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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...