Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Miracle

I know a lot of you were following our trials and tribulations in our efforts to get to Coeur d'Alene for the Holidays. Well we finally made it and on Christmas Eve to boot.

It all started on Saturday morning. I took my wife to the airport that morning as she was scheduled to go out on Friday but changed her flight to Saturday due to the first of three blizzards to hit the Northwest. Her flight got out and she landed safely in Spokane that afternoon. She was able to have the shuttle take her to the house in the midst of a major storm. My flight was later that morning but I had the flight time entered into my IPhone incorrectly and when I got to the airport with my two little girls the plane had already departed!!! No more flights on Saturday. I called my wife and needless to say she was not too happy.

I immediately got on the phone with American Express and they found me a flight the next morning at 11am from Phoenix to Spokane via Portland. Well we got to the airport at 9am - wasn't going to miss this flight!!!! We get to the checkin counter and immediately we are told the flight has been delayed from 11am to 4pm due to the bad weather. Well I was following the weather in Portland and it sounded like we would be able to fly in but then be trapped there until Sunday. Fortunately, the flight was cancelled by 3pm from Phoenix so more tickets were now necessary.

I called the wife, to tell her our new flight had been cancelled and to start looking for flights for Monday. She called me back and had booked us flights for Monday morning to Spokane via Salt Lake City. By this time my oldest daughter had flown in Sunday morning and my mother-in-law flew in at midnight but neither could get out of the Spokane Airport due to the road conditions and the newest storm so I was able to get them checked into a hotel by the airport.

Well Monday morning came and I checked all of the flights and we were a go. Got the girls up, bathed, dressed and off to the airport. We left the house at 6:30am with all of our luggage and our spirits up as it appeared we had green lights all the way to Spokane. We got to the airport and everything was on-time!!!! We boarded our flight to Salt Lake and we were airborne. Landed in Salt Lake and our connecting flight was on time and would be departing in 90 minutes. We were very excited as it looked like we were finally going to make it. My wife, was on the way to the Spokane Airport to pick up her mother and my oldest daughter and then pick us up. Well we grabbed a little lunch and then we heard the news....our flight to Spokane had been cancelled. Well I called my wife and told her the news and called my office whom proceeded to try and find us other flights to Spokane or back to Phoenix. Well the soonest flight to Spokane from Salt Lake was on Sunday again but we could get a flight back to Phoenix in a couple hours so we booked it and headed home. We made it, our bags did not.....

Well while in the air my wife found us three tickets on a direct flight from Phoenix to Spokane. So Tuesday we hung out and made calls, ran errands we were unable to finish before we left, and I took care of my two little monkeys. That evening one of my project managers, Braden Santarcangelo, met with one of my clients and told him of our situation. I received a call Tuesday night from this client, who will remain nameless, offering to take us to Spokane on his Citation 3 on Christmas Eve. I told him we had flights booked for Christmas day but that we really appreciated the offer. Well he insisted and told us to be at the Scottsdale Airport 2 pm sharp - wheels up!

Normally, one would have been very excited but I knew there was another blizzard scheduled to hit on Christmas Eve and I told him this. He didn't seem to be too concerned seeing he was from Ohio and had plenty of snow flying experience. So I got the girls to bed and we prepared for flying the next day.

Christmas Eve arrived and we started our preparations for the flight. I called Southwest in search of our bags but they were no where to be found in the system. My client and friend, Patrick Murphy, offered to take us to the airport and we made our way there. We loaded up and by 2 pm we were up in the air on our way to Spokane. Flying private is such a treat, no ticket counters, no security, no one else on the plane - talk about getting spoiled. My girls loved it. Bella worked on the laptop and Sophia fell asleep.

Two and half hours and we were on our approach to Spokane when the radio tower broke the silence and announced that the Spokane runways were closed down due to blizzard number three. My client, who was flying the plane with a copilot buddy, turned to me and said, "Wow, you really are jinxed on this trip!" The tower came back on and said if you can circle for 45 minutes we should be able to get a runway cleared for you to land. So that is what we did - circle, circle, circle. I tried calling my wife from the plane phone but couldn't reach her. I left her a message that the runway was closed but they were going to try and get us in. Her and her mom and dad were waiting at the executive terminal in Spokane praying we would make it. Finally the tower said, "we have a small window open. Make your approach but make it fast."

Down we headed, no visibility, bouncing around. The girls were calm and I was silently praying we would make it. The two pilots seemed calm and focused and down we came through the whiteness. Finally you could see the ground and then the lights of the runway just barely through the blowing snow. Down they came and then touchdown! It was really an amazing experience and one I will never forget.

The runways were buried and it was actually more of an adventure getting from the runway to the terminal. We never made it and had to stop short and basically carried everyone out and to the terminal in the blowing snow. Trust me Mom and Grandma were happy to see the three of us. Well at least they were happy to see the two little girls!

Thank you again to my client and friend who got us up there. It was an amazing experience and one I will never forget. it just shows how generous and kind some people really are. The two pilots flew home to Scottsdale that night and called to let us know they made it safely home. It was truly a Christmas Miracle.

The video of our landing is located on the side of this blog. Enjoy.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Closing out 2008

Well this year is finally winding down. What a crazy year......

As I look back at my posts from the summer to where we are now it has only been six months but it feels like we have gone through six years. From oil at $150 a barrel and $4.25 a gallon gas to $35 a barrel and $1.45 a gallon gas.....funny how the math doesn't quite equal out??? A new President, a new direction, not one but two or is it three bailouts...still waiting for mine. Actually, I think I will be responsible for paying for the bailout come April 15th!!! These are definitely crazy times, yet this year was a better year for Candelaria Design than 2007 so who really knows. One thing I do know is really no one does know. From the stucco subcontractor, the Thomas delivery guy to my most wealthiest and astute clients - everyone has been hit by this market and no one has a clue as to where thing are going - NO ONE.

I have learned through the last year what is important though and as I said earlier in the year it is just like sports - the fundamental values will always carry you through. Hard work, working smart, taking care of your friends and neighbors, and appreciating the simple things in life - the real things. I am glad to see people looking at the homes as places to live, and enjoy their families rather than investments and packaged flips. I definitely see my clients and friends thinking of ways to conserve and save and be conscientious of what and how they are spending their money. I see my employees really valuing their jobs and clients and putting forth the extra effort. I see our consultants, vendors, and referrals appreciating our business and giving us better service. So although there is a lot of pain we are all feeling, we are seeing a lot of great things coming out of this and the groundwork being laid for the next cycle.

Hopefully, we all remember these times when the good times return and we keep our values in the right place. I firmly believe that helping others, going the extra mile now, and playing for the marathon and not the sprint will pay big dividends in the future. We have some amazing projects underway and I am very thankful for the wonderful clients, contractors, consultants, subcontractors and most importantly my employees and my family who all make what we do possible. A 40 hour week is unheard of even in this economy. I think we are all working 50-60 hour weeks and darn glad to be doing so! I love designing homes and working hard with a team that is so excited about what we all do and really putting their heart and soul into it. It is rewarding and I know we are creating something that is real and of value.

So I leave 2008 with a lot of memories and lessons learned. I look forward to 2009 knowing where my focus is and spending quality time with my family, friends, associates, and clients. Thanks to all of you for making my life very interesting and fulfilling.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Scottsdale Charro Ride 2008


Well I completed another Scottsdale Charro Ride. Number three for me and each one gets better. This year it was in the Superstition Mountains. 130+ guys of all ages riding for four days and three nights through the wilderness. Everything from riders with 44 rides under their belt to rookies just going for their first time. It is a great trip and a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the beauty of this amazing state we live in and reflect of all the good things in life.

The Scottsdale Charros are a group of men committed to education and supporting various causes having to do with teaching, scholarships, etc. I’ve included their website so you can read more. They sponsor the Spring Training games each season for the San Francisco Giants at Scottsdale Municipal Stadium. The members consist of everything from dentists, stockbrokers, bankers, contractors, florists, and even cowboys! I am a guest of long time member John Schultz of Schultz Development who has built a number of our homes over the years. I believe this was John’s 12th ride and he was the Trail Boss this year meaning he had to scout the trails for the ride and put it all together. John in my opinion is a real cowboy – the guy can ride and he is big enough that you don’t want to mess with him. It is a real honor to go the last three years.

Over the course of the last three years I have been around these guys when times were great and now when times are lean. And although we all are going through our own unique tribulations the spirit was the same – all a bunch of guys trying to scrape out an existence and do what is right for themselves, their families, and the community. Yes the gambling was down a bit from the good years but the laughter, jokes, and smiles were the same. No one is feeling sorry for themselves and everyone was positive and exploring new ways to market and capture the opportunities out there. That is what makes America great in my opinion.

It is amazing the thoughts that go through your mind when the cell phones and emails are turned off and you are just riding a horse through the quaking aspens or under the shadow of a 500 year old saguaro. You realize what is really important to you – your family, your wife, your employees, your friends, your clients, your home…..the simple things. I don’t think this slow down is all bad – trust me being on this four day ride really showed me that everyone is now seeing what is really important to them and how good we really have it.

See y'all later!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fall is Here

Fall is fully upon us now. Halloween is a few days away and the elections are right after that followed by Thanksgiving and then well you all know where this is leading. 2008 is rapidly coming to its final chapters. As I wrote just a few months ago during the Olympics this is the year of great changes…..well I was right and we still have two months to go.

When I reflected on the year last time a barrel of oil was $148 a barrel now its back down to $64 a barrel. Funny how it hasn’t dropped that quickly at the pump. It sure seemed to keep up when the price of oil was going up. Since the Olympics the world has apparently gone into a slow down. Those Olympics must of worn us all down. They were amazing after all! Credit remains frozen, unemployment has risen, everyone traded in their leased SUVs or quit driving to work because they don’t have jobs and now the price of oil is down to $64 a barrel again. This all in a matter of three months. Ok so where does that leave us three months from now????

Obviously we will have a new President elected in three months. I can definitely predict that… or will hanging chads keep that from happening again?….I sure hope not. Whoever wins let’s just get this over with and move forward. Whatever party you are for, the winner will take credit for whatever happens positively and will blame Bush for anything that happens negatively. So we can’t lose either way….at least that is what I am trying to convince myself.

Oil, commodities, interest rates, stock prices….. who knows? My most savvy clients who invest millions (probably billions) don’t know which way is up right now. I’ve never seen markets this confusing. However, I am seeing a number of clients buying real estate or starting construction now – in the midst of the turmoil – and you know theses are the same people I saw step forward after the S&L and bubbles of the 80’s and 90’s and ended up being on the right side of the cycle. Land prices have fallen and there are great opportunities again. Commodity prices and labor are falling and so construction costs are finally falling – it’s like oil it just takes time to see it at the pump. The stock market – never could figure that one out. I know my 401k is now a 40k or something to that effect, but I keep putting more in every two weeks so they tell me I am dollar cost averaging. My average just seems to be lower with every quarterly statement! Retirement is no where in my immediate future anyway so I guess I am ok.

2008 has been a year we will all remember – or will do our best to just forget. I always like even numbered years better so I am not sure what that means for me. 2008 has been a better year for Candelaria Design than 2007 and we have definitely been seeing things pick up since June. As architects, we seem to be the first to see things slow down and the first to see them come back so I hope that holds true moving into 2009 – uhg an odd year.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Italy 2008 - Day 5 Panto Island Party / Venice

Our final day in Italy was fantastic. Today we took a private boat to Panto Island - no tattoo and Ricardo Montalban weren't waiting for us - but a wonderful feast, and the delightful Panto family was.

The Panto Island is located about 4 miles east of Venice and is a private island owned by the Panto Family. The island is now a family compound and is absolutely beautiful. Giorgio Panto who started the company died in a tragic helicopter crash just off this island in November 2006. I was fortunate to meet him on several occasions including just two weeks before the accident when he and Simon stopped by my office for a visit and a cappuccino. He was an interesting gentleman having started several media stations in Italy, started a political party, and of course owned and operated the Panto window and door company. He is survived by his two sons and daughter. One of his sons and daughter hosted our party - they were very gracious and most delightful.

Our afternoon on Panto island started of course with a Bellini served on the patio. Meanwhile the food was all being prepared with the main course being freshly caught derado from the nearby Adriatic Sea cooked in encrusted sea salt over a hot charcoal grille. Of course for starting courses we enjoyed a lobster/potato salad, polenta, deep fried langostinos, and just a few thick grilled t-bones. The fish was amazing - moist with a salty, crisp crust. Fantastic!

Dinner was capped off with a wonderful dedication by the youngest son to his father - there was not a dry eye in the house. Their passion, and love for their father and all he had built and created were celebrated. The business, besides a great product, was about the relationships that had been created through the years. We were all part of the Panto family and they made you feel this way. With the dedication complete the son hopped on the private helicopter and flew away just as his father had done so tragically just two years ago. What drama - totally Italian! But what a day - very relaxing and most memorable.

After a few glasses of wine, a challenging game of foosball, and a group photo we were off to Venice for the remainder of the day. It was a great trip and I cannot thank Simon and my friends at Panto enough for this wonderful trip.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Italy 2008 - Day 4 Palladian Villas - Asolo, Italy

Italy Day 4 was one of my favorites - the tour of two beautiful Andrea Palladio villas north of Venice, the famous Carlo Scarpa Brion Cemetery in San Vito d'Altivol, and finally a relaxing afternoon in Asolo, Italy.

We started at the Villa Emo. Villa Emo, located in the village of Fanzolo di Vedelago, was built in the period 1559-65. The central residential space features four columns (two of them engaged) in the manner of a Greek temple front. barchesse (farm buildings) The building extends symmetrically from the left and right of the central structure, with the ends of the barchesse surmounted by dovecotes. The result is the famous 5-part profile familiar in later Palladio-inspired architecture, including the U. S. Capitol building (with the Houses of Congress replacing the dovecotes!). This is a beautiful villa and like all of the Palladian villas I have seen they are picturesquely set and provide order and symmetry to the landscape. The frescos by Giovanni Battista Zelotti inside the central space are spectacular and are in excellent condition. We had a private guide, which in Italy is the best way to see any site or town, and she gave us a very detailed explanation of all the rooms, gardens and frescos. It is simply fascinating the time and attention to detail these architects and artisans put into these projects.

The next Palladian villa we toured was the Villa Barbaro located in the village of Maser adjacent to the famous hilltown of Asolo. The villa was built for Daniele Barbaro, Patriarch of Aquileia, and his brother Marc'antonio Barbaro, an ambassador of the Venetian Republic. Construction began in (prob.) 1549 and was substantially completed by 1558. The central residential space is erected on the remains of a medieval castle or manor house. Its facade features four engaged Ionic columns adapted from the Temple of Fortuna Virilis in Rome. As at nearby Villa Emo, barchesse (farm buildings) extend symmetrically from the left and right of the central structure. The ends of the barchesse are surmounted by dovecotes, each with a large sundial on the facade. The interior of the central residence is highlighted by magnificent frescos executed between 1560 and 1562 principally by Paolo Veronese. Set in the hillside at the rear of the central residence is a spectacular spring-fed statuary grotto known as a nymphaeum.

The villa first descended through female lines in the same family until 1838. In 1934 the villa was acquired by Giuseppe Volpi di Misurata, who began the restoration that has returned to villa to its present condition. Today his granddaughter resides at the villa with her family. As in most things in Italy the family lineage and passion for maintaining their history, architecture and culture are first and foremost. These homes are part of their soul not investments. They become great investments later only because of the love and passion for these works of art.

We then took a break and headed to our best lunch on the trip in the hill town of Asolo, Italy - Ristorante de Gerry. This is a wonderful place up on a second floor with great views of the surrounding countryside from both the restaurant and the adjoining roof garden. We started with some fried mozzarella balls and sausage balls followed by a roast chicken salad and stuffed and fried zucchini flowers then roast pork and rosemary roasted potatoes all capped off with a fabulous apple tart with a zabaglione sauce. Of course a few glasses of prosecco and some red wine with the roast pork all capped by a cappuccino make for a wonderful lunch.

We then ventured to the famous Carlos Scarpa Brion - Vega Cemetery in San Vito d'Altivole, Italy. With the Brion Cemetery, Scarpa made his impact with an unreserved commitment ot the modern movement and a new sureness of language. He re-created here the splendor of nineteenth-century Middle Europe, where beauty had the power to redeem man from his limitations. He avoided the narrow dictates of rationalism, choosing rather to stress inner depth, dreams, and nostalgia. Carlos Scarpa said about the Tomb, "The place for the dead is a garden....I wanted to show some ways in which you could approach death in a social and civic way; and further what meaning there was in death, in the ephemerality of life—other than these shoe-boxes." Even if you do not appreciate or enjoy contemporary architecture this is a very unique and definitely spiritual space.

We next boarded the bus back for the village of Asolo in the foothills of the Alps. Known as the "Town of a Hundred Horizons" because of its panoramic views, this nub of a medieval hill town (though it was founded during the twilight of Imperial Rome) has become the secret hideaway for true Veneto aficionados. After walking through town we ventured to one of Heather and my favorite spots the famous Hotel Villa Cipriani in Asolo. Immersed in a private garden of pomegranate trees and fragrant seasonal flowers, Hotel Villa Cipriani is surrounded by the views that inspired Titian and Giorgione. Once the home of the famous poet Robert Browning, the hotel offers guests 31 rooms splendidly fitted with lovely antiques and exposed ornated beams. Recent guest have included Kim Bassinger and Rolling Stones rocker, Keith Richards. There is nothing nicer than sitting on the terrace with a peach bellini and chatting with friends while watching the sun set over the hills. It is magical and most memorable.

The day ended at a local pizzeria - a crusty coal fired capricciosa pizza. It's usually the richest pizza offered, and every pizzaiolo makes it differently. This is based on the Pizzaria Giancarlo, outside Florence's Porta San Frediano and includes ham, artichoke hearts, mozzarella, and of course tomato sauce - then you add whatever else you have taking up space in the refrigerator. Add a cold Birra Moretti and you just had a great day in Italy.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Italy 2008 - Day 3 Panto Factory/Treviso

Italy 2008 - Day 3 was the whole point of this trip - the tour of the Panto Window factory. I was on this factory tour four years ago and I have to say the second tour was as informative and inspiring as the first. What pride - what craftsmanship - what passion about a product. Panto has it all - not to mention a factory the floor you could eat pasta off of!!!

From the glass to the teak wood frames to the custom finishing it all is a painstaking process that is constantly being refined and perfected. From spraying the varnish on in an argon gas chamber because the argon molecules are smaller than oxygen molecules and it allows the varnish to penetrate to wood easier and deeper. Their windows come with a 30 year warranty, and trust me - you can see why.

We were given the tour by Walter who runs the operations - and later in the week is our fish griller. The tour lasted about two and a half hours and where we concluded at the factory showroom. Their multislide units and their tilt and turn windows and doors are simply works of art - but extremely functional. We have two houses now in Arizona with Panto windows and they have held up beautifully in the harsh, Arizona climate.

Of course after a strenuous factory tour you need a hearty lunch. We ventured to a wonderful country restaurant where we had the best gnocchi on the trip. It was chewy and with a little pepperoncini it hit the spot. Add a cold beer and a couple additional courses which will remain nameless and you have a great lunch.

Then it was off to a quick tour of Treviso - the town just north of Venice. This town is very charming as it too has a series of streams and canals through the town only they are running with fresh mountain water and loaded with some of the largest trouts I've ever seen. My associate, Craig Stoffel, who loves to fly fish would be in heaven. The town was badly destroyed in WWII but has been nicely restored. It is amazing to think that just 55 years ago this place was like Iraq.

We closed the night off with more gnocchi with a duck ragu, and roast beef that was fantastic, and the best tiramisu of the trip - it was amazing. Another 2-1/2 hour meal and it was back to the hotel to get rested for the next day.