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Friday, December 30, 2011

Goodbye, 2011

How is it possible that it is the end of the year already? At times it is very disconcerting how fast the years go now. It seems as good a time as any to reflect on the highs and lows of the last year, which, overall, was a pretty good one.

If I had to think about a theme (or, in this case, several themes) for 2011, they would be:

Milestones ~ Connections ~ Travel ~ Fun


Milestones

An 18th birthday, a high school graduation, a 30th class reunion, starting college, a 16th birthday, a 50th birthday. WOW, those are a lot of exciting, important events for one year.  I made it through mostly all of them without a lot of tears (of happiness). Milestones really do help us mark the passage of time, don't they?

Connections

This was truly a year of connections - spending time with loved ones and reconnecting with those who mean a lot but who we don't see all the time. Cam's graduation and celebrating Annalisse's Sweet 16 and Mark's 50 gave us many great opportunities to spend time with family and friends this year.

Especially fun was my 30th reunion and seeing so many of my great, old school chums (that' a word I don't use enough), especially Derb and Rick Martin and Mike Hayes from the old neighborhood. Through the power of Facebook (observations of which I've written about here) seeing my classmates was extra special since we had been in touch a lot before the event. I don't care what people say...while technology can isolate people, my experience is that it brings people closer together.

Another wonderful family connection this year was having my niece, Nic, move to Fairport. We've had so much fun with her and her boyfriend, Patrick!!

Travel (and fun other stuff)

Looking back, I was in and out and up and down a lot this year, and had the opportunity to experience a lot of different (and in some cases, new) cities. It stated in January with a trip to Ft. Lauderdale with my national association, which was cool because I had never been there. Who could refuse Florida in January? Not me. It was a nice little reprieve to help me through the winter months in New York.

In February, Annalisse took her first solo flight to Baltimore to spend a couple of days with Mom Shiao/Mema, Jackson and Amelie in Arlington. She felt so good about doing that all on her own. I was proud of her, too.

In April we traveled to Roanoke to visit Sue and take a look at Roanoke College - the highlight of which was visiting Jefferson's Monticello in Charlottesville. Also in April I spent a week at the NAGAP conference in Washington, DC, during which I got my iPad!

In May we didn't travel very far from home but had a  surprise visit from our nephew, Anthony, who was passing through town on his way back to Raleigh, NC. Also in May was the Sophomore dance and Annalisse's play, Arsenic and Old Lace. So you see, we were too busy to travel in May!

June was taken up with the end of the crew season and a kinda-sorta important event: Cam's graduation and the weeks leading up to it.

In July it was back to Las Vegas for the NAGAP board meeting. The Las Vegas trip was probably one of the funnest things I did all year as my sister Mary, Annalisse and I had had non-stop laughter for four days. (And speaking of connections, it was wonderful to see our cousins Patsy, Nancy and their families while we were there.)

August found us back on the road to Virgina (to Arlington) to visit Mom Shiao, Dave and the kids. We also played tourist and visited the National Mall and Mount Vernon (that's two president's homes in one year if you're keeping track).  We also had a chance to see our German exchange student, Belinda for a brief visit and got a chance to meet her mom and sister, Caroline, who will be staying with us for two weeks this coming May. At the end of August we were mostly focused on getting Cam ready for RIT, for which he departed on August 31.

In September I joined "my girls" for our yearly get together in Gettysburg (another weekend filled with much fun and laughter). Also in September I also traveled to Philadelphia for a quick trip to attend a graduate fair for NAGAP, and had a chance to hang out with Derb for the evening. Too. Much. Wine. but great memories and fun conversation!

In October I was on the road locally quite a bit for graduate fairs, and also traveled to Chicago for the NAGAP Board Meeting. Chicago has become one of my favorite towns!

In November we only traveled as far as Buffalo for the very memorable Mat Kearney concert to celebrate Annalisse's birthday.

...And that brings us December, a month with no travel but an extremely busy month nonetheless as we get ready to start a new year of visiting new (and exotic?) places!

Fun

It's probably evident through all our travels and events this year that it ended up being a really fun  and special year. This year I think I learned to let go a little and to not take things too seriously. It was a year of understanding and appreciating what is truly important, and to stop every once in a while to count our blessings. A great year, overall!

Remembering

As memorable as this year was for us, it was not easy for many with personal and family losses. As the calendar turns, I think about Camille and Dave on their loss of Nick in August, Carla and Steven on the loss of dad/husband Larry a week before Christmas, Clare in the loss of her mom before Christmas, Steve and Jan in the loss of Jan's dad, Bob, who was a long time friend of Mark's dad, Charlie. There we so many touched by weather and natural disasters this year also. I can't even imagine their lose. Many others, known and unknown, through the year  have lost loved ones and faced personal and professional challenges, and I hope 2012 will bring comfort and a renewed sense of hope for all.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Week Chores

Among all the merriment and celebrations (and laying on the couch watching movies and naps) I do actually count on getting certain things accomplished during the week between Christmas and New Years. I'm happy to say I'm making pretty good progress on my yearly chores this week. Here's a sampling of the compellingly mundane stuff I do during this brief window of sanity before January hits again:

  • File all the kids special momentos collected over the last year in their "memory tubs" in the attic. This year there was some great stuff because of Cam's graduation and Annalisse's Sweet 16. I'm just hoping they'll appreciate it when they buy their first home(s) and I get to give them 5 or 6 large plastic tubs containing their artwork/projects (from daycare on up), report cards, school papers or essays I thought they might find interesting later, magazine and newspapers highlighting significant current events, t-shirts from special events or camps or whatnot, and other random stuff. Thanks, Mom. Now where am I supposed to put all this stuff?
  • File all the bills and paperwork from the last year. Keep the important things, bring the rest to work for the locked incinerator bin. Mark could never do this task because he never throws anything away.
  • Place my yearly photo order. This year I'm up to 885 pix over the last year. I'm one of those people who fears that in this digital age, we won't have any actual, printed pictures for the future. Think about it: we now take hundreds of pictures with our digital cameras and many people never print them. What if their computer crashes? What if the media changes and at some point they can't access their pictures anymore? Better get those pictures printed!
  • Buy photo albums for said pictures and put them in. This takes a while but is a good activity for hanging on the couch while I'm watching a movie. Between naps, that is.
  • Catch up on my reading...mostly on my pile of magazines, to make time for reading the new books I got for Christmas (David Sedaris' Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk and Miss Peregrine's Home Peculiar Children), as well as my upcoming bookclub book(s) (I'll miss the January meeting so I need to start The Hunger Games for February).
  • Clean out old clothes. It's amazing to me that I fill several bags worth of cast-off clothing to donate every year. We have too much stuff.
  • Take the Christmas tree down on New Years day. Always a tedious activity and I'll be sad to see it go. It brings such soft, warm light to the cold winter nights. As a consolation prize I'll leave the lights on the mantle until mid-February. That should get me through. 
Then, there is the usual running around of the kids during Christmas week, and this year is no exception. How awesome it is not to be working this week, though. I'm hoping I can return to work on Tuesday refreshed and ready to meet the challenges of a new year. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mom

Aline in July
Aline in her younger days
A very happy 81st birthday to my mom, Aline, today. 

I hope she has a 
great day!



Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Very Baker Christmas

Two days after Christmas I finally have a chance to post an update on all the festivities.

Saturday's Christmas Eve followed a very intense, busy week at work and it took me a little while to unwind and realize I actually have 10 DAYS OFF! HURRAY!

One of the great dilemmas this year was when/where to go to church on Christmas Eve. We love our church, but our services were at 5:30, 7:30 and 11pm, none of which really fit into the Christmas Eve plans of getting to Aunt Mary and Uncle Peter's in a reasonable time for their annual family party, which started anytime after 8pm. Sure, the 5:30 service would have worked for us, but...OH ALL THOSE KIDS. If we attended the 7:30 service, we would not have gotten to the gathering until after 9, and 11pm - forget it. We considered going to our old church which had a 6pm service, but it's a little too contemporary for our taste. So, for the first time that I can ever remember we did not go to Christmas Eve service. This bothered me a lot, and I decided next year we would most likely go to our 7:30pm service since the party didn't really get started until close to 9pm anyway. I really missed going this year as I enjoy the hymns, pastor's message, and the generally "all is calm, all is bright" feeling about Christmas Eve.

Moving on...we went to Mary and Pete's and had a great time with our Versprille relatives, especially cousins Sarah and Otto, who are indie musicians that nowadays we only see once a year, at holiday time. (They play, or have played with the band Vetiver, and Sarah and her boyfriend Dan are currently developing their own project, Pure Bathing Culture). By 11pm, we were whipped so we headed home where I had  to prep the baked french toast and stuff stockings for Christmas morning before hitting the sack around midnight (which is about three hours past my usual bedtime).

I got up around 7am on Christmas morning, did all my chores (made a kuchen, baked the french toast, fed and walked Jasper, turned on all the lights) and waited and waited for the sugarplums to awaken. They finally 'roused around 8am (my, how things have changed) and we proceeded to open our stockings and presents. Much fun all around! Cameron, probably to his dismay, ended up with a lot of much-needed clothes this year. Being on the debate team, he received a nice dress shirt, t-shirts, and socks, along with some RIT sweat pants and his RIT Crew shell/jacket. He also received a raquetball racquet as he's taken that up at school.

Annalisse received a lot of clothes as well, but she likes that stuff. She also got a cute wallet thingy, and had fun with her "big" gift, the upscale camera we helped her buy earlier in the month.

After presents, we got dressed and headed over to Lena and Ken's for our Shiao family breakfast, which was also a lot of fun. We had a mid-afternoon break before heading to Grandma Pat's for a ham dinner and more presents. WHEW!! Grandma was incredibly generous, as always!

Our great day finished with us watching a couple of episodes of Boardwalk Empire, which I'm not sure we'll really get into. We'll give it a couple more episodes before we decide.

Exhausted, we ended our day, looking forward to a leisurely, unstructured, lay-around kind of week!!! It was a great Christmas - we have so much to be thankful for!!


Never a truer word was spoken

Cool wallet thingy

Bad picture but awesome new iPad case

Our Golden Christmas Wish

Breakfast at Lena & Ken's. Cameron looks thrilled.

Lena's tree

Christmas morning. The calm before the storm.

He came!

Cool purse

Cam's "big" present

He's watching you!

Sisters!

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Sweetest Thing!

The only thing better than the feeling of a Friday night is...

A FRIDAY NIGHT THAT BEGINS A VACATION WILL LAST FOR 10 DAYS! If you want to find me I'll be on the couch in my sweatpants.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bringing Back the Light

Today is the Winter Solstice, which means...we made it through the darkest part of the year. Every day it will become a little lighter, which is of great joy to me. I'm always amazed when, at some point in January I leave work and all of a sudden it's light instead of dark out. The seasons certainly do turn, don't they?

Though still in darkness, we will find the light in the days to come as we celebrate Christmas...with a little help from the 700 lights on our tree.

Side note: Looks like we'll be having a white Christmas as there is still no snow, and even though the Winter Solstice marks the beginning of winter, it means we have just three more months until the ground comes alive again! It's the eternal optimist in me, I suppose.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Longest Week

Arise...now commences the longest work week of the year. Or, if you ask Annalisse, the longest school week of the year. Or, if you ask Cameron, the longest, most awesome sitting-alone-in-the-living-room-playing-video-games-and-watching-movies-wrapped-in-a-comforter-with-Jasper-nearby-while-everybody-else-is-at-work-or-school week of the year. I guess it all depends on your point-of-view.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Shakes Takes Downstage

Last night was Downstage's first show of the season, and the beginning of Annalisse "Shakes" Baker's second year with this great, talented bunch of kids.

(If you're just joining us, Downstage is Fairport High School's comedy improv troupe. You can read about when Annalisse was selected here.)

This year there are five new members, to replace the five who graduated in June. One of the most awesome things about last night's show, in addition to the great laughs and our pride on how much growth (in comedy confidence, not size) the kids have shown since June, was that the five members who graduated, Jacob, Mark, Kate, Mitch and Jimmy, were at the show. It was great to see them and I know the kids enjoyed having them there.

After the show, as is the Downstage tradition, the kids got a couple of pizzas and had a sleepover (this time at our house). As I write this, there are eight out of the 10 kids sprawled across my living room. The bacon is cooking, the pancake mix is waiting, the coffee is brewed and the laughs live on!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Zombies are Scary

Hey, didn't I graduate with you?
Annalisse and I are halfway through the second season of AMC's zombie-tastic series, The Walking Dead, and I'm telling you: ZOMBIE ARE FREAKY SCARY. Oh, they're alright if you encounter them one at a time, but if they swarm you, you are doomed. Why, oh, why do I watch The Walking Dead before bed?

I think zombies are actually pretty funny. I enjoyed their staring roles in Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland, and it was probably only a matter of time before they got their own series.

So the next time you encounter a zombie (a single one, not a swarm), just remember: Zombies were people, too.

Side note: the star of The Walking Dead is Andrew Lincoln, who has one of my favorite roles in one of my favorite movies, Love Actually - a holiday fave at the Baker's. Love him!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Dreams of Martin Street

For the last two nights I've had dreams of my Nonnie's house on Martin Street. It's been pretty weird, consisting of situations where we're going through the stuff that existed when she lived there and discussing meaningful momentos.

The house on Martin Street is now for sale since my Uncle Joe passed away last November. It's a real shame that no one in the family can take it over, having been in the family since probably the mid-1930's. The house as it stands today does not exactly look the same on the outside, but the basic design still exists on the inside - enough to evoke strong, wonderful memories.

You've read about my childhood spent as part of a big Italian family (Nonnie had 11 siblilings, two of which had passed away by the time I was born) several times before, including this post and this one, and most of that time was spent in the house on Martin Street, which was a magnet for nightly extended family activity. In fact, five of Nonnie's siblings lived right Martin Street, and two lived just around the corner. Two other brothers lived within two miles. The only member of our family still living on Martin Street is Aunt Carol (93? 94?), who is actually on my Grandfather's side of the family.

How fortunate I was to have lived during such a special time that bridged the generations!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Seriously, how could anyone, especially Santa, resist this face?

My Friday

Today is my Friday as Mark and I are taking off work tomorrow (I suppose that makes it "his" Friday, too) to embark on our annual Christmas shopping extravaganza. List in hand, we will most likely knock off most of our shopping all in one day, come home, wrap the bootie, and stow it safely beneath the tree. Then, when Annalisse gets home from school she will all of  a sudden notice that presents have magically appeared and her excitement will rise 10 decibles. (Funny how Cameron never had the same reaction. Kids!) It's a little deceiving, though, since only a portion of the gifts are for her - but, whatever.

The early highlight of the day will be going to the Chit Chat Cafe in Victor for breakfast, a once a year treat since we don't usually go out for breakfast. Then we'll head over to Eastview to pick stuff up there, then, who knows? Maybe I'll even get a nap in if we get done quickly. Now THAT would make for a perfect day!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

O Christmas Tree! 2011 Edition

The tree is up, the house is decorated, we are ready! (Except for the shopping part.) Once again, we have a beautiful tree - isn't that what I say every year? I absolutely love the glow of the tree at night and always miss it when we take it down (although I am always totally ready to take it down and get on with the new year...). Even though I do tend to get a little annoyed with Christmas at times, I do love the soft glow of our decorations combined with the warmth of the fireplace. Sounds like I'm ready to settle in for a long winter's nap...

(Did somebody say "nap"?)

Annalisse and Nic with our tree "in the wild."

Mark preps the tree

Our Golden Elf

O Christmas Tree!

Waiting for a Christmas miracle

That damn elf gives me nightmares

My techno tree on my desk

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Groundhog Commeth?

Groundhog's Day is exactly two months from now. I cannot overstate the importance of this. Now, I shall go back into my hole until February 2.

Bullet: Dodged

Yesterday Windstream completed its takeover of Paetec, and we are relieved that Mark escaped unscathed. For now anyway, his job is secure. Here's the article from yesterday's D&C. Fingers crossed for the near, and far, future!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ready, Set, CELEBRATE!

Let the race to the new year begin!
  • Christmas cards ordered and written: CHECK!
  • Outside decorations mounted: CHECK!
  • Christmas tree in place and decorated: This Saturday!
  • Baker Holiday Cookie Exchange Scheduled: Sunday, December 18!
  • Shopping Done: OF COURSE NOT!
  • Holiday music loaded onto iPhone and iPad, including Michael Buble's new album, Christmas: CHECK!
  • Monitor amount of cookies, holiday appetizers, and wine consumed: TBD.
  • Counting down to holiday break: 22 MORE DAYS!
  • Taking a breather to reflect on the "Reason for the Season" and to think about the year gone by: I'M TRYING, I'M TRYING!
Remember that old saying, "If you need something done, give it to a busy person." Right.

Have a wonderful December!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

How Long Until the Christmas Holiday Break?

So here we are on the Sunday night after a nice mini-break since last Wednesday. As if I need to repeat this: I LOVE BEING ON VACATION. Whether it's a staycation or an awaycation, it's just awesome to hang at home or, in the case of the "real" vacation, experience new things and new places.

Cam was home on his quarter break, having wrapped up his first term at RIT. That was fast!! His grades were pretty good, except for one "C" in a 4-credit course that brought his average down. I stressed to him again how important it is that he "does well" to keep his scholarship and be on track for grad school (which he has indicated he plans to do), but I still think he's got some maturing to do...he needs to work on more homework/less fun stuff. I'm not against the fun stuff, but he needs to give his schoolwork the attention it demands. Okay, I'm all done lecturing!! That being said, it was great having him home and he was pretty pleasant for his time with us.

The break has been great for getting a lot of little things done. We decorated the house (with everything but the tree), did some baking, chipped away at the Christmas shopping, and just generally puttered around the house and did little projects.

What will this week bring? Probably lots more eating of the turkey and at least one evening program at work. Let's just say I'm counting the days until holiday break!! (27 days.)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Things to be Thankful For - 2011

I would be remiss if I didn't pause to recognize the things I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving. There are so many blessings. Of course, I'm thankful everyday (although, to be honest, I'm thankful some days more than others), but Thanksgiving is especially great because it's a no-pressure holiday with amazing food (special thanks to Grandma Pat, who is making our awesome meal today), and is a great time to be thankful for:

  • Family and friends, near and far
  • Reconnecting with old friends this year
  • Our jobs - in these dire economic times Mark and I have managed to thrive in our jobs. I'm hoping I can say the same thing next Thanksgiving since Mark's company merger happens on December 1 and there's a lot of uncertainty surrounding that transition.
  • Good health
  • Two healthy, happy (most of the time) kids who make us very proud
  • Our sweet pup, Jasper, who brings a lot of golden happiness to our lives
  • Our home - a refuge from the crazy day-to-day stuff (especially nice now that it's fireplace season)
  • Our neighborhood and wonderful neighbors
  • Technology - it's killed my attention span but enriched my life. In particular I'm thankful for my iPhone, iPad and Macbook!
  • My niece, Nicole, who moved to Fairport in March. It's been so wonderful having her and her boyfriend, Patrick, in our everyday lives!
  • Travel - and the opportunities to travel and experience new things through my national association
  • Green Mountain Coffee and Finger Lakes Coffee Roasters - helping me get every day off on the right foot!
  • Sleeping in every once in a while
  • Being married to someone who also likes to eat out
  • Humor - if we didn't laugh, we would surely cry!
Best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving for your and your family. I'm looking forward to the turkey coma later today!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

School Picture Bonanza!

Boy, did we get a bargain with Annalisse's school pictures this year.

OR DID WE?

I always get the least expensive (cheapest!) photo package for school pictures because it's basically a crapshoot. When they're good, they're usually great, but when they're "bad" they can be very, very bad indeed. So, if by chance they turn out pretty well I can always order more.

This year, we ordered Annalisse's 11th grade pictures on picture day in early September and they didn't come, and they didn't come. Then, a couple of weeks ago Annalisse was notified that her picture was lost so she needed to retake them. We received the new pictures today (which turned out great!), and were surprised that somehow we ended up with the jumbo pack: 8 X 10s, 5 X 7s, 3 X 5s, 2 X 3s, wallets, magnets, two key chains and a CD.

WHAT THE H?


That's a whole lotta Annalisse. What am I going to do with all these pictures? We don't even have this many relatives. Maybe decorate the Christmas tree? Placemats? Coasters? Use them as her senior picture...now there's an idea!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Vintage

I spent a lazy Sunday (at last!) cleaning out some closets and drawers and came across two pieces of "vintage"clothing left over from my teenhood. Over the years I've never been able to part with these two things: my Massena Red Raiders hoodie (complete with the now non-PC Indian Head) and a down vest I got for Christmas when I was maybe 13 or so (purchased, I'm sure at Levine's Department Store, where my Aunt worked and where all my clothes came from). It seems these two items are some of the last remnants of a life live "long ago."

I don't fit into the hoodie anymore, and Annalisse hardly fits into it either. I do, however, fit into the down vest, although I never really wore it when I got it, or the years following...I'm not sure I ever saw the point to a coat without arms and still don't, even though down vests are still in fashion. Maybe it's a badge of honor to have two pieces of clothing that are over 30 years old! Or the memories...oh the memories!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

City Driving Anxiety

Here I sit in a Marriott in Tarrytown, NY waiting to spend tomorrow as an exhibitor at the New York State Art Teacher's Conference. I drove here this afternoon after spending most of the day at the New York Graduate Admissions Professionals meeting at Syracuse University. I can already feel my blood pressure rising as I consider the commute north after tomorrow's long day.

The exit for Tarrytown/my hotel was literally right off the exit from the Tappan Zee Bridge, about 10-15 miles away from NYC. I can tell you I could never live in a place like this, not with all this crazy traffic. As I was coming into the area and the traffic was picking up, it was bad but NOT AS BAD as it was in the outbound traffic lane, which I will be in tomorrow at 4pm. Not ideal. I looked at alternate routes out of the city from here and there are some, but everyone goes the same way for around 13 miles at the start of the route out.

After heading out romorrow afternoon I'll be driving to Binghamton, which is approximately three hours from here. I'm tyring to get as close to Rochester without actually driving all the way home (too tired, too dark) so I can get up early on Saturday and arrive in Fairport by 10am (in order to get to the Minerva-Deland Craft Fair!). The report is it's snowing in Fairport right now so maybe it's good that I'm not there or I'd probably be cursing a blue streak.

It definitely looks like another 600 mile three day trip. Give me the calm, quaint, welcoming Fairport over the big city anytime!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Night to Remember

LAMP
Yesterday afternoon (on 11-11-11) I loaded up the car with four 16-year-old girls (a.k.a "L.A.M.P": Leighanna, Annalisse, Mo & Paige) and headed to Buffalo for the Mat Kearney concert, Annalisse's birthday present from us (the birthday celebrations just go on and on, don't they?). In case you've never heard of Mat Kearney, he's an indie folk/rock artist, and all four girls are huge fans.

The kids were so excited for the concert! We got to Buffalo around 5:30pm, found parking, and walked to a nearby TGIFriday's for dinner (their choice...). The doors opened at 7pm so we stood in line for a little bit, then entered the Town Ballroom, a cozy music hall resplendent in black walls and a mosh pit surrounded by different levels for standing. Not a seat in sight. (I must confess the idea of standing for over four hours caused a little panic for my 48-year-old self, wondering how my back and legs would be survive the night.) Like a true mom I collected all the coats and purses and let the kids go into "the pit" to get closer to the stage. Since it was such a small venue I didn't worry about them because I could watch them from where I was standing.

Mat finally took the stage around 9:30pm (2 1/2 hours of standing by now...thank God I had a railing to lean on), and the crowd went wild. Even though I wasn't really a fan before the concert, I'm definitely a fan now. He was really great: strong voice, talented musician, warm and funny in the way he interacted with the audience. At one point he stepped off the stage into the crowd and walked right past the girls, went up into the upper levels, and headed back to the stage via the stairs directly next to where I was standing. No, I did not reach out and touch him. That would be creepy.

For Mat's encore he invited Leagues, the opening band back out on stage and they performed...wait for it...my current favorite earworm...PUMPED UP KICKS! How awesome was that?! Since Annalisse knew it was one of my favorites she was surely freaking out. Fun!!

Annalisse and Mat
 After the concert the girls were really wound up so we went out to the merchandise table and they got their pictures taken with the "hot" guy from Leagues, and we convinced Annalisse to ask the drummer from Mat's band how she could meet him since she was celebrating her 16th birthday. He told her to go to the bus and wait there - that Mat would be out in 10 minutes. So, out we went, and out he came, and bada-bing! Pictures and chatting with Mat Kearney. What a great night they had. I think I even heard it was "the best night of my life" from one of them.

And I was pretty happy, too. When we can make our kids really happy, what's better than that? Thank you, Mat Kearney, for a great and memorable evening.

Update 11/13/11: Speaking of Mat Kearney, this article was in USAToday this morning.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

You'll Never Find a Recipe Here

As a blogger (that's debatable), other blogs tend to catch my eye. God knows there are enough of them out there, and there are quite a few I follow myself. UNTIL, the blogger starts posting recipes on a regular basis. That's when I "unbookmark" them and move on.

As a person who does not really like to cook, I can't really see the attraction in all the foodie stuff out there these days: TV shows (networks), magazines, Internet sites, and entire sections of bookstores devoted to cooking. Sure, I like to eat great (fancy) food, but I learned early on how the chef (or book pictures) lull you into a sense of "I could do that," only to find out it takes more chopping, mixing and stirring than I have the patience for. That being said, I can certainly appreciate the experience of eating such creations MADE BY OTHERS.

My promise to you, good or bad: You will never find a recipe on the Baker Blog. You'll have to go to one of the other 10,000 foodie blogs for that.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Weekend Unscripted

Look what we raked up.
Finally, a weekend where we didn't have every moment planned, just the way a weekend should be. It all started on Friday night after I took Annalisse to work and Mark had an after-work gathering (from which he didn't get home until after 8pm). Can you say "laying on the couch wrapped in a fluffy blanket, watching TV with my pup by my side"?! Rare are these nights!

Saturday was another winner, sleeping in and staying in my sweats all day, with just a brief jaunt to take Jasper to the field, followed by a nap (and finishing my book for tomorrow night's bookclub). Mark was off with Scott catching perch all day on Lake Ontario. Once he got home (Annalisse was once again at work) I decided to take a shower around 6pm to look presentable (a relative term) so we could go to Donnelly's for a burger.

This morning, it was up for church then raking a gazillion leaves (and they're not all down yet) on what turned out to be an incredibly warm, beautiful late fall day, which was followed by yet more lounging around! Wonderful!!

This was also the weekend our clocks "fell back." Just so you know, I'm sticking to Daylight Savings Time and will be heading to bed at what the rest of the east coast knows at 8pm. Winter solstice can't come fast enough.

Oh, and another thing...I got a chance to see several movies this weekend - which is pretty much unheard of. Jude's reviews follow:


Evita (1996) - Motivated by my obsessive love of the Evita broadway soundtrack, I decided to watch the much derided adaption starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas. My recommendation: skip it. Bad acting and even worse singing. No one can compare to Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin.


Crazy Stupid Love (2011) - Super Cute movie all around. Emma Stone is sweet and appealing ( the next "America's Sweetheart"?) and Ryan Gosling...well...let's just say he cleans up well. Really well!


Water for Elephants (2011) - I was looking forward to this one since we had read it in my bookclub. It was a pretty true adaption. I thought Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon did a respectable job, but I watched it for Christoph Waltz, whom I've been fascinated with since Inglorious Basterds. I can't help but think he's being typecase into sinister roles. I'd love to see him in a different kind of role. I find him so incredibly appealing to watch!

Friday, November 4, 2011

A question that needs to be asked

My question is: why does Cam get to go to Vermont this weekend, when I haven't been to my favorite place on Earth for three years? He never even liked to go to Vermont. Not fair! Maybe I can get Annalisse to look at colleges in the Green Mountain State...?

(Cam is headed to UVM for a debate today, and returning Sunday. He likes to rub it in.)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloweenie

Patrick awaits his next victim
Another Halloween come and gone. This year was so much fun!

I often espouse how wonderful it is to live in the Village of Fairport - a little like living in Mayberry - but Halloween is especially fun around our neighborhood. Everyone seems to really get into it. People decorate, and my neighbors go out of their way to set up fun activities for the kids.

Don't even ask.
This year, with my niece Nic and her boyfriend Patrick living nearby, we had extra excitement. It turns out Patrick LOVES scaring kids on Halloween. So, decked out in our old gorilla mask and hairy hand gloves, he sat in a dark corner of the porch ready to "roooaaaarrrr" at the teens after hey received their candy treat. (The rule was no scaring the really little kids.) You should have seen how some of the kids jumped and screamed. One girls screamed long and loud. Annalisse thinks she might have even cried. It was cruel, but hilarious!! Who doesn't love to get scared?

It was a beautiful night and perfect conditions for trick-or-treating. We went through a ton of candy and wrapped things up around 8:30pm. It was just the way Halloween is supposed to be!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Another 600 Mile Weekend

Don't the Bakers ever stay home? Apparently not.

We hit the road once again heading east to Saratoga Springs for Cam's first race with RIT. The weather forecast was for snow, a byproduct of the huge October nor'easter hitting New England, but LUCKILY, all we got was a really, really cold day. I say luckily, but after three hours in 38 degree temps I could hardly move my body to walk.

Anyway, Mark and I left around 8:30am for our trek across the state. Annalisse stayed home as she is "so over" regattas and had bigger fish to fry - the main plan of which included hanging with her cousin Nic and going to see the supposedly extremely scary Paranormal Activity 3. We got to the regatta around 1pm and checked in with Cam, then walked around a bit and wasted time until his 3pm "launch," which, as it turned out, probably occurred around 3:45 because he didn't reach the finish marker until 4pm. My plan was to be on the road for a quick visit to Massena for by 4pm since it is a 3:45 minute drive from Saratoga. So, after he finished and was heading back to the dock we headed to the car - FROZEN - and drove through the dark, deserted, cell phone dead zone Adirondack Park in the dark. That was fun. Not. 

Can you tell my cranky mood from earlier in the week persists?

We reached Massena around 8, I took a quick shower, then headed out to meet some friends for dinner. By the time we crashed, we were exhausted. That was a lot of driving. 

After a quick trip to see my mother and sister (and kitten, Riley - so cute!) in the morning we zipped out to my other sisters, dropped off some stuff, and headed back to the Roc. AND HERE COMES THE BEST PART!

I got a speeding ticket after I left my sisters! Mark was closing his eyes so it was my turn to drive. Obviously a bad mistake. The trooper, who was a really nice guy, reduced my ticket to a lesser charge so it won't make an impact on my driving record, but still...

For those of you keeping track, this is my second speeding ticket (luckily both were reduced) since August 2010. I'm serious when I say I'm usually pretty good about using my cruise control and obeying the speed limits. That's why it's so frustrating that when I do zone out once in a while, and am not paying attention which obviously leads to my foot getting heavier. 

Perhaps this week will be better? At least we have Halloween to look forward to.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What It Must Be Like To Be a Trucker

My travel season as a "road warrior" concluded today with a trip down to Elmira College. Altogether I attended six fairs this season, and my colleague Tonya did probably 8 or 10...I lose track. Even though I didn't travel too much for recruitment this fall, when I did travel I sure felt wiped out by the end of the day because of all that driving.

Which leads me to believe I could never have a career as a long distance trucker. It was all I could do to stay awake and engaged on the way to Elmira (approx. 2 1/2 hours each way), even with Evita blasting. On the way back it was Jesus Christ Superstar, with white knuckles all the way because of the really bad rainy/snowy rain conditions. I cannot imagine how truckers do it, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, year after year.

Which reminds me of that time in the mid- to late-70s when CB radios were all the rage. I remember my Nonnie saying they were just a fad and would never last. I was sure she was wrong...it turns out she was right. I still remember some of my familie's "handles": I was Animal Cracker, my Uncle Duff was Porkchop, Auntie was "Sweet Caroline. I know we all had one, but I'll be darned if I can remember them now. I remember sitting in the car with friends talking to "truckers," who were probably just other townspeople caught up in the craze. Thanks to the Internet, you can brush up on your trucker slang, and see CW McCall's Convoy video one more time. 10-4 Good Buddy!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Foul, Foul Tuesday

It started on Monday, and is building to Tuesday - my foul, foul mood.

Maybe it's because I didn't get my nap this weekend. Perhaps it's the cold, gray October sky, or the spitting snow forcasted this week. Maybe it's the grind of my job. One thing I know it is: we are heading to Saratoga for Cam's regatta this Saturday and it's supposed to be 45 and rainy/snowy. Another thing I know is: he won't wear his boots or heavy water-proof clothing because he's a teenage boy. Let the worrying begin.

I'd better treat myself to Panera today or it's not going to be pretty.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Weekend in the Windy City

I do believe Chicago is becoming one of my favorite cities. Not that I've spent a lot of time in really big cities, but how cool it is!

I headed out early on Friday morning so my friend Kristen and I could meet up and go to Jackson Park, site of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Luckily both flights came in on time, with just one minor glitch: some guy threw up on Kristen on the plane. Y-U-C-K!  Poor girl.

After we each checked into our respective rooms at the uber-luxurious Conrad Hotel (located in the heart of the city complete with a high end mall attached!!) Kristen changed and cleaned up and we headed out by cab on our adventure, which it turns out, was located in a pretty shady section on the southside of Chicago (?Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown?). The driver dropped us off at the address I had printed out from the Internet, which turned out to be a community recreation center. Undeterred, we went in and started asking about the landmarks we were seeking, and were helped by a very nice (large) man with a booming voice whose name was Bill.

Bill took out a map (you get the sense people occasionally stop by looking for the fair sites) and pointed out the location of the Statue of the Republic (since moved from its original location) which overlooked the fair, the Japanese Garden on the Wooded Island, and the Fine Arts Building, which is now the Museum of Science and Industry. BUT, he said, while the sites were close by, he didn't think we should walk to them because of the traffic. Bill kept going on about the "traffic," which it turns out was a euphemism for the fact that the park we'd be walking through is dangerous and a place known for drug deals. So into Bill's golf cart we hopped for our own private tour of the old sites. We thought that was super nice of him to escort us through the park, and Kristen felt it was a gesture that balanced out the universe after her earlier bad episode on the plane.

Obviously, it was very difficult to imagine "The White City" in run down, weedy, crime-ridden area where it stood almost 120 years ago, but it was still a lot of fun to actually be there. The only original building left standing is beautifully restored on the outside, and thoroughly modern on the inside. The Museum and Science and Industry was one of the coolest museums I've been to and I would highly recommend it if you visit Chicago.

After our visit to Jackson Park, we headed back over to Michigan Avenue ("The Magnificent Mile") for lunch before going back to the hotel to freshen up for our 4pm meeting. At 4pm, we were off and running for our meeting which lasted until 8pm, to be followed by another full day on Saturday. It was wonderful, as always, to see my NAGAP colleagues and the meeting was extremely productive. On Friday night we went out for drinks, but by Saturday night, after an awesomely delicious dinner, I was spent and I headed back to my fluffy bed to veg out for a couple of hours. This morning I had a bite to eat, headed back to the hellish zoo that is is O'Hare, and flew home to have dinner with the family, which included a visit with Cam.

Tomorrow it's back to reality with no fun travel planned until January, when, UNFORTUNATELY, I have to go to Puerto Rico for our next board meeting!  Super Like!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Random Potpourri of Thoughts

Well, the sign of Libra is winding down, regrettably. It's been a crazy week that found me out at one thing or another every night, except tonight, when I am sitting in my sweats in my upstairs three-season porch with the heater blasting on me. HEAVEN!

iPhone 4S

I can't believe a week has gone by and I haven't mentioned that I bought the new iPhone 4S. Of course, I can't afford it and there was just a teeny tiny bit of buyer's remorse but GOSH DARN IT, my iPhone 3 was almost three years old, the apps were constantly crashing, it took forever to respond when I was typing and it was extremely slow in general. (Still, I didn't really need it.) Annalisse got her iPhone at the same time with the $$ she has earned at her bussing job, so we each had a very exciting day on Friday, October 14 when I arrived at the AT&T store by 6:50am (and still had seven people ahead of me)...and I can't even tolerate lines! I was that excited! And, IT'S AWESOME!

Chicago

Tomorrow I head to Chicago for the weekend for my NAGAP board meeting. I can't wait to go. I just love Chicago. This time I plan to get over to Jackson Park, which is the site of the 1893 Columbian Exhibition (Chicago World's Fair), which I am currently fascinated by after reading Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City. I fly home by 4pm on Sunday to get ready for another awesome week at work. *Sigh*


More Crew


Looking ahead to next weekend, the plan right now is to head to Saratoga to watch Cam in Head of the Fish regatta. He said that the team is not really ready for a "real" race yet since all the JV rowers have never actually rowed before, but his coach is using this as an opportunity to give the team practice and experience to a formal/competitive race. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let there be nice weather. Remember two years ago when he almost got hypothermia from the cold and the wet? Right....

The End of the World

Apparently the world is going to end again tomorrow on October 21. My question is, if it happens to end between 8 and 9am when I'm in the air on the way to Chicago, where will we land? Will we just wander through space for all eternity?


That's about it for the potpourri of updates from the Bakers. Obviously, we're mired in the day-to-day and there's nothing really exciting going on. I'll take mundane.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Golden Boy (Man)

Happy 50th Birthday today to MY OLD MAN, Mark! With his young looks he should be able to go another 10-15 years until he actually looks 50. Must be his much younger trophy wife that preserves his youthful looks!!

Today's celebration marks the end of our monthlong birthday celebrations. Until next year...

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sardonic Wit

How often do we get to talk about someone's brilliant "sardonic wit," and really mean it?

Last night I did something I've wanted to do for a long time. Although it was not in my Top 10 of things to do before I die, or even on my proverbial "bucket list,"I got to see one of my favorite authors, David Sedaris live. Long a fan of his  (seemingly embellished) autobiographical and fictional essays, I was so excited when a friend asked me to go along. For an 1 1/2 hours he read some new material and told some sort-of-silly jokes.

Funny, irreverent, sardonic wit. He did not disappoint!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Birthday Trifecta

We all survived our wonderful, fun, birthday extravaganzalicious weekend!  The weather could not have been more perfect, and we had fun with all our relatives visiting. In addition to Mark's side of the family and friends, both my sisters and mother were there. Mary and Larry surprised us on Saturday afternoon, and it was so great! I think everyone's spirits were buoyed by the incredibly beautiful weather that graced us both Saturday and Sunday. I even managed to sneak a brief late-season nap on the porch!!

So, two birthdays down, and one to go. Of course, Mark might as well be 50 already rather than waiting until the 17th considering all the hoopla on Saturday. It was a very special time with very special people! Some pix from the party:

The Chow!

Judy and Mom

Greco Gurlz

Nana and the kids

Our Baker/Shiao Family

The Birthday Boy

All the Birthday Libras!

Sweet 16 Cake

Teenage Mutant Ninja Teenager