Wayfarer Family » explore, dream, discover

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We began our 10 week journey in a familiar, happy place: Dubai. A piece of our hearts remain there, and every time we return it feels like a homecoming where we’re wrapped in a warm, sandy hug. While Isla never lived in Dubai, spending time with her there feels so special. We love sharing these past parts of our lives with her. Here are some favorite moments of our girl in Dubai…

Sand dunes make the perfect stage to belt out all her favorite princess songs.

Despite all of the ongoing changes in Dubai, we are thrilled that Al Reef Bakery still stands and is just as wonderful as we remembered it to be. We introduced Isla to her first cheese bread. It is an ooey gooey heavenly experience! If you ever travel to Dubai you MUST stop at Al Reef for a cheese bread. Trust me, it is pretty much the best thing you’ll ever taste!

After one bite Isla was completely and totally hooked! So, naturally we made several stops to Al Reef during our visit.

We enjoyed several perfect mornings on our favorite little beach. We played in the surf, admired the gorgeous turquoise gulf, and collected more shells than we could carry.

Sand designs… Dubai is always thinking up something new!

A few adventures took us to some wonderful sand dunes to watch the sunset.

We explored Zabeel Park for the first time. Fun place! Their weekend ripe market, filled with vendors selling crafts and food, was really cute.

Isla assisted with photo shoots and absolutely LOVED using her little camera.

Isla made dear some friends, like sweet Payton. Payton and her wonderful family hosted us during our stay. It was pretty much love at first sight for these two girls. They played so perfectly together, and Isla is still talking about her Payton every day.Isla and her favorite building, the Burj Al Arab.

When I was little I used to catch sand crabs along the beach in Dubai too. It is so special to share some of the same magical childhood experiences with my girl.

Along those same lines, Blake and Emme’s mom and I played together back in Dubai when we were 7 and 5! My heart nearly burst seeing our girls now forming their own little friendship.

Exploring at the gorgeous Bab Al Shams. Life goal: we will stay there one of these days!

Little girl and the biggest building in the world.

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After numerous trips around the world where we found ourselves weighed down by countless bags and struggling to pull our overstuffed luggage from place to place, we finally decided we needed to get smarter about how and what we packed. Last year we spent 5 weeks traveling through SE Asia and were determined we would only bring one suitcase for the three of us. Amazingly, it worked! We had everything we needed and traveling with less luggage was SO much easier! We decided to really test our packing skills this year and see if we could pack for 10 weeks of adventures in just one suitcase. Get ready, ’cause we’re about to share ALL ABOUT our packing process!

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While we do in fact travel with just one suitcase, we also each carry a day pack and I bring one purse (although this trip I opted for a simple canvas bag, rather than a traditional purse, as it can be folded up and packed away easily if necessary). We also bring this amazing stroller. It is durable, SO easy to maneuver, tall enough you don’t have to bend down to reach the handles (so nice for our backs!), collapses just like a compact umbrella stroller, and it comes with an easy to carry shoulder strap. We love our Maclaren stroller!

Inside our ONE suitcase we packed:

  • clothes
  • toiletries
  • Isla’s awesome travel bed (Yes, the bed folds up and fits INSIDE the suitcase! However, it is also compact enough to fit inside the overhead storage of an airplane, should you wish to carry it separately.) Sadly, our girl is growing so much that this will be the last big adventure she’ll be able to use her Lotus bed.

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Over the next 10 weeks we are traveling to countries that are quite warm, so the clothes we need are not very large or bulky. This is great luck for us, as tank tops and shorts take up way less space than ski pants and boots.

Clothing Packing Tips:

  • Be highly selective and purposeful with the outfits you bring We try and bring just a few versatile tops and bottoms along with us. We make sure that the tops match with more than just one of the bottoms so we can switch things up a bit. Sure, the same 3-4 outfits can seem kind of boring by week nine, but the redundancy is totally worth it for the space you save.
  • Dark clothing is best We tend to bring a lot of dark colored tops (especially black) because they don’t look dirty as quickly and can easily be dressed up for a more formal setting.
  • Don’t skimp on the underwear No one likes to reuse underwear. Ewww. Underwear are small and lightweight, so when traveling for a long stretch of time, bring enough for at least a week!
  • Bring more outfits for the children than for the adults Children get dirty faster and more often. Period. Plus, their clothes are smaller and take up less space, so it’s easy to bring an extra few outfits for them.
  • Sturdy, comfortable, multi-purpose shoes Try to pack no more than 2 pairs per person. We each brought a pair of close-toed athletic shoes and a pair of sandals/water shoes. Wear the heaviest pair of shoes when you travel to save on weight in your luggage.
  • Bring layers Few things are worse than being caught in some unexpected cold weather or a facility with the air conditioning on full-blast wearing only a tank top and shorts. Bring one pair of pants, one light sweatshirt and one rain jacket each. The sweatshirt can also act as an extra pillow if you’re in a pinch 😉
  • Fold everything neatly When your clothes are folded tightly they stack more easily and take up less space

We have found the scale rises dramatically when you add toiletries to your luggage, so it really helps to be purposeful when selecting and packing.

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Toiletry Packing Tips:

  • Share toiletries whenever possible Instead of each person bringing a bottle of shampoo or tube of toothpaste, just pack one for the entire family to use.
  • Buy brand new toiletries for your trip Start with a full supply of each of your products so you have enough to share. Bringing half empty bottles takes up space and they may run out mid-trip, which leaves you scrambling to find replacements.
  • Condense when necessary Transfer products you don’t need much of into smaller containers. We don’t use as much conditioner as shampoo, so we bought a small travel bottle and put our conditioner in that to save space and weight. Another way we saved on space was by putting several different types of pills into one Tylenol bottle (only do this if it is OBVIOUS which pill is which).
  • Research which products you can buy during your travels We pack less of the items we know we can easily find during our travels, such as Q-tips, tissues, etc.
  • Remove excess packaging from toiletries to save on space and weight This makes a huge difference!
  • Sort toiletries into like groups and pack them in plastic bags This keeps all similar items together and protects the other items in your bag from spills. We have found the Ziplock L Storage Bags to be super durable for carrying our heavier toiletries, like shampoo and body wash. We pack similar items in each bag for ease of access and use. For example, one bag has all of the items we use in the shower: shampoo, conditioner, shave gel, razor, loofah, Isla’s shampoo/body wash combo. Another bag has all skin care related products: lotion, bug spray, sun block, and aloe vera. We also condensed most of our medicine into a flat Tupperware container.

We use day packs to store our camera gear, tech gear, travel documents, entertainment for long plane rides, and snacks. This way we keep the items that are most important with us at all times.

Inside the first day pack (which happens to be a camera bag) is all our camera gear.

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Inside the second day pack (a backpack) we packed:

  • our computers
  • books
  • coloring books
  • pencil pouch containing colored pencils and markers
  • blank note pad
  • pens
  • sunglasses
  • empty water bottles
  • ear phones
  • extra tech cords/power chargers
  • antibacterial wipes (great for wiping down grimy tray tables on airplanes!)
  • tissues
  • a card game for Isla
  • our travel documents (passports, flight confirmations, rental car confirmation, etc. all in a plastic folder with snap closure)

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Inside Isla’s little day pack (not pictured) were similar items to the above day pack:

  • an extra change of clothes for Isla
  • tissues
  • wipes
  • a few of her books
  • a few snacks
  • her plush kitten, and travel companion, Strawberry =)

Day Pack Packing Tips:

  • Paperback books take up less space and weight (alternatively, you can just pack a kindle, but we really enjoy the tactile experience of reading, so we just opt for lighter weight books)
  • Bring new and old kids books (we brought a few of Isla’s favorite paperback books and bought a few new ones to let her have throughout the trip. More on this in a future post.)
  • Use plastic, snap-closure folders to keep important documents together and safe
  • Pack items you don’t need as often at the bottom of the bag
  • Leave a little extra space in case you pick up food or items along the way (It’s also good to have a little space if your main suitcase is overweight and you have to shuffle items over to your day pack)

While we work hard to make sure we pack everything into our suitcase strategically, we will totally admit that sometimes we have to sit on it while zipping it up to make everything fit =).

PackingFB_0006I think that’s about it! PHEW! If you made it all the way to the end, thank you and well done =). We hope these tips were helpful, and that you might be able to use a few on your next adventure, whether it be a weekend away or voyage around the world! Any questions for us about our packing? Feel free to leave them in the comments.

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Isla and Strawberry getting all checked in at the airport. Adventure, here we come!

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Our little pumpkin is three years old. THREE YEARS OLD! What is it about the number three that just sounds so grown up?! Watching Isla transform into a LITTLE GIRL has been, hands down, the best adventure of our lives! Sure, part of us wishes we could keep Isla in that sweet baby/toddler stage forever, but we absolutely love experiencing each new stage and seeing her develop into a little person. She is bright, sparkly, social, inquisitive, strong and adventurous- and we are just crazy about her!

One of the things we love most about Isla is her strong sense of self. This girl knows what she likes and what she doesn’t. With each new experience she develops interests of her own. As many of you know, one of Isla’s greatest passions is collecting treasures during our walks- rocks, twigs, leaves, shells- you name it! During a hike this summer, Isla asked if she could have a collection birthday party. How cool is that?! We started discussing ideas while we hiked and had so much fun planning together. This past weekend we celebrated our sweet Isla’s 3rd birthday with a collection themed party!

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Once we decided on the collection theme for Isla’s birthday party we began to save the little treasures she collected on her walk so that we could use them as decor. Normally we just photograph her collections and leave them out in nature (you can see many of her collections on Instagram #islacollectsthings). My wonderful mom helped me decorate for the party. She has such a fantastic eye for design and helped me bring my vision of an eclectic and organic setting to life. We displayed Isla’s collections by grouping similar items in jars and also sprinkled them around the table tops.

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Tucked amongst all of Isla’s treasures were framed photos of her collecting. The images were taken all around the globe in settings that varied from the beaches of the Pacific Northwest to the jungles of Borneo. We used a few frames we had around the house and thrifted the rest. Displaying these images at Isla’s party was such a fun little way to showcase her passion for collecting everywhere she goes.
islacollectionpartyblog0007islacollectionpartyblog0008islacollectionpartyblog0009islacollectionpartyblog0010In addition to the actual items we displayed, we hung these beautiful prints of Isla’s collections as additional decor. The above image alone shows Isla’s treasures from Portland, the Oregon Coast, Thailand, Dubai and Borneo! It was so fun to talk with our guests about where in the world Isla made each collection, and such a wonderful way to relive our adventures and get us excited for our upcoming travels!islacollectionpartyblog0011islacollectionpartyblog0012

Isla’s collections even served as the inspiration for the lunch we served at her party: leaves, acorns, sticks and twigs! We made different sandwiches and cut the out using leaf and acorn cookie cutters, sliced veggies into long sticks and served them with ranch dip, used skinny pretzel sticks as twigs, and then made up a Parmesan ranch snack mix and called it “collector crunch”.islacollectionpartyblog0013islacollectionpartyblog0014islacollectionpartyblog0015islacollectionpartyblog0018islacollectionpartyblog0016islacollectionpartyblog0017

Our friend Deanna makes the most wonderful chocolate caramel pretzel sticks, and she whipped up a special batch for Isla’s party, and covered them with candy rocks.islacollectionpartyblog0019

How gorgeous is this collection-inspired cake that JaCiva’s created for us?!?! I stopped by the bakery a few months ago and saw the cutest cake covered in edible geodes and rocks in their display case. It got me thinking about having a cake made, rather than baking something myself. We worked with our wonderful new friend, Laura, from JaCiva’s to develop the concept for the cake, and provided the decorator with several of Isla’s collection pictures as inspiration. After a delicious cake testing, Isla chose the flavors: lemon for one tier and red velvet for the other. All of the decorations on the cake were edible and hand made! We are so happy we decided to splurge on Isla’s cake this year. It was absolutely perfect!
islacollectionpartyblog0020islacollectionpartyblog0021Isla’s reaction to seeing her beautiful cake for the first time was amazing! She was absolutely thrilled, and spent so much time looking at each and every detail.islacollectionpartyblog0022islacollectionpartyblog0023islacollectionpartyblog0024islacollectionpartyblog0025islacollectionpartyblog0026islacollectionpartyblog0027islacollectionpartyblog0028islacollectionpartyblog0029islacollectionpartyblog0030islacollectionpartyblog0031Hehe… the cake was just a little too tempting for one little finger 😉

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We decided to share Isla’s love of collecting with her friends by taking them on a collection walk. We bought these sweet jute totes to hold each all of their treasures, and the kids looked so cute marching down the street with them. Isaac hand lettered each of the darling metal-lined name tags and we attached them with twine.

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Thankfully, the weather during Isla’s party was gorgeous (it has rained almost every other day this month!), and we all enjoyed our “collection walk” around the neighborhood. Isla and her friends had so much fun finding all sorts of treasures. Colorful leaves, moss-covered twigs, bright berries, and seeds of all shapes and sizes filled the kids’ totes.islacollectionpartyblog0036islacollectionpartyblog0037islacollectionpartyblog0038islacollectionpartyblog0039islacollectionpartyblog0040islacollectionpartyblog0041

We paused our collecting a few times to play in the leaves. Hooray for beautiful fall days!islacollectionpartyblog0042islacollectionpartyblog0043islacollectionpartyblog0044

After our walk, the kiddos used their collections to make fall wreaths. We cut rings out of cardboard, spray painted them matte gold and attached a twine loop to the back with a glue gun. We set up a table outside with the cardboard wreath backings and a bunch of bottles of tacky glue. At a nearby table we set up a little glue gun station for attaching heavier items. The table tops were covered with brilliant colors and wonderful textures, and within minutes of gluing and pressing, the kids had created beautiful fall wreaths. islacollectionpartyblog0045islacollectionpartyblog0046islacollectionpartyblog0047islacollectionpartyblog0048islacollectionpartyblog0049islacollectionpartyblog0050islacollectionpartyblog0051We set out the jack-o-lantern bean bag toss game we made for Isla’s 2nd birthday party.islacollectionpartyblog0054As party favors, Isla’s guests got to take home their collection totes and wreaths. We also couldn’t resist sending them home with a little sweet treat. We bought clear rock candy sticks and packaged them in cellophane wrappers, tied with twine and cute a hand-lettered tag that Isaac made. The tags said, “you rock” and “you’re a gem” ’cause we just can’t resist a little nerdy wordplay.

islacollectionpartyblog0053And last but not least, Isla’s very favorite collection of all!!! We feel so fortunate that our sweet girl is surrounded by such wonderful friends and family. We did our best to get a group photo, but anyone who works with little kids knows that gathering them into one spot AND getting them to look in one direction is about as easy as herding cats! 😉

Isla’s 3rd birthday party was such a wonderful celebration, and we are so glad our little collector came up with the perfect theme. She’s already suggesting ideas for her 4th birthday… she is so her mother’s daughter!

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For Jen’s 32nd birthday this week I did 3 things that I normally leave to the skillful hands of my creative wife… baking, image processing, and blogging. Isla and I worked together to bake a delicious, rich, salty, and chocolatey batch of salted caramel brownies. You’ll want to try these tasty little treats, of which I modified from The Barefoot Contessa cookbook, Foolproof. I kept the camera on hand to document the event and then proceeded to do something I haven’t done in a long while… handle all of the image post processing, including the blog post. For those who follow along with either this family blog and/or our photography business blog, you know her skillful handiwork quite well. I admire the effort and dedication she puts into the entire process, and this little project helped me to further that appreciation for what she does.

For our birthdays this year, we decided that our gift to each other would be the bathroom renovation at our beach cottage, so there would be no need for any more presents. Regardless, I still wanted to do something special for Jen on her birthday. I included Isla in the process and asked her what she wanted to do for mommy for her birthday. Her first idea was to make a “fruit snack cake”. This kiddo usually has fruit snacks on her mind (Annie’s Organic Bunny Snacks, to be specific), so the idea came quickly and naturally. Although I couldn’t quite imagine a bunny fruit snack cake working out well, the idea of baking was a great idea. Every year, Jen bakes the yummiest cupcakes for my birthday. In fact, they are so good that they have ruined all other desserts for me. I’ve become a bit of a dessert snob, especially when it comes to cake. In order for me to sacrifice the calories and sugar intake, it has to be an explosion of richness and flavor. I’m not partaking in the gluttony of American desserts if it’s not going to absolutely blow me away. I owe this snobbery to my wife’s cupcakes. They are that good. So, I had my work cut out for me.

In order to come anywhere near the amazing goodness of Jen’s baking, I had to pull inspiration from a proven source. Pinterest, of course, has a million ideas from thousands of homemade foodie bloggers, but after 10 minutes of scrolling through the beautiful photos and reading the promises of “the best (insert product) you’ll ever have!”, I decided to turn my trust to one of the greats in modern cooking and baking… the lovely Barefoot Contessa herself, Ina Garten. With Pinterest at the ready, I often forget about our library of great cookbooks at home with recipes that have been developed and tested by professionals. Isla and I flipped through the baking section and our dessert choice was apparent to both of us almost instantly. After spotting the salted caramel brownies, Isla wanted nothing to do with any other recipe. Given Jen’s undying affection for Salt & Straw’s sea salt with caramel ice cream, this was a no-brainer. As well, it was a delicious, yet simple option for my beginner skills. The extent of my cooking ability includes pancakes from scratch, tacos with a pre-made mix, and a version of spaghetti that is based on whatever is available in the cupboard and spice drawer. This would be new territory.

Here is Ina’s recipe for salted caramel brownies:

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces plus 6 ounces of Hershey’s semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee granules
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 5 to 6 ounces good caramel sauce, such as Fran’s
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons flaked sea salt, such as Maldon
  • Oven at 350. 9x12x1.5 inch baking pan.

My modifications:
In this family, we are complete suckers for anything with sea salt and chocolate. So, I had to up the infusion of these ingredients in any way possible.

  • I substituted the 3 ounces of unsweetened chocolate with this gooey mixture:
    • 2.8 oz bar of Alter Eco’s deep dark sea salt chocolate with 70% cocoa. This bar also happens to be gluten free, non-GMO, and organic.
    • 1 oz unsweetened baker’s chocolate
    • About 2 teaspoons of Trader Joe’s 100% cocoa powder. I put this stuff in our smoothies just about every day, and I love the texture it brings to the mix.
  • Substituted the kosher salt for sea salt
  • I was not able to find the flaked sea salt, so I sprinkled some coarse sea salt on top of the caramel sauce. The flaked sea salt is mainly for decoration, I assume.
  • The caramel sauce was switched out for the glorious whiskey caramel sauce that Jen has used many times before, mainly on cupcakes. Fortunately for me, there was enough leftover from my birthday cupcakes. So, I used that instead of the regular caramel sauce I picked up at the store.
  • Jen can’t have caffeine, so I used decaf coffee. This little splash of instant coffee grounds was a nice touch to the final product. It blends so well with the chocolate.

2016-06-23_00052016-06-23_0006First, it was off to Fred Meyer’s for baking ingredients. Any trip out with my little girl has to start with a coffee date. She loves the Horizon chocolate milk at Starbucks and can’t get to it fast enough when we walk in the doors. She also loves how the milk bursts out of the straw when she squeezes the carton!

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2016-06-23_00152016-06-23_00142016-06-23_00172016-06-23_00192016-06-23_00202016-06-23_00292016-06-23_0030Isla loves to help in the kitchen, and she is eager to do as much as possible. She poured in the ingredients, stirred the mixtures, and smelled the sugar. During the times she was not able to help, she busily worked on her own creation, an apple pie. Her recipe will be released soon. According to Isla, you’re supposed to “put in the oven for 40 degrees.” Noted.

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2016-06-23_0034True to form as an American child, Isla will lick anything with sugar and chocolate on it.

2016-06-23_00412016-06-23_00422016-06-23_00442016-06-23_00452016-06-23_00482016-06-23_00502016-06-23_00532016-06-23_00552016-06-23_0056The final product was absolutely delicious, if I do say so myself. Mommy loved her birthday treat surprise and the brownies were devoured at Jen’s party that night.

Happy birthday to the sweetest wifey and mommy and the world!

Today we celebrate an amazing man whose loving heart, enduring patience and wonderful playfulness enrich our lives each day. Thank you for not only being a dedicated partner in all things, but for making me a mommy to our sparkly little girl. How fortunate she is to grow up with you as her father! Happy Father’s Day, Daddo!