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The blog of Elias & Theresa Carlson

Pleated Skirts


It has been unseasonably warm in Priest River this year and I am looking forward to breaking out the spring clothes. I am especially loving pleated skirts this year and will be keeping an eye out at the thrift store for interesting colors and patterns. I might even try my hand at making one assuming mom is up for answering a few sewing questions!

Its intimidating to take a fashion risk in a small town and though I don’t consider a pleated skirt a fashion risk, it is hard to muster up the motivation to wear something other than a pair of jeans when your big outing for the day is a trip to the grocery store. I suppose this post is somewhat of a challenge to myself to go ahead and wear a pleated skirt to pick up a carton of milk. Someone has to do it.

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Last September my parents invited me to join them on their road trip from Priest River to Long Beach with a pit stop in Yosemite. We took the scenic route through the windy roads of Oregon, driving for hours, encountering only a handful of travelers on the long expanses of highway from small town to small town. It was everything a road trip should be. We ate roadside BBQ, picnicked on a log off the side of the road, arrived at hotels after dark and watched tv while snacking on Red Vines as we fell asleep, three to a room.

I had never been to Yosemite before. What an incredible place! From the moment we drove into the park we were surrounded by massive sheets of stone reaching upwards and outwards, sprinkled with patches of green. We entered at Tioga Pass and followed the road through the park to Yosemite Valley, where we spent most of our time before exiting at the South end of the park. We only spent a day and a half in the park but it was enough time to hit many of the iconic views, do a couple of short hikes, and watch a few the climbers make their way up El Capitan. I am excited to go back sometime with Elias and spend more time hiking, exploring, and camping in the park.

Make some time to visit this beautiful place, you will be blown away.









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There is Grace in the Dead of Silence


This Valentine’s Day is a bit different than most. Theresa and I had anticipated spending it on a beach somewhere in Southern California, where even in February it will likely be sunny and 65 degrees. Instead we are holed up in North Idaho watching the little creek out back swell with freshly melted snow. We’ve traded sunshine, savory tacos, and a group of the finest friends one could hope for, for snow, shepherd’s pie, and the warmth of a tight-knit family.

We live here now. Here being Priest River, Idaho, population 1,700-ish. Probably for good. We knew we’d end up in North Idaho someday, we just didn’t know exactly when “someday” would come. Whenever the topic would arise the conclusion was always that the timing didn’t feel quite right, and in fact we often prayed together that we’d know clearly when to make the move. When we got the news about Dan, as odd as it sounds, it was an answer to prayer. What better reason to move now, with no hesitation, than this? It’s certainly not the way we’d have chosen for things to work out. But there is deep blessing in even the most terrible situations if you are willing to look for it.

And that brings me to the point of this post. It is Valentine’s Day after all. And in the Miller household that means crafting things with your hands to bless the ones you love. The Miller house is filled with these little mementos, bowls filled with hand-carved wooden hearts, intricate quilts on the walls. The places Theresa and I have called home have slowly filled with similar relics that we’ve made (or occasionally bought) for each other. Most days we don’t give them a second thought. But sometimes I’ll catch myself admiring something Theresa made for me and a little smile will spread across my face.

This year, I’m crafting this post for Theresa. So that someday as she sifts through old posts on our blog, as she sometimes does, she’ll see this post and remember how much I love her.

Theresa, you can’t imagine how deeply and constantly blessed I am to have you as my wife. You have made my wildest dreams come true simply by loving me so well, and as a result, enabling me to become the person I was created to be. Our marriage has been, and continues to be, a most incredible adventure. How could we have known what a whirlwind of joy, uncertainty, excitement, trepidation, pain, and beauty would unfold in our lives over the last three years?

In the midst of it all, your love has been the rock on which I’ve steadied myself in moments of doubt. It has changed me, bit by bit, for the better, chipping away at the selfishness and aimlessness I so often struggle with. It underpins all of the best parts of me, strengthening and feeding them. It is an incredible thing to wake up each morning and know that, try as I might, I may never be able to love you as well as you love me. This knowledge overwhelms me, and humbles me. It transforms me.

You are my blessing in this difficult time. Without you I would not be a part of this beautiful family. I wouldn’t have the privilege of walking alongside you and your family as your father deals with the realities of cancer. And believe me, it is a privilege. I have so loved watching you serve your mom and dad these last few weeks as we transition into this unexpected new phase in our life. Your heart to love and serve was tailor made for times like these, and it is incredible to watch you love so well. You are an incredible wife, sister, and daughter, and you make the lives of those around you immeasurably richer. I know you don’t always feel that way, but I can see it and so do the fortunate few who can say they know you well.

I love you more than words can say, but hopefully these few words can give you some idea.

Happy Valentines Day.

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We apologize for the silence these days. Some of you may know that we recently made a quick move from Long Beach to Priest River, Idaho, the town where I grew up. This was not in the plans, not yet at least. We knew that some day we would settle down near my parents in the forests of North Idaho, but this was more of a five year plan, we thought.

We found out at Christmas that my Dad’s cancer had returned and the prognosis is not good. We decided instantly that it was time to move back. We took a week to head back to Long Beach with Andrea (my sister) and pack up our things. We loaded our cars, lined up a truck to bring the rest of our belongings and said goodbye to our dear friends in Southern California.

Andrea now lives in her childhood bedroom and Elias has joined me in mine. It is a tight fit as we squeeze ourselves and our belongings into a space that was made for two young girls, not two women and a man. But we need to be here. We need to spend this time with our Dad, as short or as long as this time is.

We are excited for this new season and look forward to all it has to hold. We have looked forward to the day that we will live here and have dreamed of having a yard, a small garden, maybe even some chickens (if Elias gets his way). We are excited to experience all of the seasons to their fullest; snow, sun, and rain. We are excited to hike and to camp and to be near some new places. This will be hard but we know it will also be incredible in ways we can’t even imagine.

Things might be slow around here for a while as we adjust to our new surroundings and extremely slow internet. We appreciate those of you who keep checking in on us as we settle in, and we hope to bring you beautiful pieces of our new life. We appreciate as many prayers as you are willing to send our way.

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Baking with Andrea: Marshmallows


There was a period of time where every time I saw Theresa she was greeted with “taste/do/look at this, it will change your life!” I think she was always a little bit skeptical. Some of those things I’ve forgotten (obviously her skepticism was warranted in these few instances); some of them I still stand by (go see Brandi Carlile live in concert, it will change your life). But the one I think we both still 100% agree on is this: homemade marshmallows will change your life.

I don’t really remember why I decided to make them the first time, except that Molly said to. Theresa introduced you to Molly a couple weeks ago in her What’s For Dinner post. She really is one of our favorites. When she wrote about them she talked about how her then boyfriend (now husband) made them for her, and it was one of the things that tipped the scale pretty heavily in favor of marrying the guy. I’d probably marry the guy too if that’s what I came home to.

It’s hard to describe how good they are. How perfect they are just barely set, rolled in powdered sugar, so soft and velvety and squeezing just the right amount between your fingers before you pop them in your mouth… or what it’s like to have them melt into a perfect marshmallow cream down into your cup of hot chocolate… or, maybe best of all, toasted to golden perfection over a campfire where the sugar on the outside caramelizes and gets a little bit crunchy, barely holding in the melted center waiting to ooze out (just be careful, they get meltier than your grocery store marshmallow and fall off the stick if you don’t watch it). It’s a “you have to see/taste it to believe it” kind of situation. But once you have, you might never buy a bag of regular marshmallows again.

There’s a candy thermometer involved, but don’t let that deter you. These are really pretty simple. Let some gelatin dissolve in a mixer bowl while you cook some sugar and corn syrup together. Combine the sugar mixture to the gelatin and beat and beat and beat them, letting the mixer do most of the work of whipping them into billowy white peaks of marshmallow cream before pouring them into a pan to set. A stand mixer will give you the best results but I’ve used just a hand mixer before without a problem. Just be sure to keep mixing them for the full 15 minutes.

We’re giving these as gifts this year paired with little jars of hot chocolate. Feel free to do the same, or pick up some gourmet chocolates and graham crackers and wrap up a s’mores kit. Or just keep them all to yourself. Choose your own marshmallow adventure.


Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit
• Nonstick vegetable oil spray

• 1 cup cold water

• 3 1/4 oz envelopes unflavored gelatin

• 2 cups sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

• 1/4 cup potato starch

• 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Line a 9×13 baking dish with foil and coat the foil with nonstick spray.

Pour 1/2 cup of the cold water into the bowl of your mixer and sprinkle in the gelatin. Let it sit while you make the sugar mixture allowing the gelatin to absorb the water.

Combine sugar, corn syrup, and remaining 1/2 cup of cold water in a medium saucepan. Over medium-low heat stir until the sugar dissolves. Once the sugar has dissolved attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, increase the heat to bring the syrup to a boil. Boil without stirring until the syrup reaches 240ºF, about 8 minutes.

Using your whisk attachment, and with your mixer running at low speed, slowly pour the hot syrup into the gelatin mixture in a thin stream down the side of the bowl. Slowly increase speed to high and beat until mixture is very thick and stiff, about 15 minutes (I usually just set a timer and let it go). Add the vanilla and beat another 30 seconds or so to incorporate.

Scrape the marshmallows into the prepared pan. Use a wet spatula to smooth the top. Let it sit out at room temperature for at least 4 hours, until marshmallows are firm.

Whisk together the powdered sugar and potato starch in a bowl. Dust a large cutting board with the powdered sugar mixture and turn the marshmallows out onto it. Dust the top of the marshmallow slab with some of the powdered sugar mixture, then cut into pieces (coat your knife in nonstick spray if it starts to get too sticky), tossing the pieces into the powdered sugar to coat each one. I generally cut about 48 marshmallows/pan, but adjust the size to your liking.


This recipe lends itself to a certain amount of variation. Try playing with different flavors. I’ve exchanged the vanilla extract for coconut with delicious results. For the holiday season try trading the vanilla for 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract. It makes a perfect peppermint hot chocolate. Or cut them into different shapes using a cookie cutter coated with nonstick spray.

This year we did a cinnamon-sugar version. Before you toss the marshmallows in the powdered sugar, toss them in a cinnamon and granulated sugar (a teaspoon or two of cinnamon per cup of sugar, depending on how cinnamony you want them). I like the texture the bit of granulated sugar gives and the hint of spicy cinnamon. After you coat them with cinnamon/sugar, still toss them in the powdered sugar/potato starch as that will keep them from getting sticky.


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Brown Paper Packages

Gift wrap 4

We are leaving on Sunday for our Christmas adventures so I have now moved on from the shopping stage to the wrapping stage of gift giving. For the most part I stick with “brown paper packages tied up with string” – birthday, wedding, Christmas… with the right ribbon, brown paper works for everything and keeping wrapping paper stocked is pretty simple.

I’m pretty sure I started using brown paper because my mom used it for Christmas gift wrapping at some point. I once described my mom’s file cabinet to a friend and she said (I paraphrase) “Your mom was ‘pinning’ in her file cabinet before the internet”. Its true. She had a file for vacation spots, a file for Christmas decorations, a file for clothes she wanted to make. You name it, she had a file full of pages torn out of magazines and quick sketches she made on the back of a check balance sheet. I would bet that one of them was a picture of a gift wrapped in brown paper.

As it turns out brown paper is not only easy, its classic. Here are some fun variations on brown paper I found on the new Pinterest if you are in need of some wrapping inspiration. Best of luck as you finish your shopping and get your packages ready for Christmas!

Sources listed left to right, top to bottom:

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Thrift Style: Holiday


With all of the parties and get-togethers that happen around this time of year I thought it could be helpful to show that you don’t need to spend a million bucks to look great this holiday season. With a few exceptions, most of the items in this post have been thrifted. Shoes and accessories are exceptions for the most part but in each outfit, at least the shining star was a thrifted piece.

I have included prices on the thrifted items but it is fair to mention that some of these prices are estimates as it has been years since I purchased them. However, I am confident that my memory is within a few dollars of the price I actually paid.

This post was so much fun to style and shoot with Elias. In the end I found that the perfect holiday outfit is great, but what you REALLY need is a good tube of red lipstick (Mine is MAC – Ruby Woo)! I hope you enjoy and get out there to find an amazing deal for yourself!

Blue Skirt $5: Purchased years ago at Bellevue LifeSpring Thrift Shop. I hemmed it up as it was below the knee when I bought it, making it the perfect little party skirt.

Styled with a silk tank purchased for $19 from the Nordstrom Rack and Irregular Choice heels from the sale section at Anthropologie.

Outfit Total:
$24 without shoes, under $100 with shoes.

Blue skirt also styled here.


DIY Fur Collar $5: This outfit is almost entirely thrifted but the star of the show is the fur collar. A few years ago I did a DIY adding a ribbon to the fur collar I found at a thrift store (find the DIY here). This collar can be added to almost anything for an instant outfit upgrade!

The Pendleton denim shirt was purchased at Crossroads Trading Co. in Silver Lake for $15 and the skirt was another below the knee length find from Bellevue LifeSpring Thrift Shop for $5 that I hemmed. The shoes are from Target and the tights are Jcrew Factory.

Outfit Total: $25 without shoes, right about $50 with shoes and tights.


Buffalo Plaid Flannel $1: The Flannel was a real steal of a deal, but my favorite part of this outfit is actually the boots. The last time I was in New York, we stopped into the Buffalo Exchange in Chelsea where I found these brand new Frye Boots for $99. I couldn’t find an exact match to these boots but after a quick comparison I would say that they were originally $300 to $500. The best part (aside from the awesome reptile texture) was the sticker on the sole of one boot that said “Vogue Closet”. They may have never actually been pulled for a photo shoot but it’s fun to think that they lived at Vogue before I took them home.

The rest of the outfit is also thrifted. The jeans were $5, again from Bellevue Lifespring, and the sweater was $6 form Value Village in Ballard, Seattle.

Outfit Total: $13 without boots boots, $113 with boots.


Floral Tank $3: The floral tank is Nicole Miller and you cannot tell from the photo but it is actually a lightweight silk sweater material. I was thrilled to find such a great deal at Goodwill in the U-District, Seattle. The skirt was around $4 from Value Village in Ballard. Skirts similar to this are a dime a dozen, I also have one in Navy Blue. The heels were purchased full price several years ago, a perfect style by Sechelles.

Outfit Total: $7 without shoes, right about $107 with shoes.


Red Blouse $1: As with the Buffalo Plaid above, this blouse was found at God’s Provision Thrift Shop (that name always cracks me up!) in Priest River, Idaho. The black jeans were also a thrift find, $6 from St. Vincent De Paul here in Long Beach. The leopard flats are old Zara, purchased on Sale for $29.

Outfit Total: $7 without shoes, $35 with shoes.


Green Dress $1:
God’s Provision wins again! This dress was actually less than a dollar since they were having a bag sale and you could purchase a grocery bag full for $1, so we are talking small change on this one. The beautiful plaid scarf is borrowed from my sister (a piece of wool with finished edges courtesy of Mom), the tights are from Gap, and the boots (Madewell) were a gift.

Outfit Total:
About $10, minus the boots and scarf.


Leather Skirt $12: This outfit is a bit of a stretch on the festive front but if you are going for an understated nod to red this works, and I just love the leather skirt. Purchased for $12 at Value Village in Ballard, it was the find of the year when I picked this up.

The necklace kind of steals the show here, I found it at a flea market in New york for $25. It is one of my favorites. The tank is H&M, and the heels are Target.

Outfit Total: Around $45 without shoes, around $75 total.

Leather skirt also styled here.


Red Cardigan $6: There is nothing really special about this outfit except that it is entirely thrifted, and it seems like a good choice for game night with friends. The cardigan is from the Ballard Value Village, the jeans were $5 from Bellevue LifeSpring (seen above), and the flannel was around  $5 from the Goodwill on Capitol Hill (seattle).

The flats were thrown into the same $1 bag as the green dress from God’s Provision, so again we are talking small change.

Outfit Total:
Under $20, shoes and all.


Black Dress $15: I got this dress in Seattle at a vintage shop called Red Light. It fit great but had a pretty significant tear up the slit that I was certain I could repair. Only about two years later I finally fixed the slit and it is good as new!

The gold shoes are the same style as the Seychelles seen above purchased on clearance at DSW for $15, I handmade the necklace myself.

Outfit Total: $30, shoes and all.


Lace Tee $2: This shirt is HUGE (found at Value Village, Ballard)! I’m really not even sure why I tried it on or why I was even in that section… But one thing I have learned about thrift shopping is that you cant be afraid to try something on. If it has a good texture, a fun color, interesting trim, its worth trying on. Sometimes it looks just as bad on the body as it does on the hanger but I have been pleasantly surprised on more than one occasion.

The jeans are old J.Crew and the heels are Target.

Outfit Total: Under $100


Red Dress $4: This dress is a great example of something that is scary on the hanger but completely lovely on the body. It fell past the knee when I purchased it but a quick hem made all the difference. What you can’t see here is the open back, which is amazing. This is one of my favorite thrift purchases, I have worn it over and over.

Again, the shoes are from Target (clearly I really like these suede shoes. They are so comfortable!).

Outfit Total: Right about $35.

Red dress also styled here.

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Holiday Gift Guide: Children

Childrens gift guide

Last but not least, the kid’s gift guide. I think shopping for kids is so much fun even though I have no children of my own. This is probably the area where you need the least help coming up with ideas but maybe you will find a couple here that you hadn’t though of. And yes, I’d take most of the items in this list as well.

Wooden Skwish $16Baby Moccasins $19.95Arctic Bear Blanket $145 Kitty Pouch $26Geometric Band-Aids $5Not Tired Tee $25.95Cheetah Necklace $26Puffin Classic Books $16Stacking Crayons $10Plush Dino $22.50 Flannel Tie $12The Not So Bald Bat $14Knitted Fox Tail $42 Floral Tee $25Construction Blocks $69 Plush Lemon $52 Spherical Music Box $90Super Hero Hat $22

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Holiday Gift Guide: Men

Womens gift guide

Now for my favorite men’s gifts this holiday season. Usually this one is a bit tricky for me but it came together pretty easily this year. To be honest, I want most of the items on this list as well as the Women’s!

Left to right, top to bottom.

Another Escape Magazine $12.39Backpack $179Playing Cards $15Moon Sticky Notes $6.65Key Chain $15 Winter Hat $18Insulated Growler $59Chocolate Bar $9.95Clay Pipe $36“Forgive Me” Lighter $40Bottle Opener $35Rectangular Flask $35Nike Shoes $100Baseball Cap $29Packable Duffel $29.99 Travel Bathroom Bag $65

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Holiday Gift Guide: Women

Womens gift guide

Here are some of my favorite gift ideas for women this holiday season. I always try to select a variety of gifts that would appeal to a wide age range but the end result is usually just a wishlist for myself! I hope it is helpful as you search for the perfect gift for the women in your life, and maybe something for yourself… Happy shopping!

Left to right, top to bottom. For the most part.

Golden State Sweatshirt $58Mittens $35Marble iphone Case $28 Blanket Scarf $65Avocado Planter $22Moon and Star Earrings $48Cactus Tote $95Marbled Mug $40Bobbi Pins $10Camp Staff Tee $48Quartz Necklace $77.31Pom Pom Hat $39.50Jansport Backpack $60Temporary Tattoos $5Resin Ring $58.82 (similar) • Diamond Box $15 Baggu Zip Pouch $8Vans Slip On $55

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