February 29, 2016

THE NEW ELAH TREE SITE IS HERE!!

Hello friends! I have some exciting news! Elah Tree has a new home and today the brand new Elah Tree site launches!  For the last few weeks I've been working on bringing everything together and I'm so excited to share it with you.

If you've found yourself here that means you've either clicked over from bloglovin or you may have stumbled here on accident. Either way, I'm excited to see you and I can't wait for you to hop over to the new home of Elah Tree. But before you leave don't forget to subscribe on Bloglovin and update your RSS feeds so you don't miss a thing!

What happens to this space? This blog will remain up and you'll still be able to access the archives. This space has been my creative home since 2009. It has been a little bittersweet to say goodbye, but I'm looking forward to growing and new opportunities.

Thank you so much to all of you that have been with me through this journey. I have learned so much, grown and made some amazing friends. Many of you have walked with me through this journey and some of you are new friends too. I'm grateful for both of you and I'm so excited for all of you to join me at the new Elah Tree home. See you on the flip side. ;) xoxo! Samantha

February 26, 2016

A MINI TRAVEL GUIDE TO MYSTIC CONNECTICUT

Before Tyler and I moved to the East Coast we started researching all the lovely places we could go. If I remember correctly, I'm pretty sure that Tyler stumbled onto Mystic during our research and reminded me of the movie Mystic Pizza. From that moment I knew we had to go. The first time we headed to Mystic was when Meg visited. We had no idea what to expect, except for the fact that we would be eating at Mystic Pizza. After that visit, it turned out to be one of our favorite places. Often times when we chat about taking a day trip or a weekend away we think of Mystic, and that is where we headed for Tyler's birthday this year.

Mystic is a small little seaport town, full of charm and small town appeal. If you're looking for something big city, Mystic probably isn't for you. But if you love a small town feel Mystic will be right up your alley.

DOWNTOWN MYSTIC 
Downtown Mystic is always our first stop... that is where Mystic Pizza is. Mystic is about 2 hours away, so we usually plan to make it there by lunch and eat. Of course the pizza is good, but the fried pickles are my favorite and we've ordered them both times we were there. When ordering pizza we would highly recommend the house special. After Mystic Pizza, you can head to Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream Cafe. The cafe sits right at the drawbridge and you can walk out onto the side deck and look out over the water.
MYSTIC AQUARIUM 
Because Mystic is small it's quite easy to get around, something Tyler and I both appreciate. Mystic Aquarium is about 10 minutes from downtown Mystic. Our visit to the aquarium was just a few weeks ago, so there was plenty of snow on the ground and because it was cold the aquarium wasn't to busy, which was nice. It was lovely experiencing the aquarium in the winter and xperience all the marine life.
OLDE MISTICK VILLAGE
I couldn't tell you why the town is spelled Mystic and the village is spelled Mistick, but it's lovely either way. Remember when I said that things are really close together? Well, Mistick Village is within walking distance of the aquarium. After our aquarium visit we asked someone in the gift shop where Mistick Village was and to our surprise it was right across the street. We loved experiencing the village in winter because it was quiet. The village is full of lots of different shops; toy shops, a Christmas shop, a honey shop, a chocolate shop and many more. It reminded us a little bit of Silver Dollar City (any mid-westerners out there know Silver Dollar City?)  The chocolate shop was one of our first stops... because I want to eat all the chocolate. ;)
Friends, there are totally way more things to do in Mystic, but we've only ever visited during winter months. Every time we are there we see something else we want to check out and experience. I hope I'll have another travel guide full of summer experience too. Have you ever been to Mystic? Where are some of your favorite places to visit on the East Coast? xoxo. Samantha

February 24, 2016

DOWNTON ABBEY MIXED BERRY SCONES

Are there any Downton Abbey fans out there? Can you believe we're in the final season? ... Can you believe there is only one episode left? I am definitely an avid fan and it's true that I'm a little heart broken that the show is ending, but they have had a pretty great run, don't ya think? And I will definitely be re-watching the seasons all. the. time.

I had grand ideas of having a Downton Abbey party, but parties really don't work out in our tiny house. Even though I knew I wasn't going to be doing a party I still wanted to do something fun, that's when I cracked open my Downton Abbey cookbook. Yep, I have a Downton Abbey cookbook, it may be the "unofficial" version, but it's still full of fun recipes... and complicated recipes, ha!

These Downton Abbey scones are really fun and pretty easy, however, after making them twice I have determined that there is something not quite right with the recipe. I have a feeling the recipe may call for too much milk...or the recipe just doesn't have a proper baking time. Long story short, the recipe says to bake for 10 to 12 minutes, but I have to bake them for at least twice as long. Either way, they are fun to make, taste really good, and I love the idea of cooking something Downton Abbey inspired.
DOWNTON ABBEY MIXED BERRY SCONES {adapted from "The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook"}

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder 
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/3 blackberries
  • 1/3 cup quartered fresh strawberries 
  • 1/2 cups + 2 tbsp milk
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla
  • Sugar for sprinkling   

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 375. Prepare baking sheet by slightly oiling or use a silpat mat
  2. In a large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. 
  3. Using your hands, work the butter into the flour mixture until it has the consistency of bread crumbs. Add berries, and evenly distribute. 
  4. In a small bowl, mix together the milk and vanilla. 
  5. Dig a well in the center of the dry mixture and pour milk mixture into well. Combine ingredients until mixture appears wet. Do not over-knead. 
  6. Turn mixture onto lightly floured surface. Gently pat down dough to make a disc about 1 1/2 - 2 inches thick. Using a knife, cut disc into 6 small scones and lay them on baking sheet. 
  7. Sprinkle top of scones with sugar and bake scones for 18 - 20 minutes or until lightly browned. 
* Alright friends, as I mentioned above, the recipe in the book said to bake for 10 - 12 minutes, but in my case that time was way too short and I cooked them for twice as long. Also, the dough is very very sticky, I don't think it would hurt a bit to add a little less milk. When the scones actually bake they flatten as well, which I was thinking may be another indicator of too much milk. Just a little food for thought. :) 

Guys, it was so fun to try these mixed berry scones  and it was definitely a learning experience. As I continue to bake them I'll try different things and see how they may get better. I can't wait! Will you be catching the final episode of Downton Abbey? Are you planing anything fun? xoxo. Samantha

February 19, 2016

A WINTER HIKE

WINTER HIKE IN ROCKEFELLER STATE PARK
This week our snow finally melted, but three weeks ago we had plenty of snow and even though it was cold we made a plan to get outside and go on a winter hike. Tyler and I both get a little stir crazy through the winter months, so this winter we've tried to get outside more. We're actually still adjusting to living in a snowy state again. After three years in sunny SoCal we were lacking in any real snow gear. Last year with our first big snow we got Tyler a really good cold weather snow coat. I, however, kept putting it off, ha! But this year, I finally figured out I need one. Anyways, back to the hike...

We wanted to find a place to hike which wasn't too far away and we found Rockefeller State Park, which is only about 10 minutes from our house. It was more of a walk, then a hike, which was nice, no major incline hiking. Even though it was cold and snowy, we did see a few other's during our hike.

Before we headed to Rockefeller we did our research and found out that a part of the hike headed toward Blue Hill at Stone Barn, a farm to table restaurant. As we got closer to the barns, we started to see the farm animals too. Ending up at the Stone Barn was the funnest part of the hike. We visited the Grain Bar and got yummy baked goods. We also ventured into the gift shop and got lost in all the unique finds. Then on our way out we found more of the farm animals and that point I knew I needed to have my own farm animals too, ha! ;)
WINTER HIKE IN ROCKEFELLER STATE PARK
WINTER HIKE IN ROCKEFELLER STATE PARK
WINTER HIKE IN ROCKEFELLER STATE PARK
WINTER HIKE IN ROCKEFELLER STATE PARK
WINTER HIKE IN ROCKEFELLER STATE PARK
WINTER HIKE IN ROCKEFELLER STATE PARK
WINTER HIKE IN ROCKEFELLER STATE PARK
WINTER HIKE IN ROCKEFELLER STATE PARK
WINTER HIKE IN ROCKEFELLER STATE PARK
WINTER HIKE IN ROCKEFELLER STATE PARK
WINTER HIKE IN ROCKEFELLER STATE PARK
WINTER HIKE IN ROCKEFELLER STATE PARK
WINTER HIKE IN ROCKEFELLER STATE PARK
Guys, we love hiking and we love being outside. :)  When we lived in Southern California we hiked all year around and I never really thought about it. Since moving to the East Coast we've been learning how to cold weather hike. Hopefully next year we can do some snowshoeing! xoxo. Samantha

February 17, 2016

BIRTHDAY BLUEBERRY CHEESECAKE

BIRTHDAY BLUEBERRY CHEESECAKE
A few weeks ago was Tyler's birthday. Tyler had been working overtime all week and even though I knew we wouldn't have any major plans the actual day of his birthday I wanted to do a little something special for him. One of Tyler's favorite desserts is cheesecake. I actually didn't really like cheesecake toi much until Tyler introduced to me to it and now I'm a huge cheesecake fun.

It was because of Tyler that I made an attempt at my first cheesecake... it was probably six years ago... and I can't believe it's been that long. My very first cheesecake turned out lumpy, haha! I didn't know I needed to soften the cream cheese and I really had no idea what I was doing. Because of that first cheesecake debacle, I was a little more prepared. I even had a friend come over and help, which made it so much easier.

When looking for a cheesecake recipe, I looked for something on the simpler side. I'm usually looking for quick and easy recipes, those are my favorite. In my search, I found this one, and it was perfect for my second cheesecake attempt. The baking process was long, but everything else was really easy. It was a definite win in my book. What I love most about this cheesecake is that it is made with greek yogurt instead of sour cream. It turned out to be one of my favorite cheesecakes ever and Tyler's too. I told Tyler that I thought it was at least as good as The Cheesecake Factory cheesecake and Tyler said it was better. Huzzah! Because the baking processes is very specific head over here for the full recipe.
BIRTHDAY BLUEBERRY CHEESECAKE
BIRTHDAY BLUEBERRY CHEESECAKE
BIRTHDAY BLUEBERRY CHEESECAKE
Fun fact, after looking at different cheesecake recipes, I learned that a lot of people use a springform pan for cheesecake. I didn't have a springform pan, so I used a glass square pan and it worked perfectly. I always try to be willing to experiment and try new things, it's always worth the learning experience.

Tyler shared his cheesecake with work friends and I had lots of cheesecake requests. I'm glad I was able to make something that so many enjoyed. :) Are you a cheesecake fan? What is your favorite cheesecake recipe? I would love to try some different ones. xoxo. Samantha

February 15, 2016

ELEGANTLY EFFORTLESS

A few weeks ago I signed up for a class with Hilary Rushford. It was her "Get Paid to Be a Creative" class. We all want to learn how we can get paid to be creative, right? Her class was good and it was one of her free classes, which also promoted Elegant Excellence.  Long story short, she chatted about elegantly effortless... what do we all do that is elegantly effortless? Hilary mentioned that for her teaching was elegantly effortless.

That go me thinking... what do I do that is elegantly effortless? When I look back on my journey and this space I see lots of different things. My first go around was in 2009 with photography. Then in 2013 I started up again sewing handmade goods on Etsy. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was sure willing to give it all I had. A year later, I thought maybe I was finding my groove. But then a few months after that I was changing things up again. And it wasn't a few months after that that we were moving to the East Coast. Looking back on 2015 it was rather hard on me and this space went through another transition. For all the different things I've tried and transitioned through, I'm so grateful that y'all have stuck with me. Seriously.

I almost wasn't going to share this. Mostly because I didn't want it to seem like this space was going through another transition. But, I have definitely been thinking about what I do that is elelganlty effortless and I have been thinking about what I have learned. What I do know is that I miss a lot of those things; sewing, and making, and designing and creating. Those things are all apart of me. And while some may say that you should find one thing to blog about and stick with it to create a stronger niche... well... that just doesn't work for me. My niche, is creating, in the whole sense of the word. And the great thing about these spaces is that when we grow, they grow as well. When we change, they change as well. When we discover new things about ourselves, then new things pop up here too. I've also learned that I have much to learn, especially about business. Whew, we'll just leave business for another day, ha!

This space is going to move along just as it always has, a space full of creating. Have you been thinking about what you do that is elegantly effortless? I would love to hear about it. Let's all encourage and inspire each other in the things we do that are elegantly effortless. xoxo. Samantha

February 12, 2016

5 PHOTO BACKDROP IDEAS ON THE CHEAP

5 PHOTO BACKDROP IDEAS ON THE CHEAP
Cheap photo backdrops are my type of backdrops. You know, something that cost me little to nothing, ha! ;) I also really like backdrops that don't take up a lot of space and that are easy to store. For the most part I take photos every day and in most of those photos I'm wanting to use different backdrops. Backdrops that are clean and simple, backdrops that are textured, backdrops that are colored, and everything else in between. Out of all the different types of backdrops I've used foam care boards are my bread and butter.

FOAM CORE BOARDS 
Foam core boards are so perfect and versatile. You can buy foam core boards in multiple colors and they are cheap. I use a handful of different foam core boards and I easily store them under our couch. We have black, blue, tan, and a couple of different white ones. The great thing about foam core is that you can change them up too. I year or so ago I created a polka dot backdrop using foam core board. It was so easy and added something fun to my backdrops.
5 PHOTO BACKDROP IDEAS ON THE CHEAP

EVERYDAY ITEMS 
Guys, I kind of love this one. I use everyday items as photo backdrops all the time. Cutting boards, serving trays, planners, stationery, books, vinyl, the list goes on and on. Everyday items are perfect because they are personal and often times they add depth and texture. Take a look around and see if there is anything that may work as a photo backdrop. You never know, something may surprise you.
5 PHOTO BACKDROP IDEAS ON THE CHEAP

MARBLE ADHESIVE 
Marble adhesive is my new best friend. But what's great about adhesives is that there are more then just marble. There are different color of marble adhesive, there is wood textured adhesive... it's great and it's cheap. Hop on over to amazon and search for marble adhesive. There are tons to choose from. What I love about these adhesives is that I can attach them to my foam core boards and I don't have to store any extra items. The adhesive is classy, clean, simple, and adds texture.
5 PHOTO BACKDROP IDEAS ON THE CHEAP

FABRIC 
Fabric is one of my favorite backdrop ideas that I don't use as often as I used to. These days I often use blankets or scarves. Prior to moving I used to use scrap fabric all the time, hopefully I can get my hands on some more scrap fabric. ;)  Fabric backdrops add color, texture, and give interest to your photos. If you're in need of a clean solid background hang a white or colored sheet. Large backdrops like sheets are perfect for style or beauty post and give you a large canvas to work with.
5 PHOTO BACKDROP IDEAS ON THE CHEAP

WOOD SURFACES 
Our repurposed wood table used to be one of my favorite backdrop surfaces to shoot on. The wood was rich, rustic, and full of texture. These days I use one of our wood counter tops or our hardwood floors. Wood surfaces are perfect for adding variety to your photos and can add a nice rustic feel as well. Don't be worried if you don't have any wood photo backdrops because you can make one! I'm hoping to make one this summer. Check out this one, this one, or this one, if you're ready to make yours. :)
5 PHOTO BACKDROP IDEAS ON THE CHEAP
I've had so much fun chatting photo backdrops with you guys. I'm missing some of my old backdrops now and I'm looking forward to making a few new ones once the weather starts to warm up. What are some of your favorite photo backdrops? Do you have any plans to make some of your own photo backdrops? If so, let me know, I might want to make it too. xoxo. Samantha

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