Monday, October 27, 2014

Our Disney Cruise Vacation of a Lifetime!

I’ve dreamed of taking a Disney cruise for as long as I can recall dreaming about vacations. Last year, Dave, Mason and I were watching the travel channel and the making of the Disney Dream, Disney’s largest cruise ship. They shared how the ship was constructed in two pieces in two separate places and when the time came to put them together, it was critical that the two pieces fit perfectly. It was fascinating to see engineering on such a massive scale create something so luxurious. The program went on to share all the attention to detail in the staterooms, the Walt Disney Theatre, the movie theatre, and the many clubs for both adults and kids. When we saw the AquaDuck - Donald Duck’s water slide that takes riders out over the ocean, we were all Ooohing and  Ahhhing, well, Mason and I were, Dave was less than impressed. I said to Mason, “We could go on a Disney cruise” and he lit up! I made up my mind that I would look into what it costs and if it were affordable, I would make my 2014 real estate goals to pay off any credit card debt and pay for a family vacation on the Disney Dream. When I called to get pricing, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the three of us could take a 4 night cruise in an upgraded stateroom for $2200.00. We picked our dates, I put down a deposit and plans were in motion. 

That dream with a bit of action turned into reality! We just returned from the cruise in the Bahamas and I have to say, this experience so far exceeded my expectations. The ship was gorgeous, it looked just like it looked on the program we watched on the travel channel. Our stateroom was completely comfortable - from our beds to the way it was completely dark and night, and amazingly, it was totally sound proof. The only time we could hear our neighbors was if we were both out on our room decks with our doors open. Mason’s birthday was acknowledged numerous times with a birthday cake, a card and certificate, and our housekeeper even gave him a Disney plush toy from one of his favorite Disney cartoons. Our dining room staff stayed with us the whole trip as we moved between the different dining rooms, it impressed me to no end that these amazing people could remember our names, how we like our coffee or tea, and so much more! The whole cruise was non-stop activity, there were things to do from 7:00 AM until 1:00 AM for both adults and kids. Mason had more freedom than he’s ever had in his life. He had on a bracelet that was preprogrammed so he could come and go from the different kids clubs, to the swimming pools, the water slide and the movie theatre and we didn’t have to worry about him getting in trouble. Dave and I had as much fun as Mason and maybe even more! We saw the live shows - they were as good as live on Broadway, we saw a movie, took in a comedy show, sat in the adults only hot tub that has a glass bottom and side so you sit in it and you are looking into the ocean from two sides! As a family we played “So You Think You Know Your Family?” a live game show, Dave and Mason played MidShip Detective, an interactive mystery game using the artwork on the ship and we participated in the live deck parities with music, drama and fireworks. What we know for sure is that it would be impossible to have done everything that was available for us to do!  We had a day in Nassau and another day on Disney’s private island Castaway Cay, both days were fun and brought activities all their own. We were all sad to see the cruise come to an end, but we had two more days planned in Orlando. It turned out that Mason and I both caught a bit of a belly bug so we had some down time. We stayed at a water park resort not too far from the airport so we just took it easy and laid by the pool for a few days before heading home and back to real life. I can’t say enough good things about our Disney cruise experience, even Dave who wasn’t all that excited about the trip to begin with said he had a really good time, he even went as far as to say he would like to take another cruise sometime. All in all, the vacation of a lifetime!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Happy 11th Birthday Mason!

Eleven years ago today you made your way into this world. There are so many things about you that I love, let me see if I can put some of them into words. The thing I love most about you Mason is that you are confident and fearless. You have a sense of self at only 11 years old that many people in their 40s and 50s still don't know. You embrace every little bit of life from still loving to push the button in the elevator, to wanting to crack the eggs when we make cookie dough. You are a natural performer and public speaker, again, something adults loathe the idea of having to do. You are before your time with so many respects to life and yet, you are still just a little boy. You love stuffed animals, still want me to turn your light off at night and want me to cuddle with you on the couch when we watch cooking shows. I am so proud of who you are and I know you are going to make a difference in this world, be it cooking for people, performing and entertaining us, or just the way you step up to open a door for a stranger - you are an exceptional young man and I just love, love, love being your mom! Happy Birthday Mason!

You were born on a Monday and since I wasn't feeling up to writing, your dad stepped in and here is what he had to say...10/20/03

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Wedding, A Search for Geodes and The Loneliest Highway

We drove to Utah to attend Lexi and Jordan’s wedding. The drive was long, but as Partaks, we made it fun. There were lots of puns and quips but nothing that had us laughing more than the conversation about what to do when one has to poop outside. Mason had some crazy ideas about what people should do including leaning back to back while in a squatting position and then he thought it would make for a more meaningful experience to face each other, holding hands while still squatting to poo! Oh lordy! Whose kid is this? 

We did some essential shopping while in Salt Lake City, most noteworthy was my stop to Gigi which is an awesome bakery supply store. Dave got to visit one of his favorite game stores while Mason also got to shop at one of his favorite stops, Smith and Edwards. Friday evening we went to the wedding and it was magical! We had a great time visiting with family but we were also excited to have a weekend adventure on our drive home through Nevada, and boy oh boy, did we ever have an adventure!

Our first stop on our way out of Utah was breakfast at Cracker Barrel, Mason had never eaten there and they always have fun things to see in their store. From there, we were off to the Dugway Geode Beds. We have a neighbor whose grand daughter lives in Delta, UT and she suggested it would make a fun side trip on our way home from the wedding. Where do I start with this one? First of all, it is located in the middle of nowhere - truly, the middle of nowhere in Utah. We registered online with the people who own the claim, paid our $30 and off we went. Once we got there, the question was, “Now what?” There was no map, no guide, no instructions on where to go or what to look for. Clearly, we executed that we would  be digging for geodes, but with miles and miles of wide open space, where should we dig? Keep in mind that my visit with our neighbors grand daughter was over boxes of gorgeous crystal geodes, she has little kids and she said they found many of them without even digging. It was with this information that I expected we would be coming home with lots of rocks that we could then break open to reveal pretty crystals. NOPE! We were there for hours and we found one geode that when we broke it open, only had the very early makings of what might one day become a crystal. After more than 3 hours of driving to get there and almost as many hours to get out, Dave said it best, ‘This just might be our stupidest idea ever!” It was disappointing to be sure, but even in the moment, we were able to laugh and recognize that as a family, we have some serious fun.

Along our drive through Utah and Nevada, there were several old, dead trees with shoes in them, lots of shoes. I don’t know why and there was nothing noting any significance, but I found it interesting that there were two of them in really different locations. I suppose it’s just one of those things you see on a road trip that makes the scenery more interesting. We also came upon Petroglyphs State Park in Nevada and we made time to stop. Again, it’s in the middle of nowhere, but I suppose all of Hwy 50 going through Nevada qualifies, yes? The park was pretty cool, we did the mile loop through the park & took lots of pictures. 

Not long after leaving the park, we  were making our way to our next planned stop, Eureka Nevada where we had hotel reservations in an early 1800s hotel. Along the way, we got pulled over by the Nevada Highway Patrol for what else? Speeding! The officer was very nice and Dave admitted to knowing he was doing 65 in a 55 zone so while the officer went to look Dave up I suggested we put on our wax lips and mustaches. Dave said no and poo-poo’d me. I started to giggle and said, “Come on, it will make him smile.” As the officer approached the car, he started talking to Dave about why he was giving him a ticket and finally he noticed us in all our silly glory! He started laughing and told us we made his day. Dave still got a ticket, but it was for a far lesser charge.

We were off and running again. After a night in a haunted hotel, Okay, I don’t know if it’s really haunted, but it had that spooky vibe to it, we were back on the road headed for our last stop, Virginia City Nevada. We had fun visiting the museums, Mason bought some rocks and we took the mine tour - this is a stop that really deserves a whole day. We didn’t spend as much time as we would have liked here as we were ready to get home to Spencer a good nights sleep in our own beds. All in all, the weekend was an adventure to be sure and all we can think about is in less than one week we are off on another one - our Disney Cruise!

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Little Slice of Americana

Happy Monday! I feel like I spent this last weekend living in an alternate universe - like a movie. Saturday night Dave and I had an unexpected date night so we walked downtown for dinner and sat outside and enjoyed sushi. It was more than just good food, there were so many people out enjoying the evening, a musician in the square playing a ukelele and while we walked back to our car, another man playing an accordion outside a little Italian restaurant all while a fire roared in the center of town square. I couldn't get over how magical it all seemed. We made our way back home just in time to meet Mason returning from his night out and we all sat outside and took in all of Dave's and Mason's Halloween decorations and a roaring fire of our own. It's times like this that I feel like my life couldn't get any better, and if it doesn't, that's just fine with me. There is surely something to be said for being in the moment and taking in every little bit of it.

In other news, it looks like I am off to Southern California to work with Executive Chef Jimmy Schmidt at the La Quinta Resort in Palm Desert. I will get a full day of coaching and then what? I don't know, but a night or two in Palm Desert can't be bad. I'll share more as I learn more, but I suspect I won't know all the details until I actually go just before Thanksgiving. For this week, we are off to Utah for Lexi and Jordan's wedding and on our way home we are planning to drive Hwy 50 for a stop at the Dugway Geode Beds in Nevada. As usual, lots of fun!

I hope you all are loving this fall season as much as I am! Happy, Happy Fall!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Then and Now - Mason Cooks

Then and Now - Mason Cooks - 2012-2014
Happy Monday! It's fall and it feels magnificent. Over the weekend, Mason and I were cooking at the Auburn Fall Home Show. We each had two demos but in reality, I had four (my two and sous cheffing for Mason while he did his two). It was great fun and it got me thinking, it was this very weekend/event where Mason did his very first cooking demo in September 2012 - he was 8 years old. Since that very first cooking demo, he's done nearly 30 live cooking demos from California to Connecticut and New York City in just 2 years. Additionally, he's made more than 100 videos for his You Tube channel - Wow! Very cool Mason, very cool! I've included a photo with that picture from the very first demo to the one he did yesterday. 

As September comes to a close, we are getting really excited for all the fun we have planned in October. The obvious holiday is Halloween and we all know how much Dave and Mason love Halloween. In addition to the pumpkins, decorations, trick or treating, and apple hill, we are going to Lexi and Jordan's wedding in Utah and after that, we are going on a Disney cruise! I am SO excited, it's possible I am more excited than Dave and Mason put together. 

So today I have homework to do and lots of other household minutia. Have a great day and set yourself up for an awesome week, it will be done before you know it!

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Auburn Fall Home Show is Coming!

California is on fire but it looks like we have some rain on the horizon! I sure hope so, it is fall after all.

Speaking of fall, this coming weekend is the Auburn Fall Home Show and Mason and I will be cooking up a storm - we each have 2 days of cooking. Mason is planning to make his Fall Harvest Hash with homemade breakfast sausage, which by the way, Dave says is the best recipe he's ever cooked up! I'll be making my blue ribbon Toasted Coconut Butternut Tart. Yep, I said blue ribbon, it won first place at the Auburn Community Festival a few years back. Part of what makes it such a winner for me is that Dave does not like coconut but he loves this tart. Stay tuned for what I am sure will be lots of fun photos from the home show, oh and here's another little snippet of something fun... click here to see the 27 second video of Mason promoting Red Walnuts.

You can get the recipes for both of Mason's dishes on his website at

Monday, September 15, 2014

I'm So Glad It's Monday!

Happy Monday! Yesterday was a tough day for me so I'm glad to be starting new today. Nothing tragic, just nonsense, Mason being a pill, my car breaking down, and for some reason I was not up to the challenge of keeping my usual sun-shiny attitude. It's true, we all have our down days and many would argue that if it weren't for the down days, the good ones could not exist. Whatever! I'm over it and ready to figure out what to do about my car. I've been advised I can put $3,000 into the needed repairs and my mechanic will basically make it like new - except it won't be new, and if I spend that money and something else goes wrong, I'm going to kick myself for spending the money. On the flip side, I don't want a car payment and I do not have enough money to just buy a car outright, so here comes a car payment. Grrr!

So let's switch gears, As the mom of a kid cook who doesn't only cook at home, he cooks on television and in live cooking demos at special events, I often get asked, "Who is this really for, you or him?" Hmmm, that's a loaded question and honestly, not completely unwarranted. Those of you who know me, know I am a trained commercial actor and someone who loves to create with food. At Christmas time, I make amazing decorated cookies, artisan breads and cakes and any number of amazing culinary delights. Is it any surprise that my son would find a place in my culinary wonderland? I don't think so.

With all that said, it just made sense to me that since I have the knowledge and know-how to help him foster a love of cooking and performing, why wouldn't I? Especially in light of his origination, at the ripe old age of 8 years old that he wanted to do a live cooking demo - all by himself. The real answer to the question is, it's for both of us. Mason has a You Tube channel with over 100 videos with everything from safety with knives, how to make gravy, and fun craft ideas. You can also find some of his television performances and live cooking demos there. He loves doing the live stuff! As a family, we all enter recipe contests and we often place and sometimes we win. While I am working with Mason to help him build a foundation to have some fun and possibly make a bit of money, I am doing things for myself, too. Again, I am always working on new and unusual recipes for contests, and recently I entered a contest to go to a cooking class to learn how to make my recipes healthier and then, the group of 6 contestants will come together to compete with their revamped dish. Yeah, I am not just teaching Mason what I know, I am showing him how I use my skills as well - for me, and for him. So ask me again, "Who are you really doing this for?" and I will say, "Everything I do is hopefully for the well being of my whole family. Teaching and inspiring them to take chances, embrace opportunities, and set great examples for our family and friends who are living vicariously though all of us."

Oh, and about that contest I entered, it looks like I get to be one of the six contestants! I'll post more as soon as my information is verified and I can share some details. Stay tuned, I think this is going to be really fun - and not just for me!