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!