My birthday was last week and we had an impromptu dinner party. It was quite the international affair with an Italian pasta dish made with Russian vodka paired with a delicious Spanish wine sangria.

In our house normal celebration procedure is the birthday person chooses the meal. But Sarah is, I'm learning, quite the adventurous cook and is willing to try any recipe that catches her eye so she asked if she could make my birthday dinner.  The pasta recipe came from her Audrey Hepburn cookbook and is really good. Really, really good.

What you'll need:
1 small onion, finely chopped
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
5 1/2 TBS unsalted butter
1 cup tomato puree
1/2 cup good quality Russian vodka
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
course sea salt
1 pound penne pasta, cooked al dente
1 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano*, grated

What you'll do:
Saute the onion and red pepper flakes in the butter over medium heat.
Add the tomato puree and reduce heat to low, cooking for a few minutes.
Stir in vodka.
Cook down for 15 minutes and pour in the cream.
Add in the pasta and turn the heat to high.
Pan fry for one minute, making sure to toss pasta so it is evenly covered by sauce.
Sprinkle with the parmigiano-reggiano and serve.

I had never heard of this type of parmesan and was a little concerned that it was some kind of specialty hard to find cheese. Turns out that it is normal parmesan cheese only better. Shaped like a stick of butter, it is a little pricey but so worth it...dry and very flavorful and nothing like the powdery stuff sold no where near the dairy aisle. I am learning that while one may need to be economical one must also occasionally splurge on the good stuff. And surely a birthday feast is just such an occasion!

CS Lewis said, "We do not retreat from reality, we rediscover it. As long as the story lingers in our mind, the real things are more dipping them in myth we see them more clearly."

I can show you a picture of a lavender rose and we can agree to the reality of it's beauty...the color, the delicate petals...the scent.

But what if we looked closer? Not retreating from that reality but leaning into it, rediscovering it almost as if seeing it for the first time.

What if we looked closer still? Looking in such a way as to have all of our senses come to bear...the reality of the ordinary mingling with memories and wisps of emotion.

The flower becoming more real as we dip it into the myth of the symbols of romance, of faithfulness and promise that we've come to associate with it's form.

Now we no longer just see the ordinary beauty of a we can see something more...something that isn't quite there but hints at a fullness of beauty that is to come.

"Nothing is yet in it's true form."
~ CS Lewis
Till We Have Faces

I am forty-five years old and until just a couple of months ago I did not know how to properly boil and peel eggs. I am blaming my lack of knowledge and skill on the fact that I like neither boiled or deviled eggs. My sister makes deviled eggs that are, from all accounts, quite tasty which means that family functions and gatherings were covered so I really haven't seen much need to change my status on the whole issue.

I mean, I've boiled eggs before but since I don't eat them I didn't really care if the dyed Easter eggs were cooked all the way and didn't give a thought to how easy they would be to peel.

But Rob recently mentioned that he would like some to take to the church to have on hand for a quick and healthy snack and, it turns out, Sam likes boiled eggs. Not the cooked yolk but the egg white. Anything that boy is willing to eat I am willing to make.

So I  asked my mother about this whole egg business and she shared the secret that her aunt taught her about making the perfect hard boiled egg. No more guessing if it is cooked all the more boiling them for too long and having them crack and burst out of the edges...and easy to peel shells.

(Psssst...I know I am probably about the only person on the planet who has waited almost half a century to learn how to boil an egg but the truth of the matter is that we have friends that we buy fresh yard eggs from and they are just so pretty that I love taking pictures of them and if I just randomly posted pictures of eggs like I did some kind of portrait sessions with them people would quite possibly think I am weird. I am going to ignore the fact that I run the risk of people still thinking I'm weird because I over thought the process of boiling eggs to the point that I just chose to not boil eggs. I am hoping you will be distracted by the prettiness of the eggs to be overly concerned about my egg crush. And who knows? Maybe someone will find these tips helpful.)

So here is the sure fire way to get perfectly boiled eggs according to my *grandaunt.

After adding eggs to a pot, completely cover them with water.

Bring to a full roiling boil and then turn off the heat.
Cover the pot with a lid and let them sit for twenty minutes.
Carefully drain the hot water and then run cold water over the eggs until cool.

As for peeling them I have observed a few things that might be helpful. In my experience the green and brown eggs peel easier than the white eggs. Not sure if there is an scientific reason for this or not but that has been the case for me.

I also discovered that if I crack either end of the egg and not the side I can get an easier peel. Turns out the ends have these little gaps between the egg itself and the shell that helps make sure you are peeling off the thin almost invisible membrane that separates the shell from the egg white.

*Now, as if I haven't flown my freak flag high enough in this post with odd confessions and weird random stuff, I am going to confess that yes, I did indeed look up the proper way to address various relatives on the family tree because actually having to state a relationship with my mother's aunt seemed a good excuse to look it up. It also helps that I now know how to properly cite the children of my nieces and nephews. (Please tell me other people have wondered about this because I don't have any pretty pictures to distract you with on this one ;-)

So is it great or grand? I think I have always referred to my parents' aunts or uncles as my great aunt or uncle but after researching for a minute it turns out that while that is the more commonly used term, the correct term is actually "grand". Which totally makes since if your mother's father is your grandfather then his sibling would also be your grand aunt or uncle, right? The term "great" is supposed to be reserved for relationships that are more than one generation away.

So there you have it. The proper way to boil eggs and address your ancestors.

Oh look, it's another pretty picture of eggs!

In the beginning, when I wanted to learn about light, I practiced with flowers. I wanted to learn how to reveal their delicate strength without blowing the high lights and how to create airy yet vibrant images. How to use light is a handy tool for a photographer, especially one that favored a clean and classical look.

Lately, I've been drawn to work that is less wide open light wise. Images that have a darker tone, still vibrant in color but warmer, deeper.  I'm looking for texture and low lights now. I'm finding that food seems to be my model of choice. I think it's going to be a fun and tasty schooling.

The recipe for the pot pie can be found here. Just swap out the chicken and chicken broth for beef.

Looking for something?