This blog is a mix of my own photos + images by others. Please link back if you share one of my photos on your blog. Email me if you'd like me to remove a post that features your images.
A small disclosure: I use affiliate links in my "what to wear" posts as a way to pay for my blog fees. In other words, I earn a tiny commission if you end up buying the item from my link. The posts are entirely curated on my own. I do not have sponsored posts.
This blog design and all original content © 2013 by Rachel Ball / Elephantine.
Two photos: passing by lavender while on a walk, and taking the ferry over to Bainbridge Island.
p.s. thank you for all your sweet birthday wishes!
This is what I spent my weekend working on... spice labels for Mignon Kitchen Co.! The set includes 40 colorful labels, and for fun, I included the spice's scientific name on each. I also have blank labels in packs of 12 that you can write directly on. The blank labels look just like the regular ones except without any text, and could also be used as little gift labels for homemade treats.
p.s. they'll work with practically any type of spice jar... but the jars shown above are from Target.
Once, when he was fifteen, and August was sweltering, he rode his bicycle from his parents' house on the hill down toward Lake Steven. In one moment he was furiously squeezing the brakes, and in the next he was moving in a kind of squiggle across the road. Then he was lying face-up beside the stop sign, one arm hot with pain. A shadow moved over him. "Young man," a woman's voice said. "You took quite the spill, didn't you?"
Her name was Lalani, and she substitute taught at his high school. He might have had her for math, but it was hard for him to think of anything clearly right then. In her car, as she drove him to the hospital, he had to keep his feet out of the way of a stack of books on the floor of the car.
"My son's name is David. You must know him?" asked Lalani.
"Oh," he said. He hadn't made the connection before, but now it seemed obvious: the caramel colored skin, the sharp eyes.
"He said you've made fun of him," she continued, and now her voice was lower. "You can imagine I didn't like hearing that very much."
"I don't–" he started, and then stopped. He moved one leg over on the seat, peeling it slowly from the hot leather. They were at a five-way intersection now, and Lalani had taken her hands off the steering wheel and placed them in her lap. He could feel her staring at him. The car behind them honked.
"Calling him fat, pushing him in the hall – that's what my David told me you did. You did do it, didn't you?"
The car behind them honked again. For a moment, he considered opening the door and running for it. He could find a pay phone, call his mother at work, have her pick him up. If he cried a little, she would feel sorry for him instead of lecturing him about his bike. But the bike was exactly the problem: how would he explain its disappearance? It would still be back there, crumpled in Lalani's trunk.
She was waiting for him to answer. In the side mirror, he could see the line of cars growing behind them.
"It's your turn," he mumbled.
"Yes," said Lalani. "It is, isn't it?"
I've mentioned how bad I am with houseplants, right? But I keep on trying anyway, because a house without plants feels too sad. These are my newest ones: tiny succulents that I bought individually and then arranged in a pot. Maybe these little guys will fare better since they have each other for company? I'm crossing my fingers.
A French 75 is one of my favorite cocktails to order with dinner, and recently I learned how easy it is to make it at home. You don't even need to own a cocktail shaker – just use a travel mug instead. Here's the recipe...
Classic French 75 (makes 1 drink)
recipe from Saveur
1 oz. gin
½ oz. simple syrup*
½ oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
brut champagne or a dry sparkling white wine
lemon twist, to garnish (I used this technique)
Combine gin, simple syrup, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until well chilled and strain into a glass. Top with champagne and garnish with a lemon twist to serve.
*you can buy simple syrup, but it's very easy to make your own. Put equal parts sugar and water into a small pot, bring to a boil, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool. Store the extra in your fridge for up to a week.
Jeez, buying new furniture is daunting, isn't it? We had an area in the living room that needed filling, and after a lot of hemming and hawing, I bought this chair from West Elm, in "honey", although it looks caramel in person. It's the first piece of furniture I've ever bought that I would actually call beautiful.
"Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second." – Marc Riboud
iPhone photos, processed w/ VSCO.
Do you have a favorite month? August has always been mine. My birthday is near the end of the month, and when I was little, I would make a paper chain at the beginning of the month and rip off a link every morning as I counted down the days. And now, so many years later, even though I never have birthday parties or make a big deal of it, that month-long excitement is still ingrained in me.
From last month's weekend trip to Ocean Shores. It was either rainy or overcast the entire time, but we went to the beach anyway, wearing raincoats. Indoors, we ate popcorn and salt water taffy and I tried to read The Sun Also Rises but didn't like it as much as I hoped I would. Oh, and the deer. There were deer everywhere.
It took Anna Maria longer than they had hoped to learn their ways. A month passed before she could prevent herself from talking about the things they didn't want talked about. They forbade talk of science fiction novels, but Westerns were okay; in fact, they liked to hear retelling of lawmen heading west, of confrontations in saloons. They asked her to tell these stories as they repeatedly bleached her hair until it was as white as bone. Each time, afterward, they braided it tightly, smoothing back stray strands with the gel they kept in small silver containers. They had used the same gel to heal her wounds after one of the expeditions, and even the scars had faded.
It took her longer than they had hoped to learn the dress code (long pants were not to be worn with long sleeves, and she was to always wear at least two layers of clothing) and it took her longer to learn the correct way to cook the fuga how they liked it, soft and undercooked, still green around the edges. One, spitting his fuga back into the bowl, claimed that Anna Maria was purposefully acting dumb in order to be sent back home, but no one took him seriously; he had claimed the same about others before.
But on Friday afternoons, when she was allowed on the viewing deck, no one had to tell Anna Maria how to act. This part she understood perfectly right from the start. With the others, she stood silently behind the thick wall of glass and pressed her fingertips gently against its cool surface. Until she was whisked back to her room, she remained utterly silent, unmoving. She simply stared out into the speckled black landscape, and without a coherent thought in her mind, watched the earth rotate.
A visit to Freeway Park, which almost feels like walking through an M.C. Escher drawing.
For those of you who are curious about how film looks on the Mamiya RB67 (120 film, not instant film), here are a few shots from my first test rolls. I love this camera – the only disadvantage is that it's huge and heavy. But still, it's such a pleasure to use. I love the manual controls, and the loud satisfying slap of the shutter, and the waist-level finder, which makes everything look more beautiful. It's like holding the world in your hands.
If you have any questions about the camera, feel free to ask in the comments – I just didn't want to clutter up this post with lots of technical stuff.
Standing in the middle of Macy's, his head starting to hurt and his hands shoved into his bare pockets, he doesn't have a clue what to buy for Olga. What does she even like? Between classes, she's always spitting out her hardened gum for a fresh piece, and after wiping the moisture from her lips she uses a half empty tube to apply a thin layer of gloss. He had gotten a little of it on his own lips, just once, from a kiss behind the art building; it had tasted like pineapple. So there was that, but why would he get her something she already has?
He decides to follow a stranger who reminds him of Olga. Maybe it's the cut of her hair, the way it partially obscures her face. He followers her with caution as she spins a rack of earrings, as she tries on sunglasses, as she zips and unzips a variety of colorful shoulder bags.
At the perfume counter, the girl finally seems to be interested in something. She sprays two strips of paper, raises each to her nose, and makes a comment to the saleswoman behind the counter. The saleswoman laughs in agreement. Of course, the saleswoman appears to say, then reaches a hand out toward the display shelf.
"I'm interested in that one," he says, once he gets up the nerve to approach the perfume counter. Ten minutes have passed since he watched the girl stand where he is standing now. Avoiding eye contact with the saleswoman, he points, because he has no better way to identify the one he wants. The box is lavender, wrapped in cellophane.
"This bottle is forty eight dollars," says the saleswoman, one manicured finger tapping the top of the box.
"Oh," he says.
"But the travel size," she continues, "is seventeen."
Not long after, she is folding tissue paper around the small box and slipping it into a glossy bag with braided handles. Every way he tries to hold it feels awkward. Outside the department store, as the crowd moves past on the sidewalk, he shoves the box into his jacket pocket and folds the glossy gift bag flat, then bends it in half, and lets it go into the dark mouth of a trash can. He spots his bus approaching the stop on the other side of the street. Maybe, if he hurries – but there's so many people in the way. Keeping one hand in his pocket with his fingers curled around the box, gripping it tight, he starts forcing his way through, cutting diagonally in front of strangers, repeatedly mumbling apologies. He doesn't notice that the current of the crowd is what is moving him closer, that they are pushing him along.
Today is our first wedding anniversary, but what's more crazy is that it's also our 10th anniversary (!) and now that I think about it, it's also been over 20 years since we first met. (Yep, we met in grade school.)
The secret to a happy relationship? I think it boils down to this: you have to be best friends.
Tonight the plan is to make dinner at home, and then next week we're eating out at Canlis (which is where our wedding was). One of the benefits of having a restaurant wedding is that we can always go back and, in some small and nostalgic way, relive it.
p.s. if you're curious, you can find all of our wedding posts here.
(Photos by JL Photografia.)
A few months ago, when I was back home, my mom and I made garlic naan. I had been wanting to make it ever since a coworker at my previous job revealed that it was much easier to make than you'd expect. It turns out that he was correct, and even though it doesn't taste quite like what you'll get in an Indian restaurant, it's still very delicious. The only "trick", I guess, is using a grill or grill pan to get the right texture on the bread.
Garlic Naan (makes approx. 15 pieces)
recipe from All Recipes
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup white sugar
3 Tbsp milk
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp salt
4 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp minced garlic (optional)
1/4 cup butter, melted
1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes, until frothy. Stir in sugar, milk, egg, salt, and enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or until smooth. Place dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside to rise. Let it rise 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in volume.
2. Punch down dough, and knead in garlic. Pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll into balls, and place on a tray. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
3. During the second rising, preheat grill to high heat. (You can also use a grill pan.)
4. At grill side, roll one ball of dough out into a thin circle. Lightly oil grill. Place dough on grill, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until puffy and lightly browned. Brush uncooked side with butter, and turn over. Brush cooked side with butter, and cook until browned, another 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from grill, and continue the process until all the naan has been prepared.
What are you up to this weekend? We're doing something a little different: an archery lesson! I can't wait.
If you're in Seattle and are looking for somewhere to go this weekend, take a peek at my city guide – I've been on an exploration kick and have added a ton of places.
Also, wanted to mention that Alison invited me to take part in her series The Story/Book. On her blog, I share one of my favorite books (Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides) and also give a few other recommendations.
(Photos taken at the Ballard Locks.)
Les Amis is a gorgeous boutique in Fremont – my dream closet would be filled with lots of clothing from here. I'll be stopping by again next time I need a little something special.
Here in Seattle it's been feeling more like fall than summer, and so that's exactly the kind of food I've been eating. I love this soup because it's creamy without being overpowering and it's just the right amount of sweet. I'm convinced that the secret in getting a good flavor is baking the sweet potatoes first. It really helps develop the flavor in a way that, say, boiling can't do.
Sweet Potato Soup (serves 2-4, depending on portion size)
adapted from Food Network
1 1/2 cups cooked sweet potatoes (approx. 1 large sweet potato)
salt & pepper
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tbsp light brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup milk (I used 1%)
1. Peel and cube the sweet potato. Toss with olive oil, coating all sides, and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 400˚F until tender and starting to brown (about 30 min).
2. Cook the flour and butter in a saucepot over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until light caramel in color.
3. Stir in the broth and brown sugar. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.
4. Add in the sweet potatoes and spices. Cook for 5 minutes. Turn off heat.
5. Puree the soup in a blender. (Depending on the size/strength of your blender, you may have to do this in batches.) Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the blender and keep puréeing until smooth.
6. Return soup to saucepot. Add milk and reheat over medium.
7. Ladle into bowls. Drizzle with olive oil and season with more pepper, if desired. Serve warm.
Oh, the charm of old buildings. This one is the Phinney Neighborhood Center. I love thinking about all the people that meet here, for art classes, for bridge club, for game night, for auctions, for wine tasting, for all those other events and clubs and meetings. If walls could talk, right?
Hope you have a wonderful weekend. Go out and explore.
Lately, I've been seeing so much inspiring iPhone photography – like these from Jennifer and these from Nicole – that I'm starting to take my iPhone camera a little more seriously, using it for more than just Instagram. Besides, it's the perfect option when beeping/shutter sounds aren't exactly welcome, like at the library...
I'm still waiting to get my Mamiya RB67 test rolls back from the lab, but in the meantime I wanted to share a few of the instant photos I've taken (using Fuji FP-100C film). I tend to like the darker ones more, especially when the darkness bleeds into the black bars on either side...
We picked up Aunt Sarah that morning at nine o'clock on the dot. She was standing out in front of the Arrivals sign, two bulging mustard yellow suitcases on either side of her. She squeezed into the back seat next to me and flashed a big grin. Her teeth were almost pure white, except for one, which was stained the palest yellow.
Everything about Aunt Sarah was large: her smile, her curly hair, her figure ("Curvaceous," she explained to me, in case I ever needed to borrow the word), but most of all, her voice. It seemed to boom out of the car speakers. Her voice had the slightest syrupy quality to it, which I was deeply confused about until I learned, many years later, that she had picked up the accent on a southern vacation and, just like that, it had stuck around ever since.
The entire ride back home, she talked. She told us about how the man sitting next to her on the plane dozed off and snored half the flight, and how she had smuggled an extra pack of peanuts into her purse if either of us were hungry (we weren't), and how she just couldn't wait to taste my mother's famous five-cheese casserole since it had been almost a decade since she'd last had it.
When we arrived at the house, she was the first one to notice that the power had gone out.
"Wouldn't be a trip without something going wrong," she sighed, dropping her luggage inside the doorway.
But since it was summer, sunlight lasted through dinner. The oven wasn't working, but the phone was, so we called for delivery. "Such a shame about the casserole," Aunt Sarah moaned repeatedly through dinner, poking a splintered chopstick at her chow mein.
When the light in the house began to fade, my mother set candles along the window sills and across the countertops. She withdrew dust-coated board games from the closet and poured Aunt Sarah a glass of wine, then a glass for herself.
"We've got Monopoly," my mother said, "Or Scrabble. Or there's cards. Sarah?"
"I think I'll just watch."
Aunt Sarah joined in anyway, once her glass of wine was depleted and she realized there was really nothing else left to do. By the fourth round of cards, the last glow of sunset was gone, and by the eighth, almost all of the candles had turned to soft wax and burned out. We were reduced to only our voices. We put our cards down.
Two circles of light appeared at a distance through the living room window. We watched as they came closer, then as they turned away and parked at an angle. Two figures climbed out of the truck and stood in the beams of light, then went to work. For a long time, we just sat there, watching. Then the bulbs above us flicked on. The room burned white. I shielded my eyes. When I was finally able to pull my hands away, what struck me most was how colorful it all was, the palette infinite.
I thought it would be fun to put together some outfits based on pieces of jewelry from my shop, so here's the first one: a casual, summery look that goes perfectly with my saving grace earrings...
I came across this simple, delicious apple tart recipe thanks to Jacqueline Jaszka, who learned about it from Bonnie Tsang, who adapted it from Ree Drummond. It's incredibly easy, but it looks fancy, and that combination is about as good as you can get.
I like a slightly different proportion of ingredients than the previous versions of this recipe, so my best advice is to try it and make adjustments to your liking. Also, I think it's super important to note that if any sugary liquid runs off the tart, it will burn and then start to smoke if left unattended for too long! To minimize this, I dab off excess liquid from the apples before putting the tart into the oven, and I also check the tart after 15 minutes and scrape off any burnt sugar from the baking sheet (with a spatula) before it starts to smoke.
Easy Apple Tart (serves 2)
1/2 medium-sized apple, sliced thinly
1/4 cup brown sugar
juice of 1/2 small lemon
1/2 frozen pastry sheet
1. Remove frozen puffed pastry sheet from freezer and let thaw for about 20 minutes, or until easily unfolded.
2. Preheat oven to 415°F.
3. In a mixing bowl, combined apple slices, brown sugar, and lemon juice. Toss. Let sit for 5 minutes.
4. Unfold the puffed pastry sheet, cut in half, and put the unused half back in the freezer (or, double this recipe and use the whole sheet).
5. Lay apple slices in a straight line, overlapping slightly.
6. Bake for 15-20 minutes on a parchment-lined baking sheet. When done, the pastry will be puffed and golden brown. Top with powdered sugar and serve with a scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream.