Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best of 2012

     Well it's been a banner year for my music and reading hobbies. I read 71 books this year which kind of amazes me (see what you can do when you don't watch TV?). I track my reading on the Good Reads website (Terry's Good Reads list) and I gave 5 stars to eight of the books I read in 2012, but I'd have to say that the top 3 were:
Unbroken (Laura Hillenbrand) - the amazing story of a 1939 Olympic runner from California who joins the air force in WW2 but is shot down over the Pacific. Sets the record for survival in the ocean but is imprisoned in Japanese camps and undergoes tortuous treatment until the war ends. Totally captivating story.
Columbus and the Search for Jerusalem (Carol Delaney) - opened my eyes to the role of faith in Columbus' life and the motivation behind his search for a short cut to the East (wanting to raise money to restore Jerusalem and hasten the return of Christ). Well-researched but so very readable.
What Good is God? (Philip Yancey) - have always appreciated Yancey's writings though I think I kinda tired of them over the years, but this was fantastic. He bases his ideas on places he has visited around the world where he has been invited to speak. Wonderful insights and some amazing stories.
     Musically I worked through my listening list (in 2011 I compiled a list of all of the albums I own - about 1200 or so) and again was surprised that I had gone through over 500 albums when I added them all up. I do find some time to listen to new releases as well, although I'm a lot more selective. The 3 2012 albums that I listened to the most (and enjoyed the most obviously) were:
Fly from Here by Yes
Babel by Mumford and Sons
Birds of Relocation by Eric Peters
     I attended a fair bit of live music this past year and there's absolutely no way I could decide on a top three. Any of these concerts would qualify:
Noel Paul Stookey in St. Petersburg, Florida in February
Frank Vignola and Vinny Raniolo in Toronto in March
A whirlwind April weekend with Bruce Cockburn (Friday) and Josh Garrels (Saturday) in Grand Rapids, Michigan and The Choir (Sunday) in Detroit.
Tommy Emmanuel in Toronto
Yes at Casino Rama in July
Rend Collective Experiment in Leawood, Kansas (part of an excellent worship conference)
Don Ross at Harbourfront in August (including a Q & A workshop)
Don Harron/Charlie Farquharson at City Hall in September (this guy's truly a national treasure, and yes I got his autograph)
Gungor in Canton, Michigan in October (this might qualify as concert of the year)
Kevin Ramessar band (including Mike Janzen) at the Registry Theatre in town in November
Steve Bell Trio in Cambridge in December
Sufjan Stevens Christmas Extravaganza in Buffalo (runner up for best of the year)
     Looking back at this stuff is nice. It's been a great year. However a book I read recently is making me reflect on changing my reading habits, so I doubt I'll ever surpass this year's total. I look forward to completing my listening list in 2013. 400 albums to go should be attainable looking at last year's total - BTW those 500 albums only went until November, then I listened to 50 Christmas albums in December (yeah, I'm crazy!)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sufjan Stevens' Christmas Concert

     I'd like to try to write a review of the Sufjan Stevens concert I saw last night in Buffalo, NY (which will be challenging to put into just a few words). The venue was the Asbury Hall which appears to be an old church that has been renovated to host concerts - there are still balconies along the 2 sides and the back but the main space is empty, so people need to stand. We (that is, Alison and her friends) had friends who got there quite early so they saved us great balcony seats. The show is billed as "Surjohn Stevens Christmas Sing-A-Long Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Disaster Pageant on Ice." We got a song booklet when we came in with an awesome quote from John Wesley on the cover: "Sing lustily and with good courage. Be aware of singing as if you were half dead or half asleep; but lift your voice with strength. Be now more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan." The crowd was interesting - many people had dressed up for the occasion in Santa hats, tacky Christmas sweaters, and a couple came in full Santa Claus gear. Unfortunately we had to do a lot of waiting - we got there before 6:30 and Sufjan didn't come on until after 9:00! The stage was not that big and it was just stuffed with equipment and tacky Christmas decorations, including an angel holding a candle which moved its head and arms slowly, huge tinsel curtains, and a menorah.
      About 8:00 Sheila Saputo did a pretty entertaining comedy routine. Then, eventually, to raucous applause, 6 musicians came on stage in wild costumes: Frosty, Super Chicken, Skeletor, a girl in a nun's habit and Alcatraz t-shirt, Sufjan himself decked out with lots of tinsel, a cape and red boots. Some of the stuff they had on was phosphorescent, including some tape on Sufjan's arms, so it glowed under special lighting. Then the music began and it was at once celebrative, varied, intricate, interesting, moving, and fun. There was so much to see and hear - it was a real Christmas party, complete with horns, noisemakers, streamers, balloons, blowup Santas and unicorns being thrown into the crowd. Sufjan's main instrument was the piano but he also picked up the guitar quite a bit, used the banjo a few times, grabbed percussion instruments or noisemakers, often reached back to hit the chimes and played some kind of electronic rack too. During the very cool "Do You Hear What I Hear" he alternately sang into 2 microphones, one of which was attached to a voice modulator. Every once in a while the band would set aside their instruments and do a verse of an ancient hymn (for example "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming") in beautiful 4-part harmony. The guys in the band moved between a number of instruments - the bass player also played trombone, trumpet, and tuba!
     At one point the curtain parted to reveal "The Wheel of Christmas" (which we had to shout out on every turn) and band members or volunteers from the crowd (Santa even got a turn) would spin it to decide which song we would sing along to. The revelry continued on for a long while - they'd intersperse the singalongs between sets of band songs. His interactions with Rosie Thomas throughout the evening were witty and entertaining. There was a bubble machine at one point and in the grand finale ("Christmas Unicorn") Sufjan put on a wild balloon costume that included some huge silver balloon trailing behind him, and a kind of confetti machine came on that blew out paper pieces to make it look like it was snowing. Then about a dozen huge red balloons came out and were bouncing around the crowd. That culminating song really captures some of the incongruity of this season with both hilarious and thoughtful lyrics. It goes on for about 15 minutes and ends with everyone shouting along with Sufjan: "I'm a Christmas unicorn, you're a Christmas unicorn, too - it's alright, I love you!" Wow! What a party!!
      By the time it was over the stage was a colossal mess. There was silly string all over the place, along with paper products of various kinds. It seems some small instruments must have been buried as well because Sufjan couldn't find his alto recorder at one point. Near the end of the show he picked up his guitar and it had lots of stuff (mostly silly string) hanging off of it but he just played it anyway.
     Sufjan came back for about a 4 song encore (all from Illinoise I think), starting out solo then building things back up again, ending with "Chicago" and the crowd sang along on all of them. I was also really impressed with the open spirit in which Sufjan presents his songs, and the evident appreciation he has for his fans (to the point of even saying 'I love you'). It's very neat to see a band applaud the crowd at the end of a performance.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Punta Cana

    So for March Break we did our first ever trip to a resort, and it was a fantastic time! We stayed at the Gran Bahia Principe in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and went with our friends Bruce and Carol. It's a huge resort, with about 7500 people staying there but we were in the 'Premier' section which is smaller and has it's own area (pool, buffet, lobby, etc.) so it really didn't seem crowded at all. However the beach area was for everyone so that was pretty much wall-to-wall people. The beach was a 15 minute walk away but we usually took one of the shuttles that ran continually. Our room was just great - we were in the building closest to the lobby (and pretty much everything else then) and our balcony overlooked the pool.
    It was such a relaxing week - we'd reserve some lounge chairs by the pool early each morning and spend most days hanging out in the sun, near the water. I had lots of time for reading and listening to music. We also would play games (RummiKub, euchre, rummy, dominoes, pictionary [on the iPad!]) in our room or in one of the lounge areas. We spent some time at the beach - was surprised by the steady stream of people walking along the shoreline. We took a half-hour walk down to the flea market where I haggled a vendor to sell me a t-shirt for $15.
    One day we booked an excursion for the morning so we were picked up in an open back truck and driven to another beach area, where we got onto a flat boat to head out onto the ocean. When we got out a ways we were taken to a set of speed boats where each couple got in and we took off, following the leader. I was right behind him so that helped - you just had to hang on to the steering wheel for dear life as you whipped over the waves, and adjust the throttle to maintain an appropriate distance. It was A LOT of fun! When we finished that we headed back to the flat boat and went snuba-ing, which is underwater diving without the tank (the air is supplied through a hose attached to tanks on the surface. That really didn't go real smoothly but it was still pretty cool. I found I couldn't adjust the pressure in my ears so stayed near the surface observing the fish. Beth wasn't comfortable at first about descending though after spending some time with the apparatus she probably could've done a dive. Bruce's mask leaked because of his beard and Carol started feeling pretty seasick. After the snuba activity we were allowed to go snorkelling but none of us were really interested in that. In the end we felt it was still a great experience and worth the money.
    There was always lots of food at the resort buffet and even for a picky eater like me there was no trouble finding things I enjoyed. We went to 4 a la carte restaurants too but really my favourite meal was the buffet we ate before leaving on our last day (turkey and potatoes - yum!). A few times I took my large travel mug along and filled it with ice cream, added milk and stirred up my own milk shake - that too was very good. You could get ice and drinks all around the resort and the minibar we had in our room was always stocked with our favourite drinks.
    We were disappointed with the evening entertainment though, especially when we checked stuff out the first couple of nights. It seemed pretty unprofessional and the one time the sound system broke down completely. However later in the week we tried a different venue a couple of times and the shows were much more polished and included some pretty talented performers (dancers and a circus show).
    Overall, I think I enjoyed the resort more than the cruise we went on 2 years ago, mainly because there was just so much down time (on a cruise you usually do more excursions and walk a lot more stairs - and though the food was better, there were more extra costs [tipping, drinks]). We'd love to go back with our whole family!

A Weekend in Florida

     So I haven't taken the time to write on this blog on a regular basis this year. As the new year began I couldn't decide if I wanted to keep up weekly entries. Now time has gotten away from me and it seems that I have been busier so far - I started going to the gym pretty much every day and added in some abdominal exercises too. Plus I've been spending more time with work related things.
     But this last weekend was just too special to not write down some memories. A few weeks ago Beth underwent an endoscopic procedure in London (using conscious sedation) to remove a lesion from her esophagus. Everything went well but still she was having a rough week dealing with that, along with a root canal. So I had this brilliant idea to see about flying down to Florida for the Family Day weekend in February, to see mom and dad and stay at the trailer they were renting in St. Petersburg. I was able to find direct flights there and back so I decided we would pay a bit extra and have a nice warm holiday. It was great to see Beth's reaction when I told her the tickets were already purchased so she couldn't say no.
     The only problem ended up being that mom and dad had to fly back a week ago because doctors down there discovered severe blockages in dad's carotid arteries. So the insurance company flew both of them back on the 15th. We lent them our green car so they had transportation around town and Dad was able to see his family doctor right away. He's had 2 tests so far and will hopefully get referred to a surgeon quickly.
    So then Beth and I ended up at the trailer all on our own, which seemed kind of strange. Mom had quickly packed up their things but left some food for us. It's quite a nice trailer and park and we had the use of mom & dad's van (and their GPS, which was very handy for finding our way around!). Their friends Rocco and Maxine picked us up at the Tampa airport Friday night and we used the GPS to find a nearby Five Guys restaurant right away - we got there 5 minutes before they closed at 10:00. Saturday morning we drove downtown to a substantial arts & crafts market where Beth found a cool jacket and I got a new tie-dyed shirt. Then we headed to a mall near the trailer for some more shopping. We spent a chunk of the afternoon at the park pool which is very nice (and heated!). In the evening we went to a wonderful concert by Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul & Mary fame. I've listened to his music for years and have actually learned to play a number of his songs (his most famous is 'The Wedding Song'). He's a great guitar player, songwriter, and storyteller but I never expected I'd see him live (he's 74, but sure doesn't seem that old). So it was a neat surprise when I found out he was going to be in St. Pete's while we were there.
     Sunday morning Beth insisted we go to the amazing breakfast buffet at The Golden Corral. In the afternoon we drove to Port Richie for a nice visit with my Uncle Gordie and Aunt Shirley who have a fifth wheel they're camping with for the month. In the evening we drove down to the beach, where we took a walk along the shore and visited some of the shops at St. John's Pass. I got a couple of bathing suits for a good price and we picked up some fudge for the kids (for not a good price!)
     Monday morning we packed up the van and then headed to the beach for the afternoon. It was really nice soaking up some sunshine, but the water was way too cold to go in swimming. A pod of about 5 dolphins were swimming pretty close to the shore. We had packed some sandwiches for lunch and used mom and dad's cooler for drinks and snacks. Listened to music, read, did some puzzles, got a sunburn - in fact, when we got back to Toronto airport later that night Beth looked pretty red. We met the fellow who was driving mom & dad's van back to Canada at the Tampa airport and then had a nice meal at TGI Friday's in the waiting area.
    Overall, it was a very nice weekend, but it was also pretty bittersweet as we couldn't be with mom and dad. We enjoyed ourselves for sure, but couldn't help but be thinking of them.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Annual Family Letter

      I finished composing our annual letter that we send out to family and friends today. Thought I'd share it here in case we missed somebody who might be interested.

Happy New Year!    Well it’s a little later than usual that this annual letter is going out but you know what they say. Looking back, 2011 was another year of change at the Kreutzkamp’s, but this time not so much with Mom and Dad, but for our children.
David & Rachel moved into their new home at the end of January. It’s in a newer subdivision in Kitchener (about 9 years old) and has lots of space. We all had a nice time there when they hosted the family for Thanksgiving. In the summer they ventured into Algonquin park for their first canoe trip on their own (and had a good time too!). 
Josh started another new computer programming job in March but this company is also in Oakville so he continues to commute. He really likes his coworkers and continues to freelance on the side doing web hosting and helping develop a new iPhone app. He and Terry tried to get out golfing a bit this past summer. 
Alison graduated from WLU in sociology in April but had decided to take the next year off from school. In October she and her friend Julie began renting an apartment in Kitchener. Alison continues to work 3/4 time at the pool and In December she applied to go to teacher’s college next year. This fall it’s been great getting to know her new boyfriend Pete, who lives in Newmarket (so they’’re making lots of trips back and forth).
Joel finished up at the restaurant in August but completing culinary college was delayed until January (actually he starts next week, which means he’s moving to Toronto to go to George Brown for 4 months). This past fall he took some high school courses and worked part time at a grocery store. He’s enjoyed 2 trips this year - the Dominican Republic in March and snowboarding in Whistler over Christmas.
So Terry & Beth are definitely feeling the nest emptying. We fill our time with reading good books, going out to movies, visiting with family and friends, and enjoying music concerts (a highlight this year was having Randy Stonehill play in our living room - we’ve been listening to his music for over 30 years). Plus we try to find times when we can get the entire family together to share a meal - which of course can be a challenge, but is wonderful when we can pull it off.
We’ve become more involved at our new church as well, attending 2 weekly small group gatherings, going on retreats, helping out with Kid’s Camp in August, and spending a few days at the denomination’s Camp Kahquah near Magnetawan. We’ve also really enjoyed leading some children’s music on a semi-regular basis on Sunday mornings.

Holiday trips this year included:
  • an overnight stay in Niagara Falls on Family Day weekend in February - a nice time until Beth fell skating and hit her head pretty hard
  • spending most of March break with Mom and Dad in St. Pete’s, Florida - they were great hosts and we had a wonderful time.
  • attending the Wild Goose Festival in North Carolina in June - lots of interesting speakers who challenged us to look at our faith in new ways
  • a week renting the Wiseman cottage near Huntsville - it’s always relaxing and beautiful, and nice when some of the kids can join us
  • a trip north in August to visit relatives - great to reconnect with folks we don’t get to see often enough
Terry decided to start a weekly online journal (or ‘blog’) this year so you can read about any of these things (and much more) in a lot more detail at: (he’d love it if you’d visit the website!)

So overall we’re very grateful for another year of growth and grace. And we’re also thankful for this chance to connect in this small way (that is, through this letter) with people who ae important to us. And even though we might not communicate with you a lot, you are definitely in our thoughts and prayers, and we sincerely wish you a blessed 2012.