Sunday, September 28, 2008


Sometimes you get nice gifts for your birthday or Christmas and other
special days or from a friend "just because. It's always nice to receive a gift!

I'm pretty old and over the years have recieved quite a few gifts. Now gifts are not something you can just toss out -- over time they become even more sentimental, whether attached to memories of a person, a season in your life, or other significant events.

I continue to sort and pack...I have even gone through all the boxes I packed a year ago trying to find my Mary Engelbreit Collection so I could sell it on Ebay to make some money.

I am happy to say I only have four more boxes to go through and all of the Mary E has sold or is being sold on Ebay. I have not had any luck with china or vases or other types of things at all. But Mary E lovers LOVE Mary stuff. .I've had to snap out of it! regarding my collection of Mary E. It only tore my heart a little bit.

At any rate, over these many years and though I've moved and gotten rid of at least half of my 'stuff' each time I do so, I still have so much to pack. I have gone to the Goodwill every week for many weeks now and still have another big pile by my front door to take this week. The more I go through my 'things' the less I care about paying to move them or have them for the long haul ... well at my age it would be the short haul!

I don't really need 50 cookbooks..cute as they are and darling as they looked in my all know I rarely cook or bake! I am finding it less important to keep certain books, so off they go into the pile to give away. These are the cookbooks I will keep. The I Hate To Cook Book was one I received in 1964 when I was married. I guess I have always had issues with cooking. There is one recipe from Peg Bracken's cookbook though that I have used for a company dish over 44 years now. It's EASY and YUMO! (long before that word was invented by Rachel)
Braised-Chicken-and-Artichoke Casserole
Freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
3 pounds cut-up chicken or chicken pieces
6 tablespoons butter
4 ounces mushrooms, quartered
2 tablespoons flour
2/3 cup chicken broth or bouillon
3 tablespoons sherry
1 (12-to-15-ounce) can artichoke hearts
2 to 4 medium baking potatoes (optional).
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix together 1 ½ teaspoons of salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and the paprika and sprinkle on all sides of the chicken.
2. Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over high heat. Brown the chicken prettily on all sides, in batches, adjusting the heat as needed. Transfer the chicken to a large Dutch oven or casserole.
3. Pour off the butter from the skillet, wipe it clean and return it to the heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. When the butter starts to foam, add the mushrooms and sauté for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over them, stir in the chicken broth and the sherry and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Halve artichoke hearts and arrange them between the chicken pieces. Pour mushroom-sherry sauce over them and cook in the oven, covered, for 40 minutes. If you choose, put your baking potatoes in the oven 20 minutes before the casserole, and things will come out even. Serves 4. Enjoy That!

Well I have more packing to do, this little picture only depicts a small number of boxes on my shelves in the garage, and many sitting waiting in my bedroom,but i'm paring down, down, down. So that's what I've been doing and why I haven't blogged lately...Ebay and Packing! Soon I'll be known as Karna, The Minimalist!

Feel free to send gifts, I don't toss or give those away!!!

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Luis visiting with Jeff here at the house in 2004.
Luis is my #4 friend. We have a joke about that placement. When he asked me if he could be one of my best friends I told him I had nine who would precede his ranking. He humbly accepted his #10 spot with the hope of moving up in the ranks over time.

You have to know Luis. I'd say I've known about four people over my entire life that could make me laugh on the spot with their wit. My son, Jeff, was one of them. I don't need to name the others. But Luis is way up there - he is hilarious. I am sure that is one of the reasons he and Jeff were best friends. He and Jeff met while attending U.C. Davis. Fast friendships formed in the dorm they inhabited. A band of them drew really close and are all still freinds today enjoying the company of each other 20+ years later. They all have families and are really tight.

Jeff and Luis were like brothers. Luis has two brothers, Jeff had none. They shared their lives and philosophies together and also traveled together to South America. Oh the tales of that trip are many! Plus, I found a journal Jeff kept while on that trip. He detailed every single day of where they went, what they did as well as what they drank and more! Jeff drew little pictures on every page depicting highlights of the day, often a mountain, a llama or some beautiful girl. Before I move I am planning on giving Luis that journal to enjoy and relive his memories of the great trip they had together.

Luis lives about 70 miles from Jeff's house here in Santa Rosa. Though a busy career in San Francisco, his wife Joann, his daughter Anna,his own parents and many other responsibilities keep him incredibly busy, such a distance did not keep Luis from 'showing up' in Jeff's time of need. He stood by him through thick and thin while Jeff suffered from MS and endured a devastating divorce.

I don't know how Jeff would have managed without his friend Luis who did more than most brothers might have. His commitment to Jeff was so totally and completely without thought to himself it spoke volumes to what friendship should and can be when selflessness comes into play. I have always been grateful for Luis' wife Joann for her commitment to Jeff by coming alongside Luis so that Jeff took a higher priority during this season, cutting into their time together. These are two phenomenal people.

It's no wonder their daughter, Anna, who is not only beautiful, talented and intelligent, is so thoughtful as well. When she would come with her Poppa or Mommy to visit Jeff in the hospice home many times a week over the four months he was there, she would like to comb Jeff's hair...she did this very carefully and lovingly. I came upon a page in the book that was made for people who visited to write in..notes about Jeff and what he said, that would one day be for little Kevin. There are a few pages in there where Anna drew pictures. One was of Jeff in bed with hearts all around it and the notation was that while Jeff was sleeping, he was dreaming of hearts. So sweet. So loving..just like her parents.

Not only did Luis and Joann take good care of Jeff, they have come close to me in order to do the same, making my transitioning much less difficult over the past two years. There are flowers on Mother's Day, gifts at Christmas and phone calls with helpful suggestions and just great conversations. The gifts they give me have set of earrings have tiny starfish on the end, a silver with inlaid turquoise necklace is in the beautiful shape of a whale's tail - small and tasteful. Because of Jeff's love of the ocean they know these are gifts with great memories for me. I appreciate their love and care. They have been there for me in other significant ways as well.

Often Luis would call me while driving home from work. This is when we talk about whatever needed to be talked about, and laugh so much. Again, he is so humorous and outrageous. I cackle and snort even! He was once bemoaning the fact that he was #10 in the friendship list wondering what he could possibly do to reach a higher ranking. I said ok are #4. He didn't accept it easily because he knew he had cajoled me into it, but that's his standing.

He's #1 with me for what he has done for Jeff always and for how he has taken care of me since Jeff's passing. I love him and his little family to pieces, not just for all they have always done for us, but for who they are deep inside where it matters.

"Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of joy you must have somebody to divide it with." - Mark Twain

"A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure." - Sirach 6:14

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

It's all so very Mary!

Too busy to blog today - the remainder of my Mary Engelbreit collection is uploaded and ready for auction (well, they're already bidding).
Thus brings to a close my whimsical kitchen and time with Mary.

Moving on, but will always love the art creations of Mary E!

Ebay collectors are great. If you want to find me at ebay-i'm sweetiepie71257 :)

These are great gifts for Christmas, birthdays...anything, even if you are not a collector.

I tell you I sighed as I unpacked them to photograph, measure, note the markings and upload to ebay. They are from a special time in my life - they brought me color, whimsy, smiles and a beautiful collection.

My ME dishes will survive my selling though ... they are still in my brother's garage in Idaho along with the most beautiful Mary E fountain ever made. its a 3 foot tall beehive in her cool colors with little bees stuck in and about on copper curly wire. I think I'll keep that for another day of whimsy somewhere in the Pacific Northwest!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Seasons of Life

Ecclesiastes 3
A Time for Everything

1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace

Solomon wrote Ecclesiastes. He was the second son born to David and Bathsheba. II Sam. 12: 23-24 says he was beloved of God. David chose him as his successor while he was in his teens. He is well known for his temples and palaces, 700 wives and 300 concubines. I Kings 4:32 says he spoke 3,000 proverbs and 1,005 songs. His wisdom was sought after. Due to his sinful ways, however, he fell into idol worship and far away from God. You can see this if you read all of Chapter 3. He has no sense of security in God at all. He reigned 40 years and had one son.


Everything has a time and season. Besides when we are born and when we die, as well as the times for planting and harvesting, the rest of the scriptures really give us wisdom as to how to live our lives while we are in this time and space that the Lord has given. We often find ourselves tearing down when we should be building, or giving up before we are done. We speak when we should be silent. We often hate what we should love and love what we should hate. We dance when we should be working and some people work and never dance!

When I woke up Saturday morning I had a thought in my head (very unusual)!! The thought that I believe God placed there for my benefit is what I want to share with you for your own consideration as we age and move through our seasons here on earth.

My thought was: As you age and the physical body deteriorates (much to your chagrin), how important is that compared to what God is doing in your spiritual life as a Christian? If you are walking with God in obedience He is renewing you; you are not deteriorating at all!

This is a positive element within our spirit. God placed the Holy Spirit within us as believers in Christ. If you do a word search on the names of the Holy Spirit, they are many. They are powerful and positive. God has graced us with His spirit within in order to renew us to be with Him in perfection one day.
Let us be encouraged as we move through the seasons in our lives, that our God is with us and for us, giving us a renewal as we follow Him. What grace!
In His Grip,

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Wonderful Autumn!

Korbel Champagne Wine Cellars

I'm in love with the fall season! Even though its been in the high 80's and even 90's in the past two weeks here in Northern California, i see some long shadows falling across the yard...advance warning that we are fast-approaching cooler days! Autumn's beautiful rich colors, the deepening of the leaves from green to yellow and red and purples as well as the vineyards ablaze in their glory!! Nothing is so refreshing as the brisk cool weather, the gentle winds that begin, and the lingering days before winter takes its turn. I relish God's creation. I often take a ride out through River Road which winds in, through and around the beautiful vineyards - it's really amazing!

I put out my fall decorations early in anticipation this month. Melissa at The Inspired Room had everyone send in their fall decorating tips and pictures. I am not the only one who loves the season!!! I was, however, too late to get my photo in(I didn't even take it until today) and it's okay because you should take a look at what people sent in. VERY talented decorators and lovely porches. I'm a tad limited for space, so i'll just console myself with that! I'm also not known for my photograhpy skills, just know there are two geese, not just one to the left of the door, and a welcome mat! LOL I also couldn't find the flowers for the 2nd little container to the right of the door...I'll get some soon. When pumpkins are en masse I'll dress up the wooden bench on one of the lawn areas out front! It's all too fun to welcome Autumn!

Yesterday some friends came over for dinner. When I was sweeping off the porch I noticed the door was dusty and a mess. Unfortunately, while i was wiping it down (it's metal) the friends drove up and parked. When Donna got out of the car she said, "Nice to see you working hard, Karen!" (wry grin on her face!) HA! We all had a great visit in spite of her humor! We laughed at some old memories, were subdued by some as well, and spoke of what is ahead and how we live today.

So we say goodbye to summer and welcome a new season. Would you agree that life seems so similar?

I have some thoughts that were in my head as I woke up Saturday morning which I'll share with you tomorrow on that subject. Have a wonderful Sunday!

Saturday, September 6, 2008


I love my Scottish ancestry!

As a child I heard all the tales of the voyage from Scotland to America, ate the traditional food and desserts of Scotland, loved the brogue my grandparents spoke, and grew up around men playing the bagpipes, lots of singing, dancing, and men in kilts!

My grandfather, James Houston, immigrated to America in 1920, the year my mother was born, his youngest child and only daughter, Sarah. He set off with his cousin Hugh, both bakers, in search of the American Dream. After six years in San Francisco he was ready to go back to Scotland and wrote my grandmother (Mary Thompson Houston) to let her know. She wrote him right back and told him to stay there, we are on our way!! Somehow she packed up her four children and belongings and they set sail, leaving her twin sister and all the relatives behind.

My mother was six and her eldest brother Hugh was 14, Bill was 10 and James was 8. The story goes that they almost lost my mother along the way on the train ride across the United States. Some people had taken her to get her an ice cream and didn't get back in a timely way...they almost missed the train.
They lived on Potrero Hill in San Francisco before moving across the Bay to Oakland where my grandfather opened his own bakery on 35th Avenue. He had the bakery for years and years until he retired. The bakery is where my mother met my father. He liked his sweets and he liked the sweet thing behind the counter as well! They married and I was their first child.

Because my Grandpa didn't drive, my mother would take me and we would go get him everyday and bring him back to his house. I was a tiny little anemic thing so all the bakers were always trying to fatten me up by giving me a chocolate eclair every single day...oh thank you for those early onset of fat cells!

My Dad went off to France during WWII and we lived with my grandparents from the time I was 18 months old until I was three, when he returned. His worst injury was being bitten by a rat (YIKES) and we were grateful he was home safe and sound. My childhood album was done by him, which I just treasure. It was the old black photo album paper and he wrote in white ink. I digress. It was later in life that I realized how cool that really was for a dad in the 40s! I also heard he made my mother sit by the radio and listen to music so I would have a love for music (which I do) and I don't think that really became 'popular' until the 70s!

While my mother and I lived with my grandparents, she went to work every day at Edy's which is Dryer's Ice Cream. She wore a big black bow in her red hair as part of the uniform. I just had a charmed life with my grandparents as my other cousins lived over in San Francisco and I became the favorite! Well my cousin Richard lived in Oakland also but he wasn't about to become a favorite...boy that he was. My grandfather was 'thrifty' as they call it and the lights in the house were not turned on until the street lights outside went on. Those lights outside were also my signal that soon my mother would be walking up the street, coming home from her ice cream duties.

After my dad got back from France he rented a house one block away from my grandparents and there was a wide alley-like place but not dark and dingy like I think of alleys was a cement pathway with grass on either side for passage from my grandparents house to my own new house. I traversed it quite often. I spent lots of overnight visits at my grandparents also which were very fun. In their kitchen they had a kelly table ... you've heard of kelly beds..dropping out of the wall, well their kitchen table did that and then folded back up and doors closed and a nice size kitchen was still there. Late at night they always had tea and scones with jam...but it was too much trouble to take that table down so they pulled out the breadboard and my grandmother covered it with a nice tablecloth and we sat around it and ate our treat and drank our tea. My grandmother, a nice Presbyterian real christian woman, read my tea leaves for fun every night.

We did eat some odd things when I think about it: Tripe, Finnan Haddie (Finnan haddie \Fin"nan had"die\ [See Haddock.] Haddock cured in peat smoke, originally at Findon (pron.f[i^]n"an), Scotland. the name is also applied to other kinds of smoked haddock. [Written also finnan haddock.] They baked that with tons of butter and it was really good, but I don't ever see that in a fish market anymore. We also ate 'mince and potatoes' which was nothing more than hamburger sauteed with onions, add water, cook and serve over mashed potatoes. I loved the Scotch Broth soup,and espeically the meat pies.

Desserts were much more appealing to me though! Besides those eclairs every day, they made batches of shortbread and also tablet, which is is a fudge like candy. Here's the traditional recipe:

Ingredients (for 4 pounds/1.8kg tablet): Butter or margarine - half pound (225g) Sweetened condensed milk - one pound (450g) Castor sugar - 4 pounds (1.8kg) Water - 1 pint (half litre)Method Using a non-stick pan, put the water on a low heat and melt in the butter. Add the sugar and bring to the boil. It is important to keep stirring all the time. Once it is boiling, stir in the condensed milk and simmer for 20 minutes. Again, keep stirring to avoid it sticking/burning. Take off the heat and beat vigorously for five minutes, adding the flavouring of your choice. Pour into a rectangular greased tin and once it is partly cooled, cut into bars (roughly 5 inches long by 1/2 inches wide). Once the tablet is cold, wrap the bars in waxed paper and store in an airtight jar or tin.
EVEN I HAVE MADE THIS AND IT TURNS OUT FINE..castor sugar ... just use superfine sugar.

I can't give you my grandfathers shortbread recipe though,its different than the thousands I have read on line...he had an ingredient that made it special. At Christmas time he would make so many and then wrap them and give them as gifts. My uncle James became a baker and he too continued that tradition. My cousin has the original mold which had a pattern with the thistle image on it. They were about 5 inches across and wonderful. I have also made this shortbread and it turned out just like his! I would love to take it to market someday, but the rules for baking at home are many, far too many; who can afford an industrial kitchen?

Lastly, I want to share my most favorite memory of all. New Year's Day at my Grandparents. First of all, all hustle and bustle of getting ready for New Years...many people would attend...tables and chairs everywhere for everyone. Furniture pushed aside and don't get in the way of anyone!

All my aunts and uncles and cousins were there. Also invited were all the people from Scotland they knew in the area. One lady brought us a Hershey bar every year. It was just a fun-filled delightful day with at least 50 people all laughing and visiting and eating. It did get a bit confusing as a child because many of the men were named Hugh. So many in fact they were categorized and referred to this way: Our Hugh, your Hugh, Wee Hugh, Little Hugh, Big Hugh, etc. LOL We all played bingo and there were prizes of money!

Then the big dinner...but the best part ever was after dinner.... all the lights would go down....there was a swinging door from the kitchen into the living room and dining room....and that door would swing open and my grandmother would have what they called YULE FIGGY PUDDING and it was on FIRE! (bit of rum) then it would burn off and the lights would go back on (All so exciting for we youngkids) and oh yummy the dessert! That just topped off the entire fun day of festivities. Every year this wonderful tradition.

I am blessed to have my memories.

I shall leave you with a couple of Scottish proverbs:
“Never marry for money. You'll borrow it cheaper.”
“Money is flat and meant to be piled up.”
“May God bless you to live as long as you want to; and want to as long as you live!

Monday, September 1, 2008


Every morning I receive a wonderful photo devotional from Kenn & Lori Stilger. I've known them online since 1995 or thereabouts. Kenn is a professional photographer, as is Lori, both devoted to Jesus. If you'd like to receive their devotional, write to them at --(That's one of their photos above. Amazing isn't it!)
Today's devotion had a picture of Mt. St. Helens in Washington State. They spoke of visiting the site and seeing the healing that had begun in the volcano itself and the land nearby. The analogy was that our God is who causes restoration such as that -- as well as healing within us is a great God. Amen to that.

If you Google Images for healing you get quite an array of options for healing. You have salves for healing, crystals for healing, stones for healing, healing centers, pictures of books offered on self-healing, a healing tears necklace, healing essences, healing massage, silent healing, musical healing, healing herbs, olive oil healing and (had I known) healings using grapes! In the hundreds of images I viewed there were three of Jesus; one with a child, one with a body of people and one healing the blind man. All the rest were of self and product. The Great Physician ignored for the most part.

At any rate, as I thought about how God is an awesome God, our healer in matters of the heart and the body. While we prayed for Jeff's healing throughout his ordeal with MS, we were quite aware that God heals physically whom He will for this shelf life of approximately 75 years while here on earth, and yet aware that the reality was the outcome of our prayers would not be what we wanted...Jeff with us for many years to come.

<-------KEVIN, my brother (and Ryan a while back)

God healed my brother of multiple myeloma which was such a beautiful miracle for all of us who love him. His doctor shakes his head, all the people in the cancer center for those years along with my brother Kevin have all passed away from this disease. Kevin never took the chemotherapy which was advised but because he was only given six months to live and there was no guarantee that the chemo would even help, he declined. While Kevin lives with the complications that occurred due to the disease, he lives pretty well and enjoys his wife and children who were 8, 6 and 4 when he was diagnosed. Now Danielle is in college and Christopher and Ryan are in high school!!! We thank the Lord for this incredible healing.

He healed Jeff in a different He took him away from us and to Himself. I know a renewal of Jeff's faith occurred and that's the greatest one a mother could hope for. I will see him again. I quote my friend Jim Wilkinson, who said "You will see Jeff sooner rather than later, Karen!" Talk about comforting me with encouraging words AND telling me I'm old in such a nice way! Ya just have to laugh.

Jeff had been legally and then totally blind in the last couple of years of his journey. For his last eight months he was in the hospital for two and a hospice home for four. We knew we were losing him that weekend...we knew it would only be a couple of days before we would be without him. His coloring had been terrible for the last year, he withered away for the most part, unable to move much, so gaunt and really no color on this once vibrant sun-loving guy.

Well, his friends had made big posters with collages on all three of the 'good ole days' and they took up the length of the bed and were about 3 feet high. Colorful and a great idea so as they visited they talked about the memories they had together. I added pictures of his son, Kevin. But Jeff never saw any of those.

I had read in a hospice book that often the patient will be found looking up as if seeing something, (they feel its a loved one or a group of people they know to help them to the next level, ie. they will die soon). So every time I saw Jeff straining that way I would ask..."What are you looking at, what do you see." He would always say, "Nothing." That last day before he died, his Dad was visiting him, his hospice volunteer buddy, John was there as well when I walked in. We all chatted and Jeff fell asleep. When he woke up we all said hello again and within a few minutes Jeff was looking up at his wall...I asked, "What do you see,Jeff?" His reply was, "It's all colorful there." (he was looking at the wall of photos). He asked what it was and I told him tons of photographs of he and his buddies and his son. All of a sudden I thot: WHAT? He can see that color? I went to the end of his bed and said, "Hey, Jeff. Can you see me down here?" He looked and smiled and said "Oh yea, I can see that blonde hair of yours!" :) TEARS immediately began streaming down my face, tears of joy that his sight was being restored...John was all teary eyed and his Dad just looked dumbfounded.

Eventually his Dad and John left and I took my place next to the bed to sit with my son and visit or pray over him while he slept. He nodded off again. I sat there just looking at my precious most handsome boy who had been such a great son to me...and I realized his color was back in his face! His cheeks were rosy! Then he awoke and we visited and yet again, another odd thing. His eyes had become cloudy from the blindness over the years but at that moment they were as clear as they had ever been. I was so happy to 'see' my son as he had 'been.' Those beautiful green eyes bright and shining. I didn't know what was happening at the time, but have come to realize that God was healing him for his homeward journey. WOW!

He passed away in the early morning the next day; home and fully healed with Jesus. And yes, I'll see him sooner rather than later, and that's fine by me.

I Am The God That Healeth lyrics
Artist - Don Moen
Album - The Best Of Don Moen

I Am The God That Healeth

I am the God that healeth thee

I am the Lord your Healer

I sent My Word and I healed your disease

I am the Lord your Healer

You are the God That healeth me

You are the Lord my Healer

You sent Your Word and You healed my disease

You are the Lord my Healer