Daily Archives: July 5, 2017

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Aerial Adventures

Stand at the bottom of the Eagle Bahn Gondola in Lionshead and gaze upwards. You can’t see it, but perched at the top of the mountain is a world of adventure, just waiting to be explored. Known as Epic Discovery, the mountain coaster, rope courses, climbing wall, bungee trampoline and other activities give guests an opportunity to climb, bounce and race around at 10,000-feet above sea level.

Epic Discovery debuted at Vail in 2016 with the idea of creating a cohesive experience for thrill seekers and knowledge seekers alike, all on top of the mountain, which appeals to vista seekers, too. The idea of educating while entertaining seems to be one of the main focuses, with interpretive guides and informative signage incorporated in the experience.

“Visiting Epic Discovery at the top of Vail Mountain has become a must-do when in Vail,” says Maggie Meisinger, senior specialist of communications for Vail Mountain. “It is no longer a scenic ride for our guests and a chance to take in the views, but rather a planned full day of activities and learning.” Several new elements were introduced last summer. However, the element that gives the most expansive — and exciting — perspective are the ziplines. The highlight is the Game Creek Zipline Tour, a system of ziplines and aerial bridges that elevates guests 300 feet in the air. Hold on to your socks: It doesn’t stop there.

The Game Creek Zipline is one of the most scenic zipline experiences in Colorado, says Meisinger. The tour lasts between three and four hours, during which participants navigate their way through seven ziplines and aerial bridges that create almost two miles of ziplining fun.

“It’s probably one of the coolest things I’ve done in the summer,” said Atlanta resident Rachel Travis. “What makes it unique is that ziplines are typically a ‘one-and-done’ type of thing… but this one has seven different lines around Game Creek Bowl.” The third zip made an impression on Travis. She said being suspended 300 feet above Game Creek Bowl was truly special: “It’s a perspective you’d never get, even if you were skiing.” But the experience is not limited to just ziplines. The course also includes aerial bridges and several towers that require rappelling to reach the next ledge or line.

Leading you through this airborne adventure are experienced guides. Travis said that her guides had led tours around the world and she was able to put her trust in them, which is important. But along with the safety factor is the available local knowledge. “The neatest aspect of the zipline tour is the fact that you will always have a guide with you to assist with your equipment, teach you about local history, ecology, geology and even a dinner recommendation,” adds Meisinger.

For those not quite tall enough to enjoy the Game Creek tour, the Little Eagle zipline provides a just-the-right-size thrill, with a 200-foot zip. Vail Valley resident Meggen Kirkham took her 10-year-old daughter up to Epic Discovery last summer with a cousin to enjoy the offerings.

“She was just tall enough to do the one zipline that’s over by the tubing, so we did do that one,” Kirkham says. “She’d never been on a zipline bigger than the one during the Kids Adventure Games over the river, so that was thrilling for sure.” There are few things that 3-year-olds and 73-year-olds can all enjoy, but the sensation of flight is sure to be one of them.

The Ultimate Adventure Pass provides unlimited all-day access to the activities that are part of Epic Discovery, including the Game Creek Zipline tour. Cost is $94 per person. To ride the Game Creek Zipline, participants must be at least 10 years old and weigh between 75 and 250 pounds. Participants under 14 years old must be accompanied by a paying adult.

For small adventurers, the Little Explorer Pass includes access to the age-appropriate activities like the climbing tower, Little Eagle zipline and Pine Cone adventure course. It also includes the scenic gondola ticket. Cost is $54 per person. Children who want to ride the Little Eagle zipline must be at least 3 years old and weigh between 30 and 100 pounds.

In order to fully enjoy the activities, make sure that you’re dressed appropriately. The rides and attractions at Epic Discovery require enclosed footwear (no heel straps) so don comfortable, sturdy shoes like hiking boots or tennis shoes. The summit can be as much as 10-degrees cooler than the base, so layer clothing and be sure to bring a raincoat for potential afternoon showers. At that altitude, the sun is fierce, so slather on the sunscreen and don’t forget your sunglasses.

Whether you stick to the smaller zipline or spend several hours flying around the top of Vail Mountain, there is no experience quite like the ziplines of Epic Discovery. Visit in the early summer and enjoy the shades of vibrant green that paint the mountain, or return in the fall to see the slopes gilded in gold. No matter the day, you’re sure to see something spectacular as you soar through the sky.

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While Epic Discovery is open daily in the summer, there are some Vail adventures that take a bit more planning. The eighth annual Vail Kids Adventure Games (KAG) returns Aug. 9 through13 for two days of skills clinics, three days of racing, two days of free family adventure zone and one crazy mud run. Designed for participants ages 6 to 14, the games are one of the most anticipated events of the year, providing kids with an opportunity to gain an understanding of the outdoors while becoming environmental stewards, learning teamwork and building confidence, all while having fun. Teams of two navigate an adventure course that includes biking, trekking, rope swinging, mud pit crossing, cargo net climbing, zipline crossing, zipline sliding and other challenging obstacles. For those who decide to forego the full race but still want to get down and dirty, the KEEN Family Mud Run returns Saturday, August 12 at 4:30 p.m. at Mountain Plaza in Vail Village.

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The Mud Run features more-than-a-mile course with mud pits and is open to all ages. Costumes are encouraged. Costs to preregister are $10 for kids, $20 for adults or $50 for a family of four (two kids, two adults). Register at www.vailrec.com. “The mud run is an epic battle to see who can be the muddiest, dirtiest and coolest dressed among runners,” said Jamie Gunion, spokeswoman for the Kids Adventure Games. “Sometimes all you see are eyeballs coming through the finish line but the big goal is to not lose your shoes—those mud pits are notorious shoe-eaters. And, of course, it’s totally okay to hug a race volunteer or worker along the way. Just don’t tell any one I said that.”

To find more information or to sign up for the Kids Adventure Race, visit www.kidsadventuregames.com.

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Baset’s Story

I was born 17 years ago in Kabul, Afghanistan, in an open-minded family. My dad works for the Ministry of Defense, my mom is a homemaker and I have one older brother who is finishing law in University of Kabul and two younger sisters. I was fortunate to start school in one of the greatest schools in Kabul, Malali School, but the school is in front of the Afghanistan Ministry of Internal Affairs. As the school is in front of the ministry, there was a lot of bombings from 2005 to 2008. Frequently there was a bombing, and all of us were rushing and hiding under tables and other places. I was only eight years old. I didn’t understand what was happening. Many times we came out of school building and saw blood and body parts in the street.

The last bombing happened when our school driver would usually wait for us outside of school at the end of the school day. We were just about to leave the building to meet the driver, and the bomb exploded. I started crying and saying, “They killed him!” The teachers and my sister were saying, “No, he is fine,” but they didn’t know if he was okay or not. Fortunately, he was late that day. Then they called him and he talked to me and said he was okay.

So after all that, my parents said I could not go there anymore because after every bombing I was frightened and upset. And seeing the blood, parts of bodies in street is not easy. It was not a movie or story.

So, my parents asked if I would like to go to the music school, I immediately said “Yes.” I passed the tests and auditioned there. After audition one of the teachers asked what I would like to play and I said, “piano.” But he said, “You will play the trumpet.” He was the trumpet teacher.

People told me if you play music, you die. The Taliban hates musicians. Members have been known to brutally target musicians for torture and death because music is viewed as blasphemous.

Life became harder for me and my family because in Afghanistan most of the people don’t like to play or listen to music. They make jokes if they know a person is a musician one group may say, ‘If I know this is a musician I will cut off their head.’ I can say life for a musician here is such a hard thing. Now, I know that music can change lives – I didn’t know anything about music or trumpet before I started playing the trumpet. In my native country of Afghanistan, most people think that music is not a good thing. When I started playing the trumpet I knew that it will be a hard life in Afghanistan with that bad situation and people’s thoughts. The trumpet is an instrument that people make fun of, and the players as well, more than any other instrument.

When relatives and friends got to know that I was playing trumpet, they said, “You are a smart boy, intelligent and hard working, you should be a doctor or engineer. Don’t waste your time with the music.” Some were making fun of my trumpet and me. It is hard when people are not supporting you to do something. But when they are discouraging it makes you sad sometimes. I didn’t give up, and played from my heart and enjoyed every day with my trumpet. When I perform, I enjoy it and share what I have inside of my soul. I feel I am telling a story, asking people to enjoy their time while they are with me, and asking for love and peace. My personal strengths are passion and determination – musically, I am emotional and connected to my audience.

One day I was listening to trumpet YouTube recordings. One of the videos shocked me, and I stopped it and repeated it. This sound was what I was looking for five years. He sounded amazing, so I searched for more videos of him and looked found his name. Dr. David Bilger, who is truly my hero, a great human being and one of the fantastic trumpet players in the world.

A few days later I was brave and decided to look him up online. I sent a “friend” request, not sure if he will answer me or ignore me, but I was just hoping. He answered me and I sent him a message and wrote about myself and asked him to stay in touch. The interesting thing is I sent him a message at 8:52 in the morning and he wrote me back 8:52 that evening.

When I told him that I would like to apply to Interlochen, he really encouraged to do it and said, “If you pass the audition, I will do anything I can.” I was waiting to hear from school, very excited and I was checking emails every three hours. I still remember, it was two am that I received an email from Interlochen that I got a scholarship to study there. When I told Dr. Bilger that I got the scholarship, he said, “Now this is my turn.” So he raised over $30K for me to study at Interlochen and life expenses. I know how hard all my friends worked to make this happen, even I can’t explain it.

Now that I have traveled for the first time and feel much safer, it is easier to concentrate on music. But I’m away from family, and most importantly, I don’t know if I will ever see them again. I know it is hard for my parents for me to study abroad, as I am only the son of the family. I am here in the U.S. but what I am thinking about is their safety. This has so besieged me here because my dad is working in Military, which is so hard there, and as well I am thinking “If something happens to them, how I can go?” They are happy for me that I am here, but it is hard. I really wish my parents were here with me.

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A Trumpet’s call

This story is about how things are sometimes meant to be. Perhaps it was about destiny or, maybe, karma, the “spirit that infuses or vitaliz- es someone or something” that played a part. Certainly, we’ll never know. What we do know is whatever it was, and why it came to pass changed one boy’s life forever.

David Bilger, principal trumpet of the Philadelphia Orchestra a position he has held since 1995 – is a musician’s musician. Prior to joining the orchestra, he held the same position with the Dallas Symphony, and has been hailed by the New York Times for his “easy brilliance” and by the Washington Post for his “engaging legato touch.”

Bilger’s parents valued musical training and, at an early age, Bilger began taking piano lessons. When he was in the fourth grade his teacher asked if he’d like to play another instrument. “I said, sure,” recalls Bilger, with a smile. “The trumpet looked interesting to me.” And, that’s how it all began.

Bilger played both piano and trumpet at the University of Illinois, where he received his bachelor’s degree. But when he had to choose just one, as he headed off to The Julliard School for his master’s degree, he chose the trumpet. His first orchestral job, at 28, was with the Dallas Symphony.

As a soloist, Bilger has appeared with numerous symphony orchestras as well as chamber orchestras. He’s also on the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music and teaches at Temple University.

Four years ago Bilger was contacted by a company called Artistworks, which teaches music and art online. “The company has a format that includes a lot of pre-recorded content,” Bilger explains. “They also have a component of video exchange so a student can send me a video. Then, I have a video studio in my basement, and I will record a response video coaching them.

“Everything is available to the whole online community, which makes it like a big, open master’s class and, yet, the student gets individual attention as well. It’s a different way of teaching than the one-on-one that I do at Curtis and Temple. It’s a way of teaching students from all over the world. I have students from Europe, South America, Australia and all around the United States. It’s a great way to make a new community. In fact, one of my students just won a job with the Baltimore Symphony. It’s incredibly rewarding.”

While sitting at his at his computer, one evening, Bilger received a Facebook message. “It read,” recalls Bilger, with a hearty laugh, “’I’m the best trumpet player in Afghanistan, because there are only two.’ And my first thought was, I gotta get to know this kid. I wrote him back and, basically, he was looking for guidance.”

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The kid was 17-year-old AhmadBaset Azizi from Kabul. “I was watching YouTube videos and saw David Bilger and I thought this is the sound that I’ve been looking for. It was fantastic,” recalls Azizi (known as Baset).

At the time, Baset was a student at the Afghan National Institute of Music in Kabul, the only coeducational school under the college level in the entire country an extraordinary haven for aspiring musicians, amid all the chaos of the unrest and terrorist groups hostile to Western culture and music. However, the school no longer had a trumpet teacher and Baset had no musical guidance. In fact, the music school’s founder and director, Ahmad Naser Sarmast, had been targeted by the Taliban.

He was attending a school play in 2014 when a teenage suicide bomber set off a blast a few feet away. One man was killed. Sarmast survived, but his hearing was severely damaged.

“I could not play the trumpet in the house because playing some Western musical instruments is forbidden by the Taliban. Not only Western, but music in general,” shares Baset. “If a neighbor heard my playing and reported it to the Taliban, my family and myself were in danger.

“In early 2013, I got the principal trumpet position in the school orchestra, which is the only orchestra in Afghanistan and is called the National Orchestra. I had to work harder and it was not enough to only work by myself. And there is no trumpet teacher in Afghanistan, so the only option was to work online with trumpet players in America.” And, so began Baset’s internship with Bilger, who initiated Baset’s lessons on Skype.

“One day, Baset came up with this idea that he wanted to go to Interlochen (Center for the Arts in Michigan),” relates Bilger. “My philosophy is that, sometimes, the path is more important than the outcome. And I thought, ‘Well, let’s go for it,’ not quite believing that it was going to happen. But, why not at least prepare the repertoire and record a video to send for an audition? The only thing that he would be out would be a little time and he would improve, as a musician, just doing it. So we went down that road, and he got in. And at that point it was, ‘Well, okay!’ “Interlochen was very generous and with a scholarship. But, it is an expensive place to go, plus there were extra fees for an English-as-a-second-language class and foreign student fees, as well. Then there was travel, of course, we had to set him up with clothes for northern Michigan’s winter weather. We started looking at the budget and realized that we had to come up with $30,000.”

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But, Bilger was not going to be deterred. He partnered with Robin Korevaar, a Dallas clarinetist, who had spent a week at the school in Kabul and knew Baset. The two of them were “in”. They set up a GoFundMe campaign and began getting support from fellow musicians, including Philadelphia Orchestra mu- sic director Yannick Nézet-Séguin and Rich Worle, Chairman of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Foundation.

“With those donations, we were a third there,” says Bilger. “The rest was grassroots. It was a compelling story and I believe people wanted to do something and this was a tangible way – even though it was helping only one person.”

“David Bilger’s thoughtful and committed way of explaining Baset’s story immediately resonated with me, and I did not hesitate for a second to make a contribution,” says Nézet-Séguin, who contributed $5,000. “The determination of this young man, his obvious love for his instrument and for the music, this is clearly stronger than all the incredible challenges he’s had to overcome in order to fulfill his dream. This is very inspiring for me, and for all of us who believe in the power of music.”

Baset graduated from Interlochen with Honors in May and was accepted by the University of Kansas Music School.

However, before he is able to attend the university, Baset has to prove to the United States government that he has complete funding in place in order to get his F1 visa. If he can’t show every dollar needed is in place, he will not be issued the visa. And without a visa, he’ll have to return to Afghanistan.

“My goal,” says Baset determinedly, “is to be well educated and to be the best trumpet player so that I can be useful in our community. It doesn’t matter where I was born or where I got my education, but my goal is to serve anywhere with any people, regardless of nationality, race or color.” In a recent interview, Bilger spoke about the history of the trumpet. “The trumpet,” he began “is an ancient instrument.

Way back, thousands of years ago, when people wanted to signal others across great distances, they experimented with blowing one’s lips into and a seashell and found that it would carry great distances.”

In Baset’s case, he blew his trumpet across a very great distance. And, luckily, David Bilger was listening.

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Be good to People – The original kindness company

It’s not scientifically proven but it is some kind of universal fact that while wearing a “Be Good To People” shirt, it’s hard to be mean. This is exactly what Kris Wittenberg wanted when she founded the company almost a decade ago. Sure, the road hasn’t been a straight shot but the meandering path she took with her company has led to more kindness in the world.

“My entire focus has been making things be kinder,” she says from her sun-drenched office in Eagle that is packed with BGTP items fromhoodies to coffee mugs to notepads. Ten years ago it felt like it was time to practice more kindness—today even more so.

Wittenberg isn’t even completely sure how she got fired up enough to create an iron on transfer for a t-shirt in 2008 someone didn’t hold the door for her or some other small transgression that pointed out just how unkind people can be. She stormed into her office and exclaimed, “Why can’t people just be good to people?”

It’s 2014 and Wittenberg is standing in a packed arena with her new BFF she had met just hours previously, vigorously waving her hands and screaming, “Gayle! Gayle! I don’t know what got into me,” she says with her high-energy laugh.

good_1Twenty-four hours prior she had met Gayle King (hence the first name basis) and in just a few more minutes she was going to meet Oprah. Oprah! In an hour or so more, Wittenberg’s life path was going to change.

Meeting Oprah had been on the top of Wittenberg’s bucket list for a while. It seemed fate had an interest when she was able to buy the last remaining ticket to the ‘Live the Life You Want’ Tour. Soon fate was going to totally intervene in Wittenberg’s life. Wittenberg arrived to the tour on a Thursday—alone. Standing in a line alongside mothers and daughters, sisters and best friends,

she began to have doubts this solo last-minute, bucket-list agenda such a great idea.

“Standing in line, alone, I felt like the biggest loser,” Wittenberg remembers. But she had on her signature Be Good To People t-shirtand a few line-mates loved the shirt and boosted her spirits. (Side note, it’s hard to be a jerk while wearing a shirt emblazoned with Be Good To People. Like, if you’re a jerk while wearing the shirt you are totally missing the point.)

Wittenberg snapped up the opportunity to meet Gayle King, Oprah’s BFF and editor of Oprah magazine. When Gayle saw Kris’s shirt, it was love at first sight – and, luckily, Wittenberg had a couple of extra’s in her stash; one for her new best friend, Gayle, and one Oprah.

“I wear Be Good To People every day. I knew Gayle was going to like the shirt because I get comments on it every time I wear it. She freaked out. She loved it,” Wittenberg says with glee.

So the next day when Wittenberg is screaming Gayle’s name—Gayle is wearing the BGTP shirt. When Wittenberg meets Oprah, Oprah already knows all about BGTP. “I said, ‘Oprah, Gayle is wearing my shirt!’ She took my hand and said, ‘I know. We talked about it a lot last night.’

“That is it. Gayle posted it on Instagram.” Voila, that’s how BGTP was launched. On February 17 the March issue of Oprah hit the stands, with BGTP featured in it and Wittenberg has been running full speed ever since.

BGTP is proof that good things can come from bad days or that good things can make a big impact. “It’s magic,” says Wittenberg, “The best part is it will turn your day around.”

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Mountain Dreams

When this active, ski loving, Colorado family decided to create their dream home; a home that would be handed down from generation to generation; a home that captured the art and elegance that is the Colorado Rockies—that home simply had to have its roots in Mountain Star.

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The terrain is rugged and lush; the sense of privacy and serenity boundless; and then there are the views—those Mountain Star views are simply priceless. All of this was what captured their imaginations and prompted this family to purchase a very special two acre site in this community. The sweeping southwestern views that take in the runs at Beaver Creek, the aspen groves and only the sound of nature to touch the soul, inspired the search to find an architect to bring this dream to life.

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The owners knew what they wanted and a priority was an emphasis on capturing inside the home the inimitable panoramas displayed outside the home.He wanted a library/office; she wanted a chef-friendly kitchen; and they both wanted a design that reflected their love of art in the structure of the house.

mountain_5The architectural talent of their choice was Jack Snow of RKD Architects and that collaboration resulted in a home that was to become nothing less than a stunning work of art.

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“What is so amazing about Jack is that he listens—he really listens—so he understood what we had in mind. We originally had a picture of what we wanted and what it should look like—and it ended up looking nothing like that,” laughs the homeowner.

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A contemporary home with “lots of glass—because it’s all about the views” was a must, as was a design that was artistic and could accommodate a growing family’s changing needs throughout generations. The result was a home that made the short list for the International Design and Architectural Award and, the owners insist, was beyond any expectations they could have imagined.“We all wanted something interesting that no one had seen before,” says Snow. With but a quick glance at this extraordinary home it is safe to say ‘mission accomplished!’

mountain_3There is nothing conventional about this contemporary masterpiece. The look appears as organic as the environment in which it rests, and as welcoming as a forest cottage with a white picket fence. And though the height of sophistication has been achieved this is a house that echoes the warm ambiance of ‘home’.

The house took one year in the planning and two years in construction, which is a common time range; Shaeffer Hyde Construction adeptly executed the difficult construction while the fixed finishes were under the direction of Slifer Designs, with the furnishings, accessories and art selected by the owner and Studio 80. The home has since been aptly named Puestadel Sol (Spanish for sunset). “We have a bird’s-eye view seeing the weather move in, or the spectacular sunsets — watching nature as it evolves and this is an experience that continues to fascinate us and something of which we never tire,” says the owner.

mountain_2The control of space and scale is extraordinary as seen in the towering ceilings, reaching heights of 20 feet, and is managed by designs formed of blackened steel beams and columns. The horizontal lines, breaking those of the vertical, are at the perfect height tocreate an astonishing sense of scale and intimacy while maintaining an omnipresent feeling of grandeur. Also, skillfully using a juxtaposition of natural elements and textures—for instance stone, steel, finished concrete and wood — there is a subtle sense of balance and harmony prevailing throughout the home. Snow engaged an interesting concept that he comically refers to as “no touching,” a beautifully aesthetic form where the mediums used do not touch each other but rather are suspended or attached by way of a different but complementing form. For instance, the five structural timbers at the entryway are not only each curving beyond the other to imitate movement, but also are attached to the concrete deck with steel joints, assimilating a sense of floating.

The metal panels on various walls are raised from their base and from each other so rather than a flat wall there is a multidimensionalfactor. Overhead beams are not in direct contact to the ceiling and are not directly attached to each other, giving rise to a feeling of airiness. Even the prominent limestone is dry-stacked offering subtle space between each stone, which elicits a lightness. This sense of weightlessness and grace is all a result of the “no touching” concept. Even the inset fireplaces throughout the home, looking like individual pieces of art themselves, suggest a “no-touching” element as the cool geometric lines that run floor to ceiling are broken up with the horizontal lapping of the hot flames swirling in contrast. Due to the ubiquitous use of glass it is impossible to be in this home and not feel at one with nature. But the glass does not just serve to invite the outdoors inside. In the evenings with the beautifully hidden overhead lighting, and the custom chandelier and sconces aglow, the well chosen pieces of art are reflected in the paneled glass to present a gallery of displays seen in many areas of the home.

“We love our art, so to see an Anthony Lister that hangs in our dining room reflected in each of the side by side window panels in theliving room is art in and of itself,” says the homeowner. “What organized this house, at the time, were the covenants in Mountain Star that demanded certain things,” says Snow. “We had to have a gabled house with a target of a 150 foot circle for the main mass of the house.” But that didn’t mean adhering to common design. “The house is organized around three gabled spines with each of the endsculminating in windows that cant outward to fully embrace the wide-ranging views that surround this home.” The first gable encompasses the east-west expanse of thehome including the entry and master bedroom. The second gable contains the horizontal structure of the home with an awe- inspired finish in the heart of the kitchen. And the third gable covers the guest and children’s areas. Each area is integrated for common gathering while also creating privacy for everyone. This is architectural art at its finest but first and foremost this is a home.

“No matter how long I’m away from home—whether it’s two days or weeks or months—I’m always breathless to return and I wonder how I could have left,” sharesthe homeowner. “We knew the basics of what we wanted but never believed those needs would result in the vision that Jack helped us form. Not only do we have a home that is a true work of art but is also comfortable and homey. The entire family continues to love to gather here. It was our goal to build a house that suited the two of us and our children when they were little; and a home that would grow with us as our children became adults and established their own families. We think the design of this house will stand the test of time and will be considered equally as extraordinary and relevant decades from now. This home wasdesigned as a place to embrace nature, and most importantly, to embrace family.”