Monday, December 29, 2014

Happy Last Monday of 2014!

Happy Last Monday of 2014! I am so excited to start a new year, not because this year has been bad but because I love, love, love the collective energy that the new year brings. Everything seems possible and many people actually follow through and make a little bit more of their dreams come true. What does a new year mean to you? For me it's twofold; I enjoy looking back at what I've accomplished personally in addition to what we've done as a family. The obvious other side is looking ahead to what I can do better and what new dreams I can manifest. 

Yeah, there's the normal weight loss and eating healthier, but the good news is, I make small strides every year I recommit. Let's look back, in 2005 on Thanksgiving day I gave up drinking soda. That was huge! That is not to say I have not had an ounce of soda since then, I have, but my go to drinks are iced tea, water, wine or tequila, laughing! In 2006, mayonnaise and I parted ways, my go-to is usually mustard now and if I need something to make tuna fish or chicken salad, I will use Greek yogurt or find other, non-mayo based recipes to make what I want to make. Once in a while, I will make a mayo based recipe, but I use way less mayo and enjoy it just as much. I'm not going to give you the year by year but you get the point, small changes add up to a healthier lifestyle. Those two examples are pushing 10 years in action and that's something to be proud of!

This year I made great strides with my real estate business and can't wait to see more growth in the new year. I managed to pay off our debt AND pay for our family to take a Disney cruise - check that one off my bucket list! We took a handful of less extravagant weekend jaunts, but certainly as meaningful. We visited the moaning caverns and Big Trees State Park in Calaveras county with Julie, Ray and his daughter and Steve & Ro, in addition to San Francisco, Utah for Lexi and Jordan's wedding, and even to the ruins at the bottom of Folsom lake. We moved, got a new car (well, new to us), and Mason not only reached his goal of raising $25,000 for his school kitchen, he exceeded it by $1052! It's been a great year and I have every reason to believe 2015 will be just as good, or maybe even better! Happy New Year, go out and conquer the world, I know you have something amazing to offer. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Our Year in Review - Readers Digest Style!


Merry Christmas
and Farewell 2014!
 
It's that time of year again, time to celebrate with loved ones and reflect on where we’ve been and look ahead to where we want to go. Dave, Mason and I have had a great year with few exceptions. We all had more highs than lows but the most important part of our journey every year is that we are healthy and together.

Mason did plenty of cooking this year not only in our kitchen but on television, cooking stages up and down the state, he was featured in Food Network Magazine and he even did his first paid cooking demonstration for Raley’s grocery stores. Many of you know that Mason auditioned for Rachel VS Guy Kids Cook Off Season 2 and made it to number 9 - they cast 8 kids and Mason was the alternate. So close! I don’t know if he will audition again this year,but I’ll keep you posted. Mason enjoys cooking but he wants everyone to know that a kid cook is not all he is. He loves riding his BMX bike, playing with all kinds of apps on his iPad, building Legos, and he is also really enjoying theatre - currently in rehearsals for Aladdin where Mr. Mason is cast as none other than Aladdin!

On a super cool note, Mason reached his goal of raising the money for his school kitchen. Not only did he reach his goal, he exceeded it raising $26,052! It took eighteen months but between he and I, we did it! The school will not be completely remodeling the commercial kitchen, instead they will be installing a Food Science Lab, or as you and I know it, a home economics room. We will create a grade-by- grade curriculum for the students to actually learn to cook in a kitchen just like the one they have at home. At the end of each year, the kids will host a community luncheon as a fund-raiser and so the community can see what kind of cool things are happening at the elementary culinary program at Alta Vista Community Charter School. Isn’t that spectacular? And all because a then 3rd grader had an idea.


Dave has continued to work on his Bachelors degree while working and trying to find time for his gaming hobbies. The older we get, the less time there seems to be to do the things we really want to do, but there is always enough time to do the things we have to do.

I’ve been loving building my real estate business and especially appreciate that it allows me to do so much with Mason and Dave. I paid lots of bills and managed to pay for our family to take a Disney cruise to the Bahamas in October for Mason’s 11th birthday. If that’s all I manage to earn, enough to pay for family vacations and little mini get-aways, I’ll be a happy lady!
Other fun news for me this year is that I was chosen to be one of 6 Americans to participate in an on line program called America Cooks With Chefs. I was paired with a James Beard award winning chef to whip up a healthy dish that we will then present at the Clinton Initiative Conference in January in Palm Springs. I spent a weekend in Portland with my chef and I’m looking forward to the trip next month.
I hope you are all well and having a lovely Christmas holiday. Happy New Year with lots and lots of love!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Happy Birthday Week Kathy

Happy Monday and Happy Birthday week to me! My birthday is Wednesday and I'm looking forward to celebrating with Dave, Mason and some friends out to dinner. I don't have lots to share today except that the cookie factory is open and in full swing! I've gotten off to a late start since I was in Portland, but I'll get done what I can and it will all be good. I also have plans to make some of my mandarin cranberry oatmeal cookies for neighbors since the award winning recipe was featured in the new Mandarin Festival cookbook. I'm making the cookies and giving each of my neighbors a copy of the book, great gift idea, huh? I hope you are having a joyous holiday season, I know I am!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Today I'm Cooking With a James Beard Chef in Portland, OR

This is a prelude to the real Monday Motivator that will come later today. I am in Portland filming for America Cooks With Chefs, a program sponsored by The James Beard Foundation, The Clinton Initiative, Weight Watchers, Better Homes and Garden Magazine, and Barrilla Pasta. I am being mentored by Chef Naomi Pomeroy of Beast and as you are reading this on Monday morning, I am getting ready to be in her kitchen soaking up all I can remember to take home with me. I'll write more later today and hopefully have pictures!

Monday, December 1, 2014

It's Official!

Happy Monday and it's official, Merry Christmas! 

Thanksgiving was awesome! After a few years of not hosting our friends for Saturday Thanksgiving, we got back in the swing of things and it was so much fun. It never ceases to amaze me how much work and preparation goes into planning a single meal that lasts 20 minutes. I'm not complaining, just noting that this is the kind of gift that I love to give and receive. Dave did most all of the heavy lifting for this meal while Mason and I added the pretty touches to the house and table. Dave brined our turkey and as usual, it was perfection! I hope you had as lovely a Thanksgiving as we did and are feeling the Christmas spirit like we are. 

It's time now to open the Partak Cookie Factory, but before I can do that, I am off this coming weekend to meet with Chef Pomeroy in Portland, OR to participate in the America Cooks with Chefs 800 Calorie Challenge. I'm so excited! I am not all the way sure what to expect, but I know it will be something to remember for sure. I'll find out how much I can share before the web series is posted and I'll keep you posted. The finale is at the Clinton Initiative in Palm Spring at the end of January and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Dave and Mason can make the trip to join me. Be sure to visit America Cooks with Chefs on Facebook as I am sure there will be fun stuff posted there along the way. 

Have an awesome week and take in the magic of the holidays, they go by so quickly. You never know when someone you love won't be here to enjoy with you next year. With lots and lots of love!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Winners All Around! Mandarin Festival Weekend

Happy Thanksgiving Week! 

We all have so much to be thankful for, even if things are not necessarily going our way. This weekend was the Mountain Mandarin Festival and to say I was busy would be the understatement of the century! I personally made 350 jars of assorted flavors of mandarin marmalade, set up, decorated and tore down our booth, helped to organize and manage 63 volunteers, manned the booth to sell said marmalades, and made 3 recipes to enter in the recipe contest. Dave and Mason both worked their butts off, too. Dave entered two recipes in the contest while Mason entered one. Dave won 2nd place in both the main dish and side dish categories with his Mandarin Chicken Curry and his Mandarin Cider Slammer cocktail, Mason won third place in the main dish category with his Mandarin Jerk Chicken and I finally won the Snow's Citrus Court award with my Mandarin Breakfast Sausage! Whoo-Hoo! Cash prizes for all!

We didn't make as much money with our marmalade sales as we had rain most of the day on Saturday, but I am still hopeful that once all the accounting is in, we can be close to $2,000 in sales. We still have plenty left if you want to buy some for the coming holiday parties and gifts. It is really an awesome artisan product and I don't think it will be available next year. It's $9.00 a jar and all proceeds benefit Mason's school kitchen project. We have 1/2 pints of (they are all mandarin) pepper (120), peach (9), cranberry (26), lime (8), pineapple (19), pineapple-cranberry (7), mango (8), mango-pepper (5), raspberry, (9) and blackberry (3). We also have 4 jars left of a deliciously tart strawberry/cranberry/plum jam (no mandarin) and 32 full pints of no sugar apple sauce - made with only local apples and cinnamon $12.00.

I hope you all have a very happy Thanksgiving and take some time off, relax and enjoy your company - let people help you and if they are not helping, ask them to! Lots of love to you and yours! XOXO

Monday, November 17, 2014

It's a Fox 40 Kind of Morning!

Mason is gearing up for his last cooking demos of the year at the Mandarin Festival this coming weekend. I am also very hopeful that with our school manning the gates and mandarin marmalade sales we will push Mason's fundraising for his kitchen over the top. Fingers crossed as it looks like we will have cooler and possibly even wet weather. If you want to see Mason doing his thing on Fox 40 click here, oh, and he has a fun giveaway up on his website, all you have to do is share how you like to cook with or eat mandarins. Go to www.masonpartak.com and leave a comment, you can't win if you don't play!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Fall in Apple Hill!

This hillside at Apple Hill looked just like candy corn!
This has been an eventful week and weekend, school and work is dominating my time but I love them both. Dave has had a break from school but is traveling for work, the work travel will become more frequent and school starts back up for him next week so it's going to get busier before things settle down. Add the holidays into the mix and holy cow, it will be 2015 before we know it. 

This week Mason found himself in a predicament in which he made a really poor choice. I don't want to put the details on my blog, but suffice it to say it was bad enough that he did not get to go trick or treating for Halloween. For those of you who know Dave and Mason, you know that Halloween is a BIG deal! Additionally, he does not have his iPad until 12/1 and he has to write a paper about why what he did was so, so wrong. I sure hope he learned this lesson as it will be far worse when he's not just dealing with the law of Dave and me.

We made time to get to Apple Hill and it was gorgeous! The fall colors were exquisite and we got to ride in a Wells Fargo Stagecoach in Placerville. All in all, we had such a great fall family day. We didn't buy apples but we did get some preserves and little pumpkins for our Saturday Thanksgiving table (we hollow them out and serve Dave's butternut squash soup in them). I just love, love, love this time of year, it just excites me!

Now I am back to work and loving it. I will be closing an escrow on the 18th of November and another on on the 4th of December - this is good news but keep in mind, I have been working on both of these deals since June of 2013! Seriously, talk about sticking with it. Laughing! Have a wonderful week and take in all Mother Nature has to offer, it just doesn't get any prettier. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Our Disney Cruise Vacation of a Lifetime!

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


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

Monday, October 20, 2014

Happy 11th Birthday Mason!

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

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

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Wedding, A Search for Geodes and The Loneliest Highway


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

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

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


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


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


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

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Little Slice of Americana

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

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

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


Monday, September 29, 2014

Then and Now - Mason Cooks

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

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

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

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Auburn Fall Home Show is Coming!

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

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

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

Monday, September 15, 2014

I'm So Glad It's Monday!

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 8, 2014

1st Place! 2nd Place! 3rd Place! A Partak Sweep.

Happy Gorgeous Monday!

It's not officially fall yet, but it's really starting to feel like it. The mornings are cool and the nights are smelling more and more like it's time summer is fading and fall is knocking on our doors, I'm even starting to see little bits of red and orange popping in our trees. I love this time of year! 

The latest and greatest in the Partak household is that we all won a ribbon in the cupcake contest at the Gold Country Fair this weekend. Dave and I won 1st and 3rd in the adult competition and Mason won 2nd in the youth division. This is a small fair so we are not putting too much stock in these wins, but for us, it's always about fun and with our entries we get in free to the fair. This contest also gets us in recipe competition mode as the Mandarin Festival is fast approaching and we all have titles to defend, most noteworthy is Dave who won the grand prize last year. I have my idea now I just have to start working on it and as it goes, I was lying in bed last night and came up with another concept, not sure if it will work, but it will be fun to try and experiment with. Oh, and we also went to a concert on Saturday night, Steve Holy is a country artist from "back in the day." Laughing! Okay, it wasn't that long ago, but it feels like lifetimes that Dave and I were out country dancing and going to concerts. I thought it was especially fun to be at the concert with Mason. I reminded Dave that we had many a talk about wanting to be married and have a family, the only difference was we weren't referencing each other as our prospective spouses - too funny! It's all good, no, better than good, my life is extraordinary.

In other news, Mason has a meeting today with one of our county supervisors about a donation to his school kitchen project, he is hoping to get a donation from the revenue sharing program. This is a program that allots $20,000 to each of our supervisors to dole out back into the community as they see fit, I'll be sure to update you when we know if a donation is coming Mason's way. With just $6,000 more dollars to raise to reach $25,000, my favorite part of this whole process has been seeing Mason step up to the plate and ask for help for something he sees will improve the condition of his school and the lives of his peers. He has had the opportunity to speak in front of groups of 50 and today, a meeting with a county official. This kind of community involvement and fundraising experience is priceless. Keep in mind, he is only 10 years old (almost 11 now) and there have been many lessons in sacrifice and having to do the work one doesn't like to do to be able to do the stuff one really wants and loves to do. Learning that lesson is never easy, heck, many of us are still working on it in our 30s, 40s, 50s and then some!

Have an awesome week and get the work done that needs doing so you can go have some fun!

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Colors of Fall are Starting to Arrive!

As all of you know, Dave and I have been on Weight Watchers and doing lots more physical activity. Dave goes to a cross fit class two nights a week and I have been working a 3 mile hike 3-4 days a week. We usually go in the evening when it starts to cool off but when it's just me, I will often go in the morning. Look what I came upon while on my hike, yes, that is a gorgeous fall leaf! The trees are starting to change colors and though the days are still plenty warm, even hot, the mornings are crisp and cool. Ah, I love this time of year! I'm going to invite you into my kitchen to have a cup of coffee with me and send you off to have an awesome week! I have lots of fun mugs, but this is one of my all time favorites! Do you have a favorite coffee mug? Show me!

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. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Unpacking...

Welcome to our life as it comes out of boxes, lots and lots of boxes! How on earth I managed to keep everything Mason needed for an out of town cooking demo in the middle of a move, I will never know. We started moving this time last week and what a long week it was. People seem to be under the impression that because we moved just 3 doors down that the move was somehow easier - not so! Boxing up your whole house, moving it and then unpacking and finding new homes for every single thing you own is a pain in the butt no matter how far you drive your stuff. In any case, we are here and we are tired. The essentials are in place; shampoo in the shower, towels hanging on the racks, clean sheets on the beds, and the couch with working television is in place. The kitchen is functional but we are still pulling things out of boxes as we need them. It will all come together at some point and all will be well. 

Until then, it's back to work. Happy Monday! 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Holy Blazes Batman, it's Hot!

Holy Hotter-Than-Hot Monday Batman! I'm not sure about where you are, but in my lovely little foothill town it's going to be 105 today. Rod, we know you are in Kuwait and you laugh in the face of 105, but you are also more poolside than any Soldier I've known to be deployed so I don't want to hear it! All kidding aside, it is hot and that means drink lots of water and stay out of the direct heat if you can avoid it. 

In other news, this week is moving week. We are renting the house at the end of our cute little loop so we get to keep our neighbors, stay close to the river, Mason's school and both places of employment for Dave and I. Moving is never fun, but moving during what is shaping up to be the hottest week of the year is a double-yuck! Dave and I were looking back and laughing about how we somehow manage to move during the hot months of the year; we spent our first night in the Aeolia house on July 4th 2003 and moved into the Russell Road house in September 2012 (it was hot as blazes that year, too!). 

I was talking to Mason this morning and we were discussing the challenges of the move and his broken arm (things he feels he's missing out on) and I took the opportunity to reiterate what so many of us learned later in life. I reminded Mason that we cannot control all the things that happen to us, but we can absolutely control how we react to them. He thought about it and asked me for an example. We looked at that he couldn't control that he broke his arm and that means he can't ride the knee board behind the boat or go to the skate park on his bike - and those things suck. We turned it around and I said, "Tell me two fun things you can do." His list started out with just going to the river and as we chatted, it grew to many things he could still do to have fun. As I dropped him off at the Boys & Girls Club I reminded him, "You get to pick how you feel about things, choose wisely and you will always be happy." He smiled and in true Mason fashion said, "Yeah mom, with a mom like you it's hard to be crabby." That was the best compliment in a long time! 

I hope you are all doing well and enjoying summertime, I know we are!
Love, Kathy
 

Monday, June 23, 2014

What a Bummer!

What the heck happened this weekend? One minute it was summer fun with bmx bike camp and the next it was first aid and a trip to the urgent care! Yes, on the last day of bike camp Mason took a spill and not only chewed up his face pretty good, but he broke his forearm in two places. He did his best to assure me the arm was just sprained and would be fine, but the instincts of a mom are pretty hard to fool. For all the talking he did of how it was fine, he sure wouldn't let me get near it and the way he was carrying himself and not using it at all told me something different. Mason has it in him to be an academy award winning actor, but the fact is, the drama only goes so far and when he is not truly hurt he will forget the acting to get back to bike riding, swimming and so on. This left hand issue was not so easily forgotten because I could tell it really was hurting him. A quick trip (Yes! We got really lucky) to the urgent care showed what I suspected; the radius is cracked all the way through and the ulna has a crack about half way through, needless to say, Mason will not be attending week two of bike camp. Now it appointment with an orthopedic doctor and a panoramic X-ray of his jaw to make sure that didn't get whacked out of line. I'm sure sorry he had this accident, but the fact remains that I would rather have him outside playing and living life than in the house in front of the television or his iPad. It's all good and he's all boy.

In other news, Dave made it home safely after 19 days away from home working. We celebrated Father's Day with lunch out on Saturday and then on Sunday, Mason made him biscuits and sausage gravy for breakfast. It was a really nice weekend in spite of the trip to the urgent care. Now it's back to work and more appointments for Mason. We are also packing to move on the first. I will send out our new address when we move for those of you who keep track of such things. I hope you have a dynamite week and make time to do something fun, it is summertime after all!