Finishing out 2015

Another year has come and gone, and what do I have to show for it?  Nothing.  Oh, wait.  Well, I did get married.  But other than my wife, what do I have to show for it?  Ok... I guess I have to include two new kids.  But other than Alison, Maddy and Noah, what do I have to show for it?  Oh, yeah! Two new dogs and a cat.  But other than Alison, Maddy, Noah, Bear, Oreo and Dobie, what ....   Ok, right, Will graduated from RPI and is launched.  But other than Alison, Maddy, Noah, Bear, Oreo and Dobie, and Will on his way to adulthood... mmmm... and Brie getting accepted into Grad School at DIT... and OK, if you want to also count many cross-country trips, Ireland, New Mexico, Indianapolis, LA, San Diego, Aruba, Orlando, Portland, and Walla Walla, I think we can all agree that it was, all in all ... a pretty exciting year!  A year of transitions... or, more accurately, a year of starting new chapters.  While the dogs and the cat have settled in, the rest of it still is an exciting work in progress with a many, many blank pages waiting to be filled.

But to finish out 2015, here are some additional events from the last few months (in no particular order):

Alison and I travelled up to RPI in mid-December to help Will move out of his apartment and to take him (and his friend Willing) out to Angelo's 667 Prime to celebrate his graduation.  Angelo's is Alison's favorite steak house because of the Cookie Cart dessert ... which she liked enough that I actually bought one of the miniature metal shopping carts that the cookies came in to use as a decorative container in the kitchen.  And now we have to add the Tater Tots as another favorite, pictured below. 

It's the end of an era; between Brie and Will, I've had a child at RPI since August of 2009, almost seven years.  Pretty sure, though, that the Cookie Cart and Tater Tots (plus RPI being my and Jeff's alma mater) will beckon us back on occasion!
Alison and I also started a new culinary adventure with a food delivery service called "The Purple Carrot."  It sends pre-packaged, totally fresh ingredients (down to tiny packets of spices with the exact amount you need) for creating three vegan meals a week(that's ultra-vegetarian, you can't use anything that even comes from an animal, like milk, cheese, eggs, honey, etc).  Mark Bittman, author of How to Cook Everything, beloved New York Times columnist, and a leading advocate for part-time vegan eating is behind it - plus he was a favorite source of recipes for Jeff.  Here's a happy Alison with one of the meals:
And then, of course, there were the antics of the pets. Dobie, in particular, is a cat with more personality than most people.  Below, he found my (dirty) sock that he decided was his most favorite plaything.  It migrated to different spots of the house over the next couple of weeks.  One of his new hiding places is under the bureau, from which he sneakily pounces on your leg when you walk by.  Which works well except when his tail is sticking out.
The dogs are a joy as well, even Bear in the aftermath of the infamous "escape from Alcatraz into the swamp" episode.  We left him at the house for the first time to go to dinner and a show in Boston; with the new fence installed, he could go outside and we didn't have to worry about him running off.  Except that as soon as the dog sitter let him into the yard, he ran up to the gate, hit the handle with his paw, opened it and ran out into the swamp.  That was fun - you can see a very dirty dog getting a bath plus other animal pics below:
December also saw a visit from Alison's friend Elizabeth, who was actually out from LA primarily to see my friend Rick Morris; we are delighted (and a bit smug) to say that introduced the two at our wedding and they are now dating!  We took the opportunity to finish the Freedom Trail walk that Alison and I had started last year (the piece that goes by the Constitution -- the ship, not the document! -- and the Bunker Hill monument).  We also had dinner both at Rick's house and at J's at Nashoba Valley Winery.  
There was the yearly memorial get-together to remember Kate, which Brie could not attend because she was in Ireland.  I met Will at RPI and we went to Angelo's.  A ying-yang thing with Alison, who had flown out to LA a month earlier to visit Jeff's grave on the anniversary of his death. 
Heading into 2016, Alison, Janu and I helped Will pick out a Boston apartment at a new luxury tower in the Seaport area, code named Watermark Seaport (pictured below).  It was so new that it was still under construction when we toured it, hence the stylish hard hats and yellow vests.  The angle on this photo is not sufficient to see the Federal Reserve Building, where I work, but I can literally look in this window from my desk on the 15th floor (although this is not the loft-style room Will decided to get, which is on the side facing the harbor so he's safe from Dad's prying eyes).  Will is starting his job with Tallan Consulting at the end of January and his apartment is about a 10 minute walk from work... as opposed to my 1 1/2 hour commute.  Hmmm....
Thanksgiving was GINORMOUS, with cousins and friends and kids and friends of kids and dogs and cats and a few strangers that wandered in from the street, I think.
At Thanksgiving, I also had the opportunity to take Noah and his girlfriend Alicia shooting!  Below, they are firing the S&W 460 Magnum, Glock 34 (a 9mm), and S&W Model 41 target pistol (.22).  It was a bit cold, but everyone had fun.  I think Alicia was shooting for (pun intended) a role in the next "Dirty Harry" film. 
We also went to see the Mystic Choral's show, A South African Journey, at Converse Hall in the Tremont Temple, right across from the Boston Commons.  Our friend Cathy Haines was one of the chorus members.  It was a great show!  This was while Noah, Alicia and Maddy were in town so we all went out to dinner with Cathy, her husband Eric and their sons Ryan and Evan afterwards.
Alison and I celebrated our first Hannukah together, lighting the menorah and saying the sacred words in English since I'm not proficient in Hebrew.

Interestingly enough, the story of Hanukkah is preserved in the books of the First and Second Maccabees. Both books are included in the Old Testament used by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, since those churches consider the books deuterocanonical. They are not included in the Old Testament books in most Protestant Bibles, since most Protestants consider the books apocryphal.  The Jewish holy scriptures are the Torah (aka the "Hebrew Bible"), which overlaps the Old Testament, being composed of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

I found all that interesting just because I had forgetten that Judaism and Christianity share the same roots.
Brie came back for Ireland during winter break; below, the three of us living together again and probably for the last time as a collocated family unit, as Will will be in his new apartment by the time Brie is back
Then there was the Cali Christmas trip.  We flew out on Dec. 22nd and spent a day with Bill and Janet, then drove south to meet Alison, Noah and Maddy in San Marcos, spending Christmas Eve with Alison's folks, Paul and Carol, and her brother Brad and his wife Huidi (who we are meeting in Jamaica this coming April!). 
I stayed overnight, then Alison, Noah, Maddy and I all moved on to Bill and Janet's for Christmas Day with my and Kate's side of the family ... although there are a couple of shots from Paco's Tacos (including Lisa wearing the Birthday Hat since her birthday is on Christams) from earlier in the week thrown in: 

The air in LA was as clear as I've ever seen it, making for spectacular views on walks and on the flight back. Below is a shot from the bluff near Bill and Janet' houses, and a couple of shots out the window of the American Airlines flight back to Boston
While Brie (who headed to Ireland on the 30th),Will (who wanted to see Janu during her winter break) and I (who had been burning vacation days like there was no tomorrow) were forced to return to the frigid (ok, technically it was warmer than LA, but in principle at least) East Cost on Dec. 27th, Alison, Noah and Maddy joined the Stern clan in Sedona, Arizona
Below is Brie's going away dinner on Dec. 29th; I took her and Diana to Le Lyonnais in Acton.  Brie has another semester to go in Ireland to get the equivalent of a Bachelor' Degree in Computer Science, then she will do a dissertation to get her Master's Degree --work we hope can be completed while stateside!  In the meantime, Diana has landed a job in Boston with a consulting firm.   So next time?  They get to take me out to dinner!
And a final shot for 2015, Will and Janu heading to Boston for New Year's Eve.  Plus shots of Dobie Fails at hiding.  Just because. 
Where's Dobie?