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Bringing in the New Year

New Years Eve is a funnny holiday at our house. To be honest, we are usually kind of partied out by then so we don’t really plan much. We mark the ocassion, do appreciate the day off of work, do spend it with a very small gathering of friends and/or family, but we do not tend to dress to the nines, dine extravagantly late, and toast the dawn of the New Year with fine crystal and finer libations. Our observances are distinctly more casual and free-form, centering around movies and munchies in the living room with a decent bottle of champagne at the ready for the countdown to midnight.
Oh, and hats. We do have hats. And we do turn up the music for dancing, though I would describe the choreography as more tribal and exuberant than elegant and graceful. I am sure that households throughout the world have their unique and time-honored traditions for bringing in the New Year. These are simply ours.
Happy New Year one and all!

Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus

Enthusiasm is everything.

Enthusiasm is everything.


Don't they say that you should dance like no one is watching???

Don’t they say that you should dance like no one is watching???



Sometimes, I suppose I resemble a "Dancing Goat Mama" I think my kids would agree....

Sometimes, I suppose I resemble a “Dancing Goat Mama” like this one by Tunis Dixon.I think my kids would agree….

Tall Skinny (dancing) Girls by Julio Balan

Tiny Skinny (Dancing) Girls – who look alot like us! By Julio Balan 

Cherishing Christmas

Anticipating Christmas

Presents under the tree are wonderful, but greater still are the people who will surround it on Christmas Eve.

Part of me will always be a little kid. Its quite true, and the more I think it over, the more I believe that this is not a bad thing. Take Christmas, for instance. I look forward to it with child-like anticipation and as The Day draws nearer, the more excited I become. The reasons have changed since I was a child, however. Whereas I used to be breathless with wonder at what treasures lay beneath the tree, I am now most eager to pick out that very most perfect tree with my husband. I am excited to see our daughter arrive at the airport, the joy in her face radiantly acknowledging that the holiday travel gods have smiled upon her yet again . I can’t wait to take up the cheese fondue project with our son that together we produce as a featured item on the Christmas Eve menu. In short, the gifts are still the point, but they are gifts I have everyday: My family. Christmas time is simply the time I seem to reflect upon them and cherish them the most.

May your holidays be a time for cherishing too.


Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus

Dog Lover? How Interesting…

Love the dog

The newest member of the family!

A while back, some friends and my husband and I were at dinner with another couple of people whom we didn’t know well at all. It was late in the evening, cocktails had been flowing and someone asked the question, “What’s the most interesting thing about you?” We went around the table; the first person to respond was a fighter pilot, the second was a special forces operative, the third was an Olympic gymnast, and then it was my turn. My heart filled with dread, and my expression must have given me away because my friend, Laura offered helpfully, “Why don’t you tell them about your dog!”

My dog. MY DOG! My very close, very dear friend, Laura clearly thought that the most interesting thing about me was my dog. Ouch. What’s worse is that a few short months after that dinner, our beloved basset hound died. Through my grief, I worried: Where does that leave me??? The answer was too uninteresting to contemplate.

gift ideas for dog lovers

Doesn’t this remind you of “Go Dog, Go!” See this colorful canine and more wonderful Ortega ceramics here.

Fast-forward 10 months and we get a text message with accompanying photo from a co-worker of my husband’s that read, “This two-year old basset hound is looking for a good home. Want to meet him?” Well, to make a long story short, we did more than meet him. We adopted him forthwith and Jaeger has quickly become a treasured member of the family.

He has also become very busy. After a slow – and it is tempting to call it serene – start he got to work eating the lower branches of our Christmas tree, along with four of the choicest ornaments. In successive days, he pulled an entire roasted chicken off the counter, helped himself to a bowl full of guacamole, gulped down whole stick of butter including the wrapper, and was narrowly folied in his attempt to make off with a half-pound Mr. Goodbar. At this point, I feel compelled to assert that we do feed him well and on a regular basis. Being a dog, though, I guess he feels that its always good to hedge the bet.

Painting perfect for the dog lover on your list

Erika Carter’s painting illustrates the dawning of a doggone great idea. More of her work can be viewed with a click.

My favorite escapade, however, was an invigorating sprint up the hill by our house early last Sunday morning. Oh what a merry chase through the neighborhood in my bathrobe and bare feet in mid-December! Who could fail to be cheered? Having neglected to grab the leash on my mad dash out the door, I got to carry all fifty pounds of basset back home. Great exercise, I’ll tell you.

In spite of all, however, I thank my lucky stars that Jaeger has come into my life. At least I am interesting again


Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus



Keeping up Tradition: The Nativity Scene

Ceramic folk art nativity from Ayacucho, Peru.  See more like it here: https://www.itscactus.com/catalog/Nativities-29-1.html

Ceramic folk art nativity from Ayacucho, Peru. See more like it here: https://www.itscactus.com/catalog/Nativities-29-1.html

Nativity scenes are one of the most cherished of holiday symbols. Displayed publicly and privately around the world as performance art or as sculptural groupings made of paper mache, wood, metal, ceramics, or other media, expressions of the Holy Night are as varied as Art itself. It was an idea originally conceived in 1223 by none other than St. Francis of Assisi and blessed by His Holiness, Pope Honorius III. Francis organized the nativity display in Greccio, Italy as a living pagent, with friars and the local folk enlisted to portray the Holy Family, shepherds, Magi and livestock from a neighboring farm to round out the cast. The event was an immediate success and was adopted as a holiday traditon that spread throughout Christendom in the years that followed, including the creation of nativity sets carved from wood.
As Christianity arrived in the New World, so too did the tradition of the nativity scene. As with many other Old World practices, it was adapted by indigenous cultures to it’s new environment Thus, nativities took on characteristics that were suited to it’s viewers. In Andean locales, for instance, Joseph and the shepards were likely to wear knitted hats and mantas, rather than keffiyehs and robes of the eastern Mediterranean. (There is a great article with photos of many renditions of the nativity that just came out online this week in the Huffington Post that you can read here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/09/a-creche-course-at-christmas_n_2252966.html 

That is one of the things that makes them so interesting and so tempting to collect. Folk art interpretations of the humble stable setting, the attending animals, the adoring Magi, the simple

Haitian metal nativity by Jean Marie Soulouque.  See more metal sculpture nativities here: https://www.itscactus.com/index.php?p=catalog&mode=search&search_in=all&search_str=nativity&x=32&y=21

Haitian metal nativity by Jean Marie Soulouque. See more metal sculpture nativities here: https://www.itscactus.com/index.php?p=catalog&mode=search&search_in=all&search_str=nativity&x=32&y=21

shepherds, and the Holy Family are uniquely wonderful. Whether the shepherds are bundled against European winter chill, or wrapped in sarongs in tropical heat, the meaning, the message of the nativity is a clear today as it was in the time of St. Francis: The Birth of the Child was a Heavenly Gift for all Mankind.


Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus


Creativity is the best part of Holiday Decorating

Aguilar and Ortega figuresIf you are like me, the minute the Thanksgiving dishes are cleared, you shift into heavy holiday mode.  I take inventory of items to be given as gifts that for months have been stashed in the “gift closet,” I have grocery lists for cookie baking in process, while wrapping and packing gifts to be mailed are on the “to do” list for next week, as is deconflicting the family schedule to shop for the holiday tree. This week, it is ALL ABOUT decorating.

This year, I undertook my decorating with a determination to be creative and group things together in ways I hadn’t tried before.  It turned out to be a fun experiment, with which, I will say with very little modesty, I got good results. Starting with the mantle, I arranged the Ortega Wise Men I collected years ago with my more recently acquired Aguilar market women. (See our wonderful selection of Aguilar figures here. https://www.itscactus.com/catalog/Aguilar_Family-35-1.html ) Who said the Wise Men travelled alone?! They now process splendidly together following yonder star. Then I had a brainstorm regarding Guatemalan belts.  How terrific they look as bows on a wreathOaxacan tin and Guatemalan belt trimmed with Oaxacan tin ornaments!  In truth, I have the wreath hanging in my window, but the backlighting was so horrible,  I opted to photograph it on the door instead. Good either way, says I! (Yes!  We have Guatelmalan belts here: https://www.itscactus.com/catalog/Traditional_Belts_and_Hair_Ties-58-1.html  and Oaxacan tin ornaments here: https://www.itscactus.com/catalog/TIn_Art-70-1.html  Call the shop at 831-998-8993 for an even greater selection.)

Haitian metal sculptureMy greatest decorating inspiration, however, came when I spotted our new Haitian metal signs that say “Peace on Earth.”  Oh!  I though, “that might look pretty great attached to a wreath.”  See what you think.  And by all means, do some experimenting on your own. The best part of holiday decorating is the creative part.  If it wasn’t for the creative aspect, decorating would just be work.  Bah-HUMBUG!

Contributed by Linda for It’s Cactus

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