Monday, December 30, 2013

Farewell 2013!

Happy Monday!

It's the last week of 2013 and what a year it's been. All in all, I would say it's been a good year, certainly not without challenges, but surely with less heartache than 2012 put us through - okay, maybe that's not accurate, can the year be responsible for anything we experienced or felt? No, I suppose not, just suffice it to say, 2013 was an improvement.

Some of our 2013 highlights were Mason and I doing live cooking demos, traveling to New York and Connecticut, our family taking trips to Hawaii, Napa Valley, Truckee, Disneyland, and so many more day trips. Mason and I spent lots of time at the river and Dave and I managed to get away a few times alone, too. Mason cooked up a storm in 2013 and as of checking in with him yesterday, he wants to book all the same fairs and festivals for 2014. We worked really hard raising money for his school kitchen project for which we have raised $7000 so far! There is certainly plenty of adult help that supports Mason in his ideas that seem so simple in the mind of a 10 year old, but do not for a minute be fooled into thinking there is anyone else driving the momentum of his fundraising and cooking projects, Mason is a driven young man. We have several projects coming up early next year and it looks like they can net an additional $7-8,000 - not bad! Dave is rocking school getting mostly As and I think he might even be liking college more than he did when he first started. The online accelerated programs are tough, as many of you know, but he is doing it and doing it well, each 6 weeks getting one class closer to his Bachelors degree. Dave had two other noteworthy events this year, he facilitated the 9th year of See's For Soldiers seeing an increase over donations last year netting more than 2800 lbs of donated candy. Dave also won the grand prize in the recipe contest at the 20th Annual Mandarin Festival this year with his Mandarin Pomegranate Cheesecake - he won a full set of Kitchencraft cookware! Way to go Dave!

As for future plans, they are ever changing, right? The one thing we can all count on is change. We had set our sights on leaving CA in just 3 years, but it seems to be a better plan for Dave to stay put in the Army for an additional 2 years and be eligible to collect his full retirement immediately upon retiring - a good plan indeed, but as we all know, the terms and conditions are always changing. At this point, we'll be in CA a bit longer, but rest assured, we will make the move east to see Dave in his National Park Service Ranger uniform living out his childhood dreams. 

The immediate big plans are to host a handful of Mason's friends for a kids New Years Eve party. We will grill burgers, build a bon fire and make smore's, set up camp in the living room, eat snack food, wear party hats and sound the noise makers at the stroke of midnight. The kids will have fun and Dave and I will make memories that we can reminisce over in our "old age!" 

I wish you the happiest new year and hope you have the confidence to take the steps, even if they are baby steps, toward whatever makes you happy. Start wherever you are, there will never be a perfect time, so just do something now. Happy New Year! With Love, Kathy

Monday, December 23, 2013

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.  
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 16, 2013

It's the Busiest Time of the Year!

Happy Monday!

I know you are not getting this on Monday, but I wrote it on Monday...well, mostly. It's that time of year, we are all up to our eyeballs with long to-do lists, holiday parties, gift buying, wrapping, baking, addressing Christmas cards, and trying to keep up with all the other normal stuff we have to take care of, too. Yeah, to say we are busy would be a gross understatement!

Mason and I were up before the birds this morning because Mason was doing a segment on Good Day Sacramento called "Breakfast at Your Place." The premise of the show is that one of the popular morning anchors, along with a chef stand outside in a specific neighborhood and on live TV announce that the first person to come outside and say, "I want breakfast at my place!" wins. They get breakfast made by the chef in their house for them and their family. Mason was the chef along with Ty Rowe is the owner of one of Old Town Auburn's nicest restaurants, Bootleggers. They were billed as Mike and Sully as Mason is a kid and Ty is a really big man, it was quite comical! It was a really fun segment and as usual, Mason was winning fans left and right with his high energy and fun, upbeat attitude. I will get the video from the morning edited and up on Mason's you tube channel in the next few days. It was another really cool experience for Mason, one of many along this culinary journey he is on.

This is the last few days of school before Christmas vacation and Mason is making cookies for his class party. He has a first place award winning recipe for a mandarin chocolate chip oatmeal cookie. He and I went head to head last week in a cookie contest at the Newcastle tree lighting celebration and he won first place and a $50 gift card. I'm not sure it was totally fair as he stood by the entries and told everyone which was his and even offered hugs for votes! What? Seriously? Laughing! Okay, it may not have been completely fair, but he is only 10 and will not have the opportunity to work that angle forever. Heck, in the last year, entering and winning recipe contests is how Mason makes most of his spending money, not bad for a kid! Speaking of making money, our efforts at the Mandarin Festival netted the school kitchen project $5300 from the work we did selling tickets at the gate and another $1500 from the sales of mandarin marmalade. Some of the money from the sale of marmalade went to the booster club, but I am proud to say that with Mason's fundraising efforts over the summer, we are at nearly $7000 for the school kitchen! Isn't that awesome? But wait, there's more! If you recall last week I announced that Mason was awarded the Celebrity Chef Challenge grant that is a minimum of $5000 - they called to let us know that we will also have the opportunity to raise money with a silent auction and raffle! I'm thinking this event could push us to $15,000. If you have something to donate to our raffle or auction, please let me know and I can make arrangements to pick it up. Finally, we have another event on February 10th at the aforementioned Bootleggers Restaurant here in Auburn. Mason and Ty will be planning a menu and selling tickets for a pre-Valentines Day dinner with all of the proceeds going to the school kitchen. I tell Mason all the time, Magic can happen if people work together, and guess what, we are making magic!!

I hope you are having a lovely holiday season, I know we are! Drop me a line and let me know what is happening in your neck of the woods, I would love to hear from you!
Merry Christmas, Kathy

Monday, December 9, 2013

Snow in Auburn!

Happy "Brrrr" Monday!

Yes, it's been cold, damn cold! We got 4-5 inches of snow here in Auburn on Friday night and Saturday and it's been so cold, we still have it. Last night when I went to bed, it was 30 degrees, so it's safe to say, Mason will be over the moon to go to school this morning and still have snow on the soccer field. For those of you who live with snow, I know, it's novel for us and that it came before Christmas makes it even more magical.
Mason getting the great news!
There has been plenty going on at Casa de Partak. The cookie factory is open and I have already had over 100 cookies go out to wonderful causes. I'm now in the process of wrapping up my last request for 30 gingerbread boys and just focusing on decorating the cookies I give as holiday gifts. Of course, Mason loves decorating with me and he's getting really good. You can still quickly tell which cookies I did and which he did, but I remind him all the time, I've been icing cakes and cookies since I was just 23 years old, that's 24 years of practice! I expect he will soon be outdoing me and I can't wait for that day! Speaking of Mason, I think I shared with all of you that Mason made a presentation of an application for his school kitchen project to be considered for the Auburn 49er Lions "Celebrity Chef Challenge" grant that they do every year in March. Well, out of 8 applications, they chose Masons! They said not only were the letters from his fellow students compelling, but the personal presentation Mason made when he dropped off the application really impressed the board. For this grant, Mason and his school will have to sell tickets to the event and we have to decorate the hall. The 49er Lions will arrange for all the Celebrity Chefs and auction items in addition to all the other arrangements. The grant is a minimum of $5000 but can be more if we all pitch in and sell more tickets. If you want to come, it's March 6, 2014 and tickets are $17 per person - so save the date! On a personal note, I wasn't notified about the announcement so I wasn't there when they came to Mason's school to share the good news. The representative from the Lions club asked Mason to come up on stage as he acknowledged and congratulated him. I was so proud to learn that without any coaching, Mason had the good sense to thank his fellow students for writing letters and noting that this is a team effort, it's not just him. Good job son, it validates all the talking about lifting others up that I do that I think you are not hearing!  

Dave is at his annual training for the Guard and we were all sad he missed the snow and the local Christmas festivities. It is what it is and the way I see it, we'll just have to make up for lost time when he gets home next weekend. Auburn's Old Town Country Christmas is Saturday and we are hoping he will be home in time for us to all go.

Finally, if you know anyone who is thinking of buying a house and has a union connection, put them in touch with me. There is a program for union members, former union members, and family members of (current/previous/retired) union members that could be really helpful to help them buy. It's also got benefits for refinance. I am making my living working in real estate so if I have ever helped you with loans, loan mods, or just free consulting, please think of me for yourself and referrals of family and friends who may be selling and buying!

Merry Christmas,

Monday, December 2, 2013

It's Official, "Merry Christmas!"

Salvation Army Community Dinner
Yes, the holiday season is upon us and all the usual suspects are out in full force. The radio is playing Christmas songs, the DIYers have started posting pictures of their clever handmade gifts, and Dave has decorated the outside of our house while I spent the weekend baking cookies.

We had a lovely Thanksgiving at home, just the 3 of us. Mason and I went and worked at the Salvation Army Community Thanksgiving dinner and that was something else! There is nothing like the feelings you feel when you volunteer, seriously, the best feeling ever. Mason made the green bean casserole and did all the slicing and dicing for stuffing on Wednesday including making his own seasoned bread crumbs! Dave made a turkey, put all the stuffing together, made his 24 hour fruit salad, and cranberry relish, while I made the mashed potatoes and gravy. It was the most low key Thanksgiving holiday we've ever had, in large part because we all chipped it. I think it might have even tasted better knowing we all worked together to make it such a lovely day. After dinner and cleaning up, again, a group effort, Mason and Dave headed outside to start decorating while I took all my Thanksgiving d├ęcor down and put up the Christmas goodies.

Dave did some black Friday shopping as we always count on the Home Depot deal for live cedar garlands, 15 ft for $5, and .99 poinsettias. I also like Walgreens for laundry soap, buy 1 get 2 free. I typically only buy laundry soap once a year! Other than just a few more things, I think we are done shopping. Now it's time to decorate cookies, wrap presents, address Christmas cards and enjoy the holiday season.

Our Thanksgiving Table
On another note, Mason and his classmates (parents included!) have raised nearly $2,500 for the school kitchen project with Mason's efforts combined with marmalade sales and the numbers are not in for the money we earned working the gates at the Mandarin Festival - I have high hopes it will take us near or over $10,000! Mason has begun Phase II of the project and is writing to manufacturers of commercial kitchen equipment. We are struggling a little because he doesn't like that I am insisting he hand write the letters, he wants to type them. I know at only 10 years old, he doesn't understand the reaction the person opening the letter is likely to have when they see an original, hand written letter from him versus just another type written letter. I also want him to understand how his energy and enthusiasm for the project passes through from him, to the pen, to the paper, and even if just in a little way, the person who reads his communication. I'll keep you posted, I'm feeling very confident we are going to have a new kitchen at Alta Vista Community Charter School next year!

With that, have a lovely week and instead of thinking about what you want for Christmas, think about what you can give - it feels better and in the end, it is really the best gift to you!