Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Assault Against The Draft

We’re becoming more and more convinced that either A) This house was never occupied in past winters or B) A fortune was spent on heating! We’re trying to occupy the house in the winter and not spend a fortune on heating. We want it all! So we’re out to eliminate The Draft- you know, that pesky cold breeze that floats across your ankles or nose, just when you've warmed up. Well his big brother, the one that turns your feet to icecubes, is trying to take over The Cabin.

Phase one of the assault was insulating windows- we mentioned that before. Then better weather stripping around the doors. Phase 2 has been window blanket/curtain things to help keep The Draft from coming in that way.

Last night, someone told us to check where the pipes come inside from the baseboard heating. So this morning Emrys was trying to figure out how to get the metal casings off of the baseboard heating and resigned himself to the thought that all the baseboard trim was going to have to come off to get at the pipes. Enter me. I’ve become really good at taking things apart (see earlier blog about the icemaker)! 5 minutes later the baseboard in the kitchen was taken apart and low and behold: there’s a freakin’ hole in the wall around the pipe and The Draft is marching right in around it! So Emrys is off to the local hardware store to find out what to insulate around heating pipes with and come back and fix it! Then he’ll have to figure out how to put the baseboard heating unit back together!

I’m off for a 12 mile walk in the neighborhood, the latest Vince Flynn novel loaded on my MP3 player for my entertainment out on the road. Happy Saturday to all!

The Party Cabin!

Last night we hosted the first non-family party here at the Cabin. We had 13 of the church youth and their friends over for pizza & games. Besides the fact that they left us with a ton of leftover pizza – it was a great night! A couple had to double up on chairs to fit around the table and anytime someone got up for seconds they were likely to lose their seat- but hey, they’re teenagers: they don’t care!

Pizza was followed by two games of spoons: one group upstairs, one group downstairs. Nothing was broken so it was a success. (For those unfamiliar: Spoons is a card game and can get rather rowdy and involve fighting over silverware. Clear as mud?) Then they moved on to Celebrities: a modified form of charades.

Kudo’s to the KitchenAid! A QUADRUPLE batch of pizza dough and not even a whimper!

Round 2 is Sunday for our New Years Eve Open House :)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Northeast Heating & Utilities

After arriving back in the northeast this fall, I realized that I have never been responsible for the utility bills in areas where there’s actually winter. I’m slowly getting the hang of this whole paying to stay warm bit that I’d seen so many news reports about in my years out here. After at 300 gallon delivery of propane, the driver left a receipt on the door listing the number of gallons and the rate per gallon. He was kind enough not to tally it up for me- good thing because with my rough estimate, I didn’t want to know exactly how big the bill was going to be! So we’ve invested in a pellet stove insert that was installed today in hopes that the long term return will be lower heating bills. Time will tell.

Yesterday we made a trip to Lowes with my folks to get stuff to help better “winterize” the Cabin and Mom and I put the plastic shrink wrap stuff over some of the draftier windows and today Emrys was filling in the gaps around the doors. The pellet stove has been burning away all afternoon and the upstairs didn’t seem to be gaining the “heat rises” effect. The downstairs living room was great; into the kitchen was fine then BAM! All the heat was headed right out the front door – a metal door, great conductor. So we put a blanket over the door for now – we’ll see if that works! I’ve got plans to put the sewing machine to work and make some insulated window coverings.

That’s enough of the random ramblings of heating. As I sit here though, I’m thankful because we do have a warm place and money to pay the bills and I know that there are so many in this county, state, region and country that do not.


Now that we’re smack dab in the middle of the 12 days of Christmas, I have a moment to sit down and reflect. The days leading up to the holiday were a blur of activity getting ready for family to arrive, cleaning, unpacking, and cooking. Christmas came and was celebrated with gifts (a fondue fountain and sewing machine are the big items this year!) and feasts (ham dinner- you should have been here!) and rest. We were joined by my parents and Emrys’ mom and we were all happily engrossed in books and video games for much of the afternoon. It was great! Now it’s just us and the Cabin. Our pellet stove arrived today so we’re trying to keep toasty.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Worlds Collide

At certain moments the forces of the world cause spiraling vortices to form and touch down upon the earth of mortal humanity. When these forces carry with them great power, the vortices manifest in magnificent columns of splendour that can be so extraordinary as to incite wonder, amazement, and fear.

For example, the tornadoes that appear in the plains of the Midwest United States form when two converging weather fronts crash into each other and--through the wonders of atmospheric physics--form a spinning, twisting cone that ravages the countryside.

I experience one of those vortices on a regular basis, though its manifestation does not extend from soil to sky; rather it extends into the dual abysses of American culture and cyberspace.

I use gmail, the Google-based email system, for my electronic correspondence. One of the claims-to-fame of Google (and therefore gmail) is its ability to search vast amounts of data for strings of letters and numbers. Type a word into the search field, and in no time (or about 0.14 seconds for a popular word) you've got a list of frequented websites featuring your word. Gmail uses Google's gift of searching in its interface in a few ways: you can search your own mail for names and words; you can search the web via Google from your personal mailbox; and gmail searches the net to find (text-only, thank Google!) adverts that pertain to the words found in your emails. Those adverts are then placed inoffensively on the side-bar or in a one-liner above your messages.

For instance, the emails sent between me and the organist regarding Christmas Eve services bring adverts on the right side for a "Great Christmas Vacation Idea: San Antonio 3 Nights for $139!"

The Goliath power of Google to search the net forms the first front that collides overhead. The other is a quintessential American icon: Spam.

Spam only has two meanings: the processed meat product intended for stocking nuclear fallout shelters; and the accretion of unwanted emails in one's inbox. So when I click on my "Spam" box for my gmail account (where mass-emails are filtered and shunted), Google really has only two subjects that will come up when it performs its targeted search. And in my experience, Google very rarely finds new items relating to the sending of unwanted emails. So what do I get when American culture and cyberspace collide in the one-line advert of my Spam box?

Recipes for:
"spicy Spam kabobs";
"Spam vegetable strudel (Bake 20 minutes or until golden, serve with soy sauce";
"French Fry Spam casserole";
"Spam quiche (makes 4 servings" if you can find 4 people to eat it);
"Spam Swiss pie (Bake 45-55 minutes or until eggs are set" or have jumped out of the pan).

What response can I have to this phenomenon but wonder, amazement, and a little fear? There's no place like home. There's no place like home. There's no place like home . . .


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Oh How I Love My Kitchen Aid….

…Let me count the ways. Cookies, frosting, peanut butter balls, coconut bonbons, fudge, bread, cheesy bread, meatloaf, pasta… and I’ve only had it 2 weeks!

Dad, have to test the brownie recipe when you get here :)

…if only it were dishwasher safe- it’d be perfect.

Friday, December 08, 2006

22 Miles DONE!

So in preparation for the marathon in January, today was my longest training walk before the big day. Today I finished 22 miles in 5 ½ hours which is right on track for my 15 minute mile pace. To say I’m ready for the 26.2 might be a bit of a stretch right now, but I’m well on my way and know I’ll finish. If I can make it 22 miles in NY temperatures between 10 and 22 degrees, 26.2 in AZ temperatures of 55-70 is actually sounding really good!

Here’s a crazy fact for ya- I’ll have walked over 400 miles in preparation for the marathon. In Emrys' words- I’m nuts! NVTS nuts! I may be nuts, but I’m really thankful to be healthy and that’s the bottom line of my craziness.

I’ve not quite made my fundraising goal yet, so if you’ve been tossing around the idea of donating, please do. (see Team in Training Fundraising link on the right) And in this time of year when money’s usually tight, please keep me in your thoughts and prayers and I finish out my training and head for the marathon!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Memories in a Batch of Cookie Dough

Emrys is working tonight. Dinner for me is an everything-bagel and a cup of decaf. My mind goes back to college when this was a regular meal for me- except it was fully caffeinated coffee with much more sugar than I like today. My brain wanders to lecture halls, to campus.

I’m getting dishes ready for a lunch party on Sunday. The tortellini-alfredo reminds me of the folks who first introduced me to the dish in my early teens. They’re in North Carolina now, I think.

I move on to the cookie batter. Sugar cookies. I remember that I unpacked the cookie-cutters yesterday: hand-me-downs from a dear friend I worked with in Durango. I remember walking the “survivor lap” with her at the ACS Relay for Life in Durango the day I started chemo.

I watch the paddle on the Kitchen-Aid spin and I’m in the Sonlight kitchen. I’m back to farther into the summer of chemo, remember that it wasn’t that long ago that I had cancer. Sore memories surface, the scars of cancer not that far away.

So I sit here, processing my memories, my thoughts, cookie dough abandoned for now as try to calm my mind with a cup of decaf.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Where's the...

A often used refrain over the last 4 days of packing and moving! Right now my line is "Where's the silverware!" I've unpacked most of the kitchen. I know I got rid of a bunch of stuff when we left Pasadena, but I didn't think I got rid of the silverware. Hmmmm. I have a few more boxes to go before it gets added to the shopping list.

Moving was phenomenal! We had a bunch of folks from church offering to help so we announced on Sunday that I'd meet up with whoever would like to help at 1:30 and we'd do a run for boxes and Emrys would meet up with folks this morning to do the furniture. Sunday afternoon, the wagon train headed to our little trailer. 9 vehicles and about 14 volunteers had our little home packed up in vehicles in 30 minutes flat! And unloaded into our new home in about 30 minutes as well. I was so amazed and blessed! In 2 hours we were 90% moved. Now, we're completely moved out and happily settling into our new home-complete with chlorination water system. We're still trying to find things and finding things we forgot we had. It's fun!

P.S. Stay tuned for "Adventures In Home Repair with Emrys"

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Drumroll Please!

The drumroll will run for 2 more days until closing on Thursday. Then this cute little house in the woods, with a babbling brook, garage, garden boxes, washer, dryer, dishwaser and screened in porch will be our new home! We are very excited and will move next Monday. Look for an email with all new address and phone numbers. If you don't get on by next week e-mail us for the info :)

Next week we finally get to unpack all those boxes that we packed in April 2005, when we started this blog! It will be Christmas all month long!


Sunday, November 26, 2006

The United States of Europe

I do not spend much energy observing or pondering world politics and economics. This absence of attention to global affairs stems in part from my semi-intentional abandonment of sources of information that proffer the details of distant goings-on—newspapers, websites, television, and radio. Relative to what I understand to be the average American lifestyle, I take in minimal news and media influence.

This lack of investment in world news does not correlate directly, however, to a lack of interest. (It reflects more accurately my time prioritization.) Since Sara and I just spent seven months on an intriguing journey across opposite sides of the globe, and because I have a brother who pursues a fascinating degree in international business and finance, I harbour more than a little appetite for international matters. This appetite—along with several fascinating and eye-opening conversations in my ancestral mother-land across The Pond—led me to pick up the book, The United States of Europe, by T. R. Reid.

Reid offers an intense, savoury, and honest look into the history, politics, and economics that gave rise to what is now called the European Union. As I read the first chapters of his book I experienced a growing humility in the face of what I do not know—not just in the textbook matters of economics, politics, and history, but of the deep abiding humanness of the origins of the EU ideal.

Reid’s description of the rise of the EU as “The Invention of Peace and the Pursuit of Prosperity” and the research that supports such a description opened my perception to the EU as more than an economic pet project. Now it becomes to my vision the developing consummation of a difficult history—filled with war, ethnic conflict, evil and mistrust—shot through with courageous and brilliant leaders. The European Union becomes an entity that offers life in a history where so much death has been dealt. While nations give up crucial aspects of their sovereignty, they also gain a great peace and slowly emerging prosperity.

I found the narrative quality of Reid’s work enthralling. Though he writes with the goal of “waking up America” to what’s going on in Europe, he does not let a narrow agenda deprive him of his story-telling gifts. In a few places I found myself on the edge of my seat while reading this popular history, turning the pages to find out what happens next (as in the chapter describing the debacle with Jack Welch and a GE-Honeywell merger). What’s more, Reid does not dispense with the quirky stories that texture the hard-hitting historical miracles: he doesn’t just tell us how twenty-some countries all switched to a new currency in less that 24 hours; he also tells us the strange story of the design of the now-renowned symbol for the Euro. This kind of attention to personal detail and powerful anecdotes keeps the book from approaching the boredom level of textbook status and staying in the “fun but informative” category.

If you’ve got room on your reading list for another book, and you’ve ever wondered about that big wide world across The Pond, check out Reid’s book. It will be worth your while.


Feet are on Cruise Control: Brain Wanders

Yesterday I walked my longest training walk yet: 18 miles. So for about 4 ½ hours my feet knew their path and my brain wandered. I started out with a book on tape. Usually I’m plugged in to a mystery or some other piece of brain bubble gum to pass the time. This time I had downloaded A Treasury of Royal Scandals; a non-fiction account of old scandals among queens, kings, tsars etc.

I never really liked history class as a kid, so I’m not sure what made me think that this was going to hold my attention for hours on end but I set off walking to it. And the first 10 miles were less than high energy. So much for People magazine meets the history book.
After mile 11 it was time to switch over to something with a bit more energy- it was on to the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack. Ahhhh, much better! So I jammed out for the last 6 miles, with Jack Sparrow loud enough to drown out my screaming muscles! And finished with enough energy left to get home and collapse and watch a movie.

Not a bad walk. My brain worked on decorating the house, coordinating the move, shopping lists, stuff for my web site/business, friends, family… 4 ½ hours of stuff that flitted in and out of my mind while my feet took the rest of me through 3 towns and 2 counties.
Not a bad way to spend a beautiful Saturday afternoon.


P.S. I’m still accepting donations for the marathon. I’m about 2/3 of the way to my goal. Donate online with the link on the right or e-mail me for mailing address for checks :) And many thanks to everyone who has gotten me 2/3 of the way!

Monday, November 20, 2006

A Whirlwind

Reverend K. Emrys Tyler

We are winding down a wonderful weekend in Durango, CO. Emrys’ Ordination service was on Sunday and it was an event reminiscent of past graduations. The day was filled with bitter sweet emotions of one chapter ending while another begins. Moving away from our Durango family is hard, but we know that we have lifetime friendships here and it will always be a favorite place to return to visit and spend time with friends.

Along with the ordination service, we’ve hopped around town visiting friends and getting one more clear check-up from Sara’s oncologist; now everything will be transferred to Binghamton.

We leave early on Tuesday to return to NY and if all goes well, we’ll close on our house on Wednesday.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!
emrys & sara

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Traveling – ugh!

So we skidded, fishtailed, bumped and bounced across the country today and I can say that the flight from Binghamton to DC was the roughest flight I have ever been on. The pilot’s statement that it might be a little bumpy on the climb was an understatement and he failed to mention that it would be worse on the decent. I think I experienced new shades of green. Fortunately the other two flights were remarkable smoother by comparison. Mmmm, not a fan of the puddle jumpers!

But now we’re in Durango. Saw a great orange sunset on the way in and a beautiful yellow banner outside the fairgrounds. It announced the Gardenswartz semi-annual clearance sale! I’m so excited! Added surprise bonus for the weekend. I’m glad I packed like a girl and have extra room in the big duffle bag!

We have arrived safely and are happily visiting with friends.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Our lives have settled into more or less, normalcy, with a bit of chaos hanging around the edge.

We saw a local production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To the Forum last night- very funny! That at the end of a Saturday filled with meetings, craft fair vending and grocery shopping.

Days peppered with projects, walking, cooking, baking. Settling in has become more of a process than I expected. And it's taking a while.

Fall is racing towards winter. Warm afternoons are more rare; rain and mist threatens to be snow and sleet. Hot cocoa a great companion.

Not much more to tell today, it's just normal.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

It's Ba-ack...

So last week we decided that we were going to withdraw our offer on the house that was becoming a nightmare and we hadn't even gotten in it yet. 4 days later, we got a call from our realtor that the seller was taking some of the major repairs on herself and still giving us the credit to take care of the other stuff. So we reconsidered and now it looks like we may take it after all. I'm not getting my hopes up until we have a set-in-stone closing date!

In other news I went to my first "craft-sale" of sorts as a vendor on Saturday. I got a good response to my candles, learned a few lessons and am looking forward to taking another stab at it on Saturday at a larger, better publicized craft fair. We'll see how it goes!

Emrys is busy visiting and getting to know church members and marathon training will take me on 16 miles of country roads on Friday. The miles are stacking up!

We're looking forward to a visit to Durango for Emrys' ordination and Thanksgiving with my family in CT. Time to spoil the niece- although there'll be all the grandparents in the house to compete with- I may not even get to see her! Maybe if we get out there early enough on Wednesday...


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Ups & Downs

Life is settling into a routine here which is great! I'm training- I've made it halfway through training and halfway to my fundraising goal! Yeah!! & thanks to all who have donated. If you'd like to dontate, you can click the link on the right. I'm also working on joining the craft fair circuit with my goods. I'm doing my first one this weekend so we'll see how that goes! Emrys is working hard and settling into his routine at the church.

Yesterday on a drive out of town to Ithaca we did some seriouse debating on the house we were looking at buying and decided it wasn't the best investment choice. Too much necessary work to be done. So now we're back to square one and trying to decide what is a better option for us. Please keep us in your prayers as we look at these opitons that we will be able to make a wise decisions.

Thats all from Upstate NY for now.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Hey! That’s ME!

Google still never ceases to amaze me. It was pretty cool at one point along our travels when we realized that if you type “sara emrys tyler” into’s search engine our blog and other sites relevant to us came up.

Now, I’m working on getting an online business off the ground and I typed in my business name last week and nothing came up- ok, so my website had been live for 24 hours, what did I expect! But today I typed in “Charity’s Crafts” and the top two listings are actually me and my crafts that are being sold on and Now if I can get my actual webpage to come up there at the top of the list! ( -Still a work in progress so all comments are welcome!). So come in and visit, browse, send a friend over... all that good stuff :)

For all of you who are wondering what I’m doing with myself while Emrys is off doing the pastor thing… here’s your answer. Well, this and getting bids for work on a house we’re hoping to buy, and walking & fundraising for a marathon, and taking care of household stuff and…you get the idea.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Pride (In the Name of Love)

Last weekend I had the privilege of accompanying Sara on her big day of walking a half-marathon (that's 13.1 miles) in San Jose, California. She's in training for a full marathon in Phoenix this January. Completing these 13.1 miles--in less than 3 hours--was a major milestone in her progress toward that goal.

Sara walked at full speed and sweated it out for two hours and 57 minutes on the streets of San Jose. I had a different experience of the event. You see, I'm the one who carries cameras (two, for we had friends walking in the same race), water, and the expectation that he'll be on the course at a few different locations during the race to get action shots. My summary term for this job is "pack mule." Sure, it's more than that, but I get more sympathy if I compare myself to a beast of burden.

I really don't need the sympathy, though, because I too get something out of race day. As I walked a short-cut from mile 10.2 towards the finish line, I reflected on what I saw in Sara that day. She's been training since this time last year in order to complete these feats of pedestration. She routinely walks 4, 6, 8, and soon 12 miles a day, pounding the pavement and returning with aching muscles. Just fourteen months ago she suffered the horrendous effects of chemotherapy. Now she's an Energizer Bunny with sneakers. It's a stunning transformation, especially for a woman whose only athletic boast had been bowling in middle school.

As I watch from the sidelines, snap some photos, and check hydration levels I find myself overcome with pride. It's a strange sort of pride because strictly speaking I have no part in this fantastic blossoming of my wife. I just get to go along for the ride. But yet I feel pride, a sense of joy that says, "Look what the Lord has allowed me to be a part of!" or "Look at this amazing life with whom I am blessed to be intertwined!"

I marvel at the motivation, energy and persistance that I see in Sara. I also watch with joy her decision to use this awesome drive to raise money for charity. Perhaps many others will benefit from her ambulations. But even if she never gets her name on a hospital wing or never wins a gold medal in speed-walking, I will be just as proud.

And for that, I will gladly be the pack mule.


Monday, October 09, 2006

San Jose Rock n Roll Half Marathon

Yesterday I walked the San Jose Rock n Roll Half Marathon. It was great! There were over 8,000 participants, a bunch of bands and lots of energy. We were up at 5:30 to drive to the start, wandered around and found our corrals and then stretched, visited and waited. Our friends Rob & Sarah were also walking the race and Emrys gets kudos as the official photographer.

I wanted to finish in less than 3 hours and just barely made it with a finishing chip time of 2:57:35 which works just fine for me! The rest of the day was spent hobbling around and driving back to Fresno from San Jose and dinner with Rob & Sarah's extended family.

The other part of this trip has been an amazing visit with our Goddaugher Emma and her sister Katie. The are quite the team. Emma is 16 months old and her favorite things are "kit-ty cat" and "pup-py dog". Emrys is the proud uncle: Emma mastered her own version of "Emrys" before coming up with a "Sara" which are more like "Emmas" and "Aara". We'll take what we can get.

It's been a great time. We'll head back to NY tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Whirlwind Continues

We arrived in Bainbridge on Sunday evening and after an adventure of trying to figure out how to turn on the power (who knew that a utility box labeled "Cable TV" would hold the main power switch for the house!) we crashed. The next two days were spent cleaning, shopping, and settling in waiting for our moving truck. Just about dark last night our moving truck got here and this morning we have boxes everywhere. Ahhh moving. We're in no hurry to unpack - quite the opposite. We're digging for clean clothes and packing again. We have a 2:30 flight out to Fresno to visit friends and for the San Jose Rock n Roll Half Marathon that I'm walking.

So when we get back on Tuesday we'll get to sleep in the same bed, under the same roof for a whole month before we go anywhere again! We'll have organizing to do and only one more move in sight for a long, long time- and that's when we buy a house! If all goes well, we'll be settled, for good, by Christmas.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Road Trip End in Sight

We left Phoenix nine days ago and have spent four of the last nine days driving. With stops in Amarillo, TX (to sleep), Oklahoma City, OK (to visit with Sara's cousins), Bentonville, AR (to visit with Emrys' sister & her family), Owensboro, KY (visiting friends from Fuller) and now Prospect, PA (visiting other friends from Fuller), we are looking forward to arriving in Bainbridge, NY this evening.

With about 40 hours of driving behind us and about 6 hours to go the end of the journey is in sight. Hopefully, or moving trailer will be in sight too before we leave again on Wednesday.

That's right, we leave NY on Wednesday to fly to California to visit with our Goddaughter and her family and so Sara can walk her half marathon. October 10th we'll be in NY for good! - or until November anyway...


Tuesday, September 19, 2006


We arrived in Manchester 5 weeks ago, with just an interview lined up. Now we're headed back to Phoenix with all sorts of things falling into place. Emrys was offered a position at Nineveh Presbyterian Church and all the hoops have been jumped through with flying colors and he will start on October 15th.

We were also blessed to find a month-to-month rental in NY so we have a place to live, without any long term commitment. It's our hope to buy a house and we've found one we like, but we're leaving those details in God's hands for now. Can't take that on until we get into the area.

We are so excited about these new beginnings and the opportunities ahead of us and praise God for the swiftness of the process.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Most Powerful Force

"The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest."
~ Albert Eistein*

For a house whose list price is $155,000 a down payment of 10% brings the value of the mortgage loan to $139,500. At an interest rate of just over 6%, the amount paid to the bank for the mortgage loan, over 30 years, will be about $330,000. Thus, by virtue of having $139,500 at its disposal, the bank will receive an additional $190,500.



* Source unconfirmed

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Isn't She Cute!

We're in CT - hanging out with Adam, Lara and Reese. It's great being close to family again and I'm, again, thoroughly enjoying my niece. She 7 months old and changing every time I see her and it's only been 3 weeks!

Monday, September 11, 2006


Yesterday Emrys preached for Nineveh Presbyterian Church in Nineveh, NY. He did a great job and after the worship service the congregation when straight to the congregational meeting where the members had a chance to ask questions of him – including one gal who asked “I’ve been to Colorado. Are you sure you’re ready to leave?” Perceptive folks! But we are ready to settle, the doors did not open for us to return to Colorado, and Nineveh voted to call Emrys as their full time pastor. And we all know what happens when you turn away from Nineveh . . . .

We are very excited about the chance to live in rural New York, close to family in the northeast, far from the frenetic city life and close to open lands, active rivers, woods, lakes, camping, hiking, gardening, crafting, biking, and all the other things we enjoy. We are ready to settle, and settle we will. Now we’re on the road again, taking care of stuff until October 10th. Emrys will start his position (pending the Presbytery inquisition & vote on Saturday) on October 15th.

And there is a house key at the end of the tunnel of travels… ahhhhh.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Playing Dress Up

The spring of my senior year of college as I was on my way to growing up. With my degree secured I was headed out to find a job in job expos and interviews. It was time to step up from my jeans and sweatshirts and oversized bohemian sweaters. For my last semester of college I became my friend Kierstead’s dress up doll. She’d pull out all sorts of things give them to me to try on, I’d pick and choose and generally walk out in clothes that I wouldn’t have though of picking for myself, but weren’t to bad. I could step out of Kierstead’s a step closer to the sophisticated, “I’m grown up you should give me a job” look. And since I was still a college student, raiding my friend’s closet was the best part of dorm life- we had fun! Then I got a job in Durango, CO where the jeans and bohemian sweaters fit right in. And one of the only jobs in So. Cal where jeans and khakis fit right in. Dress up was over and Kierstead’s closet was a far far away.

So, now I’m back in New Hampshire and Kierstead had the day off of work so we went shopping. This time at the outlets instead of Kierstead’s closet. She has the ability to make me look outside the box of what I’d normally wear and look at other options. We had a great time and got a lot of laughs… like when I told her that a certain outfit wouldn’t match my Birkenstocks. Standing in the Gap Outlet, I had three things in my hand, she had an armload. I mentioned that it looked like she had found a lot of options, then she told them that they were for me to try on. It was great fun spending a day with an old friend which is what it was really about. I still don’t like shopping, but with Kierstead, it’s a fun way to pass a day. Without Kierstead… I’ll go for the dot-com shopping :)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Family & Heritage

Today my parents celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. I’m blessed to have a rich heritage of long marriages. My paternal grandparents hit 54 years and my maternal grandparents just celebrated 59 years together. In a day and age where everything goes so fast and presses to go faster and where things are produced to be disposed, its nice to look at the rocks of age that punctuate the landscape of life. And the family that colors the garden of life.

We’re going to be moving to upstate New York in a few weeks and for the first time in a lot of moves, we don’t really know how long we’ll be there for sure, but we plan on it being an indefinitely long time. That’s kind of nice! As we move closer to family, we're looking forward to being an active part of my niece's life as she grows and spending more time with my brother, his wife, Emrys' brother and his mom.

Tonight we’ll celebrate with my parents and their friends and family. Emrys and I will be cooking and serving dinner. What’s on the Anniversary Menu you ask?

Parmesan Stuffed Mushroom Caps
Pesto Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Romaine greens topped with avocado, mandarin oranges and almond slivers with a sweet red onion dressing

Bacon wrapped Filet Mignon or
Dunedin Chicken (see February archives for recipe)
Both served with fresh green beans and garlic smashed potatoes

Molten Chocolate Cake with Homemade Vanilla Ice-cream

I’m looking forward to playing in the kitchen. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a kitchen project like this and I really enjoy it! Something therapeutic about cooking: the aromas, the work, the finished product.


(Last weekend all the Wheat's were together - be it ever so briefly - but we have a photo to prove it.)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Reese the Niece

After Nineveh came a visit to Sara's brother's place in Fairfield CT. Sunday night was spent playing a game called Quelf (look it up if you need a laugh!) with Sara's brothers and sister-in-law. It was great fun. And the other portion of this stop was to spend time with Reese, our niece, who is now 6 months old and so much fun! We enjoy her smiles and her toys- fun things for kids these days. It's also been fun spoiling Adam & Lara. They got to go see a movie last night for the first time since Reese arrived.

Reese was my walking buddy this morning - I got my walk, she got her nap and everyone was happy!

We're off to the beach today and back to NH tomorrow!

Nineveh ... New York that is.

Last weekend we went to visit Nineveh, NY where Emrys preached for the Pastoral Nominating Committee and First Pres- Deposit, NY. Nineveh is located about 2 hours southwest of Albany and about 3 hours northwest of NYC in the rolling hills of upstate New York. The area was hit with severe flooding earlier this summer and evidence of the disaster is still visible. Heavy rains on saturday night while we were there had folks worried again.

Nestled among the hills are villages, one right after the other. Sidney, Bainbridge, Afton, Nineveh, Harpursville, Colesville and the list goes on. A 20 minute drive will present you through two or three of the villages. A quiet area of our country.

We'll see if it's our new home.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Reunion at Fry’s

We arrived back in Phoenix from Durango on Thursday evening in order to connect with friends from Fuller who would be in town to visit family this weekend. Emrys was very excited when this opportunity arose as Rob had moved to Washington when we moved to Colorado last summer and while they talk on the phone, it’d been a year since the soccer buddies had gotten together.

We’re staying at my parent’s house, which is a ways away from – well – anything and kind of confusing to find the first time you visit. So we made arrangements to rendezvous at a supermarket. Promptly at 11:00AM we walked into Fry’s. I wander over to the right towards the produce displays and to my left I hear Emrys exclaim- ‘He-ey!’ I look to the left and there’s Rob and his wife, Casie, sitting at a display patio table. Rob jumps up, and runs towards Emrys in a fashion reminiscent of the slow motion reunions you see in those sappy movies. Emrys is grabbed into a bear hug and I watch as Emrys’ feet leave the ground. Mind you, Rob is about 5 inches shorter than Emrys. Casie and I watch in amusement as the boys reunite. The service desk staff watched with a little more confusion mixed with their amusement. It can’t be every day you see two men grab each other in bear hugs in the middle of the supermarket. “Old friends we haven’t seen in a while” I toss over my shoulder as Rob turns to me.

We had a wonderful visit with them and spent the day catching up and enjoying the amenities of our temporary residence!

Monday, August 07, 2006

What Next?

Well we’re back in the United States after 7 months overseas of amazing experiences and travel. Check out our blog for a mouse directed vacation: What now?? Well, today we got the “all clear” PET/CT scan from Sara’s oncologist so with Sara in full health and 1 year into remission –praise God! So now we look eagerly towards settling down somewhere.

But for that to happen, Emrys must pass the gauntlet of the Job Search. He is looking for a job as a pastor or associate pastor in a Presbyterian church and the search is underway. He had a phone interview the end of June from Geneva Switzerland with a church in New York State. He has another phone interview tomorrow with a church in southern New Jersey. The church in NY has invited him out for in person interviews and preaching the weekend of Aug. 20. God only knows where we’ll land out of all this but our two regions that we were looking at (Northeast & Colorado) are looking promising at this point.

So for a few more weeks we will live out of suitcases as we travel from the Southwest to the Northeast, spend time with family and friends and enjoy the end of summer.

Blessings to you all!

Sara & Emrys

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Laughs in Durango

We arrived in Durango on Thursday evening and have enjoyed catching up with friends and lots of laughing. We went out to Sonlight Camp (where we spent last summer) to visit with folks out there on their evening off and were treated to great homemade ice cream! Yum! Today it’s off to our home church where Youth Sunday is on the Order of Worship. Familiar faces and places and cooler-than-Phoenix weather are making for a great weekend.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Warped by the Heat

I didn’t know my Grandpa Bonn all that well. The times we were together were precious few, though in the last years of his life I had the blessed opportunity to visit with him and even learn a little bit.

Grandpa Bonn was a colourful guy. He could describe things in ways that made you smile and, occasionally, made you cringe. It was part of his character. So in hanging out with him I learned some turns of phrase that really get the mind working. One of these—my favourite, I think—he used to describe both a notable habañero pepper and the cylinders of a motorcycle after he’d “seen what it could do.” That phrase is, and I quote:

Hotter than the hinges of hell.

Interestingly, that phrase also describes Phoenix, Arizona in August.

Most materials have certain quantifiable properties. Copper, when powdered and set to a flame, burns bright green. Plastic of types 1, 2, and 4, when cut into small pieces and heated over a gas stove (don’t ask) shrinks, curls up, and emits noxious fumes. Most things undergo radical changes when exposed to heat. And I think the human mind is no different.

An example is in order.

The last two days here in Phoenix have been hotter than the hinges of hell. You step outside the door and choke on the air. If you could grow tobacco in Phoenix, we’d be living in a giant cigarette. (Don’t give me any of that “But it’s dry heat!” stuff. Ovens are dry, and if you climbed into one of those when it was turned on you wouldn’t fare much better.) You can feel the wind like a river of molten air hit your face when you cross the soft asphalt streets. You can hear on the breeze the cackling chatter of the devil’s minions going about their daily chores. Phoenix is hotter than the hinges of hell, and we’re in it.

When the going gets hot, the hot go to In’N’Out for a burger. At least those who have been out of country and therefore deprived of their In’N’Out fix for too long do so. And the milkshakes are a blessing of cold in the heat. So we plodded our way through the thickening melt of the city to the classic burger joint of the southwest US.

We’re sitting in In’N’Out, savouring the sweet sensation of a cheeseburger and fresh-cut, fresh-fried chips—I mean, fries—when an employee of the establishment walks over to a regular customer sitting near us. She leans over the familiar client and says:

“Nice and cool today, isn’t it?”

I stop chewing. I look over. I think perhaps I’ve slipped out of reality and into some alternate universe where black is white and white is black. It could happen; there’s something sinister about this kind of heat, as if perhaps a worm hole is sneaking up behind you, breathing down your neck with the heat of a thousand suns.

It must be a joke. It’s like those cruel people who think it’s funny, when 100-degree heat and 95% humidity hits the East Coast, to greet you by saying, “Hot enough for ya?” This is just sick Arizona humour, like the sick humour of any other place in the world, only hotter.

But the familiar customer turns to the employee and says:

“It is! A very nice day out.”

The world is slipping through my fingers like the grilled onions that are slipping out of my open jaw. I thought for a moment; no, no I hadn’t misheard. One lady just said it was nice and cool; the other just agreed and called it a nice day. It wasn’t a joke. It wasn’t even sarcasm thickly veiled behind a dark shroud of dry humour. These two were serious. And disturbingly cheery.

Heat must warp the mind. It’s the only explanation I could come up with. Their minds—perhaps even their skin and the lobes of the brain in control of heat sensation—had been twisted by the heat. They’d been in Arizona too long.

It’s time to get out of this place, before I start climbing in the oven to cool off.


Facts & Figures

Since my brain works in logistics and numbers… here are a few to chew on for ya! It’s been an amazing 7 months and the experience was priceless. We’re now fully suited to settle down somewhere – yet unknown to us. Until then we’re still traveling: Phoenix, Durango CO, Manchester NH, Binghamton NY, Fairfield CT. So if you see your neck-of-the-woods on that list, get in touch. We’d love to see ya! ~sjt

Some of the numbers from our travels:

2 overnight trains
4 long haul flights
Sara walks 13.1 miles
15 Countries
16 Airports
19 Take offs (and an equal number of mostly smooth landings)
Sara’s --th Birthday
Emrys’s --th Birthday
37 Different Train Stations
40 Different Trains
Slept in 49 different Beds
198 days outside the USA

Monday, July 31, 2006

Bernoulli's Principle

At certain moments the order of the universe as we know it astounds me. One of those moments (or, better, a kind of those moments) is flying in an airplane.

Some time ago this guy named Bernoulli (or at least I think that’s what his name was; if I’m wrong, someone will correct me) discovered an important characteristic of air. He discovered that when air is moving over a surface it exerts less pressure upon that surface than when the air is still. Better yet, he found that the higher the speed of the air across the surface, the lower the pressure. This knowledge came to be known as Bernoulli’s (if that was his real name) Principle.

So what? you’re thinking. Big whoop. Maybe you’re remembering that kindergarten exercise of taking a piece of paper and holding one edge up to your bottom lip and blowing, then seeing the paper rise to the occasion. Maybe you were more interested in colouring that piece of paper or tearing it up or perhaps laying it down altogether and eating Crayola (because they do taste better) crayons. And maybe when it came time to actually give the principle an equation (in high school physics) you were more interested in that early-blooming girl across the room than in cracking the spine of your Bartleby, Grumman, and Oppenheimer (4th Edition) textbook.

Alright, so was I.

But now it fascinates me. Why? Because I’m looking out over the wing of a 747 jumbo jet that cruises at twenty-some thousand feet over Lake Michigan. And a “wing” is little more than a three-dimensional application of Bernoulli’s Principle. No, we don’t need to go into the physics involved. But even if you’re a physics professor, how can you not be astounded at the fact that two forty-foot-long metal wings can take these umpteen thousand tons and hundreds of people to twenty-some thousand feet above sea level and across an ocean? All because some little law of the universe involving the velocity of speeding molecules!

Of course, this is just the beginning. Birds have been using the same principle since long before humans dreamt of flying on their own (if we can call it that). Jet engines are involved—another wonder of human achievement. Beneath the historical process from observing birds serving wine at twenty thousand feet is an amazing human ability to observe, induce, deduce, and experiment until dream becomes reality. It’s thrilling, really.

The interwoven threads of universal laws, observation, logic, and will produce a beautiful tapestry, a surpassing gift from our Creator. I dare say that this gift, with all the colourful images woven into it, exceeds in value the gifts of early-blooming women and even Crayola crayons.


Family and Friends

We’ve now been on opposite sides of the globe in the same six-month period. We have seen summer in two different hemispheres. We have visited umpteen cities, flown through more than a dozen airports, and strolled through a lifetime’s worth of museums. We have stepped silently around a hundred sanctuaries, taken almost ten thousand digital photos, and tried more than a hundred restaurants, many of which did not have menus in English. We’ve seen and done a lot of things.

In the last two weeks we have spent some time in Manchester and Charlbury, England. We have friends from Fuller in Manchester, and I have an aunt who lives in Charlbury. As we approach the culmination of a seven-month string of travels, we have experienced a shift in the focus of our journey. In the case of Manchester and Charlbury we went to visit with people rather than to see places and take photos.

I have found it quite refreshing. Upon arriving in Manchester we settled in as guests in our friends’ flat and stayed up until all hours talking. More so than riding up the Eiffel Tower, more so than walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and more so than sliding down the hill in a Zorb, it was fun. I got a particularly good kick out of the visit (which lasted four days) because the husband of this couple of friends is someone who enjoys chewing on the same theological fat and gristle that I do. After weeks of talking mostly about maps, bus schedules, the next meal, and sometimes about our post-travel plans, I found it quite a treat to spend a few hours a day discussing the things that get me fired up. Plus it was good to visit folks who had a shared experience with us; you just can’t have that kind of rapport with bus drivers and ticket agents, no matter how cordial they are.

After our jaunt in Scotland we stayed with my aunt for another four days. There we were part of a happy convergence of cousins whom I have not seen since I was a teenager (or before); now they have their own homes and children (who are quite fun in their own right, especially with a huge garden and several squirt-guns). More late nights and several rounds of the water of life followed, wherein I got another treat equal to if not greater than that of good friends: family around the table. I found this time especially valuable given the impact of Dad’s death on me. To be able to spend time with (and experience the wonderful hospitality of) my dad’s sister proved a great treasure. I left encouraged by some conversations we had about the generation before me, talks that tested the waters of memory and touched the soft underbelly of the family of which I am a life-long part. It was good.

Seeing the sights, soaking up the sounds, and feeling the history of nations pass under your feet is all well and good. But the people have been the highest points in this journey. I can lose sight of that all too easily amidst the dazzle and excitement of tramping and touring. Even as I write this I am aware that the words will be uploaded to a place where other people—other friends and family—will read them and in some small way share in our adventure. We are blessed by the Lord to have received the means and impetus to do the traveling we’ve done in the last seven months. Yet we are blessed even more by those with whom we get to share the experience of that travel—those we have visited, those who have read our ongoing commentary, and those to whom we will tell our stories. Praise God for such blessings!


Friday, July 28, 2006

Laying Down Life

At the heart of Edinburgh Castle is an extensive and ornate war memorial. Within its vaulted gothic walls are large stone inscriptions commemorating Scots who died in the armed forces since the First World War (The Great War) down to today. On stone shelves are books—so heavy we might call them tomes—listing all the known names of these deceased and often their home towns and dates of death. All in all, the list of names amounts to hundreds of thousands of people. Alcoves set in the walls are dedicated to specific conflicts and those who died in them. Between and within the alcoves bronze relief sculptures depict emotive scenes from the conflicts to which those coves are devoted. In the words and sculptures you can remember soldiers, engineers, nurses, and civilians. A slow walk through the monument moves the heart.

At the centre of the memorial, in a room designed to look like the altar-space of a sanctuary, stands a large green marble monolith. Upon this monolith sits a bronze sculpture formed to imitate the ark of the covenant from the Old Testament. On the four corners of the monolith kneel four angels, their wings pointed high, their hands folded in a posture of prayer, and their faces lowered in submission. The ark itself, a chest with riveted bands and a lid, has on its face a relief of Saint Margaret (the patron saint of the castle, whose chapel from the 11th century still stands on the castle’s highest point) and on its back a relief of Saint Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland. On the half-circular wall of this sacred space is a relief showing every variety of Scottish soldier. Beneath that is an inscription declaring that those of the fallen whose names are unknown to us are certainly written in the book of God.

After walking through heaps of Roman Catholic Church buildings all over Europe, I have become somewhat attuned to the pattern and meaning of the architecture and artwork. There is a place for the altar in the sanctuary, the place where the real body and blood of Christ are found and experienced in the Eucharist. Around the space of the sanctuary are little chapels with smaller altars, each of which commemorates the life of a saint. The saints are usually depicted in paint or sculpture, their names inscribed, and often their stories told on plaques. The saints are clearly the heroes of the Roman Catholic faith, who followed the life of Christ to their deaths (natural or otherwise) just as their shrines and altars follow the procession of the twelve stations of the cross up to the high altar where the Spirit of Christ seems somehow to be more present.

The war memorial in Edinburgh Castle is a sanctification of those who have died in war. It makes a powerful declaration that these deceased war heroes are holy, set apart, with their lives surrounding, perhaps embracing, and leading to a holy of holies. In the holy of holies sits an ark of covenant to Edinburgh and Scotland that shall remain perpetually sealed and therefore forever mysterious.

I did not realize quite what was going on until I noticed a pattern in the inscriptions. Each little alcove, or chapel, contained a declaration of remembrance of those who had “given their lives,” or “laid down their lives,” usually “for king and country.” This language about “giving one’s life” or “laying down one’s life” struck a familiar chord with me. The chord was first sounded in the Gospel According to John:

“I lay down my life for the sheep,” (John 10.15); “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends” (John 13.15); it is re-iterated in the First Letter of John: “We know love by this, that he lay down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another” (3.16).

Here we have the same language of laying down life. There are more similarities in the language I have heard about those who die in the military. We often speak of the “sacrifice” made by those in the armed forces, especially in times of conflict; the same term applies to the life and death of Jesus. We usually say that a person “serves” in the armed forces (whereas someone who works in corporate marketing simply “works”); Jesus likewise, in life and death, did so in service. Those who designed this war memorial wanted it to be known that these deceased citizens had laid down their lives; Jesus does the same.

The form of the declaration made by the war memorial struck me as much as the content. The architecture, including window shape, stonework, floor plan, and desire for silence showed that the memorial is meant to be a religious structure and experience. To all those who come from Christian traditions descended from the Roman Catholic tradition, the signs and symbols are clear. This unabashed equation of death in the military and religious status stunned me. For it seems to me that such an equation, whatever the truth in it, makes an important silent omission.

Most of the sculptures in the memorial depicted people with weapons. Weapons—everything from the bare bodkin to the howitzer to the bomb—are standard issue for those in the military; it might be argued that the military does not exist without weapons. Their presence was no surprise. But their ubiquitous presence in this quasi-Christian religious format brought a problem into sharp relief.

The language used to speak of dead soldiers parallels—I think may originate in—the writings about Jesus’ life. Yet in the same breath these writings (the Gospels) that speak of laying down life, sacrifice, and service explicitly reject weapons. When his zealous followers attempt to fight for his freedom on the night of his arrest, Jesus tells them to put up their swords: “do you think I could not call twelve legions of angels to fight for me if I wanted?” he says. “Laying down life,” “sacrifice,” and “service” in the life of Jesus mean death without resistance to human power. The meaning is made grotesquely clear in the just King’s execution on a cross.

In this war memorial, where the same terms are being used and individuals being elevated in a religious framework, “laying down life,” “sacrifice,” and “service” mean submitting to the risk of being killed by an armed enemy. Herein there is certainly great sacrifice, and most civilians certainly feel that they are being served by those who make the sacrifice. But this giving of life is precisely for the purpose of resisting human power: it is a promise to make the enemy give up his life before the soldier will give up hers. In the soldierly understanding of “giving up of life” is an implicit expectation and promise to keep life (one’s own) and to take life (the enemy’s) if necessary. It is a distinctly different kind of sacrifice and service.

The juxtaposition of the religious ethos in the memorial with a different kind of sacrifice left the distinction between Christ-like sacrifice and soldierly sacrifice hidden. In that obscurity I think there is great danger: they are not simple lies that have power, rather they are lies that masquerade as truth.

Let us be clear: the war memorial in Edinburgh Castle is not the first time such an equation has been made. Every obelisk that marks and every cross that adorns a monument to fallen soldiers makes a similar comparison, if not in such complete architectural terms. Many cultures through time seem to have made battle sacred. Even the Roman Catholic Church in the time of the Crusades directly equated military service with service to the Lord; throughout the church buildings of Europe you can see many a window depicting saints with swords and shields with the sign of the cross. But let us not dream that our forebears were without mistake or sin; let us learn from them instead.

Let us also not dream that those who enter the military have an easy task. There must be great fear involved in preparing for and going into armed conflict; there is even greater pain and loss in enduring armed conflict and yes, even surviving it. We must never underestimate the courage and the effort put forth by anyone who faces an armed enemy.

Those who have died should be remembered; for its successful work in doing this thing I applaud the creators of the war memorial. Their artwork is exquisite and the architecture stunning. The poetry of the inscriptions and the presence of the books moved me to tears at times, tears which need to be shed after the horror of war by which most of these dead were afflicted. And the silence requested of us as we entered the memorial was right, meet, and proper. But there was another silence left by the monument itself that I think must be filled by a word of living and peace-full truth. When such a word is spoken there comes the possibility of finding the very thing this memorial cries out for but itself cannot achieve: peace.

This peace will be found neither in weapons nor ideas, neither trade nor treaties. This peace will not be found in such things, or in any thing. It will only be found in a person, the Prince of Peace, the one who laid down life in the perfect way and took it up again that we may do the same. It will be found in Jesus Christ. Let us not attempt to substitute anything for him and his presence, at very least because those who have died in war and now sit at the feet of his throne would be shamed to see us doing so.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Perfect Town

I have decided that Pitlochry, Scotland is the perfect town to visit. The little town is situated about halfway up the mainland of Scotland from Edinburgh, at the blurry line between the lowlands and the highlands. It has all the things both simple and demanding travelers require:

Easy access by train;
Basic hostels and luxurious hotels;
A gorgeous waterfall;
A cute vintage downtown area with distinctive shops;
A mountain with a great summit view;
Countryside that includes sheep, cows, and rolling fields;
A castle ruin;
A supermarket;
Forest and alpine trails;
A whiskey distillery with free tours;
A picturesque river with walking suspension bridge and fishing;
A microbrewery;
Beautiful local parks with flowers in brilliant bloom;
An ancient church building with historic graveyard;
Another whiskey distillery (with cheap tours);
Local events involving kilts and bagpipes;
Everything within walking distance; and
Lots of friendly Scots.

So, when you decide to come and visit Scotland, make sure to stop for a few days in Pitlochry. You’re sure to enjoy it.


P.S. This entry was inspired not by any offer of money or fame from the Scotland Tourist Board but rather by our actual experience in Pitlochry.

A Dram and a Pint

After walking to the east end of the picturesque town of Pitlochry and then up along a cool forested track we stopped at the Black Spout waterfall. We’re into waterfalls big time. I’ve never attempted to figure out what universal attraction waterfalls hold—nor shall I. But we like them. So we enjoyed Black Spout, took some photos, and walked on. Through some more woods. Along some low stone fences covered with moss. Under huge beech trees. Past cows and sheep lazing in the hot late morning sun. Up the lane to Edradour Distillery.

Edradour (pronounced EH-druh-DOW-ur with a Scottish brogue) is Scotland’s smallest whiskey distillery that produces the bottled spirits for commercial sale. (Moonshiners don’t count in the rankings.) The fact that every step of the process happens under the same roof is a point of pride for these Scots. Edradour is a small cluster of bright white buildings with red doors and trip nestled on the bright green slopes of the lowlands.

If you pay attention to the tour, you discover that to say “every step” happens under one roof is a bit deceptive. You see, Edradour is a non-mechanized, non-computerized distillery. Not one distillery of this type still malts its own barley (the process of getting the barley to germinate and producing a sugar mash). They just can’t afford to, because that’s the most labour-intensive part of the process. About 40 years ago (Edradour’s been in business since the 19th century) this cottage distillery had to outsource its malt process. Only those distilleries that have mechanized or computerized their production—that is, the large distilleries—malt their own barley. So now the malt barn at Edradour is a reception area and museum. It’s where our tour guide, Ian, gave us the full run-down of the types of Scotch whiskey and what makes them what they are.

But the malting is still important. Part of the malting process is the drying of the barley over a fire. In Scotland those fires are made with peat, a black, slightly oily substance from the fens of Scotland. The barley, as it dries, picks up the smoky flavour of the peat and will then transfer it to the finished whiskey.

Everything after malting is done under one roof, though: the fermentation, cooling, double-distilling, and bottling. Edradour produces a tiny 15 casks of whiskey per week, which are then stored for at least 10 years to mature. Edradour uses casks imported from Spain and Portugal—wine, sherry, and port casks in their former lives—to store the whiskey and give it its distinctive flavour. We had some at the opening of the tour. I’m not a whiskey drinker by habit, but I did appreciate the smoky-woody-sweet flavour of the wee dram.

“Beer” Tour #6: Edradour Distillery.

After our tour of Edradour we sat down on a little bench overlooking the babbling brook and gardens of the distillery. Then we were off through more fields, forests, and fens to Moulin, the original village of the glen that gave birth to Pitlochry. In Moulin is a small brewery where we got a brewery tour—that’s right, the second encounter with alcohol production in one day. Now, to be honest, “tour” is a bit of an overstatement; Moulin Brewery is one room, about twelve feet by fifty feet, that used to be a stable for riders going north from Edinburgh. But the size of the brewery did not keep the woman working there from giving us an exhaustive description of the brewing process, complete with the unique details of Moulin Brewery.

Most of Moulin Brewery’s output is tapped right across the street at the Moulin Hotel, a posh little establishment that’s hosted travellers since about 1695. A few bottles make it out of town, but since their bottling machine can only fill six bottles at a time, it doesn’t go very far. The kegs can’t go very far, either, and our spokesperson explained why.

Moulin ales are all natural—no preservatives. But the ale comes out of the fermentation casks with too much yeast and such in it for the taste of most Scots. Normally this problem would be taken care of with some manufactured chemical—but Moulin’s all natural. So the brewer adds a little packet of fish swim bladder and crushed eggshell to each keg. That combination acts as a “magnet” for all the cloudy stuff in the ale and sends it to the bottom of the keg. However, because this little precipitate is all-natural, it breaks down with time. That means the keg can only be moved ten times before it’s got to be tapped and drunk. (It also means the keg has to be finished in one week in summer, three weeks in winter.) So unless Moulin goes chemical, it might be hard to set up an export market.

I want to know who figured out that putting fish and eggshell in beer took out the particles. I should have asked.

After the tour we crossed the street and had a couple of pints. Sara had the Braveheart, a light blonde ale. I had the Old Remedial, a stout with some honey added in the brewing process. It was a bit like a sweet Guinness or Murphy’s, and with a solid alcohol content. (That’s why the lady at the brewery called it their “winter warmer.”) I just hope “remedial” means something different here.

Beer Tour #7: Moulin Brewery.


Friday, July 21, 2006

Irish Gumbo

When we flew into Dublin from Paris we did so on Aer Lingus, the Irish airline. I glanced over an article in the airline magazine describing the new face of Dublin emerging in the last decade or so. Ireland has, much by its own effort, experienced an influx of immigrants. Its economy has been up—perhaps as a result of its membership in the EU—and it has tried to curry the favour of corporations looking to expand into or out of continental Europe. As a result of all this international intercourse, Ireland and especially Dublin have become places where more languages than English and Irish are spoken and more colours seen in the skin than Islander Pasty White. These mean that different cultures are moving in.

Dublin is now a place where you can walk down the street and see faces that reveal Asian, Indian, African, and Mediterranean heritage. If you sit on a bench along the River Liffey and close your eyes you will hear Irish, English, Czech, Swahili, Japanese, and Spanish in the air around you. It’s a tapestry of many colours hung on the eastern wall of the emerald isle. And of course there are people who want Dublin to change back; there are people who want Dublin to change more; and there are even more who don’t know what to do with all this change.

On Wednesday last we went to the performance of Riverdance at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin, the home of the Riverdance troupe. Their specialty is Irish music (including the Uillean pipes, fiddle, and bodhran) and traditional Irish céilí dancing. The troupe’s skill in these arts takes your breath away, or failing that, inspires you to clap and tap your feet in joyful merriment. The show is impressive artistically and fun for the audience.

The second half of the show indulges in more story-telling through the dance scenes, describing especially the development of Irish culture. One of these dance scenes especially sticks in my memory.

It begins with a change in backdrop to show a stylized city scene (perhaps Dublin, New York, or Los Angeles). Two dancers take the stage who are, notably, black. They are accompanied by a single musician playing the oboe. They’re performing a jazz tap routine that is much looser, more improvised, and more playful than the céilí that’s dominated the show so far. Indeed, these two guys could be dancing in a club in New Orleans. Their heads and bodies sway to a funky jazz beat; their knees and ankles fling to a ragtime step. They’re dressed in black trousers, one with a black button-down shirt and the other in a white t-shirt with the sleeves cut off.

They’ve just finished their first dance when at the back of the stage another spotlight comes up. Here are three white guys, dressed in green and brown striped shirts buttoned to the collar, accompanied by the fiddler. The two black jazz dancers stop and stare. The fiddler begins her song and the three céilí dancers take the stage, tapping in strict formal style: hands at their sides, faces forward, torsos still atop the flying feet. They are in perfect harmony with the fiddle and with each other’s steps.

They finish the number and the oboist begins again. The two jazz dancers do their thing, spreading their groovy dance and languid motions all over the stage in a not-so-silent challenge to traditionalism. The tension begins to mount; the feud begins. Each set of dancers asserts with perfect skill the primacy of its dance over against the other in a scene reminiscent of West Side Story—without the words. Even the fiddler and the oboist go head-to-head in a confrontation of bow and reed. The jazz dancers do a mocking imitation of the rigid céilí dancers; the Irish men return the gesture.

But as the two dance groups go back and forth, something happens. Their dances change. The jazz dancers get a little more coordinated in their steps; they keep their torsos a little straighter. The céilí dancers loosen up a bit; they allow their arms to participate more in the expression of the dance. They are becoming more like one another. The challenge of their encounter becomes an interchange. Their tapping voices become a discussion and then, as if by some unknown plan, a consensus.

In time the five dancers are dancing together, the two instrumentalists are playing together. And now they’re doing urban jazz céilí, a dance that remembers the form and discipline of the old Irish style but embraces the free-flowing spirit of the immigrant way. It’s Irish gumbo, New Orleans wool, a knitting of cultures on the dance floor. The experience is so much fun that I might miss, amidst the clapping, hooting, and tapping, my chance to witness the real power of the dance. It is, after all, a creative and meaningful response to the changes in Dublin, Ireland, and the northern Atlantic world I found described in a little Aer Lingus article.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006


We've spent   the last three nights in Killkenny soaking up the area.  We stayed in a castle that has been converted to a hostel.  Great ambiance!   Monday we did the tourist thing in Killkenny and visited the Killkenny Castle which has been renovated and restored. It's a beautiful image of what the castles looked like 200 years ago.   Rooms have been restored to period and great care has been taken with the details.  We also visited the St. Canice Cathedral and climbed the ladders up to the top of the tower.   Then we strolled through town stopping by the Black Abbey and wandering around the downtown area.  Tuesday was a down day.   We spent the day at the hostel/castle, took a walk through the country and relaxed- as is necessary in all travels!  It's been a great couple days and a wonderful tour of Ireland .  Tonight we will finish it off with a date to go to dinner and see Riverdance in Dublin.  Tomorrow we fly to Manchester- England that is.   We'll spend the weekend with friends then move on to Scotland. 

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Kin of Inis Mor

We stayed a night on an island off the coast of Ireland, on the west side of Galway Bay. There are three islands there; Inis Mór (IN-ish MORE) is the largest of the three. The west side of the Island is 300-foot bluffs that plummet into the Atlantic. The island slopes from the west side to the east (facing Ireland) and is a criss-cross pattern of grey stone fences and bright green squares of pasture land dotted with cottages.

When we were there the weather was calm, clear, and gorgeous. But much of the year (such as in February, when I was there last) the weather coming in off the Atlantic can be brutal. Yet here is this small fishing and herding town that keeps a community on an island dotted with ruins that go back thousands of years. It’s a fascinating place. So fascinating, in fact, that I was inspired to wax poetic.

The Kin of Inis Mór

Just past the boggy, hilly reach
Of Ireland’s emerald shores
Reclining in defiant pose
Of calm before the roar
As if the tempest, storm and gale
She might by will ignore
There lies our mother, we who are
The kin of Inis Mór.

Caressed by wind and sun and rain
Her face is soft and green
The cattle, goat and sheep attend
Her hair and skin to preen
Upon her bosom do they rest
When night and weather sore
Afflict all those who call her home
The kin of Inis Mór.

Upon her back the whipping rains
Etch lines across the stone
Like stripes of penitence, the strains
Our saviour took alone.
But she is bitten, clawed, and scratch’d
With cuts that show her core
To keep from searching, stinging pains
The kin of Inis Mór.

The granite hunks of rugged rock
While speaking not a sound
Of ancient warriors and clans
Write songs upon the ground
The stairs and towers whisper still
Of those who came before
To prove that we are not alone
The kin of Inis Mór.

By sunrise every day we leave
The soft caress of fern
We put the green of Eire to bow
And safety far to stern.
We seek uncertain fortune’s yield
To increase winter’s store
Depending on the lee she gives
The kin of Inis Mór.

On days the Lord is kind with wind
And gracious with the sun
Off to the west to graze by bluffs
Where white and gray and dun
The cormorants and seagulls fly
We take our flocks, and more:
We claim the wide Atlantic for
The kin of Inis Mór.

You ask us if the mainland by
Its quiet weather calls
If ever does temptation tug
With softer fields and squalls
To leave the blust’ry rocky isle,
Our posts on crumbled tors?
For naught we dare depart our kin,
Our mother, Inis Mór!

Yet sometimes at horizon’s edge
The younger ones can see
A greater, broader, fuller life
Than what they here can be.
And those who hear with heavy hearts
The fading of their oars
Pray safety in the greater storms
Than those of Inis Mór.

Whate’er the distance or the height
Or how the time has passed
The mother’s voice is fresh and strong
And with a grip so fast
It holds the anchor of their hearts,
Their mem’ry’s greatest store
That they were born and they shall die
The kin of Inis Mór.

So when the Lord with clarion voice
Will open up the tome
Of life and call her children up
To take their heavenly home
Then clothed again in Eden’s dress
Our mother those she bore
Will with a peace divine embrace
The kin of Inis Mór.

Then from the hearts of everyone
Shall pain and sorrow flee
And where the only tempest winds
The dancers’ feet will be
While drinking to the Father’s grace
We shall recall once more
The one who made us by the sea
The kin of Inis Mór.

-- emrys

Saturday, July 15, 2006

La Salsa

Down on Mary’s Street in Galway is a little restaurant called La Salsa. I mean little: it has enough room for three customers and a cash register on the first floor and five tables on the second. Walking into the place gave me a flashback to Gazpacho in Durango (the town’s celebrated New Mexican cuisine, where the margs flow smoothly). It was Mexican (or New Mexican?) food in Galway, Ireland.

In my experience, going for Mexican or Latin American food in Europe is like shooting craps. (No pun intended, although sometimes it works out to be all too true. Don’t dwell on that one.) Sometimes you just have to walk into a place to realize that this “Mexican” restaurant sprang to life when some enterprising individual (God rest his soul) saw a blog about Mexican food and said, “Hey, I can do that in Ireland!” It’s like Forrest Gump’s proverbial box of chocolates: you’d be surprised what kind of crap you can get. (Too many puns dropping here. Cleanup in Paragraph Two, please!)

But we gave it a shot, because we wanted cheap food that could also fill us up. And hey, there’s always the long shot. So we gave our orders to a woman who looked and spoke as Irish as they come. Spicy smells emanated from the kitchen in the back and a young woman dished out metal platters with burritos wrapped in paper. It was a good start.

We went upstairs and sat down on chairs painted in solid primary colours and padded with materials that looked like they came from the Mexican section of Oriental Trading Company. There were paintings of scenes from Chihuahua and Guadalajara on the walls; sombreros decked the windows and banister. Everything you’d expect from a good overwrought attempt at Mexicana. The only chink in the glitzy neo-Mexican armour of the joint was the television playing past episodes of Charmed. But hey, even New Mexico stoops to having Charmed on its airwaves.

The food was awesome. If I closed my eyes I might actually imagine I was back at Gazpachos, Nini’s, or any other hole-in-the-wall beans-and-rice joint south of the Four Corners. Bonus: the portions were even Southwest portions. The burrito was big enough to feed a prospector and his horse for a week in winter. Just enough to feed me ’til dinner.

As we left, I had to ask the lady at the counter. “Where’d you learn to cook Mexican food?”

“San Francisco,” she replied in her gorgeous Irish lilt.

Well, it ain’t New Mexico. But she could have fooled me, and that’s good enough for this cowboy.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Butter Museum

My name is Emrys, and I am a dairy snob.

I realized the fullness of my condition only a few years ago. We were at the home of friends who had presented us with a meal that included baked potatoes. After we had said grace and begun to eat, our hostess exclaimed that she had forgot to put butter on the table. She returned from the fridge and put a tub on the table saying, ‘Well, it’s actually margarine. I hope that’s OK.’

I remember looking at the margarine and looking back at our hostess and saying, ‘Actually, do you have any real butter?’

I think Sara came close to death by embarrassment that day. I, however, take it as a testimony of how close we were with these friends. (Our hostess did laugh at my comment, after all.) I think Sara took it as a supremely rude gesture: to reject a hospitable offering of food—or at least condiment. In spite of my rudeness and any potential offence, however, we made it through the evening with much joy. And, as it turned out, our hostess did in fact have real butter on hand for this dairy snob.

That’s right, I’m a dairy snob—or, as I would prefer to say, a dairy connoisseur. There is a difference between margarine and butter; between sweetened vegetable spray and whipped cream; between ice cream and ice milk (or frozen yogurt). Don’t get me wrong. I applaud the advances in culinary technology that make these supposedly healthier and cheaper substitutes more tasty. But for reasons real to the palate or imagined in the mind, I strongly prefer the real thing, from a real cloven-hoofed, cud-chewing animal. I’m a dairy connoisseur.

Thus, when we arrived in Cork a few days ago and I saw on the tourist map that the city has a “Butter Museum,” I felt an instant attraction. Sure, I know the basics of butter: derived from milk, produced by skimming and churning, often coloured to look more yellow. But the abundance of cows we passed on the train ride here made me begin to imagine grandiose things for a place called the “Butter Museum.” Among other things, I saw in my mind’s eye loaves of freshly baked bread and wooden tubs of fresh butter (perhaps mixed with a little honey?) for the tasting. Hey, if breweries give you a sample pint, shouldn’t a butter museum give you a sample pat?

So we paid our five euro and went in to learn more about butter than anyone outside of the dairy business has a right to know. For instance, did you know that the dairies of Ireland all constitute a single effective co-op? The brand name is “Kerry Gold,” named after County Kerry, just west of County Cork. And if the temperature of the room in which one is churning butter is too warm, the butter will not “break,” or congeal in the churned cream. (Until folks paid attention to the temperature, this failure in churning was attributed to fairies. So they might nail a donkey’s shoe to the bottom of the churn in order to ward off the troublesome sprites.)

Alas, they didn’t offer us any free samples of Kerry Gold butter. I suppose if I want that we’ll have to visit a creamery, but so far I haven’t heard of any offering tours in the area. I reckon visiting creameries is not as popular a tourist activity as visiting breweries. Being a diary connoisseur does not seem to be as in vogue as being a beer connoisseur. But I’m not changing. I’ll enjoy any beer that passes my way (especially if someone else is paying), but I’ll pay top dollar for the real McCow and snub my nose at the rest. That’s right.

’Cause I’m a dairy snob.

~ emrys

Yeah for WIFI

We finally scored WIFI so I've put up lots of new photos... look right :)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Blarney Stone

We are in Cork and today we took the side trip out to Blarney Castle and visited the Blarney Stone. A beautiful are and great castle ruins and a con scam to get tourists to stand on their head, get tipped over the side and kiss the outside of the castle wall. Emrys did it. As for me- well, I passed. Pressing my face up to a wall after who knows how many others had been there, not my cup of mocha. But I did take lots of pictures and wandered the grounds which were beautiful. It was a fun day and tomorrow we're off to Galway!

Monday, July 10, 2006

A Perfect Mocha

After a walk though the woods in a chilly summer drizzle, taking in the remains of the small Ross Castle next to a lake and walking back to town, it was time for something hot to drink. So while standing on a corner trying to decide which way to go we spotted Murphy’s Dessert Shop. And the clouds parted, angels sang and a beam of light… well not really. But we went in and ordered drinks and I got the best mocha I’ve had in a long time! A perfect blend of coffee and chocolate- neither out-doing the other and the creaminess of the steamed milk not lost to the richness of the others. Chocolate shavings on top and this was purely divine! Emrys said his cocoa was pretty good too. Murphy’s in Killarney, if you’re ever in the neighborhood.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Beer Tour 4 & 5

Most drinkers of beer recognize the name of Guinness as representing the quintessential stout brew. It is an Irish brew, and its home is in Dublin. So our visit to Ireland and Dublin would not be complete without a stop at the Guinness brewery. Dublin is a very small city, so everything is within walking distance. We walked down to the city block where several huge silver columns rise up out of the ground—silos used in the brewing process. We saw the old wooden doors that led into the original courtyard of the place where Arthur Guinness began the production of this world-famous beer. And we saw that the admission fee for a brewery tour was 14 Euro.

14 Euro? For a tour and a half pint? Hey, we’re on a budget here!

You can get two pints at the pub for half that price, and remember the last time we went through a brewery. After all, in the words of my sister-in-law, “If you’ve seen one brewery, you’ve seen them all.”

Now, it’s all well and good to call it a “beer tour” when you’re in central Europe, where beer is the poor man’s water. But here in Ireland you can’t stop at beer. You have also to honour the deep tradition of the “water of life”: whiskey.

Jameson whiskey also hails from Dublin, Ireland. So, for the sake of those depending on us for the motivation of their future travels to Europe, we made a pass by the old site of the Jameson whiskey distillery. (Don’t worry—we’re actually going to visit one in Scotland.) We couldn’t go for a tour, both because of budget constraints and also because the place was jam-packed due to the World Cup madness. They’ve got a pub, you see, and during the World Cup all pubs become sardine cans of football junkies.

But for those of you more interested, perhaps, in a good whiskey than a good lager, there it is: Jameson distillery in Dublin.

~ emrys

A Week On Camp

It was an interesting week. We were helping out with Dublin Christian Mission’s Family Camp. Families come out to the camp for a week of holiday and camp experience. It was a very different from the camps that we were used to. Camp was comprised of a field, a portable kitchen, tents and port-o-loos and recreational equipment that you’d expect to have around. Worship sessions were optional for campers and everyday was a different outing off of camp. Sara was in the kitchen most of the time and Emrys was doing games and stuff with the kids. We were also two of the three heading up the evening sessions for the youth- or those who showed. For those who came, we had great times of discussion about all sorts of things. After the first night I decided that if the kids showed up and had something to say, we were doing good.

With roughly 75 people at camp ages 3 months to 67 years old, there was a lot going on all the time. From 7:45am until all hours of the evening and early morning we were serving the camper families. Sleep was in short supply and by the end of the week, we were exhausted! All in all a good experience and this is just a nutshell version- but that’s all for now .

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Crying Babies

When you take as many train and airplane trips as we have in the last few months you’re bound to end up in certain inevitable situations. For instance, you’re bound to be kicked out of your first-class seat because you’ve only got a second-class ticket. You’re bound to be caught on a platform with a bunch of football hooligans. You’re bound to be stuck in an embarrassing situation with an acute lack of toilet paper.

And you’re bound to be sitting for several hours in the same cabin with a crying baby.

I’m not a parent yet, so I can’t really speak or reflect from that point of view on the phenomenon of crying babies. But I’ve known several new parents and have the requisite cultural knowledge of the infant state. Conversations with said parents and general knowledge, combined with a few recent experiences involving crying babies in tight spaces, lead me to reflect a little on this remarkably human situation.

Babies cry because they have a need, either real or perceived. They need something, and they cannot communicate the specifications of this need in linguistic terms. Therefore they do what ultimately and almost unerringly commands the attention of all adults: they cry. There is something particularly poignant about the crying of a baby. Perhaps it is a deep-seeded pity for the fact that a baby has very human needs but cannot yet articulate them. Perhaps it is a more visceral, animal resonance that reminds the lower parts of our brains of our own experience as babies. Perhaps the Lord designed our inner ear to hear more sharply the particular pitches and tenors of babies’ cries. Whatever the case, it strikes a certain chord in my heart. That chord is dissonant, however; the consistent crying of a baby grates on the heart and the nerves.

There seem to be times when the need that gives rise to a baby’s cries cannot be identified. We may see no symptoms of teething; the mother may try unsuccessfully to nurse her child; the father may get no results from rocking the child in his arms; the temperature may seem to be just right. Yet the baby continues to cry. The only thing that is clear is that the baby suffers for some reason, some unfulfilled need.

As I sat at different times and in different cabins occupied by crying babies, I wondered why adults don’t cry as babies do when their needs arise. Conversely, at what point do children learn that inarticulate crying is not the best way to summon the meeting of their needs? Several tools come to the aid of developing individuals: articulate speech allows us to ask for specific things like food, blankets, or the toilet. Certain gestures achieve the same effect: witness a toddler who gets her mother to pick her up by looking up and raising her arms (instead of simply crying). Another tool for getting one’s needs met is the recognition that certain people can fulfill our needs and certain others cannot. I have never seen a toddler ask her baby brother if she could have a cookie (she asks her parents, of course); a baby will cry for everyone to hear.

There are exceptions, of course, to the development of the ability to communicate need. Even beyond the age when they will cry because they are hungry or cold, children will give inarticulate cries because of physical pain. Witness a child falling down on the concrete; there is pain and there is surprise. There is a need for comfort, but that need is expressed not by linguistic expression but by crying. (Of course, there is the strange instance of the child who, when adults are present, will scream bloody murder when he falls; but if no adult is paying him any attention, he’ll stand up and get right back to what he was doing. I suppose this is a different kind of need.)

At some point along the journey of life, we learn how to suffer in silence. Somewhere along the line we learn (or decide) that expressing our needs in an outward fashion will not get those needs met. There may be thirty other people in the train car with that crying baby. Ten of them may be quite tired; twelve of them may be hungry; five of them may be experiencing physical pain from wounds old and new. But none of them is crying like that baby. Most of them are not telling anyone that they suffer. Many of them, I’m sure, will not tell anyone at any time about their suffering.

I wonder if, too, there does not come a point in the life of many people when all suffering is done in silence. Even those sufferings that clearly result from a difficulty in human relationships (which may be worked out if spoken out) or from a basic physical dysfunction (which may be taken to a physician) are borne in silence. This seems to be the exact opposite of the crying baby situation: instead of crying out loud to all the world that she is suffering, the silenced adult cries out in no form to anyone. And whereas a crying baby will attract the attention of everyone in the train car, the silent adult will attract none. Perhaps this is the purpose: just as people often get annoyed by crying babies (rightly or no), people are afraid that their own words of suffering will be deemed annoying or bothersome. But what a horrible life to live, the suffering of silence!


Friday, June 30, 2006

An Amendment

After further discussion with our German friend and some thought on my part, I’m making an amendment to an earlier post, the one entitled “Du bist Deutschland!”

In the earlier post I suggested that an ambiguity in the national pride of Germany results from the fact that Germany was defeated in World War II. However I have been shown that the deeper, more effective source of ambiguity is the nature of German national pride during World War II: the spirit of Nazi-ism. The Nazi party, while it was in power, equated German national pride with the destruction of all “impure” German races, including and especially the Jewish people. It is this equality, still heralded by contemporary Neo-Nazis and still remembered by most people in Europe and North America, which really makes the idea of German pride and nationalism seem awkward.

I was reminded that losing a war is not necessarily a long-term embarrassment. But the desire to violate such a deep-seeded principle as respect for other faiths, ethnicities, and nationalities does produce such embarrassment. Losing the battle was not the sin of Nazi Germany; what they fought for was. It is for this reason that we still shudder to think what the world would be like—especially what Europe would be like—if the Nazis had not been defeated.

Now with the World Cup in Germany and all those flags flying, I wonder how the German sense of nationalism will evolve and find new expression. It’s a shame we can’t remain in Germany to find out first-hand.

~ emrys

Thursday, June 29, 2006


We just spend two and a half days in Paris. What an enchanting city! The Eiffel Tower at night is truly captivating. Our first night we went out and spent the evening going up the tower, watching night fall and the tower come to light. It was awesome and we got some great pictures. On Tuesday we did “Paris in a day” type of sight seeing. We saw the Louvere (it was closed), the Sorbonne, the Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe. We walked down the Champs Elysees and along the river. All that and then it was off to meet up with Geoff & Krissy who arrived that evening. Wednesday morning we met up with other brother George who arrived and then we went to see the Sacre Coeur Bascilica and the Moulin Rouge area. We got into the Lourve and saw the Mona Lisa and Venus di Milo and others. Followed by dinner and visiting, it was another full day. So now we’re off to Dublin. We have a day and a half to our own devises and then from Saturday to Saturday we’ll be at camp- and offline. Have a great week!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


We’ve been traveling around western Europe on trains. The ease of such travel and the comfort of the conditions on a train still impresses me, even after five such journeys in less than three weeks. There are no security checkpoints to go through, as with airplane flights. Also unlike flying is the fact that you can arrive at the station five minutes before departure and still get your seat. Unlike driving, there’s no need to worry about directions or getting lost; plus you don’t have to stop the train for restroom breaks.

I think somehow we missed out on something in the United States. Somewhere, somehow, trains just didn’t catch on as a reliable, fast, and extensive network of transportation. Having traveled Europe in this fashion, I now sense the lack of trains in the United States and I mourn it. I know there are planes and automobiles that will get you from point A to point B just as safely, but give me the slight rock and roll of a TGV speeding through beautiful countryside anytime.

~ emrys

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Four Countries in a Week

World Cup, Mozart, Reformers and IronMan all in a week. Last Sunday we were exploring the countryside of Berlin with Karen. Monday was off to Salzburg where we took in Mozart’s home town. From there it trains to Geneva where a huge water feature, spouting water about 100 meters in the air was the featured attraction. That and of course all of the history of Reformed Theology. I followed Emrys around as he took in the places and people he’d spent so much time studying in seminary. I enjoyed the architecture and sights; he knew the history so his appreciation was a bit deeper. Friday night in Geneva brought mayhem as Switzerland advanced to the Round of 16 in the World Cup. Honking horns, whistling and screaming reigned over the night and early morning as the Swiss celebrated. (We’d had the same sleep interruption in Dresden when Germany won their match. France plays on Tuesday night- we’re planning on staying up late. Just in case.)

On the daybreak side of early on Saturday morning we were back at the train station heading for Nice, France. Our mission: a day at the beach. Blue Mediterranean waters on the French Riviera were calling. We arrived on Friday afternoon, witnessed the setup for the IronMan triathlon and lots of construction and went to find dinner. Since the night before had been so short we crashed and had a lazy morning on Sunday; which was followed by a lazier afternoon as we slopped on the sunscreen and headed surfside. With books to entertain us we spent the afternoon in and out of the water and generally relaxing. I know- it’s tough. A romantic dinner out, and a stroll along the coast, punctuated with fireworks made for the perfect beach holiday. Next time I think we should stay longer!

Where to this week you ask? Arriving in Paris on Monday and Dublin on Thursday. Saturday it’s off to camp for a week with Dublin Christian Missions as volunteer staff. You can keep us in your prayers as we minister with DCM to inner-city families taking a week’s holiday.

Internet connections are in and out so our response time on e-mails and Skype may be longer.