus, the woolsack races wherein you throw a 60lb. sack over your shoulders and sprint up the biggest hill in the village. That's about it. Who can run this sack up the hill the fastest?
Of course, over the years, the races have become a "thing," and now the entire village comes out. There are food stalls, arts and crafts for sale, and an entire PA system with an MC.
|I think the World Famous should be in quotes|
|Some wear costumes|
Afterward, we went for a stroll through Willesley. Kenz and I were taken aback at just how small the town is; it's basically a 4-way stop and a horse farm. But the horses were super welcoming, so Kenz lost her mind.
The next day was more of the same. As if O&C's house and town weren't adorable enough, they also have a national arboretum across the street. That was our big trip of the day and it was fantastic. Arboretums are underrated.
It was bittersweet leaving the Evanses to head down to London. I think Kenz and I could've been perfectly happy staying for another five days (read: years). Alas, London (and its inhabitants) were waiting.
Kenz spent most of her time with Ragna (who flew in from Berlin just to hang with us) and Annie (who still lives in London), two friends from Camberwell. They visited museums, galleries, and their Alma Mater. I reconnected with lots of friends I'd made around town - mainly for coffees (I drank more coffee in one week than one should in a month) - and got to get back in the gym with my old coach. I'd been eagerly anticipating lifting with my old coach as he was the one who, basically, molded me into the type of lifter I am today. I was like a kid trying to impress a parent and, as luck would have it, was in town at the same time his club was hosting a competition. I immediately registered.
|One of the oldest lifting clubs in England, Bethnal Green WC was established in 1927.|
|After (winning) the competition with my coach, Sauro. It only took me 5 years to make him smile!|
|Kenz, Ragna, and Annie|
Our final day in town was spent together with no one else. We walked for hours, retracing nearly every step we'd taken before. Nothing had changed, yet everything was different. We were no longer residents - merely tourists, unashamedly pulling out our cameras and holding up foot traffic. The only difference was that we didn't need a map and our camera lenses were aimed at the smaller things.
|The last supper in town|
|Finishing the evening with about two hours' worth of lounged people watching|
It turned out to be a much-needed reinvigoration for us. Kenz had finally recovered from the ringer that was the end of the semester, reconnected with Camberwell classmates, and the city reminded her how she "found" herself as an artist. It filled her metaphorical gas tank. For me, it was special to get to finally credit my coach for all the work he'd done with me as well as reconnect with countless London friends. It was tough to leave; I imagine it will always be.
One week after our return, it was time for the Gaspee Days Parade. This year, we had a mild BBQ after the parade - about 7 or 8 in attendance - for Kenz's school friends.
|Folks set their chairs out on Wednesday/Thursday for a Saturday parade|
|Our neighbors, Paul and Rena, host a massive BBQ for the parade; he's a Cranston firefighter.|
|Joe, Todd, and Kenz|
|Yup, she still sits like this|
In the midst of the travels and festivities, we still had time to celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary. We kinda follow the traditional wedding anniversary gifts - this year was iron.
|Her card to me|
|She got me some new "iron" cookware|
|I got her an "iron" (really steel) anvil|
The following weekend, it was time for us to descend onto Knoxville for our annual summer extravaganza. This year, we started with a family reunion (Dad's side) in Gatlinburg, family gathering (Mom's side) in Spartanburg, SC, and then returned to Knoxville for Kenz's family's July 4th celebration. In ten days, though, we didn't sleep in the same bed for more than two nights in a row since we were using Knoxville as the hub between all of these events. On top of that, at each of our destinations, there were anywhere from two to fifteen children, ranging from 3 months to 3 years old. Kenz and I are the only "children" not to have children of our own. Between the two of us, we have 13 nieces and nephews. It was equal parts awesome and exhausting.
|Arriving in Knoxville; Kenz meets Sully for the first time|
|Hanging with Kara|
|Family picture time!|
|Dad, Mel, three of the four siblings, their partners, and a few kids|
|Hanging with Lucy|
|Kara laughing in Kristin's lap while Kenz creeps|
|Losing to the Scrabble queen|
|The (failed) bike ride attempt|
|This summarizes the level of energy exerted when sharing one roof with two kids and lots of adults that behave like kids.|
|July 4th party (held on the 2nd)|
|Kenz and I keep notes on the previous year's buy and plans for the upcoming year.|
|This year's fireworks show was a great success. All fingers and toes and eyes were safe.|
|Post party maxin' and relaxin' with Jessica and Pauline|
|Mark, Nathan, and Charlie|
|One last group lunch before heading back north|
|Final night kid shows|
|All in one day; 4 stops; record time - driving on the actual 4th of July turned out to be a great decision|
After returning to PVD, we had a moment of exhaled breath, thinking all the business of the summer was over. It wasn't. It was merely the beginning of July. It was time for us to begin hosting others at our house, combined with a mini-trip here and there.
|Our neighborhood is riddled with rabbits|
Having lived in London taught me to keep my pulse on the theatre ticket scene. When we lived there, I'd regularly buy tickets to shows 18 months in advance. I knew that the more popular the show, the harder it'd be to get tickets the day or week prior. Well, we lucked out and got tickets to see Hamilton - and we brought along nephew Garrett as a graduation gift for him. He was in NYC training for his new job for six weeks (he now lives in Huston), so the timing couldn't have been better. I'm not going to elaborate on the show because that'd just be rubbing it in.
|It was a final performance for a few of the cast members.|
Kenz and I spent the night in NYC, and the next morning we got to meet up with a dear, dear friend from my freshman year at Villanova. Austen and his wife have recently moved back from California. This was the first time in 12 years that he and I got to spend time together, face-to-face, despite countless hours on the phone and thousands of emails. Ironically, Kate was in New England visiting a friend during the same weekend, so we had to wait another few weeks before meeting her.
The following weekend, we headed up to Boston to say goodbye to Josh, Courtney, and Sawyer. The three of them have relocated to Raleigh, NC as Josh finally secured a tenure-track position at NCSU (Go Pack!). We hated to see them go, but it seems they hated leaving Boston even more. They'd been up there for over six years and the city fed them much like London had fed us.
The weekend after that? Well, the Newport Folk Festival, of course! This year, Dustin, Taylor, and Anson came up from Dallas to attend with us. The weekend was jam packed with exceptional music, riotous laughter, and heartwarming scenes of little Anson being an absurdly adorable kid.
|Welcome to Rhode Island!|
|Rock skipping time|
|Concert nap time|
|Clam Shack time|
|Crowded stage transition time|
|Shade tent construction time|
|Photo op time|
|I love the festival more than Kenz, but I think she's happy to "acquiesce" to going each year|
|Their final day in PVD had to include Three Sisters ice cream|
The following week, I attended a weightlifting "camp," along with a few of the women I coach, in Franklin, MA. We carpooled each day and finished with a competition. Twas good times and a great bonding opportunity.
|Early morning lifting!|
|Lots of people showed up to "support" those in the competition - the week was a great success.|
We had one more going away party for the Providence Barbell Club. I decided to host a BBQ at the house instead of go out to dinner - it was finally time to have these rascals over to the house anyway. That which none of us realized, however, was that the first American weightlifter would be competing in Rio that evening as well. We all knew it was happening, but we didn't connect the dots until the day before. So, Kenz and I hosted a BBQ for an Olympic weightlifting team on the same evening Olympic weightlifting was on the television - and someone from the USA was scheduled to compete. Translated: we had a BBQ outside for a few hours and then when Morgan King came on the platform, everyone jammed into our little living room to scream and cheer.
There were a few folks at the BBQ who do not participate in the sport. They got quite the education, being surrounded by so many folks eager to explain the rules and technique of the sport.
|I got an inflatable ground hammock|
|Weightlifting's on TV!|
|Team picture! (Sean even happened to be back in town from DC)|
That day, our friend Nicolette arrived with her friend, Forrest. The two of them had been on a two-week road trip of New England; we were their second to last stop. They were taken aback by the BBQ - in a good way, I guess - how often do you get such a deep dive into a niche sport like Olympic weightlifting, complete with participants and an Olympic viewing?
Anyway, the following day, we took them around town and feed them full of seafood.
|The Providence Flea|
|Taking a break in the shade|
|Iggy's at Oakland Beach is a bit of a cultural institution (with a line to show its importance)|
|They were bored with the music in their car, so we lugged out our old CD cases to loan|
A few days after their departure, Robbie came up from DC! This was Robbie's second visit to our place; last time, Lindsay and Andy came down from Vermont to hang as well. This time, Robbie and I drove up to Burlington to see the two of them - and to see Andy in Jesus Christ Superstar. He was Pilate and did a fantastic job. (Kenz and I saw him in White Christmas the year before; we love seeing Andy in plays).
|Vermont gas stations|
|Lunch on Lake Champlain|
|A toast to friends|
|Pre-play bocce ball|
|The community theatre's box office (Stowe, VT)|
|The theatre is in the town hall|
|With the star performer|
The following morning, I woke to smells of a badass breakfast being prepared. I'm a breakfast snob, and this was a hall of fame production. Lindsay started us off on the right foot - and continued to provide great hosting experiences for us for the rest of the day as she took us to Shelburne Farms. She is the year-round camp director there and couldn't be a better fit for the position. We spent over three hours on the 1400 acre working farm as Lindsay introduced us to all the animals, toured us around several buildings not open to the public, and finished it all off with an ascent up a small piedmont for an amazing view of the grounds. We could've spent another three hours there and been perfectly happy. If you're ever in the Burlington area, I strongly recommend it.
|Homemade biscuits (scratch), bacon, frittata, and hash browns|
|Telling us the history of the grounds|
|Introducing us to the day-old calf!|
|"they love it under the neck"|
Robbie's last day in town was spent lounging and solving the world's problems, two of our shared interests.
|But this time, we did so on the beach|
In between visitors, day-to-day was fairly standard. All except for one especially notable event in August: McKenzie officially opened her business! She's got an entirely separate studio from the one at school where she houses her own tools, projects, and commissioned work. This is the result of months' worth of work, research, nail-biting, and more research, so I was quite proud to get to see it finally come to life. Feel free to contact her about some furniture! (website)
|"I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man." - Jay-Z|
Austen brought his wife, Kate, on a midweek business trip near RI. They called us up and, in an afternoon, we were on a brand new (to us) beach. It was only an hour and a half with them, but it was great to finally meet Kate. Sadly, I only snapped one photograph; we were too busy sunning and chatting!
BBQs with my Ocean State fam, hosted at Brian and Melissa's new house.
|Summer sessions with Kyle & Jarrad|
|Would you believe he's still alive and kicking?!|
Kenz decided to take a working retreat by herself to Portland, ME the week before her semester began. She'd left early on a Tuesday morning and was gone until the following Tuesday (Labor Day weekend). I had to stay behind and teach that week (not that she would've let me come up for the week anyway; "this is a solo trip, David - I don't want to see anyone"). She was gracious enough, however, to let me come up on Friday evening and stay until Sunday.
Neither of us had been to Portland before, despite how highly it'd come recommended. After a few days there, I understand why everyone loves it. It's got a lot going for it: great views, great coastline, great shops, great food, and friendly people.
We spent the first evening in the Airbnb house (with a view of the inlet). The following morning, we packed up and got on a ferry to Peaks Island, rented a golf cart, and had a freaking blast driving around the island for nearly three hours. Afterward, we strolled throughout the town, window shopping, people watching, and putting out the vibe. Felt good.
|Hipster coffee shops everywhere|
|Ferry time! We saw seals - Kenz 'bout jumped overboard to pet 'em.|
|We spoke to the owner of the house; she said the neighbors got to vote on the door paint.|
On Sunday, I rose early to get to one of the 50 best donut shops in the country: The Holy Donut. Maine potatoes in donuts! They were as good as advertised, and they were also the only way I was going to cajole Kenz out of bed early. We went down to the beach for book reading and sun burning.
|Ginger cinnamon, dark chocolate, blueberry, lemon, maple|
|To be fair, the chair was old and sun-faded|
|The tide came up so high, the water woke me from my nap|
I sit here, writing this (a week after starting it), in 65 degree weather; it was 45 this morning. The A/C window units are off, the windows are open, and the sweatpants have come out. School is in full swing for both Kenz and I. I've finally registered the Providence Barbell Club with USA Weightlifting and we've an upcoming competition. Halloween flags adorn the neighbors' houses. Decorative gourd season is here.
|The best shirt Jack has ever worn|
It's debatable whether Aunt Kathy and Uncle Bob were the last visitors of summer or the first visitors of fall. We'll say fall since it was September, we weren't wearing shorts, school was in session, and the four of us were checking the score of the UT game on Saturday - but it surely did feel like a great cap to the end of summer.
We toured them around my school, and all three of Kenz's studios on Friday - which, if you're planning a visit, takes nearly all day (since Kenz has so much cool stuff to show off)!
|Looking at some presentation material in Kenz's "clean" studio|
|Bob was loving all of the tools in the woodshop - he has his own in the garage of their house|
It was neat to get back to Kenz's own studio - off campus - since I hadn't been there in a few months. She's fully "moved in" and has about six or seven works in progress going on. We tinkered around and listened to her explain a variety of things for nearly half an hour.
|Showing a wall piece she's completed for a client|
|Showing some melted acrylic meant for a lamp|
|Melted pewter experiments|
|No trip to Pawtuxet Village is complete without a visit to Dear Heart's Ice Cream|
On Saturday, we headed down to Newport. It had been fifteen years since Bob and Kathy had visited RI, and when we entered the tennis Hall of Fame, Kathy was taken aback - "hey, we had lunch here last time we were in Newport!" Just like MoMA and Tom, they love tennis; we spent a lot of time walking around the grounds, watching some tennis, and shopping for new tennis gear for Kathy.
|Saturday morning box jumps before fulfilling my role as tour guide for the afternoon|
|Tennis Hall of Fame|
The rest of the day was spent strolling up and down streets, peering in windows, dipping into a museum here and there, and dining on some more scrumptious seafood. It was great to have some family up for a visit before the leaves begin to turn, cold weather sets in, and the darkness descends.
If you've made it this far, congratulations. As always, thanks for reading. Who knows, maybe it'll be less than nine months before I update this thing again. Until next time...