Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking Back: 2013

The last day of the year is a great day to reflect on the last 365 days and, if you really want to punish yourself, see how you did on your New Years Resolutions. I'm not going to do that because I know I did not succeed on several fronts (diet, money management) , and I tend to make the same resolutions every year anyway! As with many other end-of-the-year retrospectives, 2013 had a theme: EXPENSE.

Wow, what an expensive year this was. From the graduation party to house renovations to college/tuition expenses, we definitely over extended ourselves and did not do a great job saving or managing our money. I guess that's what new years are for. We are super happy with the much needed house renovations, but they were quite costly. And as for college expenses/tuition, all I can think is how much money we'll have floating around once the kids are out of school! It is short term pain for long term gain, and well worth it.

This last year has also been one of loss and adjustment. We lost Auntie and Aunt Cece in September, and became empty nesters the same month. Being empty nesters has not been totally terrible, but that, combined with Mark traveling at least one week a month to Denver for his job, leaves a lot of Jasper-Mommy time for sure. Mom G./Aline continues to hold her own in the nursing home in Massena, but her dementia is getting worse every day, and thankfully she's not fully aware of her surroundings.

There was tons of fun in 2013 as well! We had a wonderful 70th birthday surprise birthday party for Pat in May, proud moments at Annalisse's end of high school activities and graduation, trips to DC, NYC, Puerto Rico and Las Vegas, as well as girl's weekend in June, and fun Greco family times.

An expensive year, yes, but also a great year filled with fun, family and friends (and neighbors!). As I've said before, though, time is passing too quickly. 2014? Really? Weren't we just anticipating the apocalypse that was Y2K?

Looking ahead: check back tomorrow for ideas for 2014's blank slate!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Chistmas Vacation

The gifts are all cleaned up, and we are spending the final days with our little tree. Christmas was great, a non-stop round of fun and family. For Cam, it was the Christmas of Clothes (a new suit, fancy shoes, leather belts, sweaters, shirts, jeans), and for Annalisse it was the Christmas of shoewear (wellie boots, Tom's shoes - oh, and a new iPhone), and for Mark: the Christmas of Orvis (we are so happy there is now a nice Orvis store in the Rochester area). For me, it was the Christmas of the ring.

A little while ago my sister Carol gave me Mémère's engagement ring. It was probably around 90 years old, tarnished and worn out with the small diamond chips and little pearls (that were left) barely visible. We took it to the same jewelry designer who had made our wedding rings (and a couple of rings since then) for restoration, and the results were incredible. The thing I love about the ring is that it is so simple  and petite, and not overwhelming. It was by far the best thing I got this Christmas and I love it!!

Tomorrow (weather permitting) we will trek up to the North Country for a Christmas celebration with my sisters and their families, then it's a couple days of hanging around before heading to Arlington for a quick visit with the Virginia Shiaos.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Goin' to the Chapel!

Congrats to my niece, Nicole, and her boyfriend, Patrick, on their engagement yesterday! They are thinking the wedding will take place sometime in the first six months of 2015, so there is a lot of fun planning ahead for all of us. Her mother, aunts, and friends alike are totally looking forward to all the milestones that come with planning a wedding. Say YES to the dress!

Nicole's ring is really special. My sister, Carol gave my mother's wedding diamond to Patrick some time ago and he had it placed into a beautiful new setting. Even though Nic has wanted to become engaged for a while, Patrick ended up totally taking her by surprise by placing the ring in a children's pop-up book and asking her on the last page, "Nicole, will you marry me?" So sweet and original! Good job, Patrick!!

Nic is planning to incorporate a lot of family members into her bridal party, which will be pretty special as well, including Annalisse, who is over the moon at being in her first wedding as a bridesmaid (she served as a flower girl in each of her aunt's weddings). Best wishes to Nic and Patrick in the fun months ahead! Savor every moment!
The Bling!
So cute!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Cuzin' Lovin'

Last night we went over to Aunt Mary and Uncle Pete's for a gathering to hang out with our Versprille cousins from Massachusetts. It's been almost four years since we've all been together, and the kids always have a blast together. We were a little bummed that our Holmsten cousin, Phoebe, couldn't be there, but we ALMOST had everyone for our traditional picture. Here are a couple from the past:

Kids in Trees 2006
Kids + Dog in Trees 2007
Kids 2010
Kids 2013
What a great start to the holiday season! We have to work today then are off until January 6. HURRAY!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Almost there...

We are four days from Christmas. Both kids are home and settled back into the family routine, and their bedding and other mountains of laundry are just about done and ready to go back. Most of the shopping is done (but not all - DANG!), and today we're supposed to get an ice storm so I'm pretty much in for the night. Ahhhh....we're almost there!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Shopping Drudgery

I don't think it will come to anyone as a surprise when I say, once again, that I hate shopping.

I LOVE giving presents, especially when I, or "we," can really surprise someone with a great, unexpected treasure. It is truly better (and more fun) to give than to receive. So, it was with much reluctance that I started my Christmas shopping today, simply because I was running out of time.

We headed out to run a couple of errands (one of which was to pick up my maternal grandmother's engagement ring, which I had restored and which will be my Christmas present from the family ~ more on that later in the month. It's so beautiful!) before arriving at the mall at 11am. As you can imagine, by then the place was already rocking. We were able to get about 50% of our shopping done, and still have some running around to do over the next week, but at least we made progress. We put in a full day's work, having left the house around 9am and getting home around 5pm. No nap today and I did not even get around to going grocery shopping, so not much for dinner. We are having a blustery storm at the moment and I was not ambitious enough to head back out to Wegmans, so it was an "every Baker for him/her self" for dinner.

Tomorrow morning I'll head back out to pick up a couple of things and do some substantial shopping to get ready for the neighborhood cookie exchange and a work dinner I'm hosting on Wednesday night (with my homemade eggnog!!). I have to say I do love the hustle and bustle of December. Now if I could only find a personal shopper...

[Since I did not do a separate post on Annalisse's arrival home, we went to pick her up yesterday (Friday the 13th) morning and we got home around 3pm. The weather was tricky in a lot of spots, but we made it home in plenty of time to attend this year's first Downstage show at the high school. She was super excited to see all her friends, and the new troupe put on a great show!]

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Little Tree

You know how sometimes when you see a Christmas tree in the wild, and it looks "just right?" Not too big, not too small, nice shape, soft needles. It has happened to us, too. Usually with pretty good results back home. But, this year we were fooled. "Yes," we said. "That looks like the one," we said. Our tree must have undergone a mystical transformation between the time we cut it down and the time we put it up because it's super small and kind of  skimpy. Maybe it's a trick like that one with the dressing room mirror; you know: the clothes look great on you 'till you get them home.

Still, our little tree brightens the living room during these dark days before Christmas. Well done, Tree.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

And now, a word from the dog

That's what paws are for.
Well, not really. The dog can't talk. But if he could he would say:
I really miss my sissy and brother. It's so boring around here with Mom and Dad gone all day. Especially this week because Dad is also gone to Denver for work. So Mom and I just mostly hang around until it's time for my walk, then we go upstairs to her "mom-cave," turn on the heater, and watch TV until bedtime. Mom said it's going to be a lllloooonnngggg winter. Luckily brother and sister are home next week to keep me company. 
I hear ya, pup, I hear ya. Long winter, indeed.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Thanks, Given.

Another Thanksgiving has passed. What a whirlwind five days! The kids are settled back at their respective schools, having left around 8:30am to bring Annalisse back to Erie, and Cam driving himself back to RIT (he has the car for the week...yay for him). We were greeted with a great day for driving, warm with dry roads. The weather started getting a little dicey with dropping temps and sleet around Buffalo, but we were safely home by 4pm, and still had time to spare to put up the outside Christmas decorations.

On Thursday, Pat, as usual, made a delicious turkey dinner with all the fixin's, and was a gracious host to all of us, including Nic and Patrick. You did not find me out with the crazy crowds the following day, Black Friday being a tradition which I despise. I hate crowds and lines, and that day is the worst combination of both. There are really insane people out there and Twitter was blowing up with horror stories of crazy people and violence everywhere. I hate it.

The time at home with the kids was pretty low key, and they got a chance to see groups of friends, mostly on Friday. On Friday night they met up with their camp friends at TGIFridays, a get together that Annalisse was particularly looking forward to since she would be seeing the object of her summer romance, Alex, once again. He picked her up for the dinner since Cam had gone early to meet some friends from Fairport crew before heading to 'Fridays. They both came home around 9pm, after which Annalisse spent TWO HOURS parked in the car in the driveway with the car running and the lights on (supposedly) chatting with Alex. Despite my text telling her "they could come in, Dad and I were already upstairs," they remained in the driveway. It turns out that just as they were about to conclude their evening Alex asked her to "go out." Oh Happy Day! She actually has a boyfriend for the first time at the ripe old age of 18. We'll see how it goes considering they rarely actually see each other and communicate mostly by texts, Facebook, Snapchat and Skyping. Oh well, I hope she has fun with it.

On Saturday night my sister Carol and her boyfriend, Paul, were in town so we had an amazing prime rib dinner at our house. What a treat. Laughter all around. It was great.

So now we settle back into our quiet life of going to work, coming home, walking the dog, and heading up early to bed...until, that is, two weeks from now when they are both home again!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

White Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Storm
Early this morning, after days of of anxiety over the impending "winter event" that started yesterday afternoon and was expected to last several days, we made our way down the NYS Thruway to pick up Annalisse for the Thanksgiving holiday. Before hitting the open road, though, we stopped by to pick up big bro at RIT. I was really happy he came (And early! We picked him up at 6:30am) since he had not been to Mercyhurst, so that was nice.

We got to the college by 9:15 and were back on the road heading home, after a stop at Panera, by 10:30, arriving back at around 1:30. Thankfully, the storm was over-predicted (as usual), and the roads were clear with very fine flurries but no accumulation. Now the anxiety can start about the trip back on Sunday, but not before we spend some wonderful time together. It's so nice have my chicks back in the nest - and puppy is pretty happy, too!!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Decking the Halls, Super Early

As I count down the days to a delicious turkey dinner, I cannot believe I am decorating for Christmas today. Well, actually, I'm doing the first stage of decorating, which is the inside house stuff. Next weekend or shortly after, Mark will decorate the outside/porch. Then, in a couple of weeks we will get the tree and the transformation will be complete. I'm doing it so early this year because next Sunday, the day I usually decorate (the Sunday after Thanksgiving), we'll be driving Annalisse back to Mercyhurst. And, knowing me, I know I am too tired after work to decorate (especially being so dark and cold when I get home).

You know, I spend a lot of time during the year not wanting Christmas to come. In May, June, July, I marvel about how fast the year is going and how it will soon the the holiday season again, and that, too me, is not a welcome thought. It's not really Christmas, but rather the decorating and shopping that I'm not too crazy about. It's a huge financial drain and most of the time things feel commercialized and rote, rather than thoughtful and heartfelt. I think it also bothers me because another year has flown by in the blink of an eye.

For some reason I'm not dreading Christmas this year. That probably has a lot to do with looking forward to having both kids home for a couple of weeks. Also, this year we're celebrating with my sisters and their families at Mary's new house during the weekend between Christmas and New Years. There is even talk of Anthony coming home from NC for the get together, which would be awesome.

So, tonight, I will once again be able to enjoy the glow of holiday lights coming from the mantle, and in a couple of weeks we'll enjoy the lights from the tree. How fast time does go.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Your Coming In and Your Going Out

Last night I had an hour long conversation with Aunt Carol Chase to make arrangements to have lunch and go see my Mother when I visit on Friday. Obviously, it doesn't take an hour to make such arrangements, but I know when I call Aunt Carol I've got to set some time aside. I guess I'm lucky I got away after only an hour.

During the course of the conversation Aunt Carol was talking about Auntie, whom we lost in September. Auntie and Aunt Carol have always been as close as sisters as Aunt Carol was just 10 years older than Auntie and her lifelong best friend. Aunt Carol said something that was particularly touching, about how when Nonnie was in labor with Auntie, Aunt Carol was told by Aunt Pasqueline, who was attending to Nonnie's home birth, that it was "time for her to leave," as Nonnie was "getting close."

Shortly after Auntie was born Aunt Carol was right there, and by her side for the rest of her days spending time together, and, in later years, talking many times a day - exchanging advice and confidences. On the day Auntie passed away, Aunt Carol was back by her side, holding her hand as she slipped away. As we were speaking, Aunt Carol said, "I was there when she came into this world, and I was holding her hand as she went out." Not unlike the thoughts of a parent, I suppose. So sad. Aunt Carol, being 93, has lost all her beloved cousins, except for my generation. As humans, we all strive to live a good, long life, but that's what's got to be so hard: losing loved ones who pass away before you do.

Aunt Carol loves to tell the stories about life on Martin Street, and truthfully, I never get tired of hearing them. She has her quirks, but the love she has for her family has been at the center of her life.

Monday, November 18, 2013

All roads lead to...Fairport!

Get ready for another post about the awesomeness of Fairport. You've been warned.

Maybe it's just my street, maybe it's living in the Village in general, but when your neighbor is walking by your house and says, "C'mon, let's go!,"you go. Especially when it's to the grand opening of the Fairport Brewing Company. That's right: Fairport even has it's own microbrewery. My God, before long there will be absolutely NO REASON to ever leave Fairport.

Anyway, we headed down to the FBC grand opening in and around their cute little building in the heart of downtown. They had live music and festival type food, and Southside Johnny played great '70s and '80s rock. The best thing, though, was the demographic, which skewed my age or older (wonderful given my recent sensitivity to aging). We saw tons of people we knew and it was a blast.

I seriously can't think of a better community to live in. Lucky!!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the KFC

April 13, 1976
Funny story.

A couple of weeks ago I convinced a car full of coworkers to accompany me into the city to go to Swan Market, a German deli, for lunch. Let's just say German food was waaaayyyy outside some their comfort zones. So far out, in fact, that two of them got a turkey sandwich on rye. IN A DELICIOUS GERMAN DELI. But I digress.

On the way to Swan's we passed by a Kentucky Fried Chicken (or, KFC as it is now known), and I remarked that it had been years since I had eaten KFC, and I would love to have some but it's no longer part of my diet. I love that stuff, I think if I had some now I'd feel pretty sick from all the grease. Me and KFC, we go way back. Back to 1974-5, in fact, when my sister, Mary, had a job there and would bring home leftovers every night after work. YUM, what a treat.

So, ironically I had just talked about eating at KFC when the Facebook page for my hometown paper posted that they were looking for stories and pictures from the day Colonel Sanders visited Massena's KFC in 1976. The tribute was in memory of the KFC building which, after being empty for two years or so after an abrupt closing, was recently demolished to make way for a Tim Horton's donut shop.

Right away I went to the family photo albums (I'm pretty sure the family is regretting giving me all those albums...) where I knew I had seen a picture of that fateful day! I posted the picture, which featured dad, Carol, the Colonel and the then-KFC manager. Lots of folks commented on it and a fun time was had by all. End of conversation. Or so we thought.

THEN, this weekend while visiting Mary we stumbled across a newspaper clipping of the event and--wait for it--an ancient KFC order slip with the Colonel's autograph on the back. Isn't that wild? After years of not thinking about KFC, within a couple of weeks it's all  we can talk about! I posted a picture of the autograph on Facebook especially for my friend Sue to see, to which she promptly replied: OMG!! This is the secret recipe for your retirement investment! That Sue!

BUT WAIT, that's not all! On Monday morning I got a message from a reporter for the Massena paper wanting to interview me about the picture I had posted. I was happy to respond to him to let him know my sister Carol would be the better person to speak with him since she was actually there; I'm just the keeper of the pictures. It turns out Mary was also not there - she was in college at the time. I thought Carol would kill me for referring the reporter to her, but she was actually a really good sport about it. So, Carol has now gained her 15 minutes of fame.

Well, that's the story. It's really the tale about how a silly story about basically nothing really gained legs. Chicken legs, that is. Regular or Extra Crispy?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Harvest Dinner

On Saturday we took a trip up to my sister Mary's for a "Harvest Dinner" celebration in her new house.

For the past three years Mary's awesome husband, Larry, has lovingly (and painstakingly) renovated his parent's 30+ year old huge split level. The house had great "bones," but needed much updating, and Larry outdid himself honing his Jack-of-all-Trades (master of many) skills to do literally everything in the house (plumbing, ad/heating, roof, floors, counters, drywall, painting, windows, etc. etc. etc!!). Larry also built all the cabinetry, and even some of the furniture, including an amazing bar with three different types of curved wood, an Adirondack-style wooden bed, and a dining room table with 300 year old wood found in one of the family barns. My sister's role has been to scour the Earth for decorations, including the hicory/leather-seated dining chairs, bar stools and counter chairs. The house is absolutely stunning, yet warm and inviting. HGTV shows are made for these people.

Now, having been satisfied with how the house turned out, Larry will turn his attention to the yard, then back to their "old" house where my nephew is the new renter, for some much needed updates. 

But I digress...back to the Harvest Dinner.

The Greco family members headed to Mary's from Massena and Rochester, and all converged around 2pm on Saturday. We started with delicious appetizers at Larry's homemade bar in the "man cave," which featured overstuffed leather couches and a 70" HD TV. It was great to get together with cousin Lisa and her family as we don't see them very often. After a delicious turkey dinner with all the fixins, we cleaned up and hung around for the evening. There were old pictures to sort through, and laughs all around. Serious laughs. It seems like the older I get the more I enjoy spending time with my family. It turns out we all just like to get together and there is never any drama. I feel very fortunate for that. I regret that my kids have not been able to do much my family over the last couple of years as they always seem to be away at school, at their summer jobs, or otherwise engaged. Some day!

How happy my dad, Auntie, and Uncle Joe would be to see the family enjoying ourselves in this way. These big get togethers are like the ones I grew up with...they help tie us to the past.

So, in advance of Thanksgiving and the opportunity it gives us to step back and give thanks, I give thanks for my family all year long!

Friday, November 8, 2013

6000 Calories!

Last year, as I noticed my weight creeping up-up-up, I decided to get back on track with watching what I eat. About 10 years ago I was able to lose approx. 20 pounds with Weight Watchers, and got myself down to an appropriate size/weight for someone who is 5 feet tall (and has a short waist...). But, like many other things, I started to slip back into old habits and gained, not all, but a bit back. Let's just say I was on a trajectory that was not making me very happy about my body image.

The key for me has always been journaling, portion control, and, of course, making smart food choices. People don't realize how much they actually eat until they start to write it down. So, not wanting to re-invest in Weight Watchers (at least for now), I decided to download a handy little "app" called MyFitnessPal. MyFitnessPal helps you determine your optimal daily calorie intake to meet your weight goal, and has a very robust database of foods - from general type foods and dishes to many restaurant calorie guides. It also accounts for exercise so you can build that into your daily calorie count. To get to my weight goal, my daily calorie count was 1,200, which, believe me, is very hard to achieve at an average of 400 calories a meal, not including snacks.

I'm happy to say that most days I can stay within 1,200 calories, and, as of "now," I've lost approx. six pounds using MyFitnessPal (although that usually fluctuates between 4-8 pounds lost when I sporadically weigh myself). When I go over, though, I don't beat myself up - tomorrow is another day! I bring this up because Wednesday we were having a discussion at work and one of the guys I work with said he needs to eat 6,000 calories a day. A DAY! He has intense daily two-hour workouts, and he does other fitness type stuff. He is also 6' 7" tall. 

But, WOW. 6,000 calories. Wouldn't that be wonderful?!!!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Funk-y November

Over the last couple of weeks I've felt the funk settling in.

I've been aware for a very long time that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.). Truthfully, for those of us who live in the north, who doesn't have it to some degree? But, boy, am I aware of it as I feel myself getting more cranky, prickly, hypersensitive to any type of criticism or feedback, and over analyzing any real or perceived slights against me (paranoia?), and just generally wanting to roll up into a ball. Last  week Mark was in Denver for work and I was kind of glad for that because I think he might have been on the receiving end (undeserved) for my foul moves and unrelenting picking. Best to keep a distance.

This, THIS, is why I need to live some place warm and sunny. My soul will battle the good/happy vs. cranky/unhappy Judy until the days get longer, warmer and sunnier again.

Come, spring, come!!

This post is dedicated to Barb "Ma" Bell, with whom I shared many discussions about our shared challenges with SAD.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween '13

Here we are, Halloween again! I doubt this year's night will live up to last year's which was very special because the Irish exchange students descended upon our house for some Village Halloween fun, followed by hanging out and even some piano playing and singing. While they were disappointed they could not go to NYC because of Hurricane Sandy, they seemed to have a great time experiencing an American Halloween.

This will be my first Halloween without any Baker kids around, which will be weird. I am once again back to handing out candy on my own as Mark is in Denver all week. I remember one time, before kids, when Mark was also traveling on Halloween and it was a day much like today is shaping up to be: cold, dark, windy, rainy. I closed up shop early to go pick him up at the airport and what a tough ride, being very hard to drive with the wind and the rain. Tonight I will have some company, though, as Nic and Patrick are coming for dinner, then Patrick wants to hide and scare all the trick-or-treaters with his big horse head. No, not his regular head - he has a mask. He's a kid at heart!

Stay safe everyone!!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

NYC in Movie, TV and Song

Lovely Lady Liberty
This is the fist chance I have had to sit down and reflect on our whirlwind weekend in NYC. One thing I came to realize, seeing most of the famous sights for the first time, is that


Sad but true. Let me explain...

We got into The Big Apple around 10am on Thursday and, after stowing our suitcases at The Hotel Empire, we took a brisk 25 minute walk down to Times Square to book a hop-on-hop-off tour of the city. My goal was to find a tour that took us "downtown" to lower Manhattan to see such sites as Chinatown, Little Italy, The Twin Towers/Freedom Tower sight, The Statue of Liberty, among other things. As I've mentioned in the blog before, I've never really gotten to be a tourist in New York as I'm always strapped for time attending one meeting or another.

The perceived New York City of my youth was a gritty one, with Dad's Daily News newspaper, Sesame Street, and All in the Family feeding me images and ideas about life in New York.

As a result of these and other influences, following are the things I thought about as I experienced New York on Thursday and Friday:

  • Lunch at De Gennaro on Mulberry Street in Little Italy made me think of: A combination of Billy Joel's song "Big Man on Mulberry Street," and the movie "Goodfellas"
  • Passing by Bellevue Mental Hospital made me think of:  Manfred Mann's cover of Bruce Springsteen's "For You" ('Cause they're waiting for you at Bellevue; With their oxygen masks; But I could give it all to you now; If only you could ask...)
  • The Staten Island Ferry and ALL OF MANHATTAN made me think of:  Sex and the City. Oh, and Seinfeld.
  • Rockefeller Center made me think of: 30 Rock and SNL
  • Madison Avenue made me think of: MadMen, of course!
Ellis Island
...and many more pop culture references; too many to count!

The absolute highlight of my trip (on my "bucket list") was taking a boat to the Statue of Liberty. Although we didn't actually go to the island, it was close enough for me. I was choked up when I finally saw her, thinking of my Grandfather, Frank, coming with him mom and sister at the turn of the century, how she represented hope for a new a life for him and countless immigrants over the years. A good reminder that there is still room for everyone here.

Next up on the bucket list: Ellis Island. The next time I visit the City I will try to go there. Ironically, Ellis Island reopened the day after we were leaving after being closed for a year as a result of Hurricane Sandy. When I do go there, though, I want to be armed with information about my relatives so that I might make the most of my visit.  I was so surprised how close Ellis Island was to the Statue of Liberty - swimmable, almost.

In addition to great food (Turkish one night, Cuban the next) we saw the broadway show "Big Fish," which is based on one of our favorite family movies (and the book before that). It was wonderful, with magical stage effects, and super, super fun.

We returned home Sunday night, tired, but thankful for such a great trip. The chaos and confusion (and excitement and vibrant energy) of New York is great, but I couldn't wait to get home to my quiet, lovely Fairport and of course my furry baby!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

And just like that, it's fall

An antique shot of the
Statue of Liberty
that I found with the
old pictures my sister sent me.
Ironically I've still not yet
seen Lady Liberty in person -
only from planes. :(
October is funny. Not ha-ha funny. Just weird, you know?

We've had beautiful warm, almost spring-like weather all month, then BAM!, windy, cold, dark. As a general rule of thumb it seems that you can pretty much plan outdoor activities until October 15, then forget it. This year was no exception. When I get home from work off the work clothes come and on go the sweatpants. The silver lining: my neighbors can't see me walking pup in my stripped-down attire since it's so dark by the time we head out for our nightly stroll.

Looking to the rest of the week: Mark and I are heading out tomorrow for a long weekend in NYC where I'll attend the NAGAP board meeting from Friday afternoon through Saturday (maybe Sunday, also? I'd better check the schedule...), with a leisurely tourist day planned on Thursday and part of Friday. I'm really looking forward to tons of walking and good food, and of course spending time with my awesome friends from NAGAP. A nice little break to wrap up the season of Libra, wouldn't you agree?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Back. And Forth. And Back. And Forth.

Silly Kids
On Friday I picked up Annalisse for a weekend home. Six hours round trip. Today we take her back to school. Six hours round trip. And back and forth down Interstate 90 we go.

Remember in August when she couldn't wait to get a way from "You People?" Well, two-ish months later she was sure happy to be home and chilling out on the couch. Not to mention getting to bed at a reasonable hour and eating homemade food - if she's excited about my cooking she must definitely be missing home. Yesterday we took a trip to Brockport to visit her friend, Leighanna (I hung out on a couch in a lounge while they went off with each other for a couple of hours), and she was so happy to check out Leelo's new life and meet some of her college buddies. Then, we' picked up Cam for dinner, first stopping at Power's Farm Market to go through the haunted tee-pees. It was fun, and nostalgic for the kids.

So, off we go again. See you in six hours.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Hey, Mark Baker!

Don't you just wish you were
fishing on your birthday?!

They say it's your birthday! But they are not saying which one...although most of us can guess. 
Hint: it's a higher number than mine!
Anyway, looking forward to a nice dinner out at The Revelry to celebrate. I sure hope they have chocolate mousse!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Day After

The office of terror
I made it! I'm 50 + 1 day! Whew.

My 50th turned out to be a fabulous day from start to finish. It started with texts from both kids (I know, I know, but you have to take what you can get), and upon entering my office I was greeted with streamers and tons of balloons courtesy of my industrious coworkers. Now you all know how I feel about balloons, right? Well, my coworkers didn't know about my balloon phobia until too late, and I lived in fear all day of one bursting. But they looked so pretty and festive, all was forgiven quickly!

We celebrated first with a yummy bagel breakfast (I'm not a fan of birthday cake so I like to do bagels for my big day), then our "lunch bunch" went out to Black and Blue for lunch. I left a little early to spend time with pup before we headed out for my "drop in happy hour" at the Blue Cactus in Fairport.

It was tons of fun! A bunch of folks came out to celebrate with me and the two "generous" mojitos really hit the spot. I'm so glad I gave in and decided to celebrate my birthday. My friends and family made it truly memorable! I'm feeling the love!

Just a few of the merrimakers:

Wendy, Ken, Lena and J
Theresa, J, Carol and Paul
Anne, J, Steve, Julie and Judy

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Newest Member of AARP

It is with much reluctance that today I become eligible to be a card-carrying member of the AARP. I'm not going to lie: I'm not super thrilled about this birthday but, as someone told me recently, it's better than the alternative.

We'll "celebrate" later with a drop in happy hour at the Blue Cactus in Fairport. Having a happy hour was a suggestion of one of my neighbors as a low pressure way to celebrate the day, which I thought was a great compromise to walking into a roomful of people yelling "SURPRISE!"  I chose the Blue Cactus so I could get a mojito. It's all about the mojitos.

So, I'll persevere through the day with the thought that I probably won't live to another 50. Time goes too quickly, and that's what bothers me the most. In the meantime, though, I'll count my blessings and live for today! Carry on!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

18 + 1 Day

I just got up from a much needed nap. Boooyyyy did I need that.

Yesterday we had a great time celebrating Annalisse's big day. It wasn't a knock-down-drag-out crazy celebration; there was no big party and not even any balloons (the structure of the day did not lend itself to that), but it was a nice day spent with family experiencing a small slice of Annalisse's new life at Mercyhurst.

The day started early with a stop at the Head of the Genesee Regatta where Cam was racing in the afternoon. The weather started out typically crappy with a steady rain, and we got pretty wet regardless of our best attempts to keep dry. We didn't tell Cam we were coming, but his face did light up when he saw us, a good sign! His sister ran to him yelling his name and flailing her arms - announcing, in her usual low key way, that she had arrived.  After chatting a bit and finding the Mercyhurst team (but she would not speak to them), we hit the road for Erie around 9:30 and checked in with Cam later in the day to find out how they did. He said his boat came in 8th out of 18. Not too bad. They beat some pretty good boats so he was happy enough with how that turned out. We are still waiting to hear if he will be going to the Head of the Charles in Boston in a couple of weeks.

Back to the birthday girl and her big day: when we got to Erie we dropped A's stuff off at her room, and, while she was taking a shower, went to the bookstore to find a couple of t-shirts to wear to the football game (drudgery since I hate football, but I digress). After the rainy start, it turned out to be a beeeaaauuutttiiiiffffuuulll day to be out and about. We went to the game for a little while and sat with Fairport friends Deb and her daughter, Rachel, then headed out around 3:30pm to check into the hotel and find a place to eat. We ended up at the Brewery at Union Station, which was in a cool old building. Now, I will say Erie is not much to look at...pretty run down, lot's of graffiti and tons of shuttered up buildings. It's hard coming from a cute little town like Fairport to see beauty there.

The dinner, though, was very good, and it turns out the restaurant is haunted, so that was a fun conversation with the waitress! After dinner we went to Wegmans to stock up on all Annalisse's gluten free/dairy free snacks, then went back to campus to a Music/Dancing arts program which featured students and faculty. It was very impressive; tons of talent on that stage.

Around 8:30 we said our goodbyes to the birthday girl so she could celebrate with her friends. We made our way back to the hotel where, having been upgraded to a two-bedroom suite due to overbooking, I enjoyed a luxurious bath in the jacuzzi tub. It was wonderful!!

We got up early and, after picking up a dozen Krispy Kremes for Cam and his roomies, we hit the road and finally got home (after haircuts for Mark and Cam, then lunch) around 1:30. I really missed my hang time with my pup. I'm happy to be home with him.

Do you ever feel like you need another weekend to recover from the weekend?

That kid

Saturday, October 5, 2013


The birthday girl at 1
My "baby" turns 18 today! I'm so proud of the wonderful young woman she's become. We'll celebrate by popping in to surprise her brother at his regatta this morning, then we'll head to Mercyhurst for family weekend.  She said, "Now I can get a tattoo." Of course, knowing how I feel about tattoos she was kidding. I hope.

Anyway, happy birthday and much love to our 'Lisse!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Libra Girls

Meg, JoAnn and Judy
Last night was my 22nd Libra Dinner with my pals JoAnn and Meg. I'm pretty sure I've written about our dinners before as it's one of those yearly markers that seem to come so fast. This year for updates, JoAnn is a grandmother, Meg's two oldest kids just got an apartment together and I have two kids in college. I always like to remind JoAnn that she first met me when I was 21, and now I am turning ?0. We always give each other goofy little gifts and generally just enjoy the company. And have a glass of wine to toaster another year, of course! We were also able to bring our waiter in on the celebration since his birthday is October 12 (same day as Aunt Mary/Mim Mim's - there are soooo many Libras in our family). Remarkably, though, he didn't think being a Libra was that big a deal. I think he's been hanging with the wrong crowd.

Today, I picked Annalisse up at school for her date with Blake to see Theresa Caputo ("The Long Island Medium") in Rochester tonight, which is her birthday present. Then, tomorrow the 18th birthday celebration begins. I CANNOT BELIEVE MY BABY WILL BE 18. Crazy, crazy, crazy!!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Back on the Water

Kind of a silly shot
Today we went to the first of Cam's fall regattas in Welland, Ontario. It was a great site with actual seating and lots of lawn to hang out on for the many hours before and after his boat actually passed by.

Even though Cam is just 20ish minutes away we haven't seen him in two weeks. His schedule this fall is really busy between classes, work, and crew, and the weeks just seem to be flying by. He told me today he was sick all last week, which I sort of knew from stalking his Twitter account, but he had not told me at the time ("I knew you'd be worried"). I think the early hours for practice six days a week are probably something that is hard to manage, and he's getting a little run down. Of course, I'm walking that fine line between checking in occasionally and bugging him too much. I think I'm doing a pretty good job of not micromanaging him, not that he would let me anyway!

So, back to the race. We got to the regatta around 11am, and his boat was set to launch at 12:50, so we had plenty of time. We found the RIT tent and hung out there and chatted with him and the other parents. The rowers headed down to launch around noon, and finally made their appearance back down near the viewing area about 1:20. In the fall, the races are "timed," meaning they are not head to head like they are in the spring, which makes the spring regattas more interesting and fun to view. And the weather could not have been more perfect. I've been to regattas in the worst of conditions and this day was an absolute gift!!

When the guys returned to the tent after the race, we hung around a little more for the results (fourth out of four boats [aka "last place"] - oh well, better luck next time!), then hit the road for home, arriving back in Fairport by 4:30.

Not a bad little day trip.

The video is of the boat heading back to the dock after the race.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Friday, Part I

Welcome to Thursday! We're almost to the weekend!

There's a lot of fun stuff coming up. Mark and I still have to go out for our anniversary dinner since our original intention to have a fancy dinner out last Saturday was squashed by my desire to stay in sweatpants and not put my contacts back in after my nap. After all, it was a rainy, cold day and who wanted to go out in that? So, maybe Friday night we'll head out to Label 7 or Lento, two of my faves. I'll probably have to decide by this afternoon so we can make reservations. Either one is delicious.

Then, on Saturday we are once again on the regatta circuit with Cam's first race of the year, The Head of the Welland just outside of Niagara Falls, Canada (I think). It will take about 2 1/2 hours to get there so, we'll head out at the reasonable hour of 8am to get there around 10:30. He doesn't actually race until around 1pm, so we'll watch the races then we'll most likely head back home around 3pm. It should make for a nice day since the weather is supposed to be sunny and 75 degrees. We certainly lucked out (this time); fall regattas are notorious for terrible weather.

Next week holds some fun stuff, too, like my annual Libra dinner with long time friends JoAnn and Meg, then, next Friday, heading to Mercyhurst to pick up Annalisse to see the Long Island Medium, Theresa Caputo, in Rochester on October 4 (Nicole's big day!). [I'm really looking forward to seeing her!] The next day we will turn around and head back to Erie for parent's weekend, which will also be Annalisse's birthday. The rest of the month will find us booked every weekend through Veteran's Day. Whew!

No wonder I love October so much. So much going on!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Sign of the Libra

It's here! Another cycle of Libra. This one, of course, being a big one for me for reasons previously mentioned. Just a reminder there are three Libras in our house, so...

Get ready to rule and be ruled!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Transition to Fall

Today we took a ride to the Windmill in Penn Yan, which marks the unofficial start of fall for us. Looking ahead to the next month there was only one weekend we could go, as the rest of the weekends through early November are already booked. (I know! it's crazy!). It was a day that promised steady rain, but it held off while we walked through the crafts, farm stands, and baked goods. I treated myself to a sack of mini powdered donuts that is my once-a-year indulgence. SOOO Goooood!! We also bough three beautiful mum plants for the front porch. It's starting to look really fall-y 'round here.

Ever since my girl's weekend in Hershey, PA and our trip to Lancaster, PA (during which I could not find the Amish), I've been obsessed with finding a Pennsylvania Dutch hex sign for the house. I could easily order one online but I really wanted to be able to see it "in person" and make sure it is of good quality and the colors compliment the new house color. 

I was really hoping to find one at the Windmill today, but alas, my search was in vain. No hex signs. As a back up I did find an artist in downtown Rochester who makes custom signs. That will be our next stop. I expect they will be more expensive, but I don't mind paying a little more if it's of good quality and will look nice on the house. 

On a side note, there are just two more days until we enter the sign of LIBRA. Get ready!!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Year 26

Here it is: the Annual Anniversary (is that redundant?) Post!

Today marks 26 years for Mark and I. Wow, time has passed so quickly. Today was certainly a much more beautiful day weather-wise than September 19, 1987. In fact, it was a shame that we had to work on such a nice day that happens to be our wedding anniversary.

This is certainly a weird year. Looks like we're right back where we started with "no kids," and it's interesting to think of ourselves back then and the people we are today. I would say we are "much changed," in some good ways and in some not so desirable ways. Still, we carry on.

What celebrations are in store? Not sure. We might go out to dinner tonight in the Village or something, and maybe have a more special celebration dinner this weekend. I'm just home from work, the dog is walked, some chores are done, and now we'll probably head out for a bite. Sounds very exciting, doesn't it?!

Hurray for us! Twenty-six years.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Looonnnngggg Week

What a long week this has been.

It started on Monday morning with Mark's aunt Cece's memorial service and burial (she had passed away the previous Thursday from a relatively short battle with cancer), after which I hit the road for the North Country grad fairs at St. Lawrence University, SUNY Potsdam and SUNY Plattsburgh.

I got to Potsdam on Monday evening and was already feeling exhausted. A bright spot was that my pal, Heather, also happened to be in the 'Dam that night so we went out for dessert. By 8:30pm I was yawning up a storm, so I went back to the hotel and fell asleep by 9:30.

At 5:30am I received the text from my cousin that Auntie had fallen and it was pretty serious. That day was spent in uncertainty about my next steps: should I go to Massena after the Potsdam fair to see Auntie? Should I wait until the morning and see her on my way to Plattsburgh? Fate intervened and took Auntie that afternoon, so I decided to wait until the morning after which I would continue onto the Plattsburgh fair (on Wednesday night), then head home on Thursday. Then the plan was to get up early on Friday morning to head back up north.

The ride home on Thursday through the Adirondack Park was quite nice and relaxing, although a long trip (six hours door-to-door). Again, I will say how lucky we are to live so close to such a treasure. The leaves, though, had not yet started changing.

The news of the week kept piling up as we found out one of my girl's weekend best friend's (Lorie) mom passed away on Thursday, and then a good friend's mom passed away this morning. With Cece and Auntie that's four moms lost in one week. Not good.

So, for those of you keeping track at home: I've traveled approx. 1,200 miles since Monday. Boy, am I exhausted, both physically and emotionally. It really hit me last night after Auntie's calling hours that I needed to have quiet time - I was maxed out on people. Judy the introvert took over. It was a relief to get home knowing I could chill out with Jasper watching Saturday night TV (Lark Rise to Candleford on PBS) and have some down time Sunday, too.

So here you shall find my "cave," heater blasting, pup at my feet. Bliss!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Saying Goodbye to Auntie

On Tuesday we lost our beloved Auntie.

Aunt Carol Morin was the sister between my dad and Uncle Joe. Always everyone's favorite "Auntie," even to those who were not related to her.

Auntie had been in declining health for several years, and spent the last couple of months in the nursing home as her health issues had become more than her two girls, my cousins Jeannie and Ro, could handle. To be truthful, though, Auntie died a little bit every day since July 9, 1995, when her wonderful husband, Uncle Duff, passed away. She was never the same after.

You could always count on Auntie's wonderful hospitality, and her house was always open for a visit ("Mark, I think there's a beer in the fridge."). A memory that stands out: growing up, we always received underwear from Auntie for Christmas and in later years when we no longer exchanged gifts and I had to buy my own underwear, I actually had no idea what to buy! That's one funny thing I always think about with Auntie.

Growing up we were a very close Italian family. I think I've mentioned here before how we had a large web of cousins, and it was always hard in that small town to get away with anything without someone finding you out and reporting back to Nonnie or Dad or Auntie or Uncle Joe. It was a great motivator to avoid trouble, at least it worked for me! It didn't hurt that my Uncle was a village cop. Auntie was always very close to her mother and her brothers. I remember  that several years after Nonnie had passed away we were talking about watching "old family movies" and Auntie remarked that she did not want to do that - it would be too painful for her. It must have been difficult for her in these last years to lose so many loved ones.

Auntie is now in Heaven, reunited with all those who went before. She will be missed, but is finally out of pain, so that is a comfort to all.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

September 5

September 5 is a day that stands out in my mind.

I'll always recall the date because it's my brother-in-law Bill's birthday, and now our friend Chris Berg's birthday, but I clearly remember the afternoon of September 5th, 22 years ago now, in 1991.

I had just finished my bachelor's degree that spring and had just gotten a promotion at work. I had an official/professional picture taken at the College and had gone to a reception for something or other. When I returned to the office, around 3pm, my coworker said that my cousin, Jeannie, had been trying to reach me (of course, this is before cell phones). The news that my mother had possibly suffered a heart attack and that I should come as soon as I could. PANIC! As the hour wore on the updates became that she was flown by helicopter to Burlington, VT for a possible aneurysm, and had been resuscitated several times. At this time Mark and I had just one car (and no kids) so I had to pick him up at work (and wait for him to wrap things up - more panic setting in), then we had to go home, pack, grab a bite to eat and finally hit the road around 7pm.

We stopped and picked up my sister, Mary, in Watertown before finally reaching Burlington around 2am, where my sister, Carol, and Dad were waiting. We were able to see Mom, although she was quite out of it (but awake) and the medical drama that unfolded in the weeks to come included several brain surgeries, a couple of close calls including a bout of pneumonia, and weeks of rehab. During this time we were all back and forth from Burlington until Mom was released to go home the first part of December. Ironically, my father was too sick with a cold to go get her, more worry!

My mother made remarkable progress after her aneurysm and her physical and mental comeback was miraculous after all she had been through. It was amazing to me that my dad would go "first" in 2003 considering all she had been through. She is such a tough old bird! The silver linking in all this: it was wonderful to spend time in Vermont and it's one of my favorite places on Earth. I would love to live there (except for the cold weather).

Mom's health hasn't been great these last four or so years, but she was definitely blessed with many bonus years after her very close call, and September 5 is a date forever burnt into my memory as a I remember the scary uncertainty of that day, and the amazing recovery that happened afterward.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Thoughts on the Empty Nest

Wow, how many times have I been asked (or have I asked) about our imminent "empty nest" status in the last two years?
~When Cam went to college it was: In two years you'll be empty nesters!
~Recently, it's been: How will you like having an empty nest?
~And, as of yesterday, it became: Now you're an empty nester! What will you do with all your free time?
I have to admit, it's certainly going to be weird from now on. With the kids gone most of the summer for the last several years, I'm probably a little more experienced with the empty nest than some of our friends. I think I'll just keep pretending they are at camp. After all, Cam is just 20 minutes away and we had dinner with him last night, and I'll be seeing Annalisse again the weekend of October 4.

My friend posted this really great article on Facebook that I thought resonated so well about this period of our lives. It certainly feels like one great big page has turned and that, although they'll float back in and out of our lives, they'll never really be back "for good." This, I believe, is heartbreaking but at the same time exactly how it is supposed to be.

The Freshman

Yesterday, in spite of all the nervousness and anxiety, we made the 2 hour, 45 minute drive to Erie, PA to drop Annalisse off at Mercyhurst. I cannot believe we got all her stuff in the car. Really unbelievable.

Move in was very smooth as guys from the wrestling team helped load up a bin and bring her stuff into the beautiful Warde Hall, which just opened a couple of years ago. Annalisse had only "met" her roommate Sarah, a dance major Ohio, electronically since they connected on Facebook and had been exchanging texts and Twitter messages for a couple of months. Sarah moved into the room on Tuesday as she had to be there early for dance. 

Warde Hall features spacious double rooms with a bathroom in each, air conditioning, a fitness center, common areas on each floor, a movie screening room and a little convenience store on the first floor. Annalisse took a lot of factors into consideration when deciding where to live and chose Warde mostly because of her stomach issues. Exercise helps with that and she thought it might be a good idea be able to use the fitness center if she couldn't get out for a run. Also, she liked the convenience store in case she wanted to get a snack. Well, that was her story anyway. I think she just liked it because so sparkly new and fancy.
This is probably what her room should
have looked like. ~Thanks to Ken E. for 
sending this along!
After arranging the room and putting everything away (I will admit I'm not much of a decorator so I bet there are tons of more cleverly decorated rooms), we trekked off campus to the mall to get her a small TV. Then, it was back to campus to put the finishing touches on her room and get her TV set up. We also went to the bookstore (or, gift shop, as she calls it) to get her books for the semester. Of course, they were as astronomically expensive as you would imagine.

We said our goodbyes around 4:15pm (in case you're wondering: there were no tears on my part as I quickly slipped away and tried not to make a big fuss, but I'm not sure about her). I was super excited about her being there and all the great stuff they had planned for orientation, as well as knowing that she'd be meeting a ton of new friends. It's all good!!

After we left, the kids were to gather as a floor to head to the dining hall around 4:30, then there are non-stop activities planned until Wednesday when classes start. On our way back to Rochester we picked up Cam and had a great dinner with him. He was in a really good mood and talking a lot. 

As parents, we can't ask for much more than happy kids, can we? Now, if you'll excuse me there is a dog who is demanding my attention, and shall now have 100% of it!