Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why I HATE, HATE, HATE Grasshoppers

photo by Pawel Kabanski/Flickr
Welcome to my nightmare!  I really, really have a thing about grasshoppers.  If they're the itty-bitty type, I will squish them in a heartbeat.  The giant ones send me flying into the house and then begging Mr. MoonCat to go out to extinguish them.  The sad, sad thing is that I can tell you exactly when this trauma-induced phobia started.  Please shelter the children from this story of horror....

It was a warm summer day when my mom, my sister and I were driving up into the foothills to visit my Gramma.  The fields were all golden brown with the breeze causing ripples that looked like waves int the dried grass. We had the windows down, the sunroof open and were enjoying the trip...until..a GARGANTUAN grasshopper decided to terrorize me and end my "live and let live" lifestyle forever.

photo by DRB62/Flickr

This mutant terrorist (easily over three inches long) was on his assignment to GET JULES when he bounced off of my arm and landed inside the car.  He was on the headrest behind me and managed to get tangled in my hair.  I was screeching for some help, but my horrible, unfeeling mother and sister were laughing too hard to assist me.  The foul creature then decided to travel down the back of my tank top, scratching me all the way!  (If you look closely at the photos of the horrible creatures above and below, you will see their hooks, claws, and spurs...)  Anyway, his mission was obviously a one-way trip as he made the fatal mistake of continuing his path south and ended up IN MY UNDERWEAR!  (So you don't think I was riding around in just a tank top and undies, my Wranglers tend to gap at the small of my back and my undies follow suit sometimes.)

photo by Bossco/Flickr
Now to add insult/embarrassment to my injuries:  Mom was slowing the car down to take an almost hairpin turn - while in hysterics, I remind you.  I took advantage of this to bail out of the car, drop my pants AND underwear and proceed to stomp the life out of the suicidal demon bug.  The mortifying part comes into the story due to the fact that there is a ranch house located right on the turn.  At that particular moment in time, standing under a tree with their horses, were 4 or 5 of the ranch hands.  They saw the whole dang thing and were laughing, whooping and hollering.  With absolutely none of my dignity left, I pulled up my drawers, waved to them like a parade princess and flounced back into the car.  I didn't speak to the other inhabitants in the car for the rest of the trip.

Once we got to Gramma's house, she was the only one who showed me any sympathy.  That is until Mom looked at my back.  I had vivid scratches all over my back with a couple of them even a bit bloody.  I think she felt a bit bad after that, my sister didn't.

So, now you know the cause of one of my most irrational fears.  This is also why Mom didn't say a word this morning when we were at the kitchen table and I suddenly went screeching at top speed outside with my basket of herbs.  Something similar to the photo below was sitting on top of my catnip, LOOKING AT ME.

Hopper from A Bug's Life/California Adventure

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday Selections

The Gardener's Morning

The robin's song at daybreak
Is a clarion call to me.
Get up and get out in the garden,
For the morning hours flee.

I cannot resist the summons,
What earnest gardener could?
For the golden hours of morning
Get into the gardener's blood.

The magic spell is upon me,
I'm glad that I did not wait;
For life's at its best in the morning,
As you pass through the garden gate.

- Howard Dolf

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Meanwhile, Back on the Farm

It seems like I've missed several of my regular "What I See Wednesday" posts lately so I'll catch up a bit today with some pictures of what we've been up to around MoonCat Farms.

What I see when I take my tea out in the front yard and watch the sun come up:

Chandler & Cailen

We want toast too!

I've been shelling a bunch of these: (isn't this a beauty of a pea pod?)

Doing a bit of sewing on these pretty little squares when I'm in the mood (not often, lately):

Patiently explaining to Mr. MoonCat exactly WHY the mints must be kept in planters:

Harvesting and drying lots of these marigolds and calendula blooms:

Now I'm off to experiment with recipes I've been playing around with that incorporate some of the mint and calendula that I've been picking.  Happy Weekend my friends!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Winner - Anjan Book Giveaway

Congratulations to Nydia!  You're the winner of this lovely book, Anjan by Larus Einarsson.  I'll email you shortly for your mailing address.  Thank you for all for your comments and great summer reading suggestions - I've added them all to my list!

Don't forget to enter the drawing for The Love Ceiling which ends 6/30.  We'll also have the contest to name the colt Wedgie coming up for my 200th blog post - stay tuned my friends :)  Congrats again Nydia.

For those of you who didn't win this time, Anjan is available HERE from Amazon.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

TLC Book Tours: The Love Ceiling Book Review and GIVEAWAY

I'd like to welcome all of you who are stopping by MoonCat Farms for the first time via the TLC Book Tour.  I hope you'll enjoy this review and will stay and get to know us a bit.  Thank you as usual of course to our regular visitors and friends!

I was thrilled to be included as one of the tour hosts for the lovely author, Jean Davies Okimoto and her book: The Love Ceiling

From the publisher:

After the death of her Japanese American mother, sixty-four year old Anne Kuroda Duppstaad finds the courage to confront the toxic legacy of her father, a famous artist and cruel narcissist, and begins pursuing her life-long dream to become an artist in her own right.

The Love Ceiling draws readers into the soul of a universal theme for women:  the pull between family and creative self-expression.  It is the story of a woman, a daughter, a wife, a mother and a grandmother, and a journey into creativity.

I wasn't sure what to expect with the publicists touting the book as a "coming of age novel for readers over 50...60...70...80...90...!"  I'm in my early 40s and I could see bits of myself in both the main character (64 yr old Annie) and her daughter Cass who is 32.  I would definitely change that blurb to include the 30 and 40 somethings as this book really does cover issues facing women in each of those decades as well as the older generations.  I've read several other glowing reviews of the book with many of the women even younger than I feeling the same way - "It's For Us Too!"

One of my favorite spots in the book is something that I took to heart: 

Ninety year old Martha Jane is setting up her easel and clips a small card to the top.  The card is hand lettered, in spidery script:

"Use the talent you possess,
For the forest would be silent
If no birds sang but the best."

She notices Annie watching and explains, "It's like a Bible verse for me.  I want to remind myself of this each day before I begin, otherwise, one can lose faith - even at my age.  I certainly won't be Grandma Moses, but I can't let that stop me, now can I?"

The author flawlessly weaves such tender and important moments into the story.   She introduces us to some lovely characters who we were left wanting more of (such as Martha Jane and their artist-turned mentor Fred).  But she also balances this out with the true-to-life, not-so-nice people who populate all of our lives. 

The relationship between Annie and her dying mother as well as the relationship with her abusive father really highlight the influences parents can have on their children's adult life.  This plays out as well when we start seeing things from daughter Cass's perspective and the relationship she has with her own parents, Annie and Jack.  It's interesting and dismaying when both Jack and Cass dismiss Annie's part-time job as something small and frivolous. 

The initial idea of the book comes from the author's personal experience with an older aunt who was an accomplished painter.  When Ms. Okimoto visited her, expecting to see a bright, lovely studio - she was dismayed to find that her aunt was painting in a dimly-lit basement.  The title comes from the main character's weary reply to a question from her husband:

'"There's a glass ceiling for women, Jack," I stared at my painting in the dim light next to the washer and dryer. "And it's made out of the people we love.""

I think so many women will end up doing as I did and reading this book in one day.  I became so enamoured of Annie and her story that I only surfaced for drink and restroom breaks and went back to catch up with her immediately.  If I were to have to find something negative or possibly less-than-glowing, it would be that I was left wanting more.  Of course this would actually seem a positive to me as it shows that the author has woven a fine story that you want to continue being a part of. 

There is a reader's guide at the end of the book that I think would be great for book clubs.  A lot of different discussions could be sparked by various points in this book.  The author has been involved in chats with book clubs across the country and can be contacted via her website.

Read more about the author Jean Davies Okimoto and be sure to check out the other great reviews The Love Ceiling has been receiving on the Jean Davies Okimoto’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Tuesday, June 1st: Book Club Classics

Wednesday, June 2nd: Patricia's Wisdom

Thursday, June 3rd: Dolce Bellezza

Monday, June 7th: Lit and Life

Wednesday, June 9th: Rundpinne

Monday, June 14th: Joyfully Retired

Thursday, June 17th: Luxury Reading

Monday, June 21st: Erasing the Bored

Wednesday, June 23rd: MoonCat Farms Meanderings

Thursday, June 24th: carpe libris reviews

Monday, June 28th: Feminist Review

Wednesday, June 30th: Crazy For Books

Jean Davies Okimoto has graciously offered a copy of The Love Ceiling to one lucky MoonCat Farms reader.  I will announce the winner on June 30th.  Please leave a comment letting us all know what the last book is that you read.  PLEASE BE SURE TO LEAVE A WAY FOR ME TO CONTACT YOU.  You can gain extra entries by blogging about, tweeting, and/or posting about this review and drawing on Facebook.  Just be sure to let me know what you've done to get the extra entries!  If you don't want to wait for the drawing, The Love Ceiling can be purchased on-line.  It would make a thoughtful gift for the women in your life. 

Thank you so much to Endicott & Hugh Books, Jean Davies Okimoto, Lisa and Jennifer for this great opportunity and lovely book. 


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. The opinions expressed here are 100% my own. I was under no obligation to offer a positive review and received no monetary compensation. The author has provided a copy of the book for the giveaway.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Light Me Up in the garden

Mr. MoonCat and I really enjoy being outside, especially in the evening. Our wedding was held in the great outdoors and the photo below shows a couple of the hanging lanterns we used:

These hung from shepherd's hooks, trees and fence posts.  We really enjoyed them, but they're not practical for everyday use.  It was really pretty, but fire was a concern due to the candles in the jars.  Plus, once the temperatures go up - the candles go down and melt away with the heat.  The paper lanterns were lit with led lights and tiny batteries.  They were cute, but time consuming and a bit pricey to put together considering how fragile they can be. 

We loved this basic look so we're searching around for similar alternatives for our garden.  The exterior of our house has very very minimal, basic lighting.  We want something with a little ambiance and charm (and let's face it - more light to keep ME from falling on my face.) This search brought me to CSN Lighting which is one of the over 200 shops in the CSN Stores family.  You might remember them from the review I did on the EarthBox Garden Kit earlier this month.

So here are just a couple of the candidates I found on their site:

I like the idea that all of them are listed in the Eco-friendly category too. So what do you think?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saturday Sweetness - Strawberry Soup

photo by Krassy/Flickr
I know, you're going into shock - I've gone from posting sporadically to TWO in ONE day!  What is the world coming to.  Well, there's a story here.  After getting my Anjan review on the way to blogworld, I decided to clean out my files.  I found my long-lost recipe for this luscious, yummy dish - Strawberry Soup.  I haven't made it in a loooooong time because after trying and experimenting on several different variations of this wonderful treat before hitting on THE ONE, I misplaced/filed it away for safe-keeping :)  None of the others I've come across really did it for me so I've pined until today for this little gem. (I'm practicing being dramatic.) 

Anyhoo, since Father's Day is tomorrow and it IS strawberry season, I thought you might want a little extra something special to prepare for Dad or hubby or yourself/ME.  This is a dish best prepared the day before serving so without further ado....the not-so-secret recipe:

Strawberry Soup

5 1/2 cups ripe strawberries
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup Port wine
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cardamom
Strawberries and/or mint for garnishing
(dollop of sour cream for garnish if desired as well)

Puree strawberries, sour cream, and sugar together.  Mix wine and water in a saucepan, add pureed mixture.  Heat on low and allow to simmer for 1 or 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and add the cardamom and vanilla.  It's not crucial, but it is best if you allow it to chill overnight so all of the flavors can mingle and set.  When ready to serve, pour into individual bowls and garnish with the extra strawberries, mint, and/or a dollop of sour cream.  Yummy.

So I hope you all enjoy Father's Day with your loved ones and let me know what you think if you get a chance to try this recipe.

photo by Snapzdc/Flickr

Anjan - A Book Review and Giveaway


Larus Einarsson

I recently received this delightful book from the publisher for my review.  I enjoy fantasy and epic type stories so she felt that this would be a match for me.  She was right.

From the start you're drawn into another world (several actually, since the worlds of humans, elves, and that which is hidden is separated by a thin veil.)  The story starts with Kata, a young white witch who is destined for great things.  We follow her from the world of elves into the human realm where she meets up with the man who will aid her in the care and upbringing of a child named Anjan.  Anjan is foretold to be an integral part of a prophecy that will affect all of the worlds. 

I don't want to give too much away, because this is a lovely story full of warmth and adventure.  I think it will be a treat for readers of all ages who enjoy a world tinged with magic and classic good vs. evil.  (I especially enjoyed the fact that Kata works heavily with herbs - a woman after my own heart!)  This book is an easy read and at 216 pages, not too much of a heavy time investment.  I was happy to see that the author is planning on continuing with Anjan's saga in later volumes.  More information about the author and an actual excerpt from the book can be found at

I am offering my gently read copy of Anjan up for one lucky MoonCat Farms reader.  To enter the drawing, just tell me the name of another book you think I might enjoy reading this summer.  I'll draw a winner on Friday, June 25th.  Good luck and good reading.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. The opinions expressed here are 100% my own. I was under no obligation to offer a positive review and received no monetary compensation. The giveaway prize being offered is the review copy I received.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Herbs - E is for Elecampane

"Let no day pass without eating some of the roots of elecampane..
to help digestion, to expel melancholy, and to cause mirth." - Pliny

Many centuries ago, Roman scholar Pliny wrote of the benefits and uses of the herb elecampane. To this day, it is still being used in many of these same applications as well as in new formulations.

Latin Name:   Inula helinium of the family asteraceae

Alternate Name(s):  horseheal, elfdock, scabwort, elfwort, wild sunflower

Description:  Elecampane is a hardy perennial with tall softly hairy stems that can grow up to 6ft tall.  Pointed leaves with toothed edges showcase yellow flowers that are similar to shaggy daisies or some varieties of sunflowers.

Habitat: Likes damp, moist soil in a sunny location. Propagate by division of roots in spring or autumn or by seed which is much slower to germinate than many of the other herb seeds. pH levels are acceptable from almost 6 down to 4.5

Growing: It usually blooms in late summer and is fairly easy to grow, even for the novice herb gardener.

Harvesting: Elecampane roots can be harvested after the 2nd year of growth, while the aerial parts can be used immediately after the first blooming.  As with most harvests, it is best to do it early in the morning after the dew has dried and before the heat sets it.  This will ensure more of the oils will still be up in the aerial parts of the plants.

Uses: The roots and flowers are both used (both fresh & dried) and are usually combined with other herbs.  Many of the old herbals showed various uses as cough syrups and remedies as well as tonics.  The roots were often candied like ginger root and used as a digestive aid by ancient Greeks and Romans after their meals.  

In my researching of this plant I have come across many, many listed uses for elecampaneAs with all of my articles and posts about herbs - I am not suggesting or promoting their use for anything.  I am simply sharing what I have been told or have found during my studies.  Always talk to your doctor or do your own research before trying something new.  Even things found in nature in their natural state can be deadly.  Now, back to my findings:  Elecampane has supposedly been used as a natural sweetener for diabetics (interesting to find out how it compares to Stevia).  It seems to have many uses for respiratory distresses such as infections, coughs, asthma, bronchitis, etc.

One of my favorite tidbits was that early veterinarians used this herb in both horses and sheep very effectively.  It has also shown to be useful for kennel cough in cats and dogs as well as having fungicidal and sedative qualities.  I found it on several lists of herbs for expelling worms too.  Very interesting little herb!

Elecampane Tea
1 oz elecampane root
1 pt water

Simmer the root and water together for about 20 minutes.  Let cool before drinking.  This tea is said to be a great remedy for coughs and other minor respiratory ailments as well as having sedative properties.

Notes: People with allergies or sensitivities to plants in the sunflower (asteraceae) family have been shown to also have problems with this plant and should avoid its use.


Disclaimer: The information presented herein is intended for educational, informational, and recreational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent disease. It is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider before taking any supplements, herbs, or other substances.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Summertime and the Living is BUSY

Sorry about being pretty quiet for a whole week! I'm back to spurt-blogging (that sounds almost nasty, but it is pretty appropriate.) It seems like we are outside most of the time now and I have tons to do before I can take the time to sit in front of the computer. So I'll give you an all-around update on life at MoonCat Farms where, as the picture below shows - all is well:

The MoonCats doing what cats do best

Mom is doing pretty well. She has gained some strength and has decided to take up scrap booking.  She's making lists (and lists and lists) of supplies she wants from the crafts store. My niece and nephew were here on Friday and they all three had their heads together plotting their next few projects. We're really looking forward to them being around a lot this summer while they're out of school.  They're great kids and a lot of fun to have around.  Mr. MoonCat and I took advantage of them being here with Mom and ran off to do some shopping together and take in a show (Prince of Persia - cute movie and even cuter Jake Gyllenhaal.)

I am way behind on my crafting, my photography, my letter writing, my blog visiting, my bookkeeping, and pretty much everything that isn't related to the garden.  But we've been eating some yummy squash, peas and onions the last few days.  Of course dinner hasn't been until 8pm or after :(

 I have a book review coming up that you'll not want to miss.  I was thrilled to be asked to participate in a TLC Book Tour for Jean Davies Okimoto's The Love Ceiling.  My stop on the tour is scheduled for June 23rd when I will post my review and GIVEAWAY ALERT: the lovely, lovely author has generously provided a copy of this fabulous book for one lucky MoonCat Farms reader!  It was one of those books that I couldn't put down so I'm tickled that one of you will get to enjoy a copy for yourself.  Be ready to get your entry in!

Speaking of upcoming giveaways...For my 200th post in the next week or so, I will run that contest I mentioned to officially name Wedgie.  Keep your eyes open and you could win a special prize!  (I really do enjoy giveaways - especially ones that involve wearing thinking caps..)  Lemon Verbena Lady has already put her hat in the ring with the very creative "Phantom" which could be very interesting when combined with the parents' registered names.....More info coming soon.

Here's a gratuitous photo of Wedgie who is becoming quite the little ham - notice the swishing little broom tail:

Is this my good side?

Mr. MoonCat got to spend some quality time with his folks last weekend as they were visiting in the area.  We'll all get to see them sometime later this week and return the pan that his mom brought filled with delicious lasagna. YUM.  I'm not a big fan of regular over-tomatoed lasagna, but his mom's is the bomb.  We always look forward to it and it never lasts long!  Mom really enjoys it too which is great since her appetite is still more off than on.

The mad scientist, aka Cindy my sister-in-law, is coming up for a day of soap and paper making.  We've both been gathering supplies like crazy so we'll have many hours of crafting and creating.  We're really looking forward to it and then to going out for sushi that evening with our hubbies. 

So that's pretty much it in a nutshell.  Tomorrow I am getting back in the groove with one of my A-Z Herbs posts: E is for Elecampane.  I may just get to the middle of the alphabet by the end of the year :)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday Selections

Garden Sanctuary

You who walk,
Maybe with troubled thoughts,
Come, enter here and rest;
And may the sweet serenity of growing things,
And the heavenly peace
Be mirrored in thy soul.

-Doxis M. Palmer

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sunday Selections

"I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers."
-- Claude Monet

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Lazy, Hot Saturday & a Fuzzy Butt

It's 95 degrees here right now!  It's not officially summer yet and we're watching the mercury rise daily.  I've mentioned before that I am NOT a summer person.  Here in California's Central Valley, we get three digit temperatures on a regular basis during the summer months.  It will occasionally go up to about 115 or so.  Dangerously hot for all of our critters and just plain miserable for all of us. 

Today is the first day that I have given in and turned on the AC.  Mom can't breathe very easily when the temps get too high and we've been making do with the fans.  But the cats were already laying on the cooler living room floor trying not to move at 10:30am this morning so I knew it was time. 

*If you look closely at Bugsy's furry little rear-end, you'll see actual bits of white fuzz similar to dryer lint.  This is about the third time he's appeared (from who knows where) looking like this.  It reminds me of those annoying & tacky toilet paper commercials with the bears.  Maybe he's using that particular TP when he steps out of the litter box?  Another of the mysteries of living with cats..........

Friday, June 4, 2010

Thrifty Finds or Presents

Look what my other mother (Billie Mom) found for me!  She was given a box of things to put into her yard sale and pulled these out for little ol' me.  I just adore that woman.  She's my best friend's Mom and mine by osmosis.  One of the real bonuses is that she and Pops live literally right around the corner from us (1 mile in country-speak), but that's very close out here.  Anyway, on to the goodies:

Aren't they great?  I'm always looking for unusual pots and things for the garden.  These all fit the bill perfectly.  I already planted a little baby jasmine vine in the hanging pot above on the left.  You can barely see the green poking up.  Thanks Billie Mom!!!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

CSN Stores EarthBox Garden Kit review

Back in March, I posted about a review I would be doing for CSN Stores on their EarthBox Garden Kit.  (You can find the original post Here).  I know it was quite a while ago that I started on this review, but I wanted to really give it a thorough test and not just an "oh it's cool", "I really like it", etc.  even though I hadn't really put it through it's paces.  I won't do a review post on anything that I haven't truly tried out personally.  So, without further ado; my unbiased opinion - I love it!!!!

I planted the grow box the same day I received it back in March.  I put young strawberry plants in both the EarthBox and also a similar planter that I already owned.  The planters are roughly the same size and shape.  I put a total of six strawberry plants in each, all the same size and variety.  The plants have all had the exact same conditions and treatment.  I followed the directions on the EarthBox exactly as they instructed.  Since the EarthBox did come with fertilizer, I added the same type to my white planter as well.  I really believe the system they've come up with is a winner.

This photo is of the EarthBox on the day I planted it:  (I'm sorry I can't find the photo of the white planter from that day - I believe it was part of the laptop casualty files.)

The photos below show the EarthBox and the regular planter now:

regular planter
side by side
Above photo shows them side by side.  Isn't the difference in plant size amazing?  I was very impressed with this kit and I think I may just have to get myself one or two more for next season.  I like that the planter is on wheels and is very easy to maneuver around.  I think it would be great for some of the delicate plants or those that don't seem to make it here due to gophers....

As for CSN Stores, I was very impressed with their service and communication.  James was the representative who had initially contacted me for the review and was extremely helpful from start to finish.  Once we decided what I would be reviewing, he placed my order and it was here within about three days.  Their huge inventory and major amount of selections are very impressive as well.  They offer free shipping on many of their items too so it's a great idea to check them out!


Disclaimer: I received the above EarthBox Garden kit for review purposes. The opinions and views expressed here are 100% my own. I was under no obligation to offer a positive review.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What I See Wednesday

mock orange

pretty in pink
a little sparrow sits on this windchime & watches me in my office
I am loving nasturtiums this year
sweet williams?

5am - ball of yarn starts in the sewing room/office,
migrates drunkenly down the hall, takes a detour into mom's room,
 and finally comes to a stop at the end of the hall
(notice one of the accomplices at the door to our room..)