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 aNewsCafe.com’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 aNewsCafe.com’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 A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's 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's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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