Tuesday, January 5, 2016

August - December 2015

Song of the Day: American Flags in Black & White, John Moreland

In what is becoming characteristic of this blog, I'm back for an update that covers nearly half a year. I could say that one of my New Year's resolutions is to return to a weekly blog update, but that's an unrealistic resolution (however, now that I think of it, aren't nearly all resolutions unrealistic considering the fact that the overwhelming majority are abandoned by February?). Sure, I'll try to be more frequent but life these days is quite different than it was in London. Not only am I much busier but my assumption is also that life in Providence isn't as interesting to read about as life in London. Maybe you can change my mind about that via email.

Along with being out of "practice" with the blog comes the realization that I don't take nearly as many pictures as I used to. As a result, there aren't as many life events documented over the past five months. Well, either that or we didn't do as much - if by "much," I mean "stuff that we don't do day-to-day." We do tons of stuff - it's just that it's about the same each day: I teach, coach, write, edit, cook, clean, grocery shop, launder clothes, and care for the pets while Kenz spends about eighty hours per week in the studio. Each of us is usually out of the house from sunrise to sundown, but we appear to like it that way. 

One last item to mention above the fold: In case you haven't heard, McKenzie is on Season Two of Ellen's Design Challenge on HGTV. The first episode aired on January 1st, but if you missed it, it will re-air on the 17th at (probably) 9pm local. The second episode will be Monday the 18th at 9pm (and subsequent shows will air on Mondays at 9).

An example of her modesty is the fact that she'd applied on the final day as a lark. She came home one afternoon saying, "Hey, do you remember the Ellen's Design Challenge show we watched last year? Well, I sent in an application today. I figured why not. And they called me! I might get an interview!"

She assumed her lack of experience and status as a student would be the determining factor as to why she wouldn't be accepted, yet, after four months and about five different interviews and portfolio reviews, she was flown out to LA for filming. And, as you may have seen, she survived past the casting special/first episode wherein the field was whittled from ten to eight contestants.

No matter what, it's a pretty amazing experience for her. She was chosen from hundreds of applicants, worldwide, and the only student in the series. In fact, everyone else has had their own furniture design business/practice for over a decade, which (I think) is a testament to the potential she represents within the field.

Safe to assume I've been beaming with pride. I mean, shoot - six years ago, I wasn't convinced she'd even finish her application to Camberwell College of Arts. Four years ago, her work was being exhibited all over London in a variety of art galleries and magazines. Two years ago, she secured a spot in the nation's premiere furniture design program. And now 'ol Kenz - who has so often failed to see her own talent - is being showcased on this television show. You'd think she'd get the picture by now.

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Having travelled much of the summer, the two of us spent August recuperating in our own little worlds. Kenz stayed in the studio as I was in my buddy Kyle's garage.

The dogs were happy to play in the rain.

Every now and again, we'd get out for a date. However, more often than not, Kenz would meet me somewhere, still dressed in her "shop clothes," which was always good for a laugh. 

A solid example of Kenz's summer fashion choices. 

Regional touring production of Newsies. 

Over the summer, Kyle transformed his garage into a bonafide Olympic Weightlifting gym. He and I both invested treasure and time into it (he more than I), and the two of us now have our own complete sets of barbells & weights along with countless other accessory items such as extra barbells, a squat rack, a kettlebell, bands, a timer clock, banners, etc. In fact, over the past two months, I've begun filming some of our lifting sessions in the garage for nostalgia purposes. The two of us, along with our friend Butch, are the "regulars" in the garage but we'll often have a fourth in tow when we "go heavy" on Sunday mornings. If you're interested you can view this past Sunday's video here.

Carl & Butch

Kyle & I

Kyle's dogs

Kyle's girlfriend, Cassie, chose to watch from afar during the summer but has since joined in on Sundays when available. She brings a much-needed grace to the platform.
September was a return to school for both Kenz and I - her learning and me teaching. The only notable trip was one I took back down to Tennessee for some family time. 

I got to see Oliver for an afternoon...

...and Jack for two evenings!




October was fairly busy, what with a bachelor party, wedding, Halloween, and two birthdays. Kenz and I both turned 32 this year - one of those forgettable types of birthdays that seem to be more common now than ever before. I think most of the ones from now on will trend toward "ugh, we're old" than "oh, yay, my birthday!"

I had been on a fairly strict diet during the week of my own birthday, in preparation for weighing in at a weightlifting competition, so Kenz waited until after my birthday to gift me a cake. Along with it came a trip to Burlington, VT in November (we'll get there). 

The adorable little red velvet cake with an equally adorable wife. 

New England
The following weekend, I travelled down to Wilmington, DE for my buddy Edward's bachelor party. He and I have been friends since North Carolina, despite the fact that neither of us lives there anymore. This was my first time in Delaware and it had been nearly three years since I'd seen Edward (he was one of our first visitors in London). Being the creative that he is, Edward chose to celebrate his impending nuptials with a(n October) visit to one of the country's most notorious haunted houses: Eastern State Penitentiary. There was a slew of about eight or nine of us accompanying Edward through the seemingly forever experience of this haunted prison, complete with yawps and gasps and terrified laughter and people pulling us into nooks and crannies for "extra" terror. If you're close to Philadelphia in October, I highly recommend it; I was mortified the entire time.

Edward gave me a tour of Wilmington on Saturday pre-party, guiding me around the city and his alma mater, UDel.


This is where my lack of blogging results in disappointment. Two weekends in a row - one for the bachelor party and one for the wedding, both filled with wonderful moments - yet I only have about five pictures to show for it. I have no group picture from the bachelor party and, as you'll see below, not even a single photo of Edward and James on their wedding day. Apologies. 

Alas, Kenz and I travelled back down to Wilmington the following weekend for the wedding. There's a lot of competing wedding strategies out there - where to have it, have the ceremony at the same place as the reception, have everything at the same location (including accommodations), etc. - and this was the first time Kenz and I got to stay on site. It was pretty clutch to get to just wake up, hang out, eat food, visit with friends, and then stroll down for the ceremony. 

However, Kenz and I were separated later in the afternoon as I had the honor of being one of Edward's groomsmen. It was a special treat to get to be among those who sent Edward "off" into the broad horizon of marriage. 

Final touches

A superhero theme lent to comic book boutonni√®res (and countless other super cool accents throughout the night). 

Photo booths are becoming a (welcomed) fixture at receptions.
The rest of the month was spent doing Autumnal things:


Coaching...

...lounging...

...giving dogs toys...

...getting Halloween pictures from nieces...

...and nephews.

All in all, it was a successful month.

And Bruce Bruce is still the biggest cat around.


November had us attending another wedding and, of course, hosting Friendsgiving. But, in the beginning of the month, we snuck away to Burlington. I'd made it known to her that I think Burlington may be one of my favorite little cities in the world - yet she'd never been there before. So, for my birthday, she gifted me a weekend up there with her (probably to stop me from saying, "seriously, next time you need to come with me"). I won't go on and on about why I love it (food, friends, views, culture, food); suffice it to say that I'd claimed this was "part one in a seven-part series of why we should move here" to Kenz on our drive up (and throughout the weekend). It may have been better to have her first visit happen sometime other than November (wherein it was 50 degrees and dark by 4pm), but it was a grand trip nonetheless. 

We enjoyed views of Lake Champlain...

...had some outrageously scrumptious meals...

...toured some art studios and stores...

...had more amazing food (MAPLE MILK, Y'ALL)...

...and got to meet up with our friends, Lindsay and Andy.

You may remember that Lindsay and Andy visited Providence last spring (along with Robbie) or that Dom and I saw them in Burlington on our road trip. You may not. Either way, they're as great of friends as they are people - just the type of folk you want around. Part of the motivation behind the trip was to see Andy in the local community theatre's production of Irving Berlin's White Christmas. I mean, honestly: me + theatre + christmas themes + friends = yes, please.

So, while Friday night was mild and Saturday was spent touring the city, Saturday night was pretty freaking awesome as we got to meet up with Lindsay and attend the sold out (2nd to last) performance in the biggest theatre in Burlington. It did not disappoint.


We went out for a drink post show (with the celebrity).

Sunday morning meditation.

Brunch with the Vermonters before heading out of town

Penny Cluse Cafe is a definite must if you're going to brunch in town.

Since it was my birthday trip, Kenz let me avoid the highway on the drive home. One of the things I love most about Vermont is its similarity to east Tennessee in both landscape and road system. We tooled around on little two-lane roads for about an hour before seeing the sign for Middlebury.

Wait a second - since we're going on this road, we'll be passing Garrett's college! 

I rang up my nephew and, luckily, he was available. We took a half-hour pit stop to see his house and show Kenz his school (I'd seen it back in April when watching him play baseball).

Kenz's face accurately reflects the cleanliness of a college apartment (shared by four 22 year-old dudes).


All in all, it was a successful trip. But we were also happy to be back home with the pets...

...even Bruce Bruce was happy to see us again.
The following weekend was our first traditional Rhode Island wedding (which is like any other wedding, but, y'know, more Rhode Islandy). Brian was one of the first friends I made here in Rhode Island; he and Melissa have become fixtures at nearly every local friend gathering we've participated in since moving here. Our new friend collective represented well at the wedding & reception - there were upward of twenty of us crammed on the dance floor, staying late into the night. 



Butch & Katie with the bride & groom.

Kyle, Brian, Melissa, and Cassie

Mazel tov! 

Again, photo booths are fun.
Thanksgiving morning began in standard fashion: 3:30am alarm clock for Tom Turkey to be put in the oven. This year - like last - would see Lisa, Galileo, and Tycho come down from Schutesbury (this time Tycho was out of the womb), Josh, Courtney, and Sawyer come down from Boston, and about thirteen of McKenzie's school friends come in from various parts of RI. 

There was a bit of a first this year: after a series of long and mildly uncomfortable debates, we decided to ask a few guests to bring food with them. Kenz and I had disagreed on, well, memory, I guess, which seems to be a recurring debate - whose memory is more accurate? This time, the question was how stressed are we during the few days leading up to the event, which, surprisingly, was a source of disagreement. I say "surprisingly" because, of course, I'm convinced my memory is fantastic (as it always is and always has been) so to hear, "oh, it's not that bad" threw me. In the end, I won. We made the turkey, stuffing, and desserts. Others brought all the fixins. 

Early mornings make for great sunrises.


Pulling Tom out of the brine.

Tycho!

Galileo!



Big Mom's stuffing balls

Kenz giving the pep talk/blessing pre-meal.

Tie to feast





The next morning, Lisa, the kids, and I strolled on down to the local park for some playtime before they had to head back up to Mass.

The garbage trucks were kind enough to honk at Galileo.

stomping puddles

running through freezing water, unfazed

"rock climbing"

Before long, it was time to put on warm (dry) clothes and load up in the truck for a nap.

The rest of the month was spent devouring leftovers (Kenz had made 6 pies and 1 cheesecake, 2 of which were consumed on the day - the rest consumed by Kenz and I over the course of the following two weeks) and bracing for the end of the semester.

Kyle helped with some leftovers, having his first taste of banoffee pie. 


Garage gym Sundays means New England things such as 4 Subarus parked outside Kyle's house.


Foggy November days

That's a moonrise


Most of December was spent shuttered behind closed doors, either grading student papers (me) or melting acrylic (Kenz). We saw very little of each other, save the odd morning where she woke early enough for me to make her a cup of coffee, but we had the light at the end of the tunnel - our annual 14-hour drive to Tennessee for the holidays.  

PVD holiday decorations at the outdoor movie spot

mornings spent with Bruce Bruce

evenings spent with the barbell club

my home gym's holiday party

the three stooges

Apollo still going strong, eight months after having been given 2-4 months to live

I got to attend Kenz's final critique for the semester. She smashed it.

And then, all of a sudden, it was time to drive. The previous year, it took a miraculous Tetris-style effort to fit everything in the car, so we opted to rent a car much larger than we own this year. As a result, we had enough room in the back to sleep, which was divine considering the fact that we've now chosen to drive overnight to save about two hours of travel time. Driving to Tennessee is arduous, however the anticipation that comes with a long haul such as this is something I have come to love over the past five years. It provides ample time for refection on the previous year and plans for the one coming.

It felt like first class travel. Kenz even complemented me after the trip, saying renting the car was, in fact, a "good idea."

However, driving overnight leaves us in a zombie state the next day.

Most of our time in town was spent the same way it always is: visiting friends and family.

Jack!

Jerry saves his "best" shirts for me.


For Christmas this year, Kara had secretly purchased tickets to The Sound of Music's Broadway touring production that happened to be in Knoxville at the same time as our visit. Not only did Kara and I grow up on the musical, but Kenz, Kara, and I took Jerry to see the movie in the Tennessee Theatre six years ago - it was his first time ever seeing it! It was a great evening - pretty special to be back in the same theatre we'd all been in back in 2009 to see a live version of it.

pre-play-pizza


Gay Street tree

The hills are alive!

Hanging with the Bushmans

Lunch with the Knoxguys

Christmas Eve eve 



Oliver!

Actual Merry Christmas Eve!



Oliver got a new grill

Kenz got heat resistant gloves

and Poppi got a new gun! Merry Tennessee Christmas. 

We got to stay up late with Whitney & Michael to "help" Santa get Oliver's toys ready for the next morning.

He was pleased; Santa brought him a new kitchen. 

It only took ten days for him to get comfortable enough to let me hold him...once.

Christmas Morning with the Ashburns & Sanders


The highlight gift of the year for me; MoMA got it at the deli counter at her local Publix. 



Post-Christmas is always a bit of a drag for me. I get the blues - not because the gifts are finished but because I know our time in Tennessee is drawing to a close. Even if I'm looking forward to being back at my house, cocooned in my obsessively rigid schedule, that doesn't mean I want to leave friends and family.

The good news was that we had a few more days to spend with everyone before heading back out on the road.

Kenz gave her dad tattoos on Christmas night. 

The Bushmans invited us along to their anniversary dinner. Twelve years of marriage - congratulations (and thanks for having us)!


I got to see Nora for the second time; she's changed quite a bit since July! 

Robert & Matthew 

Brian


We went for a walk with the Strutzs. They'd originally planned to return with us but life got in the way. Next time! 



And now we're back in lil Rhody. And there's snow on the ground. And it's dark by 4:30pm. And it's 9 degrees Fahrenheit. Nine. 

I hope you've had a fantastic 2015. I hope your 2016 is even better. Thanks for reading.