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The blog of Elias & Theresa Carlson

Seven Years to Celebrate

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This year we were lucky enough to find ourselves in Big Sur for our Anniversary weekend. We discussed several destinations within driving distance before taking a look at VRBO in the Big Sur area. With less than a month until our anniversary I am not sure how we found anything at all, let alone something so perfect. All we really wanted was a cabin in the woods (not so easy to come by in Southern California) and that is exactly what we got. We spent three days in a little cabin nestled in a redwood grove just up from Bixby Creek Bridge, whose only toilet/shower was on the back deck.

This stretch of Highway 1 holds a beauty that is hard to surpass. On one side of the road rocky cliffs drop to the ocean where humpback whales leap and play in the surf. On the other, hills dappled with reds, yellows, greens, and pinks reach to the sky as cows graze, oblivious to their charmed life. If you time your trip right, you may be passing through this stretch of paradise at sunrise or sunset, in which case you may not get very far as each pull out holds a view that will take your breath away.

We spent our days driving up and down the coast, hiking the cliffs, enjoying the cooler air during the day and a fire in our cabin at night. We saw seals, sea otters, deer, and so many whales. Seven years is something to celebrate and Big Sur is one of the better places to do so.

On our way home I finished a roll of film in my little Rollei. This one had some good stuff on it, I am sure. It had been down Highway 1, to Joshua Tree, and now back to Big Sur. I wasn’t sure exactly what would come out of it but I was excited. I rewound the film, and rewound the film, and rewound the film… It never stopped. Turns out it was never loaded. On to the next.

Without Further ado, please enjoy our (mostly Elias’) photos of Big Sur!

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30 Things: Theresa

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Theresa is 30! You know what that means… It’s time for one of my favorite annual traditions: writing up a new list of favorite things about Theresa.

So much has happened since “Sad Songs and Birthdays” (AKA: 29 Things). Another year and a new city have provided numerous opportunities to rediscover all the ways Theresa surprises and delights me. Here are 30 of them:

1. Last year’s 29 Things #2 was this: “She wants to move to LA, or New York, or anywhere with me. Just because it’d be fun.” Well guess what. She moved to LA with me, just for fun. And it’s been wonderful.
2. Tously beach hair and salty skin.
3. She’s the best office mate ever (sorry Jeremy & Shaun)
4. Hole Mole (pronounced ho-lay mo-lay) Rosarito Tacos at least once a week, preferably twice.
5. How cute she looks in her banana rash guard.
6. Floating on our backs together as the waves wash over our bodies.
7. Carefully selecting songs for our seasonal playlists so that they don’t overlap
8. Outdoor showers under the Big Sur Redwoods
9. She makes me catch baby lizards because she wants to touch their warm dry skin
10. Learning to love a new city together
11. Mid-morning workouts
12. Leaving the air conditioner off all day out of stubbornness and then cooling ourselves at night by rubbing ice cubes all over our skin.
13. Long walks on the beach.
14. Traveling back to Seattle together to see friends and family, and visit all our favorite old spots.
15. That one time in Joshua Tree when she made us all stay up late saying nice things about each other.
16. California Road Trips!
17. She’s not afraid to learn new things like rock climbing and how to dive under the waves.
18. The upcoming Wes Anderson Halloween Party she’s been planning for the last year.
19. The way she smooths off my rough edges, and lets me smooth off hers.
20. Her undying affection for popsicles.
21. She’s on Joseph’s short list of “Women Whose Advice You Should Always Heed.” (And mine too, duh.)
22. New Chairs!
23. She’s turned our Long Beach apartment into a home just as wonderful as the one we shared in Seattle.
24. Cold Brews & Coconut Scone mornings at Lord Windsor
25. She’s the very best kind of friend, sister, aunt, and wife.
26. Her happy face when I get back from my latest trip.
27. Her instagram is always better than mine.
28. She patiently helps me shop for hiking gear when I’m completely unprepared and being a little silly.
29. She has the best ponytail.
30. After 7 years of marriage, and 30 years on this planet I find her as beautiful, witty, intelligent, wise, creative, and strong as the day I met her.

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DIY: Cement Diamonds

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While at my parents house this summer, my mom and I did a little cement diamond project. Our inspiration and instructions came from A Merry Mishap. Though Jennifer’s instructions were just what we needed to complete our project I wanted to go a bit more in depth here.

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What You Need:
Printer Paper
Clear packing tape
Scissors
Cement – We used Sakrete Portland Cement Type I-II*
Plastic tub or bucket – For mixing cement
Rubber gloves
Water
A box filled with dry soil or sand
Sand paper – 80 to 120 grit

*You should consider doing this project with a friend because it would be more fun, and these bags of cement are huge!

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First you must print your diamond template, this will become your mold. Take your packing tape, and carefully coat your template front and back. Overlap the tape edges just slightly so you have no paper showing through.

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For our version, we removed one side of the diamond giving it six sides rather than seven. This makes a stronger mold resulting in straighter edges and a more elongated final product. In order to make this shape cut out the template and remove the “lid” which is unnecessary, and cut off one of the short tabs – see photo above.

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Now fold all of the dotted lines with a strong crease so the edges of your diamond do not end up rounded. I used the edge of my scissors to make sure I was getting a good fold.

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Your diamond should now be starting to take some shape. Hold the side where you removed the “tab” and draw it in so it overlaps with the other side of your diamond creating a point at the bottom. Put a strip of packing tape from the point to the tab.

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One by one fold all of the tabs in (they should already be creased) and tape them to each other to create a solid mold.

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It’s cement time! I would recommend doing this outside, possibly with an apron, to make sure none of your favorite things get ruined. Be sure you have all of your supplies together so you can move quickly through this part. Pour some dry cement into your tub and slowly add water, mixing with your gloved hands. I do not have specific measurements for this but you want to end up with a consistency that is easy to grab but melts a bit in your hand. Similar to mixing natural peanut butter.

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Fill your mold with cement carefully pressing the cement down into the point of the diamond. Fill it up to the top, almost overflowing, so you don’t loose any height. This part gets a little messy, especially if you are doing more than one. Don’t worry about getting cement on the outside of your mold, you will be peeling this off.

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Once your mold is full, set it into the soil/sand filled box. This will help support the sides of your diamond so they bulge as little as possible. Now let your diamond sit overnight to set up and solidify.

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After your diamond has dried overnight, you can remove the paper.

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Your diamond may be exactly what you want at this point but we wanted the sides to be a little smoother, and a little flatter. We used 80 -120 grit sand paper to sand down the sides and bottom to achieve a more polished look.

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If your first diamond doesn’t turn out exactly the way you want it, try again. We ended up with some that were a bit misshapen, some with holes from air pockets, some with rounded sides, but we found that the imperfections give them a bit of character. I hope you enjoy this project as much as we did!

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Farewell, Summer

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When I was in High school, I saved my money and bought an external CD burner. This was a big deal. Computers didn’t come with built in CD burners back then and there were only a couple of Senior guys (the ones that drank two liter bottles of Mountain Dew while they did computer repairs) that even had them. Plus, this thing was about $200, that is a lot of money for someone with an after-school job at Floors and More and a clothes buying habit. But I needed it, to make mixed CDs. Thank goodness for Napster.

When we met our dear friend Jeremy he introduced us to a whole new kind of playlist. For years he has been making beautiful playlists for each season of the year. As time passes, he can bring up those playlists and be transported back to that season, re-living the feelings and memories of that time in his life. The bonus is that he has a catalog of awesome playlists that are season/weather/day appropriate. Of course, we had to do the same.

I started doing this a little over a year ago, combining Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter. I have found it is not only a great way to remember a season of life, but also a great way to remember some of the artists I discover. With so much music at our fingertips it is so easy to hear something once and forget about it.

Since it is Labor Day weekend and we are about to say “farewell” to summer, I though I would share my Spring/Summer playlist. I hope you enjoy it as you soak up the last rays of summer, preferably with friends, at the beach.

Find us on Rdio:
Theresa
Elias
Jeremy

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Palm Leaves

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I have been noticing palm leaves everywhere lately; clothing, design, photography, wallpaper, even tattoos. The Hawaiian shirt has made a comeback with a nice re-brand. Perhaps it has a bit to do with living in an area that has palm trees, but I am loving the trend. So much that I picked up my own pair of palm shorts.

What do you think, will you put palm leaves on your walls, your clothing, your skin?

Photo sources Left to Right, top to bottom:
Modern HepburnNeed Supply Co.The AestateWit & Delightde GournayStudded HeartsBeth JonesThe Design FilesZARAErnests

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32 Things

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Today is Elias’ 32nd birthday. This last weekend we went to Joshua Tree and spent a few days with some of the best people around to celebrate (Jeremy, you were certainly missed). Through the years Elias’ birthday has become the perfect excuse to get some of our nearest and dearest together and take them somewhere close to our hearts. We spend our time together listening to music, eating good food, exploring nature, and growing beautiful relationships. These weekends celebrating Elias are some of my favorite memories and I hope they hold a special place in the hearts of those who have shared the experience.

This weekend while sitting around the campfire under a blanket of stars, we went around the circle and shared our favorite things about Elias. We didn’t stop with Elias but continued onto the next person, kind words of love flowed late into the night and we each took our turn on the receiving end as our dear friends pinpointed one or two things about us that they saw as a shining quality. As nice, and somewhat awkward, as it is to sit in a chair and hear a circle of people fill you with words of affirmation, it was just as good to see an individual through the eyes of another person. As I sat there and listened to our friends talk about Elias’ character and talents, I was filled with gratitude to be the one he chose to share his life with.

Though this list does not carry the weight of the words spoken around the campfire on Saturday night, here are a few of the little reasons I love Elias.

1. He doesn’t worry about things he cannot control.
2. He lies still like a mummy while I straighten the covers before bed.
3. His skin is pink, mine is yellow.
4. He is naturally athletic.
5. He loves that I hit the bullseye the first time I shot a blow gun.
6. He asks for my input on work projects.
7. He’s a bit of a nostalgic.
8. He can enjoy a meal made entirely of vegetables.
9. Baby Mouth.
10. He cares for our plants, even if sometimes too much.
11. His photo is on the cover of Another Escape magazine, and more on the inside.
12. Sometimes he can’t tell if I have already taken off my makeup at night.
13. He loves a monochromatic outfit in shades of black.
14. He doesn’t like to stir up unnecessary drama.
15. Don’t ask him to rate his pain level.
16. He loves a good period drama, usually BBC.
17. He picks because I don’t want to, but he wants me to pick so it’s what I want.
18. He orders special green tea for himself from Seattle.
19. He wakes up early to go fishing.
20. He recognizes peoples strengths.
21. He teaches me how to dive under ocean waves.
22. He is working so that I don’t have to just yet.
23. He does not fear the future.
24.  He can build a campfire in any condition with wood, a lighter, and a bit of tinder.
25.  He thinks he only needs three pairs of non-athletic shorts to live in Southern CA.
26. He is always up for helping a friend out with a project.
27. He reads to learn.
28. He is happy to eat a Rosarito taco at least once a week.
29. He works out with me. And improves his physique in one week.
30. His bony knees.
31. Car dancing – sparkle fingers, firework hands.
32. He is always striving to be a better person.

More things to love about Elias: 282930, 31

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Joshua Tree: A Quick Guide

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A few weeks ago we went for our first camping trip since moving to California. Coming from the Pacific Northwest it was a bit odd to go camping at the beginning of May and spend our afternoon seeking shelter in a carved out rock for a break from the hot desert sun. What a strange and beautiful place.

We left Long Beach on Friday afternoon and got to Joshua Tree around 6pm, just in time to find a spot at Jumbo Rocks and set up camp as the sun slipped down behind the rocky horizon. Saturday morning brought the sun and we quickly discovered that our usual routine of a morning campfire and hot coffee was not going to work here. We drank our coffee at the table, avoiding the heat of the fire as we shed the sweatshirts we had layered on.

We headed out for a day of hiking and exploration. We climbed Ryan Mountain, walked the Hidden Canyon, and visited the Cholla Cactus Garden. Massive rock formations, cactuses, and dry dessert earth surrounded us as far as the eye could see as we soaked up the desert sun.

As the sun set on our second night, we jumped from rock to golden rock and shot ninety percent of our film in those beautiful dusk hours. A bit sunburnt and tired, we went to bed early as a breeze started to blow.

We got a couple of hours of sleep before we were woken up to a tent that was folding and bending in the wind. We drifted in and out of sleep as our tent rattled around us until finally the fly was torn out of the ground and folded over upon itself. After weighing our options, we jumped out of our sleeping bags, broke down camp as quickly as possible and started the two and a half hour drive home.

Even though it was cut short, we enjoyed our time in the high desert and look forward to our next visit.

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Jumbo Rocks Campground: We drove through a couple of campsites before we settled on Jumbo Rocks. Being the largest campground in Joshua tree, there were plenty of people sharing the grounds but we saw several open sites which was a bit surprising for a Friday evening. We did not get one of the cool sites right next to the rocks but we did get one that was set back of the road with no close neighbors which was a good trade.

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Skull Rock: This hike takes off right in the Jumbo Rocks campground. An easy hike, suitable for all levels. We started this hike just before sunset hoping to find a spot to sit and watch the sun go down. We ended up moving the whole time, stopping to take pictures every few feet. This time of day in Joshua tree cant be beat. Most of the photos in this post are from along the Skull Rock trail.

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Ryan Mountain: This three mile hike (round trip) leads you to the summit of Ryan Mountain where you can take in the 360 degree view from 5,458 feet. Brown, rocky desert as far as the eye can see is much more beautiful than it sounds. Described as moderately strenuous, the average hiker should not have trouble, just bring plenty of water!

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Hidden Valley: Hidden Valley is the first campsite you come to as you make your way through the West Entrance to the park. This one mile loop trail will be enjoyable for anyone. It is short, with little to zero elevation gain, but the sights are spectacular as you wind your way through a maze of giant boulders.

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Cholla Cactus Garden: This is a little pocket in the dessert that harbors a mass of Cholla Cactuses. The path weaves in and out of chollas, sort of like a path through a corn field. Be sure to stay on the path as these tend to “jump” and find their way right into your skin. We would love to go back and see this unusual place at sundown.

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Wildlife Sightings: Before we entered the park we stopped at the information center and grabbed a couple of pamphlets, one of which listed some of the local wildlife residents. As we perused the pamphlet we noted some of the wildlife we would like to see. By the end of the weekend we were able to check everything off or list except for the desert tortoise (who happens to be a “Threatened Species”, just a notch below “Endangered”). We were lucky enough to see the following creatures on our visit:

• Various lizards: Chuckwalla, Horned Lizard, Desert Spiny Lizard, and Western Whiptail
• Greater Roadrunner
• Black Tailed Jackrabbit
• Coyotes
• Rattlesnake (Possibly a Red Western Diamondback)

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Photo nerds: All photos shot using 6×7 medium format film, with the exception of Hidden Valley, and Rattelsnake photos (iPhone).

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Impromptu Portrait Session

Sometimes inspiration strikes and you’ve just got to go for it. While taking an afternoon break from work I came across the incredible photography portfolio of Ramon Haindl and was intrigued by one of his portraits.

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I was struck by the simplicity of the lighting in this particular portrait which uses a sheer curtain as a backdrop, and a handheld LED panel for a fill light. The curtain acts as a giant softbox and provides beautiful wraparound rim light on the subject. It seemed like a fun style to emulate, since Theresa and I have a large sheer curtain hanging in the main window of our apartment. So we grabbed Theresa’s black sequin jacket and a LED camping headlamp and started playing around.

I couldn’t achieve the same fill effect with my tiny lamp, in part because the bright afternoon sun was simply to strong to overcome the minimal output of my headlamp, but it did serve to add a bit of sparkle to the jacket, and gently highlight a few strands of hair. After I’d satisfied my curiosity with the first setup we started to play around with the curtain. It’s amazing what a difference you can achieve with a few adjustments in position and exposure settings.

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Father’s Day Gift Guide

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I had some fun creating a collection of Father’s Day gift ideas. I tried to curate a grouping that would appeal to a variety of Fathers, both young and old, so hopefully you can find something that is perfect for the Father in your life. Just remember, his favorite part is probably what you wrote in the card.

Items listed left to right, top to bottom.

1. Peanut Lighter: Indestructible, waterproof, and good looking. This lighter can hang on his keychain or hide in his pocket, readily available whenever fire is needed.

2. Handyman in your Pocket: The answers to all of his handyman questions right there in his pocket.

3. Miir Water Bottle: With this gift you are not just giving your dad a cool water bottle, you are also giving clean water to someone in need. Read more about Miir’s unique mission here.

4. Denim Shirt: Have we mentioned we love Everlane? This looks like your dad’s new go-to shirt.

5. Duffle Bag: Give him a new duffle bag so he can visit you in style. This Filson duffle will be sure to last him a lifetime of travels.

6. Paul Simon: Paul Simon on vinyl is exactly what Sunday morning calls for and I am sure your dad will agree. If he doesn’t still have his old record player lying around, I bet he would love to have one of those too!

7. Cold Brew: If he likes coffee, Cold Brew will be a hit this summer!

8. Camp Chair: A pair of these chairs were gifted to us several years ago and they are great. Low to the ground, and comfortable with an adjustable pillow for back support, and a handy strap for easy transportation. These are perfect for camping, concerts, the beach, etc.

9. Printstagram: This might seem like an odd one but it was sure a hit with my dad. For Christmas last year Andrea (my sister), Elias, and I all picked 24 of our favorite Instagram photos to print and gave them to my parents in a ceramic dish. They now sit on the coffee table readily available to flip through at any moment. Almost like a smartphone.

10. Watch: Durable and attractive this is a great every-day watch. If you get him the watch now, you can put a new strap in his stocking at Christmas time!

11. Scrappy’s Bitters: For the Father who appreciates a good drink every now and then. This little sampler pack is a fun way to add a twist to his favorite cocktail. If your dad isn’t crazy about the idea of celery bitters in his drink, maybe he will mix up something new for you.

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A Redwood Wedding: Gabe & Bri Cortez

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As you may recall, weddings aren’t typically my thing. If I’m gonna break a sweat shooting a camera I’d rather it be the result of elevation gain and not a button-up & tie. I’ve learned to love them, but they’re a lot of work. And as the photographer you kind of miss all the fun stuff because you’re so busy trying to get the next shot.

But under the right circumstances I’m game. This time around my brother Joseph sweet-talked me into helping him out after he committed to act as photographer for his pal Gabe Cortez. Having never shot a wedding before, Joseph quickly realized he was in over his head and called for backup (that’s me). It wasn’t a hard sell. Gabe and his then-fiancé Brianna had reserved a spot at Stones & Flowers, a little retreat nestled beneath towering Redwoods near Santa Cruz, California. They also wanted us to shoot the entire wedding on film! Since I much prefer shooting film to digital, the opportunity was too tempting to pass up. As an added bonus Joseph and I would be driving up the California coast with our friend Ryan Tuck – who you may remember from Rivers & Roads – and the three of us had already conspired to sneak in a little fly-fishing on the way back should time allow.

I’d met Gabe briefly earlier in the year when he manned the studio drums for Joseph’s in-progress EP. He’s a dapper guy, with an excellent beard, bright eyes, and a quick intelligent way about him. I get the impression he’s “the cool one” in whatever crowd he finds himself, but not in an aloof, douchey way. It’s the result of his confident, direct manner more than any conscious effort. Cliche as it may sound he’s one of those guys that just seems to effortlessly exude cool. Maybe it’s just the beard, I dunno.

Prior to the wedding I’d never met Bri, but it didn’t take her more than a couple seconds to win me over. She’s adorable, kind, and sweet in the most genuine sense. She’s clearly a match for Gabe in the cool department, in fact as a graphic designer in San Francisco she may well have the market cornered; I’m pretty sure that’s the definition of cool these days. However, what I appreciated most about Bri was her ability to focus completely on whoever she was with in a given moment. Several time throughout the weekend she would stop to chat with Joseph and I and each time I was struck at how personable and thoughtful she was. Even on her wedding day it never seemed to be about her.

Needless to say it was a delight to spend time with Gabe and Bri over the weekend, and a joy to shoot their wedding. The location was incredible, the people were beautiful, and it was a complete honor to witness the outpouring of love and support from the community of people who gathered to celebrate them.

Shooting the entire wedding on film proved to be a delightful challenge. I’ve always enjoyed how film forces you to slow down, and while it didn’t make covering the wedding any less hectic, it certainly made the results more rewarding. As for Joseph? Well, he did great, and came away with a new appreciation for all the works that goes into covering a wedding. He even had enough energy left to dance the night away.

I’m pleased to be able to share a few of my favorite photos with you here. Many thanks to Gabe and Bri for welcoming me so warmly on this special day.

NOTE: All Black & White photos + opening shot by Joseph Carlson.

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