Welcome and thanks for visiting the DOK Photo blog! I'm a natural light photographer serving Moab, Utah, and specializing in newborn and child photography. This is where I post sneak peeks of recent sessions, my attempts at memory-keeping, and sources of inspiration.
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Sunday, February 22, 2015

My Irish Table: a book review

my Irish Table

I immediately fell in love with Cathal Armstrong’s story and Scott Suchman’s gorgeous photography in My Irish Table, but I need a good Colorado snowstorm to actually move the book from coffee table status to the kitchen essential shelf.

Armstrong was born in Dublin, and his family life sounded familiar save for one fact: his father did most of the cooking. At age 20, Armstrong came to America and worked his way up in the kitchens of great chefs, eventually opening Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, VA.  Armstrong shares his failures along the way to his success. I loved his humility and honesty about what led his first place, The Baytree in Monkstown, to close. He was named Best New Chef by Food & Wine in 2006, and now owns several establishments.

irish breakfast

Siblings and cousins, look familiar? Other than the fancy toast holder, that looks like my mom’s breakfast table. She even had that exact pattern of blue dishes. The book includes a recipe for black pudding, one of my dad’s favorites.

I love that Armstrong makes the same point I have unsuccessfully tried to make for years. He talks about the special dispensation the Catholic church gave to celebrate St. Patrick’s day during Lent, and concludes with this line: “One thing you probably won’t find on the Irish Table is Corned Beef, which is an American tradition.” YES! Instead he shares a Roast Leg of Lamb recipe with au Jus and Herb Pesto. My nana, Mary McMahon, made roast leg of lamb on Sundays, and I’m excited to try this version.

Armstrong still includes a recipe for Corned Beef but as an appropriate dish for Halloween. His takes 17 days to prepare…so I probably won’t be trying it soon.

I hope I haven’t given the impression that his recipes are all complicated or old school Irish. There is a definite French influence, and he also has simple delights like Cheese on Toast, given an upgrade with tomatoes and chili powder.

cheese on toast

I know my sister Erin would enjoy his emphasis on quality salts, local beef, and homemade stocks. My cousin Maureen would love the photography, which includes the Irish countryside and shop fronts. My copy is sure to soon be stained and spotted, a sign of being well-loved. My anti-Brussels Sprouts family enjoyed his recipe (bacon can save almost anything), and I loved his addition of a Serrano chile to Beef Stew. Next up, we’re going to try his Irish Soda Bread along side my mom’s recipe and compare.

Also, because it is a rare quality in many cookbooks, the book is well-indexed and organized with a conversion chart, glossary and list of resources for humanly-raised meat and poultry.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this honest review.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Best of 2014: Music

It’s the last day of January so I have got to pack up this Best of series and get focused on the new year!

It was not a great year for new music in our house. Everything else in our life seemed new and unpredictable; perhaps that’s why we mostly stuck to old favorites and soundtracks. Lots of “Get Out the Map” by Indigo Girls, “Late for the Sky” by Jackson Browne and “The Most’' by Lori McKenna. 2014 was also the year of soundtracks in our house. Mostly these four:

web best music of 2014

As we left “Guardians of the Galaxy,” my 12 year old said, “We have GOT to get that soundtrack” and I replied, “Actually, we already own most of those songs.” Of the four pictured, it was the best overall soundtrack.

One of our favorite books of 2014, Wonder by R. J. Palacio, led us to this video of “Major Tom,” which led us to “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” our favorite movie of the year.

Top Songs of 2014…in our house, regardless of when they were released:

  • Stay Alive by Jose Gonzalez
  • Hooked on a Feeling by Blue Swede
  • Come and Get Your Love by Redbone
  • Skyfall by Adele
  • Home by Phillip Phillips
  • Stay With Me from “Into the Woods”, as well as Agony, The Last Midnight and more.
  • No More by Mandy Patinkin
  • So Now What by The Shins
  • Broke Window by Gary Jules
  • Let It Go from the movie “Frozen” (hard to believe that was this year…but it was)
  • The Air That I Breathe by The Hollies
  • Pompeii by Bastille
  • Boulder to Birmingham by Emmylou Harris
  • Brave by Sara Bareilles
  • Tuesday by Sarah Masen
  • I Wanna Get Better by Bleachers
  • Budapest by George Ezra

Songs the boys loved (and destroyed by overplaying):

  • Best Day of My Life by American Authors
  • Believer by American Authors
  • Weird Al’s Word Crimes, Tacky, Handy, & First World Problems
  • Happy by Pharrell Williams
  • Everything is Awesome! by Teagan and Sara
  • Immortals by Fall Out Boy
  • Pompeii, So What Now, and the first four from my list above were favorites of theirs as well.

and how could I leave out: “It’s Raining Tacos

I’m not sure why I’m compulsive about tracking our favorites from each year. I know I’d love to hear what my mom read or listened to when I was ten years old, but I’m not sure my sons will care. Really, it is another form of memory keeping for me.

Literal memory keeping, since I can’t remember titles of anything any more, and figurative, because I hope reading this list in the future brings back memories.

Memories of the boys singing “Let It Go” in the car as a quid pro quo for frozen yogurt. Our Jimmy-Fallon-esque lip sync contest on the beach in Inverness to “Hooked on  Feeling.” How that annoying taco video led our boys to hard shells. James Taylor’s “Mexico” in February. The best misheard lyrics from Bastille’s Pompeii. The Colorado playlist that accompanied us over the Rockies, and Nolan’s request that we play “Home” as we made the final drive up to our new home in October.

I hope 2015 will introduce us to more new artists and new songs, but I’m grateful to the old favorites that accompanied us through 2014.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Best of 2014: Movies

best movies of 2014 DOKedition

Here are my favorites that we saw in 2014, regardless of when they were released. I’ve broken them into random categories, though it’s still hard/ silly to compare works of art to each other.

Oscar Contenders


Okay, only three of the above are nominated for Best Picture, but I think “Into the Woods” and “Wild” should have been. They are in order of my preference from Left to Right.

Maybe it was due to extreme high expectations, but I found “Boyhood” a disappointment. I enjoyed some scenes and the music (a bit heavy-handed at times). “Grand Budapest Hotel” was great fun, but like “American Hustle” last year, not much more to it. The two best songs of “Into the Woods” were ignored by the movie (“Children Will Listen” got thrown to the credits and “No More” was made an instrumental), and still I loved it. “Birdman”---in my opinion---was brilliant. Entertaining and original---about the struggle to matter, to make something true, and the terrible temptation to listen to your ego.

Sci-Fi/Action/Brian Movies

action movies

I wish these five were the only action movies I saw, but there were more: “Rush”, “Fury”, “Elysium”. For record, Brian did see “Fault in Our Stars” with me.

I did not enjoy “Interstellar”, which seemed to last f o r e v e r, and lose its way during the last hour. “Edge of Tomorrow” felt like a violent video game, but had just enough “Groundhog Day” thought behind it to make it interesting. And Emily Blunt who can do no wrong.

And the truth is, I LOVED “X-men: Days of Future Past.” Great casting helps when a movie requires such a great suspension of disbelief. We then watched all the other ones in May and June (yes, I saw the last one first, but it still worked), so between the movies and Aidan reading all the graphic novels, it was the summer of X-Men around here.

We went to see “Guardians of the Galaxy” during our house-hunting trip in July. We were all desperate to escape our own worries and fears at the time, so we loved it even though we felt a little horrified that Nolan saw it. Definitely aimed at teens not littles. It also became the soundtrack of our summer/year.

Quirky/Independent/Deirdre Movies

web indie movies_edited-1

All year I was hoping for something as sweet, imperfect and original as my favorite in 2012. “Short Term 12” was excellent; we rented it last January, and it has stayed with me. But…it wasn’t call-all-your-friends-and-insist-they-watch-it-now-amazing.

“Begin Again” was delightful, though the music was forgettable (for me).  “In A World” was hilarious, especially her relationship with her dad. “Enough Said” was quirky and crazy and so good, but I had one small hang up. The same small hang up with “Chef,” which seemed to have the potential to be great but was edited so oddly and ended so abruptly.

Here’s my issue: can you imagine Molly McCarthy as the chef with Hugh Jackman as her ex and Jake Gyllenhaal as her maĆ®tre d'/lover, and not one review saying that was unrealistic casting? Obviously the double-standard exists outside of Hollywood too, but come on? (To his credit, I heard Jon Favreau interviewed about his casting and he justified it with the line, “That tells you just how good his cooking must be.”)

All that said, I’d love a movie with Julia Lewis-Dreyfus and Jon Favreau as the leads because I so enjoy them. They seem like Hollywood anomalies---both married to their respective spouses since forever, and both seem to really enjoy their work. I like that in a person.

Movies You Saw Last Year that I Saw This Year

web moviesearly2014

There were others. Despite the crazy length of this post, I’m not including everything. I loved “Nebraska,” enjoyed “Inside Llewyn Davis,” thought “Her” was the most depressing, beautifully shot movie, and, because I had extremely low expectations and watched it all by myself, adored “August: Osage County.”


anim movies

My sweet boys took me to see “Frozen” and I loved it. My sister Mimi gave me the soundtrack and it was another theme for the whole year. The boys insisted that Brian and I had to see Big Hero 6 after their grandmother took them to it. I loved it because they loved it, but come on, do all animated movies have to be so sad? “How I Trained my Dragon 2” was excellent, but also crazy sad and intense.

I don’t care what wins the Oscar because “The Lego Movie” was one of the best movies, animated or life-action, of 2014. Our expectations were high and it didn’t disappoint. The piece of resistance? The Kragle? Brilliant. And Batman. And our beloved Chris Pratt. Maybe because we have our own “man upstairs” who is tempted to keep the Star Wars ships up on a shelf (though he has never threatened to use Krazy Glue), we laughed and loved this movie as a family.



We watched “Jaws” with Aidan this summer, and it is just perfect. The script, the casting, even the silly shark. Aidan campaigned hard for “Terminator”---for two years. I can’t even remember now what were the final terms of our bargain, but we gave in, with lots of fast-forwarding and skipping much of the violent opening. I remember the first time I saw it and being terrified, but there were key scenes I had never seen. My brother filled me in that the video we watched in high school had been heavily edited. A-ha!

Aidan loved the 2nd one even more and went as T-800 for Halloween.

Brian and I saw “To Have and Have Not” on the big screen shortly after Lauren Bacall died. It’s not my favorite Bogie, but it was still fascinated to watch the man I adored as a kid. A quirky kid for sure.

Bri also watched “Ordinary People” with me late one night, and afterward he turned to me and asked, “This is the movie you were obsessed with in high school?” Yes. It too is perfect in so many ways. Granted, there are a dozen movies I obsessed over during those years, but “Ordinary People” was on a LOT in our house. It deserves a blog post of it own, but suffice to say, watching it all these years later, I now understood just why I loved it so much way back then---and can see how much all those viewings influenced me.

Movies the Critics Hated (and maybe you did too?) but I LOVED:


We finally saw it this year right after our trip to Mexico. Funniest thing ever. Bizarre and crazy and either you will love it or hate it. I so love it. Also---the most quotable movie ever.

secret life of walter mitty

“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is my favorite movie of 2014.

Again, not everyone’s cup of tea. There is a non sequitur riff on “Benjamin Button” that is ridiculous, unessential, and completely hilarious. Plus, I live with Walter-like day-dreaming boys, and we were on the floor watching it. We rented it again on my birthday, and it is now a revered classic in our home.

Would I have loved it if I had paid full price and saw it in a theater? If I had watched it without my sons? Don’t know. But I do know that the timing, the company, all of that is a huge part of why I love what I love.

Also---the best soundtrack of the year.

Also---it has the line that became a theme for our year and our move: walter mity

If you’ve read this whole crazy-long post, you deserve an Oscar or some kind of trophy. If you saw a great movie that didn’t make my list, please mention it in the comments. Especially if you have that elusive imperfect-but-sweet-&-original indie to recommend!

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