Houston, Texas A Happy Accident

The Armadillo Palace, Houston, Texas
The Armadillo Palace, Houston, Texas

One idea. One moment. One thought. One place to start.

Before my life is over I want to make sure I do my part. I have a lot to say and a lot of observations to make. But then I get stuck in my head — waylaid.

Saturday night, as we literally flew through smog layer (the notorious Salt Lake City temperature inversion), my heart sank, or better, as we entered the inversion, my heart immediately covered itself in a misty, ugly grey. Grey is what I see outside. And as my head and my heart fill with gloom and doom, I try to escape to the rivers and roads I have seen around the world. I want to be in Italy. Last night Dave, Kyle & I went on a wintery walk. As we walked down our slippery street, we talked about magical Italy and the nuances of traveling there.

“We ate such an unregulated amount of gelato on our second Rome visit that by our third visit, even our favorite gelato place in the world, Giolitti, began to lose its luster. I know. I cannot believe I am actually saying this.” [insert long pause here] “I am certain the long absence will renew my half-blueberry-half-dark-chocolate-sorbetto love.” [insert short pause here] “And the whip cream on top does not hurt.”

The Boys inside Giolitti on our second visit to Rome, February, 2015
The Boys inside Giolitti on our second visit to Rome, February, 2015
Us outside of Giolitti on our third visit to Rome, Italy (Dave's second), November, 2015
Us outside of Giolitti on our third visit to Rome, Italy (Dave’s second), November, 2015

Italy is special and we cannot wait to go back. I find excuses and reasons like what is it with those two gentlemen? I am consumed and now convinced we must see Verona. As we walked, we agreed that travel, and preparing to travel, gets me out of my head. Thoughts of Italy are a great distraction on these grey days.


Ok. I can just imagine Dave reading what I have just written. Better, I can actually see his face.  It is quizzically blank.

Then I ask him.

“Hey, what do you think?”

“You are all over the place.” He says.

“That is how I feel.” I shoot back and continue, “Dave, transitions are hard. Coming home is hard. I am trying to reset. I see the grey sky. I read the hate online, and I see a life where Princess Leia dies. And of course, the next day her mom dies too. I think Debbie Reynolds must have died of a broken heart.”

I would pause and make sure he was listening. I am certain he would be Googling something like, “Singing in the Rain,” or “what year was Carrie Fisher’s novel ‘Postcards From the Edge’ published?’” Once our eyes locked, I would continue,

“My heart would break too if I had to watch my child go.”

Us at arepa class at Chao Pescao at the Andaz Papagayo Resort, Costa Rica
Us at arepa class at Chao Pescao at the Andaz Papagayo Resort, Costa Rica

This past weekend, on our way back from Costa Rica, we had an unexpected layover in Houston.  We arranged to meet with our friend, Doug.  Doug arranged a spectacular off-the wall-and-outsider tour of Houston. We saw a beer can house and some awesome art cars. And a super bonus: we started our tour at the Rothko Chapel.

Mark Rothko is one one of my very favorite artists. When I saw the room of Rothkos in London’s Tate Modern Museum I wept. No. Seriously. Tears actually filled my eyes and rolled down my freckled face. Then I sat on a bench in the middle of the Rothko room and took a flurry of pictures. How magic is it that Houston’s Rothko Chapel was our meeting place? We arrived on a freakishly cold Houston morning. We saw Doug’s Prius parked up the street. He was standing at the back of his car, grabbing a camera out of the trunk. As we stood there shivering, Doug warned us that the security guards were a bit persnickety and do not allow photography.

“As if.” I thought. “Didn’t he just grab his camera out of the trunk?”

Before I could as those very words out loud, Doug assured us he had a plan:

“Let’s make a game out of seeing how many pictures we can take. There are five of us and only one security guard.” (There were actually two, and they were planted on opposite ends of the round room.)

In the front of the Rothko Chapel, on the floor, were four evenly spaced black cushions. Dave sat on one. I sat on another. I whispered and encouraged him to take some photos.  We were both nervous. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Doug holding his phone. He snapped three excellent shots.

The Rothko Chapel, Houston, Texas
The Rothko Chapel, Houston, Texas
Dave and I inside the Rothko Chapel, Houston, Texas
Dave and I inside the Rothko Chapel, Houston, Texas
The boys outside of the Rothko Chapel, Houston, Texas
The boys outside of the Rothko Chapel, Houston, Texas

Soon the boys and I were back in our rental car, following Doug and Dave to The Beer Can House. Yes. Long ago a man made a house out of beer cans. The house is stunning. Really. At one point Eli quipped,

“What if he had made the house out of one beer can?”

To which our Texas friend responded, “That would be very Texan of him.”

Kyle & I, The Beer Can House, Houston, Texas
Kyle & I, The Beer Can House, Houston, Texas
The Beer Can House, Houston, Texas
The Beer Can House, Houston, Texas
The Beer Can House, Houston, Texas
The Beer Can House, Houston, Texas

The house is closed for remodeling, I believe, and wonder what that means. We took pictures, noticed beer cans entombed in cement, were off to Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern.  In the warm, damp cistern we saw a flickery light, and heard the snappy-fingered thunder that accompanied the “art” rain. I wanted to take a picture in the bathroom afterward, but I didn’t. Then we walked the Buffalo Bayou Park trail to the red button. Finding the button was not easy, but was interesting. Once found, I pushed it as all four boys watched the river. I could not see, but heard them as they exclaimed:

“Wow! Did you see that? Look at the water!”

I quickly pushed the button again. Then I stepped away. I saw it too. In one specific spot, just past the bridge, the water was rumbling. Freezing, we walked on. Up a hill from us we noticed a large statue. It was President Bush. Before I could process that indeed there are two President Bushes, I had already run up to give President George W. Bush a kiss (for my friend Rachael).

That is when someone shouted,

“That’s the older Bush.”  

I haltingly stopped myself and simultaneously asked if there was a statue of the younger.

Me inside the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern, Houston, Texas
Me inside the Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern, Houston, Texas
Buffalo Bayou Park, Houston, Texas
Buffalo Bayou Walk, Houston, Texas
The Red Button at Buffalo Bayou Park, Houston, Texas
The Red Button at Buffalo Bayou Walk, Houston, Texas
The guys looking at the water below as i push the Red Button at Buffalo Bayou Park, Houston, Texas
The guys looking at the water below as i push the Red Button at Buffalo Bayou Walk, Houston, Texas

We never found the younger Bush and found our way back to our cars. Eli was hungry. Of course Dave chose barbecue. We ate barbecue at Goode Co. Armadillo Palace, and of course saw a large, metal armadillo (with horns). I have a thing for jumping pictures. The large metal armadillo seemed the perfect launching point.  And because we had a fifth wheel, Dave, the boys and I were able to jump together. As he looked at all four of us perched on the Armadillo’s ledge, our friend, Doug, pointed at my phone and said,

“Hold the button down, right?”

“Yes. Take as many as you can.” I responded and we jumped.

Then we jumped again.

Doug and Dave, Goode & Co. Armadillo Palace, Houston, Texas
Doug and Dave, Goode & Co. Armadillo Palace, Houston, Texas
Jumping off of a giant metal armadillo at the Armadillo Palace, Houston, Texas
Jumping off of a giant metal armadillo at the Armadillo Palace, Houston, Texas
A goodby selfie with our most awesome tour guide, Doug, Houston, Texas
A goodby selfie with our most awesome tour guide, Doug, Houston, Texas

Now at Houston’s Art Car Museum our friend Doug had to go. We requested a group selfie. In every direction, the sun was wrong and fiercely bright. The moment was right so we snapped away. In seconds Doug was gone. That is when decided we would go inside the museum if it was free. It was free.

Inside, the woman at the front told us that they were also having an art exhibit that day.

“There was no jury and we accepted art from the first 100 people who entered. You can see by the work here that Houston has a lot of talent.”

(Ok. Of course there were some pieces of questionable quality. I would argue that those pieces made it even better and the show was a delight.) We walked through the museum. I took pictures of cool art pieces, confusing exhibits, and crazy art cars — all entertaining. Then we met Gary, a man with a ZZ Top beard, wearing a cowboy hat and wearing a grey shirt with the name “Gary” embroidered on it.

“Is your name really Gary?” I asked.

“Yes it is.” He responded.

Then Gary told us it would only cost us $30.00 to enter a car in the Art Car Parade. He continued.  “And that includes your entry fee, tickets to the dance, and a t-shirt.”

“Of course it includes a t-shirt.” I said as we laughed.

I asked Gary if I could take a picture with him and Dave. He obliged and stood proud. I took three.

Easy E, Viewing the "Open Call" Exhibit at The Art Car Museum, Houston, Texas
Easy E, Viewing the “Open Call” Exhibit at The Art Car Museum, Houston, Texas
The Art Car Museum, Houston, Texas
The Art Car Museum, Houston, Texas
The Art Car Museum, Houston, Texas
The Art Car Museum, Houston, Texas
Dave and Gary, The Art Car Museum, Houston, Texas
Dave and Gary, The Art Car Museum, Houston, Texas

It was time to go. We had a flight to catch. We said goodbye to Gary and were on our way back to the airport, returning our rental car and checking our bags.  We were on the plane. I didn’t mind that Dave was bumped to First Class. The boys and I laughed as we listened to another family of boys argue about whose turn it was to sit by the window. They were persistent. We laughed even harder when we heard their dad insist,

“You now have lost the internet for the rest of the weekend.”

Kyle and I laughed again (empathetically, of course). I felt happy. I was sitting with my boys on each side. We were on our way home. Sure, I knew that I would be hitting the grey Utah winter. My friend, Rita, even texted me, warning me about the bad air. Of course I knew the boys would struggle returning to their routine. (They have.)  I knew Monday would come and I would feel that achy loneliness I feel each day as Dave leaves for work and the boys leave for school. (I did.) Guess what?  I also knew we had this moment.

The boys and I flying from Houston, Texas to Salt Lake City, Utah
The boys and me flying from Houston, Texas to Salt Lake City, Utah

Alone, Lost and Really, Super Tired


Me and Easy E, Acadia National Park, June, 2009
Me and Easy E, Acadia National Park, June, 2009

I am certain if I had time to take a nap, the alone and lost feelings would go away.

Consequently, when I am super duper tired, every emotion seems super duper intense. Do you ever feel this way? Crazed because you have not had enough sleep? It is awful. My thoughts are weak. My self-control is hard to access.

It does not have to be this way. I had a plan and the plan fell apart. I am too tired to put the pieces back together.

I know that if I do not have our family packed and ready to go, Dave will blow a gasket. I am talking about a real gasket, and it will explode right out of his head. Ew!

We are going on a backpacking trip. I am exhausted. I am terrified. Dave is asleep. I need a nap.

Easy E Shelbourne Museum, Vermont, 2009
Easy E. Shelburne Museum, Vermont, 2009

It was approximately 8:22 AM — two minutes later than usual. Eli’s school starts at 8:50 AM and he likes to be early. I had just sent Dave an angry email, followed by a “PS” email. My bedhead was screaming from the headrest as my oversized, grey and yellow-striped pajama bottoms Eli gave me for Christmas a few years back touched the car floor. There we sat, angry and frustrated. I saw his big middle school through the window. I insisted he stay.

“I need you to change your tone before you go.” I said.

I knew he was annoyed. I watched as he watched all of his friends pass by. He took a medium-sized breath and said he was sorry. Then he opened the door. I grabbed his hand for our usual hand squeeze, which we call a hand hug. Instead, he flopped his lifeless hand into mine.

“Really?” I said and followed with, “I need a hand hug.”

His hand clamped approximately 3 millimeters more. He said he was sorry again. As I looked into his angry eyes, I knew he was sorry. I grabbed his hand, squeezed it hard, and said,

“I love you, Eli.”

He opened the door and was gone.

I thought, “Oh Eli, I am sorry I was such a bitch this morning. I could be better, even when you are not. It is my job to model. I am the parent. I failed. I hope that somewhere in there was a lesson (for both of us). I know you get it. I know you get me. Thank you for that. Eli, you are awesome. Your heart is big. I love you!”

We leave this afternoon. Because I was working so hard yesterday to get us out the door on time today, my mother-in-law was convinced we were leaving today — at 4AM. What?

“Why would you think that?” I thought. “I need to be prepared.” I kept thinking. Then I did say,

“Do you know your son? He will lose it if we are not ready to go.”

She gave me a knowing glance and then I literally (yes, for real) thought,

“I wonder if she is thinking what I am thinking?”

I was thinking about Darryl, Dave’s Dad. I was thinking about the time he decided to take a shower while the rest of us waited in the car. It was June on a hot Maryland day. Dave and I were about to get married. Dave’s dad took a shower and decided he needed a snack.

Truth is, I do believe Dave’s family struggles with the space-time-continuum. Plans, letting others now there are changes in plans, being on time, and mostly, getting out of the house before most us are coming home, are all struggles. As such, Darryl’s shower on was as normal as the setting sun.

Dave fights this behavior in himself constantly. I am always impressed with his ability to get out the door on time. He is really good at it. I see him struggle to keep plans in order, and watch while he tries new ways to manage his time. Nevertheless, Dave’s scars run deep. I have paid the price for his displaced frustration. It is my job. I love my husband. He helps me heal. I want to do the same.

As such, when we travel, Dave loses it when we are not ready to go. I feel Dave’s anxiety profoundly (and probably irrationally). I literally lose my mind (and a lot of sleep) trying to manage (help him trust that I will not let him down). And folks, that is why I was busting my ass yesterday when all I wanted was a nap.

Last night I seriously considered packing a few things and checking myself into a hotel. I didn’t. Instead I grabbed two pillows, walked downstairs and turned on the television. I tried to lull myself to sleep with the sounds of a season finale. All I could hear were the very loud voices of my husband and his mom. Not a problem. She is visiting. They were laughing. I heard “frogs” and “Kyle.” And before Dave could finish his sentence, I knew what he was talking about the time we stayed with my friend, Alana, and her family in Hardwick, Vermont. Kyle and Eli didn’t want to leave. It was 2009. We traveled to Maine’s Acadia National Park. We traveled all over the North East. The friends we visited at Lake George in upstate New York are now divorced. In Burlington, Vermont Dave threatened to fly home — alone. I can still see him now. He was standing in front of that Courtyard by Marriott hotel declaring his frustration. I told him to get over it.

“We are in this together.” I exclaimed.

He stayed, and later that night it was my mom who told me that Michael Jackson was dead. I loved that trip. I love fighting for us.

I am tired.

Dave is asleep.

So is his mom.

“We are in this together.”

Those are the words I am thinking of today.

Thank God I can write. Thank God it took writing to remind me how good things really are. Eli and Kyle are awesome and Dave is now awake and downstairs getting things packed.  Thank God I chose to write today. When I write, I re-set.  I cannot forget this space. It is mine. And if I don’t take my space, I will lose myself. I will stop fighting. And if I stop fighting, I stop.

Hardwick, Vermont
Hardwick, Vermont


Hardwick, Vermont


Hardwick, Vermont


Kyle Lake George, NY
Kyle. Lake George, NY


Easy E Lake George, NY, 2009
Easy E. Lake George, NY, 2009


Courtyard by Marriott Hotel, Burlington, Vermont
Courtyard by Marriott Hotel, Burlington, Vermont


Me, Dave and Easy E, The Staten Island Ferry, New York, New York, 2009
Me, Dave and Easy E, The Staten Island Ferry, New York, New York, 2009 (we made it past Burlington, Vermont — woot)!

As You Go, Write it Down: Chronicling Greece Part Two, Including a Little San Francisco

I cannot say this enough: When you are on the road, and for that matter, anytime you feel inspired, and even if you photograph said moment, you should still find a way to jot the moment down.

A most special moment indeed.
A most special moment indeed.

We are all busy. We all take pictures. As many pictures as we take, and as much as we try to remember, we often forget. I know I do.  I am far from a perfect chronicler. If I had a dollar for every yummy Thai restaurant I find, then forget its name and location, I could use that money to go on the best yellow curry tour our world has to offer. There is magic in visually capturing a moment. I would argue that there is also magic in note taking. Writing moments down and capturing the tiny details allows us to remember the nuance of our journey.  Great lodging, crazy places, odd encounters, and yummy restaurants (if I remember to write them down) are accurately recounted.  My notes remind me why something is so trashy, or why a restaurant is so good in a very personal, “best yellow curry ever” sort of way.

Sure, the pictures of the San Francisco Airport Centurion Lounge show, tucked away in the San Francisco airport, a hip, contemporary-designed foodie paradise. Notes, on the other hand, can convey the dirt, such as what really happened while we waited. In the lounge Dave and I sat on each side of this very peculiar lady. She was sitting in the quiet area on one of three chaise lounges. She would not move and I needed to rest. While I rested, she filed her toenails. And yes, her use of her cellphone’s speakerphone pushed me over the edge.  At once I knew that I needed to up my airport-lounge-game. Next time I will be more creative about getting a good seat.  Odd folks or not, I keep going back because Dave has a membership. I also know the Centurion Lounge has really good food and serves alcohol — both served the weird lady well. See, once the weird lady took a break, ate some food and drank a glass of wine, she became delightful and conversant. I remember these little details because I wrote them down.

Sutro Baths, San Francisco, California
Sutro Baths, San Francisco, California
Me and Big Daddy at the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California -- I finally walked all the way across! Woot!
Me and Big Daddy at the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California — I finally walked all the way across! Woot!

Last weekend we ate at a San Francisco-based Burmese/Thai restaurant. I did not write the name down so I had to search. Thankfully, I found it.  We were about one-third of the way on our coast hike from the Sutro Baths to the Golden Gate Bridge. I was hungry and needed to pee. We left the path, crossed the street, and walked along a golf course.  We walked up and over a hill, I think, and into Lincoln Park, which of course reminded me of the OPI nail polish color, “Lincoln Park After Dark.”

Then I said it out loud: “Lincoln Park After Dark.”

It was early afternoon and as we walked closer, Pagen Restaurant appeared closed. We read the sign: Open Fridays from 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM.

“Isn’t it Friday?” I asked.
“Yes it is.” The boys answered.

California Coastal Trail, San Francisco, California. In this photos, I believe Dave is searching for a bathroom.
California Coastal Trail, San Francisco, California. In this photos, I believe Dave is searching for a place to get a snack.


My last “Notes on My iPhone” post was on our third day, (March 14).  Since then I have been distracted  writing about such things as beautiful and historic Greece, Greece’s crumbling economy, and all of my various existential crises. Now home, it is time to share these notes with you. Between loads of laundry and refilling my cup of Clipper Brand Organic White Tea with Vanilla (yes, I wrote the brand and flavor down when I found this tea at the Kensington, London Whole Foods — and now have it shipped right here to Salt Lake City, Utah),

Clipper Brand Organic White Tea Vanilla. (And no, I am not being paid to post this he he.)
Clipper Brand Organic White Tea with Vanilla. (And no, I am not being paid to post this.)


I present to you, The Adams Family Takes on Greece Par Deux (of course with some editorializing along the way)!

Never fear.  I do not have time to edit and post all of the notes here (and I don’t want to overload you in one offering).  I promise  that over the next bit that I will iPhone-note you through our entire “San Francisco to Greece and Back” journey. Enjoy.

The Arrivals area of the Santorini, Greece, Airport
The Arrivals Area of the Santorini, Greece, Airport
The Arrivals Area, including the Rental Car Area of the Santorini, Greece Airport
The Arrivals Area, including the Rental Car Area of the Santorini, Greece Airport -To orient the two pictures note Kyle’s foot is on the lower right.

Leaving Santorini (Morning, Day 5)

[I love Dave. I love Dave’s reactions to things. The following took place at the Santorini Airport.  The airport car rentals are located in a very small part of the arrivals area. The boys were sitting on the floor. I had asked a man to move over so I could sit on the bench. He hesitated, picked his bag down, and let me sit. I watched the following.]

Dave is talking to the Hertz agent. The Hertz agent leaves and comes back. They talk. I can see that Dave is annoyed. He  just stormed out of the airport, mumbling something about the half full tank. He has been gone, I mean, disappeared for the past 15 minutes, apparently long enough to put enough gas in the car.  Dave is back. The Hertz guy just went to check our tank again. I’m waiting for him to return and tell Dave that there is still not enough gas. In the meantime, I recommend that Dave tell us where he is going next time.

He agrees. Dave tells me that Hertz would charge something like 43 euro to put in another two gallons. That’s lame. I am with Dave. [Additionally], that same Hertz  dude argued with me when we rented our smashed up Hertz car.

“What’s the problem?” He asked.
“It’s smashed on the outside, not the inside.”  I responded.
“It doesn’t change how the car runs, does it?” He snapped.

[Another crazy thing is the lack or inconsistent security at the Greece airports. Santorini is no different. My favorite, and really a non-security, item is the following]:

Small Sterilite containers, like you might buy at Wal-Mart, to place items in to go through security.

The roads of Greece are covered in variations on this style of roadside memorial.
The roads of Greece are covered in variations on this style of roadside memorial. Different parts of Greece have distinctive architecture for their churches, and the roadside mini-churches mirror this.

Back on Mainland Greece

The Athens Airport is very nice and very modern. My very favorite part was the pharmacy located in the arrivals area. I think I mentioned that I had a crazy allergic reaction somewhere between Boston and Frankfurt. I nearly itched all of the skin off of my very swollen ankles and calves. The Athens airport pharmacist was competent, spoke really good English, and gave me what my at-home doctor recommended. The rental car was a different story. Here is what I wrote. By the way, that car grew on me. 

Avis Athens, [on the other hand], was not as awesome. Avis, thank you for renting us a car that smells like a freaking ashtray. We are Avis preferred. Your Mazda 3 is smashed up and has nearly 57,000 km on it. Bad job.

Lobby of the Elefsina Hotel, Elefsina, Greece
Lobby of the Elefsina Hotel, Elefsina, Greece

Elefsina, Greece (25  miles West of Athens)

[It is now March 18.  We are at our first mainland Greece hotel, the Elefsina Hotel in none other than Elefsina, Greece. It is a very nice, business-style hotel in an area where there are no other hotels. It was late when we checked in and the Americans in the room next to ours were partying like rock stars. Ok. They were not partying like rockstars. They were very loud. I commend the hotel for dealing with the noise. And I applaud those American girls for quieting down when asked. Your mothers would be proud. The breakfast was not special, but good. The best part was the music — at breakfast, that is. There is nothing better than being in a place where no one speaks English and hearing one of your favorite songs.]

The Head in the Heart’s, “Winter Song” is playing right now at the hotel breakfast. It feels like home.

We left the hotel and began our five day four night Greece road trip. What an eye opener.

Roadtripping in Greece
Roadtripping in Greece



  • When planning Greece lodging, I think it is important to mention that we found the hotels, VRBOs, and Airbnbs are located in the same general areas with few hotels in between.

Learn From Me: On Your Dream Vacation Be Prepared For High Velocity Vomit

Vomiting in Amsterdam
Vomiting in Amsterdam written the night I became sick

After another crazy train ride, and a confusing exit from the train station, we were in Amsterdam. Our Amsterdam friends were excited for us to see their beautiful city. We were excited to ride bikes, and likewise see all the bike-riding people we had heard about.  We wanted to see lovely Dutch architecture, look for cute little wooden clogs, and see the town (large city) our friend, Raquel, had recently visited. The bad hotel bacon I ate earlier in the day (and in Belgium), on the other hand, was less enthused. Truth be told, I think I knew the bacon was bad. My fate was sealed at the Antwerp Belgium Radisson Blu’s breakfast buffet. I ate the bacon the day before and was fine. Unlike the day before, however, this time the large bacon container was nearly empty. Somewhere inside of me, as I looked at that that last discarded, rubbery, and grayish-looking piece of bacon, I knew I shouldn’t do it. I knew I should not scoop up. My hunger took over and I ignored that very wise voice in my head. Come on, the bacon was sitting in a pool of grease.

“It can’t be that bad. All that grease is probably protecting it. I will be fine.” I thought.

Still unsure and now at the table, I picked up my piece of bacon and convinced myself I would simply eat around the grey so I did. Then I do what I often do, (which I should have done before taking a bite). I performed the if-Dave-doesn’t-drop-dead-while-eating-said-food-then-it-must-be-safe food test.  (Please don’t tell Dave).  So I placed the grey part of the bacon on Dave’s plate.

“Oh crap!” I thought. [insert panic here]

I have never seen this reaction. Dave was not eating the bacon. Instead, he picked it up, looked at it, and tossed it aside.  I was too late. I should have known. For hours, I felt fine. I moved on to train travel, yummy Belgian chocolate, forgetting all about the bacon.

Bruges, Belgium: Twenty-four hours before full barf meltdown. I had no idea what was going to happen.
Bruges, Belgium: Twenty-four hours before full barf meltdown. I had no idea what was going to happen.

So there we were walking through Amsterdam’s Red Light District (a Google miscalculation, I might add). I was fine, except for being mortified that Dave and I had walked our two teenage sons through this depressing and weird part of town.

You know how really bad food poisoning goes? A switch flips. And from one breath to the next you go from “let’s get our boys away from all the prostitutes in the windows” to “I think I am dying.” With me it was between the hey-I-am-starving-lets-go-out-to-dinner to the if-I-do-not-leave-this-restaurant-now-I-am-going-to-projectile-vomit-all-over-our-table. Yelp gave our Malaysian restaurant five stars. Understandably, I have no opinion.  I cannot even remember the name. Wait. I do have an opinion. Belgium and The Netherlands, seriously, please get with the program. Let people order “tap” water, or at least have fair priced bottled water. The Netherlands has some of the cleanest tap water in the world.  Letting my boys drink crazy Malaysian “root beer” or whatever local delicacy is available at every meal is not healthy!

Dave took us to the Malaysian restaurant knowing there would be something there  I could eat, and that something was my very favorite yellow curry. The curry arrived at our table in all its yellowy splendor. I took one bite. The fish sauce smell nearly killed me,  and had to stop. Sadly, I relinquished the yellow curry and was left muscling my way through a last hope for my angry stomach, a bowl of white rice.

“Rice will calm the angriest of stomachs.” I thought.

Wrong. I could not do stomach (literally) another bite.  

Weakly I exclaimed, “Dave, I need to leave!”

At that, Eli offered to go, and he and I left, and walked the two blocks back to our Radisson Blu Amsterdam hotel, which was a lovely hotel, I might add, except for the pee water smelling toilet bowl, a toilet bowl, I know now too well.

Eli was a sport. He knew his mom was sick, and he made sure to return me safely to our room. Inside, I felt that seasick feeling one can only feel on the sea, or when feeling really sick. All I could do was drop down and lay myself on the floor. I can only imagine how many strange and naked feet have stepped on the carpet where my head now lay. In that moment, all the strange and stinky naked feet I was laying my head on did not matter.

“I think I am going to puke!” I screamed.

Eli followed with a, “Mom, are you ok? I am here.”

I thrust myself up and ran to the bathroom.

And like the beginning of a very clichéd song, which I will title: Diarrhea and Vomit, I found myself sitting on our hotel room toilet. And like that the familiar tune, as I sat on the toilet, of course I had a sudden and an excruciating urge to throw up.  Doesn’t it always go this way? Amsterdam was no different. Sweaty and panicked, I grabbed at both the toilet paper and the trashcan. A quick and thorough wipe later, I was kneeling to the porcelain throne. I honestly thought I was done after that first go round. And perhaps the blessing that cognitive dissonance gave me is that I really had no idea what the next forty-eight hours would bring. Oh, thank God!

As I was getting further acquainted with our hotel room toilet, Dave ran into the room screaming,

“Beth, Beth, do you have any euros? The restaurant only takes cash! I left Kyle there until we pay.” (Yes, this really happened.)

“Find my wallet. I have some cash.” I said in a surprisingly calm and attentive voice.

I heard Dave rifling through my wallet. “It is not enough. We are three euros short. Do you have any more?”

“Eli, do you have any euros?” I asked between heaves.

Dave continued,  “I need to find a cash machine.”

“Good luck.” I said.

Dave left and I started barfing again.

Barfing in Amsterdam: The "allergic" food poisoning caused my face to get really red and puffy.
Barfing in Amsterdam: The “allergic” food poisoning caused my face to get really red and puffy.

I cannot believe how sick I was. My saving grace was this: I knew I had between two and ten minutes of calm after each vomit episode. I embraced those peaceful moments when I could reach out to friends and family on Facebook. I will tell you what: Social Media is a savior when you are alone in a foreign country. Do not hesitate to reach out. During one of those reprieves, I was messaging my sister. I likened my bacon food poisoning to the time I ate a moldy bagel. As a result of eating the moldy bagel (I thought it was blueberry and yes, this is a true story), I had both black vomit and diarrhea. My sister, Brenda, was living with me during the blueberry-bagel ordeal. When we were messaging I said,

“Brenda, the bacon trumps the moldy bagels.”

Our room, which was a strange sort of family room,, had three twin beds. One of the twin beds was separated by a wall. In the moments before I became sick, I had ideas of mommy daddy time [cue Marvin Gaye’s, “Let’s Get it On,”] so Dave and I slept in the lone twin bed. For some reason I decided to sleep on the inside, next to a very cold cement wall. Dave and I slept this way during my entire round-the-clock-vomit cycle. Here is how it would go. I would wake with a painful urge to throw-up. Before I could get out of bed, I would begin to throw-up so I would power through, holding the barf in my mouth while grabbing onto the blankets I would use to power thrust myself out of bed. Then I would throw my body forward, land on the carpeted floor, and I would run to the bathroom. Dave and I still wonder why I did not move to the outside.

Truthfully, most of the time as I cried, I spent hovered over a pillow on the floor. While Dave and Kyle went sight-seeing with our Dutch friend, Thom, Eli remained by my side. Go Eli! I tried to drink water. I tried to drink the Dutch version of Ginger Ale. Nothing would stay down, not even ice chips. My friend Amber, who is a Physician’s Assistant, coached me through long distance. Thank you, Amber!  Again, I would argue that in these moments you take advantage of social media. I could not have done this without her. Finally, between Amber’s advice, and the fact that nothing was staying down or in, we opted to seek medical help. The hotel made me an appointment. Our Dutch friend, Thom, who was visiting us, helped translate. He also accompanied Dave and I to the doctor. The whole experience was scary.  We think the doctor was Italian. Her Dutch and English were less than ideal. At one point she turned her computer screen towards us, handed Dave her keyboard, and asked us to Google the medication. She sent me away with two prescriptions, and an admonition to go to the hospital if I didn’t feel better in the next few hours.  Rehydrating was up to me, which freaked me out. Here in the United States, a doctor would give me an IV in their office. I am not sure who is right. I just know the Dutch do it differently and that left me uneasy. Consequently,  I left feeling weak and afraid. As I stood outside of the doctor’s office I looked around at row houses along the canal, the canal boats, and people on bikes. There were lots of people on bikes.

I love to walk and for a millisecond we considered walking to the pharmacist.  That was the hardest moment. I am strong and always able to walk. Realizing that I had lost my strength was terrifying. We called a cab, and made our way. Dave and Thom left me with the sweet, grandfatherly, cab driver while they ran to the pharmacist.  The sweet cab driver tried to speak to me in English. Nothing was translating. Finally he said, “women problems.” I said, “I wish.” Oh yes, that is the super surprise to this story. Not only was I sick, the cab driver was correct. I was also having women problems. Geez!

We parted ways with Thom. Then the cab driver took Dave and I back to our hotel. Thankfully, I began to keep water down, and started to regain my strength. Being sick away from home was terrible. I do not recommend it. I also think you can probably be more prepared than I was. No. You do not need to be neurotic, just careful.

Favorite Family Photo: Strömstad, Sweden. Kyle with crazy hair, Eli thinking, me green and sick. Dave = beautiful
Favorite Family Photo: Strömstad, Sweden. Kyle with crazy hair, Eli thinking, me green and sick. Dave = beautiful

The doctor sent me away with a note recommending that I skip my flight to Sweden the next day. Thankfully I did not have to. And yes, as of today, I prefer Sweden over Amsterdam. I think you can understand why.

In the end, horrifically throwing-up non-stop in Amsterdam was not part of the plan. As such, a long, and well processed view of our hotel room bathroom, the curves of the European-styled toilet seat, the clever print (including Danish clogs, and fruit, I think) of our hotel room carpet, a Malaysian restaurant, the doctor’s office (located in an old canal building),  a friendly cab driver, and the outside of Amsterdam’s Prostitute Museum, may not make for the most fair or accurate Amsterdam review, or maybe, my Amsterdam experience was spot on [wink, wink].

Amsterdam seen through my hotel window
Amsterdam seen through my hotel window


  • Have your insurance card (even when you don’t need it, it is good to have).
  • Know if you have any allergies
  • Seek a translator
  • Get help before you end up in the hospital. This is the one thing I did right. When I finally went to the Dutch medical clinic, I was on the fence. My blood pressure was very low and I was dehydrated. Had I waited a few more hours, I would have been in the hospital and would have missed the next morning’s flight.
  • We stayed at Radisson Blu Hotels our entire trip, except for our first two nights in London. We did this because Club Carlson was running a “stay one night get the second free” special. We used points.
  • Be overly cautious with your food choices when eating hotel buffets or at restaurants with high-impact contamination potential.
  • Amsterdam is a lovely city. If you want to avoid the Red Light District, learn the city, and map out your path ahead of time.
  • When paying for a particular type room such as a business class room, (even with points), when you check in, make sure that is the room you are given. Although our room at the Amsterdam Radisson Blu was lovely, it was actually a Superior Room not a Business class room.
  • If you are traveling, you will most likely be in an unfamiliar setting. Be preemptive. For example, if you start to get sick, make sure you are hydrating, resting and always washing your hands. Being sick away from home sucks!
  • Homemade Rehydration Recipe: 1 liter water, mixed with 6 teaspoons of sugar and ½ teaspoon of salt. Mix well.
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Europe Summer 2015: Our Day in Bruges


Bruges, Belgium
Bruges, Belgium

Ok. Hello there. Here is the deal. Blogging on this particular trip has not been the easiest. We are offline more than we are on (which is not such a bad thing, by the way). Anyway, today, I decided I would start sharing the notes I take along the way. Let me know how you like them. Do they make sense? Or, are they too crazy to follow?

Right now Dave is telling us that it is time for bed. It is 12:51 PM. I think he is correct. We are spending our last night in Belgium. Tomorrow we head to Amsterdam. Our trip began in London. Then we headed to Paris, Brussels, and today we spent our time in Bruges. Train travel is new this time around. (We usually rent a car.) Eli and I also agree that we miss visiting random grocery stores and seeing little towns along the way. For the most part, however, I would say we have all really enjoyed the trains.

Notes from Bruges PAGE ONE
Notes from Bruges PAGE ONE
The Lovely Lady who tripped into Eli on the Train (See Page One)
The Lovely Lady who tripped into Eli on the Train (See Page One)
Bruges, Belgium
Bruges, Belgium
Our Day in Bruges, Belgium PAGE TWO
Our Day in Bruges, Belgium PAGE TWO
The Dark Chocolate Skull Candy I am obsessed with
The Dark Chocolate Skull Candy I am obsessed with
The Chocolate Line, Bruges, Belgium
The Chocolate Line, Bruges, Belgium
Us in Bruges, Belgium
Us in Bruges, Belgium


    • As I was Googling The Chocolate Line (you know the chocolate skull candy store) I learned they have an Antwerp location. My heart be still. Before we leave Antwerp in the morning, I will track down those skull candies. Cross your fingers!
    • Here is my Ellis Gourmet Burger review I wrote on my phone while sitting in their restaurant: “Be aware. As adorable as the city is, Bruges is a tourist town and they are in the business of fleecing tourists. This restaurant is no different. So technically because everyone in Bruges is fleecing tourists, in context, this restaurant is good. This being said, we are annoyed that they can only leave ketchup or mayo OFF the burger when they deem it not to be “too busy.” Oh and the 10€ pitcher of lemonade is the size of a large glass. Seriously, the pitcher is the size of a 20 oz glass.
      Don’t order the chicken sandwich. The grilled vegetables consisted on green pepper and onions. Gross!. And the piece of chicken I was given was tiny and overlooked. The burgers were actually quite good, and if the lemonade would have been larger, or refilled for free, we would be much happier and more satisfied. Our waitress was very nice. Best part of the restaurant is the FREE bathrooms! Everyone else charges 50 cents. Oh, and to use the FREE wi-fi you MUST check in to their Facebook page. When I checked in to the FB page. the review for me to fill in popped up. Well, burger people, you asked for it…” (In Bruges, everyone charges 50 cents to use the bathroom).
    • Ok. I know the reviews for the Pita House are good. My issue was the non-English menu. I imagine it is time I learn Dutch. Aside from the fight Dave and I had in the Pita House, it was really our inability to translate the menu, the 2 euro small bottles of water, and the unhelpful wait staff that made this place a place to leave. Sorry pita house. As soon as I learn me some Dutch, and learn your cultural direct, yet non-emotive-ness, I will be back.
    • In Bruges, we highly recommend the canal tour. I wish I could remember our guy’s name. Any tour will do. They are friendly, and we were so delighted that they spoke French, English and Dutch. What a treat.
    • Dave mentioned Little Sebastian from “Parks and Recreation” earlier and the day, and then Little Sebastian became the theme of the day. Yay, Little Sebastian!
    • If you are in Belgium and you know you will be in both Bruges and Belgium, buy the waffles in Brussels. They are cooked and made fresh while you wait. The are less expensive and they taste better. Don’t bother with the waffles in Bruges. Instead spend your time walking around and enjoying this beautiful city.
    • Final thoughts on Bruges: 1. Bring a picnic lunch. The food os overpriced and the restaurants are not accommodating. 2. Take a canal tour. 3. Walk off the beaten path. Bruges is such a beautiful town. Get away from the tourists. Find the secret parks, and walk as far as you can along the waterways. 5. Whatever you do, DO NOT FORGET TO BUY YOURSELF SOME CHOCOLATE! The town is famous for it, and the do it right! PS. Ask for Britt (yes, two t’s). She is lovely, speaks fluent English, and will help you find your favorite treat!
    • Oh oh I forgot to mention Elizabeth Bishop again. “In the Waiting Room,” is the poem I mentioned.
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We Survived Donut Falls – (Mmm Donuts!)

Big Cottonwood Canyon, Donut Falls, Utah
Big Cottonwood Canyon, Donut Falls, Utah



I am shocked that we survived.

Donut Falls Hike
Donut Falls Hike

Honestly, I am always amazed we survive! I will tell you why.  It is simple. People die while hiking. And people die at Utah’s Donut Falls (some spell it, Doughnut). Last year at Donut Falls a woman fell 100 feet to her death.  In 2003 a giant boulder crushed a young man. He was killed as he heroically pushed his friend out of the way. And just yesterday, (the day we were at Donut Falls), a guy fell 12 feet, landing on his back and was seriously injured.   Why oh why would I take my children (and the children of our friends) into the death zone?

Yellowstone National Park: I'm not overreacting. It is scary!
Yellowstone National Park: I’m not overreacting. It is scary!

I just said it: taking my loved ones here makes no sense.  And in the interest of full disclosure, I think it is also important that I also mention (here and now) the fact that I may be totally obsessed with freak accidents (I am).  I have read every death-in-the-mountains book I can get my hands on. Additionally, I was seduced by our friend’s coffee table book, “Death in Yellowstone,” while visiting a cabin near Yellowstone National Park.  I will never forget reading about the dude, that generous man, who was burned to death jumping in a hot spring after a dog. No. Not his dog.  Someone else’s dog slipped into a boiling spring, and this man was killed trying to save another person’s dog.  Um, and thank you, stupid “Death in Yellowstone” book! The scars you inflicted are deep! Your scary stories haunt me! And your warnings freak me out! May I give your owners a suggestion? A book called “Death in Yellowstone” placed in a cabin near Yellowstone National Park may not be the best reading material to offer your houseguests.

Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park

Here is where my obsession with freaky stories jumps into my own reality. I have watched, helpless, our two-year-old Kyle walk his cute little toddler self off of a giant cement sculpture, and (thankfully?) landing on the crumple zone of his face. His teeth still wear the scars. Consequently, for years I death-gripped Kyle’s arm, grabbed the back of his shirt, and the back of his head (his hair), in my successful attempts (knock on wood) to save him (completely unaware) from running off of a fifty foot cliff (Moab’s Fisher Towers, for example, and Bryce Canyon’s Wall Street, for another). Now every single time our family goes on a hike, the blood leaves my brain, fills my achy-breaky heart, and the crazy voice in my head screams,

“Alert! Alert! Alert! Keep your eyes on your boys! Keep your eyes on your boys. Must save them! Must prevent crisis! They could fall to their death! Alert!”

Then as I see Kyle wander desperately close I yell,

“Dave, Dave, D’ah’AVE, Please! Look at how close they are TO THE EDGE! Please!” followed by a, “Kyle, Kyle. KYLE, please, STAY ON THE PATH! If not for yourself, do it for my sanity! Please!”

Ask Dave (or the boys).  They will tell you.

“Yes, Beth is full of death grips and crazy screams!”

I would argue that in all the cases my crazy screams are founded. Dude, I do not have a spare. Sure, Dave may laugh a little, but he knows, as you do now, that our lovely Kyle has come way too close to base-jumping without a parachute. (Oh thank God, Eli stays on the trail!) Parental-Hiking-based-PTSD, absolutely!

Donut Falls Hike
Donut Falls Hike

Sunday (Father’s Day) we went on a hike with our friends Nate, Emily and their three lovely red headed children. As we all stood in in a very long line of people both coming and going in the 90 plus degree high-altitude heat, next to a fast flowing mountain stream, I imagined that we were actually waiting in line to climb Mount Everest’s deadly Khumbu Icefall. In case you do not know, the Khumbu Icefall is the place where people waiting in a long, stalled line, lead to great disaster.  Here at Donut Falls the lines were also uncertain. People were walking in water to get around one another. Babies seemed fragile in wet arms.  Feet were getting wet, shoes and tall socks were getting soaked (especially Eli’s). One flip-flop was last down stream, and Dave sent Kyle after it. And near the big warning sign there were people sitting eating watermelon. They offered us a piece.

I watched Kyle climb higher. He was completely out of my reach. He is taller, stronger, and bigger than I am. It made no difference. His life flashed before my eyes. There were so many people between us. Eli was sitting on a boulder. Dave was half way up the rock face between Eli and Kyle. I was on the other side.  In a matter of seconds, my face went from acceptable summer glow to Goth-white.  As I felt the blood rush out of my head, I knew it was time to executive-decision myself. Then I uttered these words:

“I do not want to project my hiking PTSD onto my boys.”

Donut Falls Hike
Donut Falls Hike
Donut Falls Hike
Donut Falls Hike

Instead, I took a deep breath and watched. I distracted myself. I looked through my camera lens. I gave the boys several thumbs ups as I continued watching from afar.  Kyle and Dave kept climbing higher.  I will admit I was freaking out, especially as I watched them get so close to the wet rock and the raging waterfall.  So far away from their listening ears I blurted, “I cannot look,” and as I stared up at Dave and Kyle, I asked, “Emily, Will you look?” She said,

“Of course.”

I quickly followed with,

“Ok. I have to look. No. I can’t. Nate, Please tell me when Dave and Kyle are on their way down. Please!”

Kyle and Dave both made it down. Sure, Dave ripped up the backside of his shorts, and Kyle was a sweaty mess, but they made it. Here is the deal. Hikes can be crazy, dangerous, and out of control. Heed the warnings. Be prepared. Bring and drink plenty of water. Wear proper shoes. Know your limitations, and pay attention. If there are too many people waiting to climb safely up, be patient. You will get your turn. I promise. You will be ok.

We survived the Donut Falls hike!
We survived the Donut Falls hike!

By the way, I love the Donut Falls hike. Utah’s Big Cottonwood Canyon is one of the most magical places on earth and Donut Falls is one of its many gems. As long as you are careful, stay on the path, and are patient, I promise the Donut Falls hike is safe. And really the only think you will have to survive is trying to get your too-tired-for-walking kids up and down the path [wink wink]. Trust me.

Lovely Dave talking Max up the Mountain.
Lovely Dave talking Max up the Mountain.


  • Regarding Donut Falls: Here is a hot tip. Only park in designated spots or you will get a ticket!
  • As many know, Utah has many amazing hikes. We recommend taking a hike in Big Cottonwood Canyon, which is located at the eastern edge of the Salt Lake Valley. In the summer there is nothing like driving over the Guardsman Pass Scenic Backway to get between Park City and Salt Lake City. If you make it that far be sure to say hello to our year-round-living-in-Big-Cottonwood-Canyon friends, Travis and Troy! They will make you feel right at home.
  • If you are interested in falling down the rabbit hole of death-in-the-mountains stories may I recommend the classic page turner, Jon Krakauer’s, “Into Thin Air.” If you need a little non-mountain death and survival, there is always, “Endurance: Shakelton’s Incredible Voyage.” And a book I haven’t even read yet, is highly reviewed. but uses both the words, “dead,” and “mountain,” in its title: “Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident.”
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