Monday, August 31, 2009

Manic Monday

Six o'clock already
I was just in the middle of a dream,
I was kissing Valentino
By a crystal blue Italian stream.......

Well, maybe not Valentino (perhaps Clive Owen or of course, my beloved husband) and not an Italian stream as much as a Scottish loch?

The above lyrics from the Bangles' song "Manic Monday" are fitting today, except that I've been up since about 3:30 - major insomnia has hit and I can't get back to my good dreams. My mind is spinning.

The hubby has scheduled us to look at a minimum of four houses today, it will probably be closer to six by the time we're done. I HATE HOUSE HUNTING. It used to be fun to go to open houses and get ideas of what we'd like when we finally build our own place. We'd come home and jot down features that we want and make notes on stuff we don't. That joy is now gone since we are fast approaching a deadline for the new owners to take over this one.

We were going to go ahead and buy a place instead of renting again. But with everything being up in the air with my mom's health and my dad now talking about selling the ranch, we're sorta in limbo. So we decided to rent again for at least the next 6 months to a year.

We made the mistake of finding the PERFECT property on our first foray into serious home shopping. It fit all of our needs for us, the mama, the critters, and the herb babies. The first problem is that the place is next to a railroad track which wouldn't have bothered us so much (but kills the resale value of course); second issue was the idiot (sorry, gentleman) upped his price during our negotiations - we bailed quickly. The place has been on the market for over a year anyway and I'm not so keen on being stuck with a house that we can't sell when we're finally ready to move up North with the whole family.

So, wish us luck today as we venture yet again into the realm of rental houses. Our perfect (for now) place must be out there somewhere....

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saturday Sweetness - Candied Ginger

I have developed quite the fondness/addiction to ginger. I've always loved ginger ale, gingerbread cookies and other gingery goodies, but this new-found craving is for the candied or crystallized ginger. We go to a great sushi place (I'm not really that adventurous - I mostly eat the crab rolls and the GINGER) where the waitress recognizes me and always brings out an extra serving or two of their own ginger. Yum..

I have been anxiously waiting for my ginger roots to be ready to harvest & I think they are there! While waiting I've been gathering ideas on how I'm going to prepare them. I'm not too sure I want to boil the root as it seems like it would leech some of the properties from it that I'm trying to preserve. Sooo... in digging around in my recipe/note box, I came across this little recipe that I'm going to try this week. It has the promise of actually giving me two very usable ginger products - crystallized ginger & ginger honey. (I'm sorry that I didn't note where I obtained the recipe so I can give the credit due.)

Raw Candied Ginger

· Peel washed ginger root and cut into slices about 1/8 inch thick

· Place the slices in a large canning jar & cover with honey

· The honey will start to become very thin & watery after about 30-45 minutes, drain the watery honey off & pour it into another jar (be sure to save it)

· Pour more honey into the original jar with the ginger slices & cover them again, repeat the above procedures another 4-5 times until you no longer get the watery honey

· When the honey is no longer pulling the water from the ginger, remove the slices from the jar and lay them on a sheet of waxed paper in the fridge.

When dry, the slices can be placed in a jar or other contained and kept in the fridge. They should keep for a few months as long as kept cold. The ginger-honey can be used as a syrup or to sweeten other goodies.

I will let you know what my experiment brings! Hopefully lots of sweet gingery yumminess..

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What A Workshop!!

I had such a great time Saturday!

The Natural Botanical Perfumery workshop was a blast and EXACTLY what I needed to chase away the previous week's woes. I really enjoyed meeting Justine Crane from The Scented Djinn. She put on a really informative class on creating your own scents with natural botanicals and oils. I can't believe how much we learned in such a short time.

Justine locating one of her ingredients

The class was limited to 6 students due to the sheer amount of information that Justine has to share and her desire to offer as much one-on-one with the participants as possible. Rebecca (the other lady in the class) and I really reaped the rewards of the other students failing to show up that morning. We had Justine and her vast knowledge all to ourselves! (Too bad for the other participants, they really missed out on quite an experience.)

The Intermountain Nursery was such a perfect location for the class. We were under a covered porch/potting shed type setting behind their gift shop that had benches and tables. There were grapes and other plants all over the place with hummingbirds flitting in and about - they were probably getting whiffs of the (mostly) wonderful scents we were being introduced to. We all kept mentioning the fact that the weather was unbelievable for the end of August. We had a lovely breeze the entire day and I never did get too warm (which is amazing for me because I am usually boiling this time of year.)

It was a very relaxed environment as we started off just all talking and visiting. We then segued into the meat of the class as we shared why we had signed up for the class and what we were hoping to learn. Justine's daughter Hannah was there and was a real kick. She's got a great eye for photography as well - click here to see some of her photos from the day (loved the kitty).

It was such a perfect atmosphere for learning - very relaxed and low-key. Justine guided us through evaluating scents and making our own notes. Mine were such as "Valerian reeks like stinky feet" and "Pink grapefruit is yummy and sweet". (I really didn't intend that to rhyme, but what can I say. Do take my advice though and don't put your nose close to a bottle of valerian oil - it stinks just like the plant and my husband's work boots. But this is an example of what we learned; even thought it is AWFUL by itself, when blended with another botanical, it can be the most beautiful scent you could imagine.)

Rebecca & Justine doing an evaluation

We chatted and soaked up information while Justine had us create our own scent. It was really fun to note that while Rebecca and I used many of the same ingredients in our own little recipes, the scents smelled nothing alike. Both of our creations smelled great, we were thrilled with our first efforts! The real kicker came when Justine evaluated our scents and told us what thought or first impression they invoked. I started laughing when she said mine was "Purple". Purple and lavender are my absolute favorite colors in the world and my scent creation brought that to her mind! The hubby really enjoyed that. He makes fun of my purple obsession all of the time, he says now I can smell like it too.. I think I'll name it "Amethyst A'Mour".

Be sure to check out Justine's sites: Oh True Apothecary and The Scented Djinn for some great information and to find out about her next classes - they're not to be missed!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Saturday Sweetness - Lemon Ginger Cookies

Lemon-Glazed Candied-Ginger Cookies
This recipe is from Martha Stewart. I really, really LOVE ginger so I was very happy to find this yummy treat.. I wish I would have had this recipe when my Grandma was still alive. Lemon and gingerbread cookies were two of her favorite treats. I used to make her some flaky little lemon cookies and we always had gingerbread cookies on hand. To have them combined into one delicious cookie would have been a definite staple for her 4 o'clock teatime!

I altered the recipe to fit my lazier approach to cookie baking (slicing from a log vs. rolling out the dough & cutting circles) and because the dough will soften very quickly once removed from the fridge, but the original recipe can be found here. makes 4-6 dozen


2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
6 ounces (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped candied ginger (crystallized will work too)
1 large egg
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup water


Sift flour, baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt into a bowl.
Cream butter and brown sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Add ginger, and beat for 2 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla until well combined.
Add flour mixture, and then beat on medium-low speed until dough just comes together.
Shape dough into two "logs" about 2" diameter. Wrap tightly in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or up to 3 days).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove 1st log from fridge & slice it into 1/4" thick rounds. Place the rounds 1/2 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.

Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are set and edges are light gold, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer parchment with cookies to wire racks. Let cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough. (Cookies can be stored for up to 3 days.)

Whisk confectioners' sugar, lemon zest and juice, honey, water, and a pinch of salt in a bowl until smooth. Drizzle glaze over the cooled cookies. Let stand until glaze is set, at least 20 minutes. (Glazed cookies can be stored overnight.)

~ I hope you enjoy these cookies as much as I do and that they can become a part of your tea time as well!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Finally Friday

Friday, Friday, it's Finally Friday...

It's been a long, annoying week. With the worries about Mom, the hurry up and pack your #(%* and move out, and everything else; the weekend just couldn't get here fast enough for me!

I did take Mom to the doctor yesterday and he put her on Lasix as she has been accumulating fluid around her lung again. He seemed pretty optimistic that it will relieve the pressure she's been feeling and help ease her breathing. We're very fortunate to have doctors on Mom's team that are on the ball and very caring. They are also being encouraging and optimistic instead of all doom and gloom like some I've been around in the past. It helps that they seem to have a sense of humor since Mom is such a great, upbeat person and jokes around with them alot.

Anyway, besides the "bleh" week itself, I've been looking forward to the weekend because I get to go to a really interesting class on Saturday. It is a Natural Botanical Perfumery workshop being held at the Intermountain Nursery up in the foothills of Prather, CA. It's being taught by Justine Crane of The Scented Djinn. I'm really excited because when I first found out about this class several months ago, I didn't think I'd get to go. But, I called them last week and found out there was still a couple of spaces left in the class. Hubby said "Just Do It!" so I signed up. I'm really looking forward to creating my own scent and learning about the different notes and fragrances. Whoo hoo, a ME day that combines learning and fun surrounded by plants! And to boot, the weather is supposed to be a bit cooler - only 95 degrees. This time of year ANYTHING below triple digits is "cooler".

Have a wonderful weekend all - I will tell you all about my new-found knowledge next week!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Cat Nights starring Tory

Critter Corner - Tory

I love the Old Farmers Almanac. For years I have bought my Dad one at Christmas and now I do the same for the hubby. Besides the necessary info we all need regarding planting and the moon, it is always full of great trivia and lore. You would think the fact that both of my main men keep their copies in the throne rooms would bother me, but since they spend LOTS of time in there and I actually read in there too on occasion, it doesn't hurt my feelings...

While reading the hubby's copy yesterday (in the living room, mind you), I came across this interesting little tidbit that ties in with my latest Critter Corner post introducing you to the residents of MoonCat Farms:

Cat Nights Begin (August 17)
This term harks back to the days when people believed in witches. An Irish legend says that a witch could turn into a cat and regain herself eight times. But on the ninth time, August 17th, she couldn't change back. Hence the saying: "A cat has nine lives". Because August is a "yowly" time for cats, this may have initially prompted the speculation about witches on the prowl.

Anyone that lives with cats (especially a large # of them), is always amazed & annoyed at times, by their peculiar little quirks. This blurb in the Almanac really came at a good time for me as one of our older cats has been doing that at night lately. Tory will walk up and down the length of the house and yowl for seemingly no reason at all. If he did this during the rest of the household's waking hours, it wouldn't be an issue. Since it has been in the realm of 2 or 3am, he has been out of favor a bit! Maybe he's a witch/warlock trapped in the body of a big, fat silver tabby with owl eyes?

Two Ton Tory aka Torytorytoodletons or just Toto

Tory is the LARGEST of our kitties. He weighed in at 30lbs at one time, but the new kittens keep him hopping - literally. They enjoy jumping in the middle of his pudginess and wrestling with him. He is a real sweetheart and very gentle cat.

When Michael first moved in with me, I warned him that he might not see Tory for the first month or so as he is very shy. Imagine my surprise when Michael woke me up in the middle of the night to ask if the large purring blob on top of him was the famous Toto! I think it just goes to show how much of a critter lover my hubby is that Tory took to him within hours of meeting him. He's such a lover, but only to Michael & I. He's pretty much a "fraidy cat" which could stem from his start in life.

He was rescued directly from the mouth of a dog who had killed the rest of his litter when he was just a week or two old. His name was a bit of a twist on the word "victory" or "victorious", but most of the time he's just my Toto. His favorite thing is to rub noses with me after he's settled his bulk in the middle of me, causing me to lose my air in one big whoosh.. I am working on his (and my) fat issues, but with numerous cats in the house, he always manages to snag some food from the other furfaces when I'm not monitoring him specifically.

So, world meet Tory. Tory, meet the world!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Not Quite the Edge of the Earth

Thank you for the kind emails checking on me. I really didn't fall off of the Edge of the Earth, just the blogosphere. I apologize for being silent, but life has been blasting our family a bit lately and I just haven't had the mental strength to blog about it or to come up with other things to talk about.

Mom, Dad & I at our wedding 9/13/08

Mom's cancer has come back for the 3rd time so we're banding together to beat it away again with prayers, love, and sheer obstinance. Her oncologist is optimistic that the treatment can shrink & hopefully eradicate the mass in her lung. She had two mastectomies in the past fourteen years so we really didn't think the breast cancer could reoccur, but it has so we'll conquer it again...

The hardest part for all of us is that Mom has always been a dynamo, even at almost 72. She is an amazing woman who is still running a reading and remedial studies lab at the school she has worked at for over 35 years. She finally gave up driving the school bus 3 years ago at my sister & I's insistence. Since she has to use oxygen now with this latest development, it has really slowed her down and has been "cramping her style" as she says. It is an adjustment for us all to have to rethink things that we have always taken for granted, such as watering the garden or feeding the barn cats. Such simple daily things really drain her energy and have to be done in increments or turned over to one of us to do for now.

Slam Number 2 was when I asked for time off to assist my mom with all of her doctor visits and treatments (it is the slow time anyway at work), my boss decided to just lay me off instead (aka terminate, but we won't get into that here - I'm a bit bitter & ticked still..)

Then to add insult to injury, we find out we have 30 days to get ourselves and everything moved out of the house and off the property due to change of ownership. Haven't figured out where we're going yet, but moving 2 dogs and (now) 9 cats plus almost an acre of herbs and plants that I refuse to leave behind is going to be interesting!

There are always windows left open when God closes a door (or two or three) so I'm looking at this as the prod in the rear we needed to make some major life changes whether we think we're ready or not. It is hard to be totally upbeat all the time, but wallowing in our woes isn't gonna cut it or get things packed up (ugh). It would be nice to go wallow in the tub with some of my lavender/chamomile bath salts, but I'm out of them at the moment, waaaaaaahhh! Will it never end?? (just kidding, I guess I'll have to do a regular old boring bubble bath instead...options, folks, options - keep your options, your hearts, and your minds open...)

You know, it's a shame that I didn't just make myself sit down and post this before now. I have missed the interaction with so many of you and am realizing just how cathartic this is to be able to share what is going on in our lives, the good and the not so much.. I feel so much better just getting this out there. Thank you near and dear ones.