Posts Tagged ‘travel’

More Nashville Highlights

Posted in dessert, GF product, meals, Restaurants, travel, Uncategorized on July 11th, 2011 by Betsy – 2 Comments

On our recent trip to Nashville, there were a few other spots that I felt worthy of a mention.  I love Atlanta but I could really see myself living in Nashville.  Great neighborhoods, family, fun coffee shops and ice cream.  What more could a gluten-free girl need?

Bongo Java Coffee: This east Nashville coffee shop is a great spot for a morning get together.  They have large tables with plenty of space to spread out, and park a large stroller!  My iced coffee was one of the best iced coffees I’ve ever had.  Wonderfully smooth and refreshing after a long walk.  They roast beans in the shop so prepare to take the scent of coffee with you when you leave.  It was so good we went again for breakfast on Saturday too…

Fido: Gluten-Free Muffins: Fido, another local spot, makes gluten-free muffins that they also sell at Bongo.  I tried their strawberry banana gluten-free muffin and it was a great alternative to the glutenous bagel “bombs” (which look delicious!) that everyone else enjoyed for breakfast.  They also have a coconut variety of muffin that gets rave reviews.  They only use rice flour (not a flour blend) but it was pretty good, despite being a bit misshapen.  I’m always appreciative when breakfast places have items I can enjoy, not limited to a plate of eggs.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams: This delicious ice cream shop in East Nashville is worth the $4 for two half scoops.  Many of their flavors are GF including my personal favorites, salty caramel and pistachio & honey.  Yum!  Their sorbets (such as Riesling poached pear) look refreshing too but it’s hard for me to resist fancy ice cream.

In researching Nashville, it seems that there are a bunch of spots that offer GF options including The Wild Cow, Matteo’s Pizza and others.  I guess I’ll just have to go back!

Bongo Java – 107 S. 11th St., Nashville, TN 37206 – 615.777.EAST

Fido – 1812 21st Ave. S, Nashville, TN 37212 – 615.777.FIDO

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream – 1892 Eastland Avenue, Nashville, TN 37206 – 615 262 8611

3 Months Ago…

Posted in travel, Uncategorized, Washington DC on June 14th, 2011 by Betsy – 2 Comments

It’s hard to believe that three months ago today I left Japan.  In some ways, it seems like ages since I left, and in others, it feels like just days ago.  On March 14th, I left Japan in a whirlwind, after an emotionally wearing four days.  As my plane lifted off the ground at Narita, I breathed a huge sigh of relief, but I didn’t regret being in Japan for a minute, and I still don’t.  I’m thankful for that time with my family and getting the rare opportunity to get to know my nephews.


As I look back on Gluten Freedom during that time, it’s particularly eerie that I published this post 45 minutes before the earthquake hit.  Clearly, I had no idea what was coming.

In those three months, I haven’t seen my brother, sister-in-law and the boys in person. Shortly after I left Japan, Alden, Pete and Chip were able to ultimately get stateside (after many, many flights), thankfully. Rob is still in Japan and his ship actually left Yokusuku yesterday to embark on another tour. He’ll be reunited with his family later this summer.  I’m going to see Alden and the boys this weekend and I can’t wait to be with them.  Chip turned two yesterday and he continues to be a sweet and wonderful child, full of personality.  Pete’s growing and I’m sure has changed so much since we parted ways in March.  Alden remains my hero and has been an amazing mother throughout all of this.  Can you tell I’m excited to see them??

Chip and me on a morning walk in Japan

Chip and me on a morning walk in Japan

From March to June, I finished up a successful lacrosse season, got through exams with my students, and am now enjoying a more leisurely pace of summer.  I’ve had two articles published in Living Without Magazine, on Washington, D.C. and Montana/Wyoming and tried to keep up with Gluten Freedom when I have a spare moment. This May, former students and advisees of mine graduated from college.  (I’m old!)  More former students then graduated from high school in June.  I have a new niece, Anna Lohne Metcalf, born in May.  David and I’ve been to four weddings, in Atlanta, Richmond, New York and DC, with a fifth on the way this weekend on the Eastern Shore.

So many things to celebrate!  Life is good.

All Good Things Must Come to an End: Our Last Day in NYC

Posted in bakery, dessert, GF product, meals, Restaurants, travel, vegetarian on June 1st, 2011 by Betsy – 1 Comment


On our last day in New York, David and I yet again, woke up before the rest of the city, and headed out for a bit of culture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  (We’re both former history teachers so we had to get a little history squeezed into this trip.)  I have to eat within about 30 minutes of waking up so we stopped at Dean & Deluca for some much needed coffee and breakfast.  Being the planner that I am, I had purchased a mini-coffee cake at Tu-Lu’s Bakery the previous day.  I have no shame so I broke out my coffee cake at Dean & Deluca and it was oh so wonderfully perfect with my cup of coffee.

GF Coffee Cake + D & D Coffee = Perfect

GF Coffee Cake + D & D Coffee = Perfect

I also bought a fancy yogurt to give me a little more nutrients and protein to get me ready for a day full of walking. I had never tried Siggi’s yogurt before but it said “Certified Gluten Free” on the container so I felt very safe.  (I love it when companies get their products tested and labeled.  Little things like that make travel so much easier.)

Siggi's Yogurt: Certified GF

Siggi's Yogurt: Certified GF

After our morning meal, we started walking toward Central Park to enjoy another day of nearly perfect weather in NYC.  We strolled through the park, watching more ambitious people running and biking.  (There was a big race raising money for Japan so it was fun to watch everyone in action.)  We meandered through the park, and ended our walk at the Met.


We had purchased tickets ahead of time so didn’t have to wait in any lines.  We unintentionally ended up at the Alexander McQueen exhibit, “Savage Beauty” first, which proved to be a smart decision since it was already pretty crowded and the museum had only been open for about twenty minutes.  This temporary exhibit (it ends July 31st) walks its audience through the short career of McQueen, who died last year.  Even if you’re not a fashionista (I’m definitely not, nor is David), you should still check out this exhibit.  It’s intense, provocative, and very educational.  The unique and inventive displays give you a whole new perspective on fashion and a designer’s vision.  It made me a believer that fashion is art.  (Who knew a group of dresses with “rape” in the title could be a reflection of the history of England and Scotland’s relationship?)


We continued through the Met, checking out the Impressionists, photography, armor and other exhibits, ending our tour with a cold drink in the American Wing Café, which is bright with natural light and a perfect place to rest your feet after a toursity morning.


Following our trek to Central Park and the Met, we splurged on a cab back to the hotel, took quick naps, and headed to the Lower East Side, for a late lunch at Pala Pizza.  I had heard rave reviews about Pala from the gluten-free community and it exceeded my expectations.  All of their pizzas can be made gluten free and they are very careful about cross contamination.  We had trouble deciding what we wanted to order but ultimately went with the fried calamari as a starter.  Pala uses separate gluten-free fryers and corn meal for the breading of the calamari.  It was delicious and so fun to get an item that I can rarely enjoy and would never make for myself at home.  (We all need a little something fried every now and then.)


David and I shared the lamb sausage pizza with pesto for our lunch.  Every bite of this pizza was delicious.  The light,crispy crust, the pesto and the lamb went perfectly together.  (Maybe I think that because lamb and pesto are two of my favorite foods!)  I dominated that pizza.  For the first time in our marriage, I ate more than David.  He offered me the last two pieces and I didn’t even hesitate.  Delicious!



After our meal, we walked across the Williamsburg Bridge to Brooklyn, in our Sunday best because we were going to a late afternoon wedding on a Brooklyn pier.  Walking across the bridge was a very cool way to get to Brooklyn, but I have to admit, it freaked me out a little bit.  There are bike and walking paths, so the bridge is completely safe, but trip across felt much longer on foot than I thought it was going to be.  The Brooklyn wedding was beautiful, unique and a fun way to celebrate a couple.  We felt honored to be included in the festivities.

View of the Williamsburg Bridge

View of the Williamsburg Bridge

As I can’t normally enjoy wedding reception cuisine (except for the wine), we ended up at Caracas Arepa Bar for a late night dinner.  This Venezuelan restaurant makes arepas from scratch daily.

Wondering what an arepa is?  Well, it’s described on their website as, “”dense yet spongy corn-flour rounds, pitalike pockets, corn muffins, cake-swaddled mélange, white corn cakes, Latin sloppy Joe, sandwiches of a flat cornmeal patty, soft and smooth within, golden crispiness, tasty treats, burrito-killer, panini-killer, wheat-free, gluten-free crisp on the outside, steamy-soft in the middle…”  Sounds pretty good to me, right?


We ordered four arepas to go, including grilled chicken with caramelized onions and cheese, roasted pork shoulder with spicy mango sauce, and shredded beef, with black beans, plantains and cheese.  It was a lot of flavor combinations but I enjoyed sampling the different varieties.  My favorite was the grilled chicken arepa.


While we waited for our to-go order, I decided I wanted to go back to Tu-Lu’s Bakery one more time.  (And of course, David nicely complied.)  I partly wanted to return to the bakery so I could see for myself that Tu-Lu’s really stays open as late as it says it does (9:00 p.m. on Sunday nights and 10:30 on Friday and Saturday!).  I bought another cupcake (chocolate this time) and a cookie to take back to Georgia with me.

David and I finished up our amazing New York weekend eating arepas and cupcakes in our hotel room, watching the NBA playoffs…perfect.


Pala Pizza – 198 Allen Street – NY, NY 10012

Caracas Arepa Bar – 93 ½ East 7th Street – NY, NY 10009

Gluten Free in D.C.

Posted in travel, Uncategorized, Virginia, Washington DC on May 26th, 2011 by Betsy – 1 Comment
Living Without's June/July Issue

Living Without's June/July Issue

As some of you know, I spent a significant part of my life calling the DC area “home.”  When I was diagnosed with celiac, I was living in Alexandria, Virginia, so my gluten-free journey started in our nation’s capital.  I recently had the opportunity to write another article for Living Without Magazine about traveling to Washington, D.C., in honor of the 4th of July.  This article (found in the June/July issue) highlights the festivities unique to our nation’s capital on this patriotic holiday, but is also useful for navigating the city any time of year.

My Article!

My Article!

Check out the restaurants and activities for yourself!  Doesn’t it make you want to take a quick trip to DC?  If you don’t have time to pick up a copy at Whole Foods, you can read “Happy Birthday America: Celebrate the 4th of July in Allergy-Friendly Washington, DC” online by clicking here.

We love DC: David and me at Obama's Inauguration

We love DC: David and me at Obama's Inauguration

Which of these restaurants and sights are favorites of yours?  Anything I left out?

Cupcakes, Cozy Dinners & Chris Rock: Another Day in NYC

Posted in bakery, travel, Uncategorized on May 24th, 2011 by Betsy – 1 Comment


David and I continued our trip through New York City on Saturday afternoon with a stop at Tu-Lu’s Bakery.  I’ve written about Tu-Lu’s before, when she first opened, a year and a half ago.  What began as a bakery with a few cookies and brownies, has exploded into panninis, coffee cakes, muffins, cakes, croutons, cookies, and other treats. Tu-Lu’s bakery offers vegan and dairy free options as well, but everything is gluten free.  Owner, Tully Lewis, is gluten free herself and she understands the need for delicious gluten-free products.

Over the course of our weekend, we managed to stop by Tu-Lu’s twice.  Yes, twice!  I showed no restraint while in the Big Apple.  On my first trip, David enjoyed a chocolate chip cookie, and I bought one of their special cupcake flavors: chocolate chip.  It combined two of my favorite things: cake and chocolate chips!  Tu-Lu’s mix of rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca flour makes for a great base, but each of her goodies has been perfected and tweaked for the best flavor.  There are no funky after tastes with these treats and I would absolutely recommend Tu-Lu’s if you’re visiting New York City.  If you live in New York, consider ordering one of her beautiful cakes for a special, gluten-free occasion.  And of course, I purchased some treats to go, as well.


Tu-Lu's Chocolate Chip Cupcake...yum!

Since we enjoyed a late breakfast at Friedman’s and an afternoon snack at Tu-Lu’s, we skipped lunch on Saturday.  We also knew that we would be eating dinner on the early side because we were going to see a show that night.  (I love all things plays and musicals, so I couldn’t fathom being in New York and not buying tickets to a Broadway show.  David nicely complied.)

Il Buco

Il Buco

On Saturday night, we went to Il Buco for dinner.  This Mediterranean inspired restaurant feels warm and cozy on the inside, with pots and pans hanging from the ceiling.  I love the combination of rustic, yet elegant and I immediately fell in love with Il Buco when we stepped inside.  As I mentioned, we were early diners because we were seeing a play at 8:00 so we got to see the restaurant transform from a quiet hidden gem, to a bustling restaurant, full of good people watching.

Il Buco: So cozy

Il Buco: So cozy

Even during Il Buco’s transformation from quiet to hectic, over the next two hours, we were the recipients of amazing service the entire time.  I was so impressed by the attention we got and how much our server communicated with the chef about our orders.

While a significant amount of Il Buco’s menu involves some form of pasta, there were plenty of appealing options for me.  We started with the olives marinated in lemon zest, basil and rosemary that were meaty and delicious.  This mix of three different types of olives, was a perfect commencement to the meal, especially since I can’t enjoy the typical bread served at the beginning.

Olives marinated in lemon zest

Olives marinated in lemon zest

For an appetizer, David and I shared the beef carpaccio which I had never tried before but every bite was lovely. This dish included Niman Ranch grass fed beef fillet, marinated artichokes, and salmoriglio (whatever that is!).

As an entrée I branched out and tried the wreckfish with a tapenade and grilled artichokes, that came highly recommended by our server.  I tend to be a little nervous about ordering fish that I’ve never tried before, but I wanted to be a little more adventurous, and had enjoyed a fairly meat-heavy dinner the previous night at Perilla.

Il Buco's Wreckfish

Il Buco's Wreckfish

Il Buco was such a lovely dining experience and I will absolutely go back here the next time I’m in New York.  Even though it’s not a restaurant that advertises “gluten-free,” they were so hospitable and accommodating, that it’s definitely worth the trip.  You should make reservations, as it’s a very popular restaurant and not a large space.

After our dinner, we hopped back into a cab, and back to Broadway to see a production of The Mother F**ker with the Hat.  (Yes, you read that correctly.  That’s the name of the play.)  This intense, 90 minute show, stars Chris Rock and four other actors.  Recently nominated for a Tony for Best Play, “The Mother F-er with the Hat” is not the comedy you’d expect from Chris Rock.  It’s dark, emotional and quite depressing but David and I would both agree that we’re glad we saw it and it was very moving.  I grew up watching Chris Rock in Saturday Night Live and it was fun to see him on stage.  The other actors were gripping in their roles and I was definitely entertained.  (Note: While I loved the play, I would not bring children to this show or my in-laws, who I love dearly, but don’t think think it’s a great fit.  So, decide for yourself if it’s right for you.)  Get your tickets now because it’s only showing on Broadway for a limited time.

After the play finished, I made David wait outside the theater’s side entrance so we could watch the actors leave.  Nicely, David complied.  (David’s compliance is a theme, in case you can’t tell.)  For 45 minutes, we watched the actors leave one-by-one, and interact with the fans as they departed.  I’m not a big autograph person, but they signed autographs and thanked everyone for coming to the show.  I was quite star struck.

I couldn't help but snap a photo of Chris Rock!

I couldn't help but snap a photo of Chris Rock!

We then went out for a drink at a swanky hotel bar and called it a night.  Such a great (gluten-free) day for us in this fun city!  Stay tuned for our final 24 hours in NYC.


Tu-Lu’s Bakery – 338 East 11th Street (between 1st and 2nd Avenue) – New York, NY 10003

Il Buco – 47 Bond St # 1 – New York, NY 10012-2450 – (212) 533-1932

Mother F**ker with the Hat – Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre – 236 West 45th Street (Between Broadway and 8th Avenue)- New York NY 10036

Apples are Gluten-Free: Visiting the Big Apple

Posted in Restaurants, travel, Uncategorized on May 18th, 2011 by Betsy – 2 Comments

Recently, David and I made a trip to New York, and I must admit, I took advantage of every opportunity to enjoy this city that’s a gluten-free diner’s delight.  There were many places I wanted to try and sadly, I wasn’t able to get to all of them. Not for a lack of trying though!  We walked all over the city, exploring neighborhoods, checking out the sites and enjoying some delicious meals.  In fact, we did so much that I’ve got to split this trip into three different posts because I don’t want to overload you with information.  I don’t think I could ever live in NYC, but I plan on visiting more frequently than I have in the past, once every five years!

On Friday afternoon we arrived in NYC, checked into our hotel and immediately set out to explore, before meeting up for drinks at Extra Virgin Restaurant with our friend, CJ.  We wandered around the West Village, looking at shops and enjoying the people watching.  After a great visit with CJ, who mapped out the whole city for us, we set out for our first Big Apple dining experience.  We had reservations at Perilla, owned by Top Chef’s Season 1 winner, Harold Dieterle.  While I didn’t have any Harold sightings, I thoroughly enjoyed his restaurant.  Located in Greenwich Village, Perilla opened in 2007, and describes its cuisine as “Seasonal American.”  There are only eighteen tables in the entire restaurant and ten bar stools so you definitely want to make reservations.


We sat at our cozy table and devoured every bite of our meals. For an appetizer, I ordered the slow poached chicken egg that came on a very springy bamboo rice with arugula.  The bright green of the rice looked beautiful with the fresh yolk on top.  (They served mine without the mustard crumble on top, as it contains gluten.)  For my entrée I chose the lamb chop that normally is served with orzo.  Instead, the chef substituted some of the meatiest, most flavorful mushrooms I’ve ever eaten.  Those veggies could have been a meal in themselves.  The lamb chop was huge, amazing and perfectly tasty.  I definitely “out ordered” David.  Luckily, there was plenty to share.  Even though Perilla’s service was not the best I’ve ever had, we still left Perilla happy that we’d made the selection because of the food and the atmosphere.  (I thought the sub par service might just be an NYC thing, but all of our other dining experiences in NYC were accompanied with great service.)


On Saturday morning, David and I woke up with no plans until dinner that evening.  We decided to follow Elaney’s suggestion and head to Chelsea Market, in the Meatpacking District, which originally housed the National Biscuit Company in the late 19th century. This industrial building now houses many shops, eateries and other cool spots.  Being that “sleeping in” for David and me is 8:00, we were some of the first people on the street that morning.  When we arrived at Chelsea Market, we enjoyed having the place to ourselves, and wandering about, peeking in the windows of the not yet opened stores. We enjoyed some Ninth Street Espresso coffee and the rare opportunity to just be together, with nothing else going on.  (Our lives have been a tad bit busy recently!)

Chelsea Market

Chelsea Market

We sipped our coffee and waited for Friedman’s Lunch to open at 10:00.  I had spotted this restaurant’s menu online and noticed that they star the items on their menu that can be made gluten free, and according to their menu, almost all items, including pancakes and cheddar waffles (wow!), can be created to accommodate a gluten-free diner.  So I had to check Friedman’s out for myself.  Of course we were some of the first customers in the door at 10:05.  (We’re obviously not trendy New York diners that eat brunch at 2:00 in the afternoon.  I was proud of myself for waiting until ten!)  Our server was very friendly, accommodating and willing to answer all of our questions.  She tries to eat gluten free too, so she had many recommendation and I felt comfortable that I was getting a carefully made gluten-free meal.



I ordered the gluten-free pancakes and David sweetly ordered his pork flautas to be gluten free, so we could share.  We enjoyed more coffee and eagerly waited for our meal.  My pancakes were some of the most delicious pancakes I’ve eaten since going gluten free.  They were perfectly cakey and fluffy and they looked different enough from the gluten pancakes the diner next to me was enjoying, so I didn’t live in fear that I had eaten the wrong ones!  The berries on top were a fun touch that made me feel like I was dining out, and not eating pancakes in my house.


David’s pork flautas, a Mexican dish, that’s basically shredded pork, wrapped in corn tortillas and fried (in a GF fryer, of course), were amazing.  They were accompanied with a beautiful egg on top and what seemed like an entire avocado.  A very hearty brunch dish that was perfectly savory while my pancakes were wonderfully sweet.


Friedman’s is a definite recommendation, whether you’re gluten free or not.  They have gluten-free bread, so all of their sandwiches can be made gluten free.  It was so good, we really thought about going back to Friedman’s on Sunday but decided to try other spots instead.

View from the Highline

View from the Highline

After a truly indulgent brunch, and now completely wired on caffeine, we set out for a walk along the Highline, on Manhattan’s Westside.  Originally designed in the 1930s, to keep freight trains off the streets of New York, it’s now a public park.  This beautiful walk above the city, will ultimately be a mile and a half, upon completion.  The Highline truly is a breath of fresh air in the middle of the city.  I was amazed by the greenery planted between the railroad tracks, the beautiful benches, and that it was open to everyone.  You have to see the photos to understand this unique “park.”  This walk was the perfect way to get a different perspective of the city, and move around after our yummy breakfast.



For the remainder of our Saturday, we walked endless miles around the city, going in and out of shops, checking out the neighborhoods and learning to navigate our way around the city.  We were just biding our time until our next meal…


Reflections on Japan

Posted in travel, Uncategorized on March 22nd, 2011 by Betsy – 6 Comments


Japan has been on my mind a lot in the last week.  It’s been exactly one week since I returned to the States, but it feels like a lifetime ago that I spent spring break in the Pacific.  Only in the last couple of days, is Japan no longer the first subject in my New York Times news feed.  Nuclear threat, tsunami and earthquake have slid farther down the page.  I’m not sure whether this is due to the media losing interest, Libya taking its place, or that the situation in Japan is too sad right now, with so many questions remaining, that the media is leaving it alone.


I am finally able to begin writing about, and processing, this experience. Maybe it’s because I can breathe more easily as of 2:22am this morning when I received the email from Alden that started out “Home again, home again, jiggety jig.”  That’s right.  Alden, Pete and Chip are back in the United States, safe and sound, in Lawrence, Kansas, by way of Okinawa, Taiwan, Los Angeles and Dallas.  (NBD: 36 hours of travel with a newborn and a 21-month old.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Alden, you’re my hero.)

In debriefing my time in Japan, people want to hear about the horror and moments of panic, where I saw my life flash before my eyes.  The news jumps at the opportunity to capture the disturbing images and videos (most of which I still have not let myself see) of earthquake aftermath and uncontrollable waves.  It’s a shame that so often we learn about other parts of the world only when something terrible happens.  Most of my students didn’t know where to find Japan on a map before March 11th or that Japan uses nuclear power as a major energy source.  As with Thailand in 2004, we now associate Japan with destruction, confusion and despair.

Japan is a beautiful country.  I never would have imagined that I would visit Japan, let alone twice in six months.  I don’t regret my trips for one minute, earthquake, tsunami and all.  Yes, I have scary memories of three days of uncertainty, shaking ground, and an unimaginable fear of water, but in the forefront of my mind, I hold the beauty of this country, a beauty which still exists in many places.

The graciousness and kindness of the Japanese people is quite possibly one of the most emotional memories for me, from March 11th.  A neighbor did not hesitate to invite us in her car to go to higher ground.  The five of us were welcomed with open arms into the apartment of strangers in the midst of chaos.  Water and food were shared with us and toys given to Chip for distraction.  Even their cat put up with Chip’s fascination with an ‘indoor pet.’  As I fell asleep that night, I was scared but felt so loved.  Covered in blankets and curled up with the cat, for the first time since 3:00, I finally thought everything might be alright.

We should not ignore the devastation and the struggles that this nation has faced and continues to face.  Tens of thousands of lives have been lost and people remain lost.  Rebuilding has not even begun, but it will, and in a very orderly, efficient way, as the Japanese always do.  But while you pour over CNN and the New York Times, I hope you’ll take a minute to look at some of these images of Japan, specifically Hayama and Zushi.  I don’t have photos of the people that helped us, welcomed us, comforted us, but I hope that these photos will reflect the warmth of Japan that I felt.

hayam umbrel




hayama chip



Leavin’ on a Jet Plane

Posted in travel on March 3rd, 2011 by Betsy – 6 Comments

I’m heading back to Japan this morning to be with Rob, Alden, Chip and my new nephew, Pete!  I can’t wait to see them, especially because it means I’ll be done with the 14-hour flight.  (Thank goodness for direct flights to Japan!)

Here’s what I wrote about my December trip:

Yokusuku & Change of Plans

Things I Didn’t Know Until I Went to Japan (This post has been very popular with the Japanese…I now get hundreds of hits a day from Japan.)

Reflections on World Travel

Bon Voyage!

Yokosuka & Change of Plans

Posted in travel, Uncategorized on January 10th, 2011 by Betsy – 3 Comments

Over Christmas, my mom and I ventured across the globe to visit my brother, sister-in-law and nephew.  After 17 hours of sitting on a plane, we landed in Narita, greeted by my brother, Rob.  I was exhausted,  only to learn that we still had a 2-hour drive to their home in Hayama, an adorable beach town full of Japanese surfers, carp, and shrines.  As I pretended not to sleep in the backseat, we headed towards their home.



Rob & Alden's House in Hayama

Rob & Alden's House in Hayama

Selling veggies in Hayama

Selling veggies in Hayama

Rob & Alden's one-way street

Rob & Alden's one-way street

Rob, Alden and Chip are living in Japan because of my brother’s navy career.  I get claustrophobic after five minutes on a ship, so I can’t imagine embarking on that career choice, but Rob continues to be very successful at his job on the seas.  More importantly, he has a supportive wife who is willing to be a part of the adventure and put up with the unexpectedness of the navy.

Rob & me in front of the USS Fitzgerald

Rob & me in front of the USS Fitzgerald

On the Fitzgerald, unsuccessfully trying to get my camera to work.

On the Fitzgerald, unsuccessfully trying to get my camera to work.

Speaking of unexpected, Rob was called out to sea, 36 hours into our visit.  Stupid, North Korea!  It was really sad to see him go, especially as Rob is the tour guide extraordinaire, but we still had a wonderful time with Chip and Alden, exploring Japan.  Fortunately, before Rob left, we were able to see the navy base where Rob works, and go on his ship, the USS Fitzgerald.  I’m always amazed (and nauseous) when I go on one of these ships.  The use of space, managing of people and simple daily functioning while a ship is deployed, is pretty incredible.

Tight quarters on the I look like I'm going to be sick?

Tight quarters on the I look like I'm going to be sick?

The naval base in Yokosuka, not only holds ships, but is basically a city in itself.  Grocery stores, McDonald’s, apartment buildings, houses, a gym and even two movie theaters.  And a Starbuck’s.

Before Rob left, we all enjoyed a late afternoon on the beach, allowing Chip yet again, to be our main source of entertainment.  On a clear day, you can see Mt. Fuji.

walking on beach

Who knew a boat trailer could be so much fun?  Chip must take after his grandfather.

Who knew a boat trailer could be so much fun? Chip must take after his grandfather.

jap famil beach

We also watched a wedding in a hotel, overlooking the beach.  Perfect location!



The next day Rob received his orders to leave, early in the morning.  While it was sad to see him go, we were glad to get that time with Alden and Chip, and were thrilled to find out that Rob would get back in time for Christmas.

We missed you, Rob!

chip and rob

Things I Didn’t Know Until I Went to Japan…

Posted in cooking, travel, Uncategorized on January 7th, 2011 by Betsy – 7 Comments

-       Throwing away trash can be stressful.  In Japan, sorting trash is taken very seriously.  You must separate your trash into one of five different categories.  In order to do this properly, you must sometimes take apart the particular piece of trash.  Tea bags were particularly confusing: paper, tea, string, yikes!  If you mess up your trash sorting, the trash man will leave your trash with a nasty note for all of your neighbors to see.  Each day of the week belongs to a different ‘type’ of trash.  But, at least the trash man plays a nice little tune from his truck as he drives down your street.

-       Heated toilets…amazing. Why hasn’t the U.S. thought of that?  Yes, there are heated toilets and lots of special buttons to press.  Think bidet but fancier and more useful.

-       Japan has gorgeous beach towns.  Rob and Alden live in Hayama, and their house is a 5-minute walk from the beach.  Even in December, you can find people fishing, scuba diving, and wind surfing.  The people in the town do have an odd obsession with Hawaii though.



-       Extra-hot skim latte, please. There’s something comforting about enjoying Starbuck’s in a foreign land. (I know that’s terrible, but I have to admit it.)

Even Chip likes trips to Starbucks.

Even Chip likes trips to Starbucks.

-       Emperor Hirohito loved fish.  The man responsible for the bombing of Pearl Harbor was obsessed with classifying fish and sea life.  You can visit his old palace and see some of his own finds.

-       Carp are huge and ugly fish.  I think they’re the squirrels of the sea.


-       Japanese love Patagonia and puffy jackets.  Even though it was a balmy 60 degrees in December, you would have thought we were gearing up for a blizzard based on what people wore.  In Hayama, Patagonia seemed to be the hottest trend.  Shoot.  I left my Patagonia gear at home.

-       Tokyo Traffic=no fun…traffic is traffic and no matter what country you’re in, it still totally stinks.  The scenery might be different, but it’s still traffic.

-       Convenience stores make for a great lunch spot. Sure, we’ve all seen the 7-11 “All-Beef Big Bite” but we don’t typically seriously consider getting a pre-packaged lunch at a convenient store.  Lawson’s, a popular Japanese convenient store (ignore the fact that the name is English), sells delicious lunch options: Rice balls, sushi, and mini Haagen-Das.  

-       I am a giant.  Pretty much everyone and everything in Japan(well, except for the huge Buddha in Kamakura) makes me feel huge.  Even the grocery store shelves only came up to my shoulders.

Daibutsu: At least he was bigger than me.

Daibutsu: At least he was bigger than me.

-       American children have rockstar status: Going anywhere with my adorable nephew, Chip, meant that he would get oohed and aahed over.  The Japanese love him.  (I love him too!)  Japanese people are always prim, proper, and silent, especially when on public transportation, but the minute they see Chip, they light up, smile, and chatter away.

chip 2

Chip's pretty darn cute.

-       Ovens are overrated. Since Rob and Alden live off base, they don’t have an oven, just like their Japanese neighbors.  We ate delicious food during our trip, including noodles, chili, beef stew and other yumminess.  Who needs an oven?  Alden has even learned how to make skillet pizza and lasagna.  Very impressive.

That may look like an oven, but it's not...

That may look like an oven, but it's not...

This is just a glimpse of my amazing trip to Japan.  I have more details to share with you.  Unfortunately on Day 1 of our trip, my camera decided to go on the fritz.  It was heartbreaking.  Fortunately, my mom is a professional photographer, so I’m ‘borrowing’ from her photo collection from the trip.