Thursday, December 30, 2010

An end to washing dishes like a pioneer

Little things mean a lot. Especially, when it comes to my new dishwasher.

Some background: Our dishwasher gasped its last breath back in April. At the time, we didn't want to run out and get one (financially), and, I reasoned: I washed dishes by hand for nine years when we lived in our first house, and there were even two babies involved, so I should be able to wash dishes without a dishwasher for a little while, at least. Besides, I really don't mind doing dishes and actually find it a little relaxing; queuing up my fave tunes and settling in for a little scrubbing.

Except that, for whatever reason, my tap water doesn't get hot enough to really get the dishes clean and every time I wash dishes I have to boil a kettle of water. REAL OLD, REAL SOON. Why not then, you ask, get a dishwasher sooner? Well, the reason is probably one that many will think is odd...

My laptop died right around the same time as my dishwasher. It came down to deciding what I wanted more: a new laptop or a new dishwasher. Since the dishwasher gig wasn't all that bad and I really wanted a new laptop, the laptop won.

Now, eight months down the line I've had it with having to boil a kettle of water in order to do the dishes. So, on Tuesday we headed out to Sears and got our new dishwasher. I warned everyone in the house to resist the urge to remind me that I "got a new dishwasher for Christmas," because surely if it was my present I would have chosen something a little more exciting (like my awesome new winter coat that feels like I'm wearing a fluffy, down pillow!). So, our new Bosch dishwasher was delivered on Tuesday, it all it's shiny, stainless steel glory. Last night I ran the first load through and it's nice to have sparkly, super clean dishes, glasses, and silverware again!

In other house renovation news: the Renovation 2011 projects are underway. In late January, we're having the moulding put up in the back room (Mark's cave) in preparation for Jeff, our painter, to paint that room. We are also having the side entryway and Annalisse's room painted in early February. So, while I have my projects lined up for this week, so does Mark: he's stripping wallpaper off "The Cave" walls. Little by little, we are marking stuff off "THE LIST."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Happy Birthday to my OLD LADY!

Happy 80th Birthday today to my mother, Aline! I hope she finds glorious wealth from the $20 in scratch-offs that I sent her in the mail. Have fun today, Mom!!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

'Twas the day after Christmas...

...and of course I'm up by 6am doing laundry and other chores.

It as a great couple of days, punctuated by lots of family and fun surprises. Regular readers of The Fabulous B@ker Blog will know that sometimes Christmas really send me over the edge, but that's mostly just the "lead up"; the crazy store decorations and sales, the holiday music in November, the emphasis on spending. But when all is said and done, it's great to see the extended family and, if I've done my job well, paying attention throughout the year, the gift giving is very rewarding.

This year followed the same comforting format of all the years that came before: Christmas Eve service, the Christmas Eve party at Uncle Pete's and Aunt Mary's (who is thankfully doing really well after her tough fall battling lung cancer), then the "silent night, holy night" prep for the big morning.

On Christmas morning I got up early and fed pup, took him out, turned on the lights and waited. And waited. It sure is different from when the kids were little and and were clamoring down the stairs to see if Santa came. Mom Shiao got her apple kuchen in the oven, then we were ready for the festivities to begin.

The kids' big gifts this year were iPads. Since we didn't do a lot of ski stuff for Christmas, and the kids aren't doing ski club this year, we decided to spend that $$ on what I think will be a useful and fun device for them. They were surprised and happy. SCORE!
After unwrapping our gifts, we headed over to Nara and Jim's for some breakfast and more presents. While there, we "skyped" Dave, Mandy and the kids and chatted with them for a while (Skyping, by the way, is really awesome and a great way to stay connected. The future of the video phone is NOW, George Jetson.)

Then, in the afternoon (all the while fighting off the urge to nod off) we headed down to Grandma Pat's for our Christmas with her. It was a fun time, and a great dinner of bacon-wrapped filet mignon that Mark cooked on the grill. DELISH! By 5pm we were all hitting the wall, so we headed home, unpacked our goodies, and settled in for a movie. Cam got a text from his friend Zack around 7pm and headed to his friend Cody's for the night (he perked right up and started gathering his stuff when he got the note), and he'll be back sometime this morning (then most likely will sleep most of the day away).

So, here I sit, with a hot mug of Jamaican Me Crazy coffee, trying to get motivated so we can go to the mall and get a new dishwasher (I think washing dishes by hand since April is a great demonstration of patience and endurance, don't you?).

Best wishes for the First Day of Christmas from Bakers!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I Deserve a Break Today

Rarely have I ever looked more forward to a break than I am to my vacation that starts at around 2pm tomorrow! While I'm sure I felt exactly the same way last year at this time, forgetfulness is a kind mistress since I jumped back on the horse and rode at a quick pace for the last year.

Long live sanity restoring vacations!

(Hey wait! What if it turns out to be a stressful, contentious vacation with two bored teenagers? Still TOTALLY WORTH IT!)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cam's Big News!

How can it be that it's December 20 and I have neglected to announce to the world via The Fabulous B@ker Blog that Cam was accepted to RIT on December 8?!

Wow, that one definitely slipped by without the attention it deserved!


Now, if how to pay for it...?...

Cookie Overload (Not a bad thing)

Last night we hosted the Seventh Annual Fourth Ave Cookie Exchange, which, of course, included a lot more than cookies. Wine, 12 different kinds of micro-brews, my famous ('round these parts) homemade eggnog, some simple appetizers, and, of course, the stars of the night: the cookies. I love the way our house looks at Christmastime, with the soft glow of the tree, the mantle lights, and the candles. That's probably why I have such a hard time taking the lights off the mantle until mid-February.

It was great seeing all our neighbors as we don't see them quite so often with the snowy, cold weather (not to mention it gets dark so early these days), and it's so much fun to see all the kids from year-to-year - they are growing up so fast.

Enjoy some pictures from our night:

Couch Potatoes

Annalisse and Smiley Riley


More guests

The Cookie Load

The Nog


Geoff and Chris

Unfortunately, we are "stuck" with the leftover cookies. Oh well, might as well make the best of it!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Vacation Countdown

While I know we should not dismiss our moments as we wait for others to arrive, I CANNOT WAIT UNTIL CHRISTMAS VACATION. One more week until I'm off for 10 days, and I really feel like I need the downtime. It's been a crazy, stressful fall and I just want to chill out at home and work on some once-a-year projects like:
  • Clean out the cellar and arrange all the garage sale stuff (dreaming of June - there I go not living in the moment again...)
  • File two years worth of kids "to keep" stuff in their memory bins in the attic
  • Put approx. 700 pictures into photo albums (this idea deserve a blog entry all its own)
  • Take down the wallpaper in Mark's cave to get it ready for painting in February
  • Relocate all the games in the cupboards to make room for the 30 photo albums
Of course, beyond the projects, on the vacation list are (these mostly go without saying):
  • Sleep late
  • Walk with pup to get coffee every morning
  • Take naps
  • Get up to see Mary for quick overnight if the weather allows
  • Don't eat too much (very hard this time of year)
So, ONE MORE WEEK. Give me strength.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fly In

There is a right way and a wrong way to spend time in Chicago.

The Right Way: fly in, check into a great hotel downtown, walk around, do some shopping, eat at some great restaurants, see the sights.

The Wrong Way: fly in, check into the hotel connected to the airport, spend two days in meeting room, and experience mounting anxiety about your ability to get out of that snowy hell before the blizzard hits.

I spent this weekend seeing Chicago "the wrong way." Luckily I was able to catch an early flight out before Mother Nature wrecked havoc on the Chicago area. But, it wasn't as bad as it sounds...I got to spend time with some great colleagues, met some new folks and got back to Rochester in time for dinner on Saturday night. Whew!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Saying Goodbye to Ma Bell

I lost a very important person today: Barb Bell, my best friend Sue's mom who was like a second mother to me. She had been in declining health for several months, and today she passed away peacefully at Sue and Ken's home in Roanoke. She's now at peace, joining her beloved husband, Jack, who passed away 30 years ago.

I am heartbroken, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. I often tell people I got my sense of humor from the Bells (and their cousin San) as they were always such fun people, never taking themselves too seriously and finding fun whereever they went. Charades, a colander on your head at the New Year's party, enjoying that "generous" glass of wine, and our favorite British comedies. For God's sake, would I even know Benny Hill existed if not for the Bells?

The Bell family, and especially Ma, always welcomed me with open arms as if I were one of their own. Growing up I spent so many nights there I had my own toothbrush. They knew if I was going to have dinner with them something was sure to get spilled, and every once in a while, when I helped clean up, the milk would end up in the cupboard. I'll never live that down.

Ma Bell and her children were genuinely "friends." I can't recall a time when Lisa, Tim or Sue gave their mom trouble. There was so much love and respect there. Sue and Ken did an amazing job taking care of Ma Bell in her last months, with frequent help from sister Lisa and cousin San, and I'm sure they considered every minute of it (and what were some very stressful, worrisome, and scary moments) a great privilege, and never a burden.

So, goodbye, Ma Bell. You were loved and will be missed, and someday we'll see each other again.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Our Crooked, Full/Flat, Holey Tree

I should have know when we found it so quickly. But it looked so "perfect" in the field, and had those nice, soft needles. I continue to think it's a really cute tree, a little on the small side, full on one side, flat on the other, and a big gap at the top. Annalisse needed a little more convincing, calling it ugly and small.

Just like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree, it seemed to come to life once I got the lights and decorations on it. For the barren spot near the top, I hung a beautiful glass ornament, which looked great with a light right behind it.

After it was decorated, I stood back and exclaimed, "It's the most beautiful tree we've ever had!" - just like every other year!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Have Yourself a Melancholy Christmas

As we enter the season of Advent, and the world "waits" for the happy promise of Christmas, I am reminded how hard this season can be, and will be, for several folks I care very much about. Please keep in your thoughts and prayers our friends and family who are facing devastating loss and health challenges this year:
  • My cousins Lisa, Frank, Joey and their families on the loss of Uncle Joe, and especially Auntie, who has suffered the devastating loss of her husband, her big brother, and now her little brother
  • Barb "Ma" Bell, a woman who is a second mother to me, during her battle with cancer
  • Sue and Ken, and when they can help out, Lisa, and San, who are so willingly and lovingly making Ma Bell so comfortable during her decline in health
  • My coworker, Jo, as she faces yet another surgery after which has been a discouraging and scary year with her health issues
  • Taylor in the loss of her mom, and Hannah in the loss of her dad
  • Our cousin Sue and her family in the loss of John this year
  • Aunt Mary TV, on her health challenges this year
  • And lastly, for my mother with the challenges that come to adjusting to her new life living with my sister, Carol, and for Carol, who has also had some recent heath issues, including emergency appendix surgery. Especially for Carol having to deal with the challenges that come with helping my mother out day-to-day!
I'm sure there are many others who are silently suffering, but you are all in my thoughts, especially at this time of year.

The other day I was reminded of one of my favorite Christmas songs, as sung by the legendary Judy Garland. Judy's version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" lends just the right melancholy interpretation for which I believe this song was meant. It's so heartfelt, and reminds me that, while Christmas is a happy time for many, for some it's a reminder of loss and challenge.

"Someday soon, we all will be together, if the fates allow
Until then, we'll have to muddle through some how..."