Category Archives: Travels

There and back again and then over there and then back again.

Got home late last night from our tour of southwestern Canada–all the way to Tofino, which is nearly as far west as a person can go in Canada.  We drove just a hair under 5,535 kilometres over our 3 weeks on the road.

I’ve been offline for most of the time away, which I’ve enjoyed.  I didn’t really miss the internets all that much, which, I suppose, is a bit of a lesson for me.  I plan on doing some posts about the trip in the near future.

I’ve unpacked the van and now I’m preparing to repack the van, as Luke and I are driving down to Otterburne tomorrow with a vanload of books, etc.* and to pay for our the trailer we bought.

As I’m boxing all of our books, Dixie and I get into a debate about my manner of packing.  You see, I’ve got a scheme in mind for the limited bookshelf space we will have in Otterburne.  I figure that if we have to choose a limited number of our books to shelve, then it should be those which we’ve already read.  Dixie, on the other hand, is more inclined to choose books in a set (i.e. matching spines–such as Penguin classics) or books she wants to read.  My argument runs thusly: if Joe or Jane Visitor comes over and looks through our bookshelf, as many people are inclined to do, and pulls out a book and says, “How was this one?” I think we should be able to give an answer.  Otherwise, the conversation will go like this:

“How was this book?

“Dunno.  Haven’t read it yet.”

“Did you like this one?”

“I haven’t read that one either.”

“Did you read this book?


“Have you read any of these books?  How many of these have you read?”


And so on.

In my opinion, we shouldn’t have a bookshelf in which 90% of its contents are unread.

There will also be boxes of books marked “to read”, which are those books which we own, haven’t read, but want to read.  And, finally, there will be a third level of box holding books which we are in no hurry to read.  We may want to consider simply getting rid of that last set.

I have tentatively won the argument.  For now.

And so tomorrow the Vandermen set off once again.

Had a brief meeting today with our real estate agent.  We’ve lowered the price again.  We need to sell the house.  We also discussed some of the finishing work which should probably be done to sell the house.  I found it a rather depressing meeting.

But all shall be well.

Checking in

Writing a post at my brother-in-law’s toasty apartment in the Granville area of Vancouver.  He’s off to get some sushi and noodles for supper.  This morning and afternoon we whipped over the Coquihalla in no time (driving the Speed Limit +12–the No Ticket Speed Limit–helped).  The Coquihalla is not as much of a white-knuckler as I remember it being.  I remember my parents and I drove it one time one summer when it was still a toll highway.  It seemed like a big deal at the time.  Afterwards, Dad bought a bumper sticker that read “I drove the Coquihalla”. 

Unfortunately, the bridge that connects the west-bound Trans-Canada highway to Vancouver was closed for several hours due to a fatal accident involving a motorcycle.  We moved along at a snail’s pace and were eventually re-routed to another bridge from downtown Surrey.  Just rounding the corner before going down the hill approaching the bridge, we heard on the radio that the bridge on the Trans-Canada had re-opened.  Figures.  We would have been better off to visit our friends in Langley and wait out the traffic jam.  As it was, it took us almost as long to drive from Surrey to our current location in Vancouver (maybe 30kms) as it did to drive from Kamloops to Surrey (about 300kms).

But we did fine and the kids were great.  Madeline was hyper, Olivia was sitting in a runny poop-filled diaper and Luke had to pee.  But we made it.

Backing up: a night in Kamloops (all of us asleep by 9:30 local time) and an hour in the pool with the kids.

Prior to that, two nights with Dixie’s relatives in Calgary.  Went to the zoo sans Dixie, who stayed at home sleeping to fight off a cold.  Impressed by the elephants (they’re always impressive) and the grizzly bears.  We may have been there at the wrong time (most of the afternoon), because many of the animals appeared to be resting and out of sight.  Oh well.  Still: elephants and grizzly bears!

Oh, and the night before that with friends at The Field.  Quiet.  Relaxing.  Could’ve spent a week there, easily.  Without the kids.  Of course.

Tomorrow we plan on visiting the Vancouver Aquarium and spending some time in Stanley Park.  The following day it’s off to Tofino for a couple of nights.  I’m very much looking forward to it.

Mission accomplished

Our long weekend marathon road trip to Manitoba and back was a smashing success.

I always feel a bit like a hero after such ‘quick’ round trips of 1,800kms over a weekend.   “Europeans wouldn’t dream of doing this sort of thing,” I think to myself.  But what do I know of Europeans?  I may be one, but I haven’t lived among them (that is, actually in Europe) in 25 years.

The objective of our trip was to check out housing in the area.  On Friday we had some mobile home viewings and a lunch appointment with one of the Providence admissions guys and a campus tour.

The Providence campus is really quite nice and not at all what I expected it to be.  I had imagined it was like Briercrest back in the early-t0-mid-80s, only much smaller.  It’s certainly small in comparison, but it’s stately.  I got quite excited about the whole studying-being-a-student thing as we drive through the campus.  I need to remind myself that I’m probably more excited about the image than anything and once I get into the thick of studying and exams and memorizing Greek and Hebrew and research papers I may not feel the same excitement.

The mobile home scouting went well–we put a deposit on one of them the same day.  We looked at three of them.  One of them had a nice addition with office space in it, which would be very useful, but the place needed a LOT of work (it was the most run-down of the bunch) and I don’t want to spend my seminary days worrying about leaky roofs and heaving porches.  I felt bad, though, because the people who own it were very nice, friendly people.  And I’m pretty sure they saw us go for a second viewing at the mobile home we ended up buying.  

As we left that it’s-bigger-but-it-needs-more-work mobile home, I said, “We’ll be in touch.”  Those words have been ringing in my ears since then.  I said them more as a knee-jerk, ‘that’s just what you say’ sort of thing or maybe as a formality–I’m not quite sure what I meant by them and, more importantly, I’m not sure how they were interpreted.  Would it be assumed that “We’ll be in touch” means “We’ll be in touch *if* we want to make an offer on your trailer”?  Or would it be assumed that it means “We’ll be in touch *to* make an offer on your trailer”?

I’m wondering if I should be calling them to say, “Sorry if I miscommunicated anything, but we bought the other one.”  I hate to leave a bad impression, especially on those friendly folks.  And I’d hate to have bad blood with potential neighbours.  On the other hand, that’s the reality of the real estate biz.  I just wish I hadn’t said, “We’ll be in touch,” whatever that might have meant.

The third mobile home we looked at was also liveable and acceptable, but its location (behind the first two) wasn’t as good.  The first two mobile homes have a view of the bus stop and a large field across the road where the kids can run around.  The third one was nice otherwise, similar to the first one we looked at, except that it has a wood burning stove occupying a chunk of the living room.  I can’t imagine what fire insurance premiums would be for a mobile home with a wood burning stove in it.  However, I can imagine one of our kids smashing their heads on one of its sharp corners or, more likely, burning their precious little hands.  I could also imagine trying to arrange the furniture around it.

We opted for the first mobile home: it was the most expensive, but needs the least work.  In fact, cosmetically it needs no work at this point. We can just move in and live.  Plus, if mobile home living is simply too cramped for our family, that mobile home would probably be the easiest to sell.  PLUS, the owners threw in the dishwasher and a bottle of wine.

So we put a deposit on a mobile home in Otterburne, Manitoba.

This is Otterburne:

View Larger Map

The school and campus make up most of the corner north-east of the river.  Not much there.  But I’m good with that.

Now to prepare and sell our house.  Finish a seminary course.  Finish bivocational life.  And then maybe a vacation.  And then move. I can’t wait.

Whither The Eagle & Child?

I was thinking of posting some church-related musings tonight–you know, something meaty, significant.  But I shan’t.  But neither shall I not blog for the rest of May, which was another option.

Instead, I alert you, dear reader, that we’re off for a marathon drive to Manitoba tomorrow, where we will do some reconnaissance work on Friday–on the seminary, lodgings, schools, etc.  On Saturday we will spend the day with friends in small town Manitoba.  On Sunday we will join the good folks at Faith Covenant in Winnipeg, before making the marathon return trip to Prince Albert that same day. 

It’s bound to be a tiring, but useful weekend.

I’m getting tired of myself referring to us doing “reconnaissance work”, which I have done several times.  And it was only marginally clever the first time I said it.  If that. My sincerest apologies to those of you who’ve had to hear it more than once.

In other news, I emailed  my second (yes, only the second of several) seminary assignment to Briercrest the other day.  I made an enquiry into the process for getting a due date extension (it’s officially to be done June 10).  I was merely asking questions, because ideally I would like to get this course done on time, but with home improvement things and whatnot I thought perhaps that final research paper might need a little extra time.

It seems that officially, the extension ‘process’ is simply a request for more time, though it comes at a price: $75 for a 4-month extension.  I wouldn’t expect to use another 4 months, but whatever.  As it happens, they granted me an unasked for, free 2 week extension.  This will make a world of difference.  A due date of June 26 sounds a lot better than June 10, doesn’t it?

(I just checked the syllabus and the paper doesn’t, for the moment, seem that daunting anymore.  Glad tidings.)

Got some work done at the church today.  I was feeling pretty useless there yesterday, but today was better.  Did some administrative stuff and finally got some idea rolling for my sermon on the 17th.  I sometimes wish I could record my thoughts, because my sermons always seem to be better (and more passionate) in my head than when they are put on paper and then into speech.  Even the transfer from thought directly to speech suffers great loss of clarity, so a dictaphone or recorder of some kind wouldn’t be much help.

Interestingly, ideas seem to flow best when I walk slow laps around the perimeter of our sanctuary.


I saw you nodding of there.  Yes, you.

Ho hum.

Whither The Eagle & Child?  Well, clearly not entirely here.


Had a great weekend in Surrey, BC for the annual general meeting of the ECCC.  It was a chance to get away from the kids (first time for more than 1 night in six years); it was a chance to visit with friends and get to know new acquaintances a little better.  I also attended a “ministerial” for the first time–there’s a great bunch of pastors in this conference.  The Covenant church really does feel like home.

And we had beautiful sunny weather the whole time, which was a shock not just for the visitors to the area.

I won’t get into the boring (to you) details of the weekend.  Of note, however, was Sunday’s trip into Vancouver.  We wandered down to Granville Island with Dixie’s brother.  Granville Island is a former industrial area of the city revitalized as a trendy/artsy-fartsy/old-school public market area.  A person could have quite a full, relaxing day out there.  Start out in the morning in a coffee shop with the paper; wander along the water and have a light lunch somewhere; wander some more–maybe through the market–and have a solid dinner before calling it a day.  It’s now officially one of my life goals: spend a full, easy day on Granville Island.

That’s not what’s of note, however.  We were undecided about where to eat for supper.  We were actually seated at Bridges on Granville Island, but after perusing the nearly blank menu decided to go elsewhere.  A peruse and dash, if you will.  The next plan was to drive into the downtown area for some Thai food, but on our walk back, Dixie’s brother spotted a Sushi restaurant he’s wanted to try for a long time, but could never get into: Shabusen Japanese Yakiniku House (the one on south Granville, just a couple of blocks from Dixie’s brother’s apartment).

I was reluctant at first–I was hungry after all that walking, so raw fish and wasabi–unappealing at the best of times– didn’t seem like the thing we should be trying out.  As it turns out, Dixie and I both loved it.  We went with the all-you-can-eat menu so that we could try a bit of everything.  Dixie’s brother did the ordering, since he knows his way around a Japanese menu.

Dixie and I in front of some of our food:


In front of Dixie is a plate of various seafood wrapped around some rice (“Nigiri sushi”). On the left: shrimp (“Ebi”–cooked); back right: tuna (raw); front right: salmon (raw).  On my plate is a scallop cone: a dried seaweed cone filled with raw chopped  scallops and rice.  

The large white cup in front of me is green tea; the small white cup with the blue graphic is warm sake.  

On the grill: lamb chops and chicken breast.  The meat on the grill was a mistake.  According to Dixie’s brother it’s a Korean custom, but we found it a bit annoying to have to pay attention to the cooking meat.  Much of the lamb ended up burned to a crisp.

Also eaten: deep fried avocado (“Maki”); spring rolls; chicken karrage (deep fried chicken wings); deep fried yams, carrots, zuchinni and squash (“Tempura”); Yakisoba (noodles); pork gyoza (dumplings); miso soup (soy soup); edamame (soy beans).

My judgment: delicious!  

I would never have guessed, as I generally don’t care much for fish.  I would take raw tuna or salmon over the cooked equivalent any day.  The raw tuna was my favourite, followed by the raw salmon.  The meat melts on your mouth.  

The warm sake was also delicious–it’s a rice wine, but I found it reminiscent of ouzo, though not as sweet.  I think Dixie’s brother described the taste as “wine and soap”, but it was very good.

(More pictures of the trip may follow, but I make no guarantees.)

Let’s have another go…

In about an hour or so Olivia are off to Saskatoon to catch our flight to Kelowna, via Calgary.  Second time in as many months.  This time, however, we plan to explore not only Kelowna airspace, but also plan to land and make our way through the Okanagan Valley via ground transportation and sometimes by foot.

The week will involve:

I leave, as I often manage to do, on the tail end of a long blog discussion, which has left me exhausted, confused (it takes me a while to process all the opinions that get bandied about in these discussions), dealing with some issues of self-doubt, and regretting a little bit that I bring things like that up and then letting myself get caught up in the whole thing.  I think somewhere along the line I start taking these discussions too personally.  I need to learn to be a bit more aloof and distant in these discussions.

But I digress.

It should be a good week.  Olivia is very different now than she was in January.  On that first trip, she was a little angel.  I expect her to be a fidgety little terror this time around.

As usual, I don’t know how much blogging I’ll do while away, but you can always follow me on Twitter (also in my sidebar).  And I believe I’ve got my Twitters updating my Facebook status as well.

I blogged at Macy’s

There. Done.

Randall and I are having supper at Macy’s (formerly Marshall Field’s, est. 1850) in downtown Chicago. It’s a classy, elegant restaurant, with an old-school look and feel. But the prices are quite resonable. I’ll post some pictures when I get home.

Cheese platter is here. Better go.

Jazz tonight.

In Chicago

So I’m in Chicago and things are not going quite as planned, update-wise.  Saskatoon Airport has free wifi.  Winnipeg airport requires an account with Telus or a ridiculous credit-card charge.  The hotel which I’m staying at advertises “free wifi access in every room”, or something along those lines.  When I read that, I think “free wifi”, but the key word is actually “access”.  Because when I open Safari on my iPod, I need to go through a gateway to set up a charge account (or bill to my room) to get unlimited internet access for $9.99US each day.  I still haven’t decided if Twittering is worth that much.  I’m thinking maybe not.  (Maybe Randall with feel otherwise and let me borrow his iPod or laptop for a bit.)

And my iPod decided to freeze up after I got onto transit.  It won’t shut down, it won’t let me use it.  Can’t do anything about it until I get to the hotel.  So no Twittering from coffee shops in the city, I’m afraid.

It was an uneventful trip.  I was patted down at customs in Winnipeg.  I wasn’t sure if we’d actually leave the airport, it was such a blustery day there.  O’Hare is too much airport, but I found my way to the shuttle/bus station for a complimentary ride to the hotel.  The hotel is swanky, but the denomination has worked out some kind of deal so that we’re actually paying less than we’d probably pay at a budget hotel (aside from meals).

How am I doing this?  Well, I’ve made it to Northpark University/Seminary.  I am in the library and one of the assistants has kindly logged me in as a guest.

Getting here was my goal for today (success!), but now that I’m here, I’m not sure what I should do.  I’ll check out the library and the seminary.  I’ve wandered the campus a bit (it’s a nice campus) and I’ve looked at some of the student housing (from the outside).  But what else to do here?  I don’t know–perhaps the point is just to get a sense of the place.  I may end up at Northpark again on Wednesday with someone in the know (who should be en route soon).

After Northpark I plan on making my way downtown and wandering around the “Miracle Mile”.  As I say, I’ll be doing some touristy stuff with Randall on Wednesday evening for sure, but I couldn’t just sit in that hotel all day.  So I ventured out on this beautiful day.

I’ve already met  a couple of Covenanters already–one from California, another from Alaska.  I was on the same flights as the Melfort church’s new pastor, although we didn’t introduce each other until we were in Chicago (but somehow I already knew he was heading to the conference).  Seems like many people know each other already here.  Me?  I’m one in about 8 million people right now and I know nobody.  The anonymity is kind of nice, but then walking around a hotel filled with pockets of people talking to each other…

From what I can tell, I fall somewhere in between a large crowd of hip, trendy twenty-somethings and the older, old-school looking Covenant pastors.  Not sure where I fit in.

Registered this morning.  Free books!  Well, “free”–they come with registration.  Some great selections, including Scot McKnight’s The Blue Parakeet and N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope.  Unfortunately, I already own (and have read) both!  No matter–they shall become gifts or church library donations.  Couple of other interesting books in the bunch as well.

Got into almost all of the workshops I wanted to.  Unfortunately, that did not include the one I really, really wanted to be in: Scot McKnight’s one-day workshop on The Blue Parakeet.  It’s a good book that has generated some questions.  Plus, I’m (attempting to) teach the youth Sunday school class on that book, so some more in-depth discussion about it would have been helpful.  Alas.  Maybe I can sneak in, or someone won’t show up, or maybe because it’s so popular (it filled up by December 15, well before I registered) they’ll add second workshop on the book (not likely).

Anyway, that’s all.  I’m off to browse the library catalogue for a bit, then to the seminary building, then to find my way back to the Blue Line (or Brown Line) and to downtown.

In-flight thoughts

There is no wifi signal provided on WestJet flights, so I couldn’t Twitter, but I wrote down some thoughts during the flights to Calgary and Kelowna.  Thought-writing ceased on unexpected same-day flights back to Calgary and Saskatoon:

Some stuff from the wirelessless flights…

Olivia is a good kid.  Happy the whole time so far.  Chewed through her pushpop before takeoff.  Better adjust my timing for the descent.  She’s sitting in her own seat now.  She’s so cute.  And she’s a hit with everyone she meets.

Flight attendant spoke as if she knew Olivia and could tell that she’d grown.

Westjet is awesome.  Just had the best or second best welcome and safety presentation I’ve had on a flight.  The off-duty pilots across the aisle didn’t seem at all impressed.    Maybe this is the talker’s regular schtick and the pilot is sick of it.  Or maybe he just doesn’t have a sense of humour.

The one pilot, incidentally, looks like Starman (from the tv show).  Might request his John Hancock.  And by that I mean his autograph.  Better attend to Olivia.

Satellite tv not working.  Shoot.

Just occurred to me that the pushpops are only for the way down.  Must use sparingly or buy more for return.

What’s the deal with car and women magazines (the guy in front of me has one)?  Why combine the two?  I’m not interested in cars, but would it make sense to have books and women magazines?  I guess they have music and women.  Still weird, if you ask me.

Descending to Calgary.  Ears popping.

(iPod autocorrect almost has me say “ears pooping”.  Wouldn’t that be a disgusting condition?)

Due to delay in Saskatoon there was n0 stopover time in Calgary.  Straight from arrival gate to departure gate.  Made it!

This Westjet crew isn’t nearly as funny.  In fact, there has been nary a hint of humour in this presentation this far.  I bet the French recording is funnier.

Potting Plants and Scantily Clad Women.

I stand corrected.  Announcer is loosening up.  Just made joke about token woman on flight crew.

In-flight Magazine & Chicks

Golf & Hot Girls

See what I mean?  Must work with certain subcultures only.

Olivia has been doing amazingly well but getting restless.  Better pay her more attention.

De-icing.  Weather not super in Kelowna.  “Worst case scenario, we fly back to Calgary.”


De-icing with water seems counterproductive (and counterintuitive) to me.  But I guess it does the trick.

Satellite works in this flight.  Olivia watching Treehouse in her own seat.

I forgot to mention preferred seating (row 1–more room for Olivia’s toy bag) when I checked in.  Both flights in row 19 out of possible 24.  Free seat for Olivia both times, though.  So it turned out fine.

Pilots have the worst timing when it comes to interrupting in-flight television.  Dustin Hoffman was just about to tell Ellen an interesting anecdote about Alan Arkin’s on-stage diarrhea problem.  Now I’ll never know.

Looks like we’ll land in Kelowna after all.

Descending into Kelowna.

Son of a @&$?!  Two approaches, both seemed close, both failed  Heading back to Calgary.  The worst part is Olivia.  It’s past suppertime and all she’s had is crackers, marshmallows and pushpops.  She is not going to be a happy camper.  And it’s going to be a pain in the ass to sort things out with Olivia in tow.

What happens now?  Do we go on standby? Do we get a rescheduled flight?  Son of a gun.

I was so looking forward to this trip.  And I already shaved a day off of it.

Never plan a trip away around important events.


I wish this was an iPhone, so I could easily make calls as soon as we’re on the ground.