Guilt-Ridden Bake-Sale Results in Sweet Success

There I was, sitting with my sister at the Bonnie Raitt concert Saturday, enjoying a fun and relaxing night out, sipping wine from our special Civic Auditorium sippy cups, people-watching as fellow Bonnie Raitt fans took their seats.

From a distance I saw I man I know, which set my brain into association motion, as the human brain is wont to do. Oh, there’s Jay, who asked for the Bella Vista Farms logo so he could do a brochure for …

“Oh shit oh shit oh shit!”

(I could have written that line as, “oh no oh no oh no,” but that would have been a lie.)

Bella Vista Farms Animal Sanctuary logo by Phil Fountain.

It all rushed back to me. Last year Bella Vista Farms Animal Sanctuary owner Chic Miller called to ask if I’d donate some desserts for her annual event’s special “celebrity” auction in mid-March, 2018.

Of course, Chic. I’d be happy to. Gosh, that’s so far away … And look, my calendar’s wide open. Blue sky. White spaces. I always feel so generous with my time when there’s so much of it on the horizon.

I knew why she was getting me to commit early. Chic’s a smart cookie. In prior years, a pair of my donated sour cream coffee cakes garnered a combined $500 during the fundraiser’s live auction to benefit Bella Vista Farms Animal Sanctuary.

In addition to being’s publisher and owner, Doni Chamberlain is known for her delicious Sour Cream Coffee Cakes.

No wonder Chic wanted to confirm that she could count on me again.

Last month Chic called to remind me.

Come on, Chic. I’m a professional. In fact, although I will humor you and record your special fundraiser date in my phone’s calendar — and my Google calendar, for good measure — the truth is that I’m sort of a genius when it comes to juggling my complex schedule in my head. If I do say so myself.

The calendar-for-mere-mortals is just a safety net, in case I’m having an off day and I need confirmation. Nine times out of 10 I never even look.

It seems this was the One Time I should have checked, because this scheduling genius completely forgot about her commitment to the Bella Vista Farms Animal Sanctuary’s biggest annual fundraiser last weekend. I could list my excuses, but really, I have no defense. I just spaced it. I dropped the ball. I blew it. I screwed up royal. The truth is, I didn’t check my calendar. The event came and went — and was that much poorer — without my sour cream coffee cakes in the live auction.

As awesome as Bonnie Raitt was, it was difficult to keep my mind on the concert because my imagination was running in circles, picturing Chic, brow furrowed, looking toward the door, shaking her head. She may have had a Kleenex in her hand, twisting it anxiously.

My mind’s eye could read her lips: I know Doni said she’d bring her desserts. It’s not like her to let me down. Gosh, and look, we made this special place on the live auction table, complete with her name and’s name, but that space is empty. I’m so sad. I thought I could count on her. I guess I was wrong.

Or something like that.

High octane guilt propelled me into action. Sunday I went to Facebook where I confessed my sin, and announced that I’d be holding a little auction of my own to benefit Bella Vista Farms Animal Sanctuary. My Facebook friends were excited. Using the same genius brain that let Chic down, I quickly formulated my bake-sale plan.

One coffee cake wasn’t enough. Maybe I should auction off four to the highest bidders. But what if people didn’t want a coffee cake? Maybe they’d be more excited about my challah. And speaking of Jewish treats, I have that recipe for rugelach, something I don’t think you can even buy in Redding.

Rugelach is a wonderful treat.

Oh, and my molasses ginger cookies are always a hit, too.

Doni’s ginger cookies are pretty delicious.

OK. I could do this. I hatched a plan: Four coffee cakes. Four 2-dozen boxes of rugelach. Four 2-dozen boxes of molasses ginger cookies, and four loaves of challah.

There’s nothing quite as tasty as fresh-baked challah, with butter, of course.

All to the four highest bidders in each of the four categories, which meant 16 different winners.

Did this genius stop and do the math? No. But I’ll do it now. Four loaves of challah, four sour cream coffee cakes, 96 ginger cookies and 96 rugelach, for a grand total of 200 baked items.

Am I crazy? Apparently, yes.

To compound my runaway train of a poorly executed online bake-sale plan, for some bizarre reason, I chose midnight Sunday (really Monday) for the auction cut-off. There are two problems with this midnight deadline. First, it required that I – who’s trying to get more sleep – would need to stay up until after midnight to tally the highest bidders. Second, it meant that the most serious bidders would have to stay up until midnight, too.

I apologize to those people now.

The good news was the bidding was wildly successful. By the time the dust settled at midnight, the top 16 bidders had pledged nearly $800 in exchange for the baked goods to benefit Bella Vista Farms Animal Sanctuary. Two of the coffee cakes went for $110 and $100, respectively. Not bad, not bad at all.

I was so happy. Wow! That was so easy!

Understand that at this point I’d not yet spoken to Chic. I was still so embarrassed for letting her down that I couldn’t face her; not until I could ensure her that I’d raised a good hunk of money during my compensatory bake-sale to make up for my unforgivable mistake.

My sister forced me to call Chic on Tuesday morning to break the news. Bob Miller answered the phone. He said they’d already heard about the auction, but he’d tell Chic to act surprised when I told her.

When she got on the phone, I apologized all over the place, and Chic just laughed. She said she figured some family emergency had come up. No big deal.

No big deal?

Chic said she was touched, but I really didn’t have to go to the trouble of the online bake-sale auction.

I didn’t?

Too late. The wheels were set in motion.

My kitchen looks like something out of an Ethel and Lucy episode. I struggle to not get too caught up in the flour, sugar and baking pans and parchment and a sink full of dishes. And I enlisted sister Shelly’s help to help fill and label boxes. As she says, that’s how we roll.

To date, all the rugelach bidders have their rugelach. Two of the ginger cookie bidders have their cookies. Two of the coffee cake bidders have their coffee cakes.

Thank God there are two bidders who want their coffee cakes and challah later, like next week, and then some time next month.

I’m not taking any chances. I’m putting it all on my calendar. Which I’ll consult daily, perhaps hourly.

Tomorrow’s more baking, but I know I have something else going on – two things in the morning, and one in the afternoon. I’m pretty sure I remember what they are, and when, and where. Or do I? Let me go check.

Seems I’m not such a genius after all.

Even so, I’m smart enough to mention that if you’d like to make a tax-deductable donation to Bella Vista Farms Animal Sanctuary (sorry, no baked-goodie premiums), just click here. Tell Bob and Chic that Doni sent you.

I’d tell them myself, but I’m busy baking.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
Comment Policy: We welcome your comments, with some caveats: Please keep your comments positive and civilized. If your comment is critical, please make it constructive. If your comment is rude, we will delete it. If you are constantly negative or a general pest, troll, or hater, we will ban you from the site forever. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Comments are disabled on articles older than 90 days. Thank you. Carry on.

22 Responses

  1. Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

    As one of the bidders who won a coffee cake a couple of years ago, all I can say is, “YUM!” And to add to that, I have some of your rugelach on my kitchen counter that we are doling out rather than scarfing down like the gluttons we’d like to be. It’s regrettable you went through such torment over forgetting your promise – and so good of Chic to be so understanding – but $800 will buy a lot of food, medicine, and supplies for the sanctuary. As an aside to all who are reading, it’s so easy to make a tax-deductible donation to the sanctuary. Do it. And while you’re at it, donate to A News Cafe, too.

    • Beverly, don’t let those rugelach sit on the counter too long. They’ll get stale, and the waiting won’t have been worth it. They’re little. Have a couple with coffee.

      (Thanks for the compliments, and the pitches, as always. You’re a wonderful cheerleader.)

  2. Avatar Patricia Bay says:

    Still smiling…great story…wonderful life lesson!!

  3. Avatar conservative says:

    Why is a real estate genius selling coffee cakes? Why not take advantage of the excellent real estate broker son and find properties with great potential and fix them up?

    Why not investing in a food truck? There were over 500 people and 5o trucks at Reno Food Truck Friday when my daughter and I visited last summer. The average sale is about $10 and there were lines of 20+ customers at each. My back of the envelope estimate of gross receipts is $3o-50 per minute. With a food truck, someone could travel around the west, visiting places like metro Phoenix which has the highest rate of population growth according to the U.S. census or Metro Las Vegas which has the second highest.

    • Well, conservative (I wish you’d use your real name), I love baking, but I’m not quitting my day job. And that money was raised for a good cause, at super inflated prices to benefit that good cause.

      But sometimes, I confess, the thought of a little food truck selling treats does cross my mind.

      And buying and fixing up little houses, too. I would LOVE that.

      I guess that’s the beauty of being alive with many interests: We can be multi-faceted and explore different passions.

    • Avatar cheyenne says:

      Conservative, you keep posting how great the Reno area is but the Las Vegas Sun pictures a different view. From California is coming more homeless, more wage gap inequality, more unwanted growth leading to an overflow council meeting filled with local protesters. It seems California is exporting its problems out of state and pluses are staying.

      • Avatar K. Beck says:

        Right! Everything is ALWAYS California’s fault. Stay here, work, save you money, then move somewhere else. How is that California’s fault?

  4. Avatar Ginny says:

    How true your comments Doni.

    A dear friend from school years ago thinks both another one and I are nuts for doing things such as working on the reunions. At our age, it is good to know who is still around or try to find out what happened to some of the grads.

    We spend hours and hours, but heck someone has to do the job, and how dull and sad would be if not people such as you didn’t do things for others! Helps more than just us, but many more who wouldn’t work or volunteer their time.

    Keep up the good work…… You are great!!!

    • We must enjoy doing these things, or we wouldn’t continue volunteering for them, right? 🙂

      Keep up your good work, too. 🙂 Your fellow classmates are lucky to have you.

  5. Avatar Cathy says:

    Doni, I think it’s wonderful that you found such a creative way to correct a mistake. I’m sorry you stressed yourself out so much in the process, but your strength of character shows in your actions. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Thank you. I am my own worst enemy when it comes to taking on too much, and underestimating time and effort required to tackle a project. It’s OK. And it’s a great learning experience.

  6. Avatar Joanne says:

    Wow Doni, you’re one of the good guys !

  7. Avatar Hollis Pickett says:

    You are too funny ! ! So, here’s an idea…..let’s have periodic (quarterly?) guilt-ridden bakes sales for those who have good intentions about volunteering but are too buried in life to get there……”Guilty Pleasures Bake Sale”, FBO ________________

    • Great idea! The non-bakers can come help with dish-washing and packaging for a team effort. It’d be fun!

      • Avatar Hollis Pickett says:

        Sign me up, Doni! 🙂

        • Avatar Beverly Stafford says:

          Years ago, I saw a bumper sticker that stated: “Wouldn’t it be great if schools got all the money they need, and we had to hold bake sales to fund the military?” Maybe your bake sale idea could be used to increase the donations to A News Cafe. Count me in!

  8. Avatar Jay says:

    My wife laughed out loud when she saw my name and then your automatic response of “Oh shit Oh shit Oh shit!”. I guess I am going to have to work on bettering some of my interpersonal skills so that I can evoke a better response from people. Oh, by the way, I did not attend the Bonnie Raitt concert so I must have a double out there. Poor guy! And we are going to send you a calendar for 2018 so that you can write down your commitments! The old fashioned way still works.

  9. Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

    I’ve had that “oh shit” feeling. Ain’t fun, but something tells me that you’re more than forgiven.

  10. Avatar Richard Christoph says:


    Bonnie Raitt was indeed “awesome” Saturday night, just as she was at the Cascade a few years back. Between those two concerts, I learned that had I been born a few hours earlier, we would share the same birthdate.

    BTW, have you considered reviewing local events on anewscafe? Seems as though the RS did many years ago and it was always an interesting feature.

  11. Avatar George says:

    Doni, have you forgotten about the 8th Amendment? It is indeed cruel and unusual punishment to show pics of your goodies.