Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye 2012: The Year of Music and Travel

Today, on the last day of 2012, I take my yearly stroll back through the year and reflect on ups, downs, highlights and themes. This was a year filled with many ups and downs in the US, and several terrible tragedies, combined with the effects of the faltering economy, give it a melancholy feel for me. But, let's get started...

First of all, as you already know, the world didn't end.

Next, I remember writing this reflection about 2011 and it seems last year's theme was "connection." Thinking about this year, I would say the theme that stands out is "music and entertainment," followed by a close second of "travel."

Music and Entertainment

It mostly started in May when Mary, Annalisse, Nic and I went to see "Wicked" in Raleigh, and was followed by Annalisse's Lady Antebellum concert in June, then Squeeze, then Train/Mat Kearney/Andy Grammer in July and August, "Nice Work if You Can Get It" on Broadway (my first Broadway show) in August, Alec Baldwin at RIT in October, Annalisse's senior trip to Boston (where she also saw "The Blue Man Group"), and finally the Fun concert for Annalisse and Cam in November. Really fun stuff. This year we hope to see Wicked again when it comes to Rochester in the spring, and Annalisse is all set to see Taylor Swift in Ohio in April.


This year was also characterized by a lot of travel (again!), and in particular to some locations that were new and exciting.

New places: In January I had the chance to go to Puerto Rico for a NAGAP board meeting, and in April I was headed to Austin for the NAGAP conference. In May we went to Raleigh to visit Anthony, and in October it was off to Kansas City for another NAGAP meeting. All new Cities.

Along with the "new" experiences, we also traveled to Washington DC and Roanoke VA in April, and it was back to DC for my girl's weekend in June, followed by a return to Las Vegas in July (while Annalisse was in Germany for three weeks), then off to New York City in August for another NAGAP board meeting, followed by four days in Maine.

Whew! It does sound like a lot, doesn't it?

And let's not forget to mention...

A recap of this year would not be complete without an honorable mention of the college visits that consumed much of our summer. Also very fun as we await the last four decisions before Annalisse decides her academic fate for next fall. May 1 is the official "decision date," but I'm sure we'll know way before then which college she settles on.

Looking Ahead

At midnight tonight it's onto 2013, another milestone year for the Bakers. This year will find Annalisse, Nic and I traveling to Puerto Rico in January, Annalisse traveling to Ireland in February, Cam's 20th birthday in February (WHAT WHAT?) me possibly going to Orlando in April, Annalisse's High School graduation in June, Las Vegas again in July (hopefully with Mary, Nic and Annalisse), Annalisse's graduation celebration in July, a not-to-be-named birthday milestone in October, and hopefully a trip to Vermont this year. In late August we'll be empty nesters, and I'm not sure how I feel about that except that I will miss my little buddy very much when she goes to college.

2013 will also see some home improvement as we start some much-needed repairs and updating on the house. We will be installing a new corner fence in the yard, building a new front porch floor and stairs, and installing a new sewer line from the upstairs to the cellar - a very expensive, destructive project which will including cutting full panels out of the walls on two floors, then repairing them to look exactly the way they did before. Apparently, though, according the plumber, we don't want the alternative, which is sewage leaking into our rooms from the rapidly deteriorating pipes from the second floor to the basement.

Onward, upward to 2013. May it bring you good health, good fortune and much happiness!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

End of the Year Checklist

During the week I have off between Christmas and New Years I count on getting certain once-a-year things done. They are:

  • File the backload of photos into an album (or albums) - thanks Mom Shiao for the two albums of 500 photos - they are filled already and I've got to pick up a couple more [I missed last year's photo-filing]
  • File paperwork, projects, memorable items into the kids memory boxes or tax box in the attic
  • Order the current year's photos (January - December)
  • Buy a new calendar (50% off, of course) and fill in appointments, birthdays, trips, etc.
  • Put away the Christmas decorations, dust, and get ready for another year

I also need to find a way to download Annalisse's pictures from Germany, which are currently only on Facebook. They were on her MacBook but her hard drive crashed a couple of months ago and she lost all her pictures. I believe that 10 years from now she'll be pretty upset that she did not get prints from the trip so I'll (hopefully) find a way to get them back so I can print a select few (she took 900 goal is to whittle that down to 100 pix).

Other than that, I'm enjoying hunkering down during the various snowstorms that have passed through the area, sleeping in, and playing outside with Jasper. It's been awesome!!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Surviving Christmas

The tree aglow on
Christmas morning
We made it through another Christmas holiday. As I sit in the relative dark with just the lights of the Christmas tree, fireplace mantle, and candles to light the room, I think about how much I'll miss the soft lights and decorations a week from now. As much as I usually sort of dread Christmas with all its overblown hoopla, I have to admit that Christmas found me once again on Christmas eve at our church service. It's probably the singing of all the familiar hymns and the beautiful music of the service that got me, but I finally felt it. It's a daily challenge to try to live more in the present, and I felt so blessed to be there with my family, safe and sound, after the terrible events earlier in the day. I couldn't help but think of those families, suddenly without their loved ones, on what was supposed to be one of the happiest nights of the year.

Our Christmas eve was very low key. After church the kids made popcorn and I prepared for the morning's Shiao family breakfast. Gone are the days when I shoo the kids to bed so I can fill stockings and put the finishing touches on the morning's surprises. I headed up to bed before them, but admittedly they we're too far behind!

The next morning Mark and I got up and did our "chores"(took the dog out, shoveled after a fresh snow), and finally woke the kids up around 7:15 so we could get moving with the festivities as I needed to get breakfast ready on time. It sounds kind of rushed, but it wasn't and we had a leisurely time opening our presents. Mom Shiao, Lena and Ken, and Nara and Jim arrived around 9:30, and we had a great breakfast with lots of laughter! After opening presents everyone relaxed for a while then headed out for the continuation of their celebrations. After showers all around, we got ready to head out to Grandma Pat's and off we went. We picked up Pat and Nic on the way as they were spending the afternoon with us. As always, it was a fun celebration with great food and great gifts. By late afternoon, it was obvious that we were fading, all really tired. Last night was very low key and we all turned in early (which is a relative term depending on the family member).

So, another year has come and gone. We don't have a lot planned for this week off, but there is apparently a huge snowstorm headed our way. YAY!

Just lovely
Helping Dad open his presents
Cam's gift to sister
New Toy!
Modeling Cam's Beardo
Getting ready for breakfast

Look at that bounty!
The Shiaos-Bakers-Cookes-Bennetts!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Silent Night, Holy Night?

Not for some after another senseless tragedy today that included not just the shooting death of two firefighters (one of which was also a policeman) and the wounding of two others, but also resulted in the loss through fire of seven homes - right in our backyard this time, in Webster, which is about 10 miles from here. I'm sure if, as recommended by the spokesman of the NRA, those firefighters had been armed they could have defended themselves. Of course, I'm being sarcastic. When will it end?

In spite of this, we will carry on with our Christmas celebrations, but I can't imagine what those families are going through. With tonight also comes a sad reminder that Aunt Mary, who, with Uncle Pete hosts the family party on Christmas Eve, has had her health challenges this year and they will continue into the new year. Our throughs are with her, Uncle Pete and Sarah during her battle against cancer. It adds to the already sort of sad nostalgia I'm having this year (and every year, come to think of it) remembering Christmas celebrations past with relatives we don't see as often as we used to, or those who have left us, and have left a hole in our hearts since.

All I can do is appreciate, love, and enjoy the time with those around me, which is what this holiday is all about anyway, isn't it? If I didn't receive (or give) another present I'd be happy and contented for the blessings of health, family, happiness and prosperity. I hope the same for you. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Day After the Last Day

Hello there! Well, we're still here. The world didn't end on 12/21/12. Carry on.

Five other reasons to be super happy this morning.
  1. The kids are home.
  2. Mom Shiao is home.
  3. I'm finished with my Christmas shopping (except for stocking stuff).
  4. We're off until January 2.
  5. We got a lot of snow overnight. 
Who could ask for anything more? Happy day!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

At the risk of being a bore...

Another college acceptance yesterday, this time to Roanoke College in Salem, VA, where Sue and Ken live. Wouldn't that be awesome?! I can tell Annalisse is getting a little anxious about the decision she will have to make, but wasn't that the idea when she applied to seven colleges - to have some choices? I told her she will have a lot of time to decide since deposits are not due until May 1 and there will be accepted student programs, and a chance for one last look for her top choices, before then.

Fun, fun times!!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Two for Two

In the mail today Annalisse received the second (out of seven possible notifications) acceptance to a college. So far she has been accepted to Mercyhurst University (her first choice!!) and Lycoming College (one that I really liked but was not high on her list). I expect we'll get official notification from Naz around January 15 (although a little birdie with inside info told me the decision already...), and I suppose it's also possible that we might hear from some of the other "rolling" application deadline colleges this week. The only one I really don't expect we'll hear from in the very near future is Alleghany College, which has a deadline of February 15 (and notification afterwards, I asume).

When she received the packet from Mercyhurst on Thursday there was a piercing screech and lots of arm waving. I also think Mercyhurst would be a good fit for her with it's beautiful campus just three hours away (AND THEY HAVE A KRISPY KREME!). Very exciting times, indeed.

Friday, December 14, 2012


Tonight I am haunted by the tragic massacre of 27 children and adults at an elementary school in Connecticut. Where is God? Why, America, does this keep happening? Surely evil seems to be winning with all the young, disturbed men who open fire on innocent children, teens, shoppers, movie-goers, bystanders. Is it the easy access of guns? The violent video games and movies? Family troubles? Rampant mental illness? WHAT WHAT WHAT?

I actually found a lot of comfort in the words of Mister Rogers:
"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world." -- Mister Rogers
My heart breaks for the families of all who lost their lives, and their innocence, today.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The College Waiting Game

It's almost mid-December and we are anxiously awaiting decisions from the seven colleges to which Annalisse has applied. A lot of her friends are hearing back from the SUNYs and several "privates," but no word from the colleges she's interested in. The good news: there have been no rejection letters. The other good news: of the other kids who applied to the same schools as A, no one has yet "posted" on Facebook (a big deal for the kids) that they've been accepted to Mercyhurst, Alleghany, Lycoming, Susquehannah, Roanoke or Dickinson - so I assume no one has heard from these schools yet. As for Naz, since I work there I know they won't be notifying freshmen until after January 15 so we're not expecting to hear from them yet.

I think she's anxious about the whole thing and would just like to be able to say she's been 'accepted' somewhere. Many of the colleges have rolling application processes, so we're hoping to hear very soon as her apps were pretty much complete by December 1. What a nice Christmas present that would be!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

O Christmas Tree - 2012 Edition

Last Sunday in the windy rain and cold sleet, we ventured out with our neighbors Morey and Ann, and Nic and Patrick in tow to find "the perfect Christmas tree." For a couple of years I've wanted to get a different type of tree, one that looks more old fashioned like Mémère and Pépère Moquin used to have. Their trees always seemed not super-full, and were adorned with old fashioned ornaments and strands of tinsel. I'm working with our current ornament collection and probably won't be putting tinsel strands on, but still wanted that "look" in a tree. I think I actually have a picture of them next to "said tree," but for the life of me I can't find it.

So, this is what we ended up with. It's beautiful, simple and not too overwhelming. I love the light the deocorated tree gives off - so warm and comforting!

Tree (and kid) in the wild
The World's Most Patient Dog 
Decorated. Kind of looks like last year's tree. And the one before that.
Fresh cut greens and mouse guy 
Red ball and little Cammie
Looking Up

Outside. Now all we need is SNOW.

Friday, December 7, 2012

New Driver Alert

Watch yourselves on the road. There is a new driver out there and he's fast and loose.

Cam FINALLY got his license today. We've put it off long enough. A combination of procrastination and disinterest on his part, and fear on my part, added to him being probably the only 19 (almost 20) year-old driver in Fairport who did not yet have his license. All that changed today, just in time to take him back to school for two more weeks where he won't have the opportunity to drive anyway.

How did our parents ever do it? I just need to trust (and hold my breath) that when he gets in the car he'll get to where he's going safely. I often stress to him it's not always his driving I'm worried about, it's the "other driver" who may not be paying attention or driving recklessly (Or impaired. Or texting. Or talking on his phone.). Wow, there is always something to worry about, isn't there?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Class Clown

Annalisse excitedly texted me this morning to let me know she had been chosen for the Senior Superlative "Class Clown." I proud? Am I mortified? Proud, I guess!! There's no denying it: that kid has a special twinkle that lights up her bubbly personality. But, it wasn't always that way!

When she was little (toddlerhood) she was a terror. She would have frequent meltdowns and had great difficulty with transitioning from one activity/time of day to another. We always had to be sure she was well rested, because when she wasn't she was out of control (right, Sue?). Even today she knows when to put herself down for a nap and is alternately whiny and non-communicative when she's tired.

Obviously, she's not always as perky and upbeat as she is when she's with her friends at school, but she is actually pretty pleasant most of the time. When she sasses back or gives us a hard time, I have to tel Mark that we "have to take the good with the bad."

Her current designation got me thinking about famous people who might have once been class clowns. Of course, a quick search of the World Wide InterWebNet revealed many sites that featured such talents. A sampling of celebrity class clowns include (many are not a surprise for obvious reasons):
  • Henry Winkler
  • Robin Williams
  • Jim Carrey
  • George Carlin
  • Gillian Anderson (The X-Files)
Not that I'm saying Annalisse will be famous, unless by "famous" you mean she will be working in an aquarium with evil dolphins.  Not sure where she gets it from (I like to say it came from the Bell family), but it certainly makes life interesting for the rest of us.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Welcome to December *sigh*

Queue the annoyed melancholy.

Well it's here. The last month of another year that flew by way too fast. Why does time go by so quickly as we age? This guy explains it for us. Anyway, with Thanksgiving being so early this year I am feeding compelled to get our tree a week earlier than usual, and was anxious to get the house decked out and the cards stuffed and addressed. All ramped up.

I'm not super happy it's December already; not a fan of winter, it is simply something to be endured until next spring. Although, I will admit that some mornings with a fresh coat of snow do seem magical at times. The dog certainly loves it, and I usually can't wait to go out and play with him in the white stuff. Also, who doesn't like hunkering down for a good snowstorm? The excitement that schools (and businesses - and colleges!) might be closed the next day?! Better stock up bread, milk and eggs! (Why is it always bread, milk and eggs?)

Tonight starts the first of our holiday celebrations with a visit to a friend's yearly open house (also early this year because of the wacky calendar). Very important to remember: the world is scheduled to end (again) on December 21 (12/21/12). I think I'll keep my affairs in order just in case. I'd hate to have the house foreclosed on or the electricity shut off just because of some damn Mayans and the fact that they ran out of paper to continue their calendar.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Mutants, UFOs, Conspiracy Theories and Time Travel

Last night I had the pleasure of picking Cam up from a friend's house at 1am (it was an hour-round trip altogether) because don't we always tell our children, "I don't care what time it is, you can always call us for a ride home" - a policy which he has taken advantage of twice this week: Wednesday night Mark headed out at 2am and last night it was my turn. But I'm not complaining because...

I love driving in the car in the middle of the night or the early morning - as I often have to do when I'm traveling and need to get the airport early. The first thing I do is turn the station to WHAM1180 for "Coast to Coast," which describes itself as:
A media phenomenon, Coast to Coast AM deals with UFO's, strange occurrences, life after death, and other unexplained (and often unexplicable) phenomena.
I love this show. It really reminds me that are people out there with an alternate reality who truly believe they have experienced "Shadow People," aliens/UFOs, Bigfoot sightings, and last night featured a guy who believes he's a mutant (think: X-Men) who can jump off roofs and land softly, levitating inches from the ground rather than crashing into it. He talked about how he and his other mutant friends (in particular he has a buddy who can appear and disappear quickly) are waiting for the "portal" to open in early 2013 at which time their powers will be understood by all.

Another talked about how such quick advances in technology over the last "112 years" are surely the work of aliens influencing inventors (he gave the Wright brothers as his prime example). Or how about the fact that NASA knows how to use time travel to distant planets (in, say 100 days vs. 100 years) but is not releasing that information to the general public. Conspiracy theories abound. And you know the advertisers defintely understand their audience as most ads are about Doomsday products (food and food storage, shelter) or a pill that cures cancer (that doctors don't want you to know about). Fun, fun stuff!!

Who knows, maybe it's me that's crazy one and all these people are sane. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

Or, "the truth is out there."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

30 Day of Wha...???

"Thirty Days of Thankfulness" is all the rage on Facebook. That's when the user posts something they're thankful for every day from November 1 through 30. C'mon people. We all know that we're thankful for family, friends, food, jobs, homes, health, pets...I'm not sure I could keep up with a such a task and keep it interesting for those who peruse such blather over their morning coffee (which is another thing I'm thankful for ~ especially Jamaican Me Crazy).

So I thought I'd try to post a few things I'm thankful for (for which I'm thankful?), which are a little out of the ordinary:

  • The quiet mornings when I don't have to go to work and can indulge in my news junky tendencies over a Wegman's marathon roll with raspberry jam and a 20 oz up of Green Mountain Coffee.
  • Those occasional warm winter nights when I'm taking the dog for a walk and keep going past my usual route because I just want to enjoy the solitude of a clear, starry warm night with my pal.
  • Vermont
  • Surrounding myself with others with similar off-beat, silly senses of humor (you know who you are).
  • Groundhog's Day
  • The sun streaming into my upstairs three-season porch. And, at night, hanging out with the heater blowing directly on me.
  • Memories of a great childhood surrounded by family and friends (and the occasional old boyfriend).
  • Apple products
  • My niece, Nicole, now lives in Fairport
  • My naturally sunny disposition (Ha!)
  • Our yearly girls weekends
  • Eating out
  • Music. All kinds of music, except for jazz, rap, techno, country (I do like the classic/cowboy country that I grew up with), hip-hop, blues. Okay, maybe not all kinds of music but lots of kinds of music. Except those I listed.
  • Books
  • Fat-free half and half
  • Great neighbors
  • Feeling younger than I actually am (which shall not be revealed here)
  • Turkey dinner on Thanksgiving (and any time of the year for that matter)
There are a lot of things I'm not thankful for/annoyed by, but that's a story for another day. A wonderful Thanksgiving to all!! 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The End of the Quarter

Friday ended the first academic quarter for both kids: Cam at RIT and Annalisse at FHS. I am SOOOOOO (infinity) happy to report that both kids did great in the first 10 weeks. Cam, especially pulled of a 3.5 average for 18 credit hours in a very difficult program. WOW. We are so happy that his grades are on the upswing. In fact, HE KICKED IT. I'm sure it was not without cost to him as I get the sense from his tweets (on Twitter - which I'm not supposed to be reading BTW) that school work has taken over his life for the last three weeks. So I'm trying not to nag or pressure him too much during his week home as I think he really needs the down time.

Annalisse also did really well, although her course load this year, with the exception of AP Bio, is relatively light. Which is a good thing since the bio course taking all her energy (and free time). She received a 74 in the class, which is actually pretty good considering where she was in the first weeks of the term. Overall, her average for the term was a 91.25. Great for her!!

It's just a couple of days until the Thanksgiving break, which we are all looking forward to (Turkey...YUM).  It's so awesome to have everyone home!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Dreams of Nantucket?

For some reason I've been thinking a lot about Nantucket lately. I'm not sure why...I even had a lengthy dream about visiting the island "30 miles out to sea" last night.

Mark and I visited for a quick overnight in 1990, so it's been quite a while since we've been, but I really really loved our time there. We went during the pre-season in mid-May, so it wasn't too crazy with tourists yet. The trade off was that not too many places were open yet, and we stayed at a cute B&B, The Chestnut House, my first time at a Bed and Breakfast. (While the place was nice, their idea of breakfast was juice and crackers. I've since spent time at places with amazing breakfasts.) We had lunch at the legendary Brotherhood of Thieves, a place at which a friend of mine's husband is currently the chef. Maybe that's why I'm thinking of Nantucket - because if we go to visit again I know someone there!!

Anyway, maybe a return trip will be in order in the next year or two. During these cold, dark days of November I guess wanderlust is kicking in!!

Friday, November 9, 2012


My love for the band Train began over 10 years ago with the release of "Drops of Jupiter," a song I nostalgically relate to being a hit around the time my father was first diagnosed with leukemia (he passed away two years later). Pat Monahan, the lead singer, has famously said that the idea for the song came to him in a dream from shortly after his mother died and says it's about her. If you've never heard this song or seen the video, it is a must hear/see:

(I watch this video once a month or so, when I need a mood lift.)

I've followed the band through a break-up (them, not me) and was sooooo happy when they got back together and began making music again. I dare say I like their newer stuff more than the "Drops of Jupiter" era and especially their new album, "California 37" which has some really awesome toe-tapping numbers on it. One of my fave songs is "Bruises," a melancholic, heartfelt ditty that I just can't get out of my head. The video for Bruises was just released, and the concept is not what I would have pictured, so I guess I'll just stick to listening to the song full blast in my car.

Seeing Train this summer was definitely one of the highlights of my year. Awesome, just awesome!

Mom Update and a Trip to Boston

This week I took a quick overnight trip to Massena to see Mom as she fell in the bathroom and was hospitalized for a couple of days. She's doing well and in good spirits back at Carol's house, and none the worse for wear except for a nasty bruise over her right eye. That woman is so resilient! She's in good hands at my sister's, and we (Mary and I) are so lucky that Carol is willing to take care of her. In November, when everyone on Facebook is posting "the 30 days of Thanksgiving," we eternally grateful to Carol for what I'm sure is not an easy undertaking.

In other travel news...

Annalisse left this morning for Boston for her senior trip. My how these milestones keep creeping up on us. I cannot even imagine how quickly June will come, then the summer, then YOU KNOW WHAT (that is, if we make it through AP Bio)! I'm sure she'll have a great time. Even though a (crazy) Nor'easter hit the East Coast this week I think Boston will be cold but otherwise not treacherous. I'm not sure Mark and I will know what to do with ourselves this weekend. I'll probably do something exciting like put on my sweats and curl up in front of the space heater or fireplace and watch a movie or two. Just another wild and crazy Baker weekend. Meh.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Last night I took Annalisse and a couple of friends over to RIT for the Fun concert (you may remember that we gave her two tickets to Fun for her birthday present). The concert had originially been scheduled for Saturday night but needed to be rescheduled because Fun was invited to appear on SNL. That made for a little planning on Sunday (and all weekend, actually) to ensure that Annalissse was well studied and well rested for her AP Bio exam first thing Monday morning. The timing was not ideal, but what can you do?

While the kids were at the concert I hung out in RIT's Java Wally's, the very cool and comfortable coffee house within the Wallace Library. (If I went to RIT I would hang out there all the time. Cam claims he never goes there...probably just the thought that his mother loves that place is enough to keep him away, thinking it's super un-coool). I sipped creme brule coffee while finishing a book for bookclub and catching up on other reading. I also spent a lot of energy trying to stay awake.

By 10pm (which was really 11pm since the time had just changed on Sunday at 2am) I was nodding off big time. At around 10:30 Annalisse texted to say the band was playing their encore, so I headed to the car where the girls met me a little while later. Annalisse reported that she tried to hang with her brother but he would have none of it. Big surprise! She did manage to get some awkward shots with him.

Here's a video of Fun's "Some Nights," their current chart topper:

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Eve Leaves

This morning, amid tears all around, Eve and the Irish kids boarded a bus heading south to Newark, NJ to catch a plane back to Ireland tonight. I'm not sure what time they're "taking off," so hopefully by the time we wake up there will be news that the kids arrived home.

Our visit couldn't have been better. Eve was a really sweet girl, and Annalisse (and all the kids) are counting the days until they go to Ireland. I think the count was 107 the last I heard!

Safe travels, kids! 

Update, 11/2, 7am: The Irish kids arrived safely home around three hours ago.

The gang
Weary, sad kids

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Frankenstorm Fall-out (a.k.a. Sandy the SuperStorm)

It's Tuesday, the day after what was a pretty bad storm day for NYC, NJ and Washington DC (mainly the states on the Atlantic seaboard). Here in Fairport, there was minimal damage and lots of rain/wind, but truthfully, we've had worse wind and rain. There's been plenty of gusty wind over the years, and Jasper is my wind-o-meter because the the worse the wind gusts are, the more anxious he gets (which usually manifests itself with him sleeping "way up," plastered between Mark and I). Last night there was no real noticeable difference in his behavior, and we all slept soundly, undisturbed by the wind.

I'm told by a friend that Lake Ontario seemed like the Ocean yesterday, whipped up with large caps, which we don't usually see here. A couple of direct results of the storm:

  • Eve's departure was delayed from this morning tomorrow morning. The kids were supposed to leave today at 5am for a couple of days in NYC. That's not happening. Hopefully they can enjoy a couple of days in the Big Apple before they are scheduled to fly out Thursday night (I also wonder what will become their flight back to Shannon with all the cancellations and delays over the last two days). At least they'll have some interesting stories to tell about being in NY during the 'largest storm of the century.' They have a meeting this morning to determine next steps.
  • The kids are off school today. Fairport cancelled today's school around 3pm yesterday. I wonder if they're regretting that now as it is warm, calm and not raining out. Unless the weather take a turn for the worse today it's probably a wasted "snow day."
All in all, we escaped unscathed, except for a mess of branches and leaves on the lawn. My thoughts go out to those severely affected by the storm downstate and in the states bordering the Ocean. Stay safe, everyone!

2:37pm Update: Eve and the Irish kids are now leaving Fairport on Thursday. I'm not sure if that means early Thursday or Thursday afternoon. I'm also not sure if they plan to spend any time in NYC or when they're heading back to Ireland. Sounds like there's a lot I don't yet know...!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

(Not) Getting Ready For Frankenstorm

First of all. I love this storm's name. Frankenstorm. Huge, scary storm...scheduled to hit around Halloween? Get it? Genius!

Secondly, I wonder if all the meteorologists are getting everyone whipped up for another weather event, expected to hit the East Coast Monday and Tuesday, that may not live up to its hype beyond being a pretty bad storm. Already NYC and Boston schools are closed, businesses (and Broadway!) are closing, and the NYC subway system is shutting down for what's being called "the worst weather event EVER." Even Rochester residents are out in force stocking up on bread, milk, bread, water, etc. (The 'etc.' probably being beer and wine.) If you thought I hated going to Wegmans under regular conditions, you can believe I am not going anywhere near the place on the eve of what is touted as a catastrophic storm.

We are mainly wondering if the Ireland kids will be heading to NYC at 5am on Tuesday (on a bus) as planned. Then, if they get there will they be able to fly out on Friday? We've had such a pleasant visit with Eve we wouldn't mind having her for a couple of extra days, but I would feel bad if the kids did not get to experience New York as they had hoped since it was probably one of the major reasons that drew them to the exchange.  Even if they do get to New York I wondering if they'll be able to enjoy it, and see the sites if torrential rain and wildly blowing winds.

I also wonder what will become of our Halloween this year. I think I will hold off buying candy for one more day until they can predict what Wednesday night will look like because THE LAST THING I NEED IS SIX BAGS OF MY FAVORITE CANDY HANGING AROUND. The people of NYC are worried about flooding and winds, and I'm worried about the temptation to eat an entire bag of fun-sized Whoppers. We all have our problems.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

My Tough AP Bio Class

I've joked in the past that during Annalise's grade school, middle school, and high school year that I've had "a lot of homework" throughout the grades. Meaning: depending on the class, Annalisse sometimes needs a lot of academic help (at home), mostly in the form of study buddy support in preparation for upcoming tests and such. We generally build a PowerPoint presentation to review terms and concepts (modern day flash cards), and spend a lot of time in the upstairs porch/three-season room with the space heater blasting and a soft dog to lie on, as we memorize items for the upcoming test.

This year's AP Bio class has been a killer. Thankfully, Annalisse's other classes have not been that demanding because just about every night we are hunkered down, memorizing terms and reviewing bio-chemical processes. The class has been a huge challenge for her, with some successes and other not so great results, but she's holding her own. She is so determined to stick with the class, and to pass, and her perseverance has amazed her teacher and her advisor as well. Her thought is that if she wants to take biology as a major in college, she has to succeed at this class. We both agree that the rigor of this class will be much like the rigor of a college class, so it's great practice.True enough. But, man...these words and concepts are like another language to me. And every night - jeesh! That makes for not much of a life right now; but we keep plugging away.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Eve Arriveth

Our Irish student, Eve, is here!! The kids got in around 4pm, a weary looking bunch after, for many, what was a sleepless night and a full day of travel. She's very sweet, and doesn't think we're too weird (so far), with our "unusual" sense of humor and crazy family banter.

Once we got on our way from the airport everyone was getting hungry so we went to (where else??) Mulconry's Irish Pub in Fairport for dinner. The bartender, who was the owner Damien's brother, was from the same town/area as Eve, so they chatted a little. After a short walk Eve is trying to stay awake a little longer to make the jet lag adjustment a little easier. Then, it's off to school tomorrow and gearing up for a jam-packed week!!

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Libra Girls

The Libra Girls
JoAnn, Judy and Meg
Tomorrow we crest the Libra cusp and say goodbye to our favorite zodiak sign for another year (unbelievable).

Tonight, just in time to catch the last scent of Libra, my friends, JoAnn and Meg, and I got together for annual "libra dinner," a tradition that Meg says has been going on for 21 years (I can't remember those details so I leave it to her). For 21 years we've been having our special dinner, and it seems like they are getting more poignant as we age. JoAnn is in her mid-60s now, I'm almost you-know-what, and Meg is about four years younger than me.

I've known JoAnn since I was 21 and had just joined Nazareth, so we go "way back." Meg and I met when we worked together at Naz, and she took care of Cam for the first three years of his life and also Annalisse for a little while until she (Meg, not Annalisse) had to go back to work and give up childcare. They are great girls and it's so wonderful to catch up - it's like a year has not passed since the last time we saw each other.

So here's lots of love to my Libra girls: Meg and JoAnn! May the scales ever balance in your favor!!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Loving Fall

Just thought I'd share a slice of fall on a beautiful, warm October day. We just got back from a two mile walk around the canal and I'm about to put cornbread in the oven to have with homemade chili for an early dinner.

I wish we could "bottle" days like this to relive over and over!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The View from Saturday

It's the weekend at last. Another long and tiring week which (my fatigue of which is greatly influenced by the shorter, drab days) leads into a busy weekend with the slight possibility of a nap, maybe sometime tomorrow..

Today we head to RIT for Homecoming/Parents weekend, which for us will mainly mean that we are going to see the guest speaker, Alec Baldwin (some people hate him, some love him. I LOVE HIM). Cam was not originally going to be around this weekend so we had not planned to go for any PW events, until last week when he texted to ask if we were planning to come as he was able to get some tix from a friend who had a change in plans. So, off we'll go to Brick City for a couple of hours until we head have to head home in time for Annalisse to leave for Rolling Hills, a "haunted" asylum near Batavia. She's a little freaked out about that (being a bit of a chicken), but I told her it would be fun. We'll see!!

Tomorrow it's clean, clean, clean as we prepare for the arrival of our Irish exchange student, Eve. She and 20(ish) of her classmates will be in Fairport from Tuesday to Tuesday, and just about every minute is planned already. Annalisse and the Fairport group will visit the Irish kids in February, and they are all looking forward to this week's visit and the return trip. So off I go to clean the bathroom and dust. What a glamorous life I do lead!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Happy Birthday, Old Man!

Mother and Son
October 17, 1961

Happy Birthday, to Mark today, who celebrates the first anniversary of his GOLDEN birthday! We'll celebrate with dinner out later (so what else is new?)!

New Job News

Remember last year when I wrote about Mark's company being bought out, and the uncertainty we were facing with his job? Well, flash forward a year to October 2012, and yesterday he was offered a consulting job with KBACE Technologies out of New Hampshire.

It's a great opportunity, and a great relief for him to be able to move on. Even though he has managed to avoid layoff, he's been faced with a poor working morale situation, and has been woefully underutilized, not really working on anything of import or substantial for many months now. It's been a mystery why he has not been laid off since he hasn't had a lot to contribute as they transition from one technology system to another. Anyway, the time is right and he'll hopefully "sign on the dotted line" today or tomorrow.

One draw back: there may be extensive travel involved. Much like when he was a consultant for Oracle, he will be traveling to client sites to assist with implementation of their financial systems, so that may take him away from Rochester at least four days a week. The good news is that Paychex, here in town, is a major client so he may end up there. We'll see.

In the meantime, a big sigh of relief an excitement for him a he moves onto his next career adventure.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Mercy, Mercyhurst!

Up at 5am yesterday (A Saturday. *sigh*), off we went to Erie PA for the Mercyhurst University Open House program. Another day with six hours on the road!

From the moment we drove through the arched set gate onto the campus, we were very impressed with Mercyhurst. It's very beautiful, and pristinely kept, much like Nazareth. It had a great program with some different types of info than we heard at the other schools. It very quickly became tied for first place with Allegheny College - with Nazareth being in second place - and the others following behind. Because Annalisse was so happy with her visit we decided to cancel the trip to Castleton State in November. WHAT? I'M NOT GOING TO VERMONT AFTER ALL? Damn!

If all goes well with the application process and financial piece, I think we may have found our school.

Update 4:51pm:

And later that day...she hit "submit" and applied to six colleges!

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Long Short Week

This week seems like it's taken forever to get to Friday, even having had Monday off for our trip to Hartwick College. The good news is that after so many choppy weeks in and out of the office I feel like I got a super amount accomplished at work this week. That feels so good. I'm sure I'll be feeling stressed again next week when I'm on the road to college fairs for two days.

Mark left at 4am this morning to drive to Nashua, NH to interview with a consulting company. If he is offered/takes the job, he wouldn't be working/living in Nashua, but chances are he would have to travel again during the week, just as he did during his days with Oracle. The interview starts with pizza at noon so he decided to drive this morning, then drive back tonight - which is not ideal seeing it will be an extremely long day for him (not to mention 14 hours of driving), but we have an open house at Mercyhurst University tomorrow so he was not able to stay over and come back tomorrow. I expect he'll be home around 11, then we will get up at 5 tomorrow to get back on the road in time for the 9am Open House program in Erie, PA. This should be interesting!!

When we get back from Mercyhurst on Saturday afternoon the Fourth Ave street party/Harvest Festival will be in full swing. This gathering is in place of the usual September street picnic because we were rained out on the original date. The forecast so far is 58 and sunny, so fingers crossed!

This fall so far has been dark, cold and rainy. In the past, it seemed like we could count on continued warmish, sunny weather at least through mid-October. Not this year. My hibernation instincts have kicked in full force. It's going to be a long winter.

P.S. A very Happy Birthday to Aunt Mary (Mim-Mim) today. We are sending lots of love her way!!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

It's hip to be (a) square(root)

Yesterday I turned the age of a certain square root. I'll let you figure out which one. Let's just say next year is not going to be pretty.

It's been a whirlwind of a week, starting with my trip to Kansas City last Tuesday. It was cool being in Missouri one minute, and Kansas the next during the car ride from the airport to my meeting. I found the scenery underwhelming and quite undistinctive, bordering on unattractive, and realized this weekend (as I was admiring the changing colors in the hilly Finger Lakes) that it's really pretty beautiful in this area. The trip itself was tiring, and I returned home around midnight on Thursday, got up for work the next morning, worked until noon, then we headed to Buffalo for a family wedding.

Ready for the dance.
Seems like she'll be too
cold for October.
Friday was also Annalisse's 17th birthday, and the poor kid stayed home that night while we went to the wedding because we knew we'd be home late and she had the SAT the next morning. My niece, Nic, came to the rescue and took her out to dinner. Then, on Saturday night she had the Harvest Dance, which she got all gussied up for. Another late night!

He's tolerating this.
On Sunday, Mark and I took a lovely fall ride to Naples (NY, not Italy, although they do call it "Italy Valley") to pick up a (mile high) coconut cream pie from Bob & Ruth's for the quad-birthday celebration on Sunday night. After a dinner at P.F. Changs, friends and family gathered at our house to celebrate Nic's, Annalisse's, my, and Mark's birthdays (respectively). For Nic and I: the coconut cream pie; for Annalisse: a gluten-free/lactose free cupcake; for Mark: a chocolate mousse cake. Cam was able to come for dessert, which was nice. The highlight (for me, anyway) was Annalisse opening her gift from the family: two tickets to see the band FUN at RIT in November. Her brother even put $$ toward the purchase. He'll probably regret that when she wants to hang out with him at the concert.

Last, but not least, my big day was rounded out with a trip to Oneonta to visit Hartwick College. Nothing says "happy birthday" like a seven-hour car ride (3 1/2  hours each way). Anyway, it was a bit of a wasted trip since none of us were really impressed with the college. It was generally very scenic, but a bit dated and really, really hilly (not a big deal but hard to picture getting around in the cold, frozen winter). I'm sure with all the hills and steps the kids there don't experience "the freshman 15."

And so, on this chilly Tuesday morning it's back to reality (a.k.a. work) as I broke down and turned the heat on as we got ready for work. Bundle up, it's coming...  

Tix to Fun!
The mythical coconut cream pie
Nic is now officially a "Fairport-ite"

Monday, October 1, 2012


In true Libra fashion, I must acknowledge the fact that this is the first day of OCTOBER! Bring it on!!

Heading to the Heartland

Tomorrow I leave the Roch for a couple of days for my association's October board meeting in Kansas City, Missouri.

Of all the places I've been (especially lately), I've never been to the "heartland" of America. Probably the closest I've come to the middle of the country is Chicago, but I wouldn't exactly call Chicago "the midwest." So, I'm sort of excited to see what KC is like. (By the way: it's just confusing enough that Kansas City is in Missouri, but the meeting is actually in Olathe, Kansas, which is apparently in the Kansas City, MO metro area.)

The timing isn't great as October is turning out to be another intensely busy month for us. Just about every weekend is spoken for already, and next week we have things planned just about every night. All this is complicated by the fact that Annalisse has tons of AP Bio homework, and with the challenges (stuggles, really) she's been having with that class she really needs to focus a lot of attention on it every night. Just another time juggling act...there never seems to be enough time.

Just the same, I'm looking forward to my adventure tomorrow. My NAGAP colleagues are a fun and innovative bunch, and I always come away from my time with them, though tired, inspired!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Getting to the "root" of the matter

I love fall. I love fall, a lot, except for that nagging voice in the back of my mind that keep saying, "You can enjoy fall all you want, but just remember what's coming after fall..." There is so much to enjoy with the colors, the warm, yet cool days, the smells, and THE FOOD.

This is not a picture of my veggie
medley, but you get the idea.
One of the things I like best about fall food is the root vegetables available at the farmer's market. They are so much reasonably priced there than at, say, Wegmans, and you can get a ton of delicious stuff at a very reasonable price. Tonight I made a roasted root vegetable medley with carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, squash, and potatoes (are potatoes and squash root vegetables?). I wish I had also thought to buy turnip and rutabaga; that would have made it really yummy.

I've been missing the scent of "fally" smelling Yankee Candles (such as "Cinnamon Spice," "Pumpkin Spice," or "Banana Bread") burning in the house, so I'll have to take a trip to the mall for a couple of those sometime soon. To everything there is a season, and we are making the transition to fall. Summer, I will miss you and I'm sure the wait will seem endless until your warm days and nights return again! 

(Just for the record: Although I love spring and fall, I still think I could be happy with 80 degrees (+) and sun all year round. Just sayin'...)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

College Search Update

As you may recall we had a  full summer of travel, with many campus visits behind us.  BUT, as of tonight's college night at Eastview Mall there are a couple more prospects to add to the list. So, next up: Mercyhurst University (formerly "College" - they because a University in January 2012) on October 13 and now, Castleton State College in Vermont in Mid-November.


All this college stuff hasn't been without its stress (mostly for her) in the last month. Between an extremely challenging AP Bio class and her first round of standardized tests (she took the ACT in early September [got a 21, which was not too bad], is taking the SAT on October 6, and is retaking the ACT on October 27 (her score of 21 was so close, but we think she can boost her score a point or two...) she's just about had it with college prep. EXCEPT, that she loves to look at colleges, so off we go to two more...

I'm just hoping she is able to stick with, and be success at, the AP Bio class. A grade of 80 would be great, but we're just hope she passes after a pretty rocky start. This class is a "whole different ball of wax" for her, but I want her to stick with it (as does she), understanding that it's the closest thing she's had to an actual college class. 

I give Annalisse a lot of credit; she is really focused on managing her time wisely and meets her  demands - in and out of school. She had all her college applications done before her senior year started (except for the last two possible additions) since she knew she'd be be super busy come September. I told her once she pushed the button to "submit" her apps, we are going to have a celebration. Then it's just the anxiety of waiting for decisions...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Reflections on Twenty-Five

The Young Bride
Looks like we made it (says Barry Manilow)! September 19, 1987 was a rainy Saturday, but the dark skies were brightened by the presence of our family gathered to send us off on our marriage journey (What schmaltz, eh?), complete with the '80s wedding fashions (peach balloon-hemmed bridesmaids dresses), a buffet dinner and the Chicken Dance.

The Handsome Groom
But marks our 25th Anniversary. I can't believe the time has passed so quickly. The years have been marked by many milestones: the birth of our two wonderful children, three houses, two cats, two dogs, many cars, job changes, and the loss of so many we loved. It's a bittersweet day. There have been ups and downs (marked by many high "ups" and many low "downs"), and even now we have rough days, but we have persevered and I think we can take real pride in that. We are certainly not the naive kids we were at 23 and 25 (the average age to marry at that time), and maybe even a little more cynical when it comes to love. Life, day in and day out, can do that to you.

Missing Dad Today
Remembering Charlie
Still, there is a lot to celebrate. We'll be marking our day in a low key way tonight when we go out for treats at the delicious, delectable, dessert destination Phillips European. We had hoped Cam could join us but he has to work and, as of last night, no one had offered to take his shift. Gone are the days when the family gathers to celebrate a couple's 25th, as it was when my parents and their contemporaries celebrated their Silver Anniversary. There was usually a party given by the kids, complete with a corsage for the bride, a fancy cake, and lots of silver-themed gifts. That's okay...a party like that is not really my style anyway. It's possible I may take Mark and Annalisse with me to Puerto Rico this January as a good excuse to celebrate our 25th!

Thanks to all for the warm wishes! We are so lucky to be surrounded by such wonderful friends and family who shared our day with us and have supported us throughout the years!!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Rainy Friday Night

It's pouring rain. It's Friday night. I'm exhausted from a week of travel to the North Country, sitting in the chair with my laptop and the TV all to myself - so: happiness! Annalisse is off to her first sleepover of the year with the returning and new Downstage kids, and Mark is in his "cave." Ahhhh, serenity!!!!

The trip to the North Country grad fairs is always like a trip down memory lane. (Do I live too much in the past? Nah! The present has it's great moments, too!) I headed up to Potsdam on Tuesday afternoon and checked into the Clarkson Inn for the night to rest up for Wednesday's and Thursday's full day of grad fairs. On Wednesday morning I rose bright and early to head to SUNY Plattsburgh, which was about two hours away.  Sadly, Burlington, VT was calling me from across the Champlain...will I ever get there again (in the near future?). Major bummer.

Anyway, after the Plattsburgh fair I headed back to Potsdam for the SUNY Potsdam fair. After the fair I stopped over to see my cousin Roseanne, who lives in town. We had a nice visit and it was great to see her and the kids since it had been a while. Unfortunately, our paths don't cross as often as they used to with us both living away from Massena. After visiting Ro I headed over to Maxfield's to meet my grad pals and actually stayed out until 11:30! I know!

On Saturday morning I headed to Clarkson University (saw no one) and then to St. Lawrence University (saw a couple of kids). Following the fairs I went to check into 24 East Main, the B&B where I was staying. What a great place! It's an old house which, during my sister's time at SUNY Canton, served as her sorority house. It's been totally renovated and updated. Really beautiful. I stayed in the "Tower Suite," which was basically the attic. It had a queen bed, a separate room with two twin beds, and a jacuzzi in the bathroom. OH YEAH. I took a nice hot bath and settled in for the night. No TV, just me in a comfy bed. Admittedly it was a little creepy because the ceilings weren't super high, but very nice nonetheless.

Before settling in for the night I took a ride over to SUNY Canton, where I spent my first two years of college. Great memories. In some ways it has not changed at all, and in others it's changed a lot. There have been "facelifts"and renovations at different locations, and some others are woefully in need of updating. I hadn't been on the campus in quite a long time so it was great to just take a walk around, especially after being cooped up for two days.

In all, I drove over 700 miles in four days. It always amazes me that there are still roads in New York State that I have not travelled, but there are. It makes the drive a little more interesting, anyway. In a nutshell, I am looking forward to sleeping in my own bed tonight!!

Monday, September 10, 2012

500 in 24

Last night we returned from a whirlwind trip up to Massena to see our Aunt Jeannine from Edmonton, Alberta, who was in town for a visit. It's been hard for her to be so far away from her sisters as both Aunt Jackie's and my mother's health has been in steady decline. The trip was super quick because we weren't able to leave town until around 1pm on Saturday since Annalisse had to take the ACT (college entrance exam). She finished a little early and we were on our way, flying down the NYS Thruway.

When we arrived we met the family at a restaurant and spent some fun time catching up with everyone. Aunt Jeannie, as always, looked great and was buoyant and funny. We so enjoy spending time with her and wish she didn't live so far away. She's so awesome!!

On Sunday morning before we picked another aunt up for a quick breakfast, we took a ride up to the St. Lawrence Seaway and Barnhart Island, which seems to be our routine nowadays. It's so ironic (or maybe just part of being an adult) that, when I was a kid, we went to the Seaway just about every summer evening to take Nonnie "for a ride" and I hated it at the time. Now I love the area and realize how lucky I was to grow up in such a beautiful place.

Hindsight, right?