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!

Monday, November 24, 2008

avoidance therapy

I'm pretty sure I've been suffering from writer's block lately. It's not that the creative juices have dried up or anything. On the contrary, I've been experiencing a kind of creative overdrive. My mind is racing 24/7 with ideas, and my creative juices are dripping all over the carpet. I'm just having a hard time putting together coherent sentences, and maybe I'm a wee bit stressed.

The annual Holiday Sale at Camp Cactus is coming up in a couple of weeks and I've been mired in a thousand tiny details. It involves coordinating about 30 artists (some of whom don't have email or telephones), and organizing everything from assigning vendor codes to scheduling drop off times and postcard mailings. A bit like herding cats, I'd say.

So, here it is-two weeks before the opening, and I'm practicing every avoidance trick in the book. This week is really the last few days I have to work on making my own stuff.

Take a look at my studio:

As you can see, it's a freakin' disaster bit of a mess.

I have a few Tooth Fairies made.

And some handbags in various stages of abandonment completion.

Here are some unfinished Garden Fairies waiting for hair and wings.

And some half done lavender heat packs.

I'm ashamed to admit what the driveway looks like,
but what the heck - take a look:

So I'm stressed. I have a lot to do, and what am I doing?
Practicing avoidance therapy. I'm typing this at midnight, when I should be putting stamps on postcards, or perhaps, sleeping.
Instead, I've been taking pictures to accompany this post, and I may even vacuum or empty the dishwasher, or hey- have you noticed how dusty the walls are?
Gotta go. The dogs need a good, long walk. Catch you later!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

are you cold, or is blue lipstick the new red?

A few weeks ago, when the temperature started to drop into the 40s at night, Dave decided to turn on the heat for the first time this fall. In our neighborhood of Prius-driving, bike commuting, tree hugging, organic master recyclers, turning on the heat before the average daytime temp dips below 40 degrees could be interpreted as a sign of weakness - akin to depositing a ton of carbon directly into the ozone layer over our street.

So every fall, Dave and I have an argument about just how low the temperature in the house should get before we fire up the furnace. I say an ambient temperature of 65 degrees is perfectly acceptable. It's easy to just throw on a sweater and snuggle on the couch with our portable lap warmers, and while I don't have a problem wearing my fingerless gloves indoors, Dave has a hard time staving off hypothermia at temperatures below 68 degrees. To his credit, during the course of these arguments discussions, Dave (perfect gentleman that he is) never points out the obvious differences in our allotments of body fat, or the fact that I occasionally experience (ahem!) hot flashes in the middle of the night that cause me to throw off the blankets and fan myself with the frosty air.

The ritual first lighting of the furnace starts with a thorough hosing down of the expensive filter bought several years ago to cut down on the amount of dust blowing out of the ancient ducts. I also seem to remember some discussion about it supposedly making the furnace work more efficiently, thereby saving money on fuel...never mind that our furnace is at least 40 years old, and efficiency=occasionally making warm air come out through the vents.

Next comes the programming of the thermostat, to gain maximum energy efficiency and savings by not heating the house when we're away, or when we're snug in bed asleep under an extra lofty down comforter (or a somewhat menopausal spouse). The thermostat was a pretty snazzy state of the art piece of equipment when we bought it a few years ago...7 day and night programs to cater to our specific heating needs. So after giving careful consideration to work schedules, sleep schedules, weekends, vacations sick days, and the phases of the moon, Dave gets the thing all set for winter weather.

Everything was fine for a few days. The furnace kicked on early enough in the morning to make the bathroom all warm and toasty by the time we got up to shower. It shut off when Dave left for work and I went out to the studio. It came back on in the late afternoon to heat the house back up to 68 degrees until bedtime. Everything was working smoothly until my hormones started going whacko. (Or so I thought.) I was watching a movie in the living room, when I noticed my cheeks were getting hot. I thought maybe I was having a reaction to the wine I was drinking, when I realized the roar I'd been ignoring in the background was the furnace on full blast. I got up to check the thermostat, which read 88 degrees. I turned it back down to 68 and hit the "run program" button, figuring Dave must have been really cold to turn it up that high.

The next morning I noticed a crowd around the heating vent in the dining room. The heat seekers were drawn there by the high volume of hot air coming from the vent.

Once again, the temperature was set at 88 degrees. I turned it back down to 68. This went on for a few days, each of us turning it down then forgetting to mention it to the other, until one night at 2 am Dave noticed that our bedroom was like a sauna.

The next day he started researching new thermostats, which consisted of walking down the heating aisle of the home improvement store he works at, and picking out a new one...and here it is in all its glory:

It works great, but two weeks later I have one question: Is this the permanent installation?

Sighhh...Looks like we won't be saving any money on our heating bills this year...

Stop by Bossy's place for actual tips on how to save money and get your ass out of debt...

Now excuse me while I go look for some paint and spackle.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I've been out in the studio and away from my computer for a bit. Come on over and see what's up and who's visiting at Camp Cactus! Click right here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

a very wet wednesday

It's a dreary day. Everything is gray and even the colors of the leaves on the ground are murky and somber. My jeans are soggy and the pups are wet after our walk and smelling like...wet dogs. The sky is dark and the wind is blowing outside. It's cozy in the house with all the lights on and a fresh cup of coffee in my hand, but now I have to make a run for the studio and dodge those huge fat raindrops.

Drop by later for a peek at what I'm working on in the studio...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Wishing all those vets out there a peaceful Veterans Day.

England, 1945
My dad is second from left...and I think that's Radar O'Reilly's dad far right.

USS Ranger, Vietnam 1970
That's Dave in the middle.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

thursday's photo

I'm not usually prone to public displays of patriotism, but this week's election has left me feeling particularly proud to be a citizen of this country.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

and there was dancing in the streets

I'd been holding my breath. For a long time. A very long time. Last night I was finally able to exhale, and I can't tell you how good that first breath of fresh air felt.

Watching the election results with our rag tag Obama posse at a friend's house was tense at times. We flipped from CNN to NBC to Comedy Central, trying to get truly fair and balanced coverage.

Sometimes we gathered around the computer, getting results county by county.

Other times we concentrated on more important things, like taking turns cuddling newborn babies. Mostly, we were on the edge of our seats.

And then, at 8:58 PM (PST) it happened. CNN projected that Barack Hussein Obama would be elected the 44th President of the United States of America. The first African American President of the United States of America.

A few minutes later, our good old friend John McCain made a very nice concession speech, praising Obama and his people.

We broke out the Obama cake

We toasted our good fortune and bright future

And then we danced outside in the rain.

Inhale. Exhale. Ahhhh.

take a stand

Have you voted today?

Monday, November 3, 2008

something to consider

Dear Red States:
If you somehow manage to steal this election too, we've decided we're leaving. We intend to form our own country, and we're taking the other Blue States with us. In case you aren't aware, that includes California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and all the Northeast. It may even include Florida and Ohio, as they are seriously considering it. We have given them until November 4th to decide. We believe this split will be beneficial to the nation, and especially to the people of the new country which will be known as Nuevo California. 

To sum up briefly:
You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the former slave states.
We get stem cell research and the best beaches.
You get Dollywood.
We get the Statue of Liberty.
You get WorldCom.
We get Intel, Microsoft and Apple.
You get Ole' Miss.
We get Harvard.
We get 85% of America's venture capital and entrepreneurs.
You get Alabama.
We get two-thirds of the tax revenue.
You get to make the red states pay their fair share.
Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22% lower than the Christian Coalition's, we get a bunch of happy families.
You get a bunch of single moms.

Please be aware that Nuevo California will be pro-choice and anti-war, and we're going to want all our citizens back from Iraq at once. We do wish you success in Iraq , and hope that the WMDs turn up eventually, but we're not willing to spend our resources in Bush's Quagmire.

With the Blue States in hand, we will have firm control of 80% of the country's fresh water, more than 90% of the pineapple and lettuce, 92% of the nation's fresh fruit, 95% of America's quality wines, 90% of all cheese, 90% of the high tech industry, 95% of the corn and soybeans (thanks Iowa!), most of the U.S. low-sulfur coal, all living redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy League and Seven Sister schools plus Stanford, Cal Tech and MIT.

In the Red States, on the other hand, you will have to cope with 88% of all obese Americans (good luck with those projected health care costs), 92% of all U.S. mosquitoes, nearly 100% of the tornadoes, 90% of the hurricanes, 99% of all Southern Baptists, virtually 100% of all televangelists, Rush Limbaugh, Bob Jones University, Clemson and the University of Georgia.

We get Hollywood and Yosemite, thank you.

Additionally, 38% of you in the Red States believe Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale, 62% believe life is sacred unless we're discussing the war, the death penalty or gun laws, 44% say that evolution is only a theory, 53% think that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and 61% of you crazy bastards still believe you are people with higher morals than we lefties.

Finally, we're taking the good pot, too. You can have that dirt weed they grow in Mexico.

Peace out,
--Blue States

Note: I can't claim authorship of this, but I thought it was so great I just had to pass it on!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

the leaf people

Our neighborhood is a place full of giant old trees: elms and big leaf maples, oaks and walnuts and sweet gums, chestnuts and birches and alders (oh my!). Along with all these big, wonderful old trees come huge amounts of leaves.

It's fall, and certain sounds dictate a call to action around here. The sounds of heavy equipment and the buzzing whine of tractor tires zipping over wet pavement makes everybody jump.

The city sends out a battalion of huge dump trucks, water trucks, street sweepers, and tractors outfitted with scoops to pick up the leaves. They're supposed to just be here to take care of the leaves that fall naturally into the streets and clog the sewers, and causing a dangerously slippery surface when wet.

Supposedly, the individual homeowners are responsible for raking and bagging the leaves that fall on their property and the sidewalk. However, when everyone hears the leaf people coming, the phone trees start lighting up from block to block, passing along the message: "they're coming!" Thus begins the mad Sunday morning dash to rake all the leaves into the street before they get to your block.

While people scramble to move their cars, the scoopers zoom down the street, pushing the leaves into giant piles in the intersections.

The dump trucks move in and wait for the scoops to come back and fill them with leaves.

Before long, the water trucks and the street sweepers blow by, scrubbing up the remnants.

Just another quiet Sunday morning in Oregon...