Friday, December 30, 2011

Time Will Tell

In a few days a new year will begin.  This past year for me was a life changer!  The past 6 months have been difficult, to say the least.

I don't know about you, but I'm proposing to wipe 2011 off the annals of time.  While we're at it let's eliminate 2010 as well.

Last year at this time, my husband and I went to one of our favorite get-a-way spots to plan our goals for the coming year.

All  horribly backfired on us!

This year I plan to return to that favorite get-a-way, alone, to plan and set goals for 2012.  It will be hard I know, and things will never be the same, but I've got to look and move forward.

I pray that 2012 will be a better year than 2011.  I'm not asking for a great year, but a good one.  Time will tell.

I hope 2012 will be a good year for you too!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Week That Was

William "Bill" Duncan
April 11, 1929 - November 18, 2011
We, all in the household, were busy preparing for a large craft show when the phone rang.  We just let the answering machine pick it up.

"Karen, this is Margy.  It's important - please call me back!"

I ran to get the phone .

My sister-in-law was the bearer of bad news.

"My Dad was killed today in a car crash!"

"What?"  I asked.

She conveyed the details.

There were so many things I had wanted to tell him.  There were so many things of Barry's I wanted to share with him!

Unfinished business is the worst kind, my husband used to say.  He was right!

After the horrible news, we all retreated to our own private corners, the wind knocked out of our sails once again.

He will be sorely missed!

Monday, November 7, 2011

It Was a Good Week

A couple of weeks ago I wrote that I'd changed Murphy's law to Karita's law.  Well last week I changed it back!  Things have a way of reversing itself - if you let it.  It had not been going well.  I couldn't find the paperwork to a van I was selling,  my car failed smog, my water line broke.  Last week went better.

I went to the DMV,  begged mercy, and walked out with the transfer to the van with the title coming in a weeks time.  The buyer of the van emailed me he had been dreaming about the van and still wanted it.  Transaction consummated!

I told you it cost $300.00 to get the car smogged and tags.  But I decided to keep this car.  I just couldn't part with it.  It was my husband's and my date car.  We called her Black Beauty.  Now that I've decided to keep her I feel good!

My daughter and son-in-law went on an extended vacation via Amtrak to New York.  They then rented a car and went to Toronto and Montreal Canada.  I picked them up at the train depot.  I asked my son-in-law if he knew how to fix a broken water pipe.  He said no.  I told him he was going to learn the next day.  I called a friend and asked him to check on him to make sure it was done correctly.  He obliged, and walked Marty through the process.  Marty did an excellent job, the pipe got fixed and he learned a new skill!

I love it when a plan (or things) comes together!

So this week I'm optimistic, and I plan to stay that way!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Chicken Mole Recipe

Something happened to the link and the website for the Chicken Mole recipe that appeared in my blog entry You Can Get Married Now, October 2010.  So I am reprinting that blog entry here.

The Mexicans have a saying when a woman can prepare a delicious meal; she can get married now.

I was on a Chicken Mole kick a while back, after having tasted a wonderful dish of it.  I asked for the hostess’s recipe, but never followed through.

Thus began my quest for a dynamite mole recipe.  I found it on the Internet and it was easy to prepare, and delicious.

I prepared it and the consensus was - I could get married now!  Try it.  You’ll be able to get married too!

Chicken Mole
 Chicken Mole for Tostados

2 TBSP. Lard or Vegetable oil
2 Semi heaping TBSPS. Peanut Butter
1 Medium onion, minced
2-16 ounce cans diced tomatoes
1 TBSP. Mexican sweet chocolate*
2 Pkgs. Chili Seasoning mix
1 Boiled chicken (Or you can bake chicken pieces and add them to the sauce
4 Cups chicken broth
Salt to taste

*No Mexican chocolate - use semi sweet chocolate chips and 3/4 tsp. cinnamon

In dutch oven, saute minced onion in oil.  Add rest of ingredients except chicken meat.  Cook just until boiling.  Add chicken.

Serve with Spanish rice.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Murphy's (Karita's) Law

 Friday before last I was about to sell my husbands Volkswagon Vanagon for way more than he paid for it.  Problem was I couldn't find the paperwork.

Every other vehicle file was there except the Vanagon's.  I went through the entire filing cabinet that morning.  Still no papers.  Sale postponed.
Last Monday I needed to have my car smogged.  It failed.  It was an additional $300.00 to get the tags.

Last Wednesday, I drove into my driveway and noticed water seeping up from the ground.  The water pipe had broken.  After my husband's death, I had thought about getting the insurance the water company offers, set the paperwork aside and forgot about it.  My sons who know how to fix pipes were out of town and wouldn't be back for a couple of days. 

So this morning I awoke thinking about Murphy's Law.   I began wondering where this set of laws originated.  No one really seems to know, but I believe if you've lived long enough, and experienced life for any length of time any one of us could own it!  From here on out I'm going to call it Karita's Law, because I know for a certainty anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and  if there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the one to go wrong.

That was last week. But I'm not so naive as to forget this other law of Karita.  Just when you think things cannot get any worse, they will. We'll see how this week turns out.  Have a nice week!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Becoming a Man

That's how a woman described her life after  her husband died 5 years ago.

"All the things he did around the house I had to learn to do. I had to learn to clean the pool, run the rototiller. Fix the stuff  around the house my husband always repaired."

I know exactly what she's talking about!!  There were things my husband did that I didn't give a second thought to.

Like rototilling the garden.

My husband loved to garden.  He was particular about it too.  When we were first married, he didn't like the way I pulled weeds.  I wasn't thorough enough.  He asked me not to help him pull weeds in the garden.  He thought he had offended me.  Ha!  Not in the least.  I would sit and watch him pull the weeds.  When the harvest was ready, I'd go out and pick the produce of his labor.  It was that way for 28 years!

 The garden grew weeds this summer.  The energy just wasn't there.

I thought I would like to plant a winter garden.

I got in last month and pulled weeds.  Perhaps not as thorough as my husband would have been, but I did a decent job.  After pulling weeds, I rototilled. His old, man sized, rototiller was a hand-me-down from his father. He must have had that thing  at least 15 years.  There was no way I could have maneuvered that thing.  It broke down last year, and Barry couldn't get the parts  to repair it.  When visiting his father, he brought home a smaller hand-me-down rototiller.  He called it a piece of junk.  But it worked for me! I mixed the gasoline with the oil to the ratio it said, poured it in, and fired the rototiller up!  I was delighted!  I rototilled the garden. I then proceeded to to plant kale, mustard greens, collard greens, chard, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts and  lettuce.

The other prepared bed will have carrots, beets, parsnips and rutabagas.  I  know  rutabagas are basically turnips, but my daughter said she loved the sound that word made. So instead of turnips there are rutabagas.
 Barry understood the therapeutic value of gardening, and I hope to learn that value also.

 I feel pretty good about my garden.  I'll keep you posted as to how it is growing.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Counting Your Blessings

They say cancer patients have good days and bad days.  Dealing with grief is kind of like that.  It can be a bright and sunny day, then all of a sudden a dark gloomy cloud rests overhead.  Out of nowhere.  It could be a smell, a song, a phrase, or just looking at a photo in passing that triggers it.

I've been told the pain softens over time, but time seems to be dragging!  I realize it's a process that one must go through to be healthy on the other side.

At the end of each day  I try to think of a blessing  I received that day and write it down.  It may be  simply  my daughter's safe return from the next town, or getting the resources to cover a hefty utility bill.

Karita's Book of Blessings
To cope, I have to look for the blessings in that day. As the pain softens, and time passes, I may look back at my book and be able to count many  blessings!

I hope so.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

This Old Truck

My husbands truck needed to be smogged this week.  He was so proud of this truck.  He bought it at a car auction for $1.00.  He was outbid for the truck he wanted to buy. Walking away dejected, he decided to return to see what other trucks were going for.

When the auctioneer, in frustration after no one was bidding on this truck, exclaimed "Can't I get anyone to give me a dollar for this truck?".

Dollar Truck
Barry said "I'll give you a dollar."

The auctioneer further frustrated said "Sold for one dollar!"

What a coup that was!  All the parts to the motor were in the back of the pickup.  Not only that, there was an electric shaver that actually worked!  There was a ream of computer paper, and numerous other interesting things.  The pickup even had  a metal tool box across the back.  Certainly he did not get burned on that deal!

Barry spent the next afternoon putting the motor back together and drove it home the next day.

That truck served him well.  So in the aftermath of his death, of course, I would keep his dollar truck!

So today I was nervous and saddened when I took his truck to get smogged.  Barry always got his cars to pass smog.  He took pride in them passing.

What did I know about getting a vehicle to pass smog?  Nothing, so I put in a new air filter, put some goober juice in the gas tank to clean the carburetor and the fuel lines.

Guess what?  It didn't pass!

Tears began to flow.  I've never had to deal with this.  I left his truck there for them to find and fix the cause, because I needed it to pass the smog test.  I needed to keep his dollar truck operative!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Cherished Gift

My husband and I had been self employed, for the most part, all our married life.  We never knew what tomorrow would bring.   As he put it, sometimes we would have chicken for dinner,

 and other times we'd have the feathers for dinner!    As such he never allowed us to fall into the credit card trap.

We'd have to save for what we wanted.  Many times once we had the money, we really didn't want to spend our hard earned money on the object of our past affection.

When he died he left me with no outstanding debt, with minimal owing on our home.  I will always be grateful to him for insisting it be that way. 

There are no creditors circling over me like vultures!  

Thanks Barry!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

In Loving Memory

My husband of 29 years died 2 weeks ago from cancer.  It was a sad, sad day for us.

Medically he fell through the cracks in the system.  His doctor kept telling him he was fine, kept telling him all the tests were in range.  When in fact  he was not fine and the tests were wrong!

William Barry Duncan   July 16, 1957 - July 1, 2011
His death has left a tremendous void in our lives.

He Will Call
Life, like a mist, appears for just a day,
Then disappears tomorrow.
All that we are can quickly fade away,
Replaced with tears and sorrow.
If a man should die, can he live again?
Hear the promise God has made:

He will call; the dead will answer.
They shall live at his command.
For he will have a longing
For the work of his own hand.
So have faith, and do not wonder,
For our God can make us stand.
And we shall live forever,
As the work of his own hand.
 Friends of our God, though they may pass away,
Will never be forsaken.
All those asleep who in God’s memory stay,
From death he will awaken.
Then we’ll come to see all that life can be:
Paradise eternally.

From Sing to Jehovah, Song 111
(Based on Job 14: 13 - 15)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Strawberry Dream Cake

Every April or May as a child, my father would drive us 100 miles to Oakland’s Chinatown for dinner and strawberry cake.  Strawberries were in season and the cake they made was to die for - at least I thought.  We’d eat a Chinese dinner family style, and have strawberry cake for dessert.  My father would then buy a whole cake to bring home with us.

That Chinese restaurant is no longer there, as are most restaurants from my childhood, but I can still taste that strawberry cake.

Over the years, I’ve sought to recreate that cake.  Through trial and error, I’ve come very very close.  Now every year while strawberries are in season (which they are now) I have to make a strawberry cake.  I like doing the 4-layer number.  Below are 2 variations using box cake mixes:
This one comes the closest.

Strawberry Dream Cake
1 package  (2 layer) yellow cake mix
1 packet Dream Whip Topping Mix
4 eggs
1 cup cold water
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 pint strawberries, cleaned and sliced
(reserve a few whole strawberries for garnish on top)

Combine all ingredients for cake in a large bowl.  Blend with electric mixer at medium speed for 4 minutes.  Pour into greased and floured 9” cake pans.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.  Cool 10 minutes in pans; then remove from pans and finish cooling on rack.  If you want a 4-layer cake, after cooling, cut each layer in half.

Whip whipping cream on high until thick and fluffy.  Add sugar to taste.  Spread whipped cream on each layer, then place sliced strawberries on top.  Repeat.  On the top layer decorate with whole strawberries placed in center.

Sour Cream Pound Cake
1 package Duncan Hines Butter Cake Mix
Follow recipe for the Sock-It-To-Me Cake on cake box side (omitting streusel filling)

Proceed with whipping cream as above.

These cakes make a lovely presentation. Try one, I think you will agree!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lilacs and Spring

As a child, winters seemed to be oh so long. For a child who loved the outdoors being inside was torturous, to say the least.  I was always waiting for winter to end.  One of the sure signs that winter was over, was the blooming of the Lilac tree.

We had a Lilac tree in our backyard.  When it bloomed the much anticipated season had arrived!  We had made it through another Winter. Now when  I smell the heady fragrance of the Lilac tree, those childhood feelings reemerge. The Lilacs in our area are in  bloom.  Another winter has come and gone.  Thank goodness!

Happy Spring!

Monday, March 28, 2011

My Favorite Thing

Well, I'm behind excitement!  I should have posted this blog 2 weeks ago - before the tulips arrived at the market! Each Farmer's market from here on out, the signs of Spring will keep mounting.  The spring flowers are beginning to arrive. This is my favorite time of year at the market.  Oh, the tulips and daffodils!  My friend Bestbirds is a photographer.  He has been sending me pictures of the flowers at the farmer's market for over 6 years.  The pictures featured here are those he has taken over the years at the market. 
This past Saturday at the Market it was rainy, windy  and cold.  But the anticipation for this week kept us going.  Mid seventies this week and into next.  Woo hoo!

Each week from here on out  his camera will be busy getting some of the first shots of spring.  I am looking forward to seeing them!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Winter Doldrums - How to Beat Them!

Winter is just about 3/4 over.  Or another way to put it is we have about 3 or 4 weeks of Winter left to go.  I think I like the latter better!

Fortunately for us on the west coast, winter has been fairly mild and agreeable, little rain and nice temperatures.  It has been woe, though, for the mid and eastern parts of the country.  I'm sure they will be glad when winter is over!

This time of year, we're tired of the cold dreary weather.  We're tired of having to be indoors. We're anxious, we're anxious, we're anxious!   What can we do then to beat the winter doldrums?  Below are some ideas.

One way is, as I mentioned in one of my last blogs,  have a family game night.  Invite others in on the fun.

Buy some fresh flowers even if you have to buy them at the supermarket!  Nothing lifts the spirits more that a vase of lovely fresh flowers, or a colorful plant!
Take an online course.  There are literally thousands of free courses on the web!  For instance, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) offers about 2000 free lectures, note, exams and videos in undergraduate and graduate subjects!  To see what I mean go to

Reconnect with friends.  Throw a foot soaking party!  Invite friends over to chit chat and crack-alack, and  soak their tired feet.  Karita's Handmade has a foot soaking party kit with everything in it to get the party going!

Do something nice for someone.  A random act of kindness goes a long way.  Bake them something.  Cook them something.  Take them some fresh flowers.  The list  goes on.

There are many other ways to beat the doldrums of Winter.  Be imaginative!  But one thing is certain.  By putting forth an effort, the dark days of Winter will turn into light.  And that light will brighten the  remainder of Winter for someone else!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Gray headedness a crown of beauty?

My hair is gray.  It started turning gray in my thirties.  In my twenties, I would color my hair.    As I started having children, helping my husband with his business and so forth.  I just let it go.

When a classmate of my daughter told her he had seen her grandmother at the store with her dad,  I threatened to dye my hair.  When a acquaintance's child called me a little old lady, I threatened again to dye my hair.  I guess that just comes with the territory.  But the straw that almost broke the camels back, was when a woman asked me if I was my husbands' mother!  I told her, "Look at me, do I look like his mother?"  I attribute the remark she made as bordering on dementia!

The problem, as I see it, with coloring your hair are the roots.  They (like laundry and dishes) just keep coming back!  That would mean dyeing my hair each week or so.  That would be too tedious!  I do fantasize about coloring it, especially when I'm disrespected!

Others, I'm sure face the same dilemma.  But for now, I guess I'll just take the abuse!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Our Family Game Night

I'm hoping to start a tradition this year, by instituting a Family Game Night.  When the children were little, we always played games.  My youngest daughter learned to multiply by playing Yahtzee.  When our family played games, generally it was to win.  Along the way, though, we always had fun!

This past Sunday was the first such game night of this new year.  We played Balderdash.  Balderdash is a bluffing game put out by Mattel, with obscure words and definitions.  If you don't know the word or it's meaning, you make one up!  What fun we had!  Our imaginations ran wild.  It was particularly hilarious when an off the wall definition was chosen as being totally realistic.  One word was Katipo.  I had never heard of that word in my life.  My definition was a specialized racing canoe.  They believed me, ( Ha Ha!) when in fact it is a black poisonous spider with a red stripe!  Another word was deltiologist.  A deltiologist is a collector of postcards - not a professional who studies algae in ponds.  Ha Ha, fooled again! We laughed and laughed!

Family game nights have many benefits.  It promotes family bonding in a relaxed and fun way.  Children learn important social and academic skills.  Family night is a way to enjoy each others company, without forcing conversation.

I googled Family Game Night and came up with some additional benefits of having a family game night.

It's inexpensive*.  It's suitable for all ages.  Everyone can participate.  It educates and entertains.  It allows for wonderful family interactions and builds strong character.  It is also a good way to reach out to others by inviting extended family members or close friends to join in on the fun!

If you decide to have a family night of your own, consider these tips:  Set aside about 2 hours to play. Avoid interruptions.  Have everyone enjoy an easy dinner together.  Provide snacks that aren't messy. 

After our evening of fun and games, I began planning for our next one!  I sincerely hope our Family Game Night will become a cherished  family tradition.

*We found our game at the thrift store for 2 bucks!