Sunday, May 22, 2016

Yasmin's Quinceañera - January 2016




It had been 18 months since we last saw our compadres in Guatemala. We have visited them at least once a year since 2007, so this span was way too long for our liking. But it was with good reason: at the end of June, Paulina gave birth to their seventh child (and second boy), Ian Ivan.

Our usual July 4th visit would not be possible with a newborn infant taking up the family's energy, so we thought that we might postpone the trip for a couple of months. However when baby Ian was only a month old, he became seriously ill and was hospitalized for 40 days in Guatemala City. He and Paulina stayed at the hospital, three hours' drive away from the rest of the family. Humberto and the older girls held down the fort at home, preparing meals and cleaning and preparing the guest rooms that they rent out.

Obviously this was not a good time to visit, so we postponed our trip until January to coincide with the 3rd eldest daughter Yasmin's quinceañera (15th birthday party - the Latina equivalent of a Sweet 16). Ian is back at home where he belongs, and his health is getting better day by day. We missed the kids terribly, and desperately wanted to meet the newest addition to the family.

Because I am now able to easily work remotely over the internet, we decided to stay longer than usual. We would stay 10 days!

It was a wonderful trip. We are so proud of Yasmin, who has grown into a lovely young lady. It was great to get to spend time with the seven kids, as well as their extended families. Baby Ian is a charmer, with a very happy disposition.

I worked during the weekdays when Aracely and Eddy were in school, and on evenings and weekends we found plenty of time to play with them and help the family prepare for, celebrate, and clean up after Yasmin's party.

Full details and photos are up on our main web site, craigandstephsvacations.com.

AndersonPonty Band at the Cabot in Beverly - 5/20/2016




We had a fantastic time last night seeing AndersonPonty Band from the second row at the Cabot! It was our first time at the venue and it is beautiful. Jon Anderson, Jean-Luc Ponty, and the band were tight, sounded great, and had tremendous energy.

We had seen them from the mezzanine at Berklee back in November. Sitting closer this time was a different experience. We could really see their facial expressions and interplay as they fused jazz and prog rock. When Jon stepped away from the mic during instrumental interludes, we could see his meditational gestures, the fact that his mouth was still moving, either singing, chanting, praying...unable to be heard by the audience but having his own spiritual connection to the music. We could see the loving acknowledgments to his wife Jane, who was present in the first row, cheering him on as always.

Jon mentioned that he and Jane had visited the Peabody Essex Museum and specifically called out the Chinese house. At that point the percussionist banged the gong for effect, causing Jon to burst into giggles.

There was a large screen behind the band, where complex music visualizations spun and pulsed  to the melody and rhythm of the music. Mandalas swirled and morphed into other geometric designs.

Jean-Luc Ponty's violin is a wonderful addition to Jon's music, and the lyrics that Jon has written to accompany Jean-Luc's instrumental pieces seem very natural.

The band seemed to be having a great time, and the audience certainly was as well.

And at the end of the night, Jamie Glaser threw out a couple handfuls of guitar picks. Most of them went to the front row, but I noticed Craig's foot sliding under the seat in front of him to claim one that someone had missed, and he gave it to me. smile emoticon

We took Craig's 80-year-old mother as a Mother's Day present, and she absolutely loved it. In fact, one of her favorite parts was the drum solo. Rock on!

It was a magical night that we won't forget!

Set I:
  1. Intro
  2. One in the Rhythm of Hope
  3. A for Aria
  4. Owner of a Lonely Heart
  5. Listening with Me
  6. Time and a Word / One Love
  7. Infinite Mirage
  8. Soul Eternal
  9. Jig
  10. New New World
Set II:
  1. Revealing Science of God (spoken excerpt)
  2. New Country
  3. Under Heaven's Door
  4. Wonderous Stories
  5. Long Distance Runaround
  6. Renaissance of the Sun
  7. State of Independence
  8. Enigmatic Ocean I and II
  9. And You And I
  10. Violin/Keys duet
  11. Roundabout
  12. Re-Remembering Molecules / Yours is No Disgrace
  13. Soon









video
State of Independence  (excerpt)



























Sunday, January 31, 2016

Three weeks working remotely in Morochos, Ecuador

10/16/15 - 11/7/15


We planned this trip to Ecuador as somewhat of an experiment. Now that our compadres have reliable internet access, I received the go-ahead from my employer to try a working vacation. I would work full time over the internet while visiting the family. A three week trip would only require a single vacation day - the day that we traveled down there. It seemed like this would be the best of both worlds, allowing an extended visit with the family while still being able to fulfill my work obligations. We hoped that it would work out successfully, so that this could become something that we do regularly in the future. Now that Craig is retired because of his MS, we only need to worry about my work schedule. Proving that I could be an effective remote employee could open up new possibilities.

[We have posted our detailed trip log and photos over at our main website, www.craigandstephsvacations.com]


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Anderson Ponty Band at Berklee


Amazing show by the Anderson Ponty Band tonight! Jon Anderson and Jean-Luc Ponty played songs from their collaborative album Better Late Than Never, as well as additional songs from both of their catalogs. The versions were lively and mostly jazzy, though there were touches of reggae, Celtic, and country blues stylings. The arrangements were intricate and tight, and we enjoyed them very much.

We were in the front row center mezzanine at Berklee, so we had a great view of the stage, and of course the acoustics were amazing.

Set I:
  1. One in the Rhythm of Hope
  2. A for Aria
  3. Owner of a Lonely Heart
  4. Listening with Me
  5. Time and a Word / One Love
  6. Infinite Mirage / Soul Eternal
  7. Enigmatic Ocean Parts I & II
  8. I See You Messenger
  9. New New World 
Set II:
  1. New Country
  2. Under Heaven's Door
  3. Wonderous Stories
  4. Long Distance Runaround
  5. Renaissance of the Sun
  6. State of Independence
  7. Jig
  8. And You and I
  9. Roundabout
  10. Soon

Jean-Luc Ponty addressed yesterday's tragedy in his native France, saying that tragedies can happen anywhere...Paris, Boston, NYC...and that music can be very healing. The entire city seemed to be lit up for France tonight. We noticed the Pru and the Garden, as well as many electronic billboards.

We haven't been to many concerts lately, but this one was definitely worth it! Thanks, APB, for a great night of entertainment!


video
Anderson Ponty Band 11/14/15: Infinite Mirage (clip)










Sunday, September 20, 2015

A Day Volunteering with Habitat for Humanity North Shore



Volunteering at First Street Ipswich
On August 26, I got to take a break in the middle of the work week to volunteer at Habitat for Humanity North Shore's First Street Build in Ipswich.  My company is sponsoring the project, which means that employees can sign up to volunteer during work time. Craig and I have a special place in our hearts for Habitat, as our compadres in Guatemala live in a home that was built for them by the organization. When I heard about the company-sponsored build, I was excited for the opportunity to give back to this amazing program in my own small way.

Habitat is renovating a duplex which was originally built as housing for Ipswich mill employees during the 1890's. Don Preston, the President of Habitat North Shore, welcomed us to build site and told us a little bit about the history of the program. He told us that they had already selected two families to live in this duplex. They will get a 0% loan from Habitat to purchase them as condos, and they also put sweat equity into the construction.

Don explained that they were in the demo phase, and they got us suited up with hardhats, safety glasses, masks, and gloves. There were around 11 of us volunteering from work, as well as Don and two retired gentlemen who volunteer frequently.

Prying up the tiles and subfloor in the second story bathroom
(photo courtesy of Don Preston)
Don set us up into two teams - interior and exterior, The exterior folks ripped off the front porch and aluminum siding. The interior folks pried up floors. I was on the interior team, and Jim supervised us. I really enjoyed working with him. It was so hot and humid! Even though it was a bit stuffy in the house, I was at least glad that I wasn't outside working in the direct sun.

We pried up old tiles in the second floor bathroom, removed some nails (given the age of the house, some of the nails were very old-school: square with no real nailheads.) It felt  like I was on This Old House, which I used to watch religiously with my dad when I was a kid. Once the bathroom floor was removed, we nailed down some temporary plywood over holes in the subfloor for safety.

Prying up MDF and hardwood in the downstairs kitchen with Jim (center)
(photo courtesy of Don Preston)
When we were done with that, we headed downstairs to work on removing a layer of MDF and a layer of hardwood on the kitchen floor. This was really tough, as any attempt to pry up a large section would result in a very small chunk of MDF splintering off, leaving the rest intact. After half an hour of Jim and myself making futile attempts with prybars and hammers, Jim suggested using the Skillsaw to score the floor, and then pry it up in strips. A couple of the other guys joined us to help with the sawing and prying. My job was to extract nails to leave the floor clear for the saw, and there were a lot of them!

We managed to get the entire kitchen floor removed just before quitting time. The large dumpster, nearly empty when we arrived in the morning, was now full to the brim!

Volunteers from my workplace after a long, hot, and satisfying day of demolition
(photo courtesy of Don Preston)
Don (center) oversees the rehanging of the sign
It was really a great experience. Thanks to the Habitat folks who mentored us (Don and Jim) and thanks to my company for sponsoring that day's build and allowing about a dozen employees to participate!

While cleaning around the house this weekend, we found a lot of ceramic tiles left over from our last renovation. We will be donating them to Habitat North Shore, and Don says they may even be used for the very same bathroom where I pried up the old floor!

The exterior of the house after our day of work