Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

Vacationing with children always has its own joys and challenges. I love taking my kids to new places. Seeing something with their eyes, for the first time, is an amazing blessing I will never tire of. It makes up for all the work that goes with having kids along for the ride. Gone are the days of care free travel.

This morning, Gideon and I got up well before the sun since we are still on Central time. After some coffee and peanut butter toast, about all we had at the house this morning before our trip to the grocery store, Gideon went down to wake up Daddy and Wash.

I looked out the window and it was snowing. Not huge delicious flakes, but small beautiful fluffs of delight. I ran down all three flights of stairs, we are in the basement of the house, calling for Gideon. We threw on some coats and dashed out to see the snow.

It was wonderful. Gideon and Ries ran around the house, playing in the snow that was already on the ground. My heart was so full of the mountains and winter that I was content in a way that made me want to clutch the moment to remember later when I am back in Houston, sweating and cursing.

There are things that everyone knows about themselves. Things we learn over the course of our lives, about ourselves, about others, and about the world. Almost as long as I have had the memory of contentment, I have known that the mountains is the place my soul lives.

Even so, this is the first time I have been in the heart of the mountains in winter. The views work on me the same way the summer valleys do though they are covered with snow and brown grass and not green waves with flowers. I would not trade this place for any other place. It is not the Grand Tetons specifically, almost any Rocky Mountains will do.

There were other moments in this first day of a week of mountain adventure, but for me, the moment of seeing that first mountain snow eclipsed everything else.

The kids are asleep and it is time to open a 90 Shilling and say slainte to this day.

Good Night, from Jackson Hole, WY


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I have the best in-laws on the planet because when they returned from their latest trip, this is what they brought me:

Jewelry and Scotch

I asked my mother-in-law for a handsome Scottish man with a brogue and a kilt, but I do not think Gerard Butler would have fit in their luggage.  My parents are on a trip to the Greek isles at this moment and I have to say, the bar is pretty high. I suggested they bring us a bottle of Ouzo.

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Ries left the house this morning at 5:45 to join a team from our church going to El Salvador with Living Water International. Living Water sends teams to villages all over the world to dig wells in places where they do not have safe, clean water to drink. I am very excited that he is going on this trip. It is the perfect mission trip for him since it requires little talking and lots of work. Please pray for his team, that their actions would show the love they have for others and that they would all return home safely.

Ries will be gone until Saturday, but I leave Friday for New Orleans and a library conference. We will not see each other until Sunday, the 26th. This is the longest we have been apart since we got married. We usually talk a lot during the day and in the evenings. I decided I would write to Ries on the blog, to keep track of things we do during the day and also to make sure I do not forget to tell him things when he returns. My memory, after two kids, is not as sharp as it once was and I know I would forget some of the more interesting, but small tidbits over the course of a week.

I will write the posts like I would to Ries, with notes in parenthesis where the reader (you) might need clarification.



I did not tell you this morning, but Happy Father’s Day. You know I think you are amazing and wonderful. It is such a joy and blessing to watch you with the boys. I know you are cherishing this season of our life, though challenging, as I do because it is so filled with hugs, playfulness, and love in abundance. You are a fabulous Dad.

Thank you for throwing the diapers in the dryer. I appreciated that a lot. Wash slept ALL NIGHT and did not wake up until 6:15. Seriously. This can not be our baby. He obviously takes after you. We had a quiet morning. I was able to drink my coffee, fold diapers, eat breakfast, and get ready for church without much effort. Without the entire troupe, we arrived on time.

The lesson was on giving in relationships, even when it is not received well or expected.  Holly made a point to remind the kids (10th graders) that dating and family is practice for marriage in many ways and they should begin learning how to have good relationships now.

Brittany’s (my cousin) shower was very nice. Wash and Elijah were big hits with the ladies, of course. Gideon had a great time with Gammy and Gampa. He threw a tremendous fit because he did not want to leave. I am chopped liver. He was very tired. I had to stop the car on T.C. Jester (about 3 minutes down the road) and spank him because he was screaming at the top of his lungs, “I don’t wanna go home!” It did not phase him, but I put on “All You Need Is Love” and he was asleep before the first round of the chorus.

The evening went fine. I am not too tired and I miss you. I think I shall watch Sherlock and eat some ice cream.

Good Night, Love.

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The Smiths recently returned from a week long camping trip in the mountains of Colorado. While we do tent camp, we do not backpack camp. I have a friend that refers to this as “fat camping” because if you are not carrying it around you are fat and lazy. We tent camped with a king size air mattress (yes our tent is that big) and it is a good thing: All four of us slept on it every night, Ries, myself, Gideon, and Pullo (who kept our feet warm in the cold mountain air).

Here we are on our hike on Inter-Laken Trail in Twin Lakes, CO. Notice Pullo’s shoes in the photo.

Trip stats:

    Hours to travel there: 23
    Days it rained: pretty much every one, a shower at least
    Days it rained continuously and we considered leaving altogether: 3
    Generations on the camping trip: 4
    Tents: 2
    Popups and RVs: 2
    Cushy accommodations (aka RVs and popups) slept in by the “Old Folks”: 2
    Miles hiked: 5
    Miles driven during the trip: 3,018
    Spoiled dogs who required their own hiking shoes: 1
    Showers taken: one on Wednesday
    Baths taken by Gideon: 3, one in the fancy RV!
    Peeps harmed and consumed in the Great Campfire Roasting of 2010: 12
    Nights I had to leave the tent to go to the bathroom (outhouse really) and wonder if a bear would eat me: all of them
    Towns visited: Telluride (gondolas!), Mountain Village, Ouray (hot springs!), Leadville
    Hours to travel home: 20

It was a nice trip though it rained constantly the first three days we were in Telluride. We actually left that area Tuesday, after realizing that the rain would not stop and the tents had taken all the moisture they were going to deal with before the rain came inside in buckets. Once in Leadville, where we hooked up with my grandparents, the weather was amazing, with the normal mountain showers and sunshine.

We hiked Inter-Laken trail, a short 5 mile hike to an abandoned resort on Twin Lakes. Pullo wore his saddle bags and new hiking shoes and I think 5 miles is about all he is able to go. He was very pooped at the end of the day. Gideon made it about a third of the way and then was passed around for the rest of the journey.

We ended up in Leadville for their annual Boom Days festival which is a fun weekend of small town festivities, including a pancake breakfast, parade, and mining events.

I loved being in the mountains again. It has been too long since I have been surrounded by my favorite views. Gideon had a wonderful time being dirty all week and being spoiled by Grammy and Oma (whose idea of a morning snack is Green Tea and an Oreo cookie). The day after we got back, he cried and asked to go back to the campsite to Oma.

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I think Ries hit all the highlights of our trip, which really can be summarized by the word beer. We had some truly amazing beer on our trip. The most amazing was what a friend called the “holy grail of beers;” a little brew called Westvleteren. It is a beer that is very hard to get and worth every effort to do so. Absolutely fabulous.

The picture in this post was taken at our favorite brown cafe in Amsterdam, a tiny hole in the wall called Gollem that serves 200 different kinds of beer, mostly Belgian. We went back three times to this amazing, lovely, little pub. I think I would have moved in and stayed if I had been able.

The canals were beautiful. The cheese, sausage, and other food was fantastic. The gardens and parks were lovely. Everything was perfect. We wandered around each city absorbing the atmosphere and watching the people go about their lives. The people watching was superb!

We were able to stay at the house of some friends who are living in Amsterdam and it was especially nice to be able to spend some time with Yvette, whom I have missed greatly since she moved. She is a blessing in my life.

Besides the beer, the other best thing about the vacation was spending time with Ries, alone. I missed Gideon a lot and cried over his being away, though he never cried for us, if the grandmothers are to be believed. It was nice to be with Ries and enjoy doing things we both love, wandering different cities and experiencing a different pace of life. For those of you that have yet to go on a kid free vacation with your spouse, I highly recommend it. It is nice to remember what you are like without a kid around and just be, in silence, with food, or over a good beer. Preferably over both.

The trip to Amsterdam reminded me again of the blessings I have in my husband. He is the perfect vacation partner for me and I dearly love vacations. There is no one else I would rather share a pint of life with.

I was, however, very happy to get home to my boy who was happy to see us. It was good to have our family back together after 2 weeks apart.

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I said I would let Michelle post about our Amsterdam trip.  But she is busy and will likely never get to it.  I tend to describe every detail about every event that ever happened so I was refraining from posting.  I could gladly talk a long time about our trip.  We had a great time.  And I would love to talk about all the great beers and brown cafés that we went to and how it has inspired our own new projects.  So if you want to talk about it, by all means, call me.  But I am going to keep this post to a bare minimum.  Michelle just posted our pictures so I will link the different sets (organized by city) as I get to them.

Thursday:  Arrived Mid-day and just hung out a bit with Tom, Yvette, and Bernadette (Yvette’s mom’s last day of her trip there).  And I can’t forget Analisa and Baxter.  We spent the first of several nights winding down with a couple beers on the patio with the slugs.  The weather was fantastic for the whole trip.

You can find all the pictures for Amsterdam here

Friday:  This was our first full day in Amsterdam.  Yvette (with Analisa and Baxter) got us acclimated.  We walked through a few parks (Amsterdam had a lot of great parks), most important of which was Vondelpark.  We found out from the get go that it wasn’t too much of a walk from Tom & Yvette’s house (T&Y’s) to the center of town.  It was actually a nice walk through Vondelpark, which we continued to do almost every day for the rest of the trip.  Spent the rest of the day just walking around and getting acclimated to the city.

Saturday:  Probably the best day in Amsterdam.  We got up early (but later than planned) and hoofed it into town.  Stood too long in the wrong line to see the Ann Frank House.  Timing worked because we were done just in time for the opening of the Pancake Bakery (mmm, good.  Ended up going back at the end of the trip, too.)  It is probably not what you think of as Pancakes.  They are dutch Pancakes.  Next we continued to walk around the canals (in case I don’t get it in later, I loved the canals and how it creates the charm of the city) and visited a few brown cafés (that is like a very old bar, some older than the USA, that serve good beer) and then made our way to the Bols Distillery Tour building.  Really cool tour.  Wound up with quite a few bottles of genever (dutch gin, better than English) and even a Yogurt liqueur.  More brown cafés and then made it home before dark (which didn’t occur while we there until 11:00).

Sunday: Honestly, I forget what we did this morning but we got up and did something.  Then made it back in time for T&Y’s house warming party (they had just moved in) where they “bbq’d” fajitas for their dutch and expatriate friends.  Too bad the Velveeta we brought them got confiscated by customs.

Monday: I might start mixing up my days here but I will come back and correct if I remember.  We spent the first day on bikes as Yvette, Analisa, Michelle and I rode bikes to the Amsterdam Bos.  The forest.  It wasn’t that far and it was a nice day with all the dutch people out and about (surely this must have been a weekend day, I must be remembering wrong).  We ate in a big field next to a pond where the jets flew just over head before they landed at Schipol airport.  And I am talking some big planes.  I’m fairly certain that I got poison ivy this day in a country that I am pretty sure does not have poison ivy.  I tried not to let it bother me the rest of the trip.

Tuesday:  Took the train Northeast for a day-trip  to Groningen.  Not too big of a city but it has a university there and some nice squares and markets and such.  Nothing too much to talk about but we had fun.

Pictures for Groningen are here.

Wednesday:  I am pretty sure it was this day, but it wasn’t the day after Groningen, oh well.  We took the train for a day-trip Southwest to Delft.  Michelle saw the library of her dreams that she always wanted to visit.  Very modern, quite interesting.  We walked around, didn’t buy any expensive delftware, and had another good day in a nice town.

Pictures of Delft are here.

Thursday:  We took an international train south to Belgium where we stayed at a B&B over night in Brugge.  This day we walked around trying to avoid the huge crowd of old-people tourists.  Paid way too much for a lunch before we figured out how to maneuver around the town.  Then we went to a few more places to drink and stayed up long enough to take pictures of all the buildings as they were lit up at night.

Friday:  Tried to hit all the places in Brugge we didn’t hit the day before, including all the places with tons of swans.  Then we took a brewery tour at this great little old brewery called the Half-Moon, which I think is the only remaining brewery left in Brugge (that’s saying a lot for a Belgian town).  We got to see modern brewing actually taking place as well as an adventure through this old building to see the ways they used to do it historically.  We went back to this great hidden bar that we enjoyed the day before (the Belgian beer never disappoints) and then walked the park on the edge of the town on the way back to the train station.  The train ride back was an adventure as I sat with a drunk Brit, a Dutch man and a Belgian girl.  The Brit spoke the worst English of them all, but his manners were even worse (let’s just say it that way).

Brugge pictures are here.

Saturday through Wednesday:  We found out our flight home was cancelled and we would be spending 2 more days in Amsterdam.  We spent most of the rest of this time hitting up parts of Amsterdam that we had missed before.  We used a bunch of the walking tour cards with us to see things like Jewish WWII historical stuff, the shipyards, more churches, residential islands, a brewery in one of the last 2 working windmills in Amsterdam, and lots and lots of brown cafés

Unfortunately, I didn’t capture many of the great things that we enjoyed.  The Dutch people, the house boats, the beer (did I mention that), the flower market, the architecture, the canals, the Golem, all the baby ducks and swans, the cheese, the raw herring sandwiches, the croquettes, the dogs without leashes, the time spent with each other, the beer (I really enjoyed the beer), and all the different things that you see on another continent that I could talk a lot about.

-Ries, I think I’ll stop there…

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In case you hadn’t noticed, we haven’t posted to the blog in over 2 weeks.  The reason is that we were in Amsterdam for that time.  We came back about 2 days later than expected thanks to striking British Airways employees but we finally made it back.  I am not going to go into details about our trip, because my post would be far too long with the amount of detail I tend to give.  I will leave that job to Michelle.  Suffice to say, we had a very good time.

-Ries, feeling Dutch

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