Monday, August 25, 2014

Everybody Now, "Back to School!"

Happy Monday!

I am SO excited, I get to go back to school this week! I know, so many people don't find that appealing at all, but it is such a privilege for me to get an education at this point in my life, I would be a professional student if I could. That means I have lots to do to get things in order so we have a smooth running household for the coming 16 weeks. I will be in classes from 9:30 AM until 10:00 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays which means planning ahead for dinners and meals for me to talk along. The cafeteria/restaurant at the school is very good, but it gets expensive eating there every day. 

Mason is liking the 5th grade and seems to be settling in just fine. Dave is not liking his current classes any more than he's liked his previous classes, unlike me, he would not opt to be a professional student! 

There is not much new to report, Mason and I are working like crazy to raise the last $7,000 for his school project and it looks like the new stove and oven will be installed and working before Mason is off to middle school. What a great accomplishment this will be once it's done.

Have an awesome week and think with greatness. If that seems lofty, then think with kindness, we can all use a little more kindness don't you think? 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Monday Funday!

Happy Monday!

Last week was relatively uneventful other than Mason starting back to school, which all in all went really well. Dave is back to school and I start again on the 26th - I'm totally excited! Going back this time is sheer joy, versus when I first went back, it was completely overwhelming. Now I know the drill, I know where my classes are and I know that just because I don't have a class I need right now doesn't mean I won't get it. Yeah, it's all good.

Dave and I are enrolled in Weight Watchers together and I have to tell you, it's so much easier with him on board with me. There are still challenges like the fact that he gets to eat almost 50% more food than I do and of course, he loses more weight than I do. I really want to find a balance in being able to make healthy, low fat food choices most of the time so that when something special comes along, I'm not feeling deprived or left out of the celebration. The biggest obstacle seems to be that we live in a world where every meal is interpreted to be "something special." No! That is not the case, we do not need to have 3-4 items for dinner along with a high calorie beverage and dessert EVERY DAY. I'm not shouting at you, I'm shouting out of frustration for myself and hopeful that I will hear me and keep it simple during the day to day routines of my life. We have been hiking on average 12-15 miles a week in addition to that, Dave has joined a cross-fit group near where he works. My additional two days of exercise will come from my yoga class at school starting next week. Wish us loss, weight loss that is!

Finally, the premier of Rachel VS Guy Kids Cook Off Season 3 aired last night on the Food Network and it is not obvious to me why Mason wasn't chosen. We all high-fived though at the remark that was made noting that 1000s of kids auditioned and Mason was #9, if only there were 10 kids. Some of the most rewarding accomplishments come from a series of disappointments and with that said, Mason is on track to hone his skills, learn new ones and audition again next season. We have a fun plan to create a deck of cards with 52 different recipes, each card will have a recipe written on it (corresponding to a printed recipe) and that is what Mason will be making for dinner. It's my job to create this game and make sure lots of new techniques are included. Mason wants to learn things like how to use a pressure cooker, make and bake meringue - maybe a baked Alaska, and more! What is a cooking skill, appliance or technique you would like to learn? Of course, as I noted above Dave and I are eating per the WW philosophy so I need to make sure these recipes are mostly all healthy. I'll be sure to blog about the progress of this game and share the fun. I have no doubt there will be laughs, tears, some really good food in addition to a few "new recipes" created. 

Now it's time to get back to work but not without putting in print that today we are exactly 2 months away from leaving for Florida on our Disney Cruise! AHHH! I'm so excited, I know Mason is too, but I think I am way more excited that Dave and Mason put together. Have a great week and try not to let the set backs really set you back. Take a moment, look around, take it in and get up and back to whatever it is you are working to achieve - keep on keep'n on! 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Back to School!

Happy Monday! I know this is going to be an interesting week as it's "Back to School" week for Mason! He's certainly excited to see his friends and play, but I know he is dreading homework - as am I! What's even more fun is that I am going back to school, too. I don't start for a few more weeks but I love, love, love being a student. I am finishing up an applied art and design certification that I started back in 2011. I'm thinking it will take 3 semesters and I couldn't be more excited!

On another front, do any of you subscribe to Food Network Magazine? If so, check out the special kids section in the September issue (on store shelves now) and look for a familiar face! The new season of Rachel VS Guy Kids Cook Off Season 2 airs on the 17th and it's a little bittersweet for us Partaks, as Mason went through the audition process (over 3 months long!) and it came right down to the wire and he was asked to be an alternate, kind of like coming in 9th (they have 8 kids on the show). Of course we are really excited for the kids who were selected but Mason really wanted to do this. The producers encouraged him to keep cooking and apply for next season, but who knows if this disappointment will fuel his culinary fire or put it out a bit - time will tell. I would like to see him rise up stronger as it could be much more satisfying getting cast after working a little harder to earn his place. We'll have to watch and see how the kids they did cast do and try to learn from what we see this season. 

I hope you all have a great week and I wish you lots of love and happiness. Take a moment to find some joy in something completely random and unimportant, such as a sunflower, or the way bees buzz around a lavender plant. For me right now, it's fresh, garden tomatoes! 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Making Memories at Big Trees State Park

This weekend I was able to check two things off my bucket list, going inside the earth at Moaning Caverns and visiting the Big Trees State Park in Calaveras, CA. Since we retired the Grand Poobah camping trip, we don't see some of our friends every year like we used to. We've tried to plan other things, but it just doesn't always come together the same way it did with Poobah. Julie had plans to take this trip and when she heard us Partaks had a dinner date with Steve and Ro, she suggested we all meet in Columbia for the weekend - we did, and we had a blast! We had so much fun, we are already thinking we need to plan a weekend with a bigger group, who wants to go?

We met Saturday at the Moaning Caverns in Angles Camp and did the walking tour of the cavern. WOW! What a cool thing to see, the inside of Mother Earth is really something special. Mason, Julie, Ray and Maddie (Ray's daughter) rode the zip line and then we made our way to a local winery where we did a little tasting and had lunch. We made our way to Columbia where we checked into the historic Columbia hotel (no TV or Internet, the kids were aghast!) where we had the balcony rooms up front overlooking the main street.
We all met up in Jamestown where we had dinner at the National Hotel and as many of you know, it is never a dull moment dining with kid cook Mason Partak. As usual, Mason is always a bit put off when he is offered a kids menu, because seriously, can't people see he is a kid with a more mature palette just by looking at him? If they can't see it, they will get the message one way or another, this time it was this exchange:
Mason: Excuse me, I'm looking at the dessert menu and I see you have flambe'.
Server: Yes.
Mason: I'm curious, can you flambe' peaches with grand mariner?
Server: Looks around the table in disbelief that this is a 10 year old making the inquiry.
Yep, that's my boy! Laughing!

On Sunday we had breakfast and took the walking tour of Columbia and then took the stage coach ride. Mason and Maddie panned for gold and then we were off to Big Trees State Park. The weather had cooled significantly from the day before so it made for a lovely walk through these majestic trees. We finished up our weekend with an early dinner in Murphys, CA. Julie and Ray had plans to spend one more night in Angels Camp and Mason was elated to be invited to join them. On Monday, they went horse back riding and of course ate more good food.

Those of you who know me know that I would rather spend my hard earned dollars traveling with my family than buying "stuff." This weekend was exactly how I want to spend my time; learning about history, experiencing new things, and most of all, spending time with my close friends making memories. This weekend added another extraordinary element to my joy, my lifelong best friend took my son with her and got to know him a little bit better and in turn, he got to know her as well. I love that they love each other as much as I love each of them!!

Have a wonderful week and make sure to make a memory this week, after all, it is our memories that will not only hold their value, their value will increase as we all get older.

Monday, July 28, 2014

No More Cast for Mason!

Happy Monday!

All is well and I don't have much to report. Mason got his cast off and is overjoyed. His break is 85% healed so he still needs to be careful but for the most part, he is good to go! Dave is working his butt off as he always does in the summertime, and I am juggling all the usual stuff; work, Mason, household stuff, and I'm excited to be going back to school. Yes! I am going to go just two days a week to work on a applied art and design certificate. I want to be able to easily navigate Photoshop and InDesign to create marketing materials for my real estate business and for Mason. I love school and I can't wait to go back. I need to make enough money so I can pay for two more semesters of full time school to get my bachelor's degree. As parents we watch our kids grow and we often learn from them as we go. 

I've been watching Mason lately and seeing things that sometimes astound me. Mason is confident and secure at the ripe old age of 10 years old. Mason will not think twice about introducing himself to new people, standing up in front of a large crowd to give a speech or do a cooking demo, or taking off on his own at a water park. Why would Mason be at a water park on his own? Since we spent so many days at the California State fair, I bought Mason a pass to Raging Waters which is right on the fair grounds. I let him go to the water park while I worked the Placer Grown booth and we had an agreement; he was to come right back to the booth when he was done at the water park and we would decide what the plan was from there. Not only would I have not wanted to go to a water park by myself like he did, he also followed the rules perfectly every time. It validated for me what a good kid he really is. I was sure to let him know how I felt and reiterated to him that oftentimes when I say no to letting him ride his bike to the local market near where we live, it's not because I don't trust him, I don't trust other people and the fact that we live 1/4 mile from hwy 80. I was in my late 20s and early 30s before I would go to a movie or out to dinner by myself. What a gift it is to be able to embrace so many of lifes adventures without the idea that you need someone else to have a good time. Heck, I know people who even today (in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s) who won't do things alone. Do you eat out, see a movie or vacation by yourself?

As summer vacation is winding down (school starts on August 13th) we are enjoying dinners on the deck at the new house, time at the river and Mason and I are doing our first video in the new kitchen this week. He and I have been brainstorming about how to raise the last $7,000 he needs for his $25,000 goal for his school kitchen and we have a few ideas. It's really important that we get it done as this is the last year he will be at this school. Do you have any ideas? I would love something that we can do just one of and make the money we need. Have a lovely week and think about taking yourself out for a date - you get to go anywhere YOU want to go and stay as long or as little as YOU want. Happy Monday!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Life's Little Gifts

Oh joy, it's Monday again! I'm not really complaining, it just seems like the weeks are going by faster and faster. The State Fair madness has ended and I have been so excited this weekend because Dave is coming home (after being gone most of the last two months). Mason's cooking demos went great but sadly, Mason and I did not win a single prize in our recipe contest entries. Mason was very disappointed but I took this opportunity to point out to him that the fun is in the journey, not just the prize. He was not willing to concede that I might be right until I put it in language he could understand, I said, "Mason, if you went into an ice cream parlor and asked for their best sundae but they told you that they were out of cherries, would you not order the sundae?" He emphatically said, "Heck no! I would totally still get the sundae." Of course he would and with that I made the metaphor that the prize was like the cherry, most all of the good stuff was the developing of the recipe, the testing, the tasting, the working together, the execution, the excitement of the fair, and then waiting to see who won. I even took it a step further and pointed out that he now has two more recipes developed for his cookbook and even though they didn't win, they are still super good. That seemed to take some of the disappointment away and we've already started talking about what we want to do for the Mandarin Festival in November. 

On Sunday, I took Mason to Hayward to see my mom who was in California visiting her sister. We had a lovely visit but when we arrived at my aunt's house, I accidentally hit the curb and damaged the tire on Dave's car. It wasn't flat, but I managed to take a chunk of rubber out of the side wall - not safe! I carefully drove to Alameda where I was planning to meet Lisa for a short visit before heading home and David insisted I not drive on that tire all the way home to Auburn. Mason and I had an unexpected night away from home, we had a great dinner at Kamakura where Mason finally got to try my favorite Chilean sea bass, and I got to have coffee with Al, too. This morning while waiting for tires to be put on Dave's car, I was also waiting to meet Al at Starbucks. While I was waiting I was approached by this very interesting man who insisted on drawing me. I insisted he didn't but he proceeded to do so anyway. The experience was incredibly detailed and suffice it to say Al & I had the experience of a lifetime with a man who was clearly living many lifetimes right then and there. He was a doctor who couldn't read, an award winning Park Avenue designer, has 9 daughters and 8 sons and I heard about the multiple ways his mother died. He shared with us on numerous occasions that one of his daughters was getting married this coming weekend and as he was sharing about all the plans, his daughters wedding morphed into his wedding with his wife - the same wife who recently passed away and had skin just like mine. To call Nelson colorful would be an understatement! I didn't feel the need to call him on his contradictions as he clearing is mentally ill and there was no point to make him explain - the fact of the matter is, every detail was exactly right in Nelson's mind for that moment.  The unplanned overnight in Alameda turned out to be just fine, Cris was able to stay with Spencer and Mason and I got home in time to pick Dave up, everything worked out perfectly. I hope you can make an unexpected problem work out to be something memorable and more good than bad. Have a great week and keep eating life's sundaes, cherries or no cherries, they are still awesome!

Monday, July 14, 2014

It's State Fair Time of Year!

Mason's 2013 Blue Ribbon Win!
Happy Monday!

It's California State Fair time of year and we are busy with recipe contests and Mason's cooking demos. I entered a contest on Saturday but I didn't stay for the judging, I don't have high hopes for my entry, but Mason's are shaping up nicely. I'll be sure to let you know next Monday how it all panned out. Mason is cooking on Tuesday and on Friday and I have to say, one of the nice things about the State Fair is that they pay for all of his ingredients to do the demo and we get in to the fair for free. It will be so much better when he's actually getting paid and all expenses are covered as well, but for now, he is getting lots of public speaking experience and having fun, too. 

In other news, we are moved in to the new house, mostly. The essential living areas are unpacked and we are sleeping well and cooking in our new kitchen. I have to say, I don't like the electric stove but hey, until I can buy what I want, I will have to figure out how to make it work. Mason is still working on raising money for his school kitchen, just $7,000 more to get to $25K and I am working almost full time in real estate - I'm actually getting paid! Whoo-Hoo! I hope all is well with you and I'll share next week how Mason and I fared in the contests at the State Fair.