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Very Involved

Area Teacher Has Hands In Everything

An attractive wedding tablescape done by “It's Your Day,” who will set up every thing down to the silverware and napkin. Submitted photo

Saying Nichole Mason has a lot of drive and energy does not begin to describe her and because of it, she has a hard time saying “no.” She is multi-talented and is always willing to put her talents to use where they are needed.

The third-grade teacher has quite a few passions. Her family is first. She is the daughter of Sam and Debbie Gullo and is married to Adam Mason, who is a fifth-grade teacher at Jefferson Middle School. They have two sons. Nico is 9 and Sonny is 7. The family just lost a special member, their 14-year old boxer.

“We loved her dearly. She was such a loyal dog.”

Teaching, which she has done at Bush Elementary School for 14 years, is another of her passions.

“Teaching is a huge part of my life. I love teaching.”

Nichole Mason is a busy and energetic wife, mother, teacher and entrepreneur. Submitted photo

Her sons attend school at Bush. When asked how they like having their mom at their school she says, “They don’t know anything different, but they like it.”

Her event planning business, It’s Your Day, is yet another passion. The business, which she co-owns with Jamie Russell, plans parties and events. They mainly do weddings, but will do birthday and retirement parties.

“We do linen rentals, floral designs, elaborate draping for ceilings and backdrops. We can help organize the event. We mainly like to decorate so the bride and her friends and family don’t have to worry about that the day before,” she says. “We do all of the physical labor of the set-up and take-down.”

The entrepreneur started helping friends and family plan and decorate events 10 years ago when she worked out of her basement. With her partner, they grew the business which has been incorporated for five or six years.

“I’m constantly busy. I am involved in other areas where I can use my creativity.”

The Mason Family from left-Nico, Adam, Nichole and Sonny. Submitted photo

She is in charge of holiday and seasonal decorating at her mom and aunt’s business, Dorian’s Plus.

“They let me paint and be creative there. It’s something I truly love.”

After thinking about her grandparents, the original owners of the salon where her grandmother sold jewelry and some home decor pieces, she asked her mother if she could put a few pieces of new and repurposed jewelry in the shop. Some of the customers enjoy browsing the jewelry on her small table after they’ve had their hair done.

She is “a little involved” with her brother’s restaurant, Sauce, and helps with cleaning, making pizza or wherever she is needed.

“I have my hands in everything.”

She is currently working on the children’s Christmas pageant at Holy Apostles Church.

“As I was sitting in church last Christmas I thought there’s really nothing involving the kids, other than a children’s choir. I grew up in theater and have been in charge of the talent show at school for years.”

She does the make-up for the Chautauqua Area Scholarship Program. She doesn’t consider herself a collector, but has a collection of coffee mugs and enjoys putting a picture of her mug choice of the day on Facebook. Her posts prompt others to not only put up a picture of the mug they are using for their morning coffee, but she finds they often include a “good morning.” She has acquired some of her grandparents, Sam and Doris Paladino’s, collections which are very meaningful to her.

She doesn’t have time to commit to clubs, but is very active on committees at school and would like to come up with something that would involve impoverished students, beyond education, so they had an event they could anticipate.

Shopping, especially buying gifts for others is something she enjoys.

“I like buying things for other people and not just for myself,” she states. “I do a lot of gifting.”

The educator is a member of Holy Apostles Parish. She loves to cook when she has time and likes to make easy recipes.

“Joe and Ann Gullo, our grandparents, were instrumental in our love of food. They were always cooking and always feeding us,” she recalls. “That’s why we are always trying new foods. We love everybody’s food and not just our own or what we are used to.”

She has included some recipes and gives some background on a few of them.

“We always had rigs (rigatoni) at my Grandma Gullos. When I was old enough to cook, about 15, I would take her leftover rigs home and my grandmother would tell me what to add to them,” says the teacher. “She would always send home extra sauce and we always had it in our freezer. She always had sauce, no matter what day we went there.”

The Italian Sausage Soup recipe came from her Grandfather Paladino.

“His cooking was more Mediterranean-style. He always added more fish or shrimp and always had fresh seafood with lemon.”

She altered another recipe and came up with her Penne and Artichoke Pasta Dish, a dish that was very popular the first time she took it to a family gathering.

Grandma’s Italian White Cookies

1/2 c softened unsalted butter

3/4 c sugar

2 1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract

4 eggs, beaten and at room temperature

3 tsp baking powder

3 c flour

Cream butter, sugar and vanilla. Mix in eggs. Combine dry ingredients and then beat with butter mixture. Roll dough into small balls. Place on baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Frost when cooled. Sprinkles are optional.

Frosting

4 c confect. sugar

1/2 c water or milk

vanilla

Beat together until smooth.

Cream Cake with Buttermilk

1 box white cake mix

1 1/4 c buttermilk

1/4 c vegetable oil

3 large eggs

1 c coconut flecks

Mix cake mix with buttermilk, oil and eggs. Stir in coconut. Place mixture into two greased 9-inch round pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool and frost.

Frosting

8 oz cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 c unsalted butter, room temperature

2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

16 oz powdered sugar

1/2 c pecans, toasted

Combine cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Beat in powdered sugar, a little at a time. Stir in pecans.

Italian Sausage Soup (Zuppa Toscana)

2 T extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

2 T butter

1 lb bulk hot Italian sausage

2 lbs bulk sweet Italian sausage

3 T garlic, chopped

1/3 c white wine

2 qts chicken stock

2 large heads escarole, chopped and cleaned

1-2 lbs potatoes, peeled and diced

2 c heavy cream

4 T flour

Brown sausage in oil and butter. Add garlic and wine. Cook a few more minutes.

Pour in chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add escarole until tender

Simmer and then add potatoes and cook until soft. Thicken to personal preference by slowly stirring in flour. Lower temperature and add heavy cream.

Nichole’s Penne and Artichoke Pasta Dish

1 lb penne pasta

3 T olive oil, plus a little more

2 T garlic, chopped

2 jars roasted red peppers, cut into large pieces

3 cans artichokes

1 c Parmesan/Reggiano cheese blend

Cook pasta. Drain. In a medium frying pan, add olive oil and cook garlic. Add peppers and artichokes and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add drained pasta and cook on low. Stir until warm. Drizzle with additional olive oil and add cheese.

Simple Mozzarella and Rigs Casserole

1 1/2 lbs rigatoni

1 lb ground beef

1/2 lb sausage

1/2 c pepperoni, chopped

30 oz or more pasta sauce

2 lb mozzarella

parmesan cheese

Cook and drain rigatoni. Set aside. Brown beef, sausage and pepperoni together in frying pan. Add pasta and sauce. Place in a casserole dish. Combine cheeses and sprinkle over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 22 minutes.

Caprese Appetizer Dip

1 pt cherry tomatoes, halved

10-oz fresh mozzarella balls

Fresh basil

Hot pepper flakes

Place some of the tomatoes in a baking dish and then place half of the cheeseballs on top. Cover with a layer of basil. Add remaining tomato halves, cheese and more fresh basil. Sprinkle with hot pepper flakes and set under broiler for 2-3 minutes.

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