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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Annalisse's Grillz

Yesterday Annalisse had her long awaited braces put on. They'll be there for 18 months, during which time I hope she'll be able to eat enough food to keep her body growing!! She's such a picky eater, she doesn't need an excuse to eat less!

The discomfort of her morning was offset by a pleasurable pedicure for her and my sister Mary in the afternoon. By the evening, though, she needed some Advil to take the edge off. So far she's managed to eat a meal of Kraft Macaroni-n-Cheese and crab cakes. This morning the oatmeal was a hard sell, but there was always an instant breakfast shake with ice cream.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Does this mean I'm an adult now?

On Saturday Mark and our neighbor, Morey, drove over to my mother-in-law Pat's to pick up a grandfather clock. Pat is moving in a couple of weeks and decided not to take the clock to her new place.

The clock, which was a gift from Rochester Telephone (or was it Frontier back then?) when my late father-in-law retired several years ago, stands almost seven feet tall and looks great our front hall. It hasn't run in almost eight years, so after we have some painting done this spring we're going to call in the clock expert to have it cleaned and reset.

Having a serious piece of "furniture" like this in the house really makes me feel like I'm a responsible adult now! I guess I'd better start acting the part!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Baker Movie Nights

This time of year (and all winter long) when we're spending time hanging at home in front of the fire, there are certain movies we watch over and over. So, if you'd like some good (a relative term, I know) movie suggestions, here are some of our favorites:
  • Love, Actually - one of our relatively new Christmas traditions, a little racy in an "English" sort of way, but has so much heart and a rockin' soundtrack!
  • The Sixth Sense - I think everyone knows how spooky and clever this one is.
  • Titanic - a bit of a cliche, but still an engaging journey with a story line that draws you in.
  • Star Wars (mostly IV, A New Hope) - The movie that made a huge impact on my 13-year-old life.
  • Big Fish - a really original tale of a strained father-son relationship that is just perfect.
  • Lord of the Rings (1 and 3) - I like all the LOR movies, but mainly numbers 1 and 3 because there is less fighting and more storytelling.
  • Harry Potter (3, 4, and 5) - The characters in these movies seem like old friends now...we've all grown up with them. We'll be sad when the movie series is over, just like we were with the books.
  • Bridget Jone's Diary (1) - The first of this two-movie series is so sweet and funny. The best part: Colin Firth.
  • The Shawshank Redemption - We just re-discovered this amazing movie of hope. Violent in parts, but its inspiring message overrides all that.
  • Best in Show - I suppose I could put any movie with/by Christopher Guest on this list, but this one is really funny!
  • Field of Dreams - Another father-son movie. As Charlie used to say, you need a box of Kleenex to watch this one.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean (1) - So clever and funny! Johnny Depp is amazing and Orlando Bloom is so dreamy.
Additionally, here are some of my favorites that we don't necessarily watch as a family:
  • When Harry Met Sally - I'm pulled in every time I see this one. So many quotable lines!
  • Goodfellas - Violent but engaging, and a great song track.
  • Pride and Prejudice - the BBC version (with who else? Colin Firth!), not the crappy Keira Knightly version. Every year I have a P & P marathon screening at some point in January.
  • Same Time, Next Year - This one's been around a long time, but I still can't help watching it every time it's on. Another one with a lot of heart.
  • The Way we Were - twists your heart around then breaks it in two.
  • Garden State - A very different movie that Zack Braff says is closer to his real self than J.D. on Scrubs. Great soundtrack.
  • The Manchurian Candidate - The original movie from the 1962. So much better than the recent remake.
  • The Others - So creepy in every way with a twist ending. Very satisfying. About the only movie I can stand with Nicole Kidman in it.
  • A Beautiful Mind - Definitely a different point of view when thinking about how the human mind works. Great acting!
  • Apollo 13 - Suspenseful, sit-at-the-edge-of-your-seat story. I can't believe they actually made it back to Earth.
  • This is Spinal Tap - So funny, you really have to pay attention the first time because there's so much in this one.
  • Thank You for Smoking -A clever satirical comedy...hey, everyone has a job to do; even the tobacco, gun and alcohol lobbyists.
  • Muriel's Wedding - tagged as a comedy, but this thoughtful movie is far from a comedy. Great Abba soundtrack aside, a very troubling tale.
I'm sure there are more, but these are the ones that rise to the top. Can you think of any to add?! Please suggest!

Until next time, happy viewing!

Friday, December 26, 2008

It's all over but the shopping

We survived another (great) Christmas (pictures in slideshow at left). Yesterday at this time we were gathered around the tree opening presents before heading over to Lena and Ken's for a Christmas breakfast. In the afternoon Grandma Pat came over for some more Christmas present opening, and we had a great dinner of filet mignon cooked out on the grill. It was a great day, with lots of surprises and a little relaxation thrown it, just like Christmas should be.

That's all over this morning. We're off early to the mall for some post-Christmas gift card spending. Cameron has been saving for months for an iTouch, with his cold-hard cash plus the gift cards he received he's finally able to get one. Annalisse is off to a couple of her favorite stores (it seems she can never have too many clothes or too much of her current obsession: make-up). Mark and I are just along for the ride. Maybe I'll get a flavored coffee out of the deal.

The great news is we still have a lot of vacation to look forward to. And for that, I'm eternally grateful!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

'Twas the day before the night before Christmas

'Twas the day before the night before Christmas
and all through the house
not a child nor husband was present
they were at work or school-ouse. (I had to make it rhyme somehow...)

Took my place on the sofa
coffee in hand
and watched five episodes of True Blood
that show is not bland

Then took a shower
before the kids got home
so we could head to the mall
Wish I was in Rome..

Okay, very baaaddd poetry, but hey - I'm on vacation! And my brain is turning to mush, which is a good thing.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

For that hard-to-buy-for guy on your list

The folks at Burger King have come to the rescue with their new body spray for men, "Flame," which they describe as "the scent of seduction with a hint of flame-broiled meat." I'm sorry, but the picture of the naked, lounging Burger King alone is the stuff of nightmares. Maybe I'll get it for Mark for Christmas - I'm sure the dog will be a loyal companion with the Flame spray around.

I suppose it's not too far off a concept. After all, women have smelled like strawberries, watermelon, vanilla, cinnamon and blueberries for years.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The First Big Snowstorm of the Winter

Today we got the first really snowy-blowy storm of the year. It seemed like everyone was really excited about it, which was probably even more heightened because it was occurring on a Friday (get our early from work/school?!) and, for me, was my last day of work until January 5 (HURRAY!!).

As soon as I got home from work (the College did close early!), the kids and I headed out to do some shoveling. We shovelled the high, heavy snow for about 15 minutes until an angel bringing glad tidings of great joy (and a snowblower) came over to blow us out. That, Morrie! What a neighbor!

It was great spending time outside on such a great winter day, and the dog was probably the happiest Baker of all!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

How to impress your friends and relatives

You're sure to impress your friends and relatives with these EXTREMELY easy (three ingredients), yet very delicious Christmas Windows cookies recipe:
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 bag colored marshmallows
Melt butter in the microwave. Melt chocolate chips in the microwave, mix them together. When a little cool, fold in bag of marshmallows. Using saran wrap, role the mixture into a log and refrigerate for at least an hour (overnight works fine, too). Unwrap and slice the log (about 1/4 inch each slice)...viola! Your "cookies" look like stained glass windows, and they taste great!

Try them! You'll have 'em clamoring for the recipe! Maybe you can sell it to buy Christmas gifts!

The Worst of Holiday Eating

...or the best, depending on your POV.

This week will be an eating disaster for me. Today at lunch we're having a taco fiesta, followed by our division lunch tomorrow at Pomodoro Grill (which will most likely work out okay since I can never find anything I really like there), followed by our staff lunch on Friday at the Cheesecake Factory (they have a salad there I really love, but it's the cheesecake that gets you). On Sunday is the annual Fourth Avenue Cookie exchange, another gastronomical disaster with my homemade eggnog (again), appetizers, and, of course, all the cookies (I'm making a cheesecake bar something-or-other; it was an easy recipe in the cookie book).

See you at the gym in January! (Wait! I hate the gym...see you walking around the Village.)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

No Chit Chat cafe - Darn it!

Yesterday was a productive day (in many ways, but mostly shopping), but a big disappointment was that the Chit Chat Cafe wasn't open. C'mon! We only go there maybe twice a year and I was so looking forward to it. Regardless of the disappointing start, we knocked off most of our shopping and can relax (like we have trouble with that).

Next up...the neighborhood cookie exchange on Sunday, December 21.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Shopping Spree

For the last several years I've taken a weekday off from work to knock off most of my Christmas shopping in one foul swoop. Today is that day, and boy do I need it. The days leading up to my extended holiday break from work seem endless.

This year I invited Mark to come along. I'm not sure if I've said this before, but Mark is a really good sport about shopping. In fact, he really likes it. So we're heading out early for breakfast at the Chit Chat Cafe in Victor (at left), then it's off to Eastview Mall and surrounding stores (stack of coupons in hand) for a marathon couple of hours to clear my list.

After shopping I may or may not get my nap in...I'm having a holiday party for co-workers and I suppose I should do a little dusting and vacuuming so they don't get the added bonus of Golden Retriever hair in their dip. Tonight's highlight will be homemade eggnog, which I haven't made in years. Once you get past the idea of all those raw eggs it actually tastes pretty good. Down the hatch!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Apparently, they've been "good" so far this year

The Baker and Holmsten kids passed the first crucial test as a barometer for their behavior in 2008 when they received their St. Nicholas Day treats yesterday. Cousins Peter, Abbey and Phoebe came over around 2pm for some hot cocoa, ice cream sundaes and just plain fun hanging around (for some reason they all immediately head upstairs to play hide-and-seek...that must be their "thing" when they get together).
Yesterday was a FREEEZZZINNG day (17 degrees), so it was a good day to hang out by the light of the tree and the warmth of the fire. Only a couple of weeks until our much-needed Christmas break!

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Chopping Block Cometh?

Mark's employer, Paetec just had another massive layoff today (his job was spared). In the last year or so, but mostly in the last several months, the loss of his job hangs over us (mostly me since he doesn't really like it but doesn't have anything else lined up - fishing all day won't pay the bills!) like a black cloud. Today the headlines read that 222 jobs (5% of Paetec's workforce) have been eliminated. Let's just keep our fingers crossed that he can keep squeaking by the job cuts!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Holding Catholics Hostage

This article caught my eye about the South Carolina priest who told his parishioners that if they voted for Obama they should not (could not?) take communion until they had done penance for voting for a "pro-abortion" president (actually, he and others, including myself, are technically "pro-choice," not pro-abortion). It's amazing to me that this guy would hold his parishioners hostage from this important sacrament for Catholics (and all Christians). I know that when I was growing up, and I'm sure it's still the same, the parish priest had a lot of influence over his congregation, and many viewed what the priest preached each week as "law," even though it might have only been his opinion (I suppose it's that way with a lot of churches). This seems like an abuse of power by one individual in an otherwise hopeful time of change for the rest of us. It makes you wonder how many people's votes are influenced by their spiritual leader's opinions...we know there are many...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ahead of schedule in the final stretch

Thanksgiving is over, the turkey has been cleared of all it's delicious meat, and we head to the final stretch of December, hurling toward the end of the year. We had a great Thanksgiving dinner in Massena, and the kids always enjoy being around all their cousins - there's always a lot going on. It reminds me of when we were all young (that's the great thing about having kids, you get to relive your own childhood over and over and over...).

Dare I say I'm "ahead of schedule" this year? The package is off to Turkey for our family there, the decorations are up (the tree will go up next weekend), the Christmas cards are ready to be addressed (but I won't mail them for a week or so...I don't want to seem too ahead of schedule), I've got a good chunk of my shopping done, and the dates are set for St. Nicholas Day, a get together for my coworkers at our house, and the cookie exchange. Wow!! Well, to reduce my stress I need to take little bites out of the gigantic elephant called Christmas. So, bite away, I'm under control and still have 25 days to go!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Over the thruway and through the tolls...

...to Grandmother's house we go.

We're heading up north to a Massena Thanksgiving for what is probably the first time in more than 15 years (I can't even remember the last time we went up for this holiday). Early in our marriage we decided that we would alternate holidays between families, but that fell apart pretty quickly once the kids came. This year has been a rough one health-wise for my Aunt and Uncle, and my mother has also been battling frequent bouts of "flu," so I thought it might be time to head up North before the weather really gets bad. My sister, Mary, and her family are joining us there (my other sister is a nurse and will be working all day), so I'm looking forward to being able to see the extended family. We're going out to dinner (I know: not ideal for Thanksgiving), as my mother is not able to fix a meal, and the extended family has their own families to cook for. So, we're off, keeping our fingers crossed that the weather will cooperate.


Best wishes you and all those you are thankful for this Thanksgiving!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

December: Oh you cruel month...a time to rant?

If you remember, last year at this time I had already ranted about the ever earlier creeping of Christmas commercialism by now. It all started on November 1 when I was driving home from downstate, and came across a radio station that was playing "all Christmas music all the time."

This year, I haven't gotten my dander up (just yet) about the all encompassing holiday (for some) that is exactly one month from today. Why the difference? I'm not sure - I'm just not feeling overwhelmed by all things Christmas yet this year. It's not that I'm any farther ahead with my shopping; I have only about a 1/3 of it completed (I'm taking December 12 off to do a wide sweep and finish most, if not all, of it). It's not because of all the ads and commercials; they don't seem to be flooding the airways just yet (or maybe I've blocked them out, which is more likely).

Maybe it's because the month of December actually has really some fun stuff in store. From our St. Nicholas Party the first weekend through the cookie exchange and the Christmas Eve party at Mary and Peter's, I'm looking forward to all the traditions. This year our friends, Scott and Kay, have decided not to have their annual tree cutting party, something that Cameron is very upset about since, in his mind, it was the "kick-off" for a whole month of get togethers, great eating, and fun (which is ironic given his newly declared religious views - I guess his intellect has not yet caught up with his emotion).

I think part of my problem with the holidays, but more specifically, December, is that it is a tangible example of how quickly the years are flying by. As we were walking the dog in the cold, wet snow last night, it felt as if those trips to the Moonlight Creamery and summer walks along the canal were all just a sunny, warm dream...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What Mercy does all day

Mercy is probably the smartest member of the family in her quest to keep warm as the temperatures plunge into the 20s and it just keeps snowing. She's discovered the heating vent in the kitchen, and we now have to step over her as we go about our daily routine.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sweet Justice - Honor Role Style

Annalisse was excited to beat her brother in this year's first report card quarter with a satisfying 90.31 to his 90.27. Both kids did great, but it's always nice for her to rub it in a little!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Jasper Baker, CGC, CTD

Among all the revelry of the weekend, I forgot to report that Jasper passed his test to be certified as a therapy dog.We think evaluator cut him a lot of slack with his excitability, though, and we do definitely need to continue working on heeling and staying seated when being petted by a stranger. We'll most likely take the Level II class again just work on this stuff (starting in January). We might also look into Delta certification for him since that's the other type of certification that places require before you can bring the dog in for visit.

We're proud of him passing the test at only 18 months old! When he reaches the two-year mark and his brain matures even more, we expect he'll do even better with the things that require longer attention. In the meantime, you can find him sleeping on the couch.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

100 Years of Broadway = 3 Hours of Extreme Fun

On Thursday night, during the last rehearsal before opening night of 100 Years of Broadway, there were apparently some last minute shake-ups having to do with the choreography, stage risers and other such drama. As a result, Annalisse and her cast mates left rehearsal very upset and saying things like, "We don't even want to be in the play now" (these sentiments seem to multiple exponentially with the number of kids involved - they feed off each other...). Anyway, we did not overreact, and simply said, "In two nights it will be over - just focus on the fun stuff like Friday night at Friendly's and the cast party."

And what a night it was! The performance was great and the after performance celebration was even greater, with Annalisse proclaiming it was one of the "greatest nights of her life." The kids were real troopers presenting over 25 (abridged) Broadway tunes in just over an hour, complete with some expert dance moves. We were very proud of Annalisse and all the kids - it was a real showstopper! "Break a leg" tonight, kids!




Friday, November 14, 2008

100 Years of Broadway - all in a tidy Hour-and-5-minutes!

Tonight is Annalisse's debut (along with many, many others) in Johanna Perrin's 2009 musical production, 100 Years of Broadway, a jaunty romp featuring some of the Great White Way's most famous tunes. The kids will perform such songs from such shows as Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar, Guys and Dolls, and the great classics by Rogers and Hammerstein (you know us old people and how we like a good show tune!!). Annalisse tells me the production will last just over an hour, then it's off to Friendly's for some after show revelry.

Come on out and see the budding star!! (NO! I am not a stage mother!)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Old "Bait & Switch"?

Recently, Wegmans announced that they are lowering prices on hundreds of items to assist their customers and employees during these challenging financial times. Wow! That sounds great and so typical of Wegmans to lead the way with their innovative ideas. It makes people like me really want to shop there in support of our famous hometown grocery store and their efforts help the community.

So, this morning I headed out early to get a couple of things for the week. I was shocked when I checked out to discover I had spent $90 mainly on items for the kids lunches, breakfast stuff and a other assorted groceries that did not include any meat and very few vegetables (I was heading to Skip's meat market and the Farmers Market when I got home for those items). My groceries didn't even fill one of the smaller grocery carts, and I think I only filled two of Wegmans recyclable shopping bags (plus two jugs of milk and a 12 pack of w-Pop soda) for the ride home.


Then I realized something: my grocery tally had very few shoppers club items. I remember a time when I would watch the groceries being "rung up" and many of the items would be followed by the discounted amount. This time around I spent $1.92 on a $90+ bill (the only discounts were on the 2-gallon jugs of milk and the 12-pack of Wegmans brand soda). Could it be that they are able to lower their prices and make up that loss through a reduction in Shopper's Club items? I don't think it's that I chose less items that qualified - I think it's that they are offering the discount on fewer items.


Hmmm...what do you think? Have you noticed the same?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hope! Obama!

Dare we to hope that there will be progress toward stabilization of the economy, improvement for the health care mess, and more open, diplomatic, and congenial relationships with foreign countries?! Of course, the historic and exciting election of Barack Obama won't solve everything, but it seems there's no where to go but up - it feels a little like Christmas morning!

So, McCain, get into your (Ford) Maverick and drive back to Arizona, and Palin, load up the dog sled. Is Wasilla waiting for you? You betcha!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

In case you're still wavering

Here's a really scary article about John McCain.

Get out and Vote!!

Today is a very exciting day in the history of American elections!! We'll all be heading out to vote after work today - the kids want to come along as they've also been very engaged in the election this time. The only thing better than Obama getting elected would be an Obama/Hillary ticket. Oh well...maybe next time. Get out and vote - all our votes count!

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Ghost of John McCain

Presenting Cameron (with his friend Dylan) in his Halloween costume. There's just no good way to do a ghost.

Two Degrees of Kevin Bacon

I found out from a neighbor today that I'm two degrees from Kevin Bacon. Our across-the-street neighbor, Julia Nunes, who is making a name for herself musically, opened for the Bacon Brothers Band this summer. Whew, that is close!

Preview to Halloween

This is just a sampling of what the Village of Fairport has to look forward to as they greet trick-or-treaters tonight. The other half of the Baker duo is apparently going with the classic white-sheet ghost look, all pulled together with Mark's flag tie. I think we're going with the "Ghost of John McCain" theme on that one. More pictures later!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ready for Halloween

Annalisse put a lot of pressure on for me to kick the Halloween decorations up a notch this year. She looks around at the houses of our Fourth Ave. neighbors (and beyond) and is embarrassed by our meager decorating efforts. So, I invested in some of that crazy webbing, a giant spider, and a fake pumpkin this year, and VIOLA! A creepy house for Friday's fright fest!

You never get too old for this!

Yesterday we took our annual trip to Powers Farm Market to get some pumpkins. While it was just Annalisse and I (Mark was doing yard work for the scant few hours of sunshine before the rain started again, and Cam had friends over), I am reminded how great Powers is. Of course there are the giant tee-pees decorated with lit carved pumpkins, but there are also all the really cute animals. This year it looks like they added a couple of huge rabbits and little deer to their collection of donkeys, sheep, goats and strangely colored chickens (pink, yellow, purple...). Then, when you make it inside the market you are tempted by all those great fall treats: cookies, apples, donuts, cider, etc.
Here's a little melancholy for your Monday: the older I get the more I realize that the years are marked by a series of traditions and milestones that make the already quick passing of time even more obvious. And so, another yearly fall tradition is over, and it's onto November.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Well that was interesting...

Another "interesting" week of travel - and the revelation that Cameron is an aethist (Mema: he'll e-mail you about this directly). Apparently it's been weighing on his mind for a while and he called me at work, worried about my reaction, which was: I'm not surprised. Cameron has always been a black-and-white, in-the-box thinker, so I 've suspected for a while he's had some trouble with the concept of God and the lack of proof that surrounds most religion. So, we had a conversation about what his decision means as we go forward ("ground rules") with regard to the religious things we do as a family, such as Christmas and Easter. I also explained to him that being part of a church is not always just about religion - it's also about being part of a community that provides support and sometimes a social outlet. He agreed that he would accompany us to church once a month for this reason - we'll let him choose the day.

Lastly, I told him we loved him no matter what his beliefs, and I asked him to keep his mind and heart open to the possibility in the future that he might be touched by something that makes him believe in God, and he agreed he would. What I believe: I don't think all is lost at the tender, questioning and exploratory age of 15.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Raised from the dead

An amazing thing happened today! My technical friend was able to resurrect my laptop and restore it to factory condition. Some people have priceless skills. Who wouldn't want to marry a computer technician, or a plumber, or an electrician or a car mechanic...?!!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Crazy Week

I don't think I've gone a whole week without blogging since the Baker Blog was up and running. It's been a crazy week of catch up, travel, and birthdays!

The week started with home and work catch up from our weekend in Vermont, and I was out a a Buffalo area overnight for Grad Fairs Wednesday and Thursday. The joke around here is that every time I go out of town one of the kids (or the dog) gets sick. It looked like clear sailing by Wednesday night when there were no colds, fever, or other illness in sight. Then, on Thursday morning Annalisse called early to say she had a stomach ache and didn't want to go to school. A parent lesson learned early on is if you can get them to go to school they'll most likely be fine once they get there. That works most of the time, but not this time...by 11am Mark got the call and had to go pick her up. She had a stomach bug and a low grade fever. So, of course my anxiety levels started to rise, and I hit the road for home at 1:15pm to get home by 3. I swear they all sit around and decide who's turn it is to be sick!

Yesterday we celebrated Mark's birthday. He came by my work for lunch, and in the evening we went out to Phillips European for fancy desserts and coffee. Tonight we're going out to dinner to celebrate with our awesome neighbors, Morey and Ann. If my laptop was up and running you would have been treated to some pictures, but, alas, it's still whacked out. A techie friend was able to get our documents and iTunes music off it, and he's going to see if he can work his magic to resuscitate the hard drive. Keep your fingers crossed - I hate working on the clunky Dell desktop we have, and it does not have the capability to read my camera, and the disk does not work, and...

So, it's off to dinner. The weekends are too short!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Leaf Peep O-Rama

We returned from a great trip to Vermont at around 2pm today. Every year it seems like there is never not enough time to "do everything," especially since we continue to discover new things to do, but still want to do the stuff we've loved in the past. This year, though, we had to forgo some of the old favorites such as the Stowe Village, Sugarbush Resort, the Trapp Family Lodge and the Vermont Country Store in Weston to make way for the Bennington Potters North store in Burlington, the Stowe Arts and Crafts Festival, a trip to Springfield (I cannot believe there were no signs of the Simpson Movie premier that happened last year there - in fact, it was the dumpiest town I've ever seen in Vermont) a trip to Quechee and the gorge, plus a host of new restaurants. The crowds were a little overwhelming at times, and next year we are considering going around Veteran's Day for our Fall escape (even though we'll miss the Fall colors).

We did finally tour Hildene this year, which was really awesome. It's one of the few historic homes I've ever gone into that has all of the original furnishings and decorations. Some of the decor has been freshened up (Robert Todd Lincoln's granddaughter, the last of the Lincoln family - there are no more descendants, lived there until her death in 1975, when the Hildene Society took it over). And yes, it most likely is haunted. The tour host said that he has heard distant piano music when he's been in the house, but that's about it.

For the leaf-peepers: the colors were amazing. We had two beautiful warm days with clear blue skies and there is no way a camera could do justice to the dazzling colors and the contrast of the leaves to the sky. So, the sight of the mountains in full color will just have to remain a wonderful memory!!

NOTE: When we returned from VT I was greeted with the BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH on my laptop and now I'm back working on our 2001 Dell Dimension, which is very slow and unreliable. I'll post pictures from Vermont when I can!

Friday, October 10, 2008

We LoVERMONT!

Today we head off to Vermont for our once-yearly sanity-restoring trip to the Green Mountain State. We'll take off after the kids get out of school for the Rutland-Killington area, and will travel up and down and all around the state for a couple of days before heading home on Monday. A must see this trip: Hildene, Robert Todd Lincoln's home in Manchester (we missed it last year when it was closed for the season - we visited on Veteran's Day weekend in November). It's also a great chance to get some Christmas shopping done (BLASTED! I said it!). See you on Monday (or maybe you'll get a blog from the road!).

On a sadder note, today we say goodbye to Mom as she heads back to Turkey until June 30. We will miss her!!!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Libra Queens

Last night my Libra friends, JoAnn (September 30) and Meg (October 1), came over for our annual Libra dinner. Now I don't need to tell you again that Libras reign over all other astrological signs, if you've read the Baker Blog long enough you know that already. We've been celebrating our Libra birthdays religiously for over 15 years, and it's been great to come together (at least) once a year to take stock of our lives - we've seen a lot of ups and downs!

It was the perfect way to usher in my big day (today), which I must admit is a little less exciting this year as I turn 45. Where did the years go? I have a feeling I'm not going to feel really comfortable getting older.

The bright side (Libras always see the bright side): we're heading to Vermont for the long Columbus Day weekend as an excuse to celebrate my birthday. Long Live Libra!

Monday, October 6, 2008

It's a small town after all

It's articles like this that remind why I could never live in my hometown, Massena. Perhaps they should be a little more concerned with their crime rates, crystal meth addictions, gambling and unemployment. Hey wait! Yoga can help alleviate the stress those things can cause!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Two Teenagers at Home

Today Annalisse is FINALLY 13 (after acting 13 since she was 10 - that was a long time coming!). I remember when she was born I couldn't believe I had two kids in diapers (I never really pictured myself with little cherubs all around), and now I can't believe I have TWO teenagers. I'd better strap in, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Like any Libra, she faced October 5th with great anticipation, and reminded all those around her in the days leading up to her big day (she has learned from the Master). She opened her presents from us after church: a couple of long necklaces from her brothers (Cam and Jasper), and a pair of skinny jeans and a hair straightener (don't ask) from Mark and I. Aunt Lena took her for a make-up lesson yesterday at a nearby salon/spa (someone has to teach her that stuff!), and she's been saving birthday money for a pair of Ugg Boots. The celebration later in the day will include dinner at the Cheesecake Factory with Grandma Pat and Grandma Jeanne (Mema). Happy Happy Birthday, 'Lisse!!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My Newest Musical Obession

Thanks to Sue for turning me onto "Flight of the Conchords." Now I can't get any work done and I have to look for stuff on the Internet all night when I'm home. The two guys in the "group," Bret and Jermaine, have a show on HBO, which is a problem since I don't have HBO. Here are a couple of gems so you can get hooked:

Now you have a problem, too.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sensitive Speller

I'm one of those people that is a little sensitive about the use of the English language. One of my pet peeves is when people spell things weird in advertising or signage. In particular, today why did I need to drive by:
  • The Kountry Kitchen

And have lunch at:

  • The Koffee Kove
It makes my skin crawl! Not kool or klever. But that's just me.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Don't Leave the North Country Without One!

I'll be traveling up north tomorrow for Monday graduate fairs, and when I get there (or somewhere along the way) I will have to stop for a Jrecks sub. Only people who have experienced the oily goodness of a Jrecks sub can attest to the ingredients being the perfect combination of meat, cheese, lettuce, and dressings all cradled in a manageably soft sub roll (what is it with these sub shops in Rochester [and elsewhere]? Do they think my mouth opens to the size of a grapefruit? How am I supposed to eat the gigantic hard crusted subs they all have??). Ask anyone from Northern New York - I challenge you to find someone who has left that area who does not obsess about stopping for a Jrecks sub when they "go home." If you feel like going to a Jrecks and impersonating me, here's what you say as you move through the line:

"1/2 ham and provolone cheese on white, mayonnaise-Russian-and-oil, everything but pickles, hot peppers, and shakers."

Of course, with every magical moment there comes not-so-magical moments about an hour later. We call it "Jrecks Revenge," and let's just say you should keep an eye out for the nearest restroom after you enjoy your sub.

Friday, September 26, 2008

What Annalisse Learned in School

Last night Annalisse told us what causes a stomach ache: stomach asses. Another Annalisse-ism is born.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hanging with the Cousins

Last night we had a chance to spend some quality time with Jackson. It was only about two hours, and he slept for half of it, but it was still fun. It reminded me of the demands of a baby, especially since we were relative strangers (no pun intended) and I wasn't sure if he was hungry, tired or just plain upset about being in a strange setting. After a fussy dinner of mashed bananas and avocados, we high-tailed it out for a walk in the stroller as a distraction. We made our way down the street and he was asleep by the fourth house. That sort of put an end to our plans of introducing him to the baby ice cream cone (vanilla custard) at Moonlight Creamery. He headed back to Popo's about 7:30pm, a very tired boy - it's got to be tough still struggling with the seven-hour time difference. The "big kids" loved taking care of him and fussing over him, and we will miss him when he's gone!!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Introducing Jackson!

Here's a picture of our nephew, Jackson, who is almost 8 months old. We met him for the first time this weekend. He is so sweet and very jolly. Wasn't he worth the wait?!

Jasper and Mercy Recreate Famous Painting

Yesterday, Jasper and Mercy recreated Michangelo's famous painting, God Giving Life to Adam, as seen on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I'm not sure which one is playing "God" and which is "Adam." It's about time we got an updated version.






No Nap Weekend

What a crazy weekend! We started the marathon on Friday (which was also our 21st wedding anniversary - and they said it would never last.. Who said?!). Our activities are probably best conveyed through bullet points:

Friday: Work, anniversary lunch, shopping for ingredients for a couple of salads and supplies for a picnic at our house on Saturday, dog walk, and pick up relatives arriving from Turkey at 10:20pm. Bedtime at 11:30.

Saturday: Up early, go to the market, make salads, clean, greet visitors, have fun at picnic, clean up, go to Okoberfest with neighbors, walk dog, collapse into bed.

Sunday: Up early again, go to church by 7:45am to set up coffee hour, take dog to field, go to dim sum at noon, go to the People to People reunion meeting at 2pm, go shoe shopping, walk down to McCardles for a light dinner.

You'll notice that the last two days were missing the prime ingredient that makes for a successful Baker weekend experience. I'll give you a hint: it starts with an "N" and I'll be starting out the week tired without it. Maybe I'll be able to sleep at work.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

If we're mulching, it must be summer!

With blatant disregard for the fact that fall arrives next week, a couple of weeks ago we ordered mulch for our beds and gardens. I know it's late, but somehow the summer passed us by and we finally got around to working on the yard a little more (beyond the incessant weeding caused by a lot of rain this summer). My other goal for this year's yard was to outline the beds with field stones. We were lucky to connect with a lady at the dog field who just happened to be getting rid of a lot of stones (she was reconfiguring the gardens around her yard), so after a couple of trips to her place we are almost done! Between the fresh mulch and the big rocks everything looks really nice and very tidy. We still have a lot to do in the back yard, including the herb garden, but at least the front is done. I find a beautiful lawn really satisfying. I must be an adult now.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Conversation after School

My daily call at work around 2:30pm:

Cam: "I'm home"

Mom: "How was school?"

Cam: "Good"

Mom: "What did you do?"

Cam: "Stuff."

Mom: "Do you have homework?"

Cam: "A little."

Mom: "Okay, I'll talk to you later."

A (young) man of few words...

Countdown to Jackson

On Friday we'll finally meet our new cousin, Jackson, as he returns to the states for a three-week visit. We'll only see him for a week before he jets off to California for a visit with his relatives there, but we're looking forward to spending time with him and doting on him a little. Amazingly, he's almost 9 months old already. Mom, who's spending the year with him in Turkey, keeps us up-to-date on his progress and unabiding cuteness, so, while he'll be meeting us for the first time, it seems like we know him already. What a well-travelled kid!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

With Far-Away Dreams of Summer

There's nothing like the first full week of school to make you feel frantic and exhausted. We went from leisurely mornings and lazy days to:

Time to get up! Get dressed! C'mon, get moving! What's for breakfast? Are you buying or bringing? It's too cold to wear that! Brush your teeth! Do you have all your stuff? One out the door by 6:40am. Did you take the dog out? Feed the cat! Okay, let's finish reading that chapter! Pick up your breakfast dishes! Second one out the door by 7:15am. Having them make their beds in the morning has become an unrealistic fantasy.

Welcome to packed days from 6am until I collapse on the couch to watch a little TV at 8:30pm (168 channels and NOTHING ON)! Now, we'll march like zombies through the school year with dreams of next summer.
...What, you got into the play? And you have to be there until 5 each day, then do your homework, then go to choir practice? Urghhh...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

New Vacuum, meet the reason we need a new vacuum

Last night we got around to getting a new vacuum cleaner. We ended up with a Dyson DC14 which was a little on the pricey side but, based on Baker Blog reader feedback, worth it. We haven't had a chance to give the whole house the once-over, but the picture at the right is the result of vacuuming the dining room alone. Of course, Jasper came running when he heard the vacuum cleaner hoping to get a vacuum massage.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Fourth Avenue Hootenanny

Last night under balmy late-summer skies, we had our Fourth Avenue picnic. It wasn't a hootenanny with singing or anything (but don't you love that word?), but there was definitely a positive vibe as neighbors enjoyed each other's company (not to mention each other's culinary treasures and baked goods). The party started about 6pm with the closing of the streets, and the kids were out of control (in a good way) riding their bikes and running wild up and down the street and through the lawns. After we cleaned up, we headed to the Nune's for a patio bonfire. Admittedly, all that was missing was an acoustic guitar and a rousing medley of Beatles songs. And so we say goodbye to summer for another year.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Most Wonderful Day of the Year

It's finally here!! The first day of school! The kids are easing in with just two days this week, but that's enough to whip Annalisse into a frenzy of excitement, and to get Cameron to "sorta" act like he's interested in going back to school. It's off to the high school for Cameron (10th grade - he left in the dark at around 6:30am), and this year Annalisse will "rule the school" as an eighth grader.

So off they go - it will be June before we know it! The dog will sure be bored with them gone.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Drowing in a Sea of Dog Hair

You can't say we weren't warned. When we decided to get a Golden Retriever (and decided to get a SECOND Golden Retriever), everyone talked about the never ending piles of dog hair we'd have have to clean up. But, I didn't think I'd ever be obsessing about the possibility that some day I would actually win the war on dog hair - and I don't think I ever will - but, I am trying a couple of strategies to cut down on the white and gold tumbleweeds that dominate my rugs and hardwood floors:
  • We broke down and bought the Furminator. People claim it's a miracle "cure," but I suppose it's only as good as the amount times you're willing to furminate, which takes time and additional raking of the yard to gather up all the wayward fur. Luckily, Jasper loves to be furminated.
  • We vacuum the dog...and he loves it! Whenever I break out the vacuum cleaner he comes from wherever he is in the house and follows me around until I take one of the hoses and give him the once over.
  • I'm considering buying a vacuum cleaner that's rated #1 for managing pet hair. The bad news is my upright has died, my old canister vacuum cleaner is left with just one wheel and the hose/attachments, and I really need to vacuum. So, I went to Sears yesterday to get the lowdown on new vacuum cleaners and was directed to one of the Dyson models. I've since done some Internet research on vacuums for pet fur and the Dyson seems to be the brand everyone's talking about. However, at $400, I think we'll get an estimate on fixing our upright first.
Since most of the house is covered in hardwood floors, we'll have to explore our options in the war on dog hair. In the meantime, I'll just keep sweeping my hands along the floors to pick up the piles that form minutes after I put the vacuum away.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Girl Time

I'm almost 45 and I had my first pedicure yesterday. Obviously, a late bloomer when it comes to doing that extra stuff for myself. My sister, Mary is a very girly-girl, and Annalisse will admit that sometimes she wishes she had Mary for a mother because Mary loves shopping, make-up, jewelry and perfume. I missed that critical stage during my development when girls learn how to put on makeup and generally dress stylishly.

So, Annalisse and I headed out to Head-to-Toe Essentials, parked ourselves in a massage chair for an hour, and came out with shiny toes and soft feet. Yes, it was worth it, and yes, I'd do it again!!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Seasonal Bookends

How can it be that it's Labor Day weekend already? I feel a little cheated out of summer seeing how rainy and often chilly it's been since May. But, summer is summer, and I'm bummed it's almost over. But, there's still a lot to look forward to, like:

  • The Gate's Backyard Movie Night is tonight

  • We have blissfully nothing planned for Sunday and Monday of this long weekend

  • The kids go back to school next Thursday (HURRAY!)

And I am REALLY GOING TO GET THAT WEEDING DONE THIS WEEKEND (notice a theme here...). In fact, I've hired Cameron to do most of it!!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

How Many of Me?

Every once in a while I come across a web gadget that's really cool. Yesterday an article in the paper called How Many of Me? caught my eye. Just enter your first and last names and it will tell you how many people in the U.S. share your name. If you're dying to know, there are 720 people in the U.S. with the name "Judy Baker." That number is slightly higher for those named "Judith Baker" (774). That was a little surprising because it seems likely that "Judy" would be the more common name. Annalisse, with her mildly unusual first name, has 3 or fewer doppelgangers in the U.S. (but, surprisingly, 1,525 have the exact spelling of her first name - the name has many variations).

How the heck do they do that? Finally, a good use for all that cenus data! Isn't the Internet cool?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cam's Bonus Vacation

Cameron is dancing around singing "Happy Birthday to Me" as his sister leaves for four days of music camp this morning. What could be a better way to celebrate the winding down of summer than having four more days of peace and quiet, not to mention he just found out yesterday that he doesn't go back to school THIS Thursday, but NEXT Thursday. Woo hoo!

His week without his sister does come with the caveat that he actually has to interact with humans and take the dog out once in a while. The house is stocked with snacks in anticipation of his chums' (I should use that word more...) visits and, of course, the other chores I'll dream up to "keep him busy" this week.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Blog Lite for a Friday Night

This fluffy non-substantial blog entry is brought to you by: A Non-Eventful Week. Non-eventful, however, is not exactly the same as boring. The week started out with the usual workday yada yada, but things really started getting interesting on Wednesday night (technically, Thursday morning), when I woke up and, um, had a stomach bug (the kind that results with stuff hurling out of your mouth and into the toilet). As a result, I was laid low on Thursday, barely able to get off the couch, and definitely not able to eat anything (that's one way to lose weight...this morning is the first time I dared step on the scale in MONTHS).

I had originally planned to take the kids to Seabreeze for the day, but that plan had to be scrapped and put aside until today. So today we, and a zillion other people, headed to the park for the last hurrah of summer (it didn't help that it was 90 degrees).

Tomorrow morning we're heading up to Letchworth State Park at 8am for an early morning breakfast with Mark's cousin, Sue, and her family. Then Mark (and possibly me, I haven't decided yet) are heading to the Village for the Fairport Music and Food Festival. I may just take a nap...

It's blog entries like these that make me wonder if I should do a blog...does anyone care? Of course you do! Thanks for visiting!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Girls Just Want to Have Fun

And now a rambling long-awaited account of our girls weekend:

We had a great time at 1,000 Acres Ranch! It was a beautiful setting with the Hudson River running along one side of the ranch (a great way to great the morning from my balcony) and a mountain on the other side. The year was 1986 (probably the last time it was painted and the carpets were replaced), and we stepped into a time warp that was a cross between Dirty Dancing ("nobody puts baby in a corner") and the Wedding Crashers (we were the crashers). Most of the people were from the New York City area and New Jersey, and they all seemed to know each other. It turns out that most of the 200 visitors to the Ranch that week have come back year after year and have developed lasting friendships that go on long after the pool is closed for the season. The 1,000 Acre Ranch lives up to its name of being family friendly - boy, were there a lot of kids around, including in the bar at 11pm.

Enough about the setting, and onto the girls. Everyone was really happy to be together for a change of scenery and a bit of escape from our day-to-day lives. The ranch had various activities (talent show and bonfire on the beach on Friday night, and country line dancing lessons on Saturday night), including a great horseback ride through the woods. Meals were included, and of course, there was beer involved. Sue and I got into the martinis on Saturday night and the bed hasn't spun that way for me in a long time!

Poor Gina, she didn't feel well all weekend. She was battling a cold and fever, but was a real trouper. Kathy was not able to join us as tragically, her sister passed away on Friday, the day we left for our adventure. She was in our thoughts all weekend, though, and we hope she'll join us next year. That left just the five of us, including Heather and Lorie, and we had a lot of laughs. On Saturday, we took a ride to Lake George, which was about 20 minutes away from the ranch, where we spent the afterenoon and had lunch. We all got temporary tattoos with the Chinese character for "friendship." I tried to rub mine off before work today but it's not budging!

So, until next year, it's back to the real world until we can escape again!