Simply Put

I love finding beauty in simple things. A perfectly seasoned hard boiled egg…that’s still warm, with the yolk just a touch runny. A church’s cross-topped onion dome peeking out behind an ugly concrete building. Finding that ridiculously comfortable spot next to your husband 5 minutes before the alarm goes off. A child’s sparkly eyes when looking at a Christmas tree.  Brunch eaten outside.

One time I bought a birthday cake for my aunt. It was gorgeous. I am still infatuated with this cake. It was small and adorned with flowers in an almost vintage-white frosting. I couldn’t resist pairing this cake with gold candles. It was just beautiful for so many reasons. For its simplicity. For its elegance. The fact that it was for my aunt and that the place in NYC where I bought it had ‘red hen’ in the name. We were surprising my aunt with a small get together at my cousin’s place and I thought it was beautiful that my husband and his parents were coming too. That we all love each other. All this from a white birthday cake??


But there is more! The cake inspired my design for a bread I was making for a friend’s wedding. Traditionally both sets of parents of the bride and groom greet the couple with bread and salt at the wedding reception. My mother was supposed to bake it, but my parents couldn’t attend the wedding due to last minute complications. I offered in my mother’s stead.

The bread design itself also came out rather simple, but I think beautiful. And that is not to say that more elaborate breads aren’t beautiful as well. Because they are – especially for what they represent. To me this stands for so many things. A couple for whom I could not be happier – two people that truly are fabulous togther. It also reminds me of how much I love cooking with my mom (especially for a party) How much I wish we lived in the same place so I could cook with her all the time (not via text) and learn from her amazing-ness. I love when people tell me I am following in her culinary footsteps.

Baking this bread made me so grateful for the fact that my parents didn’t let me lose my roots (just maybe some Russian grammar 🙂 ).

So it’s funny that I was recently thinking of all this when my husband and I visited a photo exhibit at St. Tatiana’s church in Moscow. The photos were all taken by Father Igor Palkin (who serves at the church) on his iPhone and printed  on silver bromide paper to create an almost faded effect. The exhibit was called ‘Happiness in Simple Things’. Although Father Igor insisted there was no deep meaning to his material, I think he captured this title perfectly. At the event, he asked that no one really talk about any hidden theme behind each photo, but he didn’t say anything about not blogging about some of them later 🙂 …

Bербное Bоскресенье/Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday. Basically anyone who celebrates Palm Sunday can relate to this photo. To me this reflects looking forward to the coming of Easter. Envigoration after long hours of church. Excitement for a coffee or piece of bread after not eating breakfast. I can taste that delightful piece of toast and cup of tea just looking at this picture. It makes me think of pussywillow pieces on the bottom of the car or branches of them left by a window for a year. And my dad’s green church vestments and the way he smells like incense all the time.

Hоводевичий Mонастырь/Novodevichy Convent

 Novodevichy Convent. I think the simple beauty that I admire here is how the church is just barely shown behind the trees. A classic photo and gorgeous. Andrei and I went here for services and the snapshot makes me remember the all-women choir. I also think of the young women that waited in line to speak with one of the old nuns. She seemed so wise and other-worldly. This convent stands so prominently amidst a busy city and parks, just like the other monasteries, convents and churches. Although the building is faded, to me it shows strength…its faintness somehow representing the past and the future at one time.
The moon looking shape was a reflection from my phone when I took a picture of the picture. I thought it added an interesting element to the entire scene.

Маша и Арбуз/ Masha and Watermelon

Masha and Watermelon. This photo was my absolute favorite. My heart felt like it jumped into my throat when I came up to it. In a good way. I don’t know if it’s because I would love so much to someday have a daughter, but this little moment speaks a million words to me in all of its simple happiness. I adore Masha’s smile and the carefree way in which she is sitting on the couch. The watermelon makes me think of summer days and children’s sticky hands and happy faces. I imagine somewhere there is a glass of juice and the sun is shining through it across the room. If I were Masha’s mother, and of course I can’t speak for her or mothers in general, but I think that amidst all the worries of raising a child, and the frustrations, this tiny snapshot, this small memory, would wash it all away, even just for a brief, beautiful moment.

And someday, I pray, Masha’s children will look at this photo and think how at one time their mother was just as small as them. And for long after they will think of her every time they bite into a juicy piece of watermelon.

more about the exhibit from the St. Tatiana website (in Russian):


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