Saturday, July 19, 2008

Tony Packo's in Toledo, Ohio

Tonight my brother decided we need to do dinner at Tony Packo's. This is probably the most famous restaurant in Toledo thanks to Jamie Farr (Klinger in M*A*S*H) who mentioned the restaurant in 7 episodes. The quirkiest thing about the restaurant is that they have hot dog buns signed by famous people in special cases on the walls. Read more about the M*A*S*H connection and history here.

Tony Packo's is in what we call "Hunky Town" or the Hungarian neighborhood of Toledo. I think I told you before I am Hungarian and German. I got the German blonde hair and the huge Hungarian butt. My grandmother grew up on Genessee street which is right behind Packo's. The church she attended all her life and also where we held her memorial service in April shares a parking lot with Packo's. So naturally, the food they serve at Tony Packo's is Hungarian!

So tonight we started with Fried Green Pickles. Then, I ordered the Hungarian Stuffed Cabbage Roll (aka igs in the blanket) with paprikás dumplings as my side - and of course a few spicy pickles as garnish! Here is a pic:

Thursday, July 17, 2008

There are no sharks in Ohio

Today we took the kids out on my dad's boat. We took a ride out in Lake Erie and the kids even took turns driving the boat. Then we decided to bring the boat in to a beach area so the kids could swim. My daughter was nervous and concerned about swimming because of jellyfish, sharks, octopus, alligators, barracudas, and stingrays. We explained that none of those live in freshwater lakes.

Tonight my daughter called her GiGi in Dallas and was telling her all about her day. And this is what I heard her say, "And Gigi, did you know there are no sharks in Ohio?"

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Cedar Point

On Monday we took the kids to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. Both my hubby and I grew up visiting this amusement park right on Lake Erie. So we were excited to take the kids. Even at 2 & 5 there was a ton for them to do! Nana, Papa and Uncle Greg went too!

Cedar Point is somewhere you should visit with your kids if you can. Especially if you are into rollar coasters. They have some of the best in the world. And I am not exaggerating. If you are into height, speed, twists, turns and thrills then this is the park for you.(I couldn't get over watching the Dragster! Incredible to see!) If you aren't, it is still a great place to visit.

All my time was spent on the kiddie rides but I did sneak off to ride the Gemini twice. Once in the front seat by myself. The second with my dad who was the only brave soul in our group to go with me. He was white knuckled the whole time and won't go again. My daughter hopefully one day will be able to join me the rollercoasters. She loved the Jr. Gemini!

Here are some pics from our great day!

Where to now son?

View of Lake Erie from Ferris Wheel

View from the Ferris Wheel in the other direction.

View of the ride Wicked Twister from Ferris Wheel.

My brother and I

Hugging Snoopy after Snoppy Ice Show

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Birthday/Retirement Bash

On Saturday we celebrated my son's 2nd, my 34th, my mom's 60th and my dad's retirement all in one day. Don't feel like writing all about it. So let's just say it started at 2pm and lasted until 3:00 in the morning. Good time all around. No rain and beautiful weather! Here are some pics!

3 car garage full of people!

Dad greeting old GM buddies.

Baby pool keeps the salads cold!

Bro and I made a bouquet of old pics for mom.

My hubby who grilled 50 burgers, 30 hot dogs and 30 brats!

At one point this conversation turned to strippers. But I think they were solving the gas price crisis in this conversation.

Discussing how green the grass is.

Yup. They are still two single guys. Will someone please marry them?

Do I look like my mom?

Friday, July 11, 2008

They say it's your birthday . . .

well, its my birthday too! Today I am 34 years old. I am actually excited to be having a birthday and don't ask me why. I guess because the kids get so excited about it and make a big deal. So far I have received a My Little Pony, My old barbie from when I was little and a teddy bear bookbag.

The kids (with Nana) are preparing food for the big bash tomorrow . We are celebrating my son's 2nd b-day, my 34th b-day, my mom's 60th b-day and my dad's retirement (as of July 1). 80 people are invited!

So far on our trip we have:
1. Collected Rocks
2. Visited Great Grandma Sayen
3. Had a water gun fight
4. Flew kites
5. Ate pizza & popcorn
6. Made 7 layer bar cookies for the party
7. Rode bikes

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Summer in Ohio

Well, we arrived last night at Nana & Papa's house for our 12 day stay in Ohio.

The first thing the kids and I did this morning was go out in the backyard (still in our jammies) and lay down on the soft, thick grass! (No threat of ants here!) My youngest was a little freaked out by the feeling so foreign to him. We sat there in the morning sun and felt the cool breeze - no humidity! My kids actually thought it was chilly! My parents and I laughed about that. They are so accustomed to Louisiana weather.

My parents are big on opening up the house and letting the breeze move through the house. Always have been that way. They didn't even have central air until I went to college (The early 90s!). Plus, this is Ohio, not Louisiana. BUT! It does get VERY hot some days and muggy!

Anyway, they have had the house open all day and the air feels so light, cool and refreshing. They live close to Lake Erie and it is always windy around here. The air just moves around you and keeps you feeling comfortable. Ahhhhhhh. Summer in Ohio. Oh how I have forgotten. That is one thing I miss.

We visited my grandma today. Again, she had her front and back doors opened and the breeze just traveled through the house. She lives even closer to the lake and it was so nice! We sat outside while the kids had peanut butter and honey sandwiches. I looked around and realized not much had changed at Grandma's since I was young. She still has the same 1950's metal outdoor chairs (with like 10 different coats of paint on them over the years). Her house inside has changed a little but for the most part the same. The outside of her house has been maintained and updated as needed, but for the most part exactly the way I remember it. Exceptions: The dog & doghouse are missing. The large garden is missing. The brick flower box is missing. But Grandmas's annuals are everywhere just like always. She loves her flowers. She is an earth woman at heart. She is green in the old way of just not having much money and making use of what you have or nature gives you. For instance, she catches the rain water from her gutters and uses it to water her flowers.

It is a comfort sometimes to be back to a place that you remember well and most of all to just feel the lake breeze.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Justifying Lawn Service

I recently had another mom scrunch up her nose, act shocked and say, "You have lawn service?" Yes, ma'am. I do. And so do many of my neighbors! (In fact, that is how I found my service - they were working down the road.)

After the mom said this I evaluated her lawn ( I was at her house) and noted the very small patch of grass in her backyard next to her pool. Then, her front yard was normal size. Not all that big and easily cut by a push mower. She was proud that she cut her lawn herself. Well, that is great, but your kids are older and more self-sufficient than mine!

Right after Katrina not only was our house broken, but suddenly everything we owned started breaking. First the weed wacker, then the lawnmower, etc. Also, my husband had to start traveling ALL THE TIME for work because of changes in the staff. Therefore, he was usually only home on Sundays. So I hired a lawn service so he wouldn't have to spend half the day on Sunday doing the lawn and instead could spend time with me and our daughter who was 2.5 at the time. I surely couldn't go out there myself with her and cut the grass. I also couldn't just leave her in the house and go out by myself.

So that is how we started the lawn service.

Where I live we have very large lots. So it would take my husband about 4 hours to cut, trim, edge and blow. That didn't include the time needed to weed the flower gardens, trim bushes, fertilize, etc. Did I mention we have a lot of vegetation too?

Anyway, he lost his job about 8 months after starting the service. Of course this was the first thing on my list to go. That eliminated $80 a month right off the bat!
He said no. We fought about it. He rationalized and convinced me.

Till this day, I still want to eliminate the lawn service when things get tight. It is one of the last things left that we splurge on. But, hubby reminds me that we would have to go out and buy a lawnmower & weedwacker even if we got rid of the lawn service. He also reminds me that instead of us going swimming together on the weekend he would be home doing the lawn!

I get it now. When he is watching the kids for me while I work on the weekend he cant' take a 2 & 5 year old out there and cut the grass and watch them at the same time. And when I am done working we usually do something fun together.

The last couple of weekends I have watched my neighbors spend HOURS & HOURS mowing their lawns. They don't even finish in one day due to the heat. Today, they were up early and out there again finishing up. Us? We were in the house making breakfast as a family and the kids were making crafts while I cleaned up the breakfast dishes - the whole time watching out my kitchen window as they sweated profusely while pushing their mower back and forth!

None of my neighbors have kids as little as ours. The youngest around me is in college. So they have time to get out there and do their lawns. We pay the lawn service so we can devote our time to our kids and being a family. My hubby and I are always working and juggling kids between us. That is one less thing we have to worry about.

I just let the two young guys sweep through my jungle on their very expensive rider mower and finish up in 1.5 hrs instead.

To me, and to my hubby, it is so worth it.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Mandeville Seafood Fest Rocked!

First of all, I am writing this post out on my patio at 11:30pm in the most beautiful weather, listening to crickets and fireworks all around. Hard to believe it is July in Louisiana and I am not even sweating and apparently the bugs are asleep tonight. Humidity is very low and it is amazing!

Before I get to the parking/shuttle issue at the Mandeville Seafood Festival this year allow me to rave about the new venue and all the fun we had!

If you are a local, you will know that the festival was moved from the normal location at the Mandeville Lakefront to it's new location at Fountainbleau State Park. It had outgrown it's previous location and the park allowed for more vendors, entertainment stages and space in general.

First we started out in the kiddie section doing the bounce house and the pony rides. We stopped at that because they were charging a dollar a ticket and both of those rides took 3 tickets each! Ouch! (I guess since kids get in free they make up the difference with charging so much for the activities).

After that we circled the food vendors deciding what we wanted to eat. So many delicious choices and only one stomach per person to hold the food. We decided on Fried Shrimp & Hushpuppies since both hubby and daughter wanted that and the boy loves it too. I had my eye on a Crawfish/Spinach Bisque in a bread bowl. Still wish I would have gone that route. I saw several carrying it around and it looked awesome! My second choice was Fried Green Tomatoes! Always a great choice for me. $12for all of us to eat. Not bad.

Anywho, probably the best part of the whole experience was sitting out on the beach and listening to the band on the main stage. It was heaven. A nice breeze was blowing, no humidity, no sweating, the band sounded good, the sun was going down on the lake, the boats were lit up on the lake, the pier was lit up. It was spectacular! (My photos don't do it justice!) We brought our chairs and the kids just sat in the sand and played while we drank a cold one (only $4- not bad) and listened to the music. Rained threatened many a time tonite. We even felt a few drops but it passed by and left us only with a nice breeze! Thank you very much!

After a bit I broke away from the hubby and kids and went around to all the craft/gift booths and did a bit of browsing solo style. On the way back to the beach I picked up a Praline Iced Coffee for myself, two dippin' dots for the kids and tried to get hubby a beer but didn't have any hands left to carry it.

I found hubby and kids in the same state as I left them and then sent hubby for his own beer. I kicked off my shoes, dug my toes into the sand and just listened to the music! I just sat in amazement at the number of people at the festival and the fact that I was not dripping in sweat for the first time in the four years I have been going to this festival! It had to be at least 3 times more people than normal. And it was the first night. Unbelieveable! They were right. Find a bigger venue and more people will come. They had so many people that they postponed the fireworks 15 minutes because they said they still had about 17 bus loads of people waiting to be shuttled in to the festival and they wanted to wait to make sure they got to see the fireworks.

We watched the fireworks and then hung out a bit more and listened to the band. We figured it would be a mad rush after the fireworks to leave. So we waited a bit and then eventually headed out to catch the shuttle back to our car. That is when the fun started . . .

Remember the images you saw of the people at the superdome after Katrina waiting to get on the buses to leave New Orleans? Well, it was a definite re-enactment tonite at the Seafood Festival. There had to be 500 people standing outside the gates waiting to be shuttled out of the park to their cars at Pelican Park. There were tons of buses sitting there already full but couldn't move because of the traffic gridlock. If I could offer one bit of advice to the festival planners for next year it would be not to let ANYONE park in the state park and make everyone be shuttled. This would eliminate the traffic problem and the problem with all the people walking out to their cars parked within the state park. My hubby asked some police officers standing nearby what was the plan to get everyone out of there and they shrugged their shoulders and said, "We honestly don't know. We were told to get out here because the crowd was getting too big."

There happened to be one bus sitting near us with no one on it. My hubby went up to the driver and asked what was up? She said her boss told her not to open her door until she got closer to the exit gate. Well, shortly after that she opened her door and my hubby saw and we went running and got on as fast as we could before somone said no. Just as we got on a police officer came up and said she can't do that as it would cause a lot of problems with the crowd. She told him her boss radioed her and told her to open her door and let people on. We were the last to get on and got so lucky! And to top it off, her bus was air conditioned (not all were) and that turned out to be a great benefit because it took us about 40 minutes to get through the traffic and back to our car.

The bus driver informed us that they started the day out with 8 buses and the planners never expected such a large crowd that they had to call in as many buses as they could find. She said last she heard they were up to 17 buses! The signs said the buses were only running until 1am. It was 10:00pm and I think they were going to be running much longer than that! There were still tons of people to shuttle out of there! Our driver was super nice and one lady went around and gathered up tips for her just out of appreciation for her patience and the mere fact that she let us on the bus!

The amazing part was that so many people gave up on waiting and walked back to their cars. The bus driver said it was a three mile walk. Some were even carrying their kids (some sleeping on them) or were wearing heels. One walking lady literally threw herself out on the road in front of our bus trying to hitch a ride. She pounded on the door. The bus driver said she was too full and couldn't take her. The lady flipped out and gave everyone on the bus the finger and was screaming at us. Our bus was a riot. Everyone was joking and telling the bus driver to just run everyone down who was in the road - heck, Mayor Eddie Price would do it!

The Boy didn't make it to the car awake. The bus ride put him to sleep. The girl fell asleep as soon as our car hit the road back home.

It was a great night and fun time all around - despite the exit plan. I trust that issue will be fixed next year - or even tomorrow night! This is the Festival's maiden voyage at this venue. They will have a few things to learn and correct. I swear, based on the crowd there tonight this could be the next Jazz Fest some day!

Thank you Mandeville Seafood Festival Planners! We loved it! Oh! And thank you Mother Nature for our first Seafood Fest that we didn't come home from completely drenched in sweat!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Old Town Praline & Gifts is now online!

I told you all that I was helping Old Town Praline & Gifts to get their online store setup. Well, they are up and running! So stop by their site and send someone some delicious pralines today!

Limited items available through the website right now. More to come soon!