Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Front Porch Friends

For our first installment of Front Porch Friends, we have babies, beaches, and breaks.

Front Porch Daily Bath

Ruba dub dub, it's Penny in the tub! And mama Kate's got a Front Porch view of this cute (and clean) face. Kate, Ed and beautiful Penny live it up in Chicago.

Front Porch O Street

Blair, Jeff and baby girl Logan get cozy in D.C at Casa de Ainsworth.  Doesn't it look like Logan took the picture? Imagining her sweet, chubby hands taking this with an iPhone made me laugh out loud. 

Front Porch Pfeifer Beach

Mini-Mooning in Big Sur (and staying at one of our all time favorite spots, Treebones) Anna and Jerome (or McPants and J-Romance, if you will) kick their feet up, lovebirds style.

Front Porch Santa Barbara

And on another beach, not far south, Taryn and Zac (another set of newlywed lovebirds) kick up their heels and watch the afternoon sail away.

Front Porch Yerba Buena Gardens

Doesn't this make you want to take a deep breath, lay in the grass and feel the sun on your face? That's exactly what Hadley's doing on her lunch break in San Francisco at Yerba Buena Gardens. It's a little downtown outdoor haven if you ask me.

Front Porch SLO Town

High above San Luis Obispo, Hayley 'Sausage Toes' Nenadal take a breather while on a run. If there's anyone who loves to adventure run in awesome places, it's HayHay.

Thanks y'all for sending pics! I think I'll (try) to do a Front Porch Friends post at the end of every month, so keep the adventures going and the photos coming. Send 'em to 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Travel Tidbits

For the past six months we've really enjoyed life on the road. With all of this living out of bags we have picked up some handy bits of wisdom for staying organized, comfortable, thrifty and efficient. I've had folks ask for details on what we carried, used, and learned on our journey in South America, so here are some snack-sized travel morsels to you, from me.

As you may have noticed, we've been on dozens of buses, trains, and planes over the last few months.  Along with packing a snack, I am always sure to keep my scarf accessable. It's an excellent blanket and, rolled up like a doughnut, an excellent pillow.  This scarf is a synthetic blend which is important because it dries quick after being washed in a hostel sink or after being caught in a downpour.  It also adds some style as we romp about town. 

Warm and cozy
Pillow doughnut How-To

Being the uber organized and meticulous dude he is, Travis has an excellent filing system in his pockets.  Cash goes in one pocket. Receipts get filed into another pocket and then moved to a back pocket after being processed. Or something like that. I can't really keep up but I do know that the t-shirt pocket gets a lot of action as well. Sunglasses. Passport. Tickets. Trav is all about the pocket tee.  His favorites come from Mollusk in SF.

Ye Olde Pocket Tee

My favorite shirts for traveling are the 50/50's from American Apparel. 50% cotton means they're soft and don't perma-funk. 50% poly/synthetic means they dry quick and don't fade.  American Apparel means good color options and (apparently) ultimate hip-ness. 

I've mentioned before that I like to fix stuff and we're both all about making stuff last, which is muy importante on the road.  One of the things I find super helpful is reinforcing Ziplocs with clear packing tape. It seems silly but Ziplocs are key and covering them in a layer of tape means they don't shred and don't leak.  They are more reusable and durable than ever. Plus, it's a cheap way to keep important stuff dry (even though I do dig these for things like our camera).   

I know you can't actually see the *clear* packing tape here, but who doesn't like a visual?  Plus, there are some other nuggets pictured too: Dr. Bronners Magic Soap and GoToobs. Both pure gold.  On the far left there you see mini bars of soap (free from hostels) that we hold on to. They always seem to come in handy. Finally, toothbrush caps repaired with duct tape. Which brings us to duct tape.

Wrap it around the end of a pencil. Around your contact solution. Or your water bottle. Doesn't matter, just don't leave home with out it! Speaking of water bottles, I'm all about Klean Kanteen. They may be a little heavier than other bottle options (though the 27 oz only weight 6 ozs) but you don't have to worry about them breaking or stinking. We've been refilling our bottles and then purifying with tablets, which is significantly cheaper than buying bottled water. Not to mention the obvious environmental benefits.  I find the 27 oz size just right. 

Below is a smattering of essentials that meet a whole range of needs. Playing cards are a must. P-Cord (or parachute cord) has been useful in all kinds of ways: clotheslines, holding doors open, keeping things connected.  The Buck Knife (with corkscrew and good blade) is one of Travis's favorite items and I am in agreement. Finally, the Light My Fire spork. I carry this thing with me most everywhere here at home, but on the road you never know when you need a utensil. 

Finally, all the electronic goods. One of our most favorite items is this little gem of a speaker (thanks HayHay!).  We take it everywhere. Even on backpacking trips, it comes along and we kick back in the tent and listen to tunes at the end of the day. Joined with our iPod Nano, our whole sound system fits in the palm of your hand.  We've gotten great feedback about our pictures and lots of inquiries about what camera we're using. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 has been nothing short of amazing. It has high quality features and capabilities, while being compact and easy to use.  Combined with our Kindles (amazing wedding gifts from the Conley crew) and HP Mini netbook, our electronic gadgetry is rock solid and travel sized. 

So there you have it. Nothing groundbreaking, but hopefully helpful.  I left our outdoor gear out for now, but we're planning a series of gear reviews in the coming weeks.  If you've got questions on what we used, carried or wore for your own adventures, lemme know... I (obviously) dork out on this stuff. Happy Travels. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Home Sweet Home

We're here in Texas and enjoying time with family, friends and food.  It's nice to be home and also totally surreal. Four months went by really fast and we're trying to wrap our heads around being back.  We've emerged from piles of laundry and are getting things reorganized for the next adventure. Luckily, Abbey the bulldog/gremlin/bowling ball/love bug welcomed us with a big smile. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

There's Something In The Aires

The summer air in Buenos Aires is sweltering and thick with humidity.  The city was a shock to the system after spending so much time in Patagonia, but we quickly found that things like friends, ice cream and live music made the transition easier.  We had the lucky fortune of shacking up with my friend Steph and her sweet boyfriend Dani for our three night stay. Steph and I played lacrosse together in college and simply put, she is a gem among gems.  True to form, Steph provided nonstop laughs and days (and nights) filled with exploration, entertainment, and enjoyment.

Ice cream!

Bikes in the nature reserve

Digging for tango records

Trav and I found that being submerged in the culture of BA cast a spell on us both. The buzz in the summer air had us doing things we don't normally do. For the first time in his (almost) 30 years, Travis stayed up until 5 o'clock in the morning.  Even more shocking was that the early bird himself then slept until 2 pm the next day.  And after 10 years of vegetarianism, I went full tilt boogie in the presence of the famously delectable Argentine meats. Beef! Pork! Sausage! Steph ushered us to some of the most delicious eats in town. 

Livin' the nightlife

5am photo shoot

All in all, we found Buenos Aires to be an outstanding city.  It has beautiful places, a wealth of history, progressive culture, art, music and amazing food.  

In her three years in BA, Steph has made some incredible friends and we were happy spend time with them, now calling them amigos ourselves.  On our very last day in South America they hosted a classic Argentine asado for us and we sat out on the balcony enjoying meat, red wine and good company.  Steph, Dani and friends, MUCHOS GRACIAS for an amazing stay in Buenos Aires.  

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Eyes Wide

Our time in Patagonia can best be defined as sensory overload. Everyday has been an experience of awe and wonder.  Our eyes wide.  So it is only appropriate that on our last full day in Patagonia we ventured from the town of Calafate to the Perito Moreno Glacier.

The glacier feels nearly impossible to wrap your eyes/head around.  From the ferry boat perspective it has the immensity of a city block of towering white and blue buildings.   On the water, the frigid air whips around you, your nose running and your hands cold, while you stand and stare.

After the boat, we ventured into the trail system.  Nacional Parque Los Glaciares has built an impressive system of catwalks, winding around and giving you a chance to view the full panorama.   At times we simply sat for 30 or 40 minutes watching. Just staring. Ogeling. It's a giant, unmoving peice of ice, yet somehow it is completly captivating.  With the afternoon sun beaming down, you can hear the ice moving, cracking and crashing. Every so often, a large peice of ice crumbles into the creamy, mint-green water. People would gasp and cheer. And we joined right in.  It was thrilling. The hairs on your arms stand up in the chill and the creaking of the ice is the perfect soundtrack.  The whole environment feels charged, full of excitement. Anticipation. Wonder.

Catwalk system, blue sky, crisp air

From the catwalk perspective you see the magnitude of this bad boy. The glacier, which is fed by the Southern Patagonia Ice Field, is 97 square miles and 19 miles long.  At points the towering spires of ice are up to 240 feet high and the glacier is still growing.

Taking it in through glacier blue eyes


With all the walking around on the catwalk, I simply could not help myself (que music).

And I shake my little tush on the catwalk

Awwww snap!

What a ham... 

Sooo anyway.

Our trip to the glacier was the perfect culminating day for our Patagonian adventure.  It is hard to leave Patagonia behind, to leave a place that feels so wild.  This part of our trip has filled us with so much gratitude. Some days we felt badass. Some days we felt humble. We got stronger and more resourceful. There is a legend that if you eat calafate berries you will be certain to return to Patagonia, so here's hoping. Until then, we'll dream of these days and experiences, of this place toward the end of the world that is so fierce and lush and utterly spectacular.

We'll miss you Patagonia!

OH! Don't forget to get in on the Front Porch action. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Insight Into The World Of Mate

Mate is the national drink of Argentina, so I thought it would be fitting to shed some light onto this tradition while we're in the country. The drinking of yerba mate (the herb) dates back to the 15th century when it was consumed by the indigenous peoples of Southern Brazil. In the 16th and 17th centuries mate consumption and cultivation spread throughout South America. Argentina became the largest consuming and producing country in the 20th century.

The preparation and etiquette of mate is quite complex and somewhat ceremonial. If you are not informed of the practice, you stand a good chance of offending your fellow drinkers. First, you should select a proper drinking vessel (also called a mate). The most common and historical being a calabash gourd. The gourd is hollowed, dried, and often decorated before it is prepped for mate. To prep your gourd, fill it approximately half way with dry yerba before filling it to the brim with hot water. Let this brew stand for 24 hours. Before going to bed be sure to top it off with more hot water as the gourd and yerba mate absorbs the water. Next, empty the gourd and scrape out as much of the remaining flesh as possible. Once dry, your mate (gourd) has been cured. Wooden, ceramic, stainless steel, and silver mates are also used.

Once you've selected your mate, you will need a bombilla (or straw). Traditionally, the bombilla is made of silver. Stainless steel and bamboo are other common materials for bombillas. Now all you need is your yerba mate and water.

Yerba Mate, Bombilla, and Mate


1. Fill the mate roughly one-half to three-quarters full of yerba mate. Seal the opening with one hand, turning your mate upside-down and shake it vigorously. This will separate the thicker particles from the finest particles, leaving the finest near the opening. Once the yerba has settled, carefully tilt the mate to a near-sideways angle and carefully shake it side-to-side to further settle the yerba. Then tilt the mate back onto its base while trying to minimize further disturbances. The yerba should now be slightly sloped with the finest particles towards the opening (top) of your mate.

Mate filled with yerba

Shake, shake, shake Senora.....

Separated and angled

2. Insert the bombilla. It should follow the same slope as the yerba inside the mate. Rest the heavy, bottom end of the bombilla on the bottom, opposite wall from the yerba. Next, fill the empty space with cool water allowing the yerba to absorb the water completely (this should take no longer than a few minutes). Pouring hot water onto dry yerba can scald the leaves causing depletion of nutrients and a bitter taste. Once the cool water is absorbed, hot water (approximately 160-180 degrees) should be added until it reaches the brim.

First filling with cool water

Cool water absorbed, hot water ready to pour

3. The yerba mate is now ready to drink. The first brew is often quite bitter and cold. As you continue to pour hot water into (refill) your mate, the taste will mellow out. A typical mate lasts around 10 pours depending on the size of your mate and the amount of yerba added.  

Ready to drink 



There are some very important things to remember when it comes to mate etiquette. Mate is typically drunk in a shared, social setting with friends or family. Remembering the following guidelines can save you some seriously embarrassing moments.....

Never use boiling water. The same mate and bombilla are used by all drinkers. If you are the server (pourer or cebador) you must always drink the first pour and sometimes the second. It is considered rude to pass a cold, ill flowing, and/or bitter mate. Always pass the mate in a counter-clockwise rotation. Pass with your right hand and be sure the bombilla faces the recipient. Drink until the mate is empty of water, usually signified by a loud sucking noise, which is NOT considered rude, before passing the empty mate back to the cebador (bombilla facing cebador). Saying "gracias" indicates that you have had your fill of yerba mate and no longer wish to receive the mate.