26 Aug

Dams and Twerps Part I

Posted by on August 26, 2016 at 11:45 pm

Since I had a little break between my summer and fall semesters, Jason and I decided it was the perfect time to take a trip to Europe, a continent we’d been contemplating traveling to for a while.

Tempted by the convenience of a direct flight, we decided to land in Amsterdam and tour sections of the Netherlands and Belgium. In case you are wondering, even ten hours on a plane is agonizing. Sure, you basically just sit, sleep, and eat but boy is it miserable. Our trip was fabulous though. Here’s my full account of more recollections than you’ll recollect wanting.

Day 1: Royal Jetlag

Although long flights are about as fun as colonoscopy parties, the hardest thing about going to Europe isn’t the plane travel but the jetlag. The eight-hour time change is exactly enough for Europe to be getting up when it should be going to sleep. Thus, our early days there were hazed by jetlag’s cloud of drowsy oblivion.

Jason and I arrived in Amsterdam around 8 AM, midnight back home. We had only slept an hour and a half on the plane but we were determined to stay up as long as possible to exhaust ourselves out of jetlag quickly. This plan worked better than expected, at least initially. The options for distractions were plentiful.

The Koninklijk Paleis is still used by the Dutch royal family.

The Koninklijk Paleis is still used by the Dutch royal family.

First, we set out for the Anne Frank Huis but ended up going on a tour of the Royal Palace (Koninklijk Paleis) instead. Once Amsterdam’s town hall, that royal residence was opulent and stately. After a brief respite to eat a cheese sandwich in a tiny outdoor café, we were off to the Anne Frank Huis once more but somehow ended up searching out the Begijnhof instead. Long ago, the Begijnhof was a sanctuary for a group of ladies that lived like nuns without taking vows. These women sought to assist the sick and educate the poor. Houten House, Amsterdam’s oldest house and one of its two remaining wooden-fronted residences, is enclosed in their once-haven. (Wooden houses were banned in 1521 due to their propensity to go up in smoke.) The Begijnhof was a peaceful place worthy of the term “sanctuary.”

The Begijnhof's gates have been providing a sanctuary for single women since the 1300s.

The Begijnhof’s gates have been providing a sanctuary for single women since the 1300s.

Next we were off to the Anne Frank Huis again but ended up in the Amsterdam Museum. How did that happen? I blame our unfocused jetlagged brains. The Amsterdam Museum is an intriguing institution devoted to all things Amsterdam. Its collection includes everything from a giant Goliath statue to a Rembrandt. (Who doesn’t have a Rembrandt in Amsterdam?) Unfortunately, shortly after we entered the museum our jetlag became insurmountable. The museum’s fascinating signs and videos became blabber that floated around us like an incoherent soup. We stayed at the museum until it closed, a little over an hour, but the last 10 or 15 minutes we were both having a hard time not falling asleep standing up.

At that point, our empty stomachs and Amsterdam’s curiosities were completely forgotten. All we could think about was snoozing. We went to bed at 6 PM and, with the help of a couple sleeping pills and our lack of sleep, we were able to rest 12 and a half hours, waking up at 6:30 the next morning. Our jetlag was under control and didn’t manifest itself too severely thereafter… well, except for the occasional falling-asleep-without-knowing-it episode.

Day 2: Anne and the West

Before Jason and I left on our trip, I vowed to eat nothing but chocolate, cheese, pastries, frites, and waffles while in Europe. I broke that vow during our very first breakfast with delicious smoothies and fresh fruit. But I did eat a lot of cheese and pastries during that meal so my promise was not entirely hollow. Incidentally, the pastries in Europe weren’t as good as I remember but the cheeses were even better.

The canals in Amsterdam don't resemble Farmer Joe's waterways at all.

The canals in Amsterdam don’t resemble Farmer Joe’s waterways at all.

Following breakfast, we were off to the Anne Frank Huis again. This time we actually made it, after a little dilly-dallying to check out points of interest in the Jordaan neighborhood. However, it turns out that getting into the Anne Frank Huis is not as simple as just making it there. We had to purchase tickets online for three hours later because admission was completely sold out until then. In the meantime, we decided to go on an hour-long canal tour. This proved quite interesting. Then we visited the Westerkerk church, which was built in 1620. There we walked up 186 of the steepest steps I’ve ever ascended, so steep in fact that we had to come down them backwards. The views of Amsterdam from the top were impressive though and worth the rung shenanigans.

From the Westerkerk's tower, the tallest in Amsterdam, miles of colorful rooftops and canal grids are visible.

From the Westerkerk’s tower, the tallest in Amsterdam, miles of colorful rooftops and canal grids are visible.

Some of the stairs spiraling through the Westerkerk's spire are so extreme they have to be descended backwards.

Some of the stairs spiraling through the Westerkerk’s spire are so extreme they have to be descended backwards.

Finally, we got to tour the Anne Frank Huis. Seeing the untouched bookcase, the dim rooms with their blackout shades, and Anne’s bedroom walls covered with movie-star ornamentations was quite sobering yet powerful.

The Westerkerk is just down the street from the Anne Frank Huis.

The Westerkerk is just down the street from the Anne Frank Huis.

After visiting the Anne Frank Huis, we did some more wandering and then enjoyed our hotel-room balcony until the breeze became too chilly. Sitting out on that perch at 7 PM when cathedral bells assaulted us from every direction, Amsterdam’s 20+ churches all seemed to be ringing at once, was one of my favorite moments of our trip. When the balcony got too cold, we headed downstairs for a fabulous dinner at the Bord’Eau Restaurant Gastronomique.

Day 3: Royal Blue

We decided to take a train to Delft, the home of Delftware and Vermeer, the next day. We toured the Royal Delft factory where hand-painted white-and-blue porcelains have been created since the 17th century. I may have purchased some of their uber-pricey knickknacks. Maybe.

Delft is famous for its blue and white pottery. Rembrandt is famous for a few things.

Delft is famous for its blue and white pottery. Rembrandt is famous for a few things.

Next, we climbed 370 steps to the top of the Nieuwe Kerk, the second-tallest church in the Netherlands. These wooden and stone steps twirled around a tiny turret with significant gaps between them. I must admit, between the stair rifts and the dizzying views from balconies where the railings barely came above our waists, I had some height-dread moments. But what a scene! On a side note, the Nieuwe Kerk is the burial site of William of Orange and many other royal family members. It is still the burial site of choice for Dutch royals.

The Oude Kerk's tilted tower adds skewed interest to Delft's pretty scene.

The Oude Kerk’s tilted tower adds skewed interest to Delft’s pretty scene.

The Nieuwe Kerk is the second-loftiest church in the Netherlands. It felt like it after 370 steps.

The Nieuwe Kerk is the second-loftiest church in the Netherlands. It felt like it after 370 steps.

Delft's Renaissance-style town hall was built in 1618.

Delft’s Renaissance-style town hall was built in 1618.

The Oude Kerk, AKA Old Church, was our next stop with its crooked spire. Built in the 13th-century, it’s the final resting place of 400 Dutchmen, including the painter Vermeer and Leeuwenhoek, the inventor of the microscope. Both the churches we visited in Delft were a little morbid but intriguing. Their floors were paved with gravestones ornamented by a bizarre mix of skeletons and cherubs.

The Oude Kerk's tower went wonky in 1325 during its construction.

The Oude Kerk’s tower went wonky in 1325 during its construction.

I was utterly delighted by Delft. Its Markt, surrounded by outdoor cafes and quaint shops, was charming and quintessentially European. It was there that I ate one of my favorite desserts of the whole trip, a vanilla yogurt curd served with oranges. Wow!

Delft's Eastern Gate was built around 1400.

Delft’s Eastern Gate was built around 1400.

My wordy account of Europe will continue next week… whether you want it to or not.

A Few Traveler Tidbits

Here are a few of the notable differences between the Netherlands and the USA:

  1. Stop signs have not made their way to Amsterdam. A few stoplights adorn Amsterdam’s busiest streets but at most intersections you are on your own.
  2. Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day. In fact, it seems that many Dutch people skip it entirely. So finding a breakfast spot outside your hotel can be challenging. Luckily, most of the hotels provide excellent breakfasts.
  3. Although bikes in Amsterdam outnumber cars, no one wears a helmet. Even the little kids being transported via wheel-barrel-like bike attachments don’t… no one.
  4. Most of the people are a normal weight. America really does have some fat issues.
  5. Street musicians are much more talented. We heard Mozart concertos and Bach toccatas gracefully performed by groups on curbs.
  6. Meals move at a different pace, as do their checks. Although the Dutch value efficiency, when it comes to food they take their time. Asking for your check can prompt confusion.
  7. Cars are minimally present compared to bikers and pedestrians.
  8. In July it doesn’t get dark until about 10:30 PM. I can only imagine how miserably black it is in the winter.
  9. Tipping isn’t done very regularly. It’s hard to include a tip at many restaurants because there isn’t a spot on the tab for it. Some Americans would probably enjoy this change but we felt obligated to figure out how to leave a tip anyway.
  10. Besides restaurants, almost everything closes at 5 PM. This means you have to get up pretty early to make the most of your time. We usually arose between 6:30 and 7:30 AM… so much for a relaxed vacation.
18 Aug

Bowling for Birthdays

Posted by on August 18, 2016 at 3:20 pm

When it comes to birthdays, many people are of the mindset that denial is the best policy. However, I am of the opinion that that is stupid. We have no control over the passage of time. Time passes whether we acknowledge it or not so why not party? This conviction is one of the reasons I never let Jason’s birthday go by without a whoopty doo. He’s supportive of my whoopty-doo policy since he loves his friends and rowdy get-togethers with them.

Bowling isn't usually considered a wild sport but...

Bowling isn’t usually considered a wild sport but…

This year, I decided to throw a bowling party for Jason’s birthday in a private four-lane suite at Jupiter Bowl in Park City. About two dozen buddies joined us for this pin pig out. We had the room for three hours but, thanks to all our yakking, those in my­ lane only made it through one game and part of another. No, it wasn’t my fastest bowling or my finest for that matter; I was too distracted. To be honest, I’m not even sure who amongst us won. The distractions suited Jim though; he bowled five strikes in a row. I don’t know if that has an official name but I’m going to call it a turkey sandwich.

Jupiter Bowl's private suite was pretty classy and comfy.

Jupiter Bowl’s private suite was pretty classy and comfy.

The food was rather unhealthy and we consumed rather a lot of it.

The food was rather unhealthy and we consumed rather a lot of it.

Food was served periodically throughout the night. I’m glad I requested that it be supplied in stages; it would have been way too much all at once. A selection of cheeses, dried fruits, and crackers awaited our arrival. An hour later, crab and corn fritters with basil aioli, tempura shrimp with yuzu-soy dipping sauce, curried cauliflower tempura, and Jamaican jerk chicken skewers with pineapple salsa were all brought out. An hour after that, we sang happy birthday to Jason with chocolate-hazelnut-banana puff pastries and vanilla ice cream topped with five-spice poached pears in a port reduction.

Jason rarely gets embarrassed but for some reason this outpouring of masculine attention made him self-conscious.

Jason rarely gets embarrassed but for some reason this outpouring of masculine attention made him self-conscious.

It was an ear and pin-splitting night. Thanks everyone that came to celebrate my fantastic man! Time passes but I don’t see why that means opportunities for great memories need to be passed up as well.

10 Aug

Caves and Creeks

Posted by on August 10, 2016 at 8:36 pm

It’s been a while since we’ve had a chance to vacation with Jason’s family so we were happy that our schedule allowed us to go camping with them up American Fork Canyon on his mom’s birthday. It was a weekend of a little exertion and a lot of ease.

Do I look cool? I was actually rather hot and soggy.

Do I look cool? I was actually rather hot and soggy.

We started the outing with a trek to Timpanogos Cave accompanied by Jason’s parents and brother. We’ve done this hike several times in recent years but the cave, really three caverns connected, is a fascinating hole wholly worthy of multiple visits. Although intense, the overheating brought on by our trudge across the sun-blasted switchbacks leading to Timp Cave was over quickly. We were unpleasantly sweaty when we entered the monument but cooled promptly thanks to its 60s insides.

The formations inside Timpanogos Cave look like God's doodles.

The formations inside Timpanogos Cave look like God’s doodles.

The trail to Timpanogos Cave winds across rockslide regions and cliff faces.

The trail to Timpanogos Cave winds across rockslide regions and cliff faces.

We spent the rest of the night hanging out with Jason’s family at the Little Mill Campground. Many of the camping spots at Little Mill are pretty compact, as in sardines in nylon, but the spot Jason’s parents reserved for their RV was shaded and roomy so everyone convened there. We devoured more tinfoil dinners and birthday cupcakes than we should have while conversing around the jigging flames of a hearty fire. It was great getting to visit with no time constraints and only the chatter of the American Fork River to distract from our chatter.

Jason's family takes pictures on this rock every time they hike to Timp Cave.

Jason’s family takes pictures on this rock every time they hike to Timp Cave.

We had planned on going on a hike the following morning but the appeal of lounging got the better of us so that’s all we did until Jason and I had to depart.

This gnarled root marks another standard picture spot for the Sabins.

This gnarled root marks another standard picture spot for the Sabins.

The perfume of the pines, the allure of cave squiggles, the warm turbulence of the fire, the sizzle of crisping potatoes, the contrast of the spotted sky, and the relaxed company of family made for a mighty fine camping trip.

7 Aug

A Reunion Recap

Posted by on August 7, 2016 at 7:55 pm

Family reunions are peculiar things. They are entertaining reminders that being related is relative.

I don't know most of these relative strangers.

I don’t know most of these relative strangers.

For most of us, the family-reunion experience follows a predictable pattern. Swarms of largely-unfamiliar faces make you wonder how it is that one couple managed to produce such a wide variety of progeny. Streams of shrieking children flow without purpose, leaving havoc in their wake. Questions about your life choices, lot in life, and living will stimulate endless debates amongst the few attendees that you do recognize. Piles of potluck food prompt you to pray for luck as you fill your plate. Yet, despite their recognized shortcomings, family reunions are a summer rite of passage that cannot and shouldn’t be avoided.

Watching the bubbles coalesce was rather amusing.

Watching the bubbles coalesce was rather amusing.

Reunions are one of the few times, outside funerals and weddings, that extended families conglomerate. And why wouldn’t you want to conglomerate and communicate with a bunch of people that you are mysteriously related to through a few knotty twists in your family tree? Just admit it, those knobby loops are mighty intriguing and often amusing.

My jumping skills have not been tested for many years but I've still got the rope stuff.

My jumping skills have not been tested for many years but I’ve still got the rope stuff.

We recently went to Jason’s family’s reunion. His Aunt Kathy did a great job organizing this one, a daunting and frustrating task no doubt. There were games for the kids, lots of delicious and not-so-delicious grub, and bubble soccer. Plus, some multigenerational jump roping, which spontaneously erupted and I participated wholeheartedly in.

Jason jumped like a pro... and so did that kid.

Jason jumped like a pro… and so did that kid.

Thanks Kathy for getting the entire gang together. You can’t have summer without a reunion, as everyone knows since we’ve all tried.

28 Jul

A Party with a Twist

Posted by on July 28, 2016 at 3:38 pm

I am no artist. If you don’t believe me, I can draw you some convincing stick figures. However, because I am happy to undertake that which I suck at, I welcomed Jason’s suggestion of celebrating my birthday via a painting party at Painting with a Twist. Many of our friends also cheered this idea and, thus, it became a colorful reality.

We had 14 in our group, almost the studio max.

We had 14 in our group, almost the studio max.

Since everyone at my party had to paint the same picture, I wanted it to be selected fairly. So, after sifting through over 4,000 options, I created a preference survey for a handful of the cooler ones. My survey didn’t exactly work. Someone (Cameron) took it multiple times. Consequently, the real winner, a Harry Potter castle, got supplanted by an Asian wave. Still, our Japanese-style surfs looked awesome!

I'm a perfectionist in all things, even that which I suck at.

I’m a perfectionist in all things, even that which I suck at.

The painting process went astonishingly fast so there wasn’t much time to socialize during it but we went to dinner at Leatherby’s with a subset of our party goers afterward, which offered more chances to chat.

Our waves, although from one source, took on distinct characteristics.

Our waves, although from one source, took on distinct characteristics.

Thanks everyone that joined us for my twisted party. Nothing says “we’re friends” quite like matching decor.