Catherine Abegg: Capturing the Real

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Catherine (left) and her daughter, Madeline

I have become a devout follower of my friend, photographer Catherine Abegg’s, blog. I’m taking liberties in calling her my friend. We’ve only met once. I got her name from Heidi Murphy, another very talented photographer with whom I have worked many times and trust completely, who knew her and said she was a fellow user of real film, not to mention terrifically talented. I was headed to Seattle and wanted to do a styled shoot with some friends. Catherine is based there and was available.

The thing about Catherine’s work that I find so irresistible is the way she manages to combine gorgeous images with a predominant feeling of authenticity. In her thousands and thousands of photos — of men and women getting married, kids and parents hanging out, her own family rambling over hill and dale in their van house (they live in a VW van!) — people seem to be themselves and as such are entirely beautiful. Nothing seems staged or styled. Her subjects are short and tall, lumpy and not-so-lumpy. Some of them are hairy; some have terrible haircuts. The kids in her pictures were probably cooperative and un-. But Catherine truly finds the most beautiful light emanating from each and every one of them.  And they seem to be exactly who they are.

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I’m know I am taking that a bit on faith. I don’t know her subjects personally (that is I know only a tiny fraction of them: the loved-ones Catherine shot for me that time in Seattle). But the thing is I believe her images. And it is because of this that I am a student of her work.  I envy her ability to figure out who her subjects are on the inside and capture it so beautifully. In her hands, the camera is not the least bit objective and yet it is entirely frank.

A party, a wedding, a memorial — any kind of event — must not only create a visual impact; it must taste delicious, sound lovely and unfold seamlessly. All the dimensions – timing, lighting, food, drink, music, flow – all the moving parts need to come together AND they must reflect who the hosts are, what the hosts and guests will truly enjoy and find real meaning in.

As an events designer, part of the challenge for me is keeping the balance between what looks beautiful or behaves beautifully, and what matters. I want things to be gorgeous, but I try not to get caught-up in the pursuit of the perfect at the expense of the genuine. I work very, very hard to figure out what the client’s vision is, to understand his or her resources, wishes and personal style, then figure out not only how to execute it, but also how to bring some originality to the event. Above all, it must feel authentic (there’s that word again) to the principals. In order to have that happen, I need to do my thing and then get out of the way. The party, the wedding, the memorial celebration all belong to someone else. It’s all about them, who they are, how they express themselves. I am just the hands and feet that make their vision a reality.

Sounds pretty lofty for a party planner, doesn’t it? I could do it all with less intensity, I guess. But as my step-daughter Molly once so diplomatically said when presented at eight years old with an outfit I had carefully chosen for her, “It’s just not me.”

 

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Mediation in any kind of art is unavoidable. To make art of something is to mediate it. In a way, it’s the whole point. In bringing your tools (camera, hands, imagination) to the task, you are by definition filtering it through your unique brain, passing it through your own point of view. Catherine takes pictures of people and, by the very virtue of positioning the camera as she does or depressing the shutter button when she does, captures what she sees in her subjects, what she instinctually understands about them. When I plan an event, I am also bringing my own point of view to bear. But first I am learning who the client is and what ‘language’ they speak, what is ‘true’ for them. I think Catherine is an expert at this. I obsessively follow her photographs not only because they are a feast for the eyes, but because she seems to very quickly ‘get’ the narratives of the lives of her subjects. And that is truly moving to me.

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I am one of literally thousands who follow Catherine’s work. She is Seattle’s go-to photographer for out-of-the-box weddings and truly lovely family portrait sessions. Her fans and followers on Facebook are legion. Her own personal story is a tale in itself. Pregnant right out of high school (via a co-worker who, it turned out, was married and already a father), she raised her daughter Madeline on her own. Fast forward through a ton of hard work and probably many pretty overwhelming moments, she fell in love with Michael Abegg who became her husband and Madeline’s adoptive dad. Then on November 24, 2015 — 18 years after the birth of her daughter — Catherine gave birth to her second child, a son called Haakan. Oh and they gave up their apartment and moved into their VW van. But I’ll let her tell that part in her own words.

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At the Heart of Kith & Kin

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Danielle Allen & Benner Dana at Root 5 Farm in Fairlee, VT.

Three-generations of the Allen family came to the studio this morning to try their hand at Pysanka egg decorating.  My neighbor Jaci had decided to treat her two delightful (grown-up) children, their charming spouses, and enthusiastic grandchildren, Kai and Tegan, to a morning of color, design and sweet hilarity.

It was a crystal, late March day — cold but with a polished, full-blown-blue sky.  My guests walked in the door, carrying with them the first blush of spring.  Everyone admired my egg tree, the grown-ups helped themselves to mimosas, coffee and fresh raspberry danish from King Arthur, and then we got down to serious pysanka business.

I spent the morning watching this lovely family in motion, quietly sharing, perfectly calibrated. Jaci’s son and daughter-in-law, Tate and Suzie, and their children live in Massachusetts, while Jaci’s daughter and her husband, Danielle Allen and Benner Dana, own Root 5 Farm (formerly Your Farm) — a certified organic farm on 28 acres in Fairlee, Vermont .

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Danielle & Jaci Allen and GORGEOUS vegetables from Root 5 Farm at the Farmers Market

Ben and Danielle are refugees from Hurricane Irene, their previous farm in Burlington, VT having been contaminated and ruined by deposits of silt, chemicals and refuse Irene’s floods dumped onto their fields.  With help from many sources, including the Vermont Community Foundation, Danielle and Ben were able to start again, this time on the other side of the state.

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Pysanka involves using raw eggs, big jars of dye, hot wax and lit candles.  Two and a half year-old Kai could not wait to get his hands on all of it.  Jaci had assured me the plan was for her to entertain Kai while the others focused on playing with color and design, and that 7 year-old Tegan was a very competent little girl. But still. I was nervous. I didn’t want anyone to get hurt.

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Kai, Tegan and Tate learning pysanka.

With the rest of the family bent over their pysanka creations, concentrating on applying swirls and dots of melted wax on the ever-curving surface of eggs, Jaci quietly helped Kai participate in his own way.  Crayons are much easier to handle than a kistka (the tool used to apply the flowing wax to the surface of the egg).  And Jaci, brilliant grandmama that she is, had brought along a dozen hardboiled eggs especially for him.

Of course Kai caught wind of the fact that his eggs were somehow different from the others and wanted none of it.  Without contradicting him directly, Jaci deftly switched out the raw for the hardboiled eggs, just out of his line of sight. She spoke quietly in his ear and maneuvered all kinds of potential disasters out of the way as he wriggled and reached. She helped him have a hands-on experience of his own, while keeping him safe and never once saying “no.”

Indeed, Kai and Jaci were a team. They went for a walk, they came back, they went for another walk… Jaci kept pace with her grandson’s short attention span and never exactly foiled his plans, keeping him entertained and busy while the rest of his family had a couple of hours to focus on their projects. Kai had the opportunity to try and learn new things, and didn’t have to sit any longer than a 2 year-old can reasonably be asked to. It was a little gift Jaci gave to all of them.

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It takes a bit of practice to get the hang of using the kistka.  But once you ‘get’ it, it’s enormously satisfying to use the natural capillary action between shell and flowing wax to achieve the design you’re after.  Dye is applied in layers, with wax applied between each dye bath. The final step is to reheat the surface of the egg to remove all the wax. When the big reveal comes, you get to see how all of your layers have come together. It’s pretty cool.

As they labored over their creations, there was quiet conversation about this and that.  The brothers-in-law discussed approaches to pond building, driveway construction and sliding glass door installation. Tegan asked for help from time to time and her dad was happy to give it.  There is something so sweet about people sharing something new. Kids and grown-ups alike, all on the same plain, figuring out how to make it work.

Kith & Kin is all about celebrating these sorts of connections — between friends (kith) and family (kin), even total strangers.  It’s the whole reason I started Kith & Kin.  The kids got to take home bunny-shaped cookies “to eat after lunch.” Everyone went home with a beautiful Pysanka egg or two.  And I dare say a good time was had by all.

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Your Party: Trumpets, Banjos, Violins!

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Music can make an event. I mean, make it.

I’m talking about live music, played in the moment, by actual people.

I think of a party as being made up of ‘colors’ on a three-dimensional, life-size canvas, or layers in space and time — a visual layer, a sensory layer, a taste layer and the social layer.  Several of these elements you’ll likely begin to think of right out of the box: food, decor and guests. But there’s this whole other hue, this whole other layer that can contribute so much: the sounds, the music of a party.

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The invention of recorded music gave us something marvelous: music on demand. You can plug in your iPhone or MP3 player, or fire up your parents old stereo (dare I say ‘hi-fi’?) on a moment’s notice. You can have digitized music in the car, in the elevator, in the office, in the kitchen, on your run — pretty much anywhere — whenever you want. Which is great.

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But it gave us an over-whelming quantity of choices.

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And it took something out of our lives: the intimacy, the human connection of right-in-front-of-your-eyes, watch the breathing, see the fingering, people-powered music.

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I want to argue for bringing LIVE music back to parties and events. There are so many sources for digitally reproduced music, and it’s so easy to access, very few of us experience music being played in real time by real human beings. This is a shame.

There is no thrill, no hairs-standing-up-on-the-back-of-your-neck feeling like the moment a bow touches a fiddle string, or the first note comes peeling out of a trumpet.

Live music is an instant ice-breaker. Everybody arrives at a party or event feeling a tad self-conscious, a bit on guard.  But you can’t stay stressed-out for long when you literally feel the vibrations that come from a really tight band, string quartet or jazz ensemble. It just carries you off and out of yourself…

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And then, of course, there’s dancing. It’s so good for us. Even if it’s excruciating at first and we look like total dopes, we should all dance. If we all did it, no one would notice how Elaine-esque we look. (But I realize the prospect of figuring out how to get your guests to dance might send you over the edge, so unless you are planning a wedding, we’ll leave that conversation for another time.)

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Here’s the thing, musicians give us a gift like no other. When they play, they lay themselves out before us in all their human vulnerability. They put themselves on the line every time. Being a musician requires intense effort, a singular kind of concentration, and endless hours of practice.  There is risk in the moment –a leap of faith on the part of both musician and audience — and I suspect that that’s part of the thrill for both.

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Musicians must cooperate, literally harmonize with their co-workers in a way that would make any Forbes 500 CEO envious.  It’s a thing of beauty and although your guests may not consciously consider any of this, but they will ‘know’ it in their bones.

Rhythm and melody are as much a part of us as our heartbeats and voices.

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In the olden days, it would have been your neighbors, your siblings and parents, YOU, taking up the fiddle or sitting down at the piano.  Playing music together was a part of everyday life and most households had a fair-to-middlin’ musician or two in the family. There wasn’t much else to do in the evenings except maybe read aloud together (another disappearing pleasure) or whittle and sew. Everybody played and danced and sang together.

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These days too few of us have both the opportunity and the motivation to learn an instrument, or even attend a concert now and then. That makes the inclusion of live music at an event even more special, more spine-tingling.

When you’re thinking about music for your party, don’t be afraid to think out-of-the-box and go big. You might expect a string quartet or a solo guitar at a wedding. But would you expect a brass ensemble?  Or a gospel choir?  How cool would that be??

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Here in New England, many villages still have town bands made up of retired professionals and talented amateurs who get together to play just for the heck of it.  Wouldn’t it be fun for everyone to exit the church after your wedding ceremony to the sound of clarinets, flutes, drums and trombones playing When the Saints Go Marching In?

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You don’t need a wedding, by the way, to get your groove on. A cocktail party accompanied by a jazz ensemble, an anniversary dinner with a violinist wrapping sweet notes around your beloved, a birthday sing-along accompanied by accordion — for Kith & Kin, music is as essential to any kind of successful gathering as good food and wonderful company.

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There are, of course, as many different styles of music as there are kinds of people.  You might want your event to reflect your heritage, for example, or a theme, or match the origins of the cuisine you are serving.  Greek folk music, Indian sitar, Zydeco — anything can be adapted, incorporated.

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Want to have a really successful wedding? Everyone there should feel comfortable getting their groove on. There is nothing worse than having half your guests sitting on the sidelines. Want all your guests young and old to drop their inhibitions at the door and feel the exhilaration of doing the two-step? Try a Cajun band.  Or a bluegrass band. Cowboy music! Get those toes a’ tappin’.

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Big Band, Gospel, Classical — whatever your taste, whatever your tempo — spring for live music at your next party or event. Your guests will be surprised and thrilled.

Tips:

  • As always, hire reliable people, get references. (Very important to get references.)
  • Have a contract, be clear about start and end times, cost, etc.
  • Usually bands or other groups will have someone — a member or an agent — who handles bookings, contracts, payment, etc. Use that contact person for all your negotiations.
  • Ask about how many breaks they take and for how long.
  • What are their needs/expectations, if any, for food and drink to be provided by you? Do they need housing? Are travel and other expenses covered in their fee?
  • Before you sign on the dotted line, listen to the group playing music — not just the songs they will cover as played by others, but they themselves performing. Sometimes there will be sound samples on musicians’ websites (again, ask if these samples are recordings of their group rather than those of other people playing their repertoire), or they may have a video you can see. If they are performing publicly, go listen.
  • Talk about dress code. Especially if it’s a formal occasion where photographs will be taken, suggest a specific attire or color scheme. Your musicians are an integral part of the whole visual effect.

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  • Choose the right group for the kind of music you have in mind.  Many pop tunes can be successfully transcribed, but most won’t transfer well across genres. Don’t expect classically trained string quartets to do justice to Taylor Swift or rock bands to play Pachelbel. It won’t turn out as you are imagining it and it will cause the musicians to sweat unnecessarily.
  • Be prepared to pay a deposit to secure the date, and pay the balance either a week before the party or on the spot (before they begin playing). Tipping is not usually expected, but if you are especially happy with their performance, feel free.
  • If for some reason your event has to be cancelled or postponed, let them know right away.  There is a good chance you will still need to pay them as they will probably have refused other opportunities in order to put yours on their calendars. Most will work with you, however, to find an alternate date.
  • All of these specifics will/should be spelled out in the contract
  • Most important: BOOK EARLY and communicate your needs/expectations.  During wedding season in particular, the best quartets get booked months — sometimes a full year — in advance.  Talk with them about what you would like in terms of specific songs/pieces. If “your” song is not already in their repertoire, they will need time to acquire, arrange and learn it. They may charge you extra for this service. Put all of these details in writing and keep the emails. (Assume nothing.)  This will help prevent bad surprises or disappointment.

Need help in tracking down the perfect group? Or managing all these details? Call Kith & Kin. We’ll help you find the best musicians for your event, take care of all of the details, and see that your wedding/party/event is a huge hit!

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Consider the Easter Egg

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Probably one of the most private things in the world is an egg before it is broken.
― M.F.K. Fisher

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Consider the egg. The architecture: thin layers of calcium and hydrogen carbonate, with palisade columns that allow the egg to ‘breathe.’ The exquisite mathematics of the curve: spherical, oval, elliptical.  The surface: toothy-smooth, shiny, rough, pitted or chalky. Spotted, blotched, uniform. Colors that reflect the sky, the sea, the earth.

To hold the egg in your hand is to experience nature’s true genius. That life can grow safely inside such a fragile structure — protected from the insult of microbes and the assault of the elements, contained, evolving, out of sight, basically secret — is nothing short of astonishing.

There is no door in an egg.  You can’t get invited in. You can only crash in. Or out.

For me, hens’ (and ducks’!) eggs are spring’s canvas. They invite decoration, the application of color — dyes, paint, glitter, decoupage.  The finite size, limited area, the curved surface somehow make it irresistible.

WhiteLoftStudio_pink-000020700031I’ve always been fascinated by the intricate designs of Ukrainian Easter eggs, called pysanka. Long ago, before recorded time, it turns out, someone figured out how to use geometry in the most marvelous way.  The layers of dye force you to think backwards, or inside out, maybe. Each dip into the dye is riskier than the last. The trick is in knowing when to stop. Plus, you are intently making an intricate design on something that could, with one false move, shatter. (Which, if it happens, can teach you all sorts of things about about letting go. Very Zen.)

Stealing directly from Wikipedia here: “A pysanka is a Ukrainian Easter egg, decorated using a wax-resist method. Many other eastern European ethnic groups decorate eggs using wax resistant methods for Easter. The word comes from the verb pysaty, ‘to write,’ as the designs are not painted on, but written with beeswax. 

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“Pysanky are typically made to be given to family members and respected outsiders. To give a pysanka is to give a symbolic gift of life, which is why the egg must remain whole. Furthermore, each of the designs and colors on the pysanka is likely to have a deep, symbolic meaning. Traditionally, the designs are chosen to match the character of the person to whom the pysanka is to be given.

At one time, in a large family, by Maundy Thursday 60 or more eggs would have been completed by the women of the house. (The more daughters a family had, the more pysanky would be produced.) The eggs would then be taken to the church on Easter Sunday to be blessed, after which they were given away. Here is a partial list of how the pysanky would be used:

  • One or two would be given to the priest.
  • Three or four were taken to the cemetery and placed on graves of the family.
  • Ten or fifteen were given to children or godchildren.
  • Ten or twelve were exchanged by the unmarried girls with the eligible men in the community.
  • Several were saved to place in the coffin of loved ones who might die during the year.
  • Several were saved to keep in the home for protection from fire, lightning and storms.
  • Two or three were placed in the mangers of cows and horses to ensure safe calving and colting and a good milk supply for the young.
  • At least one egg was placed beneath the bee hive to insure a good harvest of honey.
  • One was saved for each grazing animal to be taken out to the fields with the shepherds in the spring.
  • Several pysanky were placed in the nests of hens to encourage the laying of eggs.”

This week, Kith & Kin Studio is offering studio time for anyone who wants to play with pysanka or other kinds of egg decorating.  We’ll have all the materials you need to make beautiful Easter eggs.  The charge is $40 per person for two hours.  Kids over 8 years old are welcome.  I can take 6–8 people at a time and the schedule is flexible. I can’t promise that you’ll go home with 60 eggs each, but you will go home with something utterly unique and beautiful.  And you’ll have fun making it.  Send me an email or leave a comment for more details.

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Children

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photo credit: Jessica Ackerman

My nephews turned 18 today.  Twins, they are identical in appearance — both handsome, both 6 feet+ tall with shy smiles and long limbs that seem only loosely attached to their rangy frames — but are each definitely their own person.

Knowing my deep desire for children of my own, my brother and sister-in-law were kind enough to let me barge into the hospital and hang around in the moments just before and after William and Holden’s births. During one of the most intense, focused and private events of their lives, David and Jessica tolerated my intrusion and my boundless joy at the prospect of their boys’ arrival.  I can never thank them enough for this act of profound generosity.

William was the first to make his appearance. The exact sequence of events is lost to me now, but shortly after he emerged, someone — a nurse, I think — handed him to me while the rest of the room turned its attention to ushering Holden into the world. From the folds of his hospital receiving blanket, William, this small person only minutes old, looked into my eyes and gave me the deepest shock of my life: I knew him.  It was the shock of recognition.  I can’t explain it.  It may have been nothing more than the familiarity of his features, the mix of his parents’ unique traits, the bits of my brother and our parents that I saw mingled with those of William’s mother and her family.  But it jolted me to the core. It was unexpected and it took my breath away.

I’d read about the biological magic of infant-mother bonding in the moments just after birth. To tell the truth, I had read a lot of books about childbirth and child rearing. It was somewhat of an obsession in those days. When my nephews were born, I was in my late 30’s and firmly believed that one way or another, I, too, would eventually become a parent. I have wondered since if what I felt at that moment looking into William’s blue eyes was similar to the bonding that happens between mother and child. If so, I think I have idea how powerful and utterly true it must be.

In the end, I was to be no one’s parent. Heartbreak, divorce, inattention and disconnection delivered me, inconceivably, into my early 40’s single and without children of my own. I had operated for a long while under the misapprehension that I had all kinds of time. After all, the media was full of stories of glowing women in their late 40’s and even 50’s giving birth to healthy children. I wrestled with the decision of whether or not to do it on my own. Volumes have been written about the joys and difficulties of single parenthood.  I examined my inventory of life skills, my finances, the practicality of doing a good job as a parent while also holding down a full time job, the fantasy of motherhood balanced against the inevitable realities of managing alone.  I consulted my family and closest friends, some of whom were supportive of the idea and some of whom were decidedly not.

Despite the fact that I was partner- and penniless, the drive to know my own offspring, to meet them and love them, was an irrefutable imperative. I decided to go for it, though I will admit, with plenty of apprehension. I began the process by talking with a few close male friends about being sperm donors. A few said they would consider it. Two said yes and then decided against it. Most said they wanted nothing to do with such a plan. In the end it seemed less complicated to find an anonymous donor. I read through profiles of candidates with a sort of dreadful fascination, looking for perfection and hoping that I would be able to spot the Ted Bundys before I settled on anyone. And I started having fertility tests, just to make sure all systems were go.

I thought I was mishearing the doctor on the afternoon she told me my eggs had expired — that I had a less than 1% chance of conceiving.  She suggested I consider becoming a scout leader or soccer coach instead.

International adoption agencies, too, told me I was not qualified — too old, too single, too broke. I thought they had a point.

I think, all things considered, it worked out for the best.  For my potential kids, anyway. It would have been too much. I would have fucked it up. I couldn’t really afford a child. I would have been exhausted and short-tempered and it would have meant compromising any reasonable standards for what acceptable parenting should look like.  I have battled depression my whole life and who wants to pass that along to another generation? I am lucky enough to have a bevy of godchildren, a step daughter who came into my life when she was six (that’s another story) and more recently a grown step son, the children of my dearest friends, and those amazing nephews of mine — the closest things I will ever have to genetic offspring.

The parents of all these young people have been generous enough to allow me to be a full participant in their children’s lives. I’ve been there for all the milestones. I’ve changed diapers and danced colicky babies across the floor in my arms for hours.  I’ve read thousands of picture books and chapter books aloud. I’ve organized birthday parties and shared crayons and washed sticky hands and pried sharp objects from tiny grips. I have heard the earnest practicing of saxophones and pianos. I have rejoiced over good report cards and commiserated over less than stellar ones. I have worked on table manners, played trucks and dress-up, decorated Christmas cookies, and gotten lumpy-throated at christenings and graduations. And I never lost a good night’s sleep over a vomiting child or worrying that any of them might suddenly stop breathing or crash a car. Really, I’ve gotten the better end of the deal.

There is a special privilege in being a close, non-parent adult in a child’s life.  You get to be there without the stunning pressure of knowing that it is your job to keep them alive. It does not require the constant vigilance that I imagine parenting does. You get to go home when you’ve had enough. You have the space to listen without having to manage your own feelings about being their parent. You don’t have to watch your own failings being replicated, or risk the crushing disappointment if they turn out to be thugs or deadbeats or tell you they hate you, that you did a shitty job raising them.

When you are just the auntie or the godparent, they tell you stuff they might not feel free enough to share with their actual parents.  You and they can talk about anything and everything.  I have tried to be a good listener.  What is your favorite color?  What do you want to be when you grow up? How did your game go? What is your favorite subject?  Do you have a girl/boyfriend? Are you being safe? How is your job going? Do you feel truly ready for marriage? All of it.

Still. I miss my own children. I rehearse their names. I imagine their faces. I still ache to know them, to see what they might do, who they might become.  My nephews, now on the home stretch of high school, carry the tiniest bits of biological me on into the future.  Or the bits, anyway, that I share with my brother, their dad. They are by any measure people to be proud of.  They are straight-A students, National Merit Scholars, co-captains of their ice hockey and baseball teams, and they have been accepted at good colleges. They have great friends, are loved by many and give their parents scarcely a moment of grief.

Most delightful of all, they are honest, sincere young men with good brains (which I hope they will continue to use) and hearts full of kindness and sensitivity that will serve them well.  Eighteen years have flown by. I am still in that delivery room, astonished that you can take a thimbleful of this and a little bit of that, mix them together and come out nine months later with a full-fledged human being — or two human beings, as the case may be.  I could not be more proud of them.

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What is Kith & Kin?

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Surviving is important. Thriving is elegant.

— Maya Angelou

Parties 16. Polka Dot Thrive Cake

Kith and Kin means “friends and family” in Old English.  It seemed like the perfect name for a business that is all about bringing family and friends — be they newly-minted or held dear for years and years — together to share important moments.

I know  what makes a party flow and how to show guests they are appreciated and loved.  Whether it’s an elegant dinner party for two or a full-on bash for two hundred, you can have a gathering that is beautiful, authentic and unique. I would be honored to help you create your event.

Kith & Kin starts at the very beginning. We’ll meet to talk about what you have in mind, your dates, your budget, etc.

Once booked, we’ll map out a ‘backwards calendar’ from the day of our first working meeting through to the day of the event and afterwards, sketching out deadlines for decisions and book-by dates to ensure that you get the venue and vendors you want.

From there, we’ll create a personalized binder to collect colors, images and ideas that will be the jumping off point for your event and be used as a reference throughout the planning process. We’ll gather samples for you to consider. If you have a firm budget, we’ll map out a hierarchy of must-haves. And if you already know what you want, we can jump right into timelines and activities.

I love nothing more than to craft exceptional, unique and memorable occasions, and I look forward to working with you.

Upper Valley Weddings & Events

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Upper Valley wedding venues.

View from Ohana Family Camp, overlooking Lake Fairlee, VT.

Big milestones in life offer opportunities to assess what has real meaning to you.  They are rare moments at which you can ask yourself what really matters to you, what moves you, what has brought you to the place you are now.

Getting married probably ranks in the top 3 of these.  If it’s your first marriage, you most likely feel you have finally reached full-fledged adulthood. You’ve found your life partner, you are ready to commit, to start a life together, and you want to celebrate that rite of passage with your family and dearest friends. You’ll most likely pick a place to have the ceremony that reflects what brings you the most happiness or significance to you — a place that might also double as a good place for your guests to enjoy on their own. Wedding weekends can be a big commitment for all involved. Your guests will devote both time and money to traveling to be there with you, and you’d like to make sure they have a great time visiting and exploring.

If you are getting married in the Upper Valley — the Hanover, NH/Dartmouth College region of Vermont or New Hampshire — but live elsewhere, consider hiring Kith & Kin to help you pull all the details together.  The Hanover, NH–Norwich, VT area is easy to get to from virtually anywhere and makes a perfect place for a destination wedding any time of year.  In the summer, you can find places to hold the ceremony outdoors, with spectacular views of the mountains.  You can create a weekend with outdoor activities like swimming, boating and hiking.  In the fall you can enjoy spectacular foliage and crisp, bright days.  Wintertime offers its own beauty in the hush of  a snowy landscape.  Whatever the season, your wedding weekend can also be your guests’ best vacation ever.

The Upper Valley has been Kith & Kin’s home base for over 30 years. We know all the ins and outs of entertaining here. We’ll help you find a gorgeous venue and be your on-the-ground agent.  We can help you find the best florist, caterer, tent company and everything else you’ll need to create a one-of-a-kind event.  We’ll be on hand to welcome your guests, make sure the accommodations are perfect, and see to it that everything is in place for your big day.  We manage all the logistics and mechanics so that your celebration can begin as soon as you arrive.  All you have to do is show up and enjoy!

If we can help you with your wedding plans — or any event — fill out the Contact Us page and we’ll be in touch.  We look forward to hearing how we can make your Upper Valley event the best ever!

Atlanta

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Just back from Atlanta, Georgia where the weather was nearly as wintery as it is here in Vermont this week.  Staying with friends while I was there, I actually slept in my coat.  It was that cold.

But there was no snow, which made it better than home just now.  And the friends I stayed with gave me the warmest of welcomes, so I can’t complain at all. I spent the days trying out new restaurants and exploring, getting a long overdue fix of southern city life.

One of my happiest finds was Butter & Cream, an independent ice creamery in Decatur, GA.  The lemon custard and salted caramel were dreamy.  And a latte and slice of Fresh Strawberry Galette at The Little Tart Bakeshop, just recently opened at the Krog Street Market, was the perfect breakfast for this non-breakfast eater.

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Studio Parties

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WhiteLoftStudio_eggs-000020730008 WhiteLoftStudio_eggs-000020710030WhiteLoftStudio_eggs-000020710023The K&K Studio is open for hands-on creativity for anyone and everyone. Simple projects, with all the materials included, are offered by announcement or appointment.

We paint, glue and create, just for the joy of it.  Refreshments and snacks are included, and you’ll go home with a project in hand, feeling refreshed and relaxed from having spent time with friends, trying your hand at something new and fun.

Great for a girls’ night out, a bridal shower, birthday parties or a moms-and-kids activity. No experience or artistic ability necessary! The studio is also open to children age 6 and up, by special arrangement.  (Studio time is billed at a flat, per person rate. Snacks and materials are included in the price.)

Birch Bark & Shoe Laces

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SCAN0249Summer camp in Vermont was the most formative experience of my childhood. Each summer for 8 weeks I came fully alive at Aloha Hive and Aloha Camp. Deep, lasting friendships bloomed like wildflowers, and outdoor skills became second nature. I can still build a blazing fire with damp wood, sail a boat in any kind of weather, find my way in the woods without a trail, and paddle a canoe in a perfectly straight line. And now, 40+ years later, I still count those camp friends among my most dear.

Those months at camp were full of tradition and ritual, all closely linked to the woods and fields, rivers and lakes around us. Special occasions popped-up with some regularity and required on-going creativity.

Parties were part of the regular weekly schedule. Campers were in charge of coming up with the theme and figuring out how to execute the activities. We used what we had in our trunks or what we could employ from the wild for decorations and costumes. Pajamas and raincoats were paired with construction paper, birch bark and yarn for inventive outfits. Gifts were fashioned out of bandanas and thread. We learned to improvise with actual shoestrings. Imaginations flourished; resourcefulness and creativity grew exponentially.

Encore Weddings

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Weddings 15. Inside Car

Kith & Kin specializes in encore weddings (marrying not-for-the-first time). We believe that mature couples deserve to celebrate their love just as much as younger ones, but often have a different, more discerning take on what that celebration might include.

Love that comes along later in life is often even more precious and heady than the love that sweeps younger people off their feet.

In many ways, such a love and the wedding that publicly declares  it can be sweeter than the first time around. You’ve lived more of life. You know yourself better.  You’ve loved and lost and loved again, and have emerged with an even greater appreciation of how precious it is to find the right mate. You want your nuptials to reflect that.

There is a certain freedom in being an older bride or groom. Couples are often less tied to having a by-the-book wedding. You probably don’t need gangs of bridesmaids in matching dresses or a team of groomsmen. You can skip the raucous bachelor party, and tossing the bouquet or garter just doesn’t make sense.

Even if you don’t want a lot of frills, you still want a meaningful event – perhaps an elegant wedding with a few rituals that really speak to you or an afternoon picnic by the river. You may have children and stepchildren or even grandchildren to include in the ceremony and want everyone to have a role. Or you may want to have a small, intimate affair followed by a lovely dinner or luncheon at a restaurant with just your nearest and dearest. You know what works for you, what’s important and what’s extraneous.

Kith & Kin can help older couples identify what traditions they want to follow and what elements will make the day unique and exceptional.  Whether you plan to elope to a tropical island or be married by the justice of the peace, we can do the legwork for you. Whatever your picture, Kith & Kin will honor it and help you make it happen.


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