Monday, October 24, 2005

A Quick Hello!

Hi Everyone!

I am just about to get in the shower to start my loooonnnnngggg Monday! Did I ever mention that I HATE Mondays? I usually start getting cranky Sunday evenings and I finally figured out why. It's because I have to go to work the next day! Oh well, no use dwelling on it!

Anyway, I just thought I would stop by and say "Hello" and share one of my favorite websites. It's Family Fun and if you've got kids, you are going to love it too! I also have a subscription to their magazine and I never throw them out. I keep them neatly filed away for years. There are sooooo many great ideas and fun things to do with your kids in them.

Gotta run!

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Saturday, October 22, 2005

Pumpkins, Face Painting, Hayrides & Corn!

What a wonderful day we had at Harvest Valley Farms last Saturday! This was our second year and another one of our family traditions that I hope Allison will remember fondly. They have so many fun things to do and Allison loves them all! I've posted some of my favorite pics. I think the one of Allison and Curtis is my new favorite of them! (By the way, you can click on any of them to see them larger.)
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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Extreme Friendship and Ty!

Wow, did I have fun last week! Life gets so busy and I get so behind sometimes that I don't get to stop and smell the roses. This week was different. Even though I have tons of stuff to do and a business trip to go on next week that I needed to get ready for, I put that all aside and just had fun!

Have you ever watched "Extreme Makeover Home Edition" on ABC on Sunday nights? Well, it happens to be one of my FAVORITE shows! One of my best friends, Nancy (Hi Nanc!), and I are ADDICTED to any of the home improvement shows. Wait, first let me give you a little background on Nancy and I! We met over 12 years ago when we worked at the same place. Something clicked and we became friends instantly. Our first "friendship" date was when she invited me over to her apartment to hang out and we ended up faux marbelizing a table! Not exactly what most friends would probably do hanging out for the first time but it was perfect for us. Fast forward years later when I ended up moving into a 4-plex across the street from her. It was the beginning of "Trading Spaces" on TLC. Nancy and I were hooked from the very first show. We would call each other on the phone and watch it together over the phone. It's not like we couldn't walk across the street to watch it in person together but sitting on the phone worked for us. By the way, does anyone know who Alex McLeod is? If you are a true Trading Spaces fan, you would know the answer! Nancy and I do! Anyway, moving right along. Nancy called me about 2 weeks ago to tell me she received a note on her door that "Extreme Makeover Home Edition" was in town looking at doing a makeover on the next street over and they wanted all the neighbors permission. they had to ask Nancy! Well, it ended up that 2 weeks later she received a letter from them on a Monday that they would start Wednesday! Of course she had to call me and I planned my trip to her home to stalk...I mean look for Ty! Even though I had Wednesday off, Allison had a dentist appointment...dang those parental responsibilities getting in the way of my fun! So Allison and I ended up going on Thursday. We arrived at Nancy's around eleven or so and had a cup of coffee, a doughnut and chatted a while. Nancy had another Ty stalker...I mean friend there too. This was the first time I had met Monica but I knew if she was willing to stalk...DANG...I mean watch the fun with us, we would like each other just fine. Her youngest son was also with her. So we had Allison, Mitchell & Zach in tow so I guess we couldn't get into too much trouble. Right? We walked over to the house and the gas company was working out front. Not very exciting but we were able to take some before pictures. By the way, that's not Ty at the controls of that bulldozer! The big silver round things on the pole are lights that help them work at night. Nancy said when she came home from work the previous night, they were so bright. You can see how big they are! Well, since nothing exciting was happening, we decided to go back to Nancy's house. Nancy made us lunch and while we were sitting in the kitchen talking, I happened to glance out the window at something that caught my eye. WELL, all I could muster out of my mouth was..."BUUUUSSSSS!!" Yes, Ty's bus just pulled down her street in front of her house! We all jump up and Monica and I grabbed our cameras and started chasing the bus down the street as if we were crazed girls in the 60's chasing "The Beatles!" Nancy followed barefoot with the kids carrying Allison because she had socks on, Mitchell was barefoot too and Zach was the only one with shoes on! Thank goodness it was a nice day! Well the bus stopped and Ty got off and Monica screamed like a school girl! Oh my, can you tell this was the most excitement we had seen in a long time? Ty ran into a trailer there and stayed in there for a while but that was okay, we weren't leaving until we got a look at him! I guess I should mention that Nancy's street was the production street which was guarded by security guards and you weren't allowed on it unless you were a resident. This pic is what her street looked like. There were signs along the street that identified it as "bin city" and we found out later that those yellow things on the side of the street housed some of the furnishings for the house. All of the other vehicles belonged to the production crew. Here's a pic of the kids too! Don't they look like they are having fun? Okay, Ty ended up coming out of the trailer and we got to see him for a brief moment so we decided to head back up the street to Nancy's home because Monica had to leave to get her other son off the bus so I had to move my car for her to get out. However, as we were walking up to the house, Nancy noticed what was parked out in front of her immediate neighbor's was Ty's bus! The bus they use at the beginning of the show when he tells the design team about the family and they use it at the end of the show to block the family from seeing the house until they are ready to reveal it. You know, when Ty screams "BUSDRIVER, MOVE THAT BUS!" So of course we had to go and take our pictures in front of it! I know, we're pathetic and I don't care if you are laughing at us right now...we had fun and that's what it was all about! By the way, do you see my so not shy daughter talking to the busdriver? She just walked right up to him and carried on a whole conversation! Moving right along...we went and got Emily (Nancy's daughter) off the school bus, took her picture in front of Ty's bus and then headed back over to the makeover house. They were shooting in the back of the house and we could see a little of what was going on. It looked like Ty was explaining to the camera what was going to happen. We were standing across the street behind fencing they put up to hold us back. The security guard kept "shushing" the crowd when they started to get too loud. Paul, the carpenter, walked across the front lawn of the house and everyone cheered. LOL...I guess we were not the only crazies there watching! We stood there a little longer and who comes walking down the driveway towards the street, then across the street and then to the crowd waiting? YES, it was Ty! He started at one end and greeted the crowd. He was signing autographs, shaking hands and posing for pictures. Some lady called a friend on her cell phone and even talked to her over the phone. We were about in the middle of the crowd. Emily, Allison and I were together and a couple of people down, Nancy was sitting on the ground with a sleeping Mitchell laying on her lap! Poor little one! As Ty was approaching us, I grabbed the new bigger sized TV Guide that I had just received in the mail the prior day out of my purse for him to sign. If you haven't seen it, let me show it to you! For privacy purposes, I had to block out our address but you can see Ty signed it! He also told me that I had to watch the show that Sunday because they did something special with TV Guide. I told him that he didn't have to tell me to watch because I watch it every Sunday! He was so gracious to everyone in the crowd. Emily asked if she could have a hug and he smiled and hugged her. He wasn't that high energy crazy Ty that you see on television. He was so down to earth and pleasant. When he got to Nancy (remember she was sitting on the ground) he bent down and patted a sleeping Mitchell on the back and said something to the effect that the little guy just couldn't make it, could he? Here is a picture of Emily with him. She was so excited! She said something about never washing that shirt! LOL! I swear she skipped all the way back to Nancy's house. Okay, now we leave there and go back to Nancy's and this time the busdriver was outside the bus and he opened it up and let us go inside! Yes, I was in Ty's bus! LOL! Here's a pic of Nancy and Emily sitting on the couch and then here's a picture of me acting crazy like Ty with HIS megaphone! It was sitting on the counter and with Nancy egging me on, I couldn't resist! I would love to say that my lips were where his were but the truth of the matter is I didn't put my mouth to it! I guess the Mother in me kicked in and the whole germ thing came to mind and I just didn't do it! Oh well, I guess I'll stick with my Curtis' germs!

I am not sure when the episode is going to air. Some have said on Thanksgiving or the Sunday before or the Sunday after. You'll just have to watch. There are a lot of surprises but you already know that if you watch the show. I do know that John DeCerbo from DeCerbo Construction who was responsible for framing out the house handed the owner of TC Quality Homes of Canfield who was the main builder on the house a check for $25,000. He told him that "If I can't frame the house in eight hours, I'll donate this to the family. But if I can, I want ABC to donate $25,000." The record for framing a house on Extreme Makeover Home Edition was 12 hours. He did it in 5 1/2 hours! Here's a sneak peak at the almost finished house. I got this pic off of Channel 33 WYTV's website. It's pretty, isn't it? I can't wait to see the show! I'll have my VCR set!

As I drove home from my fun filled day with my Allison sleeping in the back, so many thoughts were going through my head. About how much fun I had. How I couldn't wait until I got my pictures developed. How I wished that I didn't have to work the next day so I could watch them tear the old house down. How I wished that I could be there for the next 6 days to watch all the activity. How I wanted to be there when the family came home and saw the house for the first time. But honestly most of my thoughts were how I missed living across from Nancy. How I loved just hanging out drinking coffee and having loaded bagels for breakfast. How I miss watching Emily grow. How I missed seeing Emily in her Halloween costumes. How I missed playing Scrabble with Nancy. I miss Doug (Nancy's husband)...he's such a good friend. I miss watching HGTV and TLC with Nancy. I could go on but I think you get the picture. Nancy teased me that she had to get Ty there so I would come for a visit but truthfully, I always thought about coming to visit but I think deep down I wasn't ready to face the feelings that I knew I would have. It's sort of a loss. Nancy is a great person and a wonderful friend and I miss her so much. I wish I could have my family and still live across the street. Well, maybe not in that apartment. It would be a little crowded with Allison and Curtis in there too. They both have too many toys! I always believe that things happen for a reason. Maybe there was more than one reason that Extreme Makeover Home Edition came to town. Maybe one of the reasons was to add silly stupid fun to balance my first return to a place I loved so much. A place where I was happy and wasn't ready to leave. A place where I was with those that I loved and loved me. I know life is about change and it moves on but it wouldn't it be nice if we could have everyone we loved right where we want them? I LOVE Curtis and especially my Allison but I miss having a good girlfriend across or down the street to just be "girls" with.

That's all for now and don't forget to watch Extreme Makeover Home Edition on ABC on Sunday nights at 8 PM EST!

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Sunday, October 09, 2005

Bagna Cauda & Halupki!

No, I'm not speaking another language...well maybe. Let me explain.

Bagna Cauda (pronounced Báhn-yah Ców-dah) means "hot bath" in Italian. My Dad is Italian. No, he's not taking a hot bath but cooking for us. This is the only dinner he makes. We usually have it once a season when all the vegetable are just perfect from his garden. And this dish is sure to bring his children home. We can't resist it. All Mom has to say is "Daddy's making Bagna Cauda" and we rearrange our schedules to be there. It's a tradition from my life that I love. We had it two Fridays ago and yum, was it good! What is Bagna Cauda? It's sort of a sauce...a dipping sauce...a fondue if you will. You then dip raw vegetables into the sauce for a few seconds and dab it on slices of Italian bread to catch the drippings and then you eat the bread. We use cabbage, peppers and cauliflower. The recipe comes from the Piedmont Region in the Northern part of Italy. My Dad is from Northern Italy. There are different versions but this is ours. It always starts in a small heavy bottomed skillet. Not a non-stick. He uses a cast iron skillet but it's not neccesary to have one. To the skillet add about 1 1/2 cup of a good olive oil and 1 stick of butter. Heat on medium heat. Just as that starts to warm up, throw in about 6 cloves of garlic sliced thin and a can of anchovies. Do not add it when the oil is hot or you'll fry the garlic and not blend the flavor into your sauce. Cook for about 10 minutes until the garlic browns and the anchovies dissolve. You can turn down the heat and then you are ready to enjoy. **Note** These amounts can be varied to your liking. Most of the time Dad ends up adding more butter and olive oil as we are eating it because we love it so much we tend to gorge ourselves on it! My family likes to stand around the stove with a slice of Italian bread in one hand and our dipping vegetable in the other. My Mom cuts the cabbage in wedges, the cauliflower in florets and the peppers in strips. And yes, we double dip! It's the only time in our family when double dipping is permitted! Yum! When the pieces get too small to dip, we use a fork for the last bite. If you feel more comfortable putting it in a fondue pot and having it at the table then go for it! I personally love the atmosphere around the stove. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I love traditions and it's one of my favorites. Just a couple of other notes on Bagna Cauda. I only use one slice of bread to catch my drippings. The rest of my family will have 5-6 slices of bread. My Mom and I like scooping the anchovies onto our dipper. My Dad, sister and brother prefer the garlic slices. I love the cabbage and sometimes throw in a cauliflower floret for variety. The rest of my family prefers the peppers. It's good no matter how you like it but it's definately not low fat...but the vegetables are good for you!

Halupki a.k.a. Stuffed Cabbage Rolls or otherwise known as my favorite comfort food is a tradition from my Mom's side. She is Polish. And, of course, I only like her recipe. It's so yummy! She always makes it with lots of broth/sauce and serves mashed potatoes with it and you use the sauce on your potatoes. I don't do it that way. Although I love mashed potatoes, I don't need anything else when I have big plate of Halupki in front of me. I made them Thursday night and had Curtis put them in the oven when he came home from work on Friday since he gets home before I do. They were all I could think of on Friday at work and when I walked into the house on Friday night and smelled them, I couldn't wait to get them out of the oven and into my tummy! I think I ate too many. No, I KNOW I ate too many. That's okay, I don't make them very often because Curtis doesn't like them but he loves my stuffed peppers. I hate stuffed peppers but I make them for him. Forget that! Let's get back to MY favorite! Here's my recipe which is my Mom's recipe which is her Mom's recipe. I shared this once on the aol scrapbooking message boards but after making them last week, I adjusted the recipe to fit what I did since it's never been written down. It's just something I learned growing up. Something I will pass down to my daughter since she loves them too. In fact, after having leftovers yesterday, she thanked me for them! Isn't she sweet?

Cindi's Family's Halupki (Stuffed Cabbage Rolls) Recipe

1 large head of white cabbage or 2 small (I like two small because the cabbage is more tender)
2 lbs. ground meat
1 c. white rice (not instant)
3 cans tomato soup
2 eggs
salt & pepper (a few shakes of each)
2-3 T. dry minced onion

~Cut core out of cabbage head and cover with boiling water in large stock pot. Boil cabbage until leaves begin to fall off the head with a little help from you. I stand at the stove and peel one leaf off at a time. Drain leaves. With a sharp knife thin out veins along the spine of each cabbage leaf. Do not cut the vein out.

~Mix together ground beef, rice, 1 can of tomato soup, eggs, minced onions, salt, pepper and not quite a 1/4 cup ketchup.

~Assemble cabbage rolls. Lay the leaf with the vein part towards you, put a little of the mixture on top of the vein, fold in the sides and then roll. There is no set amount to put in each leaf because the size of the leaves vary. Place in roaster with the seam side down. I place the larger ones around the outside of the roaster. I also cut up the remaining cabbage in approx. 1 inch squares and place on top.

~Pour the remaining tomato soup (2 cans) over the top of the cabbage rolls. There is no measurement to this but squirt ketchup over the rolls in a sporadic fashion. Not too much...don't cover the entire top...kind of like if you were putting chocolate syrup over a sundae. But make sure you put enough on it because it adds the "tang" to the tomato soup. Next pour a little more than 3/4 of a can of water over the entire mixture.

~Cover and cook for 1-1/2 hours at 350 degrees. If you make more than 2 pounds of ground meat, you'll need to cook it longer.

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