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I went into the holiday season knowing that I wouldn’t catch a break until March.  I didn’t realize that I wouldn’t catch a break until April.  Silly me, I’m only beginning to breathe and it’s almost May.

So let’s catch up fast and dirty style.  Y’all like it fast and dirty?  Here we go:

  • Finished one of my favorite quilts (I know I say that about all of them, but I mean it this time.  I think).  I filled it with boy themes and did some hand-stitching.  It belongs to one of our favorite families (scroll down to see him with his adoring sister) who welcomed a boy into their all-girl clan.  I think he deserved the most boy heavy prints I could dig up and he got them.

wweQuilt

  • Took the boys to their first big event: WWE Raw.  Who knew so many grown men really love wrestling?  Who knew so many grown men believe it’s real Real?  Who knew the event would have a smell: gunpowder and thick BO?  Who knew I’d have as much fun as the boys?  (psst… Me.)

wwe

  • My parents gave us their pool table.  I’m awful at it.  Always have been.  I blame my long legs.  They hit the table at a weird spot and it clearly throws off my aim…  Clearly.  But every now and then I win. My celebration dance is disgusting even to me.  Each time, I swear it’s the last time I’ll ever get to do the Winner’s Dance, so I do it louder than the last Dance.  And I promise to win gracefully next time.  But I’ll do it again.  And again.  I’m an awful winner.

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  • We finally made it to Disney.  Fast and dirty recap: Boys hated anything princess related ( see below right) which worked in our favor.  They would only walk directly in front of us and at varied paces.  This awkward walking style resulted in 3 “gentle” shoves.  I didn’t have to kill or even threaten to kill anyone.  We discovered Becks hates roller coasters and we only “forced” him on two. 3 out of the 4 parks serve beer.  I didn’t care how much it cost.  And Disney is gorgeous at night.

disney_trip

  • I had a little bit of time to hang out with my youngest friends.  Which translates from Mommy Speak to Adult: I got to hang out with their parents.  I also had a few opportunities to hang out and discuss photography.  This always results in a few things: I’m put in front of the camera, I realize that I do know what I’m talking about, I get to see others’ passion for the craft which always fuels my own, I get to hang out with my friends while talking photography, I get to hang out with friends because of photography, I get to share a few drinks with friends.  You can never type “friends” too often in a blog post.

pals

 

  • I had the privilege of documenting this family’s second birth.  She was so strong and had the birth her way.  It was beautiful.

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  • “What are you doing?!”  “Wait.  Let me get my camera…  O.K. Do it again.  One more time.  Shit.  Are you okay?!”

boys_jumpboys_jump2

  • Finally replaced the front door.  She’s happy and so am I.  Yes, this sounds like an incredibly boring nugget to put in a blog post.  Unless you’ve waited 2 years to replace the piece of shit front door that came with the house.  Just indulge me, Folks.

new_door

  • Had a Spring Break that I will affectionately call Spring Boy Break.  It only took a couple of days to reinforce my belief that I was meant to be a Boy Mom.  My gut wasn’t wrong.  I was meant to be a parent of boys.  Noise levels were always high.  Fake wrestling matches were stopped in time and mud washes out of clothing.   It was good prep for summer.

springBoyBreak

  • Work tossed some surprise travel at me.  I miss the road, so I let the TSA agents frisk me a little longer than normal, brought the rental car employees gifts, and purposely made a mess in a few hotel rooms.  But I’m not a travel photographer.  These are the only frames from Portland, Austin, and Dallas.

travel_photos

  • My camera fell about 5 inches and the mirror box went to shit.  “So you can fix my box?” Some of you will understand why I enjoyed calling the repair shop to ask this juvenile question.  Two years ago being camera-less would have crushed me.  I would have felt incomplete, naked and confused.   Now?  It felt fine.  Not having the constant need to reach for it felt freeing.  I survived.  But by the fifth day, my finger was feeling itchy.

broken_camera

“C’mon.  Get out of the frame!  I’m NOT taking your picture.  I’m taking his!  Knock it off.  This is what I do…  Get out!!”

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  • Our family has two birthdays in April.  Mark celebrated his 40th birthday (no big camera = no pictures  But I wouldn’t have used it anyways, we all know this) and Coop celebrated his.  Mark celebrated with a few close friends and won enough money to pay for the party, a round of drinks, and a few self-bought birthday gifts.  For Coop, we had a party where I didn’t need to clean or cook.  After a long couple of months, this was the best way to spend some cash.  Both Birthday Boys said this year’s birthday was their best yet.  I’m a happy Lady.  And ready for a birthday break…

birthday_wish

Throw in some school events, a few loads of laundry, an almost finished quilt, freezer burritos, a couple awful periods, a stomach bug that camped out in Coop’s gut for a month and you’ve got the entire story.

 

There you’re.

All caught up fast and dirty style.

Hey Summer?!  You’re up.  Be kind to me this year, ok?

  • Janet Vorst Dyer - Great job, Erika.April 28, 2015 – 12:39 pmReplyCancel

10

Ten years ago, I held a 9 pound 1 ounce Teacher with a head full of dark hair and a really good lung capacity.

His first lesson was to teach me to be selfless.  Along the way he also taught me the power of being selfish.  He taught me patience and when to let go.  He proved that all of my laughs and smiles prior to his birth weren’t as full or as big as I had imagined.  He taught me that I didn’t know everything or that I even had a clue about most matters.  He gave me purpose.

He taught me that my heart was no longer protected by skin, bone, goo or even by my stubbornness.

Ten years ago, he placed my heart exactly where it should be.

Forever on my outside.

Unprotected from pain, but more capable of inhaling joy and love.

I’d never put it back even if I could.

Happy birthday, Kid.

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This month was bittersweet for me.  I’m nearing the end of Round 2 and I really wanted a full month of clips.  But that didn’t happen.

Yes, a few missing days won’t matter when the entire year is smooshed.

Yes, I didn’t beat myself up over missing them.

Yes, this month has a lot of tv shots (that’s my height of laziness and forgetfulness).

But the month also had a vacation in it.

It had the first real thaw of the season.

The month had friends in it.

In the end, the month always feels like it has more good days than missing/lazy/forgetful days.

 

One Second a Day :: February – March from Erika Ray on Vimeo.

I’ve already said, “This is my last One Second project for a while.”  When the words slip out, I mean them.  I feel the conviction roll between the spaces and the vowels.

I’m done smooshing.

But every time I watch a month and see our days, I can hear a tiny whisper add a few more words to my conviction.

“…for a while.  I’m done smooshing for a little while.”

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This time of year it seems like every photographer goes through a funky phase.  Maybe it’s because a lot of us are trapped inside.  Or because sessions have wrapped up for Christmas cards and now we want to get back into the field.  Or because we’re fucking sick of being trapped inside…

I don’t know why, I just know it’s clockwork for me.  So I settle in and ignore photography.  Finally, I can’t any longer.  The camera is being very polite and begins to whisper, “Hey Lady…  I’m bored.  Pick me up and diddle me again.”  (Yes, my camera is polite and still likes to be diddled)  So I try to ease in, but the Funk still looms.  She sits a little longer.  “How about you look at old photos?  So and so needs something for an album/blog post/info.  Head to Flickr, Lady and then return to me.  I’ll be ready,” she says in a seductive tone.

And that usually works.  I scroll through years of photos and realize a few things.

  • I’m good at documenting our life.
  • I’m grateful that I’ve documented our life.
  • Life is full of photo ops, I just have to wait and find them.

But this funk didn’t end that way.  This Funk sent me in a different direction.  I sat scrolling through those same years and felt a weird pain.  It wasn’t nostalgia.  Sure, I love seeing the boys full of baby fat and chubby cheeks.  But do I want those years back?  I never have.  During those years did I cling to those moments knowing they were fleeting?  No and I don’t regret that even now.  I didn’t ache for their babyhood or romanticized about simpler times.  They looked simpler, but I know the truth.

This time, the scroll backwards made me yearn for the ease of Photography.  I realized that photography has gotten harder as the boys have aged, but the photos proved how difficult it has actually gotten.   I was given a strong slap across my face and it still stings.  I was given Moments upon Moments to shoot and document.  Blankets of toys.  Tables full of art supplies.  Brightly colored objects.  And bodies full of baby fat and chubby cheeks.  Every second there was something adorable and easy to frame.

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The boys are older.  It’s a fact.  And I’ve always known photography was going to be more difficult.  And I’m standing on that edge right NOW.  I’m looking down and this Funk is whispering awful things for me to jump.  I don’t have a lot of options.  I’m not going to take family sessions just to photograph young children.  It’s not the same thing.  My boys won’t get younger.  I can’t force them into activities for the sake of photography.  Be honest…  Those activities won’t be as precious or as sweet to document.  And I’m not going to have a baby just to save my photography (it did flash for about .5 a second and I actually understand/justify the notion.  I wish I was kidding).

So here I am.  Even though I knew this was going to be part of the journey, it doesn’t make it easier.  There’s no welcome party.  Just a dark and deep crack.  I want to scream back to the other people, “You write about fleeting moments and how the babies grow up so fast?  Fine that’s lovely.  But be grateful for the ease of your photography!!  Get prepared cause you’ll be here soon.”  But I know that’s a bitchy old Lady thing to do.  I’d rather be hip a little longer and not crotchety and bitter.   I know there are tons of women I respect who have crossed to same crevice.  They can give me pointers, but I’ve got to figure out how to navigate it.  My own way.

I’d really like to figure a way around it.  Jumping down isn’t an option yet.  I know on the other side is a life worth documenting.  And I know that I’m good at it.  I know there’s tons of photo ops waiting to be found.  It’s just different from the Life I’m used to documenting.  Different is never bad, it simply starts out as a challenge.  I think it’s time I started to tackle that challenge.  It’s time to evolve.

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I did get sappy just once…

I Fell Down. from Erika Ray on Vimeo.

  • Robin Geer Troxell - sigh – I think I understand where you are coming from. My oldest is 10, she doesn’t play sports or do anything fun – all of my photos of her in the last year are with her head in a book. I LOVE those photos, b/c that is HER right now. But c’mon, gimme something more….. The oldest two don’t love having their picture taken anymore and I don’t want to force it :(March 5, 2015 – 4:16 pmReplyCancel

  • Deirdre Malfatto - Oh yes, I relate. It gets harder and harder as my girls get older. It’s not just that younger kids are so CUTE (I’ve never been much of a portrait artist, so it really wasn’t that so much for me), it’s that we were involved in so many interesting things — crafts projects, frog catching, wildflower gathering, doughnut eating, mentos explosion making, etc., and there was always something to photograph. These days they are around less, and the things we are involved in together don’t tend to be as interesting to photograph. I’m realizing more and more how much I need to go get my own life, and it’s hard. I’m pushing myself to try new things and to “wander” at least once a week even if it’s on my own, just to try to find photographable moments, but part of me wonders how much of a point there is anymore if it doesn’t just come naturally. The other part of me knows I need to get a life anyway, and if it’s photography that’s pushing that, I’m cool with that.March 5, 2015 – 4:31 pmReplyCancel

  • Da Miec - What possible advice can a woman whose latest series is titled “scenes from an existential crisis” give you? This shift is trying on so many unexpected levels, photography Is but one of them. f I were closer, I’d offer whiskey and sympathy, insist you brought your camera.March 5, 2015 – 5:18 pmReplyCancel

  • skeller - yup, ’tis bad timing that your realization and your FUNK are overlapping. Funks are just funks and eventually ease up. Your photography WILL evolve with your family. And your photos will always kick ass. ALWAYS. Here’s the thing. And it’s a simple thing. You just won’t take as many pictures. Older boys (mostly) just don’t have that kind of tolerance. But a photo here and there, so long as you’re quick on the trigger – treat your boys well & respectfully, and they will totally put up with your art.March 5, 2015 – 9:54 pmReplyCancel

    • erika - I knew you’d help. I kept seeing you on the other side of this Crack screaming, “You’ll be fine! Get over here!”March 6, 2015 – 8:50 amReplyCancel

February is always a tough month for me.  I hibernate and not in the cozy way one would assume a bear sleeps off the winter. I drop everything.  No photos.  No sewing.  No real blogging.  I usually pull away from friends because I feel shitty.  Cooking?  Nothing fancy or new.  I just go to the couch and pull the blankets up to my chin.  I wallow in my boredom and spend lots of time boo-hooing things in my head.

But I still shoot my 365 and One Second clips.  I’m not inspired by it or motivated to do more.  For a month it’s an awful chore I do because I made a commitment to the projects.

But I keep going because I know that February thaws and March rolls in with a healthy dose of vigor.

Hello March.  I’m ready for some fun.

I’ve waited patiently for 28 days.  Bring it.

Let’s live like it’s 1 a.m.

One Second a Day :: January – February from Erika Ray on Vimeo.

 

  • always blocks the intersection or driveway.
  • will shave just the few inches that might show when I sit down during a winter business meeting.
  • always has to scooch a little more to get to the end of my Gynecologist’s table.
  • likes the idea of crying at weddings, but never has and probably never will.
  • will sob at ridiculously nerdy CW shows.
  • will pick the same scab over and over again.
  • will make something once just because I can.
  • believes in store-bought pie crust.
  • puts a timer on for video games and then lets it beep for 15 minutes longer.
  • will pop a pimple days before it’s ready even though I know it will result in a shitty pop.
  • dreams of a good pop.
  • doesn’t need a recipe for Grandma’s Spinach Rolls.
  • needs to read the cooking directions for every other bowl of ramen.
  • photographs her days.  Even the boring ones.
  • probably won’t lug her camera to Disney after the first day.
  • doesn’t go easy on my kids while playing board games.
  • never wins graciously.
  •  giggles every time I hear the word, “Box”.
  • feels like I’m cheating death every time I close the garage door and I’m not completely out from under it.
  • doesn’t freak out if a kid vomits all over me.
  • freaks out if they brush their teeth in front of me.
  • won’t play the game.
  • constantly asks, “What’s the point?”
  • still considers herself a Girl.
  • will play the same song again and again and again.
  • will get upset when someone asks to not hear the song for the fourth time.
  • is still learning to say, “I’m sorry” first.
  • knows when to admit she’s wrong.
  • knows she’s right when it counts.
  • is complicated.
  • is not complicated at all.

 

What kind of woman are you?

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And apparently…

I’m the kind of woman who…

  • doesn’t give a shit about taking/sharing Morning self portraits.  

There’s no pressure with Morning SP’s.  It’s the morning.  Deal with it.  

Try it for yourself.  If you’re afraid, go with Black & White.

  • Anonymous - Always thinks THIS will be the snow day that my kids will get along, frolic in the snow long enough for me to take some awesome shots for FB, and be able to get their own boots/shit on and off. And is always disappointed.February 20, 2015 – 9:35 amReplyCancel

  • Stephanie - •Cries during American Idol or The Voice
    •Also during acceptance speeches at award shows
    •Always takes scolding hot showers
    •Moves seats in a movie theater if someone is eating something crunchy
    •Despises people who chew gum
    •Apologizes for unnecessary things (get it from my Momma)
    •Addicted to Instagram
    •Brushes her teeth with her mouth closed (the polite way)
    •Uses emoji’s in text to describe feelings
    •Dislikes when people reply with “K” or “TY” or “HB” just write it out what the fuck?
    •Says “mother fuck” a lot
    •I don’t call my Mother enough
    •I don’t put in the effort to hang out with her either
    •Indecisive when it comes down to where or what to eat
    •Will ask other people what they’re ordering before I order
    •Would like to care more about my cuticles but I don’tFebruary 20, 2015 – 10:16 amReplyCancel

    • Erika - I cry all the time at the speeches. And I feel awful about it for some reason, but I still do…

      And why bother responding at all?! I totally get that frustration.February 20, 2015 – 12:34 pmReplyCancel

  • Erika Ray Photography - … has really dry skin, but forgets to use lotion. And take extremely hot baths. Every. Night.
    … can’t stop itching her super dry legs all winter long.February 20, 2015 – 1:57 pmReplyCancel

  • Cara Noschang - Okay, I’ll play…. I’m the type of girl who…
    – only likes playing games I’m good at, so why am I playing along here? Not sure.
    – gives away too much information all the time, to anyone, even if their not listening.
    – interrupts all the time. Deep, deep down I think my stories are better.
    – is constantly performing small ballet parts; pirouettes and pada bu raes, across the kitchen floor and hundreds of frappes while doing dishes.
    – doesn’t shower every day and hardly ever washes my hair.
    – is masochistic when exercising.
    – says, “I hate these kids”, or “I hate my life”, under my breath at least once a day.
    – is prone to great exaggerating.
    – inserts bull shit figures into everyday conversation. Example: “I remember hearing that the school spent $7,000 on a party.” What? No I didn’t, why did I just say that? Do I come clean or hope no one notices that I’m crazy and I lie? The latter of course.
    – loves to cook but resents having to follow directions.
    – wishes I was a better reader.
    – loves putting on makeup, but hates having to wear it.
    – cleans up well.February 25, 2015 – 10:37 pmReplyCancel

    • Erika - -Too much info and exaggeration is why were good at being friends. It’s also why we shouldn’t talk to strangers at disgusting bars (I have 6 kids. Yes, two sets are twins).
      -Next time you interrupt I’m going to question my story-telling skills…
      -I’m convinced ALL Moms whispers those phrase daily. It’s what I tell myself so I don’t feel awful.February 28, 2015 – 1:44 pmReplyCancel

The second I heard “Risotto in seven minutes”, I was sold.  Hell, you could have renamed the Pressure Cooker to Only Makes Risotto and I would have ordered two.  But thankfully, this kitchen appliance is so much more.

I’m no expert, but I am determined to demystify the appliance so more Cooks enjoy it’s power.  So let’s talk…

 

  • While it is another kitchen appliance, it won’t take up much more room than a stock pot.  I love kitchen appliances.  My basement has a few collecting dust.  Every few months, I’ll dust them off and make some juice/ice cream/tiny amounts of crockpot dip…  But a PC is more than an appliance.  Rice/bean/lightening fast meat/canner/one pot wonder Cooker is probably a better name for the PC.
  • New ones won’t blow up on you.  Or so I’ve been told in every single cookbook I’ve read.  Make sure the seal is in good condition and the valve is working.  If so, cross that big Con off your list.  But read your manual!  Don’t trust me.  Remember I’m not expert.
  • It’s loud.  I’ve been told not as loud as our Grandma’s PC, but it’s still annoying to my family.  I probably wouldn’t use it to cook dinner if we had friends over.
  • I love the dump factor.  There’s browning and sauteing.   But once I pour everything in and lock it up, I’m done.  No more “Is that a rolling boil?  Or Is it a little more than a simmer?”  Nope.  I just wait for the little yellow button to pop.  Because my was owned before, I think my button might stick (I’m probably not cleaning it as well as a regular person and it’s just sticky…)  So when it seems to be spitting more than normal, I run my finger over the button.  It pops and then I turn the heat down to Medium High.
  • When a dish doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.  Once I forgot to lock the pot and burnt black bean soup.  Lock your pot, People.  That night we had cereal and no one was pissed at me.
  • Not everything cooks faster.  First, it has to come to pressure.  Then cook.  And then the pressure must return to normal.  I didn’t take into account the first and last parts of the process.  Dinner was late.  I hate being late.  For Natural Release, I always add at least 15 minutes to the dish.  It usually returns to normal faster than 15 minutes, so it’s like I get a gift.
  • Not everything cooks faster (again), but I think it taste better.  White rice is a great example.  It probably takes the same amount of time, but the difference is mind blowing.  I’m a pretty good cook.  But until the PC, I had clearly screwed up white rice.  It was edible, but was a bland as it’s name suggest.  Every single time I use the PC to make rice, my family praises me.  We eat a lot of white rice now…  I will also have a very difficult time eating canned beans again (these do cook much faster).  Minium soaking time and the beans come out buttery.  Stock?!  Please.  I gave up on making stock because I never found a recipe that had flavor (I’ve made gallons of the homemade stuff).  After using the PC for turkey stock, I finally get why people rely on homemade stock.
  • Things do cook faster!  A whole chicken in about 30 minutes?  Yes.  Bone-in thighs (a favorite in my kitchen) in 15?  Yes.  My normal beans had a 24 hour soak and 6-8 hours in the crock-pot.  Beans in the PC? 40 minutes.  Hell, yes!
  • I love a recipe.  I can’t just throw in a handful of This and a pinch of That.  I need direction.  I’ve found two books that I swear by:
  1. Pressure Perfect -Lorna Sass:  It was recommended by my cousin and I consider it the bible of PC-ing.  She includes basic cooking times for grains, beans, meats, and veggies.  She even includes different cuts of meat for each recipe and the adjusted times.  If you’re going to get one, get this one.
  2. Miss Vickie’s Real Food Real Fast- Vickie Smith:   I don’t need to make squid just because I can.  I doubt my family will eat it.  I simply want to make food my family will eat.  This cookbook has those recipes.

 

Have I convinced you yet?!

Do you have one in your basement?  Find the manual and dust it off.  Make a pot of beans.  Cook a whole chicken.  How about some rice?

Basic White Rice: adapted from “Pressure Perfect”

  • Heat 1 T. of oil or butter in the PC over high heat.  Add 1 C. of long-grain rice.  Lightly coat it.
  • Stir in 1 1/2 C. of water and add 1/2 t. of salt.
  • Lock lid in place.  Over high heat bring to high pressure.
  • Once it reaches pressure (little yellow button pops), reduce slightly to keep pressure.  I turn it down to medium high.  Just a smidge.  Cook for 3 minutes.
  • Remove from heat (I just push it off the burner).  Allow the pressure to come down naturally for 7 minutes and then do a quick release. (ATK said to never do the Run Under Water release, so I don’t.  Plus it’d be cumbersome for me.  I use my quick release button and have never had an issue)
  • Once the button plops down, open lid and fluff.
  • If it’s not tender (I’ve never had this issue), replace the lid and let it steam in the leftover heat for a few more minutes.
  • Ta-da.

But I never make 1 cup of rice.  I alway do 3 C. (I have an 8 qt) of rice, 4 1/4 C. of water, 1 1/2 t. of salt, and 2 T. of oil.  Takes the same amount of time and I freeze what we don’t use.

pressure cooker

See what I mean, by if a normal person cleaned their PC…  It got a good scrub after this photo.

pressure_cookingchili corn bread beer