Monday, March 2, 2015

What's the Lesser of Two Evils?

It's Monday again! How do the Mondays seem to come back around so quickly? I know, I know, all the days come at equal intervals but Mondays seem to be the least popular. My last entry spoke to the idea that being busy is a choice, but to some degree, there are things that have timelines and deadlines and if not met, bad things happen. I am busy and to the things I have no say in the matter, I'll continue, and to the other things, well, it all depends on how awful the consequences. We have a number of weeks more to prepare and sell Dave's moms townhouse and then our visits will be just for that, visiting.

School is keeping me very busy (there's that word again) but incredibly stimulated creatively. The video editing and production projects we are doing are really fun and we are working with video in ways I never thought of. At this point of my education, all I can think is, so many ideas, so few years left in my life to see them all to fruition. 

I don't have much new information to share this week so let's keep this one short and of the things on my list of things to do that does not have awful consequences when it is not fully published on time. Happy Monday!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Busy is a Choice

Happy Monday!

I feel like time is slipping through my fingers like sand. I'm back to school 4 days a week and my business is booming so that is leaving little time for anything else. I am loving my classes, video production, video editing and a web development class. The web class is interesting but absolutely not something I would ever do for a living, it takes all I have to stay awake and retain the data from class to class. The video classes on the other hand, are so much fun! All I can think about is what will my next project be, what can Mason and I produce in the kitchen and I'm finding my wheels turning with what I can do to produce virtual tours for my real estate clients. I'm so excited, I can't  turn off the creative mind spin.

Busy is one of those words that comes and goes in our lives, and yes, busy is a choice and to that end, I want to drink in every single drop that life has to offer. I likely say yes far too often but that is why I can look back on so many amazing life experiences. Of course, there comes a time when I have to say no as we all understand, there is just one of "me" and so many opportunities. My goal right now is to work, to list properties, to help buyers find homes and to keep working with Mason to help him say yes as much as he can, too. And he does! He absolutely gets from me a zest for life and trying all kinds of new things. I love that about him and I hate it, too. You see, him saying yes means me saying yes and I don't always want to do the same things he wants to do. So be it, we take it day by day and do the best we can.

What's new with you? Share some good news with me so I can feel like I am more in touch and connected to my friends than I know I really am right now...yes, I am choosing to be busy but it's all in the name of a good financial plan! 

Monday, February 16, 2015


Intimacy at the Inn
Happy Monday after Valentines Day! 

Dave and I spend a lovely weekend in the El Dorado county wine country where we took in some beautiful springlike weather, lots of wine tasting, good food and I even worked a bit. Actually, it was a trip that was mostly work, but under the circumstances, I'm not sure I can call what I do work at all. I have a 5 acre parcel for sale in that neck of the woods and I needed to get my sign up. I also created some flyers and posted those at every mini-mart, grocery store, hardware store, restaurant, Inn and winery - yes, Inn and winery(ies)! Seriously, I call that simply working smart. 

Happy Monday after Valentines Day and President's Day! 

Dave and I spend a lovely weekend in the El Dorado county wine country where we took in some beautiful springlike weather, lots of wine tasting, good food and I even worked a bit. Actually, it was a trip that was mostly planned for work, but under the circumstances, I'm not sure I can call what I do work at all. I have a 5 acre parcel for sale in that neck of the woods and I needed to get my sign up. I also created some flyers and posted those at every mini-mart, grocery store, hardware store, restaurant, Inn and winery - yes, Inn and winery(ies)! Seriously, I call that simply working smart.

We went to the Charles Mitchell Winery in Fairplay where they were hosting a bottle your own wine event, that was an absolute blast! The wine was really good and I am now in the process of designing labels for the two cases of wine we bottled and bought. Hey, if I bottled it, it's "my" wine and I can label it as I see fit! I really took this opportunity to not only market a piece of property, it was also some time away for Dave and I. 

Since December, Dave has been working with his sister to help his mom transition to an assisted living facially and it's not been easy for anyone. Dave and Terese have been faced with the daunting task of being respectful adult children while also having to take charge and make decisions for their mom. Many of you have been through this with different story lines, but the bottom line is, it's not easy. Things have settled down and everyone is adjusting, but this time away is just what we needed. I knew for sure when Dave was so tired on Saturday night, that he was struggling to keep his eyes open at dinner. We went back to our Inn and he was sound asleep before 9 PM. I had to chuckle, he was fighting sleep like a 4 year old fights an afternoon nap! It was sleep he really needed and I'm glad he finally gave in and let his body and soul rest. That's what happens when one marries a strong, hard working man, he has a tough time admitting he too must really let go and rest. 

We did some wine tasking, purchased and thoroughly enjoyed a piece of whiskey cheddar cheese and most of all, we just enjoyed each others company. I believe the time we slip away as an adult couple to reconnect is one of the the reasons we are still so in love after 13+ years of marriage. It's not as much about sex as it is about intimacy - time to reflect and remember why we fell in love to begin with. If you haven't gotten away with your lover, make plans and do it, you will be glad you did. And yes, I said lover, not husband, wife, partner, spouse, but lover. And for my single friends, you all need to make time for yourselves - get away and reconnect with all the things that you know make you great! A weekend away as a single lady is on my calendar for at least one weekend out of every year!

With all that said, Mason was over the moon to have us home (another benefit of going away, your kids appreciate you just a little more - absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?) and we fell happily right back into the day to day monotony of our lives. Yep, right back to our happily ever after...Happy Monday!

Monday, February 9, 2015

A Pay It Forward Kind of Weekend

Happy Monday!

We have rain, lots of rain! It's been a wonderful weekend; busy, social, and lots to share. First off though my America Cooks with Chefs episode has been posted, so for those of you who wanted to see it, here it is

Dave had drill this weekend so Mason and I were left to fend for ourselves. I worked on Friday and on Saturday showing property and I'm keeping my finger crossed that an offer I wrote that was not accepted will come back to life. I have a ton of business in my pipeline right now and it's amazing that my phone keeps ringing with more referrals and inquiries. I'm loving it! On Saturday I showed a couple of homes and one in particular is on my normal walking route, I was excited to see inside as I just knew I would fall in love. Nope! This house was totally weird, it had lots of wasted space, unusually shaped rooms, smallish bedrooms (for as big as the house is, they could have allocated space much more efficiently), an updated kitchen that again, was shaped in such a way that I can't imagine moving around very easily while trying to work in it and to top all of that off, it has white plush carpet all throughout! What?! It's funny how we plug in what we think something will be just from walking by it on a regular basis. In any case, I'm glad I got to see it and I hope whoever buys it finds it to be exactly what they are looking for.

Later, Mason and I went to a "Pay It Forward" potluck and met many of the people I interact with on Facebook with. This is a group that practices all kinds of random acts of kindness just because. We have a Facebook group and we share when someone does something or witnesses something kind for someone else. It's fun to belong to this group, but the fact of the matter is, most of us practice these kinds of loving acts every day just because it's who we are. 

On that note, on Sunday I opened my kitchen to two friends who have expressed on numerous occasions that they want to know how to meal plan and cook for their families. I set the date and informed them that I would share with them how I map out my week to feed my family without the stress of having nothing in the fridge or having to shop every day on a meal by meal basis. My goal was to do it for under $100 and to provide them with at least 7 dinner ideas and food that would be leftover to make lunches, too. I was able to do it easily. Basically my plan is a max pack of boneless skinless chicken breasts that I cook on Sunday in my Crockpot seasoned with Spike. I make a big green salad so it's ready to eat, and for this plan, I also added in a pot of chili. I compiled a list of things that can be made using chicken and chili and then created a shopping list to make a number of those dishes. Of course, all of our pantries are different so you may be able to make any number of dishes based on what you have in your house. My shopping was done at WalMart and I got more than what was on my list for $79.63. I doubled up on the ground beef and I was able to get all the ingredients for another whole meal that wasn't part of the chicken and chili plan. The basic premise is to have a main dish made so when you get home from work, assembling a meal is simple. For example, 1 chicken breast diced served over a bed of greens (with cucumber, tomato & onion) with a table spoon of chopped peanuts served with some homemade Asian dressing (I made up a bunch and sent each woman home with the recipe and a jar of the dressing - not included in my budget) - Chinese Chicken Salad for dinner! It's easy because the chicken is already cooked & seasoned and the salad is made, too. Same thing with the chili - a flour tortilla with a little grated cheese and chili heated in the microwave, add some greens, tomatoes and onions and you have an easy, delicious wrap for dinner. If you just do a little prep on Sunday, you will have easy meals for the whole week. And if you get tired of chili and chicken, put it in the freezer and it will be just as good when you need to pull it out in a pinch! From the feedback I got, it wasn't just the idea or planning that was helpful, the fact that these two ladies could actually make the food with me, see how to dice the chicken, learn that chili can be made in less than 30 minutes (some think that chili is hours or even days to make - only in high profile cooking competitions is that possibly true!), or how easy the other dishes come together when you put the main pieces in place was what really empowered them to know they can do this in their own kitchens at home. 

On February 18th Mason will be Guest "Cheffing" at High Hand Cafe in Loomis, CA. We went to see the kitchen and meet Chef Chris to talk about what he had in mind for Mason to do and they completely agreed that Mason would work the wood fired pizza oven. Mason is totally excited and is practicing throwing dough. Of course, when you practice throwing dough, you end up eating pizza!

Dave got home in time for dinner on Sunday and Mason tossed some pizza dough and he and Dave made their idea of the "Best Pizza Ever!" Watching them craft their individual pizzas I decided that I would rename our kitchen the "Family Room," what do you think? 

So that was my weekend, blessed beyond measure and so grateful for all that I have - that includes you! Big smiles and happy Monday.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Mason Has Been Honored by Placer County Supervisors

This morning, Mason, Dave and I attended the Placer County Supervisors meeting where Mason received the Commemorative Coin Award for the hard work he put in to raising $26,052 to improve the kitchen at his school. 

As the project moved forward, it turns out that with the age of the school, the kitchen will not be able to be modified as we had hoped, but the good news is that we will install a food science lab where there will be a stove/oven, sink, refrigerators, work station island and all the tools necessary for the kids to learn about food science and learn to cook. This is really cool! As Mason's mom, I am tickled that Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery recognized the monumental accomplishment that was originated by a then third grader. Here is what was read about Mason and his accomplishment and the photos of him receiving his award:


  • Mason Partak was not a typical third-grader (now in fifth grade). He’s an accomplished cook who makes celebrity appearances at special events, teaches other children to cook and competes against adults at cooking demonstrations and recipe contests.
  • Perhaps most impressive is his successful effort to raise funds to improve the kitchen at his school, Alta Vista Community Charter School in Auburn. In December, Mason and his supporters passed their $25,000 target.
  • When Mason started his crusade, Alta Vista School’s kitchen did not have a stove or oven and the dishwater didn’t work.
  • Mason decided the school needed a fully functional kitchen that could serve hot, nutritious meals and be used as a classroom where students could learn to cook.
  • Many students and their families supported the campaign. Working at the 20th Annual Mountain Mandarin Festival, for example, they raised $5,800 for the new kitchen.
  • As a result of their efforts, the school will be able to install a fully functioning Food Science Lab.
  • Students will learn to cook with a culinary curriculum created by the school district and local chefs.
  • At the end of each school year, the school will hold a special luncheon with food prepared by the students. 
  • Mason is an 11-year-old who discovered his passion for cooking while still a toddler.
  • He began baking with his mom when two years old; and has been wowing judges and audiences at cooking demonstrations and recipe contests since 2010. 
  • He often is the youngest contestant in recipe contests – and finds himself competing against adults who have at least 20 years more experience baking and cooking.
  • Nonetheless, he often places in the top three.
  • Last Thursday night, his chili recipe took the top prize at his schools first annual chili cook off - there were 16 entries.
  • Mason also teaches other children to cook.
  • He uses You Tube videos to show kids how easy it is and has tutorials that teach specific techniques.
  • His favorite is “What the heck is this thing for?” – a series that introduces kids to kitchen tools and demonstrates how to use them.

  • He appears at events such as the California State Fair, Mountain Mandarin Festival, The Lion’s, Celebrity Chef Challenge and Auburn Home Shows.
  • His long-term goal: becoming the first kid cook on the Food Network.
  • Mason’s philosophy is that kids who can cook are more confident in all areas of their lives.
  • That kind of thinking certainly makes sense to me. I’m honored to present this commemorative coin to Mason today – and look forward to hearing about his future endeavors and accomplishments. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

It's a Big News Week!

Happy Monday! 

There is lots happening this week, Mason is being honored by Placer County for the hard work he put into raising over $26,000 to improve his school kitchen and I am hoping my America Cooks With Chefs episode will be out. I will post about both of those noteworthy events as they happen.

I am finding that my new semester at school will be both invigorating and difficult. My video production and editing class has me fired up to make all kinds of movies while the web development class reminds me that I am really not that smart! Laughing! Okay, it's not all about smarts, but there is a major geek factor required to connect these dots and stay awake while learning what the dots are. For the most part, I am really excited and I know my video making skills are about to go from zero to 100 in the next 14 weeks. 

Stay tuned, I'm going to post a few other updates here this week mostly because the news is just too cool to wait another week to share. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

America Cooks With Chefs, Did I Win?

Susan Ungaro, President James Beard Foundation
It's Monday and Mason and I are in Palm Springs for the America Cooks With Chefs finale and announcement of the winning team. It has been a whirlwind weekend and lots of fun. As with any contest, there is so much that happens behind the scenes.

In August of last year, I got an email from my Weight Watchers group about a cooking competition, they were looking for a short video audition explaining my challenges with food and weight. I shared that I've struggled with my weight my entire life and now I see Mason struggling growing up in a "Super-Sized" world of processed food. I submitted my entry and went on with my day. A few months later I learned that I had been selected as one of six contestants who would be paired with a James Beard award winning chef, I would go to a 3-day kitchen bootcamp where we would create a recipe that was 800 calories or less and then we would compete with the other contestants and their chefs to find a winner. The prize consisted of two trips including spending money - but no prize for winning the contest, that was kind of weird to me, but who was I to question it? My first trip was to Portland, OR where I met my Chef Mentor, Naomi Pomeroy who was awesome. She created the recipe and we only had one day of filming - it was not a collaboration and it was not a 3-day kitchen bootcamp. Though I certainly learned a few things, it was not the full deal I thought would happen based on the contest promotion. 

Mason wants a car to come for M. Partak
This weekend was part two, a weekend in Palm Springs at the Clinton Foundation "Health Matters" summit where all six of us contestants and several of the chef mentors came together to serve our dishes to the attendees of the conference and work the crowd for votes to make our recipe the winning recipe. Mason is part of my story so the producers asked if he could be included, of course I said yes so Mason made the trip to Palm Springs with me. The trip was really great, we were picked up in a town car at the airport (Mason said it felt just like a limo!), delivered to a gorgeous resort where we had a room with a view. All of our meals were included and we got to meet and get to know so many cool people. Mason was interviewed by a large online magazine and they just think he is the cat's meow! There may be something down the line for him with them, that's cool, so stay tuned! We did some more filming and we worked with the chefs at the resort to make sure our recipes were exactly the way we wanted them for the upcoming dinner. We all manned our stations and served our food with crazy enthusiasm and fun. Mason stole the show prepping my dish and serving it up with a dose of Siracha sauce. The night wrapped up before 8:30 PM and speaking only for me, I was exhausted! Mason and I went back to our room and called it a night. This morning we had breakfast and met with the production crew to go over what to expect at
the luncheon to announce the winner of the contest. Mason was not sitting with me but never fear, he was seated next to the food editor of Good Housekeeping Magazine and he was sure to pitch his school kitchen project and leave her with his business card. I just shook my head while I looked over and saw her leaning in to him and him chewing her ear like a seasoned professional. When the announcement was made as to who the winner was, we got a rundown on what the judging criteria was for the recipe - one of the main criteria was "Feasibility" for a home cook to make the dish. Well, that would have been good to know from the beginning! We had no criteria for the recipe other than that it needed to be 800 calories or less, oh, and did I mention I did not create the recipe? My recipe (the recipe created by my chef mentor) is not hard, but it has a lot of ingredients and steps, it would likely intimidate a beginning home cook. Several of the other recipes were also not super simple. I also learned that all the votes we worked so hard for at the dinner really only counted as one vote. What? How can that be? If all of us got at least one vote, than we all had that single vote added to the judges vote regardless of how many people liked our dish best. Hearsay? Maybe.

Mason pitching a large magazine editor
This is not sour grapes or anything like that, it's simply to explain that I didn't lose. You all know I am a competitor, yet I was simply the face of a contestant in a competition who did not contribute anything to competition at all. I didn't create the recipe, I didn't cook the recipe the attendees tasted, and the votes we earned with our energy and enthusiasm didn't really matter in the end anyway. It's hard to be disappointed and feel like anything at all when I know (now) I was really just along for the ride while this program is being developed and fine tuned. We will have the opportunity to give feedback to the production team and I will be sure to share all of this with them - in addition to the fact that one of the contestants is an employee of Weight Watchers. Weight Watchers is a sponsor so it seems to me it's a conflict of interest that this person was selected as a contestant.
All in all, I won. I won two all expenses paid trips with spending money. I got to meet amazing people and Mason had the opportunity to see his mom in action and shake a few hands on his own. I got to do lots of on camera work that I love so much, and I got to be part of something that has a really cool message for America - get in your kitchen and cook! I have been inspired to create delicious recipes that are healthy and do more to take care of myself. Finally, nobody went home empty handed - we all got 3 months of Weight Watchers personal coaching, Mayo Clinic cookbook and health assessments, a $50 Sports Authority gift card, the Weight Watchers cookbook, and a set of Calphalon cookware. I don't think of that as losing!

Happy Monday