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.
Judith called his name for what felt like forever, and when he finally took notice, he couldn't believe it had taken him that long, considering the unmistakable way she drew out the a in his name like no one else did. "You finally heard me," she said, running to him, "Hi, James. Can you believe it? Running into me here?" She was panting for air, but smiling in that big way she always had. Ten years hadn't done a thing to her smile or her eyes. After she hugged him – during which he felt his face flush a little, having a sudden flashback to a dark booming gymnasium, slow dancing with her, her body warm – he asked what she was doing here. A conference, she said. Was she here long? No, just a few hours more. Her flight back to Colorado left that afternoon.
As she spoke, he moved his grocery bag behind his legs, obscured from her view. He hadn't really thought about it, until he parted from her and realized that the baby food jars were sitting at the top of the bag, and he also hadn't, somehow, really gotten around to telling her much about his life these days. He had even kissed her on the cheek before they said goodbye, a detail, of course, he would omit when he was at home that evening telling Cecile about running into his old high school girlfriend. At the end of his story, Cecile only responded by holding up one of the tiny orange jars and saying, "You bought squash. James, you know she doesn't like squash." And for a moment, he thought that Cecile meant that Judith didn't like squash, and he laughed, and then the baby laughed, and Cecile sighed and put the little jar back in the bag.
"Well, maybe one day she will," he said, and looked over at the baby.
"And she doesn't like peas, either," Cecile said, holding up another jar.
"Just hold onto them," he said. "She could soon change her mind."
A little shop update: two cookbooks! The first is Small Sweet Treats, full of all kinds of sweet recipes, and the second is Tart Love, a guide to savory and sweet tart making. Both are beautiful books (Tart Love was photographed by the very talented Helene Dujardin) and I want to make every single recipe in them. Yum.
We have this one kitchen cabinet that I always dread opening because it's such a mess. Anything that I buy in bulk gets tossed into this cabinet, along with packages of crackers and chocolate bars and so on and so forth. I finally just couldn't take it anymore and invested in a couple dozen wide mouth mason jars (in both pint and quart sizes) and did away with all those saggy plastic bags and half-empty boxes. Now everything looks and functions so much better; it only takes me a moment to find those lentils, oats, basmati rice, popcorn kernels, panko crumbs, or even marshmallows. (Every pantry needs marshmallows, in case of late night s'more emergencies.)
Hope you have a wonderful weekend.
I welcomed September by pulling out my measuring cups and looking for a new recipe to try. This plum skillet cake caught my eye right away – it's baked in a cast-iron skillet, which I love the weight and simplicity of, and it gives the cake such a beautiful chewy crust. (I have a 9-inch pre-seasoned skillet.) Since the cake isn't overly sweet, it would be perfect for brunch or a mid-afternoon snack, especially enjoyed with a hot mug of tea.
Plum Skillet Cake (serves 4-6)
recipe from Martha Stewart
Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a cast-iron skillet (8" or 9" works best), dust with flour, then tap out excess. (You can also use a regular baking pan, but the baking time may change.)
Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat butter and 3/4 cup sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in egg. Add flour mixture, alternating with buttermilk.
Pour batter into prepared skillet, and smooth top with a spatula. Fan plums on top, and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool slightly.
We lived in a house by the sea. Nobody there had seen a family quite like ours before; we had hair the color of fire, and we were so rosy skinned, and so tall. We had to duck under the doorways of our neighbors. "Twins!" people would say. "We thought that was just a myth."
But the Colliers – a retired couple, who had never gotten around to having any children – didn't act surprised. Maybe they had originally come from somewhere else. They had a little thickness in their voices, after all. In their pale yellow kitchen, Mrs. Collier pressed pastry dough into tart shells while we eagerly watched over her shoulder. She let us pour the filling in, then we sat at the dining table until they were ready. "Won't Mr. Collier want some?" we asked as we dug our forks in, but Mrs. Collier shook her head. She said he didn't care for sweets, and besides, right now he was in the woods behind their house, harvesting firewood and hunting rabbits for dinner.
"Oh," we said.
"Hundreds of them out there," she said. "Mr. Collier could bring you along next time, if you'd like."
Our mother had taught us to accept invitations, even when we didn't want to, and so we went with him the following Saturday. We linked our arms together, my twin and I, and we followed Mr. Collier at a cautious distance. "Let's turn back," we whispered to each other, shivering, but then we came to a clearing.
"There!" Mr. Collier said. "You see?" But we didn't see any rabbits. All we saw were stones upon stones, all smooth and gray and speckled with mica. Mr. Collier picked one up, and held it against his chest. He was smiling. We brought the stone back to the house, and then we politely said that we had to be home for dinner.
They watched us go, waving from the doorway. And the next day, they were gone. No house, no trace of the winding driveway, not a crumb. This is what we remember most from our time by the sea, when we were most awake, when we were so young.
Today marks three years since I launched my jewelry collection, and I have a new necklace in the shop made especially for the occasion. It's called just the beginning, designed with three frosted glass beads... and to celebrate, I'm giving one away! To enter, leave a comment below. International readers are welcome to enter. For up to 2 additional entries, tweet and/or blog about the giveaway, then leave a comment with a link to your tweet/post. A winner will be randomly selected at the end of the day on August 31st.
Update: Milynn is the winner. Thank you for your comments, everyone!
I'm also having a 20% off sale now through August 31st. Just use the coupon code "THREE" during checkout (click "apply shop coupon code" first). There's lots in the shop, so go take a peek!
And thank you so much for all your ongoing support – it means the world to me.
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.)