Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

Goodbye 2012! This is the last Monday of the year, and to say 2012 was a year of growth and change would be a gross understatement. Our family saw some huge changes, challenges, and difficulty but along the way, we had some great fresh food, made some new friends, had lots of laughs, and ultimately got the message that it is not the things we have that make us happy, it is the time we spend together. Yes, we went through the short sale of the house and a painstaking IRS audit, but I want to talk about the bright spots that in my opinion, outshine the difficulties.
I thoroughly enjoyed all my classes at school and am grateful every day that I have this opportunity to be able to get an education. Dave took a vacation to Virginia for a historic civil war reenactment while Mason and I took a "Surprise Vacation" to Minnesota. Leading up to the surprise vacation, Mason did several things to earn some money including painting a gorgeous rock that I photographed for him and he was able to make nearly $130 from the sale of images, note cards, the rock itself, and three more rocks he was commissioned to paint!

Speaking of Mason, he continues to amaze me with his zest for life, the way he is fearless in his pursuit of life-experience, and his viewpoint that he can do anything. Many people have commented that it is unusual for parents to facilitate opportunities for their children like Dave and I do for Mason. I don't know that I agree we are so different. Certainly, I am (we are) very plugged in to Mason's life but he is an only child, I am not a mom who has to work at a j-o-b full time, and finally, as an older mom, I think I understand and appreciate that sharing this life with him is my only shot. As a younger woman, I don't believe I would be the mom I am at this point in my life - I really love watching him live a life with unlimited possibilities. Working with Dave to help Mason realize his dreams, it reminds us to keep our dreams on the life-radar, too. We are planning to move to the east coast in the summer of 2015 when Dave gets his degree. We can't plan for where there will be an opening in the National Park Service so we don't even know where we will go, but I assure you, we will go and there will be a job for him in the vicinity of where he wants to ultimately is my intention and so it will be. My dreams include public speaking and public relations, how that will manifest later this year, I don't know, but like a winding country road, I can't see what is around the corner yet I continue to hold steady on the accelerator. I have one more semester of school to earn my AA and from there I will work on my BA more slowly, but absolutely surely.

All in all, time will continue passing whether we are taking action or not, the next twelve months will pass like the last twelve months did. It feels wonderful to know that individually and collectively as a family, we are growing and making strides to improve our overall condition - fitness, weight loss, lots of locally grown, seasonal food, I got to get back in front of the camera doing a few local commercials and even better, I got to share that passion with Mason! There is certainly more that happened in 2012, but these are the highlights for sure.

Here we are on the brink of 2013 and there are already exciting things happening. Mason has almost a half a dozen cooking demos on his schedule, a television appearance coming up this Friday, and a newspaper interview that should be out any day. I have a job possibility that has me excited, and Dave is keeping his eye on the prize of getting his degree so he can start living his dream life as a park ranger - yeah, he doesn't love on line classes, but he loves that we are really moving toward making his dream a reality.

As I wish you all a happy new year, let me leave you with this lovely Christmas quote that I feel expresses our Christmas perfectly, "The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree, the pesence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other." Burton Willis

Monday, December 24, 2012

My Annual Christmas Wish

This Christmas, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Write a love letter. Share some treasure. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Keep a promise. Find the time. Forgive an enemy.  Listen. Apologize if you were wrong. Think first of someone else. Be kind and gentle. Laugh a little every day. Laugh a little more.  Express your gratitude. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love. Speak it again. Speak it still once again. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hi Friends,

Last week was hectic and I failed to share with you the magical night we had in the Festival of Lights Parade. It was suppose to be the previous weekend but the crazy storm that came through postponed it to the following Saturday. In any case, we worked with the team at Sierra Brokers and entered a float with the theme, "I'll Be Home For Christmas" supporting our troops. It was a 6 X 12 foot trailer that we divided in two; the front 6 feet were a living room with a Christmas tree in the center and the back 6 feet were set with army trunks and duffel bags. The idea was that Dave was home with Mason and I for Christmas while his comrades were still deployed eating cookies from a care package and reading letters from home. I have never worked on a parade float before and I have to say, we did an amazing job! The float really communicated what we wanted to say and people stood up and cheered along the parade route. If you don't usually visit my blog, this would be a good time to pop in and see the photos, it really was a special night.

So here we are, a week before Christmas and I am as ready as I am going to be. I have all my cookies decorated and packaged, my cakes and pies baked, and I mailed packages today. I need to wrap gifts and deliver some more local goodie baskets, all in all, I'm in good shape. Today is my birthday and I was showered with wonderful birthday wishes via phone calls, e-mail, cards in the mail, and Facebook. The local newspaper was out yesterday to interview Mason about the cooking demos he's been doing and at the same time, a local news station called and wants to book a cooking segment with him as well. They say things happen in threes, so it is no surprise that I got an e-mail asking Mason to do a cooking demo at the Strawberry Festival coming this spring in Roseville. He seems to really be digging all this cooking & baking, especially the developing of recipes to demonstrate - the performing part is what is exciting to him. Today we shot a few of his ideas about kids planning for holiday parties, making snacks and in true Mason form, he included a kid cocktail. Shooting videos with him today and now watching the classic White Christmas with Dave is the perfect way to spend my birthday.

Next week is Christmas Eve and time to look ahead to the New Year. It is becoming clear to me that there is lots of exciting opportunities on my horizon, but they are not necessarily the things I thought might be coming - but alas, isn't that the way it goes? Indeed, indeed it is. With love to you and yours this Christmastime.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Christmas Rebel

It's two weeks before Christmas and everyone is busier than ever. Today has been a little overwhelming for me, I really don't like all the focus of the holiday season being about buying stuff/gifts... specifically, "I want this, and this, and this, and that." I find very little joy in buying items off a list. First of all, there is no surprise factor and secondly, it's not a gift I chose for you. The flip side of this struggle for me is, sure, these are the things you want, but here we are, "things you want - things I want," where is the "gift" in that? I think of a gift as something I really thought about choosing for you, our relationship, how it will make you feel today and for years to come...maybe it's just me, but I don't find any Christmas joy in buying stuff from a list that would mean just as much as if you had purchased it yourself on some idle Tuesday.

So what am I to do with this? I can rebel and do what I want to do which is give gifts I've baked and canned, and write a heartfelt note to those who make my life so rich in love and friendship. Is that really so rebellious? For some, yes and for others, they will see my gifts as a moment of holiday fun when they comment that my cookies "might" be too pretty to eat, or send me a handwritten thank you note sharing that my apple butter is the best they've ever had (Yes, John Howard Swain, your note will forever hang on my office bulletin board!). My sweet husband, though he gave me a list, is in the kitchen as I write this post making chocolate truffles (thank you Teresa Tjaden!) for his friends and I guess it must be true, from the heart and of ones hands must be the best gifts, at Christmastime and all year long.

As we wind down 2012 and look forward to a new year, I am resolving to have more, meaningful experiences and nurture the relationships I cherish.
Merry Christmas,
Kathy "The Christmas Rebel

Monday, December 3, 2012

To Believe or Not To Believe?

In the beginning....that is a pointing finger, not picking!
The sun is shining today! We were hit with a crazy-windy-wet storm over the weekend, nothing compared to what our east coast neighbors weather, but big by California standards. Most all of the fall color is gone and it is beginning to feel more like Christmas. The cookie factory is open and the living room has been prepped for the tree. When do you put your Christmas tree up? Growing up, my mom put our tree up on my birthday, a week before Christmas and we took it down on New Years day. I married a man who would put the tree up on Thanksgiving day and leave it up through January if I would agree. Talk about a tale of two worlds!


This year we are watching Mason struggle with the idea of Santa and is he real? He is 9 years old incredibly smart, but he is also all about the magic and "anything is possible." We put the Advent calendar out and on the first day he asked me, "Mom, tell me the ultimate truth, the total real truth, did you put the treat in the box?" I honestly said I did not put the treat in the box. Mason nodded and said okay, but he wasn't convinced. He asked me again and I sat with him to talk about this with no distraction. I confirmed that it is not elves that put goodies in the calendar boxes, it is actually dad. He nodded. I treaded lightly when I said, "Mason, you are a smart kid. Do you really think it is possible for one man to fly all around the world in a magic sleigh, with reindeer that fly, in a single night?" Without missing a beat he replied, "Oh yeah! I totally believe in Santa! Oh yes I do. It might be dad putting candy in a calendar box, but Santa is real!" Ugh. I back-pedaled and said, "Great! You better be good if you want to stay on the Nice list." Dave come home later and Mason informed him that he knows he is the "elf" that leaves the daily treats. Having not been informed of the events of the day, Dave was aghast! Mason filled him in on the details and basically threw me under the bus for trying to tell him Santa wasn't real. Laughing! How the heck did that happen? Dave teamed with Mason and off to bed we all went. Fast forward to last night, while we were rearranging the living room to make room for the Christmas tree, Mason announced that he knows Dave is Santa. What?! Where did that come from? Dave was pretty heartbroken, but hid is pain as he changed the subject. Mason and I were in the kitchen and I asked him why the change of heart to which he replied, "Mom, I know. I just really like Santa." My heart melted at his honest admission of his struggle to want to believe so badly. I shared with him that Santa is real, Santa lives in me, his dad, and him. Every time you give a gift, do a kind deed, and help the magic live a little bit longer in the eyes of a little boy or girl, that is how Santa is real. I got a smile and a hug and I made sure to pass those on to my husband, who is still feeling the sadness of a childhood milestone finally come.

From believing in Santa to lots of cooking, Mason is having a ball baking and creating a YouTube channel of tutorials for kids. He is calling it "Kids Can Cook!" and it includes things like how to properly measure flour, how to know when to sift it, "Do You Know What These Are?", how to make icing and decorating videos are coming this week. Here's the link to his YouTube channel, please click and view his videos - comments are welcome and share! Click here.


Who knows how long this will hold his interest, but I am sure having fun on this journey with him. Not to mention, he is learning some incredible skills in the kitchen. I made him a photo book of his cooking journey for Christmas, I'll post the link on my blog if you want to take a peek. (MyPublisher is having a web issue, I will post as soon as it is available)
I am practicing the piano today as I have my final exam recital on Thursday. I am not sure I am going to nail it, but I will show up and try. I also have pies to make and cookies to decorate. Just another busy day, but a busy day in an amazing life! Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?

Last years cookies!
The Christmas season is officially here so let me be the first to wish you Happy Holidays!

Dave, Mason and I traveled to Utah for Thanksgiving and we had a wonderful time. My mom has not been well for some time and last week she wound up in the hospital. It was looking somewhat bleak that she would be home for Thanksgiving but my sister Terry really pulled out all the stops and convinced moms doctors to let her come home. I'm sure it was not easy for my mom to sit still while all the makings of Thanksgiving dinner were happening around her, though there just comes a time when you have to let others do the heavy lifting. We also got to spend a significant amount of time with my niece Tammy and her family. We went Black Friday shopping, played games, and the kids made gingerbread houses. All in all, it was a very nice trip, no drama (hey, some families have their regular share), just lots of laughs and too much good food.

On the drive home, Dave and I were discussing the "Happy Holidays" versus "Merry Christmas" controversy. He argued that saying Happy Holidays is simply the generic or politically correct way of saying Merry Christmas. I disagree. Happy Holidays to me is a more full way of sending well-wishes, it encompasses Thanksgiving (the tail end), Christmas, and New Year. I don't have any aversion to wishing someone a Merry Christmas, I just see Happy Holidays as a more whimsical phrase, it conjures up a bigger picture for me than Merry Christmas does. What do you think? Are you with Dave?

With just 28 shopping days left, are you ready for the big day? I'm mostly ready, but as many of you know I bake my gifts so the cookie factory will be opening soon. I also made apple butter, mandarin fig jelly, and I have a few festive loaf cake recipes I want to try. With Mason becoming so proficient in the kitchen, I am thinking this is going to be one fun holiday season! I'll post pictures in the next few weeks. For now, it's back to homework -- with just two more weeks of school, it's a crazy-busy time. I hope you have a great week!

Lots of love,

Monday, November 19, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!
What a wild, crazy week it's been. So much has happened this week and if nothing else, it has sure made me reflect and realize how truly important it is to be grateful for each and every moment, not just one day a year. I know, we all know this and I bet we are pretty good at recognizing the little blessings in our lives, but I would also bet we could all pause more.

This week I was faced with the grim reality that a very long time friend, one of my best friends has decided that in an effort to simplify his life, he is cutting communication with not only me and my family, but (it appears) our entire circle of friends. I suppose if we were alcoholics or drug users and he wanted to disconnect so he could get clean, I could understand the reasoning - clearly, this is not the case. I don't really know what is going on or why, but I do know that when someone is unwilling to communicate it leaves those of us left behind only to speculate...and hurt. Interestingly enough, someone did this to him a number of years back and I can remember how devastated he was to not know why the friendship was being terminated...maybe he doesn't remember that. In any case, I know you will all assure me not all relationships last forever and even family (yes, I think of him as my family) leave sometimes, but this shakes me to my core and makes me wonder, who's next? I know that is no way to live, but that is how I feel right very sad. Ultimately, I know this is not about me and if these actions in his life bring him happiness, then that is what I want, too...I'm crying for me.
On a much brighter note, Mason did his cooking demo at the Mandarin Festival this weekend and again, he rocked it! He and I did the hour long presentation making a beef mandarin slider and a mandarin no-bake cheesecake with an Oreo cookie crust. It amazes me how easily at nine years old he talks to and engages a crowd all while chopping, slicing, and dicing. If his interest in cooking and public speaking continues , I can only imagine what he will be doing at 12, 15, 18 and as an adult. There is a 4 minute video of the demo on Facebook if you are interested, or click here to see it on YouTube.

After the cooking demo, Dave, Mason and I all pulled together our recipes for the contest on Sunday and you guessed it, it was a Partak Family sweep! Mason won the Snow's Citrus Court award for best use of a Snow's product ($50.00 and a cookbook), and 2nd place ($50) overall in the main dish category for his beef mandarin slider. Dave took 2nd place ($50) in the side dish category with his bacon wrapped scallop, mandarin, and green onion, and I took 1st place ($100) with Mason in the main dish category with my nutty mandarin chicken salad lettuce wraps! Mason got some public kudos as he was the only kid in the competition (no kid category) and took two cash prizes. Certainly it's fun to win, but let me make this note; the time we spend together creating our recipes, developing them in the kitchen, tweaking and tasting together as a family is worth more than any cash prize - this time is priceless.

So now we head into the grand holiday of Thanksgiving with so much to be thankful for! We are off to Utah to be with my family and looking forward to seeing every one. My mom is not doing well so this will be an extra special visit. I hope you have plans to be with people you love, make sure to laugh a lot and try not to worry about the other "stuff," it really isn't what's important anyway. Love to you and yours!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Happy Veterans Day!

Happy Veterans Day!

Holidays on a Monday always mess me up. I equate it to having an extra hour in the morning before needing to get out the door, for some reason I think I have extra time, I run late! In any case, today is the day we honor our veterans and as you all know, I honor mine every day. I also feel inclined to honor the families of those who serve. Most of the families I know will not step up to be recognized because they feel it somehow dishonors their Soldier. The fact of the matter is, the service that is performed by family members left at home is stressful, laden with fear and the unknown. Dave and I have discussed on multiple occassions that while he was in Iraq, he knew where he was and what was happening while family members only have the news and media to rely on. Considering just that, how scary must every single day be? In any case, I applaud the teamwork that makes defending our country possible.

The Mandarin Festival is this coming weekend and I am not sure we are ready! I am volunteering on Friday, Mason is cooking and we have friends coming to visit Saturday, and the recipe contest is Sunday and all us Partaks have an entry. How is this all going to happen? I feel like I have googly eyes but I somehow know it will all work out. Oh, did I mention I am up to my eyeballs in homework, too? With that, I better get back to it! Happy Veterans Day and I'll see you next week.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Truckee in the Fall

Happy Fall!

Oh yes, fall is in full swing and it feels wonderful. I had the good fortune to spend the weekend in truckee with Lisa A. and Kristy P. We caught the aspens in full color, walked along the river, enjoyed some time at The River Inn, went to Tahoe City, tootled old town, enjoyed lazy mornings drinking coffee and inspiring each other with the dreams and goals we are all working on achieving. It was the rejuvenation that I have been longing for and now I'm ready to wrap up this semester at school (just 5 more weeks) and enjoy the coming holiday season. You can see the photo I took with my iPhone while we walked along the river, pretty, huh?
Last evening when I got home, Mason started asking questions about the Monday Motivator. We were looking at some pictures on my computer and one of him several years ago got us reminiscing about where and when. I told him I had the whole story written down in the MM and he looked surprised. We looked it up and that story led to another, that led to another until we were laughing out loud. Mason said, "So you just write about us and our stories? That's cool mom." Yeah, much like Seinfeld, I write about nothing or what seems like nothing at the time, when in fact, the everyday goings on in our life are the very things that we treasure later. Mason, at the ripe old age of 9 is connecting the dots and realizing what a gift this silly weekly blog will be for him when his mom is old and gray with no memory left. Can you imagine if you had something like this to reference back to your childhood and even before? What would you learn about your mom if you could read her writings as a teen, young woman, newlywed, and new mother? Today's nothings are tomorrows special memories and as long as you have today, you can start journaling and documenting your journey. I started writing this column (for lack of a better word) as a weekly e-mail back in early 1999 and I sincerely wish I had all of the early entries. I don't, unless one of you computer geeks kept those e-mails from 1999-2002, but I'm grateful for the ones I do have and I'm even more grateful that they are on line, I know they are safe and in the event of a disaster, Mason will always have a way to have our stories.
The Mandarin Festival is coming, just two short weeks away and Mason is doing a cooking demo. If you are interested in a really fun day trip, let me know and I will get you tickets. Enjoy the fall colors, warm days and cool nights, and take a moment each day to find things to be grateful for...there really is so much good all around each of us - focus on it, it just feels so darn good! Have a great week!

Monday, October 29, 2012

"The Date"

Happy Halloween!
I love, love, love this time of year. Pumpkins that make me feel like they are the gateway to the holidays; Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and then the New Year celebration. Our family has seen some big changes this year and it feels so good to be in a new home making new dreams come true.

Dave and I celebrated our 11th anniversary a little bit early this year enjoying a lovely New England Prix-Fixe dinner at a local restaurant. We talked about a dinner we had in 2001in Mariposa. We had just started dating and spent a fun day tootling the little shops, buying unique gifts (some snowflake Christmas ornaments that we still have), and just being in love with each other. We went to Charles Street Dinner House for dinner an we talked about the day we just spent together, making plans for the coming weeks and months, and it became very clear during dinner that we were planning our lives together, not just dating, but married life. I can't say for sure what we looked like to the other diners in the restaurant, but here's what makes this story so significant; everyone in the restaurant came and went while we sat engrossed in our new love and the restaurant literally closed around us. As we looked at our check and mentally came back to the real world, all the staff working that night were sitting together at a table looking our way. We immediately hurried and apologized for keeping them and we were told with smiles that they didn't want to disturb us and they all chose to stay and wait as seeing two people so in love was magical. We giggled about it as we left holding hands, but 11 years later, it's amazing that a handful of people didn't rush us out so they could go home and let us live in that magic for who knows how long. We decided last week that this would forever be referred to as "the date" because it really was a prelude to the happiness we still feel together. Our anniversary isn't until November 9, but the fact of the matter is, we celebrate our marriage and family most every day.

Mason went to a Halloween Sweet Treats cooking class this weekend and made caramel for apples, and popcorn balls, well, the recipe is popcorn balls, but Mason made popcorn animals! He is also working on his recipes for the Mandarin Festival. He has one and is still deciding on a second one. His criteria is that it has to be something a kids would like, have mandarins in it, and have several skills he can show. My criteria is that is has to be relatively simple because as the sous chef, I have to do ALL the prep work, keep him working smoothly, have samples prepared and ready, and clean up. Ultimately, I love that he is so interested in cooking and baking, it's fun for all of us. For those of you who want to come see him do his cooking demo on 11/17, let me know and I will give you tickets.

Do you have a story that is epic for you like "the date" is for us? I would love to hear it. What an amazing gift those people gave us that night...all these years later, it still brings us so much joy. Enjoy all the little ghouls and goblins on Wednesday and Happy Monday!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Tornado Watch!

"It's raining it's pouring, the old man is snoring..." Yes, we are singing the praises of our first winter storm and is it ever a doozie! There are even talks of tornadoes later today. I am reveling in the luxury of being able to stay in, still in my pajamas doing homework. I felt guilty for just a moment that Dave had to go to work and Mason to school, but that silliness passed as I sipped my English breakfast tea and leisurely started my homework. I figured, it won't be long and my school days will be gone when I, too will have to go to work in cold, wet weather.
With that, I'm going to wish you a day when you can stay in and do what tickles your fancy on a dark, dreary day.

PS 10/23 - there were tornadoes! An F1 in Marysville, Elk Grove, and Lake of the Pines! WOW!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Busy Bees We Are!

Happy Monday!

Is there ever a week in the Partak household that is uneventful? Not usually! This week was no exception. Mason is winding down his first season of football and has it ever been fun. To be perfectly honest, I was not thrilled about daily practices and games every Saturday, but it might be safe to say I enjoyed watching him play football more than anybody. The first few games were comical, the kids were physically being picked up and put into position by coaches and referees, much like life-size chess pieces. Here we are just 8 weeks later and these young men are calling plays, motivating each other, and really playing football! The last game is this Saturday and it is also Mason's birthday. It will be a treat that the last game is a night game as all of the other games have been first thing in the morning. This works out famously for us to have Mason's birthday party Saturday morning. Yep, another jam packed weekend is coming up.

Last weekend, right after the football game, Mason and I drove to Lockeford to meet the newest Garcia, Jacob. Greg, Heather, and Josh welcomed Jacob in early September. He is a doll and our time with friends was wonderful. Dave was in San Diego Friday and Saturday and had training all day Sunday - his weekend pretty much sucked.

We're still getting settled in the new house but it's coming along...well, coming along. I like the smaller house but I don't like trying to make the puzzle pieces fit as to what will go where. Just when I think I have a system, a new something comes into play from a stack of boxes in the garage. UGH! It's maddening.Ultimately, I'm finding that I'm more inclined to just get rid of stuff than get creative to try to find a home for it.

Mason has been cooking up a storm. Yesterday he made Firehouse Chili from scratch - blanched the tomatoes, chopped the peppers, and braised the beef for slow cooking. It really turned out great, but who knew one little tiny jalapeno (no seeds) would create so much heat? Whooo-Wheee! We also created a video for an upcoming contest with Buitoni pasta, he's quite the little showman. For those of you who missed it, Mason has been invited to do another cooking demo, this time at the Mandarin Festival in November (17th). If you have any interest in coming to spend a fun, fall day in Auburn, I am happy to get you tickets. I'm not telling what he is making, but I can tell you he is developing the recipes himself. Enough of me bragging on my kid (though I am pretty proud), I hope you are having as lovely a fall as we are, a nice mix of warm and cool and our colors are just starting to show. Have a great week and I'll have plenty to share next week as we say farewell to football and my baby will officially be a 9 year old!

Monday, October 8, 2012

What's Important to You?

Happy Columbus Day! It may not have been a holiday for you, but us Partaks had the day off. We took the opportunity to head up to Apple Hill thinking it's Monday, there will be no crowds. We'll have the place to ourselves. Absolutely wrong! Apparently everyone else who had the day off had the same idea. It really wasn't so bad, lots of people but a gorgeous fall day. As we hopped from farm to farm, we landed at Jack Russell Brewery where we ran in to one of Dave's good friends who he served with in Iraq. Through a number of life twists and turns, they lost touch and each time we talked about how we might reconnect I would always say, "We're going to run into him when you least expect it." Yep, that is exactly what happened today!

Listening to the two of them reminisce made me think about how important it is to share things with each other. There are little funny things and certainly more significant memories that could possibly change the course of our kids lives. Even as I write the words I wonder if I am being a bit dramatic but in fact, I don't think so. I asked Dave what three things does he want Mason to know - either about how he feels about him or life experiences he had as a kid. This is not a question that is easy to answer, but Dave came up with, "When you find what you love to do, do it! No matter what, don't put your dreams on hold." Hopefully, he will think about this some more and write a few things down. My Monday Motivators serve as an amazing journal for Mason, add to that the photo journey of homemade scrapbooks and Mason will have a darn good history of his family.

When I think about what I want him to know, I think about the little things like the fact that Sara Evans song "Could Not Ask For More" still makes me cry every time I hear it. While Dave was deployed, I fed Mason in his room in the black rocking chair and this song played every morning at 2:13 AM on his radio. My tears fell on his little head as I loved him and missed his dad. I felt for the first time, and I guess the only time in my life what true longing was. Feeling what it was like to miss his dad so much that it physically hurt while oddly, at the same time feeling completely blessed to be his mommy. So I'm feeling a little emotional today, not in a bad way but in the kind of way that makes me want to tell the people in my life how much they mean to me. I am spending a little extra time hugging, holding on for just that moment longer and really looking people in the eyes when we smile to say hello or good-bye.

Think about this a little bit and tell me what you want your loved ones or kids to know about you...maybe you and them, or how you feel about them. I would love to know what is important in your eyes. Sincerely, with love. Kathy

Monday, October 1, 2012

Happy October!

Welcome to the last quarter of the year 2012. It's Monday and it's a new month. This last weekend was more crazy-busy fun. Mason and I did a cooking demo at the Auburn Home Show for the First Annual Fall TomatoFest. Let me be more specific, Mason did the cooking demo, while I assisted him. This kid never ceases to amaze me, who knew he wanted to teach people how to cook?

Several months ago, I saw a post on Facebook about the launch of the TomatoFest at the home show. I reached out to the organizer and asked about a recipe contest and the reply I got was, "No recipe contest, but how about you do a cooking demo for us?" Cool! I shared the news with Mason and he lit up, "I want to do that!" I said, okay, you can help me and he said, "No, I want to do it." That is how it started. The organizer agreed and off we went. Mason practiced his Funky Spaghetti recipe and created one called, "Eeets a Funny Leeetle Peeeza!" Basically, a croissant with sun dried tomato and basil string cheese rolled up with some pizza sauce. I helped out with a peach-tomato salad while his peeezas were baking. Some of his friends were there with their families and his principal came, too! When it was all said and done, the organizer handed him an envelope and said, "Mason, you did an amazing job. This is for you, not your mom, you." Mason opened it to find an invite to do a cooking demo at the upcoming Mandarin Festival in November! Pretty cool, huh?

Now while Mason is working on mandarin recipes, Dave and I are doing homework, working on unpacking, and yes, getting ready for the holidays. Our new neighborhood is lovely and our neighbors have been really friendly. All in all, things are working out just fine and we are looking forward to lots of good things to come.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Moved Out...

We made it! We are moved out of the Aeolia house and living in the Russell Rd house...not moved in mind you, but living here. There are boxes everywhere and as much stuff as we got rid over the last month, I predict more is on it's way out! Today I need to get laundry done (washer is working but not the dryer), move boxes to their respective rooms so that the living room and kitchen both function, make sure my homework is done and make sure I spend at least 30 minutest practicing the piano today. I am loving learning how to play the piano! One of those life long dreams coming true.
I'm sure there is more to share, but I am simply scatter-brained and can't stay focused on one task for more than a few moments. That's what happens when there is complete disorder in ones house! Happy Monday and more so, Happy Fall!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Total Chaos!

Hey Friends,
We moved this weekend and we are still up to our eyeballs in boxes, paper and general chaos. I'll catch up next week as I am expecting that all of the physical moving part of this move will be over by Saturday and then we will just need to concentrate on setting up house and getting situated. Keep your eyes peeled for a housewarming invite in the near future as we aren't truly "home" until our family and friends come and share our space!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Moving and Winning!

Happy Monday, and happy it is! We are in full blown moving mode and next weekend we will be living in the new house. The nice thing is we have more time than just the usual weekend-move. Between packing boxes, moving boxes, submitting change of address cards, and school Mason and I have been training to run a 5K in November. We just finished week 3 of our running program and along with that, I've been in a killer PE class at school. I've lost 6 lbs since school started and other than my knee needing some periodic special attention, I'm getting stronger.
This weekend was the Gold Country Fair in Auburn and Mason and I entered both the brownie contest on Saturday and the cupcake contest on Sunday. Mason took first place both days winning a whopping $50! I took first on Saturday ($25) with my Ooey-Gooey-Decadence-Brownie and second on Sunday with my fig cupcake. Kudos to Mason, in the brownie contest, he was the only entry in the youth category but the judges called him up to face the crowd when they announced that if it was a single category, he would have won the whole thing! Holy cow! And I just got done being sassy and telling him it was a good thing he wasn't competing against me. It looks like the student is becoming the teacher. Congrats Mason, you earned both of those prizes.
So this week is full of football practice, homework, packing and moving some more. Pop over to my blog to see pictures of brownies, cupcakes, and the new house. On September 30 at 1 PM, Mason will be doing a cooking demonstration at the Auburn Fall TomatoFest. He has been practicing and has two great kid-friendly tomato recipes on tap...and maybe one more. If you want to come, let me know and I will get you tickets, it's going to be lots of fun.
Let me leave you with my original poem, "Ode to My Aching Back."
Ode to My Aching Back
Oh the bruises we will get,
When it's time to move our shit.
Boxes, beds, dressers and more,
Makes our muscles more than sore.
Once we get there, time to unpack,
"Holy Cow! There goes my back!"
Rest, then stretch, then walk a tad,
Pop some pills, it's not so bad.
No matter what, you have to finish,
Escrow closes, it's the business.
Find your vice and imbibe! Imbibe!
Our rest is coming, crawl in bed and hide.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

My Weekend A'la Carte!

The Labor Day holiday brings a short work and school week, and according to Mother Nature, fall is on the way! I had the most amazing weekend, actually all the Partak's did okay in the fun department this weekend. Dave and Mason were in the bay area for a game convention (bi-annually, Memorial and Labor day weekends every year) so I made some weekend plans of my own.
 I went to Lake Tahoe and spent two glorious days with just me, myself and I. I took off Friday afternoon and took the long way to Tahoe. I went up Hwy 80 through Truckee stopping at my favorite thrift store. The tone for the weekend was set when I found a registered Brighton handbag for $24 and guess what? Everything in the store was 50% off! Wahoo! A Brighton handbag, likely sold new for $190-230 for $12! I got into South Shore, checked into my hotel and headed back to Emerald Bay to see about taking some pictures of the blue moon. Full and magnificent, it was a sight to see over Lake Tahoe, but there just wasn't a safe place in the dark to set up the camera and take some pictures. I made my way back to do a little gambling and then called it a night.

Saturday, bright and early, I went for a run (found a pretty silver bracelet along the way), grabbed a coffee and then tootled the neighborhoods yard saleing. I had no idea that South Lake Tahoe was such a garage/yard sale meca! I scored again with a pair of darn near brand new Burton snow board pants for Mason for $3. After a full morning driving around with the top down, oh yeah, I was in the Solstice. Lots of fun for a weekend away, but not so good pulling up to yard sales in a little red convertible sports car. The thing is, it looks way more expensive and ritzy than it is so it made it hard for me to haggle when all people wanted to talk about is the car. I grabbed a veggie sandwich, a trashy tabloid magazine, changed into my swim suit and hit the beach. The day was simply perfection. After getting a little sun-kissed it was time to shower and get ready for my date, yep, I had a date with Sammy Hagar! The show was outdoors at Harvey's and it was fantastic! Sammy rocked for nearly 3 hours first with the Cabo Wabo's (his current band), then Michael Anthony of Van Halen came out and jammed and finally, Denny Carmazzi and Joe Satriani joined him on stage for some old school Montrose tunes. If you are not a fan, this all sounds a bit Greek, but for those of you who are, you are totally kicking yourself for missing this show! I was completely high dancing and singing and dancing some more. I ended up at a Let It Ride table where I won, tripled my money, played a little more and left with twice as much as I came in with! I bet you are thinking, Wow! What fun she had. Yep, I did, but there's more. Sunday morning I headed out early and with a pumpkin spice latte in hand,and made my way to Apple Hill. The trees are chock full of apples and fall is in the air. I finally made it home with apples, peaches, a pie and a great big smile!

So let me ask you this, when was the last time you took off for a weekend all by yourself? If it's been a while or you've never done such a thing, make plans and go! There is nothing quite like doing whatever you want, whenever you want to do it...especially if your life is nothing like that all of us working/students/mothers/fathers/etc. Give yourself a gift and if being by yourself makes you uncomfortable, just to get you started, pretend you are me! Hey, how bad can that be? Smiles!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Surprise Vacation to Minnesota!

Happy Monday!

Fall is in the air and I hope it's early arrival doesn't mean winter is coming early, too. Either way, the temps are lovely and there is already a hint of fall color appearing in the trees and grasses here in the foothills.

Mason and I had an amazing surprise vacation to Minnesota. We had just enough travel hiccups to give Mason a taste of the flexibility and patience that is required with connecting flights but even more fun, fun, and super fun once we successfully arrived. We slept over in Minneapolis and started our first day of vacation at the Mall of America and is it ever big! Other than the Nickelodeon Universe amusement park inside the mall, it's a high end, big, beautiful mall. As you all know, Mason earned his own money for this trip and he spent it, for the most part, wisely. He bought his own unlimited ride wristband, a pair of Vans shoes, he spent an hour and had a lot of fun making a Minnesota Build-A-Bear and finally, he shopped multiple stores before finding the best deal on a banana board skateboard. One of the cooler things at the mall is a ropes course. With four levels and all kinds of wacky ways to criss cross, back and forth all while going higher and higher, once at the top the climber gets to slide down a swirly slide. The other rides were fun, too but this one was what Mason wanted to go back and do again before we caught our plane back to California.

From the great day at the mall, we drove north to Julianne's house and it was here that the fun really began! To save you all from a very long writing, let me list all the things Mason took full advantage to experience: Ate at White Castle Hamburgers - twice, daily time jumping on the trampoline, he learned to ride a mini dirt bike, shot multiple air soft guns in a private range, learned about fine jewelry and got to see lots of real, loose diamonds, went paddle boating, learned to knee board, played basketball and poker at the lake house, caught tree frogs, visited the largest open iron ore mine in the world, climbed and played on humongous mining trucks and equipment, we visited the Minnesota Discovery Center and rode the trolley, played tennis and somehow had time to play, play, and play some more. Whew! On our way back to the airport we stopped back at the Mall of America and Mason made it to the top of the ropes course...he didn't quite muster the courage to get all the way up the first time so he was pretty pleased with himself as we made our way back to the airport.

This was an amazing trip and I am so glad we did this together. All in all, he was a great travel buddy and even when I screwed up our return flight time and put us at the airport almost 5 hours too early, he just went with it. I hope that his memories of our surprise vacation together will be as fond as mine are, after all, how many boys get to go on a week long surprise vacation with just their mom? Ah, maybe it is not that uncommon, but that doesn't make it one bit less special to me!

Now we are all back in school and in high gear preparing to move. The timing is working out beautifully with our rental house being made available to us to start moving boxes in before we actually take possession on 9/15 and we don't have to officially be out of this house until 9/25. Moving is never easy or fun, but with the houses in such close proximity to each other and having almost a full month to move, how much easier can this get? If you are interested, I am planning to have a virtual yard sale on Facebook by posting a photo album of the more valuable things we have for sale...if you are in need of shelves, storage cabinets, a Juiceman Juicer, other kitchen appliances and so much more, be sure to connect with me on Facebook.

Have a great week and be sure to visit my blog to see pictures of our Minnesota vacation. If you subscribe to my Monday Motivator blog, you can get the weekly post in your e-mail box with the pictures included! Easy and fun.

Monday, August 20, 2012


Mason and I are on our way home! We had a wonderful time in Minnesota and now we are returning the rental car and making sure to catch our flights.

See you next week with lots about our trip!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Keep the Faith

Happy Monday!
It is finally here, the week Mason and I leave for our surprise vacation. Okay, it's not a surprise anymore, he knows we are going to visit Julianne and her family in Northern Minnesota. We leave tomorrow afternoon and get in to Minneapolis late. We will spend the night and then visit the Mall of America on Wednesday. This little side trip is why I have encouraged and helped Mason make some spending money (by the way, he made $187!). I just couldn't imagine him in America's biggest mall with no spending money of his own. We went to the local mall yesterday and one of the kids shoe stores had Vans on sale, and for those of you who don't know, Mason loves the Vans line of shoes and clothes. He had planned to buy a pair of Vans when we got to MN, but hey, here we were and they were on sale. I loved watching him shop so mindfully when he was having to spend his own money! He sat for a moment and thought about how much he had made, what he wanted to buy while in MN (specifically, an unlimited ride wrist band for the amusement park) and made his decision about buying the shoes. LOVE IT!! It's moments like these that I feel like I am doing a good job as a mom.

On other important fronts, we found a place to rent! It's less than one mile from where we live now and basically, in the same neighborhood close to town and Mason's school. I am over the moon about what a lovely little house it is. It's a 3 bedroom/2 bath on a lot that is maybe a little smaller than where we are now. It has a deck of the whole back of the house with a portion of the deck covered with a ceiling fan for those warm nights when you want to be outside. There is no grass but other outdoor living areas with rock walk ways, lots of little planters, fall trees, a fig tree, a lemon tree, an apple tree and an outdoor fire pit. Oh, and another perk, it has a hot tub! The kitchen is small, but it is lovely, all white tile with newer appliances. Finally, there is a breakfast nook popping right out of the front of the house, just another fun, quirky feature of the house. Having lived in a larger space, we will have some adjustments to make, but all in all, this is a great place for us to live until it's time to make the big move. I'll send out change of address once we sign our lease and know for sure our deal is done! We also got word that our short sale has been approved and we close on 9/25 - perfect for our 9/15 move in to the new house. Finally, it feels like things are going our way and working out without a continuous stressful effort!

School starts for Mason this week, but he will miss the first four days as we'll still be summer vacationing. He and I will have to hit the ground running when we return late Monday as we will both have to get up early for school on Tuesday. Maybe I will enlist Dave to write next weeks Monday Motivator and share his adventures while we were gone, that might be fun! Have a great week and keep the faith, I know it hasn't been easy, but it sure feels good to have some things start to work out easily.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Embrace Change

Welcome to Monday,
The Partaks have a plan! Yes, it's official, we are moving and not just out of this house and into the land of limbo. We don't have a rental yet, but I am confident we will find something that is affordable, lovely and home. Dave and I sat down and calculated that with the military putting him through school in addition to my educational benefits, we could both be on track to have our Bachelor's degrees by July 2015! With that, we will be here in CA until we graduate, Dave will have put in 29 years of service and then we will pack up the wagon and head east. Looking back at how quickly the last nine years has gone by, the next three are sure to fly. Having a real plan sure makes this so much more exciting. Some of you have asked if I'm scared or worried that we will be so far away from family and friends and the answer is no, though we have a great friends network, we have had to be self-reliant for many years now. We have each other so as long as we get to do this together, it will be not only fine, it will be fun.
Mason finally learned where he and I are going on our surprise vacation - Minnesota! We will fly in late on Tuesday night and on Wednesday we will go to the Mall of America for the day. Next we'll drive to Julianne's house where Mason will get to meet and play with Julianne's kids - she has 5! We have plans to spend a couple of nights at the lake house where Mason will get to swim, fish and hopefully learn to wake-board. This is going to be the biggest little vacation ever! He and I need to make the most of our time together because when we get home the following Monday, it's right back to school for both of us, in addition to packing and moving within a few weeks. Speaking of school, as it turns out, I got a B in statistics! The humor is not lost on me that when I saw the 77.8% I assumed that was a C, instead of fully understanding that weighted totals calculate slightly differently. Who the heck cares how I got there, I got there!! Laughing!
Now it's off to look at possible rental properties and more weeding out of stuff I don't want to pack. Have a great week and think with this...

"Change always comes bearing gifts." ~Price Pritchett

Monday, July 30, 2012

Bay Area Get-Away

Happy Monday - Happy Summer!
I finished summer school and I'm sad to share that I got my first surprise it is in statistics. It's a funny thing, the way I felt when I saw my grade, "C," Shock! I really believed I could have pulled off a "A" but thought at the worst it would be a "B." Reality check: I don't have a career on the line, acceptance to an ivy league college that my stellar GPA will play a pivotal part, I am just a 45 year old woman who has been given the gift to go back to school. Yes, in this economy I need my degree to land a good job, but holding on to this idea that I need to earn straight As is just unnecessary pressure. What is real to me, is though I am absolutely capable of earning them, clearly, I am not committing myself to the time it takes to earn straight As. With that said, I am moving on and going to enjoy every last drop of summer!

Right after school let out, Mason and I packed up the car and headed to the bay area. We met Tim in San Francisco to talk taxes and have lunch. After lunch, Mason and I spent a few hours wandering the shops in China Town. What fun! Mason has never been to China Town so it was all kinds of fun for him. We bought some rice candy (Mason loves that he can eat the paper!), a really cool head massager for Dave and we took lots of pictures. Before we left the city, we stopped at Mel's and shared a milkshake, two straws but only one cherry - you can guess who got to eat that! After San Francisco, we made our way to Alameda where we settled in for the weekend. Dave met us on Saturday and we had all kinds of fun. We went to the Art & Wine Fair, Mason did a Rock Star photo shoot with Al and he had a voice evaluation (that boy can sing!), we ate mass amounts of amazing food, Mason got to kayak and we went to the beach. On our way home, we stopped in Woodland and ate some incredible barbecue at Ludy's - if you have not eaten there, make the trip!! SO GOOD! Be sure to pop over to my blog to see all kinds of fun photos from our weekend and heck, while you're there, "subscribe" to my Monday Motivator blog. If you do, you will get this same post in your e-mail, except the photos will be included!
For now, Mason and I are off to the river. Have a great week, before you know it school will be back in session and the days will be short, short, short!! Have you started Christmas shopping? Yep, it's almost August, so either stay plugged into summer or start planning for the holidays! Happy Monday!