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!