Thursday, October 30, 2008

a milestone of sorts...

I just realized that this is my 100th post. (Cue the balloons and confetti, please.) Seems like I should be doing or writing something special to commemorate it, but to tell you the truth, it kind of snuck up on me. So I thought maybe some interesting Halloween pictures would be good.

This house is on our regular dog-walking route, and gets into Halloween in a big way. Of course the spooky gothic architecture naturally lends itself to this holiday more than the average ranch style house does.

Last night, Dave and I went to a pottery sale at Lonesomeville, a creative and magical place that never ceases to inspire me. Their house, a hundred year old victorian farmhouse and studio is nestled on an acre of gardens smack dab in the middle of SE Portland. There were probably a hundred jack-o-lanterns lit up in the yard and on the porch.

And there were towering effigies made of sticks and twigs topped with pumpkin heads looming over the garden beds. It was all so cool, I wanted to run right home and build a few myself.

Since it's now the day before Halloween, I don't think I'll get to it this year. I haven't even carved my poor little pumpkin yet. Now that Caitie's moved 1,000 miles away, I don't have anyone to help me decorate. (Holiday decorating really isn't Dave's or Matt's thing)

At least I managed to get a few decorations Lamont Cranston, (aka The Shadow) a silhouette I cut out for the living room window. I'm all stocked up on candy, and maybe I'll scatter a severed leg or two around the yard before tomorrow night. So if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go carve that pumpkin now. Bwahahahahah!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

a chicken in every (crock) pot, continued...

The other day I decided to conduct an experiment to find out just how many meals I could get out of a three dollar and seventy-five cent chicken.
The tally so far?
  • Meal No. 1: Roast chicken for two
  • Meal No. 2: Chicken Pot Pie for two
  • Two quarts of stock
  • Breakfast for three cats and two dogs (leftover bits from making stock)
  • Meal No. 3: Chicken Pot Pie (lunch) for two
That brings us to Monday night, and a truly desperate inspired use of leftover chicken (if I do say so myself).

I chopped half an onion and a handful of cherry tomatoes from the garden and sauteed them in olive oil. Then I added the meat from the chicken legs, a can of Cuban style black beans, the last of the salsa, and the tail end of a bag of frozen corn. I seasoned liberally with chives, cilantro, cumin and chipotle chile flakes...Are you beginning to sense a trend here?

I had already put some rice on to cook, using some of the chicken stock and a few more spices, like chili powder and cumin and...(no, not coriander!) a few threads of saffron, which even though it doesn't start with a "C", is very tasty.

Then I fried up a batch of corn tortilla chips in canola oil...

and threw together a simple salad with lettuce from the garden, topped with dried cranberries.

Meal No. 4

It was pretty tasty and...colorful. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)
And here's the latest tally:
  • Meal No. 1: Roast chicken (dinner) for two
  • Meal No. 2: Chicken Pot Pie (dinner) for two
  • Two quarts of stock
  • Breakfast for three cats and two dogs (leftover bits from making stock)
  • Meal No. 3: Chicken Pot Pie (lunch) for two
  • Meal No. 4: Cuban Chicken & Rice (dinner) for two
  • Meal No. 5: Cuban Chicken & Rice (lunch) for two
  • Meal No. 6: Chicken Pot Pie (dinner) for two
I don't know about you, but I'm getting kind of tired of cooking, looking at, writing about and photographing chicken...There's one slice of pie left. Maybe Dave will eat it.
I'll let you know what I do with the rest of the stock, but not for awhile-I promise.

Now click over to Bossy's...where she's gone on a crash cash diet.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I am.

Here's my first effort for Prompt Tuesday, from San Diego Mama's blog.

The prompt:
This week, tell us who you are, what’s inside, where you’re from. Share your memory fragments, those visions in your head, those figments that make you, you. What bits and pieces formed your whole? Are you whole? Tell us.

I am from writers and teachers and musicians.

I am from New Deal Democrats and Union members.

I am from pasta, potatoes and bread.

I am from tragedy and comedy.

I am from nurturing and abandonment.

I am from argument and debate.

I am from creativity and productivity.

I am from loving all creatures, great and small.

I am from redwoods and mountains and fog.

I am from subways and sidewalks.

I am from strength and patience and stillness.

I am from wit and laughter and silliness.

I am from two coasts, left and right; a dichotomy.

I am the camera, random images captured and stored.

I am the sun and you are the moon.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

a chicken in every (crock) pot

The economy is in the toilet. Let's face it: the world is goin' to hell in a handbasket, and the results of the looming presidential election could signal either a journey into a brighter future or a long dark march into chaos.

Food prices are skyrocketing. Everybody's hunkering down for what could be a very long winter. A few of my neighbors have yet to turn on the heat, and everyone I know is cutting back wherever they can.

It's a been a challenge to stay positive lately, but I'm determined to do my best to conserve resources, and reduce waste.

So this week I'm seeing how far I can stretch a whole chicken, and I'll keep you posted as I go along.

Saturday, I bought a whole chicken for $3.75. It was a small one, but since there are only two of us living here at the moment, I didn't want to commit to anything bigger. I thought I'd try roasting it, and decided to see how the beer can method worked in a regular oven instead of on the grill. I stuck it over a can filled halfway with orange juice (we're out of beer), slathered it with a dry rub consisting of paprika, kosher salt, brown sugar and black pepper, put it in a roasting pan and threw in some chopped potatoes, carrots and not so fresh cauliflower tossed with herbs from the garden and olive oil. Roasted at 400 degrees for about an hour and 15 minutes. Pretty easy.

Meal #1

After dinner, I stripped off all the meat and dumped the body/ carcass/remains (sorry, but those other words just give me the willies) into the crockpot with half an old onion, a fairly decrepit and definitely past its prime leek, some limp celery and a couple of elderly carrots, then covered it with water and left it overnight to simmer.

A chicken in my crockpot

I love my crockpot! The next morning the house smelled like my grandmother had been up all night making me chicken soup. I let it cool a bit, then strained off all the solid bits with a colander. The kitties and the pups got a treat with their breakfast (does that count as a meal?).
After skimming off the fat and straining it again through a fine mesh, I poured the lovely golden liquid into jars and froze it for safekeeping. (Any bets on whether I'll remember it's in there?)


Last night we had chicken pot pie, easy comfort food. I say it's easy, because I cheat. My pie crust making skill is legendary - meaning I'm so bad at it, I gave up trying to make it from scratch long ago. Pillsbury does it best, in my opinion. Hey, I made my own chicken stock...that counts for something, doesn't it? Anyway, I'll post my pie recipe later if anyone wants it. Just leave a comment.

Meal #2

The pot pie will probably be meals #3, 4 and 5. There's still quite a bit more chicken in the fridge. I'm sensing tacos or enchiladas in our future, along with a stir fry or two...I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, check out Bossy's latest poverty post, where she cooks up the entire contents of her kitchen.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

poverty post: a former barista cuts back

A long time ago, when we first moved to Oregon, we were both unemployed for awhile. We'd built a small but thriving graphics business in San Francisco, but made the move to Portland in order to raise our kids in a somewhat kinder, gentler environment. I think we may have overestimated how easy it would be to resurrect our business in a new town, in a new state where nobody knew us...We were both unemployed for the better part of a year before I finally found a job.

This was at the very beginning of the great espresso explosion here in the Northwest, and Starbucks had just begun its march to take over the world. They offered health care, vacation benefits and flexible hours, but ultimately it was the offer of a free pound of coffee per week, and all the caffeine you could drink that sold me on the place.

Personally, I preferred Peet's french roast, but you have to admit that free is a very good price.
It was a very happy place to work, even though the early morning shift could get ugly if we didn't keep the lines moving quickly. All in all though, even the nastiest customers tended to sigh and give a contented little smile after that first sip of their double-tall-nonfat-extra whip-mocha.

I worked there for a year or so, until I started getting freelance work again, but remained a loyal customer even when coffee prices went through the roof.

I'm sure right about now you're wondering where the heck this post is going...apart from wandering aimlessly down memory lane, that is. I'll get to it.

Fast forward a few years, to 2008. Walking the dogs up to our local Starbucks a couple of times a week to sit outside and sip some coffee has been a small luxury we've allowed ourselves for awhile. Lately though, times have been tough. Dave's only recently gone back to work part time after being sidelined by a job-related shoulder injury for the better part of a year, and the recession has hit freelance artists like me pretty hard. So it's time to cut back. We haven't been to Starbucks in a couple of weeks, and I'm going through serious mocha withdrawal at the moment.
So here's how I've been calming the cravings since I can't afford the good stuff at the moment.

Step one: Put 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 spoonfuls of hot cocoa mix in a cup.

Step two: Pour in hot coffee (or in my case, make a cup, brewing right into the cup)

Step three: stir thoroughly, then pour in half and half, and stir again.

Step four: take a sip, smile contentedly, and pat yourself on the back. You've just easily saved yourself about $2.50, and you didn't have to leave the house!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

one day at a time

A couple of weeks ago Mrs. G over at Derfwad Manor asked her readers to join her in sharing their photo essays of a typical day in their lives. As usual, I'm late to the party...but I've decided to crash it anyway.

So, here's a typical day at Camp Cactus, compiled over the course of a week... because I'm lazy.

Morning again. Wasn't it just morning yesterday?
The dogs are barking at the back door to go out. Maizy the fat kitty is in the kitchen meowing at the top of her lungs, trying to summon breakfast. Dave and I bury our heads under the blankets, feigning sleep, gambling on who can hold out the longest. Today, I lose. I stumble out of bed and down the stairs, climbing over the baby gate, where the pups are waiting for me on the landing, tails wagging furiously back and forth, threatening to knock me down the stairs.

I let them out and head for the kitchen, where the feline contingent awaits their breakfast...

We have finicky eaters around here...everyone must eat in their own spot, on two different floors. Cats eat first. Maizy in the kitchen, Mr. Chubbs in the upstairs hallway, and Frisco has a spot in the upstairs bathroom. Up and down the stairs I go, then I let the dogs back in and feed Abbie in the kitchen, and Cooper in the front hall. I collect the morning paper from the porch, putting the rubber band on the giant ball in the front hall (I'm a little behind on that chore.)

I've been reading the morning newspaper since, well, since I learned to read in kindergarten. My dad was a newspaperman, an editor, and when I was little, reading the newspaper was what you did in the morning. And on Sundays? Fuhgeddaboutit! We got the New York Times, the Daily News, and the Long Island Press. On Sundays there was a lot of reading going on.

But back to my morning...I put the water on for coffee, and peruse the headlines.

Once the coffee's made and I've read the comics, I check my email and read blogs drink more coffee.

If I don't have to go to work anywhere, I go upstairs and take a shower, then read blogs get dressed and walk the dogs for a mile or so before heading out to my studio. This morning I had to go to a job...

...painting a sign on a building with my compadre, Elissa. (You can read about the sign painting in progress here.) As I was loading up the van to leave for my painting job, I discovered a sick squirrel in the front yard. He (or she) was a young one, possibly one of the now-adolescent offspring of the mama squirrel who lives in our walnut tree out front. I called Dave, and he got his heavy leather gloves on and picked it up and put it gently in the hollow of the tree. We figured he was probably a goner, but neither one of us could bear the thought of leaving him in the grass to get tortured by either one of ours or another neighborhood cat. At least this way he could pass away in peace.

Poor little guy. He didn't make it through the day. When I got home in the afternoon his furry little tail was hanging out in the same place we'd left him, and his siblings were climbing in and out of the hole as if they were checking on him. I took him out of the tree and buried him on the side yard, planting a hosta over his little plot, and saying a prayer of thanks to St. Francis of Assisi for a peaceful ending to his short life.

Then it was time to go for another walk, make some pizza for dinner

and watch the debate.

Hoo, boy...what a day!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

sweet autumn days

That's it.

Summer's definitely over. I've been working outside the past few days, and when you're outside in chilly weather for awhile you really notice the weather's not so balmy anymore.

Not long ago I drove out to see some friends who own Brick House Vineyards in Newberg, Oregon. Doug makes some of the finest Pinot Noir in the world (I'm saying some of the finest, because I'm not a wine expert but I do know what I like), and he and Melissa are unreservedly committed to organic and sustainable farming. It's like a little slice of heaven for us and the dogs when we can get out there for a visit.

Not only were the grapes ripe, but the blackberries surrounding the vineyard were the sweetest and juiciest I've had in ages. I'm sure the blackberry wine is already in the works.

Barrels of the 2007 vintage were stacked in the driveway, awaiting bottling.

I try not to forget to bring a camera with me.

Cooper doesn't often get to sit still when we're out in the country.

Neither does Abbie. She's got gophers to catch.

...and Cooper to chase.

It's so peaceful.

There are always canine companions to walk the vineyard with...three Brick House dogs and my two Camp Cactus dogs, and sometimes one or two other visiting pups make up quite a pack...The vineyard crew has unofficially nicknamed the place "Casa del perro" (Dog House).
If this is what it means when they say "the world is going to the dogs", I'm cool with that!

Monday, October 13, 2008

get out of debt in one easy step (or not)

Bossy's throwing a poverty party over at her place, and she's invited everyone to join in. 
Here's my tip for the week: Take your last two bucks, and feed them gently into the lottery machine, while chanting quietly: "I'm a winner. I'm a winner. I'm a winner." 

Sigh...I said WINNER, not WHINER.
Maybe next week?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

an autumn sunday evening

Sitting outside at dusk on the deck, an autumn chill in the night air. We're relaxed, so relaxed finally...a glass of wine in hand, a fire glowing in the chimenea, and two faithful labradors at our feet. What more could we possibly need?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

he is NOT your friend

The carefully modulated voice, designed to soothe, invoking memories of a soft spoken grandfatherly figure who knows best. The use of the term,"my friends" a total of 22 times in 90 minutes. The utilization of fear of the unknown to rally our patriotism. Patronizing to the point of embarrassment.

He cannot say for sure he will be able to bring our troops back with honor and victory. No one knows that.
But yet he says it.

He also says: "I know how to get Osama Bin Laden, my friends." (what's up with that?) "I'll get him. I know how to get him, no matter what, and I know how to do it."(If you know how to do it, then what the f***k are you waiting for?)

Patriot, schmatriot.

John McCain still believes that all our foreign policy problems can be solved with the philosophy of talking softly, but carrying a big stick...y'know, just in case those foreigners don't behave the way we think they should.

Obama clearly speaks from his heart, but more importantly, he speaks from an intelligent place in his heart and expects us to rise to the occasion. To learn about what we may not understand. To do the right thing.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

wink wink, nudge nudge...

I've been trying for weeks now to wrap my brain around the Sarah Palin nomination, but no matter how hard I try, gosh darn it, I just can't for the life of me figure out why John McCain would choose as his running mate a rookie governor with almost no real world experience outside of Alaska.

Is it possible that serving as mayor of a small town (pop. 9,000) and briefly as governor of a state whose entire population is smaller than Charlotte, NC gives her a unique perspective among politicians?

Perhaps being geographically situated next door to Canada gives her all the foreign policy experience required by an assistant Commander in Chief?

Or could it be that McCain is thinking a Vice President with good aim who can field dress a moose just might come in handy in case of trouble with the Democratic House and Senate?

It just doesn't make sense. Unless McCain has suddenly developed a case of dementia, I reckon it's all just a big mistake. So after consuming several glasses of wine and surfing the internet for hours, I've come to the conclusion that this must be what happened: Sometime in August after a very long day on the campaign trail, John McCain sits down in front of the TV to enjoy a large bowl of wife Cindy's famous Passion Fruit Mousse (an old McCain family recipe). With a mouth full of mousse, the maverick senator yells at his campaign manager to "Get me Palin!" His trusty campaign manager then kicks turns to a nearby aide and yells, "You heard him, he wants Palin!". The aide in turn, bitch slaps an unpaid intern mucking the horseshit out of McCain's closet, and tells him "The Senator's eating mousse. He wants Palin. Get him Palin!"

This particular intern, still smarting after an unfortunate incident involving recipe research, sees his chance to get back into McCain's good graces. He now understands the importance of fieldwork in politics, and is determined to complete this task with the utmost professionalism and meticulous attention to detail. Upon careful analysis of the aide's order, he googles "Palin, moose", and concludes that the senator wished to discuss the campaign ticket with Alaska's Governor Sarah Palin (moose hunter and hockey mom). He calls the press secretary, who leaks the news to the press, who then descend upon Wasilla in helicopters like bounty hunters going after wolves.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...the maverick senator is still waiting for the Monty Python video he asked for.


And now for something completely different.

Friday, October 3, 2008

title waves

Magpie Musing got me running off on a tangent this afternoon, when I really should have been working. Now I just want to take my camera over to the library!

Check out this site and this one for more sorted books.

I'm hooked! How about you?