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Monday, December 31, 2007

A Look Back, A Look Forward

Can you believe today is the last day of 2007? As I'm sure many others do, I have been thinking back through the events of 2007, as well looking forward to improvements and changes I hope to make in 2008. This review is mixed with some sadness and a lot of hope. Where did the year go?

Not too much about 2007 stands out as being particularly "great." It was a run-of-the-mill sort of year, with a couple of major disappointments and a couple of shining moments. Among the disappointments: losing our sweet dog Casey in April and our long-time-companion cat, Bailey, in July. Gaining our new wonderful family member, Jasper, in June offset some of the sadness, and we look forward to a great new year with him. Mostly we just lived our lives in 2007, got a little older, watched beloved relatives as they got a little older, too, and celebrated the every day triumphs!

Looking forward to 2008: I noticed in the last several months that I don't have as much patience (and understanding and kindess) as I would like to. That's one of the major things I'm going to work on in 2008. I would also like to work on paying more attention to my relationships, and trying to reach out to friends and family a little better. I think 2008 is mostly going to be about reaching out and trying to reconnect - to gain a little bit of the personal connection back that I have sacrificed to the hurried routine and obligations of everyday life. And, as always, I want to eat better and walk more!

For Baker Blog readers far and wide, we wish you a healthy and happy 2008!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Think Snow, For Goodness Sake!

Now that the kids and Mark have all the gear for downhill skiing - NO SNOW. I know, I know, the ski places make it, but it sure would be nice to see some of the real stuff ~ it's so much fluffier and less icy than the manufactured stuff.

I never though I'd say this, but we can't wait to enjoy the winter (if you know me you know I'm a summer-lover). Cameron started skiing with ski club four or five years ago, and last year Mark and Annalisse decided to give it a try, and both loved it (who said you can't teach an old dog new tricks?). This year's Christmas was definitely ski-oriented. Annalisse got new skis and all the stuff to go with it, and Cameron's main gift was the weekend ski trip to Gore Mountain he'll be taking through school the first weekend in February. So c'mon! Shake the clouds! Get the white stuff falling already!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Holly. Jolly. And All That Jazz.

The big day is here! The presents are unwrapped, the breakfast is eaten, and the kids are lounging on the floor watching The Simpsons Movie. We all hope the best Christmas for you and your family, and hope you will be touched with the peace and goodwill that, for me, demonstrates the true meaning of Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Jasper & Cooper: BFFs

On Saturday mornings we like to take Jasper to the "unofficial" dog park in Fairport. It's really just a farmer's field up on a hill that's far away from the road, but it provides a great space for the 10-15 dogs (and their owners) who visit each morning at each afternoon (usually around 10:30 every morning, and around 4 every afternoon ~ but we only usually make it up there in the morning on Saturdays) to run around and socialize with friends. Ironically, the dog field is just behind our old house. Who knew?!

One of the regulars there is Cooper, a 6-month old Australian Shepard. Jasper and Cooper go way back, they were in puppy class together and were fast friends. In typical Shepard fashion, Cooper spends all his time herding and jumping Jasper, and pulling with all his might at his neck skin and ears. Jasper, in typical chicken fashion, spends a lot of his time running away and being submissive to Cooper.

The result, after a couple of walks around the field, is a very tired, wet, saliva covered dog that's so worn out that he sleeps for most of the day. Score!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Random Thoughts

Just a few random thoughts since not any one of them would make for a substantial blog entry...

  • After today I'm off until Wednesday, January 2 - HURRAY! ~I can feel that nap coming on already!
  • Tomorrow's Jasper's 8-month birthday. We haven't weighed him in a while but he's probably tipping the scales at around 45-47 pounds. I think he's still on the small side for a male Golden, which is just fine!
  • After tomorrow, the days start getting longer (Mark always likes to correct me on this. The days aren't getting longer - they're still just 24 hours long - but it STAYS LIGHTER LONGER. Whatever.)
  • On the heels of yesterdays attention-grabbing-all-over-the-news announcement that Jamie Lynn Spears is pregnant at 16, follows the headline "Lynne Spears book on parenting postponed indefinitely." That was a classic - you can't make that stuff up!
  • Today I'll be done with my Christmas shopping with one more special gift for Mark.
  • Work has been a foodfest. Between holiday lunches, goodies from vendors, and other various sources of cookies and candies, it's not been a good couple of weeks for my weight.
  • Annalisse has been trying out all week for a part in the spring play at school. She just called - she got the part of the secretary (I have no idea...). There is a God.

That's it! Just think of it as The Baker Blog Lite.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Blizzard Flurry

There's nothing like the threat of a big snowstorm (dare the weather people call this one a "blizzard"?!) to throw people into a panic. Yesterday the frenzy at Wegmans was unbelievable - Hurry! Get enough milk, bread and eggs for two months! - and as of 3pm many businesses, organizations and churches (except ours!) were already closing or cancelling activities for Sunday. What wimps! Snowstorms have never bothered us (except for if we plan to travel up north), and I say: BRING IT ON! We'll probably do a little Christmas shopping today and will definitely go out for dinner tonight. I'm sure the kids hope the conditions get worse as the day goes on so they'll have a snow day tomorrow! Well, they can hope, can't they?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Family Three Christmas

This afternoon I was baking molasses cookies for our neighborhood cookie exchange (I chose molasses cookies because I had 3/4 jar of molasses from the rice-crispy gingerbread house the kids made with Aunt Lena earlier in the month. If I didn't use if "now," chances are I would find it in the pantry two years from now and throw it out then) when on the radio came the classic "Blue Christmas" by Elvis.

In a flash I was transported back to the mid-seventies, to Nonnie's living room in the light of the multi-colored aluminum tree. My two cousins and I, making a name for ourselves as the rock band "The Family Three" (remember, this was when we were knee deep in the pop culture of The Partridge Family and, as a cheap knock off, The Brady Bunch [when they tried to sing]), would perform for the hoards of relatives that was "our family."

Coming from a big extended Italian family, there were always tons of people around my grandmother's house, and we kids would entertain them with various renditions of Christmas songs such as "Jingle Bells" (The Partridge Family version), "Blue Christmas" (Jeannie, Rosanne and I would sit in a circle and each sing a word round-robin style, practicing until we could sing it smoothly and flawlessly), "O Come All Ye Faithful" (Jeannie and I would sing in English, and Ro in Latin), and we'd finish off our set with a rousing "We Wish You A Merry Christmas!"

Jeannie was six-months-to-the-day younger than I was, and Ro was three years younger, and these two cousins were a very important and special part of my childhood. We still enjoy singing the old Family Three songs when we have a chance to spend time together. Our repertoire back then, as now, also includes a couple of original compositions such as "Pass the Sugar" and "The Nonnie Song."

So here's to aluminum Christmas trees, big families and Jeannie and Rosanne. They all made my childhood Christmas' very memorable!

Friday, December 14, 2007

...Judy's Very Bad Night

Okay, maybe Mark didn't have food poisoning (but I still think he did) since I was up all night doing you-know-what (it involves the porcelain throne and me on my knees). So, I'm home from work today feeling like I got hit by a truck, and hoping the worst has passed. Let's keep our fingers crossed this bug doesn't make it's way through the remaining two (human) members of the household. Additional drawback: I'm missing the College Holiday Party, which is sort of a bummer since I think I've missed it for one reason or another the past couple of years...

Oh well, back to the couch so the dog can come up and comfort me (he loves it when people stay home and lay around all day since it's what he does best).

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mark's Very Awful Day

For about two weeks now Mark has been suffering from (what seems like) his three-times-a- year cold...

...which always develops into a chronic cough...
...which (after much prodding by me and way too much time spent sick at work) results in a trip to the doctor...
...after which he's on five days of antibiotics...
...which helps the cough but never really cures it...
...and so on until the next time...

But yesterday's result from his most recent "cold" was different. After his usual trip to the doctor, it was off to get a chest x-ray - with a little PUKE thrown in. Actually it was a LOT OF PUKE, most of which left his body during the short trip from our house to the radiology office for the x-ray. That, as you can imagine, was really pleasant for all involved (especially me as the driver). Of course, it begs the question: did he have a plastic bag - YES.

He was a complete physical wreck all day. Mid-day he checked his voicemail at work and got a message that several of his co-workers had come down with food poisioning, possibly from a box lunch they all ate on Tuesday. Well, there you have it.

He's going to attempt to go to work today. That curse-ed work ethic!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Todd Time

We are hopelessly addicted to Scrubs (we watch an hour every night on Comedy Central and the regular episode on Thursday nights). If you are too, you've probably already seen this. Okay, not much of a life in the winter...

Sunday, December 9, 2007

From Field to Beautiful

This morning we decorated the tree (and just like every year) stood back and declared, "It's the most beautiful tree ever!"

Christmas Tradition Checklist

When you have kids, routine and predictability is a very important aspect of their life. Knowing they can count on something being "the same" - each day, week, year, whatever - gives them a sense of security and control. That's what I think of when I think of our Christmas traditions. Since I moved to Rochester 23 years ago (can it be that long?) and Mark and I started forming our own new traditions. Now, Cameron is careful to ensure that each of these events is accounted for each year. They have evolved to include the following:

The Christmas tree cutting party - a great event we went to yesterday where we all gather at our friends Scott & Kay's house in Palmyra then head out to a field (on Hogback Road!) to cut a tree (any size: $18 - I can remember when, before Scott & Kay started this party 12 years ago, we paid $40 for a tree - outrageous!). After cutting down the tree we all gather back at the house for hors d'œuvres. For Cameron, this party is the official kick-off to the holiday season.

St. Nicholas Day - Grammie Versprille celebrated this tradition long before I came into the family, but since I had kids (and Mark's cousins Dan and his wife, Tina, had them about the same time), we've been celebrating this German tradition (wooden shoes and all) with our cousins, Peter, Abbie and Phoebe. Tina and I alternate houses, and it's a great opportunity to hang out by the fire and munch on treats. Our celebration will be at Tina and Dan's house at 3pm today.

Cookie Exchange - I started a neighborhood cookie exchange the first year we moved to Fourth Avenue, and that year invited moms and daughters on the street. Well, the little boys didn't like that too much, so the next year we invited moms, daughters, sons and dads, and it is now just a great excuse to get together with neighbors during the holidays and drink wine (and of course, exchange cookies!). This year the neighborhood cookie exchange will be at Sarah & Tim's house next weekend. I still need to figure out what to bake...

Christmas Eve - After going to church on Christmas Eve, we head over to Mark's Aunt and Uncle's house for a family Christmas Eve get together. In November we had drawn names for a gift exchange, so between much unwrapping chaos we have some of the most delicious treats around. Among their other talents (baking, arranging, playing of instruments, singing, decorating), Mark's family is full of awesome cooks.

Christmas Day - We try to make sure everyone stays in bed until a reasonable hour, then mom heads down to light the tree, and everyone follows. We check out our Christmas surprises, then open up our stockings and wrapped gifts (each in turn). For the last couple of years, Mark's mom, sisters and their spouses came over for an early Christmas breakfast (Mom Shiao has to sing in the choir each Christmas morning so she needs to leave by 10:30am), but this year we're heading over to Mark's sister Nara and her husband Jim's new house for the Christmas morning breakfast and gift exchange. Then we come home for a little while before heading over to Mark's stepmom Pat's house for an early dinner and gift exchange there. We are pretty exhausted by the end of the day!

That's enough celebrating for now. Check back later for our New Year's traditions!!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Almost Snow Day

Yesterday it was really looking like today might be a snow day for the kids. It was the first big storm of the season and the conditions were right - lots of heavy, blowing snow, sub-par temperatures, tons of schools and businesses closing early. Annalisse did her part by going to bed with her shirt on backwards and inside out, and made plans to go sledding with her friends today.

Alas, this was not the day to sleep in and play in the snow because OFF TO SCHOOL THEY WENT! ~ Although not happily, and Cameron still fights with me every morning to wear his Old Navy sweatshirt instead of his winter coat. The weather this morning is actually still pretty bad, and I'm also a little surprised it's not a snow day...

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The First of Many Times We Will Dress Him Up

He's probably thinking right about now...I'm in really big trouble if they are going to accessorize me for every holiday...

Saturday, December 1, 2007

P2P Fundraiser, #1

On Friday, December 14 we'll be holding our first fundraiser for Cameron's People to People trip - a parent's night out from 5-9pm. We have a great night of activities planned including games, crafts, cookie decorating and a movie (also, a pizza and mac-n-cheese dinner). We'll also be taking a walk down scenic Fourth Avenue to look at all the Christmas lights (Fourth Ave. neighbors do a great job of decorating their houses!). Right now, we have 5 kids lined up, and we can take 5 more. So, if you know of any parents who could use a break to go Christmas shopping (or just out to dinner!!), send them our way!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Ready, Set, Celebrate!

I'm happy to report that even though the calendar has not yet turned to December, I've got all my holiday tasks under control. Most of my (our) shopping is done, the photo Christmas cards are in hand (just need to be addressed and stamped - but I never want to get those out too early, usually a week or so from now), we're planning to decorate the house this weekend, we get the tree next weekend, and every weekend from now until Christmas is scheduled with parties or other holiday events.

Whew! No wonder I love January so much! Must be my hibernation instinct. (Did I mention my FAVORITE holiday, bar none, is Groundhogs Day - JUST SIX WEEKS OF WINTER LEFT!). But, that's a topic for another (snowy) day.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

And in case you haven't heard enough about Schoolhouse Rock Live, Jr.

Here's a link to today's Democrat & Chronicle "Our Towns" section. See if you can find the up-and-coming young starlet holding the plastic rat...

Wednesday, a.k.a. Friday

Woohoo! It's the last workday before the Thanksgiving break! ~ and a 1/2 workday at that! The kids are off today (so Tuesday was their Friday), and we'll just be hanging out and taking it easy today, after a quick run to the Mall to finish up my Massena Christmas shopping (we're going up for an overnight on Friday). I'll bring all the gifts up to our relatives there since we probably won't make another trip up until winter breaks in March or April.

Mark is on the final journey of his wrist recovery. He had his final surgery yesterday when the doctor took the two pins out that, I'm assuming, joined the ligament back to the bone. So, next week he starts physical therapy for what I assume will be months.

In all my complaining about they hype surrounding Christmas I should mention how much I love Thanksgiving! No pressure (beyond the meal), just all my favorite foods on one plate (followed by a nap and days of feeling full afterward). Enjoy your holiday! I know we have much to be thankful for!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Leg Broken, and Well

Not literally of course...

Annalisse's two nights of School House Rock, Jr. were great! She did a fantastic job, and we could really hear her belting out the songs from where we were sitting. In addition to being part of "Group II," she also had some other little, but memorable, parts in the play. It was a really great production where all the kids had a chance to shine, and not just the "main" characters, which was nice.

There were a few tense moments during Saturday's performance when the audio (background music) cut out and the girls/characters sang most "Conjunction Junction" without the music/tune. They were true professionals, not missing a beat, and kept on keepin' on! Their performance was met with thundering applause when they finished the song. We were all so proud of them!

Today I bet there's a few very tired students after a night out for ice cream at Friendly's on Friday, and the cast party last night!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

How I Spent My Summer Vacation 2008, By Cameron Baker

This is the heading we'll be reading next August after Cameron spends three weeks in France, Italy and Greece as a student ambassador with People to People.

We got the call last night that Cameron has been accepted into the People to People program (along with the cost of the trip, of course), and he's really excited about it. We first learned of the program last summer when several kids we know went to Austrialia, New Zealand and Fiji with P2P. We are excited for him, too, and realize it's really a great opportunity for a kid his age to be able to travel to Europe and see some of the great sights they have lined up, like:

Greece
  • Visit Epidaurus, famous for its well-preserved 4th Century B.C. amphitheater.
  • Walk through Athens and take in the majestic Acropolis. See the Parthenon and Erechtheion.
  • Enjoy a performance of traditional Greek dances at the Dora Stratou Theater.
  • See Mt. Olympus, the mountain where the ancient Greek Gods were supposed to live.
    Tour the arena where the Olympic Games first took place in 776 B.C.

Italy

  • Make an excursion to the ancient city of Pompeii, Mount Vesuvius’ most famous victim.
    Rome, Italy
  • Explore the Roman Forum and Coliseum.
  • Visit the world’s smallest state and the home of Catholicism, the Vatican. See St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel.
  • Learn about the Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, and the Trevi Fountain.
  • Explore the renaissance city of Florence.
  • Examine Michelangelo’s statue, David, and other works of art inside the Accademia Gallery.
  • See one of the most famous buildings in Europe, the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
  • Visit the beautiful city of Venice and take a ride on a gondola on a watery canal.
    Stay with a host family for three nights
France

  • Take the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and get the best views of the city.
  • Walk through the famous Latin Quarter and see the Notre Dame Cathedral.
  • Explore the magnificent Château de Versailles. Built during the reign of Louis XIV, it was the seat of the royal court from 1682 to 1789.
  • Go on a guided exploration of one of the most important art collections in the world, the famous Musée du Louvre. View the principal parts of the museum including the Mona Lisa.

Sounds like fun, doesn't it? That rat fink!!

Over that next couple of months we'll be thinking of creative ways to fund raise for the trip. The first fundraiser will be a Parents Night Out on Friday, December 14 when Cameron and Annalisse will run a babysitting program for a few hours so parents can go Christmas shopping (or just out for an adult dinner). Other ideas we're kicking around: a raffle and asking friends, neighbors and relatives to donate their cans for the 5 cent donation. Cameron also plans to get a part-time job when he's 15 (I think there are some jobs out there for 15-year olds).

Hats off to the world traveller!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Pretty as a Picture

Today Jasper had his first trip to the dog spa (well, not actually - he got "the works" at Petco). He smells so good now, fully bathed, brushed, trimmed, and clipped (not to mention a teeth cleaning). His visit rated a "gold star" by the groomer. Good boy!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Conjunction Junction, What's Your Function? Truly one of the great mysteries of our time.

This weekend Annalisse will be in her school production of Schoolhouse Rock Live (Jr.). Remember Schoolhouse Rock from the '70s? I do, and am really looking forward to hearing those catchy songs again (which, through the back door, taught us about nouns, what makes a "bill", interjections (!), and the Preamble to the Constitution ~ I can still recite it to this day). Annalisse does not have one of the major parts (there were only seven or so available, out of 40 kids that tried out), but she did manage to work her way into a series of supporting roles!

So, if you're looking for an hour of fun this Friday or Saturday night, we'll see you at 7:00 at Minerva Deland School in Fairport.

Monday, November 12, 2007

There...and Back Again

Well, we're home from our great weekend in Vermont. It was really awesome. The weather was great, we had a really nice suite just outside of Killington, and we made it a point to visit several new towns this time. One of the weekend's "quests" was to find a winter jacket for Annalisse, and, after visiting 15 stores or so, we settled on a Columbia jacket in Manchester. Some of those "outerwear systems" cost upwards of $200...I don't think so!

Other places we visited for the first time: Sugarbush Ski Resort, The Vermont Country Store in Weston (a bit of a tourist attraction, but worth a visit at least once), and Woodstock (not the one of hippie concert fame). We also were able to put a dent in our Christmas shopping (although we didn't go overboard - see post of November 4!). The kids would have liked to visit Springfield, which hosted The Simpson's Movie premiere this summer, but we ran out of time. The state basically closes down at 6pm on Saturdays (and 5pm on Sundays).

Even though the trees were really brown (versus the brilliant oranges, yellows and reds we would have seen a month ago), going later in the year really had its advantages. The main one: there were no crowds! We were visiting in that small window (off-peak) between fall foliage tours and ski season.

One of the greatest parts of the weekend: we were able to get through about 3/4 of the 7th Harry Potter book, which we listened to on CD (everyone has already read the book, except Annalisse). It's so much fun, and Jim Dale, who performs the book (unabridged), does all the voices and it's just mesmerizing. We'll have to save the last 1/4 of the book for the ride to Massena the day after Thanksgiving.

Jasper stayed with our neighbors Tom and Cheryl and we feared they would not give him back. Cheryl was a really good sport and endured him sleeping with them - good thing they have a king-sized bed!

Tomorrow it's back to work (and school) with fond memories of good meals, new sights, and cool crafts!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Green Mountain Dreams

This afternoon we head to one of my favorite places on Earth - Vermont. I know, I know! I haven't been to that many places (well actually, I've been to quite a few, but nowhere near as many as I'd like to go...), so maybe there are other potential "favorite" places. But. there's something about Vermont - the minute we pass the state border from New York to the Green Mountain State, my blood pressure seems to drop. Small, quaint towns; lots of farms and white clapboard churches; and, as a friend pointed out to me recently, no roadside billboards [think about it]!

The great thing about a trip to Vermont is that you can basically cover the whole state in 2-3 days. We stay in Rutland, which is around the center of the state, so 1 1/2 hour up to Burlington near the top of the state, and 1 1/2 hour down to Bennington, which is around the bottom of the state, and back and forth and side to side, and there you have it!

Of course, it would be just another quaint and rural state if it weren't for all the fun stuff to do there. Burlington, being the largest city and home to the University of Vermont, has a lot of great shops and restaurants. Close by is Shelburne, which houses the Shelburne Museum, a step into the past. Along the way you can take the back roads to Waterbury and Stowe, stopping at the Ben & Jerry's factory, the Cold Hollow Cider Mill, and the Trapp Family Lodge (what could be better?).

Heading back down towards Rutland there's Montpelier (the state capital), and Killington (fun for the growing interest in downhill skiing by the Bakers). Then north of Rutland is Manchester (if you like outlet shopping) where Mark has to make his yearly pilgrimage to the Orvis flagship store, and this year's stop: Robert Todd Lincoln's family home, historic Hildene (to feed my obsession with the Lincoln family; Mary Lincoln is the object of much fascination). On the way out on Monday, it's off to Bennington for a stop at Bennington Potters, at which I always wish I could buy "more."

Then, back to reality to face the long, cold winter!

Monday, November 5, 2007

The New Time - Same as the Old Time

Early Sunday morning the country switched to Daylight Savings Time and our clocks "fell back" one hour. Here's the problem: I like the new wake up time but still want to go to bed at the "old" time (i.e. I'm falling asleep by 8:30pm - new time). So, don't tell anyone, but I think I'll stick to the "old" time...

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Something that really (Ba Hum)bugs me

On Thursday, November 1, I drove down to Poughkeepsie for a graduate fair at Marist College (which is about 4 1/2 hours from here - an hour-and-a-half outside NYC). On the way there, I could not believe it when I came across TWO radio stations playing continuous loops of Christmas music. ON NOVEMBER 1! The operators of those stations no doubt had a giant clock just ticking down the Halloween minutes until the hands reached midnight, and they could start their Christmas compilations that will now play, without stop, for the next month and 25 days. Do I sound a little out of my mind about this? Good! Because I am! It is just plain ridiculous.

I really cannot stand the way Christmas has gotten out of control. Still, I like all the warm and fuzzy stuff as much as the next person (spending time with family and friends, Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards Men and all that jazz), but I find the expectations and the costs associated with the holiday to be way out of control. I wish it could be an occasion when we spend time with the ones we love and give maybe one special present to those special people (something chosen with consideration and thought, and not just because it was part of the crazy-day-after-Thanksgiving-sale at Target) ~ a true token of our appreciation for their love and support throughout the year. And, of course, amid the shopping and party frenzy, I wish the celebration could become more of a reflection on what Christmas is really all about.

All the hype! All the drama! It's all a bit too much. It seems the older I get, the quicker it comes, and the fact that it's creeping into the calendar earlier and earlier each year is a bit disconcerting to me. Of course, I need to be careful that my opinions don't spoil the excitement for the kids and other Christmas enthusiasts...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween in July

It was an unbelievably warm Halloween tonight! Fourth Avenue was a really happening place with scary houses and ghouls everywhere - we didn't even want to come in. Just about all the neighbors ran out of candy...too bad it wasn't a weekend night. Here's a shot of Cameron's costume - continuing with the economical Halloween costume theme, he's dressed as a pile of leaves. I bet you didn't even see him, he was so well disguised!

Two Dog Night

Today is Halloween! That most American of holidays when we revert to childhood and dress up in silly or scary costumes for work, school, shopping at Wegmans...

I'm not one to spend a lot of money on costumes. Usually we try to use dress up stuff and accessories we've collected over the years, and we may need to buy an accessory or two, but that's about it. As an example, this year, I got Annalisse a dog mask thingy and a tail, and VIOLA!, she's a dog. Cameron is going to put on sweatshirt and some packing tape, roll in the neighbor's leaves, and be a leaf pile (his main motivation is to be camouflaged when little kids go by so he can jump out and scare them). Jasper will wear a Halloween bandanna that Grandma made him. As for me, I'll probably be the stay-at-home-hand-out-candy person, which is probably not the greatest idea since I bought six bags of my favorite treats.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Wet Dog Blues

Hurray! We're back in business with a new digital camera (actually, it's Annalisse's camera that she bought with her birthday $$, but she's letting the family use it until we get a new one). I'm sure everyone is just dying to see what our 6-month old 40-pound boy looks like!

Today's picture is of a tuckered out wet dog. Since the weather's been so nice we've been able to take him swimming on the weekends. Fetching sticks in the creek and running around with "friends" makes Jasper one tired dog! Today he came home so dirty and smelly he was rewarded with a shower (he's really good...he just sits in there with his eyes closed while Annalisse suds him up). That's about the most exciting news to report!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Helmet Head

Earlier in the month we had our picture taken by Olan Mills for our church directory (a very expensive proposition for very few pictures). At the time we were "pleased enough" with them, but when they arrived yesterday it jumped right out at me: my cotton-candy helmet-head hair. When did that happen?! I've been fighting with my hair for a while now as it seems to be gaining more body and curl as time passes. When I went to Florida back in April it was a downright disaster with all the humidity - totally out of control. Anyway, it's nice to have an updated picture of the family, even if one furry member was missing. Maybe we can "photoshop" him in and use it as our Christmas card...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Libra moves on...

Well, we are on the cusp of Scorpio now, as the sign of Libra moves on until next year. But, the celebrations continue. Since the last two weekends have been so busy, tonight we are having family and friends over for cake and treats for Annalisse's birthday (might as well thrown in Mark and my birthdays while you're at it). Another milestone: today is Jasper's 6-month birthday! I'm sure he'll enjoy the benefits of that with a little ice cream! [I'm hoping to get a new camera this week...we're all going through blog-picture withdrawl here...]

Of Mice and Men(nonites)

Yesterday we took a ride with our neighbors Morey & Ann to The Windmill, a farm and craft market about an hour way in Penn Yan. The Windmill is an eclectic blend of nice crafts, junky crafts, baked goods, meats and cheeses, speciality foods [jams, dips & spreads], and flea market stuff. As always, the goal of the day was food-based: to buy sticky buns and cheese curds. Those Amish and Mennonites! Man, do they know how to bake (and make cheese)!! It was a really nice day, with Cameron's highlight being able to buy those really tiny donuts (smothered in powdered sugar ~ although he did, once agan, lament the closing of Krispy Kreme) at a Mennonite stand (thank God they can use electricity). When we got home, we took Jasper for a run in the field, then, the kids each had a sleepover. What a day!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Barktoberfest Champs!

How could I have forgotten to tell you this? Our team was the top fundraiser for this year's Barktoberfest (no thanks to Mark and me)! We joined an already established team that my co-worker, Melissa, had a connection with called SOS/Off-N-Running Tours. You can see our team photo here. For being the "winning" team we have also been invited to a wine tasting event and "behind-the-scenes" tour of Lollypop Farm (I can only imagine what that would be...the operating room? the feed storage bins?). Just the same, very cool!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Blog Bore

You've probably noticed there's not really been anything exciting on our blog lately. That's because, as predicted, once the kids got back into school and our fall routine started things got pretty boring. Even this entry will probably end up being boring! You know the drill: get up, go to work/school, come home, eat dinner, go to whatever evening activity we might have, walk the dog, watch some TV if we can, go to bed, get up and do it again. Throw in a couple loads of laundry and some grocery shopping and you've got yourself unbearable predictability! Adding to the boredom factor is the fact that our digital camera is officially D-E-A-D, so no fun pictures. By the time we get a new one, the pup will probably be fully grown!

Just the same, there are a couple things I can mention:

  • My girls weekend was great. Four of us were able to make it, and it was a really mellow, nice catch-up weekend.
  • The kids got their 5-week grade reports today and Annalisse is kicking Cameron's butt! Sweet justice for her!
  • I had a great, low key birthday. We were all off (the kids were off for Columbus Day, Mark was still home with his arm, and I took the day off) and the days activities included taking Jasper to the park for a swim and going out for a nice birthday dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. Our awesome neighbors, Ann & Morey, brought me a lemon meringue pie!
  • Mark's birthday is tomorrow, and, unfortunately, I'll be in Western New York at Grad Fairs all day. : (

That's about all the boring news to report. Now, it's off to puppy class!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

BFFs, or FL Winos?

Last night my friend, Sue, flew in from Virginia for our yearly girls weekend. (In today's "kidspeak," she'd be called my BFF ~ Best Friend Forever in case you haven't guessed that already.) This year we're heading to Ithaca for a weekend of "fun" and a wine tour of Cayuga Lake. I'm really fortunate to live in the beautiful Finger Lakes area which is home to almost 100 wineries throughout the region. Each fall we usually tour one or two Lake's worth of wineries to stock up for the holiday season and beyond. Then, in the spring we usually head up to the Niagara region and hit their wineries.

Getting back to our girl's weekend: we'll head out tomorrow to meet two (and possibly three) high school friends for a weekend of indulgence and abandon. And to rip-off the Vegas slogan, whatever happens during girls weekend, stays with girls weekend!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Puppy Class Graduate

We had our last puppy class (kindergarten level) the other night. Everyone had a lot of fun with agility training, it all starts again on Tuesday with "Advanced Puppy Class."

Today we walked the 1.5 mile course for Barktoberfest at Lollypop Farm. There is something really wrong with the weather when it's 85 degrees on October 6...we were so hot, and the dogs all seemed to be having a hard time with the heat (between the long walk and the beating down sun). I'm sure today ranked as one of the funnest days in Jasper's life!

I'm not sure when new pictures will be on the blog...the rechargeable battery for my digital camera died and I have to figure out how/where to find a new one!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Last Call for Barktober Fest!

This is your last chance to sponsor either Mark or Judy (or both) for Lollypop Farm's Barktober Fest happening tomorrow! If you feel so compelled...!

Happy Birthday, 'Lisse!

Happy birthday to our wonderful 12-year old who is on a bus touring the Amish countryside buying her mother freshly-baked sticky buns!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

But is it an Amish water park?

Can you believe this...

Tomorrow (which also happens to be Annalisse's birthday), the kids will be gone for a German class overnight to Lancaster, PA and a tour of Amish country. For students taking German, this is probably the closest the school could come for a visit of a culture with roots in Germany. We won't mention that the German that the Amish speak is very, very old German. Anyway...

The kids will leave at 7am tomorrow morning and spend Friday and Saturday in the Lancaster area. While there they will experience such events as having dinner at an Amish family's house (I'm having trouble picturing 50 kids in a house...maybe they'll be eating in shifts? Please, please please God, make my kids act politely), a tour of a pretzel factory, and a couple of other neat tours. To top it all off (and I'm sure this was the selling point for my kids), they will be spending the night in a hotel with an indoor water park. What could be more fun? Is it an Amish water park? Will there be plainly dressed fellows at the top of a wooden slide pouring water down? ~all questions to be answered in good time.

In the North Country, there was a settlement of Amish nearby. They hold endless fascination for me, and I am very envious the kids get to take such a cool trip!

(And when the kids are away, the parents will play. Well, not exactly play, mostly eat out, our favorite pastime!)

Happy Birthday, Nick!


Twenty-three years ago today...at 8:00am...my niece Nicole was born. She was the first grandchild at the time, and very special. She's grown up to be a great young lady! Here's to you, Nick, on your big day!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ode to Bill W.

As usual, it's another busy weekend after another busy week, but this weekend was punctuated with sadness as we traveled up to the 1,000 Islands-area for my brother-in-law Larry's father's funeral. Bill Walldroff was a kind and caring man, and much loved by his family and community, alike. The upside, was, of course, seeing my nephews, niece, and other relatives and friends.

Every once in a while I think about when I might "leave this life," and when I do I want the following passage either read or printed somewhere. It's one of my favorites, and I think it brings much comfort in very sad times:

I am standing on the sea shore. A ship sails and spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the ocean. She is an object of beauty and I stand watching her till at last she fades on the horizon, and someone at my side says: ‘She is gone.’ Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all; she is just as large in the masts, hull a spars as she was when I saw her, and just as able to bear her load of living freight to its destination. The diminished size and total loss of sight is in me, not her; and just at the moment when someone at my side says; ‘She’s gone’ there are others who are watching her coming and other voices take up a gland shout, ‘There she comes’, and that is dying. -Bishop Charles Henry Brent (1862-1929)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hamster Wheel Blues

These past few weeks (specifically, since school started) have been like being on a hamster wheel. It seems like there is some obligation every night of the week, and catch-up and other stuff to do every weekend. For the past three Thursdays alone we've been double and triple booked in the evenings. Between homework, play practice, dog training, Annalisse's Reading Clinic, after school clubs, evening meetings, and work committments time at home has been spent rushing from one place to the next until we finally collapse into bed at the end of the day. For the last couple of weeks anyway, gone are the days of coming home from work, having a leisurely dinner, taking a long walk with the dog (although we still get our walk in), and getting a smoothie along the way. No wonder I lament the loss of Summer! Breathe...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Surgery Update

It's 11:00 and all is well. Mark is home, and the surgery on his wrist went as well as can be expected. He has to keep it elevated on what appears to be a very large block of sponge Swiss cheese, and he is not feeling any pain because of the pain blocker (I don't mean to say he's "out of it," just that he's not feeling any discomfort. He appears to be very "with it."). Now he's off work for two weeks, much of which will be spent, I expect, hanging on the couch with Jasper. Then, he'll be in a long cast for two weeks, then in a short cast, then, who knows what...!

So, we'll have a light lunch of chicken soup, then a nap (having risen at 5 a.m. to get to the surgery center at 6:15 a.m. - early even for us Bakers). He's off for

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Bat Chronicles - Take III

The bat saga continues. Remember when Mark was swinging that fishing net at our bat intruder the first time? What I didn't tell you is that during this "tense" time, he heard a *pop* in his wrist, and it hurt really bad for many weeks after. In typical male fashion, he shrugged it off and would not get it checked out. I finally convinced him to go to the doctor a couple of weeks ago, and it turns out he has a very bad/traumatic wrist injury.

The diagnosis: the ligaments in his wrist have ripped away from the bone, and he will be having surgery to reattach them on Tuesday. The doctor said it was pretty atypical to see this type of injury resulting from what Mark described - it's the type of injury and damage that he usually sees if someone falls off their rollerblades, or has a bad fall on the ice. He said the bat-swing was probably the last straw after a long period of wrist stress. Looking back I do remember times when Mark said his wrist hurt after bowling, fishing and other activities (lifting, throwing).

So, after surgery Mark will be hanging with the dog for a couple weeks at home, then will have a wrist cast for eight weeks or so. If all goes well complete recovery could take up to a year. We'll keep you posted!

Sign of the Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22)

Get ready all you non-Libras! The time has come for you to bow down to the sign of the scales and serve us (if you look around, I think you'll find there are a lot of Libras out there - January and February tend to be very cold months). In our house, there are three Libras: Annalisse (October 5), Judy (October 8), and Mark (October 17 - although I'm not sure how he got into the sign since he possesses some decidedly non-Libra traits...mostly in his professional life). I had once heard the statistic that the day most people are born is October 5. We know five people with that birthday, and we're meeting more all the time.

Some fun Libra facts for you:
  • Libra is the newest of all the signs and before Roman times, didn’t exist as a separate Constellation. It was the Romans and their love of balance and harmony, that couldn’t abide a solar system of 11, unequal signs. To bring things together and have everything balanced, they created Libra, out of Scorpio.

  • Librans sprout from a series of contradictions: self versus non-self, mental versus emotional, pleasure versus pathos, helpfulness versus helplessness, generosity versus greed, kindness versus coldness, control versus chaos. Underneath the smiling face and stellar charm lies a character with many ambivalences

  • Best qualities: Friendliness, Fairness, Gracefulness; Worst Qualities: Indecisiveness, Laziness; Best Match: Sagittarius; Worst Match: Virgo; Best Day: Friday; Worst Day: Wednesday; Favorite Weakness: Romance

  • The Libra sign of the scales is the only non-human/non-animal sign in the zodiac.

Every year for the last 15 years or so I go out to dinner with my friends Meg and Jo Ann for our annual "Libra Dinner." We try to go somewhere where we can draw attention to ourselves, and inevitably end up celebrating with a ton of other self-identified Libras in the restaurant. I'm not sure any other sign makes such a big deal of it, or feels so self-important!


So, during this month of the Libra, be aware that the person sitting next to you may be secretly sitting there...feeling superior...wondering if you might be a Libra, too.


And I'll leave you with this little gem: Q: How many Libras does it take to change a light bulb? A: Libras can't decide if the bulb needs to be changed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Very Nice Day, So Far

It's mid-way through our anniversary day, and it's been a nice, celebratory day so far - mostly thanks to Mark. I received the beautiful fall arrangement (at left) just before noon, then we went out to lunch. On the way to lunch Mark surprised me with a set of fresh-water pearl earrings, but since I had a pair that was similar we went to James Salerno Jewelers (where we had gotten our wedding rings, and just about every piece of jewelry since), and I we exchanged them for a pearl choker. I've wanted a nice pearl necklace for some time, and now I have a nice one that I can pass onto Annalisse later. Thanks to Mark for his thoughtfulness on this special day!

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Today we celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. Wow. Where did the time go? The memories from 20 years away are bittersweet, making it hard to even think about watching the video (which I haven't done in years) with so many of our loved ones gone. Still, a lot of great stuff has happened, including our family, and our life in general (how "great" it is depends on the day!).

How are we spending our big day? Mostly at work, a Annalisse's play meeting after work, Annalisse's confirmation class, and a walk with the dog. We're probably having reubens for dinner. We'll have to save our special dinner out until the weekend as real life tends to get in the way!

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Dark Day for Donuts

What has the world come to? First the mortgage crisis, then, yesterday, we lost the only Krispy Kreme in our area. And apparently the carnage doesn't stop there. I had to sit Cameron down to break the news to him. Never again will I hear him ask, "Mom, why does my stomach always hurt when I eat four Krispy Kremes?" Sure, there are the pre-packed versions you can get in supermarkets and convenience stores, but who are we kidding? It's not the same as a KK employee plucking one of those hot "samples" right off the conveyor belt. We will miss you, oh pillows of fluffy hot sugar -- and you didn't even taste the first one.

Could we have a moment of silence, please?

(I'm sure it was purely a business decision - apparently they weren't "making enough dough...")

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fashionista Canine

Why, oh why, does his sister need to dress him up in clothes? Today's look: an understated yet fashionable white t-shirt that makes him look like a "big dog."

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Fourth Ave. Street Picnic

Now, I don't mean to keep going on about this, but here's another reason we moved to the Village of Fairport: the street party. The picnic has been going on a lot longer than we've lived here, but for the last couple of years we have held it, during which we block off the street, on the Friday night after the first day of school. It seems a fitting way to celebrate getting through the first three days, and the kids (and parents) don't need to worry about getting up early the next morning. Everyone brings something to throw on the grill, drinks, and a dish to pass. With (at last count) 23 kids on the street all under the age of 14, it's a great sight to see the kids enjoying themselves playing after-dark games, riding bikes and generally enjoying all being outside at once. It reminds me of "the good old days" when kids actually played outside every day/night!

Our New Neighbor

Today, we welcomed a new neighbor to the street: Miss Lola McTwiggen, an 8-week old West Highland Terrier (Westie). She is a cute 3-pound ball of wiry white fur. Welcome, Lola!
Now, let your family sleep through the night!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Most Wonderful Day

~Among all the anxiety (What if I can't open my locker??!)

~Among all the excitement (I can't wait to see Mrs. Connor!)

~Among all the supplies chaos (Where are the 5" binders?)

~Among all the demands for new clothes (I know I can't even close my drawers, but I really want to go to Abercrombie!)

Comes the FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL! The only (and I do mean only) thing I don't like about school: the morning rush and packing lunches. Other than that, it's all good.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Movie-on-the-Garage Night

For the last three years (since we moved to our house), we've been invited to our neighbor's house for an old fashioned movie night. Usually held the Sunday before the first day school, it's a great end-of-summer celebration where 8mm cartoons are shown on a sheet hung from their garage. Starting at dusk, while the kids and parents much on popcorn, peanuts, and candy, Mr. Gates projects short films featuring Woody Woodpecker, Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, Chip-n-Dale, and lessons from Jiminy Cricket. My favorite is the longer movie about Johnny Appleseed, who "Thanks the Lard" (Lord) for the apple tree. Every year the Gates' add to their collection, and this year's new feature was a black-and-white classic about how Bugs Bunny foils two not-so-smart gangster/robbers, one of whom sounds suspiciously like Barney Rubble. Mr. Gates also added an adult feature this year, an episode of the 70s show M*A*S*H, but it was 10pm by the time the cartoons were done (And it was cold. And the bugs were really biting.), so we didn't stick around. It's just a fun old-fashioned event, and a chance to see neighborhood friends one more time before the schools routine kicks in again!

Friday, August 31, 2007

27 Pounds and Counting

Today, we took Jasper to the vet for his continuing round of puppy shots. He's tipping the scales at 27 pounds, having gained 19 pounds since joining our family just over 2 months ago. Don't even make me calculate what % growth that is...you know I'm not good at math. Anyway, he continues to astonish and charm everyone he meets with his calm and sweet nature!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Last Gasp of Summer

Remember back on May 25 (in one of my first blog posts) when I said that the summer stretched out in front of me with no end in sight? Well, the end is in sight. I cannot believe it's already Labor Day weekend. Here's a sampling of my goals for this summer and how they all worked out...
  1. Hire a teenager for activities direction (mostly to get Cameron out of the house during the summer days) - NOT ACCOMPLISHED. I never did locate anyone, and before I knew it there was only three weeks when the kids would be mostly by themselves with some miscellaneous activities thrown in. Oh well, boredom makes going back to school more appealing (says me...).
  2. Get a puppy - ACCOMPLISHED, AND HOW! We now have the most loving, cuddly dog in the world. Maybe that's why we all didn't mind hanging around all summer...
  3. Paint the side yard fence - NOT ACCOMPLISHED (yet). I took a nap instead.
  4. Go to the Renaissance Festival - NOT ACCOMPLISHED. For two years in a row we have not managed to get there. The weekends seem to fill up with other activities.
  5. Go to Seabreeze - ACCOMPLISHED. See post of August 14. The kids had a great time and it was a beautiful day. Annalisse surprised me with her daring - going on "scary" rides and the Tilt-a-Hurl. I, as usual, waited by the end of the ride for them to get off...
  6. Read the 7th Harry Potter book - ACCOMPLISHED (and enjoyable). And I also read many more books. Right now, I'm on a Kennedy family biography kick. What a wacked-out family...
  7. Ride bike, a lot - ACCOMPLISHED, SORT OF. I didn't ride my bike "a lot," but we got out a fair amount.

Some other pleasantries of the summer: we supported the Fairport economy through ice cream/smoothie/gelato/flavored coffee/latte/dessert purchases; I supported my mental health by hanging with the dog and taking naps. All in all, a lazy, hazy, not-so-crazy summer. Luckily, there will probably be a month-and-a-half of pretty good weather left before the real cold front moves in.

Coming up: we'll spend September adjusting to the new school year, then, it's "Bring on October!" ~ and "our" birthdays (Mark, Judy & Annalisse's anyway!).

Friday, August 24, 2007

"Simponize Me" Yourself

The kids turned me onto "Simpsonize Me" a site where you can make yourself into a Simpson's character. What do you think? (The image from the site was a full-body version.)

The Star of Puppy Class

Last night we had our third puppy class at Bill Payne's School of Dog Obedience in Victor. It's so much fun with all the puppies around. The class has two (hyper) Boxers, two Yellow Labs, one Australian Shepard, one Golden-Doodle, and a couple of other mixed breed dogs. Last week for the demonstration of "wait," and this week for the demonstration of a longer "wait", who do you think the instructor chose? The star puppy, of course! We do a lot of "wait" at home, so by the time we got there Jasper had mastered those two skills. He was very impressive, sitting at rapt attention until the next command was given, after which the instructor (known as "Uncle Bill" to the dogs) said to the group, "Don't you wish you had a Golden?" His family was beaming!!

Don't get me wrong: we have a really long way to go with excited pulling when he see people/dogs and pulling on walks. But it sure was a proud moment!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Kids in Trees

A couple of weeks ago Mark's brother Dave and his wife, Mandy, were in town for an early baby shower (they are due with their first child in January). Next week they will be leaving the States for a two-year stint with the State Department in Turkey (or, "Churkey," as Cameron pronounces it). As always, we'll use any excuse to get together for an extended-family picnic.

We were joined by our cousins from Massachusetts, and, as all the kids are around the same age, it was a great time. Whenever the kids are all together we like to get a picture of them, preferably hanging in and around the front yard tree at Mark's Aunt & Uncle's house. Looks like trouble to me!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Day Trippers

On Friday, we took a day trip to Skaneatles (Mark and I had never been), which is about an hour-and-a-half from Rochester. It was a smaller town than we expected so by 2pm, after a nice lunch at the Blue Water Grill and walking around the shops, we were ready to head home. Another "must see" we can check off the list!

Waterdog in Training

What a fun weekend with Jasper! On Saturday, we went to Spring Lake (I think) Park on the East Rochester/ Fairport/Penfield border and took the dog into Irondequoit Creek to try to get him acclimated to the water. Along the way he met a lot of new "friends," and had a muddy great time! We were able to lure him into the shallow water with (what else?) a treat, and he was a natural at swimming.

We are having fun at puppy kindergarten, but he already knows most of what the trainer is teaching. For instance, the trainer called on Jasper to demonstrate the "wait" command (first you start with having him wait two seconds, then four, then six...), and I didn't want to break it to the guy that he is already pretty good at "waiting" as he has to wait three times a day until we tell him to come for his food. He has a really good attention span, and was very impressive as the demo dog.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bedroom Bat, Part Deux

"It's back!!!", screamed Annalisse at 4am this morning. Sure enough, another bat (the same one?) was in her room. We weren't quite as freaked out this time...like an old pro Mark trekked down to the basement to get his fishing net, we isolated the bat, and out the door he went.

On today's to-do-list (just a reminder - I am on vacation):

  1. CALL THE ROOFER TO FINISH THE JOB. After the last bat Mark incident, went into the attic to examine how it might have gotten in, and found that he could see daylight through the roof line. It seems the roofers never took the final step to caulk/seal the roof. When we called they said they would be here "some time this week." Well, they're going to get a "reminder" call today.
  2. PLUG THE HOLE IN ANNALISSE'S CLOSET. There is a small hole in the roof of Annalisse's closet that the bats are obviously slipping through. A trip to Home Depot is in order.

Hopefully, that should do it. Let's just hope there aren't more hiding in the attic...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Vacation at Home

This week I'm off for a whole week...an unusual occurrence since this year's vacation has been mostly onsie-twosie days and long weekends.

We aren't doing much in the way of vacation activities. A new roof and unanticipated pet expenses this spring/summer (losing two pets and getting a new one) has put a squeeze on our vacations funds this year, but the great thing about living in Fairport is that you can take a vacation without leaving home. Bike rides on the canal, walks, and trips to the library and Candy Nation (an old-fashioned candy store in the Village) are a relaxing way to enjoy my time at home. Then, tomorrow we're going to Seabreeze Amusement Park on Lake Ontario, and on Friday we're taking a day trip to Skaneatles.

So many take hanging out at home for granted (and might even think it's boring), but those of us who work full-time see this time as a gift - a break from the routine and the grind of our jobs (I'm fortunate to like my job, but still...). It's chance to wake up late, linger over the morning paper, putter in the garden and, if I'm lucky enough, take an afternoon nap.

A vacation at home is the way summer should be!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Pirate's Weekend

Friday night Cameron and I went up to Alexandria Bay for an overnight during Pirate's weekend (technically, it's two weekends worth of raucous "fun", but the first weekend seems to be the most popular). I've been going up for a couple of years now, meeting my girlfriends for a "What happens in A-Bay, stays in A-Bay" weekend. This year, I met just one girlfriend there, Gina, because our other friends couldn't make it (sometimes life gets in the way...). I brought Cameron along to spend the night with the son of my good friend, Pete (a.k.a. my 7th grade boyfriend). Pete goes by boat (from Massena) every year for the weekend, and has been meeting a group of people there for many years. So, Cameron hung with Drake, and I hung with the adults, and all was well!

Alex bay is very tacky and pretty run down, but still so much fun. It's pure escapism with some beautiful scenery thrown in. I think next year the four of us will go up for Pirate's weekend and do some tourist stuff as well, like fishing for Mark and a boat trip to Boldt Castle. Of course, Annalisse will eat that up since a lot of people dress like pirates (or wenches) and she always enjoys a themed-destination. Arrrr!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A Dog's Life

This is Jasper's life. This picture says it all.
(click to enlarge)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Annalisse's Bedroom "Bird"

Last night around 12:30am, from some far away place, I heard a voice saying, "Mom, there's a bird flying around my bedroom." Through my cobwebby dreams I thought, if she thinks she sees a bird, it's probably a bat. A minute later: "Dad! Can you get this bird out of my room?" Finally, Mark gets up.

A loud, weird sound: Mark dodging the large bat flying around Annalisse's room. Annalisse screaming! (The two drama queens in the family reacting as expected.) I guess I better get up...

Swoosh! Down the stairs it goes. Swish! Into the kitchen then back upstairs. Mark gets his fishing net (finally being used for something), captures the bat and heads for the door. The bat is free and all is well. Back to bed. (Well, not really...we're really keyed up by this time and no one except Cameron who can sleep through anything and did not bother getting up) goes back to sleep easily.

It's amazing that for living in old houses 12 out of 18 years we've never had a bat in the house. I wonder how the heck it got in?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Presenting Storybook Amore a Prima Vista!

We got verification today from the American Kennel Club that Jasper is now registered as Storybook Amore a Prima Vista. "Storybook" is the name of the kennel, and "Amore a Prima Vista," is "Love at First Sight" in Italian. The breeders had asked us give the puppy a registered name with an Italian theme, and we had a hard time coming up with something considering his "call" name of Jasper was so un-Italian. But, my friend Elizabeth came to the rescue with some Italian phrases, and we liked the sound of Amore a Prima Vista because, as you can imagine, it was "love at first sight" for us (and all who meet him). The bonus was/is his great disposition!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

August is like...

...a month of Sunday nights.

(Thanks to Linda for the quote. I think it captures the essence of August EXACTLY.)

Happy 22nd birthday, Anthony!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Third (now, Second) Greatest Invention Ever

The Third Greatest Invention Ever is, in my opinion, Fat-free Half & Half. In fact, I think it's so great that I'm going to bump the Tide-to-Go stick from the second spot (the iPod remains, and will forever be, THE GREATEST INVENTION EVER). Fat-free Half & Half is so good that you can even cook with it. I've made mashed potatoes, homemade mac-n-cheese, and chocolate mousse to name just a few possibilities.

My morning routine always includes a 20-oz cup of flavored Green Mountain Coffee (I don't love it for the caffeine - I try to get mostly decaf). Ironically, I really really dislike the taste of regular coffee, but love any variety of flavored coffee. In fact, the place I go every morning generally has up 6 or more flavors of GMC available in addition to the "regular" coffee. But, I digress...

So, in case you're keeping track, Fat-free Half & Half is the new "#2" on Judy's list of Greatest Inventions EVER.

Doubled in Size and Not So Calm Anymore

We took Jasper to the vet last week and he has doubled in size, topping out at 16 pounds (up 8 pounds since we picked him up on June 20), and he is not so calm any more. One of his favorite things to do on our walks is to jump up and try to get the (full) poop bag. One day I may let him get the "prize" he so seems to desire. I keep telling him he's a Poodle in a Golden's body.

We got Jasper a little pool and are trying to get him used to it. He is a water dog, after all!

We have been meeting so many canine friends around the Village. Among them: Cooper, a very bulky 4-month old Chocolate Lab; Toby and Bo, two yellow labs on our street,; Murphy and Mulligan (6-month old Goldens); Lily and Sunny (also Goldens); and Casey's old buddy, Scooter, a 3-year old Flat Coat Retriever. Every night on our walks it's a frenzy of leapy and playing bitey-face. His favorite friend, hands down, is Sheba, a long-haired Calico cat, who through her regal bearing and no-nonsense approach, is the undisputed Queen of the Street.

P.S. How in the world did it get to be July 31?!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

As heard in Friendly's today at lunch...

Cameron, talking about going to church (which is "very boring"): I don't know why I have to go to church. I was confirmed so now I'm an adult and I should be able to make my own decisions."

Steven: If you're an adult how come you just ordered a burger off the kid's menu?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Don't Drink & Drive (a lawn mower)

When I was in my late teens and still living in Massena, my friend Sue and I used to fantasize about taking a trip to Rochester (where my boyfriend, now husband, lived) on a riding lawn mower. Okay, "fantasize" is not quite the right word, maybe "joked about it" is better. Anyway, it's a good thing we didn't, or we could have ended up like this guy.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Car Cruz Nights

Every Tuesday on the Canal Fairport has Car Cruz Nights, where all the old men come out with their fancy cars and guard them to be sure no one touches them (obviously, there are less cars out on nights when the weather threatens rain). Anyway, we like to go down and take a walk around with the pup. It's a great chance to see people we know, not to mention the smoothie factor. This time it took us at least an hour to get through the crowd because of Jasper's irresistible cuteness.

A couple of times each summer a great local group of teens performs at the event. They are called "It's My Party", and they are three young girls who sing classic "girl group" songs from the '50s and '60s. Always a big draw, they are a lot of fun to watch and very entertaining. I would encourage you to catch them if you can. They'll be at Car Cruz Night a couple more times (August 7 & August 28) this summer. They'll also be at the Thursday night Gazebo concert (Kennelly Park) next Thursday, August 2.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Hi Ho! Hi Ho! It's Off to Camp They Go!

We just dropped the kids off for their second week of camp. It was a little hard convincing Annalisse to go again this week because she had really hoped one of her friends could come along. But that didn't work out, and after the first week, when she saw how many campers had brought friends, she got a little pouty. She didn't want to admit that, in spite of the fact that she would not be there with a friend, she really likes to go. This time around it looked like she had a cabin full of girls around her age, so I'm hoping she hooks up with one (or some) of them. Hey wait! Who the heck am I talking about here? Of course she'll hook up with one (or some) of them! Cameron ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY would not acknowledge our leaving with a hug, kiss...NOTHIN'.

On another note, on Friday morning we went to see the new Harry Potter movie at the IMAX theatre. That was really fun, and we'll probably do that for the next two movies. Then, Friday night, we had every intention of going to Borders to get the new HP-7 book (although we had not reserved one), but I've never been much of a line-waiter, so we went to the store around 9:30pm, but left within an hour. I went out the next morning and got a copy at Wegmans, along with our morning bagels and donuts. We are looking forward to the CD release so we can listen to it as a family when we travel. We do so enjoy Harry!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Cute for Cute's Sake

Sometimes you just have to acknowledge cute for cute's sake. Here's a dose of Vitamin J to start your day!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A sigh of relief - but lingering anxiety

A couple of weeks ago, on the heels of the tragic accident that took the life of five young Fairport teens, came a report that a woman in the Village was the victim of a failed abduction attempt. Supposedly, three men followed her as she was walking along the street, and tried to drag her into a black van, but left the scene when someone drove by and yelled that they were going to call 911. The foiled abductors were described as three African-American males. During a very sensitive time, I think a lot of us were a little freaked out about the report (especially someone like me who is always a little anxious about the kids even walking back and forth to school; Fairport is safe, but you never know).

Anyway, as the days went by we and did not hear any more about this situation (except for the media was asking the witness to contact police), I began to think that maybe it was a hoax. Especially since the description of the males seemed very stereotypical and racist. I told Mark on a walk last night that I was going to talk to the next Village police officer I saw to determine what became of the case.

Well, today on the news it was announced that the young woman involved was arrested for falsely reporting a crime. What a relief - but a good reminder that we should never take our "safe" town for granted, and should continue to keep a close watch on our children. There are crazy (and evil) people out there...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Well, do you have to go, or don't you?!

Why is it that when Jasper starts to whimper to go out in the middle of the night, when I get there he is laying on his back against the farthest wall of his crate and won't budge. So, I have to stoop down, reach in, and haul him out to go out? Wasn't it his idea to wake me up? Quit messin' with me!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Will (not) Work for Food

Today to avoid vacuuming I sold the task to the highest bidder for $5 ($2.50 for upstairs, $2.50 for downstairs). Annalisse took the bait, but, of course, gave up after only finishing the downstairs (the dust dinosaur army was growing). These kids! They want to be paid for everything. Cameron wanted to be paid for hanging out with the dog all day. At dinner (one of the rare ones I've cooked these days), I protested, saying, "I clean the house, and cook dinner and no one ever pays me." Annalisse, not missing a beat, said, incredulously, "Why would they? This food is terrible!" That just about sums up the fact that:
  1. I'm a self-admitted bad cook and I hate to cook, and
  2. I love to eat out!

Still, you need to consider the source - this comment came from the picky eater who wants Kraft Mac-n-Cheese or canned ravioli every meal, and thinks last week's meals at 4-H Camp was the best food she's ever eaten (ditto for her brother - he gained two pounds at camp!!!).

Separated at Birth?

Have you ever heard of Knut, the orphaned polar bear cub that has been around the news, including in National Geographic and Vanity Fair (he shared the cover with Leonardo DiCaprio for the Green Earth issue a couple of months ago)? Well, we think Jasper looks like Knut...can you see why? If not for Jasper's longer ears, they could be brothers!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Conclusion of Week 1 of Eating Out

The kids come home from camp today, thus concluding Week 1 of Eating Out. Well, it wasn't a banner week for dining...a combination of house and pet expenses cut our restaurant options way back, but we did manage to eat out a couple of times. Some highlights:
  • Monday night: Out to Mom Shiao's (Mark's mother - rhymes with "cow") for my favorite Chinese pork dish (followed by a raspberry/pina colada smoothie from Fairport Village Coffee).
  • Tuesday night: burgers on the grill followed by another smoothie run at FVC.
  • Wednesday night: yummy pulled pork and jambalaya at The Beale Street Cafe.
  • Thursday night: a walk over to Donnelly's for great pub food.
  • Friday: before picking up the kids this afternoon, we're going out to one of my favorite lunch places in Rochester - The Open Face Sandwich Eatery. There is nothing like their pickled ginger carrots - I know it sounds a little weird, but I'm hooked!!

The week was still good, even without the food fest. We mostly just enjoyed leisurely walks at night with the dog, and chatting with neighbors and friends we met along the way.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

So bored without his playmates

Jasper seems to be a little bored without his brother and sister around to play with him all day (not that they played a lot - he seems to sleep a lot of the day or hang out on the couch with them). A charming side note - housebreaking is going okay, but I caught him eating his poop in the kitchen this morning. I'm sure it won't harm him, but GROSS!

This weekend we go up north for my nephew, Andrew's, high school graduation party. We'll be dropping Jasper off at a kennel in Central Square on the way, where he'll get a chance to see his "original mom," Janis the breeder. She will not believe how much he's grown!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Commence the week of eating (a.k.a. Week 1: 4-H Camp Bristol)

We dropped the kids off for their first week of camp today at 2pm. They could not wait to get there-Annalisse has been wound up and excited for at least 4 days now. I expect I will get a letter from A., but I'm sure no such luck from Cameron. I don't take it personally anymore...last year I even bought him "camp" stationery where it was preprinted with statements like "Today at camp we ____________" (fill in the blank). He still didn't write!

Tonight we're not doing anything very exciting for the 1st night of eating out - just going over to Lindburger's in Penfield for a good juicy burger and some crispy sweet potato fries.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

This time it's goodbye for good

Well, we did it. We put Bailey to sleep this morning. She was in pretty bad shape over this past week, so it was definitely time to let go. We're back down to one pet again, but that one is enough for now. We will surely miss her, but it will be "as she was," not as she has been the last six months. Who knows? Another cat or kitten may choose us in the months to come.