Victory and a Nikon

Truth:  Until yesterday, I’ve never won anything in my whole life.  Well, except for when I was trying to win the $6000 Bingo Jackpot on our Disney Cruise and I won a princess calendar instead.  Chad and the kids laughed hysterically because I was so thrilled to win anything that I literally jumped for joy.


If you know me at all you know that a month ago I entered Food Network Magazine’s May issue blog photography contest.  You had to prepare Pioneer Woman’s Pasta Primavera recipe, photograph it, and upload it to Food Network’s website.  People could rate your dish, but it was the Food Network experts that picked the winner in the end.

It was with a bit of irony how it all went down.   You see, about a week before I knew this contest existed I had purchased the ingredients to make this very dish for a weeknight dinner.  I was exhausted one Wednesday night but I knew the vegetables were about to spoil and that I’d better hurry up and make the pasta for our dinner that night.  I did and I took it out onto the back patio to eat.  I looked down at my plate and thought, “damn what a pretty dish this is, and the the light on this patio is so good”.  But you know what?  I was tired and in a bad mood and I just didn’t feel like taking a picture.  So, I ate my dinner and forgot about it.

The next day I was with one of the kids at Barnes and Noble and I noticed the latest issue of FN Magazine was in so I picked it up.  I saw the ad for the contest and couldn’t believe that I could win a $650 Nikon camera for the dish I’d just made for dinner that I didn’t end up capturing.  I talked to my friends about this irony and they informed me that the universe had spoken to me and that I MUST make the dish again and enter the contest.  I knew they were right.  I didn’t think there was any way in the world I’d win, but I just had to try.

I took the next Tuesday off work and I spent the day making my dish.  I shopped for perfectly shaped vegetables, I spent 45 minutes cutting them into perfect dices and juliennes.  I cooked each vegetable separately.  I took some of the pasta and tossed it with a little sauce and some of the veggies.  I swirled it on a plate and then carefully added more vegetables and sauce, taking care to get an even balance of colors and textures.  It looked amazing, but could I capture it?

I decided to use a spare floor tile for my back ground.  I found an over-sized whimsical fork to use in the photo.  I took the dish outside on the patio searching for the same beautiful light I’d seen a few days before during my al fresco dinner.  I took exactly 79 shots of the pasta on two different plates and from a multitude of angles.

I took me over four hours to cook the dish, style it, and capture the image.

However, I was pleased with my images-one in particular:


I got some great support from people in my life who shared this photo, voted for me, and encouraged me.  I also had some people not show up to the plate, if you will-people I really thought should and would, but ended up not really caring.  See, I know it’s just a contest, but for me, this was really putting myself to the test.  Do I really have the talent to pull off this blog thing?  Can I stand up against the other 1.3 million bloggers out there and earn my place?  I needed to know.

Yesterday, I sat at my desk at work processing claims and I had a fleeting thought to check my email.  I saw the words “Food Network” and my heart sank.  I thought they’d sent me a rejection letter.  I saw the word “congratulations”.  I read it five times without comprehending what it meant.  It said I won.  It said, “enjoy the camera, it was well-deserved, your picture was great”.

Cool.  That’s what that is.

My husband, my kids, and my good friends all had the same response, “I knew you had it all along”.

Twelve hours after I got the news I received my beautiful new Nikon 3300 on my door step all the way from New York, New York.

I had to take a picture of the label on the package.


I had to take a picture of the box.


And then of course a picture of the prize itself.


Isn’t she a beauty?

I’ve never been so excited to open anything in my life.  I felt like the boy on the Christmas Story when he gets his bebe gun.

The best prize though is that I have proven something to myself.  I can style food and I can take a great picture.  I can keep learning and growing, keep blogging, writing, and shooting.  I can keep creating art and having a blast at it.  There might only be 3.5 people who read this blog right now…but maybe someday it will be more.  If not, it’s enough for me that I’ve found a way to make time to enjoy what I love doing.  There are plenty of people who never take that step.

It’s wonderful to win something so meaningful that you really want, by creating something with your own hands.  It’s much more satisfying than winning a lottery, raffle, or drawing.  I wouldn’t ever have been able to afford a camera of this expense and I can’t imagine the pictures I’m going to be able to take once I figure her out.  I bet she will shed the most beautiful light on my children’s faces.

Thanks to those special people that read my little blog, who support me, who put up with more than a reasonable level of neurosis from me daily…you know you you are…it means more than you know.



  1. So proud of you!!! Congratulations!!!!

  2. I knew you had it, yours had me wanting to make the dish or better yet have you invite me over for a plate of lovely deliciousness. Awesomely done!

  3. Hey Shauna!
    Wahoooooooo! I just read your blog. (We have been out of town with crappy cell service.) I knew you could do it! I am so excited for you! Congratulations! That is awesome. You are going to have to give me some lessons! Couldn’t have happened to a better person! Love ya!
    Love, Sara

    • Oh, thank you Sara! I am still so excited and can’t believe it actually happened. Thanks for all your support and always reading my blog, I appreciate it so much, love you :)

  4. This post really makes me happy. You are very talented and soon the world will know.

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