Thursday, August 27, 2015

She Has High Hopes

First of all, American Girl's newest Historical character (and the first truly new character under the BeForever name) debuted this week. Welcome aboard to Maryellen Larkin! This sweet native of Daytona Beach, Florida is trying to figure out how to stand out in a crowd...not an easy thing to do in a big family (she has five siblings) or in conformity-obsessed 1954.

I'm not interested in the doll (I already have a perfectly good red-head, colonial lass Felicity Merriman), but I would love some of her clothes for my own mid-20th century doll Whitney. I'm considering the cute purple gingham School Outfit, cherry-print Play Outfit, and a lighter Poodle Skirt than the felt-and-long-sleeved-blouse costume I picked up on eBay last year. She even has her own version of those itchy Crinolines Mom and Linda Young often complained about from their own late 50's-early 60's childhoods. I may look into her Ice Skating Outfit for Christmas. (As pretty as the Birthday Dress is, I already have a formal spring outfit for Whitney.)

Some of her furniture and accessories are nifty too, even if I don't have the room for them, much less the money! Whitney may end up with her "meet" accessories - I've been wanting to find fake pearls for her. I'm debating Scooter the dachshund, too. I usually find AG "pets" to be too expensive for what you get, but Scooter is beyond cute! I love his big, hopeful eyes.

Although her diner and the TV that you can use to make your own videos are cool, my favorite piece of furniture for Maryellen is the sofa bed. My family had a sofa bed in the mid-late 80's. It was brown and gold and kind of nubby, nothing like Maryellen's...and to tell the truth, it didn't work all that well. My sisters and I would sleep on it together on Friday nights so we could wake up early and watch Saturday morning cartoons. After a few years of bouncing on it during shows, I think we finally broke it. We couldn't get the bed part out at all by the late 80's. It was gone by about 1991.

I'm dying to read her books, too. I was born in South Florida (although I wasn't raised there) and was a devoted beach bum at age 10. I also come from a fairly large family (though I'm the oldest). And I definitely understand how she feels about wanting a white Christmas. White Christmases aren't that much more common in South Jersey than they are in Central Florida. I wouldn't have a white Christmas until I was well into my 30's.

Watched an episode of Remember WENN while getting ready for work this morning. "Caller I.D" teaches us about the magic of fiction when a late-night caller claims to be sitting on the edge of a near-by building. She'll jump, unless the cast performs for her.

Work was, once again, quiet for most of the day. It did pick up a little bit later in the afternoon, but by that point, I was almost done. My relief was right on time, and I was in and out.

I went straight home and worked on my story. Betty finds Scott and Ruth half-underwater at the remains of his sunken ship. Ruth has tied Scott to a casket and wants her to kill him - his blood will restore her fins, so she can go home and Ruth can take his soul. Betty, however, can't bring herself to kill anyone, even a human. She cuts him loose and kisses him instead. Her family shows up to get rid of Ruth. Wrathful and jealous, Ruth blasts Betty away and takes off with Scott, determined to steal away the rest of his soul.

In honor of Maryellen, I ran Grease 2 while eating leftovers for dinner and baking a Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake. Maryellen's not the only girl of the 50's and early 60's who's tired of the era's need to conform. Pink Lady Stephanie Zannoni (Michelle Pffifer) is a tough tomboy who is bored with her obnoxious T Bird boyfriend Johnny (Adrian Zmed) and is looking for someone much stronger and a lot deeper. Enter Michael Carrington (Maxwell Caulifield), a bright and sweet transfer student from England. He falls head-over-heels in love with Stephanie the moment he sees her, but she has a far harder time accepting him. When he tries to be the "cool rider" she's dreaming of, they both learn what Maryellen did - the best way to gain someone's love is to follow your heart, not the crowd.

A major guilty pleasure that's a nostalgic soft spot for me - this used to run on cable a LOT during the early and mid 80's. Mom used to go around the house singing "Cool Rider" when I was a kid. Yes, I know it's cheesy, full of plot holes, some of the songs aren't great, and as gorgeous as Caulifield is, he can't dance or really sing. I don't care. When the numbers are good, they really hit the era right. My favorites are the dynamic opening song "Back to School Again," the hilarious "Reproduction," the bowling number "Score Tonight," and the Pink Ladies' "Girl For All Seasons" in the talent show.

If it's a guilty pleasure for you too, or you're a big fan of Pffifer or the Grease franchise, jump right on this motorcycle. It's not nearly as bad as its reputation suggests.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Telling Stories

I had just enough time to work on my fanfiction before leaving for work this morning. Hilary has brought Betty's other siblings - Jeff, C.J, Enid, and Doug - up to the surface. They give her a knife that has been coated with Ruth's potion. If she pierces Scott's heart with it, his blood will restore her tail, and she can go home.

Betty's confused. She misses her family, but she loves her friends on land, too. Not to mention, she genuinely loves Scott. She couldn't bring herself to kill him, whether or not he marries her. But then, she sees Scott with Ruth, telling everyone at the party that he's engaged to her. Betty's horrified, but Maple suspects there's something very wrong with all this, and especially with the lady....

Work was exactly the same as it has been - quiet until rush hour, on-and-off steady thereafter. It's the middle of the week and the end of the month, and an absolutely gorgeous day besides. Most people are either doing outside work or still at the Shore. I once again spent the down time working on story ideas when no one was looking. My relief was right on time, and I was in and out.

When I got home, I had a quick dinner of leftovers while watching Sally. Marilyn Miller, the darling of the theater in the 1920's, did the first of her three movies in the title role. Sally is an orphaned waitress who dreams of becoming a star on Broadway. She gets her chance when her friend Connie (Joe E. Brown), a former count, and Blair, the handsome son of a millionaire (Alexander Gray), gets her a job dancing in a cafe. A theatrical agent (T. Roy Barnes) hires her to play a Russian dancer at a fancy Long Island garden party. Sally thinks she's on her way...until she's recognized by both Connie and Blair and called out by both. She ends up dancing in the Ziegfeld Follies, but all she really wants is Blair. Sweet Cinderella tale with some nice numbers - look for the color "Wild Rose" chorus routine. The movie was originally all color - this is the only footage that remains.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

On the Boardwalk In Atlantic City

Started a sunny, slightly humid morning with Garfield In Paradise. Garfield and Jon are off to Paradise World, an island tourist trap that was the cheapest tropical place Jon could get them to. Their trip doesn't start off well, thanks to a falling-down hotel run by an owner who tells Jack Benny jokes. Things take a turn for the strange when their 50's rental vehicle takes them to the village of a group a doo-wop-worshiping natives...and a volcano that's about to explode!

Headed out even before the cartoon ended. I wanted to take my annual summer trip to Atlantic City today, while it is still summer. I was on the train to Lindenwauld by quarter of 11 and in Lindenwald by a little after 11.

Instead of sitting on a hot train station platform for an hour or wandering around Walgreens, I decided to have an early lunch. There's three restaurants across the street from the Lindenwald Train and Bus Terminal. I finally decided I didn't have enough time for the sit-down diner or Indian restaurant and opted for Burger King. It was the fanciest Burger King I ever saw. It must have been either just-built or very recently remodeled. They had a huge dining area with a separate room for parties, TVs everywhere, and even a counter with Wi Fi and computers. I took it all in while eating my Whopper and fries.

Even with lunch and buying my ticket, I still spent a half-hour waiting on the platform for the train. Thankfully, it was only about five minutes late. The train was half-full, mostly with the lunch crowd on their way to a day trip in AC like me, I suspected from the college students across from me. At any rate, there were no problems whatsoever getting there, and I enjoyed a very pleasant ride.

As soon as I arrived in Atlantic City, I strolled down straight down Michigan to the Boardwalk, passing a newly repainted Bally's on the way. (I'm disappointed they painted over all the cute Wild West-themed sides they had. Now it's just a mellow if slightly bland yellowy-tan.) Even as I walked, the clouds were gathering, and it was killer humid. It spit a little as I headed onto the boardwalk.

The Boardwalk was as busy as it always is during the summer. I went in the direction of Resorts, the Taj Mahal, and the Claridge this year, since I went towards Caesars and Tropicana last year. My first stop was Peanut World, the coolest souvenir store on the boardwalk. They have every kind of junk you can imagine....including a counter with some of Atlantic City's least-expensive candy. I went with my favorite fruit slices in pink grapefruit flavor. I desperately needed a can of Diet Rite too by that point. It wasn't that hot, but the humidity was horrible even close to the water.

Hit the Casino Pier next to try my luck at the cranes (and to avoid a sudden shower). (And to make up for not hitting the arcades this year.) I tried one with some very large Peppa Pigs. After I gave up on Peppa, I attempted one with more generic round stuffed animals. Nope. No luck.

The sun was out again by the time I made it to the Taj Mahal and Steel Pier. Steel Pier isn't really "The Showplace of the Nation" anymore, but it is the only amusement park in Atlantic City. I strolled around, watching people enjoy themselves on the rides. The place was surprisingly busy for a day with such iffy weather. I found a couple of wire tables with umbrellas between the Slingshot and the Rock and Roll and looked out onto the misty, hazy beach and deep green-blue waves.

(And yes, I saw the Dinosaur Beach logo on the Crazy Mouse roller coaster. Evidently, the same people who now run Steel Pier once owned the mid-90's jungle/dinosaur-themed Hunt's Pier revamp in Wildwood. Thanks to Matt at Dinosaur Dracula for pointing out this bit of lost Jersey Shore history!)

I was hot and sweating like crazy. It was time to go back. I stopped at one store for water and at one of the bathrooms. I really wanted ice cream, but most food is expensive on the boardwalk, and a lot of those small booths don't take credit cards or have a minimum. I didn't have much cash on hand.

Having done most of my clothes and shoe shopping earlier in the summer, the only store in the Tanger Outlets I was interested in was Toys R Us. I wanted to see if they had some of the new Ever After High dolls, but I wasn't keeping my hopes up. They were an outlet store.

Someone must have just restocked the shelves. The Ever After High/Monster High area was full to capacity. The products were almost entirely brand-new. too, including two just-released Toys R Us exclusive Ever After High dolls, Royally Ever After Apple White and Heartstruck C.A Cupid. I also saw Way To Wonderland Apple and Maddie Hatter, the re-release of Poppy and Holly O'Hair, and Candy-Coated Cedar Wood for the first time.

My real interest are the Signatures (original release) dolls. They had Faybelle Thorne (peppy daughter of the Wicked Fairy from Sleeping Beauty) and Bunny Blanc (laid-back daughter of the White Rabbit) for $15.99, cheaper than the $19.99 I usually see them go for on Amazon. I grabbed them both,

Fortunately, the train station is only a few blocks from the Toys R Us Outlet. I darted there, bought my ticket quickly, and still made it on the 3:36 train to Lindenwald with time to spare. Other than the train stopping to let another train going in the opposite direction pass, there were no major problems. We arrived at the Lindenwald station right on time.

Went straight upstairs to the PATCO. The train going to Collingswood was a lot more full than the NJ Transit train had been. People weren't in great moods, either. They talked loudly on their phones and fussed at each other when they tried to move around. I was so happy to arrive at my destination and hurry back to the ground.

When I got back into Oaklyn, I stopped at Phillies Yummies to finally get my cooling treat. It was now a gorgeous day for it, too. The clouds and humidity must have all ended up at the beach. By 5 PM, the sky was a radiant blue, and it was dry and in the mid-80's, perfectly normal for this time of year. I had a mint chocolate chip water ice. It was extremely green - a neon green more suited for lime than mint. It was quite tasty and mint-y, though.

As soon as I got in and got organized, I pulled Bunny and Fayebelle out of their boxes. Fayebelle's been a real surprise. I didn't expect to like her character or her doll when she was announced on New Year's Day, but she's slowly growing on me. Fayebelle is a perky cheerleader who also happens to be an evil fairy. She loves cheering so much, she cheers her spells instead of chants them! While her sparkly tunic and simple leggings are kind of plain compared to some of the other dolls' outfits, she has some of the prettiest hair in the entire line. Like Darling and Kitty, it's very silky and smooth, with lovely turquoise highlights. I did have problems keeping her wings on once I took off the rubber band (which I probably should have just left on).

I had more problems with Bunny. Not only does she have an odd facial mold, but she had more gunk in her hair than anyone else but Poppy. She went right in the bathroom sink for a twice-cleaning. Even after that, her hair is still a bit thin and sheds like crazy, and her head is a bit floppy. Too bad, because I like her character. Unlike the object of her affections Alistair Wonderland, Bunny has no use for maps...or for rushing, for that matter. This jazz-loving rabbit girl always manages to get where she's going eventually. Her dress is adorable. I love the fuzzy white collar. (Even if I wish the black collar and pink ribbon were real and not plastic.)

Ran The Merry Widow while taking out the dolls, and later while making a chicken salad for dinner. The last of the Jeanette MacDonald/Maurice Chevalier/Ernst Lubitsch musicals takes us to the fictional European country of Marshovia. The king is horrified when Sonia, the widow of the title (MacDonald), decides to leave off mourning and decamps to Paris. She owns more than half the country. If she takes her money elsewhere, they'll be ruined. They send the charming Count Danilo (Chevalier) after her. The ruse works too well - he actually falls for her. Now he has to convince her that he's sincere, even during a trial when he's accused of being a traitor to Marshovia for letting her go. If you're a fan of operetta or these two, this one is a bubbly bit of fun that's worth tracking down in the Warner Archives.

Finished out the night with a nice, long bath. Oh boy, did I need it. I was hot and tired after my long walk, and my knees were so sore, they were barely moving. I enjoyed the sounds of big band music while looking over more Christmas With Southern Living books for holiday gift ideas.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Busy Library Day

I had a lot to do today, since I'm hoping to have the day clear for a trip to Atlantic City tomorrow. One of the big things was hitting the libraries. I did the Oaklyn Library first, around noon. They weren't really busy, just one young woman asking to use a computer to help her apply for a job. I organized DVDs, shelved children's books, and organized the board books and picture books.

Lunch was next on the list. Since Capitol Pizza is only a couple of blocks from the Oaklyn Library, I ended up eating there. I had my usual slice of cheese and slice of mushroom with a can of Diet Coke. Enjoyed  a quiet meal while listening to the tail end of Action News and the beginning of The Chew. They were dead as a doornail. I saw one other person come in to pick up a pizza, but no one stopped and ate.

The Haddon Township Library, on the other hand, was bustling. There were once again piles of DVDs to shelve, and once again, there wasn't room for all of them. This time, it was the C and D kids' shelves (all those Dora the Explorer titles) and the A and M adult shelves that were overloaded. Put away a huge stack of audio books and a few CDs, too. Helped a sweet little girl find new Scooby Doo DVDs to watch, including the 13-episode set I just brought back. I didn't take out anything myself this week. I have other things I want to do this week besides watch movies, and there's still a few things I've bought over the past few months I haven't watched yet.

Stopped at the Westmont Acme on the way home. I was almost out of cooking spray. I really loved that Talenti Gelato and wanted more, too. They had flavors the Audubon Acme didn't carry. I went with the less-fattening Roman Raspberry Sorbetto. Picked up an Organic Cascade Sparkling Mixed Berry Water to drink on the way home. It tasted more like cherry seltzer than the usual Italian soda. They were a little busy, but the lines weren't that long.

When I got home, I worked on my story. I worked on it this morning as well and wrote down notes during lunch. Scott is taking Betty to the big end-of-the-summer clambake on the beach outside his home. Betty's happy to be going with him, but she's worried about their relationship. She's heard rumors about him and Maple possibly being engaged. It doesn't help that she overhears Eugenia gossiping with local women about Scott's marriage choices at the clambake.

Scott, meanwhile, has been lured to a sheltered cove by a familiar voice. Hilary and Ruth are there, Hilary singing with Betty's voice. Ruth forces Hilary to use her voice to put Scott under a trance. She wants him to marry her...then, she'll have him killed and take his soul.

Did a quick bathroom cleaning session around quarter after 5-5:30. The bathroom was absolutely disgusting, especially the bathtub. I couldn't really put it off for long. I'll see if I can get the kitchen in later this week.

Ran Mannequin this morning and while I cleaned later in an attempt to drown out the 80's rock radio station Charlie was blasting downstairs while he worked. There's nothing the 80's loved more than a good - or at least unusual - fairy tale romance, and this is one of the strangest. An Egyptian lass (Kim Catrall) who has traveled thousands of years to find her soul mate finally ends up in the body of a dummy in the window of a large old Philadelphia department store. She was originally put together by aspiring sculptor Johnathan (Andrew McCarthy), who fell in love with her. She comes to life and helps him make fabulous window displays that are the talk of Philly. Now he has to prove to everyone, including his flamboyant assistant Hollywood (Meshach Taylor), that he's not insane, just in love.

Like Xanadu from earlier in the decade, this is one of those movies you either really love, or really don't get. Critics tear it to shreds to this day. If you can accept it as a fun little fantasy with a nice cast and some great Philly in the 80's locations, you'll find it just as cute as I always have.

Garfield has his own close encounters with fantasy and strangeness in an episode of the 80's cartoon Garfield and Friends. He finds himself in "The Lasagna Zone" when he accidentally spills his favorite treat on Jon's new satellite dish and ends up in the TV shows. Orson just wants to be a "Sleepytime Pig" in the U.S Acres short, but the Sandman has missed the barnyard, The others try to help him get some rest. Jon wants to be brave like a samurai warrior in "Yojumbo." He takes karate lessons to impress Liz after a big guy threatens them. Garfield knows better - he finds himself helping out when the lessons prove to have not been very successful.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Rock Around the Doll

Started a beautiful, sunny, though slightly warmer morning with Peach Brown Sugar Pancakes. Thankfully, they turned out much better than the ones I made last week. They were perfect, soft and sweet and chunky and just right on both sides.

Work was on-and-off busy, busier than it has been, though still not quite as bad as it could be on a Sunday. I once again spent the down time writing and shelving items, though not for as long as during the weekdays. We should be picking up a bit this week as we get closer to Labor Day and the beginning of the month. Thankfully, by 4 PM, it had slowed enough that I was able to leave with no relief and no need for one.

As soon as I got home, I changed into regular clothes, grabbed my tiny laundry load, and rode over to the laundromat. It was crazy! I'd never seen it so busy. I did get a washer and a drier, but the only seats left were across from the vending machines, where hot late afternoon sunlight was pouring in. Even when it slowed down a bit later, it was still busy. Good thing my load was so small. I was in and out in under an hour.

In honor of the debut of American Girl's newest historical character, Maryellen Larkin, on Thursday, I ran music from the 50's and early 60's all day. Maryellen is supposed to be a Florida kid in 1954 with five other siblings. If any of those siblings are older, or her parents are a bit more liberal, she may have heard some of the music from the American Graffiti soundtrack. Although I think most of these songs are from later in the decade (the movie is set in 1960), it still gives you a good cross-section of what early rock-and-roll and R&B sounded like.

I suspect she would have been more likely to be swooning over the High Society soundtrack. This film musical was a huge hit in 1955, thanks to an excellent Cole Porter score and a cast that includes Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Celeste Holm, and Grace Kelly. Standards from this one include "True Love," "You're Sensational," "Well, Did You Evah?" (borrowed from Dubarry Was a Lady), and my personal favorite, Sinatra and Holm's comic number "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?"

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Beautiful Summer Day

The big plan for today was this week's Collingswood Farm Market run. It was the perfect weather for it too. The heat and humidity that had smothered the area this week dissipated overnight, leaving bright blue skies, fresh breezes, and perfect temperatures in the lower 80's. The farm market was understandably crowded, given the nice weather. Not only were the golden apples back, but they'd been joined by some very pretty Galas. I got the Gala apples, yellow peaches, blackberries, a red and a green pepper, mushrooms, and a bright red Heirloom tomato.

I took advantage of the cooler weather to finally do some baking. Used the last three white peaches and one of the apples to make Fresh Peach-Apple Muffins for lunch at work. I made more Blackberry Flummery as well, since my last batch came out so well. The muffins were a little crumbly, but they tasted pretty good. The Flummery was just as delicious this time around. As long as you don't add too much sugar or cornstarch, it's hard to get this recipe wrong.

Finished out The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies while baking and cooking. Even after the dragon Smaug is dispatched, Bilbo (Martin Freeman) finds himself dropped in a flat-our war between men, elves, orcs, giants, and dwarfs. Thorin, the head dwarf, is consumed with greed and refuses to give the men part of the treasure to rebuilt their town or jewels that belong to the elves. While Bilbo tries to keep the groups from killing each other, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) discovers where the orcs and goblins are coming from, and what sent them. Bilbo finally shows his friends that when you work together, you can bring down any army, no matter what your size or where you came from.

I have to admit, I kind of liked The Hobbit series a little better than the Lord of the Rings series, for one big reason - I liked Martin Freeman's good-natured Bilbo Baggins much better than Elijah Wood's Frodo as a main character. Freeman's having more fun and is a bit more helpful than just wandering around and getting caught by villains. Then again, I've always enjoyed the book The Hobbit more than the main series - the dwarfs are funny, Bilbo's a lot stronger than he thinks, and the battles aren't nearly as protracted. If you loved the original Lord of the Rings series or are a fan of high fantasy, this whole series is certainly worth your time.

Ran a little Backyardigans while I got ready for work. Wizards Tyrone and Pablo have "A Giant Problem" when a huge Tasha stomps into the kingdom. She's disrupting Queen Uniqua's royal nap. The very cranky queen wants her gone! Tyrone and Pablo aren't very good wizards. They do everything they can to get rid of the giant, but nothing works....until they decide to play along.

Work was a little busier than it has been, on and off steady. It could have been worse. I took notes for the fantasy story I'm concocting during the down times. There were no really major problems. In fact, a co-worker praised my blog, saying I was a smooth and intelligent writer. Though my relief ended up going elsewhere, I was still able to get out on time fairly easily.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Mermaid and the Hobbit

Did more Remember WENN this morning. Maple LaMarsh just wants a little respect in "A Girl Like Maple." The men tend to treat her like one of them; the women edge around her experience with the opposite sex and noisy Brooklyn accent. Maple thinks she's finally found the right guy in a handsome congressman (Boyd Gaines). Trouble is, she was using a cultured voice for a political interview show when she met him. He doesn't know her real voice...or the real her....and she's afraid of what he'll say if she tells him.

Work is still quiet. Once again, it was a little busy during the noon rush hour. Otherwise, nothing. I spent most of the day doing returns. It should pick up next weekend, when we get closer to the beginning of the month and Labor Day. Oh, and I got another 5 dollar off card from work as well, this one direct from one of our new managers. I used it on my groceries this time.

My schedule is much better than last week's. Though I have slightly fewer hours, I also have two days off this time, Monday and Tuesday. Otherwise, all late morning/early afternoon hours,  nothing out of the ordinary.

I didn't need much in the way of groceries, either. It's too hot to bake, I buy most of my produce at the farm market, and I tend to eat a lot of quick meals in the summer. Got the buy-one-get-one breaded and seasoned chicken fillet deal again and a small container of shrimp for dinner. Most of it was restocking - mandarin oranges, ibuprofen (Acme's $1.99 bottle was buy-one-get-one), canned chicken, cereal (went with the Acme generic Multi-Grain Cheerios), milk. The Acme is having a sale on Bryers brand ice cream. Their regular brand won't fit in my freezer...but I've been wanting to try their fancy Talenti Gelato. It's usually $5.99, far too expensive for a small container of ice cream. $2.50 is far more reasonable. Took advantage of the back-to-school sales to pick up a mini-notebook to keep in my locker at work for writing notes.

After I got in, changed, and put everything away, I worked on fanfiction. Betty's having the time of her life on land. Though she misses her family, she's enjoying seeing everything the world has to offer, from boat rides to croquet games. She especially loves the time after dinner she, Scott, and Maple spend playing the piano and dancing.

Meanwhile, Hilary has been using Betty's voice to give concerts under the ocean. Ruth catches one and realizes what she's done. She threatens to turn Jeff into a human if she doesn't agree to help her lure Scott and his immortal soul into her arms.

Started The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies while having shrimp, sliced heirloom tomatoes, sauteed vine greens and onions, and the last of the peach-blackberry cobbler for dessert. I got half-way through it before I needed to hit the shower. I'll give the full report tomorrow.