Monday, May 23, 2016

New Skills at the Spring Home Show

This last weekend was pretty epic. It was the Auburn Spring Home Show and Mason had a much bigger role at the cooking stage. Not only was he schedule to cook all three days, but this year he was invited to host the stage and the other chefs as well. We normally invite local chefs to bring their favorite recipe and do a cooking demo for the audience. Well, this time, we created Chopped Challenges creating mystery ingredients from products sold at our local farmers market. Our chefs had to draw a card to let them know if they were preparing an appetizer, entree, or dessert. We provided them with their mystery ingredients, set the timer for 30 minutes and they had to make it happen using our pantry and in front of a live audience. This is where Mason came in, as a Chopped Junior Champion, he chatted with the chefs, asked great questions, shared food tips and tricks, answered questions from the audience about his experience on Chopped Junior, he told jokes and truly entertained the audiences. As the weekend played out, he ended up doing an additional chopped challenge when one of our local chefs got sick so that put him at 4 live challenges, one cooking demo with his friend Drake, and he hosted 6 other challenges - Mason was one busy kid! It was impressive to watch Mason grow as a performer from one day to the next over such a short period of time, just three days. He told me at the end of the day on Friday, "Mom, this emceeing job is way harder than it looks, but I'm gonna get good at it, you'll see." I'd say he did! The organizer of the show presented him with a thank you card and a big fat check!

Last week was super busy, Mason did multiple television appearances for the home show, in addition setting up the kitchen stage, and doing his final workbooks for his science test coming up. Oh, and he signed with a talent agent! That was something he's been asking me if we could do, as he wants to expand his horizons and start doing some work that is not cooking related. Of course, as we met with the agents, all they wanted to talk about was cooking and his experience on Chopped! We decided to give it a try over the summer and see what comes his way, in addition to a few things we know are coming down the pike for him in the culinary arena. :)

Dave has been in central California working on Guard retention for the last two weeks and he is excited to be home this week. We are heading into a holiday weekend and I'm looking forward to a long weekend vibe. I hope your week is shaping up to be super great! 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Life is Like a Box of Chocolates - So Sweet!

The sweetest gift from Alice
What a wild ride it's been the last 10-14 days! Just going back as far as last week, Dave and I were in hyper speed cleaning mode getting the house ready for our housewarming party on Saturday. There were still boxes to unpack, pictures to hang, walls to finish painting, rooms to put together, the backyard to clean and through all of that, we were still both working, Dave is still in school, and a long list of other minutia that sticks it's nose in to be tended to as well. By Friday night I was pooped out and basically set my intention that Saturday would be perfect - those who could come would come, and those who couldn't make it this time would come another time. The house would be great and it didn't matter what didn't get done. 

Saturday morning my day started early with last minute errands to pick up flowers from Lisa Pilz at the market, a quick trip to the hardware store and then to the dollar store for balloons. My phone started buzzing with people saying they were coming and bringing friends, while later, another texted saying they drank too much Sangria with their lover through the day and were still too drunk to make it! In any case, our first guest showed up promptly at 11 AM and we had people all day until the last guests left at about 10:45 PM. 

What made Saturday so noteworthy is that people showed up to celebrate our new home with us and to tell us how much we mean to them. Every single person who came on Saturday touched me, but there are a few who made a significant impact and think you will agree why. Al and Linda drove from Alameda to see us and celebrate with us. They have been such dear friends through the years and we simply do not see them enough - they made the effort to come to see us. Greg and Heather came with their family and planned the trip to sleep over and go see Mason cook at BerryFest on Sunday. They live a good two hours away as well and it meant the world to us that they finally got to see Mason do a live cooking demo. Not to mention they were also a huge help with dinner and our local friends are in love with all of them! Finally, my friend Alice, who many of you know paid me such a huge compliment years ago when she had been my roommate for 3 or 4 months, she told me, "When I first met you and you were always so positive, I thought, "there's no way that's real" that has to be her office persona. Well, now that I've lived with you, it really is real, you really are that positive and happy all the time!" - that Alice hopped on a plane and flew all the way from Seattle just to come see us and celebrate our house warming with us! SHE GOT ON A PLANE AND LEFT HER 3 YOUNG CHILDREN AT HOME TO COME SEE ME ON MOTHERS DAY WEEKEND! How does someone not feel loved to their very core when a friend shows up to say, "I'm so happy for you and want you to know how much you mean to me." WOW! Now this was a big deal, but it was compounded by the other people who showed up after a super long day and really just wanted to stay home and hang out with their family, and the other ones who worked out rides because they can't currently drive at the moment, and the driver who made multiple trips because her car would not hold everyone in a single trip, and the friend who stopped over early to bring more chips and white wine even though she wasn't planning to show up until later...are you getting the message here? I was overwhelmed with love and appreciation for the friend I have been, and the friend I hope I still am. 

And then on Sunday, Mother's Day, Mason did two cooking demos at BerryFest and he was showered with accolades that when people were done taking photos with him, they made their way to me to say, "Great job mom!" I just feel so blessed and rich in friendship that I don't think I can ever or will ever snivel about what my bank balance shows, or the thing I don't have. I think I would equate this weekend to what it must feel like to attend one's own funeral after living a life of giving to others, you get to know while still living how loved you really are. I'm just so filled with gratitude, for as long as this post is, the words still don't express the way my heart feels. I hope I can keep being the friend to all of you who came this weekend, and even those of you who couldn't make it the way you made me (and Dave) feel this weekend.

Sunday night, Dave made barbecue crab for dinner as he knows it's my favorite and tonight Mason is making me strawberry funnel cakes. I was just too tired to appreciate it last night. How can I feel anything but pure love? I am loved and it's bliss!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Busy-ness As Usual

Happy Monday!

This weekend was busy as usual, but something kind of cool happened for Mason. A few weeks ago Mason was invited to emcee a talent show at a kids fair. He accepted and was so excited! A few days before the event, he got the line up of talent and what they were performing and he took the time to write out clever introductions for each of them. I have a longtime friend who is a radio DJ here in Sacramento and he did several recorded introductions for Mason, and that just put him in a headspace to do an even better job.  I was so proud of him, he handled himself like a seasoned professional. As is to be expected, there were additions to the show and changes and he made notes and wrote introductions for the new talent on the spot. There is always a person or two that approaches me and tells me what a polished and eloquent boy Mason is for only 12 years old, but on Saturday, it was many! There were several people who came just to meet him and take pictures. This is certainly not any kind of huge celebrity, but if he keeps working hard like he did for this project, he will be a real celebrity some day. I've included a little snippet/montage of his performance on Saturday, see for yourself how comfortable he was and why I think he has a career outside of just cooking demos. 

Sunday he had another performance that provided the opportunity to ride a toilet in the Toilet Bowl Races. Mason was one happy 12 year old this last weekend! Of course I have video, but you have to go to Mason's page on Facebook to see it. 

This week, Dave and I are preparing the house for our housewarming on Saturday and of course, Sunday is Mother's Day. Mason and I will be at BerryFest in Roseville where he will be doing two cooking demos at 11 and 2. Yep, it's the crazy, awesome life we lead! 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Rodeo Dance Date Night

Happy Monday! It's pretty bad when "busy" reaches the point that I can't decide what I want to share with you because it would take too long, and be too much reading to share it all. I'm thinking that I need a Monday Motivator Mid-Week Update at this point, but that would require me making time to sit and write at another point in the same week. 

This last week was Rodeo week here in Auburn and it's always fun when we can get involved. Dave and I volunteered on Saturday working the bar (selling tickets) so you know it was a crazy day. I was excited because Saturday night was the rodeo dance and there was a Buck Ford concert scheduled outside in Old Town Auburn and I had a new dress to wear on my date with Dave. He must have been excited, too because he went out and bought a new shirt to match my dress. I know, schmoop! In any case, the rodeo was off the hook busy and we worked like mad people from 1:30 - 6:30 PM and by the time it was time to get ready to go out, I didn't want to go. We did go but because we were so tired it was not the date night I had anticipated. There in lies the trouble with expectations! I can't help it, I have them. I have them with regard to my relationships, my friends, and my experiences. I've written about this before so I won't belabor the subject, but we had a good time anyway. It was fun to dress up, dance a few country dances and remember who we were and what we were doing back in the day when we fell in love. I think all couples could do that, do the things you used to do to remind you....

Mason is in full entrepreneur mode, he is working on camera, selling spiralizers, making money doing live cooking demos, and he is entertaining starting a business this summer repairing window screens. Yes, that's what I said! Our friends Shirley and Harry taught him how to do it yesterday and he thinks he has a knack for it. Sure, smaller screens, not so tough, bigger ones, well, that might be another story! I'm not going to say no, hey, if he thinks he can, he can. I wonder where he gets that from? Hmmm! ;)

Monday, April 18, 2016

A Big Shift is Coming!

Some of Mason's fans who came to the home show just to meet him!
This last week was off the hook, crazy busy! Not accounting for normal life and work, Mason did a tv spot, filmed a commercial all day Friday, and we traveled out of town over the weekend as he did four cooking demos between the two days. Keep in mind, four cooking demos, out of town require a pretty epic amount of preparation and planning. Mason is getting better about helping with the behind the scenes stuff, but at the ripe old age of 12, he's not quite there yet. Some would argue that I need to let him do it and if we don't have something, well, he'll remember next time. Not so much. If we get to our location and we don't have something critical for him to perform, guess who is on the hook to find someplace to make a purchase and shell out the cashola? Seriously, some places we cook are way off the beaten path and finding a Wal Mart like store is impossible. In any case, just know we arrived home for dinner on Sunday night pretty pooped out and ready for bed early.

Something pretty cool happened this week, too. Some of you may not understand the magnitude of this for me, but those of you who know me intimately will totally get it. While Mason was on location shooting his commercial, it turned out that one of the actors either was not cast or didn't show up...I'm not sure. The director approached me and asked if I'd mind appearing on camera as the homeowner answering the door. Uh, clearly this guy does not know me!! Heck yeah!! I got to act with Mason in the commercial. He was a total pro, he took direction like a champ, did what the director asked again and again, and he even followed my lead on a few little details. It was so super cool to be able to step in and put my skills to use, to show Mason that I do know what I'm talking about and can do it, too, and finally, just to have that experience with him - on film - was epic for me. I believe we will have access to the commercial when it's ready and you all know I will share.

So what about the big shift, what is that? I believe we are at at a point in Mason's live cooking demo career that there will be no more free appearances. He's reached a point that he really does know what he is doing and he does it well. He is quite the showman and if there isn't a crowd when he starts, it doesn't take long for people to hear him and come over to see who he is and what he is doing. In addition to what he does in his performances, we typically produce some kind of video to advertise and invite people to come see him and more often than not, we can arrange a television appearance. That all adds up to value for an event and it's time to add a "Book Mason" tab to his website. We won't have crazy things like, "Needs only red and blue M&M's" but he is still young enough that he wants a ride wrist band when he works a fair. :) It seems to be lost on some that when I am making sure he is where he needs to be, I am not working. This is why parents of successful kids working in the entertainment industry are entitled to 20% of what their kids make, and until they start (or ever make) making a significant amount of money, it's a tough road to travel. For now, I'm enjoying this journey with Mason immensely, and I know he is, too. Happy Monday friends, go out and make your dreams come true!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Curly Food

You all know us Partaks like to play with our food, but the spiralizer has taken that concept to new heights. We are having so much fun making our food curly that Mason is including the spiralizer in all his cooking demos this year. Oh, what's a spiralizer? you ask. It's a kitchen tool that makes zucchini, yellow squash, potatoes, yams, apples, pears and the like into noodles! Some people call them veggie noodles, or because zucchini is a popular vegetable to spiralize, Zoodles!

I don't know what it is, but making zucchini and squash into noodles really does make them taste better. Don't get me wrong, I liked them before, but I am eating way more now that they are curly and fun. I spiralize several at once and store them in a Gladware container in the fridge. It's good because then I can add them to my salad, have them ready if toss a quick stir fry and you can even add them to top ramen or soup you've made. The picture here is of zucchini and yellow squash zoodles with a chicken stir fry over the top. I don't cook my zoodles as whatever it is I am topping them with is usually enough to heat them through. I've found that cooking them makes them break down and they lose their al dente mouth feel. This recipe is super easy and all it calls for for seasoning is 2 TBS of Mason Made Asian Fusion Goodness marinade. It's so good!

I'm not a big gadget person, in fact, if I can do it with my knife I'd rather not have gadgets taking up space. This on is different and since it has me eating way more veggies, it's a good one!

If you are interested in a spiralizer, Mason will have them for sale through the summer and the proceeds from all sales will go toward his 8th grade field trip to Washington DC. He has to raise in the ballpark of $3,000 so it's not too early to start saving. They are $45 each and a little more if you need me to ship it to you. He and I have created several recipes and I'm sure we'll have more as he does more demos through the year.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Just So Sad...

Our community is in shock and mourning as three families are dealing with a tragedy so epic, I can't even fathom it. Two freshmen were hit and killed by a drunk driver while walking home. The third young man who was with them survived, but what he now must live with - seeing tow of his friends die. For all three families, they will wake up tomorrow and beg whoever it is they pray to, to please let this be a nightmare, something that is not real and didn't really happen. I can't stop crying...I can't even comprehend this loss. Please, please make it not real. I don't know the boys or their families, but I know the love we feel for our kids. 
Before I learned the news, I was just nagging Mason to not get so close to the edge of the rocks where we had our dinner picnic at the river. The water is high, it's moving so fast and is ice cold. He told me not to worry and I firmly said, "It's my job to worry and I will always worry about you. If your dad and I lost you, I don't think we would want to keep living." He said, "Really?" Yes! Really! We hugged and he respected my wishes to stay back from the edge. 
It's so cliche' to say, "Hug your kids. Tell those you love that you love them as you just don't know when you won't have the chance." How does one recover and move forward after losing their child? I just can't reconcile it... I had so much more to share with all of you but after the events last night, i just can't bring myself to write about trivial (or what feels like trivial through my tears today) happenings in our life. We all need, really need to embrace each other, hug and hold each other a little longer, don't pat-pat when you hug, hold each other - really hold each other and feel your hearts beat. Tell your kids you are proud of them, make sure they know. Make sure they know.