New site!

Hello, dear ones. There’s an update!

New site!

It’s tough – write it down – www.crumkunst.com. See, you gotta take out the “.wordpress” part of the address. That’s right!… our own domain!

Come on over and celebrate with us with some free music.


The end. 


Knitting = Love

Guys, I love knitting. I learned how to crochet in 5th grade from my teacher, Mrs. Lingenfelder. We’d have free time where we watched educational videos each day, and my best friend and I sat by her desk instead, learning to crochet chains. From 5th grade ad infinitum, I crocheted everything I possibly could (without reading a pattern, meaning everything with fairly straight edges). Friends and family got laptop cases, camera baggies, Game Boy pouches, and scarves – oh they got scarves.

But my pastor’s wife… she knits. She’d be knitting away during sermons, parties, Bible studies. What beautiful creations! And how do those two needles work like that?? At the time, the friend giving me job training also knit, so Heather taught me the cast on, Stacey taught me the knit, and the Internet taught me the rest.

My first real pattern was a sock. I remember following the instructions and holding it up going, “I have no idea what this is doing.”  And then I got to the end, and voila! it was a sock! Patterns are like magic!

But my first actual attempt at following a pattern was a washcloth. It took me so long – it was the only thing I gave my Granny that year because it was such an accomplishment. So here: this is a link to one free knit washcloth pattern, gratis Knit Picks. Maybe this’ll be the start of your knitting fancy, too.

(By the way, that was just two years ago I picked up knitting, and I’m currently working on spinning yarn for a sweater for my husband. It’s like “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” – careful. You don’t know what you’re getting into.)

KnitPicks.com is offerng a year of free weekly washcloth patterns. Sign up for their newsletter to get them all!


New and Recommended Music – 31 Jan 2014 edition

Jan. 31 / Feb. 7, 2014

Jan. 31 / Feb. 7, 2014

New and Recommended

Hospitality, “It’s Not Serious”  —  Like the Moldy Peaches, but on-key. Lah lah lah indie music.

So, that’s all this week. They have a list of “Movie Trailers: What’s That Song?” and what’s playing on Shaun White’s iPod, but you’ll have to check out the magazine for that – I’m just here for what’s new and recommended. But there’s always what I recommend!

Crumkunst’s Pick

U2, “Invisible (Red Edit)”  —  This is an external link to download this song for free! Aren’t you glad you stopped by today? And, do I really need to describe a U2 song to you?


New and Recommended Music – Jan 24 2014 edition

Thus starts a new tradition.

I’m a devoted reader of Entertainment Weekly. It’s one of the few magazines I keep up with on a regular basis. I went a spell not getting it because I couldn’t keep up, but yippee! here I am a subscriber again. (Thanks, little bro!) Part of what I love is that it keeps me up-to-date on what’s happening in the larger media world, and the writers are smart, educated people with (largely) balanced opinions. As our household doesn’t have cable and I’m a stay-at-home mom, there aren’t a ton of fresh new ideas coming our way on a regular basis – and here’s where EWeekly comes in. I mean, they’re the ones that told me “Blurred Lines” was a song way back in October of 2013 (…and it turned out to be the “Song of the Summer” nine months later…). I showed my in-laws the video for “Thrift Shop” ages before Mackelmore & Ryan Lewis won their Grammys (though, admittedly, after my hipster brother-in-law knew about it).

Also, from a theological standpoint, I think it’s important to know what’s going on in the world. It’s where God has put us to thrive and exist for these few decades. If we can’t talk to anybody about what’s going on in the common world we inhabit, how will we reach non-believers? Besides, a lot of this is quality. God made music. It should be excellent. So I’m not saying the devil has all the best music, but a lot of the great stuff isn’t made by Christians or has anything to do with God… but it can still reflect his brilliance because it’s excellent. I believe heaven will be full of music, and maybe we’ll get to contribute to it, and maybe we’ll borrow hooks from Beyonce.

(With all that, I have to say, it’s not all going to be PG. The above link for “Thrift Shop” is the official video, and I believe in giving the original artists the traffic, but at the same time, Ryan Lewis’s channel doesn’t offer any edited videos. I’ll put warnings by the links to offensive content, and at times I could omit especially offensive ones altogether. But largely, it’ll come from Rdio sans video, and they do offer clean versions.)

And so, with a proper drumroll (meaning fingers on a bare wooden tabletop), from henceforth, I’ll be posting the weekly singles that EWeekly lists in their music section. Sometimes it’ll be a couple singles. Sometimes (like this week) it’ll be two pages of staff picks. They’ll be labeled with the date of the issue, and I encourage you to go check out the rest of what the magazine has to offer! I’ll also end with a personal selection each week. My tastes don’t always align with those of the pros, and I can’t even guarantee it’ll be within the last 5 years. But I promise you’ll always want to listen to that one… 😉


“Staff Playlist: 15 New Songs We Love”

Broken Bells: “After the Disco”  —  It is, in fact, a modern disco. I could imagine it playing over the credits of “Breakfast Club.”

Burial: “Hiders”  —  So, the Rdio description says it’s their “most emotional and story-like output.” I appreciate the slow build (Imma sucka for that slow build), but then it veers off again. Wasn’t even sure when it changed to the next song. But I can see how story-like that could be within a larger album.

Angel Haze: “Deep Sea Diver”  —  I’ve liked other Angel Haze (as inappropriate as she is, this is my style). She sounds like Nicki Minaj, but less distinct or POW emphasis, with Lil Wayne’s dress style, and refrains like Sevyn Streeter.

MO: “Never Wanna Know”  —  The voice sounds like Lana del Ray to me, but with more range. Echoey vocals with a tambourine jam.

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks: “Houston Hades”  —  His voice is clear and ironic. The sound is late 90s. It’s not entirely appropriate, but he’s having fun and you can tell.

Hospitality: “I Miss Your Bones”  —  One of my favorites on this list. It’s fun! The published description is “Peppy, dark, punky, jammy,” but it’s largely upbeat and fun.

James Vincent: “Cavalier” – Ambient, airy, beautiful voice. My favorite part is the end falsetto part – sounds like John Legend.

Phantogram: “Fall in Love”  —  I think you’d call this genre “shoe gazers”. I can’t actually speak to their live performance style, but it fits that Foster the People synthy upbeat faze.

St. Vincent: “Digital Witness”  —  Fun! Throwback kind of style to the early ’00s (my favorite era).

Sevyn Streeter: “Sex on the Ceiling”  —  Eh. It’s in my R&B genre, but I really like when you can hear the lyrics better. It’s a lot of way-up-there vocals. And I mean, the refrain is, “Baby we goin have sex on the ceiling.” Not deep or original or even sounds that great. I’ve heard Sevyn Streeter I do like, this just isn’t so much it.

Warpaint: “Love Is to Die”  —  Sounds a little like Metric – EWeekly calls it “liquid groove.” Ambient female voices.

Black Lips: “Boys in the Wood”  —  If you like the Black Lips… (which I do!)  It’s similar to White Stripes in that driving, pounding, certain lyrics.

Lou Reed: “Solsbury Hill”  —  Grungy and older. On an album with Bon Iver and Paul Simon, if that gives you an idea.

Dum Dum Girls: “Lost Boys and Girls Club”  —  Full electric and synth sound.

Mogwai: “Remurdered”  —  Orchestral synth metal.

New Singles

Shakira feat. Rihanna: “Can’t Remember to Forget You”  —  Shakira: calypso upbeat style. Rihanna: heavier guitar. Expect Shakira-typical voice lilts during the chorus. I like the mix of their different styles.

Neon Trees: “Sleeping with a Friend”  —  80s-tastic background, complete with hyper synth keyboard strokes. But mixed well so you can hear the modern lyrics.

Lucy Hale: “You Sound Good to Me”  —  Country, but I like it! Happy, solid beats. Like Shania mixed with Sara Bareilles.

Crumkunst’s Pick

Dangerous: “Big Data”  —  If you listen to XM’s AltNation, you know this one. We noticed it because my husband’s company works with data and they had joked about making it their theme song. But it’s just our kind of song. Fun, boppy beats, with a suspended bridge that exists just so it sounds even bigger at the end. Love when they do that.


Horse and carriage and horse and…

Love and marriage are like a horse and carriage, amiright? I think what they’re saying in that song is that one follows the other: man and woman fall in love, ergo, they get married. But it’s not that straightforward. I propose that they’re cyclical. Not only does love lead into marriage, but being married creates a situation for love to grow deeper, fuller and more complex. Here’s a story to illustrate:

My husband and I, we met at 18, fell in love at 23, and married at 24. In between there, we lived a whole lot of life separate from each other. That’s not a bad thing – we brought a lot of variety in movies, music, experiences, food, etcetera to the lives we created together. But there were also things that, once we were together, still made us feel separated from each other.

Some of those things were still sneaking into our marriage, even though they were deeds long and dead. (Sin can outlive its sinfulness, morphing instead into guilt or blame, other sinful beasts in themselves.) But we were married. We both knew those lives were behind us, and only our lives together in front of us.

Then that “together” grew to include three. We found out we were pregnant on our six month anniversary, and welcomed Copper shortly after our year anniversary. Ladies… childbirth is rough! (Married men, pay attention, too.) I asked and asked those who had gone before what it was like, and they were all vague. I’m not here to be graphic, but in the hospital a day or two after our son’s birthday, I wondered how in the world single women do this. I needed help for everything. And at first, there were nurses. But very soon, it was just my husband, our tiny baby, and me at our house, and I still needed help. I strained too much during labor and couldn’t raise above absolutely flat or a stress headache would take me over. I had to check on stitches. I had to do Sitz baths three times daily for 20 minutes each, during which time I couldn’t do anything to help myself, let alone the poor newborn. All in all, I was pitiful and helpless.

And my husband was there, through it all. He helped me get to, from, and off the toilet. He got my Sitz baths ready and emptied them out. He made sure I ate, that dishes didn’t organize to overthrow us, that the household downstairs continued on. He drove me to and from endless checkups while I was prostrate in the passenger seat, or he let me lay in his lap in the waiting room. Ok, here’s a good one – he was there for the whole inglorious act of labor, wherein I was reduced to pure muscle and inhuman sounds, incapable of anything remotely resembling a lady – and thought it all glorious.

He loved me, through it all, by very clear actions.

While we were planning our wedding, my brother was overseas. He returned a few weeks before the ceremony, but I wanted his input, and it would have been too late by then. I emailed him, and he replied with a suggestion from his comrades at Capenwray where he was studying: a feet-washing ceremony. It visually represents the servant-like attitude Jesus taught and himself took on his last night.


We did it to illustrate what we would, with God’s help, make our marriage, and we did it to remind ourselves of that if it got tough later on. And that was what Cody was living and breathing in that time after our baby was born. He was bending low, serving his wife and son, stooping lower than even I, constantly on my back.

It’s this what marriage is made of. It’s consistently bending low, not just for the big stuff like childbirth, but for the little things – cleaning the cat litter without fail since the day you let your wife get them. Making sure he goes to work with lunch, even if that means you get fruit and cottage cheese again. Getting up and going to your crying child in the middle of the gripping paragraph in your book so you can kiss it and make it better.

(My brother also pointed out the opportunity to practice servant-like love at its best when Copper was born: there is nothing that old-man looking infant can do for you for quite a long time, even if we count “make you feel loved” as a goal. They can’t even see you, folks. But meantime your entire life – and income – are poured into them. Do they recognize it? … do you remember thanking your parents?)

I realized over a year later that, when we were first married, I felt much more like two people who were married. Now, we are much more clearly one. When Genesis 2:24 says “they become one flesh,” maybe it’s not meant to be read as an instantaneous change. In some senses, of course, it is. But in others, it happens over time, through trials and tribulations that you face together, as one being and of one mind.

(And, as I’m saying this, it’s works both ways. I’m emphasizing the effect that serving has on the overall marriage, but when I talked to my husband about this, he thought he saw the most growth and change in himself. was served and felt its effect, but he served and through that, changed as a man and a husband and grew to love me more through serving me. Fiddler fans, what does Golde reply when Tevye asks if she loves him? … )

What I’m saying is that love grows so deep through selfless service, which is perfected in marriage. You don’t have to have kids to experience this (though I clearly think it accelerates it). But I really believe you have to be married. Without that dive, you’re holding back and waiting to make sure you’re not missing out on anyone else. It allows for an escape route in case cleaning up the other person’s mess gets too messy. But right here, in the midst of the wild abandon that marriage is, it lets us see how God was wild in his abandon for his love for us. We’re the bride Jesus came to serve. We’re the huddled masses, unable to help ourselves out of bed, and he comes and carries us. That’s what marriage it, and that’s what love is.


Whenever possible, I’ll be recommending Tim Keller on all things Gospel-related. So here’s one for the topic at hand: The Meaning of Marriage


Joy to the World

I love Christmas. Most kids do.. Whether or not Santa and the elves are involved, it’s a magical time. There’s often snow here in Pennsylvania. We see family we don’t often. We dress up in rich colors and gather in cozy houses with warm drinks. It’s a time we splurge, in many ways, in the name of the holiday.

But there are a lot of people who have a lot of reasons not to be cheerful during Christmas. “Chestnuts Roasting On an Open Fire” sets our sights high, but what if we don’t have a fireplace or even know where to get chestnuts? We can get hung up on little things that “ruin” the big day, but what if this year has to be celebrated without a cherished friend or family member? What if there isn’t money for carol-worthy festivities? Or what if the world just seems like a dark and bitter place compared to what we’re supposed to be experiencing?

I grew up with a particularly enchanting childhood, and Christmas was the epitome of it. My parents love Christmas, and always went (and still go) to great lengths to make it wonderful for everyone. Last year, however, just before the Advent season began, I was brought face-to-face with a grievous sin that had been here in the world all along, and I didn’t know it. Instead of the world I’d come to believe was real, a very different reality presented itself and argued to take its place. Instead of the aforementioned, traditional bliss of the season, I got to realize more of the reality that lots and lots of people know firsthand.

My response – cling even tighter to Advent, the season of waiting. Not waiting for Christmas morning and Christmas dinner and Christmas presents. Waiting for the baby. Looking at the world through the eyes of Jewish shepherds and a young expectant girl, told that the Messiah foretold 700 years earlier in the book of Isaiah, the descendant promised to Abraham hundreds of years before that, was finally coming. And he would change everything.

It took me a long time after becoming a Christian to see the Bible as one story. I thought the Old Testament was about God, the New Testament about Jesus. Actually, the whole thing is about all three persons of God. Jesus is written into everything in the Old Testament – he’s foreshadowed in the system of sacrifices and being clean or unclean, he’s the fulfillment of all the promises, he’s the keeper of the covenants. And once Jesus gets here, every word out of his mouth is about God and the Spirit. So all the promises God made throughout Jewish history, all of them suddenly come true when God is born.

My son was about 10 weeks old when I started studying Advent last year. I knew helpless babe. I knew the grittiness of birth. And I knew expectancy. Knowing it’ll happen one day… soon… and just waiting… My husband and I tried to be constantly well-rested, just in case I’d go into labor at 1 AM, and then we could say, “Good thing we went to bed at 8!” (As it happened, we went to bed uncharacteristically late the night he was born. Thanks, “Dr. Who.”) Now, we’re waiting again for Jesus to come back and finish the work he started. He defeated evil. We’re living in this funny middle time where we know evil and death have been defeated, but we’re still here among it. We’re still fighting, but fighting from victory. We know how it ends. We just have to wait until Jesus finishes his work.

And that’s what people mean when they say Jesus gives them peace and joy. That’s how I could still celebrate Christmas last year, and every day since then. I know how it all ends. Jesus wins, and along with him, everyone on his side. We shouldn’t be shocked when we see evil and its effects – anyone who’s honest with themselves recognizes it in themselves – it’s what we get for being born human. But once that New Earth is here, we get new, perfect bodies, free of anything dark or bitter. For now, we live in the paradox of a created, beautiful world that is marred by sin and evil, knowing that it has been defeated but waiting to see that truth. And in the midst of it, knowing we belong to the victor, the tiny baby of Christmas.

 Download and print these Advent Verses to read during the countdown. They are largely from the Old Testament and include a wide variety of books, with an emphasis in Isaiah. 

Some thoughts borrowed from Steven Estes in “A Better December.” For more on audacious joy, see Ann Voskamp’s blog, “A Holy Experience“. Ann’s sister was crushed by a truck in front of her when she was little, her mother went to a psychiatric ward, and she has since buried two nephews. She is the author of the book, “One Thousand Gifts“.


Win it! – “A Better December”

We live in a tiny town. Itty bitty. People generally only lock their doors if they go out of town, maybe at night. Because of that, one can find little surprises on their kitchen table when they arrive home.

A Better December - Steven Estes

A Better December – Steven Estes

This little gem awaited us recently. A friend had borrowed it from our pastor and was returning it via me. When I previewed the opening lines, it read something like,

“The older I get, the more I like short books.

This is one.”

Well… It took me about 45 minutes to finish it from there. Some of it is general how-to-survive-the-holidays, some of it is heart-warming advice along the been-there-done-that lines. And then the last quarter is surprisingly deep and personal and grabs you, eye-to-eye, the whole time being honest and funny and brazen and witty.

When I returned it to our pastor last night, I asked, “Do you have a way you recommend getting a copy of that?” (As he just wrote a book, he knows avenues outside Amazon, sometimes at a discount.) “As a matter of fact, I’m giving a copy away on my blog.” Score.

This is my entry form. (One of them.) So while I’m obligated to tell you about the contest, I don’t actually want you to enter. Just go borrow the book from your pastor and read it and then go buy a copy.


One Cleaner to Rule Them All

Alas, my computer crashed. I don’t have the proof. But if you’ve been to my house for dinner and gotten the comfy chairs at dinner, you would have noticed about two months ago that you were not sitting on white cushions. They were, at one point. Maybe two years ago. Well, come on over for a cuppo soup! We have white cushions again! Gee thanks, Branch Basics.

It honestly took less than ten minutes to clean two chair cushions. I sprayed on the diluted spray, let it sit about a minute, and used a damp rag to rub it clean. I did the same on Copper’s secondhand touch-and-feel book – the front of Kipper’s tummy fur was restored to white. It’s food grade, so I use it to clean produce, especially broccoli, which is notoriously difficult to clean. It’s especially useful in the kitchen, on cutting boards, faucet handles, and eating surfaces. It’s safe for toys. Upholstery. Carpets, Car seats. Laundry. Dishes. Windows. Grease-covered pans.. Name it – it cleans it.

The BB product line.

The BB product line.

And safely! It’s food grade, folks – you could eat it. Can you eat just any old cleaner? This is made with plant-based fatty acids. That also means it’s lethal to bugs’ exoskeletons – you can spray it on bugs and it kills them. But not us. Wonder-cleaner, or what?? I love that I don’t feel dirty after I clean. You know what I mean – you get out your rag and spray bottle, but… you’re just about to cook. If you clean now, you’ll have to wash your hands before you knead that dough. Or your little one is trying to reach up to the sink and help mama clean – No, don’t put your hands in your mouth! Ohmygosh, I think I sprayed the top of his head. Shoot.

Not anymore I clean all the freaking time now. It’s safe for me, it’s safe to eat off of, there’s never any rinsing, and it won’t make my kitchen smell funky. Did I mention it has absolutely no smell?

Here’s one of my favorite stories of its amazingness: This 100+ year old farmhouse rental didn’t come with a dishwasher. I’m a hand-washer from way back, so generally no problem. But we have these Potato Sundays where my husband fries up some potato cut into some wedge or hash or another. Sometimes, he gets too much oil and wants to save it. We generally put it in a mason jar till the following Potato Sunday, and wait until a visit to my parents’ house to put it in the dishwasher. Alas, the parents go to Florida for winter. So this week, after fruitlessly trying to swish warm water around the lower unreachable half, I sprayed some BB along the inner walls. Left it sit a few minutes. (Never sure if I need to do that step.)  Rinsed. It was done. All the used cooking oil sitting in it for a week was nuthin’ for a few sprays of BB.

If I wasn’t so stingy with it, I’d replace a-l-l-l-l my cleaners with it. (As it is, I kept my dish detergent, floor cleaner, and laundry detergent. But all are replaceable with Branch Basics.) Annnnnnd… it’s on sale. Just for you. Branch Basics sent our local moms’ group a sample pack with a coupon, and you can be in on it, too! Our group plans to go together on a 5 gallon bucket, but it’s great if you want to get clean all on your own, too.

Use TryBB15. Today. Or tomorrow, if you need another day to find friends to share it with.

(I’d recommend checking out Branch Basic’s website, especially the FAQ’s. I wanted to share my experience and utter joy with it, but they have a lot more to tell you about the science behind it.)


Amen! to “What do you DO all day?”

My small group was recently talking about how we plan our futures, and where we thought we’d be now if we were asked ten years ago. I would have said, optimistically, “A stay-at-home-mom and artist.” And, after a long time of thinking that wasn’t going to be, here I am, and I’ve got all that 16-year-old me could have wished.

At new introductions and homecomings, I hated answering with some menial job when people asked what I did. So why do I still feel like I have to make excuses?

I’ll say, “I’m a stay-at-home mom.” (smile)  “… … I’m-also-taking-classes-for-my-master’s-and-have-a-home-based-business.” Read: I’m educated. I do things with my day. In case you were wondering.

This is an article written by Matt Walsh, a husband and father of 3-month-old twins. He defends his wife and mothers everywhere who choose to stay home with their children – and argues that it’s ridiculous that he needs to be “defending” SaHMs.

“Are we really the first culture in the history of mankind to fail to grasp the glory and seriousness of motherhood?” he asks. I love it. He also points out, “Whatever they are doing, they ARE doing something, and our civilization DEPENDS on them doing it well. Who else can say such a thing? What other job carries with it such consequences?” In the workplace, there is a position and someone is hired to fill that role. In motherhood, there is no one else that can do the job of a mother. No interviews. No resumes. No one else can be a mother to your children. It’s not expendable, and as Matt says, entire generations of lives will turn upside-down if you decide to quit. But no matter who you are at what company, someone can be trained to fill your shoes. Apple lives on without Steve.

Neither Matt nor I are saying that all women should be home with their kids. It’s not in everyone’s cards. Likewise, not everyone is called to motherhood, or to marriage, for that matter. But it also shouldn’t be OK to assume moms will go back to work in 6 weeks.

Carl Jung: “We overlook the essential fact that the achievements which society rewards are won at the cost of a diminution of personality. Many aspects of life which should have been experienced lie in the lumberroom of dusty memories.” Author and Rabbi Harold Kushner adds to that, “Worst of all, society applauds this imbalance, honoring us for our financial success, praising us for our self-sacrifice. …Forces in society won’t let us become whole people because we are more useful to them when one small part of us is over-developed” (When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough, 25). We are useful if we work and earn money; useless if no money is involved. SaHMs who blog and make money – you’re OK. Write a book – good to go. Whatever you do, just make money at it, and everyone’s happy. It’s like you’re a waste of space if you’re JUST home.

…with your kids! There is one little 13-month-old at our house. Just one. And there are days when I get one, two, maybe even none of the things on my to-do list crossed off. That’s because kids speak the love language of quality time. They read your love in the time you spend with them.

This is something I’m working on. I’m very much a to-do-list gal. That’s how I know my day was worth something! Ecclesiastes 3:11 – “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” I believe nothing is outside of God’s will – everything happens because he ordains or allows it to, and it all works “for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28). So if Copper is tugging on my pant legs every ten minutes today because he’s been getting a tooth for three days and he’s tired and sore, maybe what I need to do is stop sweeping or cooking and hold him. Hold his head to my shoulder. Let him be part of my cooking or sweeping. Be his mother.

Because that’s my job. I’m not making money – but really, why does anyone care? One kid’s world (and my husband’s!) is changed by what I do. That’s something I’ve never been able to say about my job before.


Honeymoon in the Azores

Terceira Island: Azores

Terceira Island: Azores

My husband Cody and I had the opportunity to visit the Azores on our honeymoon two years ago, convinced in part from online resources touting their beauty and recently expanded tourism. One boasted that tourism is growing largely from the beautiful sites and remote, yet accessible, location. We had also read that many in the tourism industry spoke enough English that we wouldn’t have to worry that we didn’t speak Portuguese. The Azores, remote Portuguese volcanic islands, sounded like the perfect place for our honeymoon.

We visited two of the nine islands, Terceira and Pico, located in the mid-Atlantic, a mere five hour flight from Boston Logan International Airport. We took advantage of the fact that our flight landed at Terceira and spent time visiting its natural wonders. The island consists of two small Renaissance cities, the historic capital and major seaport, Angra do Heroísmo. Between these seaport towns are vineyards, rolling hills, and rocky seashores. Pico has Mt. Pico, the highest mountain in Portugal, at 7713 feet. Both are sparsely populated with whitewashed houses and low stone walls, but heavily populated with cattle.

As excellent timing would have it, we happened to visit during Touradas da praça ou à corda, a festival celebrated only on Terceira with bullfights in every village. Imagining a ring with seats for spectators and safe viewing, we arranged for a cab to take us to the site of the fight. On the way, our taxi driver made us take his card so that we could have a way to escape if we

"Bullfighters" traditionally taunt with colorful umbrellas.

“Bullfighters” traditionally taunt with colorful umbrellas.

found it was too much. When we arrived, we found that the bull “fight” was an inaccurate translation. It was actually more of a bull “run.” Multiple bulls were delivered in crates, and ropes attached while they were still contained. When each was released, a group of men held onto the rope while simultaneously taking turns to taunt the animal.

These bull runs take place in the streets of the town. Most spectators are locals and watch from the security of a friend’s stone-walled porch or upstairs windows. Others, like my husband and I, attempt to find a public place that affords some protection from the rushing bull. Our driver delivered us to a small outdoor café, set against a hillside, so that we could climb a rock wall and have both protection and front row seats.

After watching a few rounds, it appeared as though they had a tight hold on the animal. All the men who taunted were unharmed, and the bulls rarely rushed more than a few yards at a time. We soon decided to participate in the run and found ourselves in the streets, keeping at the back of the crowd that tried to keep just at the edge of the bull’s reaches. In the midst of our exhilaration, we heard broken English from a man hanging onto a light pole asking if we spoke English. He shouted a

The bull: street view.

The bull: street view!

warning, informing us that what we were doing was much more dangerous than we could imagine. He informed us that the bull had enough rope to easily run to the end of the street in a matter of seconds. We realized the wisdom of his advice and, instead of turning around to follow the bull back up toward the town square, we continued down the road toward a food vendor and safety.

As far as cuisine on the islands was concerned, there were limited options for dining out. After first landing on Pico Island, we stopped at what colorful umbrellas advertising coffee suggested to be a café. Inside, the barkeeper seemed confused by our request for food, but after checking the pantry supplies, she offered us fish, boiled potatoes, and salad. This was our experience at every little place we stopped for food. And, as it was at this bar, a friendly patron usually helped interpret for the barkeeper, who only spoke Portuguese, and us newlyweds, who didn’t speak any. In one case, as we pointed to different items on the menu board, the cook popped out of the kitchen holding the various ingredients of the dish to help us make our selection.

The beautiful Azorean Islands feel a world and a time apart, with few modern structures and a rustic way of life visible everywhere. We visited an Occulista, or eye doctor, a small, single room storefront facing a fountain in the stone-paved square of town, and it was the only store in town that had contact solution. There was one large grocery store per town, but even those had very modest offerings compared to American standards. Of more interest were natural attractions, such as seaside and inland caves resulting from the island’s history of volcanic activity. Much of the terrain is clearly formed by volcanic activity, so igneous rocks are prominent, if not overtaking the landscape. Otherwise, they have been collected into orderly rows between cattle fields. Gazing from a high mountain, the landscape is a tartan pattern of stone walls.

View of the landscape from Cume mountain.

Criss-crossed landscape from Cume mountain, Terceira.

We also enjoyed our stay on Pico Island. Bed and breakfasts offer the best choices for accommodations, and we found one along the ocean owned by a European couple who spoke fluent English. We spent a day climbing Mt. Pico, the high point of Portugal. Wine and port are specialties of the area, as the dark stone reflect heat and promote sweeter grapes when collected into biscoitos, or stone vineyards. Most people make their own wine, but there are also biscoitos open to the public.

View of Mt. Pico from the plane.

View of Mt. Pico from the plane.

English speakers shouldn’t expect much help from those in the tourism industry. We were unable to communicate with the woman who arrived at the airport with our rental car and contract; we were unable to tell the hotel clerk what time we wanted our wakeup call, and decided to be content with whenever he decided to call us. Still, we found all the beauty, history, and adventure of these islands as we had hoped.