Monday, December 31, 2007

The Year in Review: Pictures

As is my custom at this time of year, I'd like to share some of the images that MADE my 2007. If you're in one of the pictures, I salute you and thank you. If you're not in a picture, I truly wish you were. Maybe in 2008? (Sorry for the long post, but I'm in love with my own photography!)

Aside from general good health and happiness this year, the highlights were the trip to Ireland for my brother's wedding, an event I was NEVER sure would actually happen. Also high on my list was the week in Chatham that Bobbers and I enjoyed in September. The weather was stellar, the hotel views were spectacular, and the company was not even the least bit boring after 28 years of these sorts of trips. Cheers, Bob!

And may we all experience a New Year full of good fortune, good health and good humor...and could we even ask for a bit of peace? We are finally in election season and January 21, 2009, cannot come fast enough.

And so, without further ado...

January started off with the inauguration of our new governor Deval Patrick. I had a chance to hear a brief speech shortly after he took office. I look forward to even more good things from Beacon Hill after his groundbreaking election:

Attended three Sox games this year, and sat in the bleachers for the first time in a VERY long time. Got a great look however, at our Captain's rear view in this preview of the World Series on June 12.

There were just too many pictures from Ireland, so I had a hard time reducing this to just one. The first one is a taste of the Cliffs of Moher:

The second one is another warm welcome to Tara, who joined our family this year:

And just because this is a great picture of two of my siblings:

You couldn't ask for two better traveling companions either:

In early July, Bob and I spent a great weekend in the Pioneer Valley. I love this picture of spontaneous friendship I snapped in Amherst:

Another special night was my first meetup with this band of crazy people from Surviving Grady in late July:

My birthday present this year was an iPhone, which has been really fun, including using it to snap this picture of my own superhero:

Chatham in September, as previously mentioned, was magnificent:

...including doing something Bob and I haven't EVER done before (keep your minds out of the gutter):

And spending the day in Lowell, Massachusetts, was surprisingly fun:

One of the very best days of 2007 was spent in Provincetown with this gang of wonderful women:

My first Red Sox autograph came the day after our boys clinched the Eastern Division championship. Youk was surprisingly awake, considering the champagne that flowed the night before:

Oddly enough, went to the British isles for the second time in one year. Here is a nice pic of Aberdeen - a nice, medium sized city that I barely got to see:

Although our friends, Susan and Daryl, have defected to North Carolina, they are still in our hearts each and every day. We look forward to their return....some day.

We rounded our Sox events this year with an event for the Lowell Spinners where I was able to get my picture taken with the 2007 World Series trophy. I haven't digitized it yet, so this photo of the Papelbon family with the trophy will have to suffice:

And finally, we had a great visit to Sturbridge a few days before Christmas:

Happy 2008 to one and all!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Thank You, David

Since the television writer's strike, I've been amazed at how much I miss three shows that I regularly record on our DVR: Late Night with David Letterman, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. There's some good news to report on this front, with Letterman signing an independent deal to return to the air with his writers in tow.

It's one thing to get through the holiday season without these shows, but I'm not sure I could get through a cold and dismal January the same way. If you're interested in asking Comedy Central to bring back the other two shows WITH THEIR WRITERS, go here. In actuality, I think the writers are striking appropriately to get a few cents more per show based on the fact that their work is available in so many new media formats. Let's hope they're all back soon - the presidential candidates are getting off way too easy.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas in New England

Yesterday, Massachusetts took a break from some truly sucky weather to deliver a relatively decent day, which we spent mostly outdoors. Friends were visiting from out-of-town and we met at Old Sturbridge Village and enjoyed the peace and quiet and beauty of a winter day.

Here's a sampling of some really atmospheric pictures. Enjoy!

Such a sweet face on little Amelia...but underneath that angelic exterior is a sarcastic, deep-voiced little troublemaker. Seriously, she's a doll, but quite a handful!

Let's hope some of Jen rubs off on her little sister. She's adorable, smart and polite.

And a special greeting from Father Christmas:

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Christmas Questionnaire

Last year, I ran across a Christmas survey that I thought might be fun to revive this year...

1. Eggnog or hot chocolate?

I worship eggnog, but my arteries don't. (You'd think I'd like the Eggnog Latte at Starbucks, but it sucks. Big time.)

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just set them under the tree?

Santa doesn't wrap presents! Everybody knows that!

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?

White outside usually, but not this year because the outlet started to sizzle this summer when I plugged the weed wacker into it. Thought it might be a good idea not to burn the house down. Colored lights inside on the large tree in the living room; white on the smaller tree in the dining room.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?


5. When do you put your decorations up?

Later than most people, but not on Christmas Eve I (at least not yet).

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?

Don't have any specific favorites from days of yore. In recent years, I've made Jambalaya on Christmas Eve - it's starting to be our tradition.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child?

It may be strange, but a favorite memory for me was the weeks leading up to Christmas. My dad was a jeweler, and worked non-stop from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Truth be told, I don't think we saw him much over those 4 weeks - he even worked Saturday AND Sunday all day. During that time, the house was totally run by my mom and us kids. The best part about it was having breakfast for dinner - pancakes, scrambled eggs. Part of this is because my mom was the World's Worst Cook, but also because my dad was a real "meat and potatoes" guy and I suspect she wanted time off from the regular routine as much as we did. In later years, we found out that all the overtime Dad put it in actually provided us Christmas itself. My mom would 'charge' all our toys and gifts early in the season and pay them off at Christmas with the extra pay. How did he do it? I'm not sure I could ever be so selfless. Thanks, Dad.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?

I really don't remember, although I think Patty vanden Eynden from down the street had something to do with it.

9. Do you open gifts Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?

When we were little kids, we opened Christmas Day, when we were teenagers, it all moved to Christmas Eve. For all my married life, it's been Christmas morning.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?

Although most of my married life, I've decorated the tree by myself (after Bobbers puts it in the stand), we didn't put up a big tree this year. I've finally determined that I'd rather spend my time doing other things - a sure sign of oncoming elderliness, I suppose.

11. Snow- Love it or dread it?

Now that I don't have to drive in it much anymore (telecommuting, what a concept!) and we bought a snow blower, I really like snow. I've really tried to make an effort to enjoy each season as it comes and not to complain too much about it. To me, one of the pleasures of winter is the beautiful sky - best enjoyed while shoveling snow in late afternoon.

12. Can you ice skate?

Nope, the one and only time I tried to ice skate, I fell and someone behind me skated over my hand. Kinda turned me off a skating career. Although I have to say it looks like great fun...especially at Rockefeller Center.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?

I don't have a particular stand-out gift as a child, but I have to say that two Christmases ago, I got a bunch of presents from Bobbers that were out of this world. Everything was well-thought out and bought with love. Especially important was the fact that all the gifts were purchased a mere two months or so following his major heart surgery - very impressive. (I still - to this day - marvel at how he slogged through the mall with all that heavy stuff when he wasn't supposed to be carrying anything really heavy at the time. Wouldn't that be just great to have your husband keel over buying Christmas presents for you?)

14. What's the most exciting thing about the holidays for you?

Catching up on sleep, watching movies, hanging out with friends, cooking some great meals.

15. What is your favorite holiday desert?

1) A desert I can make: Garbage candy -- one part white chocolate, one part peanuts, one part pretzels; 2) Grammy's fudge (although I don't get to have it often). As my cousin, Susan, said on her blog, "My uncle makes the most awesome, decadent, melt in your mouth fudge you will ever taste, using my Grandma's recipe. (Funny note: the recipe has this instruction on how long to stir it: Until your arm falls off. I miss Grandma)." Me too, Susan, me too! Except, isn't she called "Grammy?"

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?

Watching "White Christmas" (favorite song: "Sisters") and "It's a Wonderful Life" (favorite scene: when George Bailey just barely prevents himself from heaving the newel post knob; second favorite scene: when he tells off Zouzou's teacher: "What kind of teacher are you, anyway?"; third favorite scene: "Hello, 5 and Dime! Hello, Savings and Loan! Hello....everything else....!")

17. What tops your tree?

A green and gold painted aluminum star from Pier 1.

18. Which do you prefer: giving or receiving?

Well, I must confess I really like....receiving!

19. What is your favorite Christmas song?

"I'll Be Home for Christmas" sung by just about anyone. So very bittersweet. Second favorite: "The Christmas Song" by Mel Torme.

20. Candy canes?
Nah, not so much.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Reclaiming 9/11

Remember how you felt on September 11 and in the days that followed? When exactly did this hallowed day become a caricature of itself? Probably anytime Rudy Guiliani had anything to say about it.

Well, there are ways to avenge this double loss, and the families of some 9/11 victims are doing something important:

"Jim Riches, a New York deputy fire chief whose firefighter son was killed during the attack, said the group aimed to raise doubts about the central premise of Giuliani's presidential campaign -- his leadership role on Sept. 11. "If we have to follow him around all 2008 we'll do it," Riches said.

Lauded as "America's Mayor" for his blunt talk and compassion after the attacks, Giuliani's political stock soared, and he built a multimillion-dollar consulting group emphasizing his leadership skills."


"But the former New York mayor's frequent references to Sept. 11 on the campaign trail have infuriated Riches and about 20 activists who lost firefighter sons. The New Yorkers blame Giuliani for decision-making failures that they say contributed to the deaths."

It is taking New Yorkers a while to crack St. Rudy's halo, but it appears they're getting ready to - and it's time.

Monday, December 03, 2007

My Lunches with Nicole

What do you do when you're a bleeding heart liberal and the company you work for asks for volunteers to read to students during one lunch hour per week? You sign up, that's what you do. Cue the heart-warming violin music that plays while you dream of sharing a meaningful and life-changing, one-on-one relationship with a third-grade student.

Before being introduced to "my" student, I eagerly attend the training class where I learn I'll have to pass a security review. I'm also told never to unnecessarily touch my student, bring her presents or spend any time alone with her. OK, I shrug, this is all perfectly understandable, and I determine not to let these things get in the way of the time I'll spend sharing my love of books and a lifetime of reading with a young, book-loving girl.

I eagerly anticipate finally laying eyes on Nicole. I'm told that I may bring books that were meaningful to me if I'd like, to encourage conversation and bonding. "Little Women" comes to mind - but I wonder if that's suitable for a nine-year-old?

Finally, the big day comes. I wait in the elementary school hallway where hordes of children run screaming past me. Wha..? The nuns at Our Lady of Sacred Heart would not have allowed such behavior. Hrrmmph, I think, my Nicole will be much better behaved than these hellions certainly.

She finally arrives. She's taller than I thought she'd be, and there's no smile to be seen when we meet. And, as we make our way to the lunchroom, she seems to know everyone we pass. While Nicole ignores me for the most part, she notices everything else that's going on in her surroundings. She greets each teacher and half the students. Although we pass fairly quickly through the cafeteria line, I'm amazed at how much time Nicole can waste. She decides we should go to the library to find a book. I agree, not realizing that the library is at the opposite end of the school. I worry that we might be spending too much time alone, but I quickly find that there's NO PLACE in the school to be alone: the place pulsates with activity.

It's fairly obvious that Nicole looks at this lunchtime meeting as a way to wrap an adult around her finger. She even admits without the slightest bit of hesitation that she is participating in this voluntary program to avoid math class. (Finally! I have something in common with her!) On the other hand, when she chooses books, she clearly picks ones that are clearly below her reading level. When we finally settle down to read, the words pour out of me as quickly as I can say them, but I notice that she spends a lot of time staring out the window. At one point, I stop reading altogether and it takes her a full 30 seconds (which is an awfully long silence actually) to notice that I've stopped speaking.

We've had three sessions so far, Nicole and me, none of them turning into the bonding experience I had let myself believe might happen. But I've spoken to the program coordinator about our problems. Mrs. B tells me she'll talk to Nicole (and her mother, who happens to be a personal friend of hers) to see whether she really wants to continue with the program.

While I'm secretly hoping Nicole moves along, the parents reading this are probably roaring with laughter. My frustrating experience with Nicole is for 45 minutes per week - I can't imagine dealing with this 24-hours per day for 18+ years.

I applaud teachers and parents - you truly do important work. But I'm still hoping I can trade Nicole in on that sweet, smiling bookworm. I can dream, right?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Lowell and Lowell

Incredible though it may be, I didn't blog about the return of Mike Lowell to the Sox. Like most Sox fans, I couldn't be happier. The man brought stability, confidence, energy and excitement to nearly every game. Here's hoping he can bring another stellar season in '08.

Now we all get to sit in wonderment waiting to find out if the Sox will be making a deal for Johan Santana, a two-time Cy Young award winner from Minnesota. When a proposed trade included Lester, Crisp, and any two additional prospects, I was feeling quite sanguine about stockpiling yet another ace on our team. But today ESPN is reporting that the Sox have included Jacoby Ellsbury in the deal. This is a deal-breaker as far as I'm concerned. Yeah, it's Johan freakin' Santana. But I don't care. We need a base-stealin', taco-eating Native American on OUR team. Just say no, Theo. N-O.

The Surviving Grady group had a special outing this past Friday night: the Lowell Spinners Alumni Dinner. The Single A farm team for the Red Sox throws this dinner every year to honor a former player who has made it big in the major leagues. This year's guest? Our own Jonathan Papelbon!

Other assorted guests included former Red Sox outfielder Gabe Kapler, first base coach Luis Alcea, Joshua and Jeremy Papelbon (two younger brothers of Jonathan who are also signed to pro ball contracts). Despite a most horrific rubber chicken dinner, we also were able to get our photo taken with the 2007 World Series trophy - a religious experience of its very own. (When the picture arrives, I'll share it here.)

Here are some photos of our group, along with a Papelbon family portrait with the world series trophy. (We were lucky enough to be in the viewing area when they stopped by. Needless to say, we didn't mind waiting.)

Gabe and JET

Gabe and Nancy

The Papelbons

Life with Mac

For those of you who are interested, I have been having technical problems with posting since I got the new Mac. That, plus the fact I haven't had anything exciting to report have kept me away from Blog Land. I wrote the post below about two weeks ago, but have been trying to figure out how to import pictures into iPhoto. I figured I shouldn't waste it, so at least it's out there, for history's sake (::insert rolling eyes here::).

Getting acclimated to the MacBook has been very interesting. I've found that I hate Safari (the browser that comes with it) and have switched to Firefox. It was a big challenge to export Windows Explorer "favorites" into a Mac using Safari - took me the better part of a day to complete it. I'm also getting adjusted to life without a right click button, as well as the ability to delete forward (just found out this can be done by holding the function key down when hitting the delete button).

Overall, using a Mac is a most pleasant experience - it's visually beautiful, feels great to the touch, and has some really interesting tools. Funnily enough, I can now have instant messages read out loud to me, which I discovered one night when Bobbers sent me a silly message - quite funny to hear out loud, read by a disembodied computer voice! The iPhoto software is so incredibly easy to use that I'm finally getting a handle on organizing all my digital images. I just wish it was this easy to organize my HOUSE!