Sunday, May 01, 2016

Romance In the Rain

I slept in today and spent most of my remaining morning finishing out The Hound of the Baskervilles and writing in my journal. When I did get up, I barely had time for some quick Whole Wheat-Buttermilk Pancakes and a grapefruit half. Ran my LP of Purple Rain in honor of Prince, who passed away last week, while I ate.

It poured for most of the morning. The rain slowed down a little by the time I was heading to work, enough that I arrived only somewhat wet. As it turned out, I would be somewhat wet for most of the afternoon. I spent the majority of my shift gathering carts on a very, very busy day. It's the beginning of the month, and there's a lot coming up this week and next weekend, including Cinco Del Mayo and Mother's Day. The one time I was in the register was when someone had their break. Which turned out to be a pain. Even after the girl came in for me, I still had to wait to go on my own break, even though it was already a half-hour late.

I was so happy to be able to sign out and run home as quickly as I could. Thankfully, the rain had long slowed down by that point. It was pretty much done when I made it in the door. To my knowledge, it hasn't rained since.

Spent the rest of the evening working on my story. Vader holds Han hostage to force Leia to use her singing voice to lure Luke to the tower. She does sing...until she actually sees Luke, and then she screams her head off to warn him away. That doesn't please the Dark Lord one bit. He retaliates by blinding Han. When the lovers continue to defy him, he places a curse on Han, putting him into a deep sleep for a thousand years.

Luke finally makes his way into the tower just in time to hear Vader's curse. He doesn't have the power to lift it...but he can soften it. Han will now only sleep until he receives a kiss from his true love. Leia's delighted. Vader is not. He seals Han in a crystal and gold coffin, then sends him off with Boba Fett. Leia's turned over to Lando, while Luke remains in the tower to fight Vader.

It was past 7 when I finally broke for dinner. I made roasted fingerling potatoes and crab cakes with spinach salad drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, then baked oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for dessert. I needed some cheering up after the trouble at work and the intense scene I was writing. The soundtrack from Hairspray did the trick. I heard this will be the next big live musical on the networks. It should be interesting, at any rate. I love this one, especially some of the dance numbers and John Travolta and Christopher Walken's hilarious and touching "You're Timeless To Me."

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Dinosaur Dreamers and Mouse Musicians

Began another cloudy, cool morning at work. We were pretty busy. I spent most of the morning rounding up carts, though I did get to the trash at one point. Thankfully, they had enough help in the register that I wasn't necessary. I got in and out with no problems other than slightly sore arms.

By the time I finished at 1, the sun was trying to come out, and it had gotten a bit warmer. It had become a great afternoon for a Sonic picnic. I strolled over as soon as I let out of work. Not surprisingly, given it was the tail end of the lunch hour, they were still pretty busy. I ordered my usual grilled chicken sandwich, tater tots, and cherry limeade while working on story ideas and watched other diners. There were teens coming in from the shopping center to buy milkshakes and a mother and daughter who pretty much demanded taking half the condiments off their burgers.

Went right back to the Acme after lunch to do this week's grocery shopping. I needed quite a bit, especially to refill vegetables. Good thing there were some good sales. Bagged spinach was 99 cents. Also picked up pears, bananas, grapefruit, and a bag of cauliflower and broccoli. Needed a major pantry restock, too - canned pineapple, mandarin oranges, tomato sauce, apricots, chicken, corn meal, mini chocolate chips, white and brown sugar, and buy-one-get-one cake mix. Found a container of small cooked shrimp and crab cakes with manager's coupons.

Also got my schedule for this week. While I have fewer hours, they're a lot closer to what I usually have at this time of year...and I still have more than I did in January and February. Two days off, Thursday and Friday, which will be a big help. I want to get a lot done this week, including cleaning and finishing off the current story.

As soon as I got home, I put everything away, then went on the computer to do some writing (or re-writing, as the case may be). Actually, I did do some re-writing, eliminating the drugged gingerbread from the two-person ball. They're still at a dance, but Vader just shows up and knocks them both out with his dark powers. (I may save that "drugged" thing for a later story.) Han is taken to the dungeon and tortured by Vader until he's too weak to do much of anything, including come to Leia's rescue. Leia is locked in a tower with Cecil. She puts her hair out the window to let Cecil escape.

Han's tossed in the tower with her. She tries to use her powers and her hair to heal him, but Lando and Vader show up and end that idea real quick. Leia still defies her father's wishes, saying she'll marry no other man but Han. Angry over her letting Cecil go and trying to heal her lover, Vader cuts Leia's floor-length braids...and cuts off her healing powers.

I broke for dinner around 6. Finished out the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse set while making leftovers. "Mickey's Clubhouse Rocks" has everyone taking part in a big musical contest. Donald wants to join one of the bands, but he doesn't seem to fit in anywhere...at least, until Mickey and Minnie need his help with their song.

"Minnie and Daisy's Flower Shower" is a little stranger. Minnie and Daisy are frantic. It's the day of the flower show, and there isn't enough rain to water their gardens! Professor Ludvig Von Drake gives them glitter that'll fashion the clouds into the same shape as their gardens, then "seed" the clouds. (I skipped the last one, "Minnie's Mouske-Calender," which I believe was on a previous volume.)

I have no idea why "Mickey's Big Band Concert" was a bonus episode. It fits the music theme better than either "Flower Shower" or "Mouske-Calender." Mickey and the gang want to accompany elephants dancing at a big concert, but their instruments aren't working. They have to fix their instruments, then figure out how to play in harmony.

The disc ended with two quick Minnie Bow-Toons. Minnie and Daisy attempt some "Rooftop Repair" when their satellite dish gets scrambled on a windy day. The two get "Alarm Clocked Out" after spending a night trying to keep Daisy's new alarm clock from waking up Millie and Melody, who have school the next day.

Finished the night with the original Land Before Time while making my favorite Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Cookies. This is the simple but touching tale of Little Foot, a "long neck" (an Apatosaurus), who is separated from his family and witness his mother's death while searching for the Great Valley. He ends up leading a motley crew of baby dinosaurs across a hostile, ever-changing landscape in search of some place safe to call home...and learns about the true nature of love, family, and friendship in the process.

Touching and surprisingly dark action-coming-of-age tale from Don Bluth. Despite the cute dinosaur babies, the first Land Before Time movie absolutely isn't for younger kids, thanks to the death of Little Foot's mother, the menacing "Sharp Tooth" (tyrannosaurus rex), and the constant peril. If you have little guys, start them with the later movies in this series instead. For older kids who love dinosaurs and can handle the trauma, this is a beautiful and moving animated film and is recommended.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Dolls On a Cloudy Day

It was still gloomy outside when I got up this morning. I began the day with breakfast and It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown. Sally wants to honor Arbor Day by planting a garden and an orchard. Somehow, Lucy decides the kids' baseball field is the perfect place to plant. Charlie Brown's not too happy, until it looks like their conservation project might actually help win them a game.

Moved on to one of the two Sailor Moon episodes remaining on the first disc while doing dishes. When Chibi-Usa gets sick, the Guardians have to go inside her mind and dispel the creature that's giving her nightmares. The Chibi-Usa inside her head doesn't know the Guardians yet, but Sailor Moon assures her that she can trust them, inside or outside of her memories.

Spent the next hour or so changing the dolls into somewhat less fancy spring outfits. Jessa is in a mix of several different pieces - the flower-tie-dyed T-shirt and neon yellow ankle socks from the Hiking Outfit from a few years ago, the lavender cardigan sweater from Kit's original "meet" outfit, a pair of lightweight flared jeans Lauren sent me from a yard sale in her area, and flamingo-print sneakers from an outfit I bought at Collingswood's May Fair a few years ago. Samantha wears her Pink Striped Birthday Dress and Pinafore with the striped ribbon from her current hair accessory set, the pink ballet tights, and the white shoes from (Rebecca's) Lace Dress. Whitney wears a polka-dot dress I bought off eBay about two years ago. The seller listed it as being for Molly, but the wide skirt and puffed sleeves really look more appropriate for the 50's. I added the purple strap shoes and white and purple purse Lauren gave me for Christmas with the lavender bow from Sam's Frilly Frock. Molly is in her own rick-rack-trimmed Birthday Pinafore and white t-strap shoes. Josefina sports her Dress and Vest with her gold fringed Heritage Accessories shawl. I left Felicity in her pink Birthday Dress. I really don't have much to change her into.

Headed out to run errands as soon as I finished with the dolls. I've been wanting to bring a big bag of donations (including the books I cleared out from the last round of the book list) there for ages. I finally remembered to do it today. There were a couple of people on the computer, probably trying to avoid the gloomy weather. I organized DVDs and gave the kids' area a quick look (ignoring CNN fussing about politics in the background).

After I really quick stop at WaWa to use the ATM machines, I dodged the on-and-off showers and made my way to the Westmont Bagel Shop for lunch. Had a nice, simple Bacon, Cheddar, and Apple Sandwich with fries. It was nice and salty and delicious, but very messy! I enjoyed it in surprising quiet. The only other people there was one older woman and a mother and her daughter who opted to sit in the front room.

Next stop was the Haddon Township Library. They were slightly busier than they have been the last few times I've been there. They finally moved the children's DVDs to their newer, more colorful shelves. I organized those, then put away a pile of audio books and new releases. Took out more new titles from the kids' area for Strawberry Shortcake, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and Equestria Girls.

Made a quick run to Thriftway after I finished at the Library. I just needed skim milk and toilet paper, both of which are far cheaper there than they are at the Acme. I'll do my main grocery shopping tomorrow. I had absolutely no desire to go anywhere near the Acme today!

Went straight home and on the computer to work on my story. Vader uses his corrupted Khyber crystals to torture Han, stripping away his strength. Leia is thrown into a tower cell with Cecil. She convinces Cecil to climb down her hair and escape to find Chewie and the Falcon just before Han is thrown into the tower with her. Leia wants to use her powers to heal Han, but that may not be possible once her father arrives...

Broke around 6 for dinner. Finished out the Sailor Moon disc first while starting Skillet Ground Turkey and Pasta, made over from the recipe for Sloppy Joes in Julie's Cooking Studio, for dinner. I didn't have tomato sauce, so I used condensed tomato soup. Replaced the green peppers (which I didn't have either) with mushrooms and added small whole-wheat shells.

Though Usagi is happy that Chib-Usa's feeling better, she doesn't like how the little girl clings to Mamoru. Hoping to eat her way into happiness, she ends up at a new bakery that's giving out free samples. The Guardians are there, too...as is Esmeraude, the newest Black Moon Clan member to arrive in the 20th century. The girls learn that too much sugar can be really bad for you when they're attacked by a monster made of cake and candy!

Finished the night with dinner and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Pop Star Minnie is their second musical tale in a row to headline a disc. This time, Minnie is supposed to be having a concert on Melody Mountain. Not only are the gang's musical instruments missing, but she has no idea what genre of music she wants to perform. As they find the instruments, the characters demonstrate what type of musical genre is often associated with that instrument, from Goofy playing a country tune on his banjo to Pete's one-cat accordion polka to a rather nice blues tune done by Donald on his harmonica.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Kids and the Dog and the Wacky Mysteries

I slept in again, trying to stay warm on a chilly, dreary morning. Warmed things up a bit with more Be Cool, Scooby Doo. "Me, Myself, and A.I" discusses the current obsession with technology and just how important it should be in our lives. Velma is thrilled when the gang is invited to a technology company to help them figure out why their latest creation, a robot butler, has been attacking designers. Daphne's not as happy. She doesn't like technology in general and would really prefer people didn't let it take over their lives.

Spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon writing. Leia doesn't like what she smells in the gingerbread, but Han's already eaten it. They start dancing again, this time to a slow number. They're both feeling romantic...until Han starts to fall asleep, then Leia. She realizes too late it was all a trap, especially after Vader and the Imperial army appears. They were both drugged and tricked, their fantasy ball becoming a nightmare.

Had a quick muffin and fruit lunch while doing another Scooby episode. The gang is "Area 51 Adjacent" after encountering a group of hikers who saw an alien landing in New Mexico. Daphne is determined to make friends with this strange being from another planet. Velma and Fred think there's more going on than an alien encounter. The kids run into real trouble when the government finds them snooping around and locks them up, believing them to be the aliens!

It had just started showering as I arrived at work. There was no way around it. I just got there wet. That was probably the most exciting thing that happened all afternoon. I was cashiering today, but it probably didn't matter where I ended up. We were dead for most of the day. It did pick up a bit during rush hour, but it didn't last for more than an hour at most. My relief was on time, and there were no major problems.

(The on-and-off customers may have partially been explained by on-and-off weather. It wasn't raining when I got out, and looked like it hadn't rained in a while. It did rain briefly later in the evening, but I  haven't heard anything since then.)

When I got home, I had leftovers while finishing out the Scooby Doo set. "Where There's a Will, There's a Wraith" has a similar plot to an episode of the original Scooby Doo, Where are You? Scooby Doo is once again set to inherit big bucks...provided he can stay one night with the gang in a spooky old mansion. While Daphne insists on treating it like a slumber party, the others try to figure out what happened to the other family members who were mentioned in the will.

And I have to admit, this show ended up growing on me. As much as I enjoyed Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated, something didn't seem quite right with that one. Some shows just aren't meant to be multi-level epics with dark undertones and demon animals and everyone in love. Sometimes, a story is just a bunch of kids running around, pulling masks off local criminals, and that works fine, too. I also like how the kids frequently use real-life history and facts to solve crimes (see the episode about the moving gargoyle and the technology show).

My biggest complaint is the only character they didn't nail was Daphne. Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby haven't changed much from Mystery Incorporated, and Fred actually comes off a bit smarter than he has in the last few Scooby shows. Daphne, on the other hand, has become a total ditz whose only use is as comic relief and to obsess over something weird. While this is occasionally useful (she's the one who figures out how to control the alien spaceship in "A.I,", and she surprisingly didn't make a bad stand-up comedian), it mostly comes off as annoying. From what I've gathered, the show isn't even finished with its first season yet. Hopefully, they'll dial that down a bit as the series goes on.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Fairy Tales and Funny Mysteries

I slept way later than I planned today and barely had the time to work on some writing. (I got some writing in later after dinner as well.) Lando escorts Han and Leia to a beautiful white, gold, and ginger-brown ballroom, assuring them that yes, he'll send people to find the missing Cecil. It turns out the ball is a party of two, for Han and Leia are the only guests. When the musicians strike up a lively tune, Leia offers to teach Han how to dance. They're both happy but breathless after they finish and decide to partake in refreshments...

Had just enough time to change, throw lunch in my bag, and rush off to work after I finished. I needn't have rushed. Work was dead almost the entire afternoon. I rounded up carts when I arrived and after break, but I mostly did returns. I spent an hour pulling items on Aisle 1 to look more presentable. I did get stuck in a register a few times, including for a half-hour before I left so two cashiers could go on their breaks. Thankfully, I finished gathering baskets just in time to head out the door.

When I got in, I took out the trash, then had the last of the chicken salad over romaine lettuce for dinner while watching more Be Cool, Scooby Doo. Mystery Inc is going to "Party Like It's 1899" when they're invited to a shindig that allows guests to dress as Victorian characters to solve a century-old monster mystery. The kids find how difficult it can be to try to solve a mystery when you're supposed to be someone else...especially when the ghost turns out to be real...

The ghost haunting the Star Theater is a real "Screama Donna." She's the phantom of a former singing star who has been driving away the bands that are supposed to play with popular singer Boots Malone. The kids form their own band in order to solve the case, but Velma's more than a bit nervous - she's no singer. She may not be Beyonce, but the others remind her that she has a talent all her own - explaining the culprit behind the mystery.

Even the kids question the appearance of a Yeti in a local restaurant in "Kitchen Frightmare." Scooby and Shaggy have a good friend who has opened his own cheese cafe. He's desperate to get good reviews, but the Yeti is driving off his staff. Shaggy and Scooby have to buckle down and serve food without eating it, while the others try to figure out why a snow monster is turning up in a cheese place in the dead of summer.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Mysteries and Meddling Kids On a Rainy Day

Began the day with breakfast, baking Ally's "Snappy" Ginger Snaps, and more Be Cool, Scooby Doo. Scooby and Shaggy are "All Paws On Deck" when the gang helps a friend of Fred's who owns a small-time treasure hunting ship clear out a sea beast that's ruining business. Hollywood beckons the gang in the form of "Poodle Justice," a popular show about a female detective and her super-smart poodle. Despite the pedigree of an episode being directed by a famous director, it's been attacked by a gargoyle that seems to have come to life. The kids have to find out what's going on, while Scooby develops a nice little crush on that pretty poodle.

Work was a lot less crazy than yesterday. Actually, it was dead for a lot of the afternoon. I rounded up carts, did the very few returns there were, and bagged. I did get stuck in the register for a while, including for the last 20 minutes of my shift. 

There were dark clouds gathering as I rushed home, but the clouds were sort-of broken, like Mother Nature didn't know if she wanted to rain or not. It spit a little when I was on Kendall Boulevard, but the rain had stopped by the time I got home. I had debated all day whether or not to get the laundry done this afternoon, or wait until tomorrow. The weather had spoken. It wasn't raining, so I figured I'd get it done now.

It was fairly busy when I arrived for an afternoon with such weird weather. I ended up using one of the expensive washers. The driers were available by the time I was ready, though. Maybe it's just as well I didn't have a very big load. I spent the time listening to the news (which was all about politics and the rain on its way), watching the downpour when it did arrive, and working on story ideas.

My next story after I finish the fairy tales will probably be a short original kids' story, based after my own childhood - I haven't decided what yet. After that, I'll either be doing the Star Wars 80's High School AU, or the 30's Adventure AU. I worked on the 30's story today.  Inspired by this aesthetic post on Tumblr, Leia is now an Amelia Peabody-type archaeologist, fresh out of the University of Arizona with her sweet-natured reporter brother Luke. They both want to change the word in different ways, but while Luke is content to be an intern for world-weary journalist Ben Kenobi, Leia wants to find lost treasures for Martha Mothma, who runs a museum in Los Angeles. Her current obsession is rescuing the priceless (and reportedly magical) treasures of the lost Kingdom of Alderaan from nasty Governor Tarkin.

Luke convinces her to hire Han Solo, a pilot with a dilapidated cargo plane who runs his own charter service, to take them to the site where the treasures were last seen. Leia's not thrilled with the idea at first. Han is rude, arrogant, and only cares about getting his share of the reward for the treasure. Not to mention, a couple of Han's former bosses make Tarkin look like a kitten. Tarkin turns out to have a rather formidable underling as well, the corrupt industrialist Derek Vader. And even after Kenobi gets into trouble with Vader, Luke insists on bringing along another teacher, venerable old Asian archaeology professor Yoda. 

But Luke and Leia turn out to have ties, not only to Vader, but to the treasures themselves and the magic they supposedly hold...

I'm really having a hard time deciding which one to do next. This 30's idea is so delicious, but I've already worked out most of the 80's story. We'll see how I feel when I actually finish the current story. 

I got very lucky with the weather today. I managed to get out of the laundromat between storms. It started sprinkling again on the way back to the apartment, but thankfully waited until I was inside and putting away the laundry to really rain. 

(And there would be one more storm a bit later, and at press time, that was it.)

Finished out the first disc of Be Cool, Scooby Doo while tossing together various leftovers for dinner. Shaggy and Scooby are devastated when their favorite baseball team might have to dissolve, due to a "Grand Scam" that's caused the ghost of their best player to appear and attack players. Velma teaches kids about statistics as everyone else discovers what they love about the Great American Pastime - and good teamwork. 

"Trading Chases" is kind of odd, even for this series. The gang switches up a typical "catch the Egyptian God Ghost at the museum" case by letting a museum guide lead Mystery Inc, while Fred leads a group of younger kids. It works about as well as you can expect. (Which is to say, it doesn't, and everyone learns a lesson about what makes a good leader.) 

"Be Quiet, Scooby Doo" also experiments with the regular formula a bit. Once again, the gang helps out a friend of Fred's who is guide that's exploring treasures. This time, the "treasures" are a beautiful crystal cavern found deep underground. The crystals are very delicate - even the smallest noise can shatter them. Mystery Inc has to figure out how to solve the crime without making a sound...and by deciphering Fred's rather cryptic series of hand signals. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

No One Is Alone

Started a sunny, breezy morning with Be Cool, Scooby Doo. The latest incarnation of the mystery-solving Great Dane and his teen pals dials down the darkness that permeated the last version of the franchise to concentrate on hipper, more kid-friendly ghost-chasing antics. (It also has an odd, rather blocky animation style that has more in common with Cartoon Network's current offerings than classic Hanna Barbara.) "Mystery 101" introduces the gang as they head to a prestigious college Velma is dying to get into. No one may enter it ever again if they can't find out whose behind the sightings of the ghost of the college's founder, who is chasing off incoming freshmen.

I continued to work on my writing (or re-writing) today, even after I read Tina's comment in my last entry. (And seriously, folks. If anyone has any suggestions for any story I'm working on, I'd be glad to hear them. Just keep it pleasant, please. No flames!) While Leia is glad to feel like a princess again in Lando's palatial estate, she can sense that something is wrong. Just because the gingerbread house tastes good doesn't mean it's good for them. Leia voices her objections to Han, but he reminds her that they need rest and Lando IS his friend.

(I rushed it this morning, but I'll likely re-write this part to make it more obvious that several days have passed, and Leia's been looking for Cecil ever since he disappeared.)

Returned to Be Cool, Scooby Doo while eating a quick chicken salad on romaine lettuce lunch. A friend of Fred's leads Mystery Inc on an unusual "Game of Chicken" when they follow his tracks through an old cave in Mexico. He vanished while searching for a lost Aztec treasure. Could the Aztec chicken warrior ghost have anything to do with his disappearance?

Headed to work shortly after the episode ended. I really wish I hadn't. I was in the express register all day. Though it wasn't busy when I came in at noon, it picked up around 1:30-2 PM and continued for the rest of the day. The lines got absolutely crazy, and we didn't have anything resembling enough people to deal with them. I panicked and got upset. It just seemed like the lines were relentless. I was so happy when my relief was a few minutes early and I could get out as quickly as I could.

I felt horrible when I got home. My story wasn't coming out as well as I wanted, and I was a mess at work. I just rested on my bed until I decided I needed to get out and enjoy a nice evening. I changed into regular clothes and hopped on the bike to find dinner. Ended up at Phillies Phatties on West Clinton. It was a great night to eat a Mushroom-Swiss Burger on the picnic tables outside. (Given it was 7 and a ton of kids had just let out of the dance studio next-door, they were pretty busy when I arrived. I had to wait a while in a very hot storefront for my meal.) I had Moose Tracks (vanilla-fudge ice cream with peanut butter cups) from Phillies Yummies for dessert while watching the little ballerinas and their older teen counterparts chat on phones or with friends or beg their parents for ice cream.

Finished the night in a desperately-needed bath. That felt sooo good. I read fairy tales and listened to my live Bernadette Peters CD, Sonheim, Etc. Peters performed numbers from throughout her career in this concert from the mid-90's, including songs from Into the Woods, Sunday In the Park With George, Gypsy, Dick Tracy, Mack & Mabel, Dames at Sea, and her stint on Saturday Night Live, among others.

And I'd better get off. There was a really noisy thunderstorm just 20 minutes ago (one crack was so loud, I screamed bloody murder!), and I don't think Mother Nature's quite done yet...