Solar open house

OK … I am beyond excited about this: We are participating in a solar open house event here in Tulsa on Nov. 10. I’m a teensy bit overwhelmed (I have a lot on my plate in the next couple of weeks, and I’m not sure just exactly how I’m going to finish up the mural, repaint the hall — which desperately needs it — and give the house a top-to-bottom cleaning like it needs between now and then), but I’m really excited about letting our house serve one of its many purposes, which is to be a real-life example of how to live comfortably in an environmentally friendly manner.

Here’s the announcement I posted on our House of the Lifted Lorax blog tonight:

If you’ll be in the Tulsa area on Nov. 10 and need something interesting to do with your afternoon, local alt-power guru John Miggins of Harvest Solar and Wind Power is putting together a solar open house.

The event, which will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, will include visits to John’s office on Utica; a sustainable house that Frank Palmeri is building in Brookside; and, of course, the House of the Lifted Lorax.

I’m not sure exactly what John and Frank are planning at their places, but Ron and I intend to provide a guided tour of our house and backyard; a handy-dandy flier explaining all the stuff we’ve done to reduce our environmental footprint; eco-friendly snacks (including homemade salsa made from homegrown organic tomatoes and peppers, a batch of cookies made with honey and eggs produced in our backyard, and — if the weather is cool enough that day — hot tea and cider made right on top of the woodstove); and photo ops with the Lorax himself, who graces the mural on our garage.

We’ll try to answer all your questions about our efforts to reduce our environmental footprint … and if we don’t know the answer, we’ll be happy to make something up. 😉

Hope to see some of you on Nov. 10!


Guilty pleasure

The Blue Thumb folks would have my head for this, but after 16 years of refusing to wash a car for any reason other than increasing the vehicle’s value on trade-in day, I have fallen hopelessly in love with my local car wash.

I know that’s terrible, and that I ought to be washing the car over grass, with an old rag and a bucket of biodegradable castile-soap suds, but I can’t help it — I freakin’ love the car wash.

It all started innocently enough.

I took the Starlight Express to the car wash on Southwest Boulevard (a.k.a. Route 66) one afternoon a few weeks ago to vacuum the dog hair off the upholstery before I gave someone a ride to church. I had a handful of quarters left when I finished, and the car’s exterior was pretty dirty, so I decided to pull into one of the bays and hose it off while I was there.

I’ve never been a big fan of those automatic drive-through car washes. There’s just something vaguely unnerving about being trapped in the car in a little building with big cascades of water and giant brushes and enormous rollers bombarding you from all directions. But I have several fond memories of the hose-it-off-yourself kind of car wash.

Mom used to take me along when she washed the car when I was little, and I always thought it was cool to sit inside and watch the water hit the windows. Twenty years later, when Ron and I got married, my little brother and his best friend decorated Ron’s car in honor of the occasion. Ron eventually got tired of driving around with “WAY TO GO, RON! GIT ‘ER DONE!” all over the windows, so a day and a half into our honeymoon, he declared the graffiti a safety hazard and drove us to a car wash to hose it off. To this day, every time I see a car wash, I smile, remembering our honeymoon and Oliver and Aaron’s handiwork.

But it’s not just the memories. There is something innately fun about going to the car wash. I don’t know why. Washing a car with a bucket and a hose isn’t fun. But the power washer? That’s a whole ‘nother matter.

Maybe it has something to do with my Tim Allen-like affinity for power tools. Maybe it’s the fact that in this age of automatic car washes at every gas station, the self-operated car wash feels like a connection to another time. Maybe it’s just the realization that I’m doing something Mom did when I was little bitty, which is sort of an affirmation that I am, in fact, a grownup. (I had lofty aspirations when I was little, but my fondest dream was just to be a grownup.) Or maybe it’s just that I’m a hopeless nerd who finds happiness in really stupid places.

Whatever it is, it’s become one of my favorite guilty pleasures … right up there with Gretchen and deep-fried ribs.


Extra-strength healing

I’ve heard people talk about being healed of a long-term or recurring illness and not realizing it for several months, but I never really understood how that could be. How do you not notice that you’re not having a problem that’s bugged you for years? It sounded crazy, and I think I always wondered if maybe those folks weren’t just a little bit daft.

If they are, I guess I must be, too … as I found out today.

About a year and a half ago, I had to delay finishing a project for a nonprofit organization because of a severe headache — not an everyday occurrence, but not uncommon for me at the time, either.

I was only a day or so late with the project, but the deadline was tight enough that I felt obligated to explain my tardiness to a friend I’d been working with on this project. She was very sympathetic, as she also suffered from frequent headaches, and she asked what I’d taken to recover so quickly.

I explained that as a Christian Scientist, I didn’t take any medicine, but that I’d gotten used to calling a practitioner for quick healing any time I had a headache. For some reason, it hadn’t occurred to me at the time that I didn’t have to put up with recurring headaches — even if they responded quickly to treatment. Somehow I’d never thought about the fact that I had a right to be free of these headaches once and for all.

In fact, that thought didn’t occur to me until today, when my friend e-mailed me to discuss a project we were working on and happened to ask how I was doing with those headaches.

I hadn’t even thought about it in months, but I suddenly realized that I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I’d been flattened by one of those awful headaches. Like the people I’d wondered about in the past, I’d been healed so naturally and so completely that I didn’t even notice when it happened — I just got better and stayed that way.

What a wonderful feeling.


100 miles of MIO

I was looking at my blog stats today, and I noticed an incoming link from a site called Rise Up Buffalo. I clicked the link to find a Buffalo, N.Y.-based blog devoted to community activism, environmental responsibility, and various other crunchy-granola-type issues near and dear to my heart.

One interesting thing I found on Rise Up Buffalo was a link to the 100-Mile Diet, a site run by Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon, who spent a year eating nothing but food that was produced within 100 miles of their home in Vancouver, B.C. The site is designed to help people reduce their dependence on food that’s been shipped in from who-knows-where and increase their support of local farmers.

Their adventures in thinking globally and eating locally reminded me of Judith Levine, who spent a year buying nothing except absolute essentials; Heather Hughes and Hanson Hosein, who shopped indie all the way across the United States while filming a documentary about the plight of the small business owner, and my own monthlong foray into shopping locally, which eventually led to the creation of my Indie Tulsa blog.

Although my all-indie-all-the-time experiment lasted only a month, it was relatively painless, and while I’ve gotten lazy and gone back to the big boxes more than I’d like to admit since then, it definitely raised my awareness and increased the amount of time and money I spend at locally owned businesses.

After a frustrating conversation last week with a friend who couldn’t understand why I refuse to shop at Wal-Mart and an eerie Big-Brother-is-watching-you experience at Target (after I paid for my purchases with my Target Visa card, I received a coupon for my favorite brand of conditioner, even though I hadn’t bought any that day, so apparently Target is keeping tabs on my hair-care procedures), I’m thinking maybe it’s time to take another stand against mindless consumerism and move another step closer to an all-indie lifestyle.

My schedule and other commitments don’t really allow me the luxury of cooking every meal at home for an entire year (and, frankly, it would break my heart to abandon the mom-and-pop diner scene for that long), but with a little planning, there’s no reason I can’t buy all my groceries at farmers’ markets or Center One (CAUTION: Music starts automatically), insist on Made In Oklahoma products whenever possible, and confine my shopping to mom-and-pop operations as far as I can.

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.


Hmmm …

Here are some of the things I have been listening to this evening as I work on the StreetCats newsletter:

Louis Armstrong, the Dead, Barbra Streisand, the Sex Pistols, Janis Joplin, Ray Charles, Hank III, KT Tunstall, and the original French version of the Les Mis soundtrack.

God bless Steve Jobs….


Mexican soul food

I defied convention this evening and marked our first really chilly day with a trip to my favorite Mexican grocery store — the little one attached to Las Americas taqueria on Third Street — to pick up a pound of tripe and a can of hominy so I could try my hand at making menudo.

I’d eaten menudo once at a restaurant here in town. The owner happened to be sitting nearby and struck up a conversation, in which I learned that menudo — like most Mexican food — lends itself well to improvisation.

I love to improvise in the kitchen, and I was pretty happy with the results of my first riff on menudo. Here’s the recipe, in case you’re interested:

A little bacon grease
One white onion, sliced
Six cayenne peppers, chopped (OK to substitute a different kind — cayenne was just what I had in the garden)
Two cloves of elephant garlic, chopped
About a pound of tripe
About a pound of calves’ feet
Cumin to taste
Chili powder to taste
Black pepper to taste
Dried oregano
Big can of hominy

Saute onion in bacon grease (OK to use butter instead). Add peppers and garlic and cook for a few seconds. Cut tripe into bite-sized pieces and add it to the pan, along with the feet and a couple of quarts of water. Stir in spices and simmer for an hour or so. Add hominy and simmer another hour. Serve with hot sauce, lime wedges, and warm tortillas. Makes a nice way to warm up on a chilly night.

Hope you’re staying warm and dry on this cold, rainy evening.


Adaptive reuse

So I’m at an antique store in an old service station on Route 66 in Warwick when I notice a very dirty, somewhat rickety Marx Colonial metal dollhouse on a pile of items being liquidated at garage-sale prices.

I’ve been drifting in and out of antique stores for several weeks, hoping to find an interesting shelf, cabinet, crate, or other item to use as a spice rack. After looking at the dollhouse for a minute and trying to think of some legitimate excuse for bringing it home, I decided its spacious rooms made it a prime candidate for adaptive reuse.

All I need are a couple of shelf brackets and some elbow grease, and I’ll have the coolest spice rack in Red Fork.

Not bad for 50 cents. 🙂


What bwings us togevah

I still need to burn a CD, but I’ve gotten Ashlie’s photos sorted and Photoshopped and turned a few of them into a Soundslides show. Click here to see it … or, if your computer chokes on bells and whistles, just scroll down to see a few of my favorite images from the wedding.


I usually try to avoid backlighting, but this shot and the one below were both too striking to pass up.



I broke all kinds of rules today. I almost never shoot portraits from below the subject’s eye level, because they tend to be unflattering, but this is one of those, “Aw, what the heck” shots that I got while I was trying something else, and it wound up working way better than it had any right to.


Ashlie and her mom.


Ashlie and her sister.


Ashlie and Kevin share a tender moment under a pretty breezeway.


I love this cake topper. They also used a beautiful miniature replica of a Marine sword to cut the cake, which has to be one of the ten coolest things I’ve ever seen.

As the reception was winding down, Ashlie’s mom asked if I would like to take home some of the leftovers from the fresh fruit display — a gorgeous thing involving a lot of sugar-coated grapes, chocolate-dipped strawberries, and a waterfall that flowed into a series of hollowed-out pineapples and melons. Here’s another reason I love Oklahoma: Nobody batted an eye when I asked if I could have the melon rinds to feed my chickens, who love cantaloupe more than anything in the world.



I probably won’t have time to post for a couple of days. I photographed my friend Ashlie’s wedding this afternoon. Beautiful ceremony, beautiful bride, handsome groom, and I’ve got the better end of 650 images to prove it … so I’m frantically trying to cull them down to something manageable to put on a CD for her mom.

Time-consuming, yes, but — oh! — such joyful work!

See you when I finish. I might share an album or two online. 🙂