Wednesday, December 31, 2008

my favorite bloggers of 2008

Being the daughter of an editor (Dad) and a teacher (Mom), I know good writing when I read it. So I'd like to present the first annual Camp Cactus Spit Take Award to these five bloggers for their exceptional ability to add laughter to a very serious world.
  • Ms. Tootsie Farklepants, for the post in which she so brilliantly shares a nearly universal fear of performance anxiety when publicly faced with new technology.
  • Bossy, who wrote an exceedingly eloquent explanation of the highly-charged Russia/Georgia conflict.
  • Foolery, for a hysterical yet somehow cautionary tale of the importance of appropriate footwear for herding cows.
  • Derfwad Manor, where Mrs. G, the lady of the house, deserves a medal of honor for this incredibly creative idea.
  • Last, but most definitely not least, Auds at Barking Mad wins the top honor of 2008 for this post outlining the perils of diligent housekeeping. (I'm thinking it may even inspire the government to put warning labels on vacuums.)
I encourage you to click on the links and read the original text of these posts, but be forewarned:


Trust me on this. I'm still wiping coffee off my keyboard.
Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sunday, December 28, 2008

my top ten life lessons of 2008

  1. It's not always about you. Pay attention to how other people fit into the equation.
  2. Be here now. Living in the moment is not the same as being shortsighted. If you're always looking to the future or dwelling in the past, you're missing out on life in real time.
  3. Teach by example. No one likes to be talked down to. 
  4. Keep learning new things.  An old dog can learn new tricks if the motivation is there.
  5. Clean up after yourself.  It will endear you to others, and dovetails nicely with No. 3.
  6. Never trust a dog to watch your food.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

reality check

Dang! It's two days after a beautiful white Christmas, and the harsh reality of winter is setting in.
The temperature's hovering around 45 degrees and side streets which were practically impassable three days ago have transformed into a nasty slushy mess. The freeways are clear, but are now studded with giant potholes, littered with broken tire chains and lined with dirty, coal-colored snowbanks. Ick.
The snow-bound masses are inundating the malls looking for post-holiday bargains, attempting to cure a case of cabin fever with a spending spree. Or maybe it's a heroic attempt to bolster our faltering economy...
I could go on and on in this vein, but that wouldn't do a thing to prolong the Christmas magic. I'd much rather snuggle into a cozy chair with an Irish Coffee and a cat on my lap and watch Miracle on 34th Street. Before settling in, I thought I'd share a few highlights of the season at Camp Cactus.

We had family and friends over on Christmas Eve for a traditional potluck buffet.
There was eating, and drinking and laughing

reindeer antlers and Santa hats,

moments of wonder,

tree decorating,

explaining just who's portrait is on the star at the top of the tree, (Joe Cocker)
some more drinking, wishes made on a yule log and after that,

some family portraits,

followed by a nap before gift wrapping at midnight.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

a cactus christmas

Wishing everyone a very happy holiday season and a new year full of hope, joy and peace!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

All the snow we've gotten lately makes me feel like a little kid again. So I thought I'd share some pictures of snow days past and present here in Portland.

Woo Hoo!

Friday, December 19, 2008

tree hunt

Christmas is my favorite holiday.

We'd been putting off getting a tree for a week or so citing a messy house, recovering from the holiday studio sale, Dave's work schedule, etc... We finally agreed that since Dave had Wednesday off, we'd do it then. He woke up Wednesday with an aching back, and I knew if I didn't just go do it soon, we'd end up with a tree like this:

So I called upon my trusty art camp sidekick and decorating accomplice Liz for help.
She's always up for an adventure, and jumped at the chance. (Plus, I think she was bored because school had been closed for days due to the snowstorm.)

We drove up to our local Methodist Church, where the tree lot was totally deserted but for a few trees and an empty, forlorn trailer. This did not deter Liz, who jumped out of the van and decided we should just pick a tree and slide a check under the door of the trailer. I figured they were working on the honor system, being a church and all.

We marched right over to the trees and considered the prices and sizes for noble firs (the tree of choice in the Northwest) and tried to calculate the size of an eight foot tree based on Liz's height of 5'7", until we noticed the handy measuring stick located next to the trees. Duh.

After careful scrutiny of over one hundred trees one tree, the choice was made.

While I went into the church office to find someone to leave a check with (the trailer door had weatherstripping all around it), Liz stuffed the tree into the back of the van.

We squeezed our cold, wet selves (it was snowing/raining) into the front seats with the fragrant, drippy tree trunk between us and drove slowly back home on the slushy streets.

Let the decorating commence!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

heads up!

I was going to write a quick little post about the weather today, but I got sidetracked just now with some breaking news. Check this out:

Too bad that Iraqi journalist missed. Got to hand it to old Dubya, though. He certainly has quick reflexes. According to the reporter on FOX news, White House press secretary Dana Perrino was also smacked with a microphone (not sure if it was an unrelated incident) and could have a black eye in the morning...

So, on to the weather update: It's snowing, and I thought I'd take the pups out and attempt a Christmas card photo shoot.

Abbie was very cooperative.

And so was Cooper.

We're gonna have to work on the reindeer idea, though.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

prompt tuesday #34

It's PROMPTuesday at San Diego Momma's, and her assignment for today is to write a holiday limerick... my favorite kind of poetry. I'll try to keep it clean. Here goes:

There was a young reindeer named Rudolph
whose bright nose was a TEAM SANTA turnoff.
Till thick fog Christmas Eve
led the Team to believe
in a brilliant schnoz-guided sleigh takeoff.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The holidays don't officially start for me until I've viewed the first Christmas movie of the season. In years past, it's been "A Christmas Story", or "Miracle on 34th Street"or "It's a Wonderful Life". This year I kicked it off by catching the classic, "White Christmas" the other night. I love Danny Kaye, Bing Crosby, Vera Ellen and of course, George Clooney's Aunt Rosemary. The singing! The dancing! The corny plot and sappy, snappy Irving Berlin tunes! It just doesn't get much better than that.

The thing in this movie I marvel about every year though, is the uncanny resemblance of actress Vera Ellen to one of the most popular icons of American childhood.

Who does she remind you of?

Stay tuned for a scholarly comparison of "It's A Wonderful Life", and "A Christmas Carol"...but in the meantime, here's a tune you'll be singing for days:

Thursday, December 4, 2008

here's the winner....

And the Give-Away Day winner is:

Congratulations, Rachael! Drop me an email with your address and I'll mail your little shrine out on Monday!

Thanks to everyone for participating...Here's wishing you all a peaceful, prosperous, happy and healthy holiday season!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

today's the day!

Thanks to everyone who left comments...My team of  impartial judges will be picking the winner this morning, and I'll announce who won later today. Good luck everyone, and Happy Holidays!

I'm a firm believer in the notion that 'tis better to give than to receive, so I've jumped on Sew Mama Sew's Give-Away Day, 2008 bandwagon. Artists all over the blogosphere will be offering up their beautiful handmade goods in a gesture of peace on earth and goodwill to all.

So, here's my contribution:

"love nest"

it's a little mixed media shrine to love and home, made of natural materials and found objects.

here's a closer look:

(no parakeets were harmed in the making of this shrine)

I found the the tiny little heart rock in a delivery of 6,000 pounds of pea gravel delivered to my house last summer. It's about the size of my pinky fingernail...

So, now for the rules:
  1. Leave a comment on this blog by 12 midnight, Pacific Time, December 3rd
  2. One comment per person, please...this is not a Pioneer Woman giveaway!
  3. Include a link to your blog in your comment.
  4. If you're not a blogger, please let me know how I can contact you in the event that you're chosen.
  5. My team of impartial observers (see photo below) will choose the winner's name from a large food bowl, and I will attempt to extract it before it's swallowed.

I'll announce the winner on Thursday, December 4th, and I'll ship it to you anywhere in the world next Monday, December 8th.
Good Luck!

And after you're done commenting, pop on over to Camp Cactus, where you can check out more lovely handmade items filling up the studio for our group Holiday Sale this weekend!
See ya...

Monday, December 1, 2008

all right, who pushed the panic button?

I'm out in the studio today and tomorrow, checking in art for our annual Holiday Sale. We've got over 30 artists this time, and I'm totally worried about where I'll put them all!

art print by hadley hutton

Click on over to Camp Cactus and see who's there!

Friday, November 28, 2008

buy nothing day

Today is known in retail as "Black Friday", the day retailers customarily start jacking up the holiday buying frenzy with fevered sales pitches and early bird specials. Most stores open the day after Thanksgiving at about 5:00 am, some as early as 1:00 am. In many places people camp out in parking lots at the mall in order to be first in line to buy a Wii, Gameboy, plasma TV or the latest gadget they're sure they cannot live without, at rock bottom prices.

People get cranky, nasty and even violent sometimes in the greedy rush for more, more, more!

Not me, baby. I stay as far away from stores as I possibly can today.

Black Friday is also known in some more subversive circles as "Buy Nothing Day", a concept started 17 years ago by Adbusters magazine to shed light on the American drive to consume, consume, consume.

So, do what I'm doing today...having a cup of coffee and a slice of pumpkin pie, visiting with friends, making stuff in the studio, and letting my credit cards cool down.

In fact, stay tuned. On December 3rd I'll be participating in Give Away Day...I'll be giving away handmade items to two lucky readers.

Happy Buy Nothing Day!

first three photos courtesy of Reuters
all others courtesy of

Thursday, November 27, 2008

the camp cactus kitchen hotline

Because one or another of my kids is always calling me for cooking advice, it occurred to me awhile ago that I should try and put together some family recipes for them.

I don't remember paying a lot of attention to cooking when I was young, although I did learn how to make meatballs and my mother's marinara sauce, as well as one or two recipes that were important to me growing up.

When my mom died, my dad took over the cooking. He was always coming up with interesting takes on soups and stews or casseroles he could leave in a warm oven or on the stove for supper. He worked the swing shift, and was already at work when my sister and I got home from school.

I left home a couple of years later and had to start cooking for myself pretty early on. My first Thanksgiving on my own I was staying in a house with no electricity, but somehow managed to cook a turkey and all the trimmings on the gas stove. My boyfriend had his mother's old copy of The Joy of Cooking, and I followed the instructions on how to roast a turkey to the letter. I still do my turkeys that way thirty years later.

Over the years I started keeping notebooks (I love notebooks!) of favorite recipes like this one:

This is one of my dad's recipes:

And this all important one from Dave's mom:

I'm tellin' you, you just can't go wrong with Cream of Anything soup, cheese, and crushed corn flakes...

I thought maybe I'd write some of these out in notebooks for Matt and Caitie, but in the meantime I figured I'd post some here, a la Pioneer Woman...but without the fancy kitchen with stainless steel island and huge skylights.

Let's start with what I've been assigned to cook for Thanksgiving dinner across the street:

Carrot Ginger Soup

3-4lbs peeled carrots
1/2 yellow onion (but it's also great with sweet onions like Vidalia or Walla Walla)
1 large orange
a thumb-sized hunk of fresh ginger, peeled
4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
whole milk (about 3 cups)
3 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs butter
Old Bay seasoning to taste
a few sprigs of lemon thyme (or regular thyme) for garnish

1. Slice the carrots and dice the onions.

2. Melt the butter and add the olive oil. Throw in the onions and let 'em sweat on medium heat until soft and translucent.

3. Grate the ginger, and add to the pot with the carrots and let it all cook for a few minutes.

4. Sprinkle liberally with Old Bay Seasoning to taste.

5. Pour in the stock (enough to cover the carrots), and squeeze in the juice of the orange.

6. Simmer on low heat for about 40 minutes, or until the carrots are soft and sweet.

7. Pour in the milk and simmer for a few more minutes, keeping it below a boil.

8. Blend it until smooth and silky, either with a hand blender or transfer in batches to a regular blender or food processor. Thin with more milk if necessary, and adjust seasonings. (You can also add some grated orange zest at this point) Warm it up to a simmer again.

9. Ladle into bowls and garnish with a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream and a sprig of thyme.

Happy Thanksgiving from Camp Cactus!